A Sh*thead Writer’s Post-Mortem – Sizing Up The “Finished” Product

Good Morning, fellow Sh*theads! In my subjective universe that qualifies as a greeting, not an insult. If you take offense to it I apologize, but you were forewarned about Sh*theads and my definition thereof previously. For those of you that are new to “Random Musings,” or those of you that are in need of a refresher course on my psuedo-insanity, a Sh*thead is pretty much anyone that leads a relatively normal, nine to five existence, myself included. That’s it. Not exactly earth shattering, huh?

I say “relatively” because there is a gray area. Take me, for example. I have a full time job. I am a homeowner. I have a wife, two human children and two feline ones. I have favorite television shows and movies, favorite books and websites. I kinda’ have a bedtime though lately, that bedtime has fluctuated between roughly 10:30 PM and 1:30 AM. I occasionally drink and catch a smoke. Normal, right?

On the surface? Yes. But beneath the surface, my life is anything but normal. I’m trying to complete and publish a novel. I’m grappling with certain events that are poised to transpire within the next few weeks–events which I will not go into on this blog. There are some things about me that I don’t mind putting out there… out here for the world to see but others? They are for me, and me alone to contend with. That said…

My always perplexed mind has been highly preoccupied these last few weeks. I wouldn’t say “vexed.” I don’t know that I’m vexed by anything but preoccupied? Most definitely. You see, this whole novel writing, rewriting, re-rewriting and re-re-rewriting process has been equal parts invigorating and taxing. Invigorating because I’m doing what I love with a story idea that remains as much a part of my heart, soul and mind as my wife and my children. But taxing because so much has changed since I originally wrote ENDWORLD – A Novel almost two decades ago. Getting back into the mind(s) of the character(s) is, at times, incredibly difficult.

Consider: The novel’s protagonist, William MacNuff is an 18 year old kid on the run from the totalitarian society which holds him, his family, and everyone else under its proverbial boot heel. I’m a 37 year old father staring down 38 with equal parts dread and… well, just dread, living in a democratic society. The fact that the society that William inhabits is a machine run one is not beyond me. The fact that I’ve gone hard-core dystopic and layered in another, more ambitious story on top of (or beneath, depending on your perspective) the original story is not lost on me, either. I know the risk that I am taking, not just with what many would consider outdated subject matter(s) but with scope. Aspiring writers simply don’t write about post-apocalyptic worlds run by robots anymore, and they sure as f*ck don’t write about alternate realities. As for a synthesis of the two? I don’t know that it’s ever been done before. Asimov’s days as a top of the chart author are long past, as is Asimov (RIP), and Multiverse Theory? It is a subject generally left to the Stephen Hawking’s and Michio Kaku’s of the world.

Nowadays? Aspiring authors write about vampires and witches, werewolves and zombies. I hold nothing against them. I would never hold anything against anyone that is trying to perfect and profit from their art. We’re all the same, deep down inside “in places we don’t like to talk about at parties.” (Nicholson? Booyakasha. Respect). You, me, Asimov and Meyer? One. Just because I prefer “Foundation” to the “Twilight” series doesn’t mean that “Twilight” sucks. Look at how much money it’s made. Obviously someone out there likes Edward and Bella’s story. But my tastes remain traditional, reared in the same kind of subject matter that I grew up reading, back when vampires were of the Bram Stoker variety, witches had green skin and black, pointy hats, werewolves were played by Michael Landon (RIP) and “The Walking Dead” wasn’t even a glint in Robert Kirkman’s eye.

Still, there is the problem of a 37 going on 38 year old writing an 18 year old’s story. In the First Person, no less. I thought I’d left things like teen angst and naivete far behind me. But the process of re, re, re… re-imagining ENDWORLD – A Novel has forced me to reexamine it and let me tell you something, guys: Its f*cked up. Really. I’ll admit, I’ve grown quite complacent in my “old” age. It’s been a while since I felt the same kind of emotions that I used to feel back then. That’s not a bad thing, nor is it something that I miss. Far from it: It’s mental evolution, otherwise known as “growing up.” But I can honestly and truthfully say that I believe the book works on many levels as both a testimony to that era of mine and most people’s lives and a testimony to the things and the people that inspire me, presently. Nicole? Cara? Natalie? ‘Dorna and Roxy? Booyakasha. Respect. I love you all.

Others will disagree–it’s inevitable–but I feel confidant that the story that I set out to write originally at 18–back when I and my brethren lived on a two square mile plot of prison ground that we endearingly referred to as “Oz” and no one lived anyplace else–is well-preserved within the framework of the story that I ended up writing at 36 and 37. There’s still an echo of my original motivation… my original concept of an “Autobiographical Fiction” in it, but it’s only an echo. One of Pat McClane’s ethereal “haints.” Like randomly hearing a song that you haven’t heard in a couple of decades and smiling, despite the fact that the person you were… the person who once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

…attached so much significance to said song no longer exists as anything other than a memory: A fading, mental picture of a lovelorn, pre-adult who set out to fictionalize in words the life he wanted to live because he was disenchanted with the one that he was living. That ripped and yellowing picture? It was captioned “Endworld.” ENDWORLD – A Novel, though? It’s a JPEG. And while I still have a soft spot in my heart for the old, captioned picture that I keep right here and right here 

[POINTS SIMULTANEOUSLY TO HIS HEART AND HEAD]

…despite its physical, nonexistence on this side of the proverbial wormhole of being, it is no longer relevant. That’s not to say that the JPEG is. I’ll let the people that chose to read ENDWORLD – A Novel decide that. What’s the worst that can happen? I put it out there, people read it and hate it? Not everyone is going to like it. Hell, not all of my Beta readers liked it though in my defense, very few have yet read what I hope will be the final, final draft. Any of you reading this right now that are afraid of what my reaction will be if you read it and tell me that it stinks take heart: You can. Me = Mentally strong like bull. My ego is lead-lined. Or Black Shale lined if you’re an ex-pat member of the People’s Rebellion for Freedom and Equality (PRFE for short). But I digress. I don’t want to give away too much, too soon. That said…

It’s a gray and dreary afternoon here on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. The wind is howling, the rain is falling and soon, said rain will begin transitioning to snow. You’ve gotta’ love a good winter storm–this one is called “Saturn.” I hope the snow holds off until after I’ve picked up my girls from school and gotten them home safely. I hope it holds off until my wife gets home securely from work later this evening. I don’t really mind a winter storm so long as I’m home for its duration and not out in the middle of it. It puts me in mind of a scene from the planned sequel to ENDWORLD – A NovelCHILDREN OF ENDWORLD. In it, the protagonist, William MacNuff has been reunited with his brethren after… well, just after (no spoilers, especially when only a handful of people have read the first book and no one save for me has read what I hope will be the final, final draft). They sit down around a makeshift table in a makeshift tent in the middle of a raging blizzard to eat a “feast” which, by the minimalist and rationing-influenced standards of the PRFE is little more than the proverbial equivalent of bread and water. But the quantity of food available is not the essence of this scene. As the meal progresses, William is brought up to speed on all that he has missed in the last X-amount of X’s. It is, hand’s down, one of if not the most lighthearted scenes, written or planned in what was once called THE ENDWORLD CHRONICLE. And it remains my favorite, written or planned.

