Punched In the Heart

 Posted by at 12:05 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 052021
 

It has cooled down considerably here on the Central Florida Coast, with daytime temperatures this week in the mid to high 60s and overnight lows in the upper 40s to mid-50s. Perfect sleeping and snuggling weather, and the fish are biting, too! And some of them are big. Look at this monster drum that one of our neighbors caught the other day. I definitely need to get out there and have some fun.

Not that I don’t have fun at home, too. Someone told me when I was a young man that if you enjoy what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life, and I have found that to be true. Terry and I have said many times how fortunate we are that we don’t have to go out and go to work someplace. I can sit at my desk and write stories and have a great time. And I don’t have to wear a mask at home!

In fact, that’s what I did yesterday, worked on my new John Lee Quarrels book. I am at or very near the halfway point now, and the first few chapters have already been printed out and are going through the various editing and proofreading stages.

Speaking of books, I have received all kinds of reviews for my books over the years. Many, many five-star reviews, which I really enjoy, and some one-star reviews that keep me balanced, and I appreciate all of them, but I think this one has to be my favorite review of all time.

Speaking of reviews, we’ve always been a fan of Mayim Bialik, who played Amy on The Big Bang Theory, so we decided to check out her new sitcom, Call Me Kat. Four minutes of it was all that either one of us could take. It wasn’t just bad, it was painful to watch. I hope Ms. Bialik can find a better project the next time around because there’s no doubt in my mind that this one won’t last very long.

We also watched Death to 2020 on Netflix, which is a spoof documentary of the happenings of the past twelve months. Some people have called it laugh out loud funny, and while I wouldn’t go that far, it had its moments. Especially the vapid blonde White House spokesperson who lived in a world of denial, and a couple of other characters. If you’re tired of reruns, it’s worth an hour of your time.

In closing, the wife of a friend of mine from my Army days read yesterday’s blog and said I forgot to add one part to my story about the MPs failing their firearms qualifications. None of them were allowed to carry their weapons on duty, which meant that as they were all slowly requalified, some guys were working 12-hour shifts seven days a week. Can you guess which MP I made sure was the first one to requalify and have to do that?

Thought For The Day – If I had a dollar for every time a girl told me, “I like you, but not that way” they’d like me that way.

My Criminal Past

 Posted by at 12:11 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 042021
 

You may think I’m just a chubby little guy who spends my days writing stories about cops and criminals, but you might be surprised to learn that I have a criminal past of my own. That’s right, I’ve spent some time in jail.

For part of my time in the Army I was a firearms instructor at the US Military Academy at West Point, which is located 60 miles north of New York City. This was back in the early 1970s, and New York had some very strange laws during that time period. When we weren’t training cadets, National Guard, and Army Reserve units, and providing support to local police agencies who wanted to use our ranges, we also got assigned to other duties. One of those duties was occasionally helping the MPs with things.

In one case, we had a guy who deserted after assaulting an officer. He was only gone about a week and his parents convinced him to turn himself in. So he flew into LaGuardia Airport and approached a security officer and said he was a deserter and wanted to turn himself in to the Army. They held him in a security room and called West Point, since that was where he had been stationed, and myself and another NCO were told to take a staff car and go down and pick him up. This happened on a Sunday.

So there we were, in our dress uniforms, leading him out of the airport in handcuffs. When we got to the car, a Transit Officer or something like that approached us and asked us why we were carrying handguns in New York City, and demanded to see our carry permits. We told him that we were picking up a prisoner, but that didn’t matter to him. We were not police officers, and we were not supposed to be carrying guns, as far as he was concerned.

He called his supervisor, who showed up and had the same opinion, so we were both arrested and taken to a precinct in Queens. It took about three hours for a JAG officer and our commanding officer to get there. The JAG officer said that we were doing our duty and they had no right to arrest us and explained that the law allowed officers and agents of the US military to carry weapons in the performance of our duties. The cops’ argument was that we were “noncommissioned” officers and not “officers,” and our rank did not say “agent,” so we were breaking the law.

It took a while, and a very angry Assistant District Attorney called in on a Sunday to get that all sorted out, but they finally gave us back our weapons and told us to get out of there, so we did. Five blocks away, the sergeant who had been with me asked, “What happened to the guy we were picking up?” We went right back to the precinct, and the fellow on duty at the desk said he had no idea, he remembered somebody sitting on a bench there for a while, but then he was gone. A week or so later, the guy showed up at West Point and turned himself in.

Another oddball thing there was that during the winter when we were not training cadets, we got assigned to all kinds of weird things. One of them was two weeks of recruiting duty every year. The Army rented a very small apartment somewhere in the city, where NCOs would stay and go out and talk to kids in high school, telling them about all the wonderful things that would happen to them in the Army.

It was a rough neighborhood and a couple of guys from another unit got mugged, and one of them was stabbed. The same JAG officer who had responded when we were arrested in the story earlier did some research and found out that at that time in New York City, black powder cap and ball revolvers were not considered firearms, they were considered “curiosities.” So several of us bought short-barreled .36 caliber replica revolvers, which were just as deadly as anything else you could shoot someone with, and carried them tucked in our belts under our uniforms. None of us ever had to use one of them, and I’m not sure what would have happened if we did, from a legal standpoint.

One final story from that time. Myself and another range master lived in a pair of small stone cottages across the road from the main rifle range, where we had a storage room full of weapons and ammunition. Since we were several miles from the main base, part of our job was to respond to any alarms going off on the range because we could be there long before the MPs could. And because of that, we were authorized to carry a .45 semi-automatic pistol even when off duty, and each kept an M-16 at the house.

One day I went to the main base to do some grocery shopping at the commissary, and as I was loading everything into the back of my new Mustang an MP pulled up and wanted to know why I had a pistol on me. I told him who I was and that I was authorized to carry, but he didn’t believe that, so he arrested me. Yes, I’ve been arrested twice! I showed him a letter from General Knowlton, the superintendent at West Point, requiring me to be armed, but he didn’t care about any of that.

It was a hot summer day and I said if he was going arrest me, could I at least take my ice cream back to the store so it did melt in the trunk of my car. He would let me do that. It being a Saturday (I always seem to get in trouble on the weekends), it took a while to get hold of my commanding officer, who then got hold of the MP commanding officer, and the excrement hit the oscillating device.

Long story short, when I was released and got back to my car, two half-gallons of ice cream had melted into the carpeting of the trunk. I was not a happy camper. My CO was a great guy and reminded me that the MPs had to qualify with their weapons every six months, and as range master, my word was God on the range. If I didn’t feel someone qualified, they would have to reshoot on another day at my convenience. Amazingly, all 47 members of the MP company failed their qualification in one day. As did their commanding officer, executive officer, and First Sergeant. Once again, the excrement hit the oscillating device. But there was nothing they could do about it. It was very convenient for me to drive across the road and open the range for them to requalify, and I did, two at a time over several days when they were scheduled to be off duty. Don’t ever piss off the range master.

