Archive for February, 2011

Scary Time Begins

on February 25, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

The time has come.   I’m about to jump off the OMG cliff.

I’m about to self-publish The Compass Master.

(Pause here to take a deep breath and steady my nerves.)

In reality (and often I can’t be bothered with reality) my finances are such that I should hold off for a few months before making this financial commitment.   Trouble is, I had settled on publishing through Amazon’s CreateSpace and they’re running an offer that ends on February 28.   Before now I couldn’t be bothered with most of their specials, but this one gives a big discount on the price of the cover design.   Well, the heftiest upfront expense I had always planned on was the cover art.   Nothing makes a book look amateurish from the get-go than a cheap or even not-quite-right package.

Hence the time has come for me to commit.   I signed up for a higher-level cover and professionally-done internal layout.   These two items are far and away the bulk of my publishing expenses.   Of course (damn it!) there’ll be a few more charges (getting the manuscript Kindle-ready, etc.), but those are almost money hiccups compared to the initial outlay.

As a few of you may recall, I did have at one point an agent for The Compass Master and she almost got a couple bites (at one big publishing house my manuscript went all the way up the chain to the editor-in-chief, who turned it down – blast him).

Yes, I could have kept plugging away and sent it off myself to smaller publishers or maybe other agents.   But every time I contemplated doing just that my gut turned itself inside out.   I just can’t, CAN’T keep my spirits up and keep plugging away at the commercial publishing game.   There comes a point where I just want to get on with my life.

In the next few days I’ll drive myself crazy getting ideas  for my book cover and looking over lots of other covers.   Then I’ll be able to work coherently with the graphic artist on my assigned CS team.   Of course in the end it’s the story that readers care about and the cover is just a come-on.   But since I’m paying for this baby and I’m ultimately in charge of my own book,  I want to get everything right.

Funny thing is, I already have a growing sense of peace and accomplishment.  Sure, I’ll be scared when my American Express bill arrives at the end of this month.    I’ll be a full-fledged neurotic as I go meticulously through the manuscript one last time to check for every errant comma or too-oft repeated word.   But this is it.



My pal Hart over at her (much more spectacular than mine) blog CONFESSIONS OF A WATERY TART is throwing a Delusional Doom Blogfest for Beware the Ides of March!   Here’s the link  (hope it works) explaining all.   If the link doesn’t work, look under her February 17 entry.

Basically, you get to predict a death or write an obituary, and the only requirement is that it be strange or bizarre or conspiratorial or fun.

So be morbid and literary and participate, y’all.

Layla Was Here

on February 21, 2011 in Misc 10 Comments »

Yesterday I broke into someone’s locker.   It was so much fun.

Yes of course that sounds high schoolish.   And strictly speaking, I didn’t break anything.   I simply picked open the padlock on one of the four lockers in the women’s restroom in the basement of the building where I work.    No malice was involved.   There was no theft or damage.   They’re for women to use TEMPORARILY when they work out in the exercise room just down the hall.    I assume the neighboring men’s room has the same arrangement.

The problem is, about a year ago some unknown female permanently claimed one locker by clamping a padlock on it.    A few ladies complained.   The building manager sent out a memo reminding people that the lockers are for TEMPORARY use.

The padlock remained.

So the other day I pulled out my lock picking kit and a few minutes later I made that pesky little padlock snap open.

Damn, but I love the sound of a picked lock opening.

There were only a few items of clothing in the locker.    I left them alone and neatly placed on top of them my calling card.   Then I closed the locker and slipped the padlock back into place and locked it.   My card says, in an elegant art deco font, “Layla Was Here.”    I got the idea from my savvy blog friend Robert.

I hope my card freaks out that locker-squatter.   I also wish that by now I’d used these cards in more dramatic and daring circumstances.    But hey, I’ve been busy and ya got to start somewhere.

Just for fun, I picked open a few locks at my job.   I couldn’t get past the server door  (yet), but it was easy pickings on the big “security” HON brand cabinet that stores our laptops, cameras and other tech stuff.    Ditto for a big “security” HON filing cabinet.   I opened both in under a minute.

Of course I also have keys to all these office locks.  But where’s the challenge with a key?

Cat’s Cradle

on February 18, 2011 in Misc 2 Comments »

My cat is seriously sick.

Okay, so I’m supposed to be writing about writing and action hero stuff and how I’m finishing the editing The Compass Master (final run-through this weekend!).   But if you have a pet then you know how it is – when the little booger is sinking and will likely die in the coming weeks or months, concentrating on your daily tasks can be hit-and-miss.

My cat’s named Squeaky.   He’s small, black furred, scrawny, and neurotically shy around anyone but me.   Sometimes he’s a pain in the ass.  At other times he’s nice to have around.   He was a stray who had belonged to someone because he’d been fixed and as he grew up his collar had been left on too long, which painfully rubbed off the fur around his neck.

