And for today’s lesson…

A Challenge
I am presenting a challenge to anyone reading this blog. Actually, it probably breaks down into several challenges, but let’s start with this.

I would like everyone to go out and read George Orwell’s 1984. I want you to read it even if you’ve read it before. I want you to read it even if your high school literature teacher forced you to read it and you hated every moment of it because, well, high school. I want you to read it even though it’s considered an important piece of literature and you never met an important piece of literature you could stand to be in the same room with. Just read it. It’s short. On the surface, it’s easy to read. But, I won’t kid you, it’s a think piece. You’ll come away questioning things. You’ll look at world, both the one in which Orwell lived, and, more importantly, our own, in a different way. It’s not necessarily, in the end, a pleasant experience.

Read it anyway. Then have someone you like to talk to read it. Then discuss it. That part is important. You should absolutely discuss it. Hell, discuss it here. Just do it.

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Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made Of

I read once that everyone has somewhere near to ten dreams every night, but most are lucky to remember one. If that is the case I am very lucky indeed because I almost always remember two or three dreams. There is, of course, an explanation for this. I have sleep apnea which forces me awake several times every night. Because I wake suddenly, and usually completely, I remember the dream I was having at the time. Because it’s the middle of the night and there is pretty much nothing else to do, I think about whatever dream I was having and, in so doing, handily move that dream from my subconscious to my conscious thoughts. So, lucky me. I remember my dreams.

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My experiment in interactive fiction

If you are reading this, you are probably someone who already knows me. If you know me, you probably know that I write. If you know that I write, you probably know that when I can’t write my original fiction for whatever reason, and there are always lots and lots of reasons, I tend to rejuice my mojo by writing fan fiction.

I used to be a little embarrassed by this. Fan fiction is, by reputation, the denizen of middle-aged Mary Sue’s who live their fantasies by having keyboard romances. This reputation is not completely unfounded, but there are some amazing stories out there and some very talented writers. And, just for the record, there are many famous people who have written fan fiction. Entire books have been devoted to famous writers using Arthur Conon Doyle’s Sherlock, Lovecraft’s horror and Poe’s, well everything to create new, yet works in worlds already created. If they can do it, so can I. I shall even hold my head high while doing so.

This weekend, when I really should have been doing other things, I found my mind wandering to my favorite of all fan fiction worlds, that of Sherlock (the current BBC version). I had a quick, crackish story in mind and in my head I had it all plotted, right to the end. It was then that I realized I had no idea who my villain was. That’s when the idea hit.

I would let the reader decide.

And if the reader was deciding that, well, let’s let them decide so much more.

So, here it is, my first, and maybe only, interactive fiction. When the story is over you must help me decide where it goes next. What the characters might do, where they might visit, who they might encounter, what game they are playing, who set it up and what must they do to win. If you think it, and tell me, I very well might write it. I promise to give credit where credit is due.

The story is entitled: Fairy Tale Fractured.

“Okay. I give up.” John Watson’s left hand opened and shut in its need to reach to that place near the small of his back where he usually kept his gun. Usually, but of course, not today. “Where are we and why are we here, exactly?” His voice was cut with anger and accusation, he knew, but he couldn’t be arsed to care. Waking up on the floor, in a strange place, and strange was a very accurate word, was not how he was meant to be spending the first bank holiday in more than a year during which he didn’t actually have to work.

 

“Frankly, John,” The man sitting on the floor next to him stood with far too much grace for someone who had been out cold just minutes ago. “I doubt you’re truly going to appreciate my answer.” He brushed imaginary dust from his precious Belstaff coat and ran a his hand through his black curls, that somehow still looked nearly perfectly coiffed, in a messy, almost tangled sort of way, before offering a hand up to his companion, friend and blogger.

 

Sherlock Holmes, the World’s Only Consulting Detective, at least as far as he knew, broke his usual poker-faced mask and allowed one side of his mouth to turn up just a bit. John pretended not to notice because that small smirk meant his friend was having fun, and this was definitely not fun. Oh, it was meant to be fun for someone, no doubt, but not for Dr. John Watson, formerly of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. Not today. Not, at least, when it hadn’t been his idea. And swear to God, if he found out that this was Sherlock’s idea, someone was going find their head in the big bowl of whatever that stuff was on the table. Even if it was porridge. No, especially if it was porridge, because that was all kinds of wrong.

