Monday, September 29, 2008

My Town Monday

I didn't get a My Town Monday post written up on my days off this week and my weekend in packed full of flag football games and what not so I have no real post to offer this week . Instead I'll give y'all a video from one of the funniest people to ever call the Texas Panhandle home.




Ron White first gained national fame as part of the Blue Collar comedy tour alongside Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, and Larry the Cable Guy.

Ron usually performs his act clad in all black, smoking, and sipping scotch. He hails from Fritch, Texas which is 30 miles northeast of Amarillo.

You can buy his CDs,DVDs, and book here. Or find his official website here. For those of you in or around Amarillo, he is scheduled to appear on Amarillo on October 11th.


OTHER MY TOWN MONDAYERS

Melanie Avila -- Zihuatanejo, Mexico
Barrie Summy -- San Diego, California
Linda McLaughlin -- San Clemente, California
Junosmom -- Kentucky
Clare2E (Women of Mystery) -- Bear Mountain, New York
Becky Levine -- Arroyo Grande, California
Reb -- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Beth Yarnell -- Tustin, California
Clair Dickson -- Rural, Michigan (Livingston County)
Patti Abbott -- Urban, Michigan (Detroit)
Barbara Martin -- Toronto, Canada
Joshua -- St Louis, Missouri
Ruth Kaufman -- Chicago Illinois
J.L. Krueger -- Kabul, Afghanistan
Lyzzydee -- Welwyn Garden City, England
Mary Nix -- North Ridgeville, Ohio
Chris Eldin -- Baltimore, Maryland
Debra -- Peninsula, Ohio
PreTzel -- Border War Iowa .VS. Missouri

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Put Me in Coach

The juggernaut that is the 2nd grade St Mary's flag football team played their first game today. They moved the ball quite well within the twenties, but had trouble punching it in at times. And the defense played extremely well holding the other team to negative yardage most of the time, but two 60+ yard runs was enough, as St Mary's lost 12-6.

Must have been poor coaching that prevented the win, but I am happy to report everyone was smiling as we left the field. I'll try to get someone to take pictures of tomorrow's game.

I may or may not get a My Town Monday up this week but at the very least, I'll have the links from others up so if you post let me know.

And I'm quite sad to hear about Paul Newman's death. My favorite role of his was as Sully in the movie version of Richard Russo's Nobody's Fool. If you haven't seen it, or read the novel you should.

Friday, September 26, 2008

While I'm Away

I'm trying to get back in the groove of my fiction writing so that means y'all get a generic fill in the blank meme post today. I found this one over at Mom-in-Scrubs blog.

A:Accent: Come admit it. Y'all would be disappointed if I didn't have a decidedly Texas twang and who m I to disappoint.

B:Breakfast or no Breakfast: Breakfast is best served at 2 AM as a dessert to a night of rum guzzling.

C:Chore I hate: Every last one of them. By nature I'm a lazy person in all aspects except writing, fishing, and hunting.

D:Dog or Cat: Two dogs. Well one dog and one rodent. The chih-weenie dog is worthless, but my Chesapeake Bay Retriever is at least bigger than my shoe.

E:Essential Electronics: Laptop. Otherwise I'd be silenced.

F:Favorite Perfume: Yeah, I'll get back to you on this one. When I buy my wife perfume I have to go to the counter and do a bloodhound impersonation because I can't remember the names of that stuff.

G:Gold or Silver: I wear neither and if I'm buying for my wife I go for silver because I'm basically a tight wad.

H:Handbag I carry most often: Can we change that to handgun?

I:Insomnia: When the writing is going well I sleep poorly because I can't get the characters to shut-up and go to sleep when I need them to.

J:Job Title: The Post Office has more acronyms than idiotic supervisors. My title is MMPE which stands for Mechanic of Mail Processing Equipment or some other such crap. I work on the automate machines that sort your mail.

K:Kids: Two boys T age 7 an Z 5. They actually have unique (or weird if you prefer) names but we'll just use their initials here.

L:Living Arrangement: Ramshackle house in the sticks but someday soon we're going to build our very own hillbilly mansion.

M:Most admirable trait: I'm a pretty good diplomat until I'm good and pissed then I'll simply tell you to go to hell.

N:Naughtiest childhood behavior: Me and this guy once went through a phase of stealing hood ornaments.

O:Overnight Hospital Stays: Ablation for my heart and ankle surgery from a hockey incident.

P:Phobias: Talking heads of lettuce, especially if they are saying, "Eat me."

Q:Quote: "A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book." ~ Ernest Hemingway.Ernest Hemingway

R:Reason to smile: Why not?

S:Siblings: One brother. Six years older.

T:Time I wake up: Too damn early. Six-ish because my wife has a very loud hair dryer.

U:Unusual Talent or skill: I got mad skillz. I'm just trying to figure out what they are.

V:Vegetable I refuse to eat: ALL OF THEM!

W:Worst Habit: Procrastination

X:X-rays: My ankle when I snapped both bones in the above mentioned hockey incident.

Y:Yummy Stuff: Meat. Fresh caught walleye, marinated elk tenderloin, grilled shrimp, steak, teriyaki chicken.

Z:Zoo animal I like the most: Bears are cool, otter an seals are fun, once some some Orangutan love at Cheyenne Mountain zoo is Colorado Springs an that was educational.


Play along if you wish or tell me which of these we agree on or which make me seem crazier than a vegetarian butcher.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Swag

Me friends and family have been at it a'gin. Ye olde treasure chest is getting full-o piratey booty.

Writer pal extraordinaire Debbie Elliott-Upton and her equally talented daughter Misty supplied these gems in congratulations of me finishing Plundered Booty.


Rest assured laddies that I look just like that in me skivvies. T'aint got no socks of that caliber however.


And those skull and crossbones pencils will come in handy when it's time to edit the code.




And the red dirt is because Plundered booty is set mostly in the fictional town of Red Dirt, Oklahoma. Both Debbie and Misty pillaged and plundered me manuscript in order to whip into ship shape so if you're a mind do me a favor, pop over to Debbie's blog today and tell her I sent ya.

And this last bit 'o booty is the work of my own Anne Bonney. Yep, me wife gave me these washrags.




Hope yer crew is treatin' ya as well as mine is me.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hey Baby! Wanna Dance?

So as I mentioned yesterday I am having commitment issues. No, not with my fabulous wife ... with my writing. Here's where I'm at right now, writing wise.

