Aug 302017
 

This week’s post has nothing to do with writing.  No reports of progress or lessons learned in the business. This week is about Hurricane Harvey.  It’s about the friends and family that MBH and I left behind in Houston when we moved to Oklahoma three years ago.  It’s about recognition of the way they, and Texas in general came together in the face of one of the worst natural disasters in recent history.

BTW, if any of you ever wondered why I’m such a strong proponent of prepping, look at the picture here.  That was taken the day before Harvey made its first landfall. This is typical of store shelves just before a disaster.  I’ve been through a few such events, and seen this repeated in most instances.

But moving on…  For the most part, our friends and family have come through without any serious damage.  My son & his family evacuated when things got close, but they got out before any water got in, while it was still safe to do so.  And as it turns out, they made it through without the water actually getting in (though like so many others in the Houston area, it came REALLY close to coming in.

My brother from another mother, James Husum, lives in The Woodlands, just north of Houston, and was house sitting when Harvey hit.  He was trapped away from his home, with several dogs, while the water rose and trapped them in.  But other than a leak in the roof, there was no water damage in either his home, or the one where he was staying.

Another friend posted on Facebook that he and his family had been forced to leave their home and had taken shelter in a local high school.  And my cousin Brenda Jackson, who is an awesome amateur photographer, has taken all sorts of pictures from the area where, until three years ago, MBH and I called home.

The picture to the right shows a strip center where we used to stop pretty often. The pic is taken from a freeway overpass through a rain-streaked window.  Just to the left of the frame of this pic, there is (or at least, there used to be) a Smoothie King where we would occasionally stop for a light dinner or lunch.  Now to be perfectly honest, this picture isn’t that much of a surprise.  The area has flooded several times in the last few years, a victim of all the construction that’s popped up around them.

This picture (to the left) hits a little closer to home, though.  It’s taken from hwy 249, and you can see the water is up onto the freeway.  If I’m not mistaken, this is near the exit for an HEB grocery store we used to shop at quite often.  It’s where we used to buy our buffalo flank steak for grilling.

By the way, you can always click any of these photos to see an enlarged version.

The picture below to the right shows a strip center near my sister and brother-in-law’s place.  We’ve eaten at that Gringo’s restaurant on a few occasions.  I honestly don’t recall it flooding before, but since it was a little farther from our home, I’m not as familiar with the area. I found this picture online.

Another picture from Brenda here (left).  She called this one, Boat on the Feeder.  Yes, that’s the feeder road to a freeway.

It’s a shame that it took a flood of such magnitude to wipe the previous flood of political crap from our news feeds.  But since the goal of our media “services” is to sensationalize everything, it takes something huge to refocus them.  The message I see repeatedly coming out of the news now is that people are helping one another.  Joe Everyman is grabbing his fishing boat, kayak, canoe, or fishing waders… if he’s high and dry, then he’s moving to where he’s needed.

I’ve read numerous accounts of people launching their boats and helping out wherever they can, and I’m proud to know so many of them.  To the right here, my cousin, once removed (Brenda’s son Jason) is helping a friend get a family and their dog out of danger.

One of my former martial arts instructors has been posting videos on Facebook as he has worked for the last few days, helping to get people and animals to dry land.  I know others who have worked (and are still working) at getting supplies from surrounding areas into the shelters where they’re needed.  As a matter of fact, the church where my parents went for years was just recently remodeled.  It’s been closed for months during the process.

But they’re open now, supplying food, clothing, and shelter to those in need.

This is the America I recognize.  We pull together, lift each other up, help those who need help.  It’s how I was raised, and I’m so glad to see that it is apparently also the way a lot of other Texans were raised.

 

RPotW – 

Let me wrap this up with a “not so” Random Pic of the Week. I don’t know who took this one, but it’s been running around the interwebs for the last day or so.  It’s a powerful image, and doesn’t really need any comment so I’ll just leave it right here for you.

Stay dry everyone.  Stay safe.  I’ll talk to you next time.

Nov 092016
 

ww61-bAll right, I’ve always promised you that I wouldn’t get political here on the blog.  So here’s all I’ll say about yesterday’s election…

Thank Ghu, it’s over.  Hmmm… that makes a pretty good acronym – TGIO!  Maybe I could start a new trend… hashtag TGIO.  Before you know it, we’ll be seeing #TGIO all over the internet.  You think?

No? (sigh)

All right. Then on with the writing news, and it’s going to be a quick post, because I still have a LOT of work to do.

