30 November 2012

Samurai Shortstop

by Alan Gratz

Many of you probably know by now that I am fascinated by the Japanese culture. During my long commute I listened to a book called SAMURAI SHORTSTOP by Alan Gratz. While I loved the story and the characters, what really made the book interesting for me was the historical aspect. In the version I listened to, the end had research information. The historical information is all about baseball and the change of Japan from Samurai to modern times.

SAMURAI SHORTSTOP follows Toyo at turn of the century Japan. The book starts with him helping his uncle commits suicide. As a samurai, this ritual death is fitting, but it leaves Toyo feeling confused as to where the old traditions fit in the new society. Japan isn’t like other countries. They didn’t gradually move into technology, but was rather thrown into it in 1876 when the old rulers were over thrown. Part of the new society involves the sport of baseball. About twenty years have passed since the change of society and people still have that awkward feeling about the changes. Toyo enters high school hoping to join the baseball team and from there learns that the old traditions of his uncle and the seemingly contradictory behavior of his father are more similar than he first realized.

As I mentioned earlier, I really enjoyed SAMURAI SHORTSTOP. The characters were vivid and I thought it was well told. Many of the situations in the story were based on true events. I like sports movies, but this book just added an extra element of a whole ‘nother culture. Comparing samurais to baseball was something I never considered. As an American, I know I will never truly understand what being a samurai truly means. We just don’t have anything to compare it to, but I do have a little more of an understanding that I use to.

28 November 2012

Breaking Deals

Sorry I didn’t post this weekend. I just didn’t think about it. We spent the weekend with family. We are lucky that our extended families live fairly close so we can visit them both. I think we do a good job of spending our time between them. I am excited that over Christmas we will be visiting more family. That will be a nice trip.

As with every Thanksgiving, we go shopping on Black Friday. We never go for the big ticket items. That would just be insane. The only deal I ever go for, every year, are the socks that are 1/2 off. Somehow Moose and I decided to take my mother-in-law to Wally-world. There were some items that she wanted. I actually went to Wally-world last year with some family and stood in line for one of the big ticket items at midnight. I knew what it could be like. My mother-in-law was shocked. She couldn’t believe how many people were there and what they were buying. I think my favorite was the sale DVDs and Blu-rays. The people stormed the display and carried away armloads of movies. They would take them to another aisle and sort through, discarding the ones they didn’t want. I know this, not because I saw it, but I came across the aftermath. We wandered through the aisles and found stacks of movies that people had just discarded. I don’t think I will ever go after one of the big ticket items. I don’t think saving money is worth it. Truthfully, I am not that interested in the big ticket items. I am more than happy to use my outdated technology and save all of my money, not just half.

We did get one item, and amazingly, we were able to walk into the store at 10:00 and didn’t have a problem. We bought a new fridge. If all goes well, we will be moving into a house in the beginning of the year. I love the area where we live, but the building itself comes with plenty of extra . . . features. A year and a half is plenty of time to live in front of a mink farm. I will not be sad to say goodbye to the flies.

21 November 2012

Life is Good

It is hard to believe that another Thanksgiving has come. Granted, it is early this year, but it is still hard to believe that the end of the year is approaching. This Thanksgiving has really made me think. With my accident a month ago I never thought I would appreciate my safe, short drive to work. I drove over 100 miles a day for almost two years and I never had anything happen. No flat tire, nothing. I drive 30 miles a day and I total a car. I am thankful I was able to walk away with nothing more than bruises.

This year also marked the achievement of getting a contract for a novel. Part of the agreement I have with Moose is that I have to submit a manuscript twice a year. To be honest I love to write, but I never thought I would actually succeed. With Moose’s encouragement I submitted, and low and behold after my fifth submission I was accepted by someone. It is still hard to believe that in less than six months I will have a book on the shelf, and not just a story in an anthology. I have always wanted to be an author, but my realism had me become a technical writer. I love what I do, but the idea that I could actually be an author . . .

And finally, Moose and I celebrated our 5th anniversary this summer. Every day, Moose makes me laugh. He does more of the house work and has always supported my plethora of hobbies. As I hear statistics of the number of failed marriages, I am thankful that Moose and I have put forth the effort to make our marriage a success. I married the best man for me and he brings out the best in me. I am lucky to have such a wonderful man. Life is good.

18 November 2012

*Set You Free

Intro: I have always felt bad that lawyers have a bad rap. There are some that are skuzzy, but there was a time when there was more honor to the name of lawyer. There are plenty of good lawyers out there.

“Did you kill Mr. Jorge?”


I couldn’t keep my pen from slipping on the paper. My client already had my signature. I was under his spell. Not for the first time, I wondered what I had gotten myself into. I thought I was better at reading people.

Mr. Trent sat across the table from me, his hands clasped and resting on his knees. When he first approached me about representing him in court, I had done my own research on them. He was divorced, his wife remarried, but overall the relationship between exes was better than most. The couple could almost be friends and happy; they just couldn’t be married and happy.

“Tell me about your relationship with Mr. Jorge.”

“He was my neighbor. We shared a property line.” He shifted on his seat, never meeting my gaze. “I found him stealing my water to irrigate his lawn. He’d been doing it for years.”

“How did it escalate?”

The man looked up, and met my gaze. “I asked him to stop. He didn’t.”

“So—” I motioned, not sure I wanted him to continue.

“I killed him. I calculated it out. Over the course of fifteen years, he had stolen almost two million dollars’ worth of water. I gave him an ultimatum give me my money or I take him to court.” Mr. Trent rubbed the back of his neck, his hands brushing his worn collar. “He burned my field then told me I didn’t need any more water.”

I flipped through my papers. There had been some damage to his property, a third of an acre. Mr. Trent had sixty five acres. From the reports it showed that it was probably a lightning strike.

“I was tired of the problem. I took my gun, and shot him.” He held up his hands as if sighting something in the corner of the room.

I put my papers down. As a lawyer it was my obligation to represent my client to their interests. I always told myself that I would never defend a guilty man. I wouldn’t become a lawyer that could be bought. But my signature was on a contract that tied me from divulging information told to me in confidence. That would be about the same as testifying against yourself.

“Is something wrong, Mr. Hunsacker?” Mr. Trent pressed his hands against the table. There was a glint in his eye that made me sit back in my chair. “You wouldn’t be thinking about turning me in, would you?” He reached down and pulled out a piece of paper. “I have a piece of paper here that says you will represent me fairly.”

I nodded, my stomach sinking. My career was over. Mr. Trent let out a smile and sat back.

“I’m glad we see—”

“I am sure you will be much happier with someone who wants to see you go free. If you will excuse me. I am leaving.”

“You’ll never work as a lawyer again.”

I ran my hands along the paper. “Not in a court. But I am sure there are plenty of innocent people who could do with a bit of advice.”

As I walked out, I felt a little lighter.

16 November 2012

How Dare You

There is no review this week. I was told Thursday evening that girls between the ages of 10 and 16 do not read books over 200 pages. I was told that I write short, inconsequential books for girls between the ages of 10 and 16. My first thought "How dare you!" Granted, my emotions tend to make my memory foggy. It wasn’t meant in that tone, but this isn’t the first time that this fellow has made a comment to that effect. He explains that his audience isn’t the typical reader. His audience prefers deep books. Every time I bite my tongue. Yes. I write science fiction. I don’t claim that it is literary, but I don’t appreciate it being brushed off completely. Besides, I purposefully try to write for an older audience. I am writing for people who don't want to read about child heroes who can't rely on any of the adult characters. If teenagers enjoy my books, I won't complain. But I am not writing with them in mind.

