Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Father's Child (excerpt) #samplesunday

(I've been sharing bits and pieces of The Father's Child for Sample Sunday. This week I'm posting one of my favorite moments between John Truman's best friends - Paul & Susan - from Paul's point of view. I hope you enjoy it.)

“What about you, Paul? Are you happy?”

“I am at the moment,” I replied, guzzling down my first mouthful of the best beer ever.

Ignoring my deflection, she sipped on her cabernet, and continued, “You have money and power. You have a beautiful, intelligent woman. You are with your best friend. Isn’t this what you always wanted? You should be pretty damn happy, shouldn’t you?”

“Wow, Susan. I’m impressed - a cuss word and a beer. I didn’t know you had it in ya.”

She smiled. “There’s probably a great deal in me that you don’t know about.”

"Like what?”

"Oh, like a deep affection and concern for you.”

Raising my eyebrows a couple of times, I responded, “Are you comin’ on to me?”

“Now that you mention it, I have always wanted you. Why do you think I hung around John? Certainly not for his company. It’s always been you.”

It would have been more believable without the contempt and heavy sarcasm in her voice and mannerisms.

“I was just having fun. You know, you can be a real bitch sometimes.”

She lowered her head and closed her eyes. A few seconds went by before she looked up at me. I could see water forming in her pretty, blue eyes as she said softly, “I’m sorry Paul. It seems like we’re always competing.”

I knew exactly what she meant. I nodded; she continued.

“John is the only reason we’re together at all and yet John is what we compete for.”

Man, she may be from another planet, but she can really cut to the fucking chase.

I returned her stare. “Susan: John adores you, even worships you. And you guys…well, you’re perfect for each other – thinking all the time, analyzing everything, really smart, care about others. You’re both really good people.” I lowered my head. “The best two I’ve ever known.”

Now it was my turn to tear up; I tried to fight them back. “I knew, someday, I’d lose out to you, but honestly, I have no idea how to function without him. And then this weird, bizarre thing happens to us called the New Dawn, and that’s after the weird, alien ‘sode. I don’t give a shit about any of it except for one thing: that I get to hang with John. I realized that with the New Dawn setup - as far as I understand Mr. T – my worst nightmare will never happen! If I stay, I’ll be with you guys, and Julia.”

Susan reached over and took my hands in hers. We sat there for a few minutes and just allowed our tears to fall onto the table.

“Paul, I’m really, really sorry. I misjudged you. You were right - I have been a bitch.”

I laughed through my tears.

“When I first left for New York, I fell apart. I mean, I really fell apart. I probably blamed you for our inability to move forward. I was really angry with you, but it wasn’t your fault that he didn’t come after me. It was his choice but I just couldn’t deal with that. I couldn’t believe he would let me go at all, and then to not pursue me. Anyway, please forgive me.”

“On one condition.”

“What’s that?”

“Let’s order another drink and play some table football.”

We spent the next couple of hours together just drinking, playing, and laughing – in a lot of ways it was like spending time with John, the pre-New Dawn John, except lighter. We talked about the past and about our times together with him, and then we moved on to discuss Julia.

“Did you forgive her?” she asked.

“I hadn’t thought much about it. We just haven’t spent much time together lately. I chalked it up to busy schedules and the weirdness of all this. Now that you mention, she fucked with me big time, and not in a good way.” I frowned. “I guess I’m still pissed off. Do you think I should forgive her?” I asked.

She smiled at me. “This is kind of fun, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, you may be an alien, but maybe all aliens aren’t completely without merit. Hey, it’s my job to avoid, deflect, and deny. Since when do you--”

Then it hit me. Susan and I had talked through stuff, forgave each other, and the results weren’t too bad, not bad at all. I learn something new every day.

Seeing the light bulb go on, she joined in, “Do you like being free?”

“Man, you really are Kung Fu’s master.”

We laughed together and then our conversation meandered back to the New Dawn and John. I could tell she didn’t want to press too much; I appreciated that. When we were about to finish up, she asked permission to leave me with one final question:

"Paul, do you think he’s truly happy?”

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Anatomy of a Tweet by @markadairauthor #amwriting #trend #blog #twitter #TheFathersChild Plz #RT

Imagine everyone – Mom, Dad, spouse, friends, nerdy guy behind the counter at the gas station, Shakespeare – communicating in no more than 140 characters. No impassioned soliloquies or extensive, well thought out arguments...just short blurbs, sound-bites if you will, chocked full of acronyms. Welcome to Life in Pithy Land; welcome to…

“Twitter is an information network made up of 140-character messages called Tweets. It's a new and easy way to discover the latest news (“what’s h
appening”) related to subjects you care about.” -- Twitter Online Help.

Several months ago, my son introduced me to the Land of Tweets. My first reaction after the initial, brief visit? Frustration! I’m a novelist, not a headline writer! I can carry a single thought for pages on end, in theory. I never met a word I didn’t like…except for very - I’m not very fond of using very, very often because it very quickly loses the very soul of its very purpose. Point being: I felt confined by the arbitrary message length limitation. Like some unseen techno-terrorist cutting me off in the middle of my paragraph, over and over again.

