My latest entry in the Fight Card Book series entitled “Can’t Miss Contender” was released today. The Kindle version is available now at Amazon and the paperback will soon follow. And while you’re shopping, please pick up copies of all the other Fight Card books (by a great roster of writers) if you have the chance.
Every time there’s a horrific shooting (Aurora – Newtown – Oregon), there are ludicrous posts that claim movie goers, teachers, or some other concerned citizen with a gun might have prevented that shooting. How come the Secret Service (probably the best-trained marksmen outside SEALS and Special Forces) couldn’t prevent Ronald Reagan and James Brady from being shot at close range? Or earlier this year, outside the Empire State Building, 8 innocent bystanders were wounded by police trying to take down a killer with a gun? Do we really think somebody who periodically shoots a gun at a firing range is going to turn into Wyatt Earp inside a dark theater, crowded mall, or grade school hallway?
And is some weekend Quick Draw McGraw with a hand gun really an equal match against a lunatic with an assault weapon? That’s supposed to be a reasonable solution?
I’m okay with 2nd Amendment rights, but assault weapons are another story.
It’s been a long couple of weeks working in the streets and on the debris piles in Seaside Heights. Sadness, pain, and loss cut through every minute of the day, no matter what you do or where you go. The level and depth of destruction is staggering. You can be moved to tears throughout the day by the tattered remains of peoples’ lives and memories in piles along the curb or loaded into the backs of trucks on their way to dump sites. People put down roots here and raised families and built lives that had value and meaning, and now it’s all gone. That sadness hangs on everything.
You see and hear about tragedies and natural disasters on the news, and for many people it hurts about as long as it takes to change the channel to “Dancing With The Stars”, “Storage Wars”, or some other idiotic reality show. Life takes over for most of us and returns to normal, even with the best of intentions. But for the people up and down the Jersey coast (as well as in Long island and Staten Island), life can’t just “go on”. Not when everything you spent a lifetime building is gone like it never happened or was never there.
But what comes back at me day after day, no matter who you meet, is the unwavering belief and conviction that we will rebuild. Through the pain comes hope, strength, and courage. That nothing will stand in our way – tough odds and hard work are no match for the kind of strength, resiliency, and toughness we own. Like a boxer in the late rounds of a fight, we took everything Hurricane Sandy had to give and we’re still on our feet, throwing jabs and punching our way out of trouble. We may be down, but it’s only a temporary thing.
“What it reminds me, though, is that all of time operates like this. You and I will never experience 12/12/12 again. And we’ll also never experience 12/11/12 again. Or the 10th of November, 2012. Or the 23rd of April, 1999. In fact, this very hour – this very minute — will come and then go and never return. Each increment of time is a spaceship launched into the dark that will never return home. Every moment is a snowflake, a fingerprint, a unique atomic temporal signature whose repeat is guaranteed to be impossible.”—From: “The Real Lesson Of 12/12/12” (via terribleminds)
As part of my efforts to make more of a difference in the post-Sandy clean-up efforts, for the entire month of December I’m donating all money from sales of my books LOST EXIT and HARD ROAD to “Restore The Shore Projects”.
“Restore The Shore Projects” is an initiative to assist in disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy victims. The main goal is to work quickly to provide relief and deliver it right into the hands of victims and restore their lives back to normal.
If you have friends who haven’t purchased either book and want to help, please steer them over to Amazon where they can pick up a copy (or 2 or 3….).
“Simply put, writing is rarely about writing. Writing is about thinking. And planning. And rethinking and replanning. Writing is about rewriting. Writing is about breaking it all apart and putting it back together again. Writing is about running it through the gauntlet. It’s about editing. About criticizing. Writing is about the craft of putting one word after the other and then stacking them atop one another. Writing is about the art of the story. Writing is about the crass and unpleasant dance of commerce. Writing is about sharpening the words and honing the tale until it is as sharp as a thumbtack. Writing is about you first, and the audience ever after.”—How To Flush Your NaNoWriMo Efforts Down The Crapper (via terribleminds)
“You can feel good about failure. Failure means you did something. You finished the story even if it wasn’t what you’d hoped. Failure means you’re learning. Growing. Doing. But quitting — man, you don’t get that with quitting. With quitting all you get is a box full of puzzle pieces that don’t connect. You get a shattered mirror. You get a handful of dirt even the earthworms don’t want.”—
· There are whole generations of people from across all demographic groups who have never taken the time to learn how to say, “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry”.