Congratulations Karen Keeley, winner of our drawing for a printed copy of The Twofer Compendium, a collection of 36 twin-themed short stories written by 34 international authors that leap across genres from science fiction to whimsical, to downright creepy. We had 43 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new drawing starts soon.

Thought For The Day – If a gingerbread man breaks his leg, does he walks with a candy cane?

Offline

 Posted by at 12:50 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 032021
 

I don’t know when you will see this since both our Spectrum TV and internet went down about 8:30 last night, but I will try to get it posted using my phone as a hot spot.

I spent most of Saturday working on my new John Lee Quarrels book, reading the last three chapters and then printing them out for Terry to proof. I also wrote another 2,500 words or so. I am not quite to the halfway point, but getting close.

Our daughter called from Arizona just before dinner and we talked for a while, and just after dinner our son called from Alabama. I sure like hearing from my kids and miss them. Can’t wait to see them again once we finally get this pandemic behind us.

Several people, including my son, have told me we should watch Death To 2020 on Netflix, so we decided that would be our evening’s entertainment. But Spectrum crashed about twenty minutes into it, which only seems fitting given the subject matter. Hopefully, we can finish it tonight.

Today is your last chance to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a printed copy of The Twofer Compendium, a collection of 36 twin-themed short stories written by 34 international authors that leap across genres, from science fiction to whimsical, to downright creepy. In them, you will meet twins who are good, bad, fantastic, fearsome, magical, envious, secretive, devious, and more. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – Lance is not a very common name these days, but in medieval times people were named Lance a lot.

Sequoyah’s Cabin

 Posted by at 12:13 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 022021
 

On a back road in eastern Oklahoma, a small state park preserves the cabin of one of the most influential Native Americans of all time.

Little accurate information is available concerning the life of Sequoyah, sometimes known as George Gist or Guess. He was born in the 1760s or 1770s, probably in Tennessee, and was the son of a Cherokee woman and a white or half-breed trader. Sequoyah was raised by his mother in the traditional Cherokee tribal manner and became a silversmith or blacksmith. He never learned to speak or read English, but around 1809 he became interested in writing and printing, which he recognized as a powerful civilizing force.

Sequoyah spent years experimenting with symbols to decipher the Cherokee language. In 1821 he completed a syllabary consisting of 84 characters, each of which represented a syllable. Because it was a phonetic rendition of the language, the syllabary could be learned in a short period of time. Within a few months, thousands of Eastern Cherokee Indians had mastered it and were learning to read and write.
In 1822 Sequoyah traveled to Arkansas to introduce his syllabary to the Western Cherokee. The following year he settled in Arkansas, and in about 1828 he moved with the Western Cherokee to Indian Territory, where he lived for most of his life. It is believed that he died about 1843 or 1844 in Mexico while searching for a band of Cherokee who, according to tribal lore, had migrated to the region in 1721.

Sequoyah’s syllabary had a dramatic impact on Cherokee culture. Before the syllabary, the Cherokee had viewed the white man’s written records as witchcraft. After Sequoyah introduced his syllabary, they were able to codify their laws, adopt a written constitution, better govern and educate themselves, and express their viewpoints in print. Once they became literate in their own language, they could more easily grasp English.

By 1824 the Eastern Cherokee were printing portions of the Bible. Four years later, at their capital in New Echota, Georgia, they began publishing the first Indian newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix. This technology made news and literature available to the older generation, most of whom were fluent only in their native tongue, as well as to younger Cherokee, many of whom had been schooled in English.

Shortly after they adopted Sequoyah’s syllabary, the other Five Civilized Tribes began to formulate their own, and before long all of them could read and write. The syllabaries provided Christian missionaries a means of written communication with the Indians through books, pamphlets, and other religious and educational materials.

Beyond its direct benefits, Sequoyah’s syllabary made possible the preservation of a mass of Cherokee lore in print. Of special interest to ethnologists are the writings of the Cherokee shamans, which provide an unparalleled body of information on an aboriginal religion that was unobtainable from any other American Indian tribe.

Sequoyah’s contribution to the Cherokee Nation has been recognized in many ways. During his lifetime, the U.S. government honored him with a monetary award, and the Cherokee nation granted him a pension and medal. His likeness appeared on a postage stamp, and his statue is displayed in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol. His name is immortalized in the giant Sequoia trees of California, and with the world’s other great alphabet inventors on the bronze doors of the Library of Congress.

Sequoyah’s Cabin State Park, near Akin, Oklahoma, preserves the cabin Sequoyah built in 1829. A typical one-room frontier home of hewn logs with stone chimney and fireplace, the cabin has undergone minor restoration. It is enclosed in a stone shelter, which features relics and documents associated with Sequoyah’s life. Near the shelter stands a log structure dating from 1855 that once adjoined the cabin.

The historic landmark includes a visitor center, small museum, and picnic area. The parking lot is small, and drivers of large RVs should park elsewhere and drive their tow vehicle or dinghy.

Sequoyah’s Cabin State Park is located on State Route 101 a few miles east of Akin. The park is open Tuesday through Sunday, and is closed on all holidays. Hours seem to be sporadic, so you would be advised to call (918) 775-2413 before visiting.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a printed copy of The Twofer Compendium, a collection of 36 twin-themed short stories written by 34 international authors that leap across genres, from science fiction to whimsical, to downright creepy. In them, you will meet twins who are good, bad, fantastic, fearsome, magical, envious, secretive, devious, and more. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Age may wrinkle your face, but each wrinkle contains a treasured memory.

Is It Really Gone?

 Posted by at 1:33 am  Nick's Blog
Jan 012021
 

Okay, is 2020 really gone, or is this one of those practical jokes where just about the time we all breathe a sigh of relief, it pops up out of nowhere and yells “Boo!” I sure hope it’s behind us, although a friend of mine said last night that we’ve got a new year that’s now 21 and legal to drink. Can you imagine the new year saying to 2020, “If you think that was something, hold my beer!” Let’s hope not.

So what did you wear to the living room last night for your celebration to welcome in the new year? Did you get all fancied up in new pajamas, or were you in the ones you’ve been wearing all the time? I know a lot of people who normally go to bed early who told me they were staying up just to make sure 2020 really left. You can’t be too careful.

I had one of my rough nights and only got about three or four hours’ sleep, so I was a little slow getting started yesterday. But I did answer some questions by email and in a couple of online authors’ groups. Then I managed to crank out just under 5,000 words in my new John Lee Quarles book before calling it a day.

Our last dinner of 2020 was awesome. Miss Terry made some of her delicious shrimp and grits, and they were fabulous.

 

I can’t think of a better way to end a terrible year and welcome in a new one then having a nice dinner and spending a quiet evening with the love of my life. I find it hard to believe that we will be celebrating our 23rd wedding anniversary in just a few weeks. Where does the time go? I guess they really mean it when they say time flies when you’re having fun.

And in closing, here is another of our funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a printed copy of The Twofer Compendium, a collection of 36 twin-themed short stories written by 34 international authors that leap across genres, from science fiction to whimsical, to downright creepy. In them, you will meet twins who are good, bad, fantastic, fearsome, magical, envious, secretive, devious, and more. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I’m just going to flip this omelet… okay, change of plans, we’re having scrambled eggs.

Dec 312020
 

Well, we made it. The last day of 2020. Did you think we would get this far? I wasn’t too sure, and unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t. Just a few days ago, I found out that one of my longtime readers and online friends, Truman Dobbins, lost his battle with COVID-19. My heart goes out to his wife Beckie, and everybody who has lost loved ones to this terrible pandemic. This makes nine people for me, two of whom were family members.

That’s why I get so disgusted with people who still claim it’s a hoax, who won’t wear a mask, or who preach nonsense like Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) being the cure-all. The only two things that will stop the pandemic are common sense and a vaccine. The vaccine is here, but it’s getting distributed very slowly, and we all know how rare common sense is.

I used to always do a review of the things we did at year’s end, but what can I say about this year? In February, we took a month-long trip to Arizona, stopping many places along the way to distribute books and do research for blog posts and future projects. We got home just in time to start self-quarantining, and that’s been about all we have done. In between the pandemic and my back issues, that was about all it was possible to do. After getting the RF nerve ablations done in June, my back problems have improved greatly. Actually, the problems are still there, but the ablations block most of the pain. I still have other back issues that bother me but at least I can move around now.

The one good thing to come out of 2020 for me was that I was able to put out six books, including two books in my Tinder Street historical family saga, which is something I have wanted to write forever. I am working on another John Lee Quarrels book now and hope to have it out by the end of January or in early February. Then I will jump into Boom And Bust, the next Tinder Street book. This one will start in 1925 and end with the onset of the Great Depression. It’s an era I know a lot about because my parents lived through it and spoke about it often. I will be using a lot of those memories in the book.

I had an interesting online conversation yesterday with a friend who is at a crossroads in his life and doesn’t know what to do. He retires May 1st and has thought quite often about getting an RV and trying the mobile lifestyle. But like many people, he is hesitant to make such a big change. He is also worried that as a single man, he might not fit in well. As I told him, the fulltime RV community is very welcoming of others, and we know many solo fulltimers, both male and female. I also sent him links to some of the different RV clubs for single people.

He asked me if I thought now was a good time to do it or should he adjust to retirement first rather than jumping into something that was even more of a change. My suggestion was to keep his house for a while and spend a few months traveling and see how he feels about it. I added that in the 18+ years that we were fulltimers, and in the hundreds of seminars I presented at RV events nationwide and at Life on Wheels, and of the thousands of fulltimers we talked to over those years, the most frequent comment we heard from any of them was, “My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.” A few months before he died, my father, who was a very wise man, told me that we don’t regret the things we do in life nearly as much as we regret the things we didn’t do. I think that’s very true.

Whatever 2020 has done to us, personally and as a nation, hopefully we can put it behind us now and look forward to a brand-new year. Think of tomorrow as opening a brand-new diary with 365 pages to fill. What will you put on those pages in the days and weeks and months to come? I hope there are lots of joys and adventures and love on those pages, and very few regrets. Happy New Year.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is a printed copy of The Twofer Compendium, a collection of 36 twin-themed short stories written by 34 international authors that leap across genres, from science fiction to whimsical, to downright creepy. In them, you will meet twins who are good, bad, fantastic, fearsome, magical, envious, secretive, devious, and more. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The most important project you’ll ever work on is yourself.

No Longer Shaggy

 Posted by at 12:11 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 302020
 

I started the day yesterday trying to help a friend transcribe some recorded interviews she had made several years ago. They were saved in something called an M4A file, and when I tried to transcribe one of them with Dragon, I got a message saying they had to be MP3 files. So I found a free converter online and converted one of them to MP3, and then had Dragon transcribe the file.

A reviewer once said that the best thing Dragon does is promote itself, and I agree with that because while I have been using the program for years, I have never been completely happy with the output. I have tried various expensive microphones, I’ve tried all of the tutorials, and I still spend a lot of time making corrections to what I dictate. And so it was with this file. There were so many errors that when I sent it to my friend, she decided that she would just have to find someone to type the many recorded interviews she has, something like 72 hours of them.

With that out of the way, I spent some time dealing with an argument in one of the writers’ groups I help administer. It came down to having to remove one person from the group and sending a strong warning to another. Most authors seem to get along pretty well, but in this case, we had somebody who thrives on political correctness who took exception to some of the things police officers and first responders say on a regular basis. When another member tried to explain to her how gallows humor helps some people cope with the things they have to deal with, it just made things worse.

And the crazy part of it was, it wasn’t really about police work or writing to begin with. It was about cops and their retirement. Someone said that when her grandfather retired from his job as a policeman, many years ago, her grandmother used to say that he was now officially retarded. A member of the group was very offended by that, and while I know it’s not politically correct these days, it’s how people talk in the real world. We had this exact same situation a while back in an RV group I help administer when a little girl’s homework assignment was to write a story about her family. She said that her daddy worked for the post office, and her mommy worked in an office, and her grandparents were retarded and traveled around the country in their RV. I know it’s offensive to some, but people talk the way they do and children frequently misuse words. I have had people offended by some terms I’ve used in my books, but it is what it is.

It has been a while since Terry cut my hair and trimmed my beard, and I was getting so shaggy that I beginning to look something like Cousin Itt from the old Addams Family TV show. So after brunch, we went out in the garage and she started whacking away at me. I’m glad we decided to do it yesterday, because in another week and I think she would have needed the hedge clippers. And we don’t have any hedge clippers!

And in closing, here is another of the funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. This one came from Jim Harper, and I’m not sure if it is real or not, but based on some of my life experiences in the past, it should be.

Thought For The Day – If you have an opinion about my life, please raise your hand. Now put it over your mouth.

She’s Ready To Go

 Posted by at 1:25 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 292020
 

A while back the very talented Elizabeth Mackey, who creates all of my book covers, made decals for my Bennington pontoon boat. But health issues and life got in the way, and they got put aside. We have spent the last two days getting the boat ready for the water, and yesterday Terry put the decals on, one on each side at the front and one on the back. I named her Mysterry because I always refer to Terry as Miss Terry, and my mystery books paid for the boat. I think they look great on there.

As I’ve said before, our garage door is too low to let the boat clear when on a regular pontoon boat trailer, so I had to buy a special scissor trailer that cranks up and down so I can get it low enough to get in the garage. Then, once it’s in the garage, we put four heavy-duty dollies under the pontoons, and I crank the boat trailer down all the way onto them and pull the trailer out to make more room, then we push the boat over into the corner out of the way.

In the past, Terry and I have been able to move it around by ourselves with some effort, but with my back issues, we didn’t want to try that this time around. So I enlisted the help of my neighbor, Jesse Bolton, from across the street. Jesse is a great guy and always willing to lend a hand when we need something. With his help, it was no problem to move the boat out into the center of the garage and toward the front. Then we pushed the scissor trailer under it, cranked it up just enough to remove the dollies, then I connected the trailer to my pickup truck, and pulled the boat out.

When I was at West Point, we spent a lot of time in the spring, summer, and fall training cadets, National Guard, and Army Reserve units. But during the winter, we had to find a job, or else the Army found one for us. And it was always things like shoveling snow. No thanks! That doesn’t sound like fun at all. So I used to sign up for every Army school I could go to, as long as they were someplace warm where I could escape the cold New York winters. I went to the MP school, demolition school, jungle warfare school, photography school, the NCO Academy, and several others, among them a truck driving school. By the time I got out of there, I could drive an 18-wheeler with no problem and back it and a trailer through a serpentine course of 55 gallon drums with ease.

That being said, I’ve never had much luck trying to back up something short like a pickup truck and trailer or boat, which is why we had a motorhome instead of a trailer in all the years that we were fulltime RVers. But with Terry and Jesse guiding me, I managed to park the boat exactly where I wanted it on the big concrete apron next to our garage. Then we put the dollies back under the pontoons, and I cranked it down enough that the boat was sitting on them for extra stability.

The last time the boat was used was in October of 2019 when my kids came to visit for my birthday. When we put it back in the garage, I put fuel stabilizer in the tank, but after all that time, I wasn’t sure if it would start up or not, and I wanted to find out before I took it down to the water.

The boat has two batteries connected by a battery isolator switch, and it can be run off of either one. On Sunday, when I checked them, one battery was at 12.8 volts but the other was only at 10.7 volts. I connected a charger to it and let it run for several hours, and when I disconnected it, it was at 12.9 volts. Once we had the boat parked yesterday, I hooked a set of boat earmuffs to the water intake on the four stroke Yamaha outboard motor, connected a hose to them, and turned it on. Then I got on the boat and turned the key, and I got was a click, click, click. Well, that’s not good! So I turned the switch to the other battery, and when I hit the key this time, it started right up with no hesitation whatsoever. How cool is that?

The sun’s ultraviolet rays can destroy a car or a boat’s upholstery in no time at all, which is why I keep the boat in the garage when we’re not going to be using it. It came with a large cover to protect it from the sun, so once I was done testing the motor, Terry put the cover on and snapped it into place. She’d only done that once before, right after we bought the boat, so it took her a few moments to remember how, but when she did, it was no problem.

So now the boat is ready for the water, and so am I! Thanks for all your help, Jesse and Terry. I appreciate both of you.

Thought For The Day – You are the result of 3.8 billion years of evolutionary success. Act like it.

Dec 282020
 

My Bennington pontoon boat has been sitting in the garage way too long. Between my back problems that pretty much incapacitated me for many months and then the hot nasty summer here in Florida, it’s been pretty much a garage queen for well over a year. But my back is doing better, and the weather is cooling down, and it’s time to get out on the water!

The boat is a 20-foot fishing model, equipped with two live wells, four swivel fishing seats, a Garmin fish/depth finder, and just about every option I could ever want or need. I bought it used, but it had only been on the water two or three times because the previous owner’s wife told him he could have the boat or he could have her, but he couldn’t have both. I guess that old thing of “Just do whatever the hell you want to do” really isn’t true after all, is it? So between us two owners, I think it’s been in the water a total of six or seven times. I definitely plan to remedy that this winter.

Besides the fishing seats and the captain’s chair, there’s also an L shaped couch with cushions that lift up for storage and a padded lounger if you want to stretch out and work on your tan.

The lounger lifts up to reveal storage area for the batteries and cargo, and a while back, I acquired a portable changing room from another pontoon boat owner. I don’t see us changing clothes when we’re out on the water, but there is room for a porta potty in there. You know what they say about guys out on the water, they can just “hang it over the side,” but a lady needs her privacy, right? So yesterday Terry and I (mostly Terry) set up the changing room. It didn’t come with all the parts, so we had to fabricate a base for it and then attach the frame to that base.

Then it was a case of attaching the zippered fabric curtain on the frame, and we were good to go.

I even talked Terry into posing for a picture. She said it’s not as roomy as the two bathrooms here at our house, but sometimes a girl’s gotta go, and this will do the trick.

Tomorrow I hope to get the boat out of the garage and then hook up a set of “earmuffs” and a hose to it and see if it will fire up after sitting for so long. I put stabilizer in the fuel after the last time I used it, but it’s been a while, so I guess we’ll just have to see what happens. And trust me, if it does start, it won’t be long before I’m out on the water!

Congratulations Cathie Laurent, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. We had 39 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – I don’t mean to interrupt people. I just randomly remember things and get really excited.

Stuck In Park

 Posted by at 12:27 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 272020
 

Help! I seem to be stuck in Park and am not able to get myself back in gear.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, I didn’t do much at all Christmas Day except chat with some friends online, do an online jigsaw puzzle, and cook steaks on the grill.

My plan for yesterday was to get the pontoon boat onto its trailer and out in the driveway, but I just couldn’t seem to get myself motivated enough to do it. Maybe it was because it was still pretty chilly out, somewhere in the low 50s, or maybe just because I’m lazy. Either way, I had all the energy and drive of a sloth.

In fact, I couldn’t get myself motivated to do much of anything. After a breakfast of one of Terry’s delicious cinnamon rolls and a cup of hot chocolate, I answered a few emails and then opened my latest book manuscript and stared at it for a while. Then I put it away and goofed around on Facebook for an hour or so, answering questions in a couple of authors groups I belong to and deleting some rude comments in an RV group I help administer.

Finally, sometime around 5 o’clock in the afternoon, I decided to write this blog. And then I parked myself in my recliner and watched a little TV and snoozed a little (okay, in truth I snoozed a lot and watched a little TV). And that was about it. If I don’t get a move on today, Miss Terry may call a couple of neighbors over to help drag my fat butt to the curb. Lord knows I’m much too big for her to try kicking me there. She’d be walking with a limp for a month!

And in closing, here is another of our funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – The casinos are now offering curbside pickup. Call ahead and they come out and take your money right from your car.

A Quiet Christmas

 Posted by at 12:27 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 262020
 

How is everybody doing today? Did Santa Claus bring you everything you wanted for Christmas? If not, maybe it’s because you are not a good little boy or girl. But then again, being naughty has its benefits, too. Right?

We had a quiet Christmas here at home, just the two of us. The morning started out with a group video call from my daughter Tiffany and her family in Arizona and my son Travis and his wife in Alabama. That was a lot of fun, and we got to see all the grandkids and just had a good visit. It’s not the same thing as getting together in person, but we do what we can given the current situation.

I was feeling lazy and didn’t want to work yesterday, so I didn’t. Instead, I spent some time doing an online jigsaw puzzle, chatted with a couple of friends on Facebook, and basically just goofed off. Sometimes it feels good not to do anything.

For most of the years that we were on the road as fulltime RVers, our Christmas tradition was to go to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas dinner. But since we haven’t been to a restaurant since March, we didn’t see any reason to change now. It’s kept us alive and healthy to this point. So instead, we decided to cook some steaks on the grill. Terry had gotten a couple of nice ones at the local meat market, and I wheeled our big stainless steel grill out of the garage and fired it up. The steaks came out perfect and were absolutely delicious.

Terry also made some of her amazing cinnamon rolls, and a couple of hours after dinner we had them for dessert, and that’s exactly what they were, amazing. I took a plate of them across the street to our neighbors Jesse and Jennifer, and a little while later Jennifer sent me a message raving about how good they were.

We ended the day watching the Christmas special of Call the Midwife on PBS. Like I said, a quiet, laid back Christmas.

And while we may be in Florida, the cold front that came through this area had me thinking we were someplace much farther North. The 11:00 o’clock news last night said the temperature had dropped 28 degrees from the same time the day before. I don’t doubt that for a minute.

Terry and I don’t usually exchange Christmas gifts, because when we want something we just go get it. However. I did buy her an AeroGarden kit that included the Bounty Elite Artisan indoor hydroponic gardening system and a separate smaller Sprout system, along with plant food and seed pods. which actually arrived a while before Christmas. People have been asking me how the stuff she planted is doing, so here are a couple of pictures. The first ones, from left to right, are thyme, Genovese basil, and chives.

And these are cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and Italian parsley.

And, last but not least, are the strawberry plants. They have already gotten several flowers on them and are doing great.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – If my wife bought me a Taser for Christmas I would absolutely get curious to see how it feels and taze myself, which is why my wife didn’t buy me a Taser for Christmas.

Merry Christmas

 Posted by at 12:10 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 252020
 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Seasons Greetings, or whatever sounds best to you. Wherever you are and whoever you are with today, I hope you are surrounded by love and happiness. No matter what your religious beliefs are, if any, this is a time of year to be happy.

You have more important things to do today than sitting there reading blogs. Go spend time with your loved ones, and we’ll get together tomorrow.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

A Tale Of Two Mixers

 Posted by at 11:38 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 242020
 

It’s no secret that Miss Terry loves to cook; it’s one of the many things she excels at. And there is no question about it, I enjoy all the wonderful things she makes.

Over the years, she has accumulated many top-quality kitchen tools and appliances, which she takes very good care of and appreciates. So she was dismayed a few days ago when her trusty old Vita-Mix Maxi 4000 Commercial mixer stopped working while she was making breakfast smoothies. This is a big, heavy monster that she has had for at least 30 years, long before I came into the picture. She flipped the switch on and off a few times, and we checked the outlet it was plugged into to see if she had tripped a circuit breaker, and found nothing wrong. Nothing except that it was, as the old saying goes, deader than a doornail.

Well, we can’t have that, can we? A true craftsperson in the kitchen must have the proper tools, don’t you think? So I went online to Amazon and found a replacement, a Vita-Mix 5200 professional grade mixer-blender. It was not cheap, but you get what you pay for. So yes, I bought my wife a mixer for Christmas. And no, I won’t be in trouble, because it’s something that she wanted to have. It is supposed to be delivered here sometime today.

Yesterday, Terry unplugged the old Vita-Mix unit to take it out to the garage because she just wasn’t ready to part company with it, and I heard her say something like, “Oh damn!” I went to the kitchen to see what was wrong, and she pushed the button, and the old Vita-Mix came to life.

It turns out that it has a push-button circuit breaker in the back of the unit which neither one of us realized or remembered after all these years. It was popped out, and as soon as Terry pushed it in to reset it, the Vita-Mix was as good as new again. Does anybody want a great deal on a new mixer?

In yesterday’s blog, I told you that we wanted to get our pontoon boat out of the garage and ready for the season. The first step to doing that was to get the scissor trailer out from where it sits next to our garage. My neighbor Jesse Bolton had offered to come over and help sometime over the three day weekend, but we are supposed to have a big storm coming in tonight or sometime tomorrow. I didn’t want the ground to get all soggy before we tried to move the heavy trailer, so I decided yesterday that Terry and I would do it. That job didn’t turn out to be nearly as easy as I thought it would.

The trailer has been sitting in one place for about 16 months, and the tires and the front crank down wheel, and the wood they had been sitting on, had all sunken into the ground. We pushed it in by hand when we parked it because there is no room to get a vehicle between the garage and the drainage canal that borders our property.

It took quite a while to get it out, and I wound up having to back the Explorer up as close to it as I could, attach a heavy-duty tow strap to the trailer, and pull it out a little bit at a time. The darn front wheel kept turning sideways, carving a rut in the area where we just planted our perennial peanuts a while back. Using a two by four as a lever and a block of wood as a fulcrum, I was able to push down enough to get the tongue up enough that Terry could put a piece of wood under that wheel and some more wood in front of it. I would pull until we got to the end of the wood and then start the whole procedure over again. It was not fun, and I really should have waited to bother Jesse about it, but the poor guy works hard all the time and I hate to add to his load.

At any rate, once we got it free, I put the trailer hitch into the receiver in the back of the Explorer and found out that it’s too high for the trailer. So then I had to put the hitch in the F-150 and use it to pull the trailer completely out, and then back it in again on the cement parking apron on the other side of the garage.

By the time we were finished, we were both hot and sweaty and hurting, but we got the job done. One step in the process out of the way.

Once we got that project done, I managed to crank out another 2,000 words in my next John Lee Quarrels book, then we had a light dinner. We tried to watch TV after dinner, but we were so worn out that we both kept nodding off, so we called it an early night.

My latest book, Big Lake Hoarder, which came out earlier this month, is still on the charts at number 16 on Amazon’s Hot New Release list for mysteries and police procedures, and in some very good company. Thank you, everybody, for your support.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Lynching, the second book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Age 60 might be the new 40, but 9 p.m. is the new midnight.

Dec 232020
 

This is our lovely daughter-in-law, Geli, getting her first dose of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine yesterday morning. Geli is a nurse and works at a hospital in Birmingham and has been dealing with Covid patients since the very start of the pandemic. We and her husband, my son Travis, have all been worried to death about her, hoping that she did not contract that. Late yesterday afternoon, she said her arm was a bit tender, but not as bad as the flu shot was this year.

At first, we weren’t sure when, or even if, she would get the vaccine due to short supplies. But then, on Sunday, she was told that it would be on Tuesday because many hospital employees declined to get it. One down, 330 million Americans, more or less, to go!

I don’t know why anybody would hesitate to get the vaccine, especially healthcare workers. Every one of them I know can’t wait to get to the front of the line. I keep hearing all the nonsense about microchips and all kinds of other crap, and that’s what it is, nonsense put forth by the conspiracy theory crowd. There’s no sense trying to talk sense into that bunch. I just hope they keep their unmasked faces far away from me.

Other people say that they don’t trust a vaccine that was created in just nine months. What people don’t understand is, it wasn’t created in nine months. Scientists have been working on vaccines for viruses for decades. This is just the latest version. It’s like saying you don’t trust a car with an automatic transmission because the car you learned to drive in had a standard shift. Things evolve. It’s called science, baby.

Now that cooler weather is here (the high on Christmas Day is only supposed to be 51), we are looking forward to getting out on the water. As many of you know, I bought a nice Bennington pontoon boat all set up for fishing that hasn’t been in the water much since I bought it two years ago due to my back problems. Now that that seems to be in control, I definitely want to use it.

Because our garage door is not high enough to let the pontoon boat get in on a regular trailer, we had to buy a scissor trailer, which cranks up and down. That allows us to put the boat almost on the ground and back it into the garage.

Then I put four heavy-duty dollies under the pontoons and crank it all the way down and take the trailer out, saving space.

But it is a hassle to get it in and out all the time, so I’m thinking very strongly about pulling the boat outside and just leaving it out on the trailer for the winter months so we can use it more often. We have a nice cover that protects it completely from sun damage. We also want to get our kayaks out and get them wet, too.

Speaking of being on the water, the shrimp are starting to run here. A neighbor told me he was out a few nights ago and got two and a half gallons of shrimp in a little over two hours. We need to get our dip nets wet, too, I guess.

Thought For The Day – It’s no fun not having anything to do. What’s fun is having something to do and not doing it.

Last Q&A Of The Year

 Posted by at 12:47 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 222020
 

I’m back with more questions from blog readers about RVing, what’s happening in our lives since we hung up the keys, and all kinds of other things. While I try to answer all questions individually, I also share some here occasionally.

Q. When you had your RV, did you take the battery out over the winter season? And if so, was it still charged when you put it back in?
A. We fulltimed, so that was never an issue. However, when we bought our place here, we put the RV in storage with the batteries disconnected. Even so, four months later, they were dead. My suggestion is to plug a trickle charger into them if you have a place to get power for it.

Q. Forgive what is probably a dumb question, but I’m very curious. I know that they make weaving yarn from sheep’s wool, and I think alpaca too. A friend told me she made yarn from her dogs’ hair, but not sure if she was pulling my leg or not. You said the blanket Terry made is from Shetland wool. Is that from Shetland ponies?
A. Shetland wool comes from Shetland sheep, a popular breed from the Shetland Islands. And yes, people really do spin their pets’ hair to make yarn.

Q. I seem to recall that you and Terry were lifetime members of Escapees and Passport America? What happened to those memberships once you hung up the keys and stopped RVing?
A. Nothing really happened to them. We still get the Escapes magazine, and I imagine if we ever got another RV, we could use our Passport America membership.

Q. I like to listen to audiobooks when we are on the road and have listened to the eight you have out now. Will you ever be bringing any more of your books out as audiobooks?
A. I actually have twelve audiobooks out but do not expect to release any more of them. While many authors I know do very well with audiobooks, my sales have always been dismal. The time and expense to produce them do not justify the return.

Q. I have been a reader for many years, and you have told us about so many favorite places you and Terry have visited. What about places you didn’t like, or that were a disappointment, and why?
A. Though many RV snowbirds love spending the winter in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the three or four times we visited that area, we did not like it at all. To us, it was just blah. Busy, dusty, flat, and brown landscape with not many trees. Key West, Florida, was also a disappointment. While we love the middle keys, Key West is just too crowded, too touristy, and not our style. And even though it’s an island, there are only a couple of public beaches and access to the water is limited. If you are not into bar hopping or spending money, once you see the few tourist attractions, that’s about it. We spent eight days there on a friend’s houseboat in the marina and drove back up to Marathon Key at least half of those days.

Q. You have not mentioned playing darts in a long time. I liked hearing about your informal competitions. Have you stopped that?
A. We quit playing when my back was so bad because the pain would not allow me to. Terry and I have played a few games since my RF ablations, but not many. We need to get back into that.

Q. We are staying at a campground near where my wife is undergoing cancer treatment and will be here for several months. The campground refuses to accept mail for guests, so we have to have our mail forwarding service send it general delivery to the post office, but the one we have to go to pick it up is fifteen miles away with a lot of heavy traffic. Do you have any suggestions on an easier way to get our mail?
A. First of all, we wish your wife well as she deals with her illness and recovery. If there is a UPS store or Safe Ship location near the campground, you could rent a temporary mailbox from them. Google ‘personal mailboxes near me.’ I’m sure you will find something.

And in closing, here is another of our funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Thought For The Day – I told my wife I wanted to be cremated. She made me an appointment for Tuesday.

Dec 212020
 

Judge Roy Bean, the famous Hanging Judge from Langtry, Texas, was a larger than life Old West figure, and it is sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction when talking about his adventures. This is further complicated because Bean was a shameless self-promoter who made up plenty of wild tales about his exploits, and then dime novels and Hollywood came along to further muddy the waters. But there is no doubt that the old judge was the Law West of the Pecos, and many a rustler and outlaw paid the price for their deeds when brought before Judge Roy Bean.

Born in Mason County, Kentucky in 1825, Roy Bean, grew up poor and left home at age sixteen in search of a better life. Ending up in San Antonio, Texas, he went to work for his older brother Samuel, hauling freight into Mexico.

By 1848, the brothers had opened a trading post in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, but Roy Bean soon fled the area after being charged with murder for killing a Mexican outlaw. He landed in San Diego, California and moved in with another brother, Joshua. More troubled followed, and in 1852 he was charged with wounding another man in a duel. A female admirer smuggled a knife to Bean, who used it to dig through the adobe wall of his cell and escape.

There are many tales of Bean’s time in California, but again, it is sometimes hard to separate fact from fiction. He lived in San Gabriel for a time, where he inherited a saloon after his brother was murdered. One story has Bean single-handedly tracking down the killers and dispatching frontier justice.

Another story has Bean courting a beautiful young Mexican girl, who was kidnapped and forced to marry another man. Bean killed the husband in a duel, and in response, the man’s friends tried to lynch him. But the bride, who had been hiding and watching the proceedings, sprang forward at the last minute and cut him free. Bean reportedly was left with a permanent rope burn on his neck and a perpetually stiff neck Shortly after that, he left California and moved to New Mexico to live with his brother Samuel again, who had migrated there a few years earlier.

During the Civil War, Bean was reported to be busy smuggling Texas cotton from San Antonio to British ships off the coast of Mexico, and supplies back into Texas. For many years after the war ended Bean managed to make a living in and around San Antonio, always skirting right on the edge of the law.

For a time he operated a firewood business until it was discovered that he was illegally cutting the wood on someone else’s land. Than he ran a butcher shop until it was found that the meat he was selling came from rustled cattle. His next enterprise was a dairy, but that didn’t last long because he was caught watering down the milk.

By the late 1870s, Roy Bean was in a bad marriage, had several children, and was running a saloon in a run down Mexican neighborhood of San Antonio. He was so universally disliked by the rest of the business community that when he started talking about moving west, a collection was quickly taken up to help him leave town.

Bean abandoned his wife and four children and followed the railroads as they moved westward, setting up tent saloons and selling whiskey to railroad laborers. He settled in present day Langtry, Texas, squatting on land he did not own, and managed to get himself appointed as Justice of the Peace. Bean held court in his saloon, and for the next twenty years, he was the Law West of the Pecos.

Bean’s courtroom was his personal fiefdom, and he operated under his own rules, much to the dismay of the State of Texas. He chose his jurors from his saloon customers and required them to purchase a drink during every court recess. While he was known as the Hanging Judge, there is no evidence that Bean ever actually sentenced anyone to death. After all, you can’t sell whiskey to a dead man.

When an Irishman named Paddy O’Rourke shot a Chinese laborer, Bean ruled that while it was illegal to kill a human being, his law book did not say anything about killing a Chinaman.

All cases in Bean’s court were resolved with fines, usually whatever the defendant had in his pockets at the time. Bean refused to send the state any portion of the fines he took in. On occasion, he would look over the prisoners awaiting trial, and if he knew they had no money, Bean would turn them loose without a trial. “We don’t get anything if we try them, so why bother?” he is reported to say.

Bean eventually built a wooden saloon, which he named the Jersey Lilly, after a famous actress of the time named Lilly Langtry, whom he was infatuated with. Though he invited her to visit Langtry several times, her one and only brief appearance came after Bean’s death.

Always a legend in his own mind, with grandiose visions, Bean built a simple two room house next to his saloon/courtroom, which he called Roy Bean’s Opera House, Town Hall, and Seat of Justice.

He was a liar, a drunkard, a braggart, an abusive husband, a negligent father, and no doubt a thief. Though there was much not to like about Roy Bean, in his later years he spent most of his money helping the poor people who lived in and around Del Rio and Langtry. Bean always made sure that the school was supplied with firewood in the winter, and many a poor child or widow had food on their table due to Bean’s generosity.

Roy Bean never gave up his hard drinking ways, and he died March 16, 1903 in Langtry following a drunken binge. He was buried in Del Rio, and later his grave was moved to the grounds of the Whitehead Memorial Museum to protect it from vandals and souvenir hunters.

Today Bean’s Jersey Lilly saloon/courtroom and home are part of the state-owned Judge Roy Bean Visitor Center in Langtry, which is sixty miles northwest of Del Rio, just off U.S. Highway 90.

The visitor center includes displays on Judge Roy Bean, the above mentioned buildings, and a desert garden with a handsome wooden windmill. There is no cost to tour the old buildings, which have been carefully restored and are handicapped accessible.

The visitor center does not have a separate parking lot, but there is little traffic in Langtry, and the street in front of the visitor center is wide and has plenty of room for any size RV to park along the curb. The road makes a loop for easy access back to U.S. Highway 90.

Judge Roy Bean was certainly a colorful figure, and it is fun to walk inside the famous Jersey Lilly and think of all the hell raising that went on here. The next time you’re passing through West Texas, take a break in Langtry and pay a call on the Jersey Lilly. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get lucky and feel the ghost of “Ol’ Roy” brushing past you.

Congratulations Jim Garris, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. We had 55 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – The road to success is always under construction.

It’s Big!

 Posted by at 12:01 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 202020
 

Terry has been a bit under the weather the last few days, but that did not stop her from finishing weaving this beautiful blanket she made for our granddaughter Destiny. It is 100% pure Shetland wool and big, measuring 52×80 inches before the finishing and final processing. I love the colors and patterns. This was her first double width project, and she wasn’t too sure about it going in, but I knew she could do it. She has another one set up on the loom for granddaughter Hailey that will be her next project. And then two more, for granddaughter Britni and grandson Travis. I’m sure they will be just as beautiful.

As for me, I was at least a little bit more productive yesterday than the day before, knocking out a 2,550 word chapter in my new John Lee Quarrels book, then proofing it and printing it out for Terry to go over. If you have not read the John Lee series, it is about a deputy in a rural part of north Florida, and the language and situations are grittier than the Big Lake series.

I also did an online interview with a mystery book reviewer. That was interesting because she has read all my books and tells me she loves them all. She asked some questions about how I developed the characters in my books, how they have grown and evolved, and where I see them going in their lives. She said it feels like she knows those people and they are friends of hers. Yeah, I feel that way about them, too.

Speaking of books; just in time for Christmas my dear friend Mona Ingram has just released The Wish, the sixth book in her Dear Santa Christmas Romances series. Mona is a talented author with a large following of loyal fans, and if you read one of her books, I bet you will be among them.

And in closing, here is another of our funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us. Thanks, Steve Varadi. I know a lot of people can relate to this one.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 33 mystery novels out, as well as 10 nonfiction books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – To the lady who flipped me off when I honked my horn today, I don’t think your cell phone is on the roof of your car anymore.

Just Taking Up Space

 Posted by at 12:09 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 192020
 

I did not get a lot accomplished yesterday except for a teleconference with a nurse practitioner from Dr. Creamer’s office, the doctor that did my RF nerve ablations. They were done six months ago today, and it was a follow-up to see how I am doing. I told her the difference is amazing from how I felt before to now. I still have nagging back pain from other issues, but the near agony I was living with is gone and I feel like I have a new lease on life. There will be another follow-up in a couple of months. The nerve might regenerate eventually, and if it does, we will have to repeat the quick and easy procedure.

After I was done with that, I answered some e-mails, tried to help another author with some problems he was having in his story, wrote and proofed another chapter in my new John Lee Quarrels book, then spent a couple of hours researching things for that book. I also called my friend Orv Hazelton out at the Escapees Club’s Jojoba Hills RV resort in California to wish him happy birthday, and we chatted for a bit.

Neither one of us was very hungry, so for dinner we just had cheese and crackers while watching TV. And that was it. Otherwise, the only thing I accomplished yesterday was to take up space and set a bad example for the rest of the world. Hopefully, today I will be a bit more motivated and get something accomplished. Then again, maybe not. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see what happens.

And is closing, here is another of our funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 33 mystery novels out, as well as 10 nonfiction books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I got myself a senior citizen’s GPS. Not only does it tell me how to get to my destination, when I arrive, it tells me why I wanted to go there in the first place.

Dec 182020
 

As I’ve said before, during my days publishing small town newspapers I always enjoyed a good relationship with the local law enforcement community. At least for the most part. There was one exception that I will talk about some other time. Sometimes this resulted in some wild adventures.

I was doing a ride along with a deputy from the Sheriff’s Department in Grays Harbor County, Washington, once when a chase came over the radio. We were on State Highway 109, about six miles from Ocean Shores, and the license plate of the fleeing vehicle came back to a man with an address in that town. It sounded like he was heading our way, and as they got closer, the deputy I was with parked on the shoulder of the road and told me to get out of the car and stand well off to the side while he deployed stop sticks. If you are not familiar with stop sticks, they are a linked device that is thrown across the road with something akin to nails in them that are designed to perforate a fleeing vehicle’s tires.

A mile behind us, the Ocean Shores Police Department had blocked the road to oncoming traffic. Sure enough, within just a couple of minutes, we could hear the sound of sirens, and they were getting closer. As the vehicle, a beat up old Ford station wagon as I recall, approached, the deputy I was with deployed the stop sticks and managed to perforate three of the four tires. The car sped on for a short distance, maybe 25 yards or so, but then he lost control and spun out.

What happened next, I can only describe as being a pure example of dumb crooks. I don’t know if he was disoriented or what, but the driver of the car jumped out, and instead of running off into the thick forest on either side road, he ran towards the approaching deputies’ vehicles. So much so that it wasn’t until they stopped near us and starting jumping out that he finally took to the woods, almost running me over.

If you have never been in that part of the Pacific Northwest, at the foot of the Olympic Peninsula, the forest is incredibly dense. If Bigfoot really does exist, there is a reason he lives there and has never been caught. Deputies searched for the man, even brought out a K-9 out, be he was long gone. No problem, they went to his house and arrested him there a few hours later.

The deputy took a statement from me since I was on the scene, and a few months later, when the man went to trial, I was subpoenaed to appear. The prosecutor made his case, talking about how the defendant had been seen leaving a tavern in Hoquiam, and how he was seen staggering across the parking lot to his car. About how a Hoquiam police officer had tried to stop him and he had fled, and then sheriff’s deputies joined in the chase. The prosecutor talked about how he had endangered other traffic, sometimes driving on the left side of the road, forcing oncoming cars to get onto the narrow shoulder to avoid a collision. Then he talked about the deployment of the stop sticks, his flight into the woods, and his subsequent arrest. The different deputies involved in the case gave their testimony, and when I was asked to come to the witness stand, I testified to what I had seen.

After the prosecution rested, it was the defense’s turn. The gentleman insisted that he had only had two drinks and wasn’t intoxicated and that he had no idea the police were chasing him for twenty miles. He never almost ran other cars off the road, and there were no stop sticks. He had been driving at a normal speed when suddenly his tires all went flat, so he got out of the car and walked home. He did not run away, and he never saw any of the police and their vehicles, and that was it. As far as he was concerned, none of it had ever happened.

On cross-examination, the prosecutor asked him if he didn’t remember seeing all those police cars behind.

No, he didn’t, because it never happened.

He didn’t remember jumping out of his car and escaping into the woods?

No, that never happened.

He didn’t remember all the police officers shouting for him to stop and put his hands in the air?

No, he didn’t, because it never happened.

Then all of those police officers who had testified about what he had done were lying?

Yes, they were.

Then the prosecutor asked, “So, all of these officers perjured themselves and risked their careers and possible jail time just to frame you?

“Any cop who says I was there is lying,” the guy said. “It was dark, and the only one close enough to see me was that guy,” he said, pointing at me “and he ain’t no cop. I know the law. Only a cop can testify against me in a criminal case. Civilians can only testify in civil cases. That’s why they call them civil cases.”

Everybody in the courtroom started laughing, even the defense attorney. When the judge finally got control of the courtroom again, the case drew to a close, and the judge found the defendant guilty of all of the charges against him.

“This ain’t fair,” he said. “How can you do that when none of those cops saw me?”

I guess the judge couldn’t help it because he asked, “Are you really that dumb?”

Apparently, he was. Go figure.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 33 mystery novels out, as well as 10 nonfiction books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Never test how deep the water is with both feet.

Dec 172020
 

As I said before, I have used a headset microphone to dictate my books for a long time, and a while back I decided I needed to upgrade so I purchased a Blue Yeti Nano standalone microphone. It took a couple of attempts to get it set up properly and it works, although it’s not perfect. But then again, what is? At the same time, I also bought a Zoom H4n Pro recorder/microphone, which was highly recommended by some people who know a lot more about these kinds of things than I do. I have been trying to learn my way around it the last couple of weeks, knowing that it’s a very sophisticated piece of equipment, and probably overkill for me.

Being Gadget Boy, at first I was very impressed with it, then I segued into being very confused because it has a lot of different options and settings that I will never use and cannot quite master. In fact, just yesterday I told Miss Terry that I thought I might return it before the time to do so expires in January because it was too confusing to work with.

The big issue I had was trying to get it to connect to the computer and make it work properly. It seemed like there were more steps to go to than was worth the effort. Then I looked at a couple of YouTube videos that explained the process much better and using their method I was able to plug it in and get it working pretty quickly. In fact, I’m narrating today’s blog with it.

One problem I have discovered is that I need a longer USB cord to connect it to the computer because all I have is a short one and I am using it with a USB extension cord. It seems like if I even look at it sideways, it loses the connection. When that happens, I have to choose the profile in Dragon all over again and go from there. I guess that will be one of the things I order the next time I’m on Amazon. I have until the end of January before I have to make a decision whether or not to keep it, so I’ll work with it a while longer and see what happens.

When I mentioned in the blog the other day that Terry was growing herbs in her AeroGarden, someone suggested I want might want to grow my own pot. No thanks, I don’t use pot, and since my RF nerve ablations six months ago, I haven’t even used the medical marijuana oil that I have. But there are people who are quite successful in growing their own weed in hydroponic setups.

It’s nothing new. Early in my newspaper career, many years ago, I owned a big Victorian house in Washington state, and the third floor was a massive open attic. A good friend of mine was a narcotics detective who had busted some major hydroponic marijuana grows, and he was helping me upgrade some electrical wiring. We had to go up in the large attic which was fully floored and could have been finished and used as a living space if we needed it, which we didn’t. My friend looked at all that space and then at me and said, “If we could get enough fluorescent lights up here and I could get enough stuff out of the evidence room, we could become gentlemen farmers and retire in a couple of years.” He was kidding, of course. I think.

I have been watering our citrus trees every day, as recommended by Lindley’s Nursery for the first month. The only days I have missed were when it has rained, like yesterday when a large system came in from the West in the afternoon and really dumped on us. As they say, it was a gully washer, so no watering was required. Saturday marks a month since they were planted, and then we switch to watering every other day for a week, and then every third day for a week after that. Then I will water once a week and see how things go.

I’m looking forward to seeing fruit on the trees, though I know that won’t be for quite a while yet, but I think our neighbors are looking forward to it more than we are. Every time I’m out doing something in the yard and see one of them passing by, they tell me that I should not be surprised if I wake up some morning to find the tree stripped bare. Yeah, that’s why we went to all the time and expense, so they could have fresh fruit. I’m a wonderful neighbor. 🙂

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Dog’s Run, my mystery set in a small Ohio town in 1951. I have 33 mystery novels out, as well as 10 nonfiction books, and I have to say that Dog’s Run is my favorite. It’s a gritty tale that is loosely based upon an actual crime that took place in that part of the country when my father was a young police officer there, and I warn you in advance that there’s some rough language, but it’s appropriate to the time and place. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.