Friday, November 23, 2012

Gooch and Pipes

      I received a package from the UPS man the other day....and that is the subject of this blog. 
     The package contained several small items that only a few of my closest friends would even recognize or know the story behind. Included was a rather disreputable tobacco pipe. Age and harsh conditions tend to make to make even treasures appear to have been maltreated...unless you know differently that is.
      This particular pipe had been: loved...treasured...helped ease it's owner's stress...and was damaged by the harsh conditions it was used in. 
     It was also rarely separated from it's owner.  
     I wouldn't even know how to calculate the number of pounds of tobacco that have been smoked in it, the hours it was held in his hand or has dangled from his mouth. I can still see and feel the owner's joy which would abound when a can of: Mixture 79 Cherry Brandy, Granger, or Kentucky Club pipe tobacco would arrive by mail. You knew that at the very first opportunity(normally shortly after the package was opened most of the time)the air would be filled with billowing clouds of sweet smelling pipe tobacco smoke.
    I've also seen this pipe filled in desperation with stale C-Ration  cigarette tobacco, which was older than any of us near it at the time the poor thing was filled and lit. I can't say I was thrilled  with the odor from the pipe or it's owner's choice of tobacco any time the two of them were reduced to this level of subsistence. But I knew they were more than friends or lovers...this wooden pipe and it's owner were part of each other.
    The only time I know for a fact they were separated during their long relationship was in Hue. The pipe's owner had been blessed with three AK-47 rounds to the chest and was in no mood to smoke...he was also(as we were to find out) in no mood to loose his pipe. When we could get a Med-Evac in...we had to promise to guard his pipe with our lives, before we could get him on the bird. I can't say that I blamed him...I understood his fear. He knew that in a contest between pipes versus lives...the decision will always go to the side of the human and he'd never see his pipe again.
    A week later I went to the hospital ship off shore to visit with my friend before he returned home, via Balboa. Did he say hello or thanks for going to the trouble to see me off? Hell no! 
    His first words to me were, "If you've come to tell me you lost my pipe...I'll kill you."  He, I, and his pipe were always close that way .... you can also tell just which of us he treasured the most from his greeting.
     He's separated from his pipe now and I'll never be able to return it to it's owner. But I think the next best thing is to take it to where I suspect "The Gooch"  is and leave it in good company. I'm going to visit that black slab with a long list of names on it. I'll go there at night because he rarely smoked his pipe till the safety of daylight. I will leave his pipe and three packages of tobacco...a man should have a choice at first light. It would be selfish to keep his pipe simply because it was a part of him.
     

Thursday, November 8, 2012

History and government lessons taught with cake.

     I'm like a lot of folks today...I find myself raising three of my grandchildren. This little twist of fate happened almost eleven years ago and came as a shock to both my wife and myself. We went to bed one night in an empty nest and woke up the next morning with two children in diapers and a five year old who didn't know her ABC's, colors, or how to count to ten. 
     But those facts aren't the main reason for this little  rant  from an old man, it's only part of the  foundation for why I'm writing this. It would seem, according to my oldest granddaughter I'm not even in the same class as a Neanderthal. She has firmly asserted that I'm possibly not far enough along on the evolutionary scale to even be considered human. You might say she feels so restrained by standards that are so .."just unreal in today's world." 
     Before you ask the question...yes we've had words  from time to time about just who is the adult and who is the child. She is always astounded by the simple word "no" and fails to understand why I refuse to allow her the "freedoms" of her peers. I've told her I'll only accept the best grades she's capable of...and "B's"  in  her case aren't even close. We have been at odds over several things since she became a "teenager"  which according to her is based on my inability to understand "just how much the world has changed.
     As an example she was shocked to learn that the end of World World II  Japan had not only the technological ability to deliver the atomic bomb they'd developed...but were preparing to use it. She was astounded at the very idea our form of government was not and had not ever been rooted or intended to be any form of socialism. She and her favorite teacher were astounded that I won't bend to the pressure of the standard I've set for how she'll dress.  They were both flabbergasted that anyone would challenge their wisdom...after all, no one should ever question "their" authority. But to challenge authority and present facts which differ from the now correct teenage views on the purpose of government,  American history or dating is just short of a moral outrage.
     My granddaughter loves the forbidden fruits of calories concealed in all things sugary, a simple fact that I most assuredly do not fault her for. But she also (at times) appears to be one very bright young lady who happens to be one very stubborn, persistent young woman (she gets that trait from her grandmother) when she even remotely believes she's right and I'm wrong. According to her..... this seems to be the case most of the time. 
     You might be thinking I withheld a piece of cake as punishment for her constantly telling me I have no knowledge of the real world which exist today. Or possibly I took offense to her applauding certain social programs or how socialism is really what America should have as a guiding set of standards for us to live by. No, the main reason I used the cake was to teach history and government in an effort to show my granddaughter her assertion about the last presidential election had consequences. 
     She was thrilled to see this election put us back on track towards a fairer form of government. One that will be just what our founding fathers had intended to create. I decided to show her just what tract we were now riding on. The results were very predictable...and enjoyable.
    One of her jobs in the house is to run the vacuum cleaner in the kitchen after school. I promised her a piece of cake if she would also mop the floor.The promise of a sweet bribe is always enough to get any job done without a debate and this time was no exception. She attacked the kitchen with enthusiasm only a teenager who is getting what they want can exhibit. I must admit I was proud of the way she worked...and she did do a much better job than normal. 
     When her brother and sister can through the door from school yelling for a "snack" I told them to wait. They grumbled about being starved...but waited. Once their older sister was finished I cut one very large slice of chocolate cake and put it on the plate she was holding.She smiled only the smile an angle would have at choir practice.
     I took the plate from her and divided it into four pieces...giving the astounded young lady hers last. The first words out of her mouth was it wasn't fair...she'd worked for that piece of cake and the others hadn't.
     I agreed with her, but explained that it wasn't fair for someone to keep something ...when others don't have the same thing.
    She angrily told me to let them work for their own piece of cake.
    I told her that the haves must share with the have not's in life....just to make everything fair...after all, that's the way socialism works. The largest share of cake should be considered the governments share to be used as I saw fit. After all, since I'm the government in this particular case...she didn't have a say as to what I did with her cake. I also asked her what she thought she was living under...a government that allowed you to keep what you earn?.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The art of being me.

