Ray Van Horn, Jr. is a veteran entertainment journalist whose writing and live photography has been featured in Blabbermouth.net, Dee Snider’s House of Hair Online, Fangoria.com, Horror News.net, About.com Heavy Metal, MetalManiacs, New Noise, Music Dish, AMP, Hails & Horns, Unrestrained,Noisecreep, Impose, Pit, The Big Takeover.com, Rough Edge.com, Pitriff and others. His blog The Metal Minute won a “Best Personal Blog” award in 2009 from Metal Hammer magazine and he wrote and produced his own hard rock e-zine, Retaliate.

He has contributed essays to UK author Neil Daniels’ Iron Maiden and ZZ Top biographies. Ray’s fiction has been published in various periodicals and anthologies, including his flash fiction piece “Off the Record” for Akashic Books’ “Mondays Are Murder” noir series. His recent short stories “Before the Ball” and “Widow” were featured in subsequent editions of Alex S. Johnson’s Axes of Evil anthologies. Ray wrote serialized original superhero fiction for Cyber Age Adventures and five of those stories appear in the anthology Playing Solitaire. He was the winner of Quantum Muse’s fiction contest in 1999.

Ray is a former NHL game analyst for The Hockey Nut and one-time host of the forum “Comic Books” at ReadWave. He has done beat reporting, photography and lifestyle articles for Metromix, an affiliate of The Baltimore Sun, Carroll Magazine, The Northern News and The Emmitsburg Dispatch.


Monday, January 30, 2012

Becoming a Lad Most Insane...



Part of the joy of writing is seeing where a story will take you. Often one's initial design for crafting a story may seem set in stone from Point A to Point B. Other times it's the spark of an idea that triggers inspiration from which a seasoned author must be prepared to build upon it. Even if the foundation trembles and the entire venture falters, a good writer can either put it away and return later or dig deeper to find a stronger root to hold it all in place.

Spontaneity in writing appeals to the junior explorer in me. It's as exciting a way to write as coming to a new album you suspect is just gonna rock. The only trick now is that I'm a full-grown man, filled with both adult and heathen-twerp emotions. We never quite lose all of our youth. Pray tell, I still think like a seventeen year old at times, but responsibility forces me back to my forties and into my dad shoes. At least until my little man is in bed, then the bedroom slippers and sweats come out once I flex my fingers and start cracking at the word processor. I look like a seventeen-year-old trapped inside a man's body when I write, I admit it. I just drink a lot more coffee in the morning now and I don't have to sneak a beer behind my parents' backs while writing now. Back then, I figured the sound of clacking typewriter keys covered up what I was up to.

It's perhaps best a creative individual remains in touch with both the young id and the older superego in his or her repertoire. Particularly if one is to sell a lead character who might have a flaw or two, but those flaws become the crux from which to tell a good story. Flaws stem from adolesecent recklessness and an adult wherewithal to chase down elusive happiness within a remaining lifespan--the latter case being a great unknown.

I've been on a mondo David Bowie kick the past few weeks. Here is an artist who has mastered the fine art between juvenile and mature values, not to mention a searing borderline of androgyny from which to operate. Bowie's work today is downright conservative in comparison to his glam years, but there's something humbling to witness when you evaluate the thread of his career from Space Oddity to Hunky Dory to Ziggy Stardust to Low and beyond. Bowie's chameleon propensity has been one of his major draws. If anyone besides Bjork and U2 knows precisely what's going on in all facets of music, it's Bowie, of course. He's written the book on self-reinvention and career extension through astute hipster couture.

The album of Bowie's I've been stuck on (though Ziggy, Hunky Dory, Heroes, Station to Station, Lodger and Low have been likewise attacked mercilessly in the past week alone) is Aladdin Sane. Dare I say, this album may vault to my personal favorite of Bowie's by the time I've finished the current story I'm working on. Bowie's cheeky roasting of the subvert sexual revolutions ripping through seventies London, Manhattan and L.A. is as dead-on today as it's ever been.

In fact, Aladdin Sane's vampishness really opened a channel in my mind to the flow of this particular story, which I've titled "The Grinning Soul" in homage to Bowie's "Lady Grinning Soul" from this album. Bowie's muse is an oversexed diva with sociopathic tendencies. Therein lies a tiny teaser into my project, though my story is more focused on an awkward night of passion that turns ugly between a white married man and an attractive young black girl working in the record store he frequents.

All I had initially was the record store setting from which to launch this story, plus a direct visual of the girl in question. I knew I wanted my two leads in bed, I just needed to figure out how to pliably get them there and moreover, what was going to happen post-consummation. Somewhere in the course of fleshing out this story I decided to make my female antagonist a hardcore Bowie fan. After pulling his albums of my shelf, I ran through them in search of "the song," the one that would figuratively become my antagonist's theme tune. Aladdin Sane spoke to me and not only did Bowie's music whisper "This is the one for your psycho chick," it also unraveled a deeper pathological breakdown from which the story gets its balls, as it were.

I don't feel "The Grinning Soul" is a glorification of Bowie's music nor a condemnation of it. I'm a big fan of the guy and even more so after writing this story. If anything, I'm grateful I even thought of Bowie in the genesis of my plot. Part of the exploration process is manipulating your own personal environment and keying in closely. Age brings about different intakes, thoughts, confirmations and rejections and I believe it's one hundred percent viable you can process something you're well-familiar with in a different light as you grow older. Guaranteed, I've taken much more from Aladdin Sane at age 41 than I did at 31.

Dare tell what I come up with a decade from now with the same jean genie grooves sashaying in my ear.

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