Steve Martaindale

Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series

Happy endings?

Day 8 - IMG_1063I came across this quote the other day:

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story” ― Frank Herbert (author of “Dune”)

That has become more and more true of my writing as I’ve delved deeper into the fictional lives of my characters in the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series. But, let’s face it, that’s life.

Most of us see numerous changes in our day-to-day, from new jobs to broken relationships, from new homes to shattered dreams. We might start a new chapter in our lives, but the story continues.

Consider someone you knew well in high school but haven’t seen or heard from in decades. Tell us that person’s story. There’s a point where you stop, but you know that’s not the ending.

Additionally, isn’t that part of the fun of a book?

The story ends and the reader is left to imagine what happens next.

Many years ago, I was in a community theater production of “The Children’s Hour” by Lillian Hellman. In the play, tragic events cause my fiancée to suggest we go our separate ways for a while so I can pursue another job. My character acquiesces but insists we’ll be back together soon. The play ends before we see what happens between them.

Lisa Cox, the woman playing my girlfriend, asked me while we were off on the side during rehearsal running through lines, “What do you think happens between them?”

“I think he comes back for her and they start a new life together out West. What do you think?”

“I think she never sees him again.”

And, of course, in our individual interpretations, we were both right.

What I’ve found myself doing – much to my enjoyment, by the way – is planting seeds for future stories.

In “The Reporter and the Rose,” reporter JP Weiscarver and photographer Cole Thompson took the long way to an assignment in order to avoid the dock area of Oldport because it was cruise ship day and tourists congest the area.

Now, that had nothing to do with the story at hand, but I have on my list of possible story ideas a murder taking place on a cruise ship. So, just in case, I established that an occasional cruise ship visits the Oldport area.

In the second book, “The Reporter and the Penguin,” one of JP’s co-workers in Antarctica mentioned she had a job lined up for the following summer in Yellowstone National Park. I did so because I knew I wanted JP to visit Yellowstone. It took three more books, but in the most recently published “The Reporter and the Marmot,” he did just that and met up with Cindy Murphy.

In “Marmot,” there are a couple of references to a free publication in town and to its publisher. If you read the book, you’ll find a bonus chapter at the end which indicates they play a role in the next story.

Finally, I will sometimes come across the need for something to happen and will go back into an earlier book to find a character to do it … or to use a particular place I’ve already established.

All of these I consider little bonuses for readers who have followed the entire series. I love to think the next time I have JP stop in at the convenience store King’s Mart, readers will say, “Oh, yeah, I remember Yervant from ‘The Reporter and the Sloth.’”

Happy reading!

The Marmot is on the loose!

Marmot cover

The most drawn-out and over-dramatized rollout of any of my books is finally complete. Yes, “The Reporter and the Marmot” is now available.

The Kindle e-book is up on Amazon right now at http://amzn.to/29RvLrx but the printed version might be a couple of days yet in coming. However, if you can’t wait, you can order it directly from the publisher, CreateSpace, at https://www.createspace.com/6400784.

Now, the only question is whether you notify your friends before or after you pick up your copy of the book.

Thank you for all of your support.

 

Will you join me?

Santarem market-bound

An Amazon River fisherman carries his catch to market in Santarem, Brazil. (c) 2016 by Steve Martaindale

“I’m praying for America to turn to God. Will you join me?”

Thus read a graphic shared through social media. Frankly, it’s similar to hundreds of others, most of which make an effort to sustain the American perception of our country being more deserving of God’s grace than other countries.

I get it. We all want to be associated with winners. We want our favorite sports teams to vanquish its foes or for that performer we love to be adored by others. And I love this example: we so badly want the brand of pickup we drive to be thought better than its competitors that we’ll stick a decal on the back window portraying a cartoon character taking a leak on the other truck’s logo.

So, naturally, we want to be in the best country in the world. And, it being the best country, surely God will love us more and protect us better.

Back to the question. No, I will not be joining you in praying for America to turn to God.

Why?

It seems akin to a man dying of cancer praying that his right knee be healed. There is so much more to God’s world than our one, self-important country.

According to population clocks run by the U.S. Census Bureau, at one point this morning, the world’s population was estimated at 7,336,791,070 (7.3 billion) and the U.S. population at 323,961,629 (323 million). That means the American population (no small number of which came here from other countries, by the way) accounts for less than 4.42 percent of the world’s population.

And by world’s population, I mean all of the other people God created. People he loves just as much as he does us. Many of those people also have much greater needs than us.

Therefore, my prayers will continue to be that the people of the world turn to God.

And that they turn to peace. And love. And justice. And understanding. And compassion.

Will you join me?

We *are* worthy!

Curacao wall

An insightful piece of graffiti in Wilemstad, Curacao.

 

Let me try to make sense out of this.

We’re visiting different churches in the area we’re working this summer; the fifth one was this morning at First Presbyterian Church of Batavia, N.Y. We were sitting in the sanctuary before services started. Possibly, the organist was playing prelude music, but I’m not certain. My thoughts wandered.

I grew up in the Baptist church but joined the Presbyterian after Leah and I married and I’ve always felt quite at home there. I’m not sure why I thought back to our first church home together, in Brenham, Texas, and hearing from someone in the church office that they received my “letter” from my previous church in White Oak, where I attended through high school. I was told it was accompanied by a note that said something about them getting a good member in me.

“Why did she say that?” I thought this morning, almost 39 years later. I’ve been fairly active in different churches, including serving in leadership. I’ve participated in some Sunday school classes and choirs, but nothing special. “There’s nothing special about me, either,” I thought … or something like that.

But, wait, is there not?

I immediately thought about my wife, who was quietly sitting by my left side, seemingly lost in her own thoughts.

Leah is the most giving, compassionate, caring, kind person I know. It is almost impossible for her to see something negative about people and, if she does, she promptly finds good qualities to balance it out.

Yet, I thought this morning, she continually says she fears she’s not nice enough or kind enough. She’s not just saying that … she seems to mean it. I habitually say, “Yeah, right,” because it’s so obviously not true. She’s so much better than me. But, then, she has said she feels I’m so much better than her.

Stick with me here. Remember, this is all racing through my mind in a few moments of time.

It occurred to me. If Leah really thinks she’s not worthy (feel free to picture Wayne and Garth at this point) of admiration, when she so obviously is … then maybe I’m a better person than I think.

OK, I’m not begging for pats on the back here … please don’t go there.

But, if I’m better than I think and Leah’s better than she thinks, is it any kind of stretch to extrapolate that many of us – maybe most of us – think less of ourselves than is true?

Are you a better person than you privately believe? Maybe. In fact, quite possibly. Lighten up, give yourself a break.

Also, consider those you care about. Do they not realize how great they are? It’s time they heard. In fact, we all need to hear those close to us say that we’re great.

We’ve all heard about depression rates and the number of suicide attempts. I’m not saying this will solve those problems, but it can’t hurt.

Tell people they are great, just the way they are. Tell them what you like, maybe admire, about them. Be honest, be sincere and be generous.

Then, believe it when you hear others say the same about you.

Because you’re really something special.

Who?

049

It seems there are celebrities everywhere we look.

When it comes to knowing who’s who in today’s entertainment world, I’m constantly reminded just how ignorant I am.

The theme park where we’re working for the summer also has a performing arts center adjacent to it and hosts several concerts through the summer. There are some big names coming this year, like the Doobie Brothers, Toby Keith, Joan Jett, ZZ Top and Def Leppard with REO Speedwagon.

In fact, Melissa Lambert performed here Thursday night and … what? It’s Miranda Lambert? Are you sure? OK, so that’s the point. Apparently, she’s a pretty big name, but I didn’t know her. Much like other shows scheduled this year: 5 Seconds of Summer, Brantley Gilbert, Disturbed and Breaking Benjamin, Josh Groban, G-Eazy and Logic, Fifth Harmony, and Goo Goo Dolls, among others. The only reason I know Florida-Georgia Line and Darius Rucker are because they performed here last year.

