Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Wondrous Cave of the Towne Grocery

Growing up, there's often a place we categorize in our minds as a special, maybe even magical place. A gateway or portal into some other world, a repository for new ideas, a place that stays with us and defines who we come to be later in large or small ways. All of this sounds a bit heavy, but the idea is there.

This place can be as simple as bookshelves in your parent's room, a barn where you find those temporary moments of quiet and introspection, the corner of a silent library, or, in my case, the Towne Grocery. A ten minute walk up my road, along Cambridge Street, we could cross the busy road to a little strip mall (an act made much safer when they finally put in a light). The second store in the chain was the Towne Grocery convenience store (the first being, among others, the Hobby Shoppe, a topic for another time). Shelves of candy, magazines and basic staples of Western life like soap and paper towels and tape and batteries....

Amazing how these little stores manage in such a small space to have at least one of whatever you need. They're the lifeblood of small towns. I live in one now, twenty minutes from the nearest supermarket, so having the Kwik Stop down the road makes running out of sugar less of a hassle, even if it costs a touch more.

In the seventies, growing up in the then-small(ish) town of Burlington (it's not small anymore), it was the Towne Grocery, even with the A&P (later Value King) supermarket just a thousand yards down the road. Now and then Mom or Dad would bring us into the small haven of necessary staples and let us pick out something... usually candy.  I'd wander there myself in later years with my allowance money and get a substantial bit more of said candy.

Here's the thing. The Kwik Stop in my current town is efficiently organized, with lots of open space for such a small building. The TG, as we called, was packed with shelves and supplies from floor to ceiling, dirty windows displaying signs and posters long curled from a sun which never quite made it beyond the heavy dinging bell above the door. When I was old enough to walk there on my own (we're talking eight years old, an age now that we'd never dare let kids wander off on their own, so sketchy has the world become), I'd be drawn further along the dusty rows of stuff towards the back where there was a chaotic jumble of old magazines and supplies-less-often-in-demand. There was some light back there, not much, but enough to browse.

Now, to be honest, I'd heard rumors there were dirty magazines hidden back there, and as a prepubescent boy, I had to explore, look for the mystical treasure. During my first such venture to this hidden world out back I learned this was a wild goose chase. Even so, in looking through the stacks of old magazines, mostly without covers, I discovered something unexpected amid the old hot rod and good housekeeping corpses: horror trade magazines like Famous Monsters of Filmland and the like. I don't remember the actual titles, though pretty sure FMoF was one of them.

Now, being a preteen/teen who enjoyed the ritual of watching Creature Double Feature on channel 56 every Saturday afternoon, with such fare as Godzilla or The Wolfman, this was a revelation. Mom had a few magazine subscriptions at home, the usual domestic fare, but nothing like this. hee was proof that the movies I enjoyed were being written about and discussed by grown-ups!!!

Many times I'd wander back, grab a copy or two (I remember they were pretty cheap, a dime or quarter each). Eventually I moved on to comics, but the seeds of fascination with all things monstrous and scary had been watered in those days.

Now and then, in rare moments on the road, I walk into a small convenience store and rediscover the dusty, packed air of my old haunt (pun intended). I'll wander about, seeing what treasures I might find. As time went on, the old Towne Grocery was no more. The owner of the strip decided to do major renovations, and somehow conveniently the TG caught fire and was gutted. The strip of stores was knocked down and rebuilt. The Town Grocery (no longer sporting the old fashioned "e" at the end of "Town") returned, but as the last store on the strip and without the overcrowded wonderfulness of its predecessor. As a convenient place for a quick lottery ticket or soda, it still thrives (especially since the neighboring Value King supermarket is now a used bookstore), but for me, the TG of old remains in my memory as the place where I could lift the veil and peak into a dark - but not dangerous - corner of the adult world. As I said, it might have contributed in some way into my little fascination with the darker side of entertainment. 

