Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting Older Redux: Health Edition


I previously mentioned my bout with getting older, specifically how I've (mostly) come to terms with my hair slowly seceding from the United HeadSpaces of Me to form a more perfect union elsewhere...possibly on a yeti's ass or something.

Anyway, going bald has made me face into the swirling maw that is my own mortality, and by extension, has put me more on point with keeping up with the rest of my health.  Lose weight, exercise, and eat more healthily is on my list of resolutions for this year because I know that if I can establish these types of patterns early enough, it will be easier (note I didn't say easy), when I reach my middle ages.  (Incidentally, I'm hoping my Middle Ages will come with knights and dragons and other badass shit that the movies keep promising.)  There is another reason for my concern with my health...

DISEASES!

Through my family’s blessed veins runs heart disease, cancers of all sorts, and Alzheimer’s. On top of that I have asthma, my mother has hypoglycemia, and the retina to one of her eyes tried to detach a year or so ago.  I’m already somewhat neurotic when it comes to my health--or to put it another way “crazyfuckinnutsbatshitinsane.” One thing that has always sent me off into a spiraling mass of quivering, jibbering hysteria was my high school and college biology classes.  Blood born pathogens, STD's, and most of the science behind diseases makes me feel like I need to invest in a hazmat suit and all the Lysol and Germ-X in the world.

As I said, my mom’s retina tried to go rogue and start a solo career a while back. My mom figured this out just in time--when part of the vision in her eye disappeared. She said, in hindsight (ba-dum TSH!), that there had been warning signs--she kept seeing what looked like lights flashing at the edge of her vision.

One morning, I woke up an hour or two before my alarm went off. It was still full dark outside, and I was incredibly tired. I had been up late the night before doing some stuff for work, so the last thing I wanted to do was get up early. And yet here I was. I groggily checked the time, rubbed my grainy eyes, and that’s when I noticed the flashing. It filled my vision. It was in both eyes.  My first reaction was to thrash around like I was having a seizure, so sure was I that my retinas were finally beginning to undock from Space Station Ocular Observation.

It turned out to be ambulance lights. A neighbor had gotten sick in the night and had to be taken to the hospital. Regardless, by that point I was wide awake.

That wasn’t the first, nor the last time that I’ve had to deal with my newly developed phobia of flashing lights. One time I was heading to the bathroom at work when I detected flashing from the corner of my eye.  Once again, for just an instant, my brain flew into hyperdrive and I suddenly KNEW that I would spend the rest of my life in eternal darkness.

It turned out to be the simple case of a fluorescent bulb flickering and getting ready to go out. (Full disclosure: an episode very similar to this happened a few weeks ago. Speaking of, it’s just about time to replace one of the bulbs in the kitchen.)

Combine all of this with my memories of John Green’s infamous orbital cellulitis misadventures, and I’m terrified of my eyes turning against me.

This whole “confronting the inevitability of my demise” thing hasn’t been all negatives.  As I mentioned, because I apparently drew my genetics from the same section of the gene pool as Jack, I have been more concerned about my health. I’ve cut a ton of fat out of my diet, and we’ve almost completely eliminated sugars that don’t occur naturally in foods like fruits and such. Lots of Splenda in our house. I’ve lost around 20 pounds (1.4 stone/9.1 kilograms - for you international readers out there...’cause I care about you...*finger guns*), and I feel much healthier than I did. I plan on losing at least another 15 pounds, and possible more depending on how I feel when I reach there.

Yep, I can't tell whether this post demonstrates my maturity in the face of age or whether I'm wailing into the void like the pup I still am.  Or both?  Whatever.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go chug this gallon of water labelled "Fountain of Youth."  I bought it from a scruffy looking guy in a dirty overcoat behind the gas station.  Seems legit.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Top 5 Books I read in 2012

Photo by:  Futurilla of Flickr
This post, and some of my subsequent posts on similar topics, may seem a bit late because, y'know, we're almost a month into the new year at this point and people have already forgotten their resolution to stop drinking and exercise more and have returned to their habits of not moving for 72 hours straight while binging on Heaven Hill whiskey and Strawberry Hill.  WELL SCREW YOU I DO WHAT I WANT!

