Thursday, August 28, 2014

Dragon Naturally Speaking

Joe, my upstairs neighbor, (I really should call him Dr. Joe since he went to the trouble of earning a PhD) works on his computer constantly but rarely uses a keyboard. He swears by Dragon Naturally Speaking. Me, I swear at Dragon Naturally Speaking.

My first exposure to the program came some five years ago when the VA provided me with the software. I eagerly embraced the idea and installed it on my computer.

Well, the honeymoon didn’t last long. Either Dragon did not recognize an Oklahoma drawl, or else I did not enunciate well. The first time I dictated a sentence, each of us put on boxing gloves and assumed a fighting stance. If I recall, the sentence was something like: “I woke early and lay in my sleeping bag watching the morning sun struggle to reach the horizon.”

Dragon chose to interpret it as: I broke early and play in my peeing bag watching the mourning son straggle to breach the Oregon.”

It took me longer to correct the mangled sentence than it would have taken me to type it ten times over. Needless to say, when I got a new computer, I didn’t bother to install Dragon.

Along comes Dr. Joe singing the praises of the very program that dealt me such misery. I told him of my problems, and he had me drag out the green box containing my version of  Dragon.

“Aha!” he said. (He’s a PhD and can get away with such expressions. Heck, he could probably say “Eureka” in scholarly tones without causing an eyebrow to twitch.) Anyway, he said, “Aha! This is Version 11. I use Version 12, which is far superior to 11. The technology progressed tremendously between the two." (He’s big on technology and can give a learned discourse on the subject at the drop of a hat. I’m intimidated by it and avoid such discussions.) “Not only that, but Dragon 13 is due out in August," he declared. "And the technology on 13 has improved exponentially.”

That sent me to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary where I learned “exponentially” is an adverb meaning “of or relating to an exponent” and that <10x is an exponential expression. After wading through that nonsense, the dictionary condescended to tell me it meant "a rapid increase in something."

Well, I bought the new technology—plus an expensive set of wireless headphones—and Dr. Joe installed Dragon Naturally Speaking (Version 13) on my new Dell Inspiron All-in-One machine.

I should inform the reader that I write my novels just as if they were movies unfolding before me, so  this fantastic software ought to save me a whole bunch of time. I lie in bed at night and build scenes effortlessly. And Dr. Joe was right. Version 13 was much better than Version 11. I proved that to myself when I read from one of my books, and Dragon typed the passage flawlessly—no sloppy misunderstandings or misspellings as I had experienced with that terribly inept older software.

So I sat down yesterday, created a new Word document, angled my headset just right, and turned on Dragon. I took a moment to contemplate the flowing prose I'd use in my scene and went to work.

“Wake up,” I told Dragon.

Dragon went green…meaning he had obeyed my command.

I opened my mouth to speak, and my mind went “Ffttz.”

My mouth said, “Uh….”

And Dragon typed, “The.”

This post was not created using Dragon. I didn’t have the time.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and let me hear from you.


New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


I’d like to return to The City of Rocks for this week’s post. In the scene that follows, which takes place in Chapter 1, BJ Vinson, our intrepid PI, heads  to The University of New Mexico Medical Center to find a man named Richard Martinson – nicknamed Liver Lips. The man is being treated for scratches on his arm which have become infected.  BJ is tasked to question the man about the “kidnapping” of a valuable duck taken from a ranch down in the Boot Heel Country of southern New Mexico. Our PI is half-irritated and half-amused at being drawn into something he has trouble taking seriously.


