How Hot Is Too Hot?


Man on fire 1

I like hot stuff. On a scale of vanilla to battery acid, I prefer food heat levels somewhere in the radiator vicinity.

A fear years ago while travelling down in Louisiana, my companion and I selected a loverly little spot to grub on some ribs. The waiter took our order, including what kind of sauce we wanted the ribs soaked in.

I sat up straighter, pushed my shoulders back, and looked him dead in the eyes. “Hot. Like, super hot.”

“As hot as you’ve got,” my companion added.

“The Inferno’s the hottest we suggest.” His top lip quirked up. “But we do have a sauce that’s not on the menu: Petey’s Insane in the Membrane Melt Your Face Off Sauce.

Challenge.accepted.

Mr. Waiter warned us. He tried to talk us out of slathering it on the ribs, and offered to bring a cup of Petey’s on the side. Helz naw! We were living the life. If we were gonna go hot, we were gonna go hot.

My companion & I tucked in our napkins. Kerosene fumes assaulted our noses as we closed in on the flammable meat. Eyes locked, we took our first experimental bites. The sting was immediate. We chewed, eyes watering, sweat erupting on our cheeks, not even pretending like the agony was worth it. Then the liquid lava kicked in. Holy hell was it insane. In our membranes, our tongues, teeth, tonsils, our very souls. We cried, coughed and chewed, somehow choked down the first napalm chunks.

And then our faces melted off.

Bread didn’t help. Drinking tea was like tossing water on a grease fire. We scraped our lips and tongue with our napkins—to no avail. Once the feeling returned to our limbs, we squeegeed the ribs with knives and napkins in an effort to strip off the incendiary barbecue paint. Damn that sadistic Petey and his murderous sauce!

Last week, I posted about a personal experience with an offer of rep and the reasons I declined. Going into the drafting of that post, I definitely weighed the risk of sharing it with the world. Sure, I could have kept it all tucked in, buried in the shadows, vaguely hinted at, or completely cloaked from interweb eyes. But I had a burning in my gut; sharing the experience would help others. This wasn’t just about me. And, perhaps, by openly sharing my experience, reasoning, and process, other querying writers might pause, and breathe, and assess an offer of rep not just with emotion, but also with tempered wisdom.

I know too many amazing writers who jumped at their first offer, only to regret that quick decision later.

So, tiptoeing onto the tightrope, I sought a way to share my story, while giving enough specifics to be genuine, but not too many that I’d tip over into unprofessional. I sought to be truthful, to speak with candor, while only naming one party—myself. Personally, I believe I stayed on the tightrope.

The positive response was overwhelming. Something in my words obviously struck a chord. My personal favorite DM: You’ve got balls of steel, man. Kudos. An agent took the time to send me an encouraging email regarding the post. Folks engaged in active conversation about the topic. Which is to say: this hush-hush thing was laid out on the table where everyone could see, poke, and discuss it.

As in all public things, which are open for judgment, my post received a few tsk tsk tsks.

My thoughts?
Opacity helps no one.
Transparency can actually hurt the sharer.
– But a Translucency exists between those two extremes.

And you know how random synergy seems to pulse through the writing community? [Eerie that…] Parallel conversations on complimentary topics cropped up. Things like a Twitter convo about how much is too much to share regarding rejections. And, in another synergistic moment, Oversharing was the focus of the loverly Fizzy’s post from earlier this week. And scroll back to @millercallihan’s Twitter feed from Wednesday to see her thoughts & advice.

If this isn’t apparent yet, in every facet of my life, I burn white-hot: creative ventures, work, relationships, emotions, humor, opinions, writing. Passion sears through me and ignites everything and everyone within warming distance. Rarely does any of that go up in flames. Instead, my life glows with heat, and adventure, and love, and surprise, and beautifully insane randomocity.

I have no doubt that some believe I burn too hot at times.

But some things remain opaque. There are things I absolutely know NOT to share. Specifics and stats you will never, ever know. These are the sacred things, the things which are nobody’s business but my own, things which—by sharing—would be of no help to anyone else. These things, while they may still blaze and spit flames, remain safely caged behind the fireplace screen and out of the public eye.

I’m curious what you all think. Some things are an enigma to me. Like how querying writers, as a rule, shouldn’t publicly share stats on rejections, but as soon as that writer is repped, those stats are almost a requirement in the announcement post. I suppose it’s okay to share that once-taboo detail once you’ve crossed into the promised land?

So, how hot is too hot?
What are the things best left opaque?
What are some translucent areas you feel are left up to circumstance & personality?
Are there times when you’re actually scared to Tweet or post something, out of fear that it might sour an industry pro’s view of you or your work?
At what point does a writer/author’s transparency cross from Inferno into Melt Your face Off with Cringe?