Here are my top 5 books that I read in 2012.

A few caveats:

* These are my personal favorites.  Your mileage may vary.  I am not you and you are not me.  Unless you're a secret clone the government made from the spare hair follicles I keep leaving in my brush, in which case you are me.  Or am I you?  EVERYTHING I'VE KNOWN IS A LIE!
*Note the title of this is "the top five books that I read in 2012.  That doesn't mean they came out in 2012, only that that's when I read them.
* If I don't mention something, it's that I don't like it.  It just means that I only wanted to write about 5 books rather than do a breakdown of all 20 books read last year.  Also, I read a lot of great books, which helps.
* These are listed in no particular order.  It was already difficult paring things down from the initial 20.  For God's sake, don't ask my to try to organize my thoughts, too.  What do you want from me?  I'm not a wind-up toy to be engaged whenever you fancy, you monsters!

5) Under the Dome - Stephen King

I have been a fan of Stephen King's ever since I was 12.  The first book of his that I read was The Talisman, followed by reading about half of It.  I haven't actually finished it--not because I don't enjoy it (I do), and not because I find it too scary (I don't--not that it isn't scary, I just don't scare that easily), it's because it's so damned long that I keep getting interrupted with things that I have to do, and so I can't donate the brain power to it.

I thought I would have the same problem with Under the Dome.  It's a massive tome of a novel, and I knew something would interrupt me reading it and I'd have to put it down, and I wouldn't be able to get back to it for a long time, and I'd forget what had been happening up until that point, and then I'd have to start all over, but then I would feel fatigue from not wanting to start over again, so I would just put it aside, and isn't this an epically long compound sentence?

In point of fact, I didn't not have to put it down--partially because it didn't let me.  From page one it had me riveted, and I spent the rest of the book wishing I could read faster so I could find out what happened next.  I finished it in about three weeks, but it only took that long because I was reading it and juggling a particularly busy stretch of my job at the same time.

King has always had an amazing knack for characterization, and his look at small-town politics and what might happen if people were put into a self-contained situation is incredible.  Each character feels like a real person.  Each character has their own motivations and drives, even the villains--rather than just being mustache-twirling cartoons.  In a way, this story felt like a companion story to Lord of the Flies, but rather than young boys, this looks at how people of all ages would handle total isolation.

4) Blackbirds - Chuck Wendig

I discovered Chuck Wendig last year from my friend, Brooke Johnson.  I read one of his lists of 25 pieces of writing advice, liked his tone, his writing style, and his artisinal use of profanity.  I gave Blackbirds a try partially because he kept talking about it on Twitter.  It was a fantastic decision.

Miriam Black, Wendig's main character, is broken, but understandably so.  You'd be broken, too, if you could see the detailed ways that everyone that touched you would die.  It's a morbid and fascinating rumination on mortality and fate, and Miriam has a razor sharp, acerbic wit that will keep you laughing when you're not praying to whatever deity you find holy that she makes it out alive.

And if you like Blackbirds, Wendig wrote a sequel.

3) Fuzzy Nation - John Scalzi

I so badly wanted to include Redshirts on this list.  I actually got an ARC of Redshirts, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was funny, smart, and even tugged at the heartstrings a bit.

However, Fuzzy Nation, while having been out for a while, felt more fleshed out, and ultimately more satisfying both as a story and with its humor.  I'll admit to having never read Little Fuzzy, the book that John Scalzi is "rebooting," so to speak, with this novel, but I know that Scalzi's novel is very well done.  It proposes a lot of very interesting biological things involving flora and fauna on alien planets, it examines the relationship between workers, corporations, and nature, and there's even some Lawyers In Space action.  It's cool, it's weird, and it's hilarious.

If you want a book that is perfectly crafted, this is the book for you.  It's so well written that, upon finishing, I wanted to reread it just so I could point out to myself where Scalzi laid the ground work that would either be built on later, or would foreshadow later events.  Scalzi may openly admit to writing "marketable" books, but by god he is a gifted writer as well.

2) Krampus: The Yule Lord - Brom

I feel a little bad saying this, but I didn't want to include this book on my list.  It was a book I bought completely on a lark because the premise was so ludicrous, and the subject matter happened to hit just right on my preference range, that I had to buy it.  But I didn't expect anything of it, I was just looking for 1) a book about Krampus because I love counter-cultural ideas and, 2) a fun read for right around the holiday season.

But here's the thing about Krampus...it's actually good.  Like, legitimately, surprisingly good.  It caught me off guard like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (the book, not the movie) did.  It took a ridiculous concept, played it straight, but ultimately wound up succeeding as a novel.  You care about both Krampus and his human reluctant helper, Jesse, and although their stories are different, they blend together in fantastically unexpected and wonderful ways.


***MINOR SPOILERS YOU'VE BEEN WARNED***
Plus, tying Krampus in with Norse mythology was decidedly brilliant.
***MINOR SPOILERS YOU'VE BEEN WARNED***


1) The Fault in Our Stars - John Green

I love John Green's novels.  I've seen criticism that his dialog is too snappy and fast paced and drags people out of the realism of the world, and to those people I say: You must be hanging out with the wrong teenagers.  I've seen plenty with the level of wit and charm that Green writes.

Not only is Green talented with dialog, but he often taps into an emotional core and truth in situations that makes you feel like the doors of the universe are being thrown open and Green is pointing out all the gears that make the thing keep going.  He's an amazingly gifted writer, and how Green managed to take a book about two characters with cancer and keep their relationship from becoming some sappy Nicholas Sparks-esque cliche is a miracle.  But he does it.  He paints Augustus and Hazel as beautifully flawed, funny, sweet, and tragic, all at the same time.

Honestly, TFioS (at it is called on the internet) earned it's spot on the New York Times Bestseller list for a solid year and then some.  It is an amazing work, and if you have not read it yet, you must do so quickly.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Shadewood

Chuck Wendig's flash fiction challenge for this week was to use a picture for a story prompt. He linked to 24 Places That Look Not Normal, But Are Actually Real. We had to pick one picture from the list and base a story on it. It didn't actually have to take place at that specific setting, but it had to be inspired by it. I chose number 4, Namibia, which is pictured below along with my entry at exactly 1000 words.

Photo found from myScienceAcademy.org, originally from photography.nationalgeographic.com

Shadewood

Austin heard choked sobbing coming from the living room. His mom was on the phone, talking to someone--probably Patti. Patti and his mom had worked together at the shirt factory in town, and they’d been laid off at around the same time. If she was calling Patti, they must have gotten another bill.

“I just don’t know how we’re gonna make it.”

That’s what she said every month. Which bill would go unpaid this month? Which apostle would need to be robbed to pay the other? He couldn’t stand listening to his mom cry for one more second, so he climbed onto his bed and closed his eyes. He meditated on his room, with it’s mounted bookshelves packed with fantasy novels and basketball statistics books, until his head pulsed deep down. He took a deep steadying breath, and opened his eyes in Shadewood.

He didn’t know how Shadewood existed, but he was glad it did. He’d found it by accident six years ago when his mom and dad had still been married. He’d only been six, but he knew if they didn’t leave each other, one or both of them would end up dead. One night, he heard his dad slap his mom. He’d closed his eyes, wished to be somewhere else...and then he was.

Hot wind blew across the nape of his neck, stirring his hair, now long and pulled into a ponytail with a short leather strip. He grinned up at the astoundingly orange sky, so bright and vibrant it would have looked color corrected on film, and estimated it to be about midday.

Something crashed in the blue-ish black woods ahead. He readied his bow. This was his safe place, but that didn’t make it safe. He crept through the woods, ears tuned for the slightest noise. The breeze rustling the inky leaves masked his movements, but also any others. He heard a twig snap to his right and froze. He strained, listened, then fired an arrow into a nearby bush. He heard a solid thump, then a shrill shriek that cause him to scream as well.

