Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ain't nothing worse than ...

...someone complaining about how bad they feel.

Why do I want to hear about everybody else's problems when I got enough of my own?

How many of us have been there and done that?

Well, I'm certainly one of them.

And, I guess I've just been caught in the "what goes around comes around" syndrome of Sin City.

Back in July, I let myself get scammed on the internet. I called two local tv channels and put out the word so others wouldn't run into the same. It certainly seemed legit. An email from the Internal Revenue Service telling me a had a rebate coming. I even checked the "click here" icon and it certainly looked official. So, I filled out the form and happily sat back, waiting for the refund to come to my back account.

I checked my back account early the next morning ... to find $1,900+ taken out of my account for some place called Novocio Tech Division in Bucharest, Romania. I got suckered! An out and out email scam. It wasn't until later that I learned the IRS NEVER does stuff like that over the internet. They're still old-fashioned and do everything by snail-mail!!!

 Yeah! Ya better believe it!

Well, I went to the bank and told them it was a scam, asking for them to hold up and investigate.

Months went by and I got some documents from the outfit in Romania showing what was purchased and how it was delivered by courier someone local in that country. Did anybody wonder what an American's account was doing purchasing computer security stuff for someone in Bucharest?

In the end, the bank had no choice - day before yesterday, they took the money out of my bank account - or at least what little was left there. Oh yeah - I wrote to the NOVICIO TECH DIVISION outfit to find they've got a website and explained what happened, asking for a refund. The response was an off-hand slap in the face, a sem-polite comment that they did everything according to the law, their bank checked to determine the transaction was legal - and to stop accusing them of anything illegal.

And, as much as I hate to admit it, it was nobody else's fault but my own! Mister Dulgheru Silvio, of Constanta Str. UNIRII NR. 77 BL. V6A, SC. C. ET. 3. AP. 42 Judet CONSTANTA suckered me good.

I wonder how many other dumbies he got? And, with Novicio Tech Division's knowledge?

It seems to come in multipliers. I've been suffering what I thought was a pinched nerve causing severe inflammation of the sciatic nerve. Couldn't sleep and had shooting pains from my hip to down below my knee every time I stood up and/or tried to walk. Went to a pain specialist and he gave me some pain medication that made me sleepy and didn't help all that much. The only relief I got was sitting in my lounger or here at my desk - although I keep falling asleep while typing. Went back, got stronger medicine and an MRI. That showed old age is getting to me that I've got rheumatism. Ain't bad enough that I'm a fat old geezer, now I've got the pain to tell me that on a daily basis.

Guess things could be worth. As I wrote in "Backing up my words", this has been a pretty good month on the slot playing - we're just about far enough ahead for the month to cover the money I let us get scammed. So, two local casinos are actually paying for my stupidity - and the bank couldn't 've picked a better time to taker out the money I wouldn't otherwise have.

And, the doctor put my on oxycodone. It puts me to sleep and kills my appetite. So maybe I'll begin to lose some of the fat. On the other hand, it's making me harder to keep up with all the discussion forums and, most important of all, working on the first draft of The Missions Boom, Book Three of Father Serra's Legacy.

So, it's good - and it's bad - and it's all part of living. There are a whole lot of people with far worse than me. So, I've really got no complaints.

I guess someone out there is watching over me.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Backing up my words

I'm certain many of you have seen the book I wrote titled “Lost Wages in Las Vegas.”
It purports to be about gambling in Las Vegas and how to get the best bang for your buck.

I don't consider myself an “expert” in terms of knowing all the high-tech and mathematical stuff when it comes to gambling. But, after living here in Vegas for more than 30 years – of which I spent 10 as a professional slot machine player – I've learned a few things to help the tourist and other recreational gambler. I stated in the book that I do okay by following the rules I lay out in the book.

Well, here's a report for my gambling for the year 2011:

My wife and I went to various casinos to gamble 135 different times.

We hit 8 Royal Flushes, 73 deuces wild, and 13 four aces. In addition, we received “gifts of wine, gasoline and meals.

The bottom line – not including all the discounted meals and gifts, we ended up with a GRAND TOTAL of $1,421 for the year.

I figure with all the various gifts and promotion, we broke even and slightly ahead.

So, if you wonder wither I come from presenting Lost Wages in Las Vegas, there it is.
Check it out for yourself. You can either download it as an ebook or order a paperback version of it. All comments are welcome.

[Oh yeah! Luck comes and goes. So, while the way my year is starting out seems exceptionally good, it's all a matter of looking at the long run – the year ahead. So far, my wife has hit 3 Royal Flushes while I've hit 1. She's hit deuces 6 times while I've hit them 7. And, I've hit four Aces twice. In addition, we've received gift cards to a grocery store, blankets and tee shirts – not including her $25 for her birthday in one of Sam's Town restaurants

And, today, Sunday, we will get $30 in gift cards to a local supermarket in one casino and four gifts in another.]

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Dream Comes True

Mariposa Amarillo’s prognostication proved right. The dark clouds appeared far out to sea and winds drove loose limbs and other objects through the air. Everyone put things in order to weather the storm. The friars and Don Antonio, as he liked to be called although he had no real title other than alcalde, examined everything, not wishing another disaster like the last time.

Jaime huddled in his workshop, the thick adobe walls fending off the worst of the storm. It was impossible to know when or if the bells rang for sunrise Mass and the overseer went from cell to cell to motion the neophytes to go to the chapel. Even with the front doors closed, he could barely hear Padre Juan conducting Mass. Breakfast was served without the usual instruction period and most took their food to their rooms to get out of the torrential rains. All work was canceled except for those like Jaime who had shops or rooms.

The storm lasted all that day and most of the night. The sun came up over the Laguna Mountains to the east and mist rose from the damp ground. People stirred and went forth to check the damage. Those living at the mission heeded the call of the bells and attended morning Mass. Because of the storm, Padre Juan passed up the morning classes and all sat down to eat. As soon as he finished, Jaime headed to the central plaza, then down to the beach.

All but one fishing boat had weathered the storm. Their captains and crews inspected them. One had been blown from its place on the beach and washed ashore on some rocks about half a league north of the village. With nothing else to do at the moment and overcome by an urge he could not explain, Jaime joined the fishermen in their trek to the wreck.

I will see you later at the mission,” Padre Juan called out to him.

I have seen this place before,” Jaime muttered as they drew near the boat. The rocks, the sand and the surf hovered in his mind. Then, he saw an object on the shore ahead of him. Without stopping to think, he broke into a run. It was the object of his dream. He dropped to his knees and turned the thing over, discovering it to be a boy his age. The boy’s skin was the color of a Puma’s fangs.

Come quickly. It is a boy. He has come ashore from the storm.” Jaime checked for a pulse, finding a faint one. The boy wore oilskins of a strange form. Jaime sought his water flask, unstopping it to trickle water through the boy’s cracked lips.

The boy coughed and spat up most of the water. He opened his eyes, unable to open them wide as they were salt-caked, and looked at Jaime. They were blue. The color of the sky. He then croaked out some words Jaime did not understand.

We must take him to the curandera,” one of the sailors said.

Jaime agreed and the burly man picked up the boy and slung him over his shoulder.

The White Ocelot coughed and brought up more water, gasping for breath.

The healer’s house was to one side of the waterfront, apart from the other buildings. A woman with hair of white stood in the doorway waiting for them. “Remove his clothing.” Her voice held a tone of authority.

As the outerwear was stripped off, Jaime saw the boy’s skin where it had not been exposed to the sun was even whiter than the rest. It was also covered with small, light tan spots. Taking away the hat revealed hair the color of straw.

He has been in the water for some time,” Doña Ynez said.