      Some folks have never mastered the fine art of just being themselves. They have no foundation of core beliefs to rely on for a sense of who they are as they live their daily lives. Worst yet, some are driven to achieve something which gives them a sense of self worth. I've seen this in the Marines, when I worked for the State Police and when I was writing books. These people don't take pride in the things they have accomplished on their own....they only take pride in what others think they've accomplished. How sad...how very sad that we define ourselves by the way folks see us and not in how we see ourselves.
     Anyone who was in the Marines longer than the time it takes to step on the first yellow foot print has seen this phenomena play itself out in a thousand different ways. The most common ways are claims for tours in combat zones they didn't have and of course their entire service was spent on the forward edge of the battle area. All of this nonsense would be followed by claims for medals and the honors that others have earned...and they haven't. These people (and the other services have their fair share...ask any Navy Seal) never once consider the fact that they served to be an honor. No...to anyone who will listen, they paint themselves in the light of hardships, so others can see they've achieved a status they've felt cheated out of. 
      Why is it that folks like that couldn't take pride in being a cook or motor transport driver?  I know a cook who received the bronze star for his part in hand to hand combat  at Hue and more than one motor transport driver who received the Purple Heart for delivering the groceries. Yet if you ask them, the very first thing they'll tell tell you is they were a cook or MT driver in the Marines...the rest you have to drag out of them
       In my time with the State Police I observed the exact same behavior. For some of these folks, if you weren't a "Road Dog" you were less than a full fledged police officer. I've listened to tales of  arrest, car chases and any number of dangerous situations these folks seemed to be constantly involved in. Yet I knew that for the most part they wrote traffic violations and handled the occasional domestic dispute. They seemed determined to convince people they deserved the uniform they'd earned.
      I had one friend when I was with the State Police who worked in Latent Prints, rarely carried his weapon and who in his career helped convict more law breakers than the arrest records of any ten average "Road Dogs". I've never heard him or the officers from Ballistics brag...they just did their job well and took a quiet pride in their work.
      I've had several folks tell me I have to get my work republished...no I don't. I've had two publishers of e-books offer to look at my work and that is an ego boost in and of itself. Several of the folks I know have offered to help me search for a new publisher....this is a badge of honor I've done nothing to deserve. I was contacted by old friends, several new ones and of course my family who've offered encouragement.
      I'll also add that I've been contacted by two neanderthals from my past whose sole purpose was to offer me a ration of BS. Of course when you consider the fact that between the two of them they lack the ability to walk, talk and gargle Ten High at the same time...well consider the source. It would have been nice if three of them had harassed me, but that won't happen now. 
      My point in this trip through the mine field of life is simple. I set out to write a book and have it published.....I wrote eight and had five published. I told someone in one of the interviews I did, that if you finished a book you started...you are an author. If the book is published, then you are a published author. I finished with the notion that if someone (family doesn't count here) bought the beast...you were a successful author. 
     I also just finished working one very small B&E for a friend this week. Old stupid habits die hard, but I proved to myself I'm still a forensic (be it somewhat rusty) analyst. Linda is right about one thing, I would work myself to death in a hurry if I went back to that type of fun. That or she'd catch me and I'd be a dead man....any way you looked at it, that is out.
    If I keep looking for a publisher, I'll write about what I encountered on this thing. But I think my next hobby just may be collecting tobacco pipes. If you think about it...there are more than a few who would say this is a good thing for the world of literature.
    Collecting tobacco pipes has a certain attraction for me. I like smoking(it freaks certain types of people out) and it's something Linda wouldn't kill me for me doing.
    You see...I know who I am...I've always known that little tidbit of information. I define myself by what makes me laugh and what I enjoy. I've also known for sometime now, that some things are to be enjoyed and others endured. Folks...if you define yourself by a title....what are you going to do when someone awards you the title 'perfect asshole?"

Friday, October 19, 2012

Professional Ethics

      I find myself once again without a publisher, which is and isn't the reason for this blog. The fact that I've left a publisher has no life altering consequences for me, it's enough to say I left. But this was the action which led me to the desire to write the following.
      Most folks who write are unable to find a home for their work no matter how well written  their short stories, poetry or book may be. There are also times when authors  feel it best to sever a relationship with a publisher for one reason or another...especially when their working relationship has become disagreeable. When a published author reaches that point, it really doesn't matter if you've got a bunch of published books or are at a loss to find a home for your first work. The truth of the beast is you're right back where you started from when you wrote the end for the first book.
       Any unpublished and every published author will tell you exactly how daunting a task finding an agent or publisher can be. I believe it would be almost impossible to understate the difficulties you face as you go through the process of submitting queries in an effort to convince folks to even look at your work. I had no idea where to even start when I began the search for a home for my first book. I now find I'm in different circumstances and face the same problems I had the first time. This leads me to the very reason I'm writing this.
      When my wife "suggested" I get the first book published....I of course agreed with her. I may be old, at times forget five minutes ago and need my naps....but I'm not a suicidal fool. When I parted company with the publisher I was with, she suggested I contact two of the agents who have e-mailed me from time to time in the last year....I had and have reservations.  
       Aside from the fact I felt their actions at the time were unethical, I firmly have the conviction that to deal with them now would be much the same as swimming in a cesspool. So I am at ground zero and left with the choices of ; finding a new hobby, doing some part time work in forensics or play with this writing thing some more. It really doesn't matter which choice I make, they all have a few problems and one has two dangers.
      We'll start with the dangerous one first. If (and I would like too) I secured my stack and started doing only one or two cases a month...or week...or maybe a day there is the weapons problem to consider.
     My wife had and has forbidden me to work case work for anyone on threat of  death...that's the first danger. When you consider the number of weapons in the house....the fact she's a better shot with a pistol than I am...well that becomes a very unattractive hobby.
       Having another MGB-GT would be a great hobby or I know where there is a beast of a 68 goat with all the right things to enhance it's performance. She who should not be named has stated fine...the Can-Am must go. I suggest both...she suggested a trip to the pistol range for target practice. So you can clearly understand that one was also out of the picture, I have no desire to be part of her "sight picture".
      I've (her threats have in no way influenced me) have decided to find another publisher or maybe an agent this time, it has it's problems....but doesn't have the danger factor. This led me to go back to my files to see just who I'd tried to entice to look at my work the first time. Of the files I'd kept, one jumped out as a starting point. One of the few agents who even took the time to not only reject my first book...but also offer reasons and advice.
     I e-mailed Mr Andy Scheer looking for information.....and once again advice. I had noted in my files from the first time I'd queried him, his advice had been to seek an agent or publisher who preferred the genre your work fits. Anyone who has dealt with the search for a new home can understand just how impressive his actions were. 
     Knowing that what I have to offer is not the type of work he prefers, I felt fairly safe asking him a few questions. Once again I found this professional to be as generous with the little spare time he must have as his success shows his expertise must be.
     Why is it that there are so few men and women in literary agencies and publishing who won't take a few seconds to respond to someone they'll not be making money with? Why is it that there are so few people in this industry who won't take the time to offer encouragement, advice or even a kind word? Those are questions I don't have answers for or would even care to hazard a guess as to what those reasons may be.
     Every author seeking a home can tell you from their research, that the most common explanation from most web sites for these folks will state the answer is the high volume of queries revived daily. They all claim to be overworked and more than a few will state that no response is to be considered a rejection. 
     Perhaps a better question would be, "Why aren't there more folks like Mr. Scheer working in this field?"  There are a lot of people who say all the right things...but there seems to be damn few who actually do what they say. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

                          
                               One of the most amazing things in the world ....friends.

          It's often said by old fogies (myself not included here) that we make very few friends in life, but our lives will be filled with hundreds of acquaintances who will enter and depart our daily lives almost unnoticed. I've found this to be one of the truisms of life...it took awhile, but I came to understand this is a fact.
         True friends and enemies are a constant, you know exactly how you feel about them and even time can't change those feelings. If they depart this world before you do, in one way or another you immediately notice the difference. If it's a true friend...the world feels smaller, colder, and diminished by their absence. On the other hand, if it's a long standing enemy (enemy-someone you would gladly kill if it were legal)....you feel the world is far better off without them. Somewhere in the middle of friends and enemies  fall another group of folks we classify as acquaintances. Acquaintances are the folks you like or dislike and can barely remember their names shortly after they've  departed you life
         The reason for this diatribe of jumbled thoughts is I made a new "friend" on Facebook yesterday. Nothing strange or out of the ordinary about that if you think about it. The process is really simple: someone sends you or you send a "friend request", which is almost automatically accepted and your "friends" list is increased by one.....and normally it's someone you've never met. But increasing my friends list by one this time released a flood of pleasant (mostly) memories loose, allowing them to run rampantly through what little gray matter I still have left.
        The first of these unbridled thoughts was an attempt to define just what a friend really is...I'll add I have no doubts in my mind how to define just what is an enemy. I came to the following definitions of friendship I'd like you to consider.
       One: A friend is someone who can(and in my case will) belittle you for almost anything they can grasp in their evil minds. They will ridicule, berate, and celebrate all of your short comings publicly in vile attempts at humor. At the very same time they would gladly give up their life for you if the need arose.
      Two: A friend is a pleasant reminder of times shared together in all types of circumstances you've shared in life. I'll add that some of those circumstances are ones you would rather not share with your wife or children. Of course telling "your friends side" of the story to their loved ones is entirely different and always necessary at every chance presented to you.
      Three: A friend is someone you've held in your arms or who've held you during the worst moments of your life. These are the times that will never be ridiculed, berated, celebrated or ever mentioned again by either of you. They become a hidden, shared bond of a deeply seated love which is felt, but will always remain buried in the very depths of your souls.
      Four: A friend is someone you are never truly parted from. Distance and time doesn't destroy the bonds of true friendship, even death will fail to break this bond.
     My father told me on several occasions that in my entire life I would be lucky to make two or three friends. I now understand exactly what he meant and realize just how blessed I've been in my lifetime. I have a wife who is and has been a friend from the very first moment I set eyes on her. But she is not the type of friend I'm referring to...she was a gift I didn't deserve from God.
     In my entire life I've managed to make seven friends, eight if you (and I do) count a bitter enemy who became a cherished friend. I now find I am down to three friends and it looks like it may be two shortly. We haven't seen each other in years, rarely communicate more than two or three times a month and would still die for each other if the need arose. Yet we have no need for a "friends page" and know what is truly important in our profiles...we are friends.
     I know the three of you clowns sneak over and read this thing. I also know the chances of us all being together for one last hurrah are slim to none now. But could I suggest  we take the time on Pap's birthday for a shared drink of "Ten" only marred by distance? We can still tell the same lies of our youth and share the company of other friends who'll be joining us...but not drinking . Remember, "Here's to assholes and those like us...damn few left." See you there.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Asking for Help.

