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column: Arachnid Evicts Garage Owner

Hey, I'm back -- did you miss me? Whaddya mean, no?
I popped back briefly once or twice, but for the most part I've been offline longer than I thougth -- something like ten days.  In that time I ate Thanksgiving dinner in three states (Indiana, Missouri, and Arkansas), drove for something like 28 hours in a five day period, got stuck in a traffic jam on I-57 in Southern Illinois (nowhere near as bad as what motorists ran into in upstate New York), and got to drive in our first snow of the year (see above about nowhere near as bad ...)

We saw so many horrible motorists that I came up with an idea for a new novel: A serial killer who only preys on bad drivers. He'll be the good guy, "Dexter"-style. That and my other novel ideas will have to wait until I'm finished with my history of the Albion Fire Department, which I'm polishing now with the idea of putting it out through print on demand to coincide with the AFD's 125th anniversary.

In other writing news, an agent I queried has requested the full manuscript of
Red is For Ick. I'd really like to work with this person, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed and my attitude positive.  So far I still haven't heard back from Whiskey Creek Press on Storm Chaser edits.

Also, we got the Christmas tree decorated, but I don't think we'll put up outside decorations this year -- we could live without the extra electric bill.

So, yeah -- I've been a little busy. I've missed catching up with my online friends; anything to update me on?




As a student of history, I find my garage fascinating.

In fact, I had a bit of an Indiana Jones moment there back in November. Jones, you’ll recall, was an archeologist who ran into some kind of action every time he went looking for an old artifact. He searches for some native statue, next thing you know he’s being chased by a crowd of tribesmen with blowguns, angered that he didn’t buy anything at the gift shop. He uncovers an old document, and two scenes later Nazi Germany declares war on him. By the time the third Indiana Jones movie was over, Indy killed more Nazis than Patton.

It’s as if Jackie Chan took a job as a librarian: You know, sooner or later, he’ll be kicking the shelves over onto some bad guy. It gives a whole new meaning to the term “check out”.

Real history is interesting and not dry at all – if done properly – making it somewhere between blowing things up with Harrison Ford and reciting dates in middle school. I was terrible at dates, all the way through school, but enough about my love life. My own archeological misadventure would have been shrugged off by Jones, involving as it did only one spider.

But oh, what a spider. I was trying to clean up the garage enough to get my car in there for the winter, and apparently I disturbed its home, which considering its size consisted of the entire garage.

it grumbled in a deep, James Earl Jones voice, while the ground shook with its every step. “Do I come into your house and move your stuff around?”

Well, maybe it does. That would explain why I can never find anything. Do spiders eat socks?

So here was this spider, not only dangerous but cranky and did I mention huge? At this point I started looking around for the giant rolling boulder, or maybe a crystal skull. No, just kidding – I was way too busy wetting my pants.

So, I swung a broom at it. It’s remarkably easy to kill a spider with a broom, ordinarily. Or at least it’s easy to try. I’ve been known, while swinging brooms at spiders, to demolish every breakable item in a room.

This spider grabbed the broom out of my hand, broke it in half, and bounced both halves off my skull. Then it sneered.

Did you ever see the move Tarantula? No, probably not: It was one of those 50’s monster movies, the ones in which any kind of living thing that might scare people was expanded to Godzilla size – usually by radiation from nuclear testing. Spiders, ants, and my favorite, the praying mantis, which made everyone else pray.

In Tarantula, the spider grew so huge that eventually Clint Eastwood in a jet fighter had to blow it up with rockets. It was one of Clint’s first film roles, but even then he was wielding large guns. Good thing, too, since until then the townspeople failed miserably at killing the spider with dynamite, guns, and brooms.

You probably want to know why, spiders aside, I find my garage historically interesting. Relax, I’ll get back to my arachnid friend – he’s not going anywhere.

I wasn’t a particular fan of history classes in school. If it didn’t shoot or blow up – well, in some ways I was a normal boy, although I did find the maps with all those lines of exploration fascinating. What got me interested in history were the World War 2 comic books of the 60’s and 70’s: Sergeant Rock, The Haunted Tank, The Unknown Soldier, and so on. (Sergeant Fury and his Howling Commandoes was a bit too over the top even for me.)

I had the same Thompson machine gun that Tom Hanks later carried in Saving Private Ryan (would you relax? It didn’t shoot real bullets) and, of course, G.I. Joe, although Joe usually came up on the losing end when he took on Johnny West and Johnny’s six shooter. My favorite Christmas gift was the Normandy Invasion play set, complete with medics and injured soldiers – who thought that was a good idea? It must have helped, though, because by the time I turned eighteen I was both enamored of war toys and antiwar in real life. My parents did this crazy thing where they taught me to understand the difference between fantasy and real life.

My point is, when it came to history my interest sneaked in through the back door. It was the same with local history, which started with firefighting. The first major house fire I responded to was on a fire engine that was, at the time, almost thirty years old, which isn’t the best scenario but piqued my interest.

So, as both a volunteer firefighter and a history buff, you can imagine my interest when I discovered my home had once burned.

But I see I’m out of space, not to mention the spider demands I feed it and read it a story. Next week: Indiana Mark and the Garage of Clutter.

Maybe the title needs some work …



( 25 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 3rd, 2010 08:41 am (UTC)
Three Thanksgiving dinners? My goodness Mark, can you still fit into your clothes?

As for the book news - hurrah! Mainly for the news about Red is for Ick - but also for nearly finishing the history of the fire brigade! (And the idea for ridding the world of bad motorists would probably sell really well, too...)
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:37 am (UTC)
Funny you should mention that -- I did put on a few pounds! Can't get much exercise while driving a car.

Yeah, I figure that bad driver serial killer idea will be a best-seller -- it's something we've all thought about. :-)
(Deleted comment)
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:36 am (UTC)
Glad to be back!

Still digesting, though ...
Dec. 3rd, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
So if I understand this right, war toys and comics turned you antiwar, your burned down house made you a firefighting historian and the spider won. Did I miss anything?
Dec. 4th, 2010 06:50 am (UTC)
I think what turned me anti-war more than anything else is that I discovered girls at a very young age. I lost interest in sports and drugs then, too.

But it was becoming a volunteer firefighter that made me interested in fire history -- I've been studying the subject since I was 18. Honestly, if I'd known when I bought it how much that house was going to start falling down around my ears, I'd have passed on the charred roof supports!
Dec. 3rd, 2010 02:13 pm (UTC)
Not only standing up to all that spider, but sitting down to all that turkey...heroic indeed.

Great to hear about the progress with the books. Very exciting. Looking forward to adding your book to my collection of Indiana history, which is fairly substantial. I love local histories of just about anywhere, but my first novel was set in Indiana in the 1820s and 1990s. Sometimes when I was taking notes for the 1820s part, the character would take over and a scene would develop from what I was learning.

p.s. We're also reconsidering the outside light thing. Sigh.
Dec. 4th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC)
Re: Heroic!
Now that you mention it, the turkey came closer to killing me than the spider did ...

Sounds like you know a lot more about Indiana history than I do, although I'm working on catching up. What was your first novel about? My characters are renown for taking over my stories and going their own way -- I try to look at it as being good characterization, rather than comparing it to talking to myself.
Dec. 4th, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)
Re: Heroic!
Yes, the best characters run off with the story, don't they?

First novel was the diary of a woman who moved from Ohio to Noble County with her new husband in 1822. Diary is found by her 5x great granddaughter who inherits the same piece of land in the 1990s after establishing a life as a geologist in California. Publishers it went to said they loved the writing, but it was "too quiet." I'm debating whether to go back and add some swamp gas explosions and car chases. Hmmm...or maybe a dashing volunteer fireman?

My husband and sister found and bought a copy of Counties of Whitley and Noble, Indiana (1882) which is fascinating. I'd visited a copy at either the Albion or the Columbia City library when I was there. Really fun resource.
Dec. 5th, 2010 06:59 am (UTC)
Re: Heroic!
You could probably do worse than putting in a volunteer firefighter -- the main character in my new novel is one, although since he's also an Indiana State Trooper it might be a case of overkill. "Storm Chaser" is also set here in Noble County, but although it's been picked up by Whiskey Creek Press, I don't have a release date yet.

I find your publishing tale kind of sad -- couldn't we all use more quiet stories? Remember when internal conflict used to be enough? Still, the fact that they commented on your writing at all means you got closer than 90% of other writers ever do.
Dec. 3rd, 2010 03:41 pm (UTC)
Congratulations on the agent query! I hope he chomps down and doesn't let go! :)
Dec. 4th, 2010 06:58 am (UTC)
A she, actually, but I hope so too!
Norma Beishir
Dec. 3rd, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
Mark, I've not only seen that movie, it's one of my favorite old, cheesy horror films.

Your spider was THAT big?
Dec. 4th, 2010 06:59 am (UTC)
Re: Tarantula!
Well, when it stood up straight it lifted the garage from its foundations ... and once I realized I couldn't get rid of it, I just parked the car under its torso. What with the heat it gave off, it was the best carport ever.
Dec. 3rd, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
1) When that serial killer is done in IN send him here. He's definitely a good guy in my book

2) good luck with that agent

3)maybe you should find that spider growth hormone in your garage and dispose of it
Dec. 4th, 2010 07:00 am (UTC)
He'd be one busy killer, wouldn't he? Maybe, once I've sold a few other books, I can get a contract based just on that description -- everyone would want to know that guy.

The growth hormone! I totally forgot about it!
Dec. 4th, 2010 03:27 pm (UTC)
hahaha yes they would

yeah you can't let spider get into that stuff
Mike Saxton
Dec. 3rd, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
Reminds me of the tarantula issue my senior year of high school. They came in on a shipment of bananas from Florida and one ended up in my kitchen sink. My mother is arachnophobic so I had to do something. I did the only thing I could think of: wash it down the garbage disposal.
Dec. 4th, 2010 07:02 am (UTC)
Re: Spiders
I think that's a perfectly valid action, and I support it fully. The garbage disposal would have way less collatoral damage than my flame thrower idea.

When I visited my daughter's elementary school years ago, they actually had a tarantula in a cage, in their front office. On purpose! I guess it's for the best that I didn't have the flame thrower with me at the time.
Dec. 4th, 2010 10:55 am (UTC)
He screamed like a girl.

I just thought you all should know.

I ran stumbling, flinging crap out of the way because Mark's "near death" and "I saw a spider" screams are exactly alike.

I thought, 'Oh no, the garage door gave out and he's trapped and may lose an arm.'; 'Oh no, he's cut himself severely on broken glass.'; 'Oh no, he's been repeatedly stung by a mob of angry yellow jackets nesting in the garage and is having an allergic reaction (we found one outside the garage this summer'.

I get outside.

'I SAW A SPIDER! IT WAS THIS BIG!' (here he made a hand gesture the size of a Chihuahua)
Dec. 4th, 2010 11:09 am (UTC)
I don't understand why you're insulting girls like this.
Dec. 5th, 2010 05:18 am (UTC)
Welcome home! Congratulations on the interest in Red is for Ick.

You know, that spider sounds like it's large enough you could've turned it into Thanksgiving Dinner. (Though that is a repulsive thought.)
Dec. 5th, 2010 07:00 am (UTC)
I'll pass on that particular dark meat, thankyouverymuch!
Dec. 5th, 2010 08:27 am (UTC)
Pretty sure they're a white meat.

Dec. 5th, 2010 08:30 am (UTC)
I'm not getting close enough to find out!
( 25 comments — Leave a comment )

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