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It’s All Julia Rachel Barrett’s Fault

There are two things I have tried and tried over my lifetime, that I have proved over and over again that I am no damned good at. No matter how I apply myself, and even though every once in a while I have small successes, in the end, the best I can hope for is… mediocre.

Those two things are gardening and cooking.

The cooking part is easily explained. I have a lousy sense of smell and thus a poor palate, plus I’m allergic and/or sensitive to many yummy foods. So while I can follow a recipe, true mastery of the culinary art is forever beyond me. (Which, by the way, does not prevent me from idolizing Gordon Ramsay, and learning from him)

There is neither reason nor excuse for my black gardening thumb. I come from a line of people who can stick pencils in sand and grow palm trees. I can see what others do, I can follow directions, but the ability to grow a garden eludes me. And pray for any poor houseplant who makes it way through my doors. Its days are numbered and it will, without a doubt, meet some sort of gruesome end.

Julia Rachel Barrett, on the other hand, is both an excellent cook AND a gardener.  Don’t believe me? Look here and here and here and here.  And if you want a good laugh, look here. I won’t post a bunch of links to her articles about cooking, but you can follow her blog for some yumilicious ideas.

Am I jealous? No! Okay a little bit. Mostly I am inspired.

And so today, after watching the extended weather forecast closely, because this is Colorado where sunny, 80 degree days are often followed by three feet of snow days, I decided to make attempt #1,732 at growing something in my garden plot.

First I had to find gloves. In the garage. The old man’s domain. I love the guy, have put up with him for 30+ years, but he is … untidy. (okay, that wasn’t the word I was looking for, but this is a family blog). 48 pairs of gloves and none of them match, but I found some with heavy leather pads so I could clear out the pine straw and pine cones and prickly weeds. (Remember the allergies? I can’t touch many green things.) Then I dumped in some fresh soil and worked it in with a spade.

All I planted were a pair of artemsias, a Russian sage (started from seed in Colorado, so should be tough enough) and a kalachoe. I know, I know, kalachoe is a houseplant. My daughter-in-law gave it to me for Mom’s Day, and the poor thing faced torture and death inside my house, so I figured it would have a much better chance outside. Pray for it.

I also replanted my rocks. I do pretty good with rocks. I’ve only killed six or seven, while the rest seem to thrive.

My Favorite Rock

My Favorite Rock

I don’t know what that rock is, but it about 8 inches in diameter and weighs about ten pounds, twice as heavy as what you’d expect. I pretend it is a meteorite and has traveled the Universe.

The Deadly Glass Cactus

The Deadly Glass Cactus

Long ago, somebody decide a glass cactus was a good gift idea. It’s not. It collects dust and I can’t count how many times it’s drawn blood when I’ve touched it. So outside it goes to protect the drusy quartz and antique iron birdbath.

The Dam.

The Dam.

I have never been able to find a hose that fits right on this spigot. They all dribble and spray. So I built a dam of nifty rocks (the two in the back are covered in fossilized sea shells) so water doesn’t dig holes or drown the artemsia.


The Russian Sage--Long May it Live and Prosper.

The Russian Sage–Long May it Live and Prosper.

Russian sage grows well in Colorado. You see it everywhere. Drought resistant, doesn’t seem to mind the abuse of insane weather shifts, and when it’s full grown, it’s beautiful and smells great. It’ll bring the bees and hummingbirds. I don’t think deer like the taste. Big plus. Notice the rotting pot? I am enchanted by decay. I love to watch things slowly return to the soil and find the process quite beautiful. It seems like the perfect perch for my little pot of pretty stones.

I am so inspired by how nice it looks, I want to do some more. When I run to pick up dog food, I’ll find some flowering annuals and stick them in. The deer will probably get them, but they’ll be nice while they last.

See, Julia? I can garden, too!

Amazon, The Zombie Apocalypse, World Domination, and Junk Mail

junkdrunkcoverAmazon 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,

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. 

Marina Zombie Report: Rick Grimes Takes A Road Trip

300px-Walking_Dead_Season_3_CastWith the Governor of Woodbury knocking on the prison gates, Rick Grimes has decided to take his son on a road trip.  Michonne, Rick and Carl go looking for guns.  Rick seems entirely confident that they will find guns, which is confusing until we realize that Rick is remembering the guns back in his old hometown.  On the way there, the little band drives remorselessly away from a survivor who runs behind their car, screaming for help.  This ain’t no trip to the beach.