The kicker? It’s a past meets present kinda’ scene. Archetypes of my past turned elements of William’s sit down with archetypes of mine and William’s shared “present.” And despite an initial aversion to each other eventually? They are talking and laughing like old friends. That scene? I like to think that it is metaphorical of my life at this juncture: A healthy dose of the present, influenced occasionally by the past. Why? Because as the Captain of the USS Enterprise once said…

 

Sometimes, being a Sh*thead writer is not enough. Sometimes, you just gotta’ turn to Jean Luc Picard for the right words. Not to mention Will Riker’s reply:

“Speak for yourself, sir. I intend to live forever.”

A healthy dose of cockiness? Will sh*t, guys. That never hurts, either. Stay safe out there, fellow Sh*theads.

A Question of Inherent Goodness

I have always believed in the inherent goodness of most people. My whole life, I’ve held to the belief that, as Luke Skywalker said in “Return of the Jedi” regarding his father, Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, “There’s still good in him. I can feel it.” At the end of the movie–and at the time, we thought, the story–we discovered that Luke was right. Vader not only saved his son’s life at the end but in the process “brought balance to the Force” as had been prophesied many, many years before. This idea? Of someone as evil as Darth Vader being inherently good? It is a comforting one.

I’m far from naive on this point, guys. I’ve seen too much to believe that all people are inherently good (hence my use of the term “most” in my opening sentence). They’re not. Jerry Sandusky? Not. Adolf Hitler? Definitely not. Did I just lump a child molester and a genocidal maniac in to the same sentence? Yes, I did. In my mind one is just as sick, twisted and f*cked up as the other and that’s not because I went to Penn State and am disgusted by what he–Sandusky–and his co-conspirators have done to the reputation of my beloved Alma Mater.

Quite simply? I believe and will always believe that evil exists. It can be incarnated in any number of ways. Whether you believe that evil is a tangible commodity, evident in people like the aforementioned ones like I do, or you believe that it is an abstract concept that we use to explain the in-explainable–atrocities committed that defy logical explanation (see: Sandy Hook, etc.)–is irrelevant. In our world on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence? Bad people exist. And bad people do bad things. Which brings me back to the reason that I started writing this blog entry in the first place.

I have always believed and I will always believe in the inherent goodness of most people. Let me repeat that: I will always believe in the inherent goodness of most people. It’s part of who I am as a person. But some days? Believing is hard. Damn hard. Take today. Today, I discovered that someone that I trusted was funneling information to someone else in an attempt to… what? Implicate me? Get back at me? Did said funneler think that he/she was doing the right thing? Probably. Is he/she evil? No. He/she is no more evil than I am. Am I being intentionally vague? Yes, and that’s the extent of what I’m going to say err, write on the matter.

The thing is? This is not the first time this has happened. It has happened before. The names and faces have changed over time but the mentality, apparently, still exists. Perhaps it is a product of the institution, whatever that institution may be and not its individual personalities. Perhaps. Or perhaps it is just a sad coincidence. Whatever it is, for lack of a better explanation, it is. I don’t always question the way things are, guys. I know, shocking, huh? But sometimes, it is safer to just keep my head down and be that living, breathing facsimile of a smiley face that you all know and… I hope… love to some extent. But as some reading this may know and some may not, I’ve got a bit of a history with this kind of a situation.

It goes all the way back to my childhood. Back then, I was not a living, breathing facsimile of a smiley face. I was a depressive, pear-shaped kid who wore a lot of black and constantly sought acceptance from his peers. I eventually found it, but it took me the better part of 15… almost 16 years to do so and it didn’t happen overnight. Oh hell no. It was a rigorous process. But by the time I graduated high school and started my Freshman year at Penn State Abington (known then as “Penn State Ogontz,” and thereafter for a short time as “Penn State Abington-Ogontz” or “Ab-Oz” as we endearingly referred to it) that sad and sordid history? It was a distant memory. I was older, wiser, slimmer and more mature. I was, for the most part, happy. But I never forgot, guys. No way. Never.

Am I bitter? No. I haven’t been bitter in a couple of decades. If anything, I laugh about it now, mainly with my wife and others who suffered through similar situations to mine growing up. But… and here’s the rub… if this kind of thing has happened before, is happening now and will, likely, happen again if I remain in the same situation that I am currently in, why “hold fast” as my screensaver on both my computer at home and at work proclaims? Why continue to believe in the inherent goodness of most people if, per not just my own, personal history’s example but the example of history in general demonstrates that people are not? Why not forcibly remove myself from the situation before things get worse?

All are good questions. Valid ones. Questions that require a little pondering and, it seems, a blog entry. I think that a part of the reason why is this: I ‘kinda get off on it, a little. Yeah, I went there. Don’t avert your eyes and scream that you’re blind because the majority of you reading this have likely never seen me in person or haven’t seen me in anything other than a thumbnail in a long, long time and are unequipped to judge.

I do, though. I get off on being challenged, rising to the challenge and overcoming it. All of you people that quote “oppressed me” unquote back in the day? Guess what? A part of me enjoyed it. Do you know or can you guess why? The answer is pretty simple and it can be summed up in one word: Attention. When you were doing it, you were paying attention to me and I longed for that. I let it go on for as long as I did because I liked the attention that I was accruing. When I grew up, though, and realized that conceding to being a proverbial punching bag was unhealthy? I moved passed it. Put it in my proverbial rear view mirror. Finis. 

The same is somewhat true, now, but only the part about being challenged, rising to the challenge and overcoming it. Trust me. The proverbial punching bag thing? Yeah. I don’t do that anymore. I punch back. Ask the funneler and the funnel-ee if you don’t believe me. But only if you can ring their names out of my cold, dead hands…

Um… yeah. Okay. 

Of course, if this blog entry is any indication, I’m apparently still very good at the whole garnering attention thing. But really, guys? Am I? I average about 20-25 hits per blog entry, and that’s only since I moved “Random Musings” from Google Blogger to WordPress a few months ago. Before that, I was lucky if I got 20 hits per blog entry (on average). I’ve had a few highs–“Dora the Explorer – A J. J. Abrams Film”–and a few lows–“Post Number 30, Subtitled at Points in Spanish”–but for the most part? My little blog is a virtual non-entity in the greater blogosphere.

If I did this solely for attention I would have stopped a long time ago. Still, though, I toil onward, and have been toiling onward for almost four years now. No. I don’t maintain “Random Musings” for attention. I do it because I enjoy doing it. I enjoy writing. Some people play sports, jog, play “World of Warcraft” or otherwise. I write. And writing, for me, is another extension of who I am. Turn away if you desire to. I won’t hold it against you.

So that’s one reason why. Kind of a gross one, I know. I promise I’ll never reference “getting off” again. How about another reason? Okie-dokie, then. Another reason why I continue to believe in the inherent goodness of others despite the fact that some days, believing is hard. Because hidden within the nastiness that graces the static page of every news site from CNN to Fox News, to MSNBC to C-SPAN is proof.

I understand the media. I understand that sh*t sells. I’ve seen “The Running Man” a dozen or so times. And while I disagree wholeheartedly with profiting from other people’s misfortune and turning dictators in to modern day, dime store paperback anti-heroes, I’m not going to tell you how to do your job. You’ve got to feed your families ‘same as I do. But…

But look no further than the teacher that hid her students from the Sandy Hook shooter a little over a month ago and lost her life because of it. Or the bus driver that ended up dying because he tried to stop a gunman from kidnapping a student. Or the pilot that safely landed his plane in the Hudson River a few years ago and saved over a hundred lives. Or “Gabby” Giffords. Or the woman… hell, the women that defy the traditional, submissive roles forced upon them by their respective societies.

