Saturday, May 25, 2013

Excerpts from Facets: Requiem

Welcome all again...
I'm enjoying sharing little pieces of my debut novel, Facets and from the page views, I'm guessing that people besides me are liking them as well. Here is another sample called Requiem, a tale about self-hatred, regret, the possibility of redemption and the enduring power of love...

Thanks for reading... Follow me on Twitter and Like me on Facebook! Check out previous chapters of Superstar and samples of my first novel, Facets: Stories of the Mundane and the Weird, here on the blog. Facets is available on the Kindle Market!

Piano. Music. Beautiful piano music. But, I didn’t turn on a radio before I went to sleep. Actually, I don’t know that for sure. I was hammered before I went to sleep. It sounded like it was coming from downstairs, so I staggered to the basement door and opened it. The music washed over me and brought a tear to my eyes. The style reminded me of Bill Evans with a harder edge. I carefully negotiated the stairs and saw who was playing. I had to admit, for a dead man he looked pretty good.
“I bet you’re wondering why I’m here,” Terry said as he continued to play.
He stopped and smiled at me. My stomach twisted into fearful knots.
“Don’t worry. I’m not here to hurt you or anything like that,” He said. “Just here to talk.”
“That should be a little hard seeing as how you’re dead.”
“No worries, Dad. You’re asleep. Anything can happen in a dream.”
“Obviously,” I sat down on a crate. “I gotta stop drinkin’ that cheap scotch.”
“Drinkin’ your problems away, huh?” Terry grinned. “Some things never change.”
“Excuse me?”
“Dad, let’s be honest: You always drank a lot and often. It started after Mom died and you hadn’t stopped when you threw me out, right?” Terry said as he gazed into my eyes.
“No, I didn’t.”
“You treated Mom like shit, when all she wanted was to make you happy, and do we have to go into the whole jealousy thing where I’m concerned?”
“Now, hold on a minute,” I snapped as I stood up and stormed over to Terry. “I treated your mother well. I loved her more than my own life and I was never jealous of you!”
“Then explain why Mom ran out of the house and drove herself into an accident and I ended up living with Eric most of my high school years because I broke the no-music-in-the-house rule.”
Okay. I guess he was right.
“You know I’m right. I don’t know why you even acted like I was lying to you.”
“How did you--?”
“It’s a dream, remember?”
“Dad—“, Terry began, “—why were you jealous of me? It’s not like you couldn’t do what I was doing.”
I sank down onto the piano bench next to Terry. “I couldn’t, Terry. My hands didn’t work.”
“They did. They do. Maybe not as well as before, but you can still play.” He stood up and left me on the bench by myself. I looked at the keyboard in front of me and felt my heart turn to ice.
Once upon a time, I could make the music flow out as my hands flew over the keys. People used to dance, used to clap and shout when I played and I missed that. I so desperately wanted to do that again, but I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to, that my chance had passed me by and that part of my life was over.
“I can’t.”
“Yeah, you can,” Terry responded. “I heard you playing the last time I was here. In fact I asked you if the song was one of yours.”
I grinned. “I remember.”
“You could play then; why not now?”
“I’m scared.”
“Of what?” Terry asked.
“Of failing.”
“The only way you’ll fail—,” A new voice that I instantly recognized said, “—is if you stop trying.”
I turned towards the stairs and I was speechless. I couldn’t say or do anything but stare.
Terry grinned and said, “Hi, Ma.”
She walked up to the piano from the stairway. My mind recalled seeing her for the first time, a vision in bellbottoms, a clingy polyester shirt, a soft, full afro and warm, caramel-colored skin. In the here and now, she wore a simple white cotton sundress that caressed all the curves I remembered, straight black hair and a smile that radiated the light of Heaven. I reacted now, the same way I reacted then: I was struck dumb, spellbound and speechless.
“Hello, Carl,” Belinda said to me.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Excerpts from Facets: Revelations

What would you do if  somebody came up to you and said they knew something about your spouse or significant other. Something that wasn't good? Would you dismiss them or would curiosity get the best of you? The idiom states, "What you don't know won't hurt you." Greg Watson will find out one way or the other...

It was about 11 a.m. when I got the call at work. I didn’t recognize the voice, but he asked me to meet him at LaStrada on Randolph and Michigan for lunch. I asked him why and he said it had to do with Melinda.
“What’s the matter with her?” I asked.
“I’ll tell you when I see you at one o’ clock.” The line went dead. I stewed for a minute, wondering who this punk-ass was and what he knew about Melinda.
At one o’ clock sharp, I walked into LaStrada and had a seat at the bar. I looked around at the beige walls, with dark stained wood, warm lighting and a spacious, yet cozy dining area. I’d never been in there before, but I liked it.
The bartender brought me a drink. He must’ve been one of Kenny Kingston’s psychics, ‘cuz I hadn’t ordered a drink yet.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“A drink,” he said as he started wiping a glass.
“I know, but I didn’t order one.”
“I know. The gentleman behind you ordered it as you came in.” I turned around and came face to face with a light skinned brotha with shoulder length dreadlocks and wearing a cream colored shirt with blue jeans. He had Birkenstock sandals on his feet and a cool, almost arrogant, stride. The muthafukca looked like Eric Benet and I already hated him.
“How you doin’?” he asked. “You drink gimlets, right?”
“Yeah,” I said uneasily. I sipped the drink and it was a gimlet; straight up, heavy lime juice. Just the way I liked them. “How did you know what I drink?”
“I waited on you at the Signature Room not too long ago.”
“But the last time I went was with…”
“Your wife.”
“Come on,” he said and strolled towards the dining area. “I have a table reserved for us. We need to talk.” I watched him walk away, confidence personified and so damn perfect looking. I wanted to curse him and throw my drink at his head, but he knew something about Melinda. That had me worried. I wondered what a complete stranger knew about my wife that I didn’t know.

To find out more, pick up a copy of Facets: Stories of the Mundane and the Weird available on the Kindle Store at

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

My Creative Yodas...Chris Claremont

One thing's for sure, from the writing, you can always tell when it's a Chris Claremont story.
I became familiar with Mr. Claremont's work with Uncanny X-Men #129,  the issue that introduced the world to Kitty Pryde and the Hellfire Club. Over the next eight issues, he led us through the story arc that reached it's climax in issue #137 with the death of Jean Grey and became known as the Dark Phoenix Saga, which is still one of the most popular X-Men stories along with the Days of Future Past, that Claremont also authored.
The wonderful thing about Mr. Claremont's writing is that he makes you care very deeply for the characters and the worlds they inhabit. The stakes are always raised and the characters are changed after the story is over. It's not some stock threat that the characters would stop and the Status Quo would remain, there are consequences to peoples actions and decisions.
And his dialogue is very unique in word choice and cadance. Nobody's Wolverine sounds like Chris Claremont's. Or his Storm, Professor X, Cyclops, Nightcrawler...the list goes on.
There's also the fact that he brought a real literary sense to comics with the way he wrote the Uncanny X-Men. He used foreshadowing, cliffhangers, red herrings and the like to make the stories more suspensful and make comics more credible as a form of literature.
Chris Claremont was born on November 25th, 1950 in London, England and moved to America in 1953 where they settled in Long Island. Growing up, he read Dan Dare and Robert Heinlein, as well as Rudyard Kipling and C.S. Forester.
As an undergraduate at Bard College, Claremont studied Political Science and Drama and wrote prose and plays with the intent of becoming a director. In 1969, he was hired at Marvel Comics as a gofer/editorial assistant to Roy Thomas. Claremont received his first professional credit with a plot assist on X-Men #59 and his first scripting assignment three years later on Daredevil #102. In 1974, he got his first regular writing assignment on Iron Fist with John Byrne as the artist.
A year later, Claremont became a full-time editor, leaving acting far behind, and was given the assignment to write the Uncanny X-Men book that Len Wein and Dave Cockrum created. It was a low performing, not-so-popular book at the time  so nobody was trying to jockey for the chance to write it.
When Giant Sized X-Men #1 hit the stands it served as the template for a new, more diverse roster of Professor X's team and a chance for Claremont to define the direction of the book. He co-wrote issues #94 and #95 with Wein and took over as the regular writer in issue #96. After that, there was no going back.
For 17 years straight, not missing an issue, including annuals, specials and guest appearances in other books, Claremont chronicled the adventures of the Uncanny X-Men. He killed Jean Grey and brought her back, grew Wolverine from a one dimensional killing machine to a multifaceted and complex mainstay of the team. Storm evolved into the leader and woman she is now and showed us the bittersweet, tangled road of first love with Kitty and Colossus. He introduced Rogue in Avengers Annual #10, made her part of the team in issue #171, brought us the Brood in issue #155 along with many other memorable story moments throughout his tenure. He capped it off with starting a second X-Men book, simply called X-Men, and gave us one last twist with Moira MacTaggert manipulating Magneto's genetic matrix when he was a baby after he encountered the Stranger.
Putting it succinctly, Chris Claremont defined the X-Men along with a slew of great artists like John Byrne, Dave Cockrum, Paul Smith, John Romita Jr., Michael Golden, Brent Anderson, Leinil Yu and many others. He also brilliantly folded the Civil Rights struggle into his stories since mutants as a whole were seen as dangerous outsiders by regular baseline humans, which was and is analogous to how Non-White races have been and are regarded the world over.
Sadly, Claremont isn't writing any new comic material, but, Black Dragon and Marada, The She-Wolf are being re-released by Titan Publishing, he's releasing First Flight digitally along with his novel with Beth Fleisher, Dragon Moon. He has a short story in the new John Carter of Mars collection called Under the Moons of Mars: New Adventures on Barsoom and is currently working on a dark Fantasy Novel set in New Orleans, according to Newsrama and shopping around a YA novel and putting the finishing touches on a Mystery/Suspense novel according to Robot6 on Comic Book Resources.
What makes Chris Claremont one of my favorite Personal Yodas is that he showed me the power of Family, the beauty of integrity and self-worth and the wisdom of always, always giving your best, not matter the cost, regardless of the odds. His work shaped a lot of how I viewed the world when I was a teenager and he made me want to create stories and characters of my own and try to impart the sense of wonder and peril and straight up fun I had reading his stories.
Columbia University recently started archiving all of his old manuscripts and articles and plays to start a study of comics literature. If I have the same honor as that in my writing career, I will be a very happy man to be in such august company.

Christopher S. Claremont 

What follows is a smattering of Mr. Claremont's Graphic and Prose work... 

The original covers to the High Frontier Trilogy...

...And the covers for the digital re-releases

Claremont's collaborations with George Lucas set in the Willow Universe...

The Cover to the Under the Moons of Mars Collection