Not surprisingly, there are no guns left in the police station that Rick used to police.  On their way to check other places, Rick and company discover a compound festooned with junky booby traps.  It becomes obvious who took the guns when the compound’s occupant opens fire with an automatic weapon.  The surprise in the episode is that the gunman proves to be Morgan, the man who saved a bewildered Rick’s life during the first episode of the show.

Poor Morgan has had such a horrible zombie apocalypse that Rick seems absolutely lucky by comparison.  The walker wife he couldn’t bear to kill attacked his son, and Morgan was forced to kill them both.  Consumed by loneliness and guilt, he has become a kind of serial killer, except the victims he lures and traps are already dead. 

Rick invites Morgan to join his people at the prison, but Morgan declines.  Maybe he knows that the prison group already has their quota of nuts (Rick).  Maybe he knows that he is too nuts to fit in with other people.  His remaining skills seem to be killing walkers and writing crazy stuff on walls.

“Clear” is actually the best episode that The Walking Dead has offered us in a while.  We get some much-needed character development for Michonne when she tags along with Carl on his secret mission to retrieve the one photo that still exists of his shattered family.  Both Michonne and Carl have been little more than hard people doing hard things all season, and their budding friendship in this episode is a refreshing relief. 

We get a little of Rick back, too.  Morgan is his unflattering mirror.  Like Rick, he’s useful in a murderous sort of way, but crazy fuckers are terrible for group dynamics and morale.  And, they totally screw up situations that call for diplomacy rather than screaming crazy-talk.  Rick actually has a conversation with Michonne, before they return to the prison.  We haven’t seen Rick really talk to anyone who isn’t a hallucination in a long time.

The great part about “Clear” is that a little relief isn’t a cure.  These people aren’t going to go back to being who they were.  The old Rick would have knocked Morgan out and dragged him to the prison for his own good rather than leaving him in his lonely hell.  And that clear-eyed, selfish, survivalist cruelty is the last thing we see in the episode, when the survivors come upon the smear of blood that once was the man they didn’t stop to rescue.  This time, they do stop… to grab the dead man’s backpack.

Plus points for the episode’s subtle salute to Mayberry’s Deputy Barney Fife, when Rick goes around with one bullet in the pocket of his shirt.

Marina’s Zombie Report: The Walking Dead, Season 3, Second Half

300px-Walking_Dead_Season_3_CastThis post is dedicated to romance novelist Julia Barrett, who is mad at The Walking Dead since Shane died, but who wants me to write about the show, anyway.  And to short story writer Kelly Shew, who’ll be with me Sunday night with a blanket over her head because she doesn’t understand that you have to WATCH the violence to become desensitized to it.

The Walking Dead is baaaaaack!  No more mid-season break gloom and suspense and marathons of past seasons.  Daryl survived his fight to the death with his brother Merle, so no Facebook riots, either.  Actually, Merle survived, too.  Obviously, it was a fight to the nobody dies. 

The Governor, you see, couldn’t stand that his plan was working, that Merle was being forced to kill Daryl to show his loyalty to Woodbury…okay, damnit.  I didn’t understand why the Governor sent the zombies into the fight ring.  The Governor is a cruel, cold bastard.  It would have been far crueler and colder to let Merle kill his own brother than it was to send the zombies in.  Unless… the Governor sent the zombies in because the show needed something to unite Merle and Daryl because they had to not die and to kind of get along in future episodes.  There.  I said it.  The whole messing up of the fight to the death so the boys wouldn’t hate each other later pissed me off, although it didn’t piss me off as much as any given episode of The Walking Dead pisses off Julia Barrett since Shane died.

Rick and his fellow survivors rescue Daryl and Merle, who wander off into the woods together because nobody wants Merle around.  Soon, Daryl will feel the same way but, for right now, he doesn’t.  The rest of the survivors return to the prison, where Rick goes insane again, shrieking at Dead Lori, who looks much nicer in her white gown than she ever did in any other costume on the show.  The new survivors, who were hoping to stay on at the prison, take Rick’s screaming fit to mean that he doesn’t want them there.  Or maybe they realized that you can’t be a black actor and last long with Rick’s group.  In any event, they are gone.  (Oh, crap.  Michonne.  Michonne has lasted more than half a season.  But, to be honest, she says so little that I keep forgetting that she exists.)

