Citizens of Purgatory

Image

Citizens of Purgatory is a dark comedy about a young newspaper reporter who confronts a bad driver … who turns out to be a vicious murderer who only served a brief stint in prison. It’s now available in paperback on Amazon. You can click here to order a copy. (It’s also available on Kindle if you prefer e-books.)

Advertisements

Snowed in

Image

Image

Snowflakes are pouring down outside and icicles are hanging everywhere. I haven’t worked since Monday. I’m enjoying my vacation so far. Last night, I spent three hours cleaning out my living room closet, a task I’ve avoided for years. Now it’s immaculate. Right now, it’s a little after three o’clock in the morning and I’ve been drawing most of the night. I’m eating leftover candy canes, drinking hot cocoa, and listening to Overnight America on KMOX via the internet. (I used to listen to KMOX on a little AM radio back in 2000 when I was staying in a cabin in the woods with no electricity. I have happy memories of those times.)

This is a drawing of my friend Brittany Rosser, a girl I used to work with at the mill. I told her I would draw her a long, long time ago. I just now got around to it.

Hope you all have a nice Valentine’s Day.

***

You can click here to order my new book, Citizens of Purgatory.  

Snowbound

Image

It snowed heavily today. Well, some people might not use the word “heavily,” but we rarely get snow in Georgia, so any amount of snow is a major event. Because the roads were icy and people had a hard time driving, there were traffic jams galore. A lot of people were stranded in their vehicles for hours. And many other people abandoned their vehicles and started walking.

I’m thankful I didn’t have to work today. I didn’t have to get out in it. I mostly stayed home and drew. At one point, I did walk over to the gas station on the corner to buy a phone card. On my way back, I saw people in trucks struggling to drive up the gentle slope in the road nearby. They weren’t able to make it. They kept sliding backwards. I was terrified for them. I helped one lady push her SUV into a ditch — since her tires kept spinning on the ice … and the ditch seemed to be the safest place.

***

The other day, my friend Dan (who was my history teacher in high school) came over and brought me a kerosene heater. For some reason, this image (above) popped into my head after he left. This evening, while I was hanging around in my apartment with nothing to do, I sat down and put it on paper. (While watching the Andy Williams Christmas Special from 1967 on YouTube.)

It’s a dog … with Dan’s head … warming himself in front of a heater. I’m hoping to do a better version later, maybe tomorrow if I’m still snowed in.

***

NOTE: My novel, Citizens of Purgatory, will be available in paperback soon. In the meantime, you can click here to download the electronic version to your Kindle. Citizens of Purgatory is a novel about the misadventures of Nick, a young sportswriter who doesn’t know anything about sports. Nick’s life turns into a nightmare when an ex-convict crashes into his car one morning.

Some drawings from 2013

Image

Image

Image

I’ve taken a break from drawing lately, so I decided to post some pictures I drew earlier this year. The first is a caricature of my blogger friend, Myla Laurel, who lives in Dubai. She takes mouth-watering pictures of food. The second is Spock from Star Trek. (It’s supposed to be the Leonard Nimoy version.) The third is G.E. Gallas, a talented writer/illustrator/blogger.

Like I said, I’ve stepped away from the sketchbook. I wanted to remove the clutter from my mind and spend the rest of the year relaxing. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve reflected on 2013 and kicked around some ideas about what I would like to do in 2014.

I’ve also watched Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas over and over and over again. It’s almost 30 years old now, but I never get tired of it.

***

I’ve tried to get into the habit of visiting the park regularly and walking around the track. Since the park is so close to my home, I don’t bother to drive. I just walk over there — past the old storefront buildings and all the small, quaint houses with Christmas trees twinkling in the windows.

Each time I make my way to the park, my neighbor’s little dog eagerly scampers along behind me. I call the dog Regis, because he reminds me of Regis Philbin, the TV icon. It’s difficult to explain why. I think it’s because of the way he grins. I see the essence of Regis Philbin in his happy little face.

