The Man on the Ceiling

A few weeks ago, my wife and I did something we haven’t done for a while; we read to each other.

We’ve done that off and on since before we married, but lately it’s been more off than on due to different sleep schedules. The particular night in question, however, the timing was right, the decision to read was spontaneous, and we couldn’t have picked a better story to read each other.

In 2000, American Fantasy Press published a chapbook by Melanie Tem and Steve Rasnic Tem called The Man on the Ceiling (as opposed to Jules Feiffer’s The Man in the Ceiling.) The little book, sold only in a limited edition run, garnered critical acclaim and is the only work to have won the a literary trifecta of the International Horror Guild Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the World Fantasy Award in the same year. In March of 2008, Discoveries (the literary fiction imprint of world-renowned gaming juggernaut Wizards of the Coast) will release a full-length novel version of The Man on the Ceiling, a complete rewrite of the original by the Tems themselves. The book is available for pre-order through Amazon. Better yet, have your local bookseller place an order for ISBN-13: 978-0786948581.

The Man on the Ceiling is a unique book. Part autobiography, part nightmare, and all true (though not necessarily factual), it alternates between Steve and Melanie’s tales of their encounters with the Man on the Ceiling. Who is the Man on the Ceiling? I can’t — no, I won’t — tell you that. It’s not my place to tell you about things you already know.

What you may not know is that The Man on the Ceiling is a wonderful read for couples. When Lannette and I read it to each other, we passed the book back and forth. I read the “Steve” sections and she read the “Melanie” sections. A few times, we paused to shiver or say “Wow” after particularly well-crafted paragraphs, and it was interesting to note that such different writing styles could produce the same effects in us. Steve’s writing is surreal and very visceral, and Melanie’s writing addresses the deeper, less tangible fears that we all face. But the shivers induced in us by both styles were the same. The two writers took different paths, but arrived at the same fearful, insecure, vulnerable spots within us, and that is simply astounding in a work so concise.

The story works exceedingly well for reading aloud in separate male and female voices, and I recommend that other couples do the same (if they can find a copy of the chapbook; otherwise, wait for the full-length release in March.) When we finished the book, we sat on the couch and cuddled for a while, grateful that we could experience the story together, secure in the realization that some fears are universal, and glad we have someone with whom we can share the burden.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that we are friends with the Tems, and you might think that gives us an edge in appreciating the story. Maybe; I thought so at first, too. But the more I think about it, I don’t think knowing them makes that much difference. Sure, when they mention the house that they share with the Man on the Ceiling, images of that house jump immediately to my mind, and since we know what Melanie and Steve look and sound like, we automatically “hear” their voices reading the text and “see” them in the story’s scenes. But those elements, real as they may be, are not the story itself. The story is about him — the Man on the Ceiling — and our interactions with him. The setting could be any Victorian house in any historic neighborhood, and the people could have any faces concocted by the reader’s imagination.

I think that’s one of the things Melanie and Steve mean when they say in the story, “Everything we’ve told you is true.” Whether the details provided by individual readers match the “real” details is irrelevant; the experiences in the story are universal, and the Man on the Ceiling is, himself, universal.


The “Sonnette” is a poetry form that I invented, and a few of the poems on this site are written in that format.  Basically, it’s a shortened Italian sonnet (7 lines) with a rhyme scheme of abab ccc and a subtle turn (or volta) at the stanza break.  Like the traditional Italian sonnet, it uses Iambic Pentameter.

The name “Sonnette” derives from a combination of “sonnet” and “Lannette,” my wife’s name.  The first sonnette was written for her.

For examples of sonnettes on this website, see the following poems:

Missing in Atlanta”  (2006)

Thy Cup Runneth Over”  (2006)

The Only Constant Is Change

There has been another gap in my journal entries. Those who know me well know that this indicates a period of stress. Unlike many bloggers, I don’t feel completely comfortable dumping my personal life on the Internet for all to see. My Creativity Journal is intended to be a structured blog about creativity, and when things are stressful, I usually don’t engage in creative activities as often.

This time is kind of different. Sure, there has been stress, but I have actually been engaging in more creative thinking over the last month and a half or so. Being unemployed gives one that luxury.

Yes, unemployed. Their choice, not mine.

Immediately after returning from my honeymoon with Lannette, my employer of over seven years dismissed me with no severance pay. I was not entirely surprised at the dismissal, but I was shocked that they did not offer me severance pay. The company has a history of giving severance packages, but for whatever reason, they chose not to do so this time. However, this is not a bitch session, it’s a Creativity Journal, right?

As you may have seen from the opening page of my site, since becoming jobless I have been getting more writing assignments from ComputorEdge magazine. My band, Steel River Three, has been playing private parties and we have publicly debuted my song “New Guy Smell.” I have considered making a career out of computer consulting, freelance writing, and music, and have received nothing but support from Lannette while I explore this idea. (Thank you, honey.)

Another thing I have discovered is that I’m pretty good at Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. I had read Wil Wheaton‘s blog entries about playing in the World Series of Poker and landing a gig as a team player. A few months before being fired, I had purchased Dataviz software’s Hold ‘Em High program for my Treo 650, and practiced in hopes of being able to sit down at a table in Las Vegas on the honeymoon. Alas, that was not to be due to lack of funds, but I enjoyed playing poker on the handheld anyway. When I found I had some free time on my hands (and no money) at home, I began playing in play money tournaments at PokerStars.

Now, PokerStars has decided to hold a free tournament for bloggers only. The prize package looks great, and I have nothing to lose except a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Registration for the tournament required pasting an advertisment on the blog, which I did on the main page of this site. Normally, I don’t go for that kind of thing on my site, but I’ll allow it temporarily as a condition of my tournament entry. Who knows? Maybe I’ll play *really* well and get hired as a blogger for PokerStars!

Look out, Wil, here I come. 😉

Rainy Sunset

I took this picture with my camera phone tonight while on a grocery store run.

Rainy Sunset
This is why I live near the Rockies. When mother nature contrives to create images like this, I remember to take a deep breath, enjoy the gift, and put everything in perspective.

Life has been rough at times over the last couple of years, with family illness, a divorce, very tight finances, and my job not going as well as I would have liked. But there are bright spots, and I think that is what Mother Nature is trying to tell me.

I’m getting married again in a few weeks, and in that marriage, I gain not only a loving, supportive, intellectual wife, but I gain a new son. I will never attempt to interfere with Logan’s relationship with his real father, but for those times when his Dad is not able to be there for him, I hope to be an able assistant.

Another bright spot of the last couple of years is my band, Steel River Three. We haven’t made much money, but we have managed to play several different venues and are starting to notice familiar faces at the shows. I’ve become much more comfortable playing and singing in front of people, and recently wrote my first song in over eight years.

The writing is taking off a bit, too. The articles for ComputorEdge are not only bringing in a bit of extra money, they have given me the confidence to submit more work to different markets. As I mentioned in the last entry, I submitted a piece to NPR, and yesterday I submitted a short-short story to the new science fiction/horror magazine Apex Digest. The response time for that market is listed as 20-30 days, so I hope to hear whether the story was accepted by mid July. I also have another story idea that might be right up that magazine’s alley, but I have to write it before I can submit it. 😉

Yes, there have been challenges in my life recently, many of them brought on by myself, but I need to remember that not all is dark and stormy. As people in the Pacific Northwest might say, the sun breaks are a reason for celebration.

Writing Songs and Articles

Last night I sent my latest article to ComputorEdge, entitled “Communication at the Speed of Life.” The article is about communications and network advances in the medical field.

Today, I got another assignment from that editor, and Lannette and I will be co-writing an article for a November issue. Looks like the writing gig is starting to show a little action, at least in terms of non-fiction sales.

I’ve also submitted an essay to NPR’s This I Believe series. If my essay is chosen, I will be asked to record a reading of it for the series. Oh, and I’ll get a couple hundred bucks. This writing stuff is taking off at just the right time; I can really use the extra money right now.

Friday, I debuted my latest song, “New Guy Smell” with Steel River Three. I have a recording of “New Guy Smell,” but I’m not happy with the vocals. I need to re-record it. When I do, I’ll post an MP3 on this site.

Logan leaves tomorrow for a month-long stay with his grandparents in Washington state. We won’t see him until just before the wedding. I’m going to miss the kiddo.

In general, there are a lot of things going on in my life right now. At some point, I need to get a storage shed built. There are always bills to catch up on. I have some website updates to perform, both personal and for other people. And oh yeah, there’s this wedding coming up, too.

Sometimes it seems life is a series of “must-dos,” and that there’s not much room for creativity. I’m glad I’m able to keep the creativity going for right now.