Archive for October, 2010

3 THAT GOT AWAY

Posted: October 14, 2010 in Uncategorized
Ever get an idea in your evil little brain that you can’t get rid of–one you’re sure would make a great novel or short story–but the goddamn thing refuses to find a resolution? Yet it still will not go away! I mean, I’ve heard of writers who have carried around the germ of an idea for a book or a short story for years before finally committing it to paper, but the three tales that follow are ideas that I simply cannot find endings for. Some of these are culled from actual events, things that happened to either me or to someone I knew.
Game? Then let’s begin…ONE:

Driving around town one day–suburban streets–I come upon a tragic scene in the road ahead: a squirrel has clearly been run over by a car, you see it now and then, awful. But this one, though immobilized, is still alive, its front paws clawing the air pitifully, lower body held in place by on of it’s squashed and glued back legs. It’s kicking and scrabbling and clearly in pain. I can see the asshole that ran him over up ahead of me pulling away down the street in a tan Chevy. Worst of all, a smaller squirrel, probably a female, is standing near the curb facing her comrade, herself torn between staying and fleeing. I swerve quickly to avoid the downed squirrel and, as I pass, glance out the driver’s side window at the rigid female. We lock eyes. And something passes through me. I keep on driving, but the further down the block I go, the more I want to either catch, and beat up the smug prick who ran over the bigger squirrel or turn around somewhere and go back and help the poor thing. But what can I do? It’s leg is raspberry jam. I’m not a damn vet! And, hey, it’s just a squirrel, right? Maybe, but I can’t get the brown, liquid eyes of its companion out of mind…I SWEAR they were watching me, searching or maybe even reproachful. Finally I can take no more–I swerve around the block, head back up the opposite street, swerve again and come back to the crippled squirrel. Too late. The tries if a big Peterbilt
truck have taken care of the rest of the trapped squirrel in a squish of fat read tread mark. The smaller animal has moved to atop the curb, but still woefully waiting for her companion to come back to life and join her. And as I pass, you guessed it, she’s staring at me again… with something like an imploring look.
I look quickly away. Thinking: if only I’d stopped the first time… 

TWO
Guy is out driving in the burbs at night (many of my books are set in the burbs you may have noticed) suddenly realizes he’s daydreamed himself past his house. He brakes the car and pulls into a strange driveway to turn around. Before he can get the car in reverse there’s a bang at the front door and a young girl comes rushing down the front walk–a vision in blond tresses and white dress. She looks ready for a dance or a party or somehing. On she comes, smiling radiantly, grabs the handle on the passenger side, opens the car door and slides in. She slams it after at her and turns to smile  fetchingly at the driver. His heart is in his throat–she really IS a knockout.
“Al ready?”
The guy behind the wheel is too stunned to answer; the girl of his dreams just jumped into his car. Thank you God, thank you!
“C’mon, let’s go!” she urges. He grins stupidly back: yes, lets!
NOW: if you are a male and you can identify with any of the above there is clearly only one decision–and you KNOW what that is.
Our friend puts the car in reverse, backs out of the drive and starts down the street with his new found angel.
“Brad? The party is the other way!”
Second chance: now is the time to spill the beans: His name is not Brad, nor is he some kind of blind date, nor will he ever let her out of his sight again!
“Uh,” he begins haltingly, “I sorta forgot where the party is…”
The lovely girl jerks her blond tresses in the other direction.
Our hero turns the car around, heads off down the street toward—
Please finish this. 

THREE
This college friend of mind has rented a big old antebellum house between semesters. It was a steal but he’s beginning to realize maybe why. He seems to hear noises at night. In fact, after a few weeks he becomes almost certain someone–or some thing–is coming up the basement stairs toward his room… He’s all alone, no room mate…and he’s susceptible to suggestion. Still the sounds persists...trump…trump…trump…
As the nights go by and the sounds grow bolder, he begins to play a little game of terror with himself. From the location of the footsteps he divines that the—“thing”–is starting from the area of the dark, massive basement furnace. He goes to investigate. But he leaves the lights in the house out, carrying only a flashlight, believing that the darkness will hide him as well as it hides what ever is treading those basement steps. All alone in the dark then, he descends the cellar steps cautiously, wanders carefully the dark basement floor until he see the humped, darker shadow of the furnace. He takes a deep breath…then walks silently around to the back of the furnace and–switches on the flashlight!
There’s nothing, of course, save cobwebs. But he plays this horrid game every night as if trying to find some lost courage. And there’s ever anything there…except the sound of rising footsteps the moment he climbs back into bed.
One night there are no footsteps.
But there is a rain storm lashing  the windows, keening the eves and flashing lightning across his room. Suddenly, my friend abruptly freezes as, above the wailing rain, he hears a knock at the front door downstairs. For no clear reason he is filled with terror. The knock comes again persistently even though it is 2:PM in the morning and raining like blazes outside and the streets are empty. My friend pads silently down the wide stair case to the bottom level and approaches the front door. Another knock jolts him. He reaches tentatively for the knob…then draws back, deciding to side-step to the narrow window adjacent and peer through the slit in the curtains. There in lamp-lit porch light, soaked to the skin, is a naked woman.
Sheer horror engulfs my friends mind.
He turns and RUNS quickly returns to bed–pulls the covers over his head…and listens to the wailing wind… 