· I haven’t always agreed with him politically, but there’s nobody at handling a crisis – at least one caused by Mother Nature – than New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Hands down, he’s the “lead from the front and get things done” kind of guy you want in charge.
· After riding out Hurricane Sandy, I’m not traumatized by the storm. I’m traumatized by the indifference of so many people about the devastation it caused (substitute Katrina, Irene, tornadoes in the Midwest, the earthquake in Haiti, etc. for Sandy). Too many people don’t care until it impacts their own comfort and convenience.
· The randomness of fate and the power of Mother Nature are two of the biggest equalizers in life.
· Writers write. Plain and simple – if putting words on paper for others to read is your chosen profession (or dream – desire – passion), then suck it up, tough it out, and stop bitching about editing and rewrites and word counts. It’s petty and small to hear somebody whining about the “rigors” of writing….go pour concrete, pound nails, or sweat on a highway work crew for a couple of months and change your perspective. Shut up and write.
· Anybody who knows something about football knows that Tim Tebow isn’t a serious answer to anything related to the sport.
· If the urban oasis by the sea that I live in is a microcosm of small town politics, it’s often the people from the “wrong side of the tracks” who show up at town council meetings to address problems like gang violence, drugs in the neighborhood, schools, and education for their kids. They’re the ones who are taking steps to make things better. The people who should do more because they have more are the ones who get involved only when it concerns dog parks and inappropriate bathing attire on the boardwalk.
· Cory Booker has future President written all over his resume (if not the Oval Office, then make room for him in the Senate).
· There’s a kind of coolness to the music of Elvis, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, and carl Perkins that never goes out of style – something that feels like the innocence of high school, fast cars, and the open road.
· I believe that the worst of times can bring out the best in people, and that we can put aside our differences to work together and make things better. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I’ll keep believing that until they carry me out of the room and turn off the lights.
My thoughts and prayers to my friends, neighbors, and everyone affected by the hurricane and its aftermath. Stay strong.
It’s been said that you can’t go home again- that attempts to relive youthful memories always fail because time changes everything. I used to think that too, but I was wrong. Last weekend I returned home for my high school reunion, having missed every single one since graduation. It was never intentional – life just got in the way. A lot of years have slipped by and time has eroded the memories, and I’m guilty of letting too many miles pass between hello’s, phone calls, texts, and emails, especially to many people who mattered 30+ years ago.
In an instant the years fell away.
For two days it was all about seeing old friends and missing those who couldn’t be there, catching up on the paths each of us had taken, sharing memories, and laughing about stories I’d forgotten (especially the ones that were horribly embarrassing). As my friend Butch put it, we stopped being jocks, nerds, rah-rahs, and beauty queens/kings – instead we were just a group of old friends getting together again after too much time apart. People say that you shouldn’t live your life looking in the rear view mirror and I’ve always believed that all that matters in life is what’s ahead. But something has always pulled me back to high school, the friendships that were made there a long time ago, and the memories that still endure years later.
I believe the friendships you make early in life are the ones you hold close – the same ones that can bring you home again.
Those four years were a bittersweet period that few of us truly appreciated back then – a time of transition and change you could never wrap your hands around. There were tears, fears, laughter, worries, heartache, and heartbreak twisted around classes, homework, and tests about subjects most of us had already forgotten by graduation. Crushes, phone calls, and late night conversations with girls who saw you as a “friend” when you wanted desperately to be something more than that. Football keg parties on Saturday nights, long classes spent watching the minutes fall slowly off the clock, and too many stupid, immature things that were said and done – the kind of things that still make you cringe years later (while hoping that God has a sense of humor about stuff like that). Some of us even grew up a little. Or grew up a lot. You learned to love and you learned about hurt, and many of us forged relationships that remain strong years later.
