Friday, March 29, 2013

Potty Etiquette

I don't really use the word "potty." I'm an old guy. But since I think it's funny, I guess I'm still an eleven year old at heart.

Okay, baring my soul here.

Last Christmas, I was at my in-laws. I always eat well there. Too much. They're great cooks and even better in-laws. But I was in the bathroom paying the consequences.

There was a knock on the bathroom door. I froze, all bodily functions shutting down. Fleeting images of how to maintain cool (something I'm not overly familiar with) ran through my brain, sorta' like the cliché of when you're dying and images of loved ones flash through your mind. But this situation was WAY worse. My tongue turned into a bloated slug, words couldn't form. Not knowing what to do or say, I felt caught in the act of something heinous. Behind enemy lines, I wasn't on my home-friendly throne.

Finally, I came up with, "Who is it?"

Okay. It wasn't really what I meant to say. But I have my pants down around my ankles, feeling very vulnerable and exposed. There's a thin door separating me from whoever was lurking outside. And the last thing I wanted to do was become embroiled in a conversation. "Sure, come on in, pop a squat, drop trow if you're thusly inclined, don't be embarrassed just 'cause I'm bare-assed, sorry for the smell, some weather we're having lately, huh?"

"Who is it?" Was that really the best thing I could come up with? Dumb. Did I really care? No. I just wanted to be left in peace. I was buying time, hoping the intruder would go away along with the fumes. He/she/the fumes didn't. They were still lurking outside the door.

Time shut down. Silence. Breathing beyond the door. Waiting. I was trapped. No easy exit. They knew what I was up to. Should I come clean, flush, wash, smile and wave when I brush by the bathroom raider(s)? No way. That's the road to humiliation.

So I'm writing this from my inlaw's bathroom. Been here a while.

Friday, March 22, 2013

A Pius Man: Popes And Explosives!

It's been my great pleasure to read newcomer author Declan Finn's religious, conspiracy, satirical thriller, A Pius Man. Guy's got chops. Extremely well written and obviously well researched, it's a crazy good read. I'm already envisioning the TV series: "Action Pope." Here's what he has to say:

1. The description for
A Pius Man says that it slips in history in between the gunshots. Care to elaborate?

I’m a nerd – a history and philosophy nerd, amongst others. I’ve got degrees in both of them because I thought both of them were fun. And since this is a mystery at the Vatican, it has to be seeped in both. There is no other place on the planet where a city is practically drowning in history and philosophy practically.

2. So, why A Pius Man?

Because I’m not only a nerd, I’m an angry nerd. (Laughs.) Seriously,
A Pius Man was a graduate paper gone wild. I had been studying Pope Pius XII, the Pope of World War II, sometimes known as “Hitler’s Pope,” reading books and articles and even scanning microfiche. And I came across some things that most fiction – and even some history books – had completely and utterly missed.

  After that, I decided that it was time for some “revisionist history.” If the truth can be a revision.

 3. Are you shooting for the Da Vinci Code?

Actually, I’m shooting for the anti-Da Vinci Code – not only is my book using real history, A Pius Man is actually entertaining. At no point will my characters spend 100 pages just getting out of an art museum like the Louvre.

Also, unlike Dan Brown’s conspiracy, my characters don’t have to run all over Europe.

I’m not shooting for Dan Brown, more like shooting at Dan Brown.

4. So you’d say being Catholic helped you with writing this book

Hell yes. It gave me a starting point—a perspective and a body of knowledge other people don’t have. I’ve come to realize just how many people outside of Catholicism – and sometimes within Catholicism – have no idea what the Church preaches, or believes, or even how the logic works. Ask anyone on the street, nine times out of ten you might get a vague mention of “the rhythm method,” and being against contraception, but if you asked them why, I can only imagine what sort of half-assed answer you’d get. The proper answer should include a phrase called natural law. If you don’t know about natural law, you should probably pick up A Pius Man.

