- Spend more time camping and fishing. We've had a very warm winter here in Northeast Florida. If that trend holds up through January, we're definitely taking Lyla tent camping at some of the local state parks. Florida does a great job in providing its citizens access to the great outdoors, and Lyla's big enough now to where we don't have to stay in a cabin.
- Write more and sell more. I'm going to deliver a novel to my agent in a few weeks. We'll try the traditional route with that book. But I'm going to bring out another collection of short stories in 2012, as well as a collection of novellas and a number of stand-alone novellas. I do hope to more actively promote my writing, in addition to placing stories with magazines and journals that I admire. I've got five short stories currently under contract to be published in 2012, and I like that those stories funnel readers to my website and my offerings on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.
- Run more road races. I ran the Jacksonville Last Gasp 5K (on a genuine XC course at Jacksonville University) race on Monday and had a blast. I'm running the Gate, and I might run the VyStar 5K this weekend. Lyla ran a half mile fun run on Monday and had a great time, so I think we'll be trying to do more of that. In addition to running more road races, I'm going to bump my weekly mileage as well.
- Eat better. This is a big one for us. More grilled foods, and more vegetables. We do a fine job of eating well overall, but with a little one and busy lives in general, we cop out sometimes to processed foods. I'm off from the college until early May, and so I'll be cooking a lot at home. That means lots of prep. and lots of better eating.
- Family hugs. We have about three a day. I'd like to see that number approach at least five...
- More movies and dates with my wife. I see some matinees by myself, but I'd like to get back to having a sitter look after Lyla and going to the movies a few times a week with Jeanne. We used to see one each week, and I miss that time together.
- More volunteering. When Lyla hits four, I'm going to be doing a lot of coaching, but until then I'd like to devote some hours to stuff we can do as a family to improve life here in Jacksonville.
- More blogging. I'd like to get back to a fairly regular schedule with posting content here. I've read six books since December 16, so it's not like I don't at least have some opinions on books and stories that struck a chord with me!
The Colcloughs are stuck. They have a hell of a proposition--get north or get dead. And they pull together in a way that I find simply redemptive.
Crouch is a fine writer. Those scenes in Wyoming in which the family has to deal with the mountain are both harrowing and well written. Take it from a guy that's questioned himself on the side of the Grand Canyon--those fears are real, and Crouch brings them to life in a way that makes your knuckles go white.
It's the protagonist's drive to keep his family in tact, and his ability to understand the situation in the minute and the second that it's happening, that makes this a believable narrative. I loved the observational detail in this story, and I thought that the framing technique worked out really well.
Crouch did a fine job with this story. Very highly reccommended...
I was with a couple of friends, and we were chatting and laughing and having a great old time until we came around a sharp curve and had to slam on the breaks.
There had been an accident--it looked like some un-fenced livestock had wandered into the road. There was an overturned truck and what looked like some ravaged carcasses there. An ambulance was just arriving, and a visibly shaken law enforcement officer held us distant from the accident site.
"You'll have to find another way into town," he told us. "This way's closed. You'll have to turn around and find another way in."
We did as we were told, covering the last few miles in somber quiet.
More years have passed since that winter day than I'd lived up to that point in my life. That's a strange reality for me, since I can still so clearly see the interaction in my mind.
Time is a thief, to be sure...
But something else happened that day, and it happened almost instantly. Even as we were heading back into town, I began mulling over the different postulates on why Pendleton might be cut off. I had already begun writing (although I didn't know it then, and wouldn't realize it until a good fifteen years later) "Life, On the Other Side."
I would like to thank the good people at Weber: The Contemporary West for publishing my story. The first readers and editors Michael Wutz and Kristin Jackson offered some great suggestions on making this piece stronger.
The governor stopped short when he arrived at the fork in the path. It wasn’t indecision that gave the tanned man with the carefully manicured fingernails pause, but rather the python coiled there, studying him with shining saffron eyes.
“Do you, uh…do you mean to block my way here, snake?” the governor said. There was a twang in his speech—an affectation he was trying to perfect in an attempt to echo his predecessors. Like the man himself, the accent was a work in progress.
“Why shouldn’t I?” the snake hissed. “I shouldn’t even be here at all.”
The governor put a hand on his hip; he used the other to scratch at a trickle of sweat in his flawless gray hair. “Well, I suppose that’s probably true. Python, ain’t ya?”
“Yes,” the snake said, stretching the ‘s’ menacingly. Its angular head swayed back and forth, its tongue tasting the air. “Do I frighten you?”
“Nope. Can’t say that you do.”
“Then you are a fool. I've corrupted your lands and I’ve grown fat on your stocks.”
The governor narrowed his eyes. “You mean down in the ‘Glades, don’t you python?”
“I have feasted in the great river. But now, I live in the cane fields as well; you can find me on the banks of Okeechobee. And I'm here, you fool—in the forests near your home.”
The governor chuckled. “So why don’t you just go away? Shoot, just leave us be.”
