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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Wednesday Challenge: Books that influenced your life

Books that influenced my life.

The Holy Bible. This has been a companion and guide my whole life. I prefer the New American Standard for study, but I learned in Seminary when required to memorize a great many verses that the King James is much easier for this than the more literal ones.

Worthy is the Lamb by Ray Summers. I already decided that rapture theology was wrong and needed a better understanding of end times. This book provided the theology I live by to this day concerning the second coming of Christ. 

How to be a Christian Without Being Religious by Fritz Riddenour. This is a commentary on the book of Romans. I read it in Junior High and this approach to Christian living is still with me.

New Testament History by F.F. Bruce. While reading this book something he said caught my attention. The sister of the emperor Domitian was charged with "atheism tainted with Judaism." Her husband was beheaded. Domitian did not have children, but his sister had two sons and they would have been his heirs. It is possible those two young men would have succeeded him on the Eagle throne as next emperor if he hadn't been assassinated. This became the driving force for me to write Optimus: Praetorian Guard, and soon to be released, Stephanus. How the first Christian emperor could have happened 400 years earlier than Constantine. 

The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullagh. I have this entire set as pictured and have read every one twice. McCullagh's in-depth understanding of Rome's social, political and military history influenced just about everything in Optimus and Stephanus. Big hint: read the glossary at the back of the book first so you understand what's going on in the book.  

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum.
It wasn't the title entry that affected me in the book. There's one about a Russian soldier captured in South Africa because he refused to leave the dead body of his wife. I tear up just thinking about it.
I read this to my classes in world history and U.S. History when covering the cold war.

Men are From Mars, and Women are From Venus by John Gray. This book was recommended by a family court judge who spoke at a faculty meeting. This was the only worthwhile faculty meeting in 27 years of teaching. My wife and I took turns reading the chapters to each other and it defused nearly all the recurring arguments in our marriage. Not to say we haven't had any since then, but this book greatly changed the character and complexity of our lives making for a much calmer marriage. When I taught Sociology and Psychology classes in high school the chapter on early adulthood and marriage this book was a supplemental source and most of the students signed up for the class for this reason. For the record when Gray gives advice on how men should understand women, the girls in the class agreed 100%, when he gives advice on how women should understand men, they roll their eyes and laugh. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019


Today's top ten is open so I'm doing authors I've enjoyed, but haven't thought about in years.
Historical fiction/fantasy

Mary Stewart: Her Arthurian Legend series. The Crystal Cave, The Hollow Hills, The Last Enchantment, The Wicked Day. If you really love the Arthurian/Merlin legend this one is for you. These books are not in e-book format, but should be in most libraries or can be ordered. Paperbacks on Amazon are fairly reasonable. Used book stores might have them too.

Mary RenaultFor Greek history lovers: The King Must Die.  A trilogy on the life of Alexander the Great: Fire From Heaven, Persian Boy, Funeral Games. There are some other books like: Mask of Apollo. . These are available in e-book, but not for unlimited. Again should be available in libraries or ordered, paperbacks on Amazon are reasonable, might find these in used book stores.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Things I'm thankful For

This week is about thing I'm thankful for:

  • Being able to communicate with other bloggers on Top Ten Tuesday's and Wednesday challenge..
  • Friends who are beta readers for my next book Stephanus.
  • Being able to publish my books and have people from all over the world read them without waiting for a publisher to give approval.
  • Being able to restart Writers2writers here in town.
  • A wonderful wife, children and grandchildren
  • Joining a church that reflects more of what I believe.
  • Being able to afford my retirement.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

It's Tuesday

Today's top ten is about changes over the last ten years. Artsy Reader Girl wrote about the changes she's had in blogging. I'm taking the last ten years and how my writing has progressed.

I retired from teaching in 2010 after 27 years. 
I wrote Optimus: Praetorian Guard while teaching. It took me ten years. It was published in 2006.
Since I've retired I discovered the joy of publishing e-books. First on Smashwords, then when I could never get my cover to be acceptable I switched to Amazon's KDP. My books sell for 99 cents or if you're on Unlimited you rent them for free.
These are the books I've published since 2011 all are e-books: 

 Optimus: Praetorian Guard. Updated and revised in e-book. Optimus is a hard drinking, hard living Roman soldier assigned to guard the Apostle Paul while he is awaiting trial before Nero. He is converted to the way and tries to work within the Praetorian Guard to get a Christian emperor on the Eagle Throne.

Human Sacrifices: Jan is recently graduated from college, leaving an abusive husband and trying to make a new life for herself as a teacher. She starts seeing a face in two trees outside her bedroom window that haunts her while trying to overcome her problems.

Vander's Magic Carpet: Originally written for a book contest in 1995. I resurrected it and updated the time period.
Professor Eugene Vanders is living a comfortable life as a physics professor. His life comes crashing in when his house is invaded by police and they plant drugs to arrest him. His daughter is traumatized and everything he has worked for all his life vanishes when the police freeze his assets and he get convicted and sentence to prison.
While in prison he plots his revenge against those who destroyed his life by developing silicone plates capable of flying. These flying plates are capable of making cars fly like their on a magic carpet. Once out of prison he starts developing flying cars, but has a problem in getting the government allowing him to sell his product after the fall of the Twin Towers in 2001. He finds a way to make flying cars and get revenge on those who destroyed his life.

Fan Plan Trilogy: Three books: Meteor Strike, Preparation, Countdown.
In 1965 a meteor strikes Yellowstone caldera causing an earthquake and tidal wave in Yellowstone Lake. At Trans World Oil's geology department their computer predicts that the volcano will erupt within 50 to 100 years.
The head of the department informs the President and Chairman of the board and talks them into making plans to survive a volcanic winter.
Their motto is: When it hits the fan, you need a plan.
Meteor Strike recounts the story of how Trans World Oil was founded in the 1920's and became one of the larges oil companies in the world by 1965. It goes on how the company begins making plans for not only saving a few special people, but civilization as a whole. 
Preparation: 1970's through 90's. Continues with plans to collect and save seeds, embryos of important animals, create a library, a museum and archive of all earth's culture. The second generation takes over this process.
Countdown: Second generation is turning over control of the now Trans World Engery, Inc. to the third generation as they face skepticism from the scientific community and government scrutiny.

Fletcher Family Battles: Crecy, Poitiers, Flodden.
Three short stories about John Fletcher becoming a knight and fighting in the battle of Crecy.
His grandson is gentry and a man-at-arms at the battle of Poitiers.
Another descendent is a mercenary fighting for the English at the Battle of Flodden, while cousin is an acolyte of Bishop Thomas Wolsey.
All descriptions of battles are based on intense historical study.

The Cloisonné Heart: A story of marriage and a man trying to love his wife while she's in the hospital with a life threatening illness.

Apple of Success: An elementary teacher in a small town decides to find a job in a big city, but instead is offered a position in a bank and starts to rise up the corporate ladder. Can she keep her soul when offered wealth and fame?

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Justice by Joseph Badal

Justice is the third book in the Matthew Curtis Chronicles by Joseph Badal. 
In this installment Curtis is working for a medical company giving lectures around the world. Lonnie Jackson, a drug dealer who tried to kill Matt and his wife Renee in book two Obsessed has somehow survived and is now in Nicaragua trafficking women.
Matt and his wife, Renee with special forces buddy Esteban and his wife Alani, travel to Costa Rica where Matt is giving one of his speeches.
Lonnie Jackson, now using the name Lorca discovers this and kidnaps Renee and Alani flying them by helicopter to his compound in Nicaragua.
Add in a former KGB operative in Bulgaria shipping girls to Lorca, a senator trying to stamp out human trafficking discovering that the guy in Bulgaria is on the CIA payroll, the CIA trying to cover this up by cutting their losses, and of course Curtis and his friend Esteban getting together with ex special forces guys living in Costa Rica... it makes for one hell of story of them rescuing their kidnapped wives.
If you're into a book that keeps your heart pounding so that you can't put down until you've finished it no matter if it takes all night; this book's for you.
The only drawback to reading all of Badal's books in print is that you can't wait until the next one comes out.

I'm kind of partial the Badal, he lives in New Mexico and he has three books so far dealing with female detectives on the Albuquerque Police Force, and the Curtiss's live in on the East side of Sandia Mountain with Obsessed set in New Mexico. He's also a fb friend.
I've tried a couple of times to attend his books signings in Old Town at Treasure House Books, but there is never any parking on those days. Next time I'll take a bus. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

I was almost a millionare

When I was growing up my mother would give my brother and me fifty cents a week. That's how often new editions of comic books came out. We'd go to the drug store near our house and buy four comic books. They were two for a quarter. We got the first edition of Fantastic Four, Spider Man,  The Hulk, Sgt. Fury, X-Men, numerous Classics Illustrated and so on. Then one horrible day we got home from school and Mom threw them in the trash. The trash men got our horde. Oh what they would be worth today!

