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Saturday, November 19, 2011

My drum, my beat, my ego?

Is it egotism when a writer attempts to get media coverage of his work through whatever means is possible? I'll admit I have tried everything that isn't illegal. If you are a first time novelist and trying to become established as a writer, it is about the only way. Unless you have the moola to pay a publicist to do it for you. Having written what I believe is a better than average book, but not having the bucks to spend in paying someone else to promote it, I have had no other options. My only reason for writing is to MAKE MONEY! Isn't that the reason most of us write? There are some altruists who believe they should write only for the art of it, but they are probably unknown, and in a very small minority. I am not looking to be a famous author, only a successful one. I definitely want fortune ($$). If I have to be a self salesman to get people to buy my work, so be it! I do not apologize for what I have had to do to get some recognition. I blow my own horn, and march to my own beat. That is who I am. That is what I do. If anybody doesn't like my methods, they can suck it up and move on. It is not egotism, it is business, and writing is a business just like any other. You're in it to make money, or you are wasting your time.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lost friendship

Probably my biggest regret is letting people who have been friends to me slip out of my life. Sadly, there have been too many of them, but the one I miss the most is Mike Blachowicz. From about the age of nine until he entered college and moved away, Mike, Al Ousborne, and I were like the Three Musketeers, almost joined at the hip. We did all kinds of things together, and mostly all were fun. We did occasionally help a bit at Al's grandparents Chesapeake Bay shorefront home, and, normally, followed that up with speedboat rides, swimming and water skiing. Mike and Al both went to college, but I didn't. I got married and worked at Sears in their Parts and Service Department. Gradually, we lost contact and went our separate ways. Al did a stint in the Navy as a dentist, his chosen career, and Mike became an engineer and worked for DuPont living in Delaware. When Albert moved back to Baltimore after the Navy, he once again became my dentist (he had worked on me while in dental school). Neither of us had any kind of contact with Mike until about two years ago when during a dental visit, Al and I discussed how much we would like to get together after all these years. When I called Mike to set up a meeting, he was not interested. I was desolate. Maybe it was because of the way I put it when I talked to him about it, but I never made a second attempt. All I know, now, is there is a hole in my heart where Mike used to live.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Telling a book by its cover

Ever wish you had two heads and four hands? Lately, that is how it has been for me. I am simultaneously trying to promote my novel, Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, and write a new one for young adults. To promote the current one, I have had designed new covers to use at online vendors like Amazon and Barnes and Noble with their ebook versions. The hard copy version will retain its original cover that shows Attman's Deli's storefront. Marc Attman helped me a great deal with the launching of the novel with a book signing party at his deli. I believe I owe him that much. However, the existing cover does not show well when displayed at the postage stamp size used by the book sellers websites. Ergo, the new designs. They are more readable and use colors that attract the eye. Unless an author already has a large following, he/she needs visibility when their product pops up in an online search. Writers that already have a large fan base will only need name recognition for potential buyers to look at whatever it is they have written. Unknowns have to do anything they can to draw the prospect's eye. That includes changing the book's cover if necessary.
On my website, http://jamesbattee.books.officelive.com, I am doing a survey of several new cover options and have added sample chapters to read. A random respondent will receive a signed copy of the book. All will receive the author's gratitude.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Too long since my last post

