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Sage Grouse

I had planned a fun conversation with my Muse, Lorelei, today. I’m skipping over that. She usually shows up during long lonely drives, but I decided something else was more interesting.

I hit the road about 6:30 this morning. It’s always fun getting out early, because of the wildlife. I saw herds of antelope, including a couple of big bucks. There was a flock of Hungarian partridge, one of quail, two coyotes, and one lone sage grouse.

I searched for a free picture of one, but alas, too unusual. This is a big grey grouse. The largest grouse in North America, and I kind of teared up when I saw him. The poor buggers belong on the endangered species list, but special interest keeps getting in the way.

When I was a kid, up to young man stage, I ate hundreds of these creatures. Before anyone goes ballistic, I honestly don’t think hunting had anything to do with their problems.

These guys eat sagebrush and other bird-like foods. Interesting side note, he’s the only bird I know of with a stomach and not a gizzard. Anyway, still a grouse.

Elko County is the forth largest county in the United States. When I was in school, I remember a census that said Elko the city had 6000 people. Therefore, imagine an ocean of sagebrush covering everything from California to Utah, there are several gigantic counties included here. This ocean was filled with what we called sage chickens. There were very few people to hunt them. Consider that 6000 census number, figure that includes children and non-hunters, and we couldn’t have damaged the chicken population if we waged war against them.

Opening day of the season was like Christmas to us. The season was in September and lasted ten days. That meant we got two weekends, but rarely used the last one.

Sage chickens are big, slow, and have a habit of flying one at a time rather than as a whole flock. It’s where everyone first learned to shoot a shotgun. Heaven forbid anyone shoot one on the ground, they’d be shamed out of camp.

Family would determine a place, haul out our campers, and make an event of it. We always had grandparents, their siblings, the second cousins, not to mention aunts, uncles, and first cousins. I can’t remember a camp with less than twenty people.

We usually drove through flocks of these guys on the way to camp, but the season wasn’t open until Saturday. Campers formed a semi-circle, multiple fire pits were built and dug extra deep for cooking.

Before sunup, we’d pile into various pickups and go different directions. Yes, we rode in the back and didn’t have seat belts either. Chickens were everywhere. All you had to do was find water, and there were plenty of small streams and stock ponds. All serious hunting was usually over by noon.

If you were too young, you still got to hike along the stunted willows and meadow grass while your parents did the hunting. Nothing wears the kids out like hiking in the sun with a gigantic grouse in each hand.

Cooking started right around lunchtime. This involved huge fires that we burned down to the embers. Then we shoveled the coals out to make room for the Dutch ovens.

As table fair, the old chicken is mediocre at best. It’s all dark meat and semi gamey. I prefer something like a ruffed grouse, chukar, or pheasant. Mom used to add potatoes, sautéed onions and garlic, usually something like carrots, then douse it with red wine. We buried the Dutch ovens in hot coals, top and bottom, then covered them with dirt. Only a long wire revealed where they were.

It was usually my grandmother who started looking around while counting on her fingers. “Could a couple of you go back out and get three more?” Grandmas are great for making sure everyone has enough to eat.

This was decision time. As a new hunter, of course you wanted to go back out. As a kid, there was usually a new comic book from Tremune’s store in Mountain City but that was risky. Grandma also had a habit of bringing out an old, hand-crank ice cream maker. If you didn’t go back out, you wound up cranking on that damned thing until you thought your arm would fall off.

We had one uncle who always managed to bring back a sack of elderberries. This always led to elderberry cobbler, and so everyone needed a spoonful of ice cream to go with that.

Dad always skipped the afternoon hunt. He was our resident Dutch oven bread baker. To tell you the truth, his bread was horrible. I remember one time when it wound up doughy inside and burnt on the outside. When he tossed it into the brush, the dog buried it. You know it’s bad when the dog won’t eat it. Mom saved the day when she converted him to Bisquick. Turned out Dad was capable of making one gigantic biscuit that we sliced up like cake from that point on.

You can leave the meal in the ground as long as you like. As long as it has liquid it will never burn. Along around sunset, we’d dig them up. Folding metal tables were pushed together and usually covered with a rubbery tablecloth held on by clothespins.

