Chariots - 2016

They are just an inanimate objects.  A conglomeration of rubber, pistons, crank shafts, rings, nuts, bolts, cables, wires, leather, cloth, vinyl, and glass, all expertly pieced together to form the perfect form of mobility.  But to each of us it’s so much more than just a car, a simple sum of its parts.  The relationship between these modern chariots and their owners isn’t something to be taken lightly, just ask Stephen King (Christine).  Speak to anyone at length and when the topic eventually rolls around to automobiles, just watch as their eyes light up.  Right or wrong, we are defined by what we drive and conversely who we are is expressed in what we choose to be seen in.  Everyone has a favorite car they’ve owned, or one they dream about owning someday.

I counted them up, and over the course of my life (so far) I have owned 15 different vehicles.  Some of them I scratch my head and wonder what I was thinking, but others were true gems that transported me through wondrous times and ever-lasting memories.  I thought I’d tell you the story of five of them today.

Naturally the list must start off at the beginning.  We all remember our first car; it maintains a special place in the heart regardless of how many follow it.  For me it was a 1966 green Chevy Van.  My uncle worked in the auto shop for Southern Bell in Baton Rouge and was responsible for selling off parts of the fleet that had exceeded mileage limits.  He came across this one van in excellent shape despite its miles, so he called my Dad and a deal was struck.  I took possession of it my sophomore year of high school.  When I first laid eyes on it I didn’t see the rust, the dents, and the bland appearance.  What I saw was a meek caterpillar, waiting for me to weave a cocoon so it might emerge as a beautiful six-cylinder butterfly.  My Dad and I performed the complete makeover together.  We carpeted the inside, put in a killer stereo, tinted the windows, and gave it a new coat of paint with stylish pin striping.  I learned to drive a standard shift in that van (3 speed with the shifter on the steering column).  It was a great first car!  That same year the song ‘Chevy Van’ by Sammy Johns played on the radio a lot.  Anybody remember it?

The second car on my standout list was the only convertible I owned.  It was a red Triumph TR3 two seater (don’t remember the year).  That car was so impractical it wasn’t funny, but it was a blast!!  The suspension sucked and I was always running out of gas because the gauge kept going on the fritz, but driving the roads on a cool fall day with the top down is a treasured remembrance.  I owned the TR3 while I was going to college, but didn’t have it for long.  Like I said, impractical.

A 1976 black Trans AM fills the 3rd slot on my list.  That car was a monster, and it was FAST!!!  It was a four speed (naturally) and had enough horsepower in it even I had a hard time controlling it.  My only venture over 100 mph (on a lonely back road) came in that car.   Girls were drawn to it and guys drooled over it.  The only reason I got rid of it was because I was going back to college full time and I couldn’t afford to keep it.  I probably miss that car the most.

The fourth car on my list is a 1994 white Ford Mustang.  That was the year (1994) of the fourth major redesign of the mustang.  Of the 15 cars I have owned, only five of them have been brand new cars.  This mustang was one of them.  I have always held a special love for the mustangs.  The 1966 mustang (the same car driven by Steve McQueen in ‘Bullitt’ or Nicholas Cage in ‘Gone in 60 Seconds’) is my ultimate dream car.  When the new body style came out in ’94 and it was a return to the stylish nature of its predecessors, I had to have it.  It was a wonderful car that I hand washed every weekend.  In the end I had to sell that car to make accommodations for something else precious in my life…the expecting of our 3rd child.

My fifth and final vehicle also hails from the year 1994. It's a Dodge Ram truck, and no it didn't look like this when I got it. The truck has something in common with another one of my favorite cars -- the Chevy van -- because it was also given to me by my father. He bought it used and drove it for a couple years before passing it along to me. Its for that reason that this dodge holds the record for the vehicle I've held onto the longest (13 years). The gas gauge, radio, clock and door locks no longer work, the paint is rusting off, and the dashboard is cracking - but none of that really matters. My father may be gone now, but every time I hop into my truck we're always taking a ride together.

That’s it.  Those are my five favorite cars.  What about you?  What was your favorite car(s)?  What made them special to you? 

Geek or Nerd

Hey gang.

