Monday, February 28, 2011

I sent you the book---where is the review?

A sentiment I have received from a number of authors over the weekend who expressed their annoyance with various levels of irritation. As I pointed out to several of the authors, if they had been reading this blog, they would have had a pretty good idea of what is going on. I have made no secret of my health situation that caused my eventual termination of employment from my job with the local school district (a job I was pretty damn good at if I do say so myself), derailed my writing career, wrecked our financial situation, and in essence pretty much destroyed my life.  The last thing I ever wanted was to be sued by a third party debt collector d/b/a as ALLEN ADKINS & ASSOCIATES on behalf of Citbank, to file for food stamps, to file for social security disability, to fall in parking lots despite using my cane or any of the rest of it.

That is my reality. 

 I don't blame anyone for being frustrated. I guarantee you--absolutely no one is more frustrated than I am. My worsening health continues to have a huge impact on what I can do and how fast I can do it. That is why I pretty stopped accepting anything for review starting last summer and made a rare exception here and there for authors I knew well and had worked on their stuff before.

Because I am trying to keep my column going in the newspaper SENIOR NEWS as long as I physically can, my focus right now is on books that fit that review market first and secondarily elsewhere. Those books have priority with me because reviews for them fit the column and then other places. Clearly, if the book fits that column, I can double my effort as the review can fit there and elsewhere. As I can, I work in other things, but for now that has to be my focus.

I am doing the level best I can--even if it does not appear that way.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Reviewing: "Nights of the Red Moon: A Mystery" by Milton T. Burton

Milton T. Burton’s third novel sets the stage for a series with a rock solid foundation, interesting characters, and a complex case. Sheriff Bo Handel has been the strong, and at times compassionate, arm of the law in Caddo County, Texas for nearly thirty years. Forty miles away from the Louisiana border and half that north of Nacogdoches, the county is fairly quiet though there have been strange events over the years. With a
drought and heat wave gripping the state and painting the Texas moon blood red, Sheriff Bo Handel knows the Cherokees were right to fear such times as periods of madness and death.

It was some time on an early September morning that Amanda Twiller, wife of the local Methodist preacher, was murdered and then dumped on the front lawn of the parsonage. Shot three times in the back, her body has been left like trash out on the lawn for one and all passing by to see. Including her husband, who found her just after dawn and called it in. While the fact she is dead is not a surprise, the actual manner of her death is a little bit. In the three short years that Reverend Bobby Joe Twiller and Amanda had been in town, she had made quite a name for herself as an adulteress, prescription drug addict, and a few other things before running off with Emmet Zorn, owner of a local liquor store. None of that explains why the FBI in the form of two agents is also present at the local crime scene.

Agents Muldoon and Hotchkiss of the FBI are interested because Emmet Zorn has links to organized crime down in Houston. Their agenda is to get evince against Emmet Zorn and leveraging him to talk about those higher up the food chain. What starts as a simple local murder case quickly puts a personal and professional strain on Sheriff Bo Handel. He doesn't care about the federal government, inter-agency cooperation, or why it all matters in the world. He just wants the actual killer brought to justice. Along the way, if he can, he will help others and try to stem the rising tide of collateral damage in his county where outside forces are turning the county into their personal turf war.

Author Milton T. Burton’s latest effort after The Rogues' Game and The Sweet and the Dead is a powerful, and at times, dark mystery set in East Texas. Sort of a weird cross between the style of Bill Crider and Joe Landsdale, this is a powerfully good noir style cozy. Borderline graphic at times, full of dark nuance and meaning, the book moves quickly through its 294 pages to a powerful resolution with no easy answers.

Along the way the complex character of Sheriff Bo Handel as well as numerous major and minor secondary characters comes alive for the reader. Plenty of East Texas history is woven into the tale in such a way that by the end of the book, the very county itself fully exists as a character in its own right and is lodged in your mind. Couple all that with plenty of action, mystery, suspense, a hint of romance, and the result is a breakout book for Texan Milton T. Burton. While you do have to wait for a sequel, there is this one and his two others if he is new to you. If he isn't new to you and you have not read it yet, what are you waiting for?