Go ahead, express your disappointment that I’m so out of touch. And it’s not just music. What got me started was reading through the today in history post produced by The Associated Press for June 26. After the lengthy and always informative list of things that happened on this date in history – in 1483, Richard III began his reign as king of England – there was the usual compilation of today’s birthdays.

I ran down the list and found three names of people I knew who they were (surely there’s a better way to write that). Three. Out of 32. That’s less than 10 percent.

To enable you to legitimately make fun of me, here’s the complete list, courtesy of the AP:

Today’s Birthdays: Jazz musician-film composer Dave Grusin is 82. Actor Josef Sommer is 82. Singer Billy Davis Jr. is 78. Rock singer Georgie Fame is 73. Actor Clive Francis is 70. Rhythm-and-blues singer Brenda Holloway is 70. Actor Michael Paul Chan is 66. Actor Robert Davi is 65. Singer-musician Mick Jones is 61. Actor Gedde Watanabe (GEH’-dee wah-tah-NAH’-bee) is 61. Rock singer Chris Isaak is 60. Rock singer Patty Smyth is 59. Singer Terri Nunn (Berlin) is 57. U.S. Bicycling Hall of Famer Greg LeMond is 55. Rock singer Harriet Wheeler (The Sundays) is 53. Country musician Eddie Perez (The Mavericks) is 48. Rock musician Colin Greenwood (Radiohead) is 47. Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson is 46. Actor Sean Hayes is 46. Actor Matt Letscher is 46. Actor Chris O’Donnell is 46. Actor Nick Offerman is 46. Actress Rebecca Budig is 43. MLB All-Star Derek Jeter is 42. Contemporary Christian musician Jeff Frankenstein (Newsboys) is 42. Country singer Gretchen Wilson is 42. Rock musician Nathan Followill (Kings of Leon) is 37. Pop-rock singer-musician Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic) is 37. Actor-musician Jason Schwartzman is 36. Actress Aubrey Plaza is 32. Actress-singer Jennette McCurdy is 24. Actress-singer Ariana Grande is 23.

Certainly, there are some who, once I see their faces, I’d go, “Oh, that guy!” Or I would recognize a song. Surely. And, as I posted the list, I saw another name that looked familiar, but then I had to admit I did not know anything he had done or what he looked like.

It would be easy to say my condition is the result of getting older and slipping out of touch, but several of these folks are older than me and I don’t know any of them. Maybe it’s because we have too many entertainers considered noteworthy.

You did notice that, didn’t you? They’re all singers, musicians, actors or athletes. The only one slightly outside the box is Paul Thomas Anderson. He’s a writer, but he writes and directs films, so not all that different.

A little math, if you will. There are 32 names on today’s list. There are 365.25 days in a year. Multiply those and you get 11,688 celebrity birthdays in a year. And that’s only counting celebrities who are still alive. That’s too many for anyone to keep up with.

OK, I feel better now.

But, no, I’m still not going to tell you which three names I knew.

Joining forces

2013-09-15 16.32.21-Joining Forces

Take a look at this photo. What do you see?

While you’re thinking about it, I’ll give a little information on the picture. I shot it in September 2013 during our last hike in Yellowstone National Park, so we were already gearing up for autumn. In fact, we had a nice little snowfall in Canyon Village the week after this was taken.

The site of this photo is south of Roosevelt Lodge. It shows the Yellowstone River, flowing northward, toward us. It’s just coming out of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River.

When I first spotted it, I saw a message in the image.

Imagine, if you will, we’re part of the river. We’re clipping along, you and I, pretty much side-by-side and life is good.

Then, as happens when part of a river, we drift apart but then encounter a sudden interruption in the flow of the river. Unexpectedly, dry land appears where you and I should be.

It is worse than that.

We are separated. We are pulled by forces seemingly outside our control; you’re racing to the right, along the east side, and I to the left.

We find ourselves caught up in our new environments. There are some radical things going on. Both sides recognize half of the population has disappeared. There is no explaining why and, pretty soon, nobody seems to care.

“If they wanted to be with us, they wouldn’t have gone away. Who needs them?”

Things get somewhat nasty, the lefts and rights becoming more and more entrenched in thinking about themselves and caring less and less about the others. That bitterness is troubling to you and me. We’ve not seen each other in so long that we are beginning to wonder if what everyone says is true.

Do you feel that way about me? Do I maybe feel the same about you? Why did you leave me? Is it true you’re really as bad as all the others on your side? If you aren’t, then why are you not here with me?

Then, after an unbelievably long wait, left and right are reunited!

It’s not all happiness, though. After so much negativity and unsubstantiated name-calling, doubts are slow to subside. To make it worse, you and I are having a difficult time finding one another. Indeed, each of us wonders if the other is looking at all.

Eventually, it happens; we find each other.

And you know what?

We find things are different.

We’ve been influenced by our recent surroundings; we’ve changed. There are things we feel differently about. You and I have starkly opposing views on some topics. Differences we never suspected before our separation. Still, however, we find something else is true.

I still care about you and you still care about me.

And we decide we can make it, believing differently but working for each other.

Two diverse paths. Two dissimilar experiences. One common goal: helping one another.

Because, hey, this river is headed to the Gulf of Mexico regardless how we feel about it, so we might as well make it a happy trip.

OK, no story played through my mind when I first looked onto this scene, but I did think something like this:

“How much better it is when we take our different sides and find some middle ground to work toward. What a force we would become.”

Ah, Natalie Wood

Steve walking the Labyrinth at the St. Therese Shrine

This photo has nothing to do with the article below, but I just came across it and decided to toss it in. Leah took this in the summer of 2010 of me in the Merciful Love Labyrinth at the Shrine of Saint Therese outside Juneau, Alaska.

I enjoy movies and like to see them in the theater, but it’s often a DVD at home. We’re probably about middle-of-the-road in regards to theater frequency. We see films maybe monthly on average, but we’re quite irregular and unpredictable.

And we know what we like in a theater.

We’ll most likely attend an afternoon showing to make crowds less of an issue. In fact, we probably won’t make it to the opening weekend, probably not to the opening month if it’s a big film.

Our favorite seats in the theater are on the first row above entry level (this applies to most modern theaters) because most of them have a handrail in front of them where Leah can place her feet. Being short in her arms and legs, sitting is often a discomfort for her and it’s a win when she can prop up her feet. If seats there are not available, we’re probably heading to the top row center.

Put all of that aside, however, as we visit the theaters of our youth … or my youth, if you want to be picky.

We had three movie screens in the county where I grew up, but I only attended two of them, one a downtown theater and the other a drive-in. The third was also a drive-in, but we never went there. My impression was it showed … what would you call them … adult movies. However, I’m not sure that’s true, at least not all of the time.

The other drive-in located in Longview, Texas, was the Twin Pines. Anytime our family went together, it was at the Twin Pines. My dad was a firefighter until I was nearly junior high age and the theater let cops and firefighters in just for paying the tax on a carload. That was 10 cents … at least, that’s the way I remember it.

I continued going there occasionally once I was driving, sometimes with a date. That makes me think of something. You know how cars today all have some sort of bucket seats? How does that work if you’re wanting to cuddle with your date at the drive-in? Oh, well, I digress.

Most of my early movie memories, though, trace back to the Arlyne Theater, right on brick-covered Methvin Street in downtown Longview.

My brother and I were at times dropped off there on a Saturday morning for a cartoon and some movie. Usually, we were allowed a drink or candy. I recall, at least in the early years, we could get a ticket, drink and candy for a quarter each.

It must have been during one of those visits that I saw my first scary movie. Perhaps I had seen “The Wizard of Oz” before on television, but “Jack the Giant Killer” was my first in-theater scare. Those creatures he battled were every bit as horrific as the flying monkeys of the Wicked Witch … and larger.

Just a few years later – it seems like the summer after fifth or sixth grade – I went to a classmate’s birthday party that included a trip to the Arlyne and spending the night at Greg’s house. I don’t remember an awful lot, but I do recall the movie.

