5 Infectiously Good Books: Fiction

As many of you know, I’m writing a novel that has to do with an epidemic. (Those of you who don’t know, go read https://theoccasionalmeatcleaver.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/my-novel-giving-an-old-disease-new-life/)

That being the case, I thought I’d share some books on the subject of infectious disease that I found inspiring:

blindnessthebook

1.) Blindness by Jose Saramago

This is one of my favorite books of all time. His characters hardly ever have names, there are no dialogue attributions… Truth be told, his novels look like Gertrude Stein’s poetry, but that is said with affection because I love them both. If I tried to mimic their style, it would look like something written by a not-too-bright second grader. When they do it, somehow it’s brilliant. Still, it can be disorienting, so if you don’t feel up to the book, there is a movie version.

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 In my opinion, both are modern classics and not to be missed.

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[Be advised, both are very graphic, and not to be watched or read with children. And, really, that goes for everything on this post.]

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2.) The Stand by Stephen King

Apocalypse by government engineered flu virus, and that’s not a spoiler. That’s the first chapter. Does it get any better? This book is regarded by many as Stephen King’s best work. I’d certainly call it one of his best, but I find it difficult to play favorites with his books. This one is also a movie, but I can’t vouch for it as I haven’t seen it yet.

contagionbook

3.) Contagion by Robin Cook

Robin Cook’s mind is so twisted, his books make me shudder. Ah, how I envy him his disturbing imagination. Envy aside, this book will have you reading late into the night and avoiding hospitals. I guess that goes for all of his books, but this one in particular involves the 1918 flu, so it was of special interest to me.

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The reader should note that the movie Contagion has nothing to do with this book, and is a completely different story.

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4.) The First Horseman by John Case

I can’t stress enough how much I like this guy’s style. No frills, no self indulging tangents, just pure, edge-of-your-seat story. I love all of his books, but this one involved a cult trying to start a Spanish Flu epidemic, so it was good market research for me as well as a good read.

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5.) The Cobra Event by Richard Preston

Interesting villain? Check. Terrifying biological terrorism? Check. Images you wish you could get rid of, but can’t? Sooo many, but that’s part of a successful horror/thriller book. You know it’s good because it kinda makes you sick. Great, suspense-filled book.

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Hackers Suck Worse than Twilight Vampires: Update

Hello, everyone! I’m sure you were expecting a nice rant on yesterday’s post, and, rest assured, one is forthcoming.

Last night, however, I was spending hours upon hours deleting spam and other such crap that had been sent from my Twitter account.

So here’s the story:

I always thought of myself as being very security-oriented online.

online security

So you can imagine my surprise when I couldn’t log in to Twitter. I shrugged that off pretty quickly, though. It wouldn’t have been the first time I’d forgotten a password.

Then I saw my inbox.

Surprise

Everyone was asking me, “Are you a hacker, or have you been hacked?”

And I could see why.

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But I, of course, remained composed and rational as I formulated a plan of action…

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And clicked the ‘Change Password’ button so many times the browser did everything but flip me off…

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(Everything. It was creepy.)

So, like every intelligent, self-sufficient adult with a computer problem, I drove down to Best Buy and calmly and clearly explained my problems to the Geek Squad…

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Who took my tablet and figured out how to get it to let me change my password on more time…

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While I did some deep breathing exercises…

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I thanked them, and asked what else I could do to make sure I was (and would stay) hacker-free. They said I shouldn’t have to do anything else, but I remained skeptical.

Fortunately, one of my followers on Twitter who was still speaking to me sent me this link to an article she’d written about what to do if you get hacked:

http://ow.ly/grzwZ  (You can also find it by Googling “redhead riter twitter hack” It’s very helpful.)

The article told me how to take a few extra precautions and made me feel alot better.

I then Tweeted a mass warning not to open messages or links from my account, began the arduous process of deleting all the spam that had been sent by direct message,

 and tried to message apologies to the people on the recieving end of the messages…

But only four went through…

And I felt very lonely.

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I couldn’t blame the people who had blocked me, but, over spring break, I had a couple of days I spent doing nothing but

Tweeting, finding good people and organizations to follow, direct messaging, following back, accepting offers to do book reviews, and generally trying to build a good reputation for myself online.

(Then I realized I was starting to look like Johnny Depp in The Secret Window, so I took a shower and combed my hair.)

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 Now it looked like I was back at square one, and I began having less-than-charitable thoughts about the hackers responsible…

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But, then I got a couple of messages back about how it was alright, that everyone gets hacked on Twitter- like it was a rite of passage…

And my three-sentence-long post yesterday brought in four times the normal traffic I get in a day.

So, I guess you could look a this as a heartwarming story about good triumphing in the end, or something…

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Unless you happen to hear a news story in the near future about a couple of hackers who have literally been ‘hacked.’ heh heh… What?

badthoughts

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Hackers Suck Worse than Twilight Vampires

Anyone who is following me on Twitter, DO NOT open any recently sent links from my account. My account is secure again now, but I was hacked. Any links from me that were legit will still be in my tweets or in my blog, but if there’s anything in your inbox, delete it, please. Many thanks to the guys at Geek Squad, and thanks to @TheRedheadRiter for the awesome link.

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Things I didn’t need to know

iheartbooks

I used to get yelled at constantly for reading in school. My math teachers were really pissed. Weird, right?

Actually, my english teachers yelled at me too. I’d always finished the book they assigned and moved on to something else. And they really wanted me to re-read along with the class. I didn’t (and still don’t, truth be told) see the point. All they did was get me in the habit of re-reading a section once I finished it, which I sometimes do to this day. It slowed down my reading considerably, but it does come in handy when I’m editing what I’ve written. So, I suppose in the long run, this did serve a purpose, although perhaps not the one they’d intended. (They were always talking about working with the group, which as a writer/blogger, I still have limited use for. I always wanted to tell my teachers, “Well, let’s all be a group and compromise, then. I’ll try to slow down if the rest of you hurry the hell up!” I had a wee bit of a temper in my youth. While I never actually said that out loud, I did get in trouble occasionally. I never got in fights, or anything, but I forgot and ran in the hallway sometimes. I actually picked  up a Sherlock Holmes book for the first time during lunch detention. Everything led back to books for me.

Math is a different story. At twenty-five, I still haven’t had a single day in my life where I thought, “Oh, thank the Lord I took all that algebra!” I know I will at some point, now that I’ve said that. That’s how these things work. You curse your high school, and, next thing you know, some dude in a ski mask has a gun to your head and says, “Alright, listen up! If you can solve for X, no one gets hurt!” That’s Karma, I guess. Until that happens, I’ll probably go on wondering how much more I might have learned if they’d just set me loose in the library and left me alone.

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Another Little Piece of my Novel

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{FYI: This post is not suitable for children. That will probably be the case for the whole book.}

This scene takes place 3 months after the last scene.

Hailey couldn’t help noticing the security camera. She felt so aware of them. Logically, she knew they were a good thing. Necessary even. They kept people safe, herself included. None of that changed her constant feeling of being watched. Her run-in with the late Frank Moore had affected her more than she cared to admit.

            Before the attack, she had thought of herself as capable and safety-conscious. It had been a wake up call. Now, she knew the mace in her pocket and being a decent runner wouldn’t do a thing for her unless she stayed alert enought to use them before it was too late. She’d since enrolled herself in every self defense class she could find. She learned kicks, strikes, observation techniques, a decent ammount of kick boxing, some tei-kwon-do, weapons take-aways. She’d amassed a mini library of combat books, her favorite being, Fight Like a Girl… and Win.

            After all that, she was finally starting to feel safe again. Still, she had some lingering psychological issues. She didn’t trust people. She was jumpy a lot of the time, and she found herself worrying about inherently non-threatening things like security cameras at the hospital where she worked as a janitor.

            Although, as her best friend Dahlia would say, “Just ’cause you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get ya.” She pushed her cleaning cart in the elevator and pressed the button for the main floor

                        *                      *                      *                      *

            Deacon was in the security booth watching the screens. This was definitely not his dream job, but it was the closest he could get for now. Some day soon, he would be a detective working high profile cases: putting together patterns no one else could see, finding evidence no one else had thought to look for. It was what he was born to do. His calling. For now, he sat in a concrete box and stared at security monitors.

            Still, he found it strangely thrilling to watch people who didn’t realize they were being watched. He guessed most people knew on some level that most of the hospital was being monitored, but he constantly saw people adjust their underwear and pick their noses. It just went to show how talented people were at ignoring the obvious. Sheep, that’s what they were, he thought. He watched in disgust as a copious woman in an enourmous, neon pink dress bought five Snickers bars from a vending machine in the maternity ward.

            He turned his attention to the screen showing the parking garage near the trash compactor and the freight entrance. The pretty blond cleaning girl was there. Her back was to the camera, which was how he liked to see her. She had such a sweet ass. You could tell even in scrubs. Her hair was in a ponytail today. He liked that better than when she wore it in a bun, but he wished she’d wear it down sometimes. Some of the other cleaning girls wore their hair down. She was throwing big bags of trash in the compactor. The way she moved was graceful, like a dancer. She finished loading the compactor and started toward the control panel to turn it on. On the way, she dropped the key. When she bent to pick it up, he got a great view of her backside and her v-neck scrubs top fell forward, giving him a glimpse of her bra. His body’s response was instant, tight, uncomfortable. He looked away and thought of the woman in the pink dress, before what was happening in his pants could become noticeable to Shantelle, the other guard in the security booth. He glanced back at the blond girl as she put the key in the slot and started the compactor. For no apparent reason, the girl stopped what she was doing, looking up at the security camera. Deacon broke out in a cold sweat. You can see her, but she can’t see you, you idiot! He told himself, taking a breath and letting it out slowly. Yet it seemed, for a minute, that she could see him. She stared at the camera, faint lines forming between her eyebrows, as though she was looking at him through the camera, wondering what he might be up to. She finished her work and left. He shook off the feeling of being discovered. That was just assinine. She didn’t know he was watching anymore than the rest of them did. As though to illustrate his point, a portly gentleman on the third floor screen looked around, and, seeing no one, scratched himself like a monkey with fleas.

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Warning Signs

theshiningtwins

There is something perverse about horror fiction, whether you’re writing it, or voluntarily picking it up off a bookshelf. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s anything extreme enough to qualify as a mental illness. (So you just tell those men in the white coats to stay back!) It’s just… slightly less than socially acceptable in some circles.

Most people like pleasant things. Pleasant smells, pleasant sounds, pleasant books… you get the picture. Whatever else you could call my writing, it isn’t pleasant. That’s not what I’m going for, but apparently because I gave up the black trench coat and eyeliner that were my go-to fashion accessories in high school, people are sometimes surprised when I start reading my novel and nothing about it is pretty, sweet, or nice. Many times, someone comes up to me after a reading and says, “I didn’t expect to hear something like that from someone who looks like you.” It has never been presented as a criticism, but I get the feeling the other person and I both leave a little bit confused about what just happened. It seems so funny to me, the thought of having some visual aide on my person to warn potential readers about the graphic nature of my writing. Like a poison dart frog warning away would be predators with its bright, poisonous skin. What should I look like, then? Should I start wearing my Mrs. Lovett Halloween costume every time I read at Auntie’s? Brandish my plastic meat cleaver as I step up to the podium, so anyone who is uncomfortable with disease and decapitation, can go to the bathroom, or browse, and then come back when I finish reading? Perhaps a sign. Or something printed on a tee-shirt. “Warning: contains homicidal fiction?” I think I could have fun with this…

For a while, when this first started happening, I did go back to my old way of dressing. Black on black on black with heavy eye make up and boots, but that doesn’t really feel like me anymore. Well, not most days. And anyway, I’m not sure that’s really what’s tripping people up. I’m still relatively young, and I’m female, and I can write fight scenes that make grown men say, “Oh, man! That is so gross!” Maybe this is unusual. Being from Deer Park, where lots of high school girls go hunting,* and help butcher livestock, it’s sometimes hard for me to say what’s normal. In any case, if I can give my dad, a police detective, or my brother, a fellow horror movie connoisseur, the heebie-jeebies, I feel like I’ve done my job.

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* I don’t mean just tagging along. I mean they have the gun, they do the shooting, and they do the field dressing.

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Drunk Monks and Mountain Climbing

clips in time

Last Saturday, I went to Julie Lilienkamp’s reading of Clips in Time: Emotionally Powerful, Organic, Adventure-Essays and Epic Poetry at Auntie’s Bookstore. I hadn’t actually read her work at that point, so I didn’t know what to expect.

I’m (perhaps unfairly) skeptical of unfamiliar authors who write about their own real experiences. I feel this way for the same reason I am periodically annoyed with Facebook, or people who try to strike up a conversation while standing in line at the grocery store: Many people either

1.) Just don’t have many stories that are interesting to people who don’t already know them.

or

2.) They aren’t very good at telling their interesting stories.

In Ms. Lilienkamp’s case, I need not have worried. She has had the kind of life that leads to tales worth telling. (The adventurous sort.) I also have to give props to anyone brilliant enough to take the experience of climbing a mountain and seeing a monk who’d had too much to drink that morning, (Yes, that morning.) and think to write a poem about it. I bought a copy right away and asked her to sign it. (Which she did, with a very thoughtful personal inscription.)

She also allowed me to take a picture, so I wouldn’t have a repeat of the Patrick McManus reading. (Neither of us was really photo ready, so please judge- or don’t- accordingly. I’m the tall geeky one with the glasses.)

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The only negative thing I can say about this book is that I wish I’d written it myself, but I don’t climb mountains. I stay home and type. That’s why I mostly write fiction.

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