Tuesday, September 20, 2011

UFO Antho Kickstarter Campaign

So, here is the Kickstarter campaign a potential publisher wants, in order to do the UFO poetry anthology Barry Napier and I would very much like to do.

And, for the record, the guy reading the excerpt of one my poems pretty much kills it. It's the first time I've ever heard anybody read one of my poems without me cringing, as a result.





ahem.

The retail work is going terribly. That's all I'm going to say at the moment, in order to stay out of whiny-spleen-venting territory. I've pretty much worked eight days in a row, much of that getting up at 3 or 4am.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

*Yawn*

The last few days, I've wanted to quit Wal*Mart for the second time. Beyond the usual host of personal reasons, (um, not my intended career path that I went to grad school for) it's just been a hectic time, with everybody on edge and becoming pissy and snappy at a drop of a hat. My store recently remodeled into a supercenter. When I left freelancing and went back to retail a few months ago, it was with the understanding, of sorts, that I'd likely get shuffled back into the department manager mix. Well, I was lucky to get the helm of a new meat department contingent on the supercenter re-openning. Today was the store's official grand re-openning. Approximately 5,232,921,009 things basically had today as a deadline, as people from the corporate end of things were going to inspect the store after ceremony. (Don't ask). A lot of the product actually didn't come in until last night. Which means, despite the stress of the deadlines, I had to get up and go to work at 3am, this morning, and I didn't leave the store until 3pm today. If you think that's bad, my boss hasn't had two days off in the last two months, it seems.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Blight -- 23 Days Without Medication


Previous installment can be read here. Buying the ebook can be done on Kindle or Smashwords, for 0.99$.

Five Months Later, and …

23 Days Without Medication

As stress relief, Floyd Cervenka desperately wanted to masturbate, but in his oven, a severed head laughed at him. At first, Floyd didn’t know whether it was a hallucination, or if somebody had put it there. If he retreated from hysterics long enough, he could rationalize it. He had not slept in 72 hours. Over the last three days, he had done nothing but eat peanut butter on white bread, and he drank about five bags worth Shop & Drop instant coffee, black without any sugar or creamer. He had also drank about a case of Lo-Carb Creature. It was Floyd’s idea of acting responsibly – IBSL was threatening foreclosure again, and he had a lot of work to do and a lot of money to earn.

Most of it consisted of consulting Gray’s Anatomy and his own, personal copy of the DSM-IV-TR and The People’s Guide To Pills. A medical website was paying five bucks for each medically adequate definition of drugs, illnesses and body parts. The work was so profitable, Floyd was afraid to go to bed, thinking that he’d wake and it would be claimed by somebody else. Then, he would be back to writing search-engine-optimized Botox articles for $1 each.

Before hearing a high-pitched cackle from his stove, he had taken a break from the upper arm’s brachial artery. He was surfing the net for naked girls, specifically for a brunette with tattoos. He was about at settle on a link that suggested, Nerdy Girls Need Hard Loving! That’s when he heard the cackling. Other noises were hard to describe, and the closest Floyd could manage was phlegmy cough after sucking helium.

When he opened the oven door, he dropped his coffee, and then he slipped on the subsequent puddle, once he tried to back away. That’s when he came eye-to-eye with the severed head. It didn’t look normal, though. The skin had turned a twinge of blue, and the eyes were only dark cavities. Still, they blinked. Often. The head’s mouth was drawn into a wide, brown-toothed grin.

Like many times before, Floyd sought to prove it wasn’t real, that this was just another hallucination or a left-over figment from one of his all-to-vivid dreams. He got to his feet and walked over to the oven. Reaching in, he grabbed the head by its gray-streaked hair . Instead of his hand going through an immaterial head, the thing’s hair felt greasy. He tried to raise it to eye level, and the thing slipped out and smacked face-first against the floor. Still, it didn’t stop laughing. Floyd stood over it and stared down at it for a long while. He kicked it, slightly, and it rolled.

“Don’t you ever stop laughing?”

The head slightly rolled over to face Floyd. It winked an empty eye cavity. Then, it stopped laughing for a moment. “OF COURSE NOT,” it rasped. Then, it went back to its phlegm-filled cackling.

Floyd gritted his teeth, and then, he lost his temper. Bending over, he grabbed the head by its greasy hair and flung it against the wall. When it didn’t stop cackling, he grabbed a broom from next to his fridge and started beating the head with the straw end. That did nothing. Floyd really didn’t want to do what he did next, but he felt he had no choice. He reached into his pocket for his phone.

“911—what’s your emergency?”

“Somebody is pulling a prank on me.”

“Oh Christ—Floyd, you’re not supposed to call 911.”

“Fuck you. There’s somebody fucking with me.”

“Have you taken your medications?”

“No, but that’s not the point.”

The dispatcher, a woman, sighed. “Please hang up, and only call this number when you have a real emergency.”

“This is a real fucking emergency.” He stared down at the laughing head.

“No, it’s not. Take your meds, Floyd.”

“Here,” he said. He put his flip phone next to the laughing head. “Hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“The laughing?”

“Floyd, I’m going to hang up, now.”

A sneer broke out across his face. Again, he stared down at the head. The empty eye sockets squinted, and elaborate crow’s feet spread out across the thing’s temples, merging with the four major brow creases. “Oh, fuck you.” Floyd opened the kitchen cabinet above his sink and started throwing glasses at the laughing head. “Fuck you, you fucking fuck!” When he ran out of glasses, he started flinging plates.

“FLOYD! You still there?”

“Where the-goddamned-else would I be? Ulan Bator?”

“Floyd…”

“You know,” he held the phone at arm’s length, “I HEAR MONGOLIA IS JUST FUCKING SNAZZY IN THE SPRING TIME!” He brought the phone back to his ear. “You hear me? Or will I need to start reading the copy I sold to snazzy-planet-dot-com last week?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean? Do you need help?”

“Do you think I call 911 for the scintillating conversation?” He breathed deeply. “If so, I‘m so far from scintillated right now. If scintillation were a boulevard in Ulan-Fucking-Bator, it would be…”

The woman dispatcher sighed. “Alright, I’ll send somebody over.” Then, she hung up.

Floyd grabbed a forty of Jersey Reserve Malt Liquor from his fridge. He sat on the floor, crossed his legs, and uncapped the bottle. He took a sip and stared at the laughing head. However, fatigue mingled with his caffeine crash, and the alcohol just made it worse. He fell quickly asleep, resting his chin on his fist.

When he woke, somebody was nudging him with their wingtips. Floyd looked at the foot, and then upwards. He saw a black man in a Khaki trench coat staring down at him.

“Oh,” Floyd said. “Detective Johnson, it’s right,” he pointed. However, the laughing head was gone. “Oh.” Floyd clamped his eyes shut for a moment. “Oh, fuck.”

“That’s all you got to say?”

“Trell, it was here just….”

“You know what? I don’t know, and I don’t care.” He turned and strode out of the kitchen. “I have so much more important shit to do.” And he left.

Wearily, Floyd stood and returned to his computer. All the high paying medical writing jobs were gone. Floyd took a sip of malt liquor, deciding that he desperately needed to get drunk.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Unintended Retail Hilarity.