FTR, I don’t have a problem with sharing rejection info—to a point. I’ve posted a few pie charts detailing the different yeses and nos in my querying process. But I chose to share percentages, not numbers. Another off-limits for me is naming specific agents or agencies. Super blasphemous. As is submissions & rejections to publishers once over on the other side of the river in the promised land. For what my opinion’s worth. 😉

Sucking Smarties Until the Chocolate Comes


But it aint chocolate

But it aint chocolate

FACT: Every stage of traditional publishing is slow.
FACT: The waiting can drive you batty.
FACT: Distractions between stages are a necessity.

I’m not ready to start my next novel. It’s percolating, but the idea isn’t hot enough yet. The concept hasn’t reached its boiling point. So, while it simmers, I’ve been fighting off the crazies by both reading and writing (shorter pieces).

There is this [anonymous] bestselling YA author, see, and I’ve tried my best to like her books, to enjoy them, to discover their appeal. Last week I made a third attempt—the first book in a trilogy—in hopes that this would be the one which would win me over. No ma’am! Not even close. I slogged through it, forced myself to just.make.it.to.the.last.page, which is a horrible thing to have to do with a book. And thus, my non-relationship with this author has officially ended with a whimper.

Flip that coin over. Let’s talk about some BANG. Through the wonder of word-of-mouth, which is to say: a random Tweet floating by in my feed, I strolled a block to my local library & checked out Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park. Now, let me state for the record that I rarely read Contemporary YA. YA Fantasy? Yes. Non-fiction about psychology, science, philosophy, astronomy, etc? Why yes please and thank you. So this wouldn’t normally be a go-to novel for me.

Well, I suppose the best testimony for how much I dug it, is the fact that I ordered Rainbow’s new release, Fangirl, the day it came out. This is the first hardcopy book I have purchased in probably a dozen years. My m.o. is 75% borrow from the library and 25% purchase for the Kindle. So, obviously, excited. Whatever your preferred genre to read and/or write, whatever tastes you normally fall back on, I highly recommend both of these books. Because: quirky, endearing, relatable, solid.

Now, on to the writing-as-impatience-repellant.

Flash fic keeps me loose. It’s like the warm-up laps in a pool before swimming from Cuba to Florida. It purges ideas—exorcises them, if you will—to clear out headspace and make room for more. But it has its limits. Flash fic is akin to eating a pack of Smarties when you really really want chocolate. (Y’all know exactly what I mean…) So, I chew on it when there’s no time-chocolate, attention-span-fudge, or even complexity-syrup in the house. But it doesn’t satiate the craving for: more, a robust arc, deep characterization, subplots, intricate weaving of symbolism or layered themes.

That’s where short stories gallop in like white horses, or unicorns, or bronies, or [equine analogy of your choice]. If novels are king-size candy bars, then short stories are like the fun-size. Scroll down a post or two and you’ll find where I mentioned that “dark” seems to be whispering my name. (Mmmmm, dark chocolate is the best.) So I says to myself, “Self, how about some short stories? Make ’em dark. Oh! And I know, seek out venues in which to share them.”

On some as-of-yet-undisclosed Friday in October, my Until it Pops, short story (weighing in at 3,400 words), along with accompanying illustration, will be part of the #DarkCarnival. http://penandmuse.com/freaky-fridays-dark-carnival-writer-illustrator-showcase/ 

Then there’s this other project, which isn’t so much of a definite thing. Today I submitted my short story, Bastardbreed, (weighing in at 6,200 words) off to the guys heading up a Clive Barker fanfic anthology. (Which feels a little weird for me to say. Like fanfic is somehow unclean or not real writing. Which is silly. Because I created my own offshoot of a world, birthed brand new characters, and incorporated all the complicated elements listed three paragraphs up.) If the story makes the cut, it won’t be available for public consumption until Fall 2014 when Tor releases it in simultaneous hardcover & paperback.

FACT: Traditional publishing is a reaaaaaallllllyyyy slow process for high-octane chaps like me.
FACT: I won’t let my wiring keep me from pursuing that end.
FACT: I’m writing, reading, percolating, producing, and sucking on Smarties until the chocolate comes.

Update: So once this posted, I found out that Canadian *Smarties* actually ARE chocolate.
FACT: I feel ripped off, ‘MERICA!
FACT: I should move to Canada.
FACT: Everything should be made of chocolate. Except that would be really messy & make many things anti-useful. Nevermind. NOT A FACT after all.

Flash Fic: Alchemy 2.0


Ipad Gold Ingot

To be honest, I’m not sad that Paracelsus is dead. He was old as dirt. Not only can I do my own thing now, but I don’t have to cringe at his judgmental, gold-toothed sneer anymore.

Don’t get me wrong; he was an okay mentor who taught me the basics of alchemy. I’d be nowhere as awesome as I am without him. But, the thing is, he was stuck in the old ways. As wise as he was, Paracelsus wouldn’t accept that we have technology in the 21st century that the old coots didn’t.

Like his whole Great Work obsession. I get it. It’d be cool to create a Philosopher’s Stone to transmute junky base metals into gold. But, really? Who cares?  For thousands of years, wrinkly dudes with scraggly beards have been trying to do that. It’s not gonna happen. Just move on already.

