All posts by christophercnewman

Holiday Memories.

‘Tis the season… for thinking back to those exciting days of yesteryear.  It’s funny as I get older (heading inevitably towards both my dotage and grumpy-old-man syndrome) I think back upon childhood.  Christmas, with all its frantic and heart-pounding anticipation is often brought to mind.

I am wierd, no seriously.  I never get excited about something like Christmas until the day before and then it’s multiplied by 1,000,000.  I would be the first one up waiting the “go” signal. 

 You see our Christmas tree was downstairs in the rec room, not upstairs.  We, the Newman children, were forbidden to go downstairs until our parents got up.  My father, the eternal jokester would have to have his coffee and cigarette before we could plunge into the ripping, tearing and shrieking of joy.   So like runners awaiting the starting gun, we were perched upon the top of the stairs with trembling nerves and quivering legs.  There was a lot to plan, for that mad dash.  Our steps lead down to the front door, curved around a foyer and went back down to the basement.  Then there was the narrow hallway that lead into the rec room.  You had to watch cutting the corner of the foyer lest you slam into the banister on the right or make your turn too wide and smack into the banister on the left.  Aside from all that you were in slippers, an aptly named set of footwear, which made rounding a bend as dangerous as telling Donald Trump his hairstyle sucks.  Once onto the carpeted second set of stairs the basement floor had a door on the left (to the garage) and then two more in the hall facing one another (the laundry room and the closet).  Doorknobs are useful things.  But slamming into one with an unprotected elbow or hip wasn’t pleasant.  Plus it would put you in last place in the Christmas Race.  Also you had to prepare for the basement floor’s icy linoleum, treacherous and slick.  Once into the rec room the frenzy could take place in earnest.

But back to my Father.  Smirking and sitting in the kitchen, puffing slowly on a cigarette and sipping daintily on his coffee we would glance over our shoulders at him in desperate anticipation.  He would chuckle and tell us to be patient, he was almost done.  Then he’d go back to smirking, smoking and sipping.  I swear he could make those two things last all day!  They were the slowest, most leisurely cup of coffee and nicotine stick of the ENTIRE year.  Often I would accuse him of lighting a second one or refilling his mug—he didn’t it just FELT that way!  Then he’d crush out the cigarette, down the last dregs of his java and say….”Go ahead”.  The race was on!

My poor sister, the youngest and smallest of us would be buffeted by her two older brothers as we leaped into action!  Being the eldest (and for the longest time the biggest) I would easily shove past my brother and take the lead.  It didn’t last since he was faster than me and due to my clumsiness I always managed to bash my arms, hips and elbows into the banister and doorknobs slowing my frantic progress.  In the end somebody always fell on the foyer or the basement floor but all pain and agony was forgotten when we burst into the rec room to find Santa’s booty (presents that is, get your mind out of the gutter this is a Christmas or if you like Yule story). 

To this day when I see a staircase I wonder how to best dash down it and beat all comers to the ground floor…

Ciao!

Chris

Sparkling vampires?

Okay I’m going to go out on a limb here and discuss why in the wide, wide world of sports it means that Stephanie Meyer’s vampires “sparkle”?  I looked it up and found out that Bella is taken into a field in broad daylight and Edward “sparkles”.  So instead of him bursting into flames and igniting this mealy mouth heroine he sparkles?  Geez, what a convenient plot device to allow Bella and Edward to “walk amongst the daisies and frolic”.  Pardon me my gorge is rising…

…okay much better now. 

Before I get 1,000,000 emails of hate-spewing people who want to defend this I’d like to start by saying this.  I do not begrudge Ms. (or Mrs.) Meyers her millions of fans or commercial success.  Good for her.  However I really do miss the good old days when vampires were bad, women were terrified and heroes climbed out of the woodwork to defend them.  Now it’s all mixed up. 

Let’s take a moment and ponder this much, what is the ecology of a vampire?  Everything on this planet (as Wiccans all know) has a purpose.  Lycanthropy is a curse, zombies are the result of bad science, and Nancy Pelosi is obviously allergic to Botox.    Let us use the one animal that consists entirely on a blood diet…desmondus rotundus or the common vampire bat.

