Feb 242016
 

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

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

 

 

Jun 152015
 

Monday. MBH and I had a really nice weekend, despite the dreary weather. As I mentioned in my last post, Friday was my birthday, and she seemed determined to make it a weekend event. She’s really too good to me. J She cooked banana pancakes for breakfast on Saturday, and on Sunday, we had some errands to run, so we ate breakfast out. Then she made some slow cooker barbeque ribs cooked in homemade sauce for dinner, and they were absolutely amazing! (YUM!)

Let’s see, what else? Hmmm…

Sumac - 20150614_201213Ah! Many of you know I’m a bit of a self-sufficiency aficionado, with a strong interest in prepping, homesteading, wild crafting, and related topics of study. Well, for the last few days, my wife has commented on some bushes we pass while walking the girls. She kept wondering what the plants with the big red blooms were. They were across the street from where we walk and in an overgrown area, so at first I didn’t pay much attention. I simply glanced at them, and being partly colorblind, saw a big, spindly plant with leaves that were roughly feather shaped, and reddish, fluffy seeming blooms. From a distance, it looked like a mimosa, and I mentally wrote it off as such.

But yesterday I had occasion to get a closer look. Now, here comes the apparent non-sequitur, but trust me, we’re coming back around to the topic in a few seconds…

See, while we love our girls fiercely, we have come to accept that they are often not the friendliest dogs in the world when it comes to meeting new people. Sometimes they’re fine, but the unfortunate truth is that it’s not uncommon for them to lose their ever-lovin’ minds when someone new approaches. They bark and growl, and in general sound like the doggie apocalypse is coming. As such, we usually make it a point to take them across the street whenever we see someone walking towards us. I know some of the neighbors probably think we’re being unfriendly, but I don’t want to have them worried about the barking teddy bears on the leashes.

Well, yesterday as we were walking them for the evening walk, some neighbors were out on the sidewalk ahead of us. So we took the girls across the street, which brought us closer to the mystery plants. Additionally, there were a couple of rabbits in the field near them. These factors combined to cause me to pay more attention to the field, and as a result, take a closer look at the plants. When I realized that the big red blooms on top weren’t blooms at all, but were in fact clusters of red berries that projected upwards from the limbs, I got a little excited. See, in my research on homesteading, permaculture, and backyard orcharding, I had learned about wild sumac.

If you’re like most people, the first sumac you hear about is “poison sumac”, and so you immediately develop a healthy caution with it. But in many parts of the world, sumac is a spice. In many places here in the US, it’s known as the “lemonade tree”. And when I learned that it grows wild in many parts of the country, I developed quite an interest in a plant that can be used as a spice, or to flavor cooking meats, or even to make a tart drink similar to lemonade. I read about how to identify poison sumac by its marshy environment, smooth-edged leaves, and yellow, green or white berries that hang downwards.

Its cousin is edible sumac, and comes in many varieties. However, almost all of them have serrated leaves, and either red or purple berries that grow in conical, upward pointing clusters. It was the berry clusters on that mystery plant that convinced me that we had stumbled across edible sumac. And, being the idiot that I am, I picked one of the tiny berries, and popped it in my mouth.

It was a stupid thing to do. My memory could have been off, right? It would have been smarter for me to take a picture, get back home, and confirm what I thought I remembered with concrete evidence from the interwebs. But as my wonderful wife will attest, I’m not always all that smart. I trusted my memory.

I got a little nervous when I didn’t taste any of the reported tart, sour flavor. Instead, when I bit into that tiny berry, all I tasted was a slight astringent bitterness, similar to biting into an unripe elderberry. But despite that lack of identifying tartness, I was still convinced I had found sumac. So I got home and researched more. It turns out that you aren’t supposed to chew the berries, but rather suck on them. The tart flavor is in the coating on the berries, and often washes off in rain. And we’ve had plenty of rain over the last few days.

So I am still 95% sure we’ve found sumac. Specifically, I’m pretty sure it’s “Smooth Sumac” (aka Rhus glabra). It’s growing on the edge of a neighbor’s property, so I need to check with them and see if they want the bushes, and if not, see if they would mind if I dig one or two of them up and try to transplant them to the back of our property.

How crazy is it that I get excited over finding a plant? Man, my life has changed.

All right. Enough for now. It’s raining again, and I have writing to do. So stay safe, and I’ll be back tomorrow.

Jan 032015
 

Well first of all, Happy New Year!    Party

Yes, it’s that time when we all go crazy and make promises to ourselves that we seldom keep.  Or maybe that’s just me.  I have a tendency to make resolutions that at the time seem perfectly attainable… get in shape, or prep enough food and supplies for a year (for those of you who might not know that about me, I’m very into what a lot of people call “prepping”, though I simply call it being more self-sufficient), or write however many thousands of words, or publish this or that.