       I've stated in almost every one of the interviews I've done, that your work should be your work...not the by-product of a committee's suggestions and recommendations. I've also said that if you ask for an opinion for something you're working on from a reader...then consider what they tell you carefully. After all, you went to them  to learn how they feel about something...you owe it to anyone who  responds to consider their comments.  If you see truth in what they've told you...then you also owe it to them to use the information to your advantage. But be sure there is viability to what they're saying needs to be done, change because you agree ... not because they told you too. 
     Recently I did just that...went looking for readers and their opinions on the book I'm working on. By now I'm fairly certain when I've drifted into the land of Literary Fantasia and am headed up the creek you normally don't have a paddle for. Four responses....four cold prickles on the spine...and confirmation of what I already knew and refused to accept. You might even say  the number was five....if you count my publisher. But what do they know...after all I'm a diva author who ignores what anyone has to say about my work...unless they're telling me how fantastic I am of course.  
      I now find myself in the same situation you're in when you're holding a poor poker hand(small straight or two weak pairs). You know the hand is a ninety percent loser, can tell by the betting somebody has something and you're trying to decide whether to hold em or fold em. Well if the truth be known, I know I'll fold and save my money for the next hand....did I mention I'm also cheap?  The real problem is I haven't been drinking and knew what was going to be the outcome of seeking readers even before I started. 
     Now why do people get stupid when they read their own work? Is it something like the lie you tell yourself just before your bike hits the asphalt(greasy side up) at the Legal speed limit(that's my story and I'm not changing that one)? Do you really believe ...."It'll be OK?" Or is it because you can't see the stuff you just wrote sucks? Would you like to know what the coldest prickly of all was? Every piece of feed back I received said the same thing and were the very things I was questioning to start with. 
      What is it...ego? 
      I  know you can read the same thing you've written a thousand times and be oblivious to the obvious. Not that I have done that you understand, but I've been told most authors do. Being a diva author.... I could never make make a mistake...let alone a simple spelling or grammar mistake that lessor folks do. There would be no way I could ever change a character's name three times in the same chapter or any of the common mistakes other authors do.
      But when you're reading your own stuff and can't decide which mark you would give it...minus one or minus three stars...you really don't need a beta reader....you need a dose of reality. 
      So maybe having a set of beta readers on hand is a good thing. Not to tell you how to change your work....but to take a baseball bat to your head and shoulders. After they've gotten your attention, they may be able to convince you to see a few small things you've missed.

Friday, September 7, 2012

         Warm fuzzy and cold prickly feelings for a writer.

         I have a habit of getting different people to read whatever I'm working on at the time. I've found for the most part it pays to have three or four people who don't like what you write and one or two who think you're absolutely fabulous tell you how they feel about any of your new work. 
       Now this may is not a balanced approach and you may be asking yourself why would anyone do that? Most people would likely feel an author's best chance to have anything judged fairly would be by those who are in the middle ground where your writing is concerned. There may be some truth to that position of security, I really haven't thought much about having my work judged fairly. I use my method of "How am I doing MOM" as a token of defiance against Cold Prickles.
       Don't know what a Cold Prickly is? Well in the text I'm using the expression, Cold Prickly means those reviewers who delight in being as sharp and biting as they can be in their written assessment of the author, you'll note I didn't say author's work. This is done in hopes of inflicting stinging spasms of  emotional pain on the author and impress other readers with their brisk, nipping wit at the same time. This type of reviewer truly loves to slide an ice cube down the spine of an author, and I believe their only regret is they aren't able to watch the reaction of the author. 
       I've had the privilege of getting to know a number of young folks who have a driving desire to write. They pour their hearts and souls into every word, phrase, sentence or paragraph they write. One of their biggest joys in life is to strive to create a story which will please their readers. For this type of author, writing has that same type of wondrous joy  as that first love or the thrill of a first kiss and will be treasured for a lifetime.  They rejoice each and every time they see their names attached to any printed (in today's world... Digital) page. They feel vindicated with each positive review they receive and each one pushes them to strive even harder on their next work. 
       They are crushed each and every time a Cold Prickly is dropped down their backs. The very instant the Cold Prickly touches their soul...they forget about Warm Fuzzy feelings revived from the positive reviews they earned.
       What is a Warm Fuzzy? It much the same as the day you become engaged, get married, hold your sleeping child in your arms for the first time or any of a thousand memories you'll acquire and treasure for a lifetime. For me....well a Warm Fuzzy is a Royal Straight Flush, a free bottle of Ten High or a warm fall evening and miles to twisting roads.
       Does this mean I'm unaffected by Cold Prickly reviews? Well as a matter of fact, yes it does.                                            You must understand this is a hobby for me...I am not young, have never had a driving desire to write and have never cared what people think of me. But I've talked with a number of young authors who forget the vast number of Warm Fuzzy reviews they've received and are devastated by the one or two Cold Prickly ice cubes from a boring fool or two.
       If you're a writer and fall in that group of young talent I've discussed, try my method of "How am I doing Mom." Think about it for a second and I sure you'll understand. If a reader canned something you wrote before, but gave an honest reason for that one or two star rating.... then you need to follow that reader and be grateful they shared their feelings with you . If you can get them to read your new work and give you a Warm Fuzzy....well think how you'll feel? 
       A Warm Fuzzy from someone who really disliked one of your works, but is pleased with another? Well there is a memory  for your treasure chest.  
      You might ask why I include one or two folks who love everything you write? Well lets say you keep getting Cold Prickly reviews from those who don't like your work...why not add an ego safety valve? Now this can back fire, think how you would feel if those Warm Fuzzy folks threw Cold Prickly review your way. So chose your Warm Fuzzy folks with care, I recommend people who are afraid of you and know you have their address.    