See what I mean? For every Jerry Sandusky there’s a Malala Yousafzai. For every Adolf Hitler there’s a “Kid President.” For every bad person doing bad things there’s a good person showing the world that despite how horrific things can get, there remains hope. For society. For us. I’m not going to lie: Humanity is pretty far gone presently. If you believe otherwise that’s your prerogative but I’m sorry: I require your proof. Me, personally? I remain a believer in the inherent goodness in most men and women because of the Gabbys, the Malalas and the “Kid Presidents.” For me? As long as one true hero or heroine exists in the midst of the political strong men, women and profiteers that choke the life from this world there is hope. So I’ll never stop believing. Until the day rolls around that I watch or read the news and see nothing but negativity I’ll never stop. That said…

Somewhere, on another side of the proverbial wormhole of existence Luke Skywalker just informed the ghost of Obi Wan Kenobi that “there’s still good in [Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader]. I know it.” We all know how that story ends. Vader throws the Emperor over the railing and in to the abysmal heart of the second Death Star and he and his son have a touching, last moment together. Cue me crying (yes, when I first saw it I cried), the funeral pyre and the Ewoks, dancing to the “Yub Yub” song. But what about this story? Ours? How will it end? Am I correct in my assessment that at its core, most human souls retain some semblance of good despite how some have been corrupted by everything from the media to the desire to be accepted by their peers? Am I just as naive at 37 as I was at 13? Only time will tell, I guess. But as for right now? I believe what I believe. Despite funnelers and funnel-ees, I still believe it, and will continue to do so…

Long after these credits have rolled. Finis. 

Written and Directed by Frank Marsh.

🙂

You Got Old, Charlie Brown

Call me crazy, kids (I’ve never denied that I’m not), but I’ve wondered for years what happened to the Peanuts Gang after they grew up. I know I’m not the only one. A few years back, an unauthorized parody of this exact topic played to packed, independent theaters around the country. It was called “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead” and while I never saw it, I read enough about it to come to grips with the fact that my idea wasn’t entirely original. What idea of mine is? If you’re interested in reading more about “Dog Sees God,” you can link and check out its Wikipedia entry here. I’m not going to lie: It’s pretty ingenious.

Yet to some extent, my idea still was. Consider: “Dog Sees God” imagines Charlie Brown (known as “CB” in the play) and his buddies as angst-ridden teenagers dealing with the sh*t that teenagers deal with nowadays: Drug use, suicide, sex, et cetera and et ecetera. Pick your poison. Contrary to this, my idea imagined them as grown ups, preparing to return for their 20 year high school reunion. It was meant to portray them as adults dealing with adult problems like employment or lack thereof, marriages, kids, et cetera and et cetera, and while I’d likely never write a full-form treatment of this idea for fear that the Schultz Estate would come after me for copyright infringement, I feel that I can muse a little, here on my blog, about the possibilities.

I’m going to call this “You Got Old, Charlie Brown” as a homage to the television specials and movies that we all know and love. A quick parenthetical aside before I begin, though: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has been and will forever remain the greatest of the Peanuts’ specials, IMO. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” are tied for a distant second. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that topic as well but for now? I give you the character listing and treatment for “You Got Old, Charlie Brown,” a new, Peanuts parody by me:

Charlie Brown: Historically (and per Wikipedia, which should never be questioned for accuracy, sarcasm fully intended), Charlie Brown, while the main character of the comic strip, is a shining example of the “great, American un-success story” (citation not needed). When I look at him and I picture him in his 30’s, do you know what or rather, who I picture? Yep. Me. That said, in my version of the post-comic strip, post-television special and movie reality of the Peanuts Gang, Charlie Brown graduated from high school with honors and has a BA in English from an accredited, state university. He works in low level management for a small, privately held company that deals in… say… winches. He is happily married to the nameless, Little Red-Haired Girl from his childhood (go, Chuck!). They have two kids and live in a three bedroom, two bathroom house with a finished basement in the suburbs of the city of Schultzville. He’s a loving husband and father and a responsible employee but he’s not entirely satisfied with his life. His dream is to make his living as a writer, but he’s never been published despite a handful of half-hearted attempts. He’s good at it… people have told him so, but he suffers from a lack of confidence. The genre that he writes in primarily is horror. Chuck is haunted by something but no one–friend, family or shrink–has been able to determine what said something is. That “something,” which I will not reveal herein, is integral to his character arc in the story. What I will reveal is that he is the catalyst around which the entire story revolves. He is the one that is tasked with planning the reunion. And yes, he is still the “master” of…

Snoopy: Okay, so realistically? Even if Snoopy had been a puppy during the comic strip he’d still be over 20 years old (I figure Chuck is 37 now and he was 12 or so in the comics which would make Snoopy… calculating… 24). I don’t know of a single dog that has lived past 20 years so at some point, the original Snoopy must have passed away. Rest in peace, World War I Flying Ace. We’ll say that this Snoopy is 10 and was adopted by Chuck and the Little Red-Haired Girl shortly after they were married. Snoopy II, while also a Beagle,  is no where near as intriguing a pooch as his predecessor was. In fact, he’s kind of a dufus. he lounges around a lot, licks his balls, begs for food and et cetera, et cetera. In short? He’s a typical dog who, in recent years, has developed a bit of a bladder control issue. Yes, Snoopy II occasionally piddles on the carpet. The one thing that seems to fascinate him out of his leisurely stupor? The Little Red-Haired Girl’s pet bird named…

Woodstock: A little known fact about the Peanuts Gang: Woodstock, Snoopy I’s best friend, was actually the Little Red-Haired Girl’s pet bird (a presumption, but if I’m taking one or two liberties with this idea, why not that?). One day when she and, by association, they all were younger Woodstock flew the coup, never to be seen from again until he happened upon Snoopy I’s dog house and the two became BFFs. But wait, you may be asking yourself, why didn’t the Little Red-Haired Girl recognize Woodstock when she saw him hanging out with Snoopy? The answer to that is simple: She never did. As far as I know, the Little Red-Haired Girl was never seen in the comic strip or in the specials/movies, her existence merely inferred, much like that of the adults in the Peanuts Gang’s subjective universe by dialogue about her and the “wah, wah, wah, wah” sound of a voice on the other end of a phone call or out of frame. At some point between the end of the comic strip and the present, the Little Red-Haired Girl bought another bird and named it “Woodstock,” i.e. Woodstock II. Same scenario as with Snoopy, different species. ‘Nuff said. Moving on… 

Sally Brown: So, I figure that if Charlie Brown was approximately 12 during the Peanuts Gang’s heyday, his sister Sally was about three years younger than him, making her… calculating… nine. Sally didn’t exactly have the same kind of successes in school growing up that her brother did. Her educational life mirrored his up until she got in to high school. Once there, she became one of the “popular” girls. She partied a lot, had a number of boyfriends and though she was never considered easy or the s-word, she had a bit of a reputation. “She was kissed a lot” as some might say. She graduated from high school in the 50th percentile of her class, and went to a local community college where she lasted four semesters. Thereafter, she left school and took a job as a cashier for her local retail pharmacy. She lived at home, and worked her way up the corporate ladder until she was promoted to Store Manager at 25 years young, right around the same time that her brother and the Little Red-Haired Girl were getting married and adopting Snoopy II. Subsequent years since saw her getting her own place, and transferring from store to store with a reputation as someone who would bust her ass to clean up a “project store,” no matter what the cost. At the time that “You Got Old, Charlie Brown” begins, Sally is 34 and is working in the highest volume store in her district. She is training to be a District Manager, and has been told that she is next in line for promotion once a position opens up. I repeat: Once a position opens up. She’s been waiting for one to do so for almost five years. One more thing: Sally’s career does not allow her time for any sort of long term relationship or family, which means…

