Showing posts from 2013

Fall Updates

  I'll just call this post my fall update. Really though, it is a gardening update along with news of my recent operation to have some bumps removed from my eyelid that was causing some vision problems. A lone pickling cucumber braving the last days of Summer. New crop in: broccoli and collards. Eggplant-the biggest producer of the Summer. A couple of sizable eggplants in the fridge.   A forest of tomato. Fried green tomatoes anyone? First, the aquaponics gardening update since this news is better. I just planted my fall crop of broccoli, brussels sprouts, and collards. The two eggplants that completely took over an entire growing bed are now gone, having produced their last eggplant. Also gone are the cilantro and basil. After the new plants were established, I planted some Simpson lettuce from seed. It should take a couple weeks to be ready for transplanting in the system. When the lettuce is ready, I'll start poking it into whatever empty

IWSG - Creative Shutdown

Today, I will keep my comments brief. I've been having some vision issues lately so writing has become difficult as of late. In addition to all this, I have been affected by the government shutdown, although, I suppose, not as much as I could've been. I've still got a job and will continue to report to work as usually throughout the resolution of our governmental and budgeting woes. Unfortunately, I will be working without pay until further notice. But hey, at least I've still got a job, right? Because of these things, my creativity has been smooshed. I'm hoping to keep driving on and use my forthcoming dire economic situation to kickstart my creative juices. It is too bad our Congress and President could not (will not) call upon the benefit of personal economic hardship as a catalyst to get stuff done. That's all I have to say about that. To read about what other, more motivated writers have to say this first Wednesday of the month, click HERE .
Today I'm ranting guest blogging at Donna 's place. Won't you please stop by and read a very revealing article and honest review? Be sure to comment if you feel so inclined. Just use the link provided with Donna's name above to get to the party!

IWSG - Taming the Monsters

  S ince I posted a fine article for my first installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group (a great contribution, if I do say so) allow me to rant and ramble on my second post. I'm one of those writers who seem to have more ideas than time and/or proper motivation. Usually, I have a hundred random ideas rushing through my head on any given day. Occasionally I must force my ass into a chair, pick one idea, and run with it. Unfortunately, my hard drive full of half-baked and half-written stories tells me I'm not too good at picking out the solid ideas that might have even the smallest chance of turning into something resembling a finished product. Occasionally though, with enough pushing, self-loathing, and bitter ornery resolve I manage to complete something once in a while. I continue to work on my mystery crime story, which I'm now convinced, has an absolutely unique main character but my mind often drifts to stories of fantasy and, uh ... things of a mor

Latest Acquisition

W ell, I think I've finally gone over the edge. Yes, I've found another typewriter that I just HAD TO HAVE. I must say though, that I think I just bought the best that Smith-Corona ever made. The only thing I can do now to improve my typewriter collection is to buy more of the same model in different colors ... although, I've kind of been eyeballing one of the old Corona 3 foldable typewriters lately. Here's my typecast from the latest typewriter in my collection: I also must leak some future news in the writing area. I think you'll like it, but you'll just have to wait until next month. I actually thought about writing some of my mystery/crime/suspense works in progress on this new typewriter but then thought about the lack of auto correct, and cut and past, and quickly squelched that idea before it could fester.

Adventures at the Beach

L ast weekend we went to the beach with our daughter and grandchildren. As usual, we spent an hour arguing about my driving ability and being lost for every ten minutes of enjoyment. It was a great time had by all. In fact, We're already talking about going again. Having not been to the beaches of Florida for some time, I realized we'd forgotten some basic knowledge about beach-going. So, in grand JL Stratton fashion, I must propagate my pedagogy to the world so that you may learn from my mistakes. First and foremost, if I could give you just one piece of advice, that would be: Wear sunscreen. Of course, this is followed my instruction that you should apply the sunscreen in places you would not think the rays of the sun might reach because, at the beach anyway, the sun seems to defy all physics and logical thinking to create sunburns in places one might previously thought of as "covered." Secondly: Bring a swim suit. I know. One would think this

Insecure Writers - First Post

This being my first venture into the world of participative blogging, I thought I'd start with a related subject area, and one I personally have quite an amount of trouble with ... where to begin. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that readers of my stories have (in not so many words) told me that I occasionally ramble along before getting to the meat of my prose. I know there is much advice out there about where one should begin a story but this advice is often much easier to read than to actually follow in deed. In Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland , this question is asked and answered as such: "Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely, "and go on till you come to the end: then stop." This is fine advice that I often adhere to when beginning a new story, especially with a new character. I like to take a little time and burn a few thousand words finding out just who this character is and what the character is all about. Beginning a

Halcyon Days of Summers Past

  A h yes, memory take me back to a time. Back to those days of my youth where innocence and sweet ignorance protected me as much as my kaleidoscope memory now blurs the edges and shields me from the pain in my past. Memories, funny things. My memories seem to change over the course of time, kind of how an ice cream cone gets that slick sheen just before it deforms and melts down the cone. Time has a way of smoothing the edges and refining what is kept, and what is lost. But, isn't that a good thing? I mean, who would want to remember all the bad times, all the pain given and received in the process of becoming an adult. I remember back to when I attended high school. Yes, a trying time for most, I'm sure. Some recent writing research forced me to remember those times. Not just the good times but all of them; some quite painful. I must admit that in my high school days, I was something of a fly on the wall. I didn't really belong to any particular group or cli

Remembering Helen

If you ask folks who Helen Thomas was, most would simply shrug their shoulders and cast a blank stare. Helen Thomas had a larger impact on our world than most would understand. She was born in 1920 in Winchester, Kentucky. Her family moved to Detroit, Michigan when she was four years old where her father opened a grocery story. Her family came to America as immigrants from Lebanon, and neither of her parents spoke English upon landing at Ellis Island. Yes folks the story of Helen Thomas and her family is one of a true American-an immigrant family who contributed to our society. I'm sure that Helen will be missed by many. If you recall, I met Helen Thomas years ago while on a military mission.  I'll refresh your memory with this picture of me taken beside her inside a helicopter. Keep in mind that, when this picture was taken, Helen was 74 years old and still the most alert and energetic passenger. Although, I must say, she was not too keen on the idea of skirting acro

Officially Obsessive

 I guess it is official. With four typewriters now, I must be a collector. I must be obsessive. But in my defense (psychotic, obsessive, narcissistic, people often try to defend themselves) my last typewriter was one I chose to refurbish. No, I went a little further than simple refurbishing and pimped that baby out! What once was a drab desert sand colored artifact from the late fifties is now a sleek shiny metallic hot rod serving as the pride of my otherwise stock collection. Here's the typecast from this new beauty with the old-possibly original-ink ribbon still installed. Just received a new ribbon in the mail today but haven't put it in and taken it for a test-drive yet. In case the first picture was not enough to get you as excited as I am about this wonderful clockwork machine, here's more: I must say, mere pictures simply cannot provide due justice to the finish and metallic reflections on this typewriter. I brought this

Perfect Procrastination

W ell friends, it has finally come to fruition, this weekend I'm on my first furlough for the year. Yes folks, while you were all pinned to the television watching IRS scandals, the country of Egypt disintegrating, and a court case that should have never made it to trial, your Department of the Army civilian employees are being furloughed due to a three percent reduction in the proposed annual increase to the government's budget. I digress. The point here is that, due to my furlough days all falling together to give me basically a five-day weekend, I have time to work on some projects around the home. For years, my wife has been gently prodding me to take action on our garage that has turned into a Sanford and Son style storage facility with no real remaining function and basically a fire hazard allowing no path to safety if calamity should come upon us. Of course, I've been procrastinating on this for as many years as her gentle prodding. Well, this weekend,

Vintage Word Processing

Well, it's confirmed. I'm on my way to another unhealthy addiction. Received my third and fourth typewriters from the post man the previous week. I have a fifth vintage typewriter on the way but it doesn't count toward this addiction because it is the same model as the fourth machine and will be used to create a refurbished super (read, franken) typewriter. Here's my typecasting for this post. Note the difference in font between this new Olympia and my original Smith-Corona typewriter. The font on the Olympia is a courier 10 and is all business--just what I would expect from a German-made machine.    A beautiful Machine, if I do say so.

In Praise of the [hard] Working Author

Today I feel re-energized, ready to get my writing back in gear. Lawrence Block, Author Photo Was it because of some cosmic or religious epiphany? Was it because another person or writer snuck up behind me and provided me with the swift kick in the rear I so desperately need? Maybe, but not in the sense of an actual kick in the rear. While all of these events would certainly be welcome, it was because, in frustration of not being able to put word on paper, I gave up and decided to read a book--read a book for pleasure, not research. So, I perused through the ebook listings with little avail until I did a new search for Lawrence Block, one of my favorite go-to authors. Well, I guess he's the favorite, since I've had a falling out of sorts with Lee Child, ending years of infatuation over his decision to allow the diminutive Tom Cruise to be cast in the first movie made from his works. But, that's another story found here:


Sometimes objects inspire. In my case, I am inspired by the beauty and mechanical preciseness of a vintage (antique now) typewriter. So inspired, am I, that I thought I would post my first typecast onto this blog. Probably will not do it too often as it involves much work. Before I do much more of this, I must install the proper software to my printer so it can scan to my computer. A recent realization is that my printer is not exactly plug and play. So, anyway. Here goes. Although I was born and raised in a time when we still used manual typewriters, I had forgotten how to use the number "1" as there is no key for this on an older typewriter. It was not until I finished this little note that I remembered to use a lower case "L" as a one.  My first vintage typewriter:  A Smith-Corona Sterling from 1952


My aquaponics adventure continues with the addition of fish to the system. The system is still cycling but, given my difficulty in finding a pure source of ammonia (outside of peeing in the fish tank) I've decided to switch to the cycling method using fish. I purchased forty little feeder goldfish - Comets, I think they're called - and brought them home to my awaiting 200 gallon tank. When I arrived home and checked the temperature of the water, I was unpleasantly surprised to find that the recent temperature drop and approaching storms had dropped the tank to 68 degrees F. That was just outside the three degree limit of transplanting my little feeders coming from a tank that was about 72 degrees F. Using my hillbilly ingenuity, inherited through ages of cheapskates and country bumpkins in my family, I fashioned a makeshift heater from materials I had on hand. What does every Southerner have on hand? A turkey fryer, of course! Okay, so I'm not completely Southern yet

How My Garden Grows ...or Doesn't

Early strawberries I'm not Irish, but in the spirit of St. Patrick's day, I'm trying to turn my thumb green. A few months ago I posted about building a greenhouse for the Grandchildren so we could try our hand at growing winter vegetables. We had mixed results. We had a great little crop of onions but I didn't create a trellis for the peas in time and they produced only viney bushes. The greenhouse got so hot (even through winter) that the lettuce grew like wildfire. We harvested two heads before the rest of the plants bolted. Fish tank above ground Now, as promised, we're trying something new for this year. I've spent the winter gathering materials and knowledge to build an aquaponic garden. Of course, like everything else I attempt, I had to go cheap, so it's been a learning experience. Aquaponics is a hybrid of aquaculture (fish farming) and hydroponics (growing plants in water without soil) and can be quite enjoyable for geeks like me bec

On the Other Foot

My son is serving in the military. He's deploying now for the first time to Afghanistan ... and I'm concerned. I guess now, for the first time in my life, the shoe is on the other foot. Being retired military myself, I've experienced my share of deployments. But back then, it was different, it was me deploying, not my only son. Of course, what I never gave thought to before was, I was someone else's only son. I never understood the heartache my family experienced when I left. For me, it was an adventure -- I was going someplace new without concern for my own mortality. It is amazing to me that one does not consider such things until it is a loved-one moving into harm's way. Maybe it was the military training. I was only concerned with completing the mission at the time. I knew that my family would be taken care of, should something happen to me. But what I was unaware of, was the emotional toll my leaving put upon them. Now, as I think about my son prepari

Pesky Pen Names

W hile most of you (who are not writers) may not empathize with my plight, those who know me well enough will know that I write commercial fiction under a pen name. ... And yes, some of the material written under that pen name is for adults only, or at least those looking for paranormal romantic suspense with no holds barred or general erotica with the slightest hint of a plot. Anyway, I recently wrote a sequel to a paranormal romantic suspense (crime) novel that was rather risque. The sequel was not risque. In fact the story begins and ends with the main character assumed to still be a virgin. The sequel was pure paranormal romantic suspense that could be read by someone of any age, and it was a dismal flop. Well, maybe not a dismal flop, but a flop nonetheless. It would have been a dismal flop but it managed to sell one copy through one channel (Amazon) so far this month of January. After talking to some of my writer friends about this, I was convinced that, in no uncertain ter

Motivation and Misplaced Attentions

I had this unnatural urge to write this post as an update to the continuing gun control saga, but realized it would accomplish nothing. So, I've decided to write about something nearly everyone can relate to; something everyone suffers from, or suffers a lack of. We are now half-way through the first month of the new year. How many of you are still running toward your resolutions? I ran for a few minutes on January first, but then I got a cramp and I've been walking toe-to-heel ever since. It's not that I don't want to follow through on my self-induced commitments, I've just lost the push, the strength of conviction, the motivation. Motivation The word has its origins from the Latin word 'Mover' which means 'To move.' Think of it as proverbial carrot on a stick one might use to get a beast of burden to move forward. But, for people, or rather, individuals, there must be some other component. I studied motivation from a management perspectiv