Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sacrifice (excerpt)

Jungle Bungle

We were about halfway from the hogan when the helicopter appeared. My ears picked it up first, the wupwupwupwup of rotorblades drawing near. My first reaction was to freeze. Joan and Pink were up ahead and I was awaiting the blaze-orange signal for me to do my leg before the next point took off. I hadn't seen the flag yet, which meant Pink had not yet gotten to Joan. 
“Get down! Chopper coming,” I shouted and dropped to the ground. I heard Pink's distant “What?” answered immediately by Joan's sharp “Get on the ground and lie still!” By then the copter was close enough that I felt its thundering concussive beat on air grown heavy with humidity. The deadly mechanical bird was swooping in from the direction we were heading. It was moving so fast that before I saw anything I knew it was directly overhead. Its powerful blades whipped the tops of the trees as it passed, and, rotating my head to one side, I caught a flash of sunlight strobing off the tail rotor. The black bird was gone as suddenly as it had arrived, but I remained frozen, my ear pressed into the trail, hands clutching some kind of bushes as if to keep me from being sucked into the sky. 
“Stay down!” I shouted, knowing the rule was to send at least two birds on missions, each serving as backup in case the other went down. But this wasn't hostile country. No reason to expect groundfire from these woods. I took several deep breaths and released them slowly, calming my nerves and making up for the oxygen deficit I'd incurred unconsciously holding my breath. Hearing nothing but the rapidly diminishing sound of the copter that had buzzed us, no new mechanical sound to suggest the approach of another, I struggled to my feet. I brushed off a reconnaissance patrol of ants, the advance units having reached nearly to my throat.
“Hello!” I shouted down the trail. “You guys OK?” It took two hails before I saw a flash of blaze orange, and then Joan appeared. She was walking toward me. I headed toward her as fast I as could move my sore stiffened legs. She covered more ground than I did before we met.
“We need to rest. Pink is exhausted,” she said. She wobbled then and swayed as if about to fall. I grabbed her and pulled her against me, then arched back so I could look at her. She pushed lightly but firmly with both hands and I released her. She took a backward step, a glint of annoyance flitting across her face. “Sorry. Ankle fell asleep back there.”
It was about 2:30 and I wanted to get to the road before sundown, which was when the storm was supposed to hit. The billowing, darkening front had reached up to cover about a third of the sky, about to swallow the sun. Knowing the margin of error allowed by meteorologists, I figured the storm could be upon us a good two hours ahead of the last forecast we'd seen before leaving the hogan – well before we reached the road. And once the sun slipped behind the cloud bank our progress would be slowed by diminished visibility. I could tell Joan wanted a rest break for Pink but she, too, knew the downside of too long a delay.
Before we could share our thoughts, the earth shook in synchronization with a powerful, sickening WHUMP that triggered my reflexes to grab Joan, who was already moving toward me. I wrapped my arms around her and cringed, expecting another blast like the first, but after a wait of fifteen seconds or so without another violent sound, I relaxed my grip on her. She was turned toward the way we'd come, face tilted upward and looking over my shoulder. I saw her expression change from thoughtful to wide-eyed alarm before her voice erupted.
“Al!” she said and raised an arm, finger pointed skyward. I pivoted in time to see a ball of angry black smoke with a dark red fiery center lift above the tree line and boil into the sky atop a trailing plume. It was several miles away but its location touched off a fireball of horror in my intestines that I could see reflected in Joan, in her face and in the coiled tension of her body. We uttered the same word almost simultaneously: “Newgate.” It came out of both our mouths sounding like a prayer.
“We can't go back there. We need to get to the road,” I said without thinking. I figured Newgate was dead and that the helicopter might have been manned and might have landed to make sure. If it was a drone it surely would hover awhile and scour the immediate area. No sense making it easy for them by walking into camp.
“I'll go back, Al. He might have found out who hired this zombie squad. We need to know. You go ahead with Pink. We'll figure out a way to link up later.”
“You're right. But I should go. You need to stay with Pink. If you get to the road and have to wait for Doc Bot, or if he doesn't show, a man and a woman look more natural together.”
She thought for moment, then nodded abruptly. “Good. Be careful. You have that revolver?” I nodded. She turned to go, then turned back, took a quick step forward, raised up on her toes and gave me a quick peck on the cheek. She was smiling. “Be careful,” she said again, more gently. She turned and trotted back toward where Pink was waiting. In less than half a minute I saw the flash of blaze orange, saw it wave back and forth twice, and knew she'd found Pink. I took a deep breath and started up the trail toward the hogan.

