Friday, August 21, 2015

Happy Anniversary: From the Glad to Be Alive Dept.

Seeing Failure live in July made me the happiest I've been all year.
I'm gonna keep this short. (Relatively.)

Two years ago today I nearly died. No kidding.

If you want to read about it, here is the original post describing what happened as I understood it then and here's last year's recollection. You don't have to read them. Most of you know the story anyway, but just in case.

Massive Bilateral Pulmonary Embolism. "Near fatal" the docs say now when I visit with them. Probably caused by an aggravation of Irritable Bowel Syndrome that was diagnosed only the month previous to me landing on the floor and then in the hospital. What aggravated it? A colonoscopy. A colonoscopy I should have had two years before that because I was showing signs of IBS.

But I was a baby and didn't go for the procedure. I chickened out like a stupid Man.

Could all this have been avoided? Maybe. Not for sure but maybe. Likely the IBS was caused by undue, extreme stress. What caused the stress? I don't know. All this began five years ago, or longer so it's kind of hard to remember. A combination of things including work, depression, fear of failure. Probably lots, lots more. Poor eating habits. Too much extra weight. All of that contributed, I'm sure.

So from five years ago I was in bad shape but I didn't know it. I was walking a lot, I'd been able to maintain my weight. What went wrong?

All that stuff above.

So when this calendar year started off with some extra stress I did the same thing I did two years ago: I hid. I stopped exercising. I ate more. I drank more. I coped as best I could. Everything built up and built up and more stress piled on. I couldn't focus, I couldn't write.

That was the worst part, not writing. I really needed to get things done but people close to me... well, it was scarier than when I was dying myself.

And it went on through June. So six months lost to stress, extra weight added and nothing to show for it except that everyone has turned out to be all right or is recovering nicely. Or holding steady. It's taking a longer time than I would like for me to feel like I'm better, or even closer to 'normal' but it's happening.

Today I'm glad to be alive. The stress isn't quite gone or has been replaced by other stressors but I'm working steadily towards where I was before.

Where I'll pay more attention to what my body tells me, I'll be more aware of what I'm putting in it and why. Especially the why part.

So on the anniversary of my near fatal event, I'm resolving to be better. Again. I can't waste what I've got ahead of me. Again. I'll cherish the things and the people that make me happy and try not to worry so much.

Glad you're all with me. Hope we can be together a long, long time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Inside The Gap

I'm a huge nerd for the band Failure. They have a new album out, The Heart Is A Monster (which you can stream here and buy at your favorite music outlet), they're on tour and I'm in heaven. 
Anyway, this very short tale is inspired by some Failure songs. I won't tell you which ones but a fan should be able to pick them out. The references aren't all that obscure.
It's also an example of a Velocity Story*, the kind of thing I will be doing when I'm at the first ever Kansas City Comic Con August 7 - 8. I took the words "Inside The Gap", a lyric from a song on the album Magnified and started from there. 
So if you're going to be at the show, come see me in Artists Alley and I'll do a story for you. Especially if you're a fan of Failure.

INSIDE THE GAP

The frog spoke. “Stuck in a decaying orbit is NOT where I wanted to be tonight.”
“Yeah, well, me neither.” All the instrument readouts floated in front of me in perfect marching order. None of it was good news. My training dictated I run through all the possibilities and I couldn’t stop myself. The satellite was going down with us in it.
A speaker above the comm satin crackled and hissed. That’s all it had done for the last couple of months. No one answered when I called even though I reached out every hour I was awake. If not for the frog, I wouldn’t have had any company at all here at the end. Houston was long gone.
“Seven orbits left,” I said, “until we burn up.” I let out a long sigh and wiped away the useless screens. My eyes unfocused and I stood mute. My fate was sealed.
This ancient satellite was more than twice my age. It far outlived its manufacturers and their expectations. For twenty years it was my home and more than twice my age. We’d gotten old together and I fully expected to be recalled two years back but that didn’t happen. Budget cuts, Houston said. No money for the program, no money for a rescue. Sorry.
With help from one of the friendly voices I reprogrammed the printer to make food that was technically edible and I kept the garden up. I learned through trial and error to maintain the life support systems. Sometimes the frog supervised me but he never assisted.
A week ago the last cleaner bot gave up the ghost. Dust began to settle everywhere. The frog didn’t notice.
“You want some of the red ones?” The frog perched in the command chair, darting his eyes to my right. The medical bag sat on a powered down console, zipped closed. “These last orbits are gonna be rough.”
“No,” I said. My gesture was emphatic. “I’m going to the garden.”
“Better take your helmet,” the frog said. I think he was trying to be helpful.
I wanted to see the roses. They’re a variety bred especially for the watcher program. They’re supposed to be soothing. They were dying. Lack of water killed them the same as what crops I had been able to salvage.
Still, they had a certain beauty. They, like me, were relics of a more romantic time.
“Four orbits,” the frog said over the intercom. Maybe I should have asked him his name. It didn’t matter now.
The satellite lurched. I fell into a bed where sad-looking cornstalks bent under my sudden weight. Then I was floating. The artificial gravity had gone out.
I looked up. The frog was with me, sitting on the edge of the garden. “This is it.”
My helmet floated out of my hand as I relaxed. The heat grew. 

