Brown River Queen cover art

Monday, March 31, 2014

Bonus Monday Blog: My Angry Body

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I'm nearing completion on the long-overdue sequel to All the Paths of Shadow.

Tonight, I had a genuine breakthrough. It was one of those rare moments when the story took hold and tore up my outline and Meralda stamped right off the page and bloody well told me what happens next.

I got it all down, too. Every word. I know where the story goes. I know why it goes there. It's good. Really good. I pushed sweet gentle Meralda too far, and she's had enough, and if she met Rick Grimes in a dark alley right now he'd be the one who turned and dived for cover.

Such moments are rare.

I hastily made four pages of careful notes. I saved that file, and then I turned back to the book file and plowed right in.


Bless you. I barely noticed the sneeze. My fingers hammered away, stabbing the keys of my long-suffering Saitek Eclipse II keyboard like fat, determined sausages.


Hah. I forged ahead, heedless of the growing pressure in my aquiline nostrils, or the tell-tale hints of burning and tearing in my bleary eyes.


And then it began in earnest -- a full-blown, five-alarm, no-holds-barred Festival of Expelled Mucous which scared Hell out of my assembled Writing Dogs and necessitated an emergency cleaning of my monitors.

My eyes joined the fun, puffing up and streaming tears. I cried more than the front row at a Twilight screening. Tears ran down my cheeks and soaked my beard, and that's never happened before, although I will certainly use it in a book sometime, because having a beard soaked with salty tears is a unique visceral experience.

My nose, not to be outdone, redoubled its efforts. The Writing Dogs exited the study en masse, seeking shelter behind the toolshed and peeking out briefly to see if I'd exploded yet.

My sinuses are, I discovered, unbound by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that neither matter nor energy is ever created or destroyed. Because I created matter, buckets of the stuff, and physicists don't believe me fine, just stand right there.

Then things got really bad.

I sprayed a considerable quantity of something called Flonase up my nose. Look, I'm a writer. But I'm not a famous one, so I still have a day job. I don't have many hours in the day to write. I don't have time for all this sneezy/coughy/teary body function jazz. And this nasal spray seemed confident it could help, or at least provide me with numerous amusing side effect options (may cause uncontrollable hypothermia. Some users report being transformed into werewolves. Occasional hyperdimensionality or time travel may result).

It helped, if by 'help' we mean 'take a bad situation and elevate it to truly epic tragic status.' The dogs have abandoned the toolshed and have placed ads on Craigslist which read FREE TO A GOOD HOME HURRY WE THINK HE WILL SOON BLOW UP.

I've used an entire roll of Bounty paper towels. No, you don't want any details.

My nose, my nasal passages, my traitorous running eyes have turned on me, in the hour of my greatest need.

How? If you took a blood sample from me, my blood type would register as ALLEGRA. I'm careful to avoid the outdoors. I haven't even seen the sun, or natural ground, since briefly emerging from my lair last November to inspect my otter-drawn sleigh.

This is killing me. I shall now concoct a devil's brew of powerful anti-allergens and hope it provides sufficient relief to continue with the book.

In the meantime, here is a repeat post from 5/30, in which I opine about all maters bodily and physical. Please wish me luck in recovering. I do NOT need this now!


REPOST from 5/30

Your body is either a wondrous living engine powered by a spark of the divine or a ludicrous assemblage of evolutionary short-cuts, depending on your point of view.

Having seen myself naked (police video enhancement techniques have shown a marked improvement in recent months), I know where I stand on the whole wondrous construction / meat-based Rube Goldberg contraption controversy.

An injury to my back last week left me thinking about the fleeting and fragile notion of health. Since the injury also left me in a crumpled heap on the floor, I had plenty of time to ponder my attitudes toward wellness in between bouts of cursing and attempts to raise myself by climbing a nearby window-frame.

So, with a renewed appreciation for the simple things I took for granted -- walking, standing, crouching to hide from store detectives, lifting liquor bottles or barrels filled with deep-fried hamburgers -- I'd like to offer a few thoughts on our bodies, and how to keep them healthy.

