Sunday, January 29, 2012

`Listening To Writer's Block' by Joshua J. Mark on Lisa Taylor's Wonderful Blog

This is my short essay, `Listening To Writer's Block' on the writer Lisa Taylor's wonderful blog. I hope you like it.

About Lisa Taylor: Hello! I'm an author, and in my time as an author I've realized that there are thousands of authors out there that just don't get the attention they deserve. So I'm hosting this "Writer's Block Party" so you can get to know the people that create the stories we all love!

As writers, we all experience those moments when we feel we're doing it all alone. It's so comforting and rewarding to find other writers - like Lisa Taylor - who not only encourage and support other writers but go out of their way to let others know that they are not alone - that we're all in this game together. Thanks, Lisa!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Heroes by B.R. Stateham

`Heroes' is a fine short essay by the diverse writer B.R. Stateham. Working in the genres of Crime, Noir, Adventure, and beyond, Stateham is well qualified to comment on the role of the hero in our lives. He does so here eloquently. Enjoy.

Heroes. We all need them. In a world filled with bad guys, bad times, and bad memories, heroes are the one set of safety pins that keep us all from going irretrievably insane.

But what about our heroes? Do we really want the caped figures of a Batman or a Superman? Heroes of unimaginable super powers and incredible durability? Figures born out of our fantasies? Sure, we all wish we could be incredibly strong. Even invincible. Along comes a fictional hero like a Superman or a Batman and we flock to their movies, buy their comics, dream in the those most private moments we occasionally have about one day turning ourselves into a hero of mythological proportions.

But in truth, deep down in all of us, we are searching for a hero . . . or heroes . . . whom we know are all too human. They're like us. They have their strengths. They have their weaknesses. They do good. And sometimes . . . sometimes they make really terrible mistakes. They are people like us who, for one reason or another, are forced to stand up and face the ravages of an insane world. Who are forced to fight back the terrors of the night.

Two of my characters are genuine heroes. Cops. Homicide detectives. Turner Hahn and Frank Morales. One, by accident of birth, grows up to look remarkably like a long dead movie actor. And who . . . again by accident of birth . . . after years working as a cop and suffering through a failed marriage, suddenly discoverers he has inherited a fortune and becomes insanely wealthy. Yet, for all the money he now suddenly has at his command, and despite of his movie star like good looks (which he definitely does not see as an asset) he remains a cop. He goes to work every day. Chases the crazies, the insane, the murderous psychopaths - every day. He sees the pain, the hardships, and the personal and private losses of those who become the victims of crime.

The second cop is totally different. Through the travesties of birth and DNA he's born without the good looks. Just the opposite. As an adult he becomes the photo-image of a modern day Neanderthal. A red haired, hulking giant with no neck and hands as wide as bulldozer blades. Looks would suggest he would be as dumb as a rock. The reality is the guy has an IQ possibly four digits long. He's married, has kids . . . lives in suburbia. But first and foremost he's a cop. And, like his partner, he gets up every day and goes to work and faces the dangers, the boredom, and the arcane with an equal amount of commitment to protect the innocent and hunt down the bad guys.

Turner Hahn and Frank Morales. Heroes.

God knows we need a couple of people like this to help us retain a little sanity in our lives.

Joshua J. Mark on B.R. Stateham's excellent blog

My piece on Crime/Noir Writer B.R. Stateham's blog. He did an excellent job setting it up and it's a great blog. Enjoy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Michael Tabman - Where Have All Our Children Gone?

Where Have All Our Children Gone? Murdered, Missing or Bullied to DeathIn Crime and Security on December 29, 2011 at 9:30 pm
Where Have All Our Children Gone?

