Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Destroyers

The Internet. The information superhighway. It's morphed into a pile of inaccurate, purposely false 'facts' no one bothers to check before passing them on. Do you have a theory? Or just an off the wall idea? Or even a totally false story? Feel free to post it. With pictures, even.

I don't blame the posters. I blame the folks who pass all the crap on, clogging up the highway. Our culture has become a society of rumor-mongers. Well, we always were, playing that old telephone game with glee, but now we can reach thousands of people at one blow instead of the old way of one at a time.

Instead of spreading the lies person to person, now we can mass-bomb the untruths in one pervasive blast. I imagine the politicians love it. I can see them in their little planning sessions, rubbing their hands together as they plan their disinformation campaigns in the absolute certainty that the general public is soooo stupid we'll pass on ANYTHING, so matter how idiotic, without a thought. Anything.

We are the destroyers.

Conscienceless, irresponsible, and immoral in the worst sense. Our knee-jerk responses are dependable. Do you want something to spread like wildfire, to go viral? Post something totally outrageous, then post a rebuttal, and THEN watch it rage out of control like the riots in Baltimore last week. Boom! Rumor-mongering at its best.

Our besetting sin isn't murder or theft or adultery or even gluttony. It's GOSSIP. The Internet is absolutely perfect for spreading truth and untruth alike. And who can discern which is which? Who takes time to find out?

Not us. We're so eager to pass on the sensationalism, we can barely type. Isn't it wonderful the social media make it so simple to SHARE??? No reason to consider the consequences. No time to think about whether spreading another lie is the responsible thing to do. Nope.

And commenting? Oh, boy. The crazies have finally, FINALLY discovered their true calling. Instead of being confined by their tiny circle of like-minded friends, now they literally have the entire world for an audience for their hatred, bigotry, and outright craziness.

I believe the best thing that could happen to our country would be the complete failure of the Internet, cable and television. We'd have to go back to talking to one another. Who knows? Maybe we'd start to communicate in the purest sense, again. Hey! Maybe we'd even return to writing letters again. Now that's a thought...

Monday, April 27, 2015

My Circle

I rarely comment about politics, religion, or money issues. For one thing...I've never met two consecutive people who agree on such matters and I hate confrontations. That's not to say I wouldn't fight if necessary to save my life or the lives of friends and family. But in the general course of life, most of us are not called on to do so.

However, in the last few years I've been struck by the very aggressive, divisive, 'my-way-or-no-way' tone of the general public face we see, particularly on social media. Frankly, I don't understand the 'in-your-face' attitudes. Nor do I believe it solves anything.

I suspect most folks have no idea what I might believe about any particular issue. I take great pains to guard my privacy. I was raised on that old principle, 'If you can't say something good, shut up.' Hanging all your dirty underwear on the front laundry line accomplishes nothing except demonstrating you don't wash your clothes.

From the beginning of written history (and no doubt well before that), our human story has been one of war, aggression and greed. Perhaps that's why we find the story of Camelot so attractive--even while we ignore the reality there was brutal warfare first. 

I believe in one thing. 'Love your neighbor as you love yourself.' The 'L' word gets thrown around a lot. 'I LOVE those jeans.' 'I LOVE that car.' But true love is the love we feel for friends and family. Imagine how the world would be if we felt that way for every person we met...if we treated every individual the way we would treat ourselves.

Yes, there is much evil around us. But consider this--how can we perceive it when we are the very ones encouraging it? Evil loves darkness and we're the ones responsible for blowing out the lights. We ignore poverty, illness, hunger and abuse because they aren't our problems. We walk on by, walk on the other side, avert our eyes from the uncomfortable truths all around us.

There is a perception, a belief that those who live the path of love are wimps that lack courage. Not so. It takes great courage to stand in the face of evil and call it by name. I don't refer here to belief systems or lifestyles. It's not my responsibility to judge other people, whether they worship the stars or a deity or nothing at all, whether they are totally celibate or have sex in consenting groups. I don't care what they do as long as they harm none. Most especially children.

Evil in our day is most especially manifested as greed and selfishness. We can lay the blame of almost every ill our civilization suffers directly at the feet of these two roots. Think about it. If our culture wasn't so me, me, me centric, there would be less poverty, less hunger, and yes, less illness.

Today it's popular to have an exclusionary circle of friends, whether on social media or in school or even your neighborhood. This circle is often composed of those folks who believe exactly as you believe, politically or religiously or maybe even some particular hobby or skill you embrace. I wonder, though, if our efforts to create such circles doesn't limit our ability to see the outsiders clearly. Or...maybe we just don't want to admit our own failure to embrace the responsibilities we all bear.

How big is your circle?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Whole Story

Ahhhhh. Is there anything like the feeling we get from a new book cover? I don't think so. Especially when the cover artist (Darleen Dixon) absolutely understands the exact feeling you want to convey.

Back before I wrote the published version of Everything Lovers Can Know, I had a...nebulous idea about the plot. Then, in a fairly rash move, I tossed out my first idea and wrote a short story for the erotic romance market.

I have since then received my rights back for this book and after considerable thought, I've decided to go back to my original story idea, the one that shows how Baron and Jade arrive in Mystic Valley. It will take a while to expand the book, but I believe it will be worthwhile. In the meantime, I have this wonderful cover as inspiration.

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Never-Read Book

Some folks never re-read a book once they finish it. Others have a shelf of favorites they visit often. I have a room of well-loved books plus two readers and a computer file of electronic books. And I re-read more than I enjoy a never-read book.

I'll be honest. I don't understand folks who watch television when they could read a book. Just do not understand that. Probably it's because we never had television until I married. I never formed the habit of brain doping via the 'box'. Even now, forty plus years later, I grow restless after twenty minutes of television. But give me a favorite book...and I likely won't surface until I've finished it.

In the last few weeks, I've endeavored to read the works of new-to-me authors. Over the years, I've noticed readers raving about this author or that one and I thought maybe I should check it out. Maybe I should find out what the shouting was all about. After some research, I purchased the stories that sounded interesting--and also garnered the best reviews. Not the five star reviews necessarily, but the most coherent reviews, written by folks who had more to say than the book was 'hot, hot, hot!' I've read enough hot books for a lifetime, most of them written by more skilled writers than the new crop.

I wanted to try stories that spoke to a reviewer, that tugged on their emotions. After reading some of the books, I was inclined to wonder if I'd read the same book the reviewer did.

So...back to the tried and true favorites.

In the two past weeks I also re-read my entire Mystic Valley series with an eye to revisions/edits before re-releasing them. They were the first books I wrote. And I see the mistakes I made with them--the favorite words that crept in (that, that, that!) and the weird (mercifully short) bits of dialogue that occasionally popped up. Reading them straight through also showcased the few continuity errors, but those are relatively easy to fix.

The thing is...even after reading them with a deeply critical eye, I still liked them better than most of the recent 'new' books I've read. And that gave me reason to ponder why.

The number one reason was because the stories are the kind I like to read. Well, duh, you say. But you see, writers don't always write what THEY like to read. Too many of them write what they believe will sell well. When I wrote the Mystic Valley books, of course I hoped they would sell well, but first--long before I had any dreams of them being published--first, I wrote them for myself. I reveled in the fine details, the world building, and twists and turns of life in the valley. I thrilled at the karmic, kick-ass endings for the bad guys and the happy ever after endings for the reluctant lovers.

To tell the truth--I never expected to submit the stories. Nope. I submitted them on a dare. So, there you have it. I wrote them for me. And that's why I still love them, warts and all.

I think perhaps writers are so anxious to find that path to a bestseller, to hit that nebulous point where their readers consume their books with rabid gluttony that they forget the basic writer's truth. 

It's all about the story.

It's not about how many sex scenes are churned out or how many murders are committed or how convoluted the conflicts for the hero or heroine are. None of that matters if the reader doesn't connect with the characters, if the writing/editing is so sloppy they can't make themselves continue, if the writer is so intent on beating the few facts into the minds of the readers that they repeat them over and over...and over...

First write the story you want to read.  

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Planning, Planning, Planning

On my recent sojourn to the north, I had an epiphany. Yes, it was painful. I've been delaying a lot of projects by telling myself I'm planning. Not so. I'm about planned out.

Planning is easier than doing. Doing requires energy and...discipline. It doesn't require talent. Or knowledge. Or education. To be a doer, you simply have to 'do'. Planning is so much simpler.

I know folks who spend their entire lives planning. They plan to plant a garden. They plan to knit an afghan. They plan to change the sheets on their bed. They plan to call their parents. They plan to write a book. Somehow, none of their plans move forward because they never reach the doing stage.

The upside of retirement is you have time...or so they tell me. The downside is the lack of schedule. There's no core of events to hang your plans on so you just keep planning. And time rolls by with nothing accomplished. It finally dawned on me that I am responsible for designing a framework for doing. It's not enough to get up in the morning without some sort of schedule to meet. That's where the discipline comes in. If there's a schedule, I'm the one who has to stick to it. I used to have no problem with sticking to the plan, but something went awry last year and I frittered away my life.

No more time for planning. In Yoda's philosophy, it's time to 'do or do not'.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Aliens, Books, and New Babies

It's been awhile since I wrote a new post on my blog. Life has been zipping by, dragging me willy-nilly with it. I finally dug in my heels and refused to continue until I get a few personal things done.

It's been a busy new year. Already, we're in the middle of April and no writing has happened. Today that changes. I'm eager to get back to my story. Certainly, I've had enough 'thinking' time!

The rights to most of my books have been reverted to me so there are a lot of edits/revisions ahead of me before I can make them available again. Covers...oh, yeah, there's enough to keep me busy. At first, I wasn't even sure I cared whether I ever posted them again, or not. But time did the trick. I'm proud of my work. So as I can, I'll make them available.

With the reversion of rights, it was necessary to update my webpage. I FINALLY took a couple days and worked on it. The book page looks awfully bare right now. That will be an incentive to get cracking.

The rest of the last couple months have been spent cleaning, sorting photos, anticipating the birth of our fifth grandchild, traveling to see him and his family, and dealing with various medical issues. Heh, whenever we go to visit my daughter, we always see something interesting on television (she has cable) that we don't have available at home. This time we watched various shows about aliens. ALIENS.

Now, I am undecided about the theory of aliens visiting earth far in the past, though it seems logical they would. After all, IF they're visiting now, I can't believe they just suddenly developed the technology for space travel in the last couple hundred years. And if they visited in the far past, wouldn't they have found meddling with humans almost irresistible? If even 10% of reported alien visits are true, it's clear they don't subscribe to the Prime Directive of non-interference.

Anyway, the shows were interesting to watch--as were the ones on Sasquatch, survival, bull-riding, hunting in Alaska, and all the other weirdness we watched in our hotel room. I don't miss cable with it's potpourri of oddness and stupidity. Really. I'm ready to go back to my television fasting.

For those who don't see my Facebook page, I'll post one picture of the irresistible cuteness of my new grandson, Gabriel. That's it. One.

 Well...maybe just one more...
 Okay. That's it. He's pretty good lookin'. As are all my grandchildren, naturally.

Finally, I started a new book last night by an established NY-pubbed author I've never read. On the face of it, the story sounded interesting. I've read many reviews by readers who LOVED this author. I'm a third of the way through the book, still waiting for something to happen. So, meh. Which just goes to prove every book is not going to ring bells with every reader. I feel better.





Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Chasing My Tail

This is traditionally the time of year when we embrace change. Time change. Weather change. Clothing change. Winter is almost behind us with the dark dreary days. Brilliant sunshine and longer daylight hours lure us outside to work in gardens and on lawns. We spruce up our living spaces and think of flowers and summer pleasures.

Some people plan vacations or short day trips. Everyone is looking forward. This season, more than any other is about anticipation.

For those who celebrate, Passover and Easter are right around the corner. Food preparation and religious observances are in the planning stages. Coloring Easter eggs, planning Easter baskets and all manner of other things are on the to-do lists. It's renewal time.

I've been thinking about this. Renewal. Even at sixty-five, there are adjustments, changes to anticipate. Somehow, I always thought about retirement as settling in, finally having everything 'just right'. And much to my surprise, I find there is more work to do. So what is this retirement people speak of? If anything, it seems I have more to do than I ever did in the past.

It's just 'stuff' no one talks about. Cleaning out and getting rid of junk so my children won't have to--in case something 'happens' to us. Don't you like that phrase? Not die, but happens. Because we don't want to discuss death on this beautiful spring day. We don't want to acknowledge the inevitable.

For over two weeks I've worked on one of those necessary tasks--sorting through photographs--and there's really nothing to bring the reality of reaching the end of life like looking at old pictures. Memories flood your mind. Memories of youth and optimism and wild chances. Memories of folks long gone and life stages celebrated from birth to old age.

But death is not yet. On this bright beautiful day there are still things to tend to, tasks that must be accomplished in order to live comfortably. Life goes on. When the photographs are all sorted and packed and mailed to their new owners, there will be a new task. Or two or three or...

