A ghost story


The other day in preparation for a hike, I got out my old camping gear, including a couple of canteens. One in particular dates back to 1981. Its an old army surplus canteen I bought for my first class in college. Alas the cover for the canteen was in poor shape, so the canteen stayed home. Later the next day I broke out the sewing kit and made some repairs; reattaching the belt loop which was about to fall off, fixing up the wool felt lining which had fallen into pieces, and tightening up the corners so the canteen fit more snugly.

Just as I was finishing up, I flipped the canteen over and saw on the bottom the initials PJ. And that’s when I knew I was in a ghost story.

You see, back in 1991, which was a few years after I moved to LA, I hit a point in my life where I seriously crashed and burned; loosing a friend and a girlfriend in a one of those big dramatic messes that seem to come with youth. When the fire finally went out I found myself broke, and renting a room in Sherman Oaks from a man who ran a dance studio. For about a year I lived in that place and slowly rebuilt my life from the ashes.

My next door neighbor in that place was a newly single mom with three bright boys. Over the course of that year the mom and I became close, and I began to see the boys often. At a very dark time for me they were the bright spot of my life. The oldest boy, PJ was about 10 at the time. He was kind, and smart, with a ready smile and a passion for jumping into things. So when he went on a camping trip with his school I was happy to lend the use of my canteen for the journey. His mom, being especially good at motherhood, was careful to mark his initials on the bottom of the cover, and thereby guaranteeing, by some inexplicable rule of the universe, that the canteen would never be lost. Hence the PJ.

And that’s about it for the story. Time went by and I moved on. I stepped out of the nice safe shell I had built and slowly stumbled into adulthood. The mother eventually remarried a wonderful and talented man, and the boys grew older. PJ went to a nice private high school, and did quite well. He gathered around him a collection of friends who were kind and bright and fun. He was by all accounts the kind of child any parent would be proud to have. My last strong recollection of him is talking math with him and his friend who only ate cheese pizza and was about 20 times better equipped for the conversation than I was.

If by wishing we could make things happen, then I really wish I could end this story here. PJ would quietly move on into that nebulous and shiny land that people go to when they exit your life. The same place one wishes upon ex-girfreinds, distant family members, and former workers. The land of happiness, and wealth, and opportunity. But, as I suggested in the title, this is not a happy story. This is a ghost story.

They say marriage changes things, and its true. Only sometimes the things it changes are not the things you expected. My friendship with the boy’s mother, which had limped along for years and had every indication of lasting longer, did not survive my marriage. I say this not as something I wished for, or even something I liked at the time, but something that happened. Nor was it the only thing that fell from my former life to make room for the new. Maybe a bigger man, or a wiser man could have walked that path. All I know is I couldn’t or didn’t. Alas, along with that friendship went my ties with the boys.

But friendships are tricky things, and once someone has burrowed their way into your heart they leave connections behind like a spider’s web that tug and pull long after they have stopped being the center of your life. While you may stop seeing a person, you will still be connected to them indirectly through the friendships you once shared together but now maintain separately.

Thus it was that I still heard about PJ from time to time. I learned that he graduated from high school, that he had in interest in music, and that he apparently showed some talent as a music producer. Then one day that spiderweb of connections was tugged, the various strands tightened, and just like that PJs bright shiny future ended.

I was a car that did it. A drunk driver if I recall correctly. It happened right across from his high school. He was 21. And. Just. Like. That. He was gone.

I may have got the details wrong. It was some years ago, and like I said, our connections were indirect. But still, the results were the same. He was gone.

At one time I was quite close to PJ, but now, some 23 years on, I find I cannot recall much about him. When he was young he liked Transformers, and had a fondness for video games. He was at times fiercely protective of his brothers, but at other times was happy to use his larger size against them. He liked to play, and could be strongly competitive, but he also had a big heart and a ready laugh. Even now I find I can recall his laugh quite well.

And that is largely how I remember him. In my mind he is still the boy he was when we met. He is still in that nebulous fog all kids exist in until they grow old enough to discover their future selves. Because to me he hadn’t discovered his future self yet. To me, all his futures remained unmapped, and uncertain. Not that these things didn’t happen. I just never saw them.

