Wednesday, April 30, 2008
I hate the wind -- always pushing -- shoving -- never relenting. It's brutal on my nerves. The hard and longer it blows, the worse my mood gets. So I apologize for my surly demeanor which is sure to shine through in today's rant.
The Pre-K soccer team I'm coaching won again last night to improve our unofficial record to 5-2. I say unofficial because there is no official score kept. Yes, that bugs me. In my way of thinking, there is much to learn by keeping score. Kids need to learn how to win, or lose gracefully, whatever the case may be.
Sure, at their age, the most important thing is for them to have fun and hopefully learn a few basics of the game while they're at it. I'm not advocating turning the games into high-pressure, win-at-all cost affairs. I rotate all my players equally and make no special effort to win by playing the better athletes more, but the kids ask me a thousand times during each game what the score is. My in-game stock answer is, "It's tied, so you better play hard."
Guess what most of them say, "No it's not. We have four or five or six goals and they only have ..."
The kids know. The kids care. The kids like to be rewarded for their effort and work just like everyone else.
So why dance around the truth just for the sake of not declaring a loser? No one wins all the time. Not in sports, not in life, and if you don't learn that fact until adulthood the truth is going to smack you right between the eyes. I'm proud to say every last kid on my team has improved during the season. They are now passing the ball, following the rules, and smiling all the while. There has been the occasional tear after a bump or bruise but their excitement and joy quickly overrides the injury. Again, it is good to learn that sometimes you have to pick yourself up off the ground and keep going .
I played a lot of sports in my day, and by no means did I win every time. But you know what? They still kept score. And as far as I can tell the experience didn't ruin my self-esteem.
Learning to deal with failure is a must of you are a writer seeking publication. Or an author with work already out there waiting for the cruel hand of critics. Sure, there are plenty of writers who refuse to submit queries, then there are some who blame the short-sighted agents and editors for not recognizing their brilliance. My guess is they grew up not keeping score.
So what do you think? To keep score or not? Weigh in and tell my why I'm wrong, or right. Call me an imbecile only fit to coach the Bad News Bears. But tell me something, because that's how I keep score on this blog.
And be sure and check out Christine Eldin's blog starting Saturday, as she kicks of author's week. there will be contests and book giveaways, and discussions with several talented authors so stop by and participate if you can.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I am not participating in Two Line Tuesday this week because I managed very little writing this past week and even less reading but be sure and check out Women of Mystery's blog for others who are.
There are some who say water is the most powerful force in nature. It has carved canyons in the earth. Bulldozed valleys in its glacial form. Overpowered seaside towns. And of course all living things need H2O to live. Sure water floods and wreaks havoc from time to time, but man has still been pretty successful at damming its flow and holding it back in many cases.
But there is one powerful force that no amount of concrete and brick, or earthen dam can contain ... PARENTAL PRIDE. Yeah I know it's not always pretty. I've had to sit in the break room and endure a wallet-full of pictures that only a proud papa or momma could appreciate. I've heard the boring tales of little Timmy scoring a hundred on his spelling test, or of the home run little Suzy smacked in her last softball game. Being the friendly sort I tend to smile, and nod, and actually pretend to care to these tales of my coworkers offspring.
I don't ridicule the proud parents. Why? Because there are times when I am that beaming father.
Today is one of those times.
As I mentioned last week my seven year old son's dance recital was this past weekend. And once again he has amazed and delighted me with his very unique personality and outlook on life. He is so different than I was as a child that I'm constantly surprised by the thing she does and says. (Too be honest not all of those surprises are joys, but I wouldn't change him even if I could)
Watching stage rehearsal last week I studied my son and came to the conclusion he was getting tired of dancing. He seemed to merely be going through the motions, but when I asked him if it ws fun he still said yes. though he did say next year he wanted to take Tap and Jazz instead of Tap and ballet. I think the ballet is a bit to slow-paced for a kid with his energy level.
Despite his assurances, I remained skeptical that he was actually having fun.
Then Friday night rolls around. Dress rehearsal. With a full audience and the stage lights. Is my son nervous? Nope. Just before I turn him over to his teacher he looks at me with his blue eyes and lop-sided grin and boldly states, "Dad, I'm ready to dance in the spotlight."
And he was. He smiled the entire time and gave twice the performance I had seen in any one of the stage rehearsals. His teacher even commented to me and my wife, "If that boy gets any more personality I don't know what I'll do with him."
This year, he and a little girl moved out to center stage and did a little turn and bow in the middle of the ballet number, and as he curtsied I marveled to myself at his ability and courage. I know a few of his friends at school have teased him about dancing and again this year he was the only male dancer out of seventy-five or so in the recital but boy loves all things music and he has great natural rhythm so dancing is right up his alley and it makes me proud that he has the courage to go against the grain and do something he loves despite what anyone else thinks or says.
I would never have had the intestinal fortitude to do that at his age, especially under the bright lights and in a auditorium full of people. Yes, he did just as well in Sunday's recital as he did at dress rehearsal. Practice is one thing, but give that boy an audience and he shines!
Monday, April 28, 2008
As my mom would drive by, I always stared at the structure until it was no longer in sight. It's castle-like roof line, arched doorways, and stuccoed walls always sparked my imagination. My mom dismissed my infatuation saying it was a place for drunks and hooligans to hang out, but I vowed to one day enter those mysterious walls and see for myself.
The Nat sits on the corner of Georgia and 6th street. 6th is part of the fabled mother road of old. Route 66. The surrounding neighborhood is old, slightly seedy, but 6th street itself offers a diverse collection of businesses -- antique stores, Texas music bars, biker bars, a pet shop specializing in birds, and some of the best and greasiest food the city has to offer. But all of that is another post for another day. This week I'm talking about The Nat.
The Nat started life in July of 1922 as a swimming pool. According to my research, Natatorium used to be the word to describe an indoor pool. originally the place had a open roof but after one season it was enclosed to offer swimmers a place to dip their heels year round.
The Nat lasted only four years as a swimming pool before a new owner purchased the building, and covered the hole with maple wood creating a top notch 10,00 square foot dancing floor that was said to be one of the finest in the entire Southwest United States. The Nat soon became a favorite hangout of the flappers during the roaring 20's.
But the depression hit the business hard and that owner sold out in the thirties. In order to drum up business the new buyer added the castle features in an effort to entice travelers on Route 66 to stop. He also added a cafe.
With it's impressive dance floor and prime location on The Mother Road, The Nat ushered in the big band era. Many of the best bands of the time played here. Including Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong, and Benny Goodman. It is also said that around that same time the upstairs had a gambling hall.
The King of Texas swing Bob Wills played the venue on more than one occasion.
As the times changed so did The Nat. Soon Rock & Roll took over as the "in" music and bands like Buddy Holly and the Crickets came up from Amarillo's neighbor to the south, Lubbock. Roy Orbison, another Texas boy played to shows of close to two thousand inwhat had to be double the amount that he fire marshal would allow in today's times. Little Richard was arrested at The Nat in 1956 for disturbing the peace after inciting the crowd into a frenzy before they spilled out into the streets. Maybe that event led to my mom's disapproval of the place.
In recent years, The Nat has hosted a variety of concerts by Texas musicians like Asleep at The Wheel, and Joe Ely. I finally got to attend and two-step across that old maple floor to shows by Pat Green and Robert Earl Keen.
And The Dixie Chicks played a twin bill along with a local band The Groobies. It was at this concert that the chicks first heard the song Wide Open Spaces which was written by Groobie member Susan Gibson. Wide open Spaces was the song that eventually launched the Chicks into national prominence.
The concert schedule has slowed down, but the occasional show is still put on there,but most recently the building has been sued as the venue for a local professional wrestling organization.
In 1932 Franklin Roosevelt held a fund-raiser rally at The Nat, and in 2006 Kinky Friedman stopped at the venue during his gubernatorial run.
But the story doesn't end with it's interesting history. Like many old building with long and storied pasts, The Nat is said to be haunted.
From a young girl who appears in her swimming suit that is said to have drowned in the very pool that still lurks below the wooden dance floor, to an elderly couple that is often spotting gliding around the dance floor when bands play, to a woman with a red spot on her evening dress that is always seen upstairs. The woman is said to be a former patron of the gambling house that had a glass of red wine spilled on her the night of her death. She did not die at The Nat but legend has it she hadn't wanted to leave that night.
Also despite being repainted dozens of times the words Monty McGee and His Orchestra always bleeds through the new paint, leading some to believe the graffiti is reapplied by yet another spirit occupying the structure.
The site was placed in The list of National Register of Historic places in 1994 and in 1995 it was designated a Texas Historical Landmark.
Today the place not look like much and the musical notes might be scarce but not many venues of this size can claim to have once had the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, and World War II pin-up girl Gretta Garbo grace their stage, while also playing host to a few prominent acts of today.
It's no wonder the ghost's don't want to leave.
POSTS FROM OTHER MY TOWN MONDAY PARTICIPANTS
Jason Scott Adams -- Kansas City, Kansas
Barrie Summy -- Julian, California
Terrie Farley Moran (Women Of Mystery) -- Brooklyn, New York
Friday, April 25, 2008
This is the first of what I optimistically hope will become Friday recommendations of books we love but might have forgotten over the years. I have asked several people to help me (This is where I come in) by also remembering a favorite book. Their blog sites are listed below. I also asked each of them to tag someone to recommend a book for next Friday. I'm worried great books of the recent past are sliding out of print and out of our consciousness. Not the first-tier classics we all can name, but the books that come next. Here's my choice.
I think it is a great idea so here is my pick ...
I read Rock Orchard by Paula Wall right after it came out in 2005. The characters and author's voice grabbed me from page one and never let go.
The novel centers around the Belle women of Leapers Fork, Tennessee.
"Some women can touch a man and heal like Jesus. The man who sees sunrise from a Belle woman's bed will swear he's born again."
The author paints these women an their family tree beautifully and with prose that is the very definition of Southern fiction. The story centers around Charlotte and her niece Angela. I guess you could call it a romance or Women's Fiction if you really wanted to but regardless of genre you the novel is a well-written piece of darkly humorous fiction.
Charlotte is the richest, and I'd say the smartest, woman in town. But her late night strolls through the cometary, or rock orchard, that sits alongside her property leads a few townsfolk to talk. And no one is surprised when her head-strong niece Angela turns up pregnat and give birth in a flowerbed. No one knows who the father is and Angela ain't telling but the new doctor in town becomes smitten with the younger Belle woman despite the fact he is engaged to a proper Bostonian gal who is "as pure as pasteurized milk."
Charlotte clashes with the new preacher in town of several issues including religion but he too falls for the Belle charm.
I'm not doing justice to the plot but for me this novel is about character and voice. Both shine, and after I read this I kept expecting to hear great things about this novel. Maybe it made a few best seller lists but at the time Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code seemed be the the only novel people's lips. I never read that bestseller, but I did read The Rock Orchard, and trust me, you should too.
Now to designate someone for next Friday. I'm going to pick three people because I never follow the rules and I don't know if any of them will play along or not. The first two are fellow writers from my town and I'd like to see them blog more and maybe this would give them cause to do so. Katrina Kimble, Jennifer Archer(She is multi-published herself and her books are all good reads as well, but I wanted to choose a novel from an author I don't personally know just to broaden the scope of this mission)
And I'm also going to tag uber-reader Shauna Sturge who blogs over at The Coffee Shop.
And be sure to visit Patti's blog for a list of other bloggers who are recommending books this week.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Since I consider two requests, to be by popular demand here are my anwers.