Average weight: 30-40 oz/ blood intake half their body weight ever 3-4 days/nocturnal hunters/bad eyesight/excellent hearing/thermal sensors in their nose/interior of their mouths lined with teeth (to shave away fur)/must urinate half their intake before being able to fly (it’s funny how nobody talks about how much vampires must have to go to the bathroom with that liquid diet and all). 

Their job?  Thin the herds of over populated wildlife. Side effects–very susceptible to blood borne pathogens and diseases.

Let’s do the math.

I weight 165 pounds.   This means I’d have to take in almost 82.5 pounds of blood during 3-4 days and the average human has over a gallon.  That means I’d have to kill (drain fully) almost 7 people in a feeding frenzy.  Although an average of nearly 1 million people go unexplainably missing every year it boils down to a vampire problem of there  being about 125,000 vampires in the United States (minus the occasional serial killer body count or extremely obese bloodsuckers okay).  Can you imagine Ralphie May or as a vampire?  I shudder to think of the carnage.  Either way it’s food for thought, isn’t it? 

The problem is I can’t find anything in nature that “sparkles” in the daytime or that sweats something to coat themselves from sunlight.  Most nocturnal animals just sleep during the day–it’s easier than evolving some sort of diamond-dust skin.  Ooh!  I just had a thought!  Is this how come vampires are rich?  They sell off their flaked skin at the jewelers?

“Damn I’m molting again,” Edward says.

“Cool,” Bella replies, “now I can buy that Mercedes-Benz.”

That’s dialogue I’d like to see.   Oh and that reminds me, can you just imagine what a vampire’s breath must smell like?  Have you ever had bloodstained clothing?  Can you picture what your teeth would look like as a vampire?  I think a great marketing concept would be “Twilight Toothpaste”

Cut to a Victorian reading room with Edward sitting in a chair sparkling for the sunlight pouring in from a nearby window.  Turning to the camera he flashes his pearly white fangs and begins to speak.

“After a hard night trying to keep Bella out of trouble,” Edward says, “I find my breath less than fresh.  Thank goodness for Twilight Toothpaste with it’s minty fresh scent and grime and stain removing action.  And for those hard to reach places try Sparkling Vampire Dental Floss.”

He holds up a crimson and white colored tube of toothpaste and a small box of floss–the camera zooms in for a better look.  Then it pans back out where Bella is sitting across his lap with those half-opened eyes and lazy smile.

“So before you go out to find a vapish and morose girlfriend don’t forget to stop by the drugstore and buy some Twilight Toothpaste–you’ll find it next to the feminine hygeine aisle.  Remember Twilight Toothpaste–make your fangs sparkle!”

…let’s not even get into what kissing someone who drinks blood must taste like, and you thought your hubby or girl’s cigarette breath was bad to savor.

Okay we’ve had a little fun with this.  It’s all in good fun.  Let Bella be and Edward sparkle–I don’t care.  I just wonder if we’ll see Werewolf untangling shampoo, Creature from the Black Lagoon Swimsuits, or Zom-Be-Fresh deodorant?

Sparkle on!

Chris

What I am thankful for

On this festive and food oriented holiday I thought I’d drop a note to say what I’m truly thankful for.

I am thankful for the love of a beautiful woman, my soulmate and my life.  Diane who at this time is slaving away in the kitchen to produce another bountiful feast for us to enjoy.  For her courage against all odds, for her perceverence in maintaining her unwavering devotion for me during my first marriage to another and for her ability to make me see the man I want to be I am, indeed, truly thankful.  I would have no books published, no awards won nor would I have so many author friends if not for her gentle guidance and stubborn patience.  I would happily lay down my life for her. 

My step-children, children and grandkids.  These are my future hopes that what I’ve learned in my past will be furthered onward in generations to come.  For the sons who aren’t of my body, but share a kindred soul I thank the Goddess for Matthew and Ben.  For her devotion to family and taking up arms against a sea of troubles that threaten our clan I thank Her for Candace.  Brendan, my youngest who shares my wild imagination and Anthony who tries to hold his own in two households I thank the Goddess for them as well.  Duncan, Sabastian, Keegan, Miguel, Nathan and Sibohan who are not of my blood but are eternally bound to me I humbly take joy in their existence.

