With the help of my wife, here is my review of THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN by Louise Caiola.
THE MAKING OF NEBRASKA BROWN is a delightful book, spinning the tale of a woman who just can’t decide where she fits. She demonstrates that person inside of us that always ponders, “Is this what I’m supposed to do with my life?” Through entertaining narrative, author Louise Caiola reveals some of her own inner-thoughts through her character, and we can relate because we have those same inner-thoughts. It is because of self-reflection within the character that we are able to become so intimate with the words on the page. A good read for someone who would like to know more about themselves.
So everyone is into the #icebucketchallenge! It's a lot of fun (of course it's cold) and it seems to be everywhere. But why are we dumping buckets of ice cold water over our heads?
I've seen the movie PRIDE OF THE YANKEES, which portrays the life of Lou Gehrig, perhaps the most famous person to ever have the terrible disease of ALS. The movie is really good and at the end, we feel sad but afterwards, turn off the TV and go about our day.
So what does that have to do with a bucket of ice water? I took the challenge with my children but we wouldn't let our kids take the challenge until they understood why we were doing it and what the disease is all about. We watched several videos on ALS (you can find one here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pOvvW8gbWSA
) and then we donated online to http://www.als.net
We made a big spectacle about it - we stood in the driveway, made sure each bucket had extra ice, and posted the video and photos of the event all over social media. It was a lot of fun and I afterwards I challenged other members of my family to participate. But what is most important to us is that we were able to teach our sons (1) why it is important to be aware of what is going on with other people and (2) it's important to do something about it.
Now, I know I'm not any fun; taking something that is sweeping the nation and turning back to the boring old facts. Maybe, but I can live with that. And hopefully, together, we can help people with ALS live with that also.
So here I am at the beach. You might not be able to tell by the photo, but I work out 2-3 times a week and walk/run 2-6 miles a week. My workout routine consists of free weights and while I'm not as strong as I was at age 18, I can still lift within 20 lbs. or so of what I was lifting back then.
Here's the problem...
I don't look the same as I did twenty years ago. No matter how hard I work out, the strength is there, but the muscles don't quite bulge like they once did. Once upon a time, I could work out on a regular basis and have no body fat and had a pretty cut chest, arms, back, stomach, etc. Now, it's not quite the same. There is this ring of fat that circles my mid-section and no matter how hard I work, I can't seem to get rid of it. It's not large but it's always there.
That leads me to my discussion on testosterone.
It's a good thing that my mind (at least so far) doesn't quite work like my body. In fact, as I approach middle-age, my mind seems stronger and in better shape than ever. While my testosterone levels - according to all the commercials I hear on sports radio - are decreasing as I get older, the level of testosterone I feel within me as I write hasn't dwindled.
I enjoy writing action sequences and generally feature a strong, male protagonist in my novels. He is usually faced with tough circumstances and there is violence and death involved with his struggle. Often victory comes at a great price and the will of men is tested.
So I guess the question is this - am I reliving my youth vicariously through the men in my novels? Most of the heroes in my novels are men who are middle-age or older, but yes, one could make that argument. So why would I make my protagonist an older man rather than having someone more believable in that role, someone who would actually have the endurance to accomplish all that needs to be done? Well, there is something to be said for experience. And, there is something to be said for a strong mind, not just a strong body.
But most importantly, back to the question of why these particular men? I guess because they're fun to write.
One of my favorite things to do besides write is to make great book trailers for my books. I change them about every six months or so because I want the ideas not to get stale. I tend to go back and do some editing and then start generating ideas on what the book is really all about - what do I want a potential reader to think about when considering my book?
I believe you need to look for humor in everything. Not that everything is funny, but if you're too serious, well no one wants to be around that person (unless it's life or death - then serious on!). On that note, I like to take some of my more serious books and make the book trailers fun. I can do this with some more upbeat music that one may not expect. I have the opinion that making horror fun can have an interesting effect on the subject. It's not easy making someone feel good about death.
I'm a fairly simple man, and as such, I like to keep what I do simple. That includes working with what I have when making my book trailers. There is really no need to go out and purchase expensive editing or music making software. There are plenty of great programs that cost you nothing. Also, it's amazing what you can find around your house that you can use as props or as special effects. A $1.00 tube of fake blood can go a long way.
