The Walking Dead, Season 4-The Governor Returns and People Are Pissed. But I’m Okay WIth It

twd4I was furious when The Governor showed up at the end of episode 5 of season 4 of The Walking Dead.  My God.  I was so tired of The Governor by the end of season 3 that I was ready to scream.  He has always been a villain who didn’t really make sense, to me.  Regular guy turned post-Apocalyptic psychopath and little tin god, he kept heads in aquariums and his zombie daughter in a cubbyhole.  He lived on the hope that a spark of his daughter remained in the shell of her cannibal corpse, and that her real live girlness could be restored.  However, none of this zombie-ism reversal hope was extended to the rest of the walkers, and he merrily used them as gladiator fight entertainment, a terrorist weapon, and tropical fish.  The Governor lies, The Governor cheats, The Governor steals, The Governor senselessly murders innocents, and I’ve never even been sure why he does some of it other than He Is A Bad Man.

I missed the first run of episode 6 because there was an excellent National Geographic special on about Bigfoot DNA.  I didn’t realize that it was a two hour affair, but I’m glad I watched it because it was totally insane.  I vowed, however, to stay up late and catch Rick and his gang on the replay.  I didn’t want to watch Talking Dead.  Spoilers.  So, I signed onto Facebook during the hour break and learned that I was staying up late to watch The Shittiest Episode Of The Walking Dead EVER.  People.  Were.  Furious.  They felt they’d been cruelly and unjustly bored for an entire hour.  One of my friends said, “It was The Governor for the whole show,” and that’s all she told me.  

I was not thrilled to hear that I’d be looking at The Governor for an hour, but I’ll admit that I was also intrigued.  My favorite episodes of The Walking Dead are episodes that a lot of fans thought were batshit boring.  I like the episodes that explore character and morality.  That’s why I like zombie fiction.  I want to know what people would do if the world fell out from beneath them.  I get bored during zombie slaughterfests, honestly.  Could this reputedly boring episode be a new favorite?  Starring The Governor, no less?

It wasn’t one of my favorites, no.  However, I wasn’t bored.  A theme of the show this season is the question, “Do People Get To Come Back?”  Can people under hideous stress who become something they’d rather not be, something everyone around them would rather they not be, hope to recover?  Even with walkers hot to eat them up?  Rick came back from talking to his dead wife on a telephone.  Carl came back from shooting first and asking questions later. Carol may or may not come back from murder as a form of housekeeping and a literal banishment.  What the episode “Live Bait” seemed to be asking is…Can The Governor come back, too?  He wasn’t always Super Turd, obviously.  And he does things in the episode JUST TO BE NICE.  Just to be human.  I thought it was a refreshing change of pace, and it gives me hope for the future antics of The Governor.  If he’s human, it’s a whole new ballgame instead of more of the same.

If that’s boring, bore me more, Walking Dead.  Bore me more. 

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The Walking Dead, Season 4: Why Rick Banished Carol

twd4After Carol admitted to murdering two flu-infected group members at Rick Grimes’ Apocalypse Survivor Sanctuary And Correctional Institution on the fourth episode of Season 4 of The Walking Dead, I made a joke on social media about not wanting Carol to  check on me when I’m sick.  I was actually serious.  Can you imagine?  You don’t feel great, and there’s Carol, with her tight assed, expressionless, Kewpie doll face going, “I just came in to pretend I care how you are doing.”  I would scream, “I’m fine, Creepy!  Get out!”  And that’s without knowing that she’s planning to knife me. 

Rick ultimately decided to banish Carol for her loose cannon murder of the first flu victims in their group.  I don’t blame him.  Other fans did.  The banishment seems to particularly bother women, and I can totally understand that.  Rick assures Carol that she will find another group to join, a group who won’t know what she did.  Yeah, a group of cannibal rapists who can’t judge her.  The show has repeatedly touched on the cruelty of leaving people to go it alone in a world of both living and dead predators, but The Walking Dead kind of glossed over what a harsh sentence Carol’s banishment really was.

On the other hand, who would want her around? She’s trouble when the group least needs trouble.  What is Rick supposed to do?  Hold a trial in the middle of a deadly zombie flu outbreak?  Put her in prison?  Hell, they’re in prison, already.  How would Rick protect Carol from the vengeful Tyree, whose girlfriend got killed before he had a chance to get some?   

