Friday, April 30, 2010
But anyone who has know me for a while realizes I've never been one to conform to the world around me. I'm more rebellious than that. i root for the underdog. Champion the unpopular, and rebel against the established ideals or things that become mainstream or popular.
And besides all that I am the same guy that swore off ALL organized religion for nearly two decades. I have argued that the Bible is nothing more than a loose guideline of wholesome ideals. I have described religion as a crutch for the feeble bodied and weak minded. I have dared God to prove to me of His existence.
Evolution? Yep. I have argued for years on behalf of it's scientific provability.
Heaven? Yep. I have voiced serious doubts to its existence.
The Anti-Christ. Yes that is what a coworker called me only a few short years ago when I was debating religion with him.
Church? I refused to go for more than twenty years believing it to be nothing more than a building for scam artists to fleece their flocks out of cash.
Now don't get me wrong. I've always believed there were consequences for evil deeds and rewards for love, compassion, and kindness. DO THE RIGHT THING. LET YOUR HEART GUIDE YOU. FOLLOW YOUR CONSCIENCE.
I truly have tried to live by those commandments but I damn sure didn't need some preacher in a cheap suit telling me EXACTLY how to do those things.
So how then have I embarked on a faith journey which leads right to the doors of the most structured and ritualistic of all Christian religions ... Catholicism?
Well, since quite a few of you seemed interested when I mentioned that I was signed on to take 18 months of RCIA (Right of Christian Initiation Adult) classes. I thought I would start talking a bit about my faith journey. How I went from being a young boy forced, yes forced, to attend services and Sunday School at a Southern Baptist Church, to anti establishment agnostic, to now a catechumenate?
Most likely I will not post every Friday, but on the ones I do I will call these post Faithful Fridays. These post will be about my journey and how I have arrived at this point. They are not meant to convince anyone else. Nor do I want to hear from those trying to convince me I am making the wrong decision. I believe there are many roads that lead to the same place and I have chosen my path. You may have chosen another, or you may have decided you don't like to travel at all. That is your decision and one only you can make.
It is highly likely that my readers interest was only fleeting and no one will care or comment on these posts. If that is the case I will stop posting but after one or two but since I still have nearly a year of classes I will keep at it as long as a few of you seem to care.
And yeah a few friends have pointed out that I chose one of the few religions that condones both beer and gambling. That is true enough, but I also reminded them that during Lent Catholics have to give up meat on Fridays and for a carnivore like me that's a pretty damn big sacrifice.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
As promised, here are a few shots from my recent fishing trip to Lake Buchanan down in the Texas Hill Country.
The Bluebonnets were in full bloom.
At 2 miles, Lake Buchanan's dam is the longest multi-arch dam in the United States.
Fishing was tough this year. Matter of fact I did not catch a single striper that met the required 18 inch minimum length. I caught a few white bass or sand bass as we call them in my area and several undersized stripers and largemouth bass.
I've made this same trek three years in a row now and while this was the worst year for fishing, I had never seen so many wildflowers in bloom.
I could identify the bluebonnets and Indian Paints ...
but others I'm not sure of. Like these ...
No doubt some of you can name it.
And for those who emailed or left comments asking about the Amazon contest, I'm sad to report my entry got sacked like yesterday's groceries. I'll share my Publishers Weekly review once it is released in a few days. I'm proud to have made it as far as I did, yet bummed to be ousted. Now I've got to get on the ball and try to find a home for the novel as I truly do believe in the story.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Remember people punctuation is your friend.
If you've read this blog very long you know I'm far from being a grammar guru, but even I couldn't help but ask myself questions after spotting this.
Is it okay to sit on table and improperly dispose of trash?
Can I just sit on the table and not dispose of my trash at all?
What if I first properly dispose of my trash and then sit on the table?
Monday, April 19, 2010
When the well-preserved body of 17th century mapmaker Johannes Cellarius floats to the surface of a bog in northern Germany, and a 57 carat ruby rolls out of his fist, treasure hunters from around the globe race to find the Lost Tavernier Stones of popular European folklore.
And let me say, what a race it is. To learn more about the novel visit www.stephenparrish.com.
But wait that's not all. Stephen has also created a virtual treasure hunt. He is giving away a one carat diamond to the first person who can find the image of one he has hidden somewhere on the web; the contest is described at www.tavernierstones.com.
Now a guest post from Stephen.
A Tangible Vision
There isn't an aspiring writer within the sound of my voice who hasn't envisioned his or her book at the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Or making an appearance on Larry King Live. Or throngs of fans waiting in line to buy an autographed copy. For my part, I've always entertained a fantasy about being an extra in a major Hollywood production of my novel; my daughter pointing at the screen, saying, "Look, there's dad!"
I think all such visions are normal and healthy, if unrealistic. There is one vision, however, that is not only realistic, it has magical powers: holding your published book in your hands.
That was the vision I kept before me as I wrote my novel. It was the vision I burnished in my mind as I faced a hailstorm of rejections, first from agents, then from publishers. It was the vision that helped me break through. Because I knew all along that it alone, among all my other visions and fantasies, was truly achievable.
All writers are naturally book lovers. They enjoy the feel of books in their hands, the smell of open pages. The content of the book is, of course, the point of it all, nevertheless a book can't help being a tangible entity independent of the words that comprise it, however important or enlightening those words may be. A book is a tactile object, a physical incarnation of the author's imagination. An artifact.
Trust me, you'll pick yours up, over and over, just to hold it in your hands.
Envisioning doing so will change the way you approach your goal. On a conscious level, you'll turn the computer on when you don't feel like it, you'll eek out one more paragraph before shutting down. But the real magic happens in the subconscious mind.
A vision is nothing more than an image of something that doesn't yet exist. For reasons that aren't clear, the subconscious mind continues working on problems even after the conscious mind has given up on them. Mathematicians are well acquainted with the phenomenon: they often wake up in the morning with a solution that eluded them the night before.
Keep a realistic vision before you, one that you consciously know to be attainable, and your behavior will adjust in ways too subtle to notice. Your focus will sharpen automatically. Maybe eventually you'll climb atop a bestseller list, autograph a thousand copies of your book in one afternoon, and buy Johnny Depp a beer "after work." Until then, those fantasies aren't likely to help much; the subconscious mind is hard to fool.
Picture your book in your hands when you sit down to write. Picture it in your hands when you go to bed at night. Picture it in your hands during every idle moment of every day.
If you're anything like me, your hands will shake as you open the Fedex package from your publisher. The artifact inside will be solid and dense. It will smell that wonderful smell of having just come off the press. You'll sit quietly for a few minutes, staring at your name on the cover, running your fingers along the edges and surfaces. Holding it.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
No wonder he looks so damned pleased in that picture. Blogging has afforded me the opportunity top get to know and interact with a lot of great people. The talented, the funny, and the successful. Mark just happens to be all three. And graciously he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions so I could post them here for y'alls enjoyment.
And yeah, Mark is way ahead of my in the writing game, but at least I can take heart that I'm far better at growing hair that he is. One of these days I'll challenge him to a goatee growing contest though given his background he probably has some evil chemical compound that grows hair faster than you can say Homeland Security.
A bit about The Fallen before I ask my questions.
When twenty of the world's most powerful leaders meet at the G8 Summit, the fate of the world will rest on one man's shoulders.
Twenty world leaders meet for the G8 Summit at the beautiful Cheyenne Resort in Colorado Springs. But an ugly plot lurks beneath the surface: a terrorist group, The Fallen Angels, plans to wreak havoc on the summit.
With the Secret Service, the FBI, Homeland Security, the military, and security from twenty different governments on hand, shouldn't the resort be the safest place in the world?
It seems impossible that a terrorist group could infiltrate the summit. And yet they do. Within minutes, twenty world leaders are taken hostage, and Richard Coffee, the group's leader, makes his first demand: release twenty detainees from Guantanamo Bay, or he'll execute one leader each hour until his demands are met.
Only one man can disrupt this plot. Derek Stillwater is that man.
My suspicion is that the primary reason to stay with a single character is that in theory you build an audience faster. Readers--and I'm definitely like this--like to hang out with the same characters over and over again, if they like them. For years I always wanted to have a long-running series, something like Robert B. Parker's Spenser that ran for 50 years. Now, I increasingly think that most series have a finite life. I don't know how many books I'll have with Derek, and I'm not always sure it's a matter of me growing tired of him; he may be growing tired of me and just want to retire and take it easy. But not for a while yet. I also have a problem with a suspension-of-disbelief issue. How many times can Derek get into these messes? It's like, how many really bad days can Jack Bauer have? How many murders can Jessica Fletcher solve in Cabot Cove? Readers and viewers might be able to suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride, but the writer needs to, too, and sometimes that can be a problem. And I do find that there's a freshness and energy that comes to starting a new book with a new character that's different than working on with a repeating main character. Granted, there are pluses with revisiting a main character, because you know how they'll behave and know at least some of their backstory. But you need to dig each time to add depth and that can be hard work. Strictly from a writer's perspective, I increasingly see the value of writing stand-alone novels, each one a unique character, unique self-contained world and idea and character arc. One of the problems with a series is generally speaking the character doesn't change much book to book. They change some, they grow and develop, but it's a much slower process than in a stand-alone, where the novelist can really show a character's growth and response to events.
