Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I FREAKING MADE IT!

Now, I'm not saying I'm Papa Hemingway, cuz let's face it, we all know I don't drink excessively or have a penchant for firearms. Or bullfighting. But, I am excited to say that I have officially hit the 50,000 word mark. With a day to spare. And what an action packed month to do it in: there were weddings (Jen's cousin), an engagement (Keith and Liz), death (sadly, Mr. Pat Morita), holidays (Thanksgiving and the ever popular 'Plan Your Epitaph Day') and the first printed promotion for Horrorwood (in Wizard #171, kids. Pick up a copy at your local magazine depository!). But I prevailed, mainly by ignoring my husbandly duties, speaking to no one but the voices in my head, and staring at the computer screen so long, I think I may now have a tumor the size of a bread box behind my left eye. All in the name of art.

So what will happen with my crowning acheivement now that I have crossed the finish line? Who knows. I still have to finish the damn thing. Sure, I hit the 50k mark, but I was only 80% finished with the story. I don't even know how it ends! I don't even know who did it! (I'm thinking it's going to be either the butler or the quadriplegic rapper -- maybe I'll have a vote, and have people send in their guess, along with five dollars.) In all honesty, I'll most likely finish it up before the holidays, maybe do some polishing on it, and then see where that takes me.

Well, I'm gonna stop looking at this computer screen (the tumor is throbbing). I have my TV watching to catch up on, time to see what all the Veronica Mars hullaballoo is about. That, and I have to frame my NaNoWriMo completion certificate and hang it in the office, so I can someday show my kids how awesome I used to be. Before the rickets.

Here's my other reward, courtesy of Keith. Thanks, I decided to post the photo of the blue ribbon and not of the naked fat chick. That one's just for me...

Until we meet again, I remain,
H.H.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Rounding Third and Being Waved In!

Al Newman's gesturing wildly. He thinks I can make it. He's waving me in! Oh yeah, I'm in the home stretch. Only 8,000 words from hitting the glorious 50,000 word count. I can see the end of the road, and even though there's a good chance the novel won't be done by then (more story to tell, Occassional Reader) I will have solid footing and will have won NaNoWriMo. I even think I get to download some sort of certificate saying I've won. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Why tell you how it's ended when I still have work to do?

And so, I head back to the story, leaving my baseball metaphor up in the air until I feel my foot slap home plate.

Oh, and in shittier news, Pat Morita died. Wax on, wax off in peace, Mr. Myagi. Somewhere, Ralph Macchio is crying. Most likely, it's behind the counter of an In and Out.

H.H.


So, here's the last excerpt from the book. Stanley has just told his grandson Nathan that he thinks someone is out to get him, and they are leaving a coffee shop in the town of Jasper Springs, MN. A town I made up. Where I'm the mayor. And I'm awesome.

Enjoy!

Outside, clouds had rolled in, diffusing the sunlight temporarily. There was an awkward silence between Stanley and Nathan, and for a moment, they stood in front of the coffee shop, buttoning up. The sound of distant laughter drew Stanley’s attention, and he looked over Nathan’s shoulder, down the street, where a group of three college aged men with tussled hair and black shirts featuring noisy bands Stanley would never listen to came out of a store. The awning above was bright red, and a small flag featuring the large ‘S’ emblem from Superman’s costume blew in the breeze. So there’s The Comic Stop, he thought.

Nathan glanced over his shoulder, picked up on where Stanley was looking. “Yeah, Marco’s a nice guy. Really knows his stuff.”

“He knows an awful lot about the Crimson Avenger,” Stanley commented.

“Some what. They all do. Steve. Jess.”

“But Marco especially?”

Nathan laughed. “You don’t think—“

“He ever seem a little loose in the shoes?”

“Huh?”

“Off his rocker?”

Nathan shook his head with conviction. “Absolute opposite. Marco’s a stand-up guy. Scout’s honor.” He lifted his right hand, extending his first two fingers in the traditional gesture of truth.

Stanley nodded his head, wondering if it would be helpful to snoop around the Comic Stop some day. Maybe he’d give Marco that book signing after all.

