Monday, April 23, 2012

Burning Bridges: A Renegade Fiction Anthology

Julia Madeleine

K.A. Laity

Mark Cooper

Darren Sant

Allan Leverone

Paul D. Brazill

George S. Geisinger


Edith M. Maxwell

Benjamin Sobieck

Tace Baker

Joshua J. Mark

L. Vera

B.R. Stateham

Heath Lowrance

Coming May 1st and absolutely free on Kindle. Enjoy!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Getting the Toast - a metaphysical dog tale

My short story `Getting the Toast' published today by the flash fiction company Fiction Brigade. Inspired by the Max Ehrmann line from `Desiderata', "Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should," the story begins:

I’m in a park with tall trees and the sky is chrome-colored without any clouds. It feels like Autumn with a late-September brittle light edging the trunks of barren trees and highlighting the blades of gray grass – but there are buds on the trees and bird songs on the breeze and I realize I’m wrong and it’s not late September - it’s early April.

There’s a tall fountain in the center of the park – a white circle of stone with a tall obelisk rising from the center and, at the top, an angel of brilliant white marble. Water shoots from marble vines and grapes which entwine the obelisk and fall down in scintillating arcs to the pool below. In the chromium light of the day the water arcs look like scores of fragile nymphs, jumping delightedly from a great height to the pool below; one after another, repeatedly, in an endless line. Then, moving around the fountain to another angle, the jets of water appear as lifeless icicles, suspended under a blank sky, eternally empty and frozen in time...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Aegina Greece

The Island of Aegina has a fantastic past and an intriguing present. I was fortunate enough to spend some time on the island when I lived in Greece. The following is my article from Ancient History Encyclopedia `The Island Kingdom of Aegina'. If you're visiting Athens, and have the time, Aegina will definitely reward you in many, many ways. In ancient Greece it was known as an island of pleasure and Plato mentions it specifically, in that regard, in his dialogue of the `Phaedo'. While Aegina no longer boasts the kinds of pleasures it was known for in Plato's day, it still provides a visitor a magnificent experience.

The article begins:

Today, traveling an hour by ferry from Piraeus, the port of Athens, the first remnant of Aegina’s great past a visitor will see is the lonely pillar of Apollo rising from the trees on the hill of Kolona. Once a splendid complex of three buildings (the Temple of Apollo itself rose on eleven large pillars and six smaller ones) and a cemetery (in which a large collection of gold and jewelry was found in the tombs, now housed in the British Museum) the pillar of Apollo is all that remains. This seems a fitting symbol for the whole of Aegina’s history: the island which once boasted the best wine, a high standard of living and a naval fleet which rivaled that of Athens is, today, known as the leading producer of pistachio nuts in Greece.

The nymph Aegina was the daughter of the river-god Asopus in the land of Sicyonia. Zeus, the king of the gods, fell in love with her and, in the shape of a flame, carried her off to the island of Oenone. There she gave birth to Zeus’ son, Aeacus, who then re-named the island in honor of his mother. Aeacus, according to the writer Ovid, was famous throughout Greece for his justice and wisdom and the island kingdom of Aegina prospered under his rule. He is said to have helped build the walls around Troy which kept the Mycenaean force of Agamemnon at bay for ten years during the Trojan War and was so favored by the gods that his prayers were always answered. No less a figure than Alexander the Great claimed descent from Aeacus on his mother’s side and, once Aeacus had passed on to the afterlife, he was honored as one of the three judges of the dead along with Rhadamanthys and Minos.

The rest of the article may be viewed on Ancient History Encyclopedia here:

As they say in Greece, `Chonia Polla!' - "Many Years!" and I hope you enjoy the magic of Aegina in that span. Thanks, as always, for reading.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Pretty Blonde Girl With Bright Blue Eyes - my true love story

This is a true love story I wrote about the evening I first realized I was in love with my best friend. The story was first published last year by Pure Inspirational and grateful acknowledgement is made to Ms. Ivee Olivares, the Editor. You will find the link to the story here:

The story follows below in case the link doesn't work. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed living and writing it.

A Pretty Blonde Girl with Bright Blue Eyes
An Inspirational Love Story
by Joshua J. Mark
(Staatsburg, NY, USA)

An Inspirational Love Story

When it really hit me, I almost fainted.

Honestly. I was eighteen years old and, for the past year, had a crazy crush on this girl, Barbara, who lived an hour away, and was sure I loved her. I'd often talk about letters I'd gotten from her and phone calls with this friend of mine, Betsy, who lived about three miles down the road from me. Now, before I tell you about the "almost fainting" moment, you need a little information on this Betsy girl.

I became friends with Betsy Jacobs on a Sunday afternoon at a church picnic held at the Clinton Park when I was sixteen years old and she was fourteen. I had always known the girl existed; her older brother, Mark, and I were in Boy Scouts together and I had appeared in a play with her older sister, Karen. She had even gone trick-or-treating with my younger sister one year. Even so, I had never said a word to her until that day at the park.

Betsy was a pretty blonde girl with bright blue eyes and, that day, we ran races together and had a watermelon fight (for those who have not experienced the joys of the watermelon fight, the goal is to throw chunks of watermelon at each other for no apparent reason). She called me a few days later to ask me about some problems she was having with a boy and I asked her about things confusing me with my girlfriend and that call set the pattern for our friendship over the next few years. I would call Betsy up to talk about whatever was going on in my life (though mainly girl trouble) and she would call me to talk about what she was doing (and mainly guy trouble).