“H-hello?” he called to the bushes. “Who’s there?”

A girl about his own age scrambled out. She was dressed similar to him--high leather boots, a sleeveless shirt, except her pants were ripped where the arrow must have whisked by. Instead of a bow and arrows, she had two daggers sheathed on her hips.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“My name is Katie. Who are you? Why haven’t I seen you before? How did you get here?”

He noticed she had a British accent. She must be from his world, then.

“I’m Austin. I wished myself here. What about you?”

“I use my wardrobe.”

“Your wardrobe? What are you, a character in a C.S. Lewis book?”

She rolled her eyes. “My stepfather likes to drink. I used to hide in my wardrobe, but one day, I wished I had somewhere else to go. When I crawled inside, I came out here.”

“That’s about how it was for me. But how have we never met before?”

She shrugged. “You sound like a Yank. Maybe it has to do with timezones?”

Before they could continue, they both noticed it was suddenly silent. The wind had stopped blowing, but more than that, every creature in the woods had fallen still. Then they felt the ground tremble, like something massive had just fallen to the ground. Then again. And again. Footsteps. Big ones.

“What the bloody hell is that?” Katie asked.

Just then, a voice boomed like a loudspeaker.

“KATIE! WHERE ARE YOU, YOU LITTLE BITCH?”

The color drained from her face. “I must have left the door open.”

“What the fuck is that?”

“My stepfather.”

The crashes were getting closer. Austin scrambled up a nearby tree to get a better look. As he broke through the canopy, he saw it. It may have been human in the other world, but here, where Austin’s slightly doughy physique was transformed to lean and hard, Katie’s stepdad had transformed, too.

He was a gargantuan, towering creature. It seemed he could reach up and tear down the sky. His skin was loose and ill-fitting, like he was only wearing a skin suit. When he spoke again, the flesh on his head shifted and Austin caught a glimpse of what was underneath. It was slimy and bone-white, with long, sharp teeth, and massive, black pools for eyes.

"KATIE!"

Austin raced down the tree and grabbed Katie by the arm.

“We have to go!”

She didn’t move, but jerked her arm out of his hand.

“No. This is my place. I won’t let him ruin this one, too.”

“Katie, you didn’t see that thing. It’s huge. It’s not human.”

“No. He never was. He’s a monster, and he needs to be dealt with.”

“Katie, please.”

She had her daggers out. She crouched, ready to strike. The ground shook with another footfall, this one close. Austin swallowed hard, but before he could do anything else, Katie charged. He called after her, screamed for her to stop, but she ignored him.

“This is for Mum!”

He heard the monster roar, Katie scream, then a chaotic mix of noises. He wanted to help her, but terror moored him like an anchor. He had to escape. With one last furtive look in Katie’s direction, he closed his eyes. When he opened them, he was home.

The silence was deafening, heavy, judgemental. He curled into a ball and cried, hating himself, wishing he’d stayed to help his new friend. He heard his door open, and his mom came in and sat next to him.

“Hey, sweetie. You probably heard all that from earlier. Look, we’ll figure something out. These are grown-up problems. There’s nothing you can do.”

That wasn’t true. He could’ve stayed, could’ve fought, could’ve done something instead of running away, just like he always did.

As his mom took him into her arms, Katie’s last scream echoed in his ears.

Friday, January 18, 2013

4 Fairy Tale Reboots We'll Likely See Next

Photo by:  Ryan Baxter Photography of Flickr
Rebooting fairy tales is super popular.  Snow White and the Huntsmen, The Brothers Grimm, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Seven, Mirror Mirror, Oz the Great and Powerful, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum.  So, here are some potential reboots coming this spring to a theater near you!*

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

In this wacky, buddy, road-trip mis-adventures movie, Snow White is an Irish-Catholic girl living in a rural Arkansas town.  Grounded for attending a local punk show, Snow runs away only to find herself the prime suspect of a series of jewelry heists.  Things become even more complicated when she hitches a ride with the real culprit--a little fellow named Norris--and his 6 fellow accomplices.  Their journey will take them into a world neither expects--a world with one-eyed gate keepers (of the rich neighborhood), princesses (on a local access TV show), and a villainous black knight (at a run-down Renaissance Fair).  [PG-13 for adult themes, some potty humor, and renaissance fair violence - Chloe Moetz, Kristen Stewart, and Alan Rickman as The Black Knight]

The Wizard of Ozz-fest

In this hilarious, harsh look at society's obsession of celebrities, Ozzie Osborn has an amp fall on him at a stage show, which causes him to be transported to the land of Oz.  Because of the local's intense interest in this mysterious stranger, Ozzie sees an opportunity to become Oz's first celebrity. Keep an eye out for several irreverent nods to both the movies and the books, including Ozzie burning the Scarecrow, biting the head off a winged monkey, and mistaking the Tin Man for a suit of armor. [R - for sexual content, boobies, and Ozzie Osborn - Ozzie Osborn, Philip Seymore Hoffman, and Natalie Portman]

Sleeping Beauty

Belle Roscowitz and Harriet Garrison are actresses working to breaking into Hollywood in the 1930's. Things look up when they get an audition for an upcoming musical picture.  A romance blossoms between Harriet and the director.  Belle looks on from afar, until the day Harriet suffers from an attack of narcolepsy.  Belle is asked to replace Harriet, and notices the chemistry between herself and the director.  Dedication to your job and your own interests vs. the interests of others are explored in this Weekend-At-Bernies-esque dramedy. [PG-13 - some adult themes, language, and cliched sappy romantic dialog - Emma Stone, Lindsey Lohan, and Josh Brolin as The Director]

Jack and the Bean Stalker

 Jack is a normal 6-year-kid attending PS 146 in New York...except for one thing.  Jack is secretly a mad scientist.  One day, Jack is experiment with splicing human genes with green bean genes to create a more sustainable food source.  The result, however, is a six-foot-tall sentient bean stalk that goes by the name "Fabricio."  Fabricio escapes and begins wreaking havoc across New York and it's up to Jack to stop him, all while trying to keep his mad scientist ways a secret from his friends and family. [PG - for some scary imagery (because your kids are goddamn weenies), some rude humor, and the existential terror your parents will face being reminded that you are probably smarter than them - Introducing Harrison Nobles - also starring Sandra Bullock, and Jim Carrey as "Fabricio.]

_______________________________
* Not actual reboots

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Resolution Recap


As I mentioned previously, I made some resolutions.  To refresh your memories:

1. Healthify myself.

2. Walk more.

3. Read more.

4. Read diversely.

5. Sleep more and better.

6. Write more.

7. Blog more.

8. Unplug from the internet.

_______________________________

You may be vaguely interested in how that's been going two weeks into the New Year

1. Healthify myself.

I have, as of today, lost around 6 pounds in the past two weeks.  I'm generally pleased, but not too surprised as that was about how my weight went last year as well.  I'll continue counting calories and avoiding sugars where possible.  It's been pretty easy--except in the evening when I get bored and snacky and want to mack on something greasy and fried and delicious.  Mmmmmm.  Dammit! I'm making myself hungry, and I'm out of calories.

I'm using the mobile app of MyFitnessPal for those interested.

2. Walk more.

I haven't really walked yet.  The first week was playing catch up with some work that fell behind while I was on vacation, so this week will be things really getting into the swing of things.

3. Read more.

This I've been doing in spades. I've read way more than an hour a day for the past few days because I was trying to tackle Stephen King's 11/22/63, and I'll be damned if that thing didn't suck me in.  I quite enjoyed it, too.  Exciting but also atmospheric.  King's good at that.  And I like that it went places other than where you expect.  Another thing King is good at.  And now I'm halfway through Kevin Hearne's Trapped, the fifth book in the Iron Druid Chronicles.

4. Read diversely.

This is honestly more of a long term goal.  I don't have much progress to report beyond that I have looked at and added a few things to my Amazon cart to someday buy when I have money.  I bought the urban fantasy anthology Chicks Kick Butt, which is an anthology about chicks by chicks.  I'll probably crack that one open next.  I also have the first of Mira Grant's Newsflesh series on my nightstand, and a political history book.  In good time, I suppose.

5. Sleep more and better.

This has been rather hit and miss.  So far, I went to bed at fairly decent hours last week, but last night got rather fucked thanks in part to my dog's loud ass snoring, but in a much larger part thanks to my neighbor's dog and his insane need to bark at every little thing at 11:00 at night and not stop until 12:30 or later.

6. Write more.

As with walking more, this was a resolution that got put on a back burner because of work that needed catching up from my vacation.  I'm hoping this week I can begin working in my writing time better.

7. Blog more.

I've been doing a fair job of this, although, again, last week was work and less play.  This week, things seem to have leveled back down to normal levels of crazy. I've written a few blog posts (including this one), and the weekends seem to be a pretty good time for me to keep up with the bloggy stuff.

8. Unplug.

Last weekend was the trial run of the "unplugging from the Internet" experiment.  We laid down some ground rules before Dead Time.  We allowed each other Friday to get any internet stuff we needed done, but once midnight hit, the desktop computer was shut down and our phones were put on flight mode except when absolutely necessary.  The biggest things to avoid were the social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.  Those are dangerous time sucks on the best of days.

I found unplugging rather easier than my wife, but I expect this has a bit to do with me having a day job and not being able to access my phone for long stretches of time throughout the day.  She's home when she's not in class, so she's on her phone much more than I am.

We had a few exceptions to the "no internet" rule.  One involved the PlayStation 3, which has been the center of our internetainment in our house.  We don't have cable or satellite, so we use Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime to supplement.  Since those are internet-necessary things, we couldn't just shut down the 'net completely.  In addition, we are a part of the MoviePass program (which I'll talk more about some other time), and that requires accessing their site on our phones to use their services.  And once we made an exception so my wife could check the weather because...y'know...necessary information.

The internet went back on at 5:00 Sunday evening.

All in all, I consider it a success, and I think it'll come to be a time of the month that I really look forward to.  No internet, no social media, no constant distractions.  It makes living in the now much easier, appreciating the stuff around you.  You notice more.  You see people.

How are your resolutions going--if, that is, you made any?  Update us in the comments.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Flash Fiction Challenge: Doing the Devil's Work


Chuck Wendig has once again thrown the gauntlet with a flash fiction challenge.  He loves those random choice prompts.  After using Random.org, I came away with "Steampunk/The character is being hunted/Must feature a demonic possession."

At 978 words, here's my attempt:

Original photo by: Steve Parker
 
Doing the Devil's Work

I heard the clanking footfalls just before I caught a whiff of axle grease and dove into a small alleyway, dragging my little brother with me. He hissed and growled, so I clamped a hand over his mouth and tried to ignore him biting me.

The Tin Soldier clambered its way down the deserted street, huffing steam with each step like an old man on his morning walk. I watched the pistons circle and pump, the steam jet out into the cold November air, and pressed myself further against the brick. Bobby bit at my hands and slapped at my face, the sleeves of his restraining jacket flapping around wildly, but I kept my palm planted firm. Eventually, the Tin Soldier was gone, turning with a squeal and heading down Oakshire Road.

I stepped out of the shadows and dragged Bobby along as he hissed and snarled.

“If you don’t stop, I’m going to tie your sleeves again.”

“Your soul will be fed to the damning fires for eternity, you rotten little bitch!”

“Yes, well...at least I’ll be warm.”

We snaked through back alleys, and finally reached the church as the sun was setting and snow began to fall. I grabbed one of the massive iron door handles and pounded it, casting a furtive glance around for anymore Soldiers. The door opened and a large, white haired priest with a wide, red face smiled.

“Father! I have him! I got him!”

“Go diddle a choir boy, holy man,” Bobby said. His voice was getting rougher and lower, becoming more like a dog’s bark than the voice of a six-year-old boy.