He never even got close to making it happen. Instead, he charged me with stupid busywork of extracting existing gold from ore. A bunch of rock crushing, washing the dust over copper plates coated in mercury, then the repetition of that tedious refinement process, over and over again until he had a few tiny gold flakes worth a couple bucks. Boring as crap, not profitable, and totally not alchemy.

Paracelsus was all about the exoteric, physical process. I’m much more spiritual, into the esoteric/mystic vibe. My new process marries the ancient with the modern. Pretty genius if you ask me. And my piles of glittering gold speak for themselves.

I use some old-school materials like salt, mercury (of course), caustic lime, and sulfur. But they’re just catalysts to amp up the intensity of the spell. The Molecular Receiver and 3-D printer soft-wired through my smart phone hotspot make the actual alchemy possible.

Chugging a few shots of absinthe doesn’t hurt.

That stubborn, backwards-thinking Paracelsus would say I’m bastardizing the alchemical tradition. Whatever. I’ve got more gold than the geezer ever dreamed of. Sure, I’m not actually creating it from scratch, but neither was he. At least I’m making precious metal instantly appear. And it’s not like I’m stealing. I’m simply finding things which were lost and forgotten.

Take my first experiment two months ago.

I lit orange candles, for luck, during the full moon. Eff off if you think that’s lame. Some of the old traditions can’t be broken. I laid out the salt circle in my mom’s basement and ignited the mercurial sulfur amalgam in a coffee can. Low tech stuff. I calibrated the printer and backhauled the Molecular Receiver’s signal over the wi-fi. High tech. Next came the software-of-sorts. Every good alchemist knows you need magick to drive the process.

I filtered this ancient incantation from Tycho the Elder through my voice recognition app. I was super cautious, though. I had absolutely no idea how much lost gold was out there, so I set the parameters pretty tight to only include [“charms” AND “baubles”].

Then I chanted.

What gold is lost, I must now find. Charms and baubles, make them mine.
Bring them back, they must be found. Take my fortune, spin it round.

One iteration is all it took.

The 3-D printer immediately started spitting out gold: lockets, tiny spoons, fancy buttons, these cool little rosettes, clasps, bracelet charms in all shapes and sizes. Before I knew it, mom’s musty basement was flooded with stuff lost over the centuries. I could barely keep up with the transmission. At one point, I was scrambling with a shop broom in one hand and a rake in the other, trying my damndest to make room for more. By the end, waist-deep in gold trinkets, I had no choice but to disengage the receiver.

Stick that in your stinky-ass pipe, Paracelsus.

That single interrupted spell produced a crapload of gold. In theory, I’m an effin billionaire. I only scrapped a small portion of it—a shoebox worth—and scored 350 grand. I reinvested it right away: upgraded all the equipment, bought some property. It took me three full weeks, four dozen truckloads, and two pulled muscles to haul all that scratch to an old 50,000 ft2 warehouse-turned-mystical-lab on the south side of town.

By then, the moon was already waxing full again. I cast the spell to summon gold statues lost through antiquity. I qualified the parameters [height>=6” AND height<=12”] and [“soldiers”]. I ended up with my own army of 30,000 miniature warriors. It felt wrong to melt them down. So I lined them along the edge of the mezzanine so they could watch over the awesomeness happening in my lab below.

I can’t stop making lists of all the gold I can dredge up: watches and fobs, rings, armor, chains, inkwells, crowns, chalices, flatware. I’ve got pages of programming possibilities. The most exciting are [“coins”] and [“bullion”]. Can you even imagine how much is out there? Buried in the earth, lying in the sewers, shipwrecked and lost at sea? I’ll have to set parameters like [mint_date<1500CE] and probably [max_value=10000 “coins”] and then cast the spells by time period until I find them all.

It’s ridiculous how much lost and forgotten gold is out there. I’d never be able to spend it all—or even spend what I’ve already summoned. Still, I want to find every last scrap of it. Because I’m spiritual like that.

The full moon’s rising. The candles are lit.

I know it’s stupid, but I keep catching glimpses of Paracelsus’s sneer glinting at me from the greasy, dark corners of my warehouse. Ghost or not, I’m snatching those gold teeth right out of his critical jaw tonight. His, and a million [“incisors” AND “molars”] like them.

All lost and forgotten.

Which is something I’ll never be. The filthy rich, and humble, Rodney the Magnanimous will be remembered and venerated as the Father of Alchemy 2.0. That’s got a good, golden ring to it.

I have a nice little collection of Flash Fic pieces & figured I’d share a few over the next couple weeks. Hope you enjoy!

The Taste of His Skin–Like Lemonade Spiked with too Much Sugar


creepy baby doll

[That post title is as long as some old-skool Fall Out Boy song title.]

Some things are essential in life:

  • 10-key pad on the laptop
  • Hair gel
  • Frequent kisses
  • Sugar
  • Shoe polish

I mean, come on. It’s not like we live in a third world country or something.

