Rants, Raves, & Random Thoughts

Shameless self-promotion of my writing skills or lack there of.

Monday, February 28, 2005

The Ingenuity of Drinkers

From the state where drinking and driving is considered a sport, comes a true story from Texas.

Recently a routine police patrol parked outside a local neighborhood bar. Late in the evening the officer noticed a man leaving the bar so intoxicated that he could barely walk.

The man stumbled around the parking lot for a few minutes with the officer quietly observing. After what seemed an eternity and trying his keys on five different vehicles the man managed to find his own car, which he fell into. He was there for a few minutes as a number of other patrons left the bar and drove off.

Finally he started the car, switched the wipers on and off (it was a dry night), flicked the hazard flasher on and off, tooted the horn and then switched on the lights. He moved the vehicle forward a few inches, reversed a little and then remained stationary for a few more minutes as more patrons left in their vehicles.

At last he pulled out of the parking lot and started to drive slowly down the street. The police officer, having patiently waited all this time, now started up his patrol car, put on the flashing lights, promptly pulled the man over and carried out a breathalyzer test. To his amazement the breathalyzer indicated no evidence of the man having consumed alcohol at all!

Dumbfounded, the officer said "I'll have to ask you to accompany me to the Police station. This breathalyzer equipment must be broken."
"Sure, but there is nothing wrong with your equipment," said the man, "tonight I'm the designated decoy."

Strange Dreams

I had the strangest dream last night. It is made stranger still by the fact that I remember most of it. Usually, I can remember bits and pieces of dreams and even those fade away rather quickly. It was a really bizarre dream and I am not sure what to make of it.

I was hunting (which I haven’t done in over a decade) in a forest. It was snowing and I was following tracks in the deep snow. I put up my arm to move a branch and I realized that I was wearing my Class As (Army dress uniform) instead of camouflaged BDUs. I kept trudging along, all the while catching glimpses of something moving ahead of me.

The wind began to pick up, blowing snow up into my eyes. It blew harder as I came closer to my prey. Then I saw the beast between the trees. It looked similiar to a wolf, but it was huge and malformed. Its body looked a little like what I imagine the elephant man’s would look like if it were covered in fur.

I pulled the string of my bow back. It was beautiful, carved of wood and wrapped in leather for my hand to grip. I was aware of how cold the shaft of the arrow felt as it rested on my index finger.

As I brought the bow down, putting the arrow in line with the beast, the wind started to whisper. It didn’t have the sweet voice that one might thing the wind would posses. It was low and gravely. It was speaking the words to a most peculiar song. I remember thinking that it was an odd way to honor me.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when times are gray. You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.

I let my arrow fly and the beast howled. Its howl grew in intensity. It made me fall down covering my ears. When it finally stopped, I could still hear the wind droning on about its sunshine.

As I picked myself up, I realized that I was now wearing buckskins. I had broken my bow when I fell and the land had changed around me. I was surrounded by fog. I couldn’t even see the trees at first. Then as it began to disperse, I found that it wasn’t fog; it was smoke. The trees were now all burnt and twisted. I was standing in the middle of a barren wasteland with the wind calling me sunshine.

I started to walk towards the fallen beast, when it became apparent that I was no longer walking in snow; it had turned to ashes. Ashes were falling from the sky as heavily as the snow had been before.

I looked down at the beast lying in the ashes. Its blood flowed at from both sides drawing what looked like wings in the soot around its body. I reached out and turned it over. It was me. I was wearing the skin of a wolf and I looked about ten years younger, but it was definitely me.

Then I woke up.

Anybody out there know what to make of that? I gotta tell you, it has disturbed me more than a little. Of all the dreams to stick with me after I wake up, this wouldn’t be one I chose voluntarily. To top everything else off, I have that stupid song in my head.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Search for Chiaha

The sun was already breaking through the canopy of trees as she walked away from the old saloon. She could barely see where she was going through the tears that streamed from her eyes. Why was she given such a choice as this? The Gods could be so cruel. She had been given two loves and only the capacity to fully embrace one. If she chose Talon, she chose a life led in darkness, but a life never ending. If she chose to stay with Chiaha, she would live out her days in the light and still know unconditional love, but a mortal love. Her heart was torn so badly it almost hurt to breathe.

He was near Guthrie. She wasn't sure how to get there, but that is where he was. He would be staying with the freeman family, until she could find her way back to him. Tom and Edith Freeman, as well as their two children where moving there for a fresh start. They were a black family who journeyed into Indian Territory in hopes of making a good life for their children. Selu ran across them on her flight from the Talwa the day that she was captured.

Selu thought it would be safer if they split up while she was being pursued. After all, it was her that they would be after not him. She had seen them taking several women as they made their way through the Talwa. She and a few others managed to make it out of the melee before they could be captured.

The Freemans were reluctant, at first, to let Chiaha go with them. After Selu explained to them what was happening. They agreed to take him to Guthrie. Several months had passed since she was captured. She wondered if they thought her dead. She had to find them, find Chiaha. Then everything would be all right.

She worried about her safety for the trip. There had been talk of a war between the northern and southern states. It was a war that had spilled over into the Indian Territory. There had already been several skirmishes that she had heard of.

The last battle, that she heard of, happened at Chustenahlah where the Indians that supported the Union were soundly defeated. Who knew where the next one would take place. She could only hope that it would not be on the path that led to Chiaha.

She traveled for three whole days before she found the booming little town of Guthrie. She stopped at the general store to ask if the shop keep new where the Freemans lived. When she told him who she was, the man behind the counter, Frank, looked at her with a knowing smile and gave her directions.

“Chiaha will be very glad to see you.” He said as she walked out of the door.

The sun was nearly set as she walked up to the front door. Her heart was beating fast with anticipation. Her hand was trembling as she knocked on the door. She began to cry with the realization that she had found him. She quickly tried to dry her eyes as Tom opened the door. He stepped out of the doorway to allow Selu to enter.

“Chiaha! Come here boy. Your mother is here.” He called as he shut the door behind her.
“Look at you, son! Growing like a weed. Momma has missed you so much.” She said as she began to cry again.
“He was in good hands, ma’am.” Said Edith as she stepped out of the kitchen.
“We were beginning to wonder if you were going to find us or not.” Tom said with a raised eyebrow.
“I know and I am so sorry. You would not believe all that I have been through to get back to my boy.” She said as she looked at the floor.
“Momma, where have you been? I have looked for you everyday.” Chiaha said has he hugged her tight.
“I'm here now Chiaha; that is all you need to worry about okay, honey?” She said as she mussed up his hair.

“Are you hungry dear? I have some food left over from dinner. I could make you a plate. It would be no trouble at all.” Edith offered, smiling at the reunited pair.
“I am starved! That would be wonderful. If you are sure it is alright, that is.” Selu said as she stood and picked Chiaha up.
“It will be dark soon. Do you have a place to stay tonight?” Tom asked, sure that the answer was no.
“No sir, I am on foot and penniless at the moment.” She said as she looked down again trying to conceal the shame she felt for all that she had been through.
“Well if you are willing to help work the farm, you are more than welcome to stay here. We have an extra room. Besides, Willie and Thomas have grown quite attached to the boy.” Tom said with a laugh.
“You are too kind, Tom. Your boys are close to age with Chiaha aren't they? He is almost five.” Selu asked, smiling down at Chiaha.
“Willie is five and Thomas is seven. So they treat him like another brother.” Edith said as she brought Selu a plate of salt cured ham and beans.
“That boy of yours is as smart as a whip. He picks up on anything you try to teach him.” Tom said as he reached over and patted the boy on the back.

Chiaha insisted on sitting by his mother while she ate her meal. It was as if he was afraid that if she left his sight, even for a moment, she would disappear again. After dinner, Edith showed Selu where she could sleep. It was a spare room that Edith had been using as a sewing room, but Selu was happy to make a pallet on the floor as long as it was under the same roof that Chiaha slept under. After Selu had gotten Chiaha settled in for the night, she sat with the Freemans and listened to all that they had done since the came to Guthrie.

“They found you didn't they? We prayed for you, but we feared the worse when you didn’t show up after a few days.” Tom asked after he had filled her in on how well her boy had been taken care of.
“Yes they found me and held me captive for what seemed like an eternity. As soon as I was able to escape, I came here.” Selu told him not wanting to tell him any more than that.
“Well sweetie your safe now that is the important thing” Edith told her as she reached out and patted her hand.
“We know all too well the feel of chains. You don't have to talk about it none if you don't want to.” Tom said with a nod.

The next day Selu began to help with all of the chores. Tom commented that she was stronger than she looked and would make a fine hand. Selu was happy with the new arrangement. She was able to work for her room and board and was able to spend plenty of time with her son. She tried not to think of Talon, but her mind kept returning to his handsome face. She could still see the love in his eyes as looked at her from across the table the night that they were reunited.

