Friday, June 29, 2018

The Price of Fine Living

Not my mobile palace.
I mentioned some time back that we moved into a gated community with an HOA. Overall, it's a nice place, so I will not name it here. Unfortunately, it has appearance 'standards' we must maintain. This is a bit challenging, since we have enough trouble finding energy and time at home to maintain the interior (think dishes, laundry, etc.).

Anyway, we got one of the letters from the HOA. We need to clean the outside of our mobile palace. I suppose it's to be expected, since the people around us are very anal-retentive about their own properties, but I think it should be illegal to demand this sort of outside labor in Florida in late June.

So far, we have learned the following about cleaning the exterior of a mobile home:

  1. Use a pressure washer. It's faster and more effective. Way more effective. I would use it to remove my freckles, but I think it would take the rest of the skin off, too.
  2. Use something with bleach. Fuck the vegetation. If it worries you, remind yourself that it's going to get diluted fast when you turn the pressure washer on it.
  3. Wear glasses or safety goggles. Also, be careful when edging a pathway with a pressure washer. There's blowback. Never mind how I know this.
  4. Dawn works better at removing grime than laundry detergent does.
  5. Your neighbors, the ones you thought were anal-retentive, will come and ask if you got a letter from the HOA, too.

The aftercare for this endeavor involves cortisone, Benadryl, and Advil. Lots of Advil. But at least we can see the original color of our awnings again.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Women! How to Spot a Bogus Facebook ID

Update! I just got a friend request from someone with pics that advertised the 2010 Census. They also showed him with bumper stickers implying that he was running for office. I researched the name and discovered that the real guy was sentenced to prison earlier this year. Yes, the pictures match. Either he's looking for a prison pen pal, or someone's spoofing him.

This guide is primarily for women, although gay guys might get some of these invites, too. Men, if you have your own list, feel free to comment.

The past year has brought a flood of friend invites from Facebook IDs of unknown provenance and questionable intentions. Many are from phishers, catfishes, and scam artists. They can also come from exes and the stalkerish set, but no one seems interested in stalking a fat middle-aged lesbian of modest income.

Some of the 'tells' of a fake Facebook ID:

  • Timeline has a few posts, period, and there are no friends or interests listed. Person is at least an 8 and you are a 5 or lower.
  • Profile photo is of Hugh Jackman, and profile name is Hugh Jackman. Yes, I got this.
  • Profile and name are of someone you are already friends with. Every once in a while, someone needs to create a new ID, but try contacting your friend first to be sure.
  • USA military and widowed. Logic would suggest that the soldiers have a more dangerous lifestyle than their wives, but not with this bunch. Bonus points if the uniform displays a different name than the Facebook name, or is of foreign origin.
  • Name is Western but consists of two first names, or surname used as first name. I've seen it happen in real life, but it's not common. Reveals a poor grasp of western naming conventions.
  • Picture is of lily white guy "from Texas" (a favorite state-don't ask me why), but celebrity and sports favorites are Nigerian or Ghanaian. I understand Macedonia is also popular.
  • Divorced or widowed guy was born in Texas, educated in Europe, and now works "in oil" in the UAE. Listed here because I've seen this several times. I guess this is to reel in gold-diggers. Hmm.
  • Divorced or widowed guy was born in London, educated in Europe, lives in Texas, claims to be a physician but writes posts like "I lov music,i like siging.All my frid has gon to de stidio,but i dose not,just becaze of money money". Student debt is a killer, I guess.
  • Picture is of gorgeous African-American man holding a rose, all posts contain romantic lines or praise The Lord. All his friends are women. Real or fake, he's going to break your heart.

If you do friend someone and aren't sure after the fact, use some of the standard cautions for the Internet: don't click on any links they send you, give them your personal information, and Google anything that sounds like a scam for money. Also: take another look at their profile to see if any new red flags appear. Real people usually have a lengthy timeline with less-than-relevant content, and tend to like at least one thing you don't. If the cupboard is bare, tread carefully.


Sunday, December 03, 2017

Review: Batwoman Vol. 1: The Many Arms of Death (Rebirth)

Disclosure: I received an advance copy on Netgalley.

