Sunday, August 10, 2014

 

Balance
 

 
Clack-clack, clack-clack…clack-clack – clack-clack, clack-clack…the thirty-car Rayonier logging train snaked its way downhill from the sizing and grading yard at Black Pass to the sorting and holding yard in Hoquiam, its steel wheels seeming to tap coded messages as they rolled over joints in the track, the rails telling tales of great trees from long ago, survivors of fires, floods, and pestilence eons before man and axe ever saw these woods, felled and hauled away in a mere blip of earthtime; this particular tale was being tapped-out on a warm and humid evening in the summer of 1995:
 
Twilight had set, full dark was coming, and Jesse Vega’s three-girl gang was riding the logs, a strictly-forbidden favorite pastime of theirs.  Fourteen-year-old Christine was sitting up on top of the load and holding on to a log’s loose bark for dear life.  Bolder and braver Jesse with tagalong Billiejean, both fifteen-years-old, were down lower on one of the lengthier logs that extended well past the cradles – they rode like perched ravens, cantilevered out over the couplers between the cars where the longest log almost touched logs protruding from the cars ahead and behind, the space between them a treacherous place constantly flexing wider and then narrower as curves were negotiated by the train, rough stobs swiping past each other with the promise of Poe’s pendulum.
 
“What do you think the rails are saying?” Billiejean Wisdom asked Jesse, practically yelling her head off just to be heard.
 
“They’re saying if this train doesn’t get across the skinny and rickety Queets River trestle before full-on dark somebody’s gonna go pee-pee in her panties.”
 
“I’m not scared!” Billiejean protested.
 
“Oh yes you are.  No fibbing allowed.”
 
Jesse stood up and turned loose with her hands.  Balancing atop the cantilevered end of a sizeable log, she looked up at her white-knuckled sister sitting on top of the load.  Filled with wicked glee, she glanced back at the last few cars following them around a bend, and then, with a little hop, she turned and looked ahead as they rounded another wide curve, seeing the train stretching out ahead and behind, the entire quarter-mile-long rail-car ribbon of logs that had been living trees only a week or two ago.  Mimicking a soaring raptor staking her claim to the forest, she extended her arms out to her sides like wings with fingers at their tips instead of feathers.  The wind in her face dusty and smelling of cedar and tamarack, she screamed like a screeching red-tailed hawk, her spirit guide according to
Billiejean’s grandmother, “Skeee!  Skeee!”
 
“Cut it out, Jesse!” Billiejean cried.  “You’ll fall!”
 
“Not me!  Watch this!” 
 
Without further warning Jesse took two quick steps and leaped across the treacherous space between cars onto the rough stob of the longest log protruding from the car ahead, waving her arms to catch her balance as she landed.
 
Billiejean screamed, “Jesseeeee!” at the top of her lungs while the rails kept on tapping out their code, repeating clack-clack, clack-clack – clack-clack, clack-clack. 
 
“Hey!  What’s going on?” Christine demanded, raising her head up, long blonde hair blowing all directions at once in a zillion tangles, her eyes squeezed shut.
 
“Jesse jumped!  She jumped ahead!” Billiejean yelled hysterically, pointing and tattling on her friend.  “She could’ve fallen!”
 
“I’m not gonna fall, you big chickenshits!” Jesse hollered back to her so-called posse. Then she leaped across the open space again, returning to where she had been, Billiejean grabbing and hugging her furiously while beating her fists against her back.
 
Christine peeked out from under a hand over her eyes, yelled, “Stop showing off, Jesse!” with all the overdone petulance she could muster considering the chaotic circumstances, and Jesse laughed, plopping down to sit atop the log while Billiejean wailed “Not funny!” giving Jesse’s shoulder a hefty girl-gang punch for good measure and sitting down beside her with her brows knitted into half-hitches.
 
Jesse had often wondered since that day how differently things would’ve turned out if Billiejean had just stayed put and pouted.  But the path never is a straight one, and even the best of minions will sometimes wander…


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

 


New Tacoma Narrows Bridge Under Construction
 
(One of the Last Big Jobs)
 
Those aluminum-and-steel concrete forms peeking up over the knoll in the foreground were provided by me in one of my former roles as a sales rep for a large formwork vendor.  It was one of Beamwalker's last big jobs in construction.  But certainly not the last big job! - I've been busy finishing and editing Skyshooter for release in April, and that is a far greater challenge!
 


Thursday, April 24, 2014

 


Hoot Scores!
 
Announcing; Troubleshooter has advanced to the quarter-final round in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. 
 
Troubleshooter made the quarter-final cut from a field limited to 10,000 total entries to be one of 100 competing in Mystery and Suspense based on reviews of the novel's opening and a quick pitch.  The semi-final phase of competition is based on reviews of the full manuscript - Go Hoot!
 
From one of Troubleshooter's ABNA quarter-final reviews:
 
Amazon Expert Reviewer.  What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
This is a very descriptive, very character driven excerpt. The details are rich, putting the reader right there "deep into the rainy backside of hell" with Deputy Hooten. Deputy Hooten is a likeable character, flawed but very real. He is a good protagonist and he quickly earned both my sympathy and my support. He is definitely the strongest aspect of this excerpt.
 
What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
Overall, I really liked this excerpt. I absolutely *love* the plot of this book. I enjoy books that allow me to get inside the characters' heads and browse around, and this excerpt has done just that. The author has allowed me into Hoot's head (as well as Norman's head, although I didn't get to read quite enough of his situation yet...) and let me wander around. I had fun being there, reading their thoughts and seeing what makes them tick. This is a well written excerpt and I believe I would enjoy this book.
 
 
Thank you to Amazon for this opportunity!


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Jumping for joy...Kirkus reviewed Troubleshooter and called it Potent!
 

KIRKUS REVIEW


A U.S. marshal’s 30-year search for a fellow Vietnam veteran who killed the love of his life may be nearing its conclusion in the author’s debut thriller.

Ezra “Hoot” Hooten’s transfer to Spokane, Wash., has nothing to do with a desire for a change of scenery and everything to do with the possibility of finding Norman Carpenter there. Norman, Hoot’s childhood friend, married Donna, the girl Hoot left behind before joining the Army. Norman was convicted of Donna’s murder and escaped custody years ago, but a chance encounter with unhappy wife and mother Angela, the spitting image of Donna, might finally help Hoot catch up to Norman and end the hunt that has long dominated the marshal’s life. Lindsey’s potent novel is dark, opening with Hoot under fire, his partner dead (the third in five years) and a nearby officer bleeding to death. Hoot is a curious but deeply flawed protagonist who blames himself as much as Norman for Donna’s death and becomes obsessed with the search for his former pal, which ultimately ruins his relationships with his ex-wife, Linda, and their children. The other characters have their own defects: Norman is a hit man who thinks beating up punks for hire is beneath him, and even Angela isn’t very likable, expressing no remorse over having left her kids just a couple of weeks before Christmas. Some readers may not appreciate the novel’s portrayal of women, who are typically depicted in physical terms, especially since Angela and her new lover, Liz, work as strippers (at a club where the three leads’ paths all converge). Hoot doesn’t even respect FBI agent Patricia Peyton, insinuating that affirmative action is the sole reason she has a job. But the men fare no better, in particular Norman, who seems to get progressively crazier in his desire to kill Angela, whom he eventually takes to calling Donna or, more to the point, “the woman…wearing Donna’s skin.” Flashbacks appear at random intervals in Hoot’s and Norman’s lives, usually involving their teen years and their stints in Vietnam, aptly revealing the love triangle (of sorts) with the two boys and Donna, as well as Norman’s descent into what some would consider madness.

Heavy in its despondence and bleakness but a story that readers are unlikely to forget.

Thursday, December 26, 2013



A Christmas Recollection

Christmas has come and gone once more and the Christmas gene remains strong in me – I’m talking about more than my close resemblance to Santa Claus here; I’m talking about traditions.  The way they can grab people and then carry on with a life of their own.  Powerful stuff, traditions are, and we create them left and right with hardly a second thought.  They become part of us so quickly and so thoroughly – the slightest special detail in the most ordinary routine can tweak our DNA and…voila!  Next thing you know we’re passing special details and routines on to the next generation for generations to come.  I talked to my daughter, on Christmas, and she told me that she had resurrected the dollhouse I made for her when she was a girl about the same age my granddaughter is now.  She told how a ‘last gift’ was discovered under the tree – an item of dollhouse furniture.   How unwrapping this gift led to a treasure hunt of clues culminating in a trek to the downstairs family room where the resurrected dollhouse awaited her decorating and playtime flair.  Hearing about this treasure hunt brought tears of joy to my eyes as I remembered Amber scrambling for exactly the same sorts of clues thirty-five years ago…tradition in action.  Then the tears turned to laughter as she related how my granddaughter had enticed her father to play with the dollhouse with her, how my granddaughter’s miniature Barbie princess collection had immediately moved into the dollhouse, how her father had pretended that his Barbie princess needed to go to the potty in the worst way, and how pretty soon all the Barbies had to go.  My daughter said that she discovered my granddaughter near hysterics playing with her father because the Barbies had plugged up the dollhouse toilet.  This holiday anecdote was immediately precious to me; perhaps because I was a dirt-poor artist/construction worker simply struggling make Christmas special for my kids, and somehow managed to create the seed of a tradition in the process when I first built the dollhouse.  I’m pleased it turned out to be something lasting and worthy of being passed down to another generation.  Now I’m a dirt-poor author, still struggling to make Christmas special for my loved ones and delighting in finding evidence of traditions that I’ve helped create along the way.  Handmade ornaments.  Homemade cookies.  Precious gifts that can’t be bought.  It’s all good.  It’s all Christmas…and I’m already looking forward to the next one.


Thursday, December 5, 2013

 



“I’m a beamwalker,” Hoot said.  “My whole life I’ve been walking the beam, straight and narrow and above it all.  I never had to make any real choices about direction because the only direction I knew was straight ahead, the only direction that mattered.  Anything else, you fell off the beam.  You know how it is. 

“Now, I see that the choices were always there.  I just didn’t notice them overmuch at the time.  I ignored them, the choices I had to make.  Concentrating on straight ahead, I made them without seeing them.  Career choices.  Family choices.  Life choices.  Never even bothered to look too close.”
 
Ezra Hooten, from Skyshooter



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

 


It's that Ravenhaven time of year again! Time for Uncle Hubert's Thanksgiving Crow Logic
 


Uncle Hubert’s Thanksgiving Crow Logic
(a character study)
 
Hoot’s uncle Hubert had suffered a stroke in his early teens that left him with a lifelong limp and a useless left hand always tucked into his trouser pocket.  Hoot remembered how Uncle Hubert drove a column-shift 1954 Ford in 1961 – the year Hoot turned twelve.  This was before the days of power-assisted steering, power brakes, power anything – and watching his uncle execute a braking turn (including a downshift) using only his right hand to operate the steering wheel, turn signal lever, and gearshift lever while working the clutch, brake, and accelerator pedals with only his right foot was like watching a ballet of quick-draw speed and gunslinger purpose, a sight that has stayed with Hoot the past half-century.
            Every year Uncle Hubert would come home from Albuquerque for Thanksgiving, and they would go crow hunting – man stuff – Hoot’s father with his .22 carbine and Uncle Hubert with his sawed-off shotgun made into a blunderbuss pistol, Hoot tagging along with his B-B gun.  It was a stretch, no doubt, but ‘taking the boy hunting’ for any kind of critter was the epitome of rural male bonding in the early sixties, and they made a big deal out of it including breakfast at Grandma Theo’s before setting out. 
Hubert had a crow call that made a sound like Donald Duck with laryngitis and could bring curious birds from two pastures away in close.   Hoot remembered his uncle’s wisdom regarding crows: “Smartest of all birds,” he would say.  But curiously, he had no qualms about hunting these smart creatures for the simple pleasure of having something to shoot at.  Crows were a nuisance to farmers, and weekend holiday nuisance hunters were welcome on most farms.  Hoot’s ol’ man and Uncle Hubert were careful to close gates behind them.  Ask permission beforehand.
            Hoot remembered crossing a field with Uncle Hubert one Thanksgiving, a flock of crows up in the branches of the tree line ahead, Uncle Hubert called them a sizeable murder of ravens claiming that Edgar Allan Poe would have called them that.  Hoot hid his B-B gun under his coat similar to the way his uncle concealed his shotgun, assumed an exaggerated limp to mimic his hero, and walked proudly to the fray.
            “You don’t need to hide your B-B gun,” Uncle Hubert said.  “Crows know the difference between a B-B gun and a real one.”
            Hoot remembered keeping his not-so-deadly weapon hid anyhow as they crossed that field…just in case.  He smiled – at all the years that had passed by in a slow flash.  He had often yearned for those long-ago Thanksgivings.  Broad fieldsAnd for not-so-deadly weapons.