“The answer is simple,” answer Carol Defenders.  “Carol was doing what she thought best. They were suffering.  They were dangerous. Officer Friendly could have just kept his damn mouth shut.” 

It’s true that Rick is the only group member who knows what Carol did.  And here’s the price of keeping Carol’s unapologetic Survivalist Angel Of Deadly Mercy tendencies to himself…Rick would never be able to sleep, again.  Can any of us imagine running from situation to situation to make sure that Carol doesn’t take matters into her own crazy hands?  Lizzie has her first period.  Lizzie is suffering, without any Midol handy.  Carol to the knife-wielding rescue.  Hershel has one leg.  He’s slow.  Slow is dangerous to the group.  Stab stab stab.  The honest truth is that Carol is a worse threat to the group than Shane ever was, because some people were safe from Shane.  Is anyone really safe from Carol? At the very least she is going to start her own cult of Survive At Any Cost children.

Killing Carol would have put Rick in her league.  Banishing her is effectively killing her, but Rick will be able to live with the dream that she survives and thrives.  I’m sure she’ll show up again before the season is over.  Until then, I can live what Rick did.  

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The Devil Is In The Details – Season 4, The Walking Dead

twd4When I was a kid, my Grandma had a garden.  It wasn’t like the gardens that people know, now.  It wasn’t a corner of her back yard.  It was huge.  It had to be.  It fed four people year-round, and it made possible Sunday dinners for our extended family of ten.  Grandma didn’t work her garden alone.  Grandpa helped, with his tractor.  We all helped pick and dig, when we were visiting. 

Rick Grimes has a garden.  It’s a tiny corner of the prison yard.  Sometimes, his son Carl helps in the garden, although Rick would far rather Carl attend story time, like the rest of the kids.  The garden is where Rick piddles away his time, trying to heal his wounded soul, rather than a necessity for a group of at least thirty people.

I’m fully aware that fans of The Walking Dead have no interest in watching Rick break his back in a garden.  I actually don’t, either.  It would be boring.  It would be far more boring than the season we spent on Hershel’s farm, which I actually didn’t find to be boring at all, although many fans did.  In spite of the fact that I don’t want The Walking Dead to be a gardening show, I still can’t believe that there isn’t a bigger outcry about the improbable lives that Rick and his band of survivors are leading.  I write zombie fiction (Zombies Take Manhattan! and Junk Mail) and I’m a fan of post-Apocalyptic tales in general, so I know damned well that the devil is in the details.  You’d better get them right, or people just aren’t satisfied.  The Walking Dead is skimming the details of survival, when it’s not ignoring them altogether.  I’m starting to starve for some reality, although nobody on the show seems to be hungry, at all.

The top of Season 2 touched on the fact that the walkers are not only a menace because they want to eat the survivors, they are a menace because they keep the survivors from eating.  The survivors were in trouble because they were forced to raid an area that had already been picked clean.  The prison seemed like a haven, at least in part, because of the promise of undiscovered food.  Season 4 finds Rick playing at farming while the rest of the mouths to feed that the group has blithely accumulated do nothing much.  Okay, okay.  Daryl does hunt.  Michonne scours the countryside for luxury items like comic books, stale M&Ms, and the Governor.  Glen takes some core members of the group to raid a store that seems more Best Buy than supermarket.  Hershel heads up a governing counsel and dispenses wisdom.  Carol reads stories to children and secretly teaches them to kill.  Carol also kills, and her murders of two flu victims are a refreshing little whiff of common sense compared to a quarantine that is basically making sick people sit on the other side of the room.

If The Walking Dead were a realistic show, every man, woman, and child would be busting ass in that garden.  The survivors wouldn’t be poisoning their little available land with a graveyard of rotting loved ones.  The prison yard isn’t big enough to support a farm that would feed them all, as it is. They would also need a massive purification system to make safe the water from that stream, which is surely full of corpses. Water would be a even greater concern than food, in fact.  The deaths of the pigs would be as much a disaster as the walkers trying to take down the fence.  There wouldn’t be prison rats for someone to use as walker treats, because the rats would all be in the stew pot.  Hershel would have sent a party out to the veterinary college for antibiotics long ago, because the weakened, starving survivors would be a hotbed of infection.  In fact, Hershel, former farmer and veterinarian, wouldn’t be limping around like Ben Franklin and Santa Clause had a baby.  As the person who would surely have the best understanding of food production and disease, he would be in a blind panic over the whole lot of nothing that the group has. 