Nathan pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket, cupping his hand around one in order to light it. He inhaled deeply, then noticed the look Stanley was giving him.

“Just don’t tell my dad, okay?” He must have realized his comfort level had increased around Stanley, because this was the first time he’s smoked in front of his grandfather. Of course, the most Stanley ever saw Nathan was at family functions and special events, neither of which were occasions Nathan could feel in his element.

Stanley nodded. He couldn’t say too much, he used to handroll a cigarette every time he sat down behind the Smith Corona, one of those rituals superstitious people had regarding their performance at work. He’d smoked a lot of cigarettes, so much so that even now, he’d find slivers of tobacco tucked beneath the keys and under the typebars. He’d given it up when Esther had been ill, because he had spent more time than not in the hospital with her, and the medical oncology department of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester was on the sixth floor. It was a long walk for a smoke, and he decided it wasn’t worth it.

Still, there was something about smelling the smoke of a cigarette that was intoxicating, that took him back to the rathole apartment on Chicago’s Southside, when he and Charlie would sit on the fire escape and smoke and shout nonsense at passerbys.

Nathan and Stanley parted ways, Nathan informing Stanley he’d visit as soon as his shift was over at five. As Stanley walked back to his car, still parked diagonally in front of Ferrill’s, he saw a dark sedan round the corner ahead and pull to the curb. He thought nothing of it, stepped to cross the road, watching his feet and being mindful of the shallow puddles that had formed small ponds of ice in the cracked cement and potholes.

He heard the low rumble of a vehicle, and turned his head to see the dark sedan from down the street had begun to move again. He looked left and right, saw a mother with a double-wide stroller talking on a cell phone, and an older woman sitting on a bus bench, waiting for public transportation. The car did not move quickly, and was in fact on the other side of the road, but nevertheless, its methodical slow acceleration made Stanley move a little faster, shuffling his tired frame across the street.

As the car neared, its tires began to ride the double yellow line, toying with crossing into Stanley’s vicinity. There was something disconcerting regarding the car, that same feeling that had crawled into Stanley’s gut when he came home to find he'd been burglarized. It didn’t sit right.

The car was closing in.

Stanley tried to peer through the windshield, tried to see who was driving. The large cloud, which had enveloped the sun a moment ago, had dissipated, and there was a violent glare coming off the glass. The driver was lost behind the reflection.

The hitch in Stanley’s step picked up, and before he knew it, he was moving at top speed, which in reality was not very fast. His feet shuffled, and he realized he was panicking, his heart thrumming inside his chest, his breath shallow. He hadn’t moved this fast in years, crossing the street, moving near the row of cars parked at a forty five degree angle to the sidewalk, passing bumper after bumper. He could hear the car, hear it moving faster, toying with him.

When he glanced over his shoulder, it seemed as if the car were on his heels. It was straddling the yellow line, waiting for the perfect moment to swerve over and run down the poor, defenseless old man.

Ahead, he saw the faded red of the Thunderbird, dug inside his pants pocket for the keys. He rounded the rear fender of a Saturn sports vehicle, heading to the driver’s door of the Ford. His left knee scraped the hard plastic of the fender, and a sudden flash of pain erupted up Stanley’s side.

He stumbled forward, and his left foot landed squarely in a small pothole of ice. The ice crinkled and his foot descended six inches into water, sliding forward. He grabbed for purchase, found none, and fell to the ground between the cars.

The dark sedan roared past, the only car on the road, as Stanley hollered out in pain. He reached out, waving frantically, the pain in his left foot and side immense and constrictive. It felt like he was primed to explode, and the only thing preventing it was the wrinkled and already bruised skin.

The car never stopped, just continued on down the street, taking the first available right turn. It was in dire need of a new muffler, and it could be heard long after it was out of sight.

Stanley twisted his body, looked toward the sidewalk, his voice already hoarse from crying out in the bitter air. He saw the front plastic white wheels of a massive stroller, and relief washed over him.

“Oh my God.” A woman’s voice, panic, fright. She began to say something else, but Stanley was falling into the black that swarmed the outside of his vision.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

2nd Wind!

