A Few Simple Things

Cover to Simple Things, an anthologyLots going on the past couple of weeks and plenty to catch everyone up on, but first things first. The blog. No, not forgotten, but tried doing the trendy thing and using Facebook for updates. Can’t stand Facebook, though, the Replies function sucks, so, while I’ll keep sharing stuff there, back to blogging. That blogging is now considered ‘old school’? Well, that’s tech for you, eh?

On to this week’s good news. Couple months back, got a tip on a new horror anthology that was looking for subs. The book’s premise was, ordinary, everyday, simple things that had the potential to be forces of evil. The kinds of things you’d find in a secondhand store, thrift shop, you know the type of place I’m talking about. Well, the summer’s been crazy what with some family issues, some travel (planned & unplanned), things going on here at the house and life in general. I almost bailed out on the story twice. I started a couple of times, things went haywire outside of writing, and it got real iffy for a while.

The good thing was, I had a concept I felt was solid, had a decent idea of where I wanted to go with it, and figured unless I hit the wall deadline-wise, I’d find a way to carve out the time and make it happen, especially because the guy who tipped me is a great storyteller and was going to be running the show. Lo and behold, got on a roll a few days before relatives came to town, stayed up three nights straight to finish the first draft, went three days on 8 hours sleep to get a really good final done, and, even though Pam was out of town (she always sends out my attachments because my software is so out of date), it got there.

I was sent the contract for Simple Things, by Lycan Valley Press, last Friday. Cover appears.well, somewhere in here. Damned if I know. Release date is – you guessed it – October, just in time for Halloween. I’m not gonna spoil anything, so click thru to see who I’m lucky enough to be sharing the table of contents with – it’s an impressive list of fellow sickos. Also have subs out at a couple of other new places, and will update on that as I hear those tales’ fates. In the meantime,  working on two new stories, one that’s likely to go into my next anthology because I’m not sure there’s a mag or publisher out there looking for material this unspeakable, but if any fellow scribes or avid readers are aware of an outlet looking for a story you’d describe in a word as: reprehensible, let me know. Hope all you guys out there are doing well, and enjoying the summer as much as I am.

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Currently listening to: “Let the Day Begin” by The Call

This bathroom thing’s getting’ out of hand.

Illustration of standard male and female restroom figures, both crossing their legs and holding because they have to pee. Male is wearing blind man shades.In case I haven’t shared this before, I usually use the women’s room. No, not because I identify as such, or am considering the transgender thing, but, because being blind, I have a choice. Either Pam guides me into the men’s room (not exactly the most comfortable of situations for anyone concerned), or, since I can’t see anything, she leads me into the women’s room. In 14 years of sightlessness, this has never been a big deal.

Thursday, we’re out having lunch, and nature calls. The place (a popular chain I won’t name) is pretty slow, but as always, Pam checks, waits for the bathroom to be empty, and we go in. Moments later, a manager enters, telling her I can’t be in there. Pam explains that I’m totally blind and need assistance. The woman says, “I’m just explaining our policy. He can’t be in here.” So, Pam asks, “Should I take him into the men’s room? Is that what you want?” To which the manager says, “No, you can’t be in there.”

Now, I’m in the stall already, about 45 seconds into what’s usually about a 90 second pit stop. Still, I did think about calling out, “No problem. I’ll just go into the dining room and piss on the floor.” Better judgment prevailed, though, and so I finished up, Pam led me out, and the manager finally left, after staring Pam down the entire time. I did wonder, had I simply told her, “This is how I identify. Ignore the goatee and moustache, call me Laverne. I’m covered whichever toilet I pick now, right?” But then, making the news wasn’t on the agenda. Because, I had no agenda. I just wanted to empty my bladder.

Before leaving, we got the place’s phone number to call someone more senior and to get a clarification on rest room policy for the handicapped. Pam posted on Facebook, and got a slew of responses. Everything from folks wanting us to give out the chain’s name so they could torch ’em to considering a campaign to try and take it viral, to folks suggesting we sue. (What for, I don’t exactly know, wasn’t like there were any damages, per se, but I guess that’s kinda the way folks think nowadays. Have an issue, even a minor one? Find an attorney.

So, we called up the next day, spoke to the manager-manager, who was tremendously apologetic, and promised that someone from even higher up the chain would be in touch. Sure enough, few hours later, my phone rings. Someone from corporate. Also, terribly apologetic. Aware of the whole situation, had already addressed this with the staff-particularly the mgmt team in question. And, as I’d suspected, barring assistance for the disabled is not their policy, and that point had been made clear to those who work there.

You know, I get it. This whole LGBTU thing has made a lot of folks jumpy. If you don’t have a unisex or family rest room, you may run into a situation from time to time. I wasn’t terribly bothered by anything about the incident, save for the fact that Pam was made to feel uncomfortable while I took a leak, and the situation was handled poorly. Mishandled, truth be told, but then, so be it. I know what I would think if I were working somewhere and saw a couple heading into the can without one obviously needing assistance/being handicapped. “Damn. Floor’s gonna be really sticky now.” I used to go to a club in Miami where you couldn’t even get into the john without seeing a tryst of some sort going on in one of the stalls. So I understand where the manager was coming from. But.c’mon. You can’t just expect a blind guy to go into an unfamiliar bathroom and start guessing. Plus, I’ve been in places where there’s been a sign on the stall door saying: Out Of Order. But – how would I know? If I’m in there, guess what? Out of order or not, I’m gonna use it, and then, well, the consequences? Your fault, not mine.

The woman from corporate? Sure seemed to be relieved that I wasn’t calling to bitch, or threaten, or talk lawsuit. I was just calling to be sure that, should I need to use the facilities at this particular restaurant in the future, everyone was on board with Pam leading me in there. And, the woman I spoke with went above and beyond in promising me that would be the case. So, tomorrow, Pam and I plan on going back, and having sex like greased weasels in the handicapped stall.

No, just kidding. But, sure is a relief to know I won’t have to whip it out on the side of the building and pee on a bush.

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Currently listening to: “Miss Construction theme” (Dance) by Miss Construction

Here you go, Facebook, my reaction

Being a blind computer user, there are hassles. Unless they’re significant, though, I don’t usually call attention to them. I just live with it, find workarounds, etc. So, when Facebook rolled out their new Reaction buttons, I didn’t much care. Meant nothing to me. Why? Well, because I’m not so lazy that my attention span needs to be limited to 6 goofy icons.

Facebook's Reaction Buttons: Like, Love, HaHa, Wow, Sad, Angry

Last night, I commented on my feed about this, and in short order, my sister-in-law replied with an emoji. Sure enough, the programmers at Facebook hadn’t coded in any sort of descriptive tags. Meaning, it shows I have a new message. But when I click the Comments button, all that’s there under my sister-in-law’s name is a field of utter silence. Nice, huh? Way to go, Facebook! Why not just create a bird-flipper emoji for all your blind & visually impaired users?

The other thing that gets me about this whole ‘Reaction button’ thing is: has social media really made us this lazy? Is the effort required to type out “Wow” so onerous? If it is, boy, society really is going straight down the toilet.

I’ve made people angry with my posts before. In fact, I’ve outright pissed off some folks. Know what, though? No one, ever, has posted “Angry” over something I’ve written. Now, though, regardless of a position I put forward, which might include several different points, I can expect to occasionally get “Angry” as a response, sans context?

I want the ability to turn this function off on my timeline. If people want to use it, great, good for them. But I want the ability to make sure I don’t throw away my time when it shows I have comments only to find out that unless I call in my wife, I can’t tell what anyone’s ‘reaction’ to my post is. I don’t spend much time on Facebook as it is, but I’ll be spending even less if I start seeing nothing on my TL but spots where someone posted something–but I’m prevented from knowing what it is. I mean, it’s called “Comments” for a reason, right?

 

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Currently listening to: “Who Was In My Room Last Night” by the Butthole
Surfers

Taking Another Step

Photo of Stepper with tension cords and twisterYeah, I know, cheap lead-in to this one, but I’ve been working a lot and didn’t have the time (or energy) to put any more effort into the title. Sue me.

Pictured, is the newest addition to my office. A stepper, with some nifty bells & whistles. I was looking for one before Christmas because when Pam is watching TV in the living room, I don’t do my walking in there. And, since we’re still reworking things in the garage until we get the new treadmill, my old one is currently unreachable. So, for the past month or two, I’ve been using the phone dock in the living room and walking to cool ’80s and ’90s tracks. A lot of new wave, goth, alternative, and, just added, WLIR, a station I grew up listening to up in New York.

Still, Pam likes watching How I Met Your Mother on Netflix when she’s cooking or taking a break, and since sometimes my exercise and her break schedules overlap.

Back to the beginning. I’d been looking for a stepper. Found a bunch for around $50, and understandably, most of ’em had so-so reviews, a lot of user complaints, etc. So I went back to Craigslist, and sure enough, if you wait a little bit, you’re gonna find what you’re looking for. I grabbed this thing brand new from someone here in town who couldn’t use it, the thing works great, and, best of all, it fits right there in the corner, so I can take my own breaks when I need to give the fingers a rest or hit a wall and need to.uh.take a step back. (Ouch. I know.) I don’t even have to fold it out to use the stepper part. Sweet. And, paid less than a third of what it costs brand new. Yee-ha.

Work, exercise, cool tunes. All right in my office. No complaints about how 2016 is startin’ out, let me tell you.

 

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Currently listening to: “Poison Heart” by The Ramones

Not ‘Top Anything’, just favorites

David BowieI’ve seen plenty of people memorializing David Bowie. People bidding the man a fond adieu with their thoughts on his best songs, his top hits, things like that. Plenty of remembrances going on, which is cool, because the man touched so many artists’ lives (not just musicians), and left behind countless memories associated with his songs and such, that every one I’ve seen thus far seems remarkably heartfelt.

I mentioned in a piece on Rawckus.com, sharing an anecdote about writing a particularly important short story during senior year in high school, that David Bowie isn’t responsible for me being a pro writer. He isn’t the reason I got into college. He isn’t the reason I hit one out of the park with that tale, largely written to a backdrop of some of his best tunes. That said, the influence he’s been on me as a writer and creator is profound, and so, here you go. My list. Not a Top 10. Not a Best of. or anything close. Just some faves. Songs that, to this day, still get me going when I’m at the keyboard, pecking out a story or screenplay or novel. I hope to give a listen to his final album, Blackstar, in the next couple of days. Who knows? Maybe there are songs in there, new songs, that will have the same effect on me these have for so many years.

1. Heroes
Still my favorite Bowie song. I fall in and out of love with a lot of other tracks, but this one stands out just as much today as it did the first time I caught it-and stopped everything I was doing to listen to it finish.

2. Putting Out Fire (With Gasoline)
Theme song to the film Cat People, and, hot as Nastassja Kinski was at the time, still the best part of the movie-even to the 14-year-old kid who couldn’t believe how much skin they were showing. For a horror guy, the line “Those who feel me near, pull the blinds and change their minds” is still one that gets me revved up.

3. Ziggy Stardust
I play a little guitar. While I know about 50 songs I could play on stage if the opportunity presented itself again (the way it did when I played a set live at BackStreets for my Mom’s birthday a while back), I’m an intermediate player at best. This song? I can’t play it. But I love it so much, I keep going back, keep scratching away, keep getting a little bit further. Eventually, I’ll play it, and I won’t regret a single second of the hours it took to get there.

4. Modern Love
One of the tracks that played on loop on my mid-’80s-era cassette “walkman” while writing the aforementioned horror story. (A knockoff, no less). Too many memories associated with this song to count, and when I’m working out or writing and it comes on? I’ll stop and turn up the volume, just like I did back then.and have been doing ever since.

5. Starman
Two kids listening to underground radio late at night and hearing an alien? Sounds like the pitch for an early Spielberg film. When I first heard it, though, that film hadn’t yet been made, but the impact of it still resonates today. That youthful excitement about confronting the unknown without reservation. Just awesome.

6. The Man Who Sold the World
How much imagination can you put into a song? I’m not sure there’s a limit. And I think David Bowie never worried about the question in the first place, which is why songs like my 5 & 6 picks have been faves of mine for so long.
7. Rebel Rebel
I was a teenager, smack in the middle of growing up, when I first heard this one. If you were fortunate enough to be around before the internet and multiplex theatres with 24 screens or 500 cable channels/streaming movies at your fingertips, and spent your weekends at friends’ houses with a boom box and a lot of homemade mix tapes, you’ll understand. If not? Sorry, you missed out.

8. Rock ‘n Roll Suicide
The only down side to this song is how short it is. Things you learn to live with when an artist releases so much good stuff in a lengthy career, even if you’re still feeling cheated that it’s come to an end.

9. Diamond Dogs
For someone who’s never used drugs (no lie), you might not imagine this song placing so high. But it rocks, and growing up and beyond, that was my main
criteria for songs chosen to spend long nights working to. I’d say, so far, it’s paid off.

10. Moonage Daydream/Sound and Vision
I can declare a tie. And why not? I could have listed 50 Bowie tunes and still would have had to make some tough choices down the stretch. But while plenty of songs deserve honorable mention (Young Americans, Absolute Beginners, Changes, Ashes to Ashes), these make my list because of how they make me feel when I’m in the cockpit, behind my desk, banging away on new fiction.

There you have it. Songs with vast crossover influence in and on my life. Listening to WLIR, (a station from my youth that still lives, online), with them playing Bowie tunes all day, I’ve been reminded why these are the ones I’ve settled on. Farewell, David, thanks from one of the many millions who were strangers to you, but who you influenced and made countless memories for.

There’s a star-man waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds.

I think we did meet him. And indeed, he blew our minds.

The Cure? Take one tablet and, whoa – what?

The blind guy has a tablet. Strange? I’ll say, mainly because I despise the app-driven world, and don’t deny it one bit-I need a tablet like Amber Rose needs breast implants.

Or so I thought.

Here’s the thing. Work has been tough lately. My laptops have aged out. So has a Netbook I got for Pam back in 2010. Meaning, I can’t navigate sites to play internet radio. Working in silence sucks, and while I’ve managed for a couple of months, well, that wasn’t gonna cut it in 2016. So I started looking on Craigslist for someone ditching a laptop. Found a couple, but nothing worthwhile. Heck, I could’ve taken one with a screen crack (after all, I don’t need to look at it), and if I needed Pam to check something out, I could use a splitter to plug in my desktop monitor. Problem solved.

Not quite. I needed something that had an operating system that I could update. And, that was pricey. I didn’t want to go for a brand new laptop, because even  a cheap one that had enough RAM to run my screen reader was a $400 investment, and that was cutting corners.

Tablets, though.  I called up a place that sold Android, got some answers. Pam called on a relative who’s developed for Droid to double check. Could it work with a keyboard? Was there an app that worked like Jaws, that’d let me bring up a browser and click Favorites?

Joe working at his desk. Over the shoulder shot showing laptop, tablet, speakers and keyboard.

Well, that’s what I’m finding out this week. Pam nabbed me one for a song, brand new, that came with a case and Bluetooth keyboard. And so, either I have access to all the tunes I want, and my tablet becomes my glorified office stereo, or perhaps it’s back to the drawing board. I’ll let’cha know how it goes.