The next episode was actually better than the mid-season opener.  Andrea is becoming the heart and soul of  Woodbury because she annoys me and she won’t go away.  We learn a little about Merle and Daryl.  Daryl gets tired of wandering around with Merle, and back he heads to the prison, with Merle following because ain’t nobody really wants Merle.  I can only assume that Merle is going to become Carol’s new love interest, considering her taste for convicts.  Back at the prison, Rick is following Dead Lori around outside the fences, Glenn is trying to take charge in a very I’m-Taking-Charge-Although-Nobody-Seems-To-Be-Following-Me way, and the Governor attacks.  Talk about your timing. 

In spite of being seasoned fighters, Rick’s group can’t hit shit when the Governor and his forces attack.  Maggie finally kills the sniper in the guard tower.  Daryl and Merle (has anyone besides me noticed that their names kind of rhyme?) arrive in the nick of time to rescue Suddenly Sane Rick from the truck full of walkers that the Governor’s men crash through the prison fence.  Glenn returns from his risky and lone (remember, no followers) mission to the back door of the prison in time to rescue Hershel.  More timing.

In spite of the fun I’ve made of the second episode of the second half of Season 3 of The Walking Dead, it was actually a better episode that the mid-season premiere.  I thought that Season 2 gained steam as it went.  I’m hoping we will get some steam going, this season.   Although I’m sure that Julia Barrett might not agree. 

Spirituality for America, Ed McGaa~Eagle Man

Spirituality For America may be our only hope. It is straight up raw truth.  A must read for everyone. Ed McGaa is a man of great insight and truth.  He points out that “Truth is truth which cannot be altered”.
This book is full of rich history about humans and Spirituality given in story form.  It draws one into what appears to be conversation.  It is about seeking knowledge and recognizing our duty to speak out and make a difference.  It’s about learning to think independently, and removing ourselves from contributing to a system of oppression. The need for truth and ceremonies are what is needed if we are to survivie. Becoming aware of every part of
Nature is a must if we are to be conductors of truth, and find answers to our world crisis.  Observing Nature may be our only saving grace. It is important to know yourself and what you are going to do concerning the environment.

Sandy Nail

Mitakuye Oyasin!
We are all related!

While I’m like many people who find politics and religion fascinating subjects, I don’t generally discuss either in public forums. All too often those discussions devolve into: “Anyone who disagrees with me is eeee-VIL!” and the name-calling and idiocy begins. Plus my tolerance for bigotry is extremely low–from all sides. (bigotry is a sign of a lazy, sloppy intellect and thus, irritates and bores the snot out of me)

That said, I’m going to blog anyway about a book that covers BOTH religion AND politics. What the hell. This is my blog and I think this book is worth reading.

Optimized-SforASeveral things make this book especially interesting.

The first is the author. Eagle Man is a member of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe and this book is autobiographical in many respects. He covers his military service (Marine combat pilot), his childhood, his world travels and his involvement in Lakota spiritual ceremonies: yuwipi (spirit calling), vision quests, sweat lodge and the Sioux Sun Dance (he participated in six!).

He writes about many fascinating people from history: Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Genghis Khan, President Eisenhower, Black Elk and Custer. And people he has known: Ben Black Elk (who served as his father’s translator for Black Elk Speaks), Fools Crow and Bill Eagle Feather.

Throughout his position is that Organized Religion takes people away from their connection to the earth. Because of that, we’re facing environmental disaster. Earth will survive, but people may not. To reverse the trend and begin repairing some of the damage, he suggests a return to Natural Way Spirituality that acknowledges the Creator is a great mystery and people should learn to live together instead of trying to establish dominion over earth and other people.

What makes this book stand out from some others I have read about Native American spirituality is that it is NOT theoretical. The author has walked the walk and now talks the talk based on his personal observations, experiences and historical facts. I can’t say that I agree with all his conclusions, but I don’t fault his methodology. He sounds like somebody I could sit down and have a discussion with.

My only real complaint about the book is that is filled with references to other interesting sounding books and my list of “gotta read that, too” books has about doubled.

Available on Amazon.

Stay With Us, Daryl

darylAfter a Season 1 marathon last weekend and a replay of Seasons 2 and 3 this weekend, The Walking Dead will return to AMC with a new episode on Sunday, February 10th.  It’ll be a great relief for fans.  The hardships of winter and the disappointments of the holiday season double suck when you can’t even get your zombie fix.

The Season 1 marathon on Super Bowl Sunday featured a lengthy teaser from the upcoming Governor-ordered fight to the death between brothers Merle and Daryl Dixon.  Not since the Civil War have Americans been so interested in brother-against-brother conflict.  The outcome of the fight is sure to be one of the highlights of the mid-season premiere.  The producers of The Walking Dead have promised us repeatedly that no character is safe, so there is fan anxiety attached to the fight.  We stand to lose yet another main character.  If Merle dies, nobody will care.  If Daryl dies, there is a Facebook group that proposes we riot.