I’m fully aware that the show can’t be exclusively about the daily grind of survival, but what it takes to survive is an integral part of post-Apocalyptic fun.  There wouldn’t be reality shows about survivalists and people who live in harsh climates if none of us were interested in the nuts and bolts of staying alive without running water and Walmart.  

I kind of need the Mystery Voice on the radio to be a cannibal trap.  And I need one of Rick’s questions to potential new group members to be, “How many people have you eaten?”  Cannibals would give us that satisfying touch of post-Apocalyptic reality that the show is currently ignoring.

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I Am Crazy, And I Grow Food

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I enjoy fairly good relations with children, in spite of the fact that I don’t really care for them.  I’m small, so they seem to think I’m not exactly an adult.  I have small dogs, and children find it fascinating that my dogs aren’t going to get any bigger than they already are.  Most children are better acquainted with Labrador retrievers than chihuahuas, generally for good reason. 

Getting along with children has its pluses and minuses.  Sometimes, they assume we are FRIENDS.  We are not friends, so that’s a minus.  In general, my house doesn’t get egged or toilet papered, and that’s a plus. 

Today, I had an encounter with a child.  He asked to borrow my garden hose.  He wanted to fill his swimming pool, which I assumed was a small, plastic affair.  While I use the hose to water my tomato plants, it’s a crappy hose.  It’s a hand-me-down.  Someone must have run over it with a lawnmower, at some point, because it’s short and there is no coupling for a nozzle at the end, just a ragged petering out of hose. There is a better hose in the utility room.  I could afford to lose this hose.  So, I let the kid borrow it, but I said, menacingly, “Be sure to bring it back.”

The kid promised to return the hose, and surprisingly, he did.  He had his little sisters in tow, this time.  All of them were fully dressed and soaking wet.  The hose returner explained that their mother had told them they could NOT fill the pool, so they had squirted each other, instead.  Then, he said to his sisters, “See?  She’s growin’ FOOD.” He pointed at my tomato plants.

I was momentarily stunned.  While I eat the tomatoes, I’d always thought of what I was doing as growing tomatoes, not growing food.

“They’re tomatoes, ain’t they?” The boy cocked his head at my two plants.

Back on familiar ground, I said, “Yes, they are tomato plants.”

“I told you,” the kid said to his sisters. “She’s growin’ food.”  It suddenly became clear to me that the girls were with him so he could prove his wild claims that I was growing food.

“Why you growin’ food?,” the older of the girls said, like she’d never heard of anyone doing anything so ridiculous.

This was another stunning question.  A lot of people I know grow tomatoes.  The ones who don’t grow their own tomatoes covet my tomatoes.  If you want someone to owe you, you give them a homegrown tomato.  That is how it has always been and how it will always be, at least in my world.  “Because, they’re good,” I replied.  “Tomatoes taste better when you grow them at home.”

The smallest girl rolled her eyes at my incredible folly, and the kids left me to hook up my own idiot-food-growing-ass hose.  Food, they know, comes from the grocery store.  You don’t have to grow it.  You just buy it.

So, here I sit, a crazy old fart who grows FOOD, and I’m marveling that the kids find it to be so strange.  I guess kids don’t have grannies who have gardens, anymore.  Both of my grannies had gardens.  One of my grannies had a garden so large that it was basically a small farm.  She canned most of what she grew.  She basically provided nearly everything her family ate, except for bread, meat, and milk.  I don’t long for a return to those days, because my granny worked like a mule, in that garden.  I have no interest in that much manual labor.  But, the vegetable gardens my grannies had did give me a sense of how to grow things, and they gave me the knowledge that things you grow yourself are always better than the things you buy in the store.  Most of the produce in grocery stores isn’t even worth eating, these days, and it isn’t going to get any better.  The kids are the ones who are missing out, and I’ll just get crazier and crazier to generations of kids who will eat whatever someone sells them.

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Joe Rogan Questions Everything On The SyFy Channel

ImageOnce upon a time, an ex and I lived in a small, paranoid, mountain town in Maryland where everyone except us looked alike.  One of the few entertainments to be had was renting videos.  Videos (store’s actual name) had started to stock a few DVDs, but videos were mostly what Videos was about.  They had a real sweet deal, too.  You could rent five older videos for five dollars for five days, but if you were one minute late, you might as well have bought all five videos several times over. 