 

“Sherlock,” John walked slowly around the kitchen taking in the gingerbread quality of the decorations and the quaint furnishings that seemed to come directly from a children’s book. There was, of course, one table, with three chairs, three bowls of something, three spoons and well, basically there was a three kind of theme happening here. He looked through a door where he saw a sitting room with, as he fully expected, three chairs, in varying sizes, and a staircase, which he was sure led to a loft with three beds, two of which were sure to be uncomfortable. “This would be a very good time to come clean and tell me about the new drug you are obviously testing on me.”

 

“Nope” Sherlock popped the damned “p”. Dammit, he was having fun. “We were obviously drugged in order to get here, but I’m 93% sure that this is real.” He moved the great, big wooden chair along the floor, purposely creating a grating scraping sound. “This all has a very solid feel, not to mention the likelihood of both of us having the same hallucination is very -”

 

“Right.” John stopped his friend before he could continue. “So, I repeat. Just where are we and how did we get here, and why?”

 

Sherlock’s smirk grew into a full on grin. “Obviously, we are in the home of either The Three Pigs or The Three Bears. This…”  He picked up the great, big spoon and dipped it in the lumpy, congealed stuff in the bowl, lifting it and letting it drip back in. “Would suggest the Three Bears, or at least someone has gone to great lengths to make us believe so. Just as obviously, we were drugged and brought here while under the influence.” Sherlock brought his hands to his chin, his long fingers pressed together in the prayer like manner that John called his thinking pose. “As to why, now that  is an interesting question.” He looked down into the face of his friend and said, “I really have no answer. There is not enough data.”

 

John nodded to himself and then with a straightening of the spine and a readjustment of his shoulders, the soldier in him began to look for possible weapons, dangers, and maybe most importantly, ways of escape. There were no drawers or cupboards in this kitchen, so no knives, no iron skillets, not even a plastic spork, so the great, big wooden spoon would just have to do in a pinch. He turned back to the table to pick it up.

 

“What the hell are you doing?”

 

His companion was bent over the largest bowl of, well, let’s just call it porridge shall we, sniffing at the contents. “Collecting data. Obviously.”

 

John didn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes, because let’s face it, there might never be a more perfect time for eye rolling. “Obviously.” Then, as he saw Sherlock lift a spoonful of the… stuff to his mouth, he shouted. “Wait! You are not going to eat that!”

 

He did. Of course he did. This was Sherlock bloody Holmes, the man who once ran his tongue along the wall of a murder victim’s bedroom just to determine what the red stain could be. (For the record, it was strawberry jam and therefore not nearly as disgusting as it could have been. But that’s not really the point, now is it?) John watched in horror as his best friend took a hefty bite, moved it about in his mouth a bit, then spat it back into the bowl with a look that was fighting between thoughtful and pure disgust.

 

John bent to peer up into his friend’s face as he continued to sputter and spit, making little retching noises, trying to clear his mouth of everything porridge-like. “Are you alright?,” he asked. “Jesus, Sherlock. That was just…  I mean that stuff could be laced with anything.” He pushed the man into the great, big, huge chair, put his fingers to his neck to check for a pulse and looked into his eyes to judge pupil reactions. “How do you feel? Did you taste anything peculiar?”

 

“Oatmeal.”

 

“What?”

 

“It was oatmeal, John.” Sherlock cocked one eyebrow and quirked his head to indicate that the fingers still resting on his neck were unnecessary. “Plain, unflavored, steel-cut oatmeal.” He made one more face and sort of shuddered. “And it was way too hot. Even your uneducated palate would have balked at it.”

 

“Yeah, okay. No need to be insulting.” John removed his fingers, picked up the medium-sized wooden spoon, and moved to try the kitchen door. “My palate is just fine, thank you very much, and that,”. He waved the spoon in the general direction of the offending bowl.  “Could very well have been poisoned.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Sherlock watched as five and half feet of gray-blond frustration pulled at the locked tight door. “If they wanted us dead, they would have done it when they drugged us.”