In a happier story, the one without a car crash, PJ would now be around 33. Old enough to start getting serious in life. Maybe marry, maybe see a therapist, maybe start a family of his own. Old enough to grow up into a interesting adult, and surely PJ would have been an interesting adult. Many of the people I count myself lucky enough to work with are about that age, and I like to think that in that happier story I would one day run across PJ at an office and share old remembrances. Maybe we would have lunch together, tie up some loose ends, reconnect in ways that are healing and less painful.

But this is not that kind of story. This is, as I said, a ghost story.

There is a hole in my heart from a boy who is no longer a boy, and who is no longer there. There is no future I can connect him to so he can safely move on, and no past I can remove him from without also destroying myself. Thus he sits. A hole that cannot be removed nor repaired. A wound that cannot be healed. In short, a ghost. Perhaps he is only my ghost, which would be a much nicer ending for his friends and family, but a ghost none the less.

So when I flipped over that canteen cover, and saw his initials on the bottom, all of this came to me in a flash, like a wave that rolled over your head and buried you in the bottom of the surf. Because this is not a happy story. This is, as I said, a ghost story.

The other side of the creative process. The one they don’t tell you in art school.

There’s a thing about art that they won’t tell you in school. What they don’t say when you’re getting a degree in creative writing, or in a performance art. There’s something that happens between the tour busses and the ballet barre, between the late night ads and the morning coffee shops. There is a price for pursuing the creative process, and that price is fear.

Imagine if you will that we live on a world perfectly divided in half at the equator. On the north side, there side where we live, there are plants and trees, houses and apartments, cites and farms. It is light and sunny, exactly like our world, with one small difference, the best fruit, that is the fruit that everyone wants to eat grows on the fabulous trees near the equator.

Now the south side of the world is dark and populated with monsters, horrible and terrifying ones that will happily chew you up and spit you out. We are a delicacy to them. These monsters mostly keep to themselves, but they like to come over to the other side now and again to get a nice snack of human. So what they do is hide near the fabulous trees at the equator, waiting out of sight for the humans to come and pluck the fruit.

A few other things. The fruit from the fabulous trees grows sweet just about everywhere, but it is sweetest the further south you go. It needs a certain amount of darkness to be sweet. Also, the trees you first encounter, that is the trees furthest to the north, have fruit that is already very sweet. From there the amount of sweetness increases slowly as you travel south, the difference being more and more subtile the further you go. So when you first step up to the fabulous trees the fruit is wonderfully sweet, but you cannot get too far south until you’re not sure if the fruit from the next tree is going to be as sweet, or sweeter then the one before. Eventually you find yourself having to pass 3, 4, 8, or more trees to find fruit noticeably sweeter then the previous. And all the while it is getting darker and darker.

And of course, the further south you go, the more likely you’re going to run into a monster.

For me, being a retoucher is like picking fruit right near the beginning of the fabulous trees. The fruit is sweet. Sweet enough, and I make a good living selling it to the people who have neither the inclination or ability to reach the fabulous trees. The nice thing is it is a fairly safe place to pick the fruit. The monsters have to travel a long way to get you, and you can usually see them a mile off. There’s plenty of time to pick up your bags and run. Also there are a lot of fellow pickers around you. This makes it easier as you can watch over each other like a herd, and gang up on them if they come. Mind you, there are retouchers who pick their fruit further south than me, some of them much further, but the difference in price they get for their fruit is not all that much higher than mine, and of course they work at a greater risk.

This is not the only time I’ve traveled to the fabulous trees. I’ve been there before as a musician and songwriter. Back then I was too scared to go very far south, and too ignorant to know the difference between the sound of an approaching monster and that of someone picking fruit a few trees ahead. This ignorance was costly, and eventually convinced me to give up fruit picking all together, at least as a musician.

What I didn’t realize when I started writing stories is that I’d be working much further south than before. And I’d be working alone. And this is the price that you pay as a creative. Sure my appreciation for the fruit has grown stronger. I can now detect the subtile differences in flavor that used to baffle me before, but I got that way by picking fruit closer and closer to the monsters.

