Friday, July 25, 2014

Servo 2:3

Servo 2:3

Grandpa Cranwinkle trudged in the door with the last of our bags. I’d packed reasonable, just one large suitcase and my carryon bag. Rory had two small suitcases, and Suz apparently had tried to pack the entire house into the two largest suitcases our family owned. She also had a weighty carryon. I’m sure the baggage handlers were cursing under their breath when they loaded her things.
“Okay, children, let’s get you moved in,” Grandpa said, taking my bag and heading upstairs.
We followed him. As I ascended the steps and saw the burgundy and cream vertically striped wallpaper, I noticed photos that hung on the stairway. Were these family of mine? Their faces looked unfamiliar, except when we got to the top, I saw one of my mother. She had to have been in her early teens and wore clothing similar to what Grandpa was wearing. Mother was standing on the ground beside a horse. She held its head by two long strap-looking things. Had she ever mentioned being around a horse to us? I didn’t recall. Was this why Rory was interested in horses? I figured I’d find out eventually.
Grandpa stopped at the first door at the top of the stairs. We stood on a wide landing that somewhat doubled as a hall. There was deep dark wood paneling on the bottom of the wall and the burgundy and cream wallpaper carried on its motif up here. He opened it and went in. “Rory, Jonah, this is your room.”
“We have to share?” Rory said, disdain in his voice.
“I’m afraid so. At least until we can get another bedroom painted and ready…We weren’t exactly expecting long-term company.”
“We weren’t expecting to be sent away from our home,” Suz replied. “We were quite happy where we were.”
“I’m sure you were…Unfortunately, life changed which cards you were dealt.”
Suz folded her arms across her chest. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Grandpa reached in and turned on the light. “It means that your life is now changed and you’re stuck with it.”
“What about the cards?” Rory asked.
“Yes, Grandpa, you said cards. What about them?”
“That was figuratively speaking.”
I almost wanted to laugh. Yes, I love my brother dearly, but his naivety about the world was almost too much. Rory seriously needed lessons on how real life played out. Maybe this would enlighten him.
Our room was nothing fancy. There was white wallpaper with blue flowers, the window treatments were lacy white, and the spread on the bed was similar to the wallpaper. The floor was wood. It seemed lacking in the comfort department. A dark wooden dresser and a trunk were the only other fixtures in the room.
I looked around for a closet. “Grandpa?”
“Does this room have a closet?”
“No. I’m afraid you’ll have to put your clothes up in the attic.”
His statement caught me off-guard. “What?!” It was bad enough that I was being forced to share a room with my little brother, but to keep our clothes in another part of the house; that was downright odd.
“It might only be for a month or so. Just until we can get another room ready and then find a wardrobe for this room.”
Grandpa brought his arms out away from his sides, stretched them wide, and then moved them above his head as if to describe something large. “A wardrobe is a large cabinet where you can keep clothing.”
“What about a closet? Doesn’t this house have them?”
“Very few. This house is over one hundred years old…Actually, getting closer to two-hundred.”
“I bet it’s full of bugs!” Suz said. She’d been keeping quiet as us boys were introduced to our living quarters.
“This is a farm, there are bugs here, and snakes, and rodents like mice and rats.” Grandpa replied nonchalantly. “This is not sterile city living.”
“I hate them all!”
“You’ll get used to them.”
I nudged Rory and we went and brought in our bags. Somehow we’d have to share this small room and put aside our sibling rivalry so we didn’t inflict bodily harm on one another. At home we were blessed with separate rooms, which was a good thing since we didn’t always get along.
“I’ll leave you boys to get unpacked. What you can’t fit in the drawers, I’ll help you with in the attic tomorrow. Dinner will be ready shortly.” He went to the door. “Come, Suzette, I’ll show you to your room.”
I heard them go down the hall. A few moments later, a loud protest came from Suzette. It was clear she didn’t like her living arrangements. I wasn’t too keen on mine, but Grandpa said it was only temporary. Let’s hope so.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Servo 2:2

Servo 2:2

The truck bumped along a dilapidated road. We seemed to be driving forever. Really, it was only a few miles, but Grandpa wasn’t making any attempt at going much more than forty-five. Finally we turned onto a dirt driveway. Dust rose behind as the truck jostled and rattled. I saw a white two-story house. It was big, square, and had loads of windows. The roof was dark gray and a little of the paint was peeling from the siding. I recall having seen something similar in my history texts when we covered the Great Separation. It called the people who worked the land “farmers” and those who raised animals for consumption, “ranchers.” I wondered what grandpa did. I almost hoped he was a rancher; I’d been curious for some time about the actual processing of animals for human consumption.
“All right, kids, here’s home,” Grandpa said, pulling up to the house and shutting off the noisy engine.
“I’m not going to live here,” Suz protested. “It’s horrible!”
Grandpa swiveled around partway in his seat so he was looking back at her. “I’m sorry this is not to your standards, but this is where you will be living.”
I glanced back and saw the expression on her face; she was nearing tantrum stage. “Suz, we don’t have a choice. How about just accepting it?”
“NO!” she screamed. “I will not!”
Without another word, Grandpa snatched the keys out of the ignition and climbed out of the truck. He walked to the house and opened the door.
“Come on, Rory,” I said, getting out and opening the back door for him.
He hopped out, his shiny black shoes landing on the dusty ground and creating a cloud around his ankles. “It’s an old house.”
“Yes, it is. Maybe we can find some hidden passages or something.”
“Oh, that would be neat.”
I knew Rory liked reading mystery books. Perhaps with the age of the house and promise of adventure, it would soften the blow to him somewhat; I could only hope. As for Suz, I had no idea on how to gain her acceptance of the situation. Time might mellow her somewhat.

When we first entered the ancient looking farm house, I immediately saw disdain on Suzette and Rory’s faces. They are neat freaks, terribly so, and I knew this would not suit them. A thick layer of dust lay on just about everything. For the most part, the contents of the house seemed in their place. There was no dirty laundry strewn about, no leftover dishes scattered on tables and floor. The place was just old. My nose picked up the musty odor of age. I’d never smelled it before, but I knew what it was.
Light filtered in through dusty windows giving the entire place a sepia tone. Someone might have mistaken it for warmth, but this old house was far from it. Perhaps we would find that warmth. Maybe it would be in Grandpa’s smile, or a hot meal, or maybe even seeing the sun rising each morning. I wasn’t sure. This was home now and I needed to figure out how to make the best of it.
We were met by Grandma Cranwinkle. She looked nearly as ancient as Grandpa. She wore a blue floral printed dress and a white lacy apron was tied around her waist. It definitely reminded me of an image I’d seen in the school texts. Her hair was grayish-blue and hung in large curls about her head.
“Hello, children,” she said in a melodious tone. I’m sure she was trying to exude as much warmth as possible in this austere environment.
“Hello, Grandma,” I said. It was impossible to hide the discomfort in my voice.
“Ah, you must be Jonah.”
I nodded.
“You look so much like your father.”
“I do?”
“Yes, you have so many of his facial features…And those beautiful blue eyes.”
“Oh,” was all I could manage.
“Grandma, where’s your service bots?” asked Rory.
The old woman brought the tips of her fingers together in front of her chest and pressed them into a steeple form. “You must be Rory.”
“Yes.” He looked around. “Where are your bots?”
“Oh, no, we don’t have those here.”
“Well who does the cleaning? The cooking?” he insisted.
“I do, child.”
I watched Rory’s eyebrows go up.
“You cook?”
“Yes. This is my house. I don’t live in privileged society as you did. I suppose if I really wanted, I could get Abe to build me one. But truly, I’m happy doing the work myself.”
Suzette decided to throw her weight into the conversation. “Who’s going to do our laundry?”
Grandma regarded Suz, ever so slightly cocking her head and working a smile onto her aged lips. “I’ll teach you.”
Imagine the total amusement that rocketed through me as I watched Suz’s jaw drop almost to the floor. My dear sister, the one with an IQ of 195, was now going to have to deal with housework. I wanted so badly to laugh. Of course I knew there were going to be demands made of me. Being the middle child, I always seemed more flexible to change than the others. In a way, I suppose I was ready to have my eyes opened to the world. Maybe this would help me grow up. My only fear was would I ever return to the Inner States? If I was going to follow the dream of picking up my father’s work, I had to go back.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Servo 2:1

Apologies for not having this out yesterday, but we were supposed to take 2 sick birds to the vet at 2 pm, instead the vet called us a 9 am to have them there at 11:30. Needless to say, we were there almost 3 hours, and when we got home, we had gobs of stuff to take are of with them and the rest of the flock. Hoping all will be well. So, without further adieu, here's Servo.

Chapter 2:1

I gazed out the window of the plane. It was a small one. We’d had to change planes in Chicago in order to get out of the Inner States. Our flight from New Philadelphia had been pleasant. The food was good, and the stewardesses nice. Now we were crammed into this flying tin can that pitched and bucked with every little thermal. I watched the skies change from deepest blue to something of a washed out sepia color. I figured it was what they called pollution. Having never seen it, only heard about it in school, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. The land below seemed dusty. I saw circles and squares of green interspersed with large amounts of brown as the plane descended toward our destination. Everything looked flat. Not a hill, not a valley, nothing.
Our family plan representative assured us that everything was taken care of. She’d contacted our only surviving relatives, Abe and Eliza Cranwinkle. They were my mother’s parents. We’d heard about them, but never met them. I often wondered why they didn’t live in the Inner States. My mother never said she came from a poor background. In fact, she never said much about her early life. Was she that ashamed?
We were headed to somewhere called Broken Bow, Nebraska. I’d tried to access information about it on my tablet, but we lost signal after we left Chicago. I suppose I should have done it earlier. According to what I found, we were going to the geographical center of the state. After The Great Separation, the Inner States reorganized and some of them were combined or renamed. The Outer States, for the most part, retained their original identities. Well, except for that place that was once known as California; it had mostly fallen into the ocean after a massive earthquake and was basically uninhabitable. Only the utter scum of the Earth lived there in clan-type societies where the strongest survived. The images and accompanying text on our tablets told a chilling story. I’m glad we’re not going there.