Jaime tried not to gape as the last piece of clothing was removed but could not help but noticed the boy was built no different than he or other males in his village. He also saw the boy’s musculature was more bulky than his, although well-formed.

Doña Ynez then did a strange thing. “Help me carry the lad outside to the water trough.”

Even though he had been toughed by months of hard work, Jaime found it difficult to lift the boy, even with Doña Ynez’ surprising strength.

Be gentle,” she urged, lowering him into the fresh water. “Hold his head above water,” she added, turning to go back inside the house.

What else would I do? Jaime thought. Let him drown?

Doña Ynez returned with a clay jar. It proved to be soap made from the roots of a Yucca plant, the soap everybody used. Doña Ynez laved the boy from head to foot, grinning at Jaime when she washed his private parts. “I have seen more unclothed men than have the wives of this village.”

Jaime instantly liked the old woman for the laughter in her eyes and the gentleness of her age-wrinkled hands. He could not begin to guess her age but knew her to be well beyond any Cahita elder he knew of.

Jaime obeyed her order to lift the boy from the trough and she rinsed the soap away before wrapping him in a cotton towel. They then carried him inside and laid him on a cot.

A young woman and two boys arrived just then. “Empty the trough,” Doña Ynez ordered the boys, “and refill it with water from the river.” She turned to her apprentice and explained, “We must restore his strength and repair the damage the saltwater has done to his flesh.” She reached for a clay bowl and took it to the table, gathering several plants and herbs from the shelves and beams they hung from.

Maria, the apprentice, pounded the contents of the bowl as women pounded maize to make tortillas and then stirred water into the concoction. That went into a small metal pot and set atop the stove.

Meanwhile, Doña Ynez retrieved another jar and poured the contents into her hands. “This is made from a special plant and the oil from the sheep before their wool is taken. It will heal the boy’s skin.”

During this, the boy’s eyes opened and he tried to speak, unsuccessfully as his throat and Adam’s apple seemed to be injured. What words he did speak were strange to all. The only thing they could discern was the boy’s fright over what was being done to him, a reddening of his cheeks as women embarrassed him by seeing him unclad.

Doña Ynez brought over a wooden goblet filled with the liquid she had heated on the stove. She explained to Jaime, “It is an infusion made from bolas de maíz, corn tassels, bark from a willow and some other herbs.” She had Jaime hold the boy’s head while she poured drops of the infusion through the cracked lips that now shone from the balm she had applied.

The white ocelot, as Jaime thought of the boy from his dream, struggled and coughed as the liquid touched his palette. Then, sensing it was not going to harm him, he relaxed and allowed the healer to pour more into his mouth. In the end, he drank the entire contents of the goblet, closing his eyes to fall asleep.

Jaime and the curandera then applied more lotion to the boy’s skin. When it was clear there was little more to do than to cover him and let him sleep, Doña Ynez led Jaime to the table, had him sit down and offered him a goblet of the tea, taking one for herself.

There is something between you and the boy.”

The mysterious words of elders no longer surprised Jaime. They somehow saw and knew things without being told. “I saw him in a dream. Exactly where and how we found him.” When asked, Jaime told the dream, doing his best to omit nothing.

Oceloto Blanco. That seems to be quite appropriate to the boy.” Again, Doña Ynez’ smile made Jaime follow suit. “You are the boy they call the Wood Wizard?” Seeing Jaime flinch at being called yee sisibowame o’ou, Yaqui for magic man, Doña Ynez grew serious. “You believe all living things have spirits within them?” Jaime nodded. “And one must appease them when taking their life?” Jaime again nodded. “Then the word magic is not something to feel ashamed of. You are accepting the creator spirits and the way we feel the world was made.”

That surprised Jaime as Doña Ynez had a small statue of The Virgin on a shelf. She also wore a rosary of shiny stones.

The boy will sleep now. Maria and I will watch over him and give him more nourishment when he awakens. We will call you then.”

Jaime backed out of the house, crossing himself before turning to go to the central plaza. He then found Padre José and told him of the discovery.

Bring him to me when he can walk on his own,” the friar said.

Jaime nodded and returned to the curandera’s house.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Strange Dream


             A bell tinkled and Padre José entered behind two young men wearing white cotton shirts. One carried a shiny bowl and the other a large, leather-bound book, Jaime knew to be called the Holy Bible, or holy book of the Iglacia Católico. The Robed Ones often read stories from it that sometimes did not seem so strange to him. As the ritual began, the intonation in the strange language called Latin lulled Jaime. A sharp nudge in the ribs from Josito told Jaime it was time to kneel and make the sign of the cross by touching his forehead, chest and both shoulders.

Jaime found it difficult to look upon Padre Pedro off to one side of the altar. He had removed the top portion of his gray robe to bare his back. What caused Jaime to wince was how the priest used a metal whip of some kind to beat himself about the back and shoulders. He did this during the entire time Padre José conducted the ritual. All could see the streaks of blood upon his back. How can he do that to himself? Jaime wondered.

When the ritual ended, Jaime and his friends left the church to go to the dining area. Tasty aromas arose from the huge iron kettles and Jaime watched the women expertly forming flat cakes of ground maize, cooking them over open flames. As always, the stew was hot and spicy from small pieces of dark green chilis, onions and other spices. The vegetable called a papa was Jaime’s favorite. He also enjoyed the familiar bean paste known as frijoles.

The time after the evening meal was something he looked forward to. The men took their ease as the sun lowered below the far horizon. Three of the men took out their instruments and began to play a lively tune. Dexterous fingers plucked the strings of a guitar while a flute and small drum accompanied it. Several others took up the tune, making up words as they sang

Josito nudged Jaime and Ernesto and they turned to watch the robed figure of Padre Pedro off to one side, enjoying the evening performance.

Jaime dreamed that night. Visions held great meaning to his people. Jaime had not dreamed since death had taken away his world. As he slept, he walked along the shore of a great body of water. Curling waves came ashore, sudsy foam swirling around his bare feet. Many peculiar things lay upon the fine grains of stone, some of them made of brittle substances in whites and blacks.

Many birds swirled in the air, raucous screams filling his ears. The big black and white ones the Spaniards called gaviotas were familiar as he had seen them in his home mountains. In the distance, the rolling water washed a pile of boulders swarming with creatures. They had strange flat things where their legs should have been. Whiskers spiked from their muzzles and they barked. But not like any dogs he had ever seen.

Voices told him how strange it was that a great storm had come at that time of the year. They normally came in the time before things got cooler. Los ciclónes often dropped great amounts of rain, causing floods in the arid mountains.

He saw something strange and hurried towards it. An ocelot lay on the ground, but one unlike any he had ever seen - it was white with light brown spots. He could see it lived, but was hurt. Then, the creature turned its head and stared at him - with pale blue eyes!

Jaime awakened.

The next evening, after the evening meal, Jaime walked away from the compound. He found a rock and sat down, staring at the hills to the east.

Do you miss it?”

Jaime twitched, and then controlled himself. Nobody had ever snuck up on him before. Old man Wind Talker would have shamed me in front of the village for letting that happen. He turned to look at Ernesto to see his broad grin. He knew what Jaime felt and had moved softly just to unnerve him. “They are gone and will never return.” Nodding, Jaime replied, “No. It is gone and there is nothing I can do to change that.”

It did not take long for Josito to join them. “You will never guess what I have just overheard.”

Seeing the sparkle of interest in his companion’s eyes, Josito spoke. “The rider from the city of Mexico carried orders to the fathers about the Viceroy’s demand to extend the lands claimed for His Highness King Carlos. That is one of the reasons the Black Robes left and the Gray Robes have come.”

Jaime listened, not understanding much. Who are these great jefes so far away? How can they have so much power here?

