Do As I Say, Not As I Do or How I Became DMFRH

A week ago, I wrote a post called Stop Being Stupid and said I was going to use it as my upcoming political campaign slogan. I probably should have re-read it before my antics this week. I am so anti-stupidity, I have this thing I say: “I’m a lot of things; stupid is not one of them.” It sounds cool, has a little grit to it, lets my kids know they can’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining (thank you, Judge Judy, for that quote). And usually it’s true. This not-being-stupid thing is actually pretty important to me: I pride myself on having a level head and being a rational human being. I don’t generally make dumb decisions, don’t put myself in ridiculous situations, don’t have those “What the fuck were you thinking about?” moments. Not anymore.

Usually.

See, occasionally my powers of deduction and reason and common fucking sense fail me and I turn into those jackasses you see on any reality show. You know the guy who gets killed in the horror movie for doing dumb shit? That’s me. I deserve a helmet because I turn into DMFRH. And it happened a couple days ago.

If you’ve been paying attention, I’ve had a couple things going on here at the ranch: my wife got a not so sexy diagnosis and had to get surgery, my computer fell apart, I lost my book, my kids are kids, Thanksgiving was coming and I don’t know how to make greens…I was juggling a couple things. This was me going into Wednesday (like 4 days ago):

And preparing for the festivities (and trying to handle the stress of it all) meant minimal sleep for me. Like 2 – 2 ½ hours Tuesday night.

We’re up at the crack of ass to get everybody dressed, drop kids off at a neighbor’s before school, and get to the hospital for the check in. You know what comes after check in for surgery? WAITING! Clock-watching. Thumb-twiddling and small talk. It means answering questions on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire or judging the idiots on Peoples’ Court or choosing sides in Divorce Court with a group of strangers in the same boat I’m in. It’s listening to people talk about loved ones losing their baby toes (seriously) or getting an abscess drained (which sounds disgusting enough I haven’t had the stomach to look it up). But it doesn’t mean sleep. It’s a snow globe of anxiety.

But things go well. Very well. Ahhh…deep sigh of relief, right? My wife is healthy, doctors are confident, things are good, right? Yeah…but I gotta tell two kids who had to go to school convinced their mom wasn’t going to wake up from surgery that she’s okay. And they only semi-believe me. They wanna see. So I become two people: the comforting husband deeply concerned about his wounded spouse and the reassuring father comforting distressed children. It means I have to be in two places at the same time. Literally.

This is my long-winded way of trying to build my case for my stupidity. So I’m driving back and forth from the hospital, going to the house to let the dog out and brine the turkey (because my wife is ADAMANT we’re having Thanksgiving, surgery be damned!), up the street to grab kids, back to the hospital, from the hospital to find food because I realize I haven’t eaten and it’s 9pm, back to the hospital and it’s now 10:30 and I gotta take kids back to the neighbor.

And it was a dark and stormy night. Seriously.

I’m tired—very tired—and I turn up a street that has me 4 minutes from the house. Except there is a Road Closed sign. Sometimes, when it rains here for days on end, things flood. And this street was one of them. But I didn’t believe it. I watch another car zip through the Road Closed sign and I think “I just wanna go home. How bad can it be?” The Boy says, “Hey, umm, that says ‘Road Closed.’” You hear that? The Boy, the original DMFRH, has wise words. He exercises good judgment. I do not. I wave him off: “I think we can make it.” I am recalling two things as I say this: sometime ago I bought my wife a brand new 2006 Saturn Ion and as we drove from the dealership, we got caught in a freak Colorado Springs hail storm/monsoon and the car is forced to go through a 3 foot deep puddle and does it with flying colors. I also think that the last time I was as tired as I was on Wednesday night, I had a hallucination that a T-Rex stomped out onto the freeway and I swerved my car around its foot. I had a hallucination about an animal that hasn’t existed for 65 million years and acted accordingly. But this time my kids are in the car.

I breezed through the first Road Closed sign. Then the second. That’s 2 written warnings. The Boy is giving me his “what the fuck are you doing?” face. Warning number 3. I ignore them all. How bad can it be? I see the water, don’t believe it looks that bad, and hit the gas. I think we can make it.

We do not make it.

