Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Heraclix & Pomp Now Available for Preorder and Wishlist at

Friends, fellow book lovers, and RPG geeks,

My novel, Heraclix & Pomp, is now available for preorder and can be added to your Wishlist at RIGHT HERE! If I've ever spoken a kind word to you or if you've ever read anything that I've written that you've liked (either in your heart and mind or "liked" with the click of a mouse), I'd like to ask a favor of you: Please add Heraclix & Pomp to your Wishlist, even if you plan on buying it at another venue. 

This is one of those critical moments to a book's success. I am not a "name" author, save to a select dedicated few who have been following my short stories and anthologies over the years. Thus, it is critical to send out a strong pulse of data indicating that there is potential interest in the book. You don't have to pre-order the book (though I'm not discouraging this at all!), but please add it to your Wishlist. Then, please add it to your "to be read" list at Booklikes, Goodreads, or your other book-lovers' website of choice. These are the best ways we can send a message to the marketplace that there is interest in Heraclix & Pomp!

Please ask all of your friends to do the same - the best advertising is word-of-mouth, and while Heraclix & Pomp will, admittedly, not appeal to everyone, I'd like the world to have a chance to give it a read and decide for themselves whether or not it is their kind of book. If you have a twitter account, please tweet the URL. If you have a facebook page, please share the news there. Reshares at Google+ and Tumblr are fantastic, as well. Feel free to supply the link at your blog, if you have one, also. And, again, please ask all of your friends and internet acquaintances to share the news! My publisher, Resurrection House/Underland Press, is now being recognized as a quality publisher by the publishing industry news outlets, but they simply don't have the marketing dollars that the big New York houses have. So I need your help in this in order to get the book out in front of more readers, as many readers as possible. I appreciate anything you can do to help get the word out.

The link is for the hardcover edition. The hardcover, e-book, and versions are all due out in September of this year. Trade paperback will follow, but I'm not sure exactly when. If these formats do well enough, there will be a mass market paperback, meaning you can brag to your friends "I know that guy," while you're waiting in line to get your groceries rung up. And who doesn't like to show up their friends at the grocery store? But the appearance of the mass market paperback is dependent on what kind of interest we can generate *right now*! Books burn through bookstores fast, and there's not a lot of time to build a brand, especially with a no-name like your's truly. 

You'll note that Amazon doesn't have the artwork up, yet, so I'm including it below for your pleasure and convenience. I'm also including the "blurb" beneath the cover art.

I will be randomly giving away a couple signed copies of the hardcover at Booklikes, as well as Goodreads, as soon as I have physical copies in hand.

For my RPG friends who ask "why would I want to read your book?" I will point out that the main characters in the book are a flesh golem and a fairy/pixie. When's the last time you read a novel about a flesh golem/pixie tandem? It is an adventure story, a historical fantasy with a side-trip through Hell. There is enough evil sorcery and there are enough demons to keep you occupied throughout.

For my friends who might not lean toward historical fantasy, note that the main philosophical questions posed in the novel are: "What happens when an immortal must learn to face mortality? What is the nature of memory and our perceptions of the past? Who are we, really, anyway? Do we really know ourselves as well as we think we do? What lengths would we go to to preserve our own life or bring back from the dead the ones we love?", and "What happens when we find out we are not the person we thought we previously were, but someone far more repulsive and terrifying?"

This novel does not neatly fit into the marketing categories of "fantasy" or "horror" or "literary" or "historical fiction," but delves into each of these genres. As Stepan Chapman once remarked, "there's something here for everyone to hate!"

In closing, I want to thank many of you for the awesome discussions we've had about books we love, books we hate, and those we disagree on. My life is richer because I've been privileged to hear and consider your opinions on fiction, gaming, books, and even life in general.I'm a better man because of your contributions, and I thank you!


Forrest Aguirre
author: Heraclix & Pomp

PS: Don't be surprised to see another plea similar to this over at, at Booklikes, and at my blog, Oh, and I'll be tweeting about it as well, for you twitterati.

Heraclix was dead and Pomp was immortal. That was before Heraclix’s reanimation (along with the sewn-together pieces and parts of many other dead people) and Pomp’s near murder at the hands of an evil necromancer. As they travel from Vienna to Prague to Istanbul and back again (with a side-trip to Hell), they struggle to understand who and what they are: Heraclix seeks to know the life he had before his death and rebirth, and Pomp wrestles with the language and meaning of mortality. As they journey across a land rife with revolution and unrest, they discover that the evil necromancer they thought dead might not be so dead after all. In fact, he might be making a pact to ensure his own immortality .

Microdiscectomy: WARNING: not for the squeamish!

A little over a week ago, I blogged about my upcoming back surgery. I wanted to log some details and report how things went. 

WARNING: If you are squeamish, leave NOW! No joke. You might puke, and not in the good way . . . wait . . . nevermind . . . just . . . go.