Plundered Booty is finished and I have began querying.

I've been working on a few short stories, but for me they feel more like one night stands and while they are fun for a while, I'm more of a long term relationship kind of guy. I need a novel so that I can sink my teeth into a group of characters and story. I applaud the short story writer that is full of ideas and can roll from one story into another. That is not me. For the most part, I need to spend vast quantities of time with my fictional peeps to really make them come alive.


But committing to that long term relationship is easier said than done. In many ways it is no easier than finding that special someone to spend your life with.

Some of those brilliant flashes turn out to be momentary lust. An idea that sounds great in your head and gets you excited doesn't always have enough substance to sustain your initial enthusiasm. And there is no worse feeling as a writer than waking up six months into a project realizing you no longer like, much less love all those words resting on the white pillowy pages beside you.


Sadly, sometimes you have to spend a good bit of time with your ideas before you realize she talks to plants, cats, and parakeets because they are the only things capable of tolerating her craziness. Wait, I was talking about books. Sorry, didn't mean to meander off the path.


And even if you weed through the bad, sometimes the choices are still tough.


Maybe you fall in love with an idea, but are afraid that your parents -- I mean agents, editors, and ultimately book buyers will not see it's charm. Sure love is love, but it's nice if someone pays for the wedding. Otherwise, you and your book might have to elope to Vegas get hitched in the Chapel of PublishAmerica. That's not a very solid foundation for a marriage, I mean career.


Then there is the fear that this next book is your rebound love. You find yourself comparing it's characters to your last works protagonist. Over time it might not measure up. You start asking yourself. What if my last book takes off. What if it sells well? What if my agent, editor or readers expect a book just like the last one? What if they dump me for a waiter they met at the Cracker Barrel?


If you're not a writer and you've managed to read this far let me answer the question now on your mind. Yes, we writers are that neurotic.

And then, even when you do fall head over heels in love and say this is is this is the one for me, you're still not out of the woods. The questions come. Can I write this or is the story too big? Can I love honor and obey? Provide for, shelter, and remain faithful? Trust me it ain't easy to make a commitment with such doubts filling your head. That is where I am at.


Right now I'm sitting in the literary lounge staring across the smoke-filled room at a handful of beauties. Some are familiar, some are not. Let me describe them in an effort to explain why I can't decide to ask who wants to dance.


Bachelorette #1

I have this desire to rewrite my very first novel. A tale of love and lies set in small town Texas. I still believe in the plot and now that I am a better writer I think I could make the story work. But I failed to nurture the relationship the last time, otherwise it would be sitting in Barnes and Noble right now rather than my hard-drive. Even though a draft of this one is complete, there is a good bit of work needed. One POV character needs a complete overhaul as does a portion of the plot and the whole thing needs more humor. But we all know it ain't easy to change someone. Then again you never get over your first love.

Bachelorette #2

She's new and shiny, but is my attraction based in lust. Will the story be enough to sustain a novel. And there is that pesky research that could get me in trouble. (Think trains and hobos) The excitement of starting anew is on the side of this one but many many details would still need to be worked out. I'd be starting from scratch, but this one would be the most likely to satisfy readers who liked Plundered Booty.

Bachelorette # 3

A novel a started, but abandoned when a few trusted people in the business said it would be a hard sale. A dark comedy with a complex plot and an unhappy but satisfying ending. I already failed to form a lasting relationship once, is it worth trying again? This one has my personal eye, but in this day and age you have to choose project with the market in mind. Yesterday's snippet comes from chapter three of this one. I have four already written. Very Un-Booty-ish should that novel find a home.

Bachelorette #4

Another comedy with strong elements of women's fiction. I ditched her for Plundered Booty. If I really loved her would I have been able to do that? And I'm still a big hairy Texan and I know from past experience people seem to doubt my ability to write women's fiction before they've read a single word. But it's a fun story involving bull semen, a myspace addiction, and bass fishing. I've already written a hundred pages of this story. Somewhat Booty-ish.


Stay tuned I let you know when I select a dance partner.

Got any advice?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Two Fer

Two Line Tuesday

First from my reading this week ...

" ... Tell about what we're gonna have in the garden and about the rabbits in the cages and about the rain in the winter and the stove, and how thick the cream is on the milk like you can hardly cut it. Tell about that George."

That excerpt comes from the classic, Of Mice and Men by John SteinbeckI enjoy going back and rereading some of the classics. I tend to enjoy them more now that there is no homework involved
And from my own work.

MERRY CHRISTMAS – HAPPY HOLIDAYS – SEASONS GREETINGS - At least the slogans made sense and didn’t look half bad, but the cross-eyed reindeer she’d drawn reminded him of a retarded Great Dane, Frosty looked like a giant pile of lumpy mashed potatoes - even with the top hat, and Santa? If Jabba the Hut and Burl Ives had a love child, Dwayne figured it would pretty much look like the hideous rendition of Ol’ Saint Nick now painted on his store window.

The above description comes from an as yet untitled story I've been playing around with. The story may or may not become my next novel project. I can't quite decide. matter of fact i plan to blog tomorrow or the next day about my commitment issues and why I still have settled on a book length project to follow up Plundered Booty with.

Be sure and check out the Women of Mystery blog for links to more participants in Two Line Tuesday.

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Corny Mystery Solved -- A My Town Monday Post

The world is full of unsolved mysteries.

Who built Stonehenge?
Does Bigfoot/Sasquatch/The Yeti really exist?
What came first the chicken or the egg?

I don't have an answer for any of those compelling questions but I can shed some light on another of the world's most wondered about enquiries ... Who invented the corndog?


The claim to the prize is battered and fried in doubt.

Some say the Corny Dog made it's debut at the 1942 Texas State Fair in Dallas.

The Pronto Pup folks claim to have rolled out the tasty treat at the 1941 Minnesota State Fair.

Then there is the proprietors of the Cozy Dog Drive-In located in Springfield, Illinois who say they were the first to jab a stick through a wiener.

I want to throw my vote behind the founders of the Cozy Dog Drive-In, Ed Waldmire Jr. and Don Strand. Maybe they did peddle corn battered wieners at the fairs in Dallas and Minnesota but a corn dog without a stick is like a clean and tidy, soft-spoken carnival barker. it just ain't right.

So right here and now I'm awarding the claim of corn dog inventor to the folks behind Springfield, Illinois' Cozy Dog.

Right about know you're probably saying, I thought this was a My Town Monday post. What in the name of mustard does some restaurant in the Land of Lincoln have to do with Amarillo, Texas?

Glad you asked.

Before Ed Waldmire Jr. and Don Strand partnered up in restaurant business they served together on the United States Air Force. And where were they stationed? You guessed it Amarillo, Texas. And while they were in Amarillo they made their first ever corn battered deep fried wieners. They sold their creation at the USO club and the base PX. They called their creation Crusty Curs, but when they got out of the military, Ed's wife convinced them Crusty Cur was not a name that civilian diners would go for. So their fried hot dog on a stick became the Cozy Dog and as Paul Harvey would say ...

Now you know, the rest of the story.

OTHER MY TOWN MONDAY POSTS

Debra -- Peninsula, Ohio

Clair Dickson -- Livingston county, Michigan

Linda McLaughlin -- Anaheim, California

Barbara Martin -- Toronto, Canada

Junosmom -- Everytown, Kentucky

PreTzel -- Lufkin, Texas

Robyn -- Grass Valley, California

Mary Nix -- Olmsted Falls, Ohio

Reb -- Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Beth Yarnall -- Orange County, California

Patti Abbott -- Dearborn, Michigan

Michele Ann Young -- Royal Tunbridge Wells, England

Barrie Summy -- Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Saturday, September 20, 2008

How Far?

Let's talk research. Unless you have attempted to write a novel I doubt you realize how much research goes into creating fiction, lives, settings, and plots. I never did.

With a handful completed novels under my belt I'm now fully aware of all the little details that it takes to make a story come alive. And as I take a short break from novel writing -- to concentrate on querying for my lasted completed work, to wrap up a few short stories, and to decide which idea I want to commit a year's worth of time to next, I find myself pondering the various research that will be required to properly execute each book.

The question is how far am I willing to go in the name of research for my next book.

I have an idea. A solid vision for the primary character to fit that idea. The problem?

Said character will break a law and to properly write that character's problems I really think I would need to put myself in his shoes and break the same law.

Wipe that frown from your face. I'm not pondering murder, armed robbery, or any other violent crime. I'm not even talking about snorting cocaine, or starting a crystal-meth lab in my well house. The kind of crime I'm talking about would only put myself in jeopardy and even then the rick of harm is rather low, especially if I coerced one of my buddies into being an accomplice. There would be no loss of property or harm. Truly a victimless crime.

Think trespassing, but for a thrill. I could tell you more but then you'd all be accomplices as well.

Actually, this particular feat is one I've always wanted to do and I know at least one of my friends has as well, but it does come with a slight risk of bodily harm and a greater risk of criminal trespass charges.

Would the courts be more lenient if I got caught and told them it was in the name of book research? Or am I making a convenient excuse? Is this particular plot as good as I think or am I trying to find a reason to take a risk I've always daydreamed about?

And no I haven't decided to make the leap and go for it, I'm just saying it has crossed my mind this week. Given that thought, I got to wondering ...

How far would you be willing to go in the name of research?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Avast!

Yo-ho me hearties! Listen up, this be yer Captain talking.



As a rum swilling, bushy-bearded, Plundered Booty writing pillager I am obligated by the code to take part in Talk Like A Pirate Day. But hold on to yer sails, landlubber, because I was issued a challenge by me piratey brethren, Bubblewench. She bet me that I wouldn't yank me cutlass and cross swards with her, so to speak.

Her challenge? To help Save the Ta-ta's.

Now for ye who hasn't docked their ship in many a port let me tell ya. The ta-ta's aren't that string of islands on the leeward side of the Tortugas, so if that's what you're a thinking then more than your leg is wooden.

Ta-ta's are as soft an billowy as a sail in a gentle sea breeze. They be the jewel of a many a man's eye. Yet they can be as dangerous for a pirate as being pinned between a hurricane and the Royal Navy. Many a sailor has been blinded by the pursuit of the one treasure ye can't bury.

Least not without her getting a might chapped at ye.

Some of the port side wenches have figured out how to earn a pretty coin with their ta-ta's. Others guard their bounty and not even the shiniest of Spanish galleon can persuade them to share the booty. Shameless I tell ye, but that is a tale for another day.

Bubblewench has commissioned me to talk about the risk that lurks within the reward. Like the curse of Davy Jones there be a dark force that threatens the ta-ta's. It goes by the name of Cancer. And by clicking here you can help wenches, maidens, and other assorted girlies get their business checked over with a mammogram. That appears to be some kind o' fancy looking glass apparatus, but that alone t'ain't good enough.

Doc's got nothing on us brave buccaneers. We pirates got a sixth-sense about danger so why not let us do a bit of exploring as well. Finding one of those cursed cancer cells can't feel no different than finding a pearl inside an oyster. A bit of squeezing and checking from a set of skilled hands just might save yer life. So share the bounty and help yourself live to sail another day.



Seriously, that was a crappy pirate post, but by clicking here you can help make it possible for women to get checked out.

By the way the above pic of me was from last Halloween for those who were not reading back then.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Have Too much Time On My Hands

Okay, I was screwing around on the internet and saw this post on Swivet, the blog for literary agent Collen Lindsay.

The post was a link to one of those crazy time waster question deals. This one was called the Sarah Palin name generator and claimed to assign you a name, based on your actual one, if Sarah Palin had been your mother. Her kids names are unique -- Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow, and Piper.

So I play along and dutifully type in Travis Dwayne Erwin and what does the magical name generator spit out ...

Travis Dwayne Erwin, if you were born to Sarah Palin, your name would be:

Meat Notgay Palin

Who knows, Meat Notgay Palin you just might be president one day!

Kind of scary, huh?

I even did it twice and got the same answer.

And my wife?

Mustache Warthog Palin


I like mine better. Click here to find out yours.

Hickory Dickory Dock

Today's post is a pictorial presentation of something I've always found a bit odd and disconcerting.


This is the sign outside the library branch here in Amarillo in which I most often frequent to check out books. And next we have a shot of the building's exterior as viewed from the parking lot.


Nothing to odd as of yet.



Above we have a sign pointing to the drive-up book deposit on the back side of the building. And below a shot of what that drive-up lane look like. Still no sign of anything peculiar.



And below we have the actual metal drawer which you can reach from your driver's window. All you gotta do is pull the handle and dump your books into the gaping metal mouth.



Notice anything odd?


Out of place?


Look close before you scroll down.


Remember this is a DRIVE-UP window on the back side of the building. Not one that anyone would ever walk up to. That chute is out front.




So why is there a braille plate at the bottom of the chute? I'm really hoping no one that needs to use that plate is driving up to that window. Yet it has been there for years. Riddle me this -- Why?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Passing Judgement

Once again I have been denied. I had a jury summons for today. I dutifully called last night and my juror number fell within the target group to report. I showed up. I sat. I read. Nothing happened. then the judge came out and said there ha been some kind of legal snafu which meant the trial would come up on immediate appeal regardless of how we the jury might have ruled so therefore we could all go home.

The thing is I want to serve. At least once. I've been called numerous times and never not even once have the proceedings made it to the question stage. How's a writer supposed to write when he is repeatedly denied life experience to draw from?

This isn't really a good blog post as I have no great wisdom, wit or analogy to tie my frustration in with anything larger. I suppose if I tried real hard I could find some correlation to the writing world, but I'm not feeling that motivated to be creative today.

Instead I think I'll toss a steak on the grill and get my mind ready for flag football practice. (Trust me it takes some mental preparation to deal with a dozen seven-year- old boys who are more eager to yank each others flags off than listen to anyone teach them the basics of a complex sport.)

Meat and competitive juices -- guess the day won't be a wash after all.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Amused

A couple of things that have amused me lately.

First this little illustration about the importance of punctuation. I stole it from Yellowdog Granny's blog.


And then my wife sent me this joke via email.


Sister Mary Ann, who worked for a home health agency, was out

making her rounds visiting homebound patients when she ran out of

gas. As luck would have it, an Texaco Gasoline station was just a block away.

She walked to the station to borrow a gas can and buy some gas.
The attendant told her that the only gas can he owned had been loaned out,

but she could wait until it was returned. Since Sister Mary Ann was on

the way to see a patient, she decided not to wait and walked back to her car.

She looked for something in her car that she could fill with gas

and spotted the bedpan she was taking to the patient.. Always

resourceful, Sister Mary Ann carried the bedpan to the station,

filled it with gasoline, and carried the full bedpan back to her car.

As she was pouring the gas into her tank, two Baptists watched from across
the street.
One of them turned to the other and said,

'If it starts, I'm turning Catholic.'



What has amused you lately?

Fallen 'Horn -- A My Town Monday Post

Due to some tragic news I've shifted away from my planned My Town Monday post, but hopefully next week I'll be discussing Amarillo's role in one of the world's great mysteries.

Caprock High School sits on the southeast side of Amarillo. Truth be told it doesn't have a great reputation in the city. The district is made up primarily of lower middle class families with a majority of students having a Hispanic heritage. The football team is rarely good and in these parts, what happens on the gridiron far overshadows all other sports. Though to be honest the Caprock Longhorns do not fare much better any most other sports either. That one exception is and always has been wrestling.

The school has won countless state title both in the overall team and individuals. I graduated from Caprock in 1991 and in those days wrestling was only a boys sport, but in recent years girls wrestling has been added and the females have joined in and only added to the school's tradition of excellence in the sport. Matter of fact the school has won the last five state team championships in the girls division.

But I'm going to step back in time to my sophomore year when the school had an individual state champion. That wrestler was a junior and he was one year older than me. If I remember right he finished second in state his senior year, but it was what he did after high school that endured him to many and propelled his name to the top of fight circles.

In 1997 some of Evan Tanner's friends talked him into fight in in a local Mixed Martial Arts Tournament. Tanner won the tournament by defeating three different fighter that night including fellow Caprock Alum and future UFC Heavyweight contender Paul Buentello.

With that success in his resume Tanner began to study grappling and martial arts in a more serious manner. In 1998 he traveled to Japan and at Tokyo became the first American to ever win the Pancrase Neo-Blood tournament.

With his reputation established Evan Tanner headed to the premiers organization in mixed martial arts. The UFC --Ultimate Fighting Championships.

He had many success in his fighting career posting a record of 32 wins and only 8 losses. On February 5th, 2005 he won the UFC Middleweight Championship.

On September 3rd, 2008 Evan rode his dirt bike in to the California desert near Brawley, California. What happened after that differs. Some reports say he ran out of gas and others simply say he was hiking to a spring to refill his canteen. Either way, the heat and exhaustion of hiking in 118 degree temperature, led to his death. His body was spotted by helicopter on September 8th. Heat exposure is listed as the preliminary cause of his death. A sad end to a dang tough champions life.
Here is a video tribute to Tanner that I found on You Tube.



I didn't know Evan, but we gave from the same side of town. I saw him wrestle on his way to a state title. I saw his very first fights as a professional an we walked the same halls as kids. Caprock High School may not have the best reputation, but for those who wore orange and were proud to call themselves Longhorns will all remember Evan and take a bit of hope out of the fact life is what you make out of it, not where you happen to come from.


The above shot was taken by my friend Steve Austin. The words Longhorn country are from the top of the Caprock High gym as see from a golf course just across the street. A field with actual longhorn cattle sits between the two.

Posts from other MY TOWN MONDAYERS

Linda McLaughlin -- Like me, Linda offers up a tragic post. This one from Chatsworth, California.
Debra -- The sweet music of Peninsula, Ohio
Lyzzydee -- Gives us a historical look at Amsterdam.
Barbara Martin -- Teaches us about heroes from Toronto, Canada.
Clair Dickson -- The end of Eminem's road in Livingston County, Michigan
Barrie Summy -- A meaty post from rural Oklahoma.
Reb -- Road tripping in Alberta, Canada
Clare2E -- A haunting look at New Haven, Connecticut.
PreTzel -- Looking for a spooky thrill in small town Iowa.
Patti Abbott -- The other end of Detroit, Michigan's 8 Mile Road.
Gerri Russell -- Vacationing in Scotland
Mary Nix -- Plots out Olmsted Falls, Ohio's location.
David Cranmer -- A bit of language fun from West Africa
Patricia Wood -- Gets sharky with editing from Hawaii.
Junosmom -- Escape the glitz and glamor and get away in Kentucky

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Randomville

Well crap. I took two days off from reading blogs to work on doing some actual writing and now I have over 350 posts in my Google reader. I'll be skimming through commenting only on a few s please forgive me. And thanks to all of you who weighed in on the great toilet seat cover debate. Of course Vodka Mom had to take the hard line and throw down a challenge, but then again, teachers can be mean at times.