The first and last story are true. The middle one I made up.
They say stories, like movies, are made up of moments. I agree. But I have, after YEARS of these things banging against my brain been uable to squeeze them into anything vaguely resembling literature. They’re all trying to say something. I just don’t know what. 

Oh, well.
Some of them just get away… 

Bruce Jones 

 

DON’T READ THIS

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Uncategorized
…which is silly, of course, why would I be sitting here typing this if I didn’t want you to read it?

That said, I must warn you: I fully expect at least 98% percent of those who read this to vehemently disagree with the content. Which is fine, I mean, this is a blog, not a popularity contest, I’ve every right to say whatever’s on my mind…although in this case, like it or hate it, I really do hope to hear from you, especially those who don’t damn me outright but take a moment to think about my theory.

Actually it’s not even a theory, or at least not one I’m sure I agree with. It flies in the face of what most of us have been taught or heard all our lives. And truthfully I’m not really confident about how I feel about this conundrum myself. All I know is I’m not comfortable with it. Also I’ve got writer friends out there I don’t wish to piss off (Harlan, I can feel you breathing down my neck). Most of all, virtually every time I’ve done an interview or given advice to a new writer, I’ve offered exactly the OPPOSITE advise about what I’m talking about here. Which, in a nutshell, is reading.

From grade school on I read a lot. I mean, a LOT. Libraries and bookstores were my second home no matter what town my dad’s job moved us to. I also drew a lot. I mean a LOT. I enjoyed sports, naturally athletic (in the genes) but there was nothing I preferred more, including TV, than curling up with a good book or drawing pictures, usually my version of space comics. Things began to change, though, by college. Like everyone one at that age I learned there was a lot more out there than popular fiction and comics and the average movie. So I became more selective at libraries and news stands, moving from the more “colorful” fodder of thrillers to the more “important” works of literature, namely the classics. I also made myself switch from commercial art at college to major in Fine Art. It wasn’t always fun. Sometimes it was downright wretched. Some classic literature and many periods of historical art I could barely wade through. Yet I’m glad I did. I was definitely broadening my horizons whether I knew it or not. At some point I realized a book by Hemngway or a painting by Monet could be both mind-expanding AND enjoyable. Naturally, I began to write like Hemingway (who didn’t?) and paint like Monet (or ape him, anyway). These were my new heroes. Science fiction and comic books were hooey. I had arrived! Right. Eventually I learned that the line between Fine Art and Popular Art was not so distinct as it had seemed, but that’s another story.

After I’d sold my first short stories and illustrations to NY publishers I stumbled across a book by author Dean Koontz on How To Write and Sell Fiction. Koontz would eventually write a later, re-edited edition of this same book in which he disagreed with nearly everything he’d said in the first volume, but  remained resolute concerning one thing; if you’re going to be a published author you MUST do two things: read a lot and write a lot. It seemed like good advice–I was pretty much doing it anyway–yet a strange niggling began picking at the back of my mind…something I couldn’t quite put my synapses on.

A dozen or so published books later, I came across a similar how-to,biographical book by author Stephen King: ON WRITING. Both King’s and Koontz’s books bore many similarities including a toolbox metaphor for what it takes to “build” a story or novel. However, where Koontz insisted a new writer must pay close attention to both the current reading market and climate including having a savvy marketing plan as well as giving full due to that horror of horrors PLOTTING, King gave marketing a cursory paragraph or two and suggested plotting was not only unnecessary but often actually got in the way of good writing. “Write anything you want,” he said. But, again, both authors agreed vehemently on one important axiom: read a lot and write a lot. It was not only the best way, it was the ONLY WAY. And once again that strange niggling itched at my cortex. 

Were reading a lot and writing a lot really irrefutable bedfellows? I wondered.

Three incidents in my life made me wonder more–and were doubtless the source of that niggling itch.

Now, remember, I already mentioned I read a lot of “classic” books in school and studied tons of “classic” art, much of it more work that enjoyment.

The first incident occurred when driving the streets of Manhattan with fellow artist Jeffery Jones (no relation). I was behind the wheel, Jeff gazing out the passenger window. “Don’t look at that, Bruce!” he suddenly cried. I followed his gaze to a bland looking billboard, an ad about baby powder or something including an illo of a baby. Jeff histrionically covered his eyes with his palm. “It’s bad art! If you look at stuff like that your mind will absorb it and sooner or later it might come out in your own art!” There was an air of the frivolous in his tone but behind it I sensed an undercurrent of sincerity…even fear. Anyway, it rolled around in my mind all that afternoon, becoming less and less frivolous. It still haunts me to this day.

