Monday, December 31, 2012

Flash Fiction

Was reading a Facebook post about unicorns and had this scene pop into my head (this is first-draft material so errors are likely):

Lyra thought she heard a sound off in the woods.  The beautiful girl loved to explore the dark and foreboding forest despite her mother's warning.

"You never know what you'll find in the forest, Lyra," her mother would admonish, drying her hands on her ever-present apron.

But Lyra wouldn't listen.  She'd made many friends in the forest: deer, rabbits, birds.  She knew to watch for the signs of a wolf or bear and avoid those areas.  She would put her tracking skills up against any hunter in the village.

But this was a new sound, something she'd never heard before.  She turned, her blue eyes trying to pierce the foliage to ascertain the sound's source.  Walking carefully on leather turnshoes, she stepped closer and closer, the sounds guiding her flawlessly.  Coming to a clearing in the dense wood, she gasped.  Before her was a creature that only lived in legend, myth, and fairytale: a unicorn.

It was said that only virgin girls could approach the elusive horned beast.  At aged seventeen and a bit of a tom boy, that was not an issue for Lyra.  She softly, slowly, stepped into the clearing, the sun rays lighting up the alabaster hide of the unicorn, it's long horn on its forehead opalescent in the warm light as if it were made not of horn but some magical material like the jewels the ladies of the village sometimes wore.

Lyra accidentally stepped on a small twig but the breaking sound seemed to boom in the clearing.  The unicorn turned with unimaginable speed and looked at her, its eyes registering its displeasure.  It galloped toward the girl, the sound reverberating through the soil as it lowered its head, pointing the sharp horn right at Lyra's breast.

The girl took in a sharp breath but could not move.  She knew she was to die here, now, painfully.  She knew deep sadness and grief in the few seconds the unicorn took to cross the clearing.  If she had to die, this was they way she wanted it to be.

The beast bore down on her, not hesitating, not flinching, the horn aimed for her heart.  At the last moment, too fast almost for Lyra to react, the animal turned, and rammed the horn into the bear that had been stalking Lyra.  The brown beast howled with anger and pain as it was impaled on that horn.  Blood ran down the horn, staining the unicorn's hide red.  Lyra could only watch, amazed that this unicorn had saved her life.

The unicorn tossed its head and flung the bear away into the woods.  Lyra heard it crashing against branches and found herself hoping it was already dead.

The unicorn backed up a few feet, whinnied, and looked at Lyra.  That's when she noticed it, too, had blue eyes.

A thought came into her head: "Go, and tell no one."

Lyra nodded, turned so fast her blonde hair got caught in some branches.  She ignored the pain as she ran from the clearing.

And she never told anyone.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Sunday Six: Battle Preperations

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Thirteen of Book of Death:

The helicopter landed at the Romanian Land Forces' temporary headquarters ten kilometers east of Hunedoara, just outside a small village called Orasul Nou.  The tents and vehicles were lined up in a farmer's field next to a river.  We had no idea how far the necromancers would be watching for threats and we hoped ten kilometers, or just over six miles, was far enough away.  The Militia was stopping any civilians from leaving or entering the city.  That in and of itself might arouse suspicions, but I thought the necromancers might not be paying much attention to the civilian population…at least I hoped.

The RLF had split its tank brigade in two: fifteen tanks north of the city, fifteen south with the "command tank." 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Snoqualmie Pass

Not only am I a bit of a weather buff but I'm also a bit of a geography nerd.

The other day (okay, Thursday) I was driving to Seattle.  Between where I live and Seattle is the Cascade Mountain Range.  So you have to go over a "pass."  The lowest pass in Washington State (other than the Columbia River Gorge) is Snoqualmie Pass (where Interstate 90 crosses the mountains).

Now Snoqualmie Pass is only 3,022 feet above sea level.  Growing up in the high mountain valleys of Idaho, this doesn't seem very high.  It's lower than the Snake River Valley at Idaho Falls (4,700 feet).  Last summer I went over a pass in Idaho at 7,161 feet (that's higher than the highest point east of the Mississippi).  So Snoqualmie Pass isn't that high.  But what it is is very close to the ocean.  As Wikipeadia says:
Snoqualmie Pass as it climbs into the Cascades passes through a micro-climate characterized by considerable precipitation, and at times hazardous conditions for travelers. The annual rainfall is over 100 inches per year, snowfall is over 400 inches per year. The number of days with any measurable precipitation is 170 or more per year.
 
Over 400 inches of snow!  That's 33 1/3 feet or a three story building.  And all of that has to be removed from the road.  Sometimes the plows can't keep up and then this happens:
(if you can't read the orange sign it says "All Vehicles: Chains Required").  That means you have to put chains on your drive tires for traction.

The State Patrol bases their requirements (it seems) on the lowest common denominator: the Seattle driver who can't drive in snow.  On the day pictured above, there was no need for chains; the road was not that bad.  But the State Patrol decided they were needed.  And it's a $500 fine if you get caught with out them.

So while Snoqualmie Pass isn't that high, it is snowy.

And it's higher than the highest point in these states: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin.

Oh, and Thursday when I drove over the pass: bare and wet, no restrictions.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

White Christmas

It's snowing!  It started snowing yesterday morning and except for a couple of hours last night, has been snowing since.  We have a couple of inches so far.  It's not a heavy snow by any means, but it is white.  The picture at left is out my back window about three hours ago.  And it's been snowing since.

I was kind of disappointed up until now.  We'd had a little snow but it would melt right away and just make the world soggy.  But this is genuine, stay on the ground, snow.  And stay on the roads, but that can't be helped.

The usual pattern here in Central Washington is for it so snow, melt, snow, melt snow, last a little while, melt, so on and so forth until spring.  It's rare we have snow all winter.  This year looks no different.  But at least we had a white Christmas.