Over the past few months as the reunion took shape and many of us reconnected again, I loved how easily we all slipped back into comfortable grooves. You spend so much time trying to get out of high school that you miss what you have beyond the classrooms and how special each friendship can be. When we graduated we talked about the future as well as where we were going and how we would change the world, but last weekend it was nice to be reminded of where we started. Age, or maybe maturity, has a way of making things clearer – at least the things that are still meaningful.
When I drove home, I felt a familiar hurt – I wasn’t sure if it was nostalgia kicking my ass or the kind of sadness that comes from genuine, heartfelt good byes.
Or maybe it was the realization that no matter how far you go or what you try to do, you can’t do any of it if you don’t remember where you came from. And that no matter where you’re going, it’s the friends you have who make it all worthwhile.
It’s been a while since you heard from me – in case you forgot, I’m one of the 69,456,897 who voted for you 3+ years ago. Like many others, I bought into “Change You Can Believe In” hook, line, and sinker. But that change thing isn’t working out the way we thought it would. There’s a serious problem going on in this country and you may not even be aware of how bad it is or how many people are affected. We need jobs. People are out of work. Families are hurting. Children are hungry. Joblessness has created homelessness. The economy is in a crash and burn mode, and none of us see anybody inside the Beltway offering real, tangible solutions that will make things better.
So here’s a little advice:
You need to define your presidency by putting people back to work. Don’t wait until after November when you’ve had your one on one with the gun-slinging capitalist out of Massachusetts. Do something about creating real jobs now.
Bush the 1st once spoke about “that vision thing” and we all know how his re-election worked out, but you need to get to work on “that job thing” right away. There’s a lot of talk from Washington about putting people back to work – a lot of back slapping at your own campaign site about tax incentives for small businesses and tax breaks for clean energy. Investments in manufacturing technologies and patent reform that will bring inventions to market faster. Seriously? That’s it? That’s the sum total of our economic solutions and remedies? Show that to the guy who just ran out of unemployment benefits after 99 weeks – the same guy who is over-qualified for most jobs he applies to and is unsure which way to turn next. The guy who is looking at food stamps and welfare because he’s out of options and out of luck and out of work. I don’t think he really cares about tax breaks – all he wants is a job and a steady paycheck.
That guy can’t take tax incentives to A & P for groceries.
FDR had his New Deal, and from my perspective, things aren’t much different now than they were back in the 1930’s. The New Deal faced vocal conservative opposition. So will anything you choose to do. So what? Do it anyway. Get over to Capital Hill and do some lawmaking on jobs and the economy, and if you have to go all LBJ on the opposition to makes things happen, do it. FDR’s Public Works Administration worked with private companies to build over 30,000 projects like bridges, buildings, tunnels, airports, and roads – we have the same kind of infrastructure and mass transit needs now that we did back then. Give that same out of work guy a hammer, nails, and a paycheck and let him get busy.
We all wanted to believe in the American Dream with the house, lawn, two kid family, and upwardly mobile status. We all want to believe that things are getting better. We all wanted to believe in hope and change. Hope is a good thing but the guy who is out of work and out of benefits can’t take hope down to Chase or Wells Fargo and use it to pay his mortgage.
That bright and shiny future we once believed in is a myth.
It all comes down to jobs. That’s the only solution we can believe in.