Because it was a paranoid little mountain town where everyone looked alike, there was a huge selection of what I like to call “Weird Shit” videos.  They had your Bigfoot, they had your Satanists, they had your ghosts, and your conspiracy theories.  UFO videos hogged a lot of shelf space in the Weird Shit section.

I can’t remember if Youtube existed, back then.  It wouldn’t have mattered to me, if it had.  I had a dial-up internet connection, and my phone line didn’t work half the time.  I couldn’t watch videos on the internet.  I could barely send out emails.  I was starved for entertainment.  I was dying for fun.  I was hot to rent every single video in Video’s Weird Shit section.  One particular day, I got ten videos. Two five dollar deals.   I think I snagged all of the UFO videos. Anybody who came in behind me hoping to find that the truth was out there was shit out of luck. 

Of course, the videos were a disappointment.  They were mostly IN SEARCH OF…-type television shows, and I realized I’d already seen many of them the instant I started the tapes.  The ones I hadn’t seen had nothing new or startling to tell me. They were rehashes of the other shows I’d already seen.  There was nothing to do but stubbornly keep watching.  Giving up was not an option, although it should have been.

I saved the best for last.  It was a documentary about Hitler’s flying saucer program, a subject I knew little about. It hadn’t been covered at all in my history classes at school, naturally.  At the very least, I was going to see weird shit I hadn’t seen before.

The video consisted entirely of a chubby man delivering a dry, monotone lecture.  He didn’t even have visual aids.  It was just a very amateur film of a lecturer lecturing.  He told me and the camera about the various models of flying saucers that the Nazis had developed with the help of aliens.   He blandly gave model numbers and talked about each model’s capabilities and how they had performed in battle (in BATTLE?!).  I didn’t watch nearly the entire thing because the jiggling camera made me dizzy and the droning talk made me sleepy.  However, the fact that it was so boring reminded me of the countless hours I’d spent suffering through lectures by uninspired teachers.  The boredom factor made it seem oddly REAL, and it gave me the off-kilter feeling that maybe, just maybe, EVERYTHING I KNEW WAS WRONG. 

Some of the experts Joe Rogan interviews on his SyFy Channel show, JOE ROGAN QUESTIONS EVERYTHING, remind me of that video.  The experts are professionals.  They are doctors and scientists.  They are TERRIFIC witnesses and proponents of theories…until they say something whack-a-doo that makes us mentally scoop up everything else they said and flush it down our brains’ Information Toilets.  I mean, I was TOTALLY paying attention to what the meteorologist was saying about chemtrails and the government controlling the weather until he brought up the aliens.  Then…FLUSH.

I went over to the show’s Facebook page today and saw a lot of angry people leaving angry comments.  They say that Joe is digging up wingnuts and that Joe is pooping on The Truth for the sake of comedy.  Well, eh, he kind of is.   Me, I have found the first two episodes of the show to be generally fresh and funny.  At points where most of us would turn pale, say, “Um, I see, very interesting,” and get quickly away from someone saying a crazy thing, Joe says, “I gotta call ‘bullshit,’ here.” 

When Joe calls “bullshit,” I want to cheer.  If there ARE mysteries and conspiracies out there, wingnuts and bullshit are what keep the rest of us from finding out what is really going on.  Serious experts can’t take any mystery seriously when “experts” are offering handfuls of tinfoil hat bullshit. 

As someone who teeters on the edge of wanting to believe while at the same time not wanting to fall into a pile of bullshit, I have to say, “Well played, Joe Rogan. Well played.”

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I Would Love Some Amendments To The “Forever Dog” Meme

I just saw that meme on Facebook that drives me crazy, again.  It’s this one…foreverdogPlease read on before you tell me off.  There is a reason I’m running the risk of having people say I’m a heartless bitch who encourages surrendering dogs to shelters. The “Forever Dog” meme, at its core, is good-hearted and correct.  Dogs are not hobbies to be tossed aside when new opportunities present themselves.  Dogs are family, not possessions to be weeded out when things change.  Same goes for cats.  Or any pet.  No one should ever take lightly the idea of getting rid of a pet.

The meme is flawed, however.  Nobody goes to the shelter, looks at a dog, and thinks, “Oops.  I can’t get this dog.  I might have a boyfriend someday who hates dogs.”  Because people can’t see into their futures, and because people certainly don’t want to imagine themselves being shits in the future, the primary message of the “Forever Dog” meme ends up being, “If you get a dog, you’d better damned well tough it out with that dog.”  The honest truth is that not all dogs should be Forever Dogs. Some dogs desperately need more suitable homes.

