City Slicker VS Wheel bearing

What do a wheel bearing, car maintenance, and I have in common? An accident waiting to happen. Let me show you how a city slicker changes a wheel bearing.

For anyone that knows me, mechanically inclined is not how I would be described. Before joining the military, I did not know the difference between screwdrivers and how many different types of hammers there really were. I was a bookworm, and hands-on stuff was not my forte. I mean, I spent my life around books and computers. I could not only speak rough Klingon, but I could also write login scripts with my eyes closed. I mean, all that changed when I joined the military and in their infinite wisdom, saw all my computer experience and said, “This is so amazing, you’ve got such great computer and networking skills. Let’s put you in aircraft maintenance and see how those skills fair there.”

I wound up in a tech school of Egress Systems (ejection seats) with no clue what Philip’s head screwdriver was. I survived the nightmare there (barely) and made it to my base where I then spent six years perfecting my knowledge of ratchets, sockets, torque wrenches, and my favorite, the rubber mallet. (It’s great to threaten your junior airmen with).

For the past few months, my car’s left wheel bearing had been going bad, making a rough grinding noise that was deafening above fifty-five miles per hour. I could sense the tension in the axle and my gas mileage had become crap. I knew something had to be done, but I could not afford to take it to a garage. The last garage I took it to cost me three hundred and fifty dollars to replace them.

So, like the fool I am, I told myself, “I’ve seen it done, I can do this myself. I’ve got YouTube and my father in law if I hit a snag. Hell, I’ve even worked on F-15s!” Yeah, I did not hear the stupidity coming out of my brain.

It was a bright Sunday morning when I trudged outside with my brand new wheel bearing from Advanced Auto parts, my father in law’s tools, and optimistic hope that would have blinded the sun if it was not hidden behind the clouds. Taking my wheel jack out of the trunk, I began to manually heft my blue cirrus off the ground excited to rip that wheel off and switch out that wheel bearing. I would be done before breakfast. As I pulled the wheel off, that’s when I encountered the brake caliper.

So, it seems that in my excitement, I had completely forgotten that the wheel bearing was buried between the axle and the brake rotor. I stared at the dirty, taunting piece of equipment that I was not expecting, sure it was mocking me with its dirt and rust stained exterior.

Fumbling around with it, I made a choice (wisely) to pull out my phone, find some shade so I could see the screen (since the sun had come out to mock me) and spent fifteen minutes going through YouTube trying to find a caliper removal video that made sense. Once discovering that it was only two screws that held it in place, I grabbed my sockets, found the size and began to wrench that bugger off.

For the next five minutes, it was pretty smooth sailing. The clicking sound of the wrench set going, my son asking me “what is this?” for the millionth time, and the sun starting to make my back itch with sweat. Pulling off the caliper and the rotor was simple. There was a cotter pin holding on the nut, and that was going to be a cinch. Cotter pins are the lifeblood of egress techs, that and stringing together curses in colorful ways while trying to remove the parachute mortar from the frame.

‘I just need to remove this cotter pin gently, and I can re-use it.’ CRACK! ‘Okay, I’m going to need a new cotter pin. Where the hell do I buy cotter pins?’

I also realized that I did not have the socket big enough to remove the nut holding the wheel bearing in place. I had a 28mm, but it seemed to be a 32mm that was needed. Sending my little boy inside so I could swear audibly, I began to hammer at the nut trying different methods to get it to loosen. Pliers, plumbers wrench, me threatening to find a blow torch, I did everything. Finally, my father in law showed me mercy, and we hopped in his car and sped to Advanced Autoparts to use their rent a tool program. We were also able to successfully hunt down cotter pins at a local tractor repair store I did not know about.

By the time I got home with all my equipment, even a few extra tools I had thought I would need, it had taken me another hour to find a way to break the torque on the nut. It was supposed to be hand tight but was actually stupid tight to the point I had to stand on the long wrench handle and press my weight down to finally get the sucker to release.

Another thirty minutes fighting the 7/16th long bolts in the back (after discovering they were replaced by a different type of bolt and so the torque set I bought was a waste), I finally had the taunting wheel bearing in my hands.

