Defiance (2009)

51AJhKR7FHL__UY200_It’s 1941. Germany occupies Belorussia. The Jews are rounded up. Within weeks 50,000 are murdered and a million more will be deported.

Defiance is based on the true story of the Bielski brothers who are credited for saving 1,236 Jews from extermination.

Zus and Asael Bielski return home to find their parents murdered and their youngest brother, Aron, hiding in a cellar with a knife. The three head to a familiar location in the Lipiczanska Forest. That’s where Tuvia, the eldest brother, finds them.

Later, Aron finds a small group of people in the woods. He leads them to his brothers and the brothers agree to let them stay. As time passes more people make their way through the forest and the group grows.

They are all Jewish. All of them are fleeing the Third Reich. Tuvia becomes the leader of the group and welcomes new arrivals. His role comes with heavy responsibilities that he takes very seriously. He puts a system in place to make it easier for the growing community to survive.

Every member of the community has to work. Everyone is assigned to a job. Everyone also learns to use guns. The Germans are hunting them. There are several conflicts between the Bielski Partisans and the Germans.

I’ve watched Defiance several times over the last few years. It is one of my favorites. It’s a very convincing movie and one I recommend.

The Seer’s Choice: A Novella of the Golden City, by J. Kathleen Cheney

Image1A decent novella by J. Kathleen Cheney. The Seer’s Choice: A Novella of the Golden City is set in Europe (I’m not sure if it’s England or Spain or some other country, but it’s definitely Europe.). The year is 1903, so you get that whole Victoria feel.

There are two point-of-view characters, Genoveva and Rafael. Both of them are police officers, but they’re part of a special unit. All the officers in the special unit are witches of sorts. Genoveva is a healer. She has the ability to heal people simply by laying her hands on them. Rafael is a seer and he can see the future, though his visions are not always clear.

A madman is stalking Genoveva. The madman has powers of his own that are apparently deadly. It is believed that he wants to hurt  Genoveva because of what her father did to his son years ago. Genoveva  and Rafael work together and try to capture the madman.

It was a fun read. A nice mystery-fantasy mix. I enjoyed the Victoria setting. Well done.

This song came to mind while I was writing the review:


Yes, I have tattoos and I’m afraid of needles

12438981_1195105717186186_3345092446280937646_nMy year started off a bit rough. I had a hernia that was getting worse and needed to be fixed. Went to see my doctor about it and he referred me to a surgeon, who I saw the next day. Two days later I was at the hospital for the operation.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had surgery. I had surgery for another hernia twelve years ago and I’ve had three different surgeries on my eyes when I was a kid. But even so, surgery isn’t something too many people get used to.

I admit, I’m always pretty scared before going into surgery, and I don’t like being poked with needles. That shit hurts. I yowl every time. It doesn’t matter if they’re injecting me with something, drawing my blood or inserting IVs. Those needles are dreadful. I deal with pain and fear by cussing and swearing, which is what I did.

So, I was wheeled into the operation room. I joked with a nurse about being on M*A*S*H, and then I woke up in the recovery room.

Oh, there was pain. That’s the worst part about surgery. Being in terrible pain afterward. But the pain was forgotten when the nurse showed me that there was a catheter hooked up to me and a plastic bag strapped to my leg. I freaked out. Last time I had surgery, there was nothing like that left on me.

I immediately thought something had gone very wrong during the operation and I started asking questions. But the nurses in the recovery room didn’t have the answers. At one point one of the doctors who was part of the operation came in and asked how I was doing. “I’m just freaking out,” was my reply. He did try to explain why there was a catheter in me, but I couldn’t hear him very well.

After they rolled me out of the recovery room and into a more private room, they filled me in on what was going on. The operation went well, but, yes, there was a minor problem. The problem didn’t have much to do with the operation, but they had a catheter in me during the operation. When they were done with the operation, they took the catheter out and I guess there was blood. So, they put the catheter back in to stop the bleeding. At least that’s how I understand it.

