Vincent Zandri's Blog

May 30, 2015

The following essay is now appearing at The Vincent Zandri Vox:

Ten years ago I was down and out...


After a stellar launch and a quarter million dollar advance on my first novel, I did something stupid. I assumed those great big advances would keep rolling in every year like Christmas. All I'd have to do is write 60,000 words and collect the dough.

I was young, immature, stupid, and I freakin' blew it.

Instead of continuing on as a freelance journalist, I quit the racket altogether, believing that I'd be spending the rest of my days writing the great American novel. I didn't save any of my advance, but instead bought a house I couldn't afford while the rest of the money burned up in a costly divorce. When the first couple of books in the big deal didn't come close to earning out that huge advance, I was politely shown the door.

"Hey, that's showbiz, kid!"

I was left with no future publishing prospects, no journalism gigs, and even the new marriage I'd entered into had gone belly up.

Ten years ago, I sat all alone in my apartment and wondered if the Gods were trying to tell me something. That maybe I didn't have what it took to make it as writer. I knew I could continue sitting there feeling sorry for myself, or I could grow up a little, go the opposite direction and make the slow, arduous, long climb out of the pit I'd dug for myself.

The newest novel...

I started out by doing something positive. I quit smoking.

I also started putting feelers out for new freelance journalism gigs. They started coming in at a trickle, but within a relatively short time, I was building up a new portfolio. I also started writing fiction again. Short stories and a new novel. The novel that would become Moonlight Falls was written during this tumultuous period. No wonder my main character contemplates, attempts, and fails at suicide.

I also began a long series of travels which turned into my becoming a freelance photo-journalist for outfits like RT. I saw West Africa and toured the bush where little children from an orphanage held my hand and touched my skin because they didn't believe the milky whiteness could be real. I went to Moscow, Paris, London, Istanbul, Peru, the Amazon Basin, and Egypt as the smoke cleared on the Arab Spring. I began basing myself out of Florence, Italy, where I would spend months at a time writing for news services and working on new novels.

Soon, I contracted with a small press to publish Moonlight Falls. Then another small press would take on a new version of The Innocent now that I'd managed to get my rights back from Delacorte. That novel would go on to sell a few hundred thousand copies. Ironically, it would have made back the original $250,000 advance. More books were written and more published. Then something wonderful happened. Thomas & Mercer, Amazon Publishing's traditional publishing arm offered me my first major contract in years and years.

I was back.

Today, ten years later, I'm enjoying contracts with several publishers large and small. Plus I've begun my own label to publish my Chase Baker series and other smaller projects. I'm still writing some journalism. Not because I have to, but because I want to keep my foot in the door and what the hell, it keeps me sharp. My SPJ dues are paid up and I'm a member in good standing.
This year I will enjoy my best year ever as a writer.

What's the secret to turning your writing life around?

For a business that requires as much luck as it does work, a writer must develop a fortitude, a self-discipline, and a perseverance that is unmatched in any other endeavor. The more you work, the more luck you have.

The ebook revolution played a big role as well.

But, ebooks or not, for me there was no other choice in the matter. Like Hemingway said after the initial dismal critical and commercial failure of Across the River and Into the Trees (1950). "When they've knocked you down on your ass for the count of eight, you get up and let 'em have it." He counter attacked and won the Pulitzer Prize. I've counter attacked and haven't won the Pulitzer, but I am up for ITW's Best Paperback Original for 2015 with Moonlight Weeps. And that's something to be very proud of.

Ten years ago I was down and out...and in many ways, it was the best thing that ever happened to me.


Everything Burns
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April 19, 2015

The following essay is now appearing at The Vincent Zandri Vox:

Do you plot, plan, outline? Or, do you just go where your characters lead you? Why?...

...Seems like a straightforward set of questions, doesn’t it. But in truth, the answer’s not so simple. On more than one occasion, I’ve overheard established authors referring to their novels as “their babies.” That said, if I were to use the baby analogy to answer the question of are you a Plotter or a By-the-seat-of-your-pants author, I might say, Like my three kids, two of them were planned out ahead of time, from conception, to gestation, to setting up the nursery, to birth, to diaper service, to weekly babysitting, and everything else required of the first full year of a little baby’s life. It took a lot of thought, time and effort, but in the end, planning things out made for a smooth and happy experience.

