Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Dad, Let's Watch Raylan"

I guess blood runs true.  I grew up on cowboys.  John Wayne.  Clint Eastwood.  Those guys:  tough as nails and fast with a six-shooter.

Now TNT has a new series on Tuesday nights (Justified) that features one of Elmore Leonard's signature characters:  US Marshal Raylan Givens, a hard-fisted Kentucky lawman that rolls Old West style.

Tonight was the third episode.  My 12 year old called to me from the living room.  "Dad, let's watch Raylan."  Meaning it had taped on the DVR.

Chandler has grown up with video games, cartoons, mutants, and superheroes.  I've tried to get him interested in action movies before without too much success.

But something resonates for him with Raylan.  There's something about the quiet dignity, the passion for getting to the truth of the matter, the refusal to back down or give up, or the willingness to lay it all on the line in a showdown that appeals to my son.

As a hero, Raylan is incredibly simple, yet incredibly complex.  He has rules that he will not break, and yet he's constantly thrown into situations where those rules get challenged.  The problem is, if you break the rule, you break the man.  And Chandler gets that without me explaining it to him.

Everybody keeps looking for new heroes, but I'm seeing evidence that the old ones remain a standard that even kids who grew up without them understand on a deep psychological level.  I believe that Chandler knows there has to be someone in every community that will stand up to challenge the darkness no matter how rough the going becomes.

But I'm crossing my fingers that he doesn't want to wear one of those big cowboy hats!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Husband's Responsibility Never Ends

I love my wife.  Anyone that knows me, knows that.  But, despite our marriage and mutual understanding, she sometimes ends up acting just like a woman.

Saturday morning I got up and found her in a bad mood.  So, after years of experience, I stepped lightly, thinking it was my fault.  I'd stayed up late and gotten up late as well.  She'd had a hard week.  And maybe I'd been busy enough that I'd missed something.

I don't miss anniversaries.  She'll forget them before I do.

At any rate, I thought maybe she was feeling trapped by the house.  So I offered to take her and Chandler to a movie.  As we got ready, the truth came out.

Sherry had had a particularly upsetting dream.  She'd had a stroke at school.  She couldn't speak, could barely breathe, and I hadn't acted like I cared enough during the dream.  I'd acted like it was no big deal.  In layman's terms, I'd acted like a jerk.

Now mind you, this was all a dream.  I was in no way a real participant of the events.

However, that morning I was being held accountable for my dream-self's insensitivity.

Interesting, isn't it?

After the movie, I took her out to eat, apologized for my selfish ways, and everything was fine.  As it turns out, she was really aggravated because I didn't seem sympathetic enough to her telling me about her dream.

Of course, when I tell her about my dreams where I get superpowers, she's not suitably impressed either.  Kind of a bummer.

I maintain that there are few real differences between women and men, but -- wow -- the ones that are there are doozies!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Covers That Put Books In My Shopping Cart

Yep, book covers do that to me, and I just picked these up.  I love images, and the covers that tells stories in just a flash are awesome.  Now I just hope the books live up to the cover investment.  :)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Current Favorite Show

Sherry and I cycle through a lot of favorite television shows.  Nothing's going to top NCIS, but Human Target is really up there at late.  The stories are action-packed but the thing that works best for us is the relationship between the three primary characters.  Guarraro is just awesome with his quick, biting wit and his ability to see to the heart of any problem.  Winston is the hard-pressed father figure trying to keep two wayward boys on task.  And Chance is just so cool about everything, and able to deal with every thug that falls into his sights.

If you haven't seen this show, you can watch whole episodes at the homepage.  I reccomend catching an episode and seeing if the series is to your taste.  Human Target, like Burn Notice, has a little something for just about everyone.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Subbing for Mrs. Odom

Okay, my wife knows better.  She's been married to me for almost 16 years.  But she did it anyway.

On Wednesday, she asked for me to sub in her fourth grade classes while she attended a funeral.

