Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Current WIP (Work in Progress)

My blog as finally reached over 1000 hits!  I'm thrilled and I'd like to thank everybody.  From here on out, it's up, up, up!  Excelsior!  

I've decided to write a book about where I work.  Those I work with will automatically wonder if they're going to be in this book and I have to say, yes and no.  Yes, in that some of the things I've seen you do will be included, but no because I'm going to change the character enough so I don't have to pay you.  And so you can't sue. 

But yes, I think it's time. 

My current place of employment isn't the first call center I've worked at.  The previous one was a madhouse with dozens of extreme characters, events and scenes.  It was ghetto. 

The only problem I'm having is what kind of novel should it be? 

Ideally, it would make for a great mainstream literary novel in the vein of Catch-22, where we all are stuck in a monstrous system run by weirdos, idiots, and flakes.  And I already know somebody I can say has "flies in his eyes," because I know it'll make him crazy.  In a world where all people are looney, how could a system built and run by these people have any chance at all at being sane?  I love Catch-22!  I've read that novel several times and each time I see something totally new and insightful. 

But it would also make a great place for a horror novel.  There are so many ways to go with it. 

A call center run by Satan, the last stop on earth for the souls of the damned, tormented with the knowledge that their hellish lives are the best it will ever get for them.  Doomed and condemned to Hell for eternity, the souls take calls from angry and idiotic customers of a cable company owned by Lucifer, while they are tortured by idiotic policies and procedures that make no sense at all. 

Or better yet, a call center run by Satan, who poisons the water and gets every female pregnant with his demonic spawn.  Once hired, they drink the water, and when they are about to give birth suddenly disappear.  All the while, they take calls from various demons, who give subliminal instructions to the unborn hellspawns. 

Even better, a call center possessed by a dark, evil presence that slowly drives all who work there insane.  People snap on the phones, commit suicide while on calls, and run outside while jamming pens into their ears so they can never hear again.  It would be a good old fashioned fight between Good and Evil.  But key employees who have been there for a long time and are bonded with the Evil Presence try to keep things as they are in exchange for powers beyond their imagination. 

More realistically, a call center run by a cabal of religious zealots who worship a dark spirit from Pre-Christian times.  They employ people so they can suck out their souls slowly, call by call, until there is nothing left but a soulless vessel.  The souls they take are fed to the dark spirit, who then bestows all manner of gifts upon his worshipers.  

Or perhaps a call center run by a mad scientist doing outlawed experiments with human test subjects in the realms of audio-induced insanity.  A brave soul, with a rare auditory impairment, discovers the awful truth and fights to save her friends and co-workers from a gruesome end.

Other genres could be represented, too.

Science Fiction offers all kinds of possibilities.  How about a call center full of aliens and Human Resources accidentally hires a human?  The human learns the terrible secret and some of the aliens try to kill them while some try to protect him.  It become a civil war between aliens on a planet where nobody knows they exist.  I can see some of the people I work with being aliens.  Actually, if you look at it that way, a whole lot of shit makes sense.  Damn. 

And then it could be a murder mystery.  Everybody loves a good murder mystery.  And it could go a number of different ways.  People all over the country are turning up brutally murdered and the only thing they have in common is the same cable company.  Some detective figures it out after a dozen or so dead bodies stack up and realizes it might be a telemarketer doing it.  It becomes a race to see if he can catch the killer before he kills again. 

Or it could be somebody killing off telemarketers.  But after a hundred or so are wiped out, nobody really gives a shit, until the company gets tired of replacing workers and has to investigate on their own. 

Personally, the genre that offers the most intriguing opportunities I think, would be erotica.  Half the damn place has read the 50 Shades of Gray series.  The plot would be simple--a person searches for love while employed at a call center that is like a meat market.  Couples hook up and randomly spend their lunch breaks in the parking lot for nooner romps.  The MC's friend, a man-ho that sleeps with every woman he can, helps guide his friend in the ways of love while teaching him to be a better lover.  All the while, we see a glimpse into the exciting-but-hollow lives of various people as they give themselves over to the overly sexualized workplace. 

The socially aware side of me wants to make this book into a statement about the decay of the Midwest as manufacturing jobs leave and we are reduced to low-wage service industry jobs.  The struggle of a young couple with children as they fight to raise their family in such impoverished conditions while runaway inflation eats their meager paychecks.  All the while, they have to work a minimum wage job with a smile on their faces as their marriage strains under the pressure.  I never liked William Faulkner's novels much but his short stories really did tell the tale of the South after the War of Northern Aggression. 

There is one other novel that could be written.  One that I can't say too much about here.  But there is a subculture in America that generally gravitates towards call center jobs.  And this subculture is full of tragic characters making bad choices and struggles to escape their lives. 

I can imagine folks I work with might wonder about a few things.  All I can say is this:  The things that happen in my life are mine.  And if you didn't want certain things to appear in the book, then you should have behaved better around me.  However, I will accept bribes to be nice, but the costs are high.  This is why I don't write about my family.  I like most of them too much to tell the truth. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Life as a Former Chippendale Dancer

Have you ever noticed how many times in a day you interact with somebody and it's a robotic, mindless series of phrases and actions?  The kid at the fast food place, your pizza delivery driver, the guy at the grocery store.  Do you even remember their names or what they looked like?  How about what they said? 

Can you remember anything at all about that one or two-minute human interaction? 

I used to work at a gas station and I can almost promise you would have remembered meeting me. 

To start with, I'm not a tiny guy.  I'm over 6-foot and I could use to lose a few pounds.  Okay, I'm fat.  There, I said it.  I'm fat.  I have a beer-gut.  One hundred pounds ago, when I worked at the gas station, I still wasn't even close to skinny. 

And I was a skinhead.  Shaved head, red suspenders, red laces on my shoes.  Some of my regulars used to call me Butterbean, after the boxer. 

Sexy, sexy, sexy!

My beard was much longer--about six or seven inches. 

I was, to put it mildly, unforgettable. 

But sometimes, people would come into the store and be on autopilot as they mindlessly went about their evening.  I was the night shift guy and rarely worked days. 

When those moments came up, I found myself doing Public Service, and liberating those poor bastards from their mundane existence. 

This is when I became an ex-Chippendale dancer. 

A prime example was when a younger woman came into the station to pay for her gas and get a pack of smokes.  She paid me in ones.  It took a while to count them all out, too. 

When she handed them to me, I said, "Wow, I haven't seen that many ones since I was a Chippendale." 

I rang her up, said the usual, "Thank you, come back again." And she walked out, got into her car, drove around the lot, came back to where she was originally parked, shut the car off, and came back inside the store. 

"Did you just say you were a Chippendale?" 

"Yup," I beamed proudly. 

That statement, coupled with how I look, must have created a paradox in her brain.  Neurons were short-circuiting and I could see her eyes roll around a bit.  Her head tilted a bit to the side and she looked stunned as she walked back out to her car. 

I never saw her again. 

My former life as a Chippendale does that to people.  Sometimes I would work it into a sentence offhandedly, like I was just commenting on the weather.  If somebody was talking about a storm we were having, I would say, "Yeah, back when I was a Chippendale we had a storm like this in Tampa."

Most people just smiled when I said I was a Chippendale.  One guy, somebody I dearly enjoy knowing, said, "Oh, you were a chair, too?"  

One time a woman came in on her regular stop before work.  We had a great time in our four-minute relationship.  This was how I viewed my job and the regulars.  I had mini-relationships with a lot of people.  It was our little secret.  Sure, she had a boyfriend, and I ripped on him a lot.  I hadn't even met him and I ripped on him.  He was older than her so I would pretend to walk with a walker and complain about kids these days.  It made her laugh.

So one night I said, "Yeah, back when I was a Chippendale, we used to stock the bus with *whatever candy she was buying* and I loved it." 

She said, "you were a stripper, too?"  Apparently, she had done some stripping when she was eighteen.  After that she and I had a great time discussing golden showers and the proper way to feel up a your date in a movie theater. 

I always bring that sort of thing out in people. 

There was a woman who used to come into the store about once every six months.  She drove an almost brand-new pick-up with a lift-kit and massive tires.  It was at least a $40K truck.  And she was stunning.  Long, blond curls would tumble down her back and across her bronze skin.  She had beautiful blue eyes and a radiant smile.  Every time she would come by, she would ask me to do my impression of Ozzy Osbourne running across the stage.  She had seen me do it the night after Ozzfest. 

She was never alone.  She always had several of the hottest women I'd ever met in her truck. 

So after her begging me to do the Ozzy Run, she'd ask me about my days as a Chippendale.  She got the joke and played along for her friends.  It was great--I got to perform for a group of hotties. 

Sometimes I played coy.  "Why," I'd ask.  "Does anybody need a lap dance?"  They would laugh and one would say, "You weren't really a Chippendale, were you?" 

"Gimme a dollar and I'll show you."  I never got their phone numbers or names, but I know for a fact they remember me. 

And then there was the woman from Alaska who was of Middle Eastern descent.  The first time I saw her I lost the ability to think, and because my brain detached from my mouth, all I was able to make it do was a series of monosyllables.

Perfect skin, long black hair and alluring pair of eyes that could stop a prison riot in seconds.  She would come into the store, look at me with those eyes and say, "Hey, Big Guy."  That was always followed by a bowel-loosening smile I still see in my dreams.  About once a week she would come into the store and greet me like that, then proceed to bend over in front of me, showing off her hourglass body.  Then, slowly straightening herself up, she would gracefully slide up to the counter as her high heels clicked slowly on the tile floor; her eyes locked on mine with an all-knowing look on her face. 

Stage fright?  Not this cowboy.  I was a Chippendale with a very long, illustrious career.  I did anything I could to keep her laughing because laughing women don't walk back to their cars. 

Yes, I was a Chippendale.  I was doing well, too, until I hurt my back on-stage.  Somebody before me had used too much baby oil and I slipped.  After months and months of painful physical therapy I was able to walk again but I had let myself go.  I still had some of the moves, too, but because of the pain I only did them for special ladies in my life. 

She would coo and pout in all the right places.  A sultry angel who trolled the troll and played along with the game.  When I found out she was married, and I knew her husband, and they had kids it just wasn't as fun.  They moved away and it felt like a chapter had closed early because the writer somehow lost grip of the plot. 

I'm still an ex-Chippendale, only it just doesn't have the luster it used to have.  It's not as fun.  I work in an environment where shock-value is reduced to vulgar comments about things I cannot put here in this blog.  Women talk about things across the workplace at the top of their lungs that immature men only talked about when they were teenagers.  To be an ex-Chippendale has a certain refinement. 

It's a delicate thing.  I once told a gay guy I used to be a Chippendale and he just looked me over in a quick size-up glance and then looked away.  It hurt.  Sure, I'm not gay, but everybody wants to be wanted by somebody. 

But there is somebody I work with who would appreciate the subtle nuances of me revealing to them my former life as a Chippendale.  I'm sure I could get her laughing.  I'm positive I could keep it going, too.  And as long as she stood there in front of me and showed me that pretty smile, I would weave and spin and color long yarns of the Glory Days.  But I'm going to wait until she's having a bad day.  I'll wait for that moment when she needs a laugh and to escape her shitty job.  And then I'll ride in and describe, in lurid detail, my days as the Cowboy Chippendale.  Maybe this time she'll give me her number.  Maybe I'll ask.  Or she'll walk away and I'll go back to work.  But I can promise--she will never forget me. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Reality TV Show for Writers

With all the crappy reality shows on television it is only a matter of time before we writers get one of our own.  It would make sense, too.  A show that is supposedly unscripted about a group of people who script shit. 

And let's face it--we writers are a bunch of nutcases, drama queens, psychopaths, miscreants, anti-social misfits, drug addicts and drunks.  Some of us are so high-strung we don't need coffee but drink it as if our heart rate depends upon it anyways. 

Writers are not normal.  This is why we would make a perfect reality show. 

For a while there was a show called Top Artist or something like that.  It was a bunch of artists given challenges.  Everything they made looked like shit thrown together by a strong wind.  I've seen tornadoes make better art.  Every single week it was a driftwood sculpture and a couple of blurry black and white photographs.  If something that stupid can get turned into a reality show, then why not a group with more quirks than a Zooey Deschanel fan club? 

The format would be simple.  Since these shows aren't about producing good work but rather making people who are totally different work together on projects that don't need teamwork, this would be very easy. 

Every week a novel gets written.  Each writer would have to write a chapter.  The characters, plot and other basic settings would be assigned by the cute host with the vacant stare.  And some guest judge would come in and add a stipulation. 

"This week's novel is a detective comedy about a lesbian Inuit quadriplegic living in New Orleans.  But our Guest for the Week, Joe R. Lansdale, is here to give a special twist."

And then Mr. Lansdale would step up and say, in that wonderful East Texan accent, "Writers!  This novel is now steampunk!"

Someplace in the group of writers, a pudgy guy in glasses would hiss, "Yes!"

The projects, whatever they might be, would all be a vehicle for multicultural and liberal views.  Any conservative, or blond-haired, characters would automatically be villains.

First, each episode would begin with a thirty-minute quick-fire poetry challenge.  It would be Nuyorican slam poetry in iambic pentameter.  That winner would get to write either the first or last chapter.

Then, the judging would begin for the previous week's project.  That week's submissions would have been online all week for the audience to read.  This way, when the judges made cruel and demeaning statements while the writers acted insane, the audience would know what they were talking about.

Then, in the final part of the show, the writers (minus the one booted off the show) would get their assignments for the next project.  

Of course, there would be all kinds of confessional interviews with the writers, where they talked shit about each other and shed light on their personality disorders. 

There would be one jittery, nervous-looking woman who begins every sentence with, "As a vegan, I feel that..."

The Soccer Mom writer would then confess she was a closet bi-sexual and secretly fantasizes about one of the other female writers. 

The writer that claimed to be a lesbian would be the hottest woman on the show.

And then some twenty-something pre-op tranny from New York would have a nervous breakdown from the stress of writing a sex scene full of metaphors about being oppressed and silenced by society. 

The hunky boy-toy would somehow find a way to take off his shirt and flex in each episode.  

For the sake of art, I volunteer to be the redneck horror writer.  It's a stretch, but I'm pretty sure I could pull that off, for the right amount of money. 

The winner of the show gets a three-book deal with a major publisher, including a film deal, and an endorsement contract for anti-depression medication. 

I can already smell the Emmy!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

As many of you can imagine, I put my mom through a whole lot of grief.  I wasn't the best kid out there. 

When I was about 5 years old, the film Mommy Dearest was popular.  There was a very popular scene shown in all the previews and trailers where Joan Crawford tells her daughter to call her "Mommy Dearest." 

So being way too smart for my age, I would call her that in public places, like the grocery store.  I'd make sure to do it when others were looking and I'd even have this little look on my face like I was afraid of getting a smack.  People would give her dirty looks and she'd just roll her eyes. 

My mom and I have always had a weird dynamic.  Catholicism shoved down my throat really didn't do our relationship any favors and in a way I'm still pissed about it.  And I was usually the one who jumped to get between her and Dad when he was drunk and abusive. 

But now that I'm much older there are still a few things I can't bring myself to do. 

I could never write something with a lurid sex scene and let my mom read it.  I have a hard enough time with the sex scenes.  It's so hard to write something that isn't dark and perverted because as soon as you get violent the editors freak.  And the way they avoid necrophilia!  It's just another love story, people! 

But no, I could never do that.  How could I possibly write about a vicious anal pounding without lube followed up by a Hot Carl and give it to my mother?   I don't even want to think about her knowing what a Dirty Sanchez is all about. 

I'm used to giving my mother periods of extreme weirdness.  Like the time in winter when I pee'd my name into the neighbor's yard in big, bold yellow letters.  And then the weather turned bitter cold and the pee stayed there for weeks.  Sure, the neighbor thought it was funny, but my mom was really embarrassed. 

As a horror writer, I can tell my mom something is squicky and nasty, and she'll just shake her head and not read it.  But if I write fiction that isn't dripping blood and guts, she'll want to.  What then?  If it's not comedy it'll be really uncomfortable.  I don't know why, it just is. 

My mom doesn't even know about this blog.

Sometimes I mention the tag line for some short story I wrote and she says, "nevermind" and changes the subject.  If I said I was writing a political satire or political thriller, she might be interested.  And if she was interested, she'd want to read it.  That means I can't have my Main Character giving facials to the teenaged daughter of his political rivals.  

Right now, as I re-read that last bit, I have my hands over my ears and I'm chanting, "la-la-la-la-la-la" as loud as I can. 

So this Mother's Day I bought my mom a card with Garfield on the front.  I was going to make her an ice cream cake and take it to her but she was too busy to see me.  She's usually very busy on Mother's Day and we simply cannot connect on that day. 

When I do see her, she is good at hiding her disappointment in me, and how I have really become a failure at so much in life.  She doesn't nag me about finding a girlfriend.  She doesn't even play guilt trips on me.  In truth, I get a shrug of the shoulders and a "meh".  I showed up at whatever function as an also-here type person.  That's about all she expects out of me and doesn't push me for more. 

Diminished expectations are comforting to the failures. 

So, to all the mothers out there, Happy Mothers Day.  Enjoy your macaroni art and cards.  Enjoy the poorly cooked breakfasts and crowded restaurants.  Take comfort in the fact that one day your kids will realize all you wanted was to be left alone so you could sleep in late and not have to chase somebody down or yell at them.  And by then, they'll have their own snot-nosed kids to deal with, and the circle will be complete. 

Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You!

My friend Tracy drew this.  She's talented and has a lot of artwork on her website.  Take the time to see what all she's done.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

No, Really....This is a True Story

As a writer, I look at myself as a professional liar of epic proportions.  I'm supposed to tell a story that is interesting, with people you care about, and somehow I have to make it believable enough so that you keep reading.  It's not as easy as it sounds.  Recently I was reading a book that was such horseshit I had to put it down.  Seriously.  It was so damned silly I could no longer wade through it.

Even fiction has to have some roots in reality.  This novel was so awful that it gave me a headache.  It was as if the writer just couldn't pile enough ridiculousness in each paragraph.  I like the guy.  He's on my Facebook friends list.  But I just don't have the heart to tell him his novel was crap and I can't believe it actually got published.

So yes, I'm a liar.  I would like to be a professional liar full-time and stop my other job as a telemarketer where I lie my ass off to people.  I'm shocked and amazed I haven't turned into a pillar of salt.  Sometimes it's not what you tell somebody, it's what you don't.  Either way, very little of what I say is the complete truth.

Some are better at it than I am.  And then some, not so much.
I work with a compulsive liar.  He lies so much he has become the running joke of the office.  I'm not even sure he doesn't realize this.  It's like he knows he's being made fun of but he keeps lying.  Maybe it has fueled his need to lie, I don't know. 

I had a roommate once who did that.  He lied constantly and his lies were researched.  I'm pretty sure he would concoct a lie in his head, Google it, then tell the lie with a few random facts thrown in for good measure.  His lies were grandiose and vivid.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I knew he was totally full of shit--but the stories were fun to hear and I'm a sucker for a good story. 

My ex-roomie, Rodger, lied about all kinds of fun things and he told very convincing stories.  And he knew how to use props to make it more believable.  It was great! 

Rodger's biggest lies were about his music career in Kansas City.  Rodger had a talent for taking slightly past-prime musicians and linking himself to them.  And he would play a music video from a small punk band that had a bass guitar player that looked a bit like him.  Because of the quick-change scenes and moving frames, it was impossible to disprove. 

Rodger was a great liar.  Sure, after a while it got tedious and like all compulsive liars, you just want them to shut the fuck up after a while because you know they're full of shit.  He would invent stories about being an EMT, a fireman, a cop and in the Secret Service.  And then he invented stories about being in Special Forces.  I blame myself for this.  Instead of shutting him down I let him continue because I do enjoy a good story and I didn't have cable. 

The best lie he told was how he had played bass in a band that recorded a song for a Quentin Tarrantino movie that was to be released soon.  He even had badly recorded outtakes of the songs on a cassette tape.  Rodger was waiting for a check and when it came, he would be rich.  Rodger was also waiting for a settlement check for being disabled  while on-duty in the Kansas City Police Department.  This is why he never worked.  In fact, I later found out he couldn't even hold down a simple job, because he was so nuts. 

I seem to run into these people all the time.  I once worked with a guy who paid cash for a brand new Chevy pickup with duelies and smokestacks.  But he couldn't drive it to work at the warehouse because his girlfriend needed it for her job as a model. 

The guy I currently work with lies about how he's a ranked MMA fighter nobody's ever heard of.  If you tell him a video game you like to play, he's already broken the record and defeated it all the way through.  It got old after the first day so now when he comes up to me I cringe. 

My tolerance for such things has really gone away.  I no longer even want to hear the great stories.  It's like I've heard it all before.  It's not even remotely amusing to me anymore. 

When I booted Rodger's crazy ass out, he left some stuff behind.  I mailed it to his mom in a box with a bunch of gay porn and a note that said he "left a few things behind." 

But since I'm old enough to have read a few books, I'm going to start creating a vast web of lies myself.  Only this time, it's going to be fucking glorious!  I'm going to be the best damned liar at work. 

First, I need to make sure everybody knows how vastly superior I am to them.  Therefore, I am Irish Royalty. 

Second, I need to appeal to the listener's greed and envy.  My family has a castle in Ireland and while my cousin lives there now, I'm next in line to have it.  Also, there is a guest cottage I can stay in for as long as I want.  Would you like to come?  (NOTE:  This offer is only for females who are decent-looking and men who might have something I want, like money, respect and a hot girlfriend.)

Thirdly, the lie I'll use to make the first two plausible is that I'm in America because I had been connected with Sinn Fien and raising money for Noraid.  I can't go back to Ireland just yet because there are negotiations currently underway and my presence would make certain folks nervous. 

The Fourth lie is the best one.  This is the Color Lie--the lie that makes women sigh and think you're a great guy with a big heart and how they need to comfort you.  I call this my Money Lie.  To accomplish this, I have created a story about how I was married to a beautiful woman.  We had a daughter and were expecting our second child in a few months.  My wife was going to church when she was hit by a drunk driver.  Our daughter died right away and my wife died a few hours later in the hospital.  Now, depending on whom I telling this to, I can embellish this a bit.  I can make it that she died in my arms at the hospital, or switch them around and have my daughter die. 

A good lie is more about your audience than yourself.

The rest of the lies are just for seasoning.  I was Irish Special Forces, etc.  And depending upon the audience, I can go into ghost stories from the castle.  Either way, I win.

So there you have it--how I plan to take over the world with lies.  I can't wait to go to work tomorrow.  I'm going to tell every female I work with my new Pack of Lies.  And if I can get just one to fall for it, I will be a happy man.