Friday, November 30, 2007

Haleluja, Everybody say Cheese

Wow! I said it in the comments of my previous post and I am going to say it again here. I never dreamed I'd get such a great reaction to my first official Sagas of a Second Rate Santa. I really thought most people would find it a tad boring given that it was more of a character sketch than a complete, well-rounded story. But appreciate all of the kind words in the comments and the emails you guys sent to me. I'll try to get another edition of the Santa Saga up this weekend. But I still contend I have better Easter Bunny stories, which I will share sometime this spring.

So what's on tap for today? I don't know. I'm pretty much winging it as I type. I should be out Christmas shopping instead of blogging since I haven't even started yet. I could be up on my roof repairing the squeaking whirlygig. I could be outside stringing Christmas lights ... but I'm not.

Right now I'm basking in the glow that I have wrapped up section one of Plundered Booty. Oh, it's still rough but as feel good about the transition into the second part and that is what I have been struggling with. Meshing the three pieces together. And believe it or not all of you paid played a apart in my getting to this point. The Santa piece, along with your comments and emails gave me the shot of confidence I needed to roll up my sleeves and pound out this last chapter. So thanks.

What else can I blog abut today? My beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers are searching for a new football coach. I'm pulling for them to hire Turner Gill, but since very few of you are sports fans I'll stop there and find another topic.

I wish I were out deer hunting right now, but it is beginning to look like I won't even buy a hunting license this year since free time is in short supply.

What else?

I'm drawing a blank since my mind is wrapped up in Plundered Booty and a short story idea right now. So, when all else fails, Do a Meme. I wasn't tagged with this one, but I found it over on Kristen Painter's blog and it fits with the season and my Santa story so here goes ...

A Christmas Meme

1. Eggnog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate with Butter Rum shots mixed in.
2. Does Santa wrap presents or just put them under the tree? Wrap? You gotta be kidding. He's damn lucky to get all that crap put together, much less wrapped.
3. Colored or white lights on tree/house? Don't get me started my wife is all about mixed colored lights and I've wanted to do all blue for years. Guess what we have -- mixed colors.
4. Do you hang mistletoe? No, It's green. I don't eat green stuff and it is not my pick to decorate with either.
5. When do you put your decorations up? Most of them went up the day after Thanksgiving, but the outside lights are still packed away. ps-if I have my way they'll stay that way
6. What is your holiday dish (excluding dessert)? WTH. Why must dessert be excluded? That's like saying What's your favorite part of sex, excluding climax. Okay that might have been a bit too much info but somethings have to be said. Back to the meme - favorite dish? I'm all about the meat so I'll say smoked wild turkey, beats a butterball any day, but watch out for those lead shotgun pellets they are hell on your teeth and it ain't easy to find a dentist on Christmas Day.
7. Favorite holiday memory as a child: Not sure I'd call it my favorite but my most memorable was when I woke up and hurried to the living room to find a brand new BMX bike under the tree. I rolled it outside to the frosty street and took off. I made it two houses before I crashed headfirst into a parked car and broke the front reflector. I cried and cried.
8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? I must have been about eight when my brother took me to my mom's closet and showed me a stack of toys. A week or so later they all appeared under the tree.
9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We open everything but the stockings on Christmas Eve and of course the stuff Santa brings for the boys.
10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? With a mish-mash of ornaments. The boys pick a new one every year and we always buy an ornament when we go on vacation.
11. Snow! Love it or dread it? Love it, but around here it melts off after a few days. I like to snowboard and ski as well.
12. Can you ice skate? A bit, but I broke both my ankle bones and tore all of the ligaments in my ankles playing roller hockey so not as well as I once could.
13. Do you remember your favorite gift? Maybe that bike, last year my wife bought me a plane ticket to go to a writers workshop in Arizona and that was cool because she was showing her support for my dreams.
14. What’s the most important thing about the holidays for you? Watching my boys eyes light up.
15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? Oh, so that other question was just foreplay. It's a tie between Pecan pie and this homemade Bailey's Irish Creme some friends of ours make. Rob, Arlene if you are reading this I expect a BIG bottle this year.
16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Well it ain't playin' Santa at the mall, but doing it for my kids and seeing their faces on Christmas morning is pretty dang good.
17. What tops your tree? A gold star
18. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving? Giving all the way. I always as if people spent too much buying me presents.
19. What is your favourite Christmas song? Merry Christmas from the Family by Robert Earl Keen. Check it out if you want a good laugh. Click here for the lyrics. Trust me you will laugh. Here is a sample from the first chorus ...

Carve the Turkey
Turn the ball game on
Mix margaritas when the eggnog's gone
Send somebody to the Quickpak Store
We need some ice and an extension chord
A can of bean dip and some Diet Rites
A box of tampons, Marlboro Lights
Haleluja everybody say Cheese
Merry Christmas from the family

20. Candy canes: Can be tasty but also handle as simile(for those who read my last post)
21. Favourite Christmas movie? Elf still makes me laugh. Will Farrell is almost always funny in my book. By the way if any of you know him let me know. He'd be my top choice to play the lead role in Plundered Booty - the Movie. Hey it started as Plundered Booty the short story, I'm working on making it Plundered Booty the Novel, so why can't I dream and envision Plundered Booty - The movie? How many times can I type Plundered Booty in one paragraph?
22. What do you leave for Santa? Leftover parts from all the damn toys I had to put together. let him figure out where all that crap is supposed to go.

To tag, or not to tag. Since I wasn't tagged I won't, but if any of you choose to do this let me know so I can check out your answers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Second Rate Santa and the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly ... but mostly the Ugly.

