Monday, February 28, 2011

Smoke Hangs Heavy Over My Town, and My Heart

Amarillo has apparently made the national news. Yesterday the winds here roared. 50+MPH for most of the day. We have had very little moisture in months. It is still too early for any of the grass or vegetation to be green and leafed out. So when several fires roared to life the quickly got out of control.

Several of y'all have emailed to ask if me and my family were affected. The quick answer is now were were not.

But most of y'all have red my blog for sometime so you know fire is a sensitive subject for me. For you newcomers my house burnt to the ground back in January of 2009. At that time I live in a narrow canyon called Palisades to the south of Amarillo.

Yesterday the wind blown wildfires roared through that canyon and best as I can tell from early reports nearly every house in the Palisades suffered damage and most burnt to the ground. I still have many friend among my former neighbors and I'm trying to get in touch with them but so far have had no luck. Reports say everyone got out. I pray they are correct.

My house fire was traced to electrical problems within the wall and truth be told I would have rebuilt on my old land, but Jennifer simply couldn't do it. She said she would never be able to forget how long it took responders to show up due to the remote location. I on the other hand am a lightening never strikes twice in the same spot kind of guy.

I would have been wrong. Had I insisted we rebuild on our little slice of country land I would today be once again staring at ash and wondering what the hell do we do now. We lived at the far Eastern end of the Palisades and I wonder what it would have been like to be there yesterday. Trying to get out as a huge fire raced toward me and my family.

I hope the victims of these wildfires are as blessed as my family and I were. The support we received from friends and family, many of ya'll included was truly life renewing and this evening I plan to take some items to the local Red Cross shelter and try to ascertain the whereabouts and safety of my friends. All the while I'll be pondering the possibility, for the first time ever, that perhaps our fire two years ago was a blessing in disguise.
 
For other MTM posts click here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

My Yin Yang



I imagine most folks know this symbol and its meaning. If you don't a look at my life this week kind of sums it up.

I'm excited for the pending release of my short story, Plundered Booty, which will appear along with 11 other great stories in this book in only a matter of days.


But just yesterday I found out I didn't even make it past the first round of  this years Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Contest. I've consoled myself by saying this first round cuts are made solely off of a 250 word pitch and not one word of the actual novel. Nevertheless, getting cut after fairing reasonably well the others years bummed me out.

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

After nearly a year and a half of attending RCIA classes I am excited at the approach of the Lenten season and Easter. At which point I will be baptized, take first communion and officially become Catholic. The Baptismal font at our church is  sunken down a few steps and large enough for an adult to kneel in why the priest pours water over their head.  Since no baptismal are done during lent it is very likely that I will be the next person to be baptized.

But as with my writing an event took place this past week which "dampened" my enthusiasm just a mite. I didn't witness the even myself but my boys did as part of their weekly school mass. The church and school are in an older part of town. Across the street lies a large city park which is a favorite hangout of Amarillo's homeless population. It is not uncommon for them to visit the church and attend mass, but last week the visitor had some issues.

Long story short she got upset during mass and commandeered the Monsignor's chair. To further demonstrate her agitation she urinated in the chair. Apparently she did not like the sensation of warm urine running down her leg so the woman's next act was to go wading in the baptismal font.

Upon hearing this story I could think of only one thing ... "I knew that as an unbaptized convert to I'd soon be sprinkled upon, but her added ingredient wasn't exactly what I had in mind."

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For several months now I've been working with a group of 2nd graders in preparation for a storytelling contest, and the kids have really found their groove. The competition is Saturday morning down in Lubbock, Texas and I'm eager to see how they fare. Here is how it works. Someone reads them a story and then one by one they go to a different room and tell retell the story they just heard to an audience and judge that has not heard the original version. My only concern was and is their nerves at standing before a room of strangers. I've been trying to teach them how to improvise and make the story their own to distinguish themselves from the group. This week I brought in an audience to get them used to speaking in front of strangers.

And just when I'd about given up on them making the story their own, one tiny little girl stepped up to deliver her version of Pecos Bill's birth on the prairie. Bright eyed and with a smile she told the crowd that Pecos Bill's real name was Bob and after he fell into the river and nearly drowned he was raised by a pack of werewolves.

Now that truly was a tall tale.

I think HBO has already optioned film rights.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Call A Priest

For years now I've been preaching both on this blog and in person that Lettuce is The Devil. But Satan is a wily character and can sneak up on a man anytime, anyplace, via any variety of means. Of course we men are most weak when it comes to those we love.

Recently a desperate plea came to me via twitter ...