Nights of the Red Moon: A Mystery
Milton T. Burton
A Thomas Dunne Book (Minotaur Books)
December 2010
ISBN# 978-0-312-64800-8
Hardback (available on Kindle)
294 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Friday, February 25, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: "Cruel Cuts" by John Richard Lindermuth

For this week’s Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott, I have selected Cruel Cuts written by John Richard Lindermuth. Years ago, I first read this book back when I reviewed books for the CrimeandSuspense zine run by Tony Burton. Unfortunately the run was all too short and the zine has been no more for quite a long time now. But, this book is still available and still very much worth your time.
 Living in a small town means everyone knows your business. It also means that virtually everyone is a suspect when something heinous is going on. That was the case twelve years ago when letters harassing Charles Edward Kline known as "Chick" to one and all surfaced. No one was caught then and no one is a real suspect now in the current letter campaign.

What is being alleged now is a lot more serious. According to the letters Chick, now a successful small town attorney and twenty-six years old, is killing and mutilating animals and livestock in the area during the night hours. While some may believe the letters, others like retired police chief Dan "Sticks" Hetrick don't. Neither does Flora Vastine, an officer new to the force who unluckily found the most recent animal killing/mutilation.

Combining the threads of a disturbing mystery, domestic violence and at least two potential romances, this second novel in the series from author J. R. Lindermuth weaves a complex and very enjoyable cozy read full of murder, deceit and greed. Along the way he provides a revealing glimpse into a small town with characters just as real as your neighbors next door. Take the journey to Swatara Creek, Pennsylvania and you won't be sorry.

Cruel Cuts
By J. R. Lindermuth
Whiskey Creek Press
ISBN# 1-59374-910-4
Large Trade Paperback
243 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2011

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tangent Online: Recommended Read List-2010

As announced at the Tangent Online homepage, htttp:// the Tangent Online: Recommended Reading List-2010 is now up. Complied by Founder and Managing Editor Dave Truesdale and Assistant Managing Editor Steve Fahnestalk, the 2010 list features nearly 190 recommendations as to the best reading as judged by the reviewers working for Tangent Online. The entire list can be easily found at and covers short stories, novellas, and novelettes in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres.

Kevin R. Tipple
Assistant Editor, E-Zines

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Bill Crider, AND ME!

“Kevin Tipple reviews books over at Kevin’s Corner (, old books for Friday’s Forgotten Books and new ones on other days. He reviews anthologies and novels, always thoughtfully and often at more length than some reviewers. Well worth a look.” (Bill Crider, Blog Bytes, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, March/April 2011, Page 186)

How very cool is that? I am thrilled!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books: "The Rogues' Game" by Milton T. Burton

There are curtain authors who, to me at least, just don’t get the acclaim they should. One of those authors is Milton T. Burton. His latest novel is Nights of the Red Moon and I will have more to say on that book soon as I am currently reading it. With that in mind, it seemed appropriate to take another look at his first book released in 2005, The Rogues’ Game.

Like the small west Texas town that is never named, the man with no name is not what he appears to be on the surface. He drives a beautiful car and appears in town with a beautiful woman named Della. It isn’t the first time he has been in town as he was here before in 1942. This time he is back to seek some revenge and no one remembers him or suspects that he is anything other than what he appears to be—a flamboyant gambler.

Revenge for what isn’t clear nor is his plan. His plan does involve a weekly high stakes card game that has been going on for decades at the Weilbach Hotel. It also isn’t really clear which of several players is his target. It also isn’t clear on how Della’s interest in a recent oil strike is going to help or for that matter hurt his plan. Like his cards, he keeps his plans close to the vest and adjusts for changes. He does have a plan, he is flexible and he just needs a little help from friends like Chicken Little and Icepick Willie.

What follows in this novel by Tyler, Texas resident Milton T. Burton is an intriguing and deeply twisted tale of a great con. The author opens a portal back into a different time and pulls the reader deeply into a Texas of the recent past. Told through first person point of view he spins a rich and complex weave that pulls the reader deep into his world where only slowly does the shape and scope of the plan come tantalizingly clear like the mirage on a West Texas highway during the heat of the summer before disappearing again. Heavily atmospheric both in place and in style of writing, this is the kind of novel that starts slowly, moves slowly and pulls the reader in so deep that when one looks up from the book there is that splendid moment of disorientation between the past that might have been and the present.

