Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Z - Zeke and Bubba

Hey, Zeke!
Yeah, Bubba?
I've been thinkin'.

And so begins most of Zeke and Bubba's adventures. Zeke is the smart one, Bubba is the thinker. Together, they bring a lighter side to Torah teaching. Currently available for viewing only on YouTube and Sermon.net, they will soon be making their presence known on Hebraic Roots Network. That's right. Everyone's favorite Hebrew rednecks will be joining HRN in short segments between regularly scheduled programming.

Imagine if you will; you've just finished watching a particularly deep and brain-stretching teaching by Brad Scott, Bill Cloud, Ed Harris, or any of the other wonderful teachers at HRN. There is still a few minutes until time to watch Mason Clover or another of the talented musicians bringing praise and worship. What will you do? You need a light spiritual snack to keep you going. Enter Zeke and Bubba. One to two minutes of their trademark redneck perspective on the Bible. Below is a sample. Enjoy.

I'm not going to tell you which one is me, but I'm thinkin' you might be able to figure it out.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Y - Yarny

Yarny is one of the best tools I've found for my writing. It was designed by writers with NaNoWriMo in mind. With Yarny, you are writing in the cloud. Your writing is saved automatically, with auto-versioning. And did I mention it's free? Check out their website to learn more about their features.

I found Yarny when I participated in my first NaNoWriMo in 2011 to write Dogs of War. I was able to write from anywhere that had an Internet connection. I also exported my writing to my laptop so I could work on it offline if necessary. When I had a connection again, I just copied and pasted the new text into Yarny. I didn't really have time to learn all the features of Yarny that first year. I didn't take advantage of the snippets to divide my work into chapters and subchapters. I didn't realize until I was editing several months later that Yarny will export the snippet titles as chapter titles. I used it again for 2012 to write Dogs of War: Infiltration, knowing more about what I was doing. I also upgraded to the paid Premium version of Yarny. It's not really necessary, but it allows you to save multiple titles. With the free version, you can only have one writing project in the cloud at a time. I upgraded so I can keep all of my writing together and edit one while writing another, etc.

Yarny added a new feature for 2012 that has me really excited. It's called Publification. Like Yarny, it is free. It allows you to export directly from Yarny to Publification's online self-publishing site. Remember that feature of exporting snippet titles? Publification automatically recognizes them as chapter titles if you choose, saving you a big step in formatting. You can import cover art, apply for an ISBN, share links to your e-book through social media, and sell your book right from their site. And the best part is, you retain all rights to your material. Publification does not get any rights to your book. They simply collect a percentage of sales.

Both of these tools are great for the aspiring author. Together, they can be indispensable.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

X - Xenophobia

Xenophobia refers to an irrational fear of things that are foreign or strange. In other words, alien. Usually people use it to refer to ultra-nationalism and fear of other cultures and nations. But I want to discuss another use of the word.

Aliens! That's right. The irrational or unreasonable fear of aliens. If you've seen the movie Alien or its sequel Aliens, or Independence Day, or Predator, you know that irrational is not the right word. It seems to me that it is completely reasonable and rational to fear aliens after seeing xenomorphs, alien invaders, and invisible big-game hunters with weird dreadlocks and a built-in self destruct button. What's up with that?

Am I xenophobic? Am I afraid some intelligent lizard or a pod person is going to make me the main course at an alien buffet? No. Aliens don't exist. But xenophobia is a great plot line for any scifi novel. Without it, my entire trilogy would be stillborn. While it's not the main point of the novels, it plays a significant part in advancing the story line and adding tension. Without it, the entire conflict would have been resolved much quicker and easier. Good for the people fighting the war, bad for the reader who gets bored three chapters in and puts the book down. Therefore, xenophobia. Much better for everyone. Except the poor guys getting blasted by alien spacecraft. Sucks for them.

Friday, April 26, 2013

W - Wigging Out

I was sitting on the couch trying to figure out what to write for "W". Then it happened. Someone, or something, tapped me on my right shoulder. I thought this was strange since I was the only person in the room. Anyone coming in from another room would have entered from my left and tapped my left shoulder. I casually looked to my right to see what was there. Then I wigged out.

