Storm Chaser out on e-book and paperback June 1, 2011

I learned just today that Whiskey Creek Press will release Storm Chaser June 1 -- that's Wednesday! I have some previous commitments tonight and tomorrow, but I'll do a longer post with more information about pricing, ordering, and availability Tuesday night.

Wow, it's been a long time coming ...

My turn to go weather watching

I suppose there's some irony in the fact that, just before the release of Storm Chaser, I went out on weather watch and spotted some rotation that apparently formed a funnel cloud a short time after I saw it. No touchdown, though, and nothing much bad happened.  Please keep all the people who've lost homes, jobs, and family members in the recent storms in your thoughts and prayers -- and, since it's Memorial Day, you know who else to also keep in your thoughts and prayers.

Like Allie Craine (see icon!), I had a camera with me when the storm came in; unlike her, my pictures and video don't show what it really looked like:

     Storms did widespread, but minor, damage across Noble County Sunday afternoon, with storm spotters reporting cloud rotation near Albion and Avilla. No injuries were reported.
     Most of the damage came from wind gusts blowing down trees, with over two dozen weather related incidents reported to the Noble County Sheriff's Department. Area fire departments were called out on storm watch after National Weather Service radars detected possible cloud rotation near northwest Noble County, and put the area under a tornado warning at around 3:40 p.m.
     A crew of Albion firefighters, keeping watch near CR 100 N and River road, reported rotating clouds directly over their position at around 4:15 p.m. A short time later another AFD weather spotter reported rotation over the south side of Albion, in the Orange St. area.
     Not long after, two similar reports came from Avilla: cloud rotation on the east side of that town, and a funnel cloud passing over the Avilla Fire Station.
     There were no reports of a tornado touchdown, but strong wind gusts hit the area, along with areas of heavy rain and some lightning. The wind snapped both railroad crossing gates at Albion's Orange Street CSX crossing, and brought a tree down on a house near South and First streets. Elsewhere, a tree limb was blown onto a parked car in Ligonier.
     CSX crews repaired the crossing arms later that night, joining electric linemen, highway department personnel, and volunteer firefighters in coming out on a Sunday to tackle the damage. Workers cleared trees from several roadways, including US 6, Albion road, and two different locations along CR 600N, among others. Albion and Cromwell firefighters were among those who helped clear roadways, in addition to their storm watching duties.
     A DNR Conservation Officer is credited with getting a swimmer to safety at Skinner Lake. When the tornado warning came in, the officer coaxed the swimmer in, to notify him of the danger and get him to safety.
     In addition to trees, wires were blown down in several places, resulting in scattered power outages. Police replaced blown-down warning signs at the 7th Street CSX crossing in Albion, which is closed for crossing work, and roadwork signs were also blown down on Allen Chapel Road near Kendallville.
     Wind gusts and fluctuating power are believed responsible for setting off four automatic burglar alarms around the area, including one at Truelove Brothers in Albion.

news on publishing, rejection, and luminaria

Red is For Ick was rejected by the agent who'd been looking at it. That was a particularly hard blow because she liked my query and loved the first five chapters enough to request a full, but after some time decided to give it a pass. However, she was also nice enough to give several suggestions for improving the manuscript, and I'm giving the ideas a serious look; I foresee more revision in my future.

First, though, will come my fire department history book, since we want to have it ready for sale by the Albion Fire Department's 125th birthday celebration -- which is only two years away, and in the publishing world that's a blink of an eye. The manuscript's mostly done, but I need to pick out photos to go into the book, then make a final decision on a POD publishing company and get things rolling. Emily and I are going through AFD photos anyway, as she's setting up a Powerpoint of fire related pictures that will play during our annual fish fry fund raiser, on June 8.  Proceeds on sales of the book, which is tentatively titled Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights: A Century or So With the Albion Fire Department, will go toward the AFD.

An order has been sent for the print version of Storm Chaser. I still don't know whether the e-book version will come out on June 1 or June 15, but the paperback should be available in around four weeks, or close to the end of June ... if all goes well. The print retail price will be $14.95, which should put the e-book price at $5.99.

