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The Alarm Clock: Then And Now

Back when I had a job, I could count on one thing: I always had some place to be at 8:30 every morning from Monday to Friday.  I didn’t always arrive on time, but the goal was there, cast in stone, more or less.  My alarm clock held the key to any success I would have.  The clock would beep and whine and stamp its feet, wrestling for my attention, eventually victorious over my World-Class denial.  Even though it was unwelcome every morning, it was expected.  I’d hear the sound, recognize it eventually, and act accordingly, either with a crushing blow to the snooze button or a deeply aggravated roar from the depths of my hatred.  (I know there are people in the world who can’t wait for their alarm clocks to signal the beginning of a new day.  I’ve never met such a person, but I’ve heard enough about them to assume they aren’t mythical.)

These days, there is nothing concrete on the schedule.  There is no place I need to be at a previously contracted time.  Tomorrow morning I am expected at my neighbor’s house at 9 AM to teach her how to bake bread, but to this point, aside from lunch plans, which hardly require the use of an alarm clock, I’ve had nothing on the docket that is inexorably tied to a specific time.  There are no imperatives on the order of “show up to work or get fired.”  Regardless, I continue to set my alarm.  Mind you, I set it four hours later than when I was employed, but set it I do.  I’m naturally a night owl and my waking hours have been shifting later and later the deeper I get into this strange phase.  I feel that I should try to keep some semblance of a routine, at least in terms of when I wake up and start moving.  A funny thing happens, though, regarding the wake-up call when one removes the externally scheduled urgency.  That alarm has become the most horrible, unrecognizable sound I’ve ever heard.  I thought I knew that beeping intimately well, but now it blares like a klaxon at the gates of Hades warning that there’s been a jailbreak and all manner of Hellspawn will soon pour forth to cover the Earth and there are only a few short minutes to get to the bomb shelters.  Every time it goes off, it’s like I’ve never heard it before, even though I experience it no less than seven times each morning at five-minute intervals due to incessant snooze button mashing.  The bed covers explode, my body roiling and writhing underneath as I try to make sense of the ungodly sound invading my brain like a bullet from a 9mm.  It’s the most remarkable phenomenon.

Anyway, I’m awake now.  Good afternoon.

First Installment Coming Soon!

I’m getting really close to having the first installment polished and ready for delivery.  I’m also working on a blurb for the virtual book jacket, which will live in the column on the right where the About The Author bit currently resides.  You can judge a book by its cover – people do it every day – and the jacket blurb is one of the best marketing tools that a publisher has.  When you’re browsing through a bookstore, it usually goes like this:

  • See eye-catching cover with intriguing title
  • Pick up the book and read the blurb
  • Make a decision to buy or keep moving

And all of that takes place in the span of about fifteen to twenty seconds, so that blurb is way more important than most folks think.

Another marketing tool a publisher has is the excerpt.  In the bookstore example, if you get to Step 3 and still need more info, you just crack the book randomly and read a page or two.  Awfully random and unpredictable.  The luxury I have is that I can choose something specific for you to read.  The downside is that if this chunk doesn’t float your boat, where does that leave me?  A conundrum, to be sure, but we’re not here to tip-toe through life.  As my wife and I constantly remind each other, you’ve got to go big or go home.  Since I’m already home, I’m going big, regardless of the fact that I feel like I’m about to birth a litter of kittens.

Without further ado, please enjoy this excerpt from Speck Martin.

*****

It’s not entirely true that I didn’t cry outside of chow time or when I needed a fresh diaper.  I screamed plenty, just like every kid.  The thing that was unsettling for the adults around me was that I didn’t cry very long.  After a couple of months, lying on my back in a crib staring into space wasn’t good enough, and once I got ambulatory, I moved fast.  My mother could not keep up.  I crawled faster than my older brother could walk.  Mom would turn her head for a second – quite literally one second – and I was gone, baby gone.  As you might imagine, this lead to a great deal of opportunity for injury.  Table and chair legs, doorjambs, the corners of bureaus and sideboards; everything was in play.  While my muscles developed quickly, I was still only a baby, so the mental acuity needed to navigate a suburban home was simply not present.  Head down, moving at top speed…crack!  Kitchen door to the forehead.  Night-stand to the skull.  Liquor cabinet to the face.  There wasn’t enough padding in the world to cover every protruding edge and hard surface I would eventually plow into.  Sometimes I’d get up a head of steam and clumsily race past Michael, knocking him down, ass over tea kettle, with yours truly breaking his awkward fall.  Crunch!  Like any normal infant, the wailing would begin.  Unlike every normal baby, however, it would stop as quickly as it started and usually before Mom got to the scene of the accident.  She’d pick me up and console me, but I hardly needed it.  She would bounce me in her arms, her gentle, sing-song voice in my ear, dutifully reassuring me that everything was okay. For possibly the first time in baby history, a parent was not stretching the truth.  Everything was okay.  I was okay.  There was nothing to cry about.  The pain was gone and forgotten and it was time for a new adventure.  Through a hundred incidents like this, my parents, my extended family, and anyone else who witnessed the phenomenon eventually figured it out.  I was healing.  Fast.  My body was a healing machine.  Bruises lasted thirty minutes; cuts and scrapes an hour.  Gone without a trace.  No pain, no marks.  I’d trash myself by knocking a dining room chair onto my cranium at noon and the evidence disappeared before my dad got home for dinner at six.  No bumps.  No scars.  Nothing.

When Did June Happen?

Remember how I mentioned that I’ve been losing all connection to time and space?  How come nobody told me it was June??