Once again, thank you for taking the time to not only find my blog but read it (and special thanks to those of you who left comments). I’d like to take this opportunity to share some more of my beliefs. I believe that the guy who invented speed bumps – especially the one you hit so hard that it knocks the fillings out of your mouth – needs to be slapped. Then hugged because some kids haven’t figured out that they’re not supposed to run between cars or play in the street. I believe that Muhammad Ali was the greatest, despite losing his best years in the ring to the US government because he had nothing against those Viet Cong. I believe that writers write. It’s all about the words and telling a story. But that doesn’t mean that procrastination and distractions aren’t vital parts of the writing process, or key components of creativity. And I believe that the internet has created a world of opportunities for writers to find their audience through e-publishing, literary zines, and blogs, even if some of the literary traditionalists don’t agree. I believe that while Shemp was an underrated and unappreciated Stooge; not a single Marx Brothers movie hinged on the comedic talents or acting abilities of Zeppo. I believe that The Wire was one of the best shows on TV, following closely by Homicide. I believe that grown-up men should never use emoticons unless they want to look like teen-aged girls. And I believe that everyone, no matter who they are, cranks up the volume and sings along with Aretha when R.E.S.P.E.C.T. comes on the car radio. That’s all for now. I hope you come back for more.
Things I Believe #1 (original post from March 4th)
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog – I know you’re busy, so this shows a wonderful commitment on your part in sacrificing some valuable time…..time that can be better spent watching reality shows or catching up on the latest episodes of Charlie Sheen and The Porn Stars. So while I have your attention, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you some of my personal beliefs. I believe that everyone thinks they can write. This is not true (there is some kind of prevailing thought that a bunch of monkeys locked in a room with laptops can bang out the equivalent of War and Peace). This is not possible – what is possible is that they could ghost-write the latest books attributed to the cast of Jersey Shore. It is also true that everyone can criticize and they often do, especially when it comes to the efforts of writers. Good writing is a craft and the best ones take the time to work at their craft, honing their skills, and fine-tuning their abilities. On the other hand, it takes no skill whatsoever to be a critic, and there are no shortage of critics ready to offer an opinion, no matter how blatantly ill-informed, mis-guided, or erroneous their facts. I believe that the Laws of Karma do not apply to writers, where talent-less hacks get book deals from large publishing companies while other more skilled writers toil away in anonymity, praying for one big break or one good review in a magazine or online literary journal. I believe that Johnny Unitas was the greatest football player ever. I believe that I’ve spent my life expecting people to behave in a certain way. I believe that when they didn’t behave according to my expectations, I became angry, sad, confused and occasionally violent. As a result, I now believe my expectations are the real problem. I believe that everyone has this very same problem, and each of us needs to change our expectations. And I believe that every guy who came of age in the 1970’s still rolls down the windows and cranks up the car radio when “Radar Love” by Golden Earring comes on one of the classic rock stations. Once again, thanks for reading. Please be sure to come back again for more….
With the release of LOST EXIT last week, I’ve taken the next step in a long journey. In some ways, writing the book was the easy part – the hard work of growing an audience, building demand, and increasing sales for that book starts now. The next few weeks will be consumed with book reviews, ARC’s, blog posts, and press releases (while waiting for Oprah to call….). While all that is going on I will still be writing – moving forward with three or four short stories that I’ve committed to writing and plunging into my third book. Time was never a friend but for years we maintained an uneasy balancing act and tenuous alliance. Going the independent publishing route has changed that dynamic but I’m okay with that.
As always, there are critics. I’ve been told that I’m going to lose focus, worse, that my artistic vision will suffer.
Artistic vision and voice are very important as a writer, but exposure is equally critical. Writers write but we also want to get our words and stories in front of as many readers as possible. You can’t rely on somebody else to do it for you. You need to make it happen yourself – take every opportunity to find that audience and get every reader’s attention by any means possible. Every one of us who writes is confident people will fall in love with our words once they read them, but first you have to convince someone to pick up the book and shell out their cash to read those words. That means doing what you have to do to create a buzz, find an audience, and sell your books.
Writing is a business. Plain and simple. Always has been and always will be.
By Dana Milbank, Washington Post, July 13, 2010 We’re two weeks into Defense Secretary Robert Gates’s new campaign for more “coordination and discipline” in the military’s public statements—and everything seems to be going according to plan.
On Monday, six months after the earthquake in Haiti…