Linus Van Pelt: Chuck’s best friend growing up did pretty well for himself early on. He graduated high school with the same honors as his friend and went to the same college as him. They graduated together, still tight, but while Charlie Brown’s degree was in English, Linus’ was in Philosophy. Due to an unfortunate accident that occurred when he was 19 involving a UPS truck after a 48 hour long cram session for an exam on Freud, he won a large settlement and has been living off of the money since. It afforded him the capital to pay for graduate school and, eventually, a PhD in Philosophy. Linus currently teaches at the university level, incidentally at the same community college that Sally Brown dropped out of a few decades previous. He is married to a lover-ly woman named Patty who is not the same Patty from the early days of the comic strip (and should not be confused with Peppermint Patty) and is still very close with his lifelong best buddy, Charlie Brown. Lately, however, Linus’ home situation has been a bit tenuous. Patty has seemed less interested in the things she used to be interested in, i.e. going out, having sex, et cetera and et cetera. Linus has not yet been able to determine the “why” behind it despite his impressive intellect but he has confided in Chuck that he is concerned and seeking security. Let me repeat that: Security. One person he has not confided in is…

Lucy Van Pelt: Linus’ sister graduated high school and graduated college with degrees in International Business and Finance (with a Minor in Japanese). She has been a Wall Street power broker for the last 15 years for various firms and is known throughout the business community as the meanest, bitchiest, uncompromising monster since Gordon Gecko. She’s even been investigated once or twice for her business dealings but as of the beginning of “You Got Old, Charlie Brown,” she has not yet been convicted. She was recently featured in an article in Forbes as one of the Top 25 most powerful women in the business community, as much for her reputation as for her collection of pant suits, which numbers in the thousands. She has a phone attached to her ear 24/7 and is remembered by many of her “friends” as having left her wedding to take a business call. But unlike Sally, she is married. In fact, she is married to…

Shermy: Shermy, who disappeared quite early from the comic strip, went on to become the star quarterback of the Peanuts Gang’s high school football team and was accepted to Alabama University on a full scholarship. Sadly, he ruptured his Achilles in the first game that he ever played there as the starting quarterback and his career ended. He graduated with an Associates Degree in Restaurant Management and encountered Lucy one night, a few years later when she had a meeting with a client at the restaurant he was a line cook at. He recognized her but she didn’t recognize him. After her meeting went awry due to her constantly taking phone calls from other clients, Shermy came out to check on her. Lucy asked him if he had any weed and he informed her that he did. Lucy then asked him if he liked to f*ck and he informed her that he did. They were married six weeks later. He has been miserable since, but the sex is good, the “herbal refreshment” is top notch, and he doesn’t have to work anymore. He spends his days (and many nights) at home, tending to their two poodles and is a self-admitted HGTV addict. Unlike…

Peppermint Patty: The woman who had a crush on Charlie Brown growing up never got to be with him despite her incessant advances toward him. She graduated high school and went far away to college, for she wanted to be as distant from Chuck and her old life as she could be. Once there, she quickly embraced experimentation and “found” herself, i.e. she came out of the closet on the last day of the second semester of her Freshman year. Incidentally, she came out over the phone to her best friend…

Marcie: Marcie, upon hearing that Peppermint Patty was a lesbian, found the courage to admit to the truth that she had known but had never admitted to for years. Within minutes of when Peppermint Patty told her, she conceded the same and further informed Peppermint Patty that she had been in love with her since they had been pre-teens together. While this admission initially caught Peppermint Patty completely off guard, she realized that she too had harbored feelings for Marcie for quite some time, but had been using her obsession with Charlie Brown, along with her Ike Turner-esque treatment of her friend to disguise said fact. She–Peppermint Patty–returned home a few days later and has been with Marcie since. They traveled to and entered a Civil Union in Massachusetts as soon as it was legalized. They adopted a young Nambian child whom they named Franklin and have a Pit Bull named Rerun. They work together as the co-chairs of a state certified day care center, and while Marcie no longer calls Peppermint Patty “sir,” she has been known to let her wife’s surname slip in times of intense passion.

Almost done guys. If you stuck it out this far thank you. This has been fun, albeit somewhat blasphemous to traditionalists, I’m sure. Another quick, parenthetical aside: I know that there are other Peanuts Gang members that I am not including in my ensemble, but these are the ones that I put the most thought in to. I’m trying to include as many names as you can see but I may leave out a few. That said…

Schroeder: Schroeder was always my favorite Peanut, and I see no other outcome for him then the obvious: Classical Pianist. Schroeder did not need to go to college because by the time he was 16, he was considered the best, young pianist in the world. He released his first album of Beethoven covers, played with the Boston Philharmonic at 18 and was quickly playing concerts to packed halls across the world. He is credited with bringing a rock star’s sensibility to classical music and making it “cool” again. The show that he put on at the Sydney Opera House when he was 21 is still regarded by many as the greatest piano concert ever and holds the record for the largest attendance there ever. He currently lives in the Pacific Palisades where he is married to a supermodel and spends his days writing music and his nights being a philanthropist. He has given millions to charities around the world in an attempt to keep the Arts relevant in education. On a side note, Schroeder also has compiled the world’s largest collection of musical memorabilia. Among the pieces he is most proud of are one of Bach’s original harpsichords and a gold Lame (pronounced “la-may”) vest that was once worn by Liberace. Sadly, he was a great deal more fortunate than…

Pig Pen: Poor, poor Pig Pen. He never quite “got it.” He never made it through high school. He dropped out and worked for a while as a drive through cashier at the local Wendy’s. Eventually, he lost his job due to repeated complaints by the customers and fellow employees of his poor, borderline horrific personal hygiene. The Peanuts Gang attempted an intervention at his 16th birthday party but they were unsuccessful. As soon as he was confronted he broke in to hysterics and started screaming that it was “his life” before he disappeared in to the night, many thought never to be seen or heard from again. Until, a few years later, when he rose to unexpected prominence for saving a five year old child’s life on a subway platform in Manhattan. The child had wandered off from his parents and was meandering beyond the yellow line. Pig Pen was sitting in the corner of the subway terminal eating a crust of bread when he saw this, along with the lollipop the boy carried in his hand. Whether he saw the train that was bearing down on the platform as well is open to debate. Pig Pen instinctively stood and made his way quickly toward the child. He managed to get a hold of the back of his jacket sleeve and pull him back simultaneously with the train pulling in to the station. Had he not intervened, the boy would have been decapitated. The heroic act was captured on surveillance video and Pig Pen, once found, was toasted as “a true hero” by the mayor of New York. He was awarded, among other things, a key to the city and a cashier’s check for $10,000.00 to help him get his life in order. Sadly, Pig Pen pawned the key for $15.00 and a bottle of Vermouth and gambled/whored the $10,000.00 away within a month. His last known place of residence was the homeless shelter on 46th Street where, despite a full bank of working shower stalls in the bathroom, he continually refuses to bathe to this day. Why? Yet another mystery of “You Got Old, Charlie Brown.”

