Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Two (very) short stories

I’ve been a parent for over half my life, now. While that is not very remarkable, it does serve as an introduction. I like the job. It has a lot of aspects to it and I don’t do all of them well but it is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. Like most parents, I’ve grown into the job with time and know I am a better parent now than when the first child was born. One of the things I’ve learned is to be active IN the lives of my kids. Today’s post is 2 (very) short stories on that theme of participating IN the life of your child.


       Wexler studied the terrain through the cracks between the boulders
behind which he sat, propped against a flat slab of granite. His tan
polo shirt was plastered with sweat; a stray oak leaf stuck in his
short gray hair.
      The late afternoon sun dappled the scene in a deceptively peaceful
pattern.  Somewhere out there was the shooter who had barely missed a
few short minutes ago. Wexler saw nothing out of the ordinary.
      Undergrowth disturbed only by the slight movement of the wind, trees
likewise gently and naturally moving.  A sparrow landed in a bush 50
feet away and noisily burst into conversation.
      Wexler carefully levered himself up and through a slightly larger gap
between the rock and moved quickly another 30 feet behind a clump of
chokecherries. Just that short burst brought more sweat and hastened
his breathing – damn, he was more out of shape than he thought.
      Peering through the chokecherries he saw a cardinal’s brilliant red
plumage suddenly burst out of hiding in a stately elm and two smaller,
more nondescript birds at the same time from the same tree. Tracing
the line of the trunk to the ground he saw what he hoped: a human
figure clad head-to-toe in a camouflage jumper.
      Wexler crawled to a clump of new maples and drew up onto his knees in
a small depression behind them, bringing his gun up to his shoulder.
Just one mistake, he breathed to himself. The figure in camo was on
the move, cautiously edging from one tree to the next, a few long
strides at a time, forty feet away, thirty.
      The figure suddenly halted and swung its gun up. Wexler fired, center,
left, right, and rolled to his left, came up to a crouch, and raced 15
feet to another clump of maple saplings. Shots spattered his hiding
place and peppered the undergrowth in his trail. He fired another pair
of shots blindly and went to ground, counting slow five before raising
his head ever so slightly.
      His antagonist was barely visible behind a full-grown maple not ten
feet from Wexler’s previous position. Wexler dropped his head and
counted another five before peeking once more above the leaf litter
and grass.
      The figure in camo was inching along Wexler’s back trail, gun at the
ready in a deep crouch, carefully placing one foot forward making sure
to make no sound. Wexler eased his gun to a firing position just as
the other figure loosed three shots.  Wexler dropped the gun and
raised both hands over his head as he stood up slowly, then dropped
his right hand to clean the paint from his visor.
      The figure in camo reached one hand to pull the helmet off, revealing
a pretty, strawberry blonde of probably half Wexler’s 35 years. She
smiled. “Too slow, Dad!”
      Wexler laughed and took his daughter’s hand as they walked together
back to the staging area to go home.


He just made a spectacular play
Determination and skill on display
From deep inside the pride swells over
But the impact! He’s hurt his shoulder.
The striker’s still down, his knee
The keeper waves off assistance, see.
He won the battle and despite the bruise
There’s a lot of game left so he’ll refuse
To show even a smidgen of weakness
It’s that macho, leadership toughness.
Now they’re carrying off the striker
While the keeper stretches out his shoulder
And what of me, what to do?
The pride of the play but concern too.
How hurt is he really, behind the motion?
Is it a drop or the whole ocean?
Play resumes and I watch closely
Fortunately it seems to be mostly
A discomfort not an agony
Not like the striker’s knee.
Oh, the dichotomy of a dad
Loving the good but dreading the bad.
So proud he’s growing up.
So sad he’s growing up.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Romance Novels - A General Discussion

All my previous posts have been personal observations and non-commercial. This one is different, in a way. This one is targeted specifically to helping sales at my various pre-read book outlets, but it is also a(n) (interesting?) personal story.
When I owned an actual brick and mortar (funny thing is, it WAS made of brick and mortar) used book store, the majority of sales were romance novels of one subtype or another. Probably 60-70% of the inventory and in-store sales were romance. Until I bought the store I knew nothing of the genre, its writers, publishers, history, nothing.
But I would talk with my customers and learned what they liked and why. I also developed a business relationship with Harlequin, THE biggest publisher in the genre. I now consider myself the most expert straight men on the subject of the people I know.  Perhaps one day I’ll finish editing my “History of the Bodice-Ripper” and publish it.
As with most everything you learn because you choose to, I have enjoyed the process. I also have enjoyed the conversations I have had, with stronger and stronger grasp of the topics, with readers. I still prefer, personally, to read what would be dubbed more manly fiction – historical yarns like the Age of Sail in the previous blog, or thrillers/mysteries like John D. MacDonald and westerns like Louis L’Amour and Luke Short.
Surprisingly (not!) I still have a very large inventory of romance novels, all subgenres, dating from the 1960s to about 2007 with any selection (only scattered titles after that).  This includes significant selections of serial romance novels (generically known as harlequins, even though published by many labels).
Some examples:
I have 29 titles written by Robyn Donald, 32 by Anne Mather, 25 by Lisa Jackson, and 25 by Diana Palmer.  I have literally hundreds of titles in the main series: Harlequin Romance, Silhouette Romance, Special Edition, Desire, Loveswept, etc. And I have hundreds, if not thousands, of “stand-alone” titles from Daphne du Maurier through Barbara Cartland to Nora Roberts and Luanne Rice.
If this is an area of interest to you and you are missing one or more back titles, please browse along. At least on the Biblio account linked here there is free shipping and a coupon for 50 cents off your second and subsequent books on one order.
Pleasant reading!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Captain Monsoon by Victor Suthren

Just finished reading Victor Suthren’s naval yarn, Captain Monsoon, originally published in 1993. This is book 4 in Suthren’s Mainwaring series and is set in the Indian Ocean in 1744.

I cut my Age of Fighting Sail reading teeth on the Bolitho series of Alexander Kent as they came out in the 1970s and have loved C. S. Forester’s classic Hornblower series as well. Most recently I “sailed” through James L. Nelson’s Biddlecomb series. No other series has grabbed me such that I’ve ravenously read through them, though I do keep trying.
Suthren’s book started out well with good characters and an interesting plot line. The first 180 pages or so are very good. However, it ended fantastically with three tiny ships attacking and defeating a squadron including a line-of-battle ship in a driving monsoon.  Another 80 pages to develop the end and come up with a more plausible scenario would have made this a much better book.

I'll try Suthren again (he also has a second series and some nonfiction) but this one was not in the same league as Forester and Kent.