I'm pleased with them, because those are very successful, well-liked and memorable characters. It's a kind of shortcut for readers who aren't familiar with Derek. If you like Bourne and "24" there's a good chance you'll like Derek Stillwater. But that goes for a lot of other characters, too, like Lee Child's Jack Reacher and others. One obvious difference is Derek's subspecialty, which is biological and chemical terrorism. Another, I think, is he's a little more quirky and neurotic than Bourne and Bauer. He's sort of superstitious, he has panic attacks, he gets in these odd moods where he sort of withdraws from what he's doing to listen to music and let his subconscious take over. His background is different, too, not just the Special Forces training, and the doctorate in microbiology and biochemistry, but being raised by missionary physicians all over the world. It hasn't played a direct role in the books yet, but it's an odd influence that helps explain some of his quirkiness, I think.
At the moment I'm promoting The Fallen a lot. The 4th Derek Stillwater novel is written and edited and scheduled for September 2011. It's title at the moment is THE VALLEY OF SHADOWS. My agent is shopping around some other work, some of it a little different than Stillwater, one a thriller that takes place in Beijing. I've started working on the fifth Derek Stillwater novel, tentatively titled THE SINS OF THE FATHER. I've got a pet project I've been working on for about half a year, a science fiction novel that takes place on a different planet a couple hundred years in the future. I also have hopes of writing a Derek Stillwater novella and possibly publishing it as an e-book, but we'll see if I have time for it. If that sounds like too many projects at once, you're right. It probably is, but it's sort of reflexive. I just write.
"I just write." Mark that's a great way to wrap up. Too many of would-be writers fail at that simple task all too often. myself included. thanks again for taking the time to join me here on the blog.
For those who've never had the pleasure of reading Mark's work, be sure and pick up a copy of The Fallen at your local book store or online by clicking on the links provided. And of course check out his blog as well.
Friday, April 16, 2010
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy ... unless Jack happens to be a gigolo.
Love is Blind ... and lust is deaf, but chances are the hotel guests in the next are not so try and hold it down.
A rolling stone gathers no moss ... but lots of weed and groupies.
Money cannot buy happiness ... though it does enable you to rent it for a few hours.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush ... nevertheless bush is still better than your hand.
Out of small acorns grow mighty oaks ... except when the squirrels find your nuts and eat them.
Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime ... then again he'll be eating off of Taco Bell's value menu because most of his cash will be spent at Bass Pro Shop.
Absence makes the heart grow fonder ... but it's hell on the school budget, so make your kid go to school or they'll toss your butt in jail.
Fact is stranger than fiction ... unless Christopher Moore's name is on the spine.
Boys will be boys ... except when they have surgery and change their name to Lady Gaga.
You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs ... which is fine but why the hell do you wanna eat something that just fell out of a chicken's ass anyway?
Easy come, easy go ... unless she fell asleep with her arm across your chest.
A man is known by the company he keeps ... which spells trouble for those of you still reading this post.
Don't cry over spilt milk ... wait until you dad smack you upside the head for ruining the carpet.
Blood is thicker than water ... but a water clot never killed anybody so watch out when your famiuly gangs up on you.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth ... though I'm not sure why because nothing good comes out the other end.
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen ... or at least spring for a microwave.
It's better to give than receive ... especially when it comes to ass whippings.
You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar ... but who cares, since nobody wants flies anyway. might as well say you can catch more crabs from a cheap hooker than a barmaid.
An early bird catches the worm ... but the second mouse gets the cheese ... and the third time is the charm ... so what the heck does fourth get you. Not much but a a fifth will get your drunk.
Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy wealthy and wise ... and most likely a virgin as well.
All that glitters is not gold ... sometimes it's only a stripper who read one to many vampire books.
Don't make a mountain out of a molehill ... because the snowboarding will suck.
Brevity is the soul of wit ... which is why I should have quit a dozen lines ago.
Okay gang, let me hear one or two of your own warped thinking.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Of those first eighteen years, I spent every last one of them living on this street.
My house sat on a corner lot of what I'd describe as a lower middle class neighborhood on the far southeastern corner of Amarillo. It was a great place to grow up. Two blocks to the south a boy found nothing but empty fields. Only a mile or so to the south lay more open country and if we boys dared to chance the ire of the farmer who owned it, there was a small fishing pond we could sneak to and fish. We were close enough to being out of town that the firecrackers stands were but a mere bike ride away and many a day we dug aluminum cans out of the alley dumpsters to provide the funds for our afternoon destruction.
But my street had something unique to the neighborhood. Row after row, street after street for every lot was occupied. The houses had all been built in the late sixties and early seventies and apparently the market had been good but through all of the Oakdale edition there wasn't but one vacant lot -- two houses down and directly across the street from mine.
We played countless games of baseball there. yes breaking the occasional window, yes losing balls to backyards to dogs and grouchy old men we feared.
We played football there despite the fact there were more goatheads and stickers than blades of grass.
We settled our differences with our fists the way boys used to do. No one ran home for a weapon or to have their parents file a restraining order. My short memoir piece titled The Hard Way and first published with Opium Magazine was set at the vacant lot.) click here to read it.
We played demolition derby with our dirt bikes on that lot. The object of that game was the run into and crash your friend without putting your foot down. The last person riding who hadn't put a foot down was the winner. Yeah we spent a lot of time repairing bent chain sprockets, patching the tubes from those goatheads, and denying we put our foot down.
I made friends at that lot.
I made enemies there too.
At least enemies in the sense that you have them at the age of 9 ... 10 ... or 11
My buddy Jason and I waged a war on the red ants that continually claimed the dirt lot for themselves. We mixed concoctions from the chemicals we found in my garage and in truth it's a miracle none of them ever blew up or asphyxiated us. Some of them were smoking and bubbling as we poured them into the anthill despite the fact they had no heat source. Please of you work for the EPA disregard anything I have typed here.
Sometimes we got lucky and found a horny toad who'd come to the lot to dine on the many ants. No, we never actually got on the spit blood from it's eyes though we certainly tried.
I shed a tons of body fluid on that lot. From pints of blood in the fights, bicycle demolition derby, and tackle football games, buckets of sweat from playing out in the 100 degree summertime heat, and yes even salty tears when things didn't go my way.
But last week, I had my saddest moment ever in regards to that vacant lot. You see my dad still lives in the house I grew up in and when I pulled up and looked down the street this is what I spied ...Forty years after the first house on the block was built and nearly that many since any of them were built, SOMEONE has built over every the hallowed ground of my childhood.
Here is what it looks like from the driveway of my old house.
The site of that lot covered up is both foreign and odd to me. I am 37 years old father of two, but in many ways seeing that freshly framed and bricked house makes me for the first time feel like childhood is over, never to be reclaimed.
It is highly doubtful that me and all my old pals from the neighborhood ever would have ever stepped foot on that rough, uneven lot together again, much less broke out the BMXs or footballs, but I felt better knowing that there was at least a chance. And I hope like hell the people take good care of my red ants.
For more My Town Monday posts from all over the globe, or to join in with one of your own please visit the My Town Monday site.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
First off Kielbasa is sausage. Meaty goodness that is a staple of my diet.
Often times I toss a few links on the grill and then when they are finished cooking I wrap them in a flour tortilla and call that supper. Kielbasa is particularly washed down with a cold beer.
And you are correct Hilary. I have no qualms eating with a bit of worm dirt still on my fingers. Matter of fact I'd rather eat the worms dirt and all that to taint my taste beds with a single shred of lettuce.
Avery however is wrong. I was not trying to steal my lunch so I did not have the package of kielbasa stuffed inside my pants. That was a worthy theory but apparently;y the milk maid like me despite my shortcomings.
Now for the question you all wanted to know. How did I respond the her comment?
You probably expect something witty, but sadly that is not the case. Instead I reached inside one of the drink coolers and said, "Guess I'll have to settle for Dr. Pepper."
She offered milk at her place I opted for soda. A friend of mine read yesterdays blog and sent this picture asking if the milk gal was wearing this ...
I'm happy to report she was not.
Onto to other absurdity. I always enjoy checking my account at statcounter to see what Google searches have led people to my blog. yesterday I discovered this gem of a search ...
a woman's father has hairy ear rims. what is the chance that she will pass on the gene to one of her
Being weird I'm somewhat proud that such a topic leads to my blog, but what I find truly interesting is the questions this search makes me ask.
First off, who was looking ...
A) A pregnant woman concerned her soon to be arriving child is gonna come out looking like the Wolfman?
B) A smitten dude who is madly in love with his girlfriend and wants to pop the question, but fears the gene pool of his beloved?
C) Or is the hairy-eared father himself, trying to decide if he has forever cursed his family with his fuzzy Auricles.
And I like the word choices. They didn't merely say hairy ears. Not they elaborated and typed hairy ear rims. I for one have never thought of my ears as having rims though I suppose they do. Some people spend lots of money on fancy rims for their cars that shine, keep spinning, and or add that touch of class only gold plated metal can bring.
Maybe ear rims are the next big thing. Maybe people starting to add some bling to their ears in the way they have their jewelry, teeth and automobiles. In that case the google searcher may have been ahead of the game looking for a fuzzy family to insure their offspring a good chance to stand out without resorting to ear hair weaves to enhance their rims. Laugh it up, but the hairy ear rim movement has already started, and this guy is the guru.
Monday, April 5, 2010
Well I'm tall -- 6'5" to be exact.
My hair is mostly black. Yeah the percentage of gray ones increases every day, but at least for a few more years I'll still qualify as being dark.
That only leaves handsome. Given the fact I've never had to beat the ladies off with a stick this must me the category I fall short in. Nevertheless, I did get hit on at Wal-Mart this weekend.
Let me set the scene.
My buddy Rob and I are headed out to his tract of land for a bit of fishing, hiking, and gun shooting. My two boys are along to get their dose of outdoorsy adventure. We head out a little after 7:30 but we decide to stop at Wal-Mart to pick up fishing worms, tortillas and kielbasa.
My boys stay out in the truck with Rob while I run in. At that time of morning the store was nearly empty so I grab the worms to feed the fish and the meat to feed us. But then I decide o buy the boys some donuts. And nothing goes better with a donut than milk so sitting my purchases on the counter I look in the cool drink cases between the registers to see of they have any milk in them.
The clerk is busy ringing up the only other customer in line but she sees me looking and asks if I need help.
"Is there milk in any of these drink coolers?" I ask.
The Wal-Mart lade shakes her head. "No, I don't think so."
It was at this point that the customer in front of me, a somewhat plain, but decent enough looking lady in her early thirties , sized me up by letting her eyes roam up and down my body. Apparently deciding she liked me she lowered her voice and in a sultry tone, said, "I have some milk at my house."
Now let me stop here and analyze this.
I'm not the kind of guy who gets hit on often so that alone was a bit surprising. But to get hit on before 8 AM from a gal that seemed totally sober was a real shocker. Maybe she liked my worms. Maybe it was the phallic shape of the kielbasa that suddenly got her in the mood. Maybe my Irish Spring soap made her feel lucky enough to go after a pot of gold. Maybe she just digs big hairy dudes. I don't know, but I applaud her for originality. it ain't often you can use something as wholesome as a milk as the basis of a pickup line.
Maybe this particular gal simply has a different set of criteria ... Tall, dark, and not lactose intolerant.
So now I must ask the question. What's the strangest pickup situation you've ever experienced?
Friday, April 2, 2010
Okay maybe not.
Here at my post office there seems to be a lot more whining going on than singing and I seriously doubt we have anyone with the musical talent or dexterity to pull off that type of letter canceling. Good thing we don't since my job is actually to keep the machines that cancel the mail running. Then again, machines are not nearly as entertaining as that fellow.
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Once upon a time I found it appropriate that I started this blog on April Fool's day. After all, most of what I say here is rather foolish, but I now know I'd have been a bigger fool not to have blogged.
I have had the great fortune to make many great friends as a result of this blog end despite the fact I've met very few of you in person I can honestly say y'all have been there for me when I needed you. I am not so sure I have anything fresh to say after being at it this long, but I truly appreciate all of you read regularly and comment when you can. There are a ton of blogs, facebook games, and other diversions out there and I'm very pleased that y'all continue to send a slice of your day here with me at this blog. Each and every comment makes my day.
Of course now I have a little favor to ask you. What posts have your read here that have stuck with you. I'd love to hear one or two examples of posts over the years that you found memorable. Whether they made you laugh, cringe, or simply think, Wow, that Travis is one wierd dude. Also, I'd love to know what first brought you here.
I thank y'all for three great years, and hopefully I'll be around writing the