Finally, here's a blog that leaves me feeling humbled and honored: One of my friends has given me the Luminous Luminary Laurel!

column: "Great Courses" Reads Minds


            Now that I’m out of school and don’t have to take tests anymore, I love learning. That would freak some people out, I suppose – far too many take the end of school as an excuse to stop learning, unless they’re learning about the latest contestant to be dropped from The Biggest Losing Apprentice Housewife Chefs of New Jersey Shores.

            I suppose part of it for me is that whole book-writing thing. A lot of time goes into a non-fiction book: When I was researching my history of the fire department, I spent enough time at the library to qualify for retirement. But you’d be surprised how much research goes into novels, too. The young adult mystery I finished last year required me to learn about police and private detective work, Native American history, firefighting (well, I kinda already knew that), and how an amusement park operates behind the scenes.

            All that for a story I “made up”.

Storm Chaser required a good working knowledge of meteorology, because, hey – storms. (It turns out meteorology is not the study of meteors. That’s called, ironically, Rock-rainology.)

Like many people in Indiana, I already had some working knowledge of weather. It’s a survival thing:

“Hey, it’s 80 degrees and sunny out!”

“Take your coat.”

“But it’s 80 degrees and – where did that cloud come from? Is that – snow?”

“It’s April. Take your coat, and some sunscreen, and a life jacket.”

As a storm spotter I’d also learned certain things: Harmless scud clouds mean people are going to call 911 and report a tornado on the ground. Quarter sized hail hurts. The tornado siren is a statewide signal for everyone to go stand in their front yard.

Still, when you write a character who makes her living following disasters around the country, you’d better have some of the same knowledge she does. Despite my already well known fascination with The Weather Channel, I learned as much as I could about meteorology without actually taking a class. (They charge for those. Who knew?)

I fudged a little on the opening of Storm Chaser, because I inserted a tornado into weather conditions that probably wouldn’t produce one. (It’s not a spoiler – that’s quite literally how the book opens.) Still, I had to know the rules in order to even consider breaking them, just as I had to know the rules of a good story – including the rule about getting the reader’s attention with page one. Tornadoes are notorious attention grabbers.

Now, I told you all that so you’ll understand why I was bothered by a catalog I received in the mail. My fiancée, who I’ll call Emily because that’s her name, is just as fascinated by learning as I am, and together we ordered a couple of DVD classes from a company called “The Great Courses”.

You people who hate learning, you’d better brace yourselves for this.

The Great Courses allows you to order an illustrated lecture series – in a sense, you’re taking a college course in your own home, only without being tested or graded. Also, without getting college credit … there’s always a catch.

In other words, we were learning just for the sake of learning. Somebody get chairs for those drop-outs in the back row, who are swooning at the very thought.

There are courses on history, science, literature, even math. There will be no math in my home, by the way – you gotta draw the line somewhere. The courses we ordered had to do with history and writing. Remember that.

Okay, so I’ve set it up for you. We ordered two courses, which of course resulted in a flood of catalogs from the company, a tactic that would have done what they desired if I had the money: I’d hold up in my living room, watching DVD’s, all winter. Since I don’t have the money, I’m writing a column instead.

Ah, well. The catalogs were a kind of torture, but interesting to browse through and useful for kindling fires in January, just in case the worst-case scenario comes along. Then, one day, a new catalog came in that caused me to stop in my tracks.

Naturally, the companies have a customer list and will personalize their categories, I understand that. But this one was a bit too personal, especially since they knew nothing about me except my name and address:

“Mark, we’ve placed a course on sale especially for you! Order now and take $15 off the sale price of:


Um …..

Okay, so I wrote a novel about a meteorologist/storm chaser, and the weather plays a key part of the story. But – how they heck did they know that? It’s not like they shot me a personalized cover every week with a different subject on it, just to cover all their bases.

What next? Will my fire history book put me on the mailing list for Fire Chief Magazine? Will my mystery net an internal memo at the FBI? Will my anti-Congress columns get me blacklisted by Harry Reid and John Boehner?

Actually, I’d probably brag about that last one.

