Tuesday, June 28, 2011

First Look: Mystic Selwood

As fate would have it, I've begun work on a sequel to "West of the Warlock," the Fantasy Western which will be released later this summer by Hall Brothers Entertainment.  The second book will pick up where the first one leaves off, and is tentatively entitled "Mystic Selwood;" mystic, because of the magical aspects, and Selwood for the name of the town where most of the story takes place.

I have other stories to write, as well, though this one has asked me to write it.  Yes, the story itself jumped up out of the shadows, back-handed me across both cheeks, and said, "Get me down on paper!"  Seriously, though, I had considered a sequel to this story (as I do with pretty much anything I write), and the other night I had a peculiar dream that played out the opening sequences to the tale.  As I "watched" the dream unfold, the entire plot came to mind, so now I have a pretty good idea of what will be happening in this second installment of "The West The Way It Wasn't."

An 1873 Winchester
Musket will feature
prominently in
"Mystic Selwood."
It may be a little early to release information about a sequel-in-progress (even before the first volume hits the market) but here's a quick promo anyway:

A hideous monster lurks in the southern Nevada desert.  It has slaughtered a trainload of passengers, and kidnapped the fiancĂ©e of the Mayor of Selwood's son.  Many mysteries surround the strange abduction, and it is up to warlock sheriff James Doliber and his dwarven deputy, Ron Grimes, to solve the case and save the day.  But as incriminating answers begin to surface about the local powers that be, can these eclectic law men hope to maintain order without condemning an innocent woman to death?

Now that's something to look forward to.  I can't say when this sequel will be finished, or when it'll be released, but it shouldn't be too long if "West of the Warlock" is a big success.   Spread the word, and stay tuned for more information about both Fantasy Western stories.  It's time for magic on the wild frontier!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Starscaper's Tale (Minstrel Mondays)

About the time I wrote the poem "Patented DNA," I threw together this other little freestyle piece, about the more distant future.  Again, it tells a tale of science fictional proportions, but it's not quite as eloquent as some of my other stuff.  Have a look, and see what you think...  Can you see the story in your mind's eye?

A Starscaper flew on
Ten millennia from now,
The last starship built back home.
The Earth had long since fallen
To many cosmic conquests.
Yet ten centuries past tomorrow,
American souls soldiered on.

Reaching a fertile orb
Sixty-seven light years away,
The children of men who refused to be slaves
Went out to found a new nation.
They'd journeyed so long.
Ten centuries ago,
They'd barely known the touch
Of their home planet's moon.
Now they'd gone beyond
A thousand worlds like their own.
So many alien lands
Of frightful creations, deadly aliens,
And bacteria that ate through ships' hulls.

Captain Richard E. Sloan,
Aboard Starscapers born and raised,
Led a charge to chart a new home.
Old when he first touched the surface
Of the only planet he'd ever know.
He sought to found a colony
His folks could call their own,
But they were not alone.

Another race, so strange, yet alike,
Muscular as horses, yet smooth like silk,
Skins glittered in prismatic colors,
Still their eyes were akin to ours.
Alien hearts grew warm when men came around
Who shared superior technology.

Ambitious dreams and schemes
Even the aliens could conceive
To build a space fleet,
To fight enemies unseen.
The Prismatons were eager to help
When it promised to benefit their children so.

Good tidings held strong for twenty long years
Until enemies came from the sky.
The Bizahn cruisers covered the horizon,
Seeking the blood of mankind's survivors.
The lizard-like things,
Bones protruding through their skins,
Leapt out of their landing craft
With a hiss designed to frighten
Seasoned soldiers who'd survived
Many a deadly fight.
The poison of fangs killed fast,
Yet the humans with their alien hosts
Stood side by side to die.

The worst blow came
Captain Sloan was maimed,
With a single Bizahn bite he was slain.
And a million stars cried
When the old Captain died,
For his fate foretold a future so bare.
No man could survive here
Where Bizahn hunted planet-side
The order was given to flee
Back to the stars.
Somewhere else man would try
To once more thrive.