Whenever I walk through town, trudging toward the park, Regis always accompanies me. But he doesn’t move in a straight line, like I do. Instead, he makes one detour after another, waddling away from me and waddling back to me again, exploring each lawn with his twitching nose.

I’m usually deep in thought during these walks, brooding about my job and worrying about life, but Regis is always happy. He’s just a high-speed ball of joy … with the face of a game show host.

Sometimes, I look over and see Regis tinkling on a garden gnome. When this happens, I clap my hands and shout, “Regis! Come away from there at once! You don’t have any business urinating in that person’s yard! Get back here! Right now! I command you!”

And he happily trots back to me, wagging his tail and smiling. I half expect him to say, “Is that your final answer?”

Once we arrive at the park, and I begin to march in circles around the track, Regis continues to come and go, sniffing and peeing everywhere, as if he has some kind of quota. I enjoy his company, even though he makes things more complicated. I’m always afraid his little antics are going to get me in some kind of trouble.

But so far, everything is fine. And if I stick with this regimen, I’ll probably slim down in 2014.

Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas.

(Both of my e-books are available on my Amazon page. One is a science fiction story aimed at young adults. The other is a Southern gothic novel filled with dark humor.)

The Clockwork series

Image

Image

Image

Image

Here are some colored pencil drawings I did back in 2010. They tell the story of a person’s life from birth to death. In each picture, you see the same man in a different stage of life. You also see a robot, with a clock for a head, relentlessly stalking the man. The robot represents time. I originally did these pictures in 2003, when I was 23 and still learning about colored pencils … but I decided to do fresh, new versions of them in 2010. I’m currently selling them on posters and coffee mugs in my CafePress store.

You can click here to visit my store. I have other art there, too … and the other stuff isn’t nearly as depressing. You will find pictures of happy things like kittens and flowers. (Seriously. Go take a look.)

I haven’t used colored pencils in a long, long time. Colored pencils are tedious. For the past few years, I’ve just worked with graphite pencils. I’ve mainly done “head and shoulder” portraits this year. I plan to do bigger, more ambitious art in 2014.

***

In other news, I’m still sticking with my new eating regimen. This week, I’ve been subsisting on Styrofoam discs (aka rice cakes) and steamed broccoli. But today is a special day. Today is “splurge” day. I’m about to visit this quaint little Mexican restaurant I recently discovered.

Have a lovely weekend and try to stay out of trouble.

(Also: you can click here if you’d like to download my new novel, Citizens of Purgatory. It’s a story about Nick Youngblood, a struggling sportswriter who doesn’t know anything about sports. One morning, as Nick drives to the newspaper office, a deranged ex-convict crashes into the back of his car. A nasty conflict ensues … and Nick’s life becomes very complicated.)

The diet dilemma

I recently discovered a new comfort food: scorched English muffins with grape jelly smeared on them. (They’re always scorched because my decrepit little toaster oven has gone haywire and the timer no longer works.) I spent most of my Thanksgiving break lounging on the couch, watching Benson, and eating a charred English muffin from time to time. It was heavenly.

A few weeks ago, I attempted to go on the Atkins Diet, but I ran out of food … and I didn’t have enough money to buy more Atkins-friendly groceries.

So I’m trying to lose weight the “regular” way: power-walking at the park, cutting back on soda, drinking more water, and avoiding food that tastes good.

Still, I wish I could continue with Atkins. I lost 70 pounds that way in 2003.

The Atkins Diet is easy if:

1.) You have an unlimited amount of money.

2.) You’re the only human being on Earth.

I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible to stick with the Atkins Diet during social gatherings. If you say you’re on the Atkins Diet (or any diet, for that matter) people immediately start to squirm and twitch. Maybe it’s because they think you’re miserable and they feel sorry for you. Maybe they’re worried about your health and well-being. Perhaps they can’t enjoy their own food while you’re sitting in their presence, “depriving” yourself.

Whatever the reason, if you arrive at a birthday party and tell people you’re on the Atkins Diet, they will inevitably pin you to the floor and cram handfuls of cake and ice cream down your throat. It’s just a law of nature.

It doesn’t matter if you say, “Hey, don’t feel bad for me. I’m fine. My body is in ketosis right now. My appetite is pretty much non-existent. Just go ahead and enjoy your food and don’t worry about me, OK?”

They won’t listen. They will force you to eat what they’re eating.

***

Before my doctor absconded to Mexico without warning, he told me that exercise is the most important part of an effective weight-loss program. While your dietary choices are obviously crucial, your exercise regimen is the real key to getting rid of fat. (Marcia, please correct me if I’m wrong. You know more about these things than I do.) I’ve made it a point to start walking at the track a few times a week. In fact, I need to finish typing this post so I can get up early in the morning and take a good, long walk.

Still, my relationship with food is what got me into this situation to begin with. Especially fast food.

In the back of my mind, there’s a hazy memory of a family road trip. I was about three years old. It was late at night, but I was wide awake. Boredom gnawed at my mind as I sat in the back seat, watching illuminated billboards float by in the darkness. (We were traveling from Central Florida to Northwest Georgia. It was a horrendously long ride, especially for a child.) My heart skipped with delight when my dad veered off the interstate and stopped at McDonald’s. I got a Happy Meal. The hamburger and fries were delicious. There was also a plastic pencil sharpener in the shape of Grimace, one the McDonald’s characters.

The feeling of boredom and restlessness gave way to euphoria as I ate my hamburger and played with my new trinket. In my little toddler mind, there was almost no difference between the Happy Meal and … say, Christmas morning.

That’s where it all started, I think.

I’m a grown man now and I’m responsible for my own actions, including my eating habits. But I’ve always found myself reaching for fast food whenever I feel anxious and uneasy — and I always feel a little bit anxious and uneasy.

***

I’m not going to draw anything else for the rest of the year. I want to spend the whole month of December relaxing, praying, reflecting on 2013, and taking stock of myself. (And eating burnt English muffins. And watching Benson. You know, I drew a picture of Robert Guillaume the other night and sent it to him on Twitter. It actually looked more like O.J. Simpson, but Mr. Guillaume seemed flattered. And that’s all that really matters.)

Anyway, I will write more later. It’s late. I need to sleep.

In the meantime, here are some “healthy” foods that I plan to start eating on a regular basis. If you would like to suggest some more, feel free to post a comment below.

* Broccoli with melted cheese

* Grilled chicken from KFC (by the bucketload)

* Canned corn

* The aforementioned English muffins

* Banana chips

* Baked potato chips

* Raisin bagels

* Tuna

Star Trek: The Pajama Party

Here is a stripped-down version of Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Because of their strange uniforms, I like to call it Star Trek: The Pajama Party. I like the way the visual style differs from the TV series and the subsequent films. This movie is the redheaded stepchild of the Star Trek franchise. (Please note the cell phones mounted in their bellybuttons. Gene Roddenberry was a true visionary.)

Violence against furniture

Image

Not long ago, I was digging through my apartment in search of loose change, hoping to buy a Coke from the vending machine down the road. I pillaged all the usual places: the drawers, the couch cushions, and the section of the bathroom floor that surrounds the laundry pile. It suddenly occurred to me that I had overlooked a potential gold mine. I had overlooked it many, many times during previous coin-hunts.

In the corner of my living room, there’s a chair that belonged to my dad when he lived with my great grandparents. It’s upholstered in golden vinyl and it probably dates back to the 1960s or 70s. When my great grandfather passed away in 1996, I claimed the chair. It’s been with me ever since. My friend Paul says I should burn it or hurl it in a dumpster, but I insist on keeping it.

I’ve always noticed that the chair makes a peculiar jingling noise when I move it or bump up against it. Starving for caffeine and desperate for coins, I decided to flip the chair upside down, thrust a steak knife into its soft underbelly, and slash it open. Next, I flipped it right-side-up and shook it violently. Panting and wheezing, I shoved the chair aside and surveyed the little pile of junk that had tumbled onto the carpet: a matchbook from Shoney’s, a box of “crayon” candles, a guitar pick, a hairpin, a small change purse, toenail clippers, and a receipt, among other doodads. The matches still work, but the flames always die quickly and leave behind a nauseating odor. (They’re probably thirty years old, I’m guessing.)