Friday, August 31, 2012

        I've managed to slide by without anyone being aware I haven't posted anything for awhile...well almost no one. Since I now have a few spare moments, a wife sitting directly behind me, and a new found desire to blog...I blog.
       Blog...now there is a word Mr Webster and several others missed. To me it appears to be closely related to bog(wet, spongy,poorly drained and normally acid ground) and in my humble opinion is just about as useful. I of course am aware that there are a few uses for a bog: they're a convenient dumping ground for homicide victims, can be a fuel source under the right conditions, and of course a great place for children to take a stroll as mom cleans the floors of their homes.
       I've come to understand the fascination man has with bogs and blogs. Ego and blogs seem to go hand and hand at times. But of even greater consequence is the fact that bogs and blogs have far more in common than one might think. 
       As an example...lets consider the importance of this blog site so far. I've blogged about being "encouraged" to blog and only those involved in the decision to have me blog will really care. In another blog I related an encounter with a book reviewer....which unfortunately they'll never read . I've also talked about motorcycle rides (always a good thing) which none of the folks who read this took.. Now here's where ego, bogs and blogs all have one very important element in common as I see it, they are personal. Having said that, a reader must find a thread of common interest in a blog or it becomes just another ego filled bog.
       Who cares what I've got to say about this or that major,minor, or unnoticed event in my life, for the most part strangers will view them in much the same way as a bog...and for the most part they'll stay out of the mud. By that I mean it's an event which happened, didn't affect anyone not involved, and will normally be ignored unless it stimulates, amuses or angers the reader. 
     Now I must admit I've found it far easier to anger folks who read my junk than to amuse or stimulate anyone. There have been times when I felt like I'd strolled through a blog and tracked up a reader's kitchen floor. They of course feel compelled to point out the muddy tracks I've left on their once pristine (at least that's they way they view it) life and I on the other hand have just enough ego not to care about their view of my life...so we are at an impasse.
      I remember a time when if you felt the need to point out the muddy tracks left on the floor...it was done face to face. I remember a time when if you liked what someone has done you told them. I also remember a time when people meant what they said. 
      I've been in that bog writers sometimes find themselves in when total strangers ask you to approve or like or "give a review" for something you haven't seen or wouldn't read because it's not your cup of tea. If you say thank you, but no thank you...you've just muddied up their pristine kitchen floor...by leaving muddy tracks on their egos. If you lie and say you like something you've never or would never view...you're just a liar in the bog getting ready to track mud. So maybe the best  blog of all are the comments left by strangers who don't know is, but do like what they see...even if it's a little bit of a bog.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pedagogy , another word I just learned the meaning of, but still can't pronounce.

      In case some of you aren't aware of the fact, we just released my new book "The Flats Teachers' Test". Gaging  from the underwhelming response to the first three free days on Amazon, I'd have to say most most  weren't conscious of....or most likely didn't care about this fact. I'd like to take a few moments and share my crying towel with anyone who may find this blog by accident.
     You've missed the opportunity of a life time by not finding and down loading this master piece of literature when it ran free on Amazon. At a minimum I would be willing to bet very few authors and not all that many readers would know that pedagogy is not only a word...but a genre of books often over looked by all, but the most discerning of readers.
      Had you been watching when it ran free, my book leaped ahead of the other five books in this genre with one gigantic surge to the top! Not only did "{The Flats Teachers' Test" rapidly achieve the much coveted number one slot in it's genre in the very first four hours it was free, but it held it's grasp on the top for all of two or three hours. 
      The ladies(my fictional characters) didn't slip into the number two slot with defeated grace...no sir, they fought tooth and nail in a valiant and audaciously uncompromising effort to regain the much desire top of the list slot.They were crushed when their efforts met with defeat. 
      I tried to console my fictional heroines with the knowledge that "All About Dinosaurs" was a snappy title. I reminded them there was no way their book cover could compete with one featuring  a Tyrannosaurs Rex looming in front of a tropic backdrop. I met with with little or no success in my efforts to offer solace in this matter .
       I took the time to point out to them, that they did outshine "Teaching Strategies To Excite and Entice The Non-Reader" by more than five hundred places in the Amazon book standing. But alas...my efforts there were also all for naught. 
      The only bright spot I was able to shine on this dark chapter of their debut was the fact that Amazon placed them in a non-fiction category of books. 
     What an honor if you think about it...fictional teachers holding their own with non-fiction books about teaching. Also I'll add how many fictional characters, who are teachers, can make the claim they were considered non-fiction and deserving of the Pedagogy Genre?  I would be willing to wager not very many. I think it would be about the same odds  as getting a royal straight flush in back to back hands of guts poker(which is also a good way to start a fight if it ever happens to you).

