Looking down the barrel of 30

Tomorrow, February 23rd, 2007, I will be thirty years old.  Some folks get depressed as 30 begins to loom over them.  They feel they haven’t reached their goals, aren’t successful enough, or any number of other things that make them feel somewhat less perfect.

I, on the other hand, feel awesome.

Why?  Because I’m almost fucking thirty, and I still feel like a kid.  Hell, I am a kid, and my life might already be halfway to its finish line.  I’ll probably be a kid until the day I die.    There’s no reason for me to grow up, especially when I’m enjoying myself so much.  Immature?  Sure!  There something wrong with that?

Still, I’ve been on this Earth for thirty years.  I’ve learned a bunch, and I’m thankful for the experience.  In an attempt to share, I will now list one thing I learned in each year of my life for your reading pleasure.

1. I don’t remember my first year of existence.  I will use this space to list sauerkraut as the devil’s food.

2. Same here.  I will instead list chicken fired rice as the world’s most perfect meal.

3. Dry spaghetti does not go up your nose.  It will hurt when you sneeze it out.

4. Star Wars is badass (no, I didn’t see Star Wars until four years after it came out).

5. If you donate one of your favorite toys to your kindergarten class, you will cry when you have to leave it behind at the end of the year.

6. First grade crushes are silly, but fun!

7. For some reason, I don’t like tater tots anymore.

8. You can get over switching schools in the third grade in only two months or so.

9. Cafeteria pizza is rectangular for baking purposes, but the little round personal pizzas taste a millions times better.

10. George Schwarz=one of the best friends a guy could hope for.

11. Puppy love is a wonderful diversion.

12. Masturbation=nature’s most perfect activity.

13. Nate don’t dance.

14. Going to high school with your older brother blows.

15. Never be a girl’s first boyfriend.  Baaaaad idea!

16. Getting a job at McDonalds is the dumbest idea a human can have.

17. Handjobs become very painful after three hours or so.

18. Being in a band will not make girls like you.

19. Joy Gerwe should be trusted in all relationship matters.

20. The Afghan Whigs are the best live band of all time.

21. Chasing Hot Damn 100 with cold milk is a terrible idea.

22. When it comes to the bedroom, I am mediocre at best.  Also, the nickname Johnny Quickshot is both clever and cruel.

23. Shawna Blount is beautiful, a great kisser, and endlessly patient when it comes to bad first dates.

24. Moving in with your girlfriend is a wonderful experience, but apparently you can’t tell when a carpet needs to be vacuumed.

25. Cold subbing a comic series without an artist attached and with no previous credits is a waste of time.

26. I missed out on a lot of horror authors when I was growing up.

27. Gaming can lead to making wonderful new friends.

28. Randy Lander is the funniest drunk alive.

29. Ain’t no party on the planet like the World Horror Convention!

So there you have it, friends and neighbors.  29 life lessons for you and yours. 

Tomorrow, I’ll be celebrating my birthday with Shawna by eating some buffalo burgers.  Saturday night is a party featuring food, friends, and Carousel Cabaret. 

I’ll see you all on Sunday or Monday.  Take care!

Read This!: Graphic Novel Round Up

Fables: Wolves
By Bill Willingham

Willingham continues his tale of Fables stranded in the real (or mundane) world in one of the best books on the stands.  The issues included in WOlves, however, are little more than a button on previous events meant to prepare the reader for the next great tale.  There’s some strong characters work, and it’s worth the read, but it feels a little hollow.  Bonus points for the script reprinted in the back.

Recommendation: Moderate-to-Strong

DMZ: Body of a Journalist
By Brian Wood

As much as I enjoyed the first DMZ trade, the series really hits its stride here.  Stranded photojournalist Matty Roth must save another journalist before a tenuous cease fire is broken.  Wood really ratchets up the tension over the course of the story.  Incredible stuff.

Recommendation: Very Strong

Captain America: Winter Soldier and Red Menace
By Ed Brubaker

Ed Brubaker has done the impossible by making me care about Captain America.  With an emphasis on intrigue and inner demons, Brubaker pulls Cap kicking and screaming into present day, making him matter once again.  An incredible action comic.

Recommendation: Very Strong

How to destroy something perfect in only 1.5 hours

Author’s Note: Shawna normally hates it when I mention her here, but I have a feeling she’ll appreciate this one.  In fact, I have a feeling I’ll have to sleep on the couch for the next month if I don’t tell this story.

I’m a lucky guy.  I know this.  I have the perfect girlfriend in Shawna.  She hates the idea of Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day, marriage, and she enjoys a lap dance from semi-nude women every now and then.  Every year, I look forward to treating Valentine’s Day like any other day.  Last night should have involved crashing and watching some TV after a few hours of writing.

But I screwed that up.

Well, maybe it wasn’t just me.  After all, the older sister of one of my best friends (yes, YOU) sent me a myspace message a few weeks ago asking what I was doing for Shawna on Valentine’s Day, with the addendum that “‘Nothing’ is not an acceptable answer.”  Everybody loves Valentine’s Day, and I should at least put forth an effort and blah, blah, blah.  Okay, she probably didn’t go on that long, but I’m trying to defend myself here!

