I’m probably writing this now because it’s something I know how to do: write. Versus, say, pushing text and hyperlink pebbles around on Twitter. Or cold calling media figures with the hail mary request that they become instantly interested in my book and go out of their way to interview me. Or trying really, really hard for a really, really long time to figure out how to integrate my personal FB page with my “author” FB page in a way that make sense. I don’t know how to do these things with any dexterity and grace. I don’t know how to do these things without self-doubt and wincing. But I know how to write. I know how to write about pain, frustration, humor, love, dogs, toddlers, loss, grief, healing, masculinity and a lot of other things. I just need someone to put the fucking hashtags on right.


There is so much to say about the process of independently marketing a book. I dare to hope that someday I will be able to share what I’ve learned effectively, but for the moment I’m just praying—and scouring the web—for more resources that can guide me. Mike Philips and Alexis Dane @ the Neocom Group have been godsends, but they have day jobs, of course. I’m sure Guy Kawasaki would rock my world—but his webinars are always scheduled when I’m working. Bleary-eyed, I’ve perused the bookshelves for guerrilla marketing titles after long days of counseling young people about problems far graver than selling books, but none of them has felt accessible somehow.


This new era is a bitch. It demands equal parts social media/guerrilla marketing prowess and artistry. Since when do we find those two attributes firmly rooted together in a person? Very rarely. They literally require different parts of the brain. When I wax all wishful about a mainstream publisher that would just handle my shit for me in fine form, my friends chuckle at me—I’m too young to be nostalgic for that era. I never knew it. I just fantasized about it. Anymore, it doesn’t exist. And I’m sharp enough (at least after coffee and conversation) to know that those authors who are up and coming and somehow do get some sort of quasi silver platter treatment by big presses are actually being done a disservice in the long run, unless they can stick the dismount perfectly and transform themselves into the next John Irving or whatever. I say John Irving as if he doesn’t tweet. He probably does. Those of us that are being forged by this new era of self-promotion via social media will one day be grateful for it, I’m sure. When we read the epitaph on Random House our hearts won’t be as troubled. When publishers themselves have become irrelevant, the new humble rulers of the literary space will be people who know how—because they learned by necessity—to do it without big corporate hands.


I know this, even feel it in my bones sometimes—yet when I find two hours a day to drag my tired mind through Twitter feeds and message boards and Goodreads member logs instead of writing one of the twenty-six essays or stories that are thumping in the attic of my life, I sometimes wonder if I’m on the right track.

COLT 1911: A Partial Timeline


Part Iimages


Colt (n.):


young male horse;

inexperienced young person


The M1911 is a single-actionsemi-automatic, magazine-fed, recoil-operated pistol chambered for the .45 ACP cartridge,[1] which served as the standard-issue side arm for the United States armed forces from 1911 to 1985. It was widely used in World War IWorld War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The M1911 is still carried by some U.S. forces


[Patented April 20, 1897, September 9, 1902, December 8, 1905, February 14, 1911, August 19, 1913, Colt’s Pt. F.A. Mfg Co, Hartford, CT, USA, United State Property No. 1138164, M1911 A1 U.S. Army]