Friday, August 10, 2012


What made me write The Flats Teacher's Test?
       Well in answer to that question you would have to understand my relationship with and pride I take where my daughter is concerned. If you've met my wife, this becomes a clearly understandable statement.
        My wife is that rare breed of intelligent woman who decides what she wants for herself, knows how she intends to live her life and also takes no crap from me. With a combination like that why wouldn't I dream of having a daughter?
        I've got to admit that I was less than thrilled when my daughter started growing into a beautiful young woman. I felt she should've set her sights somewhat higher than some of the low life types of cretins(none of whom were good enough for her I'll add) she dated. My nasty wife would remind me, that daughters tend to date boys like their fathers. This is not true of course and I will hold the gentle, loving, hard working man(only guy she ever dated that I now like) my daughter married as an example of just why this isn't true.
        Sis became enamored with school at age four. We lived in Marine Corps housing while I was stationed at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, South Carolina. The Department of Defense elementary school, which served the families stationed at MCRD Parris Island and the nearby Marine Corps Air Station of Beaufort was located two blocks from the base house we were assigned. I can't count the number of times my wife would force our two sons out the front door for school only to find Sis had already left out a window or the back door heading the same direction as her brothers.
        Left with a wagon loaded with "her" books, pencils, crayons and of course a snack.
I watched as her dream of becoming a teacher took root, grew, and became a reality. I observed her work through a few bad educators, more than one tenured professor and several courses in college she hated in pursuit of her dream. In the process she never lost sight of who she was, where she was going and what she intended to do after she got there.
        I also watched her battle cancer and pursue her Master's Degree at the same time. How can you not be impressed with that type of desire and drive?
        I spent the entire time after she started teaching teasing her. The forward of my book fairly describes some of the alleged abuse I heaped on her. She's as tough as nails and gives as good as she gets; no man will ever brow beat that woman.
         I spent my last tour of duty in the Marine Corps as a Recruiter. That's much the same as saying most mothers put me in the same category as "Chester the Molester." It also required me to visit every school in my area(did I mention I had three counties?) regularly.
         Once Sis threw out her challenge(it's in the forward of the book) I decided to take what I knew already and add to that knowledge, just to prove her wrong once again.
          I really wish I had been right and will admit(but not to Sis!) that I wasn't.
          I combined the most common tales I was told into fiction based on facts. I was reminded that we still have some great folks beating their heads against brick walls in an effort to make a difference. In the process they are forced to swim in the cesspools: of politics, violence, stupidity, parental apathy, and government constraints that all but doom them to failure.
          If you can get a teacher to tell you what is really going on in our schools, you'll hear horror stories that make vampires, murder mysteries and war stories seem like a five year old child talking about their last birthday party.
Do I paint with a broad brush? Yes I do and will admit it. What I will also admit is we have some school systems that work, you just have to search to find them. Even the good ones have deadwood they can't replace, until after the deadwood retires. The problems I found are over simplified in my book and I know that.
         What I also know is the deadly triad of unions, government and local politics are a major understated part of the problem.
           The solution is easier said than done: fire the failures, let the true teachers do their jobs and stop telling ourselves everyone can or should go to college. Schools today are partly rated on their percentage of students to college, not how many of that number really go on and earn a degree. Also not considered is how many who do receive a degree are able to make a living with their expensive education.
           We look at the percentage of a school's population who do pass some sort of state assessment exam as the benchmark for how effective the school really is. This practice forces school systems to stress(and sometimes teach to) the test. There's more...much more that goes into why our schools are failing and will get worse in the future if things aren't changed.
          Parents and communities are the only answer I think could make a real change and turn our schools away from the brink of failure. But most parents won't even set down and check their child's homework "if" the child was assigned homework. Most high school students are shocked when they start college...shocked they have to do much more than attend classes and pass a few test.
        The PTSA's and School Boards are mostly filled with the same folks. Compare a PTSA meeting to the Band or Athletic booster clubs meetings and then tell me which have the most parents attending. You can get more folks to attend a school play than parent/teacher's conferences. If you doubt that statement ask any teacher.
        At the start of this ramble, that more than a few will find contain grammar mistakes, I talked about my daughter. Will She ever become an educator waiting to collect a retirement? Not a chance in hell could or would that ever happen. But I've watched her go from a starry eyed first year teacher to a seasoned professional. What scares me is there aren't as many folks with the drive and determination she has teaching.
        When she says, "I'm thinking about leaving teaching"...well this nation is in deep Kimchi.
        If we destroy the desire of teachers to teach (note I said teacher and not educator) we have lost more than we'll ever know.
Doug Lucas