The people who never pick the fruit know all about this of course, but their knowledge is perforce limited by their experience. They think the line between the safe side of the equator and the other side is a clear and distinct. Like its a line marked on the ground with one side being light colored, and the other dark. But those of us who travel deep into the trees will tell you there is no line. The world does get darker the further you go, but the differences eventually become so subtle that it is almost impossible to tell. Worse, the change is so subtle that its easy to get turned around, and head the wrong way. You can think you’re walking home, and instead head straight for the monsters.

Sometimes when I am out there I can hear the monsters. The ones I fear the most are depression, paranoia, and schizophrenia, but there are other ones nameless to me further in. Depression I’ve battled so many times he almost counts as a friend. Sometimes he captures me, sometimes I kick his ass. But he’s a devil I know, so I fear him, but I also understand him. Its the other two that really scare the shit out of me. And I swear to you, there are days when I can feel them out there. They are just over the horizon. I can smell them. Hell, I can point to them. Sometimes, to pick the fruit of a particular nice fabulous tree, I find myself up on a rickety ladder, my body extended way past what is safe, clinging to the tip of the tree with nothing but thin branches to break my fall if I should make the slightest mistake. And all the while I’m up there with my back turned to the monsters. When I up high like that, I can feel them. I can hear them slithering around just beyond my vision. And I know If I make a mistake, they will drop on me in and instant.

But the fruit….

The kind of notes I send to myself…

Cool idea 11/24/2013

A heads-up display on a motorcycle shows the driver a image of a motorcycle in front of him that he should follow. The image turns color to represent speed (more green for faster and more red for slower) flashes yellow if the driver needs to really pay attention or if they need to brake or accelerate hard. A radar plots a path through traffic so all the driver has to do is follow the image and they can drive much faster than normal.

Also a motorcycle is made of a very strong but very heavy material. Something much stronger than steel. The motorcycle weighs 8-10 tones. If a car pulls in front of it the motorcycle just pushes it aside.

To the Tooth

There’s an Italian term of art in cooking, al dente, which means food (usually pasta, but veggies and other things as well) that is slightly under-cooked so it is still firm. Directly translated it means “to the tooth”. There’s another meaning I take from al dente. It not only means “to the tooth,” but to me it also means “in the teeth”, like I just took a kick in the teeth.

Today I’m having an al dente day.

I’ve been recently working on a story in my spare time, and while I like the idea I realized a lot of what I wrote was bad. Well not bad, just boring. The irony is I took a big slug at the story the other day, throwing down well over 3000 words, so naturally I was excited about it.  That was until the next day when I realized much of the work I had done was under cooked. Al dente.

When you’re a creative type being honest with yourself about your work is probably the most demanding part of the gig. You not only have to ignore the rest of the shit going on in your life, and somehow find the energy to get off your ass and do the work, but then when your work is done you have to turn right around and be critical enough about your work to ensure a high standard.

Essentially there are two standards at play here:

  1. Is the work done?
  2. Is it any good?

The first standard is easy, and can be roughly translated as “am I happy”. This is what the creative person aims for internally. This is the first goal in their work, making themselves happy. And it is quite satisfying when you do the work. I always love it when I get a stretch of time to really dig into a story. It is relaxing and exhilarating, much in the same way that a good workout at the gym is relaxing and exhilarating. You get the excitement of the “burn”, you get the very real sense of accomplishing something. Its that feeling you get when doing a project around the house, or working on a hobby or craft. That feeling you get when you complete a project and then turn around to admire your work.

But the second standard, the one that asks, “is it any good?” is the more important. This is this question that separates the amateurs from the pros, the question that elevates a piece of art beyond one’s own horizon to that of the world’s. Of the two, this standard is also, not surprisingly, the more difficult.

When one is a creative type then they will spend a huge amount of their time learning and polishing their craft. Perfecting their ability to do their work, because, after all, doing the work is what its all about. Because of this it is easy and natural to learn from others, to study the great masters, to attempt to learn all that is possible within the craft. Painters learn to paint, writers learn to write, singers learn to sing, etc. But where does one go to learn how to be critical? How does a newbie learn to break down the flaws in their work and make it better? Where does the neophyte artist/writer/singer/etc. learn to develop an expert critical eye or ear?

These are the tough questions, the ones not easy to answer. To be creative means to ignore the other clamoring voices in the world, to lock yourself up in your own head, and to produce the work that only comes after years and years of practice. But to be a professional in your craft means your have to then turn around and listen to those very same voices you just ignored, and also, at the same time, hold your work up to them for comparison. This is a brutal thing to learn, and it is every bit as demanding as mastering the work itself. Only the rewards are not nearly as satisfying. It does not feel good to criticize one’s work. In fact, it feels like shit. Yet, it must be done.

So yeah, my story is both under-cooked, and being honest about it to myself feels like a kick in the teeth. Thus, al dente. What’s a guy to do?

Anyway, it looks like its time to do a bit more cooking. Which means its time to turn up the heat.

Anybody else suffer from learning the right amount of criticalness? What’s your story?

Outtake from Angel of Death

Since I’ve been neglecting my blog of late, I thought I would put up a little something. This scene is an outtake from my first novel, Angel of Death. My goal was to put it in the novel somehow, maybe insert it at the beginning, but I couldn’t seem to make it work.

It’s very short, less than 1400 words, so it should only take you a few minutes to read. It also, I think, gets right at the heart of Father Juan’s dilemma. He’s a priest with a curse. Just what kind of curse you’ll find out here.

Later, I’ll put up another outtake from the same novel. One that requires a bit of a description, but is an equally powerful scene all the same.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *


Father Juan was tired.

The tall priest was traveling on a bus somewhere in the southwest. The high desert landscape, all dusty dry reds and tan sands, drifted past his window. Each bump in the road jostling his seat, making it difficult to sleep. He was not quite 25 and already heading for his third church. Barely suppressed anger at this injustice clouded his thinking, leaving a lingering aftertaste of guilt and shame.

When he got on the bus that morning still wearing his clerics from the morning mass, a mother had spoken to her husband and teen-aged daughter as he passed them in the aisle. “Look,” she had said in Spanish. “We are lucky to be traveling with a priest. Surely God will protect one of his own.” The way the daughter kept calling her father “Apa” told Father Juan they were from the Mexican state of Sinaloa, but their conversation was spiced with Spanglish; Americanized Spanish. It was the sound of a family born in one country, but living in another.

Father Juan had sat in an open seat near the back of the bus, and watched the miles roll past the window. Sometime in the afternoon he dozed off, only to be woken when a man sat roughly next to him. The man’s face was rugged and dried looking, the skin weathered, his hair cropped short and mostly grey. A scar ran down from his forehead to one cheek, crossing one eye which was cloudy with cataracts. The other eye, the good one under his heavy eyebrows, carried a gleam of malevolence like a hard bright star.

“Don’t think I’m afraid of no priest,” he boasted in Spanish by way of a greeting. Then he laughed as the young priest impulsively shrank back against the window, saying nothing.

Father Juan wanted to tell the man he wasn’t afraid, that the fear he felt growing in his belly was not for for the man, but for something far more grim. Instead he remained silent. There was no way the priest could explain this to him, not without making things worst.

The bus lumbered out of the dusty station and headed out onto the highway. The man next to Father Juan said nothing, looking straight ahead, lost in his own thoughts. Already, Father Juan could feel a sense of dread growing within. A chill settling in his belly as he unconsciously pressed himself against the cool metal side of the bus.

Then things turned worse on their own.

“The first one,” the man said in a low voice, almost a whisper, “was when I was twelve. I took the wallet of some rich man in Monterey. When he tried to grab me, I shot him. I didn’t mean to, but I shot him just the same.”

He spoke matter-of-factly, without looking at the priest, so it was a moment before Father Juan realized the man was talking to him.

