Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Lilith is Covered

Original Art by Josh Collier
Today is the 16th anniversary of the day Sharon Denburg Lopatka let some dude she met on the internet choke her to death. You might not remember, but I could never forget. I just had to explore her life and her decision to die. Form that research came the seeds for my novel Killing Lilith. Now, at long last, I'm ready to release a finished version on the book. 

I have the manuscript back from the proofreader (Thanks Kris!) and the cover art. Now if I can get the text to pass Smashwords' requirements while maintaining the integrity of the manuscript, I'll be golden. Thank you to all who've waited patiently. I hope you won't be disappointed.

In the meantime, remember: There may be fifty shades of grey, but there's only ONE shade of black.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pimp on Fire



Fall is here, and while our hemisphere is cooling, I'm burning white hot with a number of appearances coming over the next few weeks. Let's start with Baltimore Book Festival weekend!



First, I'll be reading with the sharper-than-scalpels  William P. Tandy and his incorrigible, yet megatalented Smile Hon, You're in Baltimore crew at 6PM on Friday on the City Lit Stage.

Immediately following my Smile Hon gig, I'll be jetting back uptown to read at Mind Trip, the release party for Redlines: Baltimore 2028, an anthology of speculative fiction chock full of stories that take place in my hometown during that year. It includes my tale, Dream Catcher. The party starts on 7PM, Friday, September 28, 2012 at the Living Well at 2443 N. Charles Street in Baltimore.

I'll be back in the spotlight at BookFest on Sunday when I read at Lit & Art with Eric Goodman and lots of other great writers on the City Lit stage at 2:30PM. Finally, I will be closing the City Lit stage out by emceeing MWA's Me, Myself & I: The Art of the Monologue, starring my MWAB resident President of Vice, Shirley "Princess Leia" Brewer, and a host of other great MWA writers putting their unique twists on the classic ego trip.

But wait, there's more.

There's a chance I'll be reading at RAW: Baltimore on Thursday, October 4th, at Luckie's Tavern, 10 Market Place, Baltimore, from 8:00PM - 12:00AM. That hasn't been confirmed yet, so stay tuned.

I may be in a bit over my head on Friday, October 5th, I will be part of a truly Di-vine Reading featuring uberlitgods David Eberhardt, Clarinda Harriss (editor Brick House Press), Chris Mason (the Tinklers), Constantine Pantazonis, Stephen Reichert (editor Smartish Pace), Bruce Sager, & Laura Shovan (editor Little Patuxent Review), but I'm committed to holding my own. The Di-Vine Reading takes place at the Ivy Bookshop, 6080 Falls Road, Baltimore, at 7:00PM.

And last, but by no means least, I will be descending upon Laurel for Riverfest. I will be emceeing the day's readings on the Scarecrow Hollow stage, featuring oodles of fantastic writers, including Jennifer Kieth Ciatti and Sid Gold. & yes, there will be an open mic. Riverfest takes place around Main St & Avondale St, from 9:00AM to 4:00PM on Sunday, October 7th. Scarecrow Hollow opens around 11:00AM.

Phew!!! I'm tired just thinking about it all. But there it is... Thank you to all my supporters out there who've helped make this possible. I truly believe I have the best friends anyone could ask for. I hope to see at least a few of your friendly faces over the next few weeks. 

Love—The Word Pimp

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Racist Republicans Strike Again, Against Their Own

Poor Zoraida Fonalledas with Prince Riebus
I'M SO DISGUSTED RIGHT NOW!

I heard about Zori Fonalledas, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Permanent Organization & a Republican delegate from Puerto Rico was shouted down as she was introduced. Some called it blatant racism. Others, Republican honchos, claimed it was a carry over from some vote about not seating some Ron Paul delegates. I decided to watch what occurred just before she was introduced, & YES there was some flak about the vote. BUT, it had died down by the time Prince Riebus began to introduce her. Almost as soon as the word Puerto Rico got out of his mouth, the chants of USA & Get them Out! began ringing throughout the floor. So the excuse that this was about sour grapes on the part of Paul supporters doesn't cut it.

It's a shame that Puerto Ricans have been citizens since 1898, have contributed the 2nd most troops of any US state or territory, and have to be greeted like this. Even after Riebus bangs his gavel to demand the appropriate respect, you can hear the chanting, albeit quieter. ...& the Republicans wonder why they have such a hard time attracting Hispanics to their ranks.


Thanks to a handy C-SPAN feature that let's you make your own clip, I've provided what I looked at so you can judge for yourself. 