The second child required a bit less planning, but still, we made sure to plan ahead to a degree where we were confident that all would turn out smoothly. But by the time we got to the last kid, well, we weren’t even sure we could get pregnant, so we just sort of winged it. When we found out we were pregnant we just sort of went with the flow, allowing things to happen naturally. After all, we’d been through it twice before and realized that sometimes over-planning can take the fun and spontaneity out of the process. After all, life is a process of discovery if nothing else. So should writing a novel.

Okay, perhaps I’m pushing the baby metaphor to the breaking point here, but by now I’m sure my motive is obvious. When I was younger and just out of writing school in the late 1990s, I didn’t have the confidence or to be perfectly frank, the skills required to write a novel by the seat of my pants. Even if my characters were strong, their voices already speaking to me, I needed to plan out every plot point, from inciting incident to first conflict, to conflict resolution, to the epilogue. Not only did creating a clear plan help me construct and flesh out my novel, it also allowed me to go on the next morning without being stuck.

As time went on however, and I became more comfortable with the novel process, I found that I was able to write a full length, 60K word piece of work by outlining only a few chapters at a time. I found that by planning anything beyond that would take away from my protagonist’s ability to make it up as he or she went along. Because life is a lot like that isn’t it? Often times, we find ourselves adapting to unforeseen circumstances regardless of how much we attempt to stay in control. You know, someone sideswipes your new car at the intersection, or you find that your wife’s been cheating on you…Life isn’t perfectly scripted by any sense of the word. This new method of semi-outlining allowed the novel to develop organically as opposed to one that’s built by connecting the dots.

These days, after writing 17 novels, all of which are in print, I have enough confidence to sit down at my laptop with just a shred of an idea and in turn, build a novel out of it. That’s not to say I don’t spent time jotting down notes, or little bits of story outline, or even a page-length character synopsis or two. But what I don’t require anymore is a detailed outline. In fact, I purposely avoid it. With experience comes confidence. With confidence comes the freedom to allow your story…your baby…to take itself where it will.
Everything Burns
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Published on April 19, 2015 12:24 • 68 views • Tags: everything-burns, on-publishing, on-writing, vincent-zandri

March 22, 2015

The following essay is now appearing at The Vincent Zandri Vox: BurnsVincent Zandri

In his book about winning the creative battle, The War of Art, author Steven Pressfield asks, "If you were the last person on earth, would you still write?" So, what of it? If you suddenly found yourself all alone on this big black and blue planet, would you still spend your days putting words on a page?

If you are already issuing an emphatic Yes to this question, you are a true artist. If you are saying yes, but deep down inside, you know you wouldn't write so much as a comma, you're not a true artist. You're into the glory of it all, writing for the sake of fortune and fame, which of course, you feel entitled to.

Why did you start writing in the first place? Was it to fulfill some sort of inner desire? A need to craft words and sentences into something that seems truer on the page than it if happened in real life? Do you respect your art and talent, and do you respect the art and talent of others? How much time do you devote to your craft? How much "life" do you sacrifice in order to be a better writer regardless of your age? Do you give it your all without thinking about fame or financial reward or popularity? Would you write even if you were the last living person on the earth?

Perhaps your ambitions as a writer are purely selfish. Maybe you're like the kid who desperately
wants to be a part of the popular gang and is willing to do anything to grab a spot on the inside. Does working day in and day out without recognition just plain piss you off? Maybe you wish to jump start your success by hiring another writer to pen your words for you. Maybe your the vindictive type who leaves 1-star reviews for books that are propelled to the top of the Amazon lists in the hope that this will discourage readers from purchasing. Perhaps you think that regardless of the billions of souls occupying planet earth, you are the only writer. It's your books that count. Everyone else's are just taking up space and/or, stealing your glory.

I'm the first to admit, that when I saw old pictures of writers like Ernest Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn, carousing with friends, fishing, traveling to exotic locals, being adored by fans, I knew I wanted to be a writer. But I was young and foolish. It wasn't until I faced the absolute truth about the agonizing hard work that goes into being a successful writer, that I realized for all the fun Hemingway seemed to be having, he was putting in a whole lot of labor and sacrifice to get there.

Authors need to be thick-skinned to be sure. Good reviews and bad reviews are all well and good so long as they bring attention to the work. But do they matter in the long run? What matters in the end is that you can look at yourself in the mirror and admit without a doubt that if you had to do it all over again, you would write the same exact novel, word for word. You would not change a thing. You wrote it because you had to. Because it was a means to its own end, not a means for glory or fame or money. These things are nice, but they are only tangential and secondary in importance.

We write because we have a gift. Why we possess that gift is a great mystery. The writing centers us and soothes us and satisfies us like nothing else can. It makes us who we are. No God, or food, or sexual act can compete with the desire to write as well as one can, and then to wake up the next day and do it even better than the day before. Even if we were the last person on earth, we would write with all the negative capability we could muster.

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Published on March 22, 2015 10:45 • 89 views • Tags: everything-burns, on-publishing, on-writing, vincent-zandri

November 29, 2014

The following essay is now appearing in slightly different form at The Vincent Zandri Vox:

Ferguson is burning.

Heads belonging to Western journalists are being cut off by the evil ISIS half a world away.

President Barack Hussein Obama is releasing Islamic Radical detainees from Gitmo because he feels politically obligated to do so.

Illegal aliens are pouring into the US while millions have been legalized at the stroke of a pen, not because its in the best interest of the country, but because politics rule the day.

Antisemitism is on the rise globally.

Race relations in the US have eroded and rotted over the past decade.

School shootings are so commonplace we are unaffected by them.

Overpopulation threatens the world food bank.

Ebola ravages West Africa.

Political correctness has moved in, and kicked the truth out on its ass.

Russia is on the move.

Iran will soon have the Bomb...

Zandri pens his novels and stories, and worries that the world he creates is entirely separate from a physical world that is growing and morphing faster than a weed on steroids. In a word, he retreats, looks away from the ugly picture. He is not writing anything that describes the world to itself. Years ago the novelist was considered a sage. The words he and she wrote, although fiction, bore a certain truth that were a direct reflection of the time they lived in. The novelist/philosopher did not retreat from the world then, but instead, challenged it.

Steinbeck, making sense of his world
Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath and spoke for millions of impoverished workers suffering amidst the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.

Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises and a new generation of young men learned to say what they mean and mean what they say. But for the first time, men realized the power women truly have over them, and that all love must end tragically.

Later on, Mailer would write Why Are We in Vietnam?, a frantic Alaskan hunting novel that spoke as loud and powerfully as the shots that would soon be fired by the rifles on the Ohio State Campus. Mailer, the genius of metaphor.

In the 1980s we had Jay McInerny writing about the Bolivian Marching Powder in Bright Lights, Big City and suddenly, a generation strung out on Brooks Brothers, Manhattan apartments they couldn't afford, and cocaine, were now the modern romantic equivalent of Fitzgerald's Jazz Age decadence.

Zandri realizes how simplistic and even vague his examples are. In fact, he might even be lacking in a certain degree of accuracy. But the point, he feels, is transparent enough. Who are the sages of his generation? The novelists who fictionalize but who also tell the truth, or a version of the truth anyway, that puts things into some kind of order, or framework that can be better understood?

Fitz, doing what he loved even more than booze

Perhaps Zandri is doing that himself, without consciously doing it. Maybe he isn't retreating after all. Maybe in writing about a failed script writer obsessed with the blonde, blue-eyed woman who just moved in next door and who will manipulate him into killing her cop husband, he is expressing a deep-seated loneliness and isolation that isn't yet entirely realized. The loneliness is surly evident in the smartphones that occupy the two bed-stands in his master bedroom. Smartphones that, upon waking, will be the first thing touched, fondled, eyed, paid attention to, loved, lusted after ...

Add, human beings are becoming robots to the above-stated list...

Zandri is reaching for something here, but he's not quite sure what exactly. For certain, the ambiguity is evident in the writing of this essay. News Flash! Lennon comes to mind suddenly. John Lennon wrote and sang about the world so eloquently and alarmingly in his 1970 classic, Isolation. "We're afraid to be alone..."

Not to flirt with cliche here, but the world has been spinning out of control ever since the serpent sweet talked Eve and she, in turn, got Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. Our own demise is upon us. So Zandri chooses the only sensible option. He retreats into a world entirely his own, and he writes about it. He chooses isolation as the only sane option. But then, that isolation is a direct reflection of the times we live and die in. Therein lies the irony.


The Remains
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Published on November 29, 2014 10:27 • 178 views • Tags: albany-noir, dick-moonlight, hard-boiled, kindle, moonlight-weeps, noir, spanking, vincent-zandri

November 25, 2014

The following essay is now appearing in slightly different form at The Vincent Zandri Vox:

It's guaranteed to happen once a year. Some unknown author emerges from out of the dark shadows of obscurity and publishes a book that goes through the freakin' roof. The book's sales not only blow away even the most major of commercial authors (think James Patterson and Stephen King here), they could arguably outdo the Gross National Product of some small nation-states.

You, as an author, find yourself shaking your head in dismay. Not only have you never heard of this now overnight-famous author, you have been writing for years and years, published several books, and your annual sales don't even come close to this writer's weekly revenue. You look up his or her bio, and you become even more distraught. The author, the bio claims, has worked as a cook, or a video store clerk, or was on welfare until his book was published and every single reader in the world dropped what they were doing and when out to buy it. Or so it seems.

But wait, where have you gone wrong? You've done everything the right way. You started out by working at the local newspaper, then published short stories in the best literary journals, made your way through writing school, nailed a big contract, began establishing a career of steady sales, fans, and contracts. You've nailed all the Amazon lists and some of the traditional lists as well. You make a nice income and have a nice life. You've done everything right. Shouldn't you be the one with the huge blockbuster that blows the doors (or covers) off all other books published that year?
The novel that sealed the young author's fate.

If only logic had something...anything at do with the publishing business.

So what are your options? Sit down and read these books? Try and uncover their magic? Maybe you can somehow write a book just like them. Maybe you don't know it yet, but you're the author of the next A Million Little Pieces, 50 Shades of Gray, or Harry Potter. So you set your sights on writing something with a plot and characters that don't necessarily interest you, but you're sure contains the perfect recipe for the next bestseller.

Big mistake.

Back in 1998, an agent in NYC suggested I write a novel with a black man as the detective protagonist because that was the "in thing." I didn't do it. What do I know about writing from a black man's perspective? Why should it interest me? Besides, James Patterson was already doing it, and I would just seem like a copy cat. Fact is, many of these huge bestsellers are often, one-shot, one-hit-wonders. Tremendous pressure is placed on the author to duplicate not only the book, but also the sales. Usually, both fail to meet the grade established by the initial blockbuster success. Norman Mailer, who nailed one of these hits right out of the gate, witnessed the near dismantling of his career with two follow-up books that stunk up the joint, even if they were brilliantly written.

Many of the big one-time hits, however, aren't very well written. They create a hysteria not because of their value as a piece of literature, but simply because they have touched a trendy nerve. Again, referring to Mailer, he once said of these books, "The popularity of bad writing is analogous to the enjoyment of fast food." This is not to say all of these books are bad (after all, in the final analysis, even filet mignon ends up in the same porcelain God as the Big Mac). Some are brilliantly written and will stand the test of time (think Wool by Hugh Howey and Grisham's The Firm). Inevitably, the value of these novels is up to you, the reader.

