The Story Behind the Story–A Real American Hero and Laser Rifles

Okay, my blog has been deader than the Jar-Jar Binks fan club. So in an effort to blog more and get more action on my website (action, pow!), I’m going to start telling the story behind some of the stories I’ve written over the past couple of years.

I love novels. I was born to write novels—but I also like short fiction because it is a playground, it is a proving ground, and it is practice, wonderful practice. My friend used to say whenever I wrote, no matter how small the project, it was like a jazz musician working on their chops.

So without further ado, here is the first story behind the story and an example of me working on my chops.

In July 2014, my story POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS COMMANDER hit the streets, and soared to a #1 position in Amazon’s Kindle Worlds Action/Adventure category. Well, it’s not like it’s my story because I wrote it with the fabulously talented Peter J. Wacks, so it’s our story, a G.I. Joe story, and it’s funny, poignant, and one reviewer called it heart warming. There’s also lots of killing and laser rifles.

Like Dr. Evil. “Lasers.” Why lasers?

I’ll get to that.

It all started out in the 1980’s. I was what they called a latchkey kid. I’d get home from school to an empty house and I’d watch T.V. from about three o’clock to ten o’clock every night. Not a lot of friends for me. Real people were too scary.

Luckily, I had my imaginary friends. Like Liono, Optimus Prime, and the G.I. Joe team.

I watched a ton of G.I. Joe and loved every laserblast. Yeah, laser rifles. I’m getting there. I’m getting there.

Flash forward twenty years. Um, make that thirty. Hollywood came out with not one but two G.I. Joe movies. And yeah, not the greatest cinema ever, but I adored the movies. I got to be thirteen again, and being thirteen again, I didn’t care about an iffy plot or flat characters. I just wanted action!

In G.I. Joe: Retaliation (the second movie), they have ninjas fighting our heroes on a mountain side, dangling off ropes, and sword fighting. How cool is that?!

I posted on Facebook that I loved G.I. Joe. Just a quick post that probably alienated some people, but at least I wasn’t talking about religion or politics or Doctor Who. Aaron? Liking G.I. Joe? Really?

Yeah. Love it.

I was at a poker game with some author types, and Quincy J. Allen saw the post and suggested fan fiction, like funny fan fiction. He had heard of someone looking to co-write a satirical G.I. Joe story. The idea hit me immediately. What if Cobra Commander had PTSD (as in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)? What if he was in a clinic with one of the G.I. Joe guys who was also suffering from PTSD? The story would write itself.

I thought nothing of it until I got a call from the managing editor at WordFire Press, the big cheese, Peter J. Wacks who was wondering if I was serious. I was.

We wrote it. I didn’t have time, but for this story, I made time. I wrote on airplanes, I wrote in hotel rooms after a long day at my day job, and after an exhausting conference, on barely any sleep, I pounded out ten thousand words in a day.

We polished. And it’s now live on Amazon.

Of all the things I’ve written recently, it’s my favorite. I mean, really, I researched, I watched G.I. Joe cartoons, I read wiki after wiki, and at first I wanted to use pulse rifles, or normal machineguns, but after watching the old cartoon, I couldn’t help but use laser rifles. Thanks to toy collectors, I researched the model #’s so the weapons the characters wield are real. Kind of.

Thanks to Michael Haspil, I put in an epilogue about PTSD because yeah, knowing is half the battle. And thanks to my mom, the EMDR therapy in the story is as realistic as I could make it for characters using “laser” rifles. My mom is a kick-ass therapist and is very patient with me.

The coloring books in the story were Peter’s idea, and while I was uncertain about including them, it’s one of my favorite scenes. Cobra Commander and Gung Ho are coloring together, and of course I wanted to use Hasbro coloring books, My Little Pony and The Transformers. We couldn’t use the real names, so Peter called them My Little Horsey and Shifterbots. Shifterbots! Brilliant. Cobra Commander and Gung Ho fight over who gets which one. It’s funny.

At 17,000 words, it’s a quick read. I hope y’all enjoy it. And of course, if you read it, leave a review!

Who knew that all that afternoon T.V. growing up would pay off?

This story is my first professional sale (cha-ching) and the first story I’ve written that has hit a bestseller list.

Thank you, Peter J. Wacks, for inviting me in and working with me.

Yo Joe!





Eating Is Murder

I grew up weeping at rodeo’s. I cried when King Kong fell off the Empire State Building. My friend had a Doberman and I was sure the dog was starving because I could see its ribs and I insisted that my parents buy dog food for the poor animal. I couldn’t watch nature documentaries because in the end, the mama bunny would lose its babies to the coyotes. And I didn’t grow up in Greenwhich Village where my hippy liberal parents would have praised my sensitiveness. My dad would sometimes scratch his head in wonderment, but he was never mean and he never teased me. Much. But yeah, I was sensitive.

Maybe it’s because I’m a writer. I could imagine the tragedy playing out when the coyote ate the bunny, the lone rabbit, alone, missing her children, pining under a cold sky.

But I still ate meat. And I didn’t think much about the sorrow, the horror, the inhumanity that is the meat industry. If you eat meat, something had to die for you to do so, and someone else had to kill it and someone else had to butcher. You are eating flesh that was once alive, but is now dead and cooked.

Factory farming is wrong. It is a holocaust. It is unsustainable. And I’m sure there are people who could tour a factory farm and then eat at the next McDonald’s and not care. I am not one of those people. The reason why I flirt with being a vegan\vegetarian is that it is sustainable and nothing had to die for me to eat. Yes, broccoli did give its little broccoli life for me to eat, so yeah, part of life is killing other things to eat, but I would imagine the broccoli stalks around the one I harvest aren’t sad for the life of their fallen brethren. I’ve never heard an orphaned broccoli cry.