For the lousy job I have.  Despite the constant whining and complaining by customers who demand I take charges off their bills (despite the truthfulness to their validity) I thank the Goddess that I’m employed.  This thing called work, which takes me away from hearth and home, provides me with just enough money to chase my dreams with my family by my side.  Although I grouse and grumble, I would be homeless without it.  I try to take as much pleasure from doing a good job as I can.  It also has allowed me to talk to many a kindred soul.  Those who are just happy to be served and ask nothing more than a fairness outweight and outnumber the gripers.

I thank my parents Nancy and Charles, gone many years since who provided me with food, shelter, clothing and love for which there is absolutely no price that can be attached to it.  I only wish I could thank them in person, but having done so in life I am secure in the notion that they watch from on high and, hopefully are proud of their oldest son.

I am thankful for the country inwhich I was born.  For the Red, White and Blue–for the chance to live free and do as I wish without restraints to spirit, education or social status.  I do not believe in Red states or Blue states and I”m hopefully thankful that we still live in a free society.  Only in America can you be anything you want to be.  Soldier, statesmen, banker or baker you can do as you wish here in the good old U.S.A. 

To those who serve in the military, keeping us safe I am truly grateful.  My family has ever been closely associated with those in uniform.  Since my great-great-great grandsire Baron Barton Von Neumann who came here from his native Germany to settle in Ohio to my mother’s side that crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Italy I am thankful for my heritage.  Those who didn’t serve went into factories to make both domestic and military materials during Peace and War.  I would be nothing without my past.  I am proud to say my step-son Matthew and son-in-law Jose both proudly serve in the U.S. Army.  Words cannot express my pride in this.

In closing I would ask you to seek out your loved ones this Thanksgiving and see to it you connect with them on an emotion and spiritual level.  Conversations during dinner, football games or just over coffee will be the ever-burning logs inwhich your memories will glow and warm you. 

Blessed Be!
Chris

Just a short story…

I thought I’d share a short story I wrote sometime ago…

Play Ball!

The cold wind blew the hem of Kathie’s skirt around her ankles as she strolled down the chilly street on an October night.  She was exiting a nightclub and on her way back home, alone unfortunately.  It was just before midnight.

Where have all the good guys gone? She mused to herself with a disgusted tone.  Rude comments, worn-out lines, and free drinks seem to be the modus operands of most men nowadays.

The emptiness of her suburban home seemed to beckon her back to safety and security, but it also held the promise of another night without any serious chance of romance.  This thought darkened her mind and made her heart thump longingly in her chest.  Another ragged and icy breeze rushed past her, making her clutch at herself to fend off its freezing embrace.

She found her car just where she had parked it, amid lines of other vehicles left by the other patrons of the bar.  Fishing through her purse, a small black affair with studded rhinestones, she sought after her keys.  There was a crunch of gravel behind her; she froze as her imagination took flight into the realms of terror.  A leather clad hand containing a white medicine smelling rag clapped over her mouth, silencing any scream that might have brought aid.

Oh no! she screamed into the wet material as she struggled, but she only helped whatever was coating the handkerchief to fill her spastic lungs.  She lashed back with her left foot, attempting to crush the instep of the person (man?) behind her.  She heard a hiss of pain as the high heel made contact but no other reaction came from it.  He (or she) didn’t let go but gripped her tightly around the waist pinning both arms to her sides.  Frantically she shouted into the handkerchief, but a sudden daze overcame her and her eyes rolled back and her body went limp.

This can’t be happening… Kathie whimpered as darkness closed around her stealing away her consciousness.

***

Jason Bellows was committing all to memory.  The sun was hot and bright, the sky blue, and the smell of hotdogs and French fries filled the air.  He had just stepped up to the plate, his bat firmly gripped in his young hands.

My first at-bat in the minors! He stated swinging it lazily from side to side.  Staring the pitcher down with brown eyes, just below his soft woolen cap, he was aware of his mind a-buzz over the waiting with breathless anticipation of the delivery, quick judgment on the hit ability of the pitch, and the solid palm-buzzing feel of the bat connecting solidly.

The pitcher wound up and then quickly uncoiled as he hurtled the spinning spheroid towards Jason with a snap of his powerful right arm.  The young twenty year old stepped towards it, adjusted his swing with the trajectory of the ball, and continued his motion with a smile spreading across his face.

