RESET RECOGNIZED BY STATE REP.

I came home from the December 17th book signing in Marion to a strange surprise.

I deposited the box of remaining unsold books on the kitchen table, and Karen handed me a folded white card. I saw that it was from one of our state representatives. I waved it toward the bag for paper trash, and stepped in that direction. 

She put her hands on her narrow hips and said, “You might want to read it.”

Steve Mann and I had been venting earlier in the day about the government getting itself almost to the point of shutting down, yet again. What a confused bunch. I was mad at the whole big batch of politicians. Let ’em shut ‘er down, let us watch ’em go, then let us lock the doors behind them. Watch us replace the lot with a whole new crew that can get the f**k along.

What did I want with a card from one of them?

I was mad because, as far as I could tell, WOW, they had given themselves leave to go home for the holidays, but they hadn’t been the sort of good old boys and girls who deserved a merry anything–Hadn’t been for some years now. Two more months to live, say the doctors. But there was all probability that they would be back to their arguing and posing as soon as they were back in position.

Although, I guess we could just limp along two months at a time until the world ends next December?????????

I opened the card, noting that it was from Phil Potvin. I remembered him from when he came to one of the Leroy Township Planning Commission meetings to introduce himself to the commission members. His family owned the big concrete business up in Cadillac.

It said . . .

“Dear Brian,

Congratulations on your new book, RESET by Marian Evans.  Using illustrations by local artist Steve Mann only adds to your book.  Nice job.                                                                                       Merry Christmas, Rep Phil Potvin”

Well I sure never expected that.

I paperclipped the card into my RESET notebook.

I do appreciate the card, and I do hope he actually gets the book and reads it. And what the heck, Season’s Greetings and best wishes in the New Year to Phil and all the other representatives, Senators, Congressmen, Republicans, Democrats and all.  Okay, now get in there and fix it, thank you very much. Brian

Do I Believe In Ghosts! Part Four

A story for the season—Please share this

Olive Brown’s Christmas Cold by Brian Cool

Behind him, beyond the poplars, beyond the ditch where his bicycle lay hidden, distant traffic rolled implacably along. He lurched a bit clumsily down the brushy bank, but kept his balance at the bottom where it leveled off—having judged the descent right, hadn’t slipped again—and it brought a crooked grin to his crooked face.

The smile was short-lived though, overshadowed by the pain burning up the right side of his neck and jaw, and in the sad excuse for a right hand he’d been born with. He paused amongst the reeds for a moment, and looked at the two-and-a-quarter fingers and stub of a palm, to see that the skin was a deep pink, turning red—was scuffed, but wouldn’t bleed. The cheek though, he wasn’t so sure about.

He brought his foreshortened paw up to feel the side of his face, and thought he might be safe from scabbing there as well, but only because of the scattered black whiskers he’d managed to coax from scarred, but otherwise boyish features. He’d have to look in a mirror to be sure. For the moment it was flame on frostbite, ice on fire, as he pressed the cheek harder. He looked out over the half frozen-pond for a moment as he brought his ‘good’ hand up to cup the other, which served to soothe both wounds as much as he could hope for.

With the pain subdued, he pulled his jacket sleeves down a bit and squared his shoulders with a shake. He wasn’t the type to talk aloud to himself, and he thought so, even as he said, “wear smarter shoes next time you g’looking for ghosts, dumbass.”

He looked around. There was no one to hear him. He pulled the sleeves down further as he muttered, “and gloves’ud be nice.”

The place really wasn’t much of a lake after all. The mill pond in town was bigger. It was nice though, in a neglected and disconnected sort of way.

‘Old Nigger Brown’ had lived close by—he and his family. The shallow pond was named for him, Nigger Brown Lake. This was where the old man had settled when he’d come north after the great emancipation, where he’d built a hearth and homestead. Olive Brown was the last of his descendents on record around these parts. Where she ever disappeared to, more than a century ago, remained a mystery.

As for the actual house, his reason for being here, there were two likely looking spots on opposite sides of the pond, where they might have built. From where he stood, it was hard to tell. All physical trace would be reduced to little more than a disturbed bit of ground. Still, he was hopeful that he wouldn’t leave here empty-handed.

He’d developed the odd hobby of collecting curious relics from abandoned old places around the outskirts of town. On a high shelf in his bedroom at home were displayed the treasures he’d prospected over the years, such things as might survive the decades, and somehow lay hidden in a corner until he came along with a particular talent for finding them.

A part of him knew this would be the last time . . . or at least the last in this manner. He’d soon be an adult, and he sensed that traipsing around other people’s land became trespassing on that day. That acquiring cast-off curios, became stealing. That following the faded whisper of ghosts, became the stuff psychiatrists hear for a living. Maybe he’d pursue a career in archaeology, or take up professional treasure hunting.

Did he really believe that the old ghosts, left behind at such places as these, led him to find the things he took away? It was only a notion, and it always occurred after the fact of the finding. Until this time. Here he had come with the express purpose of keeping it foremost in his mind, to consciously channel whatever wisps of energy might still inhabit the place.

He had no hope of finding such things as mason jars full of old coins. Mr. Brown would have been lucky to have two spare fifty-cent pieces to rub together.

He took a few more steps toward the water, noting the soggier ground ahead. Here he had to part the bushes, and there he had to hoist his lame leg over what the locals everywhere called nigger-heads, affectionately of course, for their singular use to mankind as mini-islands—barely big enough to fit one’s two feet upon, above the surrounding mire. They were usually scattered around the water’s edge in dense enough population to enable easy leaping from one to another.

He just wanted to get a look at his cheek in the spot of open water paces away, but not badly enough to warrant wet feet for the duration of this adventure. He was heading for the fallen remains of a giant pine tree from older days, that had grown up along the higher bank that marked the original shoreline. It had been there since before the days when these lands saw the first whites, stood there during the days of ‘history’ that started when the whites came. Stood through the cutting of his fellows, and the turning of the land to the plow, and the sale of this piece to a man of brown.

A brown man, a tik a tak, a man of black, named Brown. Ol’ Nigga Brown.

The question flashed through the young man’s mind, “how had they treated him—a black amongst all these nice white folks?” (Folks who, up until 50 or 60 years ago, kept even their own kind segregated, “Sveeds stay over here, Yermins over dare.”) The question was close to the core of his being, a place developed in semi-darkness, where only other people were born normal, or close enough to fake it.

He stepped up onto the old log, left foot first, and hoisted the other leg up 

He looked forward with mixed feelings to the upcoming series of operations, which promised to help him walk easier. The others had been done with the same hope, hope for balance. Some had worked—some not so much. He often thought that people looked on him as a lop-sided retard—he hung out with the crazies didn’t he, and looked like one, must be one too.

The log extended out into the water, where it was lost beneath the silvered surface, as if disappearing into the December-gray sky reflected there.

He advanced out to where he could kneel over the vast mirror, to inspect the place on his face that had slid down the bark of the oak tree. He’d slipped on one of the patches of snow from two nights prior. The problem was, that he’d instinctively reached out to grab the tree to keep himself from falling, but it was with his phantom arm and hand, that appeared sometimes to fool him, usually when he needed it most.

He inched outward to where he could kneel.

On his knees on the cold damp log, over the murky water, he looked down into the eyes and face of another.

