Saturday, August 30, 2014

Last Friday in August

It didn’t occur to me until a couple of days ago that I missed my son’s first day of senior year. That is, I wasn’t up to watch him walk down the street towards school. Part of that was the fog of illness I was under, but I’m impressed that my son actually wanted it this way, to get right into the thing without fanfare and speeches. 

He plays his first game of his last season tonight. He did indicate that he wanted us there to see him play. He’s on the kickoff and kickoff return squads and starting on defense.

I have to forcibly remind myself to focus on the now and not worry about what he will be doing with all of his energy and talent one year from now when he’s no longer in school.
The days run away like wild horses over the hills. Or maybe it’s more like this.

As wind up Summer 2014 with this Labor Day Weekend, I note that this will be the summer remembered as the one in which people posted videos online of having buckets or tubs of icewater poured on them. It’s this year’s Macarena. Just like Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” is this year’s “Hey Ya.” However annoying both phenomena were, at least this summer had some distinguishing features. That said, I’m looking forward to having that song and the “challenge” behind us. We can do better than this.

I started this post yesterday, and here it is Saturday afternoon already. Let’s wrap it up. I’ve got the darkest first act of the darkest zombie apocalypse novel to finish this weekend. September is going to be all about Act II.

Meanwhile, are you looking for a couple of quick and dirty reads this weekend? A tale of post-apocalypse adventure that’s neither Guns and Ammo porn nor weepy soap opera with zombies? Check out Book 1, Bleeding Kansas, in Kindle and paperback. When you’re done with that, go straight to Grace Among the Dead, also in Kindle and paperback. These are brutal tales, brutally written. Check out what the Germans stomach so much better than your fellow Americans.

Book 1 has ONE exploding head
on its cover.
Book 2 has TWO exploding heads.
See the pattern here?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Diary of The WRONG KIND of DEAD

I’m running these edits of Facebook updates, in which I probably reveal way too much about the coming attractions in the concluding book of my SAGA OF THE DEAD SILENCER trilogy, The Wrong Kind of Dead

My streak of post-depression/illness writing blazed white-hot for only a few days. Now it’s to take stock and make notes on what to elaborate on, what to cut, and where to go from here. And to make blog posts. And design promotional .jpgs.  Have I mentioned that the first book in my zompocalypse series, Bleeding Kansas, is on sale?

Anyway, here’s how you build the first act of a zombie novel, one to top the second and first installments in a weird and violent series:

Saturday, 23 August

Three beers. Three pages. That was Friday night. Gotta work on the ratio — should have more pages per beers — but last night was pretty special, given that I’ve been blocked all month long until now. Also, within those three pages, I, 

a) introduced a new character and set up the beginning of her arc (the theme of this book is “Fun with Multiple Character Arcs”) (last book’s theme was, “Creating Credible Romantic Frisson Between Two Damaged Characters”)

b) introduced a minor villain who precipitates the action (he’s really just a pawn in the Greater Villain’s game)

c) reunited my hero with some people he never thought he’d see again, creating emotional turmoil/another wedge between him and his new wife

d) brought back a character from Bleeding Kansas who will play a brief, but major role in setting up the main action (he’ll later explain what’s been going on with the Rest of the World since the Dark Resurrection — we’re going widescreen Technicolor Big Picture/the Whole Enchilada of Human Civilization in the Balance in this book).

Ladies and gentlemen, Dear Readers, you already know you get more happening in three pages of any one of my books than you do in 300 pages of lesser-written novels. In this case, my time off — largely spent wondering if I’d ever get the energy to just type again — seems to have done me worlds of good. Much love to the inventor of anitbiotics and whoever brewed up last night’s batch of Full Sail India Pale Ale. I had genuinely forgotten what it’s like to be me, doing the thing I do best. It truly is a good life if you don’t weaken.
Just gotta keep truckin’...zombie truckin’ down the line....

Sunday, 24 August

Remember those three beers and three pages I talked about? Between Saturday night and Sunday morning it’s now 21 pages. Orchestrating a full-on domestic dispute between a man and his two wives during a military evac in a zombie swarm zone is thirsty work. I’m hurrying through this because I’m looking forward to firebombing the city. It’s good to be at work on a Sunday.

I like how the nude woman provides the Uncanny Valley effect here. In actuality, a lot of dead people would already be naked or the next best thing, lying in hospital beds, etc. Most wouldn’t look so sexy though, as there would be voided bodily wastes staining their legs.