A few weeks ago, I was honored to be the guest speaker at OpieFest, an event named after Jesse Ross, a student who disappeared five years ago. OpieFest brings together families of missing loved ones and keeps this tragic issue in the public eye. The number of people who have family members missing and/or presumed dead is staggering and distressing.
This year, we heard of several cases of children who are missing or were brutally murdered. We also heard of other children who were bullied to the point of suicide. Let’s not forget how many other cases of such tragedies we did not hear about.
What does this tell us about the state of our society? While we fight terrorists, thugs and sometimes ourselves in the name of protection and self-preservation, have we forgotten what’s really important? Our most cherished assets seem to have no protection at all.
After a tragedy occurs, we usually respond with new laws and aggressive enforcement actions. We should write laws that hopefully deter and punish criminal conduct. After the Casey Anthony trial, there was buzz about creating legislation known as Caylee’s Law – which would require a parent to report a missing child. This is an excellent idea that I hope reaches fruition.
But the sad reality is that all the laws in the world will not stop a parent from “snapping” or a degenerate from molesting; nor have laws stopped murderers from killing and we will never stop children from bullying. So what do we do?
We keep alert and stay engaged with our kids, family, friends and neighbors. We should follow the mantra for our war on terrorism, “If you see something, say something.” Learn the warning signs of a parent who is experiencing extreme stress. Talk to your kids and understand the signs of depression and bullying. Open a dialog with their teachers. Watch for the same warning signs in your kids’ friends, neighbors, nieces, nephews and grandchildren. If you suspect something is wrong – take action. Talk and listen. If necessary, make a referral to the appropriate public agency. Most importantly, never assume that your friend or family member could “never do something like that.”
For every child who has been molested, murdered or disappeared, they were victimized by someone who was trusted to “never do something like that.”
Remember, “Evil prospers when good men do nothing.”

Michael Tabman was born and raised in New York City. He graduated from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in Manhattan, NY. After serving as a police officer for three years with the Fairfax County VA police department on patrol, in plain clothes and as a hostage negotiator, he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Michael investigated crimes ranging from white collar to bank robberies, organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering during his 24 years with the FBI.
His professional travels took him to Israel, Russia, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, rising to the level of Special Agent in Charge. After retiring, Michael founded and still works at SPIRIT Asset Protection, LLC as a security and risk management consultant and public speaker.
Michael is the author of three books, Walking the Corporate Beat: Police School for Business People as well as crime novels, Midnight Sin and Bad Intent.
Michael has a Crime and Security Blog and he can be followed on Twitter or Facebook.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Review of Abby Luby's novel Nuclear Romance. A Great Book.

Abby Luby's novel Nuclear Romance defines the phrase `a haunting book'. The story will stay with you long after you finish it. A gripping story, well told, the novel takes the reader on a journey through a subject which, honestly, most of us would rather not think about: the very real dangers posed by nuclear power plants. Highly recommended. Beautiful prose and engaging characters draw the reader into the story quickly and keep one reading straight through to the end. Here is a brief excerpt:

"The deep pool of water is still. An aqua glow emanates from the bottom, where a jungle of steel racks and metal hardware are submerged like a sunken ship in a remote corner of the sea. Forty feet down and under the weight of thousands of gallons of water, the racks are illuminated by glinty points of light that pierce the water and bounce off long, thin tubular pipes. Inside these brassy vessels are the skeletons of atomic fission, parts that once moved in an unwieldy dance of atoms building to a feverish rhythm, then to a burning heat. Heat that bears an endless energy. Now these submerged bundles of long, thin, gold-colored pipes are filled with used, irradiated fuel, fuel that still holds a raging heat to be slowly cooled in the watery tomb. Somewhere under the pool are layers of bedrock. While solid to the touch, this stratum of the earth’s crust shifts at random, subject to a geological whim every now and then. One early spring day the bedrock layers yielded to a subtle heave and quaked slightly. Hairline cracks developed, sending fractured tendrils along arbitrary paths of least resistance, tiny tunnels that would carry water laced with toxic radioactive isotopes out to the world." - Nuclear Romance by Abby Luby, Armory New Media. Kindle Edition (Kindle Locations 791-800).

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Alone Now In The Darkness on YouTube

This is my song, `Alone Now In The Darkness', posted on YouTube with video by my daughter, Emily R. Mark.

Kevin Helmick's Blog & Shakespeare Was A Genre Writer

The Write Room: Shakespeare Was A Genre Writer- Guest Blog with Professor and author Joshua J. Mark on writing.

