Saturday, April 23, 2022

Daring to Dream with Marc Bernardin


Scott D. Parker

A cool thing happened this week: a writer lived out a dream.

Marc Bernardin—writer, TV producer, journalist, co-host of the Fatman Beyond podcast with Kevin Smith—was a guest on the Late Night with Seth Meyers. Marc was there to talk about and promote his graphic novel, Adora and the Distance. As the father of an autistic daughter, he was encouraged to write about his experiences of raising an autistic child but, as Marc says in the interview, he was the least interesting person in the story.

So he created a version of a story in which there was a young woman of color who was on a quest and what she discovered about the world and herself at the end of the quest. Naturally, he edged toward the comic book format and bided his time. Finally, last year, the graphic novel was published on Comixology featuring the whimsical illustrations of Ariela Kristantina. Now, the book is in hard copy to buy at your local comic book store.

I’ve listened to Marc talk about this story for a long time so I was simply happy for him to get the book out into the world. But then he started to dream. What would it be like to go on a late night talk show and and talk about the book. Seth Meyers is a comic book fan so Marc set his sights on landing a spot on Seth’s show.

To make the dream possible, he encouraged a social media campaign, and, lo and behold, it worked. Marc was on the 19 April 2022 episode of Late Night. Here’s the link of the full interview.

An avid communicator through Twitter, Marc thanked his fans in a very Marc way.


In his deep dives into story and story structure on his podcast, I am often pausing long enough to transcribe things he said into my very own “Marc on Writing” file. Well, here’s another one to add to the list.

Five seemingly simple phrases that can take you far in life. But looks at the first: Don’t be afraid to dream the impossible dream. If you have a dream, go for it.

This brings me back to a quote of Goethe’s as cited in Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art which I reviewed last week: “I [Steven] have learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets: “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it. Begin it now.”

Dreams come true. We witnessed one this week, and it was exhilarating. I grinned from ear to ear watching Marc on Seth’s show. I enjoyed seeing him live his dream. 

And I also turned my attention to my own. I’m dreaming my dreams and I’ve already begun to put them on the map of my life. Why is that important? Well, let’s let Marc Bernardin have the last word today.

Friday, April 22, 2022

ROLL WITH IT - Soundtrack Album

 By Jay Stringer 

Back in the before times I put together a Spotify playlist to use as a 'soundtrack album' when for releasing ROLL WITH IT. But know. 

There are many reasons people don't want to use that company. But I still like the 'album' and it really does fit the feel of certain moments in the story. So below is the track-listing. Give it a listen, and do it through a service that both pays the artists and doesn't destroy the world. 

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Have a drink with Beau


This week, Beau shares some more of his favorite books. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Smoke Em If You Got Em

Well, it's 4/20, and you know what that means. America's favorite unofficial holiday has rolled around once again, and anyone who is not at work today is almost definitely at home getting higher than God Herself. Sure, they might tell you they had a dentist appointment today, but we know whats really going on (and if you're at home reading this right now, your coworkers all know what you're doing too, so don't try to play so coy next year). 

I've never been one to participate in 4/20. It's not that I don't partake, but rather that it has never made much sense to me. After growing up in the DARE infected classrooms of the early 90s, when cops (their noses, in my memory at least, all welted and red from too much time in a cup of gin) would come in and tell fifth graders that smoking weed just one time could kill them, marijuana became, by definition, an act of rebellion. Something people did when they didn't buy in to the (obviously bullshit) narrative the Authorities were pushing. Most of the people I knew who smoked were cool. Interesting. Fun. People who had new and interesting ways of seeing things. By the time I was old enough to take my first hit from the bong, smoking weed had somehow become about more than just getting high.  It had become a way to experience an old world with a brand new set of eyes, one in which individuality and our individual perceptions of the world could be challenged and new paths or connections could be seen. 

But 4/20 always felt like the opposite of that. Instead of an act of individualistic communion with the self, a rebellious ingestion of the worlds most misunderstood plant, 4/20 was a group thing, an expectation. A tug towards the impulse of normalcy and schedules and arbitrary societal celebrations. And, worse, the people who most vocally celebrated 4/20 were the kinds of marijuana smokers I was least likely to want to sit and have a joint with. The people who were too loud about it. The people who made it their whole identity. The people who gave everyone else who smoked a bad name. 

I'm older now, and though I still smoke occasionally, my aversion to the holiday remains. But now, because our countries attitudes towards pot have shifted so totally, my anti-4/20 arguments feel, well, old.

The truth is, marijuana isn't a symbol of rebellion anymore (if it ever actually was). It's legal in 1/3 of the United States. Corporations, including Big Pharma - the existential boogeyman of so many stoners - has invested billions of dollars in marijuana research, hoping to incorporate its use into drug regimens for everything from cancer treatments to depression relief to fighting off the aches and pains of aging. Even the Senate, the biggest collection of certified Uncool Old Fogeys this country has ever produced, is going to attempt to pass full on Federal legalization next month.

From the first time I got high, I've heard others who also enjoy the green leaf talk about the unfairness applied to marijuana. How, really, it was no different than alcohol. And time has proved them right. In huge parts of the country, sitting down after a long day of work and taking a pull from your pipe is just as valid (and legal!) a choice as flipping on the tube and cracking a tallboy. But with increased legalization and the decline in Reefer Madness, other things are happening too. Permits in New York are being prioritized for POC who had previously had outsized criminal sentences because of drug prohibition. Criminal records are being expunged. Prisoners whose only crimes are small drug offenses are having their sentences reduced. Vets, wracked with PTSD, are being given prescriptions. The culture has been subsumed. Marijuana, once a symbol of rebellion, has won, and the injustices that were associated with that rebellion are (slowly - too slowly!) being repaired. The counter culture associated with a plant that grows wild all across North America is dead. It's now just the culture. 

So, maybe, tonight at least, that's worth celebrating.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Do You Like Avenger Stories?

Over dinner with a friend the other night, what started as a conversation about the war in Ukraine and the situation in Afghanistan with the Taliban and their treatment of women morphed into a discussion touching on stories where the main character is an avenger type like Jack Reacher.  I mentioned that I haven't read a single Reacher book and have no inclination to watch the series now showing on Amazon Prime because I've never had the slightest interest in that character and don't find those floating avenger-type stories in general all that compelling.

"Someone goes around taking on injustice where he sees it, just of sort of travelling here and there righting the world's wrongs.  I've never gone for those type of stories," I said.  "Not when I was a kid and not now."

My friend said he liked them a lot, going back as far as the Seventies and the film Billy Jack.

"I couldn't stand Billy Jack," I said.  

"Loved it," he said.

We kept talking, and as we did, I thought about how his predilection for these kinds of stories and my distaste for them reflected a difference in our personalities and how our personalities respond to a particular kind of fiction as wish-fulfillment. 

"I love stories about revenge, where the revenge is specific," I said.  "A person or people avenging a personal wrong that's been done.  What's better than a good revenge story?  But something like Reacher, the floating avenger guy..." 

I made a face and my voice tailed off.

There was some irony, I suppose, in my argument because this was on Friday night and I was planning on that Sunday to go see, before it leaves theaters, The Batman. And who is more of a floating avenger than Batman?  In this iteration, he even goes around saying, point blank, "I am vengeance".  And for the record, I enjoyed very much this version of Batman; I definitely rank The Batman as my favorite, or co-favorite, of all the Batman films, putting it neck and neck with The Dark Knight.  It is most definitely the only Batman film that is truly a detective film, and that was very satisfying.  And in fact, since childhood, like countless other people, my favorite comic book character has always been Batman.  I'll go to a Marvel Avengers film, while avoiding Reacher. So I guess it's most accurate to say that I can derive enjoyment from what you might call floating avenger stories if they're in a fantasy context but have trouble swallowing them when they take place in what's supposed to be, even nominally, the "real" world.

And even there, to be honest, there's nuance. I've enjoyed many a period western where the main character, at bottom, is a gunslinger-avenger type, or samurai movies where the warrior is that type, or kung fu movies, set in an ancient mythological China, where I like that character.  Set the tale far enough in the past, or in a comic book universe, and I can go for it.  Otherwise, no.  I can't say why exactly.  A detective solving a crime, bringing a tiny measure of justice to an unjust world, this character being a sort of floating instrument of "decency" -- this I respond to. But if the fictional world in the story is presented as being even in the remotest way one we are supposed to accept as "actual", or contemporary (at the time the story is written or filmed), then the figure of the floating Reacher-style avenger, going around doing his or her thing, doesn't do it for me. It's odd, but go figure.  Nobody ever said there's utter rationality in how one reacts to different story tropes.

Monday, April 18, 2022

A Small Sliver of Justice

Our community of writers highlights a wide range of styles, processes, levels of success and, most importantly for this blog, reasons to write. We all have different and personal motivations. Some write for the challenge of developing and thinking their way through a perfect caper on paper. Others want to share their enthusiasm for classic crime stories or put to paper the greatest story ever written. My biggest drive has been to create a small sliver of justice, however unreal and intangible, for those who may never actually see such treatment.

Often, I write about characters with a history of abuse, whether they have suffered cruelty, neglect and mistreatment or they are the abusers, trauma often shapes who they are. I attempt to create a realistic time and place where those who have been hurt, might somehow find justice and peace. Find hope. It doesn't always end that way, of course. Still, I strive to bring friendship and comfort to the lonely and neglected of my characters, however fleeting or hard earned those gifts might turn. And I hate how really satisfying it feels when I get to rain down horrors on those of my characters who deserve all the misery. Fiction writing can be cathartic and fantastical.

I say fantastical because we all know only a fraction of child abusers are caught or brought to justice. Most children are too afraid to speak up. Sometimes grownups are too bothered or busy to hear. We only see the tip of the iceberg. Those kids, and the adults they become, are who I think about when I write.

Writers can offer readers a safe place to visualize their own lives, but with a changed perspective or tone. Reading gives us a chance to escape or reflect though writing a different ending to a tragic story. There are other ways to help. 

As a community we need to offer at-risk families support, whether we vote for proper legislation, volunteer or donate. Children need to be respected and supported so that we might listen to them and hear when they are in trouble. After all, every child deserves to live in a safe and loving household.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. During this month, as well as the whole year, we should raise the issue of child abuse and the well-being of children around the country. We need to recognize the signs of abuse and speak up when we are concerned. Action and awareness are particularly important these days as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought many challenges to families, including increased child abuse and neglect, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

National Child Abuse Hotline

1-800-4-A-Child (422-4453)