  @ made me eat a whole wheat pita with spinach and grilled chicken! Help me Obi-Wan, your my only hope!
 
  
I responded to his call with this tweet  ... 
@ Tell @ that's the culinary equivalent of making a man sit to piss. Only sexual favors can amend such an act.
The ever grateful Charles responded with ...
 
@ @ YES, MY BROTHER!!! I knew you would hear my cry!!
 
But his poor wife Crystal was under the evil ones grip and answered us in this demonic fashion  ...
@ @ Oh, you big babies.
To be fair I knew Crystal before Charles. When I say know I mean we read and comment on each others blog. Crystal is a writer and avid reader which earns points for me, but over time I've learned Charles is a fellow meat eater and stand up guy. Only today did I even discover he also blogs.

And it was his most recent post that shook me to the core. The atrocities he describes are more than I can bear, but i think we cans till save poor Charles from and his recently possessed wife from the depths of a fiery hell that not even Dante could have imagined.  I warn you the scenes he describes are gruesome and not for the faint of heart. But this man needs help, so please stop by his blog and offer a word of encouragement. or of you live anywhere near Alabama, he is in desperate need of a T-Bone. 

The post can be found here ...


The Posey Life: The Granola Bar Story:
 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Wonder What I'd Weigh On The Richter Scale

Did you feel that? That little quiver at your feet? Maybe it felt more like a rumble if you live anywhere close to Texas. No the tremor wasn't an earthquake. That resounding thud and vibration was me falling of the wagon.

As you may have noticed I haven't been blogging every week about the status of my goals. Matter of fact, I haven't chimed in on that subject in 4 weeks now.


Back on January 25th I weighed in at 280 pounds. Today on February 22nd I weigh in at ... wait for it 280.


That's right folks I haven't lost a damn thing in the last month. You see, I like to eat and while the urge to drop pounds was great when I was up to 297, but with twenty pounds to spare I simply do not have the willpower to turn down that 5th and 6th beer, that third rum and coke. Or that second burger third dinner roll. Or that entire coconut cream pie Jennifer made me for Valentines day. I thought I was being generous when I let the boys have one slice apiece. 


Yeah my gut is bigger than it's supposed to be but am 6'5". That is 77 total inches and if you divide 280 by 77 I weigh a mere 3.63 pounds per inch.


I've been doing better in regards to my goal of reading 75 books this year. Since my last check in I have read 5 books bringing my total to 9 on the year. The latest reads were  ...


Catholic Church
by Hans Kung
Signs of Life
by Scott Hahn
Summer at Willow Lake (Lakeshore Chronicles Series #1)
by Susan Wiggs
 
Huckleberry Finn from the Complete Mark Twain Collection (Over 300 works)
by Mark Twain
  
Stuck in the Middle
by Virginia Smith
 
 
 
 Two nonfiction religion books, a romance novel, a classic, and a women's fiction novel.
 
 
My own writing has been hit and miss. I've written a lot of words on my WIP but kept very few of them. I did send out some queries and I picked up some freelance work writing high school football profiles for a regional magazine called Top of Texas Football Magazine.  I wrote for them last year and luckily they invited me back.
 
 
I doubt I'll get back on board the weight loss cart anytime soon, but just as sure as a fat man loves a buffet I'll keep o reading and writing. 
 
 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Duck, Duck, Goose

Not much of a My Town Monday post but here is a Hitchcock-esque video I shot when the boys and I went fishing at a city park here in Amarillo, Texas. During the winter, the state stocks this location with rainbow trout every other week. Come summer they toss in channel catfish. the boys and I usually catch a few but sadly we had no luck this day.


video



Okay so those geese are not quite as frightening as Alfred's birds of terror. nevertheless, getting bombed by canadian geese crap isn't exactly a picnic in the park either.



To check out posts from other town please visit the official My Town Monday blog.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shakin' Me Booty

Unless this is your first visit to this blog chances are you have heard me discuss Plundered Booty.

Plundered Booty started as a short story about a good ol' boy car salesman from Red Dirt, Oklahoma. A few of my writing friends read it and encouraged me to flesh out the characters and the plot and turn it into a novel. I did that very thing and I was proud of the effort, but I never could find a home for the novel so I shelved it and moved on to my next project.

Then one day I got an email from accomplished author Mark Terry.  Mark said he was putting together a collection of short crime stories and he asked if I'd like to join. He told me a few of the names he'd invited and I was flattered to be invited to join such fine, talented company. I'm not dummy so no way was I gonna turn down a golden opportunity like he was offering.

I said yes.