Another essential thing: perpetual creation

Since letting go of my obsessive Phreak Show revisions, I’ve been scribbling new concepts & possibilities as they emerge. A designated notebook, a One Note file, post-its, and random scraps of paper have all been employed to record the snippets. Some ideas are random & stand alone. They explode like witty fireworks, burn brightly for a moment, then cool into ash. Their purpose completed, they sleep. Others grow a little bigger & get amplified, expanded, more fully formed.

This is the sifting process whereby seeds are planted & weeds are pulled.
Somewhere in the mix is the germ of the next novel waiting to sprout.
And what a haphazard bunch of wildflowers they are.

I’m a spec-fic kind of guy. So that’s a given.
With this next tale, I want to go dark. Very dark. Push it beyond a little grit & really dig into psyche-twisting.
THE concept hasn’t fully formed yet, but there are a few contenders in the garden. Or, better, in the mound of oozing body parts?

For fun, raw bits of character, dialogue, ideas, science, scribbled things. Most are not dark. At least, not yet.

  • “I read carnage like tea leaves.”
  • Clocks slow down the closer they are to the strongest force of a gravitational field.
  • “In a world with such tiny grains of peace, it alone drives back the sickness and the sound. It alone allows us to walk in the brightness. To us, the ritual is not blasphemy; it is salvation.”
  • Note: use Fibonacci number for dates in the solar year (Day #1, Day #2, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233 – Julian Calendar?) as key dates/days in the spell process. [Research where these numbers fall. Count it from one of the soltices?]
  • Human thoughts are physical events which can be felt by others
  • “Take this,” Rosette says, then she tugs down her veil, and slips behind Lori’s robe.
    I unwrap the decaying cloth. The blade inside is rusted and dull with the sleep of twenty years.

    Lori steps forward. “It has your father’s blood upon it.”

    “Don’t call him that,” Rob spits. “He’s grown as cold as his master. He’s another Kraphet waiting to happen.”

    Lori’s eyes grow moist. Even though none of her life actually flows through our veins, she has adopted all the lost-ones as her own. Pain radiates from her each time her surrogate children deny their maker. She worships Laban as I worship Rob.

    I grip his arm, and force him to bow with me. “Thank you for the gift.”

    Lori reaches towards me to caresses the blade with her pale hand, then lovingly tucks the corners of its shroud back in place. “I do not know what help it can offer, but it is all I have to give.”

  • An anti-matter bomb would be ridiculously destructive, but such a thing would take 10,000’s of years to construct.
  • We are mostly empty matter—empty space with a few pinpricks  of material (like rocks floating in space) making up our physical form.
  • The Latin maxim ignoramus et ignorabimus, meaning “we do not know and will not know”, stood for a position on the limits of scientific knowledge, in the thought of the nineteenth century.
  • Studies show that lack of control causes our brains to see patterns in what would otherwise be randomness.
  • “Magic is real, all around us. Much of it is so mundane it is overlooked and accepted as a fact of life. Words are magic. Movement is magic. Emotions are magic. These come naturally, they are intuitive, and are thus considered normal. Then there are the higher magics, the rare kinds, the ones most would call magic. These are beyond simple comprehension, stretch past the bounds of our logic. These types of magic are harder to wield because doubt is the default human condition. And it is difficult to believe in things which we can not explain. All manifestations of magic—from thought, to speech, to gesture, to emotion, to the higher orders—can be wielded with either selfless intention (white magic), or selfish, harmful intention (black magic). But in between, where most intentions fall, there is gray.”
  • q: Spit in its mouth? Breathe into it? Hold it to her skin & sing/chant/incant to it?
  • Further along in the process, the heart falls out, because it hasn’t taken yet.
  • Love triangle: Combo of Beauty & the Beast meets Dr. Jekyl & Mr. Hyde
  • “Science is nothing more than magick which has been explained. Gravity, magnetism, x-rays, germs, radio signals, DNA, reproduction—these are all magick.””I don’t like thinking of magick as science. I don’t want it explained away. I like the mystery.””Do you know how a computer works? How binary code and electric currents transmit images so you can play games, or chat with friends, or view pics on a screen?””Well, zeros and ones, and switches, and electric impulses…and…not really…”

    “See? Even though someone knows how those things work, and can manipulate the elements in the right way, that doesn’t make the magick behind it any less mysterious. You have no idea what really makes it all work. You only know—from experience—that it does. You take the magick behind the science for granted.”

  • The taste of his skin—like lemonade spiked with too much sugar. The billow of his heart pumping moonlight into me.
  • Mara’s eyes glaze over. “The guardians know you are coming. They will suffer the second death to protect their maker.”
  • Darkness, thick as oil, clogs the side alleys and doorways. Red occasionally burns through the shadows in the glow of hungry eyes and the flare of smokers sucking in death-grass fumes.
  • Maybe they conflict because of his interest in magic/spiritual/paranormal & her interest in solid science/provable/tangible things?
    • Random thought:
      • They have a history—when they were kids, they were “Ghost Hunters”, stayed in a haunted house, investigated graveyards, Ouija, toyed with levitation & seances, etc.
        • This is where some connections for the QUORUM can come from–contacts earth boy already has.
      • Parted ways partly due to their difference in worldviews–but MAINLY, REALLY due to a failed attempt at a relationship.
  • “Loving a teddy bear or grandma’s locket isn’t enough. Love is weak magic. Way weaker than most people pretend.”
  • The buzzing and screams work into a frenzy as they near climax, “chastising & condemning as only a wilting god can”, then
    explode, then fall utterly silent.

