Westward in the Pandemic

In July 2020, I rode across the country from Philadelphia to Denver on my motorcycle. I had been planning to move west for more than a year but needed to sell my house in Philadelphia before I could make the change. I found a buyer, and my house went under contract in early March, just before the COVID-19 lockdown. A contract addendum allowed delay during the crisis, but by June, it was clear I had to complete the sale or risk losing money. In order to save the cost of shipping my motorcycle, I decided to ride west. What follows is an account of the journey, compiled from Facebook posts and notes I took during the ride.

July 1

I start my journey from a motel near the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL to aviation and travel buffs) because my house is empty. All my household goods, including my bed, have been sent to storage, even my camping gear. The air, at 7:30 AM, feels clammy, a weird combination of cool and very humid. But the sky is stunning, about fifty percent puffy clouds and fifty percent blue. Most of the clouds look like cotton balls, but a few heavier wads are dark with unshed moisture. As it turns out, I will thread the needle between potential storms all day and never get more than a few droplets on my windscreen.

It feels strange traveling the familiar route from Philadelphia to Altoona knowing I may never again ride in Pennsylvania. I chose to stop in Altoona because I wanted to revisit a few of my favorite train-watching locations: the Horseshoe Curve, the Gallitzin tunnels, and the train-watching platform at Cresson, PA. I have spent blissful hours taking photos of trains in these locations. Not a single locomotive appears at either the curve or the tunnels, but a mile-long consist of shipping containers rolls past the platform at Cresson as I get there.

My reluctance to leave Pennsylvania without train watching means a very long day in the saddle—nearly 12 hours, by the time I reach Wheeling, West Virginia. I take a shower, order dinner from a local Chinese restaurant, and go to bed. Make note, when ordering via Grubhub on the road, don’t forget to uncheck the box marked Save the Planet, which tells the restaurant not to pack utensils or napkins. Fortunately, the hotel staff in Wheeling saved me from slurping the beef and eggplant from the container like a hungry dog.

July 2

This morning, my route took me southwest along the Ohio River, down to Parkersburg, then west on Highway 50 to Chillicothe, Ohio. From there, I took faster roads to Bloomington, Indiana, because the mileage was a bit long.

Stopped by the side of the Ohio River, near Marietta, Ohio.

In some dystopian future, when computers decide to rebel and dispose of the irrational and irritating humans that created them, my GPS will undoubtedly be an eager recruit. My habit, on motorcycle journeys, is to decide each evening where I want to stay the next night. I pick my route, then go online to make a reservation. However, I’m too lazy to program all the curvy, indirect, and out-of-the-way roads I want to take into my GPS, so I just program the GPS with my final destination. Then I proceed to ignore all the device’s instructions until the end of the day when I’m tired, and I reluctantly allow the GPS guide me through the remaining turns to my hotel for the night. The advantage of this approach that I can see the effect on my ETA of every decision I make. The disadvantage is that I spend the day ignoring my GPS’s frantic attempts to get me to make a u-turn or go around the block. Needless to say, I ride with the voice prompts off. If on some future ride a GPS I’ve driven mad guides me off a cliff, I have to think there are worse ways to go.

Having arrived in Bloomington, I stupidly order enough pizza for two meals from the local place recommended by the clerk at the front desk. He’s right about the pizza; the handmade crust is particularly spectacular. However, my habit of spreading the cost of delivery across multiple meals makes little sense on a solo motorcycle trip. On the other hand, the hotel restaurant and bar are closed due to the pandemic, so maybe having some cold pizza for breakfast isn’t bad. If you’re ever in Bloomington and have a craving for pizza, definitely look up Aver’s Gourmet Pizza.

July 3

The portion of Highway 46 from Bloomington to Interstate 70 is verdant and hilly. After leaving Indiana, I cross the great state of Illinois on Interstate 70, as it is humid and nearly 90 degrees, and I want to leave the flat farmland behind as soon as possible. Mesh riding gear can only do so much to combat the heat.