This is my piece on Kevin Helmick's blog The Write Room. It's a great blog. Check it out. There's all sorts of fun things on there.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Ghostly Walker Experience from October 2008

This experience is from 15 October 2008 and is taken directly from the notes I wrote that night which I then sent in an e-mail to a friend. Before the walking sounds started across the lawn there was zero `spooky' feeling to the night and there was a nice, even, energy all around. This is what sparked the panic I felt when the experience went on. Often, though not always, when a spirit is around or about to appear, I feel a fluctuation in energy from high or `normal' to low. With this experience, however, there was nothing. Enjoy...

I was just out back on the deck having last cigarette of the night when I hear someone coming across the lawn, out of the dark, coming from the north side of the property which is in darkness. I had the back light on so I should have seen, in time, a human with a body entering my yard and coming toward me - but there was no one - There WAS, however, the same sound of feet trodding down cold grass on the ground. The sound of the feet came closer and then passed me by and, as they did, I felt colder and a shiver did cartwheels up my spine to lodge at the base of my skull and splinter into spider legs which then ran crazily around the back of my head. I `watched' the invisible entity, still making the sounds in the grass of someone walking, until the invisible human passed onto my neighbor's property to the south of me and continued on. I called out, "Hey! Hey! You someone I know? You have something to say to me?" But the footsteps just continued on until I heard them no more. I think I pretty much chugged the rest of the cigarette and came inside.

I believe that this experience falls under the category of seeing (or in this case hearing) the past. I know there's an `official' name for this sort of experience but I can't remember it now. When I was in San Antonio this one time I was talking to one of the Alamo Rangers early in the morning. I always got to the Alamo before sunrise so I could see the sun hit the cenotaph out front. She told me that she never went into the Alamo anymore after she'd started her shift and checked everything because, one early morning, she'd gone in, walked a ways down the hall, and then heard a sound behind her. Turning, she saw a man, dressed circa 1836, run from the front room to her left across the hall to the room on the right. He seemed to be holding something like a barrel. As the munitions for the Alamo defenders were stored in the left room it seems likely she was seeing an apparition repeating his actions of the siege of 23 February to 6 March 1836. I think this guy walking across my back yard was a similar thing where whoever it was continued walking the path he used to. My house was once part of a farm and the house to my north and south was also part of the property. In physics, you know, there is that phenomenon of Tachyons - energy after-images - and perhaps these sorts of entities are simply Tachyons. Who knows, though.