 

“Yeah, well…” John stopped tugging. “It was still a stupid risk. I’m pretty sure we’ve had the stupid risk talk before. And for the data, this,” He kicked the door once, because the door certainly had it coming. “Is locked, and there are no doors or windows in the sitting room.”

 

Sherlock was around the table and into the sitting room before the period could even be put on the sentence, no doubt with the pressing need of discovering for himself what John had already told him. John, for his part, threw his head back and looked at the ceiling while sighing the put-upon sigh that only flatmates of mad geniuses could possibly understand, and then did what he always did. He followed his friend. “See, as I said, no windows, no doors. And the door in the kitchen is locked.” He looked around at the three chairs. “Although…”

 

“What?” Sherlock had sat in the great, big huge chair, resting his elbows on his crossed legs, once again in his prayer-like thinking pose. He was, however, fidgeting far more than normal.

 

John couldn’t help it. Despite the situation, or maybe because of the situation, it was really hard to tell at this moment, he found himself fighting the urge to chuckle. “Are we a bit uncomfortable, there?”

 

“We…” And, oh, how that word dripped with disdain. “Are sitting on possibly the hardest stuffed chair in the Kingdom.”

 

“Well, you can’t sit here.” John quickly dashed to the medium-sized chair and was sinking into the very plush cushions before Sherlock could even finish rising. He used his thumb to point to the wee, baby chair in the corner. “You could sit in that chair,” he said. “But I wouldn’t recommend it.”

 

“Oh, I suppose you believe it will break into pieces.” Sherlock eyed the chair, suspiciously, almost as if he were sizing up an enemy.

 

“Yep.” John popped the “p”. Hell, Sherlock wasn’t the only one who could have some fun in this, well, whatever the hell this was.

 

Sherlock threw a look at John that was supposed to cut like a dagger, but mostly just tickled him into smiling a bit wider and making his eyebrows rise in a silent challenge. “Fine.” Sherlock, against his much vaunted logic, took the challenge, as John knew he would, and set about setting six feet of long-legged, bony frame into a child’s wooden chair. When he was finally in, arms wrapped around his pulled-up legs that were so high his chin was resting on his knees, he sighed, and smiled triumphantly. “See, nothing to it. It’s all simple geometry, really.” He settled a bit more, wiggling his bottom into the exact spot it need to be. “In fact, it’s quite comfort-”

 

That, of course, is when the wee, little chair did, indeed, break into pieces, depositing the great detective on the bottom that just a moment ago was so comfortable. John’s grin moved to giggling and was threatening to travel right into a full on guffaw, when he was stopped by a sudden awareness. “Uh, Sherlock?” John was gripping the arms of the chair, using his own arms to pull his body into a standing position. Well, he was attempting to. Apparently, the chair was not in the mood to let him go. “Little help?”

 

“Problem, John?” Sherlock stood and made a show of surveying his coat for any damage. “Chair too soft, perhaps?”

 

“Sherlock, if you don’t mind.” He lifted one hand to indicate that he needed to be pulled out, but quickly replaced it, gripping the arm of the chair so tightly that his knuckles actually turned white with the pressure. “Jesus, it’s like sitting in quicksand.”

 

His companion, having ascertained that his coat was undamaged, was sifting through the wreckage of the the wee chair. “Ah,” he said, picking up one very solid looking piece. “This should do better than the spoon, don’t you think?”

 

“Sherlock.” It was amazing how much threat could be placed into that one word when he tried.

 

“Oh, right. Yes. Well.” Sherlock put down his new weapon, and grabbed both of John’s hands. “Here we go.” He pulled hard, and then harder, and then let go. “Really, John, how much weight have you gained?”

 

“Not funny, Sherlock.” John’s eyes narrowed and then flew open in panic. “Shit. I think I’m still sinking.” By now John’s body was folded into a v and his thighs were pressed against his chest. “Look,” he said, trying hard not let the fact that he could no longer really take a deep breath push him over the edge. “I really need you to get me out of this thing.”

 

“Yes. Yes, okay.” Sherlock looked around, but found nothing that would be of use. Finally, he came back, and climbed on to the arms of the chair.

 

“What the hell are you doing?” Despite the slight crack in his voice that might indicate otherwise, John was absolutely not panicking. Really.

