Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pitches, Bitches

I have new and improved pitches to share with y'all. My good friend John helped me to un-fuck what I was working with.

For the short story collection, now re-re-christened with it's orignal title, "Men in Strange Arrangements":

Dear ______________,
MEN IN STRANGE ARRANGEMENTS is a collection of thirteen fiction short stories about the odd circumstances boys and men have to deal with, and the consequences if they fail.
Tom is a clean-cut honors student – and a pyromaniac. He has an awakening: fire doesn’t destroy – it only converts energy to a new form. He’s eager to share his epiphany with his best friend Bill, even if it takes a Molotov cocktail.
Nick is a bullied middle-school student, eager to fight back, but the best he can do is correct the spelling when his worst tormentor Kyle writes, “Nick M. sucks cok”. Nick is shocked to later find common ground with Kyle, amid a famous catastrophe.
Trey is a college student in the midst of court-appointed anger management counseling, following a bar fight that left a bouncer’s jaw detached. His treatment starts with a writing assignment: talk about your most functional relationship and why it works. For Trey, that means discussing his best friend, Jared, who Trey had to all but drag out of the closet. Trey is surprised when his analysis puts him at odds with the unwritten rules of hetero manhood.
These are tales of men in strange arrangements. The collection is 45,000 words and three of the stories have been previously published. “Divine Hand” was a top ten finalist in the 2012 Saints and Sinners fiction competition and was published in the anthology. “The Camp Seminole Wiener Wall” is a current nominee for Sundress Press’s “Best of the Net 2012” award. Thanks for your time and consideration.
-James Russell    
I feel much better about my publishing prospects in 2013 with a pitch like that. Here's the one for "Jesse Rules".

Dear ____________,
Fifteen-year-old Jesse Amos is going to rule the world. That way he won’t have to worry about what people think anymore – not his grade-crazed mom, not his sex-obsessed peers. Ruling will allow him to focus on what really matters: winning the Holy Cross student council election, getting a Metallica-worthy gig for his grunge cover band, Colostomy Grab Bag, and putting more time in at church, to bury all those awkward feelings he’s been having for Tony, his guitarist.
One problem: his friends and band mates aren’t as easy to control as Samus Aran in “Metroid 3” or Baraka in “Mortal Kombat”. When controlling his feelings proves equally frustrating, Jesse realizes that in order to rule the world, you have to first shock and captivate the masses, and nothing gets attention like murder.
JESSE RULES is an 83,000-word trangressive novel, my debut. Thanks for your time and consideration.
-James Russell
In other news, this blog has passed the thousand-view mark, which Celebutants can fart out in a heartbeat, but for a noob like me, it's something.

In other news, "The Camp Seminole Wiener Wall" is still up for Sundress Press's best of the net 2012 award and "Mountainview" is in the 2013 Saints and Sinners contest. Meanwhile, I just passed the 60,000-word mark on "Rise of the Paramancers", the first Fantasy novel in a four-part series, "War of the Twin Gods".

Happy New Year everyone. My quest to get books on the shelves and e-shelves resumes in 2013.


Monday, December 17, 2012

If We're Serious...


Nothing about the writing dream this week, it’s all about a necessary, post-Newtown conversation.
If we’re serious about preventing the next school shooting, here are some thoughts:
Let’s talk about reasonable gun control. We should be able to talk about this without hysterical N.R.A. reactions. I can’t think of a reason to make a handgun with fifteen-bullet clips except to go on a rampage like this one. If killers have to pause to reload, that can mean escape for a would-be victim. And I don’t see the need for hunters to have such a high ammo capacity. If you need fifteen bullets to kill one deer, maybe don’t hunt.
Also, can we have a rational discussion about bringing back the Brady Bill, which even conservative messiah Ronald Reagan supported? I don’t think that law violated the second amendment, which always gets paraphrased poorly. The “well-regulated militia” part is regularly and purposefully omitted. Plus, our Constitution was written in the age of muskets, when massacres like this were literally impossible. There was a reason our colonial ancestors didn’t shoot until they saw the whites in their target’s eyes. They weren’t trying to sound hardcore. Reloading involved two doses of gunpowder, an iron ball, and a packing rod. Reloading was a bitch.
Some may argue a high-capacity gun would come in handy during a home invasion, but most burglaries are committed while the homeowners are away, and most burglars don’t work in packs. It’s time to go back to more primitive weapons for hunting and home protection.
Let’s get serious about mental health care. Health care is a human right. Mental health is a part of that. (We don’t know the exact mental illness the shooter had yet, but it seems like a fair assumption.) Health care is not a product or a privilege. Medicare for all should be our long-term national goal, but that also means we can’t bitch when our taxes go up. Either these services are worth it, or they aren’t. We have to stop expecting F.E.M.A., Social Security, Medicare, AND low taxes. If we want these services, we need to pay for them. Better mental health care for every American could prevent school shootings.
Let’s fund Art, Drama, Music, and Gifted and Talented programs. I’ve seen some disturbing student art, but I look at each piece like an act of violence that didn’t happen. The lost boys who commit these crimes all had needs that weren’t met – the same needs as their peers. They need to feel like they’re a part of something. They need success in some endeavor. The Columbine shooters were un-athletic non-scholars. They needed to learn to make pottery or play bass drum or act. For young people who don’t have much success in a traditional classroom setting or in a gym, the arts are a way to see school as something other than torture. We need to fund our schools properly and, again, not bitch about the taxes. We invest in our youth, or we watch them grow desperate, and sometimes, violent.
Let’s lead by a non-violent example. Almost all of these shooters are young men. Young men have excellent radars for hypocrisy. They notice the contradiction when we as a society preach non-violence, and then treat state-sanctioned violence as a normal way of being. They notice the sixty-year trend of undeclared wars: Korea, Vietnam, Panama, Iraq, the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq again. The baby boomers protested the first two of these “interventions”, demanding an end to the unnecessary violence. That generation responded like it should’ve. But then, over time, we grew numb. War became routine. War became Wednesday, just something that happens at a regular interval. These angry young men notice such trends and respond accordingly.
Let’s erase the killers from our history. I won’t even look at the name of this shooter. Why do we reward these people with so much posthumous attention? It sends a message to the next damaged soul looking to leave a mark in the easiest possible way – you will be remembered. It may be naïve in the digital age, but if there was a law stating that their names are not to be spoken or written, nor their pictures ever shown, it could be possible. It would take agreement from prominent websites to remove comments that mentioned the killers by name. If we had that, we could condemn these shooters to oblivion. This would send a clear message to the next potential killers: you will not die a media darling. You will be forgotten.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I hope this conversation is possible. There’s nothing wrong with discussing gun control. Health care is a human right, not a privilege or a product, and mental health is part of that right. War was never supposed to become the normal state of affairs. Remember the victims and erase the villains. If we’re serious about reacting to this tragedy, we can have these conversations, we can come to conclusions about what must be done, and we can pressure our representatives to act accordingly. Justice begins with dialogue. 
In that spirit, leave a comment.
-James Russell

Saturday, December 1, 2012

A New Direction

Haven't blogged lately with good reason - not much to discuss. I'm still collecting rejections on JESSE RULES but I'm only up to F in the Writer's Market so there's loads of room for hope. One thing I'm thinking - this might not be an ideal debut piece. It's tough to say to a publisher, "Hi, my name is...and here's my grunge-era story of a homocidal closeted Catholic School student. Wait! Where are you going?"

It won't stop me, just saying. I'm going to try to rename the short story collection and push that as my intro to the world. Then maybe Jesse can be the "if you liked that, I have a novel" thing.

I'm also thinking, time to take the ol' blog in a new direction.

Rather than just me talking about my career, this should be a discussion forum. I always liked stories and tried to write stories that would get important discussions underway. Maybe this can be the place where fun discussions start. Maybe we can all get our nerd on, together.

Not circle-jerking over vintage action figures or anything like that, just a good olde nerd debate. You know how the Bond 50th anniversary got everyone talking about which Bond was best? (Goldfinger or Thunderball, talk amongst ya'selves...) Let's do something like that. Lot's of comments from you and less of my yammering.

So here's a first conversation starter: What do you want from the next Game of Thrones book? We know it's called THE WINDS OF WINTER and George R.R. Martin is working at his snail's pace according to his Rolling Stone interview earlier this year. I'm not asking about when you want it. I'm asking what you want out of the plot?

I'll start with what I want. (That's always the point of this type of nerd question, no?) I want all of northern Westeros gone. I want the White Walkers to go on the destructive tear that was hinted at in the FIRST SCENE OF THE FIRST BOOK. I want the ballsy execution of Stannis, both Boltons, and everyone else north of King's Landing. I'm hoping that's what all the snow around Winterfell was about - good foreshadowing.

I want to fall back in love with this series. My love started when Martin had the balls to chop Ned Stark's head off. I want that same sense of "any character could die at any time" and "there are thousands of angles and agendas here, what am I missing?" as I read.

Oh, Melisandre and Bran's crew can survive the Walkers' swath of destruction since they have pre-established magical abilities and stuff.

But Jon Snow really has to be dead, otherwise I feel manipulated about the phrasing at the end of the last book. And don't bring him back as Ghost's left nut or anything.

The death of half of Westeros and Tyrion joining forces with Daenerys (misspelled, I think). That's all. I actually don't care if I'm not reading it until the summer of 2016. Just bring back the danger, the unpredictablity.

So this is where we're headed, blog-wise. Updates on my career mixed with discussion-starters for other video game freaks, bibliophiles, and writers. Here are the discussion questions again:

-What do you want from THE WINDS OF WINTER, plot-wise?
-While we're at it, what should I re-name my short story collection? It's all stories with an element of school survival, plus the pain of puberty, plus a gay twinge. The current title is STRANGE ARRANGEMENTS but that hasn't led to any bites. I'm thinking NOTEBOOK REVELATIONS but I'm not sold.

Let me know your thoughts.
-James Russell  

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I had a very encouraging rejection the other day. That feels like oxymoron but it isn't. I made a point to write the publishers back to sincerely thank them for taking the time to write a specific, logical rejection that explained what they liked about my story and why it just wasn't right for their collection.

It made me wonder how many good stories die quietly on hard drives because of clinical, vague rejections.

New subject - I have very high hopes for "Mountainview", a total reconstruction of "Nick and the Insect Kingdom". This is definitely my 2013 Saints and Sinners story. I like its chance to win.

In other good news, my story "The Camp Seminole Wiener Wall", basically the most brilliant dick joke in the history of Western Civilization, is up for a "Best of the Net 2012" award from Sundress Publications. Click the link below for the whole story.

Announcements for “Best of the Net 2012” Award
And here's the announcement on their Facebook page:

And the story:
“The Camp Seminole Weiner Wall” (A friendship is tested by a sexually cruel camp ritual.)

My others:
“Friends and Pyromaniacs” (A young man’s awakening requires a Molotov cocktail.)

“The Gay Bomb” (An undercover agent unleashes the ultimate weapon in the war against Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal.)

My story is “Divine Hand”, about an expose reporter who goes undercover at a religious conversion camp for gay teens.

Final story of the month, here's the score on trying to sell "Jesse Rules" so far, brought to you by the letters, A, B, Z, and F, U, M, I, T, T, R, O, M, N, E, Y.

Formal Rejections:
Zumaya, Anaphora

Haven't heard yet:
Asabi, Arkhambridge, Black Rose (all cool with simsubs, a plus)

Have to go to the Post Office because they seem worth suffering a snail mail submission:
Bancroft, Black Heron

My mantra this month is J.M.P. Just make progress. If it got me through two years writing a novel, it can get me through ______ months trying to place it.

-James Russell

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rejections and Reflections

I was recently complimented as “having thick skin”, or at least I greedily slurped it up as a compliment.
I still might have some work to do to earn it.
Monday was my first multi-rejection day. If a career writer reads this they’ll no doubt shake their head in shame on my behalf and mutter “What a noob.” But it’s still new to me. Someday soon, the armor will be thick enough and multi-rejection days will just be called Tuesday.
I handled the first one well. Masking all true feeling I sent a clinical, cyborgish acknowledgement to the rejecting editor a la Writer’s Market. (Understood. Thanks again for your time.)
The second one was worse, and what’s gnawing at me is I made sure my short story collection wouldn’t even be read with one bone-headed sentence.
This publisher wanted a blurb about who I thought my audience was. My blurb got it right, I thought, until I decided to get all cute and throw in something like this (imaginary throat-clearing) “My audience is sophisticated enough to know that fuck is just a word”.
Cringe. Get the douche chills. I’m right there with you.
Part of my problem was speed. Having read my first rejection, I was seven flavors of determined to just up and throw another manuscript out into the big bad rejecty world, just to show how thick my epidermis was. So I hurled. I do wish I could have that pitch back.
My second would-be publisher took the time to point out that she “did not think fuck was just a word.” Ugh. I’d insinuated that cool folks think like me and, when it turned out she didn’t, I wound up insulting the person I needed to impress. I’ve no doubt she never read a word of my manuscript. And it’s my fault.
See, I fancy myself enlightened because I have bumper stickers in my head. “Censorship is the only obscenity” and “Fuck is just a word” etc. Sometimes I just shouldn’t share.
I actually have no doubt I was getting rejected anyway. There’s two fucks sitting on page 6 of the first story in my collection, but here’s the thing, those fucks help to characterize the speaker, a fourteen-year-old boy. I’ll argue all day with any editor who can’t see the purpose of those two fucks. Those fucks are a hill worth dying for.
But they weren’t even read, due to my cerebral flatulence. I should’ve given myself those 6 pages to try (probably in vain) to change her mind based on the strength of the story.
Well, I’m done kicking my own ass and I’m moving on with a hat full of realizations I’m happy to share:
My audience is educated men, GLBT folk and GLBT-sympathetic folk, lapsed Catholics, and ladies who enjoy Dave Sedaris and Chuck Pahalniuk. That’s my declarative sentence. No value judgments in there. No preaching, just an answer to the fucking “who’s your audience” question.
My master plan is to continue collecting rejections for both my novel and short story collection. If I hit a certain number I’ll have my query and pitch combo re-examined before going back on the attack.
I’m going to remember that this a dream to me but it’s just business to the rest of the literary world. My skin shall thicken accordingly.
So if you’re also a struggling newbie writer, please learn from my mistakes.
As always, here are links to my published works:
My story is “Divine Hand”, about an expose reporter who goes undercover at a religious conversion camp for gay teens.

And here are my freebies:

“The Camp Seminole Weiner Wall” (A friendship is tested by a sexually cruel camp ritual.)

“Friends and Pyromaniacs” (A young man’s awakening requires a Molotov cocktail.)

“The Gay Bomb” (A C.I.A. agent unleashes the ultimate weapon in the war against Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy Jewish New Year!

New year, new projects. Here's what I'm happy to be working on. (I'm not Jewish but thanks to the tribe for the days off, circumcision, and Larry David.)

War of The Twin Gods: Rise of The Paramancers - This first book in a four or five book series introduces the realms of Axis and Beyond. Axis is the masterwork of Dioro, God of love and creativity. It features chirping birds, happy drunk miners, and four kingdoms with cultures based on the four elements of olde style magic. Gorge, the earth kingdom, is the land of the Geomancers, masters of nature and stalactite-launching magic. Beyond is the wasteland outside of Axis, where the abominations of Zura, the Devil Goddess, try to find their way into Beyond.

Jesse's Alpha - Now in college, teen psychotic Jesse Amos finds himself on the brink of his dream - a lucrative internship with a U.S. Senator. To earn it, all he has to do is impress an ethically-questionable professor. This wouldn't be a problem for someone with Jesse's vacuous morals, except that he's being stalked by a cop who knows his past, a rival even more psychotic than him also wants the internship, and he's falling in love with an idealistic student activist - one who wouldn't approve of Jesse's "ends-justify-the-means" philosophy.

Another America - For my second short-story collection, I thought I'd try a unifying theme. The theme is the country we are, the country we ought to be, and the country we may be in danger of becoming. Short stories will include: "Evil Eye", the tale of a sniper who chooses to hunt the H.M.O. execs robbing his fellow veterans of the health care they need; "The W.I.T.", which documents the test run of the eponymous device - a nanomachine that fires escalating shocks in the wearer's brain should he or she fail to complete an assigned task within a given amount of time; and "A Free Speech Zone", where an idealistic young teacher learns about the limits of democracy during the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York.

Here are the links to my published pieces.
My story is “Divine Hand”, about an expose reporter who goes undercover at a religious conversion camp for gay teens.

And here are my freebies:

“The Camp Seminole Weiner Wall” (A friendship is tested by a sexually cruel camp ritual.)

“Friends and Pyromaniacs” (A young man’s awakening requires a Molotov cocktail.)

“The Gay Bomb” (A C.I.A. agent unleashes the ultimate weapon in the war against Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal.)

So Happy New Year. Here's an except from "The W.I.T."

The W.I.T.

            For the first time in decades, there is a new factory in America. It makes the means to enable our greatness. All it took was violent worker uprisings in China and India: half of Asia trying to kill the other half.
            The new American factory is in the outlands of course, the same place we tuck the power plants, the prisons and armories. And much like those other facilities, the new factory is a walled island of civilization in that sea of chaos.
Old Jim, my driver, he drove me there in my armored limo. We left my enclave, Pleasant Edge, just before dawn. I had a busy day planned. Centcom asked me for my expert opinion of the facility. In the interest of candor, my expertise lies elsewhere. I am a Coporate-national school inspector, and as such, certainly no expert in maximizing output in a factory.
They insisted my expertise was exactly what they needed.
Of course I went. Obedience has always led me to prosperity. And they must’ve had their reasons. John Stern, an old schoolmate of mine from Central Academy, he was in charge of the facility. No doubt they thought our relationship would empower me to be blunt. John has a towering stature, both physically and within the Corporate-national hierarchy. A lesser man than I might be cowed in his presence.
So off I went, knowing that depending in part on my findings, facilities like this could be constructed across my home state, New Jersey. Then, depending on how that goes, they may be nationalized.
Rehab teams had paved over that one section of the Garden State Parkway that had been a bomb crater last month. Another Miserable in an explosive vest, wasting his own life to cause a little inconvenience in ours. That is the right term for them, Miserables, those outborn who’ve surrendered all hope and seek only to end their lives and ours. Those subhumans who do nothing to improve their circumstances. Even the apes in the factory know enough to look down on them.
At any rate, the rehab teams had done a decent enough job that we arrived in Paterson ahead of schedule and unmolested. Paterson was once a collection of silk mills, the vibrant and beating heart of a manufacturing economy.
Today it’s a collection of ruins where gangs fight over blocks – a place where Miserables and tribal outcasts tear one another to pieces for food, or scrap metal, or merely for entertainment.
I read in some leftist rag once that every society either spends money to fight poverty or it spends money to fight the poor. The reason I seek out such drivel? Every now and then they stumble on a bit of truth.
We didn’t have to endure much of old Paterson. Junction Manufacturing was just off the ramp from the highway, tucked against a cliff face they’d blasted out of Garret Mountain, an old local landmark. It was better protection for their rear perimeter than any engineer could provide.
The outer stone wall was at least twenty-five feet high and six feet thick. It surrounded the eight-block perimeter of the facility not under the mountain’s protection. At the front gate, the wall turned inward, forming a square with two reinforced fences protecting the road in. If Miserables or organized tribal outborn ever rammed one of their salvaged trucks through the first fence, they’d find themselves robbed of the inertia to punch through the second. Then the elevated turrets would turn inward and downward, ending their short rebellion in the kill box.
It was almost enough to rival an Enclave gate, except I did notice a breach in their east wall. Central was right. Miserables would continue to attack this facility. The breach was being sealed by the facility’s rehab team. Fully-armored Corporate-national guardsmen stood watch. Waste of resources if you ask me. The Miserables never hit the same spot twice.
Just ritual to the guardsmen, I suppose. Security theater.
We parked inside and Old Jim opened my door for me. Predictably, before I took three steps away from the limo, there was good old John Stern, towering over me, his voice booming a canon of a greeting. He followed up with a python handshake and a hearty back slap. He asked about my fiancée and I asked about his. I gave him the latest news from Pleasant Edge and he told me the happenings in his enclave, Smoke Rise. When we trade enclave news, it always comes down to who is cheating on whom, who’s getting divorced as a result, and how the re-coupling aligns itself.
Mundane, really. But customs must be observed.
I commented on the glum, grey exterior of his facility, though I lied and told John it wasn’t as glum as I’d been expecting. He was an old classmate after all. I tried to stroke him a bit.
“I know it looks like Belsen,” he said. I had to laugh.
“Why not Auschwitz?” I asked.
“Just wanted to see if you were still a student of history,” he said.
It really did look like a concentration camp – six stories of grey concrete in a perfect rectangle. Aside from a slim parking lot, the building took up most of the eight city blocks contained by the outer wall. Iron letters across the roof spelled out “Junction Manufacturing.” An American flag waved on each of the roof’s corners.
“Nice touch with the flags,” I said. “Yours?”
“The outborn love their gods and eagles,” John said. We walked toward a steel door in the side of the brick. There was a small scanner next to the knob. John placed his thumb on it and the inner latch opened.

(end of free preview)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Polishing a Turd

This week, to stay inspired and keep my positivity enema circulating, I decided to try the impossible. I decided to polish a turd.

Ghastly and tasteless, I know, but poor taste is kind of my thing.

By polishing a turd I mean literally cleaning a piece of shit. No, actually I mean taking a hideously bad story I wrote a few years back and trying to improve it.

I'm already rewriting the end of "Jesse Rules" yet again and continuing the first draft of "War of the Twin Gods: The Fall of Gorge", so it's not like I needed another project. But I felt drawn to it, so I broke it out of storage and took a jackhammer to it.

Below is the beginning. It's the story of a tormented gay eighth grader's coming of age on 9/11. The story was originally "Nick and the Insect Kingdom" and now it's just "Insect Kingdom". One way to polish a turd is to simplify it. Okay, it's official, my metaphor has collapsed.

Also, here are the links to my published works. Please buy the Saints and Sinners New Fiction from the Festival 2012 collection. My story "Divine Hand" is in it, a fine tale of an expose reporter going undercover at a religious conversion camp for gay teens. The winning story is a heartbreaker by Jerry Rabushka, "Wasted Courage", about a love that's up against racism, classism, and even Matriarchy. Every story in the book is entertaining and thought-provoking.
“The Camp Seminole Weiner Wall” (A friendship is tested by a sexually cruel camp ritual.)

“Friends and Pyromaniacs” (A young man’s awakening requires a Molotov cocktail.)

“The Gay Bomb” (A C.I.A. agent unleashes the ultimate weapon in the war against Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal.)

The other three are free for now, and with any luck I'll be charging for them as part of my short story collection "Strange Arrangements" by the end of the year.

Here's "Insect Kingdom" pages one-two-threeish:
Insect Kingdom

Nick had a ritual involving dust and insects. It filled some of that awful time, after his mother had shoved him out the door, before the growling yellow bus slouched over the crest of Mountainview Ave, on its way to take him in.
He dropped his backpack at the edge of the road. He lifted the rotting log on the border of his mother’s garden.
There they were – the slithering and scuttling things. They were already alarmed at their exposure. Nick imagined how he would react if some godlike creature flipped his house or his town over, upset the structure of his world. He felt bad for them, the lower life forms. He felt bad for them, for a second.
Then he kicked the dry soil all over them. Their slithering and scuttling increased its frenzied speed. However low they were, slimy and segmented creatures living in the moist darkness, they had it better than Nick, and he hated them for it.
No bus was coming for them. Whatever else they were, they had peace.
They didn’t have to go to school.
He heard the grinding engine before he saw the white roof and yellow face of the bus. He rolled the log back over the insect kingdom. He shouldered the burden of his books.
The breaks sounded their steam release. The door scraped, folding itself to the side. Ms. Anderson had a big white smile across her thick black face.
“Mornin’ Nickie!” she blared. Her tone was as tangy and tropical as her pink and orange hair.
“Morning,” Nick confirmed. He slouched up the stairs and stared down the awful aisle.  
On the left, two girls argued with an opened Math book in their laps. On the right, a sixth grader who looked and smelled like a meatball.
Nick took two steps down the aisle.
On the left, two seventh-grade girls who had just discovered makeup. They sneered at Nick like they smelled fart. On the right, a tiny boy with a large head, in a purple sweat shirt.
Nick took another two steps down the aisle.
On the left, a skinny girl digging through her bag. She had an asthma inhaler and a rattling cough. The right seat was empty.
Nick sat. The bus growled forward.
He heard Kyle McGillis and Paul Johnson in the back, or at least he heard the lowness of their voices. It reminded Nick to take inventory of what he hated about himself. He started with his voice, the highness of it, the rodent squeak quality it had, especially compared to the manly baritone of boys like Kyle and Paul.
Nick stared down at his feet, remembering to hate them, remembering to hate his body for starting its puberty renovations there, of all places. It was like the puberty gnomes cut off his feet in the middle of the night and tacked on these giant flippers.
Before he could move on and hate his chicken legs, a ball of paper landed in his lap. Kyle grunted laughter from the back of the bus.
“Mistah McGillis, much too early in the school year for that!” Ms. Anderson said.
The ball of paper shifted as the bus made the sharp turn onto Franklin Street. It had one word on its crumpled side: Open.
Nick tried to think of other things. He thought of what his mother always said about not letting boys like Kyle get to him. Nick thought of his mother and home, of safety and shelter. He thought of his room and his shelf. He loved his shelf. It had his X-box games and pro-wrestling DVDs. It had notebooks full of awesome hypothetical video game sequels and pro-wrestling events. It had books by King and Rice, Tolkien and Lovecraft. It had Halo, Summerslam, and “The Silmarillion”.
The shelf meant escape to elsewhere.
But he wasn’t there – he wasn’t safe at home in his room. He was nowhere near his shelf. He was on the bus, three minutes from school. And the paper ball was telling him what to do: Open.
Nick opened it. He heard Kyle’s guttural laugh in response to the crackling of paper.
Nick recognized his deep brown helmet haircut in Kyle’s drawing. It was a side view of his head. Kyle even managed to draw the little red zit on Nick’s chin. He’d taken the time to find a red marker just for that one detail.
Cartoon Nick’s mouth was open. A leg-like penis complete with a two-basketball nut sack was aimed at his face. There was no body attached to the floating dick-and-balls, but it was coating cartoon Nick’s face with a torrent of jism just the same. Underneath the drawing was a sentence: Nick M. sucks cok.
Reading that, Nick wanted to be one of the crawly things under the log. He wanted to be hidden away under a pile of slimy life. He wanted to be still in the cool dark, and for all other things to scuttle and ooze around him.
He thought of the dreams and the wrecked pajamas and boxer shorts. He thought of how good it felt, physically, but the things he was thinking about when it happened, the showers at swim camp and things happening there with the other boys, things like what was happening on the paper in his lap, they’d left him with questions he wasn’t ready to answer.
How did Kyle know? How did everyone seem to know about what Nick didn’t want to desire?
The school building was coming toward the bus. The sign out front read: Welcome back! Underneath that it read: First School Board Meeting this Thursday, 9/13/01.

(end of free preview)

-James Russell

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Smile, for Fuck's Sake

My psychiatrist had a great line: “The cure for self-pity is gratitude.”

Of course, understanding the sentiment is easy. There was a Drake and Rihanna song a couple years ago that said the same shit. (“Just live ya’ life?” It might’ve been Wiz Khalifa or Flo Rida or some other rapper du jour.)

The point is, it’s a simple sentiment to grasp the meaning of, but acting accordingly is the hard part.

I bring it up this month because the end of the school year was particularly stressful. I definitely drifted into the self-pity camp. Actually I set up a lounge chair and grumbled my way through most of June.

Part of it was a natural let-down. May had my wedding and my first author reading – and author events always mean getting to congregate with similarly crazy writer types. I love my town, Harrison, for its cheap dive bars and completely unpretentious personality, but there just aren’t a lot of other writers, or even a lot of creative types here. In May I got a taste of the life I want, the one I’m aspiring toward – that exciting and rewarding life, that creative life.

June… June was final exams and those child care days that follow final exams. June was prepping for my summer camp job on my weekends. June was working like a dog to keep the air conditioning on. Not a lot of writing in June. Not what you’d call an inspiring atmosphere.

Yeah, I got grouchy there.

But whether it’s depressive heading back toward manic or just the fact that I’m finally down to one full-time job again, I don’t feel very shitty at all about July. In fact, the summer camp environment is inspiring. The people I work with are inspirational, positive. A lot of them are college students, about to enter an economy ravaged by de-unionization and thirty years of trickle-down horseshit economics (negative, yes, but also researched) but they don’t bitch that much at all. They pursue their dreams. They are comics, coaches, artists, and actors. They work and study; they party and date. They reach for the life they want while enjoying the life they have.

They’re a great reminder to aspire towards gratitude, away from self-pity. I need to remind myself to stop being a walking menstrual cycle and just work my days and write my stories by night for another seven weeks.

After that, I’ll be grateful to have two weeks to really try to polish my novel, “Jesse Rules”, for another run at publication. My writing group this week gave me some excellent suggestions about my flat-soda ending and how to carbonate it. I just took my fantasy novel “War of the Twin Gods: The Fall of Gorge” across the 40,000-word mark (about halfway). My short story collection “Strange Arrangements” is under review from an excellent potential publisher.

So find something to be positive about. The corporate cunts didn’t steal our health care. Justice Roberts temporarily grew his soul back. It’s a dry heat. Your condition is treatable with penicillin.

In that spirit, I’m grateful for the people at work who wanted to read my published works. Here are the links, including the first collection I’m in that’s on the e-shelf. I don’t get money if anyone purchases the collection, but it will help to keep a great literary festival going:

My story is “Divine Hand”, about an expose reporter who goes undercover at a religious conversion camp for gay teens.

And here are my freebies:

“The Camp Seminole Weiner Wall” (A friendship is tested by a sexually cruel camp ritual.)

“Friends and Pyromaniacs” (A young man’s awakening requires a Molotov cocktail.)

“The Gay Bomb” (A C.I.A. agent unleashes the ultimate weapon in the war against Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal.)

-James Russell

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Pitch (Take Three)

If it's not there yet, it's almost there. With any luck I'll have sent "Strange Arrangements" and this pitch to a very good publishing lead by tomorrow night.

Here's version three. Nick and Alina from my writer's group really helped me cut it down to the essentials. And John was "cruel to be kind" as always. (Love that in an editor.) Despite some critique of the title, I think I want to give "Strange Arrangements" a chance to sell itself.


A young man’s awakening requires a Molotov cocktail. An anger-management patient confronts the unwritten rules of hetero manhood. A  C.I.A. agent controls the ultimate weapon in the war against Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal. These are the stories of men in strange arrangements.

STRANGE ARRANGEMENTS is a 45,000-word short story collection, my debut. Thank you for your time and consideration.

-James Russell 

I'm hoping brevity leads to interest and it sweeps my prospective publisher right into the work.

I also thought I'd make use of a refined version of the original pitch to lead readers into each story. For the e-version, hyperlinks will allow readers to cherry-pick which story they want to read without even the minor tedium of scrolling downward. Click-and-read might lead them to give a second story a chance if the first one they pick amuses them, provokes thought, or gives them a minor orgasm. (Like bad pizza, it's still pretty good. What? No one else remembers "Threesome"?)

Here's the text for that.

A graduation speech becomes uncomfortably honest. (Graduation)

Two old queens learn the hardest truth a gay bar can offer. (Last Gay Bar)

A young man’s awakening requires a Molotov cocktail. (Friends and Pyromaniacs)

A professor regrets a lost moment of faith from his high school religion class. (Period Three Damnation)

An anger management patient confronts the rules of hetero manhood. (Compliment)

Compromise leads to disaster for two miserable cat-owners. (The Cat is Sick)

An expose reporter goes undercover at a religious conversion camp for gay teens. (Divine Hand)

A haunted writer tries to bury his lost childhood friend once and for all. (Kevin’s Elm)

In 2029, a Corporate-national school inspector documents the test run of fascism's latest classroom tool. (Equality Chair)

A boy learns about sex and karate, friendship and denial. (Hear No Evil)

Seeking a mid-life "reboot", a teacher reacts belatedly to a student's revelation – the reaction involves meatloaf. (The Meatloaf Reclamation)

Kevin Woods sees the collision of his birth and first sex, as he commits suicide. (Echoes of Kevin Woods)

A C.I.A. agent controls the ultimate weapon in the war against Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal. (The Gay Bomb)

As always, your thoughts are welcome.


Monday, May 28, 2012

The Pitch (Take Two)

The reviews are in on my rough draft pitch for Strange Arrangements.

Here are some words and phrases that came up: clunky, awful, disconnected, a mess, and "train wreck."

One guy in my writing group said it literally scared him.

'k, that's why we draft.

My writing group did give me some quality feedback about where to go next with it. After swinging the other way and writing a pitch so abstract it sounded like the opening narrative of a classic Twilight Zone, I came up with a better attempt.

I'm learning it's much harder to pitch a short story collection than a novel. This makes sense. A novel has a singular focus (hopefully). A short story collection needs to be united by some kind of a theme and the pitch has to thread them together. Also, rather than writing a one-sentence description of each story, I decided to highlight three of the best in the hopes of drawing would-be publishers in, rather than scaring them with a big, fourteen-sentence paragraph with fourteen seperate ideas.

Here's the improved attempt:


Life is full of odd people, in bizarre circumstances. A young man sees a connection between transformation and fire: his awakening demands a Molotov cocktail. Another young man earns court-appointed anger management therapy and confronts the unwritten rules of manhood. A war-weary C.I.A. operative plants the secret weapon in the war against fundamentalist Islam – a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal. Then he turns it on its makers and broadcasts the results. These are a few of the stories of men in strange arrangements.

STRANGE ARRANGEMENTS is a 45,000-word short story collection, my debut. Thank you for your time and consideration.

(Feedback is always welcome.)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Best Week (Readings)

What a week! I wrote my own vows and had to read them in front of an intimate group of friends and family. I was invited to read a piece for the first time and was privileged enough to do both in the same calendar week.

The vows were scarier, but not by much. In both cases I had to kind of dive head first into the paper and hope what I'd already written was good enough to carry me. I basically broke every public speaking rule I've ever taught my students about eye contact, especially at the author reading. (Having Shane to look up at and share the stage with me certainly helped with the vows.)

Two people helped me at the author reading. Obviously, my husband, who whooped it up just like he did when we went to see Brokeback Mountain together (right when Heath Ledger crudely seized Jake Gyllenhall to the horror of the stuffy art house queens in attendance). The other one was my new sister Flower Conroy, poetess extraordinaire, who wouldn't let me hide and helped me to mingle, terrified creature that I was. The two of them cheered so loud they reminded me of the table of folks who came to my Master's graduation. You can always tell a Jersey table at a graduation.

I met some of the other authors in this year's Saints and Sinners Anthology, including the winner, Jerry Rabushka. I had to have an honest moment with him after his reading: the egomaniac in me really wanted to hate his story. I couldn't. It was too damn good.

I was also privileged to meet Jeff Mann, my instructor, who reminded me of the many subtle differences between a good story and one that's ready to be published. The pieces we reviewed in the course, and the ones in the anthology, had a "clockwork effect" going for them - each part of the story aided the central metaphor, motifs, and overall theme. This is what makes a story something greater than a collection of clever lines.

Another big takeaway for me - self-publishing won't meet the goals I have for my short story collection. Therefore, I needed a better pitch for the traditional route. I wrote one that I think is pretty solid. This is it:


A graduation speech becomes uncomfortably honest after Pete Petucci loudly moos. Two old queens learn the hardest truth a gay bar can offer - sometimes you have to recognized when a place has passed you by. A young man discovers the beauty of transformation and learns how to make a Molotov cocktail. An Agnostic college professor looks back on a lost moment of faith from his high school religion class. For an unwilling patient, anger management means confronting the unwritten rules of hetero manhood. Compromise leads to disaster for two miserable cat-owners. Expose reporter Joshua Mendham goes undercover as a "Guide of Christ" at a gay-to-straight conversion camp. A haunted writer tries to bury his lost childhood friend once and for all. Corporate-national school inspector Charles Vance Cohen documents the test run of fascism's latest classroom tool. A boy learns about sex and karate, friendship and denial. Seeking a mid-life "reboot", a teacher has a delayed reaction to a student's revelation - a reaction involving meatloaf. Doomed teen Kevin Woods sees the collision of his birth and first sex, as he commits suicide. The military's ultimate weapon in the war against Islamic fundamentalism - a pheromone bomb that causes gay arousal - is turned against its masters.

These are the stories of men in strange arrangements.

Now all I have to do is get one of the gatekeepers to open the damn gate...

More to come.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Milestone Week

This week I have two events to celebrate that are kinda-sorta related.

The first is I'm getting married on Tuesday. I was going to say united or "unioned" or something but fuck all that. Tuesday is our eighth anniversary and we've been living together for more than seven years. It's marriage. To hell with semantics. The culture war is over. We won. The sexually retarded minority can move to Utah and mope about it. Thank you, Mr. President.

Digress? Sure.

The best thing about it is how nervous I'm not. Yes, I'd like our brief ceremony to go off without the proverbial hitch but I've never for one moment doubted that we were amazing together. We love each other. He's supported my little writing dream more than anyone. We both love bar games. He cooks. He's there for a playful butt slap or supportive back rub and rarely gives the wrong one at the wrong time.

And I guess I must do something for him too. My foot rubs are outstanding. You would feel that shit in your neck if I was on my game. I also break a crossword puzzle logjam like nobody's bidness.

We're honeymooning in New Orleans, where I'm participating in my first author's panel to talk about my fourth published piece, "Divine Hand", which will be part of QueerMojo, an anthology of up-and-coming (pun?) gay authors. The discussion is part of the "Saints and Sinners" festival, a collection of homophile bibliosexuals or homosexual bibliophiles depending on how stimulating the book you're reading is.

My better half was the key editor. We spent much of October and November working and re-working "Divine Hand" to get it under 7,000 words and leave only the narrative that was contributing to the main storyline. The process left me with two related writing certitudes:

1.) Sometimes you have to cut clever shit out of your stories when it (said clever shit) isn't contributing to the main storyline in some way.

2.) The best stories have a "clockwork effect" - all the gears fit into one another and they turn with shared purpose. Every phrase of every sentence contributes to an effect far greater than the final word count.

This week, I simply celebrate the benefits of some great decisions past. The main one is my choice to ask for my future hub's number way back in the spring of '04. (His cousin is the only reason I knew about Saints and Sinners to begin with.) In my tragicomic love life, there is at least that one decision that added love, support and happiness.


Here's the except I'll be reading from "Divine Hand"

What do they do at a gay-to-straight conversion camp?
I know why they exist – some parents choose to believe they can change their children. They believe they can write a check and drop off a theater boy, a softball girl. Then in a few weeks, pick up their quarterback, their prom queen.
The best of them believe it because they don’t want life to be any harder for their children. The worst of them believe it because the Bible told ‘em so.
But just what the hell do they do there? What is their success rate? How would one even judge if the kid had turned?
As an exposé reporter, I had to know.
Arrogance and decency are the engines that motivate my profession. They play off each other like some great emotional dynamo, driving the reporter to fulfill the journalist’s mission. As they teach it in journalism school, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comforted.”
That takes arrogance. Who am I to determine who the “comforted” are? Who am I to label the “afflicted?” Are Wall Street brokers comforted, and the homeless they step over afflicted? What is my Edward R. Murrow duty then? Grab the broker’s Brooks Brothers case and afflict him in the head with it, handing it off to the newly-comforted bum?
It also takes decency. If one ponders the last quarter-century, it’s really the tale of greed, the few causing the suffering of many. A good exposé reporter goes to war against the powerful few, feeding his ego while freeing the world from ignorance. Photographing the CEO in bed with the Senator; patting ourselves on the back on national television for months. Think of my profession, think of me as Superman, without that tedious humility.
My editor at the Village Voice likes to say “The ego has landed” when he sees me at the office. I don’t argue that point with him.
So when my ego decided it wanted to go undercover as a “Guide of Christ” at Divine Hand, a gay-to-straight conversion camp, my editor gave me his blessing.
As far as comfort and affliction, Divine Hand deserves to be afflicted. I’ve never been more certain assessing any institution. They operate their conversion camp under no outside supervision. They are a church, and a corporation, with no distinction made. They are completely tax exempt. They receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from various Mormon groups in Utah, proving that mutual prejudice can unite. They take tens of thousands of dollars from Midwestern parents, desperate to “convert” their teenagers. Their motto is “Finding the power to change, in the touch of Christ” but “Praying the gay away since 1989” would have been far more bold and candid.
I went to find my inner “reformed gay.”
Reformed gay.
Eye-widened Asian.
Bleached Negro.
Read them all back and see if they aren’t equally ludicrous and appalling.
As to my own sexuality, I will only say that I’ve had sex with men and with women, all kinds of sex with both genders. I always enjoyed ejaculating and always enjoyed giving pleasure to others. I might be old fashioned, not Donna Reed 1952 old fashioned, more like pre-Constantine Rome old-fashioned. I have more use for orgasms than prayers, though I realize how silly it is to compare. One can have both, though I prefer to keep my prayers separate from my orgasms. I don’t even like it when my mattress pal says “Oh, God” or “Jesus, fuck me.”
I contacted Ben Harris, who was both the Divine Hand assistant Human Resources Director and one of the head counselors. I introduced myself as Matthew Rosenstein, followed by a battering of hyphens: Ex-bi-sexual, Born-again, ex-Jew, teacher-track coach. They paid my air fare and flew me to this collection of flat dirt called “Municipal Air Field” in Cherry Tree, PA. It was the least they could do with their Mormon friends’ dollars.
Ben met me right on the dirt strip they called a runway. Gym teacher describes him perfectly. The Divine Hand shirt he wore was an orange polo with Jesus on the cross slapped on the tit. The way Jesus bulged I could tell Ben had spent some time on his chest. Before he told me, I guessed he fancied himself a “reformed gay.” If he bent over to touch his toes these days, it was only to stretch his hamstrings. When on his knees, it was only before the lord, though I noticed later, during our thrice-a-day prayer sessions, he would still stare a bit too long at the risen lord’s shredded midsection and that just barely clinging loin cloth.
He crushed my hand in his. I had to squeeze back, to fight for life. He asked if I worked out and I told him I did. He led me to his Hummer. He drove.
We discussed scripture. He asked if I believed the Bible was literally written by God. I said yes. He asked me if I believed a homosexual could change, through the power of prayer and a renewed commitment to God’s love. I told him that it was possible, but not easy, and needed a day-by-day approach, similar to Narcotics Anonymous. Those who were expecting to rid themselves of homosexuality overnight probably never were ready to submit fully to the Lord’s will. He ignored the road for a moment, to turn to me and smile. He said he couldn’t wait to hire me. 
I felt like an outstanding little liar.
As we bonded, Ben said that hobbies were essential to keep a man productive and occupied. “Waiting gives the devil time,” he said, probably echoing some adage-spewing conservative uncle. We exchanged small talk about our hobbies. Ben was fond of jogging, lifting weights, fishing, and reading. When I asked him what he liked to read, other than the Bible, of course, he said his favorite stories were tales of sacrifice and heroism, tales where an unlikely hero finds a part of him that is selfless, and acts to protect the weak.   
He said the first book he’d ever really loved, at the age of ten, was S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. As the youngest of three brothers, Ben could relate to Ponyboy. He fixated on the scene where Ponyboy and Johnny rush into the burning church to save the children. He’d never read a better portrayal of sacrifice and brotherhood, even in real war accounts. He teared up a bit.
By the time we reached Divine Hand’s gay-to-straight conversion grounds, I was madly in love with Ben. 

(end of free preview)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mission: Omission

Time for something new.

This week, I thought it might be fun to issue a writing challenge. The "creativity at gunpoint" thing does wonders for self-censoring writers. (writer's block = bullshit)

The challenge is inspired by "The Wire". You've never seen it? Go. Click red X in corner. Actually, just minimize. But leave. Go watch the whole sixty-hour series. Order take out and wear an adult diaper. Then you can come back.

No, the whole thing.


Wasn't that awesome? David Simon lets no one off the hook and every character is some shade of grey, 100% fully realized.

The idea for this writing challenge came from Season 2. Since you just watched it, you'll remember Season 2 is the one where the port union conspires with smugglers so they can finally have the same political voice (money = speech?) as the downtown corporate types. (corporations = people?)

It's all brilliant, but the best part is when union president, Frank Sobatka, meets with the smugglers under a bridge, unaware that the smugglers are in the process of receiving a phone call - one informing them that Frank was going to enter witness protection and inform on all of them.

The next episode begins with a body being fished out of the water. The body is Frank's.

What struck me about this was the balls it must've taken for David Simon to omit the murder scene. Season 2, Episode 11 ends with "The Greek", the head smuggler, getting the phone call as Frank walks casually toward them for a scheduled meeting. Episode 12 opens with a dock worker sipping his morning coffee, then his curiosity is piqued when he sees the police boat pulling up a "floater".

He left "the big scene" completely out.

What really blew my mind: the show was better without it. Simon does such a brilliant job table-setting that everyone except Frank knows he isn't walking out from under that bridge - the viewer is just as well-informed as "The Greek".

We find out everything we need to know about what happened when the cameras were off. The dock workers are visibly stricken over their fallen brother, but unsurprised. Each of them must've heard a rumor that their union president was doing some off-the-books business with some dangerous people. The police say he must've fought. They had to stab him many times and cut his throat "to be sure"; he had defensive wounds on his hands.

So we imagine what we didn't see. We have an invitation to fill in part of the story.

So that's this week's challenge: write a short story where the "big scene" is implied, or omitted somehow. I'll try it for myself as well, and post in a few days. 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

My Bastard Kid Turns Two

Is two years a long time?

If you've ever taught eighth grade for a few years and then picked up some sixth grade classes, two years make a difference. Eighth graders can be surly, but they know how to sit. Sixth graders think they need to be a half-inch from your face to ask you a question.

So in that case, two years is a long time.

I started my first publishable novel two years ago. It didn't feel like a long time until I read the original draft this morning.

What a steaming pile of literary shit!

Oh well. Nothing's pretty when it's first born. That's why nurses wear gloves.

Back to Jesse. Here's the latest pitch:

When Jesse lost the student council election of 1994 he decided that was the last time he'd lose anything.
Not one thing. Not ever.
He's going to get 100% completion in Super Metroid 3.
He's going to get a glorious gig for his grunge cover band.
He's finally going to get laid.
And if anybody fucks with his plans, he's going to get away with murder.

"Jesse Rules" has been through the ringer. I don't know how typical a journey this is for a novel, but here are some key milestones:

August 2010 - Complete first draft

October 2010 - Complete first revision, first attempt to sell

December 2010 - The first time I convinced someone else to believe in it. She heard about it in the author bio I wrote for my first published short story, "The Gay Bomb." She forwarded it to an agent friend. Read "The Gay Bomb" here:

January 2011 - The agent starts to try to sell it.

July 2011 - The agent stops trying to sell it. (Looking back, he was right. That draft was too raw. Still, I now have nine rejections. "The Help" had sixty, I remind myself. Different target audience, but still...)

August-October 2011 - I focus on short stories, licking my "Jesse lost his agent" wounds. Short stories are wonderful for an ego boost. "Friends and Pyromaniacs" reminds me I can write publishable stuff and I get over my bullshit. Read that story here:
November 2011 - I revise Jesse again.

December-now - My writing group provides me with a ton of valuable feedback. I notice my major weaknesses are clarity, transitioning from thought-to-thought, and establishing a more concrete set of rules for when Jesse refers to himself in the third person.

March 2012 - Feeling motivated after my third and fourth published short stories, I finally realign the fourth section in a way that resolves my anticlimactic ending issue. Jesse crosses the 80,000-word threshold. Better still, they seem like words that work together. My third published piece, "The Camp Seminole Weiner Wall", is avaiable here:
Here's where my asshole kid goes in the future:

April-June - I revise for the last time based on feedback from my writing group.

July-September - I send out query letters to any publishing house that isn't Christian or Children's. I convince just one to see how fucking awesome Jesse is.

Fall 2012 - ??? I don't know what happens after a novel is accepted. I understand it takes a long time. So...

??? 2013 - Jesse meets the world. I'm hoping to share him with you by his third birthday.

So that's where he is now. I'm convinced of my brilliance but the rest of you need to get on board with it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thanks for the Imagination

Kids today have trouble imagining. I know this is crochety old-man speak. But it's not their fault. They struggle to imagine because they're overbooked. We've yuppified them. Or rather, you've yuppified them. I don't fucking breed. That shit's on y'all.

One of my students was on four travel basketball teams. FOUR. I couldn't manage that as a mildly mature adult with many problem-solving and corner-cutting skills.

As a kid, some of my happiest memories are of writing random shit on the blank backs of my dad's old National Guard schedules. I scripted Transformers episodes, He-man episodes, totally geektastic cross-over He-man and Transformers episodes.

As an older kid, I wrote hypothetical, awesome pro-wrestling cards and video game sequels.

I learned to imagine. My parents gave me time to.

So I wanted to thank mom and dad on dad's birthday eve. And also for kicking my ass out of the house now and then so I learned to speak with humans. That matters too.

Links to my published pieces:
The Camp Seminole Wiener Wall

The Gay Bomb

Friends and Pyromaniacs