Friday, March 12, 2010

The worst childhood scars

(Warning: Adult content and language.)

We all carry them. Childhood is tough. Even in the best homes and with the best families, bad things happen, and they etch their marks in us forever.

Some homes and some families, though, are far from the best. Some harbor horrible abuses, and the scars on the children that emerge from those homes are deeper and more ragged than most. Perhaps the worst part is that those kids--and the adults they grow up to be--feel they constantly must hide those already invisible marks. They feel at some level that it was their fault, that they should have done something different, been better, not provoked their abusers--that somehow they could have made it all go back to normal. They feel that no one should know their secret, that people would love them less if they knew, that others might hate them for revealing those secrets.

Well, you know what, fuck that. Fuck all of that.

If you're one of those people--and quite a few people I care about are--then you have nothing to be embarrassed about. You have nothing to hide. You did nothing wrong. You could not have stopped it.

It was not your fault.

Fuck keeping your past a secret. Fuck sheltering the guilty abusers. You should tell your story whenever you feel like it. Those who care for you, who really care, will accept who you are and what happened to you. None of it was your fault.

And you are not alone.

I'm right there with you.

We moved in with another family after my father died when I was ten years old. Their father was in Viet Nam. Unknown to my mother, who never knew, the other woman was a sadist. She beat me every day, at least once a day, for four years. She hit me with pans and coat hangers, brushes and shoes, and much more. She did it until I grew big enough to stop her.

I spent three of those same years in a sadistic detachment of the Young Marines (a group that I must note generally is a fine youth organization). I saw a human ear collection on my first day. They punched me, stomped on me, ground my face in my own puke, and did a lot worse than that.

So, if you're out there and you're feeling alone, know this: You're not. You're not the only one. There are tens of thousands of us, maybe more.

What they did was not your fault.

The fact that you're still here proves that you ultimately won, because you're alive. If you have kids and don't hit them, then you won twice, because you didn't pass on the horror.

As for your abusers, fuck them. They aren't worth anything.

It's easy to say that you should make peace with your past and move on. The bitter truth is that the vast majority of us can't do that with simple things, high school snubs and being picked last, much less with abuses of this magnitude.

But we can get better every day. We can be the people we want to be.

We can do what the best people always do: strive constantly to be better.

And when the demons come to visit and the adrenaline floods your system, remember this: You can handle it. You can do it. It wasn't your fault. You've already won.

I'd be there to fix it with you if I could, but I can't. Fortunately, you can do it. All of you. Each of you.

Each of us.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

That Jump Gate Twist news

A couple of days ago, I said I'd soon tell you about a cool new thing I'm doing for Jump Gate Twist. Now that I'm working on the original material for that book, I thought it was time to come clean.

I've mentioned before that the book will contain the very first Jon Moore story, "My Sister, My Self." This piece takes place when he was 16 years old and still on Pinkelponker--about 135 years before the events of One Jump Ahead. This story has been out of print for about 27 years, so I thought it would be cool to add to the book.

Of course, the book will collect the first two Jon & Lobo novels, One Jump Ahead and Slanted Jack. You knew that.

I've also written here that I would include some new non-fiction pieces, afterwords and introductions. I'm working on those now.

I like this collection of stuff. I think it will make this omnitrade volume a bargain.

I couldn't, though, quite make peace with it. It felt incomplete. I finally figured out why: its solo Jon story creates a kind of fictional imbalance, an over-weighting of Jon's end of the duo's story teeter-totter.

There was only one solution, and that's what I'm announcing here: Jump Gate Twist will contain the first solo Lobo story, an original piece that has never appeared anywhere. (I know that for a fact, because I'm going to start writing it in a day or two.)

Yes, Lobo without Jon.

Even that, though, wasn't enough for me. If I was going to wade into the strange waters of writing a story with Lobo as the protagonist, I wanted it to be something different, something no one would expect.

Then the idea hit me, and I was instantly in love with the concept: this new piece won't simply be the first solo Lobo tale. It will be a Lobo Christmas story.

Not only that, but the story will completely fit into the Jon and Lobo universe, obey all its rules, and have a natural place in the chronology of the stories.

I'm quite excited to be writing it.

I hope you enjoy reading it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why does that man have such a goofy expression?

Because he finished Children No More, of course!

Okay, enough talking about myself in the third person. I hate that crap.

Anyway, this morning, I put the final touches on the book and sent it off to Publisher Toni.

Man, am I tired. This was a very hard book, but I believe the work was worth it. I also suspect this is the best thing I've ever written by a fair bit, though of course I can never be sure, and what is best for each of us is highly variable.

I then spent a considerable amount of time fighting the massive hair creature that had grown on my face. I had gotten far hairier than I had realized.

I'm happy to report that I was ultimately victorious, and the hair beast is no more.

For those interested, here are a few fun facts about Children No More:

* The complete manuscript--cover page, dedication, novel, afterword, acknowledgments, about the author--weighed in at a tasty 121,940 words.

* That makes it my second longest book, a good 4K words longer than Slanted Jack but about 13K words shorter than Overthrowing Heaven.

* This is the first book to include an afterword. I felt it was necessary.

* Five--count 'em, five!--characters from past novels return in this one.

* It took me a bit over fourteen months of plotting and writing, by far the longest time of any of my books.
That's enough for now.

I'll get to the big announcement sometime in the next month or so. Please believe me that on this one I'm not teasing; there are good reasons for the delay. I think, though, that you'll find it worth the wait.

Now, on to the new material for Jump Gate Twist!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

In case I forget later

please remind me, when the time is right, to give you the details on the following cool things:

* a nifty announcement about Children No More. I mentioned this one before, but it is, if I may say so myself, something genuinely good that you don't see every day.

* a cool new thing that will appear in Jump Gate Twist (and, no, I'm not just talking the introductions or the amazing John Picacio cover)

What, me tease?


In the meantime, because The Hold Steady is bringing out a new album in early May, I'm sure you'll want to join me in making sure we're current on all their music. There's no place like this song to start. Enjoy.

Monday, March 8, 2010

If you want to read Sarah's writing

then I have, with her permission and even encouragement, a tip for you. Some friends of hers have gathered to create a blog in which they are alternating prose contributions. You can read it here.

Sarah explained (as does the blog in its first entry) that each piece of prose must center on a word the writer finds at The piece must then be exactly the number of words the writer got when she or he went to and entered 15 and 500 as the limits of the random number. The writers each cover one day of the week. Sarah has Tuesday.

As you might expect, I've enjoyed the one contribution Sarah has posted so far. This seems like a fun prose game, and I hope they keep it up.

In related news, Sarah and Ben occasionally post their music-related thoughts here. It's a nice place to go for tips on new tunes.


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Art and bravery

Last night, my friend, Eric, gave a singing recital to raise money for the March of Dimes, where his wife (and also my friend), Anna Bess, works. Eric sang a broad range of songs that he divided into four groups. The show ran an hour and a half, and I very much enjoyed it. Though most of Eric's selections were fun songs, he included one dark piece that I had heard him perform before but still was very happy to hear again: Steinman's "Confessions of a Vampire," from the failed Broadway show, Dance of the Vampires. This song is very emotional and required more acting, and thus more risk, from Eric than any of others. There he was, up on stage in front of a crowd of sixty or more people, exposed and singing his heart out. Both this performance and the show as a whole led to an after-show conversation about the bravery it takes to show one's art.

I have very mixed feelings on this topic. On the one hand, showing art of any type does feel brave. After all, you can pour yourself into a work--a song, a painting, an art ball, a novel, whatever--let someone see it, and watch as they reject it or hate it or simply pass right by it. Those reactions hurt. Worse, no matter how good you are, you can be sure that some percentage of the audience will hate your work.

On the other hand, when I think of my art, writing, as a job I have willingly undertaken, or as a compulsion I must indulge, or both, then my feelings turn rather less sympathetic. If you choose to do art, you know what you're getting into, so ranger up and get to it. I've been an unskilled construction worker, and I've had a foreman tell me to move the same big hole (a six-foot cube of earth) multiple times, and that audience reaction certainly caused me pain, though in my body and in my frustration, not in my heart.

I also have the problem that I resist making artists of any type special. When I was a boy, I knew a master furniture maker, a guy over seventy who had been building furniture by hand since his teens. He'd never finished high school. If you called him an artist, he'd box your ears. He viewed himself as a craftsman, someone who showed up and did his job, day in and day out for a lifetime--but who did so with the utter dedication to craft that he strongly felt all of us owed our jobs. Yet his furniture was art, as beautiful and as full of his heart as any book or symphony. I've also seen programmers and builders and people of many professions who poured themselves into their work and who thus made that work their art.

In the end, I came to this conclusion: If you truly love doing something, if you give it your heart and make it the best you can, if you put all of yourself into it, then it becomes art, and showing it to others is both a compulsion and, yes, an act of bravery.

Thanks, Eric, for sharing your art last night and for being brave.


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