During my time as a dog trainer, I met dogs who were tired of being Forever Dogs.  It was written all over their faces.  They lived their lives in crates or alone in back yards.  Someone in their house hated them.  Maybe EVERYONE in their house hated them. They looked at me with eyes that said, “Can I please go home with you?  I really want to be YOUR dog.”

Sometimes, the tide turned.  By the end of class, some of those dogs didn’t give a damn about me.  They didn’t even give me a backward glance as they trotted out the door with their graduation certificates.  I’d lost them, but I’d lost them to their FAMILIES.  It’s what beginning dog training is all about.  It isn’t always about who can sit or stay the best.  It can be about turning a dog into a true family member and making the whole family happy.  I LOVED THAT.  I loved losing those dogs to their people, and I loved the people who worked to make it happen.

Sometimes, the tide didn’t turn.  Some dogs went out the way they came in, looking pleadingly at me over their shoulders as they left.  Nothing had changed for them.  In a few cases, things had gotten worse.  Either the families weren’t interested in working or the dog was such a terrible match with its people that there was little I could do.

Some people simply aren’t cut out to have dogs.  They got their dogs for all the wrong reasons. They didn’t understand the commitment they were making, and they never accepted it.  It would be fine for them not to be dog people…except they have dogs. Their dogs can end up in living in crates, or alone in back yards.

Even dog lovers can end up with the wrong dogs for them.  I’ve seen lazy people with high energy dogs.  Older, frail people with large, rambunctious dogs.  Very social people with dogs that don’t care for strangers.  These poor choices are sometimes based on memories of a beloved dog the owners had when their life circumstances were very different.  Often, the poor choices are the result of selecting a dog based solely on appearance.  Sometimes, people are just doing a good deed by taking in an inappropriate stray or getting the most needy dog at the pound.  Poorly chosen dogs can make for trouble at home, and very poorly chosen dogs can end up being dangerous to everyone around them.

I want the Forever Dog meme to be more about making wise decisions in the present and less about what might happen in the future.  None of us know what the future will be.  All of us can see our present circumstances and what is right in front of our faces, if we will only look.

Perhaps some meme maker will see my post and make a better meme.  I’d love that.  As the meme stands, I don’t think it’s entirely productive.  When I see the “Forever Dog” meme, I think about the dogs I failed.  I think about dogs who are miserable prisoners, or dogs who don’t have the proper outlets.  I think of dogs who would be better off and safer if they had a chance to find more suitable homes.  But, they are where they are, and their owners just saw a meme on Facebook that says dogs are yours FOREVER.  And forever can be a horribly long time.

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Do You Need An Editor? Yes, You Do

cryingwriterA stranger said something nice about something I’d written.  I always take situations like this fairly seriously.  I’m new enough to writing that I’m flattered and grateful. I feel I should make some gesture of thanks.  Flowers?  Tasteful gift?  That’s how grateful I am.

This time, it was easy to show my gratitude.  The person who said something nice about me had a story up on Amazon.  A few good reviews, the subject matter was right up my alley…I didn’t even bother looking inside the book, because that sucker was also FREE.  I was going to leave a nice review, after I’d finished.

I read the story last night.  Oh, wow.  Disappointed.  I wasn’t crushed, or anything.  It wasn’t THAT bad.  However, this is obviously a smart person who is new to fiction writing.  Or, perhaps he isn’t new to fiction writing and he keeps making the same mistakes.  In either event, the story was full of this brand of Detail Monster Awkwardness… John scratched his head in puzzlement.  He reached his hand into his pocket and clasped the whistle between the first two fingers of his right hand. He gently withdrew the whistle from his pocket, slowly raised it to his lips with his hand, pursed his lips like he was kissing his first girl, placed the whistle against his lips, and then blew. (That isn’t from the story, by the way.  I made it up for illustrative purposes, so don’t try to Google it to find out who I’m talking about.)

What my new best friend (he doesn’t know he’s my best friend) needs is an editor.  We all need an editor.  Most writers agree that they need an editor, and what they mean when they say “editor” is they really want a proofreader to fix spelling and grammar mistakes.  Or they want a ghostwriter, because what they’ve done is crapped out some words and they want someone else to do the hard work.  Or they want someone to kiss ass and say, “A+!!!!  I couldn’t find one thing wrong with that!”

