Monday, December 31, 2012

My personal Top 10 of 2012

I guess it's that time of year for annoying lists. Allow me to annoy you with my Top 10 list of 2012, without even a mention of the Vikings' victory over the Packers yesterday:

#10 – I bounced back from a sub-par 2011 running season, in which rumors emerged that I was over the hill. Seems reports of my death were exaggerated as I turned in faster times in the Hot Springs Firecracker 10K and the Heart of the Hills 10-miler.

#9 – Bought new basset hound puppy Huckleberry. He became Chester for one day, then back to Huck, which has stuck.

#8 – Had my best tomato crop since moving West River, proving that it ain’t a drought if your garden hose is long enough.

#7 – Went on father-son camping trip to Boulder River in Montana, accompanied by the life of our household, golden-lab Stanley.

#6 – Wifey was named full-time director of the SD School of Mines Newman Center and they broke ground on a multi-million-dollar church across the street from campus.

#5 - The State of South Dakota, in all its wisdom, saw fit to give a driver’s license to my 15-year-old son, Luke; and then me, in all my wisdom, bought a 1997 four-wheel-drive pickup for said kid.

#4 – Same kid turned in a good year in sports: Three dingers in baseball; undefeated basketball season, went out for football for first time, and was track conference champ in 300 hurdles and couple relays.

#3 – Beloved mini-wiener dog Ella died.  She taught me a valuable lesson: If you want people to leave you alone, pee whenever somebody tries to touch you.

#2 – Youngest daughter Rylee began her freshman year at South Dakota State University and loves it. New friends and new chapter in life.

#1 – Oldest daughter Katie got engaged to long-time boyfriend Jeff, who heeded my advice a couple years ago that: “Slow and steady wins the race.” He wins a beautiful, intelligent, independent-thinking 21-year-old girl. Good luck with that!

Friday, November 30, 2012

You should read this article ...

This is a very touching story by Ron Fournier of National Journal regarding him and his son and "two presidents." Well worth the time to read.

How Two Presidents Helped Me Deal With Love, Guilt, and Fatherhood
Guidance from Bill Clinton and George W. Bush taught the author how to accept and understand
 his son’s Asperger’s syndrome.

Monday, November 26, 2012

'Kill Shot' kills (original, I know)

Just finished Vince Flynn's Kill Shot - as good as all the rest. A review I read somewhere suggested that Flynn figures if one bad guy getting killed is good, then five bad guys getting killed is even better. Can't disagree with that.

There's an interesting interview with Flynn in Front Page Mag regarding politics in general and his newest novel, The Last Man.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday linkage ...

** The Minneapolis Star-Tribune suggests 60 books for the Christmas shopping season - from fiction to biography to regional books.

** The Oregon Muse at Ace of Spades uses his Sunday book thread to feature "one of the most amazing content providers ever was this guy, novelist, poet, newspaper columnist, and playwright Don Marquis."

** Old friend and former coworker at the Argus Leader, Bob Keyes, writes for the Maine Telegram now. Today he features, "Caleb Mason, a book lover in Portland, starts publishing ebooks because they increase readers’ access." Good story, check it out.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

J.R. took a good shot at life

After reading his obit in the LA Times and learning more about him, I'm pretty sure Larry Hagman is a dude I would've liked to hang out with.

For years, he was considered the unofficial mayor of Malibu, where he lived for decades in an oceanfront home. He often led impromptu ragtag parades on the sand while wearing outlandish costumes and flew a flag from his deck that declared “Vita Celebratio Est” — “Life is a celebration.”  

For 25 years, he observed “silent Sundays,” refusing to talk, a move he initially made to rest his voice. After giving up cigarettes, he often carried a hand-held fan to blow fumes back toward smokers.

In Malibu, he had long been known as an amiable eccentric who routinely pulled his wardrobe from a vast collection of costumes and hats. He shopped for groceries while wearing a yellow chicken suit and played Frisbee in a Robin Hood hat and karate robe.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Two oldies but goodies

I read two books this week by by two of my favorite authors. It simply served as a reminder of what separates the men from the boys. Dean Koontz and Lee Child being the men. I being, well, you get it.

Koontz's Hideway came out in 1992 when he was writing with the initial "R." and shows that he's been whacked out of his mind for quite some time. I gave it a 7-plus rating and deeply analyze it as: Spooky good. I didn't realize it was made into a movie in 1995 starring Jeff Goldblum and Alicia Silverstone. I'll have to check that out.

Do you realize the dude has written 105 novels? That's crazy. And these aren't the co-written things that James Patterson doles out. These are one-man, one-mind books. I'm glad he hasn't sold out like Patterson.

Then I finished another Child's Jack Reacher novel Without Fail, the seventh in the series, which unfortunately, I've gotten out of sequence but it doesn't seem to matter. It's another 7-plus rating, which is pretty high in my card catalog, because the highest I have recorded is a 9. OCD, sue me.

This was a used book I picked up somewhere. I got a kick out of the last page where the previous owner listed his name, address, home phone and cell phone number. I guess he was awfully concerned about getting the book returned to him if he lost it, but not so concerned that he couldn't sell. Or, now that I think of it, maybe he died and his kids liquidated. I should call his cell and find out.

Reacher's words to live by in this novel: "Hit them fast, hit them hard, and hit them a lot."

Next on the reading pile: Vince Flynn's Kill Shot.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Zoo is open for reading

So here's the deal-ee-o. My third novel went live on Amazon last night. It's called Zoo Falls (see the monkey on the right, not the left). It is available in ebook form only, and only on Amazon, for the next 90 days. It's an exclusive deal they have, where anyone can buy the ebook for $2.99, or, if you are an Amazon Prime member, you can borrow the book for free. And that's a good deal even for the authors, as we get a little piece of that pie too.

Then, after 90 days, we can go crazy and do what our cold little hearts desire.

