Compost Happens

Yes, I recycle. Even as far back as my lonely childhood in the backwoods workhouse for parentless children I recycled. The instinct was there in my genetic makeup since I certainly wasn’t encouraged to by anyone around me. This was way back in the last millennium when only hippies did so and our president could say without political consequences that “A tree is a tree. If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.”

There were no recycling centers beyond the local store (five miles away) who would redeem glass soda bottles for a dime. This did not count for much with me since I had neither access to sodas nor the store. But I would do things like make scrolls out of the large paper bags the cow feed came in and reuse old nails from the fallen down fences to use in my tree forts.

I still recycle aggressively, and I still find unique ways to reuse. I’m not just talking about aluminum cans and office paper. I am a remodeling contractor, so in a sense. I’m recycling houses. All the scrap comes home with me. Anything reusable, like fixtures, go to Habitat for humanity. Scrap wood gets made into toys, or firewood, depending on quality. Rotten, non-burnable wood goes in the composters or becomes them.

Compost is one of the biggest productions that happens in my back yard. Because of the Texas heat, we chose to live in a house surrounded by large trees to help with cooling. As a result, we have an inordinate amount of leaves to deal with. This requires an equivalent amount of composting. All my neighbors just stuff them in plastic bags to go to the land fill, a practice of almost criminal waste.

After many experiments I have finally developed a simple way to handle my scrap lumber and composting at the same time. Using 2x material 4-5 feet long, I stack them alternately to form a sort of log cabin box. I can fill the interior with compostable material and build it as high as I need to. The gaps between the boards leaves plenty of room for aeration. Regular watering speeds up decomposition. When it is time to turn the compost, all I need to do is use the same wood and build a new one, transferring the top of the enclosure and the compost to the bottom of the new pile. As a result, my yard is much neater and the soil vastly improved without the need to import fertilizers.

For me, every day is earth day. How about you?


Here is my response to Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge, writing a story in only three sentences.


I need a smoke, but they won’t let me light up in this oxygen-filled hospital room. I probably have enough time to get to the smoking section and enjoy a cigarette. That is, if I can get out of this iron lung.

When Desperate Housewives Call Me

It can be difficult to make a living as a writer. That is why I moonlight when I can. Desperate women from all over the Austin area call me to come over and do for them what their husbands can’t or won’t. They pay me well to satisfy the one real need they have for a strong man who knows what he is doing, and they get it without all the bother or commitment of a relationship. It is also a task I usually enjoy preforming, even if it gets hot and sweaty.

That’s right, I fix things. I also remodel kitchens and bathrooms. I worked construction to pay for college and enjoyed it so much I ended up becoming a general contractor. Okay, there was a little more to it than that. For the equivalent in paperwork and cash as a semester at college, I became a licensed contractor, a member of the California Contractors Association and started a business that earned over 60k in the first year of operation.

But that did not leave much time for writing. So twelve years later I’ve reversed priorities. Being a writer is now my primary occupation. If that is what I want to do with my life, then it must come first. I still do some remodeling, but it gets done around my writing schedule. You have to be who you want to be now. Someday starts today if it is to come at all. What are you doing to follow your dreams?

Flashed Fiction

This is my entry for Chuck Wendig’s writing contest using the following five words in a story under 1000 words: figure, dusk, flirt, mobile phone, and wig. In contests like this I try not to use more than four of the five words in the first sentence.

At dusk, the familiar figure in a bad wig appeared once again to flirt with my imagination. She is my muse, and just in time to interrupt my work on chapter two. She speaks in a voice, soft and sultry.

 “The five words for today’s flash fiction contest have just been texted to your mobile phone. Don’t you want to see what you can do with them?”

I sighed. The challenge was difficult to resist. And it certainly stimulated my imagination. But it seems like they were interrupting my novel too much. Six months and I’m still struggling through the second chapter. Yet I’ve managed to produce a flash fiction piece everyday. But no one buys those. I’m lucky to get them posted for free on obscure websites. It was time to demand answers.

