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.