“It’s not that simple. This place—it was a paradise once…”
“I’m not sure I like your tone, snake. Florida is still first in the nation in tourism. Almost 500 people move here every day. I’d call that pretty damned good, if I don’t mind saying so mys…”
The python darted forward, quicker than the governor could dodge. Its head, a thick wedge of scale and bone, ducked under the old man’s thigh; it only took a moment for itl to impose itself upon the governor—like wild grape on a weathered fence post. The governor toppled and fell over.
“Now what’s this all about, python? I’m just trying to stay trim here—getting a little exercise is all.”
The python tightened up, the governor loosing an audible, “Oooof!”
“You don’t see,” the python responded. “You lack vision. The flood of people. The strange animals—they aren’t from here. They shouldn't be here! You’ve given away the land. You’ve choked the great river to grow poison. You’ve cut down the mangroves and replaced them with walkways. All of it…every last bit of it is an ending.”
“Now just you wait a minute,” the governor started, but the python flexed his muscular body, squeezing a sharp cry from the confused man.
“No time,” it hissed, “for waiting. No time for indecision.”
“What do you want?” the governor croaked. His face, already red from the exercise, was turning purple.
“Reverse it,” the snake said, drawing out the syllables. It sounded like air escaping from a tire.
“But how? You’re talking about undoing a century of policy here, python. Let's be reasonable, now.”
“Things can be undone,” the snake replied. As if to prove its point, it relinquished its hold on the old man and reclaimed its place on the trail.
The governor stood and brushed himself off, a little bit purple but none the worse for wear.
“So is that all?” he said. He made a move toward the left fork in the path, meaning to finish his jog.
The python cut him off, poised for another strike. “Go back,” it said, anger flashing in those saffron eyes. “Go back the way you came. Go back and undo your mistakes.”
The governor glared at the snake. Dang it, but now his afternoon was shot! He pulled a leaf from his tussled hair, frowned at the reptile and then turned and trotted back to where his security detail was waiting in the parking lot.
One of his men passed him a sweating bottle of cold water as they pulled out of the gravel lot. “We still going to the Governor’s Club this afternoon, boss?”
The governor gave it some thought. Probably best not to get on that snake’s bad side. “Naw,” he muttered. “Naw, damnit, let’s just head for home, Bo.”
He skipped his shower and angled straight for his office. It only took him a minute to get Allison Schiller, the state’s lead wildlife biologist, on the phone.
“Pythons, Allie!” he complained. “Dad-gummit, we got pythons! Right here in Leon County!”
There was silence on the line.
“Allie? You still there?”
“Governor, we’ve been trying to tell you that for the last three years,” she said. There was disbelief in her tone—disbelief and anger. “Pythons are just the start of it, sir. We’ve got angel fish in the port of Miami, iguanas in Key West, howler monkeys in Julington Creek…the list goes on and on. We’ve been trying to arrange a state-wide effort to deal with this since your first month in office.”
The governor used a toothpick on his capped teeth; her words made him wince. “Well, shoot. Maybe it’s time we called a meeting. Can you get up to
More stunned silence. “Of course. Of course I can. I can be there before noon.”
“Okay, then. Thanks, Allie. Jeremy will make the appointment,” the governor replied, disconnecting the phone. He sighed, stood and walked to the window.
There were alligators floating in the lake behind his office; a few sunned themselves on the apron of sandy shoreline. An egret stalked minnows in the shallows. Dozens of turtles basked in the sun, necks stretched, balanced atop cypress boughs.
“Shit,” he muttered, raking his fingers through his hair. All at once, as if the man’s disdain for the work ahead was a fork of lightning from an afternoon thunderstorm, the birds and alligators and turtles turned their heads to appraise the man watching them from behind the glass in the great white house.
- David James Duncan, author of the excellent memoir The River Why, has written an interesting essay on the writing process;
- Joe R. Lansdale's "Fish Night" is a story I never tire of. I've read it now about a dozen times, and it's a fine blend of authentic characterization and bizarro surrealism;
- To my thinking, there's nothing not to like in the legend of the "Stranger in the Church." This one's most frightening aspect is the invasion of personal space;
- Very interesting interview with the always-candid Greg Norman. The man is comfortable with himself, and that's admirable.
He glanced at his parents watching through a nearby window, took several deep breaths and closed his eyes. A single tear hung on the edge of his right eye as he was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m., 10 minutes after the lethal drugs began flowing into his arms, both covered with intricate black tattoos.
That paragraph comes from a story about the execution of Lawrence Brewer. Brewer, a soldier in a race war that only he and his idiot friends were fighting, died tonight. He died young, and he created his own demise.
Brewer was charged and convicted for dragging James Byrd, Jr. to death on a rough Texas road. If you read the original reports of the crime, they are harrowing. Mr. Byrd was literally pulled apart on that road.
My thoughts on capital punishment are ongoing. I'm still wrestling with it.
But when I think about how Mr. Byrd's life ended and how Brewer's life ended, it really doesn't compute.
Peace be with you, Mr. Byrd...