CV1 – As you can see, I just got the completed cover art for the print version of Chucklers: Volume 1 and I’m really happy with how it turned out.  The folks at Severed did an amazing job.  In other news, I just saw that CV1 got its first review, and it’s a 5-star!  Woohoo!  So thank you, “Emmet”, whoever you are.  I’m glad you liked it.

Y12Year 12 edits are ongoing, slower than I would like, but that’s mainly due to me getting distracted by life.  Every time I get on a roll, I end up having to review this, or approve that.  It’s almost like this writing stuff is a job, or something. :idk:  But for the moment, rolling through the Y12 edits is my main priority.  However, I did manage to shoot out a quick cover reveal of the Y12 cover today.  If you’re on the mailing list, you should already have it in your mailbox.  If you aren’t, well, first of all, why aren’t you?  And secondly, maybe I’ll give you a peek at it next week.   ;-)

And that’s it for now.  Like I said, lots of work to do…

So stay safe, and I’ll talk to you again next time.   :bye:

Sep 082016
 

ww55Hi folks.  Yes, I’m a day late with this one.  Sorry.  Between having family members visit, and the holiday weekend, I simply got a bit mixed up on the days.  By the time I realized it was Wednesday, it was too late to post anything.  I missed some other things, as well, so don’t feel like I’m picking on you.   :-))

For instance, I was asked to answer some interview questions for friend and fellow author, T.L. Haddix.  She’s a prolific writer, and all around great lady, and if you like stories of romance and magic, you should check her out.

Anyway, when I realized I had forgotten to answer her interview questions, I pulled out her list and started working on it.  Now, to those of you who know me, it probably comes as no surprise that I almost immediately went off on a tangent as I began filling out her questions.  But when I started to delete the tangential stuff, I realized that there were some things in there that I really thought needed to be said.

And since I forgot to blog yesterday, why not put it in a post, and just let it out a day late?  So here we go.

One of the interview questions was in regard to character development.  To paraphrase, she asked “are your characters an extension of you, the author? If yes, in what way?”

I began with stating that, while characters may embody some of my characteristics, they were usually exaggerated versions of the characteristic in question.  Then I went off on a tangent about how our life experiences form who we are, and how we have to make our characters more interesting than the average Joe, because people read in order to escape the average, everyday life.  What follows is where it went from there.

________________________

Me?  When I first thought about it, I didn’t think there was anything interesting about me at all.  I mean, I’m a middle-aged, happily married, overweight man who’s really not suffered a lot in his life.  Compared to the hands that others have had dealt to them, what about me is remarkable enough to hold a reader’s attention?

So as a writer, what could I really have to say that would allow the reader to relate to someone like me?  At first blush, my life looks to be pretty ordinary.  But as I began to write, I realized that the things that have interested me throughout my life, have also helped shape me as an individual. And that word is key… individual.

What is it about me that makes me different from most other people?  We all have things that shaped us, molded us into the individuals that we are today.  I’ve studied a variety of martial arts since I was thirteen years old.  I’m of mixed race, grew up as a white kid in a black part of Houston, and was taught at home about my Cherokee and Choctaw family history. As a result, I’ve seen racism from a LOT of different angles.

I’m grew up in a devoutly religious family, but rebelled at a young age.  While still a teen, I decided that I was an atheist, but later realized that I had no more proof that there was no deity, than religion had that there was.  This taught me the true meaning and nature of faith, as well as the futility of arguing with people who have their minds made up, whether they be theist or atheist.

That realization, in turn, taught me the true meaning of respect for other people and their beliefs.  Whether you agree with someone else or not doesn’t mean you’re right.  To go through life thinking that you have all the right answers is the very epitome of vanity.

I’ve seen births.  I’ve seen deaths.  I’ve seen people injured, both physically and emotionally.  I’ve seen

________________________

Now, unless you want to read a pretty depressing view of the state of humanity, I suggest you stop here. I started to riff on the above, and things take a bit of a downward spiral from here.
________________________

So above is where I realized I had jumped the shark, so to speak.  But it made me think about how many people I see online spouting about how this group of people are racists, or that group is homophobic, or you shouldn’t do this because you’ll hurt someone’s feelings, or if you vote for this person you’re crazy, or a vote for that person and you’re contributing to the downfall of society.  And it’s all based on little more than news spin from one side or the other, that’s intended to do nothing more than keep us all at one another’s throats.

