Meet Debut Novelist Mark R. Hunter

Hey, that's me! My interview is up on the website "Romance Writers on the Journey", totally overshadowing the Oscars:

Take that, "The King's Speech"!

Head Shaving Pledge Pushes Relay For Life Toward Goal

Don't worry: The mustache WILL remain.

           The Noble County Relay For Life is firming up its goals and membership for the 2011 event, but still needs help to mark another success in the fight against cancer.

            The American Cancer Society event has established a goal of raising $55,000 for the fight this year. The hope is to get 55 teams up and running, and ten have already signed up. Two survivors have also already preregistered.

            There’s a fundraising push on this year by members of the Noble County Sheriff’s Department, because two members -- Work Release Coordinator Ed Anderson and Dispatcher Mark R. Hunter – have agreed to have their heads shaved if the $55,000 goal is met. It’s certainly not the only entertainment planned for the Relay, and whether it improves their appearance remains to be seen!

            To help in getting teams started, a Relay training will be held at the ACS of Northeast Indiana location, at 111 East Ludwig Road in Fort Wayne, at 6 p.m. February 28. The pacesetter goal is to have teams registered is March 1st. anyone wanting to register a team online can contact David Troutner at .

            Meanwhile, the Relay still needs help in various areas, including mission and advocacy needs and promotions.

            Future committee meetings will be March 3rd and March 31st at the main branch of the Noble County Public Library, in Albion, at 6:30 p.m. The Team Captains will meet at 7:30.

            The Noble County Relay For Life is May 14-15, starting at 10 a.m. the 14th. The nautical theme this year is Cruising for a Cure.

            More information is available online at, or by contacted Sara Jackson at . Or, contact Ed Anderson at (260) 693-2338 or by e-mail at

Feds Use Imagination in Wasting Taxpayer Money


            In honor of the Federal budget process:

            How sad is it that, when I found an article entitled “20 of the craziest things that the US Government is spending money on”, my first thought was: “How did they narrow it down to 20?”

            The Federal government enjoys nothing more than spending other people’s money. Some of the spending seems sensible to a degree, which is to say that if we had the money, it might be beneficial to some people. Unfortunately, we don’t have the money. We (meaning the government, meaning the taxpayer) haven’t had the money for a long time. I considered pointing that out to my Congressman, but I was afraid he’d just commission a federal study into why we don’t have the money for federal studies.

            So, just twenty? How did they make that judgment? How about just the short list of 2,000 or so taxpayer wastes?

            What the heck – Americans love lists, but they also have short attention spans. I’m surprised they didn’t narrow it to the top 5:

            #1: $3 million went to the University of California, so they could … play video games. It was to study how "emerging forms of communication, including multiplayer computer games and online virtual worlds such as World of Warcraft and Second Life, can help organizations collaborate and compete more effectively in the global marketplace."

            Maybe it’s for the best that we leave that one alone. I live with a World of Warcraft player. You don’t want to mess with World of Warcraft players. Think Japan bombing Pearl Harbor, that’s the kind of hornet’s next you could stir up.

            #2: The U.S. Department of Agriculture gave the University of New Hampshire $700,000 to study the methane gas emissions of dairy cows.

            Cause, you know – global warming. Sadly, the dairy cows in question froze to death in a freak blizzard. (Oh, lighten up, I’m just kidding – no cows were harmed in the making of this column.)

            $3: $615,000 went to the University of California at Santa Cruz, to digitize photos, T-shirts and concert tickets belonging to the Grateful Dead.

            Who, I assume, were very grateful.

            #4: A professor at Stanford University --

            Hey, wait a minute. Am I seeing a pattern, here? University this, university that. It’s no wonder our kids seem to come out of college without knowing much about common sense or the real world – their teachers are too busy to teach them, what with all those studies.

            Anyway, the professor got $239,100 to study how the internet is used to find love. He discovered that the internet is a safer and more discreet way to find same-sex partners compared to, say, a bar.

