Modern Junk: Buy the Best, Keep Getting Less

You’ve heard the old adage – “It pays to buy the best.”

Well, it’s a lie. Maybe it used to be true but it’s not anymore.

Here’s another ancient un-truth: “You get what you pay for.” That’s true sometimes, but not always.

I’m a cut-rate guy. I know this about myself and I accept it. I rarely pay full-price for anything. I rarely buy top-of-the-line merchandise. I look for deals, sales, “gently-used” items – anytime I can pay less, I’m in.

Cheese Factor

My wife calls this the “Rob Errera Cheese Factor,” but I resent that. I’m not just being cheap and cheesy. I’m being frugal and wise. I’ve been an “educated consumer” for more than 30 years now and the more shopping I do the more educated I become. In my experience I’ve found you have to strike a balance between cost vs. functionality and items that are marketed as “the best” are rarely worth the extra money they demand.

Case in point – my new headphones. For the past year I’ve been using a $10 pair of earbuds. They sound okay, but they’re “entry level” earbuds. I decided to treat myself to a fancy pair of ‘buds. Hey, I’m a music lover — it’ll be worth the extra expense, right?

Well, there are lots of choices. Earbuds range in price from $5 to $500. I settled on fairly upscale $100 pair. I was impressed with them – the sound is much fuller and rich. I can hear more detail in the music I listen to. I can hear the squeak of the violin bow during classical pieces, the creak of the drummer’s throne during a quiet moment in a jazz set. Yeah, these new earbuds sound good.

Wish I'd read this article before I bought my crappy earbuds!
Wish I’d read this article before I bought my crappy earbuds!

But they don’t sound ten times better than the $10 earbuds I was using, you know? They sound maybe, three times better. If these earbuds cost $30 I’d feel I got my money’s worth. But they cost more than three times that, and, as a result, I’m left feeling I overpaid for a “better product” that failed to meet my expectations.

Cost vs. Function

This whole “cost vs. quality” issue is something I encounter all the time when shopping. During these tough economic times you have to question the price of everything and ask, “is it worth it?”

A better question might be “Who decides what this is worth?” I’m sure there’s an elaborate science to “consumer price points” and figuring out how much to charge for various products. But the numbers they’re crunching don’t add up.

Why does a BMW SUV cost $40,000 and a Hyundai SUV cost $20,000? Is it really “twice the vehicle” as the Hyundai? Will it look and drive twice as nice? Will it only cost half as much to maintain? Will it last twice as long?

Apply this formula to all of your purchases. Is that $3 loaf of Wonder Bread three times tastier that the $1 store-brand bread? Is Poland Spring water 50-percent better than generic spring water?

Sometimes the answer is yes. (I’ll buy store-brand bread, but I won’t cut corners on paper towels or toilet paper — you’ll end up with a mess on your hands…literally.)

I’ll spend top dollar on something I feel is important. I bought my wife’s engagement ring from Tiffany’s in New York. Yeah, I could have gotten a bigger, better ring down in the Diamond District, but this one came in a swanky “little blue box.” My wife seemed impressed. She agreed to marry me so the ring fulfilled its desired function.

But if you ask yourself “is it worth it?” about the products you buy you’ll probably find the answer is often “no.”

So what are you to do? Just buy cheap stuff all the time?

Yes. You should buy the cheapest product around that meets your needs.

And once you do, you should immediately accept the fact that you’ve just brought a cheap product and it will not be as good as other products on the market (those products that cost twice as much but are not twice as good.) And when your cheap product breaks – which it will, soon – you won’t get it fixed. You’ll trash it and get another cheap product.

Built To Fail

Sound sad? It is. But that’s what manufacturing has evolved to. Everything’s disposable. Everything’s junk. Even “quality merchandise” has a limited lifespan and may not be worth fixing once it breaks. Nothing is built to last anymore.

A better plan is to bring your broken piece of junk back to the store where you bought it for a refund. Perhaps the store will exchange it for a working piece of junk of equal value. If there are enough returns, maybe manufacturers will stop building products so cheaply. I’m sure a lot of price points are based on consumer demand. If we all demand better stuff maybe we’ll get it.

And if, on your travels to over-priced stores to buy/return poorly produced junk, you should happen to see something shiny lying on the ground, stop and take a closer look. It might be the stone from my wife’s engagement ring, which fell out of its classic “Tiffany setting” years ago. The diamond might be in our house, or in our car, or anywhere else in Northern New Jersey.

