Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 2016 After-Action Report

It’s hard to believe we’re at the end of the first month of 2016 already. 

I’ve had the best month ever on this blog ever in terms of pageviews. Book sales were decent, better than months past. I cracked 1,100 Twitter followers.

I could also stand for some “manscaping”
once I’m done losing the weight.
There were all of three days this month in which I didn’t do 100 push-ups broken into sets of 20 and 25 reps. My weight loss has stalled out, but I’m getting the hang of fasting. Losing those 10 pounds over the holiday season made a hell of a difference. At 180, still 15 lbs overweight, I have more energy than I’ve known in decades. There can be no abandonment of principle, no turning back. This feels too damn good.

There is still so much more to do. But I’m on my way. Chapter 30 of The Wrong Kind of Dead was finished last night. I’m already at page 266, four pages past the page count for Grace Among the Dead.  I can see this thing topping off at or very close to 400 pages.

I still need to get some podcasts and videos up. I’ve done some experimental shoots with the camera and was pleasantly surprised with the results. This is more progress than I made in all of 2015.

Overall, January 2016 was one for the Win column. That status could change, however, should I fail to build on this month’s accomplishments in February. Everything I do this year has to be the prologue to something better, or it never will get better.


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Reflections Upon a Dead Television

That infernal thing was always running in the bedroom. My wife liked to have it on to fold laundry, or—God help me—fall asleep to. For the last eight years, part of my late night routine has been to go upstairs every 30 minutes or so to check if my wife is finally asleep, and cut the TV off.

Tuesday, while in recovery from dental surgery, my wife was watching the TV from the bed when it made a buzzing noise, and the picture disappeared.

It was a sign, one I immediately related to that awful night last summer when my 14-year-old cat got sick, and we thought that was it. Yes, I know it’s weird, but hold that thought.

The thing to understand about the TV blowing out is that the nearly 21-year-old cathode ray tube blew out of the Sony Trinitron. We bought this 19-inch screen TV at the Camp Zama post exchange in Japan in March 1995.

Our now grown-and-gone children watched all of their favorite cartoons and videos on this set. It survived five military moves, one in which it was dropped outright and the back casing broken. It was only then, in 2005, that I bought another television.

The Sony still worked, though, and that’s how it ended up being the bedroom television.

Incidentally, the Phillips tube television I bought to replace the Sony in the living room crapped out in five years.

Our Sony enjoyed a crisp, next-best-thing-to-digital picture on its 19-inch screen right up until 26 January 2016. When it was done, it winked out, no lingering electronic Alzheimer’s or snowy senility to telegraph its demise. I expect it’s outlasted all the plasma flatscreens. Remember plasma?

The TV shouldn’t have lasted this long, but it did, and now it’s time to move on. For God’s sake, I shouldn’t miss this thing, although I sort of do. “Sort of,” because I know it’s the Times Past this old plastic box represents that I really ache for. These things are gone forever/Over a long time ago/Oh yeah. Suck it up, move on.

It’s okay to miss the cat, though. Right? Last summer we had a scare with our 14-year-old Otis. When animals who normally won’t leave you alone refuse to be by your side and leave for dark corners after carpeting the carpet in vomit, it can go only one of two ways, and the odds favor dying. We don’t know what the hell got into Otis, we only know he was better in the morning. And I realized that night just how spoiled-stupid I am in regards to pet mortality.

Otis turns 15 sometime in May. He could easily die this year. If not this year, then the next. Then again, he might make it a full 2o. He’s dying, though. As are the other three cats we have. It’s a matter of years, and that’s if our luck holds, and none of them get cancer or something like that.

It is the way things are. Suck it up and move on. For God’s sake, some people have to bury their children; what the hell are we crying about here?

Life and life only, asshole. That’s what we’re crying about. A big part of that is letting things go. I have a harder time dealing with it than most people. Yeah, I know.

Entropy is part of the natural order. Watching ourselves fade, break, and crumble with age.

Like this neighborhood.

I’ve been having reservations about moving back to South Carolina. The logistics, for one, are very daunting when you have little to no money to spend. I know we’ll lose at least one of these cats in the 12-hour-a-day, two-day drive to—where? 

I don’t know the exact town or neighborhood, but I’m sure it will be a place where I’ll just sit in a small room like I do here, and write and surf the Internet. It’s what I like to do. I’ll be doing it someplace else, that’s all.

Yes, I’ll be able to more easily visit friends. But my daughter and son will stay behind in Colorado. One thousand, seven hundred-fifty miles or so behind. 

Frankly, given that, the horrible weather in South Carolina over the past year, and other considerations, I’m leaning hard towards the idea of staying put.