It is said el Presidente Padre Serra is to lead a great expedition north to extend Spain’s control over land further to the north than the Black Robes did.”

That is far away from us here. Why is this of interest to us?” Ernesto asked.

Well, another rumor is another group of missionaries called Dominicans may come to take over this mission while los Padres José and Pedro go to join El Presidente Padre Serra.”

Jaime rarely spoke, when he did not understand all that was being said. Who is this Father President Serra? he wondered.

Ernesto chuckled. “It will probably mean nothing to us. But, one never knows what the thoughts of the High Ones will have on the lowly like us.”

Author's notes

Excerpts are often difficult as the reader does not have to information leading up to the scene. So, to bring you up to date, here are a few tidbits about The Sailor and The Carpenter, Book One - Father Serra's Legacy:

Jaime [pronounced Hi-may] is an Indian from the western mountains of Mexico. He and two others were the only survivors of an onslaught of Smallpox found by two Franciscan friars on their way to the town of Culiacán. He had become a little accustomed to the strange ways of the holy men.

The white ocelot has also been introduced to the reader. He is Timothy, a youth from England where he grew up on a dairy farm producing cheddar cheese. Due to financial difficulties, Timothy's father has contracted/indentures him to a ship's captain to serve as a cabin boy. The ship is on its way home from exploring the area currently known as Vancouver Island. Jaime has never before seen a European with white skin, freckles, blue eyes and blond hair.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Research is Over - Back to Writing

The hardest thing about writing historical fiction is a strong desire to be faithful to one's readers.

The fictional characters are there. I hope I've brought them alive for my readers.

But, so are the real people who lived and breathed in those times so many years ago. They and their descendants deserve to be treated honestly and factually. That means lots and lots of research.

The problem is that different reference materials have different approaches. I spent endless hours going through a reference work, The Genealogy of California. I then had to reconcile that to other materials I've amassed in the effort to get the story right. Not everything agrees!!!

So, what does one do?

As for me, it's trying to make the best of things and put the factual information in approximation with the fictional to make the story informative as well as entertaining.

Who knew that an early California governor got into real trouble when he brought his wife and child to Monte Rey - only to have her discover he had an Indian mistress? And, how she ran to the friars for their help - only to have them tell her it was something she had to work out with her husband.

(Some of this stuff is more fun than anything I could possibly dream up.)

Anyhow, The Sailor and The Carpenter, Book One of Father Serra's Legacy is about to go to the editor. The King's Highway, Book Two of Father Serra's Legacy, has a tentative cover and sits somewhere in the publisher's pending pile. Now, it's back to working on The Missions Bloom, Book Three of Father Serra's Legacy. Some interesting stuff came out of researching all three that I hope to include in III.

The friar who entertained visitors with a parade of chickens, ducks and geese.

A French Count's visits to California and his response to what he saw.

And George Vancouver [we've all heard of him - right?] and Nootka, a fortress against the Russians looming to the north.

Writing the story is great fun!!! I hope you will find reading it half as fun.

[But, the time for editing/revising/re-editing will come sooner or later.]

Keep you all posted.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Welcome 2012!

I hope all survived the New Year parties with minor hangovers and headaches.
Me and Mine? We slept through it - except for our puppy dog who spent the entire evening telling the world how upset he was with the blasted fireworks!
It started with some good signs - my publisher came up with three covers for the Father Serra's Legacy trilogy that I think will draw readers to it. [Not bad when we've only signed contracts for 2 of the 3]
On the other hand, I got leads to more research material on California in the late 1800's and I have to back off The Missions Bloom until I finish going through it. I'm already discovering a major problem - the various sources don't agree!!! I had the names of 1800 men who lived in California at the time, and the new sources either don't include them or have the names and other information different. Ah well. All one can do when writing historical fiction is provide the reader with the feel of the time with interesting characters.
So thanks for stopping by here and I hope to see you drop by more often to enjoy. You are always welcome to comment.