Mike and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

By: Mike Sep 19, 2014

Like Alexander in Judith Viorist's excellent children's book, I've just had one of those days.

Now, generally speaking, Patty and I live very well. We're almost criminally happy and spend much of our time together. I'm well aware that we're far more fortunate than we deserve. I'm not asking anyone to feel sorry for us, which would be patently ridiculous. But, of course, in every life a little rain must fall, even ours. The sunny weather of my life began to cloud up on Wednesday afternoon.

Being an author has many rewards, but one minor down side is the pay schedule. We get paid twice a year: April and October. If we were smart, disciplined, and had fewer kids, we could easily budget for the six months between paychecks. Since we're not, we usually have a few lean weeks waiting for payday. That means that instead of tackling the big projects, I'm trying to catch up on the plethora of small, inexpensive ones. On Wednesday afternoon I finished repairing the lawn mower (and just in time, our lawn is almost tall enough to bale), and decided that I would paint the arena fence.

And then I remembered that my paint sprayer was broken. About a year ago, I'd loaded it to a friend, who had painted his whole house, and then let my sprayer sit, full of paint, for a couple of months before returning it. I'd taken the machine home and scrubbed and scraped the dried paint. It chugged and sputtered, but wouldn't actually move paint, and that's how I'd stored it. So I dragged it off the shelf and got serious. I checked the seals, scraped more paint, and replaced a clogged hose. I tried to pump water, but it still wouldn't work. I decided to try using paint, which is more viscous and would presumably seal better.

Since I was just trying to get the machine to prime, I didn't have a hose attached to the paint outlet. I flipped the switch off and on, and prodded and poked at various settings. Nothing. Lots of noise, but no paint was moving. Then I flipped the switch from prime to paint and something happened. The motor made a different sound, there were a few little bubbles in the paint bucket — and suddenly I was getting hosed down with a high-pressure deluge of paint shooting from the stupid nozzle where I would normally have a hose attached. I quickly flipped the switch back to prime, and it continued to spray me with paint like something out of a bad sitcom. OBVIOUSLY, the problem is a bad primer valve.

So, I stood up, looking like swamp-thing, covered in paint from head to toe. I can't go in the house like this, Patty will kill me. I need to get out of my clothes. I thought, "If I'm buck naked, I'll just look like a Celtic warrior, replete with woad, but I shouldn't drip too badly." I started to shinny out of my clothing, and then remembered that Ann, Patty's assistant, was still working in her office . . . in the house. Fortunately, I regained my sanity before flashing Ann. I hosed off the worst of it, sneaked to my office, and managed to effect an entrance that did not subject me to sexual harassment lawsuits, while getting only minimal paint on the floor. I'm now convinced that this should be a written as a quest in all fantasy-adventure games: You are covered in paint. You must sneak through the manor house, avoiding all occupants, without leaving incriminating foot-or-handprints on anything!

So ended Wednesday. Patty wasn't feeling well (just a bit of a cold) and didn't sleep well. One of the unavoidable truths of marriage is that if your partner doesn't sleep, you don't sleep. So, Thursday I struggled into the day with bleary eyes and a headache. I decided to run a couple of errands, and get the parts I needed. It took me three tries to make it out of the house, because I kept forgetting things. I finally got my part list, my wallet, keys and cell phone all together at the same time and left for town. After driving about two hundred feet, my notebook fell off the chair and onto the floor, spilling papers everywhere. I tried to grab it. I wasn't very coordinated, and the driveway is narrow, with steep ditches to either side. I drifted to one side, and the soft shoulder collapsed, pulling the car (speeding along at something like twenty miles an hour) into the ditch despite my valiant efforts. The ditch, like everything else in the aptly-named scablands we call home, is filled with boulders. Judging from the shrieking, tearing, ripping sounds, the Toyota Camry is not designed to drive over large boulders. Fortunately, they were a wonderful aid in breaking to a stop. Er, braking to a stop.

So, there I sat, tipped at an improbable angle, two hundred feet from the house, with cheerful music filling the cabin. I got out and surveyed the damage. Embarrassing, but not too terrible. There was a small ding on one door from a friendly fence post, and a dubious-looking plastic skid-plate was sitting behind the car, which thankfully wasn't leaking any suspicious fluids. If I could just get it back on the road, this might go down only in the top fifty or so dumbest things I've ever done. I walked back to Patty's office, and confessed my sin. Since I've harrassed her endlessly about backing into a boulder, I knew I was in for it. She wasn't angry, but I suspect I'm going to be hearing about this for a long while. She came with me to look at the car and try to figure out how to get it back on the road.