1) I am bothered by the fact they make Bog Dog clothing in sizes small and medium. Conversely, it is wrong that anything spandex comes in extra large sizes.
2) There is an award that is still given at my high school that I was the inspiration for. It goes to the teacher that does the stupidest thing during the school year and my Ag (FFA- Future Farmers of America) teacher won the inaugural prize due to me. The girl collecting rolls became squeamish when she spotted me and another student butchering a rabbit (which was part of the state curriculum I might add) and she went home sick but not before running and screaming into the ROTC building. ROTC classes were for kids going into the military and were taught by a retired Marine Gunny Sergeant, or maybe h wasn't retired. Any way the girl embellished and made some outlandish claims that we were beating bunnies to death with baseball bats and the SPCA got involved and the principal of my school, a nice lady who happened to collect rabbit figurines wanted to expel me and the other student, but our ag teacher went to bat and showed the authorities that dressing animals was part of the state curriculum.
My teacher got me out of that trouble but a few days later the ROTC instructor, as a joke, had his class fashion signs and march into our class that read things like BUNNY BASHER and THE EASTER BUNNY ISN'T COMING THIS YEAR march into our class. Later, me and my friend made signs that said HUMAN KILLER and BABY BOMBER but no one took them as jokes and w got a months worth of detention.
3) I might have considered joining the military out of high school except I didn't think I could handle the food choices. I had visions of a drill sergeant screaming at me to at every last bit of my salad. matter of fact, that same image is pretty much my idea of what hell is like.
4) I sometimes regret not going away to attend college, but the truth is despite having always been a good student I would have lacked the discipline at 18 or 19 to take care of my business and not wind up on academic probation or suspension, or jail for reacting to the statement, "Oh come on, do it. What's the worst thing that could happen?"
5) It annoys me when people use the word ideal when actually mean idea.
6) The first first time I took a girl our on a date I got my pickup stuck in the mud on a dirt road. We were not pout on that lonely county road to do what y'all are thinking , but it was what her dad thought when we showed up at her house several hours late and covered with mud. no I never took her out again.
I'll tag only one person, HuddleKay, a new blogger, that also happens to be a writer from Amarillo so go check out what she has to say.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I'll jump right into the two lines I've read this week.
The judge's harsh comment could have broken my spirit and killed my dream. Instead, I decided to prove her wrong.
Those lines come from my friend Deborah Elliott-Upton. They are part of her inspirational essay in the collection of such works, titled Daily Devotions for Writers.
The following comes directly from the back of the book ...
Daily Devotions for Writers is the friend every writer needs: warm, real-life, how-to-write stories, prayers, and inspirational quotes to keep you writing every day of the year.
Several of my writing friends have pieces among the 366 in the book and I've enjoyed reading about the struggles and triumphs of my fellow writers. There is an essay for each day but it's not a calender per say so You can start anywhere you choose and have something to read each day for the next year. I have my autographed copy and if you are interested in obtaining yours follow the link above to Debbie's post for the information.
And for two lines I wrote? Thought I'd give you a break from Booty and give y'all a bit from a short story that I wrote a while back, but tweaked this week so I could submit it a journal.
Annie's mother would cringe at the thought of yellow shutters.
White shutters, white walls, white wedding dresses - there could be no other kind.
And be sure and visit, Women of Mystery, the founders of Two line Tuesday.
Monday, April 21, 2008
I never had a compass in my life. I was never lost. ~Charles Goodnight
Charles Goodnight was a cattleman and by all accounts a tough, take no nonsense kind of guy. I could write a ten thousand word post on his life if I were so inclined but I'm only going to hit the high-points and then get to the friendship aspect of this post about one of my area founding fathers.
Charles came to Texas from Illinois at the age of nine. He rode the entire way bareback and by the age of eleven was in charge of taking care of his widowed mother. he got his start in the cattle business by working and caring for a neighbors cattle once he got to Texas. His pay - he got to keep every fourth calf born for his won herd. By the time the Civil War broke out Goodnight had 180 head of his own, but he left the cattle behind and joined the famed Texas Rangers where his primary duties were to protect the western frontier.
At the end of the war her returned home to find not only his cattle ranch in ruins but that the entire industry was suffering due to ravished market in the war torn South. So gathering up the scattered herds he began to eye to West and it's booming, railroad and mining operations as a place to sell his beef.
He partnered up with a man named Oliver Loving and the two of them successfully forged a new trail across the water deprived, Indian occupied areas of the west that many other ranchers claimed couldn't be crossed with a herd. When the two man made their journey and cashed in handily for doing so, the route became widely known as the Goodnight-Loving trail.
At this time Goodnight and Loving were based in east Texas, and the two fast became hard bound friends thanks to the bonds forged on the dusty trail.
After their success others ranchers rushed to duplicate their feat. Goodnight and Loving wanted to preserve their god fortune and capitalize while they could. At stake was a lot of money in Government contracts so during that second trip Loving rushed ahead of the herd to secure the contracts while Goodnight stayed with the herd.
But Comanches caught Loving out in the plains and shot him in the wrist and hip. Loving used a riverbank to dig in and hold off his attackers for several days, before finally escaping under the cover of darkness. A passing wagon picked him up an took him to an Army hospital but his wounds were too severe for Loving to be saved.
On his deathbed, Loving sent for his partner and friend Charles Goodnight. Loving told his friend that his one regret was that he would have to be buried in a foreign land as opposed to his native Texas at which point Goodnight pledged to take Loving body back to Texas for a proper burial site.
Goodnight and his trail-hands built a tin coffin around Lovings wooden one using smashed tin cans and then sealing it with charcoal they turned the entire herd around and headed back to Texas as their competitors forged ahead.
All to keep a promise to his friend.
