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Sunday, September 14, 2014

For Melissa Bradley_Cancer Always Plays a Deadly Hand



Michael di Gesu asked us to write a cancer story to be included in an anthology.

 All sales will benefit our friend Melissa Bradley's fight,

as with losing her job and undergoing chemotherapy, the cost of staying alive is sky high.

She  needs our help.

There is also a medical fund to help raise money for the expensive treatment.

 Go here if you feel you could spare a few dollars for Melissa.

Michael and Melissa would prefer funny stories. 

Funny. 

Sometimes laughter is a scarse commodity when cancer is in the same room.

But bravery, grace under pressure, and a firm resolution to go out standing tall ...

those can be found in souls staring straight into cancer's eyes.

My own cancer is too close to write about. 

 My mother died of breast cancer.  My best friend is dying with it.

So what to write?

This is the fable I crafted.  I hope you enjoy it.



 PLAY THE HAND YOU'RE DEALT:

"All of us have a path to follow, and that path begins in the heart."
- Samuel McCord


The gas lights gleaming from his bald head, the young boy in the wheelchair looked up at me.

"Gosh, Captain McCord, I always wanted to see the insides of Meiloiri's."

He sipped his ice tea held with unsteady hands.  "To think a hero like you'd make time for just a kid with cancer like me."

The ghost of Mark Twain sat down beside the boy and winked.

"There ain't no just kids to Sam.  And you're the hero.  Me & Capt. Sam, why we get so jim-jammed with fright sometimes we get all turned around and actually RUN to danger instead of AWAY FROM it!"

A flurry of snowflakes slowly formed in the chair beside me into a tall, regal woman in white buckskins & lightning hair.

THE TURQUOISE WOMAN.

Eyes the color of her name pierced me.  "This poker game has the potential of a loaded gun."

Mark nudged the frightened boy with a wink.  "Mother Nature there sure sucks the joy clean outta the air, don't she?"

The boy clutched my arm as the 3 remaining players pulled up their chairs and sat down.

The bald man in grey Armani grinned like a skull.  "Am I late?"

I said, "You always come too soon, Cancer. I see you brought your usual companions, Despair and Hopelessness."

 Cancer smiled at the trembling boy.  "Ah, I see you recognize them as well.  They keep you company with me in the long, long watches of the night."

"I've heard that," I said.  "That's why I set up this game."

Cancer laughed like the breaking of brittle bones.  "You cannot win."

I patted the boy's shaking fingers.  "Watch us."

Cancer drew out a deck from his inside jacket pocket.  "I'll deal the cards."

His shark smile widened.  "I always do."

I patted the boy's tightening fingers.  "It's not the cards you're dealt, son, but how you play them that counts."

The heavy fog called Hopelessness murmured, "You have Zero Chance, boy." 

Mark refused to look at his dealt cards, winking at the boy.  "You know what the Zero said to the Eight?"

"N-No, sir."

"Why, ain't that a lovely belt you're wearing!"

The boy laughed, and the fog thinned though it growled.

Mark nodded to the threatening fog.  "What did the right eye say to the left one?"

The boy shook his head.  "What?"

"Between you and me something smells!"

The boy laughed so hard that ice tea came out of his nose, and Hopelessness faded away completely.

The man-shaped leech called Despair murmured, "Laughter won't stop the pain, boy!"

The boy cocked his head.  "I-I do hurt less now."

Despair whispered, "But the pain kept you up all last night."

Turquoise Woman sent a spiral of snowflakes shimmering to the boy.  

"And so you were awake to see my sunrise, were you not?  Was it not beautiful?"

"Oh, yes, ma'am!"

"All else in New Orleans slept thru it.  Only you saw it."

"Wow!  Really?"

"Really ... which is why I sent you the robins this morn to sit on your sil and serenade you."

"It was lovely, ma'am.  I heard them in my head all day."

Turquoise Woman smiled.  "See how much more you lived than everyone else in New Orleans?"

She stroked his cheek.  "The pain does not let you sleep thru life.  These past weeks you have lived on a level few ever achieve, appreciating what most take for granted."

I winked at the boy. "Know what you get when you quit?"

"N-No, sir."

"Neither do I.  I've won.  I've lost.  But I've never quitAll it takes is getting up one more time than they knock you down."

I patted his steady fingers.  "Each scar life gives us is a gift, son."

"It sure doesn't feel like a gift, sir."

"No, not at first.  But think on it, son.  Where we are unhurt is where we are unsure of who we really are.  Where we are wounded & healed is where we get to show what we're made of."

The boy's jaw firmed, and the leech called Despair disappeared.

 Cancer flipped over his cards.  They were a Royal Flush.  "I win!"

"No," calmly said Turquoise Woman.  "You lose."

She smiled like a new sunrise at the boy.  

"You may hold the boy for a season.  But only a season.  And even in that season, the boy decides if he chooses laughter and courage over despair and hopelessness."

Turquoise Woman gestured, and a robin fluttered on the boy's shoulder.  "If his treatment works, you will lose your hold on him."

Cancer sneered, "And if I kill him?"

 Turquoise Woman smiled wider.  

"Then, he goes to the Great Mystery where those like Mark Twain here will keep company with him for eternity.  And pain will not even be a memory."

I squeezed the boy's arm.  "Forever with laughter and love.  Not too bad, huh?"

Mark Twain nudged the now-smiling boy.  "You know what sound porcupines make when they kiss?"

"No, sir."

"OUCH!"

The boy covered his eyes and groaned, "That was terrible, sir!"

"Hey, whipper snapper, you got it for free!"

"I was over-charged," grinned the boy.

And Cancer got up and slowly walked away. 



Saturday, September 13, 2014

WHAT WE LEARN TOO LATE



"Sure, the world is cold.  It is our job to build fires."
   - Samuel McCord

What would Samuel McCord tell us today? 


1.) Time Is Not Limitless

 
     That we have more time than we do is an illusion not just for the young.  

When young, we focus on ourselves and our dreams, thinking we have all the time in the world.  

As we get older we fall under the spell of denial.

     As our friend, Tina, has taught us:

Time is the only treasure we start off with in abundance and can never get back 


 Make the most of the opportunities you have today because there will be a time when you will have no more of it.  


2.)  Talent is no substitute for hard work ... or for empathy.


     How many doctors have you met that seemed to have left their compassion in their other jacket pocket?

     We may have skill at writing, at any number of things but we still have to pay our dues to be a member of the human race.

     And those dues include seeing those around us as fellow strugglers in the battles of life.


3.)  Social Media is not your career ... or your life.


     If you are a writer, write ... and write a lot.  The more books in your backlist the more promise your future holds.

     You are alive so LIVE.  Life is more than pasting cat pictures on FB.  Play with your cat, your children.

     Take a walk outside.  

SEE, EXPERIENCE the world.  At the end of your trail, it will be the laughter among friends, among family that you will remember.

     Gold ribbons tarnish.  Memories of love and friendship nurture.


4.)  Take responsibility for your mistakes.


     Mistakes are the tuition you pay to grow stronger, better.  But if you bury them, you lose what good might have come from them.


5.) Don't wait to be told what to do ... or what to write.


     Once you're an adult, no one will tell you what you need to read, to eat, or when to exercise

     You may dream of having a beautiful rose garden, but unless you plant, water, prune, and weed, 

a dream will be all you have.  And dreams do not have lush scents or velvet petals.


6.)  If your words cannot improve the silence, remain quiet.


     We have raised a generation of sh_t talkers.  So often those around us mistake cool for character.

     That is true of fiction as well as in real life. 

 Is your book worth the effort of reading?  Are your words healing or helpful?


7.) Read more books and fewer tweets and texts.

 
Our generation consumes information in headlines and 140 characters:  All breadth and no depth.  

     And that limitation impacts the way we think and how well.  

What limits your thinking hobbles your mind in what choices you make ... in living and in writing.

      Creativity, thoughtfulness and thinking skills are freed when you’re forced to read a full book cover to cover.  

All the keys to your future success lay in the past experience of others ...

which you will find in books. 


