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From the sublime to the ridiculous

January 9, 2019
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I promised you a report on my weekend of experiences. That it’s taken me until Wednesday to get to it should give you a clue as to how busy it was.

Sublime

Saturday I attended the 37th annual Boar’s Head and Yule Log Festival held by the First Christian Church in Corpus Christi. Capping the Christmas season and celebrating Epiphany, it’s an Old English retelling of the coming of the three kings meeting baby Jesus. Originally presented at Queens College in Oxford in 1340, it came to be a holiday tradition in English manor houses and later in colonial America. A Renaissance-era story, it depicts a medieval pageant. This was quite the spectacle and I cannot praise the organizers and actors enough. It would have been sufficient to enjoy it solely for the entertainment value. But I found myself thinking this was the type of exhibition that the lords and ladies of The Bewildering Adventure of King Bewilliam might have enjoyed. I’ll be keeping the sight, sound, and pacing in mind should the Muse want to revisit the Chalklands.

Something Else

Sunday I attended a day-long class to qualify for a Texas License to Carry a concealed handgun. The class began with a four-hour presentation on the various laws governing the licensing and the responsibilities of license holders. Students had to pay attention because a written test followed. I aced it although there was one question that I thought was badly worded. Throughout my career, I’ve written a lot of test questions so I felt justified in criticizing but others shared my opinion.

Then we all drove out in the country to the Corpus Christi Pistol and Rifle Club range for the shooting part of the qualification. Applicants must show that they know how to carry a handgun safely, arm it, and ready it to fire. The targets were cardboard slabs mounted on a stand. A green silhouette of a roughly human form was marked with a bull’s eye and three concentric rings.

It’s been decades since I even held a handgun. I have vague recollections of going plinking with a friend and can’t recall if I managed to hit anything.

The instructor organized groups of three shooters at a time. Other than me, the students had handgun experience so the instructor asked me to go last. I spent the time observing and even helped one student load her magazine (“Do NOT call it a clip!” said the instructor) which was part of the test.

It was late in the day by the time we got around to me. The sun was sinking and I worried about being able to see the target much less aim accurately. I was also concerned because though I had recently purchased glasses with distance correction I had yet to receive them. Still, I knew that I’d only stew about it and I didn’t want to put the test off for another day. I figured that even if I blew it, I could try again. The state allows for three chances to pass the shooting test.

The instructor lent safety gear. License applicants must show that they have consideration for their personal safety. Though it was an outdoor range it was still a noisy place. Shooters need hearing protection (earmuffs or plugs). Eye protection in the form of safety goggles or glasses is also a necessity, especially with brass casings flying through the air like bees swarming.

Not only did I not have experience or my own safety gear I also didn’t have a handgun. I had worried that I would find the firearm heavy and awkward to handle. The instructor lent me a Ruger .22 and I had absolutely no problem with it. The “red-dot sight” with which it was equipped made aiming easy. I anticipated recoil of which I had read so much but because .22 is a fairly small caliber, this handgun didn’t present any that I noticed. I did observe another phenomenon of which I had read: muzzle flash.

So, how did I do on the test?

The shooting test requires 50 rounds of ammunition fired at three distances:

  • 3 yards – 20 rounds fired
  • 7 yards – 20 rounds fired
  • 15 yards – 10 rounds fired

It’s a timed test. The Texas LTC shooting test passing score is 175 points out of 250 points or a score of 70%.

LTC shooting testI scored 243.

The day-long class was conducted by Michael McKinley of CCIT. Enthusiastic about handgun operation and safe shooting practices, he was knowledgeable about the subject and patient with a rank beginner. That I passed is a testament to his skills as an instructor.

He did charge us with evaluating our preparedness to shoot someone, especially in a crisis situation. It’s an important consideration but it wasn’t why I applied for the license or took the class. I write a lot of crime fiction and simply need to know more about firearms.

Ridiculous

Monday I answered a summons for jury duty. Different states handle this in different ways. Here in Nueces County, citizens report to the Central Jury room and wait, sometimes for hours, sometimes all day, for the court personnel to sort potential jurors into groups. The groups are then assigned to pending cases. Jury candidates might proceed immediately to a courtroom or be instructed to return at a future date at which point attorneys will select jurors from the pool of candidates.

