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09/14/2017

In “Slaughterhouse Five,” Kurt Vonnegut describes the hell of surviving the firebombing of Dresden (In Slaughterhouse Number 5. Sorry if that’s a spoiler), then emerging the next morning. Billy Pilgrim is surrounded by manmade destruction on a nearly incomprehensible scale. In the middle of this hellscape…

…a bird starts singing.

In the middle of death and devastation, life reasserts itself.

I live in South Florida and Hurricane Irma came through last weekend. The winds picked up on Saturday, getting stronger through the day and the main event lasted most of Sunday. I could hear hollow booms from time to time. I knew my home was well-positioned for winds coming from ESE (home is in a condo building on the WNW side) and the household had taken steps to prepare.

Before the storm hit, as we were clearing the porch, I was watching the Muscovy ducks and white ibis that hang out in the canal behind the house. The water level had been lowered in anticipation of heavy rain and the birds were probing for worms and bugs. I wondered where they’d go for shelter, whether they’d be able to survive a Category 4 hurricane.

Once the wind started, I put up a pretty good show of being cool and brave for those around me. And for myself. In the wisdom of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Whistle a Happy Tune, putting on the performance convinced me, too. It seemed like the winds wouldn’t stop increasing, that the water level in the canal behind the house wouldn’t stop rising, one more good gust hitting a palm tree would bring it down.

Let me tell you, it was a long damn weekend. And the nights were worse. No quietly whirring fans to block the noise of the wind. The dark seemed even darker. But I could see the silhouettes of trees under assault from 80 mile an hour gusts. I could hear thunder. Lightning flashed. With no power, I was keeping my phone off to save battery. We had been getting tornado warnings, flash flood warnings, lightning strike warnings, but with the phone off, I wouldn’t hear or see them. Sleep was fitful.

I had had a chorus of people on social media telling me to evacuate, and when it became clear that I wouldn’t,  telling me to check in and be safe. Every few hours, I’d turn on the phone and post, starting with “I’m still okay,” describing the conditions, and finishing with “I still have gummy bears.” (I’d started a running joke about gummy bears being among necessary hurricane supplies. More than a few people agreed). One of the last posts, when the winds really did start to ease, I reported that the gummy bears were gone. There were expressions of sympathy.

The winds died down. The rains stopped. We still didn’t have power, and it was cooler outside than in. My roommate and I ventured out to see the damage. Huge trees had fallen into some of the other buildings in the neighborhood, crashing through porches, landing on roofs. Here was the source of those booms I’d heard.  These buildings faced directly into the storm and many units had tattered or missing screens. No golfers were out on the course; too much debris.

We were lucky. Our electricity was out for 36 hours. The internet was fully functional a day later. I wouldn’t call it PTSD, but as I’ve been working, I’ve heard a deep “thrum” and checked the trees to see if the winds have returned. They haven’t; it’s the fan. I know they haven’t, but I still check the trees to be sure.

Tonight, 3 days later, I went to the store to pick up a few things and I stood in the parking lot for a moment. It was a normal September night, warm, humid, pink and orange sunset. The frantic energy was gone. It was quiet. But for the leaf litter and branches on the ground, you wouldn’t know what had gone on.

The morning after the storm, I looked at the canal. And had my own Slaughterhouse Five moment. Amid the downed branches on the other side of the canal, there were the Muscovy ducks and white ibis.

Life reasserts itself.

INDIE BOOK FEST 2017

IBFbanner1

Over eighty fabulous authors, panels and workshops for both authors and readers . . . two
amazing parties and a huge signing . . . where in the world can you find all of this awesomeness
in one event?

Indie BookFest, of course!

This premier author-reader event, in its fifth year in central Florida, takes place September 28 th
through October 1 st at the Westin Lake Mary.

5thanniversary

Indie BookFest is the only non-organization- affiliated author event to offer a dedicated Industry
Day, with representatives from a variety of service companies presenting workshops,
participating in panels and meeting with authors. This year, industry reps include those from
Written Word Media, Draft2Digital, Robin Reads, Bublish and more.

But IBF isn’t simply an author education conference. We also offer an entire evening and day of
Reader Appreciation panels and presentations—PLUS FanFare, an evening where the authors
entertain the readers.

