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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

When Daddy Lies About Cheating

“You lied.”
Two simple little words that carry so much weight 
when spoken from a broken heart. 

In “The Legacy,” one of the short stories in Sins of the Father, Angie confronts her dad about an incident of adultery.

He lied. She knows he lied and she states it simply. It takes some decision-making, but she finally confronts him. But how often does that happen? It's not an easy choice for Angie, but I know self-assured women who probably would never dream of it!

I remember a friend of mine telling me that her dying father had said he really needed to tell her something, and she kept putting him off because there was a certain air of finality to it that was breaking her.

He insisted and told her that he needed to tell her something before he died.

Not a man given to true confessions, she tried to come up with the worst-case scenario, and the only thing she could think of was that he was going to admit to an affair. He was also not likely to cheat, but it was the worst thing she could imagine.

And as much as she loved her father, she was ready to tell him off (if it was about an infidelity), but she also couldn't even bring herself to say it out loud. I think most women would probably find themselves inside that maddening dilemma. 

It turned out to be something serendipitous but sweet (it’s not really my story to tell). Ultimately, it was a secret kept but its omission was no sin.

Catching a parent in a lie, and knowing that it points to a larger deception is a horrible burden to put on a child, made only more horrendous as the child matures. Understanding the nature of relationships, commitment, love and the honesty and trust required to maintain it all is crushing because it is also a constant reminder that one parent did not keep their end of the deal towards the other.

While there are support groups for adult children of alcoholics and adult children of divorce, there is no single therapeutic group for adult children of adultery. Though they experience a lot of the same emotional turmoil, I think the shame is so personal and so damaging to the core that many probably would rather not share it.

And seriously, isn't growing up hard enough without the added knowledge of a parent's infidelity, and its implications (many misguided as they are left undiscussed)? It's worse for kids who know the other parent is aware of the deception and accepts it without making their partner account for their dishonesty, I think. 

Certainly many carry their torment through a lifetime of failed relationships. Some, though, like Angie in “The Legacy,” get to look the culprit in the eye and say what she’d wanted to say since she was twelve, “You lied.”

Of course, Sins of the Father  is available at Amazon and other online retailers (visit the Facebook page for The Mistress for more links!).

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Triggering Nostalgia

One of the stories in Sins of the Father is about a woman’s relationship with a recurring boyfriend. He came and went from her life for years, and they maintained a relatively amicable relationship despite the recurring breakups.

His plan included booty calls into their late 80s.

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But nothing lasts forever. The relationship did not end for the obvious reasons, though…

Another story tries to tie in to current events – especially because the whole Ashley Madison hack amused me. Granted, I’ll say it again: doxing is wrong and I cannot endorse it. But at the same time, I can’t feel any sympathy for people who sought a service to help them cheat on their partners.

But then, that was not the focus of the story. I touched on something that I find troubling and hope that I did not contribute to the problem. I keep seeing stories where the female characters are victimized and they act as if that kind of thing is both normal and acceptable. Nobody ever leaves, fights back, falls apart under the weight of the horror, or goes to the police. More importantly, there are never any consequences to the behavior. That’s a little one dimensional, I think. I tried to break out of that mold.

Another story speaks of a woman facing her husband’s infidelity and, literally, staring it in the face daily for years. There is the remembrance of adultery when the heroine was a small child, and then from another character in her tween years. Another character faces the cheater in his deathbed.

I told an old friend that I inter-mingled truth and fiction in these stories and she is dying to try to decipher which is which. But for those people who may not know me as well, I wonder which character will bring them memories of their own.

I’m not saying that you must have had a firsthand experience with infidelity to get these stories. Knowing someone who knew someone will do, but mostly what I think people will respond is to a specific moment in time.
If any of my stories strike a match in the dark attic of your mind and you find yourself riding a wave of nostalgia because I triggered a memory of your own stories, then my job is done!
And this is precisely why I love vignettes. In the end, those little scenes that come to you and measure the value of your days in your heart, those are vignettes. I want to start liberating those for you, so you can chase more of them.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Please Buy Sins of the Father

This is the cover of the paperback: coming this weekend!