We ate like it was the most special meal of the year. People started telling stories about their hunt, past hunts, those folks no longer with us, and it went on deep into the night. More than once, pinochle cards came out and we had a big tournament.

As I look across the living room tonight at my mother, she and I are about the only ones left who remember. Her brothers are still with us, including the cobbler maker. Some of the first cousins are still around. So many of us are gone now.

What’s also gone is the sage chicken. He’s one of those unusual creatures that doesn’t ask much. He needs a variety of sagebrush, a lek for his springtime breeding display, and to be left alone. Other than that one weekend per year, nobody ever bothered them and they were everywhere.

Twenty years of droughts, range fires, followed by more range fires, and a deplorable practice of dragging logging chains behind Caterpillars to remove the sagebrush in favor of grass have about done the trick.

Creatures of the Great Basin are not grass dwellers. They need sagebrush to survive, particularly one actually named Big Sagebrush. Everything lives in it. Deer like to shade up in patches of it. Birds and mammals eat it. They don’t eat crested wheat, or take cover in it. Cattle won’t even eat the damned stuff, so I don’t understand why they’re destroying the sage for it.

Nevada did pull one stupid stunt as far as management goes. I can’t speak for other states. Someone decided to do away with the extended week in September, then open the season for the entire month of October. That did some damage.

Folks who wouldn’t get off the couch for a sage chicken were all willing to throw in a shotgun during deer season. Many people traveled to Nevada for deer, and chickens were just a nice bonus. In this sense, hunting did do some of the damage.

Total protection of ravens didn’t help either. I swear, these guys kill a lot more eggs and fledglings than my family ever did.

Maybe I’m just missing the event and the people from those days, but I felt sorry for the lone bird I saw. He deserves so much better.

Times change. Most of the water has dried up. A large portion of the sage is gone. Fire really did a number on them. I hope the old sage chicken doesn’t pass from the stage. I’m afraid we may already be too late. Federal protection is warranted, but ranching is a powerful lobby. They don’t want to change their habits to give silly grouse some breathing room.

Sorry for the long post. I thought maybe a word about this important creature, and my past, would interest some of you.

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Life takes the lead

I consider myself a fairly dedicated author. Most weekends I manage to accomplish something even if it’s small. Sometimes I make great strides.

This weekend wasn’t one of those times. I paid all the bills after the paychecks hit the bank. Always a good goal. I also had an appointment to get my brakes worked on today. This required a drop off at 8:00, then a pick up at 2:00. It’s about a 45 mile round trip and traffic can drag that out.

Basically, that was the extent of my day. Old What’s Her Face and I went to breakfast this morning after dropping off the truck.

I have twelve posts ready for my October blog tour and could probably use a couple more. Thing is, I don’t want to bore the hell out of people either. If I am a guest somewhere a couple of times per week, that’s going to fill the month of October.

Touring is a toss-up really. Most friends and fans will follow along and I kept each post unique. There’s only so much value in appealing to them over and over again. The dream is to reach new readers and that requires multiple appearances to glean them.

Where does that scale balance? More posts might help find some new fans. More posts could also get annoying to my loyal fans and friends. A dozen feels about right and the topics won’t get stale. I think that’s where I’m going to stand.

This means, no blog writing this weekend. I did a lot of surfing on Pinterest and a few similar places while daydreaming of future stories. I have some fun ideas and a few ideas how to bundle several of them into the same story. I suppose that’s productive in a way.

I’m looking forward to next weekend. I’m going to drive to Nevada and bring my mother back for a visit. I like long lonely drives and also enjoy drives were I can chat with someone. I’ll get one of each next Friday.

That might not be the best situation for writing, but regular life is important, too. I’m sure you’ll be hearing plenty from me once October arrives. Might even publish my book next weekend.

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Not my usual weekend

We wound up at Old Chicago Pizza on Friday night. This is around the third time I’ve been disappointed in them. The beer selection was pretty run-of-the mill, and their pizza has changed. It’s just not as good as before all the pandemic problems. I’ve tried to be kind of forgiving with all the supply, employee, and shortage issues, but this might be our last visit to a place we both loved. There is no shortage of beer places or pizza places these days. We might just have to try some new venues.

