Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Toll of Writing

I received word that the final proofs for my new book are arriving this week.  Now that the book is done, I have to admit that it has been a bit of a struggle over the past few months.  Unlike my first book, which was more of a tongue-in-cheek take on Noir fiction from the 1950s, this book takes place in modern times, with complex characters, each with their own backstory, struggles, and emotions.  The process of creating those characters and then bringing them to life has been quite an mental and emotional strain.  I find that I am now feeling a little drained from all of the work.  It is hard to believe that writing can take such a toll.

While I was creating the backstory for the main character, Brian Wilder, I found myself feeling some of the anguish that he would have gone through had he been real.  It may sound strange, but I feel like that made me a better writer.  When I was writing The Case Files of Doyle & McCraken, there was no need for an elaborate backstory, no need for complex character development, but this new book turned out to be a completely different experience.
I sat down last night to work on the next book in the Brian Wilder series and found myself feeling utterly wiped out.  So, I ended up taking the night off.  As hard as BLACK and WHITE and DEAD ALL OVER was to write, I think that Deadlines will be even harder.  I foresee that the topics tackled in the new book will be very difficult to write about.  There will definitely be some significant emotional and mental effort in the writing.

BLACK and WHITE and DEAD ALL OVER will be released in September.  Plus, watch for a special announcement later this month in conjunction with the new book release.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Check It Out - Cover Artwork For Upcoming Book Has Arrived

The cover artwork for my new book has arrived.  The new book, due for release in September, is titled Black and White and Dead All Over.  Check out the artwork.  Let me know what you think.



Plus, don't forget to check out the sneak peek of the new book here.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Free Reading Weekend!!

If you own an Amazon Kindle, you can get a copy of my latest book, The Case Files of Doyle & McCraken, for free.  That's right, FREE!!  This deal is available only until Sunday.  Just click here to pick up your copy now.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

SNEAK PEEK - "Black and White and Dead All Over"

I thought I would treat you to a sneak peek of my upcoming new book, Black and White and Dead All Over, due for release in September.  Don't forget that my current book is still available for purchase.  Check out my author page on Amazon for more details at http://www.amazon.com/author/mbradley.

And now, your sneak peek ... Enjoy!


        THE BY-LINE on this story, like most others, would say Brian Wilder.  There were occasions when a story would appear in the Newark Observer that was written by one of a string of interns from the University of Delaware's Journalism department, but most of the stories were Brian's.  After all, he was the only full-time writer on the newspaper staff.  Of course, as the owner, editor, and publisher of the Observer, Brian had the right to give himself as many by-lines as he wanted.

If he was honest, he liked being primarily a one-man show.  He had the freedom to write the stories that he wanted, when he wanted, without having to answer to anyone other than his reading public.  It was quite different from his life of seven years ago.

Brian was standing along the side of Ogletown Road, watching as two-dozen construction workers swarmed around an old house like bees around a hive.  Behind him, Cars and trucks flew by, transporting their passengers and cargo to wherever they were headed on that cool Monday morning in September.  The grey clouds were threatening to rain on the activity before him; Brian was hoping it would hold off because he had forgotten to grab an umbrella.  His shoes and the pant legs of his tan Dockers were damp from the morning dew, which covered the grass on which he stood.  The long sleeves of his turquoise button-down shirt had been rolled up his forearms.  A gentle breeze blew through his bronze hair, sending a chill throughout his body; Brian wished that he had remembered to bring his windbreaker too.

Jessica O'Rourke stood next to Brian, her auburn hair pulled back into ponytails, which shifted back and forth with the breeze.  The cheeks on her round face were pink from the cool morning air.  Her almond-shaped brown eyes were sharp and focused.  She was a good eight inches shorter than Brian's six-foot frame.  Her grey cargo pants and hiking boots bobbed as she stomped her feet on the ground, trying to keep warm.

"It’s freezing out here." she said.

Brian smiled as he caught a glint of sunlight reflecting off the small diamond stud in her nose.  Her blue sleeveless t-shirt was doing little to keep her petite body warm.