Sitting on my shoulder, looking pleased with itself and obviously contemplating evil intentions, was a yellow jacket. Clearly, one of us was going to die. Being a man, I responded in the appropriate way.  First, to my everlasting pride, I prevented the girly scream that wanted to erupt from the very depths of my soul from escaping. Then, I thumped the yellow jacket in the face. Hard. It may not seem manly, but I guarantee it felt manly to that flying denizen of the darkest pits of hell when my fingernail intersected his face at high speed.

My next step, after several deep breaths to calm my nerves and lower my heart rate below 200, was to quickly find something lethal to send the demon back from whence it came. Enter the shoe. I proceeded - in a manly way - to beat that thing into the floor with reckless abandon. After ten hyper-violent expressions of my displeasure, I checked for remains.

It was still moving. There could only be one explanation. It was the undead. That's right. Zombie yellow jacket. It made complete sense. The reason it was on my shoulder was to get easy access to my head and thus, my brain.

After further examination, it is quite possible that the soft sole on the shoe combined with the thickness of the plush carpet prevented my vigorous application of percussive justice from achieving the desired effect. So I did what any red-blooded male with a generous infusion of adrenaline would. I flushed it down the toilet. Asta la vista,  ya brain-eating hellion!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V - Vermithrax Pejorative

Yes, you read that title correctly. Vermithrax Pejorative. Some of you are reading that title and thinking "Nice, this is going to be a cool and interesting blog entry." Others are thinking "Shiny!" That leaves the last group of you who are looking at it cross-eyed and thinking "What the heck is Vermithrax Pejorative? I think my brain just broke."

For those in that last group, Vermithrax Pejorative is a dragon. The dragon in the movie Dragonslayer to be exact. Now, I must go on record as saying I didn't care for the movie at all. I just saw it recently and thought it was significantly subpar. The dragon, however, is still one of the greatest movie dragons of all time. It exuded pure malevolence and reptile wickedness. It looked like a dragon should look. It was all scales and spines and fire. There was no cuteness or adorable eyes or anything else that would make you feel bad that our protagonist was determined to kill it. Live and let live? Not a chance. In this movie, with this dragon, it's kill or be eaten.

That's not to say that there isn't a place for the noble dragons of other films and television. Draco in Dragonheart was a great character. I rather like the dragon in Merlin as well. However, they are sympathetic characters, even when acting with deliberate malice. You don't want to root against them, despite the fact that they sometimes try to kill the good guys. It's just hard to hold that against them.

Vermithrax Pejorative

Enter Vermithrax. So evil, so malevolent, so powerful that it is even given an ugly name. Its name means "The Wyrm of Thrace that makes things Worse". I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound very warm and fuzzy to me. It sounds like the Big Bad that everyone wants to avoid. You know just from his name that no matter how bad things are, he's going to make them worse. And that is what makes him an effective movie dragon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U - Unusual

I'll admit it. I'm unusual. I'm fine with that. I got married at age 19 to my 18 year old fiancee. Almost 22 years later, we're still married. I have four kids, while most people today have one or two. I own guns and love to shoot them, but I've never hunted a day in my life. I am an ultra-conservative that writes Sci-fi novels for fun. (I'm currently unpublished, but that will change.) I am a pilot that hasn't flown in 18 years. I carry a gun on a daily basis, but I've never shot anyone or even considered shooting someone, even when they cut me off in traffic.

Oh wait, that isn't unusual. That makes me just like 99+% of all gun owners in America. Especially those with a carry permit. So scratch that off the unusual list.

The thing that makes me most unusual to people I know is that I'm Messianic. Not Messianic Jewish. As far as I know, I am not Jewish at all. However, I believe in and follow the Torah and the rest of the "Old Testament", or Tanakh. I also believe in and follow Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and the "New Testament" or B'rit Chadasha. This makes me stand out at work or in many social situations. Keeping the Sabbath on Saturday and eating kosher (biblical, not rabbinic) will definitely make you noticeable. Especially when you tell your boss you won't work when he says he needs everyone to come in on Saturday to move equipment. As my co-workers have gotten used to my work and dietary restrictions (no pepperoni on my pizza, please!), I haven't felt as odd. Until I try to visit Messianic websites from my work computer. There's just something strange about seeing them blocked and categorized as "Non-standard religions, folklore, or cults."

Unusual indeed. But that's how I like it. Besides, turkey pepperoni is better for you anyway. Shalom!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T - Trucks

I like trucks. I've owned two pickup trucks over the years and loved them. Granted, they were both little Chevy S-10s, but they were still trucks. Now I have a Minivan and a Chevy Cavalier. That makes me sad. In my defense, though, I had a very good reason for getting the Cavalier. I was driving 200 miles per day round trip to work and my S-10 only got 19 MPG. The Cavalier, on the other hand, got 32 MPG and ran on Compressed Natural Gas. Note I used the past tense. The CNG system no longer works. It also no longer gets 32 MPG. Now it's more like 25 on a good day. It's starting to feel its age. So it will soon be time to replace it. With a truck!

My wife and I actually agree on the need for a truck of some kind. We need something to pull the popup camper that will also hold our family of six. We used to do that with our old minivan, but the new one doesn't have a towing package. Turns out there's no way to add an aftermarket hitch to it either. Thanks for the ridiculous redesign Chrysler. But I digress. Our options are a full-size crew cab truck or an SUV. Both have their pros and cons. An SUV will fit us more comfortably without having to put someone in the middle of the front seat, but it costs significantly more. A mid-size SUV will do the trick and keep costs down, but storage and towing capacity are reduced accordingly. A full-size pickup gives us enough room, hauls a (half) ton of stuff and will pull anything we need, but the gas mileage is terrible. At this point, we're still looking. Of course, since we don't have the money for the down payment, insurance, or monthly payments at the moment, it's more of an academic exercise for now. For the record, my wife voted SUV, I voted pickup. We'll see someday who wins. (I think I'm going to win this one since I have to drive it everyday.)

Me driving my friend's deuce.
Check that suspension articulation!
No discussion on my blog about trucks would be complete without a short talk about my favorite truck that is still on my wishlist. I WILL have one of these someday. That would be a deuce and a half, or as it's affectionately known, just a deuce. It is a former military truck rated to haul two-and-a-half tons of cargo off-road. On the highway, it will haul five tons. It's big, it's loud, and it's ugly. It's also the coolest street-legal truck around. Granted, it gets 8-10 MPG, but it will run on just about anything that burns. You can fill it with diesel, kerosene, used motor oil, used vegetable oil, or (for short distances) gasoline. I know of several people who have not paid for fuel for their deuce in years. They just recycle motor oil or vegetable oil. In fact, some of them get paid to haul the stuff away for restaurants or automotive shops! These things take "going green" to a whole new level. That should assuage any concerns from the environmentally-conscious crowd. As a matter of fact, most deuce drivers I know love Priuses. They make great wheel-chocks.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S - Sharrie

Sharrie is my wife, my best friend, my partner, and - if I believed in them - my soul mate. But I don't believe in them, so she's not. She is, however, the best thing that has ever happened to me. We met in high school when she was dating my best friend. He made the mistake of introducing us. That worked out much better for me than it did for him. I knew from the start we'd be together forever.

I had prayed that I would meet the girl I was supposed to marry before I graduated high school. I already knew I wanted to marry young. I don't know why, but it was just something that felt right. I met Sharrie less than a month later. And I can tell you, there was one thing that got my attention before anything else. It drew my eye and kept me distracted the whole evening. What was it? That would be her best friend, Amy. Long blonde hair, blue eyes, cute. More importantly, not dating my best friend. I was smitten. I thought. It didn't occur to me until a few days later that I had spent the entire evening talking to the cute little blonde's friend. I had also spent the next few days thinking about her. How did that happen?

Two and a half years later, we were married. It was another year before anyone would believe that she wasn't pregnant when we got married. No one could understand why we would get married that young. Most people didn't believe we'd make it more than a few years. The joke's on them. August will be 22 years. And you know something? I still can't stop thinking about her. I have no idea what ever happened to the little blonde girl.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R - Rabbits

Rabbits are evil. I know most people have this idea that rabbits are cute and cuddly little furry bundles of happiness. Wrong! Anyone who lives on a farm or has a garden can confirm that rabbits are spawned in the abyss and claw their way through into our world to devour all that is green and useful and wreak havoc and destruction. As the owner of a plant farm, I know first-hand the extent of their ravenous appetites. There are few things more infuriating than spending an entire day planting dozens of trees and shrubs, only to come out the next day and find them gnawed down to the ground. Cute and cuddly? I don't think so.

Granted, there are a few exceptions. Hare Ouigeaux, Bugs Bunny, and Jessica Rabbit come to mind. They are all tolerable for various reasons. All others call for the full-on Elmer Fudd treatment. Lock and load, Baby, lock and load!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Q - Questions

Questions abound. No matter what topic I decide to write about, whether here on my blog, in one of my novels, or in a puppet script, I always have to answer questions. Most of the time, the answers to the questions are what make up the story. For example, in a novel, the questions may be "What happened to the Admiral after the war and why did everyone believe he was dead?" The answers to those questions will move the narrative in a specific direction and have impact on other characters and the answers to their own questions.

Oftentimes, the questions themselves can be the story. Many good stories don't give you all the answers and allow the reader to furnish those answers for themselves. This makes the story more personal as each reader may answer it in a different way. "Did this character survive at the end?" "Why did that character betray his comrades?" "Is the story really over or will there be a sequel?"

Sometimes when I write, even I don't know the answers to all of the questions. Often, the story will simply tell itself and I feel like I'm just taking dictation. If the story doesn't tell me the answer, I can't tell the reader. While this can be very frustrating at times as a writer, I've found in rereading that it can make the story much more interesting.

It is always good to ask questions about everything you read, hear, or see. But don't always expect to get an answer right away, if at all. Sometimes you just have to answer it yourself, or leave it ambiguous. What is best left ambiguous you ask?


Thursday, April 18, 2013

P - Puppets

If you read my post for the letter B, you know that I voice two puppets for an upcoming show on Hebraic Roots Network called Torah Puppets. If you have ever done a puppet show, you know that it can be a lot of fun. It can also be very tiring on your arms if you're not used to holding them up for a long time. With practice and experience, it gets much easier. Until you get older and start getting weaker and your arms start to hurt all over again.

I've discovered recently that performing is not the most difficult part of puppeting. Writing is much harder. I (foolishly?) volunteered to assist with writing episodes of Torah Puppets so our head writer and creative genius Stan wouldn't be stuck doing it all and losing what's left of his sanity. I now understand why he's mentally unhinged at times. I've written one novel and part of a second. Both are still works in progress. It was hard work. Writing this show is harder.

It seems fairly straightforward.
  • Have a topic.
  • Pick which characters are going to focus on what part of the topic.
  • Write dialog.
Simple, right? Wrong! There are several other considerations.
  • Character personalities
    • Does it make sense to pair this character with that character?
  • Filming schedules
    • Who is available to film with whom?
  • How many different scenes should there be?
    • Many short scenes
    • Fewer longer scenes
  • Timing
    • 26 minute episodes
All of these things have to be juggled and balanced when writing an episode of Torah Puppets. You can guess what that means. That's right, I'm behind. Again. I don't know why, but the episode I'm writing right now just does not want to get onto the page. It's the worst case of writer's block I've ever had. And that's saying a lot for someone who (attempts to) write(s) novels. Oh well, I'll just have to keep praying and keep writing. It will all work out. As long as Stan doesn't find out how far behind I am.

(Maybe I shouldn't have written that last part on a blog that Stan reads.)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

O - Oklahoma

Quick, list as many facts about Oklahoma as you can. Unless you live here - and even if you do - you probably can't make a very long list. Truth is, most people know very little about this state. So, for your enjoyment, here is a list of interesting facts that I know about Oklahoma.

We have the world's tallest free-standing statue - the 76-foot-tall Golden Driller in Tulsa.
We have a spaceport.
The musical Oklahoma! was the first for the writing team of Rodgers and Hammerstein.
Oklahoma has the most turnpikes of any US state with 10.
Every county in Oklahoma voted Republican in the last two Presidential elections.

There are probably more, but I can't think of them right now. After living here for over thirty years, you'd think I would have more interesting facts. I'm just going to blame it on living in a boring state.

Let me know in the comments if you can think of anything interesting about Oklahoma.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N - Northumbria

Northumbria?! Huh? Why in the world would anyone use up valuable(?) blog space writing about a medieval  kingdom that has little to no relevance to anyone living or working in my lovely locale of rural Oklahoma? Easy. I started typing this while watching Vikings on History Channel.

The titular vikings are systematically invading Northumbria in Northern England and Southern Scotland. I'll admit that prior to watching this show, if someone asked me the location of Northumbria, I would have guessed Middle-earth or Narnia. Just kidding, I knew it was in England somewhere. But it sounds like something from Tolkien or C.S. Lewis doesn't it?

Narnia! Why didn't I use that for N? That should have been my topic. I like Narnia much better than Northumbria. No offense to any Northumbrians who may happen to read this blog. (Somehow I doubt there will be many of them.) If I had chosen Narnia, I could mention the whole Chronicles of Narnia books by C.S. Lewis. Or the series of movies. I could talk about metaphors and the not quite but almost allegorical nature of the stories and their relation to the Bible. I could go on for pages about Aslan the Lion. In my opinion, one of the greatest characters in all of literature.

Thats it! N is for Narnia. Northumbria, you're out!

Monday, April 15, 2013

M - Movies

Movies: some are good, some are bad. Some make you feel good about yourself and about life, some make you wish you had two hours of your life back. I think we've all seen examples of each. I watched three movies this weekend that covered just about every area.

Wreck It Ralph - I wasn't sure what to expect going into this one. I had only seen a couple of previews that really didn't tell anything about the movie. Overall, it was better than I expected. Not the best animated movie I've seen lately, but not the worst either. The kids enjoyed it and it had moments that were amusing. I'll admit, it was one of the more original ideas for a movie I've seen in quite a while. Would I recommend someone renting this one? Yes I would. It's a fun family movie that will not have you running the kids out of the room or yourself wishing you were out of the room.

Skyfall - Best Bond ever! If you like James Bond movies, you will love Skyfall. If you don't necessarily care either way about Bond movies, but you like a good action movie with a plot, you will love Skyfall. This one did a very good job of making up for the disaster that was Quantum of Solace. Daniel Craig and Judi Dench were absolutely superb in this one. The chemistry between these two is amazing. You really feel the complicated relationship between M and 007. For the first time in the Daniel Craig era, you get to see the human side of M. I enjoyed this one immensely and highly recommend it.

Flight - While I didn't quite wish I had my two hours back, there were definitely moments where I almost turned off the movie. It was nothing at all like I expected from seeing the previews. The only thing in the movie that wasn't completely different than my preconceived notions was the crash. That looked just like it did in the trailers. Being a Denzel Washington movie, I expected something much better. Overall, a disappointment. I wouldn't recommend this one to anyone.

That was my weekend of movie watching. Normally, I don't watch that many recent movies, but I had discount codes from Redbox, so we decided to use them for a change. Usually, we watch movies we've recorded on the DVR during the free preview weekends of HBO, Showtime, etc. Best one I've seen lately? How to Train Your Dragon. I don't know why, but I just love this movie. I've seen it close to a dozen times in the last three months. If you haven't seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so. You won't regret it.

Sometimes, I pull out the DVDs I already own and watch one. Most recent? Lord of the Rings. As discussed in my last post, I love this whole trilogy. The other movie I rewatch lately is the Star Trek reboot. I have that one on my Ipod and watch it often. Another strong recommendation. Can't wait for the sequel, Star Trek Into Darkness. Getting giddy for that one.

That's all I have to say about movies for now. Maybe I'll do some more recommendations and/or critiques in the future. We'll see. For now, I need sleep.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

L - Lord of the Rings

I know, I know. For someone who writes SciFi and reads Fantasy novels, this one seems like a no-brainer. You're right. It's a bit of a copout. Deal with it.

Unlike most fanboys and fantasy/sci-fi geeks, I didn't read the Lord of the Rings when I was nine years old. I didn't read the complete trilogy until I was in my late twenties and again in my late thirties. I've never read the Silmarillion, or the Red Book of Westmarch, or Unfinished Tales, or any of the other seemingly endless supply of Middle-earth books, stories, tales, legends, etc. I did read the Hobbit as a teenager. And again in my twenties. And in my thirties. And maybe once since I turned forty.

I have seen all three LOTR movies multiple times. I own the Extended Edition Blue-ray set of all three. I'll admit it. I watched all of them in the same week. It took forever. (Over eleven hours total.) I didn't think it would ever end. But then it did, and I was sad. I wanted to start over and watch them again, but I felt I should spend some time getting reacquainted with my wife and children. It had been so long since I had seen any of them. It almost felt weird seeing people without swords or axes or bows. They weren't wearing chainmail or leather leggings. It was a bit of culture shock. And therein lies the genius that is Peter Jackson's treatment of the Lord of the Rings.

