Remission: The Evil Bunny Is Dead

Ugly feet

Last week, I talked about how I let a sore on my toe get infected, sending me last Sunday morning to the urgent care for some antibiotics and a couple days off from work. The doc had very specific instructions: Take all my antibiotics, stay off my feet for three days, and if the infection moves up past my knee (in a little phenomenon called “branching”) or I run a fever, go to the ER. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Go. Right. That. Instant.

I came home, parked myself in the recliner, and thought, “Hey, tomorrow’s blog post!”

So I spent Sunday and Monday in our recliner. Plenty comfy, but I remember I got sick of it when I had my wisdom teeth pulled a few years ago. I got sick of it now, too. At the same time, I noticed Monday that the redness had not spread, and the foot was easier to walk on. Just the same, I took hourly temperatures. My normal temperature is actually in the mid-97’s, and there it stayed all day. After dinner Monday night, I settled in with a beer and prepared to watch Monday Night Football. About then, I said, “Honey, I feel funny.”

My wife shoved a thermometer in my mouth which came back 100. Yikes! Off to the ER.

Mind you, a guy with an infected boo boo is not going go ahead of the guy holding an icepack to his head or the pregnant lady in the wheelchair muttering that her contractions had better be real this time because she was getting sick of the trips to Christ Hospital. So I got caught up on How I Met Your Mother in the waiting room. I was even able to walk back and register myself. They sent me back a second time for vitals. Of course, the fever was gone. 97.6. “But honest, nurse. I did run a 100-degree fever.” The nurse just laughed. They see this all the time.

I tried to stay calm. One thing I don’t like is a lot of attention when I’m sick. (Says the guy who’s managed to get two blog posts out of a bad case of cellulitis.) However, my wife had to calm me down because I was talking a mile a minute. Finally, I went back to an examining room and took of my shoe for the nurse, the resident, and the ER doc to see. The resident took a Sharpie and drew a line around the main part of the infection, which was in my foot. When she finished, she said, “Looks like a bunny.”

“An evil bunny,” I said. “It’s eating my leg.” They pumped a bag of some high-test antibiotics in me, and off I went to my room.

I haven’t been in the hospital as a patient in years. I’ve taken Nita there a couple of times since we’ve been married, but I’ve been lucky. My health problems stem mostly from being fluffy, diabetes kicking in during a brief period when I was DAMN! Since 16 of the 22 pounds I’d lost earlier in the year had come back, I worried I was going to be put on insulin for the rest of my life. Nope. “It’s not spectacular, but it’s not bad. A unit after meals should get you through, and you can go back to medication and diet when you leave.”

Yeah, that’s what I took away from that. I was healthier than I thought I was, other than my foot being fire engine red, a bunch of streaks running up my leg, and a wound on my toe that looked like an alien spore had started growing in it.

I spent the night on another bag of antibiotics, this one called vancomyecin. Nothing changed when the resident dropped by the next morning. But when they unplugged me, it was like someone turned on a light. By the time the resident returned with the doctor and another resident, my foot had turned a lovely shade of pink, and the wound started looking more like a regular wound.

“Wow,” said the resident from the night before. “The rabbit’s dying.”

I told my wife that later. She said, “For once, honey, you want the rabbit to die.”

Nita was a miracle in all this. Yes, we expect our spouses to either stay with us in the hospital, at least during the day, or to stay with our kids. When Nita had chest pains a couple of years ago (acid reflux, but it was nasty), I went home because AJ was still in high school. Since I was the step parent, and there could be custody issues, we thought it best I stay home part of the day so it did not look like we abandoned him. Besides, AJ doesn’t do hospitals well. Can’t blame him.

But this was her birthday week. She took the week off and was going to rest up. Instead she spent several hours on Tuesday eating bland hospital food with me and watching the limited selection of daytime scream fests and judge shows on cable. I read when she wasn’t there, and dozed half the time.