"You should have dressed more appropriately." Brian commented, not wanting to admit that he was feeling a bit chilled as well.

Jessica checked the settings on the Sony DSLR camera that hung around her neck.  She lifted it to her eye, focused on the activity around the house and pressed the shutter.  Glancing at the small LCD screen, she reviewed the photo she had just taken.  Satisfied with the results, she turned to Brian and said: "Explain to me again why we're standing out here watching a bunch of men in hard hats move a house."

"It's not every day that an entire house is lifted off its foundation and moved to another location, especially in Newark.  I thought it would make a good story for the next edition."

"Yeah.  I can see the headline now.  HOUSE MOVED FROM ONE SIDE OF YARD TO OTHER SIDE.  That has Pulitzer Prize written all over it." retorted Jessica, shuffling her feet again.

"I've told you before.  Journalism is not about getting awards." he said, thinking of the Pulitzer Prize that he had won nine years ago for his reporting from the battlefields of Afghanistan.  To him, that felt like a long time ago, almost another life all together.

Jessica shivered.  "Why didn't they just knock the house down?  No one has lived there for years.”  She paused.   “Besides, it's not like it's a particularly nice house.  It just seems like a lot of effort."

Another smile crossed Brian's face as he listened to Jessica continue to ramble on about the morning's activities.  She was almost twenty years younger than him, yet he had a lot of respect for her, and her abilities as a photographer.  He had seen photos come from her camera that could have made Jessica highly sought after by all the top magazines and newspapers.  Yet, she chose to stay in Delaware, working at building up her photography business, and acting as the part-time photographer for the Observer.

"Jess, don't you have any concept of sentimentality?” Brian gestured toward the house.  “That has been in the Chandler family for generations.  Just because they sell off part of their property to a commercial developer, doesn't mean that they can't keep the house.”

The house in question was an old two-story home built in the early 1900s; its stucco facade, which had once been white, had faded to a color not dissimilar to oatmeal.  The high sloping roof descended past a row of dormers that served as windows for the second floor.  The windows and doors were covered with sheets of plywood, just as they had been for the past five years.  Surrounding the house, where a paved driveway and well-maintained yard had once been, was now a small fleet construction vehicles and equipment, ranging from bulldozers and dump trucks to backhoes.  Mounds of freshly dug earth, the remnants of earlier preparations for the move, stood in piles around the property.

The area surrounding the house along Ogletown Road had long since gone commercial.  With a large home improvement store, a banking call center, car dealers, and other businesses, this lone house had been the single holdout from an era long gone.  Now most of the property had been sold to Rimdale Commercial Development, who was planning to put up a small shopping center.  The house, which stood in the middle of the otherwise empty lot looked like a solitary sentry waiting for the return of its occupants.  Rimdale purchased two-thirds of the Ogletown Road property from the Chandlers.  The only stipulation of the sale was that Rimdale had to relocate the house to the adjacent land still owned by the family.

Brian watched as the workers adjusted the unified hydraulic jacking system around the edge of the house's foundation.  The planning and preparation for the relocation had been going on for weeks prior to this day.  Trenches had been dug around the outside of the old foundation, holes had been cut through the masonry, and steel beams had already been strategically positioned underneath to provide support during the relocation.  A few weeks ago, a new foundation had been constructed a hundred yards away in preparation for the move; it was waiting like an empty shell to take on the weight of the old house.  Brian had to admit that Jessica was right in thinking that this was not the most exciting of stories.  Even presidential dinners at the White House had been more exciting than this.  But, his whole purpose of starting the Newark Observer in the first place was to cover the stories in Newark that the regional newspapers would skip as being too mundane.  The Newark Observer was only a weekly newspaper, distributed every Monday morning.  Although only a small newspaper, the Newark Observer had a large subscription list and the editions available for purchase in local businesses always sold out in the first few days.  Its high rate of sales could be attributed to the quality of each edition.  Brian made sure that each edition had the same quality of writing as the larger papers that he had worked on in the past.  This story would be no different.  Although mundane, Brian planned to make sure that it was a story that his readers found interesting and informative.