The death of T-Dog bothered fans of The Walking Dead, but the mourning was brief.  Folk hero T-Dog was damned near scenery, truth be told.  He had five minutes of lines in Season 2, even less in Season 1.  Daryl’s death would impact the show in a much bigger way.  Fans don’t like Daryl just because they like him.  Daryl has become the heart and soul of The Walking Dead.

I didn’t really understand how it was that Daryl had wormed his crossbow-wielding, white-trash, man-of-few-words way into our hearts until I watched the Season 1 marathon this past Sunday.  In the early days of the show, Rick took pleasure in his family. Glenn seemed to enjoy his transformation from pizza delivery guy to zombie slayer.  Everybody hopped on the chance to get drunk.  The group had reasons to survive.

By Season 3, not so much.  Rick could barely look at Lori before her death.  He has glanced at his new baby maybe twice, and he gives his son, Carl, orders and not much else.  Carl struggles to take on adult responsibilities because there isn’t anything else for him to do.  Glenn has acquired the ultimate hot farmer’s daughter love interest in Maggie, but their love is earnest and dutiful and doesn’t look like it’s any fun at all.  Carol, eh, she’s still cleaning up the other character’s messes.  With the joy gone from life, people have started doing everything they do on the show because they have no other choice.  It’s backwards evolution.  The original characters from Season 1 who’ve made it to the prison aren’t getting more complex.  They are turning into mice. 

In the middle of these miserable, desperate people, we have Daryl Dixon.  Before the walker virus, the best Daryl could hope for in life was a trailer home and a live-in girlfriend to knock up.  The zombie apocalypse has given Daryl a place of trust in a group that wouldn’t have admitted him in the pre-walker world.  His nothin’-to-lose bravery and his got-nothin’-better-to-do tenacity allow the character to take on lost causes (the search for Sophia) and to spend time worrying about what really matters. Daryl is often the only character to acknowledge the other survivors’ grief, and his “Little Ass Kicker” greeting of dead Lori’s baby allowed the other characters to feel something better than despair over her arrival.  

Daryl Dixon is the anti-mouse of The Walking Dead.  With the other characters running around on a wheel, doing things because they have to, Daryl does things because he wants to.  He has grown, not dimished.        

The character of Rick Grimes gets the most camera time on the show, but, make no mistake about it, Daryl Dixon is the hero of The Walking Dead.  I really hope that the producers won’t kill him off just to prove that they can. 

Marina’s Zombie Report: Greatest Zombie Moments of 2012

It’s nearly 2013.  Fuck you, Mayans, we made it.  In honor of the special occasion of us all being alive and not cosmic cinders, the Zombie Report would like to present…

The Five Greatest Zombie Moments of 2012

5.  The Discovery Channel finally gave the zombie apocalypse the respect it deserves and showed us scientists on the same show with people who hoard weapons and passionately debate whether or not they can bear to shoot their families when they get bit. 

4.  Filmmaker Joss Whedon endorsed Mitt Romney for President because he’d be the candidate most likely to bring about the zombie apocalypse.  Romney lost, in spite of Whedon’s help.

3.  Marina Bridges and J. W. Manus  published the ebook,  ZOMBIES TAKE MANHATTAN! (you seriously didn’t think I’d leave myself out.)

ZTM Promo

2.  Most of Ronald Poppo’s face was chewed off by Rudy Eugene in a bizarre Miami, Florida zombie attack.  Police had to shoot Eugene multiple times before he ceased and desisted and died.  There were cries that the zombie apocalypse was upon us, but Eugene took the reason behind his actions to his grave without infecting any of the rest of us.

1. AMC’s The Walking Dead killed off the character that hero Rick and the entire country loved most…T-Dog.  In spite of hardly ever having lines or anything to do, T-Dog won the hearts of the country by being a black guy in a zombie entertainment who didn’t die immediately.  Rick’s wife, Lori, also died, but eh, nobody much cared.  Here are all of T-Dog’s lines from Season Two of the top series.  All five minutes of them.

Welcome to 2013, you survivors.  Be sure to stay with a buddy and aim for the head.

Tech or No Tech? Taking the Highway, by M.H. Mead

M.H. Mead, the writing team of Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion, hooked me with their first novel, Fate’s Mirror. They write my favorite type of science fiction–highly speculative and spookily prescient.  When their newest novel, Taking the Highway, came out, I snatched it up on the first day of release.

