Saturday, March 31, 2012


No matter the things that happen, life keeps rolling right along. Today marks the beginning of Spring Break for my university. We're off for a week. I gave a test yesterday but managed to get it graded. I also got rough drafts from my writing students so I'll be working on those over the break. But that will still leave me with some time to relax, and sleep. I'm always appreciative of such opportunities.

When I got home yesterday afternoon, Lana's friend, Katya, was visiting. We had some good talk. I drank a couple of beers. After Katya left I didn't want to stop having beers, so I had another six pack of 16 ounce Red Dogs. I topped that off with a bit of Jack Daniels and some Vodka. It's been a very longggggg time since I've done anything like that. Lana sat up with me and we listened to music until about 3:00 in the morning. A lot of ZZ Top for me, and Pink Floyd for Lana. We debated the merits of Billy Gibbons and David Gilmore, both of whom are phenomenal guitarists. I'm feeling surprisingly good, this morning, considering. And I don't think I'll need to do that again for a few years.

I also got news that my "Under the Ember Star" has been sent to the publisher and will be out soon. It's going to be a "Double" with another writer named Mark Burgess. His piece is a high octane tale that I think is a good match for mine.

Once I get a good nap today and put some protein in my belly, the week will begin, and we'll have to see how everything is going at the end of it. I'll let you know.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tammy, and a Story Dedication

I’ve been planning for about a month to dedicate my next published work to my niece, Tammy Kalb, who has been suffering from brain cancer for a while now. Her father, my brother Jimmy, called this morning to say she was in a coma and that the doctors say she could pass on at any minute. They’ve been saying that for a couple of days now so we’ve all been bracing ourselves.

Jimmy, who is twenty years older than me, was already married and gone by the time I was born. But in my first fifteen years or so he used to come home at least once a year with his family. Tammy was his firstborn and was only about a year and a half younger than me. We played together a lot and got along very well. We were good friends and steady companions when she visited. After Jimmy and his family moved to England for many years, I didn’t see Tammy very often. I’ll always remember our days wandering across the farm, though, and that she was the first person to ever ride on the back of my old Suzuki motorcycle.

As some of you know, I’ve been working on a collection of noir tales, and I’d intended to dedicate that to Tammy. However, a couple of days ago I found out that an anthology I had submitted a story to hadn’t panned out and so I decided to epub that piece through Razored Zen Press and dedicate it to Tammy. The young girl in the story, Ehma, isn’t that much different from the Tammy I remember hanging out with. Both were tough girls, and Tammy is a very tough woman.

The story is called “Harvest of War,” and is a little over 5,000 words long. I uploaded it to Kindle last night and was surprised to see it had already been posted as of this morning. It’s on Kindle-only for the next 90 days. It’s a heroic fantasy story involving Orcs, the first such tale I’ve ever written. I owe a major debt of thanks to Scott Oden. Without his prompting I never would have written the piece. And many people owe a debt to Tammy Kalb, for all of her caring over the years. She is, and will be, remembered.

NOTE: Harvest of War is HERE if you want to take a look.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Resignation, at Novel Spaces

I posted over on Novel Spaces today. I've decided, with sadness, to resign from posting there for the foreseeable future. Some day I'd like to return, but other things are priorities right now. And I don't have the energy to do justice to that site.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012


This is the hardest post I've ever had to write on the blog. Many of you already know, from Facebook, that Lana has been diagnosed with cancer. It's associated with the lymph gland in her throat but we don't know anything else at the moment. We are trying to schedule doctor's appointments now.

I'm actually pretty angry at the local doctors she's been seeing about this issue. She reported to a doctor almost two years ago about a swollen lymph gland. They kept assuring her everything was normal. Well, it turns out, not so much. And now they seem to be giving her a run-around even about setting up an appointment. She is looking tonight for alternative sources of care, and I'm going to make sure to go with her when she gets an appointment.

The past few years have been some of the happiest of my life, and we are both hoping for many more. But life has changed irrevocably for both of us. I guess the law of life is change. I would have liked to go on just like we've been for at least another 20 years. But mostly you don't get what you wish for.

I wish I had something more profound to say, but my mind is moving at glacial speed right now. I've become largely an automaton. I expect to be that way for a good while. I have to keep working so we'll have money and insurance, but I guess it's a good thing I've been doing this teaching thing for a long time and can do much of what I do on autopilot.

I don't plan to stop blogging. In this modern world, the people I blog with have become part of my social support network. We now all have good friends who we've never met. I will be blogging less. I'll probably cut down to one or two posts a week, which I've been kind of doing anyway during the school year, and I won't be commenting as much on other blogs. I will miss that.

I know you will, but please send us your best wishes and prayers. And thanks for being there.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

An Ordered Desk, An Ordered Mind.

Some folks seem to thrive on emotional chaos. I'm not one of them. Emotional upset brings me to a standstill. I become an automaton, going through the motions, getting my work done, but nothing else. I'm not creative when I'm emotionally upset. I feel and work best when my emotions are stable and thus able to be focused on a particular task, like teaching a class or writing a story.

On the other hand, I don't subscribe to the notion that an orderly mind is always desirable, in the sense that mind represents one's ability to reason.

A friend of mine once made a comment about my cluttered desk being a sign of a cluttered mind. His own desk was a model of order, thus demonstrating his "ordered" mind. I told him, well, that's all well and good if one 'does' something with an ordered mind. If an ordered mind helps you solve real-world, or theoretical problems, then that's good. But if an ordered mind simply creates more order, that seems to be less than desirable.

In fact, I told him, the great advances in science and philosophy come out of confusion. When there is no order, the mind tries to impose order, and that's how hypotheses are formed and theories supported. How many years did Charles Darwin spend living in a state of mental confusion as he tried to sort out the problems of evolution? And yet, great order came out of that chaos. It just took a long time.

I believe I won that debate. How about you?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Price of Thinking

I’ve been thinking. I understand how dangerous that is. But perhaps you’ll bear with me. I decided over the Christmas break that I was going to self-publish two more Kindle/Nook collections this year. One was going to be called “Whiskey, Guns and Sin,” and would be noir/crime stories. The second would be called “The Gaunt,” and would feature ghost/horror stories set in the woods. I figured I’d include three stories in each, and make each collection somewhere between 5 and 10 thousand words, and charge 99 cents for them.

So far, I’ve completed the first collection, which would run to about 7500 words and contain:
Whiskey, Guns and Sin (with a new ending from that previously published on Beat to a Pulp.)
The Finest Cut. (New)
The Grey Within (New)

The second collection is partially completed and so far runs to about 6,000 words, although it would be more in the end. It contains:
The Gaunt (unfinished)
The Toad
Mouth Wet With Rain and Leaves
The Finding

Then I started getting my numbers back from the sales of “Killing Trail” (2.99) and “Days of Beer” (99 cents). The relative amount of money I’ve made is far greater for “Killing Trail,” which is at the 70 percent royalty rate, as compared to “Days of Beer.”

So, then I started thinking: What if I put all the stories together, built the collection to about 20,000 words, and charged 2.99. I could entitle the overall collection, “Whiskey, Guns and Sin,” and then inside have a part 1: Noir/Crime stories, and part 2: Ghost/horror stories.

How does this sound to you? Do you think readers would be put off by a collection that includes both noir and ghost stories? Would two unified collections be better? (I’ve also considered just adding more stories to each collection to take them each to 20,000, but that means a lot more writing and I have a couple of other projects I’d like to get to.)

As always, feedback is appreciated. I’ve missed a day or two of visiting blogs but am getting ready to head out. See you around the blogosphere.

Monday, March 12, 2012

A Fascinating Tidbit:

Here’s a fascinating little bit of information I’ve just come across. At least it’s fascinating to me. I discovered it in the Evolutionary Psychology Textbook I’m reading for my class this year. The book is by David Buss, and is Evolutionary Psychology, 4th edition, 2012.

For evolutionary psychologists, homosexuality, particularly male homosexuality, has been difficult to explain. Although you will sometimes hear the argument that male homosexuals don’t reproduce and thus couldn’t pass on any genetic characteristics that lead to homosexuality, that is clearly not the case. Many homosexuals do reproduce and have reproduced down through time. However, there are differential reproduction rates. On average, male homosexuals produce about a fifth the offspring that male heterosexuals do. So why does this orientation continue to occur?

The traditional theory to explain this has been “Kin Altruism Theory.” Basically, it says that if male homosexuals channel more of their resources to their biological relatives than heterosexuals do, then the increased survival rate of those relatives will also carry along the genetic components involved in homosexuality. This is an example of something called “Indirect fitness” (how many copies of your genes get passed on by being carried by relatives) rather than “direct fitness” (How many children you have who directly carry your genes).”

The Kin Altruism Theory has garnered some support, but there are also plenty of studies that don’t support it. For example, in the US, male homosexuals often report greater estrangement from their relatives than heterosexual males do. I’ve talked about this theory, though, in most classes where I’ve discussed the potential basis for homosexuality.

Now we come to something I’ve only recently learned, which may be a much bigger influence on the issue. It’s called the “Female Fertility Hypothesis.” It turns out that the female relatives of male homosexuals, particularly their mothers and their aunts, have significantly higher reproduction rates than the same female relatives for male heterosexuals. In other words, the genetic aspects of male homosexuality could be carried down through the maternal rather than the paternal lines. I would also guess that this apparently greater fertility is hormone related, and hormone variations, especially in the fetal period, may explain many aspects of homosexuality.

Now ain’t that kind of cool?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Some Classroom Errors

One thing I’ve done for my writing class this year is give them specific examples of common errors made by students who’ve taken the class in the past. Of course, I don’t include the names of the students whose works/mistakes I feature. I thought it might be interesting to show you some of these examples. All of the examples below were turned in for my Writing in Psychology class. I've indicated the primary issue in bold print. These are not terribly extreme, but if there is interest, at some point I’ll publish some of the more egregious errors I’ve seen. All with names left out, to be sure.

1. It is believed that the easier and more quickly we can bring an example of something to mind, the more frequently we believe it occurs.

2. Therefore, it is apparent that we must rely heavily on our skills and abilities of social perception and attribution to correlate behavior with its causal source.

1. Due to the recession a lot of businesses are going bankrupt, one of the most publicized is that of GMC.

1. At one point in time you could not watch television without seeing a commercial about the virus.

AGREEMENT IN NUMBER (Plural vs Singular problem):
1. The Psychoanalytic Theory attempts to look at the person’s family life as an explanation of their homosexuality.

1. Many question if the reason why serial killers exists.

1. Skin color differences have transcended throughout history.

1. If peer pressure influences adolescents’ decision making, then adolescents who are influence by their peers tend to let their peers influence their sexual attitude.

1. People usually go through a lot during a normal daily routine.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Mid-terms in. Caught up on Grading for Now

Wow! That was the longest marathon grading session I’ve had in several years. Teaching the writing class is a tremendous investment of time. Plus, the way that Mardi Gras fell in association with mid-terms meant that I had to give two tests in the same week that I got the latest set of writing papers. On top of that I came down with a pretty bad cold that has had me feeling pretty miserable.

I’m glad to have the grading done and have my mid-terms turned in, and I’m feeling a bit better on the cold front. It’s still going to be a busy week catching up with everything I put off while I was grading, but at least I should be able to get a bit more sleep and have a little breathing room.

Now to try and get back into the swing of blogging, and back to doing a little bit of writing. Not one word of new fiction has been completed since the last Sunday in February. I did a little polishing on a rough drafted story but that was about it. I hate to be forced into such long breaks because it sucks so much momentum out of me. Such is the curse of the working man.

I can see from the number of posts in my Google Reader, though, that it’s gonna take me a little while to get caught up. I’ll start tonight but probably won’t finish. Missed everyone.