“The Great Race” starred Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and … heavy sigh … Natalie Wood. I fell in love with Natalie Wood that night in the first movie to make me … uh … uncomfortable.

There were a couple of other memories about the Arlyne Theater. As you approached the men’s rest room at the back, there were two wall-covering mirrors on both sides of the hallway. I marveled more than once at the number of times I could see myself duplicated in the mirrors.

Another thing was the balcony.

I’m not sure I ever watched a movie from there, but I did at least check it out. My understanding was its original purpose, during the period of racial segregation that was just beginning to play itself out during the time of my youth, was to seat black movie-goers. I’m not sure if that was in effect when I started going to the Arlyne or not.

However, I am certain that was not the case when Don and I attended a screening of “The Black Six.”

The movie came out in 1973 and racial tensions could still be high at times. The story was that a black high school student was beaten to death by a white motorcycle gang after it was found he was dating a white girl. The victim’s brother, who is member of a black biker gang, retaliated.

You can pretty much guess how it played out, but if you have any doubts, consider that the title characters were portrayed by National Football League stars “Mean” Joe Greene, Carl Eller, Gene Washington, Willie Lanier, Mercury Morris and Lem Barney. Yeah, they put on an exhibition.

Don and I were two of only three white guys in the audience and the crowd was wildly rooting for the heroes of this movie. The end result was an uncomfortable feeling nothing at all like that caused by Natalie Wood.

Scroll down to the comments section and share an old movie memory.

Moving on

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which figures prominently in “The Reporter and the Marmot.”

I owe an apology to JP fans who have been patiently awaiting the publication of “The Reporter and the Marmot,” so here it is.

I’m sorry for the roller-coaster we’ve been through as a result of my failed attempt to get the book into a special Kindle program. However, there is some good news. The program’s high standards pushed me to rework and fine tune “Marmot” until it became, in my opinion, the best written book of the series.

But then, as you remember, the rejection came literally hours before Leah and I started on our five-week hike down the Erie Canal and I simply filed the book on a mental shelf. I mentioned in a blog post at the time that I intended to rewrite parts of the book and allow the series to end. I’ve accepted that as the logical outcome for most of this time and have now decided …

Forget about that!

Nope, next month I’m publishing “The Reporter and the Marmot” as both a paperback and an e-book – just like the others – and at the very end will be the beginning of Book 6: “The Reporter and the Apricot” (working title).

You see, I enjoy JP and the gang. I get a kick out of hearing from readers. And who knows … maybe someday … we’ll hit on a broader audience. If not, well … you folks are plenty good enough.

Thanks for everything. Oh, and be prepared to hop on board as soon as the book is released. If I can make it work out, I plan to open sales of the digital book at a very low price for a short time to give a break to all the folks who did not get a chance to get it free through the Kindle program.

Let’s do this.

Power

Power - 6-18-16We’ve all heard the power of word-of-mouth advertising. Today, I experienced it first-hand.

Our vacuum cleaner is rather old and my wife has been wanting for a while to put it out to pasture, but she’s been reluctant to wade into the research to determine just what would be best.

And then her cousin entered into the equation.

Emily raved about her Shark Navigator vacuum and everything she liked about it was among Leah’s requirements for a new machine. Get this, Emily was so sold on it, she bought a second one based on her experience that great items such as her perfect vacuum are too often changed or phased out. She’s thinking long term, people.

With that information, we went shopping this morning. This will be an easy mission. There will be no comparison shopping, just find the one Leah wants and we’ll be back home before you know it.

We started at Walmart because Leah was told they have it. Well, yes, but all they have right now is the display unit. We were told by a scanner-wielding associate that another was in transit and should arrive tonight. Of course, we’re in town today and won’t be tomorrow.

Leah started punching away on her smart phone and found a list of stores that supposedly carry the Sharks. My job was to chart a course to take us by them. Luckily, they were all in the same corner of Batavia, N.Y. First was Home Depot. Once we failed to find them, it took only two employees to locate the display, but no luck.

Second … wait, that would be third … was OfficeMax. Nope, they only sell vacuums through their online store. Sorry for the confusion.

Fourth was Kohl’s. There were quite a few and, wait, yes, here it was on display. Alas, there were no others in stock. “We can order it and have free shipping.” We’ll get back to you on that.

By now, we were on a mission.

In the same shopping center was Bed, Bath and Beyond. They had something similar and, for the first time, Leah seemed to waver just a bit. Maybe a different one would be OK. But, no, she held firm and we moved next door.

Sixth was Target. Again, there was a pretty good selection; again, it didn’t have just the right one. And Leah was getting really close to accepting a different style, but the higher price helped her stick to her guns.

We’re about to run out of stores by now, but she found some reference to Valu Home Centers having the vacuum. That was another swing and a miss; they only stocked wet/dry vacs. Now, we’re pretty much resigned to ordering it online.

Wait, we’ve not been to Kmart. Why not? Let’s go.

Eighth, we walked through the door with a sign proclaiming “Blue Light Specials” are back. OK, I’m sure that’s nice, but do you have Leah’s vacuum?

And there it was. In fact, they had a demo model and three in boxes. We carefully evaluated as well as we could – not assisted to any great degree by a box that told us next to nothing – and decided this Shark Navigator Light is … drumroll, please … just what we’re looking for.

Confetti did not fall from the ceiling, but it would have been appropriate.

The purchase was made. We returned home and Leah put it to the test. Hallelujah, she proclaimed it the best vacuum she’s ever used.

Why did we spend all morning going to eight different stores just to finally make a purchase?

Word of mouth.

Yes, it really is that powerful.

Uh, have you told anybody about how much you enjoyed my books? Hmm?

Would you go?

beach scene

Chocolate Bay, Saint Lucia.

Leah and I were reading recently about a program requiring two people to be on a remote island by themselves for a month. The information went on and on about how difficult this would be for some people.

First of all, we’re not talking “Robinson Crusoe” or “Cast Away.” Program participants are allowed to carry in food and supplies for the month. Plus, there is a house, solar-generated electricity, refrigerator, reverse osmosis water maker and even laundry facilities.

Oh, wait, did I mention the house even has air-conditioning? What’s not to love?

Well, now that I asked, would it bother you much if there is no telephone (unless you bring a satellite phone), no television (not even football!) and no Internet (you know, that thing you’re using right now to read this)?

I would miss Internet, to be honest with you, but not so much television and certainly not the phone. But let’s get real, people, we’re talking one month, like 30 days, like 720 hours. And it’s on a sub-tropical island. Can you say Paradise?

The bigger question here is how comfortable you feel being alone. Or, in this case, a couple being alone. Could you handle it?

I’m continually finding evidence that I’m outside the norm on just about everything and this might be another case. Regardless, I’m really OK spending time alone. And I’m super-OK being with just Leah, though I suspect she wants more interaction than me. But, heck, for a month she could talk to the sea turtles and the birds.

Maybe it’s because I consider all the voices in my head as company. Maybe I’m egocentric. Or maybe I’m too selective.

For example, I love long drives all by myself and I seldom turn on the radio unless I’m getting sleepy. I can spend all day on the computer, writing or just surfing around. And then there’s what many consider the biggie: I even don’t mind eating alone in a restaurant.

So, would you grab at the opportunity to be cut off from the rest of the world, just you and your bestie, for a month on a deserted island?

Tough choice?

Bahamas tree

“Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?”

I came across this thought-provoking question and pondered it about 2.1 seconds. (I’m a slow reader.)

We all know about time machines. H.G. Wells published “The Time Machine” in 1895 and there have been innumerable tales since that have featured humans hopping around to times past and future.

As for me, that’s not an incredibly interesting pursuit. Maybe I fear what I would find. Maybe I’m afraid of what I would mess up, which seems to be a threat in all time traveling stories.

The invisibility helmet might be tempting to some, but the only thing that comes to my mind is using it to sneak into a movie. Even then, you can’t very well enjoy the popcorn. Of course, Wells also authored “The Invisible Man.” He was really ahead of his time, eh?

An anywhere door, though … now that’s a different story. Those of us who grew up on “Star Trek” think of it as the teleportation device known as a transporter. Apparently, there’s a hugely popular Japanese anime series, “Doraemon,” which utilizes what it calls the Dokodemo Door for teleporting.

It seems such things that transport you to different places often also send you to other times, but I’m going to limit my anywhere door to simply moving me about the planet on a normal timeline.

For example, as I’m writing this, it’s noon and I’m beginning to get hungry. Open my anywhere door and I’m ordering coconut shrimp at Margaritaville in Key West. I then Google “best desserts in the world” and end up selecting Gaziantepli Baklavacı Bilgeoğlu restaurant in Istanbul to sample its pistachio baklava.

And what about dealing with the weather? If it’s getting too hot, too cold or too stormy, I can check weather conditions at beaches around the globe and through the door I go, swimsuit in hand.

So, what’s your choice? Time travel, invisibility or transporting?

I love you

2013-08-11 16.48.58 (2)

Just ran across a Facebook post:

“If you’re reading this, I love you.”

That was it. Knowing the person who posted it helps. She’s an incredibly sweet soul, a young woman with whom I worked at Yellowstone National Park three years ago. She loves the outdoors and is an avid fisherwoman and basically loves people and animals and probably trees.

See the theme here, how “love” keeps popping up?

I do not know what prompted her post, but I do know why it hit home with me.

I had seen a link online this morning about 20 people *injured* in a gay bar shooting in Orlando. We visited a church this morning near where we’re working for the summer and the preacher lifted up in prayer the 20 people *killed* in the shootings.

“He must have been mistaken,” I thought, not realizing it was still a developing story.

After we got home, I looked it up and found the truth: At the latest report, there were 50 people dead and more than 50 others hospitalized.

Some people will blame a religion that is not their own. Some people will blame homophobia. Some will blame the availability of guns. Some will blame law enforcement.

But for now …

For now, let us lift up in prayer those who have been affected. Let us look for ways to bring our world closer together. Let us look for ways to be helpful to people.

And let us love.

Let us love.

If you’re reading this, I love you.

Walking memories

IMG_1436

Memories.

That’s the payoff for travel. Memories of sights seen, of people met, of challenges overcome … memories of new food, new sounds, new feelings … memories of being in a different place and having it change you to some degree.

Leah and I just completed a 35-day walk along the Erie Canal hike and bike trail, covering some 360 miles. We stayed in 30 different places – from a barebones motel to a fancy bed and breakfast to a haunted mansion. We dined at some fun restaurants and we ate Vienna sausages and granola bars out of our backpacks.

Now four days after arriving at the Hudson River (in the photo above) and getting back to our home, here are some of the random memories that pop into my mind.

(1) The feat of building the canal is still amazing. It happened almost 200 years ago and we tend to forget how different life was then. The initial canal was dug mostly by hand. They built aqueducts where streams passed over the canal or vice versa. There were the locks where boats were lowered and raised to offset changes in elevation. The things they accomplished are dazzling and I won’t risk diminishing them by inadequately explaining what happened.

Learn about the building of the Erie Canal

(2) People were so inquisitive and supportive. We were distinguishable by our backpacks as well as by our general appearance, I suppose, and we were often asked what we were doing. “How far are you going?” was probably the most common ice-breaker. Our standard response was something like, “From the Niagara River to the Hudson River.” Everyone said something nice about our adventure.

(3) Solitude. There were often times we would hike for miles without meeting anyone else. I believe we went 10 miles one day, just the two of us. We talked about all kinds of things. At times, we drifted into our own quiet zones for a while.

(4) You just keep walking. With apologies to Dory in the movie “Finding Nemo,” we often repeated her advice … or adapted it … when we got weary. It wasn’t so much the distances – which ranged from 5-18 miles at a time – because we’ve often done similar hikes, but it was the fact we did it day after day. Yes, there were blisters and sore muscles. On Day 10, a knee started giving me big problems, but we had our first day off the next day. Then, on Day 12, it acted up again. We were scared at that time we would have to stop, but it was OK the next day and didn’t bother me again.

(5) Springing spring. We started our walk May 4 in Tonawanda, just outside Buffalo, where the canal leaves the Niagara River. Most of the tree limbs were barren and there were few, if any, flowers blooming. Before we reached the Hudson River in Waterford, we were walking through tunnels of leafed-out trees alongside the trails and wildflowers were popping up all over. Likewise, the weather was rather cool when we started and at times oppressively hot toward the end.

(6) Don’t judge too quickly. This memory could apply to a lot of things, but I’m thinking about our lodging. Many villages had no motel or bed & breakfast that we could find. Others had only one or two to choose from. While B&Bs varied to an incredible degree, they were all good places to stay, but I was suspicious of no fewer than eight motels where we made reservations. Any one of them, I feared, could end up being a horror story. As it turned out, each was just fine. We’re not talking five-star lodging, you understand, but we always felt safe, we never saw a bug or rodent, and each room was clean.

(7) Keeping it real. Early on, a question on the blog asked if we were actually following the canal or if we were cutting corners … something like that. I explained we were following the trail (which is not always on the canal), that we had not cut corners, but that we were not above doing so. We promised ourselves to not let pride press us into doing something we shouldn’t. Twice, we “cheated.” We had chatted along the trail one morning with a couple of bikers and gave them a card. They lived near our destination that day. Later, she sent an email and offered to give us a ride at the point we would leave the trail and start a four-mile roadside walk to our motel. It was perfect timing and we took her up on it. Then, on the last Sunday, we had 17 miles to walk and the forecast was for lots of rain pretty much all day. Instead, we used a mostly rain-free period in the morning and walked three miles to the Amtrak depot. There, we caught a train for the trip into Schenectady. Both instances were bonus experiences and we had no regrets about taking advantage of them.

(8) The biggest memory, of course, is spending 35 days with my best friend helping her fulfill a dream and sharing all of these experiences. As time passes, we will retell these stories hundreds of times. There is no price you can put on that.

Quiet time

2014-06-28 11.46.26This site has been neglected the past few weeks on purpose because I was concentrating on the publishing program mentioned in previous posts.

For the next five weeks, it may be neglected a bit more because Leah and I are setting out on a 360-mile hike, going end-to-end on the Erie Canal. There may be posts, but I just don’t know yet.

However, we will provide daily updates about our walk on a special blog. Check it out at https://walktheeriecanal.com/.

Then, at some point later this summer, things will start happening here again. Maybe different things. Maybe strange things. I haven’t decided. Any ideas?

Rejected / dejected

Gulf sunrise

Is the sun rising or setting? (c) 2015 by Steve Martaindale

I must say, first of all, how bowled over with appreciation I have been the past month by the overwhelming support I have received during our effort to earn my latest book a berth in a special publishing program at Kindle.

More on that in a minute. First, I must wallow a bit.

It’s 3:30 a.m. I was awakened some 45 minutes ago by a storm alarm on my phone. After reading it, I glanced at my email, which I’ve been watching closely the last couple of days, and saw the letter for which I’ve been waiting.

I shouldn’t have looked in the middle of the night.

“Dear Steve Martaindale,” it began. “We want to thank you for your participation in Kindle Scout and all of the effort you have put into the submission and campaign process. Unfortunately…”

I shouldn’t have looked. Now there is no sleep.

What’s next?

Maybe not on this site but in private messages to friends and followers, I’ve been saying that it would be OK if the book is not selected. This is the fifth book in the series and, if they’ve not caught on by now, maybe it’s time to let JP (my lead character) ride off into the sunset. End the series. Determine what next I should do with my life.

When one door closes, another opens … all of that.

And such is what I intend to do. (“Intend to do,” yeah, that leaves a little wiggle room.)

What’s going to happen now with this book … I intend … is I am going to rewrite the ending. Don’t worry, I won’t kill off JP. I already know, basically, what will happen. Nope, no further clues to be given except to say I will leave it so the series can be resurrected should some phenomenon occur and there is a public outcry for more.

Then, I will publish “The Reporter and the Marmot” myself, as I did the first four books. Like them, it will be available in paperback and through Kindle. If you were kind enough to nominate the book during the Scout program, they should notify you when that happens unless you opted out. To make sure you know, follow this blog by clicking the banner at the top of the right column because I won’t make a big deal of it on Facebook and Twitter, just an announcement or two. No more private messages, for sure.

Yep, I’ll keep the blog. We’ll see where that goes.

OK, you’re possibly wondering when to expect the book. Honestly, this is occurring at a bad time.

Leah and I are hooking up our RV and heading north in, oh, about six hours, give or take. One week from today, we’re starting our five-week walk of the Erie Canal, end-to-end, some 360 miles. Follow along with us at WalkTheErieCanal.com. As soon as we complete the walk, we’ll start our summer jobs, returning to Darien Lake Amusement Park in western New York.

That means I will be tight on time for the next couple of months. I could find time, energy and inspiration to finish the book during all of this, but I kind of doubt it. So, it might be out next week or it might be the end of July … or anyplace in between. Sorry about that.

So, here I am, considering figuratively burying an entire cast of characters that have come to life in my imagination over the past 15 years. Turning the page of my own story, fearful the next sheet may be blank.

Yeah, I may wallow in self-pity just a little bit, but I will be all right. Please, please, please … don’t join in. That would just prolong the process, delay learning what is indeed on that next page.

But let me end this where it began.

I appreciate the hundreds of you who nominated my book.

Several people told me they did not have an Amazon account but created one so they could vote. One very special person decided her husband should nominate it, too. Not only did he not have an account, he didn’t even have an email … so she created an email for him. Welcome to the 21st century, kind sir.

Many of you not only nominated the book but asked friends to do the same. I’ve seen a lot of them respond to your Facebook posts that they participated. That’s special, indeed.

I hope all of you understand just how uplifting this has been, the support you’ve given. I thank you.

Let’s turn the page.

Update on Scout program

IMG_0840Here’s a quick update on the effort to get my new book accepted into the Kindle Scout program (explained in the earlier post below).

First of all, they really do not give me much information. Additionally, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, it’s not like there is some magic number. The first thing they consider is the quality of the book, but the decision can be influenced by what kind of following the author has … hence our efforts here.

When it started two weeks ago, it started out with a bang, making Kindle Scout’s “Hot and Trending” list and staying there for 24 hours. A lot of the traffic, using the limited information provided me, came not from folks like you who visited the site through links I put out but from strangers surfing around looking at books.

After the first two days, traffic decreased substantially. (Outside the hot and trending designation, all they show me is the number of page views. I cannot assume everyone who visited actually nominated the book, especially the surfers who don’t know me.)

I put into effect Phase 2 of my plan earlier this week, contacting friends through private messages. That’s when things really started popping. Folks are responding incredibly. Not only are they nominating me (again, I cannot see the results, but friends often tell me they did so) but they are suggesting their friends do so as well. I’ve seen comments from many of them saying they also participated. That’s exciting.

The results so far: Wednesday, Kindle recorded 113 page visits. That’s more than I got on the opening day. The book also returned to the “hot and trending” list for the last nine hours of Wednesday.

Thursday, my wife and I went hiking, so I did not send out nearly as many letters, but the page still got 88 hits and was hot all day.

At this writing, late morning on Friday, I do not have any figures because they are updated only once a day, but I can look at the “hot and trending” list and see the book is still there. In fact, it moved up from the No. 19 spot this morning to the No. 6 spot right now.

My intention is to continue spreading out personal messages over the next several days. I do know Facebook, my principle vehicle, frowns on people sending too many messages at one time, but that’s OK because I don’t want everyone to nominate it at once. I’m hoping to even them out enough that I stay on the trending list. Not only does that look good, but it also gives me more exposure on the Scout page.

To sum up, I feel like things are going very well and I am overwhelmed by the support I’ve received. If you’ve not gotten a personal message from me, you probably will, though I have skipped over some people I’m pretty sure have already voted. However, you do not have to wait for the invite. Go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/Y4VS53F55K7J now and nominate “The Reporter and the Marmot.”

Oh, and ask your friends to do the same, letting them know they will get a free e-book if the program is successful.

Thank you all.

Q&A on my book’s campaign

Marmot coverOK, you would like to help get my book published – thanks – but you have some questions first. Understandable. Let’s look at a few. If your question is not answered here, leave a comment or message me.

Exactly what do you want me to do?

Go to https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/Y4VS53F55K7J for “The Reporter and the Marmot” and click the blue button that says “Nominate Me.” (Beforehand, you can read the first several pages.) Sign in to your Amazon account and confirm your nomination. It should take no more than two minutes.

So I must have an Amazon account?

Yes, and I may have misled folks earlier because I did not think that was the case. But if you do not have an account, I can say that I’ve had one for years and they have never abused it. Also, you must reside in a Kindle Scout-eligible country. Best I can tell, North America and Europe are, but Asian countries might not be. If you aren’t sure of the current country associated with your account, you can visit the Manage Your Content and Devices page on your local Amazon retail site to view your settings.

Is that all?

Well, I’d really appreciate it if you suggested to your friends that they nominate the book; it would be like you giving them a gift and it doesn’t cost you anything. You can share anything I put out, but it’s always helpful if you put a note on it yourself, especially if you’ve read and can recommend any of my books. If you write something yourself, just be sure to include the link https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/Y4VS53F55K7J.

Do I need to do anything after that?

Not really, but you do need to leave my book in your panel. If you just nominate and never come back, that’s no problem. However, if you want to try to earn some other books, understand that you can have only three in your panel at any time. (The trick, if you’re just shopping around, is to nominate books that are ending soon so you won’t tie up your panel too long.) The reason it is important to leave mine in there is because the nominations are not counted until the process ends. That is, if you nominate now and replace it later, it does not count.

Why are you doing this?

Frankly, to sell more books. Although I’ve received a lot of encouraging feedback on my previous books, sales have never been that good because I just do not have the means and know-how to effectively market them. Kindle Scout will get my books in front of new readers, giving me the incentive to continue developing JP’s stories.

How many nominations do you need?

It’s not that simple, but they’re not saying anything about the selection process. Fan support is part of being accepted into the program, but Kindle does not provide any targets. In fact, I never know how many nominations I have. The even more important part, as it should be, is having a good book.

Do you have a good book?

I think so. “The Reporter and the Marmot” is the best-written of the series, even though the mystery part of it is handled in a non-traditional way. My one fear is that it caters too much to those who have read the previous books, but I cannot abandon them; all the books have built upon the past.

So, you stand a good chance?

I really don’t know. As of the writing of this, only 137 books have been accepted in the Kindle Scout program. When I first started looking into it last fall, I nominated several books to make sure the system was something I wanted to submit to, and a sizeable majority of them were not selected. However, it is obvious that a lot of them up for nomination simply are not written very well. But my writing is done now, so all I can do to influence the decision is beat the bushes for nominations.

What does it cost me?

Nothing … and you stand to get a free copy of the e-book prior to its release.

How does that work?

After the end of the 30-day nomination period (mine ends at midnight April 25), usually rather promptly, everyone who nominates the book receives notice of whether or not it was selected. If it’s not, they promise to let you know if and when I publish it privately. They do allow you to opt out of that notice. If my book is selected, the process of preparing the book for publication begins, which can take more than a month. When it’s ready, several days before the release date, you get an email with a link where you can download the book. You will receive a Kindle copy that can be sent to any Kindle device, iOS, Android or Kindle Free Reading app registered to the Amazon account with which you originally nominated the book.

Are paperbacks part of the deal?

No, as you probably know, Kindle just does digital books. However, while they will hold all publishing rights to digital and audio books, I will retain the rights to publish paperbacks like I’ve always done before and will do so as soon as I can.

When is the best time for me to nominate your book?

Now. And the best time to encourage your friends to nominate it is immediately after you do.

I’ve done it; will you quit bugging me now?

You’re kidding, right? Until April 25, I’ll be a bit of a pest on social media. Please understand how important this is to me. But I really doubt I’ll contact you directly more than once. How’s that?

Help me and get free book

Marmot coverIt’s here, your chance to earn a free digital copy of my next book, “The Reporter and the Marmot,” even before it is released.

And it’s easier to earn than your grandmother’s love. Clicking this link will open my page in Kindle Scout. Scroll down just a little bit and you’ll see a button that says, “Nominate me.” Click it. If you’re a regular Scout reader or become one, see the final paragraph below.

At this point, you might have to enter your name and an email address if you’re not already logged in. It’s nothing nefarious, only so they can contact you at the end of the campaign and let you upload your free book even before its general release. (Or, tell you it was not accepted and they’ll send you a notice when I’ve published it myself. But we’re not going to let that happen, right?)

Why am I asking you to do this?

While I’ve enjoyed writing this series (“Marmot” is the fifth book), I’ve not been able to move much past my friends in sales. You’ve all been great and incredibly encouraging, but there is a greater potential out there. If accepted by this program, Kindle Scout will promote the book and give me a better chance at broadening my reader base and make continuing JP’s story worthwhile.

With that in mind, once you’ve nominated the book, please consider asking your friends to do the same. After all, they’ll get a free book, too, so it will be like you giving them a gift and it not costing you anything.

Here is the link for you and your friends:

https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/Y4VS53F55K7J

If you are a regular Scout reader or if you become one, please take note. Nominations are not actually counted until the very end of the campaign (April 25). You are allowed only three nominations in your account at any one time, so you’ll want to make sure you keep “Marmot” in there until the end. The other option is to click “Save for later,” but remember to check back before the end of the program to officially nominate it.

Thanks for everything, but understand this, a grandmother’s love actually is easier to get.

Steve

My books on Amazon. http://amzn.to/1pfc29D

 

 

OK by me

One of the more interesting finds I’ve made in my daily today-in-history posts occurred this morning, thanks to an article from history.com that says the initials “O.K.” were first published on March 23, 1839, in The Boston Morning Post.

According to the article, which credits the unraveling of the term’s origin to an American linguist named Allen Walker Read, OK was a cool term made up within the “younger, educated circles.” They considered it entertaining to intentionally misspell words and then adopt the abbreviation of those misspellings. OK was an abbreviation of “oll korrect,” a misspelling of “all correct.”

Oh, those wild and crazy kids of the early 19th century.

In my not-all-that-extensive global travels, I have heard the term “OK” used in many different languages. That has always amazed me. This article confirms it, citing OK as “one of the most ubiquitous terms in the world, and certainly one of America’s greatest lingual exports.”

Read the full article here.

 

Where, oh, where?

2013-06-24 14.57.00I came across a familiar question this morning, one of those typical ice-breaker thoughts: “Beach, mountain, forest, or somewhere else entirely?”

Some days, I would field that question and reply immediately and with great confidence. Other days, I’m more honest.

A couple of basic traits of mine are revealed in my conflict.

One, I can enjoy just about any place.

My most quoted Scripture is Philippians 4:11, “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.”

To be sure, Paul was writing while dealing with struggles far greater than whether he preferred a sunny seashore or cool, mountain breeze. However, I believe the same principle applies even to smaller life situations.

So, yes, I enjoy beach, mountain and forest … and then some.

Two, I have a strong tendency to desire a change.

This may seem to fly in the face of No. 1, but I think not. I can be content where I am, but that does not mean I won’t experience a little thrill from changing locations, too. Even more content, perhaps?

Emperor of Earth

Earth Day

“If I were emperor of Earth, I would change the name of the planet so one wouldn’t confuse it with dirt. Maybe I’ll name it Steveopia.”

A few years ago, I created a little page where I pointed out, with varying degrees of sincerity, some of the things I’d change about life as we know it if I was completely and supremely in charge of the third rock from the sun.

Read more of this post

Golden attitude

Mount Pico as seen from Horta, Portugal 10-27-14

There are those days one wishes to hide from the world but a job commands their appearance. It’s better for all if the rest of us understand those days. Photo of Mount Pico as seen from Horta, Portugal. (© 2014 by Steve Martaindale)

A story hit the news this week. A couple purchased a to-go order at an IHOP restaurant. On their receipt, in the space where the employee would place a name to make sure the right order went out the door with the right customer, they found “black ppl.” That is, he identified them by only their race.

It’s clear, this is not the way people are supposed to identify other people these days. While some will dismiss it as merely political correctness (a catchphrase meaning “something I don’t want to have to bother myself with merely to elevate a lower person to my level), it’s actually just common courtesy.

Read more of this post

My ‘battle plan’

USA USA USAI have been asked to write a post for Daily Kos about how the Democrats can defeat Donald Trump.

“This is no joke, Steve, and we need your energy to fight back,” the e-mail said, as if I would ever question their desire for my input.

First, before you’re actually impressed, I’m rather certain it was a mass-mailing and not an indication I’m anything special. Plus, I’ve never written anything for Daily Kos, which is essentially a community blog that supports the Democratic Party.

However, since they asked, here you go.

Read more of this post

All books now 99 cents each

Sloth coverHere’s a quick note with some timely information.

If you’re not caught up already, it’s time to do your homework to be prepared for the release of “The Reporter and the Marmot.” Why now? The first four books in my JP Weiscarver Mystery Series are now on sale on Amazon for 99 cents each.

99 cents each. How long will the sale last? I don’t know, so act now.

While each book stands alone, it’s more fun to read them in order because Nos. 2-4 fall back on previous events. You will find No. 5, “Marmot,” does so to an even greater degree. So, if you want to read them in order, here you go: No. 1: “Ferret”; No. 2: “Penguin”; No. 3: “Rose”; and No. 4: “Sloth.”

And don’t forget, you can even gift these books, still at 99 cents, by clicking the appropriate button on each book’s page.

Click this link,

http://amzn.to/1pfc29D

to access the author page where all the books are listed. You can buy print editions there, as well, but they are not on sale.

A quick update on “Marmot.” While I still have a few things to do to it, the manuscript has gone out to 13 marvelous readers to put through their respective wringers. In other words, it’s getting close.

Looking for love

Spray_Heart_gif

Looking for love (c) 2016 by Steve Martaindale

Here’s a peek into my upcoming book, “The Reporter and the Marmot,” in particular a series of scenes dealing with a struggle of the heart concerning JP Weiscarver.

It’s filed under the “Behind the Pages” tab … click here to read it.

Whining

8-5-2006-09 (2)Did you hear all of that whining after the Super Bowl? It’s an embarrassment to sports, I tell you.

Oh, no, I’m not talking about Cam Newton walking out of the post-game interview after losing the championship game. I’m talking about the high-minded people who are blasting him for doing so. The guy just lost the Super Bowl. He has a right to be upset. More importantly, why do you care how he acts?

What they want is for him to be the perfect gentleman, to doff his hat to the better team and to move on. Hear me out, just such an action would be great and it’s in the makeup of a lot of people, but not everyone.

He has since released a statement basically saying to not expect him to do it any differently. In part: “You show me a good loser and I’ll show you a loser.”

Do I wish he had acted more the way you want? Sure. Does it bother me what he did? No way whatsoever. I mean, do you want to see these guys play football or do you want to see them be good losers?

Read more of this post

The day the music died

Surf Ballroom 4-25-14

Inside the Surf Ballroom, Clear Lake, Iowa. From the left, Ritchie Valens, Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper.

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’”

Thus were the musings of John Greenleaf Whittier in his 1856 poem, “Maud Muller.”

They came to mind today as I read again the stories surrounding this date in 1959 and its sad events memorialized by another poet, Don McLean, in the song “American Pie” as “the day the music died.”

Read more of this post

Vote for Bernie

bernie-sanders-portrait-01

Bernie Sanders

Why do I support Bernie Sanders for president?

On a broader scale, because it’s time we started doing the right thing. At a personal level, because I see in his positions the approaches I believe represent the foundation of my religion, Christianity.

Allow me to look at a few of my reasons for supporting Bernie Sanders. By the way, his Web site gives his positions on a large number of issues. Find them at https://berniesanders.com/issues/.

Equality

I’m lumping together several broad topics here. The problems vary tremendously, but they have one common tap root.

Not everyone in this country gets a fair shake.

Because they are born with darker skin, female or with a disability, because their religion is different from the majority, because their sexual orientation is in the minority … and often, for these reasons alone … they suffer second-class status.

They are more likely to be arrested for minor offenses and face crippling fees as a result. They are more likely to be killed by police or while in police custody. They are paid less to do the same work as others. Because the majority of the population doesn’t understand them, they are pushed to the back.

I have been fortunate enough to pursue a desire to travel more broadly than the average person – nowhere near the top, mind you, just more than average – and there is one thing I’ve seen around the country and around the world: People are people.

We all have dreams and desires, for ourselves and for our children. Most of us long for respect, love, friendship, an opportunity to be productive, a degree of comfort, food, good health and so on.

Contrary to what many people say, simply being willing to work isn’t always enough to get one out of poverty. There are too many deeply entrenched obstacles. Some make it, of course, but the odds are stacked against many and for reasons beyond their control.

Distribution of wealth

You’ve heard Bernie’s lines about this. A tiny fraction of the wealthiest individuals controls almost all of the wealth and it’s only gotten worse over the past few decades.

It’s a rigged system, he likes to say. I cannot claim to understand how they’ve managed it, but it’s clear those ultra-wealthy individuals cannot accumulate so much without some unfair advantage. And the most easily accomplished edge is by taking advantage of workers.

I watched such greed pretty much kill quality small daily newspapers as corporate ownership took over from individual publishers, slashed employees and held back wages … all to feed the upper management of the corporation.

I don’t know if Bernie Sanders’ $15 an hour minimum wage is the perfect answer, but it’s likely a good place to start working toward. Getting a little more money into the hands of people who need it and who will likely spend a good portion of it is a good thing.

But the biggie comes with raising taxes on those who make far more than everyone else.

It would pain me to say that someone who makes more than X amount of dollars should be forced to part with more of it than other people, but then I remind myself of two things. One, most of them took advantage of other people, the environment and/or tax loopholes in order to amass that wealth. Two, other human beings should not suffer just so the super wealthy can live comfortably atop their secured castles.

You see, a billionaire in a 52 percent tax bracket is still a very rich person, much richer than someone laboring for $15 or even $30 an hour. Again, we’re back with the Christian principles of helping other people.

Climate change

Knocking on wood, it almost seems like arguments have subsided that climate change is not real. I hope that’s true. Even if it is, there is still a dramatic push to continue mining and burning fossil fuels.

Why should we throw away our future in order to cling to practices that are killing us rather than funneling all available effort into clean and proven technologies? We’re not going to get off oil in a day, but we must start now.

I grew up in the middle of an oil field. It was what drove our economy. Our high school mascot was Roughnecks. I worked my first summer out of high school as a roustabout. Many of my high school friends worked there and a lot of them still do. One, in fact, is now a billionaire due to hard work, smart decisions and petroleum risks that went his way.

However, none of that means we should blithely continue digging and pumping carbon-based fuels from under the earth and then burning them to deposit residue in the atmosphere, not to mention further lining the pockets of the ultra-rich.

When populations were smaller, when life was simpler, we could see no damage to such actions, but now we know better. Plus, we have options and they are steadily improving. Finally, developing green energy creates jobs to replace those being lost in the oil field. It’s time we owned up to what mankind is doing to the planet God gave us to take care of.

War and peace

I have heard it insinuated by some that Sen. Sanders would be too weak to protect the country. I suppose such opinions are based on hearing him speak of pursuing peace before war. He talks about using our weight as the world’s strongest country to resolve problems without warfare, without sending our troops overseas.

However, he has voted to support action against terrorists and names that as one of his primary missions today. And I appreciate the fact he talks about them as either international terrorist networks or “lone wolf” extremists here at home. Both are threats.

While he talks about maintaining a ready military, he says we need to pull it from the past into the present and the future. How many times have you read about millions being spent on aircraft or ships that our military leaders don’t want but Congress places the orders anyway? It’s not because our senators and representatives know more about what the generals and admirals need … it’s because money talks.

So, yeah, I feel the teachings of Christ are that we should desire peace first.

Health care

One of Bernie’s most talked about ideas is health care for all.

My wife and I enjoyed a cruise last fall and for more than three weeks, we had dinner each night with three other couples. One pair were proud Canadians and he, more than once, had to say how difficult it was to believe Americans did not yet have universal health care. They love what they have now.

While I understand Sen. Sanders’ plan is paid for with higher taxes – principally on those who earn a quarter-million dollars a year or more – I cannot help but think about the savings, beginning with insurance policies and deductibles.

Think about what is saved because someone gets treatment before the problem blossoms into something worse. Consider the saved days of work. Better than that, think about the money that is saved due to checkups. It was just such a standard checkup four-plus years ago that led to discovering a tumor in my bladder. Since it was caught early, two surgeries saw that it was removed before it could spread and become unmanageable.

What about the huge savings in time and money just in handling insurance claims? Even more so, imagine the savings of headaches arguing with the insurance company about what is covered.

And then there is the cost of prescription drugs.

Tending to the weak and the ill is a cornerstone or my religion, so I’m behind social programs to help people lead healthy and productive lives.

And then …

To me, it comes down to doing the right thing. Treat others as we wish to be treated. Allow folks to worship as they desire. We don’t throw out people because of their religion. We do what we can to protect our heritage as an immigrant country with fair and humane treatment of those seeking a better life.

We need to decriminalize most drugs and concentrate instead on helping addicts. And it appears obvious that marijuana should be totally removed as a controlled substance. How many citizens have lost their freedom, their rights and the ability to support their families because of a substance that is less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol?

Free college is another plank of his platform that has received a lot of attention. Extending free education another four years would be great, but we at least need to get the cost under control. Young adults now graduate college buried in debt and that’s neither fair nor productive.

Our nation’s infrastructure is in dire need of attention and tending to it is a great source of jobs. Remember the Civilian Conservation Corps?

The other candidates

I’m not sure when was the last time I voted in a Democratic primary. More than 25 years ago, Texas was almost entirely Democrat at the local levels, but everything shifted.

In 1992, at a time I was not working in newspapers, I got somewhat involved with the Republican Party and was even selected an alternate delegate to the state convention. The party has changed, though, but I’ve probably changed more. Now, there is not a single Republican candidate for president I could support.

Why?

Because I cannot align myself with turning our backs on war refugees. I cannot see building a wall as if it would solve immigration issues. While I am a Christian, I feel it is imperative that our government not be tied to any religion, even mine.

I turned 18 as the Vietnam War wound down and was not drafted and did not volunteer for the service. However, from the safety of home, I have seen our country too easily drawn into wars and military actions that have cost too many lives – our personnel, enemy fighters and way too many civilians.

Lastly, the GOP has shown little care for the oppressed people in our country. Much of the time, they’re only looking out for themselves. I must interject, however, that there are many people blindly following the party who are themselves being injured by the Republican principles, but they trudge on even while their standard of living steadily declines.

Right now, however, we’re just kicking off the primaries, so what about Hillary Clinton?

On many issues, she sides with Bernie Sanders or appears to, but I have noticed she’s only gone over on some the past few months as his positions have gained popularity. And that’s part of my problem with her.

She is the consummate politician and not a leader like we need now. She lacks the conviction Bernie has.

Worse, I’m afraid a Clinton administration would be the same old thing. Big money will continue to shout down the voice of the people and the middle class will continue to meld into an expanding lower economic class as the wealthiest of the wealthy acquire greater power and, of course, more money.

Granted, I look forward to electing a woman to the White House, but I think we can do better than Hillary Clinton and, most importantly, Bernie Sanders is a better choice right now. Plus, I think there’s a good chance we’ll see him with a female running mate.

So, yes, for the first time in my life, I’m actively supporting a candidate. I encourage you to vote for Bernie Sanders.

With age comes wisdom?

1-25-16 creek crossing

Leah crossing a creek on the Lake Georgetown trail.

Yes, I know there’s a question mark at the end of the title.

As previously announced, my wife and I are planning late this spring to hike the Erie Canalway Trail, some 360 miles from the Niagara River to the Hudson River in upstate New York.

We’ll be spending nights in motels and B&Bs along the way, so there will be some long days – topped off by a 24-mile day – and several only 5-8 miles. Our plan is to walk about 33 days, an average of some 11 miles a day, with two or three rest days built in.

Now, you’ll notice everything has been stated in a positive, we’re-going-to-do-this voice. Then, why the question mark?

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Just do good

I came across an amazing article this morning and want to share it with you.

It’s a take on philosopher Immanuel Kant’s Categorical Imperative.

My headline is the ultimate summation of it, I believe, but the short piece by blogger Rob Myers is far more descriptive and entertaining.

Kant’s statement embodies my feelings on how we should treat each other. I try to remember to practice it, too, but that’s another story.

Please click this link to read the article.

 

Getting closer!

Marmot photo credit NPS

Marmot. (NPS photo)

I finished the first draft of “The Reporter and the Marmot” early this morning.

Yea!

There’s still quite a bit to do, but I believe it will be worth the wait. Let’s just say something big is happening with JP Weiscarver, my main character.

You don’t have to wait until the book comes out to get a peek at what I’m talking about. There will be teasers in my first newsletter in a couple of weeks. Click here to sign up now.

Meanwhile, I’ll start making my way through numerous spots I flagged to work on. Plus, due to my aforementioned plans to submit this book for a promotional project (one where you can earn a free Kindle copy prior to publication), I still need to add length to meet the project’s minimums. I’m not a fan of adding words just for length, so the challenge will be to make them worthwhile.

To summarize:

(1) The story is completed, just needs to be fleshed out.

(2) There’s something big happening with my lead character.

(3) To get a peek at what it is, sign up for the newsletter here. (It will go out in a couple of weeks.)

(4) Tell your friends. (OK, that’s new, but it’s a good suggestion.)

Just make a wish

2012-11-24 15.15.56

Bright wishes are often difficult to reach.

Here’s an interesting twist to the old thought-provoking question about who in the world you would invite to dinner. Consider this:

“Remember those lovely genies who grant wishes? Well, you’re one and you’ve just been emancipated from your restrictive lamp. You can give your three wishes to whomever you want. Who do you give your three wishes to, and why?”

To be clear, this did not originate with me but was put out as a prompt for a blog idea. The more I think about it, the more difficult it gets.

You’ll notice right away that keeping a wish for yourself is not an option. Furthermore, you the genie would presumably have no input on how the wish was spent.

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‘NCIS’ without Tony

Is this a great country or what?

Aussie frt stand 3

A rural fruit stand in Australia was one of the highlights of our visit down under.

Do you live in a great country? The best? Is the rest of the world envious of you, desirous of your homeland?

I grew up thankful for being born in the United States, the best place in the world to live. Indeed, I sometimes felt guilty. More than 95 percent of the world’s population was denied the blessing I received.

That’s right, isn’t it?

I was 48 years old before I visited another country (excluding three short border crossings into Mexico and Canada) and it really opened my eyes.

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2016 … We’ve got this

Happy New YearWhat are your plans for 2016? Any goals, ambitions, dreams, maybe even resolutions?

Seriously, hit up the comments link at the top of this post and tell us what’s in store for you in the new year. Then give your hopes a bump; remember, we have 366 days this year.

As for me, I have a lot pinned on getting some serious promotion for my next book.

Kindle has a program searching for new or relatively unknown authors worthy of the company giving a leg up in publicizing a book. Gaining acceptance requires two things. One, of course, is a good book and I’m feeling great about “The Reporter and the Marmot.”

Two involves you.

The company wants writers who already have a following. So, when the time comes, I’ll be asking each of you to “nominate” my book. All you’ll have to do is click a button and give your e-mail address and it will help me.

But, wait, there’s something in it for you too.

If my book is selected for the program, everyone who nominated it gets a free copy of the e-book. It works, no catches; I’m currently reading a book that I nominated.

Trust me, I’ll let you know when it happens, asking you to act on it and to spread the word to your friends. Free e-books for all! Be patient. It will be at least another month or two.

OK, that’s more than I planned to say about that.

One more thing

But there’s one new thing starting today. You can sign up for my newsletter.

I plan to put out at least one a month. When something is happening, they will come more often but never too many. It is handled by MailChimp, a professional service that makes sure it’s all on the up-and-up, requiring double opt-in (so nobody enters your e-mail without you knowing) and offering an unsubscribe with each mailing.

Click this link and subscribe now and you can know what’s going on even if you don’t visit this blog regularly or if my social media sites fail to include you on every posting.

Meanwhile, keep me up-to-date with how your dreams for 2016 are working out.

Sail away with me

Entering the Amazon

Looking up the promenade as we sailed into the sunset our first full day on the Amazon River and before we visited shore.

People say, “I can’t wait to hear about your vacation” and “Take plenty of photos to share with us.” I really don’t know if they mean it, but here it is. By posting here, you can look if you want or just nod and go on. If you enjoy it, leave a comment. If you have a question, ask, but there’s a lot I don’t know about the places we visited.

The initial purpose of this trip was to visit my seventh continent. (Leah now has six, lacking only Antarctica.) As we searched for how to make it happen, Leah said she really wanted to visit the Amazon River. The result was a 25-day cruise, roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that visited several Caribbean islands and spent eight days venturing some 900 miles up the world’s largest river.

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Magical sparkly rock

Magical sparkly rockThis is an all-time favorite of mine. It wasn’t a full-blown column but served as a front page item for the newspaper in the latter half of the 1990s.

Magical sparkly rock

The doorbell was a bit of a surprise. After all, it was almost dark and, besides, people just don’t seem to arrive unexpected anymore.

A quick glance out the window en route to the door did not reveal a vehicle. At first, I still didn’t see anyone as I opened the door. Until I looked down. She was probably 5 years old and I didn’t know her, though it seemed I had seen her around the neighborhood.

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Dejunking the junk drawer

We’re continuing to dig out old newspaper columns while I’m traveling and with limited Internet connectivity.

This one was written in August 2004. Go to your junk drawer and tell us in the comments the strangest thing you find.

Dejunking the junk drawer

My assignment is to clean out the junk drawer, decide what we should keep and what we might throw out.

Every home has a junk drawer or its equivalent. Why it is we feel a need to have a special, designated, reserved location for junk is an issue for deeper study later.

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Christmas monster

Christmas 2007Not all elements of every Christmas are perfect. That’s a good thing. Where would Hallmark Christmas movies be if they were?

Following is a rerun of a newspaper column originally published in December 2009. Be honest; it makes you think of something in one of your Christmases. Please share your story.

Christmas monster

There’s a monster in our house … and we put it there.

What were we thinking?

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New life in a cemetery

early sunI have long enjoyed strolling through cemeteries, reading memorial markers and considering life.

Following is another old newspaper column of mine to fill the void while I’m out of the country and with limited Internet access. I do not have the exact date it was published, but it would have been toward the end of the 1990s. Enjoy.

New life in a cemetery

I plop down onto a park bench in the middle of a cemetery, taking a break halfway into my morning walk. Not so much a resting break as a thinking break.

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