Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Oh beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of . . . WIND TURBINES?

My parents’ home borders Illinois farm country.  For decades, we’d sit in the sunroom off the back of their house and gaze out at the sun rising over the undisturbed, majestic wheat and soybean fields stretching for miles into the horizon.  It was the Midwestern version of living at the beach or having a mountain, long-range view.  It was peaceful, constant, and always felt like home.
That was then.  This is now.  Over the past several years, wind turbines have sprung up, filling the previously natural beauty with haunting images of giant robotic machines.  They hover over you day and night, constantly turning.  At night, dozens of red light blink in unison as if from a George Lucas Sci-Fi flick, signaling to beings in space.  
It is unclear, at least to my parents and their neighbors, as to what benefit these turbines provide to them in return for the disturbance to their tranquil views.  Whatever electrical energy they provide is fed into the mysterious “utility grid” and syphoned off at points unknown.  My parents have witnessed no change in their electric bills.  They’ve never received any communication prior to or after the erection of these monstrosities as what to expect.  These turbines just began to appear on the horizon under the guise of progress and “clean energy.”
To me, a regular visitor to my parents’ sunroom, these things pollute a view that was previously pristine.  They alter what had been peaceful and constant.  I hope somewhere, on some balance sheet, the benefits are visible to someone.  

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Road Rage !!!

I drove 800 miles yesterday, North Carolina to Illinois -- a not-so-quick trip to my hometown to visit my parents. It's amazing that I arrived safely. I witnessed no fewer than a dozen cases of road rage during the 12 hour drive: drivers cutting each other off, drivers tailgating at 80 mph as they attempt to bully cars out of the fast lane, near misses with drivers running red lights. Middle fingers were flying everywhere, out of windows and into rear view mirrors. It's really getting scary, but to me, the only thing scarier is sitting in an airport terminal as your flight is delayed hours to fix a seat belt.

Friday, May 24, 2013

MELTING SAND - Snippet 1

Attached is a snippet from MELTING SAND, the first in a series  of novels to be released in Fall 2013 about CIA agent, Miles Stevens, and his time travel adventures to alter  history.  You can see more by clicking on the tab MELTING SAND - The Preview.
From Chapter 1
-- A Miles Stevens Novel --
He struggled to remember where he was, where he’d been, why he was traveling.  Nothing was coming to him. Nothing.
He leaned back, his eyes closed, hoping he was just overly tired, or maybe he’d had too much to drink.  Surely, he just needed more time to get his bearings.  But time was not giving him the focus he struggled to find.
Another agonizing minute passed.
Glancing down at his left hand, he saw a simple, gold wedding band.  It brought no image of his wife, no memory of a wedding. Even something so personal was completely foreign.
He removed the ring and inspected it.  There was an inscription inside with initials and a date:

It meant nothing.
What the hell is going on?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Social Mediaholic