But don't think you can't get Zoo Falls if you are a rich iPad/iPod/iPhone user. There's an app for that! Get the Kindle app and download away.

As always, please leave reviews at Amazon. Unless you didn't like it, in which case you probably should check yourself into a mental hospital and worry about writing reviews later after the medication kicks in.

Zoo Falls - It won't make you smarter, but it'll make you laugh.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Falling into the honey trap

The unfortunate and unfolding story of Gen. Petraeus reminded me of this story by Phillip Knightley of the top five victims of honey traps. 

Five lessons for would-be James Bonds and Bond girls
 -- and the men and women who would resist them.
Those who aim to perfect the art of the honey trap in the future, as well as those who seek to insulate themselves, would do well to learn from honey trap history. Of course, there are far too many stories -- too many dramas, too many rumpled bedsheets, rattled spouses, purloined letters, and ruined lives -- to do that history justice here. Yet one could begin with five famous stories and the lessons they offer for honey-trappers, and honey-trappees, everywhere.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Best reader feedback evah!

I was going to call this a humble brag, but, no, it's pretty much a straight-up brag. Sue me.

Arrived home this afternoon from pheasant hunting and the neighbor lady brought over a package that had accidentally been put in her mailbox. I opened it and it was a copy of my novel Joshua's Ladder. Odd, I thought. There was a note inside. It began:

"Mark, Damned if I didn't read your book cover to cover." 

So far, so good, I figured, but waited for the punch line: "Thanks for my first experience." 

Hmmm, that caught my attention. It continued: "Look inside the rear cover." 

So I did. Written inside the back cover was: "Famous signature. (His name was signed) 78 years old. The 1st and only book I've read cover to cover."

Then there was another note explaining why he returned the book: "I want someone else to read and enjoy." 

The guy is a WWII vet, survivor of the attack on Pearl Harbor. So, I think the moral of this story is that if you read only one book in your life, it should be Joshua's Ladder. Do it for your country!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Virgil Flowers rocks in 'Mad River'

Admittedly, I'm not much of a book reviewer. Who am I to tell Dean Koontz or John Sandford how to improve on a book that was better than anything I could write at this point?

 tend to stick with offering deep insights like: "It was good." Or: "It was really good." I do, however, keep a recipe book full of index cards of each book I've read, and I assign them ratings on a scale of 1-10 (original). To be more cutting edge I do add pluses or minuses when necessary.

Well, I just finished Sandford's Mad River, and it was great - an 8+. It was the 30th book of his I've read, so obviously I kind of like the guy's writing. One of the things I enjoy about them is the Minnesota settings and references to South Dakota. It hits closer to home when he references towns I've visited or streets and roads I've traveled. Fortunately, I haven't run across any of the deranged murders.

For some better, more insightful, reviews check out this Goodreads page.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

You can run, but you'll only die tired

I have to admit, I like snipers, most snipers, not the D.C. sniper though. I like true-life stories about military snipers (Carlos Hathcock, Vasily Zaitsev of “Enemy at the Gates” fame, and Simo “The White Death” Hayha, who offed a confirmed 705 Ruskies in less than 100 days). I like fictional books featuring snipers: Stephen Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger books. And I'm fascinated by current stories about snipers like this in Syria:
In Aleppo, people tread carefully. Signs hang off walls saying: “Beware — snipers!” People shout conversations across deserted streets. Throughout much of the city’s old quarter, at every small intersection and across every open space, people sprint. Like a deadly pinball arcade, snipers’ bullets ricochet through the narrow streets, bouncing off the walls and ground. Neighborhoods are made up of “sniper alleys.”

Since practically the beginning of the conflict, snipers have been one of the defining characteristics of the Syrian uprising. The opposition says the government first used them against peaceful anti-regime demonstrators in the uprising’s initial stages. But as the civil conflict has sharpened, both sides are employing the renegade sharpshooters. Maya Nasser, a correspondent for Iran’s Press TV, is thought to have been killed by a rebel sniper in Damascus.

It’s impossible to get a reliable count of the number of snipers in Aleppo, but all sides agree that there are more shooters than ever operating in the city. The opposition claims that the increase is due to an influx of foreign snipers fighting in support of the government troops.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Esprit d’escalier

This happens to me a lot. Charles Krauthammer mentions in his column in the Washington Post the term: Esprit d’escalier (“wit of the staircase”) - the French term for the devastating riposte that one should have given at dinner but comes up with only on the way out at the bottom of the staircase.

Only in South Dakota ...

School board bans hunting near Sturgis high school
“Evidently, hunting has taken place for a long time on our property at the high school campus,” (the superintendent) said. “It is my understanding that the majority is archery hunting, but there is also shotgun hunting of deer. All school lands must be a weapons-free zone. Our insurance company said we probably never should have been allowing it in the first place and that we need to change it immediately. This is not a reaction based on inappropriate action by the bow hunters. It just isn’t prudent to have a hunting facility adjacent to the high school.”

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I would tend to agree

From Gabriel Malor at the Ace of Spades blog, comes this comment regarding a couple mothers whose KIA sons have been caught up in the presidential melee:
Dear Mom, if I should happen to die in such a way as to make the national news, do not talk to reporters. I mean, that's true all the time -- never talk to reporters -- but all the other kids in heaven are definitely going to make fun of me if my mom is defending me all the time. Oh, and if I happen to go to the other place, I'll send hellhounds after any reporter that bugs my mother. Yeah, hellhounds.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hoity-toities becoming one with nature … and shooting it!

Tomorrow is opening day of pheasant hunting season for youth in South Dakota. They get first crack at the birds before adult hunters from around the world arrive on the third Saturday of October to put a real dent in the pheasant population. I will be taking the 15-year-old fruit of my loins down to our favorite corn field about 45 minutes from here. It’s a little trade out we have with a rancher where we go down in the spring and help him brand calves and he lets us come down and tromp through his fields in the fall. It’s been good for my boy, Luke, to work the cattle, sweat like a horse, get kicked in the shins by 300-pound calves, and be covered in manure, all for the opportunity to shoot some pheasants. Makes them taste that much better, as if they needed any enhancing. It seems that this generations-old tradition in South Dakota is catching on with some of those you might not traditionally equate with blood-and-guts bullet blasters. The New York Times takes a look at this New Breed of Hunter.
Who is the most famous hunter in America? If you’re over 30, the first names that come to mind are probably Sarah Palin, Ted Nugent or Dick Cheney. If you’re under 30, the answer is easier. The most famous hunter in America is Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire founder of Facebook.
For what it’s worth, The Nuge hunts adjacent to our little honey hole in the southwest corner of South Dakota. I’ve talked to him, and if you think his God Bless America/Second Amendment Loving personality is some show-biz shtick, you’d be wrong. If you watch his hunting show, that’s the way he really is. If you see him in concert, that’s the way he really is. He is a wild man, and I really like him. I would like to see a pay-per-view event where Ted Nugent and Mark Zuckerberg hunt pheasant or, better yet, antelope together in southwest South Dakota. I’m guessing their politics don’t jive, but sometimes the love of a 12-guage shotgun or a .243 rifle in the clean Dakota air will heal all wounds, except for those in the animal you eventually put in the crock pot.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Deep thoughts by ... Oscar Wilde

“If you want to be a grocer, or a general, or a politician, or a judge, you will invariably become it; that is your punishment. If you never know what you want to be, if you live what some might call the dynamic life but what I will call the artistic life, if each day you are unsure of who you are and what you know you will never become anything, and that is your reward.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

'There is no thief like a bad book'

Interesting Minneapolis Star-Tribune story:
The monthly book club met in a cheerful library on a sunny Saturday. Everyone had read the selection, "Gideon's Trumpet," and most had highlighted scores of important passages or marked them with Post-It Notes.

A sign on the wall read, "There is no thief like a bad book."

There was no wine, no finger foods matching the theme of the narrative. The meeting began and ended promptly and everyone was dressed casually, in prison-issue gray T-shirts and shorts, or jeans.

The gathering was held, as always, in the library of the Minnesota Correctional Facility-Shakopee, the state prison for women.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Homework ...

So Haugs Junior needed to memorize a poem for freshman English. He wanted a short one, of course. So I recommended EAP's "Alone" and to my surprise Junior actually took his father's advice.

One of my faves:



From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

Saturday, September 8, 2012

So I read my first e-book ...

My wife has one of those Kindle Fire things you may have heard of. I see her on the couch with it every night. I usually give it an eye roll, like when I see her on the Pinterest website or watching the Food Channel.

I'm a bit old-school when it comes to reading, maybe even a little high-brow about it. I've looked down my nose at the e-readers. Sure, I don't have a problem with people downloading my e-book or short stories. In fact, I encourage it. Mo' money.

 But I finally went over to the dark side last week and downloaded the First Assassin, mostly because I'd been thinking of buying it but then saw a limited-time-only 99-cent offer at National Review and figured "what the heck." The offer just kept staring at me. Kind of a like a link that says: "Jennifer Love Hewitt in a bikini." How does a guy NOT click on that?

 So I read it. All in all, the book was kind of meh. And so was the reading experience on an e-reader. I just found it too easy to speed-read through things. Maybe it was the novel, but I don't think so. I also didn't like not being able to write in the book. I know, I know, there's some keys you can click and do-hickey to tap and I could type something in. But then I don't have the book on my bookshelf to pull down and check out when the mood strikes.

 I'll probably hi-jack wifey's Kindle from time to time, but I'm less apt to now than I was. Ya'll enjoy it. No sweat off my brow. It just doesn't do it for me. I'll stick to using computers for the reason they were intended:

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Coming to a theater near you ...

Three books I’ve read are being made into movies coming out soon. I went to Lawless last weekend and saw the trailers for Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas and James Patterson’s I, Alex Cross. I am currently reading Koontz’s latest in the Odd Thomas series and love it.

I didn’t know they were making a movie out of Yann Martel’s Life of Pi until I saw a news blurb today saying they’d dumped Tobey Maguire from the cast because he was too big of a name and overshadowed the other actors. I feel your pain, Tobey.

Life of Pi is one of my top five contemporary novels. It was so good I’m not sure I want to go see the movie in fear of it denigrating my memory of the novel. I wish Martel were a more prolific writer because I also enjoyed his Beatrice and Virgil. One of the strangest books I’ve ever read, I several times considered quitting it part way through. But I kept wondering where he was going with it, and am glad I stuck with it.

While you wait for these movies to come out, check out some of these stories worthy of linkage:

** Each year, the World Science Fiction Society presents the Hugo Award for Science Fiction Achievement. Browse this year's winners, including Jo Walton's Best Novel-winning "Among Others," and see past winners.

** So I quit drinking 15 years ago. I didn’t know Budweiser would take it so hard.

** Apparently, Emily Dickinson was no 19th Century version of Kim Kardashian. Thank God. As only the second-known photo of her has been discovered.

** My main man, Prince, is MTV royalty. Here is a collection of his video hits.

** Eleven great Secret Service code names.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

An oldie and a goodie

I was going through a box of my father's old books (he was a JFK assassination conspiracy fanatic), when an old, thick book caught my eye. A really old book.

Ends up it was a 1885 Norwegian Bible belonging to my great-grandfather Lewis Petersen. Stuck inside was a picture of the old Norskie himself. Quite a handsome chap at that.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stephen King scary funny

Writers Write has a story and the video of my buddy Steve with Craig Ferguson.
Craig Ferguson recently conducted a funny interview with Stephen King on his late night talk show on CBS. King's most recent book is The Wind Through the Keyhole. Stephen King says that in most print interviews he inevitably ends up being asked what he was like as a child that made him filled with so many horrific and wild ideas.

King then talked about an idea for a story he never finished called "The Ladies Room," which he says is the "one place Superman can't go." King says that in the story men's wives keep going into the restroom and never come out. He says he could never figure out what was going on in there and so he couldn't finish the story.

Ferguson said, "I feel like you got me all revved up and then left."

Monday, August 13, 2012

MN authors take a dip in e-world

The Star-Tribune has a good story about some Twin Cities authors coming over to the e-publishing world. It's wild, wild world out there ...
Landvik and other Minnesota writers are following a trend that began with a few blockbuster authors -- Stephen King has dabbled in this, releasing short stories as Kindle Singles while continuing to publish the traditional way. Barry Eisler has embraced it, turning down a $500,000 advance from his publisher in order to do everything himself -- and keep all the profits. 
"It's a good time to be an author," said Jim Milliot, co-editorial director of Publishers Weekly, an industry trade journal. "You do have a lot of choices. If you think your publisher is screwing you, you can just do it yourself."

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Kino rides along on vacation

My son and I, and dog, recently spent a few days camping, hiking and fishing in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming and the Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains in Montana. I am working to convince my son that other manly pursuits, besides hunting, fishing and football, can include reading. I told him girls appreciate a well-read man. (I don't know that or anything else about women but I'm grasping for motivational straws to get him to catch the reading bug.)

Here Luke is on the drive home Saturday, absorbing "The Pearl." I like the fact that a 14-year-old boy is reading John Steinbeck. I like it a lot. It's not due to me though. It's summer reading required by the school. Whatever works!

And, by the way, we had a fabulous get-away. Kino could only wish to have had such a good time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Some thinkin' for the weekend, sorry

The Evolution of a Creationist appeared recently in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. I would think both sides of the argument would find it interesting, but it makes me wonder too if people have open enough minds to ever reconsider their opinion on this.

Either way, I point it out to you anyway. Here's a snippet:
The mathematical odds of forming, by chance, a single protein molecule from its component parts can be shown to be so unlikely that it could not have happened anywhere in the known universe in 30 billion years. Much less could it be combined with the hundreds of other components to form the simplest possible living cell. 
Similarity of form does not prove common ancestry. It can also mean common design. (Young Earth creationists believe that the original Genesis kinds were intrinsically capable of great diversification, something we have seen with the breeds of dogs -- who remain dogs, nonetheless.) And fundamentally, fossils require rapid burial. Closed clams, seen all over the world, were covered before they could open in death. 
As to the age of the Earth, this seems to be the most formidable barrier to accepting biblical creation and requires more technical knowledge. Let me cite a few examples that point out the weakness of the arguments for old age and the increasing scientific respectability of a young earth view.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gore Vidal's dad, a SD native, more interesting

Author Gore Vidal died yesterday. His father, Eugene, who grew up in Madison, SD, is more interesting to me.

Eugene Vidal is in the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame. Eugene was in the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, participating in the decathlon. He had been a stud athlete at USD. According to Wikipedia, he was a Coyote from 1913 to 1916, Vidal was a football, basketball, baseball and track letterman. He was captain of the University's 1915 football and 1916 basketball teams, leading the basketball team in scoring in 1915 and 1916, thereby assisting the University in winning an Intercollegiate Conference Title during his participation.

His bio doesn't peak with his athletic accomplishments. Vidal taught aeronautics at West Point and was one of the first Army Air Corps pilots.

And maybe his biggest claim to fame ... it's alleged he had a romantic relationship with Amelia Earhart.

How cool is all that!? Gore had some big shoes to fill. Jonah Goldberg, at least, doesn't seem to think he did that great a job of filling them.

** Adding this link to today's Madison Daily Leader story on Eugene Vidal.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Will the e-book bubble burst?

This is a pretty devastating analysis of the state of epublishing and social networking for authors. Can’t say I disagree with much of it. Sure, I have a Facebook account, Twitter account and my own blog, but I’m not under the impression that they are the way to success. And, man, if I spent 80 percent of my time on social networking, I’d be a basket case (whatever that is).

My philosophy is to just write, and keep writing, and try to avoid run-on sentences, and overuse of commas, and stuff, like, that. Someday, lightning might strike or maybe not. But I'll have written a lot. As Mr. Morrison says ...

In the end it's all about stats: the hidden ones and the real ones. If you're writing and trying to self-sell and net-promote, do your own stats. Calculate your investment of time and money in writing versus social media. Do you want to spend 80% of 80% of your time Facebooking about cats in the hope that you'll make a 2.12% increase in sales on a book you had to write in 18 days? Do you want to spend 80% of your time creating unpaid market propaganda for the social media industry?
Or would you rather step away from the hype altogether and spend as much time as you can being a 100% writer?

Friday, July 13, 2012


Okay, the kid's baseball season is done, my daughters' college registration is in place, my latest writing project is set to be shipped off to my editing posse. So ... let's do some bloggin'!
SD stuff

** Eighty years in the writing, Laura Ingalls Wilder autobiography finally to see publication.

** How's this happen? Rural Redfield, SD, club grows to rare, 10-hole golf course

** Sounds like a party! About 500-600 members of the Hells Angels will roar into Spearfish July 25 for their annual USA Run.

** Angling for that big fish: For woman who caught state-record walleye a little luck helps. 

** Unique KMAX helicopter helps in new construction at Terry Peak ski area. 

** This week marks the 40th anniversary of Mitchell, SD, native George McGovern's Democratic presidential nomination.  

** Scientists with the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment are in the early stages of making plans to build their multi-million dollar experiment in Kirk Canyon.

