Sunday, October 28, 2012

Diabetes. Damn.

Three weeks ago, I had some vacation stored up at work, so I took the week off, hoping to dive headfirst into a few of my writing projects. I even posted about my plans.

Interestingly, I did get some work done in the beginning of the week. And, of course, as with any time off from work, I found myself also chipping away at the chores—close the pool (a task that was woefully overdue), get the yard ready for the coming winter, some upkeep on the vehicles.

But then Thursday hit and my week sort of went to complete hell.

I got a phone call from my doctor.

Monday, (October 8th), I'd had some blood drawn and tests were done. Thursday afternoon, my doctor called to give me the results. Interestingly, it's my doctor's policy to NOT give you a call unless there's something “abnormal” in your test results. So, I should've known something was up.

“I have some bad news,” she started out. “You have Diabetes.”

I didn't quite know what to make of it. She started to rattle off some numbers at me that thoroughly confused me. Sugars were 259. Triglycerides were 1800. These meant nothing to me. Not a damned thing. Hell, 259 sounded pretty low to me. I mean, for what I drank and ate, it should been in the thousands. Right? Wrong. I knew nothing about the numbers she was telling me and I knew even less about what I was supposed to do about it. She said I should come in to the office after her last patient and she would go over my glucometer (which still sounds like a piece of brewing equipment to me, rather than an instrument of medicine) and how to test my blood.

We talked a bit about my numbers. I begged her for another round of testing to be sure because what I hadn't told her was that I spent the entirety of the previous Sunday (the day before they drew the blood) drinking pitchers of a bizarre concoction called “Shark Attack” and popping bleu-cheese-stuffed dates wrapped in bacon like they were going out of style. My numbers couldn't possibly be good after a day like that. She agreed and wrote me a script for another round of tests. We agreed that I'd go take the test in a week.

Now, there are a few people in my life that understand that I lead a double life. By day, I'm expert in Information Security (hacking, etc.) and I do this writer thing in my free time (which is minimal). So, I went home and (after letting my wife know that something was wrong) decided to approach my new disease with the same kind of logic that I approach a computer when looking to break into it.

The first thing any good hacker does is something called “information gathering”. We learn as much as possible about a system before we even touch it, so that we can know all the different ways it can be manipulated. We learn its strengths and its weaknesses to figure out all the ways it works and all the ways it breaks.

Thursday night, I learned anything I could about what Diabetes was. I learned that your blood sugars should be between 60-110 mg/dL. When you want to be in a fat burning zone, you ideally want your blood glucose to be between 60 and 90 mg/dL. So, 259 was just this side of frickin' ridiculous. Those numbers weren't right. They were astronomical.

That got me to thinking about how the body works and I started to research how the body processes sugar. I found an interesting video regarding the “fat burning” zone and how when your pancreas is busy getting rid of chemicals like High Fructose Corn Syrup, it can't properly balance things out that it was built to balance. Now, I'd heard the arguments either way “for” or “against” HFCS. I never really cared. But I thought about the fact that I drank at least 3 tall Arizona Green Iced Tea (with Ginseng & Honey) a day (some days more) and thought there must be absolutely no way that my pancreas could be doing it's regular job with me pouring all that sweetened tea down my throat.

So, I decided to remove that from my diet. I mean, it's not like I couldn't drink water or unsweetened tea. I love either. Which got me thinking: there must be other ways to regulate my sugar, as well.

I then learned about the Glycemic Index and the fact that many people have learned to regulate their blood glucose by adhering to a low glycemic diet. I even read there was a 70-something man who had adopted a low GI diet, added in a little fiber supplement and had reversed his doctor's diagnosis in just a few months.

Adopting a low glycemic diet didn't look like it was going to be too bad, either. I mean, I like to eat. But adopting an “eat something every few hours” diet wasn't so bad. I also started to devour recipes where low glycemic foods were introduced. They were great!

I started making my coffee without sugar and something miraculous happened: I realized that my sugar-loaded chain store coffee didn't taste very good with just milk. I sped on over to a small place near me that sells some gourmet beans and found a great tasting coffee that didn't need sugar. I also found that my ability to differentiate various types of coffee improved and I started to really dig on the beans I'd picked.

I drank a lot more water during the day. I changed my morning routine so I had a bowl of some interesting Kashi cereal first thing. Then later in the morning, I'd have a piece of fruit to follow it up. But not just any fruit: something low on the glycemic index. I'd have a yogurt or some cottage cheese for lunch with some nuts, maybe a fruit. Around 3pm, I'd get hungry and want something so I'd eat red peppers and carrots dipped in hummus. Sticking to the low glycemic index means that I've upped my fiber intake a bunch and due to that, I've been staying fuller longer and losing weight, too.

My first week, I found I'd lost six pounds and had gotten my blood glucose down to the 140's.

I've been sticking with this plan for three weeks now and had gotten my blood glucose down to 113 yesterday. I'm not out of the woods, heck I can't even see the light through the trees yet. But I wanted to write this up and share this story with everyone so that if they find themselves in a similar situation, they might find some guidance here. You don't have to just live with this. You can fix it yourself.

Now, as a matter of full disclosure, I've started a Metformin regimen two days ago and I'm doing that because the doctor has prescribed it and I figure it can only help. It has so far. This morning I reached a 107 with my blood glucose. And, on top of that, I've slimmed down from 193 lbs about 3 weeks ago to 183 this morning. Is that a lot? No. But it's a start. This isn't a sprint, it's a marathon.

Oh! And since I found some really startling foods are low glycemic index fodos, I really thought I was going to have a bad number when measuring my blood glucose this morning (you know, the 107?) but I didn't. Did you know Spaghetti was a GI of 27 for 2 cups of it? I ordered Shrimp Marinara last night at one of my favorite Italian places. I ate the shrimp (which have a GI of 0), the marinara sauce which is low, too, since it's tomatoes and other good stuff and only about ¼ to 1/3 of the spaghetti. And I still came in at a 107.

I'm not saying that I have a solution for you, if you are diagnosed with adult type 2 Diabetes. I'm not saying that my way will work for everyone, but if you find yourself in a similar place as me, you might also be able to hack your eating habits and begin to regulate your blood sugars naturally, too.

I wish you the best of luck.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012


I took this week off from my day job. After spending Columbus Day with the rugrats (we saw Hotel Transylvania and it was very, very cute) and spending yesterday doing chores (that I've been ignoring for far too long) around the house, I sat down this morning and cranked out about 10 pages of manuscript on THE SOUND.

I'm spending the remainder of today, Thursday and Friday writing while the kids are at school and hoping to get the last few remaining chores done around that. But I've got to say, I'm quite happy with my pace when I've got my earphones cranking John Coltrane and no distractions around. 10 pages in 3 hours is pretty darned good for someone who's stalled out so much lately. :)

See you again in a few. Keep watching that progress bar!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

An Explanation ... of sorts ...

I owe you some explanation. At least, I feel I do.
In previous posts (now very close to a year old), I made some commitments I thought I could meet. Life, as it always does, had other plans.

I won’t bore you with the details but I switched jobs and, in doing so, what free time I was counting on having last fall ended up shrinking as the past twelve months trudged by. In addition, I had to do some re-evaluating of my goals, when it came to my writing.

One night, I was sitting down with a good friend of mine, enjoying some early spring warmth and the conversation turned to my fiction writing. It often does with my friends. They know I’m passionate about fiction in an almost disproportionate measure when weighed against my blasé attitude towards the topics of Information Technology (which my day job revolves around). In other words, if someone gets me talking about a certain author or genre of fiction, my eyes tend to grow a bit wider, I speak more (and with greater fervor) than usual and I become giddy as a school boy.

My friend asked what I’d been working on. And I told him all about the projects I outlined last August: THE BOG, COMMUNITY, THE COMPLEX.

Knowing I’m rather lazy, he pointedly asked me about THE BOG. I explained to him I’d found nearly 60 pages of manuscript that I’d drafted in 2002 and wanted to polish up and finish. I thought it was great that I’d gotten a 60 page head start. Who wouldn’t want to hit the ground running and be ahead of the game, when it comes to writing a 300-400 page manuscript?

What my friend said next both irked the hell out of me and relieved me of a weight I’d been carrying for quite some time.

He turned to me, draining the beer in his hand and said, “Don’t do that. You’re not that guy anymore.”

And damned if he wasn’t right.

I’d been picking at THE BOG for a long time; every six to eight months, I’d pick up that manuscript and try to fidget with it some more. What I never realized is, I wasn’t trying to tell that story for a reason. I wasn’t that guy anymore. I wasn’t trying to tell that tale, I’d worked my way through whatever I was trying to do with it and it was now stale.

The same thing goes for THE COMPLEX.

I wrote THE TAKEOVER back in 2001. When I’d completed it, I had some issues with an apartment complex and wanted to work my way through venting about that situation. Again, I had a considerable bit of a manuscript (nearly 40 pages) and thought it would be awesome to take that work and finish it.

But again … I wasn’t that guy anymore.

So, my friends, I looked at my various files and pieces of started novels and began to re-evaluate who I was and what I was attempting to do with my writing.

And I thought long and hard on the subject.

The honest answer was: I didn’t really have too much to say anymore. I used to use my writing to vent about things I was going through and turn that anger on its ear and use it productively. That was ten years ago.

Now, I’ve got a wife and two kids and precious little free time to work on anything but homework with my children. On top of that, I’ve taken a teaching gig in my free time to augment our incomes. Sure, it’s fun and it’s fairly exciting to get in front of a roomful of students and discuss Information Technology and its security. But putting together a curriculum eats into my free time an awful lot.

So, my friends, I am sorry to say that I’m scrapping my previous commitments and have decided that restarting those old projects is not for me.

However, I’ve got two other new projects and I’m restricting myself to two so that I don’t start to overload myself. This means they will be attainable goals.

One novel is called THE SOUND and it’s a novel that I have a lot invested. It involves one of my favorite settings for a novel and the twists in the plot still get me excited.

The other novel I’ve just started and have completed an outline for is called A WHISPER IN DARKEST NIGHT. It’s a more personal story and deals with loss (a certain fan of mine will get a kick out of that) and life in a small town where everyone knows your business (but you).

Over to the right, you’ll notice a new feature of this site: I’ve added two word meters to show what progress I’ve made and I’ll be keeping them up to date while I work on both THE SOUND and A WHISPER IN DARKEST NIGHT.

I know that I’m disappointing some of you by not delivering on what I'd discussed earlier but I promise that what will come will most certainly be worth the wait.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

More Bentley Than Bentley!

As part of any author's e-book marketing strategy, they should take a look around and see where they are picking up momentum and where they are lagging. So this morning, I did a search in Amazon for "Bentley Little" (okay, I admit it, I was going to pick up a Kindle book of his) and lo and behold, check out what Amazon is showing readers:

Yes, that reads right: when someone in Amazon searches for Bentley Little, they find Jack Drew BEFORE they find Bentley Little. That is incredible, in terms of visibility. As such, I'm finding this reflects a really incredible surge in sales.

If you're an author looking to market your e-book and its similar in style to another author, I highly recommend you use that author's name in your search (meta) tags. It helps a lot.

And in other news, if any of you out there are interested in a Kindlegraph, THE TAKEOVER is available for me to Kindlegraph it for you.

Have a Happy Halloween!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Makin' the Most of Irene

So, a hurricane has blown through New Jersey. After spending a great deal of Thursday shoring up any loose items in the back yard and greatly testing the storage capacity of my new shed (everything fits, thank God), Irene paid us a visit overnight and brought down some trees, some power lines and effectively wreaked havoc with several of my friends' basements. Right now, the members of the family who didn't sleep last night are napping and the 3 year old (who got a full night's sleep last night) is watching TV.

The house is quiet and I'm sitting here with a reamful of THE BOG (still on track for an October release), a pen and Tweetdeck open. I'm hoping to get a little editing done today and get my notes together for a powerhouse run through a novel to meet my deadline.

So, I'm sitting here, winds blowing, making the best of a crappy situation (and sticking to my old motto--"take every free second and write"!).

Stay safe during the rest of Irene, folks!


Sunday, August 21, 2011

What is Horror?

"Horror is not a genre, like the mystery or science fiction or the western. It is not a kind of fiction, meant to be confined to the ghetto of a special shelf in libraries or bookstores. Horror is an emotion."
- Douglas Winter, PRIME EVIL (1982)

With an immense amount of respect to Mr. Winter, this statement is only partially right. Emotion is, indeed, a factor in horror fiction. Emotion is necessary in any fiction, whether it is action-adventure, mystery, science fiction or space opera. Like all good fiction, when it comes to horror fiction (and horror movies, as well), emotion is merely one single thread in the blanket of dread we authors weave when telling a story.

But what makes horror, in fact, horror?

If an author wants to evoke from a reader true horror, there is only one element that will simply reach into any reader’s psyche and start to unhinge them: the removal of safety. Once you remove any amount of safety from a character or a place, you’ve now begun the process of unsettling the reader. This is only truly successful, however, if the other threads in your blanket of dread are present and working. The reader won’t care if you’ve pulled the proverbial carpet out from a character if you haven’t evoked the proper emotional bond between reader and character first. This is why sympathetic characters work best (but are not always the choice).

Take any horror novel you love and boil it down to its essence, the true nexus of the story, and you will see that the main reason a reader is drawn to that story is whatever safety the character initially had is gone.

The removal of safety can be complete and total, as is the case in such novels as THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy, SWAN SONG by Robert McCammon, or I AM LEGEND by Richard Matheson. Even THE RISING, DEAD SEA and CITY OF THE DEAD by Brian Keene (where zombies have taken over the world and only a few humans survive). In all these tales, most of the safety in the world (or at least the characters’ world) is gone. Armageddon of some sort has wiped it all out and changed the way the characters interact with their world. Their daily life is no longer in line with “the norm” a reader knows in their daily life and that tangent is the bread and butter of horror fiction.

The removal of safety can be of a more moderate nature. One of the most effect invocations of horror is the façade of safety in the beginning of the tale and the removal of that safety after the author/creator has established how benign and peaceful a particular situation is at first. Some incredibly well done examples of this are THE FOG (film) by John Carpenter, ‘SALEM’S LOT and NEEDFUL THINGS by Stephen King, and THE BIRDS (film) by Alfred Hitchcock (and yes, to a lesser degree the short story by Daphne Du Maurier). In these tales, it is established early on that the town (Antonio Bay in the case of THE FOG, Jerusalem’s Lot and Castle Rock in the King tales and Bodega Bay in THE BIRDS) is a small, peaceful town where everyone knows everyone else and it would be a great place to raise a family. The introduction of outside elements (the ghosts of fishermen, vampires, the devil himself, and ravens and seagulls) throw the relative safety of the small town into chaos and this unsettlingly creates a tangent from what the reader or viewer knows in their own daily lives. This removal of safety creates the turmoil of emotion for the reader. In essence, it creates the horror of the situation.

The fact that Robert Neville is alone in the world (and yet, hauntingly, almost poignantly not alone) strips the world (in I AM LEGEND) Richard Matheson builds of its safety and throws the reader off-kilter. This is not the same world where we, the reader, get our Starbucks coffee or pick up a newspaper. This is a dead world, inhabited by things that you DON’T want to come across. This removal of safety drenches the story in dread. When the vampire hordes encircle Neville’s house each night, it invokes in the reader a creeping terror. Why? Because the vampires (representing the removal of safety) are infringing on the relative safety of Neville’s boarded up, garlic-strung house. The horror is evoked by the erosion of Neville’s perceived safety.

The most cringe-inducing moment in King’s ‘Salem’s Lot is when grave digger Mike Ryerson is staying in Matt Burke’s house as a guest overnight, Matt Burke hears things amiss in the darkness.

Softly yet clearly in the silent house the words came, spoken in Mike Ryerson’s voice, spoken in the dead accents of sleep:

‘Yes. Come in.’

Matt’s breath stopped, then whistled out in soundless scream. He felt faint with fear. His belly seemed to have turned to lead. His testicles had drawn up. What in God’s name had been invited into his house?”

The horror here is quite clear. The relative safety of the character’s surroundings (his house) has been violated by an outside force. The removal of safety sends any of us—all of us—into a disjointed semi-panic. Our world is not right, unless there’s a modicum of safety involved in it. Strip away that safety and you can induce some serious gooseflesh.

Serial killers terrorizing teenagers, vampires surrounding us in the dark, the flash of atomic weaponry minimizing the human race. It doesn’t matter what the catalyst, if you, the author remove the safety from a situation, you begin to weave terror or horror into your writing. It’s what drives us as humans. The want of safety, the need of safety drives our human instinct to survive. That’s what builds the emotion in a horror story. All of these are key elements for you, the author, to manipulate to make the best story you can.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Upcoming Novel Releases!!

I've got great news! My publisher, Screaming Aphony Press, and I have worked out a deal to release two new novels between now and March of 2012. Since I can officially talk about it now, I thought I'd share some of the details.

First, in October of 2011, Screaming Aphony Press will release my novel, THE BOG.

THE BOG - Release Date: 10/11/2011

Hidden in the desolate wilderness of The Pine Barrens, the village of Jamesbog, New Jersey is a quiet town that time forgot. A town square, residents that all know each other like family and a white clapboard church. But this town holds secrets. Secrets that have been buried for twenty-five years and like most secrets, this one should have stayed buried.

Twenty-five years ago two girls were murdered. One was drowned in the flooded bogs during the Autumn of '77. The other was never found.

One fine summer day, a sudden uncanny storm blows in savagely, threatening to dredge up the answers to mysteries that have remained hidden for nearly three decades. Huddled in a church during this freakish storm, a small group of survivors will find out the truth.

And then in March of 2012,

COMMUNITY - Release Date: 3/13/2012

Bill and Jenny Peters have just moved to the Shore town of Shoal Harbor. They moved for the friendly faces and the great schools, the quiet neighborhoods and the sense of community.

But not all is as it seems. Bill's neighbors begin to show an almost fanatical devotion to the town and the community. People keep disappearing all over town. And a dark pall has been cast over the whole town.

The Peters family, however, don't have the sense of community that the town leaders look for in residents. The Peters are shunning their friends and becoming "homebodies". They're finding that they don't belong.

The Peters family is not fitting in.

I'm really excited about these two new releases and I really can't wait to show you the awesome cover art these novels are getting dressed in. Make sure you join the Jack Drew mailing list (below and to the right) and I'll keep you up to date on all the details of these (and other) upcoming releases.