Assistant Manager: Are you consumable?
Me: No, I'm meat!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In retail, sections of the store are broken down into zones, sections, and departments. The wording will likely very by company. However, like any job, words become jargonized. While the above sounds EXTREMELY silly to most people, the translation is actually this:

Assistant Manager: Are you [part of the] consumable [section]? [Section being a part ofthe store containing many departments]

Me: No, I'm [part of the] meat [department, which is not part of your section. Therefore, leave me alone; you cannot pull me off task to complete whatever bullshit note the Store Manager gave you.]!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Blight -- Prologue

I'm thinking I'm going to start serializing some fiction for just the hell of it, just for kicks. Instead of writing something new and getting horribly behind, I'm going to start with something already finished, and then post an update every Sunday. This will give me time to write something new for this purpose, once this story has been completely gone through. Of course, if anybody's interested the whole story is here on Kindle for 0.99$.

Prologue

There were five men in tuxedos sitting in the front row, and Floyd Cervenka thought that was strange for a town hall meeting. The back of their heads looked exactly the same: jet black hair, combed straight and greased down. Besides those men, there was the usual smattering of senior citizens – all of whom had fallen asleep already. This week, however, he realized he was the only journalist in attendance. He sat there, pen poised, ready, and pointed at a blank page in his composition book.

Only, Floyd had nothing to write, at first. Monmouthside Height’s town hall meetings were banal to begin with. Mayor George Gurley spent most of the time talking vapidly about a being a “friend of business” and how “Conservative times needed conservative solutions.” Floyd gritted his teeth and raised his hand.

Mayor Gurley just scowled at him for a moment. “What?”

Floyd tapped his pen against his blank page. He held up a thick packet of new ordinances. “So let me get this straight. You’re going to raise property taxes, cut the funding for the library, defund the free clinic, and give hefty rebates to the real estate management industry?”

“No.” Gurley’s scowled deepened. “Those are austerity measures, and I’m creating a business capital incentive…”

“Bullshit.”

“All industries. Realty is just one …”

“And doesn’t the Gurley family own about a third of this town, anyway? So that means, by raising my property taxes, your family is going to pocket…”

“That is uncalled for. I could sue you for slander.”

Floyd grinned. He looked at the small group of sleeping senior citizens snoring around him. “Go ahead. Do it. Imagine the headlines: Slumlord Sues Local Whistle Blower. Certainly would call some attention to Gurley & Sons, Inc.”

Mayor Gurley turned to the five men in tuxedos seated up front. The whole time, none of them turned to face Floyd. “Pay no attention to him. He’s just a local whack job.” He turned back to face Floyd, again. “One who’s had a very long history of delusional mania—like the time he thought aliens had infiltrated our school board. He picketed for weeks on that one. Plus, there was the time he was caught masturbating in the…”

“Fucking hell,” Floyd said. “You’re going to bring that up?”

“Why not? Plus, three years ago, you once claimed inter-dimensional aliens took over the Monmouthside Republican Party.”

“Yeah? And?”

“You are just a crazy liberal. Like other crazy liberals. You were sued for unjust defamation.”

“That’s not important. You’re clearly trying to…”

“Have you taken your medications today?”

“Yes. But that’s none of your damn business. I asked a legit news question. Bringing up my mental health history is skirting the question.” Floyd tapped his pen against his composition book again. “So, answer me. How much of my property taxes will go into your family’s pocket?”

Mayor Gurley’s face flushed deep red. “How do you expect to revitalize this shithole of a town, if I can’t raise capital to…”

“Ah,” Floyd stood from his metal fold up chair. “You’re not denying it. Wonderful.” He made his way to the back of the hall, but before leaving, he stopped and turned around. “One thing. Who are the fucktards in tuxedos?”

None of the five men turned to face him.

“And why,” Floyd said, “are they wearing tuxedos? Seems a bit odd—even for business men.”

“If you must know,” the Mayor gripped the edges of his podium. “They represent a large financial company that’s relocating here.”

“Great.” Floyd rolled his eyes.

“I’m glad you…”

“That’s sarcasm, asshole.”

Floyd left the meeting. He didn’t see any reason to stay. After all, he had what he needed – the open meetings law required this type of monthly meeting, with all the newly passed ordinances available to the public for comment. Floyd figured he’d go back to his cubicle and leaf through the packet, before writing another scathing editorial.

He walked two or three blocks, seemingly not paying attention to the dilapidated houses around him, as well as most of the boarded over store fronts. However, once he returned to the Monmouth County Messenger office, he was slightly taken aback.

Desks, chairs, and computers sat on the curb. Floyd was surprised the computers were not stolen already. Somebody had nailed slabs of rotting plywood over the door and the storefront window. Floyd looked up, and instead of seeing a business marquee, he only saw chipped, white brick. He glanced around, not knowing what to think. Then, the boarded over door opened.

His boss D’Wayne Washington, a very fat African American man in a grey suit waddled out. He held out an envelope.

Floyd took it. “What’s this?”

“Everything I owe you, plus severance.”

“Why?”

D’Wayne shook his head. “You know the thing about the newspaper business and the Internet?”

“But…”

“Floyd, I’ve been losing money for two years, now. My credit’s gone. I have no advertisers. I’m sorry, but I’m bankrupt.”

“Aw, shit.” Floyd looked at pavement. “That sucks.”

“You don’t have to tell me.”

“I know.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t warn you,” He said. “I tried everything. I wanted new investors.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

“Move to Newark,” he said.

“Now, that is desperate.”

“A job is a job. I’d take one in Camden if it meant getting paid.”

“Well, best of luck with that.”

“Thanks.”

D’Wayne turned to reenter the boarded-over office. “Now, I have to finish moving stuff out.”

“Before you go.”

“Yes?”

“What about my health insurance?”

“It’s paid till the end of the month. I can get you the COBRA paperwork?”

“I can’t afford COBRA payments and pay my mortgage.”

He turned. “Floyd, I’m so sorry. I really hate that I’m doing this you. Especially now that you have your shit together, finally…”

“It’s okay. I’m sure I can find some sort of writing job with benefits somewhere.” He paused for a moment, slightly unsure of what to say. “Thanks for the steady work, though.”

They shook hands. Once he got home, he noticed a thick letter waiting in his mailbox. Floyd assumed it was just junk mail. Later, Floyd would regret not opening it immediately. A company called Interstate Business Savings & Loan (IBSL) had bought his mortgage off of First Garden State Trust.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Needfire, and ... Um, Whatever Happened To That Pound Chapbook?

For the foreseeable near-term future, Needfire Poetry will be going on hiatus at Belfire Press. This is something that Jodi Lee and have talked about, and we both agree that it's for the the best. To put it frankly, my personal life is a mess right now. It has been for years. However, the problems have accrued like this: my mother's failing health was always a distraction, but there was something a little bit more afoot.