There is an underlying thought that if something isn’t based in real life, that it is considered more fluffy. I have mentioned in another post that the genre doesn’t matter. Books are a hot topic. Think TWILIGHT. I don’t know how many times I hear people bashing that book. But it doesn’t matter. Yes there might be better things for people to read, but if they are reading, if they are finding enjoyment out of it, then that is a success. There is nothing wrong with adults reading YA books. And for the record, I was reading 800 page books when I was in Jr. High. Saying 10 to 16 year old girls don’t read books over 200 pages is insulting. I may have to bring my sister to meet the fellow. She would put him in his place. (And there is nothing wrong with books under 200 pages either.) Judging someone on what they read is the same as judging someone on their socks. Noticeable at times, but in the long run, often hidden by trousers and only the person that wears them can truly decide if they are clean. We can always make comments, but truthfully it is none of our business if they are striped or ankle height.

14 November 2012


There is a soufflé in the oven. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever try to make a soufflé (and this is my third time). When I married Moose I thought I was a pretty capable cook. Granted my meals mostly consisted of rotating between five or six meals and trying a new one every other week. Moose loves cookbooks. He spends hours perusing the ones we have and whenever we go to a book store. I have always loved cooking but Moose’s enthusiasm is infectious. It helps that he plans the meals, prepares the shopping list, and does the dishes if I cook. I don’t know if I will ever be as good as my mom or mother-in-law, but I am getting a lot more confident. One of these days I am going to do beef wellington, crème brulee, and homemade pasta. If I can make those consistently I will really feel like a good cook. (I have already been working on my sushi skills. Mine aren’t pretty, but they taste pretty good. Moose doesn’t even use Tabasco, which is a good sign.)

This is also just a reminder that the Kickstarter campaign is still going. There are some really cool incentives, including ARCs of the TM publishing books. And you might be part of the group that gets to vote on the covers of the books, including mine. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1756979258/tm-publishing-emerald-sky-magazine

11 November 2012

*Blast Off!

Intro: Another attempt at Space Opera.

“Take the helm while I weld the hull shut.” I jumped from the chair and hurried to the back. “We can’t go saving anyone when we’re taking in space.”

“But, Mom!”

“You can do it. Just dodge the blasts.”

The ship shuddered as another bolt slammed into the hull. My husband had built the ship, using the various technology from the different civilizations we visited as orphans passed around from group to group.


I steadied myself against the bulkhead and took a breath. My mag boots kept me upright, this time. The ship rolled and I hooked my arm around a support. When the ship stopped twisting I took a second to orient myself. As long as the ship was just moving forward or turning slowly, the broken gravity generator wasn’t a problem. I had promised Jackson two years ago that we would fix the generator. When we saved up enough money, he always chose something else to fix up. When he was old enough I would drop him off at the colonies. From there his life would begin. He didn’t want to accept it, but that was how it had to be.

I grabbed the tool bag, breaking the magnetic connection and drag it behind me. I slipped a mask over my head, connecting it to my suit. After a minute the suit was pressurized and I opened the blast door that had sealed when a bolt ripped through the metal.

“There’s another one coming through the gateway. I can’t outrun all of them.” Jackson’s voice came through the intercom in my helmet.

I checked the pressure in the room. It was holding steady.

“I’m on my way.”

My boots clanged as I hurried up.

Jackson was white-knuckling the wheel. Five ships was more than she could expect even her husband to take.

Another blast sent us into a spin.


When my hands took control, Jackson moved out of the way.

“We’ve got to get out of here,” I said.

Jackson helped secure my belt then strapped himself in. I spun the wheel and dove out of the way, towards the gateway.

“If we leave now, it could take years for us to come back.” Jackson said. “Dad may not be alive when we make it back again.”

I nodded, my teeth gritted against the force and my vision blurred. “I know.”

Jackson worked the switches in front of him. “Boosters ready.”

Blasting through a gateway was roulette. We didn’t know where we would end up, or even if our ship could withstand the pressure. My husband was dead to me. Jackson was the only reason I looked for a body.

“Last chance. Do we stay?”

Jackson shook his head. “Thrusters engaged.”

We slid our goggles in place as the gateway illuminated space around us, sling us into the distance.

I let out my breath as the pressure lessened.

“We have a problem.”

I removed the googles and stared at the backs of the five ships. “Throttle full.”

“It is,” Jackson replied.

I pried my fingers from the wheel and let my hands drop. A blast cracked the glass. I reached out and held his hand. I fumbled with the belt. “Get out. Get out of the belt.”