Then a little voice spoke to me. "Hey numb nuts! You don't write crime fiction."

I pushed that voice aside. Writing is writing I said and there was this story about a murder that I'd been contemplating. I started writing. Realized I didn't like the plot of the characters involved. That's when i panicked and it was laying in bed thinking how the hell am I gonna come up with a crime story and not embarrass myself or make mark regret his invite?

There in the dark of the night that little voice returned. "Hey numb nuts. I tried to tell you but you wouldn't listen. You write women's fiction and humor. Matter of fact the closest thing you ever wrote to a crime story was Plundered Booty."

This time I listened to the voice. At least to the last words of its little speech. Plundered Booty had crime in it. A couple of them as a matter of fact. And I'd written it as a modern day pirate story. Pirates were certainly criminals. And it was a damn good story, if i did say so myself.

But even the short story version was kind of long on word count I said. And at its heart it was a humor piece a bit shy on blood and violence. So I shot Mark an email. I explained what Plundered Booty was and wasn't. He told me humor was okay. He said his own story for the anthology was a lighter piece about a vertically challenged PI.

But the anal writer in me couldn't simply send in that old original version of Booty. So I started tweaking adding things from the novel version and damned if my booty didn't swell even more. Long story short, I worked and whittled and finally sent it off.

I'm proud to say Plundered Booty will soon be available as part the fine collection Mark has put together. Looks like it will be available via Kindle and nook right around March 1st. A trade paperback version will be out a month or so later.

Here is what it's gonna look like ...



Friday, February 18, 2011

Me & Them

Being a dad has turned me into a hypocrite of sorts.

I look fondly back at the things I did -- enjoyed, and yet I shelter my own boys from many such experiences.

On one hand a wish they could experience the kind of freedom I had as a kid, but then I am the very person who most often denies them those freedoms.

I sometimes think I'm doing them a  disservice, sheltering them too much, I fear they will not know how to deal with "real word" situations and yet I take pride that at 10 and 8 they think of FART as the F word.

I think of the childhood they are having in comparison to my own and wonder how different a person I would be had I been raised with the advantages they have.

Now I'm not saying I had a bad childhood. I en joyed my days as a carefree kid allowed to roam the entire southeast side of Amarillo. Yeah my vocabulary included words no mother wants their son to say, but I had sense to know not to deploy an F Bomb within earshot of an adult. Except that one time, when we were trying to get out the door to church and my mom was yelling at me to hurry, and I was trying to tie my shoe, and my older brother kept pushing me over over time I knelt to grab the laces. I'd had enough, so I screamed at him, "LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!"

That was the first time my mom had ever heard me curse. I was all of nine or so, but I was wily. So when she asked where I learned such language I paid my brother back by innocently smiling and pointing at him. He was about 15 at the time and caught an earful all the way to church.

But by far the biggest difference between my boys and I is myself.

I take an active role in their life -- My dad never did.

He was a salesmen, traveling and otherwise) and therefore rarely home. Even when in town he wasn't home. He liked to gamble. And he liked Canadian Whiskey even more. Except for hunting and fishing expeditions we spent very little time together. The same is actually true to this day.

When he was home he and my mother fought. Vigorously.

I do not believe my boys have ever heard Jennifer or I raise our voices at each other.

I have no memories of my parents together when one or both were not screaming at the top of their lungs.

My mom took care of me. But she had to work to do so. that meant there were things I simply had to take care of by myself. Well, in theory my brother was around, but he never was blessed with much in the way of common sense so I pretty much fended for myself.

People say divorce has a profound impact on kids lives. For me the actual event had next to no impact.

My dad never had been around much. Matter of fact I didn't even know my parents were divorced until one day my mother took me out for pizza. As we were walking in, a lady was walking out." She looked at my mom and said, "I haven't seen you in years. How are you."

It was standing there, while not so patiently waiting to go inside and scarf down some peperoni pizza that I heard my mom say these words, "Oh no. I divorced him nearly three years ago."

I was nine or ten at the time and only when my mom added, "I don't think I'll ever get married again," did I realize she was talking about my dad.

True to her word she hasn't. Nor has my dad.

Once I got old enough and they no longer had reason to see each other or speak they quit fighting. That is not to say they like each other. They do not. I believe their dislike for one another has only festered through the years. To my knowledge they have not breathed the same air or shared a phone conversation in nearly two decades.

So it was quite funny the day my oldest son stared straight into my mom's eyes and said, "Meme, you should meet my Grandpa sometime. I think you'd like him."

I was unable to hide my grin at her chocked expression. After a moments pause my mom answered, "I've met him thank you very much."