One day about ten years ago he showed up at my sister’s house, but their three cats promptly beat him up.   So my sister brought Squeaky over to my place and announced that she was giving me a pet cat – wasn’t I lucky?    The minute she opened the carrier Squeaky tore off, hid under my bed and stayed there for three days.   I put the litter box and his food and water next to my bed.   Oh joy.

When it became clear that Squeaky came with trust issues and hadn’t had an easy life, I left him alone and let him come to me on his terms.   When he finally ventured out from under the bed I ignored him and let him do what he wanted.  Within a few months he was kinda hanging around me.   When he started greeting me at the door as I came home from work, I figured we had bonded.

Flash forward.   In the autumn of ’09 I came home one day to find Squeaky scared and whimpering.   He couldn’t stand up, and within minutes he was paralyzed and flat on the floor.   Turned out he’d had a stroke and I thought for sure I’d have to put him down.   Yet after examining him the vet said, “Let’s wait a few days and see if he gets better.”

Better?!!   I had to lift Squeaky’s head to feed him!   I had to clean the poop and pee off him!   But sure enough, in a few days the little booger was on his wobbly feet and within a few weeks he was about as good a he would ever get, which for him was 80% of his old self.   He could still jump up on the furniture and shed on it, but when he jumped down he sometimes landed on his face.   He didn’t seem to mind.   He also walked funny and ignored me when I called him crooked butt.

Funny thing is, it was after he’d had a stroke that Squeaky got truly affectionate with me.   He hung around wherever I was sitting and kept his paw on me.   Followed me from room to room.   Woke me up in the middle of the night by announcing that he was walking around but okay.   Put his face right up against mine when I was trying to go to sleep.   It was as if he’d been so scared and weak and vulnerable during his recovery that he realized – as much as a cat can – that I was there for him.   I took care of him.   I paid his HUGE HONKIN’ vet bills.

But now Squeaky really is going downhill.   In January he started losing weight.   He had poop issues.   Then he pretty much stopped eating.   The vet said that he’s old and it looks like his kidneys have shut down.   But yesterday the blood test came back and the kidneys were clear.   That means Squeaky is going back to the vet tomorrow for more tests.   But you and I and the vet know what tests mean:  a possible diagnosis but no reasonable treatment and certainly no cure, especially at his age (which is hard to determine since Squeaky was a stray, but he’s definitely in the Old Fart stage).

The vet did give Squeaky a shot of medicine that got him eating again, and that’s encouraging.   But it was just a stopgap.   The fact is, the best thing I can do for my pet is to make him comfortable for as long as possible.   If or when he starts to suffer, then you know what I have to do for his sake.

Damn it damn it damn it.

But for now I’ve still got Crooked Butt.   And today is a pretty good day for him.

Scarred for Life

on February 14, 2011 in Misc 6 Comments »

Oh crap.

The ligament at the top of my left thigh is hurting again.

I just want this sucker to HEAL.    I want it to stop making painful twinges when I walk, sit down, exercise, stretch – hell, when I  MOVE my leg.

You know, this is a recurring problem for us physically active, wannabe action heroes:   REPEAT INJURIES and PAIN!

On Thursday I went to see my chiropractor.   It was my second visit in only a month and for the same problem – my right thigh was hurting and so was the ligament in my left leg.   I knew from experience what this meant:  my coccyx (a.k.a. tailbone) was once again out of whack.   In only a couple minutes the guy put it back in whack.   The pain vanished.   But now the ligament seems to be acting up on its lonesome.

WHY OH WHY, I wailed to the good doc, does my body keep breaking down in the same spot?  It’s because you’re over thirty-five, he explained.  When people in their teens or twenties have soft tissue injuries in, say, muscles or tendon or that ligament at the top of my thigh, the healing process is rapid.  Soft tissue will heal pretty much in the same pattern as the tissue and will still be able to stretch and move in the same direction. But when you’re older, healed soft tissue is scar tissue that looks like a plate of spaghetti – it’s a mess, which makes the area vulnerable to repeat injuries and it also now has lots of nerve endings, which makes the area more sensitive.

Granted, I’m only sloppily quoting my chiropractor.  But you get the idea.  If you have a weak or injured point in your body (and what action hero doesn’t?), as you get older that special little twinge can become a big pain.  So I looked up this whole scar tissue issue.  Here are a few facts:

  • Scar tissue is made from a tough, inflexible fibrous material that binds itself to the damaged soft tissue fibers in an effort to draw the damaged fibers back together.   This can result in a bulky mass of fibrous scar tissue that surrounds the injury site.
  • When scar tissue forms around an injury site, it is never as strong as the tissue it replaces.
  • It also can contract and deform the surrounding tissues; this diminishes the strength of the tissue and compromises its flexibility.
  • Untreated scar tissue is the major cause of re-injury.

Okay, now for some kinda good news:  apparently you can get rid of at least some scar tissue with treatments like a deep tissue sports massage.    I had something like that several years ago, and WOW did it hurt!   But I was better.    So maybe in the coming weeks when I can afford it I’ll book a session with some sports body sadist expert.