Now, at this point, I could easily go off on a tirade about politics, but I find that too distasteful.  Besides, it’s not up to me to make you see things my way. As a matter of fact, that’s exactly the opposite of what I’m promoting, here.

The point I really wanted to make is back on the nature of faith.  Faith isn’t simply a religious concept.  Faith is simply the acceptance of something that cannot be proven.  These days, it has been corrupted to mean something that that cannot be proven, but that has enough belief behind it that a large percentage of people believe it to be fact.  And I find it ironic that people who deride “faith”, don’t seem to realize that they’re using faith to argue against it.  In essence, their argument is “the news source I have faith in, bolsters my argument against the news source that you have faith in.”  And it’s all simply so people can feel superior to one another.  We’ve lost the ability to think for ourselves.

And it tires me.  Worse still, it’s damaged my faith in my fellow human beings.  It’s petty much completely destroyed my faith in our society.  Politics, society, economy… everything is so intertwined now, that I don’t see how we can unravel the knots and extricate ourselves from the tangled mess that is human society.  As long as we focus on the stupid, little, divisive sound bites about whether or not it’s right for some rich celebrity to remain seated during the national anthem, we’ll never come together long enough to resolve the real issues in the world.  Hell, most people don’t even know that anything more important than politics and celebrity gossip exists in the world.  And until we sit up as a whole and take notice of what’s going on around us, we’re going to continue circling the drain.

Yeah. Downer of a post.  But hopefully, it will make some of you think… really think, and not simply take what you’re told as the truth.

:cry:

Feb 242016
 

Hope you have your hip waders on. Today’s post gets a little deep.  8-)

AssortmentA friend of mine posted a link on Facebook that resonated with me.  It was on a website dedicated to the support of the 2nd Amendment.  What was surprising was that the article wasn’t really trying to convince anyone to support the 2nd.  It was the author’s thoughts on the nature of evil, and how you don’t recognize the truly evil person until it’s too late.

The name of the article is “I’ve Talked With a Spree Killer…”, and if you’re so inclined you can read it here, though I learned long ago that such articles seldom if ever convince anyone of anything.  Just as my little missive here is unlikely to convince anyone to my view of things.

But the article did start me to thinking about the nature of violence.  Just say the word to yourself.  Violence.  There is an almost immediate connotation of wrongness and disapproval, isn’t there?  Even when I think about it, I have to almost consciously step beyond the emotional stigma that society has put on the word.

Yet I have dedicated a fair piece of my life to the study of martial arts.  And without getting all Miyagi on everyone, you can’t get away from the fact that the study of martial arts is the study of violence.  It’s an acceptance of the idea that life is not all smiles and sunshine, and that people do not all behave as society says they should.  It’s the acknowledgement that some people will attempt to take advantage of others, sometimes to the point of attacking them.  Sometimes killing them.

And it is training yourself to use similar violence to prevent it from happening around you.

I’m not going to try debate why violence occurs.  Environment, upbringing, mental illness, demonic possession, or whatever… for the purposes of this post, it doesn’t matter.  The fact that it does happen is enough for me to make the point I want to make.

It happens.

That can’t be denied.  I don’t care which side of the gun control/gun rights debate you fall on.  As far as I’m concerned, for this particular post, you can take guns out of the equation completely.  Whether the instrument is guns, knives, fists, or teeth, violent attacks on innocents happen every day.  Period.  If they didn’t, we wouldn’t need a military or a police force.

But as an ordinary citizen, what can you do about it?  Well the way I see things, there are three basic approaches to an attack.

You can call the authorities.  Or if you are actually the victim of said violence, then you can hope someone else calls the authorities.  After all, that’s why we have them, right?  To take care of perpetrators of violence against the innocent citizen.

Of course, unless the crime happens in front of the police, then the chances of them actually stopping the attack are pretty much slim to none.  But maybe they’ll catch whoever did it and lock them up so they won’t get a chance to do it again. Right?

Right?

Of course, you can take the “turn the other cheek” approach.  But to be perfectly honest, I’m just not that righteous a human being (if that’s your definition of being righteous).  If someone strikes the cheek of someone I care for, whether it’s me, a loved one, a friend, or even an innocent I see on the street, I’m more likely to take the third approach.

As far as I’m concerned, the old adage of “violence begets violence” is true.  Just off the top of my head, I’ve known two people who were victims of attempted kidnappings, several who were victims of muggings or attempted muggings, and two who were raped.  I’m a strong believer in stopping the violence immediately, minimizing the damage done to the victim as quickly as possible.  And I accept that doing so means that I have to embrace a certain amount of violence myself.

The old Japanese idea of bushido embraced several aspects of life – frugality, loyalty, honor, the study of martial arts, and yes… violence.  But more importantly, it embraced the balance of these traits.  Violence alone?  Yeah, that’s a pretty bad thing.  It can easily throw off a person’s emotional balance.  It’s like the old adage that says if all you have is a hammer, then everything begins to look like a nail.

Used improperly, that hammer can destroy all too easily.  But in the hands of a trained craftsman, it can be used to build you up.  You can learn to accept it as part of your nature – that it doesn’t have to be feared, only controlled.  And like the hammer, violence then becomes one of many tools you can use in building the life you want.

Like it or not, violence is part of life.  I’ve not known anyone who truly doesn’t have any violence in them.  Only those who choose to suppress it.  For better or worse, I’m not one of those people.  I’ve accepted the violence within.  I embrace it.  And I balance it with compassion and love for my fellow human beings.

I could give examples of people I’ve known who have used their martial arts training in defense of themselves or others.  But that’s not really the point here.  What I want you to take from this is that you have to find your own balance in life.  And just because someone else tells you something is so, is no reason to accept that it is.  There are always opposing views on any given subject.  Examine those views, make your own determination.

And in all things, find your own balance.

That’s it.  Enough of the deep musings.  We all have things to do.  So stay safe, and I’ll see you next week. :bye:

 

 

Dec 162015
 

WW24-newThe Silly Season is typically identified as a time when news media outlets have little of note to publish or discuss, and so pontificate on frivolous fluff pieces that are regarded as so trivial as to be “silly”.  I think it should be expanded to encompass not just news media, but social media as well.  And nothing seems to bring out the silliness better than politics. It seems to bring out the worst in people.

Nothing seems to be so divisive these days, as the constant self-indulgent and abusive political vitriol that fills our feeds these days.  We have self-appointed “activists” who consider it their goal in life to brow-beat anyone who disagrees with them, ridiculing them as ignorant fools who don’t have enough sense to see the error of their ways.  They claim to be open to honest debate, and back up their beliefs with statistics gathered from “fact checking” websites without bothering to examine the facts and arguments themselves.

This is an issue for both the right, and the left.  Whether it’s abortion, gay rights, gun control, or healthcare, there are arguments on both sides that can be statistically “proven”, even though their conclusions are at direct odds with one another.  One person can go to a “fact checking” website that they use and pull arguments that say that mandated healthcare is saving the nation.  Another can go to another site, and “prove” that it is destroying our economy.  One person can present arguments showing that gun deaths are on the rise, while another can show how they have been dropping for more than a decade.

So what’s the problem?  How can all these arguments be based in fact, yet remain so diametrically opposed to one another?  Could it be that the sources that people use for these arguments have their own political agendas?  Could it be that a fact checking site that has worked closely with a political candidate in the past, might be inclined to support the views of that candidate in the future?  Could a site that is funded by a right- or left-leaning businessman, tend to weigh in on the side of their funding?

But surely not!  After all, facts are facts!  Right?

Well in the immortal words of my old Journalism teacher, “…a meeting is a meeting, but a rendezvous is a whole ‘nother animal.”  In other words, there is a power in how you present things and in the words you use.  I think this lesson is what first taught me to think for myself, and to inherently distrust those who claim to have the “truth”.  It taught me the value of critical thinking and research.  To find the root of a matter for myself, rather than simply accepting that someone else has done a good job of it, and can be trusted to have a proper answer.

It works in writing, and it works in life.

It saddens me that so many people are content with the divisiveness spewed by politicians and activists… content to sit back in their chairs and sling cute little memes at one another.  “Oh, you don’t like The Thing?  Tell me how you fought against it when “your” side was using it!”  I’ve seen so many of those stupid little pictures of Gene Wilder with “arguments” on both sides of the political aisle.  And I have to admit that it pisses me off a little that Gene Wilder’s image, someone who I really like, is now forever tarnished by such childishness.

WW24BSo how about we try something different?  Something less Wilder, and more Wyld Stallyn.  Let’s be excellent to each other.  Because the political idiocy gets us nowhere.  People who are entrenched in their beliefs aren’t going to be swayed by little pictures with clever sayings on them.  And they sure as hell aren’t going to be changed by people screaming at them about how ridiculous their beliefs are.

…And they likely aren’t going to be changed by a little blog post written by yours truly.  So go, have a great day.   Be safe.

I’ll be over here tilting at windmills.