Monday, October 28, 2013

The Hay's In the Barn and Soon to be On Fire.


6 days and a wake up until I run the New York City Marathon, and I was so excited that last week I ran....  not at all.

Well, I ran 3 miles. I am tapering to heal up fast and furious, but will run at least two times this week to fire up my neurons.  Once again, I am mocking the marathon beast, throwing tiny little 30 mile week pebbles at its eye. Either way, the hay is in the barn, and soon it will be on fire. Boo-yah!! Can't wait for the weekend. And no Hurricanes in the forecast. 

I have a couple of new pieces of flash fiction hovering around out there. Both of them a bit bizarre and with a Halloween theme.

There is a Dark Carnival project going on at the blog Pen and Muse. My submission is pretty good if you like that sort of stuff: Wicked Smart Carnie

Chuck Wendig puts on a weekly flash fiction contest at his blog TerribleMinds. This week, the challenge was to mish-mash together genres.  I put some science fiction and zombie apocalypic slasher horror in a blender and this is what came out: "A Day At the Park"

Salty Running is one the coolest running blogs around with frequent updates from different flavored spices. They are sponsoring a Paperback contest giveaway! Check it out here and win.

Lastly, I will be at the grand opening of the new Running Fit store in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, October 30th from 6 to 8 pm signing copies of On the Lips of Children.  The store is on the south side of Washtenaw near Platt road. 

...and Chasing the Dragon

Last week I was invited by one of my past professors to take part in a panel of recovering addicts and alcoholics to speak with a University of Michigan social work class. This was the second year I did it, and it was very powerful. A few spoke who were in college, living in the dorms, and only recently sober (and by recent, meaning 9 months, which, when you are an addict, is a damn miracle.) Others were those who worked in the field and experienced great calamities during their days in college in Ann Arbor.  Addicts in recovery, much like runners, speak their own language and listening to them talk is both soothing and inspiring.

So glad to have such a whirlwind of experiences right now, but, when this hurricane passes I need to catch my breath. For now, I have miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Goals for the 2013 New York City Marathon

The way my training has been, any sort of time goals have been ruled out for the New York City Marathon.  In order to enjoy the event, I need to leave my ego in Michigan, start 5 times as slow as I think I should, and cruise through the New York streets and soak up the experience. My only hope for anything faster is if Meb himself pushes me in a baby stroller.

With no time goal in mind, I am still being ambitious.  My process goals are vast, deep, and many.  Here they are:

NYCM Goals:

The day before, I shall walk the streets of Greenwich village and hear the ghosts of Ginsberg and Kerouac Howl in my ears. The only ones for me are the mad ones. 

Marathon morning will start with a glorious poop. It will be productive, thorough, and leave no doubt about its status as completed.

On the ferry to the start, I will see the ghosts of my grandparents who arrived as immigrants on Ellis Island 100 years ago. They will give me a wink and a smile.

While waiting for the anthem to play, I expect a mass of black clouds to appear on the horizon. It is the son of Hurricane Sandy
threatening from the sky. Thousands of runners with their dream deferred will look into the eye of the storm and scare it back to sea. 

Race on.

I plan to bottle up the enthusiasm and excitement of nearly 50,000 runners at the start. I will bring the bottle home, and take a shot with my morning coffee for the weeks to come.

I expect to see Macon from my novel On the Lips of Children standing anxiously at the start with a runner’s bib pinned on his shirt. His body is scarred and his brain seems troubled.  “Fodder, Fodder,” I hear him mumble. 

I move on.

After the anthem and Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” I expect the energy of the event to keep pumping music into the air.

I hear the Beastie Boys booming Sabotage from Brooklyn and echoes of punk rock 20 years old from CBGB’s.

Bruce’s  “Born to Run” thumps across the water. Lou Reed monotones about heroin and walking on the wild side.  “Shattered” from the Stones mocks us all saying, “Go ahead, bite the big apple, don’t mind the maggots.”  Jay Z and Alicia Keys urge us on to run through “concrete jungles where dreams are made.”