Whether you think the movies were too long or too short, included too much of the stories or too little, took too many liberties or stayed too close to the original source, you can't deny that Middle-earth came alive. When watching this epic movie series, the scenery and authenticity of the sets makes you feel as if you are really in Middle-earth. It feels like the stories told what really happened. You almost have memories of the times of which they speak. You delight in the festival atmosphere of Bilbo's birthday party and the easygoing life that is Hobbiton. You can feel the warmth of the Last Homely House in Rivendell. Your heart begins to race as the Nazgul give chase throughout different parts of the land. You begin to wonder how the mines of Moria can be so large and majestic with the grandeur created by the dwarves and still feel claustrophobic and suffocating.

Throughout the series, the settings just feel right. Nothing ever jumps out and says "fake". Fangorn forest is exactly where and what it should be. Mordor is a cursed land that looks and feels exactly as it does in your mind, even if you never thought about it before. This is why it's so easy to lose yourself in these movies for four hours or more at a time and not want it to end.

A friend of mine has yet to see these movies. We have decided we are going to take a day sometime (soon?) and watch the extended editions back to back to back. An entire day of Middle-earth goodness.

It may have to wait until I get a more comfortable couch.

Friday, April 12, 2013

K - K.A.R.X.

What the heck is K.A.R.X? Is it a super-secret government computer that needs an acronym because the name is too unwieldy? Is it an alien intelligence bent on world domination and cattle mutilation? Is it a video game about commandos fighting aliens bent on world domination and cattle mutilation? In a word, no.

K.A.R.X. stands for Kristin, Alyssa, Robbie, and Xander. They're my kids. So the letter K is for my kids. (Believe it or not, it didn't occur to me until after I titled this post that I could have just made K stand for kids. I should not try to think before lunch.)

I can still remember how I felt when my first child, Kristin, was born. Those feelings of wonder, joy, and absolute panic. What were we thinking? How could we take care of a baby? I couldn't even take care of a dog without giving myself a concussion! (True story.) Then the feelings of happiness and protectiveness kicked in. We would do whatever we needed to for this child. We can do this!

Twenty months later, Alyssa was born. Now there's two of them?! That's OK, there are two of us and we're bigger than they are. We can still do this. Now Kristin will have something to play with that doesn't need batteries. Panic feelings averted.

Fast-forward thirty months. Robbie is born. A masculine child! My fatherly duties are complete! Wait a minute, now they outnumber us. Panic beginning to make a comeback. But wait, Kristin is old enough to help with childcare duties! We got this. We're good. The world is back as it should be.

Thirty-two months later, here comes Xander. They're multiplying! What is going on here? Where do they keep coming from? I always wanted to have kids someday. When we got married, my wife and I discussed it. I knew they would happen. I just didn't expect them to keep happening. What have I done? We can't afford all of these. Can we return a couple? But they're so cute and loveable. Oh great, now I've become attached.

Having kids is hard. Raising them in today's world with the constant barrage of moral relativity, hyper-sexuality, violence, and government debt that staggers the imagination is a daunting task. I thank God (literally) for the strong foundation I received from my parents and the support I have from family and our synagogue. Without those, parenting would be an almost hopeless task. With them, we can not only handle the job, but raise loving, well-mannered children who love and fear Yahweh, love their family and their country, and understand the importance of a good education (they're homeschooled).

And just maybe, if we can keep the gun-control legislation at bay a little longer, we'll have our own little army for world domination! (Cattle mutilation optional.)

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J - Journey

As I tried to decide what to write for the letter J, the word "journey" kept popping into my mind. I decided that a short missive about this journey through life upon which we all embark would be an interesting topic for a blog entry. I considered discussing life as a metaphor for a journey wherein we have no control over where it starts, but we ultimately get to choose much of the path. While some things cause detours that are beyond our control, the primary path is based on choices we make, for good or for bad. These are some of the thoughts that journeyed through my brain as I considered writing this. But then something else jumped in and pushed those thoughts to the side...

I got Journey songs stuck in my head. That's right, Steve Perry and the boys are putting on a concert inside my brain and they've decided to do multiple encores. It started with the classic "Don't Stop Believin'". That inevitably led to the driving sounds of "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)". From there the concert continued into the slow section with "Faithfully" and "Open Arms". Finally, things returned to the more upbeat melodies of "Any Way You Want It" and "Wheel in the Sky". It's been a fascinating journey through the catalog of Journey.