Saturday, I paid the bills and didn’t really do a damned thing besides that. I have plenty to do, but just didn’t do them. Some of this is my own insistence on order in my private life. At work, I have to move multiple projects forward at once. When I run into a roadblock, I change projects to something I can nudge ahead. When it comes to my free time, I have the right not to do that.

We made a drive to Twin Falls on Sunday. Old What’s Her Face had a care package for our daughter, and she’s been unable to visit lately. We dropped off her goodie bag, took her to a nice lunch, then came home. Totally worth it.

Today, I pushed my MS through Amazon once more and this time it looks perfect. I still have all my tour posts to write and need to get to those. I stopped after the Amazon previewer checked out, but still need a purchase link. I’ll probably park on that idea until later in the month. I want Midnight Rambler available for the October season.

Somewhere between the cracks we watched television. Caught the new episode of She Hulk, checked out Rings of Power, and I watched more of a K-Drama I’ve been enjoying. I find myself checking out more K-Dramas than anything else. Their stories are just a degree different than the usual fare and I find them quite creative. They always offer a laugh amid the drama and that’s something I strive for myself.

In other news, Old What’s Her Face found a package on the porch when we returned from Twin.

There were two of these bricks inside the box. I asked her what she was trafficking in. They turned out to be some kind of cookies to make a recipe of some sort. I’m excited for whatever she comes up with, but a few illicit dollars around here would have been cool.

Hope all of you had a great holiday weekend. Drop me a line and let me know what you’ve been up to.

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Vacation day two: Date Night

I managed one and a half pages yesterday. That’s it for writing. Digging back through my archives, it seems like about 1500 words is the norm, but I have days like this, too.

The big plan was going to the fair anyway. We had a good time, but it was hot. I feel for you women, because I got boob sweat in the sweltering heat.

The fair wasn’t up to snuff this year for some reason. I grabbed a few pictures to share.

This is the place where you get all your food. There are carnival rides in the distance. We both had a prickly pear lemonade. I opted for a gyro, but it was mostly salad. This is odd, because this place has been awesome over the years. I had every intention of sampling all kinds of things, but it didn’t work out that way.

Mechanical bull — nope.

The poultry barn has chickens and rabbits, with a few other kinds of birds. There were probably a third of what’s usually in there. I snapped this goth chicken for you.

The main exhibit hall was a kind of split. Painting and photography are still pretty popular. The produce section was a let-down. There were no big pumpkins to share this year. Baking had one display. Even it wasn’t as special as past years.

No free samples

I headed for the photography, but Old What’s Her Face said the gates were opening for the concert, and that kind of ended our browsing.

Pat Benatar put on a great show. We’ve seen her before and knew it would be good. The best part is the fair concerts are free with the price of admission. We had to sit in the heat for an hour or two waiting for the show to start, otherwise we wouldn’t have gotten decent seats.

We were back a ways, but our days of standing on the field are over. The bleachers were a bit much, but Old What’s Her Face blinked first. We walked down to the main level, grabbed bottled water, and finished the show on our feet. (Don’t tell her, but my back was killing me, too.)

Might get some writing in today some time. I also have the formatted MS back from The Midnight Rambler. I need to push it through Amazon’s machine even though I don’t want to publish yet. It’s the best way to see if my silly graphics moved somewhere other than where I want them.

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It was date night

Last night Old What’s Her Face decided she wanted to go to dinner. She mentioned La Tapatia, which is one of our favorite places. The food was phenomenal, like always.

The service was a bit slower than usual, but that seems to be a theme everywhere. I’ve even seen some places close for a day or two because they don’t have employees available.

During this waiting period we did what all loving couples do in the modern era. We gazed into each other’s eyes. Scratch that. We picked up our cell phones and ignored each other like a true American couple.

I spotted something on Facebook that Krispy Kreme has pumpkin doughnuts available already.

We swung by and picked up a dozen on the way home.

The one with the swirly top is supposed to be a pumpkin cappuccino, and new on the list. There is also a pumpkin cheesecake filled variety, but our dozen didn’t include any of those.

I wanted to taunt everyone about how awesome they were. However, they really weren’t. They were all pretty bland, and if you handed me one and asked me what the flavor was, I could not tell you. Guess we fell victim to marketing, but the product didn’t deliver.

Right now, I’m watching the Star Wars marathon, and blogging. Old What’s Her Face is currently making her own cheese cake. Bet it’s a damned sight better than those doughnuts were.

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Sad

It was a simple enough plan for this weekend. Write as much as I could before returning back to the work week. It’s the weekend between paychecks, so we try not to do anything that costs money, or gasoline.

I got started on Mari’s story, but it’s another transition phase. Those always take me longer. When the sun came up completely, I went outside to water the hanging baskets and potted plants.

That’s when the heartbreak announced itself. I’m afraid my peach tree is no more. It was going to be a good crop this year, too.

The main part of the tree snapped in the night and is laying across my lawn. The bits that are left hang over the fences, but there’s nothing to recover that would form up on my own property.

We’ve been talking about it, and it’s going to take a huge trip to the dump and require a hard day in the sun. Temperatures have been over 100 degrees for weeks. I’m not looking forward to this. With the next payday, I might even hire someone who has the proper tools and a trailer that can handle the volume.

I mention this, because it’s going to require ladders and lines to make sure the highest pieces fall in my yard and not the neighbors. Somewhere over the years, I started having a hard time with ladders. Add in a chainsaw and it’s kind of a risky proposition.

I’ll stop here. It’s kind of hard to be creative with my current mindset, and I don’t expect much tomorrow either. I should probably be happy it didn’t take out the patio cover or the fences.

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Wreck of the Lanternfish by C.S. Boyack #bookreview #pirates #fantasy

Teri has some wonderful things to say about Wreck of the Lanternfish. Please visit her site to check it out, and consider following this incredible author and supporter.

Books and Such

James Cuttler created a peaceful spot for he and his wife to settle down. Far from the war that ravages their homeland, far from the reputation he earned as the notorious Captain Bloodwater, and far from responsibility.

A royal Prelonian houseguest is a constant reminder of what’s at stake half a world away, of the friends he put ashore to fight the war. He lives in a dream world that’s temporary, at best. It’s only a matter of time before his guest is identified and the black assassins come for her.

He mortgages his precious vineyard to pay for repairs to his ship. If nothing else, Lanternfish will be one of the most powerful ships in the war. He’ll need to avoid those on his own side who would hang him for piracy.

Serang is half a world away, leading her army of mercenary swordsmen toward the Fulminites. Mistrusted by…

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Smorgasbord Bookreviews – #Fantasy – Good Liniment (The Hat Book 5) by C.S. Boyack

Sally shared her thoughts about Good Liniment today. Please visit this wonderful supporter of indie authors. You might decide you need some Good Liniment for your summer reading.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Delighted to share my reviews for the 5th book in The Hat series by C.S. Boyack.. Good Liniment.

About the book

Someone is murdering members of the local witches coven. They turn to Lizzie and the hat for their unique skills that might help eliminate the killers.

A religious zealot might be a monster, but is still a human being. This task isn’t the same as staking vampires or shooting zombies. It isn’t the usual project Lizzie takes on for her night work.

This all takes place during a recovery period for Lizzie. She needs to keep her cover band together and find a new way of getting them gigs. More bands and less venues are making finances tight. The hat didn’t make things easier during her absence, by spreading rumors about why she took her sabbatical.

Someone killing others over a point of view insults Lizzie’s sensibilities. She has…

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One of those days…

I’ve had a goal for a couple of weeks now, and the weather seems to be against me. I have an asian pear tree that I need to spray. Codling moths are a problem here. Think wormy apples.

This is going to involve spraying all three of my malus family trees, because there’s no sense in letting the damned things thrive on the crabapple and medlar and only spraying the pear.

Peach tree doesn’t care and moths aren’t a problem. At least I’ll have them.

It’s been beautiful during the work week but rains every damned weekend. Today is the same thing. I don’t use any heavy pesticides, only Sevin which is for vegetable gardens. The tree produces so much I can’t eat it all anyway, so if I lose a few it’s no big deal. Better for the environment and safer for the dogs. It just needs to stay on the tree and dry for a bit.

Since that wasn’t an option, I turned my efforts to blogging. I wrote and scheduled my next Story Empire post. This took a while because we need graphics with them. It’s getting harder to find decent free-use images.

I also scheduled a visit for a friend to promote her newest book. Happens to be the same day my Story Empire post goes live. I may be slow on responding to all the comments, but I will.

Count this post, too. No sense in stopping now… unlike the rain.

I did a bit of writing before sunrise this morning. Didn’t amount to much. I’m still world building in this story, and don’t want to dump too much, too fast. Mari is getting around, but she’s learning a bit as she travels. I’m also dealing with her emotional issues around the campfire.

There was a lot of backing up and editing, too. I haven’t written anything in first person since the last Jason Fogg story. I love this POV, but have to do everything possible to tone down the use of I and my in the internal dialog. It’s still going to be heavy, but I’ll put some effort into it.

I’ve reached a point where this tale needs some deeper thought. I always know what’s going to happen, but I have some things on the page and those need to weave into whatever happens next. Simple stuff that doesn’t probably baffle other authors. I placed a town to pass through, I have to keep its location in mind for future events so I don’t put the next place on top of it.

This is usually when I jump stories. Maybe tomorrow I’ll move over to Lizzie and the hat. I know these characters pretty well by now and sometimes I can make the words fly when I write them.

Fingers crossed for a fairly productive weekend, and maybe one day without rain.

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Just checking in

I haven’t updated in a while, because so much of my life is fairly routine. It isn’t like we have date night every weekend these days. There are some things folks might relate to.

Today is a day of chores. This found me crawling around on my hands and knees in the mud, but the sprinkler system is up and running now. Then I had to climb a couple of ladders to change lightbulbs in the garage. After that, I lugged some photos and paintings up to the attic. These were permanent fixtures at my office. Since we’re getting a new location we were told to bring everything home and expect limited room at the new place. I’m afraid a stark barren cubicle is in my future.

Old What’s Her Face and I decided to put out the patio furniture while we were at it. She also learned that some old vinyl records are valuable and had me look through our attic box. Turns out some of the more valuable ones we have twice. An artifact of getting married and each having a copy.

This doesn’t mean that we’re going to do whatever version of eBay exists for old records. They’ll probably stay in the attic since we no longer own a turntable.

As for writing, I started a new project. Yesterday’s word count came to over 1700. This will be a stand alone, and I shared my start with some friends who seem to like it.

I have most of a storyboard for this one, but it’s nice to be able to drift a bit during the process. One odd thing kind of surprised me. I needed a name for my main character. I outlined her as kind of a scrawny blonde of some kind. The kind who’s strong, but not muscular.

When it came down to it, she became a Cuban-American girl. Since this is somewhat post-apocalyptic, I don’t need to bleed a lot of Cuban culture into it. She’s a formerly American girl with an Hispanic look to her.

I’m glad my friends liked the start, because it will probably come out a bit darker and grittier than my usual fare. I’ve already killed two innocents in the first 1700 words.

I am a firm believer in light moments, and have a couple of animal characters I’m counting on to bring a bit of charm. Also, to make it one of my stories, I’m going to include a little magic. Since the setting is the former American South, it will be a bit of Voodoo.

This also marks a return to first person point of view for me. I love it for Will O’ the Wisp, and I’ve used it for several short stories, most notably about Jason Fogg. I think this will come across better as first person since much of the time Mari will be alone.

I have a tile I really like, because it pays homage to an old film favorite. I also have a mental block against it, because Once Upon a Time, seems to indicate something from the past. Granted it will be from Mari White’s past, and not necessarily our past. (Mariposa Rivas-White)

The working title is Once Upon a Time in the Swamp. I’d love to know what you guys think about this. I know titles don’t seem all that important during the drafting phase, but they really help me while writing.

I’m the guy who still needs a title for my space trilogy, and have two more volumes to figure that out. If you happen to be online today or tomorrow, I’d like to know what you think of my working title.

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