Friday, July 3, 2015

How is that sexy?

I get to stay home every day and write. For me, that is a dream come true. My wife leaves every morning and has to work "out there" where there are actual people to deal with {shiver} and actually talk to. Since I stay home, and also since I have a bit of an OCD "problem" that involves needing things to be a certain way (read: clean), I do the housework. I cook. I tend to the yard.

Now, to me, that simply seems fair. After all, she has to drive to and in a certain place at a certain time. All the stuff that goes with having a 9-to-5 (or 7-to 3:30 in her case) job is on her shoulders. While I happen to be a bit of a workaholic and suffer no issues with actually staying on task and meeting daily goals, I do not have anybody to answer to except for myself. If I don't write, I do not make money. We fall behind on things like house and car payments. A writer is only relevant if he or she continues to write (until you die and a hundred years pass so that you can be considered a classic).

I have a schedule as far as my cleaning is concerned. It keeps the house looking good and allows me to enter a room without wincing or feeling a surge of anxiety and discomfort. My wife has said on more than one occasion that "there is nothing sexier than a man who knows how to handle a vacuum" ...or do laundry...or wash dishes. You get the point.

I don't get it. I don;t find a thing "sexy" about scrubbing the tubs, showers, and sinks in our bathrooms. I find nothing alluring about a day with Murphy's and a large hardwood floor. The other morning, she was getting ready for work and I was in the middle of the morning routine which includes tending to all the assorted watering that needs doing between gardens and animals when she said something along the lines of how sexy it was while I was tromping around the chicken yard, dumping fouled water and refilling with fresh. I looked up at her as she leaned on the porch with a smile on her face. "Are you out of your mind?" I asked. "What could POSSIBLY be sexy about this?" It sure as hell was not the funky smell coming from that nasty water I was dumping out.

She has made similar statements when she comes in and I am in the kitchen with pots and pans on every latest attempt to channel Alton Brown or Alex Guarnaschelli simmering, roasting, or frying on the stove or in the oven. I just don't see it. I have an idea of what sexy is, and that ain't it. Truth be told, I often joke (usually to myself, the dogs, or the birds since the house is void of humans during the day) about my "glamorous life" as a "Best-Selling" author as I cook, clean, and take care of making sure all the bills are paid in a timely manner.

Sixty pounds ago, maybe a compliment about being "sexy" would have stuck. Sadly, even with all my hill running, tire flipping, battle-rope work and P90X, I just don't lose weight. (See earlier comments about my love for cooking.) I am a good four stones above what I would like. If I quit things like ice cream and baking, I could probably get rid of that extra load, but that is not likely. I am hitting 50 years old in September and not likely to ever dip my toe into the dating pool again. I already told Denise that I would become a happy recluse if she should ever meet a pre-mature end. (Yep, we have those morbid conversations...I have no idea why.) Life as a writer is a very singular existence. It would be some very barren soil to try and cultivate a new relationship...hmm...I am starting to wander off topic.

Anyway, this is primarily for the ladies. Perhaps you can illuminate me (and the guys who drop in to read these posts) as to why such things can be considered in any way as being "sexy". 

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Be warned: Potentially offensive content.

As I am closing in on the final pieces of my upcoming novel, UnCivil War: A Modern Day Race War in the United States, the nerves are in high gear. I don't much worry about the opinions that others will toss at me. I already know I will be called a racist (from both the black and white communities most likely), a bleeding heart liberal, a conservative nutjob, and everything in between. That comes with the territory, and since I know who I am as a person, I can let that stuff roll off me. (Not that it doesn't sting, but it does go with the territory as a writer.)

Nope, my concern is if I have created a cohesive story. I really warred with this one. What I did not want to do was turn this into a "war" story a la Tom Clancy. I wanted it to be about a worst case scenario that could rip this country apart. No matter where you fall on the issues of race in this country, I am hoping that most people do not want to see us fracture and come apart. (We did that in 1861 and I would rather us not repeat such things.)

I know this is not the stuff my zombie fans are waiting for, but this story has been brewing in my head since the early 90s and the Rodney King Riots. The premise is simple: an organized group moves in and channels the anger of a city that is rioting after another young black (African-American if you prefer, I honestly don't know which is correct anymore) is shot and killed by a police officer. The officer is acquitted and the riot starts. This group moves in and has the rioters TAKE the city instead of torch and trash it. This spurs all sorts of political and media reaction and (in my opinion) ends with a chilling series of events that leave you wondering if the United States goes the way of the Roman Empire.

What follows is another excerpt. It will be upsetting to some (maybe). This is still a rather tame section as far as the language is concerned, but I hope it makes you want to know more.

Benny Richards pulled on his goggles and tugged the drawstrings for his hooded sweatshirt tight. He tapped his pocket to ensure all his “gear” was ready. Taking one last look at the television, he felt his heart race a bit. They were rioting downtown. He never missed a riot if he could help it. He might even see about upgrading to a better flat screen while he was out.

Leaving his studio apartment, his phone buzzed. It was work. Like he was gonna come in to the copier shop today. Besides, if what he’d seen on television was correct, the copy store was likely to get some of the riot overflow. The windows were as good as broke. In fact, he smiled behind his bandana, maybe he would throw the first brick.

Taking the stairs three at a time, he bounded down the four flights and out onto the street. Up the hill, he could see the smoke. He’d been in so many protests that he thought he might actually be getting immune to tear gas. He started up the hill at a fast walk. Running would only draw attention, and he wanted to get to the action before he had to deal with the police.

As he neared, he could hear the soothing buzz of an angry crowd. He paused for a minute and scratched his head. For a moment he’d forgotten what this one was about. That’s right, he thought, some black kid got shot robbing a bank or something. He briefly considered the possibility that he might not be wanted at this little demonstration, but quickly dismissed it. People who are pissed love anybody willing to take their side, or in Benny’s case, at least acting like they are. Benny just wanted to break stuff. He could care less about the cause as long as there was some breaking and burning going on.

He thumbed his iPod for some good thrash metal and resumed his fast walk to the scene of the mayhem. Just as he crested the hill, a group of ten or so black guys came in to view.

“Fuck the Seattle Police!” Benny yelled. He pulled the brick from his pocket—he always brought his first ‘throwing’ brick—and chucked it at the largest window in sight.

The group stopped and seemed to have a quick meeting of the minds. Cool, Benny thought, I can clique up with some brothers. Better to run with a pack, plus, if the cops show, I won’t be as likely of a target.

The group started walking his way and Benny thumbed down the volume on his iPod. “S’up, fellas?” They continued walking his direction, but there was something in their faces that caused Benny to pause. They looked…pissed. At him!

Without warning, the group broke into a sprint. Benny stood stock still. His legs refused to listen to the voice in his head that screamed for him to run. So this is what a deer in the headlights feels like, his inner-voice scoffed.

The group hit him in a bum’s rush that sent Benny sprawling. He’d been in a few mosh pits. There was a cardinal rule; if you ever lost your footing, the first thing you do is cover your head. That didn’t help for long. As the kicks continued and things inside him broke or ruptured, Benny’s arms couldn’t stay wrapped around his head any longer. As he lost consciousness, his last thoughts were, What did I ever do to these guys?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Moving the office outdoors.

My office this past weekend.
As I said Friday, I was taking off to the woods of the Pacific Northwest for the weekend to work on my upcoming NON-zombie novel, UnCivil War: A Modern Day Race War in the United States. The weather here was going to be in the triple digits, so I thought it would be a nice way to get out and enjoy some cooler temps as well as get some work done.

This was the reason I got my CR-V, but had to move the tent due to the rocky ground.
I actually did get a great deal of work done and am now in the final stretch of the writing process. I am starting to get the jitters about this book since it is so different from what my amazing readers are used to. Also, this is one of those books that can cause some extreme emotions from the readers. I had to use some rather unpleasant language and deal with some vile subject matter to make this book come together. however, if you have been watching the news, I think this book may resonate.

My roof this weekend.
I plan on making another excerpt as the feature of Wednesday's blog post. I am thinking I might actually include a rather rough scene. The language will be "uncomfortable" at best, but this might give you more reason to decide if this is a book you will be reading. Any thoughts on the matter?

Those stones are usually under about a foot of rushing water from the melting mountain snow.
One thing I did observe this weekend was just how bad the lack of snow has hurt our water supply. The rivers and creeks in the area were WELL below their normal levels. I took a few walks in between writing sessions, and with nobody within a mile of my location, got to really enjoy nature. I do live in a very beautiful part of the country.