Now, I'll admit, I like Journey. Some of their music just makes you feel good and gets your toes tapping. I even sometimes enjoy humming a Journey tune or singing along to myself as one occassionally plays in my head like my own internal Spotify soundtrack. What I don't like is Journey stuck in my brain, setting up their full stage show with guitars, amplifiers, microphones, drums, and wires everywhere. You know after that kind of setup, they don't plan to leave until they've done the full show! Oh well. I guess I'll just sit back and listen and maybe tap my toes a little. I'll try to refrain from singing along so my coworkers don't have any further proof of mental instability.

I must conclude this posting with at least an attempt at returning to the original topic. I'm reminded of a great line from the movie "Cool Runnings": Peace be the journey!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I - Indy and Brandy

Indy and Brandy are my dogs. They are not entirely sane. But that's OK. Sanity is overrated in dogs.

Indy is, of course, short for Indiana Jones. When we first got her as a 7 week old puppy, she was curious about everything and completely fearless, just like Indiana Jones. Her fearlessness changed when she got hit by a car when she was a year old. We thought she was going to die for sure. Instead, she healed and became the fastest dog I've ever seen. She once saw a rabbit running away from her when she was 50 yards away from it. By the time the rabbit ran 75 yards, she was on its heels. It hid under a stack of pallets or it would have been dog chow. She hates rabbits as much as I do. :)

Brandy is Indy's opposite. She was afraid of everything as a puppy and always wanted someone to hold her. To this day, she loves to give kisses. Thus the name; she was always a light brown licker. She's never been as quick as Indy and never will be. Probably because she's about twice her weight. Mostly muscle, but I think she may be getting the bigger half of dinner most of the time, if you know what I mean.

The dogs love to amuse themselves by chewing on each other, licking each other, and laying on each other. Legs and faces are particularly popular choices. Chewing on someone's face doesn't sound like a good hobby to me, but I'm not a dog. And I'm sane. Which is often overrated.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H - Help Me!

As I look forward to Camp NaNo this summer (I skipped the one this month), two words come immediately to mind: help me! For Camp NaNo, I am going to do something a little different. For NaNoWriMo 2011 and 2012, I wrote books one and two of the Dogs of War trilogy. I plan to write book three for NaNoWriMo 2013. I decided I wanted to go a different direction for Camp NaNo.

At this point, I know that I want to write from a first person present point of view. I even know the ending. The only things I don't know are the title, the characters, the setting, and the plot. It's a good thing I've got until July to figure those out.

Monday, April 8, 2013

G - Guns

Guns, guns, guns. There, now we've weeded out the readers who have wet themselves and run away crying. If you're still reading, you are either interested in guns, or you can at least hear or read about them without panicking and descending into gibbering hysteria.

I am not a gun-nut, Rambo wannabe, anti-government zealot, or any other appellation used by hoplophobes in an attempt to denigrate gun owners. I am simply a husband and father who chooses to take responsibility for the protection of his family. Besides, I like shooting. It's fun. It can also be a useful skill when those dad-burned bucktooth varmints keep trying to eat all the plants in the yard, garden, and barn. I hate rabbits! Is it obvious?

I learned to shoot at the tender age of four. I didn't shoot anything close to regularly until I was in my mid thirties. Since then, I've bought four guns and sold one. I'm still looking to buy a few more, but prices and availability these days are less than ideal. I finally got my wife interested in having her own gun. We set aside the money from this year's tax refund to get one. Then we went shopping for the gun she wanted. (She found one she liked last year.) Guess what? No one has them in stock. Can they get them? Maybe. WILL they get them? Maybe. Will it cost more than it did last year? Definitely! Oh well. Prices will come down eventually. Right?

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F - Flying

I miss flying. I got my pilot's license 19 years ago. I last flew an airplane 18 years ago. If you didn't know, flying is very expensive. It's also one of the greatest experiences you can have. I love the feel of freedom that you get when you're 3000 feet above the ground, no flight plan, no passengers unless you want them, and nothing but the sound of the engine to disturb the peace and quiet. I used to love flying through western Oklahoma where there is nothing but miles and miles of miles and miles. Until you get to the artillery range at Ft. Sill in southern Oklahoma. Then it's miles and miles of high-speed steel and sudden death. Note to any pilots flying anywhere near Lawton, OK: make sure the winds aloft match the forecast and you are not 30 miles south of where you think you are. The Army is not amused when you fly through an artillery live-fire exercise. (On a scale of 1 to 10, that's a pucker factor of about 12.5!)

Flying definitely has its ups and downs. (Pun intended)


Landing on the 13,500 foot runway at the former Clinton-Sherman airport in western Oklahoma. It was used for B-52 training and then for C-141 cargo planes. I got to follow a C-141 on a 5 mile final. It was like a roller coaster without rails. The wake turbulence on Starlifter will toss a Cessna like a child's toy.

Taking off from Clinton-Sherman on the parallel runway at the same time as the aforementioned C-141 takes off on the main one. Most lopsided drag race in history!

Taxiing in a Cessna 152 between two F/A-18 Hornets at Fayetteville, AR.

Night flying. 'Nuff said.


And much, much more.


Artillery. Stay away from it. Seriously.

Air traffic controllers forgetting you are in their airspace and routing a Southwest 737 right over top of you. If you can see the faces of the passengers, you're too close!

Getting lost on your first solo flight away from the airport. GPS would have been nice back then.

I'll stop there. I could go on forever talking about flying. Someday I'll have the money to get current and get back in the air. Until then, I'll continue trying to sneak rides in the simulators at work.

Friday, April 5, 2013

E - Eggs

Who knew farm fresh eggs were in such high demand? I have people at work begging to buy eggs from me. At $3/dozen, I only need to sell 12 dozen a week to pay for my gas to get to work. Too bad I don't have 12 dozen eggs a week to sell. And too bad they're my dad's eggs I'm selling, so I don't get any money from them. I'm basically an unpaid deliveryman. Glad I got that college degree!

Seriously though, it's a way to help out people at work that want better quality food and help my dad make a little money from his surplus eggs. Win/win for everyone. Except my gas tank. It's still thirsty. Anyone know how to get an engine to run on sunny side up?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D - Dogs of War

D is for what else? Dogs of War, my NaNo novels from 2011 and 2012. I still need to finish the first edit of Dogs of War and need to finish the first draft of Dogs of War: Infiltration (BTW, the second book's title was changed from Dogs of War: Havoc). My beta readers were expecting to have Dogs of War by the end of December. I had planned to finish Infiltration by the end of January. Why are they not done, yet? See yesterday's "C" post for all the explanation you need. Gold medal, baby!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C - Crastinator

I'm not sure exactly what a crastinator is, but I have decided that, contrary to what some would have you believe, I am not a pro-crastinator. No one pays me a dime for any type of crastination. Therefore, I must be an amateur crastinator at best. I wish it was an Olympic sport, because I would win the gold every time. Really. It wouldn't even be close. Need a good example? See tomorrow's "D" post. You'll see what I mean.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

B - Bearry Sheet

Who's got a voice like Barry White and lives to share the love of God? It's none other than Bearry Sheet! Bearry Sheet is one of the characters I voice for Torah Puppets. If you are not familiar with Torah Puppets, it's a puppet show that teaches children Torah lessons. Hence the name. It was created by +Stan Randall as part of B'nai Torah Ministries and will be airing on Hebraic Roots Network later this year.

Bearry Sheet just loves to teach children about the book of B'resheet (Genesis). When the show goes live, you can check out Bearry and all his friends.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A - Already

This will be my first post for the A to Z Challenge. Today's letter is A. A is for "already" as in, I'm already behind. I had planned to pre-write most, if not all, of my blog posts for this challenge by the middle of March. Instead, it's March 29th and I'm writing the first one. At least I got it done before April 1st! Let's hope I can keep on track and finish out the month.

Friday, March 29, 2013

A to Z Challenge

Since I don't have enough going on these days, I've decided to add one more thing to me To Do list. I'm doing the A to Z Challenge. What is it? I'm glad you asked. The A to Z Challenge is an attempt to write 26 blog posts in the month of April. Each day (except Sundays) starts with a different letter of the alphabet. April 1st is A, the 2nd is B, etc. More details are available at the link on the right side of the page.

Be sure to check back here on April 1st for the first post - Letter A. I've begun prewriting some of my posts and scheduling them to go live on the correct date. So far, they are quite random and cover a wide array of topic. While you are here, check the bottom of this page for the list of other participating blogs. Check out a few that look interesting.