One day after Selu had been with them for a few weeks, she was helping Edith pull weeds from the garden. Edith sat back on her heels and watched Selu as she worked.
“Selu, you seem to be in a far away place honey. Is there anything you want to talk about? If I didn't know better I would say that you had a broken heart.” She said as she playfully threw a handful of weeds at Selu.
“Yes, Edith, my heart does ache. Chiaha's father, Talon, was my one true love. He disappeared before Chiaha was born. I conceived him the morning that He left.” She began.
“Why did he leave?” Edith asked confused why something that happened so many years ago appeared to be so fresh on her mind.
“He was going to explore some caves with some friends. He never returned. We found the bodies of Ani and Wiya, our friends that were with him, on the outskirts of our Talwa.” She paused as she choked back the tears. “We could only assume that Talon was dead also.”
“And you don't believe that he is, I take it. When you love someone it is hard to believe that they are truly gone.” Edith responded with a nod.

“No, he is dead. I am sure of it.” She finally answered with a self-resolve that she hadn’t felt before.
“That had to be over five years ago, Selu and yet your heart still mourns for him. That was true love indeed.” Edith said as she moved closer and held her hand.
“Yes, it was and yes, my heart still mourns. He occupies my thoughts almost constantly.” Selu confided without revealing that the wounds of her heart were just freshly reopened.
“Then you must be in his thoughts as well. He is probably looking down on you from heaven, just waiting on his chance to be reunited with you.” Edith said, as she patted the back of her hand.
Well this is a topic I don't want to get into a discussion about today. Selu still held the teachings of the old religions dear to her heart. She had been unconvinced by the Christian missionaries and all of their teachings of the one true god. To her there were many gods and when men died, they were destined to return. Except for Talon, he had died and yet he returned in the same body. He returned to live forever, forever in darkness. He may look down on her someday, but it wouldn’t be from heaven, it would be from behind the clouds in the night sky.

Something's Rotten in the State of Oklahoma

Has anyone else been plagued with scammers firing off emails? Here is one that I have received in at least four variations:

Security Center Advisory!

ID of Request 92579vxnmfdWAMU is committed to maintaining a safe environment for its community of buyers and sellers. To protect the security of your account, WAMU employs some of the most advanced security systems in the world and our anti-fraud teams regularly screen the WAMU system for unusual activity.In accordance with WAMU's User Agreement and to ensure that your account has not been compromised, access to your account was limited. Your account access will remain limited until this issue has been resolved. In order to secure your account and quickly restore full access, we may require some specific information from you for the following reason: We encourage you to log in and restore full access as soon as possible.Please follow the link below and renew your account information : https://login.personalwamu.com/logon/logon.asp?dd=1&Update&Your&Info Should access to your account remain limited for an extended period of time, it may result in further limitations on the use of your account or may result in eventual account closure.Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. Please understand that this is a security measure meant to help protect you and your account. We apologize for any inconvenience.If you choose to ignore our request, you leave us no choice but to temporarily suspend your account.Thank you for using WAMU!



Even if I had an account with WAMU I wouldn’t give out my personal info over the Internet. Do these emails really pull in the suckers? I find it hard to believe that anyone would actually fall for this, but if no one is taking these people up on their scams, why am I still getting these emails.

I have received emails saying that I have won an obscure lottery in another country and they just need my bank account info so that they can transfer the money. Another variation of this one, is the guy that another guy actually won the lottery but can’t claim it for some legal reasons and is willing to give you 10 million if you help him out. Oh, and he just needs your account numbers.

I have had several emails from African countries claiming that they are about to be unjustly accused of a crime and need a place to hide their money. They will give you millions if… yeah, you guessed it, you give them your account number.

One of my favorites was partially self-inflicted. I was selling a car on-line and was contacted by a “buyer” that was commissioned by some rich Japanese businessman that has a Mustang fetish. He is willing to pay twice the amount that you are asking for the car if he can just wire the money directly to you. He will of course need to see the car first. So be a nice chap and sign over the title, put it in the car and I will arrange transportation to have the car delivered to Japan. Of course Mr. Yoshimoto will pay for the cost of freight. Once he is satisfied with your car, he will wire the money.

Honestly, do I have some invisible tag associated with my email address that declares me to be a dumb ass? Is jgoodman@goodysworld.com translated into jgoodman@pleasetakemymoney.com once it travels into cyberspace? I could see the confusion if my name was Mark, as it might be a twisted kind of funny to make a man named Mark into a mark; a joke within a joke, if you will. But as it is, I am just getting annoyed with these people.

So, again, is anyone else getting these things? I would really like to know if it is just that I have been targeted for some reason or if these things are going out to everyone.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Answers and Advice

Hey, it’s time for another edition of Answers and Advice. Let me begin by giving you some of the feedback from the 1st two posts:

Mrs. X has sent us an update to her situation. It turns out that she (she says it was her husband, but I find that hard to believe) has decided that: “our relationship shouldn’t be tainted by bringing in another woman.” Good for you Mrs. X. At least the two of you have the clarity of thought to recognize this before you did anything that could ruin what you have with your husband now.

Mr. Y no longer feels like I was launching a personal attack on him. He says that he would still like me to read his book when he finishes it. I wish him lots of luck.

Now we should get a few formalities out of the way: If you like what you see and have odd questions over any subject matter send them to me and I will answer the best I can. If you have questions but would rather not see them (or just your name) on the blog, be sure to let me know in the e-mail. Otherwise, I will consider them fair game.

If at any time, you read my advice and think I am way off base, just let me know, supply advice that you think would be more valuable and I will be sure to pass it along to the appropriate party.
The following is a common question that I have had asked, not only of myself, but of others:

Dear James,
I have just recently started reading your blog. I have to say, I am impressed. You seem to be blessed with a steady flow of ideas. As I read through your archives, it did generate a few questions:

1. The short stories you post, do you create them just for the blog, or are you just posting excerpts from your books?
2. It looks like you post something nearly everyday. Do you find that you spend too much time working on your blog and not enough time working on your books?
3. How did you get started blogging?

I would just like to reiterate that I truly enjoy your blog. I look forward to reading your response (and anything else you feel like writing, for that matter).


Warm Regards,
Ms. T


Wow, Ms. T, thank you so much for your kind words. It just takes one e-mail like that to make all my writing worthwhile.

1. A little of both. The vampire stories are variations of actual chapters from my 1st book. I am changing them enough that if you ever see them in print, you will be reading new material, but the basic concept will remain largely intact (Unless, of course, an editor says otherwise).

As for the others, I am writing them as I go. I created The Dance for my wife to read. She informed me, that she likes to read short stories, but she is not a big fan of vampires (yeah, I know and I married this woman).

2. Think of blogging like foreplay. Wait; let’s not go down that road again. Rather, think of blogging like stretching before a big run. Blogging gets my creative juices flowing.

I can’t explain why it works this way, but I usually do my best work after writing a post for my blog. It would make more sense if the post was relevant to the content of my book, but 9 out of 10 times, it isn’t.

I suppose, to a certain extent, that I could get more writing done on my books if I abandoned blogging, but then I wouldn't have the instant gratification of finding a satisfied reader. If I didn’t blog, I would have never received your wonderful compliments.

Besides, at this point, I am just writing for pleasure. I have no deadlines to worry about. Even if I did, the small amount of time I actually spend writing posts wouldn’t be enough to prevent me from meeting one. Now, the amount of time I spend reading other people’s blogs…. Well let’s just say that is a different story all together.

3. It all started right here, at PM. I was reading Publisher Lunch, it mentioned a new service for bloggers and urged writers to try it. I thought: “What the heck, I will give it a try.” It didn’t take long for me to realize that I really enjoyed it. More than that, I have met (virtually, at least) a lot of really great people because of it.

I have several blogs that I read on a daily basis, almost as if they are an addiction. I check them often for new posts (or at least comments on older posts for the blogs that have a comment feature). On some blogs, the comments can be as entertaining as the posts themselves.

Monday, February 21, 2005

ConDFW Schedule

That will teach me to post the thing so quickly; I already need to make a correction.

The panel schedule is up (in a preliminary form at least) on the ConDFW website. I am providing you with a taste of wait you will be missing if you can’t make it. Having said that, are any of you out there planning to attend?

Again, this is only a taste. To find out more please visit their website.

Friday

Panel Room 1 (Violet – Main Programming)

5 pm Escape from the Slush Pile
Hosted by Shanna Caughey, Carole Nelson Douglas, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Martha Wells, and Glenn Yeffeth. Industry pros, both authors and editors, discuss what it takes to escape from the slush pile. Is there anything you can do to get an edge over other aspiring writers?

6 pm What Does It Take to Be a Writer?
Hosted by Steven K.Z. Brust, Scott Cupp, P.N. Elrod, Jody Lynn Nye, and Teresa Patterson. Many people want to be a fiction writer but do they really have what it takes to be successful? Industry pros try to define what they think makes a writer more likely to be successful. Who knows, they might even be right.

Reading Room

2 pm Charlee Jacob
3 pm Brad Sinor
4 pm Rhonda Eudaly
5 pm K.D. Wentworth
6 pm Robert Pickering

Saturday


Panel Room 1 (Violet – Main Programming)

10 am Playing Well With Others
Hosted by Robert Asprin, Bill Fawcett, Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Jody Lynn Nye. Industry pros discuss the ups and downs of collaborations and anthologies.

11 am Tolkien’s Vice: The World Building Panel
Hosted by Robert Asprin, Steven K.Z. Brust, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Tracy S. Morris and Martha Wells. Ever dreamed of creating your own world? Industry pros discuss their own experiences with this daunting authorial exercise.

12 pm Words and Pictures: The Art of the Screenplay
Hosted by Bill Fountain and John Steakley. There is no doubt that writing a compelling screenplay is quite different from writing a solid novel or short story. Industry pros talk about what makes a screenplay pop and their own experiences in the trenches.

5 pm Guest of Honor Keynote Address
An hour with famed novelist Steven K.Z. Brust.

8 pm Guest of Honor Acoustic Musical Performance
Guests of Honor, Steven Brust and Patrick Nielsen Hayden, present an acoustic musical performance.

9 pm Dancing the night away.

Panel Room 2 (Magnolia)

1 pm The Editor’s Panel: The Red Pen Rises
Hosted by Jayme Lynn Blaschke, Shanna Caughey, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Glen Yeffeth. A recent article in the Onion assured us that “Copyediting is a craft” Come join some masters of that craft discuss what aspiring writers can do to avoid being tossed aside with great force.

2 pm Blood, Death and Doom for Fun and Profit: The Business of Horror Writing
Hosted by C. Dean Andersson, P.N. Elrod, Christopher Fulbright, Bob Gunner and Brad Sinor. Industry pros discuss how to get in to horror writing and where the genre is heading.

3 pm The Aspiring Writers Panel
Hosted by Charlee Jacob, Julia Blackshear Kosatka, Lee Martindale, Warren Carl Norwood and Nina Romberg. Every year ConDFW has a new writers panel where aspiring writers can listen to industry veterans share their invaluable wit and wisdom. Come for the always useful advice or come to see well meaning would be mentors urging these aspirants to forsake writing and to instead seek honest work.

4 pm Are Vampires Still Sexy or Do They Just Suck?
Hosted by C. Dean Andersson, P.N. Elrod, Christopher Fulbright, Angeline Hawkes-Craig and Richard Weber. Surely no creature has been reinvented, reused and recycled more than Dracula and his polymorphous brood. Is there still any undiscovered country left in the vampire genre or have we seen it all before?

Panel Room 3 (Mesquite)

8 pm Making Better Dirty Books: Porn vs. Erotica
Hosted by Melanie Miller Fletcher, Julia Blackshear Kosatka, and whoever else cares to show up. This no holds anything goes panel has become an established tradition at ConDFW. We’re not sure anything has ever been resolved, but we are sure that it is always entertaining. Adults only.

Reading Room

10 am Gloria Oliver
11 am Jayme Lynn Blaschke
12 pm Angeline Hawkes-Craig
1 pm John Steakley – A Preview of Armor 2
2 pm H.J. Ralles
3 pm Lillian Stewart Carl
4 pm Melanie Miller Fletcher
5 pm Closed for Guest of Honor Presentation
6 pm Closed for Guest of Honor Presentation

Autographs
10 am Beverly Hale, Joy Marie Ledet, Teresa Patterson, Brad Sinor
11 am Lillian Stewart Carl, Christopher Fulbright, Rick Klaw
12 pm C. Dean Andersson, Carole Nelson Douglas, Bob Gunner, Nina Romberg
1 pm Rhonda Eudaly, Charlee Jacob, Tracy S. Morris, Martha Wells
2 pm Bill Fawcett, Katharine Eliska Kimbriel, Jeff Turner
3 pm Steven K.Z. Brust, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa Nielsen Hayden
4 pm Robert Asprin, Jody Lynn Nye, Mel White

Sunday

Panel Room 1 (Violet – Main Programming)

10 am Fan Fiction into the Future
Hosted by Melanie Miller Fletcher and Julia Blackshear Kosatka. Is there such a thing as good fan fiction? Can writing it be valuable practice to hone your writing skills? Industry pros debate the good, the bad and the ugly of the online underworld of fan fic.

11 am Computer and Gaming Art: Breaking into Non-traditional Markets.
Hosted by David Cherry, Brad W. Foster, and Victory. Artists discuss expanding their horizons.

12 pm Literary Agents Demystified: What Every Writer Needs to Know
Hosted by Patrick Nielsen Hayden and Teresa Nielsen Hayden.
Two industry veterans discuss the pitfalls and priorities of getting representation. Who needs an agent and how can they set about to find one?

1 pm The State of the Industry
Hosted by Shanna Caughey, Bill Fawcett, T.M. Wagner, K.D. Wentworth and Glenn Yeffeth. Industry pros discuss the state of the fantasy/sci-fi/horror publishing business. Are things really that bad? Are they getting better? Listen to a frank examination of lights, tunnels and oncoming trains.

Panel Room 2 (Magnolia)

11 am Refreshing Fantasy: Revitalizing a Genre
Hosted by Beverly Hale, Charlee Jacob, Lee Martindale, Gloria Oliver and Teresa Patterson. If there has even been a genre haunted by its clichés it must be fantasy. Must the woods always be filled with elves and the mountains mined by dwarves? What can and is being done to bring new life to this genre?

12 pm Escape from the Slush Pile Part Two: Getting Noticed in Periodicals
Hosted by Gregory R. Bennett, Brad Sinor and Jeff Turner. Industry pros discuss periodicals and magazines as a route to breaking into the fiction market.

1 pm Remaking the Myths: Mythology and Folklore in Modern Fiction
Hosted by C. Dean Andersson, Renee Brown, Lillian Stewart Carl, Jody Lynn Nye and Nina Romberg. Industry pros discuss how ancient mythology and folklore has influenced their own writing. What’s been done to death? What’s been overlooked? What would love to see?

2 pm Dark Fantasy
Hosted by Bob Gunner, Charlee Jacob, Robert Pickering and Richard Weber. Industry pros explore the genre of dark fantasy -- what’s cutting edge, what’s played out and where the genre is going.

Adventures in the City

I heard this joke today and I thought I would pass it along.

The Pope was taking a limo ride in New York. As he rides around the city taking in sights, he starts begging the driver to let him take over the wheel for a while. The limo driver doesn’t want to deny his holiness, so he eventually obliges and takes a seat in the back.

Within a block, the two are pulled over by NYCs finest, but when the cop sees who is driving, he calls his sergeant.

“Sir,” He begins in a shaky voice. “I stopped someone really important and I don’t know what to do.”
“Is it the mayor?” His commander asks.
“No, more important.”
“The governor?”
“No, sir, even more important.”
“For pete’s sake, don’t tell me you pulled over the president.”
“No, even more important than the president.”
“Who the hell is it, then?”
“I’m not sure, but his driver is the pope.”

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

The Pepper Spray Incident

I was gently reminded (thanks, Ronnie), that I still owed an explanation of the pepper spray incident. Before I get into the story, I would like to emphasize that I have never experienced anything quite like it and I hope I never have to again. At various points in my military training I was exposed to tear gas. Which I found irritating, but I could still function reasonably well. I just experienced a little difficulty seeing and one hell of a runny nose.

Then there was the time that a bunch of my fellow soldiers and I were trying to prove which of us was the toughest by using mace on each other. Yeah, looking back I was a real moron in my late teens and early twenties. Again, the result was blurred vision and nasal discharge.

When I was in college this girl wanted to take me (more to the point she wanted me to taker her, I suppose) to a redneck bar that was way out in the boonies. She was friends with the owner and said that we could get some free beers out of the deal. Before I go any further, I should probably point out that I am not a big fan of redneck bars, but being in college, the offer of drinking for free sounded pretty good.

We show up at this dive and I begin to think that there is not enough free beer in the world to make an evening there bearable. With a little persuasion (funny how most women are good at that sort of thing), she convinced me to go in, at least long enough to see her friends.

We hadn’t been inside for more than an hour when the front door burst open and frantic young cowgirl was screaming: “They’re gonna kill him!” I jumped up and ran outside to investigate. There were three guys in the parking lot, beating the day lights out of a fourth. They recipient of the beating was laying on the ground, trying to cover his head as they kicked him.

Did I mention I was a moron when I was younger? Yeah, I decided to help out the underdog in the fight. I shouted at them to back away as I ran into the parking lot. One of them looked up long enough to tell me to mind my own #@$% business. By the time he looked back up at me it was too late; I was on him. He tried to take a swing at me, but I blocked it and punched him in the bottom of the sternum. It, of course, left him gasping for air as his diaphragm objected to the sudden force. As he bent over from the blow, I grabbed him on either side of his head and kneed him in the face. I turned on the other two, who had given up beating the guy on the ground and were looking at me with wide eyes. I grabbed one of them by the throat and punched him square in the nose with two quick jabs. I guess the sight of blood coming out of the top of his buddies beak, was enough to take the fight out of the third one, because he took off running. I assumed he was running to his car, leaving his buddies to fend for themselves. My first instinct was to let him go, but I had the sudden fear that he might be going to get a gun from his car or at the very least something to work me over with.

“Leave me alone!” He shouted when he realized I was chasing him.

He suddenly stopped and reached into his pocket. I thought: He’s got a knife, well at least it is better than a gun and kept running. He held up his hand and I saw a small can in it. I assumed it was mace.
“Boy! All you are going to do is piss me off with…” I never finished the sentence. He dropped me like a rock. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t see, all I could do was curl up and wait for the kicking to commence. I kept waiting and waiting but the beating never came. I heard a car fire up and roll across the gravel, before peeling out of the parking lot.