Eddie Morrison had been a site foreman for Lehman Home Movers for five years.  In his eyes, this job would be a cakewalk.  His team was brought in by Rimdale Commercial Development to move an old house a hundred yards.  There would be no roads to navigate, no traffic concerns, not even a need for a police escort, as was normally the case when moving a house from one site to another.  This house wasn’t even leaving the property.  This would be a piece of cake as far as he was concerned.

Eddie, who was standing by the controls of the unified hydraulic jacks, was waiting for his team to finish their final checks before beginning the lifting process.  The hydraulic jacks were centrally controlled, allowing the performance of each jack to be monitored from one console.  The system would maintain unified lifting, ensuring the all of the jacks rise and lower at the exact same rate, regardless of how much weight each jack was supporting.  No matter how many houses he had moved, Eddie had always considered the system was an ingenious set of checks and balances that would keep the house level during the lifting process.

His portable radio squawked to life as each of his men reported that they were ready.  Eddie gave a tap on the head of the worker sitting at the jack controls, signaling to begin.

Jessica was snapping more photos with her camera, when the construction foreman gave the Ok to start the lifting process.  Brian and Jessica watched as the jacks slowly lifted the house, centimeter by centimeter.  The process was slower than Brian had anticipated.  His hope that it would be completed before the rain began to fall was looking less likely.  Jessica, camera raised, was ready to catch the moment of separation.

Scott Hendricks was watching the progress as the house began to separate from the foundation.  He could see the minute gap grow in size.  A six-month veteran of LHM, Scott was the least experienced of all of his co-workers.  The gap grew to an inch, then an inch and a half.  It wasn’t until the gap grew to an inch and three quarters that the first sign of trouble began.

The old foundation, which had been there since the house was built, had seen better days.  Even with his limited experience, Scott could tell that, once the house was clear, it would not take much to demolish the dilapidated foundation.  When the top edge began to crumble, Scott didn’t think much of it.  After all, there was always some small amount of shifting that would occur during these jobs.  However, when the foundation wall closest to him began to fractured and fall inward into the basement of the house, Scott knew that something had gone wrong.  He signaled to Ed Morrison to halt the lifting process.

“What’s going on?” Ed said over the radio.

Scott fanned the air, trying to clear the cloud of dust kicked up by the collapse.  “Just a small collapse of the foundation wall.  Give me a minute to check it out.”

As the dust settled, Scott could see into the shallow hole opened by the collapsing cinder blocks.  At first glance, there didn’t appear to be anything to be concerned about.  The foundation had fallen in to what was a small crawl space underneath the house.  During the initial walk around in the basement, Scott had surveyed this area, noting that, although the rest of the basement was eight foot high, this area was a narrow three feet high with a dirt floor.  About to give the thumbs up to continue, Scott’s eyes were attracted by something in the dark opening.  Not able to quite pierce the darkness, he reached for the flashlight in his back pocket.  The beam of light cut through the darkness, bringing the bottom of the darkened pit into vivid view.  Scott clicked on his radio and said: “Ed, you might want to come see this."

Brian had seen a cloud of dust rise from the left side of the house.  The jacks stopped while the dust began to settle.  His interested piqued, Brian stared intently towards the foreman, trying to judge the severity of the situation.  His interest level rose when the foreman walked from behind the jack controls over to the left side of the house.  Another worker was already kneeling over the foundation, shining his flashlight into a narrow gap in the foundation.

Ed Morrison gazed down into the opening.  His flashlight shone full into the darkness.  He slid his hard hat from his head and scratched his scalp.  This wasn’t good, not good at all.  This would definitely delay things.  He yelled across to the jack operator.  “Henry, you better call the police.”

When Brian heard the foreman’s words echo across the construction site, he tapped Jessica on the shoulder and said: "Come on, Jess.  Let's go take a look at what's happening." he said, leading the way across the field towards the house.

