Little Zombies

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Latest tune, courtesy of me, my guitar, Garageband, some midi and a little time. Time. That’s the most valuable part. Time. I’ve been realizing more and more that we have limited time. Hardly any at all. And we don’t know how much.

Time is kind of like a wrapped Christmas present that we don’t get to open until the millisecond before our death. We get whacked by the drunk in his car and–bam–we open the present as we sail through the air, check inside the box and think, “Hmm. Okay. I get 48 years, 3 months, 16 days, 2 hours and 37 seconds. This is the last second.” And then we hit the pavement.

Or we open the box while in bed at the cancer center. Tubes and monitors hooked up everywhere. The monsignor or pastor or rabbi just gave you the last rites. Your heart monitor begins to flatline as your disease has the last say, and…we get to open the box, peer inside and remark “Aha. I get 82 years, 5 months, 29 days, 1 hour and 12 seconds. And this is the last second.” Flatline.

So where am I going with this? Nowhere, really. Just that…well, be careful with your time. Don’t presume.

Speaking of presumption, this song, Little Zombies, is about the presumption of life. Some people feel entitled to it. Some don’t even get to be part of the discussion, whether they’re alive and enslaved somehow (sex trade, human trafficking out of Africa and into Muslim countries, kids in sweatshops, little baby humans who haven’t been born yet, whatever and whomever). This one is for all the little zombies who never really got a shot at life.

Food for the Stomach, Food for the Soul

In my mostly life, I work for my family’s farming company. Dirt, tractors, trucks, lettuce, celery, deep wells, fog in the morning rolling in off the Monterey Bay, sunlight and blue sky, no rain and water-contentious California. We do a variety of things, but one small and lovely thing we do is run a CSA program. CSA is short for Community Supported Agriculture. That’s a program where you purchase a subscription to fresh produce. In our program, that means a once-a-week box of organic fruits and vegetables. You, the subscriber, will not know what each weekly box contains until you get it. CSAs are worthwhile programs because they force you to eat in-season, they typically push you beyond the bounds of what you normally eat, and they’re sold at a discount (ours is).

Anyway, here’s a shot of a recent box’s contents from our farm. Good food for the stomach. I’m afraid most American families don’t eat enough fresh vegetables and fruits. Eat more greenery! And reddery! Such as beets. Yum. To be honest, I’m not a big fan of beets, but they’re darn healthy. I recently stumbled across a recipe for salt-roasting beets and then using them in a goat cheese and toasted walnut salad that sounded pretty good. Even for an avowed anti-beetist such as myself.

You need food for your soul too, so read more good books. What is the last book you read that was truly amazing? Listen to good music. Look at good art. No, Kim Kardashian does not qualify as good art. Don’t just glance at it. Look at it. Go to church, even if you don’t believe in God. Go to church, sit there, and try posing some of the eternal questions of the philosophers to yourself: why the heck am I here (not in church…why are you in life)? What does this all mean?

And then go do a little creation yourself. Bake a cake. Write a poem. Write a song if you’re so inclined. Consuming is good for the soul, yeah, but you also need to do a little creation as well. That’s food for the soul as well.

Don’t give me the “I’m not artistic” excuse. Everyone has some kind of creative streak in them, whether its making jerky or gardening or flower-arranging or crocheting or writing the next War and Peace. It’s in there. Trust me. It might be a little withered because you haven’t used it in a long time, but it’s in there. Just give it some mulch (exposure to good art) and then give it a go…

If you don’t, you’re lessening yourself as a human being. Now, if you have a really good excuse, such as being a Christian or Yazidi in Syria and you’re running away from ISIS, then, I gotta say, that’s an excellent excuse. Still, you’ll have time someday. Hopefully.

Man in the Mirror

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 Here’s the latest song. Man in the Mirror. Guitars, bass, drums, vocals upon vocals. Lots of fiddling around and having fun. The verses were particularly fun, as I kept on layering harmonies. Hopefully you can tell that the third verse has more harmonies in it than the 1st and 2nd (and the 2nd more than the 1st). I wish I had more time to write and record songs. Very therapeutic.

Various yarns that weave into one

Whether you subscribe to the chaos theory approach to life, the universe, etc., or a more theistic approach, both philosophies are comfortable with the idea that life is made up of various yarns that tend to come together into one rope.

Sure, they might wander off in random directions, intersect, diverge, re-route, whatever and whichever and however you might imagine, but they tend to converge. The road in the yellow wood that split into two will one day emerge from that wood as one road again.