I realize many of you don’t need a Twitter tutorial but for those who do and/or want to be entertained by a witty and interesting personality such as myself, please tag along. The most basic Twitter premise: in 140 characters say whatever you’d like and it will be broadcast to anyone who’s chosen to follow you.

So let’s quickly dissect this thing called a Tweet. If we take a look at the headline you’ll find several common components. It started with good old-fashioned text “Anatomy of a Tweet by” followed by a handle/username @markadairauthor. Next I included a shortened URL/ link to the blog site. I concluded my tweet with a series of hashtags (keywords preceded by #).

When someone uses my handle I can see those tweets easily in my list of “Mentions”. I can search or follow hashtags on any subjects that interest me. For those following me or finding my tweet via the hashtag, the URL/Link is clickable, taking them to a webpage with more info. So handles and hashtags help me find a specific person’s tweets or specific tweets on a subject of interest. BTW, “RT” stands for retweet – requesting others to re-broadcast my tweet to their followers.

Technically, that’s about it. But why…why would I want to spend time in this strange little world of bite-sized conversations? Good question. First and foremost, twitter is social and many of our calendars reveal an over-scheduled, almost dizzying array of tasks leaving virtually no time for in-depth socializing. With Twitter I can give others access, via tiny windows, to my life and vice versa. And I can sneak in that tweet (sneaky tweety) from most any smart device during commercials or while driving down the freeway (just kidding, Officer).

Secondly, it works quite nicely for headlines – short promos about my novels, works in progress, and promoting those of my writer friends. The trick here is to balance this with other more truly social interactions, and not run off my wonderful, intelligent, beautiful followers.

When I started down this road, frustration exceeded value. However, after meeting many fascinating men/women from across the globe, I’m seeing it differently. It won’t replace an evening at the pub with friends but it can #connect me with people who may someday become those #friends at the #pub. #love Plz #RT!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Father's Child, Chapter 3a #samplesunday

Bang! Bang! Bang, bang, bang! Several rounds of automatic weapon gunfire pierced the din. The band stopped. Screams filled the void. A scream formed in my throat as well, but fear kept it from making its way to my mouth. I dove onto the landing a few steps above me and scrambled around the corner. Lying on my front, I peered around the edge of the wall and peeked through the rungs of the cherry banister. Smashing all three living room windows that ran from floor to ceiling, five masked men dressed completely in black made their entrance. Three more rounds of gunfire blasted overhead, and then silence. The leader of the men grabbed Susan, put a gun to her head, and began to speak to the rest of the group in perfect English with a strong European accent.

”Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention. We will only detain you for a moment. We are looking for George Karwell. If you will be so kind as to bring him to us, your pretty friend may survive the day.”

He had the look of a seasoned military officer – tall, erect posture, and solid build. His words had been carefully chosen, producing the desired effect. His deep-set, dark eyes expressed the non-negotiable nature of his mission. It seemed clear that he would take every necessary step to complete his task with dispatch. The stunned and bewildered partiers cowered against the walls as he held Susan tightly and kissed her on the cheek. She looked up at the ceiling, her lips moving in silent prayer.

I wanted to jump down there and rescue her. I forced myself to stand; my legs felt like rubber.

Looking back at the silent crowd, he yelled with a slight pause in between each word, “I want him now!”

George was still in the game room at the back of the house, furthest away from the living room windows. I knew he had to have heard the demand, and so I assumed he was weighing his options, maybe even the fleeting thought of sacrificing Susan and making his getaway. If George was anything, he was a survivor. Dammit George; get out there!

I had to do something. My heart beat so strong and fast that I was worried that the men downstairs would hear it…breathing too rapid, stomach queasy, knees starting to buckle. I reached out and grabbed the rail. Get a grip, John!

With knees shaking, I turned around and made my way back toward my room.


“Oh shit,” I muttered under my breath. I stood still, hoping that nobody had noticed. I waited about fifteen seconds and then continued on my way.

Entering my room I reached for the phone to call the police; it slipped out of my sweaty palms. Wiping them on my jeans, I picked up the phone and pressed 911; no dial tone. I fumbled through my desk and found my cell phone. I opened it up; signal strength registered nothing. I briefly reprimanded myself for not following through on my decision last month to install a satellite connection for my Internet work. Probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Kneeling down on the floor, I slowly crawled over to the windows and peered out: several men in dark clothing, roaming the yard with some type of weapons in their hands. They looked well-prepared and well-organized.

“Damn,” I whispered. I decided my best option was to make my way back to where I could track the events as they unfolded downstairs.

Less than a minute later, George made his way forward to the front of the crowd. He looked like he was trying to suppress the urge to throw up the two burritos he wolfed down an hour earlier.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Confessions of a Kindleholic

Last night, like every night for the past several months, I meandered into my bedroom, checked the closets for spies from the paperbook industry, and slipped under the covers. Peering out from my hiding place, I quietly reached over and snagged the 7.5x4.8”, 8.5 ounce techno-beauty from my nightstand (aka ugly red chair). As my heart skipped a beat, I flipped open the black leather cover. After surveying my surroundings one last time, I celebrated the “all clear” by sliding out the light extender, and signing in to my sexy little ereading device.

Hi, my name is Mark. I’m a Kindleholic.

