Sunday, November 23, 2014

Black Friday is Bleak Friday for Many

Coined in the 1960s to mark the start to the Christmas shopping season, ‘Black Friday,’ or the Friday after Thanksgiving, is one of the major shopping days of the year in the United States. It is the period when most businesses move from ‘red’ to ‘black’ profit-wise.
While it’s not an official holiday, coming as it does after Thanksgiving Thursday, many workers (except those working in retail stores) get it off. While Black Friday might be a happy day for owners of stores that finally start to show a profit, it has to be Bleak Friday for many of their employees who often give up Thanksgiving with their families for the sales that sometimes start on Thursday. Retail giants like Walmart and J.C. Penny, for example, begin their Black Friday sales the afternoon or evening before, meaning that their workers have to give up a significant portion of their holiday. While I’m sure they get holiday pay (at least, I would hope they do), it hardly seems to compensate for the missed time with family.
Now, I have to begin by confessing that I have never done a Black Friday sale. When I do Christmas shopping, it’s either done in September and October, or the week before Christmas. I don’t really celebrate, but I do buy gifts for my children (when they were small) and now for my grandchildren.
Being aware of how Black Friday impacts many retail workers, I’m glad I’ve never been tempted. Added to this, there’s the fact that we have this period celebrating conspicuous consumption at a time when nearly 7 million households in the U.S. don’t have enough food to eat, and nearly 4 million are unable to provide sufficient, nutritious food for their children. We have more than 40 million people living in poverty, and some 20 million live in extreme poverty (making less than $10,000 per year for a family of four).
While many politicians seem to delight in blaming the poor themselves for their poverty, the U.S. political and economic systems are primarily to blame. In our free enterprise economy, companies are not creating enough jobs for everyone, and the top echelons of business tend to allocate the lion’s share of profit to themselves. Our political system, which one would think would focus on the needs of the people, tends to have other concerns. Military and security expenditures, for instance, make up half of U.S. federal discretionary expenditures; corporations and the rich have greater lobbying power, and as a consequence tax breaks and subsidies tend to benefit them more; and, the Democratic Party; once the party of the working man, focuses on the middle class, often to the detriment of the poor.

As a consequence of this, we have a culture of inequality, with people segregated by income and sometimes race or ethnicity. With jobs scarce and wages low, the lack of income leads many low income people to dysfunctional behavior, creating a vicious cycle – in other words, poverty often leads to more poverty.

With all this on my mind, I can hardly see Black Friday as a time to celebrate. If you want me to notice the day, maybe it should be changed to Bleak Friday – a much more appropriate appellation.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Monday, November 3, 2014

Intangible Hearts discusses PnPAuthors: Intangible Hearts discuss PnPAuthors online Writin...

Intangible Hearts discusses PnPAuthors: Intangible Hearts discuss PnPAuthors online Writin...: Intangible Hearts An Online Writing Group Posted: 07 Aug 2014 09:36 PM PDT Have you seen the 30 second trailer for my novel, P...

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PnPAuthorsBook Club is introducing
:       PnPAuthors Book Club is introducing Author Marie Lavender Who is an exciting writer __________________________...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

It's Daylight Saving Time Again - As Charlie Brown says, Good Grief!

As I begin writing this, I look at my watch, the clock on my computer, and the clock on my cell phone. They all show 11:44 a.m., November 2, 2014. The latter two are automatically set to change to Daylight Savings Time. My watch agrees with them because I changed it just before going to bed at 11:00 p.m. last night.
The problem is, my circadian rhythm insists that it’s really 12:45. My stomach is reminding me that I’ve missed my usual 12:00 lunch, and my brain keeps telling me it’s later in the day.
People blame Ben Franklin for Daylight Saving
Time, but he only proposed getting up earlier.
 I go through this twice a year when the clock changes – been doing it for as long as I can remember – because my body just doesn’t understand the concept. The concept of rising early in the spring in order to make better use of natural daylight was first introduced by Benjamin Franklin. Daylight Saving Time (DST) is now in use in 70 countries (although it’s not used by every state in the U.S., and in Indiana, it’s a county option, so there are two times in various parts of the state all year long). The purpose is ostensibly to make better use of daylight and conserve energy. The first country to actually implement DST was Germany in 1916. It was put into use in the United States by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II from 1942 to 1945, and ended when the war ended. It is now part of our legislation, although it has changed a number of times over the years. The current schedule, introduced in 2007, begins on the second Sunday in March and lasts until the first Sunday in November, and is observed in most of the U.S. except Hawaii and most of the insular areas, and most of the state of Arizona. The justification is the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
There’s as much myth about DST as fact. Franklin, for instance didn’t actually propose setting the clocks forward – he actually suggested getting up earlier. Many people believe DST in the U.S. was intended to benefit farmers, but this is not the case. From the beginning, because of the disruptions it caused to their normal schedules, farmers have opposed it. The argument that it saves energy, while it might have had some merit in the early days, is debunked by the fact that the savings in use of lights in the summer are offset by the extended use of air conditioning. The extra hours of daylight also increase fuel consumption as more people engage in outside recreation activities. In fact, the additional demand for air conditioning makes DST an expensive proposition in most places.

