A Very Bad Day

~ written 1/24/2006 ~


That was the sound Caleb Shaw heard while lying on the pavement as he watched a steel-toed boot stomp his left hand—the hand he had used for fingering the fret board of his Les Paul guitar just an hour ago—and the cell phone that was in it.  That was after receiving a few blows to the torso, front and back, which had landed him.  Sure, the various fists, elbows and knees delivered their own brand of hurt, but it was a manageable pain, the kind most men just swallowed with ego, pride and maybe a few over-the-counter feel-good pills and a shot of hard liquor.  The smashing of his hand, though, that delivered something altogether different and new.

Yeah, crunch was what he heard.

But what he felt?

A pain so unbearable that the scream, which his body—hell, his very soul—had mustered got lost sub-sonically in the ether, but only temporarily.  After a few seconds of uncontrolled breathing and the realization of what had just happened, not to mention the hot, throbbing indescribable pain, the banshee’s wail became a little more cooperative and launched unbridled from his gaping mouth along with spittle and unintelligible swear words.  The bits of plastic imbedded in his skin from the shattered cell phone helped add to his misery.

Were the bones in his hand broken?  Caleb was a musician, not a doctor, but his uneducated guess and deduction from the obvious was that they were, or rather they damned well better be to cause that kind of agony.

No, check that: he didn’t want the bones to be broken; hell, he was a guitarist in an up and coming rock band, to get to the crux of the matter.  Besides, a broken hand would likely require surgery, and surgery required, among many other things he didn’t have, insurance.  Probably also meant more pain of an indefinite length of time.  But strangely that was the least of his concerns.

Caleb wasn’t sure exactly who had inflicted such cruelty upon his unsuspecting hand and really it didn’t matter. There was nothing he could do about it.  Encircled above him stood his band’s manager, Manny Napolitano and the band’s four road hands, whose names Caleb never could keep straight.  As he had recently come to understand, Emanuel “Manny” Napolitano was more than a manager, he was a connected guy.  And the guys acting as the band’s road crew, including the bus driver, were all Manny’s boys, all of them connected through him. Manny was probably no more than small time and the other guys, his underlings, likely weren’t even registering on the food chain of the business; mere soldiers.  Still, they took orders from Napolitano as if he was a Made Man.

Taken from my story “Get Gone” © 2006 Brandon L. Rucker.



He Must Be Dreaming

~ written 2/27/2006 ~

I had to be dreaming.

That’s the only way to explain it ‘cause there’s no goddamn way I was lying next to her, holding her in my arms snug and safe, her smelling the way she always does, like a bouquet of flowers, making me go stiff like a stale cadaver at the morgue, only I’m no dead man ‘cause she’s got me more alive than ever, like she’s my goddess giving me the gift of life, though all she really did in the end was give me the curse of heartache.

Only in a dream would she still be whispering in my ear:

“I want you, Lenny…”

“I need you…”

“My heart would die if I never saw you again…”

Only in reality would I not be smart enough to know that a dame like that would never stick with a loser like me.  I’m not what most would call a looker, my face always the best impression of a mug shot after a night of boozing and passing out on the couch ‘cause I had nothing better to do.  If I’m not in the streets pulling a con, grifting this and that, then I’m holed up in my low-rent studio crib drowning my sorrows in the exclusive company of friends with names the likes of Jack Daniels and Remy Martin.

— viewpoint character Lenny DeLeo.

Taken from my story “Another Dame, Another Problem” © 2006 Brandon L. Rucker.

A Matter of Perspective

~ written 2/24/2006 ~

“The way I see it I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain. That sounds a little strange coming from a degenerate gambler like me, but it all depends on at what perspective in The Game I’m saying it from. When I’m up on cloud seven, nine and eleven, winning four-figure stakes, that means I haven’t won enough and much gain is still yet to be gotten. It means my booty on chance has only begun. But when I’m saying it from rock bottom, having lost my shirt, my good shoes and maybe even a few teeth, that means I got nothing left to lose, the only way to go from there is upward. So either way you look at it, I’m always looking up.”

— viewpoint character Max Van Gelder.

Taken from my story “Max-a-Million” © 2006 Brandon L. Rucker.

Warren Ellis on Commercial Storytelling

I am a proud and eager subscriber of writer Warren Ellis’ weekly newsletter Oribital Operations.  On a weekly basis (or therabouts) I can expect him to touch upon various topics that run the gamut of intelligent, thought-provoking, humorous and enlightening. A couple of weeks ago he stated something that really stopped me in my tracks, something I feel I must share with other writers.

“. . .thoughts about how commercial storytelling is changing. Look at the ructions television has gone through in the last fifteen years. The “endless” run (and the end brought by economics as much as anything) looks like an aged form now, and novels for television are where the important stuff is done. TRUE DETECTIVE, and the even more innovative AMERICAN HORROR STORY (and now AMERICAN CRIME) where the cast are a stable putting on a new play every season.

I think Jeff VanderMeer’s interlocking SOUTHERN REACH novels, all three released in the same 12 months, might prove to be a very interesting model for prose.

