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Trashed and Lonely

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Thursday, January 5, 2012

Trashed and Lonely

Been a pretty hectic week on the hill.  My wife was in the hospital.  She's gonna pull through.  I thought I was doing a good thing by not commenting publicly on the blog, since it would invite a ton of questions, bring attention her way, which I thought she'd had enough of.  Of course, when I went up to see her at the hospital and mentioned I needed to write today's blog post, she said, "I notice you haven't written about your wife being in the hospital..."  Sometimes you just can't win... Actually, that's most of the time.

I include that video, not as much for the tired ball and chain marriage reference but for the "born to lose/destined to fail" lyric, and because I just saw Mike Ness on a cable special for Guitar Center the other night, which reminded me of a story Tom Pitts once told me about Mike Ness's brother, Chris, who was a chronic masturbator.

OK.  And maybe a little bit for the ball and chain part, too.  But my lovely wife is back home and resting and seems to be on the mend.  It was strange not having her here for these past few days.  With Justine, I am an attractive, edgy writer, with a kick-ass home gym.  Without her, I am just a 41-year-old dude, twice divorced, who cleans way too much.  I don't like not having her around.  Makes me feel...incomplete.  Like when your favorite show moves to another night without telling you.  I got a glimpse of what my life would be like if she ever left me.  And it's fucking lonely.

All right, enough with the lovefest; let's dissect some shit.


Got a new short story up at the always-creepy, always-kick-ass Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers (  I get judged by the traffic my stories receive on these sites.  The more people read and comment on them, the more my name gets out there, and thus the more likely I am to get contacted and asked to contribute to future issues or even anthologies, sparing me from the humiliation of the blind submission (sounds like an SF dominatrix special, the "humiliating blind submission," $345/hr.)  So if you have a minute, I'd sure appreciate it if you could check out "Another's Man's Treasure" on TKnC and leave a kind word.  (Or not so kind word.  What do I care?  Just so long as you read the damn thing.)

This story, "Another Man's Treasure," is notable for a couple reasons.  One, it's my first foray into horror, although I am not terribly familiar with the rules for that genre.  And you do need to follow those rules.  Each milieu comes with its own set, and readers, whether they are consciously aware of them or not, still expect to see certain things happen.  Although it might not be as imperative for a short story as, say, a novel.  It might just be a dark, creppy-ass story.  And the cool thing about Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers is that they are one of the few horror/noir sites out there, and "Another Man's Treasure" is sort of a hybrid anyway.  It draws on the world I once lived in, that of the tweaker flea market, and it's always fun to infuse a story with the specific details only you know.  And meth is one fucked up place. Interesting.  But fucked up. This story is as close as you want to get.

Overall, I consider Candy and Cigarettes to be a writing site.  Sure, as my Facebook friend Annie likes to point out, I do pepper the writing bits with tales of mental illness, physical impairment, and love gone wrong, but the overarching theme of this place is about the craft.  With a liberal sprinkling of pop culture.  I hate didactic. Of course, if you really want a writing site, you should check out Chuck Wendig's Terrible Minds (, the New York Yankees of web writing advice to my Wichita Beavers' farm team.

But it's all about writing progress not spiritual perfection, right?  

Sorry.  Got my programs confused again.

The really interesting part of "Another Man's Treasure" is in its journey as a story, and I don't mean the years of research I spend snorting, smoking, and shooting meth. (Now there's a fun time.  Think I'm high strung now?  Should've seen me in a tiny closet with four smelly creepers pawing at me when I haven't slept in six days).

After I got sober in '01, I reenrolled at Central Connecticut State and took some creative writing classes. "Treasure" was my very first effort.  Although aside from its flea market setting and basic premise of a ruse to look at furniture leading to violent tragedy, you would hardly recognize that incarnation.  The original version was called Bargain Hunting, and it was based on a story I'd once heard while hanging out, getting high in a tweaker pad.  This guy's speech was all fucked up and his head was seriously misshapen.  He said he used to work the SF flea markets, which a lot of tweakers do, since it relies so heavily on an ability to get dirty and sift through trash all night.  One day someone asked him if he wanted to look at some furniture that could be had for a bargain-basement price, but when he arrived at the address in the projects he was jumped and savagely beaten by some brothers, resulting in permanent brain damage.  (Might be thinking that he probably shouldn't have gone to the projects, but how do you think these people made their living? They weren't dealing at the Top of the Mark.)  It was a pretty sad story, and it stayed with me over the years, especially because he was also talking about his daughter, who lived with is ex-wife, and who he never got to see.  I thought the plight of a single father who gets beaten on his way to pick up his daughter for the weekend would prove heartbreaking.  But no one seemed terribly impressed. During workshop, when my professor, Dr. Ostrowski, began making suggestions on how to improve the piece, details I could change, add, omit to tweak emotive response, I said, "But that's not the way it really happened!"  Which doesn't make a damn bit of difference.  Because as my professor pointed out, fiction is not life; it's is life-like. Big fucking difference.  And you never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

The story languished for years, and obviously was never published in its original form.  99% of all (good) writing is rewriting, and it wasn't until I essentially scraped the original and truly revised it--as in a re-envisioning--that I started to make any headway.  On the one hand, it's just a story up on a site, but I'd also like to think it serves as proof that I've learned something about story writing over the last ten years, even if it's in very tiny increments.


You may've noticed, because obviously, like I, you spend an inordinate amount of time charting the most successful posts on Candy and Cigarettes, that "Debra Morgan" ( recently overtook "Burning Man" ( for the #2 slot all-time. Which sorta baffles me.  I mean, I almost understood why so many people read the stuff about Burning Man, since it's like a religion out here, with both supporters and detractors.  But an expose trying to uncover the strange sex appeal of a make-believe, foul-mouthed, wonkey-eyed, tomboy on a cable show about a serial killer?  

My hope is that maybe someday Deb herself will read this, seek me out, and we'll have a chance to be truly unhappy together... 

Until then, thanks for reading.

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