Monday, 25 August

I stopped last night at the bottom of page 25, the first page of Chapter 4. I’m a little hung-up at the moment orchestrating a massacre of “ferals” or “rat people” (scavenging post-apoc humans, as opposed to more proactive hunters/farmers) holed up in an apartment high-rise on 8th Street in west Colorado Springs, just on the other side of the hill from Manitou. 

They were just too handy, though. They permit my heroes to see what’s keeping the super-hungry, super-cray-cray zombies off their own asses while realizing just how messed-up these new people are, beaming drone footage of the massacre back to the Redoubt for the entertainment of decadent elites hundreds of miles away. It’s a chance to set up a Major Thematic Question (is civilization really worth saving? really?) while throwing down some major zombie gore porn to earn my stand-out cred in a very crowded genre. 

Ah, Monday. So long as I can bash out 10 rock-solid pages like I did over the course of yesterday, it’s good to be at work. Cynthia got another pot of coffee brewing, and I’m on the case. Tough break for those poor damn rat people, though....

Kibbles ‘n’ bits!

Tuesday, 26 August

Only four pages were finished yesterday (pp. 26-29), but they involved a massacre, including a lovingly depicted infanticide. Now the Family Grace learns they’ve been unwitting participants in a reality TV show (filmed by drones) while they’ve been fighting for their lives to survive the winter. Helicopters are all over Colorado Springs now for “the final packout” and the dead are going nuts. Derek Grace and his family know going with Col. Dietzen and his people is their best hope for survival, but now they taste another flavor to the evil they always knew was there among the elites who hid themselves in Wyoming while the dead rose to walk the earth for living meat. 

What horrors await my heroes on a Tuesday? I’ll need another cup of coffee and another square of 86% cacao dark chocolate to sort this one out. They’ve got to break camp and visit with the Abundant Life settlement (now run by people who hate the non-religious Grace and his free-wheeling family), but with luck I’ll have those fat incendiary clouds blossoming like dreams of 1945 Dresden over Colorado Springs in time for the evening’s ale consumption.

Hellfire missiles fired from Predator drones are an obvious choice, but I wonder if I can get away with some old-fashioned napalm for an Apocalypse Now wall-of-flame finish. It occurs to me I could also blow up the chemical weapons depot in Pueblo (a major real-life disaster waiting to happen down the road from me). Time to bust out the Sharpies and the desk-calendar paper; I’m going to need to outline this one.

Dead people no likey the fire.

As it turned out I wrote two more pages, and started Chapter 5. I made some cuts throughout the previous pages, posted some sticky notes indicating things I want to see punched up and possibly brought back, and did a lot of thinking under post-midnight gray skies about where the narrative elements I’d introduced in the first 32 pages might take the book.

Which brings me to today. I need to get this post up, and get back to finishing up Act One.  If I could only get Act Two done as quickly as this first one...well, I already know I can pound out the pages when I have a more-or-less clear direction.
Cue Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight.” I need to do some myself.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Answer Was the Cure

My wife got sick of listening to me be sick so she scheduled me an appointment. We ain’t got much, but thank God we’ve got Tricare Prime. If what I walked away from the pharmacy desk with isn’t enough to kill this thing, there’s no hope. As it is, I’m feeling better already.

The Augmentin is the MVP of the team here, which should take care of the opportunistic infection occasioned by exhaustion, anxiety, and what I’d thought was a long dismissed episode of depression.

Naming the demon was half the problem. It was in conversation with my honors student/varsity football playing son, in which he confessed to being anxious about his impending senior year, that the answer to the question What is this? was revealed to me. Once I realized it was an expression of the same anxiety and depression that had dogged me at this time last year, I felt my energy levels rise. It was as if someone had taken a heavy blanket from atop a running motor. Now that the motor had air, it could run at full efficiency.

Like a weight being lifted from me. There’s a reason that expression exists. I had denied being anxious about my second book, about making the podcasts and doing the promotion necessary to getting my audience. I had all but curled up into a ball hoping all this responsibility and need would go away on its own. Can’t be responsible for anything if I’m sick, right?

I put on my shoes and went for a long walk. I was still weak, but not so weak I couldn’t pull off my usual three miles. I got going good and proper on the medication. The next morning I woke up feeling nearly normal.

Today I exploded through my writer’s block to type three pages on my new novel.

In all my years, I’ve yet to find an anti-depressant
as reliable and effective as cigarettes and alcohol.
“Drinkerbell” Copyright © 2014 by Matt Dixon.
Since the self-murder of the comedian recently, I had long been considering a proper rant at my disdain for talk about depression from people who live in much nicer circumstances, who are in no danger of living in any condition that amounts to outright poverty. So my depression is built upon reasonable terror and justifiable fear...I’m actually well enough now to realize that it doesn’t matter. 

Nobody loves you when you’re down and out—when you’re depressed for actual, concrete reasons—and there’s no changing that. I’m on my own. But that’s for the best. Nobody knows my issues better than me.

I named my demon, and it vanished in a puff of stink straight back to Hell. Yeah, I’m feeling mighty pleased with myself.

Most of all, I’m feeling not sick. So let’s get back to work. I’ve lost enough time to these August blues as it is.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Awkward Encounters of the Spectral Kind

H/T Cultura Macabra.
I’d have no problem with this so long as she stays in that swing and doesn’t follow me home, acting out the violence of her abduction and death by breaking things all over my house, spooking the cats, standing over me while I try to sleep, etc., and forcing me to confront her killer in a lethal showdown just so I can make her adorable ectoplasmic self cross over like she should have done in the first place. Child ghosts can be such a nuisance.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Late Summer Cold: My Final Flu?

Good Lord, what is this? I’m sitting here in dry, 74 degree temps in my basement bunker and sweating like it’s 104 in heavy humidity. My wife says I’m running a fever. She’s arranged to have me seen by the nurse practitioner tomorrow. I don’t know what the nurse could do for me other than prescribe some cough medicine with codeine.

That should keep me stoned and happy in a socially acceptable way for as long as it lasts, but, still, I want to know: what is this?

I don’t often take sick, but when I do....
It started 19 days ago with a sore throat caused by post-nasal drip. Nineteen days ago. I noticed my wife had had this upper-respiratory cough going on for several weeks before, which was bad enough. Then again, between being allergic to all the animals and half the plant life in Colorado, she’s always got something going on.

Me, if I catch anything, it never puts me down for more than three days at a time. Maybe a week, if it’s really nasty. This particular malaise dogged me for two weeks while I was working the temp gig at the campus book store, but I managed to work around the waves of nausea that doubled me over last Tuesday. By Thursday, though, I was down for the count. I’ve been in and out of bed ever since.

At least I’m past the sinus congestion phase. One night I was afraid to lie down, because I thought I might suffocate. When I coughed I’d free myself of whatever skein of phlegm was tickling my trachea only to find out the activity had swollen my nasal membranes. 

I’m sleeping better now, even dreaming, which I noticed I hadn’t done before. I wonder if the up-for-one-hour, down-for-three-hours schedule I’m keeping now is making up for all that smothered sleep. These waves of sudden fatigue are weird, though. Like all of a sudden I’m out of battery. 

I ask again: what is this? And what can I do to force it to turn loose of me?

That this bug resembles the Final Flu that brings on the zompocalypse in Bleeding Kansas is not lost on me. So far as I know, one in three people aren’t coming down with it. It’s creepy-scary, though, like nothing I’ve ever been through in terms of duration and variety of symptoms. A body can’t help but wonder.

Like everything else, I’m just going to have to power through it. Like everything else, I will. Whatever this is.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sending Off Summer with The Beach Boys, Decongestant, and Beer

The 2014-2015 school year has already started for a lot of children. Today was the first day for the first graders on the school up the hill from my house here on the north side of crumbling Colorado Springs. My son, who attended that same school as a fourth and fifth grader, starts his senior year of high school tomorrow.

I wonder about the memories these kids made. My son is stoked about owning his first smartphone, so that will likely be the big one for him—although he did manage to take the controls of a small aircraft during an orientation flight earlier in the season, and worked to get the tickets to pay for his first rock concert up the road at Red Rocks. He did Civil Air Patrol encampment. We didn’t make any epic cross-country journeys, or go to the beach, but Summer 2014 wasn’t a total wash.

Some summers really are better than others.
“Salty Sally's Treasure” Copyright © 2014 by Matt Dixon
He spent the most amount of time in bed or in front of his computer screen, playing games, coding maps, etc. Which, when you think about it, most of our summers are defined by the One Big Thing we did, like spend one week at the beach (as I did), but the bulk of it was spend lounging around. Not that we didn’t get out and toss the football every now and then. I’m only saying we spent them lazy. At least my son sat in a chair. My preferred position was lying on my bed with a book.

Some summers are busier than others, if not as busy as the one described in one of my all-time favorite songs. When you hear this line, try to sing along. It’s not as easy as it sounds:

          Miniature golf and Hondas in the hills.

There’s a sadness at the core of this tune that speaks to me. On one end of it, I know Brian Wilson didn’t get to do most of the fun things he described in the song; this was fantasy for him. On the other end, for those who do get to have these action-packed summers, “it won’t be long ‘til summertime is through.” Like my son, the boy and girl in the song will graduate school into a world in which there is no summer break. It’s only that time of the year when it’s really hot getting into your car after work.

Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. It really is up to us, now.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Special Guest Sermon by Charles Bukowski

Like the best sermons, it will go right over most people’s heads, save for those select few who already got the message.

Here’s the transcript:

For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can’t readily accept the God formula, the big answers don’t remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command nor faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of church, state, and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.

I really need to make my own memes of these things. Right now, I just want to get over this cold. I spent the night fighting vampires in my dreams, with full-spectrum light rifles and sigils drawn quickly on the concrete floor, which means I’ve managed some R.E.M. sleep. It’s a start.

Happy Sunday.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sara Hathaway's Post-Apocalypse Blog Tour

...and now for something completely different.

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by Sara F. Hathaway about stopping by the Rage ‘n’ Romance bunker in crumbling Colorado Springs as part of her blog tour. As this seemed like something I could learn from as part of my continuing education in promoting my own books, I said, sure. What’s a blog tour, anyway?

From Tate Publishing
Sara F. Hathaway is the author of Day After Disaster, a post-apocalypse novel working from the same motif as S. Johnathan Davis’ 900 Miles and my own Bleeding Kansas, in which our intrepid hero finds him or herself caught far behind enemy lines, separated from the family he or she should be saving as the apocalyptic matter hits the fan.

Hathaway’s bio describes as a “student of Wilderness and Urban Survival,” which isn’t a bad thing to be when SHTF, as survivalists refer to Shit Hits the Fan trigger that kills the electricity, and civilization in the bargain.

Her interests in the literary side go back to the Clan of the Cave Bear series. “I tend to look at myself as a student of skills to keep myself and my family alive. I don’t like to prep. I think sometimes the prepper thing goes overboard. But,” she adds, laughing,  “I have my ammo too.”

Sara F. Hathaway
Hathaway’s heroine Erika in Day After Disaster ends up pinned beneath a wine rack in a bomb shelter turned wine cellar. After she frees herself, she has to wrap her body in duct tape against the corrosive, toxic waters pouring in. She builds a raft using pieces of the restaurant she emerges from.

Then things get nasty. Day After Disaster is part of the Changing Earth series, so you can be sure Erika’s earthquake is not an isolated event. The social niceties die with society, and Hathaway doesn’t flinch from the implications:

“There is a description of the sexually horrific things that men would impose on weak women,” Hathaway says. “I included this difficult subject to drive home the reality of a survival situation. Rape would happen and it is each woman’s responsibility to learn how to defend herself.

“I also included a beautiful love, a connection between husband and wife that exists over space and time. This wonderful romance exists between soul mates and cannot be severed by separation or death. Their love is like a burning ball of energy that swirls through the universe connecting the two souls together. Do they finally find one another in this life or the next? Guess you need to pick up the book and find out!

Hathaway encourages everyone to come by her own website for a copy of “The Go-Bag Essentials” and a virtual book tour. She’s got four and one-half stars from 11 reviews on Amazon, so she must be doing something right.

As Hathaway leaves for her next stop on her tour I look around and think, shit, I need a bigger basement, and way out in the country, at that. This poor burg is hardly livable now, but when SHTF....

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

On Hump Day, Bukowski Speaks of Death

Ten and one-half hours standing up and shoving baskets into the bellies of college students by way of crowd control (when I run out of baskets, I block the door until someone walks out) takes its toll. It’s amazing how time has slowed down. I’ve got Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday to go, and I wish I could feel excited about only having three more of these shifts to do. No, I have three more shifts to do. I’d rather it be none. My best hope is to get through this with nothing major breaking. Like a lot of people, I’m one minor catastrophe away from the street.

Meanwhile, I’m supposed to feel bad for a multi-millionaire comedian, beloved the world over, who killed himself. Richard Cory strikes again.

Oh, what a rant I could get from this. I’ve got to go to work, though. Charles Bukowski Week continues:

Naturally, the above quote does not describe Robin Williams. He seemed a thoughtful enough guy. But good on him for being able to afford checking out. I’ve still got a son in high school and a wife who depends on me to keep my act together. I’m glad I’ve got people, don’t get me wrong. But never, ever ask me to feel sorry for someone who would laugh at how “little” money I owe relative to what he would make for one episode of a bad TV comedy series. 

It’s a quarter ‘til already. I gotta go.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Charles Bukowski Week Begins Today

I would have started it yesterday, so it would be a full seven days, with the week ending on the great man’s 94th birthday this Saturday. This seems more fitting. Buk himself probably would have passed on celebrating for an entire whole week. Also, it makes sense to start it on Monday. 

Something that escapes most bourgeois fans of the Last Poet Who Mattered is that Bukowski worked for a living. Not because he wanted to, not for “material” for his writing, but because that’s the way the plantation is set up for most people who are not to the McMansion born. Slave or starve. Endure the abuse of the boss and the customers and all the other poor, troubled people you work with, or enjoy trying to get a nap on the dirty concrete outdoors before the Protect and Serve crew move you along with their sticks and shoe tips.

I could have set these memes to go earlier—I should have set these memes up to be automatically published as the week goes on, as I’ll be working ten-and-a-half hour days from now until Friday at the campus bookstore. I’m in for a long, miserable week. It’s kicking off early, as the smoke detector decided to let me know the battery was dying at 3 a.m., and my wife thrashed around in her sleep after I went and took the smoke detector off the ceiling and put it in the garage. Oh, yeah, a real sweet start. 

Maybe I’ll get some ideas while at work this week. They’re not happening here at home, not even in my basement sanctuary, and the bills aren’t paying themselves, besides.

I'll make a deal with myself. Let’s get this week started, get it over with, and on Friday and Saturday nights, I’ll get roaring drunk. We’ll work it out as we go. 

Charles “Hank” Bukowski would understand, and, for that, among many reasons, is why I honor him this week.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

A Writer Working the Bookstore

For some people Wednesday is the middle of the week, the “hump” you get over until Friday. For me, the middle doesn’t come until Saturday. At this university campus bookstore, my fellow temps and I will be working every day, including Saturday and Sunday, until the end of next week. 

Today is only Day 3 of our 14-day forced march. Half the month of August is shot as far as much of my new writing goes. Gotta make bank, though. My son is starting his senior year in high school and we have clothes to purchase, and athletic and lab fees to pay.

Fortunately, I pulled the “late” shift of 10:30 a.m. until closing at 6 p.m., which means I can get up at the normal waking time for most people (6:30, 7 a.m.) and knock out some things before I drive in. I always feel better going into work after having written something, anything. Knocking out a few promotional tweets for my books, as I did this morning, feels like an accomplishment.

I stand around my fellow temp workers, and it doesn’t matter that I’m a successful horror author in Germany. The German translation of Bleeding Kansas—as of the last time I looked this morning— is in the top 100 Kindle horror books, and top 100 overall for horror.

It’s not something I can share with my fellow temps, most of whom are struggling worse than I am and “don’t have time to read.” Of course, many people still equate the writing and publication of a book with financial success, so how good could I be if I have to work crowd control for ten bucks an hour? Best to keep my mouth shut, and play the role of the Charming Older Fella helping the young ‘uns find their required physics textbooks.

Newsflash for all aspiring authors: you don’t really make money writing books unless you can sell the movie rights. The best you can hope to come close is to write a lot of books, and keep them all selling at once. I’ve got two books out there, with one in translation in a foreign market, and obviously I’m still trying to get a grip on this marketing thing.

Part of marketing is blogging, and this is the best I can do. For now. Here are the obligatory links to my books. These are the Kindle links; you can get the app free for your phone, PC, or Mac. Look on the linked pages for the links to the paperback versions if you’re so inclined:

Saga of the Dead Silencer, Book 1, BLEEDING KANSAS.

Saga of the Dead Silencer, Book 2, GRACE AMONG THE DEAD.

I’ll got to finish this up, shower, and see what I can do to get Chapter 2 or Book 3 sketched out. Then off to the “slave,” as the old jazz musicians called their day jobs.

Here’s hoping my books provide you with sufficient distraction from your own worries for a while. If you work customer service, you might enjoy the vicarious pleasures of slashing, clubbing, and shooting the formerly living. God help me, I have. Still do.
Okay, get ready to open the doors. It’s time.