Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Raven Arrives in the Harbor

Van Man Go - Custom Painting

Van Man Go dropped the last pieces of his airbrush into the cleaning solvent. It was time for a beer and a smoke. He dipped his hands in solvent and scrubbed them off with a rag. He grabbed a beer before he sat down in wooden chair.

Not bad, he thought as he looked over his latest work. It was another tribute bike – this one was desert camouflage background and scenes from Iraq. The work was detailed and lifelike – all premo – just like all his work.
He looked around – it was 2 am – the bars on Bridge Street were closing down. There weren't as many bars as there had been, back in the Harbor's heyday of the 1980s. Not that he cared. So what if the street was turning into a tourist trap? His business did just fine – there were plenty of people who were willing to pay very well for his work.
There was a breeze off the lake – bringing in the smell of fish and faint whiff of storm sewer. A sleek black Camry pulled up, the engine raced once before it shut down.
He took a drag off his cigarette – no need for a pack – he had them whenever he wanted them; a perk, one of many, from his Bargain.
The Camry door opened, a man stepped out, young, arrogant with surfer looks and tourist's clothing. He sauntered across the parking lot, looking around with a slight curl on his lip. The Harbor was old, well over a hundred fifty years, and time had not been kind.
Van sneered, he knew trouble when it landed on his doorstep. This young pup had come from elsewhere, thinking to mark out some turf. Thinking it would be easy to make a name for himself in a small town. He wanted to be the big dog on the block. All well and good – but age and cunning would always win over youth and enthusiasm.
This should be entertaining.
"Hello," the newcomer said with a broad smile. "Jeff Raven, new in town." He took one look at Van's paint stained hands didn't offer to shake hands.
"Call me Van," he took a deep drag, and waited.
"Quaint place," Raven said. "I see that you're an artist." He approached the finished bike, whistling with appreciation.
"I dabble." Van hid his smile behind his cigarette.
"I'm a teacher." Raven studied the bike. "I'm teaching Humanities, Social Studies and Phys Ed, for the new High School."
"Is that what they call it, these days?"
"What?" Raven stood up, gave Van a narrow look. He looked down at himself, checked his hands for jewelry.
"I've been around long enough to know my own kind." Van snorted. "Have a seat, there's beer in the cooler." He pointed to the cooler, the chair moved from the shadows next to him, as if lifted by invisible hands. Raven paused for a moment, looking from the chair to Van.
"Great trick."
"I've got a million of them." Van gave him a dry chuckle. "What brings you to my turf, kid?"
Raven's cocky attitude came back. He grabbed the beer, straddled the chair, resting his hands on the back. "I wasn't aware this area was claimed."
"I've been around a long time." Van grinned. "Surely you've heard of me."
"Of course." Raven took a long swig of beer. "But you aren't taking advantage of the situation. A place like this has a lot to offer."
"Do tell?" Van took another drag. "I always appreciate an outsider's view of things."
"Poor town, lot's of young blood wanting what they can't have, and willing to Bargain to get it." Raven flashed a smile. "All those young girls yearning for love. Or ambitious enough to trade sex for good grades. Surely you can remember back that far?"
"Dropped out when I was sixteen." Van shrugged. "I learned how to make money and keep books, that was all I needed."
"Sure it was." Raven drank more beer. "You have what you want – I'm just looking for stray bits that might fall in my lap."
"Bullshit." Van flipped his cigarette at Raven's feet. "You're kind doesn't pull up stakes unless it's something really important."
Raven shrugged, eyeing Van for a moment.
"I lost something that belongs to me," he said. "I've tracked her here and I'm going to get her back."
"A woman?" Van took a deep pull on his beer. "It's always women with you young pups."
"She's a very special woman," Raven finished off his beer.
"Aren't they all?" Van laughed.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Free e-Book - 'Impressive Bravado'

When sales get slow - common wisdom says it's time to do a giveaway.
'Impressive Bravado' is a short story (7k words) about Dr. Katie McCarty DVM. She's a young veterinarian, fresh out of Ohio State University. She gets an early morning all call from Deputy Sheriff Shallamon concerning the unauthorized gelding (neutering) of a show horse named "Impressive Bravado."

Katie and Shallamon go to Hopkins' Stables. They encounter a 'horse whisperer' who calls herself 'Aquitania' and claims she can talk to horses. They also discover unsafe practices that have put the young girls at the barn in danger.

Katie looks into the incident - discovering a deep divide in horse show cliques that could explain the 'attack' on Bravado. However, Katie ends up wrestling with a berserk stallion - barely getting the animal under control after he kicks his owner, shattering her leg.

You can get a free copy at Barnes & Nobel :

Or Smashwords:

But the story is $.99 at Amazon US, UK, DE and FR:

Monday, November 14, 2011

Getting Ready for Winter

We are very fortunate here in Kentucky - we have a very long fall.

In Ohio, they've already got inches and inches of snow. (Shudder!) Fall is over, winter is already entrenched. The north wind is already chilling Lake Erie and the shoreline. The Alberta Clipper and Siberian Express winds aren't far behind.

Here I've got a few more weeks to get hay in the barn. Even then the roads will stay fair (as in open and dry) for the most part. It is time for me to look at the next 3 months and ask what I want to accomplish.

We got a cord of wood today, oak and ash, plenty to keep the fire going all winter if I want. I don't usually have a fire every night - or during the day - unless I'm working on something, or having company over. My parents get chilled easily, so I like to start a fire when they will be over. Right now, the new wood is in the fireplace and it is burning slow, clean and fragrant.

I hate to sound like a city-girl, but I LOVE manufactured fire logs. The ones made out of pressed coffee smell the best. I can put one of those in to start, for a fire that burns 4 hours. Then I can let it burn out, another hour to cool, and shut the flue.

My first priority is a barn full of hay. The second will be 4 bales of straw for Chicken World. The last thing I want to make those birds do is spend a winter in mud. So 4 bales will cover the ground to a depth of about 4 inches. Raising the floor above the water line. The birds will be cold, but they will be dry.

On winter days when it's wet and nasty outside, I will let the flock loose in the barn. They will scratch around in the horse stalls, fluffing the shavings. Handy creatures, chickens, all that scratching gets rid of bug larva, and any spilled grain. The rodents have less to eat, so they are bolder, which feeds the cats. That's why I want to keep a few chickens. But more than a dozen is crazy-making.

I'm already looking into the holidays - which isn't something I usually do until last minute. Last year, with my husband in and out of the hospital I was barely functional. I holed up here in the house and hardly left. (This year, while still stressful, isn't quite as traumatic...knock on wood.) The Christmas tree wouldn't have happened, except my sister decorated it after Thanksgiving Dinner.

I'm going to take Thanksgiving week off, hoping to get some seasonal decorating done - as well as Christmas. IMO a perfectly decorated house has a harvest theme that ties in with Christmas. Lots of fruit and evergreen decorations that can stay up longer than the Christmas tree. Not that I have any hope of perfection...I've just got goals. LOL (If you believe that I've got some land in Florida to sell you.)

This has turned into an unexpectedly pleasant evening.

One digression: I'm going to need to move the couch closer to the fireplace. (All fantasy/historical writers take note!) Fires need to be tended, constantly. Logs must be turned every few minutes in order for them to burn evenly. Some wood pops - sending sparks out in arcs, the narrow modern hearth is only possible because we use firescreens. Otherwise carpeting would catch fire all the time.

So if you have characters spending a pleasant evening on a bear-skin rug in front of the fire - trust me - they are going to spend as much time tending the fire as each other. Either that or the fire will go out and they will freeze. And don't get me started on what a 'roaring' fire would do - it will send out sparks. The bearskin would be up in flames, totally ruining the mood.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

University of Perversion

If just one thing can come from the horrendous criminal activity at Penn State, let it be that the 'glamour' comes off of the ego-driven world of College Sports.

"Son Was Afraid to Say 'No'"

Of course the child was afraid - Paterno and Sandusky were given God-status. They were men with unlimited status and power in the world of College Sports. Obviously they weren't shy about exploiting it, either.

There wasn't anyone who would refuse them anything. Penn State certainly didn't - look at the near riots because someone dared nail them for their crimes. So how could children stand up to those men?

It seems to me that there is way too much money spent on college sports. Yes, I like to watch an occasional baseball or football game. However, my preference is to watch them as games - fun and exciting for the kids who play. The whole 'bread and circuses' mentality is revolting.

The industry that sucks in kids, churns out egotistical athletes and often cripples them, does not deserve the worship it gets. (Or the money thrown at it.) The mad culture of multi-million dollar sports contracts are the feeding ground for the corrupt, the drug-addicted, the gambler and now the child-rapist.

Colleges are industries of higher learning. Yes, industries - I've been to college it's a racket. Overpriced books, pitiful living conditions, insane instructors, the loan-sharking and crushing debt that students must put up with.

Most high schools teach a very limited few and warehouse the rest - inner-city schools are the worst - I went to one. There isn't enough money in the state budgets for the schools that need money. Why not? Because it goes to college sports.

Why don't we cut 75% of the money out of college sports and...I don't know...spend it on Education, maybe?

The country needs educated and intelligent citizens. It doesn't need ignorant, egotistical, emotionally-crippled, drug-addict men who rape children in the name of Sports.

Take their money, take their power - give it to those who will use it for the common good.

They abused what they were given, take it from them.

It's OUR tax dollars.

I'll get off my soap-box - for now.

Book Review - Iron Shoes

Iron ShoesIron Shoes by J. Kathleen Cheney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good story about the Irish Fair Folk in the USA. A clean, well-written romance I enjoyed reading.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Filed Under - 'Don't Do it Again'

Just got back from the E-town flea market where I dropped off a truckload of chickens. (Yes, they were in cages. LOL)

Spent an hour chasing them down this morning. Thank God I had sense enough to lock them into the barn 2 days ago when they congregated on their own. Otherwise I'd STILL be out there with the chicken hook and a net.

This was my first experiment with raising chickens for meat. Out of 3 dozen birds there were only 11 left. What a waste of effort and money! Not going to do this again, unless I end up having to raise our own food. (Hope it doesn't come to that!) If that happens I've got a hatchet, I won't starve.

What am I going to get out of this? 3 dressed birds. So it wasn't a total loss - these birds just cost me $20 each. (rolling eyes)

Over the summer they've crapped all over the barn. Everything needs swept and raked. I hope they didn't have lice...well all chickens have lice, it's just a matter of how many lice.

This week I'm going to sell the drakes to my friend at the Chinese restaurant. That will bring the duck population down to 3, a drake and 2 hen ducks.

The chicken population has been halved - all that's left are the hens. The red hens are going next, which should leave me with 6 Dominques, (2 roosters & 4 hens), 2 Barred Rock hens and 2 Brahma hens.

I might sell the Dominques and get a few more Brahmas. They are a larger, meatier bird that should dress out better than the skinnier Barred Rocks.

There isn't any money in eggs, unless I get like $4 a dozen. At $3 a dozen I'm paying for feed. Meat birds are throwing good money after bad (as they say.) Ducks are my money hen can hatch 3 batches of 12 to 25 ducklings a year. With 6 duck hens I can make $200 a year in profit. Should I raise them, I get about $7 a drake, and $5 for 2 ducklings.

The dumbest thing I ever did was switch from Moscovie ducks to chickens.

Live and learn.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Scrivener - the Word Processor for Writers

Like all writers, I've got a hard drive full of puzzle pieces - notes, photos, quotes, character sketches, plot points, calendars and so forth.

Referencing them is a chore - but what day did that even happen? And what was that character's motivation again??

A few days ago I saw a post on 'The Passive Voice' blogs about a program for writers called Scrivener. It is a converted Mac program - which will tell you that it is heavy on the visuals.

Literature and is the home of this curious creature - a combination database and word processor that will 'print' a document to e-Pub or PDF OR it will keep all your research in a single file.

For example: The Dark Harbor Series

I have photos of the Harbor, the Iroquois, Mother of Sorrows Church scattered on my hard drive. I also have notes on haunted places in Ashtabula - Chestnut Grove cemetery and the Great Train Disaster. I've got sites saved, somewhere on my messy Favorites or Bookmarks in 3 different browsers.

Scrivener allows me to paste ALL that information under 'Research' which has a cute little cork board where all this stuff is visible at a glance.

I've only had this marvelous toy for a few days. Long enough to spend a couple hours sorting the Dark Harbor series notes into something I can actually GET when I want it.

What if I had the cover art, advertising blurbs, author bio of all my books on a cork board where I could see it, cut  it and paste it? Wouldn't that make it easier than clicking through folders, thinking 'where DID I put that?'

Even if it proves to be too unwieldy for finishing up a novel, a cork board is a great place to store ideas, darlings, web addresses and photos.

Oh, yeah the cork board becomes an outline as soon as you click a different button, and I can move scenes around by drag and drop. I can also label chapters 'first draft,' 'revised draft,' or 'final draft' so I can see what needs work and what is farther along.

All this and a bag of chips - for the reasonable price of $40.

I'm in love!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

First Book Signing - Nov 12, 2011

Yep - that's right.

I'm doing my first book signing in E-town. This is really strange feeling. I got a hair cut and my eyebrows done today to get ready.

Now I've got to figure out what to wear.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How Times Have Changed

The Fate of the LA Cafe
There was a time when Bridge Street was known as the Barbary Coast of the Great Lakes. The yacht club posted a sign: "Do Not Go On Bridge St. After Dark!"

Which was back in the days when there were 10 or 11 bars - and a couple of little shops - and Bridge Street was the Skid Row of Ashtabula.

How times have changed.

Now Bridge Street is the center of Ashtabula's commerce and tourist trade. The Harbor is only vital area in a dying city.

The LA Cafe` is one of the last bastions of the 'Old Harbor.' In the 80's it was the Circle J - with the same reputation it has now - the rowdiest bar on Bridge Street. Trouble flowed from there like water from a sewer - the Saturday Night Fights featured knives, tire irons and chains as blood feuds played out on the sidewalk and into the street.

So you can imagine my amusement at the video above.

It has taken 100 years for Bridge Street to shed it's unsavory reputation.

I'm very glad to see this.

But I still think it's hilarious.

Holy Paperbacks - Captain Marvel!

I know, I know - Ms Kitty is giddy. Haven't been hitting the catnip, I swear!

Signed for 20 copies of 'Let's Do Lunch' yesterday and am still feeling the buzz. Sold and signed the first copy to the new owners of the restaurant - The Old Vault Deli is the actual place.

The Deli on the Square in E-Town
This is one of those cute little places that sticks in the mind because it is so small and the food is good.

The new owners and the former owners were there yesterday when I presented the book to Sofia.

I'm more interested in telling a good story than standing in the spotlight. Still it is a lot of fun to sit in the restaurant and think of my characters acting out the story. I've got a few reservations about how the book will be received, but I've not heard any complaints yet.