I don’t remember the exact moment when I crossed over the line from oh-that’s-an-interesting-little-toy-for-non-literary-purists to food-optional-air-optional-kindle-required, but I do recall why I began the journey. Several months ago, a good friend challenged me to stop making excuses and get on with my writing career. After licking my wounds, I began exploring e-publishing and e-readers. My suspense/thriller, The Father’s Child, needed a place to spread its fledgling wings and soar out into the readersphere, and devices like the Kindle could help make that dream a reality.

Sporting my naiveté like a gold medal, I e-trotted over to Amazon and took a look around. I reminded myself that my over 25 years of technology expertise should make successfully uploading my file and becoming “e-published” a breeze. After many tears, some therapy, and a few choice 4-letter words repeated often and with great conviction, I’d completed my task. Now I wanted to see the results.

Thanks to Amazon, ebooks can be purchased once and then subsequently read on your smartphone, computer/tablet, and/or Kindle device. Within minutes, I’d purchased the first copy, downloaded it to my PC, and began reading. For those of you who’ve read long works of any sort on the computer, you know how tired your eyes can get trying to track the thousands and thousands of pixel refreshes. Knowing that the Kindle used e-ink technology that refreshes only on a page turn (unlike the iPad or Nook Color or computer), it took me mere minutes to rationalize my purchase…fine, it was seconds, but it seemed like minutes.

At this point in my process I wanted the device for only one reason: to check out the look and formatting of my new novel (see IRS deduction). When I pulled out the sleek pearl reader I thought I heard angels singing…turns out the neighbor dog had cornered a Siamese kitten. In any case, I love technology with a simple, intuitive interface and my new toy, I mean necessary business appliance, fit the bill perfectly. It’s pretty straightforward – a 6” diagonal grayscale screen covers the top 80% and a small keyboard with a few control buttons fills out the bottom. The right and left edges sport easy to access paging buttons (forward and back).

After I registered the device to the same email account I used for Amazon ebook purchases, it magically synced via WhisperSync, making any books previously purchased available on my Kindle (complete with bookmarks). Without further delay, I moved down to my new novel and selected it. I thought I heard the same dog terrorizing the poor little kitten but it turned out angels were actually singing…at least that’s the way I remember it.

After I scanned through my book, I noticed that my new little friend could directly access the Amazon bookstore. How convenient! Several purchases later…well…my name is Mark, and I’m a Kindleholic.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Father's Child, Chapter 2 #samplesunday

I wonder what the hell is keeping John…this time. Everybody had arrived and the first round of drinks had been served – many of them by me, personally. The followers of each clique had found their leader and settled in. I had even finished my initial female fishing expedition, catching the beautiful and talented Jones’ twins, and wearing one on each arm. And yet still no John Truman. Hell, some of these people traveled over a thousand miles, all the way from the West Coast. All Truman has to do is walk down the fucking stairs.

It seems like I’ve spent half my life waiting for him. When we first met, back in the ninth grade, I just finished up another session with my advisor, Mrs. Gardner. She was a nice lady and sort of sexy in a teacher kind of way. I liked her, but I think she expected more out of me than I could give. She would say stuff like, “Mr. Eastman, if you would just put your mind to it” or “Paul, there’s more to life than girls” or “Mr. Eastman, it’s okay to apply yourself” or “Paul, I believe in you.”

After a couple of years of this, one day she called me into her office. I didn’t think much of it until she went on and on about how she’d tried everything and how I didn’t care. She looked really tired. When she said the words “lack of academic productivity”, she began to cry.

The next thing I knew I blabbered something about wanting to do better and needing some help. Those must have been the magic words, because she acted like she just received an I.V. of Red Bull. Before I knew what hit me, she said she had someone she wanted me to meet, thought we might be good for each other.

A few minutes later she came back in her office, smiling from ear-to-ear, telling me it would be a couple of minutes before my tutor arrives. At that point, I didn’t care what or who or anything. I was just glad to see Mrs. Gardner happy with my situation, for once. I like it when people are happy.

So we waited…and we waited…and she went on and on about how “wonderful” this new arrangement would be. Another fifteen minutes, filled with subtle glances toward the door, passed by. Finally, she got up and told me that she’d be right back. I didn’t mind waiting, especially when the alternative was being in class. I called a few girls, and then I overheard Mrs. Gardner talking to somebody in the next room.

“Come on John,” she coaxed. “It’s okay. Just give it a try. All I’m asking is two weeks.”

He stuck his head just around the doorway and peeked in at me. He didn’t look familiar – intense brown eyes, straggly brown hair, slim, average height, hands sunk deep into his pockets. He looked pretty wound up, so I smiled, and he seemed to relax a bit.

Mrs. Gardner made the introductions: “John, this is Paul Eastman. Paul, this is John Truman.” I stood up and extended my hand. He looked at it, hesitated, and then shook mine. Sweaty - nice touch, Johnny.

“You gentlemen already have four classes together, so that should make this arrangement easier.” Hell, I can’t remember everybody.

And the rest is history: his brains combined with my personality and looks. Another unbeatable combo - Batman and Robin, the Lone Ranger and Tonto, Hope and Crosby, the Green Hornet and Kato, Guinness and happy, John and Paul. I really don’t think I would have survived high school without him, and vice-versa. Someday I should thank Mrs. Gardner.

Over the years, I’ve gotten pretty used to John’s quirks, like showing up late to anything involving other people. I try to cut him some slack, because I know social stuff seriously freaks him out, especially parties like this one. He’s always had some good excuse, usually about working on something important or not feeling well. But there is such a thing as party momentum, and with or without John, the party must go on.

Maybe if we just start playing, he’ll show up.

I looked over at the band – bassist, drummer, keyboardist and saxophonist all in place. Just behind me stood three lovely ladies looking like a cross between the Supremes and the backup singers for Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video. Man, they look fine.

Picking up my guitar, I sat down and tuned it for a couple of minutes. I looked back at the band.

“You guys ready?” Nods all around. I glanced over at the stairs, shook my head, and then stood up.

“Let’s do it.” Grabbing the mic, I tapped it a couple of times to get everyone’s attention.

“Welcome to…Carpe Noctis!” The crowd cheered in response.

“A one, two, a one, two, three, four.”

“Doot, du doot, doot, doot du doot, doot, du doot”

The girls sound great tonight. Our rendition of “Walk on the Wild Side” always went over big. We opened up every party with it. John liked it.

I loved this part: just a minute ago, everybody was doing their own thing, hanging with their friends, drinking, laughing, all in their own little worlds…and then the music started. The conversations stopped, everyone turned my way, and the dancing began. The next thing you know, we were all on the same page, doing the same thing, together. For some reason, it reminded of that scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” where Jimmy Stewart asks god to let him live and he suddenly realizes how special life is in boring old Bedford Falls.

We usually stretched this song out pretty long, and tonight it seemed like everybody wanted it to go on and on. So, we did. Six or seven minutes had gone by, and still no John. Come on dude, you can do it. Take a walk on the wild side.

Several minutes later and we’re still playing the same song. Dammit, John! Get down here!

Through the smoky haze, I scanned the audience. They seemed to still be enjoying our extended version - joining in with the backup singers and getting louder each time around…everyone, but Susan. Our eyes met and we exchanged a brief knowing smile. She pointed up. I nodded.

Maybe she could get him down here – Martian to Martian.

She headed out of the living room toward the stairs. Nice ass.

“Doot, du doot, doot, doot du doot, doot, du doot”

(Thanks so much for reading Chapter 2. The Father's Child is available for a special price of only 99c on the following platforms: Kindle-US, Kindle-UK, Nook, & Smashwords - Sony, Palm, Stanza, etc. Keep up to date by visiting my website, twitter, or facebook. Cheers!)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Technology, a Lesson in Humanity #samplesunday

My past and technology’s history intertwine. Before I understood the ramifications of my decision I’d jumped into the technology field as a wet-behind-the-ears software engineer. Exciting days…and nights. The early adopters and creators like me found it exhilarating, exhausting, and addicting. Perfect for the obsession-friendly set. With a never-ending promise of new, it beckoned us to follow. And it delivered on its promise, transforming our idea of stability into one of never ending transition. Thanks to technology, change is no longer that occasional bump in the road of life. Change is life.

A bit of history, if I may: I’ve watched the kings come and go. I’ve not only watched, I’ve bowed before their altars and lived in their inner courts. When I entered the field, the mainframes of IBM, Burroughs, Honeywell ruled the kingdom. Rooms packed with their mammoth circuitry, tape drives, and printers flaunted their permanent place in our society and in our pocketbooks. Like many emperors, they brought new laws and new ways of thinking about things. And like many rulers, they didn’t ask what we thought about it. They dared you to stand in their way, the generals making a Sherman-like march through the Confederate state of the way-we-used-to-do-it. The glory, the magnificence, the power! All hail to International Business Machines, may they reign forever.

One day this sort of mousey, nerdy, introverted college dropout somehow managed to parlay his little toy operating system into IBM’s next step in dominance, the personal computer. The monolith knew how to manipulate the geeks. They may be smart, even genius, but they weren’t business people. And this Bill Gates would be no exception. They would use him, siphon off what they wanted, and then burn the rest. Besides, a personal computer?!?!?!? Hahahahaha. What a huge, friggin’ waste of time! We make real computers for real business. No one wants a computer in their home! Their unspoken motto echoed in the techno valleys, “Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated.”

Surprise! Before you could say “the emperor has no clothes”, Microsoft banished the old guard while the world announced its undying allegiance to the new and sexier one. As did I. After years of living off IBM’s success, I dumped them like an old cell phone. Trading in my blue 3-piece suit on a fun, sporty red t-shirt, I switched so quickly I think it made my own head spin. For those of you who haven’t lived through the changes or haven’t been integrally connected to them, I hope you appreciate the enormity of what Microsoft introduced to the world. I know there are plenty of Redmond haters and I feel some of their pain. But regardless of who actually gets credit for creating the first GUI interface – Xerox, Apple, Microsoft, or some teenager in a basement who mysteriously died shortly thereafter – Microsoft put Windows in front of people and boldly led the way into a new paradigm in computing.

