Monday, December 29, 2014

The Science of Lucid Dreaming

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Dangerous Life of American Diplomats - In the Words of Those Who've Served

In the Line of Fire: American Diplomats in the Trenches Paperback – December 24, 2014

Edited by Ambassador (retired) Charles Ray

It’s probably no exaggeration to say that most Americans know very little about what American diplomats really do. Except for the occasional tragedy, such as the attack on the American diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya in 2013, resulting in the deaths of four Americans (including the ambassador), people don’t realized just how hazardous the life of a diplomat can be – thanks in large part to the highly distorted images in popular media that often show diplomats as dilettantes more interested in attending cocktail receptions than doing ‘real’ work.
     In this book, edited by yours truly, you’ll find stories from those who have served in diplomatic positions overseas – stories of events that often never made the headlines in the U.S., but are all too common occurrences in a diplomat’s life.

     Included are the names from the Memorial Plaques in the diplomatic lobby of the U.S. Department of State that list the names of over 200 Americans who, over the past 200-plus years have given their lives in the service to their country abroad, and who have often been unheralded except by their immediate family and colleagues. These essays represent those who serve silently – giving voice to their valor and dedication as they, in the words of one of the writers, ‘do what we’re paid to do.’

Click on the image below to get your copy now.  Also available in Kindle version.

Which Tea Party is it?

When King George III and the British Parliament levied a series of taxes on the American colonies after the conclusion of the French and Indian War in 1863, American merchants protested that the they were being taxed but had no representation in the legislative body doing the taxing. One thing led to another, and, according to historical accounts, a group of some 200 Bostonians (some dressed as Native Americans) boarded three cargo ships in Boston Harbor and dumped their cargos of tea into the harbor. This incident inflamed tensions and led eventually to war and American independence. The term ‘Tea Party’ to describe the incident, however, was not used until the 1880s.
Fast forward to the late 20th and early 21st century and a political movement arises in the U.S. that is opposed to federal tax policy – which is quickly taken over by political opportunists and turned into a retrogressive force that seems hell bent on taking the country back in time. As you might imagine, some students of history object to this confederation of dunces appropriating a revered symbol of the country’s independence from tyranny to represent what is their own form of tyranny.

I would point out, though, that the Boston Tea Party is not the only Tea Party that could be an appropriate symbol for this group. In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter hosts a tea party for a collection of wackos, and somewhere in that book is a phrase where a character says, ‘things mean what I want them to mean.’ Does that sound familiar? I like to think that this is a much better exemplar of what the Tea Party now stands for than the resistance to external tyranny represented by the Boston do. What do you think?

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thursday, December 11, 2014

What's Wrong With American Diplomacy?

Often, American diplomatic efforts - though quite often successful - are derided as being 'a day late, a dollar short, and too loud for the audience.' Our diplomatic service (the U.S. Foreign Service) attracts the best and brightest, but along the way, despite their intelligence and dedication, they fall into a rut. Ever wonder why? I spent 30 years in the Foreign Service, and quite often wondered why we seemed to spend so much time trying to push ropes up hills. Here, in an article written in the 1990s, a Foreign Service junior officer (using a pen name for obvious reasons0 breaks the code.

After reading this - which, by the way, is right on the money, you'll find yourself wondering how we ever succeed at anything.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Defining Lines of Authority

This is an article in 'Armed Forces Journal' February 2009 issue about the problems of defining the lines of authority for American government organizations abroad, in particular, defining the authority of American ambassadors. Given the current debate over presidential nominees for the post of ambassador, this is highly relevant.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

C.M. Skiera's Blog: Book Review: Techniques of the Selling Writer

C.M. Skiera's Blog: Book Review: Techniques of the Selling Writer: Although Dwight V. Swain's  Techniques of the Selling Writer is older than I am (which is pretty darn old), it stands the test of time ...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

I've Just Got to Have a Pair of Bickering Birds

A wall is just a wall, but a wall with a piece of art on display is a work of art in and of itself. A great painting or photo on a bare wall converts a blank space into a haven of repose.
Now that I’m fully engaged in writing and publishing – what was my pastime to engage my creative energies while I worked for the federal government is now my day job – I've turned my attention to making my home office look inviting and be a place that inspires my creative impulses. 