Now, before we all panic and storm the castle, let me assure you that everything is fine.  No deadlines have been pushed, no flights out of the country to avoid angry mobs have been scheduled.  We are still very much on target.  I just need to pull my head out of wherever it was that I decided to stick it and get some heavy lifting done.

Excelsior!

The Perfect Storm

Humans are wishful thinkers, I believe.  In particular, we all imagine there to be a perfect set of circumstances for specific scenarios that will help us achieve unprecedented results; the ideal working environment at the office to nail the bullet points for that important pitch meeting; the best set of meteorological conditions to run that marathon; the peace and quiet of an empty house in order to finish that screenplay/symphony/doctoral thesis.  Sadly, it’s all a myth, but that won’t stop us from dreaming, trying, or expecting.

I’ve more or less decided that I can’t write very well at home during the day.  Unemployment breathes heavily on me in the house, using up most of the available oxygen, and there are far too many pointless distractions which I relentlessly engage in.  No bueno.  I decided last night that I’d get up early and hit the library, doing a chore or two quickly before I left the house.  I picked out a rock-solid pair of pants and a favorite shirt, wanting to insure that my energy would be all positive as I’d be unencumbered by ill-fitting garments.  I packed my bag with snacks in case I got hungry; all the better to avoid quitting early and heading out for a cheeseburger or, heaven forbid, fried chicken, which would ruin the afternoon and the evening.  The computer was charged, the dog was walked, everything in place for a day of genius-level writing.  A quick iced tea to stay hydrated and I’d be on my…

I arrived at the library wearing an inferior pair of pants and shirt after soiling the clothes of choice with my tasty beverage.  Real smooth.  To make things even better, I exited the truck covered in Moon Pie crumbs, since I simply could not wait to hit the snacks, apparently.  As I settled in at one of the least crowded tables – the library was packed for some reason – I found myself surrounded by attractive people working and reading and looking devastatingly studious, and a crush of books on every topic known to man, leaning in close, desperately begging for attention.  4:30 PM.  Nice and early.  Just like I’d planned.

Yeah, this will work out just fine.  Heck, I might just breeze through the rest of the novel today!  Conditions could not be better.

One-Armed Surprise?

I woke up today with those words in my head.

One-Armed Surprise…

It sounds like something, doesn’t it?  A wrestling move, a pickpocket in a Chinatown tea-house, a new sexual position?  Who knows?  To the best of my knowledge, there is no such thing as a One-Armed Surprise.  (A quick Google search revealed nothing, thankfully.  That could have gone quickly off the rails, as Google searches often do.)  My brain was reconstituting after a respectably hard sleep and hadn’t quite realigned itself with reality, chucking random notions together.

D.J.’s Brain: “I have a feeling these things don’t match, but fuck it: One-Armed Surprise.  Chew on that, douche-bag.  Moron probably won’t even notice…”

Picking through the thoughts swirling around in my head during those groggy first moments of the day is like panning for gold or trying to locate one more peanut hiding in a box of Cracker Jack.  What will I stumble over and will it be worth anything?  Sometimes I get good stuff in those moments before sleep, but they’re harder to remember and are tainted with the stink of the day that came before.  The really good bits, the morsels that carry never-ending promise, are found in the morning, when my sub-conscious had all night to dredge the swamp, churning long-forgotten chunks back up to the surface to co-mingle with the tried and true.  I never know what I’m going to get.  Today, amongst appearances by old crushes, subway platforms to nowhere, and costumed sports mascots frolicking on the beach, I got One-Armed Surprise.

Who knows if that will ever wind up in the book or in a story all its own, but it absolutely, positively sounds like something.

Speck Martin vs. Martin Speck

I’ll know I’m making progress on the Information Super-Highway when I can Google “Speck Martin” and find my site on the first page.  For now, a gentleman named Martin Speck and his Facebook page occupy the top slot.

I doubt he knows it, but I’m coming for him…

$210.18

That was the grand total on the itemized and handwritten bill from the hospital that arrived at the house.  Four days in a semi-private room.  $30 for anesthesia.  $5 for Special Medicines.  $3.18 for telephone usage, which my Dad paid for before the orderly wheeled my Mom out to the station wagon, holding me in her arms, with no idea what to expect from the new arrival that sped her through labor at a record-setting pace.  Thirty minutes from start to finish, if you can believe that.  $183 covered by insurance.  $24 due.

Fiction is never really fiction. It’s all autobiography. Not a verbatim retelling, of course, but everything that has ever happened to an author winds up on the page in some fashion. It could be a significant event recast with a more desirable outcome expanded into the climax of a book. Perhaps it’s something that the author wished she hadn’t said to her boyfriend that winds up coming out of an antagonist’s mouth. Maybe it’s hopes and dreams for a happier life that the hero can never attain that drives him past the breaking point and straight into insanity.  Suspicions about a family member, the color of the upholstery on the family sofa, something seen out of the corner of one’s eye, the way that apple fritter tasted and the one simple reason it was the best apple fritter ever.

Speck Martin is a fictional autobiography, a man recounting his life story, but I can tell you right now that it might as well be mine.  Everything is tossed into the meat grinder and available for use; thoughts turned over on a drive through the rain after overhearing something in the office; a book Don Draper was reading on Mad Men; the torrent of ideas that flooded my brain after I pulverized my little toe on a table leg six months ago; relentless dreams that tortured me as a child; a look on a girlfriend’s face that I’ll never forget; something a stranger said to me on a street corner one quite night.  Everything.

It’s all in there, in one form or another.  The dots are unconnectable, though; there are no absolute truths about my life in there, so don’t go looking.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  There is one.  Look for that itemized bill in Chapter One.