Friday, March 30, 2012

Sad Songs Blogfest

What with the A-Z challenge coming up and three other blog fests going on, it is no wonder I forgot about this one. Thanks to Nancy Williams for reminding me. I've never done two blogs in one day, but, hey, I promised I'd do this and a promise is a promise.

The Sad song blogfest is hosted by L. Diane Wolfe and you can find a list of all who are participating on her blog. I was asked to list songs that inspire me, move me to tears or break my heart. Some of the participants have listed up to ten songs. Since I am doing this late in the day, I will do four, even though there are hundreds of songs that touch my heart and my soul.

One that has always brought tears to my eyes is "Grandfather's Clock"

My father always sang that song, and I can still hear him. I liked his version better than this one. (smile)

Another song that never fails to touch me is "The Rose" sung here by Bette Midler.

When my very talented children and I get together to jam, these are two songs we never fail to include.

My all time favorite hymn is "How Great Thou Art." Sung here by Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill

And to finish the list, "I Will Always Love You" by Whitney Houston.

Friday's Odds and Ends

Good morning East Texas. On tap today is a warm spring day. Some clouds and lots of humidity, with a chance of rain. So if you've planted your garden, everything should get a good drink today.

In national news we have Mitt Romney still trying to get out from under the negative impact of having his dog ride on the roof of his car back in 1983.  A story about the incident was first reported in 1997 in the Boston Globe and was brought to light again yesterday. Brent Budowski wrote an article for The Hill poking fun at Romney for wanting to build an elevator in his mansion "so his various cars can ride painlessly to his penthouse, or whatever one calls it, and the Romneys can painlessly enter the car without the burden of walking down the stairs."

Yes, folks, that's right. You read it here second.

In fairness to Romney, he is not the only wealthy man who squanders money on extreme luxuries, but does that make it the smart or wise thing to do? You can have a lot of money and live very comfortably without creating an image of lavish overkill. Think of Warren Buffett. I still remember seeing him sitting in the general admission seats at Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska watching the Omaha Royals play ball. Other than the fact that he drove there in a nicer car than my husband and I did, there was little to distinguish us from each other. And he didn't need an elevator to take his car anywhere. He parked it in a nice garage at his nice house in the city.

On the subject of great wealth, the Mega Millions  lottery has the biggest jackpot ever and it could be won tonight by some lucky person.  It currently stands at $540 million and could go higher throughout the day. What are the odds of winning? About one in 175 million. Despite those odds, I'll plunk down a dollar today. I don't do that very often at all, but, hey, if you don't play the odds are even greater that you won't win.

What about you? Do you ever take a chance on the lottery? What would you do with the money?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Say Hello to Spring

Please welcome my semi-regular Wednesday guest, Slim Randles as he shares more fun from the gang at the Mule Barn Truck Stop, who are featured in his popular weekly column, Home Country.

It was the sun’s fault; that’s all we could figure out later. Well, that and the demise of Doc’s phantom squirrel.

For a couple of days the sun had been warming our shoulders and making us smile. You know, whispering semi-forgotten things in our ears like “fly fishing … gardens … barbecue … swimming hole…”

Normally, our good doctor would’ve put another phony ad in the Valley Weekly Miracle offering a reward for his non-existent squirrel, Chipper, just to hoax us into spring. But after the last time, and the ransom money for squirrel nappers, everyone here knew there wasn’t a squirrel at Doc’s house. It just wouldn’t be the same as it had been.

So Doc got this madness started by putting an ad in the VWM that took a different turn: “Spring Special! Half off on all amputations. Call Doc.”

That was the first pickle out of the jar. The first tiny slip toward Spring Madness. We look up to Doc because he has more initials after his name than anyone else in town, and besides, he delivered all of us at least once. So we waited to see who would follow his example. In our case, you have to wait a week, of course, and despite a couple of inquiring phone calls, Alberta down at the paper wasn’t telling.

Turns out it was Dewey and Bert who struck next.

Bert’s quarter-page ad promoted the town’s first (in a long time) sock hop.

“Sock Hop! Town square! Wear socks! Nothing else!”

Now he didn’t say when this would take place, but we did notice some teenage boys hanging around the square just to see if there was any chance of naked nubile nymphets. There wasn’t.

