Friday, June 24, 2005

Addendum

Demeted Michelle - I was very rude to not address your comment specifically. I apologize. As I indicated, I am pursuing this story. I hope to have the first draft finished this weekend and get the final draft submitted before the Fourth. It is very rough, still, but I'm hurrying to get my thoughts down while they are still there. I'll polish later.

In the News - Secretary of Defense Donald Runsfeld said yesterday that U.S. public support for the war in Iraq will rebound with the right kind of leadership. Um, Sir? What does that say about the quality of your leadership so far? Politicians are a never-ending source of amusement for people who actually listen to what they are saying.

Brain Dump

Just some miscellaneous jetsam.

My deepest secrets revealed

Thanks to Mik for the link.


Your Sagittarius Drinking Style

In vino veritas -- and, for you, in booze blurtiness.
When battered, you'll spill all your friends' secrets and many of your own.
Tactlessness aside, you are just plain fun to drink with.

You are under the sign of serious partying (what else would you expect from the sign of Sinatra, Keith Richards, the Bush twins and Anna Nicole Smith)?
You're the person who chat up everyone in the room, then persuades the entire crowd to travel somewhere else -- like a nightclub, or a playground, or Cancun.
Good-natured hijinks are sure to ensue (including a high possibility of loopy groping; a spontaneous Sag like you is a brilliant booty call).
Your Signature Cocktails
A travel-loving sign, Sagittarius might be intrigued by drinks like Moscow mules, Singapore slings -- perhaps even a Long Island iced tea (not a bad option, given how much you can put away and still stay vertical). Party monster that you are, you're attracted to shots, like the ever-popular lemon drop. You rules pears, and you could use a nice pear cider right about now, come to think of it.
Your Celebrity Drinking Buddies
Britney Spears, The Bush twins, Margaret Cho, Lucy Liu, Brad Pitt, Anna Nicole Smith, Jay-Z, and Jake Gyllenhaal.





This might explain the time I woke up two days later under the kitchen table without my glasses and wearing somebody else's clothes. I still wonder about that ...

Ree-jected!

The Chattahoochee Review rejected "Carrion Comfort" with an anonymous pre-printed note. In my endless quest to micro-analyze these things, I have concluded that the fact that it took them 4 months to reject it is a good sign. Now considering options for the next market that will have an opportunity to benefit from my boundless wisdom and eternal golden prose.

Zombie-fied

The story now has the working title "Worse Than Death". Progress continues apace. Approaching 3k words now and nearly at the climax. The ending came to me while I was in the tub this morning. It's a real sockdollager!

Doggie doings

Things are often interesting when you have pets hanging around. Lily has acquired the nickname Lily-Goat for her apparently insatiable craving for ripping up paper. We constantly find minefields of multi-colored confetti on the floor. Mollie, our half-Boxer, half Pit Bull, has decided that 3 am is the perfect time to show us how much she loves us. A 50-pound dog with the Tongue That Licked Your Daddy and a talent for Full-Body Wiggling does not make a good bedmate in the middle of the night. Gotta love her, though. She really is a sweetheart. Lottie the CatDog (she thinks she's a dog and can't understand why the others can' climb trees) is a Wild Jungle Jag-u-lar and lurks in random trees awaiting the chance to pounce.

How corny!

Picked two ears of corn, shucked them, and dropped them in the pot last night. After the first bite, my tongue almost knocked my teeth out trying to get another. Also cooked up some snap beans and grilled some squash to go with it. Good living does not have to be expensive.

Maybe I'll be back later with some actual thoughts, but don't count on it. The weekend awaits!

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Meltdown

The eternal darkness of an unfettered mind. The zombie story I started yesterday has settled into the deepest recesses of my mind. Sometime during the past 24 hours, the control rods failed and now I have a full-scale China Syndrome "event" underway in there. Here is a brief summation of some of what has floated to the top of the slag heap today.

After the zombies complete their takeover and have killed and/or consumed all living humans, what next? Dogs, horses, cats? All warm-blooded creatures? Would it stop there? What about fish, reptiles, cold-blooded creatures? What about bugs? Bacteria? Viruses? Amoebae? Where does it stop? Plants, too? What about slime molds and other planimals? If there is a cut-off point, then what happens to the Earth's ecology? My brain hurts. There's probably a novel in here somewhere. This one goes into the "For Further Review" file for later.

