Be Careful What You Wish

I write cautionary tales. Some of my stories seem like horror stories, and they are. Some are prophetic science fictional looks at the near future or the re-imagined past. All of my stories are intended to make readers think, to ask the all-important what if questions: what if there really are real monsters hiding in the closet or under the bed? What if there is an insane axe murderer waiting for you or me down in the dark basement or up in the attic or out in the garage? What if global warming becomes a reality and temperatures reach 200 degrees, or the cities flood from all the rain caused by melting glaciers and icebergs, or all the trees and crops burn up and there is no more oxygen to breathe and nothing to eat?

What then do we do?

My stories are cautionary tales that, like your own parents should have done, warn you not to cross the street without first looking both ways, not to stick a screwdriver into a live electrical socket, not to put your hand into the flame.

And, if all hell does break loose, my stories teach you how best to act and react in order to survive.

I can be a lioness when I want. Hear me roar.

frontcover of spilled milk from Amazon

 

As I work on The Girl Who Lived, the sequel to Spilled Milk, I’m acutely aware I’m a male writing from a female’s point of view. I have been both lauded and criticized for attempting to understand the female mind and portray a female POV in my novels. “How can a man possibly understand what it’s like to be a woman?” I’ve been asked. Here is my answer.

I love women. I’ve been married to three different women during this lifetime and I’m in an ongoing intimate relationship with another. I’ve lived with women all of my life. My mother was a woman. My grandmothers were women. My aunts were women. More than half of my cousins were women.

My daughter is a woman.

Most of my teachers have been women. Many of the writers I read regularly are women. Many of the students in classes I teach are women.

I am a trained observer of women. I learned to be an objective observer first in journalism classes and then in graduate-level psychotherapy classes at several universities. More than half of the faculty on my thesis and dissertation committees were women. Most of my therapy clients were woman when I was in active practice. I have had access to women’s innermost thoughts and feelings during hypnosis sessions.

I am a good listener. Women tell me they love to talk with me because I listen to them and show I’m actively listening to them by my responses to their statements.

And, lastly but not least, I am a human being. All human beings inherently have both male and female traits. I was likely a woman in at least one of my past lives. I was a female in the womb before testosterone kicked in and defined my anatomy and restructured my brain. Carl Gustav Jung said I have an anima as well as an animus. I believe Jung was right.

Yes, Virginia, I CAN write from a woman’s POV. And women CAN write from a man’s POV. Whether I write accurately or not is up to readers to decide.

Let us go then, you and I

 

paul%20anderson%20web%20banner_1-rplI’m supposed to be on my way to New Orleans, but I had to cancel my scheduled appearances at Bouchercon in New Orleans this week because of pending deadlines. I need to finish another novel before I attend the World Fantasy Convention in October. I also have planned signings at Rockford Public Library and Ida Public library between now and WFC. And I have a 6,000 word story due at another anthology before the end of October.

I guess there’s no rest for the wicked, is there? Heh heh.

Instead of driving south to meet and greet so many of my good friends who write mystery and suspense, I’m spending the day at home with fictitious friends from Spilled Milk and Darkness. They tell me their continuing stories and I dutifully record their utterances in words on paper. Like the newspaperman I once trained to be, I try to listen and observe without intruding myself into their lives unnecessarily. From time to time, I do ask pertinent questions. But the stories I write are their stories and not mine. I’m merely an interested bystander.

I can’t help but be reminded of the opening lines of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”:

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats

        5

Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….

        10

Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

Telling stories is like that for me. Let us be the silent observers who visit humanity in the best of times and the worst of times. Will you come with? I promise to show you things you have never seen before. Or, if you have, to offer you a new perspective.

Pain and Suffering: A True Story

When I tried to get out of bed this morning, I discovered I could not straighten my back.

Don’t worry, this morning wasn’t the first time this has happened. Slightly more than thirty years ago, I was hit by a moving car while walking across the street. The car’s grill struck my left hip, propelling me up onto the hood and into the windshield. When the car slowed, I rolled off the hood and fell to the ground beneath the still-moving car. I heard Gretta scream before I lost consciousness.

I came to in a Fire Department ambulance on the way to a hospital emergency room. My neck and back were strapped to separate braces that kept me immobile. I was wheeled into x-ray where they took a full set of 8 x 10 glossies.

My head had cracked open where it had collided with the windshield (Gretta told me later that she saw my hard head actually shatter the shatter-proof glass in that windshield). I received a half-dozen stitches and a shot for the pain. Three doctors examined me and let Gretta drive me home with a brace around my neck, stitches and bandages on my head, and a handful of pills that included prescription muscle relaxants and pain killers.

Long story short: I was lucky to be alive.

When I went to see a doctor again the next day for follow-up, she told me I had hairline fractures in my cheek, jaw, and left hip. She said they would eventually mend. The muscle in my left hip was severely swollen and badly distended. She said she doubted it would ever heal properly.

It didn’t.

I had no medical insurance at the time because I was a free-lance writer barely eking out a meager living selling an occasional short story, a work-for-hire novel, or a magazine article. I managed to pay the rent, purchase pipe tobacco, feed the cats, and put food in my own stomach, but I sure as hell couldn’t afford medical insurance. Fortunately, the driver of that car had insurance. The driver felt terrible about hitting a pedestrian, the insurance adjuster said. I agreed to sign a waver forfeiting the right to sue for future pain and suffering if the insurance company paid for my current medical bills and the cost of replacing the three-piece suit I had worn that was ruined by blood and rips in both the pants and the jacket.

I wish now that I had sued. My hip never did heal. That muscle is still distended and if I turn over the wrong way in my sleep I awake in terrible pain and can’t straighten my back.

I also walk lopsided, like the way an automobile drives when the frame is knocked out of kilter by a collision.

But I consider myself lucky to be alive. Not only did my head shatter that windshield instead of the windshield shattering my head, when I rolled off the hood one of the front wheels missed pancaking my head by less than an inch. That, according to Gretta, was what made her scream. She was certain I was road kill.

It’s now 8 PM, thirty-some years after the accident, and I haven’t been able to straighten my back since yesterday. I have to walk hunched over like Igor or Lon Chaney. I’m in pain as I write this. As I said, this isn’t the first time this has happened. I should be back to normal in a week or so.

Until the next time I strain my back and this happens again.

It’s always nice to know that I have friends who worry about me. When I don’t post for a while on various social media sites like Facebook or one of my multiple blogsites, I get e-mails or phone calls wondering why. If I don’t appear at a con where I’m normally a fixture, plenty of people wonder why. If I haven’t been my usual prolific self with new stories and novels and book reviews appearing in print, you probably wonder why yourself.

Here’s why:

1. I am carefully crafting a breakthrough novel that’s dynamite. My agent asked to have the novel polished for submission by the end of August. It’s now whittled down from 140,000 words to 95,000 fast-paced words and almost ready to fly.

2. I’ve been invited to submit to four anthologies, one of which is a shared-world, and those deadlines are also approaching.

3. After neglecting personal self-care for five years, natural aging finally caught up with me. My eyes, knees, and teeth cried out for attention. I may not yet be the Six Million Dollar Man, but I’m getting real close.

4. Lizza and I are coordinating our fall convention wardrobes during cook-outs and dinners in area restaurants.

5. Daily deluges turned my front and back yards into virtual rainforests that require constant cutting, chopping, and decluttering before my humble abode completely disappears and I turn into the Swamp Thing.

6. You already know about my hip and the pain I’m in.

Stephen King, like many of the characters in his stories and novels, is the kid next door. We all knew him when he ran around the neighborhood with poopy diapers and a silly shit-eating grin on his face.

We watched him grow up, go away to the nearly-local state university, fall in love, get married, have a handful of kids, and bury a beloved, but possessed, dog or two. We watched him struggle to make a success of himself. We watched him fall down once or twice and pick himself up. He was a lot like us, we figured. He looked familiar. He sounded familiar. He had similar addictions. When he was good, he was very good. When he was bad, he was very bad.

We could easily identify with all that

He loved books and he loved to read or hear a good story as much he loved to tell one. He still does. Everyone I know can certainly identify with that.

Steve, too, was a pedestrian hit by a moving vehicle. Not everyone can identify with that. But, on days like today, I certainly can.

A Complicated Mystery

all these perfect strangers cover

 

All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford (Alibi, July 2016) is a mystery within a mystery. The characters are complex, fully-developed, because Pen Sheppard is a keen observer and notices details most people don’t. Frank, Pen’s psychiatrist, even comments on Pen’s keen skills of observation as she relates her story.

Pen is a first-year University law student, away from home for the first time. Her classmates play a game they call “The Murder Game”. The object of the game is to mock-kill each your classmates when they least expect it. Pen’s friend Rachel boasts she has more kills than anyone else. Rachel loves to stab or shoot people in the back.

Then students start dying for real, allegedly attacked by “The Screwdriver Man”. Is there a serial killer stalking campus? When Rachel dies from drowning and other students die from drug overdoses, Pen becomes a prime suspect.

None of the people in this novel are nice, nor is anyone who she or he pretends to be. Everyone seems to be hiding something. Whether or not they are all guilty of murder is irrelevant. No one is completely innocent.

All These Perfect Strangers is a complicated story of relationships gone wrong. Recommended for readers who like to sort through all the chaff to find overlooked grains of truth. Worth a read.

My Return from the Dead

20160708_17561420160709_103728

 

Coming back from the dead is never easy.

I deliberately killed myself off twenty-five years ago. I stopped writing fiction to help my wife overcome chronic life-threating illness. Instead of writing fiction, I earned several masters degrees and worked on doctorates in educational psychology and cognitive neuroscience. I learned hypnotic techniques to help prolong human lives and improve the quality of life. I made a name for myself as a hypnosis instructor and author of journal articles.

But Paul Dale Anderson–the author of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and thrillers–was buried and forgotten.

When I returned to fiction writing in 2012, it took two long years for my novels and short stories to again appear in print. I’m still in the process of resurrecting my backlist, but new Paul Dale Anderson novels are now available as paperbacks and e-books.

I began making live personal appearances in 2014, and this year I’m doing the full convention circuit. I’m getting my face and name out there to show people I’m still alive.

I have been back in the fiction game for four consecutive years, and I am about to have a breakthrough. Breakthroughs come when an author publishes consistently for at least five years in one genre or related genres. Breakthroughs occur when name recognition and writing quality reach critical mass.

It takes at least five years before people in this industry take you seriously, five years of writing your heart out, five years of pitching and submitting manuscripts to agents and editors, five years of attending conventions and doing readings and book signings, five years of reaching for the golden ring, missing it by millimeters, before you can grab hold and hang on.

It takes five years for word to get around that your work is worth reading. Any writer worth his or her salt who sticks around for more than five years should notice a breakthrough at the five year mark.

It takes ten additional years to produce a bestselling book. Your writing improves with each book you write, so the more books you write, the better your writing becomes. Sales, also, are accumulative, and the more you write the more books you’ll sell. And the more you sell, the more readers will recognize your name. The more people who recognize your name, the more books you’ll sell. It’s a vicious circle. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Writing is a numbers game.

In order to play the writing game and have a chance at winning, you need:

1. Name recognition

2. Facial recognition

3. Genre recognition

4. Quality (Content) recognition

5. Peer recognition

People will want to buy your work only if other people buy your work. You must fist show that other people like and trust you. Humans are socially conditioned to do what they see other people doing. That’s why books have lots of blurbs from other bestselling authors and reviewers on their covers and in their front-matter.

That, my friends, is a hard truth most writers refuse to admit.

I now have a New York agent, one of the best in the business at a literary agency I respect. I have made new friends, many of them bestselling authors, who know my name and like my work. I help fledgling authors with reviews and blurbs. I have found heaven on earth and I am once again alive and well.

20160708_141642

20160708_092940

 

20160708_175614

 

20160709_105620

Watch for my breakthrough novel to appear from one of the Big Five publishers. I’m hard at work on a sequel and three stand-alones.

I’m scheduled to appear on panels at MidAmeiCon II, the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City, in August. I’ll be at BoucherCon in New Orleans in September.

Life is good.

Rather than endure long TSA lines at O’Hare International Airport on July 4th,I chose to drive two thousand miles to attend Thrillerfest XI July 5 through July 9 in New York City. It was worth the time and money to attend.

 

20160708_174122

Hate Kills

I don’t normally openly comment on politics. I hide my personal political views within the actions of my fictional characters. I usually try to show both sides of a story as I explicate some of what I think are the real reasons for every conflict. Few things are ever simple in this universe. That is certainly true of politics.

Full disclosure: I am a member of the National Rifle Association. I have been an NRA member on and off since I was a young teen, some sixty years ago. I joined the NRA to learn the rules of gun safety.

I first learned to shoot in the Boy Scouts of America. As I grew older, I fired on the ROTC Varsity Rifle team at Rockford East High School and the Varsity Rifle Team at the University of Illinois, earning varsity letters. Shooting in competition is considered a competitive sport even by the Olympics, and I fired at fixed targets in competition, beginning with .22 caliber Remingtons and Winchester 52Ds in high school and college, and graduating to high-powered M1 Garands, M14s, and M16s when I became an enlisted man and then a Reserve Warrant Officer in the U. S. Army. I fired in Fifth Army, Fourth Army, and ARCOM match competitions. I served as a range officer and weapons training officer. Gun safety was always paramount in my mind. Friendly fire could be as deadly as enemy fire.

Although no longer in the Army, I continued my NRA membership to keep abreast of the latest in firearms technology which I use to make my novels seem as realistic as possible. I recently competed an NRA sponsored handgun safety course to qualify for concealed carry. I don’t carry and never bothered to apply for a permit. I don’t need a gun to kill someone, as my Instruments of Death novels prove. There are millions of ways in the naked city to kill another person, and a gun is only one of them.

True firearms enthusiasts know to put safety first. They place trigger locks on all weapons (or keep them broken down) when not on the range. They never load a weapon until they are ready to fire. Most competent firearms owners store firearms and ammunition in locked safes or vaults. Loaded firearms need to be kept out of the hands of unsupervised children, convicted felons, and mentally unbalanced adults.

I applaud and support NRA training in firearms safety and in hosting national competitions. I condemn and abhor the fear tactics the NRA uses to raise money.

Today I received a form letter from NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. The NRA has declared war on Hillary Clinton.

“Mark my words.” Lapierre says in his letter. “In these next 148 days, you are going to witness the most dishonest, vicious, hate-filled anti-gun campaign that you’ll see in your lifetime.”

The letter goes on to say the battle lines are drawn. The NRA needs my help and financial support. Do they want me to become as dishonest, vicious, and hate-filled as their avowed enemies? The letter sure as hell sounded like it!

Most despicable of all (although brilliant in its own way and in its emotional impact) is this image: “Hillary Clinton is going to blame you personally for senseless murders committed by armed thugs who should have been behind bars. She’s going to point to the most heinous crimes ever committed in this country, and claim that you’re to blame because you choose to own a gun. She’s going to stand shamelessly behind a phalanx of armed guards, and tell you that you have no right to protect your home and family.”

Please, Hillary, tell me it isn’t so. Tell me you don’t blame me personally.

There are enough broken things in this country that need fixing, and gun violence is only one of them. Congress needs fixing. Our roads and bridges need fixing. The pension crisis in this country needs fixing, as does the health care system. Make compromises that can accommodate everyone regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.

Instead of pointing fingers and fixing blame, let’s all work together and get something done. Let’s make compromises we can live with.

Instead of feeling like politicians have my back, I now feel like I’m about to become a victim of friendly fire. I’m caught in the middle while both sides are taking pot-shots at each other. That is not a comfortable feeling, my friends, and this hate-filled political rhetoric has to stop.

I believe it was hate-filled rhetoric that caused the killings in Orlando. Guns may be the means by which hate crimes are carried out, but it is hate that kills. I don’t want to ban free-speech any more than I want to ban guns, but this kind of “us” versus “them” hatred has to stop. Period.