And if that wasn’t enough, there’s also a three-hour signing that is free and open to the public, on
Saturday from three to six.

Tickets to Indie BookFest 2017 are available now. There are several options for readers and for
attending authors:

–INDUSTRY DAY Ticket: This option provides admittance to and participation in all the
panels and workshops offered on Friday, September 29 th . Topics will apply to both new and
established authors, as well as to others in the publishing field. This ticket allows attending
authors and those interested in exploring the possibility of authorhood to participate in the entire
weekend; it also includes FanFare, Reader Appreciation Day participation, the signing and
Saturday night party. Thursday night’s Dinner with the Authors is not included.

–VIP TICKET: This option provides admittance to and participation in all aspects of Indie
BookFest, including access to the entire weekend EXCEPT the Thursday night dinner (available
at an additional charge), including the Green Room, all panels, workshops, parties and signings.
VIP ticket holders also receive a special VIP swag bag.

–GENERAL ADMISSION TICKET: This option includes access to FanFare on Friday night,
reader workshops and panels on Saturday, the three-hour signing on Saturday, and the Saturday
night party, as well as access to the Swag Tables.

–YOUNG AUTHOR EVENT: The Young Author session will take place Saturday, September
30, from 9:30-11 AM. Attendees must be under 18 to attend. A panel of authors will lead the
workshop, which will explore all nuances of writing and publishing a book. Very Important:
This is an add-on ticket to the main event. You must purchase either a general admission/VIP
or Industry Day ticket to add this event.

— THURSDAY NIGHT DINNER WITH THE AUTHORS: Join authors from Indie BookFest
2017 as we kick off the event with a lovely buffet meal in a beautiful setting.

Indiebookfestpjparty
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit our website and Eventbrite page.

I Fear For My Nation

I really do.

This post is gong to be an inarticulate mess. You are warned.

Someone said, and I agree, that what we’re seeing with the Nazis in Charlottesville (Boys, you had swastikas. Own it) is the death throes of a poisonous snake. It’s dying, but it still has the potential to kill.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen protections in the Voting Rights act expire and states not even waiting an hour to file legislation to make voting more difficult. Planned Parenthood has come under attack. Access to birth control and women’s health through the Affordable Care Act has been litigated because employers (certain employers) don’t want to pay for it. “Mad Men,” a TV show set in an era when white men were the undisputed kings of the US (Yes, I know they still are, but a lot of us are arguing the point) being a cultural touchstone. I saw that show’s success as a nostalgia for that power structure. And I took it as a warning sign.

And then came Trump. (Sorry, I understand that I should show respect for the Office of the Presidency if not for the holder of that office. Right now, that’s like asking me to generate spit after running a marathon with no water breaks) Even before he ran, he was hounding President Obama via that vile Twitter account. He was the most notorious “birther,” questioning whether Barack Obama had been born in the US (Not a peep about John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone. He did criticize Ted Cruz, born in Canada, but Cruz is Hispanic. McCain is white, in case you’ve forgotten). We’ve known for years he has no respect for women; a string of divorces and comments like “hot piece of ass” were our first clues. His candidacy announcement referred to Mexicans as rapists (“Although some, I assume, are good people”), mocked a disabled reported, dismissed the aforementioned John McCain’s time as a POW in the “Hanoi Hilton” (North Vietnamese prison camp): “I like guys who don’t get captured, okay?” (Sure thing, Mr. Five Deferements. How are those bone spurs?)

I could see the writing on the wall: once he got in, he was going to find ways to stay there.

Yet, he was elected. Any news critical of him has been denounced by him as “fake news.” (Despite documented evidence). There is now “Trump TV,” hosted by his daughter-in-law. (BTW, look at the wives of Don, Jr. and Eric. They have a “type.” It’s their sister). The Sinclair Broadcast group owns (currently) 173 TV stations in 80 markets. They cover 28% of the US. They now have “must run” spots that could be considered Trump propaganda (the talking head is Boris Ephsteyn, a Trump advisor). Also, the “Terrorism Alert Desk,” which continues to stoke the anti-Muslim sentiment.

Here’s John Oliver discussing Sinclair: https://youtu.be/GvtNyOzGogc

North Korea has one TV channel and that’s Kim family propaganda. We’re getting there.