Black Rose - A Ghost Story

Black Rose published through Infective Ink

December 20th: Ghost Stories Black Rose, by Joshua J. Mark

Sarah Bain ran stumbling between the stones of Old Calton Hill cemetery. All she could hear in her head was her own rasping breath. Tripping over the edge of a stone, she fell forward heavily on the wet grass, scrambled up, ran on.
The cemetery hadn’t seemed so scary when she’d walked in. Now, every time she ran toward a gate it was choked with whirling ghosts and, all around her, they darted and sped.
She paused, trying to catch her breath. From between and behind and beside the rows of cold stones, silver-white under the high moon, they slithered from the earth into the pale night air and sank again back down. Formless shapes of greenish-white, some a faint blue, they sailed through the graveyard.
Sarah trembled, wiping quickly at her eyes. She hadn’t realized she’d been crying. Every where she looked they rose and fell silently and, she suddenly realized, seemed oblivious to her presence. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, watching the darting apparitions. As her head began to clear, she glanced over at the far gate in the wall and saw her chance to escape. There were none of the greenish-white spirits dancing near it now but it seemed so far away.
It was supposed to be so simple. Just return the necklace. But nothing in her life lately was simple so why should this be? She’d found the silver necklace on a class trip the week before, in the grass near a stone in the cemetery, and picked it up. Since then, nothing but bad luck and dark dreams had followed her. There was a girl at school, Rebecca Pender, whom everyone said could see and knew about ghosts, so she’d asked her friend James Gardener to introduce them.
After she’d explained picking up the necklace in the graveyard and then her recent break up with her boyfriend, her slip on the back deck which bruised her hip, losing the keys to her house, and the horrible dreams of the woman in black glaring at her, Rebecca had sat back in the chair in the cafeteria and shook her head. She leaned forward then and, unsmiling, spoke to Sarah like a teacher scolding an errant student.
“Ok, rule one in dealing with the dead: Don’t take their stuff. If you find a diamond in a graveyard, you leave it where you saw it.”
“Would’ve liked to’ve heard that bit earlier.”
“It needs to go back,” Rebecca told her.
The problem was, first, she honestly couldn’t remember which stone she had picked it up from and, second, she wished she hadn’t come back to do this alone when James had offered to help. She’d never felt so scared. She didn’t think she could move. There seemed no escaping from anything.
Now, as she watched, the apparitions began to assume human form and shape. She stared as they moved slowly through the rows of stones, ignoring the far gate, heading down the stone steps of the gate to the Edinburgh streets or, some, just standing and gazing silently.
Sarah stepped quietly back toward the wall behind her and began slowly moving toward the gate on her far right. The shadows of the wall moved thickly with darker shapes and she felt cold and then colder and then, before her, a woman’s face, pearl-white, staring.
Stumbling, Sarah fell backwards across the grass. The woman seemed to grow to an extraordinary height, staring down at her. She wore a long, dark dress and held out her right hand toward the trembling girl.
Instantly, Sarah’s fingers went to the necklace at her throat. She wanted to give it to the woman but, somehow, couldn’t seem to move. The woman’s face grew dark and her eyes narrowed. Sarah pushed herself up onto her knees and, trembling, tried to slip the clasp.
The ghost glared down at her silently.
Sarah’s fingers fumbled with the clasp and suddenly she felt a searing pain. The chain tightened around her throat and then tightened again. Sarah clawed at her neck but the chain only drew tighter and then tighter and she heard what sounded like laughing above her as the cemetery began to fade to black and, from far away, she heard a shout and then a sound like horse’s hooves running and then there was nothing.
She opened her eyes and breathed, then coughed, sitting up. On one side of her knelt Rebecca and, on the other, James.
“You’re all right,” Rebecca said.
“What happened?” James asked.
“It was horrible. Did you not see her?”
“See who?” Rebecca said. “You were passed out when we found you.”
“There was a woman all in black. A spirit. She was terrible. I couldn’t breathe.”
“Black Rose?” James asked Rebecca.
“Sounds like.”
“Black Rose,” Rebecca said. “People say it’s just a story but it’s not. In eighteen-twenty-five, Rose Campbell was strangled with a necklace her husband claimed he’d never seen before. The killer was never caught. They say she comes back on the anniversary of her death to look for him. She’s always in black. The necklace you took must’ve been hers. Drew her to you.”
“I want rid of it,” Sarah said, slipping the clasp quickly and handing the necklace to Rebecca.
“Let me help you up, Lass,” James said. “We’ll get you something warm for to drink.”
“Thanks,” Sarah said.
She watched as Rebecca, walking slowly, scanned the stones in the nearest row.
“Come here.”
Sarah, trembling, made herself move. The cemetery was silent and empty now save for the three of them. She stood next to Rebecca and read the stone.
“Rose Campbell. Eighteen-O-Five to Eighteen-Twenty-Five. Blessed Are The Dead That Die In The Lord.”
“She wasn’t much older than we are,” Rebecca said. “Here,” she said, handing the necklace to Sarah. “You took it. You put it back.”
Sarah fell to her knees in front of the stone, pulling at the wet grass and earth with her fingers, and buried the necklace, pounding the ground back down. She was shaking badly and started to cry. Rebecca pushed a large, flat stone over the spot where the necklace was buried.
“That’ll keep it safe.”
Standing up, Sarah saw Black Rose on the other side of the stone gazing steadily at her – and then slowly fading away. The breeze blew suddenly sharply from the north, then, whispering through the silent cemetery.
Sarah reached out and touched the worn stone. Then, turning away, she cried, softly. “Get me out of here.”

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Benjamin Sobieck Crime Writer Web Page

This is the web page of the crime writer Benjamin Sobieck who was kind enough to review my reading of The Girl from Yesterday. Check it out and enjoy a roam through his books and blog. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The haunted inn nearby

It's hilarious the number of stories - even from strangers and relative strangers - I've heard concerning this restaurant/inn near where I live. I don't know if they'd appreciate the PR of having their name mentioned so I'll just reference it, for now, as The Haunted Inn. Next time I'm around there I'll ask if I can blog their actual name. Anyone in the area around where I live, I'm sure, will know exactly the place I'm talking about though. So, I've only had this one experience there: I was out walking with Dog (whose actual name is Sophia but she prefers `Dog') on the road near the inn. We were on one of our ruin-exploration walks at this place just down from there. We were coming up the road, mid-morning, and on the front lawn there was this woman who waved to us. Dog perked up with her hackles going and growled. I waved back - and the woman just vanished. Then I got that cold, creepy feeling running all up the back of my neck and the top of my head. There was nothing `spooky' looking about this woman. She looked just like anyone with a body. My favorite stories of the place come from a woman I used to know named Jill who worked there as a waitress. My personal favorite: Jill is in the dining room of the inn, walks into the kitchen to pick up an order, and is asked by the Chef to please bring him something from the pantry. She goes into the pantry where a woman in a state of high anxiety starts screaming at her about the noise, how the place is too loud, and then chases her around the pantry room. Jill runs out and yells, "Who's the crazy bitch in the pantry?" And the Chef says, "Gotta be you, Babe." Of course, there was no other woman in the pantry when the door was opened.

Staff, guests, people who visited guests, a guy who walked his dog on the grounds, all, at one time or another, have told me some strange story about the place. Another Jill story goes like this: She had just started working there, went into the kitchen with a short stack of plates, handed them to a guy who was standing there who looked like a dishwasher and said, "Could you take care of these for me?" and put them in his hands. She turned and heard an enormous crash as the plates all fell to the floor and broke. There was no `dishwasher' standing there and she had to pay for the broken plates. No one else in the kitchen saw anyone standing there but they all believed someone had been. They had all seen their share of similar figures about the place. A guy, John, I ran into once when I was out with Dog, stayed there overnight for a wedding and had someone without a body - but vaguely visible in outline and a little detail - going in and out of his bathroom all night - and this included `ghostly' toilet flushing. Can't imagine what that was about. A guy I talked to who walked his dog there reported two women coming out of the trees who grew fainter and fainter as they came toward him and then just vanished. Lots of stories surround the Haunted Inn but, for me, you just can't beat the Jill stories. Always does make one wonder what the ghosts are up to the rest of the time when they're not scaring the crap out of people.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Rainbow's End - flash fiction of 100 words in River Lit

Here's my flash fiction piece `Rainbow's End' published through River Lit today. Hope you like it. It's not a ghost story in the traditional sense but it does have to do with `haunting'. Those things which we call our `memories' can be potent prods in our present life. The past is never forgotten and so the only question is, really, what do you do with it? With an experience like what this narrator relates, would you let that experience control you or do you control it? Or do you feel we even have a choice in this? How much control do we, really, have over how much our past dictates our present choices?

Ghost experience from back in May

Having mentioned yesterday about the weird spiritual trip back in May, I thought you might want an example of what I was talking about. Here you go:

And so we come to yesterday, 18 May, Wednesday. I worked on writing all day and then sent some of the Scotland ghost stories to Kayla and Mia. Around 3:20 I went out with Dog and decided we'd take the `ruin path' since I hadn't been on it since Saturday with Betsy when we'd met the invisible woman Tillie sent to say `hello'. Since I was sure the woods would be haunted by something or other I hoped maybe I'd run into the good energy again and not the invisible giants or the unwelcoming spirits. We got out of the car and headed up the hill. The rain had stopped and it was sunny out and warm and Dog was sniffing and tail-wagging and enjoying life. We walked past the ruin on our left and started down the hill and Dog suddenly jumped where she was standing as though she'd just stepped on something sharp and turned around quickly. I was feeling a sudden, rising panic. Dog gestured with her head like, "Let's go back" but I just stood there staring at her. It was weird, man. It was like I couldn't quite process what was happening. Dog started back up the path, fast, and that shook me out of the stupor and I followed her and, right behind us, was this sound like feet, heavy, in the leaves, directly behind us and gaining and we ran like hell out of there. The feet stopped once we were past the ruin and a little ways down the hill. Notes on this read, "Get chased out of woods by spook with Dog. Scary as hell. Not going back for awhile." Once out of the woods I just walked around the triangle area with Dog while she ate some grass to calm down. I called Betsy at work to tell her about getting chased out of the woods and the weird panic and the foot-falls. It was really bright out now, like a whole other day from the persistent rain of the week, and Dog and I walked around the triangle area for awhile and then came home.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Musings on Ghosts