When you mention mall Santa's, most people think of kids, and probably 90% of the people who stood in line and came to sit on my lap were under the age of twelve. Then you had the older kids who hated to be there but their parents still wanted that yearly picture so they forced them to shuffle up and plop down beside Santa in the over-sized chair. There was no way those 'tweens and teenagers were about to sit on my, or any other Santa's lap.

Then there were the older people, women mostly, but a few men as well. They were a mixed bag. Some were all too eager to sit on Ol' Saint Nick's lap and reveal their heart's desire and then ran the gamut from ...

The Good - An entire shift of Hooter's girls, a couple of shapely twins, and pretty young woman who only wanted to ask Santa for her fiance to be sent back stateside from Croatia in time for their planned Valentine's day wedding.

The Bad - An obviously gay man in a trench coat, no I can't say for certain that he had on anything else, the women who obviously had some kind of Santa fetish and delighted in making my cheeks rosy, and the plethora of hacking, wheezing flu ravaged people who thought I as a mall Santa had the magical ability to ward off disease.

The Ugly - The ugly took many, many forms and will be fodder for this series throughout. When I say ugly I don't just mean physically though Frosty knows there were plenty that filled that sleigh. Along with the aesthetically challenged I had to deal with the hygiene deficient, the personality perplexed, and the downright delusional that actually thought I could fulfill their wishes. Then, there were those who fell into all of those categories and then some. Like the couple from today's installment.

It was early on, in that first week after Thanksgiving, before I'd become completely jaded against the entire legend of Santa Claus. I'd already encountered a few weird things, but I chalked those up as anomalies. The night had been steady but far from the hectic madhouse it would become in a few short weeks, and with less than an hour to go until the mall closed I was feeling rather jolly. (A couple of weeks alter the mall started staying open til midnight and then with an hour to go I was just trying to sane.) Most of the elves had gone come so it was just Galen and me. He took the pictures, I smiled and took the kids list.

But our next customers were far from being kids. And as they walked up Galen whispered out the the side of his mouth, "Get a load of these two."

They were in their early twenties. She had on a pair of ratty red sweat pants that were two sizes two small and with her rotund build the overall package looked sort of like Santa's gift bag. If it were overstuffed with about two dozen Christmas hams. The woman's hair hadn't seen a brush since Prancer was nothing but a twinkle in his mother's eye, but she wore enough make-up to make Rudolph's nose seem dull.

In stereo-typical fashion her boyfriend was as skinny as she was large. His body was all angles and bones, like a broken up candy cane. And there was a smudge above his upper lip that could have been a moustache or a smudge of soot. A chain hung from his grease-stained jeans and the cap on his head said something like, Truckers Do It For The Long Haul.

I made room for them to sit one on each side but of course she plopped down right on my left knee. With a pat on my right, she said, "Bobby you sit here."

He shook his head. "I don't think so." His filthy hair hung stiff like icicles. Though I'd never seen icicles made of oil. But just because I'd never seen it didn't mean 10w-40 didn't freeze.

Like I said, I still had a bit of holiday cheer in me so I gave Jack Sprat and his girlfriend a hearty, "Merry Christmas!"
He mumbled something that might have been " F ... off and die," but I can't say for certain.

Next as was customary I asked what they wanted Santa to bring them this year.

She giggled and said, "An engagement ring would be nice."
"Dream on," he answered.
"Maybe a puppy then."
He cast her a dirty look. "What are you stupid?" You know my mom is allergic."
She returned his nasty expression with one of her own. "Then maybe we could move to a place of our own."

At this point Galen said smile and the flash went off just as the boyfriend said, "This is bullshit. I ain't made of money."
He grabbed the girls hand and yanked her down from my lap. My knee thanked him.

Galen said to them," Want to have a look at your picture?"

"Hell no. We ain't buying no effin picture."
"The girl stopped walking. She crossed her arms across her chest and stuck out her bottom lip like a two year old. "I want a picture."
"What for?"
"I just do."
He hauled out his wallet by tugging on the chain." Okay, but this counts as part of your present."

As he paid Galen, the girl said, "Gawd, Bobby you can be an asshole."
He shrugged. "And you can be a bitch."
Smiling, she draped an arm across his skinny waist and slid her hand into his back pocket. "I know, but that's why you love me."
Galen handed the happy couple their photo and they walked away, arm in arm. Just before they rounded he grabbed a handful of her ample sweatpant covered ham.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Squeek, Squeek, Squeek.

I know I've promised more Santa tales but before I hitch up the sleigh and head down that icy trail I want to cover a few other things. So today is going to be one of those conglomeration posts with no real theme.

I've said it before, but I'm gonna say it again. Writing Fiction has as many ups and down as a bordello's bed springs. I could take the analogy farther, but not without grossing a few of you out so I'll leave that metaphor alone. In the span of a week I've gone from, Yeah the story is flowing now, the characters are engaging, the plot is tight, the novel is tight, someone is bound to take it on, to -- This is all mindless dribble, I don't know how I'll finish this thing and keep the tone funny, and even if I do who the hell would want to buy it.

Do the rest of you writers go through these cycles? Do you force your thoughts out of the negative and will yourself to keep going, or do you wait until your mood improves?

I have always willed myself to keep going, but the task seems to get harder each time.

But I am lucky in many ways when it comes to support. My wife's faith in my ability has never wavered, I have numerous friends who say things like, I don't see why no one will publish your novels. I 've read lots of books that aren't half as good. And then there is my network of writing friends here in Amarillo.

