Sunday, June 30, 2013

Welcome New Readers!

whoever you are, wherever you are....


I really need to get a grip on this media thing. You’d think I’d be flogging the hell out of my book here, there, and everywhere, but I’ve learned the Great Bukowski wasn’t striking a too-cool-for-school pose when he said he lost all interest in a book once he was finished writing it, that all of his love and attention was tied up writing the next. 

Mind you, it’s not quite that extreme with me—I think I might actually enjoy taking some time to come up with a king-hell campaign (I really have no choice if I’m going to make a living at this). Still, Bleeding Kansas is but the first act of a grand Saga that’s neither saga nor particularly grand if I don’t finish writing it. If I had my way I’d already be writing the third book because I’m so excited for where (I think) everything is going to end up.

Meanwhile, this sleepy little blog has seen an uptick in visitors in the last 24 hours, so it’s only proper to come out, pour some drinks and say hello. 

You’ll note I generally avoid the Complaint of the Day format here. I took a stab at it a couple of times and I ended up feeling like a stupid crank. Worse, a depressed stupid crank. It turns out I have points of view that offend even me. Who knew? 

Sure, some days I’ll have a fit of “observational Tourettes” just because, and you’ll read some seriously opinionated shit here. For the most part, though, I try to focus on the more preferable apocalypses. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: The reason zombie apocalypse stories are so popular is because even an apocalypse in which one scavenges for necessities while pursued by ravenous, flesh-eating cadavers is preferable to the one we’re suffering through now. 

So. Towards a king-hell Bleeding Kansas Awareness campaign. And to organize this space better. Post some content worth reading. This could take a while. Mesmerize yourself watching the hula hoop girl while I get on this....

Must...not...must...get back...to...work....


Friday, June 28, 2013

BLEEDING KANSAS Is Available in Kindle!

I began writing Bleeding Kansas 24 May 2012. I quit a job shortly after my birthday in October with intentions of selling this novel DIY Kindle ebook through Amazon. With just enough chapters to make it happen I commenced serializing the novel on this blog in January. 

In March, Severed Press came a-calling. I was up to Chapter 17 when I signed the contract on 13 March and took Act Two offline. Soon afterward, I took down the rest of it. (Ain’t no sense giving away what I’m planning on selling, amirite?) 


I spent much, much more time than I’d intended finishing the book. At least I was happy with how the book finished, on 25 May 2013, a year and a day after I’d begun. It wasn’t quite what I’d expected, but it fit the mood I was going for.


Bleeding Kansas served hard time in the proofreader’s queue before it came back to me. Going over it I found myself savoring the deeply weird ending, especially the scene depicted in the cover art as described by the Dead Silencer. There’s a 1970s feel to the action, and the toxic-abrasive attitude driving the hero. We root for him because, of all the assholes in the post-apocalyptic Zombie Crapsack World, he’s the least assholish, if still very much an asshole.


I’ll admit I never thought my first novel would be a zombie apocalypse novel. As a writer I expected my first to be a Great American Novel, i.e., the Great American Middle-Class Melodrama. I may yet finish that book. But for right now it’s all about post-apocalyptic rage-revenge fantasy for people like me who hate the way things have become. Which is Great American enough for me.


George Romero wrote and filmed Night of the Living Dead as a reaction to the Failed Dream of the 1960s, especially the disaster-on-skates that was the year 1968. (Tet Offensive, LBJ declines to run for re-election, MLK shot, RFK shot, the Soviet-style police brutality at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, etc.) Over the last five years—since 2008, 40 years after Night of the Living Dead—we have watched the professional class hollow out as IT jobs and other trade positions fell away. The system gets along with a lot fewer people in 2013. If you miss out on this game of musical chairs, 1,000 people for 20 chairs, now 19, now 17, too bad, so sad, sucks to be you. Or maybe not....


In that light Bleeding Kansas in particular and The Saga of the Dead Silencer altogether is my statement on Life in These United States, ca. A.D. 2013. It’s not great capital-S Satire and social commentary, mind you. It’s first and foremost a two-fisted action-adventure tale in a post-apocalyptic setting with zombies. I take my shots when I can, though.


I’m gambling that you’re like me and figure any apocalypse is better than the one we’re living through now. If so, you’ll enjoy Bleeding Kansas

“Delightful rage-fantasy and post-apocalyptic ultraviolence!” 


###

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why I Shouldn't Post on Current Events, Reason # 2,057

Yesterday they were the Ku Klux Kourt for gutting the Voting Rights Act. Today they are wise, wonderful, enlightened angels for permitting the legality of wealthy gay people to get married. Good for the gay people (no, really), but the Supreme Court has been a sick pro-corporate, pro-police state, anti-American joke for going on three decades now. The reason the gays got what they wanted was because enough wealthy and (therefore) influential gay men put their wealthy and influential shoulders to the issue. 

