TV interview tonight

My interview with Eric Olson will be up on WPTA, ABC21, tonight at 5:35 p.m. -- then it will go up online Monday, if all goes well.

Sex. Now I have your attention.

I keep forgetting to warn people about my newest novel: There is sex in Radio Red.

That warning might seem unnecessary: After all, it's a romance novel, even if I prefer to call it a romantic comedy just to be more specific. But romance writing has diversified quite a bit over the years: Some is heavy with the sexy stuff, some "sweet" with no sex at all. They're humorous, tragic, Christian, gothic, Amish, and every sub-genre imaginable. (Sometimes it's even written by men.) All of mine have some degree of mystery in them, but "romantic-comedy-mystery" was a bit too clunky. So being in the romance genre doesn't mean it has to fit expected conventions.

My first romantic comedy, Storm Chaser, had one brief almost-sex scene in it, kind of a second base thing. Its sequel, The Notorious Ian Grant, had no sex at all, which is kind of strange considering Ian is a celebrity bad boy. My other fiction, The No-Campfire Girls, is a young adult novel, and I am not going to tackle sex in a book about teenage girls. Nor is there any sex in my Storm Chaser related short story collection, although in the final story a person could jump to that conclusion.

On the other side, none of our non-fiction books have anything to do with sex. Maybe they'd sell better if I added some ... hm ... I'd like to announce that my next book will be Sex in Indiana.

Anyway, some of my readers might not like to read sex scenes, so I thought I should throw in the warning. Who knows? Maybe it'll attract new readers. But it fit with the characters and the story, which for me is the important part.

What do you think about sex? I mean, in fiction?

Indiana Winters, or: Why Aren't We Living in Florida?

(Note: This was originally written on February 7th and then misplaced, which isn’t the first time. It was the beginning of what was overall a nice February—for Indiana. You all know how things changed in March.)
Ah, spring.
Or, possibly, &$@# spring!
That’s the way it is, with springtime in Indiana. It’s feast or famine, a saying that goes well for farmers wondering if they’ll be able to get into their fields early, or ever.
I was reminded of spring just a few days after that stupid groundhog predicted six more weeks of winter, a prediction that’s essentially meaningless in Indiana. There are always six more weeks of winter—we just don’t know when. It could start next week. It could start next month. (Note: It did.) If you’re having a mild winter, like we had this year, a backlash is almost guaranteed. I’m worried about whether spring is going to be full of terms like “polar vortex”, “late winter snowstorm”, and “Is that groundhog still alive? Get my gun”.
On this particular day my wife and I got out of the car while shopping and simultaneously cocked our heads, which come to think of it probably looked pretty funny.
“Is that a bird?” I asked.
“That is a bird.”
“But that’s not a bird we usually hear in February.”
“No, it’s a spring bird.”
It was indeed a spring bird, one that was soon to be very, very unpleasantly surprised. On that particular day, the outdoor temperature hit the mid-forties. Two nights before it dipped into the teens. Two days later it hit sixty and we had thunderstorms, followed a few days after that by snow.
A typical March in Indiana, the only strange thing being that we heard the bird in early February. As you read this is should now be March, which means (if you live in the Midwest) you’re dressing in layers to combat both frostbite and heat stroke, possibly on the same day. But for February, that weather was actually pretty good.
February is usually easy to forecast. You have two choices: It’s cold and it’s going to snow, or it’s not going to snow but even colder. (Note: I said usually.) But spring—spring is different. Here’s a typical Midwest meteorologist in, say, mid-March:
“Looks like a blizzard headed our way, folks—oh, wait. The radar just updated, and the blizzard has been sucked up by a tornado! I think we’re going to see some serious snow drifts.”
We have something called March Madness, which most people think is about basketball playoffs. But in Indiana, March Madness translates to ice season: that time of the year when sleet and freezing rain fall as often as snow.
“Aren’t those icicles on the electric lines pretty—oh, the power’s out again.”
Occasionally we’ll have a dry spring, and instead of frozen precipitation you can see columns of smoke in every direction, often accompanied by sirens. This is called grass fire season, and generally comes just after March Madness. People realize they can finally walk outside without fifty pounds of outer clothing, and their first thought turns to the mess their lawns have become over winter.
“What shall we do with all these branches, leaves, weeds, and trash? Oh, I know—we’ll burn them! The ground is still wet; what could possibly go wrong?”
Pro tip: All that dead plant life around your fire is plenty dry, fella. The ground being wet simply means fire trucks can’t go off road to extinguish that wildland fire you just started. And then firefighters end up out there, ironically, trying to beat the heat with their own fifty pounds of outer clothing.
But it’s spring, so who knows? I’ve helped fight a few grass fires that I had to walk around snow drifts to reach. I’ve gone out on tornado watches in March. (Terrible idea, by the way—the basement’s way calmer.) I’ve shoveled snow in May. And all the while those poor, confused birds are flying around up there, trying to figure out whether they should be heading north or south.
They’d better decide fast, because if they head west they’ll run into a blizzard, and if they fly for the East Coast they’ll run into an even bigger blizzard.
So yeah, I’m worried about that bird. What is he living on, anyway? If he pecks the frozen ground for worms he’ll break his beak. The first bugs don’t come out until … well, about now, if you include mosquitoes.
In fact, it’s not uncommon in Indiana for the big piles of plowed snow to still be melting off in July. Sometimes, on the first really warm days, you can see kids skiing down snow mountains at Wal-Mart, then surfing on across the parking lot.
It’s why I often call Indiana the greatest place in the world, except during winter. Luckily, surviving winter is like surviving pain: Once it’s over, you tend to forget how bad it is. By the end of May you can put your snow shovel away (you might want to keep the gloves and wool hat out, just in case), and enjoy the outdoors, until it gets hot.
Maybe the hot is why we’re not all living in Florida.