Last night my wonderful critique group talked me away from the ledge when I hinted that maybe i should abandon Plundered Booty as a novel and simply try to market the short story. Despite my concerns they have convinced me to finish, that the project has commercial merit.

That got me to thinking how fortunate I am to live in a community where there is a strong presence of knowledgeable and talented writers.

Amarillo is home to Panhandle Professional Writers. PPW is the secodn oldest writing group in the nation and home to many talented and published authors. The group offers an online community as well as bi monthly workshops. PPW also hosts the annual Frontiers In Writing conference each June. If you live within an easy day's drive from Amarillo, basically anywhere in Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, western Kansas, western Arkansas, and most of Texas you should make an attempt to attend. The full lineup is not set as of yet but here is a bit more info, FIW 2008.

The conference also host a contest that anyone can enter whether they plan to attend or not. I can't find the info for this year's contest but here is a link for last year. The rules will be pretty much the same and the deadline is usually around the end of February. The first round is always judged by published authors and the finals are judge by either and acquiring editor or a literary agent. If you are interested let me know in the comments and I will make certain to get you the rules for 2008 as soon as I can get my hands on them.

And if any of you know of some good contests coming up let me know. I would like to get some feedback on the start of Plundered Booty and many contests are a great way get a bit of insider take on a work in progress.

Now that I've sufficiently bored all my non-writing friends, I'm going to call it a day. Guess this post had a theme after all. Tomorrow, I'll get up a Santa post, or at least I'll try. I am scheduled to work 8Am till 4:30 PM for one shift and then I return at Midnight to pull an all nighter. Trust me by the time I get off a 8:30 Thursday morning I'll be as worthless as a bulletproof vest in a grenade fight.

Oh wait. I probably shouldn't talk about bulletproof vests and grenades being as I am a Postal Worker and this is our busiest and most stressful season. have I ever mentioned I hate red and green envelopes especially when people fill them up with festive glitter which plays hell with the machines I'm supposed to work on. And don't even get me started on flocking.

I wonder how many people would stand in line and pay to sit on the Grinch's lap and take a picture. Just a thought.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Saga of a Second Rate Santa

Like most of my promises, I'm a day late in making good on declaring a winner for the caption contest, but as punishment for my tardiness I'm picking two. Merry Jelinek, for her therapy story to go along with the Santa picture, and Jason for being the only person to correctly identify me as the face behind the white beard.

That's right folks, that is me lurking beneath those snow-white whiskers and red hat. And here is the real story of how I became a mall Santa and happened to have a six foot plus two hundred and something pound red-headed man sitting on my lap.

The years was 2001. I was just shy of my 29th birthday, far too young to make a good Santa but then again I never claimed I was a good Santa. The previous spring I had agreed to play the Easter Bunny at the mall so the Santa gig was my second stint for the company. Who ran the company -- the red headed man on my lap, who also happened to be my boss at the Post Office. He knew I had a new family and could use a bit of extra money so he hired me for nights and weekends.

The Easter Bunny was easy. Ten bucks and hours plus commission if we met our goals of getting so many pictures. Later, I will share some Bunny stories, which are actually funnier than the Santa ones, but y'all will have to wait for spring for those. The good thing about the Easter Bunny was I just had to sit there in my suit. No talking, no Ho, Ho, Ho'ing. Just wave and sweat in a gimongous fur covered suit while the sun beat in through the mall's atrium windows. Easy money.

There was nothing easy about being Santa. First, because I was young and my eyebrows are black, I had to get this wax pencil and color my brows white each time I donned the suit. Also the middle part of my moustache bled through the fake beard so I'd have to use the pencil to color what I'll call the Hitler portion of my 'stache white as well. Then, despite having a fairly ample gut of my own, I'd have to tie this big poofy pillowed girdle around my torso. Then I'd slip into the red velour trousers and shirt, hoist up the black suspenders, and then slip into the leather boots. Did you know Santa's footwear isn't much different from a Hell's Angel's?

Last, I'd slide the beard into place. It itched like hell and those little fine grey hairs constantly found their way inside my mouth and nostrils. They tickled like hell and over the course of a night spitting out the hairs and keeping them out of my nose proved to be nerve racking. For all I know they gather that crap my the backside of Polar Bears so who the hell knows what kind of germs I was ingesting. Of course every sick and snotty nosed kid in town ended up on my lap, so it didn't really make a difference.

So after a half hour of getting dressed I'd wait for the Santa on duty before me to come back so I could take his place on the throne. Then the fun would really start.

At Easter you might get three or four people in line at the busiest time. The parents are calm and relaxed for the most part since they haven't spent all day running around from store to store maxing out their credit cards in the name of good cheer.

Christmas was an entirely different story. After a ten minute break the line would be twenty screaming kids long. Parents would be eyeballing their watches and scowling like constipated elves forced to eat prune-laced fruitcake.

Between now and Christmas I'm gonna tell y'all many a tale of what went on after that. From sad, to funny, to head shaking, people- are-crazy. But I just might have been the craziest of them all. I also might have been the worst mall Santa the world has ever witnessed, but my pain, and the scarred memories of many a child is y'alls gain. So get ready to read all about, The Saga of a Second Rate Santa.

** a couple of notes**

The man on my lap's name is Galen, As I said he was the boss at the Post Office at one time. I took a good amount of flack for working for him on the side. Things like Santa's nose is supposed to be red, not brown. This picture was taken to really give them something to talk about and to prove I could take anything they wanted to dish out. Don't worry I paid them back. If there is one thing I'm good at it is getting even, or even better getting ahead.