“Yes, I see what you were speaking of. Bring him in before either of you are seen.”

The cathedral was massive, with vaulted ceilings and wide, beautifully carved arches depicting tiny cherubs and beautiful, severe angels, staring forward, faces set. I followed the priest to the front of the church where candles shimmered against gleaming bronze candlesticks, casting a comforting warm glow.

“Let me examine him in the light,” the priest said.

I bound Bobby’s sleeves. The priest squatted and examined Bobby’s face as he shrieked and thrashed about. He hardly looked like himself anymore. His eyes were ringed by dark circles, his hair had fallen out in large clumps, and the teeth that hadn’t fallen out on their own were broken off or ground down to nubs. “Satan’s work has certainly been here,” the priest mumbled, then turned to massive open book on a shelf. He flipped through its crumbling pages, jotting notes notes onto a scrap of paper. I watched and nervously smoothed my dress. Finally, I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“Sir, can you help my brother?”

The priest cleared his throat and smiled.

“I believe so, miss. God does great things.”

“It was those bas--those bad men in the capital. They took Bobby and did things to him. I saw many more just like him--possibly hundreds. They already have those steam abominations patrolling the streets, what could they possibly need with demons?”

The priest regarded my brother again. “That is troubling news. I didn’t expect you to have seen all that.”

Just then, the door to the church swung open and two men in a bright blue uniforms marched in.

“Is that the girl?”

“It is,” the priest said.

My heart stuttered. My breath refused to catch. My knees tried to buckle. I whirled on the priest and pounded on his chest.

“How could you? How could you, you bastard?”

The priest regarded me sadly and said nothing. I felt the officer’s rough hands on my arms as he grabbed me, dragged me away.

My brother uttered a raspy cackle. “Not bad, holy man. I like you. You’re a slippery one. A man after my own heart”

The priest’s face paled.

“Get that monster out of here! I want it out of this place!”

The other officer grabbed my brother and threw him over his shoulder. Bobby didn’t struggle. He just kept laughing that wicked cackle. I was shouldered as well and though I kicked my legs and pounded my fists, it was no good.

Outside the snow still fell. It had begun to gather on the steps and railings in fluffy, quieting pillows. I strained to look over my shoulder and saw a prison wagon sat waiting, it’s doors open, revealing heavy shackles and unwieldy iron locks. I closed my eyes and tried to hold back tears. The priest was as crooked as everyone else. It appeared even God had abandoned us.

Suddenly, I heard screaming off to my right. I glanced over and saw my brother, the sleeves of his restraining jacket shredded, burying his tiny thumbs into his captor’s eyes. The man screamed and pounded on my brother’s tiny body, but the blows might as well have been against stone. I knew that all too well. There was a soft popping sound, and the man dropped to his knees. My brother released him, and the officer curled into a ball, holding his face and whimpering.

My own officer tossed me aside and drew his pistol. I dove at his arm as he fired, then I jerked his gun away and bashed him in the back of the head. Blood poured from the gash as he collapsed. Then I snatched Bobby into my arms and sprinted away as fast as I could. My brother chuckled again and began licking something off his fingers. I said a quick prayer of thanks to God, but I wondered. Did God have anything to do with this, or was I playing for a different team now? I looked at Bobby’s chubby, six-year-old cheeks and noticed a smear of blood. Was that from my hands or his? And did it really matter anymore?

As we disappeared into the darkness, the church bells rang in the witching hour.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I Am Resolute! (New Year's Resolutions and All That Rot)

Photo by:  husin.sani
Whilst we engaged in our New Year's Eve camaraderie, my friends were laughing about the arbitrary nature of celebrating the first day of the year just because some guy a long time ago said, “this is when we’ll say the year starts, and here’s where it ends.”  I argued that there's still value in it.  Lots of our celebrations are arbitrary, but it doesn't take away their value.

Some people get oddly cynical when it comes to holidays.  Using their logic, there would be no reason to celebrate anything on any day.