If the story sounds somewhat familiar to you it may be because author Larry McMurtry used the event and Goodnight and Loving's relationship the basis for his two main characters. Gus McCrae and Woodrow McCall and in the novel Lonesome Dove. Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones played the roles in the mini-series.
Goodnight went on to even greater success as a cattlemen having large spread in both Colorado and the Texas Panhandle. He is said to have invented the chuckwagon as a means to feed his men on long trail drives and there is a small town that bears his name just to the East of Amarillo on the edge of Palo Duro Canyon which along with a, Englishman named John G. Adair is where Goodnight founded the massive JA Ranch. A superior cattle breeder, Goodnight is known for crossbreeding the native Texas Longhorn with the beefier Hereford breed and for mixing cattle with buffaloes to form what he called Cattalo.
Charles Goodnight lived in this area until his death in 1929 at the age of 93. He is buried next to his longtime wife Mary in the town that bears his name. Both the JA Ranch and descendants of Mr. Goodnight's original buffalo herd are surviving to this day, though nowadays the buffalo are part of the official state herd of Texas and are located at Caprock Canyons State Park.
Check below for more My Town Monday posts and feel free to join in, just drop me a comment to let me know you've done so and I will link to your site as well.
***And don't forget May 12th is the day to post a review of a book set in your town.***
The Anti-Wife -- Mt. Vernon, Washington
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Miss Daisy Frost, and agent from across the pond offered up this short post about yours truly. Pop on over and give it a read. She poked a bit of fun my way by picking out a few excerpts from my blogger profile page, but my favorite thing was when she referred to me as exotically named. And actually I'm quite honored anytime I appear on a literary agent's radar. And here is my pledge to her. If she ever makes it to Texas, or any writing conference where I am at, I will buy her the steak or cut of beef of her choice. Sorry, Miss Daisy that is as close to dragon meat as I can get.
Also this week fellow writer and poker aficionado, B.E. Sanderson offered up this fine post in response to mine about writing myself into a corner.
Also I just became aware of a My Town Monday post that I missed in my weekly linkage of others participating. JenKneeBee from Or Something Like That blogged about St. Paul, Minnesota here.
Check those links out if you get a chance. See y'all tomorrow evening with the next edition of My Town Monday.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Miss Snark talked about the facts that library sales are non-returnable, they buy mostly hardcover, and they buy early and in multiple copies many times. All good valid points, but as I stated in my comments to Vixen's post - without libraries to foster and nurture readers we writers would be in a world of trouble.Or so I see it.
I know you would not be reading this post if not for the many doors my frequent trips to the library opened for me as a child.
I was raised by a single mom and probably her biggest caveat to me as a child was -- READ. She used to say I don't care if it's a comic book or the back of a cereal box I want you to read every chance you get. Being a single mom and a very tight budget she used the library to punctuate her staunch reading philosophy.
Without fail she took me to our local branch every other week. I carried home stacks of books Encyclopedia Brown, Hank the Cowdog, Any and everything by Beverly Cleary and even at a young age I stooped to reading girl's books like those by Judy Blume. There was The Indian in the Cupboard, Where the Red Fern Grows, Ralph the Runaway Mouse and many others. Then I moved up to the Hardy Boys those books where you chose your own ending, and later I discovered Alfred Hitchcock, Louis Lamour, Mark Twain, and I've been a book junkie every sense.
I could go one for days listing the library books I loved as a child. When I found a lizard or a snake the first thing I did after securing the critter in a jar with holes in the lid was get my mom to take me to the library so I could look up facts about the animal. I guess the internet has probably taken that role now but for me there is still no greater feeling than walking into the library and feasting my eyes on the row and rows of books and the knowledge, entertainment and joy that can be garnered by spending a little time between all those pages.
And don't even get me started on the fond memories I have of my Elementary school library and librarian.
So as an author, I would never begrudge or lament the loss of a single sale do to a person checking out my book from the library. When the day comes that one of my works is available on the very shelves I perused as a kid and still do to this day I'll be just as filled with pride as I would any endcap at Barnes and Noble.
Three cheers for any librarians out there who might read this, like Lana.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Capistrano has it's dainty and delicate cliff swallows.
Here in the Texas panhandle we have the Turkey Vulture.
I live in a canyon and two times a year(each spring and fall) we are a stopping off point for these scavengers. Sometimes there will be upwards of a hundred roosting in the tree tops near my house. They have not arrived in numbers that great yet this spring, but most days there are at least a dozen hanging about and circling overhead. The fine specimen above was incapable of flight.
He had a broken wing which has grounded him. Who knows what happened to him, but I snapped a few pictures because this is as close as I've ever gotten to one. He made a steady evil hissing sound the entire time I was near and despite my seven year old's Dr. Doolittle tendencies I did not feel compelled to nurse the bird back to health. My wife did call a local wildlife center and talk to someone but they never called back after the initial contact so that was the end of our involvement.
Here's a few facts from Wikipedia about the Turkey Vulture or buzzard as most people call them.
The Turkey Vulture has few natural predators. Its primary form of defense is regurgitating semi-digested meat, a foul-smelling substance which deters most creatures intent on raiding a vulture nest. It will also sting if the predator is close enough to get the vomit in its face or eyes. In some cases, the vulture must rid its crop of a heavy, undigested meal in order to take flight to flee from a potential predator.
The Turkey Vulture is awkward on the ground with an ungainly, hopping walk. It requires a great deal of effort to take flight, flapping its wings while pushing off the ground and hopping with its feet. While soaring, the Turkey Vultures holds its wings in a shallow V-shape and often tips from side to side, frequently causing the gray flight feathers to appear silvery as they catch the light. The flight of the Turkey Vulture is an example of static soaring flight, in which it flaps its wings very infrequently, and takes advantage of rising thermals to stay soaring.
The Turkey Vulture forages by smell, an ability that is uncommon in the avian world. It often will fly low to the ground to pick up the scent of ethyl mercaptan, a gas produced by the beginnings of decay in dead animals. The olfactory lobe of its brain, responsible for processing smells, is particularly large compared to that of other animals.
What do y'all think? Should I open a bed and breakfast to capitalize on all the tourist who are bound to come and see the great vulture migration now that I've let he cat out of the bag? By the way, now that that cat is out of the bag it better keep moving or the buzzards might think it's dead and dine on a bit of feline fricassee.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Here's how I did it.
I was plugging along, hammering the keyboard as fast as I could to keep up with my racing mind. Things were happening fast and furious. My protagonist and his wife were fighting and dialogue was flying out of their mouths faster than I could type. It was one of those times where the story literally took off and wrote itself.
Even I was a bit surprised at the events that unfolded. Once I finished the scene, I liked the chapter and thought. wow what a punchy ending. Sure there was a small niggling at the back of my brain but I truly was caught up in the euphoria of the story and the character's actions.
Then the next day I sat down to write and said okay ... Where the heck do I go from here? Oh, I still knew the ending for the novel, that didn't change, but the problem was I no longer knew how to get there. Once upon a time I knew the path, but then I doused that bridge with gasoline and let one of my characters loose with a book of matches.
It took me three or four days to realize the only answer. DELETE.
The scene is good if I do say so myself but it cut the legs right out of my story. The tension came to early. I know some writers who will say you have to listen to your characters. Let them dictate the pace. See where the story goes. Well, characters are like teenagers. Sure you listen to them, even let them state their opinion, but in the end you are the parental figure and sometimes you have put your foot down and say no. I will not let you do that because it is for your own good. Otherwise our stories would fail their next algebra test, or suddenly turn up pregnant with eighteen piercings in their eyebrow. A little authorial discipline is a good thing.
TWO LINES I'VE READ THIS WEEK (Visit the Women of Mystery Blog for more about two line Tuesday)
From Back Roads by Tawni O'Dell
I knew it was stupid for us to be sitting around blaming each other for abandoning each other and trying to figure out who did it first. It wasn't any different from asking, "Which came first the chicken or the egg?" knowing full well it didn't matter because God had to come before either one of them.
And from my novel in progress, Plundered Booty
These days, half the screen was missing, and the lot was littered with waist-high weeds and broken down speakers, but Red Dirt’s drive-in had been the first place I ever took Rachel on a date. It was also the first place we ever ... though that’s no great coincidence, since both events occurred on the exact same night.
So, ever write yourself in a corner? Ever read Back Roads? Have an opinion on what came first, the chicken or the egg? Been to a drive int theatre lately? Had your first taste of love or at least lust beneath the glow of an outdoor screen? Pay your taxes yet? Got anything to say? I'd love to hear, so drop me a comment.
Monday, April 14, 2008
the same for the last fifty years. Every time
some women gets pregnant a guy leaves town."
"You can shear a sheep many times, but you
can only skin him once."
"Nobody is always a winner and anybody
who says he is, is either a liar or doesn't play
"They anticipate losing when they sit down
and I try my darndest not to disappoint one
Those are all quotes from Amarillo Slim, one of the greatest poker players and speculation gamblers to ever live.
Amarillo Slim won the main event of the No Limit Texas Hold'Em World Series of Poker back in 1972 and has appeared in movies, and a variety of television shows. Next year a movie about his life is supposed to come out with Nicholas Cage starring as the gambler.
Gamblers tend to be motivated by one of two things, cold hard cash, or fame. I've never met the man, but if I was guessing I'd say Amarillo Slim revels in both. I have seen Mr. Preston out and about on a few locations including a pool hall that he once owned and still bears his name. He's tall lanky, and nearly always wearing a light colored cowboy hat. His reputation as a truth stretcher and story teller is widely known, yet in gambling circles he is commonly referred to as the best spokesman the game of poker has ever known.
Lots of men have won the World Series of Poker and they haven't appeared on The Tonight Show, Good Morning America or had entire movies made about them. So what separates Amarillo Slim fro the pack. What forced his repuation?
Here's a list of his reported gambling accomplishments.
Slim once beat Minnesota Fats using a broomstick as his cue. He bested Evel Knievel in a round of golf using only a carpenters hammer. He bet and won that he could outrun famous thoroughbred Seabiscuit for a hundred yards. (He never said it would be a straight one hundred yards. He boasted and wagered he could drive a golf ball at least a mile. (Which he did on a frozen lake." Willie Nelson reportedly lost $300,00 grand to him playing dominoes. He beat Bobby Riggs at ping-pong using an iron skillet as his paddle. Slim earned 31,000 grand from Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder by rafting down The River of No Return in the dead of winter. He accepted a cash laden dare to ride a camel ride through the middle of Moroccos' fanciest casino. And he took over a million dollars in a highly publicized poker game against Larry Flynt.
The details of all those tales and more are in his book titles, Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People.
But like most gambler Slim hasn't always came up a winner. While in Columbia for the opening of a casino he was once kidnapped by some henchman of infamous drug lord Pablo Escobar, but was eventually released unharmed. He's said himself he's been rich one day and broke the next. A few years back someone fired three shots at his car while he was driving, and along about the same time, he came home and interrupted a couple of robbers in his hose who held him at gunpoint with his own shotguns while they pillaged his house.
And, a fact that I'm sure Hollywood will overlook in their tale of his life, Amarillo Slim, whose real name is Thomas Preston Jr., was charged with 3 felony accounts of improperly touching a minor child. As I recall the girl was twelve or thirteen and somehow related to him. The charge were eventually reduced in a plea bargain. His wife divorced him during the same time period.
So the man is without a doubt colorful, one hell of a gambler, and a legend in pool halls and poker rooms, but hustling money from the naive and rich is one thing, molesting a child another, and while the first makes you a memorable character the latter is despicable.
I can't say for certain what he did or didn't do, but being as how he didn't fight the charges and accepted a deal which placed him on the list as a registered sex offender I can only say his image is severely tarnished in my opinion. I would think a gambler would take his chances in court, unless he knew he was guilt, and while I'm sure any tale about his adventurous life will be entertaining, here's hoping Hollywood doesn't portray him as some kind of Vegas-esque Robin Hood figure who took from the rich for noble reasons.
My Fellow My Town Monday-ers
(If you wanna post about your town and drop me a line in the comments where to find you)
Josephine Damian -- New Rochelle, New York
Patti Abbott -- Detroit, Michigan
Carleen Brice -- Denver, Colorado
DebbieLou -- Bishop Stortford, England
Alex Keto -- Qatar
Britta Coleman - - Fort Worth, Texas
Clair Dickson -- Livingston County, Michigan
Debra(From Skilled Hands) -- Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Lana Gramlich -- Abita Springs, Louisiana
Samantha Winston -- Montchauvet, France
Cicily Janus -- Atlanta, Georgia & Colorado Springs, Colorado
Clare2E (Women of Mystery) -- Hartsdale, New York
Stephen Parrish -- Euro-topia
Sex Scenes at Starbucks -- An ode to the displaced.
Lyzzydee -- Welwyn Garden City, England
Linda Mclaughlin -- Orange County, California
Friday, April 11, 2008
I finally went to see my regular doctor after the antibiotics didn't seem to be helping and he looked me over asked some questions and then promptly announced "Somebody needs to shut that other clinic down before they kill somebody."
He told me I most likely had diverticulitis (I spelled that right the first time, thank you Mr. Happy Chapman) and then he scheduled me for a CT scan to confirm and he was right. Now after a painful shot in the arse and much heavier antibiotics I truly am feeling better.
And the good news. He told me not to eat any lettuce. Halleh-frickin-luja! A doc who sees things my way.
Of course he said no meat or anything else I have to chew before swallowing either, but we ain't going to discuss that right now.
Okay, yes we are. Why? Because I'm hungry and irritable.
I'm living on pudding folks. Here that crunching sound? That is my gut gnawing on my spine.
Hope all of y'all have good weekends and when you are sitting down that big meal or toasting your friends with that nice adult beverage think of me shriveling away on clear liquids and mushy food.
Be back Sunday with the early edition of My Town Monday. And bring your money with you. you just might need if you ever encounter the subject of this week's post about Amarillo.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
There I was up on stage with a bunch of kids, about twelve or so. I was the only adult competing against these kids in a spelling bee. Several kids in a row got ridiculously long and hard words but everyone of them spelled their assigned word without hesitation. Then I step up to the mike and the judge, who happens to be character actor Stephen Tobolowsky reads my word to me. EYEBALL he says sounding just like Happy Chapman the evildoer he portrayed in the live action version of Garfield.
I spell the word no problem but then Happy Chapman wants to know if Eyeball is one word, or two, or hyphenated. I pause start to answer but then only stammer. All the kids on stage start heckling making fun of my hesitation until Happy Chapman says I'm afraid to say you are our first loser and I am booed off the stage.
Lana Gramlich often posts and analyzes her dreams so check her blog out as well.
For those who've asked the pre-K soccer team I'm helping to coach is doing fine. Unofficially, there is no score kept but unofficially I believe we are 2-2, but the most important thing is that all the kids seem to be having fun and tears have only been shed twice. once when two kids bumped heads going for the ball and once by my son when he was in goal and got kicked in the knee when he went down for the ball. He's really aggressive though and has no qualms of jumping in amongst a throng of kicking feet and in the four games he has scored 5 goals so he now thinks he's the second coming of Pele. Not that at age five he has a clue who Pele is.
My oldest son, age seven, made me wife quite sad this week when he told her not to kiss him at school anymore when his buddies were around. She teaches at the Catholic school where he attends and his declaration really brought the point home that he is growing up fast.
I went back to work today. My told told me not to and I should have listened. i didn't make it all day because my stomach started hurting again. I only went because one of my favorite coworkers was retiring and I wanted to be there for his party. Also, the entire maintenance department had free steaks after having the best numbers of any maintenance department in the nation, and I'm not one to turn down a free steak.
My boys recently dug up a tiger salamander at their grandma's house.
They named him Jerry and played with the critter all day. The boys also said he had a cute face. What do y'all think?
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The lower portion of my gut ws hurting when I got up, but I trudged off to work at the Post Office just the same. I could lie and say I was dedicated. I could even quote all that -- Through Rain Sleet and Snow baloney but the truth is I thought my stomach would quit soon.
But by nine-thirty or ten I could only stand for ten or fifteen minutes at a time until the pain forced me to seek a place to park my butt. That made it hard to perform my preventive maintenance route on the mail sorting equipment, but luckily one of my buddies took pity on me and did most of my work for me.
At eleven fifteen I called my doctor but he was out to lunch, so while I wanted his return my coworkers decided to offer up their diagnosis. Here's a list of what I heard ...
You just need to take a big hairy dump.
I bet it's gas. (I explained to them getting gas from Osama himself couldn't be any more painful that the way I felt."
Then the women chimed in.
Maybe it's you ovaries, one of them giggled.
Or Your time to start.
And I thought females were the more compassionate gender.
Gallbladder, appendix, bladder infection, came the opinions of the more serious among us.
So I finally talked to me doctor's nurse and after describing the symptoms she said it sounded like my appendix. But they were completely booked and they could do the necessary tests anyway so they referred me to a clinic.
As I sat there and waited and waited I couldn't help but think great now my body parts are rejecting me. Finally I get and after a myriad of tests and bodily intrusions the diagnosis ... a prostrate infection, most likely from having a bladder infection that went untreated. And I thought I'd just drank too much rum a week or so when it hurt to take a leak.