Sins of the Father is finally done! Sins drops on Black Friday: of course, of course!

Kindle Stores have the e-book (internationally), as well as Smashwords. Kobo, iBooks, Nook and other e-book retailers will get the book later this weekend. CreateSpace and Amazon will carry the paperback edition.

Sins of the Father includes stories about how the infidelities of father figures affect the children in their lives. Some stories have funny moments, some have tragic moments, some stories have horrific details that will shock you.

Some events in this collection of stories are based on real life.

The scenes of atrocity and names of the guilty have been changed to protect the disenchanted so that they may continue on their bloody trail until fully healed (who knows if that's even a thing!?). Although I left a few details that may get a few feathers ruffled...

For the record: there are good men in this world – men who are committed, loving, and ethical. These stories are not about those men.

If you buy a copy and read it, I'd appreciate a review.

Please sign up to our new mailing list!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sins of the Father is Coming!

There appears to be a blog post missing here, but I did not save it… At any rate, I have less than a week to finish my book!

There is one more story to go and it is being a little prickly.

As it turns out, the first volume of stories skews towards a particular theme that I had not seen emerge. Freudian? Not really, there are other stories, but these were easier to finish and edit.

The result is this:

There are a few funny moments. Some witty bantering… There are a number of heartbreaking moments in these stories. Some based on true stories.

There are five stories ready (and if the sixth does not work, they are meaty enough to hold their own). In one story, a daughter gets to confront her father after years of holding in her anger. In another story, a woman remembers a postcard moment from her childhood and puts a little perspective on it. A third story speaks of the fears of a woman for her child turning out like a father she misjudged. There’s the story of a woman whose father figure had a secret or two. Another story is about an adoptee coming into herself. The sixth story will be a little different (if I can make it work). 

Additionally, I am trying to finish a special gift for folks who buy the e-book… 

OMG! Do I have time to do this? I didn’t participate in NaNoWriMo this year knowing I would not able to do it justice, but now I have a *massive* deadline looming over my head.

No time to play: I have wrongs to write!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Gearing Towards All Consuming Disenchantment!

After a full day to myself, I finished two short stories and I believe they’ll require little to no tweaking. These are likely to go into the upcoming compilation.

Also, I have been toying with a few cover elements, some of which I include here – feel free to critique, if you feel like it. None of these is likely to be the final version.

There are a couple of days left to make the choice, but I will not be participating in NaNoWriMo. I’ll be too busy trying to finish The Bloody Trail of Disenchantment, and it doesn’t technically qualify as a novel.

I can do a word count and see if I can manage 50,000 in finishing my project, but I am not sure that’s the same.

Of course, I may change my mind before Halloween or on the Day of the Dead… Who knows? Writers can be fickle.

To my friends participating this year, you know you always have my support, and anyone who wants to buddy me for the occasional sounding board and moral support, add me. Good luck!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Multitasking Should Be an Olympic Sport

Surviving months and months of famine (in the “feast or famine” proverbial way, not literally), I suddenly find myself working on three different projects and trying to put the finishing touches on the short story collection.

I can compartmentalize and prioritize to make sure my clients get exactly what they contracted me for and perhaps just a little more.

The stories, on the other hand, have surprised me. I started some stories, finished a few, and started filling out a repository for the collection. While auditing what I have so far, I've discovered that the stories skew towards men as perpetrators, when I intended the stories to be more inclusive.

It does not point to men being the only creatures who commit adultery, it just seems as if those stories were easier to write. (Especially because I may have been familiar with one or two of the plotlines exposed.)
There is a danger of overexposing yourself when you commit memories your fiction, to come off a lot more naked than you ever intended, but the truth is that you are even in the more fantastical details of steampunk. Just as well, you want to protect the people whose tragedies you may be relating. The ones in the stories that are auto- or semi-biographical are all dead or unlikely to ever realize it's all about them. Mostly, what I want, is for these to get lost in the collection and appear as fictional but realistic pieces of the life inside the world in the pages of the book.

If I am to keep to my self-imposed production schedule, I need to make an editorial decision. I can keep the stories I have and make it a specialized volume -- A Guide to Post-Modern Lotharios -- and extend it to a two-volume project with the promise of more to come. Alternatively, I can try to finish and polish two or three stories that will achieve the original goal and keep it to a one volume.

Then it occurred to me that there really is no reason I need to limit myself. I can try to polish some of the stories I have not finished yet, but if they remain too rough for publication, I can release them later in another anthology (like a three-novella book, for instance).

It also occurred to me that I could try something different and include profiles, as I started for the FB page, almost as interstitials.

Of course, I need to finish something and release it! There is plenty of work to be done.

The house is starting to smell like a tiny bakery, with the Halloween cookie production already in motion. If that doesn’t awaken the Muse of Setting Fires Under One’s Ass, I don’t know what will!

But before I can fully tackle my adulterers, I have book covers to manipulate and convert, manuscripts to format, and proofreading to perform…

Right now, life is both a sprint and a marathon. Multitasking should be an Olympic sport!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Treating Setting as a Thing

It’s October and NaNoWriMo is barreling towards us at increasing speed. I am not at all sure that I will participate this year, though it seems to me that I need to – if only to focus my efforts.

In fact, one of the stories started as NaNoWriMo sits untouched because after some time it became clear that it was derivative without any good twists to make it truly a gem. It can remain in the dark until I can salvage it (from itself or for parts, as the case may be). I’d rather not publish than release subpar material.

To me, this is not a failure so much as a reason to try something else creatively. Perhaps I am being too hard on myself and the story ought to be told as a fantastic ridiculous little tale meant to amuse and nothing else.

I have produced less this year than I intended. I did publish The Mistress, and have been writing a collection of stories (Bloody Trail of Disenchantment). The plan is still to have it on sale for the holidays.

One of the stories seems to have escaped me. The moment I felt it coming on, I should have just started it. I took notes on the setting and a passage I wanted to see in the story (all setting, nothing plot-related). I lost the feel of the characters because I no longer understand the motivation of one or the reactions of the other.

And while I am saddened by the probable loss of what may have been a fantastic tale, I would like to advocate writing scenes where the object is nothing more than to preserve scenery.

Setting defines a place, but it also helps with mood and ambiance; and sometimes it becomes part of the story, as an additional character in the story (that is one strong and enduring place!).
What I am advocating is writing observations about places, lyrical and clinical alike, with or without characters (they are not what's important in this exercise). Keep these notes in a drawer – or a database, thumb drive or sticky notes. Preserve the scene like some omniscient CSI... 'cause setting is a thing.

Even if you are not dedicated to a story, a novel, or any one specific project, you are still writing.

More importantly, these seemingly throwaway scenes can become part of your writing later. Reading through your own writing, even if it belongs to no particular story will help you brainstorm with yourself – try to ascribe story to setting, if all other inspiration fails you.

Not everything that you write will be golden, but it shouldn’t stop you from writing. Think of it as exercising that part of your brain that sees these stories before the rest of your brain lets you in on it.

There is an upcoming interview that may bring the story back in some other guise. There’s research to do, songs to sing and poems to write. I may have slowed a little, but I ain’t done… There’s plenty of story left in me. And come Black Friday, there will be a few cheaters between the sheets (for the paperback at least). 

So back to work, I have stories to write and a cover to design! 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Friends and Players and Happy Endings

Finally, autumn has arrived.

The season has a built-in nostalgia that poets have honed for millennia, what with its golden coolness into the darkness of winter. The presence of the Pope clamors for kindness, but I am still writing stories on the aftermath of infidelity.