That was three or four years ago and my son still cannot fathom that they once lived together as man and wife. He cannot comprehend that not everyone loves each other forever as promised.

I'm proud that Jennifer and I have provided a steadfast example for him but I'm nothing if not a realists and I fear both my boys will discover some of these things the hard way.

So tell me about your childhood and how it differs from the way your own kids are being raised.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Just Don't Stick It Behind Your Ear

The packaging on this product caught my eye.




Breast Gum? I thought to myself what exactly could that be. I posted a picture of the package on my Facebook along with a wisecrack about each individual piece looking like a nipple.
 

The talented Michael Gonzalez responded with a link to a website where this gum is for sale. Here is a blurb I've lifted from the website ...

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If going to the gym is too much effort and plastic surgery is not appealing, the other alternative is the all new Breast Enhancement Gum by Zoft! You can have fuller, firmer, larger breasts in as little as 30 days GUARANTEED – or your Money Back!


For years, women of all ages have been embarrassed by small, sagging, or underdeveloped breasts. This self-consciousness often leads to low self-esteem. Until now, breast enhancement solutions required expensive and frequently dangerous cosmetic surgery.
Finally there is a practical, low cost, safe alternative that is completely natural – Zoft Breast Enhancement Gum!
***********************

Being the skeptic I am ... I have no doubt that this gum is for big boobs, I'm just not buying the fact it will help increase anyone's mammary.


And why name it Zoft? There are lots of better names ... Double D Mint, Juicier Fruit, Bazooka Janes, Boobalicious. And of course if they ever produce a male version, they can call it diclets.


But man oh man, if this does catch on, I can't wait to see the trading cards.



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Monday, February 14, 2011

Cupid's Arrow Finds My Booty

This being the 2nd Monday of the month, it's my turn to host My Town Monday over at the official site. That means normally you'd find a post about Amarillo or the Texas Panhandle here, but this is no ordinary Monday. No, it is Valentines Day.


And in honor of Cupids arrival a group of bloggers have created the Just Kiss Already Blogfest.


I have decided to join in with a kissing scene from my short story Plundered Booty, which will soon be available in an e-book anthology titled ... DEADLY BY THE DOZEN: 12 Short Stories of Murder and Mayhem 




That body, those clothes, her confident demeanor. They should have been my warning sign, Dangerous Curve Ahead. But those lips … the slow way they parted … the painted red curves … the sultry tone of the words passing through them … the warmth of her breath on my neck. Yes, she was that close. Those lips made me hit the gas. They made me go in too fast. They made me plummet off the edge.


I wanted to say the heck with warning her. I wanted to taste her lips. Hell, I just plain wanted her. 

But I never got what I wanted, so I sure didn’t expect what came next.

Focusing solely on her big round eyes I said, “This job isn’t what you think. Junior has plans for you.”

Eva’s smile lured my attention back to those lips. “Men always have plans for me. At least Junior doesn’t make any bones about the nature of his plans.”


Her fingertips caressed my forearm in the exact spot where Fiona had touched me.

“It’s the men who keep their desires buried I worry about.” Her fingers crawled up my bicep. “You never know.” She caressed my neck. “When.” I swallowed hard as she traced my lips with her long nails. “They will lose control.”

My heart hammered in my chest.

“And take what they want.” She kissed me long and slow.



To see the list of other kissing participants click here, or of you have shown your town or area some Valentines love and want to participate in MTM click here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Musical Fruit Salad

There we are, sitting at the break table, when one of my coworkers drops this gem of a line ... "My wife's been feeding pineapple to our dogs so it will make their crap taste bad."


My first comment was, "Doesn't crap already taste bad. Hasn't that very fact spawned the all-too common-phrase ... Man this tastes like crap, even those most of us have never actually made a sack of any actual feces. At least I hope most of us fall into this category.

Coworkers next response. "The pineapple is supposed to make it taste even worse. So bad a dog won't want to eat their own crap."

This is where my smart ass meter pegged out. I had a hard time trying to decide which direction to go.

I settled on asking, "Which one of you is gonna taste it to see if its working?" To which I followed with, "I don't know. A shit eating dog might be a good thing. You'd never have to scoop poop the rest of your life."

My friend didn't find either comment all that funny.

At this point a third coworker chimed in. "They sell pills for that also. My wife buys them for our dog at PetSmart."



Again, I couldn't resist. "Man I'd hate to work in their quality control," I said. "Talk about a shitty job."





