Sunday, May 24, 2009

Ten Things You Might Not Know About Me (Or Care)

10) I was born on a military base even though my parents were civilians. The hospital at Moore Army Airfield in Ayer, Massachusetts was the closest one to our little town in 1959, so I was literally "Ayer-born."

9) I had never been on an airplane until I flew to Oklahoma in 1982 to go to air traffic control school.

8) I truly admire people who have the ability to stay grounded after achieving success. Likewise, I can't stand those people who seem to think they're better than everyone else just because they make more money or are more gifted in some way than most people.

7) I'm a sucker for sob stories. Movies, books, real life, it doesn't matter. If it's a tear-jerker of a story, I'm probably going to cry. I hate that about myself but there's nothing I can do about it. I especially can't take people crying in front of me. Jeez, what a wuss.

6) My father and grandfather both died of prostate cancer at exactly the same age, so I already have a pretty good idea when I'll be exiting this mortal coil.

5) I'm continually amazed at the number and quality of authors who, like me, are struggling to break through and get not just published but recognized for their ability. There's a lot of talent out there creating outstanding material in a lot of different genres.

4) Writing for me is like some sort of addiction. If I go too long without doing it, say more than about a day, I start to feel edgy and uncomfortable and begin to get grouchy. Er. Than usual.

3) I once made the front page of with a Top Ten List I did for my Foxsports blog about my favorite things in sports. They ran it with a photograph connected to each item. It was an unbelievable rush to know that literally hundreds of thousands of people were enjoying my work.

On a related note, I couldn't believe how many people seemed truly pissed off about the items on my list. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but a lot of people took it personally that I included an item about golf, say, rather than about their favorite sport. Sorry folks, I just don't get synchronized swimming. But, hey, to each his own.

2) Most of the people I work with in my Evil Day Job had a passion for aviation their entire lives, but I never really did. To me, the career I've spent virtually my entire adult life doing was never really much more than a way to make a decent living and support my family. That said, there is no better feeling than getting off Boston's Final Vector position after working an hour-and-a-half of busy traffic and knowing you did a kick-ass job and actually made a difference.

Aside from actually working position, though, the bureaucracy and red tape that I see every day in the federal government is staggering.

1) My wife and I have been married for over 25 years now. She was just barely 19 and I was almost 24 when we got married and I know a lot of people figured it would never last. We've had the last laugh, though. Hah.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dream a Twisted Dream of Me

I've mentioned this in the past, but things seem to move with glacial slowness in this writing gig. That's what makes the occurrence of this past few days so magical. I found out a three or four days ago that the first nationally distributed issue of Shroud Magazine - you know, the one with MY story in it - will be available at Barnes and Noble stores around the country in about two weeks, and then last night I discovered that the Twisted Dreams Magazine June-September issue - you know, the one with MY story in it - is available now!

Twisted Dreams is an independent horror/dark fiction mag published four times a year, featuring deliciously twisted (as the magazine's name implies) short fiction as well as reviews, artwork and poetry. At over one hundred pages, this issue is packed full of stuff to keep you awake at night, wondering if that noise you heard in the basement is really just your house settling, or if it might actually be something...else...

My entry in Twisted Dreams is titled "The Bridal Veil," and tells the story of a frightening legend and a midnight visit to a creepy cemetery by three teenagers, whose motivations for the visit may or may not be what they appear. Here's a little teaser:

"By now our nerves were threatening to get the best of us. I flicked my flashlight up to Cassie’s face and she seemed pale and washed out, although that might have been a trick of the light. A similar look at Wade revealed a horizontal slash of a mouth, his lips pressed together so tightly they were almost invisible. “Get that light out of my eyes,” he snarled.

I went first. It seemed only right; after all, it had been my idea to come out here in the first place. I knelt in front of the crypt’s door and shone my light through the half-inch seam at the hinges, while simultaneously pressing my eyeball against the keyhole-sized crack under the cold iron doorknob. I sucked in a short breath, gasping at what I saw, before leaping backward and falling flat on my back.
Cassie took my place at the door, moving quickly; as if afraid she might lose her nerve if she didn’t go NOW..."
I received an advance copy of this issue, and believe me when I tell you it's well worth your money if you're into things that go bump in the night. It's available in two different formats - a digital download for just $3.15 if you want to read it right on your computer or Kindle or similar device, or a hard copy at the bargain basement price of $6.50 plus shipping. Click here to order.
I want to pass along my thanks to editor/publisher Andrea Dean Von Scoyoc for including "The Bridal Veil" in this outstanding collection. Check it out; you won't be sorry!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Violent and Messy Miracle

I always find it amusing when some well-meaning soul talks about what a beautiful, life-affirming miracle childbirth is. I heard a lot of that stuff a couple of decades ago when my three children were being born, and then again a couple of years ago, when my own daughter was having her baby.

