Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ending the Year with a Calf

So, don't have a cow, man.

Been busy, so busy that there's been very little time to work on the blog. Cutting, splitting firewood, burned more so far this year than all of last year. Winter weather during the fall season, broke some records, a reverse of this summer. I'm sure you're enjoying the weather where you are.

The 'herd' has been self-thinning. Curlie (Curly?) jumped the fence for the last time about three weeks ago. The Boss and our neighbor decided to reach an agreement on the situation, so she was sold to the neighbor. Now, she stands at HIS fence and bellows, while looking over at our pasture. She's a cow, so go figure.

LuLu (again, I didn't name these heifers), decided that enough was enough and delivered her calf on Christmas Eve day. I was cutting some standing deadwood down by the creek when MoMo bellowed at me from the hillside. I could see LuLu was down, but didn't think much of it. Went to check on her about an hour later. She had the new boy with her. He's a healthy little dude, about 60-70 pounds and bigger than my German Shepherd.

So, a Christmas calf and a baby bull at that!

Now, if I can get some bull market activity on my writing, then it'll be a GREAT 2011.

Have a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Bovine Social Club

You have lazy Sunday afternoons, where you lie around, perusing what to do, if you don‘t take a nice, quiet nap. I know that I’ve had a few, but lately, most of them have been taken up with catching cows. This is not to be confused with Mad Cow disease, although you might make a cow mad while attempting to herd it home.

If you are wont to enjoy the company of your neighbors in a natural, rural setting, there is nothing like trying to get a lovelorn heifer back to the home pasture. Especially if she’s mixed in with about thirty other head of cattle, a half-dozen horses and a mule. Let me not neglect the Bull of the herd and it’s young son, Bull, jr.

This stray heifer, not exactly light of hoof at about 800 pounds, has been the cow errant of the farm. She likes to jump fences, even if said fence is of barbed wire construction and about three feet tall. Which is not the usual height of a good farm fence. It’s the height of some of the fence here due to lack of maintenance. Fence gets taken down by trees, animals, broken posts, etc. There’s always something to mend on a farm.

My neighbor Carol, having encouraged my father into getting this ‘herd’, is a willing participant in the care and feeding of said animals. I was against it from the start, as I knew who would get roped in, so to speak, when it came to dealing with the overall care of the ‘herd’. My previous experiences having been with a herd of about 25 cattle last year that a former girlfriend happened to have on her property. They spent more of their time over the fence, in the road or wandering in the woods then they did in the fields. Since both the cattle and my ex-girlfriend were spending more time wandering than staying home, it was best that we split. So, I really didn’t want to have to deal with more of the same, with less help, this year. At least I knew which watering hole the cows were drinking at.

When I showed up at my neighbor Carol’s door, she was in the middle of cooking beans and watching “Of Mice and Men”, which could be the story of living in my old farmhouse, but the mice have taken to committing suicide by water bucket lately, a topic which I may dwell on in a later blog.

It would be about an hour before the beans and the movie would be over, so I went out to the shop and worked on various projects. I put a couple of coats of paint on the now welded up ATV gas tank, then started taking apart the wood burning fireplace insert. Haven’t been able to sell it, so I’m going to cut it down to fit my small fireplace. It’s more than twice as big as the wood burner I’m using now.

Carol came out to get me when she was ready to go. I got some rope, a big plastic coffee can of sweet feed and found a wooden stick, about 1 ½ X 2 inches and 4 feet long. Didn’t think to bring a ball bat. Carol had her cane that she used when they operated on her knee. It helps to have a nice stick when you’re dealing with a herd or even a single animal. As Carol found out earlier in the week, when a very preggers LuLu all 1,000+ pounds of her, cornered Carol and tried to butt her, wanting to get to that can of sweet feed. Which is a real treat for cattle and horses, kind of like chocolate for kids with hooves. Three basic rules of dealing with cattle: Don’t get in with them while feeding them, don’t get between a heifer and her calf and NEVER fuck with the bull. You will get the horn, if not run over.

We piled into her van, since the farm truck was hooked to a trailer and went up the road to the neighbor’s pasture. At the field, we walked about a ¼ mile, looking through the scattered herd for “Curly”. Don’t give me any grief about these names, I didn’t name the cows, Carol did. We spot Curly on the far side of the pond. I notice a very anxious black cow, which I mistake for a bull. She’s dancing around, running back and forth. That’s when I ask Carol, “Does JW have any bulls out here?”
“Yep, why?”
“I think I see one.”
That’s when I realize that Carol, festive person that she is, is wearing a bright red Christmas sweatshirt under her bright orange University of Tennessee windbreaker, with athletic shoes. We’re being subtle here, right? I’m dressed in standard farm regalia, bib overalls, heavy boots and a black and white checked hoodie, dark blue ball cap. Just like you see down at the local feed store, rapping to the oldies.

“Uh, Carol, you might want to zip up your jacket, since that bull might not like your red sweatshirt.”

I won’t repeat her reply, lets just say that she zipped up her windbreaker while dodging ankle deep cow pies.

Turning back to the cow in question. Curly was regarding us with a wary look. She’d seen people coming for her before and it usually wasn’t a good sign. I tried to ‘make friends’ with her by using the old, native ritual of shaking the gourd, in this case, rattling a plastic coffee can of sweet feed, while calling “Here babe, come on, here babe.” Hey, it works for witch doctors, right?

She looked at me like I was some thick-glasses wearing geek in a hillbilly costume. I kept up the chant. The dancing cow gets closer and I realize that she’s a young heifer, couldn’t see her udder, since she isn’t mature. Curly comes on and gets about four feet from me, the smell of sweet feed drawing her and twenty other cows. I throw some out on the ground and she bows her head to munch it. As soon as I pull the rope out of my pocket she moves off. We proceed to play ‘chase the cow’ for the next half hour.

During this time, we realize that there is a bull in this pasture, actually there‘s two of them. Big Bull’s watching with more than a little interest, kind of like a pimp watching over his ladies. His son, Bull, jr. is prancing around, playing with his mom. Which is hard to imagine, 500 pounds of dancing beef. Big Bull, he’s cool, you would be too, if you weighed in around 1800 pounds. He looks like a four-legged locomotive with a head about two feet wide. All I can think is that I’m glad that he’s not a big one. I had one about 2300 pounds come at me last year when the herd stampeded due to 4th of July fireworks going off. The only thing that kept me from getting run over was the fact that I was next to a forest and got in behind a tree. The herd went through the forest, then they slowed down. They sauntered into the next field like nothing happened. Which made me happy, since that’s where I was trying to herd them to begin with.

We now have Big Bull decide that we’re messing with his heifer. Not only is he standing shoulder to shoulder with Curly, he’s got the rest of the bovine posse lined up with him. I faced some big offensive lines playing high school football. Which wasn’t hard, since I was the one of the smallest, lightest guys on the team and the only one that wore glasses in the whole league, while playing middle linebacker. Some of the guards and centers would laugh, until we made contact. Everything I did was within the rules. The problem is there’s no referees on this field and these animals have their own rules. You might outrun a bull for a hundred yards, if you’re a world-class sprinter. I guarantee that he’ll catch you in the second hundred.

Discretion being the better part of valor, I turned around and walked off, heading for the gate. Carol decided that would be a good idea also. I think she was growing tired of dodging cow pies and pushing horses away from her. They love sweet feed and aren’t shy about it. We had gone about a hundred feet when Carol said, “They’re following us.”

She was about twenty feet off to my left, I pivoted, looked over my shoulder. Sure enough, the bovine posse was duly following us towards the gate. We’re all out for a nice, Sunday afternoon stroll in the fields. As we get near the gate, the owner and his wife pull up. JW and Theresa park in the road and get out to help. JW shunts the horses off into a field next to the one Curly is in and closes the gate on them.

The bovine posse now has us cornered by the gate. 25,000 pounds of beef on the hoof versus three puny humans, who wouldn’t top 400 pounds altogether. The bovine posse craps more than we weigh in a day. We hold them at bay since we have the key ingredient, sweet feed. We rattle the cans, enticing them, warding off the animal spirits. Curly knows it’s ordained and shuffles forward, the rest of the herd holds back. They turn and move away, like they know we can’t be stopped and she’s been chosen to leave with us.

I get around behind her, moving slowly, urging her forward. JW keeps her from going down the right fence line and back out into the field. Carol opened the gate, wide enough to drive a truck through, shaking her can of sweet feed. Curly edges forward, then moves to up the fence line to my left. I dodge left and get her headed back towards the open gate. Curly gets within ten feet of it, then bolts left and turns on the speed like a halfback heading for the goal line. She’s gone, back into the middle of the field, in nothing flat.

A big roan mare decides that she’s seen enough and pushes the gate open, reaches over and rips the lid off of Carol’s coffee can. She wants that sweet feed! Carol bops her on the nose, while JW waves her back behind the gate into the small field.

We humans regroup, deciding that parking the maroon van and the big Chevy diesel dually at the gate might have kept Curly from coming out. The vehicles are moved, while I walk out into the field, trying to catch up with Curly. This is why you need either a good horse or a four-wheeler. A moto-cross bike would work, but I think that after hitting a few cow pies, you might have to be hosed off and fumigated before they let you in the house. Trying to walk/run after cattle will only wear you out.

After about another twenty minutes of chasing Curly, I’ve had it. I’m ready to go back to the shop, where the only cowhide is in gloves or seat covers. The Big Bull has ambled towards the lower pasture. He’s getting bored. Curly comes up along side him, going the other direction and gives him a ‘come-on’ rub with her butt. I’m watching this and decide that I better hang back, in case this is Sunday afternoon bovine lust. He ignores her and keeps heading towards the lower pasture. Miffed, she trots off across the big pasture and I start to follow her. JW yells at me, “Hey, forget it. We’ll get her tomorrow.”

I can only nod agreement and we trudge back across the pasture to the gate. He tells me about how he used to have two bulls, but last year one of them disappeared. He thinks it might have been stolen. I’m surprised. “How the hell could someone steal a bull? We can’t even get a heifer to follow us!”
He explains that they have a gun, shoots a dart with something in it that slows the bull down.

Whoa! I’m thinking, that’s it! Cows on ‘ludes! Where the hell are Quaaludes when you need them! No, wait, that would just make her really horny. That’s enough of a problem.

Wonder how many Valiums it would take?

Maybe we should just take her a bucketful of beer and let the drunk heifer stumble home behind us?

Sounds like an excuse for a kegger to me.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Yippie Ki Yaa

Or however that old cowboy saying goes...Guess I need to ask Bruce Willis, cowboy that he ain't.

No posts for the past few weeks, busy with the new 'herd'.

Let's just keep this brief and say it's been late nights, stuck trucks, tractor maintenance, heifers on the run and mending fences. Be glad that it's me and not you.

More work to be done this week and I need to be out of here. The weather's great and it's too nice to be inside. The internet is a great place to visit but I don't get my work done when I'm surfing it.

Beautiful weather and I need to get to the barn.

If it rains, more later this week.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cows and Bushhogs

You know how you plan your week. Maybe you think about it over the weekend, set goals, promise yourself that you'll have this or that done FOR SURE, come Friday.

Last Monday started off great. Did some work on the new short story series, was closing the file when I heard a truck in the driveway.

My father, 78 years young, was outside, leaning on the horn. He had some plans for getting the main pasture ready for some cows. What cows? The cows he was going to buy that afternoon.

Which meant he wanted to bushhog the pasture. He got his favorite tractor out and I did an oil change and basic maintenance while he went to the livestock auction and bought some cattle.

When he came back he started making the rounds. After I did a few things, I caught up with him to find him driving around the pasture, knocking the overgrown field down, but not cutting anything. He had burnt the clutch out of the bushhog.

About this time, the cattleman showed up and delivered the cows. They disappeared into the field and I went back to the shop.

We put the bushhog in the shop, it turned out that it was in serious shape. My father tends to drive like he's racing at Le Mans, so I was looking at a fried bearing and a nice, deeply blue driveshaft. Overheating them will do that, if they don't seize up and shred something.

The rest of the week was spent chasing parts and cows. I got to work on a couple of my projects, but it meant for some long hours. Maybe I'll get to finish welding up those tool boxes this week.

At this time, we're waiting for bushhog parts and two of the cows are staying with the neighbor's herd. I guess they got lonely and left.

You got to love farm life. It's never what you expect.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

One Bite at a Time

I'm trying to get some projects done before winter. This keeps me from doing as much writing as I would like but I usually get in an hour per day on my stories . The spider bite didn't do too much damage to my leg. It just takes time out of the day to treat it. Healing nicely, thank you.

Took on a project this week that I've been putting off all summer. Promised my neighbor that I'd weld up her 25 year old ATV's gas tank. Rust over the years has ate away at the gas tank.It had some small pinholes, but they can empty a tank overnight and you don't want gasoline all over your garage floor. It's a bit of a health and safety situation.

Oxygen-acetylene welding, for those of you who have never stuck an 1700 degree welding torch into a metal tank previously full of a highly flammable liquid, can be slightly nerve wracking. I took the proper steps, emptied the gas tank, filled it full of water, then went one step further, I put it in a cut-off 55 gallon drum full of water. Figured if it exploded it would contain the shrapnel. Don't want to mess up the shop with shredded Tom parts.

The small pinholes turned out to be major potholes. The more I welded it the worse it got. Now the tank has a huge brazed patch on the side, all in an attempt to control the splitting and cracking of the ATV tank. Old, rusty car parts will do this, gas tanks are the worst. You can get away with some pinholes in a weld on a fender, not on a gas tank.

I'm considering cutting the side out of the tank and making a new piece to repair it. What should have been a two hour job has turned into a nightmare. Which is a real bite out of my work week.

At least it hasn't blown up in my face.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Bite

Everyone loves the idea of living in an old farmhouse. OK, maybe not everyone. It's a romantic ideal for some people. All the old wood, high ceilings, beautiful views of fields and forests.

Then there's the reality. I've had wasps in the house, snakes stuck to the wall by the back door (a real eye opener when you reach for the door knob!) and the various creepy crawlies.

This past weekend I was snoozing in the sack when I felt a bite on my leg. Thought it was a mosquito that had somehow found me. Went back to sleep.

When I got up a couple of hours later, it was obvious that I was wrong.

A brown recluse spider bite is something you can't ignore.

I've been treating it now for the past 5 days and it's getting pretty ugly.

My neighbor has been bitten twice by a brown recluse. The first time she spent three days in the hospital and they cut out an infected mass bigger than a golf ball. She got bit again last year, treated it herself and it still took 6 weeks to heal.

She told me what to do and I'm taking care of it.

You got to love living in the country, but sometimes it puts the bite on you!

Friday, September 24, 2010

New Day, New Blog

I've started another blog. This one will cover, "Glitch", the novel that I've written and am now reworking into a screenplay.

Cyberwar is beginning to get coverage in the mainstream media, but most people are either ignoring it or don't seem to care. Yeah, it's tough with all the unemployment, bad economy, etc.

A cyberwar would make our current situation look like a nice place to live.

Consider how your life would change without running water, electricity and transportation. That's just the necessities. Many of you consider the internet, your cellphones and other media-devices to be something you 'couldn't live without'.

Believe me, you can do without them. I have and it hasn't destroyed my life.

In fact, I probably live a less stressful, more enjoyable life than you can imagine.

Enjoy your toys while you can.

Before someone turns out the lights.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trials and Errors of a Video Pitch

I've been sending out a video query to agents in New York, friends in Hollywood and overseas. The response has been interesting, to say the least.

Some liked it, some didn't. The main thing is feedback.

Now I know what it needs and will go to work on revising it.

A video takes longer to create than an email or letter, but I feel it has more impact.

What I like is that they give the agent/producer/publisher, etc. a chance to see and hear about my work.

The scary part is that they have to look at me.

Maybe I'll just do audio queries instead.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Agents, continued

I might have sounded a bit gruff, rough or been tough on agents in my last post.

Didn't mean to upset anyone. Just want some answers to the simple question of using videos as a method to query agents, publishers and for those of us who write screenplays, production companies.

Doing a video isn't easy. Most people have a hard enough time writing a query letter or a pitch for their work. I've been shooting film or video for decades, so it's a something I'm used to.

It's the video age. Everyone was raised on TV. OK, I've got a few gaps there, where I've gone for years at a time without owning one and didn't watch too many hours of programming. That can be explained and no, I wasn't in jail.

Gives me more time to write and shoot photos.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Are Agents REALLY Needed Now?

I'm not going to make any friends with this, but the question must be asked. After all, I've seen how the internet has changed the music business. Why should the publishing biz be immune?

Now that all of us can communicate one on one, who needs a salesperson to tout your wares?

Sure, the agent is 'in place', whether that be NY, LA, London, etc. depending on whether you're selling a screenplay or novel. Yes, they have the contacts which you haven't developed, but did they grow up with these people or just hang out in the right colleges and bars?

Are the proper places to 'hang out' now Facebook, Twitter, or? I ask this, since the internet landscape changes quickly. Does anyone remember Myspace?

Does all the tweeting, blogging, etc. really get you published? Or is it who you know?

My personal experience with agents hasn't been good. I've driven across country to LA to hear a sales pitch about how my screenplay would be promoted to producers and directors. All I needed to do was come up with $2500. This was in 1992, so things have changed since then. Yet, isn't an agent really just another salesperson?

Now, you have to jump through hoops, apply all your skills to being a good pitch/query writer and hope that they like your blog. Sorry, I'm not here to spend half my time being a lap dog. If you don't like me or my work, OK. Get in line, there' s a long one. There are people who don't like Shakespeare either.

Yes, I know a good agent can help develop your work. They can find you a good editor or the people with special skills to help you.

A relevant story, short and pointed. I moved to Europe ten years ago, was told by a real estate agent that I couldn't buy a house until I rented an apartment for a year. This sounded like they wanted to control the situation and get a year's rent from me.

I hopped in the rental car, drove around town, found houses for sale. Called the listing agent, even though I didn't speak Dutch (still don't). They showed me their houses. I found one I liked and contacted a real estate lawyer. Got the contract written up, reviewed it, signed it and moved into the house.

So, no offense to the agents out there. I would LOVE to give you my business. My catalog of work grows each day. I write, but I don't spend hours on the internet, blogging, tweeting and generally getting nothing done. I leave that to those thrive on it.

Myself? I'm going to videos.

After all, if you get to be a published author, you have to make those personal appearances.

Just as long as they photograph me from my good side.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Communications, interrupted

I've been working, on the farm and writing projects. The "farm" includes car/equipment work, not to mention the typical farm activities.

Don't know if it's been the heat causing stress on the fruit and nut trees, but I've been having limbs break and even had our largest pecan tree split down one side, about one third of it cracked off and fell into the garden. Lots of firewood, but I hated to see the tree break apart like that.

As for the Great Agent Search. Just received an email from a friend in Australia. She complained of sending me emails for the past couple of weeks...and they were 'bounced' back to her.

If you're an agent and have had this happen, please resend. I really hate to send email after email to a person, in the hopes that the ISP or whatever is causing the problem gets their act together.

Otherwise, I'm gearing up for fun.

It's going to be a great Fall season!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Videos and the lack thereof

August? Who let this happen? I thought I would have about a dozen videos done and posted by now, but a variety of factors have slowed me and the process down this summer.

The heat we've had for the past three months hasn't helped much. It's either been scorching or raining. Getting hit with a major case of heat exhaustion didn't help either.

About the videos. The Baja Bug has been pushed back. I am going to clean up the 1935 BMW cabriolet and do a video on how it was abused by so-called 'car restoration' people. I have a 26 part TV series outlined for it. Anyone interested?

Video queries for my novel are going out to agents and publishers. It may not be the accepted thing to do, according to the rules driven agent application process, but the pace at which I receive or don't receive replies is glacial.

When I was in management, you answered an email that day, unless you had to provide info that required research, then it was usually within 48 hours. Waiting two months for an agent to tell me, "Sorry, not interested", if they answer at all, is an odd way to do business.

I have a feeling that the publishing business is about to go the way of the music business and many agents/managers/publishers will have to revamp their methods, as authors will turn to self-promotion to get their work before the public. The internet has turned the business model of more than one sector of the economy on it's head.

That said, I've taken a different stance as to my public persona. Too many people may have the wrong impression about me living out here in the hills of Tennessee. I'm not a complete hillbilly, more like a redneck peasant. Love living out here, away from all the traffic, noise, congestion, etc. of the big city.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy being in NYC, LA, London, Paris, Brussels, Prague. I could go on with a long list of cities I either lived in or visited and their attractions. It's just that I get more work done in the solitude of the farm. There's a pile of work that I've done over the past 10 years that now needs to get out to the rest of the world.

Like I tell people brave enough to ride with me.

"Sit down, buckle up and please scream quietly...I don't like being distracted when I drive."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

It's been some time since I've posted here. Busy has been the word.

The heat has slowed down work around the farm. If it's not done by about noon, forget it, you'll spend the afternoon frying in the sun. If you can stand to work in it!

The shop has been running around 100F+ for the past two months. No air-conditioning, except for a couple of small fans. If you aren't within 5 feet of them, forget it. Saw 112 degrees in there this past Sunday afternoon. I needed to get something, opened the door, ran in, grabbed what I needed (sunglasses I'd left in the car!), looked at the thermometer and headed out the door.

More fun later, getting some videos finished up, now that I've reworked the computer.

I just love all this high-tech stuff!

When it works.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Film, Video-tape and No Lie Hi-Def

I've shot film, then video tape, now digital, down through my sordid life. Film was a commitment, you shot it, then either developed it or sent it out to a lab and prayed they didn't fry, over-develop or horrors, lose your negatives.

Then video tape came along, nice package, loss of picture quality, but most of us would accept the quick and easy use of it in exchange for waiting for the film to come back from the lab.

Now the wonders of digital. Hi-def allows us to look at the real, un-retouched subject.

Which is scary as hell for people in the movie biz who got by on soft focus lens all these years.

Now, everyone can be Fellini.

Just bring the talent.

Don't worry, there won't be any hi-def video here.

I'm still using video-tape..........for the time being.


Everything was set, actors were in their places. The train moved a few minutes later, went down the tracks and stopped. We sat there, then went forward again. Stopped. We backed up to the station, went forward again, stopped.

During this time, I'm watching the camera crews outside, setting up cameras, moving them around, adjusting for angles. Virginia asking me questions the whole time. I explain to her that you can set up, think that it'll be a good angle, then find out that something affects the shot. So, you move the camera, get set up and try again. This was interesting, for about the first three times. After we had been up and down the same stretch of railroad tracks about a dozen times, she was getting bored with it all.

We took to looking for unusual landmarks, strange scenery, you know, stuff that's never going to be seen if you only go past it one time. Crew pissing against trees in the woods, stuff like that. It was very convenient, they fed us, put us on this train, then we find out that the toilets don't work. OK, it wasn't that they didn't work. They had been removed. Which tends to keep people from using them. As you might guess, this upset the ladies more than the gents. We just took to the woods. Still have to be careful, the city boys didn't know about the funny leaves. Which can give you a nice rash in a tender area. You have to be careful when going splishy-splashy on the side of that tree. It might get its revenge in a couple of days. Poison oak and poison ivy love to break out all over. Don't itch that rash, use a scrub brush on it! Hey, you didn’t really wipe with that leaf, did you? Your girlfriend is going to hate you.

After they had shot some exteriors, we were allowed to take a break and gnaw on some snacks. Which was nice of them, since it was only about 1PM. Yes, I know that it would only be 10AM in Hollywood, but lunchtime is lunchtime. Here, we call it ’dinner’ and some people eat at 11 AM. Which is normal if you work ’farm hours’. Try arguing with your stomach, it always wins. We did another three hours worth of 'work' before taking our lunch break, at 4 PM! You know that you're working for Yankees, most Southerners eat supper around 5.

They took the train back to the station and let us out. The lines at the porta-potties weren't long, but the expressions of relief were priceless. We all chowed down, wondering what was next, since we were only four hours late, according to the shooting schedule. Which as shooting schedules go, really isn’t too bad.

Before we headed in for lunch, a near fatal mishap occurred. The Star and some of the crew were engaged in what could only be termed as 'screwing around'. Someone had decided that they should throw rocks at a telephone pole, while waiting for the next camera set-up. Virginia and I sat in the train and watched this event.

The train was stopped near a trestle over a road, which was about 40 feet below us. The telephone pole was on the other side of the road, probably a good two hundred feet away.

Now, I don't care who you are, even with a rocket arm and throwing a perfectly round stone, you're going to have a hard time making the distance, much less hitting the telephone pole. It was like watching schoolboys, egging each other on. Virginia shook her head in amazement. The schoolteacher in her was probably screaming to discipline them. I watched for a while, head turned to look out the window behind me. It didn't take too long to get bored with the whole thing. So, I missed the most exciting event of the day.

One of the couples, who were truly a couple, some young married kids who both got hired to be on the film, were sitting across the aisle from Virginia and I. They had wandered outside, then came back in. She had gone forward to the platform between the cars and was watching George Clooney as he threw rocks at the telephone pole. She came rushing back to where we sat.

"He just fell down! He nearly slid down the embankment!" she exclaimed as she hurried towards us and her husband.

I looked over at Virginia and then back to the newlywed. "Who fell down?"

"George Clooney! I can't believe I saw it! He climbed back up, stood up and pulled his pants down. He's wearing blue underwear!"

I gave Virginia a surprised look, when the newlywed exclaimed, "Look, you can see where he tore his pants."

She was pointing out the window behind me. I swiveled around to see George Clooney standing there, explaining to the producer what had happened. His pants were soiled and torn at the right thigh. I looked back at the newlywed.

"Did you get a photo of it?"


"Did you get a picture! Do you know what a tabloid would pay for a photo of George Clooney dropping his pants on a movie set!"

She shook her head. She didn't have her cellphone out when it happened.

I dropped my head, shook it, then looked over at Virginia. "Another million dollar opportunity and me without a camera!" I could see the headlines in my head, ‘Clooney Moons Cast‘, ‘Clooney’s Undie Tips; On Monday, It‘s Blue Boxers‘, Clooney shows Choo-Choo Town His Good Side’, ‘Hey Baby, Have You Seen My Scar?’.

You don’t get chances like this everyday, more like once in a lifetime.

And me, without a camera!

Monday, June 7, 2010


To follow is a blog post written a couple of years ago. I’m posting it now to complete this series of posts. At the time, I didn’t know if the movie was going to be a hit or not. Like the vast majority, it wasn’t and posting about it faded as an interest for me.

When I left for Chattanooga to do the movie, I told people that I was going to a ‘job interview’, most people around here still don’t know that I worked as a ‘background extra’ on a feature film. It wasn’t the first time I had been in or worked on a film, since I used to be the Film Commissioner in Dayton, Ohio.

The experience was important, since it gave me insight on how the common man and woman reacts to being in or around ‘stars’ or people perceived to be of social importance or status. It’s fascinating to watch people modify their behavior, adapting to the circumstances of the moment. The star can act pretty funny, too.

On location in Chattanooga.

From breakfast, I went over to the wardrobe people. The men had been told to wear 'plain white dress shirt, dark dress pants, black or dark blue tie and lace up shoes'. They also wanted us to bring overcoats. This led to a quandary for me. In the past few decades, I've usually worn leather biker jackets, since that's the preferred gear when riding a motorcycle. When it came to business, I've got an almost antique trench coat to go over my business suit. Buried deep in the closet was something from out of the past, a cashmere overcoat. Hadn't worn it in years, but women love it.. .it's dark blue, didn't look or smell like it had died, so I took it with me. The only things I forgot was a scarf and gloves. No hat either, but they would fix me up in wardrobe. Like I would have a Fedora lying around the house. Cowboy hats, ball caps, watch caps, motorcycle helmets, an old ‘Civil Defense’ helmet, but no Fedora. I am so unstylish.

First thing the wardrobe folks did was take one look at the cashmere coat and pitch it. I was given some checked, beige-green wool thing, scarf, gloves and a hat. The gloves were a bit tight, as in too small. Not like I would need them, it was about 65 degrees on the set! It was going to be interesting, shooting a winter scene on an unusually warm spring day. It's the movies, they can fake the cold, right?

The tempo started to pick up around the set. Men were sent to their dressing room, which was a tent, as were the ladies. People were told to dispose of their cellphones, briefcases, unnecessary coats, etc. get ready to get on the train. It was already pushing towards 10 AM and we were about to lose our first background extra. One of the local wheeler-dealers was having a hard time getting separated from his cellphone. He was micro-managing his office from the set, got flustered, decided that they weren't going to shoot the movie on his timetable. So, he walked. Took his paperwork out of his briefcase, handed it to the casting agent, gave wardrobe back their clothes and headed for the office. Only thing he kept was his haircut. Now, he'll never be able to brag about being in a feature film. I'm sure his office workers are disappointed too. They probably would have enjoyed a day without his forced march attitude.

We all trooped out into the sunshine. Ladies transformed into wives, flappers and gun molls of the twenties, men looking like dissipated business men or flat-cap wearing college boys. We clustered around the tents, mugging and doing bad gangster imitations. Which may have led to the second loss from our ranks. One of the young ladies, flapper-type, evidently did a near swan-dive. Maybe she got too close to the Star as he moved through the area? It was a matter of conjecture for the rest of the day. She was immediately cared for by the medical crew, who insisted on hauling her to the hospital. You are not allowed to either faint or die on the set! Another poor soul with fame snatched from her grasp. The inhumanity of it all!

A production assistant came around and started the herding process, driving us like so many sheep, cattle, chattel? towards the train cars. We were picked over, sorted, graded and sent to our doom. Directed towards seats, shuffled, then moved again. I was pointed to a seat next to a window, a large 'X' on it. The train’s wooden benches faced each other. There were three other men sitting on the benches, we barely had time to introduce ourselves. Another PA came by and told us that the Star would come down the aisle, lean over and look out the window.

Since I was sitting next to the window, I nearly fell out of my seat. This meant that there was about a 50/50 chance that I would be in the shot with him!.

That's when another PA came by, told me to get up and move, I had the wrong type of hat, they wanted 'flat caps' in the seats. I was directed to another car. Here, they paired me with a lovely woman.

I was now ‘playing the part’ of a couple. Virginia didn't seem to mind that she had been stuck with me. We were placed in the center section of the train car, facing each other, both of us sitting next to the windows. The PA told us to fake conversation, lean towards each other, make hand gestures. The typical, "I'm interested in what you have to say" kind of stuff.

We did the, 'where you from, how did you get here' thing. After all, we were going to be on this train together for a few hours, might as well make it bearable. It went beyond that, it was great. Virginia loves motorcycles, traveling and movies. We talked about everything.

One of the PA's told us to be quiet and nodded towards the front of the train.
Suddenly, everyone in the train car got quiet. The Star had appeared. As director, writer and star of the movie, he wanted us to know exactly what we were going to be doing. At least, that's what I think he wanted to tell us.

As he talked, people around us looked over, shrugging, mouthing the words; "Can you hear him?"

I yelled "Speak up!" but he was almost done.

A PA gave me their version of a dirty look. I glanced around, nobody had understood a thing The Star had said, a trainload of blank faces.

Virginia shrugged, shook her head when I asked if she heard what the Star had said. Nope, it was all a mumble to me and everyone that I talked to later.

Perhaps he should do more stage work, learn to project his voice.

Filming was about to begin.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Then the Rains Came

June is one of those 'benchmark months'.

I try to have the garden in, equipment repaired, a book done and out to agents, things of that sort.Thought I would have more done by now, but the monsoon-type weather we have had over the past 6 weeks has slowed me down.

The floods of May have left everything down here in a quagmire state. The garden is so wet that it's more mud than dirt.

Working at the shop can be a bit nerve wracking. It's an all metal building and welding during a thunderstorm isn't a good idea. The Baja Bug and Yanmar tractor projects are slowly getting done.

So, I've read a bunch of books and worked on my videos. Will be posting them to Youtube next week.

I'll also be adding some comments to my posts on the Richard Clarke cyberwar books.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Shameless Self-Promotion

Those of you who read this blog know that I've been working on a novel for the past five years. Which might seem to be a long time to write an action/adventure book based on cyber war.

The problems I encountered trying to find and verify information about the threat that exists in the Internet was a bit difficult, since most people don't want to admit this threat exists. In addition, my novel is based on the premise that the electronic media we all use can be used against us, in more than one way. This goes beyond financial, structural and nation/state attacks.

This week I read "Cyberwar, The Next Threat to National Security". For me, this book confirmed and justified all the work I did on my book. I have a different perspective than Mr. Clarke and Mr. Knake have on how a cyber war would affect the world and this country, but that's to be expected, considering our backgrounds.

The novel is done and I'm sending queries out to agents and publishers at this time. The only thing that concerns me about the publishing business is the amount of time it takes to get into print. This is not a book that can wait for two years.

I'm also considering putting it on the Internet, either through a blog or by posting videos of me reading it.

The novel is not the only that I've written in the past five years. I did a "romance-novella" spoof titled; "Shotgun Romance", a couple of screenplays and a dozen short stories.

During that time I was an extra in a feature film. OK, more like 'human background scenery'.

I've shot some short videos and will be posting them on YouTube in the future on my site at Tom2u.

That and worked on the farm. Hey, don't have to worry about getting to the gym!

Cyber War, The Next Threat to National Security

I just read Richard Clarke and Robert Knake's latest book, "Cyberwar, The Next Threat to National Security" .

You don't know how relieved I am.

NO! Not that the threat of cyber war exists. I've realized it for a long time. Most people think that it's Hollywood movie stuff. Sorry gang, it's real life. I've accepted the possibility for a long time.

Mr. Clarke and Mr. Knake lay out the bare-bones truth in this book. The problem will be trying to get the average American to accept it.

IF you only read one book this year, hell, if you only read one book in your life, read this one. It will change your view of the world as we currently live in it.

After all, do you think that the stock market bounce of last week was just a glitch? Do you think the oil well problem in the Gulf of Mexico was an accident? Maybe they were or maybe they weren't. Either one of them could have happened with a logic bomb or a hacker overriding the control programs.

Thanks Mr. Clarke and Mr. Knake.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Agents of Change?

Having fun, sending emails to literary agents. Which seems to take forever.

Please bear with me, the Internet isn't as fast out here as it is in the cities. As I've mentioned before, I had better Internet access in the Netherlands, 10 years ago. Even my neighbors, who just moved here from Nashville, complain about the service. No, they're not on dial-up, cable's not available, so they're using satellite. Which is pretty slow out here.

Yesterday, heard Bob Edwards Weekend's final chapter of "The Future of Publishing" series. Which sounds like it's going to keep changing, now more rapidly then ever.

Wonder how it's going to affect literary agents?

Everyone in the publishing game is now having to deal with the Web. Twitter, blogs, e-books, websites, all things that didn't exist 10 years ago.

Is the best thing to have a daily video of you reading your book? A podcast for those who are driving or otherwise busy? Followed up by a link to your blog/website where a reader can download a PDF file of your lastest chapter? With a 'donate to the starving writer' button for that all important PayPal account?

Will the writer be able to directly access the reader, without the need for publishers, agents and managers?

Stay tuned, it's all changing.

On the Vine...OR Maybe It Isn't

Just joined Newsvine.

Read the article by Eve Tahmincioglu about contract work. Here's her article:
"Need a job, contract work could be new normal"

Then posted a comment about it, after I stopped laughing. (It beats crying about it.)

Don't know if it shows up on my new site. It's at

Left another comment about 'contract work' here in the U.S.A. at

I'm not worried, the rest of the country is now starting to catch on to what's really going on in the American workplace.

They can't keep telling tall tales to the Wage Slaves. We may look dumb, but we ain't stupid.

It ain't a pretty sight, what's going on in the workplace.

Wanna eat this year?

Get that garden in now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

April Showers, a Bit LATE

For those of you who are wondering, yes, I survived the Great Flood of 2010.

There will be photos and maybe a video later.

Hope that all my friends in Nashville and Memphis are doing OK.

I don't even want to see what happened in those two cities. What I've seen on the Internet and TV has been too much.

Hang in there, it's got to dry out sooner or later.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What's Down For Now

Me and "THE TREE"
It was a tremendous lightening bolt followed by a deafening crash of thunder that brought me out of the house and onto the porch last year. Bits of bark were scattered across the porch. I picked one up, it still steamed a bit.
Across the road, the large red oak had a stripe down it where the bark had been stripped off by the lightening strike.
My neighbor decided to have the tree cut down, since it was too close to their house and posed a threat of crushing it if it fell. A very real danger down here, since we have tornadoes and high winds in the Spring.
It's an old tree. We haven't been able to figure the age yet, but it's got to be close to 100 years old. I did a rough measurement on it and it's about 4 feet across and 80 feet tall. Or it was 80 feet tall.
So far, it's taken me over a week to cut the smaller branches off and work down to the big stuff. I'm talking limbs that are over a foot in diameter. Lots of tree left to process.
Most of it will wind up as firewood, keeping the old home warm when the cold winds blow.
The trunk, that's another story. I've always wanted to carve a large chair. Something about 10 feet tall, big enough for two people.
That or about a dozen nice coffee tables.

Do You Research or Just Write It?

I spend a lot of time at the local library. A couple of weeks ago, my friend, the librarian, asked me, "Do you do research for your books?"

The question caused me to stop for a moment, "Can't write a book without doing research."

We got into a discussion, since that had been a topic brought up by some other librarians.

Even when I did my memoir-mockumentary (there's a new word for you), "Going Dutch, Trials of a Wage Slave" I did research. I checked on quotes, regulations, business topics and liability. Getting sued is no fun.

The novel I just completed took me almost 5 years to write. It's on a complex topic, cyberwar, and there aren't too many references out there. The subject is so leading edge, most people can't comprehend the topic.

It led to me creating a 4 drawer file cabinet full of background information. This doesn't include the movies, videos, library books, Internet, blogs, etc. that I reviewed to gain an understanding of my subject.

The worst thing a writer can do is put out a book that doesn't have all the latest info on the subject. Sure, it might be wrong in the future, when the technology advances or society overtakes the concept.

But for right now, it better be as good as you can make it.

Faking it will get you burned, every time.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

April, Who's Getting Fooled?

Time flies by, when you're working all the time.

I've been doing farm work, started the outline for the follow-up to the novel I just finished. Shouldn't say 'finished' because there will be revisions, edits, etc. when it gets sold to a publishing house. Let's just call it done for now. Doing the 'waiting on the agents' thing.

Dragged the Baja Bug off the trailer the other day. Can't believe it'll be 30 YEARS in June since I bought the beast. It was a typical, simple, red VW Beetle at that time. Got it from the second owner. The car has sat for about 10 years now. Stored while I worked in Europe and haven't had time to do any work on it since I've been back here. Too many other toys and irons in the fire.

May start yet another blog, to follow the rebuild work on the Baja Bug. I'll get some photos up in the next week or so. I started a video the other day to document the rebuild process. I've only built, rebuilt, modified, customized about two dozen VWs in my life, so I should have it looking good in time. Notice I didn't specify how much time...

Other than that, just enjoying the July weather in April. This can't be good, no matter how much we all love it. If it stays this way, will it be 130 in July?

I got a nice start on a sunburn yesterday, rototilling the garden with the tractor, before I realized that I was turning into a TOMato.

Enough of the bad puns, later.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Keep Trying

Spent the past 24 hours trying to get a partial out to an agent.

Everything is fighting it, my computer didn't want to run the word processing program. Fixed it, moved on to reformatting a correctly formatted document that turned into junk on it's own. It's not like I haven't run into this before.

When I worked in the Netherlands, sending tech manuals halfway around the world, you wouldn't believe the way things would print out at the receiving end. That's why I check what I've done before sending it. Even then, it seems like there is some type of problem.

Today, ready to send the partial to the agent, went to another computer, where DSL/high speed is available. Now, I can get on my blog...but I can't get on my email to send them the partial!

To compound this, earlier I called their office, to clarify a couple of questions I had about the submission. Sent to voice mail, haven't heard back. Can't check my email to see if they answered my questions that way.

Are we having fun yet?

Doesn't matter, I don't stop.

Maybe my email server is having a problem.

Either way, I'll get the partial out.

If you're the agent in question, have mercy and a bit of patience, please.

What's that saying? 'That which doesn't kill me, makes me stronger!'

Saturday, March 13, 2010


I know, I know. Made a comment earlier about how I don't like to leave any projects 'undone'.

This one's been dragging on now for, ummmm, almost 3 years. Yes, time flies when you're researching and writing a novel. My car caught on fire, twice, still haven't fixed the carbs...OK, there were some short stories in there, the three blogs, farm work and a screenplay, but you get the idea.

Then I took the last year 'off', went, as a lady friend calls it, "incommunicado'. Part of the experience/research for the now completed novel. Which means I didn't do much in the way of worrying about being on the Internet or doing the blogs. Yes, there are a couple of unpublished posts that will complete the YOU WANNA BE IN MOVIES series.

I can now say that the feature film I was human background scenery on can be classified as a bomb. It won't be remembered as a classic, at least that's what I've been told.

For the really surprising confession is...I've yet to see it.

I'm so far out in the sticks that the local movie house didn't show it. When it came out on DVD, I decided that it wasn't worth buying. The local library is so small that we haven't got a copy of it. NO, I'm not going to rent it either.

Why? Word from my fellow human scenery extras is that the scenes we were in showed great shots of the train. As for us? Well, I understand that there wasn't much to be seen of the extras.

Hey LOOK! My head as a pixel!

The Sweet Taste of Rejection

Oh, the joy!

Query emails going out, rejections now starting to roll in. Most people would be depressed, upset, angry. WHY?

You have to get rejected to be accepted. When I sold BMWs and Volvos for a living, I learned about sales averages. At that time, you had to talk to about 100 people to sell 1 car. At the dealership I worked at, you were expected to sell at least 10-15 cars a month. Anything less and it was talk with the sales manager time.

Try sending out 1,000 to 1,500 queries a month. You can see why car salesmen spend so much time at the dealership. Now, if you had the same rate of return, you'd have 10-15 agents interested in your 'product' at the end of the month.

Throw in the fact that you're not selling a known product. Raise the return rate to about 200 to 1 or higher. Yep, tough to sell a book.

You can't give up.

Me, I'm just getting started.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Persistence, that great word which means you don't stop until you reach your goal.

Tenacity is part of my personality. I will stay on the book, project, job, whatever, until it's done. Why stop? There's nothing more aggravating than a unfinished project lying around.

Which leads to the frustrating part of being a writer. The real work comes after I write the story. Then I have to find an agent or publisher.

I've sent out the query letter.

Now comes the hard part, waiting for the reply.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Your Efforts May Be In Vain

OK, few hours since the last blog.

Agent Query email results?

No change.

Send the test email. Reformats itself to look as if I am unable to insert page breaks, etc.

Which I did, but they get stripped out when sent through the ISP server or maybe the virus hunter?

I am not having fun now.

Decided to go ahead, send the email to an agent. May she be merciful on my efforts.

After all, life out here in the 'rural areas' of America doesn't include the wonders of cable, DSL or high-speed internet of any type. Unless you want to spend the big bucks on satellite, which works at a less than satisfactory level. Just ask my neighbors, who have used it and then quit it.

Ah, but the views are sublime and the wonders of nature abound.

Yes, I LOVE NY and LA.

But it's hard to take this old boy out of the country.

So, dear agent, please be gentle
If rejection be thy choice
I shall suffer no remorse
For I have done my best

How Many Ways Can I Write This?

Dear Agent,

Have I told you about my book?

Yes, I know this isn't the way to do it, but my angst is now overwhelming my restraint.

Spent the better part of the morning, rewriting my basic email query. Went out, chopped some wood for the wood burner. Got cleaned up and got on the Internet.

Enjoyed the nerve wracking experience of putting my carefully crafted query into an email, then checked it.

Yep, all that time spent putting page breaks, correct spacing, page numbers on the query, wasted. Down the tubes. Repair the damage and try again. Send the email to myself.

Haven't looked at it yet.

Afraid of what I'll find.

So, Dear Agent, you might not get the query until tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

For My Next Act...

Yeah, a couple of weeks, I'll be back.

How about just shy of a year, by a couple of weeks?

That's the thrills, chills and headaches of writing, researching, editing and rewriting a novel.

It doesn't help when the agents/publishers decide that anything over 125,000 words is too long. I was at 136,000 words when I got the news by reading the blogosphere.

Back to cutting, rewriting, restructuring the book. I'm not complaining, because I'm convinced it improved the book, immensely.

Now it's time to find an agent. Which, from what I've heard, is much harder work than writing the book.

Yes, I've started writing the next book.

It's what I do.