Your body is a biological machine, powered by food and air, which will give you many years of trouble-free use if you perform regular maintenance, especially routine oil changes. Wait. I got my body mixed up with my riding lawn mower. Let me start over.

Your body is a wildly inefficient hodge-podge of finicky, unreliable chemical processes and damage-prone tissue structures. Even with the best of luck, it's going to start failing faster than a Russian-built sports car after forty years, and probably well before that.

Let's take a look at the major structures and systems that make up the human body:

Might as well pick out a plot....
1) THE SKELETAL SYSTEM. Beneath your skin is an appalling volume of gooey wet stuff.  Hidden inside this gelatinous mass of goo are your bones. Each bone connects to another via muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cleverly-hidden wires. This complex arrangement of jointed bones and opposing muscles allows you to wave awkwardly at strangers who you thought waved to you, but were in fact waving at their friend behind you. Too, whereas the lowly ant can only lift a mass fifty times its own body weight, your skeletal system grants you the ability to beg for help opening a jar of mayonnaise. Maybe that stranger has a stronger grip than you do, from all that bloody waving.

The most common skeletal problem is that of having to endure a skeleton in the first place. Face it, used  skeletons wind up wired in humorous poses by bored medical students or spend decades popping out of doors in carnival spook-houses, and even then the things are prone to make a lot of clattering noises and require frequent repairs. Many commercial and medical establishments have switched to sturdy plastic skeletons these days, which is a move you should check into as well.

The human brain.
2) THE NERVOUS SYSTEM. Your nervous system conveys the brain's instructions to your muscles via a series of nerves. Given the poorly thought-out nature of most of your brain's instructions, this crude and error-prone delivery system is probably a blessing in disguise, since it gives you time to reconsider flipping off the burly, tattooed Neanderthal who just bumped you in a checkout line.

Humans share virtually all of their nervous system chemistry and neurobiology with the graceful soaring hawk and the surefooted mountain goat, but you'd never suspect that after watching the average person put on a drunken rendition of the 'Mashed Potato' dance at a karaoke bar. Honestly, half the population is likely to suffer minor injury just playing 'Rock, Paper, Scissors' and the other half couldn't walk across a foot-wide plank without falling if their lives depended on it.

Nerves are composed of neurons, glial cells, and quite a number of other microscopic structures which are wasting their time and effort on a species that still hasn't quite mastered the rhythmic finger-snap.

3) THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM. Your body requires proper nutrition to function at its best. A quick appraisal of your body's so-called 'best' clearly explains the shelves lined with Cheetos and the presence of a McDonalds drive-thru every sixty feet in the developed West.

You can spend forty years nibbling on nothing but free-ranch kelp and gluten-free naturally-occurring whole-grain tofu and still wind up diagnosed with the exact same terminal diseases as the 400-pound trucker who has eaten nothing but tobacco-soaked gas station burritos since 1987.

Still, you might improve your odds a tiny bit if you maintain a body that conforms to the following simple formula:

Height > Maximum girth.

Thus, if your waist measurement is six feet, remember to maintain a height of AT LEAST six feet. Seven would be better. Eight is just showing off.

Choose a height and stick with it. Your digestive system will seek to undermine your efforts at every turn, but  if you can ignore the aching constant hunger and nearly-irresistible urges to consume the entire Sarah Lee display in a single sitting, you can at least maintain a healthy weight. This ensures your last words can be smug ones.

A healthy heart is a bloated misshapen heart!
4) THE CARDIOPULMONARY SYSTEM. Your heart and lungs comprise your cardiopulmonary system. The heart pumps the blood, which passes through the lungs. In the lungs, the blood releases carbon dioxide, absorbs oxygen, and craves tobacco just like it's done day after tiresome day since Prince released his breakout '1999' album.

Much ado is made by physicians and the media concerning blood pressure and the importance of keeping one's blood pressure within certain clear limits.