People were alarmed by the new staff in the White House: Steve Bannon, formerly of Breitbart News (and got a waiver to keep doing business with them), the aforementioned Boris Ephsteyn, who is fervently anti-Muslim, Stephen Miller, who used to work for Jeff Sessions, who was rejected to be a Federal judge for displaying racist tendencies, but that’s okay for enforcing civil rights as Attorney General. Sebastian Gorka. another fervent anti-Muslim warrior (and his wife, who, significantly in light of recent news: “Along with President Donald Trump aides, she worked to eliminate a CEV grant to Life After Hate, a group that opposes white supremacy. When the list of new CEV grant recipients was released June 23, 2017, Life After Hate was not included. This decision drew significant attention when a 20 year-old white supremacist attacked a group protesting the Unite the Right rally less than two months later, killing one.[  (Wikipedia ). ”

I was given a statistic today: 6% of American household own 40% of the guns.

We have over 300,000,000 guns in circulation in this country.

Those statistics worried me, but I was comforted by the knowledge that the US military has Predator drones, Blackhawk helicopters, and trained soldiers. Then I remembered who the current Commander in Chief is.

The Confederacy died 152 years ago. It was defeated. Nazi Germany died 72 years ago. It was defeated.

And yet,

Here in the United States, the country that defeated both of those powers (although I do not imply it was single-handed in the case of World War II. Not by a long shot), Friday night we were treated to the spectacle of respectably-dressed (Polo shirts and khakis. Aryan casual) young men (mostly. There were women) carrying swastika flags, Confederate battle flags (the Stars and Bars), and tiki torches, parading through Charlottesville, VA to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. They were chanting Nazi slogans. They showed their faces (much to the chagrin of some who have since been identified and lost their jobs. Or families).

For those about to scream “First Amendment,” let me counter: You absolutely may say what you want. The First Amendment says the GOVERNMENT can’t stop you. However, YOU ARE NOT IMMUNE FROM THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR ACTIONS. If your employer decides to fire you, if a contract is cancelled, if a job offer is withdrawn, it’s all legal. In the age of social media and privately held (for now) cameras everywhere, you are never not representing your company. There is no “I’m on my own” time, even if you’re not getting paid.

The First Amendment ended with the first swing of a tiki torch at a counter-protester. The first blast of pepper spray (and one of the Unite the Right organizing sites told the marchers to bring pepper spray). That becomes assault and battery. The next day, it became vehicular homicide (and those Nazi fuckers want to find out where and when Heather Heyer’s funeral is so they can send people. Even Westboro Baptist Church wouldn’t go that far. And they’re assholes of the highest order).

What does our President do? First, there was a feeble comment that assigned blame to both sides. It took another day and a half to call out the white supremacists, but he back-pedaled. Today, the 45th President of the United States referred to the Nazis as “fine people.”

His racism has been litigated through the NY court system for 40 years. Thanks to his Twitter account, Howard Stern, Morning Joe, and other TV/radio shows, we’ve known exactly who he is for years. Four CEOs quit the President’s council on American manufacturing. Which one does he attack on Twitter?

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Kenneth Frazier of Merck

Trump’s idea of a black friend:

Photo by VictoriaPeckham source http://www.flickr.com/photos/victoriapeckham/4000992556/

May not have been a murderer yet, but a known wife-beater. The term for our President is “starfucker.”

 

The Charlottesville Nazis claim to be afraid of the loss of “White European culture” due to progress in women’s rights, civil rights, immigration rights, gay rights. They complain about missing out on jobs due to immigration and affirmative action (the Sessions Department of Justice is more interested in suing colleges and universities over affirmative action than investigating and stopping American Nazis. Telling. Very telling).

Boys (you are not men. You are pasty-faced whiny little boys raised on participation trophies. No wonder you’re defending Confederate statues. Another pack of glorified also-rans): Trust me, white male European/American culture is still dominant.Note the lack of diversity in blockbuster movies, in rock music, at the top of Fortune 500 companies. Read the stories of harassment and hostile work environments. It’s damned difficult to get justice, let me tell you. As for the lack of jobs, look at automation, not immigration. Between better robots and software, automation will put 71% of Americans out of a job by 2025 (8 years from now). I got that from the Huffington Post, link below:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/technodisplacement-the-political-tsunami-bigger-than_us_58de136de4b0efcf4c66a7ae

Learn to build or repair them. By the way, your hero Trump hires foreign workers for his resorts (very restrictive HB-2 which do not permit the workers to seek other employment when they’re here) and NONE of his merch is Made in USA. None. You could have taken pride in making ties, MAGA hats, whatever. Profits have no loyalty.

As for “erasing” white history: no. We’re just ending the glorification of treason and white supremacy. Those generals may have been military geniuses and they deserve to be studied for that, but they chose to take up arms against the United States. Statues on their battlefields, yes. It links to the history, there is a context to its placement. Nathan Bedford Forrest may have been one of the greatest, most daring cavalrymen of all time, but he was also the first Grand Wizard of the KKK (although, he did eventually leave when they got too crazy even for him) and putting his statue in a historically black area is an insult and implied threat. We’ve been hearing charges of “revisionist history,” but my counter is that the  revisionist history is the one we’ve been taught all along. The one where white men are the heroes and saviors of the world. The one that makes Columbus a hero worthy of a holiday even though he was responsible for genocide, kidnapping, and murder. (Replace Columbus Day with Juneteenth, the day slavery ended in the US).  History books (and American pop culture) paint indigenous Americans as murderous savages who deserved to be killed and driven from the land. The ones I was raised on did not teach a history of slavery in the US except for its end.

An offensive comment on my Facebook page today referred to people who want to remove the monuments as “pussies who want to rewrite history.”  The term “Political correctness” has been weaponized to deride people who show respect for other races, faiths (or lack thereof), sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc. This usually comes from people who want to use slurs without consequence. Who believe in superiority/inferiority based on race, faith, sexual orientation, ethnicity, etc.

And those are the assholes who were marching in Charlottesville. They dressed like the IT guy at your place of work (and some of them, apparently were, but are no longer), but should have had Nazi khaki uniforms (too hot a night in Virginia, perhaps) if they’re going to hold these beliefs.

It sickens me that this betrayal of “all men are created equal” exists in the US. We fought wars for this ideal. We shed blood defeating the enemies who wanted to impose the opposite view and oh, by the way, were enslaving and murdering those people unlike them.

I’m sure I’m going to hear from readers saying, “You know, we don’t want to read your politics. We want your stories, not your opinion.” I know I’m going to lose readers. Consequence of exercising First Amendment rights and I accept that (I also accept the lack of editing here). However, to be true to myself, I cannot, and will not, allow this homegrown anti-American bullshit go unchallenged.

Nazis, get lost.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Bones

Still need readers/reviewers. Contact me if you want a free bracelet. Approx $50 value.

I’m good at writing. (Should be a bit better at self-editing, but…) I have an BS in Secondary Education with a teaching minor in English (and one in Social Studies) from the University of Vermont College of Education and Social Services Class of 1983. I took courses in Creative Writing and Expository writing and got top grades. I’ve had pieces published in the Vermont Cynic (UVM student newspaper), Boca Raton News, on NPR (they read one of my letters on the air), the Miami Herald, and was supposed to have a short humorous essay published in the Boston Globe – on September 12, 2001. I’ve written comedy sketches that were performed, short pieces on Dog News Team and two filmed sketches on there, too.

https://youtu.be/qNs1WzQsybg

https://youtu.be/gZWlZsh_dzY

(I just watched them again, and I still think they’re funny)

I’ve also rewritten resumes, edited term papers, edited letters (Yes. People who want to chew out someone else and get results. They come to me. I just sent a nastygram to the Florida Division of Corporations based on the actions of one of their lower level functionaries. And I freakin’ won. 12 years of customer service experience paired with 3 years of legal writing education – I get results).

Bottom line: I have credentials. I can walk the walk. Or write the writing, if you prefer.

I have a couple of tall stacks of books written by friends I’ve made in the indie author world. My intent is to read and review. The blurbs promise stories that should keep me turning pages. The concepts are great: these stories have good bones. (You’re saying to yourself, “I know there’s a ‘but’ in there somewhere” Well, here it comes) The execution…

…leaves a lot to be desired.