5. What other books do you have in the works?

Well, I’ve got two other novels. One is a science fiction novel called Codename: Winterborn, and the other is a murder mystery, set at a science fiction convention called It Was Only On Stun! With
Codename: Winterborn, it’s one part revenge novel, part romance, and one part political dissertation – trust me, that is such a long, long story. With It Was Only On Stun! … well, I was just having fun. Oh, and did I mention that A Pius Man was book 1 of a trilogy? A Pius Legacy will be coming out in fall, and A Pius Stand will be sometime in 2014.
So, yes, I’ve got a few things on my plate.

6. What’s on your reading list?

I have a “to read” stack that takes over my life, actually. James Rollins, and JD Robb, and John Ringo, and David Weber – though I’m behind on buying the latest Ringo, actually. I’m not even sure what’s there anymore. I’m currently reading The Scarlet and the Black, which was made into a movie with Gregory Peck, though I grew up with the movie. I’ve got so, so many books, I’m just trying to keep up with them.

7. Some writers outline. Some writers make stories up as they go along. Some even get bored when they figure out who the killer is. How does your writing process work?

A Pius Man was actually the first novel I had to outline. There were so many directions, with so many clues, coming from so many directions, I had to keep track of it. Of course, the original novel was broken up into a trilogy, so that tells you how complex it turned out to be. Thankfully, none of the books end in To Be Continued. I learned well from Terry Goodkind – he had an entire series that would have a nice, solid ending, and the next book would take place the next morning. A Pius Man comes to a definitive conclusion … and then there’s the morning after.

8. Who else has tried this sort of story before?

Do you want to count Daniel Silva? He did something around World War II and the Catholic church called The Confessor, but in his case, I know what books he researched – because I used them too. And there were points where his “facts” directly contradicted events that both sides of the Pius-argument actually agree on.

So, the answer is “sort of.” But most go for the sensational aspect. Dan Brown, for example, got so many things wrong it’s laughable – like making an evil Cardinal from Opus Dei the bad guy, though Opus Dei is 98% laymen.

If you asked me if anyone has ever tried to do this sort of story grounded in any reality, I’d have to say no.

9. What is most difficult in writing a story like this?

For me, the biggest challenge was keeping out just how many facts there is to stick into a story like this. As a history nerd, I originally had pages upon pages of historical exposition and conversations. So I had to do a lot of cutting … and some drafts had cut out far, far too much. And, then, you have to balance out blathering on about history and philosophy, and then the gunplay.

10. What, if anything, surprised you while working on A Pius Man?

I didn’t expect it to turn into a trilogy. I figured I’d have a good, solid novel, and move on. Then there was one character who wouldn’t die, and he kept extending the plot. And then there was a small war by book three. So that was fun.

11. Do you have any advice to blog readers who are thinking about writing their own novels?

Finish the bloody book. Everytime someone asks me for advice about writing a book, I ask if they’ve written a word. They almost never have.

12. Last chance: What do you think is the one thing we should remember about A Pius Man?

That you have a fun time, and maybe even learn something along the way.

Thanks, Declan! I gotta' say I think his character, Sean Ryan, is good for a couple more books. Cool action hero! But, frankly, that goes for most of the folks in his book. At one point a character refers to the gathering of spies, agents, spooks, what have you, as the "Justice League." Forget that nonsense. They're the friggin' international Marvel "Avengers." If ever there was a movie in the making, it's here!

Grab it now.


Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Strange Case Of Winnie The Pooh

Winnie The Pooh. Donald Duck. The crazy guy down the street. What do they have in common? A lack of pants.

Okay, maybe "Pooh's" incontinent. Maybe he has a bowel issue. Could be why he doesn't wear pants. Too much fiber in his diet, all those honey pots and such. But I doubt it. He and Donald seem like exhibitionists.

Are they forward-thinking radicals, attuned to a future we can only think of? Or perverts? I opt for the latter. These are two children's icons hanging out (um, literally) without a worry of what they're repping. I mean, it's not like they're broke and can't afford pants. Winnie's constantly rocking the polo shirts while Donald's got a sorta' Village People nautical thing going on. Doesn't matter. Their upper wardrobes look costly. So did they just forget their pants? Okay, once maybe. It happens. But all the time? Doubtful.