Alright, for you brave souls who remain, here's how it went down. First, some things I didn't share about what happened before the surgery. I swear the gods of spines did not want me to have this surgery. Before I went in for my final preop clinical visit, I went to the dermatologist to have a rash checked out. It had become painful and had been in my armpit for some time. So I thought, "Let's get it taken care of. Shouldn't be a big deal." Wrong. Turns out I had a staph infection. Lovely. So I got a couple of creams and an antibiotic called sulfamethoxazole-trimethoprim, which sounds like some sort of Klingon insult about your mother's lack of headbumps. So I let the spine surgeon know, and we're all good. Clinic visit goes great with the spine clinic, then two days later, I'm done with the course of Klingon insult meds. Things are on track for surgery on Valentine's day, February 14th (in case you forgot - for shame!).

The Sunday night before the week of surgery, February 9th, my guts basically turn inside out. I'm talking massive pain, somewhere in the 8.5-9 range for me. I've had this happen before a couple of years ago, and that time I went into ER, they gave me some hydromorphone and some kind of medicine to settle my guts down and I was fine. Except I had to pay $75 for the ER visit. And I felt really stupid when it wasn't something spectacular, it just hurt so bad I was crying (though not nearly as bad as when I ruptured my disk). I wasn't about to do that this time, even though my copay has dropped to $50/visit (thank you, spouse's employer!). So I grind through for 12 hours. I did not sleep one minute that night. It's not like the kind of sick where you actually just pass out and then look at the clock and realize that you've been asleep for 5 or 10 minutes. Oh, no. I didn't even get that mercy. I sleep NOT AT ALL that night. But I was determined not to go into ER. Finally, at about 5 AM, I called the 24 hour nurse helpline (my HMO absolutely rocks!), and talked, between groans and grunts and squeals, with the nurse. Urgent Care opened at 8, could I wait that long? I said I'd try, and she told me that if I just couldn't wait, I should go into ER. No way. I stuck it out and suffered through 3 more hours of excruciating pain. Imagine someone punching you in the stomach while you're not expecting it every minute or so. That's pretty much what it felt like. 

So I went into Urgent Care and answered a million questions through my pain. They took some blood, took some stool sample (yeah, it was more red than anything, which worried me a great deal), and did some X-rays. After a while the doctor called me back in and said it could be a couple of things (I can't remember what they were, thankfully - they were pretty horrific) and that I needed to get a CT scan . . . at another clinic! So here, I'm thinking, "how the heck am I going to drive over there in this kind of pain?" The doctor, being an astute reader of persons, immediately noted my perplexed look and said "I can give you something for the pain that won't make you loopy, so you can drive over there." I love it when doctors can read your mind or, in this case, your face. Makes life a lot easier. So I waited a few minutes and the nurse walked in with her tray of injection stuff. It's cool, I don't mind shots, especially given the pain I had been in up to that point. No big deal. So I roll up my sleeve and she says "unfortunately, this one goes in the rear". Sigh. OK. "Can you put it in the left cheek, because the right cheek is where I already have a bunch of pain, hence the upcoming surgery". "No problem," she tells me. "Just drop your drawers and inch or two. So I comply, looking forward to the pain relief. She pops the needle in, not that painful, then sweet mother of heaven! Mike Tyson is in my butt muscle and trying to punch his way out! Augh! "Yeah," she says, "that one's got a little bit of a bite. I don't know why. Sorry about that." Her sweetness prevented me from wrapping the blood pressure cuff around her neck and pumping until something popped. My butt hadn't hurt that much since I dared my mom to spank me with the wooden spoon (she obliged). In fact, I loved my mother for that spanking at that moment, because it didn't hurt nearly as much as this. I was cursing ketorolac, at this point. 

I sat down and recovered from my butt-whupping. The pain in my gut actually did subside a little. Enough to drive without fear of driving off the road. My butt still hurt (I couldn't see if it was bruised, but I think so), but I could drive. So I headed over for my CT scan. They introduced me into a waiting room where I drank 3 tall (and I mean tall) glasses of what tasted like crystal light lemonade. I was almost gagging by the 3rd one. You can only have so much of some things. After that (it took an hour), they popped an IV in me and had me lay down on the table. The technician was totally cool. Have I said how much my HMO rocks? And UW hospital, too. Those guys are awesome. Anyway, the technician told me "I'm going to inject some iodine in your IV. It might make you feel a little warm. In fact, you might feel like you're wetting your pants, but don't worry, you're not." Easy for him to say. He hadn't had to guzzle down a half-kegger of crystal light lemonade. So he started the injection and I waited for the possible warmth. "You'll feel it start near your chest and spread . . ." but by then, it had already happened. It was one of the most awesome feelings I've felt, even though it was not terribly comfortable. I felt like the Human Torch, like my skin was spontaneously catching fire and I was full of power and could fly! RAAAAAH!!! Of course, all I could say was "whoa". "Pretty cool, huh?" the technician said. I could tell he had flown like this before, too. I did feel like I wet myself, but I didn't care because I was now this mutant superhero, right? I was ready to conquer evil, and they wasted my superstrength by putting me into the CT scanner instead of unleashing me on the criminal underground. I said I liked these guys, I didn't say they were the smartest . . . Then, when the CT scan was over, I felt my superhero powers leave. I could have cried. Maybe I did. I wouldn't know because my tears would have instantly become steam. Iodine, I love you.

So then came the long wait. After that long wait (I won't bore you with the boredom), the doctor called the radiology section and I talked with him on the phone. The diagnosis? Acute Colitis. I'm not going to elaborate. You go look it up. Nasty s***. Literally, nasty s***. And guess what caused it? The antibiotics that the dermatologist prescribed me. I kid you not. Antibiotics caused this. And the cure? Yep, you guessed it, more antibiotics! At least the doctor had the courtesy of asking if I wanted anything for the pain. I told him I thought that would be best, so he prescribed hydrocodone and the new antibiotic, metranidozole - the most hideous horse pills I have ever had to swallow. 500 mg of pure putrescence cut in such a way that it never goes down with the first swallow. Who thought of putting sharp edges on a pill that big? Stupid, stupid, STUPID! I should sue the pharmaceutical industry for abusing my olfactory and taste senses. 

So I called the spine surgeon again and we postponed until Thursday, February 20th. I was surprised and relieved to get in so early. Keep in mind that this whole time, I'm dealing with pain from the small of my back down through my right leg all the way to my (numb) toes that feels like a really, really bad toothache. Everything is sharp pains and zinging, the kind of thing that makes you nauseous. Thankfully, I was able to keep food down, but it was a chore sometimes. 

The Colitis eventually resolved itself and the day before surgery arrived. I tied up loose ends at work (tough when you work on multiple projects at once and all are important and need a good place to pick up at when you go back). I went home, had a Hibiclens (tm) shower, and crashed out. The next morning, another Hibiclens (tm) shower and I had to have my wife cover my back and butt in another prep solution. Honestly, I've never felt so clean in my life. I think my body was a biological dead zone at this point, at least on the surface. I'd love some of that Hibiclens stuff for the times when I come home after a week of camping. Die, bacteria, DIE!

Since roads were slick, we ran a little late, but it didn't matter. There was a room full of people waiting for surgeries. Seriously, there must have been 20 people getting cut open that morning. I wondered how many would make it, but they were all outpatient surgeries, so I'm guessing at least 19 of us survived. I didn't check the obituary for faces. Who knows? I may have been the only person to walk out of there alive that day. They don't really publicize these things, you know?

A very nice nurse came in and he asked me the same questions I had answered probably 50 times in the last two months. When I get old, I might just have my medical history tattooed on my back, then roll over and go to sleep when they start asking. They can take notes from there. Seriously, I thought electronic medical records were supposed to make these questions less frequent. That's what they told us when I worked at Epic. Not that Epic is the paramour of honesty . . . but that's a different story. After the nurse was done I met with the anesthesiologist, who was an MD resident. Since anesthesia was my biggest concern, I was really happy to find that she was a straight shooter who told it like it is, but with a sense of humor. She told me that there was a very low chance, less than 1%, that the sheath around my spinal column might get torn and leak spinal fluid. If that happened, there was a chance I could get a really bad headache, so I had to be on the lookout for that. And if it did leak too much, they might inject some of my own blood into the spinal cavity, which somehow helps. I'm guessing it dilutes the spinal fluid or something and keeps you from having headaches, or maybe it stops things up so you don't lose more fluid, I dunno. I said "so what you're telling me is that there is a far greater chance of me dying as I walk out to my car after surgery than there is of this happening, right?" We had a good laugh, then she told me about how they'd to the epidural. I asked what they would use for sedative, and she told me Fentanyl, which is scary because that stuff is 50 times stronger than heroin (I knew this how? From listening to a story on NPR about heroin addicts dying because their street dope got laced with the stuff and they OD'd). But, I thought, great, I'll be good and out. She had me sit up and the room flooded with anesthetists and anesthesiologists (anesthetists are like the techs, anesthesiologists are like the doctors). The anesthetist standing directly in front of me was from Ethiopia, so I told her about my degree in African History and we talked a little Ethiopian history (I knew just enough to not sound like a fool). They started the epidural, which wasn't uncomfortable, then I looked over at my IV tap and saw the Fentanyl syringe being slowly plunged . . .

And I woke up in another room. My wife was just walking in as I woke up, I think. The spine surgeon came in and told me something that I half understood, something about me needing to stay overnight for them to observe me. I was like, whatever, doc, I'm BAKED right now! Woohoo! Well, I didn't say that out loud, but I was sure thinking it.Anyway, it was something about my spinal sheath or rather. I didn't hear the rest, just felt that my leg was a LOT better, even though some pain remained.

So then, yeah. Long day full of morphine and hydrocodone. Late in the morning, the nurse comes in and says "you haven't urinated yet today". I didn't think much about it until she brought over this nasty looking tray with red rubber . . . objects. "We're going to have to catheterize you to get things going." Now, catheterization is something I've joked about fairly frequency, like "I'm so busy. Catheters would make me even more efficient," that sort of thing.

People, catheters are no joke! I thought they maybe just popped a needle in your belly and drained the bladder or something. I didn't know any better.

Now I know.

I will never joke about catheters again. Ever. I think I'm going to get the area around my urethra tattooed with "One Way: Do Not Enter!" Because a tattoo there couldn't hurt much more than the catheterization, and it might buy me enough time to escape from the hospital next time. Or at least to beg them for whatever local anesthetics they have in their cabinets.

