Paul’s Creek

There’s a small creek that runs across a corner of our property. It’s one of countless nondescript waterways that run downhill from the forest into Lake Superior, known to the locals only as “No Name” creeks. It has a small waterfall that I like to look at every day. Here’s what it looks like today.

pauls-creek-22-feb-2017

Here’s what it looked like on Saturday (four days ago).

pauls-creek-18-feb-2017

And here it is back on November 28.

pauls-creek-28-november

 

During the summer, it generally looks more like the drip from a leaky faucet. However, during the spring melt or when it rains, the creek can swell to a raging torrent for a few days or even a week or two. Today’s rush of water is the result of an unusual warm spell that has given us several days in the forties and a few actually topping fifty degrees, compounded by a soaking rain on Monday afternoon and evening (two days ago). The December torrent followed a similar pattern of warm temperatures followed by rain. After that we had some more typical temperatures (and perhaps two feet of snow) until the current warm spell arrived last week.

Downstream of the waterfall, the creek passes through a culvert under Highway 61 and discharges into Lake Superior. Here’s what it looks like at the Lake entry point today.

pauls-creek-discharge

Normally there’s no visible channel – the water merely percolates through the stones, and you wouldn’t even be aware of water beneath your feet if you were walking along the shore.

My father, Paul, loved the little creek. He built a footbridge to cross it, about a hundred yards upstream of the waterfall, using fallen tree branches for support members and cross pieces. We called it his Flintstone bridge, because it looked like the little cars that Fred and Barney used to “drive” in the old cartoon show. It almost always washed away during the spring melt. Paul would recover the remnants from the downstream rocks, make replacement pieces for the ones that weren’t salvageable, and rebuild it. Once he passed away, I tried to rebuild it myself, but I gave up after a particularly heavy snow melt broke it into mere shards, tossed all the way downstream past the waterfall. (This fall, I built a little Flintstone bridge just downstream of the falls. When that one washes away, at least it won’t go too far.)

After my dad died, I decided the creek needed a name. With unanimous consent from the family, it’s now known as Paul’s Creek, although that name won’t be found on any map. In fact, all the maps I’ve seen actually show the creek in the wrong place, angling away to the east as it crosses our property, presumably passing through a non-existent culvert, and supposedly discharging into the Lake some 100 yards from its actual location.

As I was taking pictures today, I realized something. This interesting little creek, though invisible to most, is dearly loved by all who know it. It’s a bit misunderstood and hard to pin down (the mapmakers can’t even show it in its correct location). It regularly cycles through a wide range of behaviors, a meager trickle during the summer doldrums progressing to bank-bursting torrents of energy, then back again to the low energy state. To sum up: known to few; dearly loved though somewhat difficult; bipolar personality…

I couldn’t possibly have come up with a better name than Paul’s Creek.

Advertisements

Why is Golf So Hard (for some of us)?

It seems to be that time of year again. Around late January or mid February, I start to think about playing golf again. Golf is the accursed game that’s had an icy grip on my heart for over half a century. Every fall, the idea of ever playing again is banished from conscious thought by my wounded ego. But then, salved by the cold and snow of winter, fueled by watching the professionals on TV, the idea begins once again to percolate. I know it will once again consume me come the spring, though I still don’t fully understand why.

Golf has been described in many colorful ways, “a good walk spoiled” (Mark Twain) being one of the more famous. Most golfers will also say this, however: “A bad day at golf is better than a good day at work.” And Matt Davidson, in Slice, told his new bride that golf isn’t really better than sex, it just lasts longer.

Yesterday, I watched Jordan Spieth notch his ninth PGA Tour victory, becoming the second youngest in history to achieve that distinction (second by a month or so to the incomparable Tiger Woods). Spieth appeared frustrated as putt after putt failed to drop. Carding only two birdies, he still won by four strokes — a veritable cakewalk. He made it look so blasted EASY!  I know it wasn’t, but it looked that way.

For me, golf is anything but easy. I don’t have an official handicap any more, but at one time in my life I had it down to just under 10. I’ve managed to break 80 nearly a dozen times, most recently back in 2014, if memory serves. I have a million excuses for why I never get any better: I don’t play often enough, my clubs aren’t good enough, I never actually practice, I don’t take lessons, and on and on ad nauseam. But the deeply buried root of the problem is that GOLF IS HARD! As I approached the age of sixty, my game really started going in the toilet. If I were keeping a handicap, I’d guess it’s up to 17 or 18 by now.

