Saturday, July 18, 2015

Just don't

I heard a new commercial the other day that struck a chord with me. It brought back memories of a time when I was indestructible. The commercial was meant to scare and make you think about your life and choices.

The woman in the commercial has a monthly procedure to have an injection into her eyes. She has failing eyesight do to a choice she made, a life choice. She was a smoker. It caused her sight to fail and she lives with the choice and the pain for the rest of her life, yet she considers herself lucky compared to others.

Thirteen years, six months, thirteen days, nineteen hours and eighteen minutes ago (as of this moment), I had my last cigarette. I started like many other teens. Someone else smoked and I started to just do it. Everyone smoked at work, so I did too. I started with L&Ms. It was what my father smoked. It was the way of their generation. Sainted Mother was a Belair lady. She liked the menthol. Odd that although most all of my nearly forty aunts and uncles smoked, and likely many of my cousins, I was the only one of my parents five children that took up the habit. That is something I've not really understood.

I smoked for twenty-five years, but in the last few, I knew it was something I needed to quit, a habit that I had to break. It took time. It took several attempts and over a year in the last attempt. The first time I seriously attempted it was the summer before my sophomore year in college. I had stopped for three months, but the stress of the second year of the School of Architecture was too much. I caved. The second serious attempt ended the year my Beloved Father died, 1993.

It wasn't until 2001 that I again took up the challenge. As a long-time menthol smoker, I discarded them and switched to non-menthol. Cigs were getting expensive. I began buying brands I didn't like. It helped. I didn't want to smoke as much. You need to remember, this was a time before most of the now, well-knows cessation aids were common place. Another thing that helped, which is something I still don't like to do to this day is, I hate to carry things. Hauling around a pack and a lighter was irritating. I hate carrying a cell phone to this day, although I have one.

It came down to a test of my will. I wasn't going to let this insidious thing control my life any longer. At 2:15am on January 5th, 2002, I flicked my last butt out the window of my car as I passed over Cleveland Avenue on the outerbelt. I was coming home from my store's inventory. It was a struggle, something that for most of the next eight days I thought about continually. I needed to keep my hands busy. I gained twelve pounds in ten days. Then, it was like I was free. The craving vanished quickly and I haven't smoked a day since.

With all the information we now have about what tobacco does to the body, I find it hard to fathom how anyone can put a lit bomb up to their lips. I know the struggle. I know how hard it is to quit. But quit you must. It's not cool. You don't look hip (or whatever the word now-a-days is). You are simply chained to a decision you have made that will do nothing but cause pain and hardship in your life.


If you don't know the famous actor in this clip, well, that's how long I smoked. 
It's important ...  

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Asleep

This is a short that I penned about a year ago. It was just a writing exercise for me one night. I was thinking about it today as I contemplated another work. It just popped into my head so I thought I'd share. It's long for this blog, however I hope everyone enjoys it.

To Fall Asleep


The wind that had punished me throughout my walk lessens, the snow now falling softly from the black, night sky. How I miss the stars of summer, their warm light both a blessing and a curse to my eyes. Would I have had a different path on life’s walk, I would certainly have wished to count the stars among them. But it was not to be; such was not my road, a farm boy from the Midwest who dreamed of greater things.
My tattered coat surrounds me in warmth, shedding the chill that swirls about the street corners, their asphalt surface hidden beneath soft powder. My boots push through it easily, though it clings to me just below my knee. I feel its presence against my skin, a touch, a kiss to let me know it shall invade my world should I hesitate. I pull my cloak tighter as I trod these sullen, winter streets of a place I now call home, a place I have no attachment to. It is only the place I live, the place that shelters me.
The barren streets are sparsely lit by the occasional lamp that throws its soft luminescence into circles upon the shadowed snow. It is only the hidden rolls, the curbs of this urban environment that take my attentions from my meandering path. Much like the varmint holes of an unplowed field in the days of my youth, they alone conspire to slow my progress, to press me to falter. I shake the powder from my hair, my beard now as white as that of an old man at the end of life’s journey.
My thoughts drift back to this day, this day a year past. It is but a carbon copy of what was; the brisk winds rambling down the city streets as winter’s white laid its blanket again across the cityscape.

My hands caress her warm cheeks as I brush away the snow from her face. I lift her head as gently as I would a newborn, held within the touch of a mother’s grace, and cuddle her softly upon my lap. I pull back her tangled, pepper-black hair, letting her face glisten in night’s stillness. Her eyes search for meaning as she looks past my face into the dark sky. I shelter her from the cold flakes as I hold her head.
“Who’s there?” she whispers.
Her lips tremble as her words slip into the night. Her breath rises in a soft cloud and I feel its warmth upon my cheeks.
“Is that you, Peter?”
“It is, my love.”
“Oh Peter. What has become of me?”
“It’s okay. I’m here. I’ll always be here. We’ll always be together.”
“It won’t be that way for long. I won’t be here.” Her eyes focus on my face for a moment, perhaps a last fleeting memory before she looks again to the heavens hidden behind the overcast night.
“I’ll be here with you always,” I reply.
“Peter, do you remember that day we went down to the shore? It was such a lovely time.”
“I can still feel the warmth of the sun on my face. You were so beautiful.”
“You make me blush, Peter. I was never that pretty. But, but you always made me feel that way.”
“You were always my first love. You know that.”
“I wasn’t though. There was another before me.”
“There was never anyone before you.” I brush the flakes from her dark eyelashes as I peer into her eyes. “Once you find your forever person, there is no one before, no one after.”
“Peter, do you see the sun? I feel it. It feels so warm.” She rolls her head toward me. I see the strain it takes for her to do so. “I’ve missed the warmth, Peter. I’ve been cold all day.”
“I’m holding you now, love.” I press my cheek down to hers. Her skin is flush with night’s chill. I will hold her life little longer. “Just feel the warmth of my touch, that touch we have shared for a lifetime.”
“Do you hear the water, Peter? Can you see it? See how it rushes to our feet? It makes my toes feel numb.” She blinks, her lashes depositing a white dusting on her cheeks. They linger for a moment before her fading warmth turns them to a tear rolling down her cheek.
“I wish our daughter’s wedding would have been on the beach. I tried, you know.”
“I know, my love.” I wipe the remnants of the tear from her face. “I remember.”
“Such a day it was. God had given us that day, Peter. She should have been married at the beach.”
“You would have gotten wet in the surf.”
“I wouldn’t have minded.” Her eyes find me once again, an inquisitive look on her face. Her lips relax as a smile embraces her. “Remember how beautiful she was?”
“I’m cold, Peter.”
“I know love. You’ll be warm soon.”
The darkness that surrounds us begins to reflect a new reality, harsh and penetrating. The azure lights create a pattern of chaos in our once silent world. Commotion fills the void that encompasses us.
“Peter? What’s going on?”
“Just the lights of the city, my love.”
I turn as I hear the sounds of footsteps rushing through the powder, shoes scraping against the pavement beneath. A dark figure now looms above me as I cradle her in the soft snow.
“Is everything all right?” The police officer kneels down beside me as he tilts his cap away from his face. “Is she okay?”
“Peter? Who’s here?”
“Just a friend, my love.” I brush my fingers against her cheek as she looks again to the night sky, the falling flakes blue against the flashing strobe.
“Is there anything I can do?”
I shake my head, knowing it is only a matter of time.
“Peter? What is that light?”
“What light, my love?”
“It’s beautiful. It’s warm, Peter.” She rolls her eyes to me again, scanning my face. “Are you coming with me, Peter?”
“Not tonight, my love. But I will join you soon.”
“I love you Peter.”
I watch as her face turns to the side and her eyes close for the final time. I am at a loss, a numbing sense of emptiness begins to overtake me as I feel a hand upon my shoulder.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” His voice is strong, but I know his words ring true. “I’ll call and we’ll get her moved inside.”
“Thank you.”
“What’s her name, Peter? I’ll need it for the reports.”
“I don’t know her name, and my name isn’t Peter.”
“But ... “
“I’ve never seen her before tonight.”


I remember that night a year past so vividly. It was a night like any other winter’s night in a cold city. I push through the snow, the soft powder that covers a harsh world nothing more than the blanket in which we wrap ourselves to fend off the night.

Friday, June 26, 2015

What's behind a name?

What's in a name? Perhaps your best behavior ...

I work in retail. One thing that is common among our little band of misfits is, we all wear our name on our chest. So? So, we aren't anonymous. What we do gets called out. We are on our best behavior because people now know who we are.

Largely, our society is anonymous. Sure, we have social media, Facebook and Twitter and countless other places we can talk to the world, (or even a blog), but it is a one-way street most of the time. As well, in those venues, we only let in the people we want to 'friend'. The world does not see us as we are.

What would happen if everyone was required to wear a name badge in public? How would that change our perception of the world? Or, the world's perception of us? Out on the street, we largely ignore most others we pass. Famous are the scenes of New York where bustling crowds pass without seeing the humanity. How would that simple badge that tells the world who you are affect your behavior? Would you be nicer? Would you drive your car like a jackass? Would you now think twice before you tossed that trash on the sidewalk instead of in the trashcan? Would you smile more or would you be nicer to the average person who you don't even know?

In a world where we must stand behind something, why wouldn't we stand behind ourselves? Why wouldn't we declare to the world who we are and what we stand for? This is my name and who I am. Perhaps the world would be a slightly better, and kinder place.

How would you stand behind your name? Hey, it's just a thought.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Help along the way

It's alive! It's alive!



We all have that same feeling when something we have created comes to fruition. Writing is a solitary journey. One spends days and nights pouring their heart, thoughts and ideas into a keyboard, or handwritten into a notebook or even, * gasp * using a typewriter. Okay, I don't do that, but I do jot down things in a composition book. All the rest of the actual writing of a story for me is done at the keyboard.

There are times, however when one leans on the advice and expertise of others to get through a work. A good writer never wants to leave details to guesswork. One must research facts, places and scenes to be believable, keeping in mind that fiction is just that, made-up-stuff. There are times when one needs to bend the facts to fit a story. It's what we do.

But help is always around a corner. I have a writing group that is second to none. The advice on writing and the business of writing is only a question away. With such talented people, the answer comes quickly.

And then there is the technical side. My latest creation is outside the genre in which I usually write. 'The Bear' is a modern day cold war era style novel. With that, the technical aspects of writing about the military and military hardware is not something I can just completely make up. It is with great appreciation and respect that I give thanks to two persons who helped me along the way. In 'The Bear', I give special acknowledgment to my contributors and their help in making me sound like I know what I'm writing.

Special thanks to former Petty Officer James Walker, USN (USS Sea Devil) and Lt. Colonel Rex Schlagenhauf, USAF (ret) for their technical contributions to this book.

With that being said...The Bear 
available exclusively at Amazon.com (for a limited time). Enjoy the ride.


Monday, June 8, 2015

I have been assimilated

I sat in my pod today looking at the analysis equipment within my earthly vessel. I sat attached. Upon my wrist was my time-tracking device. It was 1:21 pm. The internal glow from the visual interface that sat upon my control panel was interrupted only by the numeric output rolling across. The manual input plate called for me. I am 1 of 14.

I pulled a small device from my thigh. It keeps me connected to the whole of the hive. With it, I may find any information required to complete my objective. The 3/4G connection instantly scrolls information from anywhere within the collective. All members of the hive may be visited with its messaging or audio interface.

As well, I have a radio controller attached to me, its form embedded within my ear. From it I may communicate and instruct the other 13 of 14 within my unit. I am 1 of 14. A third unit attached to my waist contains all the information we require to manage components within my vessel, its contents and the location of each piece. From it we control the flow of equipment and unit output as we assimilate others into our world.

I have been assimilated. I am 1 of 14.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Coming soon, a new thriller

Many years ago, after I finished my stint in college, I didn't pick up a book for some time. I was tired. All those years of study, all those years of reading ... it was time to sit back and let my brain have a rest. 
Not long after that, a man named Tom Clancy put out his first book, 'The Hunt for Red October'. It was that book and his subsequent work 'Red Storm Rising', which is still my favorite of his works, that brought me back into reading. 
As a child of the cold war, I was hooked. This is what I grew up with. The nightly news often led with headlines of the Soviet Union. I have always been fascinated by the struggle between the two powers. Although I enjoyed most of Tom Clancy's later works, when the Soviet Union fell, my interest in that genre of writing waned.
As the world changes, it often stays the same. I invite you to look for my upcoming novel, a throwback to the cold war era, but set in the modern day world. 

Coming soon ...




“Captain to the conn.” Tull placed the mic on the hook just as his commander walked back into the station. “About that time, sir.”
“Any traffic about?”
“You were right about traffic slowing down. There’s almost nothing running.”
“Well, lets get underway.” Dawson turned, giving the order. “Bring us up to scope depth, all ahead slow.”
“Slow sir?”
“We need to see what’s up there first, and we don’t want wake, even a small trail from that could become luminescent. You churn the waters at night, you disturb it’s life forms. It’s mostly carriers that people know about, but I don’t want to take any chances.”
“All ahead slow, aye.”
The constant hum of machinery faded into the background, the sub deathly quiet as the USS Columbus began her passage into the Great Belt. The black hull slipped easily through the dark waters as the overcast sky painted a bleak picture upon the northern world. The rush of current from the Baltic pushed past, doing everything it could to keep the intruder away from her shoals. The shallow bottom of the Belt was not the featureless abyss that was the cruising plain of the open ocean. Here, the ancient geology of the Kattegat islands and narrow passages, and sunken vessels from times long forgotten all conspired to swirl the brackish waters along the hull like thunder in the face of the intruder.
“It’s okay to talk, people.”
The collective exhale eased the tension, slightly. The boat rocked ever so slightly as she fought her way against the turmoil. Dawson looked down at the screens that displayed from the scope. He saw nothing but blackness.
“Surface contact dead astern.” The sonarman pushed the phones against his ears and closed his eyes. “It’s a big one, sir.”
“Maybe we just got lucky.” The XO directed the scope astern, searching for the contact. “Starboard green. She’s coming this way.”
“Range?”
“Hard to pinpoint sir. Two miles maybe.”
“Dead slow, conn.”
“Dead slow aye.”
“Lets let them catch up to us. Maintain forward momentum against he current and glide right along beside them.”
“Glide, sir?”
“It’ll be a bit bumpy,” Dawson replied. “Riding along side a ship it going to make it interesting. Any idea what it is yet?”
“No sir, but it’s what you wanted, something really big.” The seaman keyed in some commands into his station before offering an opinion. “My guess is it’s a tanker.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Just a hunch, but the signature just seems to fit the data.”
“If you say so.”
“It’s what you pay me for, sir.”
"It is at that, son. It is at that."

The cold war heats up again ....


Thursday, April 9, 2015

White Staff - a fantasy novel

He reached down and stroked the soft coat of his gray friend. He knew he would never have the bond Aethan had with her but his weeks as her companion sealed a different bond between them. He was handed the reins of a chestnut mare that softly nibbled grains from a farmer’s hand.
“You will have little trouble over the flatlands to the south. There is little there to delay you. But take care as I may not have seen all that could affect your journey. The invading army may have strayed in an unsuspecting direction.” Aethan extended his staff toward Falton and moved it side to side and back again. Symbols flared along its length as a soft glow reached out enveloping his form. The layers of softness peeled away one after the other leaving his body partially transparent, a breath of wind for all to see.
           Falton slipped his boot into the stirrup lifting himself up into the saddle. He nodded to Aethan and turned his eyes toward Charise who stood beside his horse. He reached out and touched the hand she offered, though she was unable to see him directly from Aethan’s spell. She felt the wisp of his hand touch hers as he nudged his heels into the mare. He surged southwest running toward the coast of the Great Southern Waters.

A couple paragraphs from my epic fantasy novel, 'White Staff'. If you're a fantasy reader, or just a follower of this rambling blog, here is my little gift to you. Although this novel is available at many ebook sellers such as iTunes, Kobo, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, it is for a limited time, 75% off the regular price at Smashwords.com

Use the coupon code YR62J exclusively at Smashwords.com to get 'White Staff' for just 99 cents (normally $3.99). The code is only available through April 17, so hurry along and snap up your copy. Just click on the link above to 'White Staff' and enter the coupon code to get the bargain price. Again, that's 75% off.

I hope everyone takes advantage of this offer, and I hope you enjoy the book.