But the old adage tells us where that road of good intentions leads, doesn’t it?  Wink  No matter how reasonable or well-intentioned my resolutions seem at the time, I always seem to overlook Murphy’s influence on my life.  And to be perfectly honest, I tend to get easily distracted and discouraged… often to the point that I fall so far behind in my goals that I get discouraged and simply quit trying.

The new homesteadSo this year I’m going to try to take a more practical approach to things.  If you read my last few entries on the blog, you know I’ve had some major life changes in the last several months.  I left my job of more than fifteen years, left my home of more than fifty years, and moved from Texas to Oklahoma to help my parents out.  Since my last posting, we’ve gotten a new home in Claremore, Oklahoma.  It’s a small town a bit northeast of Tulsa, and so far, it’s been great.  The picture above is taken from the back corner of our fence, and I’m really looking forward to what all we can potentially do with this property.

There are two really big differences in my life here.  First, the people are just so freaking friendly.  Now, I had some great friends in Houston, don’t mistake my meaning here.  But until you get to know someone in a larger metropolitan area, people tend to treat you more suspiciously.  And if you watch the news there, you can easily understand why.  But here? You seldom see anyone frowning.  Waiters and cashiers greet you with a smile and seem genuinely happy to talk to you.  I’ve only been in this house a few weeks, and I already know more of my neighbors than I did in the house I left in Houston – and I lived there for fourteen years.  Is that their fault, my fault, or simply the learned caution of someone who has lived their entire life in a major metropolitan area?  I don’t know.  But I know that it’s much different here.  And I know I feel more welcome here, anywhere I go.

The other big difference is the weather.  In Houston, I seldom ever had to break out anything heavier than a light jacket during the winter, and that was usually only for a few days.  Here in Claremore we’ve already had a couple of light snows this year, and the temperature hasn’t climbed much above forty degrees for several days.  As I’m writing this, it is almost 2:30 in the afternoon, and the temperature is precisely forty degrees Fahrenheit.  And this is warmer than it’s been in several days.  It’s supposed to drop to nineteen degrees tonight!   Shock

Yeah, this is going to require some serious adjustment.  I’ll have to learn to “winterize” the house, the cars… even myself.  I had to scramble to find gloves last week.  It had been so long since I’d needed them that I wasn’t even sure where they were.

But I’m learning. Adjusting.  And the time I’m getting to spend with my wife and parents is great.  I’ve gotten closer to them all than I’ve been in quite some time, and that (as the commercial says) is priceless.   Big Smile

So back to the whole resolution theme that I started with.  I’ve learned my own version of the adage about the best laid plans and entering the battlefield.  Last year most definitely didn’t work out the way I had planned it.  But it all seemed to fall together at the end, so I can’t complain.  This year though, after taking stock of my life – of where I am chronologically, geologically, and financially – and trying to take into account some of the effects that Murphy can have on my plans, I’ve decided to set some relatively modest goals.

Writing goals:

Chucklers – This is the one that Edward Lorn and I began over a year ago.  It’s had a rocky road, and I’ve learned that collaboration with another author is both easy, and difficult. Chucklers grew from its inception as an online chat discussion, to an amazingly complex story composed of several interwoven storylines that look like they will likely span at least two, and probably three books.  But Ed recently contacted me and told me that he has a huge project in the works, and that he was going to have to leave Chucklers behind.  He has graciously given me his blessing in continuing with it on my own.

So resolution #1 is to complete and publish the first Chucklers novel.

Year 12 – I recently began working on the sequel to HPM again.  There isn’t a lot of it done, but there are a decent first few chapters.  I want to complete and publish this one in 2015.

Crazy Larry – There is a novella that’s been banging around in my head for a while.  I’ve had several people ask me how Larry was able to raise an army to attack the town of Rejas in HPM.  Now, since HPM is told from the first person perspective of Leeland Dawcett, then anything that Leeland didn’t know, simply couldn’t go into the novel.  But believe it or not, I do have an explanation.  So I thought I might put Larry’s story behind its own cover.  I want to do this in 2015.

Other: There is also an anthology coming up that I’ve been given permission to submit to, and the world in which it takes place sounds absolutely fascinating.  So I want to try for that anthology in the next few months, and see if I can get in.  And since this one is someone else’s property, that’s about all I can say about it for now.

And that’s it for my writing goals; two novels (one of which is already mostly written), a novella, and a short story.  Like I said, modest goals.

As for my more personal goals:

Blog more – This blog has suffered quite a bit over the last couple of years.  For a long time, I posted every week.  Then it dropped to once a month.  In 2014 I started out well enough, three or four posts in the first couple of months, but like I said, Murphy…  The last few blog entries were six months apart, and that’s just unforgivable.  So this blog will get at least one entry per month, come hell or high water.