When my insides are warmed to a boil, I expect my spirit to transcend my body and commune with my recently deceased brother. I tell him things I wanted to say before he died. He promises to appear again in my dreams.  

I move on.

During the route, I expect Broadway shows to spill onto the course.  The lead role from Wicked, Elphaba, will run beside me. Together
we will belt out “Defying Gravity.”  “Nobody in all of Oz, no wizard that there is or was, is ever going to bring us down.”

I expect my bib number to mysteriously change to 24601 and Javert from Les Miserable to appear behind me. He gives chase, nips at my heels, and threatens a return to jail.  “I am warning you Javert. I’m a stronger man by far, there is power in me yet, my race is not yet run.”  

And when my tendons inflame , my muscles tighten, and my veins fill with wet cement, I will throw my hands to the sky and curse the
Gods.  “HASA DIGA EEBOWAI!!”   The cast of The Book of Mormon will then appear and sing, “time to be a hero and slay the monster.”  “MAN UP!”  

I expect the runner’s high to give me a buzz more than years of drinking and drugging ever could.

I expect inspiration to sweat out of my brain into my eyes, and I will have visions for my next novel or two.

I expect to see Adam from the cast of Lena Dunham’s “Girls” on HBO. He will say something quirky and weird that I try so hard to repeat for the rest of my life but realize I can’t, because I only understand Adam, I don’t speak it.

I expect to see Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sitting on a bench in Manhatten.

I expect to see John Lennon appear in Central Park, of if not, at least Elton John singing Empty Garden.

And if I could hit a time goal, it would be a 4:09:43 with the power to co-opt the 4:09:43 finishing time of the history of all marathons, and prevent any deaths and heal any wounds of anyone injured at this time. 

I want to photo-bomb Pamela Anderson’s finishing line picture.

I want to see Janice from my novel “The Jade Rabbit’, wearing her medal and looking to the sky after her 2:59:50 finish.

If none or all of these come true, my goal is the same for this or any marathon:  to run hard enough to squeeze out my insides until something new is revealed. Every 26.2 demands a deep, personal journey, all while connecting to thousands of other running souls along the way.

Nope, I have no time goals. But the clock can’t measure everything.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Signing at the new Running Fit store in Ann Arbor

Running Fit has a new store in Ann Arbor. The Grand Opening Festivities will take place on October 30th. Food, drinks, music, swag, and more!

I will be there from 6 to 8 pm signing copies of On the Lips of Children, a dark thriller featuring a marathon gone horribly wrong.

Running Fit is ranked one of the top 50 running stores in the country.  Go to any event they put on, and it will be run smoothly and with some great vibes. Their stores are staffed with avid runners of all shapes, sizes, and genders who love to talk and teach about their craft.    

And the new store? Well “This is probably going to be the best store we have to run from,” said Running Fit President Randy Step. “That’s always big with the staff — the weekly run.” 

Signing copies of my horror novel about a runner, at Running Fit, in Ann Arbor, on Devil's Night. I just wanted to repeat that, since it sounds too wicked cool to be true.

If you’re within shouting distance of Washtenaw and Platt road in Ann Arbor on October 30th, stop by for a copy or just to say Hi. I will be the dude standing there with a huge grin on my face.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Detroit Free Press Marathon: The Morning of, The Bridge Over, and the Tunnel Underneath

  My hometown Detroit Free Press Marathon is this weekend! 

