Friday, July 29, 2011

No one told me not to bite the horse...until it was too late.

This is one of those stories that sounds, well, made up. But it's true.

It was just before Christmas in 1988. I had started my first professional job, and became friends with a woman  grew up on a farm and knew and loved horses. She saw an ad in the paper from an elderly couple who wanted someone to care for their horses and would allow the caretaker to ride them whenever they wanted.
   She was relentless when she wanted something. She wanted me to go riding with her. I finally relented.
   I'd been on horses before. Twice. Both times they were trail trained, docile, and friendly.
    She showed me how mount the horse. I did it and she said I looked like a natural. The horse and I stood, calmly waiting for her to mount hers so we could go riding.
    Do you remember that I have just a wee bit of Type A in my personality? A little. A titch, a touch, a smidgen. OR a streak...depending.

She didn't tell me the horse was leg trained. I had no idea such a thing was possible.

I leaned back in the saddle, putting my legs back to try to get a better grip. I said nothing to the animal. I didn't move the reins. Not a "giddyup", not a sneeze, not a fart, not a nothing.

He took off across the snow-dusted field like he was being chased by the very hosts of hell. Or a flock of Avon ladies...or Seventh Day Adventists. I stayed in the clenching my legs and yanking on the reins.

The horse ran harder and faster. He had his head turned and his neck back, but was running harder and faster.

He ran toward a split-rail fence. I saw it, about a hundred yards away. By then I was standing in the stirrups, yanking the reins, shouting WOAH like I was Yosemite Sam. I was looking into one of his eyes...the one he wasn't looking out of at the moment. I was sure he was going to jump the fence.

We were close to the fence when I decided 3 things. 1--I was the man. 2--He was the beast of burden. 3--He was not going to jump that fence if I had anything to say about it.

It bit its ear.

Bit it hard, baby! Clenched the old jawbown.

No one ever told me... Horses can stop on a dime!

With lightning speed, I collided --intimately--with every vertebrae in his neck. We found my wallet on the other side of the fence.

He stopped and stayed stopped. I slumped in the saddle, pretty sure I was bleeding internally, but still in the saddle. We made a sort of peace, that horse and me.

The young woman I was with knew no such peace. She was howling at me like I'd just kicked a puppy. "What possessed you to bite a horse! You can't bite a horse! He'll throw you!"

I asked the horse if he was going to throw me. He gave every indication that throwing me was the last thing on his mind. Frankly, I think he was a little surprised.

I learned my lesson, too. I rode a few times after that, but have never bitten a horse again. I figure everyone gets one...and I used mine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

True Story--I went skydiving once

Skydiving: or Why Jump Suits Don't Have Pockets
Training: five hours.

Questions asked during traning:
Q: If your main chute doesn't open, how long do you have to decide to pull your reserve chute?
A: The rest of your life.
Q: If you land wrong, how do we pick you up?
A: With a spoon.

Everybody's a smartass, on the ground.

Tricia talked me into this. Tricia, and her husband Bob. It wasn't tough to convince me. I always wanted to jump out of an airplane. I had visions of the John Wayne jump: standing at the big door on the back of the plane and hurling myself into the sky with absolute faith that the chute would open and I would glide gently to the earth.
   The class started with a video: an attorney explaining that everyone just signed away their rights to suit if they died...ever...for any reason. Any. We studied. We joked. We watched tapes...some idiots trying to swim back to the plane....
   Tricia started out in a pissy mood and it didn't get any better. It was a hot day and humidity made her bitchy. For the millionth time I was very glad she had a husband named anybody but me. She had jumped before, which, if you asked her (and no one did) made her an expert.
   Here are the cliffs Notes from the class:
* You jump from 5,000 feet. You have an altimeter strapped to your chest. If it reads 1,500 feet and your chute isn't won't need it. It's too late.
* There's a lake 5 miles away. You have a small life raft on your back. Don't aim for the lake.
* You can steer a rectangular parachute. Pull on the handles in the direction you want to go.
* The chute has a forward airspeed of 35 mph. Add the airspeed to the wind speed of 5 mph (that day) and subtract it if its to your back.
*That's why you have to collapse the chute 15 feet above the ground. By the time you pull both handles down as hard as you can, you'll be about 10 feet from the ground and land softly.
* There is a 1-way radio in your helmet. We'll talk you down. We'll tell you when to collapse your chute.

So the time finally came. Tricia, Bob (her husband) and I boarded the little Cessna. There was a pilot, the jump master, Tricia, Bob, and me. I was the smallest. I would jump last. Remember the John Wayne and back door image? Forget it. You put your feet on a little metal plate outside the plane, go hand-over-and onto the wing strut, look up and let go. Then you're supposed to arch your back so when the chute opens, it goes straight up and you won't get tangled in it. Very important to arch your back.
   We're up in the air. The altimeter confirmed it. Damn guage rising. Rising. When it hits the red, some schmuck is going to open the door and expects me to climb out on the wing and leggo, trusting a different unknown schmuck's ability to stuff a piece of cloth, to which I shall trust my life, to his edcuation and skill.
   Tricia jumped without hesitation. She just wanted to get it over with. Her static line clunked against the bottom of the plane. The sound made me think she had hit the back wings. Panic rose within me. Bob jumped. Same Thunk. At least he had the decency to look scared shitless before he went.
   My turn. I was glad the jump suit was dark green. Hide the wet spot. I went to the door, looked at the plate I was supposed to but both feet on. It was about 6" square. The wing strut was way out there. A stretch. Was I worried about falling? Yes. Why? Dunno.
   I look down. Fields. Little squares of God's goodness. And a dude with a spatula...waiting. I think his name is Doug. If it ain' oughta be.
   So I go out on the strut. Hanging on. Let go.
   The world spun. I went into full, white-out, mindbobbling panic. Mindless screaming. No arching my back. I was swimming. The very idea seemed funnier than hell on the ground but it felt like a really good idea when I was watching the world and the airplane change positions.
   The chute opened. Felt like a kick to the balls. Good thing my mouth was closed then. My teeth held my intestines inside. I looked up, saw the glory of the chute, and shouted, "Thank you, God! Took ya long enough!"
   The radio in my helmet started talking to me. I knew it was 1-way, but replied anyway.
   "Dave. Your chute is open. You're fine."
   I know.
   "Take a right turn."
   Okay. I pulled the handle and turned in a gentle circle to the right. It was beautiful! Quiet. Slow. Relaxing. I was as relaxed as a man who just got is balls kicked up to his neck by a thing called velocity could be!
   "Take a left turn."
   "Good. Now we'll practice collapsing the chute."
   What? Why?
   "Pull down on both handles, count to three, then let them back up."
   I did. It's called FREE FALL! I counted to 3. Let the handles back up. Got another kick to the cookies as a reward. POOM! Take that, Steele! I had all sorts of creative names for the voice that could not hear me.
   They said a 200 pound man would be in the air for about 20 minutes. I weighed (and weigh) 120. I lost track of time, but I was getting bored. Tried to figure out how to fish a cigarette out of my pocket.
   The voice came back. "Dave, it's very important that you...sadkfjdsalkfj....!" Static.
   I started to look for the airpot. Couldn't find it. Saw the lake...not the airport.
   "skdkfhd! You...must...sdflksdjflsdk;fj!!!"
   Shit. I'm lost.
   I started whapping the radio in my helmet. It didn't help.
   Shut up. I'm thinking.
   The radio went blissfully silent. I think they'd given up on me by then.
   I found the airport! I was only a few hundred feet up. The wind was at my back, which meant I was traveling about 40 the wrong direction. I was running out of airfield. I knew it was too late to turn around. No time. They said 15'--the distance form the ground we were supposed to collapse the chute--is when you can distinguish individual blades of grass. I'm farsighted. Didn't wear glasses then.
   I collapsed the chute when I was 30' in the air...with the wind at my back. I landed hard, but unhurt. The wind filled the chute. Dragged me face-first over the ground. Bouncing. Bbbb! Bbb! I heard sirens. Didn't pay much attention to' em. I was too busy yanking on the lines trying to catch my chute.
   The sirens belonged to an ambulance. The ambulance was leading the crowd of people who were pretty surte I was dead. I wasn't, of course. Not even hurt. I'm not tough...but I'm durable. Like Tupperware.
   My wife says I'm not allowed to go sykdiving anymore. That's fine with me. And I'm sure it's fine with the good folks in Hastings, MI who had to watch me do it the first time.

Sometimes it's hard not to run from the room howling in laughter

...but it's usually for the best.
   I was delivering packets to banks in Flint, MI today. I work at a large restaurant and have been trying to drum up business in catering events and private parties, that sort of thing. Today I went to an older part of the city of Flint, MI. If you know Flint, you might know that it has a high crime rate. I don't say that with any intended disrespect to Flint, but it is true.
    Today I delivered a packet of information to a bank in Flint. I don't think it was a bad part of town. In fact, there are several banks in the area, a high rise apartment building, brick streets, and a university bookstore. I like seeing the variety of people. I was the only one wearing a German coat with embroidery, burgundy necktie and black pants when it was 80 degrees in the shade. I wasn't one of several men walking around with their shirts undone and in one notable case, his pants undone...but I didn't exactly blend in.
...Anyhow, the bank story.
   All I wanted to do was drop off a packet of information to one of those multi-story, big banks. The kind with bronze plaques of historical significance on the outside wall next to the door.
   Most of the larger banks I visit have a receptionist desk in the lobby. This one didn't. It has a security desk in front of the door in the lobby. There was a woman behind the counter. She was about the size of two of me. I'm a little guy, but even so... It occurred to me that dropping anything off and walking quickly out of bank in today's climate might lead someone charged with the security of the facility to worry a bit.
   I handed her the packet and she raised a suspicious eyebrow. I said, "I'm from .............(naming the restaurant) and I'd like to leave this with you in case you have any catering needs or would like a private party."
    She made no reply. She looked at the packet as if it might contain radioactive sauer kraut, then eyeballed me in a sweaty, serpentine way.
   I was tempted, but resisted, to raise my hands in the air and turn and run from the bank shouting, "Lookout world! I have no idea what that thing's gonna do!"

You know...someday when I'm in an old folk's home sucking my steak dinner through a straw, I'll look back on this and wish I had run screaming from the bank. :-D

Monday, July 18, 2011

Korsakoff's Disease, my long road to diagnosis

I promised some friends in a Facebook group I would post this. In 2005, I was hospitalized for Wernicke Encephalopathy. I was in dire straits. I recovered. That's the simple, short version. For the longer version, and a really good story if I do say so myself, please purchase a copy of Green Goblin, the little book I wrote about the experience. It's the only book of it's kind about the disease. Click the title in the picture on this blog and it'll take you to the book.
   What I want to talk about now is what came after the Wernickes. I have Korsakoffs.Don't worry. It won't kill me.
   My doctor in Cleveland wasn't thrilled when I told him I was moving to Michigan. He was quite impressed with the care I received at Hillcrest Hospital in Cleveland, and the quality of recuperative care I got at Willow Park, also in Cleveland.
   But there I was, in his office, weeks later, very much alive thanks to the good people at the aforementioned places, and I was telling him I was going to move to Northeast Michigan. He reacted like I told him I was moving to Siberia. He said, "Within three months there, I want you to see a neurologist. You're probably not done with this yet and you're going to need help."
   I agreed. I forgot I agreed, but I agreed.
   A couple of months went by. My wife and I were living with her mother until our house in Cleveland sold. I was trying to write books and didn't want to admit I couldn't do it. I couldn't string words together. I've mentioned this in previous posts, so I won't dwell on it here. I had to teach myself how to write again, so I typed other people's books.
   What I didn't do was look for a neurologist. My wife asked me about it once or twice, and neither one of us could think of what I would tell a neurologist if I did see one. I wasn't exhibiting symptoms of anything that I could think of. I had my balance back, my weight was coming back, and I was sober. What more could there be, and what could a neurologist do for me?
   Six months after we moved to Michigan, I took a part time job. I worked at one of the 10 biggest restaurants in the U.S. Still work there, in fact. My job was cleaning things like the kitchen floor and the bathrooms. I wanted a job that didn't require a lot of thought so I could focus on writing the books I wanted to write.
    I did that for six months before the neuropathy set in. Some days were worse than others. Pain, sometimes wracking pain, filled my legs. Sometimes the pain was in my groin. I went to the MedExpress a few times for the pain and they would prescribe drugs. The drugs helped, but I knew how I let alcohol drive me and I worried I might get addicted to the drugs. So... I usually threw away at least some of the prescription. Other pills I cut in half.
   One of the doctors thought I might have testicular cancer. He sent me to have an ultrasound. You know, as much fun as it might sound to have a female smear gelatin over, and rub it with a wand, it really isn't. Trust me on that one. No cancer, by the way.
   Then I went to a family physician. He's my regular doctor now and he's a good one. We still didn't know what I was suffering was neuropathy. Wernickes is rare in the United States (thank God), and he admitted to me later that he didn't know much about it.
   He sent me to have an EMG test. That's a fun little test where put needles in your arms, legs, neck, and shoulder--wherever there might be neuropathy--and run electricity through it. It's not fun. Hurts. The guy who administered the test left me alone--with the juice on!--for about five minutes while he took a cellular call from his daughter. He's lucky I didn't strap his happy ass to the machine when he came back in. It was a close thing.
   Went back to my physician. He said the tests didn't show any conclusive results. He was quite happy to file a complaint about the guy who walked out of the room on me while electricity set my nerves on fire. Then he sent me to a neurologist.
   That neurologist wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. He sure thought he was, but at least when it came to knowing about Wernickes and Korsakoffs, he didn't know much at all. He banged my knees with  a tuning fork, and my toes, etc. The big toe on my right foot tingles and goes numb sometimes. He said that was neuropathy. The leg pain, he said, is not. He was wrong about that, by the way. Quite wrong.
   I brought up Wernickes. He said, "You're over it. Forget about that. It isn't your problem...unless you're drinking again." I assured him I was not.
   A few months went by. Months of sometimes bad leg pain, sometimes not so bad. I started to research Wernickes online and found a group online. One of the people who participated in those discussions was with a treatment center in the United Kingdom. (Hi, Karen!) She told me about treatments with vitamins. I had been taking thiamin because it seemed like a good idea to take supplements of the vitamin that I was missing when I fell ill in the first place. She told me that some patients respond well to very high doses of thiamin (which is Vitamin B1). I started taking it and it helped. Now I take about 2,000 MGs of it a day and am almost pain free.
   By then I was working in a different department in the restaurant, one that required some thinking. I was working in the accounting department. Memory problems revealed themselves. Not only would I forget things--which everyone does. I would forget I ever knew them. There were holes in my memory. Big ones, little ones. Holes.
   I got a bad performance review because of those holes in my memory. That bad review was what I needed. Not to shape me up, because I'm a good worker. It was what I needed to take to my physician. It's kind of a strange things, but American doctors typically don't address memory problems until they're documented by an employer, educator, etc.
   My doctor grew quite concerned. My memory problems were not normal, especially for a man my age. I was 42-43 at the time. He ordered an E.E.G. I was epileptic as a kid, and we thought my problems might be related to that. They weren't. My E.E.G. results were fine. Then he sent me to a different neurologist.
   That guy was good. He tested my memory briefly in his office. That bit you might see on detective shows...where the doctor tells someone to remember 3 things and then talks and talks and asks what the 3 things are... He did that with me. I couldn't remember one of the three.
   He looked over my medical history and said, "You have Korsakoffs."
   I said, "What's next?"
   He was quick to point out that there is no cure. He said it wouldn't kill me, but there was no cure. I don't know what kind of reaction he thought he was going to get. I looked at him and smiled. He started to say something else and I stopped him. "We'll see about that," I said.
   I was scared, but I was smiling. He didn't know I was the guy who kept untying himself and trying to escape from neural intensive care precisely because I don't give up. I wasn't going to let forgetting three words make me believe there wasn't hope.
  He sent me to a neuropsychologist. A neuropsychologist isn't a shrink. They study behavior and do testing of the brain and thinking processes  to try to figure out what's going on without having to cut open the skull and peer at the gray matter.
   The neuropsychologist was in a town I lived in for ten years. The streets in that town are not laid out well. If you don't know the town, it's quite easy to get lost there. I was able to negotiate the streets as if I never left...and it had been ten years since my wife and I moved away. That was a confidence builder for me. I was convinced that he would find nothing wrong with me or my memory.
   The testing took 6 hours. He started with several hours worth of IQ tests. They try to determine pre-illness IQ and post-illness IQ. I really don't know which test was for what. He determined I had suffered no loss of IQ.
   He also determined that I have Korsakoff's. There are several tests they do to check your memory. Word lists, drawings, stories they have you repeat. Lots of little tests. It was frightening. The ones I failed, I failed completely. I have a visual memory. I can "see" things I want to remember. At some points during that day, the interior screen--the little film screen I can see when I try to remember things--went blank. Nothing. Zip and zero and nada.
   It was scary. It could have been depressing. I wouldn't let it be either of those things for long. I couldn't let it be either of those things for long.
  I remember taking my first swim test as a Boy Scout. I had to swim 100 yards. I was paddling along, struggling, but determined to make it, while a lifeguard walked alongside me on the dock. I heard him say, "He's not going to make it," to someone. I gave up when I heard him say that. I think, looking back on it, that he did me a real dis-service that day. Ever since, I promised myself I would never give up just because someone said something can't be done. Hmm... Maybe that kid on the dock did me a bigger favor than I thought.
  The neuropsychologist said, "You have Korsakoffs. Your memory will never get any better. As long as you don't start drinking again, it probably won't get any worse...but it will never get better." He recommended I carry a digital voice recorder and make notes for myself on it.
   I did that. It helps. But he was wrong about my memory not getting better. It's still not great, by the way. I do have Korsakoffs. He was wrong, though, when he said it wouldn't get better. Practice makes it better. I don't know how, from a neurology standpoint, my memory is better, but I do know that it is better. I still carry the recorder but I don't need it as much. I eat well, and I take my thiamin, and I don't drink.
   I guess if there's a moral to this entry it's this: don't give up.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sexton Sand, Chapter 91


