Smyle, out now

Like the title says, the sixth and second-to-last novel in the Rankin Flats supernatural thrillers is out now. And reception has been… tepid’s too kind. At this point with this series, I’m feeling like the marathon finished a day ago and I’m just now crossing the halfway mark after a hobo passed and pissed on me. It’s not the fault of readers. I knew what I was writing was going to be a niche thing, and if you’re writing for the sake of attention, whoooo boy, you’re in the wrong business. But I’ve spent two years feeling like I’ve been climbing slowly up a mountain, and ever since the release of Forever and Farewell, probably my best book to date, I feel like I’ve been slowly tumbling back down a few hundred yards.

Oh well. Do the same thing I’ve done for thirty five years. Pick myself up, keep moving forward, keep going until something works.

If you read Smyle, thanks. If you don’t or it ain’t your thing, that’s okay too. You do you, because I’m gonna keep doing me. Giggity.

The Fit Hit – Jan. 17th, 2018

Ugh, I can’t catch a break. I start to feel good about lifting weights again, build up my cardio a bit, and get back on a regular fitness schedule only to get sick. Joy.

On the plus side, it’s a real mild cold, so I can’t complain too much. And it does wonders for the appetite – apart from soup, I haven’t felt like eating much. I’m not working out while I’m sick, though. I want to do this the healthy way, get my mind and my body right. So rest and relaxation for me. Well, apart from knocking out some projects.

Speaking of which, I have book things to announce:

(Note – no weigh-in this week. Can’t go to the hospital to get weighed until I get over this crap)

Adamanta: Pharo Season 2, Episode 1 – Out now!

When a member of an elite squad of soldiers is held hostage by a former war hero, it’s up to Mattie and Xander to save him and figure out the mystery of his abduction. Featuring space battles with a nasty bug-like alien race, a fallen hero, and an intriguing examination of one of Adamanta’s side characters, this has a little bit of everything for space opera fans.

This is my first entry in a multi-author collaborative science-fiction/space opera novella series. It was a hell of a lot of fun to write, and you can pick up your copy today for just a buck. While each entry in the series reads like a stand-alone novella, I do recommend picking up the rest of the series, as there are some fantastic, fun reads to be found. Best part is you can read Season 1, Ep. 1 free on Amazon.

The Rankin Flats Box Set – Out now!

For six bucks, you get the first three Rankin Flats novels (The Ghost at His Back, Shifting Furies, and For All the Sins of Man). Each book is full-sized – no dicking around and discovering you’ve just bought a collection of short stories or novellas. It’s also available through Kindle Unlimited, so if you subscribe to that, you get to read three books free of charge. Well, besides the subscription fee, but you get the point.

With The Ghost at His Back at a 4.3 out of 5 rating with 49 reviews, Shifting Furies at a humbling 4.8 with 9 reviews, and For All the Sins of Man at a 5 (albeit with just four reviews), readers seem to enjoy the novels. It’s a great way to dip your toes into my works, as you get three books for the price of two regularly.

Give ’em a shot. And don’t forget Forever and Farewell, my romance novel, is out now as well. I’ll have news soon on Smyle (it’s looking like a late January or early February release date) and Plague of Life, so stay tuned!

The Fit Hit – Jan. 10th, 2018

Ten times I’ve tried to weigh myself today. Ten times my talking scale came back with an error. I think the damn thing is ready for the trash.

On the good news front, I’ve been working out every day since the first Fit Hit blog. I wish I understood why it’s so hard for me to remember how good working out with dumbbells makes me feel – not just in terms of dudebro-ness, but in genuine terms of making my ankylosing spondylitis and occasional fits of hip pain not suck so much.

