Early Writings (Part 3)

I, of course, did not have inkling that my writing would be a career, or something to hone as a craft.  Writing for me was based on the facts that I was a rather lonely child who was often picked on at school, and who had found solace in books rather than a social hierarchy of friends.  I had my share of friends, yes, but these people were often far away in some regard, whether physically or intellectually, and I discovered at an early age that I was impatient with them, and they found me strange.  My active mind however, adored intricate relationships and plots on the written page, and always was I moving.  The Godzilla stories became rather trite for me, and my adoration for 50s science fiction movies began to grow after I was 10-years-old.  I began emulating movie plots based on these Bs, and put together an interesting short story called “Whirlpools” – a story concerning bizarre whirlpools and waterspouts in the ocean that were destroying ships.  I can still remember a piece of one of my sentences from that story: “…from underneath the sea, the great hull of the ship moved across a watery sky…”  I feel, even now, that was rather lyrical for a young fledgling writer.  This was during the height of my fascination with science fiction movies, and I cultivated a strong interest in the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I read and reread his novels, At the Earth’s Core, The Land That Time Forgot, etc.  Burroughs’ works are not a serious stretch in difference from Jules Verne, of course, but they were highly adventurous and opened a new world for me.  I too began writing stories that featured dinosaurs, with one of them not too unlike what would become Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park many years later.  The titles of my works reflected my yearning to write “profound” and adult-oriented works, particularly a dinosaur story about a helicopter crew crash landing on an island called This Side of Paradise.  I’m not certain what inspired me for that title, but it could have come from anywhere; I had thought it sounded cool and the word, “paradise”, conjured images of a south seas tropical island – a place where dinosaurs no doubt would frequent.  Note that I refer to it in italics, because though incomplete, This Side of Paradise was actually my first attempt at catching Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels at their length.  The plots were still rather shallow, and my characters were all based on the wooden stereotypes that were the staple of the 50s science fiction movie: an older, harried scientist, a dashing he-man hero, and a pretty girl who helped them, but most likely would find herself in trouble and needed to be saved by the aforementioned hero.  Women at this stage of my pubescence interested me, and I knew that they had a purpose; but at 11, this “purpose” still eluded me.  I was rather innocent about sex and many other interests a typical puberty-stricken boy should have.  Still, I could not leave females out of my stories; I liked them and they dressed up the scenery, and usually gave me he-man heroes something to save.  I remember my mother once telling me in disdain that my female characters could be much deeper than what I created for them, but I scoffed.

My character relationships, however, made an abrupt change in course.  This was primarily due to the fact that I was maturing sexually, and my view on females was maturing as well; it culminated in a realization as I watched fantasy television B-movie called The Bermuda Depths.  This movie was produced by Rankin-Bass in 1978 and starred Leigh McCloskey, Connie Sellecca, Carl Weathers, and Burl Ives.  The movie itself is rather cheap, and put together poorly, but the haunting features behind it actually lift it up a few notches.  Weighed down by melodramatic acting and vague scripting, the story captured me and held me fast.  It not only ignited a love for the sea, but it opened up wells of inspiration for my writing.  The elements that made up the movie ignited tendrils of what had begun to grow during my discovery of Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie.  They shared common ground in many aspects, and now visualized (I had never seen the movie, Portrait of Jennie, starring Joseph Cotton and Jennifer Jones).  The female lead characters in the stories made an impact into my writing; yes, they stirred my manhood, but they also created the notion of deeper and involved relationships.  Connie Sellecca’s melancholy Jenny Haniver, a ghost from a shipwreck, so fascinated me that I began writing what would become my longest and most ambitious work yet.  This story, “Fathoms,” was deeply based on The Bermuda Depths, and concerned a couple of marine biologists and a SCUBA diver who were searching for a giant squid.  The story, of course, had the same vague elements of the supernatural in it as the movie it was inspired, but it also introduced a deeper love story involving the lead character and the mysterious girl from the sea.  It numbered an ambitious 33 steno-notebook pages – the longest yet (including my earlier abortive attempt at a novel) – and I spent days writing it.  I remember loving the story and being quite proud of it, although it mirrored the movie plot closely and even had some of the main characters.

Still, I held other literary interests, and within a year, had abandoned Edgar Rice Burroughs.  “Fathoms” had opened something up inside me, and I wanted to delve deeper (pardon the pun) into literary relationships and stronger characterizations.  However, I was still bound by genre-writing, but I found myself far more interested in television shows than books.  This was not always the case, however, as my love for the sea grew, so did my literary views also.  At this time, Peter Benchley’s Jaws was a blockbuster.  My mother forbade me to see the movie, but I was able to check out the book at the local library.  I couldn’t read all of it, finding Benchley’s contrived subplots involving adult-oriented relationships rather beyond my means to understand, but focused my study on the shark attacks and the climax that features Quint, Brody and Hooper at sea.  Yet, though most of the tracts of character interaction in the novel lost me (specifically Ellen Brody’s affair with Hooper, and the dinner party scene), the expositional paragraphs intrigued me.  Benchley had had a knack in evaluating the social setting of the locale, although in later reads, I found them to be rather lackluster.  Make no mistake, Benchley had been a major influence on my early writings, however, he was a writer given much to the late 60s and 70s setting, and much of his opinions and style reflect much of that period, which, to my opinion, were rather bland and contrary.  This was the age of Jacqueline Suzanne and Sydney Sheldon and Arthur Hailey, where contrived soap operas in literature were the norm.  What remains for Jaws, however, was the fact it was altogether new and frightening.  The story, quite frankly, scared the piss out of me.  It spawned a legion of nature versus mankind novels and movies, and I readily ate them all up.  Yet, it was Benchley’s style that intrigued me, and I began to emulate him in my own writing.  This culminated in my most ambitious work to date, a novel-in-progress called Depths.  I had just read, for the first time, Benchley’s The Deep, and the story about treasure diving inspired me more than Jaws.  I knew then I was going to write nothing but the sea, and my stories would be like Benchley’s.  Depths became a rambling, episodic narrative that involved a young man and his friends who get caught up in some sinister plot dreamed up by a vague villain.  That is rather ambiguous, but that story had no clear definition of plot, and I can no longer recall what (if anything) had been motive for the characters other than the bad guy causing the good guys trouble.   I know it had something to do with the sea and SCUBA diving, but, in my efforts to separate myself from Benchley’s works about sharks and treasure diving and drugs, I was an author in search of a storyline.  Needless to say, the novel ran on for 170 pages in a pencil-filled notebook until I altogether found it hopeless and abandoned it.  This was during 1979.  At 170 pages, Depths was by far my greatest epic; its rival was a science fiction novel called Target White – a hodgepodge of episodes featuring contrived plots stolen from Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica – which I wrote at roughly the same time.  Target White featured a protagonist named Ace Solaria, fighting a group of evil aliens much like the Cylons, while immersing himself in Star Trek episodes.  To my credit, Target White was for mere recreation; I had no ambition to make it a serious novel.  After writing a good length of it (approx 150 pages), I abandoned it.

I became enamored of Greek mythology, and wrote several storied featuring a Greek-styled hero named Antelles and scoping an epic novel called Paragon.  Though many of the short stories were completed, Paragon itself languished and died.   In my school days of this period, I came across another young writer who was ambitious enough to want to publish a novel of his own.  Although his name eludes me to this day, I remember him being interested in writing Arthur Hailey-style novels such as Overload and Airport.  He was very detailed in relationships and had a good beat on glamour-novels of the time; it’s funny to think that all I wanted to write about was some sort of robot wanting to kill a space-faring crew on a rocket-ship.  There was some praise as well from this period; a grammar-school science teacher assigned us to write a short story that incorporated science fiction and science fact. I remember her presenting my story (I don’t recall the specifics of it) to the English teacher and both of them being excited about it. Yet, even with these myriad works, my apprenticeship in the literary arts had yet to begin.

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On the Market: Electric Monkeyland

Electric Monkeyland (Cover)c

The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side. – Hunter S Thompson

Throughout my life I’ve had tons of friends always wanting to make me a rock star. Too bad I don’t have a musical bone in my body, but…,

…yeah. Seriously; I’ve been lucky to have friends in the rock world. Eric Bloom of Blue Oyster Cult, Danny Shonerd, the boys from Sun Red Sun (Alice in Chains), Mark Burgess of the Chameleons, and some others.

In the words Doctor McCoy could say on Star Trek: “I’m a writer, Jim, not a heavy metal guitarist!

Electric Monkeyland explores the world of the rock and roll bands of the late 70s and early 80s, which was, up to that point, dying. Many of the old guitar bands were aging and fading from the venue of pop rock to be replaced by the glittery synthesizer-influenced music of the post punk age. This is a period where the music world was redefining itself, as it is wont to do.

The novel is more than just a funny – yet often poignant – expose of rock musicians. It is an adventure tale that explores the rise of a young and innocent teenager who is a half-bred Apache Indian from Arizona; it is also a literary tale of a jaded rock star who finds himself at the crossroads of his career and his marriage; it is also a mystery tale that involves the murder of a famous guitarist whose death has changed the landscape for everyone around him; it is also the somewhat tragic tale of a caustic and doping band manager who may have seen her last days.

All the characters are written to be bigger than life, because that is what performers are. Too often literary rock novels are discarded because they do not delve deeply into the truth of the music world. Other books are often penned by the musicians themselves in edited autobiographies that never tell all. Yet, with the popularity of Cameron Crowe’s film Almost Famous and the hilarity behind This is Spinal Tap!, the literary rock novel has been in dire need of a makeover. The film industry here rules the day, and literature has not been taken seriously when it comes to the rock novel.

What is different about Electric Monkeyland? It is not a rock novel by itself. It is a literary novel; the characters could be from any performance industry, or as the main character Colin Morales states, “The only difference between a rock star and a high-priced prostitute is that we specialize in orgies. Big, bad orgies. Orgies that sell out to thousands of people at twenty bucks a ticket.”

This novel reinvents the rock star from an age when music was still king, and its subjects were pioneers in a world that will eventually shatter and consume itself.

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Early Writings (Part 2)

I loved O. Henry, so much, in fact, that I plagiarized “The Gift of the Magi” and read it out in class as my own creation.  I was in 6th Grade at the time, and wishing to make myself popular; however, although I understood the story’s complex twists, it left my classmates befuddled.  This was my first lesson in stealing someone else’s work and trying to come off deeper than my own skill.  It is interesting to note that my taste in literature was rather profound for a young boy.

After the reading, no one said much to me about it; I’m certain that my teacher knew the truth of what I’d done, but my writing/reading days before class were at an end.  This instance, I feel, should have been caught by a mentor, and as such, a moment needed for guidance.  The teacher could have readily helped me get back on the path of “original” writing and guided me into becoming an apprentice writer.  As it lies, however, this was one of those times when my budding talent/desire was ignored and all I received in return was indifference from teachers, my mother, and my fellows.

At home I wrote several stories, mostly centering on my love for Godzilla and dog stories.  I wrote them religiously and excitedly, but my distracted parent could not see anything peculiar about them.  Therefore, my early stages in getting a taste for literature fell upon deaf ears and blind eyes.  At school, my vocabulary and diction was somewhat higher than my colleagues; it is interesting to note that these too were ignored.  While most of my chums were riding bicycles and playing Little League Baseball, I was reading rather adult-oriented works and studying a budding art form.  This indifference throughout my writing life plagued me until my later years.

wings on fire

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“Lonesome Road” (excerpt) Short Story Published by The Silk Road Review

Well that’s a bit far but we can get you up there. This is my girl Melissa Ann. We’ve got some business to do if’n you don’t mind first. You just sit here between us in the cab of the truck. There’s no room in the bed.

Charlie Owens is quick to tell them that he’ll sit anywhere if it takes his feet off the road and gets him closer to Macon before sundown.

You in a mighty hurry.

Yes, but that is on account of that audition and a mean old hound.

Well, I don’t know what’s chas’n you boy, but I don’t doubt it either. There’s queer things out here on the open road.

The driver is rugged-looking with a beard, with those eyes that seem to be holding lots back, and his voice is ragged and broken in places, but he seems nice enough for a white man. The skinny white girl with him – her hair straight as hard water – she doesn’t say much. She’s not pretty because she has these big dark sunken eyes that don’t ask for nothing.

– excerpt, “Lonesome Road” (The Silk Road Review, 2015)

The Short Stories of M Cid D’Angelo

Published The Silk Road Review (sumer, 2015)

Published The Silk Road Review (summer, 2015)

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Early Writings (Part 1)

My earliest recollections of becoming interested in writing and literature in general began while I was living in Monticello, Utah.  There are several memories that rival each other for the first actual instance I put pencil to paper with the intention of creating a story.  One such recollection has me coming home from school with an assignment from the teacher to write a Halloween story that could not be longer than a page and a half in length.  I remember being very excited about it, and composed a mystery concerning an adolescent prank.  Due to the limitation on word length, I seem to recall the story ending rather abruptly, leaving a question mark for the reader to decide the solution on his/her own.

Another fond memory is exploring the attic of our rental home and coming across a collection of books.  One such volume was an anthology containing Washington Irving, O. Henry, Robert Nathan, and a short story called “The Birds” which no doubt was the inspiration for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie.  I read them all, particularly moved by Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie and “The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry.  Portrait of Jennie had a profound influence on me, considering it was a love story with a dash of the supernatural, and the fact that I was entering puberty.  The novel’s fantasy allusions and surreal plot made it difficult for me at that age to understand if this was an all out ghost story, or something else.  In retrospect, and after rereading the novel while an adult, I have drawn conclusions that Nathan had written a fantasy in the vein of Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray.  Both deal with haunted paintings and a touch of the supernatural, but their allusions and styles afford something in the undercurrents that don’t rightly classify them as merely speculative fiction, but rather a commentary, perhaps, on the times and observations of the authors.  Nevertheless, Portrait of Jennie stayed with me long after I lost that particular volume to time.  It would come back in a different venue a couple of years later, however, and inspire me even more greatly.

The third deep recollection I have is akin to the moment in Kinsella’s novel, Shoeless Joe; I was playing with my plastic dinosaurs and Hot Wheels cars in the yard, and having a glorious time with them.  Being a school night, my mother called me in to eat supper and take a bath and do homework.  I remember being crestfallen and having the profound sadness that my world of the plastic dinosaurs and cars would end, and for some reason, I would never have the experience again – certainly not like it was.  I heard a notion in my head that told me emphatically to write a story about it, and it will remain forever.

(to be continued)

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Villains in Literature and Cinema


The greatest villains in story are those who appear sympathetic and are complex; their goals and their ideals always appear reasonable. They make sense – even if they’re psychotic in their origin. The machinations of the villain always work against the protagonist(s), but not necessarily for worse.

In my novel Dead Reckoning – what or who is the actual villain? You have terror, you have evil, you have a darkness that threatens to destroy all good and light but … who is it? where is it?

If there was a SATAN – he would be the most sympathetic fellow around. Everyone would love him, and they wouldn’t realize the depths of his evil until the very end – when his goals come to fruition.

Annie Mitchell is a complex villain, and yet – she’s sympathetic. She’s reason too within her own psychosis. She’s the proagonist AND antagonist – at the same time.

The Joker (Dark Knight version) is a well-crafted villain. Yes he’s psychotic and there’s no doubt he’s a villain, yet – his motives are reasonable. They possess impact on a story that argues the point of altruism and heroics. The Joker is a catalyst for what the city of Gotham is already facing in it’s heart. His machinations change the landscape – for better or worse – for the entire milieu. He even has moments where his psychosis transcends reason.

Two complex and great literary villains (as well as cinematic) are Hannibal Lechter and Dracula. They possess style and regalia; they seem pure in their focus and their intentions. Both are inherently evil, and yet, the reader is drawn to them because they offer illumination in their way – as a candle flame for a moth. They are somehow perfect, even within their negative position. Hannibal is sympathetic within his cannabalism; Dracula is sexy even when he drains you of your blood. They are almost one and the same – and they draw the same type of fan.

Buy Dead Reckoning!

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Research for the Novel, Dead Reckoning

One of the chores a writer of fiction must do – almost as much as a nonfiction author – is painstaking research on particulars and disciplines he/she may not know too much about. We fiction authors are like substitute teachers; we’re trying to teach people the intricacies of foreign language one day and then instructing how to work a band saw the next.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) is featured in the novel, DEAD RECKONING. Great pains were taken in researching the facilities – but no doubt can never be accurate enough. Anyhow, both Annie and Stew – main characters – are students before their horrific tragedy off the Outer Banks in 2003.

I’ve always wanted to be a marine biologist or an oceanographer. I’ve just never been able to cross the frontier. Dead Reckoning is a labor of love and fantasy and … horror.

Dead Reckoning (Amazon): Buy the Book Here

WHOI website: WHOI

Divers courtesy the WHOI

Divers courtesy the WHOI

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