Wednesday, October 31, 2012

EXCERPT: Honeysuckle Sycamore, Ch. 2

from my anthology Slight Details & Random Events


II


Passions have the speed of a hummingbird’s beating wings if they need it. No human could ever hope to tame or capture one. But against another Passion, against one of their own, they haven’t that advantage. And not every Passion is as whip-quick as the next. There are certain inequalities, one might say. It all depends on the strength of the moment in which they were created.
            As Peat Moss strode with dangerous intent ever closer to Dogwood and Honeysuckle, the two sprites lit into the forest air, their feet barely touching the smooth rocks of the hollow floor. Though Peat Moss was certainly a larger and more cumbersome-looking Passion than the other two, this in no way impeded him. So bitter, damp, and cold was his essence that Honeysuckle and Dogwood at once felt his shadow over them as they fled like a coming winter storm.
            They burst free of the hollow as mere glimmers of light that any watching human would think but plays of moonlight on the river valley air. Honeysuckle was always the faster of the two sprites and in no time, propelled by fear, had sped on ahead of Dogwood. It was only when he heard Dogwood cry out that he finally realized they were no longer together.
            He turned to see the giant, newly born Passion dragging Dogwood by his lustrous white hair along the sand to the river. Dogwood kicked and hit as hard as he could, flailing about like a fish on a hook, but his blows were mere tickles to Peat Moss. Finally, having tired of Dogwood’s struggle, Peat Moss leveled a shattering blow of his own against the young sprite. At once, Dogwood was dazed.
            “Dogwood, no!” Honeysuckle exclaimed. He stood breathless for a moment, fear rendering him to stone. “Get up! Get up!” he thought. “Fight, Dogwood!” But seeing his companion incapacitated and sensing the true danger, the thought occurred to him, What would Honeysuckle do without Dogwood?
            Quietly, with as much stealth as he could, Honeysuckle crept closer to the river’s edge. From behind a boulder he spied as the giant beat the young sprite with merciless force. The expression on Peat Moss’ face was one of devious delight; a crippled grin dripping with drool lay like a scar across his face. He grunted like a wild boar as he swung again and again. Defenseless, Dogwood took the blows and was soon limp even as Peat Moss continued his relentless barrage.
            Honeysuckle did not need to wait long for his courage to mount; (a strange, new sensation to him, for it had never been needed before). He sped at the behemoth as if his feet were lit by flames, tearing across the valley air with haste. Though he hit Peat Moss with unbridled force, it did little to lessen the monster’s attack on Dogwood. With the effort of a shrug from Peat Moss, Honeysuckle was thrown off, slamming forcefully against the boulder. Before Honeysuckle lost total consciousness, he made a final attempt to rise and rescue Dogwood. But it was futile. His body, like Dogwood’s, was as limp as river weed.
            “I’m sorry, Dogwood,” he whispered as his eyes closed on the night.

            When a Passion dies, it disperses into a thousand pieces carried away by the breeze like dandelion seeds. There is no body or shell left behind to bury or weep over. There is no grand funerary procession. Yet like everything of substance and energy the essence of the Passion remains in the world until a time comes that it may be reborn.
            When Honeysuckle awoke, the light of dawn was breaking upon the shore. The patch of beach where Dogwood had fallen was bare, and only a dozen or so dogwood petals fluttered in the breeze. They circled, chasing one another as if ignorant of the death of a Passion. When a stronger breeze came and snatched them quickly away Honeysuckle jumped to his feet as if trying to catch them. But they were carried higher in the sky and far up stream. He lost sight of them in the blinding glare of the new day’s sun.
            Defeated and despairing, Honeysuckle slumped to the ground and wept. His hands dug into the sand in angst. His tears fell, mingling with the sand and the vanishing remnants of Passion blood. “Dogwood! Don’t leave your Honeysuckle!”
            And as he cried, the wind kicked up around him, his moans seeming a call for creation. Wind, sand, blood and tears had taken form in a stationary twister conducted by howls of grief. When the cyclone finally abated and Honeysuckle sat broken and sobbing, behind him stood a figure. A female energy born of sand and bitter anguish. She swayed back and forth in plaintive, half-crazed repetition. Her name was Grit.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The List: What I Did At GRL


1. Met Anne Hathaway, who taught me the right way to tickle a prostate. It was out of sight, dude.


2. Tj Klune, Medicine Woman: How's your face today?
    Me: Huh?
    Tj: Your Jiminy Crickets or whatever it's called.
    Me: My trigemenal Neuralgia?
    Tj: Yeah. I can't pronounce that. For now on it shall be known as hurt face.

 I adore him.

3. Damon Suede had a better ass than any of the strippers on stage at that cowboy stripper thing.

4. I'm never flying stateside again. What a horror. That is all.

5. Everyone was awesomely helpful with my cane and vertigo and all-out clumsiness. I loved how Teej held onto my belt loop when we walked. He made me feel so secure. Don't let his sarcasm fool you. He's extremely romantic.

6. The casbah? Oh, we fuckin' rocked that shit.


7. I now know how Brangelina must feel. Anyone get a photo of us kissing? The Klarvin must have one.


8. If there is a zombie apocalypse my friend Lanny will be the person I will be running to for protection. Bitch is like a tiny Micchone!