I went hunting this past week. I helped hunters shoot animals from hundreds of yards away. I helped them spread apart the legs, cut out the anus, disembowel the animal and then hung it up to bleed out. I helped kill a doe, who was still lactating, and a young buck, in his prime. Both are dead. I held the buck’s warm heart in my hands and watched the dark, dark blood drip across my skin. When I kill my first deer, next year, I will take a bite out of the heart because that is what my father did when he killed his first deer.

This is not a happy story. Killing, death, the sorrow of the hunt, these are hard stories to tell. And it’s a crime that we are a society of carnivores but only a fraction ever really understand the horror of killing to eat. If you find hunting deplorable, I would suggest you evaluate your consumption of meat.

And that’s why I’m hunting. I have eaten meat all my life other people have killed, and if I’m to eat meat, I need to be a part of the killing. Yes, I feel bad. Yes, I am still sensitive. Yes, when I saw a fawn on the road, lost, confused, because most likely, her mother had been shot, I felt terrible. But even with the trauma, that fawn is going to have a better life than the millions of animals now being processed through the holocaust engines of the factory farming industry. If I feel bad enough, maybe I’ll stop eating meat. Until that happens, I’m a hypocrite if I don’t at least kill and butcher one animal. Yes, it’s symbolic. No, I’m not saying everyone who eats meat needs to hunt. I’m saying I need to do this.

The irony is that all the meat we eat is ruining our health. Yes, I’ll quote the famous China Study, where the closer you can to eat a vegan diet, the more likely you are to avoid some of the major diseases we have. Raw vegan is the way to eat, but it’s a big commitment. Meat is easy, fills you up, tastes good, is a nice source of quick protein, but in the end, it’s a bloody business. But now I understand the story more, and like I said, it’s a hard story. A hard story to tell.

Atlas Shrugged Part 2 – Ayn Rand Murdered My Critique Group

I love critique groups. I’m gonna be like James Rollins who is a bestselling writer and still has a critique group. Um, not a fan of James Rollins. We wouldn’t critique well together. Where would I hide the body after I murdered him? Just kidding. Not really. Jealous much? Yes. Get to your point. Sorry.

Ayn Rand couldn’t have put Atlas Shrugged through a critique group. As literature, it is iffy. But I went over that in my first Atlas Shrugged explosion posing as a blog post. Don’t read it. It is a scream because I had just finished the book.

I can imagine it, me and Ayn, at a table, my chicken-scratch on her pages.

ME: Ayn, um, every character is pro your ideas or against. I mean, every single one of them. They really aren’t characters, but just talking heads. Cardboard either painted white or painted black.

AYN: I’m trying to make a point.

ME: You took your point, strapped me to a dentists chair, drilled out all of my teeth, lubed up your point and rammed it down into my small intestines. I can still taste your point. And that yucky rubber taste of the dental dams.

AYN: Get out of my way.

ME: Um, not in your way, but your characters…

Then she’d slap me, and I’d cower. Every embarrassing. But seriously. Atlas Shrugged’s characters are like super heroes. No, seriously. You could totally do a comic book, a Justice league of America meets Wall Street cross over. Dagny Taggart, Hank Reardon, Francisco d’Anconia, and John Galt. Versus the moochers, the looters, and Solomon Grundy. And maybe the Joker. Larger than life.

I’ve met entrepreneur uber-successful people. They are humans. Humans don’t belong in Atlas Shrugged. It’s all about archetypes because it’s not about real life. Otherwise, the whole thing would crumble because Ayn Rand’s ideas are limited. But I’ll post more about that later. I’m having breakfast with a pro-John Galt and an anti-John Galt.

So Ayn brings in her 50 pages of John Galt’s radio speech. Oh, man, and here is how that goes:

ME: The speech is really long, and you repeat all of your ideas, and it is completely unnecessary.

AYN: Frak you.

ME: Ayn, no, seriously, I get your point. As plot, you need a speech because it drives the entire climax, but come on, 50 pages? No, give me a couple of paragraphs, blah, blah, blah. And would Dagny really go to look for John Galt?

AYN: Get out of my way.

ME: I’m not in your way. All I’m saying is that it completely stops the book. It’s a slog, getting through that wretched speech.

AYN: I reject your God. And your comments. I’m world famous. You are a looter.

ME: All I’m saying is…

AYN: Get out of my way!!!

ME: Yeah, you keep saying that. Oh, I feel like I’m reading your book because you keep repeating your ideas over and over and over.

Then we fight with knives. There can be only one. I could take Ayn Rand, though, in a knife fight. I’m pretty sure.

I liked the story of Atlas Shrugged. I mean, the 100 pages of story in the 1000 page book. And I liked the writing. I have a friend who says that’s why Ayn Rand was so dangerous. Her writing was so good. But everyone in Atlas Shrugged has an airplane. So to be successfully, you have to be completely selfish and know how to fly an airplane. Gotcha. Okay. But again, Atlas Shrugged transcends critique groups, the rules of writing, the whole thing because it is beyond all that. It’s like Johnny Cash. Johnny Cash transcends country music. Yeah, Ayn Rand versus Johnny Cash. They would fight with sledge-hammers. If Johnny Cash were drunk, I’m thinking Ayn would bash his skull in, bash it right the frak in.