I like working out. That’s still a weird concept for me even two years after I started to get into the habit (with a large hiatus in 2017). High school, I hated it with the same aplomb I hated most sports then, thanks largely to shit coaches (with a few notable exceptions, namely my mom and another female track coach who were pretty damn cool and patient). Almost every coach in every sport I ever played assumed I had a working understanding of a lot of the basics, which I really didn’t, and that made simple stuff like working out really stressful. Also? Didn’t really help that I was focusing most my energy those days into not getting the shit kicked out of me in locker rooms because of someone’s brilliant idea to keep me sandwiched with my vicious, inbred, shitkicking, mouth-breathing, stain-on-the-skivvies-of-humanity bullies. You can find out how much fun high school PE was for me by looking up the poetry contest I almost won from back then.

Not fun times.

Now, though, as an adult who can actually figure things out thanks to YouTube, patient how-to videos (and more importantly, “why” videos and articles on various stretches and activities), I’m finding a basic satisfying enjoyment in working out with dumbbells. I’m no expert, and I’m not great at it, but I’m listening to my body more and more and figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t.

It also helps that there are a bajillion low impact workout videos out there from great, low-key people like the HASFit trainers (whose videos you should really check out if you’re in a similar situation to mine, and want to learn some easy workout routines that are probably third-grade level bullshit for most other folks). I’m slowly building back up to where I was in 2016, when I was walking a mile every day and working out with dumbbells about 10-20 minutes every evening.

As far as cardio goes… ugh. That’s something I’m left shaking my head about, because now I can barely do a fraction of what I was doing in 2016 without getting winded. That sucks. I’m hoping to move out a couch in my apartment sometime so I can maybefit my treadmill in here, but to be honest, both of those things are a huge freaking undertaking, especially since I’ll have to ask for help for both. Getting the couch out ofhere will entail hauling it to Great Falls, meaning not only do we have to find a way to fit the monstrosity out of my living room, where it barely fit the first time, but get it on a truck and haul it 100 miles. That’s making me nervous just thinking about it.

Then there’s the act of getting my treadmill in here, which will probably need to be disassembled in some way, brought down a flight of stone steps, hauled to my apartment, and reassembled.

Try asking for all that to be done for you when you’re blind, fat, and can barely lift crap because of your back problems. It’s a delightful little ego stroke, that’s for sure. I’m going to make some woman very happy someday, particularly when she’s breaking her back doing crap I can’t. Joy.

This all said, working out with dumbbells is going fantastic. I’m already increasing my rep amounts by very small numbers, being careful not to tear something. I’m largely doing low-impact standing and (chair) seated workouts, because laying down on the ground is not a possibility. I try to do a mixture of things, introducing bits and pieces from various other workouts when I can’t perform one of the moves during a HASFit video. It works surprisingly well for me. It’s already easier to get in and out of bed, as well as up off low riding chairs.

I’m definitely noticing my boxer briefs fitting a bit more loosely too, which is an odd thing after only nine days of working out, but it’s definitely the truth. I need to introduce more squats and thigh-stretching exercises into the fold, but as I’m coming off a tweaked knee from late 2017, I’m fine taking it slow on that stuff for now.

Here’s an example of my typical daily workout routine. Also, before you say anything, I realize a bed is a terrible place to do crunches, but as I mentioned above, teacher’s helper, I can’t sit on the ground and do them. Can’t. Please don’t try to advise me on that. For the love of God, assume I know what the hell I can do with my body and just… don’t.

MORNINGS – While in bed, I do “fat guy crunches,” which involve me lifting my back and knees together as far as both will go, holding the stretch for a second or two, and repeating. I also do leg lifts, which are pretty much as basic as they sound. Legs straight, I lift my feet, trying to keep my wonky ass spine as straight as  it can be (hah), and repeated often. These ones are really effective, for me.

I do as many of these as I can handle without getting terminally bored, usually while listening to music.

AFTERNOON/EARLY EVENING – My cardio is a bit different in the winter. Quite a bit different. I do high knee lifts, alternating legs. While I do this, I use small weights – about five pounds – from a high position, bringing them down to about the height of my skull (it looks about like that baby doing the “we got ’em!” fist pump pose). Whatever knee I’m riasing, I alternate with the opposite arm, creating a good sense of balance. This works out a hell of a lot of muscles all at once, namely my arms and legs, but also my core.

