May 172017
 

WW82BShame on me.  Two weeks without a blog post.  But it’s been a busy two weeks.  We’ve had storm after storm here, one of which actually had me grabbing the dogs and ducking into a neighbor’s storm shelter.  You may have seen the news about the tornadoes in the Tulsa area.  This makes the second year that we’ve had to take shelter, although this year was admittedly much less dangerous.  We got plenty of rain, hail, and high winds, and I heard that a couple of small tornadoes touched down within a few miles of the house.  But it was nothing like the one last year, where we actually saw a tornado as it made its way past us.

Still, when those warning sirens started going off, I was considerably less inclined to wait until the last minute this time.  Even then, I got completely soaked going from the front door to the car… even more so going from the car to the storm shelter.  For the most part, the storm blew through pretty quickly, though. The picture here is of the mammatus cloud formation (see Suzanne? I remembered!) that was on the trailing edge of the system as it left our area to terrorize other parts of the country.

In other news…

EPPEnd Point Pangaea is pretty much done.  To be honest, I thought it was complete until I got these last few beta reads.  Some of the readers had some very cogent comments that I really have to address.  The biggest issue is going to require an additional scene that I hope to complete writing tomorrow.  I’ve spent the last few days clarifying other problems.  But the end is approaching rapidly.

Y12 – And I’m excited to announce that Corey Snow has tentatively agreed to put his voice talents back to work in the Half Past Midnight universe.  Corey is the voice actor who did the audiobooks for Half Past Midnight, and The Road to Rejas and his work was so fantastic that it was hard for me to imagine anyone else voicing Year 12.  So imagine how disappointed I was when I found that he no longer did royalty share jobs.  And after having taken so long between books, I was in no financial position to pay up front for him.  But after exchanging a few emails, he has agreed to make an exception.  If all goes according to plan, he will begin work on the audiobook version of Y12 next month, as well as Crazy Larry when it’s done.  Watch for future updates.  Smile

That’s all for now.  Time to get back to writing. So stay safe everyone.  I’ll talk to you again soon.  Bye

 

Oh!  RPotW – WW82C

For this week’s Random Pic of the Week, let’s go less random and more thematic.  Since I’ve already posted a picture from the back edge of the storm system from last week, let me post another from two days before that storm.  Details on the pic tell me it was 7:10 PM on May 9th.  MBH and I were walking the dogs, and we commented on how pretty the clouds were at the time.  Pretty, but also a bit unusual.  As you can see, the day was beautiful and I mentioned that the clouds ahead of us looked like a giant thunderbird.

Hmmm… in retrospect, maybe it was a giant thunderbird, and he was a warning of the storm to come.  Yep, there’s the old writer’s brain kicking in again.  Smile

For a better look at the formation, click on the picture.

Take care.  Bye

Apr 202016
 

WW40cFirst of all, to my friends and family in Houston… I know some of you took some damage from the insane rains this week (Scott, Adam…). You have my sincerest sympathy. I know I whined about being scared by a tornado a few weeks back. You guys really didn’t have to do this just to show me up!  Thinking

I lived most of my life in and around the Houston metroplex. One thing I learned is that, while it doesn’t happen often, those floods can be devastating. I remember being stuck in my neighborhood a time or two, and MBH recalls being flooded out of her house when she was a kid. I even lost a friend during Tropical Storm Allison in 2001 when she was told to move her car from a flooding underground parking garage. She took the elevator down, where the rising water shorted it out, trapped her inside, and filled with water. Kristie and I were both members of the Woodlands Writers Guild, and had worked on some writing conferences together.

And I guess this post just took a rather maudlin turn, didn’t it?

Moving to a more upbeat tone… I spoke to my mom this morning, and she seems to be recovering from her knee surgery wonderfully. The staples were removed from the incision yesterday, and she has regained motion in the knee to the point of being able to bend to nearly 90 degrees (although she says bending that far is still painful). All in all, she’s doing great.  Big Smile

Chucklers is moving right along. Restructuring the book has led to some rewrites and character expansions. Otherwise, most of the first book would be from Charlie’s POV, but interspersed with occasional chapters from other characters. In short, it would be completely out of balance without the reworks. But like I said, the work progresses. At the current rate, I should know soon whether the existing manuscript is going to be one book or two.

WW40bA final note. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve begun researching and applying some herbal medicine skills. There are a lot of pieces to those skills. You have to learn what plants have what medicinal properties, how to make them into infusions, tinctures, infused oils, salves, and poultices. But none of that knowledge does you any good if you aren’t able to identify the plants accurately. Well today I learned to identify a new plant. I’d read about it in several herbal medicine books, and seen it on various websites, but Plantain has so many variants that it threw me. And seeing pictures of something just isn’t the same as being able to put your hands on it and see it in real life.

Today, while I was walking the girls, I noticed a plant in a neighbor’s yard that looked very much like the descriptions and pictures I’d researched. And after all the rain we’ve had here (no, nothing like Houston) they were pushing up an easily identifiable flower stalk. But I still wasn’t sure, so I took a picture and posted it to a wildcrafting site I follow asking if it was, indeed, plantain. Sure enough, several wildcrafters confirmed it for me.

WW40aBut I didn’t want to go into the neighbor’s yard and start digging up plants. Besides, I sure didn’t want to make an infused oil from a plant that could have pesticide or other chemicals in it. So I decided that since I was now able to accurately identify this handy little medicinal, I went into my own back yard, hoping to find it there. It wasn’t until I had walked all the way to the back that I found it, but once I did, I was happy to see that there’s quite a bit of it near the back of the property. (Most of the broad-leafed plants in the picture to the left are plantain.) Specifically, it looks like I have Kentucky Plantain growing in relative abundance in my back yard.

Plantain is one of the better antidotes for insect stings and bites, snakebite, poison ivy, rashes, burns, cuts, and other skin ailments. When heated, the leaves can be applied topically to swollen joints, sore muscles, sprains, etc. Studies have shown that it is rich in tannin (which draws tissue together to help stop bleeding), allantoin (which promotes the healing of injured skin cells), and is an anti-inflammatory. There are other reputed uses, but I’ll stick with the ones that have scientific studies behind them.

So that’s my little bit of excitement for the day. Now I get to experiment with trying to dehydrate it, and make some infused oil out of it. I’m curious about whether dehydrating it significantly lowers its potency in infusions and oils.

I guess I’ll find out.

And that’s it. Time to get back to work. Stay safe everyone. I’ll see you in a week.  Bye

 

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 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?