He jerked his head up in alarm—might have pushed himself up to stand, had he been on sturdy ground. He quickly put his mind in order enough to realize that he couldn’t have seen what he thought he’d seen—a woman staring up from under the water. A young black woman.

He knelt forward again, turning his sore cheek down, but again was inclined to jerk his head away—this time at a muffled snapping sound in the brush behind him.

But there was nothing there. No one lurking. None of the nearby trees were big enough to hide behind, none even half the size of the monster on which he still knelt. Maybe a deer had broke from cover into the pines up the bank to the southeast. He’d just missed seeing it.

He bent forward a third time, slowly though, ready for anything, remembering the auspices under which he’d planned to conduct this whole affair. The woman’s head came into view again, as if coming out from under the log. Her dark brow furrowed with indecision, her thick lips pursed with apprehension, as she stared into his eyes with determination and expectancy. 

Her hair peeked impertinently out from under an old red rag, which she reached up to peel off her head. Dark ringlets fell and sprang away with a life of their own as she lightly tossed her head forth and back. The hand with the bandana dropped back below the log.

He thought she was pretty, which was his usual cue to lower his gaze, as if he thought that she might think he wasn’t good enough to look upon her, from a body so wrought with . . . physical anomalies. But they stared into each other’s eyes, and he forgot himself as he began to remember his true self. He absorbed her, as she absorbed him, in a mutual gaze of understanding that cut through time, and across space. 

He leaned closer, as did she. He put out his right arm to the water, where he encountered a hard glass-like surface that separated them. He saw his phantom hand splayed across a cold wet window. He pushed slightly, knowing it couldn’t be ice—he’d just seen a brown leaf boating the surface, driven by the lightest of breezes, leaving a tiny wake behind. 

She held his gaze as a caged animal might. She brought her right hand up to his, and pushed back. She smiled when she felt the warmth of his hand, a mix of emotions filling her eyes.

Her touch was cold, and it tingled, but he kept his hand pressed to hers.

She’d been raped. She’d had a baby. She’d been murdered. He pulled his hand away when the images became too horrifying to watch. She held her hand fast though, reassuring him, but also commanding him, with her eyes. 

He soon slapped his hand back down. But he tried to ask her, without speaking, to be easy on him. After all, he’d never hurt anyone—a fact she already knew. 

Her painful story was over though, and it wasn’t that she wanted to ask him for a favor from the grave—some sort of bloodline vengeance, five generations removed. She said that she was giving him a gift, that she’d lain too long beneath the waters of this pool, feeding on her anger, that had fed in turn, on her.

She said she’d followed him last Halloween, towards dusk as he conducted one of his dreary forays. That was the day he remembered finding the rusty old ‘eight lever’ lock, just as the day’s last light was fading. 

He didn’t normally work with a flashlight, but having found the lock, he was inspired to look for a key. He dug through the debris in each dusty corner of the attic, careful not to fall through the rotted floorboards, careful to keep the beam of his penlight down, away from the cracks in the walls of the old shack, but the search was in vain.

She’d watched him, pondered over him, not seeing his deformities, being herself a phantom. She saw only his spirit. But she could feel his wounds, every operation. And in him, she felt the heart of a kindred soul, kindred in their minority, and in being looked down on from a higher place, by a higher society. 

A hundred years, even though sustained on the ectoplasm of anger and frustration, had given her a sort of wisdom that comes from the long perspective. 

It had taken but a light touch on the boy’s shoulder for her to call him to her father’s pond. And eventually he came. 

She’d been making ready.

She came to realize that it was ultimately her own choice now to stay, or to go, but it must be soon. She’d come to see her lonely existence as a bitter curse, and it had begun to eat away at her in the way an apple is eaten by the worm. By the time you know, the core is gone and the fruit collapses in on itself and dissolves into the earth.

She was slowly fading away from the force of life, but she thought she could do just one more thing, if she would. So, she bundled up the bits and scraps of good still within her; motes of joy and abandon, wisps of curiosity, pebbles of discipline, gems of understanding—a surprisingly large collection when she’d balled it all together.

When he came, she would be ready, but would he?

She’d come to the pond one day late in the year, to get water for the mule, pail at the end of one strong arm, baby cradled in the other. She followed the trail around, humming as she went, until she came to the old mound, which her father had always said “wuz de grave of a ol’ injin chief.” 

She sat the child down at the top of the weedy bank, where he would bawl for her, as usual, till she came back with the sloshing pail to scoop him up again. 

The wind cut at her cheeks, and she pulled the ragged quilt closer about her. Her feet were wet where there were holes in her boots. She passed close by the giant old pine, but not close enough to see the fiend hidden there behind. She stepped out onto the stones at the water’s edge. 

The fiend peered out from his cover and saw the swaddled child first—a beautiful boy, almost the color of his father, paler than his mother, but not white enough. He took a fresh hold on the rock in his hand as he stepped swiftly around the tree. The wind and the sound of crying would serve him well. 

Olive thought that she heard the sound of something approaching from behind, but decided that it was just the boy, fussing overmuch—-

Distant memories such as these would haunt him now, would become a living legacy to the dead, and would give him something to carry home from this spot that, though they couldn’t set on a shelf, would fit nicely in the palm of his phantom right hand.

These few flashes were byproducts of the gift she had given him. He would eventually come to live with the memories, just as he would come to treasure the gift. 

She Olive, as an entity, would finally exist no more. She welcomed the thought of losing one identity, in exchange for a place in the great Spirit’s mighty consciousness. Shimmering bits of her energies expanded forth to join the heavens, like normal good folk do. 

He saw her sinking away from him even as he felt her presence settling into him in the form of something strange, and wonderful, and as impossible as it was tempting. Her image became a distant spark, obscured by clouds reflected in the water. He blinked, and shook his head. Where was she? In him. And gone. At last. 

With his good hand, he pushed himself up. He knew that he wouldn’t be bothering to look for the site of the homestead. Besides, it was getting dark unexpectedly early. He remembered that it was the one day of the year with the least hours of daylight, the Winter solstice. Christmas was just days away. 

His legs were cramping a bit, so he bent forward to touch the log, to stretch his ‘hams’, before trusting his tingling muscles to work right. He did this twice, and was startled when something that had been pinched in the folds of his jacket fell forth. The red cloth had made him think first of blood, but before it landed at his feet, he saw that it was Olive’s bandana. 

Filled with wonder, he squatted to retrieve the item, and stuffed it into his pocket for the moment. It was warm. As he turned to inch his way off the log, he heard again the noise behind him. He whirled around faster than was safe, but too slow to save himself. 

A man was rushing toward him, swinging a rock at his skull! He threw his little arm up in a futile effort to protect himself from the descending blow. 

He lost his balance, which caused him to jerk forward just in time to duck the rock—- 

I hit my cheek on the post by the bed as I woke in a state of panic.

I nearly jumped out of bed. It was still dark. I turned to the clock—4:48 a.m. . . . All was well, seemingly. 

Except that I had to pee before I could think about getting back to sleep. As I felt my way to the bathroom, I rubbed the side of my face where I’d just scraped it on the post. Merely a scratch.

I began to replay the strange dream in my head as I sat to relieve myself. I’d mulled over many a dream in such manner. What was the gift she’d given the young man?

I covered my piss with a light scoop of sawdust, closed the lid, and felt my way back to bed. Who had attacked him? And why? And where had I met the young man before? They say that we have already seen every face in our dreams. 

I must’ve nodded off again as soon as my head settled into the pillow, because the next thing I knew it was three hours later, and Karen was nudging me with a kiss and a cup of coffee. 

I saw through the window the snowflakes gently falling. Several icicles had formed on the eaves overnight. Karen was sitting on the bench at the end of the bed, dressing, and wondering aloud how many people were buying a copy of my new book to give away for Christmas. I shrugged. 

“I guess it would be appropriate,” I said, remembering that I’d mentioned Christmas on a couple pages, after all. 

“I’m going to do the chores,” she said. “You can make eggs.”

“I’ll do hash-browns too.” 

She was about to stand, when she glanced at the clothesbasket. She bent forth to scoop up whatever it was that had caught her eye. “What’s this?” She held up a threadbare cloth of red cotton, puzzling over it as she shook it lightly. 

“Let me see it,” I said. 

“Your girlfriend’s got to quit leaving her stuff behind.” She tossed me the bandana. 

I studied it closely for a moment. I reached into the folds of the knot, and slowly pulled forth a long black hair that coiled back up like a spring, when it came free. “My girlfriend’s a blonde. Must be your girlfriend,” I said, as I held out the dark strand for her to see. 

The dream came rushing back to me. I had dreamed it through to its end, continued it from where I had awakened.

The young man on the log had rocked too far backwards, and had lurched forward to compensate. He was going in this time, he knew for sure. And if for no other reason than to pretend he had some control over the situation, he pushed off like a giant frog, launching himself forward out over the water. 

For a split-second, he felt as if he could do anything—soar away, a bird on the breezes, or dive under the ice like a fish—until he landed like a stone in the piercingly cold water. 

But there was no one else there, no murderer! He had imagined it, out of the stuff of her memory, her last memory. He spat out the pond-water and pushed himself up from the cold muck with some trouble. 

His left hand sank deeper as he pushed himself to his knees. Something below his fingers gave a little resistance. He pushed once more and heaved himself to his feet, but as he pulled his hand loose from the muck, he felt pain in his index fingers, as if something were biting him. 

He pulled harder and the pain increased, which is when instinct made him pull harder yet. Whatever it was, part of it came free, and was clinging painfully to his hand. He was glad to see that it wasn’t a snapping turtle.

He rinsed the mud off it quickly, to see how he might best get the thing off his fingers. He soon recognized the grayish bone in his hand for the front part of a human skull. He’d pushed his fingers through the thin bone at the back of the eye sockets. There had been just enough spring in the old bone to entrap his fingertips. 

He stumbled to the shore, carefully twisting and pulling at what he dimly realized, must have been the front of Olive’s face. The dwarfed digits of his right hand were weak, and worked only so well. He had to cradle the bone to his chest just to reach it. Loose teeth filled his palm by the time he pried it free.

He cast the bone down next to the log, and began to run as best he could.

The overwhelming nature of what Olive had given him, took several days to sink in. He had to get used to the responsibility that she had bestowed on him. Did he have the right to destroy all we had built? He had to come to terms with the awesome responsibility he held in his hands. He was becoming aware of how things would change. What gave him the right to do it? 

He thought about how the world had treated him, and he felt that he had all the reason he needed. “Christmas,” he thought! “Be my present to the world.” 

It was Christmas Eve, and there was a party that he was going to at the hall. It was a party for all the crazies, so of course he was invited. He could think of no better place or time to begin it. And he could think of no better group of people to spread it to, and through. How fitting it would be. 

The gift gave back to him, whenever he gave it away. It went from person to person, like the common cold, a glorious epidemic, spreading through neighborhoods and communities, crossing over boundaries of ethnicity and education, through the rich and poor alike. 

Within the year, the world had sloughed off its dictatorships by changing their leaders hearts. Between one Christmas and the next, all war ceased. Cruelty, and cheating one another, became a thing of the past, as pride and prejudice succumbed to brotherly love. All of mankind—all of our ills—began to be healed from within, when Olive Brown’s gift was allowed to flourish there. The whole world was healing itself—millions of acres of wasteland were being reforested, rivers and lakes were quickly becoming clean and pure again, storms calmed, the warming climate even began to cool.

But the strangest thing of all, everyone agreed without exception, when all was said and done, was that the gift had dwelt there within us all, all along, just waiting for us to use it . . . and it was called, compassion.

LATEST ARTICLE WOWS ME

” . . . ominous scenarios of catastrophic galactic alignments, savage solar storms and other deadly astronomical phenomena which could spell the end of humankind.”

 

LeRoy man publishes book, plans signing

By Randy Johnston

 

Special To The Osceola Edition

LEROY — Market master for LeRoy’s Farmers Market and Planning Commission clerk, Brian Cool, is now a published author. 

His debut novel, “Reset by Marian Evans,” was released in November and is available at Entity photography and art gallery in Marion and on Amazon.com.

Cool’s inspiration for the novel, an intriguing blend of fantasy and sci-fi, is the current fascination with end-of-the-world myths, prophecies and predictions popularized by articles, books and movies appearing almost daily. 

They paint ominous scenarios of catastrophic galactic alignments, savage solar storms and other deadly astronomical phenomena which could spell the end of humankind.

The story of Willow living in the year 2112 on Aerda, sister plant to Earth, may parallel a cataclysmic finale for our own planet. As readers follow Willow’s adventures, they glimpse Cool’s personal vision of what’s to come for us. Is it impending doom, or a new beginning?

The novella-length work, about 130 pages, is enhanced with a striking collection of eight full-page black and white illustrations by local artist, Steve Mann. They let us peer into Willow’s world and bring her tale to life.

Cool, a LeRoy resident for 38 years, lives with his wife on the family centennial farm. Mann lives in Reed City with his wife and family.

What’s next for the creative pair? Cool is already working on a second sci-fi novel he plans to publish in 2012. Mann is considering a number of projects including a series of cartoons and a memorial portrait of a U.S. Marine who died in Afghanistan.

To meet Cool and Mann, stop by their next book signing at Entity to learn more about the collaboration between author and artist and pick up an autographed copy of “Reset.” 

Cool is Entity’s Artist of the Month and both he and Mann will be at the gallery Dec. 17 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Visit Cool’s blog for free writing tools and a schedule of future promotional activities. Contact him through his blog with questions or comments about his work or to post reviews of the book. (www.becool2112.wordpress.com/) If you have a project that requires illustrations, a book cover or other artwork, contact Mann at (231) 250-5777 for a consultation.

Entity is at 202 E. Main St., Marion. If you are interested in exhibiting your work in the gallery or learning more about the Artist of the Month program, call owner Susan Hall (231) 743-9895.

 

Note: the newspaper version included an image of the front cover.

Excerpt from the 1st Chapter of RESET

 

“The terrible great invisible eye of God never blinks–the empty infinite mind behind, never thinks.” Maeva Endival

 

 WILLOW AND THE ROCK GOD

 

Dusk. A grubby little green wooden boat was beached on the narrow spit of pale sand below me.

This was the easternmost tip of a semitropical islet–part of an old chain of volcanic islands. My spirit hovered like a lazy kite over the point of land, floating directly above a tall, dark, and precariously balanced construct of thick chunks of sea-worn shale.

Bloated purple clouds in a race south, lashed by thick whips of lightning, would carry their burden over the point, and yet a little further out to Mother Sea.

Whether blown ashore by salted breezes, dragged there by the tides, pulled by the force of gravity, or pushed there on the snouts of porpoises, this battered rowboat had caught the last possible stretch of beach before being swept further out to the merciless sea, and capsized in the south-going gale. A few late-flying seabirds veered away from the skiff, casting suspicious glances back as they came down to land a short ways to the west, near a pair of rotting right whale carcasses.

White rimmed waves toyed at the little boat, but seemed only to nudge it even further ashore. Lying as if thrown there, like some ragged discarded doll in the bottom of the boat, was the twisted body of a young woman. There was something hauntingly familiar about her, even from my point of view high overhead. She wore military boots, and several layers of thick clothing that had soaked up a good deal of water. Under her head, toward the prow, dried blood stained the floor of the boat. I watched her for a few minutes, looking in vain for some sign of life.

And there was something unsettling about the little rowboat. I’d seen it before somehow, somewhere, felt a connection to it. The craft’s rugged little blue outboard leaned upside down in the prow. One end of a long nylon cord was tied around the shaft of the prop. The other end was lashed to a bracket on the nose of the boat. One of the oars was gone, missing from its socket. The other was locked in place, with the paddle end resting inside, pressed up against the young woman’s waist.

It’s me—

The body in the boat had my dark skin, my sooty black ringlets of shoulder length hair, my mannish chin, and my high cheekbones. My blood. I realized that the clothes were mine, stuff I’d scavenged along the way, mostly for its insulating value. It would be later before I would see the deep scabbed-over gashes up the left side of my neck and jaw.

I’d first thought of my floating consciousness as ‘something new’ when I had found myself, lighter than the wind, shimmering, draining upward, but it was the island that was new–to me at least.

There was no immediate sense of danger in my mind when I came to realize that I was looking down on my own body from a gull’s-eye view. More than anything, I was amazed, except I couldn’t see whether or not I was breathing. I found it strange to perceive the lightning and the last reddish tinges in the clouds on the western horizon, but neither hear the thunder, nor feel the howling winds.

What I did feel, was that my soul had been strained through muslin and distilled into vapor, and all I could sense of myself now, was pure energy. I-I must be dying then. A chilling terror slowly began to besiege my mind. Even so, I sensed that it was accompanied by only the shadows of Fear’s physical manifestations, which when I could not feel my heart racing on adrenaline, couldn’t even close my eyes to the scene below, my whole reality became a deep dark well from which was building an ancient and unutterable scream.

Along with the dread, fueling its fire, was coming a strong deep love for this body below. I wanted nothing more than to be back down there, back inside my skin. I began to panic, sought to claw my way back down through the air. Thinking that maybe I could dive in through my ear, or bellybutton, I tried to get my arms to work. They felt as if strapped to my sides, or not there at all.

But apparently just wishing it was enough. Sinking slowly toward the little boat, I sensed a slight tugging from an elastic blur of silver energy, stretched between my floating consciousness and my seemingly lifeless body.

I kept sensing another energetic presence nearby, like the sense of being stared at from behind. My thought patterns began to oscillate through the oddest blend of warps and spastic jumps. Visions, memories, and dreams flashed in and out of my mind, threatening to overload my limited consciousness.

The boat lurched to one side as a last white-capped wave rolled in from the retreating tide. I watched my limp body roll face down in the grimy wooden hull. To my relief, I found that I could rotate my focus away for the moment, let something else attract my attention.

I was trying to calm myself as I slowly descended, by focusing on the images around me, and giving my imagination a bit of free rein. Down the beach to the west, the trio of seabirds, an ordinary family of gulls, was made suddenly extraordinary being the first birds from our world to come to the shores of this new place. Seemingly unbewildered at having found an island in their flight path, the birds tipped their wings into the brisk breezes and played their game of hopscotch down the strand past the whale remains, in search of a little luck, and then a likely spot to spend the night.

A kilometer to the west, the beach became rocky where the island rose more sharply up from the salty waters. Another kilometer, and there was no beach at all where the island met the sea at an almost right angle. The red cliff rose higher and higher as the western coast curved further out to the north.

 

Surely this wasn’t the first time a soul had to come back from on its way to whatever awaits us after death, to find a way back into its cage. Closer . . . I slowly continued to spin until I was facing a dark stone giant.

From above I hadn’t been able to tell what it was, but the huge stones of the point had been piled up and cleverly balanced to resemble a man, facing the sea. The sky was suddenly lit by a series of lightning flashes that gave the titanic statue the illusion of movement. A single long piece of shale took the form of an outstretched arm, pointing west.

Almost there now.

I was ready to beg for entrance to my own body, but I felt a definite smoothing shift in my perceptions as my consciousness easily reentered, home. There was an almost comical click, a physical wave of relief mixed with various aches, then darkness.

 

Girls’ summer camp, and I had the luxury of one of the little canoes all to myself. Camp owned a large land tract where the Nigger Brown Creek met the upper northeast branch of the Altalanta. Despite the creek’s regrettable name, I liked it for its deep narrow languid channel beneath the alders and  willows.

My favorite thing to do at camp so far had been my own special brand of cloud gazing. I’d paddle up to about where the creek quickened, and turn the canoe around. Let the serene currents carry me back down the kilometer stretch, while I lay on my back on a blanket in the bottom.

Watching the sky, the clouds and branches sliding by overhead, gave me such a feeling of freedom in my heart, it would carry all my thoughts away–thoughts of life at home, of Mom, and of ‘Darrell Dee; the-real-deal’. What a jerk!

It wasn’t often that the other girls came this way. They’s no bus to haul your butt, and no trailer to haul your canoe. This lent me a sense of solitude that I almost felt guilty over. Why ain’t I more like the other girls? I crossed my arms under my head. I could be if I tried. Could at least look the part.

Above the arching alders, a particularly large dark cloud was rolling across the sun. I was happy for the shade it gave–this was my second trip and the morning was warming. The cloud was slowly changing form as it lolled on. The canoe scraped the root of a submerged log, sending a shiver up my spine.

I came to the one long straight stretch where there were no overhanging branches. I was coming to feel the familiar sense of weightlessness that made the canoe disappear beneath me. We were traveling in the same general direction, the cloud and I. It was halfway across the sun when it took the shape of an immense floating bear.

We were flying through an eternal sky. I watched curiously as the huge bear slowly turned, as if to face me. As it turned, churning and billowing, it stretched its limbs outward. The whole cloud was expanding, causing the illusion that it was coming closer, and its back legs reached down to meld with another cloud below it, as if it were trying to stand.

The bear-cloud seemed to lean forward, and as it opened its mighty jaws, I had to remind myself, it’s only a cloud. I’d almost, for a few seconds, been expecting a deafening roar to come out of those jaws. As it was, the sun was now pouring out of them, in brilliant silver rays, like the eye of God.

I was about to bring my arm up to block the light, when a sharp tug on the side of the canoe brought me completely back out of the clouds. Immediately, another stronger tug downward threatened to capsize me. Two sets of furred black claws curled over the top edge of the aluminum trim. A splash of water drenched my mid-section. A deep snorted grunt came from over the edge and sent a wave of panic through me as another vicious pull rocked the narrow craft.

I rolled with the canoe, and would’ve broken my nose on one of its ribs if I hadn’t already had my arm halfway up to shade my eyes. I had only a split second to glance up at whatever was trying to tip the canoe. Its hairy jaws split in a wide sharp-toothed grin under deep-set green eyes. 

It roared as it dipped its clumsy head in toward me!

The canoe started to bob, causing the strange animal to lose its grip. The side of the canoe came up and struck the underside of its jaw with bone wrenching force. I heard a cry and a splash, and— 

 

A dream! . . . No. That really happened. Six years ago? Seven. I opened my eyes to blackness, closed them again. They hurt. My cheek was pressed into something wet and wooden. I couldn’t move at first. The way I felt made me want to sink back into delirium.

I was finally able to get my left arm to move enough to put my gloved hand up under my head as a pillow. I rolled onto my left side, slowly–painfully. I saw a quick succession of bright flashes behind my eyelids and thought there was something really wrong with my brain, but some seconds later came the telling crack-boom-rumble of thunder. The murmurous rolling in and out of the waves was drawing me back under.

I brought my knees to my chest, tucked my right hand in my thighs–it was the only defense I could muster against the bone deep chill, before darkness again settled mercifully over me.

 

Third times’ charm Willow–last chance now girl. It was mama’s voice, or perhaps my own. I woke slowly to the sound of waves, odd visions clearing away in the dark. I opened my eyes to a blurry, floor level vantage point. With night having settled in, there wasn’t much to see; dark wooden planks stained with splotches of something blackish.

The cold-blooded painful reality of my situation was slowly sinking in.

I must have slid my left glove off in my sleep, and my hand was cupped protectively over the back of my head under my hood. It took a bit of effort but I pulled my stiff left arm out from under me enough to get my upper body onto my elbows. An empty canteen rolled away.

My biggest concern when I first found myself stranded in the small boat on the strange island was the goose-egg at the base of my skull–and the fact that I couldn’t remember how it got there. I could feel the sticky mess of dried and matted blood that clung to my hair. The pain at the site of the wound was itchy and intense, while the pain beneath it filled my head with an ache like kidney stones on the brain.

My next concern was the grinding empty pang of my belly. Must’ve been in this boat a long time. The wetness in my pants attested to this as much as the dryness in my throat. Wonder what woke me, the growling coming from my belly, the pain banging around in my head, or my own stench?

Most of the angry clouds had disappeared to the south, and a three quarter moon was high on the rise. I turned my head, painfully, to survey the situation. Dimly I began to remember acquiring the old boat from the abandoned cottage up the Hexarkana. I saw my pack, precariously perched on the boat’s back seat, saw the scattered .38-caliber rounds from one end of the boat to the other, and in the midst of them, one pistol, half submerged in water.

Shadows swam in the dark before my eyes as I lurched up onto my hands and knees. I’d formed a simple plan–get up and get out of the boat fool, or else lay here and die. I had never felt so weak, but I’d never been one to deny a matter of fact, or to turn down a challenge.

I crawled to get over the edge. I could make a successful effort at standing with my feet on the ground. The boat rolled back toward the sea when I took my arm off it. I was glad to see that it wasn’t going anywhere. If I’d had to make a grab for it, I might have had to let it float away. As soon as I could, I would pull it farther onto land.

For the moment, I’d be better off on my knees, using the side of the boat for support. I edged sideways out to the back of my little ark, feeling worse than ever, nauseated and quaking with cold, a cocktail of aches rattling around my head. As the faculty of memory struggled to reestablish itself, I had to suppress the nagging question of whether the will to survive was equal to my present agony, especially in the light of the last few years. It would’ve been just as easy to reach for the pistol as the pack; end it now, or prolong the misery?

I’m not ashamed to say that I knelt there and peed my pants. I’d already done that and worse anyway, in my coma.

I kept pumping my fists until my arms were finally awake. I took the glove off my right hand, and pulled the other back onto the frozen left. My right hand trembled, but worked enough to fumble the clasp open on my pack. If memory served, Life itself, in the form of candy bars and an extra canteen was within reach.

I pawed the flap out of the way and started raking through the neatly stowed supplies, not caring that half of it was spilling out onto the damp floor.

I sat there leaning into the boat for a few minutes letting the water and sweet chocolate soak into my system. With my elbows resting on the boat and my head in my hands, I wasn’t yet letting myself hope for too much. After a few minutes, I took three aspirin. Then for good measure, swallowed another.

I was still chilled through to the very bone, but realized that the air was only cool, not frigid. It’s just that I was damp from urine and sea spray, from stem to stern. At least my pack was waterproof. One of my totes was strapped to a plastic sled in the back of the boat. I just couldn’t remember how it got there, or why it would be flipped upside down.

I started to gather enough reason, and energy, to repack a few of the items I’d strewn. I also retrieved the empty .38 and soon had it resting on the back seat, reloaded with dry rounds. Lightning flashed, and the echoing of gunshots came from the depths of my mind, in time with the crackling thunder.

I looked up from the boat, away from the water–finally able to turn my attention to my surroundings. Everything was just as it had been in my unconscious visions–the electric silver moon, the stack-stone giant, the dark distant cone of an old volcano. So where’m I?

Worry about it in the morning. I groped down to check under the tarp–it was neatly secured over a nice little pile of split hardwood, and I recalled clearly, stacking the firewood there in the back, and covering it exactly as it was now. What came after that? I think . . . No, I know. I had then pushed the boat into the cold currents of ol’ Narcsip’. By then I’d become good with the craft and had no trouble avoiding the more formidable ice floes.

With these clear memories came a sense of relief that my brain–indeed my whole sense of identity–was intact, at least for the moment.

I began shaking convulsively with cold and adrenalin. Since I’d so far found my body in unbroken condition from the neck down, I leaned into the boat and stood. Getting my sense of balance back, I began to jog in place to get my blood flowing. I was sure I’d have made a pathetic sight–also sure there was no one to see me.

It was just a feeling, possibly nurtured on the solitude I’d grown accustomed to, but I had never before felt so alone. The island’s only other inhabitant was the great stone sentinel–the Rock God.

I took up a small armload of firewood from under the tarp, and soon had transferred several loads of the cordwood to a cluster of huge black boulders several dozen paces inland. That brought my temperature up enough to worry about other uncomfortable things.

I stripped the soiled clothes off the bottom half of my body and stashed the .38 in my coat pocket. The sea had finally sent its waves to rest. Without double-checking to see if anyone was around, I waded out into the chilly waters. A towel and my only dry pants hung folded over the side of the rowboat. The moon’s reflection broke away from me in dozens of long brilliant crescents as my legs slowly disappeared.

I went out no further than I had to. The water wasn’t as cold as I’d feared, or else I was colder. I worked my shirt and jacket up under my armpits, careful not to dump the pistol, and squatted in the water to wash up. I was almost finished when a sudden shudder of the ground beneath me put me off balance. I quickly changed my position to a tiger crouch to keep from falling over into the water face first. Another tremor followed–the boat tilted slightly back and forth as I watched.

 

By the time I pulled the fuse on the mini-thermite, I knew the meaning of the old phrase ‘my goosebumps got goosebumps’. Shaking with bone-deep cold, I tossed the sparkling hissing tablet into the pyramid of waiting wood. The fire flared and crackled away in a matter of minutes. I felt a momentary flush of shame as I recalled Tuva’s admonition to some of the guys at Fort Clifford, “No good spirits visit the fireside lit with gasoline.” Just this once old friend? The wind lifted growing tongues of flames in a blue-green-gold vortex that danced and bowed.

I wrapped myself up in my one dry blanket and folded the tarp about me. In the seclusion afforded by the jumble of giant stones, I was soon warm and dry, if not cozy.

A great crashing noise shook me awake in the night, just as the moon was about to disappear over the horizon. Echoes of the sounds flew away on the sea breezes. The strange surroundings gave me a moment of terror, and I leaped to a shaky crouch, my old snub-nose drawn and cocked.

Tremors in the ground were fading away. To my left was the heaped ruin of rocks where hours before, the giant stone sentinel had stood.

I poked at the fire’s remaining embers, threw on a couple small chunks of wood, and settled back into my nest to wait for the coming sunrise. When it finally dawned, still characteristically crimson from stratospheric dust, it was noticeably brighter than what I had become accustomed to since the catastrophe of last fall.

 

Over the next week I recovered, and watched in daily disbelief as beneath my feet, the island rose, slowly but surely, up and up from the depths of the ocean, coming up for air like some gigantic primordial sea turtle. The beach where I’d landed became a high dune, and the western cliffs became a four hundred-meter sheer drop to the sea.

I wandered around a bit at the outskirts of the island, cautious out of old habit, and always on the move. All the gear and supplies I’d stowed on the rowboat, in several plastic totes, were in good shape. Of course, the outboard would never run again. If I had to stay here, at least I had all the comforts of camp.

Tremors gently rocked the island daily. The tops of palms and other trees would appear out in the surf in the morning; by night, a waterlogged forest had climbed up out of the waves. There were outcropping rocks in places where I could cup an ear to the cold stone to hear the deep grumbling, and mournful song, of the shifting aerth below.

There were actually two islands at the start. I had beached between a pair of dead volcanoes. A long bridge of land eventually emerged between them as the soggy ground arose from the sea.

I walked the circumference of the western island in a single strenuous excursion on my fourth day here, before the two became joined. After that, it became impossible. Every day, the island’s acreage would increase exponentially. By the end of the first week, the total amount of land that I couldn’t explore on my daily wanderings doubled. By then I’d started a map on one of the tablets of paper stashed in a tote under the overturned boat.

I saw no sense in trying to map the ever-changing and expanding shoreline, so I started with the part of the island that made up what I called ‘the spine’. It stretched away from either end of the tombolo to link the two highest points, the jagged rims of the worn volcanoes. It would take weeks at the rate I was going to get to the east end.

 

In a small dense wood, was a flowing crystal spring, home to tiny white shrimp, between two of the formidable ridges that made up much of the island topography. The water I tasted there, gurgling up from under algae-draped rocks and huge old roots, was so sweet and clear that I decided to scout around for the best campsite within a few minutes’ walk.

Making ever larger circles, with no small amount of effort, I found a spot up the side of one of the long forested ridges. A natural stone stair led up to a narrow but protected ledge half way up the slope. The ‘perch’ was some seven paces long and three to four paces wide–just enough room for my tent, a tarped-over table and chair, and a cookfire. Someone had made camp there before, though the evidence was not recent. I found ashes and cracked bones at about a hand-span down when digging out the most obvious spot for a small fire pit.

This seemed to be one of the wildest spots on the island, and as far as I was concerned, that was fine. A small clearing where several huge old trees had come down, between my new camp and the spring, became an excellent spot for a garden.

There were other signs around of a bygone civilization–I came across something new, and usually puzzling, every day. There were trails and stone roads, sprawling old orchards, circles of standing stones, and the occasional aerthwork. There was also a remarkable trio of tall polished red-stone spires far to the east. As I discovered them, I would map and sketch them.

 

The Afterword for RESET

 

“I wrote this story to poke a bit of savage fun, by comparison, at our dangerously presumptuous society, and at man’s tendency toward willful and widespread forgetfulness.”

EX POST FICTO: THE END OF THE OLD WORLD, AND THE NEW JERUSALEM

A green world, home to thinking beings, and ruled by unseen forces: so like Earth–Aerda.

Sexually conflicted, black, and a woman: the perfect antihero(?)–Willow.

Stories have a life all their own. Originally planned as a long short story, Reset took hold of me and did what it would, causing me to set aside several other projects, as it grew and grew into this little book. I’m glad it did, I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it, but it left me with the odd question of, “what to do with it?” I liked it just the way it was. I look at its brevity as one of its virtues. There’s no shame in taking only as much space and time to tell a story as is necessary, quite the opposite.

What then does one do with a book–technically an over-long novella–a hair over 43,000 words? Same as with anything just outside the mainstream publishers box; let it moulder and die, self-publish, or go to the good old Vanities.

A born do-it-yer-selfer, I was led to self-publish for several reasons, artistic freedom being not the least of them. I was aware of the concept through our town’s farmers’ market committee, which is opting to self-publish a cookbook. Also, our family is putting together a book of my father’s stories, poems, and letters, as a bit of our family lore.

Many self-published books fall into some wayward niche–a small subculture of readers prefers the novella, over any other length, for instance–and sales aren’t always the driving force. They may be passionate, some are good, many are comparatively bad. Something plagues them; a lack of this, too much of that . . . .

A writer ultimately seeks to create that which will be deemed classic, maybe something Ray Bradbury’s firemen would love to torch. In aiming for timeless-ness though, I am often aware that an equally important goal is timeli-ness. One without the other–while achievable and admirable–was not my idea for Reset. While I will always write to produce works aimed for my grandchildren’s grandchildren, bless their unborn hearts, perhaps none will be as ‘now’ as is this story.

One reader described Reset as the perfect post-apocalyptic dream. We’ll have to wait for Armageddon to verify that, but by then it may be too late. Another said that the only thing I should change about it is to get it published. Keeping in mind that speed is ofttimes a mix of blessing and curse, the quickest way I saw to do that happened to be self-publishing.

Reset was cooked up partly as ‘welcome to my world’, which is really Marian’s world (more about her in a bit), and partly in response to the challenge to “write something better,” when I complained to several people about the mildly nauseating storyline from the movie ‘2012′. So I started with a plausible disaster recipe, pulled a couple of old but still edible plot lines out of the brain-dump, stirred in some well aged legend, added spices, let it simmer, and here you have it.

I wrote this story, to present the Great Spirit, or God, whoever, as a mostly mechanistic force, ultimately unknowable, super-instinctual, neither good nor evil, functionally all-knowing and all-powerful, but somehow unthinking, and even unfeeling. And to hint at some of the qualities that this Great Spirit might favor in a person–in addition to the simple likelihood of their survival, in the wake of comet El Vaca–when It chooses to reset the game on one of Its living planets.

I wrote this story to poke a bit of savage fun, by comparison, at our dangerously presumptuous society, and at man’s tendency toward willful and widespread forgetfulness. I wrote it to further the argument against all future war, and to advocate for some sort of planetary defense against killer comets, as a much worthier objective.

I won’t apologize for use of the metric system throughout. They say the United States is the only country in the world not totally committed to adopting it, but that we encourage the voluntary use of it. I guess I have to appreciate not being forced to use one particular system over another, and I do wish that tendency toward choice might proliferate deeper into a few other areas of the government. But so few Americans use the metric system, so few volunteer. Maybe in a hundred years. If we’re not all using it by then, I shudder to think why.

I mentioned the passion found in the self-publishing crowd, which is what I was talking about when I said that this story took hold of me. ‘Willow’ Walker, one of a few survivors of a worldwide catastrophe, comes to accept it after she finds herself stranded on the island of a technologically advanced group of descendants of the ancient Far Seers, who have come back from an alternate reality where they have dwelt for two thousand years. For me it was several months of taking another woman to bed, and watching her story unfold on the backs of my eyelids.

RESET is my first novel, several others are in early stages, and several shorter stories are going into submission stage now. Much of my writing experience comes from a year as news reporter for the Waterfront of Missaukee County, Michigan. Recent nonfiction work includes, writing newsletter articles, and producing the notes from meetings for three different organizations, one of which is a paying gig.

Yes, my name really is Cool. German immigrant ancestors adopted the spelling because they thought it would be cooler than K-u-h-l. 

I originally wrote and planned to publish this story using a pen name, Marian Evans, for several reasons, but decided to publish it under my own name for several others. The perceived benefits of using a pen name, compared to the real complications involved, are hard to balance. Growing up with a name like Cool, I knew it was likely that some people would think my real name a pseudonym anyway. I mostly wanted to avoid any limelight that would inevitably follow someone who writes as well as I hope to. I also wanted to avoid any controversy provokeable by the uneasy thoughts I might put on paper.

So, I created Marian, and she wrote Reset. I think she’s good, if a little strange. But alas, “words weren’t made for cowards,” says Happy Rhodes. Heeding her advice, I must take the credit, the blame, and any fame, if people recommend this story to others.

—What’s that? Umm . . . Marian asks me to note that she was NOT conceived and created by me.

Fine fine–I don’t think I need to point out that (shhh) her initials are M.E. In return, she may be kind enough to refrain from explaining, yet again, that it’s just as likely that she created me, and that I am but a crazy dream of hers.

Her name sounds like another writer, whose name and works are as liquid on the page, who was obliged to publish as a man, that her words might sell. I always wondered what that says about a man, which is all I meant to point out through the similarity to the late great Mary Ann Evans-Cross (one spelling). She had skill and grace with the written word that far exceeds my own.

Writing is my therapy for being human–after all, writers aren’t cut from perfect cloth, so there are many things I do not know. One more thing I was trying to do with Reset was to answer myself the riddle; why do we have this universal fascination with doomsdays? Precognition en masse? Or is this morbid obsession linked by some strange dynamic to the instinct of species preservation (the granddaddy of all instinct)?

There is no real rationality behind the gut feeling that it would be a bad thing if our species ceased, at some future date. Though we would understandably prefer the end, if it is to be messy and inevitable, to come after our own, preferably natural, passing. In reading speculative tales, we experience mourning for even the implied death of humankind, even if it is presented as a billion years away. Looking to the past or the future for meaning, we may think it would be a waste of all that we think we have accomplished, or may accomplish. But would it? Really? Will we ever know?

I don’t know that we have ever accomplished anything, or ever will, or if we are even meant to. We may be the meaningless byproducts of an infinite meaningless, a possibility not easy to meet head-on. The end of our own species by our own hand would then be as unimportant as all the other extinctions that we continue to cause.

Whatever the case, we are driven to bring meaning and purpose to our own lives, in part because we can’t answer the big questions definitively, so we speculate on our own potential, and most of us find a reason or two to live and love, and to have hope for our species. Maybe that isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t wish for it to be–not because a God wouldn’t grant it, nor would an infinite meaningless–but because of the obvious and simple fact that instinctual behavior is tied so intricately to survival. There seems to be reason enough in that. No matter how instinct developed in us and all other animal life, and regardless of the fact that it may exist for no more than its own sake, the will to live at least gives us the opportunity to ask the big questions. If there are unknowable answers to some, so be it.

One question leads to another and twenty, as usual, and I am not much closer to answering myself about, why the doomsday obsession? I will try to take what cold comfort I can from appreciating all the more, the questions I can answer. And to be thankful for, as an aspiring writer, the stories born where our reason meets our instinct.

Now it’s done, but other questions remain. Like: why would the bears in the story wear collars? And, what was happening off the island with the scattered seeds of humanity? And why was there no contact with two of the other three hidden islands? And—

Wait—

Marian is telling me another story.

Gotta go!

Second Batch of Free Tools

ID-entity Builder

This post dedicated to Susan O. Hall

WRITERS — Here are more PDF’s to print and integrate with your files. I meant to get this posted before now, but township and village business take precedence, Christmas approaches, grandson turns seven, garlic needs planting, and ‘sun chokes’ (Jerusalem artichokes) must be dug, cleaned and stored.

The downloads below provide a system for writers to build fictional characters. Use to breathe life into all characters from minor to major. Again, simple, fast, self-explanatory, effective, and free!      

I offer this small suggestion for using the ID-entity Builder system. The sheets use a numbering system to make it easy to add as many blank sheets of ruled paper as you need, to expand each character as much as is wanted.  Use the record sheets for the bare-bones info. Expand on ideas taken from the sheets, by writing descriptions that can then be woven in with the scenes and settings in your story, to give the story legs with which to walk on its own into your reader’s imagination.

Also, in the top left-hand corner of the page, is a space to give each character sheet a unique identifier (I use the characters initials).  Use to link to your extra sheets, etc. If you already use an outline to guide your stories, the ID-entity builder will fit right in. 

ID-entity Builder Set

MAIN Character Record Sheet

SECONDARY Character Record Sheet

MINOR Character Record Sheet

Coming Next: Places Builder 

Enjoy, Brian

Connections or Coincidences in Marion–Who Can Tell?

What does the word ‘entity’ mean to you? I had to look it up tonight after realizing what a lame definition I’d given ma the other day when she asked. This is of course in relation to last Saturday’s event in Marion at ENTITY.

Mom thought it meant a ghost. I was thinking along those same lines, venturing that it meant the soul, whether within the body or without. Well, live and learn. Although, I am not sure that a dictionary definition can do justice to this word entity, especially after spending the day at a place by that name.

entity — a real being; reality; existence; a material substance.

Entity, Susan Hall’s place on Main Street, which as far as I can see, combines several parts to achieve the whole–Molly’s A New Day, Sue’s Artist of the Month program, her sales of her photographs, her SO Photography studio, and so on–has a certain something about it. It is a fixed place, yet on the move, existing to achieve its potential. It was a good spot to spend the day–big, bright. Pretty things about. Though, I do think a frame shop in one corner is in order—worth looking into I’d bet.

I signed and sold a few books there on Saturday.

I already knew how I wanted to sign my book–that is, unless people requested something specific. Above my scrawl of a John Henry I penned this, “to envision is to invite change” or alternately, “to envision is to create change”. It means something in relation to the story, as well as to the publishing of it. It was inspired by none other than Ralph Nader, and his new novel.

Novel?  ‘Utopian handbook’ he calls it . . . no really. It has actual people for its characters; Warren Buffett, Ted Turner . . . no really it does. He said so. The title is about as bombastic as it is preposterous, Only the Superrich Can Save Us–and yet, possibly possible. He was interviewed on NPR the other day.

Ralph talked about his newest work (a hard thing for writers to do sometimes, as you just said it ALL in your book, right?), and then, then he mentioned what it was that he wrote when he autographed a copy. I took note, as I hoped to be signing some books myself soon—it was this,  “To imagine is to envision.”

. . . and I thought, Ralph, I love ya bud, but that says nothing. It’s redundant. More than me just saying, “it’s redundant”. Unless there’s some hidden meaning, available only to those who read the book . . .

Anyway, thank you for your endless optimism, and of course for your ceaseless activism. And thanks Ralph for writing the book that will finally inspire the rich folk to divide up their riches amongst us, and thereby save us.  I’ll be optimistic with on you on that for a day or two, a week at most. Long as you don’t mind me mooching off your line a bit. I think I know what you meant to say.

Reporter Randy Johnston came in to talk to Steve and me. That’s three, in as many days. She came to get a story for the Osceola Pioneer newspaper, having seen the recent article announcing the Artist of the month. That’s ME. Marian Evans—and under her umbrella; Linda, Elaine, Steve, and myself.

It was good to meet Randy, and talk with her about a writing group she attends. She too is writing a book. I was thrilled that she made the connection between George Eliot and the quasi alias in RESET’s title.

I’m on a roll here, having gone to the Cadillac News on Friday, just to drop off a flier, and giving an impromptu interview to Jeff Broddle. It was good to finally meet him. I did some reporting for the Waterfront in Lake City, and I will carry that with me always. Newspapers do well to give us these people, who will long be remembered in their community for the way they give of themselves to each story, year after year. Jim Creese, Myrtle Holmes, Jack Batdorf, and Bob Redman, my old boss up in Lake City, are just a few names that come quickly to my mind from papers close by.

I will do as many interviews as I can, not just to promote book sales, but for the chance to meet another writer.

Steve drove. He picked me up on his way. It was a 25 minute drive northeast of home. On our way back home, we stopped at the Shell station in Marion to pick up the latest Marion Press. We both wanted the paper for a copy of Thursday’s article about the book. It’s a publication with roots a hundred and twenty-two years deep, with Jenny Gray at the helm. And what a writer she is!

Later at home, Karen and I were going through the paper–she loves a newspaper too–and she pointed out that, in the story on Christmas doin’s around Marion, Butch and Kate Ruppert were giving horse drawn wagon rides,. We’ll be seeing them soon to help set up lights at the pavilion in LeRoy, and then again next Saturday at Christmas doin’s around town when we will be setting up the LeRoy Farmers’ Market for a holiday sale–they are giving rides there too. What fun! And the article’s byline? Randy Johnston. She writes for three papers!!

Then, Karen pointed out an old familiar name, and we were suddenly saddened to learn of the death of the man who spent a week at our place milling the 10,000 board feet of lumber for our house. Bill Hower died in 2006, but on the anniversary of his death his family had remembered him in the paper, and so now we remembered him again too. A good man there.

And then there was the following article.

ENTITY PRESENTS December Artist of the Month: Brian Cool

MARION — Brian Cool, an author from LeRoy, is ENTITY’s artist of the month and will appear there on Saturdays, December 3 and 17, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Cool has written his debut novel, “RESET by Marian Evans.” It’s a true northern Michigan creation. Photographer/designer Elaine Edstrom of Traverse City produced the cover.  Artist Steve Mann of Reed City penciled the interior illustrations.  The painting on the front cover is the work of Traverse City artist Linda Smith.  So, one might think that Cool’s book, has something to do with the tip of the Mitt.  It’s actually a work of science fiction—an adventure in another time, on another world, but the story poses universal questions.

The author and his wife live and work close to the land, on their family’s sprawling centennial farm. Their home, which the couple built, is a round house of cordwood masonry with a sod roof. “Occasionally we let the goats up there,” says Cool.

Cool is a self avowed Jack of all trades: Master Citizen Planner, woodsman, gardener, Market Master for the LeRoy Farmers’ Market, clerk for the LeRoy Planning Commission, and amateur builder. So when does he find time to write a book?  Come to ENTITY and find out.

On his blog (www.becool2112.wordpress.com/) Cool says, “this is a chance to promote the talents of my illustrator Steve Mann, and the artwork of Reset cover painting artist, Linda Smith, as well as the work of cover designer Elaine Edstrom, all of whom contributed invaluably to make this a work to be proud of. We are all excited about this opportunity,”

Some of the “Reset Crew” members also plan to attend.

The article was accompanied by a picture of the front cover.

It is not lost on me that my first outing to promote this book with a public appearance and all, is in Marion, and there is a scene in the book that was in part inspired by an interesting and controversial true story from near Marion, and the title includes the name of a fictional author, Marian.

I should have been a day or two quicker on the fliers, because what was also not lost, is what a slow day it was, except for one burst of everyone-all-at-once. All of which I was prepared for, since I was prepared for almost anything.  Sue had said it was common for the place to be empty for long stretches. She’s got a few ideas to turn that around.

Me too, next time I’m there–free homemade cookies and gourmet coffee! I will offer a free workshop on self-publishing–I’ve learned a few things that others may find helpful. So why not pass it forward? And I’ll offer a printed pack of my Tools for Writers, for sale.  I made the tools in an attempt to write better, and keep organized. The first set, MS Tracker tracks all of the important aspects of publishing each story. The second set, Identity Builder, helps flesh out the character skeletons in your mind. I’m working on a third set called Place Builder.

Steve left his portfolio up there at Entity for people to peruse. He will take orders from it for prints. Or, he will render a portrait, based on photos. He’s very good at re-creating an old faded photograph of some lost loved-one, enlarging it or changing it as requested. Uncanny.

One of the most common questions I get on my book is about the title.  Of course I’m not the first to use such an odd kind of title.  There is a long-standing–though rarely used–tradition in the field of fiction, especially sci-fi, to do what I was attempting. I wondered if the technique had a name. I couldn’t find one, so I made one up (until someone smarter tells me otherwise). The Latin name quasi alias, sounds as good to me as anything else might, meaning roughly ‘fictional author’, or, ‘as if written by another’.

The title RESET by Marian Evans is like, Pandora by Holly Hollander a novel by Gene Wolfe, or I am a droid by C-3PO by Mark Cerasini, or Rules of the Universe by Austin W. Hale by Robin Vaupel. These works are clearly only titled as written by another, as the true author’s name appears on the cover.

A similar case would be Washington Irving’s Rip van Winkle “taken from the posthumous papers of historian Diedrich Knickerbocker”. Knickerbocker was the name originally used by Irving as a sort of gimmick to present his satire.  These are not quite pen names.  But they are another tool in the writer’s bag of gimcrack and gnoodlery to use to invite the reader to suspend belief, and give-in to the story as early as possible.

Rained all day.

There weren’t many people out walking the streets of Marion. Driving either. We’ll stir up a bit more of show next time I‘m sure. I’m just glad to help in my own small way, to add to ENTITIES identity.

Brian