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Author of the JP Weiscarver Mystery Series
It’s not like me to plan in advance what to post on this page, but, for some reason, I noticed tomorrow, Oct. 19, is Evaluate Your Life Day.
Whoa! Evaluate your life? That’s a bit more intense than today’s National Chocolate Cupcake Day. It might require a head start to get prepared.
An understandable response to hearing about Evaluate Your Life Day would be to challenge the notion that one needs to participate. “My life is just fine, thank you very much!” That’s dandy news; carry on. However, if there might be a thing or two or twenty that could make your life better, then an evaluation day might be just the incentive you need.
“Life,” though, is a massive topic. Consider part of what that covers.
There are the people in your life, from a most significant other to children to strangers you meet. There is your work, whether you’re in the right job and doing it well, even whether you’re using your God-given talents in a productive manner.
Don’t forget yourself. Are you taking care of your health, both physically and mentally? What about spiritually? Are you in good shape financially? What does that mean to you? Are you balancing work with life?
Maybe it’s time to revisit that bucket list. Finish college? Start a business? Visit Machu Picchu?
Perhaps, Wednesday is not looking like a good day for you to set aside the time you need to properly evaluate your life. That’s to be expected, but do at least this one thing if you believe such an exercise would be good for you … pick a date in the near future and set it aside as your own personal Evaluate Your Life Day.
Excuse me, now … I have some pondering to do.
Leah came across something that caused her to reminisce about troll dolls, the wee marvels of marketing that go back to the 1960s. You know them, they’re usually just a couple of inches tall, made of plastic and have long, colorful hair that sticks straight up.
That started memories flowing, though I only have one recollection specific to the troll dolls, but it’s centered on a dear, late friend, Margie Kovar, who’s featured in the photo above at her desk in the Brenham Banner-Press newsroom.
No, those are not troll dolls sitting atop her computer (What are they, by the way?) in this late-1970s photo, but that’s pretty much exactly where she placed her troll and that’s what led to getting me in deep trouble with Margie one day. No kidding, it was undoubtedly the most upset she ever got with me.
The problem begins with the computer (a loose use of the term, believe me), known as a Compugraphic MDT 350. This was our first newsroom computer; its immediate predecessor was a typewriter. MDT stood for Mini-Disk Terminal, itself a misnomer in this day and age. Look past Margie at the desk of Mike Gibson, who is apparently thinking deeply about some wisecrack. I trust he still possesses his special brand of humor.
(Before I continue with this story, take a look at the wall behind Mike’s computer. See the photo hanging there? Who is it? I’ll give the answer later.)
Next to Mike’s computer is a box. White with a red design. That’s the box of “mini” disks, something like 5.25-inch floppies that were inserted into the computer and onto which were recorded our stories. Each floppy held, best I remember, 16 files. Each file held a certain number of characters, which could make up a story about 11 inches in length – again, best I remember. So, often, you had to break the story into two files or more. Once completed, the disk was sent to the composing room to be printed. We would use a paper clip to attach a scrap of paper on which we wrote the file number to be printed.
Yeah, it seems incredibly archaic now, but then it was amazing.
The dumbest thing about the MDT 350 was what they called the load button. (Or maybe it was called “mount,” but in the interest of good taste, I’ll stick with “load.”) It was in the top right corner of the keyboard and colored a bright red. Its purpose was to load a new disk. Press the button, insert the disk and close the latch and the computer would pull up a directory. (“Directory” is a loose term, as well, because all it did was list the files by number; you had to know where your story was.)
Loading makes sense, right? The problem was that hitting the button at any time completely reset everything. In other words, you lost whatever you hadn’t saved. To make that even more dangerous, saving copy was a pain. You would save or replace the file and your copy would disappear. Open the directory, scroll to the appropriate number and open it again. Therefore, writers were not really good about saving because it slowed things down.
I said back then that the load button should have required you to simultaneously press the button up front and another in the back. In other words, it should entail a deliberate action and limit the opportunities for accidents.
You got the picture now? There’s a computer containing a person’s labor under the pressure of a deadline. On the keyboard is a red button that says “Load.” Sitting on top of the computer is a pink-haired troll doll.
Me, I’m sitting on the other side of the room and I’m probably waiting for Margie to finish her story so I can read it, write a headline and send it back. That is likely the case because I had time to misbehave. I took a rubber band, aimed for the troll that was about eight feet away from me and fired.
Bull’s-eye! I cheered as the troll tumbled off the computer. Margie screamed as the troll hit the load button dead center and … obliterated her story.
My love for Margie prohibits me from remembering exactly what she said to me or even fully recalling just how mad she was. My only salvation was she couldn’t take time to beat me to death because she had to rewrite her story. Writers hate to have to do a story a second time. In addition to the obvious pain, the second story is never as good.
She did forgive me, though.
The last time I saw her was around 2003. We were living in Port Aransas and Margie, then a veteran employee of Blinn College, was attending a conference in nearby Corpus Christi and she drove over to spend some time with us. She died in 2008, one more person taken by cancer while she still had so much to give, so much living to do.
One more memory and then I’ll answer the question. Look at the photo again. Behind the little blue and red guys, between them and Mike, do you see a plant? Now, hovering above the plant, attached to a stick of some kind, is a piece of paper, on which is written something like, “Hi, my name is Bruce.”
Of course, that’s not Mike’s name. No, Bruce was the plant. There was another plant with a name, but I don’t remember it.
OK, did you recognize the guy in the photo on the wall? Remember this is a newsroom in the late ‘70s. Yep, that’s right, it’s Ed Asner in his role as Lou Grant.
A flood of memories just because Leah saw something about troll dolls.
— — —
Thanks to those who began supporting me through my Patreon page in its first month. You can join them here … and prepare for a virtual hug.
Here are some additional items on my to-do list once I’ve been affirmed as emperor of Earth.
I’ve also added them to the original post of March 13, 2016, so instead of reading these here, you can read all of them by clicking this link.
And if anyone questions your reading this at work, tell them your future emperor requested it.
Empty, then load
If I were emperor of Earth, everyone will be drilled on the proper way to use an elevator. That is, you press the button and step to the side to wait. When the door opens, instead of rushing in, you wait for anyone already inside to depart first. There may also be some instruction on proper eye contact.
If I were emperor of Earth, cutting in line would be grounds for ejection from the planet without a refund.
If I were emperor of Earth, when driving on a two-lane road with a good shoulder, slower traffic would be required to pull onto the shoulder to allow faster traffic to pass. Additionally, passing drivers would be required to give a friendly hand wave or to flash hazard lights to say “thank you.”
Learn what it is
If I were emperor of Earth, one must have medical orders to request gluten-free foods.
If I were emperor of Earth, there would be a hefty tax every time someone writes the plural of his or her family name by adding an apostrophe before or after the S. That’s not what the apostrophe is for.
If I were emperor of Earth, one may refer to pets as children and to herself as Mommy to the pets, but I will require the acquisition of adoption papers.
If I were emperor of Earth, I would require public rest rooms be equipped with alarms. In the event someone uses the rest room and leaves without washing his or her hands, an embarrassing alert will sound.
Donald Trump has his campaign right where he wants it.
Well, almost. His plan didn’t include the feeble excuse of an apology he was forced into putting out Friday night. Regardless, his scheme all along has been to lose the election.
He doesn’t care about winning over the majority of voters. It suits his master plan that he gets little, if any, support from blacks, from Latinos, from Asians, from non-Christians, from educated people, from established politicians and it’s even OK if the vast majority of women despise him. That’s the way his people want it, too. They do not wish to be associated with most of those groups.
You see, he’s not aiming to win the White House, not really. His desire is to create his own fiefdom nestled within the protection of the United States, his own kingdom full of those who worship him and whatever he has to say.
He cannot truly enjoy that if he’s president. Were he to take the oath of office Jan. 20, the reality of the situation would take all of the fun out of running his racket.
And he knows it. He’s not as stupid as he sounds.
Take one example. He knows it is not feasible to build an impenetrable wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also knows said wall would not deliver what he’s promising. He certainly understands there’s no way Mexico is paying for it. If elected, he would be pressed to deliver on this oft-repeated pledge and he knows he cannot.
With a view from the White House, he would be forced to watch everything tumble down, even the support of his rabid followers.
He knows that and he could not stomach it.
So, his plan is to hold the course all the way up until Nov. 8 and then proceed to Stage 3, the most important part.
On the evening of Election Day, as news agencies begin calling states for Clinton, it will become apparent early on that the American experiment is still valid, that silent hordes still speak at the ballot box and still place value in the things that have made this country great.
That Tuesday night, we will be surprised by how quickly Trump admits he will lose the election. However, his next sentence – no, he’ll probably lead with it – will be his insistence the process was rigged. Then and there he will lay the groundwork for his master plan.
He knows, regardless how successful Hillary Clinton may be as president, that his minions will never accept her. He will lead them into believing that the country is crumbling just because, for example, minorities are being treated better or because we’re taking strides to protect the planet.
Donald Trump will have at least four more years, probably the rest of his life, to beat the drum of ignorance and watch his followers move in lock-step. They will cheer at his speeches. They will buy the books authored under his name by writers laboring beneath non-disclosure contracts. They will happily retweet his hate-filled, egotistical musings. He will soak up their admiration.
And Donald Trump will be happy. By then, he will have forgotten that one little apology he faked in October 2016. In fact, if asked about it, he’ll say, “It never happened. There is not one thing I’ve ever needed to apologize for. I’m the best person you’ll ever meet.”
Here’s a special notice of something happening off the feed.
I’ve set up a new tab above labeled Expeditions. Here, I intend to gather information about some of the amazing trips and experiences we’ve been able to enjoy. More importantly, it will serve as a central site for future adventures.
Three are posted so far. Just today, to mark the 10th anniversary of my arrival in Antarctica, I put up my journal and a collection of photos from my four months on the Ice.
As always, I covet your comments and encourage you to share that which you think your friends will enjoy.
Today’s feature is one of those stream of consciousness events that flowed from a restaurant going out of business through bean sprouts to what you’re about to experience.
I saw an article that the Carnegie Deli in New York City is closing at the end of the year. I maybe have heard of the restaurant, maybe not, but the article mentioned that it’s known for its pastrami-and-corned beef “Woody Allen” sandwich.
That got me thinking about the sandwiches we hear of that are named after people. That got me to thinking about a sandwich that would bear your name. Hmm, what would it be like?
There’s your assignment. Create a sandwich or other food item and name it after yourself, a friend, a not-so-friend or a celebrity. It can be as simple as three or four ingredients or as overwhelming as you’d like. One thing, though … be sure to give it a name.
To help you out, here is a sampling of items that could be included on your sandwich. Thanks to the Internet for helping me string it together because there’s no way I would have thought of half these ingredients by myself. Use any of these plus whatever else you can come up with. Plus, feel free to grill your mushrooms or toast your bagel, whatever.
White, whole grain, rye, raisin bread, wheat, hamburger bun, hot dog bun, sourdough, pumpernickel, bagel, tortilla, Texas toast, French bread.
Mustard, mayonnaise, French, Russian, Italian, ranch, Dijon mustard, salsa, vinegar, ketchup, Heinz 57, olive oil, pesto, hummus, horseradish, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire.