Before the last boarding call,
The aliens bid them farewell
And thanked them for their technology.
In a thousand years, they might
Join mankind in the firefight
To raise civilized beings back
To their proper place.
On the galactic scene
It was only an instant away.

With a sparkle of light,
The Starscaper flew into eternal night,
Leaving another world poisoned with knowledge.
I could be properly said
They'd been scientifically dead,
Until man's touch brought their minds to life.

Creative insight:
Humanity's gift to star-children
Forever fighting against the night.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dining Etiquette at the Counts Farm

James Wilson Counts was my great-great grandfather, born November 14, 1856, the son of Sylvester Tobias Counts and Mary Ann Wilson.  He grew up in more formal times in Ohio, and later moved to Kansas where he owned a 160 acre farm near Baldwin City and raised his 6 children, one of which was my semi-famous great-grandfather, George Sylvester Counts.
James Wilson Counts
Circa 1901

From what I've learned, James was a strict man, who adhered to a polite code of conduct.  He expected human beings to behave in a certain manner, and it was uncouth or even sinful to deviate from these patterns. George S. Counts had an interesting story he liked to share concerning his father, and he used it as something of an object lesson.

Harvest time, circa 1900:  The Counts farm hired a few field hands to help bring in the crops.  They purportedly paid well, despite the low income of the farm, so there was no shortage of volunteers.  These seasonal hands ate with the family as honored guests, and were expected to behave as any guest would in those times.
During lunch one day, one of the farm hands wanted to get a roll from a basket that was just out of reach.  James asked that one of the other people seated at the table kindly pass the rolls, but the impertinent farm hand claimed "I can get it," took out his knife, and stabbed a roll with the extra length of the blade making up the distance.  A dead silence fell over the table, and the stabber was fired on the spot.  He was banned forever from the Counts farm for his brash behavior.

This is one of many stories my father heard as a child, one he failed to take to heart.  Unlike James, my father was never so puritanical, and would be more the sort to stab the roll than fire an employee for helping himself.  Strict behavior seems to be something society in general has abandoned these days.

This was something George S. Counts used as a cautionary tale, advocating his descendants toward order, so I can't say if it's 100% accurate.  It does seem like the sort of attitude that God-fearing Methodist farmers would've had during the turn of the last century, so I wouldn't doubt if it actually happened more or less the way it was told.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Our Lucky Winner

Okay, it's been long enough.  The winner of my "Not for Resale" promotional giveaway was drawn on June 4th, and after a few late emails on both sides I've finally gotten everything together and sent the prize to Chris Anderson.  His name was the one drawn from the hat, and I hope he enjoys this book a great deal.  It's being shipped all the way to Australia, which is something I've done before, though rarely.  It's nice to win fans in far flung places.

As promised, the book has been marked "Not for Resale" in several places, as well as being signed.  Also, on the back of the front cover I wrote the following, to help prevent anyone from cashing in on my charity:

This book has been given away for free by the author.  It is not to be sold for profit.  It may be given away to others who wish to read it, if the owner so desires.

Anyone who seeks to make money by selling this copy of Virtual Wiles shall be cursed.  Their eyes shall go blind, and their fortune shall be blown to the wind.  These are the least of the thousand curses which will be visited upon them!  Profiteers are hereby warned!

I sincerely hope you enjoy reading this fantasy adventure. –Martin.

So, if that doesn't stop them, nothing will.  Of course, having a personal inscription like this from the author might just increase the book's desirability someday, and spur a bidding war.  Well, if I'm ever famous enough, that one of my books will be worth significantly more because of my personal warnings, I will publicly rescind the curse.

Remember, anyone who buys a book can do anything they want with it afterwards with my blessing... well, almost anything.  So, buy my books.  You'd spend more for lunch at some fast food joint, and isn't hours of reading worth more than some greasy sludge that'll clog your arteries?  Read, don't die!

Have a great weekend.

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Kind of Message

A lot of songs don't really mean much of anything.  Sure, most of them say something, though it's often "I love you," or "I want you," or "Life sucks, pass the bottle" (that seems to be the common theme of much poetry, as well).  Yet, among the myriad array of musical morass, there are those songs which send my kind of message.  Sometimes, there just comes a song that speaks to me on a unique level, and makes me feel a sort of kinship with the lyricist.

Here are a few songs with messages that have touched me in some way or another.  See if any of them have an impact on your psyche.

8: Old Time Rock & Roll –Bob Seger
In this era of cRap music, whiny divas, and lousy beats, I often find myself feeling just like this song.  Most of the stuff I like to listen to was made years ago, and modern music generally leaves me shaking my head.
"I like that old time Rock and Roll!"

7: Bad Attitude –Meat Loaf
A song of rebellion and non-conformity, which cuts both ways.  It reflects a lot of my feelings about this 9 to 5 world, and the cookie-cutter mentality of society in general.  And it gives an often overlooked truth:  The most famous people in the world are those who busted out of the mold and did it their way.
"Every hero was once, every villain was once, just a boy with a bad attitude."

6: The Story in Your Eyes –The Moody Blues
This song has always held a bit of truth for me, and it reflects some of the way the world seems to be more often than not.
"Listen to the tide slowly turning, wash all our heartaches away.  We're part of the fire that is burning, and from the ashes we can live another day."
Buy @ Amazon:  The Story In Your Eyes

5: Dancing in The Dark –Bruce Springsteen
Sometimes, I can really relate to the theme of this song, of being stuck in a rut and wishing to bust out of it.  Standing still and waiting for "action" can really be a strain.
"You sit around getting older.  There's a joke here somewhere and it's on me."
Buy @ Amazon: Dancing In The Dark

4: I'll Be There –Starship
This last song of their final album is a hidden gem.  A hardcore song of love and devotion, which can be applied to so many situations.  This serves as the unofficial theme song for The Rogue Investigations.
"I'll be there for you when hope seems thin and your chances are few."
Buy @ Amazon: I'll Be There

3: There's A Place –The Beatles
One of their earliest and shorter songs.  In the grand scheme of things, it is somewhat weak compared to many other Beatles classics, but the underlying message of the song earns it a special place with me.  A lot of different bands have done covers of this one, though there's no beating the fab four's original!
"There is a place where I can go when I feel low, when I feel blue, and it's my mind, and there's no time when I'm alone."

2: Getting to The Point –Electric Light Orchestra
Written to reflect Jeff Lynne's feelings about his band dissolving, this song also has a deeper meaning about the world at large.  I often look out at this chaotic world, and feel exactly like this song.
"It's getting to the point where nobody can stop it now.  It's getting to the point of no return, and all that I can do is stand and watch it now.  Watch it burn, burn, burn."
Buy @ Amazon: Getting To The Point

1: Don't Wait for Heroes –Dennis DeYoung
A lot of people know him as the pianist singer/songwriter for Styx, though Dennis DeYoung's solo career has produced a few message gems, as well.  This first song from his Desert Moon album speaks to those of us who still cling to creative dreams, of fame and fortune in our selective fields.
"Winners are losers who got up and gave it just one more try."
Buy @ Amazon: Don't Wait For Heroes

That about sums it up; eight songs that send a message that has touched my heart.  I've put links to those that I could find available on Amazon.  They don't have any Beatles or Seger for sale as individual MP3 songs, and Meat Loaf's "Bad Attitude" is probably too obscure (the Bad Attitude album has been out of production for years, which is a real shame, since it's one of his best).  Enjoy these songs wherever you may find them.

So, what are some songs that have impacted your life?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sneak Preview: West of The Warlock

As the official release of "West of The Warlock" draws closer, I'm going to throw out more information about this exciting story, so readers can glean greater insight into the Fantasy Western concept.  It never hurts for people to know what they're going to get; at least, not when what they're going to get is action-packed adventure!

Here's the first Author's Promo, which I threw together for fans and prospective reviewers:

Nevada 1882:  Ron Grimes never wanted to be a law officer.  This middle-aged dwarf came to the arid trading hub of Selwood to avenge his brother's murder, but ended up in the service of the county sheriff, who also happens to be a certified warlock.  Tricked into Sheriff Doliber's service, Deputy Grimes finds himself pitted against one adversary after another, from pretentious elves to supernatural bandits, and a dark sorcerer whose abilities rival sanity.  Throughout it all, Ron will learn what it means to protect and serve on the wild frontier, where guns and magic coexist and race relations take on a whole new meaning.

I hope that's enough to whet your appetite for the main event.  Keep following this blog for more great hints and previews, and for the official release date at Hall Brothers Entertainment!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Walking Dead (Season 1) -Review

I've been a bit under the weather since Saturday with a particularly nasty cold virus, so I'm throwing this together at the last minute.  I have a few pre-written posts in reserve, but none that fit the Wednesday Reviews feature, so this one is fresh and raw—kinda like my throat!

I had the chance to see the first season of "The Walking Dead" a while back.  I'm not usually big on zombies, or horror in general, though this series has a lot more to offer than your average gore-fest.  It's not so much a horror story, as a post-apocalyptic tale of survival, and there is serious character development present throughout.  Yes, there is still plenty of bloody violence, and zombies get shot in every episode, so those who like the more traditional form of zombentertainment will no doubt enjoy this, as well.

Another thing to appreciate is the attempt to explain the zombie apocalypse through scientific means.  Though the first season doesn't get too in-depth, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions, it is clear there is a sci-fi explanation behind the walking dead.  They didn't just crawl out of the grave to eat people, and there isn't magic afoot.  I expect the plausible cause will continue to evolve as the series goes forward.

The series started out as a comic book, though I haven't read it...  What?  Right, sorry, they're "graphic novels."  Hey, the industry started calling them that when I was a kid, trying to make them sound grown up or classy, but they're all still comic books!  There's nothing wrong with that.  Anyway, I haven't read the original story, and therefore get to watch the suspenseful surprises of this intriguing series without any foreknowledge of what's to come.

My only major complaint regards the length of the season.  It's so short, you can hardly call it a "season."  I really hope that AMC can find the money to make the next season a little longer.  Hey, they could give us at least ten episodes a year, right?

I'll rate the first season 4 out of 5 stars.  It's very well done, the acting is spot-on, and the stories are very engaging.  Let's see more shows like this!

Monday, June 20, 2011

North Street Blues

It's on a theme akin to Lennon/McCartney's "In My Life" or "A Day in The Life," where the song paints a picture of a particular time and place from the author's perspective.  In this case, it details life on the route I take to and from work on most days.  We see little bits of landscape, and the people along the way.  We also have some personal reflections, and just a touch of misery and hope commingling.  Take a moment to peer over the wheel of my old Ford pickup and see the normalcy of North Street!

Purple pants walking down the road
All dressed up from head to toe
They said he's a man
But nobody really knows
In the 21st century
It doesn't pay to care

Skeletal man with stubble on his face
Sucking down a cigarette
His life's a disgrace
He has four children by as many wives
Was he ever really married?
The lawyers never seem to mind

Turn the corner onto North Street
See the postman walking his beat
See the sausage man cooking his meat
But not the meat he exposes
Down on South Street
The cops turn the other cheek

Watch the tellers at the bank
Fork over cash every day of the week
Yet none of it their own
It's an honest living they seek
Contrasted with the risky drivers
Every morning getting high
They cut you off in traffic
And they're paid by the mile!

Potholes galore whipping 'round the bend
Skip both ends of Boardman Street
To find the world's worst traffic circle
An architectural wet dream
You wonder when some poor driver
Will meet his bitter end
Then the causeway through a pristine swamp
Sends Eagles into flight
They love to eat the neighbor's cats
Every single night

Your muffler falls off
You roll to a stop
As the Mercedes' drive by
You have to stop and wonder
How the armchairs do it
A new trade-in every year
While you'll be driving the same jalopy
Until the end of time
The complex cost of upkeep alone
Costs you every thin dime

What is it for?
This struggle that we're part of
You always want more
But you've got everything that you need
So long as you're a simple man
Seeking nothing greater
Than the clothes on your back
And three square meals a day
For those of you with larger brains
It sucks to be us
Get used to it

You turn in every night
Tired, but all right
Safe in the knowledge that
You've got an honest life
Opportunities abound
For the crooks and the clowns
But you'll win the fair fight
Or at least break even
In search of the light

Friday, June 17, 2011

What Will Be Remembered?

"Normal is what everyone else is, and you are not."

I often find myself reflecting on the limits of life in general, and it is not something that pleases me.  Allow me to depress you for a moment with my philosophical musings.

Pick up any phonebook in America or across the globe.  Ask yourself, what does almost every person in that book have in common, other than the fact that they are human beings of one sort or another.  I'll tell you.  The cold hard truth of the matter is, the only thing they have in common is that they will be forgotten.  In 100 years, nobody will care to remember who they were or what they did, least of all what they did for a living.  Nobody will care that they laid bricks, or hauled cargo.  Nobody will remember the nails they used to build a house, or the tireless hours they worked at the shipyard to feed their families.  No one will recall the hours they stocked shelves at Walmart, or the days they spent shining shoes.  Nobody will care they even existed, except for a handful of oddball descendants who might look back with limited fondness, not really knowing anything about their ancestor's life.  It is a cold, unforgiving fact of this mortal existence.

It is a curse to feel the mediocrity of life, and to look at what we do as a society in general.  I find myself asking, what do most of us really accomplish?  What are we doing these days, other than existing?  Humanity has stagnated in so many ways, and the vast majority of people don't do anything but consume and perpetuate this meaningless state of entropy.  We have come to merely exist, enjoying a few thrills here and there, and feeding off the innovations of a handful, rather than seeking a grandeur purpose.  The spirit of life has become stale in our own complacency and decadence.

This is one motivation for my career in writing.  I have come to rage against the candle's spark, seeking to carve myself into the memory of time with the written word.  I don't want to be another name in somebody's family bible a hundred years from now.  I don't want to be "great-grandpa Martin" who did such and such for a living his entire life, serving other people who themselves did nothing to advance the boundaries of human consciousness.  I wish to do something more.

If there is to be any purpose to this human life, it must be for the advancement of knowledge.  To expand our understanding of the universe is something worthy of God's creation.

I find myself limited in my ability to learn only by my finances and societal situation.  That is my great tragedy.  I was young and foolish not very long ago, and did nothing to set myself in a position that would give me the opportunity to professionally perpetuate my mental condition.  Even so, I remain reluctant to accept my current station, and that is why I am not as prosperous as I likely could be.  I cannot be content to labor constantly in obscurity, and as such I do not fit myself into a common role among men.  I don't pursue my career with the vim and vigor required for monetary prosperity.  Instead, I do what I must to survive, and continue to fight to make my mark through the only venue offered to me: my works of literature.

I expect a good many people might think me vain, as they do not see the world in such a way, and they're content in the way of things.  They can live happily in their commonplace life, providing for their families and partaking of the simple pleasures around them.  They can find it peaceful to be locked into a specialized task, doing the same thing day in and day out, so long as it pays the bills.  But that sort of life is alien to me, and ever shall be.  I understand and respect that sort of existence, but it's one I can never enjoy in my own heart and soul.  I'm just not built that way.

So, where does that leave me?  Some would rightly say that makes me a weirdo or just plain insane.  Well, so be it.  Call me crazy for wanting to be remembered as more than just a name, and call me a lunatic for daring to challenge my fate.  I will not chain myself to a shallow life of working nine to five until I die.  I work as I must, but never shall I relish it, nor will I conform as most others do to become a piece of human machinery in the commune of a stagnant society.

Never let them say I was a forgettable man.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Stargate Universe (Season 2 DVD) -Review

I received the Stargate Universe Season 2 DVD set last week (Amazon Pre-Order), and have had the chance to watch all twenty episodes, and most of the bonus material.  After watching season 1, I wasn't sure how this next installment would fare, but I'm pleased to see it surpassed my greatest expectations.

The first season was a little drab compared to the other Stargate series.  Though it had some high points with episodes like "Space," and "Time," there were duds like "Life."  It wasn't as exciting as SG-1 and Atlantis were from the start, and the characters took longer to develop.  Other than that, there were times where I couldn't empathize with the lead characters.  Colonel Young wasn't a very good leader in the beginning, and Lieutenant Scott was too much of a horn dog to respect.  Chloe didn't have much of a purpose to begin with, and Rush was easy to hate until the revelations of "Human" gave him an understandable back story.  Yet, by the end of Season 1, the characters were fleshed out enough, and they were enjoyable to watch for the most part.

Where the first season may have come up short, the second season sought to make up for it, and I think they did a great job.  Though there were still a few slow episodes, most of them were stimulating, both from a cerebral viewpoint and a raw action/adventure stance.  The last 10 episodes were exceptional, bringing the show up to the same entertainment standards of SG-1 & Atlantis (or perhaps even higher).

I hate that Universe has been cancelled, and I really wish it would come back someday.  The way the second season ended, there is great potential for that to happen if anyone ever dares to try, though in these financially uncertain times I don't know if that will ever come to pass.  Who knows, in 3 years, maybe someone will revive the series and pick up where they left off.  I would do it if there was any possible way.  Hey, MGM, I can make you money, try me!  If given the chance, any number of creative people could save Stargate Universe, but will they ever be given that chance?

Overall, season 2 of SGU gets 4 out of 5 stars.  The back ten get a full five stars, but there were still a few weak points in the first half; nothing horrible, though there were other seasons of Stargate that I liked a little more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Law Dwarf (Minstrel Mondays)

As we move closer to unveiling my much anticipated Fantasy Western serial, I'll be working up some interesting promotional material for your perusal.  The first such item is this little ditty I threw together, sort of a theme song for the upcoming saga.

Steel may be swift
But lead is deadlier
When the deputy comes to town
Boron Grimes, four foot zero
Sharpest eye in the West

His friends call him Ron
But his enemies call him nothing
After he's done them in
When challenged by scum
You know he's going to get him some blood

The elves may laugh at
The diminutive fellow
But not after tasting his aim
And all the ladies cry
Over the hairy little man
Who puts an end to their games
Their best clients lie dead in the cold, cold ground
For you know how the outlaw types
All like to streetwalking gals

Shoot 'em dead
As soon as they draw
But never without just cause
And when magic's involved
Grimes makes the call
To his boss, the warlock sheriff
James Doliber pinned the star
On the dwarf with the lethal revolver
He knows his own limitations

The antique Remington
Is the dwarf's weapon
A cap and ball design
Nobody laughs
that he hasn't updated
When he can part hairs at a thousand paces

Respected by the righteous
Feared by the rest
The notorious dwarf at high noon
You'd best take your leave
Of the criminal scene
Or the undertaker will be meeting you soon

The preferred handgun of Ron Grimes:
1858 Remington Army .44 Caliber

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Shenanigans: We Be Taggin'

Fellow Science Fiction writer Ellie Garratt was kind enough to tag me on Friday, so I now get to answer some frivolous questions and spread the wealth by tagging more bloggers who will no doubt thank me for the opportunity to do the same!

Okay, here we go:

1. Do you think you're hot?

My wife does, and that's all that really matters.

2. Upload a picture or wallpaper you're using at the moment.

This is the picture I'm currently using as my desktop wallpaper.  It's a shelf I stained & varnished last winter, and it sits at the bottom of a set of brick stairs in my home.

3. When was the last time you ate chicken meat?

Thursday.  I pan-fried some boneless breast fillets (lightly breaded) on Tuesday, and took pieces for lunch on-the-job.

4. The song you listened to recently.

Right now, as I'm writing this, my Windows Media Player is on random, and came up with "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For," by U2.  I have a bunch of different music in my system (all from genuinely licensed CDs, no illegal downloads for me!).

5. What were you thinking when you were doing this?

I was thinking "How am I going to finish the latest short story I started a few days ago,"  "What am I going to eat for breakfast?"  "Maybe I should brag about how I don't download illegal music,"  "My back hurts,"  "I wish Stargate Universe hadn't been cancelled," and "Perhaps I should clear the junk off my desk one of these days."  Phew!  That was just one particular moment.  My brain multitasks!

6. Do you have nicknames? What are they?

I really don't have any contemporary nicknames, though the nastier kids in grade school used to call me "groundhog" and various other insults (since my father built our house half-underground).  Sometimes I use "Martinus" as name on internet forums.

7. Tag eight bloggers.

A whole eight?  Nah, I think I'll knock the number down a little (I dare to rebel).  So, I'm going to do six, and see how that works.  If I happen to tag anyone who has already been tagged, oh well.  Also, if for whatever reason you six don't feel like playing along with this exercise, feel free to skip it (not all of us can be wild and wacky with these things).

Matt Nord
Gerald Costlow
Alva J. Roberts
Mike Wood
D. Nathan Hilliard

8. A few questions about your tagged friends... 

Who's listed as number one?

Matt Nord, horror writer extraordinaire.  We met over at the Pill Hill Press forum last year.

Say something about number five.

Mike Wood's another writer (notice a trend here) who I encountered during the ABNA contest.  He's quite a character when he wants to be.

How did you get to know number three?

"Sailor" Kenshin and I both moderated a discussion forum years ago, and we've been online friends ever since.  Besides being into pens and knitting, she's a talented writer, and also does some nice artwork.  One of her paintings serves as the cover for the Amazon.com edition of "The Rogue Investigations."

How about number four?

Alva's another fine writer I met through Pill Hill Press.  His wife Jessy runs the place, and did a great job editing The Guns of Mars.  Alva designed the cover for it.

Leave a message for number six.

Hey, Nathan, how's the sequel to The Ways of Khrem coming along (or is it)?

Leave a lovey-dovey message for number two.

Who am I, Anthony Weiner?  Forget it!

Do numbers seven and eight have any similarities?

Yeah, they don't exist (he he).

That's enough fun for one Saturday morning.  Have a great weekend, everyone!

Friday, June 10, 2011

When School Boards Attack

On June 1st, my little town of Robbinston had an important school board meeting.  Word was, they were going to close our grade school, which currently educates our K-8 kids.  Thankfully, that potential tragedy was averted, but it took 3 hours of debate and citizen outrage before the decision was finally made to keep the school running and begin budgeting.

After the meeting, I wrote the following letter that was published by local papers:

The latest Robbinston School Board meeting was certainly spirited.  Though, that's bound to happen when the school is threatened with closure.  I'm glad to say we avoided that unsightly circumstance, and that our little school will continue to give our kids a quality education in the coming year.

The harsh reality is, Robbinston property taxes will be going up, but this is not because our School Board decided to keep the school open.  In fact, it would actually cost several thousand dollars more in tuition to send our kids to another school, not to mention the cost of either maintaining or bulldozing the existing school building after we closed it.  The State mandated us to raise more money for the school this year (courtesy of School District Consolidation).  So, we're looking at a 7 mill property tax increase, no matter what.

The big question many of you may have is, if it'll cost less to keep the school open, why was the School Board proposing that we close it?  Well, they technically weren't.  They wanted to put it out to referendum, and let the voters decide, though that was a very risky thing considering the common perception that closing the school would somehow save money.  It wouldn't, and we'd be throwing away our local control if we ever did abolish our school.

We elected our School Board to make tough decisions, and that is what they did.  While they came into the meeting poised to send the closure referendum out to the voters, they heard the cry of the people in attendance, saw reason, and did their jobs.  The board eventually voted 2-1 to keep the school running and begin the next year's budget. 

When it comes down to it, the School Board had no desire to close our school.  Rather, they decided to use the threat of closure as a terror tactic, to get people's attention.  The board wanted to educate the voters about the ultimate costs involved with educating our children, and let them know they'll be paying either way.

Putting school closure on the ballot would have been a risky gamble, and I'm glad they recanted from it.  The Robbinston Grade School really is the core of our community, one of the last remaining pieces of infrastructure our town has.  To discard it would be foolhardy and devastating to the future of our community.