Monday, December 26, 2011

The Eternal

Anyone can write a short story, but writing a good one is infinitely harder than anyone without writing experience can imagine. Most short stories have little substance, no plot, and their only saving grace is the fact that they don’t engage the reader for very long. But occasionally a good one comes along, crafted from bits and pieces of reality that make the reader wonder if the story is real. The Eternal does all of the things a good story should do, it entertains, it amuses, and it makes you think. You are going to love Nellie Wertz and the world George Wier has crafted in this story. Click on the title of this post and it will carry you to George Wier's Amazon page. Oh, and another thing. Did I tell you the short story can be downloaded to your Kindle for free.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Freedom of Speech /vs/ Humor Gone to Far

Fredom of speech allows humorist to go all the way to the firewall to express themselves. But many countries don’t allow nearly as much freedom as the United States, and you don’t have to go to third world countries to find this type of oppression. There are some who think using the word ‘oppression’ is not a good way to express the feelings of those who think we go to far - dangerously far - to let our citizens express their beliefs and feelings. England is now debating the pros and cons. You can click on the title of this article to find a newspaper article discussing the problem and some suggestions that are up for discussion. If you want to see an example of the freewheeling things that are allow in this country check out the Borowitz Report on the Internet.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Free Copy of Abraham's Bones on Kindle

It has always astonished me that there are some people who never read. I have always been immersed in literature, and I feel lucky that I enjoy reading books from every genre. If there was room enough on an automobile vanity plate, mine would say, ‘There’s nothing like a book!’ I have several reasons for writing, but the most important is the desire to give pleasure to the people who enjoy reading as much as I do.

I spent many enjoyable hours writing Abraham’s Bones, a suspense novel about politics, the clash of the three great religions, and terrorism . . . with a lot of romantic entanglement thrown in to make the personalities of the characters come alive. Through Amazon’s promotional program, I am giving free copies away through this weekend. If you like suspense, you are going to love Abraham’s Bones, the first book in three book series. Click on the title of this article to get a free copy for your Kindle.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Merry Christmas Santa

Randall would never have thought of this if it hadn’t been for the key. It was one of those little things no one could explain— a stroke of luck, kismet, providence, or maybe it was just the season. His grandmother had always believed in good luck. She thought if you waited long enough, it would turn in your favor and you would be suddenly and unexpectedly rewarded.

Not that it ever happened to her. She was dead at fifty-three of a heart attack, after working a minimum wage job for most of her life. In the last year, Randall had come to realize that luck was what you made of life. After this was over, he would not have to get up before daylight to drive the delivery truck. With careful planning, he might be able to live for a year or two without working. He wondered how much there would be in the night deposit. Could there be as much a hundred thousand? The department stores would have the largest cash flow. The other shops did not do a lot of business, but with fifty of them, it would add up to an impressive amount of cash. He thought of all the wonderful things he could buy with a hundred thousand dollars. A new car would be nice, some new clothes, and then he would head south, away from the slate gray sky and the bone-chilling temperature. He would go to some town with a warm sunlit beach. He wanted a place where he could relax, budget his money, and go for as long as possible without having to work.

Maybe there wouldn’t be a hundred thousand, he thought. Seventy-five thousand would do, but then he decided he could make it on fifty. Fifty was a good number and he didn’t need to tempt fate, or whatever it was that provided this golden opportunity.

He climbed across the console to the passenger seat where he could look in the mirror on the back of the sun visor as he put on the rest of his disguise. There was a strip of adhesive around the edge of the beard. He worried that it might come off and allow someone to see his face. The outfit had cost him twenty bucks at a consignment shop, and he was pleased to see how well it fit. He tugged the cap down over his head until it rested just above his ears and took one last look in the mirror.

“Merry Christmas, Santa,” he said as he jerked the handle on the door. It opened with a creaking noise that sent a flock of pigeons angling toward the sky. He gave the door a shove, but it wouldn’t close. After bumping it a couple of times with his knee, he heard the latch click. Despite the worn-out appearance of the car, the motor ran surprisingly well. He spent several hours looking for an older car with an ignition that would be easy to hot-wire. His luck was turning. He could feel it. This job was going to go like a dream.

There was a steady stream of shoppers rushing across the parking lot toward the entrance. Some of them were elderly people who leaned forward as if they were walking up a steep hill. The teenagers were strolling along five or six paces in front, trying to pretend they weren’t with their parents. The younger adults were either carrying a baby or leading their excited children. Some of the kids spotted him and waved. He waved back at them, but his mind was on the security office where they kept the night deposit. The rear of the building housed the storage area and the offices. This whole thing had started when he took a wrong turn in the back corridor on his last delivery. He discovered his mistake and was about to turn his cart around when he spotted the key on the floor underneath a coat rack. One side of it said, ‘do not duplicate’ while the other had a number. He was a lot more interested in the label that identified it as the key to the security entrance. Looking down the corridor, he saw a sign that said, ‘security personnel only.’ It would be a simple matter to overpower the bored security guard in the office and make his escape before anyone discovered the empty safe. This was going to be easy, too easy. He almost laughed aloud.

The group from the ‘Community Chest’ was hard at work just inside the entrance, jingling their bells and waving at customers. He waved back as he took a right turn and headed toward the end of the corridor that led into the office area. There was a bench near the ‘you are here’ sign and it would be the perfect place for him to wait until the two guards picked up the money pouches from the shops and carried them to the security office. Five minutes in the office and he would be through the back door trying to put as much distance as he could between himself and the North Pole.

He saw the long line of children as he came around the corner and realized this was where Santa—the real Santa—had set up his headquarters. Some of the small kids did a double take as he passed by the Christmas tree and took a seat on the empty bench. As he looked casually around, he saw some of the kids talking excitedly to their parents. He looked away, then suddenly realized one of the kids was standing directly in front of him.

“Which one of you is the real Santa?” a little girl asked. He turned reluctantly in her direction and saw a head of blond ringlets and a pair of serious, unblinking eyes. Her mother was hovering in the background as if she didn’t know what to do.

“I’m Santa’s helper,” he said, hoping his answer would send the kids scurrying back to the end of the line.

“Are you sure?” the little girl asked. “You look so real.”

“There is more than one Santa,” another girl said, rolling her eyes toward the ceiling. “You can talk to any of the Santa’s because they all know the same stuff.”

He was horrified to see the kids forming a line in front of him. He glanced at his watch and saw that he had thirty minutes before the guards would be pushing the cart past his bench. The first kid climbed on his lap and started reciting what she wanted in a singsong voice. He listened patiently while she ran through her list. When she finished, another child took her place. This one seemed to want almost everything in the toy department. By the end of the thirty minutes, only one child remained. This one wore a pair of mismatched socks and a threadbare coat. The woman standing a short distance away looked work-worn and near exhaustion. It was a look he was familiar with, having seen his grandmother drag wearily through each day during the Christmas season, working two jobs in order to buy his presents. The little girl climbed on his lap, then took a quick look over her shoulder at her mother.

“Are you the real Santa or just a helper?” she whispered.

“I’m the real Santa,” he said as he met her expectant gaze. She closed her eyes tightly and it seemed to him that she was not breathing. The speaker near the Christmas tree was playing Jingle Bells. Two girls dressed like elves were dancing with the music as they passed out candy canes.

“What would you like for Christmas,” he prompted when she didn’t say anything else.

“I need a car,” she said.

The other girls asked for toys of various types, but the first item on their list was a doll. She didn’t look like a tomboy, but he didn’t know that much about kids. He would have guessed her age at about seven, maybe eight at the most.

“What kind of a car would you like?” he asked, holding his hands about a foot apart.

“Not a toy car,” she said with a shake of her head that sent her shoulder length hair swinging. “I want a real car for my mommy. Someone stole ours last night. It’s the only way my mommy has to get to work. There isn’t any bus service in our part of town and she will have to walk all the way to the restaurant. We live behind the ballpark, but you already know that because you are Santa and you know everything.”

Her lips began to swell and she started to cry. He felt a thick lump forming in his throat. The car he stole was in front of a run down apartment building behind the ballpark. Lady Luck had thrown him a curve on this one.

“I know it’s a lot to ask,” she said, “but I heard Mommy talking to Mrs. Crawford, and she said if she lost her job they would put us out of the apartment.”

He could hear the pain and desperation in her voice. Did this child and her mother sleep in a room with no heat, huddled underneath a pile of quilts with their coats on for warmth? He remembered the apartment had a colorful mailbox, which had no doubt been a school project. The two names were Deidre and Molly. This was obviously Molly.

The guards had reached the door of the security office and were pushing the cart inside. In another minute or two, the door would swing shut.

“I’m sure something can be arranged, Molly,” he said and saw the surprise and happiness leap in her eyes. He needed to go. There was still time to place her on her feet and go rapidly down the corridor to the office. Surprise would be on his side, and it would be an easy matter to disarm the guards and take the money. He could return the car to its parking place in front of the apartment without anyone seeing him. He might even leave some money on the dash to buy her a Christmas present. There would be at least fifty thousand, maybe as much as seventy-five. A couple of hundred—no, make that five hundred—would buy Molly some warm clothes, and there would be enough left over so her mother would not have to hold down two jobs in order to buy her some presents for Christmas.

“You mean it!” Molly said. “You are going to get my mommy a car? You promise!”

“How would you like to have the car back that someone stole from you?”

“Oh, yes! I love that car. Mommy and I named it. We call it Roscoe. I think Roscoe is the best car in the whole wide world.”
Randall glanced toward the security office again, knowing he had to get up immediately, but as he turned the problem over in his mind, he suddenly realized that he felt languid and content with this small child sitting on his lap.

Behind him someone said, “Merry Christmas, Santa.”

“Merry Christmas,” he answered as he glanced over his shoulder and saw the security guards retracing their route toward the front entrance. He had cashed his paycheck after leaving work. There would be plenty of time to get her a doll and the other things she wanted and leave them in the passenger seat of the car. He studied Molly’s expression for a few seconds, and then he leaned toward her small, bowed head, listening to the breathless sound of her voice.

He hadn’t been this happy in years.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

George Wier's Exciting New Mystery Series

Avid readers are always searching for series books that have fast action, intriguing characters, and a plot that pulls you in. In George Wier’s first novel in a 21 book series he accomplishes all of this and then some.

Bill Travis, the protagonist of the story, is a guy who fixes things, which is not uncommon in this type of mystery story. Wier seems to be one step ahead of the well known writers like Raymond Chandler or Dashiel Hammett who are credited with founding the hard-boiled school of detective fiction. There are too many fiction detectives that are too poor, too inept, or too . . . You fill in the blanks. Bill Travis is believable, he is the kind of guy you would want for a friend, and the one you would go to if you had a serious problem. I am looking forward to reading the other books in this series as they become available. This is a book you don’t want to miss.

Clicking on the title of this article will carry you to George's novel on Amazon where you can download it for FREE!

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Antaeus Factor

There is nothing as exciting to an author as the release of a new novel to the reading public. The ANTAEUS FACTOR is a suspense novel about cyber terrorism. In the past three decades, scientific developments have advanced exponentially, and some of it in frightening ways. It no longer takes the might of a superpower to radically change the course of history. A few dedicated fanatics can bring about terrifying events and they can do so with impunity. If you like psychological suspense that keeps you glued to the edge of your seat, this might be the book for you. You can read more about THE ANTAEUS FACTOR by clicking the title to this article.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

New Novel by New York Times bestselling author CJ Lyons

Most of the readers I know are constantly searching for new authors, especially those who know how to entertain us with a good book. C.J. Lyons is a pediatric ER doctor now writing full time. I discovered her books a couple of years ago and was delighted to find someone who knew what they were writing about and had the ability to craft a gripping story.

Number one New York Times bestselling author Lee Child has called CJ Lyons' work "Everything a great thriller should be--action packed, authentic, and intense."

That kind of praise is about as good as it gets, especially when coming from someone like Lee Child. Lyons has also been on the New York Times bestseller list, and we can expect her to repeat this feat with her current offerings.

Lyons is currently busy on her Thriller series about Lucy Guardino, an FBI agent who is able to balance her careers and still have a life. Her just released novel SNAKE SKIN is now available at Amazon.

Here is a brief description of her book:

Just your average Pittsburgh soccer mom, baking brownies and carrying a loaded forty-caliber Glock... A loving mom and wife, dutiful daughter, consummate professional, and kick-ass federal agent, Lucy Guardino is living the perfect life, until the day she comes up against a predator more vicious and cunning than any she's ever tackled before, one who forces Lucy to choose between the life of the young victim she is fighting to save and her own daughter's....and Lucy's dream life is shattered. "Combine Dirty Harry with a loving wife and mother and you might end up with Lucy Guardino…You won't be able to put this one down." 4 1/2 stars, RT Book Reviews

Click on the title of this article to sample or buy SNAKESKIN

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Little White Lies

Regardless of the type of novel I am writing, the emphasis is always on the human relationships between the characters. Murder mysteries, spy novels, and all the rest would not be worth my time if the reader was not emotionally impacted by the relationships.

One of the best police procedural novels I am aware of involves the murder of a street person that seemed not to have a past. No one knew him, no one loved him, but his death affected the homicide detective deeply. The police officer’s marriage was falling apart and the author created a poignant contrast between his failures as a husband and the derelict on the autopsy slab in the morgue.

Human relationships are important, and I often draw from what I observe in the real world. Here is a recent incident that will probably appear in one of my novels.

Five young women, probably in their early thirties, were blocking the center aisle in Wal-Mart as I tried to squeeze past. The man with them said, “You girls take your time. I’m going to the automotive section and prowl while you’re shopping.”

Megan: “Rob, do you know how insulting that is?”

Rob: “What did I do?”

Megan: When a woman passes her twenty-fifth birthday she doesn’t want to be called a girl.”

Rob: “I thought you were twenty-four on your last birthday.”

Megan, with a smile climbing slowly up her face: “Just take your time Rob. I love you.”

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Three Rules For Writing a Novel

W. Somerset Maugham said, “There are three rules to writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

I think fellow author Jack Bludis came close to discovering the first rule when he said, “I think a writer must like what the writer likes before he can please anyone else.”

Most authors spend a lot of time trying to analyze books that sell well, attempting to discover that tiny element that creates a ‘bottled lightning effect’ and sends sales soaring into the stratosphere. There are all kinds of tweaks that we can give to our manuscript to improve the story, but if you don’t like the darn thing yourself, then why should someone else?

The writers of the television series, ‘Breaking Bad,’ came up with an improbable scenario. A science teacher has a desperate need for money for cancer treatments. He produces and sells methadone to meet that need. This story works because the writers sell us on a character caught in a desperate situation. A similar state of affairs is the character in Stieg Larsson’s novel ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.’ Lisbeth Salander is everything a character should not be, but she grabs the reader’s attention with a vengeance and doesn’t let go for the next 700 pages. If you analyze Larsson’s writing, scene by scene, you discover that he is far from being the best writer around. He is a storyteller who knows how to create an adorable character, and he does that very well. So maybe the question we should ask ourselves is not about our new marketing plan, but about the story itself. 'Do we like what we are writing, or have we fallen into the habit of producing a certain kind of story because they seem to be moving well in the marketplace.'

I’m going to back up to the opening scene of my current WIP and examine all of the characters afresh. I want to fall in love all over again with Lori, Sandi, and Chris. I hope in the process of doing so, the reader will catch that magical spark and fall in love with them too.

You can view Jack Bludis novel, Dirty Work, by clicking on the title of this article.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Bad Romance Chinese Style

I love all things Chinese, their culture, their lyrical language, and especially the wonderful people who run our local Chinese restaurants. I was somewhat surprised when I ran across a video of a group of senior citizens performing their version of Lady Gaga’s musical hit, Bad Romance. They have changed the words of the song, but they seem to be having as much fun as I had in listening to it. Click on the title and watch the video. You’re going to love it.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Death of the computer monitor?

There are bad ideas and then there are BAD ideas. The video linked to the title of this article is one of those ideas that I hope never catches on, but you never know. Microsoft is developing a computer control system that doesn’t require a monitor or keyboard. A projector contained in a device attached to your shoulder transmits a keyboard on any surface and you can use this image as a touchpad. You can use your hand, the office wall or your picture of Lady Gaga as a screen, rather than having that troublesome monitor and keyboard in front of you. One of the selling points in the video is the suggestion that you can walk over to the office wall and perform your work there.

Experts who have studied the effects of engineering on society have determined that a lack of innovation can be very detrimental. The assertion has been made that Germany lost WWII because they were too inflexible with their designs. It was too hard to work new developments into their assembly lines and they quickly fell behind as the Allies introduced a steady stream of improvements into the war effort. But there is a flip side to development and this is the point of this article. One thing that has a crippling effect on progress is the desire to reinvent the wheel every Monday morning. Examples of this are all around us in the workplace and in our homes. Take a chair for example. Chairs have been around somewhat in their present form since the time of the Grecian Empire. Despite the efforts of companies to change the basic form of a chair, the fact remains that chairs fit the human body and you mess with the basic design at your own peril.

Some brainiac at Microsoft has evidently forgotten the fact that sitting in a chair in front of a keyboard and monitor is the best way to get most computing task done. I don’t want to project a keyboard on a wall or the palm of my hand. I can type 60 words per minute on a keyboard, and there are a lot of words in a novel. Most of them have to be typed over and over in the creation of a manuscript -- a process that takes months or perhaps years to complete. Before the guys at Microsoft become too giddy, they should realize that some task performed on a computer are much more complicated than composing a message on Twitter. ‘mte u n clelnd ths wknd’ might not be the message to get the job done.

Monday, October 31, 2011


I have a junk drawer where I keep-- well, junk. I was prowling through it yesterday and picked up a watch I discarded more than ten years ago. It was a cheap sports watch and I discarded it when the face became scratched and the band stretched and broken. When I looked at the display I was astonished to see the watch was still working, and was only a few minutes off the correct time.

It would be amazing to know how many batteries of different types are manufactured each year. I can remember when the battery-powered devices in the average home consisted of no more than a flashlight and perhaps a small radio. Now there are countless devices we use every day that require batteries. Increased efficiency is making batteries more practical for power hungry devices such as power tools and automobiles. All of this makes me wonder what would happen if the population of the earth suddenly disappeared. How long would those watches, toys, and other battery powered devices continue to tick along just waiting for an invasion of some intelligent species to flip the switch and gaze in wonder at the results?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lady Gaga: A Decade of Difference Performance

Any writer wanting to create an earth-shattering piece of literature would do well to examine the real world and what leaves the average person breathless.

Consider this: When you enter a crowded room, who do you notice first? Is it the wimps; the girl with the lank hair, or is your eye drawn to the person who radiates attitude and confidence? If she happens to be standing next to the most macho guy in the room, you aren’t likely to look away.

I ran across a discussion on a forum recently where a group of writers were trying to define the elements a story. Plot was the main definition tossed about. By the time I finished reading the various opinions, I decided that I didn’t want to read any stories created by this group. A story is characters; who they really are, and how the plot affects them.

A recent event that caught the attention of the world was the television special, ‘A Decade of Difference: A Concert Celebrating 10 Years of the William J. Clinton Foundation.’

The featured entertainer was Lady Gaga and she gave a spine tingling performance before a world audience. Whether you like Clinton’s politics or approve of him as a person, you have to realize that he continues to be one of the most powerful men in the world. His association with any charitable cause is a guarantee of success. The same can be said for Lady Gaga. I would really like to get hold of the lyrics of her songs with a red pencil and do a little revision, but I don’t need to approve of every word she sings to enjoy her performances. Like her or not, she has caught the imagination of the world with her music and her involvement with the anti-bullying school program’s effort to educate and protect our kids.

Lady Gaga performed her naughty song, ‘Bad Romance,’ which brought to mind Clinton’s indiscretions while in office. His slightly embarrassed expression during the performance-- while continuing to have a good time-- is a character study in itself. Lady Gaga’s bold performance is something that will probably continue to attract our attention in the same way as Marylyn Monroe’s birthday song to President Kennedy.

If you missed the performance, click on the title to this article and watch the video. The women among us will probably find themselves combing a hand through their hair and thinking, ‘I could do that,’ and the men will probably play the video twice.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Steve Jobs

There have been some interesting and informative articles written about Steve Jobs since his untimely death. Jobs was a genius who contributed to the advancement of electronics in countless ways. In all of these recent articles, I have noticed that no one mentions something that so many of us enjoyed during the early ‘80s. Most of us who bought our first computers during that era longed for software that would transform an expensive chunk of plastic and circuit boards into something useful. It is hard for anyone who did not experience this era firsthand, to visualize a time when computers came without software, and computer shops had few programs to offer to the customer.

Steve Jobs and Steven Woziniak were dedicated computer hobbyists who visited flea markets and computer clubs whenever they set up their booths. Some rather advanced computers were being produced by hobbyists, and the operating systems (DOS) evolved over a period of months as many would-be programmers contributed their ideas and code. Without getting boringly detailed, DOS is the bedrock of code that most computers still use today to make them operational. Basic is a simple program, and if I remember correctly, composed of about 64 lines of programming code. Jobs and Woziniak launched their business in a modest way by assembling their first Apple computers by hand and marketing them at computer meets. Their great accomplishment was not that they invented anything, but instead brought order out of the chaos of an evolving system.

In those early days, there were dozens of computer magazines that had three to four programs in each issue. Apple computers came with a Basic Compiler, which allowed the owner to create his own programs. The computer owner could type them in and create a simple word processor, spell checker, or a primitive spreadsheet that actually worked. Many of them were assembled from bits and pieces of code borrowed from magazines. Basic was such a simple language that you could grasp how it worked in a matter of a week or two and produce some rather complex programs. Much of the fun of programming was typing in lines of code, then hitting run and watching for some minor miracle to occur on the screen. If it didn’t work, you looked for errors, retyped, and tried again. The first program I created on my own was a simple program that alphabetized a long list of names I had collected for a history project. My second effort was to write a word processor program I hoped would be better than the one I purchased on a floppy disk for a ridiculous price. The program actually worked and it was a heady experience to hit ‘run’ and see it appear for the first time in all of its clunky glory.

That particular era of ‘do your own software’ did not last long. Sensing a lucrative market, software developers soon hit the market with their own products and made Basic programming redundant. I quickly moved up through the jungle of programming languages, from Basic, to QBasic, to ‘C’, C++ and to UNIX. I still remember, with a great deal of nostalgia, the days when I sat in front of my monitor and programmed with a ‘seat of the pants’ kind of logic. It was a heady experience and something that I enjoyed immensely.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Andy Rooney

I have always been a fan of Andy Rooney, and I am saddened that he is leaving 60 Minutes after 30 years on CBS. There were over 1000 appearances where he spoke on a variety of subjects, all of them worth contemplating.

Rooney’s main appeal is the fact that he was a curmudgeon at times, often saying the things the rest of us would like to say if we had the opportunity and the guts to do so. He talked more about the common things of life than he did about the big issues, although he covered those as well. He was at times controversial, raising the ire of different groups, including religious leaders, politicians, gays, and the American Indians. Even when he was mildly caustic, we knew that he was speaking from experience, and not just quoting a sound byte some 21-year-old speechwriter had plucked from Wikipedia.

Rooney’s experience with the real world started with WWII where he flew on one of the first bombing raids over Nazi Germany, and later was one of the first correspondents to visit a Nazi death camp. Having been a pacifist, his experience of seeing these horrors firsthand made him realize that some wars were justified, and this was one of them.

While Rooney sometimes erred in his own outspoken way, he was quick to apologize and get back on course. We need more like Rooney, with a clear vision and a willingness to speak out on the absurd things in society. This Sunday’s appearance on 60 minutes will be his last regular appearance, after 30 years of enlightening and entertaining us. He will be sorely missed as a regular contributor, but will probably appear at intervals to share some new insight. But even if he doesn’t, there are enough of his essays to ponder over for many years to come.

I hope you take well to retirement, Andy Rooney, but don’t hesitate to come back and switch the legs of any of us who are disobedient. The human race is sorely in need of correction.

Friday, September 23, 2011

How Appealing Are Your Characters?

When I first ran across the name, Lisbeth Salander, on a blog, I wrongfully assumed it was the name of a romance writer. The woman who wrote the article gushed on about Lisbeth, although she was rather vague about what made her like her so much.

Then my daughter gave me a thick novel by a Norwegian author named Stieg Larsson. Six hundred plus pages seemed rather excessive for a suspense novel, but at her urging, I plunged in. I loved the story Larsson had created, and was quickly captivated by Lisbeth.

We authors have a tendency to push physical attributes to the limit in our novels. Our women are often drop-dead gorgeous. They have endless legs, bushels of hair, teeth like ivory, and don’t get me started on the eyes. Lisbeth has none of these attributes. Instead, this twenty-four-old young woman has the frail body of an adolescent, no breasts, lank hair, and a leave-me-alone antisocial attitude. So what, you are wondering, is her appeal.

Lisbeth is a high school dropout because she was so bored in class that she had no desire to succeed. No one suspects that she has a genius level intelligence and also a photographic memory. But it is not her intelligence that makes her so appealing. Her intelligence is her weapon against an ever-encroaching society that makes unreasonable demands on all of us to conform and submit. Lisbeth knows how to resist the aggression that hovers just under the surface of established authority. To put it another way, Lisbeth does what the rest of us would like to do if we had the guts and opportunity to hit back.

Not since Scarlett O’Hara has there been a character so capable of captivating our attention. Grab a copy of The Girl with the Dagon Tattoo, and you will soon be punching your fist in the air as Lisbeth scores point after point against those who seek to dominate and torment her. You are going to love Lisbeth.

Oh, and another thing. Did I tell you that this frail creature is undeniably sexy?

Friday, September 16, 2011

A True Test Of Patriotism

Whenever a presidential election rolls around, the news media desperately searches for sound bytes that will capture the essence of each candidate as effectively as a Polaroid shot will capture a grandchild on Christmas morning. Many of these defining moments come during political debates where accusations are hurled right and left. Most of the really good points concern the candidate’s patriotism or the lack of it therefore. During our last election, an issue was made of Obama’s place of birth. Four years before, there were questions concern the military records of George Bush. As this coming election heats up, there are likely to be many other issues concerning the candidate’s ability to wax patriotically. There is a question making its rounds, wherever latte is served, that captures the essence of the moment. I hope Wolf Blitzer is aware of it and will direct it to each of the candidates in turn. It is actually more revelent than many of the things that will be asked.

Question: What would you do if you heard someone playing the National Anthem while you were seated in the bathroom? Would you stand?

I rest my case.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Rock 'N Roll

Rock ‘N Roll music has always been popular in America because it speaks a language, and has a rhythm that appeals to every age group. During the 50s, many parents frowned when some of the more lively songs burst from the radio, but they were often caught tapping their foot in accompaniment with the music. In recent years, Rock has taken many different avenues -- crossing over into Country, Pop, the ballads of the 60s and 70s -- you name it and it is there for the listening pleasure of every age group. Despite the changes that Rock has seen in the last fifty plus years, the decade of the 50s is still golden among Rock fans of every age. Elvis was king of that era, and still is, but there were many others who made beautiful music. One of the guys was my cousin, Arby ‘Buzz’ Prentice. Buzz was a funny guy, down to earth, and loved his music. He recorded quite a bit of it during the decade of the 50s. After his recent death, his nephew, Steve Sanders placed seven of his uncle’s songs on the Internet. In some of them, Buzz is talking about the music and the recording sessions at Sun Studios and on other occasions at small radio stations. My first reaction was, ‘they should have edited out the dialogue before they placed it on the Internet.’ But as I listened to it, it reminded me of that wonderful era and the down to earth way in which the early Rock stars communicated with their audience. I shall always remember Buzz with great fondness and am proud that his music is rising up the charts at last. I am looking forward to some more of it being posted in the near future. Click on the title of this article to listen to some of Buzz's music.

I love Rock N' Roll!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Wonderful World of Dogs

Those of you who read my post are aware of my feelings about our furry friends. Many times they are almost human. There is a video on YouTube that I think is hilarious. This clip no doubt had a little help from the fertile imagination of the creator, but those of us who live with dogs have seen some very interesting things. You’re going to love this. Click on the title to see the video.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Author Randy Rawls

When I visited Randy Rawls website, I immediately saw two things that made me want to know more about this author and what he is trying to say through his books. Rawls has had an interesting and varied existence, which puts him far ahead of so many other writers. To put it simply: A writer must know something through his personal experiences. Research - to which Rawls is no stranger - can get you only so far. The military, government service, and teaching have given him the background to carry his research forward into his novels and short stories. The second thing that made him interesting to me was when he mentioned a century ride on his bike. This is about as good as it gets. There is nothing better to connect a writer to the real world and to God’s green earth.

Randy has just finished his seventh novel, plus several short stories. The latest is Thorns on Roses. Here is a short description of his latest work:

TOM JEFFRIES, a PI in Broward County, Florida, is a man with a past - ex-Special Forces, ex-Dallas cop. But mostly, he's a man driven by a thirst for justice. His brand of justice.
When a seventeen-year-old girl, the stepdaughter of Tom's best friend, dies in the midst of a brutal gang rape, Tom vows to avenge her death.

Abby Archer, an up and coming Associate Attorney at Tom's firm, is assigned to assist him in any legal matters - an assistance he does not invite, and she does not welcome. They begin their relationship as adversaries, but things change . . .

Following a well-laid plan, Jeffries methodically stalks the gang, THORNS ON ROSES. As he eliminates them one by one, the police get closer to connecting him with the disappearances. Rushing will invite catastrophe, but Tom cannot wait.

Randy has said that he strives to entertain his readers.
You can visit his website by clicking on the title of this article.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Loyal to the end

I have had a long running argument with non-pet owners about the intelligence and awareness of our canine friends. One of my college professors believed that all animals did not have the ability to think and said their intelligence consisted of only being able to move toward comfort (food, heat on a cold day, etc) or away from discomfort. Here is one more item of evidence to support my claim that mammals have a high level of intelligence, emotions, and feelings. The link to the following video was taken at the funeral of Jon Tumilson, a navy seal. His loyal dog, Hawkeye lay down near his casket during the funeral. Click on the title of this article to view the YouTube video.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The marriage of William and Kate is one of the most interesting events to come along in a long while. The royal family was long overdue for a fresh breath of air in the person of Kate. There was a lot of hope when William and Harry grew up and demonstrated that they were not stamped from the same mold as the rest of that stodgy bunch. Harry seems to view the world with a sense of amusement, while William, is the more serious one. Perhaps Kate can produce a royal heir and inject even more of the real world into the British Royal Family. I received an extra boost of enthusiasm when some reporter noticed that Kat was doing the same thing that the rest of us do when on vacation. She wore the same pair of skinny jeans for the third day. Perhaps the reporter who reported that was observing her a little more carefully than he should have, but Kate has the ability to draw our attention. Rule Britannia! Is it too late for America to get back into the commonwealth?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Is Our Justice System Broken?

Several high profile cases in recent years have rocked the nation, making court watchers wonder if our judicial system is broken or perhaps in need of a major revision. Two cases in particular, the Scott Peterson case and the recent trial of Casey Anthony, have striking similarities despite the difference in the outcome. Peterson, you remember, had a missing wife, and a situation that challenged the dedicated efforts of the investigators to locate her remains. In Anthony’s case, it was a missing child and she had no credible explanation regarding the child’s whereabouts. Both of them mislead the authorities with explanations that were not plausible. Both of the cases involved circumstantial evidence. Peterson was convicted, while Anthony received a not guilty verdict from twelve of her peers. So what were the factors that make juries render different verdicts when the circumstances are so similar?

The defense team can augment hopelessly weak cases in several ways. One well-known defense is what is known in legal circles as the SODDI defense, which means ‘some other dude did it.’ The defense often plays hardball with reasonable doubt issues. The law does not require the state to provide answers to every question that might occur in the minds of the jurors. One of the best definitions of reasonable doubt is: ‘proof of such a convincing character that a reasonable person would not hesitate to rely and act upon it in the most important of his own affairs.’ No one actually saw the murder committed, the defense might tell the jury. In several high profile murder trials, jurors have explained their failure to convict by saying, “I didn’t see him/her do it.”

Another factor involving evidence is caused by heightened expectations from having watched CSI type programs where there is always DNA evidence that cannot be refuted. The average person serving on a jury is likely to doubt the ability of police investigators who can’t parade an endless supply of experts in front of them. Most of them don’t understand that police work usually doesn’t produce ‘hard evidence’ in the way the cast of a television production can.

Defense attorneys try to downplay any evidence presented by the prosecutor, often going to great lengths to tell the jury that the evidence is tainted, was planted by crooked investigators, sloppy lab work, etc.

Recently, there has been the emergence of what I call the ‘wildcard’ defense, which involves making a hapless victim of the accused. All of the other players in the trial are painted in the most despicable terms. Allegations of incest, sexual abuse, mental cruelty, or physical exploitation are presented as a daily diet to the jurors. The sad reality is the fact that it often works. Everyone loves the underdog, and if the defendant can be made to appear as the victim, it can sometimes secure a verdict of not guilty.

Often the process of vilifying the innocent starts in the opening statements by the defense team. Some or all of the seven deadly sins are mentioned, and it is alleged that the defendant has endured all of them at the hands of family, friends, or the deceased. As the trial continues, these allegations are often referred to, but never proven. The damage, however, is done as the jury starts to wrap their mind around these suggestions. The real issues are submerged in a morass of moral and emotional gush that has nothing to do with the evidence.

So, you may wonder, how do we correct this problem? I think our judicial system needs to require defense attorneys to provide evidence of everything introduced in the opening statements. Unless something is done to ‘fix’ the current system, we could eventually reach a point where conviction is impossible, and the ‘best legal system in the world’ will become a travesty.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

The right way to celebrate the 4th of July

There are so many things to celebrate on the 4th of July that I hardly know where to start. All across the country, there will be marching bands, fireworks, and long speeches to remind us of the sacrifice our forefathers made. Television will probably schedule some patriotic films like Pearl Harbor, or perhaps one of those mega productions about the American Revolution. Occasionally, some journalist will write an article about the ‘wrong’ way of celebrating the event, giving a thumbs down to recreational activities, and picnics. But I think they are missing the whole point of the 4th of July. The members of our military did not serve in the Wilderness Campaign, Okinawa or the Battle of the Bulge because they wanted to support some politician or a new bill in congress. They served because the wanted to return to their families and take part in boisterous family activities, to hug children and grandchildren, and to lie on their back in the park and watch fireworks arch toward a star-studded sky. So the next time someone tries to put you on a guilt trip because you roll out the BBQ grill, offer them a hotdog or a slice of watermelon. Have a real celebration that includes baseball, water guns, ice cream, and a ride to the park. If George Washington was still here I think he would approve. After all, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is what America is all about.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Man of Courage

I have met many interesting people in my lifetime, but I think Bill Haast was near the top of the list. Haast ran the Miami Serpentarium where he housed many thousands of deadly snakes. He was a showman who knew how to manage his audience as skillfully as any snake charmer from India. Haast would remove a snake from its container and place in on the floor in the courtyard. The crowd would shrink back with a collective hiss as the Cobra rose up and spread its head cowl in an intimidating manner. Haast would then seize the reptile by the tail and grab its neck just behind its head. He would squeeze the snake’s throat to force its jaws open, then insert the teeth over the edge of a flask and milk the venom into the container.

I first became aware of Haast through a mutual friend who had once lived nearby and had known him for many years. According to the stories I heard about Haast, he was not fearless, and certainly not reckless. Instead he was confident in his own abilities and aware of what his work was contributing to saving lives. The antivenin produced from the snake venom served as an antidote to any poisonous snakebite if injected quickly at a medical center. Haast was bitten several times in his work, but always managed to survive despite becoming quite ill on several occasions. Bill Haast died today at age 100. Not bad for a man in such a hazardous occupation. You can click on the title to this article and read Bill’s obituary in the Washington Post.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Kissing Spreads Germs . . .

. . . according to what my mother told me when I was growing up. After googling the problem on the Internet, I discovered that she was correct. Scientific studies have suggested that kissing was first introduced as a means to spread germs and build up human immunity to dangerous bacteria before the onset of pregnancy. Saliva contains a healthy amount of immunoglobulin which binds with bacteria and triggers the body to destroy them.

From a social standpoint, the practice of kissing has been around as long as literature. Ancient writings record instances of exchanging kisses that goes far back into antiquity. The Old Testament is full of instances of men and women exchanging kisses. Many legal contracts were not considered to be valid until a kiss was exchanged, thus the practice of a bride and groom kissing after they are pronounced man and wife.

While all of the above is probably accurate, I think writers, Hollywood filmmakers, and kids in middle school have it right when they simply say that it feels good. From a mother’s kiss on a bruised knee to the steamiest kiss in a romance novel, there is something magical about intimate human contact. This is Father’s day. Give those you love a kiss and forget about the looming prospects of a sore throat that might overtake you tomorrow.

Click on the title of this article and it will carry you to 'the kiss seen around the world. Don't miss the video at the bottom of the news report to learn a little more about the event.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Should Teens Have Freedom of Speech

In an ideal setting, your teenage years should be the best time of your life. Few responsibilities and your whole future in front of you, with ample support to fix the things that are important. Texting, tweeting, emails, and long conversations on a cell phone keep teens connected in ways that were never possible before. The life of a young person is totally wrapped up in communication with family and friends. So what is my problem, you might wonder, in suggesting that teens should not enjoy the same freedom of expression as mature adults? I am not suggesting that teens are stupid, clueless, or irresponsible. I am only suggesting that as the rest of their life unwinds in front of them, there will always be the looming specter of those stupid things they said when they were seventeen. Among the worse offenders are unwise things posted on Facebook which might include - oh, my - those photos that you thought no one would ever see. How about your high school yearbook? Would you want your future wife or husband to leaf through it and read some of the statements? How about some prospective employer checking the most expressive sentiments you emailed to a friend. Would you really want Hitler to attend the Junior Prom as you stated in your yearbook? Click on the title to this post and read about the problems resulting at one school from unwise statements made by a number of students. See if it makes you think.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Financial Crisis in America

Whenever we have a financial crisis in this country - which is becoming increasingly frequent - the Wall Street financial experts appear on news programs and dispense their wisdom concerning what we should do about it. If the crisis is serious, the news will switch to congress and we will see a powerhouse of politicians who chair the various finance and banking committees. They gather behind their microphones and look deeply into the eyes of their voters, while assuring us that only a minor correction is needed. In the meantime, we need to tighten our belts and take our share of responsibility.

Despite the complicated explanations from the talking heads, the problem is easy to understand and the path back to financial responsibility is rather simple. American businesses are flourishing as they never have before, and the outlook for the future would be bright if it were not for the greed of the people who control the markets. Whenever financial reports come out at the end of each quarter, it leaves a lot of people scratching their head. They wonder why things are not better when profits are rising in almost ever sector of commerce. The problem is where the money is going, and the rules governing business.

A few decades ago, business leaders had their focus on the product their company produced. Most executives were engineers and they knew how the product was made and were familiar with each step from concept to the marketplace. Then, as laws were changed to ‘help’ business grow, the financial boys stepped up to the plate with ideas that appealed to the board of director’s vision of the bottom line. The product was no longer the focus, and short-term profits became the norm. Leverage buyouts were encouraged and sell-offs of company assets in pursuit of quick profits became the norm. Hefty bonuses to CEOs and board members became the new way of doing business. So where is the money going, you might ask, and why are we having so many foreclosures and layoffs? You only have to look at the salaries of the executives in American companies to see the answer.

Most CEOs in America draw more in salary and benefits than all of their employees combined!

If you look at the 500 companies listed on the S&P index, you will discover that the chief executives of those companies draw staggering sums in compensation, while the rest of the employees are facing layoffs and wage cuts. Salaries range from 84 million in total benefits awarded to one executive, to smaller companies where the CEOs draw only a few paltry millions. The overall average CEOs pay in the S&P index companies is $11,358,445.00, and growing at a staggering 23% each year. Compare this to the median wage for all occupations which is around $33,000.

If you have a strong stomach and want to view what your boss is making, you can check the figures at The information is listed by corporation, but you can also access the figures by doing a name search. The figures are gleaned from corporate proxy statements of the various companies. Think about what you find at Paywatch the next time you have to tell your wife she is going to have to drive her wreck to work for another year. Something that is even worse is having to break the news to your kids that they will have to have to attend a state school, take out a loan, and work part time. Please don’t mention to them that when they graduate, they probably won’t be able to get a job in their chosen field because some CEO has outsourced their job.

Click on the title of this article and it will carry you to Paywatch

Monday, May 30, 2011

What is in a Name

One of the curses of becoming an adult is the fact that foolishness no longer makes sense to us. The latest nonsensical thing to enter my awareness happened when I was standing in line today at the supermarket. A young mother was holding an infant that appeared to be about four or five months old. Another woman asked the mother what she had named the baby. “Rehtaeh,” the mother replied.

“Oh!” the woman exclaimed. “I’ve heard of that. That is Heather spelled backwards.”

When I got home from the store I leaped into my computer chair and started googling to see what was missing from my dull and uneventful life. I was aware that Oprah, of television fame, reversed her name to produce the name Harpo, which is the name of her production company. Just to show you how far behind I am, I learned that this practice has a name. Ananyms is the process of reversing brand names to produce a new word. I am going to assume that this term applies to proper names as well.

I have known several people who have received abominable names from their parents, to change or drop the crippling appendage sometime before they are through school. I know a man who actually has the name, Skippy Scamper. I have never asked him how many fights he had in school, but I assume that the ridge on the upper part of his nose resulted from some encounter with a schoolyard bully.

It is said that in Colonial America, the Indians were allowed to pick their own names after they were old enough to have gained some sense of identity. I can’t help wonder what problems might result from naming your kids Rumor, Tallulah, or Scout, as one movie personality did. If something doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger, I have been told . . . or maybe not.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Top Secret Information - Don't Tell a Soul You Read this Here!

There are many things in the world that ought to be kept under wraps and not discussed at all. Novelists often think that they need to go to great lengths, ad nauseum, and give each detail of a romantic scene. Then there are the ‘tell all’ books that crop up after some well-know person dies or leaves office. I can survive without knowing what he/she ate for breakfast before they jumped from the 14th story window of their condo.

I am especially bothered when someone working for the government discloses information that might be valuable to a foreign government or terrorist’s organization. I admire people who can keep a secret, even a juicy secret, until the Halleluiah Chorus is sung for the last time. There are, however, things that aren’t worth locking away forever.

A case in point is the decision by a couple living in Toronto, Canada not to divulge the sex of their baby. It seems that they sent out the usual birth announcements, but kept the sex of the baby secret. It seems to me that this is a prime dedication looking desperately for a cause. You can click on the title of this article and read the story for yourself, but you have to promise me that you won’t tell anyone else.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Is the End of the World Coming on May 21st?

A friend of mine is a rather successful recreational gambler. I asked him about the secret of his success. He said, "If you are going to gamble, you need to cheat just enough to give yourself an edge."

So that is what I am going to do here. I intended to post this early this morning, but I knew I might unleash an argument. I decided to wait late enough in the afternoon that most of you would not see this it until tomorrow, and no one would have a chance to disagree. The statement has been made on Family Radio by Harold Camping that the Rapture will occur tomorrow. Camping gave a rather long explanation, or at least long enough to convince some otherwise intelligent people that he knew what he was talking about. According to his prediction, tomorrow at six o'clock p.m. the Rapture will occur. Many of his followers are in malls and other places that have high incidents of traffic and they are trying to get the word out. A few people have sold all of their earthly possessions and are prepared to immediately enter eternity. Some have even gone as far as getting non-Christians to take charge of their pets. I am not going to be unkind and comment too much on the fact that Camping was wrong once before.

I won't wear my fingers out on my keyboard giving you a hundred and one reasons why this is not going to happen. You would get bored before I got through and so would I. Instead read Mathew 24:36 where Jesus says that no man knows the time except the Father. I rest my case. See all of you tomorrow.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tennessee Sex Trafficking Report

The Tennessee State Assembly released a report yesterday created by The Center of Community Services at Vanderbilt University, in association with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation that I find shocking. It was featured on the evening news, but I have no idea if the report was nationwide. I would assume that other states have released similar reports about their own areas.

I find this report disturbing because it is about sex trafficking, and it is not the kind of thing you would expect to be happening in a place like Tennessee. There are a few high crime areas in the state, but the report states that 85 percent of Tennessee's 95 counties have a problem with sex trafficking. Prostitution is sometimes referred to as the second oldest profession, and it has been with us since the beginning of time. All towns of any size have a problem with prostitution, but the information released by the Vanderbilt study involves the sale and exploitation of young women and minors in a manner that can only be described as slavery.

Law enforcement studies have discovered that most states that have Interstates have a problem with major crime. Organizations that make arrangements for business conventions select cities that are readily accessible to interstate traffic and also to entertainment. Nashville, Atlanta, Memphis, and other southern cities provide the necessary services to meet those needs. Organized crime is ready, able, and willing to exploit the opportunity for profit.

Many of the young people involved in sex trafficking are runaways who fled abusive homes. The report states that one in four runaways fall victim to these crimes in the first 48 hours. There are also instances of children being snatched off the street and 'disappearing' into the system. They are forced to comply by physical punishment, drugs, and threats directed toward their family and loved ones. There is also the Stockholm syndrome that comes into play after they have been imprisoned for a few weeks.

The Tennessee report is rather lengthy and contains many graphs that are of little interest to the general public. You might want to read the introduction on page five for an understanding of the results of the study. There are two case studies included in the report that I think many of you will find interesting. Carrie's story on page 39 and Rachel's story on page 42 of the report. Read carefully through them and see if there is anything you can do to help solve this challenging problem.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Cell Phone Menace

You probably saw the story on the morning news about the woman that was evicted from the Amtrak for talking too loud on a cell phone. After ten straight hours of this, the passengers objected. The train stopped and the police held the passenger until a family member could arrive and pick her up. I am still laughing over the story, for I have had similar experiences. I bet you have too.

There are few inventions that have changed our lifestyle as much as a cell phone. Most of the changes help us in positive ways. A generation ago, automobiles were less complicated and help was only a hike away. Today, there are few places where a car can be repaired, except for an authorized dealer.

And then there are the things like accidents, health issues, crime, and a dozen others, where we can summon professional help with a 911 call. Businesses are becoming more innovated and the competition is fierce. Some business owners have a need to be instantly available to their customers. A lot of problems can be solved with a brief phone call.

In the past, soldiers on a battlefield were weeks away from any communication with their family or friends at home. There have been many instances where a mother or father serving in the military has joined in on a birthday celebration from halfway around the world.

So here is my solution to the problem of cell phone annoyance. After the first minute of conversation, say excuse me to the caller and take a quick look around. If you see steam coming out of someone's collar, or an expression like Hannibal Lector's in 'The Silence of the Lambs,' try to cool it. I certainly don't want to lose any of you after we've had so much fun.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Need a Heartwarming Story?

I read a wide variety of books, but the ones on the suspense and mystery shelves are the ones that draw me irresistibly. I do, however, have a problem with many of the stories I find there. For lack of a better term, I will say that they have no 'heart.' The heroes in so many of them are homeless, unloved, uncaring-- they commit crimes with impunity, then dance away to live another day. I was delighted when I found a new series by one of my favorite authors, James Patterson, co-authored with Michael Ledwidge. I won't attempt to write a review of the story, but this series begins with 'Step on a Crack,' and tells the intrinsically involved story of, Michael Bennett, a New York detective who it trying to stop a crew of kidnappers holding the congregation of St. Patrick's Cathedral, hostage.

The thing that makes this book so interesting is Bennett's ten adopted children and the fact that he has a wife dying of cancer. The interaction is heartwarming, and it delivers the story in a way that might surprise many dedicated suspense fans. Give me books, lots and lots of books, but entertain me with a story that warms my heart.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Memorial Tattoos

There are countless ways to handle the grief of losing a loved one. Some of us write poetry to read at the funeral service. Others deliver a eulogy telling what the person meant to them in life. Colleges and universities benefit from memorial donations in the name of a deceased friend or relative. There are also elaborate tombstones, shrines, and personal tributes that take many forms. I was not aware of the many people who get personalized tattoos. Some of these tattoos are simple, having only the name of the deceased. Others add the birth and death date, and the more artistically inclined ask for a picture or some elaborate artwork. These tattoos run in size from inch long names to some that cover an arm or leg, or perhaps the entire back. Some of them are beautiful, some less so, but I was surprised at a news story that told of taking this to the next step. If you really want something personal, there are tattoo artist who specialize in combining the ashes from a cremation with tattoo ink. Rather than casting the contents of the urn into the sea or on a mountainside, you can have the deceased up close and personal—under your skin, so to speak. Click on the title of this article and it will carry you to a website that will tell you more.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Did Something Good Happen to You Today


When I was growing up, I had a lot of trouble trying to understand ‘why bad things happen to good people.’ A Jewish Rabbi named Harold Kushner wrote a fascinating book on the subject, although I do not agree with all of his reasoning. Rather than trying to argue with Kushner’s logic, I try to focus on the fact that bad things are going to happen, but the extent of the damage depends on us. We are all familiar with the statement floated by human behavioral experts, “No one can make you angry. You chose to be, or not to be, angry at some real or perceived threat.”

There are a multitude of things that upset our equilibrium, almost on a daily basis. It is easy to let them weigh us down. I would like to point out to you that there are also many things that should make us happy. After a lot of years of evaluating my own situation, I have discovered that the most enjoyable things are small, life altering events. But in each of them, we must allow them to take charge of our day. Happiness is the way in which we deal with the everyday things of life. Recently, I was at the hospital to take a PET scan. They had injected the radioactive iodine into my arm and I was waiting for the chemical to circulate – a process that takes approximately thirty minutes. Next to me on another reclining bed was one of the happiest people I have ever met. My spirits were rather low, but his smile, his chatter, and his attitude lifted my spirit. The technician who was prepping us for the exam asked the man what the doctor’s prognosis was. The man replied in a cheerful voice, “I have two months to live, tops.”

I turned my head away and took a deep breath. I found a very good thing in this man’s attitude, and I have tried to adjust mine as a result. I stop and think of how things were when I was a small child and the world held so much wonder. I remember the thrill of looking into a bird’s nest and counting the small furry creatures waiting for their mother to return. I remember sparkling creeks just right to wade with bare feet, and the endless expanse of a clear blue sky. If you try, you can view the world with the same kind of wonder that archeologist Howard Carter experienced when he peered through the small opening into Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt. It had been undisturbed for centuries and a layer covered everything. “What do you see?” the man behind him asked after a moment when Carter did not move or speak. “Wonderful things,” Carter answered in a hoarse whisper.

What have you seen today, and did you allow it to take your breath away?


Monday, May 2, 2011

Things My Mother Told Me

Whenever Mother's Day approaches, we tend to remember those things our mother's said to us. I bet you have your own list of favorite quotes
and it probably contained most of thses.

Don’t run with scissors.

Keep your hands to yourself.

If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze like that.

Don’t make me come in there.

If you fall off that swing and break your neck, you can’t go to the store with me.

If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just cleaned the floor.

You have better pray that comes out of the couch.

Because I said so, that’s why.

Make sure you wear clean underwear in case you have an accident.

Just wait until we get home.

One day you will have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Can Dogs Think?

When I was in college, I had a biology teacher who was thoroughly convinced that animals could not think. We had an ongoing argument that caused us to consume astonishing amounts of coffee in the university inn while we presented our latest arguments. He said that non-human mammals reacted by moving toward food, or away from pain. The things that made it seem as if they were thinking were patterns hard-wired into their brain.

Anyone who has ever had a dog knows better, although the professor was correct in his claim that a dog is focused primarily on food and companionship, almost as much as most of the people I know. Whenever we start to leave our house, our dog gives us this look that says, ‘you’re leaving and I will never see you again.’ Reassurance that we will return never seems to work and usually results in a loud sigh that communicates the idea of ‘yeah right, like I should believe that.’

Food seems to be a close second to the worry over the human members of the family becoming lost. ‘You forgot to feed me,’ becomes a point of contention, as does the quality of the food placed in the food bowl. When I left the restaurant a few days ago, I wrapped up the remains of my T-bone steak and carried it home to Rocky. After sniffing the offering for several seconds, he swallowed the strip of meat without bothering to chew. He then looked at the bowl and back at my eyes several times to let me know that I was improving with my selection of food. Rather than assuming that dogs don’t think, maybe we should work on the problem of people not thinking. If I interpret Rocky’s expression correctly, he is saying, ‘this is what I want to eat. Do you get it?’

Saturday, April 23, 2011

What Easter Means to the World

What Easter Means to the World

While I am a Christian, I do not normally use this website to try to force my beliefs on the people who read my articles, but this is an especially sad time for people all across the world. We have had natural disasters that have affected millions of people. There has been famine, war, lost jobs, and a runaway economy that will not become better next year, or perhaps not in the year to come. Many of the people I know have recently experienced personal tragedy, and that is one of the hardest things to understand. Why me? is the question all of us ask, and it is a question that is hard to answer, but let me try.

To be alive, really alive, is to know pain and anguish. Who among us would want an existence in which we felt little, or nothing, in response to human suffering? Anything worth having in life can be lost, and as a result, we suffer. Suffering is the most accurate measurement of love, for those things we love most are the hardest to turn loose of when the time comes.

As the clock moves toward Easter morning, people all around the world will stop to remember what Easter has to offer to each of us. There will be the hiding of Easter eggs and the presentations of baskets and other gifts to smiling children. None of this is bad unless it overshadows the real meaning of this holy day. Others will read slowly through the passages that tell us about that first Easter, with the sense of wonder it deserves. Many of us will leave early for a church service to hear the message, the songs, and the fellowship of friends. There is hope in all of these things, for that is the real meaning of Easter. I think Paul Wilbur has expressed the hopes of millions of us in his moving video, ‘Baruch haba b’Shem Adonai, that you can see and hear by clicking on the title to this post.

‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’

Friday, April 22, 2011

Who Is Watching You?

As technology continues to advance, most Americans are becoming increasingly concerned over their privacy. Banks and financial institutions send out notices concerning the amount of information they are sharing with other organizations. The wording on these notices attempts to soothe us into accepting their claim that they would do nothing to invade our privacy, when in fact they are releasing information that is anything but innocuous.

Few people are aware of how many ways companies and private individuals can invade their privacy. If you have been on the Internet for a long period of time, various sources will have accumulated a vast amount of information about you, and it doesn’t take a hacker to gain possession of this information. None of us intend to lay bare every tiny detail of our existence, but we do, a crumb at a time in emails to our friends or things we post on forums. None of it ever goes away and will be there for employers searching you out after you put in your résumé.

Sitting in a doctor’s waiting room for my first visit, I noticed the young woman at the reception desk was spending a long time at her computer. Thirty minutes later when I talked to the doctor’s nurse, she asked me some questions that she could only have known from an Internet search. Nothing alarming, but enough to make me aware of the ease in which people can find that elusive piece of information they are seeking.

Government law enforcement agencies can locate you anywhere if you are carrying a cellular phone by pinging your phone and triangulating the response through three different towers. Congress is demanding answers concerning a piece of software installed on iPad. It is alleged to contain an application that will track and record your every movement. It will only be a matter of days until hackers will be able to access this from their phone and track where you have been at any moment of the day or night. To me that is a little scary. The stalkers are, no doubt, waiting in line for access to this new application. Click on the title to this article and it will carry you to an article on the investigation by certain congressional members.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Music, Music, Music!

The news media always wants us to think that we are on the brink of some disaster of the other. I am especially bothered by some of the guys on CNN and on Fox news who are permanently out of breath, gasping from one disaster to another. We are told that bad things are getting worse, and the worse is yet to come.

I was especially delighted when I ran across a video made sometime last year showing the Russian leader dancing to the tune, ‘American Boy.’ Can things really be so bad when the leader of a country that is supposed to be stodgy and humorless, can turn into a preppy kid when the band starts playing?

Don’t take my word for it. Click on the title of this story and judge for yourself.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

American Myths

It has always been astonishing to me that there are so many incorrect things that are commonly believed that are actually false. Writers should check and double check their sources of information and try to be accurate, because many people are going to read what you write and some of them will believe it. In the sixteenth century Thomas Cardinal Woolsey gave some very good advice. He said: “Be very, very careful what you put in your head, because you will never, ever get it out” There are a lot of myths that are believed by almost everyone, simply because our parents, friends, or teachers told us. Here are a few of them.

Some myths are actually harmless. One example is the idea that fingernails and hair continues to grow after death. Actually, the skin shrinks away from the hair root and also from the fingernails making it appear that they have become longer.

Rice will explode the stomachs of birds and kill them, thus the switch to throwing birdseed at weddings. There are municipal rules in some areas that forbid the practice of throwing rice at weddings, but it has nothing to do with birds. Rice can be slippery if thrown on a concrete surface and cause humans to fall. Many birds include rice as a part of their daily diet. If you drop rice into water it will not expand as the myth claims. It must be placed in boiling water. If the birds that attend your wedding are full of boiling water, then beware of the practice.

A picture known as ‘The Surgeon’s Photograph’ proves the existence of the Loch Ness Monster. The creator of the photograph later admitted that he had faked the picture to create a hoax, yet almost no one believed his confession

The curse of Tutankhamen was unleashed by Howard Carter who opened the tomb of King Tut after ignoring the inscription at the door of the tomb. Actually there were such curses at many Egyptian tombs, but none at the tomb of King Tut. Carter did die a short time later, but all of his fellow workers lived for many years after.

The British army performed the outrageous act of burning the American Capitol Building for no good reason during the war of 1812. Actually, the American troops burned the Canadian capitol the previous year and the British were only trying to get even.

Everyone learned in their high school science classes that the cariolis effect causes water being discharged from a bathtub or a commode to swirl counter-clockwise in the northern hemisphere, and clockwise in the southern. Actually, it can twirl in either direction because the cariolis effect is too weak to have any effect on running water.

These were a few of my favorite myths. What are yours?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Max Takes No Prisoners

Several years ago, a feral cat took up residence in a shed at the back of our lot. There was no way you could get close to the beast. We would sometimes get a glimpse of her, usually nothing more than a fleeting shadow in the underbrush. We would put out food for the cat but it was seldom touched. There were too many small rodents among the brush and honeysuckle vines for canned cat food to offer any temptation. Over a period of months, she would look back at us from across the distance, but it was impossible to approach her. We named her Maize, after an eccentric young woman in R. T. Delderfield’s novel, God is an Englishman.

One day when I went to check her food bowl, there was a little of it missing. Not a lot, but just enough to let us know that she had tried it, but found it far short of her usual fare. A few days later, I started out the backdoor and found a mole on the welcome mat. When I turned it over with the toe of my shoe, I saw the impressions of small teeth on the back of the mole’s skull. I didn’t know if this was her version of the famous scene from The Godfather, or if it was a hint for something a little more suitable to her taste. It took several years before we could coax her to our back steps. Another summer passed before we were able to make physical contact, and then it wasn’t in the way I imagined. I remained motionless in a lawn chair as she approached from underneath the azaleas. I could hear the faint sound of her sniffing, then the light touch of whiskers along the back of the hand I had dangled over the arm of the chair. After a short and tentative exploration, she was gone.

By the end of the next summer, we were finally able to run a hand along the top of her back. Maize tolerated it in the same way a drama queen will allow a kindly old grandfather to pat her on top of her head. The back lawn was her kingdom and she tolerated our presence, although her acquiescence was usually accompanied with a regal toss of her head.

The daily routine changed somewhat with the appearance of a large tomcat on our back steps. He was bigger than she was and didn’t seem to understand the rules. He had the appetite of a Shetland pony and ate everything we put in front of him. We named him Max. Maize became more affectionate, often rubbing against our legs and giving us an imploring look that seemed to say, ‘I was here first.’

After a few weeks of Max’ appearance, Maize decided that the best way to handle the situation was indifference. When indifference didn’t work, she would give him a swift swipe with her claws that would send him skittering backwards. He seemed bewildered but never discouraged, despite the frequent putdowns. The situation was the kind of tangled scenario that reminded me of my first year in junior high.

One afternoon as both cats were eating their evening meal on our patio, a large Pit Bulldog appeared and confiscated their dinner. They disappeared into the top of a nearby tree. Max seemed offended by the outrageous intrusion, while Maize became somewhat withdrawn. We started feeding the cats on an upstairs deck of a storage shed where the dog couldn’t reach them, but still put out food on the back step to keep them coming to the door. We didn’t want Maize to revert to her former feral behavior.

Yesterday, Maize picked her way daintily to the backdoor. I was preparing to get her a snack when the pit bull appeared and started toward her with its head lowered in attack mood. There was a sudden explosion of activity from underneath the azaleas. Max launched himself directly toward the dog’s head. The surprised dog gave a little yelp, then turned and ran. Max was on his heels as they rounded the corner of the house and went across the front lawn toward the road. A few minutes later, Max was back. He has always had a springy walk, but this time he was prancing like one of the characters in a Walt Disney cartoon. Maize was as impressed as I was and ran to meet him. They sniffed each other’s nose and then started licking tongues. I don’t know why I never have a camera handy when the good stuff happens, but I would have liked to have captured this incident on video. Romance is definitely in the air. I think this is going to be an interesting summer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Royal Wedding

No one can deny that Americans have a love relationship with British Royal Family, which should not be the case considering the fact that we fought two wars to be rid of them. American children read countless stories containing a prince or princess, and these stories are among the most exciting things we read as a child. What would our life have been if we had not had a sword like Lancelot’s to defend our Guinevere? There were few girls who were not a princess at frequent intervals, complete with crown and a dazzling array of jewels. It should not surprise us when we read about the many millions who impatiently await the grand event later in the month. Most of us can identify the individual members of the royal family when we see them, while we don’t even know the members of our own government, or what, if anything, they do. The wedding of Catherine and William will be the most dazzling event in this century, full of pomp and circumstance, or maybe not so much if William and Harry were to have their say. Click on the title of this story to see one man’s version of the event. It probably won’t turn out this way, but one can only hope.

Monday, April 11, 2011

UFO Report

By now, many of you have read the reports released yesterday by the government under the Freedom of Information Act. These reports document UFO sightings since 1947, which is the date the federal government began to document these events. There are other reports that date back to the beginning of recorded history. One of the earliest by a reliable witness was from a Chinese official named Shen Kuo about 1050 A.D. He stated that the object he saw was like a large pearl that radiated a bright light. There are other records that date much further into antiquity, mostly consisting of paintings by medieval artist, and stone carvings that show human-like figures with a circle around their head, having a resemblance to the helmet of a space suit.

UFO enthusiasts are taking an ‘I told you so,’ attitude about the reports. These files mostly consist of documents from various military and government agencies sent to the FBI. Accompanying these reports are some photographs that show cigar and saucer shaped objects aloft. Most of the pictures are indistinct and were made from a great distance. There are others showing small human-like creatures that were purported to have been taken from three UFOs that crashed in New Mexico in 1947. If you discount the hoaxes, the sightings of familiar objects under doubtful conditions, you still have from 5 to 20% of them that can’t be readily explained.

A report in 1960 by the Brookings Institute speculates about the nature of the sightings, and suggests that the reluctance of the Federal Government to support their own evidence might have a cultural explanation. Proponents of the ‘Young Earth Theory’ find no reason to support assumptions that might challenge their current religious beliefs. Vatican scientists have wisely advanced the possibility that their might be civilizations in other solar systems. There is also a supposition by some physicists who believe that parallel universes might exist, requiring the inhabitants to cross through a nearby ‘portal’ to enter our world.

Regardless of how these reports or the various theories fit into your current beliefs, it will be interesting to see how this develops in the coming months and years. Government files maintained by the various investigative agencies of the federal government contain what is called ‘raw information,’ the product of cramming every piece of paper into the current filing system and keeping it there forever. Some of it consists of unsubstantiated reports full of rumors, gossip, and well thought out lies. It requires experts with a well-developed sense of what is, or is not, plausible. Sloppy techniques can result in a debacle like we had during the run up of the Iraq invasion.

So what do you think? Are UFOs real, and if they are, who are these creatures that are invading our world, and what are their intentions? Are they benevolent creatures, spiritual perhaps, or are they mercenaries like the ones in science fiction? If Orson Wells was still around he would have a field day with this.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Susan LeFever Fugitive Story

If you failed to see Oprah today, you missed one of the most fascinating stories to come along in a long time. Oprah’s guest was Susan LeFevre, who was sentenced to 10-20 years for a minor drug offense when she was 19 years old. LeFever had been promised probation, but instead started serving her sentence in a Michigan prison. She managed to escape by going over a fence, made her way to California where she married and raised three children. She was a well-respected member of her community, played tennis, served on committees, and performed community service. He husband or family did not know who she was until the police appeared at her door 32 years later. LeFever’s story has been published at Createspace and will be available on Amazon soon. The title is, ‘A tale of Two Lives – The Susan LeFever Fugitive Story.'
I would say that this book has a story that none of us want to miss.

Dialogue in Period Fiction

I just finished an excellent book about the lives of three young women during the WWII era. The book raised an issue with which writers of historical fiction have to wrestle. The issue involves dialogue and the presentation of details that will make the story believable. James A. Michener discussed this once in a magazine interview after several history writers borrowed some ‘facts’ from Michener’s books in the belief that they were accurate. When the reporter complained to Michener that his fictionalized accounts were having a diverse effect on real history, he defended his position.

‘You have to be inaccurate in order to be accurate on occasions,’ he explained. An example he used concerned the wardrobe of the average young woman during the mid eighteen hundreds. Unless she was extremely wealthy, she wouldn’t be likely to own more than two nice dresses. Michener explained that an author was required to fudge somewhat on these ‘facts,’ or he/she would present an inaccurate picture of the person’s social status. Today’s readers, with a wardrobe that would fill a closet to overflowing, would not identify with a Scarlett O’Hara who was dressed in drab clothes or a Lancelot who carried a rusty sword.

This raises an interesting point regarding problems with the WWII book I mentioned above. Language evolves rather quickly and each generation invents their own sound bytes and catch phrases. Whenever you leave a convenience store, you are asked to ‘have a nice day.’ Or if the young lady waiting on you is really with it, she might want you to ‘have a blessed day.’ If you spend some time around the younger generation, you are likely to hear WHAT-ehv-errr, accompanied by an eye roll or two. There is also a problem with exasperation, which will evoke the word, Fine! accompanied by a lot of lateral lip movement.

So my question is this: Does words or phrases like Tiger Blood® (recently trademarked by Charlie Sheen), WHAT-ehv-errr, or Fine have a legitimate place in period fiction? Or to put it another way, is departing too much from today’s vernacular for the sake of accuracy a good idea? What do you think?