Wow! Where has the time gone? I have been so wrapped up in trying to promote my book with book talks, book signings and such, and with craft fairs, promoting my handmade jewelry, and that I have not taken the time to keep up with my blog. Sorry about that. The experts tell me that blogging is a good way to promote the books that I write, but sometimes it just becomes a chore. I do a lot of my promoting on facebook, so the blog has suffered. The new book I started is for young adults, and I am eight chapters into it. The writing is not going as fast as I would like because I keep making changes in the plot. I guess this is not unusual for most writers even if, like me, they have a prepared outline to follow. It seems, every time I make a change I have to go back and make changes elsewhere. This, of course, means a lot of time spent on rewriting. It is making the going slower, but, hopefully, a better end product.
While looking for something altogether different on the Internet, I found something that makes writing e-books much easier. It is an extension to Openoffice.org's Writer. It is called Writer2ePub. Since I have not had a chance to fully assess it, I shall have to await doing so before making any comments as to its efficacy. On the surface, it appears to have all of the elements required to produce a finished ePub product. My first book, Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, is done in several electronic versions including ePub. Since electronic publishing is rapidly gaining ground, and printed books are losing it, it makes sense to make sure that anything you write goes into electronic formats, ePub and Adobe's .pdf being the most popular. ePub is the format used on the Apple iPad, Sony, and many other popular readers. Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com both have proprietary formats, which the writer is compelled to use. With the proliferation of e-readers, it only makes sense to make your product available to this wide audience. Many people still value the printed page, but with the use of e-Readers, Smart Phones, the Kindle, and the Nook that can download a book from the Internet to be read while traveling on an airplane, waiting in line at a doctor's office or for an appointment with a client, this option is being used more frequently. My advice, do whatever it takes to get your writing into the hands of the largest audience possible, and it looks to me like electronic publishing should not be overlooked. I will experiment with Writer2ePub and will report my findings later.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Perils of Self Publishing-Part III

It nearly takes a miracle to get national attention. Unless you have an agent, or a publisher with a marketing department to make the necessary contacts, you are left to your own devices. Self-publishing still carries something of a stigma in the eyes of the national press. Getting reviewers for national magazines or newspapers to look at your product is next to impossible. But not totally. Sometimes the most unlikely sources will actually want to take a look at them. When my stepson read my book, Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, he interpreted it as a spy novel. I did not write it as one even though it contains spies. He suggested that I contact Eye Spy Magazine, which is circulated internationally, for a review. At first, I passed this off as an impossibility, but when I contacted their website, they wanted to take a look at it. I mailed the book, per their instructions, to England, where the magazine is published. A couple of weeks later, I received a phone message from the editor saying that he liked the book and would recommend it (which he did in the July/August 2011 issue). Whether or not this will mean a boost in book sales is yet to be seen, as it is too early to tell. However, one good magazine review can lead to another, and that is what I hope will happen. The task now is to spread the word of this review to other publications. Other attempts to publicize the work are still ongoing. Attempting to get coverage by local television and radio, doing book talks and personal appearances, and reviewing works by other authors are other ways of getting your name and product into the public eye. Using blogs like this one and social media such as FaceBook and Twitter are other useful ways of spreading the word. If you are a self publisher, you cannot rest on your laurels, you must keep plugging away at every opportunity. If you snooze, you lose, and, if an opportunity is lost, you may never have it again.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Perils of Self Publishing-Part II

As a self publisher, promoting your book is probably the most difficult thing you're going to have to do once you have put into the final form. How you do that is up to your own ingenuity. Doing personal appearances and book signings is always a good avenue for publicity, especially if you can get it into the newspaper or mentioned on TV or radio. Blogs, like this one, are another good way of spreading the word. Using social media like FaceBook and Twitter give you inexpensive ways to put your message in front of larger crowds. FaceBook, for instance, gives you the possibility of having a fan page that enables you to announce to a larger audience whatever events you wish to publicize. There are, also, many free websites available. They are easy to set up, as most of them provide templates that you can use to design a site that looks fairly professional. I used Microsoft's OfficeLive.com for mine, and to me, it looks pretty good. Making sure that press releases are sent out prior to any personal appearances will ensure that the media is, at the least, informed. I have had relative success using this strategy with several of the smaller local publications. If you can form a relationship with any of the local media people, that will greatly enhance the possibility of having your events publicized. Don't turn down the opportunity to speak to book clubs or any local organization that likes having guest speakers talk to their members. Book clubs are good in that prior to addressing them, their members will buy copies of your book for discussion purposes, and if they like it, the word-of-mouth advertising that comes through them is priceless. The problem with all of these things is they require vast amounts of time. Time away from your major pursuit, which is, hopefully, working on your next writing project. The biggest trick is getting national attention, and if getting the word out locally is difficult, getting it out nationally is damn near impossible. That is the subject for the next post.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Perils of Self Publishing-Part I

