Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Eve

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.
It's Monday afternoon and I'm lying in bed, my laptop propped up on my legs, laundry tumbling in the dryer.  It is an idyllic scene, I suppose.
Lying here, I've been thinking about New Year's Eve and what it all means.  The end of an era? A time to consider second chances? To make resolutions that most of us have no intention of ever keeping?
At the moment, the media is full of Year in Review stories.  A lot of them are surprised that 2014 wasn't as horrible as the 'experts' were predicting.  Too many of them sound disappointed by that fact, that the world didn't spin off its axis.
Of course, there were troubles in 2014.  There are always troubles.  Just as there are always good things happening too.
Sometimes, I think we give New Year's Eve an artificial sense of importance.  It's just another date. Right?  Just another secular holiday to mark the passing of time.
It doesn't actually mean anything.
Or does it?
There are a lot of people who probably wouldn't look back at the past year, their choices, their lives, if not for New Year's Eve.  There are a lot of people who wouldn't take stock of what they've got and decide that they've either (a) got too little or (b) not enough.
Self-reflection can be useful, but I'm not a big advocate of wallowing in the past.  Too often the past is like quicksand, it can trap us in its grip and pull us down.  We don't push ahead, we don't forge new paths because we look at what we've done and lose heart.
"I wasn't able to accomplish anything last year, so why should I try this year?"
But maybe that's because we're too busy looking at the negatives.  When was the last time you sat down and looked at the good things in your life? Not just the things that have happened to you, like surprise birthday parties and job promotions, but the things you've done for others? Buying that homeless guy a dinner or stopping to ask that lady burdened with bags if she needed help?
Those were good things, nice things, but we never seem to remember them.
If you're going to take inventory, make it a complete inventory. Don't gloss over the little things because, let's be honest, most of life is made up of little things. Seconds and moments where we decide whether or not to hold the door open for the person behind us.
New Year's Eve is coming.  Whether it happens that night, before it, or after it, we'll all take a look at ourselves and what's happened this past year.
Just remember, ladies and gentlemen, to look at everything when you do.
Maybe you'll realize this past year has been better than you realized.
So, what comes next?
A happy New Year.
I hope.
^_^

Thursday, December 25, 2014

SAVING THE DAY

SAVING THE DAY

Twas Christmas Day
and I was home,
perusing Facebook,
all alone.

There were Merry Christmas wishes,
and fare-thee-wells galore,
the Internet equivalent
of the Christmas cards of yore.

But as I sat there reading,
I didn't feel a thing,
no urge to wax nostalgic,
my heart did not take wing.

It feels like just another day,
almost the same old grind,
except for having not to work,
which I cannot say I mind.

This day, it has no magic,
not secular or divine,
and it seems this year, more than most,
no one's inclined to be kind.

The news is full of protests,
of riots and unrest.
Whatever happened to this day,
bringing out our best?

This season, supposedly full of joy,
just seems to bring us down.
When did this day of faith and cheer,
become a time of frowns?

I do not have an answer,
this riddle has me beat.
Perhaps sharper minds or better souls,
can overcome this feat?

I only hope, as I sit here,
reading my Facebook feed,
is that people realize what they've got,
in these days of need.

I'm not talking about presents,
but of subtler lessons learned,
the fact that they are truly loved,
and are loving in return.

Maybe Lennon had the answer,
and the world just needs a shove,
to save the day and see the way,
maybe all we need is love?

Twas Christmas Day,
and I was home,
perusing Facebook,
all alone.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas

The other day, someone asked me, "What are you doing for Christmas?"

"Nothing much," I answered. "Probably sleeping in."

They looked vaguely scandalized. "You’re not going to spend it with your family?"

"No," I said. "My family doesn’t really do Christmas."

"You aught to do something," my friend said, then wandered away.

This whole conversation left me thinking about Christmas and the things we do for it.

When I was a kid, Christmas was a big deal. It was never a religious holiday in my family; it was a time for getting and giving presents, for waking up at the butt-crack of dawn and rushing into the living room to tear open carefully wrapped packages to get to the goodies inside.

Of course, as time went on, Christmas changed. We stopped getting up at dawn to open presents. We’d get up later and later. Over the course of time, the number of presents beneath the tree dropped as well. And gifts were less fun and more practical. Socks. Sweaters. That sort of thing. After presents we would go to my grandparents’ house for a big dinner.

When I was eighteen and moved away, I spent my first Christmas without family. However, I wasn’t lonely. I was living with a nice family in Virginia and they included me in their celebrations.

Later, when I moved into my first apartment - which I shared with two other guys - I had the dubious pleasure of buying my first Christmas tree. It was a four-foot-tall tabletop tree on sale at K-Mart and it bore more than a passing resemblance to the tree from A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Nevertheless, we set it up on the coffee table in the living room and bought some cheap decorations. When it was done, the roommates retreated to their bedrooms and I stepped onto the balcony for a cigarette.

It was a warm December that year and windy to boot. I didn’t think about the wind until I heard a thump and turned to see our Christmas tree blown off the table and rolling across the floor like a festive tumbleweed. That was the last time we had a Christmas tree in the apartment.

Later, when I moved to Alaska and had my very own solo apartment, I pondered what to do for Christmas. The thought of buying a tree seemed more like a burden than a pleasure. I didn’t have a lot of room and didn’t want to have to bother with storing the tree after the season was over. In all honesty, I never even considered a live tree.

Instead, I did something which became a Christmas tradition for me. On a whim, I went out and bought a sheet of brown butchers’ paper. Taking it home, I drew the outline of a Christmas tree on it in dark green Magic Marker and taped it to my apartment wall. When friends came over, I’d hand them a box of markers and tell them to draw an ornament on the tree. It was a surprising hit with my friends and at the end of the season, I could just take the tree off the wall, roll it up and toss it into the trash. No muss, no fuss.

After a few years, though, I stopped doing even this. Christmas was just another day to me. And, really, what was the point of putting up a tree and decking the halls? I was working nights and, over time, my social life had pretty much atrophied. Some years, I did exchange presents with friends but not very often. Christmas was just a bother.

Now, I’m sitting in my living room, which is pretty much devoid of any Christmas presence. These days, Christmas doesn’t make me particularly festive. It seems to be all about traffic and crowded stores and exhausted parents trudging from place to place to satisfy their children’s greed.

Honestly? I don’t usually feel festive until after New Year’s Eve. I suppose it’s all about the release of pressure.

However, this year, I have noticed I’m feeling a bit more Christmas-y than usual. I’ve been listening to some Christmas carols and have even decorated the windows of my townhouse. I’ve got a merry old Santa Clause on one and a Christmas tree with ornaments and presents on the other. Granted, they’re those cheap little window appliques you can buy at the dollar store, but at least I’ve got something up. The other night I listened to a version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and thoroughly enjoyed it.

So, I suppose, the Christmas spirit is slowly starting to seep back into my life. Maybe in a few years, I’ll have a big, live Christmas tree in my living room, decorated with strings of popcorn and velvety, red balls. Perhaps the house will smell like cinnamon and spruce. Maybe there’ll be Christmas music playing from my CD player.

Somehow, though, I doubt it.

I’ll probably decorate the window and listen to some carols. Usually, I watch the Albert Finney musical version of Scrooge and order pizza. I don’t think that’ll change in the future. But if it does, if Christmas becomes a bigger event for me, I’ll welcome it.

Christmas changes for us as we get older. It becomes something different. We reinvent it to satisfy ourselves; we start our own traditions.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Sure, there are people who will decry that the day is becoming more secular and less religious, but I think that the core of the day will remain untouched.

Christmas is about giving. It’s about generosity of spirit.

And we could all use a little more of that these days. Couldn’t we?

So, merry Christmas, gentle readers, however you may celebrate. May you get the things that you want and, hopefully, the things that you need as well.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

MY BED

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its crammed full of ghosts,
of those that I’ve lost,
those that I’ve loved.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of regrets,
for the haves and have-nots,
full of the emptiness,
reeking of dust,
full of the ghosts
that once made up ‘us.’

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of my heart
and full of my lust,
full of my fears,
my tears and my woes,
home to my highs
as well as my lows.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of the dreams,
that come in the dark.
Dreams of the future,
dreams of the past,
dreams that won’t linger
and don’t ever last.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of the promises,
that wait in the dark.
Its full of the echoes,
from our pillow talk,
the sense of your body,
lying right here,
a whisper of breath,
the scent of your hair.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of ‘me,’
of ‘myself’ and ‘I.’
Full of the things
I do to get through,
full of soft lies,
and full of hard truths.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its full of the past,
and the future as well,
of the promise of heaven,
and the void that is hell.

My bed is empty,
only its not.
Its still full of the ghosts
that wander my heart,
that haunt my heart.

 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

DRINKING MIDNIGHT WINE

It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
dark and red and dry as bone,
wine that tastes like tears.

It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
downing it all by my lonesome,
drowning out my little fears.

Pour the wine.
Raise the glass.
Give a toast to yesterday,
It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
and I don’t care what you say.

It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
another night,
another glass.

It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
if you don’t like it,
you can kiss my ass.

Pour the wine.
Raise the glass.
Give a toast to yesterday.
It’s midnight and I’m drinking wine,
and I don’t care what you say.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Art of Asking

I've been reading Amanda Palmer's The Art of Asking.  The book was gifted to me by one of the regular customers at my day job.  It came as a pleasant surprise and I've been enjoying the book enormously.
Although primarily as expansion of her TED speech, Amanda Palmer includes a lot of autobiographical detail in the book.  And although I don't think of myself as an artist, a lot of what Ms. Palmer writes and shares has resonated with me.
One of the things she writes about is the three types of artists.  There are the collectors, who take the greatest pleasure in amassing the experiences that they later use in the creation of their art.  There are the connectors, the people who take those experiences and connect them, weaving them into story or song or street performance.  And then, there are the sharers, those artists who get off on sharing their creation with the world.
Miss Palmer firmly states that she is a sharer.  That connection with her audience, her fans, the public in general is her particular bliss.
I think, in my case, I'm the connector type of artist.  I like the make things: stories, pictures, whatever. That's what gives me the greatest pleasure.  I've been doing it for decades, for all my life, in fact. 
One of my earliest memories is sitting on the back steps of my childhood home and telling myself stories. Weaving a vast fantastical story in my head about winged people in outer space just for my own amusement.  I never wrote it down, I never told it to anyone before this and it didn't matter if I did it or not.  I was happy just telling the story to myself.
Connecting the dots, weaving the story is what gives me the rush. Sharing it with the world? Not so much.  As for collecting the elements of story? Well, for me at least, that just sort of happens.
So what does any of this have to do with The Art of Asking?
Nothing.
Everything.
It's a good book.
If you're a creative type, or even if you're not, I'd say go out and pick up a copy.
Maybe it'll make you see that you aren't as alone as you thought. That those midnight thoughts we've had aren't unique to us.
And maybe, if enough people read it and get it, we can put the fucking Fraud Squad out of business.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

BREAKING WHITE WINDOWS

In crisp white windows they sit,
letters as black as black can be.
Jet. Obsidian. Onyx.
Impossible to miss behind frozen
glass, sitting on white velvet sheets.

We reach for them, you and I.
We press against the clear glass,
fingers splayed, hearts in our throats,
feeling the heat of words,
the beating black heart of waiting letters.

The glass gets in our way.
It holds us back until we smash it.
We reach into those white windows,
we cut ourselves on shards,
spattering little drops of our blood
on the white window dressing.

The letters burn, icy-hot,
but we do not let them go.
We clasp them tight,
hold them against chest and belly,
letting them mark our skin.

Later, when they’ve cooled,
we bend our heads and take bites out of them.
We bite the letters, breaking teeth,
not caring at all about it.
Our mouths fill will blood and words.

Then we run from the scene of the crime,
clasping our ill-gotten goods,
laughing and gobbling,
all the way to Dream City.

We spit out words as we go,
bits of story, pieces of poem,
a hacking expectoration of drama.
We run, fast as our legs will carry us,
until another white window catches our eye,
and everything begins again.

Monday, December 1, 2014

SUICIDE SPECIES

"Status, Mohawk?"

"On the ground and scoping the scene, Fly," says Mohawk. "Stand by."

She hunkers down on the roof, her eyes making soft zip-zip-zipping sounds as they zoom in on the street below. It’s green, covered by a carpet of mold at least a foot thick.

She checks her clean-field’s integrity, is pleased to see it’s still holding. The last thing she wants is to suck in a lungful of mold-spores and get drawn into the spore-mind.

"Fly, things look quiet. No reaction. Update?"

Twelve miles up, Fly is circling the site in lazy loops. He’s strapped into an air-rig, plugged into the wave, surfing data from a thousand nano-tech sprites.

"We got a pea-souper in the works," says Fly. "Breach is imminent."

Mohawk grins with anticipation. "What do I do?"

"What you were born to do," says Fly.

She can hear the grin in his voice and responds, smiling so hard her face hurts.

Dumping her pack, Mohawk pulls it open and takes out the egg. That’s what they call it, ‘cause that’s what it looks like. A big silver goose egg. It’s light and cold, even through her gloves. Gripping the upper and lower halves of the spheroid, she twists.

"Scrambling," says Mohawk.

In her hand, the egg is getting warm. She tosses it from hand to hand.

"How long?" she asks.

"Soon," says Fly.

"This gonna work?" she asks.

"Yeah," says Fly.

"Good." Mohawk smiles and lobs the egg over the side of the building.

It hits the moldy ground with a sizzle. Smoke rises from the street, which starts to undulate and convulse as the mold-mind reacts to the flame.

Mohawk laughs, wishes she’d brought fireworks with her. That would show ‘em!

The mold arrived in a meteorite, a veteran of galactic conquests. It had subjugated whole worlds, devastated entire species, absorbed alien cultures and repurposed them to suit itself. When it landed on Earth, it had expected things to go as usual.

But humans, it seems, were irrational. They lived in an environment that they deliberately poisoned. They bred even though natural resources were growing increasingly scarce. They fought wars with weapons that only advanced their own extinction.

They were a mad, suicidal race and the mold never had a chance.

Humanity carpet-bombed the infected territories with nukes, killing millions of their own people. Then they nuked the surrounding territories, just to be safe.

The mold was lobotomized, traumatized, but not defeated. Not yet. So long as a single spore remained it could rebuild itself. That’s what it had been doing here, on this little island in the Atlantic, growing quietly in cellars and attics until it burst onto the streets and devoured most of the populace. It was determined to win.

Humans, however, were just as determined to wipe it out.

Honestly, the mold was the first real challenge that humanity had ever had and they embraced it. They hated the mold so fervently, in their subterranean cities and satellite colonies, that they practically loved it. It was not a healthy relationship at all; it was obsessive and stalkery.

The war continued and attracted people like Mohawk. She of the tall, gangly build only made more so by the black mohawk she adopted that became her trademark and her call-sign.

She’d grown up in one of the under-cities, a smart girl with a bad attitude and an unhealthy obsession with killing herself.

The army snatched her up and promised to help her achieve her goal in a truly spectacular fashion. They trained and equipped her as a suicide bomber, waited for the right mission to present itself and then happily sent her off with a nuclear egg to kill the enemy.

Mohawk crouched on the roof and watched, grinning, while Fly counted down from ten.

The egg cracked when he was on three, and the world went white.

Around the world, the mold-mind shuddered and writhed in agony as a significant portion of itself was incinerated.

And, not for the first time, the mold wondered what cosmic power it had pissed off to find itself on a planet full of mad bastards?

Monday, November 24, 2014

A Day Like Today

Good afternoon, gentle readers.
It's a surprisingly nice day, here in my little corner of the world.  A bit rainy, but warm and just humid enough to be comfy.  It was actually cooler inside my house than outside, so I have opened the doors and am airing out the place, a bit.
Today has been the sort of day where one can get things done.  It's a day for running errands and sitting down and cranking out a bit of story.  It's a day for doing laundry and washing up and looking at your kitchen floor and thinking how it needs a good mopping but, really, it's not THAT good a day.
Today is the sort of day where, once you've done things, you sit on your couch and crack open your laptop and check the stats for your blog. And you are shocked. SHOCKED, I say, to discover that a post you did on the fly, earlier in the month, has garnered a spectacular number of hits.
Once the shock passes, you get a warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of your writer's stomach, and think that maybe, just maybe, you're actually not half bad at this sort of thing.
So maybe it's time to really take another crack at the sequel.  Because, who knows? Maybe, on a day like today, a day when you can get things done, you might actually write something good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Raising Steam: A Review

I am a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. I can still clearly remember picking up The Color of Magic and laughing as I read it. The books were witty, with interesting and funny characters, who often held up a mirror to real world situations and ethos.

So it pains me to admit that, lately, I haven’t been enjoying the Discworld books. I think my dissatisfaction began somewhere around Unseen Academicals. The tone of the books seemed to have changed. They became somewhat preachy, the characters a bit too holier-than-thou.

Alas, my dissatisfaction has reached its apex with the latest novel, Raising Steam.
The fortieth Discworld book, Raising Steam brings the Industrial Revolution to the Discworld, via the invention of the first steam-powered locomotive. It also brings a rather heavy-handed commentary on terrorism channeled through a dwarven schism.

My dissatisfaction with this book may have come in the way I read it. Unlike its predecessors I could not bring myself to sit down and read it all in one go. I had to stop, to take frequent brakes and allow my sense of irritation and disappointment to fade.

Irritation because the real world was intruding into my enjoyment via the dwarven fundamentalists and disappointment that the beloved Discworld characters seemed flat and uninteresting.

Honestly, I’m wondering just how much of this book, Sir Terry himself actually wrote. At times, it felt like I was reading something by someone trying to ape Sir Terry’s style.

Overall, Raising Steam was a disappointment. I cannot in good faith recommend it to either new Discworld readers or old fans.

In all honesty, I have to admit that this may be the last Discworld book I bother to buy.

And that realization, ladies and gentlemen, breaks my heart a little.

Monday, November 10, 2014

NaNoWriMo

Forgive my bluntness, but NaNoWriMo pisses me off.
Why?
Because it’s all about volume, it’s all about producing a certain number of words per day.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not storytelling.
I’m not the most prolific writer in the world, but when I write something I give it some thought. I don’t just aim for a daily word count.
NaNoWriMo is all about producing 50,000 words in the month of November. 
That’s it.
That’s all it’s about.
Oh sure, some people say that it unlocks creativity when you don’t have to worry about content. But those are the same people who dump everything in their pantry into a pot on the stove and call it cooking.
It’s sloppy and cheap and the end result probably isn’t going to be that appealing.
As far as I know there’s only been one novel, writing during NaNoWriMo, that was a hit, Water for Elephants. Most of the other works produced during the event and sent off to publishers wind up in the trash.
I think the idea of a month devoted to writing is great. I just wish that the emphasis was shifted from producing a set word count to telling good stories. Regardless of whether they have a hundred or a hundred thousand words.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Woman in the Woods or How to Write a Murder Mystery

Good evening, gentle readers!
I don't think it's any secret that I write by the seat of my pants. Generally speaking, plot outlines are for other people, not for your's truly.
That said, the one time I find it genuinely helpful to plot an outline, is when I'm considering writing a mystery.
Today, I thought I would share that process with all of you.
So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

How to Write a Murder Mystery.

1) Decide who you’re going to kill. (Mrs. Haversham.)

2) Decide where you’re going to kill her. (In the forest, behind the house.)

3) What kills her? (A strong blow to the back of the head.)

4) Who killed her? (Abernathy, the groundskeeper.)

5) Why did he kill her? (Mrs. Haversham was going to expose their affair to Mrs. Abernathy.)

6) Who found the body? (Mrs. Moon.)

7) What was Mrs. Moon doing in the forest? (She was gathering mushrooms.)

8) How did she react to the body? (Shock. Surprise. She ran to Haversham Manor to get help.)

9) Who did Mrs Moon tell about the murder? (Sitwell, the butler.)

10) What did Sitwell do? (He gave Mrs. Moon a glass of wine and sent for the police.)

11) Who did the police send to investigate? (Inspector Knight)

12) What’s the first thing Inspector Knight did? (Secured the crime scene.)

13) What did Inspector Knight do next? (He spoke with Mrs. Moon.)

14) What next? (Inspector Knight spoke with Mrs. Haversham’s sister, Ms. Pool, re the murder.)

15) What next? (Inspector Knight examined Mrs. Haversham’s personal belongings.)

16) What did he find? (A love letter signed by ‘A.’)

17) What next? (The Inspector spoke with Miss Pool. She suggested ‘A’ was Archie Bogswell, a young man who was smitten with Mrs. Haversham.)

18) What next? (The Inspector visits Archie who informs him that Mrs. Haversham had a string of lovers.)

19) What next? (Knight returns to Haversham Manor and speaks with Miss Pool. She admits that Archie Bogswell was telling the truth, but she didn’t know who any of her sister’s other lovers were.)

20) What next? (Knight returns to the crime scene to find Mrs. Abernathy studying the scene. She leaves after telling him it was a shame about the murder.)

21) What next? (The Inspector returns to the station where the corner - Doctor Love - has discovered a note on the corpse asking Mrs. Haversham to meet with the writer in the forest.)

22) What next? (The next day, Knight returns to the manor. He speaks with Miss Pool and begins interviewing the servants. During the interviews he asks the subjects to sign a ledger, so that he can compare their handwriting to the handwriting of the letter.)

23) What next? (Returning to the manor the next day, Knight learns from Sitwell that the groundskeeper, whom he was due to interview that morning, apparently committed suicide.)

24) What next? (Knight goes to the Abernathy cottage where he recognized Mrs. Abernathy from their brief meeting in the woods. She explains that her husband took poison some time during the night. She found him dead that morning.)

25) What next? (Knight asks Mrs. Abernathy if her husband was having an affair with Mrs. Haversham. Mrs. Abernathy admits that he was, that she came across them in the woods behind the manor.)

26) What next? (Knight leaves, but, as he rises from his chair, he notices jars of preserves in the kitchen. The glass jars are neatly labled in Mrs. Abernathy’s handwriting which matches the handwriting of the note inviting Mrs. Haversham to the woods.)

27) What next? (Knight points out the handwriting to Mrs. Abernathy who admits that she sent the letter to Mrs. Haversham. When asked why, she says that she arranged things so the situation would become explosive, so the affair would end. That she convinced her husband - a somewhat stupid man - that Mrs. Haversham wanted to tell her something important. Her husband stormed out of the house, in a temper and, when he confronted Mrs. Haversham, killed her in a fury. Then he came home and confessed everything to Mrs. Abernathy before he killed himself.)

28) What next? (Knight returns to the manor where he recounts Mrs. Abernathy’s tale to Miss Pool. He also admits he does not believe that her husband killed himself. Firstly, because suicides leave notes and, secondly, because most men don’t kill themselves with poison. However, he has no proof to support his suspicions and so he cannot arrest Mrs. Abernathy. Miss Pool tells him she is satisfied with his actions and not to worry about Mrs. Abernathy, because although she may have slipped through earthly judgement, in the end she will have to answer for her crimes to God. Comforted by Miss Pool’s words, Inspector Knight leaves Haversham Manor.)

Monday, October 27, 2014

(Fic) Alone

This story was inspired by an odd thought: what happens to the monsters when mankind is gone? Enjoy!

ALONE

The sky was a gray shroud cast over a graveyard landscape of ruined cities and scorched earth. Trees grew in twisted clumps, those that grew at all, and the wind rattled their dead branches together, until it seemed the landscape was haunted by a band of invisible castanet players.

Eleanora grasped the broomstick thrust between her thighs and squinted below her, at the bleached bone earth. Nothing moved, that wasn’t pushed about by the wind. Adjusting the goggles she wore over her eyes, to protect them from the ever-present grit, she flew in an ever-widening spiral, searching the world for any signs of life.

She found none. Neither bird nor beast, neither fish nor fowl seemed to have survived the long winter. The world had been wiped clean by fire and madness.

Idiots, thought the old witch.

Gripping her broomstick, she whirled sharply and headed for home. The sun was sinking, the meager warmth that penetrated the clouds fading from her skin, and she wanted to be in doors before the night’s brutal cold arrived.

Home was a cave in the mountains, far from prying eyes and, as luck would have it, falling bombs. She had been sleeping when the war happened and, except for some spectacularly bad dreams, had not otherwise been affected by it. Her cavern home was deep and dark, sealed by stone doors that had kept out fallout and acid rain, the ravages of the long night and who knew what other manmade horrors.

Eleanora had woken from her long sleep, stiff and aching, with the absolute knowledge that the world had changed. But until she had climbed out of her cave and seen the state of the place did the enormity of that change strike home.

She alighted on the hard rock outcropping just as the hidden sun began to vanish behind the world’s curve. Broom slung over her shoulder, Eleanora descended into the dark earth.

The great stone doors opened at her approach, and green flame sprang into being on her meager hearth. She emptied the pockets of her long, drab dress tossing bones into her cauldron. The world was full of bones, a graveyard and banquet all in one. Eleanora would not starve.

As always, the first thing she did was check under the bed. It was empty. If there were any monsters left in the world, they weren’t hiding under her bed.

Perhaps there aren’t any monsters left, thought Eleanora.

It was a sobering notion.

She shut the stone doors of her little cave and crouched over her cauldron. The bones simmered, long and short, human and animal. She whispered to them, strained to hear anything answer back, but the bones remained quiet. As dead as the world she’d plucked them from.

Sighing, Eleanora sat back and pondered her next step.

She’d flown as far as she could on the broom, and still be able to return to her cave. If she flew further away, she’d have to take provisions with her, find shelter against the cold. And it all seemed so much bother.

Glancing around her cave, she spotted the pile of broken glass lying in a corner. She frowned. The glass had belonged to a magic mirror, an old and cherished item, that had not survived the war. It had tumbled over during her sleep, breaking into a thousand pieces. Eleanora could have repaired the glass easily enough, but the enchantments woven into it were beyond her.

She regretted not storing it more safely. The mirror would have let her search the whole world from the safety and comfort of her home. Now, she had to do it the hard way.

And what was she even looking for? Mankind was dead. Gone the way of the dodo, or so it appeared. And if they weren’t dead, what then? The survivors would be a scabrous lot. They would probably be a thousand times worse than the wickedest monster-under-the-bed.

No, mankind had never been satisfied with mere frights. They hungered for blood.

Well, thought Eleanora, they had gotten their full of it with their damned war and it drowned them.

Why was she hunting for them? For anything?

It wasn’t loneliness. Eleanora had always lived away from men, away from the others of her kind. She was solitary by nature and not sentimental in the least. So why was she hunting for survivors?

Maybe, she thought, I just miss their noise. Their airplanes and automobiles, their trains and cell phones. Mankind had filled the world with busy noise and, since their absence, the world had been quite as a tomb.

Perhaps, thought the witch, I just want someone to talk to.

At this point, Eleanora would have tolerated the most inane vampire, the most brain-dead zombie to ever crawl out of its grave. If only for five minutes.