Read about one runner's experience running the course as featured in my novel The Jade Rabbit

Marathon Morning

      Piping hot, extra strong cup of coffee to get me started. Caffeine improves performance, but too much dehydrates. A banana is the first thing I eat, followed by a peanut butter sandwich. It is 5 am, two hours and fifteen minutes before take-off. I scan the weather on the TV with the noise muted.
Forty-eight degrees currently, high of sixty-two, a mix of sun and clouds with a chance of showers increasing towards the afternoon. Winds out of the northwest with gusts up to ten miles per hour. No real change in the weather from what was expected yesterday.
I take a warm shower to get my body going, yet keep the lights out in the bathroom and my eyes closed in the shower. I bow my face towards the shower faucet. Water hits my forehead and drips down my nose and my chin. The splatter of the water starts humming, putting me into a trance so that I don’t know if I’ve stood under the water for five seconds or twenty minutes. Either way, there’s not a spot that hasn’t been cleansed and is fresh and ready to go.
This is the morning you’ve worked for. You’ve done your work, today is just the victory lap. Run like you have metal in your chest and the finish line is one big magnet, sucking you in. Take nothing with you, leave it all on the course, all of it, all of it, all of it, all of it, all of it on the course today. There is no tomorrow.
My naked self is all I got. Everything else is gone except the body that I have sculpted to shoot through the Detroit city streets.
I get out, dry, and then do my best to have a bowel movement. Anxiety usually means this is no problem, but today I’m too scared to move anything.
I stay naked for a while, letting every spot fully dry in the air, before I put on body glide on any area of my skin that may chafe. Then I take each piece of my outfit and put it on ceremoniously as if I had an audience: blue shorts, white running bra, red top, and anklets that I pull tight three or four times. I wrap my watch around my wrist, check it more than once to make sure it is zeroed out and ready to go, and I tie my shoes loosely. I know they will get tied, untied, and retied many times before starting time.
The dogs come up the stairs, fresh from Sharleen’s bed, and I take them out back. The backyard scents are doused with fresh morning dew and the dogs put their noses to the ground. They make little sniffing noses and wag their tails. The cold pricks at my flesh, little hairs on my arms stand on end, and my heart rate picks up an extra beat.
There is nobody else awake in the whole world it seems. It’s always so quiet on marathon mornings. So still. Always dark.
Whatever is waiting for me after the finish, I can’t worry about. None of that can matter today. If it does, I’ll be lost. I should just stay home if I’m worried.
Randall wakes up at 6:15 am to drive me. He’s to drop me off and return to pick up Sharleen, who lays still sleeping in the basement. I wonder if she’s really asleep or just down there, scared, maybe with nightmares, but probably not. That’s just me.
We start the car and I turn on a light heat. It will be cold until a mile or two into the race.
I sit in the passenger seat and rub my thighs and calves, trying to loosen up the muscles, warm them to the core, and I eat one last perfect yellow banana. Tiny sips of ice mountain water quench my nerves. Both of us are always quiet on this twenty-minute drive.
Downtown Detroit. The streets are empty except for folks like us coming down to the event. Nervous runners are already sprinting the streets for warm up, shooting this way and that. The place looks like the top of an anthill. Randall winds the car through the many closed down streets to take me as close to the start as he can before letting me out.
“You are ready for this, I believe in you,” he says. “You are ready for this, I believe in you,” he repeats.
I watch him drive off, and start my walk towards the start, surrounded by many, but alone.

Running The Ambassador Bridge From Detroit into Canada

      The incline to the bridge begins, and even though it demands more of my thighs and a deeper pump of my arms, it’s a nice change. The sky is fully light now, the faded moon completely gone, and the sun starts to peek above some horizon clouds. Sweat has formed on the base of my neck. I pass through the tollbooths, still uphill, and my thighs are eating it up. Sweat itches my brow and I occasionally swat it away with my hand.
Below me are the swirling waters of the Detroit River, choppy and turbulent, from lakes Erie and Huron being smashed together. On the bridge above, orange cones separate runners from the open side of the road. The occasional truck comes by, shooting fumes into our lungs.
 Then we’re greeted by the sun: like a slowly opening eyelid with rays of golden eyelashes, the orange pupil rises above the horizon cloud. A swelling of warmth rises in my chest and I run farther up the bridge, way above the water below, far enough now that a jump would be deadly. Sunrays splinter my eyes...  