“The next one,” the man said almost conversationally, “was a girl from Nachez. She twirled her skirts for me, but wouldn’t spread her legs. I used a knife that time.” His lips curled up as he said this, but it wasn’t a pleasant smile.

The mans voice was slowly rising. Emotion becoming more evident with each word. Father Juan shrank back horrified even further into the bus’ side, as if he could make the man stop by pushing himself into the metal.

The passengers around them started to stare.

“The third one,” the man spoke louder, “was a Federale. He tried to take my money, so I shot him with his own gun. I left Mexico after that.”

For the next half hour, the man confessed to every crime he had done in his long and terrible life. Half way thought he started to cry. Tears streamed down his face, his voice a horse rasp of emotion, yet on and on he spoke. He kept staring straight ahead, never looking to either side, as if he was afraid he would stop if he did. The passengers in the back had first looked on with horror. Later they moved to the front, trying to get as far away as possible from that terrible voice. Some even stood in the aisles rather than sit close enough to hear. Eventually the only two left in the back were Father Juan and the criminal. The driver had yelled at the man to shut up, threatening to drop him off at the next freeway exit, but the man ignored these threats like he did everything else.

When the criminal finally reached the end of his confession his face was pale and drawn, his voice a whispered croak. Only then did he turn to look at the priest for the first time. With unmanly tears streaking down his cheeks he pleaded, “I beg you, Padre. Please pray to God for my soul. Pray for my forgiveness.” And with those words, he slumped into the center aisle, dead.

Father Juan leapt from his seat grabbing the well worn Pastoral Care of the Sick from his backpack along with a small vile of holy water. Awkwardly he leaned over the man to administer his last rites. After he finished the Prayer of Commendation he drew the sign of the cross upon the man’s forehead, and sprinkled the body with holy water. Then he closed his booklet with the ribbon bookmark carefully placed back upon the chapter called Prayers for the Dead. Looking up he saw through the dirty windows the last of the twilight being squeezed out of the cold clear indigo sky. Only then did he notice how dark it was, and that every eye on the bus was upon him.

The driver stopped at the next wide spot in the road, a rest-stop. The other passengers quickly exited the bus, but Father Juan elected to stay with the body until the sherif arrived. One gnarled old woman, her hands bent into claws from arthritis, had stared at him when she left, lowering herself painfully with each step. Her piercing eyes showed no fear, buried as they were in her wrinkled face, when she whispered the words, “Ángel de la Muerte.” Angel of Death. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

When the bus left again three hours later, Father Juan noticed that half passengers had stayed behind, including the old woman and the family from Sinaloa.

He sat alone in the back of the bus, and thought about the past few years. That was the tenth “special” confession he had heard since he left seminary less than three years ago. It was also the tenth man he had seen die right before his eyes. No wonder the seats around him were empty.

What he felt then was not anger. No longer did he suffer the pride of thinking himself a pawn in some larger man’s game. Death had a way of burning through that particular emotion. Instead what he felt was shame. Almost too late he had remembered he was a priest with a mandate from God. Almost too late he had remembered the wounds Jesus bore were for everyone, the criminal and innocent alike.

That night Father Juan made a vow, sitting alone while the moonlit dessert rushed past his window somewhere between where he was and where he was going. He swore to himself that no matter how undeserving the next person might be, if a man was going to confess to him, then he would treat that man with the respect a child of God deserved. It was not anything he was prepared for, or felt himself capable of doing, but apparently it was his calling. And he would do that job as well as he was able.

It was a long time before the sun came up again. When it did, a very tired priest got off at the next stop, and carried his bags to what he hoped would be his last parish.

My Book of Ideas

Way back in 2003 I bought a little note book. On the cover I scribbled “Eric’s Book of Ideas.” It wasn’t my first notebook. I’ve had several, most of which are stuffed filled of poems, songs, sketches, and whatnot. In a way, these notebooks work like crumbs to mark the trail of my emotional journey as I slowly worked out how to be a man and deal with the outsized set of emotions with which I was born. To say a lot of the writing is tedious and overwrought would be fair. They are. It is. Perhaps you had a better way getting to where you are, but I didn’t. In some ways I still don’t.

