Deadlines can be stressful times for writers. I'm in the final stretch of my third book with the aim of completing by may 30th. I've been banging my head against a wall for the last week on the ending.

Marathon writing is hard. Marathon writers block is hell.

There is no better time to self-medicate with alcohol. Yet, there is no worse time to get completely shit-hammered. So, using science and spreadsheets I invented a cocktail that would give me a buzz through the day and into my all-nighters but wouldn't leave me feeling like shit the next day. So far it's been a smashing success.

Since I'm being eminently pragmatic I also wanted to reduce the harm as much as humanly possible so I wanted a low cost and low calorie alternative to wine and beer.

I call it...

img_0200The Deadline

It's basically vodka and infused water. 

Ingredients

  • 8 oz 80 proof vodka
  • 60 oz water, infused

For the Infusion

  • Cucumber (around half of one)
  • A few limes (more can never hurt)
  • Some cilantro
  • (There are a ton of options here-- fruit medeleys, hot sauces, mint, powdered vitamins, etc. I feel like I'm drinking spa water)

Directions

  1. Basically chop up all the veggies in a pitcher of water and let chill overnight.
  2. Measure Vodka in a second pitcher with a seal-able lid.
  3. Strain infused water and shake. Hint: Making a large batch means you won't over-pour as the day wears on.

Benefits

Alcohol % is 4, better than most beers and wine coolers.

Materials included. I'm paying $0.58 per drink

Calories are about 90 for an 8 oz serving

It tastes healthy, like going to the spa.

Drawbacks

Tons, it's alcohol.

I thought that being free of the demands of a 9-5 schedule would open my life to its fullest potential. Instead I did even less.

I have not been very busy these last few months. In fact there are people who, in death, have posthumously managed to get more done than I have. I have been in a perpetual state of limbo and procrastination about many things in my life, craft, career, and relationships. On the plus side, I have watched every show and managed to somehow grow fat on my abdomen.

Waaaay back in April I had a plan for how my life would go in the wacky wild realm of independent publishing. I was going to be a boss on the daily. I was going to wake up, exercise, cook breakfast, do social media, write, connect with friends etc. etc. And of course there would be a little time devoted to housework.

It's not like I didn't have the best intentions...

To aid in my efficiency I purchased several months' supply of a product called (somewhat ominously) Soylent, a full day's nutrition in a gallon of mildly unflavored whey protein and essential vitamins. The idea is that you would whip up a batch of this stuff every day and get all your food needs without the fuss of cooking or the decision fatigue that comes with planning meals.

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It's not made of people and, when freshly made, is quite drinkable. It's slightly sweet and vaguely reminiscent of sawdust but overall it's flavor neutral and goes down like a shake or smoothie. The problems came with overnight refrigeration.

It thickened into a texture that is not something that my primitive instincts told me was not something I should drink. it was an effort of will to swallow it without gagging. I could sip it but that took FOREVER. I researched online. Other customers made similar complaints and the company has updated the product. I made a halfhearted attempt to add flavored oils but I just lost interest.

I still liked the idea in theory, but I was cutting costs. I still have crates of the stuff around the house and I comfort myself that if a zombie apocalypse or global pandemic hit, I'd be set for a solid month.

I must have made my final batch one morning, probably around May, and forgot to finish it. I also put off dumping it out because... laziness. I knew I should probably do something about it but it was in a sealed container. I also began to worry that it would smell. I am very sensitive to rotting smells to the point that I will throw food out before sniffing it. (See: Rancid Chicken)

In August I was attacked by some asphalt and injured my knee, giving me a free pass on any and all domestic chores.

Sometime before August the beige liquid began to separate into thicker beige at the bottom and milky water on top reaching the level of "science experiment". Over the following weeks more of the beige sludge gathered at the bottom and more cloudy water appeared at top.

Normally I would just throw out the entire pitcher. My refridgerator is littered with questionable containers that could probably be washed and re-used but I have no problem throwing them out rather than deal with the ick factor.

(Sidebar: I developed this wasteful habit when I was living with a meth addict who left dishes in the sink. She was not one of those meth heads who cleans so, after I returned from a three week trip to Scandinavia, they were still there. I couldn't take it anymore and I cleaned. At the bottom of the stagnant sink, I found a spoon of peanut butter with a maggot on it and said, "NOPE. Straight to garbage." )

Every time I looked into the barren abyss of my refrigerator I would notice something else that needed to be thrown out: old cheese, Chinese leftovers, a half drank bottle of Ensure from my weight gaining phase. I could have thrown them out but then I'd have to deal with the Soylent.