Of course, this lousy golf also corresponded with a steady falloff in rounds played as I got incredibly busy with my final grand Rocket Science project. Just before retiring, I was down to playing about ten nine-hole rounds and five 18-hole rounds a year. Who could be any good with that feeble level of effort? (Excuse number one.)

My decline also corresponded with a remarkable decline in distance as I continued my transformation into a creaky old fart with lousy balance and limited flexibility. I gradually got rid of most of my trusty Wilson Staff woods and irons with stiff shafts and assembled a motley collection of hybrids and flexible-shafted irons, all used, mostly from Second Swing. Who could be any good with such substandard equipment? Look at these things — 13 clubs, 7 different brands! (Excuse number two.)

20170213_120355

Of course, I know I should be exercising and practicing, but what fun is that? But I do fully intend to put truth or lie to excuse number one. A retired guy like me needs to be out on the course two or three times a week, minimum. And I’m going to do it as soon as the courses open up here. Let’s see … that ought to happen by early June, for sure.

If (OK, when) that doesn’t work, I may finally pop for some new clubs. The golf club industry has become a juggernaut because most frustrated golfers do just that, and I know it rarely works, but what have I got to lose? Nothing but money, am I right?

I do also plan to do something I once thought unthinkable — move up to the Senior tees. (I suppose I ought to start exercising and practicing, as well. But who am I kidding? That’ll never happen.) I’ll probably just mope my way around the course, day after day, asking myself that age-old question: Why is this infernal game so insufferably HARD?

And yet, I absolutely love the game. (Maybe I should have asked Napoleon for some insight into that mystery.) I’ll keep you posted on how things go on the links as time goes by.

Twitter Micro-novels

Several years ago I came across a website or organization of some sort that was touting the concept of the Micro-novel. I’d provide a reference, but I haven’t been able to find one — my apologies to the originator(s) of the idea. The basic concept was to write an extremely brief piece of fiction — it had to be no more than something like 25 words — that would communicate something to the reader. I was intrigued by the idea and shared it with the Writing Wombats group I mentioned in my previous post. We had some fun trying to write Micro-novels, but then I had to go back to my day job and I forgot all about it for many years.

314d2458c4d5341f2cb7b3860e977fad_by-using-twitter-if-you-twitter-clipart-logo_320-260

Since then, Twitter has become a huge phenomenon. I recently joined Twitter myself but have been struggling to come up with anything useful to say in 140 characters or less (as you may have noticed, I am rather a wordy fellow). Our Tweeter-in-Chief is trying to rule the world through this medium. Who can compete with that? (Millions of people obviously can, but that’s beside the point.)

Then one day a light bulb went off. I remembered the old Micro-novel concept and asked myself a question. Why not write Micro-novels as tweets? Instead of a word limit, a Micro-novel would simply be constrained by the 140 character limit for a single tweet.

So, I’ve decided to begin writing Twitter Micro-novels. I challenged myself to write five of them as a start. I have put all five into this blog post, and then I’ll tweet out one a day over a five-day period, just to see what happens. If anything comes of it, I’ll do some more, but any future ones will be available only as tweets. Regardless of the outcome, this should be fun. Here goes.

Micro-novel number one, a tragedy:

The apex of Morgan’s career was the day she flew to Dayton. Agoraphobia struck as she entered the hotel room, where she resides to this day.

Micro-novel number two, a play on words:

Hope soared on Jim’s wedding day. Hope sank during the honeymoon. Hope endured thereafter, but she never went gliding or snorkeling again.

Micro-novel number three, a historical novel:

Albert’s thought experiment went very wrong. He thought he was immune to criticism, but the autopsy showed he’d actually been eating cesium.

Micro-novel number four, a psychological non-thriller:

Sometimes the past can be a door to the future. After many years on the couch, Myra learned that it can also just be a door to the past.

And the finale, another tragedy:

Harvey took a step back to admire his work. Later, he realized he’d once been the best window washer in all of New York City.

I owe the last one entirely to Eugene (Skip) Day, of Long Island, NY. Thanks Skip, I stole your joke and made it into a novel.

There they are. Maybe some other writers will seize on this idea and we’ll have an explosion of Twitter Micro-novels. Or maybe not. Let’s see what happens next week and go from there.

New Mystery Novel by Yours Truly

The moment you’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived! Perhaps it can serve as an antidote to the tumultuous events of the past weeks by providing an escape from reality. After all, what is more relaxing than sitting back in your favorite chair – or couch, or bathtub, or wherever – with a new book? So, I hereby announce the release of my latest novel, Lateral Hazard.

lulu-front-cover-art

If you’re so excited to start reading that you can’t be bothered with the rest of this post, just click on one of these links and get to it:

Amazon Kindle Edition ($2.99)

Lulu paperback ($13.50 + shipping)

Otherwise, keep reading for a bit of backstory on how this book came to be.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but kept putting it off for the future. I realized I’d have a better chance of making a decent living doing something more practical, so I studied Aerospace Engineering in college and became, as my wife Pat likes to say, a Rocket Scientist. Though my engineering career was very interesting and rewarding, I hung on to the dream of writing novels. I took a couple of evening classes in creative writing, and one of the instructors encouraged me to send a book proposal to a number of agents and publishers. In the early 1990’s, I did just that and was rejected by all of them, as are the vast majority of aspiring writers who do the same. (The Huffington Post reports that 96% of submissions to literary agents are rejected. And then, even fewer of those 4% who land agents actually get a book published.)

So, I didn’t quit my day job, as they say. But gradually, the publishing industry began to change with the emergence of eBooks and self-published works. Encouraged by this trend, I attempted to take early retirement in 2006 to give my writing dream another shot. That resulted in the release of Snowman to the digital world. But I soon realized that an astronomical number of other people were doing exactly the same thing I was. Snowman was merely a spec in the new universe, and virtually no one discovered it.

I started work on my second novel, Slice, while making a few attempts at marketing Snowman. (Of course, I wasn’t willing to spend a nickel on those efforts due to my inherently cheap nature.) One of my no-cost forays was to sign up for a “First Chapter” novel contest on Gather.com, an early social media platform that has since gone defunct. Two books were chosen by the Gather community and awarded publishing contracts. Snowman wasn’t one of them. Though I didn’t win the contest, I did link up with a number of other Gather subscribers who formed a group called the “Writing Wombats” to share experiences, encouragement, and writing advice. One of the Wombats, a rabble rouser named Ken Coffman, sponsored a “First Paragraph” writing contest. That sounded fun, so I submitted an entry. Here it is:

Alexandra Williamson didn’t like what she saw in the mirror. The luminous, sable-colored hair cascading to her soft shoulders was not the issue; that was perfect. Makeup was not the problem either – artfully applied blush accentuated her regal cheekbones, while shadow, liner, and mascara made her eyes the envy of a cover girl. Nor was it the smooth, toned skin, nor the exquisitely firm breasts reflected above the neckline of her monogrammed silk gown. No, what bothered Alexandra was the knife at her throat, about to spoil this pretty picture with ordinary, commonplace blood.

Amazingly, I won the contest. Just to keep things in perspective, I have to admit there were only a dozen or so entries, but a win is a win, am I right? It was the first time I’d actually won a writing competition of any kind. I decided that the winning paragraph, exactly as written, would be the start of my next book. Filled with enthusiasm, I had decided on a title and a premise for extending the paragraph into a novel by the end of 2007.

Then real life intervened. In 2008 I was back to being a Rocket Scientist, to support the family after Pat became a victim of reorganization. Again, I found the work interesting and rewarding, and writing returned to the back burner – something to do in the future.

Finally, in July of 2016, worn out from my forty years as an engineer, bent but not broken, I retired for real. By October, rejuvenated by a trip to England and Scotland and by taking up residence on the North Shore of Lake Superior, I had finished and released Slice. It was finally time to get going on the third book. And now, Lateral Hazard has also been released. Here’s a synopsis.

Samantha Williamson is taking a respite from her quest to become a star on the LPGA Tour, with a stint as an Assistant Professional at the Snake River Golf Club. She has the talent and the will to make it on tour, but an unexpected distraction – the handsome Snake River Pro – throws a monkey wrench into the works. Little did she know that her estranged father is the club chairman, or that his beautiful trophy wife would end up dead. When the Sheriff can’t solve her stepmother’s murder, Sam decides to investigate on her own, leading to disastrous consequences. This is a tale of lust, infidelity, blackmail, murder, revenge – and the redemptive power of love.

For the moment, it’s only available as an Amazon eBook (for $2.99) or a Lulu paperback (for $13.50 plus shipping). Additional paperback channels will be available in the near future. Watch for updated links on the Books page, or just use the author links in the sidebar for Amazon and Barnes and Noble – the Lateral Hazard paperback versions will show up there in due time.

So there you have it. I hope you enjoy reading the new book. If you do, I won’t be upset if you add a review to the Amazon and/or Lulu sites, or if you pass along a recommendation to someone else who may be interested. Thanks in advance!