Beyond SD booky stuff

** Really? Maybe if he called it a Book Club, this dude would be safe from The Man keeping him down.

** Hey nerds and engineers (but I repeat myself), check out man-made calamities that changed the world, and not always for the worse. 

** This headline just grabbed me. Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams – review. Zoe Williams on why everything you thought you knew about breasts is wrong.

Miscellania that interests me and would you too if you were cool

** I’m a big fan of our military folks, do a lot of work with them and admire their high quality. My favorite bumper sticker is: God Bless Our Troops, Especially Our Snipers. But this IDF soldier takes high quality and commitment to a new level.

** I’m a runner so enjoyed this story, and they're not talking motorcycles: When the Bad Guys Ride Bikes 

Friday, June 1, 2012

Diggin' Wall Drug

I had the opportunity to go 4,850 feet underground this week at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, SD. It is the former Homestake gold mine turned high-tech super-nerd science lab. While underground I noticed this sign - one of the hundreds scattered throughout the world. Wall Drug!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

'Joshua' makes it to Alcester

Here's Robin reading "Joshua's Ladder" to Scooter on their deck by Alcester, SD. She just started it and "loves it" so far, while Scooter had "no comment."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

'Joshua' at a Houston Astros game

Angela here actually followed through on her promise (unlike some I won't mention, yet) who received a free copy of Joshua's Ladder with the understanding they would take a picture of themselves reading it somewhere interesting.

Angela took Joshua to a Houston Astros game. He said he enjoyed it very much. Thank you! It reminded him of a baseball reflection of his own from Joshua's Ladder. Here's an excerpt:

            “I’m bettin’ my dad would’ve expected more out of me.”
           “Dads always expect more out of their boys. Besides the
game isn’t over yet, Joshua.”
           “Well it’s been a long halftime.”
           “It’s your ball, son. You have to decide when to start
playing again.”
           The sports analogies were unavoidable in this man-cave.
            “Why isn’t what I’m doing good enough?”
           “It’s all fine, Joshua. Nobody would blame you for holing
up in the woods for the rest of your life, minding your own business,
harming no one. But is that good enough for you?”
           “I don’t know, Toby. That’s the shitty part. I don’t know.”
           “Do you remember your game against Pierre? Do you?”
           “Of course I do. Nobody forgets their state championship,
especially around here.”
           “Soyou remember Big John hitting that line drive to
center. No idiot in his rightmind would’ve tried to score from second
on a ball hit that hard. But youtried it anyway.”
           “Oncean idiot, always an idiot.”
           “You were ten feet from the catcher and he had taken the
throw and was waiting there for you. Score tied. Everybody and their
momma was hollering: ‘Slide boy! Slide!” But you didn’t slide. You
dumb, hard-headed, son-of-a-gun didn’t slide. You lowered your skinny
shoulder, blasted off your feet and knocked that doughboy six feet in
the air. The ball squirted out of his mitt like a newborn. You scored.
We won.”
           “That’s a pretty good play-by-play there Harry Caray.”
           “So what happened to that hard-headed son-of-a-gun who used
to knock people on their butts?”
           “You forget. I got the wind knocked out of me.”
           “Appears so.”
           “Not to me it don’t. A person don’t just lose that. Once
you have it, it can always be found again.”
           “Don’t ask me. I’m just a dumb bartender.”

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Juicy details

Seems a couple weeks ago I was going to post something "juicy." That was a clever play on words that actually makes no sense when you don't know jack about "juicy."

Juicy is the nickname of the main character in my current project/book/novel, whatever. Juicy is homeless. He lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and is the care-taker/ring-leader/advocate of the city's homeless population.

As you will read, if I ever get done rewriting the rewrites and actually publish the dang thing, Juicy has more character and virtue than most of the city leaders combined. (Insert legal claim here: This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental and strictly a figment of the author's immense imagination.)

 If you like sex, drugs and rock-n-roll, you'll probably like this book. And booze, plenty of booze in it. Remember: It's just my imagination that comes up with these things. I don't know any people who've actually had sex, did drugs, or played in rock bands. It's all my imagination. 

The book is no deep-thinker. You won't learn nuthin' from it. There are no clever metaphorical nuances. It will never appear beside Shakespeare on the library shelf. But it's a fun ride. It will make you smile, and, hey, who doesn't need that now-a-days? And, guaranteed, you will never look at those pink flamingos in the neighbor's yard the same way again.

 I should probably go work on it now. But, look! Breakfast Club is on HBO! Maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Good news, bad news

First the bad news. Obviously, I haven't been very good about updating the blog the last couple weeks. Pathetic, actually. 

The good news though: That means I've been doing something else. Productive, actually.

 I've been writing in fits and spurts the past year on my next book and when I get on one of those spurts I don't write much else. Last week, I finished the first draft. It's done, start to finish. But it's still rough. There are portions where I've typed "insert details here." So now, I'm rewriting, proofreading and inserting "details here."

Once the rough draft is sanded down a little, I will send it out to my posse for their thoughts and editing. I think they are all out on parole now, so they should have better access to sharp objects like pens. Last time I cringed having to ask Agent #3: "How did you sneek that highlighter past the guards?"

This rag-tag group of advisors is my secret weapon. They are my Navy Seals and I'm the Def Sec. Their qualifications, besides all being able to consume mass quantities of alcohol, include being able to read the written word, sometimes also in mass quantities, and the ability to tell me to go jump in a lake (or words to that effect) and oftentimes taking great glee in pointing out my errors, omissions and idiocy.