I let you know how it goes.   In the meantime, may your own body behave itself.


on February 11, 2011 in Misc Comments Off on Brainfart

Okay, so say someone asks you a really simple question online.   You have fifteen seconds to type into a little text box the one-word answer.   Like the question, “What is the capital of Kenya?”   At any other time it takes you two seconds to think “Nairobi” and another two to type it.   But that doesn’t happen.    Instead your brain makes a rude noise and goes blank, and thirteen seconds later you type “nibbmx9*” and before you can correct it your time is up and the text box disappears.

That is a picture of my brain having severe flatulence.

That is also a picture of me taking the test for JEOPARDY.

You know Jeopardy — the game show for geeks, nerds and losers.   The hokey old thing that’s been on TV since the late medieval period and hasn’t changed its format since about 1958.

Well, I am a Jeopardy nerd/loser.

It’s a pathetic confession.   It means that on the rare occasions when I get home by 6:00 and don’t have to rush out in half an hour to fencing, I plop down in front of the TV and watch the show.   No, not just watch.   I answer as many of the questions as I can OUT LOUD.   I argue with the contestants (WHY COULDN’T YOU GET THAT EASY ONE?).   I marvel at how they have answers for the sports and chemistry categories, about which I know squat.

Oh yeah, I’m pathetic.

So of course  in occasional fits of delusion I’ve considered being a contestant on Jeopardy.   So of course about a week ago I signed up for the once-a-year online test to see if I had what it takes and get on the show.

My test was Wednesday night.   Answer fifty questions by typing in the answer.   Fifteen seconds is allowed to read and answer each one.

Well, when my brain wasn’t farting away like a cowboy on beans, I think I did okay.   I know I made at least 30 correct answers, maybe as many as 36.   But without the brain farts I should have been able to answer around 45.

What’s also frustrating is that I’ll never know my score or ranking among all the other wannabes out there.    You’ll only know that you did well when you receive an invitation to take another test and undergo an audition.   As for my own chances, I’m not holding my breath.

Action heroes never suffer from brain farts.   In books and movies and on TV you can see their brains always whirring efficiently away even when they’re under the worst nerve-crunching pressure.   But for us normal humans, it seems to be a recurring condition for which there is no cure.

I just thought of a dumb joke.  “How’d your test for Jeopardy go?”   “It was a gas.”

And what’s really bad is that I’m already looking forward to taking the test again next year.

The good news is…

I got a lot of editing done this weekend and now I MIGHT, just MIGHT finish editing/rewriting a few final pieces of The Compass Master next weekend.   That will mean I am DONE, people, TRULY, REALLY DONE with TCM!

The bad news is…

The weather is going to hell in a handbasket.

It snowed again on Sunday.   It snowed Saturday.   It snowed a couple days last week.   Not enough, mind you, to give Denver more than several inches altogether.   But meanwhile we’ve had some freaking COLD DAYS with subzero temperatures.  Then for a couple days the temperatures warmed up just enough to melt a little snow so that overnight it turned to ICE, especially BLACK ICE.

You wanna know what I look like in the morning when I walk three blocks to the stop where I catch the bus to work?  Here’s a hint:   I do NOT look an action hero.   I am not fashionable.   I am not cool.   Think Lara Croft disguised a really pathetic bag lady.

Because I feel the cold easily – and it’s been NASTY, BITTER cold – I have to wear my heaviest, longest coat, my functional but tacky (got them at Target) snow boots, thick ski gloves, a wool hat with my coat’s hood over that, and if the wind is blowing then my muffler gets wrapped around my face.

I look like a refugee from Siberia.

Unless, of course, I’m late for the bus and try to make a run for it.   There I am, a bulging bundle of indeterminate shape running with tiny steps so that I don’t do a full frontal flip on the ice.

I look like a galloping penguin.

I swear that as soon as the weather warms up again – I mean REALLY warms up – I am gonna dress and look good again.    Cool, sophisticated, Layla-like again.   In clothes that will let me move normally.   Because when I look like crap, I feel like crap.

I bet a lot of you are the same way.    And a whole lot of you are in the same or much worse meteorological mess.

I feel for you.

Lara Croft is who I should be,
Very wealthy and sexy and free.
I would live in a castle,
And have no greater hassle
Than to rescue the world before tea.

For adventures I’d fight and get grungy
With a gun and a knife and a bungee.
I would solve ancient mysteries
And rewrite their histories
While evading guys big, bad, and mangy.

For a lover I’d take Daniel Craig
Who in Raider Croft treats like the plague.
I would make him get naked
And do nothing sacred…
But here I had better get vague.

Still, Lara and I aren’t the same.
She’s a lady, while I’m just a dame
With a regular job
A mere face in the mob
Without glamour or romance or fame.

But this doesn’t mean that I’m bitter,
As a matter of fact I’m no quitter.
I’ve got a grand plan
To be all that I can
I just won’t have Craig cash or glitter.