            Oh, I was wrong; this professor had plenty of free time to teach. All he had to do was sit at his desk, jot down “The internet is more discreet than a gay bar – check”, and then collect a check of his own.

            #5: The National Science Foundation spent $216,000 to study whether politicians "gain or lose support by taking ambiguous positions."

            I oppose this research, because I’m afraid of the answer.

            #6: The National Institutes of Health spent $442,340 to study the behavior of male prostitutes in Vietnam.

            Look. If we’re going to give American taxpayer money for a boondoggle like this, couldn’t we at least study American male prostitutes?

            #7: Around a million bucks was spent to create poetry for the Little Rock, New Orleans, Milwaukee, and Chicago zoos. The goal was to raise awareness of environmental issues.

            I insist on being given a million dollars to create poetry to raise awareness of financial issues. Yep.

            #8: The US Department of Veterans Affairs spent $175 million in one year to maintain hundreds of buildings.

            This is something I approve of. Our veterans are worth it … except the Department of Veterans Affairs doesn’t actually use the buildings. Not even the one they paid to maintain in Dayton, Ohio: A pink, octagonal monkey house.

            #9: A "museum of neon signs" in Las Vegas, Nevada, required $1.8 million in maintenance. Taxpayer money maintenance. I’m a fan of museums, but I’m also a fan of balancing the budget. Maybe they could have the proceeds of one slot machine in every casino go toward this one? No one would even notice.

            #10: $35 million was paid out by Medicare to 118 medical clinics. Again, I’m a fan of medical clinics; lots of people need that health care, and should be taken care of.

            Sadly, the medical clinics don’t exist; they were a scam, used by criminals to steal money from the taxpayers, which for some reason reminds me of Congress. I can’t help thinking – this is going to sound nutty – that if local governments were given that money to establish clinics instead of a huge federal bureaucracy, someone might have noticed that the clinics weren’t there.

            Okay, I’m hyperventilating. I’ve got to take a pause before my head explodes, and some janitorial service gets a half million dollar grant to clean the mess up. But I think this little sampling is pretty instructive, so I’m going to come back later and give you the top ten tax money sucking worthless boondoggles or, as I like to call them, helpful government assistance.

Red is For Ick makes cut in ABNA competition

Congrats to everyone who made it into the 2nd round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest -- including me!  *does Snoopy dance*

"Red is For Ick" is one of 1,000 manuscripts that advanced, out of 5,000 in the young adult category ... I still face long odds, but passed the initial cut. The list of top writers in YA and adult fiction can be found here:

Driver Killed in Weather Related Crash

Yes, I was working dispatch yesterday morning. Yes, I'm kinda stressed.

     An accident just north of Albion killed a Rome City man Monday morning, and left an Albion woman injured. It was one of over three dozen weather related crashes around Noble County, as freezing rain, sleet, and then snow fell over the area.
     Timothy Archbold, 51, was critically injured when the truck he was driving collided head-on with another vehicle on SR 9, just north of CR 500 N. Police say Gerry Herendeen, 61, of Albion, was northbound at about 6:25 a.m. when she crossed the center line into the path of Archbold's southbound truck. Archbold apparently swerved right in an attempt to avoid a collision, but was unable to.
     The pavement was extremely slick at the time due to falling temperatures and a coating of ice.
     The impact left Archbold with head injuries, a severe fracture to his left leg, and a possible arm fracture. He was pinned inside the Ford F-150, and had to be extricated by members of the Albion and Orange Township Fire Departments.
     Herendeen complained of head, neck, and back pain, according to the Noble County Sheriff's Department. Medivac helicopters were unable to fly due to the weather conditions, so both drivers were taken by Parkview Main Hospital in Fort Wayne. At about 1 p.m., investigators were notified that Archbold had been pronounced dead as a result of his injuries.
     Both vehicles were totaled, with the Ford receiving heavy front ear damage, and Herendeen's 2005 GMC Envoy sustaining damage to the front driver's side area. A guardrail was also smashed. SR 9 was shut down for almost an hour as wreckage was removed from the accident scene.
     Other units assisting at the scene included the Sheriff's Department, Albion Police Department, and Noble County EMS.
     Later in the morning another accident happened on SR 9 just a short distance north of the first. In the second crash the driver, Tammy Steele, was not hurt, but the impact of sliding off the roadway into a field flattered both passenger side tires of her 2000 GMC Safari.
     Forty weather related incidents were reported to the Noble County Sheriff's Department Monday, most of them in the morning. They were classified as 4 accidents involving injury, 23 property damage accidents, 9 slide-offs, and 4 disabled vehicles. About six inches of snow fell in the county during the day, but many of the accidents related to earlier rain, sleet, and freezing rain that froze to surfaces as the temperature dropped overnight.

Valentine's Fail, or: Where to Sleep When You Don't Own a Doghouse


            Yeah, so, I missed Valentine’s Day this year.

            On a totally unrelated note I’ve discovered it’s possible, and even advisable, to sleep in today’s smaller, more fuel efficient cars.

            Well, I didn’t totally miss it so much as I wasn’t as prepared as I’d planned to be. I had this thought of cleaning up the house and setting up a romantic dinner with candles, and low music playing, and even cooking a meal myself. That last could backfire, as a trip to the ER is rarely romantic.

            There are a few things I’m capable of cooking well, but they wouldn’t make up anyone’s idea of a romantic dinner: Macaroni and cheese, egg sandwiches, popcorn, mashed potatoes, and … actually, that’s about it. There are some other foods I’m capable of cooking, but not all that well: hamburgers, a roast, and anything that boasts the word “microwaveable” on the box. I can also make a stake. No, that’s not a

            The back seat of a car can be comfortable to sleep in, as long as you’re the type who likes to curl up, or maybe if you don’t mind hanging your feet out of a window. That’s inadvisable this time of year.

            That’s totally unconnected to Valentine’s Day, except that I should have put my fiancée into the car and driven her somewhere nice. I mean, really nice. I don’t go out to eat often; if it doesn’t have a drive-through, to me it’s a fancy place. Applebee’s is a formal affair.

            Women don’t see it that way. “Fancy” means someplace where they won’t let you in without a tie, and I haven’t seen a tie in my house since 1997. I think I used it to play tug-o-war with my daughter’s dog, and if I remember correctly it was last needed to anchor down my ladder while I was cleaning the gutters. The tie, not the dog.

            Also, did you know you can’t get a reservation fifteen minutes before arriving? At the restaurant, not the gutter. They actually laugh at you. They laugh. “It’s Valentine’s Day, and you want to walk in the door and be seated in half an hour? Ha ha. This is me, laughing.”

            The trick to sleeping in a car this time of year is staying warm. Now, if you work third shift like I do and sleep during the day, you can try parking the car in the sun and make use of natural heating, which works if there’s not much wind. Have something to cover your eyes. It also might be a good idea to bring a snack, in case you can’t get back inside the house.

            The drawback is, of course, concerned passers-by and curious police officers.

            You could also take an alarm with you. Once an hour, turn the engine on until the heater’s warmed up, get it so hot inside the car that your mustache melts off (not that I’m talking about me), then turn the car off and sleep until the cycle starts again. This is expensive, and doesn’t encourage good rest.

            I tried to sleep in a parking garage once, and discovered the whole building shook whenever vehicles passed overhead. I kept dreaming of earthquakes.

            Sometimes you can get yourself out of the proverbial doghouse with flowers or jewelry. This doesn’t work for my fiancée; she’s not a fan of either except for engagement rings, and I already got her one of those. You’d think her dismissal of shinies would be a good thing. It usually is, but it doesn’t help when the time comes for a quick gift, otherwise known as a desperate bribe. She loves books, but we’ve got so many books that I’ve been using them to insulate the car.

            Not that you need insulation if you learn my favorite technique for wintertime car sleeping: Simply park the car in the garage. Even if the building is unheated, having that dead air space around the car will help hold heat in. A comforter under you, along with another over you, a couple of blankets, a winter coat, gloves, stocking cap, two pillows, and an empty jug in case nature calls, and you can maintain body heat well enough to sleep comfortably. This also helps avoid those nasty surprises such as passing semis blowing their horns, which can suddenly negate the need for the empty jug.

            Or, you could just plan ahead for a romantic Valentine’s Day.

            I know what you’re thinking: But Mark, couldn’t you just sleep on the couch? Well, yes, but that opens you up to being kicked or doused with ice water by whatever annoyed female might be happening by. Or, worse case scenario, you could wake up with her pet snake crawling across your face.

            Not that I’m worried about that. She wouldn’t risk the snake.

            Just the same … I’m thinking Valentine Sea Cruise, next year. I might end up sleeping on deck, but it would be warmer.

Junior Blizzards Wasn't Fun (now with picspam!)

I've realized that a previous post of mine was misleading: The "Romance Writers on the Journey" interview of me that's coming out on February 27th is a print interview, rather than an audio one. I'm still hoping for audio too, eventually! But you don't have to be there at 4 p.m. to get this one -- it'll be up on the website, at

Meanwhile -- it's minus 5 degrees F, so I'm warming us all up with a few photos from when Emily and I ventured outside after the blizzard. And yes, I'm being sarcastic; but Emily's a southern girl, so I think she got a kick out of seeing more than a foot of snow on the ground at the same time.


The first column I ever wrote was for my high school newspaper, “Cat Tracks” (Our mascot is a cougar. I wonder if that’s where my cat allergies come from?) It was fairly easy to get the paper to print my piece – I was co-editor-in-chief at the time. The other chief, Sally Weigold, had the brains, and I had the time. (Which is code for I had no social life.)

The title of that first column was “cabin fever”, as I recall. I don’t remember much more about it, except that at the end I described myself cracking up over the pressure, opening a kitchen window to escape my snowed-in confines, and being buried under an avalanche of snow.

Hopefully my columns have improved since. Still, it shows that even back then I had both a fascination with weather and a hatred of winter weather, so you can imagine the feverish overtime my brain’s been working under lately.

That would have been close to 1978, when we had a storm so bad that, to this day, when people around here say “The Blizzard” we all know which one they’re talking about. The blizzard that hit us last week pales in comparison, but it packed a punch of its own – and this new one certainly spread out over a much larger area.

By the way, it was officially a “blizzard” in this area, meeting the required definitions. Isn’t it a strange quirk of human nature that we always want our disasters to be the really bad ones?

I have a few notes about the storm, but really there’s not much to say. It was a snowstorm. You can’t swing a frozen cat in a Midwest winter without hitting a snowstorm. We were snowed in for about a day and a half as opposed to a solid week in ’78, and at no point did I make an attempt to escape through any drifted shut window.

In fact – and maybe this is just age talking – I’d be perfectly content to stay inside the whole doggone winter. Sadly, I have bills to pay. Being snowbound loses any sense of adventure when the gas, water, and electricity are shut off, and these days the loss of internet is absolutely panic-inducing.

So there I sat with Emily, sipping tea and running through Kleenex while periodically checking her temperature. This is not a normal fun off-day for us, by the way – in addition to the illness she already had, we both developed head colds. Although I’m sure there’s someone, somewhere, whose twisted fetish is blowing their nose and checking their lover’s temperature, I’d rather not hear from anyone who thinks that’s a fun Saturday night.

Illness connects to one discovery I made about the bad weather: January 3, 1999, brought one of the most powerful snowstorms to hit this area since the early 80’s, and on that same day I came down with strep throat. I started doing some checking, and realized that I tend to get sick during bad winter storms. Coincidence? Or is my body trying to give me an excuse not to go outside?

But I had to go outside eventually, not only because of work but because volunteer firefighters have to keep a way clear to get their cars out, for obvious reasons. That means shoveling. Through most of January I’ve been having some spinal issues, which is another term for “blinding pain” that started after I shoveled out from a much smaller snowfall a month before. I was a bit concerned.

On Wednesday afternoon I got up, took half a bottle of ibuprofen, did stretching and warm-up exercises, smeared evil green gunk that I got from my chiropractor on my back (it burns and freezes at the same time! This is the medicine they serve in hell!), donned seven layers of clothes, cranked up my iPod, put three more layers of clothes over that, put my hand on the door knob –

And the phone rang. It was my oldest daughter, Charis: “Have you gone out and shoveled yet?”

True Twilight Zone moment, there.

She and her fiancée, Vinny, were headed over with a snowblower. I started to say no, citing time, gas usage, road conditions and such, then sanity hit.

Good thing, too, because it was the heaviest snow ever. What little bit of clean-up work I still had pretty much did me in; it was like picking up blocks of granite, right down to seeing layers in it from the waves of snow and sleet. Thank goodness for 30 year old Montgomery Ward snowblowers and people who know how to make them work. (We won't talk about the two other snowstorms that hit within a week after.)

Why did I not immediately say yes? Maybe the tendency of men to want to go it alone, even when they should know better. Maybe my deep fear that giving up the shovel is also giving in to the idea that I’m getting older, and can’t just run out and start throwing stuff around like I once did.

Maybe I’m becoming accepting of all that, because guess what I want for my birthday? That’s in July, so they should be on clearance.

There’s not much else to say about the Blizzard of 2011 that I haven’t already said about winter in general. It’s pretty to look at, but a pain to deal with. Drivers are insane, people don’t start to prepare until it’s too late, and everyone who doesn’t go out there to work in the snow complains about everyone who does. A month ago I could have found more humor in it, but right now I just want this year’s frozen nightmare to end. Honestly, the only thing that makes me smile these days is when a SUV tailgates me for five miles before passing, and then I find it in a ditch further on down the road.

I always wave as I go by. It’s important to be polite.

Uh oh -- somebody's thinking snowball.  Luckily, she didn't hit the camera. (It's not as bad as it looks; she's standing by an embankment that normally would come up to her waist.)

Wait -- it's winter, not fall!  There were pretty deep drifts in the back yard -- she had to find a shallow spot to make a snow angel. Why she'd want to make a snow angel is another question entirely.

The result:

No, I'm not happy. I had to go out shoveling four times in one week. Do I LOOK happy? Oh, you can't see how I look, I'm wearing seven layers of clothes.

"Storm Chaser" interview

I'm going to be interviewed on the website "Romance Writers on the Journey" Sunday, February 27th, at 4 p.m.

My first "Storm Chaser" related interview, five months before the book goes on sale!  But Keli Gwyn's blog isn't about individual books: As the name implies, it's about the journey writers take toward publication, featuring inspirational interviews with up and coming authors, as well as other articles, tips, and techniques about writing. I'll put the link up again when my interview is posted, but meanwhile if you're a writer needing encouragement, or just want to read about aspiring and just-published writers, check it out.

Fringe fanfiction: "Brain Food"

Apparently I'm on Blogger now!  It was just a spur of the moment thing, but here I am.  I'm testing how well it works by posting a link to a fanfiction I recently wrote, about the best show nobody's watching, "Fringe".  Generally I'll post my columns here, and any information about my upcoming book "Storm Chaser", all of which can also be found on my website, .

Title: Brain Food
Author: Ozma914
characters: Astrid, Walter, Gene the Cow

Summary: Some days, as she watches over a mad scientist, Agent Farnsworth feels an overwhelming urge to transfer. Then her insatiable curiosity takes over ...

Rating: PG
Warnings: Brain.
Length: 1,100 words
Disclaimer: I own nothing, but will gladly take anything given to me.

Because I wanted to get an inside look at my favorite TV friendship before the show gets canceled!