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.

Monday, May 2, 2011

CIty of Caterpillar - Maybe they'll gnaw right through

City of Catepiller is currently the soundtrack to the novella I'm writing, especially this song. What's the novella about? A crazy, insane writer in New Jersey who is fighting off home foreclosure. No, it's not autobiographical. Although, I know a little bit about both insane people and and about less-than-honest mortgage servicers.



Out Of ICU

My mom has been transferred out of ICU and is now in a regular hospital room. That by itself is a good sign. The initial prognosis held up. A new tumor developed in her brain. It was hemhorraging, which was causing her lethargy and disorientation. There was some complication to her blood thinner medication.

Meanwhile, while I have long come to terms with the idea of my mother's eventual mortality. The details of all of this are still a bit much to deal with. Today, I went to visit her with my wife. She seemed so much better than yesterday, in terms of being awake and being cognizant. Half an hour later, I realized that she had something like dementia. In that: she was not making any sense, and she kept trying to get up and go home. The hospital has rigged motion alarms to her bed, which will alert nurses to her trying to get up and walk out. Her trying to walk could lead to her injuring her self, since she has absolutely no strength in her legs, and has also been afflicted with neuropathy.

Funny, But True!

Saw this on DailyKos.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kafka The Musical


This week's BBC Radio Play of The Week has shades of speculative fiction. David Tennant (Dr. Who's 10th incarnation) plays Franz Kafka.

The Story:

Kafka's father complains how Franz doesn't make a lot of money with his writing. He suggests his son should write a musical, and has even gone so far as to set up a meeting with Grossman, a musical theatrical producer. There are subtle and not-so-subtle references to Kafka's body of work, as well as his biography.

The Verdict:

Seems a very uneven as a comedy. Still, it's interesting. Not good, and not god awful. Just interesting. That is not necessarily a stunning endorsement.

Hitchhiker vs. Hitchhiker

No offense to Mos Def, but the most recent movie adaptation of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy was a little bit underwhelming. There are likely many reasons for this, but I tend to think the most culturally obvious reason is the best. Hitchhiker is a thoroughly British creation, from the style of humor down to Arthur Dent's desire for a cup of tea to sooth all things sucky. Once the "Britishness" of Hitchhiker is diluted, it loses its charm. For this reason, the BBC adaptation was and still is the best visual version of the books and original radio broadcast. Think of it this way: how lame would it be if Hollywood decided to put Americans into Harry Potter? It just wouldn't be the same.