I have a mortgage, and my wife and I got that mortgage at the peak of the housing bubble, when everybody was telling us to "Buy, buy, buy!" Problem is, I was a full-time-for-part-time-pay college adjunct back then. The thought was: after only a few more years of adjunct hell, I could finally land a full time position at least at a community college. That never happened, and out of financial need, I went to Walmart in late 2008. The housing bubble burst ... and now my wife and I have been constantly fighting off foreclosure, especially since our mortgage was sold by our lender to a predatory group of douchebags. So, now it's 2011, and the mortgage nightmare has never gone away. Which leads to one other place: online freelancing. I spend a lot of time doing it, partly because there is just so much debt that I have amassed, and I am constant need for cash just to keep creditors from coming after my wife and I. Actually, 90% of my freetime behind a computer is spent trying to squeeze nickels and dimes from the internet.

And so, that dovetails into The Ezra Pound/Ghost Chapbook that has seemingly taken years to put together. Forget about the circumstances/drama with the original publisher. The chapbook was then going to be published through Needfire, but the bad economy necessitated cutting it from the line up. Then, I was going to create a digital ebook/print chapbook imprint for Needfire, but after the ongoing financial problems I'm having, that seemed like a very bad idea. So, that leads me to right now. The book is clossally late. I still wish to do it, and I'm still going to try very hard to, soon, once the dust settles a little at work.

But, that also brings me back to Needfire going on hiatus. Jodi and I both agree that it should and will be revived at some point. However, it will be once everything is sorted out, and I can come back to running a imprint when I can devote much more time to it without freaking out about how up the air everything regarding my home is. Until then, my personal time will likely be spent either writing my own material or finishing off prior obligations like Pound.

Also, there's this UFO poetry anthology that I promised Barry Napier I'd help him with. Just in case anybody's curious, that book is his baby. He's the lead, and I'm just sort of an assistant -- we haven't really talked at length, but I think I'm helping with the slush. There may be some skullcracking -- ahem, I mean editing -- going on there, too. So, it doesn't really conflict with the reasons why Needfire is going on hiatus. But, more on UFO book a little later.

Wind, Rain, Thrown-Out Back, and Meat

So, just got off work. Hurricane Irene is set to romp around the Jersey Shore for a bit. The past few weeks I've been settling into the reality that my mother has passed on. I was "officially" promoted at Walmart since coming back, and I've been training at a store on how to set up and run a meat department. However, during all of that, I threw my back out and was in pain for quite awhile.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dropkick Murphies -- Amazing Grace


I was not a fan of this version at first. However, I realized something. It starts with the dirge-like bagpipes, before moving into more energetic territory. That's really a lot like coming to terms with grief.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Wit And Wisdom Of Josephine Ristow

When You have a long term relationship with somebody, you are bound to have several special inside jokes that only you and them understand. With my wife, there's always the gay lion "Oh, Rar!" thing we use from time to time -- and it came originally from South Park. There is one thing that has been on my mind the past few days. It's something my mother once said to me when I was like 9 years old and she was teaching me how to ride a bike, when we lived in England.

"You only get one mother! Any other after me will be made out of plastic!"

We have laughed hard, her and I, over that line for more than twenty years. Why we found it so hilarious would be hard to explain. It had something to do with me being lazy and not wanting to learn how to ride a bike. That day, she also threatened to cook me plastic pork chops, and everything else she could put the word "plastic" in front of. It is, of course, a very perceptive statement on many levels, but she said this long before she ever really thought of her own mortality. So, in the wake of her death, I find myself the need to repeat those words again:

"You only get one mother! Any other after me will be made out of plastic!"

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Few Random Thoughts.

--It's hard to write anything after the post about my mother. Then again, she would want me to move on. And, I'm actively trying to do that. Still, in the days ahead, there's the viewing and Catholic funeral service to attend.

--As part of being a better son to my father, I think I'm going to actively start doing something I always wanted to do. Get several days worth of audio out of him, in the form of recorded interviews. It really took me quite awhile to realize that the circumstances of my family and my upbringing are not "normal" as compared to the average American family. Also, it's an excuse to spend more time with my father.

--I plan to save up mTurk earnings to by a slide scanner on Amazon. There are literally hundreds of slide photographs and my parents' house from the Azores and all the other places my family has lived.

--I returned to walmart, and after only a few weeks, they have already promoted me. I will manage a newly created Meat department. Commence with the silly puns, in T-Minus five, four, three....

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Eulogy for My Mother

My mother turned 69 a week or two ago. That means, she was born towards the end of World War Two. She grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, as a third generation Italian American. Her mother's family came from Rome. Her father's family was Sicilian. As she grew up, she came to love to love Elvis Presley -- although she never actually owned any of his records until later in life. She also loved The Beatles, Richard Simmons exercise tapes

Among the many things to do, she loved to dance. This was something I was reminded of on nearly a weekly basis, especially that she had once danced on television's American Bandstand. My father loved to dance too, especially with her. Once they met and started dating, they became high school sweethearts -- even attended prom together. She used to scold my lack of rhythm by pointing at her thighs and proclaiming, "These legs danced on Bandstand! What do you mean you don't know how to dance? It's in your genes, boy! Your genes!"

My mother and father had a courtship that lasted several years. It even persisted across state lines. For a time, my mother lived in South Carolina. Eventually, they married. My father did his Masters degree at the U. of Maryland. He took his first job at a predominately African-American high school in innercity Washington, DC during the racial tensions of the 1960s. He was the only white guy in the whole school There, he was considered a federal employee. After watching my grandfather struggle as a steel worker, through strikes, low pay, and an abysmal pension, he decided he wanted to pursue a career with the federal government. There, he saw stability. He was eventually hired as part of the Department of Defense Dependent Schools.

The first job took my mother and him to the Azores, a Mid-Atlantic island chain that is Portuguese territory. My sister, Catherine, was born there. The time in the Azores didn't last long. Eventually, my mother and father and sister moved to the Philipenes and the now defunct Clark Air Force Base. In 1970, my older brother Paul, was born. Eventually, the family moved back to DC for a year, and eventually, they moved to Germany as my father's career in the federal government progressed. My family moved to several different bases in Germany. I was born at Bittburg Air Force Base. From there, my family moved to United Kingdom.

During this time, my mother patiently put up with the globetrotting, the constant moving, and living in other countries. She was mostly a housewife during this time. She began to perfect her ability to cook, which was an amazing talent of hers. Her travels around the world also allowed her to try things outside of her comfort zone, meaning she moved beyond the Italian American fare she was used to, trying nearly everything. Her ability and prowess behind a stove or oven was well loved by every who knew her.

But, secretly, my mother wanted to be more than just a mom or a master home-cook. She began taking night classes from the University of Maryland on the military bases in Germany. Ultimately, she graduated with Bachelor's in Education and Social Work. This need for self enrichment countinued much later into her life. During the 2000's, she completed a Masters Degree conferred jointly by The University of North Carolina At Wilmington and East Carolina University. But, that's also getting ahead of things a little.

After my family left the United Kingdom, we moved to Bermuda. It was there my mother began her elementary school teaching career. She started with no experience, reasoning "I am a mother--that makes me a natural teacher." And she was that, a natural. And she loved this job throughout the years, as it took her to jobs in Belgium, The Netherlands, North Carolina, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, after my father retired. She was an exceptional teacher of children, both her own and others.