Needless to say, I drank a LOT of water and had a LOT of juice with every meal. I had a deadline: 5:30. If I coulnd't get the whizzer going by then, they were going to do it again. I was going to have none of that. Problem is, epidurals relax your bladder sphincters, so you kind of have to wait for it to work through your system. Furthermore, the shock from the urethra on the initial catheterization was enough that whenever I thought I could start (Oh, by the way, I had to do this lying on my back in bed. Couldn't sit or stand up), my little buddy just winced. At 5:29, I was able to generate a trickle. The nurse shift had changed, and the new nurse said "That's good! Now so long as you have less than 400cc in your bladder, we won't have to do the catheter." So she got this sonogram-type device, probably the same thing submarines used to search for depth charges underwater or something, and scanned my bladder. I was thinking "holy crap, I drank the Ganges river today. No way that's going to be under 400cc." Thankfully, I was wrong. 319cc. Phew! All that water must be hiding up around the bend, somewhere. Then she said "next time you pee, we'll check again. You have to have voided (meaning had to be under 400cc in the bladder) three times in a row for you to have passed."

This had me worried. What if I didn't pass? I had chugged a prodigious amount of liquid. I felt as bloated as a week old dead horse on a civil war battlefield. I probably didn't look much different. But at least the dead horse didn't have to face The Catheter. I might.

Thankfully, the river gods blessed me that night. In fact, they might have cursed me. I drained 700cc on my next try and passed! The (new shift) nurse told me that you'd expect somewhere between 200-300cc to be "normal". So I had gone great gonzo on the urination front. Next time, 700cc more! The nurse came in and said: "Geez! What monster have I unleashed?" But when he measured my bladder, it passed muster! I was home-free. Except that I hadn't banked on how much more liquid was in me. Next try: 500cc. Then 400cc. Then 600cc. Then 600cc again. This was all in the course of one night, mind you. 3500cc in one night. That's 3.5 liters of piss! 3.5 LITERS! I don't even think I drank that much! My bladder opened a door to the elemental plane of water!

So after I dismissed the water elementals, I waited for a while (didn't sleep much that night, by the way), and the spine surgeon showed up to let me know they were done observing me and were ready to let me go home. I asked him, "so I didn't really hear what you told me yesterday, because I was still flying on Fentanyl. So why did I need to stay overnight?" He smiled and told me "there was a little tear on the sheath surrounding your spine and a few drops of fluid dripped out." "So," I responded, "that thing that happens less than 1% of the time happened to me?" He shook his head and rolled his eyes. "Yeah. I've never seen that before. We patched it up, though, and you should be okay." I said, "given everything else that was conspiring against this surgery happening, are you surprised?" He shook his head and smiled, then gave me instructions that I was to take it very easy over the next week, just stay in bed, and then we'd meet in 2 weeks instead of the previously-scheduled 5 week follow up.

I probably should have gone out and bought a lottery ticket. I know that he does hundreds of these surgeries a year, and he's been at it for a while. Never saw that before. Just my luck.

So I came home. The first day, after I had been home for a few hours, I felt like a truck hit me: a nausea and aches truck, like the flu and a bad hangover mixed up in a blender. I started shaking and just wanting to puke (that would have been fun). Just felt like crap. Then I realized, oh my gosh, I had 2 mils of Morphine every 2 hours for the last day. And they cut me off. I'm going through withdrawals! Seriously, I was. That was horrible. I can see why junkies keep on shooting up. It's not to feel good, it's to not feel bad. Seriously felt like the flu just pinned me down and punched me repeatedly in the kidneys. That sucked. I don't ever want to feel like that again. Thankfully, my next dose of hydrocodone leveled me out. I slept and had the freakiest dreams, but the withdrawal symptoms eventually faded.

 So I have been resting as much as possible since I came home, which is not like me. I've tried to resist the temptation to overwork myself, but it's tough. I probably shouldn't be sitting here typing this, and have had to do it piecemeal, taking a bunch of breaks in-between typing sessions. Sitting hurts if I do it too long. And my doctor told me I really shouldn't be sitting at all. So I'm sort of following those orders. Sort of. I'm mostly laying down or standing, but I can't really type doing either one of those. I think I'll be alright, though, so long as I continue to lay much longer than I sit.

So it looks like this ordeal is over, right?


Last night, I was brushing my teeth. I looked at my tongue and felt panic shoot through me - it looked like chunks of my tongue were coming off! Seriously, there was something very wrong! So we went into Urgent Care last night and they did a culture. Looks like I have a yeast infection on my tongue (another medical discovery for me - I didn't know such a thing was possible). Guess what brought it on? Wait for it . . . you guessed it, antibiotics! The ones that were supposed to cure my colitis, which had been caused by antibiotics, caused this infection, as well! I said to the doctor: "Don't tell me. The cure for this is more antibiotics." She assured me that, no, it's not. Instead I'm taking an antifungal agent. I'm guessing mushrooms are going to sprout out of my ears and eyes at any moment.

Overall, though, the pain has lessened. I get some shooting nerve pains that are pretty spectacular once in a while (I feel one brewing right now, in fact, and am going to have to lie down soon), but overall, much better. I can walk without using that stupid cane and, as long as I don't overdo it, I think I'll continue to improve. Today was really good, in fact. I've dosed down on the narcotics, which is making me feel a lot more confident about potential withdrawal symptoms. Don't want that mess again!

And now, the part you've all been waiting for: the pictures. Well, they're nothing spectacular, to be honest. First, there's the doctor's initials on my side. He owned me for the surgery, I guess. No sense getting us mixed up. "Your forceps are in my patient!" "Your patient is in my forceps!" (cue Reeses Peanut Butter Cups music). Second, the incision. This is a couple days later, when my wife changed my dressing. Nothing spectacular. It's about 2 inches long and hurts. Other than that, not much to say about it. The white stuff is steritape, which helps to hold things together. The stitches are under the skin, and are dissolvable. I know, I was surprised, too. I was expecting to have those suckers plucked out, but they don't have to do that, for which I am very grateful. Third is me, not long after waking up from surgery. If you've ever wondered what I look like when I'm really, really high, this is it. I don't do drugs or drink at all, so this is the only party shot you're getting of me. And I don't have a needle in my hand, so you can't call me out on Facebook as a druggy. But that day, I was. Finally, I'm including a link right here to a video of the type of procedure I had. This isn't mine, of course. I asked if the doctor could film it, but he said "No. You can just go to YouTube to see what it looks like." It's pretty gross. and the chunk they take out on that video is pretty comparable to the one they took out of me, though mine was a little bigger. So, yeah, that's what was pressing up against my nerve and causing so much pain. An orthopedic resident friend of mine who saw my MRI said "I've never seen one so big". Now, he *is* a resident, so he's got a lot of them to look forward to, but for now, I hold his record for biggest herniation he's seen on an MRI. I'm #1 at something! Anyway, here are the pictures:

Maybe the surgeon was claiming my kidney for himself ahead of time. See those fat rolls? Those are going to be gone as soon as I can get back to core workouts and running. Those didn't used to be there.

Purty, huh? Keep in mind I was on my side for this photo. My head is to your left. I'm not sure if the incision is a little jagged or if the stitches and steritape make it just look that way. Oh well, chicks dig scars. Or so I'm told. My wife definitely digs scars. I told her "when you take the wrapping off, DON'T TOUCH THE WOUND!" She said "I won't," as if I shouldn't have raised my voice. Sorry. I know her. She wanted to touch it. She wanted to.

Here's some appropriate music for this picture. Here's some more. Yeah, I was feeling alright. I kind of look like Steve Martin in this picture. I wonder if he'd give me, say $5K, just for giggles. Or maybe Russell Crowe. I get told I look like him all the time (not so much in this picture)! He's got a cool $5K to spare, right? Just for me being me? OK, maybe I'm still high. How about a nice dinner? That's not unreasonable.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Dear Goodreads Authors, or, How You're Coming Across as a Whore and How You Can Stop It

I've been a fan of Goodreads for a good many years now. We've had our spats, and frankly, I like discussing books more over at Booklikes. But the functionality of the site is excellent, there are some great communities and discussions there, and some of my best Goodreads friends haven't made (and might never make) the transition over to Booklikes. In other words, I don't hate Goodreads. We're on speaking terms, at least.

I go to Goodreads primarily for the reading. Yes, I'm an author. I will tell you about my work from time to time. After all, the money I earn writing allows me more time to write, and people who read my work want to read more. It's a good arrangement. But my reason for being on Goodreads is because I love books and I love readers. Of course I like readers of my own work, but I'm talking about Readers in the general sense. I love being surrounded, both in real life and in my virtual life, by people who love to read and who like to speak intelligently about the reading they've done. My idea of Utopia is a city composed of nothing but libraries and facilities to support a population of readers in their reading and discussions about what they've read. An over-romanticized vision, I realize, but it's my ideal happy place.

Goodreads hasn't turned out to be a virtual version of my paradise. But it's pretty good. It has its problems, some of them severe enough that I have, admittedly, shunted much of my book discussion over to Booklikes. But I won't be abandoning Goodreads for the foreseeable future.

But something has happened in the last two weeks that is REALLY turning me off to Goodreads. It's something I've addressed before, but bears a revisit. I've said some of this before, but I'm here restating the case in much stronger and much more specific terms because, frankly, I'm getting pissed off at Goodreads Authors. I don't want to lay blame - maybe it results from systemic problems and lack of policing and the encouragement of bald-faced capitalistic greed, maybe not - but I do want to point out some real . . . "douchebag" . . . , yes, that's the word, douchebag things many authors are doing on Goodreads.

So, douchebags, this is for you:

So, Goodreads Author, you want to be my friend, huh? You've heard fellow authors talk about how great Goodreads is and how you can reach out to dedicated readers with minimal effort. Just by clicking friend request, you can build up a list of potential fans of your work. And the bigger the list, the better, right? Because it's all a numbers game. You want to make so many dollars, you need to sell so many copies of your self-published e-book to people, so you need so many people to feed you those dollars. Of course, you're no fool - not everyone will buy your book. In fact, only a small proportion of your Goodreads friends will actually buy your book. So you need LOTS of "friends," statistically speaking. It's all in the math, just go ask a famous internet self-publishing guru. He's got the numbers to prove it - if you write enough books and whore yourself to enough people, you can make a mint doing this stuff! He has, thousands of others have, why not you?

You know, maybe I should stop now. Maybe I should just let you keep on being an A-hole, shamelessly embarrassing yourself for the sake of your treacle-soaked dream of being a famous author. I get it: You've worked hard on this. So have I. You've had people tell you you can't do it, and you've proven you can write, despite other people's doubt in you. Me, too. You've done a lot of studying on how to write and have taken bits of writing advice and integrated them into your own writing endeavors. I hear you. You might have even spent good money, paid someone to teach you how to write at workshops, seminars, bought writing books - you've made a sacrifice to get this far. Good for you!

So yeah, maybe I'll just let you keep doing what you're doing: Acting like a douchebag, being obnoxious, perpetually peppering potential fans with reminders of how great your book is, stalking potential fans online. Really, I should just let you carry on. In fact, I should thank you. Why? Because your obnoxiousness makes it easier for me to sell my books. Eventually, readers will figure out that the invite you sent them to be a friend on Goodreads was disingenuous. You didn't want to talk books at all - you just wanted to sell a product. Goodreads isn't your community, it's your distribution warehouse. Goodreads friends aren't your friends, they're your consumers. And you? You're not even you. You're a machine. A capitalist money-making machine.

But you started writing for the love of writing, didn't you? You didn't want to turn into a capitalist money-making machine, did you? You actually enjoy writing! It's fun! And you want it to stay fun, right?

OK, I'm back on board. I'm here to help. Here are my pointers on how to avoid douchebaggery as a Goodreads Author. Pay careful attention! I've had to learn these things myself to pull myself out of the toilet bowl of douchebaggery. You can do it, too, if you want to. If you don't want to, if you are so bent on being a writing slut that you'll just spurn all of these pointers, I can't help you. Enjoy your life, but don't expect to do it with me as your Goodreads friend. And if you read this first and keep trying to "friend" me, you might receive a very direct message from me on why I don't want to be your Goodreads friend. If you want to get public about it, be prepared. But I think we can avoid all that nastiness. Sorry it's had to come to this, but this is where it's at now. This nice guy is fed up and is not taking anymore crap. So here are my rules. Ignore them to your blight, follow them to your blessing!

1) Do not try to friend me if you have 0 books reviewed. I told you up front, I go to Goodreads to read what other readers have to say about books. If you have not reviewed any books, you have nothing to say. Go do some reviews - real reviews, not some pithy one or two sentence gushes - then come back and try again.

2) Do not try to friend me if you have rated all your own books five stars. You're proud of your book, you think it deserves five stars, you want to exude confidence that your book is awesome. You're probably right. Now shut up about it. Remember that guy who used to go on and on about how cool he was and you were secretly excited when someone punched him in the nose? Or that girl who dressed herself to the nines every day, looking perfect, and looked down her nose at everyone who didn't meet her dress standards. She didn't have to say anything about your looks, you could see in her eyes that she was criticizing how you dressed. Remember when she fell down in the mud and stained her clothes and you had to turn away because you were laughing out loud at her? Well, self-5-star-proclaimer; you have become that person. Don't be that person. You may have even rated your favorite books by other authors as 5 stars. That's not enough. Put down the vanity mirror and let the book do the star rating for you. Get a 3 star review? Rewrite and make it better. That's what I did. Had to swallow my pride and fix the faults in my work. Or, as has also happened, ignore the low rater. High star ratings will get you temporary attention, but they won't get you long-term fans and won't make your writing any better. Try turning this around: learn from mistakes, write better, you will gain long term fans and 5 star reviews will come up themselves. Besides, if you really love your art, why should you care what other people think? If you love your money, then you should care. You need to decide how to balance those two loves within yourself, but if you are relying on high ratings for your self-esteem, you need counseling.

3) Compare books. This is one of the best features of Goodreads. I can click "compare books" when I'm at your page to see what likes we have in common. We don't need to match 100%. in fact, I'd be scared if we did. But I'd like to know that you and I have at least a few books in common and that we like or dislike more or less similar works. I'm going to check this every time I receive a friend request from you. Don't make me do this multiple times, or you're going to piss me off. You need to check and decide if you really want to be friends. Know that when I give something 5 stars, I truly loved it. And when I give something 1 or 2 stars, I truly hated it. Are there books in our comparison that I've rated 1 star and you've rated 5? How many? What books? Remember, we're going to be discussing books, and you don't want to pick a fight with me any more than I want to pick a fight with you. Think carefully on this before you send the friend request.

4) Be well read. If you've been on Goodreads for a few months and haven't thrown down at least a dozen ratings, I probably don't want to be friends, especially if you have zero reviews (see above). What are we going to talk about? Heck, add some books to your "to be read" pile. That way I'll know where your interest lies, at least. I'm not laying down a hard and fast rule that you need to have more books than friends (yes, many people do that explicitly to keep douchebag Goodreads Authors at bay), but you better have a pretty good backlist of books that I know so we can discuss things intelligently. Having ONLY your books in your shelves is an excellent way of pissing me off. Congratulations, you've unlocked Forrest Monster Mode.

5) Be engaged ahead of time. Send me a message before you send me a friend request. My contact information is all over my blog, which you can link to from my Goodreads profile. Twitter, Google+, Email, Tumblr, Smashwords,  all are good (except Facebook. I hate Facebook). If you can't find me online, you're not trying. You're just being a lazy douchebag Goodreads Author. And no one needs more adjectives added to "douchebag Goodreads Author".

6) If I decide to be your friend, that doesn't mean it will stay that way. You'll need to interact with me from time to time. Respond to my posts and reviews, comment in the same comment strings I comment in, that sort of thing. Otherwise, I'll dump you. I check regularly for those things, and if I have one good interaction with you, I'll likely put you in my "top friend" bin, where you'll be safe for a long, long time. But don't send me book recommendations blindly. I hate that. Send it to me in a personal message. You should know me well enough that you can comfortably do that before you go recommending books to me.

There's still hope. You can do this thing. It's a lot like real work, isn't it? That's because I don't toss my loyalty around lightly. If I  become a fan of your book, I'm going to tell people about it.I'm going to review it and tweet about it and that review will go up on G+ and here at my blog and on  Booklikes.  But you've gotta work for it by being genuine. Warning: I might become a great friend, read your book and hate it. Expect an honest, but measured review. But if you've tried to pander to me in the past by flouting my rules, then I read your crappy book, a lot of people are going to hear bad things about your work and about how you're a douchebag Goodreads Author. Oh, yes, I keep track! If you're book is good or great, I'll give it its time in the sun and write a fair review, but your douchebaggery will likely not end up in the review. But if it's crap, and you've been a douchebag, you're not going to hear the end of it for a while. Please, let's not have to add your name to the potential black list.

Thankfully, there are only a few authors who have hit my douchebag button so head on. But it's becoming more and more common. Douchebags, please stop giving us non-douchebag authors a bad name. Please stop screwing with me as a reader and, most especially, stop screwing with my readers! If they want to read your book, and you're a good author, they'll eventually find your work. In fact, I'd love to help them to do that. So don't make it hard by being a douchebag. Not at Goodreads. Not on my readers' turf.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Like a Surgeon

I've been a pretty healthy guy most of my life. Two notable exceptions were when I got dry socket as a kid and, later, when I got pneumonia when I was in grad school and coughed so hard that I broke a rib. Both of those things were pretty painful. In fact, when I had pneumonia, I hurt so badly and for so long that I was prepared to die from the pneumonia. But the pain of those experiences was nothing like what I experienced on November 15, when I found myself crying in agony (yes, literally crying) from a herniated disk. I honestly did not know that a human body was capable of feeling so much pain. My physical therapist later told me that he had spoken to several women who felt that their herniated disks were as painful as labor. Only, I didn't get a cute baby in the end . . . I got a stupid cane. I went into ER, where they doped me up really good on hydromorphone (they tripled the initial dose when that didn't touch the pain) and let me go. I set up an appointment with the University of Wisconsin spine clinic, as well as meeting with the physical therapist. Long story short, after consulting with several doctors and researching my options, I decided that my best option was to go in for a microdiscectomy.

This Thursday, I go under the knife, so to speak. Outside of having my wisdom teeth pulled, I've never had surgery. I'm not too nervous yet - I'm sure that will come as I'm trying to get to sleep tomorrow night. My biggest fear isn't the surgery itself or the fact that the surgery might go horribly wrong or even that I'm going to have to deal with the pain of having been incised. My fear is anesthesia. Whenever I've gone in for dental work, they really have to numb me up but good. The "normal" dose of Novocaine never does the trick. I have to have more. Just really sensitive to nerve pain, I guess. And when my dad had his hip replaced, he was "under" - that is, unable to feel pain or see anything - but he could hear what was going on. Yeah, the saw, the crunching femur, the hammering of the ball into the femur, the whole thing. Did I mention that this happened twice, once for each hip? So I'm going to have a nice heart-to-heart with the anesthesiologist. I'm hoping he can sedate me well (I don't want to go general anesthesia - the thought of having a machine breathe for me is, well, uh-uh), we can turn on some Pink Floyd, and all will be well.

The surgeon is one of the best around, and UW doctors are fantastic. I have full confidence that he will do a great job of performing the operation. All in all, outside of the anesthesia, I'm not too worried at all.

I'll be hazy for a few days afterward as I'm going to be doped up on who-knows-what (I'm guessing Oxycodone, then stepped down to Hydrocodone ). But I'm dedicated to walking as much as I can (this helps to prevent scarring on the nerve tissue) while taking it as easy as I can.

Of course, I will be off work for at least 3 weeks. I've got a concert I want to see in Milwaukee on the 8th, which should be a good test to see how ready I am for real life again. But before then, I'll be spending a lot of time reading, editing Heraclix & Pomp, and working on a Lamentations of the Flame Princess supplement that I've been getting ready to write.

The great thing is, the doctor tells me that, as long as there aren't unforeseen complications, I should be back to running in six months. Look out August! Here I come!

See you on the other side! When it's all said and done, I'm going downtown for some Russian dumplings. Man, those things are good. And, holy crap, I just found out that they deliver!!! Woo-hoo!!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Heraclix and Pomp

As you know, I am an old skool RPG geek, as well as a reader, as well as a writer. So any chance I get to combine the three, I do. It's like speedballing, but safe and legal. So here is a shot of the seeds that will grow into my next big project after Heraclix & Pomp hit the real world: a setting or supplement or adventure or maybe all three set in early-modern Central Europe, all under the Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules set, more or less (though I have a few tweaks of my own that will appear in whatever gets published). I'll also be continuing work on my science fiction novel, Solistalgia. But for now, just a teaser. More as this develops!

The Army of Frederick the Great

The Army of Frederick the GreatThe Army of Frederick the Great by Christopher Duffy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A solid history of the King of Prussia's army and it's times. Duffy touches on all aspects of the army's components. From recruitment to retirement (or, more likely, post-service destitution), The Army of Frederick the Great outlines the career trajectory of the common soldier, NCO, and noble officers that served under their warrior-king. The social and economic aspects of the army are also explored, showing that, since the 18th-Century, at least, military service hasn't changed a lot. I should know - I was raised as an Air Force brat.

The last section of the book covers some of the major actions of the Seven Years' War, but is a little short on detail.

While I appreciate a good, solid history, I felt that this book could have been so much more. I wanted to hear more of the soldiers' voices, more of their recollections, and less of Duffy's explanations. A good historian explains; a great historian lets the past speak for itself from the primary source material, acting as a co-observer more than a lecturer. I had picked this book up to provide me with reading material while I did edits on my novel Heraclix & Pomp, which takes place in 18th-Century Central Europe (but only peripherally involves Prussia). I'm through with this book, but not through with my edits. Thus, I am left now to look for other accounts of the Seven Years' War which are, alas, in short supply.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

RIP Stepan Chapman

The man whose writing single-handedly pushed me "over the edge" into the world of writing has passed away. I learned of Stepan's passing a few days after the fact. I am still saddened. Stepan was a great writer - I published his work two times as an editor (in fact, Stepan was the only author to appear in all four volumes of Ministry of Whimsy Press's World Fantasy Award-winning Leviathan series). His writing was quirky, a touch cynical, funny, and whimsical. Those who met him know that Stepan's personality was reflected in his work. The writing world lost a good writer. The human world lost a good person.

Stepan's first influence on me came when I picked up a copy of his Philip K. Dick-award winning novel, The Troika. I was generously gifted a copy of his short fiction collection, Danger Music, by Jeff VanderMeer. Stepan was gracious enough to sign them both. He later sent me a copy of his longer collection, Dossier (signed as well) and his cartoon collections Life on Earth and Common Ectoids of Arizona. In my experience, Stepan just wanted to share everything. I've met few people as kind and giving as he was.

I had the privilege of spending some time with Stepan and his wife, Kia, at the World Fantasy Convention in Washington DC back in 2003. I remember him as always smiling, even when he was squelching his inner cynic with a good laugh.  I came to view him as unassuming, yet theatrical (he did children's puppet theater in some capacity or another, and I could see why).  I corresponded with him from about 2001 to 2007 or so. Then life got in the way and we lost contact, which is much more my fault than his.

I miss Stepan. In hindsight, I wish I had kept contact with him. He was the kind of person who could brighten up your day just by being around, and heaven knows I could have used that from time to time. I owe my writing career to Stepan. His work started it all. And though he did only a little in the way of mentoring, his work inspired me and continues to inspire me.

One last thing that Stepan sent me some years ago was a 3-ring binder containing his unpublished novel Burger Creature: The First Volume of the Burger Creature Saga, including "A Synopsis of The Burger Creature Saga" and a series of drawings showing the various characters in the book. Here's Stepan's synopsis of the 1st book:


Lily Cook, a sweet young burger-franchise cashier, discovers and animate beef patty and raises him to humanoid adulthood in a matter of weeks. he has french fries for hair and pickle slices for eyes. She names him Burger Creature and falls in love with him. But after a single night of wild cosmic burger sex, he's kidnapped by two sinister corporate thugs in a black sedan - representatives of Bennett Foods and the Burger Planet franchise.
Lily abandons her life in Tuscon Arizona and roams the roadways in search of her ill-fated boyfriend. Meanwhile in Colorado, at a research-&-development facility of Bennett Foods, Burger Creature is held captive. He grows into a giant, but despite his size, he's severed at the waist and decapitated. Everything below the neck is transported to the research labs of two other R-&-D unit. Lily allies herself with a trio of Japanese spies who steal the head from Bennett Foods, then ditch Lily and keep the head for themselves. Luckily Lily has new allies waiting in the wings - her friends from Tuscon.

This gives a taste of Stepan's wackiness, but some of his writing had a decidedly Literary bent to it. For example, "The Minutes of the Last Meeting," a novella, which appeared in Leviathan 2, is an exquisitely written historically-based science fiction piece about what would happen if Czarist Russia were to develop a nuclear bomb. Stepan's breadth of writing was pretty amazing.

Behind the clear plastic cover to the bindered Burger Creature is a note from Stepan. It reads:


Dear Forrest:

Confused? Put upon? Adrift in a fallen world? Read this book?! It solves everything.



It just might, Stepan. It just might . . .

Rest in Peace, my friend.