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One step forward ...

My clothes drier stopped working this morning. (Just stopped. No smoke, sparks, explosions or personal injury — very anticlimactic, for me.) I thought there could be some cosmic connection between that and the potential income from my short story connection, since it’s coming out in just weeks or days, so I did some basic math.

Yeah. I’m not optimistic enough to think I’m going to sell that many copies before I get tired of hanging stuff on the line.

Outdoor dining

Emily and I spent all morning working in separate places, then joined up for an outdoor lunch in the plaza area beside the Allen County Public Library's main branch. Perfect location, perfect weather, perfect company. And now ... back to writing!

History fail

Am I the only one bothered by the fact that The History Channel -- excuse me, "History" -- honored our fallen veterans this Memorial Day weekend with ... a Pawn Stars marathon?

My TV watching time was mostly spent on PBS.

Col. Chamberlain's speech from the movie "Gettysburg"

Memorial Day | Mark R Hunter

Getting Pumped Up Over Fire Engines

Photos of the truck on my website:

Getting Pumped Up Over Fire Engines


Most kids love to see a big fire engine, with all the bells and whistles on it. Since Albion just received a new one (fire engine, not kid), I thought I’d give you all a little overview of what a fire engine is and how it operates, ignoring the fact that most don’t come with bells or whistles anymore (fire engines, not kids … usually).

The Albion Fire Department has a twenty year truck replacement plan, and the one being replaced is 24 years old, so you can see why they were anxious to get to it. The idea is to avoid the situation we ran into in the 80’s: The first time I responded to a major house fire was in a 1952 engine, which meant that at 28, it was ten years older than me.

That’s 82, in car years.

It was a very cool truck. However, while a 1930 biplane is a very cool aircraft, you’d want to update your air force every once in awhile.

The traditional term for these trucks is engines, although they’d been called pumpers around here for decades. The Feds prefer “engine” and so do I, but it’s a pretty silly argument: For them to be successful, the trucks need both engines and pumps.

Ironically, Albion’s original fire engine was called an engine, but didn’t have one; just a pump. It was hauled by hand to a fire scene, and then pumped by hand. I think I can safely say we’ve improved since then.

Okay, so what do we need for an effective fire engine?

Well, tires. Tires are good. Also, a steering wheel with which to turn the tires. You think I jest, but some very early fire engines had to be picked up and carried, and when they finally got wheels those early wheels often didn’t turn – the firefighters would have to pick the engine up and change directions when they got to an intersection.

They were a lot lighter then.

Also, I mentioned an engine for the engine. It has to be powerful, capable of getting a truck full of equipment, firefighters, and water to the scene. Due to new Federal emission standards on the engine engines, the estimated cost of a fire truck has increased by around $15,000. When asked if they’d help pay for that, the Federal Government said … nothing.

Did I mention the water? The new truck carries a thousand gallons on board, which is especially helpful out in rural areas where there are no hydrants. Ask any farmer, and they’ll tell you hydrants don’t just spring out of the ground.

And, yeah, a pump. The main purpose of a ladder truck is to carry ladders, the main purpose of a rescue truck is to carry rescue equipment, and the main purpose of a fire engine is to pump water. Sometimes they mix and match and it gets complicated, just like my home repair jobs but with less bleeding. The new truck’s pump will have a capacity of 1,500 gallons per minute, enough to fill your bathtub in, oh, two seconds. The 1988 truck has a 1,000 gpm pump. It would take three seconds. Who wants to wait that long?

That much water flow isn’t needed for your typical house fire – well, not usually – but insurance companies like to see a nice, big capacity for the worst case scenario. For big fires, big water is there, and if one hydrant can’t supply the truck it could be fed from two hydrants. If Albion’s water system went down or a big fire broke out in rural areas, it could go to the nearest pond, lake, or stream and pump through large diameter hose for miles.

Also required for a fire engine to operate is a crew of firefighters. Technology hasn’t advanced that much. Most experts agree that a minimum of four human beings is required to crew an engine, and the new truck will have seating for six. The 1988 truck had, in theory, seating for three, on one bench seat.

In actual practice the older truck has a manual transmission, and the guy sitting in the middle sometimes couldn’t help at the scene because his knee got bruised so badly when he didn’t get out of the way of the gear shift lever. In my experience going from third to fourth was especially dangerous. Lately we’ve taken to hauling two firefighters on that truck, and I can also say from experience that being the only guy on board besides the pump operator can be a very lonely experience.

(I once drove that truck alone to a brush fire, then deployed, pressurized, and operated a hoseline by myself until more firefighters arrived from another call. It took me two days to recover.)

Something else required for a fire engine is safety. You can get two kinds of fire trucks. One is a standard cab, which means basically a pump was put on the body of a regular truck: the same thing that might be hauling grain, bread, or ice cream. Yum. Bread.

We chose a custom cab, because it’s designed to actually be a fire truck, from the ground up. More sturdily built, better designed, and more capable of keeping us alive in a worst case scenario.

So, let’s review: The new fire engine pumps more water, carries more manpower and equipment, has updated technology, is safer, and through sheer newness is more reliable.

Still no bells or whistles, though. I miss the bells.

Strorm Chaser Shorts coming out in June



            Earlier today I finished going through the galleys for my upcoming short story collection, Storm Chaser Shorts, and sent it in to my publisher. It’s now to be released by Whiskey Creek Press in June – one year after its parent novel, Storm Chaser, came out.

            I’ll give you the exact release date as soon as I know it; it’s possible that, like Storm Chaser, it’ll be released as an e-book on different formats at different times. Unfortunately, Whiskey Creek doesn’t offer its shorter works in print format, but they do sell them as HTML or RTF files, so Storm Chaser Shorts will be readable on pretty much any electronic platform.

            Over the next few weeks I’ll let everyone know more details about the stories, which feature different characters from the original book and cover several different genres. Thanks to everyone who bought Storm Chaser and gave it such high praise – this new work is all because of you!

All the News That's Print to Fit



            Every now and then all the little news and pop culture items I collect go into one column, usually because, say, roofers are banging on my house and I can’t concentrate on anything longer. Be warned: Finding out what’s going on in the world may cause you to lose your faith in humanity:

           A video clip of Adolf Hitler giving a speech was recently used in a commercial to sell shampoo. Okay, did they even look at that guy’s hair? The Stalin conditioner doesn’t seem appropriate, either.

            Speaking of inappropriate use of historical figures, The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Illinois, responded to a protest by pulling the bobblehead doll they were selling. It was a figure of John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln. The figure carries a gun. It would be roughly equivalent to showing that Adolf Hitler commercial at a Holocaust Museum.

            A new fad has stars in bikinis showing off their “baby bumps”. They used to call it pregnancy. Of course, the original baby bumps were two sources of baby nutrition, a bit higher up – most celebrities couldn’t use those for any practical purpose without giving their infants plastic poisoning.

            An explosion in Georgia killed a man known for fighting to keep chickens on his property. Police list Colonel Sanders as a person of interest.

            A study of more than 222,000 people indicated that sitting too long can kill you. Four out of five of the researchers doing the study died.

            Another study found that eating red meat can be unhealthy, especially to cows. After all, zombies eat only red meat – and they look terrible.

            Federal agents recently shot dead a man involved in a murder for hire plot. It’s perhaps ironic that they didn’t get a bonus for it.

            Nobody’s talking much these days about the US government’s “Fast and Furious” program, which sent thousands of firearms over the border into the hands of Mexican criminals. It’s nice to know the Obama administration’s doing something about our international trade imbalance.

            An Easter egg hunt in Colorado was canceled because of rude, selfish, pushy behavior – by the parents. In related news, fifteen years later a riot broke out among parents trying to be first in line to get the diploma at high school graduation.

            President Obama was recorded telling the President of Russia that after his last election he’d have “more flexibility”. Obama then presented him with a gift of frozen pancakes, and told him not to flip them until November.

            North Korea is downplaying the discovery that their “weather” satellite had lettering on it that translated to “Insert bomb here”. Top officials, speaking anonymously, are embarrassed that they forgot to insert the bomb.

            The largest known breed of rats in the world has been discovered invading the Florida Keys. Weird. I thought that state’s Presidential primary was over.

            Scientists recently announced that most of the Moon seems to be made up of material it got from Earth. NASA astronauts were immediately dispatched to serve the Moon with an IRS audit notice.

            The comedian Gallagher has retired after having a heart attack. Maybe if he’d eaten the fruit instead of smashing it …

            Speaking of retiring, another man is accused of sawing off his own foot in an attempt to avoid working. You have to admire his non-work ethic, but wonder about his lack of imagination.

            It was recently announced that liberal activist Jane Fonda will be portraying … wait for it … Nancy Reagan, in a movie. Also cast is Alec Baldwin as Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich as Jimmy Carter.

            New rules say beach volleyball players will not have to wear bikinis at the 2012 London Olympics. This was followed immediately by the networks scheduling beach volleyball during prime time, until it was discovered the rule does not permit nude volleyball, and that in fact the players might actually cover up more. Beach volleyball is now scheduled in the 5 a.m. slot.

            Recently two asteroids, one the size of a tour bus, buzzed by the Earth on the same day director James Cameron made the deepest undersea dive ever. Coincidence? Or an act of self-preservation by going to one of the most dangerous spots on earth to escape a possible collision, thus proving him brilliantly insane? Probably coincidence.

            I recently read an article asking what might happen if all 350 million toilets in the United States were flushed at the same time. I can only imagine that a humor columnist facing a deadline came up with that question. Unfortunately, the federal government got wind of it (ahem) and is now organizing the Department of Hydraulics (DoH), to mandate guidelines that will prevent any future mass dumping. I don’t think they should go up that creek. Especially without a paddle.

            Apparently the person who bombed Kim Kardashian with flour is a member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). No word on whether they were planning to bake her or fry her.

            Water ice was recently found on Mercury, the planet closest to the Sun. Insert Uranus joke here. Or maybe I just did.
            That’s the news roundup … generally everyone made it through unharmed, except for John Wilkes Booth fans. The sad part of that is that there probably are some.

A writer’s first time | Mark R Hunter

A writer’s first time | Mark R Hunter

     There are certain first times that I suspect surprise all writers, no matter how often they may have fantasized about them.

    Emily and I went camping last weekend at Chain O’ Lakes State Park, where several scenes in Storm Chaser were set. At the gatehouse the lady who checked us in asked all the normal questions, including, of course, my name.

    “Hunter,” I replied. “First name Mark.” (Which for me was the logical answer to that question.)

    She gave me a startled look. “The writer?”

    I’d like to say I responded with something witty, but the best I could do was stammer, “Yes …” In addition to having never been recognized by a stranger, there was a lingering fear that park employees might not like the way I portrayed their workplace.

    “I have your book on my Kindle!”

    Turns out she claimed to like it very much, and took my business card with the promise of telling her coworkers about Storm Chaser. She even got my autograph. By that I mean she got my signature on the check-in paperwork.

    That was the first time someone who didn’t already know me recognized me as a novelist … and yes, it did make my day.

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Cancer Survivors to Speak at Relay For Life | Mark R Hunter

Cancer Survivors to Speak at Relay For Life | Mark R Hunter

            Cancer survivor Jennifer Will is coming to the Noble County Relay for Life Saturday to tell her story of battling breast cancer. Will, the mother of two and wife of Noble County optometrist Dr. Matt Will, will help headline the Fight Back Ceremony, which starts at 9 p.m. at the West Noble football field and track, south of Ligonier along SR 5.

            Will joins another cancer survivor, Judy Middleton of Albion, and the two will share their stories of fighting back against the disease at the May 19-20 American Cancer Society event. Activities begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with the National Anthem and presentation of colors, and go on until the closing ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

            “It’s our responsibility to fight back and reduce the number of our own family members and neighbors who face cancer,” says Chairperson Carla Fiandt. “We’re here so those who face cancer will be supported, those who lost their battle will not be forgotten and so, one day, cancer will be eliminated.”


Noble County Relay for Life 2012

May 19th - May 20th
10:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Schedule of Events

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10:00 a.m.
Opening Ceremonies
National Anthem, Presentation of Colors
Main Stage /Bleachers

10:00 am-6 pm
Silent Auction Fundraiser
Health and Wellness Tent
11:00 a.m.
Water Balloon Toss (Team of 2)
Free Throw Shooting Contest
12:30 p.m.
Sack Race
1:00 p.m.
Inclognito Cloggers
Entertainment Tent
1:00 p.m.
Kids Games
2:00 p.m.
Elaine’s Dance Studio
Entertainment Tent
2:00 p.m.
Tug-O-War (Team of 10)
3:30 p.m.
Cupcake Eating Contest
Entertainment Tent
4:00 p.m.
Frozen T-Shirt Contest
4:30 p.m.
Bubble Gum Blowing Contest
5:00 p.m.
Survivor Ceremony/Dinner
Main Stage/Bleachers
6:00 p.m.
Minute To Win It (Team of 2)
6:00 p.m.
Relay Karaoke Idol
Entertainment Tent
9:00 p.m.
Fightback Ceremony
Main Stage/Bleachers
10:00 p.m.
Luminary Ceremony
Main Stage/Bleachers
11:00 pm-1 am
Open Karaoke
Entertainment Tent
PIZZA Delivery
Concession Area
1:00 a.m.
Scavenger Hunt
Entertainment Tent
2:00 a.m.
Movie- Tin Tin

Entertainment Tent

4:00 a.m.
Movie- Lightning Thief

Entertainment Tent

6:00 a.m.
Sunrise Breakfast

Concession Area

6:00 a.m.
Morning Worship

Entertainment Tent

9:30 a.m.
Closing Ceremony

Main Stage/Bleachers

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          “Health and Wellness Tent”
“Survivor Registration”
“On Site Fundraising”
“Kids Zone

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Chippy the Clown
With Friends
   1 pm – 5 pm