In Colorado, that is. We can’t stay in this house. We can’t stay in this neighborhood. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here is the line that comes to mind every time I step out on one of my walks. It’s not just that the bright, happy young families with small children are gone. The roads are cracked, the sidewalks are breaking, and I don’t see any of this getting fixed, ever.

One thing at a time, then. 

Our broken things will be carried out. We’ll have to hope for the best with the cats. I have to finish this last book, and make it break big so my wife and I can find a safe, comfortable place to bury our cats one by one while waiting for each other to die.

It’s come to that. And I should be grateful I’ve come this far. Grateful I still have a chance to make something, anything happen.

Suck it up and move on. I’ll keep telling myself that until it finally sinks in.


Friday, January 29, 2016

More Roadside Attractions in the Zombie Apocalypse

Which can only mean more from Book 2 of The SAGA of the DEAD SILENCER, Grace Among the Dead. This is your final warning.

Derek Grace, our titular Dead Silencer, is fleeing what’s left of the invaders of his safe house and the things they drew towards them in the course of their noisy invasion. Just because it’s middle-of-nowhere Colorado ranch country doesn’t mean you’re at all safe. People did live out here, once.

The gunfire is loud enough to wake the dead. Here they come, pushing through the littered, overgrown fields, limping up the highway, homing in on the sounds of desperate, frightened food. 
Deputy Grayson’s best bet is to get everyone into the house. That is, assuming they really want to live for another hour in a situation that still ends with them being eaten alive. I can see the former deputy barking orders at his wife as she shrieks and weeps, his children freeze in terror, and Big Jim blissfully craps his diaper. They’re doomed, no two ways about it. 
I swerve among the dead crossing the road, their yellowy flesh scraped and torn by their progress though vast fields of nettles and barbed wire. I never knew so many people used to live out here, but judging by the numbers I see staggering through the overgrown pastures, it’s enough to make a good sized mob. A horde, even. 
I slow and duck left down one of the dirt side roads. I pass a gaunt woman of indeterminate age in a pale blue nightgown. I can’t see any wounds, so I wonder if starvation killed her. She might even be one of the Original Risen, a Final Flu fatality. The latter seems most likely, given how she’s dressed for bed. 
There’s something about her face. I ease my foot from the accelerator as I approach. 
She doesn’t have the blood-beard. She has yet to feed. 
She knows what the gunshots mean, though. She glances over her shoulder as I pass, but she’s shuffling forward as fast as her legs will carry her. I put my foot back down and tack towards the middle, lest anything stumbles out of the tall grasses to the road.

There’s love and redemption ahead for our wounded warrior of the post-apocalyptic wastes, but he’s still got a mess of living dead to take care of first, along with some ornery humans. Read all about it from the beginning while I finish the third book in the series, which will actually manage to top the Battle of Wal-Mart, the exploding fire truck, the weaponized undead behemoth, the writhing zombie parts in the trees, the monster truck, and all the other crazy stuff I’ve got going on in Bleeding Kansas and Grace Among the Dead. Seriously, I need to get back writing The Wrong Kind of Dead so I can see what totally insane shit is about to happen next.

Roadside Attractions in the Zombie Apocalypse

A particularly grim excerpt from Book 2 of The SAGA of the DEAD SILENCER, Grace Among the Dead

SETUP: Well, let’s just say it’s still early in the narrative and Derek Grace is leaving the scene of something he’s going to need serious (as opposed to ludicrous) redemption from, in this “Tale of Love and Redemption, of the Living Dead and a Monster Truck.”
I drive away. In my rear view mirror I see Deputy Grayson screaming at his wife as the dead cowboy and his companion close the distance. He’s opening the door to his cruiser and pulling the shotgun from its rack. His wife is trying to start the van, but it seems the slug that took out the tire damaged something else. 
Crossing the little bridge over the creek, I nearly hit three ghouls stumbling over to check out the commotion. One of them used to be a little girl, judging by what’s left of the dress hanging on her scabbed-over bones. 
You don’t often see undead children, but when you do, it’s a mess. Not having a lot of mass and meat to begin with, they’re usually thoroughly gnawed over, if not ripped apart.
The two used-to-be young men reach towards my open window high on the truck, moaning through their dried blood-beards in frustration. The little girl-thing, though, she’s all business. She’s zeroed in on the screams and small arms fire of the feast ahead.
I pass another group of five making their way to the house, then a group of three, and one lone walker as I make my way to US 24 and ride off into the sunset. I’d pop a few of them, but I need to find a place to get settled before dark.

