When I was sixteen I was priviledged enough to get a trip to Germany. This trip was part of a European Tour with an international symphonic band of which I was a member.

 Getting into the band was fairly easy for me. I remember going to a fine arts camp for a week or so the summer before, and one of my camp friends said to me, “hey you should try out for the international band”. They had open auditions, so I just showed up and played something I found in a school music book.

Competition was fairly tight, and I felt bad edging out people who had really tried hard. The way that it worked was I received my acceptance letter, then was asked to make a tape of myself playing something else for positioning within the band. I played trumpet, and let me tell you that trumpet doesn’t carry very well on a very old computer microphone. I was placed very low in the trumpet section.

Still, I didn’t really care. It was a cheap trip to Europe, going through France, Germany, Belgium, and a few other countries that we didn’t stop in for long. France was our biggest stop, staying there for nearly two weeks with various families. Germany was pretty big, too.

One of the stops we made was to a city called Ulm. Ulm is a fairly well known German city, most reknown for its Ulm Münster, the highest church steeple in the world. This was one of the first times that the band was let roam free in the town without supervision. I went around mostly on my own, occasionally grouping up with a few others.

We did all the usual touristy things, and climbed to the top of the steeple. It was very tall, the tallest point being the top of the tower. Below, the top of the church was still pretty high up.

When we got to the bottom of the steeple again, I heard a shout. I turned around just in time to see a man falling, probably about four or five feet away. He hit the ground with a horrible squelching noise, and there was a lot of blood. I was in something of a state of shock as I watched this mangled heap of flesh, still twitching and trembling in some places.

Some authority figure showed up and covered him in a white sheet, and an ambulance showed up a few minutes later to scoop him up. They literally used a shovel for some of the parts, and then left a large red stain on the ground, surrounded by police tape. Eventually the stain was cleaned.

 I can still hear the noise that man made today. It haunts me.

Last year I wrote a book, a full length novel. It took a long time and required a lot of hard work, but in the end I think it paid off.

 A lot of people have asked me how I did it. So many people want to be writers and ask “how do you write a book? What is the first step? How can I do it too?” This question is asked so often that it prompted me to write this entry, already deviating from my format.

 The first step to writing is to sit down at a word processor, or a piece of paper, and then start telling a story one letter at a time. It really is that simple. Anyone can do it. If you keep telling yourself “man, I would LOVE to write a book”, but you haven’t done it yet, then there is no one to blame but yourself.

 Now, I said anyone can be a writer, but the sad truth is that not everyone can be a good writer. I like to think I am at least decent, but since everyone thinks that about themselves I know that it’s not any kind of indicator as to my actual talent (or lack of).

I began writing using Microsoft Word and a story idea. The book I wrote was actually inspired by watching Spiderman and listening to a song by the Who at the same time. Inspiration can come from just about anywhere, and any lose connections you make in your own mind can fire the synapse that might just lead to a great idea.

This leads me to my next point. If you are writing just for yourself, then good for you. That’s awesome, really. If you are writing because you want others to read what you wrote and share ideas, then make damned well sure you have a decent idea. Way too many people write stories that have no possible readers except for themselves, which is fine if you don’t intend to share.

Many submissions to publishers are merely stories about the writers’ lives. Housewives write stories about what it’s like to be stuck at home. There’s not really an interesting story there, unless you make one. College students write stories about their parties and friendships and social interactions. Again, while it is fun and interesting at the time, people outside of that group will not really find it interesting.

 The best thing to do to make a story interesting is to first make sure that it’s actually a story, with a plot, and not just a thinly veiled rehashing of some mundane aspect of your life. There’s a difference between being a good writer, and writing about something good.

Another reason I am writing this is that I am getting back into writing myself. My first novel is currently being reviewed by a publisher, and the waiting is killing me. Waiting and rejections are something every writer should get used to. It can take a very, very long time, regardless of any talent you possess.

I have two projects in the works right now. The first is a humor book entitled “Domestic Big Game Hunting”. It is a fake non-fiction piece telling how to hunt tamed dogs and cats in the comfort of someone else’s home. This idea stemmed from a video my friends and I made in high school. We had to make a satire of anything we wanted, so we chose TNN deer hunting shows. First, we broke into someone’s house (on camera, of course, not in real life). Then, we put on hunting gear, bright orange camo, and crawled around the house shooting airsoft rifles at cats with Counter-strike soundeffects added in later.

The video was a huge hit at our high school. People still, five years later, ask me for copies of the tape. A teacher still shows the video in all his classes, more as a political statement than anything. See, the video was immediately banned from my school because we also fake-shot a human being at the very end, in the “clips from next show” segment. It was so obviously fake, there was no blood, it was just a loud boom and then a person slumping over in his chair. Still, it was enough to get the administration up in arms.

It wasn’t the first video we made that was banned either. One of my friends made a video of himself stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment and goods from the school. He literally stole it, too. Walked in, walked out. Piled it all together and estimated the cost. He stole a car, too, but since we didn’t know how to hotwire, we got the owner to turn the key and just faked hotwiring it.

Shortly after our video aired, security cameras were placed all over the school. Less than a year later, the security guard of 20 years was fired. No one liked him anyway.

Anyway I am way off topic now. That’s the origin of the Domestic Big Game Hunting book. I can share more details if anyone is interested, I am just playing it prudently right now.

My other book in the works right now is currently untitled. It is a post apocalyptic story that I like to think is similar in theme to the Dark Tower series. The main character so far is searching for his kidnapped father, comes into a town in the nation-state of Montana, and encounters some strange ghostly being who turns everyone to ashes. The wraith is doing the same to the main character, Ulrich, when it gets interrupted, leaving him cursed instead. He ages extremely rapidly, and somewhere in chapter three or four will die of old age.

He is the main character throughout the book, though, and that’s just the beginning. Crazy things happen, and I think it is an interesting story.

Growing up in Michigan, it was hard to keep myself entertained. Many summers were wasted goofing around with friends, trying to find something – anything – to do. That’s when I decided to become something more, something of a world traveler, finding any excuse to leave Michigan and the surrounding areas. Michigan seems like the best place to start my journey, and so I will begin by describing some of the more interesting stories about my coming-of-age in Michigan.

 This goal was made easier by the fact that I am not actually American in the first place. I was born in England, but did not stay for very long. Still, it gives me a gateway to Europe, and the rest of the world, from which to launch.

The first and arguably one of the more interesting stories to tell is that of being a delivery boy in the Michigan suburbs. Young men with nothing to do can find some of the most interesting ways to entertain themselves, which is something that I learned mostly as an observer.

In the summer of ’98 I worked in a strange restaurant called Off The Grill. It was a mix of fast food style and sit-down style menus, with burgers on the menu next to steaks. Our side item of chocie was a loaded baked potato. The strangest thing of all was that we delivered these steaks directly to people’s houses, cooked and ready to eat. Unfortunately the place has closed down now, but it’s still alive and kicking in southern states.

 As a “driver”, it was my job to do just about everything, from helping to cook, prepare food, take orders, and finally actually drive to customers’ houses. One of the other drivers, a young man named Tony, did not take his job as seriously as I did. He would do what many rebellious young people do and cut work, act like he owned the place (in actuality, it turns out his uncle DID own the place), and more often than not take one delivery, and spend the next hour at his own place having sex with his girlfriend.

It was my job to tag along with Tony on the first several weeks I worked there. From him, I learned many interesting things about how some people keep from going insane in the monotonous world they see around them. Tony was, for lack of a better word, a player. He was in like Flynn and he knew it. On more than one occasion, Tony would take a delivery to an enterprising young woman’s apartment and then make me wait in the car. Degrading, yes, but an insight into who he was nonetheless.

One particular occasion stands out in my mind. He took me to a house with a 40-year old mother and her college-aged daughter. Keep in mind that Tony was only 17 or so at the time. He walked inside like he owned the place, and shortly after clothes were strewn about the floor of both mother and daughter, first one, then the other. He was inside for about an hour. It’s no wonder this place went out of business.

Another instance that I remember well was one of my first forays into delivery on my own. I had a delivery to a hotel, not a sleazy one but not a high-class place either. I knocked on the door and heard a squeal. When the door was opened, two women were in bed with the bedsheets pulled over themselves, and a man with a moustache was video taping, full with tripod and headset and everything.

That same day I went to a hotel on the other side of town and delivered to a hotel room full of young girls, probably about 15 of them, and a couple of guys. Everyone was in various stages of undress (although none of them were completely nude) and there seemed to be a lot of drinking going on. If it was a weekend or something that would make sense to some degree, but it was a Tuesday afternoon and it was not a holiday. I asked what the occasion was, politely, and was told that they didn’t need an occasion to party. Oddly, a few of the girls looked familiar. One flashed her underwear at me and winked, and they tipped me very well.

Shortly after I told him these stories, one of my friends, Bob, joined the delivery team. He wanted excitement and adventure like this as well. His first delivery, he was held at gunpoint by a crazy person pretending to stay at a hotel. The old man was drunk, and the hotel warned him that he might be up there. I guess this crazy old man called and ordered from a room phone and then tried to rob my friend. Bob (stupidly) ran from the man and made it to the elevator in time. Of course, getting into an elevator probably isn’t the smartest idea either, but the man was so drunk that he couldn’t navigate stairs very well.

Regardless, Bob wanted to make the delivery. Don’t ask me what was going on in his head, but he went back up a few minutes later. This time he took hotel security with him. The man pointed his gun at one of the security guards and fired, but nothing happened. Bob charged the man and tackled him to the ground. Turns out the gun wasn’t loaded.

Michigan is not just gunshots and pornshoots though. In updates I will cover anything from New York, California, Arizona, and then on to the bigger world: France, Germany. Australia, and beyond.