Merry and Jason. Y'all can pick between a homemade CD of some of the finest Texas music you've ever heard, or a book from my personal library. Your choice. If you prefer a book let me know and I'll send you a list of five or six to choose from.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Is a Picture Really Worth a Thousand Words?

Well, here it is ... A Picture ...

So tell me in less than a thousand words what you see here. There will be some kind of third-rate prize (heavy emphasis on third rate) for the winner, which could be the funniest, most accurate, oddest, or maybe just my favorite description. So give me your best shot. Click on the phots if you feel the need to enlarge it. From one word to a thousand, What do you see, and what comes to your mind when look at this picture?
Winner and my description will be posted sometime tomorrow, so you better hurry.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

I don't have much time to put a lengthy post today and I will not be blogging tomorrow so here is a list of things I am thankful for.

My wife and boys, they are the reason behind everything I do.

The rest of my family and I am especially thankful to be able to share this Thanksgiving with my Grand mother after all the trouble she has had this year.

For a multitude of friends who not only help keep me sane and grounded (nobody will remind you of your faults as often as a good friend) but also for the encouragement with my writing and for being there when I need them in general.

For everyone who sacrifices a bit of their time to read these crazy notions that fill my head and find their way to this blog.

And I'm especially thankful for those of you who take the time to comment and have become my cyber-buddies.

Also I am thankful that I have a good paying job which allows me time to write on the side, because I'd be one skinny dude if I depended on my words to put meat on the table.

My life might not be perfect, but I am pretty dang fat and happy and other that a nice big book deal I can't think of much to wish for. Hope all of y'all can say the same. Check back Friday for a interesting picture.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This Proves It

I find these pictures rather disturbing, but some of you veggie lovers may feel differently.





If I don't sleep tonight it may be because of nightmares of evil fruits and veggie coming alive and taking over the world. If any of you know the identity of the disciple responsible for these heinous creations let me now.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Hey You, Got a Kleenex?

I'm a cup half full kind of guy, so despite the fact that here I am once again, up long before the crack of dawn, fighting off the illness -- there is a silver lining.

The house is silent, except for my own sniffs, snorts and coughs. My wife is sleeping away the last effects of her recent concussion, the boys are slumbering peacefully recharging their super cell batteries that are so on going they make that rabbit's claims pale in comparison.

This is the second day I have crawled out of a nice arm bed in order to breath but it is also the second day I have been able to dance with my keyboard for several uninterrupted hours. AND I FEEL GOOD! Forgive me for forgoing the James Brown trademark splits. A head cold is one thing, traction is another.

I have hammered out the dents in my novel in progress, Plundered Booty. I moved some things around, applied Bondo to others, and then I sanded the whole thing off and applied a fresh coat of glossy paint. I solved my lack of humor problem int he last chapter and now am plunging headlong into the second third of the book.

And that long forgotten women's fiction novel I was also working on? My brain is kicking around a few ideas to breathe a bit of life and effort back into it as well.

So what about my last completed novel, A River Without Water? I have been lazy in querying as of late. I do have a few old queries out, as well as three partials and one complete MS, but they have been out long enough that I give them the same chance of scoring as a die hard Trekkie at a beauty pageant. I'll probably wait until mid December and then send out more queries for A River as well as for a few older short stories of mine.

So what is going on for the rest of you who are writers. Drop a comment and let me know what you are writing now, how you stand on marketing your work, and so forth. There are several of you I have listed in my non writer block of friends. I'm working on getting that changed, but you could help by making it clear in the comments that you do write.

And you non writers? Chime in to. Let me know the general state of affairs in your world. Have you finished you Christmas shopping yet? Started? What is the hard to find present that you are currently scouring the land for?

Speaking of Christmas I know several of you have blogged about the Australian initiative to stop Santa Clause from saying Ho! Ho! Ho! because as they claim it is offensive to women. I don't know about y'all and I'm not a woman but to me as long as Jolly Ol' Saint Nick doesn't follow with a sneered, "Hey little girl come sit on my lap." I don't really see the problem. By the way stay tuned my recounts of my days playing a mall Santa are coming soon. Good Bye, and Feliz Navidad.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Food For Thought, While I Drown On My Own Snot

How is that title for some real poetry? I'm sure later on most everything in this post will make me cringe, but right now at 4 Am on Sunday morning it seems like a good idea. Here I am at the computer because I cannot sleep. A head cold that has invaded my brain and is attacking whatever good sense I've ever had. So what better time to do the meme BubbleWench tagged me with a good while back. I'm not sure I can think of seven things to list about myself that y'all don't already know I'm going to try.

Here are the rules as she posted them.

A). Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog...
B). Share 7 random and/or weird facts about yourself...
C). Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs...
D). Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog

I'm gonna skip C and D but if any of y'all are running short on blog topics this is a good one to pick up and go with. And if you decide to do it let me know in the comments so I can check out your own random weirdness.

1)Most of y'all know I'm basically a carnivore that thinks lettuce is the devil, but here is a things of things I like to eat that most people would turn their noses up at.

Fried Chicken Gizzards- Yum, you gotta love a food that can serve as a good catfish bait as well.
Crawfish- If you don't suck the juice out of their brains then you're just pussy-footin' around. And let me add, crawfish, or crawdads as they are sometimes called, also make a mighty fine fishing bait.
Cabrito- Cabrito is Spanish for goat but in my book it is just plain tasty, especially buried in a pit in the ground and slowly cooked over hot coals all day long. You should try it.It ain't half Baaaa ... d

2)I have never done illegal drugs. Nope not so much as a single doobie has ever touched my lips. Most people do not believe me when I tell them this, but it is true. Besides, my brother did enough for the both of us. Hey, some people make damn fine bad examples if nothing else.
I have been at parties and even in the car with tokers, snorters and snorters so I guess it is possible that I may have had a contact high at one time, but it's hard to tell because I pretty much always have the munchies.

