Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gathering Momentum, One (Utterly Maddening) Start-Stop at a Time

State of the Apocalypse at the Finale of March 2016

It’s been tough to just get going. Once I get going, something seems to stop me again.

I keep flashing on a truism that applies to weight-loss programs, but applies to anything else you’re trying to maintain as well:

Diets don’t fail. People fail to commit.

As I struggle with writing The Wrong Kind of Dead, I remind myself that two of the greatest albums of all time, namely, The Beatles’ White Album and Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours, were created under duress, at a point in which the members of these bands were all but sick of looking at one another. 

Of course, my situation is more akin to The Who and the creation of their album, Tommy, in which the band had racked up debt, and needed nothing short of a blockbuster to keep them out of bankruptcy. In any event, this writer has to stay committed, and make the stresses of transition going on outside my writerly bubble work for me, as they did in creating these classic rock masterpieces.

Meanwhile, amidst all of March’s distractions, an audience has begin to discover the mayhem that is Grace Among the Dead (read the first chapter on my blog here). Which means I have to push hard towards finishing the finale to my zombie apocalypse action series (read early draft chapters here). As of this writing I’m still mired in the process of going through my first two books and tweaking them for consistency of tone. 

I can’t say I don’t have any outside encouragement to keep going. There are a lot of total strangers in the USA, UK, Canada, and Germany looking for a post-apocalyptic good time. It is my intention to show them one, complete with a monster truck, MQ 9 Reaper drones, and a herd of undead whose front lines cross state borders north and south.

In my darkest hours of this dreadful month, there were people on Twitter retweeting my links. I’ve got people in my corner. I don’t know who they are. I’ve never met them. But they’ve been a huge help, physically and psychic, and I cannot let them down.

Back to work, then. If I can make a decent rhythm of all these starts and stops, I’ll dance to it.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

If You’re Feeling Worthless...

...well, don’t.

I saw this image somewhere in my Facebook feed this morning and I lit up. I immediately shared the image on my feed, then posted it to Twitter. My accompanying comment read:

Worth is relative to the interests of the appraiser. Whose appraisal do you seek, and why?

Following the fitful night of a long day in which I had to take Benadryl to sleep because I was insomniac with anxiety and despair over financial bullshit, I found this uplifting. I can see where this might not make sense to a lot of people, but that’s all right. I’ll take my uplift where I find it. 

No, I’m not selling a kidney to pay down my credit cards. This is more along the lines of me making my own self-appraisal, and taking the fight where it needs to go.

I’m still not sure exactly where that is, but at least I’m comfortable with the uncertainty. Moreover, I have the energy and the will to get started, which, let’s face it, is everything.

Time to go do some chores. Upon my return, I shall pound this keyboard until I stop.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Meet the Fab Furry Four

...or the Four Fluffies of the Apocalypse. The most chill apocalypse you ever did see.

Left to right: Jack, Otis, Puff, and Mick.
I was coming up the stairs from my basement office last month, despairing for not having a blog post to put up, when I saw my cats in the sun. And I—very cynically, I note—decided I’d make a cat post. Cats in the sun, looking overexposed in the midday light coming in through the window. Call it “Overexposed Cats on the Internet.” Woo-hoo. I felt I had to do something. I was losing my mind for not being able to focus.
Otis the Elderkitty.

Well, bless me, it was a hit. One of the most popular posts of the month. Almost as popular as my zombie fiction excerpts.

So I thought, not so cynically, maybe we all really needed this. It felt good to think and write about my cats for a change. I’m rather fond of them, which should make the posts easy to write. They each have their stories. Why not tell them?

You know it beats talking about the current election cycle and the latest tragedies and travesties at home and abroad. For my part, I decided a while ago that terror, horror, grue, and general negativity belong in my zombie books and nowhere else in my life. Drama is fine for movies and TV shows. Nowhere else, though. We all need an oasis of calm in a world with a media that trolls us for extreme reactions 24/7.
Mickey D. Mouseslayer

By that rationale, putting up photos of my cats isn’t shameless clickbait. It’s a necessary public service.

So meet Otis the Elderkitty, Mickey D. Mouseslayer, Handsome Jack the Halloween Cat, and Lily the Puff. They’re going to be making our Mondays a little easier to take for as long as I can make up posts about them.

Also, I get to challenge my photography skills. Which aren’t much, I’ll admit, but getting my mind on something other than writing actually helps with the writing when I’m stuck. Who knows, maybe I’ll get good with this Canon PowerShot S95. 

In any event, we all get to look at some fine felines, and that’s one for the Win column.
Handsome Jack the Halloween Cat

Lily the Puff

The Year of Accelerated Entropy

My State of the Apocalypse, near the end of the first quarter of 2016.

What with another round of passings this month—Pat Conroy, George Martin, Earl Hamner, Jr. foremost in my remembrances—we might as well give this year its proper descriptor: The Year of Accelerated Entropy. The numbers are staggering, the names impressive, but for the most part these deaths were coming.

This first quarter of 2016, though. Good Lord, what a massacre! We now live in a world without David Bowie, Alan Rickman, and Glenn Frey, among so many others. It’s not brave, and it doesn’t feel particularly new, either.
I still have the Jeep, but I may be saying goodbye to these mountains this year, among other people and things. “Trying to face the strangest ch-ch-changes, yeah.”

I’m seeing the entropy with our long-since paid-for vehicles in our garage. A headlight here, an ignition switch there, even an elderly spare tire switched out (it came with the vehicle when I bought it in 2001). I’ve never had these problems in the nearly 15 years I’ve owned my Jeep. 

Well, it’s been 15 years. If it all seems to be happening all at once, it’s because I’ve had a long, lucky, utterly blissful run. Time to cope with the inevitable.

Mickey D. Cat, in recovery from the same stomach
upset we feared would do Otis in last summer.
Eight years old isn’t that old for a cat,
but it’s old enough. We’re glad he’s still with us.
I even had another near-death scare with one of our cats, the second oldest, right as I was curating photos to start a series on the Four Fluffies of the Apocalypse. We got through that without casualties, but once again I was reminded of how fortunate I’ve been to enjoy years of zero drama. 

People and things grow older. They wear out. They break down. They die. It just seems to be happening all at once this year.

Right, yes, fine, got it. Still, though. Is there anything remotely flippin’ positive we can talk about here?
For all the mayhem and foolishness this month, there were also Zen bunnies in the snow. Happy Easter!

Of course there is. I got through it. 

March was the month that the Happy was taken out of my Happy New Year. I smashed my foot, my Jeep was vandalized, its ignition switch wore out, and my wife went into the hospital, all in the first three days. A 1099-MISC for income I had forgotten about appeared out of nowhere weeks after I’d filed taxes, and I had to file an amended return. (I’ll get more money out of this, but good grief—aren’t all these forms supposed to be in my hands by 31 January?)

One of the cats got sick, so sick he disappeared somewhere in the house. (They do that when they think they are going to die.) He got better, and so did we, but that was a long 22 days out from the first of the month. 

Of course, the blog suffered. I’ve got nearly half a dozen drafts of posts I started but never finished. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I start a post, but don’t finish and post on the same day, I might as well delete the thing. It will never be finished.

Work on The Wrong Kind of Dead also ground to a halt. In some of my darker hours during this most horrible month, I’ve despaired of ever finishing it. 

This, however, may have been a very good thing. I had planned on going through all my books at the beginning of the month to make sure the tone and chain of events are consistent, when all the distractions hit the fan at once. Over the last three nights, I’ve begun what I wanted to do three weeks ago. I’ve got a different perspective now, one that should make for a richer and more nuanced reading experience.

I’ve had my cage rattled, my frame shaken, and the wind taken from my sails, but I’m back to work. I’m moving forward, however slowly. I’ve got this blog post up. That’s something.

Thus, with one eye doing a Mad-Eye Moody 360-degree sweep for lurking bummers—this is the Year of Accelerated Entropy, after all—I proceed into the wilderness of Things to Come. It’ll be a while before the swagger is back in my step. In the meantime, a little humility will temper my soul. 

Here’s hoping all is well with you where you are. If not, then power through, screaming while you burn. It worked for me. I wailed and fussed the whole way, step by step. I’m looking forward to laughing at this, when I’ve got it all far enough away in the rear view mirror.

Happy Easter. Here’s to resurrections. Here’s to what’s next.
My walk can use some work. To paraphrase Dirty Harry, it’s good to be made aware of one’s limitations.
So I’ve got that, too.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Another Life, Another Epiphany

Food & sex have since
betrayed my fat self sad
with the prospect of
having my heart broken at
last by children who will (at best)
move on to (justifiably) hate
me for bringing them into this
dull horror of routine anxieties

as the vague aches become
the sharp pains which become
the final sentence ending with
beeeeeeeep! & all
for the same crap that (if
they’re lucky) brought me
down, food & sex &
bad genes & etc.

just so you know,
I’ve seen
what there is
to live for:

It’s the pale
pale blue
of the late
sky as the sun
melts behind
the tree-blackened

This blue cannot be
compared to robin’s
eggs or even water,
blue watery pastel
qualities aside

it’s the pale blue of
yearning, the healthiest
truest ache you’ve
known since
working out your
last baby tooth

it’s something I must
bear witness to although
I understand how pointless
it is trying to explain it

while you’re wishing
you were the witless
dickweed who just drove by
in the low-slung car with the
spinning silver rims, stolen
melodies defaced by
rhyming insults over
lowing hellcow bass

causing my very ears to
grind their teeth &
reminding me of the
blessing my eventual
culling from this
idiot herd
will be

just keep those drugs handy
& quiet please
while I watch 
this light bleed out

only now do I realize
it was all that ever mattered
not the food 
not the sex nor the
anything else

I’m only sorry I never
caught this sooner.

from the forthcoming Nymphomagic Electroshock &
Other Middle-Aged Complaints (2011, 2017)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Crawling Out of the Crater Where My Mojo Got Bombed

State of the Apocalypse, Post-Ides of March, Pre-St. Paddy’s Day 2006 Edition

If only.
I’ve started this post multiple times, but it’s a really long story full of digressions that takes too long to tell. Suffice it to say no one died or was crippled, or that we ended up in the street. Someone did attempt to steal the Jeep by removing fuses in an attempt to immobilize it for future collection, but that theft was thwarted, and the vehicle repaired. 