OK, “ridiculous” is a little harsh but it can be tedious. I get summoned at least every other year and occasionally more often so I’ve been through the drill many times. To make some use of the waiting time I bring a book to read or one of my works-in-progress to write. And at least one occasion has provided material to put in my Story Ideas file.

So there you have it. Three experience-packed days all of which yielded grist for the story mill. Now all that’s left is the writing.

 

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The Zen Detective by Devorah Fox @devorah_fox #BookReview

January 5, 2019

via The Zen Detective by Devorah Fox @devorah_fox #BookReview

My author self got a great boost. Not one but two new reviews for “The Zen Detective.” I am delighted by the way this book elicits such different reactions. Some see it as noir, some think it’s funny. But everyone’s entertained so no complaints.

Happy New Year

January 4, 2019

A year ago I had my house listed for sale and was consumed with finding a new place to live. I sold the house, the closing date approached, and I still didn’t have a new address. For a while there it looked like I and my two cats and my characters would be homeless. Truly. I was quite desperate. At the last minute, I found a place with the right spaces for us all. Sorting and shredding and packing and moving and unpacking proved more stressful and time-consuming than I would have imagined.

But it’s a new year, new ambitions, and writing projects galore. I plan to have new reads for you to enjoy in 2019.

Despite my new full-time job of getting myself relocated I managed to get some writing done. In “Lady Blackwing Earns Her Moniker,” the heroine of my Fantasy/Science Fiction mini tackles a new adventure. This story is one of several in the “Beyond the Mask” superhero anthology. Launching Jan. 29, 2019 it’s available for preorder. I’m especially pleased to be a part of this project. Proceeds from your purchase will go to Alex’s Lemonade Stand to benefit childhood cancer research. So you’ll not only enjoy some entertaining reads, you’ll be a superhero yourself.

Beyond the Mask, A Fiction-Atlas Superhero Anthology

Murder by the Book by Devorah FoxI made time to do National Novel Writing Month in November. This was my eighth writing marathon. I worked on a new adventure for Candy Wadsen, the heroine of “Murder by the Book,” a mystery mini. I hope to have “Dying to Get Hung” out for you before the year ends.

Ah, the things we authors do in pursuit of verisimilitude. Tune in next week for a report on my upcoming “learning experiences.” Meanwhile, I hope 2019 is off to a good start for you.

Do you believe in #magic?

September 11, 2018

When your world has been blown apart, and you must bring the magic that puts it back together.

 

An Ill Wind by Devorah Fox
Inspired by true events: #Hurricane Harvey, which made international headlines, and one that probably didn’t make it to your news feed. But, like all good fiction writers, I found myself thinking, “What if it didn’t end that way. What if …?”

An Ill Wind is among the captivating #Fantasy stories in The Magic Book of Wands anthology. It’s available for preorder now and then when it’s released on October 31 it will appear in your Kindle. Like magic!

The Magical Book of Wands

The Quest for the Missing Muse: Victory

July 10, 2018

That was a relatively short and painless quest. I encountered no murderous hordes, terrifying dragons, or quicksand. Which would have made a great story and while I’m not writing that one, I am writing. For a while there the act of writing seemed so foreign. I couldn’t remember how it felt to do it, and couldn’t picture doing it again. I wondered what would I do with myself if I wasn’t writing.

However, the advice to break through a writer’s block by writing proved valuable. I reconnected with my writing self enough to sign up for the July Camp NaNoWriMo writing challenge. I’ve unearthed a project that I began last year. A nearly complete first draft, the story has a beginning and an end but needs more middle. I’m patching plot holes and fleshing out secondary characters.

So, you writers, take comfort. Should you find yourselves blocked, try doing what I did. Write. Write anything. Don’t worry if it’s any good, if it will ever be finished, or if anyone else will ever see it. Just write. It worked for me and I’m calling this quest finished, with thanks to all those who rooted for me while I was on the trail. Now I’m on a new mission: to achieve the Camp NaNoWriMo goal that I set for myself, and to complete that novel.