3)I once got extremely drunk on tequila and blacked out for the better part of a night. No I wasn't passed out, I simply do not remember what happened and my friends found me wandering aimlessly around the grounds of the XIT rodeo in Dalhart, Texas. Somewhere along the way I had lost one of my cowboy boots and the top elastic part of one sock. Never found either one. I tossed this in just so you wouldn't accuse me of falsely representing myself as an angel. After that incident I did not drink for a single drop of alcohol for several years. These days I do drink but with a bit more sense.

4)I was raised by a single mom. I credit her with instilling my love of books. She packed me down to the library every other week where I would carry home a huge stack of books, and she paid the fines when I invariably couldn't find or or two the day they were due back. What did I read in those days? Encyclopedia Brown, Ralph the Runaway Mouse, Where the Red Fern Grows, and oh I loved those books where you picked your own ending. They should make those for adults. After all a lot of DVDs now come with alternate endings.

5)This one's for you Jenny. As a child I was once forced to wear a red bow tie to a relative's wedding. I have never forgotten or forgave that fact. The memory haunts me to this day. So what happened at my own wedding. The Colorado contingent of my kinfolk showed up in ... you guessed it red bow ties.

6)I went to college to become a wildlife biologist but gave it up three years in, when I got hired on full time at the Post Office and realized I was already making a good bit more money than I would if I finished my degree. But it all worked out, I wanted to work outside under blue skies and nowadays going to work makes me feel blue. And I wanted to work with animals and the PO is chocked full of squirrels and nuts.

7)I am one of the slowest individuals on earth. That's right you can time my running speed with a sundial. Luckily I do not have much call to run these days, but should a grizzly ever come after me while out in the woods hunting I might as well fall down and play dead right away. That is what they, the experts, tell you to do isn't it. I'm guessing that is one of those things easier said than done since I imagine remaining still is hard to do with you have a large carnivore gnarling on your skull.

That's it for me today. Hope that was random and weird enough for ya.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Come On Baby, Light My Fire

How long has it been since you ate a hot juicy steak right off the grill? Well pardner, that's too long.

You know those ads right? The ones where Sam Elliott proudly proclaims ... Beef, It's What's For Dinner

I tried to get him to guest blog and say this ... How Long has it been since you read a post on here about writing. Well pardner, that's too long.

But Sam was busy, so it is solely up to me to deliver a meaty post on the subject of writing fiction.

However, there is one small problem. I can't even get the charcoal lit on my mental grill. Right now my writing is a cold hunk of fatty, poor quality ground chuck. Sure the right flame along with a bit of spices could jazz it up to make one fine burger, but I am finding it extremely hard to maintain the humorous tone I need to make the novel version of Plundered Booty work. The problem is I need to set up things to make the plot believable down the road, but damned if I have been able to provide the set up and make it funny. Heck, I'd even settle for entertaining at this point.

These struggle have made me get to thinking how important timing is to a novel. Yeah I know that seems obvious, you don't want to give away the plot twist or the whodunnit in chapter one, but I'm talking about the more subtle points.

What if the opening scene of the first Harry Potter book had been of Harry turning Dudley into a toadstool? We as readers would have looked at him as a character totally different, but instead we saw Harry as a victim right from the start. We hoped for something good to happen to him. We were already pulling for him to find an escape from the Dursley's and hen his magical abilities were slowly revealed both to us as readers and to Harry himself we were as quick as Harry to snatch onto that hope.

Or in Great Gatsby. What if we had seen Gatsby meeting with Meyer Wolfsheim(the guy with mob ties) right from the beginning? It isn't until we know Gatsby as a character that Fitzgerald shows us the means behind Gatsby's wealth. By that time we don't care that Gatsby has gained his wealth through shady dealing we already see him as a tragically romantic character willing to do anything for his heart's desire.

So my advice. Watch your timing really step back and see how and when something is introduced affects the feel of the story you are writing. Unfortunately novels are not like steaks. There is no chart -- Red, Slightly Warm Center = Rare, Warm Pink Center= Medium. Nope the on;ly way is to pick up your knife and slice off a chunk and plop it in your mouth and see how it tastes. Or better yet serve up a portion to a few trusted readers and see if they like how your words taste. If they gag and spit it out you know you're riding, or writing, a rancid cow.

Now where did I leave those matches and that lighter fluid? I need to get my flame going.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Coo, Coo Cachoo ...

My wife looks like Rocky Raccoon, but the good news is the dentist says we won't have to move to Kentucky or Arkansas -- her teeth are not going to fall out. Also, she is no longer slurring words like a wino with an empty paper sack. The boys are on the mend and back to school and today is payday. Things are looking up, now if I could just get thirty or forty uninterrupted hours to sit down and finish writing the novel I'm working on all would be right with the world.

Thanks to all the well wishers and I apologize for not chiming in on the comment board and commenting on your blogs in the last few days. I'll try to catch up this weekend.

Don't forget my short story, The Simplest Of Sounds is still available as a free read over on the Underground Voices website. I think most of y'all have read it and commented but if not I'd love to hear what you think of it.

I typed the above stuff earlier today, but before I could wrap up my thoughts and post I had to leave and pick up my seven year old from school. After that the entire family went out to buy a new Christmas tree. Dang near every person we encountered would take one look at my wife, then slide their eyes toward me, and let me tell you I saw more than one look of contempt as person after person leaped to conclusions. Guess I should have found my wife a shirt that read, Yeah, he's big, hairy and maybe even scary ... but I'm just clumsy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


So how's things going at the Erwin household this week?