My complaint, though, is that it causes me several days of disorientation every year as my mind and body adjusts to the one-hour change. I also have a problem with a bunch of legislators telling me what time to set on the clocks in my house. Before I retired from government work, I had two periods each year when my work schedule was disrupted, and now that I’m retired and writing full-time, it’s even more irritating to have to suddenly change my personal schedule – determined by my internal clock, to comply with some externally imposed law that I’ve never understood or agreed with. Having to run around the house twice a year changing every clock – think about the number of items in your household that have clocks (microwaves, DVRs, etc.) that don’t automatically reset themselves. Where’s the savings? I haven’t seen any yet. There are a lot of issues we could be spending our time on, so I’m not calling for a mass movement to outlaw DST – but, it is something to think about.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Presenting Elle Klass (Lisa Klaes): Presenting Author Lisa Klaes

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Chris Longmuir, Crime Writer: Awesome New Website for Awesome Indies

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Author Simon Okill is presented by PnPAuthors Promotions: Author Simon Okill

Author Simon Okill is presented by PnPAuthors Promotions: Author Simon Okill:                                                               PnPAuthors Promotions   Simon Okill   Paranormal author Simon ...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

'Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways,' an awesome short story anthology coming soon.

What do you think happens when 21 authors, writers of different genres from all over the globe, collaborate to put together a collection of short stories? Magic – that’s what happens. Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways, was edited by acclaimed author Tahlia Newland, with the able assistance of Dixiane Hallaj and Richard Bunning, all three of whom contributed stories as well.
Published by AIA Publishing (part of the Awesome Indies family), this eclectic anthology has a little bit of everything. The diversity of the genres – from funny to far out – and the international nature of the authors, makes this a collection of short fiction that is unique. As it says in the introduction, “Awesome Indies listed fiction is often unique and sometimes ground-breaking. Our authors are the bold new voices in fiction . . .”
I got my start writing short stories, winning a national Sunday school short story writing competition when I was in my teens. For the past decade or so, I’ve concentrated on novel-length fiction and non-fiction, as well as blogging, but when I saw the call for stories for this volume, I decided to take a flyer.
I’d been working on a piece for several months about a zombie – but, I was trying to write a different kind of zombie story. I’d read an interview with comic mogul Stan Lee in a magazine in my wife’s doctor’s office while waiting for her one day, in which Lee had told the interviewer he didn’t like zombie movies or stories because they were always portrayed as shuffling flesh eaters. His view was, if someone has been given another shot at life, even as a zombie, they’re more likely to want to make up for the things they didn’t do in their first life – and chasing people down to eat their flesh wasn’t one of them.
So, I’d been working on this story about a zombie that knows he’s dead, but not how or when he died. He finds himself stuck in a strange city and his impulse is to help the weak. He runs into this girl who is not freaked out by his zombie status, and – well, you can guess how it might go from there. I’d actually written two stories, the second being a sequel to the first. I submitted the first, and the response was, ‘it’s nice, but can you make it longer?’ So, I combined the two stories, and I had to admit, it did read better that way. What was really surprising to me – it was accepted for the anthology. ‘I, Zombie,’ became one of 26 stories by 21 authors to be included in Awesome Allshorts: Last Days, Lost Ways. It’s not kosher to review your own work, so I won’t tell you how fantastic I think ‘I, Zombie’ is. Instead, I’ll recommend ‘Cut Throat’ by Joan Kerr or ‘Clearing The Shed’ by Tahlia Newland. Hell fire, why don’t you just read the whole thing. It’s a surefire winner – you can take my word for it.

