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Sunday, March 29, 2015

STORYTELLER, WHAT IS YOUR FUNCTION?


Donald Justice, lauded modern poet, wrote in his "Poem" -

"This poem is not addressed to you,

You may come into it briefly,

But no one will find you here, no one,

You will have changed before the poem will."

Its last two lines:

"And it does not matter what you think,
This poem is not addressed to you."

REALLY?

If your words do not speak to the reader, do not expect her to listen ... or to come back for more.



Here is a snippet from SUNDAY MORNING by Wallace Stevens, another lauded modern poet:

"Emotions on wet roads on autumn nights,

All pleasures and all pains, remembering,

The bough of summer and the winter branch,

These are measures destined for her soul."


One snippet was a slap to your face, the other was a murmur to your soul.  

Which did you like more?

 “You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone's soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. 

That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. 

That is your role, your gift.”

 - Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus


WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Another quote:

“Writing is something you do alone. 

Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story 

but don't want to make eye contact while doing it." 
- John Green

Friday, March 27, 2015

HIDDEN TUNNELS BENEATH LAS VEGAS




In the 1990's, 

Las Vegas began building storm-drainage tunnels to protect the tourist destination from raging flood waters.  

In 2014, the Sacremento Bee reported that over the past previous FIVE YEARS

Rawson-Neal Psychiatric Hospital had dumped 1,500 homeless patients

over state lines so that the poor wretches could wander the glamorous locale of Los Angeles Skid Row.



In the summer,

temperatures can reach 115 degrees, but it is 15 degrees cooler in the tunnels.  

When it rains,

the tunnels can be flooded with water at the rate of a foot per minute, making them deadly.

The scorpions, the addicts, and the borderline personalities make them a mockery of a haven.

They sleep by day, prowl the casino slots by night,

a practice called "Credit Hustling."

Sometimes you can make as much as $50 a night by 

finding money on the carpet or still in the slot machines left by drunk customers.

It's all about survival, keeping the darkness at bay one sunset at a time.


So? 
How is your home compared to this?
{Image courtesy of Austin Hargrove}

Thursday, March 26, 2015

YOU ONLY THINK YOU KNOW



Ghost of Mark Twain here ...

I'm here to spell poor Roland.  

Work has worn the man down to a frazzle.  

Right now, he's a'writing that there talk he's supposed to dazzle the masses with on how to write fantasy of all things.

He's giving it next month at what they call a convention, though no one gets elected to public office at it. 


Strange goings-on if you ask me.

I kept the boy company during the last convention, though only he could see me.

Why there was a gal all decked out in not much of anything at all in what she cooed was a Steampunk outfit.


The only thing Steam about it was how it would have made my glasses steam up had I been wearing any.

She was bending poor Roland's ear 

on how the Germans (those rascals could conjure up the most blamed evil stuff on earth)

invented the flamethrower, calling it the tongue-killing term Flammenwerfer in 1901.

They'd done it just in time for the 20th Century's demand for horrible, skin-melting weapons.

Roland all polite-like told her of how the Ancient Greeks in the 7th Century invented Greek Fire

and to spout it out on land created an artillery weapon 

that fired a stream of flames that could not be put out by water.

The gal must have thought Roland's head was on fire 'cause she dumped a glass of tea on the poor boy's head!

I have TOLD him over and over again that most folks prefer their ignorance over another man's knowledge!



Why take the door knob.  

I bet you think it has been around for centuries.  Not so.  They t'weren't invented until 1878. 

I should know.  I was alive in B.D. (Before Doorknobs)



ANOTHER THING



In my day, folks never went about asking, "What time is it?"


You see, there t'weren't no single time.  

More like you'd be asked, "What time do you have?"

Watches were used like egg timers.

They gave you a sense of when you had to be at your duel and how long a'fore they suspected you had ridden hard out of town.

Why, America didn't agree on a single, universal time until the strict railway schedules forced them to.


OR TAKE THOMAS EDISON
THAT SCOUNDREL

I bet you think he invented the lightbulb, don't you, pilgrims?

HE STOLE IT.

 Those of you who've read DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE and THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT 

know me and Nikola Tesla were friends.


There are 2 kinds of electricity:

Direct Current (DC) and Alternating Current (AC).  

DC would have folks build a power plant on every blasted block.  

AC lets the current flow over a long distance.

Old Nikola invented AC.  

Edison invented the crappy other one.  

But Edison launched a vicious smear campaign so successful 

that it t'weren't til the 1960's that AC totally replaced DC!

How?

Edison personally electrocuted a chained elephant to death in a rigged "experiment.  Don't believe it?

Search in that strange-named YouTube for "Topsy the elephant!"




But he invented the light bulb you cry.

First time he stole it was when

  he refused to buy it from its actual inventor, Henirich Gobel, saying he saw no merit in it!

Then he bought the idea at a bargain rate from the man's widow the moment the man died!!

The Second time he stole it was from his business partner, Joseph Wilson Swan.

Now, Swan had done what old Eddy couldn't ---

actually come up with a reliable, working bulb.

So that old scoundrel "partnered" with Swan who promptly was over-shadowed by old Eddy's crowing.



OR TAKE THOSE BLASTED WHITE GREEK STATUES


Imagine aliens visit our planet long after we've taken a radioactive blow torch to it.  

They walk through the ruins of a shopping center ... mall you call it.

And the outrageously high prices they ask you to pay, it should be called a Maul!

Well, those aliens would look at those naked white mannequins and think they was our form of art!

Those ancient Greek statues when blush with youth 

were painted in hot pinks, yellers, bright reds, and nearly every other color they had access to.

All areas of exposed skin was carefully colored to exactly match flesh tones.

Sort of creeps you out, don't it?  It gets even worse:

They colored in the pupils of each statue, making each hero look as if Old Wild Bill drilled them!



TAKE THE PYRAMIDS

Thinking they always looked like massive sandstone bricks is like thinking giant dinosaur bones roamed prehistoric times!

Centuries of sandstones and cheap pharaohs stealing the top layers have made them look like that.

When the warranty was new on those monstrosities, 

they were gleaming white limestone with the very tops being capped with solid gold.

They looked as if they were one giant triangle of solid limestone and polished until the sun and full moon struck strange fires from them.

Fantasy?

Why that is what you folks think
is hard facts these days!


I bet some of you out there know some strange facts your ownselves.

Fill the rest of us in, why don't you?

I'VE FALLEN IN LOVE


Another taste of what is to come April --

Yes, I have fallen in love ... with a vintage TV show:




Browsing the DVD aisle in TARGET, I discovered DVD collection of the entire series of DUE SOUTH.

Like its hero, Constable Benton Fraser (rhymes with razor),  

DUE SOUTH overcame the odds thrown against it for four valiant years.

Starting as a Canadian TV movie and shown both there and on CBS, 

it proved so popular that it was made into the first Canadian-made series to be televised in America.

The untimely exodus of a key CBS executive meant that "Due South" lacked a strong advocate at the network, 

virtually ensuring that the quirky program wouldn't last long. 

CBS kept switching it from night to night, 

replacing it with other programs, making keeping its audience a true challenge.

CBS finally cancelled it.  

The BBC picked it up, but offered the talented David Marciano (Detective Ray Vecchio) less money. 

David had also signed a contract with CBS so he declined, hurting the last 2 seasons.

Due South was one of the first shows in the 90's brought back by fans' efforts.

Several hundred rubber ducks were mailed to the show's producers as a visible sign of how many loved the show.


The story?

Fraser is temporarily posted to Chicago to assist Chicago Police Detective Vecchio 

in the investigation of the murder of Fraser's father, who was also of the RCMP. 

In the process, 

he also exposes an environmental corruption scandal involving some members of the RCMP, 

causing much embarrassment and loss of jobs in his native Northwest Territory, 

which leaves him persona non grata in Canada and within the RCMP and posted permanently to Chicago.

He frequently is haunted by the ghost of his father, who only he and an old fellow-mountie, Leslie Neilson can see.

(You can see part of its allure to me already, right?)

Rounding out the cast is Diefenbaker, Fraser's deaf half-wolf who reads lips ...

though as the shows progress one suspects the "deafness" is selective 

as the wolf hears just fine when his life is on the line.

Then, there is the music ...



Music, mainly from Canadian artists like Sarah McLachlan, Loreena McKinnett, and Crash Test Dummies, is used evocatively.

Each episode leaves you smiling, 

feeling better for having watched it.

Watch it to believe again in the good that can be found in most people. 

 I have yet to watch the Ray-less seasons and dread the loss of that friendship. 


WHAT TV SERIES HAVE YOU JUST RECENTLY DISCOVERED TO YOUR DELIGHT?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

AUNTIE ALGORITHM KNOWS BEST?



We have lost control of where today's algorithms are driving us. 

And that is a scary thing if you think about it.

And intelligent pioneers like Bill Gates, Stephen Hawkins, and Elon Musk have been thinking about it.


When the men most likely to benefit from a new technology see a need for it to be put on a leash, 

there’s probably something worth worrying about.

But they were talking Artificial Intelligence, right?

Now, "Algorithm" besides being a mind-fuzzing concept 

is only a piece of computer code that makes a decision or recommendation of some kind.


Tell that to Dr. Louise Selby.  

She was barred from entering a women’s locker room 

because the computer code behind her gym’s security system automatically regarded 


all “doctors” as male!



DID YOU KNOW?

It is not just your imagination: 

there are A LOT OF OLD POSTS in your FACEBOOK feed. 

In an experiment last summer, 

a Washington Post reporter found FACEBOOK hid 60% of his friends' posts from his feed!


Sociologists are discussing that Algorithms are becoming a form of social engineering.


When you Google something, 

an algorithm decides what to place on your first page and what to put on the 1000th.


Facebook will not show you all your friends' posts, 
for they decide that would be too much. 

FB personalizes what you see as does Amazon and Netflix ... and the government ... and Big Brother.

Worse, FB's algorithm is optimized for FB and its advertisers ... not you.


 A study from Facebook’s data team showed algorithmic changes to the news feed 

could actually manipulate users’ feelings 
without their knowledge.

Sadly, FB algorithmically obscured breaking news from Ferguson, 

apparently in preference of lighter material with more pop cultural appeal.


More and more, algorithms are skewing 
what we see on the internet, 

showing us views that support our biases
 and filtering out data that counters them.

SPOOKY, HUH?
WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Monday, March 23, 2015

A TO Z THEME REVEAL: WHAT REMAINS



“Stories you read when you're the right age never quite leave you.

You may forget who wrote them or what the story was called.

Sometimes you'll forget precisely what happened,

but if a story touches you,

it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit.”

- Neil Gaiman


Rather vague you say.  All right.  I will narrow it down somewhat.



TV SHOWS THAT STAYED WITH ME FOR GOOD OR ILL

AN EXAMPLE:

SPENSER FOR HIRE
 

If you loved the Parker detective series upon which it was based, the show was ... disappointing. 

But if, like me, you had never read those novels enough of them lived in the shows to draw you to the books.

And that is why SPENSER FOR HIRE is important to me. 

That and I fell in love with the actress who played Susan Silverman. 

Sue me, it's a guy thing.
 
A quote from THE PROMISED LAND the book upon which the above episode was derived.


 "I try to be honorable. I know that's embarrassing to hear. It's embarrassing to say.

But I believe most of the nonsense that Thoreau was preaching. 
 
And I have spent a long time working on getting myself to where I could do it.

Where I could live life largely on my own terms."

-- The Promised Land

I LEARNED A GREAT DEAL
OF HOW TO WRITE WELL
FROM ROBERT B. PARKER


There are hints of an author's life in his novels.  As Spenser loved Susan so Parker loved his wife, Joan.

 Until his death, in 2010, they lived in separate, private areas, dated each week, and pursued individual endeavors.

 In 1996, when they were 63, Mr. Parker explained their separate-floors living arrangement by telling the Globe:

“I never want to sleep with my wife again, but I hope to continue making love to her forever.”

As Mr. Parker's books continued, the portrayal of women grew darker and pessimistic. 

In two Spenser novels, POTSHOT and HUGGER MUGGER, 

the femme fatale got away with murder, their male pawns taking the fall.

There was a quartet of novels I call the "Wounded Spenser Saga"

where Susan leaves Spenser to find herself and nearly destroys her life as well as Spenser's.

Parker's Jesse Stone novels and his Western novels both feature a protagonist chained by their love for an inappropriate woman.

Still, Mr. Parker and his wife, Joan,  fed each other lines without meaning to and were great, great fun in public outings. 

Joan, a great philanthropist and author of a book on her first struggle with cancer, died in 2013 and was greatly mourned by all who knew her.

I will let Joan reading her poem to Bob and his to her fill in the blanks of their love:
 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

AS WITCH FIRES THAT BURN


“As a breath on glass,
As witch-fires that burn,
The gods and monsters pass,
Are dust, and return."
George Sterling

Listen to Robert Rossmann narrate a portion of this 
mysterious Historical Fantasy:

***

I have come to Meilori's where the bronze ghosts of her mists sweep across the interior of the haunted jazz club like veiled women to their prayers.

In a sense, I have come home again, and I go now,

not to the rune-carved table where Samuel McCord waits in vain to see slanted jade eyes smiling at him one more time --

No, I go to the table of Robert Rossmann.

He is the distinguished voice actor who narrated DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE 

and is, even now, recording
THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT.

Robert and Emily Rossmann

But Robert is much more than a voice actor.

He has been a theater actor most of his life. 

And had a career in 3D animation, mostly for video games.  Your pasttime was his employment!

Most of his theater experience was in the San Francisco area.  He now lives in the gold country of the Sierras.

In fact, he now helps run a theater company called Sierra Stages in Nevada City.


His Voice Over career has included video games, commercials, documentaries, audio books,

and live readings with an orchestra (PETER AND THE WOLF, SOLDIER'S TALE).

Working on DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE was an exceptional challenge even for such a professional as Robert --

due to the number of dialects, historical figures, and "otherworldly" pronuncitions.

In fact, the last is why Robert asked to see me.

I sit down and frown at his worried face.  "What's up, Robert?"

"Your way to pronounce that incantation we talked about was dead on, Roland."

"Really?  I'm glad."

"Oh, yes ... DEAD on ...

Now, tell me how to get rid of Anubis.  He's eating me out of house and home! 

Dead things are knocking on the door at all hours.  And he's starting to flirt with Emily!"




Saturday, March 21, 2015

FRIENDS ...


"Friends are the only true wealth we have in this world, and the only treasure we can hope to find in the next."

 - Samuel McCord



THIS JUST IN:

BERNICE FISCHER  http://blog.bernicefischer.com/?utm_campaign=tw_shoutout&utm_medium=user_share&utm_source=shoutouts&shoutout_to=rxena77&shoutout_provider=tw

 {BOOKS & MORE} just TWEETED AND POSTED about Robert Rossmann's graphic design and audio work on THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT!


My friend, the fabled narrator, Robert Rossmann, spent much of his working life as a Graphic Designer.

http://www.robertrossmann.com/

Now, while working as an audiobook voice actor, he is musing whether or not to do covers for Indie Book Authors.

Look at the above video for the fantastic cover he has done for our audiobook, THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT ...

And listen to the prologue for the audiobook he is now working on for me.


What do you think?  
Should Robert go for it?

Friday, March 20, 2015

WRITERS IN A CAGE



To be what we are, and to become what we are capable of becoming, is the only end of life. 
~ Robert Louis Stevenson


Are you a writer in a cage, 
a cage of your design?

Often we are our own worst enemy, 

denying that we are capable of achieving more than we give ourselves credit for.

We are tempted to give up on our dreams because the road to them is arduous and slow.

Our behavior, our attitude, our bad habits are all within our ability to change for the better 

but we prefer the comfort of the familiar. 

We choose the path of least resistance, of a way of life that neuters the potential of success within us.


WHINING OR WINNING?

Have you pulled over on the side of the road to success, declaring defeat before you have even given it your all?

A well-functioning adult who puts in sufficient time, focused brain-storming, and quality effort can succeed in most endeavors.

You may not become the next J K Rowling, 

but how will you know if you do not rally everything within you and at your disposal in the attempt?


LAW OF LIFE

With a positive mind-set, willingness to learn, courage to change, and an iron resolve to work hard daily, you can ONLY get better.


DISCIPLINE NOT DESIRE

Great writers like Stevenson wrote daily, not when the desire struck them.  

You must, too.  How can you expect the water to flow if you do not turn on the faucet?

Stevenson spent long years of dying slowly, painfully each day, but he wrote classics each of those days. 


IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU

You are an adult, capable of becoming a professional.  

A great archer does not think of himself before he fires his arrow.  He thinks of his target.

Your target is not you -- it is the reader.

How can you write a book whose every page will excite the reader?  

That is your goal each moment in the chair before the computer screen.


WISHFUL THINKING NEVER WROTE A SINGLE WORD

Daydreaming is a pleasant haven from the hard work of putting evocative words on paper.  

But wishful thinking of impressing your co-workers or becoming the next Neil Gaiman will only leave you with what you put into your dream:  

Nothing.


PLAYING IT SAFE NEVER SCORED A TOUCH DOWN

Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg all have a few things in common:

They dropped out of college to pursue their dreams.  

They dropped activities that drained their time and spirit to focus on working on their goals.

They continually re-invented themselves and their work, growing better with each painful transformation.


PIMP-SLAPPING YOURSELF IS NOT GOING TO GET YOU THERE

 Why talk to yourself in ways that you would never talk to a friend?  

You are your best friend.  And if you are not, that is one problem to tackle first off.

Jettison the "I can't."  

Speak truth to yourself.  

Making a mistake does not make YOU a mistake.  It makes you human.

If you tell yourself "I'm nobody.  No one will buy this," you hamper your imagination.

Stop listening to your fears.  You are not psychic.  The future is up for grabs. 

 Look at the headlines:  

ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Life may be less than pleasant right now.  That is now.  

Tomorrow is a land of endless opportunities.

Be a pioneer of that unknown territory.  

Take those reasoned steps that will bring you closer to your dreams each day.


YOU CAN  SUCCEED
BECAUSE OTHER UNKNOWNS 
HAVE DONE IT BEFORE YOU. 

What bars have you erected
in your own cage?