Order Sacrifice here: Amazon

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The man who created Destry and Dr. Kildare

Fred Faust (aka Max Brand)    

      Frank Gruber tells a fabulous anecdote about him in his book The Pulp Jungle. He says Brand worked at one of the major studios as a "grind" rewriter. Every day, the co-worker who told Gruber the story said, Brand would arrive with a very large steel thermos filled with pure vodka. He would open it, pour a cup into the red top, and begin to write. He wrote all day without stopping except to the bathroom (and to refill his Thermos. from some source in his car, apparently at noon). He never exhibited symptoms of drunkenness. He wrote with hardly a single strike-over. He would finish a quart or two of straight vodka each day, the writer who shared Brand's office said, and he would finish his "grind-work" by 1pm or so. For the next four hours he wrote (his own stuff) either Dr. Kildare or Westerns. And some of those Westerns are damned good stories. You can't put `em down, because the characters actually seem real. 
 For more...

Executive Pink (excerpt)

It was about eight o’clock this morning and I was experiencing my usual ambivalence during what some might consider a peculiar exercise, with one foot on the pinnacle of my power and the other in the nadir of depravity. I was alone in my office snooping through the White House email. It is something I do sporadically throughout each day and, I might add, is not historically unprecedented in this job. I had begun my idle browsing habit quite casually while looking to retrieve a memo I’d lost to a slip of a finger on the keyboard. Once inside “purgatory,” which is what we call the directory that holds all email output for three days before dumping it presumably into oblivion, I succumbed to the temptation of a slugline that boldly asked, “nooner?” Calling up the file I learned a new word for vagina and the day’s trysting place for Tonga Cooke and someone named Julayne in the data processing pool.
I didn’t know who the sender and recipient were until I called the message up on my screen. All I could learn from the slugline was that the memo had originated in Tech Support. Once on my screen I had the complete message including both its addresses. Tonga, who heads the White House Technical Support Team, had assured me that besides himself only me, Adele Schwammel and the President could call up anything from purgatory. This is probably why Tonga had slugged his note to Julayne as he did, trusting that neither the President nor me, his friend, would have the time or inclination to do what I had just done. Schwammel, on the other hand, gave off that she was not computer friendly, and she never answered email sent to her. The President’s political rabbi, Schwammel preferred to conduct her business in person or on the telephone.
Yet, it was stumbling upon a juicy note from Schwammel to an officer manager in Treasury shortly after experiencing the sophomoric thrill of discovering Tonga’s note to Julayne that addicted me to daily fishing in purgatory. That Schwammel’s email-documented pursuit of the office manager constituted the most titillating intelligence I’d found in my two years in the White House did not dampen my enthusiasm for these secret little expeditions. For Schwammel, the President’s closest political aide - by title, Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy - was clearly someone to keep an eye on.
What the fuck? I take an almost perverse pleasure in writing the exact words born in my fore brain when I stumbled upon the ambiguous message. I was alone in the office and not in any circumstance inclined to auto confabulation. I denied it voice. But the bafflement was real. It pushed and burgeoned, taunting me with squirming alternations of drollery and menace. I shoved back from the desk and stood up. I would pace if I had to, which is how I usually deal with cerebral stress when alone. But for now I didn’t wish to break eye contact with the screen on my computer monitor where the smattering of words glowed with perplexing ambiguity. They were either innocent - foolish beyond belief yet quite innocent - or they carried unthinkable implications. At the moment, I was drawn to the latter interpretation and I felt a chill at the back of my neck. As I pondered, the chill extended down over my shoulders making me hunch them and hug myself.
THIS IS A TEST. You with us or what? Out.com’s off unless you stay. THIS IS A TEST.
Test, my ass, was my first unspoken reaction...

Friday, April 26, 2013

Smartass comments welcome!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Martha Nichols on writing and that week in her Boston neighborhood

I often startle awake in the middle of the night, editing a piece of writing that doesn’t exist. I stare into the darkness, still recasting sentences in my mind.

Last week in Boston, I woke up every night in this ghostly editing mode. Within moments of opening my eyes, I couldn’t remember what the writing was about or why I kept going through the motions. The night of the bombings, it had to do with book reviewing. I think. On Saturday, after my family visited the memorial for the victims downtown, I was sure I understood something BIG, if only I could change this word, this paragraph.

It was a surreal week. Awful. The deaths and injuries, the days of wondering what the hell is going on are we safe oh please, the five-city lockdown during gun battles a mile from my home—none of it made any more sense than my dream creations.

And yet, I’ve come to realize that those struggles over phantom words are never wasted. Writing is how I organize my thoughts. Revising is how I figure out what I don’t know. Even going through the motions, in my sleep—in the constantly evolving and unraveling stuff of dreams—I’m grappling with some nebulous thing that may eventually surface.

To read the rest: http://talkingwriting.com/boston-why-i-keep-revising/

Sunday, April 21, 2013

A couple of poems






Ego bereft of consistency
Betrays a heart hungering to toll.
Unable to trust its will
Or harbor imaginary gods,
It gains a hold melding into a role whose proven viability
Can give convincing cover
To buy time to fabricate
An identity that feels unique,
Yet not so much so
As to strand it in the cosmos
Bereft of soulful company.