Another Cancer Fight

So, kind of an up and down week last week, largely down. While I was getting interviewed Friday morning for the TV news, my brother Jeff was getting a lung biopsy. (Emily and I drove down just after the filming finished.) The results of the biopsy aren't in yet, and he's getting a brain scan Monday; but the doctors seem to think his cancer is back, and he's in stage four.

At least his lung didn't collapse, as it did with his previous biopsy about a year ago. But it sounds like he's in for a lot of chemo, which isn't a pleasant prospect under the best of circumstances. Jeff is in good spirits--much better than I am, truth be told--which is just the way he tends to tackle things.

If you're the praying type, this would be a really good time for the prayer warriors to go on the offense. And hey, if you're the good thoughts/vibes type, that would also be welcome. We'll keep everyone updated as we get news.

Lights, Camera, Nervousness

So, the TV interview happened. We (Emily, the dog, and I) spent about an hour with Eric Olson of ABC21, which used to be 21Alive, which in my mind was a way better name. Bae was a little taken aback by the camera setup, and by the fact that Eric smelled like cats (according to Eric--I didn't notice it). But once the dog got used to him, Bae wanted nothing more than to be underfoot as much as possible.

Eric Olson interviewed me after my first book was published, all the way back in 2011, so I had a pretty good idea what to expect. I don't consider myself a good interview--one of the reasons I write is to avoid talking--but I have confidence in his editing ability, so I'm sure he'll cut out of the worst of my verbal pratfalls.

The interview will be one of the 21 Country segments, which air during the 5:30 p.m. news segment on ABC21 Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. That's as close as I can come to telling you when it'll be on--but it should be online the next day, at which point I'll post a link to it.

I'm coming close to being one of the most famous living authors presently writing in southwest Albion.

"Say, I haven't read this book since proofreading six month ago ... it isn't half bad!" If you look carefully, you can see Bae investigating, down at the bottom right.

Bill Murray Says This About the Residents of Goshen, Indiana

Bill Murray Says This About the Residents of Goshen, Indiana

Print, TV, and Radio Red

We got our print copies of Radio Red in, and already sent the first two copies to some of our biggest fans: Phil and Cindy Jacob (Phil's on the fire department) and Emily's mom. Since we've reduced the price by a couple of bucks on the website at, that's also the price for anyone who drops by for a copy. (Or we can deliver, if you're close and/or have an extra room at a great vacation spot.)

Meanwhile, Eric Olson of ABC21 is dropping by the house Thursday morning for an interview. Naturally, this triggers a day of tidying up, also known as panic cleaning. So if you stop by my house--don't open any closet doors.

Movie Review: Kong Skull Island

If you’ve gone to the movies this century, you know that you never, never say yes to a mission on a remote island, especially if you’re going with a mix of scientists and soldiers.

But in 1973 nobody knew that, at least not if they didn’t watch Godzilla movies, so Samuel L. Jackson can be forgiven if it takes half of Kong: Skull Island before he says “I’m getting’ sick and tired of these mother frakking monkeys on this mother frakking island!” (Kidding. But if he did say that, I’d be paraphrasing.)

Jackson is Colonel Packard, who commands the military part of the expedition, and for him it’s perfect timing: the Vietnam War has just ended, leaving Packard out of sorts and looking for a fight he’ll be allowed to win. He doesn’t hesitate to join up with a British survival guide (Tom Hiddleston), a war photographer (Brie Larson), and members of the mysterious Project Monarch, including Bill Randa (John Goodman), who knows more than he’s letting on about a strange island surrounded by perpetual storms.

Spoiler alert: There’s a giant ape stomping around on the island.

In fairly short order the humans manage to piss off the ape, who in even shorter order makes (sometimes literally) mincemeat out of them. The saner characters want to get the heck out, but Packard has lost men and goes full on Captain Ahab with this hairy Moby Dick. This even after a stranded World War II airman (John C. Reilly) tries to explain Kong is protecting a tribe on the island—and maybe all humanity—from even more violent beasts, which we learn are called Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organisms.

By this time many moviegoers are scratching their heads over a strange feeling of deja vus. “Wait—haven’t we heard of M.U.T.O. and Project Monarch before?

Yes, we have: In 2014’s Godzilla, which is why monster movie buffs are in such a tizzy. One of the first movies I remember was Godzilla vs. King Kong, which was released the year I was born (ahem--I saw it later), and now we’re being set up for a rematch.

But back to Kong: Skull Island, which stands up very well on its own, thank you. The cast is first rate, and you’d be hard pressed to tell where the digital effects began, although I’m betting they didn’t have a hundred foot tall animatronic ape on set. The movie was filmed around the world, and some of the scenery is breathtaking, as are the action sequences. Oh, and there’s also a plot, which in general amounts to “How do we get off this island?” and “which monster’s side are we on?” The characters face the possibility that killing Kong might release the island’s other monsters onto the world, but that if they don’t Kong might, you know, kill them.

One warning: The movie’s rated PG13, but it should be R. The violence is pretty intense and sometimes graphic and, naturally, lots of people die. Also, there’s a giant spider. Eek!

If you’re any kind of a monster movie fan, stay for the post-credits scene.

My rating:

Entertainment value: 4 M&M’s. The movie was so fast-paced and action-packed that even the little kid two rows back who would NOT. STOP. TALKING. didn’t ruin the experience.

Oscar potential: 4 M&M’s. Not for actors, cause’ hey—genre movie. But there needs to be some Academy love for effects, cinematography … I don’t know … Kong’s makeup?