I saw the sun.

*Velocity Stories are hand-written flash fictions. Each is unique and tailored to the person who suggested it. 'Velocity Stories' is the new brand for Velocity Readout. I'm in the process of changing all the references so forgive me if there's any confusion. They're the same thing. See you at the show.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Bastards Got Me

Wanna know what kind of real impact stress can have? Here's the list of things I have not done because of extraordinary amounts of stress over the last six months:


  • Slowed my finishing a draft of my novel. 
  • Kept me from proofing said novel to send to beta readers. Depression associated with the stress contributed to that, too. "It sucks." - Me
  • Slowed me reading a friend's book. I've promised her a critique and I'm working on it but most of that work has come in the last three weeks or so. And it's still slow.
  • I have books from two other friends that I owe crits on too. 
  • The last Evolver book needs to be proofed and edited before I send it to the publisher. It's written and has been written but it needs a polish before it goes out. Haven't been able to focus on that.
  • The second Agent of DANGER book needs to be written. Can't even think about that, yet.
  • Six or seven short stories have been kinda sorta outlined but not even attempted.
  • And don't even talk to me about my To Read pile. It includes Trigger Warning and The Harvest Man, two guaranteed great books but my concentration is shot.
I'm serious. Trying to concentrate on anything the last six months has been hell. The stress has been from family illnesses and lots of trips to hospitals. Nothing that hasn't turned out good in the end but there were a lot of dark days in there where I wasn't sure which direction I was headed. I foolishly made promises I truly wanted to keep but which all fell by the wayside.

To those whom I promised a critique or a piece of writing: I am sorry you don't have it yet. 

But the last couple of weeks have been much better. Health situations have dramatically improved and my life is beginning to return to what normal was back in early December. Getting out of the house to go see Failure last week was a watershed moment. Sort of the end of the heavy stress.

I've got a lot of work to make up. Instead of worrying about how it's ALL going to get done I have to prioritize what's most important, what can get out into the world fastest and what is most meaningful.

What I'm getting at here is that sometimes Life Takes Over. You have to roll with it and work as best you can. I don't think my day job suffered other than I was gone quite a bit for various things. That was my focus because that's what pays the bills. The creative stuff, despite what I hoped and promised, just ended up litter on the side of the highway. 

Time to put on my safety vest, drive back out there and start picking up after myself. 

More when there's an actual update to talk about. 

Except I may write a bit about how much Failure means to me. Or I may not. I may just keep that one to myself. We'll see. Getting any bit of writing accomplished right now feels pretty damn good. That's why I'm typing this. 

But time to go now. See you soon.

Friday, July 03, 2015

@Failure Live at Liberty Hall

It’s not often Lawrence, Kansas, gets things just a little ahead of the rest of the country but on July 2, 2015, at Liberty Hall, we got to see a much beloved band flexing its muscles. Failure played the first show of their 2015 tour here last night to a very respectful crowd of devotees ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, from people who had seen the band before and a majority who hadn’t. The opening act, Kansas City’s Sundiver, primed the crowd with an interesting, sonically challenging set but everyone was there for the headliner.

Starting with ‘Hot Traveler’, the first song off their ‘new masterpiece’ The Heart Is A Monster, the band was a little stiff. They loosened up as the crowd was obviously into it. Ken Andrews, Greg Edwards and Kellii Scott sounded album-perfect despite a snafu with Edwards’ guitar before the second song. When they got into ‘A.M. Amnesia’, they were having fun, moving around the stage and showing off a little for all of us.


Fantastic Planet was immediately represented when they played ‘Another Space Song’ then ‘Sergeant Politeness’ and Magnified was served with ‘Frogs’. The crowd bounced and banged their heads along with the thundering drums and gut-punching basslines. Edwards and Andrews interchanged playing bass and guitar all night with Edwards managing keyboards and the programming.


They played lots of new material during their ninety minute set including ‘Counterfeit Sky’ and ‘Otherwhere’ but it was ‘Mulholland Drive’ that was the centerpiece. Every song was tight and sounded exactly the way they should have. With the majority of the set coming from Planet and Monster, it felt like Combined with the set’s end of ‘The Nurse Who Loved Me’, Failure proved without equivocation they are as inventive as ever. This tour should serve as notice that Failure is relevant to the current music scene. It may have been eighteen years since they were noticed but now is their time. If they are in your town, or your area, go see the show. It may not be another eighteen years before they come around again, but don’t miss the chance to see them.

Friday, June 19, 2015

IT IS FRIDAY


Wishing those of you who are fathers of children with two legs, four legs, feathers and scales a Happy Father's Day this weekend. And to those of you filling the role of father in any way at all, Happy Father's Day to you, too.

Be good to one another. Look for the positive stuff and hang on to that.