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Friday, September 26, 2008

Humorous Scene Tryout

This is from an erotic novel I completed, and have been working on edits with, using December Quinn’s insights into writing erotica from her blog site. The novel brings forth the Arthurian legend into the present with a very quirky, funny group. In this scene, Lancelot, Viviane (the Lady of the Lake), Merlin, and the young Arthur are brought together after a thousand years. Lancelot has been the only member of the group to have endured the entire millennia on earth. It's supposed to be a funny scene with Lancelot and Viviane meeting up with Arthur for the first time, after picking him up at school. :)

“Arthur is highly intelligent, and has handled the onslaught of his first visions with courage,” Merlin explained. “He doesn’t make friends easily, and he’s rather hard to get along with. They advanced him three grades, which didn’t help the situation with his making friends. Arthur seems to have a photographic memory, and an uncanny ability to grasp adult concepts. He can read and speak as well as many adults. You will find Arthur’s language a bit abusive. It’s a defense mechanism he uses far too often. What worked the first time around for encouragement, makes little impact on the boy this time. Arthur didn’t have the stunning impact of all this outside stimuli a thousand years ago. Where once I could move him to greatness with simple guidance, this modern environment leads him astray.”

“How much have you told him?” Lancelot asked.

“So much he thinks I’ve gone around the bend. I’ve shown him some of what I can do; because frankly, the little turd told me one day to fuck off.”

“You zapped him?” Viviane chuckled appreciatively.

“I merely showed him I could and would make him follow my rules,” Merlin replied. “He will test us. That’s why I’m so happy we are all together. I need help.”

“An eight year old beards the powerful Merlin in his own den,” Viviane clasped her hands in front of her in prayer like fashion, and looked up with eyes closed. “Oh, thank you, Lord. I love this kid already.”

“I hope you enjoy young Arthur as much after you meet him,” Merlin stated with a knowing look, Lancelot saw in the rear view mirror, as he looked for the old man to take offense.


“Hey, who ordered the hooker,” the boy asked, peering into the Pontiac as Merlin guided him over from the entrance to the school.

“Why you…” Viviane reached for the door handle, only to be stopped by Lancelot’s hand. “Watch your mouth, Doogie, or growing up will be the least of your worries.”

Arthur laughed, as Merlin went around and entered the Pontiac from the other side, leaving the boy to enter from the curb side. Lancelot looked the boy over with excitement. He had been waiting a thousand years to be reunited with the man who had died at Camlann in his arms. Arthur wore his hair long, straight, and ruffled, the light brown strands hanging over his forehead. His face, grinning in the peevish way of pre-adolescent boys, used to getting their own way, stared in at Lancelot and Vivian with glee. Arthur was thinly built, almost gangly, in Lancelot’s thinking as he watched the boy slide into the rear seat next to Merlin. Arthur smiled hugely at Vivian, reaching forward to touch her hair after closing the Pontiac door.

“Do your tricks pay more for red hair?” Arthur asked innocently.

Again, Lancelot grabbed Viviane, who had launched toward the boy with hands in claw-like fashion, while Arthur simply leaned away, laughing in delight. Merlin shook his head, wondering if this was the torment allowed for past wrongs done to Camelot and its King.

“Let me go, Monte!” Viviane hissed out the order through clenched teeth as she strained against Lancelot’s easily maintained hold on her.

“Calm down, Viviane,” Lancelot urged, seeing their initial meeting was drawing the interest of the kids and parents passing by. “We don’t need a scene right now.”

“Monte… Monte?” Arthur leaned forward again as Vivian collapsed back into her seat angrily. “Whose the mook with the sissy English name, Merlin?”

“I will warn you only once, Arthur,” Merlin stated, staring down the boy, who calmed immediately at Merlin’s tone. “Ride silently until we arrive at our place, where I will make introductions. Do you understand?”