The chair also yielded a few coins, but they only added up to forty cents. I wasn’t able to get a Coke that day.

Image

Image

Image

 

 

Fake plastic trees

Image

Image

Image

I stumbled across something today on the internet that delighted me and embarrassed me at the same time. One of my Facebook friends posted a real estate ad for a home in Las Vegas with a luxurious bomb shelter in the basement. The basement is actually an extra house with an “outdoor” area that features artificial grass and trees. I know I sound sick and demented for saying it, but I’ve always been fascinated with fake nature. (I think it started when I was a kid. There were certain rides at Disney World and Epcot that grabbed my imagination and never let go.)

Anyway, the underground bomb shelter with the artificial trees really amazed me because my book Under the Electric Sun is all about a vast bomb shelter beneath the ruins of Washington, DC. The two main characters, Jake and Tristan, often visit a place called Bailey Park — which is a room with a light blue ceiling and fake green grass … and artificial trees everywhere. I’m slightly embarrassed to know that somebody beat me to the idea back in the 1970s. But I’m mostly just thrilled to see photos of the world that I only thought existed in my imagination. If I had $1.7 million, I would buy this place and live in it.

You can click here to read more about the bomb shelter basement. And you can click here to listen to some relaxing music.

 

Ann Bisky (and Kenny Rogers)

Image

Here’s a drawing of my friend Ann Bisky. She writes, tweets, and creates amusing YouTube videos.

Last week, someone visited Ann’s blog and posted a link to a self-help book. Ann was annoyed with the person for using her blog as a promotional platform … but she was even more offended because the self-help book was about gambling. Ann felt like the person was insinuating that she had a gambling problem … but Ann doesn’t gamble at all.

When she told me about it, I immediately sent her a video of Kenny Rogers singing The Gambler. We had a nice little laugh about it.

Afterward, I poked around on YouTube and stumbled across more Kenny Rogers videos. I discovered some old commercials for Kenny Rogers Roasters, a food chain that served “home cooked” food and specialized in chicken. I saw those restaurants when I was a kid, but I never ate at them. (Whenever my parents wanted chicken, we headed to KFC. Colonel Sanders was a staple of my childhood. At all the important family gatherings, I remember seeing red and white buckets everywhere, speckled with warm grease.)

I haven’t seen Kenny Rogers Roasters since the early ’90s. I’ve never given it much thought, but I always assumed (in the very back of my mind) that the business sank like a rock and Kenny Rogers was sitting in a dimly lit room somewhere, hurling whiskey bottles at the wall and cursing Colonel Sanders.

However, I did some research on the subject. (In other words, I glanced at Wikipedia for seven seconds.) As it turns out, Kenny’s chicken empire is still alive and well … but not in the United States. According to the Wikipedia article, Kenny Rogers Roasters “continues to flourish in Asia, particularly in Malaysia and the Philippines.”

As I skimmed over the Wikipedia article, I was shocked and amazed. It’s so surreal (to me, anyway) to imagine people in Malaysia and the Philippines eating good ole Southern home cookin’. (Especially at a restaurant with the name “Kenny Rogers” written in blazing red letters above the door.)

For me, it’s perfectly normal to have lunch at a Chinese restaurant … or sit down in a sushi restaurant with my cousin Ellice and struggle to operate a pair of chopsticks … or go to a Mexican restaurant … or go to Outback Steakhouse, a restaurant with Australian signs hanging everywhere. But it blows my mind when I realize that people in other countries eat at American restaurants. (Think of the way Marty McFly reacted in Back to the Future 2 when he stepped into the Café ’80s.)

After I mulled it over for a little while, I realized that I’ve experienced this same feeling before. Many years ago, when I visited Germany, my friend Jochen told me that everybody refers to McDonald’s as “The American Embassy.”

I still laugh about that sometimes.

I didn’t sleep much last night because I was working on Ann’s portrait. I need to rest now. I’ll leave you with these videos…