But vampires, who preyed on humans, were now as dead as their food source. And zombies had never managed to survive very long, even under ideal circumstances. Eleanora doubted any of them had made it either.

There could, she postulated, be some witches left. No doubt others, like her, had been deep in hibernation when the bombs fell. Some would have survived, probably in isolated, out-of-the-way places like Alaska and China and the Gobi Desert. Perhaps she should pack up the broomstick and tour the world, hunting for her witch-sisters, rousing the sleepers.

But to what end? To have one last great party beneath the skeleton moon? To stalk through the cindered forests, the ruined cities, noting the folly of man? To listen to the endless pontificating, the rampant theorizing about how and when mankind had gone collectively mad?

The more she thought about it, the less appealing the scheme became to Eleanora. She looked around her cave, lit by crackling green firelight, and realized that she had everything here that she had ever wanted. Now, she just didn’t need to worry about hikers or spelunkers or wandering vagrants.

The witch settled herself by her fire, stirred her cauldron full of bones and smiled.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Take a Break!

Hello, gentle readers!
Sorry for the lateness of this blog entry, but I was out and about all day yesterday. This is the first chance I've had to sit down and write anything.
It's been a trying week here, so yesterday I decided to take a break.
I hopped in my car and drove 200 miles north and west to go gambling.
Did I win?
Yes.  Yes, I did.
The sad thing is that I would have come home with almost double my money if I'd listened to that little voice in the back of my head. I think some people call it 'the voice of Reason.' 
But I didn't, so even though I came out ahead, I didn't come out as far ahead as I could have.
Still, I had a good time.
Sometimes, it's nice just to get away from it all. To climb into your car and drive and see where the world takes you.
So, if you've been having a lot of problems lately, or are just unhappy, might I suggest that you take a break? Maybe a day trip somewhere all by yourself. 
It can work wonders.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Loop

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m stuck in a loop.
For the longest time, I’ve been writing and rewriting this one scene and it is driving me insane. It’s not particularly integral to the plot, but it’s become a challenge to overcome.
So far, I haven’t managed to overcome it.
Not yet.
Sometimes, I think I’m too stubborn for my own good.
I hate admitting defeat, especially re something like this.
I should be good enough, smart enough, creative enough to write through this scene and get on to the next.
I should be.
But, so far, I haven’t been.
Sometimes, I get so angry when I think about it that I want to throw dishes at a wall or just delete this entire book, throw up my hands and go off and become a ditch digger or something. Do something that doesn’t involve characters and plots or anything remotely connected to writing.
Sometimes, I just want to give up.
But I know that isn’t going to happen. Mainly, because I’m not the sort of person who gives up easily. Secondly, because I know it would be futile.
The damned words are in my blood, in my bones. Writing is like an addiction and I don’t really want to shake that old monkey off my back.
So I lean back, shut my eyes for a minute, and then try to tackle the damned scene again.
To write my way out of this damned loop.
I’ll do it, too.
One way or another, when I’m not even trying, something will come. Some arrangement of words that just feels right.
They’ll be like a key to a door.
All I have to do until then is endure.
I suppose, in a way, that’s a bit like life. It can get us down; it can throw curves at us that we never see coming, it can grind us down into the mud and the filth.
But we just have to hang on, to endure and we’ll get through it.
And that’s what I’m doing.
Getting through it.
Enduring.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go take another stab at writing myself out of this loop.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Q & A!

Good day, gentle readers! Today, I’m going to answer some questions randomly submitted via the Internet. If you’d like to ask a question, feel free to do so in the comments below or send me a DM on my Twitter.

Ready?

Okay! Away we go!

Q: What is your writing process like?

A: For me, it’s a bit like taking a road trip. I have a beginning and a final destination in mind. There are multiple routes I could take to reach that final destination, as well as interesting diversion one must stop at along the way. Otherwise, what’s the point of taking the trip?

Before I had a regular job, I used to be a timed writer. Get up in the morning, shower and shave, power up the computer and be writing at ten. Keep writing until six. Stop somewhere in the day for lunch.

That’s how I wrote Dawnwind: Last Man Standing. To a lesser extent, it’s also how I wrote The Marvelous Land of Ap.

However, since getting a normal job, I’ve had less time and energy to devote to writing, so lately, it’s been a sort of catch-as-catch-can process.

My productivity may have suffered because of this, but I think the quality of the writing has improved.

Q: Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

A: No, not really. At least, I don’t think they’re strange. I usually write in bed with a box fan blowing on me to drown out background noise. I do write in the nude. Is that strange?

Q: What book do you wish you could have written?

A: The Bible, because I would have made it a helluva lot more readable.

Q: What authors have inspired you to write?

A: Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, John Varley, Mike Resnick, Neil Gaiman, Steven King, Clive Barker, etc. etc. etc.

Q: If you could cast your characters in the Hollywood adaption of The Marvelous Land of Ap, who would play your characters?

A: Honestly? I have no idea. It might be interesting to cast Daniel Radcliffe as Charlie, just because of what he’d bring to the role. Ella? Kaya Scodelario who was in Wuthering Heights, mainly because she looks the part. Thimble would have to be cast as an unknown because I can’t think of anybody who fits the part.

Q: How important are names to you in your books?

A: Names, to me, are ridiculously important. I’m very particular about what I name my characters because in my head their names define them. Not just their appearance and background but their personality traits. So names are very important to me.

Q: What do you consider your best accomplishment?

A: The fact that I am living my life as I want to, not as I have to.

Q: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

A: I don’t know. I never plan that far ahead. As long as I’m happy I don’t think it really matters.

Q: Have you always liked to write?

A: No. I’ve always loved stories, but I never really started writing until middle school. I had a teacher, Mrs. King, who was very enthusiastic about some things I wrote and she sort of put the idea in my head that I could be a writer.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

A: Be true to yourself. Don’t compromise for the almighty dollar, for an editor, or for your readers. Tell your story the way you want to tell it and if the world doesn’t like it? Screw ‘em. To paraphrase George R.R. Martin, "Don’t be anybody’s bitch."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Autumn

Gentle readers, I have managed to do bugger all this week en regards to writing. So, with that in mind, today I present to you: AUTUMN.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Microwaving/Cooking with Moi!

Good afternoon, gentle readers!
A while back, I made a joke about how my next book would be a cook book, a sort of bachelor's guide to eating for one.
It was a joke, but I was surprised at the amount of positive feedback I got from people.
So, with that in mind, I've decided to take a wild leap and share a recipe with the world.
Ready?
Alright then. Away we go!
* * * * *
CHEESY TUNA 2-FOR-1

What you'll need:
1 15 oz. can of Old El Paso Cheese Sauce (I like to use the zesty flavor!)
2 12 oz. cans of water-packed tuna (Any brand that you like.)
1 can opener
1 microwave safe bowl (Preferably ceramic because they're so much easier to clean than plastic.)
1 spoon
1 microwave (Yes, this is me padding the hell out of this list.)

What to do:
Open and drain your cans of tuna.
Layer one can of tuna in your bowl.
Add a little less than half of your Cheese Sauce.
Mix with spoon.
Microwave for 45 seconds (longer if you're microwave wattage is lower than 1100).
Remove from microwave and stir the mixture.
Add the second can of tuna to the mixture and the rest of your Cheesy Sauce.
Stir.
Microwave an additional 45 seconds.
Remove and stir again.
Add additional seasoning to taste.

Here you have your 2-for-1 options.

Option 1: Eat what you've prepared as a kind of tuna cheese soup. This goes down a real treat with cut green beans on the side and a garlic roll.

Option 2: Use your concoction as a tuna cheesy sandwich spread. Serve it on thickish bread with pickle and Optional Tomato. (In my kitchen, all tomatoes are Optional Tomatoes because raw tomatoes are disgusting.)

If you choose option 2, you don't even really need to heat it up in the microwave, although, personally, I find if you heat it up it does a better job of blending the flavors.

Enjoy.

Have ice cream afterward or a nice bit of fruit cocktail.

* * * * *

And there you have it. My first published foray into the dog-eat-dog world of cookery. The above will usually satisfy one Bachelor or two Diet Nazis.  It will not satisfy anyone who wants to eat Healthy.

What next?

Desert!

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Forest

Don’t go down to the forest today,
stay where the sun is bright.
Don’t go down to the forest today,
unless you want a fright.
Dark things move in the woods today,
mischievous things at bloody play.
So don’t go down to the forest today.
stay in the good Lord’s light.

Don’t go down to the forest today,
stay in the yard, my dear.
Don’t go down to the forest today,
can’t you feel the fear?
It’s rising and roiling, bubbling and boiling,
a sinister witches brew!
So don’t go down to the forest today,
or you could go missing too.

Mary went down to the forest today,
and Jack and Johnny too.
They went down to the forest today,
what’s their poor mother to do?
They laughed at their poor mother’s fears,
by now they’re probably dead, my dears.
So don’t go down to the forest today,
or it will all end in tears.

You want to go down to the forest today,
I see it in your eyes.
You say you won’t go to the forest today,
but I can hear your lies.
How can I keep you out of harm’s way?
Safe and sound for the rest of the day?
You want to go down to the forest today,
and when you do you’ll die.