Friday, September 12, 2014

SOMETIMES THE MONSTER SAVES YOU


 
HERE IS A SAMPLER OF MOST OF MY HEROES!
 
 
Want to hear a chapter from HIBBS, THE CUB WITH NO CLUE?
 
Want to hear how Samuel McCord, a TEXAS Ranger, got assigned New Orleans by a dying President John Adams?
 
Want to hear how Samuel McCord killed his father and met the Turquoise Woman at the age of 15 in 1815?
 
Hear how Victor Standish and his ghoul friend, Alice Wentworth, spend their first ... and nearly their last Christmas!
 
Hear how a fallen angel awakens in a British insane asylum with no memory of how she got there just in time to join Evil in defending the Earth from alien invasion.
 
Those tales and more are in the audiobook 
BRING ME THE HEAD OF McCORD! 
 
Only $11!  What a steal!

SUCCESS KILLS ... if you're not young.




When a television show is consistently popular, its reward usually isn't getting canceled.

 Based on author Craig Johnson's mystery books about Walt Longmire, a Wyoming county sheriff whose laconic personality belies his razor-sharp detective skills, 

"Longmire" was A&E's second-most popular show behind the reality hit "Duck Dynasty," averaging 5.6 million viewers this season, according to Nielsen. 

That is better than critical darlings "Mad Men" on AMC and "Justified" on FX.


 Unfortunately for "Longmire," it has the wrong audience and the wrong owner. 

A&E said it pulled the plug on "Longmire" because it appeals primarily to older viewers: the median age of the show's viewers is 60 versus 48 for the network as a whole 


And it doesn't have an ownership stake in the show.


I think that last was the true reason.

How accurate are Nielson's ratings anymore in this digital age where shows can be seen on Amazon and a half-dozen other venues?

 "Longmire's" fate is reflective of two growing trends in the television industry:

the obsession of advertisers with younger viewers and the desire of TV networks to own as much of their content as possible. 


 Last year, A&E also canceled "The Glades," 

a quirky crime drama with solid ratings that also had an older audience and was produced by a unit of 21st Century Fox.

 Longmire was not a cynical show; it was designed for people who don't see their views and struggles represented.

So A&E is telling those nearing 50 and those over: 

you no longer count.  

It is an odd mind-set when Baby Boomers still have the most disposable income.  

Alas, those of you out there in your mid-forties, you are about to become disposable yourselves.

DOES THIS MAKE SENSE TO YOU?  WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why WRITERS Should Listen to AUDIOBOOKS



DID YOU KNOW AUDIOBOOKS CAN IMPROVE YOUR WRITING?


A) NO SKIMMING ALLOWED


     C'mon, admit it: you skim over the "boring parts" as you read print.  It's instinctive by now.

     But skimming robs you of the power and purpose of the words you skim!


B) AUDIO LETS YOU CATCH THE PACE, THE FLOW OF THE WORDS


     The sounds of the words will bleed into your own writing.  You will begin to "see" words as images.

     It will limit your use of HE SAID/SHE SAID in every line of dialogue.

     Don't tell me those words are invisible to readers -- only to you as you block them out as you write.

     You'll discover new ways to add pauses to the spoken lines.


C)  YOU'LL HEAR THE WORDS AS YOU WRITE THEM


     Maybe in your voice.  Maybe in the voice of your favorite narrators.

     It will spotlight "kinks" in your paragraphs.

     The audio's will create a Theater of the Mind letting you see words as images.


D) YOU'LL "READ" MORE


     Stephen King stresses that the more you read the deeper your perspective will be in your books.


     You'll read in places you couldn't with a print book: in bed, exercising, gardening, commuting.

     You'll discover favorite narrators and seek out books they narrate no matter the genre and 

your literary horizons will expand, enriching your prose, breathing new ides into your future novels.


E) YOU'LL LEARN


     AUDIBLE has its DEAL OF THE DAY:

     I got Arthur C Clarke's 2001 for $2!  The intro was by Clarke himself, detailing the unique way he wrote the book.

     I got BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S read by Michael C Hall of DEXTER fame (great narrator) for $2!

     Craig Johnson of LONGMIRE fame detailed at the end of one of his books the origin of his hero and how he writes.  Great lessons.


F) YOUR OWN AUTHOR READINGS WILL IMPROVE FROM LISTENING TO PROFESSIONALS.


G) YOUR VOCABULARY WILL IMPROVE

     You'll learn new words from their use in context of the action of the novels.  

     You'll repeat crutch words less as you insert the new words into your prose.


OH, BEFORE I FORGET WHY ALL THIS TALK ON AUDIOBOOKS!
I'VE GOT A NEW, AFFORDABLE ONE!

ONLY $3.95!

Voodoo in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania?

 A mystic travel trailer that has a life of its own and takes its name too seriously?

 A deadly, unbeatable worker of dark magic out to unravel the fabric of reality? 

A Hellhound named Puppy? 

All in a normal day for the last Lakota Heyoka, Toomey Starks.



Since Toomey is Lakota
here is John Two Hawks with lyrics


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A CAST OF LOVERS, LIARS, KILLERS, AND CLOWNS ...




THE BEST REVIEW YOU'LL NEVER READ ON AMAZON

Sandra Thrasher sent me a review of my book that she doesn't feel right putting on Amazon

since she is my best friend, but I just had to share:

"Heady, sardonic, yet compassionate -- with an unpredictable cast of lovers, liars, killers, and clowns, THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT entertains even as it reflects upon the instability of identities.  

It is a thoroughly entertaining book by a classic talent."


But enough about me ... on to a real talent: Patricia Briggs:



Her latest: SHIFTING SHADOWS is a volume of short stories centering on her secondary characters in her world of MERCY THOMPSON.

The intros to those stories are mini-lessons on how to write.  If you buy only one book this month:

Buy mine, but buy hers next month!  :-)
 

SECONDARY CHARACTERS
 

Her book got me to reflecting upon them.  Could yours support a short story centering on them?  They should.


ARCS
 
Each of your supporting characters should have one.  Not in your novel.  That would give you mental hernias.

No, but in your mind.  They should be real not CARDBOARD CUT-OUTS of personalities.

Your protagonist is defined by his interactions with those around him. 

And if those around him are shallow, he or she will only be able to have shallow relationships.  The reader will become bored.
 


PERCOLATE

 
How do you do that you ask.  Percolate. 

You let the different characters and the rough image of your novel's actions slowly work through your conscious and unconscious mind.

Too many writers rush into their novels in the heat of a great opening scene or bit of dazzling dialogue.

By all means put it down on paper or in Word, but pause and reflect for a few days maybe even .... shudder ... a week.

But if the fire is hot within you, ignore me completely.  I am used to that treatment from beautiful women.

After all, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde in SIX DAYS!
 


TAKE KINDERGARTEN

 
You enter one person, meet those irritating mysteries, other human beings, and emerge a drastically different kind of person.

This happens again and again and again in the lives of us all.

A fact which irritates me when an author says she cannot write a sequel for the arc of her heroine is finished. 

I want to say: "Is she still breathing?  Then, another arc is just beginning!"
 


THE WORLD YOU WANT VS THE WORLD THAT IS
 

Most of you know the term "Mary Sue"
   
The term "Mary Sue" comes from the name of a character created by Paula Smith in 1973 for her parody story "A Trekkie's Tale"


It was published in her fanzine Menagerie #2. 

The story starred Lieutenant Mary Sue

("the youngest Lieutenant in the fleet — only fifteen and a half years old"), and satirized unrealistic Star Trek fan fiction.

You can write a MARY SUE novel, too. 

Twilight is basically one and spawned a depressingly large number of copy-cats!

The wallflower or outcast who, up until now has been ignored or ridiculed. 

Then comes the new kid: dark, handsome, mysterious ... and madly in love with the wallflower.

You can write a novel whose world is what you would have it to be. 

And if enough readers want the same kind of world, it will be popular.

But it will not resonate with truth.  It will be mental cotton candy.  And if you write enough of it, it will make you and your ability to create ill.
 

ANTI-MARY SUE NOVELS
 

Then, there are novels where every part of the universe sucks,

the heroine is the doormat of her world, incapable of not making mistakes.  She IS a mistake.

I know we often feel that way,

but if we look down and our shoes are on the proper foot, then we have done at least one thing right.

All of us write of the world as we believe it to be. 

But we must work hard to NOT write of the world that our fears believe it to be.

Like Mrs. Briggs' title to her short story collection, SHIFTING SHADOWS, 

the world is a shifting dance of shadow and light.  

If we find our novel all light or all dark,

we are making it unrealistic and without the music of life that will sing to our readers of the truths we must find for ourselves in the darkness.



Sunday, September 7, 2014

RAINFOREST MUSE 0r Is That NEWS?




 
D.G. Hudson has opened the door to her cyber-home
 
and graciously allowed me to talk about the roots  and origins of my latest novel,
 
THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT  ---
 
and what went into my first children's novel, HIBBS THE CUB WITH NO CLUE.
 
Come and visit and let me know what you think, all right?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Can you write STEAMPUNK without STEAM?


What is STEAMPUNK?

I ask that question because three of my former customers say that my last two novels are STEAMPUNK




Really?

 
One set of definitions include:

Steampunk perhaps most recognizably features anachronistic technologies or retro-futuristic inventions as people in the 19th century might have envisioned them, 

and is likewise rooted in the era's perspective on fashion, culture, architectural style, and art. 

 Steampunk may also incorporate additional elements from the genres of
 
fantasy, horror, historical fiction, alternate history, or other branches of speculative fiction, making it often a hybrid genre

Sean Fagan wrote a fascinating post on the basic necessities  of STEAMPUNK:

 
1.) ADVENTURE
 

Think Doc Savage, The War of the Worlds, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.  That kind of adventure.

In THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT, two undead empires are at each other's throats and a plague worse than the Black Death threatens the world.
 

2.) EXOTIC LOCALES
 


From the bloody madness of the Devil's Wind in 1857 India

to the tinder box that was Egypt in 1895,

the heroes of THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT manage to stay one step ahead of death.



3.) SHIPS
 

In both HOUSE OF LIFE and STARS, excavated Egyptian temple sites are in actuality sentient alien star craft,
 
filled with deadly booby traps ... and aliens awakening to exact revenge.

Nikola Tesla has his "Flying Carpet", molded in the form of Horus and his sheltering wings.  It is actually a hybrid airboat and hover craft.
 
 

4.) A GENIUS AHEAD OF HIS TIME
 


Albert Einstein was once asked how it felt to be the smartest man alive, and he said, "I do not know. Ask Nikola Tesla."

Again and again in THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT, the inventions of Nikola Tesla save the lives of Samuel McCord, his wife, and his companions. 
 
Most of those presented in that book and in DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE Nikola actually invented!
 
 

5.) STRONG, CAPABLE WOMEN
 
 

McCord's wife, Meilori Shinseen, is actually Sekhmet!





McCord wins the friendship of the alien Bast
 
 
His erstwhile companion is Ada Byron, inventor of the first computer language 100 years before the creation of the computer.
 



His three enemies in THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT are the undead Abigail Adams and the revenant Empress Theodora





And the mummy child, Princess Shert Nebti, carrier of a dread plague that could wipe out Mankind



6.) A RELATABLE EVERYMAN



Samuel McCord, reflective though cursed Texas Ranger, provides the sounding board for all the readers

who can see and feel the adventures and mysteries and riddles of these two tales.


Trying to explain the wonders to himself, he explains them to the readers as they turn the pages.



7.) A BAND OF MISFITS


 
Mark Twain, seeking fame, fortune, and adventure in a mid-life crisis.

Oscar Wilde, freshly broken out of Reading Goal by Twain and McCord, searches for the inner peace and self-respect he has lost.

Lt. Winston Churchill on the road to glory finds an even greater treasure.

Nikola Tesla, yearns for a like mind who will understand his misunderstood genius.


{Nikola Tesla and Mark Twain}



Come read THE STARS BLEED AT MIDNIGHT and DEATH IN THE HOUSE OF LIFE to see just how STEAMPUNK I can be!  Or not be -- depending on your definition!!