My father retired from the federal government in 1997. His last assignment was London Central High School, near High Wycombe, in England. During the 1980s, it was the same area my family lived in. At the time, my mother and father bought a house there. The plan was to return there, sell it, and move back the United States. At the time, I was at West Virginia University finishing my Bachelors and first masters degree. However, since my father claimed that he had "Dragged this poor woman all over the planet," he deferred the choice of where to go next to her.

My mother took a job in Jacksonville, North Carolina aboard a marine corps base. After a year or two, she turned down a reassignment to Iceland. She stopped working for DODDS and left the federal government, teaching at a semi-rural North Carolinian school. Essentially, my parents were growing old together, and their desire had always been to retire at the Jersey Shore. So, they moved to Ocean Grove, New Jersey. My mother took work in New Brunswick and commuted. My father lived as a working retiree, adjuncting a few classes.

In 2008, my mother developed a persistent cough. Her doctor at the time claimed it was related to asthma. He didn't order any chest X-Rays, and he prescribed an medical inhaler. It didn't work. One day, she became very disoriented at school. It got so bad, that her coworkers had to drive her home. She went into the hospital soon after. The earlier diagnosis of "asthma" was wrong. Deadly wrong.

Tumors were found in her lungs. They had spread to brain and her spine. The diagnosis of "asthma" had lost her valuable treatment time. In terms of cancers, her diagnosis started at "Stage 4." My mother had long given up smoking, and her type of cancer actually had nothing to do with tobacco at all. It is largely thought and alleged that industrial pollution, care of the United States Marine Corps in North Carolina, may have had something to do with it. However, this allegation is hard to prove. Yet, there have been a high instance of cancers related to people who have lived or worked around the land the Marines use in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

Her health was a steady decline from there. She took that decline as the fiesty woman I always knew. She hardly ever complained. She never asked for anybody's sympathy or pity. Most of all, she kept up her independent spirit as long as she could. However, to the people who loved her, the effects were very noticeable. It got much, much worse, as time moved on. During the last six months of her life, she became bedridden. Dementia set in. She lost the ability to move. She passed away yesterday, July 28th, 2011, at 3:15 pm. Her breathing became extremely labored to the point where her body gave up.

But, honestly. If she were here, right now, she would ask everybody to not remember that part of her life. If she were in perfect health right now, she would demand that you sit down so that she could cook you something -- whether it was her beloved meatballs and spaghetti or an exotic dessert she had just thrown together "on a whim."

My mother was a vibrant woman. She would not want to be remembered as somebody who suffered. And, she did suffer, although she tried very hard to not show that to other people. Rather, she would want to be remembered as somebody who lived. Most importantly, she would want everybody who loved her to continue living, to love life, and to eat something. Essentially, we can mourn her passing, but I think we must be grateful that she enriched our lives. We were lucky to have known her.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Design


In my perpetual cash strapped times, I'm often stuck wondering how I can make money. Lately, that thought has focused on what skills I have that could possibly earn a buck or two. So, in the regard, I'm actively thinking of posting low-cost, bargain priced graphic design "situations wanted" ads at places like fiverr.com.

But let me be clear. I am a graphic design hack. My specialty includes spotting good stock photos or public domain art and putting fonts on it. I don't actively "create" art. I use what I can find, and I "edit" found art. However, this is why I created a different blog called Rich Ristow Designs. It's meant as an online portfolio while I seek design work. Want an ebook cover done for you for only $20? Unique blog headers for $5? I can do that. Why am I so cheap? I can give you something unique while relying on stock photography and public domain work. I draw or paint nothing new.


Thursday, July 21, 2011

More Thoughts on mTurk

Once you get to know how to use certain market place or freelance content agencies, it gradually gets easier to jump from one platform to the next, once work availability slumps. However, I have realized that you just cannot jump headfirst into anything and immediately make a lot of money. Anybody who says otherwise is probably scamming you.

Birthday Blues

So, my aunt bought some lobster, and we had a dinner. Jenny made peach cobblers. Only, my mother is getting to the point where she's having trouble chewing and eating. She couldn't even wake up long enough to get out of bed and into the wheelchair, with assistance. Recently, her speech has been slurred, and it's still managing to get worse. All of us tried not be too depressed. All in all, that was my mother's 69th birthday.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Forecasting the Future: I Will Be Depressed On Sunday

This Sunday is my mother's 69th birthday. Jenny will be making peach cobbler. I work till 4pm at WallyWorld. We'll go over and sing happy birthday to her with my father, sister, and aunt, but this isn't so much a birthday party as one would expect.

Dead Silence -- It Doesn't Suck!




The problem with a lot of American horror films these days is this: a lot of gore, a lot of effects, but not so much emphasis on character, ambiance, or atmosphere. In this regard, I was pleasantly surprised by Dead Silence. To be honest, I only bought this film because it was in the two-dollar bin at Big Lots.

The Good:

The monster is genuinely creepy looking. It's a thin old woman puppeteer, and according to the DVD extras, she's a Broadway veteran. In short: a seasoned actor who knows how to act through facial expression, and she does it rather well.

The movie is thick on atmosphere. Sure, a lot of it is horror cliche that is old and well used: mist, woods, puppets, dark set lighting, lightning, etc. However, even well-worn imagery can be effective in the hands of a talented film maker.

Mark Wahlberg is playing out of stereotype. Wahlberg strikes me, sometimes, as the white Ice Cube -- not in hip hop and rhyming (Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch still make me want to ram an icepick through my ear), but in that Wahlberg seems at home scowling and looking mean. True, that was definately not the case in The Lovely Bones, but that's also a Peter Jackson film and an exception.

The landscape looks a lot like West Virginia, and I have a soft spot for mountains and woodlands.

The ending may be contrived for "shock," but it's one that's decently executed.

The Annoying:

Mark Wahlberg is playing out of stereotype. His character seems annoying, to an extent. It don't mind that he's softer spoken, but there's something about the character, the way its written, that's just milquetoast.

The plot is a little convoluted at points. But, then again, this is a movie about an old woman that will rip your tongue out, if you scream.

The Bottom Line.

Enjoyable. Not the greatest horror movie written, but certainly not the worst. There's enough here to keep a viewer engaged without descending into levels of MEH!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Few Thoughts on mTurk

As a freelancing platform, Amazon's Mechanical Turk is easy to malign. There are countless microtasks there, and many of them only pay $0.01. Of course, some of those tasks are easy, ala "Boobs or no boobs?" image moderation for message boards. In the realm of writing, however, there are a lot of tasks that grossly underpay and undervalue writers. Take, for instance, requests for 1000 word articles that only pay $2 or less.

Of course, mTurk really isn't the culprit, here. It's only the third party marketplace. The people undervaluing work are the people posting jobs there. It's a lot like faulting a newspaper for posting classifieds for services. Those classifieds are paid for, and the newspaper takes no responsibility (to an extent) for the want ads posted there.

However, the true answer for mTurk is this: in order to make it lucrative, you have to know how to find jobs you can do quickly and that pay well (collectively). This includes taking umpteen qualification tests. Even more, it comes down to effective searching too. So much of today's net reality hinges on finding and using the right keywords while searching. In many cases, I've always found that using actionable verbs are usually better for finding work.