When I finally got my breath back, I allowed a few of the patrons to help me back inside. I flushed my face with water, which just made it burn worse. Once I felt a little more like myself, the girl that I was with told me, that after I got sprayed, the guy got his car stopped long enough to pick up his two friends, and took off.

The guy that they had been using for soccer practice was taken to the emergency room. I heard later that he had a few broken ribs, a broke jaw and a concussion, but was going to live.

Now, I should probably turn this into a Public Service Announcement. I am a big guy and in my prime, I was pretty darn quick, but a little can of pepper spray dropped me like a bad habit. If any of you out there travel alone, I highly recommend you pick some up. Don’t be lulled into a false since of security with mace, as I’ve said I found that only mildly irritating, I still would have gotten my hands on that guy if he had been using anything less than the pepper spray. Buy it, keep it with you, and hope you never have to use it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Hurt Feelers

Apparently, I rubbed Mr. Y the wrong way. Funny, I actually thought I was encouraging him.

Mr. Goodman,
I felt that you were a little harsh with me. Of course, I would address an editor or publisher as Mr. or Mrs. I’m not a moron. I just assumed since you were a fellow writer, it would be alright to call you James.
I didn’t use bad grammar in those chapters. I have re-read them a hundred times. If they need to be edited, the publisher will do it before it goes into print. I am not a hack with a vampire fetish. I will be a great writer. Just you wait and see.
What’s with the mixed signals? On one hand you say that you like the story and then you turn around and write “good” chapters when you are referring to them, like you are just sating me and don’t really think they are good and you want your other readers to know that you didn’t buy off on it.

Good day to you, sir!

Mr. whatever you want to call me as I am sure I fall into the X category now.


Y (at this point we should be on a first name basis),

You can call me James (which I assume is better than what you were calling me as you read the post). I just wanted to make sure that you knew it should be the exception, not the rule. I apologize if I have offended you. I guessed you missed the part about thick skin in my response to your first letter.

I didn’t actually call you a hack, I was just trying my hand at humor. Apparently, I need a little work in that area. I hope you do become a great writer. IMHO, with what I read of your work, you are not there yet. Maybe you are right though, a publisher may fall in love with the idea of your book and make the corrections for you. I just don’t see that happening, but I hope you prove me wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time that I have been mistaken.

I wasn’t aware that I was sending mixed signals. I said that your story had potential and I meant it. Believe me when I tell you that if I thought it was truly horrible, I would have made fun of you, not try to encourage you. I might have even posted a few sample passages on the blog for everyone to enjoy. I still think it has potential and I would read more if you chose to send it to me.

Thanks for playing and I hope you have a good day too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Weekend Rents

Ok, that was a little close for comfort. The Patriots barely pulled it off in what turned out to be one of the best Super Bowl, since... Well, ok, I rather enjoyed last year's also.

It was a good defensive game, but what did you expect when the #2 and #3 defenses collide? The Pats are breaking records left and right. I keep hearing them referred to as a Dynasty, but I am holding out to see what they do next year. I don't want to curse them.

Now, on with the rents:

I only watched two movies this weekend. I spent the time that I would have normally used for the third movie playing Black Jack and playing it poorly. We decided to go checkout the action in our new casino. My friend Rob nearly tripled his money. My performance, however, was similar to that of a bad boxer: up, down, up, down and out. All and all, it was a good time though. My wife walked out with the same amount of money she walked in with and my friend Amy, well, I think she was having a bit of my luck.

The first movie we watched was Without a Paddle. I thought this movie was great. It is the story of a group of friends that used to dream of finding DB Cooper’s money when they were kids. One of them dies and the other three vow to take the trip that the fourth one had planned all his life. There is scene near the beginning where the three friends are confronted by a bear. One of the falls and the other two urge him to get into the fetal position. “He won’t mess with you if you are in the fetal position.” A few moments later finds those same friends screaming: “Abort the fetal position. It isn’t working. Abort the fetal position.” This movie is full of laughs, despite the underlying fact that the whole adventure is caused by the death of a friend.

Our second selection was The Forgotten. This was a strange movie. It kept my attention throughout, not because it was so good (and it was good), but because I was afraid I would get lost, if I missed anything. It was full of as many subtle clues as it was blaring ones. Can a parent ever forget a child? That was the basis of the whole movie. It did give the impression that it was easier for a father to forget a child than for a mother. I, of course, take a little offense to that, but being that they cited the whole child growing inside them idea as the reason, it didn’t leave me much room to argue. The bottom line is that this was a good movie and I am glad I watched it.

The Weekend Rents

Ok, that was a little close for comfort. The Patriots barely pulled it off in what turned out to be one of the best Super Bowl, since... Well, ok, I rather enjoyed last year's also.
It was a good defensive game, but what did you expect when the #2 and #3 defenses collide? The Pats are breaking records left and right. I keep hearing them referred to as a Dynasty, but I am holding out to see what they do next year. I don't want to curse them.
Now, on with the rents:
I only watched two movies this weekend. I spent the time that I would have normally used for the third movie playing Black Jack and playing it poorly. We decided to go checkout the action in our new casino. My friend Rob nearly tripled his money. My performance, however, was similar to that of a bad boxer: up, down, up, down and out. All and all, it was a good time though. My wife walked out with the same amount of money she walked in with and my friend Amy, well, I think she was having a bit of my luck.
The first movie we watched was Without'>http://www.withoutapaddlemovie.com/home.php">Without a Paddle. I thought this movie was great. It is the story of a group of friends that used to dream of finding DB Cooper’s money when they were kids. One of them dies and the other three vow to take the trip that the fourth one had planned all his life. There is scene near the beginning where the three friends are confronted by a bear. One of the falls and the other two urge him to get into the fetal position. “He won’t mess with you if you are in the fetal position.” A few moments later finds those same friends screaming: “Abort the fetal position. It isn’t working. Abort the fetal position.” This movie is full of laughs, despite the underlying fact that the whole adventure is caused by the death of a friend.
Our second selection was The'>http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/theforgotten/">The Forgotten. This was a strange movie. It kept my attention throughout, not because it was so good (and it was good), but because I was afraid I would get lost, if I missed anything. It was full of as many subtle clues as it was blaring ones. Can a parent ever forget a child? That was the basis of the whole movie. It did give the impression that it was easier for a father to forget a child than for a mother. I, of course, take a little offense to that, but being that they cited the whole child growing inside them idea as the reason, it didn’t leave me much room to argue. The bottom line is that this was a good movie and I am glad I watched it.

The Weekend Rents

Ok, that was a little close for comfort. The Patriots barely pulled it off in what turned out to be one of the best Super Bowl, since... Well, ok, I rather enjoyed last year's also.
It was a good defensive game, but what did you expect when the #2 and #3 defenses collide? The Pats are breaking records left and right. I keep hearing them referred to as a Dynasty, but I am holding out to see what they do next year. I don't want to curse them.
Now, on with the rents:
I only watched two movies this weekend. I spent the time that I would have normally used for the third movie playing Black Jack and playing it poorly. We decided to go checkout the action in our new casino. My friend Rob nearly tripled his money. My performance, however, was similar to that of a bad boxer: up, down, up, down and out. All and all, it was a good time though. My wife walked out with the same amount of money she walked in with and my friend Amy, well, I think she was having a bit of my luck.
The first movie we watched was Without'>http://www.withoutapaddlemovie.com/home.php">Without a Paddle. I thought this movie was great. It is the story of a group of friends that used to dream of finding DB Cooper’s money when they were kids. One of them dies and the other three vow to take the trip that the fourth one had planned all his life. There is scene near the beginning where the three friends are confronted by a bear. One of the falls and the other two urge him to get into the fetal position. “He won’t mess with you if you are in the fetal position.” A few moments later finds those same friends screaming: “Abort the fetal position. It isn’t working. Abort the fetal position.” This movie is full of laughs, despite the underlying fact that the whole adventure is caused by the death of a friend.
Our second selection was The'>http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/theforgotten/">The Forgotten. This was a strange movie. It kept my attention throughout, not because it was so good (and it was good), but because I was afraid I would get lost, if I missed anything. It was full of as many subtle clues as it was blaring ones. Can a parent ever forget a child? That was the basis of the whole movie. It did give the impression that it was easier for a father to forget a child than for a mother. I, of course, take a little offense to that, but being that they cited the whole child growing inside them idea as the reason, it didn’t leave me much room to argue. The bottom line is that this was a good movie and I am glad I watched it.

The Weekend Rents

Ok, that was a little close for comfort. The Patriots barely pulled it off in what turned out to be one of the best Super Bowl, since... Well, ok, I rather enjoyed last year's also.
It was a good defensive game, but what did you expect when the #2 and #3 defenses collide? The Pats are breaking records left and right. I keep hearing them referred to as a Dynasty, but I am holding out to see what they do next year. I don't want to curse them.
Now, on with the rents:
I only watched two movies this weekend. I spent the time that I would have normally used for the third movie playing Black Jack and playing it poorly. We decided to go checkout the action in our new casino. My friend Rob nearly tripled his money. My performance, however, was similar to that of a bad boxer: up, down, up, down and out. All and all, it was a good time though. My wife walked out with the same amount of money she walked in with and my friend Amy, well, I think she was having a bit of my luck.
The first movie we watched was Without'>http://www.withoutapaddlemovie.com/home.php">Without a Paddle. I thought this movie was great. It is the story of a group of friends that used to dream of finding DB Cooper’s money when they were kids. One of them dies and the other three vow to take the trip that the fourth one had planned all his life. There is scene near the beginning where the three friends are confronted by a bear. One of the falls and the other two urge him to get into the fetal position. “He won’t mess with you if you are in the fetal position.” A few moments later finds those same friends screaming: “Abort the fetal position. It isn’t working. Abort the fetal position.” This movie is full of laughs, despite the underlying fact that the whole adventure is caused by the death of a friend.
Our second selection was The'>http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/theforgotten/">The Forgotten. This was a strange movie. It kept my attention throughout, not because it was so good (and it was good), but because I was afraid I would get lost, if I missed anything. It was full of as many subtle clues as it was blaring ones. Can a parent ever forget a child? That was the basis of the whole movie. It did give the impression that it was easier for a father to forget a child than for a mother. I, of course, take a little offense to that, but being that they cited the whole child growing inside them idea as the reason, it didn’t leave me much room to argue. The bottom line is that this was a good movie and I am glad I watched it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

An Officer and a Gentleman

I was visiting with a friend of mine that happens to be a police officer. He told me about an incident that happened a couple of nights ago and I thought I would pass it on. I have course can’t remember the conversation verbatim, but this is the gist of it anyway:
“Did I tell you about the traffic stop I had the other night?” He asked with a wicked gleam in his eye.“I don’t think so.” I shrugged.“I pulled this car over that was weaving. Once we were on the side of the road, he started getting out of his car. That’s not a good idea, especially at night. So, I was like: ‘Sir, please return to your car.’ Instead of getting back in his car, he started walking towards mine.”“Were you still sitting in your car?”“Nah, I was on my feet in a hurry. I bet I told him to get back into his car three times before, my hand went to my hip.”“Dude, you were going to shoot him?”“No, but I thought I was going to have to use my taser.”“Your taser.” I smirked.
“Hey, those things are vicious. Did I ever show you that video of when they tasered me for training?”“You did not really let them taser you. Did you?”“Yeah, you have to have it used on you, before you can use it on someone else.”“I guess that makes sense.”
“Anyways, he finally walked back to his car, but as a show of defiance, he just leaned against it, instead of getting back in. I could smell the alcohol, before I ever got anywhere near him.”“Hence the weaving.”“Yeah. So needless to say, he failed the sobriety test. I told him to place his hands on the car because he was under arrest. He told me to get bent. He wasn’t going to jail.”“So you used your taser after all?”“No, I wound up folding him right there against his car and cuffing him.”“Damn, you broke bad on his ass, huh?”
At this point, I feel it necessary to tell you that my friend is not one of those macho adrenaline junkies that wear the badge, just to have an opportunity to legally rough people up. He is actually a mild-mannered man that just wanted to make a difference in his community.
“No, I just did what I had to do. The guy was like 71 years old.”“You beat up an old man?” I laughed.“No, I didn’t beat him up. I just used enough force to get the job done. You want to know the worst part?” He said and waited for my nod.“The guy was a retired cop. He should have known better.”“So did you let him off?”“You kidding me? I don’t care who you are; you break the law, you’re going down.”“Bad ass.” I smirked.“Hey, shut up.”“Or what, you going to taser me?” I teased.“Perhaps, just a little pepper spray would be enough to shut your mouth.” He smiled.
I opted to drop the subject. I have experienced pepper spray (which is a whole other story that I might share with you sometime) and I have no desire to feel that again.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Raining Revolution

The sweet sensation of water cascading down the back of a man oppressed gives off the fragrance of freedom. For that one glorious moment he forgets where he is as the rain pounds out a steady rhythm that beats his mind into a trance. He is free to ponder the plights of his life. The rolling thunder instills the feeling that the rain will eventually wash away the sins of the world, making it a new place, a safe place, a place of opportunity. Freedom is a fragile thing. Never do anything that will allow someone take it away from you.

Friday, February 11, 2005

More Answers and Advice

It’s time for another edition of Answers & Advice. Everyone can relax a little; this letter didn’t leaving me blushing. I can understand (a little) why this one was directed to me.
Let’s get the formalities out of the way first: If you like what you see and have odd questions over any subject matter send them to me and I will answer the best I can. If you have questions, but would rather not see them (or just your name) on the blog, be sure to let me know in the e-mail. Otherwise, I will consider them fair game.
If at any time, you read my advice and think I am way off base, just let me know, supply advice that you think would be more valuable and I will be sure to pass it along to the appropriate party.
Dear James, I read your response to Mrs. X and decided to ask my own questions. I will not get as personal with mine, I can assure you of that. Do you know her outside of cyberspace or was she just being brash? IMHO, I think you should consider the e-book idea. I for one would buy one, but then I love vampire stories. All you have to do to convert your book to .PDF is go to the Adobe website and let them convert it for you online. If I remember right, the first couple are free and then they charge you $10 a month. It would stand to reason to me that should also be what you charge for your book. I am now working on my first vampire novel and I was wondering if you could give me some advice. At what point did you decide to get an agent? Is it possible to get published without one? Could you please read over the chapters, I have enclosed and let me know what you think? I wasn’t sure if you would open an attachment so I have embedded them in the body of the email.
I look forward to seeing your response on the blog.
Sincerely,
Mr. Y (could you keep it as Mr. Y, I have seen you use Mr. X in a negative connotation and I don’t want to be associated with him.)

Mr. Y, Do you think it odd that you call me by my first name, yet sign as a Mr.? I don’t mind if you call me James, in fact I prefer it. If you are going to embark on the fast-paced and easy road to getting published, I would suggest that you get into the habit of addressing the recipients of your letters with Mr./Ms./Mrs. After the initial contact, they will let you know if/when you are on a first name basis.
As for Mrs. X, I don’t know her at all. That was her first correspondence with me.
Thank you for the information on e-books. I still don’t think that is something that I want to pursue at this time. If I do, you will be the first to know. I will even give you my first e-signed copy.
Vampire novels, huh? Haven’t you heard? There’s no market for them. It’s all been done before. How many times can the same story be re-written? Discouraged yet? I hope not; if writing about vampires makes you happy, then by all means write about vampires. I, for one, think that we can never have too many vampire stories, but then I am not the one trying to get one published. Oh, wait I am trying to get one of those published. I guess I didn’t listen to the naysayers either.
The day after I typed the end on my first novel, I sent out a batch of queries to a list of agents that I generated at random. I had it stuck in my mind that I had to have an agent before anyone would publish me. I just jumped right in there with both feet. Guess what; it didn’t turn out well for me. I should have done my homework and so should you. Agents are great and I intended to find one when I have a little more to offer them. I figure my work will be a little more appealing once I have something published to prove that I am not just another hack with a word processor and a vampire fetish. Not that I am implying anything… Anyhoo, all I am saying is do a little research. I am a firm believer that you have to write what you read (cliff’s notes and DVDs don’t count). Thumb through some of your old books and buy some new ones. Make a list of all the publisher’s and browse through the acknowledgments to see if you can pick up a few names of agents.
I can almost hear you now: “But you said to get published first.” No, I said that was the path I was taking. I know several people that found agents before they even thought of submitting to publishers. I just got tired of reading rejections to the effect of: “I love your book, but I just don’t think I can sell it. Good luck finding a home for it elsewhere.” Which were still better than the form rejection letters that appeared in my mailbox from time to time.
You will need to complete your novel before you approach either of them. No one has time to waste on the possibility that you will finish the novel. I know that sounds harsh, but do you know how many people start writing novels and never finish them? Well, neither do I, but I’d be willing to wager that it is a lot.
You will also need to develop some thick skin. You will be rejected. Your work will be dissected and returned to you looking as if it suffered several stab wounds and is slowly bleeding to death. If you are lucky enough to get it back with remarks and suggestions, that is.
You might notice that I didn’t include the sample chapters that you embedded in the email. Though it was fun to scroll through in that format, I didn’t feel that it was appropriate to reprint them here. Also why did you send me chapters 3,4, & 5? Please don’t tell me, it is because you thought those were your best chapters. If Chapters 1 & 2 aren’t worth reading, I (and quite possibly no other reader) will never make it to your “good” chapters.
I think the chapters you sent have potential. You did pique my curiosity and I like your writing style. I am not (nor do I pretend to be) a very thorough editor. I did catch a few things though, mostly misspellings and fragments. Might I suggest that you email Ray Rhamey and let him cast a beady eye at it? You will want to have your manuscript in the best possible shape it can be in when you do start submitting. Agents and Publishers are often so deluged with queries that it doesn’t take much for them to pass on yours. Bad grammar and typos are a quick way to receive a form letter; no matter how good your story idea is.
I hope that helps. Good luck with the book. I look forward to reading it when you have it finished.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Weekend Rents

Ok, so I am running a little behind. I was going to present my reviews of the weekend rents first thing this morning, but Sunday turned out to be a very non-productive day. Maybe it was the weather, maybe I am finally succumbing to the cold that I have been fending off for about a week or maybe it had something to do with the amount of Peroni I imbibed on Saturday night. In my defense, I kept asking for a Moretti but the waiter kept telling me it would be a few more minutes before they were ready to serve. What were they brewing it themselves in the back room? Put those babies on some ice and send them my way.
With the exception of ordering the only one of some 300 beers that wasn’t available, the rest of the evening was a good time. Great food and great company, always a winning combination. We talked books, blogs, writing, comics, and movies, which made me happier than a pig in… Well, let’s just say I enjoyed myself. I topped off the evening by watching Arturo Gatti put the smack down on James Leija.
As for the rents, I started to only review two of them because I really couldn’t think of more than a couple of nice things to say about one of them. Momma always said: “Stupid is as…” Oh, wait wrong quote. Try this one: “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But where’s the fun in that?
The first out of the box this weekend was CATWOMAN. Not even Halle Berry in a skimpy leather outfit was enough to save this movie. To their credit, they took a chance and deviated from the established character, but they decided to take dialogue lessons from the early batman series. Cheesy banter and cheesier clichés, made this movie almost unbearable. They were very generous with the special effects and the fight scenes were fantastic. In fact, when I re-watched the movie with the mute button on, I rather enjoyed it. It was visually pleasing, but the chat of the cat was offensive to my ears. It wasn’t as bad as say, Dracula 3000, but I won’t be watching it, well, a third time as it were.
Next up to bat was Man on Fire. Denzel Washington plays the single most ruthless former soldier/bodyguard I think I have ever seen. The depths that he goes to while avenging the death of a little girl make me proud to be an American. All kidding aside, this movie rocked. The scene with the Presidente del Hermanidad alone was worth the price of the rental. If you are in to happy endings skip this movie and go to that massage parlor on west 42nd street. Seriously though, without saying too much the ending is bitter sweet. I will be adding this one to my personal collection. Watch it, share it with loved ones, and just thank your lucky stars you aren’t in a wealthy family that resides in Juarez. Unless of course, you are a member of such a family, in which case I highly recommend that you hire an alcoholic ex-spec ops vet for your bodyguard. He might not be able to prevent you from getting kidnapped and/or killed, but he sure knows how to make them pay for their deeds if they do.
We wrapped up the weekend rentals with Resident Evil: Apocalypse. This visually stunning homage to the video game of the same name packs a punch. The special effects were out of this world and the storyline flowed like the T-Virus through a graveyard. Action packed and heartwarming, this movie had it all. Of course, my wife hated it and my son kept peeking his head around the staircase and asking: “Aren’t they supposed to be in a mall?” Clearly, he has watched more than one zombie movie from that vantage point, much to my chagrin. And the whole time, I thought he was upstairs watching 28 Days Later. At least he didn’t ask why they weren’t at the Winchester. If you like Zombie movies with great special effects, you will like this movie. If not, you may find yourself doing the crossword puzzle instead. Yes, that is what my wife did in lieu of watching the movie. Well, in between taking potshots at various scenes in the movie she felt were unusually trite.

The weekend rents

Ok, so I am running a little behind. I was going to present my reviews of the weekend rents first thing this morning, but Sunday turned out to be a very non-productive day. Maybe it was the weather, maybe I am finally succumbing to the cold that I have been fending off for about a week or maybe it had something to do with the amount of Peroni I imbibed on Saturday night. In my defense, I kept asking for a Moretti but the waiter kept telling me it would be a few more minutes before they were ready to serve. What were they brewing it themselves in the back room? Put those babies on some ice and send them my way.
With the exception of ordering the only one of some 300 beers that wasn’t available, the rest of the evening was a good time. Great food and great company, always a winning combination. We talked books, blogs, writing, comics, and movies, which made me happier than a pig in… Well, let’s just say I enjoyed myself. I topped off the evening by watching Arturo'>http://www.hbo.com/boxing/fights/events.shtml">Arturo Gatti put the smack down on James'>http://www.hbo.com/boxing/fights/events.shtml">James Leija.
As for the rents, I started to only review two of them because I really couldn’t think of more than a couple of nice things to say about one of them. Momma always said: “Stupid is as…” Oh, wait wrong quote. Try this one: “If you haven’t got anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” But where’s the fun in that?
The first out of the box this weekend was CATWOMAN. Not even Halle'>http://catwoman.warnerbros.com/">Halle Berry in a skimpy leather outfit was enough to save this movie. To their credit, they took a chance and deviated from the established character, but they decided to take dialogue lessons from the early batman series. Cheesy banter and cheesier clichés, made this movie almost unbearable. They were very generous with the special effects and the fight scenes were fantastic. In fact, when I re-watched the movie with the mute button on, I rather enjoyed it. It was visually pleasing, but the chat of the cat was offensive to my ears. It wasn’t as bad as say, Dracula 3000, but I won’t be watching it, well, a third time as it were.
Next up to bat was Man on Fire. Denzel Washington plays the single most ruthless former soldier/bodyguard'>http://www.manonfiremovie.com/">soldier/bodyguard I think I have ever seen. The depths that he goes to while avenging the death of a little girl make me proud to be an American. All kidding aside, this movie rocked. The scene with the Presidente del Hermanidad alone was worth the price of the rental. If you are in to happy endings skip this movie and go to that massage parlor on west 42nd street. Seriously though, without saying too much the ending is bitter sweet. I will be adding this one to my personal collection. Watch it, share it with loved ones, and just thank your lucky stars you aren’t in a wealthy family that resides in Juarez. Unless of course, you are a member of such a family, in which case I highly recommend that you hire an alcoholic ex-spec ops vet for your bodyguard. He might not be able to prevent you from getting kidnapped and/or killed, but he sure knows how to make them pay for their deeds if they do.
We wrapped up the weekend rentals with Resident Evil: Apocalypse. This visually stunning homage to the video game of the same name packs a punch. The special effects were out of this world and the storyline flowed like the T-Virus'>http://www.sonypictures.com/homevideo/residentevilapocalypse/index.html">T-Virus through a graveyard. Action packed and heartwarming, this movie had it all. Of course, my wife hated it and my son kept peeking his head around the staircase and asking: “Aren’t they supposed to be in a mall?” Clearly, he has watched more than one zombie movie from that vantage point, much to my chagrin. And the whole time, I thought he was upstairs watching 28 Days Later. At least he didn’t ask why they weren’t at the Winchester. If you like Zombie movies with great special effects, you will like this movie. If not, you may find yourself doing the crossword puzzle instead. Yes, that is what my wife did in lieu of watching the movie. Well, in between taking potshots at various scenes in the movie she felt were unusually trite.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

1st edition of Answers and Advice

So I came home from work today and checked my e-mail. As I browsed through the inbox, “I have a few questions for you” caught my eye. I opened it up and began to read. Then about half way through it, my mind hit the breaks. I stopped, reread the sentence and began to blush. The lady dropped a bomb on me.
My first instinct was to reply to her discreetly and explain to her that, though I am glad she likes my writing, I am not qualified to offer her relationship advice. Then I decided what the hell, this could be fun.
If you like what you see and have odd questions over any subject matter send them to me and I will answer the best I can. If you have questions but would rather not see them (or just your name) on the blog, be sure to let me know in the e-mail. Otherwise, I will consider them fair game.
If at any time, you read my advice and think I am way off base, just let me know, supply advice that you think would be more valuable and I will be sure to pass it along to the appropriate party.
I suppose I should start with the easy (ier?) questions:
How is the “Guardians on the Plains” coming? I wish I could tell you that it is done and I completed it in four weeks (Yeah, Tish I am referring to you. Tish is not Mrs. X BTW.), but the truth is I only have a few chapters completed so far. Between the re-writes, and a few other things I have been working on, I haven’t put as much time into it as I should.
Have you considered putting them into a .PDF format and just selling them from Goody’s World?No, actually I haven’t. I wouldn’t know where to start. I suppose it would be simple enough to figure out how to convert them to .PDF files, but there is a lot more to it than that. How much do I charge? How would I collect the money? The list goes on and on.
I noticed two storylines that you have posted that don’t show up on Goody’s World: “The Dance” and “The Adventures of Tyler the Great”. Do you have any plans of turning these into books? What have you got against my son? I happen to think he is a great character. Just kidding, you didn’t really upset me. As for The Dance, yes, I do plan on it becoming a novel.
Why didn’t you announce it on your PM blog or your website?Because, I have only been putting posts on the other blog after they have been on the PM blog, for the most part. I am using it as a nice way to archive old blogs. That is the primary reason I used the same name, because it is… well, more of the same. Besides you found it from my PM blog; was that not advertising enough? Will you be doing any more book reviews?I don’t know. The first one wasn’t received very well. I don’t think I got a single comment on it. My rental movie reviews seem to be doing a lot better. I won’t rule it out, but it isn’t anything I am planning to do soon.
Ok, at this point I think it prudent to leave the question/answer mode and just address the entire last portion of your letter. I have gone back and re-read everything that I currently have online and I have also come up with an inescapable conclusion: You just interpreted what you wanted to think about me from what you read. I found nothing to support your theory.
I am flattered that you found my characters so enjoyable and apparently found in them qualities with which you could associate. I have spent a fair amount of time with a fair amount of women; that does not mean that I have been intimate with all of them. I do, however, tend to listen. Most of the significant friends in my life have been women; very few of which have ever been more than friends. But, as a friend I have listened and struggled (yes, at times it was a great struggle) to understand their fears, anger, compulsions and affairs of the heart. I do not pretend to understand all of the inner workings of the female mind nor do I harbor any delusions that I ever will. Having said that, perhaps your questions would be better fielded by a woman that has either gone down that road or chose not to. I will, however, take a stab at it for you.
Physical attraction is a perfectly natural thing and women are the most exquisite creatures on earth. How could any man blame you for seeing the beauty of another woman? We do it everyday. I have several friends that have ventured over to “the other side”. Hell, who am I kidding, I have friends that live there. All I am trying to say, is that it is perfectly natural to have these feelings and don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s not.
Before you decide to take your attractions to the next level, ask yourself what kind of relationship you are in. I bet my last dollar, that your husband will be onboard with the idea if you talk to him about it.
Is he a jealous type? Are you? Is he a truly amazing lover? How do you think he will react once he gets over the initial high of you bringing another woman into the bed and sees that she can move you in ways that he has never even dreamed of. Let’s face it, most men are clueless when it comes to what really turns a woman on. Who better knows what makes a woman purr than another woman? I realize that no two women have the exact same… needs to drive her into bliss, but I bet your new friend would be a quick study. If your husband is also a quick study and no slouch in the driving you to ecstasy department, do you really want to share that with another woman?
If you do decide to proceed, I have the following advice to your husband:This is all about her; make sure it stays that way. If she decides to back out at the last minute, let her. I don’t care how far along the situation is, if she says stop, the party's over.
Let your wife set the ground rules and don’t cross them, on pain of death (probably more like divorce, but you know what I mean). If she says no kissing, by god, she means no kissing.
I don’t care how hot the other woman is; do not stare. You should concentrate your attention on your wife; again, this is about her. Do not comment on the other woman unless it is to agree with something your wife says first. The obvious exception is if she encourages you to do so, but even then; don’t go overboard. A woman’s self-confidence, in such a vulnerable position, is fragile at best, especially if it’s the first time.
This is not a free pass to sleep with any woman you want. It is a shared experience that happens to involve you. Under no circumstances should you suggest the third partner. Nothing good can come of it.
Do not make the decision under the influence of alcohol. I’m not saying that some heavy drinking isn’t in order before the festivities, but I am saying that the decision needs to be made when your minds are clear.
Other than that, have fun, be safe and I hope it all works out for you.
Dear Mr. Goodman, I just wanted to say that I really enjoy your words. I was lucky enough to stumble across Goody’s World while you still had “Darkness on the Plains” on your site in its entirety. I loved it. I was sorry to see that you re-wrote it in the 3rd person but I understand why you wanted to do it. I love what you have displayed of “Blood on the Plains too (I can’t wait to read the whole thing) and the poetry and short stories are great. How is the “Guardians on the Plains” coming? Have you considered putting them into a .PDF format and just selling them from Goody’s World? I have been following your blog on Publisher’s Marketplace for some time now as well. I noticed two storylines that you have posted that don’t show up on Goody’s World: “The Dance” and “The Adventures of Tyler the Great”. Do you have any plans of turning these into books? I don’t know about the one with your son, but I would definitely like to see a book about “The Dance”. Is that the story you asked us to choose the poem for? I am also glad to see you have started another blog at blogger.com. Why didn’t you announce it on your PM blog or your website? The only reason I found it was because I was clicking through your links on the PM blog. Why did you use the same name for both blogs? Will you be doing any more book reviews? I picked up a copy of “Minion” after reading your review and you were right; it was a great book. Now on to things of a more personal nature. After reading as much of your writing as you will give me, I have come to an inescapable conclusion: You must have a lot of sex. The way you describe Selu’s feelings for Sarah is almost too hard to believe that it came from a man’s perspective. You have displayed an insight that I can only attribute to being intimate with a lot of women. I guess the other possibility is that you are gay and just spend a lot of time listening to us, but I have seen the pictures of you with your wife on your website and I am guessing this is not the case. It is the relationship not only between Selu and Sarah but of Talon too that I wanted to ask you about. Before I go any farther, I feel it necessary to point out that I am not a lesbian, not that there is anything wrong with that. I have been married for about five years to a wonderful and loving man. I have always enjoyed looking at other women, but lately I have begun to desire more than “looking” at them. I have been debating with myself whether or not discuss this with my husband, but I am not sure how he will react. More than that, I am not sure how it would affect our relationship. You really seem to know your way around a three-way relationship. The way you described the love they felt for each other, I could almost feel it with them. Did you base that relationship on personal experience? Did it make that relationship stronger as it did with your characters? Or did it end badly? Did it end at all? Most importantly would you recommend it to others? I look forward to your response.
Sincerely,Mrs. X (rated)

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The Gauntlet has Been Tossed

I have been a bit of a prankster for as long as I can remember. My pranks don’t always go through as planned, but they are usually quite funny (to me at least). Most of them are harmless, having only a high aggravation factor. Here is a list of some of my favorites in no particular order:
1. Monday Morning office assault. Sneak into a co-workers office before they arrive and apply liberal amounts of Scotch-tape to strategic items on and around their desk. Put tape over the ball of their mouse and a small paper clip under their left mouse button. Disconnect their Ethernet connection from the wall jack but leave it in far enough that it looks like it is still hooked up. Place a single piece of Scotch tape on the telephone receiver to secure it to it’s stand on one end. Crank the volume on their speakers to max. When they come in on Monday morning, the first thing they will do is fire up their computer. The mouse prank is the easiest to spot at this point, followed shortly by the blast of noise that spouts from their speakers. Once they get logged on, they realize that they can’t connect to the network (this is a fairly common occurrence in my office) so they grab the phone to call IT. Since the receiver is connected to the heavy base, they both come crashing down on their desk. It is a great way to start a work week.
2. Wait until an unsuspecting co-worker goes to the restroom for an after lunch visit. Once you are sure they will be there for a while, kill the power to the entire bathroom. As we have no windows, they find themselves in quite the pickle. Of course, it is a good it is a good way to find out the answer to an age-old question: How does a blind man know when he has completed the paper work.
3. Put anti-seize into the headbands of your entire crews hardhats. They won’t notice anything amiss until they start sweating. This one is usually received badly. Apparently the gray goo is a bugger to get off your skin.
4. I have super-glued quarters to the floor in almost every hall/bathroom in our entire company.
5. I have put peanut butter on Toilet paper and left it on the floor in front of the stall and I left one of these little beauties on the edge of the sink.
6. Of course, I have applied liberal amounts of stickers to hardhats, jackets, shirts etc. But, I have also went so far as to make up bumper stickers that were custom made to reflect the one thing in this world that would embarrass the receiver most.7. I have tricked co-workers into using the intercom thinking they were talking to a real person. I have conferenced phone calls with their significant others into a PA system. That one nearly got me fired.
8. For my most homophobic co-workers, I have paged/called them and had them call the Gay and Lesbian Support Hotline. Oddly enough it still didn’t help open up their minds.
9. I have gotten into their cars and turned on the windshield wipers, cranked up the radio, set their emergency brake, and pushed their seat all of the way up/back.
10. My most common prank is the sudden noise/movement. I often find co-workers so engrossed with their work that they have no idea that I am in the room with them. Yeah, they figure it out pretty fast. You would be surprised what kind of things gets thrown into the air if you scare someone bad enough. I am also a big fan of banging on doors/walls when people are expecting a little peace and quiet.
Now don’t get me wrong, this has never been a one sided affair. I have gotten almost as much as I have gave. I was just sharing some the favorites from my personal repertoire. What does this have to do with the price of tea in china, you ask? Apparently there is a pen floating around the office that is more than what it seems. When you press the clicker on the end to use it, it delivers an electrical shock that is almost enough to make you wet yourself. Yes, it did indeed surprise me and no I didn’t scream like a four-year-old girl, contrary to popular belief.
This does mean that the gloves are off. I will be wiring a nice little surprise into the urinal as soon as everyone leaves for the night. Then we will see who has the last laugh. I will be using a car battery so the jolt should be akin to peeing on an electric fence.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Viva Las Vegas

We have been watching the 1st season of Las Vegas on DVD. As I loaded the first disc and pressed play, something strange happened. The episode began and I found myself thinking: “I don’t remember it being this… cheesy.” The dialogue seems jerky, the characters are clearly awkward around each other, and it is quite clear that there is no connection between them. In the storyline almost all of them are supposed to have a connection that spans decades, but when you see them together you just don’t feel it.
The episode starts with Danny (Josh Duhamel) getting caught in a compromising position with Delinda Deline (Molly Sims) who happens to be the boss’s (Ed Deline portrayed by James Caan) daughter. “Welcome to the worst day of my life.” Danny says and I believe him.
Then episode 4 starts and it happens. The magic comes to life. The actors are now comfortable with each other. More than that, they have an almost tangible connection. They start to play off of each other, artfully weaving in and out of the fast-paced scenes. You can see the chemistry and it draws you in.
This phenomenon got me wondering why I kept watching when the first three episodes were…meh. My wife mentioned that we should investigate this problem a little further, so we popped in the 1st season of Friends (My wife's all-time favorite sitcom). Guess what, it had the same strained feeling as Las Vegas. It is almost as if the actors want their show to be a success so much that they almost over do it. “I will make it. This show will write my ticket.”
I sorted through several other shows and the results are always the same. So, what is it that keeps us watching in those early episodes? I have given it much thought and I think it is the promise of greatness. When we start watching something new, we are a little more forgiving if the idea of the show appeals to us. It is the start of a relationship between you and the characters. I can’t remember any relationship that didn’t have its fair share of awkward moments at the onset.
While my wife and I discussed this, I thought of a solution: Before the pilot is filmed, all of the actors should be forced to spend a month together, going to clubs, attending backyard BBQs, or anything else that might be pertinent to the relationship that the characters would share on the screen.
I have since reconsidered; the results could be disastrous. Maybe we need to watch the characters grow together as we get to know them. If we are introduced to them after they magic is begun, they could come across as the overly cocky date that is so sure of themselves that it makes us begin to doubt our own self-confidenceThere is always another possibility: I could just be blowing smoke, spouting ideas that are induced by lack of sleep and too much coffee.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

On 1s and 0s

I am so glad this week is almost over. I feel like my eyes are bleeding, my mind is turning to mush and I am slowly losing my grip on reality. I got off work today and it took me nearly an hour to shake out of my stupor.
I design and program control systems and PLCs. That’s my lot in life. It is my primary function for my company. They come up with an idea and I make it a reality.
“James, we would like to put in two new reactors on the south side of the plant. We will need to be able control pressure, flow and temperature. Oh, and we want it to be safe. Here is the sketch I drew on my napkin at lunch today. How soon can you get it done?”
“What kind of process are we going to be running through it?” I asked, scratching at the dried ketchup on the napkin.
“It will vary depending on conditions.”
And so the dance begins. The above scenario only happens on side projects. When we launch a major project, I have all of the information I can handle and then some. Either way, it is still pretty fun. Working with my DeltaV (DCS) is a cakewalk. It is so flexible and easy to use; it practically programs itself. I can build templates for a given instrument type and any time I make a change, it propagates to every point that is affected.
We have a few smaller packages that run on self contained PLCs that I can connect to my DCS through a serial link. These PLCs contain fairly simple programs and are easy to navigate for what little changes we have to make in them.
Then we have the granddaddy bastard of them all: The Lab. It is like having several tiny plants all encased in one building. When you open up the panels in this beast, you instantly get the impression that it is the red-headed stepchild of our company. This monstrosity is driven by four racks of PLCs and is wired with all the love and care of someone who just wants to make it work so they can get back to their “real” job. To give it the appearance of DCS level functionality, we loaded it up with nearly a thousand custom made special functions. Not to mention the hundreds of individual control loops, alarm indicators and solenoid valves.
So, last week, I was kicking around in my office, thinking of ways to streamline some of the sequential function programs that I designed during our last project when the phone rang.
“James, we have a run coming up in a couple of weeks that is pretty critical. I have come up with a set of calibration curves for each of our mass flow controllers and I was wondering if you could come up with a way that we could enter them and have the results displayed in real time to drive the controllers.”
It was the lab and they were asking for some more custom special functions. I freed up a little time and went to see what I could do.
I met with the man with the plan (Ronnie, I told you that you would mess around and make it into my blog.) and went over all of the details for the change. It actually looked like a fairly easy job. I punched out a prototype, tested it, worked out the kinks and commenced full-scale implementation. That’s about the time that it all went horribly wrong. I officially exceeded the limitations of the PLC. We came up with a slightly smaller list of critical loops and shortened the program. It wasn’t enough. The phone kept ringing of the hook. Portions of the program that weren’t even touched were suddenly changing of their own accord. To top things off, the entire system acted as if it was moving through molasses. The PLC had accepted the shorter program, but the execution times were slowly killing it.
I hopped back in the car and took another hard look at the program. There was a clear pattern of similarities in all of the special functions. I realized that I could drastically reduce not only the special functions but also the entire program if I used subroutines and just called them up when they were needed.
I pitched it, they liked it and the rest will go down in mind-numbing history. Nothing in the PLC propagates. I am changing the entire program one line at a time. To make matters worse, the HMI (Human Machine Interface) was full of five years worth of abandoned code. The deeper I dig, the worse it gets. I close my eyes and I see 1s and 0s, Vflag addresses and coil register numbers. I have already invested countless hours into this beast and it looks like I still have at least another twenty to go. On the plus side, when this is complete any other project that comes my way should look like a little slice of heaven.
Of course, I have learned a very valuable lesson from all of this: When the lab calls, don’t answer the phone!

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Further Adventures of Tyler the Great

Tyler went home after receiving his gifts from the Nunne’hi. He picked up the phone several times and then placed gently back into its charger. He wanted to call his father and tell him all that had transpired since he went to the sweat lodge, but he was afraid that he would sound insane. He knew that his father would believe him, he just needed to think of the right words to use so that he wouldn’t feel like an idiot when he told him. Perhaps a good night’s sleep would help him focus his thoughts. He quickly undressed and shoved his clothes into a receptacle on the wall and hit a button to close the door.

“It’s time to rise and shine. It’s time to rise and shine. It’s time to rise and ….” A soothing voice called from the black box on his nightstand before he reached out from beneath the covers and smacked it.

“I’m up!” He barked as it resumed a few minutes later.

Tyler threw back the covers and sat on the edge of the bed, shaking his head vigorously to dislodge the cobwebs in his mind. As his mind began to run through everything that he had been through, he wondered if it had all been a dream. He stood with a stretch and pressed the blue tile on the wall, causing the bed to fold and retract into a recess that left on a sliver of a line as a telltale sign that it was there.

By the time he stepped into the cleansing pod, Tyler had all but convinced himself that it was just dream, a very vivid one, but a dream nonetheless. He pressed the flashing button to his right and the pod quickly filled with sweet scented steam. Three short chirps warned him that a blast of hot air was coming next. He stepped out of the pod feeling clean and refreshed.

A quick check in the mirror, confirmed that he was do for another shave. He reached for his new Gillette Laser Razor ™. It was a rubber-like half mask with a small pushbutton attached to a cord that hung from the chin. Tyler placed it on his face and pressed the button. The mask quickly molded to the contours of his face, as it began to hum. He watched as the mask lit up with a stripe of blue light the moved quickly from his left ear to his right.

Tyler used the monitor beside his closet to pick out his wardrobe for the day. Once he was satisfied with his selection, he tapped the screen and the closet door opened, allowing a small mechanical arm to extend his clothes out to his waiting hands.

“Sheridan street, please.” He requested as he entered the elevator just outside of his door.
He looked out the window at the images rushing past him as the cube raced down the side of the building and latched on to the jet stream that would carry him the rest of the way. By the time he was ready to step out of the cube, he had thoroughly convinced himself that there was no way that, he could have actually been visited by the Nunne’hi, let alone saved the world last night. Then the doors opened and his world reeled from the cacophonous noise that assaulted his ears.

“What the hell is that?” He screamed, instinctively clasping his hands over his ears. It took only a few seconds to discern how to control the level of information his senses were picking up. Every movement in the street caught his attention. He could even here the insects that crawled through the grass surrounding the building in front of him.

He stepped onto the moving sidewalk, trying to make sense of it all. His mind was so engulfed with the implications of his new powers that he forget to step off at his exit. By the time he realized his error, he was nearly to the outskirts of town.
“Perhaps it is just as well. I should probably take the day off to sort this whole thing out.” He muttered to himself.

“Gypsy Enterprises” Tyler spoke as he pressed the call button on his watch.
“Good morning Tyler, How may I help you?” The smiling face in his watch asked.
“Good morning Teresa. I am more than a little out of sorts this morning. Could you tell my father that I am not going to be able to make it in today?”
“Of course, sir. Can we expect that you will return tomorrow?” She asked as a look of concern suddenly washed over her face.
“Yes Teresa. Don’t worry about me. I will be fine. Just tell him that I will call him later tonight and let him know what is going on.”

“I think it is time to see what this body is capable of.” He giggled to himself.

He spent the rest of the morning doing things he had only dreamed about before now. He flew, yes flew to the beach in a matter of seconds. He looked up that brat Charlie Nelson that gave him a wedgie when he was in the eighth grade in front of the entire lunchroom. Poor Charlie must have hung by his underwear from that light pole for two hours before someone was able to get him down. He chased down several ghosts from his childhood and righted what he felt were wrongs. At last, he felt fully vindicated, making up for things that he had done to others and tormented those who had wronged him.

It was time to return home. Tomorrow he would start working on a plan to make the world a better place, but today he was affording himself one last day of self-indulgence.
“I wonder if I should start wearing a costume.” He thought aloud as he walked into his apartment.

“I am sure that dad will have an opinion about that.” He laughed as he reached for his phone. “He has an opinion about everything.”

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