Tuesday, June 21, 2011

David E. Mondt

My Grandfather, David E. Mondt, died almost two weeks ago. He was 89 years old. He was crotchety and tough as an old fence post; he was my Grampie. Here is his obituary. Here's another one from the VFW detailing his years of service.

I was asked to say something at the service.

That was a hard thing to decide to do. I wasn't sure how to even start. I wasn't sure if I could and I kind of put it off for a few days, thinking, before I finally jotted some stuff down on the Thursday before. Then I let it sit and soak a bit and late Friday night I cracked my little book and I poked at what I had written and on Saturday morning I got up at the service and said my piece. It went alright, I think, and in the time since some people have asked for a transcript, so I thought I'd post it here for all and sundry to read and maybe remember him a little. Now, admittedly, there was a certain amount of winging it involved once I got up there to talk, but what follows is as close as I can recall.

"Deciding what to say today, or even to say anything at all, was difficult. There is this whole unwieldy mass of emotions to get through. How do you say what needs to be said? How do you choose to best illustrate the way the shadow of one person's life falls across your own? How do you properly explain the value and the loss? How do you say what we all already know?

Growing up a latchkey kid in a family of mostly women in a generation of broken homes, Grampie was the rock in my center. He was the man to emulate. He had flown through German flak on D Day. He had stood in the sands of the African desert and he had landed planes in English fog so thick they had to burn ditches of oil to light his way. The stories loomed as large as the man.

I think I may have flummoxed him a bit, as a child. I can still remember driving down to Little Rock in the big yellow Chrysler with him and the look on his face when the waitress asked me if I wanted bacon or sausage with my breakfast and I said: "yes". But flummoxed or not, I never doubted his love. I spoke to Zoey today and we talked about the time building the tree house, about hunting the yard for fallen buckeyes, about the never-ending chore of picking up sticks and how he'd catch squirrels and release them in McHose park. We talked about how Santa always gave him coal.

There's too many memories.

With things like this, I always try to put them in context through quotes, to understand them, to frame and define them for myself through the words of others. On Death, I found some Dickens (he had a lot): "It is a far. far better thing that I do, then I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest that I go to, then I have ever known." I found a Harry Truman quote from the end of his Presidency, referencing both his time in office and a famous tombstone in Tombstone, Arizona: "Here lies Jack Williams. He done his damnedest." I even found some W. C. Fields: "On the whole, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

But the thing that I kept coming back to was something entirely different. It was something unrelated to Grampie, a movie he probably never saw called Blade Runner. In the simplest summary, it is the story of robots whose lives have a clock and that clock is winding down and all they want to do is live one more day. In the end, one character talks about all the amazing things he has seen and done and he wonders: What happens to those memories and experiences when he's gone? Where do they go?

Recently, I've found myself at a crossroads with my work, questioning its worth and what to do with it. As such, as I considered and perused, I discovered something. Grampie is in my book. He has a very large part actually, theme-wise, motivation-wise, perhaps unsurprisingly, he acts as the voice of the hero's conscience. And of course, he's featured prominently in the dramatic retelling of the time he fixed the pogo stick and it knocked me out in the driveway.

All of this made me realize something:

Grampie is a large part of my book, because he's a large part of me and he always will be. And that reminded me of another quote I know, it's a Jewish Proverb and it says: "The only truly dead are those that have been forgotten." I know I will always remember my Grandfather, in his doghead chair or out at the kitchen table, his stories, his coveralls, his cigarettes and his grumpy pronouncements. His scratchy cheeks and his mischievous smile. I love him and I will never forget him, so he will never truly be gone, but I will always miss him."

Bye, Grampie.


Friday, June 17, 2011

The Scribblerati

Hey there! Just a quick note to let you all know that I've posted a little something-something over at the Scribblerati blog. Go check it out!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The latest Captain America poster

How awesome is that? Love it. It's a nod to the very first issue which came out 70 years ago this very month, a cover which also inspired a bit of Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, btw. Apparently, this poster was made for the cast and crew exclusively, but they're giving away five of them at the Hero Complex film festival in L.A. (Library bird... get it done.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Movies to see this weekend

My last post was a little depressing, and I haven't posted much in the past month, so I figured I have some catching up to do and I thought: What better way to get back into the swing of things with some movie talk? More specifically: Let's talk about what movies you should go see this weekend. So, with that in mind, I pulled up three (actually four, if you count Bridesmaids... which you should since it is one of the funniest movies this year) trailers for your viewing pleasure. WOOOO!