Regardless of your age, general health, or activity level, doctors have determined that your blood pressure is well beyond both the upper and lower safe limits and you will soon expire unless you:
  • Switch to a healthy diet by removing all food from your diet.
  • Pester harried waiters with demands that your tablecloth and silverware be certified gluten-free.
  • Lecture everyone you know about the benefits of a Vegan lifestyle.
  • Reduce your body mass by no less than 67% between now and the next celebration of Earth Day.
  • Stop using bacon as both dental floss and chewing gum.
By taking care of your heart, you will ensure that Cyborg Dick Cheney has a steady supply of cardiac tissue for at least the next half-century.

Fig. 3, the anterior brachiostatic excretory array. Eww.
5) THE BRACHIOSTATIC - ARTERIOPEDIOTIC SYSTEM. All the squishy things not covered by topics 1 through 4 above. Feet, nose hair follicles, ear wax glands, etc. Basically, all the squirming bits of this and ropy parts of that which ancient Egyptian mummy-makers hurriedly sealed up in jars. Because, yuck.

If something goes wrong here -- and it will -- odds are you'll first learn of it in that brief moment between floating above your motionless body and being pulled into The Light. Early symptoms of a sudden demise from brachiostatic complications include itching, sneezing, feelings of calm or well-being, anxiety, hunger, thirst, any sensations of fullness, sounds or vocalizations from the mouth, blinking, yawning, skin, or regular bouts with sleep.

There is a way to keep your complex brachiostatic system in perfect function by consuming a half teaspoon of a certain Greek plant pollen per day, but this same pollen causes rapid, irreversible heart failure. Who says Nature doesn't have a sense of humor?

Really, the best you can do is keep those toenails trimmed so the morgue attendants won't snicker and post awful pics on Instagram.


From the moment you are born, your body begins to renew itself.

Sadly, your body is no better at this renewal business than it is at regenerating limbs or developing acute night vision. Now, if you cut a starfish in two pieces, each piece will heal and become a really pissed-off starfish, and no one will ever leave you alone with their pets or small children.

But cut off the tip of your pinky finger, and aside from profuse bleeding all that happens is a rapid realization that your Blue Cross insurance coverage is woefully inadequate.

Aging is merely a slow-motion fatal car crash into a rather solid stone wall. You are placed in the doomed car at birth, the doors are locked tight, and the steering wheel and brakes don't work. But take heart; each year, advances in medical science bring us closer to a truly lifelike embalming process.

We really, REALLY mean it this year.

Not a flu season passes without dire warnings from the CDC that the current strain of bird flu will wipe all of humanity from the tortured face of the soon-to-be-barren Earth. We are bombarded with media instructions to get flu shots, wear breath masks, and refrain from huffing the missing CDC canisters of experimental bird flu viruses.

This year will be no different, and the outcome will be the same. The worldwide death toll from the latest incurable superflu will be dwarfed by the sum total of all Nerf-related injury deaths suffered while riding atop a rhinoceros at noon on Arbor Day. If this is pointed out, CDC spokesmen will mutter under their breath and hint that next year the Great Unwashed are really gonna get trashed.

The only way to prevent disease is by avoiding childbirth, especially your own. Once you're here, disease is both inevitable and a vital component of our thriving Health Care and Mortuary industries.

You've got to really *feel* the burn.

Use it or lose it, they say. They also say five times five is thirty-six and London is the capital of China, so listening to them is a complete waste of time.

Another complete waste of time is exercise. You can run, you can lift weights, you can practice Yoga every hour of every day for your entire life, but your body will still direct its energies toward devising ways to undermine your efforts. If you run, you will ruin your knees. If you lift weights, you will tear things with cryptic names such as the 'ACLU' or the 'Isles of Langerhams.'

You may forestall this inevitable decay by injecting steroids directly into your muscles, which will make you  stronger, faster, and easily capable of swinging that blood-soaked claw hammer for hours on end while a SWAT team peppers you with rubber bullets.

An alternative to this is low impact aerobic exercise, which consists of rapid-fire channel surfing while seated at an athletic and unyielding 46 degree angle. Additional motion may be added to the workout session by incorporating the chip-dip arm action, or by walking briskly to the refrigerator at regular intervals for another Coors Lite.