Now this is on me. My parents used to get a hard back copy of Zane Grey stories every month. We had around fifty of them. They were kept in a book case with their red tops and off white bottom proudly displayed. My brother and I read many of them, not all, but quite a few. If we needed to write a book report that's what we wrote it on. 
Keep in mind this is the days of Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel, Cheyanne, The Virginian, High Chaparral, The Rifleman, Wanted Dead or Alive, and many more tv show westerns. Not to mention John Wayne movies.
The Zane Grey bookcase was down in the basement, long forgotten when I got married. I needed the book case and put the books in a box and tried to sell them on e-bay. No takers. I gave them to Goodwill. So long Riders of the Purple Sage, Rainbow Trail, Roque River Feud, 30,000 on the hoof. Brother needed to write a book about animals. Mom told him, how about 30,000 of them.
I just discovered this today. It shook me to the core. On Amazon the books pictured here are selling for $1,999.99. That's only for eight of them! Great Caesar's Ghost what I fool I am.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

My Strangest Talent

If you want to join the challenge click here.

Today's challenge is my strangest talent.
I can foretell the future. It also makes me a Casandra.
It's not a talent per se, but training in my subject field. I'm a historian, fancier word for history teacher.
What's the importance of history? It's how you tell the future. Examples: Why do lending institutions want your credit history? It tells them what your credit future will be. Insurance companies want your medical history, it tells the actuarial tables how long you will live.
Here's the problem with being able to foretell the future: there's nothing you can do to change it. You see what's going to happen and yell at the top of your voice or post numerous blogs telling everyone that no matter how big and powerful an empire becomes they will always lose a logistical war. It's only a matter of time before they realize this and pull out leaving their economies in tatters.
Examples: Rome fighting against Parthia. The Crusades. The American Revolution. Vietnam, England invading Afghanistan in the 1800's. Russia invading Afghanistan in the 1980's. The United States invading Afghanistan and still fighting there even though troops going over there weren't even born when it started.

You know how Cromwell became dictator of England, you know how Napoleon became dictator in France, Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and now watching Trump. It gets frustrating. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Book Marks TTT

 Today's topic is about bookmarks. I have lots of normal bookmarks. I've chosen to mention what I've used that is not normal.

These are some of the items I've used, mostly because it was handy when I needed something.

1. Envelopes

2. Post it notes

3. Plastic canvas, wife does plastic canvas and yarn products. She makes tissue box covers, notebook covers, book covers, etc. With the scraps she makes book marks.

4. Pen or pencil

5. Business card

6. Tie chain -tie pins don't work

7. Paperclip

8. Eye glasses, I won't need them until I go back to reading anyway.

9. Napkin

10. Library card

Friday, November 08, 2019

Full body writing method

Every writer has their own method and style of writing. Some need an outline, other freelance and just let the creative juices flow. Whatever floats your boat.

I'm not much for outlining. I don't do free form. I let the idea of a story grow in my imagination. I develop a plot, characters and conclusion before I type the first word. When I sit down and start working most of it goes out the window. The characters won't be pinned down. They take over. I write and write until the plot is finished. Once I have the plot nailed down then the work begins. I break down this process in what I call the full body.

 The skeleton: This is the plot of the story. What gets you from point A to point B. Without the plot no story it's just a mess with no structure. I've read good books from great writers who left out a coherent plot, but by and large I get bored with mere rambling or words for words sake. Sorry Sartre, but I'm not into No Exit. No matter how poetic or wonderful the words are put together, but they have to mean something. Those who love jazz may appreciate a singer making sounds instead of words, but not so good in books.

 Sinew: Description, this is the ligaments that control the skeleton, but they are thin and strong. Too much description and the story gets bogged down in fluff. Not enough and it's a blank canvass with stick people.
Muscle: Characters, not just the protagonist and villain, but all characters move the skeleton or plot. Well developed characters mean a well developed story. Does the reader identify with the hero or the villain? Is there a villain or is the protagonist fighting against nature and you're rooting for him or her to overcome all odds and weep when a character dies?

 Blood: The Theme! There has to be meaning in the story, a point, what the author wants the reader to feel or understand. Marvel and D.C. movies and tv shows may be all about action for action's sake, but a book has to give the reader a reason to devote their time to your words. Leave out the theme and you've got a corpse, not a living story. Have you every finished a book and thought, "Well that was a waste of time." No theme. In Shakespeare's words: Much Ado About Nothing.

 Flesh: Your words. How you use them. If the story is a comedy you have to write something funny. Horror uses different words to convey the sinister, the unexpected, the gross or horrible that will etch the scene into the readers minds for eternity. For romance are your words poetic and emotional? Historical do you use words taken from the time period and avoid modern slang or obscenities? How many books have you enjoyed just for the words and how they made you feel?
Careful with vocabulary. Don't try to be impeccably impressed with longitudnity, magnitudnity and importnitudnity of your own verbosity. At the same time don't insult your readers by writing down to them. Fine line here. 

 Breath: The setting: This is what gives life to your story. If it's historical did you research the time period to the last detail. No potatoes in Ancient Rome. Can you explain the time period and society? Science fiction do you know enough science to make it plausible? Horror can you make something ordinary scare people or do you need a haunted house? 

Thursday, November 07, 2019

Dystopian books

This month I've joined a group for Science Fiction Month.
The question is about dystopian novels and what I would suggest and why.

Apocalyptic literature and Dystopian literature are very similar. They describe a tyrant or dictator, what happens to the people under despotic rule and at least Apocalyptic literature provides hope for those to endure until the tyrant is overthrown or a better life for those who died under their rule. Two good books that explain this are:

Victorious Eschatology by Harold R. Eberle and Martin Trench. 

Worthy is the Lamb by Ray Summers.

Both are books about Revelation or the Apocalypse of John. This last book of the Bible is not about the rapture or the battle of Armageddon. It's a book of hope given to believers going through persecution by tyrants. The Beast and False Prophet represent the Roman Emperor combining the Pontifix Maximus into one person and using it to imprison and murder anyone who refuses to worship the emperor as god.
  See also Apocryphal The Book of Enoch. In the Old Testament books of Daniel, Ezekiel and Esther.

Dystopian novels:

1984 by George Orwell. More relevant today than when it was written. In 1948 the world knew the horror of totalitarianism in Germany, Italy and Japan. Russia and China were still suffering from it.
 As we see it's rise all across the world and even in England and the U. S. we see how prophetic this book is.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Keeping the masses ignorant is vital for tyrants to rule. 

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Slavery is the ultimate tyranny.

Animal Farm by George Orwell. Tyranny using anthropomorphism to explain it better. 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. Corporate tyranny and drugging the populace into compliance.

Optimus: Praetorian Guard by P. M. Prescott. My first published novel now in e-book.
Optimus is a fast living, hard drinking Roman soldier who was a guard for the Apostle Paul and becomes Christian. 
Under Nero he witnesses the persecution of believers under Nero and Domitian.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Authors I've recommended and Why

A deviation on the challenge. Instead of books I've recommended I'm going with authors. The authors I recommend have many books that deserve to be read.

  • Andre Norton: The woman who dreamt up science fiction as we know it. With her you'll find the roots of space portals, galactic empires and much more.
  • Isaac Asimov: You name it he wrote it. Science Fiction, science, history, religion, essays, has his own magazine.
  • Anne McCaffrey: Dragon Riders series,  Harpers of Pern series, The Ship Who Sang series about a cyborg ship, The Crystal Singer series and more. You can get lost in her fantasy worlds for a lifetime.
  • James A. Michener: This man wrote his heart out. The Source is one of the most influential books of all time. Centennial about Colorado, Alaska, Texas, Chesapeake, are good straight up histories. The Drifters is about hippies in the 60's. Anthem is about a senior citizens home.
  • Colleen McCullough: Known for The Thorn Birds and Tim, but her First Man in Rome series, which I have all of them in hard back, have influenced me as a writer more than any other author.
  • Barry Sadler: The first 22 books of Casca the Eternal Mercenary series are under his name, most ghost written. He also has Morituri about gladiators in Rome, and modern day mercenaries based on his life: The Shooter, Phu Nham, Razor, Cry Havoc. When teaching 7th and 8th grade English there wasn't much for boys to read. All young adult fiction is purposely designed for girls. I tried to get boys to read Edgar Allan Poe, the vocabulary was too high for them. I tried Micky Spillane, I the Jury bored them. Then I came across Casca. This is when the first came out. I read to the class Eternal Mercenary (cleaning it up a bit) and I got the boys reading. I scoured used book stores and picked them up. When it was Sustained Silent Reading time they were reading instead of sleeping.
  • James Clavell: King Rat, Shogun, Noble House, you want to learn about describing characters and what they are thinking study these books. It's amazing how he understand the Asiatic mind and culture, none of which translates on film.
  • Tom Clancy: Action adventure writing at the highest level. My wife has made me watch Hunt for Red October a million times. I prefer the book it doesn't have the stupid exec wanting to raise rabbits.
  • Eric Van Lustbader: Into martial arts his Ninja series will be right up your alley. He has science fiction, and has picked the mantle on the Borne series.
  • Berthold Gambrel: Here is an up and coming author growing with each book and I've reviewed them. From The Start of the Majestic World to his latest Vespasian Moon's  Autumn Carnival he holds your attention. Here's an artist in need of encouragement and support.
  •  Audrey Driscoll: She has a Herbert West series fashioned in the style of H.P. Lovecraft and a nice stand alone book She Who Comes Forth set in turn of the century Egypt. I've reviewed a few of them.
  • Dr. Irene Blea: A good friend and in a writers group together. She has a trilogy starting with Suzanna, based on her Aunt's life story about a girl in New Mexico early 1920's forced to be married at age 13 to an older man. the next two books recount her life after she leaves her husband.  Daughters of the West Mesa I've reviewed and recommended on TTT and this challenge. She writes about a mother worried that her daughter is one of seven women and a fetus buried on the mesa behind her house. It's based on what happened a decade ago and the murders are unsolved. She became quite close to the mothers of these victims and it is their tale. On Amazon you'll find these books and also her college textbooks on Chicana studies and feminism. Unfortunately they're all in paper back or hard back her publisher is not converting them to e-books.

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

TTT skipped

I'm trying to edit my latest book and the topic for today deals with books about autumn, I couldn't think of any that specific. Maybe next week.

Monday, November 04, 2019

Adrenaline and stress

Human Sacrifices was reviewed by my good friend Berthold Gambrel way back in Feb. 2018. My how time flies.
I also had a review from a fellow college graduate. We played chess and I learned from him, but never beat him. He is one smart dude, and seminary graduate. He and his brother also have a publishing company. I reviewed a book he ghost wrote for a dying man's autobiography. He wrote a review of HS.
Both of them mention the opening as horror and then it changes into other themes. Berthold wasn't familiar with the religion part of it, but my other friend should have and he missed it.
The horror of Mal as a face in the back of a park by two evergreen trees with the lights of the city acting as flames for a god of death was my hook.
That's what I did with the theme by explaining Jan's trauma. An abusive husband that puts her in the hospital, friends that side with the husband and against her, a pastor that turns the small town against her trying to keep her from teaching. The stress of starting your first job, learning how to control a classroom and deal with parents and administrators is just as traumatic. 
 Trauma adds up, and I know of worse abuse from a number of women I've worked with. This is not my imagination. I wanted to tell their stories.
My sister was a resperatory therapist working nights in a hospital in Dallas. When I was writing this I posted each chapter on a different blog. She would pull it up and read what I wrote. Soon all those on her floor were reading it. 
She told me one of the nurses asked if a preacher would be that abusive? Three other nurses spoke up and said they knew of several that were just like that. This told me I was on the right path here.
In the transition from horror to dealing with the trauma I gave a scientific explanation for her hallucination.
I grew up watching Scooby Doo. The team would encounter scary houses, zombies, ghosts and other phenomena, but always figured out it was someone playing tricks. The rational mind wins again, except they never explain a talking dog.

Trauma comes in many forms. It can be physical abuse, emotional abuse, seeing something horrible that can't be forgotten. Trauma happens in all people. Soldiers coming back from combat, police officers and fire fighters come to mind, but everyone will have to deal with some form of trauma in their lifetimes; maybe not as extreme as the examples above, but it's a part of life.
It's PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
One of the problems associated with this kind of stress is sleeplessness. I have Jan suffer from this condition. I use it to explain the hallucination of Mal, and how each time she has problems Mal comes back to haunt her and she can't sleep.

One of the techniques I used to help Jan, I picked up from the book: Adrenaline and Stress. The Doctor Hart uses this technique to help people erase their demons and get sleep. Jan uses a white board and every time she sees Mal's face she takes an eraser and wipes him away.

Since Berthold's review I took his advice and did a revision clearing up some of the technical problems.