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

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

 Today it's how I decide what to read next.

1. There are certain authors where I've read everything they've written and I'm waiting for the next book in their series or they're starting a new series. Once Amazon alerts me that the book is available I'll gobble it up and devour it. There are only a few authors that I will buy the book, even if it's available on unlimited. These authors and their works I want to re-read. Tony Roberts, Mark Dawson, Berthold Gambrel, J. B. Turner, Joseph Badal, Hank Bruce, Leigh Bardugo come to mind right now.

2, Amazon's monthly pick two. They send an e-mail and there's a selection of books that I can choose two that are hot off the press or due to come out shortly. I don't have to return these. Some months I don't choose as the subject matter doesn't interest me. In historical fiction if its set in WW2, I pass. I'm not into young adult, mystery if its about a woman being stalked, I pass. Most of these books are written with female protagonists and it really has to catch my eye by cover or story line or I pass. If I do choose a book and I don't like it, I'm stuck with it in my kindle library as its a pain to delete it. I've found a few gems over the years.

3. When I'm trolling for a new book to read a catchy cover and I'll give it a try. 

4. Books that are mentioned often by different bloggers will catch my interest. I've enjoyed Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows and her other books this way.

5. Facebook has an algorithm that knows my likes and while scrolling they put in ads for books that fit my tastes. I've chosen a number that perk my interest and discovered a few of the afore  mentioned authors that I gobble up all they put out. Some I get rid of after a few chapters.

6. Sometimes Amazon has a set of books, 5, 6 or up to ten books with unlimited or only 99cents. It only counts as one rental so I'll go for it. Like with Insects if the first book turns me off I send it back with my next pick. If I like the first one I'll usually read them all, but I'll read something else in-between so I don't get in a rut. 

7. Authors on WC and TTT. I'll buy a book or two and write a review on this blog and post it on Amazon. If they're like Berthold who writes a review of my books I'm more than willing to keep reading their work even if I have to pay.

8. Facebook friends. There are a few local authors like Paula Paul, Sarah H. Baker, Irene Blea, Jonathan Miller and David Corwell that I know from Writers2writers and Southwest Writers Workshop that I'll either buy their books or we'll trade.

Monday, October 26, 2020

TTT 102720

 Today's topic is top ten things that scare me.
I've read all of Poe, and only The Fall of the House of Usher gave me a scare.
I never found Anne Rice's vampires and witches and mummy entertaining, but not scary.
I'm not into ghosts and vampires or zombies. These are some things that scare me.

Chainsaws: In college I worked at a meat packing plant in Plainview, Tx. working the graveyard shift. I made a round through the plant once an hour, it took about ten minutes, the rest of the time I spent in a guard shack and could study. I was the only one there.

Wife and I went to see Disney's Bambi at the only theater in town. It was packed with kids. The previews came on and they ran the teaser for the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That night I had to walk past meat hooks and large grinding machines. There were all kinds of machines that made crashing noises and of course the hogs that would be butchered in the morning and all their noises. What scared me the most, was the fact that I was living in Texas. I've had to use chainsaws, even own one, but every time I look at it it reminds me of a movie I've never even seen.

.  I came across this series of books by John Koloen and read the first one. Large cockroaches that crawl down your throat and up your anus to eat you from the inside. Did not read the sequels.

Monster fish: Watched an episode of River Monsters. Jeremy Wade was trying to find the largest catfish in the Amazon. He heard about a man brought in half in and half out of one of the monsters. The local doctor told him there was another fish much worse. It was a fish with a round mouth about an inch to two inches long. He autopsied a man who looked like he had a gunshot wound in his chest, but when he opened him up he found the inside of his body empty. One of this fish bit through his chest and then many of his friends joined in through the opening and cleaned him out. I've thought about what would happen in the Southern United States if that fish was set loose.

Mountain Lions: I was working construction on the East side of Sandia Mountain way back in the day. We were installing a septic tank. My buddy with the backhoe had dug the leach field and dropped in the gravel. He went to get more gravel and I was raking what he'd dropped in the trench. I looked up and spotted a large dog walking about four hundred yards from me. I thought it was a Great Dane, but it was walking way too smooth for a dog. It dawned on me it was a mountain lion. It kept going on and I stayed still and hunkered down in the trench until he was out of sight. I never want to be that close to one again unless its at the zoo.

Eighteen Wheelers. Nearly had a head on collision with a semi doing 80 mph once. Topped a hill on a two lane road, and there the monster was trying to pass a slower car. I went into the ditch and got stuck in the mud. Shook for ten minutes before trying to figure out how to get back on the road. For some reason if I'm on the freeway and there's one on the right and another on the left, I always have to pass them at the same time. When it's windy that can be scary as they are swaying back and forth.

Donald Trump: The ultimate nightmare is he gets re-elected. If he loses, the real horror will be the time after the election and he leaves office. A madman with nothing to lose with the nuclear codes

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

WC 102120

Today's challenge is my earliest memory.

Picture taken the day I came home from the hospital, Mom and my brother.

This is coming at a touchy time. My mother recently passed away. I've spent the last few days going through 88 years of pictures. They've stirred up memories long dormant.

I've come across pictures of my family at the beach in California. I was about three years old. I vaguely remember seeing the water and being overwhelmed by how big it was. Mom and Dad teased me growing up that I cried and cried when leaving because I wanted to take one of the doggies home. For some reason they didn't want to have a seal for a pet. Dad would always laugh and say when we went over the rise from the parking lot that I said, "Look at all that sand."

I remember going to my Dad's parents house and my grandmother would hug us and give us candy. She wore a blue polka dot dress. Every time I see a dress like that I think of her. She passed away the next year and now I'm coming across pictures and it's like I'm reconnecting with her.

Dad mustered out of the Marines and we moved to Colorado. Where Mom and Dad grew up. 

I found pictures of the house in Pueblo, I was four and my brother would leave for Kindergarten and I was lonely without him. I'd sit on the porch and wait for him to come home so I'd have someone to play with. That spring I was in the front yard watering the grass. The mail man walked up to the box and said "Don't spray me."

What a stupid thing to say. 

He knocked on the door and cussed my mother out. She called his supervisor and he was forced to come back and apologize. You didn't mess with Mom.

My other grandparents owned a business. The Record Music Company. It sold stereos, records: 331/3 and 45's. Band instruments and there was a repair room in back with guys soldering electronic parts to stereos, radios and such. We would come in the back way through the repair room and there was always a table with donuts. Mom would never let us have one.

The picture is of my brother and me in front of the store. Nipper was the RCA dog that looks down the speaker of an old gramophone, which is their logo. If you bought a TV you got a stuffed Nipper. 

When Grandpa first got color TV's we'd go to the store and watch Bonanza on Sunday night in color. 

Grandpa gave us one, when he had enough in stock, and we'd invite all the kids in the neighborhood to watch cartoons on Saturday mornings. We were popular in school, until they talked their parents into buying one.

I also remember bundling up in parka, mittens and overshoes to walk to school. It gets cold in Colorado. I remember that every time I see A Christmas Story.

A discount store opened up in Pueblo. They could sell TVs retail cheaper than the store could buy them wholesale. My aunt and family kept it going for another twenty years off band instruments and selling Elvis, Beatles, Beach Boys and other pop 45's and LP's, but two families couldn't make a go of it.

In the summer of 1962, President Kennedy came to Pueblo to sign the Frying Pan/Arkansas bill. Dad was big in the democratic party and he took my brother and me out on the football field and had us sit down right in front of the roped area before the podium where Kennedy would speak. He went to do political stuff. We had Secret Service agents to baby sit us. When Kennedy spoke we couldn't see him because we weren't tall enough. Couldn't hear him either, the speakers were farther back.

The next year we moved to Albuquerque.

Those are memories until I was ten.


TTT 102020


Today is books I've read that have been recommended to me.

There was a lady who owned a children's bookstore named Trespasser's William. She passed away a few years ago and the store is no more, but she had a huge impact on the children of Albuquerque. She took books to all the elementary schools and read to the students, giving many away. Here are a few books she recommended to me while I was going through a painful divorce and having to dream a new dream.

Future Shock, by Alvin Toffler.

Gwen told me to read it in the bathroom. It was too detailed to read in big doses. I found it fascinating and it made the madness of the 60's, 70's and even up to today make a lot of sense. 

His next book, The Third Wave, I incorporated into my Fan Plan Trilogy.

The next book Gwen recommended change my life in many ways. It was Deathbird Stories by Harlan Ellison. This book of the gloomiest and most depressing stories imaginable lifted me out of the deepest depression of my life. I became an Ellison junky and have a book case full of his work. His writing style and his imagery I have mimicked in a number of my stories.

Another book she recommended I enjoyed and having read it makes me a part of a counter culture from the time period. I know how to Grok.

Berthold Gambrel writes a lot of reviews of indie books on his blog. Even some of my books.

Audrey Driscol has a Herbert West series. I read few, but they didn't interest me as I'm not a Lovecraftian. I did enjoy She Who Comes Forth. A stand alone book of hers very much.

I took a seminar with National Geographic to become a Geographer. That's a high school teacher who's taken the seminar and can incorporate geography into the curriculum. They recommended this book. Longitude. I've read it a number of times and it still fascinates me.

Here are some books I've read because they've been recommended by posts on TTT.

This was a great book and I read the sequel.
The others were entertaining.

The only book here I didn't enjoy was Red, White and Royal Blue, sorry wasn't my cuppa tea.

Friday, October 16, 2020

The Chronicles of Kastania


If you're looking for a series of books similar to Game of Thrones. The Kastania Chronicles is for you. There are no dragons in this one, but plenty of vampire witches and other nasty creatures.
Tony Roberts has the most intriguing historical fiction set in a different world, but the characters and setting are a mirror of our world in history and present day. He's taken the Byzantine Empire and making it interesting.

I've just finished the seventh book in the Chronicles of Kastania: Sins of Sloth.

Starting with the first book, Astiros Koros is a lesser noble in charge of the army of Kastania. He's putting down a rebellion in Bragal, a province of the empire. The emperor, from the Focis family being ever greedy has denied the army any funds for a year and then decides to disband the army completely as it can't win battles.

Astiros has had enough and marches the army to Kastan City and by bribing the commander of the palace guard enters and kills the emperor. The army proclaims him emperor. He's not only facing the other noble houses that have for centuries plundered the treasury when their family had an emperor on the throne, but the high priest of the temple who condemns him usurping the throne.

What they're really upset about is that he is going to tax them. They've been tax exempt for centuries while grabbing every last copper coin in the treasury. 

When the high priest starts threatening Astiros with damnation he gets a lesson in manners while speaking to an emperor. He's banished from Kastan City upon pain of death and sent to another city across the sea. Throughout the entire series religion is very integral to the motives and plots against the Koros. The Venn and Tybar, hostile neighbors, are monotheistic, but with a different god. The temple is polytheistic. The temple insists the treasury build them temples, but they don't pay taxes and collect tithes from the people. Astiros is tired of them sucking money out of the treasury and citizenry and makes them pay taxes and build their own temples. 

The Venn and Tybar send missionaries into the empire to stir up trouble before attacking. I've never encountered a fantasy world where all of this is in play at the same time.  

The Koros family is Isbel, Asitos's second wife, eldest son Jorquel age 19, daughter Amne age 16 and two sons by Isbel: Argan age 5 and Istan age 1. They are the new imperial ruling family. 

Astiros sends Jorquel with a small army to supress a revolt in the north by the Druras famils and he returns to Bragal to suppress the revolt he was trying to put down when he was forced to kill the other emperor.

The Koros family is strong, intelligent, ruthless, and very very lusty. Especially the women. 

Isbel is given the job of weeding out treachery in the palace, finding a decent commander for the guard and creating a palace guard actually capable of guarding it. She then has to implement the new taxing laws and begin collecting them before she can supply the two armies in the field and start cleaning up Kastan City which has become crime ridden.

She also has to fend off assassination attempts, and the Duras and Focis families raise armies and their revolts have to be suppressed. 

Amne is given the task of being an ambassador to the country south of Bragal. She has a perilous journey, but secures an alliance so Mazag won't invade Bragal while it's weak and Astiros is able to suppress the revolt without having to worry about invasion.

As if that wasn't enough to worry about to the east are the Venn wanting to carve a chunk of the dying empire for themselves and to the west are the Tybar trying to do the same. 

Each book has the family facing new dangers from without and within. Astiros pacifies Bragal, Jorquel puts down numerous revolts by the Duras and Focis. Amne returns from her misson to Mazag and is forced to marry a man she despises, but it's a union of two noble families to help against the others, Argan is growing into a fine young man and is bright and charismatic, Istan is a spoiled monster.

By Sins of Sloth the seventh book just released. Astiros has died, Jorquel is emperor and retaking parts of the empire lost to the Tybar. Argan is governor of a province supporting Jorquel's base. Isbel with her lover is running Kastan City and overseeing the empire. Amne has divorced Elas her hated husband and with her lover is ruling a province. Istan is Prince of the East and has taken land back from the Venn, but he's pouting about not being able to advance further while Jorquel is fighting in the west.

The son of Astiros and a Bragalese vampire witch is leading a revolt in Bragal. The Bragalese vampire witch lover of Argan, also carrying his child. is sent as governor of Bragal to put it down. It gets complicated.

 The politics, graft, corruption, religious fanaticism, intrigue, assassination and the fight to revive a dying empire by a heroic noble family facing insurmountable odds, makes this an epic tale that I have devoured with every book and wait anxiously for the next one to come out.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

WC 101420


Re-reading books: why or why not?

Yes I re-read books. Not all books. Most are one and done, but some are special. 

If a book takes me to a world or place I never want to leave, I'll revisit it a time or three or four depending on how much I love it. What I always learn is that no matter how many times I might read the book I find something I missed the first time and the book comes more alive.

Here are some books I've enjoyed on numerous occasions.

The Source by James A. Michener

I used it as a textbook in my World History classes.

The first 22 books of the Casca: The Eternal Mercenary series.

I have the first 22 books on audio books. When I'm having trouble getting to sleep I listen to one of them and I know them so well if I fall asleep and wake up a few chapters later its not a problem. The other books up to #52 I read on unlimited and had to give them back. I found these books to be well received by 7th and 8th grade boys when I was teaching middle school.

The Far Pavilions: I've read this four or five times, and fell in love with it. An English child growing up in a royal palace in India, who when forced to flee finds out his real identity and becomes an officer in the British Army and returns to India capable if blending in with the natives. The last time I read it I found there were too many pages describing the flora and fauna. Guess I've gotten fussy about that in my old age.

Kastania Chronicles: Just downloaded the 7th book in the series. I read them off unlimited and was so reluctant to send them back I bought them all, they're only $3.99. Every time a new is scheduled to come out I reread the ones before it so I'm up to speed. 

Tony Roberts also has a Dark Blade fantasy series and a Siren series about a modern day heavy metal band. I've re-read the Dark Blade series a few times too. The Siren series I haven't.

Asimov's Foundation trilogy is also a favorite. Amazing how it's held up so well considering it was written for a pulp magazine in the 1930's.

The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Need I say more.

TTT 101320


Today's topic is books with long titles. I've found books with long titles tend to be non-fiction. Something about the academic world wanting to explain in great detail. I'll let the titles explain themselves.

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

WC 100720

Today's topic is recipes from city/state/country

New Mexico has a state question, if you visit here you'll need to be able to answer it. The question is: Red or Green? That's red or green chile.

Enchiladas can be vegan, vegetarian, have beef, chicken, or pork using either green or red chile. Most people prefer red for enchiladas.

Restaurants also serve burritos smothered in chile sauce, or stuffed sopapillas done the same way.

We have hand held burritos as well. Mostly today they are breakfast burritos. Eggs, potatoes, chile, ham or bacon or sausage wrapped in a flour tortilla. 

Tacos, tamales, pasole, menudo are also favorites of Mexican restaurants. Usually they have pinto beans, Spanish rice (rice mixed with tomato sauce and chile.)

Fajitas came by way of San Antonio, TX, but is a favorite here. Cooked on cast iron skillets, beef, chicken, shrimp or pork sizzled with onions, bell peppers in fajita seasoning. Small flour tortillas are provided to wrap some of the meat and vegetables, with guacamole, sour cream, and Pico de Gallo. Makes for three or four mouth watering soft tacos. 

If you come here and eat in any of our restaurants many dishes, not just New Mexican or Mexican will have chile in it. One of our favorite ways of eating green chile is putting it on hamburgers. We have contests for who offers the best green chile cheeseburgers. 

We have green chile in just about everything. From tartar sauce, ranch dressing, cheese sauce, jams, jellies, candy and I love a green chile cheese bagels offered in a grocery store. 

If you don't like spicy hot food you can get green chile in mild, medium, hot or fire eater levels of capsaicin.

New Mexico also enjoys standard American foods.

I love a good meatloaf, chicken fried steak or chicken fried chicken with mashed potatoes and cream gravy. 

Here are some recipes picked up in bachelor days.

1. Cream cheese and chopped ripe olives. Take Philadelphia cream cheese and a can of chopped ripe olives. Mix together, chill and use it as sandwich spread, or on crackers.

2. Cream cheese, sour cream and diced green chile. Mix together makes a fantastic salsa.

3. Simple margarita. Get a quart of limeade, a quart of lemonade. Mix and add one bottle of tequila, salt glass and pour over ice. Most margarita mixes are 80% corn syrup. 

5. Sloppy joe's. Brown one pound ground sirloin, add chopped onions, diced bell pepper, or diced green chile. Smother in mesquite barbecue sauce.

6. One box angel food cake, one can chopped pineapple, mix, bake as directed on box. Optional add coconut. 

7. Cook a pound of ground beef, stir in green chile. Put in casserole dish, place a bag of frozen tater tots on top of beef, pour one can golden mushroom soup and one can cream of celery soup on top of tater tots. Microwave for 20 minutes. 


TTT 100620


Today is book covers that give off fall vibes.

Well October is always about spooky vibes. Gothicism's favorite season. So here goes.

Here's a cover by Audrey Driscoll, with the color of falling leaves. It is also Lovecraftian spooky.

My good friend and fellow Writer's2writers colleague Hank Bruce has a good one for fall.

Berthold Gambrel has a number of Lovecraftian books that will give you chills. 

Here's a Frank Herbert book, that's not about sand worms.

If you're talking about far out spooky, funny, crazy, and thought provoking for this time of year Harlan Ellison is your man.