If you find it, you can thank me for buying the best.

-30-

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, May 2009

Curtain closing on cursive writing

maxresdefaultThe written word is dying.

Like dodo birds and dinosaurs, handwriting is facing extinction. Approximately 46 states have adopted the new Common Core Standards, a set of educational guidelines that do not require cursive writing as part of the school curriculum. Many school districts around the country are already starting to phase out handwriting courses.

Some argue this is a natural progression in educational instruction.

Everybody uses computers now, so it makes more sense to teach kids how to type on a QWERTY keyboard, right?

My gut instinct is no, handwriting is still important.

Writing in longhand connects you to your words in a way typing doesn’t. Pushing ink over paper with a pen is a unique sensation, a singular pleasure. There’s nothing quite like it.

But I honestly don’t do much handwriting anymore, and, from what I gather, neither does anyone else.

I still sign checks, but most payments are made electronically.

I write to-do lists by hand, and shopping lists. (Then again, the last two times I went to the supermarket I forgot the list, so my wife texted it to me. I shopped with phone in hand instead of a crumpled Post-It.) I handwrite thank you notes and greeting cards, and sometimes I’ll leave a dirty note and/or crude drawing in my wife’s purse for her to find later.

I edit with a pen, and make lots of handwritten notes (like this one!)

And I’ll still use pen and paper when I need to write something with a certain shape or rhythm. Sometimes I’ll write magazine coverlines by hand if I need to see how the words stack up. I write song lyrics longhand. Poetry, too (hey, no giggling!)

Ol' Honest Abe was down with cursive writing.
Ol’ Honest Abe was down with cursive writing.

I’m old enough to recall how important penmanship was in grade school.

It was never my best subject.

I remember my second grade teacher pacing the room while the class worked on cursive writing.

“Good, Sally!”

“Nice job, John!”

“Robert, your Cs are so sloppy! Stay in the lines!”

I tried, but my penmanship hasn’t improved much beyond grade school level. My mother says I have a “doctor’s signature.”

Evidently my horrendous handwriting is now in style.

Autograph seekers have found that younger stars like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus, have barely legible signatures, while older celebrities have a more practiced hand.

“With stars ages 30 and above, they generally have a much more full, legible signature,” says Justin King, a Toronto-based paparazzi and independent autograph seller. “When you deal with these new people like Elle Fanning, you’re lucky if you get an E an F and a heart for her signature.”

My script is sloppy, but I write fast, a skill I acquired covering town council and school board meetings as a Today reporter.

You had to get the quotes right, along with the facts and figures. I even know a bit of shorthand.

Not too long ago my wife and her sisters were cleaning out their deceased father’s old office records, boxes upon boxes of ledgers filled with neatly-scripted dental records.

That’s something you’ll never see again. I felt a bit strange feeding the pages into the shredder, like I was destroying a bit of history.

Because history is written in longhand, from the Declaration of Independence, to the old tax records down at town hall, to the love letters your grandmother keeps in a box in the attic.

I suppose there comes a point when a culture needs to let go of an old-fashioned way of doing things to make way for new technology. Cave walls gave way to stone tablets, which yielded to paper, the printing press, and now, the computer screen and memory chip.

But if schools decide to no longer teach cursive writing, I hope they still teach students how to read it.

History depends on it.

-30-

Do you hear what I hear? Probably not

nowhearthis“I need you to bring this dirty laundry down to the basement,” my wife said. “Move the stuff that’s in the washer to the dryer, and bring up the clean clothes that are down on the folding table.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied, grabbing the laundry basket and heading down.

“And don’t forget to separate the colors from the whites!” my 7-year-old daughter shouted behind me.

“Yeah, yeah,” I said again, already at the bottom of the basement stairs.

“Daddy isn’t even listening to you,” I heard my daughter’s voice drift down through the floor vent.

“No. I don’t think he is,” my wife replied.

“On Spongebob, Plankton’s wife says that husbands never listen to their wives,” my daughter said.

“Well, you’ll find that with a lot of men, honey. They don’t always listen to their wives,” my wife said. “But eventually, they come to realize they should have listened more closely.”

Down in the basement my jaw dropped. How dare my wife give such advice to our daughter! I’m a pretty considerate husband and father – better than some (most) of the guys I know. But like any man – any person – I occasionally lose focus during conversations and/or forget things.

I could accuse my wife of being equally inattentive. How many times have I asked her not to leave her shoes in the middle of the floor? How many times have I asked her to uncap the empty water bottles before she tosses them into the recycle bin? How many times have I told her that the plug on her iPhone charger needs to point left —not right – in order for it to work? Sometimes I just don’t think she listens to me.

But the truth is we’re both listening to each other, we’re just hearing and retaining different types of information. Scientific studies have shown that men and women listen differently. Men primarily listen with the left side of their brains, while women use both sides. That doesn’t mean women are better listeners. It means men and women process the same information differently.

It’s unfair to paint all husbands — all men— as lousy listeners. Women are equally guilty. I flip the laundry, dump the dirty clothes in the washer, start it up, and head back upstairs to set my wife and daughter straight.

“You know, I can hear you through the floor vents!” I said when I reached the kitchen. “And I don’t think it’s right you’re teaching our daughter that all men are bad listeners. I listen to you!”

“Did you bring up the clean clothes?” my wife asked.

“Did you separate the colors from the whites?” my daughter followed.

#%@*!

I turned around to head back down to the basement… and tripped over my wife’s shoes in the middle of floor.

-30-

College Daze: Is Higher Education Worth The Cost?

studentloan3Is it worth going to college?

The answer used to be an unequivocal “yes” — college grads got better jobs and better pay than non-graduates. But the job market is different today. The cost of getting an education has risen dramatically, while the job market has shrunk. Many young graduates find themselves with thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of dollars in debt with student loans, and few lucrative job opportunities to pay them off.

High school grads are left in a quandary. Is it worth spending four years and $100,000 to earn a bachelor’s degree, just so you can compete for a $25,000-a-year entry-level job? Wouldn’t you be better off working for four years instead, getting real world experience and a head start on the your career?

It’s a sad choice to have to make. An education is priceless, whether it helps land you a job or not. Feeding your head, expanding your base of knowledge, is perhaps the most important function a thinking being can perform. Getting smarter and growing wiser are signs of a life well lived. It’s a shame to have to put a price tag on that.

But most people do. I remember a tear-filled confrontation with my parents during my freshman year at Rutgers University. I was flunking out, not because I couldn’t handle the academic load, but because I couldn’t wake up for classes. But I was enjoying college life…a little too much.

I sat in my parents’ living room, blubbering like a fool, trying to convince them I’d do better if I transferred to Seton Hall. But SH cost three times more than Rutgers, and my father couldn’t or wouldn’t pay it. Why should he? He’d already paid for two wasted semesters at Rutgers. Why should he pay triple for me to goof off at a different school?

He was right, of course. If my parents had made me pay for college myself, I probably would have seen it their way much sooner. Instead I transferred to Rutgers Newark campus, commuted to school and worked full time. I buckled down (somewhat), though I still relied on mommy to wake me up for class. I took summer courses and was able to get my degree in a semi-respectable four-and-a-half years, and graduate with a not-too-shabby 3.0 grade point average.

Higher education has become another consumer decision, like buying a house or car. You have to consider which school offers the best value for your budget. I endorse state universities and community colleges — places where you can get a feel for college life and earn credits toward your core curriculum without spending an arm and a leg. If you do well and want to be a rocket scientist, then you can transfer to Yale or Harvard, and assume the $200K student loan. You’ll probably be able to pay it back fairly easily.

But if you’re paying $200K to get an Ivy League degree in business, education, finance, or a variety of other milquetoast majors, you’re wasting your money. There’s not enough return on your investment.

Your degree won’t be worth the kind of job you’re likely to get (if you’re lucky to get one at all). That wasn’t always the case, but it is now.

A college degree is still important. But which college it comes from — and how much you pay for it — is becoming less so. Online universities offer endless opportunities for continuing education. Internships and apprenticeships can you teach you much more about your potential career, including whether it’s worth investing money in college or specialized training.

A passion for learning and a continual quest for knowledge should be essential traits for everyone.

But a college degree, not so much anymore.

Zen and the Art of the Adult Coloring Book

11201723_669770653154420_2144179061_nRemember “The Secret Garden?” No, not that stodgy old children’s tale. The adult coloring book!

I’m not talking about funnyman Colin Quinn’s latest literary effort, “The Coloring Book: A Comedian Solves Race Relations in America,” either. That’s a funny book, but not the kind of coloring book I’m talking about.

I’m talking about a grab-your-crayons-and-find-a-sunny-place-to-work kind of coloring book. Adult coloring books are topping bestseller lists around the globe. “The Secret Garden” recently topped the New York Times Bestseller list. French publisher Hachette has a collection called Art-Thérapie with 20 volumes including all kinds of drawings from butterflies and flowers to cupcakes, graffiti and psychedelic patterns. In the United Kingdom, illustrator Mel Simone Elliot’s “Colour Me Good” series lets you color-in pictures of celebrities like Ryan Gosling, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Kate Moss. Spanish cartoonist Antonio Fraguas, or Forges, published Coloréitor, “a de-stress book.”

Grown-up coloring books are marketed as a way to escape the media bombardment of the digital world and rediscover the do-it-yourself joys of something simple and stress-free. According to psychologists, coloring activates both halves of the brain, stimulating creative skills as well as a sense of logic and reason. Coloring can bring a sense of relaxation that lowers activity in the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls emotion and is affected by stress.

One of the most common symbols found in adult coloring books are mandalas, spiritual symbols from India that represent the universe. Mandalas have circular designs with concentric shapes and geometric symmetry, like the intricate patterns of a flower. One of the first psychologists to use coloring mandalas as a relaxation technique was Carl G. Jüng in the early 20th century.

abstract-coloring-page-by-thaneeyaThe first time I saw an adult using a coloring book was during an early episode of the reality show “The Osbournes” back in 2002. Here was Ozzy Osbourne, the Dark Prince of Rock-n-Roll, sitting at his kitchen table, surrounded by foul-mouthed chaos, calmly working a color-by-number landscape with a package of magic markers. He looked like an overgrown child, carefully selecting each color, and staying within the lines. Evidently the Ozzman was ahead of the curve when it comes to unwinding through art.

The Zen-like instructions for one of Amazon’s bestselling adult coloring books tells the story:

  1. Break out your crayons or colored pencils.
  2. Turn off your phone, tablet, computer, whatever.
  3. Stop thinking about your job, your credit score, your reputation with your co-workers, your goals, your waistline, your retirement savings, etc.
  4. Remind yourself that coloring is like dancing, or being alive. It doesn’t have a point; it is the point.
  5. Find your favorite page in the book. That is the beginning.
  6. Start coloring.
  7. If you notice at any point that you are having fun, forgetting your worries, daydreaming freely, feeling more creative, excitable, curious, delighted, relaxed or any combination thereof, breathe deeply and take a moment to enjoy it. Then, gently return your attention to coloring.
  8. When you are satisfied or don’t feel like it anymore, stop.

Adult coloring books are a way to recapture the innocence of youth. They also give artists a sense of control; everything’s got a specific shape and color, just follow the key and stay in the lines. Color-by-number and fill-in-the-blank style artwork offers a “shortcut” for artists of all skill levels. You can create your own artistic masterpiece without the talent and/or training of a fine artist!

ccd4f8667217a6ef737ed2bb0a25e777Pablo Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” This is why adult coloring books are so popular. They can cleanse the soul, or at least give your mind and spirit a rest, a chance to create something colorful, pretty, and uniquely your own.

Plus, it’s good to get your fingers working at something other than a keyboard, touch screen, or remote control.

 -30-

The Long-Awaited Undoing Of SeaWorld

6c12f7f2c2c4bad64a12c202e81c73bbI wanted to be a marine biologist as a kid.

My fascination with sea life began at age 7, when my parents took me to see “Jaws” (1975). The film left a deep mark/scar on me, and I became fascinated with creatures of the deep. I checked armloads of shark books out of the local library, and begged my parents to take me to see whatever “Jaws” rip-off was playing at the local movie theater.

One of those awful rip-offs was a stinker called “Orca” (1977), starring a regretful Richard Harris and a confused Bo Derek. Even at the tender age of 9, I recognized the movie was a far-fetched turd. Every book I’d read said orcas were smarter than sharks; they didn’t mistake humans for food. The name is a misnomer; a killer whale won’t attack a human.

Unless it’s held in captivity.

When I was 12, my parents took me to SeaWorld, during the height of Shamu fever. As much as I was fascinated by the dolphin and killer whale shows, there was something sad about seeing these majestic, intelligent creatures held in tanks and swimming pools. My trip to SeaWorld didn’t kill my dreams of studying marine biology, but it dampened them.

(What finally killed my marine biology dream was my inability to pass Biology 101 in college, though, in my defense, the class was only offered really, really early on Friday mornings.)