...and there you have it. A little #FridayFeeling, as we know it in the zombie apocalypse. Everyone stock up and stay safe. Not from the zombies, but from the spell of weather we’ll have blowing in this weekend. The worst of the winter is just ahead of us—and it will be just as quickly behind us, so I’ll keep working. While you’re waiting around for me to finish my third book, you could pick up the first two. It’s going to be a great weekend for hot chocolate and zombie-slaying.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday Motivation, Guest Speaker Pastor Friedrich Nietzsche

I imagine when people first hear about Nietzsche’s concept of the Will to Power, they can’t help thinking of a cartoon villain trying to take over the world. If one gets past the initial four-color dramatic punch of the word “power” and reflects further, one might associate the Will to Power with an ambitious corporate ladder climber, or a super-entrepreneur who can’t stop acquiring markets, businesses, land, etc. 

For our particular megalomaniacal purposes, let’s apply the following passage from Nietzsche’s Der Antichrist to how it feels when you lose another three pounds despite feeling hungry all the time, or write another page despite the burning in your eyes, or get a good workout in despite wanting to give it all up and lie on the sofa watching Netflix:

What is good? All that augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man.
What is bad? All that proceeds from weakness.
What is happiness?The feeling that power increasesthat a resistance is overcome.

Overcoming my personal Will to Laziness by doing anything is a victory for me, as it is for most people.

Maybe for you it will.
However, it is important to note that, at the core of the laziness we so enjoy berating ourselves and (especially) others for is fear. Fear of success seems absurd on its surface, but I’ve seen it at work. Success is feared because it means change. Change requires adaptation. What if I can’t adapt to this alien new thing? What if it requires quitting something I love?

It’s easier to say diets don’t work anyway, the book market is already saturated with these kinds of stories, I’ve got a million billion people I’ll be competing with in this venture, so I won’t bother—and you shouldn’t either!

It’s the Will to Power that dismisses these defeatist attitudes, and makes you feel damn good doing it. 

So who doesn’t like feeling good? Oh, we could all name some people. We’re not them, though. Are we?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

State of the Apocalypse: Beginning the Last Week of the First Month

Don’t mind me, I’m nuts.

It’s been a rough start. Most people will remember the last week of December 2015 and the first weeks of 2016 as the Great Die-Off, when people in music fell away from us in bunches, from leading men like Scott Weiland, Lemmy Kilmister, David Bowie, and Glenn Frey, to the drummer for Mott the Hoople, and many others. It does bear pointing out that this is 2016, and these legends and their sidemen of 25, 30, 40, and 50 years ago have to leave us sometime. 

If you want to really depress yourself, imagine who might be the last great name left. This doesn’t have to be limited to music, either; think of your favorite actors from those classic movies they’re remaking every year. One day the last of the Greats will be gone, and the dead pool will be betting on whether Taylor Swift or Nikki Minaj will croak first

I take some comfort knowing I may not live to see such gray and desolate times.

The lousy weather back east once again makes me question moving to South Carolina. This winter hasn’t been bad at all here in Colorado Springs. No, get me out of this declining neighborhood and into something stable and thriving (better yet, in the country), and I’ll be good.

For all the distractions in the media, all those heavily promoted non-controversies we will not dignify with mention, it hasn’t been too bad on the home front. If I’ve let the blog go without updates for days at a time, it’s because I’ve been on fire with writing The Wrong Kind of Dead. These last couple of nights have been exhilarating.

Gerry Anderson’s Captain Scarlet was a childhood
favorite of mine.
The plot is advancing, and my characters are taking on layers and dimensions I never expected to see. I don’t feel like I’m running a puppet show (if I am, it’s a badass ultraviolent Gerry Anderson Supermarionation) so much as I’m directing actors in a film. Derek, Agnes, Elyssa, Brother Christopher, Ethan...before, they weren’t much more than names with attached characteristics and utilities on my monitor. Now I see their faces. I hear their voices.

Of course, I could simply be losing my mind. Since I dropped my last ten pounds, it feels like the thin fog that was always present in my head, holding me back, has cleared away. Intermittent fasting, as I’ve been doing, will do trippy things to the head.

As it is, I’m productive, and sleeping better than I ever remember. I’ll stay this course.
I mentioned on Facebook that this was what it felt like trying to write throughout October and November. Actually, this pretty much described most of 2015. It wasn’t until around Christmas that the wood in the metaphorical door began to give.

I’ve got over 1,100 Followers on Twitter now, and have been flattered to get picked up by people with blue checkmarks next to their names, for what all that’s worth. I’ve got cargo container shiploads of authors on my Authors list, although it’s maybe three or four of them who are assiduous about re-Tweeting promotional stuff. I can’t judge; I need to work on that myself. As I’ve said early and often, you have to give Twitter love to get Twitter love.

As Twitter traffic drives the blog, it would appear I’m getting enough such love to be on track for my best month ever in terms of pageviews. Also, people have given themselves permission to buy my books. I’m by no means rich and famous yet, but I’m gaining momentum. I feel like a little kid in a red wagon going down a hill hollering, Faster, faster!

I’ve got to meet my improving luck halfway. There is always so much more to do. Sure, it’s been a grim month. But there was much good to harvest, too. The best, as always, is yet to come.

Sunday Sermonette: Guest Speaker, Pastor Friedrich Nietzsche

Pastor Nietzsche’s observation is especially relevant in this U.S. election year, as one finds oneself pressured to choose a side, neither of which recognizes, let alone serves, one’s interests. But everyone is playing the game, and this is how the game is played, and you don’t want to be some weirdo on the wrong side of history (whatever that means) with your own opinion, do you? Heaven forfend! These issues are what all the Kool Kids care about now; you should, too!
From the Friedrich Nietzsche Facebook page.

My line on this is I didn’t choose the Weird Life, the Weird Life chose me. Which makes no sense whatsoever, but it echoes a similarly nonsensical catchphrase from popular culture, so I’ll likely get away with it. As someone who has spent his entire life as a piebald billy goat among the pretty little lambs, I’ve learned to finesse a few things.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Zombie Love: “Between the Fever-Hot Legs of Her First Meal”


The titular hero of my SAGA of the DEAD SILENCER series is in a very not-so-pleasant headspace as the second novel opens. After the dead have risen to feast on the flesh of the living, Derek Grace returns to Colorado Springs too late for his wife and children. He’s been passing the time at an abandoned farm house near Peyton, Colorado, popping painkillers, drinking scotch, reading, and watching the dead as they pass on the main road beyond.

Other survivors have caught wind of this healthy-looking specimen scavenging through a nearby town, and they arrange to locate his lair and take it over. What follows are Derek Grace’s observations of the aftermath of his first skirmish with these people. Roll clip:

I look over at Deputy Milner as I reach the living room. I leave my suitcase and bag by the front door and cross into the kitchen. I take the scotch from the pantry and pour a glass. I step back into the living room, facing at a discreet distance from the deputy and the remains of the woman between his legs.

“Adam Milner,” I say, swirling the scotch in my glass. “Be it known to all and sundry, you are where you are now because you made poor choices. All you had to do was let me go on my way and you could have had this house, the hot running water, all of it. Instead…well, never mind. For ruining my nap, I sentence you and everyone you know to be eaten alive. Salud.”

I down the glass. Right on cue, Kim’s corpse begins to stir. As she moans into un-life, the ruff-tuff creampuff who was tasing me mere minutes ago squeezes his eyes shut and begins to sob.

Kim awakens to undead heaven, between the fever-hot legs of her first living meal. I accidentally thump the tip of my boot into the foot of the oversized chair and she doesn’t turn around. In the course of pushing herself up from the floor, her cool, dead hand has closed around Deputy Adam Milner’s ankle.

The looks on both their faces—the eternal playground bully served his ultimate comeuppance, Kim’s mindless emotional hunger in full literal expression—yes, there’s the monster face. And suddenly I’m wondering what my own face must look like. Am I a monster, too, for arranging this ghoulish dinner theater? What would Claire think if she saw you now? Or Sybil? Or Jack?

Well, they aren’t here, are they?

Kim chomps into the back of deputy’s leg like it was the world’s largest state fair turkey drumstick. Big yellow dollops of mustard sauce plop into the pooling blood on the floor, but Kim does her mindless cadaver best to slobber up as much as she can with her tongue and lower lip.


No, I’m not enjoying this. That means I’m still okay, right?

Good Lord, what the blue screaming hell have I done?

As excruciating as it is to watch, Kim’s pleasured moaning, her smacking and slurping over Milner’s muffled shrieks take on an even more macabre timbre as I turn away. The timeless sound of an animal consuming live prey—something most of humanity hasn’t heard since the days of the sabre-tooth tigers, but you can’t miss it. Call it genetic memory.

I’m calling it Game Over. Nobody wins, said another great American poet. Ask Caesar.

This scene was the first in a series of epiphanies for Derek Grace, as befits “A Tale of Love and Redemption, of the Living Dead and a Monster Truck.” He does get better, but like the rest of us, he makes one hell of a mess on his way. Enjoy the vicarious thrills of bashing, shooting, and slashing the aggressive, entitled undead, while enjoying the progress of a man who goes from zero to hero in the course of finding his reason to live in the post-apocalypse.

Grace Among the Dead is available in Kindle and paperback from Severed Press.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

When the Happy Falls Away from the New Year

What happened had to happen sometime. It just had to be this week.

I’d planned one of those “Predictions for 2016” posts for earlier this year, in which one of my predictions was, “An actor or musician beloved for work done half a century ago in the 1960s, or perhaps the 1970s or 1980s or even the 1990s, will die, and even if it’s expected (because the old coot was in his 80s; did you honestly expect him to live forever?), it will absolutely ruin your mood for the day, and maybe days to come.” 

It sounded more mean-spirited than proper British stiff-upper-lip/Germanic stoic, and I’ve been striving to isolate my mean-spiritedness to my fictional work, where the bad guys are the bad guys because they’re bad, just like in real life. Also, yet another column of tongue-in-cheek predictions for the year is simply too Dave Barry cheesy-cornball to be endured. I couldn’t do that to myself, let alone my long suffering audience. 

I’m especially glad I held off, given the one-two punch of surprise celebrity deaths this week—and, yes, I know many people who weren’t as emotionally invested in their respective bodies of work are already long-since sick of hearing about these individuals in particular. I’m not talking about them so much as what happens when bad news hits like a bolt from the blue, and all of a sudden the shine is off the New Year.

It happens every year. If you want to talk about the things that really hurt people, as opposed to celebrity deaths, well, we’ve got a lot to talk about. I don’t even want to name the things I’m thinking of that are happening right now. Suffice it to say that awful things are happening somewhere in the world every minute of every day, and occasionally the body count is impressive enough to merit a breathless “news” story in the media.

Me, I already knew 2016 was going to be a tough year because it’s a national election year in the USA. No, we’re not going there, either.

Let’s talk about picking ourselves up and continuing after our chosen goals. Or better yet, let’s not talk. Let’s redouble our efforts towards whatever we wanted to achieve not even three weeks ago, when the lights still sparkled on the tree.

Look at it this way: you’re already having a better year than David Bowie and Alan Rickman. And all that other bad news pumped into our Twitter and Facebook feeds is specifically designed to troll us—to provoke a negative reaction, while somehow making us receptive to buying investment programs and diet supplements. Instead of reacting to all of this, let’s simply act on whatever it will take to help us take care of ourselves, and those around us. As the closing line of one of my favorite poems goes, “Yours is not theirs.” Take gratitude in that, and let’s get the spring back in our step, because we’re outta here.
Will we be here to see the leaves return to these trees, to feel the wind blow warm across our faces? If so, who will we be then? What will we have to show for this winter?

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie’s Final Dramatic Turn

No, I dont think “Lazarus” is coming back this time. Ironic, right?

Producer Tony Visconti avers that the “Lazarus” song and accompanying video comprise Bowie’s statement on his impending death to his fans. The song isn’t the strongest thing lyrically or musically — like stuff so many musical Elder Statesmen make past a certain point, it’s not bad so much as forgettable — but the video is haunting in every sense of the word.

Sitting at a desk stabbing away at a piece of paper with a pen while Death scowls and points fingers from the shadows below is something Bergman wished he came up with. Pretty much sums up the whole existential enchilada. In the end, you’re backing into that same dark wardrobe we saw Death come out of in the beginning. I didn’t see Narnia at the back of that thing, either. So it goes, as another favorite dead man observed. So it goes. 

Funny thing, when I saw Bowie’s face that first time in the video I was like, “Whoa, Ziggy, you’re lookin’ rough. Like you got one foot in the — oh, yeah. Crap.”

Alas, Aladdin Sane: David Bowie, 1947-2016

“...[W]e lost so many people in one person, and a close family friend, at that.” 

Nothing like lying in bed in the pre-dawn dark, and the first thing you hear is your wife crying out that David Bowie is dead. Ah, well....

I liked Bowie’s stuff all right growing up. It was a little more gay than I was comfortable with as a teenager in the 1970s, but I Iiked what I heard on the radio. I never got far past the Ziggy Stardust album (an essential staple of the musical diet of all the cool kids I knew in college from 1978-1984) until, of all things, I was married with children. 

Then Bowie became something like a family friend. When we bought our first minivan with a CD player in it upon returning from Japan in 1997, we played the Hunky Dory disc until we’d memorized the words to nearly every song. Hearing then-four-year-old Emily singing along with “Oh You Pretty Things” as we drove around Beaufort, SC, that first time is the memory that makes me stop to rub my eyes thinking about it.

Eventually I got his entire catalog through Let’s Dance, plus his 1995 collaboration with Brian Eno, Outside. James and Emily got their introduction to classical music via Bowie’s narration of Peter and the Wolf. Labyrinth was a favorite movie here for a while. The photo I’ve attached is from Halloween 2008, when then 14-year-old Emily made herself up a Aladdin Sane Just last summer my son and I were learning all the parts from “Space Oddity” on guitar, because, well, we were sitting around playing guitar, and that’s a really good song. Good ol’ Uncle David. He had a million of ‘em.

I was surprised at my own reaction last year when Leonard Nimoy died, and we all knew that was coming. Nimoy’s iconic Mr. Spock was, of course, a close childhood friend. I thought that was the last time I’d ever be affected by a celebrity death. But Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, the Thin White Duke, the Man Who Fell to Earth, the Goblin King...we lost so many people in one person, and a close family friend, at that. Right out of the blue, too. Good on ya, Mr. Jones, for keeping your cancer a secret for so long. It made for a theatrical surprise finish worthy of rock’s most theatrical performer.

We owe this guy for Iggy Pop and Mott the Hoople alone. The sun has yet to pale the eastern horizon here in Colorado, and I’m done with this cursed day. Time to queue up some music, and try to remind myself that this is the natural order of things. Although I can’t get past Bukowski’s line about the giants of literature who once walked the earth: “Where are the replacements?” A rhetorical question we all know the answer to.

Requiescat in Pace, Mr. Bowie. As Tennyson noted in his diary the day he got the news Lord Byron died, “The world was darkened for me somehow.” No kidding, Al. Ya think?

Saturday, January 09, 2016

An Off-Day Does Not an Off-Season Make

You git back up on that horse, you!

Oh my God, I might as well give it up already. I missed making a blogpost yesterday. My New Year’s Resolutions are broken [sob]. Screw it, I’ll just get on with my life like I don’t care....

All right, enough. This isn’t Saturday Night Live. We know when we’ve made our punchline.

Why did I miss making that blogpost yesterday? I couldn’t think of anything to write about. I almost missed making this one. I figured I could write about missing blogposts and burps in New Year’s Resolutions at any time, really. Why not let this day go?

Because one has to draw the line somewhere, and the sooner, the better.

Hell, I’m forgoing the 100 push-ups per day I’ve been going great guns at for the last week—because I need a day of recovery for these sore, swole pecs I’m building. Sometimes there are even better reasons for the adjustments.

I got a lot written in The Wrong Kind of Dead, smoking and crackling with characterization and drama like you’ll never see in anyone else’s zombie apocalypse adventures. This book is going to shake the walls and blast people’s doors in. I expect I’ll get haters because this thing will read too much like a real book like real authors used to write. I’ve taken my original premise of “what if Robert A. Heinlein and Harlan Ellison walked into a bar and brainstormed a zombie apocalypse novel” and taken it into dark territory.

Best of all, I’m not writing like either Heinlein or Ellison. God love ‘em both, but I need L. Roy Aiken for this mission. I have full confidence in the man’s abilities to take this where it has to go.

It’s easy to dwell on the one lapse. So easy. I’ve done it. I’m not doing it anymore.

Today is, after all, another day.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

A Twelfth Night’s Day Status Report on the Resolutions

As I mentioned in a previous post, I didn’t hit the ground running on New Year’s Day. Everything was working according to plan, though. I had been running with pre-resolutions of a sort since October, tweaking this habit and that, working at losing weight and increasing productivity. The holidays were understood to be “cheat days,” and setbacks from these periods would be accepted, acknowledged—and overcome. 

New Year’s Eve and Day were such a setback.

They have since been overcome.

So, although, I missed doing my 100-push-ups per day on New Year’s Day, I haven’t missed since. The idea is five sets of 20 pushups throughout the day. I’ve found this works best when the afternoon/evening news comes on. If I do the sets as closely together as possible, I get nice and “swole” as the weightlifters say. That is to say, I can feel my chest, arms, and shoulders swell and expand, establishing a tight, firm space where flabby, jiggly fat used to be. 

It doesn’t always happen that way. Yesterday, I did scattered sets throughout the day. Although my reps totaled out at 100, the effect wasn’t the same. I should be doing these sets in tight groups earlier in the day for maximum effect. 

I’ll start that today. 

The main idea here is to make this elementary exercise a habit. Running a continuous daily caloric deficit—the ONLY way to lose weight, and let no one tell you otherwise—runs the risk of burning muscle tissue along with the fat. As I have no desire to be “skinny-fat,” that is, slender, but weak, I need to do these to maintain tone.