If this is the fashion choice of tomorrow, well, sir, count me out! These two anamorphic guys apparently didn't read the Bible. I'm sorta' glad Eve ate the apple. Otherwise, we'd all be without pants. I don't want to live in a world where I walk into a McDonald's and have some kid without pants ask me if I'd like to supersize it. Nosiree-bob-cattail!

So while all the uptight folks are out there burning Huckleberry Finn and other classics, I think their over-zealous frenzy would be better served roasting nudist bears and ducks.

Friday, March 8, 2013

My Twenty Minutes Of Fame Sucked

Wednesday night, there was a persistent pounding at the door, wouldn't let up. Intuition told me it wasn't a bible salesman. I was right. It was two detectives from the Sheriff's department. Uh-oh.

I was right, uh-oh. The female detective (not what you'd expect, overweight with adult acne) said she was worried about my neighbors.

The male-alpha detective--pushy, yuppie, stylishly dressed, pretty much what'd you expect--wouldn't let me get a word in, hammering me with questions I couldn't fathom. I asked them if my neighbors were in trouble. They said, "no."

They lied.

Eight months or so ago, the gal living next door told me they were moving a couple blocks over. Said they'd be around. Seemed as happy as I'd seen her. She popped up a couple weeks later. I asked if they needed help moving, she said, "we're done, thanks, anyway." I never had a clue when they moved.

The house has been abandoned since.

The day after my detective grilling, the media landed. One of the local news stations broad-sided me, telling me the woman I used to live next door to shot herself, along with another woman, in a local, public park. A suicide pact. Twin sisters.

I was stunned. They asked if they could interview me on camera. In a daze, I said, "sure." Stupid. They led me, told me what to say, baited me. I was reeling it all in while they reeled me in on camera. Don't even remember what I said.

After that, the media carnival launched. Another network team came. Then another. And another.

The vulture's were circling.

After my first two attacks, I locked up, shut down and shut up.

Damn. All I know is that my neighbor was a very nice person, one of the few people on the street I actually liked. My heart goes out to the family.

In retrospect, I'm wondering if I could've done something, helped her out, maybe been a better neighbor. She told me she was depressed a year or so ago over the fence. But that's where our friendship stopped. Over the fence. God, I wish it hadn't. I knew nothing about her, other than knowing she was not doing so well. I didn't even know her last name. Shoulda' got to know her better. Maybe things would've turned out different. But I didn't do anything.

I wish I had.

I wish I'd reached over that fence.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Something Smells Bad In Kansas

No doubt about it, something smelled awful. And flies buzzed about my head like I was a priest in a bad horror film. Wondered if it was me at first, thinking food poisoning or something. After disqualifying myself through highly scientific methods (don't ask) I searched the house, wondering if Destructo, The Dog Wonder had responded to the aftermath of eating grass or possum. Still couldn't find the point of origin. Finally, I narrowed it down to the chimney. Either Santa was decaying inside or some poor hapless critter met it's maker.

I called the ominously named "Critter Control." The James Bond of animal clean-up showed up, blue hazzard suit on, and fully armed with massive Plumber's Crack. I expected no less. Well, he could've had a mullet. But one can only dream.

Now, you know it's gotta' be bad when the expert is dry-heaving by the chimney. But, professional that he is, he soldiered on. Armed with a full trash bag, he clapped his hands, another job well done, said "that was a dad-gum huge raccoon stuck in your chimney. Female."

Well. Crap. I didn't need to know it was a female. Made it all rather melancholy. Poor dead, stinky critter. Maybe she was trying to have babies in our chimney. Maybe she was just trying to get out of the cold. Doesn't matter. It's a cruel, harsh world out there, folks, and I contributed to the death of a female raccoon.

Anguish. (And gagging reflex). Couldn't it have been a less smelly and cute creature to pollute our household? I mean everyone loves raccoons. Walt Disney did. And he's dead. Probably smelly, too. 'Cept he's cryogenically frozen.