You won’t go down to the forest today,
I’ll keep you here at home.
You won’t go down to the forest again,
never away will you roam.
Your bones I’ll bury in the garden’s earth,
your soul I’ll save, for what it’s worth.
No. You won’t go down to the forest today,
or ever again, my dear.

Author's note:  This is actually a song, creepily inspired by a melody from 'The Teddy Bears' Picnic.'

Monday, September 8, 2014

What's in a name?

Good evening, gentle readers.  Pardon the lateness of this blog entry, but I've had a busy day.
I have been thinking of names.
Names? You ask. 
Yes. Names.
Specifically, the name of a new character.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the most critical decisions that you can make as a writer.  Particularly if you are writing genre fiction.
Names have power.
They define things.
They define us.
Think about it.  How could a character with a name like 'Snidely Whiplash' be anything other than a villain? 
Margaret and Gertrude are dated names, seldom used and tend to bring to mind images of plain, heavy girls with thick ankles wearing drab, ill-fitted dresses. 
You probably wouldn't find the ingenue of the latest paranormal romance named Gertrude. Would you?
No.  They're more likely to be named something vaguely exotic or unusual. Annabelle, perhaps, or Sylvia.
I think male characters are easier to name.  John and Mark bring to mind average looking guys and there's enough generational saturation of the names so that they aren't period specific. Neither are they associated with any particular trade.  At least, not in my mind.
There's a lot that goes into picking a name, as any parent can tell you.  You don't just slap a label on your child and be done with it.  If that was the case we'd let the hospitals do it.  They'd probably have a big book of names in the maternity wards and tick off gender-appropriate names as they were used.
No. Parents usually wind up giving their children names that they hope they'll grow into.
In that respect, at least, character-naming is easier.  My own characters tend to spring, fully formed, out of thin air. I know what they're about. Nine times out of ten, I know what they're going to be called. They practically name themselves.
But there's always the problem child. Always the character that's so mercurial, so alive in your head, that pinning them down with a name is a problem. 
So, you make lists. You consult baby name sites. Books of famous historical figures.  Maybe a list of gemstones or poisonous flowers.
All to find the perfect name for this one character.
And, at the end of the day, if you still haven't found the perfect name?
What do you do?
You wind up writing a blog entry about it, and hoping that tomorrow you have more luck.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day Promotion!

Hello, gentle readers!
Since it's Labor Day I've decided to give away free copies of my short story, Hellbound on the Sugar Train!


Available via my Amazon Author Page!
Hope everyone is having a happy holiday!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Hell of Timbers

I dreamed of a house,
lurking in the deepest woods,
a ghost of timbers.

Its windows gleaming,
shining with the awful truth,
that this place was hell.

Dark souls did dark deeds,
the timber floors were stained red.
Redder still their hands.

Cruel hands and black hearts,
souls like pitch, so thick and dark,
devoid of kindness.

Hands wielding sharp blades,
that cut and stab, rending flesh,
freeing soul from bones.

And the house feasted,
eating up these new-shorn souls,
trapping them in hell.

A hell of wood walls,
of burning, glass window-eyes,
of red stained floorboards.

Locked away forever,
trapped by old splinters and sins,
gray shingles and vice.

And when the wind blows,
the trapped spirits moan and cry.
They get no mercy.

I dreamed of a house,
lurking in the deepest woods,
hungry for us all.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Even More Noise

Good morning, gentle readers!
I'm pleased to announce that you can now purchase a physical copy of Random Noise, my latest collection of short stories, from Amazon.  The link to my Amazon Author Page is at the top of the blog.
Thank you for all of your support!
Happy reading!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rat Queens


Good afternoon, gentle readers!
Today, I want to talk about Rat Queens, a fantasy comic from Image Comics produced by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Roc Upchurch.  The book follows the exploits of a group of female adventurers: Betty, Dee, Hannah and Violet.  It was nominated for a 2014 Eisner Award for Best New Series and may soon be adapted as an animated television series.
I've heard of Rat Queens, but never read it until last night. I was wandering through my local bookshop when I came across a copy of the trade paperback and bought it on a whim.
The book is very much an adult fantasy with a breezy narrative and uncomplicated characters. That, I think, is its strength and its weakness.
On the one hand, it would be very easy for new readers to jump aboard.  However, there isn't a lot of substance to the series, either, and I can't honestly say that I feel any strong desire to continue reading it. If I did, it would be solely as trade paperbacks and not as a monthly title.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd give Rat Queens a 4.  I wouldn't add it to my subscription at my local comic shop, but might glance at the occasional issue on the stand.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Random Noise


Random Noise is a collection of miscellaneous short stories covering a variety of subjects. Here, you can read about the starship pilot visited by his wife's ghost, the floating cities of a distant future consumed by hate, a woman's realization regarding the difficult choices she made and a variety of other stories. Also included is a sequel to one of the author's previous works, The Marvelous Land of Ap.
Currently available for the Kindle and soon-to-be available in paperback via CreateSpace!

Monday, July 28, 2014

(Fiction) The Peace Process

In the end, it was the presence of the murdersmith that ended the war.  He appeared at the peace talks, an austere figure in a razorblade suit and helmet made of bone and polished steel.
None of the parties involved would admit to inviting him there and no one had the balls to go up and ask the murdersmith himself.  The delegates avoided him, discreetly, while their various security attaches watched the creature, calculating escape routes and uttering silent prayers to any friendly higher powers that were listening that shit would not go down.
The murdersmith drifted.  He circled the room, on the periphery, a flute of expensive champagne in a black-gloved hand.  When the dancing started, he made his way out to the balcony, where he stood with his back to the room, the light from the two moons glinting off his helmet.  The delegates waltzed, trying to forget that he was there.
“I can’t decide.  Are you the life or the death of the party?”
The murdersmith turned toward a corner of the balcony, draped in thick shadows. A woman stepped out of the darkness. Her long, ash blonde hair, hung down her back and she wore a gown composed of sleek, chitinous scales.
“Neither,” said the murdersmith.  “I’m just crashing.”
A pale eyebrow rose. “Really? How gauche.  I’d heard your kind had better manners.”
He shrugged and turned back to the moons.  She came up beside him, standing so close she could smell him; he smelt like dust and ammonia and sex.
“So why are you crashing the party?” she asked.  “You know you’re freaking the fuck out of everyone in there.”
“Not you.”
She shrugged and her chitinous gown shifted; he realized it was a sort of swarm-thing, alive and symbiotic, clinging to her bare skin. Such things were out of fashion and mildly scandalous.
“Death doesn’t frighten me,” she said.  “I’m dying.”
He just nodded.  She liked that he didn’t offer fake sympathy or ask what was killing her.
“Are you saved?”
“No,” she said.  “This is me. All of me. When I die, that’s it.”
“I find that elegant,” said the murdersmith. “Neat.”
“Thank you. I think.”  She turned, leaned against the balcony.  The light from the open doors washed over her face.  The music had changed from a stately waltz to something quick and skirling.
“What dreadful music.”
The mudersmith put down his champagne. “Would you like to dance?”
She sighed. “I thought you’d never ask.”
He whirled her around the balcony, surprisingly light on his feet.  She laughed and her laughter drew the attention of one of the delegate’s wives.  The woman watched the murdersmith dance with the woman in the swarm-dress and pointed them out to her husband.  Her husband was high up in one of the delegations and, as he whirled his wife across the dance floor, he stared at the couple on the balcony.
He recognized the woman immediately; she was a member of one of the mercantile corporations that supplied arms to both sides in the conflict.  The fact that she was dancing with the mudersmith, fearless and smiling, caused a terrible suspicion to form in the delegate’s mind.
Abandoning his wife, the man rushed to find the head of his delegation, the Duchess of Xu.  He shared his suspicion with her, that the mercantile corporations were going to hire the murdersmiths to keep the war going.
“It makes sense,” admitted the Duchess.  “The corporations are the only ones benefitting from the damned war.”
“What should we do?” asked the man.
The Duchess pursed bone-white lips and looked across the ball room, toward her opposite number, the Prince of Something-or-Other.
“What no one expects us to do,” said the Duchess.
She gathered the folds of her gown, a confection of black cloud-silk studded with luminous diamonds, and headed across the floor toward the Prince.  The Prince, seeing the Duchess approach, decided to meet her halfway across the dance floor.  He asked her to dance, she accepted and, as they spiraled around the ball room, speaking softly to one another, a practical peace emerged.
The murdersmith and the dying woman did not notice or care.  They danced, slowly, on the moonwashed balcony, until the wee hours of the morning and then parted company, never to see each other again.