Tomato, lettuce, spinach, onion, purple onion, mushrooms, pickles, green olives, black olives, bell pepper, jalapeños, banana pepper, habaneros, cole slaw, cucumber, avocado, eggplant, portabella mushroom, kiwi.
Ham, turkey, roast beef, pastrami, hamburger, chicken-fried steak, bacon, egg, prosciutto, salami, pork chop, pepperoni, chicken, tuna, shrimp, hot dog, hot link, knackwurst, bratwurst, chorizo, salmon.
Cheddar, mozzarella, Swiss, American, pepper jack, bleu, parmesan, cream cheese, fontina, goat cheese, Limburger.
And so on
Basil, sea salt, cracked pepper, brown sugar, beets, raisins, bean sprouts, bacon bits, parsley, butter, garlic, rosemary, peanut butter, jelly, pickle spear.
I can’t wait to see what you come up with. Tempt our taste buds in a comment here and then be sure to share this story with your online friends and have them, too, create a gastronomical masterpiece.
Meanwhile, here’s my contribution.
Toss a 6-ounce patty of fatty fresh-ground beef on the griddle as you get the other ingredients together. Your objective is a medium-rare finish, heated long enough to make it safe and short enough to keep it moist.
Start with two slices of Texas toast, but only butter and brown one side of each slice. Build the sandwich so the soft, lily-white sides are on the outside and the rich, resilient toasted sides are hidden inside.
Apply a liberal amount of mustard to one of the toasted slices and Heinz 57 steak sauce to the other. Put some extra napkins next to the plate.
Shortly before the meat is finished, place a slice of Swiss cheese on it to melt. Also toss some mushrooms on the griddle.
Place the meat on the Heinz 57 and top it off with the mushrooms. Add a few leaves of lettuce but not much, a layer of sliced tomatoes and several rings of a Texas 1015 sweet onion. Top off with the mustard-covered bread.
Thanks to those who began supporting me through my Patreon page in its first month. You can join them here … and prepare for a virtual hug.
We’re partying because I’ve already hit my first goal, but, all of a sudden, you’re facing your first deadline. So, it’s a quick celebration.
It occurred to me I did a poor job of explaining what’s in it for you. I’m talking about the kickoff last Thursday of my Patreon page. I acted as if you would all click the link and read the information and/or watch to the video. But of course you might need more incentive than just an opportunity to make fun of me in the video.
To background, Patreon is a site where people can support the work of artists by setting up monthly donations as small as $1. Why would someone do that for me? So far, from what I know, I have received support from someone who has read all of my books and keeps asking for more sooner. There’s another who I’m certain has read my books but also often comments on my blog posts.
The idea in you becoming a patron (which definitely has a distinguished ring to it, don’t you think?) is that you’ll help give me the freedom to spend more time writing, such as the sixth JP Weiscarver book I’m working on now.
But there are other, more tangible offerings.
I will spend some of this extra writing time creating material solely for my patrons. This can be any type of article, but one thing for sure is background stories. For an example, I’ve posted the story about JP meeting Jennifer (central characters in my book series). It is available for anyone to read at by clicking here. Other posts might talk about what’s going on in future books or may solicit feedback from you. These will appear sporadically, probably 1-3 a week. That perk is for every patron contributing at least a dollar a month.
Those donating $3 a month get to participate in a monthly Q&A session and will have their names listed among acknowledgements of books or expeditions completed during that month.
Those at certain higher levels may challenge me to add something particular to a book, will have access to a monthly Webcast, will get a free copy of one of my paperbacks, will receive postcards from our travels … and so on. You can read them all on the page. They get rather ridiculous as the amounts get higher. Hey, I don’t expect anyone to pledge $1,000 a month, but I wanted to have a special perk set up in case it happened.
However, there is a catch.
Well, not really a catch, but there is a monthly deadline. Payouts are made on the first of the month (to be clear, Patreon handles all of the money, not me) and that’s when it will be decided who gets what rewards.
In other words, if you want to take part in the first Q&A session or have access to the inaugural Webcast, you need to act quickly and get your donation in now.
At this writing, I’m only at three patrons but it’s an impressive $34 a month. I am humbled and grateful for every participant.
Check it out and hit me up with any questions.
Pick something that’s a commonly accepted part of everyday life today that did not exist at some point in your memory.
Got it? An easy one would be the Internet. Even my daughter can claim that. Personal computers go back a little further. Refinements in medicine. Communication. You get the idea.
I’m going with calculators.
Right this moment, if someone asked you, “How many seconds are there in a year?” you would do what?
Surely, you would pull out pencil and paper, multiply 365 days by 24 hours a day by 60 minutes per hour by 60 seconds a minute and, within about 90 seconds, you would say, “31 million, 536 thousand.”
No? Not today? But it’s likely that’s exactly what you would have done only 40 years ago and it’s most definitely how you would have computed the answer 50 years ago.
Unless you were handy with a slide rule, in which case you would have placed the cursor at 3.65 on the D scale and aligned the left 1 on the C scale. Sliding the cursor to 2.4 on C, you would slide the rule to the 1 on the right end. You would then have moved the cursor to 6, slid the right 1 to it again and slid the cursor to 6 again.
Your answer is about 3.15. You count the decimal places you dropped – five – plus the two you picked up in the calculation and answer, confidently, “About 3.15 times 10 to the seventh power.” Quicker but less accurate.
Nope, today you would have pulled out a cell phone, opened the calculator app and had the exact answer in a matter of seconds. Or used the calculator on your computer. Or there’s one on your watch or in a drawer or on your desk.
Or, what about this?
“Siri, how many seconds are in a year?”
See, there’s something we didn’t even think about. A year is not exactly 365 days. Or even exactly 365.25 days.
Those younger than the age of 40 … maybe even 50 … might have a difficult time envisioning life without handheld calculators, but we functioned. (Get it? A math joke.)
And, yes, I’m willing to pull out the ultimate old fogey line: “We were able to put men on the moon without them.”
Not that I in any way want to go back to those days. Nor do I lament that children are being robbed of an education because they do not learn how to use a slide rule or, even, because they might have a difficult time performing the calculations on paper.
No, I’m more anxious about seeing what becomes outdated next because of yet another discovery.
Who’s with me?
We’ve almost completed our drive back to our winter home in central Texas after working this summer in western New York and we are so thankful for the Interstate Highway System.
The Interstate catches a lot of flak for being impersonal and robbing one of the traveling experience. Yes, that’s true, but it has two important functions. One is if a traveler must get from A to B in a most expeditious manner and the other is what interests us.
Pulling our home behind us through one small town after another, winding down small, unshouldered highways, can sap a lot of fun from the traveling experience. Additionally, it can be difficult to find a place to simply pull over.
On the Interstate, however, we always find multiple lanes so it’s OK to drive a little slower. There are no signal lights or sharp turns. You aren’t as worried about traffic pulling out in front of you. It’s definitely easier driving.
Plus, most states have pretty good rest stops. Some, in fact, are amazing.
The bonus for rest stops on the Interstate is they almost always have abundant truck and trailer parking. It’s so easy to pull the trailer into a roomy parking spot and take a break.
There are rest rooms, of course, and picnic tables. Most have vending machines. The majority of them have information posted about the area. Some are staffed with folks to help travelers find where they’re going and to promote tourist events. If you’re lucky, you’ll find one with coffee and maybe a cookie.
They’re almost always quite clean. Some have janitorial staff on duty 24 hours a day. Of course, that also serves as an implication of security. Some actually have security on duty or, at least, signs saying they do.
One cannot help but consider whether this is money well spent, but I have to think it is. Giving drivers an occasional break from the hypnotic effects of freeway driving is an important safety issue. Granted, many of the rest areas are much fancier than necessary, particularly some of the welcome centers when one first enters a state, but having a place where drivers can easily and quickly take a break is something worth preserving.
“You, yeah, you. Wanna get in on the ground floor of something new? Oh, yeah, it’s perfectly legal. Of course I’m sure.
“Yep, it takes a little money, but there’s no risk. I guarantee it because you’re giving it away. What’s there to understand? You’re not betting on a scheme; you’re giving away money to support an artist.
“Sure, you get something back. You get more art. And a warm, fuzzy feeling. What’s not to like?”
Yes, I just used a make-believe character to make a major announcement. Why? Because the real me cannot believe that real people like you would actually contribute hard-earned money to subsidize the writing I do online and in my books.
But I’ve been assured such people exist. Therefore, my shady friend would like to announce that there now exists an online site where fans of my writing can become a patron.
You will find details at https://www.patreon.com/stevemartaindale, along with a video where I explain what’s going on. Yes, a video. Yes, with me in it. Shocking, I know.
In an extremely small nutshell, patrons can contribute anything from $1 a month on up. Also, being a patron earns one special privileges. If you’re interested, check out the page.
We’re about halfway done pulling our RV back to our winter home in Central Texas and, at times, that reality gives me pause. It happened today at an Interstate rest stop in Illinois.
Upon returning to the truck, I let Leah into her seat and then circled back to eyeball the RV as I headed to my side. As I walked by the RV – all folded in and compact-looking – I thought, “This is our home, all of it, right in this little box.”
We’re in our fifth year of living fulltime in a 31-foot fifth-wheel RV. Earlier today, Leah commented that she’s continually seeing that we need even less “stuff” in our lives. It’s something we spent years working toward.
But I’m not really talking so much about minimalism here as life on the road.
Toward the end of our drive today, we encountered a traffic backup of more than a mile. After gradually working our way to the source of the problem, we found one of those nice, big motor homes with a blown out front tire. A massive tow truck was hooking up to it because the front end was rather torn up.
We can imagine the feeling. Most everything you own is riding in that RV and now it’s being towed to a shop. Your food is going to the storage yard. Your bed is being locked up. All because of a blown tire.
That being said … we still love it and don’t see an end to it anytime soon.
However, it’s certainly not for everybody. What we do would drive a lot of people crazy. Some folks think we’re crazy.
And maybe that has some little something to do with why we like it.
We completed our fourth summer of seasonal work yesterday.
As we were walking through Darien Lake Theme Park, the western sky put on a glorious show for us. Thanks for the memories.
At the end of any such temporary endeavor, the most common question is, “You coming back next year?” Almost everyone understands our answer.
“That’s not the plan, but never say never. The idea is for us to experience someplace new.”
Leaving is always a mixture of feelings, but we each time find positive things as we move forward.
See you down the road.
I told you yesterday how much I’ve enjoyed pulling together a couple of random quotes to post each day, but there’s something about it that’s a little troubling.
I want to know if you experience the same thing.
To find the movie and television quotes, I use imdb.com – the Internet Movie Database. For years, I’ve enjoyed this amazing Website. I have been faithful about rating movies when I see them and have even spent time to find old movies I’d previously seen and rate them. One reason for doing that, to be completely honest, is to help me remember if I’ve seen it or not.
For example, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, Leah will watch a bunch of what I call Hallmark movies. It happens again around Valentine’s. And, at any point in the year, she may turn on a cheap sci-fi movie – definitely non-Hallmark.
My degree of watching these movies varies. If one catches my attention, I’ll try to keep up with it while I’m on the computer. Regardless of my level of interest, I’ll rate it, even if I have to ask Leah to help determine what to give it. Then, next year, she’ll mention a movie, I’ll look it up and say, “Nope, we’ve seen it.”
But back to what troubles me.
Going through the movies I’ve rated, I’ve been picking out some and looking through the quotes section on IMDb. And it’s like I don’t remember any of it.
That’s not quite accurate. Take “Iron Man 3,” from which I pulled a quote to post today. I knew I had seen it, but couldn’t recall anything specific. Reading through the quotes, I think, “Oh, yeah, I remember that scene.”
Or do I?
At least “Iron Man 3” was three years ago. We watched “Deadpool” earlier this summer. I gave it eight stars, so I liked it. But all I can remember right now is that the central character dropped a lot of clever one-liners.
Please tell me you have the same problem. Sometimes, at least.
The past few weeks, I’ve taken to tossing out a random quote a couple of times a day on my Facebook and Twitter feeds.
I’ve got to tell you, it’s been fun.
It’s been an assortment of movie and TV quotes with song lyrics and another odd thing or two thrown in there.
Without further ado, here are several of them.
“Who are those guys?” Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“You’re soaking in it.” Jan Miner as Madge in 27 years of Colgate Palmolive commercials.
“We are the federales … you know … the mounted police.” Alfonso Bedoya as Gold Hat in “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”
“And when you finish doing that, bring in the dog and put out the cat.” The Coasters in “Yakety Yak”
“Do you think she woke up one morning and said ‘I think I’ll go to law school today’?” Victor Garber as Professor Callahan in “Legally Blonde”
“I’m in a hurry to get things done; Oh I rush and rush until life’s no fun.” Alabama in “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why)”
“You think, DiNozzo?” Mark Harmon as Leroy Jethro Gibbs in “NCIS”
“Well doggies!” Buddy Ebsen as Jed Clampett in “The Beverly Hillbillies”
“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Tim Robbins as Andy Dufresne in “The Shawshank Redemption”
“Actually, it’s perfect. I just never realized John Wayne walked like that.” Robin Williams as Armand Goldman in “The Birdcage”
“Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won.” Ben Kingsley as Mahatma Gandhi in “Gandhi”
“Hemingway said, ‘Every true story ends in death.’ Well, this is a true story.” Jack Warden as George Halas in “Brian’s Song”
“Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes!” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as Roger Murdock in “Airplane!”
“Everything will be all right in the end … if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.” Dev Patel as Sonny Kapoor in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”
Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook to join the fun.
Pick up your feet, please, so I can sweep under here. Yeah, every now and then I have to do a little housekeeping.
There are two things on my to-do list today and I’ll keep them short.
1. Sign up
I’m closing out startup details on something a little different that should be enjoyable for many of you. Before airing it out to the general public, I’ll ask those on my email list to look at it to help make sure it’s as close to perfect as possible.
That can happen as early as Saturday morning but as late as next week.
So, if you’d like to get involved and get in on the ground floor, make sure you’re on my email list. Click here to sign up. I do not send out many letters and each one has a link where you can drop out at any time.
Bluntly, if you’ve read any of my books, I would really appreciate it if you would leave even a brief review online.
If you bought it through Amazon, that would be a great place to review it because they will verify you purchased the book and that looks more credible. However, you can leave a review there even if that’s not where you bought it.
You can find links to all of my books on Amazon at http://amzn.to/2cDGlAG. Click on the correct book, click on a link that says “customer reviews” and then “write a customer review.”
Another place to leave reviews is on Goodreads. I’ve not done much to cultivate a presence there, but all my books are listed at https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7472257.Steve_Martaindale. Click on a book title to go to its page. Underneath the picture of the cover, there’s a tab you can click to change to “Read” and it opens a page where you can leave your comments.
Do you know of any other place where reviews are (and I’ve not seen them) and/or where you feel they should be left?
In particular, the later books lack reviews, so you might start with Marmot, Sloth or Rose if you’ve read multiple books. I have copied the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and placed them on each book’s page on my Website. This page will take you to all of them.
Thank you so much for helping spread the word. While you’re doing that, I’m going to get that spider web in the corner.
When the topic came up about learning to read and first book memories, I found myself with little to talk about.
One is supposed to have fond recollections of cuddling in a parent’s lap or being read to sleep, but there was no learning to read at home for me. Well, I don’t remember anything about it, but I do recall working through the alphabet and learning to read in first grade. (Note that there was no kindergarten when and where I grew up.)
So, no, I don’t recall having books read to me. I do remember a few Little Golden Books being around, but I’m not sure when that was. It’s possible my brother and I were read to regularly and I don’t remember, but it’s just as likely the books I picture were for my much younger sister.
Whatever the case, I took to reading rather easily in the classroom of Mrs. Follis, but all I remember was Dick, Jane and Sally.
The first real book I can remember reading was “Tik-Tok of Oz” by L. Frank Baum. In the second grade at the time, I’m pretty sure I had not yet seen “The Wizard of Oz” because we watched little television, if we even had one. Therefore, it was much later that I realized the two were connected stories.
Additionally, I really doubt there was much understanding of the book going on. I was more caught up with the challenge of reading this big book from cover to cover than I was about understanding it. No, I do not remember a single thing about it.
By the third grade, I discovered the biography section in the school library. I distinctly remember reading about Israel Putnam, a hero of the American Revolution, and automobile executive Walter Chrysler.
Of course, I’m now writing mystery books, but even those were discovered late in life.
Some 20 years ago, my wife introduced me to Lilian Jackson Braun’s series of “The Cat Who …” stories. I’ve read quite a few of them and they had a direct effect on my series.
Her style and mine are considerably different, but I took from her the idea of writing my stories around a journalist (she, too, had worked in newspapers), and of establishing them in a fictional town in a not-too-specific location (hers were generally set in and around Pickax, located “400 miles north of everywhere,” while mine are in Oldport, somewhere on the Gulf of Mexico).
My appreciation for her inspiration led me to name a city park in Oldport after Braun’s central character, James Qwilleran.
That’s mine; what are your earliest reading memories?
Regina Brett crossed my mind yesterday and I’m glad she did.
Regina is a metro columnist for the The Plain Dealer newspaper in Cleveland. I discovered her several years ago when we both belonged to the same organization. At some point, I slipped from following her columns until yesterday.
It looks as if she’s not writing as regularly as she used to, maybe because she has several other irons in the fire, but maybe because the paper’s cleveland.com Web site is atrociously organized. However, I stumbled across one particular column, said to be her most popular, that was written several years ago.
As she was turning 50 years of age, she published a list of 50 lessons she’d learned from life. Read the entire column here.
Like me, many of you are also reaching those points in our lives where we feel empowered to offer a little advice. Also, we’re probably a little more receptive to good guidance. Two of Regina’s lessons jumped out at me:
Who among you is nodding his or her head in agreement? Who issued a sigh of regret over lost opportunities?
She also reminds me of a quote my wife likes to spread around. It comes from another columnist, one you’re more likely to have heard of, Erma Bombeck:
“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”
Moments are so fleeting that seizing one is such an apt verb. Should you “consider” seizing it, the opportunity is likely lost.
It’s hardly new advice. More than 2,000 years ago, Horace wrote in “Odes” the advice “carpe diem,” usually translated as “seize the day.”
Continuing beyond those two words, Horace wrote, “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,” which I’ve read translated as, “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future).”
He is not promoting the frivolous lifestyle mentioned in the book of Isaiah and that Paul warned against in his letter to the church at Corinth, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
No, rather than calling for a frat party, Horace is saying that instead of putting trust in tomorrow to take care of itself, one should do all he or she can now … in this moment … to make the future better.
But, wait. Are Regina and Erma urging abandonment of responsibilities? Burn the candles! Order dessert!
I think not.
Today *is* special. From the 118th Psalm: “This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
One is not being responsible if he or she does nothing but hoard up nice sheets and fancy lingerie. Too many of us die with an abundance of things and wasted opportunities because we were saving them for a special day when, in reality, we missed occasions to make special the days we had.
Leah and I have taken some chances by choosing to wear purple at an earlier age than most. We continue to do so, but they are well calculated risks we’re willing to take. We have admitted to ourselves that it’s possible we outlive our means of support and spend our final years with diminishing options.
However, we’ll be able to look back on good times without being burdened by regrets about what we might have done.
An image I’ve shared several times in social media (posted above, I cannot remember its origin; advise me whom I should credit) uses a quote from Randy Komisar: “And then there is the most dangerous risk of all – the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later.”
A Facebook friend I’ve never met (a friend-of-a-friend and a kindred spirit) continually urges people to “Get out there.”
So, I say: “Seize the day. Get out there. Be eccentric now. And have a second look at that dessert cart.”
I recently came across a comment to a post somewhere: “Some of the nicest people are tow truck drivers.”
While I believe you can find “some of the nicest people” in just about any profession, I do have a wonderful story about a tow truck driver.
It was the August after I graduated high school. I quit my summer job a week early to visit an uncle in Idaho.
This was a big deal for me. My family did not travel much; my father just didn’t care to. So I was certainly spreading my wings by driving solo more than 1,400 miles from home, seeing real mountains for the first time, being entirely on my own in the big, wide world.
I drove my dad’s 1960 Ford Ranchero and part of the logic behind that was its inability to move much faster than 55 mph would help keep me from violating the newly adopted national speed limit. Another “benefit” was the gas gauge didn’t work, so I watched the odometer and refilled about every 100 miles or so, thereby guaranteeing I would stop often.
Now, this vehicle – a three-speed on the column – had a habit of the transmission hanging up. To fix it, we just popped the hood and forced the rods (proper term? I don’t know) loose. Never had been a big deal.
My second day on the road found me in Colorado and my mother was expecting a call this evening. I was running a little late, so I stopped somewhere in Colorado City and called collect to report everything was going great. My aim that night was Colorado Springs, just a way up the interstate.
I easily found the Motel 6 and started up the steep driveway when I saw the “No Vacancy” sign illuminated. I stopped, slammed the transmission in reverse … and it locked up. So, here I was, stuck in a (thankfully wide) driveway and unable to move.
I set the brake really well to keep the car from rolling down the hill once I pounded it out of gear and proceeded to yank on the rods. I grabbed the hammer from behind the seat and banged on them. This went on for several minutes until I decided it was hopeless.
The man behind the glass at the Motel 6 recommended a tow truck driver and let me use his phone. I remember the driver was having dinner and watching a ball game and he told me he would be there soon.
He hooked up to my car and we started a seemingly long drive across town to a transmission shop that worked late. Along the way, I told him my story about where I was headed.
“After this, though, I may have to turn around and head back home,” I said. I wasn’t carrying much money and, of course, no credit card.
When we reached the shop, he dropped the car and talked to a guy he knew. He checked it out and reported it was fine. We decided that it was the force put on the transmission while it sat on the hill that kept me from fixing it myself. Had I gotten someone to match bumpers and push just a little, I could have knocked it out.
As you may imagine, I was elated. My new friend the tow truck driver then tried to settle business with me.
“Is $15 too much?” he asked. “I’ll take a check if you don’t have the cash to spare.”
Wow. Can you imagine? He left home and a ball game, used his expensive equipment to pull me around town, and he’s asking me if it’s too much. Granted, I had no idea what a proper fee would be, but I only saw that my trip could continue.
“No, no, I can spare $15. And thanks. Thank you very much.”
Today is the last regular season day in the theme park where we’ve worked all summer, but it’s special to me for another reason.
After working all summer alongside Leah in a snack bar (which has been fun, don’t get me wrong), I’m finishing out by working today and the next two weekends doing what I did all last year: park sweep. Yes, that’s just what it sounds like. I walk through the park sweeping up and picking up trash.
Many people shake their heads upon hearing that I enjoy the job, but hear me out.
One, I get to work outside all day, even though it can get quite hot walking the pavement under clear skies.
Two, I really feel as if my fingers are on the pulse of the park. Our job this summer had us inside the hotel outside the park and the excitement just isn’t as high.
Three, it’s fun interacting with people. I’ll give directions, talk about the rides, hear their stories, offer to take their photo, etc. It’s just fun watching them some times.
Four, I’m mostly responsible to myself. When someone ordered a chicken caesar wrap, I worried about making it to their satisfaction. As a park sweep, the level of work I demand of myself exceeds what 99 percent of the guests care about. In other words … there is no pressure.
Finally, these last five days are extra special. The boss lady allowed me to name my assignment. This may not seem like much to you, but I love it.
Normally, most sweepers are assigned particular areas in the park. That’s crucial to making sure the entire park is covered. However, you’re in the same area all day. My job will be to roam the park, sweeping wherever the mess takes me. The bonus is that I won’t have rest room duty. Yeah, that’s the one thing about the job I never cared for. Of course, if I encounter a rest room problem, I take care of it, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen.
So, I’m off to labor. I hope y’all have a great holiday and find joy in your work or chores or play.
You know how I like new experiences.
That’s a neat thing about our summer jobs; I’ve worked in a gift shop, drove a shuttle van, cleaned a theme park and, this summer, prepared food.
Working in food service is not something I wanted to do and only did so because it helped out Leah tremendously. However, it’s had good moments. Two came this past week.
Leah usually takes the orders and I usually prepare them, though we back up each other a lot. One morning, a family ordered a waffle, a breakfast pizza and a toasted bagel. When Leah finished the money part, she came back to help.
She put the bagel on a pan and started to put it in the oven.
“No, thanks, I’ve got it.”
What I’m doing isn’t rocket science, but I finally have become just comfortable enough with things to be able to do them in a sensible way.
The pizza takes a minute or two to prepare and five minutes to cook. The waffle batter is ready to pour into the iron and takes maybe four minutes to cook. The bagel can be ready after less than three minutes in the oven.
So, I prep the pizza and toss it into the oven, pour the batter into the iron, prepare plates and trays for both and then put in the bagel. As the pizza came out, the waffle beeper sounded, but I always leave it in for another 15 or 20 seconds, just enough time to plate and slice the pizza and wrap the bagel. Then the waffle comes out, butter and syrup applied and, voila, they’re ready.
The second opportunity came Wednesday afternoon. The powers that be needed someone to run the saloon in the park from 5-8 p.m. and Leah passed the request to me.
Now, the bosses know I’m not into doing anything other than help Leah, so they may have been surprised when I said I would. But, the fact is, I’ve always thought the job would be intriguing.
So, after an introduction to what to do, I was left all alone peddling beer, malt beverages, sodas, nachos and popcorn.
It was a fast-paced three hours. I freely informed guests this was my first experience and everyone was patient and forgiving, even when I handed over a beer with too much of a head on it. Of course, serving beer to people on vacation should be less stressful than most jobs, right?
One aspect of the job that I’ve never truly experienced before was receiving tips.
The funniest gratuity came from a guy who didn’t intend to do so.
Four fellows in their 30s (yes, I checked their IDs) got drinks, courtesies of the first man. When I got to the last one, he handed me one of his refillable souvenir mugs and I started pulling his drink from the tap. That’s when I noticed something floating in it and pulled out a drenched five-dollar bill.
I held it up and turned to the guy.
“Did you lose something?” I asked.
“Is that yours?” he responded.
“Well, it is now.”
Bottom line, it was a fun experience. Just like cooking breakfast sandwiches, I don’t need to do it again, but it’s rather nice to be able to look back at the time I did.
The Olympics always give me cause to resurrect a personal memory of accomplishment. I don’t believe I’ve ever shared the story so publicly, but I trust our relationship enough to feel you’ll grant me an indulgence to … hmm, OK … to brag a little bit.
Ever since my parents surprised me after school one day in the third grade with a baseball glove and the announcement I’d been enrolled in Little League baseball (note the fact this was my first glove and read into it I had absolutely no baseball experience), I loved competing in sports.
The truth is, I was never much good. I still recall a running, leaping (and lucky) catch I made once while playing right field. I remember the one-and-only extra-base hit I got, a double. But I also remember when our Major League team, the Warriors, won our division and finished runners-up in the city championship tournament. A great contributor, I wasn’t, but I was still part of the team.
Other great teams followed. Our high school football team my senior year was state-ranked. Our baseball team my junior year won the regional championship, as far as we could go in those days.
But my greatest individual athletic achievement came in the spring of my junior year. Someone came up with the idea to compete in the Explorer Olympics. In fact, an Explorer post was organized primarily for that purpose. Fort Hood hosted the statewide event for Texas and several of us participated.
Remember, I had no particularly impressive athletic skills, but I felt some level of competence in many areas. So, naturally, I entered the decathlon.
In the real Olympics and most other world-class competitions, the decathlon – which consists of each athlete competing in 10 different events – is spread over two days. The Explorer Olympics, however, was happening solely on Saturday. Ten events in one day.
As things began getting under way, I saw many talented athletes and began to fear just what I’d gotten myself into. However, when our decathletes were assembled, I found there were only eight of us and, apparently, the others were more like me – capable but not great.
Times and distances have slipped from memory, but I still recall how I placed in each event. The sprinting events were all mine, winning the 100-yard dash, the 220, the 440 and the 180-yard low hurdles. I also won the discus throw rather easily as I was the only one with a clue about how to throw the thing. I finished second in the shot put and pole vault, third in the long jump and tied for fourth in the high jump.
Under a canopy at the track, a chalk board held the point totals for the events. The final competition for the decathlon was the 880-yard run. In the other running events, they had been placing us first and then the others. We were all so beat by the end of the day, someone managed to change the order to allow us a little more time to rest before the most challenging race.
Meanwhile, I carefully examined the leader board. Only two guys had a chance of taking the lead away from me and I developed a plan.
At the start of the half-mile race, I dashed into the lead and set up in the inside lane so I had some control over who passed me. After we completed the second turn, one guy started around me. He was not one of those who could beat me in the point totals, so I maintained my steady pace. On the backstretch of lap two, another passed me and I continued holding back, saving my energy.
As we came out of the last curve toward the finish line, I heard the yelling of the crowd of servicemen and athletes. At that point, I gave it all I had and sprinted to my third-place finish and the gold-colored medal. I still have no idea how close the others were to me.
The winner of the Olympic decathlon is traditionally known as the world’s greatest athlete. Now, I guarantee you, I was under no illusion such comparison applied to my win, but it still felt oh-so good.
Sunday morning, to close out the competition, all of the medalists assembled for a victory march around the track to receive awards from what I understood to be the base commander. The decathletes led the procession. The Fort Hood band played “March of the Olympians.” People cheered.
I mounted the center platform and bent down so some general could hang the medal around my neck – a gold-colored disc on a red-white-and-blue ribbon.
Over the PA system, it was announced: “Winner of the decathlon, Dave Martaindale.”
Really? Dave? Or maybe it was Mike. I don’t remember, but it certainly wasn’t Steve.
Back to reality.
Wow, it’s approaching mid-August already and … oh, my … I’ve not posted anything in three weeks. I apologize to those who care. I do have a couple of poor excuses.
First, our work has been quite a drain this summer and I’ve not made myself sit and write enough.
Second, when I have written, I’ve written on a couple of pieces about Donald Trump. One I started almost two months ago with my theory that he really, really does not want to be elected and is toying with his followers while making sure he’s not in the White House. The other is about the potential benefit from his campaign in the form of newspapers reawakening to play their watchdog roles.
However, let’s not get political today. Maybe later, if you want.
Back to the work thing …
Most of you know that Leah and I have worked seasonal jobs each summer – this is the fourth year – as a means to explore different areas of the country and get paid doing it. This summer, we did most of our adventuring prior to starting work by taking a five-week, 360-mile hike along the Erie Canal. Since then, we’ve been pretty much working and, just like on the trail, we’re working side-by-side.
It’s not the best thing for us to spend all of our time together both on and off work, but we’ve handled it quite well. We’re running a coffee-breakfast-pizza-sandwich-etc. shop in the 160-room hotel on the property of the same amusement park where we worked last summer. It’s only an 8- to 9-hour shift, less than “real” jobs we’ve held in the past, but we’re constantly on the go and “on stage.” Plus, we start and end our shifts with 25-minute walks to and from work.
This is my first experience with food service since a three-month part-time stint working as a cook in Pizza Hut when I was in college. It’s not something I took to easily, but Leah (who has worked in food every summer) has been patient with me. It’s gotten to the point where I feel as if I’m pulling my weight fairly well.
Just like the first three summers, the best part of the job is interacting with the guests. Unlike Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore – where guests come from around the country and many parts of the world – almost everyone here is from either the state of New York or the province of Ontario. Oh, yeah, we have a ton of visitors from across the nearby border.
As such, they are always alerting on our accents: “You’re not from around here, are you?”
Naturally, not all of our customers are as much fun.
A couple of weeks ago, we had an older couple who we independently deduced were from “the city.” That’s a term we’ve found people around here use for New York City. If you haven’t figured it out, please understand that folks around most of the state are not like folks in the city and don’t want you to think they are.
Suffice it to say, this couple was somewhat more demanding and much less appreciative of what we did for them. Sure enough, Leah visited with their daughter and learned they were, indeed, from the city.
We had seen them Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and, apparently, they didn’t spend much time in the theme park because they were always around. Friday afternoon, I said to Leah, “at least our city people will be gone by Monday.”
Except they weren’t … and here is finally the subject of today’s story.
Early Monday morning, the city gentleman ordered something to eat and tried to pay for it with a hundred-dollar bill. Leah explained to him she couldn’t make change just yet. As the morning progresses, you collect twenties and soon it’s no problem, but doing so now would have put her in jeopardy of running out.
It hasn’t been unusual for us to encounter that and we always let them pay us later. It’s a hotel, after all, we sort of hold them captive and nobody has stiffed us yet.
This man fumed, “I’ve never heard of a hotel unable to break a hundred-dollar bill.” He had previously tried the front desk, but they hardly use cash at all up there.
As Leah tried to make him understand that we could work it out later, a man who had been patiently waiting to get his coffee eased into the conversation.
“Here,” he said to the city man, “let me buy you breakfast.”
The fellow was shocked. It was more than $13, not just a cup of java.
“I can’t let you do that,” he said.
“It’s nothing,” the fellow said. “I quit drinking a few years ago. With the money I’m not spending on alcohol now, it’s like I have an extra $13 in my pocket every day.”
Wow, what a nice gesture and it couldn’t have been made to a more appropriate person. The city man graciously thanked his benefactor and accepted the offer.
And then …
He gathered his food to leave, mumbling, “I just can’t believe a hotel can’t break a hundred-dollar bill.”
I 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.
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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.
Take a look at this photo. What do you see?
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.
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 …
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.
We’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.
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?
“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?
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.
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.
(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.
This 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?
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.
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.
Here’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.
OK, 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?