(Did you know the song, "White Christmas," was written by a Jewish Russian immigrant to the U.S.?  How's that for diversity and tolerance?)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Music

It's Christmas time (and Merry Christmas to you!).  Time for the annual fight between my wife and me about . . . Christmas music.

It's all my fault.  I basically do no like most Christmas music.  And the newer and more modern it is, the less I like it.  She was just listening to something like this (I can't find the exact thing she was listen to, maybe I have the artist wrong):


And I said, "I'd better leave before that gives me diabetes" which upset her.  For some reason she doesn't seem to be able discern the difference between that and this:


(This version drags a little, this is supposed to be a joyous song, not a dirge but this version is too fast.  The version I have is almost just about right.).

I got sick of Christmas music when I worked as a disk jockey in the late '70s (yes, I'm dating myself) and we played Christmas music incessantly from Thanksgiving to December 25th.  And the sappier it is, the more I dislike it.  Whereas the sappier it is, the more my wife seems to like it.

So it's our annual fight.  I usually just avoid being around her when she plays that music (I'm doing that now).  It helps keep the peace.

P.S.: This is one of the best pieces of music ever.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sunday Six: The "Spontaneous " Rally

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Twelve of Book of Death:

The door opened and a middle-aged man in a business suit scurried out, closing the door behind him.  He was carrying a sheaf of papers.
"What is wrong, Comrade Buscan?" Parasca asked jovially.
Buscan gave a harried scowl at Parasca.  "He wants a spontaneous rally tomorrow to protest the invasion."
"A lot of work to prepare for a spontaneous rally," Parasca said, patting the man on the shoulder.
"Yes; now if you'll excuse me, Comrade General."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pre-Christmas Sale: Rock Killer Free

Just in time for Christmas, bury yourself in the hard science fiction of Rock Killer.  And it's free on the Kindle this weekend.  Just click here to download to your Kindle or Kindle App for your device.

To get you in the mood, here's the trailer for Rock Killer:

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Hobbit


Last night I saw The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.  I'm still sorta gathering my thoughts about it.  I drove 100 miles (each way) to see it in high frame rate and I gotta tell you, technically it's beautiful.  Peter Jackson has a wonderful eye for beauty (and for ugly) and he uses 3D to enhance his movie, not the other way around.  It was nice to visit old friends (Blibo, Gandalf, Elrond, and even Frodo makes a brief appearance).  I like that they put some of the songs that Tolkien had in the book in the movie (the dish-washing scene/song is pretty funny).  As with all Peter Jackson films the CGI is flawless to the point you forget you're watching a CGI character.

But (you knew that was coming), they strayed from Tolkien a lot.  They added new characters and new plot Tolkien never devised.  The dialogue in some of those scenes clunks badly.  I know they are making three movies (why? greed?) so they need more plot than Tolkien provided.  Maybe if they'd stuck with two movies, stuck more with Tolkien, it would have been better.  They also used any excuse to have a sword fight.

And, I know it's a fantasy, but I doubt even dwarves could fall 100 feet onto rock, groan a bit, and jump up and fight orcs as if nothing happened.

I find myself wondering if I'll pay to see the other two movies in the theater or just wait for them to come out on Blu-ray.

Oh, and this wasn't the film makers' fault but there were 20 minutes of previews before the movie.  I found that excessive (especially for a two-and-a-half hour long movie).

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Winter Driving

I like to drive.  I guess I'm weird that way.  Now, I prefer to be driving fast, but even tooling down I-90 with the cruise control set at 75 (five over the limit) is something I enjoy.  As I get older it is getting harder for me to drive long distances without a break.  I used to drive 20 or more hours and only stop to fill the car and empty me.  But now I pretty much don't want to drive more than 6 or so hours straight at a time.  Last summer I did a 650 mile drive in one day which was about 11 hours of driving.  The next day I was wiped out.

Now winter is approaching and I'm also, in my old age, becoming a wimp about driving in snow.  I used to be the guy for whom nothing stopped me.  I was the guy who drove over Snoqualmie Pass in a Mustang GT without snowtires when the state patrol had chains required and did fine.  But lately it's sort of like driving in slick conditions makes me nervous and just doesn't seem like its worth the hassle.  Oh, I'll still do it if I have to be somewhere.  But I won't enjoy it.

This worries me a bit.  Will the time come when I no long want to drive fast?  Yesterday I drove to a town about 70 miles away.  The pavement was bare and dry the whole way.  But for a long time I was stuck behind a cop so I had to do the speed limit.  And I was bored to death.  So so far I'm not turning into a slow driver on dry pavement.  And I still enjoy the occasional burst of felonious velocity, although I haven't had the courage to repeat my highest speed ever (I'll plead the fifth if you ask)(but I have done 155 on a racetrack).

I guess getting old sucks.  I do know my reactions have slowed (I don't play video games anymore).  But I hope I never become one of those people who drive slow and block traffic.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Community Service

A week ago I got an email from an acquaintance I know through Toastmasters.  The email read:

I have written a book can you guide me how do i get it published ? please can we meet about it ?

(In that font and color.)  So I wrote back and said "Yes."  And I got back:

WHERE AND WHEN PLEASE

(Yes, all caps.)  I suggested the person buy me lunch (I could tell this wasn't going to be easy) and they suggested a restaurant today at 11:45.  I said "Okay."

So, since then, I've been thinking "what do I know about getting published?"  Last October I did a presentation at Toastmasters (this woman may not have been there that day) on what I know about getting published today (traditional publishing, going indie, small press publishers).  Then I realize something, all the success I've had getting published has been through networking and a lot of that networking has come from working in the community.

Almost all of my freelance work comes from people I met through my community service work.  And my publisher I met through a friend.  We met when she called me after the local paper published an article on me.  The local paper knew about me because of mine and my wife's community service.