The amazing Jaye Manus is my editor.  Boy, did she piss me off, the first time she edited one of my stories.  SHE SUGGESTED I CHANGE MY GOLDEN WORDS!  I had to take a break and smoke a cigarette, the first time out.  Actually, I took a lot of breaks.  I smoked a lot of cigarettes.  It was hard going, for me.

Time marched on, I survived my first experience with being edited, and now I enjoy the process.  It isn’t Jaye suggesting arbitrary changes, the way I thought it was that first time.  It’s a discussion.  It’s work to make my work better.  It’s give and take.  It teaches me, and I can see how much I’ve learned from Jaye when I go back and read my old stories and see things like Detail Monster Awkwardness.

If someone is editing you and it isn’t a process and a discussion, you need a better editor.  If someone is editing you and you don’t learn something every time, you need a better editor.  If nobody is editing you, you need an editor. Don’t put your work out there and charge people for it if it hasn’t been edited.  I don’t mean proofed for errors.  I mean edited.

I should send the flowers and tasteful gifts to Jaye.

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If I’m Not Reading Books, What Am I Reading?

I’m “friends” with a lot of writers on Facebook.  Naturally, I wouldn’t recognize most of them if I saw them on the street, and we aren’t really friends, but I get a sense of what they are like through the miracle of the internet.  Some of them are famous, some of them aren’t.  Most of them are regular folks. Some of my favorite authors make really enjoyable posts and deign to chat with us mere mortals, and I love that.

The thing that surprises me the most is how anti-ebook some writers are, even when they derive great income from sales of the digital versions of their works.  A lot of them don’t own ereaders.  Some of them are vocal in their disdain for digital books.  Those writers seem to think that digital books somehow aren’t books, or are pale shades of “real” books.

My mother instilled in her children a great love of books.  It’s the greatest favor she did for us, outside of giving us life and keeping us from dying in childhood.  (“Can I have a dirt bike?”  “No.”)  I played Huckleberry Finn, and my bed was the raft.  I was Pinocchio and Mom was the Blue Fairy, whether she liked it or not. When I entered high school, I was bewildered to learn that my peers hadn’t already read the books on our required reading lists, and I was even more shocked when they whined about being forced to read those wonderful books. 

Mom got old, and she focused her hoarding tendencies on books.  She had ten large book cases full of them.  She had piles of them everywhere.  There were boxes and boxes of moldy books in her storage unit.  I was eventually forced to strip her of thousands of books.

I didn’t stop enjoying bookstores because I had the experience of dealing with tonnage of hoarded books.  That experience certainly marked me, but it didn’t mold me.  I had stopped enjoying bookstores long before I was forced to guiltily toss books into dumpsters, before I realized that paper could turn into a sort of prison.  I stopped enjoying bookstores because many bookstores had stopped catering to readers. 

Big box bookstores started featuring gifts in the 1980s.  Many, many gifts.  Junk gifts for readers crowded the entrances of stores, although it wasn’t stuff that readers would ever purchase for themselves.  Or use, if someone else purchased it for them.  As the gift sections got bigger,  there was naturally less room for books.  That didn’t stop me from shopping in bookstores, but I sure wasn’t purchasing as much or having as much fun.

Eventually, I found that I was walking out of bookstores empty handed, and that was shocking, to me.  In huge stores that specialized in selling books, I couldn’t find books to buy.  One thing that confounded me was lack of organization within the stores.  Books were still divided into sections, but most sections were generally teeny.  The fiction sections were basically all books that weren’t non-fiction.  Organized only alphabetically, by authors’ last names, they were impossible to browse. There were sometimes separate genre sections, but not always, and they were tiny, if they were present.

I also found the selection in bookstores to be just terrible. Genre sections, in addition to being tiny, were mainly hogged by best sellers.  If you wanted a best seller, bookstores were the right places to buy them.  They were prominently displayed throughout the stores.  Of course, Wal-Mart is also the right place to buy best sellers.  And grocery stores, they have best sellers, too. 

The PRICES in bookstores were also difficult to swallow.  Many paperbacks were larger than the paperbacks of my youth.  They cost half as much as hardcovers and twice as much as standard paperbacks.  Budgetary issues and general cheapness kept me from buying those, even when I really wanted them.

Borders was the last bookstore to successfully sell books to me.  They were the best organized.  They had the best selection.  They went out of business, and I was really sad.

I realized that, if I wanted to continue reading,  my options were the internet, the library, or the best sellers in the grocery store.  After a little research, I ended up with a Kindle.  I was worried that reading on it wouldn’t be the same as feeling the paper beneath my fingers.  It did take a little getting used to.  Then, one day, I realized that I was devouring books.  Amazon’s selection was incredible.  The prices were affordable.  I WAS READING, AGAIN.

Digital books are part of a revolution, and it’s a good revolution.  The publishing industry has pulled strings for far too long.  Basically, readers can only read what they are offered.  The books in which the publishing industry has invested the most money are the books that take up most of the limited space in bookstores, and that obviously isn’t good for the few remaining bookstores in America, or for readers.

It surprises me that I’ve read books written by people who think I haven’t read their books because I didn’t read them from paper. Every night, I crawl into bed and I turn on my Kindle.  I’m transported to all sorts of different worlds and different lives before I sleep.  If those worlds and lives aren’t books, I don’t know what books are.

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Amazon and The Zombie Apocalypse- Junk Mail

ImageAmazon bought Goodreads. It was big news. Goodreads is a popular social network where readers connect with each other, connect with authors, and review and recommend books.  It’s a very active community. Amazon wants to incorporate the site into their Kindle tablets, and the easiest way to do that was to buy the site.

Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads created some hysteria.  What would happen to the site?  Would it essentially become another arm of Amazon? Would Amazon basically be spying on people to learn what they like to read?  Eh, I don’t know.  I think we are all plenty spied on by merchants, especially online.  I don’t expect to keep my preferences private when I’m wandering all through cyberspace.

Amazon has already changed the world of books.  Basically, Amazon has made traditional publishing companies poop themselves.  No longer do new writers have to bang their heads on the doors of those hallowed halls.  They can publish their own books, and sell them.  Established writers are wandering off the farm, too.  They are self publishing both their old and their new material.  In addition to books, Amazon sells virtually everything you could ever hope to buy, and they are even stepping on eBay’s toes by letting at-home vendors sell. 

So, Jaye Manus and I were discussing this and, frankly, laughing about it, when we started saying, “What if Amazon REALLY took over?”  Thus was born JUNK MAIL, my vision of Amazon making the zombie apocalypse a little more survivable. It’s a twenty-something page short story, and it’s available as an ebook through, of course, Amazon.com

Special shout out to Jaye.  She’s writer, she’s an ebook genius, and she’s a fun, fun girl. Together, we plot our own version of world domination, and it’s a blast. 

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No More Normal, AMC’s Freakshow, Episode 8

fs-cast-760Episode 8 of AMC’s reality series Freakshow, which follows the fortunes of Todd Ray’s Venice Beach Freakshow, had an air of finality to it. The show celebrates the differences that make us all unique and showcases performers and people who are a little more unique than most of us. I’ve found on the web that eight episodes were made. Fans of the show are surely desperate for more.  If you’d like for AMC to produce more episodes, get over to Twitter and make some noise.  Freakshow is the most popular topic I’ve ever written about on this blog, but I see very few people talking about the show. 

In “No More Normal,” Ray decides to throw a Freak Festival. Special guests from episodes past return to help the resident freaks of Venice Beach spread the word that “Normal” is dead. There’s a parade, a special performance, and Morgue without a shirt. 

Guest performers include returning freaks Billy Owen, the Illustrated Penguin, Half Man Jesse Stitcher, and Armless Wonder Jim Goldman. Molotov, a cowboy who throws flaming knifes, shows up to throw some at resident Brianna.

Brianna. The only performer who got more screwed over for camera time more than Brianna on Freakshow was the wolf boy we never really got to meet. Brianna swallowed some swords, ate a lightbulb or two, and got flaming knives hurled at her. We met Murrugun’s MOM, for God’s sake. It would have been nice to know a little more about Brianna. And the wolf boy.

In spite of a slow start, Freakshow did a very good job with their first season. The show depicted Todd Ray’s attempt to revive a theatrical tradition that is nearly dead, in spite of a rich history. It also spread Todd Ray’s message…that “different” is actually special and unique. In a world where kids are bullied to death and girls starve themselves hoping to look like models, I’m with Todd Ray and his Venice Beach Freakshow. NO MORE NORMAL!!!

If you are interested in reading more about the show, be sure to check out my other blogs under the category Freakshow on the right hand side of this page.

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