Legacy Blog #26: The Move to Arkansas

My Beloved Daughter,

Our final year in Campbell was a whirlwind.  Not long after buying that house on Franklin Street, your Grandpa Chuck’s employer trumped up a reason to fire him.  Something about him being a couple of minutes late getting back on the boat from shore leave.  Considering that he had worked for them for ten years, letting his lungs deteriorate in the process, he had never been late before.  One time and he was fired?  I think there was more going on there.  We did go after them for a financial settlement over his health issues.  Since it literally took them four years to settle, I’ll get to that in a later post.

So, after he was fired by the towing company, he went to work as a diesel mechanic for your Grandma Pat’s brother, Uncle Roger, at his company in El Dorado, Arkansas.  This kept him gone longer and he had to travel to see us, so he wasn’t making enough to support us in Campbell and keep himself fed in Arkansas.  To try to supplement the income, Grandma Pat got a job as a nurse’s aide, working with Aunt Ruth in a nursing home in the nearby town of Malden, Missouri.  It went well for a while, until she hit a snag.

Your Grandma Pat had worked as a nurse’s aide before I was born.  She liked taking care of people, so it fit.  Unfortunately, by the time I was in junior high (what you now call “middle school”), it required a certification.  And Grandma Pat didn’t know if she could handle going back to school that late in life.  So she ended up quitting the job.  It was decided that we would move out of that house in Campbell and move down to join Grandpa Chuck in Arkansas.

Our last week in Campbell, during the early part of March of 1989, was a freezing one.  I had just celebrated my fourteenth birthday, to little fanfare.  We couldn’t afford to pay the gas bill and the gas company came out and shut it off . . . again, during 0ne of the coldest winters on record.  We spent a week in that house, bundled up at all times in blankets.

Then, Grandpa Chuck and Uncle Ronald, who was driving a truck for Uncle Roger’s company, showed up in one of those trucks and a completely empty trailer.  In the middle of the night, we loaded everything we owned into that truck.  I grabbed my cat, Linus, and joined Grandma in her car and we drove the six hours to southern Arkansas, to a little town called Strong.

Linus threw up on me sometime during the trip.

I remember the house that we moved into down there.  It was actually very nice.  It had a sunroom that had been finished with carpet, along with two bedrooms.  It was smaller than what we had lived in in Campbell.  But at least it was warm.

And it was the first time that Grandpa Chuck had worked in a job where he could come home every night since I was five years old.

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Interview with J.L. MacDonald, Author of the NIGHTCAT Series

Today, we have a treat.  My good friend, J.L. MacDonald, has granted me an interview.  Enjoy!

 

  • Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?I had thought about it years ago when I first started writing.  I didn’t want to be a complete mystery so I decided to use my initials and last name instead so there’s a bit of anonymity but not completely.  In the future I’d like to write some other genres and I may write under a pen name then to avoid confusion for the readers who might see my name and automatically think the book is about superheroes.
  • What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?I’ve been extremely lucky in that department.  My best friend is an incredible editor/proofreader.  (It was due to his editing of my stories that he decided to take the writing plunge himself)

     

  • Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?I think it would really depend on what they are wanting to write and how much research they’d like to do on the subject.  I wouldn’t think it would be much different than a female author writing for a male character or vice versa (as an example).

    The writer could always use their … Vulcaness for lack of a better word…to their advantage as well.  They could very well have a character that is pretty stoic.

    Another thing is to take an emotion you are comfortable with and use that as a basis.  As an example, let’s say I have a character that LOVES sports whereas I don’t.  What I can do is use my passion of something else and transpose it to how that character feels.  I’d of course have to do some research on the actual sport to get the terminology correct.

    If a person wants to write, nothing should stop them from doing so.

     

  • If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?Don’t let the empty MS Word page mock you or intimidate you.  Ignore it, and the negative voices it your head, and just write.  First drafts aren’t supposed to be perfect. Just get the idea down.  You can’t edit something if it’s not there.
  • What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?Renting a table at the Regina Comic Con a few years back.  It was the first time I sold anything at a con so that experience was quite new to me.  I also met Keith Dobranski (AKA Mod Master Heroclix) who knew me on Deviant Art.  Neither one of us knew that we only lived an hour away.  We became quick friends and Keith has done the cover art for “Metahumans vs Robots” and “Metahumans vs The Ultimate Evil”.  Keith is a phenomenal artist and I like to poke his brain about art related questions I have.

     

  • What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?So far I’ve only written two short stories from a male POV and I didn’t feel it was much different than writing from a female POV.  When I wrote the one story from Det. David Rayner’s viewpoint, I was staying true to the character’s personality.  He’s appeared in all, if not most, of my Nightcat stories so I know him pretty well and didn’t find it that difficult to write.

    In my first Nightcat novel, several things happen to her that could only happen to a female.  I may share the same gender as Nightcat, but our experiences are vastly different so in that respect so for me there’s no more difficulty writing for a female character than for a male character.

     

  • Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?I do because you can sometimes get good feedback.  I don’t have that many reviews at the moment, and only one had some criticisms.  I feel like I can learn from those types of reviews and become a better writer.

    I don’t mind if someone didn’t care for the book as everyone has different tastes.  If I got a “This book sucks” review, without any explanation, then I’d be scratching my head trying to figure out if it was the genre they didn’t like, the writing or if they were simply a troll.

     

  • If you had to do something differently as a child or teenager to become a better writer as an adult, what would you do?Oh, that’s easy.  Write more.
  • Have you ever Googled yourself?Some days when I’m bored.  I have a fairly common name (there was one other person in my hometown that had the same first and last name and same middle initial) so I get a fair amount of hits. I’ve also Googled various character names of mine out of curiosity.

     

 

    1. So, you probably get asked this a lot but where did you get the idea for Nightcat?

      I actually came up with the idea when I started high school.  I was just getting into the superhero genre with the X-Men and Spider-man cartoons.  I noticed that female cat characters were, for the most part, someone that had a penchant for cats and had lots ot tech to simulate a cat’s abilities.  At the time I was also a big fan of Disney’s Gargoyles.  One of the storylines involved human/cat hybrids.  That got the cogs in my head turning and I it was then I decided to make a superhero that was actually a cat.  One of the things I grappled with early on is whether or not to give Nightcat a mask.  I’m a bit of a softie and didn’t want her to permanently be in a cat form, so I gave her the ability to change back into her human form.  That basically gave her a built-in secret identity so logically she wouldn’t need to hide her identity with a face covering.  I know there are some superheroes out there that don’t wear masks, but I think there’s more that do.  Back then it was almost part of what made a superhero a superhero.  It took me a while to come to get comfortable with the fact that Nightcat had no need for a mask.  When I look back on it, I’m glad I didn’t give her one.  It’s far easier to draw an expressive face on her without worrying about trying to convey it through a mask. 

 

  • How much of you is in Dana Harker?A fair amount actually.  When I started writing about her, I knew I wanted to look at all aspects of her life and personality.  I didn’t want to the character to be two dimensional.  And being a newbie writer at the time, I used myself as a template in a way.  I sat down and thought of my own likes and dislikes and gave some of them to Dana.  Dana isn’t a carbon copy of me, she’s definitely her own person.  We’re both techies and work with computers, but our jobs are quite different. She’s also a lot more comfortable being around people.  Dana likes her alone time, but she isn’t socially awkward.  Our sense of humour also differs a lot.

    In regards to the similarities in appearance, it’s really only the red hair that’s the same.  And honestly, I didn’t make her a Ginger because I’m one.  Before I even thought what Dana would look like, I figured out Nightcat’s look and worked “backwards” to figure out Dana’s.  Nightcat’s hair style, and colour, was inspired by Simba from The Lion King.  Other than Nightcat’s alternate leg structure her body structure is the same in human form so it would stand to reason Dana would retain Nightcat’s red hair.
  • How much of you is in Nightcat?It’s funny, because this answer is much different than the answer to the last question, even though Nightcat and Dana are the same person.  Nighcat’s personality is pretty similar to Dana’s albeit a bit more outgoing.  She can also handle being in the public eye without worrying what others think.  Dana can handle it as well,but she would prefer to stay in the background. She also knows that she can’t really do that when she’s Nightcat so she just rolls with it.

