Thursday, November 10, 2011

Back to the HOUSE OF PAIN!

So I bought a Kindle last week. I know, I've railed on the little electro-beast, how it is actually more expensive and less convenient than a book, but now that I went over, now that I indulged, now that I dropped $200 bucks on an Amazon Kindle 3G, I have to admit that I love that little knucker.

It hasn't left my side. I'm afraid I'll leave it in the potty and my son will drop it in the toilet. He's one year old next week. My wife warned me, she said, You better not leave that Kindle in the bathroom like you did your books. Daz (that's our son) is going to drop it in the toilet.

So I try not to leave the Kindle in the potty. I think I'll miss that the most, leaving books laying around the house, next to the bed, at my desk, in the car.

But I was wrong about the convenience of a Kindle. Boy was I wrong. I downloaded some free books from the local library and finally bought the first book in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series. I returned the other three library books after the first chapter -- the first few pages, actually, I didn't make it any farther -- but I did make it through an old HG book called The Island of Doctor Moreau. I forgot how creepy that book is.


The point is, I'm hooked on the e-book. I'm not sure how short or long-lived this little obsession may be -- perhaps the novelty will wear off after I drop it and it shatters into a hundred tiny Kindle-bits, each bit worth approximately $75 USD, with one large piece worth just over a $100.

Anyway. Off to read my new Kindle! Maybe now I can finally get caught up on some of Roland Yeoman's books. Dude, you are a writing machine! (He's on Amazon, FYI, just over 10 books and counting.)

- Eric

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

An Honest Lie Vol 3: Justifiable Hypocrisy

So the latest Honest Lie short story anthology is on sale. You can't vote for me, but poke around and VOTE for Donna Hole or Stephanie Loree here. The author with the most votes gets a BOOK DEAL! If you buy a book from one of their portals, they get more points. Click their name to see an excerpt and buy, and click mine (but buy from one of their portals) if you want to see a bit about my short story (which is not that short) titled Melvin Gee's Short Trip to Hell.

Read through some of the author interviews here: Life at OHP.

Anyway, now I need to update my links on the side. This publishing crap is a lot of work!

Click the picture. I do believe the kid is GUARDING the playground, not attacking it. This is a common scene in third-world countries.

Also, I should have my full-length novel, Out of the Great Black Nothing, in print this quarter. It's about a redneck in a space suit.

- Eric

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

When Life Imitates Art: Larf?

This post is about dead children, specifically your dead children, my dead children.

(That's my son on the right, in the picture, shopping for Halloween costumes.)

I'm not sure why I got the hankering, but in early September the worms started digging and what they dug up was this: A bunch of little bones.

I'm talking shoe-box sized bones and tiny skulls with an open fontanel.

Early September, mind you. I suppose it's the thought of winter that brings in those thoughts. God, I wish it were winter already. I'm sick of the heat, and we need some rain in Dallas. (God, if you read this blog, SEND RAIN!)

Anyway. The worms dug up the muck and I started a new novel, one that had been incubating for about nine years, and it sho-nuff has some dead children in it.

It's full of death and suffering. Not in a depressing way (I hope), but in a realistic and heartfelt way.

Now, onto the Life Imitating Art subject, or Larf, as I'll call it. That's Larf, you'll all say one day, Larf's a bitch, Get a Larf, meaning Life + Art.

Get it?

I will, of course, receive no credit for coining this term. And Larf goes on.

So my dad died last week. Don't worry, he didn't ~stay~ dead, but he was dead as your granny's virginity for about two minutes.

Some big black guy, I didn't see him, broke my father's chest pumping blood manually with his heart. Pop's heart stopped after he had some stents put in. He was in the ICU already, otherwise he'd be in a nice box today, wondering why the hell his lips were sewn up to his gums.

(Pop is alive and well. They got his heart beating and it's beating still. Sorry if I confused anyone!)

Larf, eh. I'd been writing about death for about a month, thinking about it, and then it glove-slaps me in the face and touts me.

But wait, there's more!

A neighbor of mine lost his daughter. She died and stayed dead. She was 25 and had a masters degree, a magna cum laude track record, and cancer that ravaged both the first and second livers she tried.

I'll share with you someone else's Larf, which is here, which is beautiful:

More Importantly. It's Annie's blog, Quiet Commotion.

I read this and like so many of Annie's ad hoc poems, it scraped my neck just at the base of my skull, there in the primal parts we share with birds and lizards and cavemen alike. True words, she wrote, true and old as granny's virginity.

Why do I think that last part is so damned funny?

I'll also share something I wrote in my current piece. It's a POV I tried out in a couple of scenes, see if it fits. It's second-person present tense. It seemed appropriate.

I wrote this about a week before all the death (both permanent and temporary) around me.

Nothing prepares you for the loss of your child.

When you get pregnant, out come the doctors and nurses and Lamaze specialists. They show you how to change diapers, how to nurse, how to push and breathe during labor. They tell you what the baby should eat and warn you against the toxicity of eggs and honey and bovine milk, seemingly benign things unless you stuff them into your little baby.

There are stores dedicated to clothing your baby. Entire sections of the local grocery are filled with baby necessities, fluids for when they are sick, bibs for when they drool, plastic seats for when they ride in your car. Friends and neighbors pour into your yard when you release blue or pink balloons into the sky and announce your baby's gender. People clap and cry and cheer your baby's arrival.

It is different, though, when you lose your baby. People grow hushed and cover their mouth and turn away. Sure, they send food for a few days, but after that gesture, afterwards, after the afterlife where there is no life after, after you find the baby stiff in the crib for no good Goddamned reason, after you find him nose-down in the kiddy pool in a few inches of water, after you find her behind the couch with a marble in her throat, after you find him on the dining room floor with a bullet in his head. After the friends and neighbors and family send food and maybe attend the funeral, if there is one, because sometimes, if the baby dies in the womb, they don't even do that.

After all that you are a pariah. You are a topic of conversation. These conversations begin with the words, "Have you heard about," and end with the words, "I can't imagine."

All the stuff in-between those two phrases is a garbled mess of nods and hand-waving.

There are no classes about how you breathe. There are no doctors or nurses who rush to your side to guide you. There are no shelves in the store dedicated to burial clothes. Hell, there aren't even greeting cards, maybe one that reads, "So sorry you lost your toddler down Old Man Johnston's well. Better luck next time!"

People don't discuss it with you. They discuss it all right, but not with you, not anywhere near you. They shun you as if you are diseased, because you are diseased.

You are ostracized and condemned and moved to the other side, wherever the hell that is, probably near hell because that's how it feels. You are one of them, one of the others, one of those who lost their kid, so tragic, and have you heard about, and I can't imagine.

God gives you no reprieve. He allowed His son to be mutilated and killed and so great is God's love that He gave His only son so that you may be saved. Your son died for no greater purpose. He died for no reason at all, and yet you are charged to bear God's deepest grief.

You are not God. No one worships your dead son, and let's not forget God didn't handle the grieving all that well Himself. After three days He couldn't take it anymore, and He raised His son back to life.

Ah, it's good to be God.

Anyway. Larf it up Fuzzball, Larf all you want, Larf with me not at me.

I have a wire crossed somewhere, you know. I tend to laugh when I should cry. There's a picture of me in the ER with a bone sticking up from my shoulder (not quite poking through the skin, but almost), and I'm smiling like I just won a six-pack of Shiner 102 beer.

I have a hard time crying, see. All I can think is Larf Larf Larf when it all goes to shit.

Maybe Larf is a better term, eh.

Have you ever had a Larf moment, where something you wrote came to pass? Do you look back on your old words with new experience and think, Dang, that was spot-on? (or Dang, what an idiot I was!) Did the second-person present tense work?

- Eric

PS. My first wife miscarried our second attempt, about two months in, after we had already told everyone and scheduled a sonogram and named her Hannah. I had to flush my burger-meat daughter down the shitter, because that's where she came out. I didn't laugh at all that night, and I don't laugh now thinking on it. I dredge up that pain when I write, and God help me if it had happened when she was 7 years and not 7 weeks. In all seriousness, heartfelt prayers for anyone who's lost a child of any age, be it in the womb or out.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Orphans: Why do we love them?

So I'm writing a novel with my kids. We're in the fun phase -- drafting characters and brainstorming ideas.

I call them idears, and we keep them in a black book I call My Little Ocean. The Ocean used to be pocket-sized. Now it's a leather-bound journal.

Anyway, we're drafting the characters, and I keep coming back to orphanizing the two kids.

See, you need two kids, a boy and a girl, same as I have at the house. I'm not making them twins. The girl is older by a year.

And I keep killing off their parents. Sometimes one or the other parent is alive, but usually the kids are somehow abandoned.

And I got to thinking how common that is.

Luke Skywalker was an orphan. So was Harry Potter. Little Orphan Annie and the kid in Great Expectations were orphans. Superman was an orphan. Megamind and Metroman were orphans. Percy Jackson was semi-orphaned, had an estranged father.

I could go on, but you get the point so go on your own dang self. The thing is, we orphanize our children in YA lit.

Why is that, I wonder?

I still don't have the answer, but I'm beginning to let that question fester. I look back at my own stories and realize I have a novella about orphans. Never thought about it.

There's something romantic about an orphan, something magical, something that gets the gears turning and makes us automatically relate to them.

Why do we relate to kids without parents? Why is it so easy to demonize step-parents and victimize step-children? I have no freaking clue. You tell me.

But we do relate. Maybe it's that coming-of-age thing, where we all sever from our parents and become ourselves.

Oh, Spider-Man was orphaned, too. So was Batman, and in fact his orphanization caused him to morph into the Dark Knight.

Gads, that's an easy thing to think up orphaned heroes, isn't it.

You tell ME! Why are orphans so common and desirable in literature!

Meanwhile, I'll be drafting my own set of orphans. They have [expletive] eyes. Shh. Don't tell anyone.

- Eric

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Viscerality: What is too much?

Dear Knuckers:

Like many of you, I have some stories that are deeply emotional that deal with traumatic experiences. They aren't gory per se, but they are disturbing stories.

For instance, one of my earliest shorts is called Digging. I have never tried to publish this story because I believe it is too visceral, too primal. But when I let people read it the response is consistent -- the story resonates. It disturbs. It has the intended effect, which is to show an ugly underbelly, the snake's belly, the scaly underside beneath the coiled head and body.

Specifically, Digging deals with incest. Oddly enough, that's a story so common among writers that publishers specifically say: No incest, no rape stories.

I say: Why not?

They answer: Too visceral. Too disturbing. Readers want fiction, not reality.

And yet and yet the Digging story got two responses that I remember in particular.

One was from an English teacher and she said this:

Your unapologetic brutality was disturbing.

The other was from an Army Ranger, one of those special force types who is the real shit. He's a Captain now, and he's a cutout Tom Clancy character a lot like Chavez. If you know who Chavez is, then you know what I mean, and you know I mean this guy is no bullshit. When he bought his house, for instance, he made sure he had a clear path of egress to gun down anyone who invaded his stairwell, even aligned the rooms such that he wouldn't be shooting into his daughter's bedroom.

I camp with him once a year or so and he brings a full trauma kit and a well-beaten rucksack and somehow he still convinces me to carry his fucking water for him so he has room for his camp chair.

Yeah, that guy. He read an entire batch of short stories and commented on one story only, one word, and it was Digging and it was this word:


So I ask you my fellow writers and knuckers specifically, is it too visceral to write what is real, what is savage, what is the basest in our skulls just above the spine. Doesn't the blood flow up through the neck and through the primal parts first, before it branches out to the thinking gray-matter that really doesn't matter at all?

I ask this because my current piece, the Marty piece, the one I alluded to here -- Dead Characters -- is primal. It is unapologetic.

It is real. It is savage.

It is visceral. It involves a mightily abusive and dysfunctional family unit. It involves rape and murder and personal treason.

Is that too much? Am I crossing lines here?

What do you consider too much? I don't mean ~gore~, I mean primal emotions. I don't appreciate gratuitous gore and won't write it. I mean primal and savage acts that leave a taste -- literally -- in the back of your throat when you read them.

- Eric

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dead and Resurrected Characters

I think all my characters are zombies, or vampires, or something undead and permanent.

See, I can't let go of them. I wrote this blurb, which I'll post for you to torture your eyes on, back in 2002. That's, like, TEN YEARS AGO. Almost. The date stamp says September 5, 2002.

Man, that's weird. It's like the anniversary date for the birth of this character. I wonder if there's something in this season that puts this shit in my head every year, because I have never forgotten Marty.

What's even weirder is I haven't messed with this story, with Marty, in forever, in YEARS, but last night that little bastard with no warning dove into my worms and started digging and throwing dirt until I had to get up and let him write a stupid outline for the stupid book so he'd shut his stupid mouth and let me stupid sleep.

Which I didn't sleep, of course, not a drop or a wink, not last night. It's like that when you see your next book waiting to be writ.

This guy, Marty, he's a blurb. He's a ghost. He's an undead boy with a big-ass knife and he will not let me forget him.

Queue the scene, stage left, hit the music.

Working Title: The Idear
It could have been something he'd imagined, one of those pipe dreams kids come up with late at night, under the covers with a friend and a flashlight. He'd played it over and over in his head until it seemed real enough. And here he was, holding a knife as big as his arm. The blade alone reached from his elbow to his wrist. Holding it near his face to see that yep, sure enough, it's real all right, real as Jeannie's tits.

"Hey, Sugar, what you got?" That was Gus. He was the leader of this little troop, six boys in all, and they called Marty Jameson Sugar because that's what his mom had called him once.

Marty hated being called Sugar.

Marty stuffed the knife under his shirt. The blade was rusty and it didn't look sharp. He'd take care of that later. "Nothing," Marty answered. "I ain't got nothing."

"Liar!" Gus said. "I saw you put something under your shirt, sugar-boy, let's s—"

"I ain't got nothing!" Marty said. He turned and put his feet under him, running despite the danger of having a blade so close to his heart (his mom would belt him for sure if she caught him running with a knife).

Marty was faster than the other boys—except for Danny, he was the oldest—and Marty sprinted around a stack of old tires, between two stripped-out Volkswagons, and ducked beneath a tower of fifty-gallon oil drums. He clambered inside one of the barrels before Danny rounded the corner behind him. The rest followed, all running past Marty. Silent as a rabbit, Marty waited until he heard Gus scream, "He went over to the crane!" before climbing out of his hole.

Marty drew the knife from his shirt. The blade was wide and long, a true Bowie knife, with a busted fake-ivory handle that had broken halfway down the length of the grip. Marty tucked the knife into his belt so that it both looked and felt like a sword on his hip. He raced home, stopping only once to lift a piece of corrugated tin and claim a beat-up wire grinder brush he spotted. He could use that to clean the blade.


The next day it rained, huge drops that fell straight-down without wind and without thunder. Marty sat in the attic next to the window as if beneath a waterfall, hidden behind clear sheets of water as the rain rolled over the eaves. He sat in a toddler's chair, one he'd found crammed into the corner of the attic when they'd moved in a year ago. The wicker seat was chewed-through, and the sharp corners of the broken straws sometimes poked him, but its legs were strong enough that Marty could lean back as he worked. The overhead light had long ago burned out and never been replaced. So Marty sat near the window. The cascading rain somehow amplified the light here.

Marty's fingers bled from where the wire brush had stabbed him; the wild-haired brush wasn't designed to be held, it was designed to spin on a grinder. He had taken a piece of his jeans (the part left over after his mom had made cut-offs) and used the fabric to pad his hands. It worked well, and during the past few hours, Marty had scraped most of the rust from the blade, and saved the rest of his fingers.

According to his mom's scale, the one she kept hidden beneath the bathroom towels so she didn't have to look at it, the knife weighed over a pound. The weight sat heavy in Marty's lap.

In his pocket was another weight, this one a few ounces he'd lifted from the knife-drawer in the kitchen: a battered and chipped whetstone.

Marty held the knife up in the shimmering light. "You're almost clean," he said. "Then I'll put an edge on you that'll cut through glass."


How about you? Any new or resurrected idears yet?

- Eric

PS. This blurb was used during a blogfest at some point. Just saying.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Characters we CARE ABOUT

In response to Julie Musil's Building Characters post. Read it and come back here or read it there. I really don't care which you do, satisfy yourself because I know you will anyway -- that's what knuckers do.

All right, missy (Julie), you just touched on something that's been nagging at me these past few months, and in fact has nagged me for many months across many years across many many stories for all the time I've been a-writing.

Here's the nag: ALL characters are important.

Every. Last. One.

If you ever dismiss a character as unimportant, that is you as the writer's fault for not being more sympa/empathetic.

This point was hammered home to me recently when I read Vonnegut's Breakfast for Champions.

I always sensed that everyone was equally important, but V pointed this out in B&W and even drew a human anus to make his point.

That's true. Read the book if you don't believe me.

Your #7 and #9 are the two that got me -- extraneous and non-care-abouts.

There is no such thing as non-characters in your story, anymore than there is such a thing in real life.

We all have agendas. We are all important. We are all meaningful, and if you forget that point you'll alienate your reader who just happens to be a cocktail waitress at a dive bar that you as a high-pedestal author do not think is important.

You see the point, yes? You see the left hook in that comment?

Give your characters respect. Give them your love. You are their God and Creator and Savior.

If they pop up, even tangentially, they are your creation and deserve your respect and affection.

Or murder them. Someone else said that, too, murder your darlings.

But they're your darlings. Nothing unimportant about them, so lay them on the slab and bleed them, but cry about it when you do.

- Eric

ps: I love Julie's site. If you're not on there, go there, join, and make her your friend. Here is the link:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Writing with the kids

So I'm writing a story with my kids. It's not just any story, it's THE story.

It's magical.

It's whimsical.

It's outer-space and out-of-this-world. It's no-limits and no-holds-barred.

It is a ninja monkey who is NOT a monkey, he is a primate by God, and he kicks your ass if you call him a goddamned monkey.

It is the Ultimate Banana. It is zombies and space ships and everything we want it to be plus an extra heaping of upside-down spray-it-right-in-your-mouth nitrogen pressurized bottle of whipped cream.

It is a leather-bound notebook and a stack of pictures drawn on wide-rule notebook paper, a conversation in the car, a deep study in the boy's room beneath the ceiling fan click-clicking.

It is wonderful.

It doesn't say ass or goddamned, though. It's a kid's book. Keep it clean.

The point is I'm sharing my writing experience with my children. I share it with my family. I share it with my relatives and my co-workers. I believe that if not now, then maybe later, when people describe me, they won't say, Eric was a Chemical Engineer from UT Austin, a quality engineer, a process/product/device/test engineer, or a programmer, or a mathematical samurai, or a short white guy with a big nose.

They'll say, Eric was a writer and a story-teller and was incredibly good-looking.

It was his blue eyes, the women will say, and they'll wish I wasn't dead and secretly hope I will come back and seduce them into an army of undead concubines.

My kids will remember the stories we wrote and told and tell the ones we never wrote.

My son said about the story we're writing, Daddy, do you think we'll be millionaires?

Probably not, I said. I made $85 bucks on my last story. That's the sum total of my career in writing.

Sweet! my son said. We can be hundredaires.

Do you share with your family? How will they describe you? Will you be a hundredaire author?

- Eric

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Your Author BIO: Straight-Talk from my Editor

Have you ever written an author bio? If you haven't yet, you will, eventually, because if and when you get published, the publisher is going to ask for a couple of things.

The first thing is this: Your signature. Sign here. And here. Initial there. Here's your copy of the contract, looking forward to doing business with you.

And it is a business for the publisher -- ain't no art in publishing, you knuckleheads.

Now the next thing they'll ask for is a clean draft. They'll probably do a quick read and ask for long edits and send it back to you. Mind you, I'm with a small publisher, so this leg of the process will vary proportionately with larger publishers, but Open Heart Publishing, local to Dallas, has been professional and by-the-book as far as I'm concerned. I imagine the only difference between drafting with OHP and drafting with Harper-Collins will be length between edit responses, and the depth of the personal and professional relationships.

That's a theory.

So while you're drafting and re-drafting and reading and re-reading your piece, the editor will ask you for a couple more things.

We need a headshot for your bio, says Ms. Editor. (Her name is ME, by the way, and her blog is here: An Honest Lie Speaks.)

Okay, you answer. I got a picture from last spring break, just need to clip out my wife and kids from the pose.

Take a new one, ME says. You alone. It doesn't need to be professional, but you need to be the only one in it.


And we need a bio, she says. Between one and two hundred words for your short story in the AHL volume 3 anthology, and another one about three-hundred words for your novel.


Can you get this to me tomorrow? she says.

I guess.

I'll take that as a yes, she says. She then promises to share a beer with you once we get the damned things in print, and off you go to write your bio.

The picture is easy. Grab a beer and a clean shirt. Head to the back yard with the wife. Snap. Done.

But that bio, that ever-loving bio, that freaking fracking macking bio...

There's the hard part, folks. Who the hell are you? How do you sum up the complexities of YOU in three-hundred -- or two-hundred, or one-hundred -- words or less?

I won't share my bio with you, but I will share some of ME's invaluable editorial feedback.

And I quote, where I got too flippant and personal about my non-writing activities and family and such:

Be careful here – you are shifting too much focus away from your writing. Everything that is “in addition to” or “aside from” takes away from your writing career time. You don’t want to inadvertently sound like your life is so filled with other priorities that writing takes a back seat. Writing has to be and remain primary focus.

I ping-ponged ME a bit on the personal aspect (we communicate primarily via email). I wrote that I want to establish a personal connection with the reader in my bio, and that's why I include the personal aspects in it.

ME responded to that point like this:

I agree with you on the personal connection being important, but we always have to remember the potential publishers and agents who might come across our work, and be ready with the bio info they'll want to know.

On the personal part of the bio, for the novel, I have made a couple of alterations. Below is the revision. I have taken out "unbelievably beautiful" wife - this is a bit more personal and intimate than should be included in a bio (remember, a bio is a resume, not a personal journal).

Here is another response from ME, earlier in the pinging and ponging:

That's a good bio, and those are great photos. I think we'll use the photo of you on the chair looking right (yours, not viewer's).

I'd like to see something a little different on your bio. I'd like to take the personal info down to one or two sentences top, include your other writing credits, and talk about your blog and anything else you've been doing in the field of writing. 100-200 words is about the size we need.

Would you mind?

Bios should always focus primarily on credits, even if they were the same credits from the last bio. You want to work towards getting as many credits as you can, and as many writing related projects. After that, when you get new credits or projects, take out those that are less spectacular in order to add new credits/projects.

You see what I highlighted, yes? Are you paying attention?

I was, and I do pay attention to ME. She makes sound points and backs them up. I tell her she has hollow-toothed venomous advice that strikes like a bite to the neck.

But it's a good strike. It's a good feeling. She injects you, the author, with a jolt of reality that is meant to make your writing BETTER.

Here's another diddy from ME, when I originally included my email in the bio:

Never ever include contact info in your bio. Your bio can and will be seen by the world at large and you don’t want a way for perverts or stalkers or other harassers to be able to contact you. You can refer people to your publisher or agent, but never give your own contact info. Delete next sentence. I have deleted same reference from short story bio.

And now, in summary, for those of you knuckers who skim to the bottom and skip all the good stuff I write:

 o Focus on your writing activities
 o Your bio is your resume
 o Focus on writing credits (include significant non-writing, such as a patent, which I always include)
 o Do not share personal contact information

Listen to ME's advice. When you write your bio, remember what ME says.

Just don't get sour if she leaves a little smidge of a mark just above the shoulder and below the ear.

Do you have bio advice? What does your editor say?

- Eric

PS: If you find this advice helpful, you should thank ME at her blog: An Honest Lie Speaks. All email responses are used with her permission.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Half of Something, or All of Nothing? You Choose.

Have you ever watched the show Shark Tank? People with NOTHING approach investors with their idea, and the investors either purchase a chunk of the person's product, or turn it down outright.

What amazes me is that people turn down the investment offers.

Not enough, the people say.

You want too much of my company, the people say.

My company is worth more, the people say.

And then these people turn and walk out of the Shark Tank with the exact thing they walked in with: NOTHING!

Now, if that's not a capital-bold WTF moment, I don't know what is.

Folks, your company is only worth what someone is willing to pay. That's it. It is NOT a million dollar company, or a $100 million dollar company, or a $1 billion dollar company, until someone says it is and slaps down a check.

Until then, your company is worth squat shit and diddly, in that order.

Now, project this onto writers, and aspiring authors, and those of us hocking our words to publishers and agents.

You are the company. Your writing is the product. You are trying to sell it to investors who plan to make money off your work, and they want their cut.

I occasionally run across authors who say they turned down an offer while they wait on something better.

I see authors who say their book should be HUGE, and they plan to secure HUGE up-front bonuses from the publishing houses, from their editors, from anyone who helps them with their magnificent book.

As if by sheer will of force they plan to add value to their product!

I see people, and not just authors, who would rather have 100% of nothing instead of 50% of something!

I avoid these people in business. I avoid them in my personal dealings. I avoid them outright.

They call themselves dreamers, risk-takers, entrepreneurs, and they scoff the world for not seeing the true value of their product, be it a book or a new-fangled contraption for whizzering your gizzard on Shark Tank.

I can't even watch Shark Tank anymore. The investors make an offer, the person turns it down, and the investors laugh and mock the person and say the same things I am thinking: What was that guy thinking? He'll never make it without a business partner. He'll never make it without us!

He wants 100% of nothing, because in that warped and demented dream-state thinkering, the product (book) is worth a hundred bazillion dollars.

I see Dr. Evil: One millllion dollars!

I shake my head. I drink my beer.

I move on looking for that investor (publisher) who is willing to take 100% of nothing and turn it into 50% of something. Size doesn't matter, because something beats nothing.

A rich man commented on game shows, how people tend to keep going once they have a significant amount of cash. That's money in the bank, you idiots! he said. Cash out! A $20,000 profit is more than the $1 million you didn't win! Why can't these idiots do math!

So don't be one of those idgets that rich people make fun of. Don' be that person who, when someone hands you the moon, you say, BUT I WANT THE SUN!

No no no. Please no. Success is found in bites and nibbles, not one large chunk, and it damned sure doesn't happen on the first offer of your first book.

Do you keep your expectations reasonable? I don't mean small, I mean reasonable. Are you willing to let go of your baby and take what someone offers?

Do you realize and accept that your product (book) is only worth what someone will pay?

- Eric

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Show Me, Tell Me

Let me get this off my chest. I'm well-aware of the rule that states a writer should show, not tell.

Show the story! Don't tell the story! Yes yes yes, I've heard it over and over. Preach on, little parrot, preach on.

But let me tell you something about telling.

See, there's something you can only do with telling, and it is this: Bond the reader to the character.

For instance, let's take the security guard floating in my beer as I ponderize this post. It's dark beer, Delirium Nocturnum, whatever the hell that is, and it has 8.5% alcohol. That's nearly twice a Bud Water's content, or at least today it is, and there's a security guard in it.

Guard the Showing
She sits behind a half-round table stacked with split-screen monitors showing each of the cells in the city jailhouse. One bank of monitors reads Holding Tank. Another bank reads Shakedown. Another reads Visitation.

And so on. (I borrow this from Vonnegut, who I am reading at present, all hail V)

A cup of coffee with a lipstick ring sits half-empty next to her hand as she types. She types a name into the computer: Harold Banks.

She types Harold's weight and height and the date he arrived in the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.

I'll stop there. I was showing, not telling. I told you nothing about her, not even her name. I guess I could have shown you her nametag, but I didn't want to ~tell~ you her name. That's telling, not showing.

And this is exactly -- EXACTLY -- what you get with movies and videos and those damned old moving picture thingies. You get SHOWING, not telling.

Now, sometimes you do get telling, even in the movies. We hear it as a narrator's voice, the author, a character, someone filling you in on the details, someone ~telling~ you the details.

Let me re-hash that security guard scene with a little snip of telling, not showing.

Guard the Telling
Henrietta Beecher Snowe scooped up the stack of papers from this afternoon's processing frenzy and laid out the first one face-up next to her keyboard. Jackie, the day clerk, had called in sick and since the officers didn't know how to use the new software system, and since Henrietta had all damned day to kill watching nothing but three-dozen holding cells and Google her name, the task fell on her to perform the day's data entry.

And today had been unusually busy.

It started when Jack Keller, the local busy-body and town drunk, was run over by a dump truck hauling a load of pea gravel. Henrietta had gone to school with the driver, Harold Banks, and had once offered him a sticky-finger behind the band hall after one of the football games. Henrietta played flute. Henry had been a percussionist. Now he drove trucks and ran over drunks who happened to be stumbling along the side of the shoulderless road just outside of Jefferson's Grocery and Deli.

Jack Keller, of course, had been killed. The truck's back tires had squeezed his head like a brown grape and left his brains skid-marked along the side of the road in a gray-matter snail trail.

Henry had tested positive for alcohol, not surprising given he was driving on the shoulder in the first place, and Larry Timbers, one of the day officers who worked nights over in Beaumont, found a bag of cocaine under the driver's seat. Henry rolled the truck, spilling the gravel up and down Poskie Street proper, and that's when things got interesting.

And so on.

Do you see the difference? I told you one story.

I showed you the other.

Yes, I agree showing is the best way to show a story, but telling is the best way to tell a story.

You need both. The showing moves the present-tense action along. The telling fills in the details and the background.

The ~telling~ is the critical point in writing. It's when you bond the reader to your characters.

The ~telling~ is what you do not get with a movie.

The ~telling~ is what people miss when they see a movie adaptation of a book, when they look at you and squint and say, The book was better.

Why? you ask.

I don't know, they say. It just was. I got inside their heads better.

This comes up because I'm editing, and my readers keep asking me to ~tell~ them about the characters. I was trying to show show show. I'm thinking now that I showed too much and told too little.

Don't be afraid to tell. It's how you bond to the characters! It's how you make the reader care about what happens to them!

How about you? Do you have that strange detestation of telling that afflicts so many writers?

- Eric

Monday, August 15, 2011

Pity Reads: Why they are a BAD thing

Do you know what I mean by a Pity Read?

It's like a Pity Fuck. You know what that is, right? We've all had one or offered one (I assume, unless you are a particularly prickly sort who never gives out those good-bye adios vaya con dios love fests just before you break up).

I'll refer to the one as PR, and the other as PF, for simplicity and to reduce the vulgarity, as if that matters to me. It doesn't, but I do it as courtesy to those light-hearted souls.

Often in a relationship, One person is more in love than the Other. Since this is an unbalanced relationship, it is doomed as a one-winged bird a-flapping with the left wing and a-scratching his ball-feathers with the right.

The One wants nothing more than to soar up into the sky and shit on something clean. The Other is busy trying to find bird-balls, which it soon will realize don't exist.

So in the end, just before the dooming occurs, and maybe a few times before, the Other (who is less in love, the scratcher) offers the One (who is more in love, the flapper), a good old-fashioned banging pity fuck.

Other doesn't enjoy it.

Ironically, neither does the One.

It's a lose-lose situation.

Even if it's a guy, he may not be into it. He'll give it a few good thrusts, but then he leaves with a lazy salute, hasta la vista, and he jumps off the balcony onto the carport and rolls into the back of a truck and walks buttoning his pants and pulling on his shirt across the parking lot. He forgot his damned shoes but he'll never go back for them because he doesn't need to -- the One is on the apartment balcony tossing his shoes and socks down after him and screaming to the world how small his Johnny is and that she's glad she gave him herpes.

Now, flip it and Godferbid it's the woman offering the PF, because folks, this can be quickly boiled down into a bone fide long-term guilt-trip, or even worse, a date-rape accusation.

Either way the PF is a bad thing. It's not a safe way to end a relationship, nor is it a healthy act to indulge in.

Doing something out of pity is a sure way to reduce your own personal worth.

So what's that got to do with writing, and reading?

I'll tell you, since you asked politely.

I call it this: The Pity Read

It's when you ask someone to read your book, or your story, or maybe they ask to see it and you show it.

Now, just as one person disliking your pelvic thrusts doesn't make you a bad lover, neither does one person disliking your writing make you a bad writer.

It just means you didn't do it for them. You weren't their thing. They're not into you. No hard feelings, it's me, not you, but not really.

But the reader, the Pity Reader, the PR, is your friend, your confidant, your spouse, your relative, your co-worker, your online buddy.

And since they are your friend, they trudge through the piece. They ache their eyes against your blasphemous words. Your phrase makes them want to peel their eyeballs like the skin of a plum. My God.

My God.

It's not bad, they tell you later, after their Pity Read, as they run through the parking lot buttoning their pants and pulling on their shirt.

Not bad at all.

The first thing wrong is this: They gave you dishonest feedback.

The second thing wrong is this: They will tell their friends.

Oh Lord in Heaven, do you see why this is the Gonorrhea of writers? Not only does the Pity Reader mislead you about your writing, but they then sabotage you with would-be readers inside your own circle.

So I tell you this: Avoid the Pity Reader like the clap!

This comes up because I am at present soliciting beta readers for my novel, and I tell them this, without exception:

I only want you to read this if you want to read it. If it doesn't grab you, put it down. You won't hurt my feelings. Even if your feedback is that you got through the first twenty or so pages and didn't like it, it's not your bag, no problem. That's feedback. That's what I need to know.

And I only want you to be a beta reader if you want to be a beta reader. Just because I asked doesn't mean you are obliged.

Or something like that.

I recommend you do the same thing with your betas, and with your readers, and with anyone inside your globosphere who offers to buy or read your work.

Read it not because you know me -- read it because you like what you're reading.

I say the same thing to you, my online buddies -- only read me if you enjoy this sort of fiction, and for Godsake don't buy me if you don't think you'll like it!

Because I don't need your pity.

What do you tell your readers? Buy my book or I'll cut you!

- Eric

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Moot Argument: Pantsing and Plotting

Should you pants it? Should you plot it?

I've seen that argument over and over, I've even indulged in it myself. Now I think it's a moot argument.

See, either way you put in the same work. Here's the reality.


  • Draft
  • Plot
  • Develop Characters
  • Revise
  • Revise
  • Revise

  • Plot
  • Develop Characters
  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Revise
  • Revise
Do you see it? All I did was re-order the process. There is no reduction or increase in the work! In fact, you can even go further and insert those three Revise steps in different locations. For instance, this is closer to my actual process:

 Eric's Process

  • Draft
  • Revise
  • Develop Characters
  • Revise
  • Plot
  • Revise
I tend to revise as I go. You may increase or decrease those Revise steps, but certainly you'll never find a short-cut! Not for a well-written and understandable body of work. If you go through fewer than THREE deep revisions, it is probably an under-written book.

What are your thoughts? I really don't care, because your opinion is moot, as I just pointed out, but I ask out of courtesy.

- Eric

Thursday, July 28, 2011

No BACKSPACE! An Experiment

Thi s is an experiment. I am for this post going to use no backspace, no edit, no delete, no spell-checker, no undo, and no do-overs.

See, this is how the OLD generation used to do it. Often (stricke that), b

Okay, start over.

Before typewriters, tehy even had to d write out their work by hand. If they fucked up, they had to scratch it out and type over it.

They had to think about what was going on the page before it every lef t their mind and fled down to their fingers. They had to capture thoughts directyl in raw form, unadulterated, mutilated, deformed as they were, and slam i them onto the patper before they got away.

What did this do for the writersz/?

I'll tell you.

It forced them to do something we tell ourselves every day to do: KEEP WRITING!

They didn'gt get bogged dowin in the infinite edit loop that so many of us suffer from.

They didn't write a paragraph, nuke it, re-write it, nuke it , and so on ad foreverum.

No. They had to trudge on. Misspellings be damned. Fat fingers go to hell. So the muse stopped talking, who cares, keep writing, because there is no go-back and revise that prior page.

You must write FORWARD, not backward.

That's how they did it, with pens and typewriters and stnen stencils.

Maybe that's why we don't have the great writers anymore. Maybe we delete all our best stuff. Maybe theo power to edit has destoryed the muse and shut her up.

So i I encourage you to try this experiment. Type up a blog freestyle, no edits, no revisions, NO BACKSPACE, and esee what pops out.

I may even do this with my next picee. It makes for a lot of spellchecking, but it may also forsce me to really slow down and think about what I am writing. Who noknows. Maybe I'll even write something brillian t and NOT erase it!

- Eric

PS. I am not going to proof-read this. Type and SEND to the blogosphere! I'l l read it when it's on the site. Good luck with your own, if you so choose to accept teh challenge.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

JK Rowling, the Pomeranian, and Me

I watched the JK Rowling story tonight on Lifetime. I now know how to properly pronounce her name, and what the J stands for.

I also learned a couple of other things, and at one point I started crying. It was a man-sob, nobody saw it, and I held the Pomeranian up to my face to shield my eyes and I don't think anyone noticed, except maybe the dog and she won't talk, but I cried nonetheless.

Hold on. I gotta fetch a beer. Grab one, too, will you...

Ah, okay, better. I'm drinking a local brew, a "Munich-Style Helles Lager" that tastes a lot like feet. I bought it not knowing how it tastes, but I'm a soldier, by God.

Now, back to the Pomeranian tears.

I knew Rowling had submitted an even dozen times, a wonderfully magic number, before being accepted.

I knew she had been a welfare mom and I know how rich she got off the book.

(I take the show as fact, so please excuse me if the show is incorrect.)

What I ~didn't~ know is that she was top of her class in high school, and that she didn't get into her college of choice. That sort of got me, because I was top of my class, and I didn't get into my college of choice.

No big deal, though, that happens to everyone. It's called reality.

The scene with her dad, though, when he explained to her, and I paraphrase, "You can't be a writer! You'll live off the state. You need to do something practical, like math--" and that's where I broke down, right there during that sentence, at that word, that's where I picked up the Pomeranian and held her to my face and let her lick my forehead.

See, because I was top of my class, I earned the valedic scholarship. I began majoring in Biochemistry-Pre-Med at the University of Texas at Austin.

After my freshman year, I changed my major to Literature-slash-Philosophy, intending to study books and Greek mythology. Maybe it wasn't Philosophy, but it was something like that, Greek Mythology maybe. I don't remember, because it didn't last but a couple of weeks.

I went home and as always at the end of the semester sat at the bank in front of my scholarship benefactor and explained my grades and my plans and how I intended to spend their money.

"I changed my major," I said.

"To what?"

"Literature and philosophy."

Man, I remember the look on his face, those steepled fingers. My aunt worked at the bank and it's a small town and everyone knew me and my parents and my brother and cousins and God help us all, my Grandparents, who practically shut down the bank every time they stopped in to chat. My aunt sat at the desk next to him, but she wasn't there just now.

"Literature," he said. It wasn't a question.

And let me pause here. He was a good guy. He died a little after I got out of college, and the advice was sound, but it was a helluva a thing to hear. There were no malice in his words.

He shook his head. "You can't major in literature," he said.

"Why not? My mom is a librarian. She has a library science degree and taught English. I've been reading since I was in the womb. I'm a shoe-in."

"I won't argue with that," he said, and he couldn't, because he knew mom and he knew how freaking smart she is. "But you can't major in literature. You're too good at math. Not everyone has that talent. You need to major in something you can make a living at, like math or science."

Now, I'm eighteen just turned nineteen, an April baby and sober to boot, because I didn't start with the booze until I hit my 21st birthday, on the day, and haven't stopped since. But I didn't possess the emotional fortitude to handle what he had just said.

Hell, I knew I was good at math. Math is easy. It's just numbers. I like it all right, but that's not what I was angling at. He'd just hit me in the head with a bag of Stephen King books, It maybe, or Pet Cemetery.

"I'd really like to be a writer," I said to him.

"I'm not saying you can't, but you need to major in something we can invest in. Literature is a bad investment for this endowment."

"What does that mean?"

"It means, Eric, that if you major in literature, I'll stop funding your scholarship."

Hells on a stick, that got my attention. I was a poor white boy scraping through college on scholarships and work-study and loans. If I lost the scholarship, it was game-over.

The word FUCK went through my mind, but I didn't say it. I knew he was bluffing, and he was bluffing (I assume), but I got the point.

"All right," I said. "What should I major in?"

"Have you thought about engineering?"

I left the bank, and I left town, and I drove home. Home was Austin since I stayed, keeping my job, and so I went back to Austin and up to my brand-new adviser and said, "I can't do literature. I have to change my major."

I can't even remember if the adviser was a he or a she. It only lasted a couple of weeks, such a short-lived and fucking BEAUTIFUL relationship. I felt for those few weeks like I had wrapped God around my finger and He was doing MY bidding.

One of my senior gifts, from high school, was from my Aunt, the one I consider the grandmotherest of my relatives. She bought me a Brother Word Processor. I wrote this story for her and she was kind enough to tell me it was a great story. I don't remember what all I wrote on that thing, but you had to write a paragraph and then print it, something like that. You couldn't write but maybe 500 words at a time, but at least you could edit before you typed. I went through a lot of ribbon and I have no idea what I wrote, but I fucking wrote by God.

I lugged that thing up to college my Freshman year, left my drum set at home but I took my Brother Word Processor, and I banged on it every once in a while. I submitted to Playboy. They turned me down, which didn't surprise me, because like any good writer, I know and accept that I SUCK.

I hacked my way through that Freshman year in Austin, and at the end of it knew science was a good gig and all, but it was the Brother Word Processor that I looked forward to, not my HP calculator.

I was tried and tested, and I found my gig. It wasn't math. It was writing. It always was writing. Always from the beginning of always, and when the teachers read my story, or the girls passed around my stories, or people cried when I wrote, there I was with God on my finger again, a white-robed ringlet nodding up at me saying, "That's what I created these fingers for, boy. That's what I created you for!"

And I get to the bank and the scholarship benefactor, and I'm told it just isn't the right thing, forget your talking finger-God.

So I said FUCK YALL! and dropped my Lit major. Romeo just dumped Julie, baby! End of story!

I had already scoped out Chemistry, Organic Chemistry (which I loved, but didn't want to major in it), Biology, Zoology, and the other softer sciences.

So I went a few buildings down on campus and rang up the math prof. We talked about actuarial science, which is statistics and I still love statistics, but I didn't want to major in it. It sounded too easy, actually, and I was good at math, by God, I needed to use my talent, not squander it analyzing stats for insurance companies!

I tried physics, but that science has always seemed somewhat impractical to me. You learn so much about things that may or may not be true, that you probably can't prove, that nobody will believe, that are untrue not long after you learn them, but trust me, there really are black holes we just can't see them. I'm a PHYSICIST, BY GOD! I JUST SHAVED SHRODINGER'S CAT WITH OCCUM'S RAZOR!

Yeah, whatever.

So I went over to the engineering department. Civil, Mechanical, Aeronautical (one of my current characters is an Aero Eng), they didn't sound tough enough, and so I kept on a-moving.

I finally whittled it down to two majors: Electrical Engineering, and Chemical Engineering.

Me and electricity never have been tight, but my whole family is in the oil field, so I chose Chemical Engineering.

Plus, everyone said Electrical and Chemical Engineering were the hardest majors on campus, and to be honest, the EEs at work still raise their eyebrows when I tell them I'm a Chem E, sort of a Holy Shit look, and then they expand my personal space a few feet.

I figured Chemical Engineering would suffice, and it would use my aforementioned God-given math skills to my benefactor's liking, and so I called him up, told him of my change in major, and he said, "That's more like it."

"Fuck yeah, it is!" I didn't say that, but I thought it.

And so here I am, a Chemical Engineer who has NEVER quit writing.

I am a writer. I always tell people that first, after a father I am a writer. I work days as an engineer, but I am a WRITER.

And when I saw that scene in the Rowling story, where her dad said, "Writing is too impractical. You're too smart. You should major in something like math."

Man, I broke down and dabbed my eyes with the Pomeranian's belly. They only have eight nipples, you know, not ten like big dogs, or at least that's all I could find on her and I just checked again.

Anyway, we've all had those moments, haven't we, where people say, DON'T BE A WRITER!

"Sure," they say, "go ahead and write. I love your stories and all, but don't quit your day job."

Even writers say that. Family, friends, everyone.

Because that would be so impractical, wouldn't it. People don't even read anymore.

How about you? Have you ever been discouraged from being a writer? Do you have God on your finger, or is He shaking his head because you are doing something you were not meant to do?

Thank you for reading this post. It was somewhat of a torrent for me.

And don't quit writing. For the love of finger-loving God, don't quit writing. Not now, not ever.

- Eric

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Have you met Mr. MacGuffin?

(Image from

I learned something recently when my publisher beta-read my piece and said this:

"The MacGuffin side story about other Percy needs to be seen and not talked about."

Now that sentence didn't make a bit of sense and I had to look up MacGuffin. I thought it meant buffoon or prankster or some such, which still didn't make sense.

Here is what Wiki says about Mr. MacGuffin:


I always called Mr. MacGuffin my story question, the thing that propelled the reader from the beginning to the middle and on to the end.

As Wiki said, Mr. MacGuffin is that Maltese Falcon of your story, that thing everyone is focused around obtaining.

I've been intuitively adding MacGuffins to my stories, but now I have a name for him!

Or her. Or it.

In this case, my latest story, working title Out of the Great Black Nothing, I have the MacGuffin of the other Percy.

With that in mind, I beefed up my first scene and added scenes and inserted details here and there.

I put a name on my story question and it jumped to life! I feel like Shelley's Dr. Frank when he finally bottled lighting.

Until I put a NAME on it, the MacGuffin had no face, no identity, just an implied existence that I found hard to press under my thumb and make it BEG to be read.

I rotated my story around this point, the story question, that thing driving every character in the story to act the way they act. It is the central motivation, that ~thing~, the piece of Kryptonite, the Holy Grail, the Fountain of Youth, that mystery and tickle and itch that every character is killing to scratch! It is the propulsion that keeps the reader turning!

It is the MacGuffin.

Thanks to my publisher Mr. Debrin Case for educating me and introducing me to a term I had somehow all these years overlooked.

I now share that knowledge with you, in case you missed.

He extends his hand, Mr. MacGuffin. Take it. He's a good guy.

- Eric

Monday, July 11, 2011

Asking WHY: A Vampire's Dichotomy

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- the difference between smart and genius is the asking of WHY.

Why why why.

Smart people know how to do something. It's the genius who understands why it's done that way.

So I've been wondering why it is that vampires are the sensual monsters, the sexual killers. They suck your blood and that's downright gruesome, but for some reason we still want to schlep em.

And my why-thinking has brought me to this, which may not be all that original of a thought, but it's where I arrived. Vampires are sexy murderers owing to their dichotomous nature.

See, the vampire kills you, but gently. That's a contradiction. Many times the male (historically the vamps are overwhelmingly male) seems downright gentlemanly. Ma'am, he says, I would like to please suck your blood.

He then takes the woman in his arms, kisses her a few minutes, and then sticks his fangs in her carotid and gets his rut.

But it goes deeper than that, which is where I think most people stop.

See, the vamp also has fangs. They're sharp and gruesome. Werewolves and all sorts of monsters have fangs, and even for the vamp the fangs are intimidating, scary, and always at the fright-scene the vamp reveals the fangs before the scream.

But unlike most monsters -- say, a werewolf with its hairy maw, or the freak-monsters with its gruesome visage -- the vampire's fangs are housed in a succulent mouth, perky lips, inside a beautiful face.

Do you see the dichotomy there? Terror inside beauty.

It's the same with their claws, which the vamp usually grows as demanded by need. Sharp claws, but soft hands and gentle fingers.

Total dichotomy.

They remain young and beautiful in many renditions, and in other manifestations are allowed to morph between beauty and beast.

Often the bad-guy vamp, if there is one, is old, wrinkled, and sexually undesirable. Why do we do this, authors I mean, why do we make him (usually a him-vamp king) so old and wrinkled and gnarly?

It's to remove the beauty of him, to make him undesirable, to squash that dichotomous nature and make him all monster and no beauty.

Now where am I going with all this? I've been thinking of vamp-whys for a while, now, because I want to create a monster like a vampire, but who is not a vampire. I want the desirability and sexual attraction invoked by the vampire myth, but for my own unique monster, my own creation. Nobody wants to mount and ride Frankenstein's jock.

But what if Frank had been built from perfect body parts and groomed to be a gentleman?

See how that works? Even Hannibal Lector in his grotesque insanity maintained a strong sex appeal, with his understanding of Claire and his succulent and classical high-class behavior.

Me, I'm making women-monsters. I look back at my work and see sexually desirable women doing much of my killing. Weird how that works, a man's mind bent on finding the perfect villain, that perfect spider who satisfies and eats me afterward.

- Eric

Thursday, July 7, 2011

First Final Draft Complete!

Ah, I am ending the blogatus. Hiatus. That's what I mean. A hiatus to blogging, a blogatus, get it?

I've been focused on work, baby, work, wife, work, kids, writing, work, house, vacation, and work.

Holy crap. Even on vacation I have to work. I'm working right now, and then off this weekend on another short jog into Oklahoma to drop off my boy at summer camp.

But but but but BUT!

But I finished my first final draft. It is actually the 5th version of the completed text, and the 18th version overall.

Now it's in for edit, and the revisions will increase all the more. I've looked at that piece so many times I think I hate it now. Watch the same movie twenty times in a row. That's how it feels. Ugh. A break will be nice.

I hope to visit your blogs soon. I miss everyone and as always regret the neglect. I hope summer finds you all well and good.

By the way, I am at present at a trade show, in my lonely booth, alone, drinking some free beer and abusing the free wireless access. That's how I roll.

- Eric

Tuesday, May 31, 2011


I am Captain Oblivious. I was last night reminded of this when I dreamed a little dream.

My dream-wife, nothing at all like my life-wife other than they looked the same and shared a name, said to me, I've been seeing other people.

Other people? said Dream-Eric. You mean like, more than one?

Yes, dream-wife said.

She then began naming Asian guys, because apparently dream-wife had a thing for Phongs and Wongs, and I stopped her after the fifth Tang and pointed and said, Get out.

She left, and Dream-Eric got plowed and fast-forwarded through a few dream-days, with dream-wife texting these coded messages that had to be read in the mirror upside-down, numbers only, things like 07734 (hello) and I love you and whatnot.

I woke next to life-wife and didn't wake her because she was tired and had gotten up earlier with the baby, who for some reason had been great all day and wanted to cry last night. I blame the Tex-Mex for that dream.

I was reminded of that big red O with a yellow middle against a royal-blue back painted squarely on my chest. I am Captain Oblivious.

She could cheat and I would never know. She wouldn't, of course. I believe that in my heart, and I'm not worried about it. Like I said, blame the Tex Mex because I ain't the jealous type. We're good and it was just a dream, but it was one of those vision-vivid dreams that really shake you, if you get me.

I've been cheated twice -- that I know of -- and both times I stared shocked as if suddenly realizing that cup I'd been guzzling was full of bugs, a minor detail that in my greed I had overlooked.

I even argued with a doctor once, my freshman year in college. Let me relate this story.

I'm not sure what it is, I said. They just showed up one day.

I dropped my drawers and showed her the damage. Looked like zits all along my crotch.

Doc said, You have mollusca.

What the hell is that? I said.

It's an STD. Very common and curable. Kids sometime get them on the playground because they're so contagious.

How the hell did I get an STD? I've been with my girlfriend since high school. I'm a college freshman, she's a college junior, that's like five years, and she's the only one I've had sex with. How can I get an STD?

Doc shrugged her shoulders.

I said, I haven't had sex with anyone else. Could it have been from the showers? I live in the dorm.

No, the doc said. You get it from having sex. This was transmitted sexually.

But I haven't had sex with anyone but my girlfriend, ever. How could I get an STD?

No idea, Doc said.

Thinking back, I'm pretty sure she was trying not to laugh at that big fucking O on my chest, as Captain Oblivious beat his arms and flew off the nearest rooftop into oncoming traffic covered in flaming rags while gagging on a piece of overcooked pork chop.

I am Captain Oblivious.

Have you ever been Captain O? Have you ever suffered Tex-Mex reflux-driven hallucinations late at night so disturbing that when you got up to urinate, you were forced to sit down because your hands were shaking?

- Eric

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

When are you a writer?

The answer: Always.

You are always a writer. I alluded to this concept a couple of posts ago, where I mentioned you should be yourself always in all things you do.

I brought up fighting, but the criss-cross paths going through my mind looped in other topics, namely writing, but also things like behavior in public, in relationships, and with your family and friends.

For instance, I used to post quite a bit on dating websites, back when I was dating. I always wrote to people that I behaved BADLY on the first date. It was a habit I formed to quickly weed out women I call ~fish~. A fish, see, is one who is slinky under the water and gorgeous and beautiful and calm, but soon as you break the water to grab her, she fins the shit out of you and scoots away.

I don't like fishy women, and so I weeded them out early by being myself on the first date. I say I behave badly, but what I mean is I would do stuff like tell a dirty joke, curse, drink if I wanted, and if God or politics had the obnoxisity to poke up their ugly heads on that first date, I played Whack-A-Mole and banged the shit out of the topic until she knew all my views left-right from heaven to hell.

It worked, too. Had I done that in my early years, I would probably have weeded out my first (ex) wife. She's not a bad woman, but she's more prudish than I am.

My (second and most-excellent) wife is far less prudish. She is, in fact, very like-minded to me, and on our second date we found ourselves in Austin getting tattoos together. I can't sum it up better than that. We're both crazy impulsive complete opposites, a high school dropout (her) married to the class valedictorian (me).


Anyway, back on topic, I asked, When are you a writer?

The answer is ALWAYS!

I try to rope it in at work, especially if I get too flamboyant, but sometimes I let it get the best of me and I send out an email that has some Eric-isms in it, or some pithy and cheeky way of stating some point.

My old boss used to try to edit my emails before I sent them out. He said I was too crass. I let him edit a few, but he killed them and so I cut him out and did my thing, and eventually switched to a new boss because, as Homey the Clown would say: Homey don't play that! Whack!

Where's my loaded tube sock when I need it?

My next boss also said I was crass, but he only asked that I tone it down.

My next boss hasn't said much, and in fact I think he likes it.

The common thing that ALL of my bosses have said, and many of my co-workers, is this: Eric, you should be a writer!

On the websites where I posted: Eric (Saul), you should be a writer!

And I say always: I am.

When they aren't complaining about the crass-icity of my emails, bosses and co-workers respond with messages reading: Well-written (without the dash).

I've even had people ask if I really wrote that, or copied it from somewhere.

Last week we had a discussion about proving a null hypothesis. A customer and a business group asked me to prove we do not require a test to ensure our product is a quality product.

I responded with a Bigfoot analogy. I said, paraphrased because I can't find the email:

You're asking me to prove Bigfoot does NOT exist. The only way to do this is to head into the woods and look for footprints and show a large area of land without evidence of Bigfoot. The question is: How big of a plat do I need to cover before you believe there is no Bigfoot?

It's a good analogy, and it stuck, and now it's being latched onto and repeated because it is a memorable way of understanding the problem with proving a null hypothesis true. I can only disprove Bigfoot does not exist, by finding him, but I cannot prove he does not exist. See?

The point is, I'm a writer always in all things I do, and that includes goofy emails at work and home and crazy posts online both here and facebook.

Are you a Writer always? Or should I say Artist. Do people look at your work and say: You should be a writer/poet/songwriter/singer/painter/photographer!

If they do, maybe you should listen.

- Eric

Monday, May 23, 2011

Find your own light

You'll never see what I see. You can look and I can describe, but you'll never see what I see.

You can hear what I hear. Sound is nothing more than a pulse of air slamming into the side of your head. Hear away.

You can smell what I smell and taste what I taste. No difference in those two senses, really. You smell shit, or you taste shit, it's because little particles of shit landed on your buds and stimulated them and yep, that's shit. Smell flowers, that's pollen. Taste her perfume, that's skunk piss, and so what because her neck was salt-sweaty anyway just like the rest of her, and you'll taste saltier parts later.

And touch? What about touch? Same reaction is what we all have. Prick a finger, pull away. Finger a prick, lean toward. We aren't unique. We all share the same touch, don't we, and wasn't that a brilliant twist of words!

Those other senses are trite. It's sight that matters. Sound doesn't travel through The Great Black Nothing. You can't taste another universe, or smell the Milky Way, or hear the moon. I suppose you can feel the sun, but let me stop you right there -- you feel the sun's light.

And it's the light you see. We can see it all, and I see it my way, and you see it yours, and you aren't allowed to look through my little window. Because every time you try, I'm gonna shut my eyes and say, Find your own damned window! This one's taken.

- Eric

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Emotional Pacivism: Be yourself always in all things you do

All right, you knuckers, I'm going to wax and wane and pine philosophical for a moment. Bear with me. I haven't gotten around to posting on your blogs, either, so also, please bear with me. I'll get stop by soon and post something inappropriate that embarrasses you in front of your followers.

Anyway, on with the post.

I recently tried to be someone I am not, namely in a fight with my ex-wife. Why is this bloggerly? It's because I broke one of my own sacred laws, and that is to be an emotional pacifist.

I don't understand emotional fights. You know the ones I'm talking about, where you slug away and launch personal attacks that have nothing to do with the topic being discussed.

For instance, isn't it funny how you are suddenly a bad lover toward the end of the relationship. Or that you're somehow sexually inadequate. Or ugly. Or fat. Or stupid. Or a pussy and a bad father and terrible person all around.

I've been called everything except a good and decent man.

I'll fight physically, and in fact I've been in quite a few fights, even a knife fight once -- which isn't nearly as fun as it sounds -- and I'll debate math and data and business topics. I'm not a pacifist at all. I don't run from fights. I'm just an ~emotional~ pacifist.

I never have seen the sense in digging into someone personally when it is completely unrelated to the argument.

But I got into a tizzy with my ex-wife, and (snip because that was an inappropriate rant). We fight, and by fighting I mean she screams and I listen silently, and all I hear is blah blah blah Eric blah blah Eric blah blah blah.

That one's for you, Tracy!

I don't like to fight emotionally, but this time I dug into her, hard, hoping it might make her think twice next time, sort of the way you might bite a dog to teach it not to bite. I did it via email, and even though she's well-written and well-spoken, the written word is my turf and I made it hurt.

This was way out of my comfort zone, and it bothers me not what she said, which she said hurtful things but I'm immune to that, but what I said. That bothers me. I said things I had never said before and I've known this woman for over fifteen years.

But what can I do? I don't know how to fight those fights. How the hell do people release angst like that besides beer and a furious amount of masturbation?

Point is, be yourself. If you are an emotional pacifist, like me, let it be. Someone wants to scream at you, turn red in the face, dig at you, let it bounce and go do your thing later. So you're a pussy. Big fucking deal.

If you're on the other side, and you're an emotional vampire, suck away. My neck is yours because I'm bled dry, trust me.

My wife, my now-wife, early in our relationship, she tried some of that shit with me. I took it. She called me a pussy, which is always a strange and humorous insult coming from a woman. I put her shit in storage and kicked her out and she has fought well since (this was back in 2006 or 2007).

She brought that up to me last night, said, Remember what you did to me!

I said, Yeah. It worked, didn't it. Remember when you locked me outside in my underwear?

She said, Yeah.

Good times.

- Eric

Monday, May 16, 2011

E-Reader: A Cost of Ownership Analysis

Yet another e-book post, but in this case, I'll show some math.

I'm still debating the e-book purchase, and still unable to make it happen. See, I don't understand the math.

For example, let's say I want to read These Dark Things by Jan Merete Weiss. I picked that book only because it popped up when I looked up e-books on Amazon as a top seller.

Here's the cost:
e-book: $10.00
Amazon: $8-15, depending on which you go with. I buy a lot of used books, personally.

But now you have the added expense of the e-reader. You can spend anywhere from $120 to $300, so let's assume you get the cheapo and go with the $120.

These Dark Things ran you $120+tax+$10

Hardcover it ran you $8-15, depending on which you go with. I buy a lot of used books.

If I lose my e-reader, or get it wet at the pool, or drop it in the crapper because I am a potty-reader, read until my legs go to sleep and then stand up and recirculate and sit back down, then I lose all my books.

Any of that happens with a book, I lose only that one book, not my whole damned library and movies and music I downloaded!

I can't let my brother have my book when I'm done with it. We swap a lot.

I guess the advantage of an e-reader is it gives you access to $0.99 books, and your entire library is in your hip pocket.

Certainly, though, cost of ownership of the e-reader is far beyond what you get with a book.

If you want the actual break-even point for the number of books where you reach a break-even point, then here is the equation:

n = eR / (hb - eb)

n = number of books purchased in either venue
eR = cost of e-reader
hb = cost of hardback book (or paperback)
eb = cost of e-book

For instance, let's use the below numbers:

eR = $200 + tax = $218 (medium-quality e-book)
hb = $10 (median price for hardback or paperback)
eb = $8 (use a fudge-factor that suggests e-books are about $2 less than the same printed book, which is NOT accurate)

We get a break-even point of

n = 218 / (10-8) = 218 / 2 = 109 books

So you'll need to read over 100 books to break even with your e-reader, and that is making the BAD assumption that the same e-book costs less than the same printed book.

Plus, I am not factoring in the $0.99 books you'll buy as e-books that are not available in print.

My guess is you will never break even with an e-reader. E-readers will never be cheaper than printed books, not at today's price.

If you check Amazon, you'll see little if any separation in price for the same book, and in many cases, you can find a less-expensive hardback, gently used or from overstock.

Example from Amazon's Kindle Homepage defaults:

The Fiery Trail: $13-17 hardback, $15 Kindle
Washington, A Life: $15-23 hardback, $20 Kindle

I could go on, but I won't. Do your own research.

Furthermore, if we use MUSIC as a prior example, you'll note that music CD (printed) still costs the same as electronic music downloads. Music still runs you $0.99 to $1.50 per song.

I'm sticking with print, and downloading e-books to my PC-Kindle (free application), if I should need to read an unpublished $0.99 e-book.

Of course, I still buy CDs, and who the fuck still buys CDs.

How about you? I know many of you purchased e-readers. Do you actually see any cost-benefit, or are you happy with the convenience despite the higher cost-of-ownership?

- Eric

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

WiP me into Climax, you dirty MC!

Yeah, if you're a writer, these mean different things than if you're a non-writer.

At least as a writer I know not to climax too early! I drag it out all foreshadowy and stuff, get the whole character arc going before I ram it home.

I find pinching the inside of my thigh helps if I get too antsy.

Now I'm gonna sit in my closet, in my underpants, drinking beer as I stroke my Asus.

Wish me luck. I'm almost finished!

- Eric

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why be insecure?

My editor/publisher pointed this out, and I wonder if I'm the only one who suffers from it.

Eric, he said, your short stories feel like they're ~going~ somewhere. But your novels fall flat. You need to bring that same voice to your longer pieces.

And so I'm trying in my latest WIP to do just that -- bring out my short-story (and bloggerly) voice.

Still, there's a roadblock there. It's an insecurity. I have moments of clarity and scenes that pop out in the right voice, but other scenes are flat and balmy and tasteless as lipstick on a cow.

I recently read Gaiman's Anansi Boys. I read that book really, really, REALLY slow, and I read every word of every chapter and the forwards and afts.

I read it all because his voice is so playful, and for years I've tried to be a "serious" writer for my novels, but unleash the beast on the shorts.

Unleash the beast on the shorts. That's sorta funny.

For instance, I wrote a short piece entitled The Devil Gave Me Autumn in my flippiest voice, and one of my readers, and I've had a few say this, mentioned this story was the most Eric of the stories she read.

That's your voice, she said.

And it's this voice, my blogger voice, my hee haw yee haw voice.

But then I read McCarthy and think, I can write like that!

And I can, in small bursts, but it's hard to maintain that droll voice throughout.

I read King and think, I can write like that!

And I can, but his overly-detailed scenes and 200kw tomes elude me.

Elude has only one L, by the way. Inside joke.

I read Gaiman and think, I can write like that!

And I can, and I can sustain it, but after a while I feel too clownish and insecure and start checking my zipper, yep, still zipped up, and do I have a booger, and gads, I think I better delete all this crap before someone reads it, eh.

I don't know. I've been writing for YEARS, and still finding my voice.

I'm wondering: Am I the only one? Do you question yourself as you write, try to still that voice that says, LET ME WRITE!

Do you say, No, no, the world's not ready for you. Hush up little voice and write like they say write.

- Eric

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Some Zombie Haikus

For the Daily SotA Zombie Haiku Contest, I present some of my entries.

What a fun contest!

Eric's Zombie Haikus


My left arm tore off
My guts fell out of their sack
Just another day


(multiple haiku poem)

My lips are yours, dear
My chest and all of my heart
But I keep the brains

My eyes are yours, dear
My lungs breathe only for you
But I keep the brains

My arms are yours, dear
You may take them when you leave
But I keep the brains

You have all of me
Least what's left after the fall
But I keep the brains


If you need a hand
I give you one willingly
I never liked it


It flies out of me
The life that once gave me breath
My eyes still seeing


I keep both my arms
Beneath my bed protecting
I cannot reach them


I ate my girlfriend
I do not mean the good way
I mean I ~ate~ her


You have to admit this is a great prompt! Come on, let's hear a Zombie Haiku! Have you submitted yet?

- Eric

Monday, May 2, 2011

Zombie Haiku Contest!

Your Daily Sign of the Apocalypse is hosting a ZOMBIE HAIKU contest!

See their entry stuff at the link above. Now this is a fun contest I can sink my teeth into, at least the brainy parts.

- Eric

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Zachry Disease

And to end the A-Z torture fest, I'll close with a joke.

A woman goes to a doctor and says, Doc, something's wrong with me.

He's a Chinese doctor and he says, Rady, what wrong with you?

Men don't like me, she says.

Ah, ah, I see, says the doctor. Say Ah.

She says Ah.

Rook over here, he says.

She looks.

Now turn around, he says, and bend over.

She turns around and bends over and the doctor says, Ah, I see probrem, now. You have Zachry Disease.

Zachry Disease? the lady says. What's that?

The doctor says, It when your head rook zachry rike your ass.

- Eric

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yes! We have no bananas.

This was my favorite drum solo, this song. I can't find it online though, at least the marching band version with the rocking drumline. You'll have to use your imagination.

I leave you instead with Black Betty, which for some reason I've been hearing a lot lately. That has to mean something, but only God or the Devil knows what. Probably the latter.

Yes! We have no bananas, was my favorite because there wasn't a drum score, and since I was first chair drummer, I got to write the music and play the tri-toms (the three drums) and we really jammed out, at least that's what we and the tuba players thought.

YES! This post is lame.

One of the tuba players laughed at me once. I threw a drumstick down her tuba and it got stuck and we had to take her tuba apart right before we marched onto the field.

We wrote a Christmas concert drum solo that brought the audience to their feet. I'm not sure that had ever been done. Freakin rocked.

Once me and one of the other snares traded off for about 30 minutes in a continuous drum roll because we began the National Anthem and the flag wasn't ready. It's a buzz roll, not a two-stroke, and we buzzed until our forearms ached, nodded at the other, and he took over. Once you start the roll, even though the director flagged us to stop, you can't stop.

Because you do NOT stop the Anthem. Ever. I mean, you don't stop fighting, do you?

Another time the band director pissed us off, the drummers, by saying we were too loud. I told the snares to play a click-march onto the field rather than our normal cadence -- which I wrote, and which freaking JAMMED, even the black guys thought so, even the black guys from the OTHER BANDS asked us where we got our cadences, during contests after our drumline beat their ASS and they couldn't believe a white boy could play them tri-toms like that, because I embellished every single song I played while all these other jerkies followed the music sheet without modification (lame), and we didn't play those stupid hand-writ cadences the director gave us -- and the band director got really pissed but never again said we played too loud.

Because really, can drums ever be too loud? Like saying a woman is too sexy or you've had too much beer and sex and rock and roll. It ain't possible, because more is more is more.

I would've made a helluva a drummer, folks. One helluva a drummer. I tell my wife to forget that lead guitar wannabe lamo. The sexiest guy in the band is ALWAYS the drummer. I forget which band it was, but they said they went through three drummers. The first one kept stealing the women from the lead singer. The second tore up the tour bus.

And who is the most memorable Muppet? Why, it's ANIMAL, of course! Want WOMAN! The drummer boy in chains and spiked collar, because aren't we all!

The KORN drummer plays shirtless, always. That's how I always said I'd play and that's why I stopped drumming. It was too much drug for me, the crack cocaine of life to which I would be addicted and never, never, never ever stop drumming.

Naked women, sorry, you are not so beautiful as a spread-open trap set into which I penetrate and gyrate in endless orgasm. I will give up one for the other every time without temptation because drums are always willing and become angrier and louder with the taking.

Now you know.

End post.

You have any band stories? Come on, one time, at band camp...

- Eric

(That last part is for my poetic friends, Annie and Tracy. It's poetry, yes, deserving of props, yo?)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X is the Magical Letter!

X is the most magical letter. No other letter can do what X does.

You aren't O-Large, you're X-Large.

Combine that with the magical NUMBER -- 3 -- and you get XXX-Large, or XXX rated, or x-tra x-tra x-tra!

Don't like Christ in your holidays? Call it Xmas.

How about at work, where we call it x-section rather than cross-section, or txr instead of transistor.

Want to dump your lover? Go ahead. Now they are your ex!

Hold your arms in an X. Go ahead. It's a symbol of power and it feels powerful, doesn't it.

How about an X-Ray, or X-Ray vision?

Malcolm X?

What's the most common mathematical symbol? Yep, you guessed it: x

How does a pirate mark his treasure? Not with a W, because X marks the spot!

Want to cover a deadman's eyes? We don't use A or B, we draw death with an X.

Need help? Call the X-Men.

X-acto knife. X-Factor. Generation X. The X-Files.

X X X! It's the magical letter.

What other X-terms can you come up with?

- Eric

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Water Mocassin

I have two water moccasin stories. The first is short. My son saved my life when he was about four years old. We were hopping the creek behind my apartment here in Dallas, and I about near stepped right on one coiled up under a weed. I was in flip flops and wouldn't it have been ironic after all these years to get snake bit in the city!

The other story is my brother's, and I plagiarize without his permission since that's what brother's do.

I mentioned our creek in C is for Creek. It ran along the northwest side of our property and was filled with frogs and fish and snakes that ate those frogs and fish, the most common being the water moccasin, also known as a cotton-mouth.

We always carried sticks or a machete to whack the snakes with. I don't know how many we killed, but it wasn't enough because they still swarmed every time we went down there.

When Bro and I were about nine and ten, third and fourth grade or so, this little guy from Chicago moved into town. He was pretty unlucky to move into our haunt and he didn't last but a year or two before he moved away.

Never seen a snake, the boy said.

We told him we'd never seen a taxicab, and we all exchanged dumb what-the-fuck looks.

We'll show you a snake, Bro said. We grabbed the boy and our troop of six or so boys led the way with Bro in the front down through the pasture, by that big oak out by itself for no good reason other than everything else had been slain to clear the pasture, and down to the creek.

We walked the bank for a while tipping logs and poking sticks into holes until we finally saw one bobbing its black head in a creek pool. The creek was anywhere from a few inches to a foot where it was running, but in a few of the turns it pooled up to about mid-chest on a boy. This was one of those places.

Let's find another snake, Bro said. He was carrying the snake machete.

I want that one, Chicago said. He didn't realize how big that snake was under the water because of its little head, but we all knew. He had a big head. There was lots of body under that water.

Fine, Bro said. He waded into the pool and whacked that water moccasin in the head.

A snake in the water can't be cut, though. He sunk the snake, and a few seconds later that black head bobbed up behind Bro and got another whack. The snake couldn't get out because the creek was pretty well dammed up, and the far shore was a steep bank, and the near shore was full of boys screaming and waving their snake-beaters.

Bro finally got tired of hitting water and looped that water moccasin around the machete and hoisted him up on the bank.

Don't let him get away, Bro said. Pop had said that once when he found a copper head under the house (trailer) and flung it out. Boys, step on it, don't let it get away.

Yeah, fuck that. Bro and I didn't listen to Pop then, and nobody listened to Bro now. That water moccasin was plenty pissed off and it's a good thing they don't have a long strike radius. He was hissing and showing his mouth and striking and we were backing up and trying to hit him with our sticks that were suddenly way too short.

Bro walked up out of the water like he was going to stomp Tokyo. He had that adrenal rush we lacked, from being challenged by some know-nothing city boy, and being in the water with that snake. He walked up behind that thing and whack-whack-whack, sunk it into the mud, couldn't cut through it, and grabbed it with the machete and tossed it farther up onto dry land. The snake was stunned by then and Bro marched up there and finished the job.

Chicago might as well have seen flying monkeys from Mars eating frozen pickles on bicycles. We all thought that boy was going to breathe himself to death. This was a typical creek outing for us, what we called An Adventure, and this was just another water moccasin in a long line of dead snakes.

One of us pulled out a pocket knife and stabbed the head between the eyes. They can strike, you know, even when they have no neck. We pried open its mouth and showed Chicago the fangs and everybody slapped Bro on the back and said we would have done the same thing, which was a damned lie.

That's a big snake, Chicago said. He held that head up and looked at it and twirled it on that knife, one of America's deadliest and most aggressive pit vipers this side of a rattlesnake.

I've seen bigger, Bro said.

Do you have any snake stories? We all have one...

- Eric

PS, I should add this: A few years ago we found a ground rattler in our garage. My wife insisted we catch it and release it and that's what we did. I can't remember the last time I killed a snake, or for that matter, any sort of animal except this rat I found two summers ago in my office. I killed him with a golf club. My wife got mad, but I told her that rat was sick, or the dogs had already gotten a hold of him. He didn't run or scamper but just sat there. Normal rats don't to that.