Saturday, August 4, 2012

    I spent yesterday riding the back roads of Pennsylvania with family. Family to me now means my Can Am Spyder of course. It wasn't all fun and good weather, nothing in life is perfect. But the ride is not the reason I'm posting this today, lunch and a conversation is today's topic.
    For me, writing is a hobby that falls below taking a nap , but normally leads to taking a one.Writing is certainly not at  the top of  my "these things are important list" in life. For me, writing is something I pass the time with, as I wait for the undertaker to make his appointed rounds.
    We stopped at a small cafe(those dregs of humanity I was riding with didn't have the grace to select one that served beer) and certain cretins (my brother Ken leading the pack) offered advice for me to follow for self improvement. At the top of the list were grammar and punctuation. They became so obnoxious that I'm sure some of the customers felt they had mistakenly stopped at a circus side show or adhoc lynching.
     Those who  understand just how sensitive I am,will appreciate the fact that I suffered greatly during this four ring circus.One miscreant even suggested my book "Conversations With a Dead Man" was an autobiography. I barely responded to any of the abuse heaped upon me. I've had to suffer in silence  so many times over the years. One can only choose friends...family on the other hand can be a burden. 
    But this abuse isn't the reason for this posting.....only background information.
    When our food was served(in my opinion the service was extremely slow I'll add) our waitress tapped me on the shoulder and asked to have a word with me. My fear at this point was either the police were on their way or we were about to be thrown out of another public place(one that didn't even serve alcohol I'll remind you).
     The lady wanted to know if I was really an author....I lied and said yes. She proceeded to tell me her daughter had dreams of being a published author, had written a book and submitted it to one agent and one publisher. The description of the rejections notes and her daughter's reaction were all to familiar to me. I've been rejected by more than one woman, publisher or book agent...I understood exactly how the young woman must have felt.
      The woman's mother told me she'd been crushed. I was at a lost for any sage advice other than the very stupid you've got to just keep trying platitudes you normally hear from someone who doesn't understand or care about what they've just been told. During the remaining conversation the woman mentioned two books her daughter dearly loved and the author. I was so dumb founded I promptly forgot the author's name, but did remember both book's titles.
     We finished our meals and left to finish our ride. 
     I was to spend the next three hours in that hell of "could have or should have" said words of encouragement. We've all been there and done that in many different circumstances. It's so easy to come up with the prefect comment when nothing is on the line. I could have reminded her mother that Steven King's first three books were rejected, only to become best sellers later. Or that any number of classic literature works were considered miserable failures when they were first released. I didn't.
    An hour into the last half of our ride I remembered I'd not only forgot the young woman's favorite author's name, but hadn't had the presence of mind to even ask the mother's hers. She was wearing a name tag with  cafe's name and may I help you on it. But I'm fairly certain that wasn't her name. 
    When I got home I looked up the titles and contacted the author. I don't know her, but have followed some of her postings on Facebook. I knew when I contacted her there was nothing she could have done. I just wanted to ease my own self-conscious feelings of failure.
   But maybe some of you folks who are published have another young person who follows your work. A gifted someone who has aspirations of someday being you .You have blogs, tweeter followers, and of course Facebook they can and do use to see what you think or are doing.You might want to think about that after you've read this.  Maybe your "hang in there buddy, it'll get better"  encouragement would be that last piece of the puzzle that gives them the strength to do just that...hang in there.
    I just received another check from my publisher for the May book sales. But I think the biggest reward someone like myself could receive would be to read an interview from a world famous author. An author who said, "I almost gave up writing, but something I read from(insert your name) made me hang in there for the long hull."
      
     

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

     I managed to unintentionally turn a reviewer of books into a hail storm of "your're wrong and I'm right" comments on goodreads last night. In a way the poor woman deserves support because her review was based on my grammar. I'll add she is right on the money with her comments about my lack of knowledge in that area...I just don't' care. 
     As I was to learn, she has the attitude of so many folks today, where fault finding is concerned. They have the right to say anything they desire and others should  be impressed and grateful for their astute observations  of the the obvious. 
    I firmly believe most reviewers give an honest evaluation of any book they take the time to comment on. They read the book and comment on how they felt about the story told. If you get a bad review...the reviewer really didn't enjoy what you wrote. I read those types of reviews and chuckle. I can say this because the mistakes were mine and I failed to tell a story the reader could enjoy. This is a hobby...not my life and if you can't find humor in a simple mistake you've made,  then you really need to evaluate yourself.
     What the lady didn't realize was I found no fault with her analysis of my knowledge of grammar...I agree with her. She also doesn't understand this is a hobby for me...not the sum total of my very being. It's much the same as riding my Can Am in the rain...I'm having fun and I just don't care what others think.
      Having said that, I also believe there are a few folks who review books for the sense of self gratification received by sharing their knowledge of syntax, inflection and conformity to the principles of grammatically correct usage of the English language. They also receive a sense of self importance when sharing  with those who are less enlightened than themselves. 
      These grammarians of correctness fail to realize there are folks like myself in this old world who just don't care what they think. 
    Rushing too the defense of this lady was a pseudo intellectual, who intended to place me in the penitence mood for the rest of my life. She told me she had dodged a bullet and wouldn't ever be reading anything I wrote. 
    Oh my dear God...how will I ever survive?
    After I stopped laughing at the bullet comment I once again couldn't stop myself from observing I was the one who had dodged "the bullet."
    She is also correct in stating I'm am a "odd person," and I'll add possibly even correct in the eyes of some as a "really mean person."
    Will I tell either one of them where the mistake in grammar used for that review was? Not now, it amused me as soon as the paltry size of this slip in  grammatical correctness was noted. I couldn't help but point out the splinter in her eye, as she pointed out the beam in mine. The only way I knew it was there,  was I've been pounded about the head and shoulders by the Heinrich Himmler of grammar each and every time I make the same mistake. It tickled me pink to not only find someone else making the same "crimes against correctness", but to actually spot it on my own. 
     Neither of them have a sense of humor, so why bother.  I would also bet there isn't one in a thousand grammarians who could spot it. We tend to think in terms of the common usage of the language and never think beyond spelling, fragmented sentences and of course punctuation.
      Did I enjoy this little tete-a-tete with the lady...at the onset of this misadventure with humor...yes I did. Did I learn anything from this mischance into the world of  "hey let's have a chuckle together"...yes I did. Sometimes it's best to just enjoy a private joke only you saw and appreciated in silence. 
     The only bad reviews I take to heart are those which state "you failed me." The reviewer started reading my book because something  caught their attention and when you fail that reader...you have indeed failed. If they take the time to tell me where I let them down, I try to learn from my mistake. 
      By the way...I'm really looking forward to the bad reviews I get on the book just released. I wrote a fictional story based on our educational system. Would anyone care to take bets on the number of "you should be banned from publishing books" reviews this one generates? 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I was told by two of the three corners of the "triad of evil" that all which would required of me was to write two of these posts a week. Not an unreasonable request if you desire tranquility and are in the center of the perfect storm. I was also informed the keys to my beloved Can-Am could go missing in action should I fail to do so by 'She Who Should Not Be Named."