And that, my friends? That’s all I’ve got character wise. As for the plot? Sadly, I don’t think that I can reveal much of it. My agent/co-worker has advised me that to do so would be the same thing as opening myself up to an influx of lawsuits. Maybe by the grace of God this character treatment will one day make it in to the hands of the executors of the Schultz Estate. Mayhap they will read it and say, “wow. What a great idea!” For their benefit, I will give you this. The opening of “You Got Old, Charlie Brown.”

Charlie Brown stared longingly in to the drooping, brown eyes of his best friend, Snoopy. “Say something,” he pleaded, “DO something. Anything, boy? Anything at all?” Sadly, Snoopy did not oblige. His tail wagged once, then twice, and his floppy, black ears perked up for a moment before once again falling still. Simultaneously, Chuck heard something emanating from near Snoopy’s rear end. It sounded like water running. Unmistakable. He realized what was happening but knew that it was already too late. The f*cking dog had once again “piddled” on the sectional in his Man Cave. 

“Oh good grief,” he muttered and sighed as he stood up, muted the game that was playing on the 42 inch LED television across from him, and called for his wife’s assistance. 

To be continued?

A Pseudo-Madman Rings in the New Year

Leave it to your ole’ buddy the Madchronicler to write something about the new year two weeks after it started. For those of you that don’t mind my tardiness, Happy 2013! I will make for you the same wish that I made for the entirety of my Facebookverse and Twitterverse two weeks ago today: May you all have a happy, healthy and prosperous new year filled with new experiences, new opportunities and well, just new stuff. Just think, if you were my Facebook friend or my Twitter buddy you’d have gotten that greeting pre-this moment. Am I saying that you should friend me/follow me? Only if you want to. But I’d be happy to have you as a compadre on either. That said…

Believe it or not, my delay in writing about the new year–something I have proverbially done both publicly and privately for as long as I can remember–is not a result of procrastination. I was just discussing this with a friend/vendor of mine. Generally, I approach each new year as a new opportunity. But this year, I’m looking at things a bit differently, which could account for my “meh-ness” about it, too date. You know: “Meh.” As in I’m really just ‘kinda “meh” about 2013.

Don’t get me wrong. Some of my own, personal “new stuff” is really cool. Por ejemplo, I’m beginning the new year for the first time as the father of two daughters and not just one. I’m ringing in the new year as a husband of eight years and am entering the twelfth year of my relationship with my wonderful wife which, once upon a time, would have seemed an outlandish boast for me of all people to make.

2013 also marks my eighth year at my current job. Those of you that have been around for a while may remember that my eighth at my former place of employment, CVStress Pharmacy, was also the year that I was promoted to Store Manager. And while I can honestly say that I don’t see a life-altering promotion in my future at my current job, and I’m still two years away from the hypothetical tenure that, per my football and politics loving boss, marks the proverbial point of employment demarcation beyond which I can never lose my job, not even if I curse him out and call him something unsavory. But considering that none of the handful of people that previously occupied my desk lasted more than a few months and I’ve been here almost eight years, I’m doing pretty well. At least I hope I am.

There are other, less monumental firsts that I could include herein but to do so would be excessive. My point? I remain the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face that I’ve been for the better part of the last decade plus, and I should be excited about 2013. I should be looking at it as a time of new opportunity and should not be “meh” about it. Why, pray tell, am I so disinterested in the days, weeks and months ahead?

The answer to that is simple, really: If I were told to describe my life in no more than two words and no less than one on this damp and dreary morning in mid-January on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence I would say “status quo.” Yep. Status quo, defined by the Free Online Dictionary as, “The existing condition or state of affairs.” That’s it. I wonder if those of you reading this are as underwhelmed as I am at that definition.

All together now: “Oooh. Aaah. Smurfy.”

Don’t get me wrong: Status quo pays the bills. It keeps us determinedly moving forward with our lives. But does it lead to sublime happiness? To the fulfillment of dreams? Generally, it does not. Generally, it leads to… well, “an existing condition or state of affairs” and while that is not necessarily a bad thing, it is not enough for me. It never has been. If you know me, you know that dreams are a big part of who I have always been. That said…

What to do? It’s not fair to me or the people that I care about… hell, even the people that I don’t care about to toil away as little more than a walking, talking head for the next 350 days… as little more than a curmudgeonly prophet of “meh-ness,” even if I am grinning 90% of the time. That’s not how I roll. So how can I break free of this burgeoning state of mind before it becomes all encompassing?

Brace yourselves, because this is the part of this blog entry where I start writing about what I’ve been doing/why I haven’t written a word since a few days post-Christmas. Yes, I’ve been “meh” but despite that, or maybe because of it I have been thinking. A lot. About life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, my own subjective universe and… all together now… everything. I haven’t just been playing picnic with my daughters, reading “A Memory of Light” (Book Fourteen of The Wheel of Time for those of you keeping score) or playing “Final Fantasy Tactics” on our new iPad though admittedly? I have been doing all three. I started by debating a few, potential ideas. I then cross-referenced them with things that make me feel alive. The following list, for better or for worse, is what I came up with…

DISCLAIMER: These are NOT New Year’s Resolutions though they may sound like them. I do not do New Year’s Resolutions. This list is exclusive to me, and it is a road map, potentially showing me how NOT to be a prophet of “meh-ness” in 2013: 

1. Lose Weight: It’s no secret to anybody that knows me that I’m not exactly svelte. I never have been. I’ve been fighting those dastardly, overweight demons since I was a little kid and I’ve never once managed to drop below an above average weight for my height and my age. Said aspect of me has been a point of ridicule in the distant past but lately, it has just been me, as in “he’s Frank. He just is.” Am I satisfied with that? Not entirely. A few years ago I managed to drop 40 pounds and I’ve got to tell you, it felt great (please don’t take that last statement as my auditioning to be the next pitch man for Weight Watchers or “The Biggest Loser”; it wasn’t intended as such and if you could see me right now, you’d understand why).

But in the intervening time since I’ve put the majority of that weight back on. So I could go on a diet and attempt to drop down to my ideal weight–a goal that I missed by only 10, measly pounds back in 2008. It would make my PCP happy and I might be able to get off the High Blood Sugar medicine that I’ve been taking since September of last year. It would also make me feel more alive; more vital.

Will I? Probably. I generally let my post-holiday gorge (otherwise known as me, building up an extra layer of insulation for the forthcoming winter) continue through the Super Bowl and after that, I go on a crash diet. I don’t publicize it. In fact, this may be the first time I’ve even referenced dieting on “Random Musings of a Pseudo-Madman,” version 1.0 or 2.0. I anticipate the same in 2013 but will I manage to reach the goal I fell short of last time and stay there? Only time will tell, I guess. But I’ll do it, if only to be able to keep up with Cara once Spring and Summer roll around. That said…

2. Be a Better Father: Okay, so this one is debatable. I mean, I think–I don’t know for sure, but I think–that I’m already a pretty good one. I have my moments when I doubt myself. The nights that Cara won’t eat her dinner or go to bed without a struggle? I’ll admit that I get visibly frazzled. The times when Natalie won’t stop crying? Yes, I’ve simply put her down in her bouncer, or on her play mat and walked away. That’s what we’re supposed to do as parents, right? Granted, that eminent sage of parenting wisdom Harvey Karp never said so (sarcasm fully intended) but what’s the alternative? Shaken Baby Syndrome? A child that has a complex about being yelled at by the time she turns one? No thank you. I’ll take walking away and taking a few deep breaths over a kid that despises me before she’s old enough to walk. My kids smile a lot and I like that. Smiling is > Bawling.