And I could go on and on. Somewhere in this cacophony may be the root of my next novel. Or maybe not. The essential thing is that I keep the conduit open & continue searching for that perfect seed.

And who the hell knows? I may not even end up in dark for the next novel. I doubt it’ll be sunshine & cupcakes, but I guess it could. No. Definitely no the fuck it won’t. LGBTQ themes are always on my mind. So far, I’ve been too chicken to push in that direction… Hmmm…perhaps focus on that AND go dark? :: grabs scribbling pen :: 

The Ugliest Mona Lisa I’ve Ever Seen


mona lisa - ral

You know this lady.

Her name’s Mona. You can call her Mo for short. She’s kind of iconic.

She’s here today to help me illustrate this *thing* I’m going through which relates to the world of writing. No, it’s not about visualizing characters, painting a story landscape, or any such helpful advice from a novice. Sorry about that. There are plenty of other blogs with unpublished writers giving profound & sage wisdom…

The topic this blogger is tackling today is: [Well, shit, I can’t really sum it up in a single word. This isn’t Twitter; it’s a post. So eff it, I can ramble if I like.]

Let’s go with this freeform string of thoughts: I have multiple fulls out with agents, which have been out for a while. I recently nudged on one & the agent confessed that she hadn’t gotten to it yet. Cool. No big deal. Another one is past the 10 week mark, at which point I would normally nudge, but I have not because of [keep reading]. The third is in this nerve-wracking, string-a-long sort of web which doesn’t seem to have an end. I am hopeful that it will turn into an offer, but the more pages of the calendar I rip off, the less that feels like reality. So, I have just kind of turned off my wishfulness on this matter until such time as it needs to be either revived, or incinerated.

After all that, I guess what I’m trying to say is: I don’t like to feel like I’m begging.

To be candid, I totally get that agents are busy, clients come first, I’m swamped, it’s conference season–all that. And writers are always labeled “impatient”. “This is a slow process,” we tell each other. Agents say it, too. Yet, still, are we really impatient? 2 months? 4 months? 6 months? 12 months? How long is too long to wait to hear back on a full request? An R&R? At what point has the timing passed beyond simple impatience on the part of the writer?

What it boils down to is that I want an agent to *LOVE* my work. Like, SHAZAAAAM! BAM! YES I WANT IT GIVE IT TO ME RIGHT EFFIN NOW I CAN’T WAIT TO START WORKING WITH YOU AND GET THIS THING SUB-READY BECAUSE AWESOME IN MY FACE AND OMG HAVE YOU SIGNED THE AGENCY CONTRACT YET OR WHAT BECAUSE AHHHHHHH????!!!!!

Instead, thus far, I have felt less like Phreak Show is the real Mona Lisa, and that perhaps it is more like this:

mona lisa - bad

 

And, yes, my loverly invisible ink finders. I KNOW that Phreak Show looks/reads nothing like that horrid ol’ fake. I’m just sayin’ I want that acceptance, that go-get-it agent who believes in me & my story so much that s/he can’t get hold of it fast enough. A dream? Perhaps. But my life has been built on dreams such as this. And damn it, I’m not done believing in magick.

Curse of the Nomad


Hitchhiking1

The travel bug has bitten.

The little asshole (whom  I love) often sneaks up, sinks its teeth in, injects its nomad venom, then scurries off again. The bugger.

I have a rare 4-day weekend coming up around July 4th. All my adult life, I have gone through cycles of self-employment, then working for others. The reason: I like working for myself, pursuing my dreams, doing what I want to do. It’s how I stay sane & passionate about the things I love. But, you see, that is a tough road to travel. At times, it is easier (on both the bank account & the pragmatic side of things) to slide into a position with a steady paycheck.

Also, I get bored when I have no challenge before me. Once I master something, I get hungry to try a new venture. I need newness. My nomad blood demands it.

A few of my passions lend themselves well to this undeniable part of me. With my art: I try new media, techniques, subject matter. With writing: new formats, a different voice, a fresh premise. With travel: an unexplored place, unique people, first-time experiences.

Until about 4 months ago, I was in the phase of my cycle where I was full-time self-employed. I created most every day & traveled at least once per month. Now, my income is predictable, my checking account is more robust,  and my schedule is more methodical. Which is, of course, both a blessing and a curse. It’s great to have steady cash flowing in, but it sucks to be locked in to a schedule set by another—one which hinders the thump of my nomadic heart.

So, with the freedom of a 4-day weekend: What to do? Where to go? How far can I venture in that short time frame? What is the best use of that time? How many newness-junkie experiences can I squeeze in? Should I stay closer to home so I don’t burn up all my time with travel? Or should I allow the actual journey to be the destination? Can I overcome the timesuck by hopping on a plane? Is there something on my bucket list I can check off: hang gliding, perhaps? Should I just stand by the side of the road, pop up my thumb, and see what hitch hiking adventure awaits? Should I strike out alone, invite a friend, meet up with a stranger to connect with as a travel companion? Will some random follower of my blog or Twitter extend an invitation to come out for a visit?

Priceline has been fried with my possibility-searching: a flight to Seattle to visit a friend I haven’t seen in years, a jaunt to Toronto to spend America’s Independence Day in another country,  pricing for a ticket to Iceland, a trip to NYC, LA, Las Vegas, Hawaii? My couchsurfing.org account has been updated & pushed to its limits; I sent out a dozen messages to interesting folks in random places. My brain is whirring with the potential of it all. My mental gears are churning, my brain-lightning is flashing, my backpack is twitching.

I am totally open to crowd-sourcing this adventure.

I don’t have a plan yet, but have almost 3 weeks left to discover one.

Which seems like a long time, but really isn’t.

Not knowing how the road will fork from here is part of the thrill. An intersection is coming. I can see it, like a mirage, up ahead. All I know for sure is that the travel bug has bitten, the heat of the rash is spreading, and I must scratch the hell out of this nomad itch.

Seriously, I need this. The more random, serendipitous, and memorable—the better. Feel free to take part in the randomness. I’m wide-ass open.

Storytelling, Tattoos & Hitchhikers


When an idea worms its way into my brain, it usually gnaws hard at my insula. What is this “insula” of which I speak? The prune-size region under the frontal lobes that registers gut feelings and is critical to the network which sustains addictive behavior. Usually, this idea-chewed region sparks and whines until I finally give in to its incessant demands.

Sometimes, with a swift jab to my head, I can dislodge a pesky idea. (Not really, though. That’s just a goofy visual for ya.)

A recent idea lodged in place: a series of tattoos depicting my wickedly warped Phreak Show characters. Due to the insanely booked schedule of my preferred artist, that thought will be painfully niggling me until November.  o.O  Needless to say, I needed a short-term fix, a compromise, to keep my insula happy. Thus, I am getting tattoos of my first 2 novels in the meantime.

After a 3-week wait, Capritare got his chance to be immortalized on (in?) my skin yesterday.

The artist, Josh Phillips of 42 Tattoo, did an amazing job of taking my loose sketch & transforming it into a permanent work of art on my arm. The engaging conversation proved as cool as the ink. I have this knack for getting folks to share stories. Maybe it’s because I’m a storyteller myself. The give-and-take, paired with genuine interest & asking the right questions, gifts me with many amazing conversations. Just ask the strangers I chat with in elevators, the hairstylist who is never  bored while giving me a trim, or the random hitchhikers I scoop up. All for the sake of hearing their unique stories.

[Sidenote: I picked up an intoxicated, unintentionally hitchhiking dude named Kevin this week. But, you see, I had to. My insula told me so. Rain was pounding at 19 billion gallons per square inch per second (estimated). I was on my way home from work and saw this poor chap getting hammered by the downpour. So, naturally, I whipped into the golf course’s parking lot & offered him a ride. A few short minutes later, I dropped Kevin off at his house with the wraparound porch “right behind the big green mansion.’ I didn’t personally consider the neighbor’s home a mansion, but I guess such things are relative.]

Back to the tattoo. Josh shared a bunch of stories during our 3-hour session. A girl who got a sushi tattoo on her ribs, but, due to the pain, bailed before Josh added the word “vegetarian” floating up from it in wisps of fishy aroma. (Personally, she sounds more like a pescatarian, so I think it was probably for the best. Tattoos are forever, after all.) Another story was about a dude who asked for “a tattoo that’s so bad I’ll wake up in the morning and wonder What the hell did I do that for?! Can you do that for me?” Josh, like any artist who is willing to make the client happy, obliged. With the dude’s buddy shaking the chair, right-handed Josh inked the dude. With his left hand. And his eyes closed. He never heard whether or not the dude was pleased with the results come sunrise, but chances are that his expectations were met.

I asked Josh to keep his eyes open & to tattoo me with his dominant hand. Once again, he submitted to the wishes of the client. Submitted for your voyeuristic pleasure, pics chronicling the process:

Pre-tattoo. [i.e. blank canvas]

Pre-tattoo. [i.e. blank canvas] Flexed, so, you know, my arm looks all quasi-muscular.

Josh prepping the stencil. The raw sketch is by his inked-up arm.

Josh prepping the stencil. The raw sketch is by his inked-up arm.

Another shot of the artist/storyteller at work. [Notice the use of his right hand.]

Another shot of the artist/storyteller at work. [Notice the use of his right hand.]

The stencil applied. We planned the placement so the antlers wrap around my baby deltoid arcing down over my shoulder.

The stencil applied. We planned the placement so the antlers wrap around my baby deltoid arcing down over my shoulder.