If you're looking for more writing jobs, it might be a good idea to join local service clubs/organization.  And make sure the local newspaper publisher or editor is a member. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sunday Six: The Mob Doll

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Eleven of Book of Death:

A man walked in wearing an expensive suit that somehow didn't fit him right.  Two other men followed, also in suits, also looking out of place.  Then a girl came in, blonde, chewing gum, in a sequined minidress, her hair all piled on top of her head and too much makeup on.  She sat at the bar, looking bored.  The bartender gave her a martini without her asking.  She must be a regular, I thought.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12/12/12

I missed it.  I was busy.  At 12:12:12 on 12/12/12 I should have done a dance or something.  But I missed it.  For 12:12:12 A.M. I was sleeping.  For 12:12:12 P.M. I was at a lunch meeting.

This will be the last chance for alliterative dates until 2101 (for 01/01/01).  Probably won't live to see that day.

My son graduated high school in 2007 and of course they had James Bond tie ins for their graduation ("class of 007").  In 3007 I doubt anyone will remember James Bond so this was the one and only time in human history this will happen.

Of course, if the Mayans are right, 12/21/12 is going to be a bad day for all of us.

Did you observe 12:12:12 today?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunday Six: The Great Conclave

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Ten of Book of Death:

The Great Conclave was scheduled for the summer solstice on Friday, June 21st, in Paris, France.  I don't know why Paris was chosen.  Maybe tradition.

Inter-guild messages flew back and forth by both modern and meta means as arrangements were made and guilds contacted.  Some guilds still hated each other after various slights, such as helping Hitler during World War II.  Vaughan wondered out loud to me if the Cuban Guild would show up, or if they’d be embarrassed by their working with Communists in an attempt to take over the world using zombie armies.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Still Freelancing . . .

I may have bitten off more than I can chew.  I currently have three freelance projects pending.  One is pretty much finished but I was letting the subject look it over before I send in the final version.  He's supposed to get it back to me tonight.  In a few minutes I'm, I hope, interviewing a hay expert (I do a lot of writing about agriculture due to where I live) which is the second interview for a second project.  After that I can write the story.  And finally, I'm doing a year-end wrap up thing that means I'm talking to lots of people, including big corporations you've heard of.  Dealing with corporations is painful because they always want to control the message.  So you end up going through their PR people.  One is going to email me answers rather than let me talk to someone.  And I have one guy who is just simply not returning my calls.  It's very stressful.  My deadline is the 13th but I've been working on this story since November 26th.  But people will not get back to me in a timely manner.  My stress level then goes through the roof.

I'm hoping once I get all three stories done I can take the rest of December off.  At least that's my hope.  I know if any new assignments come I will take them.  I love to write and I love to learn about stuff so freelancing is nearly the perfect job for me.  Just wish it paid more.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sunday Six: The Secret

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Nine of Book of Death:


Ernestine caught me in a vulnerable moment, our sweat-damp skin clinging as we cuddled in bed in Vali's apartment over the garage.

"Peter?" she whispered.

I grunted something sleepily.

"You can't tell anybody."

I opened my eyes, turned, and looked at her.  "Tell anybody what?"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rock Killer Free

Today (December 1st) and tomorrow, Rock Killer is free on the Kindle or the Kindle app on your favorite device.  This book is my best reviewed novel with six five-star and two four-star reviews.

Here's the back-of-the-book blurb:
Space Resources, Inc. (SRI) mines asteroids for the riches a populated Earth needs without degrading the planet. Yet there are those opposed to progress in whatever its form such as the Gaia Alliance, a front group for eco-terrorists. During a violent attack on the Moon, the terrorists steal an exploration ship, arm it, and rename it the Rock Killer. Charlene "Charlie" Jones of SRI security is trying to infiltrate the Gaia Alliance's cabal to find evidence linking them to the murder of her fiancé. But a run-in with the law threatens to reveal her identity to the dangerous men of the Alliance. Simultaneously, SRI Director Alexander Chun is traveling to the asteroid belt to bring a kilometer-long nickel-iron rock back to Earth orbit to mine for its valuable metals. Following him and his multi-national team is the Rock Killer. Without armaments, millions of miles from help, Chun must stop those who threaten him and the lives of his crew

Friday, November 30, 2012

Sensual Blogging Award

Well, my good friend Sare has nominated me for something called the  Sensual Blogging Award which I think is just an excuse to link between people's blogs.  So here's the deal:

When nominated for the Sensual Blogging Award the blogger must:
1) Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you.
2) Acknowledge that blogger on your blog and link back.
3) Answer 7 sensual questions
4) Select some nominees and notify them on their blogs.
5) Copy and paste the award on your blog.

Now anyone who knows me knows I don't take orders well.  I have this rebellious streak.  So I've done #1, #2, I'm about to do #3, I'm not gonna do #4, and I don't exactly understand what they mean by #5 unless it's put the picture above on my blog.

So here's the seven sensual questions:

1. Most romantic memory: When Rose asked Jack to draw her in the nude wearing only her huge blue diamond.  I squealed like a 15-year-old girl.  But then again, I was one.

2. Most sensual music: "Kill the Wabbit" by Michael Maltese and Richard Wagner. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI9Nbt7oJG0

2. Most sensual season: Wabbit season.  Or duck season. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9-k5J4RxQdE

4. Favorite flower: Amorphophallus titanum or the "Corpse Flower."  Love those carnivorous plants.

5. Favorite fruit: Citrus sinensis or the "Sweet Orange" (no snark, I love oranges, orange juice, orange flavored anything pretty much.  Arby's had an orange creamsicle shake for a while, oh my god, it was amazing except when they screwed it up and it then tasted like sour milk).