I'm more than willing to help out, but we're going to do it my way.  After all, she's throwing me to a pack of ten year olds that don't take prisoners.

So I've come up with assignments for the kids to work on while I'm substitute teaching.  I'm going to have them draw up lists and then graph them.  The lists will go something like this:

Top 10 Ways Mrs. Odom Gets On Mr. Odom's Nerves

Top 5 Meals Mrs. Odom Should NEVER Make Mr. Odom Eat Again

Top 10 Ways Mrs. Odom Could Treat Mr. Odom Better

Top 10 Most Embarrassing Things Mrs. Odom Has Ever Done

Top 10 Things Mrs. Odom Should Most Appreciate About Mr. Odom

I bet the assignment will be a hit with the kids!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Morning Conversations With Chandler

I get to take my 12 year old to school at least twice a week while I'm teaching.  We always have weird conversations.  At least, according to his mom they're weird.

But we just think about stuff.

Like this morning.  We stopped at McDonalds (and why can't you find a dog sipping out of a McDonalds cup on the internet?) for breakfast.  Chandler took it upon himself to put the straws in the soda cups while I drove.  He struggled with getting the straw through the lid of my drink.

That got me to thinking, which is not always a good thing.  But it's at least inventive.

I said, "What if that cup could talk?  What if when you shoved the straw in it screamed bloody murder?"

Chandler cracked up, saying that would be the perfect thing to get for little kids.  We both lost it then, thinking of his nephew and my grandson (two years old) freaking out when he shoved a straw into a cup.

Just think:  you could put those mini-recorders in soft drink lids, you know, the ones you get in gift cards.  Open the card, Elvis sings?

The cup lid idea might not be patentable, but if I had the chance I'd do it.

My favorite quote for a drink lid?

"Don't make me come outta this cup!"

Thursday, March 25, 2010


I don't know where I stand on the Health bill at the moment.  Both sides have good arguments.  I listen to good arguments.

But one of the linchpins for disregarding the House's signing of the Bill is going to be over the fact that Viagra might be given to sex offenders?

I couldn't believe that this morning.  I mean, getting Viagra should be the last thing a convicted sex offender would want.  They already have urges they can't control.  This would only make it worse for them.

And it would be a self-correcting process.  Sex offenders can be repeat offenders anyway, and they'll go to prison.  So if Viagra works, they'll go to prison sooner.  Maybe treat a sex offender with a Viagra prescription as a robber using a weapon instead of just brute force?

Not only that, but studies have shown that Viagra only works with people that have PHYSICAL problems, not mental ones.  Viagra is not going to help the performance of anyone who's got some kind of mental abberation going on.

This argument is thinner than smoke, and it got a Bill rejected?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Give A Kid A Fork

My wife and I went to eat Sunday at the end of Spring Break.  We'd had good weather, then got slammed with a snowstorm.  Oklahoma is having interesting weather this year.

Anyway, we're sitting at the table and next to us are two young couples and one baby that was less than two years old.  The parents were very involved with talking to the other couple, who had no children with them.

They'd also given the baby a fork to play with.  He kept poking himself in the forehead with it.  Sherry and I sat mortified, waiting for the horrible to happen and knowing we couldn't say anything to the parents in the crowded restaurant without something being said.

Finally, the mother took the fork away from the little boy, and she remarked that he must be sleepy because he was rubbing his eyes.  It still amazes me how children manage to grow up at times.

Maybe I was the overprotective parent, and still am, but I'll proudly bear that cross.

Beats raising a pirate that needs TWO eye patches.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Okay, I admit that I'm lax in doing the whole Facebook thing.  I just don't have the time to play the games, and checking through people's shout-outs every day doesn't have the same appeal as sitting down with them over lunch and having them tell me their adventures.  I like really talking to people, not just doing the crib note check over Facebook stuff.

That's where this picture of Richard Dreyfuss and me is.  It's kind of cool, and it was funny because my son Shiloh was with me and didn't know who he was.  Now he does, and he's sad he didn't get to talk more to him.

Anyway, I was cutting and pasting students' photos into my Outlook account so they'll show up on my phone when they call.  I'm getting older and I don't like having to guess who's on the other end.  After all, I've got five kids and the fourth grandbaby is on the way.  I'm not going to admit to being old, but that's a lot of people to keep up with.

As I was picking out pictures, I looked through some of their photos (really don't have enough time to look through all of them), but I did notice how these kids I know as college students seem to grow up as I flipped through the pics.

In my house, the kids usually have to take down their pictures on the wall to fumble back through the school pictures.  But today's kids just have to flip back through Facebook.  It's kind of cool, and I wish we'd had access to this kind of technology when I was a kid.  I've lost contact with a lot of people over the years, and I would have loved to have pictures of some of the stuff we did.

So for all you young sprouts, keep taking pictures.  One day your past will only be a click away, and I think that will really be cool.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Water Conservation

I've been off on Spring Break for the last week.  I've got a lot of writing done, but my health has improved considerably.  Except for the changes in weather we're experiencing in Oklahoma.  Seventy degree temps Thursday, snow on Saturday.  Wow.

Anyway, I've also been dreaming a lot.  I usually do, creative mind and all that.  But I've actually had a couple of good ideas lately.

One involves a new way of outlining a book and taking advantage of the internet blogs.  More on that later.

For the moment, though, I want to concentrate on water conservation.  Summer will be upon us soon.  I got to thinking about all the half-drunk bottles of water and soft drinks people toss in the trash.  I realized that water never makes it back to the city water plant until it soaks back into the ground water source wherever the community dump starts.

That takes a long time.  Especially if the plastic bottle isn't ruptured and the fluid stays within the container.

So, as I gather up my son's half-drunk coke bottles and water bottles, I pour the leftover contents down the sink drain.  That puts it back into the system a lot faster.

If the water/soft drink got shipped in from outside the city, it's bonus water supply.

Think about it as you get in the habit of tossing these bottles.  1) you won't have liquid spills if the trash bag rips, and 2) you'll be helping conserve water.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Caught My Eye

This book is coming out next week.  Found the cover, thought it was interesting, looked up the author, and got it ordered.  It's supposed to be the first book of a trilogy, but it sounds fun.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Conversations with Chandler

My twelve year old son wants to be an inventor, and yes, the world should tremble in fear.

Lately he's been obsessed with video games.  He's convinced he can build a virtual reality helmet.  So he asked me, "Dad, what should a virtual reality helmet do?"

I replied, "Things generally are supposed to do what they're named to do.  Like a hammer.  A hammer, well, hammers things.  A virtual reality helmet should make virtual reality happen."


"Don't get me started on why some things are mis-named.  Like crash helmets..."

Friday, March 19, 2010

What's Up Doc?

If it weren't for feeling sick and miserable, I'd enjoy doctor's visits more.  I mean, think about it:  doctors and nurses are a captive audience.  They can't run from you.  They have to deal with you for a certain amount of time.

They practice medicine on me.

I practice my stand-up routine and heckling.

Seems fair to me.  Except that they get paid and I don't.  Of course, there are meds involved.  Maybe I should consider that getting paid.

Anyway, I recently got to visit a pulmonologist that had never treated me before.  My wife and son went with me.  Sherry wanted to make sure I ladeled in all the pertinent information and various manifestations of my illness.  She likes to add in the ones that bother her as well.

My son rolls with me for the amusement factor.  He loves my humor.  Kind of offsets Sherry not always being appreciative.  We go to the doc, Chandler laughs at my stuff, I feed him McDonalds on the way home.  It's a system that works.

So the nurse comes in first and I pester her with dead-pan answers.  Before she leaves, she tells me the doc will want me in a chair of my own when he talks to me.

I ask if the doc has a chair fetish, or if he's just concerned about people sitting taller than he does.  I tell her I'm not that enthusiastic about being treated by someone with chair insecurity issues.  After all, you can't kill a chair with a misdiagnosis.

She assures me Doc knows what he's doing, and she scurries from the room.  So I move to the chair and wait.  My mind won't stop working despite my wife telling me I need to be good.

Good is for pikers.  I had a captive audience after all.  Bought and paid for.

Doc comes in.  He takes his seat and introduces himself.

I tell him that Nurse has informed me about his chair fetish and insecurities, and I tell him that there are people that can help him with those things.  I tell him I'm surprised that he hasn't known about those people himself.

He's polite, but I can tell he's reeling a little.  With some help from my wife, Doc understands that I'm just joshing.

Then he comes over and starts putting his hands on me.

"Doc," I say, "you gotta know this is hard for me."

"Am I hurting you?"

"No, but I'm from southeastern Oklahoma and I'm not used to men putting their hands on me unless we're in team uniforms and telling each other 'good game.'"

Doc asks my wife if I'm always like this.  She sadly nods.  He offers to prescribe something for her.

Then he asks me to pull up my shirt.

I say, "I don't know where you came from, but back home we don't get to this point until after dinner and a movie."

He shakes his head.  Despite everything, he continues to talk to me.

I tell him I'm a writer.  Of course, he's wary at first.  I tell him to look me up on Amazon.  He says the x-ray tech will be along for me shortly.

Another nurse comes for me.  We go outside.  In the hallway, Doc is looking me up on Amazon on his computer.

"Checking me out?" I ask.

"Yeah.  There you are.  Picture and everything."

Then I tell him docs can get away with wearing the stethoscope and the white coat, but maybe they should look into getting web pages as well.  For people that want to check on them.

He was a great guy.  I told him next time I would bring hand puppets.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Some people have wondered what kind of music I listen to.  Hands down, my favorite is blues.  When I was a kid, I didn't know what it was.  Didn't know until 1989 when Bonnie Raitt came out with Nick of Time.  I fell in love with the music instantly, like it was something I'd been looking for all my life.

I've discovered other blues muscians since then, including Delbert McClinton.

But one of my favorites is Deborah Coleman.  I love the boistrous strength in her voice and her bluesy guitar licks are some of the best in the business.

For a preview of one of her albums, go here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patricks Day!

My two favorite GREEN superheroes:  Green Lantern and Green Arrow.

Can't wait until the DC Comics MMORPG opens up.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On Writing

Why do writers sometimes get frustrated with their work?

Simple.  There's no built-in time off.  To continue a fresh riff on last week's productivity entry, self-employed writers (fiction especially) have to be turning out copy if they're going to get paid.  They can't go to the job and have a "light" day with little to do or time to play Words for Friends on their iPhone or Bejeweled on the computer.

If writers want to get the paycheck in a timely fashion, they can't slide through a work day.

The upside is that you can schedule your week around important things (kids, spouse, breaking movies you want to see the first day for matinee prices), but you still have to put in a full day.

While teaching at the University of Oklahoma in the Professional Writing program, I've often been surprised to hear students talk about only working 40 hour work weeks.  Some of the new graduates I've talked to have gone out and gotten professional jobs, then had to put in more than 40 hours, and even had to work on weekends.  They're shocked.

I tell them if they wanted true hourly jobs, McDonalds is hiring.  Anyone who works for himself or herself never stops at 40 hours.  Thankfully, as in my case and in my wife's case (she's an elementary school teacher and loves kids and teaching), our work is our passion.  We take days off now and again, but mostly we work.

In addition to doing the actual labor involved (writing stories), writers also have to stay up with technique, trends, and other books.  Add a slew of research to the pot, and garnish with doing any number of side projects to expose themselves to or learn methodology of other trades (what?  you thought writers just knew about firearms, carpentry, scuba diving, and space exploration?), and a writer is already working about eighty hours a week just to keep pace.

Time is precious to someone working for himself or herself.  Some of that time has to be spent on self-promotion (this blog), checking on other work (calling editors, perusing publication lists, reading news headlines to see what's in the wind), and remaining somehow approachable for writing groups, book stores, and schools.

This profession, like any other self-employed person's, tends to consume you.  And if you're going to be successful, you have to let it to a degree.  You also still have to keep yourself healthy (exercise) and in touch with your family and friends.

My wife totally gets that, and I understand her job.  Most writers/teachers don't have relationships like that.  We're incredibly fortunate and know it.  Even more so, our kids (for the most part) get it too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Historical Fantasy

The trailer on this one looked good, and I'm a sucker for swords and spells.

More info and trailer here.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

On Writing

In a world that bases personal productivity on hours spent at a project, it's easy to forget how to be productive.

We're trained from our earliest years to "spend time" with something.  As kids, we get punished with "time outs" and the minutes drag by.  As adults, many people program their lives around a 40+ hour work week.  (And yes, I know that several people work much more than that.  I've had people ask me why I work seven days a week -- I reply that it's because there aren't eight days.)

So with all this concentration on time, it's easy for a writer to think all they have to do is "spend time" working at a project.

Big mistake.

First of all, professional writing isn't an hourly job.  Even writers on salary who are only supposed to spend forty hours a week writing often spend more time than that.  Of course, there are some writers who can complete a writing work week in thirty hours, but as soon as their employers get wind of that, the work load increases.

A writer's production is subjective.  Depends totally on the writer and on the project.  Some people write more easily than others, and some projects are easier to write.

Over twenty-two years of writing, I've often made mistakes in my scheduling and projected output.  Thankfully I've learned from these mistakes, but then something else goes wrong.  Writing just isn't one of those jobs you can weigh and measure.  Too many variables exist within the writer, within the writer's world, and within a project.  And that's before a book makes it to editorial.

However, the greatest mistake I still occasionally make is to assume "spending time" on a project is the same as getting a project finished.  I can sit in my office, look at the clock, and put in twelve hours at my desk.  The problem is, unless I have a stack of pages to show for my efforts, I haven't succeeded in using my time.

I've learned not to rely on the clock to tell how much I've done at the end of a day.  Sometimes you get pressured by a clock because you've only got windows to work on a project, which generally means you need to shift some of your priorities so you can get your writing time in.  Or it means you have to lock your critical mindset away and blow through pages.

I keep a moleskin journal as of this year.  Something I can be responsible to.  I no longer merely put in time at the computer.  I've gone back to some basics that I learn, re-learn, then am forced to learn all over again.

Writing is production-based, not time-based.

I figure out my pace for a book (how many pages I can get on the average per hour), factor in how many hours I can work on it that day (based on family involvement and other commitments because as a self-employed person you end up with a fair share of those), and determine how many pages I need to do that day.

I try not to quit before I reach that page number.  Accepting less bothers me.  Unless I'm deathly ill or everyone in the family has forgotten what I look like.

My suggestion for beginning writers is to concentrate on production.  Learn your limitations and expectations.  Be a good boss and expect the best from yourself and learn to recognize when you've done all that you can do.

Look at the quantity of work you've produced, not the quantity of hours you've spent at it.  If you don't, you'll end up spending working time cruising through the internet and think you've holed yourself away from the world and spent the whole day working.

The only way you know you've been working is when you sit down to count the pages at the end of the day.

I grew up with a blue collar mentality and it's saved my butt over the years.  I sometimes forget my roots, but I always get back to them.

When I was growing up, guys used to do "piece-work."  That meant they got paid by the piece.  You do more pieces in a day, you get more money.

I knew a guy that used to repair skids, the wooden platforms forklifts scoop up, for 25 cents a piece.  That was tough work.  He did that in addition to putting in 40+ hours a week at his factory job because he needed the money for his first child.  He set a goal for himself every day to repair a certain number of skids.  That way he could figure on a certain amount of money every week.  When he still had time left, he did a few extra.  But he never went home till he finished what he'd set out to do, never figured, oh I did extra yesterday.  That kind of mentality leads to, oh I'll get more done tomorrow.  And then you fall behind.

It's something to think about if you're writing and getting frustrated.

Here's a link where you can find a word meter like the two in this entry.  They're free.

And they even have one for the occasional day when writing is frustrating.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Interesting Take On Mystery Book!

I'm a fan of Duane Swierczynski's novels.  I have them all.  They're guilty pleasures and I tear through them as soon as I get one in my hands.  This one looks really interesting.

Minotaur Books is doing a promo on it here that will allow readers to look at the first 50 pages before it comes out.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Get Your Attention?

Not even Sean Connery can pull off this look.

I wanted to get your attention and tell you a story, and I went looking for artwork that kind of depicted what I wanted to say.  Obviously, I missed, but this was one of the gentlest pics you get when you search for "nearly nude male."  I was shocked, shocked, I say, at what some people consider nearly nude.

Anyway, a short time ago we ended up at the hospital with my son and the subject of nude pictures came up.  Anyone who knows me and my twisted sense of humor will understand -- or, at least, not be too surprised.

The event started at 1:30 in the morning.  Yep, the a.m.  My 12 year old and I were up late because there was no school.  We had the dogs in because it was cold outside.  Max, our 125-pound Labrador/behemoth, was experiencing a nightmare, according to Chandler.  Chandler decided to wake him up because Chandler doesn't care for nightmares himself -- too many zombies.

When he wakes Max up, Max freaks and bites him on the head.  Blood goes everywhere from a scalp wound.  He came to me, his face a mask of blood, and tells me that he needs help.  Normally he spazzes at the sight of blood, but he couldn't see that the only things not covered by blood were his eyes.  He looked like a victim in a gore fest.

Calmly, I compressed the wound and woke his mom.  I didn't notice the sirens in the background because I was busy.  Of course, she promptly spazzed upon seeing the blood.

We ended up in the ER because we needed antibiotics.  The wound was deep, but bites never get sutured because of the risk of infection.

I went to the check-in desk.  The young receptionist asked me for ID.  My wife and son were at my side, he was covered in blood, but my humor comes on me during stressful times as well.  There's no explaining it.  Funny is just a reflex with me.  At least, in my mind stuff is funny.  My wife often disagrees and tells me my humor needs to be recalibrated or filtered.

I asked the receptionist if she wanted nude or non-nude ID.  My face was dead-pan, my voice was serious.

She gawped at me, then laughed nervously and told me she preferred non-nude.  I said sure, and handed my driver's license over.

I also told her I was willing to swap nude IDs.

Sadly, she declined.

But, after we were put into the treatment room, she came and checked on us frequently and told other people about us.  They all came to see us really soon.

The moral of this story is that if you shock people who would otherwise expect you to be sedate (cowlike), they will remember you and deal with you in a timely manner.

Or maybe they're just afraid to leave you in one of their rooms...alone.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Second Kindle Offering!

This is one of my favorite novellas.  You can read more about it here, as well as get the first opening scene.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

My First Book On Kindle!

Since every other writer seems to be jumping onto this bandwagon, I wanted to try it out.  You can order the book here (and the Kindle for PC application is free!).

You can find the first chapter here.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A Dynamite Debut Caper Novel!

This is hands-down the best novel I have read all year.  And I read a lot.  For more info, see my post at BookHound.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Trying Something New!

With all the options open to writers to get their own stuff out there, I wanted to see how this worked.  For more info, go here.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Decoder Ring Theatre!

I recently did a talk at Norman Galaxy of Writers, a writing group that's 45 years old this month.

One of the members was kind enough to send me a link to Decoder Ring Theatre.  I've listened to a couple of the episodes, including the Red Panda and Black Jack Justice.

The dialogue is snappy and the action is fast-paced.  The Red Panda has its roots in The Shadow and Doc Savage pulps.

You can find more information about the Red Panda here.

And you can find two novels on Amazon.

I'm downloading some of these to put on my iPod.  Great fun!