But as a writer, what should you do in order to become a mega-famous, overnight sensational bestseller? As you mature, and practice your craft, you will come to realize that writing only about the things that interest you is the best and most trusted method of staying the often agonizing course of a full novel, which can take upwards of up to a year to write. In other words, don't force it, or else you'll end up like a rabid dog always chasing its tail (or in this case, tale...forgive me). Attempting to figure out why one book sells better than others is not only an inexact science, it is an absurd science devoid of logic, but chuck full of emotion. We all want to have that one book that sells a thousand or more copies per day for weeks or months. I've had the good luck of nailing a couple of these, but for every bestselling book I write, I have two or three that I can't even get my mother to buy.

The next time a relative unknown author scores a million seller right off the bat, remember, that author could have written a hundred novels before nailing his first huge success. Or, it could be his first and sadly, his only success. This is a business that just can't be controlled or trusted. The only thing you can trust is yourself to write a well as you can, as steadily as possible, and to practice the nail biting discipline day in and day out that's required of the next huge overnight sensational bestseller.

The Shroud Key
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Published on November 25, 2014 17:01 • 159 views • Tags: bestseller, norman-mailer, on-publishing, on-writing, stephen-king, the-shroud-key, vincent-zandri

November 8, 2014

The following essay is now appearing at The Vincent Zandri Vox in slightly different form:

A colleague of mine attended a writer's conference recently in which a self-published author who is also an "indie publisher," was overheard telling a would-be scribe that he didn't need to be a good writer just to publish a book since he can just get someone else to "clean it up." However, the would-be scribe should never hire an English major to clean up said book. The English major will just, and I quote, "screw things up."

Re-read the above paragraph and try to grasp, if you will, its importance, as well as the repugnance I feel for it. It's easy nowadays to publish a novel. Authors have choices. We can either enter into the old game of submitting a manuscript to a big publisher and play the waiting game, or we can publish it with an independent press that utilizes the Kindle Direct (Self) Publishing platform for its system of distribution. However, along with KDP also comes those prostitutes who, seeing that there is money to be made off of people who lust the validation of publication, will stop at nothing to sell them a bill of cheap gratification.

The prostitute/indie publisher will typically also claim to be a skilled writer, and he might have even made a few bucks doing it since he knows precisely how to "game" Amazon's algorithm system. He will even brag about gaming the system, while the old truism about a good book selling itself organically via word of mouth is for...well...chumps. But he's not really a writer since he will inevitably have to hire someone to write (or "clean up") his books for him.

He is however good at one thing: Prostituting himself and his indie press to published-starved individuals who will cut off their left arm for the gratification that can only come with a publishing contract. These unknowing people are the prostitute's clients. He will tell them, don't worry about skill. You can hire people to fix that. But not English majors because the English major is too smart, too hard working, too caring about the English language. We are into this venture to make money and that's it. Doesn't matter if the product is inferior and even insulting. People are stupid and they are still going to buy it. In fact, he can "trick" them into buying it.

Imagine if Hemingway, or Mailer, or Stephen King thought that talent and hard work were not a necessity and prerequisite of writing? That literature could simply be cobbed together like a half-assed addition to some trailer home out in the boondocks. Imagine the cheapening and eventually, dumbing down of literature that would inevitably occur? Or put another way altogether, imagine if an aeronautical engineer wasn't required to be that good? Or a structural engineer? Or a brain surgeon? You get the picture.

Writing is not only something to make money off of, it is a responsibility. A priestly endeavor that for the true writer, will never be mastered, but only worked at with all the struggle and negative capability that Shakespeare put into Hamlet. I've been saying for a long time now, that perhaps KDP and other self-publishing platforms should hire teams of editors to monitor the quality of the indie writing they self-publish. I suppose the amateur review system that's been put in place is a kind of monitoring system. But believe me when I tell you, the prostitute has that game conned as well, more than likely having paid big bucks for four and five star reviews for spiel that under the old publishing paradigm, would not have been considered fifth grade level.

Back in the mid 1990s, I earned my MFA in Writing. It took me two years full-time while I had a wife and two toddlers running around. We were broke but sacrificing for the betterment of me as a writer, knowing that one day, with more hard work, it would pay off. And it has. But there is so much more hard work to do and under no circumstance will I ever hire someone to clean up after my mess. Indie publishers who prostitute themselves for the sake of a quick and easy buck should be exposed and stopped before they undermine a proper literary legacy that has taken centuries to construct.


Moonlight Weeps
Moonlight Weeps
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Published on November 08, 2014 07:03 • 190 views • Tags: indie-publishers, moonlight-weeps, shyster-publishers, vincent-zandri

October 11, 2014

The following essay is now appearing in slightly different form at The Vincent Zandri Vox:

He's been coming to Italy to work alone for six years now.
The first year he came, he hardly worked at all. He was suffering from the pangs of lost love, and a career on hold, and he barely had enough work to keep him going, much less a novel in the works. He was also broke. He brooded as he walked the cobbled streets of Florence in his black leather coat in the rain, wondering where things in his life had gone wrong.

The next year he was a different man. He'd pulled himself out of his funk, and he reinvented himself once again as a freelance journalist who traveled to places like West Africa and Moscow writing for global news outlets such as RT. He was taking pictures and writing articles and essays as fast as he could while working under deadline. He came to crave the rush of dispatching a story written up on the fourth floor of a Florence guest house to Moscow, and then an hour later seeing it as a top-of-the-hour story in Europe. He was a foreign correspondent and life abroad was thrilling.

The year after that he was still a journalist but now he was back to writing fiction with a vengeance and it was wonderful to come to Florence be alone and walk the streets and think up plots. He had some scratch in the bank now and he could afford a real apartment. He would wonder about people he knew or had known, and women he had loved for a short time or a long time, who were going to make it as characters in his newest novel. People were drama and drama, although painful, was sometimes fun. It was also fun to play God in a place where almost no one knew him.

These days he's no longer unknown, and he's working on at least three books (and novellas) at once for three different publishers, plus a book for his own label. He's still a journalist (he knows this because he just paid his SPJ dues), only the fiction is trying to shove it out the door like the beautiful, young, brunette-haired affair who's angrily had enough of the wife. It's a violent and emotionally heartbreaking conflict. He forces himself between the two beauties wishing absurdly and selfishly that they could somehow get along and coexist peacefully.

"I need you both," he pleads.

But they both stare him down.

"Soon, you must choose between one or the other," says the affair.

But he will never choose. He wants them both. So, he just keeps on working as best he can, no matter what happens in his life, no matter what goes on in the world. The work: She is his most reliable friend, his most trusted lover, his affair, and his wife. She is ageless and her beauty only improves with the years, like ancient green-white marble that glistens and radiates in the Tuscan rain. She might resist him sometimes. She might pretend to be elusive, but in the end, she always sheds her clothing and slips into bed with him.

The work ... He comes to Italy to be with her, alone.


The Remains
Vincent Zandri
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Published on October 11, 2014 04:47 • 106 views • Tags: italy, on-travel, on-writing, the-remains, vincent-zandri

September 27, 2014

The following essay is now appearing at The Vincent Zandri Vox in slightly different form:

This time of year is a bit strange for me in several ways, not the least of which is the anniversary of my split with my second wife. This happened 9 years ago, almost to the day. It was a rough time for me, for her, for our infant daughter, for my two sons from my first marriage.

I was in rough shape. After having had a successful run as a freelance journalist, having earned my MFA in Writing, having nailed my first quarter million dollar contract with a big NYC publisher, all within a period of 7 or 8 years, I found myself without any kind of writing job whatsoever, my hope of nailing a second book contract a pipe dream, and now, my second marriage to a woman I loved, most definitely on the rocks.

For years I blamed the publishing system. You know, if it hadn't been for their silly consolidations my editors wouldn't have been fired and I, along with a bunch of other writers, wouldn't have been shown the door, our only hope to start all over again. If they hadn't given me that big two book contract in the first place, I wouldn't have quit freelancing as a journalist and severed ties with my bosses. The hole I had dug all by myself, for myself...somehow it was all somebody else's fault when in fact it was my fault for not seeing the writing on the wall in the first place and for storing all my golden eggs in one basket that was riddled with holes.

You see, once you've been to the big time and enjoyed the accolades and the parties and the back pats, it's pretty damned hard to pick yourself up again from out of the gutter, and start all over. All you want to do instead is run and hide. You fear everything. The phone ringing, a knock on the door, dinner with friends. You know, friends who will ask you if you are "still writing."

You fear the bills coming in. You fear the hollowness in your wallet and in your heart. You fear that look on your wife's face that says, "We're broke. Why don't you pick up some kind of work?" You fear having to get a job. A real job. You fear having to become a nobody again, and you fear having to write your way out of a hole because you worked so damned hard at it the first time around, you're not sure you have the energy to do it all over again even if you haven't yet hit forty.

Mostly what you fear is yourself.

My wife didn't want to have to ask me to leave, but she had no choice. As I stood inside my new small apartment, alone, feeling devastated, I knew I had no choice but to confront my worst fear. I sat down in front of my laptop, and I pushed all resistance aside, and I went to work writing the novel that would become Moonlight Falls. For better or for worse.

Nine years ago this week, I faced my worst fear, and it has made all the difference.

The newly released 8th Episode in the Dick Moonlight PI Noir series: MOONLIGHT WEEPS
Moonlight Weeps
Vincent Zandri

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Published on September 27, 2014 09:27 • 100 views • Tags: albany-noir, dick-moonlight, hard-boiled, kindle, moonlight-weeps, noir, spanking, vincent-zandri

September 25, 2014

The following essay is now appearing at The Vincent Zandri Vox:

I was just about fed up with the spanking debate that's tackled NFL football, in particular Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings who, in the wake of the Ray Rice-left-hook-to-finacee's-jaw debacle, was sidelined after it was learned he spanked his four-year old with a switch. Apparently spanking with a switch was enough to cause the child some bruising, which in and of itself is a little disturbing, especially now that so many football players have come to his defense stating that they too were spanked as kids with switches. Ouch!

I was spanked as a kid. But not with a switch. I wasn't beaten or punched or tossed out the door of a moving vehicle. But I was spanked. It seemed normal at the time because I can remember doing some really stupid things like ignoring my math homework for a couple of months which I most definitely did not do a second time after my dad learned about it and spanked me as a punishment (he took away my bedroom TV too which hurt a lot more). Lesson learned. And like my grandmother used to say, If God didn't want us to spank our children, he wouldn't have given them soft little bums.

Howard Kurtz at Fox News is reporting today that Chris Cuomo of CNN confessed to spanking his little boy. In fact, Cuomo goes a step further by saying he might have gotten too physical with the child on occasion and for this he is deeply apologetic and regretful. I would imagine that Chris, having grown up in an Italian American family, albeit a politically famous one, was also spanked. I can make that assumption since I too grew up in a mostly Italian American family. Italian dads, especially when overworked, can be real hotheads, myself included. It's also interesting to note that Cuomo and I attended the same private high school, The Albany Academy, where on more than one occasion I witnessed a teacher whalloping an out-of-line student. Prior to that, I attended a Roman Catholic grade school where I saw a blue habit-wearing nun literally punch the shit out of a bad kid. I remember the kid's name was David and I also remember that he was bully who tossed his weight around. That nun had a left hook that would have made Mike Tyson proud.

Later on, as I grew into adulthood, I was surprised to find that spanking would still play an important role in my life. Only this time, it wasn't as a punishment. It became a kind of fun thing to do behind closed doors with the girlfriend. A little spanking here and there could liven things up. Some of the spanks were far harder than they were when I was being punished but somehow, they felt way better.
Spanking added some real spice to an otherwise bland, foreplay-missionary sex-grab-me-a-beer-honey-while-your-up evening. And to be further honest, we'd inevitably have a good laugh over something that hurt so good.

For anyone who doesn't believe spanking should have a place in our adult lives think again. Check out these little online tidbit:
How to spank: Sensual spanking tips and tricks

Did you know that spanking a child is illegal in Germany, but spanking your girlfriend (or she spanking you), is entirely encouraged. I'm all for outlawing spanking with a switch. It seems a barbaric practice to me. But why then does a little light spanking with a leather whip between my sig other and myself seems so enticing?

Chris Cuomo shouldn't be so hard on himself. He should learn from his mistakes and embrace the other side of spanking. Adrian Peterson might do the same. Certainly, Ray Rice needs to learn that punching your fiancee out in an elevator is an act that deserves a spanking, but not the good kind. reports that even famous geniuses like TE Lawrence of Arabia liked to be spanked. So did Percy Grainger, and so did Declaration of Independence inspiration, Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Can you just picture the scene: "That spanking was positively Rousseauvian in delivery, darling!"

The famous actors Jack Nicholson and Sharon Stone like to be spanked. Okay, I'm making that up, but they seem like the type, don't they? I know that, given the opportunity, I'd spank Sharon Stone. Wouldn't you? Even my serial PI-with-a-piece-of-bullet-in-his-brain, Dick Moonlight, likes a good spanking now and then. But then when it comes to sex, he's most definitely a player.

I guess in the end, what it all comes down to is this: The world is filled with too much spanking, and not enough spanking.

Get the spankin' new Vincent Zandri release from Down & Out Books, MOONLIGHT WEEPS!

Moonlight Weeps
Vincent Zandri

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Published on September 25, 2014 12:16 • 243 views • Tags: albany-noir, dick-moonlight, hard-boiled, kindle, moonlight-weeps, noir, spanking, vincent-zandri

September 22, 2014

The following essay is now appearing at The Vincent Zandri Vox:

It's being reported that eight or more aid workers and journalists have been brutally killed inside what's described as a remote village in Guinea, West Africa. The deaths are apparently the result of a toxic distrust amongst locals for the foreign presence in their land. The distrust seems to be spreading as fast if not faster than the Ebola virus itself. However tragic and disturbing, this comes as no surprise.

A few years ago I traveled to West Africa to report for RT on the work of a Christian hospital ship that was docked in the Port of Cotonou in Benin beside civil-war torn Nigeria. What struck me as strange was the way the indigenous people refused and even ran from the methods by which the ship's medical crew attempted to educate them in the ways of western hygiene. Fliers were distributed with simple illustrations showing a human being defecating into a toilet. The next illustration would show a pair of hands being washed with soap and water. Said drawings would then be circled in bold green as if to indicate, "Good."

Below those drawings might be the same drawing of the person defecating, only this time he or she would be doing it in a field. A red circle would surround that drawing as if to indicate bad. But to a native living in West Africa, crapping on a toilet that other people use is the most disgusting and unsanitary concept ever thought up. Better to go find your own "clean" spot of grass and do your business there. Never mind that the waste then filters into the water system. Such are the challenges of culture and geography.

One such challenge is distrust. The coast of West Africa used to be known as the Slave Coast. It's where most of the slaves who were shipped to the Americas and to points south came from. Out of this practice grew the belief in Voodoo which is still extremely prevalent in West African nations like Guinea and Liberia where Ebola is spreading fast. Many natives will practice Christianity or Islam during the daytime hours, but at night, revert back to voodoo beliefs. If something terrible like a bad debt or lack of food, or a sickness like Ebola strikes these people, chances are the effected person will believe that he has not become the victim of bad luck or a deadly virus, he will believe instead that he has become the target of bad voodoo. When foreign aid workers come to help, many natives are so frightened of them they feel they have no choice but to lash out, and even destroy the very people who are trying to cure their disease. To some locals, the foreign aid workers are doing the work of bad voodoo.

It's difficult to change what amounts to an ancient culture in just a few days in the interest of stopping the spread of what is now a serious epidemic. But if you ever have the chance to drive a 4x4 through the bush country of West Africa, do not be surprised when you come upon an old abandoned town that might have been constructed by the French many decades ago. Or don't be surprised when you see the shell of a modern skyscraper that might have been under construction two or three years ago, but that's been abandoned while the money for the project is now lining some corrupt official's pockets. Don't be surprised if you see the natives giving you a strange look because you're stepping inside a porta-potty to relieve yourself. To them, nothing is more disgusting and distrustful.

The Remains
Vincent Zandri
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