Andy was proud of the uppercut punch he threw. It clocked Rajahd’een under the shin. Its head snapped back with the force of the blow and it reeled on its feet. It, he thought. Remember that it is an it! He took a step forward and pulled his arm back to throw another punch. Rajahd’een threw a hand in the air, palm out. Red light sprayed from the hand and hit him full force in the chest. Andy didn’t feel the blow, but he was in the air, in the rain in the air, the breath gone from his chest, in the air. He hit the ground with a thud and saw his ankles go over his head. He slid, suddenly facedown, in the mud and rain in the road. In a flash of lightning he was back on his feet.
Lightning flashed three times in the blink of an eye. It had a strobe effect on Tom as he dove for Rajahd'een—it—and hit him in the jaw. The little guy packed a hell of a punch. It knocked Rajahd’een off his feet. He landed on his butt in the road. Lightning again, again, and again. Andy roared and charged back in. Tom flew backwards, off Rajahd’een, and crashed into Andy. Both men fell to the ground. They scrambled apart, Tom went to Andy’s left, and without a word to each other, they charged in again.
He was surprised to see Tom pull his sword. The blade flashed in a blast of lightning and Andy felt his heart seize. Don’t kill him! He couldn’t shout the thought; his breath was caught in his throat.
Tom didn’t kill him. He grabbed the hilt with his right hand as well as his left when he swung the side of the blade—not the edge—and whacked Rajahd’een full force across the chest. A baseball bat would have been better suited to the task, but the flat of a sword was nothing to sneeze at. The Rajahd’een thing lost the air in its lungs with the force of the blow. His eyeballs bulged and he fell back.
John came from the side while Rajahd’een was reeling. He hit him in the shoulders and both went down. They wrestled. John couldn’t believe the strength in the guy. He was tall and skinny and had shown some strength in the past, but with the demon inside him, he didn’t seem to care what happened to him. Mud flew. The rain was pounding them. John realized he was losing when Raj’s ankles went around his calves. He saw the guy’s forehead come straight at his eyes, and saw stars when it hit him just above the bridge of his nose. The pain was blinding, dizzying, and sharp enough to make his eyes blur. He jerked his head back and only vaguely felt the man slide out from under him.
Tom stepped over John and brought his sword back for another whack at Rajahd’een. Andy’s voice broke through the rain and stopped him before he swung.
Look out, Tom! He’s got magic coming at...!”
That was all he heard. He didn’t see whatever the magic was that hit him. It felt like electricity riddled him: his jaw clenched around his tongue, which went numb; snot flew out of his nose; and his hair jumped on his scalp. A scream plied its way out of his mouth around his zapped tongue, and he was in the air again. He was only slightly aware he landed in a puddle. There were sparks in his vision. He rolled over onto his right shoulder and vomited in the mud. Started to stand, but his legs wobbled under him. The world was going black and yellow in his eyes when he collapsed in the road.
There was a sudden lull in the fight. Andy was looking at Rajahd’een’s face as he struggled to his feet. He was determined to fight until they beat the evil out of their friend. There was light, magic, around Rajahd’een’s face. It was a riot of conflicting colors swirling in a way that made him want to look away, but he couldn’t look away. Under the magic, Raj’s face and the face of Rajahd’een the demon possessed dude fought. He couldn’t tell who was winning.
A voice, a really, really loud voice made everyone stopped. It ripped through the air louder than any of the thunder of the storm had ripped it. It was a familiar voice and it made Andy shudder even though he knew the source of it.
Get out of the way! Tis one is MINE!”
Andy whipped his head around to see the source of the shout. There he was, at the edge of the road, looking like Hell’s little brother. Benecala. Lord Mage of Sexton. Pissed off, Lord Mage of Sexton.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's live, it could be yours...the Big Book of Sexton Chronicles!

The first three books of the Sexton Chronicles: Sexton, Sexton Spice, and Storm Clouds Over Sexton can be yours under one hard cover. It's a big book, as I mentioned: 794 pages, 8.5" x 11". Consider it a coffee table book worth reading.

It's cheaper than buying the books separately...which is why it won't hurt my feelings one little bit if you prefer to buy the books separately.

Here's the link to the book. You'll only be able to buy it from Lulu. It's too big for Amazon.

The first 3 Sexton Chronies in one BIG book...coming soon

It probably won't surprise you that I've been a big fan of the Lord of the Rings since I was in fourth grade and I read The Hobbit. In fifth grade I read Fellowship of the Ring. And read the others soon after.
   I was fascinated by the Big RED Book... The book that held all of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in one cover. It was hardcover, it was thick, it was...placed high on the bookshelves at Walden Books. I touched a copy once, reverently. It was out of my price range at the time. Never did buy a copy.

  Lately, though, I've wanted to make my own version of that Big Red Book. With, there was nothing stopping me. Lulu can make hardcover books up to 800 pages. Sexton, Sexton Spice, and Storm Clouds Over Sexton, with some tinkering on my part, come in at 798 pages. By tinkering I mean I had to reduce the size of the chapter numbers, and I had to make the book 8.5" x 11". I did not cut anything from the books. The text is the same as it is when the books are purchased individually.

   I'll have it available for purchase in a couple of days and will post the link here. It's going to be expensive. I haven't gotten to the price-setting portion of uploading the book yet, but it'll probably be $50-60. As I've mentioned before, I have dialup internet at home (it's free), and it takes me a while to upload files to Lulu. It took almost 2 hours to upload the contents of this book. The file is just under 5 megabytes...and it's all text.

   I'm excited. Soon I'll have my version of the Big Red Book in my hands. I'm going to design the cover tomorrow. I'm looking forward to that, too.

Monday, July 11, 2011

No matter where in the world you are, you can get my books.

I have visitors to this blog from all over the world, and I'm happy for it. I love to look at the map blogger provides that shows me how many hits and from which country it has been visited.

Pardon me for this brief advertisement... If you can read this blog, you can order my books:

Sexton (Sexton Chronicles I)
Sexton Spice (Sexton Chronicles II)
Storm Clouds Over Sexton (Sexton Chronicles III)

Green Goblin (the story of my survival of Wernicke's Encephalopathy)
Just for Fun: A Little Sexton and Some Other Stuff

Order the books in paperback, or hardcover, or pdf, or epub format from

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Chapter 86, Sexton Sand (The book will be released before July 31, 2011)


   Nick’s boots sank in the sand. He was standing under a cloudless sky that baked everything under it. There was a line of footprints in front of him, but he couldn’t tell how many feet it took to make it. He was standing in front of a sand dune curving gently upward to a crest about ten feet above his head. There were others around it, marked only by sweeps made by the dry wind. He looked over his shoulder to see if the portal he came through was still open. It was, but it didn’t matter much. He saw no need to go back to Balfour in the immediate future. What he wanted was to find the blackrobe, and the thing they took from fort.
   The footprints went around the dune rather than up it. He thought about going straight up the dune to get a better view, but changed his mind. The desert had different rules than the woods. It wasn’t like he’d be able to hide behind a tree at the top of the dune. He followed the tracks to the side and walked between dunes, looking left and right as he went. There were no tracks up the sides. Before he curved away from clear view of the way he came, he turned again.
   The portal he came through was gone. He had a clear view of miles of desert. Sweat was starting to run down his face. His shirt was stuck to his chest. There were two sets of tracks in the area where the portal stood a couple of minutes before: his, and the blackrobe’s. Behind where the portal stood there were signs a group had camped there. Sand was disturbed, flattened in places men slept. There was no litter, and that didn’t surprise him. Crescens were clean; they packed out their trash. So, they were waiting for the blackrobe. The theft was planned. Theft. He chuckled at the thought. Whatever the red diamond did for them, only they knew. It was obvious they planted it in Balfour. It was probably theirs all along. Water. He turned and started walking. The answers he needed were ahead of him, not behind.
   “Which is it, wizard?”
   Nick stopped. The voice came from no particular direction. He prepared no spell, and didn’t pull his sword. He stood in the sand and waited for the rest of the question. A minute passed and the voice didn’t repeat the question. Nick started walking again.
   “Which is it, wizard?”
   The voice was no closer, no farther away, and he still couldn’t see anyone. He continued to ignore it. The tracks in front of him were more interesting. A few yards in front of him, the line became a mess in the sand. There had been a fight, and not that long before he got there. Some of the sand was dark from blood spilled. A few mounds—he didn’t bother to count them—in the area were probably covered bodies.
   “Are you not going to answer me?”
   “If you bother to ask a whole question,” he replied to the dunes, “I might.”
   Nick started walking, and thinking. The fight probably wasn’t an internal struggle among the Crescens. The trail showed a lot of discipline. He thought it was probably made by Crescen soldiers under the leadership of the druid, and the fight was probably caused by prisoners trying to break free. That made sense in light of the war.
   “I tire of you,” the voice said. “On the wall you first pretended to be naught but a battle-picker, a treasure hunter...and later revealed yourself to be a magician. So I ask you, again, which is it?”
   He was at the base of a tall dune. By the time the druid asked the question, Nick was able to find him. He was standing at the top of the dune. The sun was behind him and Nick couldn’t make out the face, but he recognized the voice. It was one of the blackrobes from Balfour. That didn’t surprise him at all. “You know what bugs me about you guys?”
   “Bugs you?”
   “Irritates me a little bit.” He could see the glow of the druid’s eyes. Ugly. Blood-red, and more than a little creepy.
   “I understand the phrase now.” He laughed. “Which means I have two questions. We shall start with the second: what bugs you about us?”
   “Everything with you guys is black or white, this or that. You have no comprehension of shades between the two, no subtlety. Your motives are transparent, your methods are brutal...”
   “As in nature. As in the world created by Xeruit.”
   Nick smiled up at him. “Right. Xeruit.”
   “You have no stake in this conflict. You are unknown to us. You fought alongside Benecala the demon, and established yourself as an least at that point in time. You see, you are quite wrong that we lack subtlety. We, as keepers of nature, are masters of it. The storm that brings destruction also brings water. The sun that can whither us also grows the things we need to eat. At the moment, you are against us and we are against you. That could change in an instant, but first we must know who you are and what you are. Which is it? Hapless wanderer and thief with some skill in magic, or mighty wizard from another world?”
   Nick smiled. He moved his hands away from himself and spread his fingers, ready for a fight. “There you go again with the or. I am neither a Sexton nor a Crescen. Who wins and who loses your war is of little interest to me. I have great magic at my disposal, but I also have desire to...acquire talismans of power I can use on my world. The answer to the question, your reverence, is yes.”
   “I see you wish to fight me. Do not do that.”
   “Why not? You have something I want. You have the red diamond.”
   “We do not have it with us.”
   Nick closed his eyes and felt a sense of dread. He made a mistake Benecala wouldn’t have made. He made a mistake he shouldn’t have made. The druid said we. “How many of you are watching this exchange?”
   The druid laughed. He clapped his hands. A shimmer of light flashed brighter than the sun. Nick had to blink for several seconds after it stopped. When his vision cleared he saw the answer to his question: four.
Four blackrobes were standing around him. He could see the two in front of him and could sense the power from the two behind him. There was nothing he could do short of a kamikaze attack that would have been his death in seconds, that would stop them from weaving a cage of magic between each other and around him. He could see the shimmer of their magic and feel a tightening in the air. Blocked. They blocked his magic. He had nothing that could penetrate their cage; even the sword was useless.
   The blackrobe walked down the dune and stood in front of his prisoner. Nick could smell him through the weave of nullifying magic. He reeked of sweat, and dust, and foul power. “Where are you from, and what is your name?”
   “I’m an American. My name is Harry Houdini.”
   The druid laughed and raised a finger. “You are most fortunate, Galizzi, that my magic cannot penetrate the cage any more than you can penetrate the cage.”
   “Oh, man!” Nick moaned behind a grin. “If you already know who I am, why did you ask?”
   The blackrobe didn’t answer. The conversation was over. He turned his back on Nick and started to walk. Nick and his four captors followed him.

How does a guy with Korsakoffs write books? I'll tell you.

I have Korsakoffs disease. I'm a survivor of Wernicke Encephalopathy, a disease that comes about from a deficiency of thiamin (vitamin b1) as a result of long-term alcohol abuse. I describe that illness and my recovery in my book entitled "Green Goblin", copies of which can be purchased from the link:

I write fantasy novels. Serial fantasy novels. I'm finishing the fourth novel in the series. One of the things I like about people who read fantasy novels is that they are loyal, and picky. By 'picky' I mean that they have an expectation that the details from one book will carry over to the next. They expect--and should expect--that the rules that apply in the world created by the author are consistent.
   That means I have to remember stuff, details, from one book to the next to the next.
   Korsakoffs is marked by impaired memory. I've had the tests that determine I have Korsakoffs. I have impaired memory. To ask me how I remember stuff from one book to the next is a fair question, and I hope to be able to answer it fairly. I also hope that somewhere in my answer there can be help found for others with Korsakoffs.
   I write each chapter one at a time, without outline. I sit down at my desk with an idea in mind and run with it for about 1,500 words. Then I either stop or move on to the next chapter, depending on how much time I have and whether or not I feel ready to continue.
   The next time I sit down, I retype the writing from the last time I wrote. I might tweak it a bit here and there but let me be clear: I am not revising.
   ...I'm remembering. Or, more accurately, I'm rebuilding the memory.
   I write a block, I retype a block, I write a block, then I retype that block and write another. Sometimes I have to type a chapter three or four times before I feel comfortable that the details I need to retain are locked in. After I finish the book, I check it for errors. Then I read it. Then I check it for errors again, then read it again.
   Then I publish the book.
   I'm re-reading the second book in the series, Sexton Spice now. There are things in the book--little details--I forgot that will come into play in the fourth book, the one I'm writing now. They system might sound repetitive to you, but it works for me.

Bottom line--my writing practice sounds a lot like "Lather. Rinse. Repeat." It works for shampoo (or for selling shampoo) and it works for me.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Have you heard the phrase "money laundering?" Thank Al Capone.

There's a PBS documentary airing in October about Al Capone and prohibition. I'll probably watch it. I like reading about organized crime. I don't condone it in any way, but I do like to learn about it.
   A lot of people think the gangsters of prohibition got their start when booze became illegal in the United States because of the Volstead Act. That's not quite true.

Prohibition made the gangs bigger and the gangsters richer, but most of them, including Al Capone, were crooks before prohibition.

Al Capone, for instance, invented money-laundering.

Capone got his start as the owner of a laundry. He went after hotel business: bed sheets, towels, tablecloths, etc. In Chicago. There were a lot of hotels. Initially, there was a lot of companies doing the laundry for the hotels. Al Capone started muscling them. Their trucks had "mechanical difficulties", and when the competitor couldn't pick up the dirty laundry, Capone's trucks picked it up. He started gaining business from hotels. His guys made it clear that Capone's company was the "best" way to go. From what I can gather, they weren't very nice about it.

Then prohibition came along. He had trucks, he had men, he had a legitimate business. When they made money from the sale of illegal booze, they put the money through the laundry business books...

They "laundered" the money.