What about vampires? If a vampire is killed while the zombie conversion is going on, does it rise as a zombie? Vambie? Zompire? This is just too weird a concept. I'm going to have to go deeper into it.

How about werewolves? A werewolf is killed and its human remains interred. It rises as a zombie. On the night of the next full moon...

Plant zombies. I'm definitely sick. Zombie kudzu. AAAAAAUUUUUUUGGGHHHHH!!!! Zombie daffodils?

A mind is a terrible thing. Just say no.

This illustrates why writers should try new things, stretch themselves, explore lands unknown to them. I've never written or even attempted a zombie story before. The cross-pollination is astounding me. The stew is really bubbling now. What have you tried lately that's new and exciting? In writing, I mean--get your mind out of the gutter.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

A Brief Clip From the Sludge

Usual warnings apply: bad language, some real gross-out stuff, etc. Beware. I see dead people.

I was reading the latest SpecFicMe! market listings last night and saw a listing for the Aim for the Head anthology for zombie stories. That kind of got together with my "necrodancer" idea from a couple of weeks ago and kind of boiled over. Anybody got any paper towels strong enough to clean up a mess that big?

Enjoy. Or not.

-------

Untitled as yet

“Damn!”

Jake bent over and picked his right hand up off the floor. He swiped it across his shirt, trying to knock the dirt off the ragged ends of white bone protruding from the wrist joint.

“Sorry-ass rig-up job. Need to get Doc to put in some pins to hold this thing on. Give me a hand here, Wilbur?”

“Looks to me like you already got one, Jake.” Wilbur wheezed an attempt at a horse-laugh. His lungs and vocal cords had been pretty much eaten up by the cancer that killed him.

“Smartass. Can you just hook this son-of-a-bitch back on for me? We got any duct tape around here? These wires just ain’t holding it.”

Wilbur shuffled over and worked on twisting the wires tight. Jake was glad his nose had rotted off. Wilbur looked like he would smell pretty bad. The cancer had worked him over pretty good, then he’d lain in his bed rotting for nearly two full days in the summer heat before he’d been revived. His skin had blue and green patches where it was not hanging in shreds, and he was still bloated. Jake didn’t understand exactly how that worked, but they stayed just like they were when they came back. Wilbur’s gas problem would never get any better or worse. Neither would Jake’s rotted arms and legs.

“You want to go out after work?” Wilbur’s gasped question jolted Jake back to the present. He flexed his wrist. The bones scraped a little, but he had nearly full range of motion.

“Thanks. Yeah, we haven’t been to the Body Shop in a while. Wanta look in and see if Summer’s still working there?”

“Sure. Haven’t seen her in a while. Wonder if she’s still in one piece.”

They laughed and turned back to their work, Wilbur turning back to the grinding wheel, and Jake picking up the air wrench he had dropped and getting back to work tightening lug nuts.

#

As soon as he stepped through the door, Jake was assaulted by the noise. The music pounded into him like a middle linebacker with delusions of being Butkus reborn. He stopped dead in his tracks, letting his ears adjust to the roar and his eyes to the gloom. For a moment, all he could see was the brightly-lit stage and the naked woman grinding and pole-spinning. She was a sight to see, perfectly formed and perfectly preserved. Even her face was still as beautiful as the day she died. The only clothing she wore was a bright scarf around her neck, hiding the mortal slash across her neck. Jake grinned. He was always glad to see Summer. He sure was glad her killer had kept her in a freezer.

When he could see his way, he found an empty table close to the stage. Wilbur shuffled close behind and they sat. They waved when Summer turned toward them, and she grinned and winked. Jake looked around at the sparse crowd. The bar was dark and empty, zombies don’t drink, as was the back stage. A few girls sat at tables with the customers. None of them were anywhere near as whole as Summer. She was the star attraction here.

“Slow day,” he shouted in Wilbur’s direction.

“Good. More for us.” The two men grinned and turned their attention back to the stage.

Summer was just finishing her second song. After one more, her set would be through. Jake pulled a dollar from his pocket and strolled up to the stage. Summer came across and leaned over from the waist dangling her tits close to his face while she swayed to the music. He was mesmerized. After a few seconds, he was able to pull his attention away and slid the bill under her garter.

“Thanks, sweetie,” she said. Her voice was somewhat sibilant due to the unfortunate leakage under her scarf.

“Come see us when you get through, okay?”