And they put a human face on it. Quickly, tell me who ran IBM during the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s? Anyone? Now tell me who ran Microsoft? William Henry Gates III showed us that someone who couldn’t comb his hair need not be ashamed because he could rule the entire world. He’s come a long way, especially after he married and his wife took responsibility for his personal appearance, but back in the day he impressed no one and cared nothing at all about that. I’m speaking as someone who’s been in the same room with him, only a few yards away. No, we’re not buddies, although I’m guessing he’s a quite interesting pal to hang around with. Almost overnight he challenged and defeated the century’s old, time-tested, business maxim that one must look good to be taken seriously. Do you understand the ramifications of what I’m saying? Maybe he didn’t intend to, but he made computing personal and approachable.

Over the years I’ve attended many technology conferences. When I showed up at my first Microsoft Tech-Ed conference I felt a bit giddy. The technology rated a 10 on the fun meter for a technologist like me, but I will never forget sitting down in my first meeting. I watched this twenty-something guy with a pony tail, tat, earrings, t-shirt, jeans, and sandals amble up to the stage. In a surfer dude style he began talking about the guts of the technology like only a developer could. I wanted to run up and kiss him. For the first time in my career I felt a part of something…more than technology, part of a team of like-minded people.

Well, you know the rest of the story. The company from Redmond turned into a huge success, and then it grew to the point where it could no longer adapt, at least not quickly. Bill, the very human techno geek, stepped down; Steve, the business-like salesman, stepped up. They quickly reached the point where they overestimated their corporate place in the world and underestimated the hunger and passion of their competitors, and the technology addicted masses. In their lethargy they slid into the IBM trap of arrogance, spouting “Resistance is futile; you will be assimilated.” Meanwhile Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and myriads of open source types busted their butts, working night and day, to perfect their niche technology in the world and then expand it to more mainstream concerns. However, it is important to understand that unlike IBM’s day, these large companies are much more interdependent - they need each other, and the rest of us appreciate the competition that keeps them at least somewhat honest. Quick aside: I happen to believe Microsoft may very well turn the corner and find its place in the new land of Social; I very much like my new Windows smartphone.

Sorry for the longish post, almost 50 tweets worth, but there’s a point that needs to be made. Technology is a transitory enabler – the codependent of all codependents. It will never tell you or me to stop or slow down or think twice about our addictive behavior. It embraces and encourages us, whispering sweet nothings in our ear – consume, consume, consume. It makes grand promises yet it may not be around tomorrow to fulfill any of them. As an author I do appreciate how technology assists me in my journey of writing, publishing, connecting with readers and writers, promoting, etc. But I must remind myself that it is a tool, nothing more. It can’t love me or correct me (well, spell checker maybe). It doesn’t hug or kiss me. It has no facility to create art, music, or stories in and of itself. It mimics but does not invent. Technology is not human…in spite of our best efforts to humanize it. It makes a pathetic king and an even more pathetic god. And it can’t measure up to to the lousiest of friends who at least cares for us a little.

It can teach us valuable lessons though. If we take a moment to sit in technology’s classroom and listen to its stories we can learn a great deal about humanity, such as: we like to be entertained; we enjoy being in control; we’re addicted to new; we learn technology quickly but not necessarily the ramifications of it. But the most important subject on which it educates us? What it can’t do and why we must turn to one another. In a way it calls out to us, reminding us that all of its glorious history of silicon efficiencies and entertainment-friendly facilities cannot compare to a single interaction with the stranger next to us…much less our friends and loved ones.

Class dismissed. Don’t forget your homework.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Father's Child, Chapter 1 #samplesunday

In the spirit of SampleSunday (i.e., sharing free writing samples), I'm posting the first chapter of my acclaimed suspense/thriller, The Father's Child. Grab your favorite beverage, relax, and enjoy...

Gazing out the second story window, I searched through the maze of treetops and roofs. Within seconds I had located the hundred-foot spire topping the Physical Sciences building at Bradbury College. Anxiety, tension, stress - life in general - all produce the same reaction: my eyes involuntarily drift up, seeking the tallest point in the vicinity. Something to do with escaping the craziness of this world…a place where the air flows…where I can breathe.

Tonight we would host our mid-term party, and the crisp, Midwestern, October evening fit hand-in-glove with our plans. A light snow had begun to fall, providing the perfect covering for our activities. This was our sixth bash, well seventh, if you count the last minute get-together our freshman year that turned out to have more uninvited guests than invited ones. At this point in our “career” we – Paul Eastman, George Karwell, and I, John Truman, collectively and colloquially known as the Beatles - had quite the rep for putting together the ultimate celebrations. Anticipated by the entire campus, they highlighted many a college experience. Every year the population grew by adding new, carefully selected, individuals or couples to our list. Even the majority of those who had graduated made special arrangements to return, a family reunion of sorts.

In addition to managing the technology, my primary duty was to name the event. I liked to think that my Latin monikers helped create a sense of mystery and other-worldliness. In reality, I think Paul and George gave me the duty because it’s not that easy to engage a hyper-sensitive introvert in something that involves hundreds of people shedding their inhibitions. It may have been an honorary thing, but as with everything else in life I took it quite seriously.