It’s perfect! He almost laughed out loud.  It was a memory he looked forward to preserving in his mind, to be shared with his friends and family for years to come.

Crack!

The sound of the impact echoed in his ears and he completed his twisting motion placing the bat over his left shoulder.  The ball sailed over the pitcher’s head, past second base, and arched into shallow center field.  Jason dropped the wooden object in his hands and sprinted down the chalk line towards first base.  His arms and legs pumped, his body streaking down the line, as each impact of his feet sent pounding tremors up his legs and into his torso.  He kept his eyes glued to the white bag ignoring the loud and rowdy cheers of the shouting hometown fans.  He placed a foot upon first base just before the slap of leather announced that throw from the outfield was too late.

Yes, a base hit! He had exclaimed triumphantly to himself as he came to a slow jogging stop.

***

Kathie came to with a groggy haze dominating her confused mind.  She moaned as she stirred from her unexpected slumber, her brain trying to piece together what had happened.

I-I fell asleep in the car? She moaned as her eyes fluttered open.  She saw the darkness above her and realized the vague shapes were a girder-supported aluminum ceiling so typical in warehouses and factories.  Her eyes flicked from side to side as the sudden chill creeped through her dress and onto the flesh of her back sending chills up and down her spine.   She tried to move, but the terrifying attempt communicated to her half-dazed brain that she was bond by her wrists and ankles.   Kathie’s fear boiled up inside her and the heat of her terror burned away the last remaining fog in her mind.  She opened her mouth to scream, but found it filled with a wadded up rag and secured by a tight length of nylon rope.  She knew it was nylon; she could both smell and feel its distinctive odor and texture.

Oh crap!  T-that man… he’s captured me! She shrieked inwardly as the cold hand of dread gripped her heart.  W-what’s he going to do?!

As if to answer her question, she saw a tall male shape limp out of the clinging darkness just to her right.  Her body went into powerful convulsions as she threw all her strength into breaking her bounds and making her escape.  But the course fibers of the rope cut into her flesh and pain shot into her skull.  She couldn’t see his face past the black ski mask, his eyes were glittering and bright, and his thick lips were spit-flecked making his tongue dart out to clear it away.

“You’re awake, that’s good,” a low dangerous voice echoed softly from the man’s silhouetted form.  “I was worried I had used too much.”

Kathie shouted into her gag, but none of her words made it past the fabric to be understood by her captor.

“I suppose you’ve heard of me?  I’ve been dubbed the Hyatt Street Killer in the media,” the madman chuckled darkly.  “It is a poor name, but I’ve yet to come up with a better moniker.”

Oh no… h-he can’t be that monster!? She sobbed to herself as he reached for her face.  She recalled the three other women who had been tortured and strangled by the maniac who was prowling the city streets.  He collected his victim’s eyes, the thought of his staring into hers made her flinch from his touch.  She thought they had caught him, but now it appears the news reports were wrong.

“I’m a bit pressed for time, so let us begin shall we?  You have the prettiest eyes…”

***

Jason looked into the infield and his mouth fell open in shock.  A strange man was leaning over a woman with a knife poised over her face, the two of them were located midway between first and second base.

What’s going on? He asked himself as the rest of the players and crowd seemed oblivious to the scene.  He lifted his left foot, instinctively wanting to rush to the woman’s aid.  But he couldn’t seem to budge; the ballplayer in him knew if he stepped away he could be tagged out.

“Hey what are you doing?  Somebody stop that guy!” he shouted but no one reacted to his words.  “He’s going to kill her!”

He wanted to help, the need thundering along with the beating of his heart.  But still he couldn’t step off first base.  He looked at the guy from the opposing team next to him; the man didn’t seem to notice the tragedy about to occur.

What should I do?  I can’t stand by and let this happen!  I-I don’t want to be the initial out of the inning… oh God what to do! He roared inwardly.  His body reacted despite his mind’s dilemma, Jason felt his foot come off the base as he rushed forward to tackle the killer.

***

The tip of the knife, shiny and bright, gleamed as it eclipsed Kathie’s vision in her right eye.  She began to sob and cry as she pleaded and begged for the serial killer to show her mercy.  Her gag was halting all attempts to bargain for her life, she shut her eye in a last act of defiance until he wedged it open with cruel, rough fingers.  His other hand was twisted into her long blonde hair and kept her head from moving even an inch.

“Be still!  I must have your beautiful eyes for my collection!” he snarled hatefully as the blade tip edged closer.

Please God no! She wailed as a gray form appeared out of nowhere and passed through the murderer’s body.  She took in the details, as if it happened in slow motion as he sailed over her and into her assailant.  He was young, handsome, with soft brown eyes and a cleft chin.  He wore an off-gray colored uniform that seemed familiar somehow to her frantic mind.  Strangely enough, she could’ve sworn he was wearing cleats.

The effect on her attacker was startling; he stumbled back and spun to his right, his rear making a fleshy thumping sound on the hard concrete.  He swore loud and vehemently as he stood up shaking with all the furious ire of a wounded lion.   The long dagger flicked from side to side as he sought out the intruder who had crashed his private party.

“Stop right there!” a quivering unfamiliar voice called out from beyond Kathie’s line of sight.  She watched the Hyatt Street Killer spin towards the shout and raise the glittering blade.

Boom!

The gunshot made Kathie’s ears ring and she saw her would-be slayer spin to the ground his chest tore apart by a single shot.  He took one ragged, bloody breath and then lay still.

Relief coursed through her veins, her muscles relaxed and she began sobbing in joy as the miracle of her rescue came to realization.  A heavy-set old man wearing a gray security officer’s uniform walked towards her, his pistol still smoking from being discharged.  He knelt down and quickly undid her bindings.

“Are you okay Miss?” he asked in a nervous voice.

“Yes!  Thank you!” she cried out and hugged her savior.

“Take it easy little girl.  I gotta call the cops!”

“What about the other guy?”

“He’s dead,” the man flatly remarked with a tone of disgust.

“Not the guy you shot,” she insisted as she clambered to her feet.  “But the one who tackled him?”

She looked around but saw no other person nearby, she was puzzled, did she dream it?

“There’s nobody here but you, me, and that… that… one!”

“I don’t understand.”

“You’re just confused.”

“He was wearing an old baseball uniform.”

“What did you say?” the man asked with a serious expression overtaking the previous worried one he had been wearing.

“It was like in those old sports movies from the forties and fifties,” Kathie explained.

“Well this place used to be a baseball park, but that was years before I was even born,” the man stated as he tipped the bill of his hat up.

***

Three weeks after being attacked and saved from the Hyatt Street Killer, Kathie stood in an old section of a cemetery with a dozen roses in her hand.  She had spent the time off from work researching both online and at the local library.  Now, after all her efforts, she faced the grave marker of a man she had never met.

“Jason Bellows, born 1932, died 1953,” she whispered, her words whipped behind her along with the steam of her breath.  “I don’t know how this happened, or how you were able to help save me, but I wanted to say thank you.”

She knelt down, said a short prayer, and set the roses on the grave.  Tears sprung up in her eyes as she recalled reading the newspaper article about how this man had suffered a fatal heart attack while trying to steal second base in his first minor league game.  The wet droplets streamed down her face as she recalled he had died before learning of his young bride’s pregnancy, the family he would never know, or the life he had saved on one late October night over sixty years after his death.  She stood up and wiped away her tears with trembling fingers.

“Yeah, what are you doing?” a male voice inquired from behind her.  She turned around to see a man about her age, a wreath in his hands.

“Oh I’m sorry…,” she started to say as she looked into his eyes.  He had a cleft chin, soft brown eyes, and a strong handsome face.  She let out an unexpected gasp as she immediately spotted the family resemblance.

“Who are you?” she asked softly.

“Trevor Bellows,” he answered with narrowing, suspicious eyes. “That’s my grandfather’s grave you’re standing near.”

“It is?”

“Yes, he died before my father was born.  He was a baseball player, yeah it was minor league but it was his passion and dream to play for the Yankees.”

“Hey this might sound a little crazy and a bit forward.  But would you like to go get some coffee with me?  After you’re done, of course,” she said with a smile.

“S-sure,” he stammered with a blush creeping into his cheeks.  “I’d like that…”

How to build a better villain…

How to Build a Better Villain by Christopher Newman

Ask any actor and they’ll tell you the heavy (i.e. villain) is the meatiest role.  So we, as Pagans, know the cruelty of such characters from history, film, novels and real life.  But how do you build a better, believable villain in your books?  Well lucky you…I can help.

Oh it’s not ego, just a matter of observation and practice.  They come in all shapes, sizes and colors.  Cunning cads, disturbing demons and lovely fem fatales.  Hey, it isn’t easy being evil, that’s the best part.  Evil for evil’s sake is too bland and blasé so you have to be creative.  Here’s a recipe I use occasionally.

1.  Stubborn to a fault is the base of our stew.  Nothing beats an antagonist who is both firm in his/her beliefs and knows the ends justify the means.  No matter of logic or counter-argument can sway him/her.  He/She’s not dumb, the villain has thought this through to it’s “logical” conclusion.

2.  A sense of humor is always nice, let’s add that too.

3.  Choose between darkly charismatic, foully unkempt, military (or quasi-military) strict, hideously ugly or several other options…grade it properly as to not become to cliché.

4.  Avoid stereotypes!  A ponytail wearing evil magician has been done to death…

5.  Nervous mannerisms (always pushing up his/her glasses), eye twitches, etc make all characters unique, but in a villain it can announce to the reader that mayhem is going to follow.

6.  Stir gently and bring to an even heat.  A villain’s sanity/power/plans must not rush too fast in the pace unless the manuscript calls for the heroes to be unbalanced.

7.  Scoop out the ridiculous (eyes opening at the end of the novel like some poorly written 1980s horror film).

8.  Accomplices sparingly dripped in to the mix.  Oh and by the way nothing adds to the spice of a villain as someone (or thing) that admires him/her greatly—for all the wrong reasons.  Or one that hates him and wants his job….

9.  Name him/her… everything, and I mean everything, the very success of the character can hang on a name.  Flopsie the Ghoul Master just doesn’t cut it…

10.  Ladle in a great back-story…why is he/she this way?  Is it believable?  Too much fantasy will make your scoundrel stew curdle.

11.  A pinch of “who does he/she serve?” for as Bob Dylan sang, “Everybody serves somebody” (or at least I think that’s what he sang…)

12.  Vampires don’t sparkle…oh wait that’s another topic.

13.  Taste it… would you be afraid of him/her?  If not add a dash more cruelty and liberally sprinkle in socially inappropriate beliefs.

14.  Almost done now… take another taste.  Afraid yet? No, add more of ingredient 13.

15.  Twist in a twist (somebody’s gonna hurt somebody—before the night is through!)  Eddie the Homicidal Manic has a soft spot for puppies… and removing the heads of nurses.

16.  Pour this steaming cauldron over your manuscript and watch the steam rise.  Ah! Smell that?  Scoundrels are the spice of a manuscript’s life.

In closing you have to remember that the good guy/gal is bound by several rules and moral conditions.  He/She will walk the righteous path, follow most laws and take the heroic stand.  Villains are not so restrained.  If you feel that “Whoa I don’t think that’s fair” happens when you pen an act by a villain…you’re on the right track.  Consider this, poor Bob Ziegler gets fired at a film shoot on recommendation of an actress who he turns down for a date.  Then he goes home to find his girlfriend in bed with his best friend.  Ousted out of his apartment now he needs cash and most of all a camera to shoot his masterpiece, get famous and get the girl back.  Enter the villain… smiling, knowing and ready for him.  You need that old Super-8 recorder?  Oh you’re broke?  Hey I’ll give it to you if you film that hottie next door tomorrow morning.  She likes to work out in skimpy attire and I’m too old to hold the camera steady.  You’ll do it?  Great!

Later on…

Oh you say you have hideous painful tattoos all over your body from using it?  I know just how to get rid of them, darn I’m so sorry this happened.  How?  Well my research shows that if you shoot the scenes of demonic pleasures depicted on your flesh I bet they’d disappear off.  Good question, where ever are we going to find such willing actors and actress?  Of course you’re right!  The porn industry!  My mama taught me how to brew up a special brew that’ll make ‘em forget what they’re doing.  Inhuman?  Not in the least they’ll be just fine.  Immoral?  Well I hate to break it to you friend but those tattoos are going be there until you die.  They hurt?  I bet they look painful!  I know you think it’s kind of perverse but they’re only porn actors, who’ll miss ‘em?….for more on this see “Get Into the Spirit, Baby” from Dark Roast Press.