The foreman and two other workers were on their knees, gazing into the collapsed foundation as Brian and Jessica reached their side.  Only about three feet deep, the hole was cluttered with chunks of crumbling cinder blocks that had once served as support for the old house.  The collapse of the foundation wall had disturbed the dirt floor below.  When she saw the source of all the commotion, Jessica started snapping pictures.

“Way wicked!” she exclaimed.

Brian gazed down into the hole, following the beams from the workers' flashlights.  A pair of hollow eyes from a partially buried skull stared blankly up out of the hole as if pleading to be hoisted up from its shallow grave.  Jessica stopped shooting photos long enough to say to Brian: "I think your story just got more interesting."


Black and White and Dead All Over is coming in September.  Stay tuned for the latest details.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

You Can't Erase History or 111 Wins

With yesterday's announcement of NCAA sanctions against Penn State, students and alumni are trying to make sense of what it all means to the future of the university's football program.  The $60 million dollar fine, loss of 20 scholarships, and a four year ban from postseason play has some asking if it would have been better to simply shutdown the program for a year.  I want to say right up front that I never would condone the reprehensible behavior of the Penn State administration in relation to the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  I think the efforts to cover-up something as heinous as sexual abuse of children should be punished to the full extent of the law.  I think that the NCAA should sanction Penn State.

But, there was one point in the sections that I disagreed with.  As part of the sanctions imposed, the NCAA striped Joe Paterno of 111 wins from 1998 to 2011.  My question for the NCAA is "Who does that punish?"  Let's face it, Joe Paterno was a staple on college football.  His record of wins was a testament to his many years of service to college football.  Again, I don't condone his or anyone else's actions, but you can't just wash away history.  Yes, he made a grave error in judgement when he aligned with the university administration in covering up Sandusky's abhorrent behavior, but how does taking away the wins of a legend punish him?  It's not like those games suddenly never happened.  You can still call up ESPN and get the films for all of those games.  This is like a group of historians deciding to say that the battle of Gettysburg never happened.  The loss of those games doesn't impact Joe Paterno any longer.  But, what about the students who played in those 111 games?  What about Adam Tallaferro who suffered a paralyzing neck injury as a freshman in one of those games in 2000 against Ohio State?  That game no longer exists, according to the NCAA.  Adam has the injury to prove that the game did indeed happen.  Then there is Evan Royster, who now plays for the Washington Redskins.  He set a school career rushing record from 2007 to 2010.  Now, according to the NCAA, he lost every college game he ever played in.

You can't erase history.  Just as the soldiers of Gettysburg died in an event that can't be denied or erased, the effort and work of the coaches and players can't just be washed away.  NCAA, punish the school, but leave the records where they stand.  Don't make the players of years past feel like their injuries and efforts were for naught.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tragedy in Colorado

This evening, I am watching all of the news coverage of the tragedy in Aurora, CO. The shooting at the movie theater is such a senseless waste of life. My prayers go out to the families that are suffering during this terrible event. It is such a shame that one person can cause such pain for so many people.

I wish that I had more to say, but no words that I can write will be sufficient.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

TomKat? Is this really news?

This week, while enjoying the complimentary breakfast at my hotel near Boston, I had the opportunity to watch some of the morning shows on the major television networks.  This week, I found it interesting to see how much they were focused on the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes split.  It was covered in great detail on all of the three networks.  The networks even had nicknames for the couple.  The one that stuck out for me was TomKat.  Now, there have been many celebrity marriages in the past that received massive coverage from all of the news networks.  It raises a question in my mind … Who cares?

I am always amazed at how much coverage celebrities get in the news.  Who can forget Charlie Sheen and his departure from Two and a Half Men?  Is it truly possible that there isn't enough news out there that the networks have to dedicate huge chunks of airtime to a celebrity's temper tantrum or a celebrity couple's marital problems?  Isn't that what the tabloids are for?

Maybe I am just out of touch, but I think there are more important things that are newsworthy.  What about the economy?  Or maybe the ongoing war in Afghanistan?  Or even the slaughter going on in Syria?  Does the pending divorce of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes really trump all other news items for top billing?

On a daily basis, you can walk through almost any city and find homeless and hungry people who are suffering.  Jobless rates keep climbing, and the country is drowning in debt.  Yet, the big concern is who will get the one of many houses in the divorce settlement between Tom and Katie?  Let's face it.  That's not news.  Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are just two people in a world full of people.  They both put their pants on the same way that everyone else does.  Granted, their pants probably cost five times as much as everyone else, but they still go on one leg at a time.

I've never been one for celebrity worship.  I could never understand how problems that individuals deal with every day, can become important news stories when they happen to celebrities.  There are couples all over the world who are facing divorce at this very moment.  None of them are getting primetime news coverage.  The same goes for financial troubles.  Millions of people are struggling to make ends meet, but when a celebrity suddenly has money problems, it is plastered all over the headlines.

My request to ABC, CBS, and NBC, please give me the news that truly impacts the world around me, not the intimate details of some person's divorce who I have never met, have no interest in meeting, and could care less about.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

To Pick Or Not To Pick. That Is The Question.

I want to talk about a bit of a taboo subject. Some of you may be shocked and horrified by this, but I don't care. I think it is time to ask the hard questions and demand some hard answers. If you are squeamish, this might be a good time to move on.

So, here is my question: What is so wrong about nose picking? Everyone has done it at one time or another. Babies do it because they don't know any better. Adults do it when they think no one is looking. How many times have you passed a car on the highway to find that the driver has his finger up his nose?

So why the taboo? From an early age, we are taught that picking our nose was some kind of evil thing that is only done by sinners and reprobates. Parents are appalled and embarrassed when their child picks his nose in public. And as adults, if we, despite all of our upbringing, feel the overwhelming desire to pick our nose, we dash off some place private to do the deed. There are even those who can get an entire finger up there when they need to do some serious booger mining. And finally, there are those that hide their nose picking behind the pretense of blowing their nose. We've all seen that one. A quick blow and then up the finger goes all wrapped in a tissue. Come on, who do you think you're fooling? You're picking!!

I again ask, why the taboo? Let's face it, there are some boogers that a tissue just can't get out. Some of them cling on for dear life. Some of them wedge themselves up there in such a way that even the hardest blow won't budge it. Sometimes you just need to get in there and dig that sucker out. Plus, there are people out there that have noses that are simply made for picking. You know the ones. They have cavernous nasal passages that could hold an entire booger mining crew.

So why is nose picking such a horrible thing? Is it a hygiene thing? How unhygienic can it really be compared to blowing your nose? At least you're not blowing your germs all over the place when you pick.

Is it a disposal issue? What do you do with it once you've picked it? There was the old saying, "Pick it and flick it". That doesn't sound like a good idea to me. Who wants to be involved in a drive-by flicking? Not I.

Is there some health concern? I remember being told in elementary school that picking your nose flattens out the hair inside your nose that is used for filtering out particulars from the air I breathe. I find that one hard to believe considering how often I have to trim my nose hair.

So, what is it that we find so repulsive about picking our nose? I don't have an answer for this. I guess I am more asking for the sake of asking. So I throw this out to the public. Why do you think nose picking is so taboo in our society? Please feel free to add your comments to my blog.

Whatever the outcome of this little debate, i think we all need to remember the famous words of William Shakespeare when he wrote: To pick or not to pick. That is the question.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Book Release!!

Those of you who knew me in school may remember that I had a desire to be a writer.  It has been many years, but with the advent of new technologies that make publishing much easier, I am pleased to announce the release of my first book.

The Case Files of Doyle & McCraken is available now for purchase exclusively on Amazon.com for the Kindle for $2.99, and the paperback version will be available sometime next week for $6.99 through Amazon.  In about 90 days, it will be available on the Apple iBookstore for the iPhone and iPad.  This is a collection of seven short stories about the detective agency, Doyle & McCraken Investigations in the early 1950s.

If you like the works of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, then hopefully you will like these.  Check out my author page on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/author/mbradley.  Plus, watch for additional books which should be released over the next few months.