The man-boy is slope-shouldered and a very long way from central Illinois.  He walks the battlefield with a gait that would be considered leisurely if he were barefoot on a beach or even sneaker-shod on his suburban block back home, strolling to a cheerful country store for this or that staple.  But the slow scissoring of his legs now navigates him through trenches, disappearing his sodden boots in muck and gore.  He moves across charred ground, between and over corpses in some cases still smoking from the heat of their end.  These are Germans—Krauts—and he is American—brave and righteous—but I imagine that he glimpses the features of other human boys fading like the cordite clouds wafting around him.  I imagine that he has drawn the 1911 and grips it like one might the bar of a roller coaster or the armrest of the seat on a turbulence-tossed jetliner.  I imagine that he spools through his marksmanship training in his head, sees pumpkins on some Midwestern range, orange planets burst against the horizon by his rounds and tries to take comfort from that.  I imagine that at least once a body not fully finished with the grisly kinetics of this world jerks and that the boy fires an unnecessary round into a thigh or shoulder or face.  I imagine that there is something of both unveiling and of disguising in the macabre work he begins to do: plucking two pound steel swastikas from around the necks of the gone boys in the mud, tugging away helmets that despite his gentleness retain a lock of bristly hair, the more familiar and mechanical unholstering of Luger pistols that he then slips into his belt on either side of where the 1911 will ride when he can afford to release it from his ready grip.  I imagine that taking these things is, for a soldier, bittersweet vengeance and ritual, but that in this removal of Nazi symbols, he is also returning these boys to boyhood, hiding them in the mass grave for innocence he and his generation were digging faithfully.  I imagine that this disrobing of the accoutrements of war is, to him, a counterpoint to what he has done, does, will perhaps have to do, with his 1911.


I imagine that this is what my father imagined of his own father; it’s what I remember seeing in my mind, more or less, as a result of the words my father spoke about this.  But my father is dead and gone now and my aunt chops down my version with a brief email correction even as I type the last line.    


My father was first commissioned into the army as an officer. He was transferred to the Navy as Lt. JG and serviced on the ship the “Normandy.”  He was assigned to the ship’s store and as far I know, he remained in that capacity until the end of European invasion in 1943 (?).  He reached the rank of Lt. Commander. 

     Your version would make a better story, but his war memorabilia was acquired through his shipping connections.

He was quite a collector.  I think it was his curiosity and the love of documentation taught by a beloved aunt. 

     He was a Delta Kappa Epsilon with its incumbent appreciation of aromatic spirits of the beverage variety.


I must have imagined the traumatic traipse of another man across some savaged dirt of France. Perhaps my own father did, too. Maybe I’ve written pure fiction about the original journey of the M1911 Colt—then again, given the truth of that memorabilia in my basement, how pure could it be? 



When I met God he told me you’d be surprised at the way it all shakes out these days, how virtue and vice lend each other ballast.  The depths of spirit that contradiction and hypocrisy sometimes suggest if you can—as he can—just lift the silly veil of those concepts, which are, after all, flimsy, cycled so many times through our bullshit puritanical washer.  No, God told me, while he might conjure a friendly nod for adherents to black and white Good as they giddily slog their way through the pearly gates (these are useful but inaccurate symbols, of course, as they always have been: pearly gates, God as he, etc.), but it bores him.  He finds himself most passionate about border-dancing souls regardless of where the gravity and gusts of this world ultimately cause them to land: in his cloudy grove of bliss or the fiery pits below (God sounded particularly bored with this last symbolic illustration and I sensed that if he’d had the energy he might have made quotation marks in the air around it).  He experiences a rush of the sacred now only when he can usher a controversial case into everlasting peace.  The monk who spends all week on robed knees, then bullies a Harley through the hills come Saturday, a Sig Sauer strapped to his hip.  The feminist wonk cutting her way verbally through seminar rooms and news shows who submits powerfully to brutal gangbangs when she clocks out.  The pro bono abortionist doc braving picket lines, who decided at age sixteen that he’d never be party to the medical liquidation of his own seed again.  The psychotherapist weed whacking and vine chopping through dark and tangled psyches toward fragile truths, who closes his door at night to watch back to back episodes of Lost.  The vegan yoga guru and insight meditation instructor deep into her six-pack and blunt at one a.m.  The cop that thrashes abusive husbands in the squad car.  Etc.  No, it’s not rigid adherence, not dogmatic integrity, not fanatical embrace of virtue or literal acceptance of scripture that make God’s heart skip a beat these days.  Maybe he’s just gotten old, God said, but things have changed.  And he shook my hand, but also told me that despite himself he’d probably feel a certain pleasure—definitely a thrill—when they dropped the hood over me and threw that switch.