Sharing the Green?

Dreamcatcher hanging at very top of the wall. Wall is painted pumpkin orange.Like the pic? That’s the dreamcatcher Pam got me for Christmas. According to her, it hangs almost dead-center over my crash bunk in my office. Which is kind of a bonus, really, considering I had Billy here to help me hang it the first time, but…things didn’t quite work out.

Couple weeks back, I hunted around in my stuff looking for a push pin. I figured it’d be perfect for the dreamcatcher since the thing weighs all of about a half ounce. Couldn’t find one. (Keep that in mind, that’s today’s foreshadowing.) So, we used a clear plastic Command hook. Boom. Thing went right up.

Only, it didn’t stay up. I didn’t even know it had come down ’til I was changing the pillowcase for my new bamboo pillow, and found it stuck against the wall. With Billy out of town, I just put the dreamcatcher aside. It could wait until he came in on Monday. But, the other night, unable to sleep because I’d been working on a new screenplay, I kept thinking about it. Giving my fingers a rest, I decided to check my box of thumb tacks again, as if a push pin would magically appear. I’d already sifted the tin twice. Billy had gone through it, too, to double check. Nope, just the thumb tacks we’d bought and used at a party to hold down tablecloths.

I’d like to tell you it was St. Patrick’s Day night, and I opened this tin, and a green push pin magically appeared. Or, that it showed up out of nowhere just after midnight and into the 18th, Dad’s official birthday. I’d like to believe it just appeared there in the tin somehow, Special Delivery from the great beyond. But, I know that isn’t true. How a green push pin that Pam’s never seen wound up in that well-sifted tin, I don’t know. I can’t explain it. The other day, I was actually thinking of stopping at Staples and buying a whole package of push pins, just because I still needed one. But nope. There it was. Right on top. Green, no less, the color I wanted because my office is painted pumpkin orange. The ceiling fan is brown, and a bit of green fits in perfect with the anti-Martha Stewart Halloween décor.

A single push pin. Sitting atop a pile of nothing but plain ol’ thumb tacks. (Yes, I’m that anal. I poured them out into a cup and went through them one-by-one. Thumb tacks. Exclusively thumb tacks.)

So, my dreamcatcher is up. I used a 4×4 chunk of wood to pound it in because I happened to have it handy on my desk. End of story.

Except… I do keep thinking about it. Mouse sure didn’t paw it into that old Adagio tea tin. The cats aren’t likely suspects either. Kinda crazy, huh? (The thing showing up, I mean, not me.)

Well, then again…



Currently listening to: “How Soon Is Now” by The Smiths

Dealing with the blues, but can’t say as I’m suffering

Confession. I am not a blues guy. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a whole
lot of great blues out there. Songs I like by BB King and a host of other
artists. That said, given my choice? If the next year passed and no blues played on my Echo? Pretty sure I wouldn’t notice.

Which brings me to this. Playing the blues. Regular readers know I’ve been playing the guitar for a couple of years and while I wouldn’t say I’m good, I’m competent enough to have played on stage with pros and held my own (see the links below), and I play with a few different guys a couple of times a week in a late-start effort to get, well, decent.

Matt and Joe playing the blues in a home studio.

Matt and I playing the blues.

Matt is one heck of a player. He’s been in bands, he’s got more talent than I could fit on one of those upload stems they used in The Matrix, and plays several instruments. That kind of good. Not to mention, he’s blind, too, and Pam’s told me you’d never know it by looking at him. You damn sure wouldn’t guess listening to him jam. Anyway, Matt, as you may have already guessed, does like the blues. Quite a bit, in fact. And, he’s been showing me stuff. Mostly rock and roll related thefts from traditional blues, certain licks, run ups and run downs, you name it. And, while I am a product of the ’80s – a music fan grounded in goth and new wave, synthpop and industrial – this? This ain’t all bad. Are there any blues tunes that I actually want to play? I’d say two. I wouldn’t mind learning “Who Do You Love,” even if it leans far more toward the George Thorogood version. And one other, but no need to go on and on about that now.

The blues. Never would have believed , even when I first started actually getting somewhere on the guitar, that I’d wind up here, and certainly not playing any. Might be a little frustrating getting the hang of some of the techniques, but frustration I can deal with. As long as I’m not suffering the blues? Just going to keep at it.


Currently listening to: “The Devil’s Dance Floor” by Flogging Molly

Spooky Bash V

I know, it’s early, but the way the dates fell, had to do our annual Halloween party this past Saturday night. And, while it was a little warmer than we’d hoped (thanks for nothing, Hurricane Matthew, so much for you sucking up some moisture in your wake!), things worked out pretty well. Was a little too humid for the fire to really get roaring, but, by the same token, we didn’t exactly need a fire given how warm it still is. The bug zapper? Boy did that thing get a workout! Thought at one point we’d snagged a dragon in there. Sounded like we were electrocuting Ted Bundy. Kinda fitting, when you think about it.

Rat on a stump being sawed in half. Creepy bat hanging from the front porch ceiling.

Changed up the front décor a little, and while it was a bit buggy to spend a whole lot of time outside, we did manage to do some guitar playing. Billy, James and I tried Proud Mary for the first time, with Margaret and James doing vocals. Our best? Uh…no, to be sure. But, November 5th is right around the corner and that’s James and Amanda’s baby shower (did I mention they first met up at one of our parties?), so we plan to be a little smoother on that one.

Skeleton hanging out with cookies.

So, our Halloween party is outa the way, but still got the Cape Coral Spooktacular comin’ up, and of course, Halloween Weekend at BackStreets. If I’m lucky? Sometime this week or next, I’ll finally be able to catch Blair Witch before it leaves the theatres. Here’s hoping…


Currently listening to: “Where the Wild Roses Grow” by Nick Cave & the Bad
Seeds (feat. Kylie Minogue)

Well Looky Here

McDonalds Ordering KioskPosted about this a few months back, and I’m revisiting the subject because, as you can see, look what just turned up at my local McDonald’s. Yep, that’s what you think it is, an order kiosk.

I haven’t used it yet. Not because I can’t see it, and not because I was with Pam. No, I haven’t used it yet because thus far, no one has walked out of my local Mickey D’s demanding $15 an hour. No one has stood under the golden arches telling local reporters that they deserve more than a paramedic because they “do more.” No one has organized a group of people outside to chant various slogans demanding “living wage” for working a register. So, ’til that happens? I don’t mind going to the counter, ignoring the kiosks, and showing corporate (or the franchise owner) that I’d rather give my order to a human being – albeit one who likely makes more errors than the machines.

If the ‘movement’ takes hold here in FL, though? If the people at my local fast food restaurant start demanding living wage for minimum wage jobs? Well, guess what? You’ll see me using nothing but. Not because I don’t want people to make $15 an hour. I do. But, not as minimum wage. Not to take my order at the counter. Not to take my cash at the drive-thru. Sorry, but that job isn’t worth $15. And people shouldn’t confuse living wage with minimum wage.

My nephews, 16 and 15, just got hired at a local supermarket. And while it’s nice they’re making a little more than minimum, they understand that a first job is a first job for a reason. It’s not a career. It isn’t something you want to do for a living. Collecting shopping carts or taking someone’s groceries to their car or bagging? Not living-wage-worthy. But then, my nephews have a work ethic. They have ambition. They don’t want to be bagging in six months. One of them has already gotten a promotion. That’s how you go places. You work hard, you make an impression, you get raises. You don’t just demand living wage for an entry-level  job that’s meant for HS kids. Want $15 an hour? Good. Earn a promotion. Show the boss you deserve more responsibility and the money that comes with it.

My local McDonald’s has seen the writing on the wall. They’ve invested in eliminating minimum wage jobs because they don’t want to pay $15 for positions that don’t warrant it. For all you cheerleaders of jacking the minimum wage to $15 for every low-skill gig out there? Take a good, long look. The people you’re fighting for? They’re going to lose those low-skill-level jobs, and they won’t come back. They’re gonna be replaced by machines. And, unless they start developing the skills necessary to get better jobs-like they should have been doing all along? Good luck making living wage in a world without gigs like fry cook and cashier. For those who’ve been pounding the $15 an hour drum? This is on you, folks. You brought this on yourselves.
Currently listening to: “Regret” by New Order

You Only Get So Much

Alarm clock ticking away.True, that goes for just about anything. But I’m talking about time. Clock’s always ticking, there’s no RESET button and no REWIND function. If people can’t understand that, or worse, aren’t willing to, then they’re people I don’t need. I’m not a content guy. Having the creds I have, looking over what I’ve been able to accomplish doesn’t give me a warm and fuzzy feeling. It reminds me of the things I still haven’t done, and want to check off my ever-expanding bucket list.

I have a lot of goals I still want to achieve. When things were going bad with my film? I fought through the petty BS and finished it. Then I got it into festivals. Then I got it distributed-worldwide. Check, check, check. Mission accomplished. When I had issues with my first novel, I hired an editor. Didn’t work out. So, I tracked down the best editor I’d ever had, Marge Harris, who I hadn’t spoken to in nearly 15 years. It was tough, and took over a month, but I managed. Check. Novel drafts polished like crystal? Check. Publication? Check.

If someone around you is constantly dragging their personal baggage into your project? Ditch them. Flat out, cut ’em loose. If someone can’t check their agenda at the door and focus on the work? Why bother? No one is irreplaceable. Besides, you may find the albatross’ replacement is even more talented, or has something to offer you never expected. That’s my .02 cents. If someone’s drama or politics or bitterness is an obstacle, don’t suffer it. Overcome it. Much easier to move ahead without that kind of anchor dragging you down. Trust me on this one.

Currently listening to: “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by The Sundays


Take a look at #HowEyeSeeIt

Okay, today’s the day, time to let the cat outa the bag. The team at Catalyst Creativ & Wayfarer Entertainment, and the Foundation Fighting Blindness have officially kicked off the Blindfold Challenge. What’s it like to be a sighted DJ, suddenly forced to do your thing the way a blind DJ does? Well, you can find out by right here. What’s it like to be a cook, or chef, when you suddenly can’t see the kitchen you’re working in? Fun stuff. And, of course, the reason I went to NY 2 weeks ago to work with Justin Baldoni – one of the stars of the hit series Jane the Virgin – who also happens to be a director (hint hint), Diane Guerrero, from the NetFlix monster Orange Is the New Black, and Mrs. USA and Mrs. World April Lufriu.

Give it a watch, and let us know how it turned out!

How I got involved with the #HowEyeSeeIt campaign

Back in June, I got a tweet from someone I didn’t know, asking if I’d be interested in participating in a digital campaign. I didn’t recognize the Twitter handle and had no clue what the campaign might be, but figured, what the heck? So long as it wasn’t promoting the new Ghostbusters

So we share e-mail addresses and Amanda Slavin, from Catalyst Creativ, sends me a note about the project. It’s a campaign being kicked off by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, designed to bring attention to various diseases causing sight loss, helping researchers looking for cures get more funding, raising awareness, that sort of thing. Needless to say, blindness is more than a pet cause, seeing as for me, the lights’ve been out since 2002. I was IN even before finishing that e-mail.

So, dates are set. Other people (including some actors, a pageant winner, two documentary directors and yours truly) would be shooting together in late June. Only, well, it’s entertainment. Things fall through. So, the original dates didn’t work. No problem, right? Just reschedule. But, by mid-July, dates were still being discussed, and a firm deadline to complete our part was set for August 7th. As you can imagine, by the end of July, that window  was closing fast. To be honest, while I was totally stoked about being involved, the folks I was scheduled to be working with are much bigger entertainment industry fish than I am. I mean, by a lot. So, I figured, given that I’m not the world’s luckiest filmmaker, the whole thing might not happen. Before I lost hope, though, August fifth started looking good for everyone. On Aug. 1st, I get word, asking if I can be in New York, not Los Angeles, in 72 hours. Flight, lodging, Uber rides, whatever, that’ll
all be covered. I called up some friends and my sis to see who could watch Mouse and the cats. I hired another friend’s pet-sitting service for the slots I couldn’t fill. Thursday morning? We were on a plane out of Ft. Myers, on our way to The Big Apple.

I won’t get into all the ins-and-outs of the trip there. Suffice to say, it wasn’t bad. The trip back? The voyage from Hell? I already posted about that – but my run-in with TSA? That wasn’t the worst of it. (Sorry, I don’t like cliffhangers or teasers, but I’ll get to that other incident in a couple of blogs).
Joe Monks and Todd Kellstein talking at a table at John Sullivan's in NYC
I will, however, do a name-drop, because I’ve got the okay from the powers-that-be behind the shoot. That pic? That’s me and director Todd Kellstein of Wayfarer Entertainment, one of the filmmakers behind Rebel With a Cause: the Sam Simon Story. For those of you who don’t remember the name, Sam was the co-creator of The Simpsons, who died of cancer in 2015.

Todd, Pam and I hooked up Thursday night for dinner at John Sullivan’s, where we became fast friends, talked not just the following day’s shoot, but movies
in general, how I made The Bunker, films Todd and his partner have worked on and released – needless to say, we wound up taking up a table for a lot longer
than the average dinner-seekers at a place right up the street from Madison Square Garden.

More on the shoot, the other people involved (yeah, yeah, I know, more teasers). But August 23rd is comin’ fast, and on or around that date is when all can be revealed. In fact, probably a lot earlier, but for now? This is how the trip began. Dates get locked Monday night. Flight arrangements made around 10pm. I start contacting people about the pets, rescheduling things planned here, that sort of stuff. Tuesday night? Hotel arrangements get locked down. Thursday morning we’re city-bound. Thursday afternoon? The New York location falls through (that’s shoots for you, rarely does anything but planning go without a hitch). Thursday late, the producer books an even better location, and I get e-mailed that address that night, with a call time of 9am. Sound frantic? Trust me. I’m a writer. Words do not do this one justice. And, there’s a lot more to come. Keep checking back to see how the shoot itself went, what’s left of Times Square, The Village, and some of my favorite old haunts, having grown up traveling into the city a ton.
Currently listening to: “Monsters” by The Cruxshadows

Go Pound Sand, TSA

Since going blind, I’ve traveled a lot. Many trips to California. A bunch to NY and Jersey. Texas. Tennessee. Georgia. Detroit. Heck, I even flew to Mexico, solo.

I’ve never had too many problems with TSA, but I know they get their share of grief. IMO? In the past few years, they’ve more than earned it. On the return trip from the #HowEyeSeeIt shoot I did up in New York, I had my first really bad run-in with the TSA Gestapo, including an agent who thought she could run roughshod over us, telling Pam that she couldn’t record or take pictures of security, and that she had to stop. I told her, no, we didn’t, because I know better. If you want to find out just how well the TSA treated this disabled passenger, who had told agents that he needed assistance and was taken to the checkpoint with my wife, who I was almost immediately separated from, before agents allowed my property to be ripped off right beneath their noses? Click the vid.


If the TSA wants to bitch about me posting it? Too bad. If they want to come after me for it?  Go pound sand,  you inept, incompetent mouth-breathers. You know where to find me. Actually, you probably don’t, because it was apparent that you’re clueless, at least in Newark. Hint: I’m from SWFL and I’m still in the e-phone book. Your super security skills oughta at least get you close. Just to start you off, that thing you’ll be sitting on in the plane? That’s your ass. That thing that bends in the middle of your arm? That’s your elbow. Now that you can tell one from the other.

New school & old school.

You all know I write a lot. Day, night, short stories, novellas, screenplays, blogs.the keystrokes pile up fast. The average keyboard lasts me about two years if I’m lucky. When my Dad passed, my old board was going South, so I got his. Lasted me 3 years, which impressed me. At Christmas, it was getting to be time again, so Pam bought me a brand new one. Same model, same everything. I thought I was set for a while.

Unfortunately, no. Despite me being a lifelong Logitech user, in roughly 6 months, my new board was going downhill fast. The ALT key had popped off a time or two. The space bar was so loose, if I pressed it down, Pam could see under the other side. The other night? The backspace key stuck (much to my chagrin), deleting a few paragraphs of work before I could get a toothpick under it to free it up again. In short? Not good. But, not the end of the world. Just go get a new one, right?

Not so fast. Pam and I went to do some browsing. Unfortunately, most places don’t have models on display any more. And Staples? Most of their boards are now of the chiclet-key variety, which I, not being up on such things, didn’t even know existed. My reaction? Again, not good.