But still, there is room for improvement. There always is. And save for the third item that I’ll be rambling about shortly, there is nothing in the world that makes me feel more alive than spending time with my girls. So how can I be a better dad? Admittedly (and some reading this might take exception to this), I have modeled my parenting style not after what I read in “What To Expect When You’re Expecting” or what Harvey Karp claims is appropriate but after the combined styles of my mother and… yes… my father, otherwise known by many reading this as “The Biological,” “The Deadbeat” and my own personal favorite, “The Sperm Donor.”

My mother is easy: Hard love and hard work; teaching my daughters about responsibility and accountability, even at an early age. She still sets that example for me and my sister too this day and I already use it to a certain extent with Cara. But my father? “The Man I Once Called Dad” as I wrote in a previous blog entry? (linkable HERE in case you’re interested)

Admittedly, he wasn’t really around long enough to have much of an impact on how I parent. “Around” meant every other other weekend for a time and, after a while, every other month, et cetera and et cetera until he became the equivalent of a non-entity in mine and my sister’s life. In truth? The time that we spent with him in the rundown shacks throughout Northern New Jersey that he called “home” in the late 1980’s the early 1990’s, eating off of hotplates and frequenting lower Manhattan via the Staten Island Ferry or the subway were, in my opinion, a textbook example of how not to parent. You would never catch me dead taking either of my kids for a leisurely stroll around East Orange, New Jersey, not even on a Sunday morning. I mean no offense to any East Orange-ites reading this but unless something has drastically changed since the mid-1990s you see the truth in my words.

But despite my sometimes disdain for the man and how he eventually turned his back on his biological children–that’s not a misrepresentation, guys, he did; my sister and I turned our backs on him only after he did us–I did learn a few things about being a father from him that I can not deny. The first? Father first, friend second, but be a friend. Share your interests with your children and encourage them to do the same with you. The second? Impress upon your children the importance of and appreciation of unconventional pursuits like literature, art, et cetera and et cetera. As my now-Father in Law–a man whom I respect above most other men in this world and also, to some extent, model my fathering style after–would say, push them to do something productive with their lives that will make them financially viable and stable, but “make sure they have a hobby,” be that hobby painting, singing, reading or…

3. Write, Write, Write:  Admit it: You saw this one coming. How could you not? It’s the thing I talk about the most in these blog entries and it is, in fact, what I’m doing right now. What, you thought I was composing this via some sort of psychic, alien transmission ala “The Tommyknockers?” (holy sh*t; I think I just won the award for “Most Obscure Literary Reference of 2013”) Last year and the year previous it, I vowed to write a book. Not just any book, but the book. The one that I wrote when I was a teenager and an early adult. I successfully achieved that in both 2011 and 2012 but sadly, I was unable to achieve the addendum to it last year: Finish it and get it published. At this moment, “Endworld – A Novel” still sits completed but unpublished on my computer at home. It awaits a final edit; it awaits feedback from the people that I got copies of it too. All these things? If you’re reading this right now you know them. I’m not going to rehash them because quite frankly (no pun intended)? I’m tired of doing so.

I’ve seriously considered just doing it these last few weeks. The software is installed on my computer at home and it is ready to go. Just a drag and drop and a click on “UPLOAD” and wah-lah! “Endworld – A Novel” is self-published on Amazon.com via the Kindle Readers Lending Library.

So why wait? Why procrastinate? Because I told myself that I would not publish it until I was confident that people would be able to read it and enjoy it. Call me a perfectionist… I’ll admit that I am. But I’m not going to take the easy way out. I will not put Frank Marsh’s version of “50 Shades of Gray” where anyone can read it ’cause at this time? That’s really all that it is: An unrefined story. Input breeds refinement, and without it, my novel is no better than a “novel” written by an 18 year old, lovelorn kid that originally conceived of a formulaic cross between “The Wonder Years” and “The Terminator” starring an alt-version of himself, and the woman he pined after at the time. It doesn’t deserve to be published, yet.

I wrote version 1.0 of “Endworld – A Novel” for me. It was my way of coping with the indelible fact that I could not and never would be with the woman I thought, for a time, I was in love with. News flash, guys: I wasn’t. I was, as a wise man once said, “in love with the idea of being in love.” In hindsight, I see that now but then? I was young and stupid. I’d watched “Say Anything” one too many times. What I feel for my wife and my children, now, is real Love with a capital “L.” it’s spiritual. It goes deeper than anything else I’ve ever experienced… ever. What I felt then? I don’t want to say that it was a crush because despite my posturing to the contrary it was something more than that. But the real deal? Nah. No contest. Still, I fabricated a fictional reality–“Endworld”–in which I–William MacNuff–was with her–Maria Markinson. If you didn’t know that before now? Well, there you go. See? I’ve always been slightly mad, even before this blog.

All together now: “Oooh. Aaah. Smurfy.”  

But version 2.0? I wrote that for a different reason. Despite my motivations for writing version 1.0, I always believed that it had a certain something that would appeal to an audience. Something about humanity’s capacity to love, and how it set them apart from their robotic overlords. But I also saw it, even then, as a starting point for something much, much larger: My own Wheel of Time. I wrote what I wrote in 2011 and 2012 with those concepts… those ideas in mind and all indications so far point to the fact that while I’m closer to my goal than I was, I still haven’t achieved the broad appeal that I’m looking for. The “Wow Factor,” if you will. If I revisit William MacNuff’s world in 2013, I will revisit it with an eye towards that. Sadly, that’s a big “if.”

It’s not that I’ve moved on from “Endworld – A Novel.” I haven’t. It would be irresponsible of me to do so after I put so much time and effort in to it. And I love that world. Despite what some have said about it being too reflective of other fictional realities it has a little something in it that is purely me. And do I believe that I will one day publish it? Yes. I do. But I cannot allow myself to remain tied forever to one idea. I have others, you see. Other worlds that I want… that I need to tell you about. Some closer to home than others, actually.

That beginning? While it’s not the beginning it is beginning (thank you, Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson). 2013, guys. The year that your ole’ buddy the Madchronicler finally wrote and completed something that wasn’t tied to William MacNuff’s story. That’s my vow. Mark your calendars ’cause I’ll revisit this resolution in a few months. If I’m no closer to writing something else? Well sh*t. Maybe I’m not as much of a writer and storyteller as I always thought myself. I don’t want to be a… cliche alert… one trick pony.

Maybe my “meh-ness” is a product of my hesitance. My incapacity to let go of one idea and embrace one of the many others that I have. Fact is? I know I need to. I wouldn’t be a very good writer if I didn’t, would I? But “Endworld – A Novel” and its subsequent sequels, formerly entitled “The Endworld Chronicle” have been the center of my creative universe for almost 20 years now. Even when I wasn’t actively working on them I was thinking about them… thinking about how I could improve them… grow them… make them more. The expansive outline that I have for Books Two and Three and potentially beyond is the product of that time. Time spent thinking. Time spent revising and re-revising in my mind. Other than my family, is there anything I have thought about as much? No. Not even close.

But there comes a point in every life where one needs to move on, whether from something simple like an idea or something larger like… well, like one’s biological children (that was not a veiled attempt at a dig but rather, a very obvious one). I’m blessed that for me, it is merely an idea. I’m pretty gul’darned happy with everything else from my job to how “A Memory of Light” ended the epic Wheel of Time to how far I’ve progressed in “Final Fantasy Tactics.” I remain as I was x-amount of paragraphs ago: A living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face. I’ve been that way for the better part of the last decade plus and that smile? It is widening the more time I spend my my wife… the more time I spend playing picnic with my daughters… the further I progress in to 2013 and beyond.

Being “meh” doesn’t mean being miserable. “Meh-ness” can exist concordantly with happiness, believe it or not. Hell, I wish I’d known that 20 years ago. That said, my place is here. Not there. “Endworld – A Novel” is a product of the there despite how much it has changed. My other ideas? They are a product of the here, and I think that it is one of those ideas that I’m going to roll with in 2013. One of the smaller ones. Not the one I wrote about a few entries ago that is a cross between The Book of Genesis and Asmiov’s Foundation Series. I’ll get to that one, but I think I need to complete something a bit less ambitious, first. Maybe a couple more short stories. The last one I wrote, despite it’s being rejected for publication, gave me a new taste for short form prose that, apparently, I’d sorely missed (considering I have about five short story ideas running through my mind, currently). I don’t know, guys. It’s a bit of a mystery.

So for now, I’m still “meh” as morning segues in to afternoon here in lover-ly Royersford, Pennsylvania. I light mist has begun to fall outside though I can’t see it directly through the feux-mural of a forest that adorns the brick wall to my immediate right. I’m going to get back to the grind that I’ve been slaving away at for the last eight years. Happy New Year, all. Fare thee well until next time and remember: This is not the ending. There are no endings to the Wheel of Time. But yes, it is ending. Or maybe that should say “an…”

🙂

New Beginnings

“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.” (Leonardo DaVinci, NOTEBOOKS)

It’s funny, really. In life, beginnings have never been an issue for me. Until recently it was endings that I had a problem with on my side of the proverbial wormhole of existence. Things never ended properly, be said things relationships, friendships, stories, et cetera et cetera. The only thing that ever seemed to end well for me was employment and that’s due primarily to my 13 year climb up the CVSStress hierarchy from cashier to Store Manager. In truth? The only reason that ended well was because I ended it before they could. Had I stayed much longer I likely would have been forcibly removed from my position and replaced with someone younger and cheaper. Instead, I got to leave on my own terms and I will never regret that fact. No sir. Never.

Now, seven and a half years removed from that job and seven plus years embedded in another I can honestly say that while I never know what’s going to happen tomorrow, for the moment I feel relatively secure in my current position and do not foresee a poor ending to it. Of course, I am writing the beginning of this blog post (like how I did that?) while at work and my boss has been known to terminate people for reading during their down time. I’m not sure what he’d do if he found out I was typing up something other than a heat exchanger quote. Maybe I shouldn’t take that risk. Then again, my options are rather limited at this juncture, and I’d rather exercise my mind while sitting here in silence than let it atrophy due to inactivity. Yes, I am that caught up and we are that dead right now. I’ll take “the lesser of two weevils,” Captain Aubrey, and stimulate my brain a ‘lil bit.

Back to beginnings. I’ve never had much of a problem beginning anything. Consider “Endworld.” “Endworld,” for those of you new to these ramblings, is a book that I originally wrote when I was 18. I rewrote it in my mid-twenties and then re-rewrote it last year. It is in the capable hands of a collection of beta readers and an editor, now, and for the most part, I am awaiting feedback before I re-re-rewrite it and attempt to publish it (so beta readers–you know who you are–please get on it! I’m counting on your feedback). Only two aspects of it remain virtually unchanged from when I first sat down in front of my old, powder blue, Royal typewriter in the summer of 1993 and typed that “it’s difficult to remember a time when my life had meaning. When you’re 18 and on the run, the only meaning your life has is surviving from day-to-day. Any other meaning my life had vanished that day upon the beach.” The first is the battle scene at the end of it but the other? The words that I just quoted and the rest of the Prologue. Everything else has gone through a dozen or more permutations over the last 19 plus years but the Prologue… the beginning is pretty much the same save for a few grammatical changes, word choices and consistency inclusions.

I have  compromised portions of my original vision of a cross between “The Terminator” and “The Wonder Years” to make “Endworld” less formulaic and more appealing (besides, Fred Savage hasn’t really been relevant since 1993 though congratulations are in order: He and his wife did just have another baby). I’ve also taken formerly benign characters and turned them in to Shakespeare quoting sociopaths, but one thing that I have always vehemently refused to change is the beginning. Call me sentimental, but those words mean a lot to me. They were the first words that I ever wrote in anything other than a term paper or a book report. In essence, they triggered the love affair that I have had with writing since. They were the reason I chose to study English and not Computer Science, or something that guaranteed me a well-paying career post-college. Initially, I had hoped to see them published sometime in my twenties but life got in the way. Now, at 37, I still desire to see those words… that beginning published if for no reason other than that: Sentimentality. There may be other reasons, which is the same way as saying “there are other reasons” but I won’t address them herein. Those belong to me and me alone.

Beginnings. In my writing, I have written many beginnings and very few endings. In truth? The only things that I have ended other than “Endworld” are its two sequels, a handful of poems, an even smaller handful of short stories and many, many blog entries/pieces of Mental Flatulence/Dissertations. While that may seem like a lot to many of the people reading this trust me: When you compare that output to the amount of stuff I have started but never finished the amount of stuff I have started but never finished trumps the amount of stuff I have finished two, and maybe even threefold. FACT: I have no problem conceiving of an idea and beginning it. I can even go 50, and sometimes 60 pages in to it. But seeing that idea through to its ending? Its fruition? That has always been a struggle for me, which puts me in an incredibly unfamiliar position, currently.

You see, for once I have a big idea unrelated to anything that I’ve ever attempted to write before that I can see a framework for and, amazingly enough, an ending to. But the beginning? It is one big, gray cloud of Huh and it is threatening to remain so unless I figure it out stat. For once, beginning is my issue, not ending. In my subjective universe on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence a precedent has been broken. Cue the sarcastic “oohs” and “aahs” from the peanut gallery. I deserve them.

I’ve asked myself on many occasions since I first conceived of this idea why? Said inquiry in to my own, personal psyche has led me spiraling in to a deeper psychoanalysis of my own motivations or lack thereof. Yep, guys. This is going to be one of those blog entries. You know, the ones where I exhaustively talk about myself and likely alienate a good segment of you. Feel free to look away now or re-navigate back to The Curious Case of Our Elf on the Shelf, Jingle for less psychoanalysis and more entertainment. I won’t hold it against you. But if you choose to read on remember what I wrote on my ABOUT ME page: “I write what I feel like writing when I feel like writing it.” Sadly, that sometimes results in something less of an essay and more of a… what? A journal entry? Am I that girl in “The Breakfast Club” that dumps her… I mean his purse out on the couch and forces his problems on the Jock? Maybe I am. Whatever the case, you have been warned.