House – For the new house, I plan to get a good garden going this spring, and get some fruit trees in the back yard.  Every long-term food source is part of that self-sufficiency thing I mentioned earlier, right?  And the more food I can produce at home is that much less we have to buy in the store.

Weight – Also, let me hit on an oldie, but a goodie… I plan to lose twenty pounds by May.  And more importantly, I will keep it off all year-long.

I think they are all relatively simple goals (except maybe the weight thing, but I only have myself to blame there), and I’m going to work on keeping these resolutions this year.  So wish me luck.  And please comment here.  I recently updated my anti-spam plugin for the blog here, and I’d like to know if it works properly.  I’ve had it update in the past and begin blocking EVERYONE who tried to comment.  The only way I know it’s not doing that again is for someone to leave me a comment.  If you try and you can’t, please send me an email at jlbDOTauthorATgmailDOTcom.

 

So that’s it for now.  Have a great 2015, and stay safe!   Bye

Jan 012013
 

Well, it appears we survived the dreaded December 21 apocalypse, so I suppose it’s time to get on with life.  It’s now the first of a new year, and time for those dreaded resolutions.

Actually, that’s the wrong attitude, isn’t it?  It’s time to grab the new year by the horns and take advantage of the opportunities presented.  Yeah, it’s resolution time.  So, first of all, health – I need to lose weight.  I could stand to lose quite a bit, but I’m going to resolve to lose thirty by June and keep it off for the rest of the year. That’s going to be the harder part.  I gave it half-hearted lip service a few months ago, lost a couple of pounds, and then entered the holidays with a full appetite.  I haven’t gained any, but my weight loss stopped at two pounds. It’s time to change that.

Next – writing.  I will finish Streets of Payne, and have it published before the end of the second quarter of next year.  Additionally, I will have the first draft of the HPM sequel done, and will do everything within my power to have it published before the end of 2013.  I can’t promise to actually have it published, because I’ve found that there are some pieces of the publishing puzzle over which I simply have no control.  I don’t know what my editor’s schedule is like that far in advance (and neither will she at this point), just as I don’t know what the cover artist and formatter’s schedule is going to be like.  But I can control the writing, so that is where I will concentrate my efforts.

Now for the more esoteric stuff.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m something of a survivalist.  I simply view it as learning to embrace a self-reliant lifestyle.  To that end, I’ve joined a web site called “13 Skills“.  The site is an offshoot of “The Survival Podcast” forum, and is designed with the idea that those folks interested in learning to be more self-sufficient should take the opportunity to learn “13 in 13”, or thirteen new skills in 2013.  I haven’t yet chosen thirteen skills, but the ones I’ve chosen so far are:

1. Aquaponics  —   Learn to build a balanced aquaponics system as research for upcoming book.

2. Archery — Acquire an inexpensive bow & arrows. Learn to shoot accurately. (Also useful as research for the upcoming HPM sequel.)

3. Concealed Weapons Permit —    Acquire CHL.

4. Soap Making  — Learn to make small batch soaps.

5. Sprouting — Sprout seedlings for spring garden.

6. Gardening — Learn and put into practice techniques for small footprint gardening. (Made a stab at this in the late fall, but it was just too late in the season, and everything has pretty much died.)  Cry

7. Cordage and Twining—  Learn to make paracord items such as rescue belt & explore whether or not same technique can be used for heavier gauge cordage such as climbing rope.

8. Canning — Learn to can & put it into practice.

9. Fitness —  Lose at least 30 lbs. & keep it off! (Already covered this one above.)

10. Water Catchment/Filtering — Acquire/build rain catchment system for back yard. Incorporate rainwater runoff for gardening.

 

That’s all I can think of right now.  What about you?  What are your plans for 2013?

Sep 192012
 

So how many of you watched Revolution Monday night?  I did.  Yeah, I know… of course I did.  Those of you who know me already know I’m a sucker for most sci-fi, and this show looks like too much fun to pass up.  Of course, if you’ve read my book, you already knew that Revolution was likely going to be of interest to me.  I mean, come on – an exploration of society after a cataclysmic event destroys our power grid?  How could I not like that?  Cool

The bad thing is that the writer in me kept picking things apart in the show.  Don’t get me wrong – I really, REALLY enjoyed it.  But climbing down into a crashed RV that has apparently been laying on its side for fifteen years, with broken windows, only to find that the white leather seats are still in pristine condition?  Sorry, that’s not gonna happen.  And clothing that looks new – colors still unfaded, complete with factory stitching – fifteen years after that sort of quality should be available for the common folks.  Not likely.