Monday, July 21, 2014

History Repeats Itself...With Dead Birds

Gentle readers, please bear with me, it's been a trying day.
It started nicely enough. I slept in, woke and went to the mall.  I've got an empty vase in my living room that I've been looking to fill with something.  I went by three stores, looking for ideas.  None of them really leapt out at me.
It was while I was at the third store that it happened.
I paid for my purchase (which I now have to return by the way) and went out to my car.
And there, sprawled on my hood, dead as the proverbial coffin nail, was a bird.
A crow.
It was sprawled across the hood of my car like a super-realistic paint job.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is the second time a crow has died on my car hood.
The first time was in Anchorage a few years ago and I was witness to that particular incident. It was not an experience I wanted to repeat any time soon, in any way, shape or form.
But, there I was, again, standing by my car, pondering what the hell to do with this dead bird.
In the end, I used the shopping bag like a glove and pulled the corpse off my hood.  It tumbled to the ground in a lifeless sprawl of bones and feathers and already decaying meat.
Then I walked back into the store, washed my hands in their rest room and came home.
Where, if I may be quite honest, I think I'm going to get a bit blotto.
Or possible binge on white chocolate.
I haven't decided.
And that's the kind of day I'm having, gentle readers.
Here's hoping you're having a better one.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Haiku

The words will not fly.
Like lead, they fall from my lips
and the blank page wins.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Artwoes

Gentle readers, making art is hard.
However, shopping for it, is even fucking harder.
I have been decorating my new place and have come to the part where I need some art for my walls.
I would like something like this:
However, all I seem to find is crap like this:

Honestly!
I know that stores have to appeal to the broadest audience possible to make a profit, but must every piece of art I come across contain either (a) a precious beach scene or (b) a French street scene?
I hesitate to use the word 'bourgeoisie' in a pejorative sense, but I can't think of any other term that so perfectly defines common artistic sensibilities.
I suppose I should just be glad I haven't stumbled across paintings or prints of super-cute kittens peeking out of basket of yarn.
If I did, I would probably explode from my sheer vitriolic response.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Toothless

Today, gentle readers, I am off to the dentist.
This afternoon, I get to sit in a chair, feet probably dangling over the end, while an older man in a mask and rubber gloves mucks about in my mouth.
I've never been particularly bothered about going to the dentist.  My teeth were never in good shape, so when I made the decision a while back to have 'em all taken out and replaced with dentures, it was not a big deal.  The dentist I went to at the time, however, seemed to think it was.  I think he may have taken it as a personal slight that I wasn't willing to endure years of pain just to keep my natural teeth a little longer.
Still, he did a bang up job on the removal.
I had all my teeth taken out in a single day.  I woke up that morning, before dawn, and popped a Valium. Then I caught a cab to the dentist's office where I filled out some paperwork, sat in the chair, and drifted off to sleep as the dentist was injecting my mouth with Novacaine.
I woke up a few hours later as he was filing down some of the bone beneath my gums where he'd had to remove wisdom teeth.  After that, he packed my mouth full of cotton, called me a cab and sent me home.
I walked around for two weeks with no teeth.  The dentist told me I would probably lose some weight during the time.  Actually, I put on five pounds.  He didn't seem to realize that ice cream and refried beans are both soft foods.  So, for that matter, is corned beef hash.
I don't miss my real teeth. Not even now, when I have to go to the dentist to get my denture repaired. It's an inconvenience, but that's about it. 
Actually, my life has pretty much improved since that day.  My health improved and, for the first time in my life, I had a nice smile.
There were oddities. I had to learn how to kiss all over again. 
And some minor inconveniences.  No chewing gum or taffy for me.
Weirdly, my toothless state has also given me a really funny story to tell involving a sneeze, loose teeth and a clerk at the post office.
Also, I can do things with my tongue now that I couldn't before.
So, overall, what most people would consider a bad event, to them, is just something interesting to me.
I suppose, like everything else in life, it's all about perspective.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What next? You tell me!

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
It's the last day of June, we're skidding into a hot summer and I have no idea what to write.
I thought about writing some more about my experiences on Craigslist, looking for a decent tenant. But, honestly? That just bores me.
Then I thought about updating everyone on the progress of the book.  I'm at 34,000+ words, but the going is slow and I am distracted by other things such as Craigslist and new lamps.
I could write about the new floor lamp I bought yesterday.  It's sleek and black and I got those twisty future bulbs that are supposed to be more energy efficient, but their light is too bright white for my taste and I can't believe I'm writing about light bulbs.
Oy vey.
I could tell you what I've been reading. The latest, and supposedly last, book in Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City, which was ultimately unsatisfying and has left me desperate for something to read that I can sink my teeth into.
Or I could write about my job at the comic shop and the parade of characters who march through our front door. Often accompanied by loud, enthusiastic children.
If I was in a worse mood I'd blast the condition of the local roads, filled with pot holes and garbage. I think its sad that I drove from Alaska to South Carolina and from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again and never had a single tire problem. But in the last year and a half I've had to get three new tires for my car because of the shitty state of the local roads.
Ugh.
But no, I will not go off on a tear about municipal failings.
If I had a love life, which I do not at the moment, I might write about that.  But small children would have to leave the room, as well as some of the adults.  You know who I'm talking about.
I could, I suppose, write about all kinds of things.
But none of it seems very interesting to me.
So, I'm going to do something a bit different with this blog post.
If you're reading this and you want me to write about something, leave a comment.
What the hell! Let's see what happens next.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Greatest Hive of Scum and Villainy

So, a few weeks ago I decided to rent out the extra bedroom in my house for a little extra money. Which meant that I had to brave one of the greatest hives of scum and villainy in this world or any other: Craigslist.
Now, I've done the rental thing before.  I'm an old hand at screening roommates, face-to face, but Craigslist didn't exist the last time I was handling roommates.  And, well, you hear a lot of crap about CL scams.
Nevertheless, Craigslist's reach and effectiveness countered my concerns that I would be wading through a ton of scam solicitation e-mails.  So, screwing my courage to the sticking place, I wrote up an ad and posted it.
And waited.
And waited.
And waited some more.
After a little while, I signed out of the 'net and ran errands.
It took a couple of days for me to get a response to my ad and, sadly, the first responses were from scammers.  I ignored them and tweaked the ad a bit, being a bit more blunt about my expectations.
I got some more responses.
A couple of more scammers and then, all of a sudden, legitimate responses.
Hurrah!
Which just goes to show that, sometimes, our fears are worse than the things we're really worried about.
So, gentle readers, be bold. Be brave. Be daring!
Go and check out Craigslist!
It's not as awful as you think it will be.
Honest.
If nothing else the personnels' section will make you laugh.

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Myth of Destiny

Good afternoon, gentle readers.
Today I'm going to talk about a friend of mine.
Last week she was diagnosed with second stage breast cancer.
The doctors tell her that they've caught it and that they expect her to make a full recovery. 
I don't know if my friend believes them.
You see, gentle readers, my friend's mother and grandmother both died from breast cancer, so I think this diagnosis has shaken my friend more than she'll admit.
We've been talking on the phone and I get the distinct impression that she's sort of soldiering on in the face of imminent doom.
She is one of my oldest friends, one of my best friends.  I love her very much and I think she is being a complete idiot.
Because, outside of fairy tales, there is no such thing as destiny.
Our lives are not preordained. We have free will.  That gives us power, the power to change what we do and how we do it.  The power to rail against the world and win.
My friend told me once that she thought she would die like her mother.  She said it so casually, so matter-of-factly, the way you or I might say, 'The weather is nice today.'
Thinking about it now, the way she said it sends chills down my spine.
It was just so accepting of this imagined fate and now, well, circumstances seem to be colluding to engineer that fate.
She has suddenly come, face to face, with the reality of this bad dream.  And I am afraid that this belief of hers, that this is how she will die, that it is inevitable, will impede her recovery.  That she will not fight to recover, to live, as fiercely as she should, as I know that she can.
I hope my friend is going to read this. I hope that it makes her angry that my perception of her is so skewed and wrong, that she'll call me up and rant and rail at me and tell me I'm an idiot.
I hope I am.
I hope she does.
Because I love her and I don't want to lose her to this awful thing.
What next?
Who knows?

Monday, June 9, 2014

Food Coma

No blog update today, gentle readers, because of Texas Steak House and their enormous portions. Also, I think I'm about to slip into a food coma....

Monday, June 2, 2014

Blame & Wonder

Good afternoon, gentle readers.
I haven't gotten much writing done lately.
Not for lack of trying; I've been sitting down at the keyboard every night for the last week, banging away, producing nothing worthwhile.
I think the last piece I was happy with was a submission to 365tomorrows, and that one had been haunting my head for the better part of a month.
I'm still working on the sequel to Dawnwind: Last Man Standing, which I have privately started referring to as That Bloody Book.  At the rate I'm working on it, however, George R.R. Martin will have finished his entire Song of Fire and Ice and probably edited a couple more Wildcard novels before I finish this thing.
It doesn't help that I'm distracted, sort of, by other things: the house, the job, life in general. But trying to blame my lack of productivity on all that just makes me feel lazy.
I suppose I could blame Youtube and Hulu for some of it.  I was watching Fallout: Nuka Break and Bus Pirates on YouTube this week and binge-watched every episode of Deadbeat on Hulu last night.
But if I'm going to do that I might as well blame David Weber and Rachel Aaron for writing such engaging characters as Honor Harrington and Eli Montpress.
The fact of the matter is, ladies and gentlemen, that I could blame a lot of things: the weather, the birds that insist on singing outside my window, movies I have seen, cakes I have eaten.
But those aren't reasons, they're just excuses.
And there comes a point where you have to stop making excuses and admit the hard truth: I'd rather be writing something else.
That Bloody Book is just no fun to write. 
It has become a kind of duty to me, something I HAVE TO FINISH.
Writing it is less a creative endeavor and more of an endurance contest.
Can I finish it before I snap and run naked down the street screaming at the top of my lungs?
Well, okay, that probably won't happen.
But sometimes that's what it feels like it's becoming.
So is it any wonder I get distracted by other stories? I've got an unfinished fantasy in the wings and, percolating somewhere in the back of my head, a sequel to The Marvelous Land of Ap.  There's a supervillain story slowly taking shape in small notes and character descriptions.
But the funny thing is That Bloody Book could be fun again. Last weekend, on a lark, I started writing a short story set in the same universe with the same characters and the words just poured out like milk and honey.  It was wondrous.
I just have to find that same sense of wonder with the current story.
So, what's next?
The hunt for wonder.

Monday, May 26, 2014

(Fiction) Lemon Sky

LEMON SKY

"I got it!"

Mauve looked up from the day’s mail. Kason had practically bounced through the door, enormous grin on his face, a small rectangular box clasped in his hand.

"What?" asked Mauve.

Still grinning, Kason placed the box on the kitchen table and tore away the paper. Mauve winced at the waste, but her eyes grew wide as she saw the box beneath the brown paper. It was yellow and shiny. The world-famous icon of the Sensatryp Corporation was displayed, discreetly, on the side of the box.

Kason picked up the slender box and presented it to her, with a little bow. "Your present, m’lady."

Mauve took the box from him with excited fingers. The plastic surface was slick and warm beneath her fingertips.

"Is this for real?"

"Yep," said Kason, still grinning.

"How?" asked Mauve. She looked at him, brow furrowing. "It’s not stolen, is it?"

"No!" He looked aghast and Mauve felt a flush of shame. Kason was a lot of things, but he wasn’t a thief.

She eyed the box. "It’s not a bootleg version, is it?"

"Again, no," said Kason, sounding a bit irritated. "It’s authentic. I bought it at the store. If you want, I can show you the receipt."

"How can you afford this?" she asked.

"It was on sale," said Kason. "Thirty percent off because they’re about to release the new one. Strawberry Fields."

"Oh."

That made sense, thought Mauve.

She grinned, then, and leaned forward to kiss Kason’s cheek.

"Thank you."

"You’re welcome." The grin was back, infectious and cheeky. "So, do you want to use it now or save it for later?"

"Now," said Mauve. "Definitely, now."

They pulled open the sofa bed and undressed. Kason turned off the phone. Mauve opened the bright yellow box with trembling fingers.

Inside, nestled in black foam, was a vial of pale, swirling liquid.

"Would you like to do the honors, sir?" Mauve asked, giggling, presenting the vial to Kason.

Chuckling, he grasped the plastic stopper securing the vial’s contents and plucked it free. The instant the white liquid was exposed to open air, it began to evaporate. Thick clouds of tart sweetness enveloped Mauve and Kason’s tiny studio flat. Grasping hands, they drew in deep lungfuls of the agent.

Mauve’s skin tingled. She felt warmth and light against her eyelids. Opening her eyes, she found herself transported. Gone was the windowless flat with its third-hand furnishings. Instead, she and Kason were kneeling on a bright red blanket. Around them stretched a golden beach, the sand shimmering like glass. The ocean was slate gray, slapping gently at the golden sand with foamy waves.

The ocean wind caressed her skin and Mauve looked down.

Kason was sitting across the blanket from her, grinning.

"Look up," he said.

Mauve did. The sky was pale yellow, dominated by what appeared to be a huge ringed planet, its surface a blur of dark reds and swirling umbers.

The air was tart, but it was a pleasant sort of tartness. The tartness of cold lemonade on a hot summer day.

"Welcome to Lemon Sky," said Kason.

He stood and pulled her to her feet.

"How long will it last?" asked Mauve. Some of these sense-holidays lasted for real hours, others for virtual days.

"Who cares?" asked Kason, and pulled her, laughing, toward the alien ocean.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Suck It Up!

The last few days, gentle readers, have not been fun for yours truly.
I'm not going to go into the details because (1) they're boring and (2) they're private.  However, I will recount my reaction to said events.
Basically?
Suck it up and get on with your life.
Seriously.
The world would be such a better place if people quit whining about their situations and just dealt with their shit and moved on.
That's what I'm doing.
Granted, if you've just lost a limb or something, this may sound cruel, but eventually you're going to have to get used to the loss anyway.
Sorry if I sound a tad harsh, ladies and gentlemen, but I sort of needed to vent and, well, isn't that what blogs are for? At least when you're not using them to pimp your merchandise?
^_^

Monday, May 12, 2014

(Fiction) The Newcomer's Guide to Hell

The Newcomer’s Guide to Hell.
That was the title of the book that Natchez held in his hands.  He had found it among the desiccated remains of a woman, clutched to her breast like a starving babe.  When he pried the book out of her hands, the woman’s eyelids fluttered, opening to reveal black pits full of writhing red maggots.
Natchez had screamed and jumped away from the woman, who remained still.  He did not realize until later that he was clutching the book like a talisman.
Now he stared at the book.  It was covered in supple brown leather with a curious golden finish that glimmered in the harsh light.  The title was picked out in gold thread.
Swallowing, Natchez opened the book.
The first line of black script read, Welcome to Hell.
Natchez shut the book.  After a moment, he opened it again and continued to read.
The first thing you need to know is that this is not a dream or a trick or a psychotic episode. If you are reading these words, you have died and gone to Hell.
“Oh fuck,” muttered Natchez.
The second thing you need to know is that no one in Hell cares about you.
No one.
You are on your own.
It was all written so plainly, so matter-of-factly, that Natchez did not doubt the author for a moment.
The third thing you need to know is that you cannot trust anyone in Hell. 
Or any thing.
Be warned.
The book continued in that vein and Natchez kept reading.
* * * * *
Kizamatza found the man, lying on his side, little more than bones wrapped in flesh.
The scavenger snorted and knelt.  He was a big man, six feet tall, with piss-yellow eyes and scarred skin mottled by multicolored tumors.  In his right hand, he carried a bone knife, in his left, he carried a satchel.
Kizamatza prodded the dry man with his foot.  The man did not move or utter a sound.
He knelt and saw that the man clutched a book to his chest.
Frowning, Kizamatza plunged his bone knife into the dry man’s skull.  With an audible pop, the man’s spirit exploded from his flesh.  It circled the body in confused circles, a sickly green will-o-the-wisp, barely visible in the bright cancerlight.
Kizamatza pulled a spirit-catcher from his satchel, and swatted the confused soul with it.  The soul mewed pitifully as it was caught in the spirit-catcher’s web.  Casually, Kizamatza shoved spirit-catcher and prize back into his satchel.
He examined the body, but there was nothing there worth taking.  Not really.  The skin might have been worth something, but Kizamatza’s skinning knife had broken two nights ago. Scowling, he started to stand, when he remembered the book.
He pulled it free of the dry man’s fingers and examined it.  Bound in fine human skin. Decorated with real thread-of-gold.  Kizamatza could feel the prickle of necrotic energies under his fingertips.
“I could sell you for a pretty price in the markets at Dis,” rumbled Kizamatza.  “If I got there.”
Snorting, he tossed the book aside, unopened and resumed his trek.
Behind him, the book glittered like gold.
Waiting.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Home is Where the Hearth Is

Good evening, gentle readers!
I'm sorry that I've been missing in action the last week or so, but I've been taking care of certain domestic issues.
Namely, I've been painting my living room.
When I moved into my townhouse a few months back, I liked most of the rooms except the living room. Why? Because it was painted a godawful shade of brown that just sucked all the life and energy right out of the place.
See?

I was determined at some point to fix that problem, but I haven't been able to get to it until lately. So, for the last week or so, as time permits, I've been prepping the living room walls and deciding on paint colors.
I decided on a nice apple mint green for the wall behind the fire place and a peach-like color called - I kid you not! - shrimp ice for the other three walls.  I finished painting the walls today, and decided that even though I love my wall colors, they make the room feel a little too relaxed.
So, I painted my fireplace.
Voila!

So, now you know why I've been a bit absent lately.  Hope no one was worrying and 'Hello!' to all the folks in China checking out the blog.  I hope you find it entertaining.
What's next?
Hopefully back to the writing!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Adventures in Latex!