Now, we come to the actors in the book trailer. No one really wants to just look at a bunch of pictures accompanied by music for a book trailer. We get excited for movies by their trailer, so why not the same concept for books? I tend to do most of the acting myself. I'm generally available when I want to work on a book trailer so I don't have to worry about schedule conflicts. Plus, I do all of my filming with my cell phone, and once I mastered the one-handed "selfie" method of filming, I'm fairly easy to direct.
Book trailers are all about sharing your vision of your book with your readers. All it takes is a little time and practice - and not being afraid to get your hands bloody.
I've recently been working on revising an old work. I wrote this novel several years ago and in the subsequent years have become a much better author. My challenge is to not lose the original tone of the novel, but at the same time improve upon the flow and language of the book. In reading through, what sounded good several years ago now seems choppy and there are a lot of what I now consider "unnecessary words."
More recently, I took a day off work which gave me a three day weekend (which was very nice). On that day, the rain came down severely - matching the announcement of a flash flood watch on the morning news. In other words, a great afternoon for a pot of coffee and my laptop to catch up on some writing.
Each novel I write is different in its approach. Some books I write better late at night. Some early in the morning. Some are written better in a particular seat in the house. But what is consistent is that music is my muse. What differs with this muse is the type of music. More about that in a moment...
I have also been working on my newest novel and during the writing for that, I decided to take a break and revise one of my older novels. Now, the new novel that I am writing tends to be written better during the morning. The novel that I am revising is an evening-writing book. Strange that I can rotate between both books but don't write as well during certain times of the day for that specific novel.
Now, back to music. Each of my books has a different type of music that fits the book. Iron Maiden, Linkin Park, and Eminem are a few of the influences on what you read with my work. One of my novels was written almost exclusively to Progressive House Music. What is unusual to me is that now that I am revising this novel, the music that inspires the rewrite is not the same music that I was listening to when I first wrote the book. This rewrite seems to channel more Metallica than anything.
To wrap up, I'll give some parting words inspired by my current muse. When the element to write is ideal, "nothing else matters."
I'd like to share something personal with you. The picture to the left is a shirt that I have had for
about twenty years. Some would wonder why one would keep a shirt for that long. Well, I'll tell you.
It's not the sentimental value of the shirt. It's true I first got the shirt when I was working for a sporting goods store during my first year in college. It's also true that I've worn this shirt just about every time I have worked out in the past twenty years. It's also true that the shirt has been used for basketball leagues, soccer games, afternoons on the lake, and probably a party or two.
The true value of the shirt is that the shirt is mine. It's the one thing that has lasted for twenty years of my life. So, I guess in some ways it has sentimental value, but I prefer to think of it as historical value. The shirt represents what I have been through. If you look, you'll see holes and rips in the shirt. Each of those holes and rips has a story behind it. You'll also notice the paint from where I was painting our first home as homeowners.
The shirt (and I realize how silly it is that I am romanticizing about a shirt) represents me. It is tough and has been through some conditions that may not have been the best. It represents commitment. It represents the type of character that I want to display - not a cosmetic, flashy shirt, but a shirt that has been forged by living life. This shirt shows that I have lived and have come through it all. The shirt is durable (even tenacious) and trustworthy. When I'm looking for a shirt to do whatever - change oil, mow the grass, play with my kids - that shirt is there. Just like me. I'm here and I'm alive. I live life everyday. My shirt is proof of that.
My shirt is my legacy.
For part one, click HERE
For part two, click HERE
For part three, click HERE
For part four, click HERE
We had been on the road for about an hour when it happened. I had been warned about the town to which we were headed - a town called Safe Haven. It was said that people like us were not welcome. We had just rolled into town when I heard the first gunshot.
Pink mist surrounded my friend's head as his head snapped back.
His bike kept moving forward but he tumbled from the seat. His hands released the handles and he slipped to his left onto the road. I stopped quickly, jumped off, and ducked down behind my bike. I heard the second bullet pass over my head.
I was about thirty feet from my friend and I saw that it was over for him. He was lying prone on the concrete. His head had come to its final resting place on its left side. I could see the burned hole in his forehead and the exit wound in what used to be the back of his head.
I never asked to be a member of the Restless Dead. I was walking alone one night - I knew better than that - when I saw my neighbor. She looked sad and when she came towards me, she extended her arms like she wanted a hug. She used to watch me as a child and had comforted me many times. I wanted to return some of that kindness.
The embrace turned into a feeding frenzy on my neck.
I had been among the Restless Dead for four months. My friend had been part of the Restless Dead for only a few days. I had killed him once and now he was dead for a final time. It seems some of us are made for survival and some are not.