That’s the bread and butter of my workout this last week and a half. Done correctly, without jerking my arm down too hard or too low, it feels phenomenal. I’m trying to do this one as long as I can, usually finishing off somewhere around five minutes or so. This is usually followed with simple side steps, usually while doing slow curls or something very basic like keeping the weights at my sides and simply raising my shoulders.

That’s my winter cardio. The rest of my dumbbell workouts tend to vary a fair bit, depending on my mood and what I’m bored of doing. I usually like cherry pickers with those same light weights, as those crack about a dozen little bones along my neck and spine and stretch out my left shoulder, my weakest muscle and the most problematic part of my ankylosing spondylitis. Every workout this early on feels like I’m rebuilding the muscles in that shoulder, scraping a little bit away at the damage done.

I love goblet squats, because those work out my gut, thighs, and arms, but again, the sore knee has left me careful about doing these in the short term. Discus “throws” are also a great one for me, working my spine, abs, and arms. I’m also fond of those bent over arm raises with weights from the hips to almost shoulder level, because they remind me a lot of muscles I generally only get to work out when swimming.

That’s about going to do it for this week. What are your own workout routines? Got any favorite online trainers?

 

The Fit Hit – Jan. 1, 2018

My talking scale is straight-up terrifying.

Whoever created it obviously watched the first Resident Evil movie, because I’m pretty damned sure the little homicidal AI girl in that is the inspiration for my scale’s voice. “Please wait. Please step on the scale. THEN DIE!’

What’s worse is the thing has a hair trigger. What’s even worse than that is I keep it in my super tiny bathroom. What’s the worst of the worst is that my dogs love to accompany me while I’m getting rid of yesterday’s nachos, leaving me jumping three feet off the cold porcelain when they inevitably set off the scale every now and then.

There’s a solution to this. Well, a few, really, but throwing my scale in front of a semi is probably the wrong move, not to mention possibly illegal. I don’t own a gun so shooting it is out of the question. That leaves me with two options as I see it – beat it to death with my crowbar or lose enough weight and get on a regular schedule to where I don’t feel the need to use it anymore.

As much fun as Office Spacing the shit out of that thing would be, I think I’m gonna go the harder route. Groan. I tried this back in 2016 with great success, but fell off hard in 2017 to the point where I regained all the weight I’d lost and barely worked out anymore. That’s depressing. I don’t like depressing. Let’s fix depressing.

Every week, I’m going to jump on here, bullshit about all the gross, lazy things I did, and all the correct, right stuff I ate and worked on. My scale likes to work about one time in a thousand, so when it does, I’ll also post weekly updates on my weight, which I’d ask you kindly not to read except that accountability is part of this.

Now, for me, because of my spine and weight, I can’t do a lot of normal exercises. I also don’t have access to a gym, so my workouts tend to be what I can accomplish in a very narrow confine of my own home. I can’t lay on the ground and do pushups or burpees. I won’t be doing jumping jacks, because I live in an apartment and I don’t want people to think Godzilla’s attacking. I plan on doing simple, low-impact cardio, usually stolen from YouTube videos (I really like HASFit’s stuff, but if anyone has other recommendations, throw them in and I will definitely give them a look).

As for dieting, I’m keeping it simple and just cutting down on calories for a start. Less carbs and sweets are a definite start, along with more vegetables, fruits, and meats. I don’t do fad diets. That shit might work for you, but I need better standards for an everyday life, not something to knock off fifteen pounds in a hurry only to wind up ballooning back out again in two months.

If you want to help, talk to me. Encourage me. Demand to know where my updates are at. What I don’t need is someone telling me what to eat and what not to eat. I don’t need teacher’s helpers. I know what to do, I just need people to walk with me the distance on this.

Join in with me if you want. Let’s be healthier together.

