Data Stream Lost

What is the significance of the image above?

None. Sometimes a wooden skull superimposed against the sky is simply a wooden skull superimposed against the sky.

Hey, I never promised I'd start making sense.

It's been a busy week for me. Taught my last Summer Writing Course on Thursday evening. The Library has plans to start an adult writing course in January of 2013, so if you're in the Oxford area and you have an interest in listening to me babble for an hour and a half once a week for a month or two, hit me with an email and I'll keep you posted on dates and other specifics.

Since the new Markhat novel Brown River Queen sold a couple of weeks ago, I've started on the new Meralda and Mug novel, All the Turns of Light.  I'll keep posting here about my progress or lack thereof. I would welcome emails of encouragement, especially if they arrive as credible threats to my physical well being. I'm having a hard time writing these days, folks. Maybe it's the heat, maybe it's my own innate slothful nature, combined with a complete and utter lack of any discernable work ethic.

Sure, I sit at the keyboard and pound away. Like I've done all afternoon, just now.

I deleted it. Every word. It was awful, and no amount of editing was going to fix it.

They say every writer has a million bad words inside they have to write down before the good ones start emerging. I thought I'd gotten rid of the bad ones already.

Guess not. You learn something new every day, which as far as I'm concerned is a compelling reason to stay in bed with the covers pulled over your head.

That's my pal Thor. We call him Thorazine sometimes because he's nuts. But in a good way. Like any German Shepherd dog, he's attentive and protective and always, always eager to please. He's at my feet right now, half-asleep, ready to get up and play should I do anything but type.

Thor's a rescue dog. All of our dogs are. He was a year old when we got him, and it took him about 15 minutes to fall utterly and completely in love with Karen and I. His former person gave him up because he stopped being a puppy. News flash, idiot former owner. That's what dogs do. Stop being puppies.

I hope Thor doesn't remember Former Idiot Owner. I bet he does. But he seems very happy here, and this is his home, forever.

Thor is the second GSD (German Shepherd Dog) I've had the pleasure of knowing. Maggie, bless her soul, was the first. She was twice Thor's size, and he's no dwarf. Honestly, Maggie was the size of a small horse. I'm not exaggerating. She frightened people from considerable distances, even though she was a gentle, kind giant.

And she loved me. As, perhaps, only a GSD can. Once upon a time -- I won't go into the details -- I found myself face to face with an angered redneck, of the gap-toothed and tattooed variety. The guy was puffed up and ready to fight.

Until Maggie, who never had a moment of formal training, squeezed her massive frame through a partially-opened pickup truck window and joined me, at my side.

Redneck lad went from furious to calm and submissive in a heartbeat.

Maggie never growled. She never bared her teeth. She never breathed hard. She sat, right by my side, but we all knew that if Redneck started trouble Maggie would be the one to end it.

I walked away unscathed. Maggie obeyed my 'girl, truck' command like she'd been trained by the Mossad.

Maggie is buried, along with seven others, here on the property. She died of sudden acute kidney failure. 

I think of her daily. As I do of the others. They were all amazing animals, all our friends. All rescues, all strays, all judged worthless by the wide, wide world.

Which just shows what the wide world knows.

You may have seen this pic before. It's a steampunk gun. Okay, truth time -- it's a Nerf gun I modified so that it appears to be a steampunk gun.

I like making things. It's relaxing. Throw some Pink Floyd on the stereo, grab the super glue, dump a bin of spare parts on the workbench, and get busy. It's therapy, people, for minds that don't respond well to any other kind of therapy.

It's a bit like the gun Markhat now carries. You know, the gun Evis and his pals created in the catacombs beneath Avalante. First they created gunpowder, which allowed them to create cannons. Then some bright tech thought 'You know what? Scaled down, a man could carry one of these!'

And thus the handcannon was born. Markhat first carried one in The Broken Bell. Haven't read it?

Then get thee here and grab a copy! Look, it's got magic. Gunplay. A film noir detective. Intrigue. Adventure. Love. Hate. Hope. Despair. 

It's five bucks. 

Give The Broken Bell a try!

That's my bike.

She's a Honda Rebel. 250 cc, so we're not talking hog here. She'll do an easy 85, though, so she's no scooter.

Karen has a similar bike a Suzuki GZ250. Both get around 68 MPG. We ride them to work when the weather is nice, and kick around in the country on the weekends. 

I'd never ridden a motorcycle before buying the Honda. I laid her down the very first day, when I learned the hard way that making a turn into gravel at speed is a good way to test your protective motorcycle gear. I walked away without a scratch; the Rebel has a tiny ding in her gas tank, and since I've learned to ride a bike.

The first thing a motorcycle teaches you is speed. More precisely, the significance thereof. 

You're in a car. You're doing 65. You're bored, you're listening to the radio, you're thinking about work and a thousand other things.

Get on a bike. Do 65.

Oh, boys and girls. You suddenly understand, down to your bones, that this speed can and will kill you.

There's no illusion of safety. There's no deceiving simulation of your comfy couch in your living room.

The wind is screaming past your helmet. It's grabbing at your jacket. It's pelting you with bugs and debris, the tiniest of which sting like bullets.

The bike is roaring and shaking. Every miniscule bump in the road causes you to jump and lurch. The seat slams your butt with every rise, every dip.

The cars you barely glance at, when you're one of them, are each driven by Death himself. Because -- and this is true, gentle readers -- NONE OF THEM SEE YOU. 

They don't. I don't know why. I see motorcyclists, when I am driving my car. I recognize them as vehicles, and act accordingly.

And if you do too, I salute you.

But most don't. They go right on texting, go right on changing their radio stations while they pull out four meters in front of you, or merge right into your lane.

Just to survive, motorcycle drivers have to be twice as good as car drivers. Three times as good. Four times faster.  

That's why you'll see bike drivers waving at each other, when we meet on the road. 

We share a common fear -- that of the old lady in the Cutlass Supreme, who will turn in front of us and tell the Highway Patrol she never saw that awful motorcycle, it just came out of nowhere.

Here's me at my last book signing.

Hold the Dark is old news. I've written and sold and published two more books since then (The Banshee's Walk and The Broken Bell). But I like that photo, since it proves I still have hair.

And now, for an audio segment!

Hope you enjoyed the audio segment. I promise that's the last installment of 'Big Dogs Howling.' 

My friend Elsye Salpeter, author of Flying to the Light, just sold the sequel to Cool Well Press. So congratulations, Elyse! Well done!

See you next week!