If You Have Ghosts… (ABC Wednesday, 2/26/14)

Ghosts

Late at night
When I’m standing in a darkened room
I can feel your eyes on me
Watching me
Everything that I do
Watching me
And I know that it’s true…

I know you’re haunting me
I know you’re haunting me
I can’t see you there
But I know you’re with me everywhere
I know you’re haunting me…

Thats all I remember of a (mediocre) song I wrote roughly thirty years ago, which makes me sound a lot older than I feel. It, of course, conflates the natural obsession with a loved one lost with the supernatural presence of things unseen. It doesn’t take a ghost to haunt us, the world is full of people and things and events that can serve that purpose just fine. The things that we carry past their time, the things that obsess us, the things, for good or ill, that mold us, those things are our ghosts, metaphorically speaking.

But are there literal ghosts out there, haunting folks, drifting down cold hallways, moaning like they’re having the saddest possible orgasm, posing for blobular, out-of-focus pictures?

When I was a kid, I had what some folks would deem an encounter with a ghost, though others would reckon it an alien visitation. Lying in my bed one night, curled under my blankets, I saw a strange light outside my window that spooked the hell out of me. Though the light faded, I still felt like there was a presence out there, a presence I wanted nothing to do with. So I rolled over to face the wall, putting my back to the window in an act of sheer denial. Nope. I didn’t see anything. I didn’t feel any sort of presence, that would just be crazy.

A minute or three passed. Then, my sense that something — someone — was there got a lot stronger. I became convinced it was in the room with me. I didn’t want to look, but I had to; denial only goes so far. So I peeked.

Something was at the foot of the bed, standing there. It was indistinct, but it was taller than most adults. And it was glowing in the darkness.

I wanted to scream for my father. But I knew with dread certainty that if I did, the thing would vanish before he got to my room, and he’d be pissed that I woke him. My father pissed off was an ugly thing. I also feared that once he went back to bed, the glowing figure would come back. And having it return seemed even more terrifying than it being there in the first place.

So I squeezed my eyes shut and turned back toward the wall. I would just continue to ignore it until it went away.

Then, somehow, it reached through my covers…and touched my right shin. What I felt seemed to be cold, hard, bone fingers, as if the thing were a skeleton.

I started, my heart pounding, but stayed in position, eyes tightly closed, face toward the wall.

The fingers, if that was what they were, withdrew.

And I lay there for what seemed hours, until I no longer sensed the thing. I looked, and it was gone.

I have no idea what it was, or even if it was just a particularly vivid nightmare. As an avowed skeptic, I try to think it was just that, but it has the weight of true memory and sometimes I acknowledge I believe something did visit me that night. Maybe.

Like I said: skeptic.

Once upon a time, such an encounter might have been seen as a visit from the fae. Now, as I mentioned earlier, there are many similar tales told by folks who think an extraterrestrial came to see them. My maternal grandmother told me it was my mother (who died when I was a baby) coming to see me. But would my mother have seemed so sinister, so terrifying, so horrible?

Had to be a dream.

 G

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter H. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, if you’re in the mood for ghostly doings, check out my story “Dead Folks,” available on Amazon for only 99 centsWhat would you do if your town was mysteriously inundated with the corpses of historical figures?

Dead Folks

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

Here, Have Some Rock ‘n’ Roll (Song of the Week, 2/21/14)

rock n roll

As I write this, it is late enough Thursday night that it’s Friday morning. I had a long, dreary fucking day, the depression kicking my plan to be productive right in the crotch, and I napped quite a bit. I’m not getting enough writing done. I’m not exercising enough. I haven’t finished cleaning the Byrdcave.

But, that’s progress. If I’m not getting enough writing done, that implies I’m getting some writing done. If I’m not exercising enough, that must mean I’m exercising at least some. And if I haven’t finished cleaning the Byrdcave, that would mean that I did start cleaning it. And all that is true, though it’s weak tea for a guy who is really trying to pick his life back up after it was stomped flat by the black dog of depression.

Anyway, lots of napping during the day leads inevitably to being wide awake when it’s so late that it’s early. And I’m feeling pretty good. I started playing God of War: Ascension, which got my blood moving, and now I’m listening to great rock ‘n’ roll, dancing like no one’s watching (I’m actually quite good at that), and singing like no one’s listening (not quite as good, though I won a singing contest in a bar in Spain one time, long ago). Mark Twain would be proud.

What better time to write this week’s Song of the Week post, and to bring you into my private party by sharing one of the songs I’m listening to? Rock on.

“Fun and Games” by The Connells

Ermahgerd! Electricity! (ABC Wednesday, 2/12/14)

Thor's Wrath

Recently, Jesus gave Zeus the finger. Or, rather, Zeus took it.

There was a huge lightning storm over Rio de Janeiro and a bolt blasted the statue of Christ which looks over the city, knocking off one of His fingers. While you’d think that Jesus could protect Himself from such an attack, it’s probably not our place as mere mortals to adjudicate the MMA matches of the gods.

Lightning is a scary thing, electricity in its most feral state. Crackling death from above. Surprisingly, though, only about 10% of people who have intimate encounters with it don’t survive. Some that do are scarred with fractal maps in their skin, branching networks of sizzling branchwork like tattoos of evergreen fronds or ivy.

               

I’ve had a special relationship with lightning for years, starting, I guess, when I was struck by lightning when I was a teenager. I survived. I had no visible scars. I wasn’t even hurt, as far as anyone could tell.

It happened one stormy day. A friend and I were cavorting in the rain, chasing each other, jumping at the crashes of thunder, laughing our asses off. Ultimately, soaked and getting cold, we headed for his house. We splashed in, drenched, and his mother informed us that there was a tornado warning. Later, we found out one had touched down less than a mile away. She insisted we dry off, so we headed to the bathroom, and as we entered, a bolt of lightning crashed through the window (open, as his mother had forgotten to close it for the rain, so I think the lightning was riding the breeze as lightning can do). It went through my friend and me, knocking us off our feet, and scorched the floor under our feet.

We were incredibly lucky. Neither of us was hurt, though we were scared shitless and our ears were ringing. This amount of luck in a lightning strike is rare but not unheard of; most burn damage resulting from a strike is from superheated objects (like change in someone’s pocket, for example), and most deaths result from cardiac arrest. We were both young and fit, so if our hearts were spooked by the blast, we didn’t know it. We didn’t even go to the ER.

Of course, not all damage is visible. Brain damage is a common effect of lightning strikes and can lead to memory impairment, irritability, terrible headaches, even personality change. And, unsurprisingly, depression. And, as regular readers of this blog know, I have depression big time.

Through therapy, I’ve learned that much of my struggle is attributable to loss of my mother as a baby and familial abuse throughout my formative years. But it’s possible the strike contributed.

But electricity in the brain has also proven helpful in my fight. I’ve had two rounds of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy, aka shock treatment) in the past few years, the second as recently as last November and December. My depression is a stubborn, mean mother fucker and was highly resistant to everything we were throwing at it until we decided to sing the brain electric. Afterward, my short term memory is sort of crap (though it already was, as depression itself is hell on the memory), but my focus and motivation are remarkably improved. This strategic use of electricity blasted straight into my brain has been literally life-changing. The fact that you’re reading this now, and that I’m blogging again in general, is directly attributable to it.

So, thank you, Zeus, thank you Thor, thank you spirits of thunder and lightning. Thank you for not killing me years ago, and thank you for saving my life now.

E

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter F. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is currently on sale to celebrate Valentine’s Day

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

Doin’ Dialogue (ABC Wednesday, 2/5/14)

What's bothering you?

How to write dialogue like Aaron Sorkin, the writer/creator of The West Wing, Sports Night, and The Newsroom:

“Hey.”
“Hey.”
“What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.”
“Nothing?”
“Nothing.”
“Something’s wrong.”
“Nothing’s wrong!”
“Is something bothering you?”
“No, nothing’s bothering me.”
“Something is bothering you.”
“Nothing is bothering me!”
“Okay, okay….what’s up?”
“Something’s bothering me.”
Sigh. “What’s bothering you?”
“What’s bothering me?”
“Yes. What’s bothering you?”
“What’s bothering me is the way this country, this country that I love and revere, is, more and more, embracing the irrational, and it is tearing us to pieces. What’s bothering me is that people are coming to think that hard science is just another opinion, and not a very good one. What’s bothering me is that diseases which should be going permanently extinct are making a comeback and killing kids because a fringe of idiots out there won’t get their children vaccinated. What’s bothering me is that a growing segment of our population believes our laws should be based on their mostly uneducated notions of what it says in the Bible. What’s bothering me is that so many of our fellow citizens look to jackasses like Ted Nugent, Glenn Beck, and Rush Limbaugh, not to mention nearly the entire cast of that subpar sitcom known as Fox News, for guidance. What bothers me is that our country, which should be a powerhouse of productivity and enlightenment, is slipping into third world status when it comes to our industry and our ability to take care of our people. And you know what? Those are only some of the damned things that are bothering me, and it’s time we started doing a hell of a lot better, before it is absolutely, irrevocably, too late.”

D

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter E. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

Also, my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is currently on sale to celebrate Valentine’s Day

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

Toward a Sociedade Alternativa (Alternative Society) (Song of the Week, 1/31/14)

Freedom

Last September, Bruce Springsteen played here in Brazil for the first time in twenty-five years (!), opening his shows with a cover of Brazilian star Raul Seixas’s song “Sociedade Alternativa,” a paean to progressivism, freedom, and the counter-culture. To celebrate my own Brazilian experience, that’s our Song of the Week. If you’re curious to see an English translation of the lyrics, go here; if you want to hear Bruce’s full two hours and forty-three minute show from Rock in Rio 2013 (an awesome set in which, among other things, Bruce and the E Streeters play the entirety of the Born in the USA album from start to finish), go here.

HIRING ARTIST TESS FOWLER: GOOD IDEA OR BAD?

Tess Fowler, Artist

Hmm. Interesting.

For those who have been following the unfortunate tale of my wasting a thousand bucks on artist Tess Fowler and getting absolutely nothing but grief in return, there is some new information. This may be of particular interest to anyone who may consider hiring Tess for similar work.

I have been very open about my experience with Tess, how Ms. Fowler and I had a falling out and I lost a lot of cash. But I’d assumed that I was at least partially at fault, that even with her reactions to my criticisms and her hostility and refusal to negotiate and get back to work (or refund any of the money), that if I had somehow found the right words, perhaps we would have reconciled, and perhaps Tess Fowler would have then finished the job like a professional.

However, since posting my fully documented account of that experience, I have heard from not one, not two, but several others who have all started their messages with essentially the same statement:

It’s not you, it’s her.

Apparently, Tess Fowler is starting to be known for this sort of thing. While she promotes herself as a professional artist who is too cool for school to work for big companies, she is apparently leaving a chain of broken promises and unearned payments in her wake. It’s not my place to make public the specifics of what I’ve been told by the folks who’ve contacted me (though I wish they’d go public as I have, for the benefit of all the folks who may yet suffer as we have), but apparently Tess has a tendency to make big promises then react very, very badly at the first sign of disagreement or tough critique. She disavows even the tiniest bit of responsibility and turns very nasty very quickly, accusing her former collaborators of being horrible people of some sort (in my case, I was mentally unbalanced and potentially dangerous), and refusing to deal with them at all thereafter.

(Tess also publicly accused me of “stalking” her when I posted my full account of our disastrous collaboration. Apparently, if you hire someone, pay them a lot of money, then send them a few messages and try to call them to see if they’re going to do the job they hired on to do, that’s stalking.)

As I said, I have heard this from several independent sources over the past few weeks, and I’ve even been privy to the exact communications that passed between some of these folks and Tess. I am naturally interested in hearing from any others; I’ll keep your secrets, though I do encourage you to post a public, objective account of what happened. And my blog is available as a forum for all of you: feel free to comment below any of my posts on the matter, and if you need a place to post your full account, you can do it here with my blessing.

For the record: I am only passing on what I have been told here, and in some cases what I have seen in shared documentation. But that documentation was very convincing, and having been through what I went through hiring Tess Fowler as an artist, I’m convinced that it’s true.

The Creature from the Blog Lagoon (ABC Wednesday, 1/29/14)

C is for Creature

We all know the creature.

The monster. The dangerous thing, stalking, creeping, hunting in the silence of the night. Hairy, clawed, savage. Less than human…or is it?

For me, and many others who grew up with Universal monster movies, the word creature evokes the Creature From The Black Lagoon. Who, when you get down to it, is clawed and savage, but not so hairy. The Creature stalks and kidnaps the gorgeous Julie Adams, mesmerized by her preternatural beauty, no doubt with thoughts of ichthyological rape and scaly little spawn cavorting in the lagoon’s dark waters. The movie he’s in is undeniably a “monster movie,” but is he a monster? No. But he is, obviously, a beast, an animal, an inhuman thing. A creature. He operates on instinct more than thought, and in his case, because he comes into conflict with anti-instinctual man, it proves his undoing. Had he stayed hidden, not tried to woo, in his way, the beauty (a common failing among beasts), he would never have been harpooned, brought to man’s world, had his gills sliced off (a clumsy attempt to make a man of him), and ultimately killed.

Stories often warn us that this is what will happen if we let our creature side out. Our instinct. Our wild. Our Id. We aren’t animals, right? Never mind the blood and bile, our often maddening emotional lives, our wonderfully messy means of procreation. The fangs in our mouths, the hair on our pelts.

I’ve always been fascinated with werewolves, and themes of transformation often manifest in my writing. Often the transfiguration is into a wilder state, like the werewolf, rather than an “ascended” state. But is it therefore a devolution? Or is it an imperfect call toward wholeness? I believe we are at our best when we are comfortable with both sides of our nature, the primal and the thoughtful, the rational and the passionate. Be a creature and be a man. Be a creature and be a woman. Be complete.

Evolution isn’t a paved road away from the creature, it’s a forest path toward a better creature.

C

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter D. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday