Thursday, March 14, 2019


(This post is a both a present to myself and an early one for K., who shares with me certain beliefs Happy Birthdays!)

I wasn't certain what I wanted to do with my days off, though I knew I still wanted to take them even though we cancelled the overnight trip to Boston we booked months ago. Kim bought me exceptional seats for a bucket-list concert for my birthday, but the concert was postponed due to an illness in the band, and so I was left with a four-day weekend with no concrete plan. Earlier in the week I'd felt feverish and sick, so at the very least I could lounge around the house hydrating, writing, and maybe watch a movie or two. I'd been in bed by nine the last three nights after short spans of reading followed by some brief hunts on eBay. What better way to turn fifty?

Restlessness crept in, however, and I prefer my head to swelling with ideas instead of sinus pressure when I write, so I took a drive. First to the post office to initiate the process of renewing my passport--although I no longer have hair and a beard, I look younger in my new photo than in the one I took ten years and fifty pounds ago. Then to the bank and the dry cleaner; driving the short distance up a gray stretch of 395 I notice a very large owl sitting in one of the barren oak trees on a snow-covered slope rising up from the river a quarter mile from my exit. Afterwards I'll think it looked almost exactly like  Owl from the Disney Winnie-the-Pooh films, except with more spots, with the browns of his feathers more muted, and not smiling. Later still I'll realize it looked nothing at all like Owl from Winnie-the-Pooh but will remain convinced I actually saw it. After my errands, I drive south for an exit, get off the highway, and then return north in a big circle hoping to catch a second glimpse but no such luck. I head home, debating on going to the Book Barn to visit their Downtown location to check out the graphic novels, but decide against it because I was just there a week or so ago.

Whooo is that behind me?
(Photo by Linda Waters I never saw this owl)

I've been on a graphic novel kick lately, which probably has something to do with...turning fifty. The whole not-wanting-to-lose-touch-with-your-youth thing, the idea of wanting to stay in touch with that kid even though every last vestige of him has slid from the mirror even before I've picked up my razor. I don't imply that graphic novels or comic books are purely the providence of childhood or anything equally ignorant--if you are hoping for a rant against the newest Avengers trailer or Captain Marvel just move along--but from a personal perspective my love of comics came at a very early age, and I bought them all the way through high school and college, then quit for a few years when money was tight, and then used the birth of my kids as a great excuse to start buying them again, which we did until they lost interest in them. I never quit entirely, though, and there are times--the stressful times, the lost times, the times I feel like crap and want to stay in bed, where I want to read them even more. I finished reading the first volume of Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus when the sickness first started--talk about a gateway drug!

So I arrive home, play with the dogs, make some lunch, do the dishes, get the mail, play with the dogs some more. I decide I'll go downstairs and watch a movie, but before I do I check social media.

The very first thing in my feed is a tweet from the Book Barn (yes, I follow used book stores on Twitter. Other people follow Kardashians or Tucker Carlson. Sue me.) that says "We have a really nice lot of comics and graphic novels on the way Downtown"

What the hell, I think, and get in the car, and drive south. The weird thing is, I looked for three things on eBay the night before: the 2nd volume of Kirby's 4th World Omnibus, the 2nd volume of the Kamandi Omnibus, and the second Animal Man collection. None of those are exactly household names; comic book readers my age would be familiar with all of them, but I have no idea what the comic book readers who started in the nineties would know of them. So I was kind of surprised when I got to the Book Barn Downtown just as there were shelving the "nice lot" of graphic novels and the first thing I see on the table is the complete run of Animal Man graphic novels, beginning with the hardcover edition of the Animal Man Omnibus. I'd expected a bunch of X-Men and Batman stuff (and was not disappointed; see above) and probably some of the more well-known Marvel titles (again, see above) but not the primo HC  editions and off-beat titles (Xenozoic? Three volumes of the Marv Wolfman/Gene Colan Tomb of Dracula?,  so it was well-worth the trip.

So, synchronicity. Why was it I'd picked last night, after probably a decade of not thinking about Animal Man, to research Animal Man? And why is it that I put in "Make an Offer" bids on both the 4th World and Kamandi omnibuses last night (one shot down, one I'm still awaiting a reply on) but not on the much more affordable Animal Man volume two? Clearly, the universe wants me to read Animal Man (and The Uncanny Avengers, and that Fantastic Four stuff is that White Tiger oh yeah I heard the Human Torch flamed out), but why? Why did all of those tiny, butterfly wing-flap events occur in just that precise order to conspire to bring me to the Book Barn, part with some money, and depart with the above haul of books--books that had literally just been brought in, almost as though the universe had summoned them for me today, the ides of the ides of March, pie day, the fiftieth anniversary of my birth?

And why, upon returning home, do I see that a gift bag has been left on the front steps, a kind present from my mother-in-law, and that the gift bag contains four items...a card (with an owl on it), a bottle of wine, a gift certificate to a restaurant and a second gift certificate....
                                                        … the Book Barn?

Not so strange, you might say, if you are of a skeptical nature, as I usually am. It was a "nice lot" of graphic novels, after all, and the work of Grant Morrison is bound to show up somewhere in such a lot. His run on Animal Man was legendary (Brian Bolland covers!) and helped boost Vertigo's growing reputation and increasingly solid line; just because you've never seen it at the Book Barn doesn't mean there aren't thousands of copies sitting on the shelves of once passionate collectors in need of a serious downsizing. And the one thing you request from your mother-in-law for a gift is a Book Barn gift certificate. Although you protest otherwise, you are always checking social media, and so it was only a matter of time before you'd see some X tweet that eventually yielded a Y result. There's no magic here, there's no mystery. It's just some random stuff that happened on a Thursday you decided to keep as a vacation day even though the concert of a lifetime was cancelled. Turning fifty is just another day no matter how hard you try and inject some magic realism into the rather mundane proceedings. Sure, renewing the passport is a nice touch (the literal passport to adventure!), but dropping off the dry cleaning? For this you burned a precious vacation day?

Yes, for this. For this, and for the other pages I wrote earlier today, and those I will write tonight. And also for this large box of beautiful pictures and thrilling stories. I will end my "vacation day" with one of those books, propped up in bed, a glass of diet root beer on the nightstand beside me, and somehow I will feel not only a direct link with the eight year old boy who engaged in a similar way with different stories (albeit without the thick reading glasses I'll be peering through) and with the even older man who I will some day be who, if the universe continues to conspire, will still engage. in that way with even more stories. And in engaging, continue to create his own.

And in creating, will feel a direct link not only to those past, present, and future selves, but in all selves, in all things.

I can't wait.

Only $2.99 for kindle! Find it and my other stuff HERE

Saturday, March 9, 2019

What I Watched, Heard, and Read in February

Nothing to do with today's post, but I love this portrait. It hangs in a restaurant in Boston.

A short but productive month writing, running, and reading. February has never been my favorite month and once again there was a family health scare (these tend to happen most often when I am away) but am thankful to report the scare is now in the rearview.
Flying High Again

1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Season 1--This was something Kim heard about and suggested we watch; I was maybe fifteen minutes into the first episode before I fell completely in love with the show and nearly everything about it. I never realized how weak my film literacy was until I was able to visit the set of I Still See You, how much I just never noticed before when it came to the actual mechanics and construction of film and since that wonderful experience have found myself noticing all sorts of things I wouldn't have noticed prior--fabrics and textures of the wardrobe jump out at me watching Maisel as much as the wonderful soundtrack.

One of the things I appreciate the most about this show is that it manages to be dramatic and socially conscious while at the same time being very positive and winsome--it somehow combines the plucky/can-do/let's-put-on-a-show spirit of fifties sit-coms with adult humor, themes, and insight. Most of my favorite television is very, very dark and/or laden with death--The Wire, The Sopranos, Black Sails--even Mad Men contains a great deal of darkness, so to fall so utterly in love with the world of Maisel was a wonderful surprise, especially in February, the darkest month of all.

2. Straight-Jacket--Another nice February surprise was being able to catch this nutty old Joan Crawford movie--hosted by Svengoolie!--when I was on the road. I grew up on Channel 56's Creature Double Features and have written extensively of my MST3K love and have often been curious to see other movies "curated" by horror hosts, and eating a large pile of Chinese food while watching Svengoolie's goofy skits and trivia lessons was a delight I should treat myself to more often. Sadly, MeTV is not available in my neck of the woods.

With the exception of a few quarters of basketball watched with my son, that is the sum total of my television watching for the wonder my film literacy is so weak!

1. Encore--The Specials. Spectacular. Their first album with Terry Hall in something like twenty years; don't wait so long for the next!
Special Indeed

2. Feral Roots--Rival Sons
3. Good Old Broadway--Coleman Hawkins. My first Coleman Hawkins record. Love at first listen.
4. Complete Performances with the Lighthouse All-stars--Chet Baker & Miles Davis
5. SYR 8--Sonic Youth
6. Goodbye 20th Century SYR 4--Sonic Youth
7. Olive's Horn SYR 7--Kim Gordon
8. The Evening Redness in the West--Nim Vind. Great horrorpunk-ish artist
Items 3-8 were through eMusic and now I have all of the SYR releases because I'm a completist.
9-14. 6 Elvis Presley double discs from the Time-Life series. These are great, but the collection I acquired was missing the volume I really wanted, which was the Gospel one. Oh well.

1. The End of the End of the Earth--Jonathan Franzen. Essays, many about birds. Includes his very short and very controversial "Rules for Writing" essay.
2. Once Upon a Time--Larkin, ed. Essentially a fantasy art book, not much reading involved.
3. Time & Overdrive--Vol 3 of Cadillacs and Dinosaurs by Mark Schultz. You'll notice a lot of art and comics in my Feb. reading. I read things like this all year, but just this very moment I might amp it up in February as a primitive form of self-care to endure that hated month.
4. The Authority--Warren Ellis. I'm a fan of Mr. Ellis's, and have bought many a book based on his newsletter recommendations. One will show up in March. I couldn't help but notice that The Authority's spaceship looks quite like my very own Oumuamua.
5. Amberstar--Bruce Jones. What a weird and fun book featuring mostly purple-palette-ed photos altered by arcane pre-Photoshop techniques to tell a science fictional story. Mr. Jones wrote many of my favorite comics, including the Twisted Tales and Alien Worlds series' from Pacific Comics and then Eclipse Comics. Those titles definitely put a few warps in my record.
6. The Braindead Megaphone--Charles Saunders
7. The Song is You--Megan Abbott A great noir, I didn't realize it until after I finished the book that she is set to be a Guest of Honor at NECon this year.
I judge books by covers. Both cover and content are great.

8. Doo Wop--"Cousin Brucie" Morrow
9. Futuropolis-- Robert Sheckley
10. I Am Providence--Nick Mamatas
11.Safe in Place--Brendan Halpin. A YA, one of the best novels I've read this year, full of heart, humor, and insight. I've enjoyed everything I've read of Mr. Halpin's work but this is one of my favorites. Brendan also offer services as a writing coach; check him and his bibliography out HERE
12. Brown's Requiem--James Ellroy. My Ellroy odyssey begins! I may save commentary until I'm complete with his oeuvre, at which point I'll write a separate post. Probably.
13. Clandestine--James Ellroy
14. World's End--Neil Gaiman and a host of brilliant artists. I'd read this one before--and owned it-- before buying this second copy at the Book Barn. Despite my vast library of books, comics, and music, I never accidently bought stuff I already owned until a few years ago. I am nearly half a century though, and should probably be kind to myself. And this one had a different cover! Anyway, I'm glad I reread it because it is great and beautiful and has one of my favorite ever panels from a lifetime of reading comics. And now I'm inspired to go back and reread the whole run of Sandman.
15. Hotels of North America--Rick Moody. I liked Moody and I liked this book a great deal, reading it as I did poolside at a Hampton Inn. A nice companion book to the Cheap Hotels book from LAST MONTH
16.Mister Miracle--Tom King and Mitch Gerads. Loved it. It inspired me to go read all of the Kirby Fourth World stuff, which shockingly I have only read a few random pieces of, and I'll probably revisit that run of Justice League where Scott Free was part of the roster.
17. Demons By Daylight--Ramsey Campbell. I've met Mr. Campbell a couple times although I doubt he would remember me (although he was in the audience during a panel I was on at Stokercon last year; somewhat intimidating to have one of the greats of horror literature present when I'm running my mouth!). He's written some of my favorite horror novels, among them The Grin of the Dark, The Hungry Moon, and Ancient Images. Many of the covers of his books were painted by my friend Jill Bauman, who I look forward to playing cards with every year. I find it fascinating that creators I admired when I was younger and before I began writing professionally have ended up friends and acquaintances. When they prove to be as wonderful in person as they do in print or on the canvas, as Jill certainly does, it is nothing short of remarkable. As is her work, which you can see HERE