I am not a well person.  I’m a social mediaholic.  I’ve known this for some time, but I can’t seem to do anything about it.
My mediaholic addiction started in the 90s with e-mail, but quickly spread to texting.  My thumbs mutated into arched styluses that gyrated back and forth over my Blackberry’s knobby keyboard.  Tendonitis forced me to begin using my index fingers, a move that cut my typing speed in half, and in some way, seemed effeminate.
I’ve been addicted to Facebook and LinkedIn for years.  I find myself updating my profiles hourly. I reply to senseless posts, sometimes typing and erasing my reply several times as though the content really mattered. Seeking broad acceptance, I LIKE posts that I don’t even read. I even LIKE my own posts, hoping to jumpstart others to follow suit.  I have a cellular ringtone that alerts me when I get new Facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts.  It seems the need for constant feedback is a primary symptom of the mediaholic.
I swore that I’d never let my addiction spread to Twitter, but it has.  It’s been months since I’ve had a thought consisting of more than 140 characters.  I speak in hash tags and abbreviations. I have over 4,000 Twitter followers, but I know very few of them.   Actually, I don’t know any of them, but I don’t care.  I want more.  I need more.  A false sense of popularity is another indication of my addiction.
And yes, I have a blog.  I’m a blogger.  Even the sound of the word sounds creepy, conveying images of bodily fluids.  I didn’t know what a blog was five years ago, but now I post to mine almost daily, and I monitor my blog stats continually.  If my page views dip, I take it personally.  I wonder what I’ve done to drive viewers away.  Have they gone to someone else?  Did I say something wrong?  Am I boring?  Oversensitivity -- yet another symptom.
As an aspiring author, I recently discovered a new social media site – Goodreads.  I’ve joined a dozen groups on this site and I chat with the group members as if they’re interested in me and my books.  They’re not of course, but the mediaholic need to belong keeps me coming back.  I flood the site with promos of my novels to the point where I’ve been scolded by the group administrators -- the social media equivalents to hall monitors. They don’t stop me, though. I just move to a new group and bombard them with more promos.  
I don’t know where all this leads.  I’ve tried going through the 12-step recovery process, but I never get past step 3 -- cellular fasting.  If my cell phone isn’t in my pocket, I get tremors and list to one side when I walk. 
I guess I’ll need to hit bottom before I can begin to recover.  I must be nearing that point.  By the way, I’m thinking about expanding my Google+ account.  And did I mention my novels are half price on Amazon this week?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Enough Already !

After two days of cleaning bird poop off my deck chairs and listening to a frantic bluebird attacking his reflection in my office window, I took offensive action.  It worked! 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fight the Funk

Normally a 10-mile mountain view, the fog and rain has had us socked in for the past four days.  I'm beginning to understand how the residents of Seattle feel.  It begins to wear on you after the second or third day.  I can’t imagine 226 cloudy days a year -- the annual average for the 5th gloomiest city in the U.S.  Well, at least they have Microsoft.   With Gates’ money, he can hang fake suns in the atriums of his office buildings.
My wife and I are fortunate to have access to a gym and indoor pool nearby, so we typically work off our gloomy moods on days like this – she on the treadmill, taking long strides and pumping hand weights, and me swimming laps, thinking about a million things and loosing track of which lap I’m on.  The benefits of the workouts are two-fold.  We come back home feeling refreshed, and it also justifies (at least in our minds) consumption of wine and cheese at 5PM.
I don’t like being in a funk or depressed, regardless of the cause. It can permeate your entire day, your week, your life.  At one point, it came close to shutting me down completely. It’s taken me 60 years, but I’m learning how to “fight the funk.”  A little fog and rain is no big deal. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013


It had been a tough week – for many reasons.  I’d hoped my book signing yesterday would end the week on a more positive note, but it was not to be.  It rained the entire day and only 10 people turned up for the signing, with only a few of them knowing I was to be at the bookstore before they arrived.    
After the allotted two hours, my wife (who’s also my editor) and I gathered up my supplies into a file box, peeled the flyers off the front door, and dashed to our car under the protection of a golf umbrella.  If there was ever a time when I needed a drink it was then.
We headed to a Mexican restaurant within crawling distance of our house and ordered two of the MUCHO GRANDE margaritas.  The attached picture of my editor is actually an optical illusion – the drinks were much larger than they appear!    

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Tough Decision

It was another early morning for me and my dear companion. I have become his legs as he battles the final days of his arthritis.  Deacon is my 12 ½ year-old Sheltie who’s always been by my side.  
The vets and I have done all we can do.  Now the meds only manage his pain. The days of improving his condition have past.  
His arthritis will not claim his life.  This, on the surface, sounds like goodness.  Unfortunately, it is far from it.  I am faced with the decision of when he’s suffered enough, when his quality of life has diminished to the point where it’s best to let him rest in peace.  
It’s hard.  He looks at me the same as he’s always done – with anticipation and with loyalty.  My friends have told me I’ll know when it’s time, but I’m not sure I will.  My brave companion doesn’t show pain.  Most dogs don’t.  Sure, he limps.  He stops and stares at me wanting me to come to him, to pet him, to pick him up.  But he doesn’t share the extent his condition.  I wish I could tell.
I really hope my friends are correct, and I will eventually know the right time.  Deacon remains my dear companion, but now, it's me by his side.      


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Airline Armrest Etiquette

It’s been a long, tiring day.  I’ve been waiting an hour and a half in a terminal filled with disgruntled travelers for my plane to arrive.  All I’ve had to eat this afternoon was a mini-bag of pretzels and a Diet Coke.  My hunger is competing with my headache for attention.
It’s finally time for Group 3 to board.  I walk down the aisle of the plane, dragging my carryon, optimistically looking forward for what awaits me in 24E -- a center seat because of a late ticket change.  My worst fears materialize.  Seated on the aisle are a woman, her newborn, and enough baby paraphernalia to support the kid for months.  Naturally, the window passenger has not arrived.  I say a brief prayer for the missing person to be hopelessly tied up in traffic.
After tossing my travel bag in the overhead, I politely smile and wait for the young mother to rise, allowing me to take my seat.  I immediately pull down the armrests on either side of me, establishing a protective boundary to my tight quarters.  I spend the next five minutes watching passengers approach, making eye contact as they near row 24.  Please just go by, I think each time, actually verbalizing a couple times as the traffic thins. 
Three people board as the flight attendants are about to shut the cabin door – a boy and his mother and a huge, rotund man in a disheveled suit, his shirttail hanging loose, carrying a briefcase and wardrobe bag as he stumbles down the aisle.  I immediately realize my fate.  After much shuffling and rearranging of overhead luggage, the giant wedges himself against the window next to me and we all buckle in.  
This is when I wish the airlines would post a sticker on the back of the seats, clearly establishing “armrest etiquette.”  Rule number one would be – the center seat passenger has priority on use of armrests.  Rule number two – nursing mothers must utilize the breast furthest from the center seat.  Rule number three -- anyone over 250 pounds must cross their arms the entire flight.
None of these rules were followed on the 90 minute flight.  The mother rested her elbow on the armrest to my left, with the kid’s head and his source of nourishment inches away.  Andre the Businessman spilled into my space on the right as he juggled his briefcase on his lap.  And it was I who had his arms crossed the entire flight.
It could have been worse, however.  The airline could have been out of wine.  

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Book Signings - Exciting Each Time

Book signings -- they're exciting, unpredictable, and can be nerve-racking.
I was about to write a blog post on how to prepare, what to do the day of the signing, and recommended follow-up.  But I did some quick Google searches and discovered this ground has been well-trodden.  A list of some of the better articles on this subject is included at the end of this post.
So instead, I’m using one of my upcoming signings as an example of what I do to prepare.  
  1. I posted the announcement (below) at the site of signing, Diana’s Bookstore, well in advance. I also displayed it at nearby libraries and retail stores that permitted advertising. 
  2. I scheduled the book signing the weekend of an annual wine festival, so I hope to get some traffic from the event.  
  3. Press releases announcing the signing and my new novel, MELTING SAND, planned for Fall 2013, have been provided to the two local newspapers.
  4. I posted an announcement on my web site as well as Diana's Bookstore page.
  5. I plan to give away a 150-page preview of MELTING SAND to the first 30 customers.  It’s a fairly pricy giveaway, but it’s my hope it will create more interest in the signing and generate sales of my two current novels, CORRUPT CONNECTION and BETTER LATE THAN EVER. 
  6.  I’ll show up with my bookmarkers, business cards, and a dozen extra copies of my novels, just in case the store sells out :)  I never bring more books and other supplies than will fit in an average size file box.  Space is usually  limited.
 I’ll give you an update on how it goes in a future post.   

Book Signing Articles: