help, help, I’ve been Liebstered

Not Quite Alice, that may be true, but she’s definitely Awesome.

She popped out of the rabbit hole and chucked a One Lovely Blogger award at me.  It looks like this:


While I was ducking that award, a crazy psychedelic tiger wrestled me to the ground and forced a Liebster Award upon me.  This one, to be exact:


It’s true.  I’ve been Liebstered and there is nothing I can do about it.

My challenge to you, dear readers is to step off my blog for a moment and read these great posts:

Back already?  Weren’t those great?  And you went ahead and clicked the little follow button on both of their pages?  Nicely done.

Questions?  Questions?  We don’t need no stinkin’ questions:

1. What is your favorite song?
How many people can actually answer that?  One favorite?  How about this:  favorite Springsteen song: No surrender; favorite Blink 182 song: Stockholm Syndrome; favorite Foo Fighter song: Best of You; favorite Killers song: Sam’s Town (Abby Road version); favorite Tiesto song: Just Be, favorite Crystal Method song: Name of the Game, favorite Johnny Cash song: Jackson, do you want more?  I can keep going…

2. What was the last thing you ate?
A cinnamon and raisin bagel, a banana, and some strawberries: breakfast of champions.

3. Do you prefer to read from an eReader or a paper copy?
Paper copy for the moment.

4. List your five favorite movies?
Five?  Only one song, but you are okay with five “favorite” movies?  That just doesn’t make any sense.  So, here are the first five(ish) I can think of at the moment: Tombstone, Braveheart, LOTR Trilogy, Troy, Open Range, Dances with Wolves, Crash, Spiderman 2, Bladerunner….

5. What writing project are you working on now?
I’m working on three:

An epic fantasy called Ascursion – it’s done, I just need to write up a synopsis, cover letter, etc… and figure out where I want to submit it.

I’m in the process of editing a backpacker, mystery, intrigue sort of story that I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2012.  You can find it here.

I’m just a few chapters away from finishing writing a comedy western.  You can see what I’ve posted for that so far here.

6. Are you allergic to anything?
Penicillan and Amoxycillian – and I’m sure I’ve absolutely butchered the spelling of both.  It’s probably something I should know how to do considering I’m allergic, but… since I’m allergic I’ve never had any bottles of them sitting around.

7. Do you have any real life stories that start with, “This one time at camp…”
Yes.  Tons.  Here’s a sample:

This one time at a camp we used aerosol bug spray pooled in our hands to create little torches.  Then one of us got the brilliant idea to try doing the same thing on our feet.  It’s not as easy to clap out the flame when it is on your feet…  Running through camp seemed to do the trick okay though.

This one time at camp our scheduled night out in the woods (away from the main part of camp) coincided with a meteor shower.  As we lay out on our ground tarps the whole heavens opened up for us in a fantastic light show.

This one time at camp we found a trail that led from our camp to a neighboring camp.  Oh, the shenanigans we had planned, until we realized the trail dead ended at the end of their shotgun range.

8. How do you handle telemarketers?
I don’t have a home phone and I don’t answer calls on my cell phone from numbers I don’t recognize.  It’s been a long time since I’ve talked to a telemarketer.

9. When was the last time you wrote someone a letter by hand and mailed it?
Last month – all of my thank you letters for Christmas cards and gifts.

10. Besides writing, do you have any other artsy talents?
Some people have said that I was a pretty good DJ…


7 Facts about me:
1. The force is not strong with me.
2. Snickers is my favorite candy bar.
3. My truck has almost 200,000 miles on it.
4. I broke my wrist in high school rollerblading.
5. Spiders creep me out.
6. There was a time in my life where I could have very happily become a hermit.
7.  I think there is real magic in this world just waiting to be found.


The One Lovely Blog Award Nominations are:


The Liebster Award Nominations are:


And my questions for them:
1. If you were a knight, what would your knightly name be?
2. What is your quest?  (What is the purpose of your blog?  What do you write?  What do you get out of it?)
3. What is your favorite color?  (Seriously just asking about your favorite color.)
4. What is the average airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?  (This is sort of a bonus question – Google or Wikipedia might be able to help.  I will accept an answer for either the African or European variety.)
5. What is your favorite Monty Python movie or sketch?  And why?  (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge…)
6. How much do you hate lists?  (You can answer this question any way you like: comparison, a picture representation, with a list, a number on a scale (out of 5 out of 10 out of 42), etc…)
7. If you were a woodchuck, how much wood would you chuck?  (See question 6 for suggestions on acceptable answers.)
8. If you could be any character from TV or film, who would you be and why?  (Moe from the Simpsons so you could own your own bar?  Princess Leia from Star Wars because she looks good and knows how to fight?  Or Beatrix A Kiddo from Kill Bill for that matter?  Indiana Jones because he is awesome? etc…)

I sat down at the laptop to write

Honestly, I did.  I know I was sitting on my wondrously evil couch, but I hadn’t turned on the TV, and had no plan to turn on that infernal contraption either.  I was going to pull up one of my unfinished stories and write, write, write.

And then this happened:

(Sorry for the bad picture quality – these were all taken with the image capture utility on my laptop, and the only light in the room at the time was that being produced by the screen.)

Belle is just so ridiculously cute sometimes.
I think I’ll just squeeze in here between you and the computer. Yeah, that’s the spot.

I tried to adjust the angle of the screen so I could get a better picture, and then this happened:

That's her I'm thinking about ripping your face off look.
You better give me all of your attention.

I gave up on taking pictures, I gave up on writing, and then this happened:

Ah, to be a spoiled kitty must be an awfully big adventure.
More! More! More! MORE!!!!!

So, you see, I couldn’t write, I couldn’t edit, I couldn’t go out and read more of your blogs.  You all forgive me, don’t you?


decisions, decisions

Yesterday I posted about which five items I would save if my house was on fire.  Today I wanted to expand on that subject by discussing which things I wish I could have saved but had been forced to leave behind… in this hypothetical situation where my house burned down… and I was only able to save five things… though I still think I would have tried to put the fire out before it came down to a mad scramble to grab things on my way out the door, but that’s beside the point.

So, yesterday I saved five things, and today I’m happy to have those five things, but I am sad I wasn’t able to save………….. everything else. 

What a silly question, right?  I mean, if I didn’t want all my stuff, I wouldn’t have all of my stuff.  It’s not like I’d say, “Oh, I wish I had been able to save my DVD collection, but I’m okay with the bed getting burned to a crisp, I wanted a new bed anyway.”  Or, “It’s really too bad about my kitchen-ware melting down to puddles of goop, but I’m actually kind of happy the fire helped me clean out my closets.”

Or, how about this:  I wish I could have taken the fire out of the house – I’m sad I had to leave it behind to destroy my home.

blackmail works

And why would you want to change a strategy that works?


Proposition 30, in CA, was blackmail placed on the ballot by our Governor, Jerry Brown.  It wasn’t even hidden blackmail.  It was right out there for everyone to see.

“Vote yes on Prop 30 and raise taxes or I’m going to cut funding for schools.”

Okay… so at least the money raised through the increased taxes is going to go to the schools, right?  Nope.  That money goes into the general fund to be used as needed, when needed. 

And it leaves the schools no better off than they would have been otherwise.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt them further either.  That’s right. 

It’s not even elegant blackmail.  It’s bold and in your face: raise taxes on yourselves or I will hurt your children.

 In the poker game that was this political season, we the people blinked first and folded.  We should have called his bluff.  Now Moonbeam knows our tell and he can keep on threatening schools and keep on raising taxes.

Is giving in to blackmail really the precedent we wanted to set?

My NaNoWriMo 5

I woke, much as I had the day before, to the wonderful silence of a morning without rain.  There was no pitter patter of small drops hitting the tent as they filtered through the canopy of trees overhead.  There was no smattering onslaught of giant drops slamming into the rain fly cascading down from the heavens at an angle.  There were no splashing plops as drops dove into giant standing pools of water as the mana from above fell too quickly for the ground to absorb it.

There was, however, sunlight streaming through the tall trees to caress my little camp in its warm embrace.  Wait a minute…

“Crap.  I overslept.”

I quickly removed myself from my sleeping bag and jammed it into its stuff sack.  Then I unscrewed the nozzle on my air mattress, rolled it up, and slid it into its case.  I threw on some close and didn’t even take the time to brace myself for the morning chill before unzipping the tent flap and hauling myself out into the world beyond my cozy little tent.

“Not that I need to worry about it being all that cold now that the sun is already up,” I smirked as I went about pulling my gear out of the tent so I could take it down and roll it up too.