I’d hoped to get a picture of the Mississippi River at St. Louis. But the traffic is heavy when I arrive at the Gateway to the West, and my GPS screen is tough to read in the glare from the bright morning sun. Just as I reach the bridge’s approaches, I fall among a gang of Harley-Davidson riders who were traveling in the same direction. To be honest, I startle them slightly by tucking neatly into the middle of their group when I realize that I need to be in their lane at the last minute. Most of the group doesn’t seem to mind, and I respond to more than one friendly wave.

Waving, of course, is a thing with motorcyclists. I have perfected a languid single finger technique based upon God’s figure bestowing the gift of life on Adam as depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I proceed serenely down the road, blessing my fraternal brothers and sisters on two wheels.

Just as we cross over the Mississippi, one of the Harley gang behind me decides he’s had enough of being separated from his pals, and he passes me on the right, in the same lane. Good thing I don’t drift right at that moment. Given the distractions of the traffic and GPS, I barely catch a glimpse of the muddy water below and the Gateway Arch on the far bank. Later, I calculate that it was my 22nd time crossing the great river—not including the times I’ve flown above it.

I arrive at my lodgings in Rolla, Missouri, early, avoiding the thunderstorms predicted for the afternoon, and even have time for a relaxing nap before dinner.

July 4

My Independence Day starts before dawn when I stumble out to the parking lot to load the saddle and tail bags on my Kawasaki Versys 650. Once fortified with coffee, I love to ride in the early morning. There is little traffic, the air is fresh, and I swear it even smells sweeter. It’s also the best time of day to see wildlife. There is fog in the clefts between the Missouri hills when I leave Rolla. Leaving the interstate, I turn north on Highway 7 and spy a pair of spotted fawns sporting in the tall grass beside the road. A few miles on, an enormous, bald-headed Turkey Vulture picks at a dead Armadillo. A bright red Cardinal swoops past. Later, I avoid an intrepid—or possibly suicidal—snapping turtle in the middle of the highway. He responds to my approach by retracting his head and limbs into his shell. I stop a few miles later to snap a picture of a particularly scenic creek and see more turtles sunning themselves on a submerged tree branch.

Creek bed on Highway 7, between I44 and Richland, Missouri.

Leaving Missouri, I pause in Fort Scott, Kansas, for a water break. I take a picture of the historic fort in the center of town. By 1853, the fort had been abandoned, but the Union Army reactivated it again to play a significant role in the Civil War.

Fort Scott

Back on the road, I pass through Butler County, a region famous for the beef cattle that are driven there to be fattened on the lush prairie grass, before reaching my destination for the night at Hutchinson, Kansas.

West of Fort Scott, Kansas.

July 5

After watching an excellent display of municipal fireworks from my 4th Floor motel window, I go to bed early, planning a dawn start for Colorado. Rising with the sun, I hit the road about 7:20 AM, only to find myself slowed to a crawl by dense morning fog. The moist air condenses water on my helmet visor faster than I can wipe it away, forcing me to ride with the shield raised. I creep on for 90 minutes, my frustration relieved only by the sight of a wild turkey and jackrabbits foraging beside the road. When the sun finally begins to warm my back, I am more than ready to hit the interstate. Afternoon thunderstorms are predicted for my destination of Colorado Springs, so I decide on a quick blast across Kansas. The planning pays off because the storms arrive at my motel near the Air Force Academy shortly after I do.

July 6

My first day in Colorado offers a ride I’ll remember forever: a blue sky dotted with only enough clouds to keep it interesting, a comfortable temperature, and spectacular mountain views, starting with Pikes Peak. I have traveled to Colorado for this. My route takes me west on Highway 24 to Woodland Park, where I stop for a cup of coffee and a bagel sandwich, and north on Route 77 (Tarryall Road), which I follow almost 50 miles to Jefferson, Colorado. Route 77 has to be one of the prettiest roads I have ever ridden. It passes by China Wall, a particularly spectacular peak of yellow and red rock rising above slopes of green pine, and a popular hiking destination, judging by the parking area where I stop to take pictures.

Along Route 77, between Lake George and Jefferson, Colorado.

Near Jefferson, Colorado.

From Jefferson, I turn west on Highway 285 and follow it to Highway 9. Turning north, I pass through Alma, Colorado, which at 10,578 feet, advertises itself as the highest elevation incorporated municipality in the United States. From there, I continued to the summit of Hoosier Pass, elevation 11,539 feet. Stopping for a picture, I am pleased to note that I do not suffer from altitude sickness. I remember the advice of an old fellow with whom I spoke in eastern Ohio, during a water stop. Upon hearing of my destination of Denver, he recommended that I purchase some oxygen. People get altitude sickness there, he said. You should buy oxygen. I wasn’t sure whether he expected me to carry a green bottle of compressed gas on the bike? In any case, I politely thanked him for his advice before continuing on my way.

Hoosier Pass, elevation 11,539 feet.

From the summit, my route took me down past the Breckenridge Ski Resort, and then east on my old friend, Interstate 70, over Loveland Pass. Just past Idaho Springs, I cut north on the Central City Parkway. I wanted to see the gambling town of Central City, which seems to be the Atlantic City of the West. Due to the pandemic, it seemed more ghost town than gambling haven.

Heading east again, I finish my ride with a lovely drop through Clear Creek Canyon, on Highway 6, arriving in Golden Colorado just as the day becomes hot.

On this trip, I covered 2,281 miles in six days, for an average of 380 miles per day, and passed through eight states.

On Traveling During the Coronavirus Pandemic

I wouldn’t have taken the journey during the COVID-19 pandemic if my house hadn’t already been under contract when the lockdowns started. Ultimately, I could not afford to do otherwise. On the way, I was concerned to see how inconsistently the country coped with the virus. Mask usage was spotty in every state. In some towns, restaurants were open. In others, establishments offered only takeout and delivery. Most motel staff wore masks, but many customers did not. I ate in my room at night, and I tried to wear a mask consistently when in public, but I’m no paragon. I forgot at least once. During the day, I just kept my helmet on!

Dreamspinner Sale

All my Dreamspinner Press stories are on sale right now at the Dreamspinner website. Get 35% off The Door Behind Us, my historical romance, and 25% off everything else.

Sale!

A DIY Media Center for $145

Over the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, I worked on a DIY project for my home. The idea was to create a Linux-based media center on a Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi is a tiny but remarkably powerful computer on a circuit board designed by the good folks at the Raspberry Pi Foundation (http://www.raspberrypi.org). It can run a number of different operating systems, including various Linux-based distributions and a stripped-down version of Windows 10. The original idea behind the Raspberry Pi was to create a tool that educators could use to teach young people about computers and programming languages. The official, supported, Raspbian OS is based on the Debian Jessie Linux distribution and comes with educational games, math tools, programming environments, and other software packages for children. But the low-cost computer (about $35 on Amazon) has since proved extremely popular with the DIY crowd, who have used the thing to power everything from robots, to automatic plant waterers, to magic mirrors. Search the web for “Raspberry Pi projects” and you’ll find long lists of ideas, as well as fully developed projects that people have already created using the tiny computer.

I can’t take credit for the media center idea. Many intrepid enthusiasts have been there before me and passed down their experiences in a plethora of web pages, blog posts, and YouTube videos. Moreover, I’m indebted to the many programmers and open source enthusiasts who continue to contribute their time and skills to the Kodi (https://kodi.tv/) and OSMC (https://osmc.tv/) open source projects for the software to make this work. Nevertheless, I had to solve enough problems to get the everything working in my network environment and with my particular digital resources to make the project both engaging and fun.

The end result is a pleasing graphical application that displays on my television and offers a single interface to access and organize my entire music collection, all my collected videos, my digital photographs, and streaming media from various online sources. I orchestrate it all from a small, wireless, bluetooth keyboard or an iPhone application.