The tally thus far is 2 sick kids, 2 runny-noses, 2 coughing and grouchy little boys, 1 trip to the doctor,1 ear infection, 2 bottles of decongestant and cough syrup and one bottle of antibiotic.

But the fun doesn't stop there. Today we added 1 trip to the emergency room. Nope not for either boy. Matter of fact they are now well enough to be fighting once again. Nope not for me.(this time) That only leaves my ever-graceful wife.

She teaches preschool Montessori at a catholic school. Today she fell after tripping over one of her little ones. Her choices were to A) land on the kid or B) twist away.
She chose B which meant she did not or could not catch herself. The result a big goose egg on her forehead, a busted lip, two loose teeth, and a CONCUSSION!

The ER waiting room was fun as usual. We had the crotchety old man and his eighty year old wife. He complained the whole time at a very high volume. A man and wife in fight. She pretty much tore him a new one every time he moved or dared to speak. that is when she wasn't running to the restroom to vomit rather loudly. There was the obligatory crackwhore who couldn't sit still and of course two or three people who never heard of deodorant.

So, I'm busy cooking supper, helping with homework, and playing nurse. Which means this crappy blog is what you get for today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Watch it Wiggle, See it Jiggle ...

Some things just have to be blogged about. That being said, tiptoeing through certain minefields can lead to have one's foot blown off, and once a foot is separated from a body there is not telling when that foot wayward foot could wind up smack dab in a blogger's mouth. So today I proceed with caution, because I really do not want to offend, but then again ... some things just beg to be bloggecized. Yep that's right I am creating a new word. Take note Webster, Bloggecized - The act of publicizing information, rude behavior, or head scratching, huh inducing acts of human weirdness. Okay so I'm not adept at writing definitions, but you get the idea.

Used to be I could say what I wanted on this blog without much chance of anyone I actually know reading it. That has changed. I have several family members that read my diatribes, both local and from out of town, Hello Jenny, feel free to chime in with a comment. I have friends from both the writing world and not who read my blog. If I had to hazard a guess I'd speculate that at least forty or fifty people from right here in Amarillo read my blog at least occasionally.

And while Amarillo has a population of 173,627 according to the 2000 census my hometown actually has the feel of a town about one tenth that size. Put ten Amarilloans in room and most likely at least two will know each other. If not you can bet they all know some of the same people, especially if they've lived here their whole lives. Sp there is a goo d chance this blog will get read by someone I wished it wouldn't.

Disclaimers aside, I am obligated to tell y'all about this wedding I just heard about.

I did not actually attend, but my mom did. One of her coworkers son's was the groom. Now my mom is in her early sixties and isn't what anyone would describe as cosmopolitan so sometimes things that are new to her, really are not. Such as?

Jello shots? In case any of you do not know jello shots ate little vials of jello filled with Everclear. Everclear is the closest thing to moonshine you can actually go into a liquor store and buy.

Ever been to a wedding reception that handed out jello shots to sixty year old women at the reception? Me neither? Nothin' says lovin' like vial of rot gut booze and yellow Jello.

But wait folks that is not all. The entire wedding, the bride dress and all was themed after a college sports team. And no it wasn't Texas Longhorn burnt orange. Matter of fact it wasn't even a Texas college. It is a wonder a team most Texans hate. It is a wonder some attendees did not stand up and boo as she walked down the aisle. I would have been tempted. Not because I'm a Longhorn fan, but because the entire weddin' was themed for a team I'd just as Sooner, never won another game.

Now I am a sorts fan, but I'd never plan my whole wedding after a sports teams. I do not know the bride. Maybe she graduated from there, maybe she was an athlete from there, maybe I wouldn't think the whole thing as as bizarre if it wasn't followed up with jello shots.

And for the record, my mom was intrigued by jello shots. I won't be surprised if we don't sit down to Thanksgiving dinner only to have jello shots for dessert. Oh well at least it will spice things up a bit. No. it's not the tryptophan, that's making me sleepy, it's the grain alcohol. And if turkeys are full of tryptophan, and tryptophan makes you sleepy, how come turkeys aren't passed out on the couch all the time?

For more on Jello, visit Beth over at her recently moved Pink Lace and Pearls blog. Turns out my mom isn't the only one intrigued by Jello.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Oh Susanna, Don't You Cry For Me!

Going out of town and not blogging for a week creates several problems. You know what he biggest one is? trying to get back in the swing. I reread the post I put up the other day and I rattled on like a squirrel on crack. Making matters worse I didn't relate have the things I meant to and the ones I did put out there sounded idiotic. I'll try to do better today as I wrap up my Vegas trip and move on to other things starting tomorrow.

Okay, so my wife went along for the first couple of days but she flew back home to Texas early Tuesday afternoon, leaving me and my buddy from work, Kim - yeah Kim is a guy, unchaperoned. I could lie and say that is when the real fun begins or I could do as Cher suggested in the comments and coyly say, What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but actually I can say once my wife left that is when my gambling losses really started. Her departure meant I no longer had to worry about entertaining her so I could full out concentrate on throwing my money away and helping the casinos pay their light bill.

Tuesday night I voluntarily took beatings at poker, blackjack, Let It Ride, roulette, and the table game three card poker. Like a trip to a proctologist named, Knuckles -- it hurt.

Wednesday afternoon started much the same way and there wasn't a drop of Vaseline in sight so I said to Kim, "Let's get a cab and head downtown to Fremont street. Maybe a change of venue will bring Lady Luck around."

So we trudge out front of the Sahara and hail a cab. Msot of the cabbies in Vegas are men. Most are foreign, generally either middle-eastern or asian.

But the cab that pulled up was driven by a blonde. A very pretty blonde I'd say in her early forties. In a sexy exotic accent she asks, "Where you guys headed."

"The Horseshoe I say since it is kind of the mecca for Texas Hold 'Em players. The place where it all began. She chats with us as she drives and of course the tally keeps clicking upward."

Finally she says, "Where are you guys from?"
"I love your accents," she says in her own.
So I ask. "How about yourself."

I kid you not, and I hope you read the old posts if you missed them, she says, "Bulgaria."

I should have gotten out and walked right then and there. First our cab bill was nearly twice as much going as coming back. Down on Fremont I again took a beating, and my luck never improved. I am certain that Lady Luck did in fact send a Bulgarian woman to deliver me to my demise but unlike the hairy weightlifting gal I suspected she sent a pretty one with a cool accent.

What are the odds of me getting in the cab driven by a Bulgarian woman after my earlier posts?
Whatever they are don't bet them. Trust me Lady Luck is a fickle-hearted whore.

On a accent related note here is something else I forget to tell you about.

Not once, twice, or even three times, but on four separate occasions some one looked at me as I was talking and said, "Where are you from, Alabama?"

Now nothing against the fine folks of Alabama, but by the fourth one I wanted to scream "What do I have a banjo growing out of my knee. Hell no I'm not from Alabama."

And for the record I do have a bit, just the slightest, tiniest, of Texas twang in my voice, but Alabama? I bet Lady Luck or Karma put them up to it. Yep, that must be it.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Viva Las Vegas!

I'm back and a fair bit smarter. Oh, you want me to share the knowledge I gained. Fine, here is a list of things I now know ...

Six days in Vegas is about three too many.

The amount of days spent on Vegas in inversely proportional to the thickness of a person's wallet. (a couple more days I would have had to sell off my blood platelets in order to eat)

A man can take a beating at the gaming tables, but return the favor at the buffet tables. (I hurt them particularly bad at the Paris buffet. None of that gut wasting crap some of you call salad for me. I went straight for the meat - steak, crab legs, shrimp, salmon, some kind of fancy lamb meat that was beyond excellent, but I had to scrape what looked like lawn clippings off before I could chow down)

Close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, nuclear bombs but doesn't mean a dang thing in poker tournaments. I played in three finishing, 31 out of 129. 17 out of 84 and 13 out of 111. None of which paid me a cent back on my investment.
Elvis's ghost is supposed to haunt the freight elevators at the Las Vegas Hilton. My convention workshops were at the Las Vegas Hilton, but sadly I did not have the opportunity to ride the freight elevators, so I didn't catch up with Mr. Presley, but because I have not gotten a hair cut in so long I am starting to sport some Elvis-esque sideburns. And I did ride in he elevator with a nearly seven foot tall skinny as a rail Elvis look-a-like that spoke some foreign language, Swedish perhaps but I'm only guessing.

Cellphones take really crummy pictures of ex presidents.
Can you tell that is Bill Clinton up at the podium?
Or that there is even a person and a podium up on that stage?
Yeah me neither, but he was really was there. His speech lasted about forty minutes.

And what did he say? Don't vote republican and if you are going to vote for a democrat you might as well pick his wife. Sure he said more but that basically sums it up. I did see a funny shirt which read, Hilary in 08 because only a Clinton know how to clean up after a Bush.

Me being a Union Steward and all, I went to Vegas on my local Union's dime so of course I learned all kinds of new ways to chunk rocks at management and defend my fellow workers rights, but I won't go into those details here. The national gathering is on Vegas again next year so there will be a sequel to this adventure and I'm happy to say next time I'm staying at the Paris because I was less than thrilled with the Sahara. I plaque by the elevators claimed that the Beatles stayed in the same tower as me back in 1964. I'm thinking that was the last time they updated the rooms.

Stay tuned for my next post which will be filled with details about my latest battle with Lady Luck and her evil sister Karma(who according to one flyer I was handed on the street is available for a one one one private and totally nude strip tease in your hotel room). And yes for those veterans of this blog there will be more Bulgarian women involved. Click on the links if you do not know what I am talking about.
skirmish #1 Lady Luck - All Greased Up July 10th 2007
skirmish # 2 I lifted this straight from this old post dated July 10, 2007 if you wanna read the whole thing. It is the first mention of the Bulgarians.
So I left the casino and drove right past the place with the hot oil wrestling, despite the therapeutic value to my body hair. Thanks to those who commented and offered hair care advice for my wooliness. Apparently I have done something to offend Lady Luck and my guess she would have showed up at the bar with along with the entire Bulgarian women's (and I use that term loosely) weightlifting team and all of them would want to tangle with me. Though who knows,they may be hairier than me.

skirmish #3 From the next days post dated July 12, 2007. Another brief mention of Bulgaria ... All of a sudden I'm big in Bulgaria. (After that crack the other day about their women's weight lifting team.) I've had nearly a dozen hits from the country since then so if any of you spot a gaggle of big hairy women headed my way A warning would be in order.

skirmish #4 Karma joins the fray Are Those Teethmarks On My Butt?

There are more but these should be enough for you to get the general idea and I have a lot of catching up to do after being gone for a week. In the words of Tigger ... Ta-ta for now.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Your Homework

Barring some unforeseen situation this will be my last blog post for a week. But I can't just have you guys out there languishing in the blogosphere with nothing to do. So I have made you a list of chores to complete before my triumphant return from Las Vegas. I'll tell you all about the fortunes I'm sure to win at the Texas Hold 'Em tables next Saturday, but for now here is your daily directives.

Saturday November 3, 2007 - Pop on over to my latest post at Awesome Amalgamation. The title of the post is Guess Its Better Than Polka Dotted Penis. As many of y'all know my favorite food related phrase is, Lettuce is the Devil. Well, I just may have found a something even worse to eat. Go check it out.

Sunday November 4, 2007 - Once upon a time I posted a new edition of THE FEEDSTORE CHRONICLES every Sunday. I have not done so in a while, but very soon a very special chronicles is headed your way so if you missed any or all of them catch up now by clicking here.

And even if you have read them all, go back and reread Chronicle #4 before you scroll down to look at the following pictures. Looking back I realize not a single person commented on that particular post, so that must mean most of you never read it. So do it now by clicking the above link. Otherwise the following pictures I snapped while on the highway the other day will not mean anything to you.

If you squint real hard you can make out the crap covered cluckers in that second pic. Trust me, they are nasty and seeing this truck made me really grateful for the job I know have.

Monday November 5, 2007 - This is the day I will listen to former President Bill Clinton deliver a speech to the assembly of American Postal Worker Union members. Keeping with that theme here is a link to some funny quotes by and about Clinton. Also blog regular and fellow fiction writer, Alex Keto used to be a white house correspondent during the Clinton years so this would be a good time to pop on over to his blog and read a bit of his wit.

Tuesday November 6, 2007 - This will be my second full day in Vegas, which will most likely mean that my liver will be screaming from the plethora of free booze and my wallet will be considerably lighter. While I am going through poker chips playing Texas Hold 'Em you should take a gander at some of my fellow Texan's blogs. Katrina, Reid, Britta, Patti, Penelope, and Pretzel. Hope, I didn't miss any of my regulars readers who are from Texas.

Wednesday November 7, 2007 - The last card in a hand of Texas Hold 'em is called the river card. This one last card often either makes, or breaks your hand. There are many euphemisms that go along with this but if you get beat it is often said, "That you have drowned in the river."

On this date in 1901 a 63 year old female school teacher was the first person to ever go over Niagara Falls and survive. Legend says that when Annie Edson Taylor went over the falls, a kitten rode in the barrel with her. After making her successful plunge, she posed next to the barrel, with the kitten sitting on top of it. Here is hoping I am still surviving the river card by this point. You know what else is in New York besides Niagara Falls? Terrie and most of the gals over at The Women of Mystery blog. This would also be a good time to pop on over to Amazon and buy Murder New York Style which contains stories from both Terrie and Nan.

Thursday November 8 2007 - I'll be tired, sore, and limping like a three-legged goat by now, but hopefully I'll still have a bit of cash in my pocket, because I'd really like to see Howie Mandel who opens in Vegas this night. But if I run out of cash I'm sure I can call up my good friend Debbie who will wire me some more. That is if she isn't too busy blogging over at Criminal Brief or out signing copies of Carols and Crimes, Gifts and Grifters.

Or if things go really bad and I get tossed into jail, I'm sure Cicily, AKA Bluefingers will send me bail money. If she's not laid up in the hospital, or rewriting her novel for the umpteenth time.

Friday November 9 2007 - I'll be homeward bound, so here are a few blogs from friends right here in Amarillo. My buddy Steve, the talented author Jennifer Archer, the very ambitious Dee Burks, and last but not least Jayme who writes some really great blog posts, just not nearly often enough.

See y'all next Saturday, but don't let my absence stop you from commenting. You never know when I might pop in to read your take on these things. And if you are really ambitious and make it through this list there is always my short story over Underground Voices.

What's Floatin' In my World

Today's post will have a little bit of everything. First let me catch you up on a few things and answer a couple of emails.

My grandmother is doing much better. She is back at the rehab center where she fell and while her bruises are still a nasty shade of purple, she is on the mend.

And yes Phats, your cheerleading info was helpful, but I still do not get cheerleading organizations that have no affiliation with an actual school or sports teams. I do admire the grace, skill and athleticism, but I have a problem calling anything a sport that relies solely on a judges opinion.

Also, thanks to everyone who went tot he Underground Voices website and read my story, The Simplest Of Sounds. I reread it myself yesterday and even though I have went through the piece a thousand times I still cringed at a couple of spots. Why didn't I catch those things all of my other read throughs? I know some writers who do not read any of their work once its published for that very reason. I guess we are never truly finished tinkering with any of our stories.

Sunday I am off to Las Vegas for a week and it is doubtful that I will get any posts up during that time. I am going for The American Postal Workers Union national conference and between workshops by day and the poker tables by night there will not be much time for blogging. I plan to post tomorrow and then not again until the following Saturday which will be November tenth.
But don't forget to check back tomorrow. I have a few pics that tie into my Feedstore Chronicles series.

I just found out that former President Bill Clinton is going to speak at the APWU conference. Should be interesting. I have never had the opportunity to hear or even see a President - past, present, or future.

Now for more pics that I promised. These are from the hot air balloon festival that occurred here in Amarillo this past weekend. You can't tell it by the photos but Palo Duro Canyon is just beyond the horizon. Some of the balloons landed in the field beside us and some sailed over head. All told we spotted seventeen of them.

All of these were taken within an hour after sunrise with the camera in my cell phone. After the big halloween party and a mere 3 1/2 hours of sleep I didn't think to grab the good digital camera when I left the house.