Still, I haven't found a way to break even 5$ an hour. So, the platform is more of a hobby than true worksite, for me, at least.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Google+

Yes, I'll try it out. After all, I left wordpress to have a blogging platform closer to my gmail.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

David Lynch and Cinematic Poetry

Back when I used to edit poetry often, there was a stock line I often used with writers, as I tried to help whip work into shape: Stop writing like a prose novelist and start speaking through a language of imagery. It's an old truth, basically. If you approach poetry as if you're trying to write a short story, the result will more than likely always be prosaic and wordy. To further illustrate this concept, I would often say something else like Novels are like Martin Scorcese films, and poetry closely resembles the work of David Lynch.

A lot of people do not necessarily understand Lynch, and that's because they are approaching his movies the same way they would a Scorcese or Ron Howard production: expecting a linear narrative to neatly tie things together. One often sees the same with novels, unless you're reading something deliberately post modern or avant garde.

Still, Lynch is fundamentally a poet working in a cinematic medium. Much of contemporary free verse -- even the non-experimental stuff, speaks through a series of images and metaphors. It's the "show, don't tell" aspect on steroids. A contemporary poem stretches down the page on how it lays out it's images within a sequence. Lynch practically does the same in movies. Consider this very short film he did as part of the Lumeire project:






The meaning of the clip is not readily put together the same way Scorcese or Howard would lay something out. Many experience this same sense of confusion through reading poetry, too, especially with work that tends to be more surreal than naturalistic, like, say Garcia Lorca or Pablo Neruda. But then again, Lorca or Neruda are not Hemingway, and nor should the reading experience be expected to be the same, either.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Rammstien versus Choral Music

Thanks to Mike Allen for pointing this out to me. A bit of fun:






Fernando Pessoa Before The Age of Alts




Fernando Pessoa has the rare distinction of being several notable people within a national literature. He wrote in Portuguese, and if you discount Brazil as, well, Brazil and not Portugal, he collectively stands along side Luis de Camões as one of the greatest poets -- or in this case, group of poets -- Portugal has produced

Simply put, Pessoa wrote under a number of assumed names. Each of those names and surrounding body of work has not only a garnered their own reputation, but each "poet" has their own identity in not only subject matter, but in poetic form. The genius of this, though, is that he took pains to even differentiate how each of his aliases used language.

Still, there's one rather mundane way Pessoa was ahead of his time. Each of his created poets also interacted with each other, through "letters" and other public written means. In short, this must have looked like an act of creative schizophrenia when he was alive. Presently, this sort of thing is more common than what one might think. Look at any messageboard with trolls. Sometimes, people have a tendency to create alts for a variety of reasons, but usually to gin up a flame war and controversy, as a way of demanding attention to some sort of book promotion. In my experience, this typically happens at high trafficked places, and in horror, that would be the Shocklines message forum. Then again, I haven't seen it happen in a year or two, but I haven't been hanging around message boards all that often, as of late.

So while Pessoa's poetry wasn't necessarily post modern, the splintering of identity in the poet himself was actually well ahead of its time.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The New Landing

So, I am fond of using a metaphor when talking about my mother's terminal illness: it's like walking down a spiral staircase and coming to series of landings, each of them is a significant point of no return. (There is no treatment to make her better, and this is a matter of hospice).

The new "landing" on that staircase is this. My mother mostly doesn't recognize me or my wife anymore. My brother and his daughter came into town as of late, for July 4th. My mom looked up from her bed, at the both of them and asked, "Who are you people? Why are you standing over me?" That is, at best, a translation for words that cannot really be approximated or understood, totally. This is a case of tumors effecting how her brain functions, which also slurs her speech and makes it hard to really understand, at times.

I normally don't cry at this sort of thing anymore. All I tell myself is: "At least she's not in a lot of pain."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Speaking of eReaders

Mine broke on the second day I went back to Walmart. It was also my cellphone. It makes me realize, however, how much a gadget has grown to shape and guide my reading habits. Incidentally, the amount I have read in the last week and a half as taken a steep drop...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Poetry and eReaders, Part II


Last year, I wrote four long poems that were collected into a chapbook called Four Murders.* At the time, I was very interested in how eReaders and cell phones displayed poetry and constantly mucked up a poet's deliberate lineation. The screens, I posited, were too small and the poet had no control over the way they can be displayed.

Turns out, the lineation problem is an easy fix, if you take tablet computers like the Galaxy, iPad, or Xoom into mind. If the reading screen cannot cannot accommodate the lines as they are written, you can just tilt the tablet into a landscape view -- more often then not, that fixes the problem. So, what I once thought was a terrible problem can actually be fixed easily. This does not hold true, however, for most dedicated eReaders (as in: not a tablet).

*It was once limited availability through KHP Publishing. Now, since KHP has gotten rid of its webstore, Jerrod/SD Hintz/Karen Koehler decided to up it Kindle for 0.99$.

Friday, July 1, 2011

What To Write Next?


Part of me thinks I should really start writing about Bermuda again. This crest alone gives me a few ideas: (it's from the island's flag)




It's My Birthday, And I'll Whine If I Want To!

So, I am now 37 -- which is okay with me, because I already thought I was turning 38 this year. The way I look at it, I just gained a year. So, on my birthday, I

  • Slept in and slept off a hangover.
  • Looked for freelance work and didn't find any.
  • Called Walmart and Asked to be on the schedule this week
  • Whined to myself about missing Convergence this week
  • Went to my parents for pizza and ice cream cake.
  • Felt a little sad, as my mother was out of it
  • Felt a little sad, because perhaps I shouldn't have planned go to Convergence this year anyway. This is likely going to be my last birthday where my mother is alive.

Friday, June 24, 2011

How To Edit Poetry

It seems like only other people's blogs or message boards move me to write about poetry these days. This is something I posted on a message board frequented by both writers and editors:

There are several ways to edit poetry correctly, and it depends on the form that is being used. Metrical verse requires different set of gloves because the syllabic nature of the line, plus modern metrical poetry use of "substitutions." Plus, it also changes with the type of “form” that has been written. You wouldn’t edit a sonnet the same way you would a villanelle or sestina. Free verse is rather different construction altogether. However, lets just run with that, since it’s most of what people write these days.

The biggest misnomer about Free Verse is that is formless and anything goes. That is far from the truth. However, when you are confronted with editing free verse, there are a couple of fundamental things to look for.

1. Wordiness. How can the poem be edited or rephrased for more economical uses of language. This is roughly the same when you're editing fiction and non-fiction prose. Consider:

The sun is a bleeding in the sky.

vs.

The sun bleeds in the sky.

Both are saying the same thing, but the second option is more concise. Since poetry is a language medium, you do have to consider the sonic qualities at work. The second option is a valid edit because it keeps the sibilant "s" sounds as the first.

2. Noun and verb choice. Even if you're a sprawling poet like Allen Ginsberg or Walt Whitman, poetry is still mode of writing where language is highly compressed. If you're looking at free verse poetry document, pay special attention word choice. "Sprint" as opposed to "run." And so forth. The key to descriptive writing in poetry and prose usually comes down to good nouns and verbs.