6. Best gift received: My wife brought me an Arbys Orange Creamsicle Shake.

7. Love is… never having to say you're sorry.

So, there you have it.

 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Rock Killer for Free!

Coming up this weekend, the 1st and the 2nd, my highly reviewed novel Rock Killer will be free on the Kindle.  If you don't have a Kindle there are free Kindle apps for all sorts of devices.  This is your chance to read this book that's been called "as if Tom Clancy wrote science fiction."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

(Almost) No Snow

(Anyone who knows me knows I'm a bit of a weather geek.  So that will probably come through on this blog from time to time.  Sorry.)

Here it is November 28th and we've had nearly no snow.  We got just a light dusting yesterday morning but it quickly melted under the dual assault of rain and temperature.  Now the forecast for the rest of the week is for rain.  Lots of rain.  This is very unusual for this part of Washington State.  What is more typical is some snow, then days of overcast during which the snow slowly melts, then another dump of snow which then slowly melts.  And that continues until March.  Oh we might have a big bunch of snow that'll last a week or three.  But this year it's been rain and fog.  I hate fog.

How's the weather where you are?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Adepts Series Trailer

I've yet to embed a video in this blog because, well, I don't know how.  So I decided it was time to learn.  So, here is the book trailer for the three Adept Series books:
Wow, that was easy!  I have to admit, for a free service, Blogger is pretty good.  Only thing I don't like is the shape of the window which I don't seem able to change.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Six: The Suit of Armor

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Eight of Book of Death:

The woman who had initially screamed did so again and jumped out of the way as a third suit of armor came in the back door, swinging its flail over its head.  Wynter couldn't stop in time and the ball hit him right in the temple with a sick, moist crunching sound.  Blood jetted in all directions from the impact, hitting me in the face and chest.  Wynter made a sound of anguish that I hoped I never heard again as he was knocked against a wall, his skull caved in, and I didn't want to imagine what was gushing from the wound.

I ducked and shot an airbolt at the suit.  That knocked it back a bit and dented the supposedly priceless metal, but it still kept coming.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

You know, the internet is an interesting thing.  You might be reading this in Kazakhstan in which case it's probably tomorrow and you don't have Thanksgiving anyway.  But that's okay, you can still be thankful for all that you have.  And eat turkey.  So happy thanksgiving!

Oh, don't forget the stuffing!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

BCS Playoff System

I hate (hate hate) the BCS college football system for choosing a national championship.  And I think a lot of other folks do to.  And in response, the BCS is talking about going to a limited BCS playoff system but it's still going to be based on BCS rankings which, frankly I don't understand (e.g., how can Boise State be undefeated yet not in contention for a national championship?).

So I'd like to see a full blown playoff.  There are eleven conferences in BCS football.  (I guess the independents would have to join a conference to participate, sorry BYU).  Take the winning team from each conference and the two highest BCS ranked teams that are not conference champions as "wildcards."  You now have 13 teams.  Give the #1 ranked team a bye, play six games, and you have six winners.  Play three games and you have three winners.  Plug in the #1 team (against the lowest ranked team still standing), and you have four teams.  Two more games and you have your BCS championship match.

That's twelve total games (and there's 35 bowl games right now).  If we can't fit 12 playoff games into 35 bowl games, we've got a problem.

This would make bowl games mean something other than bagging rights.  This would up the excitement level for BCS football.  This would make winning a conference more important than ever.  And this would mean a team like Boise State could prove themselves outside their weak conference.  The only downside is that could mean a lot of games for some teams, potentially four post-season games for a 16-game season which is a lot for college ball.

It also means we'll probably have to tighten up bowl eligibility beyond a .500 season.  Which isn't a bad thing.

Monday, November 19, 2012

We Have a Winner!

Congratulations to Alma Calihan on winning the quarterly book drawing at my website www.sevantownsend.com.  You, too, could win the paperback or eBook of your choice.  Sign up today.  Next drawing is in February.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Six: Undercover

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Seven of Book of Death:

Unfortunately, one couldn't just hop in a car and drive to a city seventy-five miles away.  Maybe Romanians could but not foreigners.  The Romanian government had to be informed and permission obtained.  I wasn't too happy about informing the Romanian government that I was traveling to Pitesti.  But since I was officially a diplomat, an excuse had already been fabricated for me to go there.  Apparently I was to study the puppet theater at the County Theater for its cultural significance, and to determine if the performers could travel to the U.S. in a "cultural exchange." 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review of Book of Death

Check out this great review of Book of Death at Beauty in Ruins blog!  An excerpt:

I was hoping for something different with Book of Death, and I'm pleased to say it delivered.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

More MarbleCam Madness

My friend, Sare, introduced me through her blog to MarbleCam, an iPhone app (free) that manipulates photographs.  So she and I have been having fun texting each other our latest MarbleCam creations.  See if you can figure out what all of these are (they are all mine):







Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ebook Giveaway

Sign up to win a free eBook copy of Book of Death at Literal Addiction.

And don't forget to "Like" my Facebook page to keep up on all my happenings!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Pac-12

When people talk about college football conferences, often they think of the Big-10 and the SEC.  But the Pac-12 (formerly known as the Pac-10) seems to labor on in obscurity caused by the Rocky Mountains or something (it's no secret, most of the U.S. media comes out of the East).  But right now fully 50% of the teams in the Pac-12 are BCS ranked, including #2 Oregon.  Even the vaunted SEC can't claim that (full disclosure: The SEC has six ranked teams, but that's out of 14 teams).

I just noticed that because I was checking the standings in the Pac-12 after the weekend's football games to see where my beloved University of Washington Huskies stood, and noticed the Huskies are now ranked (albeit at #25).  That means the Pac-12 North Division has four ranked teams (out of six).  Not too shabby.

I'm pretty confident that the Huskies or going to go 8-4 (two of their losses to teams ranked #2 and #3 when they played them).  They are currently bowl eligible at 6-4 after they beat Utah this weekend.  With Oregon probably going to the BCS, that means the Huskies could get a pretty good bowl slot, even though they are #4 in their very tough division (Pac-12 North).

And since they are a very young team, next year they should look even better.

P.S.: The sports/Huskies posts should end when the Huskies' season ends.  Just FYI.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday Six: The Cop

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Four of Book of Death:

A motorcycle cop I hadn't noticed jumped off his bike, pulled his service revolver, and shot it into the Indian with six cracks of bullets being fired.  It had no effect other than sending burning splinters of wood flying.  The cop suddenly looked frightened, and was gripping his billy club but taking no further action.

People were screaming loudly now.  I looked around, looking for an escape.  If I could teleport away I might escape, but I could see no clear place to teleport to. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

What is it?

My friend, Sare, blogged about this iPhone app called MarbleCam.  It takes pictures and manipulates them.  Here's one I took (and had manipulated).  What do you think it is?

Text Silliness

The other day (okay, Wednesday) I drove to a town about 100 miles away to interview a guy for a freelance writing assignment.  I stopped at a fast food restaurant to use their bathroom and get something to drink.  And I saw a casual dining restaurant across the street that my wife likes.  So I texted her:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Snow, Again?

They (the National Weather Service) is once again predicting snow for our area tomorrow.  However, temps will be above freezing so it will no doubt melt pretty quickly and just make things wet and muddy.  Winter is upon us and the real snow will come soon.  I think I'll put my snow tires on next week.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

It's Over!

The election is finally over.  I don't live in a swing state and I was sick of the ads.  I can't imagine living in Ohio.  I often wish there was a way to limit the campaigns to six weeks or something.  But that gives huge advantages to incumbents who always have the ear of the media.  I'm afraid there are no perfect solutions other than avoid media completely every four years.

So it's over.  At least until the run up to the midterms in 2014.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Sunday Six: Skin

Today's six sentence Sunday from Chapter Three of Book of Death:

Skin was against mine as I woke: warm, soft, skin that pulsated with life pressed against my body.  I realized Ernestine was cuddling with me as I dozed.  I smiled and turned to face her.
"Good morning," she said with a smile, those brown eyes seeming to sparkle.
"Good morning," I said, grinning.  I had no idea what time it was, but I knew we hadn't slept much after she dropped her towel.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Origins of The Adept Series

Today I stop by Speculative Friction to discuss the origins of the Adept Series (Hammer of Thor, Agent of Artifice, and of course, Book of Death).  Check it out (the blogger just happens to live in the same town I do, too!).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Nine Movies

My friend Sare does a lot of blog memes such as Sunday Stealing.  She's doing something in October which has her stating a certain number of things (such as "10 people I couldn't live without"; I was #10).  Yesterday she did nine movies.  Which inspired me to do nine movies.  I've avoided repeating any of her movies:

The Lord of the Rings. Technically three movies, but didn't want to use up all my choices. These moves are damn near perfect. The production values, the music, the settings, the acting, the direction, the special effects. Yes, those 6,000 horses are CGI but you don't care because the horses are the forces of good and you want good to win. Occasionally the writers strayed from Tolkien and that's when the movies are at their worst but their worst is better then most movies' best. Just amazing movies.

Star Wars. Okay, technically I'm talking about Star War IV: A New Hope, but when it was released and I first saw it, it was called "Star Wars" and that's it. It was an amazing break-through movie for the times. The special effects were like nothing seen before and here was a science fiction movie that wasn't a glum, depressing, or disturbing movie (viz Silent Running). This changed movies forever as Hollywood learned they could make money making fun movies. It also led to the revitalization of "Star Trek" which led to . . .

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Made cheap and fast (parts of its special effects are clipped right out of Star Trek: The Motion Picture) the writing saves this movie. The clever dialogue between Kirk and Bones and Spock and of course, the nemesis, Khan. Also the only Star Trek movie where they actually fire phasers! Not deep entertainment, but fun.

Talk to Her. A film made in Spain (subtitled) with complex relationships and perhaps a rapist as an unlikely hero (it's never answered, never resolved). Two women are in comas and each one has a man who is in love with them. Something that has to be seen to understand.  For some reason for days I couldn't stop thinking about this movie.

The Empire Strikes Back. A lot of times a director will make a great movie on a shoestring budget, have a hit, then have all the money he needs to make that "movie I've always wanted to make" and ends up making some self-indulgent drivel (viz: Heaven's Gate). George Lucas managed to avoid this trap in making Empire (he waited until the Star Wars prequels). Just a great, fun movie. The asteroid sequence is amazing for pre-CGI special effects and this was when Lucas knew to leave the audience wanting more, not less. (Or he couldn't afford to run the sequence into the ground like he did so often in the prequels.)

Forrest Gump. There's something about this story that profoundly affects me. Maybe I've known too many Jennys in my life. First time I saw it I cried. Bawled. Could not stop. Luckily I was home.

House of Flying Daggers. Basically the director's excuse to film beautiful sequences with almost no plot. But you don't care because they are breathtakingly beautiful.  Made in China with subtitles.

Twelve O'clock High. One of the first post-World War II movies to show the horror of combat (albeit, very subtly). Story of a "bad luck" bomber squadron that gets turned around by a hard-nosed commander. Not very sentimental nor maudlin, more of a "war is hell and if you don't run your unit right, it's even worse hell." Lessons can be applied to business and life. Worst part of the movie is the sequence with actual battle footage.

Toy Story 2. In the first Toy Story, Pixar made an amazing film. Not only a technological achievement but a touching, humorous, amazingly written warm story. In Toy Story 2, they took everything they'd learned up until then and made an even better movie. Bigger in scope and wider in narrative, has moments you want to cry and moments you want to cheer and moments that are so funny you have to stop the Blu-Ray and giggle for five minutes.