Retirement? It just means I don't have to answer an alarm clock. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore

Back in the way-back, there was a song, You Don't Bring Me Flowers Anymore. It's all about the things 'you' don't do anymore. I've had reason to think about how things change as we age.

When I was in my forties, I led an extremely busy life. My children were at the teenage to young adult stage. I worked full time. I went to school full time. I played taxi-mom full time. And when my parents were able to visit us (a long trip from Texas to New York), I enjoyed spending time with them. We were too broke to work it the other way around, so we saw them when they came to us. I talked to them on the phone. Called on their birthdays. And, with my busy, busy life, took them for granted.

Then we entered a new phase. Traveling became more difficult for them. I retired and started a new career as a writer. We traveled to see them--and our children (who are spread out over half the country). Travel was a novelty for me and an opportunity to see the country. Royalties helped pay the expenses. And we had a great time. It was lovely while it lasted.

In the last couple years, travel has greatly diminished. Part of that is due to the precipitous drop-off in royalties. There's no longer money for travel. A bigger part is the great discomfort of travel itself due to ill health and arthritis. And my parents chide me...you don't visit us anymore. And my children chide...you don't visit us anymore.

When we are young, we're all tied up in the busyness of life. There's always going to be another day, another month, another year when we can do all the things we dream of doing. And then it's gone. When I was forty, I climbed a mountain near where I lived every weekend. I stood on the top and looked out over the Hudson Valley and considered the emotional mountains I was dealing with every day. It was a difficult time in my life, but expending the effort to climb that mountain afforded me thinking time. And time to ponder the fact that I COULD climb it. Time to prove a doctor who had predicted I would be in wheel chair by that time was all wrong.

Now, I'm happy to walk around a couple parking lots, cane in hand. STILL not in that wheel chair! But I admit with great sadness...I don't travel anymore.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Secret Identities

All over the Internet, folks lurk in the shadows, hiding behind their secret identities. At work or church or with their friends, they're thoughtful, caring, tolerant, cheerful and fair. Then they go home, hunker down in front of their computers and the real folks emerge. Safe in the anonymity of the World Wide Web, they let down their hair, spewing hatred, ignorance, and stupidity. They stalk children, women, men from their lair. In roaming gangs, they attack anyone who has a difference of opinion, anyone who dares to speak out against evil.

This is not a new phenomenon. From the time broad use of the Internet gained acceptance, nasty trolls have slithered from their hiding places under the bridges and dared to bombard anyone who disagrees with them with foul language, name calling, and if possible, boycott the individual or company. If you don't believe it's possible to boycott an individual, think again.

Some of my Internet friends are choosing to shut down and withdraw. The insidious negativity, bigotry, and rage is spreading like toxic waste, poisoning everything and everyone it touches, infecting folks with depression and discouragement.

What to do?

I see a time when like-minded people will go back to their own little groups. Social media isn't very social as it's structured now. I expect folks will find a few others who believe as they do--whether politically, religiously, or oh, how they spell or punctuate their sentences--and they'll withdraw to the security of their group. That's a sad commentary on our humanity. It's not new. From the dawn of history, we've organized in little conclaves of 'them' and 'us'. 'They' are always the bad guys. Always.

I've spent a good part of my life working to eradicate this mentality, but even I am about ready to toss in the towel. I'm just not willing to let rabid politics, religious fanaticism, and incredibly foul-mouthed morons invade my living space. Yes, for many of us, this is part of our living space. And I say, "You're not welcome if you can't demonstrate a modicum of civility."

I believe the folk hiding behind the anonymity of the Internet are revealing their TRUE selves. Here they're demonstrating their idiocy, their stupidity, their lack of morals and judgement. They spew personal information as though they truly don't understand how the Internet works.

Maybe they don't.

Whatever. Fair warning. If you can't be civil, pass on by.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Lessons

Occasionally, I play a world building game--especially when I want to mull over the direction my current work in progress is going (or not). The game is billed as a 'world building' game, but in truth, it's mostly a war game. Try to accumulate wealth and resources, build a town, all while fighting off the surrounding towns.

It's just a game.

But there are lessons to be learned from the game. The lessons apply to life, writing, dealing with all of life's annoying issues. I jotted down a few of them. Take them for what they're worth.

In most of life's wars, banding together to fight the invaders is a logical step. BUT, never depend on the team to keep yourself alive. Some may not fight when you expect them to. Know that ultimately, you are responsible for your own survival. Be prepared, as much as possible in all areas of your life--physical, mental, financial.

He who races to the front will not necessarily win. More than likely, he will be the first to die (or lose). When you race to be the frontrunner, you leave the team behind. Who will have the opportunity to back you up? Don't stick your neck out too far. No matter how skilled, how strong, how rich, when you're completely alone, you're more vulnerable.

Don't climb on someone else's bandwagon. It's one thing to be a team member, it's another to be a sheep. Think for yourself. Just because everyone else is writing about vampires, doesn't mean you have to. Sing your own song. Lift your own sword. When the bandwagon collapses from it's burden, you won't be taken down with it.

The support team should never be despised just because they aren't warriors. Without support, there are no resources. Without resources...no life. Take care of, and respect your support team. Warriors need the folks back home to provide for their needs. And the home team needs protection and security.

Maintenance is an on-going job. If you ignore your buildings, car, farm, church, the enemy will knock them down with little effort. They're more expensive to replace than repair. Wasting money is a losing war tactic. Be conscientious in care of your possessions.

Attacking your neighbor out of greed is foolish and counterproductive. Stay on your own property or area. Prepare for the day when an enemy might invade. Don't irritate those passing by. Be vigilant. Be a good neighbor until you have no choice other than conflict. Good sturdy fences and walls can delay the inevitable attack.

Finally, don't depend on one strategy. Don't copy the other guy's tactics. He's already seen them and knows the counter. Surprise can never be underestimated. Don't blab about your plans. Don't signal your intentions.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

sliced bread

"The last best thing. An American inventor named Otto Rohwedder devised a machine that sliced a loaf of bread into individual slices. First sold in 1928, it was touted as “the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped,” which led to popular phrase “the best thing since sliced bread.” All of which raises the question, what did people say before “sliced bread”? “The best thing since indoor plumbing” was one phrase. And before that?—“since powdered wigs?” “Since moveable type?” “Since fire?”
See also: slice
Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price"
 
Heh. Of course, I always understood this expression. Truly. But until recently, I didn't really take it to heart. As many of you know, the hunk bought me a KitchenAid mixer with a dough hook so I could make bread. My elbows and shoulders protest vehemently when I try to knead bread by hand now.
 
I'm very picky about how my bread tastes and for several months I've been spending my mad money on artisanal breads because I pretty must despise the gluey taste of most commercial breads. Anyway, I've been making bread. A small loaf doesn't last long, even with two people so about every three days, I whip up a new loaf. And of course, every loaf has to be sliced by hand.
 
I'm pretty good at slicing bread. But the hunk? Oh, brother. His slices are fat, skinny, slanted, broken...Well you get the idea. So I can truly understand how wonderful a bread slicing machine must have been. Just imagine how many more slices of bread were possible from a loaf, when every slice was the same thickness!
 
We won't be investing in a bread slicer. But I definitely appreciate the inventor, Otto Rohwedder. I wonder if he had any notion how much he changed life for millions of people? It's not always the huge inventions that make life easier.
 
 

Friday, January 23, 2015

Inner Peace

"Try to lead a life with less stress." That was the advice my doctor gave me a few years ago, right before discharging me from a hospital stay for acid reflux. Quite frankly, I couldn't see how I had any control over outside factors like my job, my children, the too many bills with too little money. All I saw was the complete lack of reason in his directive. If things had continued on that track, I suppose I would have been dealing with a bleeding ulcer by now.

But the hunk was transferred from New York to Baltimore. In a little over four weeks, every single obligation I had was gone. Vanished like the wind. I resigned my job, resigned my church position, moved my kids (all adults) out of my home, and ended up in an apartment with no responsibilities. It took me six months to finally settle down, finally unwind.

This is what I learned. The world didn't end. My old job went on with someone new performing it...possibly she was even better at it. No one missed me to any extent. All the other folks I was absolutely sure were depending on me...weren't. All the tasks I was positive were life 'n' death important...weren't.

A friend I've met since that part of my life once asked me how I could live without worrying, without anxiety. How could I be so darned ZEN? I ask myself two questions. Do I own this problem? No? Then I move on. If 'yes', then the second question comes into play. What can I do about this? Sometimes, the answer is not a thing. If there's something I can do, then I try to do it.

About 90% of the time, I don't own the problem. Really. I might wish I could help out, but most of the time my help is NOT needed--or wanted. Too often, we want to meddle when we shouldn't. Too often, we try to control events and lives that are not ours to control. Too often, we should smile and move on.

If we do all those things, then we will have time to put our efforts into helping where it's really needed. Inner peace.