Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

Roy's Resolutions for 2017

  1. Write a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
  2. Shower after every skunk hunt.
  3. Fix the faucet that's been dripping for three years.
  4. Invent a skateboard for Arizona's sand and gravel.
  5. Par the Wickieup golf course.
  6. Enter the Kingman cemetery without having to comment on its sad state of neglect.
  7. Publish No.1
  8. Publish three others just in case.
  9. Solve the political unrest and bring the country together.
  10. And the best for last - buy my friends and family lunch whenever I see them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Arizona Christmas

Is there such a thing as "An Arizona Christmas"?

I don't think so. There can only be an Arizona flavor to the style of celebration we choose to honor the birth of our savior.

Christmas, for me, means acknowledging an incarnate savior powerful enough to build a universe, not one that can be contained within any boundaries we can define. A Lord powerful enough to hold your hand regardless of what anyone else thinks of you.

It is a time we set aside to remember all the good things, to forgive and forget past immoderations, ours and those we've suffered from others. It is a time to find fresh hope as through the eyes of a newborn with all possibilities open.

It's a time to remind my family that I love them (yes, you too, Cuz.), and to tell my friends how much they mean to me.

If you would like to remember someone this Christmas, write their name(s) in the comment box. If it isn't visible, click on the blue header.
Posting on Wednesdays.
Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Critique Groups

Murgalump pulled some strings and got me an interview with the Tale Chasers, a premier critique group that meets in Surprise, Arizona. Having access to the critiquing/editing abilities of such intricate minds is a value that any aspiring writer covets.

The Tale Chasers:

 Jack is the author of DEADRUN, a hold your breath and hang on for the ride thriller involving religious artifact theft, emerging political scenes, an unstoppable assassin, and running with the bulls. The person he throws to the wolves to complete the story is a combat veteran suffering from PTSD.  No one is guaranteed to survive.

Sandy is the coauthor of DEADRUN and the group's grammarian. Wanna know when the question mark goes outside the quotes? She can will tell you. Em dashes, apostrophes, commas, and ellipses don't scare her. She is immune to parsing intimidation.

Linda is the author of NOT ALL GHOSTS ARE HOLY, an autobiography that takes place mostly in hospitals and convents. Did you ever think there was a cold, dark spot in your room? You may be right. Fascinating and Oh, my gosh, are a couple of phrases to describe Linda's story.

I would be honored to be a part of this group. They all came to writing after working in specialized careers, but you would think they've been at it since grade school. I don't believe they're going to have much tolerance for Run, Spot, Run level of my effort, but I'm hoping to play on their sympathy. I have so much to learn from them.

What about your group? I'll bet it's fantastic. Tell us about it in comments. If the box isn't visible, click on the blue header.
Blog updates on Wednesdays.
Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Perspire To Inspire

Sweaty Betty

Her ears glistened with a perpetual sheen. Betty's otic perspiration was well known by the student body of Mohave County Union High School. Parallels were drawn by biology students when they learned that elephants cool themselves by pumping blood into the thinner skin of their ears, but humans have to perspire.

Poor Betty endured all manner of teasing by anxiety-ridden students who found their way to fit in was to join forces and pick on her. It diverted malicious attention away from their own shortcomings.

It didn't help Betty's image that she wore her hair in pigtails. The speculation was that exposing her ears helped them evaporate the sweat faster. That may have been her goal, but it also kept her problem exposed.

The day her fate changed was when she went to a remote corner of the track/football field to escape the taunts and jibes of mean-spirited classmates and met the Big Man On Campus.
Not a class officer. It was Roy. The undisputed leader of the entire school. Already a renowned cockroach whisperer, he was training four abreast to pull a little chariot, à la Ben Hur.

He glanced up to see Betty approaching. The light behind her refracted through the moisture surrounding her ears to burst into a prism of rainbow colors. An aura more sparkly than cut glass.
He was smitten.
Now Roy had been smit before, but this was a smite that smote him with a particular smiteyness.

Some in Roy's class tried to stage an intervention, but he would have none of it. He liked Betty. If Roy wanted her, then Betty was in. That's all there was to it.
Students had to go back to taking turns being picked on since whatever Roy wanted was law.

It turned out that Betty's dad was wealthy. Roy spent the next summer vacation at their beachfront mansion in the Bahamas: horseback riding, parasailing, and scuba diving.
He said that the best part was that he wasn't wormed until he got back.

Have you been on either side of gossip? Leave a comment. If you can't see the comment box, click on the blue heading.
Posts are scheduled for Wednesdays.
Thank a veteran.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Three Things Writers Should Know

Murgalump scolded me for not working harder on my platform. She said that gaining writing experience by telling stories is fine, but I should be concentrating more on the craft itself. So I scoured the internet to see what to glean that I may be able to pass on to you.

I came to the conclusion that there are three things a new writer should know.

  1. There is a lot of excellent advice given by responsible and knowledgeable authors for the simple reason of helping others.
  2. There are thousands of blogs that have tag words screaming numbers, like the one I'm using today. For instance, headings tell you 5 things always to do, or 7 things never to do, 12 tips to jumpstart your career or 30 things to keep in mind when character building. Folks, they ain't gonna run out of numbers. Tomorrow there will be more numerals to follow. If you get in that mode, you'll need a spreadsheets bottom line to decide when you've become a writer.
  3. You can be a better writer. Read, write, hone your craft. Then - who knows? You still have to bring a skill with you, and even if you have it, you may never win a traditional publisher.
So why bother?

Because it's your story.

One more thing.
By all means, read the articles that have numerals in the headings. Just understand what Hemingway meant when he said, "To get started, write one true sentence."

That's it for me. How do you feel about it? To leave a comment if the comment box isn't visible, click on the blue heading.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gentle Sister Susie

Roy and I have a sister.

She grew up next door and had a different last name, but if fighting, laughing, playing, and suffering boredom create a family, then we were a blended one. Still are.

Susie had abilities early. She was at ease wearing Levi's, her red hair in pigtails, throwing a basketball or throwing punches. The next thing you knew, she'd be in a gown heading off to a Rainbow Girl's meeting. If you didn't know she had a thick scab on her knee, you'd take her for a lady.

In the 1950's, a favorite get-away for Kingman folks was the Hualapai Mountain Park. Fourteen miles into the mountains up a steep, narrow, winding dirt road. But once there, the picnic benches under the pine trees made fried chicken and potato salad taste better than any food on earth. There was a private lake deep enough for swimming and catching small catfish that the owners opened to the public. There was also a lodge for all sorts of social amenities including horseback riding.

I have a lot of fine memories of being in the mountains, and a splotchy one. In fact, I confessed to Susie that because of the freeze-frame scenes I recall, I didn't know if I actually witnessed the event and was traumatized, or if someone else related it to me. She said I was there.

The first scene has Susie and Roy racing their horses down a hard-packed dirt road. The decomposed granite that makes up a lot of the Hualapai Mts. is like concrete.
Susie is in front, the sound of galloping horses and thousand pound animal bodies hurtling along comes to mind. She is grinning.

Jump to the next scene. Susie is a ball, still in the saddle, underneath the horse's belly. She is a boxer's punching bag for flying hooves. Her cinch was loose and the saddle slid. A least one steel-shod hoof clipped her head. She was getting her peanuts shelled.

She said when she came to, I was looking her over to see if she was breathing. Roy jumped off his horse to check on her, then instead of remounting and riding, ran two miles to the park where Susie's mom was. Susie's head was a bloody mess. She got up and walked to the cabin her folks owned while I rounded up the horses.

Her mom had to take her to the hospital. I think stitches held her together for a few months.

She's still torqued that she didn't saddle her own horse and, Heavens Sake, she broke her glasses.

It's a good thing she had the cool-headed Voss boys there. Neither one of us was hurt.

How do you protect your sister? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dad Learns About Symbiosis

Most dads teach their sons about the birds and bees. Our family had Roy. Teaching trickled up, not down, and it involved Roy's new girlfriend, Twinkle Veldermann.

She wasn't his girlfriend in a romantic sense, and that's where the symbiosis came in. Twinkle taught Roy the finer points of playing linebacker and increasing the odds of sacking a quarterback. In return, he shaved her back so the hair wouldn't mat up under her shoulder pads.

Dad loved Roy but was eternally perplexed by this particular offspring and tried to help him. But how? He drew on his farming background as when the old plow mule started acting funny. Maybe the same medicine that cured the mule would work on Roy.

This stage of Roy's upbringing began a family routine for us. Mom would relate my older brother's activity; Dad would eat a roll of Tums, then give Roy another dose of worm medicine.

It was Kismet. Saturated with parasitic protection probably helped Roy stay healthy through his dating years. Some of his later dates you will, no doubt, learn of here.

As for Twinkle, some good, some bad. Getting wormed left Roy half comatose and gave him a light touch to shave around her bruises from being poked with a ten-foot pole by courageous young men, but rendered him useless as a linebacker. She left Roy for a guy that became a stevedore in Antarctica.

How did your date go? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Rattler Contest

Results of  the 2016 Phoenix Rattler contest sponsored by Christian Writers of  the West have been announced.
Roy is the category winner of the Mystery/Thriller/Romantic Suspense genre.

His novel, The Tough Kid, keeps the reader engrossed from an explosive beginning to an out-of-breath ending.

Great job, Big Brother.

Also, ahem, I enjoyed some success in the contest too.

If you've looked at all the pages on this blog, you will have noticed the mention of Little CAB Press, the publisher of other stories written by Roy and me.
I intended to use the win to have agent Murgalump Kneffle upgrade my contract with Little CAB. Right now, it stipulates that my stories only see print if I can convince Roy to submit a story too. Even then, my work is printed at the back of the anthology on tear-out pages.

Murgalump said she wasn't going to bother because if I won, then I must have been the only entry in my genre at the Rattler contest, winning by default.

I thought about it and it's okay. It's a certificate I didn't have yesterday.

What did you win, or should have won? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Bony-Eyed Bonnie

In the '50's, Kingman was having a normal football season. Once again we were fielding a team displaying determination, tenacity, and lunacy in spite of our cellar ranking.
Roy was looking for ways to improve our record since practice and scrimmage could take us only so far.

It was said that Bony-eyed Bonnie could fuse a guy's joints just by staring at him.

We laughed at that, but no one made eye contact with her, either. Mystery clouded her. She appeared at the junction of the highway and a long dirt road to catch the school bus. Her house and family, if they existed,were never seen. Her personal space was three times the size of the most grubby kids and was never violated.

Except by Roy.

Willing to make any kind of deal that could help the team, Roy reasoned that she could put the freeze on the opponents and the Mohave County Union High School Bulldogs would put one in the win column.

Roy talked Dad into taking her with us to the game at Boulder City, Nevada.

That night under the lights of their field, inhaling the smells of mown grass, and the thrill of being out of town made up for the fact that I had to ride all the way looking out a side window to keep from seeing Bony-eyed. I was shocked to find that she could talk to Mom about regular girl things.

Poor Boulder City. They only had one play. Give the ball to their quickest guy who ran around end for a touchdown. It got boring pretty fast.
Kingman ran a Tee formation. Two halfbacks and a fullback. The fullback spot is the powerhouse runner, the man who will bowl over tacklers and punch through steel walls.

Our fullback was Bruce Ricca. Bruce was probably rocking around 120, maybe 130 lbs.

When Boulder City got spent from running touchdowns, kicking off and recovering fumbles to make more touchdowns, we lined up to make 'em pay.

The handoff to Bruce. He hit the line off-tackle going full tilt.

When they cleared the pile-up, Bruce had one thigh pad knocked out of his pants, and the other was ripped and hanging. His hip pads were twisted, the lacing of his shoulder pads was snapped leaving them to flop around under his jersey, and his helmet was cracked.

Later in the game, Roy managed to make a flying, twisting tackle to grab the foot and break the ankle of their end-run, touchdown-making player. That kept the score down to 63-0.

Turns out, Bony-eyed Bonnie couldn't fuse bone joints, but she could help Roy forget the game. Bruce couldn't remember the game for three days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

It's Platform

Several writers have told me that what I'm trying to accomplish is called building a platform, not gallows.

I brought this up to Murgalump, but she's unapologetic. She said that in my case gallows is the correct word.

I'm kinda sorry I committed to her costly retainer fees. She seems distant and unapproachable. I'm only to meet her on the first Wednesday of the month, Senior Day at Safeway. I push her cart, and she lets me pay for her groceries as part of her maintenance cost. However, she's an agent, and I understand her need to spend most of her time with her published client, nine-year-old Freida Somethingorother who colors unicorns in comic books.

Rubbing elbows with the literati is nice.

Don't Overheat the Mule

Roy hit the babe lottery. It wasn't unusual for girls to call for him when he was out on a date. I was his secretary, answered the phone and took notes. I loved it since it was the only time girls talked to me.
I took lots of notes when he fell for a beautiful ranch girl and accepted an invitation to spend a weekend on a round-up. He had a friend among the cowboys who advised him to select the mule as his mount after the ranch hands cut out their personal horses.
He had a choice between the mule and a magnificent chestnut quarterhorse. Should he trust his friend or was he being set up as a tenderfoot? He would trust.
Grabbing a bridle, he approached the mule who turned away. Roy tried to push the animal into position, but at 18 hands, about 6 feet at the withers, and four hooves on the ground, it wasn't happening. Roy went this way and that way but the mule kept turning, singing his Rocky Mountain Canary hee-haws as if he were laughing.
When one of the hands called out, "Hey, Roy. Don't overheat the mule," Roy knew he'd been had.
He saddled the chestnut and rode off in the company of Seldom Spoke Findlay.
They rode all morning before Seldom Spoke stopped, pointed to a landscape of ravines, brush, and pinion pines. "Round up everything in there and push 'em back to the ranch."
"OK. Where will you be?"
Seldom Spoke pointed to the west, turned in that direction, spit a slug of tobacco juice that almost cleared his boot, and left.

Roy began his roundup.

Later we found out that the chestnut was blind in his right eye. Without another horse to follow, he would always circle left as he worked up and down the breaks and around the brush.
Roy was in the drop-off area the cowboys used for visiting riders. They knew they'd have to come back later and lead him out. It was the price they paid for their entertainment.

The day was long spent as weary ranch hands, sweat beads trailing clean lines down dusty faces, began arriving, herding their bunches into holding pens.
Each arrival watered his horse but left it saddled. They had yet to draw straws to see who was to get Roy.
Mile-high Fitz's shadow was twice as long as his real altitude when he said, "I think I see something."
The cowboys clambered to the top rail of the corral and perched like buzzards.
Yes. They could make it out a little. A horse and rider ... and something else.

Ironically it was Seldom Spoke who told the bunkhouse boy to get the cook. "Cletus ain't never seen nothing like this."
The entire ranch population turned out to see Roy approaching in half-mile circles. Like the coils of a Slinky pushed sideways, each circle came closer to the ranch. He was herding a one-legged kangaroo. It was a perfect match. The marsupial leaped with his right leg pushing him left. The chestnut followed.

When they got close enough for the horse to lock in his bearings, he worked the kangaroo right on in.

For some reason, no one ever mentioned this particular roundup again. That's a shame too. It's certainly a western tale befitting Roy's unique qualities. This one ending with Roy held in some admiration by slack-jawed cowboys as he entered a corral with a one-eyed horse, a one-legged kangaroo, and a laughing, under-heated mule.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Building a Gallows

Can you believe it?
I'm told some writers wait years before finding an agent, but there she was: Murgalump Kneffle eyeballing zucchinis in the produce section of Safeway.

Sure. She'd be my agent and teach me all about publishing a book. The first thing I have to do is build a gallows.

Why a presence on social media is called a gallows I'll never know, but Murgalump says I've gotta do it. Practice writing on a blog, she says. So here I am.

First post.

So here's where we start. Murgalump says to write what I know. I know all about my big brother, Roy. I watched him from the day I was born when he was and still is, lively. I know a lot.

The stories about Roy should come easy enough. It's learning how to post them, add pictures, and format the blog I'll have to work through.

Stay tuned. I'm trying for a once-a-week posting.

Meanwhile, get the email updates from the sidebar, and don't forget to leave a comment.