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Ned

This is Part IV of Until You’ve Bled. Part I is here.

“Don’t call me Mr. Westmore. Call me Ned. Mr. Westmore’s my dad.”

He’s probably in his 40s. Doesn’t act like it though. Acts like a cross between a really old man and a kid. Or not a really old man as in some guy in his 90s. More like someone from a long time ago, like the 1700s or 1800s. Definitely not from this time. But combine that with a kid.

“Do you really want to major in Biology, Jess?”

“Um.”

“You hesitated.”

She says nothing.

“Look. Art gets a bad rap for no reason. People think you can’t make money doing art. I’ve already proved everyone wrong.”

He continues. “I got that same lecture from my parents. ‘What the hell do you think you’re going to do with an Art degree, teach?’ Not that there’s anything wrong with teaching. But I’m teaching because it’s fun. I could have retired years ago.”

Again, she says nothing.

“You’re by far the best I’ve seen in years. Definitely better than any of these pathetically spoiled kids who only think they’re artists. You’re the real deal.”

She smiles, looks up in his eyes, then looks back down at her hands.

“Consider it. If you need me to guide you on the business side, you know where to find me.”

Ned’s cool, she thinks. No, really cool. That’s not one of those “yeah, he’s cool.” She really believes he’s cool.

He has a coolness to him where if she were some rich old lady who wanted to buy paintings, she’d totally buy out his collection. He’s just that cool.

It’s weird having nobody to answer to, except yourself. Most 19-year-olds these days are still under their parents’ wings. Or at least somewhat.

Biology’s cool. But the kids. And the Professors. None of them are like Ned. Nobody’s really full of life like Ned. Nobody has any passion like Ned.

He’s the real deal. He gets it. He is who he is and doesn’t have to change that for other people.

Jess is like that too. She’s always been like that, even when she was little. Her parents encouraged her to stand her ground and be herself. To have her own voice.

She had good parents. Really good parents. Talking to the other kids, yeah, really good parents.

Fuck! Just, fuck!

Jess is almost at her dorm. She really doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now. But she’s carrying her books.

There are bars open. And a few coffee shops. She’ll definitely see someone she knows there too.

Instead, she walks over to the creek. She’s still carrying her books and it’s too dark to look for rocks.

Jess looks around. She can still see some people. So she keeps walking until everyone is out of sight.

She puts her books down on the damp ground. Sits down, Indian style, buries her face in her palms, and cries. For the first time in a very long time, she cries. A lot.

She hasn’t felt this alone since her grandmother and great aunt helped her bury her father.

Continue to Part V of Until You’ve Bled

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Does she really want to major in Biology?

This is Part III of Until You’ve Bled. Part I is here.

opium tales sophomore year. Dad lived long enough for her to declare her major. Biology. Something she excels at. Something Jess leads her entire class at.

Yet, she finds solace in sitting at the coffee shop drawing random people. Or things.

Her friends experiment with pot, politics, and pretty much everything else you’re supposed to experiment with in college. Sex, binge drinking, tattoos.

Jess? Not so much.

Not that she’s square. More like she’s an empty shell.

Of course boys like her. She’s not that pretty. But she’s far from ugly. A good height, a good weight, decent curves, definitely good enough to get asked out often.

But it’s not that she’s not that kind of girl. Rather, she buries herself in schoolwork. Deep down inside, Dad and Mom both smiled when she brought home those good grades.

No, not that type of smile where they smile for a few seconds before going back to what they were doing before. A deep, genuine smile where they’re genuinely proud of their little girl.

Did I mention they’re both dead now? Of course I did. You already knew that. But I’m just reminding you that she doesn’t go a day without thinking about both of them.

So the way to cope? Study hard. When things get bad? Study harder.

Her friends talk about their families. Nobody has yet to ask about hers though. Jess never says anything. And to be honest, despite being liked, despite having plenty of friends, none of them are really friends. More like acquaintances. More like people she occasionally talks to.