TwisterPalooza poll

I ended up receiving four stories eligible for voting in the TwisterPalooza fic writing challenge: three fanfictions and an original fic. (I keep getting the oddest feeling that I've missed a story, but I can't find it.) I have yet to be able to work out how to do a poll in conjuction with a post here on Blogger, so I'm hoping everyone will be able to see it over at LiveJournal:

If you can't, maybe you can at least find them at their original links:

Also on my post are the three fanfics Emily and I wrote in the weather theme. The voting will be open until June 3, at which time I'll post my original, Storm Chaser related short story.

Five eBook Mistakes - eBookNewser

Five eBook Mistakes - eBookNewser

Storm Chaser Quiz, clue #6

(I'm running way, WAY behind this week -- working to catch up as best I can.)

Well, this one's really easy -- an actual photo of Hurricane!

Here's the fun part: It's been available to you all along. On my website is a list of photos, some of me and most taken by me. Go down the list to photo number 12 ... and there it is, Hurricane, Indiana. Here's the link to the photo page on my site:

No, no -- not those homes and farm buildings in the distance, that's a half mile away. Hurricane is right in front of you -- in fact, the photo was taken standing inf Hurricane's main intersection. That's the convenience store right in front of you. The Hamlin home is a few blocks ahead and to the left among a group of other houses, while Hurricane Books & Bait is next to where I was standing, to my right. Down the road and to the right is the woods where the town's kids sometimes play.

Use your imagination! :-)

Any local residents who might be reading this have a good shot at guessing the location now; it's a fairly well traveled road. But, just in case: Next time I'll give you the actual address ... kind of.

Doing the Snoopy Dance on Osama's Grave

I'm back! The Storm Chaser galleys were successfully gone through in a marathon all-nighter session, by both me and Emily, and sent on back to the publisher. Unless I hear otherwise, the e-book version should be out either June 1 or June 15, with the print version a few weeks after that -- I'll have more details when I get them myself.


I have little to add to the death of everybody’s favorite terrorist, Osama bin Laden, beyond the obvious: YAY.

Should we celebrate the death of another human being? Well, I’m throwing a great big ol’ toga party for, as a friend put it, Osama was Laden, and I’ll tell you why in a minute.

First off, yes, bin Laden is dead. Why would the Obama administration fake his death now, instead of closer to the next election? Similarly, if Obama made the announcement to draw attention from releasing his birth certificate, why? If the certificate’s a fake, his people had two whole years to make it perfect. If it isn’t a fake, who cares? My theory was that it had something embarrassing on it, like a different father’s name or a notation from the doctor that he had big ears.

The moment I learned of bin Laden’s death I said, “I’ll bet the Navy Seals took him out”. Apparently they sent in over two dozen Seals, which is the equivalent of putting out a trash can fire by diverting the Mississippi River. Did you hear the old story about the mayor who was upset when he called for help during a riot, and only one Seal showed up? The Seal said, “Well, you’ve only got one riot, don’t ya?”

So who gets credit for croaking bin Laden: Obama or Bush? Duh. Both. Bush set the shot up and Obama hit it out of the park, a metaphor I’m sure matches some sport. Bush did downplay the search for bin Laden, probably because he knew it would be a long and maybe impossible search and didn’t want to get hopes up, and he wisely pointed out “Terror is bigger than one person”. However, it’s hard to imagine he didn’t make offing America’s number one enemy a behind the scenes priority.

Speaking of behind the scenes, a lot of people (including myself) were more afraid of Obama’s foreign policy than we were of terrorism. To his credit, Obama sat down that first day, broke open all those folders marked “confidential” (or however they handle it these days – maybe it’s all on a PowerPoint), and after composing himself continued the ongoing policies that eventually led to the Seals venting bin Laden. That’s not flip-flopping; that’s educating yourself.

So they both get credit. What’s more, nobody can convince me that any President, under the same circumstances, wouldn’t have green lighted that raid. Not even James Buchanan. So stop arguing and fire up that pizza party.

Speaking of arguing, the Pakistan government was all upset that we sneaked into their country on this mission.