“You got it, Jake. See you.” She turned to another fascinated onlooker at the other side of the runway and began to give him his money’s worth. Jake watched for a moment, wishing he still had some physical response., then walked back to the table.

“You what I don’t get?” he asked Wilbur. “Why do we still have human wantws and feelings when we can’t do anything about them anymore? It’s not fair.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. I mean, why do we still have this hunger for live flesh when everything in the world is dead? Can’t see no point to it.”

“You know what?” Jake turned to Wilbur and looked at what was left of his face. A line of drool dribbled down his friend’s chin. “If we’d’ve had any sense at all, we would’ve set up some farms or something. I mean, it don’t take much to satisfy me, just a couple of ribs or a hunk of ham every now and then. That wouldn’t’ve been hard.”

“Yeah.” Wilbur wiped his chin with his shirt sleeve as he spoke. “Hey, you remember that girl we found back about three years ago? The one living in the meat locker at the Kroger?”

“Oh, man! That was the juiciest piece of ass I ever had. Man, she was ripe!”

“I’m telling you! I got part of her arm. Didn’t even have to pull, just bit right through it.”

“Yeah.” Jake’s mouth was leaking now with the memory. He wiped and continued. “Tender as milk-fed veal. But that got me thinking. You know I have this hole where that bastard got me with his 12-gauge. Took out most of my stomach and perforated my guts real good.”

“Uh-huh.” Wilbur still had a far-away look, remembering.

“Well, I was on my knees, bent over gnawing on her ass, but every time I’d swallow, it’s just slide down and fall out. When I got through there was a pile had to be a foot high of chewed-up chunks. None of it stayed in, but I was still full. It was weird.”

“I know, man, this whole business’s just damn strange. I mean, what happened? Where’d all this shit come from?” Wilbur waved his hand around at the rotted remains of humanity inhabiting the strip club. “I mean, I know this ain’t the best example of people in here, but everybody’s like this! What is this?”

Jake shook his head. “I been worrying that over ever since I came back. Can’t figure it out at all. One of these days, I’m gonna go over to the college and ask one of them biology professors if they have a clue.”

A hand slid over his shoulder and down his chest. A cold cheek pressed again his cheekbone. “Hey guys, what’s up?” Summer’s soft hiss would have been a purr is she had had an undamaged larynx.

“Just talking about what’s been going on the last five years. Wondering, you know?” Jake reached up and stroked his one whole finger down the back of her hand, marveling at the feel of supple flesh. He felt a pang of hunger, but it was easy to suppress, since he well knew her flesh would only make him sick. He’d been there. Wasn’t going back.

“Giving me the bird, Jake?” She giggled.

He laughed. “Eat me, baby.” She giggled again. It was an old joke. It turned out his only whole finger on his left hand was his “bird” finger. Handy sometimes.

The stripper sat between them and leaned over and gave Wilbur a peck on his fuzzy green cheek. “Hey, handsome. Ready for a romp?”

Wilbur grinned. “Damn! Wish I could, baby, but, you know, the old equipment don’t work so well no more.”

“Next time, then? Maybe somebody’ll make a pill or something, huh? Too bad Viagra won’t work on us.” She sighed. “Damn this! Can’t even fuck anymore!”

Jake wished he knew her real name. It didn’t matter, but it bothered him just the same. One day he would make a real effort to find out. He leaned back, wishing yet again for a cold beer.

Monday, June 20, 2005

So Just Who Do I Think I Am?, Revisited

OK. Got a little extra time today, so I'll take another shot at this.

Should aspiring authors write articles about writing? What could they have to offer anybody else?

Yes, and lots.

While professional writers certainly have experience and skill to share that can be of great benefit to all writers, even amateurs can contribute to other writers' education. We all know, and keep reminding ourselves daily, that every writer is unique, with a style, voice, vision, and way of thinking different from every other writer in the world, past and present.

The act of writing is a giant puzzle. Think about those wooden 3-dimensional puzzles and imagine one that takes a lifetime to put together. That's what writing is. Each of us has our own perspective on the puzzle. We each can see how certain pieces fit, but not others. Frequently, all it takes for us to solve one tiny piece of the puzzle, a story, novel, or article, is for the right person to speak up and say "This is what it looks like from where I stand". Suddenly our piece clicks into place.

While professional writers can see more of the puzzle than I can, they are not gods.

CRACK! BOOOOOOM!

