Come for Christmas, see the new book

Due to some required corrections and updates, we won't have copies of More Slightly Off the Mark: Why I Hate Cats, and Other Lies available at our author appearance on December 6. However, we will have a proof copy you can look at, and a pre-order sheet for anyone who wants their copy in a few weeks. (It goes without saying we'll have our other books, at a reduced price.)

Wow, it's in just a week! All the information on the event is here:

There's a lot going on that Friday night, but I hope everyone takes time to stop in at the church and visit all the vendors. I was told the Bazaar would start at 5 after a setup period, but I'm seeing it advertised as starting at 4 ... so we're going to try to get there right at 4, to get ready and split the difference. Either way, there'll be lots to see.

The new cover will look a little like this, because: sequel. Well, kind of a prequel. I'll explain later. Meanwhile, the e-book price of the original is dropping to 99 cents.

And if you can't make it, find our books at:"Mark R Hunter"

(Remember, every book that doesn't sell by January 1st has to go to the Island of Mistfit Books.)

Have a Trek Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can only imagine what Klingon Valentine's Day is like.

Totally stole this from Kay Kauffman! Who she might have gotten it from, I couldn't say--it's the internet, after all. She blogs over at:"Mark R Hunter"

Writing on Staycation, or: Ignore the dog

We've been on a staycation, during which I practiced writing full time. After all, if you have a goal, you should know what that goal entails.

Anyone who's done it will tell you the hard thing about working from home is avoiding distractions. (By the way, we really liked the new series, "Batwoman".) First rule: Turn off the TV, and turn on movie scores and classical music. Other voices, it turns out, interfere with my writing voice.

But before that, we had to get my new medical problems handled, and how often have I said that? As I mentioned before, my routine colonoscopy led to the discovery that I had another massive sinus infection, and also that the top of my head was about to blow off.

My blood pressure was so high that medical professionals who'd been on the job for twenty years would take it, then call in another medical pro: "Here, you try--that can't be right."

It was right. So they put me on two meds, one of which is a diuretic.

By the way, it's very important to understand that there's a big difference between diuretic and diarrhetic--big difference. Although they both involve the bathroom.

What the medication's designed to do is make me pee. A lot. As they ushered me out the door with this med, the nurse told me, "Now, make sure you drink plenty of fluids while you're on this."

Okay. So ... you want me to drink a lot of fluids while I'm on this drug that's designed to get rid of a lot of fluids? Got it.

But never mind. After my diastolic BP dropped thirty points and the little Terminator stopped shooting off his Gatling gun inside my skull, I discovered that I can, indeed, discipline myself enough to work on writing eight hours a day. (And also enough to give up the salt shaker.)

Even accounting for non-writing writing work, such as ... well, this blog ... I managed to add over 10,000 words to my novel-in-progress in a week. And that's good, because it's a mystery story, and keeping at it helps me remember what the heck is going on.

(Respect to writers who joined NaNoWriMo, an effort to write 50,000 words during November. I did it twice, and it was rough.)

At the same time Emily finished her editing work on our newest book, More Slightly Off the Mark, and we just got the first proof copy back. Now we check it for still more problems that need corrected, but it'll be available for Christmas order. It kind of makes me wish more of my weeks went like this.

Except for the Gatling gun part.

I posted this on Instagram the other day, showing that it made for TWO distractions.

Don't forget our upcoming author appearance:


50 Authors from 50 States: Virginia is for Mysteries--Maggie King

Virginia is for mysteries ...

50 Authors from 50 States: Virginia is for Mysteries--Maggie King: Virginia is for Lovers. That’s the tourism and travel slogan created by the Commonwealth of Virginia. But 14 Virginia crime writers had m...

Movie review: Midway

It's hard for any of us today to fully understand just how much of an underdog the American military was in 1942. In the Pacific the Japanese had a bigger navy, more experience, and often better arms. We had no reason to believe they didn't plan to invade Hawaii, then go on to attack West Coast cities. As nations played a dangerous game of chess across the vast ocean, a tiny, two and a half square mile atoll in the middle of nowhere was so important that Japanese destroyers shelled it the same day Pearl Harbor was attacked: the two islands of Midway.

(And by the way, the first U.S. Marine to earn the Congressional Medal of Honor during WWII earned it that day, at Midway.)

How can one movie possibly show how critical of a time that was, for both sides?

It turns out: pretty darned well.

I was concerned when I found out Midway actually starts with the Pearl Harbor attack. In 1976 Hollywood pulled together every famous actor they could find to tell just the story of Midway itself, the one battle, and it took them 132 minutes to do it. (Granted, they had to jam in a love story along the way.) This new movie was working in the Pearl Harbor attack, the Doolittle Raid, and other battles that happened along the way! How could they manage that?

Pretty darned well. And maybe in a way better: In the more than forty years since the first movie, many of us need a reminder of the chain of events leading up to the battle.

This Midway also brings in several celebrities, all of them playing real historical figures, from admirals to the poor back seat guy in the dive bombers, trying to drive away fighters without shooting off their own plane's tail. The movie pulls everything together by concentrating on a few characters who get to be involved in just about everything (and some of them really were). There are no star turns here: The impressive performances by people like Woody Harrelson, Dennis Quaid, and even Mandy Moore are all the more impressive because they manage to turn themselves into their characters--not stars playing their characters.

Similarly, there's the concern that giant explosions and flashy special effects might overwhelm the actual story. After all, it was directed by Roland Emmerich, who seems to have destroyed the world in every way possible. And there certainly were plenty of effects, but this is a war story, and they served the story instead of the other way around. I suspect some people will find them overwhelming; I also suspect that in some scenes they were meant to be. But it works: sometimes I became genuinely concerned about the characters even though I already knew what was going to happen.

Midway is overall historically accurate. But, to fit half a year's worth of war into 138 minutes, shortcuts are taken from time to time, and once or twice I found them jarring. For instance, at one point we see a navy commander make a critical decision about attacking the enemy, and in the next scene we see a carrier burning--you have to pay attention to understand they were connected.

But for the most part they do a good job--an amazing job, really--of guiding us through the strikes and counter strikes that led to this turning point in the Pacific War.

My Rating:

Entertainment Value:  4 out of 4 M&Ms. This was something of a throwback to the war movies of an earlier time, where you can actually enjoy the movie and understand the stakes without being buried in graphic violence and Important Messages. Not that there aren't messages to be had.

Oscar Potential: 2 out of 4 M&Ms. Everyone did a great job overall, but this doesn't seem to be the kind of movie Academy voters care about. I did sometimes wish I could insert John Williams' score from the first Midway into this one.

Your Own Anti-Anxiety Advocate

I was rather anxious about something the other day, and when I mentioned it to my wife, she told me I was suffering from anxiety.

Well, yeah. And poor people are suffering from a lack of money.

What she meant was anxiety disorder, a disorder that can make people anxious. Several years ago I was diagnosed with Seasonal Affected Disorder,  a disorder that affected me in the winter season. See, medical stuff isn't really all that complicated, once you diagnose the names.

You know nothing, Mark Snow.

Emotional problems have a stigma--the idea that maybe it's not a medical thing, but somehow  your fault for being weak, or complaining too much, or maybe watching too much "Housewives of" programming. Okay, maybe that last is a personal fault. But if you have a real problem, you should be able to talk it out.

One thing that could make anxiety disorder worse is getting anxious about it. So best to just tackle the issue, find out if you have it, and deal. I turned, as most people do in these important moments, to the internet.

I have to admit, I was fixated on the outcome of my investigation. That's why I wasn't surprised when I found a list of common symptoms, which started with a fixation on the outcome of events.

What could have caused this with me? Well, as of this month I've earned full retirement from my 911 dispatching career, but I wanted to make enough money writing to supplement my income after that. In other words, I wanted to retire so I could write full time, but I'm not making enough money writing to retire. As that time neared, I became more and more fixated on it. Thus, anxiety.

Second on the list was restlessness and difficulty concentrating. Here on the written page, where I can edit to my heart's content before hitting "publish", I seem fairly put-together. In reality, I kept getting distracted by puppy videos, chocolate snacks, and winter storm warnings.

Yes, I'm aware winter storm warnings might contribute to my anxiety.

Third, problems with decision making. I don't think I'm indecisive. Well. Sometimes, maybe. Or maybe not. I'm not really sure. Maybe you should ask my wife.

Next: Worrying about anxiety or, in a nutshell, worrying about worrying. People who know they're suffering from anxiety often get anxious about it, which is--let's face it--what led me to this point to begin with. It's a vicious cycle, like weekly lawn mowing, or Congress.

Five, mental stress can wreck you physically. Fatigue, irritability, headaches, all the things I thought came from taking 911 calls for a living, may actually be caused by the anxiety I experience after taking 911 calls for a living. It's a fine line. Also on the list are being easily startled, frequent aches and pains, and throwing things at the TV whenever adds for "The Bachelor" come on.

Next: Sweating, which is followed by shortness of breath and palpitations.

Ah--those I don't have! I'm cured! I never had a problem to begin with! Put that in your cigar and smoke it, Sigmund.

Next is insomnia. Got you there, too. I usually have no problems at all falling asleep, especially after taking my bedtime meds, which cause drowsiness and I think I just figured out why they're to be taken at bedtime. Sure, I sometimes wake up just a few hours later and have trouble getting to sleep again, and sure, only about half of people with general anxiety disorder report sleep problems, but oh, shut up.

Irrational fears. I'm not sure about this one. Define irrational. Do I fear machines taking over the world? Yes, I do, but the other day I asked Siri for directions and she said "don't worry, we'll find you" ... so I really don't think it's so irrational.

Luckily I never do anything scary, like public speaking.

I also have a fear that no one will ever read my books, because so many people have stopped reading that there are more writers than readers, and the writers don't have time to read. I'm not so sure that's irrational, either.

There are similar symptoms, such as fatigue, irritability, and feelings of impending doom, all of which I have, but in all fairness this country is locked in a 24/7 election cycle--even though we just keep electing the same morons back into office, anyway. Is there anyone who's not irritable?

I found the list of treatments for anxiety interesting. Sunlight? All for it. Warm baths? An excellent idea. So is lowing caffeine intake, and I'll get back to you as soon as I retire from my third shift job. Then there's exercise, but no treatment plan is perfect.

Dietary modifications are important, and also easy: Just stop eating everything you like, and start eating everything you don't. Increase your intake of something called superfoods, which have lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. By sticking strictly to superfoods you're bound to lose weight, because you'll no longer be interesting in your meals. Anybody want a nice avocado? Me neither.

Essential oils are also supposed to help, specifically lavender oil. The way I see it, what's the harm of trying? It smells nice. I tried the same thing with chocolate aroma therapy, but the scent goes away quickly once you eat those candles.

Maybe I could make a tea out of the lilac bushes in my back yard, bathe in the tea while breathing deeply, then drink it. Maybe not that last one.

Finally we have tea, which I thought was a great idea. "Earl Grey," I told my wife. "Hot."

She patted me on the shoulder and said, "You just have fun making that", which I must say increased my anxiety. But that wouldn't help anyway, because apparently the stress-fighting tea of choice is Chamomile. Have you tried it? Doesn't taste like tea. Maybe I can combine it with Earl Grey.

In the end it's modern life that causes much of our anxiety. But it's also modern life that keeps us so happily modern, so I'll avoid the Amish solution. As for the rest, I'll keep you updated, now that I've become an anti-anxiety avocado advocate.

(And yes, I went to the doctor about it. I'm now stressed about being on another med. For stress.)

Meanwhile, as I go down the line and check yes on almost all the boxes, there's something calming just having a name to put on the problem. Yes, blaming all the stupid people in the world has a certain therapeutic effect, but the difference is you can treat anxiety disorder; stupid people aren't going anywhere.

50 Authors from 50 States: Texas-Brought to You Through the Eyes of Tally Ada...

Texas is featured on 50 Authors from 50 States:

50 Authors from 50 States: Texas-Brought to You Through the Eyes of Tally Ada...: Why There's N o State Like Texas-Tally Adams: When people hear the name Texas, many different things come to mind. The truth is, T...

Nobody Wants To Probe Colons When They Grow Up, But Thankfully Someone Did

Routine medical tests often bring nasty surprises ... usually related to the test being done.

I had a colonoscopy last week. You know what that means: No need to go into details. Honestly, I don't feel as bad for people getting them as I do for people who do them.

Lots of twelve year olds probably say they want to be a doctor when they grow up. I can't imagine any of them adding, "And I want to spend all day sticking tubes up butts to check for polyps!"

I slept through the procedure. For patients, the fun stuff comes a day or two before, when they first go on a clear diet, then take a substance that, um, clears that diet. But there's more to it, and therein lies this tale. It's about the only thing that stayed therein.

A week before, I had to stop taking supplements, including vitamin D (a lack of which contributed to my wintertime depression). I also stopped taking aspirin or any kind of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, which I never knew is what NSAID is short for. (Acetaminophen is not an NSAID, but it also doesn't work well on me.)

Soon after that I developed a sinus headache, which I didn't worry about because if I have a sinus headache, it must be Tuesday. By the end of the next day someone was driving a railroad spike through the top of my skull, from the inside. It was every bit as bad as a migraine.

But what was causing it? Sinuses? Stress? Lack of vitamin D? Rebound from having taken too much ibuprofen in the past? The idea of highly trained specialists examining my butt with an eye toward giving me--ahem--an eye full?

Still, if I could make it through another few days, I could take pain pills again, and everything would be fine ... at least until I got the results of the test.

Then, just before the procedure, a strange thing happened.

One of the techs took my blood pressure, paused, then took it again. Then she called the doctor in. He took it, then he put the BP cuff on my other arm and took it again. Then they all looked at each other.

There's no typical blood pressure for everyone, but it's generally acknowledged that the bottom number--the diastolic--should be in the high double digits, like around 70.

My diastolic was in the triple digits. And not just barely, either. The first number, systolic, was also reaching for the stars.

There's your headache.

This is what the inside of my head felt like.

My blood pressure was so high, in fact, that they almost canceled the procedure. And I did not want to go through the prep again.

They did do it, but when I woke the new problem hadn't changed. The next day, at my work clinic, I found  Doctor Donna sitting in the waiting room, as if waiting for me. "We were wondering how soon this would happen," she said (I'd been her patient for many years). She refused to tell me who won the betting pool, but she did confirm the diagnosis. She also gave me a good once over, and found that it hurt whenever she tapped on the areas near my nose.

I had high blood pressure and another massive sinus infection.

Doctor Donna told me I had to reduce my stress levels. A lot. I thought about my job and laughed. Then I laughed again. Then I cried. It seems my idea to retire, and support myself by writing full time, has become a matter of life and death. But what the heck--I'm always looking for ways to guilt readers into buying books. Meanwhile I'm on two new meds, one of which makes me pee almost as much as I was doing the other thing, the day before the colonoscopy.

Oh, and the results of the actual procedure? Clean as a whistle (figuratively), with nary a polyp in sight. But if they hadn't done it, my head may have exploded a week later. It seems I'm entering a new phase of my mid-life.

I'll call it ... the Ailment Years.

Correction on author appearance time

On our Author appearance, December 6th during Albion's Christmas In the Village
I’ve corrected the original post, after getting the time wrong by an hour—the event is actually from 5-8 p.m., with the vendors setting up from 4-5. The rest of the info is here:

Author Appearance! December 6th during Albion's Christmas In the Village

Emily and I (if all goes well, because--history) will be attending the S.T.A.R. Bazaar Friday, December 6, to sell our books, along with a bunch of other vendors selling a bunch of other things.

This year the event will be at Grace Christian Church, which is right at the stoplight in downtown Albion, from 5-8 p.m. It's all part of Christmas in the Village--the village being Albion. Specifically, Indiana. (I've only been to three Albions so far, including Michigan and Illinois--I need to get on that.)

 The whole event of Christmas In the Village includes the Christmas Light Parade, the lighting of the town Christmas tree, and singing Christmas carols. There are also refreshments at local businesses, you can enter to win prizes and--rumor has it--Santa will be there. So the Bazaar will only be a part of the party, and our author appearance only part of the Bazaar.

S.T.A.R. stands for Super Town of Albion Revitalization Team. They do super things to revitalize Albion, and hey! I think I just figured out where they got the name. They also work very hard, so do come out and support them, and the town, and us, and Santa. Not necessarily in that order.

Also, if we sell $100 worth of books during the event, I will dance, badly, and post that dance on social media. It might look more like I'm being electrocuted, but it'll be something very similar to a dance. I know there's a basic human need to see others embarrass themselves, so tell all your friends.

It'll be fun for the whole family! Not the dance, so much. But one of our books is a young adult adventure, so between that and Santa I stand by that statement.

(And if you can't make it, find our books at:)"Mark R Hunter"

 Remember, they're doing that Christmas gift thing again this year.

Movie review: Terminator: Dark Fate

"Children look like burnt paper. Black. Not moving. And then the blast wave hit them, and then they fly apart like leaves."

Wow. Yeah, those are pretty downer first lines, which I guess you'd expect from a movie called Terminator: Dark Fate.

The good news is, Sarah Conner (played once again by the fantastic Linda Hamilton), really did manage to stop Judgement Day, and the destruction of civilization by a rogue artificial intelligence called Skynet.

The bad news is, it only led to an entirely different destruction of civilization by a rogue artificial intelligence--called Legion. Now an entirely different terminator, the Rev-9 (played by Gabriel Luna, the memorable Ghost Rider on "Agents of "SH.I.E.L.D."), has arrived in 2019 to kill a young Mexican woman, Dani (Natalia Reyes), because ... reasons.

Luckily, another savior from the future has also appeared: An augmented human named Grace (Mackenzie Davis). The beats seem similar to other Terminator movies, especially the second one, which this movie is a direct sequel of. (Apparently the others happened in a different timeline, which for this franchise is easy to believe). We establish the happy young Dani and her family, Rev-9 shows up, Grace drags Dani to safety, big chase begins.

And then, when all seems lost, we get a bad ass appearance by the bad ass Sarah Conner. And how did Sarah know where to find this new threat? That's the next mystery to be solved, and Sarah isn't going to be at all happy with the solution.

What's that, you say? Arnold what's-his-name? Yeah, he shows up eventually, as a T-800 that's just a little ... different ... from the previous ones.

For the first half of the movie, though, it's an all-girl-action-hour, with three bad-ass women saving and occasionally threatening each other, kicking other ass, and not even bothering with the name taking. I heard one critic complain about the movie being "woke". Yeah, I suppose so. But if I had to go into a fight, I'd take these three along with me, any day.

My biggest complaint with Terminator: Dark Fate is that it seems to make many of the events of the first two movies pointless. Sarah and her family saved the future, but--oops--it's going to be destroyed, anyway. My second biggest complaint is that some of the action sequences were a bit long, but they certainly were attention grabbing.

Rev-9 is a new kind of Terminator, with one particular new skill that's an especially cool development, and its played well by Luna. There are no real complaints about a skilled cast, who I'm sure had to do a lot of emoting toward a green screen. The story is no great departure from previous Terminator movies, but there were some nice twists along the way. It's not the best Terminator movie--that would be the second one--but it's far from the worst, and well worth seeing.

There's something about women with rocket launchers.

My rating:

Entertainment Value: 3 1/2 out of 4 M&Ms. A scene not long after Sarah appears bummed me out, but overall it was lots of fun.

Oscar Potential: 1 out of 4 M&Ms. I don't think so. Loved the special effects, but who doesn't have good special effects, these days?