I feigned that I had been shot and I laid still until the two men with guns approached. I bit the man with the handgun on his calf, taking a chunk of jeans filled with calf muscle with me. The man fell to the ground screaming. His gun fell away and I would finish dealing with him in a moment.
The second man had a rifle. I knew it would take longer for him to swing his gun around and even then he might not get off a clean shot, which is why I chose the man with the handgun first. I took out the rifle man and then finished off the handgun man.
I said goodbye to my friend, loaded back up on the bike, and headed off down the road.
As I drove off, I glanced into my mirror and looked back at the two men who had killed my friend. At some point they would turn. Just two more additions to what had become my new life.
For part three, click HERE
All spleen jokes aside, the Restless Dead are like anyone else. We like sports and hiking in the woods and many other activities. We like to eat out as well, but unfortunately, the menu is where we differ from the general population.
I looked at my best friend since childhood. "Since it's just you and me, you wanna take a road trip?"
He grinned. "It's been a while since we did. Sounds great. Where are we going?"
"Well, we have a slight issue when it comes to driving. You know, rigor mortis and all. But we can ride."
"If we can't bend our knees well enough to drive, how are we going ride bikes? Besides, that's a bike ride - not much of a road trip."
"Follow me and I'll show you." I led him two blocks to a biker bar. "I didn't mean bicycles."
He looked at the motorcycles lining the front of the building. "Are you saying we should steal a couple of these?"
"Most of the people that these belong to are just like us. The majority of them have wandered off. Remember the three guys that had your girl pinned down in the alley? Three of these bikes belonged to those guys. I'd say after the way they treated her, they owe you."
He thought about it for a minute. I knew he'd see it my way. I wasn't wrong. He looked at me and smiled. "Let's go."
Two minutes later we were headed down the highway. Open pavement and open skies.
Eight hours later, the girl he was with finally turned. "How long does this take?" he had asked me while we were waiting.
I didn't want to tell him he might not have picked the smartest girl in the world to take out, so I simply answered, "It varies by person."
She got up from the ground and walked over to him. I could see what he saw in her. She was very attractive. (Unfortunately just not too bright.) I wasn't sure how she would react, but she didn't disappoint. She slugged him in the jaw with her right fist. His head didn't move and I doubt it was a very hard punch, but the effect of the punch was everything whether it actually hurt or not. He looked at her and started to apologize but she held up her hand and turned without giving him a chance to speak.
He watched her go. "Thanks a lot." he said to me after she had gone around a corner and disappeared from sight. "This is your fault. She was a hottie, and now she's gone."
I started to apologize, but knew it wouldn't mean much since the damage had already been done. Instead, I tried another tactic - honesty. "You're better off without her."
He was taken aback for a second. "What do you mean by that? Are you jealous that I was able to get a date with a girl like her?"
"On the contrary, not at all." I replied. "In fact, have you ever seen a man and a woman like us kissing? It's not pretty. Plus, human remains don't make for the best breath, especially with muscle tissue stuck between our teeth."
I saw him smile at my answer. He didn't want to but he did. He couldn't help it. He tried to recover back to his mad, but it didn't have the same effect. "I hope you're happy. Now I've just got you. And I'm not making out with you."
I laughed. "That's good since I think I have part of your spleen stuck in my goatee."
"No more disgusting than kissing that chick after you just swallowed her intestines."
For part one, click HERE
I sat on the ground next to my friend and waited for him to change. I've learned over the past several months that the time it takes to change is directly related to that person's IQ. I have seen it take as many as two days for someone to turn.
My best friend took thirty minutes.
When it was done, he looked up at me. "What happened?"
I wasn't sure exactly what to say. "It's not easy to explain."
"I remember...wait! You attacked me! Then you actually started to eat me."
I was embarrassed. But he was right. I did, in fact, eat him.
He was angry. "Why, man?"
"I don't know. I couldn't help it."
"You couldn't help but eat your best friend? First you disappear for months without telling me and now you just show back up and attack me?"
"You're sorry? Let me tell you...wait, I was on a date when you showed up. What happened to her? Did you eat her too?"
I couldn't quite look him in the eye. "No, she's over there." I nodded towards the alley.
"Is she okay?" he demanded.
"She's fine. But she may not be for long. See those guys over there?" He turned and looked. "I can't predict their intentions."
He brushed me off and walked towards her. The three guys that had her pinned scowled when he reached them but they backed off. "Are you okay?" he asked her.
She never got the opportunity to answer. Something in him snapped and he took a chunk out of her neck.