But that being said, I hardly write poetry any more. I haven’t really since I met Teri. Its as if poetry was some strange language I spoke only when I was single, and when I settled down I somehow lost the ability. I find this idea fascinating, and wonder if you, dear reader, have also had a similar transformation. Have you? I can assure you, mine was not intended, it just happened. Moreover, I am all the better for it. At least the marriage part. The poetry, I’m not so sure. Even now, when I look back over it, I find my poems tedious and overwrought. I can’t imagine you would experience them differently.

In any event, I mention this because I pulled out this particular notebook the other night, and read through it, cover to cover. Over the course of its use (I’ve since switched to using my iPhone, and thus do not write in notebooks anymore) I went through a lot of changes. Trevor grew up. I grew into appreciating fatherhood. (believe me, I wasn’t so sure at first, even though it was my own idea) I took a screenwriting course at the local college, and I switched back to writing fiction. All of these transformations are marked in these pages. Not by the words directly, you’d have to know the transformations were there to see them, but echoes of these changes are clearly imprinted in the words.

As a diary of sorts, it makes for fun reading. Its good, I think, to be occasionally reminded from whence you came. But as a journal it is extremely lacking. There’s no direct connection to any part of the real world. With the exception of a single note, which remarks that Trevor turned 20 months old on that particular day, there is almost no connection to my day-to-day life. Its as if a drunk monk went over your life, randomly picking things important only to him, and somehow used this as the basis of your biography.

So I suck at my own history. Sue me.

But I did find, on this recent excavation, a few ideas worth mentioning here. One was a story idea called “I Know Americans” which I jotted down in 2003. To my knowledge, this is the only story I’ve thought of that takes place in an advertising agency. Considering I’ve spent the better part of 24 years in one ad agency or another, I find the absence funny.  This story I have already started, and hope to finish soon. No promises yet on when it will come out because I think it’ll be good enough to send out for publishing. You can be sure, though, that I’ll post here on its progress. Its a fun one, and I think my peeps who have had been stuck sweating with me in the advertising mines will appreciate its scope and ideas.

The other thing from my notebook I find worthy of your attention is a poem. This one is a rare poem I wrote it in 2013, well into my marriage. It is also less about my own emotional mess (or my fears of being single forever, and ever, and ever, and ever) and more about helping others. I guess marriage has been good for me. I’ll post it tomorrow. Look for it then.

In the mean time, if you have something to share from your notebooks, or whatever method you use to measure your progress, feel free to share it here or on Facebook. I love to see how other people work out their shit. If for no other reason than to feel like I’m not the only one.

Cleaning up the mess

I’ve been organizing my writing files lately and came to discover I have as least 20 stories worth talking about. That is stories that are completed. Many need some kind of editing or another, which is cool because that is something else I’m learning, but most of them are in pretty good shape. Not all of them are commercial, at least for me right now. (Selling stories usually requires they be shorter than 5k words, which is about 15 minutes of reading, or 12-15 pages of text, depending upon the font used and/or the line spacing.) But the good news for you, dear reader, is that the vast majority of them are due for an upload. That is to say, they will end up posted here on my blog.

The breakdown goes like this. I have 6 stories that I’m going to attempt to sell, 5 stories that I’ve already posted here (you did notice the Fiction link, right?) and a full 9 more that will be posted here over the course of this year.

What does that mean for you, dear reader? Well my goal is once a month to put up a new story that you get to read for free. Free. FREE! Pretty cool, eh?

And it means also I have a more organized schedule to follow.

See, in the past I was pretty haphazard about my stories. Writing them, and then letting them languish, forlorn and forgotten on my computer. Well that’s not going to happen any more. Now, whenever I have free time (that is, time not devoted to writing a new story or novel) I’ll go down my list, editing as I can, and clean up the stories to make them more presentable. Then I can either put them in the queue for posting here, or send them out to see if I can find a home for them in the big bad outside world of publishing.

There’s a bit more to it that that. This was not only a much needed Spring Clean of my computer’s hard drive, but it represents a more concerted effort to edit my work.

