Wednesday, November 19, 2014

In the Green

Living out in the woods has, at least temporarily, increased our consumption of fossil fuel in our attempt to get off the grid. Or at least reduce our connections to the grid.

The nearest convenience store/gas station is about two and a half miles away. We have a Country Boy supermarket about four and a half miles away, right down the street from a Dollar General and a Sonic Drive In. Anything else is a minimum fifteen miles away. Except casinos. We have ready access to casinos.

We got moved in too late in the spring to get a garden started. There is no existing garden plot, so it would take some investigation and planning to stake out the right spot. We wouldn't want to put raised beds over the septic tank. Or on the site of an old nuclear waste dump.

Since the place hadn't been occupied for several years, there was a lot of mowing and brush clearing to do, just to get our immediate surroundings in workable shape. Out of nearly five acres, we only mow about a third of an acre, but that is a lot. Especially since it is all hillside.

Fortunately, the double-wide "manufactured home" was in good shape, repaired and kept clean, but the woods had been through several heavy ice storms, wind storms and the edge of a tornado since the last people lived here. There are downed tree limbs everywhere. And a few entire trees.

The place was also without a dog yard. Given our wealth of little dogs, we needed a fence. That became a priority.

The outbuildings, a storage barn and a large pump house, were in rough shape. We painted them both with red barn paint and finished out the inside of the pump house with leftover insulation, pieces of Sheetrock and odd pieces of plywood accumulated over half a life-time of home ownership. Then we painted the inside of the pump house making it seem brighter and cleaner.

It's a fairly safe bet that none of this would have been accomplished without a chainsaw, a mower, a riding mower, a post hole auger, a chipper/shredder and lots of round trips to town with the old pickup truck pulling a flatbed trailer. By next spring we hope to have minimized the trips to town and reduced the need for the other gas power tools, but we'll see. Some small solar units are on our wish list. With solar-powered LED lighting we could at least reduce that part of the electricity we take from the grid.

There are a few rough spots in transitioning to this new life, but the tranquility more than makes up for it.

--Stephen P.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Prime Time of Doom

Sunday night is where CBS sends its shows to die. I can't prove this, but I think it is self-evident.
It would probably be easy enough to research, but I think I can make a convincing argument without so much exertion.

First of all, why would a network want to kill off a show? Well, money. The longer a popular show runs, the more money the actors are worth, the more money the writers are worth, and the more expensive the crew of special effects, stunt and prop people become. This would all be well and fine, except that the potential ad revenue eventually plateaus and stops covering all the increased cost.

Second, you might ask, how does moving a show to Sunday evening kill it off? Simple. Sports. There are games earlier in the day that throw the schedule off causing the show to be on late or preempted altogether. This is especially irritating for people who set DVRs and still miss forty minutes of the show.

And don't forget the games on other channels competing in the time slot.

Third, when did this terrible practice start? I'm not sure, but I can remember my dad complaining about it twenty-five years ago.

CSI: Miami is a recent example. The spinoff of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation starred David Caruso, Emily Proctor and Rory Cochrane and I don't think I have to explain the show. It seemed obvious from the time it made its move that the Miami franchise was on its way out.

Now, the original CSI is about gone. After the midseason break, there will be no more CSI, just a spinoff, CSI:Cyber. William Petersen starred in the original incarnation of the show, along with Marg Helgenberger and Jorja Fox. Petersen has been followed by Lawrence Fishburne and Ted Danson and both did a great job reviving the show.

I guess Criminal Minds will be my next show to move to Sundays. Boo, hiss, CBS. Boo, hiss.

Don't forget, my new novel, Eaters Too, is now available as an e-book at

Please check it out at

Sunday, November 2, 2014

And Lest We Forget.

In celebration of the publishing of Eaters Too, my new novel and the second in the Eaters series, my novel Serving Murphy is on sale for $2.99!

Serving Murphy is something of a departure from my usual writing style. It is not tongue in cheek, it is twice the length of my previous novels and it has profanity and sex. Writing it was quite a journey.

Fame and fortune are never a given for an author, so I write novels that I would like to read. And I do like to read them. I work very hard, first writing the best story I can, with the most readable and enjoyable prose possible, and then I reread, rewrite and polish until I have fixed every flaw I can find. My writing process sometimes takes years for one book. When I feel it is finished, I set it aside for a few weeks.

After giving myself time to forget the words I've written, I read the book with sort-of fresh eyes. Usually I make a few adjustments, add or subtract a few scenes, and then I publish.

Serving Murphy was a book I wanted to read. I bounced the idea off of my brother Randy Scott--as I always do--and he said something like "why don't you write it?" I began to scribble a few notes and create a few characters and write bits of dialog and exposition. Finally one day, I sat down and went to work.

Serving Murphy is set in a dystopian future, seventy or so years in the future.

Imagining a world that far from now required thinking about how much the world has changed in the past seventy years. Think about it: seventy years ago was the height of World War II; the first atomic bomb wouldn't be dropped for another year; television was years away; there were no digital electronic computers. Cars with hardtops cost more than convertibles. Transisters weren't even in common use. Big Band music was all the rage. Twenty years later, record players were changing over from monaural to stereo, families were watching live programming on black and white TVs--well, you get the picture--there have been amazing changes in seventy years, geographically, socially and technologically.

Certain things are virtually guaranteed to happen in the next seventy years: there will be war, there will be social changes--both good and bad, there will be economic shifts, there will be environmental changes and adaptations, and there will be technological, medical and scientific advances.

Next, I imagined the world as it had become.

The story is set, primarily, in Colorado. Denver has been destroyed in some long-ago disaster and New Denver has been built fifty miles to the east and is already in decline. Money is in the form of cards of various values. The international monetary cards are traceable and trackable. Due  to the libertarian shift of the U.S. Government, American monetary cards are untraceable and untrackable. The government is not allowed to use facial recognition or retinal scans without a warrant, but advertisers use them constantly to keep track of everything you buy, look at or eat.

Innovation has been stifled by the repeal of the patent and copyright laws and produced a lack of incentive to research and develop a product, when you'll just be giving you improvements to your competition for free. Television, computers and various appliances have seen little change for decades.

Convenience stores still supply candy, gum, tobacco products, quasi-legal drugs, stimulant beverages and porn. Oh, and alcohol. Lots of alcohol.

The story I planned to write, could have been much shorter, but I found myself being dragged along behind a main character who was being dragged along by the developing story. I had a great journey and I still have fond memories of some of the places the story visits.

So, I hope you'll follow the link below to read a sample of Serving Murphy. It's a book I wrote for me.

Stephen P.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There and Back Again. . . or Not.

Life has been throwing a lot of changes at my wife and me the last few years. First, my job cut me back to part time and then eventually laid me off. I made a valiant effort to find a new job--a new career, really, since the printing industry, my home for over thirty years, was vanishing into the mists of time. While training and traveling in a new line of work, I began to have symptoms that led to the discovery of an encyclopedia of health problems.

Between the medical bills and reduced income, we were forced to take a long hard look at life and decide what we wanted to do with what was left of ours.

In the end, we decided we wanted to get away, simplify life, lose the drama and enjoy the simple things we loved.

The first step was to liquidate what assets we had left, remodel and sell our house and find our perfect home. While the contractors were busy creating sawdust, we began our search.

Our goal was simple: find a quiet place with lots of shade and room to relax. A view would be nice, too.

We found a few nice big older homes in small towns, but nothing quite right, so we began looking in more rural locations. We found some great, affordable lodge type homes with spectacular views, but they weren't affordable for us. We kept looking.

There were several things we insisted on at first: no schools nearby, no major streets or highways and no mobile homes.

Over the course of several months we looked at some nice old farms that would have been perfect, except they were too remote, too far from the nearest stores, hospitals and services. We found cabins in the woods that weren't too far from everything, just from electricity. We kept looking.

One day, in our travels, we found a place on a lake. It was perfect, except the house would need months of repair and the land was a lease, but there was a boat dock in the front yard. That place sold before we could even make an offer.

A few weeks later, we found a beautiful place overlooking a huge lake, but it had an old single-wide trailer. We decided mobile homes were acceptable, but that place also sold before we could call the realtor.

After that, we began to drive hundreds of miles a week to check out places in the country. We knew we wanted privacy and a country life, but we hadn't settled on whether we wanted a farm, a cabin in the hills, or a houseboat. We didn't really want a lease and maintenance fees, so that ruled out the boat.

We found some nice small farms with mobile homes, but they were much too exposed to the neighbors. We found great places with both farm land and woodlands, but they were at the end of twenty miles of really, really bad road. Not for us.

Finally one day, our realtor sent us a brand new listing for an older double-wide mobile on five acres on a hillside, a mile from a lake, fifteen miles from family and it was at the end of half a mile of not-too-bad dirt road. When we drove onto the land, we decided we wanted it, whether the house was livable or not.

From the outside, the house was attractive in a rustic woodsy kind of way and it had a deck on the front, overlooking forest and meadows. When we walked into the house we were stunned. It was perfect. It had cathedral ceilings and an open floor plan, large bedrooms with walk-in closets and a fireplace in the living room.

The land was wild, with wildlife and wild flowers everywhere. The backyard was like a little campsite, with a clear flat area for a fire ring and a picnic table.

We had the realtor call in our offer before we finished the tour.

This is our home now, and will be the subject of many future posts.

Stephen P.

Long Time, No Me

It's been a couple of years since my last update, but I have a really good excuse: my dog ate my password. Okay, not so good. The truth is I've been getting to know lots of doctors and spending lots of time in hospital beds. Perhaps in some future post I will explain what that was all about, but for now, I want to try to get back in the saddle and start a new saga.
Before I move on to my next post, I am proud to announce the release of the long-awaited sequel to Eaters--Eaters Too, now available as a Kindle e-book on

Stephen P.