Unlike many, I’ll be saving money on a gym membership. If you have Earth-normal gravity where you live, and a floor big enough to accommodate your body, you can get into shape. No special equipment needed at all. Your workout need be no more elaborate than push-ups, sit-ups, and walking.

There’s still plenty of 2016 ahead. As of this writing I’m still 23 lbs overweight at 187. I hope to be showing six-pack abs by Twelfth Night 2017. I expect they’ll look laughably out of place on my 50-something body, but they will be a refreshing change from the usual pale mini-moon overshadowing my waistband. If one must be different—and I must—it should be a positive, good different.

One last thing, and the lesson is yours—it was sometime late summer, early autumn, I forget which, that I decided I was sick and tired of existing as a generic middle-aged fat guy with a beard. I don’t remember the date I shaved and resolved to quit the in-between-meal snacks. It’s not important. The point is that I started. I didn’t wait until the New Year.

Today is the Twelfth Day of Christmas, or Twelfth Night. You could start now. Or on the Ides of January on the 15th. Or the day after Super Bowl Sunday. That is, if you need an arbitrary date to get going on improving the rest of your life.

Or you could start now.

In other news, the RCA Android tablet I got for Christmas is helping. I did a lot of trash reading on the Internet at my workstation. Not so much, anymore. Taking my trash reading out of my office and upstairs in front of the TV to do during commercials of my favorite shows has doubled my productivity. 

Oh, I’ve had this one for a while.
I’m pinning stars on it now.
If all this comes off as self-righteously self-serving to you, that’s because it is. Also, I’m not pretending to be perfect. We miss some things, we overcompensate in others. Everyone should know the old Buddhist drill by now: the trick is to keep get up more times than we fall down. I’m not wasting time hating on myself for missing something when I can be making it right.

I don’t know about you, but I’d really like to have everything together and looking good before I die. It might take me until the end of this year, or even the next, but I will have this. 

Merry Christmas, one last time. 

Monday, January 04, 2016

First Monday Motivation

Embrace the suck!
December has always been a bad month for book sales, so I couldn’t help laughing at how copies of Bleeding Kansas were getting snapped up on the first of January, as if people finally had permission to buy them. My effusive thanks to fans of the carnivorous undead in the United Kingdom and Canada and the United States for kicking off the New Year in international style.

Just so you know, I’ve got a follow-up book to Bleeding Kansas. You can read the first chapter of Grace Among the Dead here. If this doesn’t have enough zombie-killing action for you, then I don’t know what to tell you—except that I have a third book in the works, and you can read the first chapter of that here. It starts with zombies versus bears, and gets progressively weirder and uglier from there.

As a writer, I never really have a day off (why would I want one?), but my heart goes out to those who have enjoyed a long weekend of New Year’s revels, maybe even a full week off, only to return to the drudgery of whatever Monday-Friday gig they’re “lucky” to have. No more Happy New Anything; it’s Day Four of 2016 and we’re back to the same drab, joyless shit our lives were before the Harvest Festival (or whatever they called it) decorations went up in September.

Even here in the cozy warmth of my basement office, declaring this the 11th Day of Christmas, Twelfth Night Eve, etc., seems like forcing the issue. Most people who left their Christmas stuff up after Christmas Day took them down over this New Year’s weekend. To riff off a meme one sometimes sees around this time of year, it’s time to stop wishing for a great 2016, and actually engage that son of a bitch.

To that end, it would help tremendously to have an anthem. It’s a crack, you’re back, from the rooftops shout it out. You’ve got this.

Hang in there, brothers and sisters. We’ve made it this far. Why not further?

Sunday, January 03, 2016

2016 By The Numbers

I’m not a big numbers guy, but there are a few stats I like to keep in mind as we start this last half of the second decade of the 21st century. 

1966 is now a half-century ago. Aside from being the twangy-happy advent of the Summer of Love, given the release of The Beatles’ Revolver, it was at the start of the 1966-67 television season that all TV shows were filmed in color. Think about that as you watch your flatscreen. Color has been a staple of broadcast for only half a century. (Well, it doesn’t seem so long if you’re over the half-century mark in age, yourself.)

Half a century old, and still fresher
than anything out there right now.
We can expect to be continually beat about the face with the 50th anniversaries of the first airings of Batman and Star Trek. As I’ve been on course to minimize my media exposure, I’m not too worried about it. One of the best things about 2015 was how I finally numbed myself to the hype. I genuinely, and oh-so-blessedly, no longer care about so many things. I’ll celebrate what I want to celebrate when I want to celebrate it. Now get the fuck off my lawn.