3. Look for adverbs and adjectives to cut. Unlike marketing writing and "why buy" language" adverbs and adjectives stand out as "extra-fluffy" in poetry. You can largely red line most of it out, while going back to trying to strengthen nouns and verbs.

4. Make punctuation and grammar consistent. Creative uses of grammar are frowned upon by nearly every poetry editor I know or have worked with. Look beyond the line and how lines fit together as grammatically correct sentences. This is considered the norm in poetry editing. However, there are notable exceptions out there. Usually, it consists of pulling out the punctuation completely. Some poets, influenced by Asian formalism, sometimes will only use a dash, or a comma -- whatever it is they're doing, it has to be consistent. In most cases, an eye to normal grammar will suffice.

5. Discourage the poet away from the little first person "i." Poetry editors HATE that and reject it with relish. EE Cummings could get away with it, but not every body is EE Cummings.

6. Try to help the poet either write better metaphors or find a way to cut them out completely. The most common of these are anything that compares sometime to the moon or flowers. It's so overdone, they've become poetic cliches. And, they've been poetic cliches for such a long time, Shakespeare even made fun of them in Romeo and Juliet. Writing metaphors can be tricky prospect. Anything that sounds silly on a first read is usually a bad sign.

7. Look for ways to make the imagery as vivid and concrete as possible. Free Verse, thanks to poets like William Carlos Williams, is often a way of writing by using the language of imagery. As mentioned earlier, imagery is always best rendered through specific nouns and verbs, not adjectives.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I More Than Likely Will Not Be Attending Convergence.

Well, the depressing professional fallout continues. A scheduling snafu kept me from Stoker Weekend in Long Island, where I was slated to speak on a few panels. Now, I'm coming to the sinking realization that I will not be attending Convergence in Minnesota, either, where I was scheduled to give a reading and speak on a few panels.

Basically, the economy sucks. Freelance writing isn't paying the bills anymore (I have made $30 this this week,) and I literally cannot afford the plane ticket due to the current snail pace of freelancing. No quality work, no quality pay. It's all part of the reason why I seen no choice but to return to the retail rat race.

Not to mention, my mother keeps on getting worse. In the time I was out of the country, she seems to keep getting frailer. She's now a body with emaciated limbs. That shouldn't be surprising. I spent the day with her today, and she mostly slept. All she had to eat was one bowl of cereal.

I do not believe in God in the traditional sense. However, I'm starting to take the impossibility of going to Minnesota as the world/nature telling that it's a positively bad time to go. My mom may not have a whole lot of time left. This will likely be her last July 4th. Never mind that recently she couldn't remember my name. I should also count myself lucky for two other reasons. I was able to go to Bermuda, recently. And my mother didn't pass while my wife and I were out of the country.

I Have Peed in a Cup

Which means, I took the drug screen, signed the tax forms, and go back to work at WalMart starting Saturday.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Blight Review / The Perils of Kindle

I should be upfront. As everybody knows, there are certain perils that come with self publishing. Only four years ago, obvious POD books could be a kiss of death to an author. However, with the rise of eBooks a newfound credibility has cropped up. Blight and Johhny Comes Lately were my two cracks at doing the Kindle thing by myself. Turns out, no matter how hard you work, you still need at least the services of a good proofreader.

Blight has some typos. Lesson learned. Hire a freelance editor (which I'm in the process of doing). For example, Jerrod Balzer gives the story a good review, before pointing out the blatantly obvious....

Back From Bermuda






For me, returning to Bermuda was a strange experience. I felt a little bit of nostalgia, but not terribly much. First, I only spent three years there in the 1980's, and second, it had been so long, I hardly recognized the place. Sure, the geography and the climate were the same, but most of what I knew was gone. The house I lived in was still standing, but much of the naval base was bulldozed. So, the place seemed familiar, but only slightly. I'll likely expound on this later, as I upload some photos.

It also gave me a lot to think about. Next month, or in August, KHP/Skullvines Press will be releasing my 80,000 word short story collection about Bermuda. I haven't written about the place in years. New seems like a good time to generate a new collection of novellas/novellettes about the place. I'm also thinking of perhaps starting a flash fiction blog, as a way to use a lot of the photos I took.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Oh, Well.

As it turns out, I was scheduled to be part of two panels at Stoker Weekend in Long Island. A scheduling snafu has it conflicting with my trip to Bermuda. So, I'll will not even be in the country. It sucks ... because, well, the two panels were on poetry. If I could reschedule the trip to Bermuda, I would. However, it was paid for by somebody else as a way to celebrate my wife's entrance into a Fordham's PhD program. And, the reservation cannot be altered. So... one of the biggest horror conventions of the year, or sub-tropical sun with my wife? There's an easy answer to that....

Saturday, June 4, 2011

And I Will Be Returning To Wal-Mart

Sucks. Sometimes, in the name of being married, you have to do certain things you absolutely do not want to. For me, that means returning to WalMart. When I left, I thought I was onto the next big thing in my life: freelance writing. However, certain realities change, and change rather quick. The nature of freelancing is unstable, but even more -- there's the issue of health insurance. When I first left, my wife was working for a University, and we had great benefits. Circumstances change, however. My wife is going into a PhD program in the fall. We don't have health insurance ... and, thus, I go back to WalMart. I don't now what round two will entail.

The first time I worked there, I took the job to get out of the grind of adjunct college instruction. The two years that followed consisted of trying to play the "Climb The Ladder" game. This time, there's none of that. It's not about a retail career -- it's all about health benefits and steady cash that can be supplemented by freelance writing, and nothing much more than that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Blight -- Soundtrack


So, because Blight ended up being an unmarketable length of 15k (so what is new in my world?) I have uploaded it to Kindle and Smashwords with Nook to follow soon. Waiting for the uploads to process. For fun, here is that story's soundtrack -- music I listened to while writing it:






Wednesday, June 1, 2011

We Are Not Health Care Professionals

So, when you have a relative -- in my case, a parent -- in hospice, the tendency is to think, "OMG! She's about to die!" All. The. Time. I think it's just human nature. So, just a week ago, my mom was talking in a very scrambled, non-linear way, often referencing people who were not on the room, but pointing and laughing at these non-existent people anyway. Not to mention: her phlegm-coughs were scary sounding by themselves.

Well, oxygen was brought in. And finally, for the first time this year, the air conditioner was turned on. So, things have calmed down a little bit. The irritability and delusions have quieted a bit. The point is ... when you don't know what the hell you're talking about half the time, everything always seems much more dire than it possibly may be. Of course, what do I know? Not a whole lot when it comes to these matters.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cruise to Bermuda

I have a trip to Bermuda coming up, and it's going to be weird to say the least. In my life, I have rarely had a chance to return to an overseas location where I lived -- once I had moved to West Virginia, that is. The closest thing to a "return trip" involved going back to the UK multiple times. My father was at the end of his Federal career and needed to sell the home he and my mother owned in Buckinghamshire. (A house I lived in when I was 7 ... after my family left the UK for Bermuda, my parents continued to own the house and rented it out). So, he took his final posting in England to facilitate that. By that time, I was in college flew over every year for Christmas until my dad retired in 1997.