I mean, look at this picture.  Even the AC/DC t-shirt looks to be in pretty good condition.  Now, you can ask my wife – I am the world’s worst when it comes to giving up on a comfortable t-shirt.  If it fits, and it’s comfy, I don’t care how many holes it has, or how badly the collar is worn and frayed – I will hang onto that shirt until it’s not even fit for service as a dish rag.  But I don’t think I have any t-shirt that has lasted fifteen years, even with modern washers and dryers.  And we’re supposed to believe that a post apocalyptic world is easier on clothes than I am now?  Question

All that aside, I loved the basic premise (or at least, what of it has been revealed so far), and the action sequences were a lot of fun.  The show looks like it has a lot of promise, so I’ll continue to watch and see what they do with it.  Hopefully, the networks don’t pull their usual crapola and cancel it before it gets a chance to gain a loyal audience.

 

Other news:

Gardening – If you follow me on FaceBook, you know I started a small garden experiment.  I built a small 2′ x 4′ moveable square foot garden, and planted some Texas Cream Peas, Red Grape Tomatoes, Di Ciccio Broccoli, Buttercrunch Lettuce, Spacemaster 80 Cucumbers, and jalapeno peppers.  Yesterday, I checked on them when I got home from work and found twenty Cream pea seedlings, and one cucumber seedling!  I guess it’s silly, but I’m pretty excited!  It’s the beginning of the Brackett Texas Cream Pea empire!  (Insert evil laugh here.)

R2R – This is the week I start working with Streetlight Graphics on the final stages of The Road to Rejas.  I’m anxious to get going with this one.  The story has been done for several weeks now, and I’m ready to get it released.  Unfortunately, SLG seems to be running a little behind schedule, so I have to remain patient.  Based on a few email exchanges, I anticipate hearing from them today or tomorrow.  Who knows?  Maybe I’ll have a cover reveal to do next week!  Wink  Even better, maybe an actual release in early October.  Anyone interested?  (Boy I hope so…)  Question

SoP – Work on Streets of Payne is moving along.  As always, you can track my progress in the meter over to the right.  No, it’s not going as quickly as I’d hoped, but that’s par for the course.  I’m just thankful that it’s moving, the story is flowing for me, and there is an end in sight. I heard that the cover artist I initially hired for this one is supposedly trying to get back on track with some of the jobs she dropped out on, but I’m not holding my breath.  She was supposed to contact me a week ago, and I still haven’t heard anything.  Yeah, I’m afraid that particular purchase is just going to be another expensive lesson along the path to becoming a professional writer.

Speaking of learning about becoming a writer, I’ve noticed something over the last couple of months.  Late summer months for sales seem pretty slim.  I know that the best way to keep sales going for your work is to get more work published for people to read.  But even with that in mind, the sudden plummet in sales was a little nerve-wracking.  I queried some of the writing groups I frequent and found that it isn’t just me.  Some of the old timers confirmed that August through October are consistently the worst months for them.  I guess that means I just need to tighten my belt and get ready for some leaner times.

 

On a personal note –

Last Friday, our Baby Bird returned home for a surprise visit.  My wife and I were at the top of the stairs talking about something when I saw our daughter slip in the front door.  I tried to keep a poker face, but my wife saw something in my expression and asked what was going on.  When I didn’t say anything, she started to get concerned.  After a few seconds, she noticed movement out of the corner of her eye and when she saw our daughter, she squealed like a little girl.  Smile  She told me afterward that my expression had at first led her to believe that one of the dogs had done something evil on the new carpet, and I wasn’t telling her about it.  LOL.

Unfortunately, the weekend ended on a less gleeful note when Baby Bird totalled her car while going to visit some friends.  She wasn’t hurt, other than a few bruises and a strained neck, but there was the emotional and mental stress that follows an event like that.  I wish she hadn’t had to go through it.  Unfortunately, it’s one of those things that happens to all to many of us.  We learn from them, and move on through our lives, grateful that it wasn’t worse than it was.

 

And a final bit of news on the personal front – anyone who knows me, knows that I’m overweight.  Well, it’s time to do something about it.  I’ve said this many a time int he past, and I get started, and then, for one reason or another, I backslide.  It’s time for some motivation, and nothing motivates quite so much as public humiliation.  So I have decided to publicly commit to a weight loss of fifty pounds.  Now, I’m going to cheat a little right off the bat, and state that I’m starting from my worst weight, where I first began working on it.  I won’t say what that weight is, since that’s a little more humiliation than I’m prepared to deal with.  However, I am going to put another meter in the side bar that will track my weight loss.  I weighed this morning, and am happy to say that I lost another pound this weekend, so am beginning the meter at an eleven pound loss.  As great as it sounds, that’s basically a wash, since I was down by twenty pounds a few months ago, and seem to see-saw somewhere around the ten pound mark.  This time, I’m determined to get the entire fifty off.  Of course, then the trick will be in keeping it off.

Wish me luck.  Smile

 

Well, that’s it for now.  Time to get back to work.  The day job beckons.  (sigh)

Stay safe, everyone.  Bye