9. There we are, being all freaking adorable...


When, suddenly, Teej finds Jesus.



9. Make-out nose. I need to invest in some lotions...or a football helmet. Snogging with Teej is SO much fun, though, I'll happily deal with the after affects.


10. I don't care what anyone says, the power button on a cell phone isn't for anything but aesthetics. Isn't that right, Teej?



11. Teej and I both need classes on how to use a pen. We spent 5 minutes at the signing table trying to open a ball point...and then we realized it had a lid.


12. I drank...I drank a whole lot. And met some wonderful folk, like Chris below.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

EXCERPT: Honeysuckle Sycamore


For the next few weeks I will be running a series, my novella Honeysuckle Sycamore, from my Dreamspinner Press anthology Slight Details & Random Events. This is the original version. I have been thinking lately of expanding on this, working out the kinks and turning it into a novel.


Honeysuckle Sycamore
Eric Arvin




I

In certain places of the world Passions manifest themselves into physical form. These are the whispering places, the in-betweens. They are neither here nor there, neither truly seen nor unseen. The River Valley, as it was simply known, was one of these places. The folk who lived there knew of the valley's power and, for the most part, lived in harmony with it. For the Passions when given form were in the least playful diversions and at most mischievous jokers, using a pumpkin patch for a night’s sleep or stealing the clothes from a scarecrow.
            Once every so often, however, there came a Passion into existence that was so dire, so hateful and belligerent, that it would cause much pain and upheaval. To this point, many of the river folk would leave the valley to its battle. This is the story of one such battle. This is how a fairytale grows up.
            There was a young Passion of immeasurable beauty named Honeysuckle Sycamore. He was named this because he had been manifested under a honeysuckle-adorned sycamore tree while two young lovers consummated their adoration for one another beneath it. Born of their love, he was christened by the dew of the early morning. He stretched, yawned, and hopped to his feet as naked as a newborn. From his head hung a garland of honeysuckles and from his glittering skin came the scent of the sweet flower.
            Honeysuckle was a joyous sprite, finding awe in everything he came upon. Hummingbird or grain of sand, it was all magnificent to him. The river folk gazed upon him with delight and reciprocated his laughter with giggles of their own.
            Of all the sprites in the valley, Honeysuckle’s most favorite - his absolute favoritest in all the wide world (which to him was a long flowing river and the hills above it) - was Dogwood. Dogwood liked nothing more than to sit beneath his trees and let the pretty white buds fall on him. He loved how they tickled his skin like kisses. His hair was a mussed bushel of white flame. Yet his skin was sun kissed and dark.
            Dogwood and Honeysuckle would play all day and all night by the river and among the thick trees of the forest. They would wrestle and kiss and romance the day away. Such was the free and gleeful existence of a Passion and river sprite. Many a human was envious of their frivolity.
           One perfectly pleasant evening Honeysuckle and Dogwood skipped along the shore of the river, keeping awake the denizens of the valley with their laughter and guffaws. When they were shooed away by a rather gruff and particularly surly woman (“Git on witcha!” she squawked), giddily they ducked into a narrow hollow neither night fly nor hoot owl frequented. Their glee was quickly replaced by trepidation, however, as the journeyed farther inward. Their bare feet toppled the small pebbles and wet rocks of the hollow floor.
            “Let’s leave,” Honeysuckle implored, pulling Dogwood’s arm. “I do not like it here! Not one bit.”
            “Hush,” Dogwood said, paying no heed to his friend’s advice. “Do you hear that? Something is crying.”
            And sure enough, Honeysuckle heard the rasping, muffled cry. It was as if something were struggling to hold on to its last breath. It was a whinnying, shrill sound.
            “Let’s not go any farther,” Honeysuckle said again, as quietly as he could.
            “Quiet, Honeysuckle!” Dogwood commanded, adamantly. “It’s just up a bit. Why not see what it is? Maybe we might help it if it be a deer or a lost stallion. We might ride it out of the hollow if it’s not too distressed.”
            The narrow walls of the hollow lead them to a dead end, a high cliff that shot into the night sky like a giant of the kind they had envisioned in one of their varied imaginary adventures.
            “Look there!” Dogwood exclaimed.
            At the base of the cliff, now silent and still, lay the form of a woman. Her white gown was fanned about her like wings about to take flight. Sitting beside her weeping was a young man with a bloodied knife in his hand. The blood dripped from it like molasses to the mossy rocks. He looked at the two sprites, imploring sympathy. “She had found another,” he wailed. “She was going to leave me.”
            He looked despondent. Lost of all life, and completely aware of the hopelessness of his situation.
            “Brother, what should we do?” Honeysuckle gasped. His sweet breath tickled Dogwood’s elfin ears.
            Dogwood hadn’t the time to answer, however. In a flash of confusion, they saw the young man plunge the dagger deep into his own chest. He gasped with a gurgle and a squeak, then fell back on the stony ground.
            Honeysuckle and Dogwood clutched one another tightly. “Let us be gone!” Honeysuckle once more exclaimed. His voice sounded frail throughout the hollow.
            As he said this, a deep, moaning pitch issued forth from the ground surrounding the dead couple. The two Passions stared around in fear. From the earth, from the moist ground rose at first a shadow. But as moonlight flooded the hollow, it became a great quivering hulk of naked flesh bathed in the blue glow of twilight. A Passion had been birthed. And it was one born of such jealousy and vile contempt that the sense of it began to permeate the valley almost immediately. An air of hate woke even those river folk who could sleep comfortably through the strongest summer storm. They sat straight up in their beds as if poked in the ribs with a fork and began to think of ways to leave, places to go.
            The newborn Passion focused its coal-black eyes upon the two much smaller sprites. He was an awesome sight, and his name was Peat Moss. On his head was an emerald crown of lichen. With massive steps, he walked over the dead couple. The hollow groaned as he came for Honeysuckle Sycamore and Dogwood.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

EXCERPT: Galley Proof


An excerpt from Galley Proof.