Dewey Decker, the accident-prone king of garden fertilizer in the valley (it’s hard to damage cow manure) bought an ad for his garden-enhancing products offering a free taste test.

There certainly is something goofy and fun about spring. Just ask Alberta down at the paper. She has this little spring smile …
To buy Slim’s books, go to

Monday, March 26, 2012

Rising Gas Prices - What's the Fix?

With each uptick of the price of gas, people start clamoring for the government to do something, which has led President Obama to fast-track approval of the XL pipeline from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast of Texas. The Canadian pipeline originates above Montana, and was halted in the midwest due to serious concerns about the huge aquifer that serves water to many states should the pipeline ever break. Or perhaps I should say, when the pipeline breaks.

There is no doubt the pipeline will break. Pipelines break all the time, and one branch of the XL has already contaminated a large area of Kalamazoo, Michigan in 2010, and effects are still being felt. The chemicals needed to break down this tar-sands oil so it can flow through the pipes can contaminate water and land for generations, making it unsuitable for life.

What people who are pushing to approve this pipeline venture, as well as more domestic drilling, fail to understand is that supply has little to do with current gas prices. The oil companies control pricing, period. They sell crude and refined oil to whatever country pays the most, and if that is Japan or China, that is just fine with Exxon - Mobil.

The U. S. exports 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, so that begs the question, why do we do that and then turn around and import 13 million barrels? Some of the reasons are explained HERE, but the basic reason is that that is the way world commerce works.

I'm not sure that just because this can be explained, that is reason enough to keep doing something that might not be the right something. As Megan McArdle pointed out in a recent article about corporations that keep repeating the same mistakes because they are afraid to change, maybe it is time we, the people and the government, need to make drastic changes in how we deal with energy issues. We cannot bury our heads in the sand and pretend that our reliance on fossil fuels is not a problem. There are children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren who are counting on us to give them a world they can live in.

On a different note, I am again part of a Mega-Event to help an author showcase her work. There will be a blog-fest and lots of other fun things happening from mid-April to mid-May, but ahead of time there are some neat opportunities for some free gifts.

Download a FREE copy of the Artella eBook, Artella Mae's NEW Altered Ancestors!, a 58-page eBook overflowing with ideas and techniques for using vintage photos in your artwork. Download your copy here!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Need Directions? Just ask a Farmer

The other day I was in the local donut shop - yes, sometimes I do treat myself to something decadent and delightful - and as I ate my old-fashioned cake donut, I listened to two farmers talking about meeting up to go hunting. This is roughly how the conversation went:

"How 'bout meeting at the old Franklin place?"

"Where's that?"

"Well, go out 11 to the Greenwood road. You know the one I mean?"

"Yeah. The one that goes to the Greenwood church."

"Okay. Turn left then go a couple of miles, then turn left where you see that big old oak tree on Lloyd's place. Another half mile and there is that old barn that burned last summer. You'll see it on the right where the road takes a Y. Follow the curve to the right and go another two miles 'til you see the windmill on the left. That marks the beginning of the Franklin place."

"Is that before or after the railroad tracks and the dairy barn?"

"After. The dairy barn belongs to old man Foster."

"I thought that was the one. Just didn't know it came so close to Franklin's place."

"It's not that close to where you want to turn. The drive back to that hunting cabin is almost another mile down the road. You'll pass a historical marker, then the turn into the drive is right there."

Listening to these two men I thought, "Who need electronic gadgets when you have farmer GPS systems?"

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Catalogs Aren't Just For Buying Things

This week's Wednesday Guest is Slim Randles, cowboy sage and humorist. I am pleased to share his work here. His weekly column, Home Country, is read by over 2 million people. 

The garden catalogs start coming when the snow is too deep to even find dirt. But we don’t care.

This is a catalog time of year, a time for making plans and figuring out how to do something even better than we did last year. There in the fishing catalog is that new fly-tying vise. I know I’ll be able to tie flies faster and better with that, which will give me more time to cruise up and down Lewis Creek with the fly rod. Well … at least that’s the plan.

And the housewares catalog has all kinds of things in it to help us peel potatoes, boil things, slice things, and clean things. A few well-spent dollars on their 800 phone line and before you know it, our lives will be easier and our food tastier.

With the truck catalogs, we can get a little coffee maker that plugs right in to the cigarette lighter. Or we can get a little oven that plugs right in to the cigarette lighter, or a fan that plugs right in to the cigarette lighter. Let’s hope the car makers continue to make cigarette lighters even after cigarettes themselves disappear. We’d miss out on a lot of fun without that plug-in.

The mule needs his catalog, too. I’ll do the reading for him, and the ordering. But I think he’d appreciate one of those nice white fleece cinches. They seem so soft on an old mule’s belly. And a matching saddle pad would be good, too. He’s too old to rope on any more, but a guy can still appreciate comfort in semi-retirement.

The land catalogs are the most fun. In these, there are always lakes with wooded margins, begging for a little cabin. A small place where a guy can hole up and think literary thoughts and type quietly. Well, it’s a thought, anyway. And that’s what catalogs do, stimulate our thinking.

Spring catalogs are the novels of optimistic lives.
To buy Slim’s books, go to  He's got some good ones, including a new one, Slim Randles' Home Country, that is a compilation of his weekly columns.

Monday, March 19, 2012

What's Wrong With Education Today?

For a long time, I thought the education system in most states was way off the mark, and I am not alone in thinking that. I was reminded of the importance of a classical education when I found an interesting article in School Book, an online magazine for the NYC school system.  A Lesson in Teaching to the Test was written by Anne Stone and Jeff Nichols, both associate professors at NY colleges and the parents of eight-year-old twins in the third grade in New York City schools. They recently introduced their children to E.B. White’s wonderful book, The Trumpet of the Swan, about a mute swan given voice by a trumpet stolen for him by his father.

The book contains a passage that the couple cite in their article about a teacher who is in the midst of a mathematics lesson. This is what she asks one boy. as well as his response.

“Sam, if a man can walk three miles in one hour, how many miles can he walk in four hours?”

“It would depend on how tired he got after the first hour,” replied Sam.

What follows is a lively discussion among the students and the teacher covering all kinds of things that might factor into the distance and the timing. I encourage you to go read the entire piece as it is quite interesting. Unfortunately, that exchange is not something that would probably happen in a classroom today, although it should. The authors make the point that the little scene from White's book  "...captures what volumes of education research have shown: we are born curious, and the best education models do not proceed on the basis of 'what we want students to learn.'"

My interest in this topic was spurred by a recent column I read in The Dallas Morning News. The author of that column, Kim Rice, wrote, "My entire educational experience consisted of learning one happy fact after another. A name here, a date there and those delightful little rules all over. Alas, I was a miserable memorizer."

That opening to her column resonated with me, because facts fall through my brain as if it had holes. Like, Kim, I was lucky to have a college professor who "cracked open a door that exposed the difference between being trained to do and being educated to think. I discovered ideas."

I was also lucky enough to have a bit more of a classical education in high school - this was before the idea of standardized testing came to be. It's hard to quantify what I learned because I did not come out with facts and figures that could be measured. What I did come out with was a mind that was quick and eager to learn, and really has not stopped.

What about you? What kind of education did you receive? Do you think we are losing something vital by not offering a classical education anymore?

On another note, I just have to share part of this wonderful review I recently received for One Small Victory. 
"Excellent! That is one small word that hardly describes a novel written with such heart. Maryann Miller is an accomplished writer, weaving her tale of intrigue, romance and determination. She takes her readers on a wild ride of adventure that will not be soon forgotten." Highly Recomended by Reviewer: Elaine Fuhr, Allbooks Reviews Int.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Book Review: Some Like it Red Hot by Robin Merrill

Thank you Carl Brookins for another review to share. This one is for a hot romantic suspense novel. 

Some Like It Red Hot
By Robin Merrill
Acacia Publishing, Inc
ISBN: 978-0-9774-306-4-2
2008, Trade Paper, 276 pages

Lotsimina Hannon (Lotsi to her intimates) is forced by an evil corporate empire to retire before her time. Lotsi, for want of something else to do, decides to start a whole new life. What better way to do so than buy an old RV and a new motorcycle and hit the road? The fact that she’s never in her life driven either a large recreational vehicle or a high-powered motorcycle is no deterrent.  

Since she’s looking for a little excitement in  her new life, she heads to Las Vegas, home of opulent RV parks, saunas and hot tubs. And men. Oh yes. Older and retired, but far from sedentary, Lotsi has the heart and the attitudes of a much younger woman. You might say the fires are low but still burning. All it takes is a delectable hunk with the wit and the knowledge of the desires of the more mature woman, and a certain level of experience, to bring those embers to a raging inferno. It also may be said that starting a relationship in a hot tub can get things off to a quick start.

Then of course, murder and associated chicanery intrudes and Lotsi is forced into a game of clues, a game that soon turns deadly. What’s worse, Lotsi becomes a target of the killers even while desperately learning to ride the motorcycle and speed out of trouble.

Smartly written, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, author Merrill presents a romp through the RV culture with pokes at aging  baby boomers that is just askew enough to keep you reading and chuckling all the way along. While the story is realistically presented with enough straight and freaky characters to keep readers guessing, this frank romantic mystery is not aimed at fans of the realistic or the noir. A fun read. I hope the author is able to bring us further adventures of the mature.
Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday's Odds and Ends

A recent news report shows that in many states across the country inmates in state or federal prisons are receiving unemployment compensation. In Arizona, it was reported that $1.1 million was paid to prisoners in the last two years. In one case in Los Angeles, it was reported that an inmate’s two girlfriends allegedly cashed $20,000 in checks over a year and a half—then the inmate and other gang members used the money in jail.

I saw this covered on ABC Nightly News earlier this week and thought it was the most absurd story of government-agency inefficiency. That only lasted until I read a comment in the Talking Points feature in the Sunday Dallas Morning News. (I was a bit late in catching up with my weekend paper.)

A woman in Michigan was collecting $200 a month in food stamps after winning a $1 million state lottery jackpot. Her reasoning "I feel that it's OK because I have no income and I have bills to pay. I have two houses."

To their credit, the state agency has suspended her benefits, but that is little consolation to the people who were really in need who didn't get help because she thought she was entitled to her food stamps.

These two stories illustrate just one of the problems with assistance programs. Ideally they would help only those who need help, but that doesn't always happen. There are too many programs and too few people to oversee those programs to catch instances of fraud and misuse and put a stop to them. That makes it so easy for people to tap into the cash cow and to hell with the rest of the folks.

Something in a more positive vein that I read this week is a comment by former first lady Barbara Bush. She was asked about the current GOP campaign and this was her response, "I think it's been the worst campaign I've ever seen in my life... I hate that people think compromise is a dirty word. It's not a dirty word."

Amen, amen.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Guest Post from Allen Malnak - Hitler's Silver Box

Please help me welcome Dr. Allen Malnak to It's Not All Gravy as he shares some background on how he came to write the novel,   Hitler’s Silver Box
After retiring from the teaching and practicing of internal medicine, my wife and I moved from the Chicago area to Florida. I found an adult education course in writing fiction. The teacher was Hollis Alpert a well known novelist, biographer, short story editor as well as a movie critic.

I took classes with Hollis for a couple of years. He would give us assignments, often listing several subjects that we should use as the basis of a short story. He would critique each story and at the next weekly session read some of them to the class.

One topic I picked was titled “A Silver Box.” Perhaps because my father’s entire Lithuanian family had been murdered by the Nazis, I decided to write it about a concentration camp prisoner at the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp who was forced by a Nazi colonel to make a silver box, which would be a birthday present for Adolph Hitler.

After reading the story in class, Hollis suggested that this story could be expanded into a novel, and that started the process that eventually lead to Hitler’s Silver Box-A Novel.

My initial inclination was to limit the book to Max Bloomberg, the silversmith’s experiences in the camp, but perhaps because of my hospital emergency room experiences decided to change the protagonist to Bruce, his nephew and the chief ER physician at Chicago’s Cook County Hospital. Max’s experience is presented in the book as Max Bloomberg’s journal, and the novel revolves around a search by Bruce and Miriam, an aggressive, attractive Israeli woman for the silver box and it’s world-changing contents. The two are pursued by Nazi fanatics willing to commit most any criminal act to find the contents of the box and use it to restore Nazis to power. Bruce has difficulty crossing over from a healer to a person who must use violence—fortunately for him, Miriam has both the knowledge as well as the ability to handle violent situations when necessary.

While Hitler’s Silver Box is a work of fiction, it’s loosely based on the fact that during the Second World War, Nazi scientists worked up to the war’s end on a multitude of secret weapons on which Hitler pinned his hopes for a last ditch victory. These weapon systems ranged from very long range rockets that could be fired from underground bases to alternative physics, robotic warriors, new energy sources, radical germ warfare and of course, nuclear weapons. In the novel, the facts were modified to suggest that many objects which were later called UFOs were also developed by Nazi scientists in concealed locations, and various secret laboratories were set up around the world including in areas of both Arctic and Antarctic wastes where explorers had never trekked.

Hitler’s Silver Box further develops this to suggest that as Allied Armies closed in on Germany from east and west, it became apparent to his top generals that the war would be lost. With Hitler’s reluctant approval, a group of high ranking Nazi officials decided it would be prudent to plan for a Fourth Reich. This would require keeping these scientists funded and working for many years. All knowledge about them including their exact locations as well as their discoveries would have to be kept secret until the time was right.

Thus the vital importance of the sole document containing this information placed inside the silver box made specially for Hitler. The box was taken by Max from the Nazis in 1945 and hidden in a forest in what is now the Czech Republic.

Writing the novel required considerable research. Having worked during my training and military service in a number of emergency rooms as well as having been medical director of a large ER department in Chicago’s Mount Sinai Hospital, I was familiar with that aspect of the story. I studied articles and books on life in the Theresienstadt concentration camp and had to learn a great deal about silversmithing.

For many years my writing experience had been limited to the type of technical material needed for my medical profession. I soon learned that writing fiction required learning new techniques.

Dialogue and careful descriptions were difficult crafts to understand and learn, but the hardest part of writing the novel was describing the conditions that Max went through in the concentration camp. His use of the “particular” silver, the provenance of which nearly drove him mad, perhaps had a similar effect on me. Needless to say, while Theresienstadt was technically not a death camp, the victims were starved, beaten and subject to many diseases. Writing Max’s journal thus brought forth thoughts about the suffering my own family must have gone through.

The dramatic ER scenes were easier because they were based on my personal experiences. Since like Bruce in the novel, I also have claustrophobia in tunnels, writing that scene caused me some discomfort.

It’s been over 65 years since the Holocaust ended, but the long lasting effects will never fade. There are survivors and relatives of victims in many communities. Now, most people who pick up a copy of Hitler’s Silver Box will do so because it’s a historical thriller with all the mystery, suspense, action, even romance that good thrillers are noted for.

But to the discerning reader, there’s a much deeper meaning that became evident to me recently in reading online comments in a local newspaper’s internet website. Two anonymous neo-Nazis constantly spewed their racist, anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying rants, bragging about their continued worship of Adolph Hitler and their admiration for the murderous Waffen SS soldiers.

Yes, despite what the world knows about the horrors of Nazi Germany, there are in innumerable communities of our great country, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members, all hoping to finish what Hitler couldn’t.

Actually, I had put the novel aside, only deciding to finish it after reading these nasty comments.

Perhaps Hitler’s Silver Box will throw a little more light on how devoted to evil these types are.

Monday, March 12, 2012

All About Cats

We have company this week. Our son and his wife have come for a few days, and we are all cat lovers. Rebecca and I had a picture-taking spree last night and took pictures of all our cats.

First up is Misty, known also as Mama Cat, as she was the mother of some of the cats we had until last fall. She was napping on the table next to Rebecca, then went into the kitchen to see if she could get Rebecca to give her a snack.

Next is Daisy. I call her Daisy Mae, and my husband wonders why. Has he forgotten the Lil' Abner comic strip? Our Daisy has a bit of the attitude that Daisy Mae had in the strip.

Rounding out our feline foursome is Harry and Hermoine. They are brother and sister and play more with each other than with the other two cats. One can hardly blame them, though. Mama does not like them at all, and Daisy only wants to interact with them when she can maybe steal some of their food. Although to be fair and honest about this, she does sometimes play with Harry. They will chase each other through the house, an invariably one of them ends up sliding across the floor in the kitchen and banging into the wall.

But again, the playing is only on Daisy's terms. If she does not want to play, she lets Harry know.

The two young cats enjoy playing in the section of the Christmas tree that I gave them in January. They loved the tree to the point that it was briefly decorated for one day - December 25th - then the decorations were taken down for safe-keeping. The tree is very old and we decided that it was time to get a new one next year, so why not let the cats play with some of it. This is one of their favorite toys and quite a conversation piece when folks come to visit and wonder why we still have a Christmas tree in our living room.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review - Swift Edge by Laura DiSilverio

Thank you Carl for another review to share with my readers. I also want to let everyone know that I am extending my free offer for One Small Victory for another day. It will be free again today until midnight. Let your friends know, and if you have not grabbed a copy, now is your chance.

Swift Edge
Laura DiSilverio
ISBN: 978-0-312-62444-6
2011 release from St. Martins
Minotaur, 291 pages.

Judicious blending of two quite different characters as private investigators carries this story of murder and identity theft on a roller coaster of humor and tension. Gigi Goldman, one half of the investigator team of Swift Investigations is inept at best. I mean how about trying a surveillance gig from a yellow Hummer? Charlie Swift is the more competent partner with background and experience and she carries the bulk of the serious investigation that is at the core of this slickly written, well-laid out story.

A world class figure skater disappears on the eve of national trials. Charlie Swift is up for the challenge of finding the guy but she keeps stumbling over her partner Gigi and Gigi’s petulant teen-aged daughter. Then the client, another figure skater, disappears, a world-renowned coach is attacked and almost everywhere she goes, somebody is shooting at Charlie.  If that isn’t enough trouble, almost every male she encounters seems to be after Charlie’s body in a less destructive way. But maybe that’s just Charlie Swift’s take on the situations.

The action is constant, often funny and requires the occasional suspension of disbelief. The characters are well-drawn and consistent. This is a sometimes zany, very enjoyable addition to what appears to be a swiftly growing series of light to medium crime novels.

Carl Brookins  BLOG:  -BOOKS:  Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky

Friday, March 09, 2012

Another Reason to Abandon the NFL

I used to really enjoy watching football. It started with high school football when I was in high school and we had a winning team. It was so exciting to go to the games and cheer the team and swoon over the quarterback, on whom I had the biggest crush. I still enjoy high school football and will sometimes go to watch a game even now. No more crushes, but there is still just a bit of that school pride and excitement for the game that a spectator can absorb just sitting in the bleachers.

When we moved to Texas in the late 60's, I became a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys, and saw in some of those players - Roger Staubach, Lee Roy Jordan, Drew Pearson, Ed "Too-Tall" Jones, Robert Newhouse - that same love of the game and eagerness to just go out and play.

That has changed in more recent years, and I will admit that I have lost my football spirit. Sometimes I still watch a game with my husband, but I don't look forward to football Sunday like I used to. Part of the reason is that it has become about so many other things than the game itself. It is about salaries and who can make the most money. It is about bigger and grander stadiums, with ticket prices out of sight for too many people because of the stadium price-tag. And it has lost its sense of fair play and good sportsmanship.

In all fairness, maybe that last statement is too broad, but we can't deny that "winning at all costs" has superseded what used to be a sport of men who played with some sense of respect and honor.

That has become abundantly clear with the latest scandal that the NFL wishes would just disappear from the news. Last week the NFL released a report that said that for three seasons the New Orleans Saints had a bounty pool that was handled by a defensive assistant. The pool paid out for big hits that would take out an opposing player, and apparently the coaching staff of the Saints knew about it, as did the general manager.

According to an editorial in The Dallas Morning News, this practice is not limited to the Saints.

This is absolutely reprehensible behavior, and I, for one, resign from the role of being an NFL fan. I'll go watch a high school team when I start missing the game.

On another note. I have put my suspense novel, One Small Victory, up for free for today and tomorrow on Amazon. This is the end of Read an E-Book Week, and I thought I would celebrate by giving my readers a gift. Enjoy....

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Mush You Huskies - The Iditarod

My friend, Slim Randles, has had lots of adventures in his lifetime. This is just one of them. Enjoy. While Slim is filling in here, I am over at The Blood Red Pencil with some fun from the Sunday Comics.

As you read this there are dozens of men and women and hundreds of dogs crossing a very cold Alaska: more than a thousand miles of it. It’s called the Iditarod by everyone who doesn’t drive a team in it. For those who have, it’s the Idiot Road.

There are deadly serious mushers in that race who are after that prize money, and a few of them will get it. But there are also the taildraggers. They know they won’t win. What they want to do, really, is finish this most difficult of all races. And more than that … to find out exactly what’s inside them.

Thirty-nine years ago this week, that was me.

I had seven dogs. The minimum that year.  And I had to borrow two to make the minimum. Most teams were in the 12 to 16-dog range. This translates to putting a VW bug in the Indy 500. Forget any prize money.

The front runners have snow machines half a day ahead of them, packing trail. With packed trail, those teams can average something like 80 miles a day. Without packed trail, you’re lucky to get five miles, on snowshoes. And all it takes to turn a packed trail into snowshoe time is half an hour of wind.

There have always been “recreational mushers,” like I was back then.  I lived 12 miles from a road in those days, and for six months each year, the dogs got us back and forth to the village. They were basic transportation and basic family.

But this race, this monumental journey from Anchorage to Nome, makes a person want to hook up the dogs and head out.

I wasn’t able to finish the race that year, 1973, because of an injury, and while I was on the trail, everyone passed me. And I guess it’s because of that that each March I say a little prayer for all the mushers and all the dogs, but especially for the recreational mushers, for the taildraggers. They’ll be out in the cold and the lonely longer than the winners, looking to find that certain personal something.

Packed trail and fresh dogs, people. It’s a very long way to Nome.
To buy Slim’s books, go to

Monday, March 05, 2012

Read an E-Book Week

Every spring lots of authors and readers celebrate read an e-book week, and I am participating with a free short story on my Website. Going Back is a short story I wrote a long time ago, and it was the basis for a script, A Question of Honor, which is the first screenplay I wrote. Both the short story and the screenplay were honored with awards, and I am happy to share the story this week.

There are lots of other authors participating in this special event. On the Read an E-Book website, you can find other authors who are offering free reads or specials all this week.

You can also find special deals from the authors who belong to Backlist e-Books. They have quite a variety of genres to select from; mystery, romance, science-fiction, and fantasy.

Nobody knows for sure what the future of publishing will look like in five or ten years, but one thing is for sure, e-books are here to stay and there are some good ones out there.


Friday, March 02, 2012

Are You Confused Yet?

Now that I have totally messed up my weekly schedule of posts here, are you as confused as I am?

Yesterday I was going to schedule a few posts in advance for the weekend since I am going to be out of town. The problem was I had a killer headache and was trying to work anyway. Note to self: do not ever work when you are feeling that sick. So what I posted yesterday was supposed to be scheduled for today, then I finished it and pushed publish post and promptly went to bed.

A little while later, I realized what I did, but there was no way I could drag my aching head back into my office.

Thankfully, the headache is much better so I am off to the Take 190 West Art Festival in Killeen, Texas. I went two years ago and thoroughly enjoyed myself. A lot of artists display their work and there is a wonderful exhibit of student art that is well worth the visit. The event is free to the public and there will be many authors and artists there to chat with.

Come on by if you live near Killeen.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A Little Tolerance, Please

Tom Leppert, the former mayor of Dallas and current Texas senatorial candidate, has recently caught a lot of flack because he marched in  gay rights parades when he was mayor. He justified his action by saying that when he was in that position it was his obligation to represent everybody.

Ted Cruz, the former Texas solicitor general, has criticized Leppert for participating in the parades, inferring that Leppert is supporting sinners.

In a letter to the editor, Joel Hale of Dallas wrote that it is a sad state of affairs in Texas when the focus of a senatorial debate is on whether homosexuality is a sin.  He further wrote, "In politics it shouldn't matter if something is considered by some to be a sin - that's a strictly religious matter. In America, freedom, human rights and justice should always be the deciding factors in lawmaking."

While some may quibble with those comments from Hale, it is hard to quibble with his statement that all parades are full of sinners, "so it is interesting to note that only sinners of the homosexual variety are being singled out."

Interesting point indeed. There has been so much furor over same-sex marriage, or civil unions, and most of the loudest voices coming from the same types of people who used to brand women with a scarlet A and burn witches at the stake.

This is not the Christianity I believe in. This is not the way Jesus would respond. He embraced the sinner and cautioned the righteous not to be so quick to toss the first stone. So why can't we find a peaceful, sensible solution to how to accept the loving, committed relationships between two men or two women?