I thought, maybe, I could pull it backwards using the backhoe. Patty wasn't convinced. I ran to get the backhoe, and grabbed a long tow chain. The car was stuck at an uncomfortable angle, leaving much of the back end high in the air. The backhoe could pull it, but it wasn't going to move easily, so I started looking for a good place to hook the chain. Arrrrrggggghhh! Did you know that modern cars are made almost entirely without metal? There's lot of plastic, a few suspension components that definitely don't look like a good place to apply a few thousand pounds of pull, and some tin-foil thick bits of sheet metal. I looked for several minutes, before concluding that I was far more likely to pull random pieces of the car free than to actually move it. I was tired, my headache was pounding, and now I was filthy dirty, and I'd somehow managed to get stickers and thorns all down my back. Hey, it's a desert, everything that grows has thorns!

Patty had been looking at the front of the car, which was sort of buried in a big berm of gravel. Ahead of the berm, however, the ditch wasn't as steep, and it might be possible to pull it up to the road. The burm had to go, and I already had a backhoe on site. "Say no more, M'Lady, your knight gallant shall remove that vile berm." I drove the backhoe into position, sort of crab-wise across the narrow driveway, with the front end hanging over one ditch and an outrigger on the edge of the soft shoulder, and began trying to clear the berm. Since I couldn't get in front of it, I was sort of sweeping it away; placing the bucket inches from the car, and then jamming the stick to swing the bucket sidewise, pushing dirt and debris further down the ditch. And, of course, you know what happened. I was pushing a stubborn batch of material, with the bucket inches from the front of the car. It didn't want to move so I upped the revs and gave it more pressure, and more pressure and . . . and spun the backhoe instead of the arm. As the backhoe spun, the stupid outrigger slipped, and the bucket rebounded right into the front of the car. Our formerly-attractive car now had a backhoe-bucket shaped dent in the front, to go with the dented door and whatever damage I'd inflicted to the undercarriage.

I was so mad I jerked on the joysticks in the backhoe. Naturally, the left joystick broke off in my hand. Patty has always said she based the werewolves on me, and I'm not sure it's a compliment. If you think cars are expensive, try heavy equipment. So I counted to ten, and very calmly climbed down from the happily-idling backhoe. At this point, I wasn't able to form coherent sentences, although I did manage a few choice swear words. And then Patty had the bright idea of calling a tow truck.

An hour later, the smiling tow truck driver was counting out a stack of money, and our poor little car was safely back up on the road. He was friendly and cheerful. He had some special hooks that let him grab the suspension arms without bending them, and he managed to lift our little car to safety without so much as scratching the paint. He made it look easy. As he was about to leave, he got a puzzled look, and said, "I see where you left the road and scraped up the bottom, and I can see the fence post that got the door, but what the heck did you hit to damage the front?"

I went into the house to pout relax for a bit. After an hour or two I started feeling guilty. Patty was working. Ann had worked all day. I was just sitting there feeling sorry for myself. So, I looked for something simple and unchanging to do. There were a couple of lights burned out in the living room. After the remodel from hell, the house has ten-and-a-half foot ceilings. I grabbed a ladder which had been sitting in the garage for a month or two and a few spare bulbs, and climbed up to the first light fixture. Balancing atop the ladder I disassembled the shade to get to the blasted bulbs. With my hands full of parts, I reached down to grab a new bulb — and got stung by the sleepy hornet that had just crawled out of the hollow rung of my ladder, with several of his little buddies trailing behind him. I managed not to drop the shade. I changed the light, carried the ladder, with it's cargo of almost-hibernating wasps to the garage, and decided to concede the battle. Some days you just can't win.

P.S. Today is much better!

Mercy Is Back in Comics

By: Mike Aug 14, 2014

A few years ago we launched a series of Mercy Thompson comic books. The series launched with an origin story called Homecoming that was eventually released as a graphic novel, and then we tried to adapt the a couple of the Mercy and Alpha and Omega novels to the comic book format. We got to work with some very talented people, and it was fun to see the stories in graphic form, but there was something missing.

Almost two years ago, we called Nick Barruchi, the president of Dynamite, with a feeling of dread in our stomachs. We carefully explained that while we enjoyed working with him and his crew, we felt that final product was slightly lackluster, and that we would not be continuing. Much to our amazement, instead of anger and blame, Nick agreed with our assessment. He carefully explained that re-hashing the novels meant that we were playing to a limited audience. That meant production costs had to be controlled, which affected how much time the artists and writers could spend, which obviously affects the final product. Then he made us an offer — if Patty would come up with an original story idea, something that she would be comfortable basing a novel on, and let him base a graphic novel on it, he would do his best to blow her away.

We thought it over, and decided to take a chance. Patty thought up a creepy story that might have made a good novel, and sent it to Nick. Frankly, our expectations weren't too high. Then we saw the story draft, and it was good. We began to hope. The first art rolled in, Patty asked for a few corrections, and they were made promptly and the revised panels showed a great deal of promise. We got more excited. Then we saw the colored versions, and we have to admit that Nick has kept his word. This is a comic we're proud to be part of.

The original plan was to skip the comic medium, and publish this as a stand alone graphic novel, but after seeing the first dozen or so pages, it was decided to release it in comic form first. So, the first eposide of Mercy Thomposon: Hopcross Jilly will be available in October. You can find more information on Dynamite.com.