That said, we’ve all our various yarns weaving together into the tapestry of our lives. For me, that includes the Rangers film having had its first screening last week in Virginia. Next, it’s off to Fandom Fest, August 7-9, in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as at Gen Con in Indianapolis, July 31. Rangers is the second script I’ve written that’s actually been made into film (Rise of the Fellows Hip was the first–same production company: OAP); I’m not expecting it to be the last.

Speaking of film, I’m trying my hand at shooting a music video for a song called Little Zombies (local band called Skypilot, from their upcoming Galactic Holler album). Should be interesting to see what happens with no budget. Could be a trainwreck or could be awesome (as in: eliciting some awe). I think I’m going to go for a horror film approach, plus kids on bicycles.

Other yarns? Slowly (see: glacial) chipping away at another Tormay book. I refuse to divulge information about it right now, as that would be akin to opening the oven door to look at a cheese soufflé mid-bake. Never a good thing.

What are your threads these days?

Slade, Cade and Devin

It’s readily apparent to me that the use of cool new names in modern literature is evidence of ground-breaking creativity. Every Young Adult book that you pick up (and I don’t pick them up as I must save my energy for more vital tasks, such as building lego starfighters with my small, warlike offspring) features a hard-abbed hero with an impressively non-traditional moniker such as Slade, Cade or Devin.

Somehow, a story acquires much more gravitas when it features someone named Slade. For instance…

Slade Devereaux paused in the middle of his morning ritual of five hundred crunches in order to take a long, cooling drink of organic fair-trade water. He knew it was vital to stay hydrated. It was almost as important as raising the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour, plus benefits. As the water slipped down his muscled throat, his mind drifted to last night and the time he had spent with Esme Swavay.

Was she thinking of him now? Was he thinking of her thinking of him now. Yes, he could answer that, being self-aware; he was. But was she now thinking of him thinking of her thinking of him? That was the question.

Any-hoot, I think the real killer app to make it big in modern publishing is the names. It’s all about the names. You’ll thank me later if you’re an aspiring writer, but, if you can come up with awesome names that evoke intense coolness, you’ve made it. Don’t worry about your story. That’ll take care of itself. Concentrate on the names.

Currently, I’m probably writing a story about an exclusive prep school where all the students are actually were-muskrats in secret. Every night they change into muskrats and go out and ravage the city’s trees. The entire population is on edge. Editorials are written in the papers. Commentators pontificate on the nightly news about the ravagement. Everyone is wondering if their avocado tree or kumquat tree will be next.

The only problem is, I don’t have any cool names, so this is gonna be a failure of a story. Unless I come up with the right names.




The flittering nitwits of Twitter

Well, I’m not sure how many nitwits are on Twitter (ten, ten million?), but I appreciate the sound of those three words together. They were meant to be together, like Sonny and Cher, peanut butter and bananas, Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

But, seriously, am I just too old for Twitter or am I merely dumber than a nitwit and simply cannot grapple with the beauty and utility of tweeted communication?

Everyone (practically) in the self-published world says that authors should have a twitter presence. Obediently (once upon a time) I trotted over to Twitter and twigned up. I acquired followers (like a mad prophet) and became a follower (like a sheep…baaa). As my followee list grew, I began to see a stream of tweets (whenever I cared to sign on, which was and is infrequent).

“Buy revolutionary face-cream now! NOW!”

“Steamiest erotica ever! Forbidden love between hard-abbed pilates aficionados! Read NOW!”

“Lolz! R U up wit dat?”

“Best grumpy cat compilation ever.”



“Buy organic yo-yos NOW!”

Needless to say, my eyes glazed over. And still do, whenever I visit Twitter. I assume that whoever invented it has quite a taste for Ritalin.

What’s my point in all this? I can’t remember, to be honest. Spending too much time (any amount of time, in fact) on Twitter has wrecked my concentration. My short term memory has been reduced to 140 characters (or whatever the Twitter limit is–I can’t remember).

Atilla the Hun and the Modern Hotel Experience

So we whisked up through Southern California at the end of our vacation, running the gauntlet of the Los Angeles area freeways and highways and byways, which are way too congested. Worse than a pneumonia patient on his last legs. Though, one really shouldn’t be walking on freeways such as the 405. Stay in your car. Better yet, take a different route.

As the drive was too long for one day (and for three small rascals in the back seat), we paused for the night in the Ventura area. Checked into a hotel, slept, checked out. As we were packing that morning, I took the soap bar and tiny shampoo bottle that we hadn’t used. Put them in my suitcase, well-conditioned by my parents who have always done this for the past fifty-plus years (which has resulted in a bathroom cupboard full of tiny bottles and tiny wrapped soaps that nobody uses or will ever use–I imagine they’ll be parceled out in their will).