Recently I’ve discovered that I need a few weeks to months away from a story after writing it, so I can have enough space from it to see if I need to do some major reconstruction work. Its a bit like when you first start dating someone you like, and you find you simply cannot have an objective opinion about them. You’re too excited in their company to question whether you should be or not. Well stories are like that for me. I love them. I have to or I would kill the damn things because they can truly be a pain to write. But once they’re completed, and I’ve had enough time from them to have some objectivity, I find its easier to go back and look at them with fresh eyes.

So once I discovered this, it wasn’t much of a leap to realize I could list them all, and then organize the list so that when I finish one story I can then go back and edit the another one I finished some 6-8 weeks ago. In this way I can work through both the new and the old, and gets some better stories crafted.

Another thing I’ve done is join up with a writer’s workshop called Critters Writers Workshop. They have a pretty nifty set-up where writer can both submit stories, and critiques stories. The cool thing is you have to earn your right to be critiqued, by critiquing others. I don’t know how this is going to go. I just wrote my first critique today, and won’t expect the story I submitted to be critiqued until somewhere between the 19th and the 26th of March, but it looks to be fun. My goal is primarily to learn to be more critical of my own stories, by seeing where other’s make mistakes. Properly, this is a type of editing, and If I want to get better, I need to learn it.

So there. I’m doing me some learning. And you get some free stories. That’s a win, win, all the way around!

But, “what,” you say, “does this mean in the mean time?”

Good question, you. What this means is I expect I’ll have a story to post within the week, so keep your eyes pealed. And I now have a list so I have a pretty good idea what I’ll put up next. So if you haven’t already, or if you only see my posts on FaceBook (which automatically mirrors posts from this blog), you might consider signing up using the link in the right hand column that says

Yes, that what it says. That way you’ll get an email with a nice easy link with every post, and never miss a story as it makes it painful way down the FB notification page. And that would be bad. Yes, terrible. Missing free stories–ones that have been hand-crafted for a fine yield, and hand-packed to they don’t bruise or bend–well that would practically be a crime, now wouldn’t it? And we can’t have that, can we? I mean, you’re too young to start a life of crime aren’t you? Unless you my mother, and in that case you’re too old to start a life of crime. So sign up now and skip that life of crime.

You’ll be glad you did.

Excerpts from an unfinished novel #5

Back in November 2011 I started working on a novel tentatively titled Ghost Hand. The story is about Marine sniper who returns to Los Angeles to recover from severe injuries only to find that the war for him has just started, and there’s more to the world than he knew.

Part of his story is dealing with his PTSD. As he starts to work out his issues he discovers a whole class of people worse off than he is: The homeless.

After several starts at the novel I had to set it aside. I just was not happy with the story. I needed to sit on it more. But in the process I did write a whole of lot fun pieces in the voice of the protagonist. Several of them were designed to be chapter headers, to show up at the beginning of every third chapter or so. These ones are all about mental illness, and are presented from the point of view of someone who has gone through it, and made it out the other side.

I’m going to put them up once a week, for five weeks. This is number five of five.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On the Fragility of the Human Mind

You can get the same symptoms of a mental illness from just about anything. Fall off a ladder and hit your head, have a bomb go off nearby, witness a bank robbery, or just live though a natural disaster. All of these things can cause PTSD and have. So if I can startle someone, or just whack them upside the head, and it gives them a mental illness then it begs the question; how stable is this thing called sanity? It turns out, not very much.

Everyone in their life will experience some (if not all) of the same symptoms of a crazy person. The only difference will be for how long, and the severity. Sanity is a delicate balance, like a soap bubble, and is easily disrupted. Most people, when knocked out of balance, are able to inflate their bubble again. Some of us can’t, at least right away. Some of us never had one to begin with. But all of us can have their bubble burst.


From on old poem

I want to cry at weddings and funerals.
I want to laugh at the sky,
and call down the stars.
Speak to the moon as a friend,
and the stars as close family.

I want to reach, grasp, and obtain,
my life.
With my own two hands.


From Late Night Coffee (Manipulate III)
-ERK 8/3/95