Hello, gentle readers!
I'm surprised I'm actually doing a blog as today has been a bit of a bear.
First, I woke up super-early to let in my contractor.  He was here for most of the morning, then left around noon, after doing some minor repairs to my kitchen counter tops and installing my cabinet doors in the master bedroom.  So, now my house is about 99.9% finished! Yay! Now if I can just get the final piece for my sink, we'll be done! Yay!
Or, at least, I'll be done with these contractors.
Because today, after my guy left, I climbed in my car and, on a whim, stopped at the Goodwill to see if they had any sheets. They did. I bought two, deciding I would use them as drop cloths when I started painting my living room.
And then, on the spur of the moment, I went to Lowes and bought a gallon of primer and a paint roller, came home and started working on my living room wall.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, I am not particularly mechanical.  And by that, I mean that if you put a tool in my hand, I'm going to do something awful with it. Usually to whatever I'm working on or, in rare instances to myself or someone around me. (For God's sake! Don't let me near a nail gun!)
So, as I started painting, I was waiting for something to happen.
And it did.
About twenty minutes into my painting, I knocked over my can of paint. Thankfully, it poured mostly onto my foot and my drop clothes.  My carpet was untouched.
So, after smearing some latex from my foot on the wall, and cleaning up as best I could, I went back to work. Amazingly, I had enough paint left to give the wall one crappy-looking coat.
But, hey! It looks better than the ugly brown color the previous tenants liked.
I'm planning on doing the rest of the living room this month and maybe even painting it. Or, more likely, finding someone cheap to do the painting for me.
In any event, my little adventure in latex was not the disaster I had thought it would be.  Even if I did just spend thirty minutes in the tub scrubbing paint off my foot.
What next?
A glass of wine! :D

Monday, April 14, 2014

Movies That Never Were

Good morning, gentle readers.
Creativity sometimes takes us down peculiar paths.  Occasionally, it inspires us to create things that are just  . . .  odd.
So, with that in mind, I now present, for your entertainment, a selection of movies that never were.  
It should go without saying that the various properties presented belong entirely to their respective owners and that these images are created simply for fun.








Monday, April 7, 2014

(Fiction) After Hours at the Red Dragon

"Genies are a fucking pain in the ass," said Krosp.

It was after-hours and Krosp and I were unwinding in the Red Dragon. Nursing strong drinks, we compared and commiserated on what a load of crap the day had been.

"You tell ‘em they have to wear a mana-inhibitor and they start making a big scene about racial profiling and shit," clarified Krosp. "I had to call Security twice because of those bastards. I never understood why they wanted to immigrate anyway."

"Have you seen the Middle East lately? It’s not exactly welcoming to the magically inclined, Krosp."

He shrugged. "Whatever."

"Besides, I’d rather deal with genies than fucking werewolves any day of the month."

"Bad one today?"

"Super-bad. Not only did he have stinky dog breath he drooled all over my desk. I went through a whole roll of paper towels trying to clean that yuck up and then Simmons gets on my ass about slowing down the line."

"That bitch," said Krosp. "You know the only reason they gave her the job is because they needed to fill the department’s diversity quota."

"Yeah, I know that and you know that and even Simmons knows it. Why do you think she’s such a bitch to everyone?"

"I heard someone’s already filed a complaint about her with Personnel."

"That was quick."

"Yeah. And restrained. I always thought someone would just hex her and get it over with."

"Ha! Who says they haven’t? You know she has to sit on one of those inflatable donuts."

"Really?" Krosp’s bushy eyebrows rose in surprise. "You think someone’s zapped her?"

I nodded. "That’s the rumor. That someone’s given her a raging case of hemorrhoids."

"Ouch."

"Yeah, well, I can’t feel too much sympathy for her. She brings it on herself."

"Whatever," murmured Krosp. He took a long pull from his beer. "Hey! Did I tell you about my weirdo?"

"No, I don’t think so."

"Guy comes into my cube, sits down and hands me his paperwork. Everything’s in order, but he doesn’t have a disclosure form. So, I tell him he needs to fill one out before we can continue and, guess what?"

"What?"

"Guy doesn’t need a disclosure form. He’s totally human."

"Bullshit."

"No, man! I kid you not! He was a flat zero on the Thaumatic Scale. I checked."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously."

"Why would a zero want to immigrate?"

"Religious persecution," said Krosp.

"Bummer."

"Yeah. Plus, he’s Canadian."

"What’s that got to do with anything?"

Krosp just gave me a look. "If you’d ever been to Canada, you wouldn’t have to ask."

Monday, March 31, 2014

Oh Fuck It

Ladies and gentlemen, today has been a balls' up kind of day.
It started well enough. I got up and went to the bank, deposited a check and then stopped by the grocery store to use their Coin Star machine. (I love the Coin Star machine!).  
It seemed like a good day. The people at the bank were very pleasant. The Coin Star machine worked superbly and only refused to take two pennies.  
Then, considering the future of my townhouse, I went by the Other Bank to discuss some financial matters. And that's where the day started to get shitty.
I blame it entirely on the Other Bank, which seemed determined to sell me things that I wasn't really interested in, and weren't very helpful at all with the matter that I went there to discuss with them.
It put me in a right funk.
Then I learned that, because of some kind of shenanigans, a paycheck I'd deposited last week hadn't gone through. The details remain vague, but I was told the bank could resubmit the check and it would go through no problem.  All well and good, but on top of my experience at the Other Bank, a bit more irritating than it should have been.
So, after spending half the day dealing with financial nonsense, I decided to treat myself.  I would go and see The Grand Budapest Hotel at the movies.  It looked amusing, in the trailers, and, by that point, I could have used a good laugh.
Alas, although the movie was interesting, it wasn't really funny.  Not in the way that I really needed it to be.
So I came home and realized that I had not done a blog post and that, really, I was in no mood to write about anything.
But I pulled out my laptop, gentle readers, and powered it up.  Lying on my bed, head resting on oversized pillows, I went to Blogger determined to at least acknowledge that it was my usual day. Originally, I was just going to write something along the lines of, "Oh fuck it. I just don't feel like writing anything today. See you all next week."  Or something along those lines.
And instead, I have managed to produce this catalogue of the day's events and a description of my general malaise. 
So, there you have it, lovely people.
My Monday in a nut shell.
I don't know what's going to happen next, but it better fucking well be something good.
After today, I feel I deserve it.
And bonne nuit and bonne chance to all the lovely French visiting the site this week.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Breakup

"Why aren't you working?"
"What do you mean? It's my day off?"
"Working on your writing."
"Oh. I don't feel like it."
"You don't feel like it."
"Um. No. I. . . ."
CRACK!
"Ow! What the hell?!?"
"You still don't feel like writing?"
"What the hell, Amnesia? Why did you . . ."
CRACK!
"Shit! Will you stop it already! What the hell is the matter with you?"
"I'm inspiring you."
"You're hitting me with a whip! That's not inspirational, that just hurts!"
"Then I'm using negative stimuli to motivate your lazy ass! Now write something!"
"No!"
"Do not make me pull out the cat-o-nine tails!"
"Don't fuck with me, Amnesia! I'm serious!"
"Why? What can you do?"
"I can fucking give up, is what I can do! And then what happens to your lazy ass? Huh? How many jobs have you blown anyway?"
"Hey! We're not here to talk about my career prospects, we're talking about yours!"
"Bullshit! And you've got a lot of nerve criticizing me for being lazy when it comes to the writing! How the hell am I supposed to create when your miserable excuse for an ass isn't here? Huh? Answer that! Hell! I should file a formal complaint!"
"You wouldn't dare!"
"Wouldn't I?  Every time I sit down to write something all I wind up doing is staring at the goddamn page! Why? Because your ass is nowhere around!"
"Hey! I've got other clients, you know!"
"Yeah? Do I give a good fuck? You're supposed to be here for me when I need you! To inspire! Instead, you show up once in a goddamn blue moon, carrying a fucking whip and pissed off as . . ."
CRACK!
"Shit!"
"Don't threaten me, you little. . . ."
"That's it! You're fired! I'm going to complain! I'm going to get your sorry ass de-Mused! I am done with you! Done!"
"You. . . ."
"No! No more threats! No more whip! No more of you showing up at three in the goddamn morning or in the middle of my day job when I can't fucking write! You understand! We're done! Done, I say!"
" . . . ."
"What? Are you actually speechless? Where's the snappy comeback, Amnesia? Huh?"
"I don't have one."
"Well, d'uh!"
"You're right. I am a terrible Muse. I can't keep to a schedule to save my job. I am petty and fickle and, and . . . sob!"
"Oh crap. Don't cry."
"I can't help it! And you're not the boss of me so I'll cry if I want to!"
"Look, don't cry. Okay? Just stop."
"Why? A girl can cry if she wants to! And what do you care? We're done, right? I'm a terrible Muse! You said it yourself!"
"Look, you're not a terrible Muse. When you're on, you're on. We're just not compatible any more. That's all."
"Maybe."
"There's no maybe about it.  We've just drifted apart.  We don't click any more. I mean, you were great when I was writing the first book and fucking brilliant with the second one, but. . . ."
"Yeah, well, you were easy to work with back then.  You didn't have so many irons in the fire."
"Yeah."
"So, I guess this is it? We're breaking up?"
"I think it's for the best, Ana."
"Will you look for another Muse?"
"Maybe. I think I'll wait for things to calm down a little before I make that decision."
"Yeah, that'd probably be the smart thing."
"Yeah."
"Well, I guess I should go."
"Yeah. I guess."
"I'll see you around."
"Sure. And, Amnesia?"
"Yeah?"
"The whip belongs to me."
"Oh. Right. I forgot."
"Uh-huh."
"Bye."
"Goodbye."