Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review: When You're The Only Cop In Town

A fascinating book. This literally runs a close second to having an actual ride-along with a small-town police chief. It has the same feel of "here's how it is". Jack Berry had extensive experience as a cop in a larger city, then he took on the job of small-town chief. For a time, he really was the only cop in town. His experiences are a wonderful resource for any writer such as myself who is writing anything that involves small town police work.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Shamanic Powers of Rolling Thunder: Review

 I had forgotten about Rolling Thunder. I had read an interview with him back in 1981 in Mother Earth News magazine. I was intrigued since I was interested in shamanism of different kinds at the time. Things happened, though, and I lost track of him. I was delighted to come across this new book with numerous interviews of people sharing their experiences around him. If you have any interest in contemporary shamans, this is a good place to start.

Night School - New Jack Reacher!

A new Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child is reason enough to celebrate. Night School is a bit of a flashback into Reacher's army days when he is rewarded for finishing a sensitive hush-hush case for the government by being detailed to what seems like possibly a punishment detail, attending what appears to be a truly boring class in inter-department cooperation. Of course, nothing is what it seems and we are carried along on another Reacher rumble! Five stars, because, well, nothing else will do! Read it!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Taking The Plunge

     I took the plunge last week. I published two of my short stories separately as books on Kindle. Partly just to get them out there, partly to learn how to do it. It's a bit tricky, but not much. I must say another reason was to ramp up my incentive to finish other work and get it out there too! 

I have a series of novels in the works, set in the small central Texas town of Shin Oak Ridge in the mid 1980's and featuring Deputy Constable Pen Sadler. The above short stories are set in the same area, in the county seat of Copete County, Cedar City, just a few miles from Shin Oak, and in the present day. They feature Parson Short, the only private eye in Cedar City and probably the county. 

It's a soft-boiled private eye series with a bit a fun. Give it a try. I hope you like it and give me a good review. 

You can get "Hanging Chad" here. You can get "The Case of the Other Sister's Mister" here. If you're interested, you can also see my Kindle Author page here.

Thank you!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Like a Note from Home

Reading a lot these days, not writing much, alas. By the time I get out to my desk it's hot outside and nearly afternoon. It feels more like it should be nap time than productive time. Our mornings are spent taking care of the chickens, dog, cats, cats, and cats. We share our space with several of our own cats and several foster cats, some of whom have medical issues.

I did get a bit sidetracked today. In reading an email from another writer I was reminded of the Gutenberg Project's wonderful website. I try not to go there often, because I do indeed get caught there. Today I found (again) the book above and several more in the series. 

If you don't know about the Gutenberg Project, here is my own explanation. I'm sure you can find a better one on Wikipedia or Google. It's basically a non-profit group whose mission is to find and scan old books that are in the public domain. There are all sorts of them already in their system. Today they show over 50,000 in their system, all free to download and read, with many many more available through their several partners. It's a great service, if you know what you're looking for. Virtually any classic book you can think of is in there, or will soon be there, and in several different formats. The only drawbacks I can think of are the lack of description for the books and the scans, while servicable, look sometimes to be unedited. You do find occasional typos. However, I did say it was free!

Back to reading. As I've said before in a previous blog here, I grew up reading this type of literature. These were mostly the books I had available, books that originally were my father's and grandparents. It was many years before I had access to an actual library regularly. (Oh boy, do I remember my first one!) Most of the youth fiction I had available therefore was a generation or two out of date. There were several World War 2 adventure novels there. Among them was Dave Dawson at Guadalcanal and A Yankee Flier With the RAF. These books were my intro to adventure fiction!

Of course, none of the books would ever be published today. Not a lot of political correctness there! They were also, obviously, pro-war, formulaic, and full of stereotypical character, both protagonist and antagonist. They were very much a product of their time. I won't apologize for that. I don't have to. I enjoyed reading the stories and I still do. I can see the times through the stories while disagreeing with many of the concepts. Not unlike reading Huckleberry Finn again. Yes, very dated, very un-PC, but that's not why we read it. We read it because Twain was a genius at capturing the times he lived in and his humor and genius shines through all that.

Okay, Robert Sydney Bowen was NOT Mark Twain, however the humor is there. Does that make me a bad person? If it does, remind me not to tell you about the Miss Minerva series!

Instead, let me tell you about my first library. I was seven, I believe.  I was visiting my mother for a few weeks in Loving, New Mexico. My step-father was working in the oil fields nearby and they were living in a small trailer. We went to Carlsbad Caverns while we were there as well. My mother took us into town to the library. I had never, ever, seen so many books! Even better, we were allowed to take several home with us and exchange them as fast as we read them! It was pure heaven! I have only a few memories of that trip, but that is one of the best ones!

It was an addiction, I know, and my mother was my enabler! So it goes. Now to catch up with Dave Dawson and Freddie Farmer and The Alliteration Tango! (I made that part up!)

Monday, May 9, 2016

Book Review: The Preacher

The Preacher by Ted Thackrey Jr.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pretty good book. The first of a short series. The Preacher is an ex-priest, ex-soldier, who has found his calling as a professional poker player. He's been called to the town of Farewell, NM by an old friend from his priesthood days to help uncover what caused one of the local citizens to possibly commit suicide leaving his business and loving family behind.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Tools Revisited

I've posted about writing tools here before. However, I found myself replying to someone else's post about differences between Scrivener and yWriter and it started to get a bit lengthy. I thought it might be time to multitask and revisit the subject with my current state of affairs. Admittedly a lot hasn't changed. 
I've used yWriter5 for several years now. I've completed several short stories and have several novels under way. I got yWriter originally because it was free, and yes, I'm a cheapskate. Free is excellent. yWriter does everything quite well. 

I started using it on Windows XP, then Vista and now Linux Mint 17.3. There is no native yWriter for Linux yet, however the instructions they give on the yWriter website for running it on Linux work very well. I keep several backups of my work on backup hard drives and flash drives. My main files stay on Dropbox. I have very rarely lost any of my work but it has happened. A sentence maybe, or even a paragraph once. My fault, usually.

I've looked at Scrivener for PC. I have the free intro and start it up now and then. It's very slick, but so far I haven't seen much that makes it worth paying for above yWriter. Scrivener does have a Linux version.  I have also tried Power Structure and Storyweaver (paid) software. They seem marvelous, but really don't seem to work intuitively for me the way yWriter does. (Side note: Storyweaver is worth the price almost just for the informative newlsetters and free lessons they will send you after you sign up.) 

Another one I have that has possibilities is Writer's Cafe. That is more like a suite of writer's programs that looks interesting and useful. It has free and paid versions.

I occasionally write plays, for those I use Celtx. They have a nice bundle of applications for scriptwork, mostly paid and online. However I use their free version locally on my laptop since I don't need to collaborate particularly. Check them out if you have interest in screenplays and film production, though.

I've also played with mind-mapping software. It intrigues me as a brainstorming tool, but I can't really seem to get into it.

For collecting ideas I like to use Evernote, since  it is fast and easy and works on all my devices. There isn't a Linux version, but there is an online version working through both Firefox and Chrome that works quite well when I'm on my laptop. That's okay because if I'm using my laptop, I'm usually on wifi, if I'm not then it's only a little less convenient to check Evernote on my smartphone.

For some of us, though, and I do mean me, the proliferation of tools often means we spend more time playing at organizing than we do actually writing. If you just want to get the story down, and especially if you're a pantser as opposed to a plotter,  then a regular word processor will let you do that. I still use Word a lot. I have Word 2000 that still works quite well and I run it on a Windows emulator on my Linux machine. I also have Libre Office, a free alternative that is much newer and compatible with Word documents. I just know Word the best and I'll keep using it as long as it works. I'm stubborn that way. Old dogs/new tricks and so on.

Beyond that, there are programs such as Zen Writer and Omm Writer and the like that give you an even simpler text editor with even less formatting options and buttons to get in the way. Just fire it up and write in a clean space with no distracting choices to keep you from composing. Some even offer quiet music for the background.

I've dabbled with all of these now and then, and still play with them a little. However, since my novels and shorts have been parts of series it really helps to have a tool like yWriter that keeps things like storyboard, characters, places, objects and so on easily available. 

On my Android phone and Fire tablet I love having apps that I can rely on to access my work whenever/wherever I want to. I have the aforementioned Evernote, Celtx Script and Index Cards, Google Docs and Hancom Office which serves to read/edit Word or other Office type documents that come my way. I also have The Brain. 

I also consider the ereader apps on those devices as  important tools as well. I have the Kindle app on every device for Kindle books and Moon Reader for any non-Kindles I may find (and I find a lot). Of course, the Kindle Fire tablet actually is a Kindle reader from the start. It took a bit of finagling to get a non-kindle reader to work on it, but nothing serious. Amazon has a lot of books for the Kindle, but there are lots that are in other formats as well. I ALWAYS have something to read!

Okay. There you have it. Two of the three "R's" covered. Readin' and 'Ritin'. One good EMP and I'm officially back to the stone age again!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Camber of Culdi

This is actually a re-read of an old favorite. The Culdi series by Katherine Kurtz is a wonderfully rich historical fantasy. I love every installment I’ve read. i consider it a must-read. Set during the time of the Inquisition, Camber is the patriarch of one of several families of alien origin who have integrated among humans. This story involves how he and his family survive in an atmosphere of growing discrimination and paranoia from The Church and Establishment.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Encounter at The Waffle House

    I had to drive into the big city early this morning for some lab tests. The tests required me to be fasting, so I was pretty famished by the time it was over. A Waffle House is on the way home. I like to stop there sometimes when I'm alone and waffle and eggs sounded awesome! The place was packed! Of course, it was almost noon by then, and Austin is right in the middle of SXSW. That tends to bloat local traffic and fill up restaurants. I'm sure the businesses don't complain nearly as much as the commuters!
    I had to sit at the counter, which isn't bad at all if you are alone. You get to watch them cook your food and you can observe the choreography of multiple cooks and servers sharing the same space. After a bit a gentleman sat beside me. 
    After a couple of "pardon me's", shared condiments, and so on we began to talk. I learned that his name was Ron, and he is a chauffeur from San Antonio working the music festival. As we talked we discovered several shared interests. We had ordered the same breakfast, for instance. We liked much of the same foods. When he found out I was a writer we of course got into this discussion:
    Ron said,"Everyone tells me I should write a book."
    "I agree, you should."
    "Well, I don't have a lot of education, I left school when I was sixteen."
    "That doesn't really matter. I'm a big promoter of school education, but honestly that's only that top ten percent of the iceberg, as they say. Life education is that big ninety percent left over."
    "Well, I've done a lot. Bad childhood, varied work, a lot of experiences."
    "There you go. Start writing it down."
    "You're right. I have friends who are highly educated and writers, they've offered to help edit it."
    "Then do it. The absolute main thing is to get the story down on paper, or computer, whatever. Get it all down so it doesn't get lost. After that you can do what you want to tweak it, correct it, whatever it needs. Just get it down."
    I went on to tell him about others I've known, including my mother. I'd encouraged her for years to write her story for the rest of us. She always said she would ... someday. There was always an excuse not to do it. Finally it was too late.  I didn't grow up around her, so I only heard parts of her stories. 
    This is what I told Ron. We all have stories, whether they come out as truth or fiction, memoir or fantasy or all four at the same time. 
    So, here I am writing this. My attempt at taking my own advice.
    I went on to show Ron the Evernote app I use on my phone to take notes and organize them, clip articles from the web and so on. He downloaded it right there and said he'd use it. He has a lot of down time between riders, or waiting for people.
    We didn't share contact info, other than names, so I doubt he'll read this. However, Ron, if you're out there. Good Luck! Tell  your story. You shared enough of it to let me know it's worth telling. 
    Of course, now it's part of my story as well. Perhaps somewhere, somehow, one of my characters will discuss life with a chauffeur in a Waffle House. That's how it goes!
    Write on!