The e-Book version will launch at the end of October 2014, followed shortly by a paperback version. If you’re a fan of short fiction, and you’re looking for something awesome to curl up with as the days grow short and the temperature plummets, this book will warm you up like nothing else. Check it out – you won’t regret it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I'll be a speaker at the Joint Personnel Recovery Conference - London, November 2014

I am pleased to announce that I will be speaking at the upcoming Joint Personnel Recovery Conference 2014, this November  in London. I hope that you can join me. To see what I will be discussing with fellow peers and industry supporters, access the brochure here:

I'm featured on Historical Novel Review

Check out my interview by Mirella Patzer and her review of Frontier Justice: Bass Reeves, Deputy US Marshal on Historical Novel Review.

Video of shooting inside Canadian Parliament Building

Interview with Novelist Mirella Patzer

I’m privileged to feature an interview with Mirella Patzer, a Canadian author who specializes in historical romance fiction.  This interview is also featured on my blog at She writes sweeping historical, with a touch of romance, set in an exciting period of world history. But, why don’t I let her speak for herself.
Author Mirella Patzer
Author Mirella Patzer
  1. What got you started writing historical romance fiction?

To tell you the truth, I never intended to write historical romance. What launched my interest in writing was my desire to write about my family’s history during World War II Italy. The Battle of the Moro River occurred on my grandfather’s vineyards, lands that are still owned by my mother and her sister. 2000 Canadian soldiers died, but the won and freed my mother’s town, San Leonardo, from the Nazis. It is a tale of survival and devastation as experienced by my mother who was an eight year old child. The family had to live in caves because their home was bombed. I haven’t written the story yet, but it is definitely on my list of future books to write. Before I do so, I want to visit those caves and experience the November cold and rain my mother had to live through.
  1. Why do you write about the period that you chose for your stories?

Because of my strong Italian roots, I have a great passion for historical fiction set in the medieval era. Almost all the novels I have written are set in Italy between the 10th century and 17th century.
  1. How much research did you do for Orphan of the Olive Tree?

Orphan Cover with BRAG Medallion Large PrintI have been working on a biographical novel entitled The Prophetic Queen, a novel about saint and queen Matilda of Ringelheim for approximately 10 years. Years of medieval research into Italy and Germany have created a comfort zone for me because I’ve acquired so much knowledge. So, it was easy to place the story in Italy. I did about 6 months research into superstitions, the Battle of the Monteaparti Hills, and the daily life of peasants and knights during that time. All the rest came from previous learning I acquired because of my research.
  1. Are your characters based upon historical figures, or totally made up?

All the characters in Orphan of the Olive Tree are purely fictional. After being steeped in so much research for my biographical novel, and trying to write with a high degree of accuracy, I wanted to work on another project that would allow me some creative freedom. I let my imagination run free and unfettered, and the result was Orphan of the Olive Tree, which is my biggest seller!

  1. Do you write in other genres? If so, which ones?

I stay strictly with historical fiction, a great passion of mine. My novels so far span from the 10th century to the 17th century, however, I would love to write a western one day and have a story forming in my mind. I would never write a contemporary novel, simply because I find historical fiction more challenging and love the research.

  1. What are you currently working on?
I am currently polishing and completing the final edits of The Prophetic Queen, which will need to be divided into two books – The Scarlet Mantle and Crown of Discord. I anticipate the release date to be 2015.
  1. Any writing advice you'd like to offer my readers?

Yes, I have two pieces of advice that I do my best to follow.
First, if you are an aspiring author, but afraid or unsure about getting started, the best advice is “just do it!” Writing is a constant learning curve. Do not be afraid of failure. Your writing skills evolve the more you write and through feedback gained from critique groups, writing groups, or other authors.
Second, always pay yourself first. What I mean by that is it is easy to get distracted with life and daily tasks such as email, blogging, critiquing, reviewing books, or other distractions. Train yourself to sit down and write for an hour or two first. Pay yourself. Then move on to these other tasks! That will keep you moving forward in your writing career.
I’d like to extend a big thank you to Charles Ray for discovering my books and for his kind invitation to visit his blog.
For more information about me, my books, and my blogs, here are some links:

Monday, October 20, 2014

Presenting Elaine : Author Elaine C Pereira

Presenting Elaine : Author Elaine C Pereira: PnPAuthors Promotions                                                      Author Elaine C. Pereira                             ...

Presenting Katrina Jack: Author Katrina

Presenting Katrina Jack: Author Katrina:    PnPAuthors Promotions                                     _________________________________________________    Katrina J...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Nature Takes Care of its Own

 Protection of the young seems to be an instinct that nature has hardwired into most species. Sometimes, though, I feel that the human species wasn't in line the day this trait was handed out. In FY 2012, for instance, an estimated 686,000 children were abused in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, an alarming number by any measure, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, and abuse of children with disabilities. Many of these children were abused by their parents or other primary care-givers.
It’s a sad situation, and enough to turn the rosiest optimist into a cynic. This morning, though, I observed an act of parental care that at least restored my faith in nature – unfortunately, that act was not performed by human parents.
Walking my aged dog in the forest behind my house, I came upon a small herd of deer; several does and their fawns. One of the fawns had gone off by itself, a hundred yards or so separated from the rest. The usual outcome of such encounters is the scattering of the herd, but in this case, I happened to find myself between the fawn and the rest. What happened next is interesting.
The normally timid deer didn’t immediately flee. Two of the does stood their ground, making huffing noises at me, while the fawn froze in place. I stopped walking and, standing as still as I could (getting the dog to stay still is easy, she’s so old, she prefers resting anyway). We stood this way for nearly fifteen minutes. Me and the dog watching the deer, waiting to see what they would do. The does continued to make huffing noises, sometimes edging toward me – getting within fifty yards at times. The fawn remained perfectly still. I sidled toward the fawn. The does came closer, stamping their feet and huffing. When I turned toward them, they withdrew, but only a short way.
Finally, when I turned and walked quickly toward the fawn, it fled toward a stream just downhill of us. The does, frantic now, came even closer, huffing even louder. I stopped and watched. The lead doe sniffed the air and looked down toward the stream. I could no longer see the fawn, but could hear it running through the foliage. Suddenly, the entire herd, which had been waiting a ways back from the two does, turned and fled deeper into the forest. After a couple more huffs at me, the two does turned, and with their white tails flashing, followed.
If I’d been a hunter or a predator, those two deer would have been in great danger. But, they stood their ground in an effort to protect the stray fawn, trying to draw my attention away from it long enough to allow it to flee to safety.

My faith in nature is restored. I only wish more humans would take a lesson from it.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Official trailer for 'Marza'

Review of 'Marza,' - A Different View of War

 Every war spawns a whole host of books and films, and the second war in Iraq is no exception. Most, though, focus on the relationships among those who fight. ‘Marza,’ a film written, directed and produced by former Marine Regan A. Young is a film with a difference.

The story of a cynical, battle-hardened Marine sergeant (played by Josh Ansley) who meets and befriends a quizzical, precocious young Iraqi girl, Marza (Claire Geare) who likes chicken and ice cream shows us the human side of war that is seldom portrayed. Sergeant John Whitacre is a man who has seen much war, and as a result has a decidedly dark view of life in general. Marza pulls him out of his funk in ways he could never have anticipated, and teaches him to feel again.

This is a film that has both dark and light moments – and enough death to lift it from the category of a mood movie and firmly into the ‘war’ category. Young, a veteran of tours in Iraq, writes and directs this short film with a sense of awareness of the realities of war that most in the business lack. Moreover, he takes us into the depths of emotions that run rampant when death is a constant companion, and shows that even at the darkest hours, there is a glimmer of light and hope.

If ‘Marza’ doesn’t get an award for best short, independent film of 2014, there is no justice. And, if you can watch it with dry eyes, I’d suggest an immediate trip to an ophthalmologist, because your tear ducts are defective.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Almost Got the Blood Moon

Spent Oct. 6 - 10 at Chautauqua Institution in upstate New York. On Oct. 8, there was a lunar eclipse, when the Moon is blood red - a sight Moon watchers and photographers live for. Unfortunately, it rained in Chautauqua on Oct. 8, so I missed it. The next evening, however, the Moon still had a slight reddish hue, so I managed to get an almost Blood Moon, which was almost as good. Take a look and tell me what you think:

I also managed to get a few more good shots of the area around Chautauqua Lake and Lake Erie while I was there:

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Airline seats versus American seats

I recently posted a comment on my Facebook page about the relationship between the accommodation of airline economy class seats and the average American's 'seat' size - which averages 41 -45 inches. I fall between these two numbers and find myself with no space between my hips and the sides of the seat when I'm forced to fly cattle class, so I've wondered what it must be like for people who are, um, wider than me. I'd not really paid much attention, but on a recent flight, I got a look at what it's possibly like, and it doesn't look comfortable.

Now, I wonder if the airlines care about the discomfort they must be causing people when they try to cram so many seats into such a confined space, charge us for checking bags, forcing people to carry on more and more, further cramping the space, and then charging us for bags of dried nuts and icky cheese? Really, though, that's just a rhetorical question, because I know they don't really care.

Just venting. But, if you have an airline horror story, feel free to share it in the comments below.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

PnPAuthors Promote ALFRANCENA: PnPAuthors is proud of ALFRANCENA~

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Presenting Karen Ingalls: Author Karen Ingalls~

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Race and Politics in America

After years of dysfunction, the state of American politics is clear: Washington, D.C. is broken, and the public is too divided to fix it. How did we reach this desperate point? Doug McAdam and Karina Kloos of Stanford University answer this question in Deeply Divided: Racial Politics and Social Movements in Postwar America. Our extreme partisanship has less to do with party politics than it does with social movements rooted in years of economic and racial inequality. In their engaging book, McAdam and Kloos explain how the hyperpartisanship that has infected our leaders today actually began decades ago.  
You can purchase the book here.
Go here for an excerpt from this fascinating study of how race has shaped American politics.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Presenting Author Joyce Shaughnessy: AuthorJoyce Shaughnessy

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Heather Marie Schuldt: Presenting Author Heather Marie Schuldt

Heather Marie Schuldt: Presenting Author Heather Marie Schuldt:     PnPAuthors Promotions   _________________________________________________   H.M. Schuldt and Heather Marie Schuldt ...

Presenting Author R.L. Moatz by PnPAuthors Promotions: Author R.L. Moatz

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Presenting Author Rhoda D'Ettore: Presenting Rhoda D'Ettore

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

As part of Linda Ulleseit's Back to School Blog Hop, I'm offering an interview with the author, a writer who does YA fantasy novels that are great reading for all ages.

YA Fantasy Author Linda Ulleseit

1.          How and when did you get started writing?
I started writing stories in third grade. In fact, I have a story about pigs written in multicolored crayon and illustrated with pink circles that have tails. I presume they are pigs since I’m not an artist. In middle school, I did a report on the Civil War by writing a narrative from the point of view of a slave—in dialect. I took a Creative Writing class in high school that I absolutely loved, and in college I had an English professor that had us imitate the styles of great writers like Hemingway and Steinbeck. I didn’t get serious about writing, though, until about 2007. I was teaching sixth grade at the time and figured if I assigned stories and expected students to write them, that I should be able to do it. I set myself the goal of completing a novel that had a coherent beginning, middle, and end. It took four years and many many many rewrites to make ON A WING AND A DARE coherent. Now I am hooked and have to write.
2.          What motivates you to write?
I see the world in what ifs. Every conversation, every encounter, every news story becomes a scene. What if that happened to my character? What if someone said that to a really selfish person? Full scenes run through my head like movies and I have to write them down. That’s the fun part. The work is tying them all together into a novel.
3.          What is your favorite genre, and why?
I absolutely love fantasy and historical fiction. Most of the books in my classroom (and I have over 500) fall into these two categories. In sixth grade, we learn about ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, and China. Stories with characters, emotions, and real settings bring it alive. Fantasy fires the imagination and allows a reader (especially children) to play out possible reactions to real life problems such as sibling rivalry, jealousy, bullying, or losing a parent.
4.          Where do you get the ideas for your stories?
From my head? No, that’s too easy. I suppose my ideas come mostly from my reading. I read voraciously, every genre, mostly fiction but some nonfiction too. I see how other authors deal with issues like coming of age (which is a key theme in my flying horse books) and it inspires me. Now that I have a solid world built with flying horses in medieval Wales, I can put situations I read about, or see on the playground at school, into place and see how the characters react.
5.          What are you currently working on?
ALOHA SPIRIT is a historical fiction piece set in territorial Hawaii. It follows Carmen James, a young girl born on Kauai to Spanish parents. Her mother dies in childbirth, and her father gives her away at a young age. She lives with a Hawaiian family that mistreats her and marries at sixteen. By age twenty, she has three children and her husband has left her. Nonetheless, through her long life, she embodies the spirit of aloha—everyone is welcome, everyone is ohana, family. Like UNDER THE ALMOND TREES, this new one is based on a real woman in my family—my husband’s grandmother.
6.          Where do you see yourself in 5 - 10 years, regarding your writing?
I am close to retiring from teaching. To me, that means more time to write! I want to write another flying horse trilogy—ideas are already banging around in my head. I also have another woman in my family (at least one!) that I want to write about. Of course I hope that more people hear about my books and enjoy them, but my main motivation is to write them. I also wish for someone (a writer’s fairy godmother) to swoop in and say, “Please! Let me take over marketing your books so you can focus on writing!”
7.          Anything else you'd like to say to my readers about writing?

Writing is the hardest job I’ve ever loved. I know just about every writer says that, but it’s so true. The more I write, the better the first drafts are. That is something I tell my students—you’ll get better only if you practice. Of course, I also tell them I revised ON A WING AND A DARE for four years, so if I ask you to rewrite your two-page story twice don’t groan!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Getting the military ready for the world after Afghanistan

After 20 years in the U.S. Army and 30 in the U.S. Foreign Service – including two tours of duty as a U.S. ambassador – I’ve been involved in numerous civil-military exercises since I retired in 2012. In particular, I was asked to help prepare the military to work effectively in a post-Afghanistan environment.
Organizations operate like they train. So, it’s important that training is relevant and realistic to make sure our young men and women, in and out of uniform, are prepared for future challenges.  Read more . . .

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Presenting Salvatore Buttaci : Author Salvatore Buttaci

Presenting Salvatore Buttaci : Author Salvatore Buttaci: PnPAuthors Promotions   ===========================================...

Presenting Charles Ray: Author Charles Ray~

Presenting Charles Ray: Author Charles Ray~: PnPAuthors Promotions   ===================================    ...

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9-11: A Day Not to be Forgotten

Where were you on September 11, 2001? Like people on December 7, 1941, you probably remember each detail of that day - if you're an American, it was day that should have finally awakened us to the realization that we do not stand above the world, but are a part of it.

On that morning, I was in a hotel in Seattle, Washington, part of a trip I was taking with other colleagues in the Senior Seminar, a former State Department program for senior foreign affairs officials. For some reason, I woke up at 5:30, and for some reason turned on the TV set, which just happened to be tuned to a local channel. The early morning news was on, and I saw an announcer standing in front of a skyscraper with smoke pouring from an upper floor. It took a while for me to recognize the World Trade Center tower, and even longer for me to realize that I wasn't looking at a promo for some new disaster movie.

I was staring dumbfound at the screen when, at 6:03 Seattle time I saw the second plane slicing toward the second tower, and watched live as it knifed through the building, sending flames and debris out the other side from the explosion. My brain refused at first to process what it had just seen - hundreds of people, including all those on board that plane, perished in an instant, and millions were watching it live and in color on their TVs.

The rest of my stay in Seattle is kind of a blur, as are the first few days back in Washington, DC as my colleagues and I wrestled with what to do next. Should we end training and return to our organizations to see if there was anything we could do to help? Or, should we continue our training and try to prepare ourselves to make a difference in the new world that was born out of those fiery explosions? We decided to stay, and for us the rest is kind of history. What I woke up remembering today, though, was just how strange that day was for me.

First, before that when I traveled, when I woke up, I never started my morning with TV, and never with the news. My usual habit was to shave, shower, brush my teeth, and then watch cartoons while I got dressed. I hate to start the day depressed, and news always does that. What made me turn on the TV before even going to the bathroom? I'll never know, but what I do know, is that day - that act - changed my life forever.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Channeling Famous Writers - Who Do You Write Like?

I was taking a break from writing today, having just finished making some serious corrections in my latest Buffalo Soldier novel, and getting a fairly good start on my next Al Pennyback mystery. I did get my word quota done, but that was mostly journaling and plotting, so I was just doing some idle reading. In doing that, I came across a blog describing an analytical program that takes samples of a person's writing and compares it to famous writers. I suppose we're all at some time or another curious, so I decided to give it a try.

Me being me, I wasn't satisfied to just do a single sample, so I took samples from nine of my novels (different genres) and three recent blog posts. Following are the results:

Deadbeat (Al Pennyback mystery) - William Gibson
Buffalo Soldier: Comanchero (western/historical) - Margaret Mitchel
Frontier Justice (western/historical) - Jack London
Dragon Slayer (international intrigue) - H.P. Lovecraft
A Good Day to Die (Al Pennyback mystery) - William Gibson
Dead Men Don't Answer (Al Pennyback mystery) - Dan Brown
Deadline (Al Pennyback mystery) - David Foster Wallace
Death in White Satin (Al Pennyback mystery) - H. P. Lovecraft
If I Should Die Before I Wake (Al Pennyback mystery) - Chuck Palahniuk
Blog post on the colorful wild west - H.P. Lovecraft
Blog post on events in Ferguson, MO - Cory Doctorow
Blog post on demise of content mills - Cory Doctorow

I write like
Cory Doctorow
I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

Now, I'm not sure what any of this really means. I write according to what I feel about the subject - sometimes I'm going for a bit of humor, at other times I want to scare your pants off, or make you think about the subject. When I write, I try to see the scene I'm writing in my mind, and hear the characters as they interact, and then write it like I imagine it. I've read Lovecraft, Brown, Mitchel, and Doctorow - although, except for Brown, not in many years - so, I can't account for this analysis. It's fun to do, though, so maybe you writers out there might want to go to I Write Like and check it out.

I write like
William Gibson
I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft
I Write Like. Analyze your writing!

At the end of the day, I suppose, I just write like me. This blog, though, when analyzed was determined to be in the style of H. P. Lovecraft. Is that channeling or what?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

America's Wild West Was Colorful - In More Ways Than One

Growing up in the late 40s, 50s and very early 60s, like most kids of my generation I was fascinated by westerns. First on radio, and later on TV, I was enthralled by the tales of American’s Wild West. Many days after school and on most Saturdays, you’d find me glued to the radio or TV anxiously absorbing the latest adventure of Red Ryder, the Cisco Kid, the Lone Ranger, and all the other daring heroes of the western plains, deserts and mountains.

I don’t think I really noticed at the time that the old west I saw on our old black and white television set was overwhelmingly white. If I did notice, I probably just thought, ‘that’s the way things were.’ It’s not like there were alternative sources of information or images to compare with. I mean, things weren’t totally white. There were the Indians – or Native Americans. But, with the exception of the Lone Ranger’s sidekick, Tonto, and the Last of the Mohicans, they were all blood thirsty and portrayed as always wanting to scalp someone. There were also Mexicans, like Red Ryder’s companion, and Cisco Kid’s pal, Pancho – but, except for their overdone Spanish accents, they were pretty white. Lest I forget, now and then a Chinese laundryman or cook, like Hop Sing on Bonanza, would put in an appearance. As for black people, I struggle to remember if there were any with other than walk-on parts as slaves or former slaves who never really did much. The cavalry that came to the rescue of the besieged settlers were all a bunch of white guys.
So, when I left my home in Texas in 1962 to join the army, those were the images I carried with me. I joined the army to see the world, and man oh man did I ever. A whole new world opened up to me – and, not just the fact that there were people in the rest of the world very unlike those I’d grown up around in a small east Texas town, but my access to historical records opened up a whole new window on the past. And, I learned that not only had the past taught to me been distorted, much of it was false by omission.

Men of K Troop, 9th Cavalry. Public
Domain Image. Wikimedia images.
The first unit to which I was assigned after basic and advanced training was the 24th Infantry Division in Germany. You can imagine my surprise when I learned shortly after arriving that the division’s lineage descended from the 24th Infantry Regiment, one of four regiments (9th and 10th Cavalry, and 25th Infantry) authorized by congress after the Civil War to be led by white officers but otherwise made up of black men. They were part of what was then known as the United States Colored Troops. These four regiments were assigned to the expanding frontier west of the Mississippi, and made up ten percent of the army stationed in the west. At one time after 1870, the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry were stationed in New Mexico Territory and Texas, so any cavalry coming to anyone’s rescue from about 1874 to nearly 1885 wouldn’t have been white. In addition, the army recruited free blacks who had been members of the Seminole tribe in Florida during the removal of that tribe to Oklahoma Territory, but had fled to Mexico to escape discrimination, to form the Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts who aided in the fight against Comanche and other hostile tribes in Texas.

Seminole-Negro Indian Scouts
Public Domain image.
Between the scouts and the Buffalo Soldiers (a name given to the black soldiers by the Native American tribes they fought), blacks were involved in many, if not most, of the battles against the various tribes. In addition, they helped local law enforcement maintain order (such as the Lincoln County War in New Mexico), carried mail and supplies, built roads, and provided security to those building the railroads. After nearly two decades in Texas and New Mexico, they were transferred to the Dakotas where they continued to fight, explore, and build. When the first national parks were established, the army provided security, and Buffalo Soldiers were among those assigned this duty. When President Theodore Roosevelt visited Yosemite Park, for instance, men from the Ninth provided his guard of honor and escort.

Black homesteaders kids in
Nebraska. Public domain image.
 But, people of color were in the west in more than military uniforms. Before the Civil War, Texas had a large number of slaves, who worked the ranches, and continued to do so after being freed. Most ranches had white, black, and Hispanic hands driving cattle, mending fences, and taming horses. When the country was moving westward, black settlers made the long and arduous journey – establishing all-black towns in several places.

The outlaw, Isom Dart.
Bass Reeves
There were even black outlaws and lawmen in the Old West. Ned Huddleston was born a slave in Arkansas in 1849, and accompanied his owner to Texas during the Civil War. After when he was freed, he joined a band of rustlers and changed his name to Isom Dart. Despite wanting to live an honest life, the call of the wild kept luring him back to rustling until he was killed in 1900. One of the most famous black lawmen was Bass Reeves, also a former slave, who became one of the first black deputy US marshals west of the Mississippi. Although he’d never learned to read or write, he spoke six Native American languages, and had an amazing memory. He would have someone read fugitive warrants to him and memorize the contents. During his 30+ year career he brought in over 3,000 fugitives.

Bill Pickett
A bit of trivia about cowboys. How many of you are rodeo fans? Do you know what bulldogging is? That’s where a rodeo rider leaps from a horse going at full gallop, grabs a steer by the horns and wrestles it to the ground. It is now a main event at most rodeos, and it was invented by a black cowboy, Bill Pickett, who was born in Texas in 1870. Because of his race, he wasn’t allowed to compete against white rodeo performers, but he toured parts of the US, Canada, Mexico, England and South America performing for rapt audiences. He died in 1932 after being kicked in the head by a horse. In 1972 he was inducted in the National Rodeo Hall of Fame, and in 1989 into the Pro-rodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy. In 1994, the US Postal Service issued a postage stamp in his memory.  

And, of course, no tale of black cowboys would be complete without mention of Nat Love, known as Deadwood Dick, born a slave in Tennessee.  After freedom and the death of his father, he moved first to Texas where he demonstrated amazing skills as a cowboy, especially breaking horses. After a few years he moved to Arizona where he became even more famous. Deadwood Dick  worked as a cowboy for 20 years before getting married and settling down. He worked a number of jobs in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada before finally settling down in California. In 1907, he published his autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick.” While few of the claims in his book could be verified, except his skill as a cowboy, the American reading public devoured his book as avidly as the ‘dime novels’ of the time.

There you have it. The Old West was colorful. And, in a literal, not just rhetorical sense.