When I started writing my book, Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, I had no idea that I was creating a monster. Writing and re-writing the story was the easy part. What happened when I finished it came as big surprise. The first thing I learned was that, in general, agents do not want to hear from you. They are only interested in promoting authors they already represent. Many do not even give you the courtesy of a reply to letters or emails asking them to take on your book. Most will direct you to a web page with submission requirements, and these will vary wildly. After wasting several months looking for an agent to no avail, I decided to self publish. The problem with that process is that if you don't have the money to pay for expensive services that most print on demand publishers offer, you are stuck with doing all of those things for yourself. My solution? Publish on CreateSpace.com or Lulu.com. I settled on CreateSpace, as I was only required to purchase one copy: a proof. That would solve my minimal finances problem. After going through numerous file structure changes that were necessary to upload the files, I had a real copy of my work in my hands, but it was flawed. I had somehow uploaded the same chapter twice. With the proof in hand, we, my Darling Judy and I, scoured the pages for other problems and found lots of them. Re-editing the entire book for redundancies, poorly worded passages, and grammatical errors took us to the point where we were ready to upload the changes. Confident that we had corrected all of the problems, we ordered several copies of the proof to give away. The strategy we used for doing this is in the next installment.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Status Quo: Hopeless

I have, as do most people, a "To Do" list. I have come to the conclusion it will never get finished in this lifetime. It keeps growing longer as I get older. Filled with things I want to do as well as things I need to do, I have to keep paring it down so I can keep it from getting completely out of control. Not that it really is under control. It seems to stay static at about two dozen items because when I finish one task, another quickly takes its place. Add in the things my wife wants me to do, and it grows like a sprig of ivy: climbing up, grabbing me by the throat, and squeezing it shut. Or so it seems. I looked at it this morning and realized what a mixed up mess it is. I am going to have to re-write and prioritize it. Again. Then, I am going to have to get busy doing what is on it. Does the time ever come when a person can just say, "to hell with it," and throw the damnable thing in the trash? Is there no rest for the weary? Anyone who thinks old age is the time for taking it easy and slowing down needs to take a look at my list. I didn't work this hard before I retired. Oh, well! Enough whining. Time to get to work.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Fed Up American

Like many others, I have grown to hate the federal government. It has completely lost, not only its credibility, but its purpose. It is no longer government of the people. It is an oligarchy run by the rich and powerful. Political correctness has taken the place of common sense. The government now decides who in its opinion is making too much money making it unfair to people, on the dole, who are unwilling to work,
but not unwilling to do drugs and add their illegitimate children to it. Illegal aliens are given rights that are withheld from the elderly who have paid into Social Security and their taxes all their lives. Jobs are sent overseas and Americans are put out of work for the sake of corporate profits. Young Americans are fighting and dieing for the rights of other peoples in lands whose citizens do not appreciate what they are doing. They should, instead, be protecting our homeland from those who sneak across our borders either to gain access to benefits that should be reserved for American citizens, perform terrorist acts, or to participate in the lucrative drug trade. It is a government whose priorities are convoluted. It is my belief that we need to go back to fundamentals. By that, I mean the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the constitutional amendments that guarantee the rights of American citizens. It is time to scrap the crap and start over. I see the need for American Revolution II. I love my country, and would gladly give my life for it. God bless America, but god damn its government whose leadership, the likes of Obama, Pelosi, and a plethora of career politicians, has betrayed us too many times to catalog.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Past, Present, and Future

Last Saturday was a great day for me. My wife and I went to Greetings and Readings, the largest local independent bookstore in the metropolitan area. We sold a bunch of copies of Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, and had a lot of fun in the process. According to one of the people who works there, I sold triple the number of books sold by the average author who comes there for a book signing. Today, Judy and I went to a store called All Things Country. The owner there was a lady, who greeted us with great warmth. We dropped off some books and will be included in a multiauthor book signing on August 6. We also took a bunch of old coins to a dealer and sold them for just under $400. I had been a collecting them for many years. I have several other things on my to do list that I MUST get out of the way before I can get back to serious writing. I have eight more items on that list, and hopefully, I will be able to knock them out without too many problems. Have you ever noticed how few lives never seems to get shorter? There is always something added to its end that makes it go on and on and on and on. Ah well, such is life.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Not as bad as I thought it would be

In my last post, I thought my favorite neighbor was going to be angry with me because I screwed up her lawnmower. It turns out that I had not screwed it up. She took it to a lawnmower shop in neighborhood, and they told her there was a trick to removing or tightening the blade. Obviously, I did not know the trick. Fortunately, it did not cost a fortune for her to get her lawnmower fixed or for her to have to replace it. Tomorrow we (my darling Judy and I) are going to Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley for a book signing session. When we finish with that, we will be going to set up another book signing that will take place on August 6. I have to take a supply of books, and sign some paperwork so I can put them on consignment at the store. I also sent the note to a writer friend, who is also a doctor, asking about a disease I was thinking about using in my book. I don't know if such a malady exists, but I am hoping that somewhere in the annals of modern medicine something of its sort might be found. If there is not a real disease, then I will have to invent one. It is critical to my story. Now, all I can do is sit back and wait for an answer so I can get on with the book.

Monday, June 20, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Trying to be a Good Samaritan has gotten me in a pickle. We have two lawnmowers. However, the riding lawnmower is not working properly, and walk behind self propelled is one that my wife does not like. Both of these are gasoline powered. Since I am physically unable to do the lawn work, Judy has to do it. She saw my neighbor, working with a lightweight electric lawnmower and asked to borrow it to finish up the back yard. She, also, volunteered for me to sharpen the blade. That was the beginning of the end. The blade was beyond sharpening. It needed replacement. The nut holding the blade in place, was nearly rusted together with the shaft. I sprayed it liberally with penetrating oil, waited about 15 minutes, then tried to loosen the it again. Hooray, it came loose. There was a problem though. Once the nut was loose, it could not be removed because there was no way to hold the motor shaft still to remove it. Conversely, it could not be re tightened. There was no way to grip the motor shaft from underneath the mower. After fighting the problem for 2 1/2 hours, in the summer's heat, on Father's Day, I asked the mower owner to come take a look at it so I could show her what was going on. This lady is an architect and a do-it-yourselfer. I showed her the problem and said that I believed that the there was a way to correct the problem from the opposite end of the motor. However, because the shroud would only lift up about 4 inches, it was impossible to see the end of the motor shaft to determine whether or not there might be a hex key or other kind of fitting at the end of the shaft. She would have none of it. She was going to have Sears come out and take care of it. At that moment, my wife got angry,too. At me. For not having thought of this in advance. Now, I not only had my favorite neighbor angry with me, but I had my wife angry too. What a wonderful way to spend Father's Day!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Great News From the UK

This morning when I open my e-mails. I saw something that gave me chills. It was a message from the UK. I had sent a message to the editor of Eye Spy Magazine. A request via e-mail asking for his personal opinion of my novel, Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, as I had sent it to him with the caveat that it was not a traditional spy story. He told me he was going to read it the weekend after he received it via a transatlantic telephone call. When I opened the e-mail, I was thriiled with its contents. Mr. Birdsall, the editor, had nothing but glowing comments. He said that all of my espionage scenes were plausible, and the book was an enjoyable read. He assured me he that a review would be published in his magazine. That should give a major boost to my book sales since the magazine has a worldwide distribution to the surveillance and security communities. Once it is published, other reviwers may pick up on the book as well. Hopefully that is the case. I will be posting his e-mail on my book's website under "Reviews." Here's hoping many good things will come from this.