Tonight, Luis   Fortuño , Republican Governor of Puerto Rico gets his turn on the dais. I'm sure by then, all the thugs will finally be in lockstep, and yesterday's debacle will be all but forgotten. But don't be surprised if anti-Hispanic hatred spills over, yet again.


Monday, August 13, 2012

Peer Review

I've had plenty of people that have read Killing Lilith in various stages of its evolution. While a few have been taken aback at its content, everyone who's read it has, at least, found a profound appreciation for the quality of the work. Many have given it very high praise.

David Kirschner, who you may recognize as the creator of Chucky from the Child's Play movies, as well as the producer behind An American Tail, Hocus Pocus,  & Miss Pottergot his hands on it and enjoyed it so much he was supposed to help me find representation at CAA. Sadly, I lost DK to divorce. But still, I had a thirty minute conversation with one of the most powerful men in Hollywood, and most of it was about how he could not put down my novel. He began reading it one night, discovered his file was corrupted, and called his assistants to immediately get an uncorrupted version. I wish I had something in writing to share, but our emails were used, purely, to set up the phone call. Had I the foresight, I would've found a way to record the call.

Most recently, I received feedback from Tracy Byrnes. Tracy is part of my writing crit group. The only reason you may not have heard her is because she hasn't really shared her writing with the world, yet. She will, when she's ready, and you'll love it. I know I'd be willing to host a blog to showcase her writing!

I love Tracey's writing. More than that, I'm in love with Tracy's writing. She's like a contemporary Erma Bombeck with the sharp wit of Dorothy Parker. It's the Erma Bombeck part, however, that is of interest in relation to Lilith.

You see, while Lilith can be quite graphic, albeit not gratuitously so, it can't stand on that alone. It has to appeal to the average reader on a level that they can enjoy the rest of the novel. Gratuitous or not, if reader's think it's gratuitous, they will be less willing to explore Lilith's deeper themes.

In a sense, Tracy is the most important part of my target audience, that stalwart, middle-class girl next door, but smarter, who reads. As such, I was delighted to hear that Tracy truly enjoyed reading Killing Lilith. Rather than summarize her thoughts, I got permission to share her words with you:

I’m impressed. I think you’ve written a well-constructed story that proceeds beautifully from one chapter to the next. There were no wild jumps, nowhere I felt confused in time or space. The writing, as usual for you, is elegant and often eloquent.
You’re very successful, I think, in drawing the world of the chat room. It’s not an arena I know well, or even have much interest in, but you make it relatable, reasonable (an outlet, is all, a stage, of course everyone needs that) and fill it with moody suspense. Characters, chatters, take shape through just a few lines. And they are memorable. I’m thinking of Bill who wanted to talk about his dead son – a desperate question unanswered…I thought, I get it, I get it!
I can’t decide about Lilith – do I understand or not? Like her or not? She’s not that crazy, that’s the part that kills me. She seems to have extraordinary insights into her own life, failures, family. She’s smart. She knows what she did/does wrong. It’s completely sane to be depressed. Sane to fantasize about death, disappearance. I personally identify with the inability to DO…or the talking yourself out of doing. And that guilt/frustration.  To get off the lazy river inner tube, finally, and swim!  But – she means to DESTROY her children, in a way. I read advice chats online and they dip into darkness more often than you might guess, so I know that parents don’t always love their children. I can believe it. Still, I don’t exactly like her for not leaving them with something, anything better than Just Jack.
I liked the title “Forever , Lilith” better. As in the note she leaves– the whole idea of a punchy sign-off, making a mark on everyone’s psyche that will last. Somebody made you change it?
Slo, I like. God help me. Your details, once we meet him in the flesh, are just perfect. Trailer with Bargain Couch – a still life.  I love the clean bedroom (that he cleaned his bedroom!), the tiny shower, the croissant egg sandwich. And the tears. Your story, it’s almost a romance. Maybe is one.
You make the right choice with the ending, I think, although I have to say that I’m a sucker for neat, wrapped up The-Ends like the kind in children’s books. So I’ll have to suffer not knowing, exactly, or feeling quite finished.
I know I’m way late in sending you Official Thoughts. But I wouldn’t advise much change anyway. It’s time to let this one go, and see. It’s a page-turner. It’s disturbing. I felt uncomfortable reading it at times, and also comfortable, and understood. Which is to say, well done. I’m wishing you the BEST of the best with the next step in the process, and the next.
Well, there you have it. High praise from a most valued reader. Now let's hope I can pull in some of those Fifty Shades of Sh— You know what, if you can't say anything nice...