That long, lonely walk from the master bedroom, down the hallway to my office on the left is bare. When I was working outside the house every day; more often than not out of town or out of the country; my wife and I had paid little attention to the décor of our home’s second floor. Heck, we only saw it twice a day – when we got up in the morning and on our way to bed at night. Now, I see it all day long, and that bareness is depressing.
Thank goodness I decided to monetize my blog, and one of the advertisers I feature just happens to be Getty Images. by Getty Images offers a collection of stunning framed photos that are guaranteed to enhance the walls of any room or office. Just the thing, I thought, to spruce up my home office. So, I went browsing on the site to find something. I immediately ran into a problem. There are so many great photos it’s hard to choose. I finally did, though. As a photographer, I love taking pictures of birds and animals. I’m currently in the process of documenting the birds of Maryland, so I thought, what better to decorate my office’s entrance area than a photo of a bird or flock of birds.
And, I found just what I was looking for – Bickering Birds – a photo of two birds on a limb that look like they’re engaged in a heated debate. With three different sizes to choose from and five different surfaces (canvas, paper, acrylic, aluminum, and birchwood), along with a tasteful black frame, it’s a steal at $200. And, then I learned that I can save 20% off that using the coupon code BLOG20, which applies to anything ordered from Now, you just can’t beat that with a stick. Birds aren’t the only thing they offer photos of landscapes, sports, news, animals, travel and entertainment.

What’s that? You’ve no more time to read, you have to go shopping for photos. Well, by all means. You can go directly to

Friday, November 28, 2014

Turning the Pages: Blog Tour ~ The Body by d. Nichole King

Turning the Pages: Blog Tour ~ The Body by d. Nichole King: The Body (The Spirit Trilogy Book 2) by d. Nichole King They vowed to never return. Their lives depend on it. With last summer be...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

New Release! Prunella Smith: World Within Worlds

Have you heard about reviewers who have endured attacks by disgruntled authors upset with their review, or about authors being hounded by other authors determined to destroy their credibility? Do you wonder how you might handle such a situation yourself?
Anyone interested in these topics and the issues they raise will find much to enjoy in AIA Publishing’s latest release Prunella Smith: Worlds Within Worlds, a metaphysical thriller. The book has an unusual structure in that it weaves together several strands of experience, tangible and intangible, that together create the rich tapestry of the central character’s life.

‘The barrier between the worlds shatters like the window. The beast is loose. My nightmare has become real. The guy has totally lost it. If he finds us here, we could die. No, I don’t doubt it; we will die.’
Author and editor Prunella Smith inhabits a multilayered reality. Physically, she lives in the Australian bush with her crazy cat Merlin. In her work world, she edits the love story of Kelee, a Magan Lord’s daughter, and in the cyber-world of social media, she’s subjected to slanderous attacks by a disgruntled author. To complicate matters further she sees things through the eyes of a Tibetan Yogi, has strange dreams and relives forgotten memories.
Separate worlds, interconnected and complementary, but can they help when Prunella becomes victim to a real life stalker and her sanity is threatened?
Worlds Within Worlds has a unique perspective on the nature of creativity. Its touch is light, its humour distinctive but it reaches deep into the nature of human experience.

Comments from readers:

“This is riveting stuff, part magical realism dreamscape, part taut psychological thriller, and I was literally on the edge of my seat when the final twist—and what a twist it is—came around. Phew, what a ride! I can honestly say it is the best book I have read this year.” Frank Kusy, author of Rupee Millionaires.
 “This book will make you think. Considering the deluge of new works streaming from authors these days, that may be the highest praise a novel can receive.” Amy Spahn, literary critic.
“A fascinating insight into the mind of someone using meditative techniques to deal with stress.” Kevin Berry, Awesome Indies reviews.

About the Author
Tahlia Newland, author of six books, including the award-winning Diamond Peak Series (AIA Seal of Excellence in Fiction and BRAG Medallion for Outstanding Fiction), writes heart-warming and inspiring magical realism and contemporary fantasy. She is also an editor and the coordinator of Awesome Indies Books, a website that accredits and showcases quality independent fiction.
Tahlia began writing full time in 2008 after twenty years in the performing arts and a five-year stint as a creative and performing arts teacher in a High School. She has had extensive training in meditation and Buddhist philosophy and lives in an Australian rainforest south of Sydney with her husband and a cheeky Burmese cat, who features in most of her novels.

Purchase outlets


The paperback will be available from all outlets in early December.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Foreign Service: In Search of Diversity

Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace

After a big lunch

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

Presenting Elle Klass (Lisa Klaes): Presenting Author Lisa Klaes: PnPAuthors Promotions   _______________________________________...

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

Chris Longmuir, Crime Writer: Awesome New Website for Awesome Indies: Advance News The clock is ticking towards the launch of the new Awesome Indies Website, but I thought I’d give you advance warnin...

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~

PnPAuthors Promote ALFRANCENA: PnPAuthors is proud of ALFRANCENA~: PnPAuthors Promotions ___________________________________________   Author Alfancena   PnPAuthors is so proud of Alfancen...

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

Presenting Author Joyce Shaughnessy: AuthorJoyce Shaughnessy:   PnPAuthors Promotions     ______________________________...

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

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

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

Presenting Author Rhoda D'Ettore: Presenting Rhoda D'Ettore: PnPAuthors Promotions     =======================================...

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!