That fucking thing was a nightmare. I’m terribly sensitive about things like that. Just looking at it gave me the creeps. I don’t care how many times people told  me it was a plastic tube and not a needle, it felt like a needle.

I spent the first couple days at my mom and dad’s house, mostly staying in the recliner in the living room. The pain from the surgery was constant, but it was the catheter that caused the most discomfort.

On my first morning after the surgery, I woke up around 6 AM screaming in pain. I was feeling constant stabs around the surgery area. Later that day I went back to the hospital because the pain was too much.

The doctor I saw said I should take two of the pain pills every five hours instead of one. That made a difference. The pain was still pretty bad, but two pills every five hours made it more bearable.

I stayed at mom and dad’s for two days. I came home on the third day. I spent most of my time on the couch watching my old DvDs.  Young Guns, Jakob the Liar, The Bourne Identity, Amos & Andrew and so on.

I had the stupid catheter in me for a week. It was horrible, and I said at least twice that the damn thing was going to cause an infection. I hated that thing. Who wouldn’t?

I was terrified when I went in to have the catheter taken out. In the examination room, I explained to the nurse that I was afraid there would be a problem when she took it out, but at the same time I wanted to get that stupid thing out of me as soon as possible.

Before the nurse pulled it out, I asked her if it was going to hurt. She said, “Usually it doesn’t.” While I hoped I would be one of the usual, I really didn’t think I would be. I was reduced to a whimpering mass as the nurse prepared. When she pulled the catheter out, I yelled so loud everyone in the building heard me.

My mom was in the hallway. She told me later that the doctor walked up to her and asked if I was a young guy. She told him, “Yes, he’s 38.” The doctor said, “Young guys are usually more sensitive.” At 38, I don’t really think I qualify as a young guy anymore, but I am sensitive to catheter removals. That was horrible. I hope I never have to live through that again.

When the doctor entered the examination room, I was sitting in the chair hugging myself. He asked how I was doing and I said I was in pain. He checked me out and said everything looked right. The removal went well and there was, thankfully, no blood. I finished up there and left.

The next day I posted this on Facebook: “I’m not feeling well today. I have a headache, I’m dizzy and I sweated all night. And since the surgery, I’ve been dropping things a lot. Last night I dropped and broke a cup my grandma gave me for Christmas. I think it’s the medicine that’s causing all this and I decided not to take it anymore.”

The comments I got suggested that it could be an infection and fever. I agreed. I went to see my doctor a couple hours later. He looked me over for a few minutes, and then sent me to the hospital.

I spent hours lying on a bed in an examination room while they ran tests. Doctors and nurses were in and out. I was taken out for some x-rays, and then brought back. An IV was plugged into my left arm and I had to keep that arm straight.

Because of that, I couldn’t text on my phone anymore. Texting was too difficult to do with one hand and with two hands I had to hold the phone so far away I couldn’t see what I was doing. Before they put the IV in, I’d been passing the time texting with a friend.

The doctor overseeing my case decided it was time to take the tape off the three incision areas on my lower stomach. The tape had been there since I got out of surgery the week before. The doctor instructed while the nurse did the work.

That was extremely painful. I yelled and cussed loudly the whole time. The nurse said it was just tape, but it felt like she was digging needles out of my stomach. I guess it took between five and ten minutes for her to get all the tape off. She apologized for causing me so much pain. I told her, “That’s okay.” I apologized for swearing. She told me, “That’s okay.”

My mom had been outside the room. She came in and asked if I was okay. My response was, “That was bad.” I thought I was bleeding, but the nurse said there was no blood.

After a while, a doctor came in with my test results. He said it was an infection caused by the catheter and I would have to stay the night at the hospital to make sure the infection didn’t get worse. They wheeled my bed out of the examination room, through the maze of corridors and up a couple floors to the room where I would spend the night.

I had a roommate, but I couldn’t see him because there was a curtain between us. I guess his situation was worse than mine and I don’t think he was able to walk. He had quite a few people coming in to visit and they talked a lot. He also conversed with the nurses quite a bit.

11138130_1200845986612159_4553840272060965075_nThe TV was a tiny little thing about a mile away. Most of the time there wasn’t anything worth watching, but I did find basketball games here and there.

That night they wouldn’t let me eat anything solid. Everything they fed me was liquid. Nurses would come in, take my temperature, check my blood pressure and draw blood. Every time they were about to stick a needle in one of my arms, I’d worry that they would damage my tattoos, but they never did put the needles through the tattoos.

12670436_1200838986612859_4230247493135319137_nI slept. The fever was gone the next morning. Breakfast was scrambled eggs and some potato stuff. I found out they were going to let me go after lunch. Lunch was a chicken salad sandwich and soup. It was all right.

A few days later, I had my follow up appointment with the surgeon. Everything checked out. After seeing the surgeon, my doctor wanted to see me.

Well, the reason my doctor wanted to see me was the x-ray I had at the hospital showed there was some scarring in my lungs. He wanted me to go back to the hospital in a week or so and have that checked out. He also wanted the hospital to run a test to make sure the infection from the catheter was gone.

I had those tests over a week ago. I haven’t heard anything since, so I guess all is well. If there was a problem, I would have heard from my doctor.

I’m doing much better. Sometimes there is pain, but it’s not constant and it’s not unbearable. I’ve recovered from this surgery much faster than I recovered from the surgery I had twelve years ago.

All of the doctors and nurses I dealt with during all this were awesome, even the cleaning lady at the hospital was helpful. Wish I knew all their names, but I’m hard of hearing and I missed a lot of what was said to me. The hospital was McLaren Lapeer Region.

Author’s Guide to Marketing With Teeth, by Michael Knost

51e5nCllBSL__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_I don’t have a novel of my own coming out, but I’ve been shopping one around to agents and I’m almost done cleaning up another novel.  Not to mention a novel that I’m writing and a couple others that are finished rough drafts. Point is, I’ve been pretty productive in the last few years. I’ve been thinking about what I would do if one of my novels is published, because I want to be prepared ahead of time.

I found Michael Knost‘s Author’s Guide to Marketing With Teeth very helpful, and very encouraging. Also, it wasn’t boring. The book held my interest and was quite entertaining in places. I laughed out loud at the part where Mike was running in his astronaut Halloween costume. You’ll have to read the book if you want to know what that was all about.

I’m hard of hearing, to the degree that I can barely understand anyone when communicating with them in person. Often we just have to give up, because I can’t hear them. This is why I’ve been uncomfortable with the idea of doing book signings (I have been asked to participate in a book signing event for an anthology I’m published in.) and TV or radio interviews, or anything that would require me to hear what people are saying.

I felt like I was limited, that there are things that I just would not be able to do to promote my work. Although Mike didn’t have anything about hard of hearing or deaf people in Marketing With Teeth, some of the things he said has me considering some possibilities. I guess he opened my mind to the bigger picture.

As I read, I came up with ideas on how I could make book signings, radio and TV interviews, etc,  work out for me and everyone involved. I want to tell you all about these ideas, but I’ll do it in a separate blog entry.

The book covered things that I otherwise would not have thought of. I really liked the idea of letting my fictional characters write blog entries. That sounds like fun.  I might start doing that. It would give me more topics to blog about. I agree that blogging is a good way to build a platform. I try to keep a steady flow of entries, but often I just don’t know what to blog about.

In his interview, Kevin J. Anderson said he likes to talk about his work in progress. Talking about my work in progress is something I’ve always been uncertain about. On one hand, I feel that I want to, that it could be fun and spark interest in the project, as well as give me more topics to blog about. But on the other hand, I was never sure it was a good idea. In the last few years, I’ve been saying very little about my work in progress, refusing to even give the titles. Now I think I’m going to start opening up a bit about my projects.

And then there was Jonathan Maberry. Like me, Maberry writes several genres, so I felt that his advice was most appealing to me. He also admitted that he used to be  a negative person, which was one of my flaws too, and I still fall into that trap occasionally.

Mike asked Maberry, “What marketing mistakes have you made?” Maberry’s answer made me think I’m going to be okay. I’ve made some mistakes over the years. While they were not necessarily marketing mistakes, I often worry that my mistakes will effect my career. It was comforting to hear that Jonathan Maberry had made loads of mistakes himself and still managed to rise.

Also, Mike answered a question for me. One of my ideas is I would use book trailers to promote my work. However, I didn’t know how to go about having trailers made and what to expect. I’ve poked around the internet a bit, but never found very satisfying answers. Mike has had some pretty cool trailers made for his books and he would know what comes with the territory. I appreciate him answering my question. It was a well-detailed and satisfying answer.

I’ll keep Author’s Guide to Marketing With Teeth on hand so I can look to it when I need to.

Nazi Germany and Gun Control

I hear it over and over again, things that suggest Hitler had outlawed gun ownership in Nazi Germany and that this is the reason he was able to do the evil things he did. The citizens of Germany were unarmed, so they had no means to stop him. That’s the belief anyway.

It’s not true.

To be fair, there was a time when I thought gun ownership was outlawed in Nazi Germany too, but then I looked into it. I found out that gun laws in Nazi Germany were very lax. Citizens of Germany were encouraged by the government to own guns.  Just about every German citizen was a legal gun owner.

It’s true that the Jewish and other minorities were not allowed to own guns, but they were not considered to be German citizens. Hitler had their citizenships revoked.

In discussions on the subject, some people have said that German citizens who opposed the government were not permitted to own guns. That’s also true, but if you were a German citizen at the time and you expressed disagreement with the government, you were likely to be in trouble anyway.

Walk on Earth a Stranger, by Rae Carson

51BQv-eYHWL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This was pretty fun. Rae Carson‘s latest novel Walk on Earth a Stranger is a real American adventure.

It’s 1849. Leah Westfall is fifteen years old. She lives in Georgia with her mother and father. She’s good with the rifle and hunts to feed her family, among other things that most girls in the area prefer not to do.

Leah also has a mysterious ability to find gold.This is the reason her family is well-to-do. It is a secret that hardly anyone knows. But Leah’s father had told her uncle Hiram the secret. In time Uncle Hiram murders her mother and father in order to claim everything that was theirs, including Leah.

When Leah figures out that it was her uncle who murdered her parents, she runs away, disguises herself as a boy and joins the California Gold Rush.

I thought Carson did an outstanding job in showing the hardships of those in the wagon train, crossing the country. I also really appreciated the respect she showed the natives through Leah’s eyes. Though many others in the wagon train were quite ignorant about the natives. At one point they went out of their way to slaughter and run off a herd of buffalo that a tribe was following, just to make things more difficult for the tribe. There were so many buffalo back then, seas of them, but ignorant people wiped them out.

Walk on Earth a Stranger is the first book of a new trilogy. I look forward to the second book.

We Had a Greenhouse Once Upon a Time


Last week, I told you how I found a bunch of pictures on my old Flickr account. Here’s some more of them. For a few years , we had a greenhouse business at my mom and dad’s. We’d start planting in the winter, and then in the spring we’d have flowers and plants ready to sell.

These pictures are from 2008.
















Remembering Fuzzball

1I woke up this morning thinking about Fuzzball, the cat I had years ago. As the story goes, Fuzzball had been hanging around the woodpile at my mom and dad’s house and probably sleeping under the outdoor woodstove for warmth. It was my mom’s dog, Daisy, who discovered her in the woodpile.

My mom and dad took her in and kept her for a few months. They never had an official name for her, but I called her Fuzzball whenever I’d see her at my mom and dad’s house. When my mom told me they were thinking about getting rid of Fuzzball, I decided to take her.

So, I was thinking about Fuzzball this morning. Remembering how the first night I had her, after I’d turned off all the lights and went to bed, I heard her meowing. I guess she thought I’d left her there alone. I called to her and she stopped meowing at once. She climbed into the bed a minute later, curled up against my leg and stayed there.