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By the way, for those of you whoa re writers and are in or near the query process be sure to check out agent Janet Reid's other blog, Query Shark. She bites into actual query letters and reveals why she finds them tasty or why she feels the need to spit out a form rejection.

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In other blog news my buddy Alex Keto has dipped his toes back into the deep end of the blog pool after sitting our more than the required twenty minutes after eating. Welcome back, Alex. I love to read his take on the world and if you've never read his wisdom then you are doing yourself a disservice.

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Also I wanted to call your attention to a couple of literary web-zines. Halfway Down the Stairs and The Oddville Press. Through the wonderful blogosphere I know people involved with both so check them out if you get the chance.

That's it for me, I'm off to clear my Google reader and check up on thing on Twitter. Back tomorrow with a My Town Monday post. Sadly I am not going to do the post I planned. Instead, I will honor one of Amarillo's recently departed son's.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Fluff This

An open letter to all of my beloved female readers.


Dear Dearies,

There are many things in this world that you adore, that I simply can't stomach. Lettuce, the out-of-breath quality to Celine Dion's voice, the stench of patchouli.

It is time to add fluffy toilet lid covers to the list. All I can say is why ladies? Why do you torture us men by draping those fluffy poodle pelts across the toilet lid.

You complain of our deer heads nailed to the wall, yet you condone the skinning of harmless pooches for the sake of bathroom decor.

Maybe y'all don't realize the problems those dang things create for those of us who stand to do our business, so let me explain.

A friend (a single woman I might add) has one of these things on her porcelain throne. We tend to gather at her house to play games and drink a few adult beverages on the weekend, which leads to frequent trips to the ol' bathroom.

I raise the lid, it falls due to the frilly cover not allowing the lid to rest properly against the tank. I reraise it. The stupid thing falls again. This leaves me two choices ... take a seat and forgo one of the few natural privileges a man has, (yes, we males celebrate and revel in our ability to take a leak on our feet), or hold the lid with one hand, while I direct my aim with the other. That might seem simple bat after a six pack of Shiner. also I'm tall guy so it leads to n awkward crouching position that throws off my balance and well honed stance.

I might as well be playing bathroom Twister.

Most of us men are not ambidextrous and agile acrobats of Cirque De Soleil. I hear and read your gripes about our poor aim, yet y'all chose to add a degree of difficulty befitting the Chinese dive team. So I say whose fault are those splatters?

And I'm not even going to go into the psychological terror we men have at dangling our parts before an alligator jaw-like death trap that could come chomping down at any second.

Truth be told I think it is an evil plot to make men take a seat since y'all are jealous of our inherent ability to stand and be men, but if it is an honest mistake I urge you to get shed of the poodle pelt and let us pee in peace.

Sincerely,

A Man Willing Demanding To Take a Stand



p.s. God bless the urinal!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Stuff

I first saw this list of life experiences on Robyn's blog a week or so back. I know a few of you have already did this as well and since I'm short on time today I though it would be a good way for me to get a post up.

Here we present a list. Highlight those tasks that you have accomplished in your life. I added a bit of my own commentary in the parenthesis.


01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink (mostly because I have many a deadbeat buddy)

02. Swam with wild dolphins (they look too much like sharks to me and those bottle noses could accidentally catch you in the wrong place if you know what I mean)

03. Climbed a mountain (I tried to propose on top of one, but my wide got winded halfway up so I had to settle for the side of a mountain)

04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive (I don't think there is a Ferrari dealership within 250 miles of Amarillo)

05. Been inside the Great Pyramid (does the Luxor in Vegas count?)

06. Held a tarantula (this week)

07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone (And it was quite embarrassing when the fire department had to come use the jaws of life to get my big butt up and out since I take all the room by myself)

08. Said “I love you” and meant it (everyday)

09. Hugged a tree (But I had to reign the relationship in when it slipped me some tongue)

10. Bungee jumped (I've seen far too many rubber bands snap to every trust even an industrial sized one)

11. Visited Paris (Again, only if you count the one on the Vegas strip)

12. Watched a lightning storm at sea (I've only seen the sea a few times, but I've seen my share from many a good sized lake)

13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise (this is how I got those wrinkles and gray hairs that are taking over my head. Well that and marrying up with a blonde woman.)

14. Seen the Northern Lights (While singing a John Denver song to boot)

15. Gone to a huge sports game (Numerous times and being a lifelong Saints fan I know all about the agony of defeat)

16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa (You mean there is no elevator?)

17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables (VEGETABLES ARE THE DEVIL!)

18. Touched an iceberg (When I start eating vegetables there may be icebergs in Texas)

19. Slept under the stars (Despite the damn crickets)

20. Changed a baby’s nappy (What is a nappy? If it's a crappy diaper than yeah, but thank God those days are over.)

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon (I'd like to)

22. Watched a meteor shower (Just a few weeks ago, but what I'm really waiting for is to get a few shooting stars taking a bath)

23. Gotten tipsy on champagne (But usually I'm a much cheaper drunk)

24. Given more than you can afford to charity (I'm not as charitable as I should be but my wife more than makes up for that)

25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope (I have one set up right now)

26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment (Real men don't giggle)

28. Bet on a winning horse (and a bunch of losing nags too)

29. Asked out a stranger (Not in nearly twenty years and even then my odds were better at the horsetrack)

30. Had a snowball fight (even though I hate snow down my shirt)

31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can (Every time the refs throw a flag against the Saints)

32. Held a lamb (While in ag glass I even witnessed a classmate french kiss a dead lamb for $27 and a package of cigarettes)

33. Seen a total eclipse of both the sun and moon (But not at the same time. that would really be something)

34. Ridden a roller coaster (love 'em

35. Hit a home run (In a beer fueled softball league)

36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking (I did the hokey pokey with a New York editor in public for God's sake)

37. Adopted an accent for an entire day (I'm counting my proud Texas twang which I use every single day)

38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment (I'm always happy .. except for that time in Juarez when ... )

39. Had two hard drives for your computer (But who really cares?)

40. Visited all 50 states (no, but it is a goal of mine)

41. Taken care of someone who was drunk (I even married her -- that one might get me in trouble)

42. Had/Have amazing friends (define amazing)

43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country (See #38)

44. Watched whales (Are we talking about the animal or the rich guys who visit Vegas with a ton of money in their pocket?)

45. Stolen a sign (I'm going down, down down, ... in a ring of fire)

46. Backpacked in Europe (I have nothing witty or smart alecky for this one)

47. Taken a road-trip (Every chance I get)

48. Gone rock climbing (not just for the sake of it, but I've had to do some scaling to get around while hunting)

49. Midnight walk on the beach (No because it could lead to other things and there are certain places sand does not belong)

50. Gone sky diving (Won't either as long as the plane is running)

51. Visited Ireland (Sounds like fun)

52. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love (heartburn is another story)

53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table and had a meal with them (No, but I've though about getting up and moving while with drunk friends at IHOP)

54. Visited Japan (I'd starve since I don't like the food)

55. Milked a cow (I live in Texas, it's practically part of the school curriculum)

56. Alphabetized your CDs (I'm not an organizer)

57. Pretended to be a superhero (who says I'm not)

58. Sung karaoke (I might would but never can wrestle the mic from my wife)

59. Lounged around in bed all day (But I did get up to pee. Am I disqualified?)

60. Played touch football (I used to think it sucked but now I'm getting old and it appeals to me more than hitting the ground)

61. Gone scuba diving (But only in a pool)

62. Kissed in the rain (I don't recall for sure but surely I have at some point)

63. Played in the mud (I don't mind getting dirty)

64. Played in the rain (Until I floated away)

65. Gone to a drive-in theater (We still have one in town)

66. Visited the Great Wall of China (But I watched Mulan and the olympics)

67. Started a business ( not unless you count the writing)

68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken (Cause my wife is patient)

69. Toured ancient sites (historic yes, ancient I'd say no)

70. Taken a martial arts class (only once, got my butt kicked by a twelve year old girl with a brown belt and never went back)

71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight (I was too busy playing video games for days on end)

72. Gotten married (Si senors and senoritas)

73. Been in a movie

74. Crashed a party (But I'm sure they meant to invite me)

75. Gotten divorced (Not even close)

76. Gone without food for 5 days (I'd have to be in a coma for this to happen)

77. Made cookies from scratch (or an itch either)

78. Won first prize in a costume contest (and I wasn't even dressed up)

79. Ridden a gondola in Venice (is is just me or does the word gondola sound like a venereal disease?)

80. Gotten a tattoo (not until Plundered Booty sales)

81. Rafted a river (I counting tubed a river since that is the Texas way to do it)

82. Been on television news programs as an “expert” (I can't imagine the field)

83. Gotten flowers for no reason (I don't think I've ever gotten flowers period)

84. Performed on stage (thank God that hasn't hit You Tube)

85. Been to Las Vegas (finally it counts for something)

86. Recorded music (I'm guessing the don't mean off another CD)

87. Eaten shark (tastes like chicken)

88. Kissed on the first date (Damn that tree)

89. Gone to Thailand (I'll make no bad jokes about Bangkok)

90. Bought a house (And soon another)

91. Been in a combat zone (Though I do work at the Post Office)

92. Buried one/both of your parents (I guess a joke would be inappropriate)

93. Been on a cruise ship (No but I used to watch the Love Boat)

94. Spoken more than one language fluently (I did have six years of Latin but nobody except priests ever speak it)

95. Performed in a Rocky Horror Picture Show (I don't look good in drag)

96. Raised children (in the process)

97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour (Dang jobs)

98. Passed out cold (and woke up hot)

99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country ('fraid not)

100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over (I'm too lazy)

101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge (Never been to San Fran)

102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn’t stop when you knew someone was looking (I like my own ears to do very much singing)

103. Had plastic surgery (Would I still look like this if I had?)

104. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived (But i did have a nasty splinter one time)

105. Wrote articles for a large publication (define large)

106. Lost over 100 pounds (Probably should but never will)

107. Held someone while they were having a flashback (again nothing to say)

108. Piloted an airplane (when this happens everyone else on board she take up sky diving)

109. Touched a stingray (Our names are spelled different but I heard about what happened to Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin)

110. Broken someone’s heart (Not that I know of)

111. Helped an animal give birth (Numerous times)

112. Won money on a TV game show (Never even applied for one)

113. Broken a bone (my ankles snapped like a twig while playing hockey)

114. Gone on an African photo safari (Alex won't take me)

115. Had a facial part pierced other than your ears (or any other "part" for that matter)

116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol (all the above)

117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild (nope as I think 'shrooms are veggies)

118. Ridden a horse (Again, I live in Texas)

119. Had major surgery (and woke up in the middle of it)

120. Had a snake as a pet (This is one critter I've missed)

121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (seems like work)

122. Slept 30 hours in a 48 hour time frame (with medicinal help)

123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states (not even close)

124. Visited all 7 continents (see answer above)

125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days (no, and I can't squeal like a pig either)

126. Eaten kangaroo meat (I'm game, but no)

127. Eaten sushi (prefer to use it as bait)

128. Had your picture in the newspaper (and not under the heading -- most wanted)

129. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about (Because I am a Master Debater, feel free to make your own pun)

130. Gone back to school (it still wasn't much fun)

131. Parasailed (maybe in December when i got o Florida)

132. touched a cockroach (crunchy)

133. Eaten fried green tomatoes (even fried they suck)

134. Read “The Iliad” (Required reading in Latin)

135. Selected one “important” author who you missed in school, and read (numerous)

136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (this week)

137. Skipped all your school reunions (I attended the one and only)

138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
(I don't speak idiocy but many I work with do)

139. Been elected to public office (not public but my position in the union was elected)

140. Written your own computer language (I'm not that smart)

141. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream

142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care

143. Built your own PC from parts

144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you (they would have to be blind as well)

145. Had a booth at a street fair (I got nothing to peddle)

146. Dyed your hair (What you see is what you get)

147. Been a DJ (No desire)

148. Shaved your head (I've threatened but my wife doesn't like the idea)

149. Caused a car accident (Not that I'm aware of)

50. Saved someone’s life (see above)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Lighter Than Air - A My Town Monday Post

Okay, I'm kind of ticked right now. The New York Times did a piece about Amarillo on September 4th, and they failed to mention me, or My Town Mondays even once. The nerve!