And finally, if my content moves you in any way and you wish to support the creation of more of it (or if you just admire my exquisite taste), please check out my books HERE. The pretty covers of most are below:
One of these is not like the others

Sunday, March 3, 2019

February QE Results

In January I wrote a blog post entitled Queer Eye, My Daughter, and I where I related some of the experience and pleasure I had binge-watching the two season of the show with my daughter over the holiday break, and in doing so basically laid out a self-improvement (or self assessment, at least) plan for the year.  The plan involves taking an honest inventory of where am in life with regards to five categories, as I see them, as exemplified by the men on the Netflix show Queer Eye.  And so, an honest assessment on my performance for February in the five QE categories:

KARAMO: "Culture, Confidence, Put yourself out there". I remain at 4.5 stars. I wrote 229.5 pages, which actually eclipses the January pb of 241.5 in terms of per day average pay count (3 fewer days). I worked on the new novel, a Generation Dead novella, and I completed a short story, an event which happens maybe once a year. I wrote three blog posts, read sixteen books, and saw two concerts (Corrosion of Conformity and Cheap Trick). Next month Kim and I have front row center seats for a bucket list concert in Boston, her gift to celebrate me turning a half a century old!

I had a solo trip to Tampa that was half business and half personal business, but managed to fit in some writing, running, and even a few laps in the hotel pool. Midway through the trip I had wonderful paella meal at the Columbia restaurant in Ybor City while watching the flamenco show, and prior to the show took a walk around where I took the photo above of the local theater.

Also, Break My Heart 1,000 Times/I Still See You came out in Poland:
Not my hand...I found this on Instagram

Readers in Poland are very supportive...I've been amazed at the beautifully designed photos I've seen on Instagram. Dziękuję!

TAN: "Make an effort with your personal appearance". Up from 1.5 to 2 as I have acquired more new clothes and am actually wearing them outside the house--Kim and I have had dinner out several times and I'm generally making more of an effort than I have in say the past decade.

BOBBY: "Create and maintain a physical environment that promotes productivity, creativity and inner harmony". A three, no real change here, although Kim and I have been working in front of the fireplace more which is a nice change of pace.

ANTONI: "Make nutrition healthy and enjoyable, cook for others". Maybe slipped from a 2.5 to a 2 as I haven't done any meal prep for Kim other than salads which I eat three nights a week. I'm still adhering to Austerity (see Secrets of Weight Loss, Revealed) but have relaxed enough to consume several pizzas and go out with Kim on several occasions without my usually level of intolerance and anti-fun diligence. 

JONATHAN: "Take care of yourself physically" I'll give myself a half point here to elevate to 3.5 as I ran 122 miles and have achieved my "target weight", although I now feel I could drop a few more without harm, especially as I've relaxed a few of the dietary restrictions that make life a little less fun.

This puts me at a 15 overall for February, gaining a half star in two categories while backsliding in another. I'm not sure who among the QE men would signify as the avatar for "take care of yourself mentally" (Karamo? Jonathan?) but for the record I'd have to say I'm pleased with my results for February, which traditionally is a month where I'm at war with the blue fog and not always winning.

Next up, I'll blog about the sixteen books I read, the film I watched, and the new music I listened to. 

Speaking of books and music, if you enjoy my blog and/or my young adult novels, you might enjoy my exclusive kindle novel Aural History. A mere $4.99, or free if you are a kindleunlimited patron.

Check Aural History out HERE
Does the Song Really Remain the Same?