 

“Leverage.”  Said as if it explained everything.

 

“Right. Leverage.” It explained nothing but at this point John was ready to try anything.

 

Carefully, and with far more confidence than someone precariously balanced on a man eating chair should display, Sherlock bent over and slid his arms under John’s armpits and up behind his shoulders. “When I say now, I’m going to pull back and you’re going to push forward. Is that clear?”

 

John didn’t answer right away. He was too busy wondering what the hell he was supposed to push with. His feet no longer came anywhere near the floor and his arms were now squished against his sides.

 

“John!” Sherlock’s voice was stern, but then it couldn’t be easy standing there like that. “Is… that… clear.”

 

“Mmph.” That was meant to be a yes, but John was not only being squished by the chair he was now being smothered by Sherlock. Under the circumstances, it was the best he could do.

 

Sherlock rolled his eyes, because it was quite possible he’d never have a better chance, then, shouted, “Now!”

 

With a pull and a push both men fell to the floor.

 

“Are you alright?” There was that tinge of concern in Sherlock’s voice that let the rare person who heard it know that the man was indeed human. “It umm didn’t hurt you?”

 

“No,” John answered, beginning to giggle at the ridiculousness of it all. “No, I don’t think it actually bit me or anything.”

 

“Good.” Sherlock nodded, in agreement with himself. “That’s good.” After a pause, he continued. “Then maybe you won’t mind getting off me.”

 

“Oh, yeah.” Somehow, up until then, it hadn’t really registered to John that he had in fact landed on top of Sherlock, although the way they had been locked together, he supposed it had been inevitable. He rolled off and then sat up. “So,” he said. “What do we do now.”

 

“We take your suggestion and go upstairs to look for a window.”

 

“When did I suggest that again?” John stood and this time offered his hand to Sherlock.

 

“Well, you didn’t, exactly.” Sherlock allowed himself to be pulled to standing and then continued to grip John’s hand as he dragged him toward the stairs. “But you were going to just before the chair took you prisoner.”

 

John shook his hand loose, but followed as his friend knew he would. He looked back just in time to see the medium size chair pop back into shape, and if it seemed to sigh in remorse at having lost its mid-day snack, John certainly didn’t hear it.

 

Neither man was surprised to find the loft contained three beds or that they were sized big, medium and small. Nor were they all that surprised to find that the only window in the room, the one right by the wee, tiny bed, was locked. Sherlock tried to hit it with his wee, little chair piece, but that just bounced back.

 

“Well, that was disappointing.” John watched Sherlock rub his shoulder where it had been wrenched slightly. “What do we do now?”

 

Sherlock looked around the room, but seemed to find no inspiration. He then sighed and closed his eyes. Within seconds John saw the rapid eye movement beneath the lids that always indicated that Sherlock had entered his mind palace of carefully sorted and laid out memories, searching for something that would help them escape this fairy tale home. It was less than a minute before he opened his eyes and focused them so intently on John that the man took one step back just from the sheer power of it. “John,” he said. “What did the girl do to get out of the house.”

 

“Girl?” John asked, momentarily confused. “You mean Goldilocks?”

 

“Yes, yes.” Sherlock answered. “Her. The girl. Goldilocks.” He made a circular motion with his hand that no doubt was supposed to spur John onto quicker answering but really only made him want to swat it down. “What did she do to get out.”

 

John frowned, unsure of where this was all going. “She went out the window, Sherlock. The bears came home and she went out the window and ran away.”

 

“Out the window,” Sherlock repeated. He spun around, looking at the walls as if he might have missed a second window in the small loft. He stopped and stared at the definitely only window in the room. “But our window is locked.” He continued to stare but now added the gesture of tapping his index finger against his lower lip. John watched the process, frankly fascinated. This he knew, was where his flatmate, best friend and all around great consulting detective would no doubt solve the puzzle. “We were drugged and brought to this house. There has been no attempt to contact us, nothing to explain where we are or what we are to do except for our own knowledge of the the story. We haven’t been killed or harmed in anyway. Surely we are meant to escape using what we know of the story.”

 

“And yet the window is locked.” John had meant his words to be prodding, hoping that if he said them, Sherlock would then say how that wasn’t really a problem. Unfortunately, Sherlock remained uncharacteristically quiet, and John had the uncomfortable feeling that maybe this was the time Sherlock wasn’t going to solve the puzzle. “Maybe we are supposed to just stay here until we die from dehydration.”

 

“Noooo.” Sherlock dragged the word out, thinking his way through it into the next sentence. “No,” he said more firmly. “Think, John. If they had meant us to die slowly, they could have left us in an empty room.” He made a sweeping gesture with his arm. “Someone went to a great deal of expense. No. This…this is some sort of game, or test, if you rather. We were most definitely meant to…”

 

The last word was left unspoken as a crash was heard from downstairs. The crash was followed by shuffling sounds and then, and really, they should have expected this, growling sounds.

“Bears.” John whispered the word. “And I bet there are three of them.”

 

A cautious peek down the stairs confirmed what they already knew. There were bears down there, grizzlies to be exact, and there were three of them. They were, however, all three great, big huge bears, and they had already entered the sitting room where two of them were very busy ripping apart the medium-sized chair. The last bear was sitting at the bottom of the stairs, sniffing the air.

“Do you think they know we’re here?” John asked.

 

“If they don’t they soon will.” Sherlock was frantically moving around the room, probing the window sill and bed frames for triggers that might open the window. “Bears have an incredible sense of smell. They were attacking that chair, John. I suspect they smelled us on it.”

 

“The door is open now.” John said. “They had to have crashed through it.”

 

“That’s no good.” Sherlock kicked the biggest bed in frustration. “They are at the bottom of the stairs.”

 

“If one of us goes down first,” John had moved between Sherlock and the top of the stairs, but still back far enough that the bear couldn’t see him. “The other could get out.”

 

“No.” Sherlock was shaking his head as if he could shake that notion right out and it would have never been said. “No. We are meant to survive. I know it.” He grabbed John’s shoulders and gave him a little shake. “How did she do it, John? What did she do that we haven’t.”

 

“I told you.” There was a snuffling sound below them that really sounded as if two more noses had joined the one at the bottom of the stairs. “She went out the window. She laid down for a nap, the bears came up and she woke up and jumped out the window.” John pushed at Sherlock as he tried to extricate himself from the man’s vice-like grip. “Now let me go, Sherlock. At least one of us needs to get out of here.”

 

Although his hold on John didn’t loosen at all, Sherlock’s eyes snapped open and had it been any other time, John would have known, that there, right there, was that moment he had been waiting for. As it was, he was completely taken by surprised when Sherlock spun him around so that his legs were now pressed against the end of the wee, little bed. John was already out of balance, trying as he was to push and pull himself away from Sherlock, so when the taller man pushed out with his long arms and let go of his shoulders, John fell backward on to the bed.

 

As soon as he landed, there was an audible click and the window slid open.

 

Sherlock grabbed John’s arm, pulled him back up and practically pushed him out that window, before climbing out himself. It was a small house, so the fall wasn’t really a problem outside of a bruise here and a scratch there. John got up first and looked back to the window, which had closed behind them, keeping the bears from jumping after. “Wanna tell me what just happened?”

 

Sherlock, who had also stood up, turned slowly in a circle and then looked up to the sky, as if he were trying to get his bearings by becoming a human compass. Who knows, maybe that’s just what he was doing. “I knew there had to be a way to open that window,” he said. He started walking around the small house, stopping now and again to do that 360 turn. “That we were meant to survive was never the issue. How. That was really the question.”

 

“Oh.” John had a moment of clear understanding, and let’s be fair, he does have them far more often that Sherlock likes to admit. “So when I said, she took a nap..”

 

“Right.” Sherlock stopped just outside of the kitchen door, which, like the window, had been resealed. “I realized that we were meant to lay down on the smallest bed. Without really meaning to, we had been playing the game,” and damn, if John couldn’t hear the invisible quotation marks around the words playing the game, “all along, first when I tasted the porridge, and then with the chairs, and finally you on the bed.”

 

“Right,” John said. “Great. We played the game. We survived.” He looked around. “Now what? Do you even have any idea where we are?”

 

“Nope.” Again with the popping “p”. “Not a clue. Here’s what I do know. We’ve been brought here by persons unknown for an as yet undetermined reason. We are currently next to a house that has been made up to look like a house from a children’s story, from which we escaped by acting out said story. This house seems to be in a clearing surrounded by forest and there are three paths leading from the house into that forest, one made of golden bricks, which by the way, is very cliche, one made of paving stones and the third of dirt. The sky above us certainly seems real, as do the grass, trees and certainly, that pricker I landed on. I’m going to assume for now that they are real. When night falls, assuming we can see the stars, we will at least be able to tell what hemisphere we’re in.”

 

Sherlock stopped and looked at John. It was about here that he normally would have heard something along the lines of “Brilliant!” or “That was amazing. Quite amazing.”, and frankly, he was kind of missing the praise. John, on the other hand, did know his lines, but so far today he had been drugged, kidnapped, nearly eaten alive by Mama Bear’s chair and then chased by the whole bloody bear family. It was going to take a whole lot more than this to amaze him today.

 

“Frankly, Sherlock,” he said, finally. “I pretty much could have done that summary myself.”

 

“All right then.” John sighed as he recognized Sherlock’s I’m about to have a magnificent strop and there’s nothing you can do to stop it so don’t even try voice. “Perhaps you can tell us what we should do now. You are, as you are constantly reminding anyone you ever meet, formerly of the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers. No doubt you’ve had survival training.”

 

A silent conversation took place while the two men tried to stare each other down. It went something like this.

 

 

  • Really, Sherlock? Really? This is how we’re going to play this?
  • Yes, John. Do enlighten me, please. Tell me how you know more than I about this situation and how we should go about getting out of here.
  • I’ll do it, Sherlock. Don’t think I won’t. I’ll do it and you’ll get all pissy and then I’ll have to live with it for days.
  • Yes, well, if we live that long.

 

 

“Fine.” John made a show of looking down all three paths, turning around slowly and looking up at the sky, and because it was that kind of day, and Sherlock wasn’t the only person in the world who know how to work up a damned fine strop, he closed his eyes for a minute and made sure that Sherlock could see that they were moving quickly beneath the lids. Finally, he opened his eyes and made his pronouncement. “The way I see it, we have the following options. We can sit down here and hope that someone eventually finds us and that that someone wants to rescue us.”

 

Sherlock made a sort of humphing noise to that and opened his mouth, but was stopped from what was no doubt a brilliant retort by John’s out-turned hand. “Ooooor,” he continued, making sure Sherlock had indeed stopped. “We could take one of the paths and see what new games have been planned for us. Or finally, I think, we could go into the woods without the paths for guidance and see if we can find a stream or something to follow.”

 

“Perfectly adequate summary,” Sherlock admitted. “But tell me, John. Which shall it be?”

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Well, shut my mouth.

I woke up this morning after going to bed earlier this morning. Needless to say, I was a bit tired.

My normal Sunday begins in an almost ritualistic manner.  I shlup to the kitchen in my jammies and big soft slippers, get out my french roast pot, my extra-large coffee mug, fill one with coffee and the other with expensive pretend sugar and creamer. Then, as the water bowls, I try to wake up. I’m not always successful.

This morning, when the kettle clicked off, I lifted it from the heater and poured the contents into the pot. Or at least I thought I did. When I looked down, I realized I had poured it into the mug and had ruined the extensive sweet mix.

I did the only thing I could do. I shouted “ShitFart!”

Then I laughed.

I have no idea where the hell that word came from. Now mind you, I can swear with the best of them and because I’m a preschool teacher I have a lot of imaginative, yet harmless, swears including Holy Cats, Cheesy Peesy, and my favorite, Well, Bummer! At home, however, I can make a sailor blush.

Never once have I shouted, “ShitFart!” before today. Normally, “f” word is THE “f” word and as we all know shit floats alone.

Perhaps I’m just easily amused, but I made myself laugh this morning and I now have a new expletive for some character to use.

I’m not shy. I’m just really, really, REALLY quiet.

I am shy.  I’m a shy, shy person.

If you know me from my work, this will come as a surprise to you, I’m sure. Working with young children means that I must work with grown-ups as well. I have to be bright, bubbly, informative and almost aggressively friendly. Those parents entrusting me with their most precious commodity need to trust that no matter what either they or their child needs, I’ll be there and I’ll be able to provide.