But it’s also a set of thoughts — and I haven’t nailed this down, I’m going to come back to it — about how narrative forms need to keep moving at the pace of the world to some extent, need to keep looking for new sounds. Also, going back to earlier scenes and digging through their rubble for something that can be mutated and gene-edited in a lab and bolted on to something else in order to make something modern. It’s not looking backward when you’re constructing something new out of the parts. Frankenstein wasn’t an archaeologist.

Keep building. Keep shooting lightning into things to see what happens. That’s what the narrative enterprise needs. That’s been my constant aspiration.”

— Warren Ellis via Orbital Operations. Who also writes most mornings (on British Summer Time) at Morning, Computer.

Warren Ellis

Photograph shot and copyright by Ellen J. Rogers

Journal Juice 11 | Little Sister

It was only a year ago, perhaps, that we finally reconnected after so many long years of estrangement, forced and unforced. I was so glad to finally repair the disconnect that wayward siblings tend to create between them over the years. Of all of us kids you were always the wildchild, always anxious and on-the-go, yet clearly motherhood looks good on you. Last summer I swelled with pride when I got to see you in super-mom mode with your kids, those beautiful and fun-loving nieces and nephews of mine.  But you refuse to sit still. And now you’re gone. Again. I’m sorry that I have failed you. I feel that as your big brother, your only brother, I am supposed to protect you from all monsters, real and imagined; chase away unworthy boys when you were younger, veto all unsavory men when you’re older; assure you that you don’t need to accept that which is not good enough for you, show you that you shouldn’t settle for what you do not need, or fall for yours or someone else’s foolish plan. Ultimately, I was supposed to help save you from yourself. I didn’t. Again. Everyone says it’s not my job to do that, that it’s not my responsibility and that the choices you make are your own. But that doesn’t change the responsibility and the guilt I feel for having not fulfilled that unspoken contract that is signed between brother and sister through their shared blood. I love you. I miss you. We all do.

Little Sister b&w 3

The Rucker Report: May 2015 – Forward and Backward

28368403-vector-silhouette-of-a-man-sitting-at-a-computer-on-a-white-backgroundA week and a couple of days late.  Why?  Because, as an “author’s update” there’s really not much to report, since little of what was detailed from the previous update in April has been progressed upon.  However, I’ve committed myself to these monthly updates from a devotional and routine standpoint, so I’m pushing through after taking some time to contemplate a few things in lieu of actual writing news.  So I’ll use headers this time and touch on a few things. Here I go.

Solitary Confinement

I’ve often said that writing is one of the most solitary occupations a person can undertake, particularly in terms of writing novels, which has been my goal since I was a 19 year-old hopeful in early 1993.  Well, it doesn’t have to be.  Sure, there’s the egocentric notion that one’s first published novel should contain only his byline, and there’s no way my 19-20 year-old self would even contemplate doing what I have decided to do this year. . .

Partnering for Help

I’ve written in previous updates about a secret long story/novella project with an author friend (codenamed: Project Eros).  That activity is still in play, but has recently changed a bit as we are going to go with a different idea, one larger in scope and duration.  The original project was going to involve our pseudonyms, and it’s possible this Plan B project may do the same, it just depends on a couple of things which we are ironing out in this early stage.  We’ll have to come up with a codename for it soon.  I’m excited about this partnership and am glad I finally realized I needed to make a necessary sacrifice of ego to better accomplish my writing goals.  I can’t wait to reveal my writing partner (of course it’s someone who has several completed/published novels in their resume).  I want to wait until we’ve made significant progress first.  I may even seek out another partner for a different novel project, but we’ll see. More on all this as it develops.

Nostalgia and Staying with Characters

As noted above, I’ve been doing this “serious writing” thing for the better part of two decades and so I have amassed a significant amount of writing work in that time, whether it’s poetry & lyrics, short fiction, attempts at long fiction like novels and serialized fiction, script work,  editorials and essays, etc.  Some of it published, much of it having never seen the light of day.  Recently I’ve gone through my old file folders to rediscover some old works.  What I’ve noticed a lot of times in my moments of reflection and review is that I tend to gravitate to a certain creative period of mine from which to draw inspiration.  That time period is predominantly 1996 thru 2001.  The characters I created during that time, and the stories I created for them, resonate the most with me for some reason.  I keep coming back to them, especially the ones which haven’t had their stories completed yet (practically all of them), because I tend to think in a broad, long term sense having grown up obsessed with serials (television and comic books) and novels, fiction forms in  which you stay with characters for a good while.  These characters have remained a permanent part of me since their inceptions so many years ago, so it’s no surprised that they often tap me and my muse on the shoulder to say “Hey, remember me?  We’ve still got my story to tell, you and I.”  So even as I creep forward toward new things, my past creations are never too far away.  The sad part of this could be that I don’t create as compelling characters and stories as I did in my twenties.  Eh, then again, maybe that’s just the nostalgia talking.

Legacy and The Vault (of Unfinished Things)

Been thinking a great deal about legacy lately.  And so, in consideration of legacy and my own longevity at this thing called writing, I’m seriously thinking about publishing here on this very site various unfinished (and likely never-to-be-finished) works here as both a bold reminder of what I failed to complete, but also as a representation of actual work produced.  Essentially it’s the In Case I Get Hit by a Bus Tomorrow approach I’ve been taking to my creative stuff in recent years.  Just getting it all out there, warts and all (well, within reason) so that these things can gain light and live in public while serving as actual artifacts of my having actually existed and done a thing or two with my time here. (Sidenote: I’ve done this with my music in recent years – Google me).

So, it’s very possible that soon there will be a category listing called VAULT in the sidebar menu.  After all, the whole purpose of something titled RUCKERPEDIA is for it to be THE source of most things Brandon L. Rucker related, no?

Quick Notes

Site reconfiguration points – The Sidebar: I recently updated the ABOUT page, which serves as a bio for yours truly.  Updated details and links and such. There’s a new page in the menu called BIBLIOGRAPHY which essentially serves as a cover gallery for the physical books that contain my work.  HELLO, JOURNAL is now where my ‘creative non-fiction’ or ‘notebook’ entries are housed. NEWS + UPDATES is now a handy category link to easily access monthly The Rucker Reports like this. The WORK SAMPLES category needs to be reworked, restocked, re-something.  I’ll get to it around the time I put the VAULT up.  Music widgets have been re-added to the sidebar, but eventually will be added to the menu under their own listing.  The work never ends here for this one-man monochromatic production.

Current events – Authors: a few author friends of mine have books out or forthcoming, which I’ve written about here: Reggie Lutz, Jennifer Macaire and Nadine Darling.  And finally the great Clive Barker has returned this month with his new novel The Scarlet Gospels.

Maybe next time I write one of these updates I’ll have actual progress to report.  Until then, y’all be good out there.

Reading:  Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman, various comics

Re-reading:  Galilee by Clive Barker

Watching:  Sons of Anarchy: Season 7, The Killing: Season 4

Playing:  Destiny (Bungie/Activision) – Xbox One

Listening:  Lamb of God

GALILEE by Clive Barker

GalileeNovelClive Barker’s 1998 unrivaled tenth novel Galilee  (subtitled asA Romance” inside the cover, and also known as Galilee: A Novel of the Fantastic) is hands down one of the greatest novels I’ve ever read.  It became the inspiration for a novel series I’d thought up one cold winter evening earlier this year.  It’s funny that I’ve found myself virtually connected to it.  If you were to do a Google search of the book, one of the top links that shows up leads to a review I did of it on goodreads.com back in summer of 2011.  It shows up at the top on goodreads.com because it is the highest rated review for the book by the members there.  I had no idea of this until just recently when I was looking for info links on the book to share with my co-writer. Here’s the four years old text from that review:

Galilee, for me, is Clive Barker at his storytelling best. It may not be as inventive as Cabal (Nightbreed), Imajica & Everville, or as mind-bending as The Hellbound Heart (Hellraiser), nor as imaginative as Weaveworld, but it’s the best written, the best ‘told’ story of all of his with elegant, seductive, magnetic prose that’s as smooth as butter. His prose in this book can make even the most boring, mundane things seem worthy of your attention.

It should be stated right up front Galilee is not a horror novel, at least nowhere in the singular sense (though it has parts that may certainly exist on the periphery of that description). It’s a bit of a wonderful, odd beast. It’s my favorite kind of tome, running the gamut of several flavors from epic saga, historical suspense, myth-making, inter-familial drama, forbidden romance, light metaphysics, a teasing amount of the supernatural (almost maddeningly understated) and, being a Barker story, a touch of the dark fantastic, naturally.

It’s truly the hardest novel to nail down with a description that I’ve ever encountered, and I am honestly and thoroughly bummed that I have yet to encounter something of its ilk since. That’s over a decade of let down. Thankfully it’s so invitingly re-readable and continuously rewarding when you do so.

I love all the extraordinary elements . . . everything about the Barbarossa family, whom I did not ever think of as fantastical creations, but more supernatural. However, Barker wrote that Cesaria, the matriarch, was essentially a goddess-like being, more or less a demigoddess (in other words, she’s a direct descendant of, well, God) than a typical fantastical invention Barker is typically known for creating. Certainly a more metaphysical approach than his norm at the time. Like urban fantasy it’s a great merging of the mundane with the extraordinary.

As a writer, this book was such a defining, eye opening read for me. It was an “Ah, so THAT’S how you do it!” revelation. Part of that is due to the character-driven literary device he uses (kind of as a cheat) that allows him to tell a birds-eye view kind of sprawling epic story without sacrificing an ounce of the first-person intimacy since it comes from the MC’s near-omniscient point of view. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cheat, but damned effective. But I won’t get more into that because it’s a real treat of reading the novel and I’ve probably teased enough details.

After the book came out Barker mentioned a sequel one day that would essentially focus more on the Barbarossas instead of the Gearys, who get the bulk of the focus in this book. I so hope he gets around to it before he retires.

Note: I’m giving this book 5 stars because there is no option for 4 & 1/2 stars.

— from Brandon Rucker’s review on goodreads.com