1. X-men: First Class

I know, I know, I've previously talked about how I was pretty uninterested in this flick, but the trailers (see below) have been getting more and more intriguing and cool. Plus, the reviews are really good and not just from the simpletons, either. The haters have been loving this flick, people... The HATERS!?!? Also, do you remember Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone (if the answer is "no", then you need to go rent that movie now, you half-asser), anyway, she's playing Mystique. That's awesome. I'm ready. Let's watch the trailer together, shall we? SHALL WE?

2. 13 Assassins

They say it's Miike's Seven Samurai for the 21st Century. They say that the last forty minutes is a climatic samurai action extravaganza unlike anything you've ever seen. They say it's amazing. They say it's awesome. I am definitely going this week.

3. Attack the Block

A bunch of inner city London kids versus invading space aliens, but hardcore. Not cute, but kick ass. The festival buzz on this film is through the roof. You might not be able to see it anywhere yet, it's just starting its American release, but keep your eye out. It'll come and when it does, you should go. Everything I've read about this film is calling this fantastic.

So there you go. Three movies (four, counting Bridesmaids) that you should go see as soon as possible. That's my plan for this week.

At the movies,

Friday, June 3, 2011

So that’s done…

Hey there. I know, I know. It’s been awhile and last time I was rather cryptic, huh? Well, here’s your explanation. Read on.

Basically, it went down like this.

So, as some of you may or may not recall, I sent out a new batch of queries for my book Gunslingers of the Apocalypse at the beginning of last month. I think I sent them out on a Saturday or something like that. Anyway, come Monday night, I am working down at Filmzilla. I had switched shifts with Beth so that fellow Scribblerati Agent Mark Teats and I could make the Wednesday night showing of Stake Land (meh...) during the Minneapolis International film festival. So, Monday night wasn’t exactly a hoppin’ video rental night and I eventually wandered back to the computer overlooking the porn room and checked my e-mail just like any other red-blooded, 21st century American Internet addict is wont to do and sitting there at the top of my inbox, above the seemingly never-ending pile of fucking Goodreads updates (I gotta remember to turn that Goddamn notification off) was a response…

From an agent.

Hmmm… I thought, it doesn’t look like an auto-reply telling me that they’ll get back to me at some point (liars…). No this was definitely from an agent. A real live agent. And her e-mail? In a word? Complimentary. Ridiculously complimentary. She had read my query and she had liked the title, no, she had LOVED the title and so she read the included twelve page sample. She loved that too. She FUCKING loved it, is the actual the quote, every word. She loved it so much, she wanted to read the first three chapters and she was hoping to hear from me that night. You see, she was going to be unavailable all Tuesday, but if I got her the sample that night, she’d be able to print it out and read it on Wednesday… AND, if that wasn’t enough, and it felt like I was trying to read this part through the sudden post-lightning bolt strike like haze of an aneurysm, the first line of her e-mail seemed to read: “As I said in my phone message, I thought this was fabulous…”

Phone message?

I dug out my crappy little pay-as-you-go Star Trek-esque flip phone. I had somehow accidentally turned it off vibrate and it had been on low volume.

One missed call. Well, fuck me.

The phone message was even better.

She loved my stuff.

I was giddy.


Of course, I was at Filmzilla too, with its recently upgraded and fancy-pantsy new computer system, which means it's no longer using dot matrix receipt printers and running the oh-la-la brand spankin’ and shiny new IE 6. That’s right… IE 6, bitches… eat my dust, Internet (you may remember the set up from when it was prominently featured in the red hot Matthew Broderick blockbuster: War Games.). So despite that bit of good luck (sarcasm), there was an issue, (trouble, oh trouble set me free) I didn’t have any pre-set up 3 Chapter Samples in my Google Docs, and there was no Word program on the Filmzilla 64 bit Master System. Luckily, there was Notepad! (More sarcasm…)

(Sudden aside: Why do they still make Notepad? I mean, granted, I’m taking about IE 6 here, but it’s on the current versions, too. Who the fuck uses Notepad? And for what?)

So anyway, Notepad… what the fuck? So, no Word program and no ready sample means I can’t send anything off. Shit! I’m sweaty and agitated and dancing from foot to foot and whining slightly ala Homer Simpson. I can’t send anything off! And I’m stuck here until midnight! If she gets it tonight, she can have it read by Wednesday! Fuck! Fuck. Fuck… Then I look at the e-mail. It was sent 9 minutes ago! The voice message was only about 15 minutes ago!

I’m calling her back!

This is a "Seize the day" moment, man.

So I call. I reach her at home. We chat. We bond. We get along famously. We both love the Wild Bunch and the Road Warrior (perfect for my book). We talk about me and my writing shit. We talk about her and possible possibilities. It’s all good. It’s awesome, in fact. Everything works out, big time. I can get her the sample by morning, so I do, late that night. She writes me on Wednesday and says: I love the way you write. Beautiful. Vindicating. My chest puffed out. I strutted. Send me the whole thing, she says. So I do. I print it out and I mail it and she lets me know she has it a week later. After that, all I have to do is sit back and wait until the end of the month for her to read the whole thing and get back to me.

It’s a long month.

I’m cautious. And quiet. Optimistic, but cautious. I try to maintain a perspective. She can still say “no”, but she had such a strong and positive reaction. We bonded. We liked the same stuff. I tell a select few. They agree with me, it’s such a strong response, this could be it… It’s a long wait. Could this be it?


It’s not.

She said no.

…So that’s done. Sucks, huh?

She said: too wordy, too indulgent, too whatever. Most of all, she said: What does it add to the genre? Is it new enough? She questioned whether or not this is the novel to break me out in a crowded marketplace. She did say I was talented and showed potential, and there is that great title…

Great. That and a couple of bucks can get me a cup of coffee.


So, now what? After the long fall, after the height of heights was just within reach, what next? After I pick myself up again and dust myself off, where do I go from here?

I honestly don’t know. I could go back and re-read it. Cut. Edit. I know I could probably get it down more. I’m sure there’s probably some repeated stuff, some indulgences, some overly-dramatic flourishes and some unnecessary fat, sure. And it’s been awhile since I’ve really looked at the thing, so my eyes could be pretty fresh again, maybe. But I don’t know. It’s not that she’s wrong. That’s just it, I don’t think she is. I know I could get meaner with the edits, I was hoping I wouldn’t quite have to or that I could get some new insights as to where to begin, but yeah, I know I could definitely cut more.

The problem is: Is it worth the effort?

That's the question, because she’s right, the marketplace is crowded, really crowded, and not just the zombie genre, but books as a whole (although that’s another rant for another day, one about barbarians in the city and self-publishing and quality and pride in your work, blah, blah, blah…) and no one is reading any more or buying books… or more honestly, they are buying books, but only really famous names or $.99 e-books. It's the big current concern. No one gets any money anymore. Nothing sells. The whole industry is changing and how will it look on the other side? No one knows and everyone is scared.

Also, for awhile now, I’ve started to wonder if maybe I missed the zombie zeitgeist wave, if it might not be too late, if the surf might not be a bit overcrowded at this point, that there's no more room unless you're extra flashy. And worst yet, there's a lot of bad in this particular field. You want proof? Type zombie into Amazon and then count the dregs. Zombie shit is everywhere, people. TV, movies, books, comics… it’s everywhere. Now, everyone’s an expert. Now, everyone has a zombie apocalypse plan. Now, the zombie pub crawls are to douchebags what critical mass is to douchebags on bicycles.

Or maybe I suck.

It doesn't matter, because now everyone seems to be saying the same thing: Zombie Apocalypses are old hat. What’s the new thing?

I’m not even sure what that means, but I think they mean like running zombies or talking zombies or funny zombies or stories told from the zombie’s point of view or whatever. Maybe the people who were obsessed with the idea of how the virus started, regardless of how pointless a plot point that seemed to be to me, are the right ones. Maybe it’s time to acknowledge that all those “new” things being “added to the genre”, the things that I think of as hollow gimmicks, they are the key to success. That’s what people want. Fucking Avatar and Transformers 2 were the highest grossing films in the world last year, right? With ease! People want the raz-ma-taz and the easily identifiable. And I’m not bitching because my story is so amazing and so individual and so literature-y either. It’s not. It’s just an adventure story: Mad Max meets Dawn of the Dead. That’s it. Like a noir modern day western, but with zombies, and to me, that was the new thing, that was what I was “adding to the genre”, the story itself, the adventure in that setting, but that’s not what they look for. Who knows, maybe the story isn’t that new, either. I don’t know. Maybe that’s not what gets classified as new. It doesn’t matter. The fact remains, what the market wants as far as zombies are concerned and what sells well and what gets a lot of good Amazon reviews and all that, is not what I want to write about and since that shit is what gets picked, maybe it’s time for me to admit that I’m sitting here on a big unsellable shit of a project and just trunk the fucking thing and move on.


Maybe the zombie zeitgeist wave broke while I was paddling out to it and now it’s just time for me to find a new beach, one with better waves and fewer tourists…

I don’t know.

I don’t blame the agent. She’s been around awhile; she is successful and respected and she knows what works and what sells. She was very nice and accommodating. And honestly, if they’re not crazy for it, then they’re not the agent for it, right? And there are other agents out there, too, I could keep querying. But I don’t know, all that: the saturated market, my storyline, considering all that shit I listed above, I feel like I’m on that game show, the one with the briefcases and the bimbos? It’s called: Fuck you, Howie Mandel or something. Anyway, you pick the cases and each one has a different dollar amount inside it and I think you pick one at a time, hopefully leaving the biggest amount for last, it’s like a million dollars or something, and if you do, you win that amount. I think. I’m not really sure how it’s a game show since it seems to be nothing but blind picking and dumb luck, but anyway, if you pick the million dollar case half way through, then that case is out of play and you won’t get a million dollars, no matter how the rest of the game goes.

I feel like I just picked my million dollar case.

She called me! Off a 12 page sample pasted into an e-mail! That never happens. Where do you go from there, but down? Who’s going to have that level of interest again? Is it reasonable to expect that it could happen again, or is it delusional? I mean, come on, to go from that level of interest down to “no”? There’s something there that I can't ignore: Something is wrong with the book, the story, with the timing of it all, maybe all of the above. I could try to fix it, but... if it's at the back-end slide of a trend, as well, why bother?

Unsellable, unwanted at its core, isn’t fixable.

Trunking it may be the only option. I’d hate to, I mean, there goes my whole book and three more I had waiting on deck with prep time under them and 6 years of work and a bunch of sweat and agonizing and planning and fuck-all, everything I had, gone, turning me into that poor fucker who comes in last at the Olympics. You know what I mean? The guy who gets last in the Olympics practices his ass off for four years, he makes it to the Olympics and he gets dead last? The son of a bitch could have eaten twinkies and sat on his ass for four years and done exactly the same… Dead last? Fucking waste of four years.

You know, the end of this coming September, I will have been querying for two years... Here I sit, broken hearted. Tried to shit, but only farted.

Oh sure, there were skills gained and lessons learned, but right now? Looking down at the wreckage? That and a couple of bucks, man… that and a couple of bucks… So what next, I ask, sitting here at this horrible fucking temp job, not working, clock watching like a mother fucker, the stretch of hours and days and weeks stuck here made all the more suddenly looming and nearly unbearable?

What. Fucking. Next.

I don’t know. I’ve still got some short stories to finish. I’ll get back to them, I guess. I've still got some queries out there, as well. And I was going to work on turning Monster into a novel, but… I don’t know if I’m feeling that one any more. I know they say you shouldn’t write to trends, but Jesus, man, right now the idea of spending a couple of years on a story set in a dystopian and post-apocalyptic future wrecked by the sudden, wild return of magic and monsters, the story of a bunch of convicts given a chance at freedom if they perform one job, a kind of magical, grim and gritty fantasy/sci-fi Dirty Dozen versus a Dragon in the ruins of Minneapolis…? Only to find out that people would rather read a vampire detective story?


Fucking hell…

We'll see, I guess,