From the big time to hard time

Is there any athlete dumber than Aaron Hernandez? In case you don’t
recognize the name, Hernandez was a Pro-Bowl caliber NFL player who signed a
$40 million (yes, you read that right, $40 million) dollar contract just
under three years ago with the current Super Bowl champion New England
Patriots. Unfortunately for Hernandez, however, he couldn’t leave the thug
life behind, and just got convicted of first degree murder. While I’ll skip
the “He’s going from tight end to wide receiver” jokes, here’s some thoughts
on this latest development.

First, it’s nice to see Hernandez get the long-term deal he

A $40 million contract to play ball on Sundays. A good looking wife. A new
kid. Guy went from having the life, to having the life-without.

I hope the next balls Hernandez catches are from a hardcase at Cedar
Junction named Big Rodney.

As writer Greg Bedard points out, on a good Sunday, Hernandez will probably
be able to hear the crowd at Gillette from the yard at Cedar Junction.

When the cellblock doors slam, I imagine at Lights Out, ol’ Aaron will be
rethinking some of the play calls he made off the field.

The Longest Yard will never be amusing again for Hernandez after that
verdict came down.

Hernandez goes from a guy who, on an average day, couldn’t fit his wallet in
his pocket, to a guy who may soon be able to fit a regulation football in
his prison wallet.

When the guy standing behind him yells “Go deep!” it isn’t gonna be anything
remotely like when Tom Brady did it.

And finally, while his stardom may protect him for a while, I can only hope
that a bunch of bad-ass Pats diehards behind the walls who blame Hernandez
for hurting the team prior to their latest Super Bowl, turn this lowlife
into a shiv magnet.

I’d Be Embarrassed

I don’t know what college is like these days, but despite being a couple
decades removed from the experience, I can’t bring myself to believe that
the same institutions that were around when I was at Fordham have so totally
fallen to pieces that students have become such cowards they’re *so* afraid
of a movie screening that they wanted to ban it.

I remember when I looked forward to going to college for the promised
“exchange of ideas.” To be immersed in an environment where you were taught
to question everything, and to have the courage to stand up with a notion
that wasn’t mainstream, and put it forth. To enter the debate (no matter
what it was), if you had an opinion you believed was worth sharing.

That kids today are too freaked out to allow American Sniper to be shown on
campus makes me embarrassed *for* them. Is this what we’ve become? We’re
raising kids so frail that they can’t tolerate a movie they’re not keen on
seeing? That they can’t spend that time on the quad or at a local haunt or
at an off-campus theatre or the mall or.heck, y’know.studying?

Listen, if you’re so unhinged by a film, go into your crappy bathroom, take
a good long look in the mirror, and admit out loud: “I’m no different than
those people who want Harry Potter banned from school libraries.” Go on, do
it. Because, when it comes right down to it? That’s the truth. You’re no
better than the types of fundamentalists people point at and make fun of for
being unwilling to tolerate a different view. You’re no different than the
folks who didn’t want Brokeback Mountain to play at their local theatre; no
different than the preacher who wanted to burn Qurans; no different than the
Westboro Baptist Church fanatics and those like them, who believe that books
featuring gays or sinners or messages questioning their philosophy are the
work of the devil. C’mon, step into line. You belong right next to ’em.

It’s a movie. You don’t like the protagonist or the subject matter? So what?
You don’t like war and snipers? Too bad. You don’t want your campus to be a
place where creative expression is encouraged? Well then, go home. Because
clearly, you’re unfit to take up space at a college like Univ of Michigan,
and your spot should be held for someone more open-minded. For those of you
pausing for a moment to consider your rationale for wanting the film banned?
Grow up. Don’t like fraternities? Don’t pledge. Don’t like religion? Don’t
go to church. Don’t like the editorial slant of your local newspaper?
Subscribe to a different one online. Don’t like a movie? Go play on your
iPad or find something else to do for a couple of hours. Don’t prevent those
who *do* want to experience the film from doing so because of your issues
with it.*that’s* free expression. That’s being open. That’s being tolerant.
And, most important?

That’s *not* being a coward.