The plane touched down and rolled to a stop. I peered out the window and didn’t see much. To my right was the “terminal” with a few hangars and tarmac. To my left was a field that held long stripes of dirt pushed into neat rows. Little green leaves came from the ground. I didn’t know what it was. I assumed it was some sort of food crop. In the Inner States, all our food is brought to us processed. We were told what each food item was supposed to be. Sometimes they all looked and tasted alike.
As the plane taxied to the end and turned around, I saw a property with a few shiny metal buildings. Some were long and rectangular; a couple were round with pointed roofs. I wondered as to their function. The whole landscape stretched on for miles. I glanced over at Suz and Rory, both somehow still asleep. Perhaps all the crying exhausted them. It had been a rough two weeks. I knew I’d have my time to cry, but it seemed I wasn’t ready yet. Someone in the family needed to be mature and stoic. Somehow that responsibility fell on me.
Minutes later, the tiny plane was pulling up to the terminal. The door opened and people started to get up. There were only fifteen of us on the plane, so it didn’t take long. I nudged Rory and Suz. “Hey, wake up, we’re here.”
Rory opened his eyes, yawned and stretched.
Suz rubbed her eyes. “We’re here?” she asked.
I think she was expecting me to give her a rosy statement about the fabulous grandeur of the place. “It’s small, really small.”
She squinted and looked out the window. “This?”
“Oh, no, this won’t do!”
I gave her a shove, trying to get her out of the seat. “It will do; we don’t have a choice.”
Rory got up and collected his things. “Maybe Grandpa Abe has a horse.”
“A horse?” I said. “What do you know about horses? You’ve never even seen one in real life.”
“But I want to.”
“I hear they smell,” Suz said, roughly snatching her bag from under the seat and elbowing her way down the aisle.
I shrugged my shoulders. “I dunno, Rory. We’ll see.”
We walked off the plane and into the brilliant sun. I could feel the dust hanging in the air. And there was a heat to the gentle breeze that I found unwelcoming. So far my observations of the place hadn’t revealed anything exciting. In fact, it was just the opposite.
A man dressed in a blue uniform held the door open as we entered the terminal. Our baggage would be unloaded and brought inside shortly. We felt a cold rush of air hit us. This building had air conditioning! I breathed deep, feeling the coolness chilling my lungs. It felt wonderful.
There were few people in the terminal. I scanned the area hoping to find someone who resembled a grandfather or grandmother. Having never met them, it was a strange and unnerving feeling. I wasn’t even sure how old they were. I only assumed that they were old.
“Suzette? Jonah? Rory?” a raspy male voice called.
I turned to my right and saw a tired-looking little old man standing about fifty feet from us. He wore a faded red plaid shirt, brown pants, and held a brown narrow-brimmed hat in his hands. Grandpa looked ancient. Most of his hair was gone, leaving gray wisps trailing from the sides of his head, and brown splotches dotted his pale face and head. Wrinkles covered every inch of exposed skin. He must have been a thousand years old.
“Jonah?” he said again.
“Grandpa Cranwinkle?” I said, still very leery of him.
“That’s right, Abe Cranwinkle.”
I think he did that to reassure me we weren’t being kidnapped. Somewhere I’d read that kidnapping was a common practice in the Outer States. This place was bad enough; I didn’t need it getting worse. For now, I was the protector of my older sister and younger brother; neither had their wits about them. I was forced to remain calm and logical until such time that I felt everything was safe and sound.
“Hello, son,” he said, holding a hand out to me. “Let’s get you three home.”
“How old are you?” Suzette blurted. Despite her unobvious high intelligence, my sister had the tact of a rock.
“I’m eighty-seven years old.”
“Why are you so wrinkled up? Don’t you have laser-primming surgery?”
“An old man like me has no use for that sort of stuff.” He motioned. “Come, you all must be exhausted from your journey.”
We collected our bags from the carousel and he guided us out to a large truck-like vehicle. It was yellow, mostly rusted, and covered in dust.
“I’m not getting into that,” Suz protested.
“It’s that or you’re walking home,” Grandpa said, not flinching from her intentional barb.
“That thing is gross!”
“Get in,” he said firmly, putting our bags in the back of the open bed.
“I want to go home, back to New Philadelphia.”
“I’m sorry, this is your home now.” He opened a rear door and gestured for her to get in.
Suz stood fast. “No!”
I was tired and in no mood for an argument from my sister. I reached out and smacked her on the back. “Get in!”
She spun around, her hand reared behind her head ready to strike at me. “Jonah!”
“Let’s not fight, Suz, just get in the truck.”
“It’s filthy!”
I stared her down. “Get in,” I said in a low tone. She regarded me with distaste and let out a little rebellious snort as she climbed into the backseat. I’d won the battle, but not the war.
Rory got into the backseat, and I took up position in the front. We set out from the airport, going what I thought was south. After a few minutes, we entered a small town.
“This is Broken Bow,” Grandpa said. “The population used to be about three thousand, but now, with the feedlot closing, it’ll probably drop more.”
“Feedlot?” I asked, unsure of the term.
“It’s where they bring cattle to fatten them up for slaughter.”
“How gross!” Suz cried from the backseat. “How can they kill animals?”
I turned in my seat. “Suz, you know those hamburgers at the Paradise Café that you love so much?”
“Where do you think they come from?”
“Yes, you are eating what once was a living, breathing, animal.”
“Oh! I thought they made those burgers from plant material.”
I shook my head. “Nope.” Was my sister just playing blind to the issue? Or was she really that dumb about life in general? I’d make up my mind later about that.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Servo 1:2

Happy 4th of July! Hubby drove down to Tennessee and came back with a carload of fireworks. Gonna be mighty noisy in this neck of the woods tonight!  At least the weather is supposed to be good- last year we had massive thunderstorms and tornado warnings. The sun is out and the temps quite comfortable. Ahhhh...

Here's your weekly installment of Servo. Much more to come.

Servo 1:2

We were sent home via a bot taxi. Mrs. Lowe called for one and programmed our address into its computer while still in the comfort of her office. I didn’t figure she was the kind to be out in the weather very long. She didn’t look happy at the funeral.
On the way home, I’d had thoughts about reprogramming the taxi to take us somewhere else. The problem was, I didn’t know where else to go. Home was our sanctuary and refuge, no other place brought us that solace.
“Good evening, children,” one of our service bots said as we trudged into the house.
I paid it no mind, instead, I headed for my room. The clothes I wore now reminded me of my father’s death, and I wanted to be far from them. Once changed, I brought the clothes to a bot. “Incinerate these.”
“But Master Jonah, these clothes are not damaged,” the bot replied. “Shall I clean them for you?”
“No, I want them gone, out of my sight!” I could feel the cracks forming in my mental fortitude. Another few minutes and I might snap. “Just get rid of them.”
“Yes, Sir,” the bot mindlessly replied. I watched it turn and head to the garbage disposal chute. It opened the door and piled the clothes in, then closed the door and returned to its station near the kitchen.
My father had only been dead a few days, buried a few hours, and I missed him like it had been years. I was at a complete loss for what to do. I only knew I needed to do something to keep his memory alive. I headed back to my room, but on the way, paused at the doorway of his home office. Everything was there: desk, computer, digital files, papers, and his old trusty chair.
I crept in. The lights were off, but I knew my way around quite well. I’d spent hundreds of hours in this very office discussing things with my father. He would tell me the advancements they were making on the bots, show me schematics, and one time, took my suggestion and incorporated it into the software. Imagine how proud I felt about that!
Going around the desk, I pulled out the chair and sat down. It was so strange. This was his chair. I usually got one of the spares and sat next to him so I could watch what he was doing. My hand stretched forward and turned on the computer. Technically, I had no right to do that, it was Servidyne property for the most part. But something egged me on. My gut told me his death wasn’t an accident. Did I expect to find the motive buried somewhere in his files? Was there something he was working on that warranted his death? I might never know, but my mind wanted to hear him again.
The screen flashed bright blue and then the desktop icons started showing up. My father kept an audio log of his work. Copies were kept at Servidyne and here at home. I knew the police had confiscated the work files, but did they realize he had a second set? The cursor moved over the icon, it flashed, waiting for me to click on it.
My finger tapped the inteli-pad and I watched the log open. A blank white screen appeared followed by a chronological listing of his log entries for the last six months. I glanced over my shoulder and saw several plastic cases containing data sticks of his other years’ entries. Somehow I knew they would find their way into my suitcase. I wasn’t going to leave the last shreds of my father around for the cleaners to discard. His words were precious to me, and I was going to preserve them.
I moved the cursor down to the last entry and clicked on it. The screen blinked and then a black box showed with a white arrow on it. I tapped the pad and closed my eyes as the voice of my father filled the room. His voice was deep, commanding, yet ever so loving toward us children. His entry began:

“Log entry for March 29th, 2055…Today I suffered a setback. The graphene base for the neuro circuit board failed for some reason and caused the whole thing to catch fire. Good thing I had a fire suppression canister right by. Although I don’t think Mr. Pierce was too happy when I informed him of the failure. I probably set the company back six to eight weeks…And then there is the other problem: the main gyro-servo…I’ve completely redesigned the mechanism to perform on a much lower voltage. But the problem I’ve encountered is that even with the correct voltage, it’s not working when installed into a bot body for testing. It was designed to allow longer time in between charges for the bots; thus creating less down time. And being lighter, more energy efficient, and an overall better servo, it should have worked like a charm. Instead, all it does is sit there. Maybe I’ll have to build a bot with the old servo and submit that. It may take me a lot longer to perfect the new servo, and I can’t hold up production much longer than I already have…Signing off.”

The audio ended, leaving a low static hissing that enveloped the room. An eerie silence made my heart pound. I’d heard his voice, that comforting voice, and it made me want to cry. My father was a proud man, and to hear the disappointment and frustration in his words pained me. He was a brilliant man, how could a dumb little servo cause him such grief? I’d built them by the dozens at school in electronics class. My instructor was impressed with my skill. How I wish father was alive now. We could work through the problem and then he'd get recognized at work for his achievements. Instead, he'd be remembered for his past achievements.
I opened the desk drawer and rummaged around. A small box of data sticks was hidden under papers. I took one and inserted it into the computer port. Then I downloaded all the recent files. Father’s ghost was going with me. No one but me would know that I had all the data sticks.
Turning off the computer, I got up and carefully removed three boxes from the shelf. They weren’t big, probably four inches square, but they were all I had of my father. I would guard them with my life. Perhaps over the next few years I can learn from them. Maybe when I'm older I'll be able to return to the Inner States and get a good job. I fear there is nothing for me in the nowhere land. How could our parents have done this to us?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Servo 1:1

Okay folks, I know I've been super busy and haven't been blogging lately. So to remedy that, and hopefully entice some new folks to check this out, I'm going to post a whole book on the site. It will be broken up into chapters and parts for easier reading.

Servo is a YA sci-fi/ murder mystery which follows thirteen-year-old Jonah Blackburn and his two siblings. The mysterious death of their father who works for Servidyne, a robot technology company, throws the children into a tailspin. With their mother already buried, they are sent to Broken Bow, Nebraska to start a new life.

The text you will be reading is rough copy- meaning that my wonderful editor, Joyce Gilmour, hasn't hacked on it yet. So you might find some errors. There will be a finished copy available on all the ebook sites as well as Amazon for print. Might take me a while, but I'll post as I can. In the end, you'll have the whole book for free.

As always, comments and reviews are greatly appreciated.

So without further adieu, here's Chapter 1 part 1 of Servo. I hope you enjoy.

Chapter 1

I hate funerals. Two in two years was too much. Our beautiful, perfect family of five had been reduced to three. What was worse: our fates, the fates of us three children, were to be decided by the New Philadelphia family planning representative. How could our lives get so shattered?
We hadn’t been allowed to read our parents’ will. Frankly, the three of us never thought we’d have to. Our mother, Ellen, was the picture of health. She was a GEE: Genetically Engineered Entity- supposedly the perfect human. Well, they were wrong on that one. Sure she was smart, beautiful, and to us, perfect, but she had a flaw, a big one that no one saw. This flaw, hidden in her perfect DNA, slowly caused her agonizing demise and premature departure from this fair Earth.
And now we were standing in the cold April rain while my father was laid to rest. He worked for a tech company called Servidyne that built service robots, or as we called them, bots, for household use. His death had been ruled an accident, but for some reason, that didn’t ring true to me. Thomas Blackburn, our father, was a very careful man. The authorities investigating his death said he died from an injection of nano-probes. Deep in the back of my mind, I knew something was fishy.
The solemn service concluded and we were ushered away from the grave as his casket was lowered for eternity. I would never again see my father living and breathing. I would never be able to engage him in lengthy discussions of his projects at work. He was gone forever. That bothered me terribly.
Grief welled up inside me like a raging river forcing at a dam. But I couldn’t show it. As the eldest son, yet middle child, I had to remain the rock in our family. My older sister, Suzette, at age sixteen, cared more about her vanity and friends than she did much else. Although I did see her weeping a few tears as kind words were said about our father.
My little brother, Rory, was barely ten. He was smart, but immature for his age and routinely got picked on by other kids. His grades were perfect, and no less would be expected for the three of us because we were GEE kids. Our parents had tried the “old fashioned” way to have children and it didn’t work, so they turned to science. I had no problem with my level of intelligence, it was definitely a plus. Most of my teachers deemed me years ahead of my tender age of thirteen; something I tried not to let go to my head, ha ha!
The world we lived in was a privileged one. Father’s work paid well, and we had a beautiful apartment that overlooked the Delaware River. Three service bots kept the family fed, cleaned, and everything running on schedule. That was one definite perk of father working at Servidyne. You might think all that help made our family lazy. Perhaps physically, some, but mentally, it freed us up to pursue higher thinking.
My dream was to create even better bots for people. I knew that made my father proud. But all that was in jeopardy. Our lives now rested with the family planning division of the New Philadelphia government. Admittedly I was scared.
“Come, children,” Mrs. Lowe said, trying to hurry us to the car and out of the rain. We followed her like mindless bots. It was hard to tell what was going through Suz and Rory’s minds; their faces were blank. I felt a gray as the sky above us. The raindrops falling on my face were the tears I would eventually shed. All around us were buildings: glass and steel, modern, clean, and towering. I felt like a microscopic amoeba in my surroundings; a drop of rain in a massive puddle. I was no one.
We sat in the car while she drove us to her place of employ. It was in a tall blue-tinted glass building near the city center. She parked in the underground garage and herded us up to her office on the twentieth floor. Suz and Rory took the two available seats. I choose to stand by the window and look out. There were tears fighting to get out of me, but I continued to hold them back. Maybe tonight I’d have a cry when the others were asleep.
Mrs. Lowe settled behind her desk. She was a young woman who hardly looked old enough to be making decisions about others’ lives. Her hair was long and blonde, it reminded me of my mother’s.
“Children,” she said in a firm tone. “After reviewing your parents’ will, we have located your closest living relatives.”
“Who?” Rory asked.
She shuffled a few papers. “A Mr. and Mrs. Abe Cranwinkle in Broken Bow, Nebraska.”
I turned from my spot at the window. “Where?”
“What country is that in?” Suz piped up.
“America,” she replied. “Although I had to look it up.”
“Where in America?” I pressed.
“The Outer States.”
“What?!” Suz’s mouth fell open.
“We can’t go there,” I countered. “We’re in good schools and have everything we need here.”
“I’m sorry, children. But these are your grandparents. You’re not old enough to be on your own. You must be placed with a responsible adult.”
I watched Suz’s brow furrow. “Why can’t we stay with our neighbor, Mr. Glomly?”
“Is he family?”
“Then, no. Provisions have been made to place your parents’ assets in trust for you children. A monthly allowance will be paid to the Cranwinkles for your maintenance.”
“You make us sound like bots!” Rory barked.
“Isn’t there any way we can stay where we are?” I said, trying to remain strong and level-headed.
“Afraid not. I have my assistant working on your travel arrangements. If all goes accordingly, you will be leaving for Nebraska in a few days. I suggest you pack what you feel is important.”
“What about our apartment? And the bots?” Suz cried. I could tell she was visibly shaken by this whole turn of events.
“Possessions will be placed at auction and the proceeds added to the trust.”

“But once we leave, how can we ever come back?” I asked. What little history they taught us of the Great Separation was barely enough to scratch the surface. All I knew was once you leave, you never come back. I did not want to live in the American wastelands, I wanted to live and work where I knew what to expect. Out there sounded really scary.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Getting it Right: Horses and Tack

Greetings folks,
This is the landing page where you can find all the wonderful, handy links from the Indies Unlimited post "Getting it Right, Horses and Tack." I hope you will use them in your writing to help better create a realistic equestrian situation for your characters. If you have any questions, please leave a reply post and I'll endeavor to assist you. I've done my best to ensure these links are live, but once in a while things change and the links may go dead. But don't give up, use my subject heading and Google it, you might even find better stuff than me!

So, without further adieu, here's the links:


General English riding tack: (Hunting/ Jumping/ Equitation)

Horse bits: (in general—and a great site for loads of other goodies!)


Gaited horses:


Mexican Vaquero: (Charro)

Iberian: (Andalusian, bull fighting, baroque style riding)

Medieval tack/info:

Basic training: (starting a horse under saddle)


Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World-wide governing body for equestrian sport

The US Equestrian Federation (governing body for Olympic level sport)

US Dressage Federation.

3 Day Eventing:



Rodeo: (a “catch all” page)

Endurance Riding:

Basic horse care:

Horse breeds:

General: (a great site for basic breed info!)

Thoroughbreds (racing):


Quarter Horses:

Friesians: (commonly thought of as the “perfect” medieval horse for jousting—although they did little of it)

Pinto horses: (yes, there is a difference between pintos and paints!)

Paint Horses:

American Saddlebred: (the peacock of the show ring)

Sport Equipment:

Stadium Jumping: (use this site to get familiar with types of jumps used in stadium jumping)

Cross country jumping: (use this site to get familiar with cross country—eventing jumps)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Getting to "Noe" you

Today, friends, I have a special treat. As you may know, along with being a farmer, novelist, and blogger, I have aspirations of seeing my work on the silver screen. I mean come on, who wouldn't want to see their characters larger than life, up there for the world to see? So I have begun my journey to find a way into that mystical world called Hollywood. Has it been easy? Heck no! But I have learned a lot from those who have taken the time to mentor me. And below, you’ll meet one such person, Daniel Noe. We connected on Facebook, and besides being friends, he’s been kind enough to help get me on the right path to getting my scripts in front of folks who might be able to make them happen. So sit back, relax, perhaps grab a pen and take some notes, because he’s a really neat person!
Daniel Noe, of Minority Pictures, LLC, has been in the business over 30 years. He’s spent six of that running his own company and another 24 in various “ATL” and “BTL” positions (these are industry terms for budget. “Above The Line” refers to Producers, Director, and Lead talent.  “Below The Line” refers to the various pre-production/production departments and post-production).
I asked him if I could interview him for both my blog and the IU blog, he readily agreed. I typed up 10 questions that I thought would-be screenwriting authors might like to know. Yes, my inquiry mind wanted to know too!

KR: What was the reason you decided to get into film?
DN: It is something I have always wanted to do.  I have not been involved my entire life, but when it is in you, it draws you in eventually.
KR: What is the main function of a producer? 
DN: A broad question. Producers have varying capacities, but at the core, a producer is a person who affects results through action. My take is a producer is a facilitator by function, whether it involves finance, production, post-production, distribution, or in any area related to the project.
KR: What are the basic steps to making a movie? 
DN: Write or buy a script, develop it into a marketable package, prepare for physical production, produce the product, assemble the product in post-production.
KR: Can you explain “packaging” a deal in regards to the writer’s portion? 
DN: The writer’s sole concern is to present a marketable, “calling card” script.  Don’t be concerned with any numbers, with the exception of page counts. A writer can option, outright sell the IP, (Intellectual Property), and even deal memo(an agreement/contract), to do re-writes, if it is offered.  Normally, the writer is paid off, given credit, and then another writing team is deal memo’ed to do the re-writes.
KR: What is your best advice for getting noticed in the industry? 
DN: Be your creative self, practice, practice, practice your discipline, respect the business model, develop lasting relationships (personal/business), and stay patient and passionate.
KR: If someone wants to adapt their novel to a screenplay, what are some resources they can use? 
DN: Plenty of screenplay writing software programs out there, so anyone can cherry pick one to fit their immediate needs. I recommend Final Draft 8, or if one needs to go on the cheap, ask a friend with the program for the margins, headers, tab, and indentation numbers, then create a template with a word writing program that converts to pdf.
KR: If you were to tell an author one good piece of advice about screenwriting, what would it be? 
DN: Get a copy of Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434 (ISBN: 0-399-51838-X). Put your best foot forward!

BTW: I’m about half way through the book, and it has some really great, thought-provoking information.

KR: Should a writer get lucky enough to get a screenplay optioned, what can they expect?
DN: Another broad question.  I will answer with a “newbie” hypothesis.  A new writer, if the script is in demand, should broker for the normal option rate and terms, broker a cheaper than WGA page count rate, and not even worry about a re-write contract. The idea is to get and keep the foot in the door.
KR: What are your feelings about SAG (Screen Actors Guild) and WGA (Writers Guild of America)?
DN: Necessary and engage them as a friend!
KR: And your feelings toward independent productions? 
DN: Absolutely love them. Limitation is the enemy of art!

Nowadays there are increasing opportunities for authors to get their books made into movies. The internet, movies on demand, independent production companies, and large production companies are all looking for new ideas. If you are willing to put forth the effort, you can try and write the screenplay yourself. Otherwise, your job is to find a person in the industry that will champion your book and get it in front of producers and directors. It’s not easy getting that champion, but once you do, always remember to be professional and meet any deadlines. Writers are a dime a dozen in Hollywood, your goal is to outshine all of those and make a name for yourself. If you truly dream of seeing your book on the silver screen, it’s time to get cracking and make it happen!

You can check out Daniel’s blog on:
And you can connect with him professionally:

Until next time, my creatively obsessed friends,


Other recommended books:
How not to write a screenplay ISBN: 1-58065-015-5 (have not read this one yet, but it was recommended by my “script Doctor”)
Screenplay ISBN: 978-0-385-33903-2 (the absolute go-to book)
Making a good script great ISBN 978-935247-01-2
How to adapt anything into a screenplay ISBN: 0-471-22545-2
The screenwriter’s bible ISBN: 978-1-935247-02-9 (an AWESOME book!)