Friday, June 17, 2011

How can I write when everything else is given a higher priority. Fix this. Do that. It seems as soon as warm weather hits, writing takes a back seat. Waaaay back! The usual things that come with owning (along with the bank) a house take over, and by the time I finish with those, I am too tired to sit down to a keyboard and concentrate on the project at hand. Throw in the things that have to be done to promote your current work, and creativity time is gone. I need to figure a way to slough off some of the more mundane chores that keep bogging me down. No wonder my blogs have become less frequent. That is not an excuse, but it is a fact. Oh, well! Fall is only three months away.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Writer's Woes

I can't believe what just happened to me. I had just finished composing a blog entry using the Google toolbar access to Blogger, and when I attempted to post the blog, I got a blank screen and a message saying "action not available." To make it worse, I could not go back and retrieve what I had written. My carefully contrived post is now floating somewhere in cyberspace, most likely, never to be seen again. I am very exasperated. I started blogging about how I produced my first book, going into some details, and writing about new projects I have begun. I am in the midst of a young adult novel using my grandchildren as models for the characters. The second project is a sequel to my first book, Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, and is giving me fits. There are so many variables, that I am having a difficult time tying the pieces together. However, I am not one to give up easily when confronted with a problem that seemingly has no solution. The fact that it took me 18 months and eight rewrites to finish my first book proves that. It may take me a while, but I will figure it out. It is the solutions to the problems I faced during the process is what sets Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row apart from every other book out there.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

If we went to war tomorrow...

The war against terrorism is like the war in Viet Nam, and we are making the same mistakes we made there. The insurgents are choosing the time and place of every engagement. Our "search and destroy" missions are ineffective because the bad guys know we are coming and can hide or slip away and trigger roadside bombs when our troops approach. In Iraq, the militants we are fighting will cheerfully die because they believe they will be sent to paradise. This is the kind of war no advanced military equipment can win. On the other hand, if China were to attack the US, we would be in an untenable situation. Most of our manufacturing capability has been diminished to the point that it is nearly nonexistent. Products stamped with "Made in USA", rarely show up on shelves. Because of protesting environmentalists, we do not drill in oil-rich regions of the United States. Instead, we pay outrageous prices to other nations for something we have in abundance. In order to fight a war against a hostile nation, manufacturing capabilities and ready supplies of fuel for the fighting machines are absolutely necessary. An attack by a nation like China, would have hordes of soldiers manning equipment much less technically sophisticated than ours, but in huge quantities. Even if we have the most advanced equipment available, massive numbers will win out. For example, if the Germans had the quantity of tanks, jet aircraft and fuel they needed, they would have won the war. They had the biggest, baddest tanks and the fastest airplanes. It was America's overwhelming manufacturing might that enabled us to win that war. It was a numbers game: as we produced more they produced less. I fear that a war against a major power will not go well for us.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A flaw in the military's thinking

When writing my novel, Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, I had to familiarize myself with military strategy and means of attack and defense. One of the problems I had in writing the book was planning a covert operation to capture an Israeli secret weapon. I had to come up with a scenario that was not only viable but tactically sound. It took me a good while to come up with a solution to my problem, but I believe it was not too far fetched. I was not trying to write science fiction, but a military operation that was unique and plausible. Several people who have read the book have commented on its reality and my knowledge of the processes. Which brings me to the point. I believe the US military has placed far too much emphasis on technology. A single, well placed nuclear device could cripple all of it. A nuclear device exploded in space above the USA could knock out our entire infrastructure from cell phones to traffic lights to water supplies and sewage treatment. If a rogue organization wants to destroy the United States, that is all they would have to do. No more computers, television, automobiles, trains, airplanes, electricity of any kind. The explosion would cause an electromagnetic pulse or EMP that would wipe out anything that uses an electronic circuit to control it from cars to wrist watches. And an ICBM would not be necessary to do it. A rocket launched from American soil by domestic terrorists or smuggled in by enemies could do it, and the military would have no defence against it. Technology is a wonderful thing, but too much reliance on it could kill us all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I have become an angry old man

I have come to the conclusion that I am glad I will not live too many more years. At 72, I have had a full life that started out wonderfully. Two loving parents, doting grandparents, and a slew of aunts, uncles and cousins nearby. Then came WWII and my father's departure for the Marine Corps. Iwo Jima changed him and my relationship with him. He was no longer the gentle person he had been before. That, and the fact that my mother made him the one who passed out discipline for my misdeeds. I began to fear him more than love him. Still there were good times together. Happy times. I remember times spent at my cousin's waterfront home on Chesapeake Bay where one could look into the water under the pier and see sunfish or bluegills guarding their nests in the shallow water. Not so, now. That same water is clouded with pollutants. In my neighborhood, glistening white marble steps shone in the sun. The ladies of the houses there made sure they were kept immaculate. Not so, now. The neighborhood has been taken over by whores and drug dealers. Those white steps are filthy with car exhaust residue, spilled soft drinks and beer. I have seen the America I love being slowly dismantled by the greed of its people on all levels, the corruption at highest offices of government, and the lopsided reporting of events in the press and on TV. I have seen its industrial might that enabled it to defeat terrible enemies during WWII allowed to crumble and fall into disrepair. There is no longer the kind of pride and patriotism that once existed in our cities. It still exists in middle America, but has been lost in the cities. There, the tenets of citizenship and patriotism have been cast aside for corporate profits and personal greed. Those subjects are no longer taught in the schools. I see my country dying of a lack of morals and general apathy. I only hope I die before it does.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Who's side is he on?

Our grandstanding president (I will never capitalize president before his name) Obama, has managed to pull defeat from the jaws of victory once again. A veteran of special operations critiqued the bin Laden take down and I feel his analysis is on the money. If Obama had kept is big mouth shut and not revealed what had happened to the entire world, the CIA and the other intelligence agencies involved could have quickly deciphered what was in the "treasure trove" of information taken from the Pakistani compound. A followup series of raids conducted within days could have totally destroyed the entire terrorist network. Instead, Obama has alerted them and told them of the death of their leader. Now, they have had a chance to change their locations and strategies. By disclosing the facts and too many details, our chances of eliminating this threat to our security has been jeopardized by the very person whose responsibility it is to guarantee it. Authorizing the strike at Osama bin Laden may have been a great move, but immediately announcing it to the world is a security blunder of astronomical proportions. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Our Greatest Enemy

I just received an email from a boyhood friend about a warning from a former Israeli agent who has lectured on anti-terrorism and is now a consultant to Congress. Sadly, those whom he has informed of the threats think we are too stupid or unable to handle the reality. Israel has a totally different approach to security than the USA. They are proactive, whilst America is reactive. it's a sad thing to say that the leadership of the United States is not informing people of the real dangers that exist. Since taking down Osama bin Laden, the terrorists have vowed revenge. US security policies are filled with political correctness to the terrorists tremendous advantages. Liberals in the United States have crippled our security agencies with things like anti-profiling that aids people who are trying to do us harm. Another attack like 9/11 is going to have to occur before this country wakes up to what it is really facing. I believe that our greatest threat is going to be from home-grown terrorists. Patriotism is a word rarely heard any more. Our schools no longer teach things like civics or American government. The children growing up in this day age have no idea of our history. They have no idea of what those who have gone before them have given in suffering and dying in fighting for their freedoms. We have only ourselves to blame. We have stood by and allowed people to pervert or circumvent our laws. By doing this, we have opened the door and invited in, unwelcome guests. I have met the enemy, and he is us.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A writers work is never done

I have started on a new project in hopes of capturing a new audience. People between say, 10 to 17 years old. I know it is a stretch for a man my age trying to write for youngsters like them, but I have been a storyteller all my life and have had more than a little success making up yarns for kids.
When my friend Richard Reilly would invite me up to his home in the western part of the state, I would tell spooky stories to his kids in the evening. These were 10 through 15 year old's, and to keep them attentive for an hour or more listening to me contrive stories was no mean feat. If they wanted to, they could watch cable TV or play video games. I told my tales in a style reminiscent of old time radio programs like "Lights Out," or "Inner Sanctum" that had engrossed me when I was growing up. I hope this latest endeavor that uses my grand kids as models works the same way.
While writing this one which has a working title of " the Berger Kids Meet Spiny Funkle," I am still promoting my novel "Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row." I have entered Amazon.com's Breakout Novel contest, and set up a second book signing at "Greetings and Readings," a top flight local bookstore. The last one was a roaring success, and they are happy to have me back again. Additionally, I am coaching another old man (like me) who aspires to being an author and passing on some of my experiences. I tried to make clear that promoting one's work is by far the hardest thing for a self published author to do. This blog is proof of the pudding.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Golden Years? Who the HELL dreamed that up?

I talk to my sister, Donna, on the phone every Tuesday. Most of our conversations are about how we are both coping on a day-t0-day basis. I have to admit her life is more interesting than mine. She has three sons, two of them are close to her, all three have kids of various ages. The oldest has three: two are married, the third is going to community college. The middle son has two, a son who is married with one child, and a daughter in high school. The youngest is married with three kids: all under six years old. It is usually these latter grandchildren who dominate the conversation. I have one unmarried daughter who has no interest in children or old people. That includes me. I can understand why she has such an aversion to the elderly. She was dragged along on visits to a series of nursing homes where her grandmother (her mother's mother) was housed after she fell and broke her hip. This woman was never going to win Grandmother of the Year. She was the most demanding and selfish woman I ever met. To make matters worse, she didn't talk, she screeched! Her voice grated on you like fingernails on a chalkboard. She did nothing to rehabilitate after her accident but complain about everything. She had complained about everything all of her life. It was a constant gripe session. No wonder the girl hated being around her. I did, too, but had to bite my tongue for my wife's sake. Now, I, too, am old. At 71, with not much to talk about except my writing, my shop projects (which do not interest my daughter), and my aches and pains, there is little to engender a desire to be around me. And besides, she live 40 miles from me. My golden years are severely tarnished. I have a mind full of marvelous things to do, but a body than won't let me do them. I had to give up my motorcycle, one of my greatest joys about a year ago, and I miss it. When I lost it, I not only lost a means of transportation, I lost the freedom and exhilaration that came with riding it. There is no other way to put it: getting old sucks. If I could catch the person who came up with the notion of Golden Years, I would rip out their tongue and beat them over the head with it.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Things that get you down

I have decided I am not going to watch the TV news anymore. It is too depressing. They only put on the bad stuff: tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, fires, floods, etc.. They never put on anything uplifting. Where I live, one channel has a newscast that runs for three hours every evening. I only watch until the weather forecast comes on because every half hour they begin again with their sensational story that everyone is talking about at the moment and re-hash it in the next segment. It is all downers. They rarely, if ever, put on the story about the local kid who struggled to get the time to study because he had to help support his family yet made it into college on an academic scholarship, or the EMT or fireman who was awarded a promotion for exceptional service. Nor do they tell of the cop who got a gang to turn to basketball or baseball instead of drugs and juvenile delinquency. People need to hear these kinds of stories, too! They need to tell us of the lady who volunteered after her job to teach children to read, and about the teacher who has inspired thirty former students to pursue careers in engineering instead of dropping out, and how they honored him with a scholarship in his honor. When they start broadcasting more of this kind of news, they will get me back.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Starting over

Here I am at the beginning of another writing project. As if the creation of my first book wasn't enough grief, I am now trying to produce one using my wife's grandkids as models. Fortunately, they are good models. Each of them has an interesting personality and traits that translate well into a story. They are of the correct age for a novel about youngsters and old enough to be able to do some interesting things as a group. Like some of the stories that have gone before such as the Hardy Boys or the Nancy Drew mysteries, their characters give a good mix that enables the plot to have multiple twists and turns. I describe one as brave, another as musically talented, the third as artistic, and one as athletic. Together, they have the makings of a team that has just the right mix of talents and skills to do the things outlined in the plot. I am not letting them know that they are being incorporated into the story until I had finished it. I want them to see themselves the way I see them. I hope that this has the desired effect. I love all of them, and I love the two new ones who are too young to be incorporated as they are only two and newborn. Maybe, if I live long enough, I'll write about them, too. Thanks to the experience gained with writing Double Trouble on Corned Beef Row, this one should be easier.