WEEK ONE WEIGHT – 390.4 (ugh, my heaviest weight to date)

I Watch Crappy Christmas Movies for Your Enjoyment – Christmas Inheritance

Let’s continue my self-flagellation with bad Christmas movies by talking a bit about the latest stinker Christmas Inheritance, because apparently I have nothing else to do with my life. I mean, it’s not like I just finished up the first draft of Smyle last night and could be talking about that instead, but no one actually reads me talking about books, so hey, Christmas movies!

Starring the actually quite good Eliza Taylor (Clarke from The 100, a mildly underrated show that could do without its initial teenager trappings, but is smart enough to ditch those quickly), this one follows Ellen Langford, an heiress to a gift shop empire who behaves a bit like Diet Kim Kardashian. She’s a terrible person who eschews a charity for kids in favor of doing cartwheels into a Christmas tree. Setting her character up to be unlikable from the start would be interesting if the director didn’t pull a bizarre 180 in the middle of the movie and start assuming the viewer has had enough reason to hop on the Langford bus.

That’s kind of very much a solid representation of the film’s problems as a whole. There are tent poles here for something better. Taylor really does do her absolute best with the role she’s given, not quite aiming for ditzy levels of intelligence but playing a bit with her character’s wealthy ignorance of the way the world really works. Of course, it’s all exaggerated for the sake of comedy, but at least Taylor seems to be trying to have fun with it.

Unfortunately, every other character never breaks the mold of their particular archetype. The romantic male lead has way too many nice-guy hats, as well as apparently holding down every job in town without ever tiring or losing his cheerfulness. The multiple job thing is frankly bizarre. He drives a cab at first, but this is hardly mentioned throughout the entire film, as it’s largely meant as a way for the leads to meet. Then, when Eliza Taylor’s character enters the hotel, the same male lead pops in too to take care of her and every other patron without breaking stride.

It’s like a scriptwriter heard about this thing called “needing two jobs to make it,” but didn’t exactly understand how that works in real life. He’s also apparently the only one on call 24/7 at the hotel, as we only see other characters taking on roles in the place as needed for plot purposes not involving Mr. Perfect.

And that’s just the first problematic character. The movie is littered with the corpses of shitty archetypes. Eliza Taylor’s character is inexplicably engaged to a Snidely Whiplash of a fiance with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, which should make the viewer wonder what sort of trashy human being would want to actually marry such a scumbag. A homeless man is nothing but sweet and kind and just needs a little help, instead of exploring any of the attributes that might occur either leading to him being homeless or developed as a result of said homelessness. A little girl who shares a room with the lead female protagonist is nothing short of a darling little angel save for the spitfire comment now and then to make her more endearing. Eliza Taylor’s fictional father in this one is practically a carbon copy of the dad from Whatever the Hell Christmas Movie it was I watched as the first entry of this film – and it’s the same archetype you’ll see in just about every iteration of this tired subgenre of movie. Single kind, wise dad, no mom.

If you were playing the Count the Christmas Movie Cliche drinking game, by the end of Christmas Inheritance, you’d be passed out. But we haven’t even gotten to the worst character in the film – Andie MacDowell’s Debbie.

Somehow, Christmas Inheritance manages to both hinge its movie on the character as well as waste MacDowell’s charm and talent on a role she rips through reluctantly, often with a half-gritted smile that screams of her thinking about the paycheck and not the next line she’s going to deliver.

She plays a diner owner whose restaurant is constantly packed to the gills, despite this apparently being a small town. Much like her nephew, she’s apparently magic, because she maintains several ongoing conversations while somehow managing to be the only visible employee of a restaurant where no one’s calling for drinks, more food, their check, or anything that people in real diners would do. There’s suspending disbelief and then there’s having your main characters have a three or four minute conversation without some jackass bellowing that he can’t get service for shit. That’s fitting for the town this is supposedly set in, though, because – again – despite it apparently being set in a small town, more people walk the streets than a New York suburb, most of whom are always happy and in full winter regalia, despite their breath never misting or snow actually sticking around when it should. There’s a storm scene that renders a dozen characters unable to leave the hotel, yet the two main characters decide to go for a walk in the midst of it and – surprise! – no snowstorm, no red cheeks, no shivers, no “we should really get inside too if this thing forced all these people off the road and into our hotel.”

Getting back to the shitshow that is MacDowell’s character, the whole redemptive arc to Eliza Taylor’s character is supposed to happen during a day when she works as a baker for – except we’re shown no scenes whatsoever of her learning why she should be a decent person. It’s just Andie MacDowell saying, “Oh, let’s teach you to bake,” and then bam, our main character is now Super Nice Girl despite having just essentially pissing on a homeless man begging for change something like ten minutes beforehand.

If I wind up watching a worse Christmas movie that squanders its talent so much as Christmas Inheritance, it’ll be an unpleasant shock because this movie is straight-up garbage. Eliza Taylor has a brilliant future ahead of her if she can keep turning terrible roles like this into an exercise of trying to do her best, but apart from that, there’s nothing about this that I liked.

I Watch Crappy Christmas Movies for Your Enjoyment – The Christmas Project

Hey, did you know those bullies that beat the everloving shit out of you, made you feel like you were human garbage, and were just terrific examples of mankind at its absolute lowest point of evolution were secretly just lonely people looking for a friend?

If you’ve ever actually had real bullies or spent time on the Internet just long enough to look in any comments section on a video starring a minority, woman, or a fat person, right now you’re sitting back and groaning at the unfiltered bullshit that is that first paragraph. Hollywood loves to paint bad boys as romantic heroes, not just in terms of romances (where the wife-beating, child-beating, verbally abusive dickheadedness is often glossed over because oooh he’s sexy when he hits things and gets all dark and broody, right?) but in children’s stories like The Christmas Project, it’s utter horseshit. If your child happens to be going through bullying, you’ll know it the minute you start watching this abomination of a good Christmas message and a flat-out terrible message about some people just needing pals and pity.

It’s a shame. Christmas Project gets one thing absolutely 100% right, and that’s the spirit of giving that should be the centerpiece of Christmas. In this movie, four brothers and their parents give presents each night anonymously to a family in need, dropping off the gifts without asking or hoping for recognition. That part of Christmas Project is adorable, and it’s why I’d say it’s mostly harmless if you watch it with your family.

But if you’ve got a kid in your life who’s going through bullying, you probably understand one terrible truth about the universe – some people just want to hate. Now maybe there are a few people who lash out and just need a little attention, but the kid whaling the tar out of your boy in the locker room in PE is just as likely to wind up being the douchebag who leaves comments like “nice titz fatty” on a woman’s YouTube channel. Guess what? Those tweeners and teenagers aren’t magically going to become your kid’s friend because you leave them a plate of pity cookies.

Do you want to deliver a message about bullying that actually works? How about having the kids in the class get fed up with the bully’s bullshit and all take turns berating the kid until he’s shamed out of his shitty behavior? How about someone, anyone, standing up for the kid being bullied? How about an adult stepping in and talking to the kid’s parents to tell them what’s going on? How about expulsion or literally any sort of negative consequence for the actions of a terrible human being?

“Oh, but he’s just a kid!” No. Take a look at the news and you’ll see on just about any given day the shock and horror of a town grieving for another “just a kid” who committed suicide because of bullying. The minute those douchebags start pushing other children around, someone – ANYONE – needs to step in and stand up, both to the bully and to help pick the bullied child up off the floor. Hollywood has to stop with this “pity party” bullshit for those who would beat on, abuse, and berate those who are smaller and weaker than them.

Kids deserve better than this garbage.

Anyways, yeah, Christmas Project kinda sucks and kinda doesn’t. They name their dog “Farting,” so if that strikes you as the sort of intelligent thing you want to see in your Christmas movie, by all means, give it a go.