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Sunday, February 6, 2011

In A Perfect World

Here we are on Superbowl Sunday and while I'm as big a football fan as they come I can't help but think we over glorify athletes. Sure they possess rare talents and have worked hard to reach the pentacle of their profession, but so have others groups of people. Like authors for example.


I can't help but think of a perfect world where every other commercial featured a writer making big money for endorsing certain products.


The possibilities are endless.


Stephanie Meyer's face could stare adoringly into the camera and say, "You fell in love with Edward and his sparkling skin, now you too can shine is the sun, with this amazing apparatus." 




Stephen King or Chistopher Moore could loquaciously wax on about the smooth taste of Crown Royal or the suave sexiness of Amaretto and then at the end of the commercial say with a crooked grin,"What you think I come up with all that crap stone cold sober?"  



I can see it now ... stone expert Stephen Parrish recommending the perfect jeweler or diamond? Heck, he's such a diverse mastermind he can even tell you what wine to pour before asking your gal to marry you.














And who better to endorse really sharp knives than the wickedly talented Val Conrad?















John Grisham could hawk prepaid legal.



And I'd love to see Nicholas Sparks who seems to give his female readers exactly what they want, peddling condoms, ribbed for her pleasure of course.

And this guy ..



Mr. Mark Terry would be perfect (for several reasons) to extol the smooth shave of Gillette razors. 

Search Amazon.com for mark terry











So y'all tell me. What authors do you think would make perfect pitch men, and what would they sell?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Tale Of Two Novels

 What makes a book good?

It has been a week of illness in the Erwin household so I'm a bit off schedule with my blog posts. I missed my weekly goal posts. It was a mostly successful week but I'll catch you up on the particulars next week. For this post I want to discuss only one my goals. In my quest to read 75 books this year I finished two more this week to bring to total to 6 thus far.

Today I'm going to compare these two novels in tale of the tape fashion.


RESONANCE is a dark fantasy novel chocked full of demons, necromancers, and other worldly spirits set in Maryland.  The heroine is a self-centered rebellious young woman who struggles to accept the fate of mankind rests on her tattooed shoulders.
















An Uncommon Crusade is an inspirational work of historical fiction with a trio of protagonists spanning from the dark forests of thirteenth century Germany, through treacherous alpine passes, to a sprawling estate in  Egypt.                             
















Both are compelling reads that I had a hard time stepping away from.


RESONANCE was written by Avery Debow.I have never met Avery but I've read her blog for several years now. Avery is an edgy writer of dark fiction, a roller derby gal, and someone who at least seems to be the type to speak her mind even if that means ruffling a few feathers.

An Uncommon Crusade was written by Caron Guillo. Caron is in my critique group and I see her nearly every Monday. Caron is a mom, an international tour guide who spends a good bit of time in Italy, a mild-mannered woman of what I'd call a conservative nature.

Both are extraordinary writers of a vastly different styles and subject matter.

I purchased An Uncommon Crusade in softcover for $14.95 at Caron's release part a few weeks ago.

I purchased RESONANCE as a $2.95 ebook for my nook.

An Uncommon Crusade is of rather standard length for a novel, somewhere around 100,000 words I'd guess.

RESONANCE is much longer. I haven't read enough on my nook to be certain but hazarding a guess I'd say the novel is at least 180,000 words.

As you can see the differences in the two are many. And yet both captured me. Drew me in. Kept me reading until wee hours of the night.

Begging the question. Why? What was the common denominator that made me like them?

Sure both were written by friends, one an online friend of the blogosphere and the other a friend I meet with every week in person. But I have dozens of writerly friends. About every fifth book I read was written by a friend these days and not every one compels me to keep reading the way these two titles did.

Now these days I read as a writer first. Meaning I often stop at he end of every sentence and think about ways to edit the line. I did very little of that with these two stories. The writing was simply strong enough that compulsion was lost in my need to read more.

And the very root of that need was my vested interest in the characters.

The plots were good but I was drawn in by the point of view characters. In both novels their needs, fears, and motivations perfectly rendered. That is not to say any of them were perfect. Far from it actually and I applaud both writers for shining light on their flaws as it was those imperfections that made them seem real. Made me at times wanna slap some sense into them. Made me fear things would not turn out well. And they didn't. Not in either book. Both novels left a few unanswered questions at he end. Not so much that I said," Hey what the hell? You can't end here. I wanna know ...."

But enough that I finished the last word and pondered the fate and future for the stories inhabitants.

So while I already knew that characters were my favorite part of a story and that I'm more of a character driven writer than a plot person the exact dynamics of this were made even clearer by the enjoyment I found in two very different novels.