Friday, December 14, 2018

Short stories and me...

I'm dipping into the short story realm for awhile, just for the fun of it. I have lots of ideas saved up in my 'Do This Someday' list so I'm going to dust them off and see where it goes.

Here's the first few paragraphs from the one I'm working on now. It's about a young man in the Panhandle of Texas in the 50s whose Grandfather stumbles upon an interesting 'caller' with his jury-rigged ham radio...

The Workshop

Jeff gazes out the side window of the beat-up Ford pickup. The original green paint has long since faded into patches of bone white on the hood and fenders. The tail-gate never stops rattling, threatening to fall off despite the home-made hinges being re-welded a dozen times. Jeff is sweating like a pig in the Texas heat, cooped up in a rusting steel can with no air-conditioning. His Dad called it two by fifty air conditioning. Two open windows and driving fifty miles per hour. Jeff always laughs at the joke even though he’s heard it a million times.
John Luther is a pretty swell father. Jeff just wishes he could be with him more. His dad is a rough neck in the oil fields. It’s a hard, dangerous, dirty job, but it pays well. He does all he can to keep the two of them with clothes on their back and food to eat and he never complains about the work. At fifteen Jeff has had to grow up pretty quickly and help as much as possible.
They lost their shack of a house outside of Levelland when the oil company had to lay off half of its workers. John Luther looked locally for work, but there was none to be found. They were down to their last dollar when a cousin wrote him from Odessa of a new field opening up and looking for experienced rough necks. The problem was there was no housing yet, just trailers for the workers, no family allowed.
John sent a letter to his older brother Dean out in Lone Oak. Jeff’s Uncle Dean farms over fifteen hundred acres between Lone Oak and Miller Grove due east of Dallas. The land is hard-baked and dry as a popcorn fart. It takes everything the Luther family has to keep the farm afloat. In 1952 a large family had to toil all day and some of the night just to get the chores done. If the family had any surplus it went into a road side stand for sale. In Lone Oak the traffic is slight, mostly other farmers moving their crops and livestock to local depots, but they manage to sell some to tourist traveling through the state highway to some other destination. It keeps the youngsters busy for part of the day.
          Jeff is coming to live with Uncle Dean while his father goes to the oil field to start his new job. Jeff visited Uncle Dean once a few years ago when his mother was still alive. It was a good time for the family. There must have been twenty family members running around the farm, mostly cousins his age or younger. Jeff drools a little remembering the platters full of food laid out on church tables. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, three-bean salad, hot rolls with fresh churned butter, fried okra and black-eyed peas enough for a small army.
          That was before the Lone Oak cotton mill had burned down. Before the oil company in Levelland started failing. Before his Mom got sick. Before everything seem to go wrong for them.

--- 11 Jan 2019 more on this story ---

  The company that ran the mill didn’t have insurance to rebuild so the owners just abandoned it. Left the whole thing smoldering and dying outside of town. A burned out carcass of charred wooden bones and rusting wire sinew. 
        The mill had employed half of the town so the effect was devastating. Uncle Dean had been able to help a few families with work on the farm, but most families packed what belongings they had and moved off in all directions, hoping to find work or to move in with distant family. 
John slowed the truck down as he turned off the two-lane road and onto a gravel and dirt path that disappeared off into the east. He looked off into the distance watching the heat waves rise from the parched land. He glances at his son who is staring off in the distance, the hair on the back of his neck plastered down with drying sweat.
“Hey! You awake over there? We’ll be there in a few minutes.”
Jeff shakes his head to clear the heat fog from his brain. He sticks his arm out the window and tries to direct some more air in with his hand. It doesn’t really help much since the air is hot as blazes.
“Yeah, sure, Pop. I’m awake. Just thinking about the last time we were here. You think it will be the same?”
John shakes his head and grimaces a little. “No. I expect things will be as lean here as they are everywhere else. But you’ll have a roof over your head and food in your belly until I can get set up in Odessa. Your Uncle Dean is doing ok, but don’t expect too many luxuries out here.”
Jeff laughs, “Luxuries? I’d settle for some of Aunt Mamie’s home-made vanilla ice cream. It sounds like heaven right now.”
It’s John’s turn to laugh. “Oh man, I had forgotten about that! Your memory is better than mine, son.” His mouth waters a little at the thought of the cold creamy goodness that Mamie was famous for in these parts. He’s always wondered if she slipped a little shine in to give it that wonderful smoothness. 
“Well, personally I’d like to shove my face into one of those huge water melons they keep in the water trough. I’ll bet you can still beat your cousins in a seed spitting contest!”
The main house is coming into view on the horizon. Three faded red barns sit like fat hogs around the main farm house. Several ancient oak trees sit like multi-limbed sentinels around the house, huge roots anchoring the trunks into the ground. They spread out their thick, brown arms over the house and yard, giving some much needed shade. Off to the north a ways sits a single, low building with rusting corrugated steel sides and roof. Behind the shop a tall wooden pole with a thirty foot antenna stands slightly off center. The thick antenna wire runs into the back of the shop.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Today was great!

Deb and I went for a walk at the LLELA, the Lewisville Lake Environmental Learning Area. It's a great little area that has walking paths, the outlet from the lake and a cool 1850 homestead you can tour.
We got lucky today and there were period characters there to explain the construction of the buildings and other things.
True to form, Debbie knew someone who one of the characters there also knew. What followed was a discussion about bees, water color painting and friends. I stood by and listened. This happens everywhere we go. And it's totally awesome.
Here are some of the pix from the day.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Fall is here and winter is coming!

58 degrees and cloudy! Texas Autumn will be short this year and we could slide right into Winter in a few weeks!

Looks like the monsoon season has finally passed North Texas by and is allowing Autumn's cold breath to arrive. We've had over 25 inches of rain over the normal this year and the year's not over! My grass is SOOO green!!

On the writing front:

Now that 'Arlo and Jake: Deep Cover' is finally out I'm starting to explore some short stories to hopefully sell to Analog, Asimov or some other SciFi/Fantasy magazines.

I just started this one, 'Vicimus', which is Latin for 'We Won' or 'We Conquered'. It's an exploration of what happens when AI's are advanced enough to emulate their human builders. Will they behave 'better' than us, will they have the same strengths and flaws or will they behave in a totally unexpected way?

Artificial or Machine Intelligence is a wonderful concept to think about. Can you have 'intelligence' without the human brain? I my opinion is that all these ads for Microsoft and Google 'AI' are false advertising,  just the desire to be first to use the phrase as a marketing gimmick. Whether the systems pass the Turing test or not, to be 'intelligent' to me means the ability to think independently, to learn on your own and to be creative outside the everyday experience.

I have several other short stories I want to write, we'll see if I can focus enough to pick just one to work and get it published! ;-)

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Arlo and Jake Deep Cover has launched!!!

I know you thought it would never happen, but with a great deal of grunting, groaning and tapping of the keyboard I finally got Book #4 of the Adventures of Arlo and Jake published!

Whoo Hoo!

The cover turned out great, due my Creative Director's hard work and inventive mind. Deb thinks it's pretty awesome, too! ;=)

I'm tweeting and posting on FB every few hours to get the word out. I'm getting some good response but still looking for that first sale. This is the hardest part, truth be told. Waiting to see if the book is noticed and if the reviews are positive. A writer wears his heart on his sleeve. He/She wants their baby to be happy and wanted. I'm no exception.

I'm going to promote hard for a week at least before I move on to the next writing project.

Here's a link, I hope you read it and enjoy. Please leave a review and your comments.

Thank you, sincerely.

Arlo and Jake Deep Cover

Sunday, October 7, 2018

It's alive!!!!

...well except for the grunt work of a cover and all the stuff to get it on Amazon and B&N.

I finished the story and it made it through a pass by my in-house editor. A few tweaks here and there and a check for the common typos and grammar mistakes. Had some plot holes to fill, so I'm glad we put it through the ringer.

I'm having a friend do a read and critique for me as well. He just happens to be the model for one of the main characters in the book! I'm hoping he enjoys what I've done with that character.

I'll post about the book again as soon when I've got the book into Amazon and B&N!

Wish Arlo and Jake luck!

Whoo hooo!!!!