Now that I've stepped off into the too much information category let me sy I'm sorry I ahven't commented on all of you My Town Monday Posts, and I must apologize to my Monday night Critique group as well since once I finally got home I simply crashed without calling or emailing to let them know I wasn't going to make it.
I stayed home today and I wish I could say my pain is better but it's really not. But hey, at least I'm home and not at work.
Now onto to Two Sentence Tuesday where I toss out two lines I've read this week as well as two I've written. Again check out The Women Of Mystery Blog, the fine ladies who came up with the idea of Two Sentence Tuesday.
From my reading, Texas Monthly magazine April 2008 issue,
From a review by Mike Shea of the book WILLIE NELSON :AN EPIC LIFE written by Texas journalist JOE NICK PATOSKI
Fans that have come to believe that Willie-ness is next to godliness may be suprised by the coarser reality of his life, from cotton-picking poverty through an eternity on the road -- not to mention the raging lunacy of his Fourth of July picnics and his (well documented) affinity for smoking dope and rough-edged pistol packing associates. Patoski declines to judge or analyze, merely chronicling Nelson's story through the eyes ans ears of those who have lived it.
And from my own novel in progress, Plundered Booty
"Do you have to heap food on your plate like that?"
I turned to look at my wife, but seeing as to how my mouth was full of macadamia nut cookie, I couldn't respond.
For the record, I hate macadamia nuts. Give me a good ol' moist sugar cookie any day. If you got nothing else to say at least chime in and tell me you favorite and least favorite cookie.
Monday, April 7, 2008
But for those of us living in or near Amarillo the drills were particularly asinine. Why? Because of this place.
What it is you say? Glad you asked. This is an aerial shot I found on the internet of the Pantex Plant located sixteen miles east of Amarillo.
What is the Pantex Plant? It is the United States only assembly and disassembly plant for nuclear weapons.
Here is some info I gathered from a website called Global Security.
Pantex Plant's primary mission is to:
- Assemble nuclear weapons for the nation's stockpile
- Disassemble nuclear weapons being retired from the stockpile
- Evaluate, repair, and retrofit nuclear weapons in the stockpile
- Demilitarize and sanitize components from dismantled nuclear weapons
- Provide interim storage for plutonium pits from dismantled nuclear weapons
- Develop, fabricate, and test chemical explosives and explosive components for nuclear weapons and to support Department of Energy (DOE) initiatives.
Fissile Material: Total quantity of plutonium is 66.1 metric tons, including Department of Defense quantities (February 6, 1996).
Call me crazy, but I don't think covering your neck with your hands is going to save you when you have 66.1 metric tons of plutonium a few miles away. I'll confess that my knowledge of the place is based mostly on rumor and speculation since information about the joint is sketchy at best.
I do have family that works there but let's jsut say they are highly discouraged to chat about the procedures and working operations of the plant. When my family was hired the FBI came around and talked to neighbors and such and this was long before the heightened security awareness that came with 9/11. Actually I am surprised by the amount of info and pictures available on the web.
I have always heard that the explosives and what not are buried deep beneath the facility and that the airspace above the grounds is restricted. Like this shot of a temporary staging bunker for nuclear weapons that accompanied a story last year in the Washington Post about the guards going on strike.
As a kid I often heard the rumor that Amarillo was on a top ten list of places most likely to get bombed all because of the city's proximity to Pantex. I have no idea if that is true or simply the imagination of kids at work. I suspect the latter unless terrorists, and rogue dictators around the world participate in a Nielson survey of places they'd most like to attack.
I also once read a novel where nuclear engineer gone bad was plotting to steal uranium from Pantex. In the scene just before he was to nab the good the bad guy was talking about how quiet the grounds were at night because there were no crickets because the place was heavily sprayed with pesticide so the noisy critters would not interfere with surveillance equipment. My family that works there assure me there are as many crickets on the grounds as anywhere in the Texas Panhandle so that myth has been debunked.
As with any nuclear facility there are, and have been critics of the plant. A Catholic Bishop once urged all Catholics to quit working at the plant, and a peace group owns and operate the peace farm on adjacent land.
Pantex is one of the highest paying employers in the area, as well as one of the largest with a workforce nearing four thousand people.
As I said I don't profess to know much about the facility. Some of my local readers might know more and if we are lucky they'll chime with a fact or rumor or two in the comments.
Fellow My Town Monday Participant, Josephine Damian has hit upon a great idea. A My Town Monday book review day. Her suggestion is that we all read and review a novel set in our hometown or area for posting on a future Monday. I like the idea and plan to post mine on May 12th. Hope a few of you join in and do the same. That give you over a month to find and read an appropriate novel. Click on the links below to visit other My Town Monday-ers and if you want to jump and tell us something interesting about your town jump in and drop me a comment so I can link you. By the way if you want to read any of my other posts about Amarillo, Texas clcik on the My Town Monday label at the very bottom of this post.
THIS WEEK'S MTM PLAYERS AND THEIR TOWNS
Ello ------------------------------ Washington D.C
Josephine Damian ------------- New Rochelle, New York
Lyzzydee ----------------------Welwyn Garden City, England
Sex Scenes at Starbucks ------- Lawrence, Kansas
Terrie Farley Moran ----------- New York City, New York
Debra -------------------------- Village of Peninsula, Ohio
Jason -------------------------- Sugar Creek, Missouri
Clair Dickinson ----------------Livingston County, Michigan
Pattinase ----------------------- Detroit, Michigan
Sam Winston ------------------- Montchauvet, France
DebbieLou --------------------- Bishops Stortford, England
Barrie Summy ----------------- Chandler, Arizona
Carleen Brice ------------------ The power of Cyberville (Check this out for a worthy cause and the oppurtunty for you to help while getting something for youself as well)
Britta Coleman ---------------- Fort Worth, Texas
WordVixen--------------------- Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Friday, April 4, 2008
Ernest Hemingway ~ A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book.
