Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Nightmare

The other night I had a nightmare. I don’t blame myself for having it, considering I write about zombies, and I’d gone through a Walking Dead marathon recently. But yes, I had a full-blown nightmare waking up in a cold sweat and trying to catch my breath. I fell short of screaming–thank goodness for that. Then again, what would I consider scream-worthy?

Spider nest
Spider nest

For today’s Monday Mayhem, let me tell you about this nightmare.

Some of my friends have asked me pointblank where do I get my ideas. In all honesty, because I write every day, I figured it had to do with the writing habit. But more and more I’m finding I draw much of my inspiration through my dreams, and yes, nightmares. I have yet to experience night terrors, such as those few unlucky people I’ve met in my lifetime, however my dreams are so vivid at times that when I wake up I’m confused as to what is real and what is not.

Knowing this, let’s get back to my nightmare.

One night I find myself running through a wheat field. I could hear the stalks breaking under my footsteps and I could feel the grain scratching my hands as I attempt to make my way to an exit of some sort. The night is cold. It feels more like the end of October, early November. I can see my breath. I remember wearing my jeans and sneakers, but that’s not important until later. And there’s very little light, although I can see ahead to what is coming next.

I then find myself at the mouth of a cave. At least it looks that way. The rock outside glistens in the moonlight. Now that I think about it, I wonder why everything looks brighter than the wheat field. I notice the rock appears wet to the touch. I can’t understand why it seems wet, yet I can’t see a source of water anywhere.

Inside the cave, I look around and notice that the walls are also wet to the touch, much like the outside. I move forward until I stop next to a crag where a small shaft of light appears. I find this weird, but I’m not afraid. Then the light disappears only I find the tunnel ahead contains a fire burning in the background. I can smell the charring wood and can feel the warmth from a few feet away.

I can’t move, though. I try to lift my feet, I try to pull my legs from where they stand, but something’s keeping me there. It’s funny, I feel as if I have lost my will to use my lower half.

When I peer at my feet, expecting I may have stepped into glue, I see things crawling on my sneakers. They are black. They have legs. Now, I’m afraid. Their legs bend as would a spider’s legs bend. It’s not a spider, though. The hand-sized bug has seven legs, three on two sides and one in the back. It crawls around and has now begun climbing my legs.

Having regained the use of my legs, I run. I scream. I shake. Yet I don’t go anywhere other than two feet from where those bugs had attacked me. I turn around and stare at them. I find I had stood frozen in place under their nest.

Then I hear a familiar growl. The undead. I’m sure of it.

That’s when I wake up.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you had any nightmares lately? What was the last one you remember?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Monotasking

Monotasking is one of those words you hear and quickly dismiss as nonsense. After all, we live in a world where we don’t have time to dedicate 100% of our time to one thing. Right? Multitasking has always been the way to go. But for today’s Freedom Friday post, I want to talk about monotasking vs. multitasking and the benefits of doing one thing and doing it well.

Monotasking
Monotasking

Let’s get some of the definitions out of the way first.

Multitasking: The handling of more than one task at the same time by a single person.

Monotasking: The handling of one task at one time by a single person.

For a long time I’ve been a proponent of multitasking. Who wouldn’t be? The mere definition entices the idea that someone can become twice as productive as, say, performing one task at a time.

But how effective are we when we tackle more than one task at a time? Let’s put it this way, if you have a 24-hour day, it is physically impossible to squeeze 48 hours from it. Experts disagree. Who hasn’t written an email while on the phone? Who hasn’t prepared a post while chatting in a meeting? Who hasn’t checked the sports scores while supposedly researching for their next assignment?

There’s this movement taking place in social circles called Tabless Thursday. It promotes monotasking by encouraging everyone to ditch the tabs in their browsers and work in one window for the entire day. The movement supports one’s ability to produce quality work at the risk of ignoring efficiency.

Stay focused
Stay focused

I’m all up on these interesting trends and for years, I’ve been an efficient multitasker. For instance, I’ve written posts, watched TV and read all at the same time. Don’t ask me if I remember any of it because I’ll tell you the same thing I’ve told my wife when she asks me if I hear her voice while I’m reading an article on the internet. The answer is a resounding no. Oh, I’m sure I was efficient, knocking off tasks from my to-do list as if they were all important, but how good had I produced the work on a scale of 1-10?

Multitasking serves its purpose in an aggressive environment where products have to go out the door quickly. However, monotasking has its purpose, too.

Whenever I have to get something important finished, I now turn off the phone, disconnect the internet, hide my task bar on my laptop, and type furiously at my keyboard until I’m done. It’s amazing how much I can accomplish without interruption.

The other argument for monotasking pertains to the quality of work. This, I can’t judge. I can only go by the reaction of the audience to see if my monotasking ways are effective. All I know is I can get the work done at a faster pace considering I have fewer distractions to keep me from accomplishing my goal.

What are you, a multitasker or a monotasker?

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What do you think of monotasking? How would you go about adding monotasking in your workflow?

Posted in Women Who Wow Wednesday

Jess Bhamra

When I saw Bend It Like Beckham for the first time ten years ago, I laughed so hard, I never thought I’d recover. Thankfully, I did and now I’m able to tell you about the star character for Women Who Wow Wednesday. Her name is Jesminder “Jess” Kaur Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) and she likes football—soccer here in North America. She likes watching it. Playing it. Breathing it. She’s a regular fan.

Parminder Nagra & Keira Knightley
Parminder Nagra & Keira Knightley

One day, Juliette “Jules” Paxton (Keira Knightley) watches her play against the boys and she decides to approach her about an offer that may very well change her life. Jules wants Jess to come along and have a trial with the Hounslow Harriers, an all-girls football team. Jess doesn’t know what to say. She asks Jules if she thinks she’s good enough. Of course Jess is good enough, otherwise Jules wouldn’t have asked her.

There’s one problem. Jess is Indian playing English football. Under normal circumstances, this would be acceptable, but Jess’ parents are very strict about what their daughter can and can’t do with her life. One thing she can’t do is play and horseplay with the boys in the park. This is off limits. They also do not like their daughter to wear shorts, which amounts to revealing too much of herself to the opposite sex. In other words, they do not like her “running around half naked in front of men”. Did I mention her parents are strict? Yeah.

Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra
Parminder Nagra as Jess Bhamra

Adding to Jess’ list of “things I hate my parents do to me when I want to do something else,” her mom wants her to learn how to make a full Punjabi dinner—meat and vegetarian. Her parents wouldn’t be able to show their face in the temple otherwise. Did I mention that her parents also forbid her to continue with her football career? They want her to start acting like a real woman, settle down, think about the future and kids, just like her unhappy sister who also follows their traditions in these modern times.

So what does Jess do? She sneaks around, going against her parents’ wishes in order to fulfill her dream of playing in an all-girls football team. Why? Jess feels that if she didn’t try her best with achieving her dream, despite her parents’ wanting her to keep their traditions, then she’d feel like a total failure for the rest of her life with nothing else to live for other than cook, clean, do the dishes, laundry and look after the kids.

Remember, all this is on top of her being the only Indian girl on her team.

If anything’s certain, Jess has a will to overcome. She doesn’t allow the negativity in her life to rule her sanity or her motivation to accomplish her goals.

Jess is a true achiever who is better than “good enough”.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

Have you ever heard of the movie Bend It Like Beckham? If you have, what did you like about Jess?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Motivation

What motivates you? Do you wake up, hop out of bed, breathe deeply and say to yourself, “Today’s going to be the best day of my life.” Do you? I do. Every morning I say that, even when sleeping an inordinate amount of hours on the weekend. And why not? Today ought to be the best day of our life because today is the only day that matters. That’s why for Freedom Friday I thought I’d show you what I’ve learned in the past couple of years in hopes it may move you to freedom—freedom to accomplish your dreams and freedom to become who you are meant to be.

Motivation
Motivation

I started watching motivational videos in the winter of 2012 after a long, dark period in my life. I had lost something incredibly important to me that year and it hurt bad. Those who know me know this dark season had lasted for months. Behind the smiles, the laughter and the song stood a man on the threshold of perpetual sadness.

Then, one morning I woke up thinking I didn’t want to feel that way anymore. I changed, just like that. I realized everything I thought could happen, never did. The still small voice in my head returned and I knew my life was about to get a whole lot better.

This blog began on the day I regained my life back. I knew exactly what I needed to do next.

I’ve had people ask me, “What motivates you? How do you keep the creativity going?” I simply answer, “I have a lot of catching up to do.”

