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G3VqD2Hello Minions, just checking in. It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here.

I could write about the fantastic ICON 40. Or I could write about some of the work I’ve been doing, but instead I decided to write about success and pass along a great video from Gary Vaynerchuck.

f you aren’t familiar with Gary V, he started a fantastic wine Vlog when Vlogging was a new thing, and he’s got a few words to say about how he became a success which I think are very poignant to becoming a writer and sticking with it.



10841957_10153452282712004_2825961519268753984_oAfter focussing almost exclusively on my writing for a long time, I find that lately, I’m spending more time on my other hobbies.

I’ve been playing video games again. I know I’ll ultimately get tired of this, but I  get the urge about once a year or so.

I’ve been cooking a lot. I’ve developed what I believe to be a perfect chicken salad, or at least perfect to my tastes. I’ve been making spicy carrot pickles, my personal variation on this Alton Brown recipe, and I’ve tried my hand at puff pastry (pictured above–yes, I made those.) I’ve also tried my hand at roast, meatloaf, and mash.

On the writing front, things are not going as well as I’d like. I’ve decided to restart the sequel to Minion of Evil again, as I still haven’t gotten it how I want it.

The Trouble with Port

Trouble-With-harry2While my first love is the California Cabernet, like many wine drinkers I don’t like being tied down to one region or varietal. I even enjoy the occasional bottle of port.

Now, I usually buy tawny or ruby ports, a little more cost effective and ready to drink. However, the other day, my wife presented me with a Late Bottled Vintage (LBV).

So, do you drink a late bottled vintage, or let it age? The answer is, “It depends.”

I did a little research. Wikipedia lists 11 types of port. It also notes that while LBV ports can mature slightly with age, they will never develop the character of a vintage port.

On a wine forum, I found a couple things to look for.

  • Is the wine traditional of unfiltered? Unfiltered and traditional production method allows the LBV to age more gracefully.
  • Does the wine have a traditional cork or a “cork stopper?” The cork stopper is the wine producer’s way of telling you not to age the LBV.

The bottle I had was unfiltered and had a traditional cork, but what if I could find one more source…

  • Delicious. Drink now. – James Suckling – Wine Spectator

Hmmm. As I was puzzling out what to do, my wife told me, “Just drink it, and if you like it, I’ll buy you another one.”

It’s quite good.

Messing with it

LUKE10I have to admit something. I am a conservative–not when it comes to social issues or family values or even personal responsibility, but when it comes to Star Wars, I don’t want massive amounts of computer generated effects.

Some things are wonderful for what they are, not for what they could be. A few years ago, I was talking to Lee Killough, whose books I loved about ten years ago when I found them. She told me that she was coming out with electronic versions for the Kindle, and that she would update them, adding modern technology, cell phones and computer searches.

Part of me wanted to yell at her just like Luke Skywalker: Nooooooooo! Her books may have been set in the eighties, but to me that just added to their charm. I loved her novels so much, I didn’t want to see anything changed.

I had a similar feeling tonight when I was reading a thread on Reddit, asking people how they felt when Darth Vadar revealed he was Luke Skywalker’s father. The thought jumped into my head that I should buy bluray disks of all the Star Wars movies. Then I remembered the re-re-re-editing that George Lucas had done.

Don’t get me wrong. George Lucas owns Star Wars and he has the right to do whatever he wants with it. However, I have the right not to spend my money on his sad, bastardized, over-edited re-releases.

Okay, let’s drop the Star Wars rant–no matter how well deserved–and get back to my point.

A year ago, I read the Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles. Were they dated? Yes. Were they irresistibly charming? Most definitely!

A while before that, I read Max Allen Collins First Quarry. Max set the story in Iowa City during the 70s, when he was at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. He carefully researched it, not letting false memories get the best of him, and produced a work worthy of that era.

I guess what I’m saying is I love the nostalgia of bad predictions. It seems silly that an author would work hard to eliminate the markers of the era they wrote a story in. In my opinion, it does not add to a story but detracts from it. The futurism of 30 years ago can teach us much more than the futurism of today.

A Road Trip

I am a farm boy. Okay, I’m not half the farm boy that some of my high school classmates are, but I have operated farm machinery, shoveled manure, and thrown a hay bale or two thousand.

So, when I found out that my wife not only didn’t know how they made the giant round hay bales, but also had no idea how a combine worked, I decided we had to take a field trip into the countryside.


For some reason, whenever we take a field trip into the countryside, no matter where I turn off, we eventually end up on this road, with this little graveyard in the distance.

We meandered around the gravel roads, while I explained the internal workings of the modern combine harvester. We were lucky enough to see two such creatures in operation on our trip. One was even emptying its kernels into a gravity-box wagon.

Then we found this historic bridge, though there was not a sign to tell us why it was historic, nor was it very interesting, and the bank had just been re-graded and was nothing but waste concrete and gravel. So here’s a picture of the opposite bank:


You may notice the streaks of sunlight in this shot. I lost the battery charger to my good camera with all my fancy filters and its awesome zoom lens, and I had to use my cell phone. I did not get the best shots.

Finally, we ended up at the Anamosa State Penitentiary grave yard, which I also will not show you a picture of. Here is the view of what was across the road.


Again, I’m shooting into the Sun. I was hoping to get a shot like this, however. So many times I hear people say Iowa is flat, or that when Grant Wood painted rolling hills in Iowa, he was making it all up.  But no, really. We have stuff that looks like this.

An Uncomfortable Evening

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing (in order pictured below) Barbara Collins, Max Allen Collins, Ed Gorman, and Matthew V. Clemens at Mystery Cat Books.


Hrmm, do I need a disembodied head photo, or is that just a mystery writer thing?

Last night, Mystery Cat was way over capacity, to the point that the room was uncomfortably hot. I arrived twenty minutes before start time, to get the last standing-room space that gave a view of the authors. It was good of them to come out, but I yearned for a more intimate, or at least more comfortable, setting.

I had never seen Ed Gorman or Matthew V. Clemens before. Gorman was witty, fun to listen to, and surprisingly glib about politics. He also gave a few interesting details about his years as a political operative and speechwriter.

Clemens is not a name I’d heard before, but he apparently has written or collaborated on more books than I’ve read, including several with Max Allen Collins and Ed Gorman. He had some very insightful comments about the collaborative process.

I am a huge fan of Max Allen and Barbara Collins, and I always enjoy seeing them. However, every time I go to see them, they are more popular. They talked about their newest collaboration, Antiques Chop, and MAC’s new Nathan Heller book, Ask Not, which follows a conspiracy following the Kennedy Assassination.

 As the authors finished speaking, and the audience turned into long lines, I gave up on the idea of buying a book and getting it signed, let alone a chance to chat with Max and Barbara. Like a callow youth, I fled into the night, sweaty and unsatisfied.

I’m Only One Man

nanowrimoNational Novel Writing Month starts today. Last year, I took time off from work to finish it, but this year, I’m just going to let it pass me by. This is partially because I’m managing a project due December 1st, and I just can’t afford the time. But it’s also because I have too much editing to do, and I really should finish a book one of these days.

My starting a book to finishing a book ration is about ten to one. This means I have a lot of source material to work with, and assuming I finish half of my works in progress, I will have a healthy body of work. But that’s a lot of ass in chair time. It’s a lot of hard work time vs. creativity time.

Never fear though. I’m putting in significant time on these pieces. I just need to finish something one of these days.

Words amaze me.

I was working on the WIP today, and I found this sentence buried deep within a chapter.

I have to show you something.

It’s a bit of a weak sentence, but not the worst I’ve ever written or read in a commercial book. Still, it didn’t seem right. I changed it to this.

I have something to show you.

Same words and almost the same meaning, but subtly different. In the first version, the object is slightly more abstract, because it is just “something.” In the second version, the something is in the possession of the speaker–“I have something.” To me, this version of the sentence had more immediacy.

I’m just okay, okay.

file5235ca63a1c56On Facebook today, Adam J Whitlatch was complaining that Words With Friends doesn’t accept [O][K] as a word. This got me thinking about this terrible thing that is OK.

Personally, I’m a big fan of okay. It’s clearly a word denoting agreement or approval.  It’s older relative OK, on the other hand, is not so clear cut.

It’s generally accepted that OK is an acronym of some sort, but no one can quite remember what it’s an acronym of. There are several proposed explanations: one is based on a misspelling, one is based on an abbreviation of the nickname of a presidential candidate. From there, they get farther out claiming that it was a derivative of an abbreviation used in a Choctaw translation of the bible. The best theory in my book was that the word came from Africa and became popular amongst slaves–from voodoon to jazz, slave culture has given us some of the more interesting aspects of American culture.

Wikipedia also notes it could just be scottish. Och aye it could.

My contention is that if the entire word is unsure what an acronym means, it’s not really using those letters as a acronym. It’s just a word using unnecessary upper case letters. I believe we should adopt okay as the one and true okay, mark OK as an archaic spelling, and move forward. Barring that, we should accept “ok” as a valid alternate spelling, not OK as a acronym.

However, as an archaic usage, it should totally be legal in Words With Friends.