“It’s not going to do any good.”

“Do it!”

I dragged him behind me.

“You will survive.” I shoved the helmet at him.

“Mom, no!”

I used my shoulder to shove him to the stasis pod.


Jackson had just enough sense to move his hand out of the way as the door slid shut. The pod hissed as the seal took and was ejected. I heard the glass break and took my last breath looking through the porthole as the pod blasted towards the gateway. Another orphan of the war.

09 November 2012


I wasn’t sure what to review this week. So I decided I would do something a bit different. I am going to review one of my new favorite anime series. As a quick definition, anime is simplistically described as Japanese animation/cartoons. As I believe I have mentioned before, just because they are animated doesn’t mean they are all suitable for children. The anime I want to review is called CLANNAD. I had seen previews for it for several years and I finally got around to seeing it. (Though we haven’t watched the AFTER STORY yet. It is next in our Netflix queue.)

CLANNAD follows Okazaki Tomoya a delinquent senior. He doesn’t get along with his father, and doesn’t enjoy school. On his first day of school he sees a girl talking to herself. He runs into her several times and learns she wants to be part of the drama club. Her name is Furukawa Nagisa. She is weak and had to be held back her senior year because she was so sick. He decides to help her resurrect the drama club which has been on hiatus. Tomoya enlists the help of those around him so that Nagisa can fulfill her dream of performing at the school festival. Though there are only two main male characters and five female characters, even Moose enjoyed watching it with me. The AFTER STORY takes place when Tomoya is an adult and his decisions with his family. (Or so I think from what I’ve seen. I haven’t done too much research because I don’t want to ruin anything.)

I knew this show was going to make me cry. Even the brief previews I’ve seen of it make me cry. What I didn’t expect was how much I would laugh. Tomoya in particular is a straight forward fellow who speaks his mind, and enjoys a good joke. Though he is a delinquent he is a lot deeper than first expected. The other characters also have depth and aren’t just straw men. I really came to care about all of them and what they were doing. The anime is suitable for any age, though it might be a bit serious for a young audience. It is an anime I will own.

07 November 2012

The Right to Vote

As I am writing this, I don’t know who has won the Presidential Election. But it doesn’t matter who wins. The fact of the matter is I am glad I live in this country and I am glad I was able to vote. I didn’t always appreciate living in America when I was younger. I dreamed of living in another country. In college I had a map next to my bed with everywhere I wanted to visit. As a graduation present to myself I went to Scotland. While I was there I realized that America is a pretty good place to live. The older I get, the more I realize I live in the perfect place for me. Other people may be happy to live outside of the country, but I will always be glad when I can come home to the Land of the Free.

As far as our government goes, I have no complaints. Our judicial system may be a little rough at times, but when compared to the alternative, I really don’t have any complaints. There will always be people who take advantage of the system, but that isn’t the systems fault. I cherish my right to vote and live how I want to live with the safety provided. Between the two, I will always choose laws over anarchy. God bless America.

04 November 2012

*Late Night Talk

Intro: My husband and I have been watching a cute show called USAGI DROP (BUNNY DROP). It is a cute story about a 30-year-old bachelor taking in his 6-year-old aunt. I have read stories like this before but this has been my favorite because of the relationship between Daikichi and Rin.

I walked to my car, smelling of French fries. My hair and face was covered in grease. Four weeks into the job and I was already looking for something new, though I knew it was probably helpless. It had taken two months for me to find my current job and it suited my needs, to a point. Two of my coworkers walked by laughing and joking with one another. They were both in high school.

“Tony, can you give us a lift?”

I pulled the key from my door and looked at them. “I thought you got your license, Bill.”

Winston punched Bill’s shoulder. “Having a license doesn’t mean his parents trust him with a car.”

“Get in,” I said as I leaned across the seat and unlocked the door.

The two climbed in, bouncing on the seats a little.

“I don’t get it,” Bill said.

“You don’t get what?” I asked, already regretting the question.

“You have a college degree in something important—”

“Public Relations,” I added.