Gay people who make as much money as you and I are just as invisible as you and I to the people who make these decisions. There’s your “equality” right there. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Having finished pissing in your big rainbow punch bowl, I take my leave. Enjoy the party.  Tomorrow I expect you’ll be bitching or rejoicing about something else entirely. As you should, because that’s what your masters want.

Carry on, chumps. And remember, you’re the freest, bestest, proudest slaves that ever slaved in all of human history. Your masters said so. That’s something, right?

Related: When Great Social Breakthroughs Aren’t

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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

State of the Apocalypse, Six-Seventeen-Thirteen Edition

On Tuesday 11 June, the worst wildfire in Colorado’s history ignited four or five miles north of me as the flaming ember flies. Fortunately for me and mine in the unfashionable south end of Briargate in north Colorado Springs, the wind was coming out of the south and those burning embers went deeper into Black Forest. And so a relatively small but dense forest (yes, it’s an actual forest) of spindly ponderosa pine, where the trees and their highly combustible duff are allowed right up to the doors of mega-million dollar mansions, went up in flames.

Over here in the crumbling split-levels near the intersection of Rangewood Drive and Briargate Boulevard we had to close our windows and listen to the bubble-headed bleach-blonde on Channel 13 tell us to turn on air conditioners most of us don’t have. The air was smoky, our nasal passages burned, and for a tense 48 hours it seemed like nothing was stopping this thing. I enjoyed my own half-hour of blood-freezing terror when the pre-evacuation was imposed on the area southwest of the fire—and mere miles to the northwest of me. A simple shift of the wind would have changed our lives forever, and you can bet no one would be broadcasting our sob story. No one cares if you’re losing everything you have when you don’t have much to begin with.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Scenes from a Zombie Abortion XVI: The CONFEDERATION Project

This is one of those rare cases in which one’s nostalgia for something isn’t killed off by a chance encounter with it years later. That is to say, I’ve always remembered this chapter  fondly, and damned if it didn’t reward my love when I read it again just today. Preacher Miller isn’t a cartoon villain; the overcooked and overexposed trope of the Evil Preacherman doesn’t apply. Here, we come to understand his drive, we feel his indignation — which means we’ll be there to weep when it all goes to shit, as we know it must. 

So help me, I am going to find a way to lash all this together and finish this once I’m done relating The Saga of the Dead Silencer. This is just too good to throw away. Run the boilerplate!

In 2008 James Robert Smith and I collaborated on a project we hoped would turn out to be the Winesburg, Ohio of zombie epics, a mosaic tale describing the communities coming together (and squaring off against one another) in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. For various reasons the collaboration fell apart. Bob took his part of the narrative — which included his idea of a border collie manipulating the other abandoned dogs and zombies—and crafted The Living End. I scuffled around for a couple of more years until I came up with The Saga of the Dead Silencer.

For those readers following the first part of my saga, Bleeding Kansas, who miss having something nasty-mean to read, here’s the sixteenth installment I wrote for the project. Of course, if you like this, feel free to pick up Bob’s completed work. Support your local architects of the apocalypse!



PREACHER MILLER


A ridge-runnin’ cracker, she said, that’s all those people think when they look at you.

Well, thought Preacher Miller, ain’t that what I’m doin’?

They think you get everything handed to you just ‘cause you’re white. You ever notice how it’s perfectly okay to make fun of poor white people? We’re all stupid an’ makin’ naked with family members if not the cow (like we can afford livestock!) an’ people laugh and laugh! It don’t matter how much schoolin’ you get or how pretty you learn to talk, everybody white and black looks down on a ridge-runnin’ cracker!

But Leah Miller’s boy had been determined to rise above all that. Faith in the Living God and in His Only Son, Jesus Christ, had enabled him to work and raise the money for seminary school. And what did you know, most of the people at seminary school recognized his faith for what it was, a genuine thing! They were all brothers in Christ, and it didn’t matter who you were or where you were from or the color of your skin (though admittedly there weren’t a lot of black folk there at the place he went to, all of one, really, but he was a good guy).

Happy Father's Day, Uncle Harlan!

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are rather awkward — that is, for the kind of people who feel awkward when I say the only things these days do for me is remind me of how grateful I am that I don’t have those pathetically weak and stupid people in my life anymore. [Pause to savor the shocked silence. And to those righteous twits who say, “We just don’’t SAY things like that!” well, I do. Just not often, and for obvious reasons.] 

So it’s a delightful surprise on this Father’s Day that I come across a recent interview with one of my spiritual fathers, one of the two “uncles” who helped shape my worldview, my attitude, who provided an encouraging voice when I was disgusted with being the only person who thought and felt the way I did and wished I was stupid and happy like everyone else. Uncle Ray Bradbury is gone, but I still got my Uncle Harlan. Rock on, you ornery old bastard. 

Yeah, yeah, I know. He’s always bragging about stuff he says is gonna happen and doesn’t, he flaked out on The Last Dangerous Visions, he touched a woman’s titty in front of a bunch of people at a World Science Fiction Convention, admitted it, now denies it. He’s mean to people sometimes. Yeah, so? 

He was there for me in my hours of darkness. Harlan Ellison poured my first Strange Wine, told me Deathbird Stories, and taught me to roar like a proper Beast Who Shouted “Love!” at the Heart of the World. Harlan mentions 1988’s Angry Candy in the interview linked above but his Last Known Good was Stalking the Nightmare in 1982. Like my Uncle Ray, he’s kept chugging along long after his Special Formula mojo was exhausted. [Pause to imagine the same pale squawking nothings in a dither over Tittygate, who are all about “compassion” and cisnormative fat-acceptance anti-bullying kittens, saying, “You should kill yourself.”]

But the goods Uncle Harlan once delivered are still there. Their truths are still true, their delivery mechanism whirs as efficiently as ever 30, 40, even 50 years down the line. Maybe not as much in print as I’d like to see, but I’ve got my copies. I think it’s time to pay them a revisit. Happy Father’s Day, Uncle Harlan, for teaching me how to throw the ball, for how to rebuild the engine in a muscle car. It was another kind of ball and another kind of engine in another kind of car entirely but it was more than anyone else ever did for me, and for that I am forever grateful.

"And the LORD said, 'Get the fuck off my lawn!'"
"Really? It says that?"

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Saturday Adventure Theater! Only THE RESILIENT Survive!

The following excerpt, a little further down the narrative from the first, has: 

a) a blow-job

b) recreational drug use

c) a Tasing 

d) a living room getting trashed in the course of mortal combat

e) gunfire

f) a spearing

g) a zombie awakening, and 

h) more violence and general bad attitude than most 4,300-word chapters you’ll read anywhere.

In sum, this one really does have it all! For all the kvetching I’ve done about the violent and disturbing scenes I’ve written for Bleeding Kansas I apparently blocked out all memory of this passage I wrote for The Resilient 17 months ago — a chapter so disturbing I’ve rewritten it multiple times, mainly so the reader won’t be turned off by my hero and what he has to do to survive among the remnants an already sick society gone feral and degenerate in the zombie apocalypse. For instance, as loathsome as Kim is, I knew it would not do to have...well, I’ve said too much already. Let’s cut to the blow job, shall we?



Monday, June 10, 2013

Steve Earle Takes Another Road

Earle’s been “Down the Road” and then some. He’s most famous for “Copperhead Road” from the album of the same name, but he’s also sung “Nowhere Road” and “Telephone Road.”

Now we come to “Jericho Road,” one of the many outstanding tracks from his excellent 2007 album Washington Square Serenade. With the chugging acoustic guitar and the wailing harmonica I like to think of the persona of the singer as an Evil Mirror Universe Bob Dylan, rocking a VanDyke beard and demanding your agonizer. In this song Earle achieves a thundering, shaming sermon of the type Bob Dylan has tried pulling off on occasion throughout his career. But Dylan never had Earle’s genuinely weary-angry growl. Earle even pulls off the metaphorical obliqueness that Dylan makes look easy.

All snotty music critic jibber-jabber aside, it’s a great song for a Monday. Dig it:



Video by Luis Vicente de Aguinaga, who runs a mean little music channel on YouTube.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Scenes from a Zombie Abortion XV: The CONFEDERATION Project

I have a fat prole girl named Krystal in Bleeding Kansas, but she’s much different in disposition from the one you’ll meet here, who spells her name “Krystle.” The hell of it is, I’d forgotten all about Krystle when I was writing Krystal. If the name came up it’s because a common one among that social strata. Krystals, Krystles, or even Chrystals don’t grow up in McMansionland, drive minivans, or play with iPhones. I do not know why this is so. Only that it is. 

This one here just might save the night for our NPR-listening yuppie lady and her two children. Run the boilerplate!

In 2008 James Robert Smith and I collaborated on a project we hoped would turn out to be the Winesburg, Ohio of zombie epics, a mosaic tale describing the communities coming together (and squaring off against one another) in the wake of the zombie apocalypse. For various reasons the collaboration fell apart. Bob took his part of the narrative — which included his idea of a border collie manipulating the other abandoned dogs and zombies — and crafted The Living End. I scuffled around for a couple of more years until I came up with The Saga of the Dead Silencer.

For the benefit of those readers who were following the first part of my saga, Bleeding Kansas, and miss having something nasty-mean to read, here’s the fifteenth installment I wrote for the project. Of course, if you like this, feel free to pick up Bob’s completed work. Support your local architects of the apocalypse!



KRYSTLE

A loud pop from the woods killed the lights before they reached the edge of the lawn. The pretty yuppie lady gasped. Not a peep from the children, though. Smart kids, thought Krystle. The squeaky wheels get the teeth; Krystle had seen that rule enforced more than once before coming to New Bethany.

Blind, her night-shocked eyes useless, Kystle cut to the left. She regretted testing these kids’ smarts one more time, not least because mom was the obvious weak link and might call out. With their feet pounding the earth, their fear-sweat scenting the air, they were already broadcasting their presence loud and clear to anything and everything out here tonight. Krystle could only hope the children would follow, and that mom would save her questions and comments for another hour.

Sunday Back Porch Apocalypse Guitar Singalong!

“Cactus” is the miracle track from David Bowie’s 2002 Heathen album, the standout that isn’t some depressing miscegenation of lounge and disco as he’s been doing since 1982. It’s even more of a miracle when you consider that the song is a cover of one of the most overrated of music magazine darlings, The Pixies. What sounds creepy and weak in the original is transformed into the roar of an alpha wolf by Bowie’s confident delivery over a thundering arrangement. 

“Cactus” proves that Bowie, as of 2002, could still rock out if he had the material to do it with. That he can’t write it himself anymore can’t be held against him when he’s bringing it home like this.



For more bitchin’ about Bowie, see also: Talking Real Life Walking Dead Blues on a Resurrection Sunday.

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Saturday, June 08, 2013

Saturday Adventure Theater! THE RESILIENT 01: Drugstore Cowpunching


The following is the opening to Book Two of The Saga of the Dead Silencer. I realize it seems counterintuitive (or whatever) to showcase an excerpt from a work in progress before the completed first book is available, but I daresay this one is special. This is the first piece of writing I did for the Dead Silencer project in November 2011, and revisiting it now I’m struck by how well it’s held up. I picked up quickly that the zombie apocalypse — or any apocalypse — is best approached first and foremost as a two-fisted action-adventure story.

Which is all to say it’s Saturday already. Let’s get swashbuckling! 



I’m at the drugstore in Falcon, Colorado, when the thing grabs my arm. The squeeze hurts like a mother; a deader’s muscles don’t relax once they’ve got a hold. I jam my hunting knife into the woman’s eye, working the blade until it finds whatever part of her brain keeps her up and she drops.

The woman’s grip pulls me to the floor with her as five of her office mates come stumbling up from outside. The first three struggle in the doorframe trying to get in first. I stab into the woman’s wrist, sever the tendons. Through the sharp tingling of reawakening nerves I toss her body at the ankles of her office mates, now through the door and nearly on top of me.

I run to the staff door beside the pharmacy. Locked. The service window is open so I butt-slide over the counter. After the damage I’ve taken I need that Vicodin more than when I started this morning.

Friday, June 07, 2013

When Great Social Breakthroughs Aren't

...and why I really, really need to stay away from these topics


Last week my brother in pixelated ink, James Robert Smith, sent me this link from the Guardian UK  about the “legalization” of marijuana in my adopted home state of Colorado. He wanted to know what I thought about it. I was in a black mood that day, but such moods make for fine rants. What follows is an edited, expanded edition of my reply on Facebook — and a splendid example of why I should continue to avoid talking about current events here.
 __________________________________

You’d think marijuana legalization is a Great Breakthrough, but like gay marriage it’s something that should have happened long ago. The media celebrates these things, however, because it provides an illusion of progress and freedom when things are actually getting locked down harder and meaner than ever before in history. Robot planes will fly overhead watching everything we do. (Despite all protests they will be soon be armed for our “safety.”) Cameras equipped with facial recognition tech already watch us in our cities. For decades, the Fourth and Fifth Amendments to the US Constitution have been nothing more than quaint words to the U.S. Supreme Court whenever a cop’s “duty” to kick in your door, tear you house up, shoot your pets and beat the shit out of you is concerned. Your Master (read: employer) has the right to know everything you do on your off-hours. He can even demand you pee in a cup for him while you have the right either to comply or die homeless. But (rich) gay people can get married now! And you can legally smoke weed in Colorado! 


Y’all go on and celebrate without me. As the young folks say, I’m not feelin’ it.


Thursday, June 06, 2013

What Can I Tell You?

State of the Apocalypse, Stardate Six-Six-Thirteen


I’d wanted to post something on the first of the month, start a proper chain. I would have begun by noting the celebratory feel to the day, how it did my bitter old peach-pit heart good to see the laughing, hooting teenage boys and girls throwing a football among each other at Frontier Park. I would have described the chill undertone to the air, how it seemed more like early October than June. (But, hey, brace yourselves! Summer will be over before you know it!) 

For a delirious instant (which I quickly got over, and you’re welcome) I considered opening a blog post every day the way old English journals used to do, with a local weather report. Maybe that would get the ol’ juices going.

Nah.