The second incident was during a lecture by author Ray Bradbury. He talked about a lot of things, but toward the end he leaned earnestly across the podium and said (paraphrasing a bit here) “When you’re a young writer you should read a lot; nobody will have to tell you this because if your really want to write you’ll already love the writing of others, in fact, you’ll downright imitate their style, which is a natural and important part of growth and to be expected. But! There comes a time during early adulthood when you must stop all this reading, put the books away, find you own voice and stick to it. Write, write, write–not read, read, read. You’re out of school now–time to work!”

Both of those incidents remain etched indelibly in my mind. Of course, with a mind like mine, it’s crowed with a lot of other etched incidents of no value whatsoever, like how Lick-M-Aide tasted when I was twelve. But my quandary is this: can constant eclectic reading not only be a waste of precious time but, more heinously, DILUTE and cause HARM to your own work? Like the incident with Jeff, it sounds pretty silly at first, I mean, we’re the masters of our own ships, right? Right? Maybe. But ships and brains are not the same thing.

The third incident is really a kind of ongoing thing. I MADE myself look at a lot of classic art in my youth, things I really pretty much detested–but it was offset by my love for the French Impressionists, the Pre-Raphs, the Ingres, and others. By the same token, even though I’m sure all of us have picked up a novel that is so badly written or plotted we finally give up halfway in, we have on hand those that inspire us. Yet more and more I turn to those same writers that so impressed me the first time, like (for me) Buell, Updike, Hemingway, Mitchell Smith, William Goldman, Hank Searls and others–while turning further away from those authors–many of them VERY popular by the way–who I find a drudgery to endure. Reading, like writing, can be many things to many people, but ultimately it’s supposed to be enjoyable, right?

I can hear the clamor of dissension even as I finish this: “You’re being an elitist, Jones!” “You’re being myopic!” And maybe worst of all: “You’re just being lazy!” 

Except I’m not. I don’t really agree with Bradbury’s theory, though I hear the ring of truth in it. I still try new authors all the time, and while I don’t find enough that I enjoy for the good of my soul, every now and then…yeah!

I DO believe in Jeff Jones’ theory, though: fear of absorbing the bad along with the good, filling the mind with tepid matter–that it may indeed be better to study or read nothing at all than anything bad …and God only knows there’s a plethora of bad stuff out there.

So what do you think?
Give me your comments, call me a jerk, burn me in effigy, I don’t care, I’m honestly interested in your own experiences with this thing.

In any case, thanks for letting me waste your time!

Bruce Jones

MORE HALLOWEEN FRIGHT!

Posted: October 9, 2010 in Uncategorized

–no, no, not Howdy Doody time–it’s time for a second jolt of Heinous Halloween Horror from The House of Jones!
That’s right, my second horror novel is upon us! And it has no intention of leaving! So, fasten your drool cups, kiddies >heh-heh< pull up that fungus encrusted tombstone, drop your linen and start your grinnin’, SHIMMER is here! 

Well…almost here: the trade paperback is at the printer, and the Kindle version just days behind it–plenty of time to beat the Hallows rush! 

For those of you who STILL don’t know: you can download the Kindle on your very own PC or IPad now–and the app is free! $2. 99 and you got the book! And don’t tell me you can’t spare THAT much from your hip pockets or purses! Remember: “reading is your greatest entertainment value!”  

And there’s more amidst this stinko economy: Amazon has dropped the price of my first horror novel THE DEADENDERS from $17.99 to $12.95 so you got something to read in the bread line! A great value for you and I’ll make more by selling more copies–a win-win! 

What’s that? The new book, SHIMMER?
Well, its about this desert, see…this strange little town in the middle of that desert, the stranger folk who live in that strange town in the desert, the REALLY strange things that happens to the desert and the folk when the burning sun begins to set…and the unlucky vacationing family of three who take that one little wrong turn and find themselves in the middle of that strange desert town, and how they…but that would be telling

WARNING:
Do Not read SHIMMER at night.
Do Not read SHIMMER alone.
Or in a dark house, especially if it’s in the middle of a small desert town and your life insurance isn’t paid up.
Yeah, yeah–you’ve heard this kind of come-on before, but no kidding, gang, this damn thing even got under my skin! This time the scares are both graphic AND psychological and always when you’re looking the other way. So, strap in tight, both hands on the safety bar, do not stand up, and feel free to scream after the first plunge…it only gets worse!

And whereever your Halloween party is–I’ll be there in spirit!
Sort of.

Bruce Jones