Today, since I may not have endless weekdays, I finally had the perfect day I imagined when I quit my 9-5. I woke up early, made scrambled eggs, did errands, wrote 2,000 words, took a walk, did my laundry, made the bed. I threw out all of my inedibles. The Soylent pitcher was eerily not as rancid as I expected. There was no smell and the pitcher cleaned up in 30 seconds.

And it left me wondering... why had I put it off so long? What was the big deal? Why had this one part of this one task become so insurmountable that I neglected it for eight months?

When you are self-employed and living alone, without accountability to anyone, it is easy to make excuses, and even the flimsiest one seems valid. The stuff was too gross to touch, it might smell, the garbage bins were too far away, it was too hot, then it was too cold, and it always seemed raining whenever I was in the mood to do it.

I'd like to say a great weight had been lifted at that moment but it was really kinda a meh moment. In fact, the weight had been lifted before that when I started to take steps to take control of my life. It meant cutting back on alcohol and enforcing a bed time so that I had the energy to see a simple task for what it was.

With a good night sleep, I'm unstoppable. Without it, the world is overwhelming and everything is a chore.

Moral to the Story

First, The free pitcher I got with my Soylent is awesome. It remained air tight for nearly eight fucking months and there was no sign of mold or decay. I'm glad I kept it.

Second, if you're feeling that things are spiraling out of control, make sure you're taking care of yourself. It may be as simple as getting adequate rest or exercise.

Finally... like the character in the Shel Silverstein poem, Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout, who simply would not take the garbage out, remember-- It's best to get that shit out of the way before it becomes unpleasant.

I've been a fan of the Fallout franchise since the first one where I was able to get gay married to the farmer's idiot son Davin. Davin was useless and you couldn't get rid of him unless you shot him (or sold him into slavery for 300 caps) but I spent endless hours exploring the wasteland.

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And so it was with the enthusiasm of a post college graduate without a regular job that I downloaded Fallout 4.

I pulled an all nighter... that went into the next day. Nearly 36 hours later I finally convinced myself to go to sleep. Over the course of November when all my writer friends were writing their November novels, I was glued to my screen. I took only the occasional break to attend to functions essential for existence: urinating, buying more beer, and watching The Good Wife.

If you've ever said to yourself, "Self, I want to do nothing but play video games," my  only word of caution is be careful what you wish for...

I have done zero publicity for my second book. My third book, meanwhile has been sorely neglected; as has my blog, personal hygiene, and living conditions. I went days without talking to another living soul as I searched for my imaginary son in an virtual wasteland and looting garbage like someone on Hoarders.

I've gotten the faint hint of a pot belly from my lack of physical activity. To be fair, my busted knee kicked off the whole sitting around all day habit but my metabolism is showing the first signs of finally slowing down after nearly forty years of flawless performance.

But, after 62 levels, eighty hours of game play, and two of four possible endings... I'm ready to return to society. I got a haircut, put in more hours at work, and started writing my next chapter.

Book 3 (no working title yet) is a major departure from the first two, focusing on the Travelers and their secrets. I'm very excited to see how everything from the first two is finally fitting together. Stay tuned.

 

Okay, I'm going to be real with y'all for just a second. When I'm not working on my next book I'm a TV junkie. I have literally watched every episode of every show, to the point that I have run out of things to watch.

I'm hardly alone. At an average of 90 minutes a day Americans spend more time on Netflix than they do eating or having sex. Netflix alone accounts for a third of all internet traffic. Of course I don't get all this stuff from Netflix... I also have Prime and the "other" streaming service.

It's ironic because I used to pride myself on not owning a television. To be fair, television in the days of the major networks was generally terrible. It probably still is... I still don't own a TV but it has through various ways and means found me and it's Good. There are so many awesome shows on nowadays people complain that you can't see them all.

Those are obviously people with day jobs and families. By the time most people are hitting their 2PM slump, I've caught up on everything that aired the previous day. If Netflix or Amazon dump a series in it's entirety I clear my schedule. (There are some shows I didn't get into-- Amazon's original programming is a little bit hit or miss for me.)

I tell myself that it's good practice for understanding character, plot and dialogue. And in a way I think it is. The Queen of Lies was an ambitious undertaking for a first novel-- most authors stick to a central character and a subplot or two. My brain doesn't work that way and I think I owe that in part to binge watching and seeing plots that don't have neat summaries unfold in the course of ten uninterpreted hours.

Obviously there's a diminishing return. I have a stack of books that lie neglected, which is shameful because I am after all writing books. I've read maybe ten since april.

Below, in purely alphabetical order, is every show I could come up with in under ten minutes that I have seen in it's entirety within the last year-ish. How does your viewing stack up to this list?  ...continue reading "I Have a TV Addiction (70 Shows in the last year)"

I read ebooks almost exclusively but there are some cases when hard copy is absolutely required. From the moment I laid eyes on Wonderbook I knew I must have a physical copy.

So great was my desire to own this tome that I invoked the same day delivery gambit through Amazon. For those of you who don't know... a same day order placed around 4-5 PM in a city with heavy traffic has a ~60% fail rate. If it fails they refund shipping and you get it the next day. I was in luck and I had free next day delivery.

The book did not disappoint and continues to delight me. I was impressed by the whimsical cabinet of curiosities it presented. Filled with lavish and surreal illustrations, Jeff VanderMeer's Wonderbook is like discovering a hidden treasure or mysterious codex. And it's chock full of writing wisdom. Seriously, buy it.

But I had a hard time making it through it at first. I found my eyes scanning topic sentences and skipping entire paragraphs without realizing what was making me so impatient. Then as I was reading in bed, a chilling notion crept into the recesses of my mind:

I think this might be easier with reading glasses.

As it happens I own a pair of 1990's-esque Lisa Loeb looking glasses I found on the street many years ago. (Incidentally do you know she has her own line of glasses now? Holy brand synergy batman!) For some unfathomable reason I've kept them in the drawer of junk along with condoms, batteries, a unicorn cutout and some old AA chips.

So with great trepidation, I donned the glassy eye shackles I had long ago severed with LASIK and returned to my task.

sunset-hand-garden-book-large"Holy fucking shit. I can read again! This is awesome!"

"Dude, you're wearing some knockoff Lisa Loeb reading glasses you found on the fucking street because your eyes suck now."

"Shit."

I have been luckier than most to escape the ravages of time although it seems to be catching up with a vengeance. Perhaps a part of me, like Icarus soaring on his golden wings, thought I was truly going to be immortal. But alas, no. My body is on track to make sure I have the full experience of turning forty.

With digital media it's easy to fool yourself. I can just increase the font size on my Kindle apps. Book #3 is zoomed at 130% and MS Word has faithfully maintained that size ever since. But you cannot change the size of the printed word.

As you look at the writing on a page, know that your days are numbered. The mass market paperback copy of Game of Thrones you buy at the grocery store is like so many other things, a folly of youth. When you can no longer read the words, they are saying, "You will die one day... but first you must now and forever own a special piece of eye wear they sell at drugstores."

In the words of George R.R. Martin and his 600 page small print paperback, Valar morghulis. (All men must die)

Got back from the knee doctor and it's continuing to get better. There's a little bit that's left to heal. Stairs are a bit of an issue but I'm out of the brace and taking steps two at a time now.

I had my first full day at the new job. It's an amazing facility with a top notch cafeteria. Seriously they have locally sourced organic food for six bucks. The work itself is pretty straightforward.

Remember the PBS pledge drive? When they would hold your program (Dr. Who in my case) hostage until they got their money? Well for the next month this is how my blog is going to be in lead up to the launch of the Mirrored City. The big areas where I need support are pre orders and social media.

Book launch is almost a month away. I have ten pre-orders right now. If I can get five more I'll make the Amazon top 10,000... If I get just fifteen more I'll crack 3,000. Those are critical sales milestones because Amazon's algorithms start to take notice. It doesn't take much to get noticed so your pre-orders are super helpful.

On the social media I've got some thunderclap support in the form of someone with 30k followers. If I get 100 supporters (people who go to the page and pledge support) I will boost the signal on my social media launch. Contrary to popular assumption, social media is not a huge impact on sales... but it's free and every little bit helps. So please... your support is appreciated.

I will be starting my new part-time job on September 8th working as a business intelligence consultant. It's pretty good timing in that it's after Dragon Con and my knee should be well on the mend by then so I won't have to show up to work in flip flops or hobble around with a brace for my first few weeks.

Sometime after my iPhone broke and my knee broke, my PC broke. I got a little laptop with every intention of taking my writing out of the house. Shortly after I broke my knee so it never really seemed practical to hang out at Starbuck's... Well almost a month later, today is that day.

I accomplished precious little last week. I wish I could say I was busy writing. I wasn't. I'm going in kind of a crazy direction with this book and it needs to be executed perfectly or it will turn readers off.

Book 2 comes back from the editor on Friday. So... that will begin the revision process.

Really, though I need to get exposed to some other writers. Outlantacon was really the encouragement I needed and I'm looking forward to Dragon Con being even better.

I thought about writing a short story called Knee Jerk Reactions, which focuses on the complaints of a surly asshole with a knee problems. Art reflects life etc.

The saga of my recovery continues.

I drove to the store on my own. Having long legs and a compact car is a bit of a logistical problem but I managed. This is the final hurdle between me and any semblance of a normal life and I managed.

I can walk half a mile, as long as its flat without consequence.

The leg doesn't hurt anymore. I get maybe three times a day when I have an OUCH! moment but it's brief and tolerable.  Most of the soreness is brace related.

My biggest concern is that my brace is starting to smell bad. Like the really bad cross between a fungus and a soft French cheese. The back of my knee is pretty slimy when it sweats and well... you get the picture. My favorite thing is to use the Velcro from the straps to scratch myself. It's nearly orgasmic.

Bottom line is that I'm good. I think the injury is actually minor, more of a wake up call than a catastrophe. It can bend a little more than it could. Once it can I think I'll be fine.

One of the best things about breaking my knee, besides the pain medication, is the outpouring of attention I receive. People have called, IMed, dropped by, and texted since the news broke. I've had meals cooked, food brought, errands run and household tasks done for me. I'm like a celebrity, but instead of being famous I'm just clumsy.

However the perks come with a cost. Namely up until late Thursday night I was filthy. I've skipped a day or two in the shower but a full week is a new personal record (not including my one month foray into the Uintas mountains). Since my scrapes have almost healed and I was bored I decided to try the bane of all people on crutches... the shower.

Not being able to bend one's leg sucks if you have long legs like I do. As I stood naked in my shower I tried to work out the logistics of the brace, faucets, hair products and scrubber. It was a non-starter. So a bath it was.

I got the brace off and keeping my knee locked I was able to ease down into the tub, keeping my foot against the wall on the edge of the tub so I could fit. Only I realized there was a problem. I hadn't shut off the water and the faucets are like a million miles away.

With some discomfort I was able to turn them off before I drowned or flooded my bathroom.It also became immediately apparent I was not going to be able to sumberge my back, let alone my head or shoulders.

But... OH MY GOD it was glorious to take my scrubber to the itchy backs of my legs and grind it against my skin till I could no longer stand it. It was borderline orgasmic. I managed to wash my face-- hair and beard will have to wait for another day.

I waited in the empty bath till my leg was dry enough to put my brace back on. The dismount was a struggle at first but I took it in stages and managed to climb out through a series of contortions. Suddenly those commercials where the old lady says "I've fallen and I can't get up," didn't seem so laughable.

I can't begin to describe how good it feels to be 95% clean and in fresh self-adhesive bandages (Thanks Ben!). My left foot, unfortunately is on it's own. I've never been able to touch my toes, an ability I wish I'd practiced. But still... clean skin. Holy shit.

My swelling is down some and my nasty scrape is down to just the lower palm of my right hand. I can peg-leg around the house fine without crutches. The human body is an amazing thing... even better when you wash it.

 

 

Thanks to my knee breaking, my blog received the highest traffic since launch! Woohoo! But seriously, thanks for the well wishes, sympathy and support.

How bad was it?

The ER doctors told me on Friday that my kneecap had "crumbled" into a "lot of pieces". I nearly burst into tears on the spot. They quickly said that may not have been "the best choice of words"

How bad is it really?

What the ER told me was beyond a "bad choice" of language-- what seemed like an unguarded moment of brutal honesty turned out to be borderline incompetence... But that's why they sent me to a specialist.

The knee is broken into two pieces by a single v-shaped fracture.

What does that mean?

First, I won't need surgery. It should heal on its own but I need to go back in three weeks to make sure.

Second, I won't need to use two crutches. The knee can support weight as long as I wear the immobilizer. I can even walk around the apartment, do dishes, etc.

I can walk up and down the stairs to my place and take Uber until I'm able to drive which should happen in a couple weeks.

So in sum...

It's not that bad. It's an inconvenience, sure, but it could be much, much worse. Since becoming a full time author, I don't leave the house that much anyway. Groceries will be an issue but I have a wide network of people to rely on. I have Obamacare and my expenses are fine.

If I take it easy this should all heal up pretty quickly.