"A Room of One’s Own"


I was clearly caught in a cliché.

Everyone has seen those films – usually a sex comedy about high school or college – in which an alluring character is introduced to the plot with the use of soft lighting, swoony music, and, depending on the level of writing, induced drooling from the other characters in the film. Said character enters the library or cafeteria and the music hits its stride. Every other character, but most notably the main character, is dumbfounded – nay, lobotomized – by the sheer sensuality and god-like nature of that which has just walked in. Life, we are led to believe, was nothing before this divine event. Yet what we aren’t privy to as viewers of this type of film – not at the outset anyway – is what trouble will follow in this beauty’s wake. And there must be trouble, for without it there is no story. No life. No box-office. What boisterous, if unbelievable, shenanigans will the hero have to go through to get the guy or girl of his or her dreams? And will it be worth it? That’s what makes or breaks films like this: worth. For if it is worth it, if after all the embarrassing smackdowns, the disgusting flatulent jokes, and the strained one-liners, if in the end we really do care about these somewhat contrived and clichéd characters, then we can forgive any plot hole. We, every one of us, are only looking for a good time, after all. Nobody expects a rom-com to change their life.

Logan Brandish. That’s my real name. I was destined to be a writer, it seems, with a name like that. And I’m a decently successful writer too. I have even managed to amass a firm little nest egg from what was, at one time, a dubious career choice. Even when my sales start to sag, I’m still successful enough that my publisher, Hillside Books, pays for my meals at posh hotel restaurants. Especially when they want me to meet with a new editor.

And, now that introductions are out of the way, so starts my tale.

To put it plainly, I was pigging out. My new editor had yet to arrive and I had already ordered half the menu and was on my second Long Island iced tea. I’m a pretty man – clean-cut brown hair, a face that has been described as “open”, and a body that knows its way around a gym – but I don’t know how pretty I was looking just then. Though, in my defense, all thirteen dishes on the table were in nice rows, perfectly laid out. I was a stickler for order and conformity.

Normally when meeting with an editor I would arrive early to look over my notes for my new project. But my notes had been destroyed. By me. In a fit of anger and self-ridicule. All that was left was a single piece of paper which now lay on the table, a small dab of shrimp cocktail sauce on the right corner. Who cares.

It was for precisely this reason, I suppose, my publisher at Hillside Books decided to send me a new editor. They could tell I was having issues and thought maybe an editor could help. This is when editors start to resemble mean drill sergeants. There were going to be some major battles in the coming weeks and months. Most likely their thinking was that if they started things out between me and this new editor, a Mr. Brock Kimble, in a chic hotel restaurant where there were other people around things would not so quickly dissolve into a sparring match like it had with the last editor they sent me. And honestly, I’ve never been one for showy displays of anger, so they thought correctly. I was not going to knock over the gorgeous pastry tables or throw dishes at the large crystal chandelier, even if the thought did cross my mind. I was a nice guy. I would not be throwing the wine into the cascading fountain or slap some passing waitress across the face just for being too near to me. But I had decided I would not be so easily soothed either. Yes. I would eat their free food and drink their bribery wine, but I’ll be damned if I gave Mr. Kimble one smile. My tolerance was worn thin already. Like that Kool-Aid t-shirt I had kept since high school and refused to throw away. Worn thin.

No. Mr. Kimble would have to get by on my curt and dismissive answers and challenging stares. I was very proud of myself for deciding all of this. It was written like a script in my brain.

And then, as I was devouring a chicken wing as if tolling out vengeance, my moment of cliché happened. Into the restaurant walked what could only be described (albeit inadequately) as a stunning man. I swear, the room went silent and everything crawled in his presence. He was dressed in a dark suit, buttoned properly so that it showed a tapered waist. His shoulders were broad and above them, oh deliciousness, was a face so proportioned and perfect I wanted to take up drawing on the spot. His hair was dark, as were his eyes. In fact, he was so pretty I found myself gagging. Then I realized that the chicken wing was still halfway crammed down my throat. Silly me. I spat it out just as his eyes focused on mine. The chicken landed on the plate with a resounding echo and my face, I could tell via the flames of my embarrassment, was flushed. My ears were most likely bright red as well.

I began to chant to myself: Please don’t be him. Please don’t be him. Please, please, please don’t be him.

But it was. And he was soon standing over me, grinning. He looked at my table and the mess I had made. “You’ve been busy,” he said. “Cute ears.”

As I reached for his offered hand to shake it, I gasped and choked. A bit of leftover chicken flew out of my mouth and onto the table, in front of his crotch. Humiliation complete. Lesson learned.