Can’t Wait ‘Til the Race Card Officially Expires

Biohazard SymbolJust read a series of tweets concerning the death of the first U.S. ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. What’s irritating about them is, the tweeters in question weren’t attributing Duncan’s death to the delay in diagnosis (even though he’d come here from an African country riddled with the disease). Not because he’d officially checked NO on his entry papers, despite knowing he’d not just been in contact with a stranger’s bodily fluids, but the woman in question was coughing up blood. Not because the CDC didn’t stop Duncan even before he stepped onto a plane. Nope, what these
folks think is the cause of this idiot’s death is, racism.

Are you people kidding? The guy ran around town before getting on airplane carrying a woman who was vomiting blood. The story we’re told now is that at least five different hospitals turned her away, despite her being pregnant. No one wanted to touch this woman, but Duncan hauled her around town all day before leaving the country to come here, but despite the warnings and the spreading epidemic in his homeland, he told officials trying to stop this very thing from happening that no, he hadn’t come into contact with anyone with ebola.

Oh, the woman upchucking blood? She bought the farm less than 48 hours later. But nope, good ol’ Tommy boy didn’t think it was possible he might have encountered someone infected with the virus that’s got the whole world on edge.

And now, I’m reading: First black ebola patient in US dies.

First black patient??? He’s the first U.S. patient period! What freaking difference does it make what color he is? As well, also seeing this general sentiment from a number of people:

Why didn’t Thomas Duncan get a transfusion from the doctor who survived ebola? B-C he’s black?

As well as:

Guess the doctor who survived could only give blood to the patient in Nebraska, not the victim from Africa who was dying.

Folks, please, take your racism whining and go pound sand. Know what? If you’re diagnosed with ebola? You’re probably dying. Most people who contract it do. Even with treatment, most people kick the bucket. So for you to make your own diagnosis from thousands of miles away about patients you’ve never seen and claim one is dying, but since he’s black he must be getting screwed over just makes you look stupid. You wanna play the victim? Go right ahead, but my guess is most people are going to see you for the race baiters and professional woe-is-me types you are.

Also, anybody bother to check whether or not Duncan would have been able to handle the blood? Anybody able to find his blood type online? I did a couple of Google searches, didn’t see anyone reporting on that.

When my Dad was dying, he was getting transfusions like crazy. I told the doc, “I’ll donate, and we’ll worry about the diabetes later.” (Most of my life, I’d been told diabetics couldn’t donate blood. In some places, I believe it’s still banned. But my Dad was in bad shape, the possibility of developing diabetes in his 70s wasn’t exactly the main concern.) The doc told me I wasn’t a good  candidate. I couldn’t imagine why not, but he explained that A) my Dad had gotten so many transfusions, they really needed to match as closely as possible the blood he needed – including the antibodies. Chances were I didn’t have any of them. As well, B) if my blood type didn’t match, the transfusion could do more harm than good given how his marrow was compromised and his body was fighting to try and manufacture it’s own blood, and despite my being his son, there was no guarantee my blood would work. And, I was a blood relative. This doctor who survived? He’s not related to Thomas Duncan, that’s for damn sure. So why are people jumping to conclusions about racism without a doctor having even issued a statement about donor blood? As well, how much did that Nebraska patient get? A pint? Pint and a half? You can’t just give a pint of blood a day and expect to live very long, I don’t care how good your spleen works. I only read about that first transfusion three days ago. Could be it happened last week, but either way, just because one doc survived doesn’t mean you can open up the tap and start lining people up to get transfusions.

Listen, the ebola situation is bad enough without people making it even uglier by blaming doctors and CDC officials and hospitals for being racially motivated in treating patients in two different states, in different stages of the disease. This latest head shaker is one of the reasons I can’t wait for the race card to finally expire, because frankly, when it’s played like this with no legitimate reason but knee-jerk speculation? It just makes real incidents of racial bias seem like no big deal. It’s like phony rape complaints. All they do is hurt real victims. All it does is make people wonder, “Well, that last complaint turned out to be bogus. Why should I believe this claim?” And that’s not good.

Doesn’t mean the folks who want to be portrayed as the victims’ll stop, but sure wish someone would talk some sense into ’em.


Currently listening to: “Cough Syrup” by Butthole Surfers

Why I Loathe Facebook

Got so pissed off after my Facebook settings were wiped out for the umpteenth time that I decided to write a two line post about it. But the more I wanted to address the issue, the longer it got, and so… (Clearly I am not alone.)

[Exlpicit Content]

I was going to post that, if FB were forced to pony up attractive female employees of my choice to blow me every time they ignored my preferences, reset them, and showed me posts from several days ago simply because I’d interacted with somebody, that maybe, just maybe, my settings would stay put. But then it struck me — no, that wouldn’t happen. You know what would change? FB employees would be dragging my corpse out a back door. Know why? Because I’d be dead…of dehydration — and they’d be giving a couple dozen attractive female employees time off to recover from lockjaw, because I’d take my goddamned time.

That’s what would happen, because damned if FB would actually honor my settings for more than a couple of days rather than override them at every turn in order to bow down to some algorithm that suggests it might garner more Shares or Likes (or, finally, succeed in chalking up a single banner-ad click—which they’ve never gotten and never will unless I accidentally hit a keystroke during a sneeze.)

No, Facebook doesn’t give a damn about my settings, they don’t care that I don’t want to share my cell phone number with them, they don’t care that I’m blind and don’t use my phone to “connect with friends!” on Facebook via my mobile device.

Nope, if I were to become the master of all time, space and dimension tomorrow and by decree force Mark Zuckerberg into a position where he himself had to choose between FB leaving my settings alone or losing sexy employee femalehours to knee-pad time with yours truly? He’d shrug his shoulders and say, “Sorry, nameless-busty-girl-of-Joe’s-choice, take one for the team. You know it’s better in the long run if his settings are sacrificed rather than your oral skills.”

Ugh. I never post like this, and not just because I have plenty of family on here who may/might/probably will be forced to see this post if they’ve interacted with me in the past month (rather than their own settings be honored). Me? I want to see Most Recent… posts from my friends, FB, not my wife’s post from Wednesday. I know, for a fact, my friend Mario posted today. And yesterday. Because I checked his feed. But I don’t ever see his posts, despite their newness, because you don’t give a rat’s ass about my desires in sorting what shows up in my timeline.

Thanks, FB, for feeding my festering hatred of your social network. If not for Pam championing me having a presence here, I would be gone. Adios. Sayonara. If you could find a way to make a fraction of a cent on my personal data, you’d do it rather than actually provide a service.

In the world of Karma? Yeah, I might go down shooting blanks, every last vestige of fluid wrung from my core, but at least I’d be able to flip you guys the bird with a myriad of ladies suing you for workperson’s comp and overtime, forced to talk in sign language. So there. (Rant over)


Not-Quite Fictitious Horrors

MonsterthologyFeel terrible about not blogging more, but have been swamped with editing work, as I’m readying a zombie anthology for release in October. That’ll coincide with my appearance at the Ft. Myers ZombiCon (more about that the closer it gets).

Recently, got invited to a Facebook list that posts open markets for fiction. About a year and a half back, I had a story that I’d begun but hadn’t finished, for a classic monsters oriented anthology. I missed that deadline, so let the story sit in the ‘draft pile, figuring I’d get to it sooner or later.

Well, sure enough, I get a post from the Facebook list, calling for classic monsters stories. What better incentive than a new antho to get me to finish up my tale, right? So, I spend a couple of days, beat the thing into shape, run it past several friends and my wife (former journalist and writer for the Texarkana Gazette), and got to the point where I felt pretty good about it. Publication date was November, so figured I had a while to wait before acceptance/rejection letters went out.

Not the case. The deadline for the anthology was fast-approaching, and I got the acceptance notice in short order. Contract soon after. Not bad, huh? Meant that while I don’t often submit to other publications, my last five or six such efforts had all been picked up.

I sign the contract, mail it back, and wait. But not long. Get an e-mail two weeks later, announcing the book is available on Kindle. Wow, I thought. Fast turnaround. Which of course, to a cynic like me, made me wary. My pal Frank Wales, too. He’s also been around the block a time or two, and voiced the same concern I was sharing with Pam that same evening.

Well, here’s how it all ends. I’m about 2/3 of the way through the book, and to say I’m disappointed would be an enormous understatement. I don’t want to burn any bridges, and I don’t want to throw fellow writers under the bus. But this book was most certainly not ready to be released, and it shows on almost every page. Typos. Missing words. Grammatical errors. Punctuation errors of an egregious nature.  I mean…whoa. Things that shouldn’t get past an initial read-through made it into the finished product. Not good.