Back to the U.S Through The Underwater Tunnel 

      Border guards on the Canadian side scan our race numbers, yell out ‘Good job’, and walk in little back and forth paces. We fly by, shooting through the tollbooth and down the depths, back to my country through the underwater tunnel. Every runner passes through this underwater tomb, going first over the water across the Ambassador Bridge into Canada and then returning to the United States below.
Our shoes plop on the pavement, echoing about us as we descend. The day turns dark, lit by periodic lights lining the tunnel besides us. Gravity pulls us through the little downhill, and Mom and I both widen our wingspan. Our bodies and legs get pulled faster, shooting us down farther into the earth and towards the middle of the river. The little downhill smashes my hamstrings with each collision of foot on pavement, but the speed feels good.
The tunnel is moist and traces of water leaks can be seen running down white tiles on the walls. Bits of the raging river all around us are dripping in. The engineers must know this, this must be how it’s supposed to be, I tell myself, it doesn’t mean the tunnel is about to break open and drown us all, it’s just condensation. Somebody somewhere is always looking out for us. Nobody is forgotten. We’re all safe.

The Jade Rabbit on Amazon


Thursday, October 17, 2013

17 Day Taper for the New York City Marathon and Billy Joel's "Piano Man"

 "Paul is a real estate novelist, who never had time for a wife." ~Piano Man, Billy Joel

Started hearing about New York City marathoners finishing their final 20 miler last weekend. Me? I just ran my last 20 miler yesterday.  My training was delayed by a nasty, 6 week long bronchial infection that ripped open my lungs and heart. 

 I finally got the bronchitis out of my chest and it looked like this.

14 days used to be my usual taper, but 21 works better. To help speed my recovery along during these 17 days, I ran my 20 on soft surfaces. The first 15 were on a gravel trail, and the last 5 were on my treadmill. 

Finding time to fit these long runs in is even harder when you're running slower miles. Not to mention that I don’t want to be an absent dad. This is a passion, not a career.

The last few years I have taken paid time off work to fit in a long run. This stops the huge 3 hour plus time suck from my family, and it is the best staycation I can think of. Being paid to run, I often think of it. And I highly recommend it.

 Running slow, so many stories I want to write, where can I find the time?

Everything I needed to know about life I learned from "Piano Man"

 Billy Joel said a lot when he noted; "Paul is a real estate novelist, who never had time for a wife."

Of course Paul couldn't just be a novelist. That's nearly impossible and against all odds in this market. Real estate paid the bills, novel writing paid his soul, but there he was, lonely and drinking, no time for a wife, and "he's talking with Davy, who's still in the navy, and probably will be for life."

 The words could be rewritten as; "Paul is a real estate marathoner, who never had time for a life."

Sitting in front of a drink lamenting the loss of time just doesn’t get my sympathy. And the irony wasn’t lost on Billy Joel either who sung about a series of self-pitying patrons who 'sat at the bar and put bread in my jar'. I can relate, because I spent years being a drunken, self-pitying bastard myself.

 Paul just needed a better vacation package, and to get his ass out of the bar.  I feel pretty fortunate to be a father, runner, and novelist, who never has time for the bar. As for Davy who’s still in the navy? Well, he probably won’t miss me.

Monday, October 14, 2013

99 Cents and The Things We Do For Love

 "Too many broken hearts have fallen in the river. 
Too many lonely souls have drifted off to sea." 
~ The Things We Do For Love

This is the third post in a row pimping my book. Obnoxious, isn't it? In fact, if this keeps up, I am going to stop following my own blog and demand that you do the same. But, I need to announce that Monday through Friday, my novel is on sale for just .99 Cents. Check it out: On the Lips of Children  

99 cents from a publisher is rare. Happens all the time in self-publishing, not so much from a traditional publisher. Due to this, my publisher has been put on suicide watch, since he seems to be giving everything away. The whole line of "Books of the Dead Press" has been put on sale for 99 cents.

This includes:  Mountain Home, Discoredia, Running Home, The Bell Witch, Everyman, A Life of Death, and the late Gary Brandner's renowned trilogy The Howling.