No, I'm not talking about that Ron Jeremy stand-in, Dick Enrico, and his line of used exercise equipment stores. Please, I'd like to buy a treadmill I'm not going to use but probably has the residual sweat of the last fat guy who tried to walk away his Krispy Kremes on it. I'm actually talking about how I'm at 28,200 words, and can maybe see how this blasted novel is going to end! I'm trying to get ahead of the game in the next couple of days, because with Thanksgiving, I'm not sure how much I'll be able to type. And God knows I don't want to finish at 12:07 a.m. on December 1st.

Another thing. I've been thinking about this lately, as it is the eve of the next Harry Potter movie, and I wanted to mention my biggest bone to pick with the books. Adverbs. Loads of them. J.K. Rowling loves her some adverbs fierce. Or fierce-LY. And it's always buggered the piss out of me. But, upon writing my own novel, I notice that I, too, fall victim to the adverb curse. Of course, in my case, every word counts, and I will happily, merrily, forthrightly add adverbs to reach 50,000 words. That, and make one of my characters a stutterer. I say that jokingly.

"See, isn't that annoying?" he asked mockingly.

G'night, Go' bless!

Monday, November 14, 2005

Halfway there!

Yep. 25,000 words. Right on schedule. This weekend was kind of hectic, so I spent most of today doing what the kids call, "Catching the F*@K Up!" And I made it. My brain's utter mush right now, so much so that I found this sweet Ma Fratelli painting and wanted to make all these cool Goonies references, but now I just wanna go to bed. But first, I need a glass of water. Wait, this isn't water. "It's wet, ain't it? Now, drink it!" Okay, a weak one, but kiss off.

Oh, don't kiss off until you read this excerpt. Not sure how many more of these I got in me, we'll see. This one's kinda self-explanatory, but Stanley received something in the mail, and something oddly coincidental happened after he opened it. Enjoy!

Stanley had always loved Ashtonville in the autumn, the fiery reds and oranges and yellows in the trees that made them look like a glowing fire. When he and Esther had made the decision to move back to Minnesota from Chicago to raise their family and bury Stanley’s old life as a writer, it was the finest decision they ever made. There was something about the smell, a swirling concoction of crumbled leaves, wet grass, and the faintest hint of bonfire, as if somewhere, someone was perpetually warming themselves by a small flame.

He walked every day; it was part of his cardiovascular routine that kept him mobile while others his age wiled away their golden years being tended to by a young person in a nursing home who was always checking his watch to see if it was time to break free from the smell of death and loneliness. It kept him fit. Though no one saw under his baggy flannel shirt and khaki slacks, he still had a bit of muscle wrapped around his wiry frame. He still had moxie.

His route would vary. Sometimes, he would take the hilly path through Ashtonville that led him past the main strip of town, where small businesses toiled away the day, diners and liquor stores and bars. Past them, an ancient white brick building housed the police department and fire department, all in one. Ashtonville was by no means a large town, and it knew its roots. Since things had been working without a hitch for many years, they avoided change. He’d see Harry Westerman, the police chief, a stout man whose paunch strained the uniform he wore and whose mustache was always perfectly combed. He’d see Cindy Marble, the wide-eyed proprietor of the town’s oldest gas station, her glasses the size of small dinner plates and her red hair frizzed and on end, as if she’d touched a live wire in the cooler while refilling the soda bottles. He knew these people, had known their families, their histories, and it comforted him. Their presence was a warm blanket.

His other route was more somber. His modest rambler home rested near the edge of town, where houses became farms and were separated by acres of land, some sprouting beans, others corn. Just outside of town, a small gravel road with a faded sign naming it County Road 17 cut through farmland and up into a large outcropping of trees, poplars and elms and birch, a splash of color that came upon him like an impressionistic painting. The gravel road wound downhill then, through the trees, and came out at the Ashtonville Memorial Cemetery, fenced-in hillocks covered with sentinel headstones and watched over by a chiseled Christ on the cross, a vibrant white marble set against the blue of a cloudless sky.

It was this second route Stanley chose to take this day. Even if there were nothing rolling around in his mind that needed sorting out, he’d have taken it anyway. Hell, it was that time of year. And the colors were almost peak.

He flipped the collar on his tweed jacket up to protect his neck from the stiff and cool breeze of the morning, and tugged his herringbone wool cap down over his wispy hair. Minnesota winter’s coming soon, he could smell it in the air and feel it creeping its rust into the hinges of his skeleton.

He buried his hands in the pockets of the tweed jacket as he continued his walk along the gravel road, listened to its rhythmic crunch with each step. In his right pocket, he fingered the folded paper on which the number 29 was typed. Small, simple type. Profound meaning.

Sleep had not come back to him after he discovered the connection between the note and the book. He lay in bed and thought about who possibly could have sent this to him, who here in Ashtonville was as familiar with his work, even more familiar it seemed, than he himself. He’d risen out of bed, the Sherlock Holmes in him coming out, as he rummaged through a junk drawer in the kitchen until he found amongst the pencils and golf tees and take out menus a small magnifying glass used for reading. Esther had had bad eyes.

He’d held the envelope under the lamp in his office and studied the postmark with the magnifying glass, hoping a minute detail, a couple of connecting letters in the city name that he could piece together, would be visible under scrutiny. Alas, it was too faded, too poorly stamped, to read.

Before him, the winding path took its ‘ess’ turn down the slope, and a pick-up, a beat up old thing, rumbled past. Dennis Haefner, out on what could be a last minute run before the harvest began. It was getting to be that time of year.

Dennis raised two fingers off the steering wheel as Stanley sidestepped out of the vehicle’s way, kicked up a small plume of dust as it headed away towards town. Another day in the life for everyone in this town except for Stanley, and the poor lady who had been killed by an Alestair Snyde copycat.

The awe inspired by the statue of Christ in the center of the cemetery never ceased to amaze Stanley. It was more of an architectural thing than a spiritual thing, he supposed. He was never a church-going soul, not like Esther. No, he had always thought that going to church on Sunday made him a Christian about as much as standing in a garage made him a Cadillac. But whoever had constructed the statue had done a damn fine job.

Esther’s headstone was toward the back, tucked in under a copse of pine and shaded for the better part of the day. Shortly after her death, Roger and Marilyn, Stanley’s daughter, a CPA in Boston, had purchased and placed an old pine bench under the trees in honor of their mother. Had a plaque on it and all. Stanley sat here, quite often, actually, if he had something to mull over. And this sure did qualify as mulling material.

“Hey darlin’,” he spoke aloud, comforted to hear his voice.

And then nothing.

After a time, he collected his thoughts, and spoke.

“Roger’s been harping on me about needin’ help, just like we thought. Told him I’d never see the inside of no nursing home. Old age has made me stubborn, dear. Got something in the mail, not sure what to make of it. Not yet. Poor lady’s been killed in town, saddest thing, and I think I got a warning. Just didn’t realize it at the time. They’ve been reading my books, whoever done this, and they killed her by choking her with neckties, like that old story Charlie and you told me I was crazy to write, but I done it anyway.

“Gonna take some time before I tell anyone. Just what they want, a crazy old coot rambling on about how he’s being haunted by his work. Golly. Golly golly, Miss Molly.

“I miss you, girl.”

He sat there taking in the fall colors, watched a squirrel scurry across a headstone and bound into a tree, humming the old Crimson Avenger theme. It was all coming back to him. That old life. Those days of dreaming up the most shocking story and seeing who could top one another, he and Charlie and Eugene and sometimes even Joey Kramer, the kid who ran his pages to the editor and took his suits to the cleaner.

He smiled and closed his eyes, lifting his head to the sky. The sun poked through between some of the swaying branches, creating dancing light on the inside of his eyelids.

He dozed for a bit, then woke for the walk home.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Snickerdoodle-Doo!


After a brief interlude this evening, in which I replenished my brain cells with a delicious snickerdoodle cookie made with love by Jen, I am back at the computer. I've had the beginnings of that feeling that all artists have in the middle of their work. I hate it. I hate what I'm writing and I'm afraid I'll never make my 50,000 words. But it's only a feeling one gets when they're in the tunnel and can't see where they came in, and sure as shit can't see where the exit is. Kinda like Andy DuFrense in the middle of that sewage pipe on his way out of Shawshank. Come November 30th, I'll have felt like I "crawled to freedom through five hundred yards of the shit-smelling foulness that can hardly be imagined. Five hundred yards. The length of five football fields. Just shy of half a mile." And I'll have come out clean on the other side, raising my arms and my well-sculpted bare chest to the rainy sky.