The hardware and software components I purchased to create this project are listed below:

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 3 Kit with Clear Case and 2.5A Power Supply – $49.99
SanDisk Ultra 64GB microSDXC UHS-I Card with Adapter (you could do fine with a smaller one) – $14.99
Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard – $24.95
Western Digital My Passport Ultra 1TB External USB 3.0/2.0 Portable Hard Drive – $49.95

MPEG-2 license key – £2.00 GBP (from the Raspberry Pi Foundation)
VC-1 license key – £2.00 GBP (from the Raspberry Pi Foundation)

Total cost of project: $144.88

Election Season

I am finding this election more painful than any I’ve previously experienced. While negative campaigns are hardly new, this one feels different: the personal attacks are more vicious and the disinterest in reasoned debate is more blatant. In previous elections, I could imagine that most people wanted peace, economic prosperity, and opportunity for all (with maybe only a little bit more for the people like themselves), and that their arguments mostly concerned the how of it. In this election, the personal attacks have supplanted civil debate to the point where substantive policy discussions take place off the public stage.

In my lifetime, we’ve never a candidate for national office like Donald Trump. Mr. Trump’s disinterest in facts, his sociopathic disregard for social norms, his antipathy towards immigrants, Muslims, latinos, blacks, women, LGBT folk, and other groups with which he does not identify, and his ignorance of the basic mechanisms of our democracy make him unique among major party candidates. He is a disastrously bad candidate for office.

At the same time, Secretary Clinton is far from perfect. Her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state reflected poor judgement. It endangered the security of her communications and suggests that she felt entitled to disregard rules and procedures that protect the nation and the historical record. That said, the FBI has concluded her behavior was not worthy of prosecution, and I accept their judgement. Despite her behavior, I believe Clinton operates in a world that acknowledges a social contract—a world where it matters whether you tell the truth, a world where experience in government is not seen as a disqualification for governing, and where a person’s record—both good and bad—can be discussed and debated in a sensible way.

Trump throws out all rules of good behavior. He lies blatantly and constantly. One need only spend a few minutes fact-checking to determine this. He encourages racism and incites violence. He brags about abusing women. He claims a God-like capability to make the improbable happen. Building a wall between the US and Mexico and getting Mexico to pay for it would require both the cooperation of the Mexican government and a broad consensus in our own legislative branch. Neither is plausible. He seems wholly ignorant of our country’s constitutional limits on presidential power. His claims about climate change, his ability to defeat ISIS, and his ability to promote economic prosperity are not supported by any scientific data, discernible plan, or economic theory. Trump seems motivated by a pathological need for attention and acclaim. His exhibits no interest in helping others. Trump says he wants to make America great again, but his solutions will come at the expense of all Americans.

We will always have bigots and fools, demagogues and sociopaths. We will always have politicians who begin to equate power (for them) with public good. But it pains me that such a large segment of our population seems to like Trump for the very crude, bigoted, and bullying behaviors I find so abhorrent in him. They appear to prefer an angry demagogue over a statesman. I worry that frustration over our deadlocked congress and general distrust of government spurred by Republican claims about government inefficiency and incompetence have become so strong that a large number of Americans would accept a tyrant rather than trust in our the system of checks and balances defined in our constitution.

I do not understand the scorched earth attitude of some of Senator Sanders’ supporters, people who would apparently rather allow Trump to win than support Secretary Clinton. Regardless of what you think of the candidates as individuals, the policy differences between the Democratic and Republican party platforms could not be more revealing. Failing to vote out of disappointment or anger over Sanders’ loss elevates emotion over common sense, and places vengeance over concern concern for the common good.

I will vote for Secretary Clinton for president. I don’t believe we advance by suppressing the rights of immigrants. I believe Trump’s economic and tax plans will increase the gap between the rich and the poor. I believe Trump’s personal behavior and speech encourage violence and civil unrest. I will vote for Clinton knowing she is not perfect and knowing that she carries the baggage of long service in the public eye. I will vote confident that I have done the right thing.