Bermuda will be an interesting visit for a number of reasons. After I left grad school and needed time away from poetry, I returned to horror fiction -- after 10 years of, basically, ignoring its existence. Bermuda is where I started writing fiction, essentially, for publication, and it is the location of a very fat book due out from KHP / Skullvines Press this summer.

My guess is essentially simple: much will be different, and much will be the same. I'm going to try like hell to make it out to St. David's island, where the navy base used to stand. My other goal is to take approximately 12,893,221 digtal pictures.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Hrmph.

Due to economic circumstances, and a need to pay a really screwed-up mortgage (while fighting the bank), it looks like I just might have to go back to Wal*Mart.

Another Quick One.

Not going off of an actual program template, but sometimes cover design seems as easy as picking a good detail from public domain art and picking a decent font, and coordinating the fonts with a color within the detail. This took about ten minutes or less to do. A few minor glitches, though. But still ... not as labor intensive as some might think....



Sunday, May 29, 2011

Many Things All At Once

Well, my Mom's health is getting to the point where she needs oxygen. I wrote a post the other day about it, which I promptly erased because I thought I was being whiny. It was basically about not being sure how much I should actually talk about my mother on a blog or to other people.

But, here is where it's at, at the moment.

  • Dementia
  • A gargling cough
  • A lack of mobility
  • Struggled Speech.
In the mean time, my struggles against my mortgage holder are still ongoing. We (my wife, father and I) managed to get the state of New Jersey involved in an official compliant. In the mean time, I am seriously thinking of returning to Walmart, at least part time. My wife left her job in order to prepare for her PhD program at Fordham. Only thing: she had our health benefits. We need more money, but more importantly, we need some sort of health coverage, especially since I used to take aderall for my ADHD, and I have largely been unmedicated for several months.

More of myself trying to learn photoshop....

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Silliness rather than madness


Well, sometimes, I do have to resort to this sort of thing (while at my parent's house)....


Paul Park -- Ragnarok



Paul Park's Ragnarok sets off conficted feelings in me as a reader. It's a poem Tor.com published online, and it's available on Kindle as a $0.99 read. As a lover of science fiction, horror, and fantasy, I feel that I should be grateful whenever an established writer makes a serious attempt at writing poetry. As a lover of poetry, the poem itself does not leave me impressed. It leaves me wholly unsatisfied.

Ragnarok is a meant as a post apocalyptic tale told in heroic verse. By heroic verse, Paul Park is not using metrical verse found in Homer, but more of the alliterative type seen in the Old English version of Beowulf (See the Heaney translation)and the sagas of the vikings.

Paul Park has a facility with language. That's the one thing I did enjoy about Ragnarok. He takes alliteration and uses it masterfully as an organizing poetic principal. For example:


There was a man, Magnus’s son,
Ragni his name. In Reykjavik
Stands his office, six stories,
Far from the harbor in the fat past.

That's just the inter-lineal alliteration. Paul Park also works his sonic groupings in such a way that sounds from one line also work with the line that came before. All of this is very well done.

So, what's my problem? It's not with the story, but it's largely a case of poetical aesthetics. I get what park is trying to do here. He's trying to juxtapose a post-apocalyptic time with the "heroic" dark ages. However, it doesn't work -- or, it doesn't work for me, at least.

It goes beyond the use of alliteration as an organizational principal. Park even mimics the modifiers used: "Far from the harbor in the fat past." Present-day idioms seem mismatched to me with this type of versifying. So, as poetry, this sounds far from contemporary. In a way, it makes the whole poem read rather stiff and stilted. As a result, the language seems contrived, not natural.

And this is a shame. Park clearly has the ability to work with language on a poetic level. His use of line organization demonstrates that -- the lines seem like, UM, lines ... not prosaic sentences arbitrarily chopped into lines, which, unfortunately, is a rather common problem in "science fiction" poetry.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Here I Ramble: Hard Thinking, Hard Realizations

Of the course of one's life, there are the things you want to do, and the things you can actually do with finite time and resources. Sometimes, the two just don't agree. It's another thing I've had to realize over the past few months. At the moment, most of my time is spent behind this keyboard, furiously pounding out for-pay work that mostly doesn't bare my byline. Also, I still have to deal with serious illness in my family. Granted, I don't deal with it on the daily basis that my father has had to, but there have been times when I have had to drop everything I had planned. I'm not complaining. Not in the least ... after all, it's one of the (many) reasons why I left Walmart to pursue a life of working at home. If my family needs me, I don't necessarily have to call out or face the repercussions as doled out by a managerial supervisor. But, this economic reality (as mentioned a few posts backs) has really made me reevaluate my long term plans ... like when it comes to pitching and editing poetry anthologies. Still, there is a lot left to consider. However, I have been thinking about my priorities a lot recently. Before being an poetry editor, before being a fiction writer ... I am a son and a husband. Still, where those thoughts lead is still unclear.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

My Dad, My Mom

My dad's kidney stone surgery was a success. He no longer complains about feeling "kicked in the side."

My mother, today, called me "Boobie." Its an endearing term I've heard most of my life. It also tells me that she is somewhat "there." Only, that was followed by her seemingly thinking that it was the middle of the afternoon, and we needed to go to J.C. Penny's to buy me shorts. It was 10pm, and I was over there to give my father a pile of documents regarding something else...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Bryan Smith -- Rock and Roll Reform School Zombies







To me, at least, Bryan Smith's novels are a lot like the trashy horror movies of the 1980's. They revel in being "horror" and do not try to be anything other than that. The 1980's connection is extremely prevalent in Rock and Roll Reform School Zombies. This book has a definate affinity for films like Return of the Living Dead, which Smith actually references towards the end of the book. Also, for anybody who lived through the 1980's, there was always that Tipper Gore lead abomination called the PMRC. Satanic metal cults were all the rage on the news, too. A reader can easily see Smith's love for the time period and music, too, as that shines through.

Zombie novels have become trite and predicable. This novel slightly stands apart, because it's not as overtly "end of the world-ish" as a lot of the titles you might see from -- say -- Permuted Press. In short, this book is what it is -- bloody, gorey, zombified fun at the expense of fundamentalists.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Another Day

So, today my dad goes in for kidney stone surgery. That means my wife and I go over and hang out with my mom for the day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

A Futile Attempt To Cheer Myself Up

Two Ways I Just Killed Some Stress




Because of obnoxious writing habits (aka writing stories greater than 7.5k, but less than 20k in length), I think I'm just going to slap this on kindle in a few weeks and call it a day. And I'll likely use the one with the halftone circles ... after fixing a spacing problem along the edge.

The Last Few Days Have Been Extremely Tough and Trying

And that's all I'm going to say about it. I could vent ... but little good it will do.

Edit To Add:

It's the usual volatile cocktail of suckiness. 1) The never ending issue with my mortgage has gotten me down, 2) I've been having serious money trouble (again), and 3) although I've come to terms with my mother's illness, the "hospice" aspect of the new situation has me down, especially after spending all of Thursday with her -- but, that I'm not going to get into details about.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Now, For The Other Parent

This is just a sign of getting older, both for my parents and for my wife, brother, sister, and other relatives. This morning, we were going to have a big brunch with family to celebrate mother's day. It didn't happen. My father went to the ER complaining of side pains. As it turns out, he's passing a kidney stone.