Listen, I’ve had issues with publishing projects before. When my first anthology came out, I had just gone blind, and only had WordPad to use to write new material. I couldn’t use the function keys, couldn’t handle the editing myself. So, we hired somebody who overstated their creds, and as a result, the book is a piece of crap. (And, don’t even get me started on the jerkoff who wrecked the cover.) The stories? They’re all right. The editing? Absolutely reprehensible. (One of the reasons I’m handling the editing on the re-release myself, and bringing in a pro who’s got a background doing this very job.)

Running spell-check isn’t editing. It never has been, and it’s no substitute for the effort needed to really make a publication ready for readers. This book wasn’t ready. The final few tales might be impressive—I truly hope they are. But with less than 70 pages to go in a 200+ page tome, it’s already fallen too far short of the ideal to make a difference. A Joe Hill story couldn’t rescue this thing now, even though the tale might be fantastic.

The Kindle edition of the book is going for ten bills, too, and for the life of me I can’t see any publisher getting that for an anthology that’s lacking in so many areas, and doesn’t have star talent to make it appealing to readers. There’s some names you may recognize, to be sure, especially if you follow the speculative fiction mags and are familiar with the non-household-name members of the HWA. If you read a lot of e-books in the horror genre, sure, there are folks you’ll know who are in here.

But they’ve been done a disservice by not having a real fine edit done to save them from the embarrassment of mistakes showing up in print that should have been caught by the publishers. When the main character in a story is named Arthur and due to a typo appears as Author (because spell-check didn’t see anything wrong), well… You get the idea. When the formatting for Kindle introduces spacing errors, such as no carriage return between alternating lines of dialogue? Yikes. When dialogue ends with a period inside the quotation marks, followed by a comma and then the: he said/she said/so-and-so yelled? That’s the kind of thing that dooms your effort, no matter how cool the concept or hard-working the creators, or how passionate the people behind it.

I don’t even let my wife see early drafts of a story. I probably go through a dozen before I feel ready to let her take a look. Even then, I run my stuff past guys like Frank, my friend Mike, my buddy Mario (who I worked with for a major publishing company in New York way back when), or other writers I know who are going to catch things. Many of them do. Which usually means, by the time I sub something? It’s either ready, or damned close.  It’s to the point that an editor shouldn’t have to be fixing grammatical errors or retyping the word the because it came out teh when I was first blazing away. That shouldn’t happen, but even the best of writers occasionally miss something in their own work, and that’s understandable. When we write, we’re too close to the story. We’ll mentally fill in a gap or a missing word and not notice. We’ll forget the age of a character mentioned two thousand words back and he’ll be 34 instead of 32 next time.

That’s why everyone needs an editor. And I mean it—everyone. The more pairs of eyes you run your work past, the more chances the little things will get caught before you send something out that isn’t ready for prime time.

I’m not going to tell you not to buy Monsterthology. Read the sample pages. Decide for yourself. Maybe you’ll love it, and you’ll be able to look past the problems because you’re such a die-hard classic monsters fan you just can’t get enough of this type of material. Cool. That’s your call. But I’m in it, and I’m terribly disappointed. Won’t stop me from subbing to other, similar projects when I have a story that fits, because I enjoy this kind of stuff and I have a slew of new, unreleased horror fiction available. It’s always nice to get acceptance letters, and have your stories appear in other publications, so I won’t let this most recent experience slow me down.

Just wish things would’ve worked out differently, because now that anyone can upload something, anyone can be a ‘publisher.’ Now that anyone can put out an e-book, anyone can be an author. Whether or not you’ll be successful? Well, that’s where I think projects like this do more harm than good. The competition is staggering now that the cost of printing has been taken out of the equation. There are thousands of new publishers on the web every month. If you want to carve out a niche for yourself, you’re going to have to be as professional as the big guys. The good thing? That isn’t tough. Invest in the AP Style Guide and learn the basics, put in the hard work making your project the best it can be, and yes, you too can compete with Penguin and Simon & Schuster, etc. Those companies don’t have access to anything you don’t, not insofar as the tools to produce a well-crafted book. There’s no secret to punctuation, to sentence structure, and so on. Unfortunately, a lot of the upstarts will continue to be dragged down by issues of professionalism, not of financial resources or anything that used to be an obstacle to competing in the publishing world. Shame, that, because it doesn’t have to be that way.

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Currently listening to: Bottoms Up by Nickelback