Relish your little hometown havens, knowing some day they may be gone, but never in our memories.
The current Town Grocery (no e) - there doesn't seem to be a pic of the old one anywhere.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Review of TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (2017)

My alter ego's (well, technically I'm the alter ego) review of the newly-released TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT (2017) is now showing at Cinema Knife Fight. Heck, even the review was a bit chaotic, trying to cover as much as possible. Because one thing I can say, there's a lot of stuff happening in this one. Not all bad, mind you, but.... anyway, see what I have to say here. Don't usually pan many films, but this one, as I say early, was a train wreck. Not all bad, but... see what I have to say and if you agree.

If you'd like to see all my film reviews and discussions, you can find them here!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Daniel G Keohane Interview in Local Author Spotlight

http://www.sharonpubliclibrary.org/localauthorspotlight.asp
Hilary Umbreit of the Sharon Public Library recently interviewed Daniel G Keohane (my "good" half) as part of their monthly Local Author Spotlight. It was a lot of fun and I don't think I did too badly with this one. I enjoyed the back and forth with Hilary and the final interview can be found here:


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"A Life Unremembered" Coming this Summer

My new short story, "A Life Unremembered" has been accepted for publication in NOW I LAY ME DOWN TO SLEEP, a charity anthology benefiting the Jimmy Fund from Necon E-Books, and edited by Laura Hickman and P.D. Cacek - being released this July at the Necon writers conference. The call had gone out at the end of last year to all past and present Necon attendees, and after mulling over the theme this story formed, written specifically for this collection (and at least if it hadn't been accepted, the theme wasn't so specific it couldn't have found a home somewhere, such is a risk of themed antho's). So I'm thrilled to be a part of this, and will post the complete table of contents when it's announced.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Catching up on things

Well, I thought I'd have done more blog entries since the last one, but the holidays were a pretty busy time, to say the least. One oasis in all this was our trip to Florida the week of Christmas. Nothing pressing on the docket while we were there other than where to go the next day. A lot to be said for taking these formal vacations. 

So on the writing front, been busy. I recently got the rights back to my first novel (under Daniel G Keohane) Solomon's Grave, and will be releasing it officially as a second edition. I just finished going through the entire book and tightened it up a bit. First novels sometimes feel like, well, first novels, especially in light of later works.

Samhain Publishing recently discontinued their horror line, and have been formally reverting rights back to the authors. Lauran and I are currently deciding the future of our novella Nightmare in Greasepaint, whether to place it with another publisher or put it out ourselves to keep it in the market as a backlist.

Unfortunately, in the light the reversions, like the trade paperback for Borderlands 6 might likely also be going away soon as well. Will
have to keep an ear to the ground on that one. Buy it now while you can.
 
Meanwhile, forward motion is the name of the game. I've begun the fifth-draft edits for the new novel Lost in the Woods, this time editing on a physical printout of the manuscript. I have to say, this one has come out really good. I'm enjoying it. And I think you will too. When, is another question, as I'll first shop it around to publishers which can take months, at the very least. Such is the nature of professional writing. But the book, the writing, is my main focus. Keep on swimming, keep on swimming...

Friday, December 9, 2016

Revisionist Christmas

Well, less than two and a half weeks until Christmas and, to be honest, I haven't done a lick of shopping yet. Not a thing.

Well, not quite true. There was one gift sitting in my Amazon 'Save For Later' bin which I tucked into the checkout when buying something else. So there's that. But miles to go before I sleep and all that. No, not true, either. I'm typing this right before going to sleep, so I suppose our mileage may vary.

Been doing my damnedest to write every day, and I've mostly succeeded. Working on the fourth draft of Lost in the Woods and still like this, a lot. It's different, and fun, and funny, and scary (I hope). Funny thing about fourth drafts for me - since I tend write in drafts (regurgitate the story as it comes to me first time, no edits, then clean up the big messes in the second, begin to see some decent light shining through the holes in the ceiling on the third). There's still, and always will be, tweaks to the writing, a better word here, less words there, stupid why did I think that was clever there (this last point could be the topic for an entirely different post, but let's try and stay on point a little, at least). 

Other fourth draft discoveries are patching the holes in the characters' physical world. For example, my main character David Pilkinton leaves one location wearing no coat, in the dead of winter (good reason for this) but in a later scene we return to him for a good ten minutes outside without the narrative reminding us he's friggin' freezing, and needs to get inside. I had to remind the reader and make sure everything he does outside of the toasty car is realistic. Stuff on the counter that was somewhere else, even a little, when he left the cottage better be in the same place when he gets back, unless its deliberate. That kind of thing.

Getting close to finishing the draft. Then, knowing I won't find much at all in later drafts if I keep editing online, I'll print off the entire manuscript, read through with new eyes (because at this point my brain is too used to seeing the pages on the screen and doesn't even read the words). Having to read in a different medium forces me to actually read it and more crap jumps out at me.

I actually enjoy the act of revision. Fun to see a good, professional story take shape out if the miasma of my mind.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

A rambling treatise on dreams and nightmares

I've been having a heck of a lot of elaborate dreams lately. I hesitate to call them nightmares, though they usually turn dark near the end. The other night I was dreaming of being in a... Why does my phone capitalize the next word after ellipses? They're pauses, like commas. If I did four dots that'd be different.

Sorry. Nightmares. Dreams. 

When I sleep I expect to rest, not have to deal with anything more complicated than adjusting my pillow or getting up to pee. And the occasional night where my two year old son has nightmares or falls out of his Thomas the Tank Engine bed. Instead I spend my quality REM time with an elaborate cast of characters dancing through sweeping plots usually revolving around work (my dream-version of work, as in I always seem to work in a specific high-rise tower at the outskirts of a nameless city, same building all the time, and as far as I can tell unrelated to my actual, waking job), or home (my usual dream home, which always seems to be under construction and I often discover new rooms I didn't even know I have).

Maybe my life is getting crowded in the waking world - not necessarily a bad thing. There are some amazing people in my life, between family, friends, church and fellow writers (these last three are interchangeable, of course). Years ago, when I was going through my divorce, I often dreamed of looking out my back window and constantly finding construction crews tearing up my yard and the woods beyond. Dream interpretations explain that's normal - it's your brain dealing with major changes in life.

Now, my dreams don't find me fighting with construction crews ripping up my yard, though I still find new rooms I'd 'forgotten' about. The latter sounds optimistic... There it goes again.... Sorry. Optimistic because of new opportunities coming my way. Life is good. No complaints, even if my dreams are getting crowded and invariably twist around to fearsome moments of terror at the end. I always wake up before the monsters or demon children kill me, so there's a happy addition to the thankful list.

Not sure the point of this post, except to poke my brain in and say hi, share a little something other than writing news. But dreams, and nightmares, are early drafts of something that might end up on the page. If not the disconnected, stream of conscious events these usually end up being, then at least their atmosphere.

My very first horror story, originally titled "The Basement" and which later was enlarged to the novella with Lauran Soares Nightmare in Greasepaint, was originally inspired by a recurring nightmare when I was a kid. I was teased my this short little clown who would wait until Mom was in the bathroom and could help me, then he'd insult me. And I couldn't hit him, because he was smaller than me. What? I was five. Later, I learned that my brother Joe would have nightmares if a train passing by him at night, with an evil clown hanging from the caboose, slowly swinging a dirty lantern and smiling at him. I've known for years I needed to use that one, as well, and eventually incorporated it into my new novel (almost done), Lost in the Woods.

I've been trying to take notes on details of my more recent dreams. All of it, fodder for something new, someday.

I'll still whine about them, on mornings when I wake up tired - mentally at least - after a full night's sleep, but we all need them. Exhausting as they sometimes are.