I smiled as I remembered that even now my inspired title - Carpe Noctis - adorned the forty by seven foot black banner hanging on the outside of our Victorian dwelling. The residence belonged to my uncle. Living in London most of the time, he offered this place to me for my college home. Elite college and elite home made quite the attractive package.

We finished with the final preparations about an hour ago. Looking at the street below I noticed that our “friends” had begun to arrive. I decided to sneak over to the top of the stairs where I could catch a glimpse, without being detected, of our first guests.

Stationed near the front door, Paul stood ready to greet everyone with his trademark isn’t-life-a-blast smile and the offer of a drink. Never let it be said that our hallowed halls were ever graced by a smoother operator than Paul. Even though I had seen him work his magic countless times before, each new performance reminded me of what an amazing artist he was. Seemingly without effort he could make you feel like you were his one and only friend, especially if you happened to be of the female persuasion.

“Hi, Susan. You look wonderful tonight, as usual.” He followed his greeting with a small kiss on her fair-skinned cheek.

“Thank you, Paul,” she replied. Pushing the strawberry-blonde tresses away from her eyes, she moved up on her toes and returned the kiss.

Don’t get me started on Susan - my first friend, my first crush, and the best person I’ve ever known. She may not be perfect, but after years of being around her, I have never found a flaw, at least nothing that would compare with my many shortcomings. My photogenic memory probably paints a more perfect picture of Susan than reality records - intelligent, beautiful, spiritual, down-to-earth, compassionate, funny, and sexy in a way that isn’t contrived or phony. However, I do believe the word “privilege” best describes my time with her. She made everything better, she even made me better.

“How are you?” she asked.

”Isn’t it obvious?” he retorted with a smirk, nodding his curly blonde head.

She studied him as if analyzing an interesting and yet disturbing painting, and then responded, “Yes, I guess it is.”

Other guests drove up and I could tell Paul appreciated the redirection. Susan made her way into the living room. She wore jeans, a yellow tank top, and black flip flops - she looked good. Paul turned around with her coat in hand and headed towards the closet. I overheard him complaining to himself, “Man, that chick is so damn weird. Why the hell does John have to invite her? I think she’s an alien. She gives me the creeps.”

Jerk. Paul can be a real asshole sometimes, but I have learned over the years to take his unedited tirades with a grain of salt. At least he knows how to express himself. How freeing and simple it must be to say what you feel. I feel things strongly; I process them thoroughly. If I have time to organize my thoughts I can communicate them pretty well, but to just come out and say what’s on my mind, much less my heart? My quiver must have been absent the day they passed out that arrow.

Paul recovered his suave and charming demeanor just in time to greet the next arrivals. The stream of partiers now backed up fifteen deep on the sidewalk and overflowed onto Wellington Avenue. Laughter and energy filled the night air as most of the conversations centered on what happened to whom and how it was no surprise considering…

Still upstairs, I strolled across the wooden hallway and around the corner. On this end, the stairway provided an even better voyeuristic experience. I situated myself right above the landing that connected the upper stairs to the lower stairs. From there I could see George, his long black hair rubber-banded into a pony tail as usual. He stood in the center of the game room already surrounded by a handful of people, mostly men.

Among several valuable Indian antiques, the décor included a solid mahogany pool table, three high-end gaming computers, an ornate, antique sofa, shelves filled with books including hundreds with aging bindings, a wall full of TVs all coordinated together to provide one huge picture, and a stocked refrigerator in the guise of an old Coke machine. It was my favorite room.

The group seated on the sofa and overflowing onto the floor hung on each word, entranced by his dark grey eyes. The adventurer began to describe his latest escapade, “There I was in Smith’s Pub, downstairs by the back door in the corner, finishing off a cold pint of Guinness. I was waiting to see if the meet would happen, you know the one between the two guys who had numbers instead of names? And that sexy brunette waitress with the strange piercings and the nice…uh…personality…what’s her name? Right, Genevieve…she comes up and asks me if I want another pint. I answer ‘yes’ even before I have any idea what she asked me. I mean, how could I say anything but ‘yes’ to her?”

George smiled and gazed up toward the ceiling, lost in a delicious daydream. He loved to tell the story. Moments like these overshadowed any risks associated with his spy games - this was the payoff. I think that all of us envied George’s abandonment of safety and his adventurous spirit. I probably experienced more nervousness as he retold his escapades than he did in living through the actual experience. On many occasions I cautioned him and tried to rein him in, and he always responded with a confident “Trust me, Johnny.”

The crowd quickly grew to a dozen or so listeners as he continued. “Somebody should write a song about Genevieve.” Several of the men in the group smiled and nodded emphatically in agreement; one of the guys received a swift slap to the back of the head and a reprimanding look from the brunette sitting next to him.
George smirked. “Anyway, she shows up with my second pint and I’m thinking ‘hey, I don’t remember ordering that.’ And then I see this black guy that I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen before. It’s dark in there and he’s wearing a golf cap that shades most of his face.