Hopefully to some goth and New Wave.

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Currently listening to: “Girls & Boys” by Blur

Finally Settled

Leading up to New Year’s, I started narrowing down project possibilities for 2016. Eventually, it came down to whether I wanted to keep cranking out short stories and release another anthology in October with all new material, or tackle something bigger. And different. I’ve got several screenplays in the e-drawer right now, and submit when I find a worthwhile outlet to pitch. So I’m pretty satisfied there. I’d considered a comic project, but I’ve gone back and forth in comics enough for a while. And, while I wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with some locals on another indie film, that requires putting together a rather large team of extraordinarily reliable people. So, I’m not saying there won’t be any moviemaking for me in 2016, but it wasn’t where I decided to go.

Movie Script on my desk

I want to write something entirely different from anything I’ve tackled before. I mean, I’ve got tons of horror stories. A couple of fantasy stories. Some straight-up, mainstream drama tales. A couple of novellas. Even a crime novel – which I know took a lot of my fans by surprise. But another kind of novel…

So, I think that’s where I’m going. I’ve got an idea I’ve toyed with before, made notes on, but just never got around to writing. Sort of like the story that evolved into The Bunker, which then became a screenplay and my first feature film. Sometimes, things work out that way. So, not making any promises, but figured I’d let you in on what I’m focusing my attention on. Doesn’t mean if I get invited to write a story for someone’s anthology that I’d say No, since I do get asked from time to time. Or to get involved with a friend’s project, especially if it’s for charity. Nothing is off the table. But I think, just from the way I feel deep down in my bones, this is where I want to spend the lion’s share of my time in 2016. If it starts looking like it’s going somewhere, like Torn to Pieces, and I get close enough to the end to know I’m gonna finish? I’ll share some chapters for you to check out. Whatever, I plan on posting updates as progress is made. I just hope there’s enough to merit some!

Thanks for your support over the years, on my writing and other projects. Hopefully by year’s end there’ll be something else that’ll bring a faster beat to your heart. That’s the goal.
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Currently listening to: “Bang Bang” by David Bowie

It’s getting a little Rawckus

Rawckus Home PageOk, pulled the curtain back on the documentary project I was approached to appear in the other day and promised more announcements, so here’s another bit o’ news. I mentioned during the summer that I’d gotten a gig doing some web work. Well, the fruits of my labor, along with a lot of other talented people, can now be seen by clicking the link below:

http://www.rawckus.com

Cool, huh? That’s the new entertainment site I’ve been working on as Managing Editor. Been having a lot of fun, meeting interesting people, some really good writers, and makin’ some coin. If you like the arts, Rawckus.com covers it all. Music, dance, theatre, performance art – if it’s art? We’re on it. And, if not? Drop us a line. We’ll get someone on it.

Let Terry (the head honcho) know what’cha think, and feel free to copy any comments to my blog here, I’d love to hear ’em however you wanna get ’em to us.  Content’ll be updated regularly, so add us to your Bookmarks or Favorites or whatever they’re called these days. A Luddite like me can’t be expected to keep up.
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Currently listening to: “I Go Crazy by Flesh” for Lulu

Kicking off the new year…

Image of Joe on screen interview… with some cool news. Hinted at it a while back, but no need to be secretive any longer. A few months ago, an indie filmmaker from Europe contacted me about being in a documentary he was working on. He had a mishap which nearly cost him his sight and hearing, which got him thinking about what he would have done had things gone differently for him. Here’s the first clip, (Pam says it came out looking sharp). Not sure how much I’ll figure into the finished project, but felt great to be featured like this for my work. Take a look and let me know what you think. Plus, I’m not about to stop you from sharing the link on Facebook or posting it on Twitter if you so desire. Enjoy, and hope you had a great New Year with a fantastic 2016 stretching out before you!: