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The Quiet Earth

Sometimes at work I take a lunch break.

This in itself isn’t terribly interesting. But what I do during that lunch break is.

To me, anyway.

There’s a trail not too far from my building that I like to walk.

OK, maybe like isn’t the right word.

‘Medically necessary death march’ is probably a better description.

You see, my doctor wants me to lose weight, and since NASA has thus far declined to help in this endeavor, I walk.

The nice thing about the walking is-

Actually, there’s nothing nice about the walking. It’s a medically necessary death march, remember?

The thing I dislike the least during my grueling battle of wills against gravity and geography is when I take a late lunch.

At 3 o’clock, the trail is deserted.

No joggers.

No office mates taking their constitutional.

No creepy types hanging out to ogle the female joggers.

I have the trail, the marshlands, the birds, and the (probably plague-carrying) squirrels all to myself.

Also, the sound of the water treatment plant.

I have that to myself too, but that particular sound element I could do without.

Where's Eeyore to clear out those thistles when you need him?

I think all the dead plants along the trail may be contributing to my apocalypse fantasies.

Anyway, when I’m alone on the trail and work real hard at ignoring the fully operational water treatment plant, I can pretend it’s the apocalypse.

Goodness knows I feel like it’s the end of the world, after all that walking.

I pretend I’m alone after the fall of civilization, and I’m carefully striking out, looking for other survivors.

And avoiding the zombies.

There are zombies on these death marches.

Naturally.

I enjoy the solitude, the sense of foreboding adventure.

Mostly because I’m safe in the knowledge that it’s all pretend and there’s free coffee waiting for me at the office.

Free, decent coffee.

Sure, zombies can fly a plane. But can they land one?

I tell myself the military is flying anti-zombie recons when these fly overhead.

None of which makes the sound of airplanes overhead or the water treatment plant nearby any less annoying.

The hallmarks of civilization draw me out of my fun little fantasy almost before I manage to enter it.

This makes me sad.

Turns out I can’t escape civilization, even in my imagination.

That’s the problem with modern society – there are bits of it everywhere, so you just can’t dodge it.

You think camping, but there are always airplanes in the sky.

And rangers in their trucks, stopping to tell you not to leave your food out because, you know, bears.

And other campers, blaring their speed polka on their car radios until 3 in the morning, when you stalk over to their site, groggy, possibly in just your underwear, annoyed at everyone else in the park who is apparently too afraid to complain, and kindly and politely ask them to turn their music off, please, if they wouldn’t mind.

After you clear your throat several times, trying to get their attention.

Sometimes I really hate civilization.

It’s actually more frustrating at home, when I have no reason to expect a respite from the cacophony of Humanity.

I’ve mentioned my interest in capturing sound previously, and it is a never-ending source of bitter disappointment for me.

Why?

Because I can’t get the sounds I want without less …interesting… noises encroaching.

The other night we had some wind and a light rain, so I went out into my front yard to capture the sound of the leaves rustling and the water dripping from the tree branches.

Instead, I got a lot of cars driving by, and somewhere, in the near distance, the blare of a car horn consisting of the first few notes of ‘La Cucaracha’.

That song loses its charm very quickly, especially when you’re listening to the car horn version.

Which is going off every thirty seconds or so.

It’s moments like this that I wish I lived out in the boonies, away from the constant traffic, the inevitable bumping of elbows, and the background murmur of television programming.

Which invariably reminds me I need to run into the house and turn off the TV.

It’s just reruns of The Big Bang Theory, after all.

When I come back out, much to my disappointment, I find that the other noises are still there, not banished by the muting of my TV.

My desire to move returns.

But sans the empty blathering of society’s latest banal situation comedy, the desire isn’t painfully intense.

I stand in the cold wet wind, reflecting on the world around me and how much improved it is without The Big Bang Theory, when my thoughts drift to tomorrow.

And work.

And medically necessary death marches.

I recall just how grueling the commute is from my home, and moments later, the idea of moving has been discarded.

The next morning, I start-up my car, roll down the windows, and blare Classical music on my way to work.

Because I hate civilization.

 
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Posted by on 19 November 2014 in Angst, Camping, Life

 

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How getting a Brazilian saved Balloons of the Apocalypse! (It’s OUT!!!)

Today, August 30th, 2014 is a momentous day.

You know how it goes. Girl meets boy. Boy joins a classical music worshipping cult. Girl never sees boy again, until years later when she stumbles across a street orchestra playing for food, and there he is. But she's happily married now, and he smells really, really bad.

As always, only Marlowe, spacewoman Nina, and a sham wedding can stop a dangerous Beethoven cult bent on world domination.

The second Capaldi Doctor Who episode aired.

It had daleks.

I liked it. And Capaldi as the Doctor.

So a momentous day indeed.

On a completely unrelated and nowhere near as momentous note, Balloons of the Apocalypse is now available.

The third installment in the Marlowe and the Spacewoman series, it has it all:

Words.

Sentences.

Paragraphs.

Mystery.

Exotic locales.

Marriage.

Major character deaths.

Steam-powered pigs.

Zeppelins.

I won’t bore you with the details, even if this is the promotional blog post announcing the release. Click on the Balloons of the Apocalypse link to learn more.

(I really hate self-promotion.)

But I will reveal to you the Brazilian connection to this book’s release.

I admit, I’d been in a rut for the last year or so when it comes to this book.

The day job, my marriage, my young kids, they sucked the life out of me.

No offense to the Missus or the kiddos. Or the day job, in case my boss is reading this.

It’s just these things are big responsibilities that take a lot of time and effort to do right.

And let me tell you, facing the prospect of losing your day job, Missus, and/or kiddos, you find yourself wanting to do it right.

Needing to do it right.

And getting dirty looks from coworkers, spouses, friends, family, and kiddos who expect you to do it right.

Talk about pressure.

That plus my previous books never magically turned into best sellers, so I reached this point where I was all, “Screw it. No one cares. I’ll never be a rich and famous author. Why bother, especially when there is a diarrhea-soaked diaper for me to change?”

Wait, make that two.

Dammit.

So I stopped working on and thinking about Balloons of the Apocalypse.

I could claim I was letting that field lie fallow, but I’d be lying.

I’d given up.

The light had gone out from my authorial eyes.

I’d developed a major facial tic around books in general.

I was done with writing.

And reading, since it reminded me of writing.

Then the Brazilian showed up.

Well, not so much showed up as appeared.

OK, not even appeared. More like lurked.

Eh, maybe lurked isn’t the right word.

I’ll explain.

I started noticing blog hits from Brazil.

Now I’m not going to say I don’t get huge volumes of traffic on my blog that would make it impossible to link a referrer to a visiting country, but it was pretty clear to me that not only was this repeat visitor a repeat visitor, but the Brazilian always came to this blog via ianmdudley.com.

(Don’t click on that. You’ll end up here again. Really. I promise.)

Not because of a search term (hello ‘Blake Shelton naked’ people!). Not through twitter. Not via facebook.

The Brazilian was going directly to my website, which redirected him or her to this blog.

For the longest time, I thought, “I’ve got this huge fan out there, desperately visiting my web site every day to see when Balloons of the Apocalypse will finally come out.”

My initial response? “Schmuck. You’re in for a helluva wait.”

But after a few days I began to feel bad.

Then sad.

Then guilty.

I was ruining this person’s day, every day, by not having the book out for him or her to read.

I think the last straw was Brazil’s elimination from the 2014 World Cup.

Now the Brazilian had endured enough.

Now I had to offer the only salve that could possibly help heal this broken, crushed, disappointed fan.

Now I had to finish and release Balloons of the Apocalypse.

So here it is. Two more editing passes and some minor re-writes later, and it is out in the world. Ready to languish on virtual book shelves, untouched by anyone.

Because two days ago I learned the truth.

Don’t ask me how. My methods are proprietary and the amount of money I spent too vast to mention anywhere the Missus might get wind of it.

(Remember that whole ‘doing the marriage right’ expectation thing?)

In a seedy sports bar on the less reputable edge of São Paulo, there is a bathroom with an ignored OUT OF ORDER sign (in Portuguese, of course) on the door, with the words, “For a good time, go to ianmdudley.com” scrawled, also in Portuguese, by the way, above a cracked, leaking urinal.

Learning that really took the piss out of me. But I was too far along in the publication process to stop.

So now I raise an angry fist while facing southeastward, and I shake it angrily at you, Brazil.

You broke an innocent man. You crushed his spirit. You made him burst into tears every time he walks up to a urinal.

Which resulted in a visit from HR at work.

(Remember that whole ‘doing the day job right’ expectation thing?)

On the not-so-off chance I lose the day job and find myself saddled with alimony and child support payments in the near future, please, please, please consider buying a copy of my book.

And the next time the guy at the urinal next to you bursts into tears, remind yourself:

“There but for the grace of a Brazilian go I.”

Bloody Brazilians.

 

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