When you wasted half of your life in fear of failure, there really isn’t much else to say. It’s all a matter of getting it done.

In the throes of this newfound energy propelling me forward, I dusted off an old manuscript I had written some time ago about a killer who hates zombies and would do anything to put them out of their misery. That killer’s name was Ranger Martin, and he called my name to finish his story.

Fear
Fear

If you learn anything from this post, take away this: Fear does not exist.

I’ll say it one more time: Fear does not exist.

We build this image of the future of what we’d like to become, where we’d like to see ourselves and within seconds of those thoughts, we kill the dream.

“I’m not good enough. I don’t think I can do it. I’ll fail. It’s too difficult. It’s too much work. I can’t. I’m afraid. People will laugh at me. People won’t take me seriously.”

Let me tell you, just because you hear someone say those things don’t mean you have to believe them. The only defeat we’ll feel is from ourselves. We are our own worst enemy. Once we understand that, once we see that, everything else will fall into place. I’m of the belief everyone, no matter how small or how weak, is capable of great things—incredible things that will astound those around them making others take note and say, “I want to be like that guy. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what he’s got, but I want to be like that guy.”

I challenge my readership today to take that one step that will make the difference. Take that shot to a life filled with challenges, opportunity and hope. Tear apart the bondage that renders you desperate. Throw away the shackles that bind you. Nothing in this world can say you can’t. You can say you can’t. Don’t. I know what it feels like to hear the words “I’m a failure.” I know what it feels like to think I’m no good. I’ve been there. It’s not pretty.

But I say, picture your dream and go after it. If someone tells you you can’t. Tell them, watch me. If you hear that voice in the back of your head telling you you can’t. Tell it, watch me. Then, do it. Every minute lost on a worry is a minute given to failure. You don’t want to fail, do you?

Now go out there and win. Always believe, “Today’s going to be the best day of my life.”

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What motivates you?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Moments

There are days when you just don’t want to get out of bed. On the other hand, there are days you want the world to stop so you can look around and enjoy the beauty. You’ll study a flower and ask yourself, what made this come from the ground? Its pedals worship the sun in harmony with the grass standing at attention. You listen to that single note in a symphony orchestra, hanging there, waiting for the piano to make the melody with its ghostlike phrasing. The moon listens to its phases. The ocean’s waves sit quietly not wanting to destroy the flowers.

Rainbow Rose [Photo Credit: In compliance with Wikipedia Common Licensing]
Rainbow Rose [Photo Credit: In compliance with Wikipedia Common Licensing]
This is an abstract Freedom Friday post. What is the truth?

The heart of a man stops, ending his journey. The cry from a hospital bed declares new life. The baby snuggles in its mother’s arms. A boat capsizes over rough waters. A whale journeys to the coast of North America, landing on the beach only for others to find it later, dead. The skies are clear. A cloud appears. It transforms into a flower, blooming and exploding in the sky as if it were fireworks on The Fourth of July.

The ice crawls on the roof, thickening as it goes. His sweat from working in the field pours from his forehead on to the beans he’s collecting into the basket. The rain doesn’t stop. Not for Big Ben. Not for the tubes. The wind hasn’t stopped carrying the sand from the desert to the towns. Bagdad will be lonely tonight, but the rose hasn’t lost its pedals.

A heartbeat pounds in the music at the bar. Eyes meet. The evening ends in fireworks. A child visits her grandmother expecting her in bed. Instead, she’s tending the garden pruning the roses. The child smiles. The bottle of wine falls to the floor. Shards of glass cover the carpet. You awaken from the noise wanting to go back to bed. The garbage truck churns its innards, having announced its arrival.

The whistle from the train doesn’t let up. The honk from the taxicabs on Fifth will get you to where you want to go. An airplane burns too much fuel to where it wants to go leaving a trail of debris in the wake of its crash. A truck filled with snow capsizes, burying a pedestrian in his car. Ghosts can’t have the answer. Not yet anyway. The daisies know, but they’re not telling.

Bouquets of flowers [Photo Credit: In compliance with Wikipedia Common Licensing]
Bouquets of flowers [Photo Credit: In compliance with Wikipedia Common Licensing]
The lonely silence on a frozen lake gives way to the loon calling its mate. The sparks flying from the fire tell the story of the woman who loved her husband very much before she took her life. The mantel sits bare except for the one rose resting in the center, dew forming on the inside as tears would from a broken heart.

Sometimes, what we think is not what we know as truth.

One rainy evening, a young woman named Rose traveled the tubes with her friends in London to a pub searching for fun on the dance floor. When her eyes met Mark’s, there were fireworks that night. The next morning, Mark explained he had to return to the United States. He was on leave from the military and needed to get back to Iraq where he would help villagers farm in the countryside. They were in desperate need of food since the desert winds would consume the fertile soil making it waste in its wake.

Months later while Rose flicked on the tele, she caught the American news channel broadcasting the names of the soldiers killed in action. She collapsed on the bed when she read Mark’s name scrolling by. The plane he flew crashed and burned after a leak in the line spewed fuel into the wind. Hours later, she ended up at the hospital delivering their baby girl.

It was a clear day when Mark’s burial took place in the United States. Rose had decided just after giving birth that she’d live close to him for the rest of her life so she can respect his memory with a bouquet of flowers she’d deliver to his grave every day.

As the years flew by, and her daughter, Daphne, grew, Rose one day awoke to the sound of New York—a garbage truck processing its pickup, the whistle from the train passing by hauling passengers for their morning commute, the honk of the taxicabs cruising on Fifth. Rose had things to do that cold, winter morning.

On her way to driving Daphne to her former mother-in-law’s, the radio reported news of a man who had died buried alive by a freak dump truck accident. Also reported, a boat capsized in the waters off the coast of California, in spite of the calm waters due to the moon’s phase. The last news item was that of a whale that had travelled from its breeding grounds to a west coast beach and died of exposure.

Soon after kissing Daphne and seeing her off to visit her grandmother, Rose heads for the weekend cabin rental by the lake. When she arrives late in the evening, she notices the ice that had formed on the roof and the silence across the lake interrupted only by the loon calling its mate.

About Midnight, Rose lifted her head from her lap after having cried for hours. Next to her, the bottle of wine she had brought for the weekend was empty. Next to it, a flat wooden box lay untouched. The fire’s flames curled upward into the chimney as she sat staring. She closed her eyes, a few moments later she reached for the box. Inside it rested a gun—Mark’s service revolver bestowed upon her during his memorial.

The symphony music Rose had playing in the background could not drown the sound of the gunshot from outside the cabin. The bouquet of flowers meant for Mark that day sat inside her car on the driver’s seat.

Sometimes, what we think is not what we know as truth.

The bullet meant for Rose grazed her temple landing in the cabin’s ceiling. Reports later suggested she died of a heart attack. But everyone who knew her knew she didn’t die of a heart attack. If anything they knew as truth, they knew she died of a broken heart. And that may very well be the truth.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Moments are everywhere, can you see them?

Posted in Freedom Friday

Insomnia

It’s two in the morning. What am I still doing up? In a couple of hours, I have to start my day. If I don’t get to sleep, I will have been up a full twenty-four hours. The kettle, I unplugged it, didn’t I? I’m sure I did. Did I turn off the stove? I did. I’m sure of it. I can’t seem to get that song out of my head. Think about something else. Don’t think! Sleep!

Insomnia
Insomnia

This is Freedom Friday. This is how I escaped the abyss.

One day blends into the next. There is no difference. Today’s a semblance of good day. I don’t look like a character out of a Tim Burton movie—spiked hair, sunken eyes and pale skin. I can get things done. The birds chirping aren’t a bother either. Why do birds chirp? Why don’t dogs chirp?

Two years ago, I averaged two hours sleep a night.

My reflection in the window of the department store scares me. I run. I glance over my shoulder but no one is there. Everyone looks the same. Why are they laughing at me? Who is that? Is he the one following me? I sit on a bench staring. My thoughts continue to race. Tonight, will be a good night. I will sleep.

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands
Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands

The doctor asks if I am suffering from stress. I ask, doesn’t everyone? I’m in perfect physical condition. Then why can’t I sleep? Perhaps a prescription? No, no drugs.

Where are my car keys? What did I do with my keys? I lost my keys. Why can’t I remember where I put them? Here they are. I hate my chores. I don’t want to take out the garbage. I don’t want to mow the lawn. And I do not want to have a smile on my face when all I feel is emptiness. I just want to lie down in a dark room, close my eyes and fall into a coma for a month.

