This week I’ll be pushing my sophomore literary effort, But I Love You, into the world with a plug-it-until-it-makes-people-puke enthusiasm. Then, when the dust settles, the pride built over a two-year crafting of words into story will do its best to withstand the free-flying stink of negativity that might eventually accompany it on its humble sale pages scattered across the internet. They’ll be good reviews (written by moms, friends, and even strangers), and they’ll be stuff that makes me question wether writing is my thing. That’s just part of the game. And like the first time, I’ll abstain from writing any particular individual to tell them just how wrong they are about it. I’ll remain chipper in the face of phrases like, “Do yourself a favor and skip this one. You’ll be glad you did,” and “Such promise to fall so flat.” There’s a bevy of other choice barbs and stinging insults, some written by folks who were kind enough to only read the first chapter before “awarding” My Dead Friend Sarah one or two stars. You take the punches and move on. Hell, if you are me, you secretly hope that your book turns the insides of someone so intensely that they decide to come after you. You wonder how hard it is to get a restraining order. You fantasize about a blurb on some celebrity dot-com rag that mentions how you went to court to testify against the stalker. You aim for the kind of crazy that drove you to write the book in the first place. I didn’t set out to create a polarizing tale the first time. And though I’d toyed with the idea of doing so for the second story, the notion lost steam as I realized that action in and of itself would betray me. In the end, like the first time, I’d like to think that I’ve managed to merge some very real-world observations on the way we live with a story that moves quickly and keeps people entertained and wanting more. There’s more to the story, but I’ll need that material to bug you later in the week as I try and coax you our of a few bucks and some of your time.
A quick-ish lesson in the train of thought that leads one man to decide that, yes, he is capable of serving hard time for his unborn son. The Mrs. and I went to see Transcendence this past weekend. If you haven’t seen it, I’m recommending you wait until it’s on one of modern day’s home viewing options. Save your thirty to forty bucks for the umpteenth remake of Godzilla. Not sure why that trailer has me hooked, but it does. Now then, the Johnny Depp flick has nothing to do with child rearing specifically, but even if you haven’t seen it, you can deduce that it does construct a story that dances around notions of what the future might hold for our civilization.
And so, if you are me, you are watching and thinking in the voice of a ninety year old man, “Hurumph, lots of changes comin’, yes sir, yes sir!”
You continue this conversation with yourself, recalling a brief back and forth with a parenting friend about the impossibilities of knowing exactly what technologies you’ll be disallowing your children to use in the near to not-so-far futures of their lives. And if you’d been reading about haptic suits and a life lived almost exclusively as an avatar online in a book like Ready Player One, you start wondering if your future son will even go outside at all. You start thinking about what you’ll ban, remembering that all pre-parents had similar conversations about video games, cellphones, and the lot, only to ultimately be confronted with newer things you couldn’t have fathomed that come along with the pleas of, “But so-and-so-friend’s parents let he or she have a blankity-blank already, come on, I’m eight or nine or ten or five!”
You move forward, remembering that because you only intend on having the one that it’s important to put him into social situations with other babies, children, and grow-ups. You don’t want him to be a shut-in. Suddenly, all thought deviates to an entirely different possibility, “No way my kid is going to be living in a haptic suit, he’ll be a chip off the ol’ block. Very charming, a real go getter. Devilishly handsome too.” You condemn yourself momentarily for letting your ego turn your child into the inwardly projected image of yourself. Somehow, age fourteen comes into play. You wonder how you’ll convince him to have protected sex if he has sex at all. You didn’t have sex at fourteen, but your mind tends to bolster the prediction with its vague recollection of scattered news mentions of promiscuity occurring at younger and younger ages.
“I hope he’ll be smart enough to not take the risk so young,” you say, but before you can even finish the thought you’ve already scripted a scenario in which this young-man-about-town of yours has dazzled the pants off of some young lady at age fourteen. You change the age to fifteen to feel better about yourself. Next thing you know she’s pregnant. He didn’t listen. You think about how you’d handle that situation, and then with no invitation to the thought party whatsoever, the thought, “What if he feels trapped? Kills her and hides the body?” pops into your head. You know almost certainly that this won’t happen, but even as you watch Johnny Depp “die” (oops, Spoiler Alert) on a table in front of you, you can’t help but shake the possible reality that you’ll be faced with that difficult decision of either turning your pride-and-joy in to the authorities, helping him live a life on the lam, or figuring out a way to take the fall for the atrocity he has committed.
“I’d turn that lil’ shit-head in,” you reassure yourself, even as you begin to accept what your remaining years look like in the slammer. “It’d have been an act committed under intense duress. My son is a good boy. He’s a good boy. It won’t happen again,” you repeat to yourself. “It was my fault. I didn’t do a good enough job of explaining the consequences of the birds and the bees. This is how it has to be.” And so there, under the darkness that accompanies the screening of a so-so film that isn’t holding your attention, you silently proclaim, “It’s all good. I can do the time.”
Will our baby be smart? Will our baby be handsome? Will he be healthy? Will he try to kill me?
Yes, I’ve done thunk it. The baby inside my wife’s belly could kill me. Could kill you. Could try to kill us all.
If you are my age, give or take a year or two, there’s a good chance that you too spent some parts of your summers between the grades of elementary school and junior high watching a few things that maybe your prepubescent brain wasn’t quite ready to reasonably consume on what used to pass for HBO, Showtime, and The Movie Channel. I’m not talking about the soft-core porn, aka what I used to refer to as “The Happy Music Movies,” though I’m sure plenty of us only accidentally managed to view some of that as well. I’ve referenced some of the films from those salad days of my youth in previous posts. Clockwork Orange, Motel Hell, The Tin Drum, just to name a few. Many of my most disturbing daydreams are certainly the direct result of those three specifically. I’m fascinated by the idea that a handful of prophetic, polarizing, and/or horror films seen at a too-soon-age might have formed long lasting sinister effects on my gray matter.
It’s Alive was released in 1974, but must have been in heavy rotation a decade or so later for me to have seen it. If you were to study up on the film, you might decide that there is some credible subtext to this B horror film regarding the rights of the unborn, some segment of society’s ethical implications revolving around the use of fertility drugs, and possibly even abortion itself. All of that might be a stretch, but I’ve seen a few things suggesting as much on the internet. For me though, it was a simple story about a horrible demon baby that was just cute enough for you to not root against completely as it tore through the city on an unintentionally murderous rampage. “The child is just frightened,” Lenore Davis (the mother) was fond of saying throughout the film—the baby monster would coo just enough in between its blood curdling screams to keep you from rooting for it to be captured and killed. At least I remember wanting it to live despite all of the horrible atrocities it had committed.
I imagine far more people have seen Alien than It’s Alive, and so I’m guessing a far more common and utterly disturbing vision had when observing your baby momma’s belly is the infamous emergence of the true star of that futuristic film. I ping-pong between the two narratives, though thankfully not on a daily basis.
Spoiler Alert: The fanged little nipper from It’s Alive didn’t kill its Pops. In fact, by the end, and despite Frank’s (the father) original intention of killing it, their bond was pretty strong. The majority of this post has been a soft-set-up for the real question that’s been on my mind. Maybe it’s too dark a suggestion to make on a blog that was original born to playfully mock my madness and whet the appetites of what I’d hoped would be a growing readership patiently waiting for new musings in the form of novels—but has it ever occurred to you that once you commit to brining a new life into the world, that it’s possible—I’m not saying probable—but possible that the added being may very well be the one that takes you out of this physical realm? I’ve not bothered to look up the odds, though foggy memories of statistical analysis done against murder does seem to conjure up some claim that a good many of them are perpetrated against the victim by some one they knew.
As macabre as it may be, it seems to this odd duck that along with what I’m guessing are the fairly typical concerns of a would-be parent, that a sort of peaceful acceptance of the possibility of your own demise by its hands is about the only sane way to move forward.
Full disclosure: I’ve been known to use words and the turn of a phrase in the descriptions and depictions of the content I create in order to get the eyeballs of a confused and attention deficit disordered nation to take a gander at my sweet, sweet prose. Some are more offensive than others I suppose, and I’d probably not have given it much thought had My Dead Friend Sarah not received more than a few snipes related to that indiscretion. I suppose a bunch of freeloaders downloaded my novel on the few days I’ve made it available gratis expecting it to be some sort of horror story involving the otherworldly spirit of a woman who was someone’s friend. Double full disclosure: I surmised that some people might pick it up for that very reason and hoped that once they’d engaged with a few chapters it’d have won them over nonetheless, but alas, the world wants a description that leaves no surprises as has been evidenced by two decades worth of countless movie trailers that leave little story untold in the hopes of grabbing another man’s eight to sixteen bucks dependent on their locale. It’s a sad world that way, and I’ve probably already lost many readers by this sentence–those who didn’t give me a chance to come back to some semblance of what this post’s title suggests you’ll be reading about. It’s that kind of world, and you can choose to manipulate it at your own peril–which in previous instances has been the aforementioned reception of an ugly string of words put together to critique a book after a reader felt jilted for having spent a few precious hours diving into something deeper than a ghost story. I’ll wrap up this paragraph with no apology for those who snatched my book from the internets for free, and with only a nod to the possibility that my next book’s title might be more explicit.
For quite a few years now Ariele and I have judged our homes by the Zombie Proof method. In casual conversations had with friends and strangers over those same few years, it’s become apparent that we aren’t the only souls who do so.
First things first then: For me that two-word combination is really just slang for, “Is this a home that will be too difficult to breach by an actual living evil person who is intent on binding and torturing us in the middle of the night?” That’s the reality of my irrationality, and that’s my chief fear–waking with duct tape across my mouth, hands rendered useless, face already stinging from punches to the face gone undefended and a vision of the Mrs. in a similar situation seated across from me through the tears and blur of my pain-soaked eyes. Zombies may one day be as real as we all seemingly want them to be, but until then the more relevant threat is the one, two or three sadistic beings who just happen to decide your time is up.
While any effort to research those types of home invasions will prove that it can happen in just about any kind of dwelling you call home, it is hard not to argue that the condo and apartment style living of Brooklyn that I engaged in for nearly seventeen years dramatically decreased the odds of it ever happening to me. Floors high up in the sky, multiple locked doors between the psycho and you, numerous other inhabitants of the same building on the look out for something suspicious thanks to the TSA, and, in my case, more than a few units that required numerous steps up steep sets of stairs–only the most fit gang of miscreants would dare think about lugging their utensils and tools of destruction up four or five flights of stairs. So in more ways than a few, one of the most dangerous cities in the country (at least as it perceived by anyone who’s never bothered to live there) always afforded me what same might deem a false-sense of security–especially in those sickly ticks of the clock that denote the witching hours of midnight to four. (I’ve no idea what the witching hours actually are, but for me they are the four hours of the evening that I’m most likely deep deep asleep and therefore unable to put to use what little mixed martial arts I’ve learned from the following films: Karate Kid, Kill Bill, and perhaps The Bourne Identity).
In roughly three weeks, I’ll have spent a full year away from the city living that metaphorically for me was like a warm blanket or two wrapped around the just-shy-of-new-born so snuggly stuck in the womb. And I’ll have done so without incident–and while I can appreciate the fabulous design of multiple deck doors and the light they afford, or relish in the ability to re-enter my home from its delightful backyard via this thing normal people call a backdoor, or even wonder if I could ever enjoy sleeping without the cool breeze that flows through our new bedroom during the evening hours thanks to the insane vortex of winds born from easily entered windows and bedroom deck doors–I simply can not, will not, certify this new home as Zombie Proof.
At least not until we go out and get us ourselves some suburban landmines for that there pretty yard we got now.
I can only surmise that a big part of why many of society’s ills remain, by and large, unchanged is that there exists a general fear of unmanageable retaliation. We don’t all know one of the many martial arts that might equip us to thwart the blind aggression that might ensue if and when we point out the perverse behavior of another human being, or for that matter, a corporation. We share our personal stories about all that bothers us at our dinner parties, amongst friends on nights out fueled up on our trusty truth serum, and from behind the only seemingly cloaked key strokes of our home computers. But how often do we stand up for what’s right in the actual moment?
Easier to let things slide. Less hassle to pay an extra dime here or there and not have to do the infinite amount of leg work required to right a painstakingly obvious wrong. “Unbelievable,” we might mutter as we watch a woman drop a dirty diaper from her SUV and into the gutter of an otherwise pristine Brooklyn brownstone block–true story that one. And I did watch a braver soul attempt to get her to pick it back up, I believe her response was, “It’s not even soiled.” You see, a pee-peed diaper is just fine.
Rare is the day that I don’t encounter a situation that if put into perspective becomes crystal clear in its wrongness. That might be the net result of being a city dweller, an avid walker, and a guy who always has his peepers scanning left, right and back again for potential thuggery–and that’s regardless of the city street I find myself on. I doubt anyone has ever given the quaint sea-side town of Mendocino, CA a more thorough examination, or painted so many possible, though not probable, acts of pure evil onto its ocean-air-fresh canvas.
As tends to happen when I abstain from blogging for a period of time, I’ve made a mockery of getting to the point. I suppose on this evening, when I am looking back at many of the things that actually occurred to me, or in front of me, over the course of the last four or five weeks, I am wondering–when was the last time I made a fuss over something egregious in an effort to end it, better the situation for others down the road, or at the very least point out its absurdity publicly in the hopes that others might see it for the farce that it is. What was the last incident in your life that you took the extra time to do the same?
As you may or may not know, I’ve moved to Boston. If you were/are trying to hunt me down to exact some horrific revenge, and weren’t aware of that already, well, I don’t suspect it’s in my best interest to increase your hatred for me with my telling you that you kinda stink at stalking. Regardless, now you know about my new locale, and knowing is half the battle–even if your battle is the demons of your ineptitude as it pertains to finding me to extinguish from this plane.
Just over a week in, I can tell you that moving to Boston from NYC has been beyond really swell. If you’ve ever been in and around Boston, I imagine you are already privy to the majority of reasons one might find it a refreshing change of pace from the sparkly rat-trap a few hours southwest via I-95. It’d also be easy for one to surmise that said refreshing change of pace might soften the armor of a guy whose life is built around semi-irrational hallucinatory fears.
Ha. Have you been on the antiquated land connecting structure that is referred to around here as a bridge by the name of Tobin? Bridges–I hate ’em. Since I’m nearly 40 years old, and still alive, I guess I can’t say bridges hate me too. How deeply do I despise these elevated sheeple motor movers in the sky? Almost enough to plan most of my daily living around them.
“That bridge isn’t going anywhere, Rosch!” You say?
Who said anything about falling bridges? I’ve always been infinitely more concerned about taming the odd desire to swerve the car wickedly fast into the barrier to see if it’s possible to go over it. Am I alone on this similar to feeling-like-you-might-not-be-able-to-control-yourself-from-jumping-from-tall-buildings sensation? Perhaps. And yes, I’m aware that most bridges provide adequate barriers to prevent cars from just toppling over the sides. That said, I’ve seen a story or two about the odd car that made it over the side of a bridge unexpectedly. Oh, it happens–it happens–it just takes commitment to the cause. A commitment that, thankfully, I’ve not had the desire to keep.
*It’s worth noting that my fear of bridges might stem from–surprise, surprise-my mother, who always insisted we roll the windows down when we crossed one just in case we tumbled over. The thinking being, we’d stand a better chance of escaping the murky depths without having to navigate the pressure pushing against a sealed door. She’s a smart one that mother of mine–crazy as all get out–but one step ahead just the same.
Having a book out in the world has been a real treat–mostly. I don’t have actual numbers put together, but I think it’s safe to say that for every three people who have taken the time to read it, one point five have liked it. I never expected everyone to like it, even so, it can be difficult to absorb critical reviews of something so very personal to me. Taking in things like, “the best writing in this book was the word end,” is especially trying when the review has been written by a reader who either scored the book for free because of my own promotions or due to a review service traditional publishers use known as NetGalley that I ponied up some dough for in order to expose the book to a broader base of readers. I suppose that’s what I paid for, honest reviews from complete strangers.
I put a great deal of time into researching the pros and cons of that move, and there was one warning that in hindsight seems particularly spot-on, something along the lines of this: when you offer up your book for free, a lot of people who never would have wanted to read it in the first place, will buy it, without making sure that it is something up their proverbial alley, and as such, will proceed to pan it relentlessly even if they didn’t bother to make it past page six. That has happened a number of times, and to some extent, my title My Dead Friend Sarah has also put the content of the book into the wrong hands–people looking for paranormal YA fiction about ghosts and dead folk to be exact.
Such is the case with my most recent panning–the reviewer even begins her umpteen-hundred words long review by making the admission that she downloaded it for free because she thought, “it was going to be a ghost story or at least have some paranormal/scary elements to it.” She isn’t the first to decide to read it for that reason, and I suspect she won’t be the last. I’m not going to belabor all of the things she found wrong with the book after being “compelled to finish it despite its shortcomings.” She was nice enough to give it two stars instead of one, just because of that compulsion by the way. It was her right to review it–her right to express every little dissatisfaction with it and post her beliefs on multiple sights, doing her civic duty of making sure the rest of the actual paying public isn’t duped into reading my book that isn’t about ghosts, or according to her all-bold Amazon review headline, “…isn’t about a dead girl named Sarah.”
My shiny happy sober brain has me knowing that reviewing her blog, So-and-So’s Dark Fiction, here, and discussing its merits as determined by me, a highly decorated marketing/design/communications professional, would be a colossal defeat to higher-road types everywhere–and not becoming of an aspiring author either. But, The Demon, as I’ve come to calling that part of myself that still lurks within me even in sobriety, wants out of his cage. He has a wicked tongue, and he’d love nothing more than the opportunity to put into words a verbal assault to strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy the naive brother he shares a body with. (I guess he, The Demon, also likes butchering quotes from Pulp Fiction, thus really revealing his age to the kiddies out there).
Nope, gotta keep that slick son-of-a-bitch caged for at least another day. Thus, I’m off to try and run him into submission with a four of five miler–but only after his morning smoke. After all, her own demon is an unknown, and if I were to let mine pick a fight with hers publicly, there’s always the very real chance hers would come find me and snuff us both out. The Demon would love that.