Lying is not exactly a muse’s nature. It is more a matter of wrapping the truth up in layers of myth. But if you demand the truth, they have to give it to you.

“Why are these contests so important to you? Wouldn’t it be better for me to finish a significant work like my novel? As my muse, I would think your efforts would be better spent helping me finish that.”

She smiled at me sadly. “Oh, my poor writer. I am a muse, not your muse. Frankly, your writing is crap and I’m doing my best to keep it from happening.”

National Geographic

On Saturday, I attended the Texas State Jousting tournament which took place in the Village of Sherwood. I do not normally seek out entertainment that involves grown men poking each other with sticks. So when I say attended, what I really mean is that I keep a shop within the village where I sell the books we write and the toys I make. I can see the jousting lists from my doorway.

My shop also happens to be right next to the stables and the gate where the jousters come in and out. On this particular day the back area of my shop and all the surrounding area was crawling with National Geographic film crews. They were there to film the jousting for one of their TV Specials due to be aired this fall. Being a considerate and accommodating creature, I did my best to work around them, and even set up a couple of my chairs for them to use during the day.

Around mid-afternoon I was ready for a break myself and went out back to spend some time in my favorite lounger. This was when I discovered why National Geographic travels all over the world. It’s to get away from the wasted environments they leave in their wake. What I found in my backyard was cheese (I hope) smeared into the seat of my chair. The remains of the offending sandwich and the wrapper had been tossed on the ground nearby despite the large garbage can five feet away. Empty drink containers were scattered liberally around with other bits of random garbage. Before I could sit down and relax I had too wipe down my chair, cover it with a clean cloth, pick up all the garbage in my backyard, and kick the empty drink containers into a pile around their coolers.

But it turned out okay. At the end of the day they gave me a hat to thank me for allowing them to take over and destroy my eco-culture. This is in the civilized tradition of giving representatives of a local culture (i.e. obviously inferior and savage culture because they did not have the benefit of our civilization’s culture) cheap adornments in exchange for taking whatever they want.

If My Opinions Were Humble I Wouldn’t Be Giving Them

About writer’s block: all it is is not knowing how to start. I start anywhere and see where it takes me. Writing is habit forming. Once I get going, I just keep going.

I write because I think about things. I am constantly exploring the world around me with my mind, and writing is a way to make these thoughts tangible. It translates them from a passing fancy into a physical product, often crude and ill-formed at first, but capable of refinement. By rewriting and possibly researching these ideas, I am able to get closer to the truth. I gain a better understanding of the universe around me.

To me, fiction is the language of mythology. Mythology is a way of understanding a basic truth without empirical proof. In the New Testament, they were called parables, but they are the same thing. Jesus told a fictional tale to illustrate an underlying truth. I like to think that by constantly trying to understand the world around me and the people who inhabit it, I have gained some wisdom thereby. If I can pass some of this on to others in an entertaining way, then I have become greater than myself. I have become an active participant in this dance we call life.

I’m afraid I got a little sidetracked. What was the question?


As an indie author I have been interviewed for quite a number of periodicals and websites. I have also read quite a few interviews with other authors. Most of these interviews follow a similar script. And while it may be interesting to know how every writer deals with writers’ block and where they get their ideas from, I would like to see some more probing questions. Let’s get below the surface and try to find some deeper truths. After all, isn’t that what good literature is about?

Here are a few examples of the kind of questions I would like to see asked once in a while:
What makes your writing unique from anything else on the market?
What life lessons do you incorporate into your stories and how?
What message are you trying to impart?
How do you hope readers will be enriched by reading your works?
What can you tell us about your writing that will make the readers of this interview go out and buy your books?

Learning about the writing process of authors can be interesting and helpful, but I would like to hear a little about the reason for writing as well.

What about you dear reader? Do you find interviews fascinating and unique or minor variations on a theme? What about blogs? Did this one interest you or is it time for me to get off my high horse and get back to writing real stories?

Join us next time as I interview myself.

The Orphan Hero

The orphan is a popular archetype. It embodies want, need, desperation, but most importantly, someone without any societal value. Once upon a time this meant rags and hunger, and probably an early death unless their innate goodness melted the hearts of some rich buggers who raised the poor little blighter as their own.

In these modern times, starvation isn’t much of an issue. And while the clothes are hand me downs, they usually aren’t actual rags. Those are worn by the children in third world countries who make the clothes. Finding a sense of self worth, however, is every bit as difficult as it always has been. What is the value of someone who nobody loves, who is never hugged, who is not wanted anywhere, who is surplus to requirement? How can such a child find value in himself?

To complicate matters even further, orphans are typically raised apart from what might be considered normal society. There is no family model. All aspects of their daily lives are governed by a school based system. Discipline is of primary importance. Love often doesn’t make the list. Sometimes these orphanages (which are never called that, but rather something like “The Happy Valley Children’s Home1) have their own schools right on the premises which means the orphans never even associate with children who are not themselves orphans. What then are the child’s options?

Rebellion. That is how the orphans soul survives. Oliver is traded in for the Artful Dodger. By rejecting the values of a society that has rejected him, he recalibrates his self worth to a new paradigm with himself as the model. His importance is increased exponentially. Because he is outside the norm he becomes more important than anyone else. By extrapolation, great things lay in his future. Events will congeal around him. He becomes the hero of the tale. But for every hero, a thousand orphans die in the streets.

Steampunk Physics

Today’s theoretical hypothesis is brought to you by the Backyard Professor. It concerns the nature of opposites. I am entertaining the possibility that the fundamental nature of opposites is that they are, in fact, the same. If we assume that the only constant in the universe is change, then it follows that everything is changeable. However, change happens within a set parameter. Therefore, opposites are simply different aspects of the same thing.

Let’s take light and dark for an example. As humans, we tend to think of darkness as an absence of light. But if we look closer, we see that visible light is simply a narrow range on the electromagnetic wave length spectrum. So far, humans have discovered radiation ranging from a fraction of the size of an atom to thousands of kilometers long. In theory, the range is from infinitely small to the size of the universe itself.

As simple primates, all we experience is light, darkness, and some seemingly unrelated phenomenon like load stones pointing to the north. But with the help of sophisticated measuring equipment, we can see an amazing range of wave particles that fill what appeared to be an empty void. Darkness is not an absence of light; it is a state wherein the wavelengths of the radiation are either too long or too short for us to perceive. Since other creatures and equipment can see or make use of these other wavelengths, then the true nature of light and dark lies not in radiation, but only in our perception of it.

“Join the longer wavelength side, Luke.”

Think about this. If we could lengthen and/or shorten radiation, could we create visible light out of darkness?

I’m not looking at your breasts, I’m reading your T-shirt

When participating in fantasy conventions, one is right where the mainstream falls over the edge into the bizarre and sacrilegious. This is prominently advertised on the myriad T-shirts seen about the place. The range starts with the merely devotional ones that proclaims the wearer’s loyalty to the green lantern or his favorite beer. It then travels through a range of sexy characters to humor where it finally ends with the inside joke. These are the ones requiring the specialized geek knowledge necessary to recognize the foundations of the humor. If you don’t get the joke then you probably didn’t watch the show of read the comic. “And then Buffy staked Edward, The End” is only funny if you are a fan of Buffy and annoyed with Twilight. And lets face it, if you’re at a convention, you probably are.

I don’t deal in T-shirts myself, but I do have my own inside jokes. I have long been known for my vampire slayer kits. Recently, by popular demand, I have added a zombie kit to my inventory. Each Zombie kit includes a Twinkie. About half of my customers ask “why a Twinkie?” The other half burst out with a variation on “oh my god that is so funny.”

Their reaction makes it worth explaining Zombieland to the others.

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