Today I'm pointing towards a guest-post of mine that ran on the Blaze Publishing site over the weekend. I ran across this fairly new YA publishing house during my query travels and became interested in their blog. The topics they post about run a wide gamut, but they touch on subject matter very pertinent for aspiring writers.  The post I contributed for them has to do with the differences between Geeks and Nerds, and why some people still think they are the same thing. Please stop by and check it out.



Of the twelve months that make up the year, October is one of my favorites. Why? For one, here in Arkansas that’s when Fall weather really sets in, and I love cooler temperatures. The other reason…Halloween and the 31 days of non-stop horror movies. My daughter and I are the scary-movie aficionados in our family and October is when an all-you-can-watch horror movie buffet across a bazillion satellite channels are available. If you’re like me and enjoy the bombardment of scary flicks, here’s a piece of advice -- don’t schedule a regular physical this time of year. Your blood pressure will probably be elevated. :)

Of all of the villains, monsters, and paranormal manifestations that inhabit these type of movies, vampires are my favorite. I’ve always had an infinity for those creatures for some reason. There isn’t a vampire movie I haven’t seen, or book that I haven’t read. In college, my speech class was required to give a presentation designed to convince the listeners of whatever topic we picked. The speech that was voted most persuasive (by our classmates) was awarded an automatic A+. My topic – Vampires are real.

I took home the A+.

But there’s another reason I chose to talk about vampires today. You see, the nocturnal predators are primarily known for one thing…draining the blood from their victims until they are exsanguinated beyond the point of return. That’s something I can relate to right now. The victim part…not the killing part. And not blood, either. No, what I’m being drained of is enthusiasm…confidence…dogmatism. I can feel it being sucked from me…weakening my resolve regardless of my feeble attempts to fight against it. And who are the vampires in this scenario? You guessed it. Agents…publishers…the industry as a whole.

Over the past couple of months, the re-entering into the querying process has awakened the memories and feelings of the first time I went through it, and I can tell you unequivocally…it doesn’t get any easier the second time around. In fact, it’s far worse. You would think it would be just the opposite, right? I landed an agent once, so surely there’s another one out there that will see the potential in me that my first one did? But, it doesn’t work like that. With every rejection letter another ounce of positivism seeps away.

The agents and publishers aren’t evil-doing marauders, like the fictional vampires are betrayed, and it’s too easy to label them as the bad guy. No, they’re just doing their jobs. And no amount of sunlight, garlic, or silver crosses are going to help me, because I’m marching straight into their den with my neck fully exposed, a willing participant. You see, aspiring writers are simply the fuel they need to exist. You know what happens when you consume fuel, you create waste. And vampire waste is the empty shell of someone who used to be a person.

Or in this particular analogy – a writer.

Cognitive Estrangement

This mouthful is used to explain what happens when someone experiences a scene or idea that is different from his/her own reality, but similar enough that they can see it being plausible.

In other words…the suspension of disbelief.  

Now that is a phrase everyone recognizes. It explains a person’s willingness to interrupt his/her critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of pure enjoyment. The term was coined in 1817 by the poet and aesthetic philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who suggested that if a writer could infuse a "human interest and a semblance of truth" into a fantastic tale, the reader would suspend judgement concerning the implausibility of the narrative. The concept often applies to fictional works of the action, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi and horror genres. But in reality any genre could have issues with this because a characters motivations and actions often come under fire as being unrealistic, especially when his/her/it arc resembles the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

What’s so interesting about this topic is the literature implies the burden is on the reader, rather than the writer, to achieve it.


I guess subjectivity does include how willing (or unwilling) we are to accept something we might normally reject. That a love for a character or characters could override the concern for a faulty plot-line. There have been a couple of very popular YA series published over the past decade that I have read the first novel to, but chosen not to continue on with the rest of the series. Why? Not because they were terrible reads, they weren’t. No, I was unable to suspend my disbelief regarding the basic premise of the story. (No – I’m not talking about Harry Potter)

But still, the author bears some responsibility, right?  We shouldn’t take the castle on a chessboard and move it diagonally, because that’s against the rules and therefore unbelievable. Or is it? We all flirt with that line in some way or another, which is funny because everybody has a different idea of where that line should be.

What are your thoughts? How much does your work depend upon cognitive estrangement? What books have you read that went to far in that regard?
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