So, last night, my space bar is failing on roughly every fifth word. The ALT key on the left is sticking, playing havoc with me whenever I try shifting from program to program. Since I need to navigate with only the keyboard, you can imagine the state this put me in. Tonight? Back to Staples, gritting my teeth, grudgingly forced to accept the fact I may need to move to this low-profile, chiclet-style keyboard. Until.

Pam’s guiding me around, and sees this funky display. Keyboards of a brand (Rock Candy) I’ve never heard of – nor has she. Instantly, I’m wary. If Pam’s never heard of it? I’m gonna think twice. And, when she said, “Oh, look. This one’s washable,” well, that set off all sorts of alarms. Washable? Must be a joke, right? And if not, what do I need a washable keyboard for? Leading to the bigger question: What the hell does a washable keyboard cost???

“Oh, and the keys are round,” she adds, putting my hands on it.

Now, pretend you’re me. You’re a writer who desperately needs a keyboard. You have a new screenplay you’re working on, and two new subs to get to publishers. You don’t want to have to spend time re-learning a board with a different layout or types of keys or that’s as smooth and unpleasant as a laptop board. Unpleasant to me, at least, because I need a little space between the keys. I like a board with a significant profile between the rows. You know – old school.  Round keys? What kind of nutty board is this?

“It comes in different colors,” says Pam, checking it out. “And yes, they have purple.”

Purple? That stops me in my tracks.

Grimace purple?” I ask, interest officially piqued.

“Grimace purple,” Pam confirms. Me being a worshipper of the big shake-loving guy, that almost sold me right there. Still, I hadda put the thing through its paces.

Rock Candy Keyboard in Grimace purple!

Round keys. In my head, something was rattling around, but I couldn’t put my finger on it (ha-ha) immediately. Not until I stood in front of this thing and started tappin’. And that was when I knew I was going home with this baby. Because something inside had awoken, and I was anxious to see if it was for real.

When I was nine, my Mom bought a $5 typewriter at a garage sale. I found it in the back of my Dad’s closet, and started pecking away. Shortly thereafter, I banged out my very first piece of prose fiction. When I was a few years older, my Dad brought home this monster of a business machine that the bank was retiring. Weighed about 40 lbs, no joke, and had huge ribbon reels. For the rest of my high school career, I banged away on that enormous Smith-Corona (as I recall). I wrote my first professionally published story on that typewriter. I wrote my first shoddy novel on it. I wrote, without exaggeration, thousands of short stories on that machine. I loved that thing.

But alas, all good things must come to an end. Metal fatigue began to set in. It got to the point I couldn’t repair the little things that kept going. And for my birthday, my parents got me my first electric typewriter. And so, I reluctantly put that beast to rest, giving it to the typewriter shop in town as a donation. Not gonna lie. Think I cried over it.

So now here I am. Three decades later, hundreds of short stories published, comic books in collectible guides, a few produced screenplays, couple of novellas out there, a well-received novel, 14 million copies of my work in print. And I’m here, breathing hard, because this new board? The keys, the keys are round. And they’re separated from each other by a significant distance. And, with the feet extended, the profile of the keyboard is, well, a lot like a typewriter.

A lot like a very old typewriter. True, nowhere near as big, and this thing is virtually weightless. But still, the feel of my fingers on this thing? Despite the differences, there was no getting-used-to-it period. I put on even less felt dots than usual, and just started going to town. And the 15-year-old kid in me? That kid started to laugh his ass off. Because while he shows up often when I get into a groove and feel like a teenager again? This? This is different. It feels like that kid is back in the cockpit, falling through the hole in the page.  I don’t know if that feeling is going to last. But I’m hoping it does. Because there’s no denying, at times the past couple of years, time passing, sightless, thinking about opportunities I missed out on, there have been nights when the kid didn’t show up at all. And even though I was enjoying the work, I felt like an adult. No, not just an adult. I felt old.  Something that never used to happen once I got going.

I don’t feel old right now. How my fingers got accustomed to this board in an eyeblink, I don’t know. But I have my suspicions.

And I think the kid wants to go joyriding.  For my part? I’m gonna let him.




Currently listening to: “These Things” by She Wants Revenge

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.

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