So who wants to read a little more? Thanks. Both of you. I mean it. In this little excerpt, Stanley realizes he's been humming the theme song for The Crimson Avenger radio show. He then finds and reads a portion of one of his old novels.


“Give it a listen, Stan my boy. See if you don’t tap your toes to it!”

Eugene Christensen was a bundle of energy wound tight and released at the most unexpected of times. If they could have bottled it up and sold it for a reasonable price, they’d have made a killing with college students and truck drivers. That was what Stanley recalled most about his dear old friend. And boy had he ever come up with a toe-tapper. Stanley remembered hearing that tune for the first time and thinking they were gonna give old Orson Welles and The Shadow a run for their money. The Crimson Avenger was gonna ride the airwaves and bring in new fans by the boatload. They’d have to print more novels, reprint all the old ones and pump out some new ones. Because the Crimson Avenger was gonna be a hot ticket.

Of course, it hadn’t, had gone off the air in almost record time, and Bartelby Tompkins – the voice of Jonathan Northrup, known to the underworld as The Crimson Avenger – had gone on to other things. But Eugene had really outdone himself.

And now, sitting in front of his Smith Corona some seventy odd years later, Stanley found himself humming a tune and walking to the closet.

He pulled the chain on the overhead bulb, casting shadows on the shoe rack placed beneath his tailored suits, all zipped up in plastic, like finely made body bags for an identity as dead as The Crimson Avenger himself. Stanley squatted down, maneuvered himself onto his knees, and reached in to the shoe rack.

With effort, he slid the contraption aside.

Behind it was a book case, a small hand made one, something Stanley had come up with ages ago, back when he started to get afraid someone would break into their home and steal their memories. It had been shortly after Esther had gotten sick, and looking back at it now, he supposed it had been just another way to keep his mind occupied.

Baby blue binding wrapped in plastic bags looked back at him, two long rows of them, their white print standing out. They were all here. The only complete collection in the whole world. And he was the only one who knew it.

One hundred and thirty seven books, each approximately two hundred pages, telling the story of Jonathan Northrup, the son of a mayor, who watches as the car his parents ride in is blown to pieces by an evil madman.

“Clad in crimson, nerves of steel,” Stanley whispered. Here they were. The Crimson Avenger novels.

He ran his liver-spotted hand over the books, swiping away some of the dust that had collected on them over the years. He ran a finger along the bindings, looking for a particular one.

“Gotcha,” he said as he plucked a book from the middle of the pack.

After replacing the shoe rack, Stanley carried the pulp book into the kitchen and sat at the table. He turned on the burner under the teapot, sat back down, and stared at Jack Freeburg’s cover art until it whistled.

Fresh cup of tea before him. Stanley peeled back the tape on the back of the plastic bag, and slid the book from its protective casing, something that hadn’t been done since he’d stashed them away back in the fifties.

It was in mint condition, its spine never cracked. He’d probably gotten it from Charlie and hid it away almost instantly, keeping it for Roger, for when he was ready to inherit the collection. It was one of the early ones, its cover featuring The Crimson Avenger fighting an evil-looking, laughing man as a woman looks on in horror.

The title read: The Crimson Avenger, Defender of Rockton Bay in… KNOT IN TIME!!

Stanley carefully turned to the first page, just after the dedication (this one was dedicated to Esther, oh weren’t they all?) and read the preface they’d placed in every book.

The Crimson Avenger, Defender of Rockton Bay! The son of Rockton Bay’s mayor, Jonathan Northrup was a playboy living a carefree life. Until that fateful day, when criminal mastermind Alestair Snyde ordered his minions to kill the mayor, and Jonathan watched in horror as the car his parents were riding in erupted into a ball of flames. There, The Crimson Avenger was born! He stalks the night, punishing criminals, searching for Alestair Snyde, fighting evil and skull-duggery…

Clad in crimson
Nerves of steel!
THE CRIMSON AVENGER!


Stanley chuckled. He’d forgotten those words, but as soon as he began to read them, they’d flowed back like an old song, like the Lord’s Prayer. Like going home.

He riffled delicately through the yellowed pages, inhaling that sweet scent of book, and looking for the excerpt. He found it near the end, during the climactic confrontation, when The Crimson Avenger had found his foe in the home of reporter Sarah Wright, Jonathan Northrup’s friend and confidante.

When Snyde was tying her to a chair.


"The light was dim, murky, and the Avenger had a tough time seeing his hand in front of his face. There was rustling in the room as he crawled catlike through the window. Sarah was right; the Necktie Killer was after her. Her absence at dinner this evening had only magnified Northrup’s fear for her safety, a fear very much realized at this moment.

His boots were cushioned by the nap of her carpet. Good girl, Sarah. The expensive stuff. He took a step forward, and was blinded by light.

The Avenger shielded his eyes but, alas, it was too much. There was someone in the room, someone who had flicked on the overhead. The Avenger’s eyes were adjusting to the light when he heard a muffled cry, movement, the sound of a person fighting restraints. A woman, to be exact.

“Sarah?” He called, blinking wildly. The voice intensified. It was her.

Pain erupted in his chin, across his jaw, and The Avenger staggered back. Someone had clocked him one, clocked him one good. His lips went numb, his eye twitched, and he hit the plush carpet and fell into blackness.


“Wake up, Avenger!” The raspy, wretchedly deep voice penetrated his warm sleep, forced him to open his eyes. He saw boots, caked with dirt and blood, and knew he was on the floor. Sarah’s floor.

One of the crusted boots collided with his bread basket, and The Avenger awoke fully. He released a fit of coughing.

“Get up, you no good do-gooder!” The voice was familiar, and before he even looked into those insane eyes, bloodshot and wild, he knew it was Snyde.

“You!” The Avenger spat. “You’re the Necktie Killer!?”

“Yes. I killed them all. Tied them to their chairs with their husband’s and lover’s neckties and strangled the life from them.” And then he laughs. Funny joke.

The Avenger rose slowly to his feet as Snyde danced around him, relishing this momentary victory.

“You were too caught up in details to see the answer right in front of your face! Me! It will always be me, the face that haunts your dreams, nay, nightmares. The great Alestair Snyde!”

“You’re nothing great, Snyde,” the Avenger spat. “You’re a two-bit hood with his upstairs misfiring.”

He stood, and swooned. The pain was greater than he’d imagined as the blood rushed back to the rest of his body. His head throbbed.

To his left and behind him, Sarah Wright sat strapped to her chair. Her wrists and ankles were bound with neckties, his neckties if he wasn’t mistaken, with another shoved into her mouth and tied behind her head. Her eyes were pleading. Save me, Avenger.

And he would.

For he was clad in crimson, with a heart of gold.

He was…The Crimson Avenger!"

Stanley set down the book, slipped a scrap of paper into the page, and took a sip of tea. Boy oh boy, what a yarn. He smiled warmly as he recalled the ending, as the Avenger beats Snyde to a pulp, has a necktie around the killer’s throat, boot to the back of his head, and is about to kill the evil mastermind. Of course, being the hero he is, he slowly releases the tie, and the police arrive to arrest Snyde.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Juan Valdez, I Hardly Know Thee


As I sit here at almost one o'clock in the morning (the morning of my mother's birthday -- a shout out to her, Happy B-day!) fully realizing I have to open the store tomorrow and knowing my brain won't be able to shut off once my head hits that pillow, I begin to wonder if my lifelong aversion to coffee will now be the death of me. Will soda sustain me through this month? Or will I have to give in to the Columbian muchacho with the slick mustache and the nice ass (donkey, you fools)? Only time will tell. But I'm at 12,166 words. And I'm going to bed.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Crane-kicking that novel!

I've been pulling a Daniel LaRusso on this novel, plugging away even after that blonde dude from Cobra Kai, whom we'll call 'Writer's Block' tried to sweep my leg. Thank you Pat Morita. You've taught me well. I noticed I had neglected to mention in either my e-mail or the previous post what the word count was at. Right now, with much of November 4th to go, I'm at 8800 words, give or take.