So I just wanted to give you a heads up that I'm still on the green side of the sod. Later this week I'll tell you a little more about my next "juicy" novel.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Was doing some reading the other night about 19th century Brits, Lord Macaulay and Southey, and some interesting criticisms the former had of the latter:
"He does not seem to know what an argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never troubles himself to answer the arguments of his opponents. It has never occurred to him, that a man ought to be able to give some better account of the way in which he has arrived at his opinions than merely that it is his will and pleasure to hold them. It has never occurred to him that there is a difference between assertion and demonstration, that a rumor does not always prove a fact, that a single fact, when proved, is hardly foundation enough for a theory, that two contradictory propositions cannot be undeniable truths, that to beg the question is not the way to settle it, or that when an objection is raised, it ought to be met with something more convincing than ‘scoundrel’ and ‘blockhead.’"
Those old boys sure knew how to call each other jerks without calling each other jerks.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Quest

I always find it interesting what other people are reading. Seems the paparazzi, when not busy following me, caught Bill Gates reading “The Quest” during his daughter’s equestrian competition. Daniel Yergin’s book is about the changing role of global energy on the economy.

For what it's worth, I've taken a hiatus into the land of non-fiction as well and am currently reading The Assassins' Gate by George Packer.
It ... describes the place of the war in American life: the ideological battles in Washington that led to chaos in Iraq, the ordeal of a fallen soldier 's family, and the political culture of a country too bitterly polarized to realize such a vast and morally complex undertaking. George Packer's best-selling first-person narrative combines the scope of an epic history with the depth and intimacy of a novel, creating a masterful account of America's most controversial foreign venture since Vietnam.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

SHOCKING: Long, boring novels are bad for book industry

Whodathunk it? Oprah was bad for book sales. And she didn’t do a lot for Rosie O’Donnell either. And don’t mention the 30 OWN folks out of work:
But despite her success as a taste-maker, Oprah apparently could not get America to pick up more books. According to a recent study, Oprah's endorsements may have actually hurt fiction sales overall by encouraging her fans to read novels that were longer and more complicated than their usual, less literary fare.

All of this also seems to say something about the incentives for the book industry as a whole. That is, it's probably not in publishers' interests to turn difficult, long novels into best sellers. The easier a book is to get through, and the quicker a reader can make it to the next title, the better it is for their bottom line.
Fortunately, my middle name is “Quick and Easy.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Pertinear on the money ...

Seth Tupper at the Mitchell Daily Republic has a pretty accurate column on how to speak South Dakotan. I'm guilty and proud of using most of them including:
Hunnert: In many areas west of The River (see entry below) and even in some areas near The River, this is the correct pronunciation of “hundred.” Example: There’s a hunnert head of cattle down by the crick.

Pertinear (pronounced “pert-ih-near”): A combination of pretty and near, used to indicate the close proximity of one thing to another or the near completion of a task. Question: Are we there yet? Answer: Pertinear.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Thinking of those 'Under the Overpass'

Attended an event Saturday night and heard author Mike Yankoski speak about homelessness. Having attended a plethora of rubber chicken dinners in my day (though this food was excellent - bison and pheasant, mmm), it takes a pretty good speech to keep my attention; and it takes a really good speech to keep my attention for longer than 30 minutes. This guy did it.

I haven't read his book Under the Overpass yet, but I intend to. If the book is half as good as his speech was, it'll be worth it. He made me think, and that can be a hard thing to do.

From Publishers Weekly:
Yankoski's parents were right: It was crazy to live as a homeless person in six American cities for five months; fortunately, this crazy idea makes for quite a story. Yankoski, a Christian college student, challenges the reader to learn about faith, identify with the poor and find "more forgotten, ruined, beautiful people than we ever imagined existed, and more reason to hope in their redemption." The journey begins at a Denver rescue mission and ends on a California beach. Along the way, Yankoski and a friend learn the perils of poor hygiene and the secrets of panhandling. They meet unfortunates like Andrew, who squanders his musical talent to feed his drug habit, and hustlers like Jake, who gives the pair tips about how to look and sound more pitiful to get more money. Yankoski tends to moralize: "If we respond to others based on their outward appearance, haven't we entirely missed the point of the Gospel?" Still, the book features fine writing ("I awoke, rolled over and saw beads of sweat already forming on my arms. Saturday, early morning, Phoenix") and vivid stories, authentically revealing an underworld of need.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Nevermore ...

I've always been kind of a fan of Ed, and it appears John Cusack is also:
"He was a great romantic and he had a great sense of humor, and he was one of the great self-destructive lunatic writers of all time. He was the first rock star writer, first professional writer - he was quite a character. He was witty, sarcastic and very combative with other writers, he was a literary critic and always itching for a fight...He was a really lunatic kind of person - he would insult other writers and challenge them to duels. He was way out there."
Here's the story on the new movie about Edgar Allan Poe.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Where it's good to be a Golddigger ...

Attended a youth basketball tournament in Lead, SD, today. Lead is about 3 miles from Deadwood and both school districts merged years back to form the Lead-Deadwood Schools. As you will note in the photos below, there's a lot of history there. Lead is famous for its gold and Deadwood for its gambling. I thoroughly enjoy both towns.

In the Lead trophy case sits this basketball from their lone hoops championship back in 1918.

Here's the gym banner that shows the founding of each school: 1895 and 1896.

Here's a shot of the "old" gym in the Lead High School. It's a Hoosiers throwback gym. Note the cement bleachers and the running track around the top of the gym.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

HaugEnmail ...

a Joshua's Ladder review:

"I just finished it on my trip to Florida last weekend. It was well written and I really enjoyed reading it - I laughed, cried, smiled, felt deep emotion for the characters and couldn't wait for the next chapter. The flow of the book, kept me wondering what was next - it was a fast read because I enjoyed it so much. It was simply marvelous. Thank you!"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Story of Hitchhikers

Back in my newspapering days, my writing was pretty much limited to the facts - who, what, when, where and why - as it should be. My columns usually touched on my personal experiences, friends and family.

So, now, as a writer of fiction it has struck me somewhat by surprise that people still try to look at everything I write as some sort of autobiographical non-fiction, with my stories rooted in true-life experiences. Frankly, there's a touch of that, but mostly it's just a guy with an imagination.