You should also understand that even as I blog (something I'm really thrilled to do), the sun is shinning, it's seventy-five degrees outside and there is no rain in the forecast for today! "SWSNBN" suggested it was the perfect time to obey and comply...therefore I blog.

I'm befuddled by the need to blog...who cares what I think and I'm convinced certain people could care less about what I'd prefer to be doing at this moment in time(did I mention the weather?).

I see that some ninety folks have taken a look at this little section of the web reserved just for me. Thank you for not leaving any comments. I'm fairly sure if that starts to happen, life as I love it will end. The triad of evil will take note and decide I should reply to each and every one who is so generous as to comment on my ramblings.

A small note to the four misfits of my misspent youth. Two of your wives have told me you've already visited here. take heed:

I know where you live. I have pictures from Hong Kong, Oki and of course various bars in the Far East the four of you have been thrown out of. Go ahead take your very best shot.

Now something of value for anyone who cares what I've seen or found of interest in my quest to stay off the skyline. I discovered a web site devoted to folks who read and write about the military. This group is dedicated to preserving military history one story at a time.Even if you don't write to survive...they have some really talent writers who are members, this makes for a really excellent source to find not only fiction, but historical facts.

I noted some of the books I've read and enjoyed were mentioned there. I was also pleased to find some of the authors who wrote those stories were part of the group. Why they let me join is a mystery(guess I caught them with their guard down), but I joined them. I would recommend anyone who enjoys books founded on fact(fiction or non-fiction) visit this web site. it will be an asset in your search for really great reads with the ring of truth. Check out on Facebook:

Military Writers Society of America

One more thing I've noticed and then I'm out of here for the day(with any luck).

I was chatting with a super lady who is a teacher, author, and mother. Yes her candle burns at both ends and the middle.
During the chat the subject of one or two star book reviews came up. I've noted that if you have some fairly decent ratings and reviews, then get a "I hate you and everything you write love letter," a strange thing will happen. I've received three of these hemorrhoids and each time they've happened---sales went up. Now I'm not suggesting you should actively seek hate mail....but I would suggest these might be silver linings in you pocket...so smile, they can't hurt you and as matter of fact they might even help.

I've taken the time to research the folks who love me so much, that they can't help but express that love in bad ratings and reviews. They would be appalled at how easy it can be to find information on anyone today. Two were authors with books you had to dig under the outhouse to find and one stated with pride she'd read all of three books this year. Now if you can't find humor in that...well you should be blogging or writing reviews.

There was one reviewer on Amazon who commented on my grammar as a way of pointing out the knowledge I don't possess. You should read the comment a fine and clearly intelligent woman named Kee made. Short...sharp...and well aimed right at the heart. Makes a body feel good to see that type of defense.

CAN-AM time!


              
   
          

Thursday, July 26, 2012

   I am not a blooger...will never be a blooger... and have no interest in blogging. I also am caught in an evil triad: my wife, my publisher and my publisher's advertiseing agent. So as any married man can well understand...I am in the survival mode. They said I should blog...therefore I blog.
   I wanted to write a book....my wife allowed me to write a book. She wanted it published...I decided it should be published(only the silent survive). I found a publisher who said she would do all the work...therefore I'm published. The publisher turned me over to her advertiseing department....therefore I blog.
   All should understand I'm an abused diva author, who is barely able to follow my three greastest passions in life: my motorcycle, my bottle of Ten High, and the next poker game with my brothers(I need their money). I barely find enough time for my morning and afternoon naps because of the triad's demands.
   Should anyone read this and think they detect a small amount of sarcasm, you would be wrong. You will have mistaken fear for that most dangerous form of human communication with women(which I would never use around my triad) sarcasm.
   The only reason I agreed (fear in no may was a part of my decision) to do this is revenge. The pen is not mightier than the sword...just ask anyone who has been stabbed by both for comformation of that statement of fact. But a well sharpened pen can be just as satisfying as a well aimed round from a sniiper's rifle. I was promised I could use this any way I saw fit if I would agree to write on it from time to time.
   Never give a much abused diva author any weapon without restrictions. You want me to write a blog...as you have said so shall it be. I was also told that if I took offense(not that my taking offense could ever happen) to some stupid comment made by a reviewer I could return fire. Now there's something I do understand.
   One lady said about one of the books I wrote,"Does this man not know the difference between fractured and broken? They are the same!"
   Well dear lady yes this man does understand the difference. Fractured means some tape...mabe a cast and back to the field with a light duty chit. Broken means pins, possibly screws and the ever popular rehab (room 3021-west wing) for a few fun filled days. I may not be a smart man...but trust me...I know the difference.
    Don't complain about my use of grammar or punctuation. I write the way I think and the comma for me is a rest stop on the way to the end. I have an editor...another woman...she's still getting over her last nervous breakdown from working on my last book. I intend to put her right back into a rubber room with what I'm working on now. She has all she can do to make my junk readable and has even hinted I'm stubborn about making the changes she suggested.
   Leave your comments at your own risk, I have notthing but time on my hands.

Doug Lucas