“So I’m watching him and it seems likes he’s scoping the place out, maybe looking for someone. I remember saying to myself, ‘man, I bet this is one of the guys’ and I’m starting to get excited. Then I see Genevieve walking toward the bar, that perfect little derriere of hers swaying from side to side, and I’m getting even more excited. My thoughts are racing back and forth between, ‘if she comes back to my table it must be a sign that she wants me…needs me’ and ‘that other guy that just came in must be the other half of the meet’ and ‘man, she must be Aphrodite in the flesh’ and ‘life doesn’t get any better than this’ and …”

I retreated to the safety of my room. I would join the party later, but for now I used my latest software project as an excuse to delay the inevitable. Taking a break from my work, I quickly tossed down two Jack-and-Cokes, more Jack than coke, trying to muster up the courage to make my entrance.

The silver plasma TV hanging on the wall caught my attention when the headline running at the bottom of the screen stated, “As we reported last week, the Federal Reserve Board chairman was found dead from a heart attack in his D.C. condominium. The President, with the consent of Congress, has moved swiftly to appoint and announce his relatively unknown replacement, Jack Timothy. The President pointed out that Mr. Timothy’s experience, Federal Reserve Board of Governors for the last twelve years, along with his impressive Oxford background were primary factors in coming to his decision. Mr. Timothy’s comments were brief, stating simply, ‘Our world is on the brink of an economic new dawn. I look forward to my role as chairman. I want to say thank you to the President for the confidence he has placed in me.’”

If I timed it just right, a few drinks interspersed with a toke here and there could drown out my inhibitions as well as stave off the nagging daymares that forced their way into my mind. Unfortunately, in all the nervous anticipation I had missed that tiny window of opportunity. Sitting there with drink number two in hand, I could sense my thoughts scrambling, deteriorating. Oh shit. I hate this. My mental grip slipped as I once again lost the struggle to resist the latest onset of the recurring vision:

Four men, one whom I thought I should know but couldn’t remember, gathered around a small table in a dark corner of a small room. Their voices soft, almost hypnotic, spoke Latin with English or possibly Scottish accents. They discussed economic systems, political structures, social causes, theological constructs, and people groups as if they were simply pawns on a chess board. At some point in the complex, and occasionally inaudible, conversation the words Necessitas non habet legem would rise above the others, triggering a morbid and sickening reaction in me – I wanted to throw up. I would try to look away, but the more I resisted, the stronger those words held me in their grasp and the further into the room they drew me. Finally, they would look up at me, vacant, zombie-like expressions in their eyes, point to the empty chair, and say, ‘Welcome.’”

The vision ended and, as usual, my transition to unpleasant physical manifestations began. First the cold sweats followed almost immediately by piercing pain that seemed to dance around in my skull – base of my cranium, behind my eyes, top of my head, nasal cavity, inside my ears, and then start all over again. Like every other time, the experience culminated in a single drop of dark red blood falling from my nose.

Man, this really sucks.

Ten minutes later the physical manifestations completely subsided. These episodes started when I reached puberty. After an embarrassing eighth grade incident involving my presentation on the roots of Latin and the drop of blood spilling onto the white, tile floor, I learned to detect the early symptoms and avoid further public humiliation.

A few minutes more and the joint began to have the promised effect. A nice relaxing buzz filled my head as I made my way back across the hallway and positioned myself, once again, at the top of the stairs overlooking the front room. The party proceeded according to script. Everything necessary for the perfect evening planned and in place - cool people, cool band, cool drugs, all gathered together in a cool place. I was even beginning to feel cool…sort of.

I can do this. I inhaled a slow, deep breath, and exhaled with force and a new determination to join the fun. I had won the battle and I willed my right foot, attired in blue Converse, to take the first step – shaky, but so far, so good. Now, the left one, the right one, the left one…oh shit, I need to sit down.

(Thanks for reading. If you would like more, you can visit me at my website, twitter, or facebook. Also, The Father's Child is available for a special price of only 99c on the following platforms: Kindle-US, Kindle-UK, Nook, & Smashwords - Sony, Palm, Stanza, etc.).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

It's All About Me...hmmm

Agent after agent, publisher after publisher, writer after writer, they all tell the same story. The glory days of hiding out on a small island in the Caribbean, sipping on rum, cranking out the occasional novel, and picking up the generous quarterly royalty check have officially come to an end, never to return. In this new world a writer, regardless of publishing route (traditional or indie), must promote, promote, and then promote some more.

Now, my parents raised me to help others - love your neighbor and all that. They taught me that it’s more important to give than to receive. They lived a life of never drawing attention to their many self-sacrificial deeds. When I first headed down the self-promo path it felt awkward to say the least…maybe even a little wrong. Figuring out creative ways to tell people they should buy my book seemed to prostitute creativity itself.

To put it another way, after a couple hours of promoting, I feel like a good long bath is in order. Or like I’ve been impersonating a three-year-old - jumping up and down yelling “look at me” trying to get his parent’s attention. I know some of you are thinking this guy’s an American from California, that’s ALL they know how to do! Point taken. However, I’ll just come out and say it: I’m not a huge fan of self-promoting, at least not the impersonal attention-grabbing headlines version of it.

Just to be clear, it’s not that I don’t believe my writing worth a read, because I DO, very much so. I believe my suspense/thriller to be entertaining, thought-provoking, emotionally powerful, and on a very basic level beneficial for anyone who takes the journey. And others have confirmed that. The main character, John Truman, struggles with pretty much everything, but in the deep places of his heart he yearns to know one thing: who is he and why is he. I truly think you should read it. Not because it’s the greatest novel of all time (that’s purely subjective anyway) but because underneath the suspenseful and thrilling ride it gives the reader permission to look inside and ask questions about fundamental issues in our lives…questions that need to be asked, explored, and answered.

