Just another family get-together.

In the movie, Judge Dredd, bad guy Armand Assante asks his prison warden, “What is the meaning of Life?” The warden has no answer. Assante says, quite decisively, “It ends.” Then Assante shoots the poor bastard in the throat. Quite an object lesson, eh?

Today is Samhain Proper.

It’s a different day from Halloween and, despite what you may have learned from Glenn Danzig or Donald Pleasance in Halloween II, it is pronounced sow-wenn, not sam-hayne.

Samhain is the day when we remember our ancestors. As summer fades and autumn takes it place, the veil between the worlds, the places where we walk and the dead walk, gets thin. Those who have passed on take this time to check in on the ones they left behind. We, in turn, honor and under the right circumstances, can talk with them.

You don’t have to believe it.
Sometimes, I wonder if I do.

PBRNonetheless, we are prepared for it tonight. Pictures of those who have beaten us to the punch, so to speak, litter two altars in our living room. We have set out their favorite foods. Peanut butter crackers. Vienna sausages. Popcorn. A PBR tall-boy for Cootie’s grandfather. I figure he can share it with mine. We’ve got fresh coffee, and even a little moonshine.

Ghosts can’t eat, you say.
It doesn’t matter.
These are things we remember about them, all part of the gigantic concept we refer to as “home.”

If you were dead, wouldn’t you want to go home, even if just for the night? As far as we’re concerned, this is another family get-together. We just can’t see everybody.

I wonder sometimes if my ancestors are disappointed in me. People put so much hope into babies, children. They invest their dreams and ideals into them, like emotional punchcards. It can’t be helped. I did it, too.

We do weird shit.

I didn’t turn out the way they planned, I’m sure. I made a lot of odd decisions and brutal choices. Everyone does, I suppose. Look back at the road you’ve walked up to this point. Look at your history. Trace it back. Is that path completely straight?

I didn’t think so.

Neither is mine.

Well, the fact is at some point, everyone’s crooked, curvy path ends. How does that song go? Oh, yeah.

We all end up in a tiny pine box.
A mighty small drop in a mighty dark plot.

And when the Earth turns and the stars align and all that great gobbledygook, and Cootie and I get to wander back on this plane from the excellent 1970’s dive bar we intend to spend eternity at, do us a favor.

Set us out something to drink. I’ll take some vodka and Dr. Pepper. Cootie might appreciate some brandy. None of that cheap shit, either. Play a movie for us. Three Amigos! would be good. We wouldn’t be upset at Suspiria, if the other isn’t available. Tortilla chips. A little queso blanco. We don’t ask for much. We’ll just come in and hang for a while.

Like I expect our grandparents and various aunts and uncles and cousins and nephews and nieces are doing at our place, right now. They’re just hanging out at the altar, checking out the spread and talking to each other, maybe taking a look around the apartment. True Grit is on the TV for Cootie’s Papaw. There’s fresh coffee.

If anyone wants anything different, I expect they’ll tell us.

Just another family get-together.

Dude, fuck a novel.

I’ve been working on a novel since the middle of last year, and I’ve got to tell all of you something.

It sucks.

I hate writing a novel.
I hate the format. I hate the length.  I hate the amount of bullshit exposition I feel I have to shove in there to get it to “novel” length.
It grates.
It takes everything that made me want to write to begin with, eats it and makes it shit on itself.

I would rather take an indeterminate amount of short stories and string them together as a series than try to write The Great American Novel. I can’t believe this form still has fans.
Short stories are the punk rock ethos, exemplified.
Novels are your great grandfather trying to eat walnuts.

The tales that live in Elders Keep are long and convoluted,  crazy as balls, and require some attention. Everything ties together.
The Keep is a flat circle, Ell Oh Ell.
But I think in fragments. I write in shards. And if you’re going to get any stories out of me, you need to play by my rules.
You’re going to have board my train of thought.
You’re going to have to dance on the edge with me.

Do you dare?
I bet you do.

Strap yourselves in.
You are on the giant spinning circus wheel and I am the knife thrower.
You’re about to get assaulted by blades, fragments of stories, all eventually making a larger one. My stories are a jigsaw that draws blood.

Let me cut you.

If you want fiction, you’ve got it. But on my terms.
Not yours.

Soon, I’ll be serializing the first Elders Keep “novel.” I’ll be making into something I love instead of something I feel obligated to write.
I think the story will be the better for it.
And since I no longer feel like I have to write “a big goddamn novel” to get my point across, you might get more stories, faster.

Your first edition is coming soon. I have two new characters for you to meet. I have some old characters for you to remember and enjoy.
And I have terrible, awful things in mind for all of them.

Are you interested? Are you in?
Then, dude, fuck a novel.
Feast on the broken glass of imagination with me.
And we’ll get through this together, from the witch hunts to the awful truth about Parham’s Field.

All I ask is that you trust, and throw down ninety-nine cents once in a while.
I know where we’re going.
Take my hand, and come dancing on the edges with me.
This is my darkness, and I know my way around.
Just take a deep breath… and follow.

Dude, fuck a novel.