Childhood visits to SeaWorld also had a deep impact on Gabriela Cowperthwaite and the rest of the crew behind the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish.” The documentary looks at the detrimental impact of keeping killer whales in captivity, and follows the story of “Tillikum,” an orca responsible for three human deaths.

f7efc256bb244fbcd4b33348756f-is-seaworld-bad-for-orcas“Blackfish” was an arrow through the heart of SeaWorld. Attendance at the park dropped off after the release of the documentary. SeaWorld officials called “Blackfish,” “inaccurate and misleading,” but the public — and the park’s shareholders — felt otherwise. By August 2014, SeaWorld stock dropped 44%, and by December the company’s CEO resigned.

In November 2015, SeaWorld announced plans to phase out killer whale performances at its San Diego park, and in March of this year, SeaWorld announced it would end its orca breeding program and phase out orca performances at all of its parks.

Detractors believe SeaWorld still isn’t doing enough. Even if SeaWorld stops breeding orcas today, some whales currently in captivity may live another 30 to 50 years. SeaWorld says it has no plans to release its 29 orcas back into the wild or into semi-wild sea pens. Phasing out the orca program at SeaWorld may take a while.

The evolution of SeaWorld hopefully reflects an overall change in the way mankind treats animals. Many of us have nostalgic memories of visiting SeaWorld as kids (and cheering elephants at the circus). But antiquated and inhumane institutions like zoos, aquariums, and circuses have no place in 21st century society. Imprisoning and abusing animals for human amusement must end.

 

-30-

College safe zones degrade higher learning

SafeZone_LogoColleges and universities were once hotbeds of creative ideas and free expression. Students used to question abuse, question authority. Today, students request “safe zones” so they can protest “offensive” Halloween costumes, and insensitive emails.

St. Louis University is one of several institutions of higher learning where designated safe spaces are a perceived necessity among minority and LGBT students. The SLU website reports:

“Homosexuality is an invisible diversity, both in its members and its supporters. The Safe Zone program helps to create a more accepting atmosphere on campus by providing visual statements of support and safe space. Many universities from Boston College, NYU, Georgetown, and Duke to Washington University, University of Illinois, and University of Missouri have already implemented similar programs.”

But safe zones threaten free speech. Missouri journalists were twice barred from covering college protests, according to USNews.com. Safe zones also create complex new job responsibilities for college employees. Professors worry about offending students in class with provocative texts or topics, while college administrators are being asked to step in and resolve conflicts among students instead of letting young adults fight their own battles.

I attended Rutgers University in the mid-80s, and there was nothing safe about it. (Except possibly the sex. It was the height of the AIDS scare, so people used protection.) There were many LGBT students on campus. Everybody knew where LGBT students hung out, and if you wanted to hang out with them, nobody judged you.

Safe Zone Image

For me, college was an unsafe zone. It was a place where I experimented, explored, and royally messed up. Hard partying landed me on academic probation after my first year, with a paltry 0.7 GPA.

That was when I learned to buckle down and take academics seriously. I learned the consequences of goofing off, and I took responsibility for my life choices. I still made time for tons of fun, but I learned to finish my schoolwork first.

And I did it well. By the time I graduated, I elevated my lowly 0.7 GPA to a respectable 3.0. It was hard work, but that’s the entire point. A good education should push you to your limits and beyond. If it’s easy, you’re probably doing it wrong. The most valuable lesson I learned in college was a simple one. Hard work pays off.

You can’t cut corners. If you do something, do it well. I learned how to be a major-league screw-up in college. But I also learned I could produce quality work if I set my heart and mind to it.

The college experience should be about taking risks, some smart and calculated, others blindingly stupid. Safe zones, language police, and other safety nets of the “bubble-wrap generation” take that risk away. We live in a “bully culture,” where everyone is a victim, even if they merely find themselves in “an uncomfortable situation.”

From Notre Dame University
From Notre Dame University

But uncomfortable situations are an essential part of life! How can young adults (or any living thing) develop and grow without occasionally stepping outside the comfort zone, if only to help define where exactly the comfort zone lies? Comfort zones change with time, age, and experience.

All colleges and universities are “safe zones” — places where young people can experiment, fail, succeed, and find out who they truly are without the emotional or financial responsibility of a home or family. There are still plenty of worthy causes for college students to protest in this country. This generation needs a better one than hurt feelings.

 

-30-

Mythology offers insight into modern transgender issue

transgender-symbol-one-lgbt-symbols-icon-34278948The transgender issue is confusing, both politically and socially, but maybe we can find comfort and guidance in Greek mythology.

Tiresias was a blind prophet from Thebes. He had a lifespan of seven generations, so he appears in a lot of ancient Greek stories and plays, usually showing up at an inopportune moment to give the protagonist a dire prediction. But Tiresias wasn’t always blind or clairvoyant… and he wasn’t always a man.

According to legend, Tiresias once stumbled upon two snakes fornicating, and struck the creatures with a stick. This angered the goddess Hera, and she punished Tiresias by turning him into a woman. (Why was this considered a punishment? Were the Greek myths all written by men? And, more importantly, did Tiresias go by “Theresa” after his sex change?)

Tiresias lived as a woman for seven years, until she again came upon coupling snakes in the wilderness. This time she left the snakes alone (or trampled them to death, according to some versions of the story). Either way, the “curse” was lifted, and Tiresias changed back into a man.

Later on, Tiresias found himself called upon to settle a dispute between Hera and her husband Zeus. Hera argued that men got more pleasure out of sex, while Zeus believed women enjoyed it more. Tiresias, who lived as both sexes, was asked to cast the deciding vote.

“Of ten parts, a man enjoys one only,” Tiresias said, implying Zeus was correct. Hera was so angry, she struck Tiresias blind. Zeus felt bad for Tiresias, so he attempted to make up for his wife’s hostile overreaction by granting Tiresias the gift of clairvoyance and extending his lifespan sevenfold.

What can we learn from this Greek myth, and how does it apply to modern transgender issues? Well, it shows us that the debate over gender roles and gender identity is as old as storytelling itself. It also suggests the Greek myths were created by misogynistic men obsessed with the number seven.

But the main lesson is simply this: Be comfortable in your own skin… whatever skin you’re in.

Tiresias was a happy, successful man — a respected advisor to the leaders of Thebes — before Hera turned him into a woman. But Tiresias took the change in stride and made the most of it. As a woman, Tiresias became a priestess of Hera. She married and had children, including a daughter, Manto, who was allegedly an even more gifted fortune-teller than her father … er, mother.

Easy with the snakes, T!
Easy with the snakes, T!

Some versions of the myth claim Tiresias was a famous prostitute during his “lady years,” but, again, these stories were likely authored by geeky and vindictive men in togas who were spurned by women. Some things never change. History is not only written by the victors, but for many years it was written by men who resented and looked down on women.

Living life as both a man and a woman is a blessing, a curse, and a path to enlightenment for Tiresias. When the gods took his vision and gave him “second-sight,” Tiresias embraced his role as blind prophet. He appears frequently in Greek plays and literature, though his job is sometimes difficult. He once had to tell King Oedipus that Oedipus had inadvertently killed his own father and married his mother. Yuck, right? But don’t shoot the messenger! Soothsaying is a tough gig.

Whatever lemons life (or the gods) tossed at Tiresias, he turned into tasty lemonade — and then into a profitable chain of lemonade stands. Tiresias lived to his fullest personal potential, even when the person he was kept changing. He was a respected man, a fine woman, and a blind prophet rock star. Whoever he was, he was the best he could be.

That’s something we should all strive for, whether you’re a man, a woman, or something in between.

 

-30-

New Short Story Collection! Songs In The Key Of Madness

Songs in the Key of Madness: New Variations on Hangman's Jam
Songs in the Key of Madness: New Variations on Hangman’s Jam

My new collection of rock-n-roll horror stories, Songs In The Key Of Madness: New Variations on Hangman’s Jam, is out! Here’s what it’s about:

Hangman’s Jam never dies! A song crawls through time, shredding holes between the dimensions, and spelling doom to all who fall under its undeniable sway. Throughout the ages, lovers and losers, the famous and the infamous, have been consumed by the “song with a thousand names.” Chaos, madness, and monsters lurk behind every note and phrase. You’ve heard this tune. You know it by heart, and it knows the dark secrets that lie in yours.

Songs In The Key Of Madness: New Variations on Hangman’s Jam is available in both a signed, trade paperback collector’s edition, and as an ebook, with is available for digital download here.

Songs In The Key Of Madness: New Variations on Hangman’s Jam is also available on Amazon, BN.com, the iBookstore, and Smashwords.