Not intimately though. She’s friendly to most, but kind of indifferent. Almost as if her smiles are forced.

But she’s good at it. They don’t notice.

Nobody notices. Most people are self-absorbed.

No, I’m not picking on college kids. I’m saying most people are self-absorbed. Period.

So she spends her extra time in coffee shops. Drawing random people. And sometimes things.

She’s getting mostly A’s in her GED. And of the beginning Biology classes, she’s totally killing it. Biology though? Why?

There’s a man who also thinks the same way.

Continue to Part IV of Until You’ve Bled

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The curse of the smart kid

This is Part II of Until You’ve Bled. Part I is here.

“Teacher’s pet”.

“Kiss ass”.

“Brown noser”.

Yeah, she’s heard it all. Maybe if the others actually focused on doing their work instead of trying to be popular, they’d get decent grades.

They didn’t like Jessica. An otherwise good kid, Jessica didn’t have that many friends.

It hurts worse as a teenage girl though. When it actually matters.

Regardless, Jessica kept doing her thing. Kept to her books.

Sadly, they didn’t realize she had it worse than any of them. But alas, we all know that teenage girls are the last people you’ll ever get any empathy from.

First Mom died in a freak car accident. Lost control of her steering wheel. Crashed into a tree. Took her almost an hour to die.

People would have stopped if they had known. But of course, it happened off the beaten path. By the time they found her, it was too late. When the ambulance arrived, she was already dead.

Then, in her senior year of high school, Dad got cancer. He stood strong. Lied to Jessica that he’d beat it, and would always be there for her. Who knows? Maybe Dad even believed that nonsense. You never know with grief. Grief does funny things to you, especially when you haven’t even gotten over the last one.

So she had her reasons to be buried in her books. They were her only safe haven. In her freshmen year of college, her books were all she had.

Continue to Part III of Until You’ve Bled

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Daddy’s Little Girl

This is Part I of Until You’ve Bled

Opium Tales It’s been said that greatness requires either madness or sadness. Or a combination of both.

Little Jessica had the best relationship with her father. Her Daddy loved her. And took her everywhere.

The two of them were inseparable. Daddy loved Jessica every bit as much as he loved Mommy. And he loved his two little ladies even more than he loved himself.

Don’t get me wrong. He loved himself greatly. You could even say he was in love with himself. But as much as he was in love with himself, he loved little Jessica and Mommy even more.

On the days he didn’t work, he would take Mommy and little Jessica to the river. You’d see the three of them, all hand in hand in a row of three with Daddy in the middle. All three smiling and happy.

Little Jessica loved two things. She loved rocks. And she loved lizards. She’d pick up a lot of rocks, but only keep her favorites.

Her favorites weren’t very consistent. You’d have a hard time predicting which rocks she’d like and which ones she’d put back down again. That was her nature though.

Her mind spun so much faster than the other kids. Whereas, you could predict what other kids want, you couldn’t with Jessica. Except lizards. She never met a lizard she didn’t love.

Daddy didn’t let little Jessica take any lizards home though. She had to play with the lizards by the river, and put them back by the river before they all headed home. That was the rule. The lizards live there. They don’t live with us.

Little Jessica didn’t like bugs. But she still would catch them to see if the lizards would eat them. She’d catch a fly, then tear off both of the fly’s wings so the fly couldn’t fly away from the lizard. Sometimes, she’d let the lizard loose and the lizard would eat the fly. Other times, she’d let the lizard loose and the lizard would immediately scramble back into the bushes.

The latter made her sad as it was a waste of a fly. But Daddy would assure her not to worry. Another lizard would come along, find the fly, and eat it. And be thankful to little Jessica because little Jessica made his job easier. It’s not easy for a lizard to catch a fly with wings.

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The most beautiful thing there ever was

This is Part IV. Part I of Siren’s Song is here.

he children heard it first. Their ears sprang up like dogs and they fought their ways up the ladder to the deck. You, being young and virile, heard it next.

