hcg
9
Aug

Math, Motorcycles, and Mr. Mauro

   Posted by: admin   in Musings

When I decided to create a blog for my website, I knew I didn’t want to make it just about writing.  In fact, I wanted to make it mostly not about writing.  I wanted to make it about inspiration.  About good people who do good things.  I write creepy stories but, more importantly, I write about people in creepy situations.  I like stories with characters that persevere against insurmountable odds or make sacrifices to help someone else in need.

I want my books to be about those types of people, and I want my writings here to be about those types of people.  I want to share some really great people with you.  Once I decided that, I knew immediately who I wanted to tell you about first—my friend John Mauro.

John is a math teacher.  Teachers are an inspiration anyway (says the former teacher) but John is one of those teachers that they make movies about.  One of John’s students once said to me, “I’m not worried about Mr. Mauro getting mad at me.  I’m worried about Mr. Mauro being disappointed in me.”  John Mauro’s students want to do good by him, and that’s a sure sign of someone who wants to do good by others.

John’s generosity doesn’t stop at helping students solve tricky equations in his classrooms.  John takes the classroom outside and I’ve seen him in the evenings tutoring students at the local coffee shop.  John is usually sporting one of the many T-shirts he purchased from Rosa Loves, an organization whose shirts literally tell a story of need and whose profits go directly to the needy in those very stories.  John chaperones teens on a yearly cross-country trip to do disaster relief, and he tells the kids, “We’re here to work hard, but take every opportunity to talk to as many people as you can.  Get to know them.  Every person you meet has a different story, and I bet they’d like to share it.”

This guy’s heart is as big as they come.

John has recently taken the idea of helping others to a new level.  He took a hiatus from his teaching job here in the States to connect with Rustic Pathways, an organization that helps young people give back around the world.  John journeyed to Peru to help a small community make a better life for its youth.  A long-time proponent of the Girl Effect, which says educating young women is essential to improving the situation in impoverished countries, John has parlayed that support into work on the Sacred Valley Project, where he’s helped build a school for young girls, teach them all those confusing equations, and give hope to people he’s never met.  I can’t think of too many things more inspiring than that.

In his stint in the Peruvian mountains, making lasting connections with people of all ages, John slept in tents during the cold nights.  He endured rain and snow and constant stomach issues.  He cared for others and he worked himself to fatigue.  But for John, that’s all worth it if it helps children get an education and a chance at a full life.

John Mauro makes sacrifices and never complains.  John Mauro is not a martyr.  He’s not looking to impress anyone.  He just wants to be a good person.  He has succeeded.

By the way, he also had his motorcycle shipped down to South America.  He’ll be riding it back—from Peru to Michigan—over the coming months.   He’s decided to take his own advice and stop to talk with as many people as he can and collect their stories.

As a writer, I know that my characters have qualities taken from the people around me.  It’s unavoidable.  Sometimes the jerk in line at the DMV gets himself rolled into a sadistic kidnapper, or a crabby old neighbor becomes a vampire, or something I overheard at the gym sparks an idea for a gruesome death.  My villains come from any number of places.  But I think all my heroes have a little piece of John Mauro in them.

You can find John’s blog about his trip to Peru and back here.
The Rosa Loves T-Shirts that John likes to wear are here.
Information on the Girl Effect can be found here.
The Rustic Pathways website has more information on their programs.
To learn more about the Sacred Valley Project, visit here.

And if you’d like to read a story that has a piece of John Mauro in it, check out Good Deeds.

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2
Aug

Mickey Spillane Did It Better

   Posted by: admin   in Musings

I’m asked the same question over and over: Why horror?

I’ve been creating stories for as long as I can remember.  I wrote my first story in the 4th grade for a sort of yearbook of creative writing.  My own story!  Using my own idea!  And in print!  I was thrilled!  A huge fan of Scooby-Doo at 9 years old, I knew right away that I’d be crafting the very best man-in-a-monster-suit mystery ever written.

The crime was solved after two pages of action, humor, and suspense, and my love of storytelling was born.  My next story took five pages to unmask the killer at the local Seven Eleven.  I’d set the scene, dropped the clues, and even thrown in a little bit of character development.  I bound it in a cardboard cover and drew a few illustrations.  I was a published author once more!  Mysteries were my ticket.

Middle school saw two more puzzlers, with a trio of pals for my detectives.  These were significantly longer at 50 pages or so.  Then high school brought a hard-boiled murder mystery influenced by the works of Mickey Spillane (my favorite author at the time, and still a fun read when I’m in the mood for some good booze, broads, and bullets.)  The cross-over to grownup fiction pushed my junior detectives aside.  I was now working toward a new detective series.  But the follow-up stories would get penciled cover art and nothing more.  Freshman year of college would take my writing in a new direction, and my tough-guy gumshoe would be forgotten.  Which is probably for the best.  Mickey Spillane did it better, anyway.

One Saturday night, some friends and I were driving aimlessly, as teenagers will often do, when someone mentioned the local legend of a glowing tombstone.  I’d never heard the tale, but according to our friend, a small cemetery stood on a secluded hill off one of the back roads just outside town.  If you stood on the road and looked up the hill, you would see one of the headstones glowing an eerie blue.  But when wandering between the graves, the glow disappeared, luring the curious to the graveyard but keeping the trickster hidden.

I was skeptical, but the calendar was nearing Halloween and we were 18 years old.  Any excuse to traipse through a cemetery in the dark of night sounded like a good idea.  We drove to the back of the old graveyard and damn if he wasn’t right!  A blue glow hovered at the top of the hill like a summoning beacon, but by the time we’d trudged up the long slope, the light had faded.

We thought we could figure out which stone was haunted by playing “warmer/colder,” but this was before everyone had a cell phone tucked into a pocket, and we couldn’t hear or see clearly enough from the bottom of the hill.  We never did figure out which of the dead was calling out to us.  But, of course, that was what made it a legend.

That night left me with the seed of a thought.  The seed grew over the next few days and became an idea: I could write a story about a glowing tombstone.  The action would start with a group of kids seeking out the local legend, except their search would uncover the proper stone…because this stone wanted to be found.  I sat down and wrote the first chapter.  Then another the next day.  And a third.  Soon I had nearly 50 pages of what would certainly become my first full-length novel.

That’s when it struck me.  I was more excited writing this story than I had been writing any of the mysteries.  I love reading mysteries and have a great respect for those who write them, but the plotting, the suspects, the placement of clues and red herrings…it was all so tedious.  I’d already had all the fun creating the story with my notes.  Not this time, though.  This time I didn’t know exactly where the story was headed.  I didn’t have a set cast of characters and I didn’t know who might live or die.  This story could take any turn I wanted.

Sure, it needed to follow some rules.  I couldn’t have demons pop out of cinnamon buns at the church bake sale.  But you see where I’m going with this, right?  I’d stumbled upon a different way of storytelling where I could have the excitement of inventing the story while I was writing it instead of before I wrote it.  The only limit was my imagination, and I’m a fairly odd duck so that wasn’t an issue.  For me, discovering the story is where the fun lies.  Mystery was out and horror was in.

That moonlit drive down a country road literally changed my life.  If I’d never made the switch from mysteries, the truth is I may not have continued to write.  The pages of that first unfinished novel are long gone, and I’m okay with that.  I was just finding my style.  The characters were clichéd, the prose was simplistic, the dialogue was laughable, and the setting was trite.

But the story is still a part of me.  And while I’m curious to see just what is buried in that grave, I don’t know that I’ll ever attempt to put the words back on paper.

When you find something and it’s flawed, but it shapes you for the better, should you go back and fix it?

 

If you also dig the occasional booze, broads, and bullets story, I invite you to check out Mickey Spillane if you haven’t already.

Or, you prefer a creepier tale, check out my new novel Good Deeds.

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20
Jul

Welcome!

   Posted by: admin   in Musings

Looking forward to a bright morning, a peaceful afternoon, a good night’s sleep, and the warm comfort of knowing all is right with the world?  Sorry. You’ll not find any of those things here.  Instead, you’ll find what disturbs you most.

Here, you can’t trust your own thoughts.  The ground below your feet may come to life.  A ravenous mother wants to feed you to her kin.  The townsfolk of a secluded village flicker in and out of existence.  A traveling sideshow invites you to be their next freak.  Voices of the dead whisper for you to join them.  And there’s no such thing as good luck.

Welcome to the mind of D. Miles Martin.