Mid-way into the puddle, which is really like a 30-40 yard pond, the car stops. Just fucking dies. We didn’t make it. Dammit. I am less concerned about the fact that I am stuck in the middle of this flooded part of the street, less concerned about that might have happened to my car, than I am about having to admit to The Boy that he was right. And he’s already in “I told you so” mode: “Road Closed! Didn’t you see the sign? Road Closed. What are we gonna do now?” I do have to say the Honey Badger didn’t even look up until she realized the car stopped moving. “Do we have to walk?” she says. And then, “But my boots are gonna get wet!”

“Fuck your boots!” is what I’m thinking but I can’t say it because this shit it my fault. I had no plan B.

I jump out, put the car in Neutral and begin pushing. Let me tell you, being soaked up to your knees in freezing water wakes your ass right up! The Boy jumps in the driver’s seat and we steer clear of the bog. Car won’t start. Godammit! Police come, I give them a sob story, and they decide to be cool. “You’re a dummy but we won’t give you a ticket because it’s Thanksgiving.” They call a tow truck which comes after 20 minutes but can’t do anything because there are too many of us. We get to wait for ANOTHER tow truck. Fabulous.

It is 56 minutes of The Boy giving me the business and I can’t say shit. I’m cold and wet and the battery is dying so the heat won’t stay on consistently. My wife is texting because I’m supposed to come back to the hospital. Neighbor is texting because the kids are supposed to be there. I’m worried about the WonderDog destroying the house and I’m still REALLY tired.

Second tow truck finally comes. The Boy eases up. I convince him not to post it on Facebook—yet. We make it home and the WonderDog was sleep with the house intact. The Honey Badger won’t leave my side while the guy is unloading my car; he even tries the jump the car (it still won’t start). I drop kids off at the neighbor (who is still awake), go back to the hospital and confess the whole thing to my wife, who chooses to just roll with it or is too high to care.

So here I am, 4 days later, still feeling like a fool. Yes, I know I should have made a different decision. Yes, I know I should have just followed the detour. Yes, I know the Boy was fucking right! Yeah, yeah, yeah. Justine (my car) still won’t start: had a mechanic friend take a look and I gotta get a new battery. Maybe an alternator. We’ll see. But I figured I can’t give you highlights from The Boy’s exploits as DMFRH and not share my own.

I am DMFRH…and I earned the title.

The whole ordeal did make me think of this scene from Bruce Almighty:

Oh yeah, got my Mac back! $17 part, $39 labor (cuz the bastards wouldn’t just sell me the part). Back in business baby!!

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Stop Being Stupid!

The events of the last few weeks have given me something I haven’t had before: perspective. Perspective lets you step back from your current situation to see where you fit in a larger context. Perspective makes you say things like “There but for the grace of God go I” or “Life is short” or “Shit happens.” Perspective forces you to find your appropriate place in the universe. I live in Seattle for a constant dose of perspective: it’s hard to think your problems are insurmountable when you have a 15,000 foot mountain AND the mouth of the Pacific Ocean in your face.

In light of present events, and given that we just finished up election season, I’m launching my new campaign: Stop Being Stupid.

Stop Being Stupid—sounds good enough to be on a t-shirt, doesn’t it? And those three little words seem pretty simple, right? Apparently, it’s a little harder than you’d think. Take these cases:

Folks, you may not be aware but we just elected Barack Obama to his second term as president (somewhere out there, one of you is surprised). Based on the popular vote, 47% of you are pissed about this. And whether you love or hate the result, the process worked as it has worked for the last 236 years: the electoral college fulfilled its constitutional duty to our representative democracy and did what it was created to do. But based on the commentary online and on TV (though the Karl Rove moment when Fox News called Ohio was spectacular), you’d think the United States was going to become some shattered amalgamation of the Roman Empire at its fall and Cold War Russia. Like TOMORROW. You got folks talking about dictators and socialism and the end of freedom—seriously? This nation has weathered 2 impeached presidents, one who resigned, slavery, a Civil War, Pearl Harbor, 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Kardashians. I think we can handle universal healthcare. You think the US is just gonna crumble because we had a DEMOCRATIC election and the guy you wanted didn’t win? So the whole country is gonna just fall apart, huh?

Stop Being Stupid.

A couple weeks ago, Disney bought LucasFilm—they got all the Star Wars movies, games, action figure licenses and George Lucas’ beard for $4 billion dollars. Four. Billion. Dollars. Now, I don’t think the ink was dry on the contract before the internet exploded with geek-fueled chaos. There was a cacophony of nerd chatter about the sanctity of the franchise and Princess Leia getting her own castle and Darth Vader memes with Mickey ears. The prevailing notion was that Disney was gonna fuck up the Star Wars franchise. So I have a couple thoughts on this: first, you may know that I LOVE the Star Wars movies. I’ve bought these fuckers about 8 times—on VHS and LaserDisk and DVD and Blu-Ray and fucking ViewFinder. I’ve seen these things in the theater when they came out, then when they were re-released in the 90s and now that they’re coming out in 3D, The Boy is dragging me back. Darth Vader is my favorite villain. I’ve been trying to perfect the Jedi Mind Trick for 35 years. I LOVE the Star Wars movies. So do I think Disney is going to screw them up? How? Have you seen the prequels? If they added Donald Duck and Chip and Dale instead of fucking Jar Jar Binks and that crying ass boy, it would be an improvement. But seriously, Disney has made the greatest financial investment and corporate commitment to quality storytelling of any company in history. Its own legacy aside—and Disney’s legacy has changed the cultural fabric of the planet—Disney bought the Muppets in 2004 for $75M; then Pixar for $7.4B in 2006; Marvel in 2009 for $4B; and now LucasFilm. For a company forged on the antics of a mouse who can’t afford a shirt, the $16B listed above says more about Disney’s commitment to telling stories that become part of society than anything else. And those same people bitching about what Disney would do contributed to the $1.5B box office take that made the Avengers the third highest grossing film in history.

Stop Being Stupid.

Then there’s The Boy: a year ago, I introduced DMFRH because he was apathetic about his academics. What a difference a year makes. In this case, it actually makes none. This clown ran into a wall and broke his wrist, decided to go smashing pumpkins instead of trick-or-treating, and becomes a conscientious objector to doing his homework because he “just didn’t want to.” This cat has a teacher who ought to star in a Lifetime movie—she shows up for a parent-teacher conference in a short skirt and fishnet stockings and DMFRH can’t focus and get his assignments done. If she was my teacher, I’d have an A and a half in her class. So when Halo 4 comes out, the game comes home, but DMFRH can’t play it. Instead, the Xbox distraction becomes a toy for the Honey Badger and she uses it to build glass houses with chickens and cows named Carmelita in Minecraft while he sulks. What’s his response? To lie. Poorly. Like kindergartner-level lies.

The Boy is miserable. Because he wouldn’t Stop Being Stupid.

I think I’m going to announce my candidacy for some public office. Stop Being Stupid—Vote for Me. I can’t lose.

BTW – As soon as UPS gets their shit together, I’ll get a new hard drive and be back in business. Hopefully.

UPDATE: I forgot one: how the hell does the Director of the CIA, a highly decorated 4-star general, a man who is personally responsible for much of our success in Iraq and Afganistan–how does this individual lose his job over some Real Housewives bullshit? The Director of the CIA, the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, can’t even keep an affair quiet? This dude had to hand in his resignation to the President of the United States and say the justification is because he was screwing around. This is really happening! This man is responsible for protecting thousands of assets in the field, for overseeing black ops missions and gaining information that keeps all 330 million of us safe and at no point in his relationships with Paula Broadwell did he say “And don’t say shit”? What the fuck is that? How does it get to the public? Isn’t your job to KEEP SECRETS? Isn’t that your shit? And if the CIA can fabricate a justification to invade a sovereign nation, why can’t they hide who’s fucking who?

Stop Being Stupid knows no bounds.

You Know What…?

I always say if I start a sentence with “You know what…?” that nothing good can follow. I started my post that way—that should give you a clear indication of where I am right now.  FYI, I’m cursing A LOT in this post—you know how it goes…

There’s a lot of stuff going on in my life right now, things that have both nothing and everything to do with the writing process. My wife is sick enough that she has major surgery scheduled the day before Thanksgiving. I’m optimistic and I believe the best will happen. But I’m a realist too and have to consider that surgery might not be the end. On top of recovery, there’s the chance of chemotherapy or additional surgeries or that there’s actually nothing else to do but wait for the inevitable. The Boy is…The Boy and he comes with his special blend of Xbox/girlfriend/fuck homework 13-year-old bullshit. The Honey Badger is a sweet monster who requires both oversight and intervention, both a leash and a free range. It’s like living with a rabid Care Bear. The Day Job Dragon and I have declared a curious détente: the beast agrees not to attack (at least until my wife is better) and I agree simply maintain. I don’t have the energy to rise and it’s taking all I have not to fall.

But wait, there’s more: I’m still trying to write another book. See, I have this thing for these Herculean feats and what’s a novel on the back of Atlas? But every word is like pulling teeth and night after night I find myself at the keyboard struggling to eke out a paltry 300-400 words.  And if that wasn’t enough, my computer blew up yesterday.

Gaaahhhh!!

Yes, my shiny Macbook Pro, the one that’s only 2 years old, the one that cost more than $1000 (you know how much they are, you can Google it), the one I called Heaven—that MF decided to crash its hard drive! Was leaving an AWESOME status on Facebook, this bitch froze and then I got a gray screen with a flashing folder. You ever see Spider-Man 2? In the movie Pete’s having a tough time: he’s broke, his aunt is getting her house foreclosed, his woman is dating someone else, he’s failing school, his best friend wants to kill his alter ego, he can’t pay rent, he can’t tell ANYBODY who he is, and on top of all that, he loses his powers. THAT’S how I feel. Like I lost my powers. To say I am pissed is an understatement. King Kong watching them take his woman away was pissed. Anakin Skywalker finding out Obi-Wan snuck on the ship with Padme—he was pissed.  I’m about two notches shy of Rick Grimes at the end of the Season 2 finale of The Walking Dead.

This is not an indictment of Apple: I believe they make a superior product in this respect. Show me the PC that can run both the Mac OS and Windows. Show me the PC that is that user friendly or that aesthetically pleasing or that intuitive with the other devices in your home. I’m not shitting on Apple but if you say I can recover my fucking Lion operating system through the internet then show me my fucking hard drive so I can recover it you incremental product creating, iPhone 4 but you gotta buy the 4S if you want Siri so give me $200 and then we changed the connection on the bottom of the iPhone 5 so you have to buy every-fucking-thing all over again ass muthafuckas. OK so it’s a slight indictment of Apple…

But that’s not even the issue. Fine, I gotta kick up some dollars for a new hard drive. Fine. Whatever. I can deal with that. What’s that you say? What about all the data you had? Oh, you mean the 40 gigs of music I had? Yeah, that shit is gone. Luckily for me, I ignored my wife and still have all my CDs in the garage. But everything I wrote—books and novel ideas and plot synopses and screenplays and blog posts. GONE. That also includes all of Come Hell or High Water, the sequel to my first novel, The Road to Hell.

Godammit.

Kinda.

OK, so I didn’t lose the whole book. I lost about 30 pages. 30 shitty ass pages. You hear that? My story was so bad my computer fell apart instead of let me continue. And it was right. Truth is, my heart wasn’t in the story I was writing, I was slogging it out, and I think the quality showed. Now it’s November, and you NaNoWriMos might be saying “But it’s a draft! You have to go through a poor draft to get to the good stuff.” And you’d be right. If I was doing National Novel Writing Month. If this were my first book. If I’d never done this before. See, I can do better—as a writer, I shit on my craft when I accept something less than my capabilities. And to my readers, you deserve much more than the half-ass endeavors of an artist going through a tough patch.

My computer was right.

So today, without my powers, I got up before the sun, put on my red and blue pajamas and put pen to paper. And started to scratch out a better plot. I started to find the peace in the midst of the tornado that is my life. And, you know what? It was awesome!

Guest Post: Noah Murphy talks Superheroes and Ethereal Girls

A little bit ago, I told you about a guy I consider a literary hero–Noah Murphy. Noah writes want he wants to write, the way it should be written and he doesn’t give a damn who doesn’t like it. Well, he probably does give a little it of a damn, but it doesn’t have that cowboy ring to it, does it?

Back then, I told you that Noah wrote the most complex, exciting steampunk/cyberpunk/fantasy stories I’d ever seen. This is a a guy who COMMITS to his world-building. I’m lucky enough to have Noah grace my blog to talk about his new novel Ethereal Girls. Take it away, Noah!

Ethereal Girls – Constructing Superheroes for the Printed Page

Superheroes have retained their popularity for years because they tap into the part of people that makes them want to be something more than they are. By day, they’re average people, but by night they’re superheroes who run off and save the world. Because of their action-packed nature, superheroes found a natural home in comic books, movies and TV.

Superheroes have not, however, found as much success on the printed page. There’s been a few books here or there, mostly licensed books about Superman or Batman, but nothing approaching an established science fiction subgenre. I’ve even had a fellow author tell me that an agent told her superhero books don’t sell. There are two interconnected reasons why I think that’s the case.

First, most superhero books forget the core of any superhero story: action. Many of the works I’ve read have exactly three action scenes, one each in the beginning, middle and end of the story. The rest of the book is nothing but dialogue and character-building. For example, a recent book I read, Confessions of D-List Supervillain by Jim Bernheimer, had a fight at the beginning, the “villain” and a heroine talking in a bunker for what felt like eons, then there was a short fight scene against goons of the real villain, even more talking for pages and pages and finally a battle against the real villain at end. I remember the original Other People’s Heroes by Blake Petit having the same general 3 fight scene structure, though I have not read the newer expanded version.

Second, the traditional idea is that books are all about description and exposition. It’s not just about what happens, it’s about what the character thinks about what is happening. But there’s a problem: the more words used, the slower the story goes.

I tried reading two superhero books aimed at teenagers and while they seemed to be a bit better in the action department, I found them unreadable; the action scenes spent as much time reveling in the teen characters’ angst as they did describing it. I find that the best written action is simple and direct. You get a much quicker sequence. While it’s cut and dry, the action flows instead of grinding to a halt.

So this brings me to Ethereal Girls, my new superhero novel I released about two weeks ago. Here’s the synopsis:

In Medieval Europe, four mystical weapons were forged in order to combat malevolent spirits – vile entities seeking nothing more than to spread misery and chaos across the universe. Centuries later, only one weapon remains to protect Earth. That weapon, the Axe of Boren, falls into the hands of teenage Liza while she is driving home from cheerleading practice, transforming her into a hulking warrior of immense strength and endurance. At the same time, her best friend Macie is twisted into a psychopathic murderer by one of the Axe’s counterparts, the corrupted Sword of Boren, and goes on a gruesome killing spree.

But just as Liza and Macie are headed for battle, the most powerful evil spirit in generations appears, unleashing an army of monstrous cannibals on Washington, D.C. In order to defeat the spirit, Liza must ally with three odd girls: a sickly waif with macabre teleportation abilities; a member of a snake-like race called the Lamia who wants nothing more than to be a human teenager; and the 107th reincarnation of an ancient goddess who may know far more about the mystical weapons than she lets on. But even with her new friends, Liza faces a near impossible task. Macie is obsessed with destroying her regardless of the devastation unfolding around them…

The book is a rewrite of a superhero novella I published in October 2011 called Barbarian Girl which had many of the same main characters along with a similar plot. The novella, I’ll admit, was so terrible I pulled it at the beginning of the year. It had many problems but the two foremost issues were the ones I talked earlier. It had 3 action sequences; and a completely incompetent editor managed to make the book worse by making everything read like the original passage above.

The only way to salvage the book was to destroy it and completely rewrite from scratch. This time I crammed as many action scenes into the book as I possibly could while hiring a more experienced and professional editor who kept my short and snappy writing style. Ethereal Girls was the result. It’s a much stronger work that I think properly captures superhero action in textual form by fixing many of the problems in superhero novels.

Go and read the first two chapters, available on my website and see for yourself. If you like the book, purchase it via the links at the bottom of the page. I’m not going to say it’s the greatest book in the history of ever, but I do think those looking for an action-packed superhero story will find a lot to enjoy.

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Thanks Noah! You can find more about Ethereal Girls at Noah’s website or check out his author page on Amazon.