“Right, you’re old—”


“Why do you work at a fast food restaurant and drive a crappy car?”

I ran my hand along the worn and patchy steering wheel cover, staring at the dark streets. I should be getting home immediately, not driving these two. That is what their parents should be doing.

“It was work sixty hours a week, or leave. I left my job. It wasn’t worth the time.”

“How much money were you making?” Winston asked.

“What we make in a month I was making in a week.”

“Why did you leave? That’s just stupid.”

I shrug, not really wanting to talk about it but knowing they wouldn’t leave me alone otherwise.

“There are more important things than money. The money wasn’t worth what I would have to give up.”

“Like this car?” Winston slapped my shoulder.

“I like this car. It’s reliable and easy to fix.”

I stopped in front of the house I drove to at least three times a week. Winston hopped out of the back and waved as he ran up the stairs and into the house. Bill lived four blocks away. He didn’t get out of the car when I pulled up.

“Can I ask you something, personal?” Bill asked.

“Sure.” I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel. It was almost two in the morning. I hated getting home late.

“What would you do if your girlfriend was pregnant?”

The tapping stopped. I stared at the dark house.

“Do you think she is?”

Bill shrugged. “I think she might be.”

“So” I cleared my throat. “You’ve had sex?”

Bill nodded.

I turned towards him. “Do you think your parents will mind if you come with me for the night?”

Bill hunched down in his seat and motioned to the black house. “They’re not home. If one of them was home the light would be on.”

When I made it home I paid the baby-sitter and made sure she drove away. I led Bill into the apartment.

“You have a kid?” Bill asked. He was standing at the mantel.

I pulled off the greasy shirt and tossed it on the washer to clean in the morning.

“That’s Steph, my daughter.”

“How old is she?”

I pulled a sweatshirt on and sat on the couch. “She’s seventeen.”

Bill turned to stare at me. “That’s my age. You’re not old enough to have a kid my age.”

“You asked me why I took the lower paying job, it was that, or lose my daughter. I needed a job fast, and this is the one that worked. I only work nights once a week. The rest of the time I get to work while she’s at school. Her mother, my ex-wife, has turned to alcohol and is unable to be a guardian, let alone a mother. I could have kept my job, but I wouldn’t have known my daughter because I would be working long hours. I had already wasted too much time on unimportant things. I have enough saved up that with my income from this job, we can live fairly comfortably. We’ve both sacrificed, but she wanted to know me. So let me tell you what your options are, if your girlfriend is pregnant.”

Bill sat down on the chair, and I stared at what I had once been. I tried to think through what would have helped me at that age. The only thing that came to mind was how scared I had been. Life was never going to be the same, whether Bill made the same choices I had at his age. Being a father at sixteen would make his life difficult. I only hoped he could end up as happy as I was living in a two bedroom apartment with my daughter.

02 November 2012

Battlefield Earth

by L. Ron Hubbard

I found BATTLEFIELD EARTH, by L. Ron Hubbard, for 50 cents at a used bookstore. I had seen the movie in High School, and heard the book was much better. I kind of knew what to expect but the book had so much more. There are some many cool ideas with it that I would have never thought of. The races and societies are unique and refreshing. It is also hard science. Though I didn’t understand all of the technology, it was presented in a way that I could almost believe in the year 3000 some of it could be around.

The idea is that mankind is an endangered species. An alien race known as the Psychlos has enslaved the humans so they could mine the Earth and retrieve the minerals. Jonnie Goodboy Tyler is a human who is taken by the Psychlos. From there he is given the opportunity of a lifetime. He learns everything, including how to defeat the Psychlos. The Psychlos are the only race who have the technology of transshipment, teleportation. Even after the humans get the technology, there troubles are far from over.

I can see why some people may not like this book. It isn’t so much action as science and political. (For those of you who have seen the movie, there are significant differences. The biggest difference is that the end of the movie is only halfway through the book.) If you like science fiction and haven’t read this, than you are missing a work that has influenced a lot of other authors. I am glad that I bought this book and it will be one that I reread occasionally, just because I know each time I read it, I will understand another piece of the puzzle.