Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Howdy from 2031

I just received an email from myself. The date on it is Feb. 4, 2031, so it’s almost 16 years from now:

“Howdy, Me the Younger. This is Future You attempting to take advantage of a predicted anomaly in solar flares, sun spots and the position of Mars in relation to Jupiter. I don’t know, but supposedly I might be able to slip out an old-fashioned email so it is delivered to me … uh, you … approximately 15 years earlier.

“Personally, I have my doubts because I don’t remember getting this back then, but I don’t understand this time-traveling stuff.

“Let me answer what I know are some of your first questions. We *still* do not have hoverboards. Unbelievable, right? The hit movie this weekend is “Taken 14.” Liam Neeson might be 78, but he’s *still* got it. “Casablanca” is *still* my favorite movie. The 1960s are *still* the king of music.

“Things have changed, however. Global maps look quite a bit different. The United States, for example, finally granted statehood to the inhabited territories of Puerto Rico, Guam, Northern Marianas, U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa. Once that was accomplished, Maryland reacquired all of Washington with the exception of the major federal areas like Congress and the White House. Three cheers for representation.

“I won’t try to explain the political landscape; it would confuse you and deny you the pleasure of watching the major parties collapse upon themselves and American citizens actually taking control again. Oops, hope that wasn’t too much of a spoiler.

“For the most part, people are more accepting of people, but that’s always been a gradual process. You and I have watched it ever since we were a kid. Haters continue to find new ways to hate. There’s a fundamentalist movement right now proclaiming God will end the world because we His people wear shoes and boots instead of sandals.

“Weather has gotten crazy, not the patterns we used to know. However, we finally woke up and started addressing the problems and there is genuine confidence we are turning the corner and can eventually correct much of the damage we’ve done to the planet. I really don’t want to say too much here, but just don’t rush out and buy any oceanfront property.

“Finally, let me speak to personal issues. I carefully considered what I could tell you, such as the peaks and valleys ahead, the people who come and go in your life, and even your health, but I decided none of that would be fair. Suffice it to say the 76-year-old version of you is abundantly happy and the people most important to you are still here, so keep doing what you’re doing. Oh, and keep writing those JP Weiscarver mysteries. I’m still hoping they’ll take off one day.”

Isn’t that amazing? Still no hoverboards.

I don’t need anything

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????Growing up, we often heard from grandparents that they “don’t need anything,” making it difficult to shop for them and causing us to think they’re just saying that for some reason.

And then, with a little luck, we get to the point where our actual needs are well enough satisfied. Sure, the house isn’t made for a movie star and the vehicle doesn’t turn heads. Our clothing purchases are based more on comfort than style. One day, however, we realize we really don’t need anything.

This hit home the other day with the question, “What would you do differently if we won several million dollars in a lottery?”

We love our RV lifestyle. We owe nothing on anything. There’s no way we want to buy a house with a foundation right now.

The only thing I could say was I would travel. That’s really it.

And travel, as much as I’d like to believe otherwise, isn’t a genuine “need.”

So, yes, I don’t need anything.

What about you?

Psst, it’s here

In case you missed it, my new book is out.

For a little tease and links to paperback and Kindle copies, check out this page inside.

Live and learn

snake in water“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.”

I came across these words from Amelia Earhart this morning. While I agree, there’s one other path worth mentioning.

Many and many a year ago, I was working at a very small newspaper, The Brenham Banner-Press in Central Texas, and picked up a lesson I’ve often applied in life. At that time, not many newspapers printed what was called process color, where color images are separated into cyan, magenta, yellow and black (CMYK). It involves running the sheet of paper through four different presses, each applying one of the colors.

The Banner-Press, at that time, had only four press units. Therefore, we could print only one sheet full color. At times, however, an advertiser would purchase an ad with “spot color,” in which the ad would be dressed up with blue or red in order to draw more attention.

Such ads were almost always placed on the back page, which gave us the opportunity to use a little color on the front page. Usually, the managing editor picked out an interesting item and had the guys in the pressroom place a light color screen over it, essentially putting the story in a colored box.

One time, that request was not made. Our publisher hated to waste the opportunity and, since the managing editor had already left for lunch, he decided to act.

Charles Moser pointed out five stories (our managing editor at that time subscribed to the theory of a high story count on the front page, so there were plenty to choose from) and told our cameraman, Alan, to apply blue screens. At least one of the stories had a dog-leg. That is to say it was not a rectangle.

Alan and I looked at each other; he only said, “OK.”

I made sure to be in the pressroom when the run started. Moser looked at the front page with five ugly blue fields on it and said, “Well, we won’t do that again.”

Isn’t that great?

He was correct. This mistake would be wrapping fish and lining bird cages within a week, it would hurt nobody, but he learned that was one way to not use spot color.

So, yes, the most difficult thing is the decision to act. Tenacity is one admirable follow-up option; another is to toss it into the trash can and say, “Well, we won’t do that again.”

Take a hike

Prior to the release of “The Reporter and the Sloth,” we had a little fun on JP Weiscarver’s Facebook page (which is one reason you should like his page … you’ll find a link in the right column). Since the bulk of the book takes place on a hiking trail, JP invited readers to share a hiking photo, or at least an outdoor photo. There were no other rules, but I said I would award a free book to whoever “moved me” the most with his or her photo. So, the winner is:

RussellandScarlet Raborn - Hawksbill Crag, Ponca, ArkansasThis was submitted by RussellandScarlet Raborn, taken at Hawksbill Crag near Ponca, Arkansas. Why did this move me? It is the essence of hiking. Hitting the trail gives one an opportunity to get places nobody else can. The bonus is when it’s also an amazing view. Congratulations and thanks for sharing.

Other entries included:

Naomi Zweben Hot air ballooning over Cappadocia, Turkey             Jennifer Green Embt‎ - Snoozing sea lions, Auke Bay, Alaska  Kimberly Condie one of Wyoming - a great view from a mountain we climbed last summer.

The hot air balloon photo was taken at Capadocia, Turkey, and was submitted by Naomi Zweben. The photo of snoozing sea lions in Auke Bay, Alaska, was sent in by Jennifer Green Embt‎. The mountain view from Kimberly Condie was taken in Wyoming.

Ferlin Blood The creek on my land during recent rains.    Betty Nelson Vacation fun times.    Brittany Schroeder Outside my front door, cows were interested on the groceries I was carrying.Hiking’s not always a fair-weather event. The photo of a rain-swollen creek was submitted by Ferlin Blood. Betty Nelson shows off a fishing reward in her photo. Brittany Schroeder, snapped a picture of cows that seemed interested in the groceries she was carrying.

There also is a rainy, snowy shot through a Goldwing Trike windshield while Pam Martaindale Wright was leaving Yellowstone National Park. Erin Martaindale Shenkir took a suggestion from my post and submitted a sunset photo from her front porch. Finally, John Jaime Pearce showed us off-trail hunting fun with the Hendersons.

John Jaime Pearce - going off-trail with the HendersonsErin Martaindale Shenkir Sunset from my front porch.Pam Martaindale Wright This was leaving Yellowstone in sleet and snow on our Goldwing Trike.

Thanks for playing along and sharing your memories.

Springing and falling

We’ve had a few days to adjust to daylight-saving time, so do you feel better about it? To be honest, because of my weird sleeping habits, it never affects me.

While I have no problem adjusting to clock changes, I find them absurd in this day and age. But I wouldn’t stop at eliminating time changes; I wish to do away with time zones altogether.

Their origin made sense, but with today’s worldwide connectivity, they are a hassle. Set the whole world on one time (and on a 24-hour clock since a.m. and p.m. would no longer fit most places) and let us get used to that change one time and not have to rock our worlds twice a year.

Then, if you tell Grandma you’ll call her at 18:00 while you’re on vacation, neither of you have convert time zones. Same applies to online business meetings and airplane schedules.

And it gives us two fewer things to complain about every year.

‘A little help?’

“A little help?” Make sure you read it with the question mark. What it immediately brings to mind for me is warming up on a baseball or softball field and an errant throw gets past a player who calls out to another player near the ball: “A little help?”

That is, “Please throw the ball back to me.”

Other thoughts include helping someone push a stalled car out of the road, put out a small grass fire, get a runaway cow back behind the fence, hold the door, carry something heavy … you get the idea.

I’m asking for help getting out the word about my next book. Thunderclap is a way for you to do so painlessly. (Really, I’ve done so.) Follow the link below and decide to show your support through either Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr.

If I get at least 100 supporters (ouch, there’s always a catch), then there is a massive release at 9 a.m. Central time on the day the book goes on sale, March 20, and thousands of people will have a chance to hear about it. Just because you (and at least 99 others) decided to grant a little help.

Thanks for your help.

Did you say ‘free book’?

Would you like one of the first copies of “The Reporter and the Sloth” … FREE?

Sloth coverHere’s the deal. Much of the “Sloth” story takes place on a hiking trail (Did you figure that out from the cover?) near Oldport. For an opportunity to receive a personalized, autographed paperback, create a post on JP Weiscarver’s Facebook page that includes a photo you took in the great outdoors.

If you’re not familiar with JP Weiscarver, where have you been? He is the lead character in my book series and he has his own Facebook page. Go there, like the page and then post your photo.

The photo can be from a hike, a day at the beach or the sunset from your front porch, as long as you took it and it’s outdoors. Feel free to include one sentence of explanation or description.

Who wins? I don’t have any specific judging criteria other than to say I’ll award at least one prize to someone whose photo moves me.

Is there a deadline? Of course there is; I’m a reporter and I know nothing happens without a deadline. Get your photo posted by noon, CDT, on Saturday, March 14. But you know how you tend to forget things, so you really should do it now.

And, while I have your attention, like this post. Doing so certainly wouldn’t make your photo less moving.

‘I am so proud of you’

When was the last time someone told you they were proud of you? Or some recent time? Or any time?

Dwell on that a minute. Pick out one in particular, one in which you more vividly recall the way it made you feel.

Did it come at a particularly fortuitous time? Maybe you were just feeling low or dealing with doubt. Maybe you were confronting a near-overwhelming task. Maybe you had to handle some unpleasant issues.

“I am so proud of you.”

That made things better, gave you a lift, restored your confidence.

We all need to hear something like that every now and then, even the most successful of us, and certainly the majority of us who are not quite that successful.

I recently finished my fourth novel. After each one, my inspiring wife has made a specific point of telling me how proud she is with what I produced. That’s important. The books might never become popular, but I’m proud of them and the person most important to me is proud of my work and proud of me.

Yes, we all need to hear it, but it’s not ours to keep.

We must stay alert for those times when we should pass on an uplifting compliment.

“I am so proud of you.”

Rob Reiner

Friday Flick logoToday is the 68th birthday of Rob Reiner, which is reason enough to feature one of Meathead’s movies this week.

Films he’s directed that I’ve given eight or more stars include “The Princess Bride,” “Misery,” “The Bucket List” and “A Few Good Men.” Let’s go with the 1992 drama featuring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore and concentrate on two good men.

Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Cruise) and Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Nicholson) could hardly be any more different. Kaffee is a Navy lawyer one year out of law school and already with a reputation of reaching plea bargains and avoiding the courtroom, not exactly a military poster boy. Jessup is a hard-core Marine who eats “breakfast 300 yards from 4,000 Cubans who are trained to kill me” and is in command of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

It appears Kaffee has not taken his role in the Navy, even his role in life, seriously. He’s a fun-loving guy who parties and plays a lot of softball. Whether it’s the distasteful idea of seeing two Marines sentenced to 12 years in prison for following an inappropriate order or it’s simply the incessant prodding of his co-counsel, Lt. Cdr. JoAnne “Joe” Galloway (Moore), Kaffee gets deeply involved in a case for the first time in his young career.

He becomes, in my view, a good man.

Jessup enters the movie having been proven a good man. He answered his country’s call, graduated the academy, served in Vietnam and is a rising star in the Marine Corps. His impassioned, if self-serving, analysis of his role on the wall protecting America is awe-inspiring: “You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall.”

Shouldering that responsibility, however, has led the colonel to the belief that whatever he does is good and honorable, simply because it was he who did it.

He had been a good man, one who lost his bearing. He forgot that, as important as he was, he still had guidelines to follow, even when it was difficult to do so.

Jessup’s moral decay under the intoxicating mixture of success and power can be seen reflected in so many – politicians, police, priests and others – who set out to do good, to be good men and women, but crossed the line.

That’s why we need upstarts like Kaffee to have the integrity and drive to remind us all of the lines we must not cross.

Who do you think was the more honorable character?

At last count, there are 274 movies that I’ve rated 8-10 stars on Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb. Each Friday, I will pick one of these movies and post something about it. To make sure you miss nothing, pick one of the ways to follow me from the column to the right. As always, I deeply appreciate it if you leave a comment and share with your friends.

Coming soon

Sloth coverHere’s a sneak peek of the cover for the fourth book in the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series.

Release of “The Reporter and the Sloth” has been scheduled for the first day of spring, March 20, 2015.

Who thinks we should have some sort of promotional giveaway? Give me some ideas.

‘Reign Over Me’

Friday Flick logoThe route to this week’s topic took me from “Zookeeper,” recently airing on television, and through various Adam Sandler comedies, most of which I’ve enjoyed even if they might not be great cinema.

After wading through all of that, I picked another Adam Sandler movie, his coming-out-of-the-comedic-comfort-zone performance in “Reign Over Me.”

This film by Mike Binder (who’s currently in theaters with “White or Black”) was released in spring 2007, less than six years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The very idea of taking on such a raw topic in such a personal fashion less than six years after our world was so severely shaken … well, that in itself took a lot of courage.

Charlie Fineman (Sandler) was a dentist who lost his wife and three daughters in one of the plane crashes. Unable to deal with it, he collapsed within himself, blocking out the world with music, movies and video games.

Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle) was a dentist in New York City who was lost in his own right, dealing with doubt and insecurities in spite of his successful practice and perfect family life.

Fineman and Johnson were roommates during dental school and they run into each other early in “Reign Over Me.” In some strange way that underscores Johnson’s anxieties, we find he envies Fineman’s lifestyle and is pulled into his buddy’s world. That eventually places Johnson in a unique position to attempt to heal Charlie and maybe help himself.

The film can be painful to watch as we hurt along with Charlie, if not also Alan. We pull for his recovery while wondering if restoring his life might hurt more than hiding from it.

I appreciate films that delve into what makes us tick. Thousands of people had to deal with tragedy following 9/11. Through accidents, sudden illnesses, wars and criminal activities, thousands of people confront heart-rending loss every day.

People suffer and grieve differently. Some cannot deal or must take a long time to come to grips with the reality. In other words, Charlie Fineman’s story is one of many. “Reign Over Me” tells it well.

I gave the movie an 8 and the IMDb community currently has it rated at 7.5. Its bonus is proving Adam Sandler can handle a dramatic role.

At last count, there are 274 movies that I’ve rated 8-10 stars on Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb. Each Friday, I will pick one of these movies and post something about it. To make sure you miss nothing, pick one of the ways to follow me from the column to the right. As always, leave a comment and share with your friends.

A heads-up

be there or be square“Be there or be square.” Does one still say that today?

Regardless, here is a bit of a heads-up that you might want to keep an eye on JP Weiscarver’s Facebook page today.

If you’re new around here or haven’t explored my books yet (you know, like the “Steve’s Books” tab at the top of this page), JP Weiscarver is the lead character of my “The Reporter and…” series. He has his own FB page and you really should be following it.

If you haven’t done so already, go to the column on the right of the page and look for a line that says, “Follow JP Weiscarver on Facebook.”

I know, embarrassingly obvious, isn’t it?

Go there and like the page. Why?

Later today, Feb. 24, I have a special invitation going out only on that page. You can find yourself playing a small role in literary history. Yeah, that’s pretty much the definition of not being a square, right?

‘We got cows’

Friday Flick logoSome movies come along that are just plain ol’ fun, but to thoroughly enjoy them one must be willing to embrace or, at least, put aside concerns about accuracy and believability.

Let’s face it, there are scenes in “Twister” (1996) that you and I both know just couldn’t happen the way they’re depicted. At the very least, having a string of such improbable events pushes it past the level of acceptance.

Unless …

Unless the viewer decides, “I want to become part of the madness.” At that point, one can just go with the story as the truck barrels through a rolling house and yell out, “Here comes the teddy bear!”

That’s what happened in my family. My daughter and I memorized many of the lines – I think she may have memorized them all – and took pride in picking out some of the movie’s loveable flaws. One of my favorites was when they were driving the back roads of Oklahoma and there was a Texas farm-to-market road sign in the background.

All in all, I gave “Twister” a 9 out of 10 on my Internet Movie Database rankings. Why? Not because it’s a great piece of film-making but because it’s that much fun.

We still quote lines, almost 19 years later. There are too many to get into, such as “Debris! We got debris!” and “I gotta go Julia, we got cows.”

What’s your favorite for-the-fun-of-it movie? And/or, what’s your favorite part of “Twister”?

At last count, there are 274 movies that I’ve rated 8-10 stars on Internet Movie Database, better known as IMDb. Each Friday, I will pick one of these movies and post something about it. To make sure you miss nothing, pick one of the ways to follow me from the column to the right. As always, leave a comment and share with your friends.

Series finales

The MentalistI just noticed the series finale of “The Mentalist” airs tonight (last two new episodes at 8 and 9 Eastern on CBS). Thursday night is the finale of “Two and a Half Men.”

Tell us your favorite (or top three, four or five) series finales.

Mine are “Newhart” and “Barney Miller.”

Spoiler Alert!

To understand the finale of “Newhart,” which aired 1982-1990, you really needed to have also watched “The Bob Newhart Show” from 1972-1978.

In that earlier show (a comedy, of course) he played psychologist Dr. Robert “Bob” Hartley. His wife, Emily, was played by Suzanne Pleshette.

Four years after the series ended, “Newhart” started with our leading man playing Dick Loudon, a writer of how-to books. He and his wife Joanna, played by Mary Frann, moved from New York City to buy a Vermont inn.

Got it?

In the finale, Japanese investors bought the entire town (except Dick and Joanna’s inn because they would not sell) and turn it into a golf resort. Five years later, all of the town’s eccentric former occupants come back for a reunion and in the madness Dick is knocked out by a golf ball. But that’s not the great part.

The final scene was in the bedroom. Bob Newhart awakes in bed, sits up and starts recounting a crazy dream. When his wife sits up, we see it’s Suzanne Pleshette, not Mary Frann. So the entire “Newhart” series was just a dream in “The Bob Newhart Show.”

The Old One-Two

“Barney Miller” ran 1974-1982, starring Hal Linden in the title role with one of the most amazing casts of characters assembled. They are detectives in the 12th Precinct of New York City and almost the entire show is shot inside the squad room.

To close out the series, they closed down the precinct and the various detectives were transferred or retired. The show ended with Capt. Miller, the last one to leave the squad room, shutting the door. Not exactly high drama, I’ll admit, but I found it a perfect fitting to the low-key setting we had watched for years. It left me sad.

What are your favorite series finales? Tell us in the comments, with or without the spoilers.

Magic time

amwritingIt’s amazing how sometimes one struggles in the writing process to put a clear thought into a single paragraph and at other times the words seem to force their way out of one’s fingertips.

Suffice it to say things are rolling along in the writing of “The Reporter and the Sloth.”

Stay tuned.

Valentine’s Daze

Friday Flick logoIt’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, so this week’s Friday Flick must be about love … I believe it’s a law.

To be completely honest, I’m not a huge Valentine’s Day fan because it diminishes the importance of love the remaining 364.25 days a year. We all know it’s a Hallmark holiday and the only reasons so many people participate at the high-dollar level they do are fear and peer-pressure.

Regardless, I started looking through my list of 8-, 9- and 10-star movies and it occurred to me many are about love, just not the boy-meets-girl type. Starting with my 10-star movies and going down to a point somewhere in the 9s, here are some Valentine thoughts of a different kind.

I am a sucker for teammate stories, tales of comradery, particularly fact-based examples of a unit coming together and rising above individual weaknesses to unite in a more powerful force.

One of my favorite sports movies is “Remember the Titans.” Perhaps one of the reasons it hits home with me is I grew up in that era, when blacks and whites were somewhat forced to come together. I was in the sixth grade when my East Texas school integrated and, believe me, we heard the hatred and negativity. Even as a kid, I felt time would make this work, would allow us to come together.

On sports fields, that time had to come quickly. This film documents one of the great success stories. The players and coaches – black and white – found they had to accept, trust and depend on each other to reach their goal.

The title of the movie comes from a battle cry issued by Will Patton’s character, Coach Bill Yoast: “You make sure they remember, *forever*, the night they played the Titans!”

Years before came “Brian’s Song,” a somewhat similar story boiled down to a relationship between two pro running backs – Gale Sayers (played by Billy Dee Williams) and Brian Piccolo (James Caan). I get something in my eyes every time I see or even read the scene where Sayers is accepting the George S. Halas award while his teammate is dying from cancer.

“I love Brian Piccolo,” he said. “And I’d like all of you to love him too. And so tonight, when you hit your knees, please ask God to love him.”

Excuse me. I had to leave to blow my nose.

We’ll move from sports to a fantastic movie that almost slipped by me. I had heard nothing of “The Way” and literally picked it from the screen of a Redbox based on the fact it starred Martin Sheen and on its cover and tagline, “Life is too big to walk it alone.”

Tom (Sheen) is a busy and successful doctor who is totally flustered by the life choices of his son, Daniel (Sheen’s real-life son, Emilio Estevez) and the idea he won’t take life as seriously as Tom.

“You don’t choose a life, dad. You live one,” Daniel says. Shortly after that, he dies in a storm early in his trek walking the Camino de Santiago, any one of numerous lengthy pilgrimages to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain.

Tom, somewhat amazingly, flies to France to retrieve his son’s ashes. Much more amazingly, he makes the decision to complete the walk as a tribute. Being more than 60 years old without trekking experience and using his dead son’s gear, the trip proved incredibly arduous for him, but he finally formed a relationship with Daniel’s message, life is to be lived. And, might I say, loved.

The first two were based on true stories, the third is definitely realistic. Next, let’s move beyond that to total fiction with “Armageddon.” And, no, I’m not talking about the famous picnic scene featuring A.J. (Ben Affleck) and Grace (Liv Tyler).

Spoiler alert! The line that gets me is at the end, after Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis) sacrifices himself to not only save mankind but to send A.J. back to Earth for Harry’s daughter, Grace. After the space ship makes its triumphant return, its pilot, Col. Sharp (William Fichtner) approaches Grace, introduces himself and says, “Requesting permission to shake the hand of the daughter of the bravest man I’ve ever met.”

Moving on, let’s go back to 1962 and “To Kill a Mockingbird.” There was no romantic storyline in this classic, but there was plenty of love.

Scout (Mary Badham) loved life. One could say Boo Radley (Robert Duvall) had a love for the kids. Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) … well, he loved justice, fairness and harmless creatures such as mockingbirds.

Let’s wrap up with one of the greatest examples of love, again a true story.

In “Hotel Rwanda,” Paul Rusesabagina (Don Cheadle) made the chancy decision to exhibit love right in the middle of the Rwandan Genocide that saw the massacre of as many as a million people. He sheltered more than 1,000 refugees in the hotel he managed. That speaks for itself.

Spread the love this Valentine’s Day and every day thereafter.

Love, don’t hate

Feel free to share.

Feel free to share.

Let’s keep this simple.

Love, don’t hate.

Whom should you love instead of hate?

African-American. Agnostic. Atheist. Blue-collar worker. Buddhist. Business owner. Care-giver. Child. Christian. Civil rights activist. Coffee Partier. Conservative. Democrat. Divorced. Employed. Empty nester. Firearms owner. Former spouse. Gay. Gun control advocate. Hindu. Home owner. Immigrant. Independent. Jew. Latino. Law enforcement officer. Lesbian. Liberal. Libertarian. Married. Mormon. Muslim. Native. Native American. Non-sinner. Orphan. Parent. Patient. Poor. Progressive. Pro-lifer. Protestant. Protester. Redneck. Renter. Republican. Retiree. Roman Catholic. Single. Sinner. Spouse. Straight. Tea Partier. Unemployed. Veteran. Wealthy. White. Women’s rights advocate. Yankee.

And anyone who doesn’t fit any of these categories.

Any questions?

Friday Flick: “Message in a Bottle”

Friday Flick logoI struggled with what movie I should start this series. I’ve long proclaimed “Casablanca” as my favorite of all time, but I didn’t want to begin there. I decided to browse through my eight-star films and “Message in a Bottle” caught my eye.

The 1999 release starring Kevin Costner and Robin Wright and notable guest star Paul Newman didn’t fare that well among critics and reviewers. Even IMDb users haven’t been very generous. At the time of my rating, it stood at 5.7 stars but has since climbed to 6.1.

Two of the greatest criticisms of the film were its pace and its ending, neither of which I found problematic.

This is not the only film I’ve defended against accusations of being too slow. Sometimes, a slow pace is part of the story. Kevin’s character is struggling with the unexpected death of his wife and the entire movie is wrapped around that process to one degree or another. Such a situation is an agonizing, torturous and deliberate dose of reality; it must progress slowly.

The ending, without totally giving it away, bothered a lot of people. As we approached the finale of the movie, I felt like it was taking the predictable path toward a romantic sunset, but fate tossed in a monkey wrench.

“This is a love story,” many viewers cried. “So,” I asked, “do all love stories end in the happily ever after?”

I didn’t merely accept the ending; I liked it.

On a side note, I’ve always enjoyed Kevin Costner’s work and, yes, that includes “Waterworld” and even “The Postman.” Then, this past summer, I heard two different people in different places in very different situations volunteer personal stories about what a wonderful guy he is.

One final great reason to appreciate Costner … he doesn’t do sequels.

What do you think of “Message in a Bottle,” Kevin Costner or the topic of the next Friday Flick?

Let’s talk movies

Real quick poll … Just for fun, I plan to post something on my blog once a week about one of my favorite movies, a different film each week. Each will be short – something I liked about it, a special memory, some fun fact, etc. – and cover most genres and all decades of movie-making. Now, here’s the first problem … what to call it.

Comment below with one of the following:

1, Friday Flick

2, Flick Friday

3, Film Friday

4, Movie Memories

Voting has closed; Friday Flick was the winner.

‘We’re No. 1′

USA USA USAThe United States should be No. 1 in everything.

We hear some version of that from politicians and pundits all of the time. Good ol’ red-blooded American boys and girls sing out their praises of the homeland. It’s the greatest country on the planet. Those of us born here obviously deserve all of the richness of this wonderful, God-blessed land.

Can I get an amen?

When I hear anyone – from President Obama on down to a near-illiterate dutifully sprinkling his social media account with pro-American propaganda – say something like, “The United States must lead the world in education,” I wonder why.

Why must we have the world’s best schools or medical services or transportation system? (Funny, but I do not immediately remember any of them calling for us to lead the world in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked or taking in the homeless.)

Let’s look at this another way.

If, indeed, we’re able to become No. 1 in these various categories, does it matter to you if the achievement is made only by bringing down those who currently are ahead of us? That is, let’s say our student test scores stay the same but become the best in the world because other countries’ scores fell. We’re No. 1, but we’re no better.

But here’s my greatest question.

Why must this be a competition? Why can’t we just wish – these are usually empty words, wishes, after all – that all of the world’s people have a good education, clean water, nourishing food, adequate medical care, justice and peace? Is it because, if they have what we have then we’re less? I don’t think so, unless your greatest need is a desire to be better than others.

We hear platitudes about God loving all humans, even about everyone being created equal, but we Americans really do seem to believe, even if we won’t say it out loud, that God must love us more and that’s why we have such riches.

What would change in our actions if we really believed everyone was equal in the eyes of God and deserving of at least fair, if not equal, opportunities? What if we truly cared about people worldwide and not just Americans? Come on, you’ve heard it … “Why must we spend money to help prevent starvation overseas when we have poor people here at home?”

They are not exclusive operations, people.

Wait. Before you say it, I’m not talking one-world government or New World Order. This cannot begin with governments, it must begin with people.

It’s at this point some are making fun of me by breaking out in “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” or “Kumbaya.” Yeah, caught you, didn’t I? Why do that unless it’s because you really do believe we’re better than other people?

Since I’ve ventured down this road, let’s go all of the way.

Americans like to boast they live in the best country in the world. We’re not saying best in one or two categories but the best in the whole, dang world. ’Merica! USA! USA!

News flash. A great many people believe the same thing about their countries and they do not live in the United States. They live in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and Australia. They each love their country and think it’s pretty darn grand, even though you may look down your nose at it.

And this may be the most difficult for you to understand, but they have no desire to leave for the USA.

Wait, this might be even more difficult to grasp. There are lifelong, native-born Americans who enjoy living in other countries, to the point they make a choice to move there. They do not seek to change their citizenship, they’re still Americans, but they live overseas full time. Just Google something like “retiring overseas” and the numbers might surprise you.

This may be the best place to insert that, yes, I am proud of my country. I am happy to be an American and proud to be a Texan. And I want us to be the best we can be, but I happen to believe we’ll be better when others around the world are also better.

So, what should we do? When we analyze where we are and what we should do next, let’s consider what we can do to improve life for people everywhere.

That’s going to hurt a little, because once we look beyond our desires for a larger TV screen we see billions of people in dire, actual need. How can we spare enough to help them?

First of all, it requires us to honestly appraise what we need versus what we want. If we are open-minded, I think most of us will discover we need far, far less than what we have. Learn to live with less, share the excess with others and you might find you enjoy life more.

After all, many people in other countries are happily doing that right now.

If I were coach …

We are 10 days away from the end of the 2014 football season, Super Bowl XLIX, (A side note: will we be disappointed with next year’s logo for Super Bowl L?) and this seems like as good a time as any to present my football coaching philosophy.

Admit it, we all say it or think it, “If I were the coach, I’d…”


At the top of my list is discipline, something pro teams have seemingly passed off on the league. The result has been mind-numbing rules and interpretations of taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct that disrupt games and then belittle it with mid-week declarations of league penalties. Why can’t teams and coaches control their players?

On my team, any display of self-aggrandizement such as a post-score dance and spiking of the ball means you’ll be sitting out the next series, at least.

Don’t go No Fun League on me; hear me out. Celebrate the score but do it on our sideline and without showmanship. High fives and slaps on the shoulder pads, etc., are what I’m talking about, just don’t go making a scene.

And quit it with those leaping butt bumps or whatever you call it. Why? Because I need you ready to go back out on the field, not nursing a twisted ankle.

If you score a touchdown, hand the ball to a referee or place it on the ground (I always thought it cool that Emmitt Smith kept all of his touchdown footballs, so that’s OK), then come to the sideline or line up for the extra point.

Football is a game of passion, especially on defense. Your adrenaline is pumping and you’re throwing your body around the field and that’s all great. However, just like with the guy who scores a touchdown, I will not tolerate boasting or self-glorification.

If you sack the quarterback, do not dance, do not take even one additional step toward their end zone, do not make any silly signals. Get up, move to our side of the ball, accept back slaps from your teammates and get ready for the next down.

Know and abide by the rules. Sometimes, penalties just happen and we have to accept them. Other times, however, it’s because your head is not in the game. Don’t be surprised if you make a stupid mistake that I’ll let your backup get in a few snaps while you get your head back in place.


Let’s face it, I’m not likely to invent a new offensive scheme or come up with any defensive surprises. With luck, I’ll have competent coordinators on staff. However, there are three things I want to do, none of which would be considered usual.

First, unless the situation dictates otherwise (such as having just tied the score), I will usually go for a two-point conversion.

Why? Because two points are twice as many as one. I feel my team would be capable of executing a two-yard play successfully more than half of the time, especially given that we would have specific plays designed for it and not necessarily one of our “regular” plays.

Successfully converting a two-point conversion early puts additional pressure on the other team and causes its players and coaches to operate outside their range of comfort.

Second, I would be less likely to punt. That is, I would more often go for it on a fourth down.

There are too many factors to try and lay out when I would and wouldn’t punt, but part of the logic is the same as the two-point conversion. I have to feel me team can make those few yards when needed. If not, I have to feel my defense can come up with a stop.

I wouldn’t go crazy with it, but if we had the ball on the other team’s side of the field and less than three yards for a first down … I’d probably go for it.

The reality is that we’d come up short some of the time, but I think it would be an overall net gain if managed well.

Third, we will be constantly on the lookout for opportunities to extend a play. Much like a rugby team that is always lateraling the ball, all of my players will be drilled on trailing a play if not leading it, looking for a safe opening to pass off the ball and being in position to receive it.

Sure, this increases the chances for a turnover. It also increases the chances for breakaway plays. With plenty of practice, players will get a grasp of when it is safe to pass and, just as importantly, how to be in position to receive a lateral.

Also, this increased action will please the fans and maybe that will atone for not performing the Chicken Dance after every touchdown.

OK, let me hear it. What did I get right, what did I get wrong and what would you do?

Long and short of it

They’re no longer teaching longhand in school, I’m told, or soon will cease. Some people are aghast at the idea youngsters today are not learning the same things we did; I, however, have no problem with that.

Let’s face it, longhand (or “script” or “real writing”) is no longer that important. If one needs words placed on paper, more often than not they will be keyed into a computer and printed. If it’s more convenient to tackle the information with a pen and paper, there’s always printing. They’re still teaching that.

A benefit is that printing is much easier to read than longhand. If I am handwriting something someone else is expected to read, I must slow to quarter-speed to make it legible. However, I can type with the wind … or at least a breeze.

So, longhand is going the route of the slide rule. If this bothers you, consider the benefit.
Through the years, I’ve occasionally enjoyed carrying an old slide rule to work just to impress the “kids” with what you can do on two sticks. Think how you’ll be able to show off with just a pen and paper.

Pens and Pencils


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Is sleeping optional?

ZzzzzzJust one more example, perhaps, that I’m a bit weird … I really don’t enjoy sleeping.

I realize it’s necessary, good for you, helps you live longer … blah, blah, blah. Similar things are said about vegetables and I’m not overly fond of them, either.

At 1 a.m., I decided to get up after tossing and turning for an hour. That followed almost three hours of sleep, though, and I really wish that would be enough every night. I would love that: go to bed, sleep soundly for three hours and wake up ready to go.

What I’ve found myself doing more and more during the part of the year I’m not working a regular type of job is allowing myself to get up early (it’s usually more like 3 than 1, however), use the time to work on my book or something and then grab a little nap or two during the day whenever the mood strikes.

We have two wonderful recliners perfectly suited to the purpose, I have no problem sleeping in the daylight or while Leah’s doing things and a snooze ranging anywhere from five minutes to an hour is so refreshing and recharging.

The best thing about awaking from a nap in the recliner is I don’t feel the need to turn over and try to go back to sleep.

That’s the ideal for me, I think, to go to bed when I get sleepy, snooze until I wake up, arise and write while Leah’s asleep and take a nap when the mood strikes.

Is that so wrong and weird?

Fall back; regroup

Windmill Tilting    I made a decision last night to lay off trying to change the world through social media.
For decades, I’ve shouldered the task of addressing innumerable topics within newspaper editorials and my personal columns. On occasion, I have done the same from my Facebook and Twitter accounts. No longer do I intend to expend any more energy than liking, sharing or commenting on posts. (That’s the plan, anyway.)
Am I giving up?
No, I am changing battlefields.
My mystery novels are not great works of literature; I just hope they are fun escapes. However, I like to think they carry something of a message, too. Not overt, beat-you-over-the-head lessons, but a subtle endorsement of a good life.
So, instead of worrying too much over trying to save the world through my few Facebook friends, I’m throwing myself … again … into moving forward with my JP Weiscarver stories.
Oh, and you should see me posting here more regularly as well. Again, that’s the plan.

‘Damn cancer’

“Damn cancer,” I found myself thinking this morning. This happened while sitting in church, where I try to not cuss, even just thinking to myself.

Then I felt my eyes dampen, as they are while typing this.

“Damn cancer.”

A former co-worker died yesterday. I’m told it was cancer. I did not know he was sick; maybe he didn’t at the time I last saw him in August. Then I read this morning that popular ESPN anchor Stuart Scott, who had been embroiled for several years in a fight against cancer, died before his 50th birthday.

News like this makes me think again of my mother-in-law. Sure, she was 82 years old, but she was in otherwise remarkable health and still had plenty of plans, until cancer took her. Four months after she died, we found cancer in my bladder. It was successfully removed and we’re regularly monitoring the situation, but the threat looms.

And, of course, there have been many others through the years.

Finally, what brought on my silent curse, the preacher mentioned a friend of his, pastor in another church. “You might remember I’ve mentioned him before.” I nodded. His friend had fought pancreatic cancer and a year ago received good news. Well, the cancer has come back.

“Damn cancer.”

Novel needs help today!

Help me with “The Reporter and the Sloth” but do it today (Dec. 8) and win a free book.

I want a cool name for a bar. It’s in Oldport, located a block from the beach, and it’s not exactly a classy place, though that need not be reflected in the name. Feel free to add any description or background, but only the name is necessary.

I would rather you make it up than enter a name you’ve seen somewhere, but that’s OK too as long as you tell me.

The first contributor of the name I use will get a free personalized, autographed paperback once it comes out. Previous winners are ineligible … unless it’s a fantastic name.

Get cracking! I’ll announce the winner here by Tuesday morning.

Come join us

Heads-up for those of you around the Bryan / College Station area … I’ve been invited to meet with the book club at Covenant Presbyterian Church in College Station to discuss “The Reporter and the Penguin.”

They meet at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, at the church, 220 Rock Prairie Road. Y’all come.

Take that, Black Friday

Black Friday

That says it all … except to remind you Amazon lets you purchase Kindle books as gifts … and to explain I couldn’t mark down paperbacks any more than they are, but they’re still available … so I guess it doesn’t say it all.

On Thanksgiving…

It’s too late for this year. Perhaps, if few people go shopping Thanksgiving Day 2014, more employees will be able to stay home for Thanksgiving 2015.

Give Thanks

Are you a good rule or a bad rule?

Rules are made to be …

What do you think? The first thing that came to mind was probably “broken,” simply because it’s a well-established saying. But let’s admit most of us feel rules are meant to be followed.

Rules, after all, are rules.Hat for blog (917x1024)

Rules of the road keep traffic flowing smoothly, quickly and safely. One must drive defensively and “watch out for the other guy” because not everyone follows all of the rules. Or knows them all. Or understands them.

Often, I’ve stopped at an intersection and waited for a driver with the right of way, only to have that person wave me on as if he or she was doing me a favor. Come on, just follow the rules and we’d both be gone by now.

However, the strict application of some rules is simply burdensome. It’s late at night, you come to a four-way stop sign where you can see a mile in any direction. It’s perfectly safe to slow down, check for traffic and roll through the intersection, saving time and fuel. There may be no danger at all except it puts you in jeopardy of receiving a ticket.

Writing rules

As a novelist, I often hear of rules for writing. My protagonist must be this, my bad guy must do that, the least expected thing must happen, I must never begin a paragraph with one thing, I must always use another.

Uh, no.

A writer must lay out his or her story the way he or she feels it must be told. That’s it. If I begin reworking my manuscript to fit the demands of an agent or publisher – even if that person has case histories proving the point – then the story is no longer true to me, no longer true to itself.

As time goes by, I plan to share some of my thoughts about my JP Weiscarver stories, such as why I use so much dialogue and so little description. Or maybe why I opted to write without swearing, sex or violence … except for the fact someone must die in order to have a murder mystery.

First, here’s another angle to the rules question.

Gentlemen always …

Due to an occurrence not worth telling now, I recently found myself pondering the rule that a man should not wear a hat inside a building.

I’ve been sometimes obedient, sometimes not, regarding that rule, but I found myself wondering why gentlemen (the rule always refers to gentlemen, not simply men) are expected to remove their hats.

After a brief online search, the best answer seems to be “because they do.”

One posting posed that very question … why? … and instead of an answer to the question there followed an exhaustive commentary decrying the fact men don’t remove or doff their hats as much nowadays and offering various interpretations on when said act should occur.

This is the type of rule I feel empowered to break, shatter, abuse and disregard. I’ll wear or remove my hat to my comfort and not worry about how some Miss Etiquette wannabe feels about it, at least until someone gives me a sound reason for reconsidering.

So, to complete the opening sentence, I believe “Rules are made to be examined.”

But I’ll continue halting at stop signs.


Keep moving

Keep moving snipSomething’s beginning to happen here. After happily gliding along writing, I’m making an effort to do more of the difficult work of a self-published author … marketing.

First of all, I’m doing a little tweaking on the site here. Along the way, this page will see more action. I’ll occasionally post snippets of what I’m working on along with some things from the past.

At times, you’ll probably be asked to help me work through a problem or to choose a path. In the past, for example, Facebook followers of my main character, JP Weiscarver, have created minor characters. There’s no telling where it will go.

We’ll boldly charge on and find our way together. That implies your cooperation. The greatest gift is feedback.

Time well spent

Quiet Spot lg

Be it along a river, on a mountain top, in a house of worship or in your back yard at night … find that spot where your soul and mind can meld. Allow them to work their magic. It is time well spent.

Get ‘Rose’ now for 99 cents

“The Reporter and the Rose,” the latest of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series, is on sale the next week for 99 cents in the Kindle store, where you can also download a free app if you do not own a Kindle.

The_Reporter_and_the_Cover_for_KindleYou can now make one of three choices:

CHOICE ONE: If you’ve not read “Rose,” you can now download it and suggest your friends do the same.

CHOICE TWO: If you’ve not read “Rose,” you can suggest your friends download it and then you do the same.

CHOICE THREE: If you have already read it, your only real option is to suggest your friends do so as well. Of course, you might want a paperback, which I predict will outlast numerous changes in technology.

Get the e-book by clicking here.

Get the paperback by clicking here.

Tell your friends promptly and with great enthusiasm.


Was no one in St. Louis County alive in the ’60s? Are they / we condemned to repeat that awful segment of history? ‪#‎Ferguson‬

Learning from Robin Williams

I have to say, even though I enjoyed tremendously the talent of Robin Williams, his death doesn’t shake my world.

I find more sorrow in the apparent fact he took his own life and that, even as loved as he was, he dwelled in depression.

THIS is what I hope we all take from his death: If we’re really depressed, if we even contemplate briefly the idea of suicide, let’s promise each other to seek help.

Talk with a responsible friend or seek out a professional. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or some other help line. Call 911. Call me.

Getting help to get out of depression is a sign of strength, of taking responsibility. People love us; we owe it to them to not give in to depression.

Take the vow with me and ask your friends and loved ones to do the same.

Step three

The bad news is the 99-cent Kindle sale on “The Reporter and the Penguin” has ended.

The good news is that kicks off a 168-hour countdown to the sale on “The Reporter and the Rose.”

It will be marked down to 99 cents at midnight PDT the morning of Friday, Aug. 15.

‘Penguin’ markdown

The second 99-cent sale in the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series has kicked off on Amazon Kindle.

“The Reporter and the Penguin,” the story of reporter JP Weiscarver uncovering a murder in Antarctica, is now available in electronic form for only 99 cents. It will continue until approximately midnight next Thursday, Aug. 7, when it returns to its normal price of $5.95.

This follows the same sale on the first book of the series. Next, “The Reporter and the Rose” will sell for 99 cents from Aug. 15 through Aug. 21. Click here to download your book. (Don’t own a Kindle? You’ll find links where you can download an app to read Kindle books on your computer, tablet or smart phone.)

Tell your friends!"The Reporter and the Penguin"

A brief Q&A:

Do I have to own a Kindle to read them? Certainly not. You should find a link on the page where you can download a free Kindle application for your smartphone, tablet or computer.

OK, pretend I’ve not been paying attention and tell me about your books. Even though you failed to state it in the form of a question, I’ll answer. After spending twenty-something years working in small daily newspapers and getting to know hundreds of amazing people, I decided to create a fictitious city – Oldport, on the Gulf of Mexico – and write stories about JP Weiscarver, a reporter at the Odds and Ends newspaper. Beginning with the “Ferret” story, JP started stumbling into death investigations and it seems he’s pretty good at it, especially with the assistance of cops reporter Jennifer O’Hanlon. In “Penguin,” JP accepts a four-month assignment in Antarctica, where he uncovers a year-old murder. In “Rose,” which will be marked down in two weeks, he’s back in Oldport solving a crime. The books are short novels, about 40,000 words each, and driven by the characters within.

So, why the markdown? (1) So you’ll have no excuse to not read them and then you can tell your friends how great they are. (2) So you’ll want a paperback copy for your bookshelf and/or to give as a gift. (3) So you’ll start clamoring for the next book, “The Reporter and the Sloth.”

With which book should I start? I always suggest starting with “Ferret,” but it’s not at all necessary. The books are sequential; “Penguin” makes references to the first book and “Rose” builds on characters from both. Going in order, you’ll get to meet new characters as they’re added. I’ve not mentioned this before, but at least the last two books also contain seeds for possible future stories. No, I’m not revealing what. That being said, you can read any one book independent of the others and enjoy it just fine. My favorite, so far, is “Rose,” but the latest work probably should be a writer’s pet.

Are these adult books or kid books? They are written for adults, but are kid friendly. I suspect most readers 13 and older would enjoy them, but I’m awaiting, and would welcome, more feedback in that department. There is no cussing, sex or violence, outside the fact someone has to die in order to have a murder mystery.

OK, in addition to buying books, what can I do to help? Thank you, thank you, thank you. Spreading the word is a big reason for putting the books on sale. Here are just a few ideas:
— When you’ve read a book, tell your friends – verbally or through e-mail or social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or whatever. Be honest. If it’s not your type of book, tell them. It might be theirs.
— Rate and comment on the book on Amazon, Goodreads, the site where you bought it or other appropriate sites.
— Suggest any of the series for your book club or to a friend in a book club.
— Like the Facebook page of my main character, JP Weiscarver, at Share his posts with your friends when you feel it’s appropriate. Even comments and likes help.
— Follow me, smartaindale, on Twitter, though that deals with all kinds of things, not just the books.
— Keep up with this page by clicking the “Follow” button in the lower right corner and entering your e-mail.

Is that all? (Sarcasm intended.) Hey, you asked, but there is one other thing. Right now, tell your friends this book is available to download for only 99 cents. Send them the url to this page or use a share function below. It’s a good idea to put a brief note on top in which you suggest they consider downloading the book.

Round 2 Countdown

Just a quick note to avoid confusion. The 99-cent promo for “The Reporter, a Ferret and a Hurricane” has ended, but it’s still available in either Kindle or paperback form through Amazon by clicking here. (You can also order the book from any retailer.)

The next 99-cent sale begins early Friday morning, Aug. 1, featuring the second book of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series, “The Reporter and the Penguin.”

Stay tuned.


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