She asks, is everything all right? I say, yes.

I must have tossed on my pillow a dozen times. I can’t get comfortable. What is wrong with this bed? Lie still. Breathe slowly. Now close your eyes. I can’t. Damned clock. Stop telling me how much time I have left before I’m supposed to wake up!

A year later, I had to put a stop to it.

She asks, is everything all right? I say, no, I can’t sleep again. What’s wrong? I just—can’t sleep. Pray. What? Pray about it.

I pray, asking for release.

The lamb smells good. I broiled it in a marinade of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. I thought it would go well with the sautéed red and green peppers, and onions. That salad is to die for, too. Fresh cucumbers and onions give it a pleasurable crunch. I can’t wait to try my new Merlot I made a month ago. I’ve been saving it for tonight’s special meal. Everything smells so good.

I relax downstairs by the fireplace watching Edward Scissorhands, one of my favorite Tim Burton movies. I allow my mind to wander on the day. How sweet the birds sounded chirping this morning. How funny I looked passing that department store window this afternoon. How the car purred heading home. Although the lawn didn’t need mowing, I had taken out the trash. My smile grows. I so much enjoy watching this film.

The bedroom door clicks behind me. I pull the shades and dim the nightstand light. I turn the alarm clock to face the wall. After slipping into a T-shirt and brushing my teeth, I sit and read. Shakespeare sure has a way of making a story unfold. My eyes begin to droop. It’s time.

I pray.

The bed feels comfortable. I turn off the light and close my eyes.

Silence. Darkness.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you ever had to battle insomnia?

Posted in Freedom Friday

The Elephant

I had a dream the other night. I think it safe sharing it with you. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to tell anyone, right? Aw, heck, it is Freedom Friday so if you feel like telling someone, go ahead. I won’t stop you.

Elephant/Butterfly by saulinis
Elephant/Butterfly by saulinis

I dreamt I was leading a marching band. One of those big, fat New Orleans’ marching bands. You know the kind, with the flutes shrilling, trumpets blaring, and drums banging. I blew on my whistle, twirled my baton—the whole bit, really. I was in my element. As I led the zombie-like musicians through the street (they weren’t zombies, they just followed me that way), an elephant appeared right in our path. I kid you not. It stood there not moving. We had to come to an abrupt halt. No more shrilling, blaring or banging. And no more whistling or twirling for me. A dead stop.

I looked at the elephant hoping my stare would cause it to move. It didn’t move. It just thrust its trunk back and forth, and blew a heavy sound. All I wanted it to do was for it to move from our path in order for us to continue doing what we did best—make music. It wasn’t having any of it. It sat its dump truck behind on the pavement and wouldn’t budge.

When I awoke, I immediately wondered what I had eaten the night before. It was unusual to have a dream this vivid and remember it in detail the next morning. I thought back on those tacos stuffed with spicy meat, shredded cheese and delicious salsa. It couldn’t have been the tacos. I wasn’t burping them through my nose.

McDonough #35 Marching Band
McDonough #35 Marching Band

As nighttime neared, I prepared for sleep. My nighttime ritual consists of kissing my wife, saying goodnight to the kids, changing into my PJs, brushing my teeth, going to the bathroom and making up the bed. It’s during the course of making up the bed that my mind races a mile a minute recapping the day’s events. It was here where the thought of the elephant kept pounding my head. It wouldn’t let go. Stupid elephant.

That same night, I fell asleep and dreamt of the same big, fat New Orleans’ marching band. The same flutes shrilling, trumpets blaring, and drums banging. And of the same stupid elephant sitting its massive rump on the pavement where we needed to pass. The next morning I was at a loss. Is it possible someone was trying to tell me something? Was my subconscious playing tricks on me? Had I crossed over to the throes of insanity, never to regain my tempered state?

Therefore, I did what any other person would have done on the brink of a mental breakdown. I told a friend. I blurted out everything, the band, the elephant—everything. My friend thought for a moment and said, “Don’t ask, why the elephant got in your way. Ask, why you were leading a big ass marching band.”

Could I have missed the obvious? I was so busy worrying about the elephant that I’d forgotten about the band. Once I looked at it that way, I wondered where all the cheerleaders were.

Ever have strange dreams? Care to share? Promise, we won’t tell.