“Sorry,” I said, taking a quick drink of water. People were looking at me disapprovingly for daring to nearly die in public.

“Don’t worry about it.” He smiled and sat down, sitting his briefcase in the seat beside him. “I’ve had worse things thrown at me than a piece of regurgitated chicken. I’m Brock Kimble.”

Logan Brandish. Of course, you know that or you wouldn’t have known how to find me. Wish I had had a photo of you.” I grimaced. That did not sound right even though the implication was very near the mark. By golly! He was pretty!

“Would have been easy enough to find you. All writers have the same look of social discomfort and inferiority.”

Wait. What?

I can only imagine what I must have looked like sitting there with him. How others saw me. He ordered his drink with style. He did everything with style. He was fluid. He was Henry Higgins. I wasn’t even Eliza Doolittle. I was Nell, still choking up bits of chicken.

You’re my new editor?” I asked. My plan to be subtle and aloof was lost.

He must have heard that question and intonation before. His smile jarred the room. “I started as a cover model for the romance division of Hillside. After proving myself,” (he leaned in closer here, smelling clean and fresh) “and sleeping just a few feet up, I landed myself in this position. I’ve been in every position you can think of. Wink wink.”

Wait. What?

Eyes bright. Eyes full of mischief. “I believe in being totally honest. That’s one thing you should know about me, Mr. Brandish. Or Logan? I’ll call you Logan. Over the next few weeks I will hurt your feelings with some of my critiques, but I’ll also be there to encourage you on. We’ll get you going again. You’ll see. I’ll be like Henry V, ushering you on to victory…or something like that. I’m not certain what Henry V is famous for other than being played by Kenneth Brannagh. So, what have you got to show me?”

“Um…I…I’m having issues…”

He spread his arms. “That’s why I’m here. You don’t have anything?”

My fingers edged toward the lone, pathetic piece of stained paper on the table. He snatched if up and read it:

The trireme surged on the open sea.”

He looked at the page a bit longer then flipped it over as if there were any possibility at all of something being on the other side.

“This is it?”

“Well, there was more…”

“More better, or just more of the same?”

I didn’t know how to answer that. The fact is, since the destruction of my notes I had only gotten as far as the first sentence. Fifteen versions of the first sentence. (There once was a trireme from Kent. Trireme Irene had seventeen children. Triremes are big big boats powered by angry muscle bottoms. All aboard!) The first sentence gets things going. It’s the START button to any new manuscript. Unfortunately for me, the first sentence of any new manuscript is like pushing a basketball out my urethra.

I shrugged and gave a half smile. That worked to get me out of trouble sometimes. I looked so All-American people sang at me when the National Anthem was played at ball games.

“Hmmm. Well, it’s a start.” He handed the paper back to me. “Do you know anything about galley ships?”

“No.”

“Looks like you got some homework, then, huh?” He leaned forward and said with a booming voice, “Cause I sure as hell don’t either, and have no intention of edimicatin’ myself about ‘em. Know what I mean, Jelly bean!”

He was a silly man. A silly, gorgeous man.

A handsome young waiter brought Mr. Kimble his drink and I noticed a lingering gaze between the two. That’s when my stomach dropped and my balls disappeared into my abdomen. Here was a lovely gay man and I had, quite purposely, sabotaged any chance I had with him. He had even said I had cute ears. I had most likely put him off eating for the rest of his life with the whole chicken debacle. He certainly wasn’t ordering anything there. There wasn’t room left on the table.

The waiter looked at me, disinterested, and asked if I needed anything more.

Go away, little bird. Go away.

“I’ve read your blog,” Brock said. “Very entertaining. Witty.”

“Well, I’m no Noel Coward.”

“Never heard of him. Unfortunate name. About your blog. Like I said, entertaining stuff, but I would reconsider the links to the naughtier sites. You know. The porn blogs and naked men.”

How dare he!

“We want the focus to be on you. We don’t want anyone who has come to your site to be distracted by pretty pictures. We want them to stick around and not be clicking away for the first pair of fresh ass cheeks they see.” About that time a fresh pair – those of our handsome young waiter – walked right by. Mr. Brock Kimble couldn’t keep himself from following them for just a bit.

“It’s my blog. It’s like a diary. I post things that interest me.”

“I get it. I know what a blog is. Still, the Lord wouldn’t like it.”

My jaw literally dropped.

“Just kidding.” What a wicked smile.

He looked around the restaurant for that cute little waiter. The one I had just bitch-slapped in my mind. “But seriously, consider taking those links down.”

“Are we through here?” I asked, doing my best to show some irritation.

“Sure. Would you like me to help you clean up?”

No, I would not! I don’t think I like you, Mr. Kimble.”

“Good. Then you can stop worrying about how you appear around me.”

I froze. How could he know? How could he tell how awkward I felt?

His eyes locked with those of the waiter. “I’ve got another meeting,” he said. “And you’ve got homework.”

I sat a while longer, trying not to pay attention to my new agent walking out the door with the waiter. In my most Walter Mitty-like fantasies I swung into action and knocked the waiter on his cute little buns. He was fired for flirting with a customer and trying to steal my man, and then Mr. Kimble and I purchased a suite where we fucked like toys wound too tightly. My fantasy love life was always so exciting. But life never measured up to fantasy. In real life, kisses are never as sweet and assholes only stretch so far.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Rest Is Illusion For FREE


Download my first book, The Rest Is Illusion, for FREE!