Marathons, triathlons, paragons, pentagons, and the Running of the Bulls are best left to the obsessive-compulsive, the rabidly insane, and the Spanish.

Grab your ankles, sailor.


Finding a competent, caring physician is an important step in maintaining wellness and a healthy lifestyle. However, you could achieve the same results by engaging in a quest for solid physical evidence of Bigfoot. In fact, that's altogether the better idea.

The modern physician left medical school only to find him or her self buried under a veritable mountain of debt. The only way to ever hope to pay it off is to run patients through their practices at speeds normally reserved for slaughterhouse cattle-chutes. Pharmaceutical reps help out by pushing thousands of pills and saving the poor beleaguered doctor the time of actually listening to his patients, who are by nature a whiny complaining lot anyway.

The modern doctor-patient relationship works like this -- you, the patient, are presented with a bill. You pay the bill. If the bleeding resumes return for another rapid-fire office visit, receive another bill, and this time, a blue pill.

Repeat until wellness or a body temperature equaling that of the ambient air is achieved.

It's just not that hard, people.

The spiders tell me to dance!

Many mental health care providers recommend quiet introspection and frequent self-examination as part of a health-conscious lifestyle. These health care providers recommend these practices because that BMW 328i with the 36 speaker Bose sound system and the heated leather seats isn't going to pay for itself, and the usual reaction to any interval of honest self-appraisal is panic followed by weekends in Vegas spent mainlining pure grain alcohol.

An important first step to achieving true mental health is learning to distinguish between the voices of friends and family, the voice of Grolog, Dark Lord of the Underworld, and the voice of Mark, who will be your server for this evening. Honestly, if you can refuse to loan your cousin Theo money, ignore Grolog's suggestions that you emulate the dietary practices of Hannibal Lecter, and convey to Mark your wishes for iced tea, the turkey club, and a side of spicy fries, then you're already in better shape than 75% of the other diners in Chili's.

Spiritual health is best achieved by waiting to become a disembodied spirit yourself, and if you keep ordering the spicy fries, you won't be waiting long, Mr. Unchecked Hypertension.

I intended to end this section on health and wellness with an audio recording of the noises my back now makes when I stand, but the FCC stepped in and I'll either have to skip that altogether or move to and post from Singapore, where the rules are more relaxed.


  1. At least one serving of broccoli each day and spearmint tea throughout, preferably hot to lukewarm. Seriously. Broccoli helps with allergies, as does the tea. What do you have to lose other than body parts when one of those sneezes takes your nose completely???

  2. Broccoli? Thanks, Maria, I will certainly try that! I have the tea already. Maybe both will help, since the mold/pollen count hereabout is already at 2 million parts per million.

  3. AIRBORNE - use it immediately and the effervescent kind and every 4-6 hours. It might lesson the symptoms - sorry you're feeling poorly. :(

  4. Yeah, we're getting that yellow/orange/green stuff flying around pretty heavy here. I'd never heard of the broccoli trick until this year and so far it's working. I eat about a cup a day of the stuff. Don't know what it does, but it really seems to lessen the symptoms.

  5. Well, Frankie, I had the very same thing week before last. I'm on antibiotical plague pills, spritzy spray that tastes really awful and having just completed two grueling rounds of allergy panels, I now know I am allergic to the state of Texas as well as cats. Dogs and feathers don't bother me, but then I'm not around either. Starting the allergy shots in April, but have to be off the antihistimine for five days before the first shot. That's what started the dreaded nose plague from hell the first time. I'm with you, Old Man. Hang in there.

  6. I am happy to report I had a much better day today. Head mostly clear, two thousand word output achieved, no small mammals were displaced by my sneezing. Thanks for all the advice and well-wishes!

  7. Ha! "Blood type Allegra." I myself am blood type Zyrtec/Singulair, with occasional Benadryl boosters. But I will triumph over my body! Thanks for the human body repost--I think it was the blog post that turned me into a fan. Hysterical!

  8. Thanks Carol!

    "If you cut us, do we not ooze antihistamines? "