I hope this one isn't true since I am attempting to write a funny book.
Tom Snyder ~ If we're not supposed to eat animals, how come they are made of meat?
This goes along with my personal motto "Lettuce is the Devil quite nicely.
Erma Bombeck ~ There is nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.
This is why everybody should have kids of their own. That way they get to experience Christmas and life through their eyes. Without that joy I think you age far too quickly.
Sir Winston Churchill ~ Writing a book is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster, and fling him to the public.
No truer words have ever been spoken, and I am in that tyrant stage.
And this quote goes well with my recent tattoo discussion ...
I always look for a woman who has a tattoo. I see a woman with a tattoo, and I'm thinking, okay, here's a gal who's capable of making a decision she'll regret in the future. ~Richard Jeni
This is the entire crew (minus me of course who is taking the shot) that recently went to Six Flags down in Arlington, Texas.
And a recent shot of me.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
But I really appreciate all of you who commented and wished me well on my year anniversary. Many of you have been here to read the past six months worth of posts anyway and for that I am grateful. Since several of you mentioned you like my posts about writing the most that is what I'm going to do today - talk about the craft of writing fiction, or more aptly the way I handle naysayers and oddsmakers when it comes to selling novel length fiction.
I'm always hesitant to do so since one, there are so many other bloggers with better credentials than I. Sure I have sold a short story here and there, won a couple of contests and completed three nearly four novels, but there are nearly a dozen accomplished novelists on my blog roll alone.
So you might ask. Why even try? Why try to write a post on writing? Why bother to write at all? Look at your odds. There are millions of wanna-be authors out there competing for the attention of agents and editors. And even if you do land an agent and sell that novel chance are you'll barely make a ripple. Few writers ever make it to the point where they can quit their day job? What's the point? Why put yourself through years of hard work and rejection only to have marginal success in the end?
Man, y'all are cynical today.
Okay, maybe you didn't ask all those questions, but I've heard every one of them over the years. At one point the doubters, dream killers, and pessimists bothered me. But these days I say let them wallow in the negativity because there are a lot of reasons why I should write, both a post on writing and my novels.
No one person alive has seen everything I have or experienced the exact events as me. And it is the little everyday occurrences that shape who we are and our outlook. That means they could never tell a story the exact same way you will. We are all unique. The points I focus on and bring to light will not be the same as you. Only through experience have i learned not to underestimate my ability to bring something new to the table. But first I've had to learn how to trust my ability and natural voice so that the piece is truly unique in some way. In other words, be the best YOU can be and don't worry about the competition.
Yes, it is a tough business, but I have a steady job. I'm not taking food away from kids to write. I can afford a bit of paper and ink and even if I never become the next Stephen King, or John Grisham I can at least say I tried. (I have no doubt that I will sell a novel but I'm talking about selling well and often enough to become a full-time writer. That is my ultimate goal for my career.)
And true, there a lots of others writers more qualified to give advice or to write, but there are just as many that aren't. I've have made my share of mistakes over the passed seven years and I've taken a few lumps for it, but at the same time I've learned a few lessons that maybe will help somebody else. I do not believe for a second there is any one way to get there. There is only your way. Maybe your plan is to get an MFA from a prestigious program, or to earn your stripes via short stories, or to lurk in the bar at a thousand writing conferences until you find an agent or editor drunk enough to say yes. Who knows which path will lead you to success. Keep trying and you will eventually find it, but in the meantime there are a lot of wrong way detours and the key is to stay off those winding paths.
So keep writing and keep trying. I'll do the same and one of these days our novels will sit proudly on the shelf together.
If all else fails, turn around and moon your dissenters ...
I took the above shot at the Albuquerque zoo last fall. I'm going to try and get back in the habit of posting pictures I've taken in more of my posts.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
No, Two line Tuesday from me this week since one I haven't read a bit of fiction all week and two I want to do something different for this post. I want to look back at the past year a bit.
My first past was titled, Better Late Than Never and can be read here if you are interested. No one commented on it, but I think it was a decent introduction and first attempt. It wasn't until my fifth post that someone commented. Cicily Janus was the first person to comment. We had met at a writer's workshop a few months before. Alex Keto attended that same Arizona workshop.
Manic Mom was the first person to ever comment that I didn't actually know in person. That was lucky post number 13. Soon Grace(aka alternatefish) and WordVixen became regular commenters.
I'm proud to say my readership has been growing ever since. I have encountered a great many talented, funny, and entertaining bloggers via One Word, One Rung, One Day and I have no regrets about starting the blog. I thank all of you who take the time to read and comment. No I'm going to give you my personal favorite posts from each month that I've been at it. If you have the time read a few that you missed and drop a comment. I get an email for every comment regardless of how old the post may be.
April 2007 -- Payin' For Your Raisin' -- A post comparing writing a novel to the joyous and not so joyous task of raising kids.
May 2007 -- Flying Sasquatch Airlines -- A hairy tale of terror in the sky.
June 2007 -- A Leg To Stand On - FeedStore Chronicle #3 The Feedstore Chronicles were my stories about my days working for the most morally corrupt boss any one has ever seen and this is my favorite of those tales.
July 2007 -- Yes Ma'am, Right Away Ma'am -- This post was my reflection that most of the world's powerful forces are female.
August 2007 -- Call It What You Want, But ... -- My irritation with the word, Panini.
September 2007 -- 'Twas A Dark and Stormy Night - Tales of Yellow Flag -- A true Friday Night Lights story about my days as a High School Football ref in Texas.
That covers the first six months. I'll hit the next six tomorrow as I am running out of time.
But I do want to once again say thanks for reading and I'd love to hear what posts you have enjoyed the most, or what kind of posts you hope to see in the future.
Many thanks to all of you,