For two years we were friends this way and, in the fall of 1982, I was hopelessly hung up on Barbara and Betsy wasn't with anyone serious so the phone calls and talks were mostly one-sided laments on my part that Barbara lived so far away. Betsy and I, living so close, would hang out all the time and I'd play my guitar and Betsy would sing (she had a beautiful voice) or we'd just talk. She was a great friend. I always felt better just seeing her.

In December of 1982, December 30th, I spent the day riding around town with another friend of mine, Dan. We had lunch, met up with some other people, and finally landed at the home of Dan's girlfriend, Kira. Kira and Betsy were good friends and the four of us had recently performed together, singing and playing guitar, at an event at F.D.R. High School where we went.

Sitting in Kira's living room, the fire going, she got up off the couch and put a record on the stereo. It was an album by the group Supertramp and the three of us sat and talked for a while as the songs played soft and low and the room seemed to grow sleepy and mellow and our talk began to slow and then stopped as we just sat together and listened to the music. A song came on, the last one on the album's side, "Downstream", a slow, minor, piano-heavy tune, a love song, and I sat slumped in the black vinyl chair staring at the fire and listening to the singer's words about lasting love.

I was thinking about Barbara or, rather, I was trying to think about Barbara. It was a sensation sort of like when you're at a show, or a movie perhaps, and you're trying to see the stage or screen but there's someone in your way and, no matter how you shift from side to side, you just can't see around them. A tight feeling seized my mind just as though some metal clamps had sprung suddenly around the inside of my skull and I couldn't understand what I was thinking. I had the feeling that I should be thinking of Barbara as I listened to this song but that I wasn't. I was thinking of someone else. I was thinking of Betsy.

And that was when it hit me and I heard myself say in my head, "I'm not in love with Barbara. I'm in love with Betsy Jacobs!" I literally shot up out of the chair as though it had just shocked me and stood staring around the room stupidly as the song played on. Dan and Kira both looked at me and Dan said, "What? You ok?"

Kira giggled and asked, "What's the matter with you?"

I stared at them and, seriously, I was absolutely slack-jawed, mouth hanging wide open, and I wanted to say something but I didn't know what to say and, really, thought I was going to faint, so I dropped down into the chair, shook my head, and then stood up again, then sat, and then said, "I don't know. I just don't know. Yeah, I'm ok. What? Did you say something?"

Dan and Kira, sitting over there on the long black couch, were both laughing at me now and I shook my head quickly to clear it and said, "I have to go home. I have to call Betsy."

Kira said, "Oh, cool. You want to go to a movie? We'll all go see the new Pink Panther film. It's at the Juliet. It'll be fun."

And I was so grateful to that girl just then because I'd realized, right after I'd said I had to call Betsy, that I had no idea what I was going to say to her when she answered the phone. I mean, you can't really just call a girl up and say, "Hi. I just realized I'm in love with you," and have any hope she's just going to say it right back and you'll live happily ever after, right?

So Dan dropped me back at my house and, heart pounding, I walked to the kitchen and lifted the receiver of the phone - then hung it up quickly. I stood and stared at the yellow telephone there on the wall and thought how absolutely absurd this was. I was just going to be calling my old friend Betsy. I had called Betsy hundreds of times and I had never felt this way before. My palms were sweating and my mouth was dry and my heart was pounding inside my chest so loudly it seemed to be echoing in the room.

What if she didn't like me in that way? What if I told her I loved her and it just ruined our great friendship? She was one of my best friends, after all, maybe even my best. What was I thinking standing there staring at the phone about to make the biggest mistake of my life?

Still, I wet my lips, took a deep breath, and dialed her number.

That was twenty-nine years ago.

At the movie that night we held hands all through the show which, of course, we had never done before as friends. I didn't tell her I was in love with her over the phone. I thought I'd perhaps show how I felt while we were out on the date, sort of "ease" into telling her. The next day I wrote her a letter in which I didn't tell her either and the day after that I wrote her another just like it and so on and so on. It was almost a month after my almost-fainting moment that I actually said the words "I love you" to her and, by that time, she'd pretty much gotten the idea and, lucky for me, she loved me, too.

We went away to separate colleges and, on her 20th birthday, I surprised her by taking the bus to Binghamton University. I had to skip three days of classes to make the trip but I didn't care. I had told her I would be calling her on her birthday around four o'clock and once I landed in Vestal, near the University, I sat in a McDonalds in town reading a book on Greek Philosophy and hardly absorbing any of it as I kept looking up at the clock above the counter every five minutes. Finally, at four, I walked out and found a phone booth outside a store called Sugarman's which was right next to where she lived in the dorms. When she answered the phone she sounded sad.

"I miss you," she said. "I wish you were here."

"And, on your birthday, you should always get what you wish for. I'm standing in a phone booth outside of Sugarman's."

"Well, what are you doing over there?" she asked. "Get over here."

We hadn't seen each other in months and it was so wonderful to hold her again when we met there in the parking lot outside of her dorm.

She asked me, "But aren't you missing too many classes being here?"

"Twenty years from now," I said. "When we're married, I doubt I'll remember what I learned in class this week. But I'll always remember when I took the bus to surprise you on your twentieth birthday."

We got married after college in 1987 and, all these years later, I was right. I remember the bus ride, the phone call and the beginning of it all, the night I almost fainted in Kira's living room. And I remember the thousand things we've done together since that night and the thousand smiles she's given me and I am forever grateful for each phone call and for every moment I've been able to spend being in love with my best friend, the pretty blonde girl with bright blue eyes.