Wow. We had a wallop of a storm here a week ago and I tried to pretend I still had a little of the twenty year-old Herculean in me, running through the wind, downpour, and driving hail to save our basement from flooding. Oh, did I mention I was carrying a 27 foot extension ladder by myself? Then I stepped in a dog hole and went down. Hard. On my bad knee. Of course that was shortly after being hit so hard on top of the head by a piece of hail that it almost knocked me out. I think that acted like a mild sedative and I popped right back up, put the ladder against the roof, and proceeded to climb into the hail-belching heavens.

At the top, shoveling ice water full of hail out of the gutters that were overflowing I felt like Gary Sinise in Forest Gump when he’s in the crow’s nest in the raging storm. My wife (God love her) had the genius idea to use heavy-duty forty-gallon garbage bags (of which we had a ton from Costco) to catch most of the water coming in the window well (which was over half-full of water; had the water been clearer and had there been fish, our window from the inside could have served as a fish tank). We loaded twenty half-full and then she used them like sand bags to keep the water that had already gotten to the floor in that one corner of our basement.

FOUR HUNDRED GALLONS of water in those bags we estimated. I jacked my back when, after the rain/hail finally let up, I ran outside with a five-gallon bucket, climbed down into the muddy, ice-cold water in the window well, and started scooping up forty pounds after forty pounds, reaching above my head to throw the water out toward the yard.

I was laid up in bed until yesterday. I’m forty-seven. I usually don’t mind admitting that because most of the time I feel quite a bit younger than that. But these past few days I’ve felt more like a hundred. I was reduced to iPhone typing only. I hate iPhone typing. If God had meant the thumbs to be used for anything but the space bar he’d have made them “opposable fingers”. Thumbs aren’t dextrous. They’re good only for picking up coffee cups, snapping your fingers, and—like many people I seem to work with these days—being put up one’s ass while sitting there being utterly useless. Unless you’re a teenager. Oh, don’t get me wrong, I think teenagers INVENTED sitting there with their thumbs up their asses, but God also gave teenagers thumbs with so much dexterity they’ll soon have a texting event in the Summer Olympics (I decided on summer because even teen thumbs slow down in the cold).

SOOOOO I’ve not been blogging. Or tweeting all that much. A good writer friend who always boosts my confidence said he missed my blogs. Made my day. Made me want to blog. Isn’t it funny—you only have to receive one compliment like that to bring you back. Like that one perfect, heavenly, Tigeresque golf shot (one out of fifty) that brings you back for another ass-handing by the golf course.

As for the writing-related portion, I just have one question: what is it with the refunds on Amazon for digital books? I don’t mean Amazon offering returns; they have to. What is it with the chowderheads that ask for a 99 cent refund (quite obviously after reading the book)? Okay, NOW with my books it’s $3.99, but I used to see them when I was at the dreaded 99 cent price point. What’s the deal? Like a woman with a dress they hide the price tag, read the book, and then return it? Hey, I understand it with a $400 dress. But a few dollars for an eBook? Granted, I don’t see a lot of them, but each one gives me pause. Anyone else notice that phenomenon and wonder about it, too? I remember reading a comment by a writer once, saying something about waiting for the freaking refunds.

Like I said, it’s 200:1 or lower, so it’s not a big financial deal. I am just amazed by it. A person’s time (even a chowderhead’s) has to be worth more than the amount spent going through the refund process. I guess it’s just another way people get by. Or maybe they hated the book so much that the idea of a fraction of those four dollars making its way to my pocket so enraged them that they asked for their money back. That I would understand. 

Oh, but on the subject of purchasing my books, I have decided to have a low-key, for my devoted blog-readers only promotion. I am readying my third book, Dark Prairies, for publication either late this month or early next month. If any of you buy either of my current books (Black Beast or LOST) and email me the receipt, I will email you back the first 10 chapters (about half) of Dark Prairies. I just got my editor’s edits back, so am about to finalize the first half of the book. I can send in whatever format you prefer. Just email the receipt (dated today or later) here and I will send you the e-copy of chapters 1-10.

Nothing Earth-shattering, but I thought it might be fun—you’d be on the short list of people who have read my book before it’s available to the masses. Hey, it’s always nice to be first, right? Just like it’s great to be the king! (Apologies to you non-Mel Brooks fans.)

Oh well, my back feels much better—I can now type on my laptop, so look out readers, Rob is ready to BLOG. (Where’s Bill Conti and the crescendo of gooseflesh-raising music when you need it? I feel like Rocky Balboa at the top of the stairs, man!)

Oh wait. That’s what freaking got me in trouble in the first place.

I know, I know: just sit down and type, old man.

Thumbs or no thumbs.


The blank page is dead…long live the blank page.



Author known to use spontaneous satire, sarcasm, and unannounced injections of pith or witticisms which may not be suitable for humorless or otherwise jest-challenged individuals. (Witticisms not guaranteed to be witty, funny, comical, hilarious, clever, scintillating, whimsical, wise, endearing, keen, savvy, sagacious, penetrating, fanciful, or otherwise enjoyable. The Surgeon General has determined through laboratory testing that sarcasm can be dangerous, even in small amounts, and should not be ingested by those who are serious, somber, pensive, weighty, funereal, unsmiling, poker-faced, sober, or pregnant.)