Notes On Writing Dialog

My first drafts tend to be heavy on dialog and light on everything else. Early scenes may consist of nothing but dialog. Eventually, I go back and add description: expressions, movement, sensations, a setting. If necessary, I compose interior dialog. I consider theme. But for me, the story always lives first in what my characters say to one another.

Good dialog drives the story forward. It entertains. It explicates character. It demonstrates conflict. In a story, it always has a purpose.

Notes on Writing Dialog

Everyone has an agenda. Everyone who talks has a reason for being in the story, a purpose, or a goal they want to achieve. Some possibilities:

  • To meet an attractive person
  • To network or forward their business or career
  • To try to convince someone of something
  • To find out something

In this excerpt from Billy Goat Stats, Coach Rocker wants something from Billy, a new freshman basketball player, but he isn’t ready to explain himself, setting up the coming conflict. Not surprisingly, Billy flounders.

“I understand congratulations are due, and not just on your state win. Digger tells me you got MVP at your last game. What was it, 62 points and 18 rebounds?”

Digger, Billy gathered, was Assistant Coach Paulson. They’d met briefly at orientation.

“Yes, sir. But the other team’s point guard was injured. I’d never have made so many—”

“Hold it right there, young man. There are always circumstances. Great players know how to take advantage of them.”

“I’m really not that great—”

“At little humility can go a long way, Billy. You don’t actually want to convince people you don’t deserve your successes, do you? Tell ’em you’re something special and they’ll more than likely believe you. Muhammad Ali taught us that.”

“But he was a great boxer, wasn’t he?”

“Sure, sure.”

Coach Rocker showed Billy into his office and waved him to a chair. “So how’s your dorm? Getting settled in?”

“It’s fine.”

Billy didn’t know if it was because he’d won a basketball scholarship, but he’d been given a room in a suite with two other athletes in Brookhouse, a dorm that was only a short walk from the Athletic Center and Basketball Coliseum. The truth was, he’d rather have been nearer the quad with it’s green lawns and shaded walks, but he wasn’t going to complain.

“Meet your roommates yet?”

“One of them. Jason Pritchard? He’s a catcher, I think, from Ann Arbor. On a baseball scholarship. The other is Mike Brooks.”

“Oh, yes, promising shooting guard.” The coach seemed distracted, his eyes flicking back and forth between Billy and the small TV mounted on the wall of his office as if he wanted to catch the scores. “I’m sure you’ll get along.” Coach Rocker’s eyes returned to meet his. “Tulane Sampson is over there too. Nice guy. You have a lot in common. You should look him up.”

Billy knew who Tulane Sampson was. Everyone knew Tully Sam. He was Hoosier State’s star center. Last year he’d led the league in scoring at twenty-seven per game. He was also a black kid from New Orleans, and more significantly, a senior. What in hell did Coach Rocker think the guy would have in common with Billy, a freshman and small-town midwestern white boy who’d played point guard in high school, but would be lucky to get off the bench at Hoosier State?

“Well, thanks for stopping by, Billy. We’ll look forward to seeing you at practice.”

Billy rose, wondering why he’d been summoned to speak to the coach, only to be dismissed so soon. Maybe the coach made a point of welcoming all the scholarship students?

“You be sure and introduce yourself to Tully—421 Brookhouse. Nice guy.”

Everyone is hiding something. We all have secrets:

  • How we are feeling
  • What we really think
  • Our involvement in a crime, conspiracy, or infidelity

In this scene from The Door Behind Us, Jersey reveals more than he intends about his experience as a soldier. Frank’s blunt response is instructive.

“My mama, y’know, she picks at me ’cause she says I talk too much but don’t say nothing. She wants me to tell her about the war, because she’s got this fool idea that talking about it is gonna do me some good—make me less nervous or something. She read this story in the Current about a doctor up in Scotland who’s had some luck treating people with shell shock. They called it battle fatigue, but it’s the same damn thing. I keep telling her I’m not like the fellows she reads about, loud noises just make me nervous is all. Talk, she says. Like I’m gonna to tell her about Lieutenant Heiser getting his head sliced clean off by a machine gun. When she gets ragging on me particular hard, I think about telling her ‘bout that—just to shut her up.”

“Don’t do it.” Jersey, in his own world, was startled by Frank’s reply, and by his vehemence. He looked up to find Frank had stopped tossing fresh hay from the loft and was jabbing randomly at a fresh bale. “She won’t like it.”

“Okay, Frank,” he said, tossing off a ragged salute. “I won’t.”

Dialog is an opportunity to contrast what characters are saying with what they are thinking or feeling, this creates conflict and increases tension.

  • Physical reactions may contrast with a characters words in order to create conflict
  • Interior dialog may contrast with speech

In this scene, also from The Door Behind Us, Frank is questioned by Dr. Jones about how he came to fall off a freight train.

“You have not said how you came to be on that train or what happened to your friend, Jersey,” Jones prompted.

“The head of school, Mr. Underwood, found an address for me. My father’s parents. They were in Plainfield, but I lost the address. It was in my coat when it was stolen from me on the train. I had no money, and Jersey…chose to stay in Philadelphia, so I jumped the freight.”

The doctor’s eyes glinted from under gray eyebrows. “Did you and your friend have a falling out?” Frank had not realized he was so transparent.

“He wanted to stay at the school. There was a girl—I don’t know. He just wanted to stay. Why do you want to know about Jersey?”

“You talk of him warmly.” Agrippa opened a hand, palm up. “Then, poof, you are alone. Then you fall off train.”

“I was thrown off the train,” Frank said sharply.

“Of course, of course.” The doctor’s eyelids were half closed.

“You think I tried to kill myself.”

“No, I don’t. The idea crossed my mind. The sheriff’s too, I suspect.”

“Why would I try to kill myself?”

The doctor put his thumbs in the pockets of his vest and moved his belly gently as one would rock a baby. “There is the world as we would have it and there is the world as we find it.”

Dialog is a great opportunity—perhaps the best a writer has—to differentiate between characters. Some ways characters may contrast:

  • Language or dialect
  • Use of obscenities
  • World view
  • Class or education level
  • Favorite topic or bet noir
  • Verbal ticks
  • Listening skills—or the lack of them

In this scene from Valentine Shower, Reuben has been pining over a misunderstanding with his closest friend. His sister Yaffa comes over to see what’s up. It was Yaffa’s first appearance, so it’s important the reader get to know her.

I swallowed. “Are you here to help me or insult me?”

Yaffa smirked. “Six of one, half dozen of the other….”

“Look, it’s nice of you to come by, but I really don’t need—”

“Oh no, bro. I’ve been waiting for this ever since you reached puberty—and nothing happened. I deserve this.”

Yaffa’s high school years had been marked by unreliable boyfriends, flying hairbrushes, and salty tears. Maybe she had a point, but I wasn’t about to concede it. I chewed.

Yaffa bounced in her seat. “Come on, what is it? Girlfriend trouble? Boyfriend trouble? An online gambling addiction? That would be boring even for you. Oh no, it’s not a porn addiction? Because that’s nothing—everyone’s addicted to porn these days. You can hardly escape from it.”

“It’s not porn.”

“You know it’s okay, right, to touch yourself? Everybody does it.”

I nearly choked on the omelet. “Jesus, Yaffa. Will you give me a second to get my thoughts together?”

“You haven’t had a thought out of place since you were eight. You can’t blame me for getting excited.”

“I resent it, you know, when you talk about me like I don’t have any feelings.”
Yaffa’s glee morphed into seriousness. “Sorry, bro.”

I wasn’t fooled. “Just because I don’t choose to wave them around like a set of great pompoms.”

“Wave what around? ’Cause you know these are natural, right? I can’t help that I was born with—”

“I was talking about my feelings, not your boobs.”

“Oh, right. Never mind me. I’ve been a little sensitive since Boom Boom was born.”

“Boom Boom?”

“Yeah, Jim started calling Jack that when he started on solid food and got the worst case of gas.”

“TMI, sis.”

“Wow, you actually acknowledge that I’m your sister. I suppose I ought to be grateful—”

I was certain it was part of the nefarious plan, but I was more than ready to spill my guts, if only she would stop talking. “You win! I’ll tell you what’s going on if you promise to not to say anything for ten minutes. Ten whole minutes. Promise, or I’ll throw you out and cut my wrists.” I demonstrated with a butter knife. It was a low blow, but the omelet hadn’t kicked in, and I was still light-headed.

Yaffa pursed her lips and stared for a second. “You’re going to talk about your feelings for a whole ten minutes? You know, it might actually be worth it.”

“Just shut up, would you?”

Yaffa reached for her coffee. “Okay, bro. I’m listening.”

Writing dialog is fun, but it’s also hard work. Done well, it may near poetry-like density of meaning.

Dr. Anonymous

I’m at The Historical Society of Pennsylvania tonight to hear about Dr. Anonymous—John Fryer—who famously spoke out against the psychological profession’s classification of homosexuality as pathology at the American Psychological Association in 1972. You can find out more at the HSP website.

Author Profile at Nautical Star Books

I’m profiled today at the Nautical Star Books site. Comment or ask me a question, and I’ll reply. I might even tell you about the new book I’m working on!

Billy Goat Stats Featured in Pop Up Sale about Athletes

Billy Goat Stats, my novel about basketball players, is featured today in a special pop up sale at Dreamspinner Press that features books about athletes. You can get the novel for 35 percent off until 5 PM EST today!

http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6396

Review: Billy Goat Stats by John C. Houser

Wow! Great review!

The Novel Approach

TNA Page Turner Resized

Amazon USAmazon USTitle: Billy Goat Stats (A DIY Family Story)

Author: John C. Houser

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages/Word Count: 246 Pages

At a Glance: An outstanding novel, and one I’m delighted to share with you.

Reviewed By: Sammy

Blurb: Back from summer basketball camp and starting at Hoosier State on an athletic scholarship, Billy is looking forward to playing basketball free of pressure from his overbearing, bigoted father. Too bad he’s trading one set of problems for another. His boyfriend Jonah dumps him, expecting he’ll want to spread his wings now that he’s away from home, and the basketball program at State proves harder to navigate than he imagined.

Despite his hurt at Jonah’s treatment, Billy is not ready to give up on a relationship with the out-and-proud musician. Their geographical distance isn’t Billy’s biggest problem, since it makes it easier for him…

View original post 677 more words

Launch day for Billy Goat Stats, Second in the DIY Family Series

Today is launch day for Billy Goat Stats, the second in my DIY Family series after Music Box. I’ve described Billy Goat Stats in detail elsewhere, so I thought I’d use this opportunity to write about the DIY Family series as a whole.

Billy Goat Stats

As a gay man, I’ve long heard stories from friends and acquaintances about impossible expectations, abuse, and heartbreak—the trauma of an oppressed minority. But I’ve also seen the other side of that coin: men and women whose unconventional relationships have turned into long-term commitments, former lovers whose ongoing friendships glow with the patina of shared experience, and men whose families have redefined their qualifications for membership out of compassion or respect for freedom. These people have forged new families from the hot steel of rejection. Their battles against social convention, religious dogma, and the unfair constraints of traditional gender roles have tempered them into extraordinary people. These are the people I love, and the people I have tried to write about.

Music BoxIn Music Box, compassion drives two older men to help a younger one who is related, not by blood, but by a mutual love of music. In Billy Goat Stats, a young man finds that a successful basketball season requires that he nourish bonds between people of very different backgrounds and experience.

I have more stories to write, but I’m sure you have your own. I’d love to hear about them.