The outline getting laid down. Compared to previous tattoos, Josh had a very light hand. Nothing near bone-stabbing.

The outline getting laid down. Compared to previous tattoos, Josh had a very light hand. Nowhere near bone-stabbing deep.

The outline & skin-tone laid in. Josh chose to outline the top of the hair in blue, which I think was a great choice.

The outline & skin-tone laid in. Josh chose to outline the top of the hair in blue, which I think was a great choice.

Coloring in the hair with a 7-needled shader.

Coloring in the hair with a 7-needled shader.

Pardon the blurriness. Cap is done. The final cleanup hasn't happened so some rogue red is smeared over his face. Just a bit more work on the background needed.

Pardon the blurriness. Cap is done. The final cleanup hasn’t happened so some rogue red is smeared over his face. Just a bit more work on the background needed.

The final image. About an hour after completion. I switched to a beater. The worst 'pain' of the whole tattoo was the way the striped shirt's sleeve was cutting up into my armpits during the inking.

The final image. About an hour after completion. I switched to a beater. The worst ‘pain’ of the whole tattoo was the way the striped shirt’s sleeve was cutting up into my armpits during the inking.

The day after. Cap looks fantastic.

The day after. Cap looks fantastic. In the novel, he never ‘earned’ this full rack of antlers. So, this is a bit of wish-fulfillment for him.

And one final pic. Because, eye contact is good. (And key during both storytelling & storylistening.)

And one final pic. Because, eye contact is good. (And key during both storytelling & storylistening.)

I can confirm that I am pleased with the results. My insula agrees, but the little bugger is still squirming & twitching for November. To keep the damn thing pacified, a tattoo for Freeborn is next on the list. I’m wondering if I can shake things up a bit—maybe get some hitchhiker to go get a tattoo with me? If we can get it done in an elevator, I’ll not only glean some amazing stories, but experience a pretty damn memorable one of my own.

What would a tattoo post be without some invisible ink? A skilled artist with great stories is an excellent choice. Also, it doesn’t hurt if he’s kinda cute, has a ton of sexy tattoos & smiles a lot. 😉 

The Writer’s Voice Entry – Phreak Show


Plink0

I feel like I’m on The Price is Right. Or something. My entry Plinko’ed through the pegs and channels of Rafflecopter to land a spot in The Writer’s Voice.

Get the skinny here, or here , also here, and let’s not forget here. Mucho appreciation to the lovely ladies throwing this shindig. Barker’s Beauties, or Drew’s Dolls, or Voicy Vixens we might could call ’em: CupidBrendaMonica , Krista, and Kimberly.

There are some wicked-great agents participating, and I’ve got to say, Phreak Show is bouncing up and down with anticipation for the Showcase Showdown. Come on Coaches! Pick this here entry to be one of your 8…errr 9? You know, whatever number, without going over.

QUERY

When Tera sees through the 600 pounds of fat smothering Twiggy the Blubber Girl, and finds a hurting, size 16 girl beneath, she knows something’s crazy-twisted with The Last American Phreak Show. The wicked Phineas is enslaving teens by wielding their warped self-images against them. Sixteen-year-old Tera has enough crap of her own to deal with, but there’s no effin way she’s letting the jackhole Phineas exploit them in his human zoo.

Tera sacrifices her own questionable normality, and becomes one of Phineas’s sideshow phreaks. Once bound by Phineas’s covenant, Tera discovers that she is more like the powerful showmaster than she’d like to believe, and her presence in the Phreak Show is killing him. If Phineas dies before the captive teens discover a way to break free, they will die with him.

The carnies only have a few days to confront the lifetime of lies lurking within their own hearts. And it will require more than Victorian costumes, sideshow tricks, and creepy performances to save them. The dark magic which binds the teens runs soul-deep. Being a phreak isn’t about looks; it’s a frame of mind

Phreak Show, a YA Greenpunk Fantasy where The Night Circus meets Skinny, is complete at 86,000 words.

With published short stories, articles, poetry, and illustrations, Phreak Show is my third novel. When not writing, I’m an artist who works with reclaimed materials, a spreadsheet junkie, and phreak who has learned to be comfortable in his own skin.

FIRST 250

The neon-red TATTOO sign buzzed with the only spark of excitement in Podunk. Or whatever clone of a town I rolled into that day. Slow and gray like all the rest. Railroad tracks stretched down one side of the street while a storefront church and a sorry excuse for a coffee shop sat on the other. A mom wrangled her toddler into a rusty pickup parked against the curb. Old men perched on a bench outside a hardware store, ogling me, some strange teenage girl, invading their land.

At least this Podunk had a tattoo shop. The first I’d seen in two days. Enough stalling. I needed to get it done while I had the chance, before I lost the nerve again, before my money ran out.

A bell jangled as I pushed my way into the antiseptic air. Drawings of hearts and butterflies, daggers and skulls, covered the walls. I slid my fingers into my back pocket and fished out my last eighty-three bucks. And the photo of Jamie. The white crease down its center cut right along the middle of his tiny body. A tangle of tubes and wires snaked in and out of him. All because of me.

“What you need?”

I jerked away from the image in my hand, and followed the voice to the pierced lip of an inked-up guy. Scruffy hint of a beard, jet-black hair, and nerd glasses reflecting the light so I couldn’t see his eyes. I stepped closer, checking out his skinny jeans through the display case of tongue rings and metal bars.

Of course, I had to check out The Price is Right and find out how to get tickets. Not because I’m really going, but just because, you know, curious: http://www.priceisright.com/tickets

A Condom for Your Words


Vintage "Akron Tourist Tubes" Tin

Vintage “Akron Tourist Tubes” Tin

Requests to check out more of Phreak Show have necessitated a means to that end.

Authonomy is my cure.

With my first two novels, I played the rankings game over there: chat & spam & and claw for 1 of the 5 coveted spots “on the desk”. Translation: work your ass off, burn a ridiculous amount of hours, harass the other members, needlessly obsess over rankings. And all to be listed in the -Top 5- on the last day of the month. The prize: a review from an Editor—apparently only quasi-helpful and arriving 6 months later. Authors who fight for and snag that golden ring end up  a little disappointed, it seems.

It’s a shiny carrot which isn’t worth chasing. Thankfully, there is a lot more to the site than that single aspect.

If you get caught up in the rankings and campaigning, you’ll miss the beauty of Authonomy. That beauty flashes in three facets: an amazing writing community, thoughtful feedback, and a public forum to steer interested readers to your work.

Virtual Betas & CP’s are awesome. I have gleaned some of the most useful, insightful feedback from amazing folks I’ve never met face-to-face. But it phreaks me out a little to email my manuscript to someone I don’t know. Not because I fear they’ll hate it or say heart-wrenching things. I’m cool with that. What scares me is that they have ALL MY WORDS. A stranger—one who may or may not be the same in real life as online—can enjoy my words, or gank them. Steal them.

These are the things I worry about: A ‘find-and-replace’ could instantly change out the characters’ names. Phineas becomes Barnum, Tera becomes Rachel. A quick re-titling, and my creation could be self-pubbed, online, in minutes. Phreak Show becomes Sideshow Nightmare. And I would have no idea. It’s akin to a kidnapping, dying the kid’s hair, moving her to a new city, and calling her Juniper Smith  instead of Erica.

I believe most people are honest in their cores. Generally, I trust strangers. I’m the weirdo who talks to people in elevators. I pick up hitchhikers. I couchsurf and sleep in strangers’ homes. But there is a part of me that understands that some folks smile while fingering the dagger in their pocket.

As creators, we must protect what is ours.

Thus, Authonomy.

I’m sure there are conniving, magical ways around it, but [CTRL C] doesn’t work on Authonomy. Also, I only post portions of my novels. NEVER the whole thing. This is my solution for minimizing the risk while engaging in risky behavior. It’s like a condom for your words. Is it failsafe? Of course not. Is it 99.98% effective? I hope so.

Gosh, this post sounds like I’m all paranoid and shit. I’m not really. It’s just that, you see, I invest all of me into my art. And the possibility of having that outpouring abused makes me want to guard the youngling like a tiny child clueless of the dangers all around him. Maybe I’m an overprotective parent. That doesn’t bother me one bit, because I want my kid to play and make friends, but I don’t want his naivety to get him hurt. You know, like a good Daddy.

So, guaranteed ALIVE AND BREATHING, on display for all to see, the first 7 chapters of Phreak Show.
http://authonomy.com/books/52485/phreak-show/read-book/#chapter
[Update: Due to some overhauling edits,  the excerpt is in timeout.]

Please enjoy. Comment. Or don’t. Love it. Hate it. Cringe, cry, smile, wonder, giggle, dream, root, scream, lust, beg for more. Any or all of those things. Just know, a mindful, cautious Daddy’s is sitting over there on that bench making sure you play nice.

Dang it was difficult for me to decide on an accompanying image for this post. Do you know how many AMAZING risque pics I could have selected? Oodles. Ah, but to push things a little without going too far… Welcome to the world of self-editing an online presence, Lucas.

I Like My Sleeves


PhreakShowSubmissionsChart

Because I love charts and data and spreadsheets.

Also because, why the hell not? Transparency is a trait of mine.

Sometimes that characteristic gets me in trouble, but it is an undeniable part of me. Often, I’m told, it is refreshing. Either way, it’s who I am. And I am a proud phreak who has learned to be comfortable in his own skin.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’ve thought of maybe changing to metaphorical tank tops—-or even going shirtless. Alas, I like my sleeves, and I like to leave my vulnerability dangling out there for everyone to see and prod. So, yeah. I feel better now. Huzzah for catharsis via confessional graphics.

If you’re feeling like, perhaps, there is more to the story, you are correct. Sometimes, even transparency has is limits, and a little opacity is required. If you’re reading this Invisible Ink, I ❤ your face. Wear your hearts on your sleeves, you bunch of phreaks.