12 Responses to Back Pain Sucks (or, Despite my Back, I’m Back) – Dedicated to Caleb

  1. So glad you are on the mend. I backpack so I know water is darned heavy.

    Perhaps those few who read your books and return them for refund couldn’t afford them in the first place, but they just had to read them because they know your book is that good. Oh, and age is just a state of mind, Rocky, I mean Rob, so go ahead, raise those arms.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Thanks, Crystal! Great perspective…they beat the system just so they could read my book. Now THAT is making lemonade outta lemons, baby! 😀

  2. Jack Durish says:

    You silly, silly man. Which would you rather have? A wet house or a dry grave. Countless men have heart attacks because they shoveled snow/patched the roof/bailed water, and in the excitement of the moment, failed to take care of themselves first. Now write this sentence one thousand times on the blackboard “I am more important than my house.”

  3. Caleb Pirtle says:

    I’m looking forward to Dark Prairies. The pump jacks on the cover takes my memory back to the oilfields where I grew up. Backs hurt. The pain can be debilitating. But thank God the pain didn’t mess with your typing fingers.

  4. I am very glad you are back. I was also missing your posts 😀 I cannot wait to read Dark Prairies, by the way.

  5. The back pain came from a sudden bout of strenuous activity after a period of little or no activity. If you performed the same motions of bailing the water 3-4 times per week, those muscles would adapt and you’d be able to do it without pain. Falling on your knee may have been the cause or may have exacerbated the extreme fatigue brought on by the bailing.

    Like Jack said, take care of yourself. I’m not a believer in lack of activity. I’ve seen men and women in their 70s doing triathlons.

    But they didn’t get up from their computer one day and go, “Gee, I think I fancy a triathlon. Oh, look! There’s one tomorrow! I’m in!”


    They spent perhaps a year preparing for it.

    So although there may be no triathlon in your immediate future, behaving as if there were isn’t a bad idea. At minimum, bare friggin minimum, EVERYONE should be doing yoga 3 times per week. It’s low impact, anyone can do it, and it’s not to be beaten when it comes to improving strength and flexibility. If you can also incorporate some resistance exercise, be it at the gym or in your home gym, that is also crucial. After our 30s, our bodies begin catabolizing (ie breaking down) muscle tissue. Which is why people in their 80s are frail; they’ve been breaking down muscle tissue for the past 30-40 years and have been eating burnt toast and black coffee for breakfast (cf my grandmother). How can you expect your body to even function, let alone thrive, on a diet like that?

    1. Protein (eggs, tilapia, salmon, chicken, beef)
    2. Fibrous carb (vegetable)
    3. Starchy carb (brown rice, rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes)

    As a former Certified Personal Trainer, this stuff is important to me. When someone skips breakfast, has a taco salad for lunch, a caramel machiato at 4:00, a big plate of spaghetti and garlic bread for dinner, and a bowl of ice cream during The Biggest Loser, and then they complain that they don’t like their body composition, it really grinds my gears (anyone know who Peter Griffin is?)

    Wired Magazine once did an analysis of the value of the human body. I believe it was $40 million (or perhaps it was only $4 million. ONLY!). You have that size of an investment literally in your hands but you’re not going to take care of it by feeding it properly and keeping it strong? People spend $50 putting fuel in their car but $5 putting fuel in their body. WTF?

    Sorry, Rob. I’ve hijacked your blog for a rant.

    Regarding the Amazon refunds, I’ve not had many but when I get one, I try to imagine why the person sought a refund. My novella “Corvette Jesus” recently got such a refund. It’s a SciFi tale mixed with a powerful spiritual message. People who’ve read it have said it was their favorite story in the collection in which I published it. So I know it’s a fun, thought-provoking, moving read. So why the refund?

    I’ll never know.

    Nor does it do to dwell on it.

    Better to get back to cooking some salmon and brown rice while I hit the gym, and then come home and eat while I get my next novel written.

    Glad you’re feeling better.

    Also, one final tip: anyone who suffers from chronic back pain needs to do ab work. When the abs are weak, they sag forward, pulling on the muscles of the lower back, as well as the vertebrae. It’s a ruptured disc waiting to happen. Don’t be a statistic. Improve your quality of life. Respect the body you’ve been given. Eat well. Be active. Sleep well.

    • rsguthrie says:

      Funny thing is, I got two more refunds today. I actually thought about the fact that if I blogged about it, someone might go out, buy a copy, and then ask for a refund. Like you said, does nothing to dwell on it. It just makes me curious.

      I’ll say one thing in regard to your rant, only because you hijacked my blog! 😉

      I could be as active as I should be and STILL hurt my back. Spending the better part of my youth in sports, lifting, etc. it always amazed me that with all that working out, if you did something NEW, brand new soreness…as if you were a complete couch potato. Problem with bucketing five gallon pails of ice water five feet above your head and twisting to throw them as far from the house as possible is not an exercise most people would do in preparation for the event…and not all the salmon and brown rice in the world is going to keep me from straining the muscles in my back on that one.

      My ex-brother-in-law was a runner, biker, and near-triathlete. (I say “near” because he was easily in good enough shape to do one, I just can’t remember if he ever did.) Point his, he jacked HIS back doing some gardening. GARDENING. He couldn’t ride his bike or run for WEEKS. Not enough sit-ups, I guess. 🙂

      Anyway, thanks for the rant. I enjoy ’em. Mine and yours. And also for the sharing of your expertise! 😉

      (Oh, and rants are always better when you work in the Family Guy.)

  6. Andrew says:

    I had a bit of a run in with some back pain a few years ago. It’s amazing how it can lay you low.

  7. So glad you’re on the mend!

    One word of advice, Rob: PILATES. Ten years ago I herniated 2 disks in my back, which I am told will cause me pain and anguish for the rest of my life (thanks for the positive prognosis, Doc!). But I have had great success with Pilates, even if I only do some mat work a couple of times a week. Give it a try.

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