With Wednesday came liberation. The resident came in and checked my foot: Black and blue from bruising caused by the swelling, but no redness. To quote Jar-Jar Binks, “Mesa going home!”* She said, “Looks like we got most of it.”

“Yes,” I said, “The evil bunny is dead.”

Which was good. I was ready to leave. My agenda for the day was, after leaving, 1.) a long, hot shower, 2.) an ice cold beer, and 3.) a bacon cheese burger. Technically, I was still on bed rest, but we went to our favorite bar for dinner anyway. Daddy needed his burger. Mama needed a crown-and-Coke for all she’d been through. AJ needed to kick his best friend’s ass at pool, which he did three times in a row.

That was one tasty burger.

*Oh, chill. I hate Jar-Jar, too, but that’s a great line for getting out of there.

Thursday Reviews: Henry VI, Part I by William Shakespeare

Henry VI, Part 1

William Shakespeare

I’m about to commit literary blasphemy and give the Bard a bad review. Mind you, I doubt Shakespeare’s reputation will suffer. After all, this is the same man who wrote Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet.

But I decided I’d start going through Shakespeare’s works in as close to chronological order written as possible. Mind you, this is a crap shoot. The same source that told me the Henry VI trilogy came first later told me that, no, Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Taming of the Shrew came first. Oh, well. I can always go back and read them later.

Of Henry VI, however, Part 1 is not exactly what one would expect from the same man who wrote the epic about Henry’s father, Henry V. The story foreshadows the climax of the War of the Roses (its origins explained here in the first act) in Richard III. Let’s be blunt here. Henry VI, Part 1 is a mess of a story. Shakespeare had two comedies under his belt before writing this trilogy (with a collaborator, according to some scholars). Taming and Gentlemen are some of the most frequently performed and copied plays in Shakespeare’s body of work. However, Henry VI is his first historical play. Unfortunately, unlike the transformation of the shallow Prince Harry into noble King Henry V, Henry VI is barely present in this story, a young king easily manipulated and deceived by the Archbishop of Winchester and by Lord Somerset. Give Will credit, though. One plotline involves Joan of Arc’s campaign against England on behalf of King Charles of France. (It also reveals her to be a witch.) During that particular war between France and England, Henry VI was actually an infant, ascending the throne before he could even speak. But hey, history never gets in the way of a good story. Just ask Rowan Atkinson, who insists Richard III was really a good guy, accidentally killed by his nephew, Edmund Blackadder, the story later erased from history by the dastardly Henry Tudor, Henry VII.

But Blackadder our young king is not. Are you kidding? Making an ancestor of the Tudors the original Blackadder would have gotten Will’s head chopped off. The problem here is that too much is going on. Any English literature or drama scholar will tell you that Shakespeare was a master at handling multiple plotlines. His comedy depends on it, and part of the attraction of his later plays, such as Julius Caesar, is this handling of multiple plot threads, sometimes using it as misdirection. After all, Shakespeare also invented the modern action movie, the modern political thriller, and even the modern romantic comedy. So while this first entry in the Henry VI trilogy is weaker than the Bard’s later work, it’s a fascinating look at THE giant of English language writers learning how to became William Shakespeare.

Building The Perfect Beast

sock puppet

Photo: viciouscritic, used under Creative Commons

As I’ve said before, the science fiction novel is sort of a Richard Bachman deal, written under a different name. This past week, I started putting together that name’s online presence. Don’t go looking for it. I don’t have any content for him… er… me… um… You get the idea.

It has been suggested I be open about the twin bylines and embrace it. I have my reasons for keeping them separate. Enough people, however, know enough about the enterprise that eventually, I will get “outed” as both the new guy and Jim Winter.

I actually don’t have a problem with that. At the same time, there’s thirteen years of baggage associated with Jim Winter, including a failed adventure with a micropress, that I’d like to ditch. I want to start over.

One thing I want to avoid is “sock puppet” syndrome, where an author or other artistic has multiple identities and has conversations with himself or herself to make it look like there’s an active and interested following when, really, no one’s home, and the person is just talking to themselves.

At the same time, it’s a pretty interesting experiment. How do you build a new network from scratch? What happens when the whole thing is revealed. My intention is not to deceive – You’d be amazed how, in our Facebook/Twitter/Google world, people get a little upset about that. So until all is revealed, the two names will simply not acknowledge each other. But at the same time, this is the first time I’ve done something like this in the Age of Facebook. What did I do?

  • Carved out some web space on a hosting account I own. This will include a blog that will be hosted there instead of on WordPress. (If you must go free, use It rocks.) The new site will need to be self-contained. As to how much programming wizardry will be involved, I can’t say yet. I do know the site will need to be mobile-friendly and easily connected to Facebook, Twitter, etc. Speaking of which…
  • I’ve staked out the social media space. There’s already a fan page (though no fans yet) on Facebook, a Pinterest page, a Flickr account, a WANA Tribe membership, and a Twitter account. Here’s the infuriating part. My first follower was… well… me. It lets me keep tabs on my both feeds from each account, but again, they don’t talk to each other. My second follower? A really ugly guy (judging from the picture) followed me, said he was really a girl, and offered to send me a nude pic. You know the block function on Twitter? No real followers and already I had to use it.
  • Blogging: Blogging here needs to be lighter anyway. I don’t want to go to once a week, but I do need to ratchet back from five days that I’ve been consistently doing for a very long time now. Also, I’m going to have to blog under the other name. More work?It’s one more blog post a week if I do both three days a week. In reality, it’s the subject matter. I don’t want to repeat myself. So the new name will need a set of subjects different from what I blog about here. That’s right. No presidential bios. And the new blog will likely be more writing and SF-oriented. As for personal stuff, I’ll have to work that out as I go along. Again, this is not sock puppetry. This is branding.

Social media guru Kristen Lamb suggests that you simply merge the two on one web site and platform. I think if I’d have handled things differently earlier in my career, I’d have done it that way. However, for reasons I won’t get into here, that’s not really feasible just yet. We’ll see down the road.

Maybe I and my alter ego will get invited to be on the same panel at some event.

Then I’ll have to create a third identity to write the ensuing sitcom pilot.

Space Stuff: The Wrath Of Cellulitis

Michigan J Chestburster

Source: Warner Brothers

Yesterday, I wrote about how I let my foot get infected. Assuming I’m not in the ER when this posts, I will likely be up the 35,000 words. Yeah. That’s what getting confined to the recliner gets you. Boo-yah!

Mind you, I’d rather call my boss and say, “Hey, I got some stuff to take care of. I’ll be back on Monday.” I also don’t like being stuck in the same place for 16 hours a day, leaving only to get to to the john, shower, or go to bed. But hey, I was the idiot who didn’t put a bandaid on his toe.

With that unpleasantness out of the way, here’s where I am. In The Hero’s Journey, there is a point called Tests, Allies, and Enemies. My protags are about to meet them. One has met a few of them. The other has only his farmer’s daughter companion, holed up in the wilderness and wondering about his next move.

Oh, wait. I just had someone get the drop on them. Friendlies?

Give me time. If I spell all this out for you, you won’t buy the book.

Remission: A Wake-Up Call

So all the weight I took off came back . Mind you, it took longer to put it back on than to lose it, so I did something right. Unfortunately, I also had a serious wake-up call.

Last week, I had an itch on my foot, probably residual athlete’s foot. It was driving me crazy, so I took off one shoe and rubbed the heel of the other on it.

Don’t do that. You could break the skin. I did. But I never put anything on it. Bad move.

Yesterday morning, I woke up after a rough couple of days. I got only two hours of sleep Friday night and had to go to class Saturday morning. I spent the afternoon sleeping and didn’t really feel all that good when I woke up. No biggie. I’ve had insomnia before, and it usually takes a couple of days to recover. Sunday morning…


The wound not only got infected, but it started its merry way up my leg. Off to the urgent care. I almost went to the ER. Worse, they took my sugar. I hadn’t eaten, and my sugar was high.

Crap. Not only am I taking lousy care of my feet – a no-no for diabetics – but I’d pretty much wiped out most of the progress I’d made on weight, blood sugar, blood pressure…

And now I can’t do anything about it for a few days because I’m confined to the recliner (Oh, darn. Have to write and watch television. Woe is me.)

At the same time, the numbers I got from one urgent care visit told me everything I need to know: I need to get back to where I was in the spring. I need to go further than that. It’s one thing to knock off 20 pounds. But even that’s not enough. I need to get the weight down to where I no longer have to worry about the numbers. Well, I don’t have to sweat the numbers.

And on a morning when I probably should have gone with my wife to a local park for a two-mile hike, I’m instead wondering, do I go to the new Mercy emergency center in Norwood? Or Christ Hospital, to which my doctor is attached? Coming home won out.

I stated here I want to run the Flying Pig Marathon the week of my fiftieth birthday. I can see now I’m going to have to redouble my efforts. I was up to an easy four miles running earlier in the year. At some point, I tried Insanity. Wasn’t ready for it, but I learned some moves that will get me through the short, dark days of winter.

Getting my foot amputated because I didn’t do one simple thing – clean up a wound and keep it bandaged – would make that difficult. And I’d have nobody to blame but myself.

Friday Reviews: Hard Rain by Barry Eisler; Lawyers, Guns, and Money by JD Rhoades

Rain Fall

Barry Eisler

John Rain is a man of two worlds: Japanese and American, Asian and caucasian, fitting in with neither. Spending his childhood in Tokyo and adolescence in the US, Rain ended up serving in Vietnam, where he did some things he’s not proud of. The war made him a permanent outsider, forever at war even when there is none. Now he lives in Tokyo as an assassin, specializing in making death look like natural causes. When we meet him, he is closing in on an official in Japan’s powerful construction and transportation ministry. He succeeds in faking the man’s fatal heart attack by stopping his pacemaker.

But then Rain’s contact offers him another job, but he has to violate two of his rules: Never kill a bystander, and never kill women and children. The target is Midori, the daughter of his most recent victim. Rain balks and, instead, moves to get her to safety. As he pulls at the threads of this tangled web, he discovers that he has been used by competing interests in the past, including some he considered enemies. And now, they’re all involved in trying to kill Midori.

Eisler, diplomatically trained in Japanese, weaves just enough of the Japanese language into his narrative to give a non-speaker a feel for it. Some of the more nationalistic characters come off as a bit cartoonish, but then I have to remember that plenty of Americans sound that ridiculous, too. What really works is the intricacy of the events surrounding Midori, probably the only innocent in the entire story. It’s not so much a grand conspiracy as it is powerful interests believing they are using their rivals when in reality most of them are tripping over themselves.

Laywers, Guns, and Money

JD Rhoades

Full disclosure: JD Rhoades wrote the intro to Road Rules. But then we have similar tastes, so I’m reviewing his book here.

North Carolina lawyer Andy Cole is handed a turkey of a case. Local crime boss Voit Fairgreen hands him a stack of bills to get his brother off on a murder rap. What makes this so bad is that brother Danny was found unconscious next to the victim, a woman known for drug dealing and sexual generosity. As Cole gets stonewalled by law enforcement and the judicial establishment, all people Cole considers friends (with a couple of notable exceptions), he starts to suspect Danny may actually be innocent. And then the blood starts flowing. Secrets are currency in this small town, and the powerful will do anything to keep them, even murder.

Rhoades himself is a lawyer, and it shows in the attitudes of Cole and the judges in this story. There are little touches lawyer speak and lawyer mannerisms that put the reader in what’s usually an arcane world to the rest of us. Moreover, Cole likes to think he’s honest, knows that he really isn’t, and yet, in the end, makes a pretty good stab at it, which is what a good story is all about.


Jack Sparrow and father from Pirates of the Caribbean

Source: Disney

Ahoy, matey! Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day. So muster up yer rrrr-bonics and tell yer boss he be walkin’ the plank if ye don’t get a bigger cut of that treasure he be hoardin’.

And remember, tonight is the night to tell yer wench, “Arrr, matey, prepare to be boarded.”

Then ye be a special kind of pirate.

Unless she say nay. Then ye be looking at five-to-ten years with a very different kind of pirate.

Named Bubba.


Northcoast Shakedown Now In Print!

NCShakedown-ebook600It is now in print and winging its way toward Amazon. Northcoast Shakedown, back on dead trees for the first time in seven years!

Sex, lies, and insurance fraud on America’s North Coast. Nick Kepler is a Cleveland insurance investigator who finds three cases, two seeming slam dunks and an easy cheating spouse job, are all tied together somehow. He soon finds himself in a web of sex, blackmail, and murder that reaches the upper echelons of the city’s elite.

The first Kepler novel, the only traditionally published book of the series.

$9.00 in America

£8.00 in the UK

€8.50 in Europe

Still available on Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.

Space Stuff: Now At Ludicrous Speed!

Spaceball 1! They shifted to plaid!

Source: Warner Brothers

30,000 words.

That’s right. 30,000 words. The average novel going to New York checks in at 90K, so we’re at the one-third mark. So far, I’ve gotten my female lead in trouble for forgery, had her fall to Earth (OK, not Earth. But it looks like a lot like it, which is why humans and their new unwanted neighbors have decided to live there), dropped an tactical nuclear device on her, and introduced her to this world’s only functioning subway.  Er…  Well formerly functioning subway. Nuclear devices are not the sort of thing Duke Energy or ConEd wants to deal with as the cause of a power outage.

I also found out that a nuclear discharge is not covered under your auto, home, or renters insurance. That’s probably another blog post.

My male protag has had his attempt to runaway from home cut short by vomiting on a crew member’s boots on the freighter where he’s stowed away, been sent to work on a farm (something he likely had to look up on Wikipedia having never seen an actual farm that wasn’t a converted skyscraper), been unceremoniously drafted into the planet’s militia (“Here’s your weapon. You’ve seen these fired in movies. Right?”), been chased by aliens, and is now holed up in a remote mountain cabin with the farmer’s daughter. (Get your minds out of the gutter. Nothing happens. Well, almost nothing. They did go skinny dipping once.)

I’m more comfortable with the story now. Even though the ending is not clear, I know it will lead to a logical conclusion. At the moment, one set of protags, my male lead and the farmer’s daughter, have no allies beyond a voice on an analog data feed, what us primitives would call “radio,” telling them that the southernmost (and most isolated) city on the planet is the only one not bombed or occupied. My female lead has fallen in with an overzealous cadet, a kid who likes to blow things up, and girl who just watched her father get blown away by aliens.



And the aliens? Probably wouldn’t get a second look walking down the street of a less war-torn area, but… Why? One of the characters points out that at least three alien races humans have encountered could pass for other species of humans, if only some differences did not stick out – one looks more like chimpanzees, another rather vampire-like race has six fingers and toes, while yet another is simply taller.

Oh, and the grays? Those denizens of thousands of UFO and abduction stories? Well, turns out those stories are true, but the little buggers aren’t nearly as advanced as some of us have come to think they are. As humans have moved into interstellar space and run across them, they’ve become humanity’s favorite punching bags.

Am I giving away too much? Maybe. But I’m having fun, and this hasn’t been this much fun since the first draft of Northcoast Shakedown (done in 2002).