But not before my wife fell into great pain and had to be taken to the emergency room, I said, it takes too long to tell. And then there was the 1099-MISC  that emerged out of the blue weeks after I’d filed my taxes, forcing me to file an amended return. The hits kept coming, and the first couple were enough to halt the momentum I’d had going since the start of the New Year. 

But it’s all right. I’ve just about got all the fires put out. We’re slowly getting it back together.

There was some good to be had from this. Worn parts were replaced. Lessons were learned. Best of all, a reckoning was had, and a major family decision was settled. This is a story I don’t mind telling. Besides, it’ll be a way to see how many of my Facebook friends actually read my blog. It’s major news.

In July 2013 I visited my home state of South Carolina and declared I was moving back. Over the last couple of years, however, my desire to do so has cooled. I feared broaching the subject with my wife, as I had gotten her excited about the prospects of returning to our native soil, and I know she wanted to be closer to her mother. 

My 104,185 square mile safe space.
The subject did come up, however, and it didn’t end in tears. It was agreed the move 1,750 miles east and south would be too expensive, as well as difficult to arrange. (I just knew we would lose a cat during the two-day drive.) Also, between staying close to longtime friends and family and staying close to our children—who, after nine years growing to adulthood in this place, are full-on Coloradans—we would choose our children. Thus this expatriate Southern writer will remain expatriated. 

I owe it to my long suffering wife (who did time in the hospital during these last two horrible, no-good weeks) to build the capital to send her to Alabama so she can at least see her mom. I still want to see my friends, too. But I can’t imagine living back there.

I’ve bitched plenty about Colorado Springs, and how we can’t stay here. We can’t, and we won’t. It turns out there are plenty of small towns throughout Colorado that a fixed-income military retiree family can live inexpensively. And the children will have a place to come to for Thanksgiving and Christmas within a few hours drive.

That said, I’m two weeks behind in writing my latest novel, and two weeks behind writing a blog post, any blog post. It’s hard getting my head back into that space where creation comes easily. This will have to serve as my first stab at it.

Until the next stab, then. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, if you’re celebrating that. I’ve got a new groove to carve.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Use a Shredder for Too-Sensitive Documents

Seriously, screw those silly little emo things.

I found this in a big, messy stack of paper in my shredder basket, among a bunch of other things I have no recollection of writing. Just another load of oh-dark-hundred drinkin’ and typin’, coming to absolutely nothing. Given the subject matter, and the dates on the other papers it was with, this is from early 2011, well before I wrote the first lines of what would become Chapter 1 of Grace Among the Dead in November of that same year.

Check me out going full-metal Pat Conroy with that “where the sky is permitted full assault” crap. Sweet mother of Muses, if this prose was any more purple it’d disappear into ultraviolet. I don’t remember tossing this into my shredder basket anymore than I do writing it. However, I’m heartened by this evidence demonstrating that, whatever state I was in, I knew bad writing when I saw it. After these last ten days, I need all the encouragement I can get.

Still, just in case, I’ll Copyright © the text displayed on the above image 2011, 2016 by Lawrence Roy Aiken. Ya never know.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Requiem for an Old and Busted TV

Remember the TV we had that died that I wrote about in January? I finally got it off the dresser and into the trash can. I thought the occasion merited a poem:

It deserved better than this
left to lie in state for a month
on the dresser
in our bedroom

that bright, loud box
that once entertained our now-grown
children with cartoons
and movies on VHS tapes
when they were small
and this was all we had.

After nearly 21 years
this machine outlived pets
outlasted most marriages.

It spent its last years
in our bedroom
lulling my wife to sleep
with syndicated sitcoms
and cop shows

all with perfect picture
perfect color
for years upon years
until that afternoon
when she heard
the buzz and

the picture blinked out

it was a miracle it lasted this long
surviving two children
and five cross-country moves

Now cold, cracked, and dark
shrouded in dust
(it was always dusty)
I take the old TV outside
(it’s been a month already, for God’s sake!)
to wrestle its capacious corpse
of ancient cathode ray tube technology
into a thick contractor’s waste bag

Pieces of the television’s
already broken case
snap away on the concrete
as I stretch the plastic about
its carcass

For its years of trouble-free service
it deserved better than this

So do most people and things I know

good, evil, or indifferent
we all end in a landfill
of some description

all love, duty and devotion
(if any happened to be there)
a feast for bacteria and vermin

I’ve done my spousal duty
The trash is on the curb

days like today
I wonder

why I bother.

From the forthcoming collection Nymphomagic Electroshock and Other Middle-Aged Complaints.
Copyright © 2016, 2017 by Lawrence Roy Aiken.