What are your favorite movies?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Freelancing

Yesterday and today I'm working on a freelance project.  Freelance is fun, challenging, and helps pay the bills.  And I get to meet some interesting people.  Right now I have three freelance assignments.  One I'm finishing up and two, well, the subjects aren't returning my calls.  That is the part I hate about freelancing is when I can't get the people I'm supposed to interview to return my calls.  I try to be polite and professional but I've called one guy twice and the other three times and so far, no luck.  Today after lunch I'm going to try again.

I remember one assignment (about a farmer with a race car) that I could not get a hold of the guy and the deadline was looming.  Finally on a Friday I got a hold of him and made arrangements to meet and interview him at the racetrack Saturday.  Turned out to be one of my better stories.  But it was very stressful when I couldn't get in touch.  One guy I couldn't talk to because he was out of town until the day the assignment was due.  And he was an hour drive away.  I got home and started typing, getting the story emailed off about nine that night.

What's stressful about your job?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Another Football Post

I managed to last this long before I had to gloat about last night's win over Oregon State by the University of Washington Huskies. 

My friend, Sare, calls this sport "stupidball" but the rest of the world calls it "football" (not to be confused with "fĂștbol" which is played in backward nations where they don't recognize the freedom of using one's hands and a South American village is burned to the ground with every goal). 

A week ago I was waxing rhapsodical about how the Dawgs were probably going to have a 8-4 record after having a very tough beginning-of-a-season schedule.  I thought they could beat all the unranked teams but would probably lose to Oregon State who is having their best year since something like 1929.  I mean look at what the Huskies faced up until now (the rankings are the teams rankings when they played the Huskies):

LSU (3) (blowout loss)
Stanford (8) (win)
Oregon (2) (blowout loss)
Oregon State (7) (win)

But then we lost to (unranked) Arizona.  Badly.  Oh, man, was that a blowout.  At that point I thought we'd be lucky to end the season 6-6 we looked so bad.

Then we played Oregon State last night.  And the defense rocked (the offense, not so much).  And we won making our record 4-4 and 2-3 in conference.  Looking at the remaining schedule we could, if the offense will work just a little bit better, win the last four games (California, no push-over, Utah, Colorado, and Washington State).  Which would still means an 8-4 record (6-3 in conference).  Which ain't bad.  Unfortunately, it's not an improvement on last year's 8-4 record.  But at least we aren't going backwards.

But, boy, was that win nice last night.

CORRECTION: Last year we were 7-5 in regular season, not 8-4 so 8-4 this year would be a (slight) improvement.

Another Blog Interview

Find out how I got my first paid writing gig at Laurie's Thoughts and Reviews Blog.  Also read a character interview with the star of Book of Death, Peter Branton.

Sunday Six: Ball Bearings

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Three of Book of Death:
"What is this?" Vaughan asked.
"A ball bearing," Karamessines stated without mirth.
"And why do I care?" Vaughan queried, handing the ball bearing to me.  It was heavier than I thought it would be.
Helms looked at us seriously.  "You'd be amazed how much national security rides on ball bearings."

 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Driving

Anyone who knows me knows I like to drive.  And when I drive I prefer to drive fast.  I just got back from a little excursion that probably burned $20 worth of gas on basically entertainment.  I know of a back road near here that is very little traveled, mostly straight, and has nothing built up around it.  Perfect for exceeding the speed limit.

I've always liked driving.  I'm old enough I drove when the National Maximum Speed Limit was 55.  When they raised it to 65 (circa 1986) in rural areas it was wonderful.  When they eliminated it, it was amazing.  I even got to drive in Montana when they didn't have a speed limit (lasted about two years, I think).  Here in Washington State rural interstates are at 70 but really, there are places it could be 80 easily.

Driving can be a chore such as in traffic, around town, or stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle.  It can be a challenge that I admit I enjoy when the weather gets bad.  But mostly I enjoy it and the faster the better.  This is why I don't welcome driverless cars.  And they are coming sooner than I ever thought.  It may be a boon to safety and reduce congestion, but it will eliminate the fun, too.  If I couldn't drive I would miss it.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Buried Treasure of a Movie

For some reason I put October Sky on my Netflix queue ages ago.  It finally peculated to the top this week and I watched it last night.  I often say "so many books, so little time."  The same could be said of movies (although my opinion is there's a lot fewer movies worth watching than books worth reading).  I don't know how I let this 1999 movie slip by me for so long.  It's a gem of a film.  It does play to one typical Hollywood trope: the overbearing father who wants to quash his offspring's dreams.  But in this movie (perhaps because it was based on a true story) the father comes off more sympathetic and believable.  He just wants what's best for his son, but he's basing his beliefs on outmoded thinking.  In fact, the contrast couldn't be more stark between the father (coal miner, underground, looking to the past) and the son (dreaming about rockets and space, looking up, thinking about the future).

It's a very good, uplifting film that extols the virtues of "book learning" and looking beyond the horizon.  It's set in a coal-mining town in West Virginia where every man pretty much works for the mining company and every man's son is expected to do the same.  As the school principle states, a "few lucky ones" might escape on football scholarships.

If you haven't seen this film, gather the family around the flatscreen and show it to them.  Very good movie.

Another Blog Interview

Read an in-depth interview with me at My World Blog.  Find out who my favorite character is that I've written and what I like to read when I'm not writing.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Voted

In Washington State we have all vote-by-mail elections.  They send you a ballot, you fill it out, and send it back by midnight election day (I think).  I like this because it's easy, convenient, and I can have the ballot there while I'm googling about people I'm not sure about.  Actually, this year, there was only one of those, a non-partisan judge position.

But I don't like vote-by-mail because I like the idea of the community coming together to vote.  You meet your neighbors,you put some effort into voting, and I always took my kids to inculcate them in the responsibilities of being a citizen.  But since vote-by-mail it's sorta "hey, kids, I'm voting" and they glance up from the X-Box (actually, they are all of voting age now; scary thought).   Plus it seems vote-by-mail has too many ways to game the system (one woman registered her dog to vote).

Unfortunately, I live in a very blue state so my vote for president doesn't really matter, much.  But it still feels important to vote and there's a lot of "down ballot" votes, too (Senator, Congressman, etc.).  Just wish I didn't have to wait two weeks to find out who won.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Snow?

Just checked the weather forcast and they are talking snow possible for tomorrow and Wednesday.  Maybe I waited to long too put the snow tires on.  On the bright side, it's supposed to be above freezing so probably won't stick around.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: The Club

Today's Six Sentence Sunday from Chapter Two of Book of Death:

The music assaulted me like a barrage of noise.  The band on the stage was amazingly loud for a trio of scraggly-haired men.  I was sure the place was in violation of the fire code judging from the number of bodies writhing on the dance floor.  It was dark and the only lighting was flashing and changing multi-colored lights that battered the eyes.  Even so, I could see there were a few men without shirts dancing in the throng of flesh in the center of the room.  There may have been some topless women, too, but with most of the hair both male and female reaching the back, it was difficult to be sure.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Go Dawgs!

As of this moment, the University of Washington Huskies are 3-3 (1-2 in conference).  They have played the #3 team in the nation at the time (LSU; lost), the number 8 team (Stanford; won), the number 2 team (Oregon; lost), and the number 11 team (USC; lost).  So being 3-3 with that schedule is nothing to be (too) ashamed of.

Tonight they play unranked but not doing too badly Arizona.  And I'm hoping they win (of course).  Then the week after they play Oregon State who are currently ranked 8.  But after that the Huskies' schedule gets much much easier (Cal, Utah, Colorado, Wazzu).  If they win tonight I think they can easily pull off a 8-4 record (assuming they lose to OSU).  If they lose tonight they still should be 7-5 but that's worse than last year.

The problem is, they went 8 and 4 last season so 8-4 this year would not be an improvement (unless they win their bowl game and go 9-4).  Yes, this year they've been plagued with injuries (and it shows every time Keith Price has to scramble out of the way of a sack).  But eventually fans are going to get tired of saying "maybe next year."  To me the perfect Husky season (other than a 13-0 national championship) would be a winning record, winning their bowl game, and beat Oregon, USC, and WSU.  Is that too much to ask?  So far this year it looks like we'll at least do two of those.  (Sorry, Sare, for the stupidball post.)

UPDATE: we lost … badly.

Another Great Review for Book of Death

Another great review for Book of Death at Worlds of Escapism.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Planet Just Around the Corner

Scientists have found an Earth-sized planet not too far away, as astronomical things go.  Colonization potential?  Probably not since it is too close to its star and surface temps are a bit balmy at 2,200 degrees.   The planet circles Alpha Centari B which is about four light years away, or about 25 trillion miles.

But not all is lost because this planet might mean there are more planets circling the star and some might be capable of supporting life, even human colonists (or Kzin invaders).

Problem is getting there.  If you could send a spaceship at the speed of the Voyager probes, now the furthest away human-made things, which is around 35,800 mph according to Google, it would take . . . about 689 million hours (in round numbers).  That's about 79,000 years.  To get there.  So obviously we'd have to figure out something faster.  And forget sending humans (80,000 years of "are we there, yet?").

But it is interesting.  Let's just hope the Kzin aren't there waiting for us.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Not your Grandparents' Snow White

Last night I watched on Blu-ray Snow White and the Huntsman.  (It took me until this movie to figure that Thor was Captain Kirk's father?)  I enjoyed it more than I thought I would.  It was a big production stylistically shot (according to the Internet Movie Database it had a $170 million budget).  Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart were both lovely in it (although Charlize had the cooler costumes) and there was enough action, adventure, and fun to keep even me interested.  They didn't over-use CGI effects as is so common in movies these days.  There were a lot of CGI effects but they were part of the story, not the story itself.

I did think the writers/directors needed to study medieval war tactics a bit more for accuracy sake.  And I was trying to decided if explosions pre-dating gunpowder were an anachronism or were magical.  I gave it three stars on Netflix but it was closer to 3.5 (not an option on Netflix).  I enjoyed it, I just didn't really enjoy it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Me on Horror

Read about why I don't read horror at Noracast. Also an excerpt from Book of Death.  Check it out!

Sunday Six: The Sniper

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter One of Book of Death:

I thought somebody dropped a dish.  I heard a tinkle of broken glass, but it was followed by what sounded like a distant gun shot.  Anica made a yelping noise and I looked at her.  Blood was flowing down the front of her dress, staining the tasteful blue to dark red.  It seemed to take me ages, but in reality was probably less than a second, to realize she'd been shot and the bullet had come from the woods across the lake and had broken through the window.
 
I dove over and knocked Anica to the floor as the window shattered, letting in frigid air and the sound of more gunfire.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Second Draft Done!

Been working on this secret book project for about six months now (maybe longer, time flies when you're an old fart).  Tonight I finished the second draft at 51,572 words.  The ending may be a bit abrupt.  Not sure.  Anyway, now to con someone into proofreading it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Online Ads Stalking Me

Maybe I should switch to Firefox and use the "ad block" add-on (actually, I do, but I use IE9 for "casual" web surfing).  But I love when ads on websites try to say your location and get it wrong.  For some reason a lot of ads think I'm in Virginia (I'm in Washington State) such as the ad to the left.  Then some think I'm in Bellingham, Washington (on the other side of the state).  My ISP was headquartered in Bellingham before it was bought out by a bigger company (in Virginia?).  And sometimes they say I'm in a small town near here where I believe the fiber optic connects to the main Internet backbone (can you tell I know almost nothing about this).  And some get both the town and city right, I just don't believe all those beautiful, lonely women live here.  Sorry.