So yesterday morning I really start to doubt myself.  I should make an effort, right?  Sure, I’m the perfect boyfriend who sleeps in the spare bedroom everytime I get a cough, but maybe that’s not enough.  So, I ask Shawna if she wants to go out for Italian food.  She loves the idea, since we haven’t gone out for Italian in quite a while.  We decide to go to the little place around the corner.  Can’t be too crowded, right?  We’ve only known one other person who’s ever eaten there.

See?  That’s a dumb idea!

So we show up and the place is packed like a cat house on dollar handjob night.  After a few moments, I manage to squeeze my way up to the hostess and request a table for two.

“45 minutes.”

I turn to Shawna, she says, “Sure.”

“Okay.  Put us on the list.”

I sit next to Shawna in the last pair of seats in the waiting area, right next to the door.  Everytime somebody enters, we get a blast of arctic air.  When special folks like Old Man with Walker and Excitable Nine-Year-Old Who Outran Her Parents show up, we get a prolonged wind that damn-near freezes us solid.  Eventually, we move into the bar area, where we order hot tea before standing underneath the television that’s blaring Fox News.

Around this time I look at my receipt for the tea and realize we’ve already been waiting our 45 minutes.  I head to the front to check on the list, but it’s too crowded to reach the hostess.  I report back to Shawna (who’s sharpening a knife for some reason), then try to check again.  There’s one party of two left to go before it’s our turn.  I report back to Shawna, and she puts the knife away for the time being.

She’s eyeing the knife again when we finally leave 45 minutes later, our name still uncalled.  We go to the grocery store, and I pay for Shawna’s Hot Pockets, which she will eat instead of fine Italian Food for her Valentine’s Day.  I apologize for the fortieth time and wonder if the frozen pizza I’m buying myself will kill me if I try to eat it in one bite.

So remember, guys.  If you have the perfect girlfriend, don’t fuck it up.  Take her to a strip club for a lapdance or cook her a nice dinner at home.  Leave Valentine’s Day to the deluded and silly.  They started it anyway.

Sorry, Shawna!  Italian tonight?

STAPLE! just around the corner

STAPLE! Austin’s own independent comics and art convention, is just over three weeks away.  We’ve got a great line up of guests this year.  You owe it to yourself to check out the website, and you should really think about dropping by this year.  We’ll show you a fun, sexy time.

Read This!: The Road

The Road
By Cormac McCarthy

Bleak?  You wanna talk about bleak?  Well, look no further, my friends.  Cormac McCarthy is here to let you know you don’t have the slightest fucking idea what bleak means.

The Road tells the story of The Man and The Boy, a father and son trying to survive in a United States devestated by some unknown apocalypse.  Was it nuclear?  Supernatural?  We never learn, and it doesn’t matter.  The Man and The Boy are heading south and to the coast.  They know they can’t survive another winter unless the reach a warmer climate.  On the way they search for food, shelter, and avoid cannibals.  It may seem like a thin plot, but the narrative more than makes up for it.  McCarthy writes a gripping story, making this simple tale of two people walking along a road both terrifying and captivating.

There is one thing that bugs me, though.  Last year, somebody proudly stated on the Shocklines message boards that they lived to break literary taboos, like using quotes to mark off dialogue.  It sounded pretentious and stupid then, and it sounds even worse now.

Well, it appears Cormac McCarthy is one taboo-breaking motherfucker.  There’s not a single quotation mark in this entire story.  Contractions don’t even sport apostrophies.  As great as the story is, I just can’t get over this utterly stupid aspect.  That’s my hang up, and I’m aware of it.  Just thought I’d mention it in the interest of full disclosure.

Recommednation: Strong. A fast read, but one that will leave you feeling alone.

One of those days

I get like this sometimes.  I’m like this most of the time.  “Like” how?

Frustrated, depressed, anxious, angry, charged, paranoid, desperate, and a millions more adjectives that might have negative connotations.

It’s the writer’s lot.

Every minute I spend not creating, not working on some story I want to tell, damn-near causes me physical pain.  I feel useless and lazy, like I don’t deserve to call myself a writer.  My friends want to know why I stopped watching Heroes and Studio 60.  It’s because that’s two hours each week I wouldn’t be writing, and it drives me up the wall.  Shawna wonders why I grumble whenever we have to go to the grocery store or house hunt.  Same reason.  Everybody and their mother seems to wonder why I don’t go tubing (sitting in an innertube and floating down a piss-soaked river for five hours).  Goddammit, I got shit to write about.  I have to love something in order for it to drag me away from the keyboard.  Shawna, Food, Friday night with my friends.  That’s it.  That’s all I can justify to myself.  Anything else has to wait its turn, and that might take years.

I think about my writing time compared to others and it makes me want to hurt myself.  Keene spends twelve to fourteen hours a day pounding away at the keys.  Shawna tries to tell me to calm down.  Brian can afford to write full time, but I still feel like a waste because I don’t spend ten hours after and before work writing.  I would spend that much time, too, if I could survive on three hours of sleep a night and didn’t need to eat.

Even last night, I went to bed exhausted, but I felt guilty for not getting more writing done, so I stayed awake in a worried sweat over it.  Couldn’t get to sleep.

Writers are crazy.  They’re bugfuck insane.  I pity Shawna each and every day.  I have no idea how she’s put up with me this long.  Maybe she’s got some delusion that I’ll be successful.

Poor girl.

Sorry, Shawna.  I don’t make this world easy for you.  I can’t even make it easy for myself.


Learning to speak Texan

No, I’m not about to go on a screed about “y’all” and the like.  This is just a long term observation culminating in a fun story.

When I moved to Austin back in 1999, I was informed by my sister that I have to watch how I pronounce certain words.  Guadalupe, for instance, is pronounced Guadaloop.  Burnet, a street in town, is Burn-It.  Machaka is Manshak (I’m still not sure I’ve got this one right).  New Orleans is Nawlins, and Smith is pronounced pickle.  It can be quite confusing, especially if you have at least a first grade education.

This dovetails nicely into the story of La Poplar.  La Poplar is a taco place in Abilene that Shawna’s dad has been raving about since I met him.  Everytime somebody heads to Abilene, they have to make a stop at La Poplar and bring back tacos for Shawna’s dad.  If he goes to Abilene, he takes orders for everybody else.

Well, Wednesday sent Shawna and her family to Abilene, so I decided to order some tacos from the famed La Poplar and asked Shawna to report back if this taco stand was built out of gold or something.  Shawna’s debriefing started out like this…

“Well first off, I learned the place is really called La Popular.”

So there you have it, friends and neighbors.  Just drop random letters from any word, and you too can speak Texan.

Read This!: Ghoul

By Brian Keene

Where do monsters come from?  Are they terrible creatures that haunt the night, feasting on the dead and the dying with their talons and fangs?  Or are they closer to home?  Are they the angry, drunken father?  The abusive mother?  Brian Keene explores these questions in his latest novel, Ghoul.

The hero of Ghoul is young Timmy Graco, a kid who just wants to spend his summer vacation with his best friends–Doug and Barry–and possibly hold hands with the preacher’s daughter.  At the age of twelve, Timmy’s world shouldn’t involve more than dirt bikes and the long boxes of comics he keeps under his bed, but the real world comes crashing down on him via the parents of his best friends and a series of disappearances that seem to center around the local cemetery.  Before the end of summer, Timmy’s world will never be the same, and he’ll have a whole new idea of what makes a monster.
Keene writes a gripping tale of lost innocence and the coming of age.  Unlike some of his previous novels, Ghoul takes its time, building to a sense of unrelenting horror rather than thrusting us into it.  We care about these characters, and so we travel through this hell with them as active participants rather than observers.  I was pushed to the brink of tears more than once.  Brian, it appears, knows how to twist the knife.

While many are calling Ghoul Keene’s best novel to date, I still feel that honor lies with Terminal.  These two books share the same sense of reality and the supernatural blending together to create a sense of doom, but Terminal resonated with me in ways Ghoul did not.  That’s a matter of opinion, of course, and your experience may be completely different.  Either way, for those new to Keene and his work, Ghoul is a great place to start.  It’s a fast read of high quality, and it might take a while for Keene to top it.

Recommendation: Very Strong-to-Must Have.  Keene rides again!

Read This!: World War Z

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War
By Max Brooks

Maybe I should list this as a “Hear This!” because I bought this as an audiobook.  You can judge for yourself.

Written by Max Brooks, author of previous best-seller The Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z takes place years after a world-wide zombie apocalypse, as told through interviews with several characters who were there to witness the carnage first hand.  These interviews are both insightful and entertaining, offering a rather real world explanation of a fantastical event.  Brooks covers the challenges a world would face in this situation, and he tackles them in a practical matter.  Problems such as fighting an army that can replenish itself with its kills, solidifying government, and survival in its most basic form are covered.

These interviews tell the story of the war in a fashion that’s both entertaining and more than a little creepy.  We meet many characters whose own personal stories play into the greater story in ways both big and small.  A few of them, like the South African who came up with the plan that would eventually save his country, will leave you cringing with their tales.

The cast for this audio book is an incredible one.  Featuring actors as Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Rob Reiner, Eammon Walker, and Henry Rollins, the talent is more than capable of breathing life into the material.  Alda is especially powerful, but then again, he usually is.

If there’s fault with World War Z, it’s that-aside from its oral history structure-it’s just another zombie story.  We’re not with any of the characters long enough to grow attached to them.  It’s an academic work, not a narrative one.  It could have been released as a short story collection with little to no change.  Still, there’s more good than bad, here.

Recommendation: Moderate.  Brooks is the golden child of popular zombie books (Brad PItt has already snagged the film rights to this one), so shouldn’t you be reading him, too?

Congrats, Norm!

Excellent news coming down the wire today.

Dark Harvest, the book some of you might remember as my number one book of 2006, has been picked up by TOR books to be published in paperback.  This September, just in time for Halloween, Dark Harvest will be available as a trade, with a mass market version coming a year later.  Now none of you has an excuse to not read this incredible book!