You must have died and gone to Heaven, for you’ve never heard anything this beautiful. More beautiful than your favorite song. Yes, more beautiful than the first time you made Eliza stick her claws in your back. And yes, even more beautiful than Biddy’s first cry.

She sang otherworldly. She had to be an angel, for all you heard was her voice.

The tempest raged on

The tempest continued. Children spilled over the deck into the seas. Their parents, mesmerized by the sound, didn’t even make a move to save their children. Instead, they all moved forward. Closer to the voice in the distance. Closer to the railing on the port side of the boat. (You finally learned port and starboard).

They couldn’t wait to hear where the voice came from. Like the children, they too spilled right over the railing, into the towering waves that were already splashing onto the deck.

Eliza and Biddy completely disappeared from your thoughts. As did Boston. As did McGraw, your responsibilities, everything.

The only thing that mattered was you needed to hear that voice. You walked closer to the railing and climbed right over into the sea. Or maybe you didn’t. Maybe the ship had already tipped.

It didn’t matter. That didn’t matter. The ship didn’t matter. The crew didn’t matter. Your new friends didn’t matter.

You swam closer to her voice. You saw the others swim until they disappeared in the frantic waters. They didn’t matter.

Keep swimming. You need to get closer to her song. Keep swimming. You need to get closer to her song. Keep swimming.

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You can’t sleep

This is part III. The first part of Siren’s Song is here.

Opium Tales yellow it’s one thing trying not to get sick while you’re awake. But now you’re really feeling it, in a crowded bunk with dozens of people snoring, farting, or making other weird noises. Plus, you got all the noises in your head going on. And the sea’s making her noises.

All this is enough to drive you crazy. On top of that, Eliza and Biddy, the two most important people in your life, are hundreds of miles away and you’re not going to see them for at least a few years.

And it gets worse

Considerably worse. The Captain died. They’re not sure how, but they think it’s a heart attack.

Everyone’s now awake and you hear the grumbling. You overhear someone who seems like they know what they’re talking about saying that the Captain was very smart and the First Mate is a complete idiot.

Great. What a way to start your voyage to America.

On top of that, you hear there’s a storm coming. And the new Captain wants to go through it.

The grumblers are talking about making him turn around. Your life savings went into this trip. You left Eliza and Biddy enough money to buy food until you can get paid by McGraw and send them some money from Boston.

This is really getting bad.

You liked the Captain. Sure, it was only a brief moment. But you know people, and you had a really good read when you met him.

How can someone deteriorate so fast? Was he already sick? Unhealthy?

It’s been a week and you’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with a hundred people you only knew for a week and a replacement Captain who’s not the sharpest tool in the shed. And now they’re saying he’ll be taking an alternate route to avoid the storm instead of turning around.

You’d feel so much better if the original Captain said it. Everyone said he was smart. And you know he had years and years of experience. You imagine he’s seen and done everything. The new guy is very young.

It can’t get worse, can it?

Siren’s Song concludes here

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And the ship sails…

This is Part II of Siren’s Song. Part I of Siren’s Song is here.

opium tales what do you think they’re thinking? You’re off to Boston and you’re not going to see them in several years. You’ll miss your daughter learning how to walk. At least you got to hear her first words. But what’s more important, first words or learning how to walk?

Will Eliza be faithful? Of course she will! Why did that ever enter into your head? She’s good people, hard-working, honest woman. And loyal and caring. You bite down on your lip for even uttering that thought in your head.

You’ll be sending her money in your letters. And she’ll be shipping out to Boston once you get enough saved up.

What about little Biddy’s friends? She’ll meet some wonderful kids, then suddenly she’s off on a ship to America and will never see them again. Once again, you bite your lip because you couldn’t make it work. You’re a failure. Can’t feed your family so you have to go overseas. Can’t do anything right now, can you?

You’ll make it right

No. Shut up! Why the bloody hell are you on the ship in the first place? You’re about to make things right. You’re about to make a better life for Eliza and Biddy. After all, you’re fairing better than most of your brothers and sisters.

Irishmen are supposed to have good luck. Apparently, that luck never reached your family.

Come on, lad. Don’t beat yourself up so much. You’re on a ship to America and you’re not throwing up overboard. Wait. You’re on a ship to America and you’re not throwing up overboard!

A smile comes back on your face. You thought for sure you’d spend the entire trip leaning over the rail. You’re stronger than you thought.

The sun had been down for several hours and you should be in bed but you’re on deck. Is that the Captain? Is he going to get mad you’re out here?

“Good evening.”

“Good evening, Captain.”

“Feeling alright?”

“Yes, Sir. Just got a lot on my mind.”

“First time on a ship?”

“Yes, Sir. First time even a few leagues from me home.”

The Captain paused and didn’t say anything else. Instead, he put his forearms on the rails and stared out into the sea.

“When I’m on my ship, all I can think of is being at home. When I’m at home, all I can think of is being back on my ship. It’s not an easy life, but the pay is good. You learn to love the sea and fear her at the same time. You better get down below. We’re expecting some real waves tonight.”

“Yes, Sir.”

The Captain turned his back and walked to the bow. Or the front. Or whatever it’s called. Port. Bow. Starboard. All those words. You don’t know what any of them mean.

However, you do what he says and head down. You tried to clear your head but instead, you got even more going on in there. On top of that, you wonder what he means by real waves.

Part III of Siren’s Song is here

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You need to make a living

This is a snippet from the Siren’s Song short story I’m working on. I’ll be publishing a book of short stories in 2019, and this will be included in it.

Opium Tales Blue Your father is dead. You wish you could ask him what he’d do in this situation. He’d probably agree with you. He’d probably encourage you to go ahead with it.

You just know you have to feed your wife and young daughter one way or another. Being a moral man, you will not resort to a life of crime. But they need to be fed. One way or another.

McGraw can get you a job. That’s not a problem. You can always work in his pub.

You’re a lucky man. So many Irishmen heading over there end up in the mines. You won’t have to do that. You’re already setup with something better, something safer.

But it’s over there. Your wife and young daughter are here.

But they have to eat. And you’re not exactly doing a very good job feeding them. You never were a very good farmer. You’re a people man. People like you. They’ve always liked you.

That doesn’t change the fact that there are no jobs over here and there’s one waiting for you with McGraw in Boston.

You’ve barely even left your village

When was the last time you’ve been outside your village? Had to think about that for awhile, didn’t you?

Bah. You’ve never even been on a ship. You remember hearing how many times people throw up overboard the first time they board one. Will you spend the entire trip throwing up overboard?

Your hands start to sweat just thinking about that. You get sick riding a horse. How do you expect to not get sick riding ten foot waves in a wooden ship?

You have to feed your wife and young daughter. And you’re not doing a very good job at that now, are you?

Yeah, Pappy would tell you to go. Put your family first. Always. Just like Pappy did.

Sure, Pappy never had to go to the other side of the planet. But he always did put family first.

You can’t really ask from your brothers and sisters either. They ain’t exactly fairing any better than you.

Just get on with it. You’ve already kissed them goodbye. Get on the bloody boat already.

You stare out at the sea. You can’t see the other side. It’s too far away. Days and nights away.

You’re scared. But you’re a man. And a man has to feed his wife and young daughter. That’s what men do.

You get in line. You almost forgot how heavy your suitcase is. The guy in front of you has his wife and three kids. No, they got more money than you. That’s why.

That will change when you get to America. You will save up, and you will bring them over as soon as you can.

A smile appears on your face for the first time since you kissed them goodbye.

Part II of Siren’s Song continues here.