Over the past few months I have managed to justify my self-promoting behavior by making the argument that reading my novel is an intrinsically worthwhile exercise (which is true). I also tell myself that I’m not in this just to make a buck (and that’s also quite true), so I can strike mercenary in its most technical definition from my list of motivating factors. Furthermore, I believe in each and every person following their dreams and doing what they most love, including me. So writing, for me, makes the world a better place.

On a related note, I do, very much, want to help others and see them succeed. I’m a community guy regardless of whether the community is down the street or down the e-street (shout out to my UK writer mates). I strongly believe that when one downtrodden, marginalized, oppressed soul finds freedom and love (i.e., succeeds) that we ALL gain, each and every one of us. So I’m quite comfortable pulling out my machete to assist other writers in carving out a path through their getting-noticed jungle. Besides, when I do become uber-successful I want to live in that nice place with other battle worn soldiers, sharing one another’s joy and stories…and reaching out to help the next one take that step up the ladder.

So I’m finding, or trying to find, the balance in this self-promotion-based paradigm. I believe in my calling, if you will, to write...and that what I’ve created will more than return the time-money anyone invests in it. I believe in helping others and I believe their creations to be worth the investment as well. That’s where the light goes on and everything comes together for me.

This Sunday, Superbowl Sunday, a group of fine writers from across the globe will be working hand-in-hand to promote one another. We will be tweeting/retweeting #samplesunday, highlighting fine (and free) writing samples from talented writers. And I will smile as I watch the It’s-all-about-me paradigm exit stage left to make room at center stage for the more powerful, worthwhile, and fulfilling It’s-all-about-us.

Happy Sunday! Cheers.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where Do You All Come From?

Hi there. Last week I ventured into the analytics of 2010 hits for my blogs - On the Way and ZAP. To my surprise I discovered that you, my wonderful friends, live all over the world. Take a look:

1. Countries (21):
Czech Republic
Hong Kong
New Zealand
South Africa
United Kingdom
United States

2. States in the U.S (41):
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
West Virginia

Interesting, don't you think?

Thank you for coming such great distances to stop by and chat. Always good to see you, my friend.



Friday, January 7, 2011

2010 in the Rearview Mirror

Over the years, I’ve managed to avoid looking in the rearview mirror, at least in public. Not sure if it’s because I have so much unfinished business or maybe I’m concerned about the less-than-sterling results of the self-critique or maybe I struggle with grasping the value of the exercise at all. Regardless, new years are a good excuse to try new things, right? So at the risk of swerving off the road and hitting a large oak tree, and for the first time in public, I’m glancing up to the mirror that shows what was…or at least what I choose to remember.

Each year I allow goal carryover from previous years – a long running tradition. Some of these goals, born decades ago, have managed to stay on my list even though I see some progress every year. At the beginning of 2010 I began to see some light at the end of one of these multi-year goal tunnels.

Like many of my friends, I live two lives (at least). I play the responsible, mature, bill-paying, good friend role; I also play the passionate, freedom-loving, all-or-nothing writer/artist role. For most of my life the former ruled my actions while the latter watched on with confusion, pity, and frustration. I made many promises to the writer…and I’ve broken many promises to him. And yet he refused to be corralled by the tactics I employed over the years - everything from ignoring him altogether (see denial) to feeding him small bites of hope in the form of expected next week/month/year activities…oh yeah, and the “when I have a bit more free time” excuse.

This year I wanted to get my suspense novel, The Father’s Child, out into the hands of readers…one of those carryover goals. After a couple years of patiently working through the traditional publishing paradigm – agent queries, manuscript submissions, contests, many conversations, etc. – a friend challenged me with the insanity-is-doing-the-same-thing-over-and-over-again-expecting-different-results criticism. Out of nowhere, the writer dude inside steps up and says “Enough is enough. Time to either get on board or get out of the @#k#%&* way!” Did I mention feisty and R-rated?

Well, one thing led to another – additional editing, researching ebooks, setting up a social media presence, cover artwork, etc. Much of it a blur. But in the end, a little over a month ago, I browsed over to and there it was for the whole world to see, read, and hopefully enjoy. Chalk one up for the writer dude.

Before the year ended, my novel had traveled up to the Top 50 Techno-thriller rankings on Amazon. Although it’s much too early to reasonably evaluate the success of my foray into the new publishing world, I finally made good on my promise to the writer in me. I never pledged best-selling success or a life of limos, but I did agree on numerous occasions to give him at least a little of my best time, energy, and love...knowing full well that once I released him from his prison, it would be impossible to get him back in there.

So in my rearview mirror, I see the out-into-the-hands-of-readers goal reached in 2010…a HUGE goal…but more importantly I set someone free. Honestly, he’s not that easy to live with – demanding, obsessive, creative to a fault – but when I close my eyes at night I no longer have to end my day with “Maybe next year.”

Here’s hoping that you have a prosperous, healthy, and wonderful 2011!