“Yeah, Valentine’s Day is nice, but I'll buy my wife things when I want to…not when the Man tells me to.”

“Yeah, Christmas is nice and all, but I’ll show compassion to my fellow man when I feel like it, not when society dictates.”

"Yeah, St. Patrick's Day is nice, but I'll get pants-shittingly drunk and vomit on a child's shoes when I dictate, not when the greeting card companies tell me I can."

I think that New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are not intended to be days that we wait around for to enact change. The idea, if you’re doing it right, is to take stock in who you are, look at where you need to improve yourself–because everybody most assuredly does–and then work to do so. New Year’s Eve/Day just serves as a convenient reminder. “Ding. Level up. 2013. How are my stats? Okay, I did pretty good with Charisma, but I may want to add some points to Dex this year.”

Birthdays, at least for me, function in much the same way. As does my marriage anniversary.

With that in mind, I have the obligatory list of resolutions and goals that I'll be shooting for in 2013.  These are not all of my goals, as some of those are personal.  However, this should give you a sense for what I'm expecting with 2013.

Photo from: http://www.myfitnesspal.com/iphone
1. Get back to counting calories to reach my goal weight--incidentally, that's 200 lbs. I had quite a bit of success with using MyFitnessPal and switching to sugar free options where available, as well as generally trying to eat smaller portions and the like. I fell off that a little bit in the latter part of the year (mostly, unsurprisingly, when the holidays reared their ugly head like Cookie Monster pushing his toxic wares, "C'MON PAL, TAKE A BIT, FIRST ONE'S FREE"), and I would like to get back to it.  Once I'm down to 200, I'll see how I feel and decide whether I want to continue to go lower or maintain my weight there.

2. Related to the previous resolution, I need to start trying to work in more exercise. Rather than slam myself into a high discipline life style, I'm going to start by trying to walk 30 minutes a day, beginning once a week and trying to build up from there.

3. I'd like to make more time to read. I've been keeping track of how much I read per year for a while.  2012 saw a higher amount than 2011, but not as high as 2010--which had extenuating circumstances as I had a lot of down time. Therefore, my goal is to try to read an hour a day, and to try to fit in 25 books in 2013.

4. In addition to the amount that I want to read, I also have goals for the type of reading I want to do. I want to branch out into different genres than I currently read. I'm no genre snob, but having a wide pallet for fiction is good for a writer. In addition, I want to start working in more nonfiction books--history, political science, biographies, science, etc. I'm also going to work more to read books by and about females, another thing that I don't necessarily slouch at, but I'd like to see what females are doing in the science-fiction/fantasy/horror genres.

5. I would like to start getting to bed at a decent hour. Burning the midnight oil leaves me drained.  I had success with this when I was on vacation this summer, but when I went back to work, my schedule got warped and I never got it back on track.

Photo by:  spaceamoeba
6. I will try to write 1000 words a day on fiction, three times a week.  This will not count the stuff that I do for the blog.  The blog will be extra bits, but those 1000 words aren't negotiable.  I've been far too lax with my fiction writing. I have plans to extend that to 1000 words every day, but I want to build into it, rather than start out sprinting and hit a wall.

7. In addition to the 1000 words a day, I will try to write two to three blog posts a week. This is just to keep me writing and keeping me thinking. The fiction stuff is nice, but the blog is where I can play with lots of other stuff and write about whatever.  This will probably be stuff I do over the weekend and schedule to go up throughout the week.

8. It's not really a resolution so much an idea we're toying with, but my wife and I are considering taking one weekend a month and disconnecting from the Internet entirely. No Facebook, no Twitter, no G+, no e-mail. We'll watch Netflix, Hulu, etc, because we don't have cable or satellite, and it's not really the same as getting on Twitter and burning an hour or more reading tweets.  We got the idea from Joe Hill, who mentioned it as a thing he'll be trying this year. We liked the idea. We (as in society) have become so plugged in, it's difficult to experience things anymore. The time away from the wires will probably do us some good and give us time to relax and refresh.

That's my list of goals. What resolutions or goals do you guys have for 2013?