Arthur nodded reluctantly. He gave Viviane a little wave when she looked back, complete with his hand formed as if gripping something, and making in and out movements with it to his open mouth. The ensuing scuffle between Lancelot and Viviane took five full minutes, as Viviane attempted a full out assault into the back seat. Lancelot retained a solemn look on his face as he handled Viviane; but the nasty edge to the boy gave him hope, rather than disappointment. If trained properly, this boy would be a man to be reckoned with. After convincing Viviane her rage would have to be harnessed for another time, Lancelot exchanged a look of understanding with Merlin. He drove them to Merlin’s building, where the mage maintained a group of suites for him and the boy.

Merlin guided Lancelot into his own private parking lot, and next to an already parked limousine. The group exited the Pontiac, Lancelot gripping Viviane’s arm in a final silent warning. She gritted her teeth and nodded in compliance. Arthur, dressed in a school uniform of navy blue pants, white shirt, and blue windbreaker, skipped around Merlin as if unable to keep still. Lancelot’s size stopped the boy in his tracks, as he gazed up at his former First Knight.

“Holy crap, Merlin, you got me my own private troll? Wow… Shrek, say something… how’d Merlin coax you out from under your bridge?”

Lancelot laughed, evoking a look of confusion from the boy, who was unaccustomed to adults taking anything but offense at his verbal barbs. Viviane looked at Lancelot with annoyance, having assumed he would kick the crap out of the boy. Merlin observed the sparring with interest, assuming rightly Lancelot took the banter as easy penance for sins committed centuries ago.

“Hello… Shrek…” Arthur waved at Lancelot, “You don’t have a little talking donkey do you?”

“Not until now,” Lancelot quipped, prompting laughter from both Viviane and Merlin.

Arthur’s face reddened, and his mouth tightened in a childlike rage. Lancelot stuck his hand out toward Arthur.

“I’m James Lancelot Benwick, Arthur. You knew me simply as Lancelot when you once were my King and friend centuries ago.”

Arthur stared at the huge hand outstretched toward him. The bitterness and angst built up within him melted away. He gripped the man’s hand in his own small one. The two shook solemnly.

“I… I’m sorry about razzing you, Lancelot,” Arthur said finally, releasing Lancelot’s hand, and then gesturing at Viviane with outstretched thumb. “So, who’s the hooker?”

Arthur was in full flight toward the elevator by the time Viviane gasped and started in pursuit. Lancelot caught her up before she could take a step.

“Oh my, for a moment there I thought perhaps we could have peace,” Merlin opined while Lancelot gripped the growling, squirming Viviane.

“We’ll have peace, old man,” Viviane blurted out in a frenzy of movement as she tried to detach herself from Lancelot. “I’m going to bitch slap Doogie Howser till his eyeballs pop out.”

“Will you calm down?” Lancelot ordered, shaking Viviane finally with enough ardor to get her undivided attention. “You’re being baited by an eight year old, Viv. Young Arthur’s reeling you in every time he throws a line out. Get a grip.”

Lancelot saw his words were having an effect. Viviane broke into a smile, as Lancelot released her, nodding in agreement.

“The little dweeb is making a fool out of me.”

“He nailed me pretty good too, Vivian,” Merlin added, “and I had much the same reaction. I kept expecting instant respect. I found out quickly, his respect will have to be earned.”

“We can beat him, right?” Viviane asked hopefully. “I beat Lancelot, and it didn’t do him any harm.”

“I was irrevocably damaged,” Lancelot hung his head, pretending deep pain.

“Yea, right,” Viviane remarked, looking toward where Arthur was dancing around by the elevator. Arthur waved at her.

“No, we aren’t going to beat him, Viviane,” Merlin said, as the three walked together toward the elevators. “I like his spirit. It will serve him well. I believe it has already helped him deal with the night terrors his visions have begun to cause.”

“Hey, Shrek, did you rearrange the bimbo’s face,” Arthur called out as they approached, disregarding any bonding he might have felt in shaking Lancelot’s hand. “She tried to stiff you on her last trick, didn’t she?”