1976, the Bicentennial Year, is 40 years ago. A year of disco and hype. I doubt we’ll hear much about it. I was there. It was embarrassing.

We’ll observe the 30th anniversary of the Challenger shuttle exploding at the end of this month. The Chernobyl disaster turns 30 this year, too. The last tolerable original cast Star Trek movie, the one in which Kirk and Spock take a Klingon ship back in time to save the whales, was released in time for Christmas. Cake and ice cream all around for 1986.

The Summer of the Macarena will be 20 years ago soon enough. Now you feel old, don’t you? Heh.

Reaching back, I can’t think of anything happening 100 years ago in 1916 other that most of Europe’s young men dying by the container-ship load for absolutely no reason except some rich assholes wanted to throw a war, so never mind.

There is a literary bicentennial coming up, however. The “summer of 1816-and-froze-to-death,” which drove Lord Byron, John Pollidori, Percy Shelley, and Shelley’s plus-one Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley indoors to amuse themselves with a writing contest, produced Frankenstein, or A Modern Prometheus, 200 years ago.

That’s all I’ve got for pop culture. I had a long section already written talking about my personal milestones, but the more I looked it over, the more I realize I’m less interested in my past than I am the future. This year will mark three years since I became a published author. I need to finish writing the book that will conclude this series and move on. 

2016 will be the year I break big. That is all. 


Saturday, January 02, 2016

Of Time, and the Magic Christmas Football

A morality tale for the first days of this New Year

I took my walk earlier today. As I looked across the wide field of Frontier Park where I begin my circuit, I was reminded of a thought I had the day before, on New Year’s Day, as I watched a man throwing the Frisbee with his grandchildren and dog. It wouldn’t have fit thematically with last night’s post, but luckily for us, this is another post, another day.
Frontier Park in north Colorado Springs is a well-loved piece of land, hosting girl’s soccer and community baseball, and sometimes Pee-Wee football. I wonder how many fathers and sons have thrown footballs here. For added poignancy, there is an elementary school behind me where my now-adult son attended fourth and fifth grades. Yeah, all of sudden in becomes very clear to me why it’s so hard for me to leave—and why it’s all the more imperative that I do.

I remembered that it was this time last year my then-18-year-old son and I were making the most of his 2014 Christmas gift, a Wilson NFL-regulation football. We called it the Magic Christmas Football, because it seemed to fly so easily from our hands, and was so effortless to catch.

I was always flattered that my son would ask me to throw the ball with him, whether it was a baseball or football. I was flattered even more that he still wanted to do it even as his career as a high school football player was over. Bless his warrior’s heart, he’s remained slim and fit since leaving those four years of almost non-stop physical training. That he tolerated my corpulence huffing and puffing along should be grounds for canonization. 

It was difficult for me, especially as I was 20 lbs heavier than I am now, but I had a firm rule I broke maybe twice over the years, and that’s when the son wants to throw ball, I put down what I’m doing and throw the ball. It’s a privilege not many men are afforded. I’m proud to say we spent more than a few evenings, as the sun set behind the Front Range, throwing either a baseball or a football. We did this all the way through his senior year of high school. Of course, we could have done more, but we did what we did, and in the end, that was all.

This was once a football. There are many
footballs like it, but this one was ours
I’m trying to remember the last time I threw the football with my son. I’m thinking it was right after he graduated high school in May. It was warm, the bugs were biting. I think one of his friends showed up at the park to take over for me, and that was the last time I threw the football with my son.

My son still takes the Magic Christmas Football to his Civil Air Patrol physical training nights. It’s spent some time bouncing off the asphalt in the street outside my son’s friend’s house, which is probably why it no longer holds air. My son carries an air pump with him to keep the football going for one more session of throwing spirals and catching on the run. 

If I’d known in time, I’d have gotten him a new one for this Christmas, because this particular Magic Christmas Football has been loved to death. To think I entertained the vain and stupid notion that this might be passed down to my grandson. They don’t make stuff to last anymore.

Run it all the way into the end zone.
A metaphor for life, or something. 
The point is, we started 2015 throwing a football, but my son graduated high school, and, in short order, got his driver’s license, got a job, got a girlfriend, got a life. Life as it should be, in a tight, existential nutshell. The year ended with him driving my Jeep to work, then stopping off to visit at his girlfriend’s for a New Year’s Eve party.

Maybe it’s time I moved on, too.

I added another page to my novel today. I have another two I’d like to finish before bed tonight. I’ve done my 100 push-ups for the day. I didn’t get as many jumping jacks in, but I did take my walk.

As always, I’ll pick up where I left off tomorrow. I still have no idea where I will be at the end of this year. Only that I can’t stay here.