To top it off the author, Jim Atkinson (A New Yorker I presume) described the city and area far more articulately than I ever could. He even trumped me by mentioning my subject matter for this week's post. Seriously, if you get the chance read the article, and check out the accompanying slide show of pictures as both are more interesting than my post this week. My only disagreement would be with Mr. Atkinson's choice of Mexican restaurant and the snubbing of my expertise on the Amarillo and the Panhandle region. Okay, so I'm just some writer/blogging hack nobody but y'all have ever heard of, but that's beside the point.

***************************

Now to this week's post.

It's colorless. Odorless. Tasteless. And non-toxic. (No, I'm not talking about my cooking.)

It's atomic number is 2. It's boiling and melting point are among the lowest of all elements. It is nearly always a gas. It is the king of the so-called noble gases.

It has served admirably in war time.

It has the power to change your voice.

It is helium and 95% of the world's supply is found within a 250 mile radius of Amarillo earning the city the nickname of "Helium Capital of the World."

Helium was discovered in 1868 and in 1903 it was learned that huge amounts of the element were present in the natural gas fields around Amarillo.

In 1925, the U.S. government established the National Helium Reserve at Amarillo with the goal of supplying the military in times of war, and commercial airships in times of peace. Due to an embargo against Germany that restricted helium supplies, the Hindenburg was forced to use hydrogen as the lift gas. Helium has a far greater stability so history could have been changed without the embargo.

Throughout the 1940’s the Amarillo Helium plant’s produced 24 million cubic feet annually, though President Franklin D. Roosevelt wanted to up production to 150 million cubic feet for the construction of 200 lighter-than-air aircraft for the Navy. In response, Congress approved nearly $17 million to expand the federal helium operations. In order to satisfy the 150 mmcf annual production quota, the federal workforce increased from 36 employees at the Amarillo Plant, to more than 400 men and women working at five separate plants.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management still operates north of Amarillo, and about 40 percent of U.S. helium production - and almost 35 percent of the world's helium production comes from the Amarillo operations, but in 2006 the General Services Administration declared the old Amarillo Helium Plant on the west side of town as surplus government property because of "excessive deterioration." It was auctioned off and is now in the hands of private owner, but the building stand as a ghostly reminder of a bygone time.


So think of Amarillo the next time you're at a birthday party and somebody huffs a bit of helium and does their best Alvin and the Chipmunks impersonation.

The city has a National Helium Monument, but I did not make it out for a picture, but I plan to include it in a future post anyway.

Links to other MY TOWN MONDAYERS

Lana Gramlich --A look at Abita Springs, Louisiana's visit from Gustav.
Linda McLaughlin -- Digs up some dormant memories about the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.
Debra -- Go on a stroll with her through Peninsula, Ohio
Britta Coleman -- Basks in the glow of that silver star in Fort Worth, Texas.
Terrie Farley Moran -- Wants him buried in the Bronx, New York.
Lyzzydee -- Takes us on vacation with her to Kinderdijk, Holland.
Barbara Martin -- Uncovers history and heroes in Toronto, Canada
Joshua -- Spices up Columbia, Illinois.
Barrie Summy -- Feeds us in the Little India, section of Toronto, Canada
Patti Abbott -- The ugly side of politics in Detroit, Michigan.
Mary Nix -- Working on the railroad in Olmsted Falls, Ohio
Clair Dickson -- Goes looking for the trains of yesteryear in Livingston County, Michigan
David Cranmer -- Introduces us to the Kom people of Cameroon in West Africa.
J.L. Krueger -- Gives us more insight into the people and culture of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

I Don't Mean To Piss People Off

Here is a shot of the setting Texas sun last evening.

In the nearly year and a half I've been writing this blog I've come to know tons of new people that I know consider friends. I've yet to meet any of y'all in person that I didn't already know before I started this blog. I've sold a few short pieces directly as a result of this blog and I've had a couple of people in the business contact me after liking what they read. The blog also gives me a place to post my mind drippings and get a bit of feedback. Creating fiction does not provide that kind of immediacy.

So all in all this blog has been a positive, but like most everything thing in this world there are cons that accompany the pros.

Blogging takes time. Time I could spent on my fiction. Time I could be marketing my pre-published novels. Time I could be reading novels and studying the craft. But I learn about the craft through my connection with fellow writers , agents, and editors out in the blogosphere as well. so I see that as somewhat of a wash.

So what other cons are there?

My greatest fear about this blog is that it will somehow hurt my chances to build the writing career I desire. The last thing I want is to post things that could alienate agents, editors, or even potential readers, BUT

Ahhh ... the big proverbial but, ... You can't please everyone.

I sometimes get emails from readers. i won't call them hate emails but they are certainly critical. They come in two forms.

Dear Idiot,

You call yourself a writer but you misspelled superfragilisticexpeallidocius in yesterdays post and you forget two commas, one hyphen, a semi-colon and you participles were dangling all over the place. No wonder you can't sell your novel.

Signed,

Strunk & White

or,

Dear Torturer,

How dare you stand there grinning like a fat hairy ape while you torture that poor fish in your picture. How would you like me to yank you from your home and hold you underwater so you can't breath? You have no right to be cruel to any of God's creatures.

Signed,

The Second Coming of Noah

Rarely do I respond to the first type of critic, mostly because I've explained on here numerous times that I cannot devote the necessary time to edit my blogs in the same manner than I do my fiction. Otherwise I would only be able to post a few times a month or I'd have to give up my fiction completely.

I do respond to the latter, but I'm not sure why. I'm never confrontational. I simply say that I'm sorry they feel that way, but I consider myself a responsible outdoorsemen. I do not break any laws and that for me hunting and fishing is a relaxing hobby. I mention that I also consider myself a conservationist as I belong to several organizations that promote natural habitat and in fact because of these efforts there are many species of animals that are larger in number today than anytime in the last century. (Such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation) Then I thank the emailer for reading the blog and wish them well in their endeavors.

Most I never hear from again. A few of you have become regular readers and commenter's which I am proud you stayed. I guess what I am trying to say is that while I don't try to provoke argument or rub any one's nose in my ideals I am who I am, ... a meat loving, hunting, fishing, law-abiding, gun owning Texan. I've got my liberal side as well but that is a post for another day.

And for the record, that largemouth bass in the picture was released back into Lake Ray Roberts down near Dallas within seconds after that picture was snapped, so I only tortured him a little while. Could have been worse, I could have sent it to Guantanamo.

And that picture above ... I took while Dove hunting. So I open the debate. Does that make me evil? Should I apologize for being me?