So peaceful, I saw a great variety of the Northwest wildlife.
So, I hope you all had a great weekend and here is to a fantastic week. Mine is booked with the start of a photography class, the finishing of my book, and the normal chores that come each week. Still, I feel amazingly refreshed and ready to push forward.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

I have gone into hiding...sort of.

As you read this, I am somewhere in the woods of the Pacific Northwest with Aoife and Tyrion, my dynamic Border Collie duo. We are sitting in camp beside a river, not another person in sight as we enjoy a weekend in one of the state's many "undeveloped" campsites. That means nothing but a fire pit and a place to put the tent.

"Hurry up! I am already packed!"
Denise should be arriving soon to find dinner cooking over the open flame. I slipped away early to set up and just get away from what is forecast as a possible 100-degree weekend. I also brought the laptop so I could get in some writing as UnCivil War: A Modern Day Race War in the United States gets close to wrapping up. I am equal parts nervous and excited about this project.

"Huh? Now? Do we go now!?"
So, I will be away from communication for a few days. Jenifer will be hanging here with the birds. (They can't go camping...yet.) I hope that your weekend is peaceful, cool, and as productive as you want it to be. I will see you on the other side.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Fourth time is a charm...

Thank you, random stranger.
This picture misses all the real 'drama" of the moment. So, let me set it up for you. This past Saturday, I ran the Rugged Maniac obstacle course race. They added some new things and one of them is the Warped Wall. If you have seen American Ninja Warrior, then you know that is a 14 foot high wall-type obstacle. I have seen many people fail at that final obstacle. These would be REAL athletes who are in prime condition. Now, they don't have spotters at the top to give you a hand if you make it up that far, but I digress. 

That looks REALLY high!
I was in my head about that obstacle the entire race. When I reached the end and it was down to me and the Wall, I gave it all I fingertips caught the lip of the top...and I fell back down to the bottom. When I made my second attempt, it was actually worse. I was gassed and just did not have the energy. Still, I had to make a run and take that third strike before I could accept being out and take the ladder provided at the side of the obstacle.

No, that is NOT the Warped Wall.
I failed. I was done and started for the ladder. That is where Jenifer (my step-daughter for those not in the know) was there to meet me. "You can do this! You were so close...just give it one more try!" How could I say no to that? What example would I set if I just said I was done, I tried and it was not in my grasp. I could try again next year.(?)

Also NOT the Warped Wall.
I returned to the starting block for the obstacle and tried to find any oxygen that I might have left in my lungs. There wasn't much, but I would try one more time.

Yum! Water!
This final obstacle is right beside the starting corral and, unbeknownst to me since I was delirious with fatigue by this time, apparently the crowd had taken notice. When I slipped from the grip of the spotter on that third try, apparently a collective moan went up from the crowd. (I was told this after the race.) Then, this stranger walked up to me. He told me how to better attack the obstacle. I thought he was full of whatever, but I would try it his way. He told me to simply keep running when I reached the wall. "Don't jump, just keep running and lean forward." Sure. Why not? My way obviously was not working.
Almost done!
When my hands found the spotter and I grabbed the lip and threw my leg over the top of the wall, I missed the cheers from the crowd. I was too spent to barely move. I took a few steps forward and collapsed on the cargo net that I had to cross in order to slide down and be done. All these people were running under me as they started the race I was just finishing, but they were all screaming and jumping up to high-five me. I found out after the race the reason why.

As I was being told by Denise about the crowd and how they had been cheering me on, Jenifer just kept beaming up at me and telling me how proud she was of me. I gotta tell felt pretty damn good. Maybe next week I will share the video I shot using my GoPro...if anybody is interested.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Original Secrets

Stealing Lucky
This weekend was a busy one. Of course the big day was Father's Day. Mine was spectacular. I hope yours was as well. However, my festivities actually started on Friday. Denise and I were fortunate to be invited to catch Stealing Lucky and Business Suit Guy. We are fans of local Poison tribute band, Poison'us, and the drummer, Andrew Losli was kind enough to extend the invite. They are fronted by Will Barnes (who is also the front man for Poison'us), so we were anxious to see them doing their own thing.

The best way I can share the experience with my fellow 80s music fans is to say that, if Brett Michaels collaborated with Bun E. Carlos (coolest drummer in the world), the guitarist from Faster Pussycat, and the bass player from The Clash, that would be sort of the vibe you get from Stealing Lucky. The music is a crunchy 80s rock with lyrics that might make some delicate sorts blush a bit. In was a blast!  They were the best sort of fun, fast, and loud. We will be catching them again.