I had Fuzzball for a couple years. In September 2009, she got sick and died. She was the first pet I’d had since I moved out of my mom and dad’s house in, I think, February 2001.

I found myself wishing I still had some of the pictures I’d taken of her, and then I remembered I hadn’t used Flickr in ages, wasn’t even sure it still existed. I checked, it’s still there, and I was relieved that the login and password I entered worked. I have two pages of pictures on Flickr, of different things that I’ll be posting over the next few days. But today is Fuzzball’s day.

These first eight pictures were taken the day I brought her home. She’d been hiding for a while, but eventually she came out, poked around the house and finally settled on the living room chair.









Okay, that was the first day. The rest of these were taken over the couple years I’d had her.

One of the first things I did was buy her some toys. She immediately attacked the orange mouse.



And more pictures….








The Magic of Belle Isle (2012)

91SmLTfOBHL__SY445_One of my favorite movies is The Magic of Belle Isle. It’s one of those movies that I find comforting and easy to settle into when I’m not in the mood for something overly exciting. It’s just a simple down-to-earth story, about life that we recognize.

Morgan Freeman plays Monte Wildhorn, a man in a wheelchair who appears to have full use of only one of his arms. He’s also a drunk and a famed novelist who has not written anything since his wife died years ago.

Monte moves into a small house for the summer. He’s bitter, he complains, and he’s often drunk.

In the house next door, there’s Charlotte, who is going through a divorce. Charlotte lives with her three daughters, Finnegan, Willow and Flora.

When Don,  one of the neighbors, dies, Monte is invited to the memorial that Al, another neighbor, is having at his house. Monte reluctantly shows up for the memorial. There, Monte meets Finnegan, who is nine and a half years old and allowed to carry her own pocket knife. When Finnegan learns that Monte is a writer, she decides that she wants to learn how to write and Monte agrees to teach her.

Monte gets to know the rest of Finnegan’s family and other neighbors. He becomes a friend to some and helps them in their times of need, and they teach him something in turn.

My favorite quote from the movie came when Monte read Al’s speech to the people at Don’s memorial. That quote is “He took beer very seriously. It had to be Pabst Blue Ribbon. If it couldn’t be Pabst, it at least had to be cold.”

Jefferson City @ St. Joseph Academy

I feel like I’m entering an unfamiliar territory with this post, but I want to give it try. I’d like to get in some more blog entries about sports and about games I watched. It doesn’t matter if I don’t have any particular loyalty to either of the teams in a game.

I was on to see if The Big Ten Championship football game was listed, because Michigan State is in this game. I have to be honest. Although the Wolverines are my all time favorite college team, the Spartans are my second favorite. When the Spartans are in the championship game, that’s a game I want to watch.

But, no luck. The Big Ten Championship game was not listed on, so I decided to watch something else. There were quite a few games to choose, most of them NCAA football and basketball games. But I wanted to watch something a little different and selected a girls high school basketball game that was listed.

That game was Jefferson City at St. Joseph Academy. I don’t think it was a live game, but I’m pretty sure it was recent, probably yesterday or the day before. I don’t even know what state these two schools are in. But all that’s cool. It was just a pure basketball game where everyone plays fair.

I came in late. They were in the third quarter. The scores were close, in the high-twenties. I think St. Joseph Academy was leading by two points when I first got the game on. Since I didn’t have a dog in the fight, I was rooting for whoever had the ball at the moment.

I thought both teams played very well. I was impressed with some of the moves the players made. I could never play basketball very well. I had a brief stint on Michigan School for the Deaf’s basketball team during my sophomore year, but I was just embarrassing. I just never had talent for basketball, but I do enjoy watching a good basketball game.

The young women playing for Jefferson City and St. Joseph Academy were talented players.  They played a good game, a game worth watching.

At some point Jefferson City pulled ahead and continued to secure their lead. But St. Joseph Academy kept playing until the clock ran out. The final score was Jefferson City 47 and St. Joseph Academy 34.

is on the wrong train.