One last mow

There's something great about mowing the lawn in mid-October ... for one thing, it means you're not scraping ice or shoveling snow.

Sign Up For My Newsletter, Get a Million Bucks*

*Offer only valid on Earth 2. 
After much thought, or at least as much as I usually have, I’ve decided to make my mostly inactive newsletter less inactive. That requires people to sign up for it, so I’m asking you—yes, you, there looking at your electronic device—to sign up. Don’t deny it: I saw you looking at your electronic device.
No doubt you’ll want to know what’s in it for you. Good question. Let me come up with something …
Okay, I’m back. I figure I’ll give a little original and exclusive content. Say, a short story, or a humor piece, or a photo of something interesting and/or cool. Oh, and a picture of the dog. He’s very photogenic.
We’ll send it out at least once a month, but (except rarely) no more than once a week. More often when some event or book release approaches, but no so often as to get people mad, because it’s really not that hard to find out where I live.
Also, subscribe to the newsletter and you’ll be the first one to get author news stuff, like releases, sales, giveaways … dog pictures … I’ll think of other things. Like big recent publishing news I have right now that I haven’t told anyone about yet … stuff like that.
Hey, that’s it! Sign up for the newsletter, and as soon as I get, say, ten new subscribers, I’ll tell you all about the big publishing news I just got.
Sure, I’ll tell everyone, eventually … but aren’t you at least a little curious?
It’s over on the webpage at The best way to subscribe to our mailing list is to go toward the bottom of the page, where it says “subscribe to our mailing list”. No, your e-mail address will not be given out to anyone, ever, unless someone offers me at least five million dollars. Ten million. Also, the moment I get fifty new subscribers I’m going to have a free book giveaway, just for them.
And that offer will be valid on this Earth.
Did I mention he's very photogenic?

50 Authors from 50 States: Volunteers, Mountains, and a Dragon? Who but Helen...

50 Authors from 50 States: Volunteers, Mountains, and a Dragon? Who but Helen...: Greetings from western Tennessee. I’m Helen Henderson and describe myself as a tour guide to the stars and worlds of imagination. Magic...

Book review: Earthbound: Science Fiction in the Old West, by Mari Collier

Sometimes a book’s subtitle just lays it out for you. I did it with all three of my non-fiction books, as Mari Collier did with Earthbound, a perfect mix of SF and Western. Sure, the movies have Cowboys and Aliens, but Mari does it better.
The story actually starts in Ireland, where alien Llewellyn is basically a slave to another race. Circumstances bring his freedom; unfortunately, he’s left with a spaceship that he doesn’t know how to pilot out of Earth orbit. He becomes giant Irishman Zebediah MacDonald, trying to make a life for himself on a primitive planet, especially the place where he hides the spacecraft: Texas.
Eventually Mac meets Anna, a woman who’s lost her children and been captured by the Comanche. Mac may be an alien, but Anna has shocking secrets of her own—and a connection to Mac that even she doesn’t know about. Together the two begin to build a life, as the clouds of Civil War gather around them.
Earthbound is a great story with memorable characters, but to me the most fun was the historical aspect of it. Mari has done her research—it’s no surprise that she’s on the board of her local Historical Society. She doesn’t shirk on the details of life back then, from social constrictions to the dangers of childbirth, but it’s never dull. The supporting characters are great, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

There's No Cure for Chicago Driving

There’s No Cure for Chicago Driving
This first appeared in the 4County Mall, in print and online:


I thought I’d seen bad traffic. I thought I’d seen crazy drivers.

Then I went to Chicago.

I’m a small town boy. When I was younger, my idea of heavy traffic was Fort Wayne, which is about half an hour from my home. With a population of 250,000, Fort Wayne is the second largest city in Indiana, which isn’t saying much—but the fact that most of Indiana is not city is one of the things I like about it.

Years ago I drove to Atlanta, Georgia, and got a new definition of heavy traffic. We arrived during morning rush hour, an ironic term considering I could have walked over the jammed-up cars without ever touching the ground—and gotten there faster.

About ten years later, I had the occasion to drive U-Haul’s largest truck model through New York City, while towing a car on a trailer. It was two months after 9/11/01. Naturally, I got waved to the curb the police, who at that point were looking over every rental truck that came along.

The irony, though, is that the proximity to 9/11 actually made the experience easier. The cops were friendly, and other drivers gave us space—whether out of that temporary sense of brotherhood, or the fear that I might be carrying a load of ammonium nitrate, I couldn’t say.

Then there’s Indianapolis.

In all fairness, Indianapolis is the 14th largest city in the U.S., and the second largest in the Midwest, so there’s bound to be traffic. But it’s also the Crossroads of America: Indiana has more interstate highway than any other state, and more converge on the capital than any other city. Whole families have been known to drive onto the 465 beltway, and never be seen again.

I used to think that was the worst this side of Los Angeles, a city I have no intention of every driving in.

But Indy’s only the second largest city in the Midwest. Then there’s Chicago.

My wife wanted to go see The Cure, which is an English rock band, or post-punk, or new wave, or possibly gothic rock. (I’m post-pun, myself.) It’s not normally my kind of music, but I like them okay … or at least I did, until they made me come to Chicago.

By the time we got to the concert venue in the shadow of downtown, I was clenched in a fetal position in my seat, eyes squeezed shut, whimpering and clutching at the dash. This was an especially bad thing because I was the driver.

But I don’t want you to think Chicago drivers are bad. That’s what I thought at first, until therapy for my PTSD. After several flashbacks, I realized the problem isn’t that they’re bad—it’s that they’re very, very good. Like, NASCAR good. It’s the only way to survive.
Yes, there are cars there; the camera couldn't capture anything going at that speed.

You see, Chicago traffic is the same bumper to bumper gridlock I found in Atlanta, except they don’t sit there unmoving—they continue driving as if they’re the only ones on the highway. Go watch a NASCAR race right after the start, before the first ten or twelve cars have crashed, when they’re all still jammed up and fighting for position. I’ll wait.

Yeah, it’s like that.

I saw drivers who knew their off ramp was coming, so they dove all the way over into the left lane to get ahead of other cars, then swerved across all three lanes of traffic, including that semi in the center lane that was blocking their view of anything in the right lane, and … right onto the off ramp, easy as a Blue Angels jet flight.

If someone ahead is going 60 and they’re going 90—they just keep on going. The guy in front will speed up, or get out of the way … or he won’t. Whatever. Orange cones aren’t a warning, they’re a challenge. There are signs that say: “Accident reporting lane ahead: If you get into a crash, for God’s sake, don’t stop at the scene.”

Where I come from, everyone wants a car. We passed Chicago’s train depots, where people without cars were relaxing in the knowledge that an hour waiting for a train beats two hours drinking yourself down from the edge after the evening drive home.

When the concert let out, we stayed in the auditorium until the only people left were sweeping up or throwing up. Then we went to the parking lot and sat in our car, shaking quietly, until the security guy pointed out we were the only people left and could he please go home now? He took the train. It was 1:30 a.m. when we finally took to the streets.
"Maybe we'll get lucky, and the zombie apocalypse will strike before we have to drive."

The traffic was exactly the same. It might as well have been 5 p.m. on a Friday.

We had to make a left turn to reach our off ramp, but there was a delay ahead and, if we went through the light, we’d end up stuck in the middle of the intersection. So we waited like we were supposed to, and a car load of laughing Chicagoans passed us on the right, cut off the oncoming traffic, and stopped in the middle of the intersection. Then a taxi passed them on the right, and they both stayed there, blocking the cars that had the green light, until eventually they could move on.

We almost abandoned the car right then and there. A few day’s walk home? Good exercise. But we eventually made it out of that insane city racetrack, vowing never to come back again even if Robert Smith personally invites us to play drums for The Cure.

And why did we decide to man up, brave the insanity, and drive on instead of walking?

Well, what are the chances of a pedestrian making it out alive?