    Nightcat is quite good at making quips.  It’s like she doesn’t really have to hold back like Dana would have to at work. I tend to think of great comeback lines long after the conversation is over.

    Nightcat is quite confident.  It’s not like she ever has to worry for her own safety (generally speaking)  She knows that if something happens, she’ll be able to deal with it.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not agoraphobic or anything but I don’t exactly walk down dark alleys at night either.

     

  • If you could have a crossover between Nightcat and any mainstream comic character, who would it be?  Would they start out as misunderstood opponents or would they be pals right off the bat?It’s kind of a toss up between Spider-man and Deadpool.  Spidey is my favourite and I think he and Nightcat would get along, though his constant quips might make her shake her head.  Plus there’s the age difference, depending on the version of Spider-Man of course.  Nightcat is in her late 20s and if Spidey is depicted in his teens, there could be a small some disconnect there.  For the most part, I think they’d get along.  Possibly even having a teenage Spidey looking up to her.

    As much as I love Spidey, I think a crossover between Nightcat and Deadpool would be far more humorous.  DP’s juvenile behaviour and childish sense of humour would really throw Nightcat for a loop, and she would have no idea how to react.

 

 

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Legacy Blog #25: Grandpa Chuck’s Emphysema

My Beloved Daughter,

As we’ve mentioned before, your Grandpa Chuck had many health issues.  He used to tell me how, when he broke his leg falling off of that building when he was still married to his first wife, he had spent so much time with his leg elevated in the hospital that he had to force it down when he was walking out to the car after being released.  I don’t know how serious he was . . . your grandpa was always such a joker.

The emphysema was much more serious.  There was no cure.  I remember the early stages of what caused him to go in to be diagnosed.  He would come in from doing something outside, like mowing the grass or working on a car, only to sit in his chair and breathe like he had just finished running a marathon.

Of course, your Great-Grandpa Winfred had emphysema but the only side-effect that I remember was him coughing up stuff all the time.  I didn’t realize that he had trouble breathing.  Of a truth, your Grandpa Chuck probably wouldn’t have deteriorated as far as he did, had it not been for two things.

First, the emphysema was caused mostly from working with ammonia, which was hauled on the barges that his company moved up and down the Mississippi River.  From what I understand, an employee was only supposed to work on them for five years and then be moved to a different position.  Your Grandpa was one of the best employees that they had, however.  Rather than moving him off after five years, they kept him there and put him in charge of the bargemen.  It took him specifically telling them that he couldn’t work in the ammonia anymore before they did the right thing and moved him into the engine room.

We can’t place all of the blame on the ammonia.  Your Grandpa was a smoker.  I don’t recall if he smoked as much as your Grandma Pat (I tend to think that NOBODY smoked as much as her), but he did smoke.  It took our family physician telling him—way after your Grandpa Chuck’s health had deteriorated to a point of him not being able to work—that he wouldn’t survive another year, before he finally put the cancer sticks down and quit cold turkey.  I think he finally quit when I was maybe twenty.  I know he wasn’t smoking anymore when I met your mother at twenty-two.

I look back at the sacrifices that he made for his family and it still brings tears to my eyes.  Although he never really held any ill-will toward his employer, I have looked at their website in bitterness.  Unlike when your Grandpa slaved away for them, they now consistently get EPA awards for their barges, as they have figured out how to keep them safe for their employees.  I just wonder how many lungs had to be damaged before they made the effort to do so?

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Updates

It’s been a bit since my last blog update.  I’ll be getting back into the swing of things this week.  I should have my weekly “Legacy Blog” back up and running on Friday.  Just a few updates, for now.

My family and I went on a cruise to the Bahamas in the middle of February (I love working at a travel agency!).  We had a great time and it was memorable getting to share this experience of my daughter’s leaving the country with her.  It was her first trip abroad and she really enjoyed herself, even making a new friend that she’s keeping in contact with via email.

I turned forty-two on the 2nd of March.  At first, it seemed like an unimportant year.  After all, the next milestone for me is fifty.  Ugh!  I consoled myself by remembering that, according to Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the number forty-two is the answer to the question of life.  So, I’ve got that going for me.

I’m going to force myself to get back into writing.  I’ve gotten several chapters into Book Seven and hit a wall.  I have the ending scene in my head . . . I just can’t bring the characters to that point.  I’ll get there, though.

Finally, as I write this, it’s my father’s birthday.  He would have been seventy-five years-old today.  We lost him eleven years ago and that’s just proof that time doesn’t heal all wounds.  I still miss him as much as ever.

Until next time, God Bless.

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Legacy Blog #24: The Houses in Campbell

My Beloved Daughter,

We lived in two different houses in Campbell, MO.  The first was on Speedway Street.  It had originally been a two-bedroom house and the prior owner—an elderly woman—had purchased a metal, prebuilt shed and attached it to the back of the house.  I took that room as my bedroom and my Grandpa Winfred moved in with us and lived in the second true bedroom.

My bedroom had several issues that made it less than perfect.  First of all, as the shed, which the woman had used as a sewing room, was literally attached to my parents’ room, I had to walk through their room to get to bed every night.  Second, it wasn’t well insulated and the room was FREEZING in the winter.  This was made worse by the fact that I had jumped on the bed once and one of the feet of it, at the foot of the bed, had busted right through the floor.  The hole had remained there for the rest of the time that we lived there, though I had tried to cut the draft with everything from cardboard to duct tape.  Third, I burned a hole in the carpet while trying to perform an experiment with my chemistry set. When Grandpa Winfred moved out and put a camping trailer on your Great-Aunt Ruth’s land, I moved into his room.  It was bigger and warmer.  The carpet was perfect (your grandparents made me discard the chemistry set after I tried to use it to make the perfect bug poison).

My parents were paying $20,000 for that house, where we lived from January of 1984.  At the time, that was normal for a house in Southern Missouri, from what I understand.  When I was in the Seventh Grade—March of 1988—your Grandparents decided on a change of location.  So we moved to the house on Franklin Street.

The house on Franklin Street, which was one block from the General Baptist Church where your Grandma Pat was saved, was bigger than the house on Speedway.  It had four bedrooms, two of which were never used.  It had an in-the-floor furnace for heating (which wouldn’t work when too much water was under the house, like when the snow would melt in the winter—you know, when we NEEDED HEAT.  Your Grandpa Chuck had a garage, which he at least got to use sometimes.

There was a shed on the property that your Grandma Pat promised me that I could use as a club house.  Your Uncle Bobby and I went in there soon after we moved in.  To my horror, we found it to be infested with Black Widow spiders.  So, since your grandparents had made me discard my chemistry set and I couldn’t make any more poison, I never set foot in the shed again.

It wasn’t all bad.  As the house had two unused rooms, I let my imagination run wild in them.  In one of them, I cut out construction paper trees and taped them all over the walls to turn it into an indoor forest to “camp” in.  In retrospect, maybe some artificial, but natural-looking, plants would have been better.

The other room, I decorated for a Halloween party and never undecorated.  The room, with the fake cobwebs, looked even more unused than it really was.

By the way, this larger house was actually four-thousand dollars cheaper than the one on Speedway Street.  I had been puzzled by this when I was a kid.  Recently, your Uncle Greg told me that it had been in rough shape.  I guess this was something that I hadn’t paid attention to when I was in Junior High.

Sometime after we moved out of the house on Franklin Street, that furnace had caught the house on fire.  I’ve driven by it since I’ve grown up and it’s still there so it was obviously salvageable.  The last time that I drove by the house on Speedway, when your Grandma Pat was in the hospital after the stroke, it was no longer the nice house that your Uncle Greg and I remembered.  In fact, the entire street seemed a bit more run down.

That’s what I get for looking at things through rose-colored glasses, I suppose.

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Legacy Blog #23: Campbell Friends

My Beloved Daughter,

Being the socially outgoing person that you are, you don’t truly understand what living in a place without friends feels like.  During my early elementary years, we still lived in Van Buren.  Eight miles outside of the city limit, no children my age were in the area until I was in the second grade.  I did have a couple of “friends” at school (looking back on how they really treated me, I use the term loosely).  A kid who was antagonistic toward me at school moved out to our area when I was in the second grade.  He would come down and hang out after school and on weekends but still treat me like dirt when we were in school.

Not a real friend.

When we moved to Campbell, I met real friends.  I met Ernest, who would take up for your pacifistic father when he was bullied.  I met Billy, who was being raised by his single father and grandparents and who once told your Grandma Pat that he wished she were his mother, too.  I met Tony (that was his middle name; his first name was Richard), who had to suffer through being your cousin, Sarah’s first crush.  I met Ryan, who loved G.I. Joe and had an older brother, Jamie, who did awesome things, like host a Halloween party, to entertain his brother and friends.  I met David and Daniel, twin brothers who were each other’s best friends.

Of course, at this time, I met your Uncle Bobby.  Of all of the friends that I met at this time, he was the one with whom I kept in mostly constant contact over the years.  Of all of the names on this list, he was the first of them that you met.  We watched each other grow up and, knowing that he was abused by his mother, your Grandma Pat tried her best to give him a place to go where he could be safe, at least for a little while.  As of this writing, he works as a counselor at an addiction shelter and is married to your Aunt Brandy.  The two have a daughter named Madison and they all live in Springfield, MO.

I have, due to the wonder of Facebook, managed to get back in touch with the other Campbell friends on this list.  While Ernest isn’t on there, his wife, Maggie, has been.  Through her, I know that he works as a heating and cooling repairman in Tennessee.  He spent time in the Army after high school, as well.

Billy (now Bill) grew up to pastor a Baptist Church in Arkansas.  From what I understand, he got saved in college.

Tony (now Rik) works as a welder in Campbell and is married to a teacher.  He loves guns as much as your Uncle Donald.

Ryan lives in Poplar Bluff and is in a band.  His brother founded a comic book company and I see him every time we go to the Cape Comic-con.

I only recently got back in touch with Daniel, one of the twins.  He’s an over the road truck driver and is married with children.  Sadly, his brother, David, died of a brain tumor a few years back and I regret not having been able to say goodbye.  Book Six of the Adventure Chronicles will be dedicated to him.

These were my childhood friends.  They made my younger years more interesting, to be sure.  As this blog goes on, I’ll discuss my high school friends, as well.

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Cover Reveal of The Ultimate Agent by Derek Borne

#CoverReveal #TheUltimateAgent #DerekBorne #ComingSoon #SuperheroSpy

Pre-Order on Amazon here: myBook.to/UltimateAgent
Add To GoodReads TBR Here: https://goo.gl/Y0MK9K

Official Website: www.derekborne.weebly.com

Release Date: April 15, 2017

Synopsis:
WARNING: THIS MISSIVE CONTAINS CLASSIFIED INFORMATION

 

Your Mission:

Undertake an adventure of epic, global, and dire proportions.

 

Agent #524 – Devon Bertrand

Once a normal civilian, Agent Bertrand has been recruited by the Ultimate Agency—a secret organization of the world’s best spies. Now, after undergoing genetic upgrades, he has become a superhuman agent dedicated to fighting against all threats against the nation he now calls home.

 

Agent #146 – Brett Gallagher

A brilliant scientist, Dr. Gallagher invents and utilizes technologically advanced gadgets and weapons to fight against national security threats like a modern day superhero.

 

The Target – Maximus Romanov

Employed by a mysterious Russian terrorist group, Romanov is a superhuman operative wreaking havoc in the United States.

 

Mission Data – Confidential

Join Agent Devon Bertrand and Agent Brett Gallagher on a mission to stop Romanov from destroying the United States. As Bertrand and Gallagher work to discover why Maximus harbors a deep hatred toward America, they uncover a conspiracy brewing against the Ultimate Agency, and one man will make the ultimate sacrifice.

 

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