Parking War

I’ve noticed a lot of motorcyclists parking in the striped area at the end of a parking line or next to a handicap parking spot. In Texarkana this is a common practice, and I have yet to see or hear about anybody being ticketed for it. I’ve indulged in this myself several times, always being sure that I wasn’t blocking somebody. I was especially careful if it was next to a handicap space, being sure that any vehicle in that spot had ample room to load or disembark wheelchairs.

But even with everybody else doing it, and despite my efforts to be considerate, it still didn’t feel right. For one thing, I’m sure it’s against the law. For another, I may have trouble with my insurance company if I’m ever hit by another vehicle while parked, illegally, in a stripped spot.

The point was really brought home to me about a month ago when I headed to a local big chain store. As I parked in a stripped area at the end of a line and headed for the store, I noticed a vehicle parked in the stripped area next to a handicap spot. But this wasn’t a motorcycle. It was a minivan. It looked so funny sitting there, I grabbed my cell phone and took a photo. That’s when I heard an angry, “Hey!” I hadn’t noticed the driver still sitting in the van.

I am handicapped,” I heard him assert. I just waved and went on into the store. My purchases complete I left by the same door headed for my bike, only to discover the driver now standing outside the van waiting for me to emerge. As he pointed an accusing finger in my direction, I heard him tell a passerby, “That (expletive deleted) took my picture!”

Very little of what followed is printable in this, or any family oriented, publication. The gist of it was he believed, by taking the photo, I was accusing him of wrongdoing, and that his disability justified his actions.

Without stopping, I assured him that I was not with law enforcement and had only taken the photo because it was an amusing sight. Unfortunately this didn’t satisfy him and as I loaded up and put on my helmet, he grabbed a shopping cart with one hand and his cane with the other and headed my way. His slow and unsteady progress gave both tribute to the severity of his disability, and hope to me of making an escape before his arrival. Alas, recalcitrant buckles on my saddlebags and helmet delayed my departure just long enough for the aggrieved party to arrive.

Through a blizzard of profanity, it was explained to me I was a narrow minded bigot, and he was actually doing me a favor. It was also suggested I do things with parts of my anatomy that I don’t believe were actually physically possible.

Keeping an eye on the cane to be sure it continued to be used as a tool of locomotion, and not a weapon, I tried to again explain that I had no legal authority, and had only snapped the photo because it was an unusual and amusing sight. As before, this did nothing to assuage his anger.

To avoid the necessity of explaining to friends how I’d been beaten up by a crippled guy, I decided to practice the better part of valor. I cranked up the bike and hauled my narrow-minded, bigoted tuckus out of there. I watched my mirrors to see if he’d try to get back to his van and give chase. He didn’t. The last time I saw him, he was still standing where I left him, making gestures in my direction that I would not describe as conciliatory.

I park in the regular spaces now. It’s less dangerous.


The Most Indie of Indies.

JRR Tolkien was a linguist, not an author. He wrote a story for his daughter about a “Hobbit” who lived in a hole in the ground. As an amateur, he made mistakes and did some things wrong. But his errors were so spectacularly successful. Sometimes a gifted amateur can make a significant contribution that the pros can’t.

Proper prose and spelling is important, but not to the exclusion of talent. Publishing has gotten to the point that spelling, grammar, and punctuation has trumped content. Shakespeare wouldn’t be able to find a publisher today. What a loss to the world that would be. How many Shakespeares have been turned away due to the placement of a comma?

The answer to that problem is independent authors, people who write and publish their own works without the help of a traditional publishing company. Like any human endeavor, some are more successful than others and the products are of varying quality. Fortunately gifted story tellers with less than stellar spelling and prose, can reach a willing audience. Unfortunately, the financial reward for Indie authors is seldom as good as for traditional publishing. But many of these people write for the love of writing. And often it shows.

I’ve recently run across the most Indie of Indie authors. He hasn’t even published his work as a book. He has no hope of any financial renumeration. He is simply posting the story, a few paragraphs at a time on a forum. Tumbleweeds

You will run across the occasional misspelled word or misplaced comma. The pacing is sometimes difficult for me. But oh what a story. How sad it would be to have missed the blessing of this adventure over an arrogant conviction that I’m too good to read past a misspelled word.

The Grass is Browner

I remember a fantasy story about a hero who fights to find a mythical place where there is freedom from oppression and no starvation or disease. Along the way, he finds a beautiful princess he must save, and a wizard. At the end of his quest, he wakes up in an apartment with no memory of his previous life. He’s laying next to his trophy wife, who he is certain is cheating on him. He is disgruntled about his 9 to 5 job. On top of that, he has to take care of an elderly uncle with no other family. (Obviously him, the princess, and wizard.)

The story was cleverly written so that I didn’t expect the Utopia he was searching for to be the real world. I thought it funny, and clever, that having attained his goal, he was board with his life, and would probably jump at the chance to live the adventurous fantasy life he’d just escaped.

It appears to me that post apocalypse and dystopian themes are much more popular in recent years. Sci-fi gives us alien invasions or viruses, horror zombies, and fantasy demons. Dystopia itself is a genre. I have to wonder at the increasing fascination with it. I wonder if dystopian futures may be a wish for simpler times, or a sign of dissatisfaction of modern times. I find it interesting that the most wealthy and luxurious civilization in all of human history seems to long so for the adventure of dystopia and apocalypse. I seriously doubt the reality would be anywhere near as romantic as books, movies, and television depict.

It says something about us that as we become more wealthy and care free, our minds turn to such dark themes. I’m not sure exactly what is says though.

Out of Time: Hernesto H Lee

Out Of Time (The Dream Traveler #1)Out Of Time by Ernesto H. Lee

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Full disclosure, I’m a sap for British Cop shows. Midsummer Murders, Endeavour, Inspector Morse, I love them, so Mr. Lee has managed to hit my sweet spot for entertainment. That said, this is a fantastic story and I think I’d highly recommend it even if I wasn’t such a fan of the genre.
The story focuses on the police work more than the sci-fi elements of time travel. The author doesn’t spend any time justifying the existence of the protagonists ability. We don’t wade through pseudo science explanations as to how it is possible. He just sets out the parameters of what our hero can do, then gets on with the story.
He also doesn’t belabor the the “Time Travel Paradox,” as one might expect. We watch a linear sequence of events as experienced by our protagonist, without a lot of agnst about changing the time line. He, and we, do have to keep straight which events are now current, and which things have not happened after his latest trip.
Detective Constable Sean McMillan discovers he can travel back in time as he sleeps. He has a physical presence in the past and can change the course of events. He has decided to use that ability to solve cold cases, and bring bad guys to justice. Though he can go back and watch the crime, he still has to find evidence in the present day. He also has to be careful that people in the present day, don’t recognize him from the past. Lee has McMillan use his ability as a tool, and like any tool it can cause damage if not used carefully. But this is not a cautionary tale about “meddling in God’s domain.” Things don’t spiral out of control just because he uses his ability.
This is an action packed, fast paced, thriller that is hard to put down. My only complaint is that it doesn’t end. This book ends in mid-stride, and I’ll have to get the next one to see what happens. I will definitely do that.

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Living Characters.

I’ve noticed that in any of my “creative” efforts that I feel good about or would defend as successful, the characters I’m writing soon take on a life of their own. My Barndale comic strip was that way. I indented to do a “Bloom County” political knock off. Instead, my characters soon started pushing back when they didn’t like the way I was portraying them. I eventually wound up with a family oriented feature and pretty much left politics out of it.

I experienced this again in my Given series. My first intention was to do a mildly erotic story with the main character a real femme fatale. Zee pretty quickly put a stop to that, and by the second book she comes of as a Sunday School teacher.

In “From The Delta Mud,” I had planned for Marshal to be an “Oil Can Harry” two dimensional, irredeemable, bad guy. You can still see some of that in the early chapters. But as I started writing him, I realized that he had his own story and view of himself. It’s almost as though he was editing what I wrote about him.

I know that these people don’t exist in the real world but when I enter theirs, to try and write their stories, they come alive and have expectations of how I will represent them. Unless I stop and remind myself, I think of these as real people who I could physically go and visit. I’m always a little surprised, and disappointed, when I remind myself that they don’t exist outside my books.

If the characters don’t “come to life,” I’ll never produce anything worth reading. But I wonder, when I say “come to life,” where do they live? Are they just figments of my imagination? They are so real to me that I have a hard time accepting that. But where then? Some etherial dimension created by the combined mental energy of all of their fans?

Ultimately I can’t answer that question. (Or maybe I don’t want to.) I’m just glad these beloved characters have come into my life.

Unexpected Reflections

My Given series is a five (5) book series that focuses on an unlikely family and their friends. The protagonists of the first two books is a beautiful woman, who has been physically enhanced. When I started describing “Zee’” I just let my fantasy run and described the most beautiful features I could imagine. Beautiful, emerald eyes, honey almond hair. A cute nose that end in a slight upturn in a continuous curve from her brow. When my sister read the book, she laughed and pointed out that I had simply described my beautiful wife. I was honestly unaware of that at the time I wrote the book, but looking at it now, it seems obvious.

The third book is told by a different woman, Emily. Emily and Zee are physically identical, right down to finger prints and retinal patterns. The fourth book is told by Gary, now Emily’s husband.

Though most of my readers like the third book the best, my favorite is the the fourth. I suppose that is largely because of the male voice. I also realized that I identified with Gary because in a weird sort of way, his wife is my wife. But a review by Faith Jones put it in a light I hadn’t considered.

The feel of the story was personal, as if the author was writing it for one person, a love letter between a middle aged man and wife or something like that, written with her in mind all the way through.

– – – 

Reading this, I felt like an outsider who had joined a private conversation and should mind their own business.

I disagree with the last sentence in that I don’t want people to “mind their own business.” I want them to read this book.

Still though, I think Ms. Jones is on to something. I honestly hadn’t thought of the story as a “love letter” to my wife, but looking at it now, it seems obvious.

REVIEW: — Hail Warning by Brett Arquette

Review on Goodreads

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“Hail Warning” picks up where “Hail Storm” ended with CIA agent Kara Ramey still aboard Hail’s ship. The story takes place in two timelines, going back two years to explain the ascendency of Boko Haram’s leader in the present timeline. We also see how he and the Russian arms dealer Victor Kornev are connected.
Arquette again brings an exciting tail of international terror and revenge. This time, however, he puts his characters on the ground and in harm’s way, bringing even more tension to the story. The growing attraction between Hail and Ramey lends an additional stress to their working relationship as they try to balance their obvious feelings with, or against, the life mission each has set for themselves.
“Hail Warning” is a worthy follow up to “Hail Storm.” I’m looking forward to the next entry in this series.