At work, I find this easy. I’m glib and fun. I’m just the kind of person you want caring for your family. Really. Put me in a room full of people over the age of four, however, and suddenly I’m the kind of person you notice because they are trying so hard not to be noticed.

It’s almost as if I’m a different person. I stumble over words. I hide my smile. I become suddenly and completely engrossed in any available reading material. You’d be surprised how many Far Side Calendars there are in the world, or how interesting the back of a CD case can be.

I have always been shy, and really it’s no longer a big problem in my life. I like people and all, but I also have learned that I keep myself pretty good company. Besides, the bratcat would never let me get too lonely.

I am a little bit worried, however, that my wall-flowery attitude will eventually get in my way when I am finally ready to publish. A huge part of publishing anything is self-promotion. Just the idea of pressing the flesh and selling my self as a part of my product scares the bejebbus out of me, and I need all the bejebbusses I can get.

Sometimes, when I contemplate my future, I find myself wondering if I’m up to the task. Once that thought hits, it’s all I can do to keep from closing my file, turning off my computer and hiding under the covers of my bed.

What about you all?  What scares you?  Have you figured out a way to get beyond it and get what needs to be done?  I’d love to hear your ideas.

By the way…

It has come to my attention that my good friend, sister of the soul, some time writing companion and all around great gal, Leanne D. Baldwin disagreed with my recent essay, “America’s Love Affair with All Things Zombie”.  What’s more, she’s disagreed in a very pubic manner.

You can find Leanne’s silly, interesting article here.

Mind you, Leanne is my very best friend in the world, my sister of the soul, my sometime writing companion and an all around swell kind of gal.  She is normally the smartest person that I know. Further more, she, like every American, has a right to her opinion, no matter how, shall we say, misguided.

I’m sure she simply misunderstood my position or she would have never made such a silly mistake. Once she realizes this she will no doubt apologize, just as publicly, and we will have a virtual hug and all will be forgiven by me.

I’ll wait politely.

America’s Love Affair with All Things Zombie

America seems to be obsessed with zombies. If you Google the word, zombie, you will get 141 million hits. Googling zombie games will get you 16,800,000 hits. On the Barnes and Nobles site, BN.com, searching the word zombie will bring up 1905 matches. And all of that is just the very tip of the grave stone.

Everywhere you look there are zombies. They are on the television, at the movies, in video games and in books… lots and lots of books.

I had managed to miss this trend entirely until my well-meaning friend and total zombie geek, Kevin, introduced me to the movie Shawn of the Dead. If you have never seen this movie, you really should. It manages to be scary and hilarious all at the same time. It’s basically the story of an average guy living an average life until the world around him starts going all zombie, and some how that works out pretty well for him.

I was surprised by how much I liked that movie. I had expected to be either grossed out, bored or both bored and grossed out. I had not expected to be entertained, but, since I was, I decided to go out and explore life with the undead.

My next foray into the world of the living dead was the book, World War Z by Max Brooks, the son of actor/director/all around funny guy Mel Brooks. This is a history, ala Stud Terkelesque interviews, of the zombie wars that have, at the future time of this book, decimated the world, but not destroyed humanity. It starts from a patient zero and follows the wars through to their aftermaths in a frightening plausible way.

After reading this book, I was officially hooked. I had to find more.

I have now read at least ten anthologies of zombie short stories, watched several movies about zombies, am contemplating buying a zombie game, and am writing a novel in which one of the major characters is, in fact, a zombie. It all leaves me with one undying question. Why?

Why are we so obsessed with zombies. My guess is that the idea is just so primal. A zombie is an unthinking, uncaring and almost completely unstoppable force that we cannot hope, in the end, to control or defeat. It is, I think, much like our own basic urges.  We all feel rage, love, hunger, lust and we all worry that we will not be able to control those most basic of human motivations; that, in the end they will defeat us.

Through portrayals of zombies we can live out our fears in a non-threatening way. We can control them, even stop them, or we can let them run amok and discover what happens, all in the confines of our favorite easy chair. The world is safe from us and we from it. We can live to die another day.

Or… maybe, these stories are just plain fun.