Ok, Ok! Ray Bradbury is a god! I bow before his divinity and acknowledge that he is, in fact, the best that ever was. Satisfied? A red chicken in the dark of the moon? Ok, I can handle that. May I please be allowed to continue, now? Thank you.

Whew! Where was I? Oh, yeah, writers are not...well, you get the picture.

Even rank amateurs have a valid perspective on the writing. Some of them may be deluded to a greater or lesser degree, but each has something to offer, however small. I always come away from reading articles in Vision or any other writing magazine with something I either didn't know or had not thought of before.

So, yes, any writer can write a useful article about the art or craft of putting words together into a meaningful mosaic showing the world and our place in it.

In addition, writing about writing has some really terrific benefits. Every time I have an idea for an article, it's something that I want to know more about. Writing about it gives me the chance to research and explore, to try something new and different, to stretch and grow. Continuing education is vital for a writer. If you're not learning, you're either stagnating or decaying. I don't know about you, but that does not interest me at all.

Another benefit is writing practice. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice. Any skill must be practiced, or it corrodes. Flexing those writing muscles keeps them in tone, and even adds to their strength and endurance. Writing practice is essential. Even if you are not working on your blockbuster novel, write something, anything. There are no wasted words, as long as you pay attention and keep improving your skill.

Ok, enough for today. I have to find a red chicken, somewhere. Ray is not a patient man...god. *cringe in anticipation of another lightning bolt*

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Exercise -- the New Miracle Cure?

I started my exercise program 11 days ago. Has it already been that long? Results have been immediate and dramatic. My weight is down 8 pounds--mostly water, I'm sure, it gets harder from here. The most dramatic effect, though, has been on my blood sugar levels. I am steadily reducing my insulin doses, and it looks very much like I will be able to drop it entirely in the next couple of weeks. That's really good news!

My blood sugar is more tightly controlled than it has ever been in the four years since I was diagnosed. Random testing gives results around 100-120 mg/dl. 100 is baseline normal. Even my fasting blood sugars are down to 130-170. I seem to have an intense Somogyi effect, or early morning rebound, that causes my morning blood sugar level to go pretty high.

For insulin-resistant Type II diabetics, exercise has 4 basic benefits aside from the normal cardio-vascular benefits that everybody gets. First is an immediate drop in blood sugar as muscles burn more glucose as they work. Second is a decrease in insulin resistance, letting cells use the glucose that's available in the blood. Third is weight loss, which also helps decrease insulin resistance. Fourth is building muscle mass. Muscles use glucose even when they are at rest, helping keep blood glucose levels steady.

With these implications in mind, my goals are two-fold: lose weight and increase and tone muscle. To support these goals, my workout has two components. I do 2 circuits on the weight machines--12 reps each, I'm still working to determine my ideal weight on each machine. I follow that with some ab and oblique work on the exercise ball to reduce intra-abdominal fat, which is a heart attack just waiting its chance. Finally, I finish with 30 minutes on the stationary bike. My gimpy knee eliminates the treadmill and Stair Master. I'm working on getting my heart rate up to around 100 for 20 minutes or more at a time.

The bid down side to all this is that this intensive workout can, and does, push my blood sugar level dangerously low very fast. So fast, in fact, that the symptoms of hypoglycemia don't have time to manifest. It has gone as low as 50, which is way too close to insulin shock for my comfort. My defense is awareness and a ready supply of glucose tablets or simple carbs like crackers. Eternal vigilance is the price of safety.

By keeping these things in mind (and the $25 a month I'm signed up for!), I can motivate myself to go to the gym frequently and stick to my routine. My current plan is to go on Saturday and Sunday mornings and Tuesday and Wednesday after work. So far, so good.

The American Tomato Torture

Green tomatoes are diabolical, truly the work of the Devil. For weeks, they hang on the vine, mocking me with their greenness, teasing, promising juicy redness that never comes. Cussing at them doesn't seem to help, but I don't know what else to do, and I'm just not the most patient guy around.

On a much more positive note, I am picking squash, cucumbers, pole beans, and jalapenos. Good eatin'! The first ear of corn will be ready within days, and the okra has its first blossom, with many more fixing to open ("fixing to" is Southern for "getting ready to"). Lima beans are just starting to form pods, and sweet potato vines are running wild underneath everything else. Living much, you might call it.

Hooray for gardens! Hooray for green, yellow, red, and orange: the colors of summer, the colors of life. Living well does not have to cost a lot, just look for the simple things that make the difference and remember: quality is much more important than quantity.