“Is he like this all the time?” Lancelot asked, gripping Vivian’s arm, as her whole body tensed involuntarily.

“You two are the first adults other than his instructors he’s actually interacted with,” Merlin replied. “He doesn’t do these verbal eviscerations with them because I made it plain to him it would be very bad.”

“You zapped him,” Viviane accused Merlin, pointing her finger at him disparagingly.

“Not exactly,” Merlin disagreed. “I took all his privileges away for two weeks: TV, video games, computer, everything. He barely survived.”

“Yea, but that was when he told you off and you zapped him, right?” Viviane pressed Merlin without hesitation.

“Yes,” Merlin admitted, as they neared Arthur. Merlin activated the elevator from the keypad, and the doors opened.

“He really did a number on you, Vicky,” Arthur commented with false concern, peering up into Viviane’s face. “Don’t mess with Shrek, baby. Do your business and pay up.”

Lancelot snatched Arthur up in one fist, the boy’s shirt and windbreaker ripping slightly on Arthur’s quick ascent into the air. In a split second, the boy was staring into Lancelot’s grim face, his mouth working without words. Lancelot shook him gently.

“We must show respect for each other, young Arthur. I know not where you learned to be so abusive, but we will not abide your continued insults. We have a long way to go together. The four of us have an important destiny to fulfill. Will you give us a chance to earn your respect, or will you force us to earn your fear?”

Arthur looked around to Merlin and even Vivian. Merlin had turned away the moment Lancelot intervened. Viviane met his appealing look with one of smiling appraisal. Arthur quickly returned his attention to Lancelot.

“I…I’m afraid already,” Arthur conceded haltingly.

Lancelot grinned. “That’s good. It shows intelligence. Our story, I’m sure, is a little farfetched for you to accept. Hear us out, boy, we have only your wellbeing in our hearts.”

“Can I talk… from the ground?”

Lancelot lowered Arthur to the elevator floor.

“After Merlin explained who he was, and… and who I’m supposed to be, I studied Camelot and the Round Table legend,” Arthur said, glancing around at the adults encircling him. “As I understand it… I got hosed.”

In seconds, all three adults were laughing so hard tears were streaming down their faces, as Arthur watched what his comment provoked with satisfaction. Lancelot gripped the boy’s shoulder affectionately after a few moments.

“Just tone down the verbal attacks, okay?”

“Sure, Shrek, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” Arthur grinned up at Lancelot, and winked at Viviane. “Think you could give me a freebie, Vicky?”

Viviane grabbed the boy by the ear, and then turned him on his tiptoes, searching for something with her free hand. “Where’s the on/off switch, Merlin? I know there has to be one.”

“Sor…sorry,” Arthur gasped, his hands out, trying to keep his balance. “Don’t pull my ear off, Vicky!”

Vivian released the boy reluctantly, as Merlin pushed the elevator button for their floor.

Arthur rubbed his ear, looking at Viviane accusingly. “Holy crap… Vicky… I didn’t think you…”

“Careful boy,” Lancelot broke in with a warning finger. “I’m not intervening anymore on your behalf. I’ll let Vic… Viviane, give you an attitude adjustment I doubt you’ll forget.”

“You three need to lighten up,” Arthur complained. “I have a genius IQ, and now I’m teamed up with an Alzheimer patient, a troll, and a beat-up hooker: all of whom screwed me a thousand years ago. Cut me some slack.”

“Can we at least gag him?” Viviane pleaded.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


I started thinking about query letters, because so much has been written about them lately in very instructive fashion. Ever since I read the guideline is don’t go beyond 250 words, I began wondering what happens if I do? It takes a Lotus 123 database sheet to keep all the rejections straight for me now, so I don’t do any repeaters on the six manuscripts I have out there. Maybe adding another hundred words couldn’t hurt. I know what you’re thinking. If he can’t hook someone with 250 words, it’s not the letter, it’s the material, or his incompetent 250 words. :) I’m not so sure. Anyway, that’s beside the point. Do any of you think an agent or publisher notices instantly if an extra fifty to a hundred words were added to the stone tablet law of 250 words? Have any of you strayed from the Query Commandment? Just curious. :)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hoppingmad II

Not every story with a harsh beginning ends badly here. I thought it would be nice to conclude Ms. Hoppingmad’s story from a few days ago with the unusual happy ending. She brought in the 1998 Cad for me to replace the blower motor pictured above. The rascal costs more than $400 by itself. The good news for she and I was after the new blower motor was in place, I found nothing wrong with the cold air blowing out from the vents. Her AC system thankfully worked fine. Ms. Hoppingmad endured the process of dropping the Cad off and picking it up later stoically; but also politely. Patience and anger management really does work, for me as well as Ms. Hoppingmad. There, the auto repair shop version of a HEA. :)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I answered the phone again with one of those customers I like to call browbeaters on the other end. If they insult you enough, they figure you’ll take on the job you’ve already declined. This technique must work occasionally for someone, because it’s sure been tried out on me enough. The one this afternoon was really laughable. The phone rang, and it was Browbeater.

“How much for a fuel pump job on a 1968 Porsche?”

“I’m sorry, I don’t work on any European vehicles, Sir.” Thank God! For all those who don’t know, the holy European car Gods don’t share well with others when it comes to proprietary information. Also, they ask me to fix the odd Volvo, BMW, etc. only after they’ve been quoted thousands at the dealer, but they want me to just patch it up. Add the fact I only get asked about once every other Full Moon, and no thanks, I’ll pass.

“What!?” Browbeater exclaims with incredulity.

He probably believes I wait breathlessly each day of my life to catch a glimpse of what I’m sure is his classic. To turn down the opportunity of actually touching the blessed chariot of the Gods makes Browbeater apoplectic.

“Is this actually a repair shop for cars?”

I’m smiling; because it’s a familiar song, and I’ve got rhythm. “It has been for the thirty-two years I’ve been here; and I have it on good authority the Nilson Brothers fixed cars and trucks here from 1949 to 1976 when I was hired.”

“Then you don’t work on cars anymore?”

“Not European ones,” I’m not in a rush, so I’ll play.

“I have the fuel pump.” Oh Goody! “I want you to just slap it on for me.”

“No.” A minute ago I was incompetent. Now… I’m so good, with a quick slap, his Porsche will be wearing a new fuel pump.

“I’ll drive over. When you get a look at it, you’ll…”


“Why the hell not?!”

“It’s a European car, and I don’t…”

“Damn it… it’s a classic,” Browbeater persists.

“Look, I’m sure there are European repair shops around here. Why not go through the yellow pages? You can…”

“They want over a hundred dollars just to check it! I don’t want it checked! I want the fuel pump put on!”

“It is the policy of most professional places to only quote a job on a vehicle like yours after checking it out, and they can’t do it for free,” I explain.

I won’t bother typing out symbols for two sentences to relay how happy Browbeater was with me, so let’s just say BB bid me adieu, and hung up.

My friends, it has been my experience, if you are not a vehicle repair shop owner, buying a ‘Classic’ without the intent of doing all repairs needed yourself, is a very bad idea. It may seem like a dream come true; but it’s really a heartbreaker. :)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Honda Balance Shaft Seal Pop Out

Popped Out Balance Shaft Seal

New Balance Shaft Seal With Retainer In Place

Honda recalled their 1994-1997 Honda Accords for the balance shaft seal popping out, and flooding oil into the front timing case area. I realized for years after installing the balance shaft seal retainer on Honda Accords even up to 2002, Honda still hadn’t incorporated their own fix from the factory: a small retainer plate costing between two and three dollars. Each time I’ve done one of these timing belt and balance shaft belt jobs, I install all Honda parts, including the add-on retainer plate. If Honda already acknowledges a problem with this, I can’t understand why the retainer plate was not installed from the factory.
A new customer came in last week with oil pouring out of the front case. It was a 2001 Honda Accord with 2.3 Liter V-Tech engine. It had nearly 180,000 miles on it, but had been well cared for at another shop. The customer showed me the invoice for changing the timing belt and balance shaft belt at 90,000 miles, asking me of course if this were related. In a way it was. I believe Honda continues sending these out without a retaining plate over the balance shaft seal; because they know it will last for at least 90,000 miles, and then they’ll install the retainer when servicing the timing and balance shaft belts. If an unsuspecting independent shop services the customer’s car, unaware Honda still has the balance shaft seal pop out problem, it could end tragically for the customer. I know people are still picking up this very nice Accord used from the years 1994 – 2002 with either the 2.2 or 2.3 liter engines. The balance shaft seal problem should be investigated when buying one of these, or getting your timing and balance shaft belts replaced. The balance shaft retainer plate should be in place or if missing, it should be installed. Also change the water pump whenever doing the timing belt no matter what. Use Honda parts only in this vital area. 

That’s all for this update, but if you’re appreciative of the information, here is a link to my new novel COLD BLOODED for Nook and Kindle. If you’re kind enough to read it and like it, please review it on the site you purchase it from. Thank You! Every little bit helps my writing gig. :)

Friday, September 19, 2008


I happily caught up on my accounting and database chores in the backroom today, having purposely given the ancient mariner mechanic who works in the shop, and leers at me in the mirror every morning, a break. I can do this because I work alone, without any help from the ‘Sonny Crockett’ types like the guy who came in job hunting yesterday. As I printed out a new batch of business cards a 1998 Cadillac drove in. Those are nice looking cars, but they have a number of common breakdowns, which are very expensive to fix. A middle aged lady hopped out the driver’s side door, hopping mad. I could tell this because her face looked as if she had spent the last five minutes sucking on a very tart lemon. She glared at me, and then reached in to pop the hood. Hands on hips, Ms. Hoppingmad stalked around to meet my approach.

“Hi, can I…”

“I want youuuu… to tell me what the hell they did to my car!” Ms. Hoppingmad accented her demand with a slap to the innocent Cad’s fender.

Oh boy.

“What kind of prob…” I tried to start my investigation.

“I get an oil change done, and now my @#$&*^+ AC doesn’t work!” Ms. Hoppingmad slams my verbal investigation.

“Okay,” I say with a nod, carefully keeping my distance, as I don’t want to get an attitude adjustment like the Cad fender received. “Does the air feel warm inside or…”

“Of course it’s @#$&*^+ warm inside!”

At least she didn’t end this latest interruption with ‘you idiot’. :)

I give her the look I reserve for customers only a split second from being propelled out the door with or without car, and she visibly calms somewhat. She waves her hand.

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry…”

“Let me ask a few questions, Ma’am, so I can figure out what page we’re on, okay?”

“Sure… go ahead.”

“Does the blower blow any air at you inside?” I ask.

She thinks for a moment before answering, so I’m thinking no, and Ms. Hoppingmad confirms it.

“No… it doesn’t blow at all.”

Normally, this is where I write up an estimate for diagnosing the problem; but I have a good hunch what’s wrong already, and there are only a couple of steps to check. Since Hoppingmad is already upset, and the price of what I figure went bad will cost a bundle, I’m less than enthused to incur her wrath. I started the Cad and turned on the AC, which allows dialing in of exact temperature. I confirmed no air flow in either AC or heat selection. Next, I checked readings at the blower motor, mounted behind the engine under the hood. I straightened after getting the readings I expected.

“The blower motor has failed, Ma’am. It…”


“Can I finish?” I ask patiently, knowing the figure I’m about to quote won’t be received well either, and I’d like to get it all out at once.

Instead, Hoppingmad launches her demands. “I want you to write up what those guys did, and…”

“I can’t do that,” I interrupt, holding up a hand, more in self defense than as a stopping gesture. “The people who did your oil change had nothing to do with the blower motor failing. It fails on these Cadillacs regularly, due to the extreme heat under the hood where they’re located.”

I give her the estimate for replacing the blower motor assembly. To clear the blower motor, the saddle holding the engine up has to be lowered, and a myriad of ignition parts have to be moved out of the way on the top. Ms. Hoppingmad meets my estimate with open mouthed silence. I take the opportunity to cover myself, by explaining the blower motor must work before I can check out AC cooling.

“You’re all in on this!!” Hoppingmad states.

“Since I don’t even know where you had your oil changed, it would be difficult for me to be in on anything with them,” I reason; because frankly, I’m already writing this up in my head for the blog. :)

“I’m going to the dealer! I should have known…” Hoppingmad hops in the Cad, and takes off.

I take a deep breath, finish a few tasks, and head for my notebook computer. Just as I’m readying my new blog post, the phone rings.

“Nilson Brothers Garage, Bernie speak…”

“They want $125 to check my car!” Ms. Hoppingmad screams into my ear. “I want you to tell him what’s wrong!”

Yea, they’ll happily take my word for it after the Service Manager has listened to you for a few minutes.

“No need to put him on, Ma’am,” I explain. “They won’t do anything there without a diagnostic estimate fee.” And rightfully so. The Service Manager’s probably already cursing me under his breath for doing a freebie. He knows the quickest way for him to get fired is quote prices on the diagnostic expertise of an independent garage. “If you wish for them to check out your Cad, you’ll have to pay the diagnostic fee.”

I hear Hoppingmad rattle off something to someone, and then a deeper voice answer her. Then I heard, ‘What!!??’ signaling the Service Manager had confirmed they don’t do diagnostic work for free like some idiot indy does. Hoppingmad hung up on me or her cell-phone went dead. It’s been an hour, so anything else in this case will have to wait for the next edition. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I guess I’ll get my feet wet again in chronicling adventures here at the shop with today’s stop in. A guy in his late twenties, or early thirties stopped in as I exited the office. He carried a can of beer in his hand, red faced in the manner of us Caucasian types who have had a few before opening the one we’re carrying. The young man, (young to me anyway) sported a strapped basketball jersey, loose fitting jeans, and sandals. Although his hair was cut very short, the two day growth of beard either meant an aversion to daily grooming, or he liked the Sonny Crockett look from Miami Vice. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and call him Sonny. Now as I approached Sonny, we were near my large open door, so when I smelled beer, I knew it wasn’t coming only from the can he had in hand.

“Hi, can I help you.”

“You uh… ehid; ue doagia ahn?” Sonny asked unintelligibly.

Has anyone else noticed the death of enunciation in our daily human interactions?

“What did you say?” I asked, showing the right mixture of helpfulness and concern.

“You uh… ehid; ue doagia ahn?”

Yep, that’s what I thought you said. “Sorry, I still didn’t understand you.”

“You know…” Sonny is becoming perturbed with my communication skills, so he added a little hand windup with his free hand not involved in beer can holding. “Need… need anyone?”

My first reaction tended toward the sarcastic, until I remembered I didn’t have a 24/7 security guard when I’m not around.

“No, this is a one man shop,” I decided to keep my replies short and to the point.

“You don’t… have anyone?” Sonny asks, with eerie look of disbelief, only someone three sheets into the wind can convey.

“Correct,” I nod. “I have no employees.”

Then Sonny hits me with the only reason I bothered doing my blog on him today.

“Do… do you think that’s fair?”

Security guard or not, I started laughing. Before I could curb my amusement, Sonny left in disgust over my obvious disregard for his sensibilities. Life isn’t fair or predictable. One of the fair assessments I can make is if you job hunt in strapped t-shirt jersey, jeans, sandals, and beer, I can predict your chances of getting a job: slim and none. Add an inability to speak the English language intelligibly, and your chances plunge from slim to snowball's chance in hell. That’s life. :)