In continuance, I’ve always assumed that the reason why I can begin an idea but not finish it is because I will never be able to finish anything else until I finish “The Endworld Chronicle” as it was once called (I have no idea what I’m going to call it now). But at this juncture, that answer seems a bit forced. After all, what makes “Endworld” so special that it somehow holds me back from writing anything else? At its core, it’s a pretty simple love story set against the backdrop of a dystopic, future world run by machines. Not exactly ground breaking. What, as Lee Ermey would have said, “is [my] major malfunction!?”

A few weeks ago, I wrote a rare short story which I submitted for publication to a worthy cause. The story is called “The Day of Final Departure” and “Endworld” didn’t hold me back from completing it. Nor has it held me back from writing this blog entry, the one before it or the dozen before it, the Customer Service Manual that my department uses and… well, okay. That’s about it but again: Not a bad sampling.

Quick parenthetical aside: Information on the worthy cause that I submitted “The Day of Final Departure” to can be found HERE. I’ve touted this ever since I decided to do it and I will continue to do so, even though I still do not know whether or not my story will actually make it in to the planned anthology. I advise any writer out there reading this, amateur or otherwise who consider monetary gain secondary to… well, just writing to check it out. If anything, it’s a neat little exercise, the proceeds of which go to a very good cause. Ask yourself: Do I write to be recognized or do I write because I f*cking love writing? I know my answer. What’s yours? End parenthetical aside.

In essence, then, this whole idea of “Endworld” holding me back seems to be something deeply ingrained in my personality that I feign to distract people from the real reason why I begin things but never end them. It’s the same reason I start a game like “Diablo III,” get through the first two difficulty levels and stop playing before I can take on “Nightmare Difficulty.” I get busy at work or with family and friends. Or I get bored. Or I get distracted. Or I get lazy. Or I get in to a television show. Or I et cetera, et cetera. You get the idea. FACT: I find an excuse. If I ever have any intention of being anything more than a Monday through Friday and every fourth Saturday Joe Schmoe that dreams big but doesn’t actively pursue anything that might make him more… make me bigger I need to stop finding excuses and, like Nike, “just do it” regardless of the consequences to my sleep or my television viewing schedule.

Which brings me back to my initial issue. How should I start this new, big idea that I have? And how can I maintain my interest throughout the writing of it? Well, the latter is easy. I just need to train myself to not get distracted and be like Mike (veiled, Nike reference). But as for how to begin it, I think the cue is in “The Day of Final Departure.” Said story is a pretty simple concept and if you want to read a copy of it, drop me a line and let me know. I’m not overly concerned about plagiarism since the story has already been submitted for publication. It’s about a guy named Finn Drummond who awakens one morning in the late autumn of the year 2215. His apartment is empty and he is packed for something but you don’t know what. He continually refers to it as his “day of final departure” but you don’t find out what that is until about three quarters of the way through the story. I don’t want to reveal much more herein for fear of spoiling the surprise if and when it is published but the long and short of it is this: Finn decides for personal reasons not to depart. He embarks upon a personal quest in to his past while at the same time he embraces his future. The story ends at the exact point where I believe the novel or the novelsneed to begin. But how to begin? What words to use?

Beginnings. Words. My favorite author Stephen King wrote a series of novels of his own about one character’s quest for the Dark Tower that sits at the center of not just one proverbial universe on one side of the proverbial wormhole of existence but at the center of all universes. I’ve read everything from “The Lord of the Rings” to “A Song of Fire and Ice” to “The Wheel of Time” to “The Incarnations of Immortality,” and I can honestly say that King’s tale is my favorite of all of them. It all begins with his beginning: A simple sentence that kicks off the first book, “The Gunslinger” and sets up everything that happens over the course of not only that book, but the six… scratch that, the seven (I forgot about “The Wind Through the Keyhole”) that follow it:

“The Man in Black fled across the desert, and the Gunslinger followed.”

From the get go, the reader is introduced to the primary antagonist and the primary protagonist of much of the series. You not only get the characters but you get the setting and you get an incredibly large plot point from word one: The Man in Black is running from the Gunslinger. As for why he is running and why the Gunslinger is chasing him, you find out over the course of not only the first book but the other books, as well. As Stephen King proved, beginnings and how they are worded are crucial, and admittedly? I modeled the beginning of the Prologue to “Endworld” after the beginning of the Dark Tower. “Endworld’s” introduces not only the main character to the reader, but the mentality of the main character–a life without meaning–the fact that he is on the run and lastly, the fact that once upon a time…

‘Cause all good stories begin as such…

…his life did have meaning. But said meaning “vanished that day upon the beach.”  What happened to him? That information is revealed throughout the course of the novel via flashback before the Epilogue ends in the same place that the Prologue began. I desire to do something similar with the beginning of my new idea. Something simple yet revealing. Something worded like this:

“As the vast emptiness of space closed in around BLANK (I haven’t decided on a character name or gender yet) and the 179 other souls suspended in stasis in the cargo hold of the Magellan, BLANK dreamed of the life he (or she) had left behind him (or her).”

It’s a good beginning. A strong beginning. Cue BLANK’s dream which will give you a broader look at the setting that you merely got a glimpse of in “The Day of Final Departure.” Much of the beginning of this book takes place in a dream state because lets face it, guys (and this is all that I will reveal): If you’re in stasis travelling trillions of miles through space toward a destination a couple dozen light years away there’s really not a lot to do. Don’t get me wrong: There will definitely be amenities for the 180 passengers to take advantage of en route to wherever their destination is once they wake up but the ship within which they are travelling is more ark then Carnival cruise ship. No shuffleboard or deck pool on this baby. Practicality rules the day in 2215.

Some of the more hardcore science-types among you might be reading this and saying, “wait. Hang on a hot minute. Are you postulating that in 200 years, we’ll be able to travel trillions of miles through space?” To those people let me respond with a resounding yes. Yes I am. Whether you believe that humanity will have that technological capability in the early 23rd Century or not is irrelevant. Science Fiction predicts but doesn’t always get it right. For every “Neuromancer” that successfully predicted the World Wide Web a decade before it even existed there’s a “2001: A Space Odyssey” that mistakenly predicted we would have bases on the moon and be flying manned missions to Jupiter in the year… well, 2001. The joy of Sci-Fi is looking at the science that exists currently and extrapolating a future per it. If your prediction is right you’re considered a visionary. And if you’re wrong? You’re still considered one. No one ever critiqued Clarke or Kubrick for being wrong. Rather, most people stated and continue to state that “2001” is the greatest Science Fiction movie ever made despite the fact that it didn’t really get much right. That said…

Beginnings. New ones. There’s nothing like the rush you feel when you start something new. Whether a relationship, a job, a story or something else, beginning is a blast. As I sit here at my desk, staring out the window at the gray and chilly morning beyond it, I look forward to beginning this new idea. I’d do it now but I’ve dawdled long enough and am very, very leery of being discovered doing something other than spec’ing out a directional valve by my boss. In conclusion? I just need to sit down and “do it.” All other concerns will, I hope, fall in to place around it. If you’ve read this far thank you for, once again, joining me on another journey in to the dark and sordid psyche of the Machronicler. Maybe one day this blog entry will be looked back upon as the thing that deepened my steamy, two decade love affair with writing. Or, perhaps it’ll go down as yet another inane, substanceless rambling by a 37 year old Sh*thead. Either way, it always feels good to write something, even if said something could potentially be construed as little more than me, dumping my proverbial man purse out on the couch for all of you to see.

Have a good one, guys.

The End (like how I did that?).