It’s not impossible to be kind, but it can be hard. Infidelity is not as black and white as one would want it to be every single time. The problem, as it is with any system, is that humans can foul it easily.

The latest story that I am tackling is about how an infidelity affects a friendship. The setting is based on an innocent moment I witnessed once. In essence, I am rewriting history, and it is a strange process when you reverse things and take something chaste and infuse it with sex and sin.

The story is not done yet, but it seems clear that it is easier to muck up something pure than it is to purify something that was putrid to start. Being omnipotent over the lives of characters and their outcomes isn't as fulfilling when you destroy good things, though, and I wish I'd have a magical drink to erase the memory of my actions as I create these scenarios!

As with the rest of the stories, the goal is to try to capture the emotional aftermath of cheating. The challenge is not to end up with a dozen stories that resemble Victorian morality plays.

The research can be illuminating and depressing at once – especially when friends and family offer their own versions and anecdotes (or worse yet, when you recognize a player after you'd lived with the ideal that they were better than that: ugh!).

The latest story was meant to be about friends, but it seems more interesting to explore two kinds of friendship, if the format allows for it – it may end up being two separate stories. One a friendship betrayed by turning it into something it could never be, and then a friendship betrayed by destroying the nature of what it could have been… Different meanings for what seemed like simple words in complicated situations.

The problem is that some of these stories, they cannot end well. It’s not morality that determines how it ends; it’s the odds and the fact that sometimes the best of intentions are not enough.

Sometimes hearts get broken, the heartless get the upper hand, and happiness is not within reach. Sometimes revenge is not as satisfying as the fantasy of it. Sometimes, though, setting a liar’s trailer on fire . . . oh, it fills one with a natural high that is worth a possible arrest.

It’s all about the journey… and the ability to get all these stories together in one collection before the holidays. (Fingers crossed!)

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Clean Stove for Better Writing

We tend to cook every night at the Temple, though this summer we have also heavily relied on salads and cooking has not been necessary (especially on particularly hot and humid evenings when the temperatures reach three-digits in our kitchen).

Once a week I give the stove a thorough scrubbing. It doesn’t need it every single week, as some weeks all we do is heat up stuff and we wipe any spills immediately.

Still, every week, I take the grills off and open up the little stovetop, and scrub it inside and out until it sparkles.

It keeps the stove in good working condition and it is simply good kitchen hygiene. That’s the simple answer.

Why do it when it doesn’t need it? Because it reinforces discipline. When you freelance and you call your own schedule – whether by choice, necessity or lack of work – you still must pin tasks to your daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual routines. It brings constancy to life (and often makes life easier by its substance).

Tasks that require little intellect and a certain level of repetitive action allow you to go into automatic pilot and clear your head for a few minutes (it’s the real poor man’s meditation).This is not to say that the action is mindless, because it isn’t, you are focused on the task and any thoughts are reserved to the act itself.

During these reveries, sometimes characters talk to themselves or to each other, or I resolve problematic scenes. Challenges pop into my head that will define the strength of a character. Story lines stream like little movies in my head…

Sometimes I get lost in the Johnson Bros. Castles of England serving platter on the wall and my brain goes into a Julian Fellowes’ festival.

I don’t seek my cleaning sessions as ways to write while not writing. I clean and sometimes clearing my head results in great ideas coming to me, of new ideas emerging, of old ideas evolving.

Sometimes all you get through cleaning is momentary purging of worries or fears or sadness – whatever you have been carrying that week that has saddled you with emotional baggage nobody needs.

I’m not telling you that cleaning stuff will bring you catharsis or closure. I am suggesting that you find something that gives you a reasonable facsimile for coping, venting, best practice living, and better operating specs. Find your own automaton-inducing task.

Remember: not every scullery maid's story is a disaster!
Clean up your inbox, wash your car, find something that will keep you occupied for at least half an hour. Find the time. Even if you don’t want to—especially if you do not want to!