A sort of melancholy reverie fell over me as I appropriated the diminutive soap and shampoo. I realized that I was looting the hotel room. Looting within the legal structures of our hotel stay, of course, but a sort of looting, nevertheless. I became aware, then, of a long tradition within human civilization (and near-civilization), stretching back from me to the Vikings pillaging England and other parts, the Ottoman Turks despoiling the Mediterranean, and Atilla the Hun and his hordes looting their way west across the Russian steppes.

True, looting (the non-Ferguson style) has become rather civilized. I looted a small bar of soap that I had already paid for, not several farm animals, a sack of coin, assorted females, etc., from the burning wreckage of a Slavic village. Perhaps in such diminution, we, as humans have diminished in certain ways as well.

Still, there’s a small bit of Atilla in all of us. Even the business-attired, bespectacled, pasty-faced travelers hurriedly checking out of the Marriott each morning in order to drive their rental cars off to whatever meeting or airport or next cup of Starbucks coffee awaits them in their future.

Brilliant Marketing Mumbo-Jumbo

I tend to be a sucker for articles on ebook marketing. Hope springs eternal that I’ll stumble across a fresh insight, some new angle on the industry that I can use. Who knows what that might look like? Perhaps an untapped market on Mars that loves epic fantasy?

Anyway, I just read a piece by a well-respected guiding light in the indie movement. Boiled down in a nutshell as I mix my metaphors like a bartender shaking up a cocktail for James Bond, the article advised the following: increase your customer base, charge more, have more to sell.

Uh, well…hmm…

Kind of reminds me of the article I once saw about a poll of doctors that said the number one way to live longer was to not die.

Anyway, the article plunged me into a deep, moss-encrusted well of nostalgia, complete with small frogs chirping (yes, like birds) Rule Britannia, bringing back the sunlit days of yesteryear when I bravely braved the cubicle land that was Big Idea Productions (makers of Veggie Tales, excellent company-paid lunches, and looming bankruptcy).

We frequently hired consultants in that business. They flew in (usually from either New York or Los Angeles) and spent several days onsite, dressed in impressive clothing and using words like “synergy” and “paradigm” and “dynamic.” They would end up telling us what we already knew (such as: zip up your pants after going to bathroom, never accept large wooden statues of horses from Greeks, and don’t eat oysters in months beginning with the letter Z). We would then pay them lots of money in order to get them to go away and leave us alone.

Of course, we never learned, which is why we would start thinking about hiring more consultants. Usually in the spring, when hope springs afresh and eternal, kind of like how Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park always leaps up again every now and then, jetting up into the air and causing tourists to scurry and click-click-click with their cameras and Mabel Thorkelson of San Jose, California to screech at her husband, “Bob! Get Junior away from that moose! I tell you, we should just put that kid in reform school and be done with it!”

This, in turn, forms Junior’s character, giving him a deep-seated antipathy of authority (such as moose and his mother). Later in life he will end up being a successful bank robber and will fall in love with a beautiful Spanish girl named Esmerelda.

I digress.

All that to say, yes, hope does spring eternal, which means I will probably continue reading articles that advise on ebook marketing, even though none of ’em ever have anything new to say.

Waiting on Iron and Life

Recently, I underwent a series of iron infusions in order to, well, wake up. The procedure was done at a center mostly devoted to cancer. Sunlight slanted in through the windows of a long, narrow room lined with chairs, each with its own set of instruments and devices. I was pretty much always the youngest person in there. The rest of them were mostly elderly, nodding off as the lines dripped whatever chemotherapies they were receiving trickled into their veins.

Drip-drop, numbers ticking down on those IV thingamabobs, the clock minute hand advancing, the shadows inching across the floor. All very restful in an odd way. Almost makes you want to go to sleep and never wake up.

To be honest, most of the patients seemed to be waiting for things to end. Gray, haggard, reduced. I suppose we’ll all get to that place one day. Sooner or later. I hope, though, that more of us are reduced in a different way. Less of ourselves and more of God. It’s only then that exits and death and even more extreme reductions can be met hopefully and with a certain amount of sturdy cheer.

At any rate, I’m waiting for iron and things to wake up. It’s timely that it’s spring, no? Timely and time to hunt for whatever crocuses or whatnot are about to emerge from each of our particular soil.