I do not like walking into a situation I don’t understand, and I damned well didn’t understand this one. But I had no trouble locating Martinson in the waiting room at the hospital. Liver Lips. The young man's nickname described him perfectly. His thick, purple-hued, oral projections drew my eye like a magnet. It was only later I noticed he was skinny, seedy, and carried a generally disreputable air. Gray eyes darted here and there as if he were constantly searching for a bolt hole. The man’s scalp glistened through thin strands of frizzy blond hair. Whether talking or listening or simply idle, his dark tongue periodically snaked out to wash those heavy lips. Seldom had I been so thoroughly repulsed by another’s physical appearance.
He looked at me blankly after I handed over my card and introduced myself. “Who’d you say you are?”
I tapped the card he held in his hand. “I’m B. J. Vinson.”
“A private eye, huh. What you want with me?”
“I need to ask you a few questions.” I nodded at the bandages covering his forearms. “What happened?”
“Had a fight with a thorn bush. Frigging bush won.” He went for humor, glancing up through thin, colorless lashes to see if it had worked.
I pointed to the red veins snaking up out of the white bandages just short of his elbows. “Thorn bushes didn’t give you that infection. That’s blood poisoning. How’d you get it?”
“Tangled with the wrong bush, I guess. Then didn’t get it treated. Turned bad on me, I guess.”
“Come on, I’ll give you a ride down to my office where we can talk in private.”
“Ain’t got time. Gotta get outa here. I been here six frigging hours.”
“Okay, I’ll call Lt. Eugene Enriquez down at APD, and we’ll have this talk in his office.”
He blinked rapidly three times. “No cops, man. Don’t need no cops. I ain’t done nothing, so leave me alone.”
“What are you doing up here? You live down in Deming, don’t you?” I drew on the thin biography Del had provided.
“Ain’t no law against a man visiting the city. I guess that’s why they do all that advertising on TV for. You know, to get me to come up here and spend my money.”
“You want to tell me about it?”
“About what?” He seemed genuinely perplexed by my question.
“About stealing a valuable…bird.” If I’d said “duck” I’d have burst out laughing.
“Don’t guess I know what you’re talking about.”
“You do a lot of guessing, Richard. But I don’t think the Sheriff of Luna County would have sicced me on you if he was just guessing.”
“Hidalgo,” he blurted.
“Sheriff of Hidalgo County.”
“Okay, now that you’ve admitted you know all about the theft, tell me about it.”
“Didn’t admit nothing.”
“You know where the abduction…uh, theft took place. Stop wasting my time. What did you want with a prize duck named….” I stopped, unable to call a bird by that ridiculous name.
“Quacky Quack, the Second,” he said. “That’s what old Mud Hen calls her. Ain’t that a hoot?”
“Mud Hen?”
“Millicent Muldren. Everbody calls her Mud Hen.”
“She’s the duck’s owner?”
“Yeah. She’s run the Lazy M Ranch since her old man died.”
“Why’d you steal her duck?”
“Who says I did?”
“About everybody in the countryside,” I improvised. “Police chief, sheriff, Ms. Muldren. There’s a warrant out for your arrest. Talk to me, and maybe I can do something about that.”
Old Liver Lips wasn’t as dumb as he looked. Those blood-suffused appendages quivered a couple of times before he squared his thin shoulders. “Ain’t nobody gonna arrest me for nothing, I guess. Who’d press charges on something like that?”
“Well, Mud Hen for one, and the insurance company for another.”
“Insurance company?”
“You didn’t know the owner had insured her property.”
“Shoot, I guess there ain’t no insurance company in the world that’d insure a frigging duck.”
I didn’t know much more than he did, but I couldn’t let up on him now. “Then you’d guess wrong. They’ll insure soap bubbles if you pay the premiums.”
Liver Lips wiggled in his chair, looking distinctly uncomfortable. “Uh…you said something about a warrant?”


BJ starts taking the “ducknapping” seriously when people begin turning up dead.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and let me hear from you.


New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sometimes Things Turn Out All Right

How about a little short fiction again this week.

     I thought I’d die when she walked up to me. Guys aren’t supposed to admit things like that, but, man, that’s the way I felt. Part of it was surprise, and part of it was pure excitement.
     Graciela (I never called her Gracie like everyone else) and I had a history that stretched back to grade school. We’d started out yanking hair and kicking shins, but that switched to lipping off to one another as we got older. But I went virtually mute the first time I noticed she had breasts. One day she was built pretty much like me and the next, these knobby little things popped out on her chest. Kinda hard holding a casual conversation while sneaking glances at those awkward protrusions.
     The real transformation took place our freshman year in high school. Those knobs became balloons. Her rounded hips made my throat go dry. Imp-face became Pixie-face. Right about then, Graciela discovered boys. Not this boy. Not the schmuck next door, but guys older than me. Guys with shoulders and biceps and pecs and Adam’s apples.
     I used to hang around hoping she’d notice me. I’d head for school at the same time she did. I went to school dances … which I loathed … just to see her dressed up like a movie star. And in the privacy of my bedroom at night, I did my best to render myself blind while holding onto a mental image of her. And felt unclean afterward.
     My senior year I used some of my hard-earned savings and bought an old Ford, a jalopy like you saw in the Archie cartoons but without the rumble seat. Guys that hadn’t given me the time of day got to be buddies, but Graciela didn’t give me a second glance.
     One warm, pleasant Saturday afternoon about one-thirty, I breezed out of the house heading for my car in the driveway. As I reached for the door handle, Graciela materialized beside me. Surprised me. Scared the crap out of me, actually.
     “Johnny,” she cooed. Only person I knew who could speak and coo at the same time.
     “Uh … oh, hi. Didn’t see you there.”
     “I need a favor. Please.”
     She had the prettiest “pleases” of anyone in town. “What’s that?”
     “I need a ride to the mall.”
     Our only mall, The Eastside Mall, was – guess what – on the east side of town. I’d intended to head in the opposite direction to meet a couple of the guys at the municipal swimming pool. But screw the guys.
     As she settled in the front seat beside me, my mind’s eye saw us holding hands and exchanging glances as I drove down Henderson Drive. Me, a man in control of his powerful automobile, and she, the woman at my side. My starter ground, shattering the image. Nonetheless, I got the old jalopy started and backed out of the drive, almost clipping the mailman as I did so. Anxious for something to say in the face of near disaster, I cleared my throat as I followed her directions and parked as close to Dillard’s as possible.
     “I can hang around and bring you back home, if you want.”
     “That’s sweet. But I don’t know how long I’ll be,” she said.
     “I don’t mind. I can just … you know, hang.”
     “I’m meeting someone.”
     “Who? Marcy?” She and Marcy were as different as night and day, but they were tight. “I wouldn’t mind having a pretty woman hanging off each arm.” Did I really say that out loud? My cheeks felt like they were on fire. They actually burned. I didn’t dare glance at her.
     “Not Marcy. Well, thanks loads.” She tossed the words at me as she flounced out of the car and slammed the door.
     By the time I got my voice-box to working she was walking down the sidewalk toward a dork named Freddy Fleisher. Last year’s fullback … this year’s freshman at the community college. All shoulders, biceps, thighs, and a real Adam’s apple. With hair on his legs, to boot.
     When they hugged, I felt like something tore loose inside me. He planted a kiss on her lips before opening the car door for her.
     I’d driven her to her date? Why didn’t he pick her up? My blood pressure dropped twenty points. I felt used. Like a taxi driver who got stiffed for the fare. I sat there like dog doo on the bottom of a shoe, my eyes watching the two-year-old Olds convertible fire up. Freddie revved the engine before throwing the transmission into Reverse.
     Movement caught my eye. A vehicle motoring down the lane was invisible to the couple in the Olds because of an SUV parked on their right. Mr. Flannery, the same postman I’d almost nailed, was headed to the mall’s substation. I could probably have honked a warning, but I didn’t.
     I expected a big crash when Freddie came roaring backwards out of the parking space but it was more of a thud and a crunch. Freddie must have been flustered – decidedly uncool – because he slammed the Olds in Drive and shot forward, smashing his front end into the Chevy parked on his left.
Graciela and Freddie piled out of the car, both talking a blue streak. What I got out of the rush of words was that Freddie was wrapped up in the wreck of his dad’s wheels, while she was bitching about being late for an appointment.
     I took a deep breath, eased my jalopy in gear and rolled past the scene of the accident. As Gracie tried frantically to wave me to a stop, I gave her a casual salute and went on by. A swim with a couple of buddies – boring though they might be – seemed like a good idea right about then.
 That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and let me hear from you.


New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Pursued by the Beast!

She is there ... among my earliest memories. Although I didn’t know exactly what she was. A friend? Ally? Fellow conspirator? All of those at one time or the other. I sought her companionship, but it was elusive. She was always there, dancing ahead of me … ephemeral … just out of reach. Tempting, taunting, giving, denying. Such a tease. She often withheld things I was impatient to have. But she usually delivered them in her own good time. She was extraordinarily important to me in my childhood and youth – perhaps even my early adulthood … leading the way to the future.

I’m not sure when she changed. Looking back on it, I think the conversion must have been gradual, subtle. She picked up her pace, forcing me to rush after her. Things seemed to speed up as the years tolled. I didn’t mind. Life was happening. “Real” life, not “Preparation” life, like waiting to be old enough to go to school, itching for classes to end, hungering for graduation, eager for the first career job. No, I mean the real life of going to work, seeking promotion, finding the right life-mate, building a family, and settling in for the long haul. Somehow, my childhood muse no longer seemed so immediate … and let’s be frank … so important. Maybe that was what changed her.

Now, I sense her once again drawing near. Yet, there is a difference. I perceive not the laughing, amiable countenance of yesteryear, but a threatening scowl and grasping fingers. Claws, really. She grows menacing. Instead of leading, she pursues me from behind. Uncomfortable. Frightening, even. Enough so that I pick up the pace to stay free of her clutches.

When did she become a beast, an ogre, a fearsome creature to inspire terror? I don’t know. Will I ever seek her embrace again? Same answer … I don’t know.

Perhaps you do. If so, please tell me.

You see, the beast’s name is Time.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading, and let me hear from you.


New posts are published at 6:00 a.m. each Thursday

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