Offer will end November 15th. Get it at Good Reads, HERE.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

EXCERPT: Woke Up in a Strange Place


Woke Up in a Strange PlaceJoe, having recently woke up naked and without any knowledge of who he is in a field of barley, is traveling with his spirit guide, a folk singer named Baker, down a river. They come to a great waterfall where Joe will remember the first important occurrence of his life. Um...did I mention this is an award-winning novel? I mean, not that it matters...


The creek had gone from shallow stream to shallow river and flowed swiftly into the woods. Tied to a large tree was a small boat, barely big enough for more than a couple of people. A bright red sail flapped with the breeze. On it was written two letters, 3P, in scratchy black scrawl like that of a young child who paid no heed the badgering blue lines of notebook paper. The vessel bobbed with the current of the river. The water sang brightly, a winking ta-dah!

"This is our ride, chief," Baker said as he approached the small craft. He grabbed the thick rope tied to the tree and jumped into the boat with ease, the guitar sounding a hollow thump on his back. Joe positioned himself in the vessel more carefully, still uncertain of the new place he had suddenly found himself in. There were no seats in the tiny boat. Joe and Baker were to remain standing. This assumed Joe’s balance was functioning properly.
Baker untied the boat from the tree and the current pushed them onward.
"Looky here," Baker said in dry excitement as he looked over the edge of the boat. "We got critters. Bet you never seen ‘em like this before."

Joe cautiously peered into the water, careful not to tip the boat. Bright colors were shooting past, swimming with them. Rainbow fish. They leaped into the air through the circled mouths of the singing river spirits, which choked and coughed in displeasure. Joe couldn’t help but laugh and swore he saw smiles on the playful little fish as they lingered momentarily in mid-flight.

There were much larger things as well. Otters and beavers and turtles and platypuses. Were they to break out in song Joe would have thought it none the stranger. After all, the riverdid sing. At one point, a beaver placed its tiny hands on the aft of the boat, as if to aid their speed, using its slight might to push. It stayed there for a while, inquisitive eyes twinkling, then slid back beneath the waters once more with its beaver kin. Joe and Baker were being shown the way, it seemed. Small swimmers of all kinds guided their voyage down the river through the increasingly dense forest.

The trees appeared restless as the boat passed them. They creaked with loud snaps and groans, the sound of bark and wood stretching and twisting. But there was nothing ordinary about these trees. They too had faces. Knobby, grumpy-looking faces (of course they were grumpy-looking) that eyed the boat with discernable interest. Their eyes were wide, hollow holes, but they were not frightful. Only curiosity could be recognized from their wooded expressions and inquiring moans.

"Baker, look!" Joe whispered loudly, caught off guard by the rustic audience.
"Yeah, the trees," Baker said, already past any wonder. "Strange place to call Heaven, huh?" Baker winked. “And these ain’t no special effects. This ain’t Oz or Middle-Earth.”

The roaring sound of falling water caught Joe’s attention. There was a drop-off ahead, a cliff. They had already traveled deep into the forest and the trees were many.

"Guess we better tie up here," Baker said.

The boat, seeming to obey his wishes, drifted over to a bank, ignoring the strong current effortlessly. The myriad of critters that had accompanied them dispersed in random bursts and splashes. Baker took one long stride off the craft and then turned to help Joe.

"This is your first stop," Baker said. The roar from the falls muffled the other sounds of the forest around them.

"A waterfall?" Joe questioned. “This is our stop? What could be here?”
Before Baker could respond, however, as Joe was stepping from boat to land, something jarred the craft, knocking it from side to side with a grinding wrench. Joe was rendered unbalanced and fell backward into the stream, losing his grip on Baker’s hand. The water took him under with a cold and powerful embrace. Submerged in the glassy liquid, he opened his eyes and saw something emerge from the wildest depths, a face-like form glaring at him hungrily in the current. It seemed a transparent visage for the most part, but for eyes made of silver fish that circled in rapid waltzes, and a mouth of some golden worm that wriggled around a tongue of writhing three-headed eels. The water that made up the creature was a shade of urine yellow. Somehow it was more polluted than the rest of the river. Remaining fixed as if admiring a meal before devouring it eagerly, the eyes regarded Joe. Then, suddenly, the creature raced for him.

Joe emerged from the depth with a pronounced gasp, struggling to get over to the bank as quickly as he could. Baker was on his knees, holding out a branch into the water for Joe to grasp. “Take hold here,” he yelled above the sound of the furious flow.

Joe swam as best he could against the current, away from the watery monster, but was continuously pushed farther down stream and closer to the falls. All thoughts of this place being Heaven had disappeared from his mind altogether.

He felt a tug below him and he froze in sheer terror. “It’s got me, Baker!” he cried. “Something’s got me!”

“Keep swimmin’, Joe,” Baker hollered. “This a-way!”

But all the swimming got him nowhere. Out of the guts of the river rose a figure so large that even the trees seemed dwarfed. A dragon, a demonic water-spout growing high into the forested air. It was of the water; one with it. As if the entire length of the river was its long, sleek body. Joe saw various fish and smaller amphibians swimming around the rank body cavity of the beast in cyclonic twists upward. The liquid features of its face could now be discerned more clearly. The silver fish eyes, the worm lips and eeled tongue, a long snout that dripped river sludge, and small ripples and waves all over its waterscape that echoed the likes of horns and spikes and scales. There were no arms or legs. This was a creature that had no need for those appendages, looming fierce and deadly as a cobra. Its hiss was like that of shooting water into the haul of a sinking ship, only magnified a hundred times.

Joe looked at the river beast in absolute fear as it stood to its full height over the forest and peered down at him in victory. Baker still called from the bank, trying to distract the creature. He threw fallen sticks and large stones which did nothing but disappear into the stinking serpent-like form and sink to the river bed.

Without warning, the monster charged down at Joe from its lofty height, head first. Its eeled tongue reached out for him, squirming in greedy anticipation, and Joe screamed in horror. He knew he could not escape this thing, whatever it was. The river held him in its grip. He closed his eyes to the approaching demon and waited his fate.

But, of course, his fate was not sealed. Not in this life. The story goes on.
From somewhere behind the river monster, Joe heard a challenging yell. More of a squeal, really. A small voice making a mockery of the beast’s epic actions.

Joe opened his eyes to see the fiend’s attention averted elsewhere; distracted in a moment of greatness by a small figure standing on a boulder on the bank near Baker. The creature juggled its options briefly, and then left Joe for the time being to focus on the other completely. It charged at the boulder as it had done Joe. The water around its extended torso splayed up around it in rage. But its intent to cause harm was coolly blunted. As it came within mere feet of the rock, the figure atop it held out a defiant arm and the transparent lizard fell apart into a million droplets of current with a screeching cry. Its tiny marine prisoners rained back into the place from where they had come with a chorus of splashes. The water calmed then, and soon continued on its natural flow over the cliff as if nothing had happened at all, as if the dragon were but a hiccup in an ordinary day, hardly noticed.
Joe, still shaking and frightened, swam to the shore. It was much easier now that the waters were not agitated. The current even seemed to aid him in this, all but stopping in the swim path. Baker gave him a hand and helped him to the safety of solid ground.

“What was that?” Joe trembled.

“Don’t really know, chief,” Baker said, once again steady and unnerved. “I ain’t never been to this area of the forest before. You’re all right, though.” He helped dry Joe with his own clothes and body. “Where’s a giant sponge when you need one, huh?” he joked.

“Whose forest is this?” Joe asked.

But then he heard the voice from the boulder. A tiny thing. Shrill and familiar, yet Joe was unable to place from exactly where he knew it.
"Hi!" said the voice in a loud burst. Joe could see the figure clearly now. It was a little boy with wet, messy blonde hair and a toothy grin minus a couple of teeth. He was standing proudly on the boulder, all barefoot and soaked swimming shorts, with two spindly arms resting on his hips. "How d’ya do?” he shouted, though he was no more than a few feet from them. “Thorry about the monthter. I try to keep them under control betht I can.” (He spoke with an undeniable, completely likeable, perfectly natural lisp.)
“My name ith Peter! Peter Patrick Pithburgh," he said. The words shot from his mouth, each one, like a cannonball of spittle and determination. "But people call me 3P.”

Joe stood up from the ground, shaking off his last experience. “You can control that thing?” he asked. “What was it?”

“Jutht a water worm. Ain’t nuffin’ really. You jutht gotta shthow it who hath control. Can’t hurt you if you don’t let it. I’ve been fightin’ with that one from the firth day I got here.”

Joe looked at Baker in confusion. “Don’t ask me, kid.”

“It took y'all a while, didn’t it," 3P shouted.

"You were expecting us?" Joe asked. He pushed back the wet hair from his forehead.

"Well, yeth. I knew you'd get here thooner or later," 3P hollered. Baker couldn't hide an affectionate smile.

"He's a trip, huh?" Baker said to Joe.

"Come for a thwim?" 3P asked as he jumped down from the rock and hopped up to Joe's side. “A thwim will calm you. The water worm ith thleeping now. I put him in hith playth.”

"A swim?" Joe responded incredulously, peering out over the rushing waters of the falls. “I don’t think....”

"Yep. Nothin' like a good thwim," 3P said as he grabbed Joe's hand in his own tiny palm and pulled him toward the swift current.

"Wait! We'll be swept over the edge," Joe protested. Though, at the moment, he was more concerned about the sleeping habits of the river beast.

"Of courth," 3P said knowingly. "Thath the fun part! C’mon!"

"What?" Joe cried as 3P let go of his hand and rushed at the frenzied stream. "Stop!" Joe screamed. "Baker, stop him!"

"This is his world, Joe. I cain't do a thing. He makes the rules here. He'll be fine."

Baker settled himself against the trunk of a disproportionate climbing tree, unconcerned with the youngster’s seemingly dangerous activity.

Seeing that Baker wasn’t going to do anything, Joe took off running after the little boy, but it was too late. 3P jumped with a heroic holler into the crystal water. An echoing scream issued forth down the length of the falls. Yet it was not a scream of terror, but a cry of undiluted joy. Strange thing, that.

Joe tried to peer over the cliff but could see nothing. The child must have been buried deep beneath the uncaring, pummeling current. Joe’s heart was ready to break for him. But to his surprise he saw the water open like a blooming flower with white petals of foam, and out leaped 3P as if he were a springing trout or salmon. He flew through the air like a puppet on strings and landed safely, almost too carefully, on another large boulder that rested conveniently near the flowing river below. He waited there, looking up at Joe, drenched and smiling with crooked teeth and bright eyes, arms wrapped tightly around his knees as he sat on the boulder. He was calm and steady, not breathless at all. Joe was yet again in a state of disbelief, a state that was becoming more and more common here.

"C'mon down!" 3P shouted, his voice galloping up the falling water with snappy volatility.

"No way!" Joe yelled in return, still unsure as to exactly how 3P came out of the current so unscathed.

"Go on! Have some fun. What are you afraid of?" Baker said from his resting place at the tree. He didn't bother to glance up from his guitar. "Dyin’?" Joe could have sworn there was a trace of a smile with that last word. A little jibe.

Yet, Baker was right. If this was an afterlife, if this was a bodyless existence and everything he saw was only his mind’s illusion, then leaping from a mountain top was as safe as tripping through a field of daisies. Still, the water was ferocious. It dared the nervous first-timer to swim along with it. The current had stopped singing a ways back. Peculiarly, Joe thought he heard a low chant coming from the river now:Jump! Jump! Jump!

"C'mon!" 3P yelled again. He was now standing on the boulder, his arms down at his sides, helping to push out every ounce of vocal encouragement.

"Great courage," a voice said from somewhere near Joe. "Great courage.” Baker again, being his helpful self, Joe thought.

Joe took the words to heart, though. He picked up what audacity he could from the surrounding air, closed his eyes, and jumped with a high-pitched yelp back into the rushing stream. The waters crowded over and around him once again, carrying him like a victor to the prize, or a victim to the banquet. The river cheered in approval. Head above water, he opened his eyes to see the great drop of the falls in front of him and felt his bravery ebb.

A mistake! A mistake!

A long tree branch hung low over the waters ahead. Joe grabbed for it, but he was unable to reach it fully. His fingertips barely grazed it. The stream saw to that.

"Great courage!" He heard a voice say again. But it couldn't have been Baker. The voice seemed too near, as if it were coming from someone right beside him.

Before he could think of another means of escape, the waters pulled him down the falls. Weightlessness combined with a terrifying, deafening roar. A sense of sublime elation overtook him and the noise and rumble were silenced as if a glass curtain had closed in around him. He heard only the inner whispers of his excited mind. Rushed whispers whizzing through his head like phantom fireflies. These whispers stirred in Joe a new thing. They were an awakening, the emergence of new memory. In those weightless seconds of unspecified time, he saw faces and matched these faces to names. Suddenly, he remembered places and events of his childhood, of a former self, like he was waking to the reality of the world after a night's restful sleep. It was like the night in the field of barley, only more pronounced and meaningful.

Memories as echoes in visual form:

His mother's gentle face beamed at him from sharp jolts of recall; friends he had known shouted at him through screen doors to come out and play; embarrassing accidents in school plays made him cringe; and the leather from hot car seats stuck to his legs on long rides to his grandmother’s house on summer vacation. He was reliving these things. He was able to see every Christmas gift, every birthday party, and every youthful mishap from his childhood in more than a simple snapshot or one reel film. And it all seemed new, and yet done and over with.

And then it stopped. Or at least, the focus shifted to one particular memory....

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The List: Cloud Atlas, Mumford, & Addams Family's Oscar Injustice

1. I haven't been to a movie theater since 03 when I saw Return of the King. I have always said that the only way I'd ever go to one again was if they made The Hobbit. Then Cloud Atlas comes along. Will this be the film that gets me back in a movie theater for the first time since Return of the King in 03? Or should I let that honor go to The Hobbit for a full circle effect? Hmmmm. I DO like full circles.

2. I may be the only person alive who is not completely in love with the new Mumford & Sons album, Babel. May yet grow on me. The truth is, the albums that take their time to grow on me often turn out to be favorites. My issue with the album is, it feels like more of the same. Still, it's 20 times better than anything being played on the radio these days.

3. Don't you hate it when films come out that resemble ideas you came up with years ago? This has happened to me twice, once with the John Cusack thriller Identity (my version of the same idea was set on a train and called Train Of Thought) and now more recently with Looper. I still have the outlines to prove it. Sigh. If only I had connections. I might be rich.

4. If the gays truly ran Hollywood Addams Family Values would have swept the Oscars in 93. 

5. I received the stupendously awesome sauce news early this week that Harmony Ink Press has accepted my spec fic epic The Mingled Destinies of Crocodiles & Men for publication. This is the best news since the doctors told me I was gonna live after brain surgery!

6. I received a call this week from some place whose recorded message lady claimed I had filled out a survey and I was the recipient of a 7-night Caribbean cruise. I didn't trust this strangely cheerful lady, so I turned the cruise down. How do I know she doesn't want to enslave me or turn me into a sex slave? ...I have trust issues.

8. I'm checking on rights and such and if everything turns out right I plan on uploading my first book The Rest Is Illusion to Good Reads for anyone to read FOR FREE. Why for free you ask? Two reasons: 1) I look at it as a good investment. If I can get people to read that maybe they'll be interested in my other stuff; 2) I don't want to be sued by the original publisher for using their cover image, etc. and not paying them even though they are now no longer in business. I'll keep you posted.


9. Has anyone seen #7? It was a political observation but got scared of being yelled at.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

EXCERPT: Simple Men

Simple Men is essentially the story of Foster Lewis - the new chaplain of Verona College -and the school's football coach, Chip. Yet the side story of college ball players Brad & Jason has gotten quite a response from readers, some even suggesting they get their own book. This is the scene where I introduce those two troublemakers.

Football is an outside sport. Jason Jordan hated practice in the gym because it might rain. All the guys did. Nobody minded getting wet. They were ball players after all. Still, there was one good thing about practice inside: Coach Arnold wore his skin tight shorts. Any other coach would look like a caricature in those shorts, but Coach Arnold…The man could wear the hell out of those shorts! When they trained outside, the coach wore his usual sweats or pant suit. But on strength-training days, it was the shorts. They were mesh, shone off the fluorescent lights, and hugged tight around the Coach’s thick legs like a wrapped ham at Christmas.

Mmm. Ham. Jason suddenly realized he was hungry.

The team sat on the gym floor in designated rows. They had just finished with their calisthenics, the dullest part of strength training, and the Coach was going on about something. Jason really wasn’t giving it too much thought. He was caught up in Coach Arnold’s thighs. He rested back on his hands, his legs spread out, his mouth salivating at naughty fantasies. He was sure he wasn’t the only one. The coach had a bulge in his shorts that couldn’t be ignored.

Beside him sat his best friend, Brad Park. Brad was a bit of a troublemaker. In fact, they both were, but Brad looked the part more. He had a goofy grin and carried with him an air of mischief. Jason was a slyer sort of troublemaker. It was his looks that let him get away with most things – the sweet eyes, the mop head of hair – whereas Brad’s eyes were dangerously close to wide-eyed shiftiness and his hair was shorn. The two had been best friends since starting college, having connected immediately over B-movies and country music. They were not the most popular guys at school, but they were well-liked enough. Coach Arnold seemed to like them anyway, and that’s what mattered. You get in good with the coach and you’re set. Brad’s dad and half dozen brothers had told him this.

Brad had dated a few different girls, but none seemed willing to take his shtick for long. He wasn’t surprised by this, or even particularly hurt when a relationship ended. At the end of a lousy date, he still got to go back to his dorm where his best bud, Jason, was waiting, most likely with a copy of some dark, twisted movie filled with bad special effects and a freshly opened box of Chips Ahoy!

Jason was the type of guy who was invited to all the formals. He cleaned up very well. Yet he was never too interested in anything more than that. He had plenty of girl friends, but no girlfriends. He’d not had a girlfriend his entire time in school, though Brad knew he had been involved with a girl at least once before college. None of that mattered, though. When Jason and Brad were alone in their room, they had a blast watching the movies and pigging out on junk food. (Enjoy it, they were told. Your metabolism betrays you as you get older. And that’s just the first thing.)

They wrestled some…Well, a lot. They were, after all, on the wrestling team when football wasn’t in season. But some of the guys in the house – especially those in the floor below them – found their late night pinnings quite annoying.

Jason’s mind had shifted to one of these late night matches as the coach spoke. It was no longer the coach who was making his mouth water as he sat on the gym floor, but Brad. The coach was only a momentary salivation; Brad had been filling Jason’s thoughts for about a year now. By the feel of Brad’s pecker last night as they rubbed against one another in a spontaneous match – frotting, he had heard it was called – Brad felt the same. Nothing was said the next morning, though. Jason was a man of few words anyway. Why waste them on embarrassed utterings.

Jason heard Brad snicker. He leaned over Jason’s shoulder and pointed at his happy crotch. “Dude!” he said. “Watch the boner.”

Sure enough, Jason’s dick stood at alert, stretching his own mesh shorts. He owned the moment, shrugging with a smile. “Jealous?”

“Shit! I got that beat and you know it.” He reached to his own shorts as if he were going to pull the thing out. Jason loved that cocky grin. Brad was a bulldog, but he was a bulldog with a tender heart. He didn’t show that aspect of himself to too many people though.

“Guys!” the coach called from the front. “Something wrong? Am I bothering you?” The coach had one of those voices that could clear a stadium.

“Jason’s got a boner, Coach!” Brad blurted out.

Snickers and guffaws from the assembled players.

“Pay attention, guys,” Coach Arnold instructed the two troublemakers.

“I am, sir,” Jason said with a grin. He nodded at his penis. It was starting to subside.

Coach gave them a You two will never grow up look. “All right, everyone. Hit the showers. Remember, practice tomorrow at four on the field….as long as it doesn’t rain.”

The gym filled with the squeaking of shoe rubber and relief. Most of the guys were starving.

“You two,” he said, pointing at Jason and Brad with the rolled up coaching magazine he always seemed to have in his hand. The boys wondered if he ever actually read it. “I need to speak with you.”

“Listen, Coach,” Jason said. “I’m sorry. Sometimes I just get distracted. You know how it is. It has a life of its own. I’ll start wearing a strap if you want.”

“I don’t want to talk about your pecker, Jason. I have a favor to ask.”

“Anything, Coach,” Brad said. “What can we do you for?"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012