Friday, September 5, 2008

Forgotten book Friday

It has been a while since i took pat in Patti Abbott's fantastic Friday feature, Forgotten Book Friday.

Outlaw by Warren Kiefer first came out in 1989. I first read it shortly thereafter and reread it again a few years back. The story and main character have stuck with me over the years. A sweeping historical saga that spans the entire 89 years of Lee Garland's life. From the frontier west of his cattle rustling adolescence to Garland's days as a member of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Rider's this novel reads like a memoir. Weaving historical fact with fiction, Kiefer brings the story and character of Lee Garland to life and ultimately death.

Sadly, the novel is so forgotten that I couldn't find a single image of the cover on the internet.

For more great books check out the link on Patti Abbott's blog.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Way I Write

I haven't posted much about writing lately so thought I'd do this writing meme that both Shauna Roberts, Charles Gramlich, and Writtenwyrdd did in the past on their blogs.

What is your genre(s)? I've written a little bit of everything in short form, but my first three novels were all women's fiction. I am marketing my latest creation as a comedic mainstream novel. I am considering working on a creative non-fiction project for my next book length endeavor., but that depends on how the agent search for Plundered Booty progresses.

How many books are you working on now? None, unless you count querying and sending out submissions. I have been going back and forth between two short stories but they are nearing completion. I tried to do two books at once when i first started Booty but ultimately, I abandoned the other story.

Are you a linear or a chunk writer? Linear writer. I can't move forward until I'm satisfied. that is not to say I do not become dissatisfied later but before I jump ahead I must be okay with what I've already written.

What POV are you partial to? Used to be third person, but lately seems like I've been choosing first more. I think that has to do with subject matter more than anything else however. Some stories need first, others can only work in third. Until I become an overpaid professional athlete it is doubtful I'll ever uses second.

What tense do you use? Past, but a bit of present was called for in Booty.

What theme keeps cropping up in your books? Winning by losing. Life never works out the way any of us planned an if you get too caught up in the things that go wrong you just might miss it the first time they go right. Sometimes happiness comes in a form we never expected.

How many days a week do you write? All of them. Maybe it's a line or two, Maybe it's twenty pages, but I write a little bit each and every day. And anytime I have a quiet moment I am writing scenes and dialogue in my head.

What time of day do you get your best writing done? This goes in streaks, Sometimes I get up early and write with great results. then I get in the habit of staying up late. On my days off I tend to write late morning and early afternoon then go about doing other tasks.

Who are your mentors? I have had so many along the way. RWA hall-of-famer Jodi Thomas gave me the initial encouragement to submit my work to agents and editors, Kensington editor Hilary Sares was the first person in the business to say "You have talent and a great voice" and she has offered tons of advice along the way. Deborah Elliott-Upton once put me in the hospital while whipping me into writing shape in a short story course.

Who are your favorite authors to read? This is the hardest question as I have dozens of favorites. Without comment here are the ones that immediately come to mind. Richard Russo, Jodi Picoult, Ian McEwan, Jennifer Crusie, Nicholas Evans, Anne Tyler, Joshilyn Jackson, Carl Hiasson, David Guterson, Kinky Freidman, Jennifer Archer, Maeve Binchy, Janet Evanovich, Mark Twain, J.K. Rowling, Ernest Hemingway and more that I am forgetting right now.


So tell me how we are the same and how we differ. Any of those authors make your favorite list? Who did I forget?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Two Lines

It's still Tuesday so I'm going to chime in for Two Line Tuesday, the weekly web feature brought to you by the fine minds over at the Women of Mystery blog.

From an as yet untitled short story ...

I'd heard the resonating heart beat of my child before, but today the thunderous twang rang louder, more definitive, and sounded exactly like a saw blade being bent to a steady rhythm.

The ultrasound technician squinted at the monitor before saying, "He's going to be a big one."


I can't decide if I want to stick to first person or write the story in third.

And from my recent reading of Me talk Pretty one Day by David Sedaris. I think writers will relate with this passage.

Unlike the faint scurry of fingers on a plastic computer keyboard, the smack and clatter of a typewriter suggests that you're actually building something. At the end of a miserable day, instead of grieving my virtual nothing, I can always look at my loaded wastepaper basket and tell myself that if I failed, at least I took a few trees down with me.

While I got a chuckle out of Sedaris's passage, I for one am grateful for the ease of writing and editing on a computer. The clickity-clack of an old fashioned typewriter might be comforting, but with my fat fingers and poor typing skills it would take me years to finish a novel.

How about y'all?

The Confession Booth

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother has had a somewhat morbid obsession with obituaries. She reads nearly every last word of the snippets about the recently deceased, and then guesses what caused the unlucky soul's demise.

These diagnoses go in spurts. A few years back diabetes seemed to be her favored method of death, especially if the small picture of the person seemed obese. Too skinny and she surmises AIDS to be the fatal disease. For teenagers suicide is nearly always the call, even when there is a front page story about a car load of high school students in a fatal crash.

Death is not a funny subject but this has gone on for so many years that her habit has become a source of teasing in our family. If one of us throws out a wild guess or comes across as being a bit nosy the retort is usually something like, "Now you sound like granny."

Well I'm saving them the trouble. Today I'm using this blog as sort of a confessional.

I used to work with a guy whom I never got a long with despite we both being avid sports fans. We talked, said hello, and never had a confrontation of any real sort, yet it always seemed like a competition somehow. I guess we were what you call Frenemies.

A few months back he got fired. Truth be told I didn't feel all that bad for him. He'd screwed up and he paid a price for it. His wife had left him a few months before. Then another friend saw him and told me both his car and house had been repossessed. Again, I didn't feel any great surge of sympathy.

Today I came into work and there was a note taped to the time clock. The man had died. I stood staring at the stark black ink on the white paper taped there. Shocked, I muttered, " Shit."

And then I did what my grandma has done for years. I made a wild assumption. My mind immediately whispered, "I bet he committed suicide." He'd lost everything ... his wife, his daughters, home, job, car.

I asked myself if I could have done something. He'd needed a friend. I could have picked up the phone and called. I felt true sympathy and a good bit of guilt. Then I heard that I was wrong. A massive heart attack had claimed his life. I'm still saddened that a man in his mid-forties dies so young and left behind young kids, but I m glad that he didn't just give up. I'm glad that his daughters won't wonder why he chose to leave them fatherless. And yes, I am a bit ashamed at my quickness to assign the cause of his death.