Starbucks

If I'm not home or off interviewing someone, I'm usually at Starbucks. I may be addicted!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Exotic Food

A while back I posted a pic (testing the mobile app for Blogger) of Mexican food.  Then this weekend I went out for Korean food in Spokane (see picture at left).  I really like Korean food and this place (actually, in Airway Heights) has good stuff.  I was a little insulted when they handed us the "English Only" menus (I read a little Korean).

I like exotic food, just not too exotic. When I was in Peru they had guinea pig on the menu.  But I like Chinese, Mexican, Korean, Japanese (sushi and sashimi), and Thai.  I guess that's not all that exotic but it beats McDonald's.

So what kind of foreign food do you like?

Masquerade Giveaway

My publisher, World Castle Publishing, is having an eBook giveway one per week in October.  To enter, use the Raffle Copter below.  Prizes are free eBooks published by World  Castle. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Tired!

Not exactly what I would call a relaxing weekend.  Years ago I promised my son when he was 18 he could go the the high performance driving school (driving on a racetrack) that I let his older brother go to and that I attended many, many times.

I decided not to drive this time so I ended up sitting outside in the sunshine (not something fair-skinned redheads should do a lot) while my son drove on (and twice off) the track.  Because of his second departure from the track today, the car is filthy inside and out.  I said we looked like a couple of rednecks who drove their Camaro off the farm.

So I'm tired.  Just thought I'd let you know.  But boy, I heard the roar of the engines, smelled the hot brakes, felt the ground-thumping of massive power being applied, and I so wanted to be out on that track.

So now I'm tired, and sunscreen is getting into my eyes, and I just want to rest.  How was your weekend?

Sunday Six: Vlad

Today's Sunday Six from the Prologue of Book of Death:


Vlad stood and walked down the few steps of the dais, cackling with laughter.  The two warriors beside him followed, drawing their swords which hissed as metal escaped scabbard.  The young girl chose that moment to flee from the room, her skirts swooshing and her long dark hair swaying as she nearly ran.
 
"You don't know the power of what I am doing," Vlad said in a soft yet somehow terrifying voice.  "Bring on your armies and your adept ones.  I'll defeat them all."

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sunshine Award!

I have apparently been nominated by my good friend Sare for a Sunshine Award.  And this apparently confers upon me some responsibilities (gee, thanks, Sare).  One is to put the picture to the left on this blog.  Another is to answer the questions below.  The complete list of rules is here:

As with all awards, the Sunshine Award comes with a few rules:

♥ Include the award’s logo in a post or on your blog
♥ Answer 10 questions about yourself
♥ Nominate 10-12 other fabulous bloggers
♥ Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated
♥ Share the love and link the person who nominated you.

The problem is, I don't know 10-12 "fabulous" bloggers.  Most the blogs I read are political.

But I will answer the 10 questions (you know, it doesn't say which 10 questions, but I assume it's supposed to be the same ones Sare answered):

Favorite color:  Lately I've been partial to hot pink.  Not sure why.
Favorite animal: I've always liked bald eagles.
Favorite number: 165 (the fastest in miles per hour I've driven a motor vehicle).
Favorite non-alcoholic drink:  Diet Sunkist
Prefer Facebook or Twitter? I use both to promote my books but also with Facebook I keep up with family and friends.  It's sort of like do you prefer PowerPoint or Excel?  They do different functions.  One fun thing about Twitter is I've seen in tweets news before it breaks elsewhere such as the Washington D.C. earthquake and that Santorum was suspending his campaign.
My passion: writing, politics, driving (fast).
Prefer getting or giving presents: gimme gimme gimme
Favorite pattern: Whatever short little schoolgirl skirts are made of.
Favorite day of the week: Usually Thursday because I have nothing to do that I have to do those days.
Favorite flower: No idea.

Okay, so I won't nominate any blogs (sorry) if you haven't been reading Sare's blog, you should.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

First Draft Done

I just finished writing a 50,577 word first draft of a novel I've been working on for a while.  It took me longer to write than I thought it would because I couldn't figure out the ending.  This is a hussssh secret project that if I publish it will be under a pen name.

Now to wait a day or two and go back and proofread/rewrite.  That always seems to make my manuscripts longer.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mexican Food

Having Mexican on Sunday night.

Sunday Six: The Beast

Today's Sunday Six from Chapter Thirteen of Agent of Artifice:

I expected it, but I didn't expect this."
The pterodactyl screeched just then and I was surprised the car's windows didn't shatter.  My insides sure felt like mush.
"Do any good if I shoot it?" Zack asked, looking intently out the windshield as he gripped the steering wheel.
"Maybe get it mad." 
"It's not mad now?"

Friday, September 28, 2012

Huskies Win!

Since this is my blog, I guess I'll elate here about the University of Washington Huskies (Go Dawgs!) beating #8 Stanford last night in a very defensive game.  It was a classic come-from-behind moment with no bad referee calls, and very few mistakes.  Stanford made a critical error right at the end with an offsides giving Washington a first down that ended the game, but other than that, it was a very clean game.  Stanford got three (I think) delay of game penalties due in no small part to a crowd that was in the game until the end, even when it looked as if Stanford was going to win it after an interception ran in for a touchdown.  As the announcers kept saying, Washington hasn't beaten a top-ten team in three years (USC, I was at that game).

Next week, Oregon (#2 as of today) in Oregon.  That'll be an even tougher game.  Maybe by then the front line will learn how to protect quarterback Keith Price.  Can only hope!