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. 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 we are at an impasse.
      I remember a time when if you felt the need to point out the muddy tracks left on the 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've just muddied up their pristine kitchen leaving muddy tracks on their egos. If you lie and say you like something you've never or would never'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 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 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 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 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 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 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?