If you buy any of these kindle books, including my own, and you aren't satisfied, I will give you your money back. Yep, that's right. Just email me with your address and receipt of which book you bought, and I will put a green, U.S. dollar in the mail. Postage paid by me. Yes, that's how much I love you.

Other Monday Morning Thoughts on....

The Things We Do For Love. 
-Love was in the air on The Walking Dead last night. The first ten minutes had more public display of affection than a high school hallway. Not sure how I feel about this. I prefer the Darryl/Carol romance to be an undercurrent. In fact, things seemed too stable all around. Darryl wasn't mysterious and brooding. Michonne was a bit too conventional. Rick was not a psychotic. I did love the whole distinction between human and non-human, naming our food, naming the zombies. It was one of those 'slice of life' episodes.

 Like Running in the rain and the snow...
-  I ran a 20 miler 8 days ago, a month away from the New York City Marathon date. I was pondering making this the culmination of my training and jumping into a taper, but my legs have finally responded to some hard-core rest.   I'm going to pop another 20 miler in my training bank this week. All so I can wave to the helicopters as I run across this bridge.

...And you're feeling like a part of you is dying...
-I couldn't sleep after watching the Tigers lose to the Red Sox last night. Big Papi's grand slam reminded me of Kirk Gibson's home run with the Dodgers in 1988 that gave them a rush of unstoppable momentum. However, Tuesday night this changes with Justin Verlander on the mound.

....Ooh, You Made Me Love You...
Finally, a big thanks to Timex Sports for the product sampler. They sent me a GPS watch which has pinpoint accuracy of distance traveled. I used it on 4 runs and it measures perfect, and most importantly, I could finally figure out exactly how much I walk while mowing my lawn. (It was a total of 1.06 miles.) A more complete review coming soon


Saturday, October 12, 2013

There's Fear At the Start of Every Marathon (Read all about it)

The Paperback Copy of "On the Lips of Children" is here. The book has received excellent reviews from runners and non-runners alike. The Horror News Network called it "One of the scariest novels I have read this year."  It recently cracked the top 100 horror books on Amazon. Randy Step, co-owner of Running Fit, had this to say;  
"This is a very dark read that will haunt you on your next run. I could not put it down. Mark nails the runners mentality and how a hard run at a time you should be tapering can lead to more trouble than ruining your race."
Yes, this novel is a bit dark, but to some degree, in the heart of every marathoner is a horror addict. Just go to the start of any race and you'll feel it in the air.
"The scariest moment is always just before you start," to quote Stephen king. This holds true in the marathon chute waiting for the race to begin. Sure, there’s incredible hope, spirituality, and comraderie in the air, but there’s also unspoken fears and trepidation.  There’s nothing quite like the intensity and fear factor of running a marathon which tests your physical and mental strength. It’s primordial and filthy stuff, and you won't come away unchanged. Then again, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Next time your legs are aching in the latter half of a race, try to remember this: You are not sore, you are not tired, there is no lactic acid burning in your legs. It is simply the presence of microscopic zombies gnawing away and eating your insides. Your job, then, is to make it to the finish line before they finish the job.
 Read all about it. Pick one up on Amazon.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Top 100, Flash Fiction, and Chasing 'The Running Man'

Woke up this morning and our Detroit mayor was sentenced to 28 years in prison and our Detroit Tigers moved on to face the Boston Red Sox.

And certainly somehow related, my novel On the Lips of Children was in the top 100 on amazon in the horror category. I took a screen shot because I knew it wouldn’t last, but I was just behind Stephen King's 'The Running Man.'

by Stephen King
Kindle Edition
by Mark Matthews
Kindle Edition

Perhaps it was helped along by blogger and author Michael Garza who gave a great review andsummary on his blog here:

Also, if you have 2 minutes and 42 seconds, check out this piece of flash fiction I wrote for a fellow Books of the Dead author. It's slightly dark, pretty cool, and fits the Halloween season. Check it out here: "My Infection"


Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror IS ALIVE!! $4.99 for Kindle $12.99 for paperback  (buy the paperback, and you can get t...