 

Image result for 1960s jaguar

This is a 1960 Jaguar convertible. It’s a beautiful car, a sexy car. You can see yourself flying down the Pacific Coast Highway in it (Or cruising A1A out here).

The truism about the Jag back then was you didn’t buy one, you bought two: one to drive and one for parts. If you watched “Mad Men,” you saw Lane Pryce try to commit suicide by inhaling carbon monoxide from his Jag’s exhaust.

He failed. He failed because the car wouldn’t start. And it was a new car.

You can have a great concept for a story, okay? You can dream up a riveting plot with intriguing characters that your audience wants to cheer for. However, you may not know how to effectively execute it. And that’s where you’ll lose readers like me. Bad mechanics, like poor grammar (unless  it’s in dialogue. That’s the only place to get a free pass), too many cliches, clumsy foreshadowing, not enough foreshadowing, continuity errors, anachronisms, or just plain being a rehash of someone else’s story that was a runaway bestseller but yours has enough details changed to avoid copyright lawsuits (Don’t get huffy. They exist).

“Well, what do you know?” You hardly sell any books and Gracie Twinkletoes just published her 25th Amazon #1 in Shapeshifter Science Fiction Military Romance! Why should I listen to you?” (Accompanied by a hair toss) It’s a fair cop. If I had to live on the proceeds of my book sales, I’d be dead before finishing this post. In fact, I would have been dead 4 years ago, but that’s beside the point.

Gracie Twinkletoes doesn’t know the difference among (and yes, that is correct because it’s more than two words) your, you’re, and yore. Or two, to, and too. Gracie talks about her characters “laying around” when it’s “lying around.” If you’re “laying around,” you’re putting down something, like pillows, candles, mousetraps, land mines, what have you.

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This adage is applicable to writing as well. Okay, let’s go with the clothing analogy because it’s easy to visualize. Let’s imagine we’re all in an office where the dress code is business casual (no jeans, flip flops, or tank tops). What stands out more in this environment: a guy in khakis and a polo shirt or the guy who wears a pressed suit and tie?

Image result for polo and khakis

 

 

Image result for suit and tie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, there’s nothing wrong with the casually-dressed guy, but in a world of casual dressers, the man who looks prepared to sit down with a CEO gets noticed. It’s why people study the works of Jane Austen, John Steinbeck, Herman Melville, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I cringe when I read misspelled and  ungrammatical Facebook posts by authors and writers (that includes lifestyle bloggers, too). I get angry backlash if I point out the errors, usually along the lines of “It’s only Facebook. So what?”

It’s taking concepts from your head and putting them into words. It’s writing. It’s your craft. It may not be a book, but it’s you practicing your craft. Too many misplaced “yours,” “tos,” “aparts,” or BTW, OMG, LOL become bad habits; bad habits that will creep into the works you want to offer in the market place.  Practice is about honing your craft. Practice is about unlearning the bad habits. When you call yourself a writer or an author, ANYTHING you put to paper (or computer screen) is your craft.

I am mediating a panel on “Punctuation and Grammar and Why They Matter” at Indie Book Fest’s Industry Day on September 29th.

Okay, think of it this way: you get only one chance to make a first impression. Why not strive to present the best version of yourself even if it’s just a quick Facebook post about something crazy that happened at the grocery store? You never know who’s reading (like a top editor or literary agent that has entree into the major publishing houses. The ones that offer big advances).

As I’ve tried to read some of the stories in those two tall stacks of books, I’ve wanted to get a red pencil and edit the hell out of them. I’ve wanted to sit down with the writers (outside of a review) and say, “Look, this has the potential to be fantastic, but…,” or “instead of saying this here, say this instead,” or “don’t focus so much on the details unless they’re important later on.” Some of these folks are dear to me, and I don’t know if having a discussion like this will hurt their feelings. Some are selling more books than I am, and to a few, that’s all that matters. Fine.

If you are a writer, whether books, blogs, or essays (which is a blog post), I can help you become a better writer. If you listen to me, we can boost the quality of your work. I am offering my services as a copy editor and content editor. I don’t have a fee schedule yet, but if you submit a sample to me (there’s a contact form on this page. Use it), I will critique it for free. I know my stuff. You will learn something.

So, in  conclusion, bring your Jag convertible (or newest manuscript) to me. I can get that baby roaring down the road in no time.