What I enjoyed most was seeing just how completely different singer Will Barnes is when he is not performing as the Brett character. Truly it is not even remotely close to watching the same person. If you want a real sample of their sound...check this out.

After the set, honestly, with what I had planned early Saturday morning (check back here on Wednesday to learn more), we were set on going home after Stealing Lucky. Andrew Losli suggested we stick around for Business Suit Guy. He said we would be blow away. We agreed...and were NOT disappointed.

Again, the best I can do for my music loving brethren is to say this. Imagine the lead guitarist from Cheap Trick went mad. Now, he ends up being possessed by Weird Al and forced to write the music for Metallica. Yeah...that STILL does not do it justice. Yes, they were hilarious, but not in a conventional way. The BSG front man and guitarist struts, pouts, and poses like any long-haired 80s hair band hero...only...

The man pulls off the most epic parody of all time. There is no real description that I could write to do this band justice. They were well worth staying up past our bed time. I wish I could tell you more, but you will have to see them for yourself. You truly do not expect what comes out of that three man band. Their sound is tight, their music is ferocious, and the lyrics will have you telling yourself that you could not have possibly heard what you thought you just heard that man say.

I walked out of the tiny club with Denise and we both expressed that we now had two more bands to add to our "must see" list. Thanks again to Andrew Losli and Will Barnes for their hospitality. It was a pleasure to see you guys doing what you so obviously love. And, yes, Andrew, you were right...Business Suit Guy was amazing.

Friday, June 19, 2015

What do zombies have to do with football?

Many of you may (or may not) know that I signed a three year deal to sponsor the local arena football team. It has been a unique experience to say the least. Recently, on the team's Wastebook page, when they show a zombified version of one of the players, there has been a surprisingly nasty backlash from fans of the team asking what the hell zombies have to do with football...the short answer is not a thing.

However, the longer version is that I am a local author who happens to be a fan of the Portland Thunder. I bought a pair of season tickets the first season and see myself continuing to renew them for the duration. When one of the front office personnel members--who happened to be a fan of my work--gave me a call and asked me if I would like to become a corporate sponsor of the team, I was thrilled...and scared to death. After all, I know enough about sponsorships to understand that they are not cheap. I am just an indie author with a moderately successful series that has a loyal following. I am not Stephen King, and I certainly don't have the "big bucks".

After a long meeting over coffee with the representative from the Portland Thunder, I agreed to become a sponsor for the next three seasons. As I said, I am a fan. I love football, and I thought that it would be fun to show my support for this young team where it I pay what I consider to be a pretty hefty amount of my hard earned income to call myself a sponsor of Portland's arena football franchise. I am not a company or an office...just an author. I don't make a dime if people don't buy my books. I hoped to get some local exposure. Honestly, at my last book signing here in Portland...not one person showed up. That is like throwing a party and having nobody come.

Imagine my surprise the first time I saw comments basically ridiculing me and my product. I don't see anybody asking how tires or golf relate to football. I seem to be the only actual sponsor coming under fire for supporting the team. If people want to vent some righteous anger, why not start a campaign to get the local television news teams to start giving the team some coverage? They talk about everything BUT the Portland Thunder (with the exception of a possible score mention right before the smirk and oddly long silence just before the sign off of the KGW sportscaster). 

If you simply hate zombies...hey, that's cool. It's not for everybody. And, no, zombies don't have anything to do with football. My book, DEAD: Snapshot--Portland, Oregon is simply the spin off from my 12 book zombie series that begins with DEAD: The Ugly Beginning. It uses the world I created in that series, but is simply the story of how Portland falls in the zombie apocalypse. I have future installments planned and one near release (taking place in Leeds, England). It seemed like the right book to promote in my first year as a sponsor. 

Next year, I will be featuring a book from my That Ghoul Ava series (set in Portland also by the way). That will actually feature Ava dealing with an ogre who is out to hurt the local quarterback of an unnamed franchise (rights to names can be expensive, so...). But the bottom line is that I am just a sponsor. I really thought that the "Keep Portland Weird" vibe would make people want to check out my books. After all, the reason you pay to be a sponsor is that you hope fans of the team will support the sponsors by purchasing their goods and services. 

Does that cover it? I hope so. And if you DO like zombies, I hope you will give my books a try.