The Rogues’ Game
By Milton T. Burton 
Thomas Dunne Books
ISBN # 0-312-33681-0
Hardback (also available on the Kindle)
296 Pages
$23.95 US

Kevin R. Tipple © 2005, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Reviewing: "A Patchwork of Stories: 9 Tales from Sunny Side Up to Over Hard" by Kaye George

Texas author Kaye George has put together a small and intriguing sample of her work in this collection. These nine tales were previously published online and in print and nearly all won awards. The tales are flash fiction stories as well as several somewhat long pieces. Due to their length, it is not really possible to give very many details on the individual stories without ruining the read. Primarily stories of revenge and/or desperation, these stories pass by quickly while creating mental images that linger long after the small 90 page book is finished.

The book opens with the story titled “FLASH MOB” and features Melissa. Suffering cancer treatment is tough. Dealing with a cheating husband is tougher.

Cheating male spouses is a theme common throughout the book. The same issue confronts the main character in a flash fiction piece titled “THE FALL.”

We have all seen the news stories about fad diets where supposedly one could eat just a certain item all the time and lose the weight. Remember the grape fruit diet of a few years ago? That sort of thing is the premise behind the tale “THE FAT GURU.” When chocolate again becomes the next serious diet craze you can say you read about it here. One just knows it can’t be a good idea.

“WEST TEXAS WAITIN” comes next starting on page 22 and features some of the strongest images in this small book. In this haunting story, a young woman waiting for her guy to come off the rodeo circuit and take care of her and their son to be. Life has been hard for a long time and Harold is her ticket to better times. At least, that was their plan.

Kaye George takes readers from West Texas to Detroit for “DEVIL’S NIGHT” set on Halloween Eve. The night is well known in Detroit and elsewhere for the arson fires that happen. The Devil is about to get a well-deserved new tenant if the plan works.

“RETRANSFORMATION” comes next and features a death at a writer conference, back stabbing by a famous author, and werewolves. Good stuff that explains why some authors get where they are today. You may not look at your fellow writers at a convention the same way ever again.

For most, life after high school is not as expected. Kimber isn't the only one to have things go differently than she thought they would in “LEVITTOWN LOUIE.” Mr. Davis McFeegle is her latest mistake and apparently she wasn't the only one to make a mistake regarding him.

Buying a TV has serious consequences in the flash story “NEW TV.”

The final tale is “HANDBASKETS, DRAWERS, AND A KILLER COLD” and was nominated in 2009 for the Agatha Award for Best Short Story. Being a cop in Chicago is hard enough. Having an idiot for a brother-in-law, an unhappy wife, and a bad cold makes everything harder for Officer Cal Arnold---including doing the right thing.

AT 90 pages, this small read is a fast one featuring many different characters and writing styles. While the themes of revenge and/or desperation are frequently present, and the male spouses are almost always cheaters, how the situations develop and are resolved is very different. Not only does the book provide reading pleasure with each tale, it also provides an introduction to her writing talents (if you were not already aware) in preparation for the release of her comic mystery novel, CHOKE, by Mainly Murder Press this May.

A Patchwork of Stories: 9 Tales from Sunny Side Up to Over Hard
Kaye George
CreateSpace (Amazon)
November 24, 2010
ISBN# 978-1456348571
Paperback (also available on the Kindle)
90 Pages

Paperback review copy was provided by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Unhappy Anniversaries

Today is another 15th of the month. Today marks 11 months since all the health stuff started for me. Little did I know last March when I was woken up with my leg and foot burning, muscle cramped up, and all the rest of it that I would be sitting here jobless and waiting on social security disability and food stamp cases, etc. 11 months later.

A former coworker whom I had not heard from in months (much like everyone else I ever worked with) e-mailed me yesterday. She said she hoped things were getting better. Obviously, she does not read this blog. :))

I briefly let her know that things are not getting better as they are not. The sad truth is I can see the slide downhill a little bit more each month.

But, nearly a year later, I am still here. And finally, I am back working on my own stuff a little bit here and there. So the adjustment to the new normal continues......

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Reviewing: "Back On Murder: A Roland March Mystery" by J. Mark Bertrand

For some police officers the dead body is the end of the case. The search for the living is over and there is nothing left to do. For homicide detectives the body is the start. The dead body is the door opening on a case waiting to be solved. For Homicide Detective Ronald March, the results of a shootout in southwest Houston are his ticket back to fully functioning in Homicide and ending his exile of being farmed out on garbage details. 

 If he does not screw it up.

Since that fateful tragic day seven years ago, things have not been right personally or professionally. What happens over the next few weeks and months in the summer and fall of 2008 might be his last chance at everything.

A local loan shark by the name of Octavio Morales is dead as are several of his criminal associates. Detective March should not even be in the house surveying the carnage as he has fallen out of favor with his bosses. But, a house full of dead gang bangers brings out everyone and March couldn't stay away.  It has been far too long since he last worked a real murder case and he burns with the need to work one. He surveys the scene and only March spots the evidence that indicates that a hostage was there and now is gone.

Despite the fact that he alone found the evidence, March is still locked into the bottom of the pecking order and wasting his time with crummy assignments. Whether it is the frequent sting operations enticing bad guys to show up and claim the cars they won, the cop suicides he gets stuck with, or a number of others, the details are garbage jobs. March has earned his bottom feeder status and he isn't going anywhere.  At least, until he spotted the evidence that no one else noticed and changed the case from a routine killing to a missing hostage search. That earns him a temporary reprieve and minor league status in the Morales case.

Assuming he doesn't screw up.

But, he will. He does. And yet, March also makes his own kind of twisted luck. It may be tarnished luck but under all the slime there is luck and every now and then he comes through in a strange way.

This debut mystery by author J. Mark Bertrand features the usual stereotypical elements of a burned out detective, a nearly destroyed marriage thanks to personal tragedy, and a city that is little more than a cesspool with a population stirred up by a hysterical media tracking a missing person’s case. Usually these sorts of books are set in Los Angeles. Instead, the former Texas resident set it in Houston and also managed to weave in Hurricane Ike from a couple of years back along the way.

Somehow, despite beating the stereotype drum in nearly every area, J. Mark Bertrand makes it work. Before long, one gets pulled in the noirish style world of Ronald March where he frequently makes mistakes and yet survives against all the odds. Psychology is a huge part of this novel and March quickly becomes not only your friend but a guy you know that just seems to always have the deck stacked against him. He can’t play politics, goes his own way and does not fit in, and yet manages to always get the job done.

The author's MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston shows throughout the debut novel as one gets the feeling every character trait and plot point is orchestrated for effect in order to make a nice neat check mark on the master list. At the same time, when he is actively working and on the chase, occasional overwriting and stereotypical blemishes vanish as Mr. Bertrand brings the scenes alive so well you can almost taste it. It is when the action slows and March becomes contemplative about his life and what has happened that the novel drifts a bit. That also means occasional errors in grammar, pacing, the timeline of the novel, etc. are glaringly more present.

Just like in real life not everything in Back On Murder is tied up in a nice neat package. While most plot lines are tied off well, one minor storyline involving a tenant is cut off way too nice and neat. It comes to an abrupt dead stop and results in a missed opportunity for further character development and secondary plot.  Considering how hard the storyline had been pushed up until the abrupt ending, the reader is left to wonder why it just suddenly ended in that way.

Overall, the novel is good, but not as great as it could be. This may be a case where writers would be a bit harsher in their criticism of the book than the average reader as we recognize the tricks being used to tell the tale. Still, the read is full of mystery, political infighting, action, and no easy answers and results in a 382 book that will keep you guessing most of the way through. J. Mark Bertrand has a fairly decent foundation of a series to work from based on this book. It will be interesting to see how it goes in the next novel in the series, Pattern Of Wounds, scheduled to be published this July by Bethany House.

Back On Murder: A Roland March Mystery
J. Mark Bertrand
Bethany House (A Division of Baker Publishing Group)
July 2010
ISBN# 978-0-7642-0637-5
384 Pages

Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple ©2011

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Saturday Update

I still have no clue about the CITIBANK lawsuit via their third party debt collector ALLEN ADKINS &ASSOCIATES as the trial date has not been set. Hopefully the fact that I wrote a multi page deal and documented the heck out of it with their own paperwork will convince the honorable Judge to see it my way.

No word on the social security disability. The only good thing about the pain doctor getting mad and dumping me as a patient is the fact that while the pain is sky high, I can think again. One does not realize when one is on the stuff what it is doing to one mentally. The fog has lifted and that is a good thing. And I now am not spending money on pain pills and getting lectured by the pharmacists. Of course, physically I can do even less now, (using a cane nearly all the time) thanks to touching new heights of pain so that is not a good thing.

We still don't know about the food stamps. It will be about a month this coming week (one of several unhappy anniversaries) and hopefully we will hear something. Despite calls, staff contacted seem to not really know what is going on with our case.

But, the power is still on, the heat managed to work the last four days and despite the flood under one sink and the fact that the dishwasher is going out (I think), I managed to get a little writing done for our next meeting. I seriously doubt if I will have it in me to attend, but time will tell. Considering it has been over a year since I submitted something to my local group and the fact that it took me two months to do what used to take just a couple of days, it is a huge achievement for me to get something in.

And though I am horribly behind and slow, I have managed to keep this blog going and my column in the Senior News newspaper. Those are no small achievements either.

Enough about me. The windows are open wide and the day is absolutely beautiful with temps easing into the middle 60s. It is a weekend late, but this is what SuperBowl planners had hoped for.  Long range forecast has us in the 80s by the end of the month.

Thank you again for reading my blog and your support. I hope you are having a great weekend where you are.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday's Forgotten Books---"Baby Shark" by Robert Fate

My selection this week for the Friday's Forgotten Books Segment created by and primarily hosted by the wonderful Patti Abbott is not really a forgotten book. But, much like Reed Farrel Coleman, Robert Fate deserves far more recognition than he gets. This book kicked off the series and it has been a wild and hard ride. The book and the series is well worth your time and your hard earned money. This is a hard edged deal so violence on the page is common. If that bothers you, Baby Shark is not for you.

Its October, 1952 as this often violent crime novel opens in Henry Chin's Poolroom situated in West Texas. Seventeen year old Kristin "Baby" Van Dijk is there with her father, a pool hustler. With her mom dead and her aunt living up in Oklahoma, it's pretty much her, her dad, and her dad's Coupe de Ville as they travel Texas with her dad playing pool for money and reading books for fun. That is until members of the "Lost Demons" motorcycle gang walk in.

When it's over, her dad is dead, Henry Chin's son is dead, a couple gang members are dead, and Kristin has been raped repeatedly and brutally beaten. Her jaw is broken, teeth are missing, ribs are cracked, her nose is broken and the list keeps going on and on. She was lucky she lived through it and waking up in the hospital in Abilene makes her almost wish she hadn't. Then she meets Detective Hansard and it is pretty much clear that the case is going to go nowhere. As Henry puts it, "No police justice. Henry knows more ways one skin cat." (Page 20)

Author Robert Fate launches the reader into a revenge tale that is so much more than simple revenge. Kristin who rehabs and follows her dad's career path as a pool hustler quickly earning the name "Baby Shark" is not a stereotypical vigilante. Yes, there are elements of that sort of thing in her character, but as he does with all the characters in this fast moving novel, author Robert Fate shows the other side of her. Revenge, retaliation, payback, call it what you will, it has consequences often in unexpected ways and he grippingly details that side of it for the reader.

In a torturous and violence filled path that goes back and forth across West Texas and reaches into Forth Worth and Dallas, author Robert Fate weaves a complex trail of not only revenge, but duplicity and mystery in Baby Shark. While the opening may be cut and dried between the black hats and the white hats, it isn't long before nothing is that simple. The result is a powerful, often violent novel that does actually live up to the media hype.

Baby Shark
By Robert Fate
Capital Crime Press
ISBN # 0-9776276-9-1
Large Trade Paperback
270 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2007, 2011

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Reviewing: "Death by Diamonds: A Beth Bowman Mystery" by Randy Rawls

Known for his engaging and very good Arthur Conan Edwards (Ace) mystery series, author Randy Rawls is going in a new direction with Death by Diamonds: A Beth Bowman Mystery. Set in South Florida and featuring a tough female private investigator, this character and series is nothing like Ace. Everything about her and what she will do is different---not just her gender.

Beth Bowman is on a rather routine assignment in South Florida working surveillance on a cheating husband. Mr. Garcia is a cheater, according to his wife, who has paid private investigator Beth Bowman good money for proof of his indiscretions. After tailing him by car, Beth follows him on foot right into an elevator located in an upscale high rise hotel. Upon arriving on his floor, she holds the doors open and watches while he walks down the hall and knocks on a room door.

Let into the room with Bowman slowly following from down the hall, it quickly becomes clear this is not a romantic tryst for Mr. Garcia. Instead, there is some sort of altercation going on and Beth walks straight into an ambush and is left unconscious.

When the cobwebs clear, it is obvious that Mr. Garcia is dead and Bowman has been framed for murder. While the local police in the form of Detective Bannon and Detective Sargent seem predisposed to believe she killed the philandering husband, Bowman knows she didn't. She also knows that she has to find who did and why and deliver a bit of karmic payback to the ones that tried to frame her. All Bowman has is her reputation and once that is lost, her career is over as a private investigator. In a complex case that twists and turns, P. I. Bowman gets a lot of help from old friends and unexpected allies.

This first book in a planned new series is another good one from author Randy Rawls. Filled with plenty of action and mystery as well as some romance, this is a read told primarily from the pov of Beth Bowman that delivers in all aspects. While there are similarities that immediately come to mind regarding a Stephanie Plum type character, Bowman is not going to forget to take her gun with her to meet somebody at two in the morning at an abandoned warehouse. She also is not going to dither between men, talk nasty, or do any of a number of other things that are supposed to be cute– and quickly grow annoying for the reader. Beth Bowman is a smart and capable private investigator who just happens to be a woman.

Sure she does make mistakes at times and when she does they are believable real world mistakes. Her mother is constantly in her business and that drives her nuts. She does have self-doubt and the romance that has begun as a secondary storyline to the case does give her some concern. Instead of being an idiot or superwoman, she is believably real and human in all aspects.

As are all the other characters in this fast paced novel that features plenty of action, mystery and the beginnings of a romance. The book is a solid foundation to what should be a good series from the mind of author Randy Rawls. While longtime fans may be disappointed it is not an Ace novel, they can take solace in the fact that Beth Bowman rocks.

Death by Diamonds: A Beth Bowman Mystery
Randy Rawls
Amazon Kindle

Material provided by the author in exchange for my objective review. This reviewer read the book using the Kindle for the PC program provided free by Amazon.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2010

Monday, February 07, 2011

Reed Farrel Coleman interviewed by Shamus finalist Jack Bludis

I had hoped to mention this earlier, but the weather here and various issues connected to that means I did not get it done.

Last week, after I posted my review of Innocent Monster I got a very nice note from author Jack Bludis about the review. Mr. Bludis is the author of many published novels including his latest titled Shadow of the Dahlia which is a Shamus finalist.
There are a handful of authors that I respect tremendously and when Mr. Bludis speaks, I listen.

Mr. Bludis pointed me to an interview he conducted with author Reed Farrel Coleman that is posted over on the website owned and operated by Kevin Burton Smith. One can always find lots of good stuff on there and it is a wonderful thing for all readers that the site is going again.

The main page is at and the specific interview if you want to go straight to it is at:

The interview is a wide ranging one that covers a lot of aspects regarding the career of the author, the series and what it was like working with author Ken Bruen among other things. Lots of good stuff in the interview and well worth your time.
And if you have not read the Moe Prager series, you absolutely need to read them in order starting with the excellent Walking The Perfect Square.


Sunday, February 06, 2011

What A Week!

Back in business and one hopes we will not repeat the past week anytime soon. It started with severe thunderstorms here in the wee hours of the morning early Tuesday that brought some small hail and high winds. By 6am it was below freezing here and the rain that had been freezing rain for a little while had turned into sleet. Nothing quite like the sound of pouring sleet hitting the windows while the skies flashed with lightening and the thunder rumbled. When it finally finished, we had about two inches of the nasty stuff on everything along with temps around twenty and still headed down. The fifty mile an hour wind gusts with sustained winds of 35 meant going outside was just flat out brutal.

The picture above was taken around three in the afternoon looking south from our master bedroom. As you can see, at that point the small creek that runs between our building and the buildings across the way was still flowing and there was ice everywhere else.

Wednesday morning brought news of rolling power outages due to the fact that the brilliant minds that run the power generation system in this state had put some plants offline for routine maintenance and not adequately protected many of the remaining power plants that were online. About five minutes after the news broke at 7:30 am that emergency rolling power blackouts were being instituted across the state with the outages slated to be from 15 to 45 minutes long, our power went out. 

We did not start getting concerned until an hour had passed and the lights had not come back on. 

After another hour and a half and numerous calls to the automated system run by ONCOR, we were finally able to get through and report our outage. Unfortunately you can NOT talk to anyone at ONCOR even if you can get through which means you have no idea what is going on or when they hope to have your power back on.

As has happened before, our local power company TXU either had a busy signal when called or customer service staff that cheerfully could not answer a single question about anything while working through their unhelpful talking points.

The outage eventually lasted eight hours and ended at about the same time as the rolling blackouts stopped statewide. Interesting timing how that worked out. One of many multi hour outages in the local area that ALL resolved at the same time, ours eventually caused the inside apartment temp to drop to 48 degrees.

The multi hour outages outages were eventually blamed on “cold weather.”

Well, duh.

It is winter, after all, and this storm had been predicted for two weeks.

The non-answer given by ONCOR was the equivalent of somebody being murdered and the police saying the victim was killed by a killer.

What was also fascinating that night was to watch the talking media heads parrot the line spun by ERCOT (the power grid operators), ONCOR, and TXU (formerly Dallas Power & Light and our actual power provider in this age of deregulation that has brought customer service located in India, much higher prices by the kilowatt hour--some of the highest in the nation--and many more outrages during good weather and bad) that the storm was “unprecedented.” 


The New Year’s Week winter ice storm of 78/79 was far worse; the brutal cold and snow/ice storm of early 96 was worse in terms of precipitation and temps, as well as several other times over the years. 

The fact that the local media was either too incompetent to ask hard questions or were all too gullible shows how those who were not born and raised here and get paid to look good on TV simply don’t have a clue as to the fact that those in charge failed across the board. Certainly, there are going to be issues but for the state to have fifty power plants offline by midday Tuesday due to routine maintenance and plant failures along with the high danger of a complete power grid collapse is appalling.

While the state was buying power from Mexico to try to save the grid and the people of Texas during an emergency situation that could easily kill, our blow dried governor, Rick Perry, who has been making us look stupid nationwide over and over again while courting Tea Party voters in an obvious plan to run for President in 2012,  jetted off to San Diego for a “working” five day vacation.

Must be nice!

Thursday morning, during the 6am hour, WFAA TV CHANNEL EIGHT erroneously reported that the rolling power blackouts were scheduled to have started at 5:58 am and would be in effect until at least 9am. Obviously, this "news" scared the heck out of us. It became clear by 7am that WFAA had blown it yet again as no other TV outlet was reporting that the blackouts were going again. In fact, several were reporting as was KRLD 1080 AM that ERCOT had NO plans to start the mandated blackouts again. Something I could confirm on the ERCOT website because I had power to surf the Internet.

I was reminded again why I only watch WFAA to see Dale Hansen cover sports and Bryan McCauley cover the weather.

Then the next real weather punch came in just before midnight Thursday night. The predictions had been for an upper level low to travel along the Gulf of Mexico and Texas Coastline from Southwest to Northeast before passing  just to the north of Houston and then Northeastward through central Louisiana and towards the East Coast. That predicted by one and all storm track was going to put us on the north side of the storm with a max snowfall of one to two inches.

One look out the back door where I could not see the steps on the stairs before dawn despite the porch light meant we were in trouble. At 6am we had seven inches of snow and it was snowing heavily. The same shot framed as well as we could from second floor living room back door around ten am while the other door was completely covered in snow and ice.
As you can see, the creek is gone beneath the ice and snow.  My wife, Sandi, also took the below staircase picture.

As you can see, the creek is gone beneath the ice and snow.  My wife Sandi also took the next picture, showing our stairs.

Local weather forecasters misread the situation as the low instead of where it was predicted went from Abilene, to Wichita Falls and then up towards Oklahoma City. That put us on the south side of the storm which meant the Gulf moisture was available and the snow area just exploded above the Dallas-fort Worth area. When all was said we had nine inches of the stuff everywhere.

Thinking the worst was over and after a couple more very cold nights, life would return to normal, I began to relax a little. Then, around 5:30 Friday evening, the water went away and stress was back in a huge way.

It soon turned out that the water had been turned off because the vacant apartment below us had no heat or water on all week and the pipes had burst. That apartment was flooded as was the apartment next door on the ground floor that was very much occupied. About midnight last night it finally came on after over a dozen aborted attempts to turn the water back on since 5:30 Saturday evening revealed additional breakages. 

We were very fortunate not to have any damage and as I type this, the dishwasher, clothes washer, and dryer are working hard with load after load. I am horribly behind in reading and writing stuff.

I may have also jinxed things as the power just blipped out and then came back on. 

It was supposed to be raining this morning with snow showers and about 35 degrees according to the experts last night. Instead, the sun is out with high clouds to the north, winds out of the south at ten, temps in the low fifties and things almost seem back to normal. It is a beautiful day for football right now.

The same experts who got everything wrong today so far are predicting a return to the week that was on Tuesday and Wednesday as we get hit very hard again.

One hopes the power folks and everyone in charge of the various things we all rely on ARE PAYING ATTENTION this time!