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7.24.2012

Life with Lyla...

Each day that passes reveals new and hilarious aspects of my daughter's personality. She is a great kid, and it's a pleasure to be with her every day.


We were in dance class yesterday when the instructor asked the kids to work through the various footing positions (they are practicing first through fifth right now).


"What comes after four?" Ms. Ashley asked.


"CHEEEESE!" the kids responded in unison, my daughter among them, with palpable glee.


It was hilarious. You know! One, two, three, four, CHEEEESE!


Then, last night, Jeanne and I went in to give her a kiss. She was sacked out, and I noticed something poking out from beneath the dust ruffle of her bed. Every child, by the way, needs a little hidey-hole for his or her prized possessions. That's Lyla's spot.


Well, I pulled the object out and discovered this. Yes, my daughter collects milkshake coupons in her special place. 


Man,we cracked up when we saw that! Come to think of it, I better get it back under there before she discovers that it's missing...

7.23.2012

Torched: A Thriller



Fresh on the heels of the thrilling novella Frozen comes Torched, a continuation of the tale of two women who have had their families decimated by tragedy, and who will stop at nothing to gain a measure of vengeance in return for their suffering.

Terri James lost her husband to the Colorado wilderness, but she never lost the hope of making Vivian Bowles pay for what she did to her family.

After enlisting the help of a private detective, Terri has discovered that Vivian escaped to a tiny village in Central Mexico. She has taken up residence there with another American expatriate, and is embarking upon what appears to be an idyllic existence.

All of this while Terri’s children struggle with chronic nightmares and an existence without their father.

But life has a fascinating way of repeating itself, and Terri has some very uncomfortable plans for the happy hideaways taking refuge in Cerritos. Torched explores the depths of obsession that govern the human impulse for revenge, as well as the redemptive qualities of what it means to let go.

Whoever said that revenge was a dish best served cold?

A 28,000-word novella, Torched is intended for adult audiences. It contains graphic depictions of sex and violence.

(Author’s note: Yes, some razorbacks do top 1,000 pounds. Don’t believe me? Do a little bit of research on “Hogzilla,” a creature that was shot and killed in Alapaha, Georgia, back in 2004…)

Currently available at:

7.22.2012

The Open Championship



The Open Championship was some of the most compelling golf I've ever watched. These last four days have been riveting, with the course laying down early in the tournament a bit, then rearing up today to show just how hard it can be to play golf in the biting winds of the United Kingdom.


I'm thrilled for Ernie Els. He joins an elite group of golfers that have won major tournaments in three separate decades, and he's done some amazing things outside of the ropes. A Floridian now, his work with Autism Speaks has been instrumental in raising millions for autism research. He's a gentleman, a fellow who is always engaging with the galleries when he makes his yearly appearance at The Players.


As happy as I am for Ernie, I feel just as bad for Adam Scott. He absolutely put on a clinic on the tees this week, and his shot-making abilities were certainly in tune enough to win the championship. He's a nice guy--a very kind and talented player--and I just hope that he isn't excoriated by the international golf press as a player that melted down when it mattered. The course was different today, clearly, and the back nine was very different than the front nine. 


It was an amazing tournament to watch. Kudos to Ernie and Adam, a pair of great players that put on a fantastic show over these last four days...

7.20.2012

That's Not Conservative!



I've never lived in a part of the country where folks compete so viciously over the mantle of "conservatism." This race for our local senate district is getting contentious, and I wonder how far they had to ram the sticks up those angry actors' behinds to get them to make those faces.

By the way, do you get a feel for the target market by looking at those folks?

Look, every political ideology has its speaking points. I certainly don't deny that, and I saw my share of advertisements from the other side of the spectrum that were very similar throughout my time in Portland.

But stuff like this (this ad plays in almost every commercial break during the local news) just seeks to simplify complex issues (the Obama lightrail initiative, specifically) and directs more ignorant anger at the entire political process.

All I can say is, study the issues and learn about the candidates. Vote the issues, not the party lines, and try to keep your optimism tank full, because it's unlikely that whichever candidates earn your vote will actually deliver the objectives they discussed during their campaigns.

Of course, education and relativism are lost on a certain segment of the population that listens intently to everything their demigods say on the radio, then parrot them back in casual conversation as if they know THE WAY.

Come to think of it, education and relativism?

THAT'S NOT CONSERVATIVE!

7.18.2012

The Inevitable Bird-Dive...

Nick Markakis Nick Markakis #21 of the Baltimore Orioles reacts after striking out against the Washington Nationals during interleague play at Nationals Park on May 20, 2012 in Washington, DC.

That's Nick Markakis, one of my favorite baseball players, reacting after yet another strikeout. Yesterday, I tuned in to the Orioles/Twins game after four innings. The score was tied at one all (the O's eventually lost, for their seventh defeat in their last ten games), but it really wasn't that close. A quick look at the box score told the tale of the tape: the Twins had one strikeout, and the Orioles had five (don't know what the final tallies were in that respect). 


This team just isn't built for contact. In some ways, they're like the old 1980s-version of the Orioles--when Earl Weaver liked to get some ducks on the pond and hope for the three-run dinger.


But with windmills like Chris Davis, Mark Reynolds, and Jim Thome sucking up important at-bats at a crucial time in the season, what do you expect?


I expect losses.


Even though the Orioles are in the thick of it for the revamped wild card, dreams of winning the AL East are gone. The Yankees are damned good, and that early-season hiccup they experienced isnow barely a memory. They're pitching well, getting some timely hitting (that jack from Ibanez two days ago as exhibit A), and not beating themselves. I read yesterday that Mariano Rivera, who blew his knee out on May 3 (!!!!), might actually be entertaining a return to the team for the playoffs.


I care deeply about the Orioles, but I don't like what MacPhail or Duquette have done to our lineup. We need some run scorers, and our run producers need to be younger and more selective at the plate. The problem with the Orioles is that, when the hitting is on, the pitching is dreadful. 


Well, this year the inverse is true. Our bullpen has performed admirably, and until Jason Hammel went down, we had a decent starting rotation. 


I'm hoping we'll still have a shot at the wild card in a month. Who knows? Maybe Weaver's ghost will shock the O's into a couple of three-run blasts.


But when we can't get over on the Twins and we get swept by teams like Detroit and Los Angeles, which are at the forefront of the race, it just doesn't look good...

7.17.2012

MasterChef Update and Some Truly Excellent BBQ Sauce



We were sad to see Josh Marks eliminated last night on MasterChef. It was odd to see two of the top chefs struggle so mightily with soft-boiled eggs, but when you're cooking at that level, for an audience as nuanced and experienced as these folks are cooking for, the difference between moving on and going home could be just a handful of seconds.


When Joe pulled the cap off that innocuous little egg and the contents dribbled down the side of the serving dish, my heart went out to Josh. As he mentioned on-air last night, that was the first time he'd ever poached an egg!


The very first time!


This show is accessible and inclusive, as it features nothing but home cooks, but it also is so heavily  based on technique that it's a little intimidating. I'm amazed at the contestants' ability to bake souffles, to create such a variety of doughs and pastries from scratch and to generally create in such a variety of techniques while under the pressure of a running clock.


I love to cook, but I don't think I could make the top 100 on this show. My wife? I think she could. She makes a couple of recipes each month out of Bon Appetite, which is such a great magazine. She knows many of these techniques well, and I think she'd do a great job in creating recipes on the fly.


I would have preferred to see Becky leave the show last night, as I just think that Josh was a model of consistency throughout the show. Nothing seemed too big for him, prior to this challenge. He led his teams to success in the team challenges, and he put numerous top dishes in front of the judges.


Still, there are some fine cooks left in the show and, with part of the top prize being a publishing contract for the winner's cookbook, there are a few whose final product I might actually purchase.


In the meantime, here's a barbecue sauce recipe that's never let me down:


Ingredients

  • two cloves minced garlic
  • quarter cup diced onion (red or sweet, depending on flavor)
  • one minced jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed (substitute a serrano chili for less heat)
  • half cup packed brown sugar
  • two tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • one cup plain ketchup
  • a dash of liquid smoke
  • one teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • one teaspoon ground red pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • one teaspoon molasses
  • two tablespoons honey
Caramelize the onions, garlic and jalapeno in the olive oil. Add the vinegar and brown sugar and cook over high heat until reduced a bit. Add the remainder of the ingredients and allow the mixture time to blend together over low heat before brushing on pork, chicken or 10-12 count prawns (yes, barbecued shrimp tastes really good with this sauce).

That's a base sauce, folks. You can certainly tailor it to suit your needs. I like to make variations that include apricot preserves and minced mango, as well as raspberry-based pork sauces. 

7.11.2012

Turning the Page

Things are really cooking out here in Florida, both figuratively and literally. We, like most of the country, have been suffering through a period of absolutely broiling heat. It's been in the high 90s most days, with a heat index over 100. 


That's been good for me, as I enjoy the heat, but it's been bad for our elderly population, as well as those who don't have air conditioning (sounds funny, but it's very true). We had a tree service come out and prune that big Live Oak in the front yard. It looks great, and now the sun can get through the canopy and down to the grass. We put in 400-sq-feet of new sod, and now we've been battling to keep it irrigated. It's taking well, though, and I expect all will be well with it.


I titled this post in this fashion (I like "thusly," but it's considered non-standard) because it feels like I'm doing just that in a few different ways. I'm in the final stretches of the summer term, and then it's back to the classroom as I pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Central Florida. That's just six weeks away.


It's exciting to get back to actively pursuing new academic ideas and cultivating my skills. I'm thankful for the opportunity, but a little nervous about balancing everything (I'll still teach two classes at UCF in the fall, in addition to taking nine credits and spending time with Jeanne and Lyla).


But I have faith that all will be well.


And finally, back in April I turned a novel in to my agent, Bernadette Baker-Baughman. My hope is to get this in the hands of the right publisher, and we're working to make that happen before I'm off to school in late August. I like the story very much and, while it's not quite ready to venture out on submission quite yet, I'm confident that it will be soon.


And we're hoping that all will be well.


Torched will be available soon (and I appreciate the notes from those of you wanting to read it!), and The Silver Coast and Other Stories is garnering some good feedback.


So be well where you are, and stay cool if you can... 

7.05.2012

On the Banks of Royal Marsh



My short horror tale "On the Banks of Royal Marsh" has been published in Horror on the Installment Plan. If carnivorous amphibious life is your think, then I'd challenge you to pick up a copy and venture once more...into the woods.


I'd like to thank Jim Musgrave for doing a nice job in presenting the story. I enjoyed "The Forest of Thorns" and Alyn Day's piece, and I'll be reading McIlveen's story tonight. Horror on the Installment Plan pays a good rate for stories under 3000 words, and the issue I read last night on my Kindle was nicely formatted.