The Quest for the Missing Muse: Memory Problems

June 26, 2018
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This could be working.

To reconnect with my missing Muse and reestablish my writing habit, I charged myself with writing to a daily prompt. The intent of writing every day was to break whatever dam was blocking my creativity.

Today I won’t be posting what I wrote to the daily prompt. I haven’t done it. (I’m going to be optimistic and say I haven’t done it yet.) It was to list foods that remind me of summer and to describe them using all senses. It would be a good exercise but I’m finding that these prompts result in writing that’s memoir-ish, and not satisfying.

I’m not cut out to be a memoirist. The joke among my friends is that if it happened more than three weeks ago, I don’t remember. That’s proving to be a handicap for logging in to Web sites. Security protocols ask who my high school mascot was, what street I lived on when I was six years old, what bank gave me my first car loan, and I can’t answer those questions. I have to keep a cheat sheet of the responses which pretty much defeats the whole point.

Writing every day could be having a positive effect, though.  I find myself called to revisit a story that I began last March and never finished. It’s been so long since I worked on it, I don’t recall all the details. Instead of writing to today’s prompt, I’m rereading what I wrote (about 25,000 words) to refresh my memory and pick up where I left off.

I’m not ready to say I’ve found my Muse. I don’t feel that irresistible compulsion to write. My characters still aren’t talking to me. Maybe, though, there’s a crack in that dam.

Quest for the Missing Muse: “Cowboy”

June 25, 2018

To reconnect with my missing Muse and reestablish my writing habit, I charged myself with writing to a daily prompt. I happened to have an ancient (December 2000) edition of Writer’s Digest magazine with 365 prompts. The guidelines are to write about 75 words. I needn’t worry about whether the writing is any good, or if the story will ever be finished much less developed further. The goal simply is to write, every day.

One prompt seems to have caught fire. I worked on it all weekend and I plan to keep working on it. It stemmed not from a daily prompt, but an old Writer’s Digest monthly challenge, “Your Assignment #131” from that same edition, and also a writer’s group prompt. We were to write to the one word, “cowboy.” I didn’t want to write about cowboys but you can see that I got the job done, in a way. I won’t have to show up at the next meeting empty-handed. 

Assignment #131 was to stage a meeting between two famous heroes (or villains) and imagine their conversation. Here’s the start of what may be a work in progress. Working title,  Cowboy:

Superman bit into the bagel. Warmed by the toasted bread underneath, the soft, smooth cream cheese topping slid across his tongue. The bagel took a little work, the dense and chewy texture not yielding to his teeth without a fight. It required concentration, the application of a degree of superhuman strength to overcome the resistance. He didn’t remember having to do that as a young man.

No problem with his sense of smell, though. The pleasing aromas of sliced onions, peppery pastrami, and tangy pickled herring wafted from the deli counter.

The waitress appeared at his elbow, a carafe of caffeinated coffee in one hand, decaf in the other. “Top up?” she asked.

“Thanks, Diana.” he replied but he didn’t need the name tag pinned to her pink uniform to identify her. In her prime she too had fought for justice. Now white haired and slowed by aching joints, she was the civilian Diana Prince. All that remained of her career as Wonder Woman were the metal cuffs around her wrists.

“I can get away with it,” she explained once. “People just assume that The Bracelets of Submission are statement jewelry.”

“Why do old … err, older women wear such big jewelry?” he asked.

“Dainty pieces get lost in those saggy skin folds,” was her sardonic reply.

Superman reached for the sugar dispenser and knocked over the salt shaker which poured a small crystalline cone onto the Formica table. “Oh, crap,” he grumbled.

“Don’t have a cow. Boy, are you touchy today.” Diana wiped the spill with a rag.

“I didn’t used to be a klutz,” he said.

“And I didn’t used to have arthritis,” she replied. “I used to heal in an instant.”

“Being a demigod isn’t the same as being immortal.”

“Don’t I know it,” said Thor. “We do age. We do … die. I’m not the man I once was. Less God of Thunder, more Mr. Jane Foster these days.”