Want to become a part of the Lilith experience? Check out Killing Lilith's Facebook page and press "like."

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dream Catcher

I was invited to contribute a tale to REDLINES: Baltimore 2028, an anthology of speculative fiction edited by Jason Harris to be released, anon. After many delays & much contemplation, I came up with Dream Catcher. Below is a snippet, just so you can sniff it. I'll let you know (of course) when it's available. & come to the release event at the Living Well (2443 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218) on September 28.



My eyes open at six. I sit up, touch my pad on, and begin reviewing my dreams. I don’t remember them. I never do. I know why. They’re boring. There are a few good ones—sex dreams, dreams where I’m bouncing over trees and buildings, dreams of flying. Those are few and far between.

I touch my keyboard up and type in some basic descriptions—shaving in a desert with sand and a rock, a ride on a bus next to a stranger speaking gibberish, in a laundromat waiting for a dryer. Mundane things. A waste of time.

A beautiful girl. I hope this is a sex dream. She stares at me. She says, “Be free,” and walks away. I want to follow her. I can’t. I have to go to work. I touch some music on—top forty—and head for the shower.



Friday, August 3, 2012

Hey Dude, Kiss Me!

I might be kissing a man today. This is nothing new. I’m an affectionate guy who’s been known to smooch the occasional lucky fella. But tomorrow’s kiss would be, by far, the most important hombre á hombre smackdown of my life. You see, tomorrow’s Same Sex Kiss at Chik-fil-A Day, a protest of the company’s head’s words and deeds with regards to same sex marriage. ChiK-fil-A boss Sam Cathy speaks out against the trend of accepting the civil marriage rights of all people. He spends his customer’s money, or at least a sizable portion, on efforts to stop Our progress towards a society that treats all our citizens equally.

My kiss would come on the heels of a counter-protest on August 1, where many of our less enlightened American friends and families defended Cathy’s right, as an American himself, to say and spend as much as he wants to defend traditional marriage. Most were bigots, afraid that gay culture will pervade, worse—pervert, what it means to be American. “God hates fags!”


Some who claim to support progress got in the long line to fill Chik-fil-A’s tills, plenty of it which will undoubtedly be dumped into Cathy’s moot war. “I support gay rights, but I LOVE chicken!”

There are a few who have taken the opportunity to poopoo marriage all together, saying that it’s something the government shouldn’t be involved it at all, ignoring things like the tax benefits of marriage, or the ability to put a spouse on one’s insurance, etc. “Marriage is a dumb institution anyway.”

Then there are those who’ll dismiss my kiss as just a stupid prank that doesn’t even call to light all the other organizations that donate to anti-gay marriage causes, many of them retail operations, like Chik-fil-A, who nobody’s paying attention to, much less boycotting. “You’re wasting your time!”



 The thing is, I don’t want to live in a nation where our morals are dictated to us by a narrow interpretation of someone else’s religious views. Giving special creedance to one group's religious morals over another’s is downright disrespectful, not to mention unconstitutional. I’m not going to discuss what some mayors are opting to do by blocking Chik-fil-A from  their cities and towns. That does raise issues of censorship, but has nothing to do with my kiss.

I don’t expect the naysayers to approve of my possible man-to-man kiss, later today, whether I raise their homophobic hackles, their chicken-loving hackles, their anti-all-marriage hackles, or their there-are-more-important-things-to-do hackles. The great thing is that this is America. I don’t need anyone to approve of my actions. The only person I have to justify my kiss to is myself, and I do that just fine. You see, I am a culture warrior, and we are at war.


It may be a pointless war, but it is a war nonetheless. I say pointless because progress is inevitable. Society evolves. However hard people may try to stop things like ending slavery, interracial marriage, or gay marriage, the best they can do is slow it down. As far as gay marriage is concerned, every new generation is less inclined to see a problem with it. Those who do are simply adhering to old beliefs and calling it “tradition” so they can wrap their hate in a pretty little package.

Even if I did nothing, all those backward thinking people would eventually die off, and the pushback from the religious right would barely exist. The question is, can I just sit on my ass and wait for all these bigots to die. I can’t. Why? Because I have too many friends who are in same sex relationships that they want to, but can’t, take to the next level. Some even have kids. Laying back quietly and biding my time does nothing to help them achieve their goals. What kind of friend would it make me to ignore the blatant inequality they have to live with?
 

So yes, I’m a culture warrior, and today is just the latest battle in what may prove to be a long, hard war. The law legalizing civil marriage for all in Maryland has been challenged, and enough bigoted theocrats signed petitions to place the law in referendum limbo. So far, no such law has held up to referendum. Any law ratifying the civil rights of citizens should  never be put to referendum. Can you imagine if interracial marriage laws had been put to the people? Thank goodness for the Supreme Court’s wise decision in Loving V. Virginia. Hopefully, this case will make it to SCOTUS, soon enough; and they will rule properly, as they did back then.

Until that day comes, however, the fight is up to us. Until then, I will continue to fight for what is right. I will continue to fight for freedom for all. I will continue to fight for everyone’s right, including yours, to fall in love with another consenting adult, regardless of sex, and try to find  your happily ever after. Not doing so would be, to me, Un-American. I want you to approve. I want you to at least get it. But it’s not necessary, as long as I’m okay with it. I am.

Now, any of you guys wanna kiss me?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Sometimes

My mother and my older brother, Carlos, 1986
It's funny how, after the people in your life pass on, they slowly drift from your consciousness, regardless to how close they once were. Yesterday was my mother's birthday. It had slipped my mind, until my older brother, Carlos, reminded me in a text. To be fair, my family has a lot of birthdays in July. It can get confusing.

Mom was my biggest inspiration to be a writer. She believed I could be anything I set my mind to. She was my earliest fan and advocate. She would be really proud to see how much all my hard work has paid off, thus far. So, yeah, I may have forgotten her birthday, but I certainly found a way to honor it. 

Here, a little belatedly, is one of the many poems I've written inspired by Miriam Esther Figueroa.

Sometimes

I sometimes wish
you could see my success.
When I wish too loudly
I am told you do,
I am told you share in it,
I am even told you help.
I don't believe them.
I want to believe them.

Perhaps I'm just so vain
that what I truly want
is what I can't have:
to hear your pride ring
loud like church bells
after mass.

Is it really my pride
or just a need for your
reassurance to go on?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Guns, Nuts & Gun Nuts

Today was supposed to be a simple day for me. After a long week of modeling gigs & giving a talk on my writing and my use of the internet & social media in Annapolis, today was supposed to be the day I could relax a little, do some overdue chores & apply the finishing touches to Killing Lilith to prepare it for the editors about to read it. Instead, I am distracted by yet another gun-fueled massacre, this one mere miles from arguably the most infamous one of all, Columbine.

I wish I could say this is unusual for me. It's not. On the morning of April 16, 2007, as I was finishing a speech for my Communications in Business and Society course at University of Baltimore that afternoon, news broke about the shootings at Virginia Tech. I immediately scrapped what I'd done, to that point; and instead presented a speech on gun violence in this country, and the ease with which even the mentally ill can obtain firearms.

My speech may have seemed premature, but I wasn't the only one thinking it. Stories all over the media explored how anybody could approach a non-licensed gun buyer at a gun show and purchase all the weapons they could afford without the standard background check. As long as you are not officially in the business of selling guns, or you are not engaging in interstate firearms sales, 33 states basically have a no holds barred policy. Anything goes.

Gun rights advocates claim that private sellers can sell their guns when and how they wish, as long as their following state and federal laws. There should be no difference between selling your gun out of your home versus selling it at a show. They're right! A system for the private sale of guns should be universal. Making it easy for any nutjob to get guns is not only dangerous, it's stupid.

Something else that's stupid: this idea that if we allowed everyone to carry guns to public places, killing sprees like this can be stopped before too many die. Shortly after the slaughter at VT, Ted Nugent, a spokesperson for the NRA, called for the end of gun-free zones. I have a hard time swallowing the concept of "too many." Isn't the first person hit by a bullet already too many? Can you imagine the chaos that would have ensued had someone else opened fire in the darkened theater? The casualty count would have been even higher!

Granted, none of this matters. You won't hear Obama or Romney mention anything about closing the Gun Show Loophole. The National Rifle Association (NRA) has created an environment wherein any proposal to make us safer, any legislation that would help make a trip to the movies less anxiety inducing, would sink a national political campaign. Worse yet, I'm beginning to believe that the NRA wants madmen & criminals to have tons of guns. It helps justify their paranoia, cement the need for so many weapons in their own heads.

Sure, a few Congressmen will resurrect legislation to solve the loophole issues, yet again. The media will focus on it, yet again. People will understand what needs to be done, yet again. But nothing will happen, not in this political climate. So yeah, next time you take your family to the movies, you will be a little afraid. You should be.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gustav Klimt Painted the Moon

So, I saw on Google that today would have been Gustav Klimt's 150th birthday. It reminded me of my days in art school in the mid 1990s, and a story I began inspired by my experiences. I dug though The Hoard and found it. Here's the beginning, with a little bit of a makeover.

I cried the night Gustav Klimt painted the moon. My lips were damp with the tears, mixed with the lingering tingle of a kiss, as I made my way home. I tried to push Elise from my mind, filling it instead with thoughts of how far I had drifted from the plans I had made as a child. Refreshing thoughts full of growth and gain —thoughts that could not relieve the sense of loss. I asked myself if perhaps I would rather have stayed with simpler times, simpler plans.

In third grade, I wanted to be an inventor. I thought I could create a happy formula mixed from laughing gas and other stuff that could be sprinkled from a hot air balloon to make people stop hating each other. I also began writing in third grade. I still remember the small boxes in the back of the room, each containing cards with either the beginning or ending to a story. We would have to write the rest. My stories were usually read to the entire class. The kids laughed.

I loved the attention. I’d do anything for it. School plays, mostly. In fifth grade, we got to read a script from MASH. The studio that made the show had sent them to schools as an English activity to promote one of their special episodes—the one where Hawkeye has to save a life in thirty minutes, real time. I got to be Hawkeye. I read ahead, so that I’d be ready to deliver my lines, on cue. I noticed that Hawkeye, at one point in the scene, says Damn it! It crossed my mind whether or not it would be appropriate to say damn, out loud, in a classroom. In the end I decided that if it was in the script, it had to be too important to ignore.

When the time came to deliver my line, I offered up, “Damn it!” with such gusto that the class immediately erupted in laughter, including the teacher. I waited for them to stop to deliver my next line.

Ultimately though, I always felt I would end up choosing a more practical vocation. By high school, I wanted to be a geneticist. I read every article on genetics in Omni, Discovery, and Popular Science. I watched specials that came on news shows like 60 Minutes and 20/20 that discussed breakthroughs, like the creation of the sexless fruit fly. I was enchanted by the magical, medical possibilities. I just knew I would be the first to clone whole organs. Spare organs would be produced from the cells of a person’s body. If that person ever needed a transplant, an organ, his organ, would already be available, making organ donations unnecessary and organ rejection a thing of the past.

In my senior year, I was even able to take a genetics class. My interest in school had waned by that point. I’d lost my friend, Eric, when he was hit by a car while riding his bike on Dundalk Avenue, just before the end of junior year. I spent most of my time hanging out alone in a little fort a few of my neighborhood friends had built under a railroad bridge that spanned Eastern Avenue, dividing Highlandtown from Greektown.  I’m not sure how I passed anything that year, but I aced Genetics.

Not that it mattered. My grades dropped so bad that I lost any chance of going to  a decent school. I enrolled into Baltimore Community College to study computers, another love of mine. Computers and I had come of age together. The time I didn’t spend hiding bunder a bridge I spent with my friend, Mike, coding programs on his Commodore64. We played games, a lot. His parents got him a modem for Christmas in 1986, and we spent a lot of time hanging out in Bulletin Board Systems—BBSes, precursors to internet websites.

It was on one of those BBSes that I met Misty. She was the sysop of the Inner Sanctum BBS, known for its bawdy, adult content. Misty worked loading cars off ships docked at the Dundalk Marine Terminal. She would get home at around two in the morning and check to see who had, and was, on her site. That late, it was usually me or Mike. Traffic was lighter, then; and we were kids, prone to use any excuse to stay up late.

Together, while Mike’s parents slept.we would browse the adult photo board. Then , we would take turns either playing games, or more likely in my case, adding to stories posted on the writing boards. Like exquisite corpses, the stories were written in pieces by various users. I especially liked the erotic stories board. So did Misty. Most of the stories there were collaborations between Misty and me. We would trade sexual fantasies back and forth until we had something close enough to call complete, then start a new one.

Misty and I began chatting online during those late night sessions. Chatting turned into snail mail, handwritten letters we sent by post. We met, eventually. She offered to pick me up and drive me to Dundalk to see where she worked. She warned me, however, that unlike her fantasy persona, her real self was overweight. Even so, I imagined that upon meeting we would eventually begin flirting, which would lead to living out some of the fantasies we had shared.

I was nervous when her car pulled up. I was seventeen, and I had shared so many intimate things with this woman I had never seen in person. I got into the car and was taken aback, even with the warning. She was heavier than I’d imagined. I looked for something appealing about her, but I couldn’t find anything. She was nervous, too. She was in her thirties, and here she was driving around with a minor with whom she’d exchanged dirty stories. Nothing happened. We talked a little and she took me home.

I got on the Inner Sanctum after that, but it was never the same. Reality had ruined it for me. But it didn’t ruin computers. That was my calling. Writing would always be a hobby, but the Computer Age had begun.

It didn’t last long, at least not for me. The math classes became more difficult, and the part time jobs I took to pay for things became full time jobs, became better paying full time jobs. My classes were a breeze until I hit Calculus. It hurt my brain too much. I made careless errors with the easy math and barely passed tests & exams. When having money got more fun than college, I started selling cameras and dropped out.

It was one of those jobs where no one was really a salesman. The job was only a pitstop on the way to greater aspirations. Rick, the manager, was a screenwriter from Towson State. Tonya, who ran the photo lab was doing research for her own lab. Matt was a model builder who claimed he could build any architectural structure with nothing but cardboard, toothpicks and magic markers. He wanted to build small scale models professionally. Tod, the only one who admitted to being nothing but a salesman, left for dental school after three months. I was just lost, unsure of where i was going—until I picked up a camera.

Employees could borrow cameras to try them out. That wasn’t always a good thing, like the time Matt strapped one of our video cameras to a remote control car we were giving away with them and sent it rolling through the mall as everyone looked on—pure fun and games until the car, duct taped camera on top, tumbled down the up escalator. Fortunately, no one got hurt, except Matt, who had to go figure out how to make money with toothpicks, or find something else to do. So we hired Kenny who went to Coppin State and also wrote. He seemed as lost as I was.

We were banned from borrowing cameras, after the incident. I didn’t let that stop me. Rick and I got along, well. I did his paperwork and generally helped him run the store. We would do inventories by ourselves—just the two of us and a six pack of Killian’s Red, and we would count every item in the store faster than a team of four. We would talk about our favorite fantasy books and making them into movies. So yeah, he let me borrow cameras. It helped me sell them better.

When I printed my pictures, things would happen. My co-workers would praise me with, you got a good eye, and Rick would blow up some of my shots to promote enlargements. Customers would see them, and buy them, shots of the surrounding harbor—boats, docks, harbors, a car that I just happened to see burning while walking out of work—shots I thought nothing of as I took them. The attention did little except to leave me more confused about my place in the world, so I decided to try art school.



The smell of turpentine stung my nose as I walked in. In the center of the room a single egg stood upright in a pile of salt, atop a white podium.  I scanned the room and noticed a few students already painting. Others were setting up. One was stretching a canvas, pulling the course fabric tightly over the wooden frame with one hand, stapling it down with the other. I looked for a place to fit in.

Off in a corner there was a girl on a stool, contemplating the egg. The sunlight came in strong behind her, enveloping her in an aura of white brightness, but obscuring her features. As I walked towards her, they became more apparent—the unkempt auburn hair, the slight, obscurely shaped lips, the small, slightly upturned nose, and those eyes. They were a deep green, the kind of deep that pulled you in, like the deep green waters of the Caribbean that I recall from my childhood when my family could still afford to spend summers in Puerto Rico. I resisted the temptation to dive.

I smiled hello as I set my supplies down near her. She pulled herself out from her trance only long enough to mouth, hi. As I fumbled with an easel, I couldn’t help throwing glances her way. By the time I was set up, she was finally working on her canvas. It seemed like she was using a rather large brush for such a small egg. But then again, I had never painted anything that wasn’t by numbers. Up until I got accepted, I pretty much figured that there was no way I was getting into one of the best art schools in the country, local boy or not.

Somehow, I managed to throw together a portfolio with Melisa’s help. She went to the Institute and worked in our photo lab, part time, for spending money. I put together my best photographs, a few collages that incorporated some of my writing, and some terrible drawings. I had also pasted some newspapers together and created a mural inspired by a few months I spent painting graffiti with friends. Some of them had applied to the school. None got in, until I was somehow able to bullshit my way in.

I noticed a smudge of charcoal on my cute classmate’s cheek, and I immediately feel compelled to wipe it off. The instructor came in only long enough to pass out a syllabus. As I picked up a brush I became increasingly worried that art school had been too lofty an idea. I could feel Green Eyes looking at me. It made me nervous. I could feel the sweat beading on my forehead. I saw her coming over from the corner of my eye, and my paintbrush began to shake.

“What are you doing?” were the first words I ever heard from her mouth. I knew we were the only ones that heard them, but it felt like she had yelled them out loud enough to echo through the hallways of the Institute.

Meekly, feeling sweat run in rivulets down my arms and ribs, I answered, “Painting an egg?”

“I know that,” she said a little testily, “but you haven’t even gessoed the canvas, yet.”

“Gessoed?”

I felt a thrill as she stared at me through scowling eyes. Didn’t you know this was an advanced painting class?”

“Well, yeah. But it was the only one open. I had to take one this semester or wait until next semester to start classes. My advisor told me that the instructor would help me... catch up?”

Her frown was a distraction. I wanted to kiss it.

“Well, you got bad advice. Pappos Econopolos doesn’t have the patience for beginners. His mission in life is to advance the talents of those already gifted with the ability to paint, and to weed out those who don’t deserve the privilege of holding a brush.

“Great!” I say, flustered, “That’s just great. I’m gonna die. I’m going to end up killing myself if being ripped apart in front of everyone by my teacher isn’t enough to do it.”

I looked at her and saw something soften in her face. “Look, don’t worry about it. Just go down to the bookstore and bring back a canvas that’s pre-gessoed. Gesso is a coating that seals the canvas so the texture of the fabric doesn’t show through your work—you actually have a bucket of it, right there—and I’ll help you get started.”

I looked down at the bucket I had just bought minutes ago, clearly labeled Gesso, looked back at her and nodded. “Thank you,” I said, “you didn’t have to help me.”

I don’t have to. You better hurry,” she stated, the scowl returning to her face.

I got the message and began heading out of the classroom. But then it struck me, I wanted to know my savior’s name. I whirled around. “By the way, I’m Hector.”

For the first time, I saw her smile. Her eyes lit up with a bit of glitter. She sighed and said, “Hi, Hector. I’m Elise.”

Elise, Elise, Elise, I repeated to myself on my way to buy another canvas. I had walked right into something wonderful.


More later...

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chango Crying

Now that it seems like my work with Killing Lilith is coming to and end, I'm back to thinking about Chango Crying, my second novel. I'm very excited to get back to that project, especially since it'll be a trilogy, followed by Lazarus Rising and Turning Prophets. The trilogy is inspired by my childhood experiences with Santeria.  Click here for an excerpt, if you want to get a feel for it: 


Yes, I know... It's PDF. Sometime very soon, I'll dig out my MAC and paste the text, directly.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Clockwork Moon

A Clockwork Moon

I dreamt of a clockwork moon,
face failing, falling,
revealing an intricacy
of gears & springs & cogs
& things & a pendulum
that slowly swings & pulls
the string that weaves
Our blessed Universe
together.

I saw Us singing to
a clockwork moon,
praising her in harmony,
raising arms in unity,
revering her;
& I could see
humanity dancing,

supplanting
it’s foul tendencies
in favor of a new reality
as it was finally
apparent that the string
pulled by pendulum
that swings connected
Everything
Like you & you & me.

I dreamt of a clockwork moon
suspended in a blue-black sky,
now free of its flimsy disguise,
illuminating everything in sight
a glow from which nothing
could hide—nothing wanted
to. Finally, the strings
that connected everything—
you to you to you to him
to her to them to it to you again—
were obvious. No one
was willing to return
to the thought that
we are all alone.

I dreamt of a clockwork loom—
You just know her
as our moon,
but close your eyes
& stretch your mind
& you too will feel the fine
tapestry of Universe
she weaves. Once
you do, like me
you too will dream
of strings and all the things
connecting us to
the vastness of infinity.


Monday, June 25, 2012

The Last Cinnamon Sunday

So, I've started a piece for Tales of Blood & Roses. It's an idea I had a while ago, but finally got around to... executing. Sure, the beginning seems very nice and wholesome, but with the title, you can imagine it won't be long before all hell breaks loose. You can catch the rest at the ToB&R reading on July 14, 6:30PM. Enjoy this taste, for now.

I wake to cold dampness darting around my face and the sounds of tinny explosions and music. I slowly spread my eyes open. Princess Leia is staring at me, longingly. She loves me. I gently shove her off me, slip into my robe and head downstairs, Leia at my heels.

I say good morning to Donovan as I pass his room. He blurts out a quick Hi! without looking away from his game. Donny is too busy killing things. He loves killing things. Thankfully, everything he kills is digital—binary villains, a threat to none but his own ego. I descend.

Once in the kitchen, I reach out to turn on the oven on my way to the sink. I don’t even look. I don’t have to. I’ve done this for so often that I know how far to twist the dial to get the oven to 400. I fill the kettle, set it on the stove and turn on the burner. When I get to the back door, Leia is already there. She pops a paw at the knob, as if I needed a reminder. I open it, and she darts out.