More Playing Around With Photoshop

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chris Bowsman -- A Life On Fire






Lets just say that with Chris Bowsman's A Life On Fire, I just submitted the following five-star review as a Kindle customer:

Gerald has trouble distinguishing between reality and something far worse. His wife committed suicide, and he's struggling. Quite often, psychological horror is used synonymously with serial killer fiction, or "quiet horror." Both descriptions do not apply here. Gerald's mind is a loud and chaotic place, but he's hardly Norman Bates. Bowsman has created a truly sympathetic character and a truly engaging story.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Descending Plateaus

So, my mom is out of the hospital today. I feel like a schmuck for not visiting her ... felt ill, and she does not need germs, both of the real or imagined variety. (Imagined--as in it's possible that I just had severe pollen allergies today) I'm not sure when I will get the next "Oh my god!" call about her health.

There's one thing to realize, when it comes to living with a relative's severe cancer. It's not the same, for everybody. So, the treatments that may have worked for other people will not necessarily work for my mom. Even if the cancer is of the same type, it is never exactly the same from person to person.

For example, my mother was diagnosed back in 2008. Her initial diagnosis covered tumors both in her brain and in her lungs. Back then, it was "inoperable" which is not "terminal." In short, they couldn't cut the tumors out, but they thought they could manage it. This meant a lot of chemo, basically. Plus, my mom has had two rounds of whole-brain radiation. The second bout of whole brain radiation (Several, several months ago) adversely changed her cognitive abilities. Plus, her multiple medications have lead to some damaging side effects. For awhile, she was suffering and in pain, partly due to degenerating bones in her spine. She also lost the ability to walk, due to blood clots in her legs.

And that brings me to my point, which is the following metaphor. This whole process is like walking down a stair case. Death awaits at the bottom of this staircase. However, while descending this stair case, somebody with my mother's condition will stop along the way. Consider it as reaching a landing in that staircase and hanging out for awhile, before descending another level.

The recent hospital stay and discharge is just another landing stop on the journey to the bottom. Only, this landing is very close to the bottom. Before my mother went into the hospital days ago, her home situation could be termed as "managed care." Coming out of the hospital, the descriptor is now "managed hospice care."

She's dying, basically. She had a do not resuscitate order put in place at the hospital. Only, we don't know when she'll reach the bottom of that metaphorical stair case. Could be tomorrow, could be next week, could be three months from now. We (my family) do not know. However, if I look back at the last three years, I can pick out the milestones of how she's gotten progressively worse.

Edit to Add:

She's not in a coma, or anything like that. Her cognition comes and goes, lately. Sometimes, however, it can leave in the middle of a conversation.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Notes On Health Care

Saw my mother today. She slept most of the time. However, here are a few things that struck out at me.
  1. If you are a doctor, and you have never seen or met with a patient before, the first words out of your mouth do not need to be, "You do not have long to live" when you walk into a hospital room for the first time. The absurdly bad taste and Dr. Gregory House-like rapport would normally be quite funny in a dark way. However, that's on television, not in my mother's actual hospital room.
  2. If you are a research/university hospital, and her lead physician says certain procedures are a waste of time. Listen to the guy, especially if the research hospital is located in New Jersey, and her lead physician works for a world-renowned cancer research organization in New York City.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Blight


Blight. That's the name of the story I'm writing right now. It's well over 10k and it will be getting into novella territory very soon, if it's not already there. I don't have a publisher for it. The above "cover" is me just fiddling around with photoshop and stock photography. However, the subject matter is something I know rather well. I really wish I didn't, but I do. It's a seldomly executed type of story I would call: Economic Horror.

Of course, there is no such sub-genre of horror. However, consider this real life story. Back at the end of the housing bubble, my wife and I moved out of a one bedroom apartment in Asbury Park, New Jersey. We bought a nice, two-level condo in Brick Township -- not a gleaming metropolis, by any stretch. At the time, I was still piecing together part time college teaching. I was even teaching two classes at Rutgers, at the time. The idea was that I was slowly paying my academic dues and angling for a full time college teaching job somewhere.

It never happened.

I was always fed a line of bullshit. The years kept grinding on, and I was going nowhere. At the time, I also had undiagnosed ADHD and sleep apnea. It killed my professional life. Also, I was becoming resoundly bitter too. People tend to become very shocked when you tell them college teaching is a job that will systematically keep you destitute, no matter how many classes you piece together. Over Christmas and the summer, i was not making any money. Hell, I even took a job at Walmart out of financial desperation.

Around this time, my wife and I started to get behind on our mortgage payments. We were made promises over the phone from our lender, but these were promises they never followed through on. At one point, the even tried to deny making those promises, and I was dumb enough not to demand that those promises be set down in writing.

We tried everything. We went through HUD's mortgage counseling, and we tried to get a Refy over "making home affordable." However, that program is a toothless waste of time. Because, if Obama and the Democratic party do not stand up to the GOP and organized banking concerns, the mortgage crisis will never end. Did I say "making home affordable is toothless?" Yes, I did. As far as I can see, nobody is holding the mortgage lenders accountable. Consumer protection efforts are always under attack from the right, and if the GOP were to get ahold of more power, they have already promised more banking deregulation. And that is a really shitty proposition.

Trust me, I know.

It's not as if the banks are all that regulated now. So, consider this. My first mortgage lender promised to refinance our loans, so that the month payment could drop. Only, they dragged their feet. Then, while promising to refy -- and constantly fucking up the paperwork -- the first lender sold our mortgage to somebody else.

This new lender -- lets call them something fake, like IBSL -- drags their feet on the refinancing. The countinue to fuck over the paperwork just like the first lender. Finally, the refy goes through. My wife and I breathe a sigh of relief. A few months go by, and then -- wait for it! -- we get a suspicious letter in the mail. The new lender has decided to jack our payments back to the original amount.

So, we got pissed! How could they do that, after all, we had a refinancing contract! Well, in the eyes of the lender, they are holding up their end of the bargain. After all, they are technically not changing the monthly payment amount. They're just escalating the escrow payments, claiming that the price of "mortgage insurance" has gone up.

So, thanks for nothing. My wife and I are back where we started. The bank has no real interest in helping us. In fact, after we did some digging, we found out that our mortgage was bought by a predatory lender -- an outfit that has no interest in actually servicing mortgages, but rather finding ways to put people into arrears, so they can foreclose and claim the property. Essentially, they have found a loophole around a "fixed rate mortgage."

My wife and I never asked for this. We tried to do the right thing. We tried to play by the rules. This second mortgage lender wasn't even the financial company we originally got our mortgage with. They came to us, uninvited and unwanted. And they want my house. Fuck them. We're fighting back.

However, the financial instability that has marked my life for the past year and half to two years is back, with a vengeance. Add to this the situation with my mother's health, and things seem bleak. Only, all this means, for the near term, is more paperwork, more complaints through governmental agencies, and finding a way to survive.

In the mean time, I'm channeling this long-running frustration into genre horror fiction (featuring severed arms, legs, and Pigs-In-Tuxedos). Even if Blight is never published, at least writing it has been -- so far -- somewhat cathartic, even with an ending that's going to be less than happy and hopeful.