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Siren’s Song background

It was the Summer of 2012. I had just been laid off from a pretty well-paying job at a startup company. I was pretty much the entire department.

When we lost our biggest client, I knew I’d get hit. So, I already prepared for the layoff.

I had plenty of cash at the time. Instead of looking immediately for work, I decided to spend the entire Summer learning orchestration. Astral Eyes was going nowhere. At the time, we were a Progressive Metal band that sounded just like every other Progressive Metal band. Real awesome musicians, vocal lines secondary.

The drummer had already left, but we stayed on good terms. He said that we needed to do something completely different. I think he got bored with musical masturbation. To be honest, I was getting bored as well.

One day, my wife brought home BBC’s Eroica from the local library. It was BBC’s interpretation of the events which started Romanticism. I almost didn’t see it because the due date came up and I never got around to watching it. My wife extended it from the library, so I finally got around to putting it on.

That one video changed my life. I realized then and there that I needed to take Astral Eyes in a completely different direction. I changed the band into a Romantic Metal band, and never looked back. (The band died in 2014, and Skitz and I brought it back to life in March 2015, but that’s another story for another day).

The birth of Siren’s Song

Siren’s Song Suite were my very first pieces of orchestration. By my standards of today, they’re mediocre and I’m working on re-orchestrating the entire suite. However, I have the song Siren’s Song itself written for band + string quartet. I fixed that song earlier this year.

In the middle of orchestrating for the Suite, I learned that my mother had cancer and the doctors discovered it too late to save her. I immediately got on a plane and flew to Texas.

So, I decided on the flight, I’d dedicate the entire Suite to her. That Summer, I finished the entire Suite. However, we still had to record it.

She died before we finished the recording. My mother never heard the Suite.

So I’m sitting here with four songs that pretty much mean something only to me. I decided to break up the Suite and re-orchestrate it and put it together another day. For now, Siren’s Song goes on our upcoming album. You’ll get to hear it next year, and I can guarantee you that you’ve never heard anything like it.

There’s a short story that goes with it

I decided this morning to get back into fiction writing. I write short stories. The people who’ve read my short stories like them as they flow very well.

The stories themselves are weird, and always deal in the fantastic or the metaphysical realm. If I had to label them, I’d call them Fantasy. But not regular fantasy as they’re all on Earth. They just generally deal with the myths and legends of Western culture.

Like the Siren for instance. If you’ve read Greek mythology, you already know about Sirens.

This is the video we’ll be shooting in the Caribbean in 2019 and also Italy and/or Croatia next year. I already hired the scuba team, and the main actress.

I just have to write the story. It’s been in my head for a very long time.

Of course, I’ll dedicate the story to the memory of my mother. She was a highly intelligent woman with a fierce sense of independence and justice. For instance, she’d tell a doctor to fuck himself right in front of his face and walk out. The thing is, she was so highly good at what she did, she’d have a job in another hospital within a week.

Those of you who don’t work in hospitals don’t realize how there’s a pretty high percentage of doctors that are fucking assholes. Yes, some are wonderful, wonderful people. But others are self-centered and righteous assholes who think they’re better than everyone else and know everything about everything.

I of course don’t know this first hand. I’ve never worked in a hospital. But I’ve heard all the stories from my mother. She never held back. And she never lied.

Original fiction is on its way

So keep your eyes open my friends. I’ll start on Siren’s Song, the short story next week. And I’ll eventually publish it in eBook form with plenty of pictures. Of course, 2019 would be the launch date. I’ll call the eBook something like Siren’s Song and other short stories.

I take my photography seriously too, not just my music and my writing. It will be beautiful. Well worth purchasing. I can guarantee you that.

If there’s a market for it, I’ll make a hardcover book as well. But for now, I’d rather focus on the eBook.

You’ll be able to find most of it on this site. However, it’s always nice to have everything together in one place. Also, it will contain a lot of unpublished photography.

Begin reading Part I of Siren’s Song by clicking here.