Back in May I had this really strange experience - which was shared by my wife, my dog, and, separately, by a friend of mine - where, for two weeks, every day, some strange `paranormal’ scene would go on. It mostly manifested itself in the woods near our house. Here’s a brief excerpt from a narrative I wrote about it:
There’s this line from the film `Ghost’, early on, when Demi Moore goes to the police station to report the murder. This lady cop says to her something like, “So you’re telling me there are these invisible people around us all the time watching what we do?” and Moore nods and the Cop says, “Well, I’m never taking off my clothes again.” And I wonder about that. Are there invisible people around us all the time and we’re only occasionally aware of it? Quite obviously spirits can make themselves felt or seen or heard so why not not felt, not seen, not heard? If there’s one thing I absolutely know about the land of the dead it’s that it is not `up’ and it is not `down’ - it’s right next to this plane of reality. The Mesopotamians understood this and one can see it on certain stele and engravings - the souls of the dead are not below the living but beside them. Sure, there’s always been the concept of the gods above, humans here, dead below scene but, along side this, the idea of the dead being next to the living. The Mesopotamian afterlife was really dismal - the dead ate dust and drank from stagnant pools - but a proper burial and respectful remembrance were supposed to keep the dead where they belonged and, further, give the living hope that their deceased loved one was living on a higher tier than the dust-eating and puddle-drinking. And this belief continued on, with some modifications, through Egypt and Greece and Rome until the coming of Christianity and the creation of a `heaven’ and a `hell’. So with this long-standing belief in a `land of the dead’, and the proper precautions to take to keep the dead where they belong, one would think the dead would just hang out in their own place. But they don’t. I’ve come to understand this along the same lines as I feel about my own house and Staatsburg and the earth in general: it’s a great place - who wouldn’t want to come back? But I guess I just don’t understand the `why’ and the `how’ of the return and I definitely don’t understand why they can’t make themselves clearer in their intentions. Or is it just that we think they have intentions when they don’t always? I wonder, if that older couple I saw out there in the woods were two spirits, were they back on earth for any reason other than to take a walk where they once did? Isn’t that something Betsy and I would do? And so, again, I think of that lady cop’s line from `Ghost’ and I wonder if we’re ever really alone. Dog and I haven’t been alone in the woods this whole past week and the week before and I’ve known it; I wonder about all the times I’ve been out there, though, and have not known it.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Joshua J. Mark

The Girl From Yesterday - A novel read by author Joshua J. Mark

My paranormal YA novel, `The Girl From Yesterday', coming out soon through Trestle Press. This is just me reading the first four pages. Hope you like it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Joshua J. Mark
Rebecca Pender has never been to the small, haunted village of Galen's Mills before in her life - or has she? Sent to live with her father in upstate New York, following her parent's divorce, Rebecca can't help feeling she's seen the village before. Her feelings intensify after she visits the ruined mansion on the hill and the, even more, after she meets the strange girl, Clarice, with the faraway accent and the odd mannerisms. Rebecca begins to think she's going crazy as she increasingly remembers events she knows she never lived through. In her determination to discover what's going on in Galen's Mills, and to find out the true identity of Clarice, Rebecca uncovers the mystery of the girl from yesterday.

This is my Young Adult novel coming out soon through Trestle Press in 2012. I'm only reading the first four pages here. Hope you like it. Thanks for checking it out.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Two of my songs on Pure Volume

Two of my songs, `Secrets That You Knew' and `Down In That River' on Pure Volume. Hope you like them.