Yeah, but at least the forest fire risk is low

They cleaned up the beach at Chain O' Lakes State Park, all ready for the big holiday weekend ...

And now the beach is gone.

And more rain is expected tonight.

Be very careful driving--there was lowland flooding last night, and there's going to be more tonight across local roads, so slow way down, watch out, and don't go into standing water. Remember this rule: Stalling out your car is no fun, and drowning is even less fun. I've heard.

Roger Moore and the best James Bond

I've not planned my funeral. I'm not the Queen. A procession through the streets of Stockwell would be nice, I suppose. But when I go, I'd just like everyone to say: "He lived longer than anyone I knew.". -- Roger Moore

The death of the third James Bond naturally brings up that question fans have debated for decades: Who was the best Bond? (Roger Moore was actually the fourth on-screen Bond--the first, Barry Nelson for an American TV Movie, might be so changed from the original as to not count.)

George Lazenby is generally considered the second Bond for his one and only appearance in 1969, but that would be wrong, kind of. David Niven played Bond in a 1967 spoof of Casino Royale. To confuse matters further, in 1964 James Bond was a character on a comedy sketch show, Mainly Millicent. In that case, a full nine years before Roger Moore took over the part in the movies, James Bond was played by ... Roger Moore.

"Maybe someday they'll give me this part in a movie."

So you see, the question of how many actors assumed the role of James Bond is complicated, even if you don't include Bob Simmons -- a stuntman who played Bond in the opening "through the gun barrel" sequence in Dr. No.

For me the question of who was the best Bond is very complicated indeed: The most realistic Bond seems to be Daniel Craig, the best Sean Connery, and my favorite Roger Moore. (My next favorite after Connery and Moore would be Pierce Brosnan, who I predicted would someday play Bond the moment I first saw him on Remington Steele.)

Daniel Craig seemed most like the original Bond, the one from Ian Fleming's books. Plus, his character gets beat up and wounded inside and out, is darker, and generally as close to real life as Bond ever got. That's why he doesn't make my favorites list--not because he or his movies were bad, but because I watch spy movies for escapism and fun, not real life.

Sean Connery was just ... Sean Connery. He's on a gold medal stand, all by himself, not just for originating the movie roll but for doing it with such style. You can believe he's a cold blooded killer, but you can also believe he's having some fun with the role. No one else ever quite matched him. (In my opinion. And no, I'm not going to get into a fight about it, because hey--it's movies.)

Then Moore came along, and instantly realized the inherent silliness of the whole thing ... so he played it with tongue in cheek, which enraged many fans.

Sean's jokes come from left field, and I let people know a joke was coming. I basically said "I'm have a good time doing this, and I hope you're having a good time watching me have a good time.". -- Roger Moore

The first Bond movie I saw was Moore's first, Live and Let Die. You always remember your first. Everything that meant Bond to me was there: The gadgets, Q,  the over the top villains, the jokes, the girls, the chases. The boat chase in that movie stands up to this day, as does the opening song (the first in a Bond movie not sung by a woman).

Irony: Roger Moore hated guns.

To me, the Bond situations are so ridiculous, so outrageous. I mean, this man is supposed to be a spy and yet, everybody knows he's a spy. Every bartender in the world offers him martinis that are shaken, not stirred. What kind of serious spy is recognized everywhere he goes? It's outrageous. So you have to treat the humor outrageously as well. My personality is entirely different than previous Bonds. I'm not that cold-blooded killer type. Which is why I play it mostly for laughs. -- Roger Moore

And there you have it, the reason why I can have more than one favorite James Bond. They weren't playing the same character, not really. Conner, Moore, Craig ... they're playing characters with the same name, but from different worlds. You don't have to debate: Just enjoy their work, and if you don't enjoy it--turn it off.

When I was a young actor at RADA, Noël Coward was in the audience one night. He said to me after the play, "Young man, with your devastating good looks and your disastrous lack of talent, you should take any job ever offered you. In the event that you're offered two jobs simultaneously, take the one that offers the most money." Here I am. -- Roger Moore

Weathering Indiana Festivals

Weathering Indiana Festivals

In one of my books I included a photo of the Onion Days Festival, in Wolf Lake, Indiana. Never mind that it’s called Onion Days—that’s another story—but the photo was taken in the early 1900s, over a century ago.

Hey, I wrote the book; I never said I took the picture.

There are also photos in Albion of what would one day become the Chain O’ Lakes Festival. Those pictures were taken some fifty or sixty years before there was a Chain O’ Lakes State Park … so if the street fair had been called that at the time it would be some pretty amazing precognition.

While researching local history I was shown many photos of fairs, parades, and other gatherings from back a century or so: A late 1800s fair in downtown Kendallville, a 1914 wedding in the middle of Albion’s main intersection … to this day we’re still doing a lot of those same outdoor gatherings. (I assume they shut down traffic for that wedding, but maybe they had to use a team of wild horses to drag the groom in.)
"Do you take this man to put a roof over your head, hopefully before they invent cars that need this intersection?"

I know what you’re thinking: “But Mark, what do all these things have in common?”

Actually, you’re probably thinking, “Festivals? I love funnel cakes!” but that doesn’t fit where I’m going with this.

What they have in common is that they all took place outdoors. To this day, summer is festival season in Indiana. We tried doing an outdoor festival in January once, and they never did thaw out all the bodies.

(There actually is such a thing as a frost festival. There’s also such a thing as legal insanity.)

With summer, the only thing organizers of fairs, concerts, and parades have to worry about is rain, wind, cold snaps (they happen), heat waves, tornadoes, lightning, flooding, dust storms, and earthquakes. Actually, I guess I’d rather be outside for the earthquakes.
"Don't worry folks, it's just the cloud's ... tail. Yeah, that's it."

But otherwise, what are we thinking?

Recently I was contacted about being a vendor at the Avilla Freedom Days Festival, which as you might imagine happens in Avilla, June 22-24. What I have to sell is books. Are books? Our books. Specifically, the ones Emily and I wrote. Since we have nine published at this point, I can easily fill a table with a product. After all, most people who go to a festival are thinking, “Boy, I really hope I can find some good books there”.

Aren’t they?

I agreed to go, under the theory of “why not?” On the one hand, it’ll be something of a hard slog having what amounts to a three day book signing—my longest previous one took place in a few hours of one afternoon. On the other hand, I get to go to a festival. By the time I’m done with the pork burgers, funnel cakes, and lemon shakeups, I’ll be twice the man I used to be.

On the third hand, there are all those weather-related fears I mentioned previously. Plus books. We don’t even need rain—in a Midwest June, the humidity alone might be enough to make the pages curl. This is why most book signings are held inside, but I’m nothing if not imaginative and daring. (Did you catch that? I just totally lied.)
"My book is wilting! I never thought I'd need a blotter for sweat."

So what made us think this was a good idea to begin with, this outdoor gathering thing? Never mind outdoor book signings, that’s just a literary anomaly. Why do we do this to ourselves?

Tradition. We start doing a certain thing, and we just never stop. Think about it: In, say, 1880, when someone said “Let’s have an outdoor party!” everyone else said “Great idea!” Why? No air conditioning. Poor indoor lighting and ventilation. Most people couldn’t afford big homes, and there weren’t that many public buildings with large spaces. They went outside because it was closed in and miserable inside. These people had just spent a whole winter stuck inside with their families, and often their extended families. Heck yeah, they were ready to get out.
"The weather got so bad we were blown clean into another century!"

And they stayed out until harvest time, and then they stayed out for that. Many of us have air conditioning now, but those of us who are too smart for winter sports are stuck indoors from October to April. There are large indoor venues now, but have you ever tried to set up a Ferris Wheel in the school gymnasium? I mean, other than that one epic senior prank from ’93 that I deny any knowledge of?

There’s also that human desire to get together in large groups and share common experiences, then complain about them. My wife and I tend to be anti-social, which means we’re not against socializing in theory, but we’d rather be home writing about other people socializing. But even we need to get out now and then, and it’ll be nice to see the people go by, either enjoying themselves or hiding from a downpour.

There’s something to be said for getting together to share our commonalities, such as our common fear of the weather, and our love of food that’s bad for us. If I might make a suggestion, hit the vendors first, then the rides, and save the fair food for last.

But even if you don’t go in that order, take some time to enjoy and appreciate your local festivals. If you’re up for an adventure take in a walking taco, then ride the Scrambler, then try to keep the taco from walking back out.

Revenge of the Water Heater

 Note: I wrote most of this piece a month ago, put it into a draft, and immediately forgot about it. I decided to post it now because a few days ago I mentioned in passing that I was attempting home maintenance, and there have since been several inquiries about me at local hospitals. I'm still here, I survived, and thanks to my brother my home once again has running water.

The thing about a water heater is that it's supposed to heat water--hence the name--and then hold aforementioned heated water until you let it out. If the water gets out before you want it to, that's a problem. It's also a problem if the heated water isn't heated, but never mind.

So when I saw water leaking out of the bottom of my water heater, it naturally occurred to me that I might have a problem. And what does one do in modern times when one has a problem? That's right: consult the internet.

The internet told me that the water might be coming from the drain valve, in which case I might be able to cap it. (It wasn't.) Or, it might be coming from anywhere else, in which case both I and my wallet were screwed. Further consultation revealed that "screwed" was not meant literally, so my collection of mismatched screwdrivers would not help me. Nor would the jar full of screws I've found in random places, and always wondered what they were supposed to be holding together.

Further, I discovered drinking a screwdriver would help, but only temporarily.

The internet told me my water heater is approaching its normal lifespan anyway, and there's no use crying over spilled water. However, it also told me that if the leak isn't too bad, and the water isn't damaging anything, I could go on using the heater for years more before it finally conks out.

(I suspect it was people on the internet who said that, rather than the internet itself. Then again, keep feeding information into a computer system and sooner or later it's going to figure stuff out for itself--we've all seen those movies.)

This idea suits me. (The "keep using it" idea, not "the internet's taking over" idea, which terrifies me.) "Ignore the problem and maybe it'll go away" is a creed I've lived by when it comes to home repairs, or anything mechanical. Yes, that may have led to a tire falling off my car, but no creed is perfect.

On a quite definitely related note, I also discovered that the valve to shut off water to my heater is corroded so badly that it's no longer a valve. It's just a scaly green blob with no logical function, rather like a politician's brain. I can't change the heater without shutting off water to the entire house, and the house is heated with water. If that's not an excuse to put the whole thing off until cold weather ends, I don't know what is. What could possibly go wrong?

 So I put it off until May, and started work three days before our town's spring cleanup day, when I could put the old water heater out. Three days later I was indeed able to take the old heater out, just in time. At that point I didn't have any water, hot or cold, and due to a pressure surge I'd also lost my  washing machine. But hey, I got rid of that old water heater.

I could go into more detail, but it's a little hard to type with these burned fingers and the strained shoulder. On the other hand, the sore toe and damaged knees make for a good excuse to catch up on episodes of Fargo. Thanks to my brother everything's up and running except for the washing machine, which was at least three decades old and bought used, anyway.

My home, which was also bought used, is always looking for new and original ways to beat me down. I suppose when it's time to install the new washing machine, it'll find a new way.

This is where my home maintenance projects usually go.

Worst Home Maintenance Fail Ever

When I opened my Blogger account this morning, I found that all my visitor stats had disappeared. (They popped back into existence a few hours later, having apparently undergone some kind of existential crisis. I've been there.)

One would be tempted to blame Blogger, or the internet in general. However, in the last two days I've broken a brand new pipe wrench, a washing machine, a copper water pipe, a vent hood, my back, and the entire water supply to my house. Can't speak for the new water heater: I haven't advanced to the point of igniting the pilot.

So for the moment I'm not prepared to blame anyone else for stuff going wrong in my  vicinity.

On an all-too-related note, you might not be hearing from me for a few days.

This photo is from my chimney demolition, which led to a broken sledge hammer, smashed ladder, and big hole in the ground.

50 Authors from 50 States: Robin Bayne’s Maryland: America In Miniature

50 Authors from 50 States: Robin Bayne’s Maryland: America In Miniature:  Ah, Maryland My Maryland . I’ve lived in Maryland all of my life. In fourth grade we learned that Maryland is considered “America ...

Radio Red: Because Romantic Comedy is Good for the Soul

In an all too humorless year, I have to remind you from time to time that everything looks a little better after some romantic comedy. Well, I don't have to, but I do have to promote myself now and then, so please spread the word about Radio Red. It's not every year I release a book ... well, okay, it has been every year since 2011 ... never mind.

Imagine if Groucho Marx and Katherine Hepburn were reincarnated, and found themselves solving the mystery of who's trying to sabotage a small Michigan radio station.  Say, that's pretty good ... I made that up as I was typing it.

If you've already had a chance to check out Radio Red, please leave a review, and remember: It's the most fun you can have on the radio, without being shut down by the FCC.

And all my books are required by contract to be available at, of course.

(Also, don't forget you can get a different look at the novel's opening scene in the story I wrote for The Very True Legends of Ol' Man Wickleberry and His Demise.)


First Interview of the Year: Cleaning Up at the Newspaper

While hauling stuff out for spring cleanup I ran into a reporter right in front of my home--camped out, no doubt, hoping for a good quote, or a photo of me with my hair in curlers. (Just kidding: The newspaper office is just down the street, and the rest of town is just up the street.)

The next day he stopped at the house for an interview and we had a nice, hour and a half long talk about all aspects of writing and publishing, and I got to show off Radio Red as well as our other books. I also pimped our upcoming appearance at the Avilla Freedom Festivals, of course. But I don't know what all will make it into his article--I'm sure he has only so much space, and we covered a lot of territory. Turns out I love to talk about writing, go figure.

I'll let you know when it comes out! Meanwhile, as usual, check out all our books at, or stop by here for the latest.

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Speak of the Devil: Bickering Out In The Cosmos

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I'm not the only one reviewing this movie!