In this collection, Batwoman seeks to stop someone who is supplying illegal weapons to the black market, with the stated goal of killing people from as many different nations as possible. Our intrepid heroine follows the trail in her private yacht until it leads to a place she knows well.

This story is more James Bond than superhero. It's also more Harlequin than Harley Quinn.

The art, done by multiple artists, is beautiful. When she wears her costume and her cowl with the long hair, the art reminds me very much of John Romita, Sr. When you see her out of costume, the art is more Sal Buscema. And if you're familiar with those artists, you get an idea of my age and comic-reading background. The action is good, with rough-and-tumble combat that doesn't hold back due to gender. It brought back the best of my memories and granted me a story with a woman in the lead.

The storyline is good. Katherine Kane is every bit the millionaire playgirl that Bruce Wayne is. Unlike Bruce, she tried to serve her country in the military and was tossed out of West Point for being a lesbian during the bad old days. Afterwards, she became a socialite drunkard who was saved by The Batman from leading a useless life. As Batwoman, she traces the bad guys and gals to Coryana, an island of outlaws... and must face her own past.

You will sense a 'but' coming here. If you are worried about spoilers, this might count... but it's not a surprise to the heroine.

This graphic novel involves a lesbian hero, and I believe it was primarily aimed at lesbians. The majority of lesbian fiction I've seen have been romances, and The Many Arms of Death wanders into this category, too. The leading antagonists and allies are all female, and the majority are either former lovers or romantic rivals of Katherine Kane. While romance comics used to be popular, too, this is a little too insular for me. I want to see lesbians interacting with the 'regular' world of comic books, like Maggie Sawyer of Metropolis SCU. Your opinion may be different.

I award this story four stars because I think it's a good storyline, well-executed, and has great art. I would recommend it to those friends who would appreciate it.

Monday, October 30, 2017

How Long Does It Take to Write a Novel?

As NaNoWriMo prepares to launch again, the usual debate has begun over how long it 'should' take to write a 'real' novel. I will leave the definition of a 'real' novel to more intelligent minds, since many critics believe that genre novels aren't 'real' books, and I believe that many modern 'literary' novels are merely set in a 'literary' location (New York, the antebellum South, a war-torn country) and have an unhappy ending.
Let's agree that a novel is a story, and that it substantially longer than six words. How long does it take to write a novel?
It takes as much time as it needs to finish the story. Some authors can write several books each year, especially if their income depends on it. Stephen King regularly produces enormous books and include 100+ page novellas in his short story collections. Other authors take years to complete books, especially if life (or rehab) gets in the way. Then there's the unfinished "trunk novel" that was put away in a different decade because the writer realized that it was turning out to be a different story than the one she'd thought, and the ending hasn't come to her yet (no names, please).
Writing a story is a noble undertaking. You may never finish it, you may write like crap, you may use the word "really" fifty-two times in the first chapter, you may start off with a weather report and your more hip friends will tell you why that's 'wrong'. But you have begun something that is an extension of you in some way, yet has a life of its own.
You may think that 'inform' merely means to give data to someone else, but it can also mean to give principles or a defining quality to something else, whether it be something written or a way of living. You inform your story via who you are; that's why Travis McGee and Hercule Poirot are so very different. It's why Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone isn't like A Wizard of Earthsea.
Stories also inform your own life. If you've been told you were "the good son" through childhood (a loaded phrase), you are unlikely to embezzle funds from the family business and take off for Cabo with your au pair. If you see yourself as a geek girl, you will join every fandom under the sun and sneer at reality TV. If you tell yourself you are a writer, you will write a tale - and if you tell yourself that you are a good writer, you will finish that story after November if it's not done, and you will review your manuscript to remove those repeated words.
Are you ready to go?


Friday, August 18, 2017

Stephen Zimmer: Top Ten Favorite Real or Fictional Vikings

About the author: Stephen Zimmer is an award-winning author and filmmaker based out of Lexington, Kentucky. His works include the Rayden Valkyrie novels (Sword and Sorcery), the Rising Dawn Saga (Cross Genre), the Fires in Eden Series (Epic Fantasy), the Hellscapes short story collections (Horror), the Chronicles of Ave short story collections (Fantasy), and the Harvey and Solomon Tales (Steampunk).
Stephen’s visual work includes the feature film Shadows Light, shorts films such as The Sirens and Swordbearer, and the forthcoming Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot.
Stephen is a proud Kentucky Colonel who also enjoys the realms of music, martial arts, good bourbons, and spending time with family.

Twitter: @SGZimmer Facebook: Instagram: @stephenzimmer7 Website:

Top Ten Favorite Real or Fictional Vikings

Viking Prince Einar (in the 1958 Film The Vikings): Played by Kirk Douglas magnificently, Prince Einar was one of my first encounters with Vikings on screen.  I remember watching him run the oars of the longship in amazement (which Kirk Douglas really did, that was not special effects!).  This character was part of what drew me to become interested in Vikings, and definitely deserves a place on this list.

Harald Hardrada: Harald Hardrada is a very interesting figure, as a good argument can be made that the Battle of Hastings might have turned out very differently if the Saxons had not had to fight at Stamford Bridge against him before marching south to fight at Hastings.  He had extensive travels too, and for a time was even a member of the famed Varangian Guard in the Byzantine Empire.  He was said to be a very huge warrior too, in terms of physical stature, and in some ways was an inspiration for my Ragnar Stormbringer character in the Rayden Valkyrie: Saga of a Lionheart TV Pilot. 

Olaf Trygvasson:  I've always found the history of Olaf Trygvasson fascinating, from his turbulent youth (involving some harrowing escapes) up to becoming King of Norway, and then his end at the Battle of Svolder, where he fought to the end and then jumped off his longship before his enemies could kill or take him prisoner. 

Rollo (Vikings TV Show version):  In the TV series Vikings, I have to say I loved the Rollo character.  He is tough and has a great presence on screen, and the development of his character from Berzerker to a Duke in France is a very engaging part of the storyline.  Rollo historically is behind a group of Vikings who settled Normandy, whose descendants became the Normans that one day conquered England after the Battle of Hastings.

Herger the Joyous:  Herger was a character in the movie 13th Warrior that I absolutely loved.  He was the one who, when Antonio Banderas' character found a sword heavy, told him to “grow stronger!”.  Full of life, good-natured, and a tough warrior, Herger was a compelling character in that film.

Erik (from The Last Kingdom TV Series):  Based on the Bernard Cornwell novels, The Last Kingdom TV Series is a great one for sure.  I really liked the Viking character Erik, who has quite a character arc that sees him go from a bloodthirsty, brutal warrior to becoming an honorable man capable of love. 

Leif Erikson: Leif Erikson had to have tremendous courage to undertake the voyages that he did.  He visited North America centuries before Columbus, and there are identified sites that may confirm the settlements mentioned in the Sagas. Greenland was not the easiest place to carve out a living in either. Leif Erikson's world was definitely not one for the faint of heart.

Cnut the Great: The Vikings did indeed take control of England prior to the Battle of Hastings in 1066, and Cnut the Great not only invaded and conquered England, but also ruled it for over two decades.  His rule as a King also extended to Denmark, Norway, and part of Sweden.  Very impressive feat for a Viking in those times!

Haakon the Good:  A Norwegian Viking King who had a long rivalry with the famous Viking Eric Bloodaxe and his sons, Haakon was a very sharp commander who again and again prevailed against stronger forces sent against him.  I've always admired underdogs and Haakon triumphed repeatedly as an underdog in the Viking age. 

Ivar the Boneless (Vikings TV Show):  As mentioned earlier in this post, I am drawn to underdogs, and Ivar the Boneless is certainly an underdog in the TV show Vikings as he lives in a very tough age of warriors without the use of his legs.  Nevertheless, his wits, intelligence, and determination see him overcome foes, survive, and grow.  He is not a good character in a moral sense, he is hardened and sometimes very cruel, but he is a survivor and in an age that was not compassionate toward those with disabilities.  He has lived a life against seemingly insurmountable odds to become a major leader of Vikings, and for that relentless drive and determination he makes my list here.   

Book Synopsis for Heart of a Lion: Rayden Valkyrie. She walks alone, serving no king, emperor, or master. Forged in the fires of tragedy, she has no place she truly calls home.

A deadly warrior wielding both blade and axe, Rayden is the bane of the wicked and corrupt. To many others, she is the most loyal and dedicated of friends, an ally who is unyielding in the most dangerous of circumstances.

The people of the far southern lands she has just aided claim that she has the heart of a lion. For Rayden, a long journey to the lands of the far northern tribes who adopted her as a child beckons, with an ocean lying in between.

Her path will lead her once more into the center of a maelstrom, one involving a rising empire that is said to be making use of the darkest kinds of sorcery to grow its power. Making new friends and discoveries amid tremendous peril, Rayden makes her way to the north.

Monstrous beasts, supernatural powers, and the bloody specter of war have been a part of her world for a long time and this journey will be no different. Rayden chooses the battles that she will fight, whether she takes up the cause of one individual or an entire people.

Both friends and enemies alike will swiftly learn that the people of the far southern lands spoke truly. Rayden Valkyrie has the heart of a lion.

Heart of a Lion is Book One of the Dark Sun Dawn Trilogy.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Things You Don't Need to Know to Enjoy Murder on the Mullet Express

One of the most off-putting ideas about historical fiction is that one has to know a lot about history to enjoy historical fiction. Worse, that the story is going to be stuffed with as many things to remember as a Christmas card list, which would make for a turgid read! Fortunately, there are many things you won’t need to know to enjoy Murder on the Mullet Express.

Do I need to know Florida’s history?
The characters didn’t need to know it. You’re safe.

Are there historical figures I need to be familiar with to follow this book?
Some of the people are real. If you understand words like “sheriff” and “gangster”, you’ll be fine. There are cheat notes in the back of the book if you get curious.

Do I need to know what the Mullet Express is?
It’s the quickest haircut you can get in Alabama. Okay, we're fibbing. It’s a train that hauls fish and land speculators, but all you need to know is contained in the book title: it’s The Scene of the Crime.

Do I need to know much about the 1920s?
Just pretend that your phone is out of data and you’re too young to drink. And everyone talks like they’re in a Cagney movie.

Do I need to know anything about Homosassa, Florida?
The address contains the magic word: “Florida”. It’s all the information the land speculators needed. As they say: location, location, location.

Do I need to know how a steam engine works?
No, but you’ll learn how to annoy neighbors with a steam radiator.

What does Gertrude Stein write about?
We don’t know either, but it can give you a headache.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book launch: Formula Murder by Ross Carley, Mister in Crime

Formula Murder Book Launch Party and Signing
Free goodies! Meet Ross Carley.
Saturday, April 29, 2017, 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Porter Books and Bread
5719 Lawton Loop E Dr, Indianapolis, IN 46216

Formula Murder is the second Wolf Ruger mystery by Ross Carley. Private Investigator Wolf Ruger, returning Iraq vet with PTSD, tackles high-stakes high-tech crime and elusive murderers in the fast-paced world of Formula racing, undeterred by beautiful women and organized crime. Indianapolis-based HH Racing has a high-stakes technical problem the week before the last big race of the season. The race car’s telemetry malfunctions, baffling the racing team’s experts.

Wolf’s experience and instincts kick into high gear to determine if the telemetry failure and a mysterious fatality are related. Simultaneously, murders strike a mob operation involving espionage and the FBI. Wolf’s best friend Tito Rodriguez provides PTSD support, and his retired mentor Max advises him through the twists and turns of the case.

Wolf must untangle the turmoil before he becomes a victim. While juggling passionate relationships in his personal life, he remains undeterred in pursuit of answers.

"Wolf Ruger of Dead Drive is back! Once again, Carley weaves a tight tale of murder, money, and sex while giving readers an up-close, behind-the-scenes look into the rarefied world of Formula racing. Speed counts in this taut investigation!" 
    - Michele Drier, award-winning author of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles and The Amy Hobbes Mysteries

Formula Murder is available on the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.
Visit  and for more information.