In the end, it was late afternoon by the time I lowered the car back onto its re-attached wheel and had the pleasure to discover that the right-hand wheel bearing was also bad and needed to be replaced. My foray into home done car maintenance was enough to make me swear it off to never do it again.

And I was going to do it until the oil light came on and told me that I needed to get it changed. Staring at the car, sun gleaming brightly off of it, I had sighed and clicked on my phone. Oil changes were not hard were they? Actually, there are quite some different types of oils and filters and being overwhelmed, called it a day and went inside.

So, that’s it, my first in-depth car maintenance and it brought back all the reasons that I hated maintenance and tools including the busted knuckles and smashed fingers. Thank goodness there wasn’t safety wire. Would have probably bled out from all the cuts. For all of you who like doing your own car maintenance, with respect, you are frickin’ nuts.

 

 

The Ivory Child (1916) Review

The Ivory ChildThe Ivory Child by H. Rider Haggard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I take all the H. Rider Haggard books that I have read, The Ivory child stands out to me as one that almost unseats Allan Quatermain as my favorite of his works. The Ivory child was an amazingly told story about two ancient religions and their symbols fighting each other and Allan was only there with a friend to try and save the man’s wife.

It had everything you had come to expect from a Haggard novel, but this book had even more including references to previous books of him, and they came together in a beautiful finale.

As with many of Haggard’s books, there can be a lot of monologuing, but I found it sparse and easy to get through in this novel. It is especially fun if you have already read Allan and the Holy Flower as there are discussions and re-occurring characters from that story.

I am giving this book five stars because I feel that it is a five-star book and I look forward to reliving that adventure again one day.

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She (1887) Review

She (She, #1)She by H. Rider Haggard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have been a fan of H. Rider Haggard’s work for quite a number of years though my reading of his works have been limited. For a time, I absolutely loved his King Solomon’s Mines and the sequel Allan Quartermain. When I discovered that the books were available in audiobook from from librivox.org, I had to download the other ones and read through them.

This book, She, has been on my list for quite sometime knowing that it has influenced many other writers like C.S. Lewis’ Queen Jadis and “She who must be obeyed” has been a line used in a few movies.

I found this book to be a rip-roar adventure just like H. Rider Haggard’s other works but found the story weaker than his other works. Ayesha was characterized very well and I thought the character was very fascinating. The problem I had the most was the ending. Though I won’t go into detail, it felt like the writer had accidentally designed a too powerful character and had to use a dues ex machina to solve the story beat.

This book is fascinating to read in the collection of imperial Victorian literature of the time and though our modern perceptions have changed and can consider this book racist, I found that H. Rider Haggard had kept it to a minimum focusing more on a story in Africa than anything else. If you can look past these, I think you will find a very interesting story.

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The Stories of 2017 – Where are They?

Over the year, since I released both Sword of Shadows and Kaon Rising, I have been working hard on getting some more stories told. Life has been very hectic on me which in turn has not given me much time to work on them. I thought it was time to give you an update on what to expect for the rest of the year.

Jassik Creed & the Meek Prince
Yes, I am still developing this one, and there is only 20% left to do on the first draft. There is still editing to be done, so I’m not looking at a release until December of this year. All the art is done, and I am hoping to release samples of it in the future!

Star Traveler 2: Dead in Space
This story went really well but hit a few snags that I was not anticipating both with my work schedule and with some plot issues I did not catch on the outline. 60% of the story is written, and I’m hoping to have the rest done by September of this year

Blood in Space: Harvest
I love this story, but it doesn’t love me. I keep struggling with getting it on paper due to writer’s block. I know there is something subconscious that I need to fix, but it has yet to come to me when I write it. I get to put a few words on paper when I have a moment, but it sits only 40% done. I do want to finish it because I thoroughly enjoy this one but it might not be until January of next year.

Ending
I have a whole bunch of other stories I want to write, and I might release them here and there when the energy hits me, but the biggest part that I have been fighting is writer’s block due to the stress and exhaustion from my job. I just find myself sitting at a computer screen staring at the words wishing the great ideas I just had would finally come out. Have no fear, I haven’t given up yet, and I will get these done. I love them, and they each hold a special part of my heart.

The Castle of Otranto (1764) Review

The Castle of OtrantoThe Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I first stumbled on to this title while perusing the Librivox archive and the title caught my eye. I was not quite sure what I was getting myself into, and it turned out to be one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read.

I’m not sure if the writer intended for all the hi-jinks and it could simply be the way modern, twenty-first-century eyes look at the novel. Walpole wrote the book in the 1700s, and the melodrama could have been the standard of the time. I found the way that everything seemed to tie into each other and invariably hit a snag gave meaning to the phrase plot twist.

Only later did I find out when I did a bit of research that the book is considered the grandfather of Victorian Gothic romance and I can see why. Almost every trope and stereotype is featured.

Once you get past the old English, the book became quite enjoyable, and it held my attention through to the end.

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The Thing From the Lake (1921) Review

The Thing From the LakeThe Thing From the Lake by Eleanor Marie Ingram
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When I first picked up this title, I did it only because the title sounded interesting and unusual for books from the 1920s. I have a personal like for the older literature as it gives you an interesting look into our past.

The Thing From the Lake was a book that caught me off guard. I found the story to be very intriguing once you have gotten to the 20s style of flowery words and digressions in thought that would typically be cut out of books today.

I found that this book read to me like one of the first types of supernatural/science fiction type stories where what you would expect doesn’t turn out the way you thought. I was completely caught off by the (good) ending.

The book has some things that could be considered issues nowadays. As it was written in the 1920s, the opinion and way women are portrayed my strike a wrong chord with the modern reader. Though Ms. Ingram does well of giving her female leads personality, they do conform more of the cute, need-to-be-rescued type damsels though they do have action of their own and aren’t “sexy lamps” that could be easily replaced.

I enjoyed this book and look forward to rereading it one day.

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Writing My Stories…One Step at a Time.

Lately, I have not really had much to say. Life has been pretty bumpy for me as I am moving positions in the company that I work for. It is only one point of stress that I have in my life presently, and so writing has taken a backseat.

It really sucks when you do not have the energy to do the thing that you love. While I am at work, I always come up with these fantastic ideas that would be great on paper but as soon as I get home, family life takes over. Once that is done, there is the choice of sleep or writing, and many times I have to choose sleep.

It irks me that I have to keep pushing back the release dates on the two novellas I want to release this year, and right now, I’m staring into oblivion trying to find the time to finish them. Am I just complaining for the sake of complaining? No.

The point I’m trying to get to in a roundabout way is that the only thing that keeps my hope up that the novellas will come out. To want the next story to be told is how much I love writing and that even when the ideas just sit and fester in my brain, there will be a time to get it out. I mean, just writing this blog post that in the most amiable term is a rambling accident still smoldering.

I love writing and if there is any takeaway to this, do not give up on your writing even when the times are at their worst. The best thing you can do is find a way to transfer your idea in tangible form. Sitting right next to me is an index card holder that has my anchor scenes and plot points for a new novel I want to write. It’s being done one card at a time, but the great part is that it’s being done.

You have any tips on how to get through these times? If you do, why not leave me a comment below and let me know what you’re thinking. We writers need to stick together, and any help would be greatly appreciated.

Keep writing!

 

Trying to Unblock that Stupid Writer’s Block

Sometimes writer’s block is not a strong enough word to explain the suffering that a writer can experience when they hit a snag in the road. This has been the case for me since I released the first Star Traveler book. Since then, I have tried to force myself to write on the novella, and the pain has become unbearable at times.

For many of us, writer’s block is not a stop in the path. It can be an excruciatingly painful feeling that wells up in our chest and cause the anxiety to become stronger. This very blog post that I am writing is an attempt to unclog a sense with words but not on the project that is stressing me out.

I want to write, I am desperate to write, but this invisible block bottles up everything until I feel like I’m going explode. The problem I think that is the hardest to swallow is that I cannot figure out what causes these stop up of creativity and is the biggest stress of them all.

I honestly think we need a stronger word to explain the suffering and the pain writers go through like Writer’s Terror or something along that line.

Oh, well. All I can do is hope that this blog post helped relieve some of the pressure and maybe, just maybe, I can get back to the story that I want to write.

Thanks for listening to me.

Dead in Space – Sample Chapter!

I know it has been quite a while since I have had time to submit a blog post but life on in the real world has kept me pinned to the wall. For that I am sorry. Though this post itself is going to be short, I do have something to give to you.

Here is the first chapter for the upcoming Dead in Space, book 2 of the Star Traveler Series. Interested in a sneak peak of what you can expect? Then head on over and download the file!

Book #2 of the Star Traveler Series

I hope to get back to regular posting soon so thank you for your patience!

Short Story: The Witch-Queen and her King

The fight that ended their friendship also happened to break the realm. A girl stood on the edge of the chasm she’d opened in the earth and glared across the gap at her best friend’s retreating back. His knights closed in around him and she turned away, not willing to be caught staring. She stalked away from the gash as ash and cinders rained down around her.

The King moved the kingdom’s capital further north, hoping to avoid the worst of the environmental fallout. The landowners in the south moved their loyalty to the newly-crowned Witch-Queen in response to her promises to keep their land fertile. The kingdom slowly tore itself apart as everyone chose a side.

It was quiet for years, as resentment built on either side. The north was bright and cold. The peasants shivering and exhausted from their labors as they tried to pull life from the frozen ground. The south was dark and the sun’s heat built up underneath the ash that covered the sky. Magic flowed in the shadowed land, cruel and capricious. People there were well-fed but angry at the injustice in the land.

It was quiet for years, until all at once it wasn’t. Glares and whispered insults erupted into full-out violence over the smallest provocation. The villages on the borders were lost to the war, refugees flooding into the capital cities.

The Witch-Queen filled the ranks of her army with conscripted magic users. The King filled his with battle-hardened knights. The first official battle was forecast to be a nightmare of cold steel and fireballs. Soon after the battle had begun, though, the Witch-Queen herself waded into the melee. After calling her sorcerers to stop casting, she raised her arms and the bright sky dimmed slowly until it was as dark as night. The southern army was used to the dark, but the northern knights were not. They tried to hold their ground, but soon fled the field, led by their King.

An aide whispered to the Witch-Queen in the quiet aftermath, “How did you know they would retreat?”

“Because he’s always been afraid of the dark,” came the whispered reply.

In the second battle, the northern army came prepared with hundreds of torch-bearers. But that wasn’t what stopped the southern army in shock. They were startled, rather, by the salmon-pink paint coating every piece of armor. A horrible screech of anger rose from the middle of the southern army. The wind picked up unnaturally, swirling through both camps. Dirt and debris flew through the air until no one could see two feet in front of them. Both sides retreated some, afraid they would attack their own in the chaos. When the wind died down, every combatant had been so coated in dirt, they were impossible to tell apart. They shot stray arrows and fireballs at each other from a distance, but eventually gave up and retreated, calling the battle a draw.

The King watched as a depleted Witch-Queen was carried from the battlefield. His second-in-command stood beside him and shook his head in bewilderment.

“I can’t believe you were right. She really hates pink.”

.The nobles on both sides attempted to begin peace talks.The monarchs and their entourages met at a castle near the border. A peace treaty was composed, with excruciating slowness as scribes were forced to run from one solar to the other as the royals refused to actually see each other. A final dinner party was arranged by the Witch-Queen to accompany the final signings of the treaty.

The King sauntered into the dining hall with a cocky grin. It disappeared as he stood looking at the stuffed pig on the feast table. Color drained from his handsome face, then flooded back as he shouted.

“You SWORE! You swore you would never bring it up!” He grabbed his nearest nobles by their cloaks and dragged them back towards the door. “The treaty is OFF!”

The Witch-Queen had just entered the hall from another door and stared disconcertedly between the stuffed pig and retreating king.

“Oh dear.”

“But, your majesty, didn’t the king’s brother prepare the menu?”

“Yes. Oh, this isn’t good.”

The Northern Kingdom took its King’s insult to heart, though no one was quite sure what the actual insult had been. The King’s brother fled to the south and was assumed to be a traitor rather than just a jackass.

The Witch-Queen’s guards were all sent to the stocks when her pet bird was discovered missing, a taunting note left in its cage. “You always did leave your windows open at night.” A few months later, a new type of coin was minted in the north with a figure of a canary stamped on one side.

In retaliation, the southern army was ordered to set up barricades to stop all trade of cocoa into the northern kingdom. Food and other trade caravans were let through, but all cocoa products were confiscated and burned in great piles on the border to torment the chocolate-loving King.

The unrest in both kingdoms continued, and fights broke out often among the few people still living near the borders. The armies, however, seemed to be occupied more with winning a giant staring contest than actually going to war. Spies in both courts were kept busy with the tasks ordered by their respective royals, but the tasks tended towards inconvenience and annoyance rather than true sabotage (one spy in the Northern capital was put in the dungeons after getting caught hiding dead fish in crannies all over the castle).

Harvest came and both monarchs were forced to dismiss the majority of their armies to gather crops. Winter soon followed, and the conflict dwindled down to insults carried by royal couriers. Everyone dreaded the spring, when the war was sure to start again.

The neighboring kingdoms had stayed out of the struggle thus far, but an enemy was gathering to the north. They attacked the northern kingdom during planting season, while the army was scattered in the fields. A wave of refugees poured over the border and were quickly taken in by their southern neighbors. The capital was taken and the King captured within a fortnight.

The messenger who brought news of the King’s capture wasn’t sure what to expect from the Witch-Queen. Perhaps joy for the defeat of her enemy, or fear for the coming armies? Instead, she stood, burning with fury and ordered her generals to be gathered. The army was already pouring in, the planting taken over by northern refugees.

The army marched at dawn the next day, the Witch-Queen riding at the front. The weather reflected the Queen’s displeasure and the air crackled with electricity. The march north took a few weeks, and northern soldiers who had been scattered quietly joined the column.

The invading battalion wasn’t expecting much resistance. Their first strike had been a complete rout, and all their intelligence informed the command that there should be no support from surrounding kingdoms. When a full army showed up, they were surprised and quite confused. It was a rather ragtag army, full of angry sorcerers and knights in dirty pink armor. And in front of them all was a young woman with power sparking off her skin.

“I am the Witch-Queen,” came her amplified shout, “and you will turn over the asshole…I mean the King.”

The invaders laughed uneasily and refused. The battle was quick and brutal, with the sorcerers raining fire down on the invaders’ heads and the queen opening up the ground under their feet. The enemy couldn’t get close to the magic users to stop them as the pink knights formed a solid wall around the ranged fighters.

When the bulk of the invaders had been destroyed, the Witch-Queen rode in with a detachment of both knights and sorcerers to storm the command center.

“What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to rescue you, dumbass.”

“I don’t need to be rescued!”

“Fine, stay there then.”

“…Wait!”

“What?”

“…Thank you.”

“…You’re welcome.”

It took a lot of work to repair the damage that had been done, both to the world and to the people. A lot of apologies on both sides, magic and hard work. Both monarchs offered to resign in recompense, but the people wouldn’t hear of it. They did insist on merging the kingdoms again, though. There was a long period of debate about who would rule, but in the end it was easily settled with a royal wedding.

There was no easy happily ever after for anyone in the realm, but there were plenty of good times. Trade flourished between the north and south so resources were distributed evenly. They built a full-time army made of both magic users and knights, and every single troop wore salmon-pink armor or robes. The currency was all changed to feature a canary rather than choose one of the royal faces. Stuffed pig was never allowed on the royal menu, but there was always plenty of chocolate.

The King and Witch-Queen’s arguments were legendary and common, but they limited the damage to their own apartments and both had learned to apologise. They had each learned the dangers of arrogance and stubbornness, and each valued the other too much to risk losing them.

The great chasm that the Witch-Queen had ripped in the earth remained untouched as a reminder of the dangers of pride. Of course the meaning was lost within a generation and it became just another tourist attraction. But the story of the Witch-Queen and her King was never completely forgotten.