Oh, boo-hoo. You’re just sorry you got caught sheltering that scumbag.

Was he unarmed? Who cares? Were the 3,000 victims of 9/11 armed?

A lot of fuss was made over the fact that on some news reports Osama’s name was replaced with Obama. Surely it was done on purpose!

Maybe, but I doubt it. A few days later I heard an interview in which a US Senator called bin Laden “Obama” twice. The interviewer didn’t correct him, probably under the reasonable assumption that listeners would understand how similar the names are, how much they’ve been intertwined on the news, and how easy it would be to mix them up. I don’t think we’re seeing Freudian slips so much as … well, just slips. (The mix-up was also made in writing, and in that case is more inexcusable – I did it while writing this column, but there’s such a thing as editing.)

Most of this is nitpicking nonsense, as is the suggestion that it might have been better not to kill bin Laden, because his death could spur terrorists into attacking us. Okay, so maybe it will. So? They were planning to attack us, anyway. Better to cut off the head of one nasty organization and hope it leads to more of the body.

Now, there are very few people in this world who I hate so much that I’d celebrate their deaths. In fact, there aren’t that many people who I personally hate, at all. Sure, there are people worthy of hatred. When you consider the killers, the drug dealers, the rapists, the people who’d put a knife in your gut for the change in your pocket … many aren’t worth the oxygen more decent people could be breathing. But I don’t go around hating every one of them; life’s just too short.

Similarly, most people I become acquainted with reveal themselves to have good points along with the bad, and if you don’t agree with everything they do or say, that doesn’t make them evil. Getting to know someone personally reveals that 99% of them have some redeeming quality.

However, I busted a move right out of Riverdance when bin Laden, despite his fundamentalist hatred of music, got exposed to Heavy Metal.

Here’s why: He wasn’t human.

The first time Osama bin Laden directed the killing of civilians without remorse, as early as 1992, he lost his right to be called a human being. The day he became directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of people (for those of you who’ve forgotten, that was September 11, 2001), he became deserving of nothing but being scraped under the boot of an American serviceman, and we should all hoist the cold one of your choice to celebrate the day that finally happened.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to put on some Vince Guaraldi music so I can Snoopy Dance.

Storm Chaser galleys

Have disappeared from life and the internet, and will remain gone for awhile. Whiskey Creek Press sent me the galleys for Storm Chaser to review, but sent them to the wrong e-mail address -- on May 10. I got a panicked phone call yesterday, and now Emily and I are both going through the manuscript for the very last chance to find any errors before it goes to press. Must go through the entire novel and be done by, say, last Thursday.

TwisterPalooza, continued

Yeah, I'm still doing that.

Way back at the beginning of April I announced a fiction writing challenge, to celebrate the release of Storm Chaser in June (and June is only a couple of week away!) I was sent a few great stories in addition to some that Emily and I wrote (and which obviously won't be eligible for voting). Here's the orginal post, as it appeared on my blogspot:

TwisterPalooza was supposed to be over at the end of April, but things got nuts, and now I'm extending the deadline for entries to one week from now -- which would be May 24. Shortly after that I'll post all the stories and have them up for voting, but until then it's not too late to write one of your own.

The idea is to write stories that in some way are impacted by the weather or some natural disaster: One of the main characters in Storm Chaser is a meteorologist and disaster photographer. Since there's no monetary award, the story could be fanfiction from any source, or original fiction. any length is acceptable, and my wonderful webmaster/fiancee, Emily, will make a banner for the winner. The fic can be posted anywhere, as long as the writer puts a working link, that doesn't require a login, in a comment to this post or the first one. The original rule was that the link had to go up on my LiveJournal post, but since some people had trouble getting on my LJ, I'll happily take it on blogspot, Dreamwidth, or anywhere else you see this.

TwisterPalooze will end with an original short story of my own that hasn't appeared anywhere else, and won't be in the Storm Chaser short story anthology that Whiskey Creek Press will be putting out.

Storm Chaser Quiz, clue #5

Storm Chaser Quiz, Clue #5:

The little town of Hurricane, Indiana, is within visual distance of one of the biggest hog farms in Noble County. However, this is a trick clue, because during my research I discovered the official address of that business isn't the same as the farm complex I'm familiar with. In any case, don't worry -- if Hurricane really existed you could see it from the farm, but it's not close enough for that wonderful summer hog scent to be an issue!

Next time I'll give you a dead giveaway: An actual photo of Chance Hamlin's hometown, Hurricane, Indiana. How do you suppose I'll manage that?

Relay, Emily, and Doctor Who

I got soaked by rain at the American Cancer Society Relay for Life; the storms missed us, though, and it was worth it for a good cause. Also, I walked over three miles, bought a white rose bush as part of the fund raising, and won a Buffalo nickle in the silent auction -- as a lover of old coins, I've always wanted one of those. The hot dogs were pretty good, too.

Meanwhile, who got on IPFW's Dean's list AND honors list? That's right -- my fiancee Emily did! Everybody say congrats to (as we call her on Livejournal) strangexgirl!

One of the ways we celebrated was by catching the first two episodes of this season's Doctor Who. Could that show get any more spectacular and awe-inspiring? (Apparently so, from what I've been hearing about ep. 4.) Somebody needs to write a Who/Fringe fanfiction crossover; those are two of the most mind-blowing shows on TV today.

Losing Cemetery Vote Buries Candidacy


Okay, so now that I’ve lost the Town Council primary election, I can tell you all how I really feel.

Well, I just feel lousy.

Actually, as I write this the primary election hasn’t been held yet, but I face stiff competition after learning that, Chicago style, people in Rose Hill Cemetery voted against me. (Stiff competition – get it? Never mind.) Basically, the election is on a Tuesday and I need to have this column ready the next day, a week from now but last week as you read it. Don’t you hate time travel stories?

Not being one to pass up an opportunity for an easy 1,000 word subject, I flipped a coin.

It was tails.

Most likely that was fate’s way of thumbing its nose at me, because I always choose heads. Thank goodness we don’t really choose candidates that way … or maybe it would be a good idea. Personally, I think the best candidate for public office is a military veteran with an accounting degree, a couple of decades working in the private sector, and independent wealth so they don’t have to be dependent on campaign donations from questionable people.

Sadly, I meet none of those criteria, so we’re back to the coin toss.

See, stiff competition, it was a graveyard joke – people are dying to vote. Get it? In fact, last year’s voter turnout in Chicago was 23% in the downtown, and 56% in Lake Forest Cemetery.

Now that I’m no longer a politician, where would I be without my inappropriate humor? More to the point, if I should actually win the primary despite coming up tails, how will I live down this column?

(Note: I lost by six votes. If only I’d gone campaigning stone to stone.)

But my gut feeling is that I’ll lose this one, because I haven’t had time to go out there and do that whole campaigning thing. In addition to having a busier than usual winter, I’ve been running around town at strange hours, and some people probably think I don’t even live here anymore. I do, by the way. I’m no Congressman.

Some of my catching up on things is by e-mail and phone, and that’s just not as visible as what I did last election: I wore a sandwich board at all times with “Vote Marc” emblazoned on both sides, which was both annoying at dinners and very inconvenient in the shower.

Imagine how embarrassed I was to learn late in the last election cycle that I was running unopposed. Even worse, it turns out I spelled “Mark” wrong.

Come on, what’s funnier than a good dead person joke? Although I don’t want to be buried, myself: I want to be cremated, and have my ashes blown in the faces of all the people I don’t like. There’s a list in my will.

Anyway, I lost. So I’m going to take my toys and go home.

Well, I never actually left home, so never mind. I did consider the famous words of Davy Crockett, when he lost a Congressional election: “You may all go to heck; I’m going to Texas”.

“Heck” isn’t the exact word he used.

But I don’t have any hard feelings; I only considered Texas because it’s warm there, and it’s been too darn cold around here lately. I gave up the idea after remembering how Crockett’s trip ended.

(For those of you who aren’t history buffs, he got killed while trying to rent a car from Alamo. And cremated, so no cemetery jokes there.)

I kid, but no way would I leave this town, even if I did lose the graveyard vote. Besides, I don’t have any toys to take home, and whoever started that rumor should be ashamed. Fire trucks don’t count, right?

Since I’m staying, and since this was only the primary and there’s a regular election coming up in November, I thought I’d let the other candidates in on a few things I’ve learned about running for election:

Check on whether you have an opponent. It’s not a given in small town politics, and if nobody’s running against you, that saves a lot of effort. Also, that sandwich born thing chaffs.

Giving out dollar bills in an attempt to buy votes is considered tacky.

If you ask relatives to vote for you and they reply, “What have you done for me lately?” you’re pretty much done.

If you’re going to put up signs, make sure they’re tamper proof. For instance, John Urso’s signs were made out of a material that a black marker just wouldn’t leave an impression on. Couldn’t write “stoopid”, couldn’t draw a Hitler mustache, couldn’t draw a little casket with the caption “his gravest supporters” …

Um, I mean, probably nobody could do that. If they tried. Which I’m sure no one did.

Last but not least, you may or may not accept the idea of padding the vote with people who are, shall we say, living challenged. But if you use a cemetery as a private place to practice your campaign speech, and you hear boos …

Well, just take that as a cryptic message that you should bury your campaign.

Storm Chaser Quiz

I haven't been posting this here, because it's more a local thing and I don't think anyone from this area is following me on Blogger. However, I'm trying to mirror important and writing related posts both here and on LiveJournal, although the quiz goes up first at my Facebook fanpage, "Mark R. Hunter".

It's about the little town of Hurricane, a major setting for Storm Chaser that isn't a real town -- but that I set in a real location in Noble County, Indiana. People who aren't from Noble County won't have much interest in this, but the idea is to identify where the spot actually is, just for fun, and the latest clue also includes a couple of short excerpts from the book itself.

By the way, the Storm Chasercover art is now up over on my website, -- thanks, Emily!

Storm Chaser Quiz, Clue #4, featuring an excerpt:

I’m running short on time (and I have a feeling I’ll be saying that a lot in coming weeks), so I’m going to let my book do the talking for me this time.

Hurricane is within an area of Noble County bordered by US Highways 33 and 6, and Indiana Highways 3 and 8. Although the town are made up, everything around it is real, so clues to its location come out when Allie Craine sees the town for the first time:

A rusty green sign at the crest of a hill drew Allie’s attention. “Hurricane.” The area below, although hardly low enough to be called a valley, allowed Allie to see the little town spread out before her.

Her first glance seemed to confirm Chance’s assertion that there was little to see. Hurricane huddled at the intersection of two numbered county roads—apparently no one thought they needed names.

A moment later Allie catches site of one of the few business buildings in town, a now-empty store that she’s bemused to discover was once “Hurricane Books & Bait”. Chance Hamlin explains:

“There’s plenty of room. He wanted a bait store and she wanted a used book store, and I guess they compromised. It’s been empty since they moved to Florida, but I hear they’re running a combination pet store and coffee shop down there.”

“Oh.” To hide her smile, Allie turned away toward the east, where a farm sprawled a half-mile away, on the other side of a field. Chance wouldn’t appreciate how much Hurricane delighted her. In fact, his attitude didn’t bother her so much as renew her determination to stick around for a while.

Two other streets joined the county roads to form a square making up the majority of the town, before the homes gave way to a wood on the far side. Just after turning left at the first street, he braked to a stop and lowered his window.

Suffice it to say Allie hasn’t seen the last of Hurricane Books & Bait. The other clues can be found here: , or on my Facebook fanpage.

Storm Chaser, Fringe, and Flooding

Storm Chaser edits are sent in, all done (until they send me the galleys to review). I still don't have an exact release date -- somewhere in June for the e-book, and some time not long after that for the print version. At least, I hope not long, since a lot of people want a hard copy. I'll still be busy for awhile: I have other writing projects to catch up on, and I have to go through the house and de-junk in advance of spring cleanup day, plus I'm working a couple of extra shifts this month.

As of Friday Emily's all done with school for the semester, which should give her a chance to catch up, too. Her grades are ... well, for the rest of us to be jealous of. :-) We celebrated by finally catching up with Fringe the last couple of days. Hello mind, meet blown. Would it not be possible to hand that show a cast-wide Emmy? 'Cause that was some incredible acting chops we've seen this season in every direction (You fans, you know what I mean), not to mention great storylines.

Meanwhile, the flood waters seem to be receding, if very slowly, in southeast Missouri (and getting worse elsewhere). The level of Lake Wappapello has dropped a few feet, and the people of Emily's hometown, Morehouse, are seeing a very little bit of improvement:

So -- what have I missed?

Wedding Budget Proves a Royal Paiin


I’ve been thinking a lot of about royalty and weddings lately.

Don’t know why.

Just kidding, of course I know: It’s because I’m engaged, and we’re basing our wedding budget on the one everyone’s most familiar with: that of Prince one-of-those-brothers and Kate something or other.

Rather than reinventing the wheel, we’ll copy the royal wedding and scale it down a bit. For instance, their wedding is budgeted at $34 million, making it one of the costliest celebrations of any kind in history.

We simply removed the zeroes; our wedding budget is $34. Have another Cheeto and a cut of tap water, everyone!

Their security cost another $32 million, billed to the British taxpayers. Too bad they couldn’t bill extremist groups, who vowed to disrupt the event in any way possible. Some anarchists were planning to protest, but they just couldn’t get organized. Also protesting: opponents of certain world leaders who were invited despite the fact that they’re – oops – hated despots.

There will be no hated despots at our wedding; I like my future mother-in-law.

When asked to comment, King Mswati III (no, I didn’t misspell that) of Swaziland denied being a dictator, and then threw another protestor on the fire.

Mswati rules of a kingdom that’s roughly the size of my garage, and yet received an invite while American President Obama didn’t. The only thing the two countries have in common is that they’re both out of money. But Mswati is, after all, royalty even while putting down pro-democracy protestors, while Obama is a commoner even while putting down Republicans.

I doubt Obama, who’s shown some contempt toward Great Britain anyway, is losing sleep over it. I’m a bit of an Anglophile myself (It is not dirty! Look it up!), but I’m not losing sleep over it, either. Let them invite whoever they want – the first people who should be made happy are William and Kate. Right after that should be Queen Elizabeth, who’s coming up on her 60th year as the Big Royal Cheese and has earned a chance to go carousing all night at a family blowout bash. If you can picture that.

Where was I? Oh yes, wedding costs. Well, I’m not expecting group protests, although by the time you read this the primary elections will be over, and my home might get overrun by angry supporters. Angry supporters of what, I don’t know. As a precaution, security at my wedding will be provided by my fiancée’s pet snake, Lucius, and a group of Civil War reenactors who I’ll rile up before hand by starting a rumor that Wal-Mart’s building a new store at Gettysburg.

The Royal wedding ring will cost $11,000, but I’ve already got that covered. Two words: Cracker Jack. I bought a case, and although so far all I’ve found for prizes are little cardboard cutouts, confidence is high.

The reception is budgeted at $600,000 – theirs, not ours. What, under a million? 1,900 people are invited to the ceremony, 600 to the after-wedding reception, and 300 of Prince Charles’ very closest friends will attend his little dinner.

Not to be outdone, I’m inviting the entire population of Albion to our reception, which at 2,400 people beats the royal wedding, so there. The downside is, they’ll be asked to bring their own food. And drink. And silverware. And folding chairs. Just in case we run short of food, entertainment will be provided by me singing karaoke, which has been known to put people off their feed for days.

Kate’s wedding gown was $434,000, which coincidentally is about the cost of a new fire engine. That being the case, rather than have the people of Albion pay for my fiancée’s wedding dress, I’m asking them to buy the town a fire truck and drive her from the church to the reception in it. With the cost of fuel being what it is, we might have to hock the dress to pay for the trip.

The royal wedding cake: $80,000. That works out to $134 for every slice of cake. Eat slowly.

We’re having a cake made out of Hostess Twinkies. Estimated cost: $22.97.

Flowers? $800,000, paid for by the Queen and Prince Charles. Um, what’s their salary, again?

Our flowers will be free! We’ll pick them up at about 3 a.m. the day of the wedding; if all goes well and no one gets shot, we’ll drop them off again at about the same time the next morning. Thus, it’s not theft; it’s borrowing.

Finally, the Royal Wedding was to have a $64,000 cleanup cost, which sounds like a lot until you realize a million people were expected. Ours will be provided by the aforementioned fire engine: A 150 psi stream of water will clean up just about anything.

I actually went over in the end; after factoring in the fuel for a half mile trip to the reception, our wedding budget topped out at $114, of which we have almost ten dollars saved. But this is the time for William and Kate to have the spotlight; we’ll outshine them later. For all the pomp and cost, in the end it’s two young people starting a life together – in that, we wish them the best of health and happiness.

Besides, maybe King Mswati will sell a couple of peasants to pay for my reception.

Southeast Missouri flood relief efforts

Albion Town Council primary results

I lost the Albion Town Council primary election by six votes -- which is a greater margin than you might think, when you consider only 14.80% of the 1,399 registered voters showed up to the polls. There were three open positions, and I got the fourth highest number of votes of the eight candidates in both parties. The winners on the Republican side, Chris Magnuson, James Stull, and John Morr, will face off in November against Democrats Dawn Gunder and Stan Strater.

Guess I should have bought a campaign sign or two. Honestly, I think we've done a pretty good job over the last seven years since I was first elected. I also thought that in a town as small as this people would recognize that and not think we needed a change, especially at challenging times like this. From what I've been hearing, part of the problem may be that some stories were being spread around town that aren't exactly true, or at least that aren't complete, but you can't stop stories. Another factor is likely the fact that I've been so busy these last several months that I've been doing a lot of town business by e-mail, or by checking on things and coming around at odd hours, so that people don't see me very often. There could also be some other factor I don't know of, or haven't considered.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't licking my wounds a bit. I never even planned to run for a third term, but it didn't seem like a good time to abandon my responsibilities, with the way things are going in the world. There's also the novel coming out, and the question of whether I shouldn't put more of my energy into my writing (and selling my writing). In theory this could be a good thing for me, and I can hope that I'll make enough through my fiction writing to make up for the (pretty small) loss of income.

But nobody likes to lose, and nobody likes to think that the majority of people in their own town might vote against them. So yeah, it hurts even if it was close. I'll get over it. Life goes on, and Albion's still a great place to live.

Storm Chaser edits ... also, Storm Chaser edits

I finished the first round of edits for Storm Chaser toward the end of the weekend. There were a lot, but most were fairly easy fixes and amounted to punctuation: I think I like commas more than Dave (my editor), and he likes hyphens more than me. There was also the issue of parentheses ... I've been hearing for years that using parentheses to indicate character thought was falling out of favor, but Dave thinks otherwise. I was very happy to change it back to the way I like it -- I never have understood what's wrong with me thinking, Hey -- people can tell I'm thinking now!

So I sent the edits in and went to take a nap before work, satisfied that I'd have days before the next round came through to attend to other matters such as some upcoming meetings and the primary election (vote for me!) When I got to work -- just four hours later -- there was my corrected manuscript, awaiting the errata list. Basically I have to go line by line through the entire manuscript again, getting one last chance to correct typos and other mistakes that haven't yet been caught. And that's why you won't be hearing much from me for the rest of the week.

flooding getting worse in southeast Missouri

Taking a moment from novel edits (and from celebrating the death of bin Laden -- and I don't normally celebrate anyone's death) to update you on the situation in and around the area where Emily's mom, dad, and friends live. Basically ... very bad. They had lots more rain in the area over the weekend. As of about an hour ago it was raining in Poplar Bluff, where parts of the city were flooding last week.

Lake Wappapello water now going over spillway, water level as of 11:30 CST 396.85 feet:

Rising St. Francis River could force evacuations:

I haven't heard anything specific about Morehouse, but I'm assuming water still covers the entire town. Poplar Bluff is the biggest city in the area -- here's their weather and community facebook page: