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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Americana

16 JAN 2018

I recently made a trip to New York for the first time. Below is a picture from that trip. Enjoy. It's not really something to enjoy but something to think about. We live in a country where our proud, broken flag flows over a once proud, broken house. What does this say about our country? 



No easy answers here. 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year

31DEC17

2017 has been a great year!

Professionally, I've had several more stories published, and one republished. I couldn't be happier at my regular day job too. I also secured all my professional credentials for the next decade or so. I love where I'm at!

Personally, I've been trying to take better care of myself. After several tests and visits to the doctor, I've been diagnosed with extremely low levels of some very important letters of the alphabet (like A, B, C, D, etc...). So, I'm working to get those levels where they need to be. I've also been losing weight in an effort to keep the demons of hereditary diabetes at bay. Which, thank goodness, seems to be working. Of course, it doesn't help when your doctor tells you flat out, "You're fat." Not an easy thing to hear. 

What does the new year hold? Well, hopefully a short story anthology of all my own work! I'm looking at putting together a collection of 13 stories, some new, some old. I spent a portion of the last few days looking at some old pieces I wrote here and there and boy are they awful! lol. But it feels good to know that I have grown as a writer. One of my New Year's resolutions will be to reread some of my favorite stories and see what I can glean from them, what I can use in my own stories. Return to my roots so to speak. Go back to what I like. This doesn't apply just to books. Movies, comics, and music will also be revisited. I'm still working on my novels, but they will take a bit more work.

Hope your New Year is the best, and may all your wishes come true. Picture for today? See below...an inspirational quote (from a recent trip to Belgium) to start the New Year off right.





Saturday, December 23, 2017

The High Chaparral and Writing

23 DEC 17

I'm sitting here on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for some repairs to a car. An early Christmas present for my wife. While I'm waiting I'm also working on adding keywords to each chapter of one of my longer drafts. It's an interesting process. Once I'm done I'll be able to see how the keywords start, stop, and interweave with each other. 

While sitting in the waiting area, I was subjected to watching several episodes of The High Chaparral, a western series I had never heard or seen before. Made by some of the same guys behind Bonanza. My attention has problems staying on task sometimes, especially when a TV is on nearby. :) I liked the frontier feel of the show, something that I want to mimic for some of my stories. There is some nice interplay between the Indians, the soldiers providing law in the territories, and the ranchers and frontiersman settling the area. I have the feeling that some of the shows I watched today will make an impact on one of my stories someday. All I have to do is add some magic. 



So yeah, that's what I'm working on right now. For the last hour I focused on a part of the draft where a group of adventurers wander into a town, a town with an odd set of four festivals, one on each solstice and each equinox. The group happens into the town just a day or so after the Summer Solstice festival, with some unintended consequences. Think Western Twilight Zone, sort of. With skeletons.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Africa



21 DEC 17

I wrote most of the following post seven years ago. Time flies. Time flies. Added to it a little bit because, well, you know, writers can't seem to leave well enough alone. lol. At least not this one.

Assignment Africa: 21 DEC 2010My last night in Djibouti. Hopefully!

I ate dinner at the Combat Cafe, with some of my brothers. When I saw what was being serving I yelled out, "Hey it's 'Me' night!" (Mexican food). Not the best by far, but in a sick, against everything that Mexicans hold dear way, their attempts at enchiladas remind me of my grandparents on both sides of the family. It was sad and touching at the same time, like even the cooks knew I was leaving and were trying to help with this 'eh, close enough' reminder of my favorite dish. I choked it down, sitting outside in the heat of the night.

After chow, I walked across camp towards my office. Stopped and said goodbye to a couple of fellow PA types walking the other way, and discussed how the camp smells like wet dog after it rains. Which is odd, because no dogs to be seen for miles. Couldn't decide if the stench was any better than the overwhelmingly aromatic way the camp reeks on a daily basis because of the burning junk from the nearby Douda dump.


Following the gravel road, I passed by EMF (our Medical clinic). Yesterday they gave me a parting gift of a letter in my medical record that said something like, "This guy breathed in a lot of 'crap' while he was here." Went right next to the similar letter that I got from Afghanistan. What do I get for two of those? Some sort of prize? Maybe a new lung? I'd like to stop hacking and coughing soon, I stopped smoking many, many, many moons ago.


Speaking of moons, there is a full moon hanging in the sky, hidden by clouds thick with rain. Not a usual sight in bone-dry Djibouti! A little way up the street, local street sweepers are lined up, doing their thing, pushing a little harder than usual. The dirt road is not dusty tonight, but muddy and thick with wet globs of clay. Hey, it's a job. Push dust or push mud, get paid the same. I wondered if any were chewing Khat.


I stroll a little further down the hill, and come across a loose marching column of Kansas guardsmen, some of America's finest, armed and ready to take over the next watch at the main gate. I step aside and watch them as they pass. They are walking along a line of tall, thin Acacia trees, and they remind me of the dwarves in the opening scenes of Snow White. But it wasn't really a Hi-Ho kind of thing. These guys carried M-16's, no axes here. They were a more serious set of dwarves, too. No Happy or Dopey, more Angry and Dippy.


Walking a little further, I pass the cannons. the bare flagpoles and the White House. No more would I see the Djiboutian flag flying next to the U.S. flag, no more would I hear the Djiboutian national anthem, the song always makes me want to say "Yee-haw!" at the end.


A final short stretch of gravel over mud and I am at my CWU door. Well, mine no longer, I turned it over to a guy that I hope will keep the CLDJ PAO torch burning for another year. But I still think of it as my office, and I am reminded of how precious 'MY' office was to me. I enter and see Mahamed's desk. We said goodbye today. He brought sambosas for me one last time. We hugged, like brothers. I worked with him closely for almost a year, and I feel that someday, Insh'allah, we will meet again, and this time I will make it all the way through Ramadan with him. I look forward to this with a hunger born of memories and hope.


So here I am, sitting at my desk, 'my' desk, near midnight now, a few hours away from leaving this country that I never heard of before 2009. A country my students back in the states laugh at every time they hear its name. "Ja-booty."


I cannot help but think of the places I've been, the people I've met, and the things that I have seen and done. I have changed this tour. Physically, mentally and spiritually. More than any previous trek around the world. Africa has changed me in ways I would not have believed. Have I changed Africa? No. In fact, despite the time spent here, I feel I have barely wet my toe in the vast ocean that is Africa. I jumped with the Massai, yes. I swam with whale sharks, yes. Visited Uganda, Ethiopa, etc... But I have not yet truly immersed myself in Africa. This continent is too huge. That voyage must wait for another time.


Someday, I will hear Africa calling to me. I will answer, ready to dive deep.


I will remember this place always.


Working Environment

21DEC17

All writers write differently. To give a peek behind the scenes, today I am sharing a screenshot of what my computer screen looks like as I write. Inspired by seeing another writer's screen (Michael Baker), the picture shows one of my works in progress. 

It's early in the morning, well not now. It's after eight, but I did start early this morning, been writing for more than two hours already. I have no regular work to go to today, so I am in the den, writing away. Although I usually have my earbuds in, today I am sharing my musical selection with the cat, who is next to my knee, curled up with her face tucked up under one of her hind legs. A thick fog is outside the window, also unusual. The story on the screen is one of my longer pieces, as you can tell from the chapter headings on the side. 

Well, time to get back to it! Enjoy and feel free to share how you write!


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Writing

16 DEC 17

Happy Holidays everyone! Happy Saturday! Woke up early this morning, no running, but did feel inspired enough to do some solid editing. The short story I worked on was an bonus piece for a seasonal anthology, and dealt with relationships between primates and people. 

It started out as a very short story, under 1,800 words and now it's grown, merged with another short piece that was originally written as a response to a picture and the two combined are now over 3,000 words. I rewrote some dialogue and interactions between a boss and his secretary, used a real place in Downtown Shreveport (Regions Bank), and then made up one or two fictitious places. Makes the story a little more realistic to have solid names and places as the setting. I did some research for this story, how do gorillas sign, where are gorillas kept in the United States, things like that.

Still working on expressing emotions between people, developing characters and so on. 

Also happy to report that another short story of mine, originally released as "Monsters" on Wattpad, has been published as part of an anthology/linked story book. The book it appears in is sort of like an anthology, except that the included stories are shorter pieces set inside a larger, wrapping, story. 

Here is the link: 

Protectors of the Veil

And the blurb for the release: 

This book is a very unusual cohesive novel with short stories woven into the main story. It centers around the Internal Veil Affairs office. They work for the Great Old Ones to maintain and protect the veil that covers the Earth. If too many people see reality, the veil will be destroyed before the Great Old Ones are ready to return. If the veil falls before the stars are right, this realm and everyone in it would be obliterated. The book follows the IVA on their cases and their quest to preserve the veil at all costs. The short stories are from many contributors that are listed in the Contributors section at the back of the book. Each short story is the backstory of each case. There are all sorts of monsters and interdimensional creatures. This will be the first book in a series all set in the same universe.
I really like the story I submitted for this release. It sort of came to me in a dream and includes a lot of my favorite themes: military service, fantasy, set in a realistic setting.

I made a cover for the Wattpad version of the story, using a photo I took that came out rather nice. It is currently being used as the banner for my new facebook author page. I do want to edit it, trim out a few more branches so that the title is more prominent. Here is the current version as the picture for this post:




Now it's time to sit back and wait for a courtesy copy of the one anthology and the release date for the seasonal anthology! Two more times in print this year. Good times. Have a great day everyone! 





Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Paris II

29 NOV 17
Some more pictures from Paris and Belgium. Makes me think of what statues and monuments would appear in my world.

Chapel for Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI 
 Charles De Gaul

 
 I love lion statues

   Yes, this picture is out of focus, but it does give a good feel for Paris.