What We Watch

My long-suffering wife and I enjoy watching British murder mysteries. In fact, we reserve Sunday evening specifically for their viewing. Netflix, Hulu, and other sources provide a smorgasbord of great stories. However, I must admit a couple of things. One is that we watch for different reasons while agreeing that the story's the thing. But my wife likes to point out the gardens while I'm saying, "Look, there's a body over there!"

We have also come to the conclusion that there are only 47 actors in the UK. We'll be watching an exciting episode and simultaneously say, "Oh, she was also in The Midsomer Murders," or "That guy was the killer in Broadchurch!"

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Whack It

"Whack" means "to prune."

Peggy Sue, Bubba, and Billy Bob Walk Into a Bar

I am happy to be back blogging after a brief hiatus to get my feet under me again. One goal I recently completed was the reading of War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I am not going to critique it because Woody Allen already did so:  "It's about Russia." A common complaint about the novel, other than its length, is all the confusing names. Obviously, they're confusing and, being forewarned, I decided to give the characters American names; specifically, southern American names, to reduce my confusion. Natasha, for example, became "Peggy Sue," Dolokhof became "Bubba," and Rostof, "Billy Bob." And so forth. Worked for me, anyway.

I must say, however, I took on War and Peace as a chore, an attempt to plug a hole in my literary education, an effort to quell a vague sense of guilt about my never having read it. And I was surprised to discover that Tolstoy is a master storyteller. Look for future hints on how to enjoy classical literature. I am here to help.

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Tales from the Tour

Tales from the Tour

At some point, all writers who are serious must, ironically, not take themselves too seriously.

Waiting on the phone to ring...

The fires in California are terrible, but they remind me of the time when I saved two states through my fire-fighting skills. It was a few years ago in Morganton, North Carolina when a raging forest fire was threatening civilization, a few moonshine operations, and  marijuana fields back up in the hollers.

The state was begging for volunteers, so I set aside my duties as an English instructor at Western Piedmont Community College, and joined the fray under the direction of professional fire fighters. I worked from dawn to dusk and discovered what hard physical labor was like. When we paused briefly for lunch, lounging on the mountain top, Hardee's brought us free food, which we inhaled. Then we went back to work.

The men I helped were enormous employees of a tree company, and most of them were built like trees:  Men with no necks and a coarse sense of humor, joking about the time they drove off the mountain in the bulldozer, or stepped up to their neck in a hole in the ground that held a still-burning tree stump. 

When I got home that night, I told my LSW that I was going straight to bed. She suggested I look in the mirror first, and there I saw a guy whose appearance was totally covered with black ash. My eyes and teeth were visible, and that was it. I took a shower.

I did recover, eventually, and was pleased to learn my actions saved the states of North Carolina and Virginia from being burned into oblivion. So, if you're from either of those states, let me just say, "You're welcome!" I am now waiting for a call to save California.


Reading to Remove Roadblocks

Reading to Remove Roadblocks

From my perspective, there are rare instances when a writer creates a fresh character in literature…

Hit the road, Jack...

The last time I wrote that having a variety of job experiences is a good thing for writers, just for their overall education and background to draw from. I realize it also made it look like I couldn't keep a job, but there's nothing I can do about that. You may reach any conclusion you want.

Today I'm addressing another topic, and that is the benefit of travel as a source of education and material. I tend to believe this one, although I know it's possible to travel in one's imagination and still come out sounding knowledgeable. I'm confident Arthur C. Clarke did a fine job with 2001: A Space Odyssey.

I have traveled a lot, including 47 states and the District of Columbia. I have actually lived in Iowa, California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. I lived on USAF bases in Texas and Massachusetts. I also traveled in 24 countries, living in Germany, Turkey, and Israel, and stationed by the USAF in The Republic of the Philippines for eighteen months.

I have yet to live on another planet, but if that ever happens, there'll be something I can use for my stories. Travel!


Working Writer

I was told while attempting, and failing, to grow up, that if I wanted to be a writer, I had to "experience life," which meant be exposed to a variety of different jobs for background material. I believe this is a valid point, at least from my own experience. 

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Here's a (partial) compilation of different kinds of work I have performed over the centuries: morning paperboy, corn detasseler, stockboy in California liquor store, shipping department in women's dress factory, rotocast operator in auto parts factory (made arm rests, head rests), Chaplain's Assistant in USAF (Republic of Philippines and Hanscom Field, Massachusetts), bar back in Officers' Club in Germany, grapefruit harvester on Kibbutz Y'fat near Nazareth, Israel, insurance sales (I hated sales), Teaching-Parent in community-based therapeutic group homes in North Carolina, consultant/trainer/evaluator for such group homes, English professor, and professional writer. I have also milked Bulldogs, but that's another story.

Did all those jobs help me become a better writer? Yes, I think they did. Wide exposure to different people, cultures, and countries is a great education. So, yes, I do recommend a variety of experiences for writers. I do NOT recommend milking Bulldogs, however.