I tend to talk to myself more when I’m frustrated.  I’m not sure that it helps with anything, or why I started doing it in the first place, but that’s just the way it is.  I’m weird.  We’ve covered that.

Two trips from the tent to my backpack later and the tent was empty.  I quickly pulled up the stakes, pulled the poles loose from their moorings, and then folded up the poles and stored them and the stakes in their respective bags.  The tent was rolled and stored shortly thereafter.

I grabbed my “breakfast of champions” out of one of the bear canisters, mixed my breakfast drink and gulped it down, and shoved the granola bar into my right front pocket to enjoy once I had gotten a mile or two down the trail.  I used a splash of water from my Nalgene to rinse out my cup and then went quickly and methodically about the task of getting everything into my backpack.

You can’t just throw things in and expect it all to fit.  You have to have a strategy and put items in spaces that are shaped appropriately to fit them.  This became especially true with the requirement to carry the bear canisters.  I will admit without hesitation that they do a great job of keeping your food safely away from bears (and vise versa) but they are bulky and oddly shaped and without proper planning can be a real nightmare to try and squeeze into a backpack.  I was, of course, carrying two of them which made the task exponentially more difficult.

“Another example of me not doing things the easy way.”  Except with the amount of food I needed to carry there wasn’t much of a choice in the matter.  Only so much can fit in each canister and no amount of shoving or strategic packing will make it otherwise.  Trust me.

“Who are you talking to?”  Imagine my surprise when no one answered.  Hey, more sarcasm.  Awesome.

With everything back in the pack I did one last sweep of the campground to make sure I had in fact gotten everything packed, to make sure I wasn’t leaving any trash, and to make sure the fire had cooled down enough over night that it was completely safe.  The camp was clean and I was ready to go.

“It’s like I’ve done this before,” I grunted as I shouldered the pack, sucked in my gut to snap the belly band into place and then adjusted the shoulder straps to better distribute the weight.  “And I see I’m not alone this morning.  Sarcasm has come out to play as well.”

Before either talking myself or the sarcastic silliness could get even more out of hand, I turned my back to my camp and made my way back onto the John Muir Trail headed south.  Well, headed generally south but trails in the Sierra never do very well and actually going the direction they are supposed to.  I think I was actually headed east.  Isn’t that what it means when I’m headed towards the giant fire ball in the sky?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

After being on the trail for 30 minutes I retrieved the granola bar from my pocket so I could get those additional calories consumed and ready to burn before I started working up too much of a sweat.  As the partially chewy and partially crunchy concoction gummed up my mouth I looked forward to the more savory lunch I would get to enjoy after a few hours and several miles had passed under my feet.

The layover day had done my body a world of good.  The aches, pains, tiredness and stiffness had all eased away and I was able to work into my normal hiking gait relatively easily.  Every hiker has their own preferred gait based on stride length, strength, weight adjustment and, well, confidence.  Hiking at your preferred gait usually allows you go for longer periods of time before getting tired.  But, as long as you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, you’ll generally get where you are going, preferred gait or not.

I had just found a stride and pace that I was happy about while traversing the constantly shifting terrain, from loose rocks strewn across the trail to soft spongy shoe sucking gunk to solid granite shelves and back to the loose rocks, when it happened.  I caught movement out of the corner of my eye, again without an accompanying sound, but when I swiveled my head to see what was there, nothing remained.

I stopped.  I hated stopping.  I especially hated stopping when I had found a good hiking rhythm.  But, at that moment, I hated not knowing what it was that I had almost glimpsed three times more.  I felt my pulse quicken and the hairs rose on the back of my neck.  If I had one of those machines to test it I’m sure my blood pressure would have been through the roof.

“Am I going crazy?”

No.  I definitely saw something.  I thought back and tried to remember what my periphery had captured to make my head turn and there had definitely been a shape.  And a different color!  The terrain off to the side of the trail was a mixture of brown and tan rocky patches interspersed with the full spectrum of greens in the form of moss, grass, reeds, pine needles and oak leaves.  Whatever I had seen had definitely been red.

“And there is no red there now…  Okay, so what did I see?”  Unfortunately there was no response, no further movements, and no magical appearance of anything else red.  I reasoned that it could have been a bird, again, and the flash of red could have been the belly of a robin as it flitted across the edge of my vision.  Was that the shape I had seen?  I didn’t think so.  It had seemed bigger than a bird.  The amount of red had seemed larger than an entire robin and so it didn’t make sense that it could have been just the small amount of color on a bird’s chest.

“Maybe with the speed, the blur of its movement made the amount of color seem larger than it really was.”  It almost had to be a bird of some kind.  I took a few steps off the trail in the direction of my most recent disruptive vision and looked for signs of animal movement in the ground.  No prints, no broken twigs or blades of grass, and no droppings of any kind: it couldn’t have been anything moving along the ground.  “It must have been a bird.”

I readjusted the weight on my shoulders and made my way back to the trail, but I was careful not to turn my back on the spot.  I was a reasonable man, and I had reasoned that it must have been some sort of bird, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t also a wary man.  Plus, that uncomfortable feeling had come back on strongly and I liked to heed that particular feeling for life preservation purposes.

I frowned.  I had tarried too long and still had many miles to go.  Yet I was loathe to leave with another unsolved mystery.

A minute passed and I felt a lick of heat from the sun on my exposed arms.  That got me moving.  Mysteries aside, I did not want to get sun burned and I had been standing out in the open.  The first patch of shade I hiked into was a refreshing bath on my hot skin.

What a difference a day made.  On the third day hiking under the storm I would have done almost anything for the sun to come out and warm my chilled body.  That had already morphed into trying to hide from the sun as much as possible.  Interesting.  Funny.  Ridiculous.

It took a little while but I got my stride and pace back to where I wanted them and the ground quickly passed below my feet.  I saw and enjoyed view and view that I would have stopped to capture in photographs when I was younger.  There were a couple instances I wished I had brought my camera on the trip so I could attempt to take a picture that would include a last memory of both the view and what I was feeling when the picture was taken.  Then again, I wouldn’t have had much opportunity to use the camera while it was raining and hailing and it would have been one more thing for me to worry about getting wet.  So, it was a toss up.

The day progressed, the landscape changed, and the sun slid directly over head.  I found a nice shady spot near what might have normally been no more than a trickling stream but due to the recent weather required a few rock hops to cross, and stopped to enjoy my lunch.  Finding an adequate water source for lunch was essential so water supplies could be replenished after eating.  Remember, proper hydration is key.

I lunched, I hydrated, I pumped clean water, I rested for twenty minutes or so, and then I shouldered my pack and sojourned on.  I wasn’t sure where I was going to stop for the day but I hadn’t made it there yet.  I’d know the spot when I came across it.  Probably.

Sometimes I end up passing the site I should have stopped at for the night only to have to turn around and make my way back to it.  Though, stubbornly, sometimes when that happens instead of turning around I just keep trekking on until I come across another site that will work.  That strategy only works in certain sections of the John Muir Trail.

The current abundance of available water would make it easier to find suitable places to camp than in years past.  Actually, it would be easier to find workable sites than it weeks past too.  All I really needed was a water source and a mostly level spot to set up my tent.  I’m low maintenance like that.

So, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, kept one eye out on the trail in front of me, kept the other sweeping across the awe-inspiring scenery, and tried to put as much distance between me and the three unsolved mysteries.  Part of me was hoping that if I covered enough ground I’d leave the uncomfortable feelings somewhere on my back trail.  Part of me was just enjoying being on the trail.

A little before 3 I rock hopped my way across another swollen stream and found a small clearing a few feet off the trail.  There was even another fire pit which meant it was probably an authorized (suggested) camping area.  I unsnapped my belly band and shrugged out of my pack and enjoyed an immediate and overwhelming sense of relief.

But, I couldn’t enjoy it for too long.  There was a tent to set up, and gear to get into place, and a fishing pole to set up, and fishing to be done, and dinner to be cooked and only a few hours left before day turned into night.

“I better get to it.”


Word Count: 2,111
Total Word Count: 10,255

Story progress:  It’s occuring to me that I’m doing a terrible job of staying in the correct tense…  I’m not sure how much that really matters while trying to get out the 50,000 words this month because it is probably something that I can fix in editing afterwards, but if you had noticed I wanted to let you know I’ve noticed too.  So far, I like the way I’m blending humor and intrigue.  Well, I’m intrigued, I want to know what is going to happen next, and hopefully that means you all want to know too.