Now, if only I could find time for a decent meal and a shower...

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nightmare at 50,000 Words!


I am a glutton for punishment. Why else would I decide to partake in National Novel Writing Month? (That's NaNoWriMo for those of you who want to be in the know, or who have a thing for really shitty acronyms.) From November 1st to 30th, I, amongst many others around the country, must write 50,000 words, a first draft for a novel. 1600 words a day. Every day. So I decided, what better thing to do than to update my blog, which I have neglected for some time now, during this massive undertaking? Because that's what I need. To type more words. I seriously need someone to hit me over the head with a sock filled with nickels.

So I'll try to update this from time to time, keep the three people who check this blog -- myself, Keith, and apparently some dude who wants me to join his online dating service -- up to date on my progress, and maybe, if I'm feeling generous, post some of my writing.

So here goes. A little excerpt from chapter one. Bear in mind, this is beyond rough, and to quote the great mustached American author Mark Twain, "The first draft of anything is shit." I think I read that on a Starbucks cup. Or a sugar packet.

Either way, enjoy:

It was with increasing frequency that Stanley Urbach found himself sitting in front of his old Smith Corona typewriter at three in the morning with nothing to say. The piece of battered metal in front of him had done its share of talking over the years, that was for sure. There were times back in the old days, the good days, when Stanley would punch those keys until his fingers bled, the redness smearing up both the pages and the ever present handrolled cigarette which would dangle from his mouth and bounce rhythmically as he muttered the words he typed. Yep. The days when he was writing the Crimson Avenger novels were surely the good days.

One hundred thirty seven novels in five years. Hard to believe. But there was never an off switch. Stanley would live, eat, breath, sleep, hell even shit the Crimson Avenger. It was his other personality, his secret identity, and a release he so rarely could find in everyday life.

Now, Stanley would rub his gnarled and calloused fingers together, place them atop the home row of the typewriter (of course, he was a hunter and pecker by nature. Never did take any typing lessons) and there they would sit, never moving. He was fresh out. His well was tapped. And even at the ripe old age of eighty-nine, when most men his age were happy they were able to piss by their own faculties, it bothered him.

The reasons for his waking would vary. Sometimes, it would be his waterworks, gummed up and not working, or flowing like a river to a delta. Sometimes, it was the arthritis. And then there were times when it would be the dreams, always Esther in the sun, smiling up at him as she tucks a flower, a white daisy, behind her ear. She’d shake her rose colored hair at the sun and laugh like the world was her joke. Those were the times he’d wake up and rest his hand on the cold side of the bed she’d used to sleep on and wish that he hadn’t woken up at all.

He’d sit in his office by the light of a small lamp perched on his desk. The room was cramped, cluttered. It held the destruction of a large copse of trees, pages upon pages of words, enough to drown in. He’d sit and stare at the typewriter. Oh sure, its ribbon was broken, had been for years now. He’d noticed it and was about to drive on out to whatever kind of store would still carry a ribbon for a relic like his, had his jacket in his hand, and then set it down and made a cup of tea instead. Who needed it? He’d recall the photo that started it all, a man standing beaming in front of a window display. New York City, it was, so far from the rural back country Stanley Urbach was used to. The man had his arms crossed, chest held high. Behind him the window advertised for Smith Corona typewriters, a life-sized picture of Walter Gibson, the man behind The Shadow, saying something along the lines of “Two Champions! The Corona and The Shadow! Corona is a good typewriter, but Grant is a great type-writer – and The Shadow is the most amazing types in all fiction!” He still chuckled when he thought of that. Young, na├»ve little Stan running into the Sears Roebuck in Ashtonville, begging the man behind the counter to order him a Smith Corona, the exact one Mr. Walter Gibson used.

That was a lifetime ago. He never would have guessed where that typewriter would get him. He never would have guessed he’d be the creator of the Crimson Avenger, a pulp hero whose days had come and gone, burned bright for the briefest moment, and then disappeared amongst the nickel bin at the supermarket.

Lost.

Forgotten.

Kinda like Stanley himself.