Cat Eyes at Wally World


Deadly in the grocery aisles
Where they wait
To strike
After toying with tentative prey
Luring with surrogates their hidden carnivorous power
Quiet, allowing implicit swagger in the dress,
Forward cap tilt reveals enough brown hair gleam,
Sleek cheek
To quick sidelong stares,
Bolero vest
Easy jeans
Ambush set at cross-aisles
Prey has not forgotten indelible impression
Knows a head-on look's expected
To avoid collision
Accept one...


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Lit Dick Intermittent Award laureate Margaret Gunning

Lit Dick
Lit Dick is proud to present Canadian novelist Margaret Gunning as today's Lit Dick Intermittent Award laureate for her impassioned exposĂ© of the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins's secret life. Click on the poet's name here to discover what Gunning unearthed online and from her artistic intuition to bring to light a side to Hopkins that had been only suspected by aficionados and which is still technically unproven.  

Gunning is the author of two published novels -- Better than Life, the suspenseful tale of a quirky extended small-town Canadian family, and Mallory, the story of an adolescent girl struggling to find herself during the blossoming of her sexuality -- and a third novel, The Glass Character, about the life and times of silent screen comedian Harold Lloyd, for which she is currently seeking representation and a publisher. 

Capt. Love's last command

I stifle a curse when I hear the beep beep beep.
Another traffic jamming electric cart.
I'll soon be upon the damned thing
in my usual hurry
to get the shopping done
and get the hell

Someone less able than me,
self-destructive I suppose
in my least charitable way.
Someone stuffing greasy chips
into his or her face,
stuffing his or her beeping conveyance
with ever more bags of cheap deadly calories,
or shooting the shit
with another witless old fart,
both oblivious of me
as they block the aisle

Monday, April 15, 2013

One helluva meteor shower!

Well, not really.  Josh Rackley, my stepson, took this timed exposure of the back of our house and the sky and the stars and any other objects, intelligent or not so much, out there in the cosmos and beyond.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Long and winding road to our door

I shot this video through the windshield of my pickup Sunday and used YouTube's editing tools to smooth out some of the bumps and give it a 3-D look and a snappy ending.  The background music is from YouTube's seemingly limitless library.  I picked the instrumental Abstraction, by Tim Devine and Stacey Beckley, which provides the sort of cinematic soundtrack accompanying the beginning or end of a movie.  I almost expect to see credits start rolling up at any moment. We're trying to sell the house, which we've had for about seven years now.  We love it, but it's too costly for us to keep up in this uncertain economy.  Theresa Ashberry, our agent with Century 21 Liberty Realty in Gloucester, hopes to embed this video in her webpage listing.  Our house will be on Liberty's open house tour Saturday, April 20.  Come on by!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Lit Dick report: Hunting the elusive George La Fountaine

Lit Dick
Lit Dick here. Yes?  No...well, a little progress, I guess you could say.  No photo.  I struck out with Google and Amazon, ma'am. All of his books still in print.  Most recent, The White Room, came out on Kindle last October.  Hey, this guy's even more elusive than Pynchon. That's right. 

Facebook?  The only George La Fountaines with photos are too young.  Our man was born in 1934.  Apparently still alive or, I expect, I'd have found an obit.  Hmmm?   Yes, a brief bio published in 2002 in Gale's Contemporary Authors. $9.95 for a single-page Kindle document, copy protected so I can't email it.  Most of it is review summaries of three of his books. Certainly. I'll mail a printout this afternoon.

Yes, all 15 are on Kindle.  Yes, I read Flashpoint.  Yes, definitely the most erotic seduction scene in literature, in a bar, all eyes and the barest minimum of words.  Yes, ma'am, I agree. The movie is good. The characterizations differ, as do the endings--yet, both are shockers.  I think Kristofferson and Treat Williams are more believable on screen, but in the book we get inside their heads more intimately.  Yes, ma'am.

OK, then, here's my report:

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Gotta get used to this faintly outlined title box

"So", as the au currant chattering parrots insist on starting every new topic with, my first post here is history. Consigned to the archives along with the second title, House of Paust (the first was Paust House, which embarrassed me almost immediately). Being someone known for my flaky attention span, this new title and theme should work just fine -- until a new idea strikes.

It's getting late, and I'm worn out from fussing with Blogger's intricately arcane setup tools. Figuring out things here is almost as taxing as trying to figure out an IRS form. Anyway, that's it for Day 1. G'nite.

C'mon in!

Greetings. Welcome to House of Paust. Make yourself comfortable. Feel free to join the conversation. What conversation, you ask? Good question. Nuttin here yet. But...there will be. Soon. Meanwhile, thoughtful housewarming gifts will be received gladly, and cherished. - Matt