I’m  greeted by a chorus of mewing near the back door. I step over to Lola and Mouser, give them each a rub, open their food tin and fill their bowls. I make my way over to the fridge, pull out the bacon and a tube of cinnamon rolls, set them on the counter. I grab the bag of Sumatran and grind  enough beans for a pot. That wonderful aroma—a perfect blend of earth, moss, nut & spice—fills the air. The kettle whistles just as I pour the this perfection into the press.

I turn off the burner and pour the water over the freshly ground beans. The aroma explodes throughout the kitchen, spreads through the house. I layer the bacon on a cookie sheet. I prefer to bake the bacon to keep it long and flat. I arrange the rolls into a round cake pan, set them on the counter while the bacon begins to slowly sizzle.

The smell of brewing coffee has awakened the Goddess. This, too, is as expected. I turn in time to find her lips, exactly where they are supposed to be. I kiss them. “Good morning,” she says. Cinnamon Sunday has begun.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Saving Fase

Here's a little preview of the story coming out in Smile Hon, You're in Baltimore's upcoming "Alleyways" issue:

Two people are dead, my one-time bestie is in prison for the rest of his life, and it’s my fault. Not really. I wasn’t there during either of the two brutal murders he was involved in, but maybe I should have been. Maybe I could have stopped him.

I moved in with Chris Mills in the Fall of 1988. I had no choice. My mother was fed up with her boyfriend, Jose, who had become more resentful the more successful mom became . After years of living on the dole, mom had finally decided to abdicate her throne as Welfare Queen. She had to. I was nineteen, meaning she had long stopped receiving benefits for me. My sister, Kyra, was a senior, meaning she would soon lose those benefits, too. Her only choices were to finally, officially join the workforce or become even more beholden to Jose and his income. My mother never liked being beholden to anyone.

Jose liked it too much. The more money mom made on her own, the more abusive he became. When he began to demand her paychecks, I wasn’t surprised to see mom come down into my basement to let me know she was leaving, taking Kyra with her. My little brother, Jojo was safe and sound with his father, in Delaware.  I, on the other hand, would have to fend for myself.

Apparently, there was no room for me whereever she was going. That left me as the odd man out. Jose came down a little later to let me know that he thought of me as a son, that I was welcome to stay. I had never thought much of him, especially after watching him change in the face of my mother’s success. I loved our little house on the unit block of North Rose Street, but the time had come for me to try on a pair of those big boy pants everyone always talked about, branch out.

The problem was that I had nowhere to go. I began wandering Patterson Park and its surroundings aimlessly, wondering where in the park it would be safe enough for me to sleep, when I ran into Chris Mills. I’d first met Chris when he was in Jojo’s class at General Wolfe Elementary School. I came across Chris in tears on Washington Street, being shoved around by a couple of bullies. I chased them off and walked him home. His mother thanked me for bringing him home safely.


You know you want to read the rest. Pre-order your copy, now!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Water: A Love Story



Birth

When the Earth was newly born, it was barren, dry. Yemaya, a goddess, baptized the Earth with the oceans of her womb, giving birth to the seas, the rivers, the lakes. This fertilized the Earth, & the Earth gave forth life.



 
Rebirth

“Did you know,” I tell more than ask her, “that water is the
most important ingredient for life?” I love talking science. She loves listening to me talk science.

“Of course,” she replies, almost defensively, “We’re like, what, 80% water?”

“Sixty, actually, but it’s more than that. Water is the only chemical compound that gets less dense when it gets solid. That allows it to float when frozen. Otherwise, ice would crush out life in winter. If water sank when it froze, we wouldn’t be here.”

She thinks for a bit. My heart stalls as I watch her smile fade. “What are we doing here?” she asks.
I hesitate, looking for the right words. “I’ve stopped evaluating it. I figure, at this point, it is what it is. Everybody’s gonna see it differently anyway—your husband, my wife, our kids. Why even bother trying to explain it? I would say that we’re celebrating creation, a lot, but who would get that, really?”

She thinks for a second before pouting out that smile she pouts out, that one I love, the one that reminds me that we are all nothing more than needy children. “Yeah. You’re right. Why bother?” Her eyes widen as I watch the light reflect sparkles on the irises of her chartreuse eyes. She shies. Turns away. Rises. “I’m going downstairs,” she announces, “need anything?”

“Nothing. Just you, Yem. But a little water would be nice,” I reply as I slowly drift back into the afterglow.