Having been privileged to take part, even if in only a peripheral way, in the birth of my kids, I can testify that, while it is in many ways a miracle - a life comes into being where before there was none - the word "beautiful" doesn't in any way describe the process accurately. Childbirth is a violent, messy and frightening process, the end result of which is beautiful. But the process itself is incredibly scary.

I mention this because, with Mother's Day upon us, I have been giving a lot of thought to the mother-child bond. A lot of people look at Mother's Day as one of those Hallmark, Made-For-Corporate-America holidays, invented largely to sell cards and flowers and contribute to various successful commercial enterprises.

But if there was only one single human relationship that could be celebrated wih its own "Day," I believe Mother's Day might just be that one. All of us have a mother to whom we owe our very existence. Mothers put their lives on hold for their children, give up careers and often their own dreams, do untold damage to their bodies carrying and delivering children, and the good ones put their kids' needs ahead of their own for a good solid two decades.

The bond is not just a mental or emotional one, but a physical one as well. A mother's children are literally a part of her in ways that a father can never know. I believe completely that a strong father-figure is essential to the well-being of a developing child, but the mother-child relationship goes to the deepest cellular level. At one time, you were a part of your mother.

What's the point? I'm not sure, other than that as a writer, I like to try to investigate human relationships; to take them apart and try to discover why they work or don't work. Suspense and drama are, I believe, developed not from situations, but rather from how characters react to those situations and how those reactions affect the people around them.

I know my wife loves me deeply; there is no question about that in my mind. But I also know that, hypothetically, if there was a situation where she could either save me or her child from the attacking aliens, I would be on my way to the mother ship, no pun intended. See you later, it's been great, thanks for the twenty-five years, good luck and hasta luego. Again, I know my wife loves me and is totally committed to me. But she is connected to her children in a way that goes far beyond anything else.

Mother's Day isn't about flowers or chocolates or Hallmark cards or going out to dinner. It's about the violent, messy and frightening miracle that occurs in that delivery room. To my wife Sue, to my daughter Stefanie, and to my own mom, I'd like to take a moment to celebrate that miracle. Happy Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Little Less Crime and Suspense in the World

I think most people would agree that the less crime in the world, the better. Suspense might be a different story - everybody likes a little of that, if only to keep life interesting.

But for a short story writer, crime and suspense (along with a generous dose of romance in a lot of cases) are the bread and butter of most stories, the gasoline that drives the engine (or the electricity, if you're not a big believer in fossil fuels). So life just got a little bit harder with the news that the outstanding webzine, Crime and Suspense, has published its' final issue with the May/June 2009 release.

Crime and Suspense was released monthly from 2005 through 2007, when publisher Tony Burton reconfigured the ezine to a bimonthly publication. I'm partial to this magazine because it was where my very first published story appeared, the tale of a chance meeting between a young boy and gangster John Dillinger in 1930's Kansas, titled "The Road to Olathe."

At the time the story was accepted, I had written several short stories and submitted them to a number of different magazines, both print and online, and been universally rejected. So, to say I was excited when I got the email from Tony telling me that he was going to use "The Road to Olathe" in the June 2007 edition of C&S would be a massive understatement.

I was surprised again in the early summer of 2008, when Tony Burton contacted me to ask if he could include the story in TEN FOR TEN, a print anthology he was putting together that included ten of his favorite stories from the 2007 issues of Crime and Suspense.

The ezine has since run three of my short stories, and I have been published in a pretty wide variety of other venues. I am a two-time Derringer Award Finalist (I never get tired of saying that) and I have high hopes for my novel-writing career, although so far I don't really have anything to base that on other than my own optimism.

But my point is this: Breaking into this field of fiction writing is incredibly difficult - much more so than I imagined when I started. I feel like I owe a lot to Tony Burton's Crime and Suspense webzine as well as to Wolfmont Publishing, the company Tony runs which published TEN FOR TEN and which is taking off to the point where he no longer has the time available to devote to C&S.

Would I have eventually gotten something published and broken in anyway? I like to think so, but the fact of the matter is that Mr. Burton used my material at a time when no one else had, and I'm incredibly grateful for that. I am happy for Tony Burton that Wolfmont is doing well, but for those of us who have enjoyed C&S over the past few years, both as readers and writers, a little less Crime and Suspense in the world isn't necessarily something to celebrate.

If you've never checked it out, go to and see if you don't agree. Click on the subscribers area from the main page and you can read any of the great archived material.