Like in Joshua's Ladder, I'm not Joshua. I'm not married to an astronaut. I'm not even married to a blonde. But, I am Catholic, and I was known to frequent a bar or two "back in the day."

So, yes, I draw on some personal experiences in my writing. They say to write what you know about. But mostly it's an imagination extrapolating upon many of the characters I've met along this 47-year journey of mine.

Among my small circle of best friends, it's a well-known fact that if I am in a bar or restraunt or sitting at the Blackjack table in Deadwood, the most unique, odd and ornery people in that place will sooner or later end up sitting next to me. I seem to attract the characters, and I love it.

So it is with these Hitchhiker short stories I've written, these characters aren't me, but they are likely based on somebody I've run across in my travels. And, yes, I have been known to pick up a hitchhiker along the way.

These stories are what I call "thinkers." There's not so much a start, middle and end, as there is just a picture of time, leaving the reader to wonder how they would react in these situations, with these characters, and if perhaps they've known one or two of them in their time.

Here's an excerpt from "Hitchhiker 3 - Wendy," which you can find in its entirety in the top left corner of the site in the "short story" section. Hope you enjoy:

Yet what red-blooded male driver wouldn't want to be accompanied by a Barbie doll hitchhiker? As she leaned her head in the car, it looked like a puppy had chewed on the head of my Barbie doll. Her face was pock-marked and drawn ghost-like over obscenely jutting cheek bones that could cut glass. Her chalky look had meth-head written all over and “trouble” should have been etched on her forehead.

But I'd committed and was getting pretty good at keeping those kinds of things, so I half-heartedly muttered: “Hop in.”

“Where you going?” she chirped, setting the backpack on her lap and closing the door.

“Kansas City. You?”

“St. Louis. Going to see Mount Rushmore.”

It took a second or two for that to register in my brain and when we were on the interstate, I mentioned the obvious or what would be obvious to you and me. “Mount Rushmore isn't in St. Louis.”

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Today's pet peeve: Literally.

This one has been building in me for a while and once you start listening for it, it will start bugging you too.

Take this recent quote from a news story: "We literally flew through the air."

As opposed to: "We flew through the air."

Listen. It happens all the time. It'll drive you crazy. Eventually, you will literally go through the roof.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

** If you aren’t familiar with Don Meyer’s story, you should be.
And he offered his “five vitamin Cs” that help people - and communities and institutions - build character.

Concentration, he said, is “the ability to make the main thing the main thing. Genius is 90 percent concentration.”

Courtesy: “When you're courteous, it pays; when you're discourteous, you pay.”

Communication: “Knowledge is knowing what to say. Wisdom is knowing whether to say it.”

Compete: “Don't complain, don't whine, don't make excuses. Competitors don't complain.”

Consistency: “Lack of discipline will determine who wins in the end. You've got to expect greatness and you've got to accept only greatness.”
** Some people confuse North Dakota and South Dakota. They shouldn’t.
After Jeff Luptak flew from North Dakota to St. Paul with a 3-1/4-inch nail sticking out of his head, doctors told him the obvious: It needs to come out.

"If that's what you want to do, Doc. It's not bothering me," replied Luptak, 45, of Bismarck.

He seemed more concerned about the Scheels Sporting Goods baseball cap the nail had pinned to the top of his head beneath the hood of his sweatshirt. "I had to spend $300 at Scheels to get this free hat; I don't want it cut up," he told neurosurgeons at St. Joseph's Hospital before the operation that followed a construction accident last week.
** And speaking of hot nurses, check out this 90-year-old.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

As a parent, you know you did somthing right when your kids start stealing your books. My latest order from Amazon arrived, including How Do You Kill 11 Million People, and sat on the kitchen counter for less than 24 hours before HDUK11M was missing, apparently disappearing into the hands of my poli sci major.

It'll turn up. And I'm actually happy to have raised a kid who wants to read it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Like you care what I'm reading, but ...

I'm currently reading my fifth or sixth Tim Dorsey book. It's pretty mindless, goofball humor, not likely to make Oprah's reading list. Maya Angelou doesnt lose sleep over Dorsey eating into her sales numbers. Which is why I like him.

For instance, in Hammerhead Ranch Motel Dorsey has a character named "If."

He has another character who perspires "like a yak."

Dorsey also throws in an occassional societal comment:
"Sidney Spittle was the Twenty-First-Century American. He completed the nation's transition from a culture molded by sacrifice and hard work to a bunch of cranky, unobliged brats."
His main character is Serge Storms, a serial killer, crazier than most:
"Serge suddenly jumped back and made a startled yip. There it was again, his face on the front page, third day in a row. 'Manhunt Widens for Keys Killer.' Can't they give it a rest? You go and do a little spree killing and they never let you forget about it."
And he knows family:
"Lenny figured the trick to gator wrestling was keeping them fat and happy, and he fed them so much they lay around the pond drowsy all the time like a living room full of uncles after Thanksgiving dinner."
And I'm just halfway through this one. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 27, 2012

** Python latches onto cheek of Wisconsin book club member. Assuming she’s a Packers fan, I see no problem with this.

** Patrick Lalley at the Argus Leader tells Sioux Fallsians to toughen up, lest you be accused of being Iowans.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

SOPApillas are safe for now!

You no doubt noticed that I blacked-out my website for an entire week in protest of the proposed SOPA-PILLA legislation.

Honestly, I don't understand it, but since when does having actual knowledge of an issue prevent people from getting on the bandwagon for or against it?
I just don't think government should legislate fried pastries. If you criminilize sopapillas, pretty soon only criminals will have sopapillas.

But, it looked like my activism, combined with other little websites like Wikipedia and Google, worked. I do laugh at Google though. What was their big contribution to the effort? They put a little black box over their logo? Wow! What effort. Reminds me of the chicken and pig's committment to my breakfast. The egg was a contribution, the bacon was real committment on the pig's part. Maybe next time Google will put a colored box over their logo to show real anger.

So, for now, sopapillas are safe. Though I hear an effort is underway to regulate Potato Oles. Now there's a fight I'll understand. Count me in. I might shut down my blog for two weeks on that one. My Body; My Potato Oles!

Friday, January 13, 2012

I ran across a couple cool websites. First, there is, where you can save stories to read later. It's kind of like a favorites list, but more like a handy place to come back and read stories at home that maybe were too long for you to waste too much time at work reading or too long to scroll through on your smart phone. Just click and it'll save them for wherever/whenever you want to read. Then again, if your job stinks, just read them at work.

The second is, which is a site that takes the most popular stories that were saved by people at and compiles them in a handy list with a brief summary of the story or essay. This site I really like.

It pointed me to stories like:

Here Be Monsters
They did it for the simplest of reasons: adventure. Three friends, on a drunken dare, set out in a dinghy for a nearby island. But when the gas ran out and they drifted into barren waters, their biggest threat wasn't the water or the ocean—it was each other

The Immortal Horizon
Over twenty years later, that man, the man in the trench coat—Gary Cantrell by birth, self-dubbed Lazarus Lake—has turned this terrain into the stage for a legendary ritual: the Barkley Marathons, held yearly (traditionally on Lazarus Friday or April Fool’s Day) outside Wartburg, Tennessee. Lake (known as Laz) calls it “The Race That Eats Its Young.” The runners’ bibs say something different each year: SUFFERING WITHOUT A POINT; NOT ALL PAIN IS GAIN. Only eight men have ever finished. The event is considered extreme even by those who specialize in extremity.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Atlantic has a story recommending nine books for readers and writers. The excerpt below from No. 9 touches a bit on one of my reasons for sticking to the old pulp and ink versions.

How to Read a Book, by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren:

"When you buy a book, you establish a property right in it, just as you do in clothes or furniture when you buy and pay for them. But the act of purchase is actually only the prelude to possession in the case of a book. Full ownership of a book only comes when you have made it a part of yourself, and the best way to make yourself a part of it -- which comes to the same thing -- is by writing in it.

"Why is marking a book indispensable to reading it? First, it keeps you awake -- not merely conscious, but wide awake. Second, reading, if it is active, is thinking, and thinking tends to express itself in words, spoken or written. The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks. Third, writing your reactions down helps you to remember the thoughts of the author.

"Reading a book should be a conversation between you and the author. Presumably he knows more about the subject than you do; if not, you probably should not be bothering with his book. But understanding is a two-way operation; the learner has to question himself and question the teacher, once he understands what the teacher is saying. Marking a book is literally an expression of your differences or your agreements with the author. It is the highest respect you can pay him."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

And who am I to argue with GK?

"Anybody who can turn out a good story is probably smarter than half the corporation executives in America and a good deal more honest."

-Garrison Keillor

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beauty is in the eye of the e-book holder

I'm just not one them.

Apparently, though, a lot of you are. According to the UK telegraph, 1 of every 40 adults received a Kindle for Christmas. Supposedly, Amazon sold a Kindle every 30 seconds during the five weeks before the holiday.

Then there are Nooks, I-Pads, Sony readers, and probably even John Deere has jumped into the e-reader market.

I'm happy for those of you who have e-readers. It's just not for me yet, and for all the same reasons you've probably heard ad nauseum.

And it's not that I'm a technically declined person (though our IT guy at work might say otherwise). Frankly, I've been on the cutting edge of the techno craze, from computerizing the sports information duties at Augustana College in the 1980s, to digital photography at my newspaper while others were still using clothes pins to hang wet photo prints, to being one of the earlier ones posting e-books at

It's been almost a year since I first uploaded Joshua's Ladder to the Smashwords site, followed it up a couple months later with Amy's Ladder and then a couple short stories. They've been downloaded over 3,000 times to various e-readers. And that's not counting Amazon, where I didn't post Joshua's Ladder until, I think, June.

It would be very difficult for an indie author like me to get that kind of exposure back in the day of hawking a book to publishers and the subsequent torrent of rejection letters which are common in the biz. And selling books out of the back of my car wasn't really an option either (ever seen the size of a Miata's trunk?)

So you folks go on reading any way you want. Heck, I'll write novels on a chalkboard if people will read it.

As for me, I'll stick to reading the old-fashioned books ... at least until they quit printing them.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Free stuff!

I'm starting off the new year in a good mood, so good in fact that I've decided to reward five lucky readers of this blog with a free copy of Joshua's Ladder. I figure if you're so bored as to be reading this stuff, then you deserve it. There is a catch though, as there is with anything free.

No, you don't have to sit through a promotional video. You have to (or I humbly request you) email me a picture of you reading the book in your locale, or if you live somewhere boring, go somewhere exciting and take the picture there. I'm especially hoping the dude or dudette who reads this in Alaska (yes, I can tell) requests one.

When I owned/edited/cleaned my weekly newspaper in Tea, SD, we had a deal cleverly called "They're reading The Champion in ..." and people took pictures of themselves reading the paper all over the world. It caught on so much that a lot of other newspapers stole the idead, much like I stole the idea. We even had the "Person of the Year" - nobody would ever think up a clever promotional tool like that.

So, here's the dealio. You send me an email with your mailing address and I will send you a free copy. Then, sometime, email me a picture of you reading it so I can post it here.

My email address is:

The first five emailers will get the free paperback, postage and handling on me. Just do it! (See how easily I think up these things clever advertising ideas.) After you've read it, send it to a friend if you liked it, or to somebody you don't like if you didn't, and they can do the same thing. Maybe it'll catch on. Maybe it won't. Either way, it's your fault.

Happy New Year!