Why bother? Because you need to remind yourself, body/mind/soul, that the more things change some things remain; you can melt away worries and fear; and, even if you experience a slowdown of creativity, ideas can pop out of the simple act of scrubbing a stove. Hope is never lost, because it is all within; it may just require a little effort and discipline.

If nothing else, you’ll have a spectacularly shiny stove! 

Full disclosure: this week's stove scrubbing made me realize a character needed to confront the memory of a parent in a way that shook her strength for a moment. At the end of the story, she is stronger for it and finds it easier to move on with her life on her own terms.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Writing About Emotional Confrontations

I just finished writing a short story about a woman who is running herself ragged. Her father is in the hospital, dying, and this has brought up memories of her long-suffering mother and her father’s infidelities (some of which she witnessed).

What unravels in our story is a pattern of behavior and an awakening.

The question is whether I can hit all the right emotions. At what point do you hold back before you waltz into the turf of melodrama?

You want the story to be clear, to depict what the characters are going through by their words and actions, without having to necessarily explain their specific emotion in the moment.

You want to be clear but never obvious, understand? You want to leave the reader with some details that makes her wonder, that leaves her perhaps wanting more but also trying to fill in the blanks in her own mind. You want to evoke rather than dictate, and let her (the reader) interpret the story in a way that is meaningful to her.

Reading, to me, is not all passive. I believe that the moment you imagine yourself in the story, in the setting, as a character or a voyeur of it, you are interacting intellectually and emotionally. And if you get to that point, the cleverer of your readers will also imagine details you left unsaid or forgot altogether. They become co-writers and co-conspirators.

I spell-checked and reread it. Then I added a few lines. Then I deleted a bunch of words. I added a scene. Now it is time to shelve it. It will be proofed in a few weeks, unless I can enlist a volunteer to read it and critique it for me.

The plan is to have enough stories to release The Bloody Trail of Disenchantment as a stocking stuffer for the holidays.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Wicked and The Righteous

This week has been a little chaotic. First, the hackers made good on their threat and released almost 10 gigabytes of data. The second leak was almost twice as big!

The data dump includes e-mail addresses, account details (like preferences/fetishes) and logins.

The caveat, of course, is that Ashley Madison did not verify e-mail addresses upon registration, so searching simply on this criteria might get you a false positive as anyone could use a fake account to register. And some people do things like that to cause others’ problems.

When I was in college one of my professors antagonized a student who filled out all these magazine subscription cards to nudie magazines and sex toy and trashy lingerie catalogs in the professor’s name, and sent it to his office (at a Jesuit college). The nuns running the mailroom were not pleased.  

Many a husband will use that excuse too. “No, honey, that was probably one of those clowns at the office trying to be funny. Those silly bastards!”

What will be harder to explain is the credit card transactions that include names, street addresses, amounts paid, and predilections… Only those smart enough to have used anonymous prepaid cards are walking around not sweating bullets.

Already repercussions have begun. The first American casualty is proponent of family values and Christian conservative Josh Duggar; many others will follow...

The coverage has taken a variety of routes: the possibility that government and military personnel may have been compromised and are in danger of being targets of extortion.

Others are advocating data Armageddon, if Ashley Madison can be broken into, what of the Pentagon or {insert terrifying alternative here}. Of course, we are all accepting the corporate minions telling us their encryption was impenetrable. There is evidence that employees had tried to warn management there was vulnerability in their system that was never addressed or patched.

Then there is the camp that are shaming the shamers, “Ermahgerd, how dare you enjoy the comeuppance of innocent philanderers?!” Surely, this cannot be what Martin Luther meant when he addressed simul iustus et peccator!

These stories warn that marriages will break down, divorces will happen, reputations will be lost, families will be broken, and children will be forever affected by this. This may be true, but I wonder if the writers realize that the people whose lives are about to be upended are partially responsible for their possible fate.

To me, following the story and all its repercussions is mostly research and some guilty pleasure—but it is all literary. I am fairly sure that this will not be the thing that causes the collapse of western civilization.

In the meantime, I look forward to the John Grisham bestseller (both the fiction and the non-fiction versions) of the massive class action that will come of this. Although what I really want is the Nelson DeMille comedy-thriller about the collapse of Stepford. Perhaps Michael Connelly doing homage to Tom Clancy and doing the military-themed thriller! I suppose Patricia Cornwell might do a mystery about the mounting bodies of sinners and a private investigator turned serial killer with delusions of Biblical executioner. I have no idea how King would write it, but I imagine he has been giggling for a month.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What Lies Beneath the Sinkhole

For those of you playing along at home, life stared us in the face, screamed, “Plot twist!” and went all Joss Whedon on us.

A relatively quiet morning became an intriguing thing when I was distracted from properly setting up a story. A philandering husband and his wife have a life-altering fight in their kitchen (while the kids have a heartbreaking conversation seated at the table and witnessing their parents’ marriage fall apart, and the dog is hiding under the very same table that saw many family meals whence it begged and received delicious morsels from all members of its pack).

I simultaneously heard and felt a truck go by. And this began a fun internal dialogue.

Hmm, that’s not a garbage truck.

Wrong day for garbage, anyways.

Trucks don’t go by here. Ever.

Well, except after it snows. Ugh, I hate snow… I hope we have a mild winter this year.


OMG! There’s firemen on the block!!!

The rest, as they say, is history – or at least current events – and involves a 20 X 20 X 20 massive sinkhole that brought more people to the block than have ever been on this block on the 30 years we’ve lived here!

And certainly, there is inherent drama in what is happening. A writer friend suggested that I take pictures and notes because there’s a story here. Many stories. A book!

She is right, of course. But this is Brooklyn. We don’t operate the same way other places do.
And, for the Brooklynites, you know if Marty Markowitz were still been Borough President, he would have shown up with coffee and bagels, the Monsignor, a Rabbi, and the Imam from the local mosque and had press conference, a prayer circle, and a plan before noon!  

For instance, a massive sinkhole that swallows a busy intersection in a commercial thoroughfare, in Manhattan, would cause traffic to be halted for blocks (for weeks!) barricades erected to protect the citizenry, possible evacuations, National Guardsmen to watch over us, and train their weapons on the hellmouth waiting for the Big Bad to show itself and wipe it from existence…

But this is Brooklyn. We suspended bus service for the blink of an eye, and even slowed down train service in the morning so as to not disturb the kaiju that might stir in the guts of our borough. After a thorough examination by the electric and gas utilities people, Environmental Protection and other City bureaucrats, as well as visits by media and tourists and lookie-loos who traveled here to see the thing on the first day; the second day pretty much defines how resilient Brooklyn is.

Bus service is back on schedule. “Just drive around it! Watch out for the gaping hole to the left…”

The first day every single neighbor was out, trying to figure out what was happening. The second day, those who could, slept in. The kids played but no longer noticed the men in neon colored jackets.

Reminds me of this bit by Colin Quinn where he explains why there are no ghost stories originating in Brooklyn. It’s because here, after the rattling of chains and other blood curdling sounds, a Brooklynite would come out of their place to confront the ghost.

“Hey, yo! You the one going ‘woo woo woo’ up and down the hallway? Stop that shit!”

We write our own stories here. And we don’t let the world define them for us, either. I mean, your Good Night, Moon is our Go the F*ck to Sleep.

We once voted a dead guy into office because we didn’t like the choices left by his demise. We've stared down hurricanes and tornadoes and epic Nor’easters, given 'em all the finger, and gone right back to our bagel and coffee.

Our roads may buckle under and be swallowed into nothingness, but you can’t break us! Still, the stories that this episode will influence ought to be interesting.