I asked Margaret and Harry about Taking the Highway and its theme of technophobia. Here is what they had to say:

Will restaurants someday seat customers by their tech preference, much the same way they used to seat them by their smoking preference?

Yes. In fact, some already are.

We’re science fiction writers, so we love to predict the future. We guess what’s around the corner, hoping the real world doesn’t catch up to our fictional one before the book is published. Our newest novel, Taking the Highway, is set in a future that’s even more high-tech than our own. But the culture has shifted, and there is a huge backlash against technology, especially where it intersects with social life. So of course we had to include a scene in a restaurant. What’s more social than dining out? In Taking the Highway, the restaurant hostess decides where to seat patrons by asking, “tech or no tech?”

We thought we’d just made that up. Imagine our surprise when we discovered a restaurant in Los Angeles which is already doing this. The restaurant, called Eva, gives patrons a 5% discount if they turn in their phones or computers when they arrive. There is no honor system here, no sneaking a look at texts under the table. The staff at Eva confiscates the cell phones and computers until the customer is ready to leave.

We’re personally shocked that anyone wouldn’t take that deal, but not everyone does. And of course, the tech-free bubble only lasts for the duration of one meal—a very short time. Here’s a paragraph from Taking the Highway. Our hero, homicide detective Andre LaCroix, is meeting his brother for lunch, and the hostess has just asked if he wants to sit in the tech or no tech section.

            Andre peered around the hostess into the restaurant and saw several empty tables, most of them set for single diners. Nobody had to eat alone when they could bring their virtual friends with them. But was it truly worse than the tables of two and four and six? The bigger the group, the more blips, egrams and phone calls it took to pick a restaurant. Then they used GPS to find the place, and when they finally sat down, they reveled in the incredible tangibility of it all, patting themselves on the back for keeping it real.

Of course, Andre’s problems go way beyond where to sit when dining out. He has to deal with car crashes, professional hitchhikers, terrorists, dirty cops, and a dangerous killer. Ironically enough, in the scene above, he chooses not to eat in that restaurant at all. But it’s more than a bit of background scenery. It’s also a clue. Andre uses both high-tech and no-tech methods to catch a killer and ultimately triumph.

We think of Andre when we’re trapped in a restaurant, seated near an idiot yelling into his cell phone. We also think of him when we see people genuinely enjoying the company of their real-world dining companions.

And we dream of a future when those two kinds of people are seated nowhere near each other in a restaurant.

About the authors: Margaret Yang and Harry R. Campion write near-future thrillers under the shared pen name M.H. Mead. To learn more about them, or about Taking the Highway or to share a great key lime pie recipe, visit their website at

Taking the Highway on Nook

Us on facebook
Me on Twitter @Margaret_Yang


Marina Bridges’s Zombie Report: Uh, No, It’s Not, Sorry

Jaye here…

I asked Marina if she had a new zombie report for her readers. She threw a shoe at my head and made a growling noise that made the hair lift on the back of my neck.


You see, she’s writing a new zombie story. We’re really hoping to have it finished before Christmas (she writes, I edit and produce). Apparently, my asking if she’s done yet (or asking her to write more posts for this blog) has the same effect as my kids screaming from the backseat of the car: “Are we there yet?!?” (It’s her own fault. I love Zombies Take Manhattan and I’m a greedy reader and, much like zombies, some is never enough.)

She did say if I was really, really good and quit bugging the snot out of her, she’ll let me read her work in progress on Monday. Well, shoot. That means I have to be good all weekend. That’s iffy.

It also means I can’t talk about the new story. I can say it has zombies in it. And, best of all, it features one of my favorite characters. Anything else, my lips are zipped.

That’s not much of a zombie report.

Zombie news, zombie news… I’ve already beaten my disappointment in The Walking Dead to death (I suggested to Marina that she include a scene where Rick and Carl show up in NYC and get eaten–oddly enough she didn’t think that was a grand idea…writers, hmmph). I did find a Jeff McComsey GUTTERS comic strip called “8 Easy Steps To Create a Walking Dead Storyline” that was pretty good. I read Jonathan Maberry’s Dead of Night, which was horrendously creepy and disturbing and gave me nightmares–meaning I loved it. I also watched (again) one of my favorite zombie movies


Maybe not the classic that Night of the Living Dead is, but it cracks me up every single time.

So zombie report fans, you have my sympathy. You, like me, will have to wait until Marina comes up for air. It’ll be worth the wait.

Whistling, twiddling my thumbs, being good…

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