Monthly Archives: June 2012

Bed Head?

Caffeine Attack

Caffeine Attack (Photo credit: serafini)

What is your morning drink of choice? For that matter, what do you drink whenever you need a “pick-me-up?”

Let’s explore the possibilities. We have the tried-and-true standby: coffee. Back in the day you would put coffee grounds into a metal pot, fill it with water, and watch it perk into the glass knob on the top as it sat on the stove burner.

Then came the advent of instant coffee. Mix a teaspoon with water, dispense your favorite additives and enjoy.

Then came ADC (automatic drip coffee). Fill a container lined with a filter with coffee grounds, allow water to sift through into a carafe and enjoy multiple cups. Now this is where many of us have found a home. We set our pots the night before so that our coffee is ready when we are, to partake of its energy-rich sustenance.

Seemingly overnight, a new breed of we’ll call “coffee-holics” have popped onto the scene. They have taken the ingestion of a common roasted bean to new, caffeinated heights. The ultimate of which are coffee beans that have passed through the digestive tract of a cat, been retrieved from its excrement, and then brewed into a beverage that I would gladly bypass in favor of water from a mud puddle.

Next, we have the majestic tea leaf consumed by Chinese royalty and western commoners alike; in fact, it can be had in a veritable cornucopia of different flavarnoid-laced colors.

Which of these afore mentioned beverages would provide a better burst of energy for that mid-afternoon slump, you ask?

Once again, let us explore the possibilities. A regular cup of coffee contains about a 130 mg. of caffeine. A shot of espresso about 50 mg. Remember, the darker the roast the less caffeine it contains.

When it comes to tea, white 25mg., green 30mg., black 60mg. Two highly consumed liquids that I failed to mention are soft drinks 30mg., and new to the scene the energy drink 200 to 300mg.

We need energy to help us through each day, by the same token your writing must remain energetic. Beware of lulls and circumstances where your characters find themselves in mundane situations that bear no relevance to the story. Boredom is one of the quickest ways to lose your readership and have your book collect dust, unread on the shelf.

Yawwn….well that’s enough for now. I need something to drink. I’ve just about bored myself to sleep.

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Say What?

What are commodities? What is a junk bond? Which is better, a bear or bull market? What’s a Ponzi scheme? What are futures? What is the GNP?

Economics. No other subject has the capability to bore, confuse, confound, manipulate, rattle, amaze, intrigue, love, hate, enrage, arouse, dispose political figures, insight homicide or suicide, bring fear to the hearts of man, and generally ruin your day when it’s in the toilet. Yet, how strange it is that we all depend upon it in one way or another.

Humor me while I backtrack and answer a few questions.

Commodities: usable goods produced by multiple companies with no difference in the product between manufacturers.

Junk bond: A high yield bond which carries a greater risk.

A bull market is preferable to a bear market. We now find ourselves in the latter. Each time I view my portfolio, I would swear that the bear has eaten the bull and is now gnawing on the bones.

Ponzi Scheme: A fraudulent ploy that pays its investors returns from their own money or newly acquired investors. It was named after Charles Ponzi from his 1920 escapades.

Futures: A contract between two parties setting the value and quantity of a certain product at the present and to be concluded at a future time.

GNP (Gross National Product): The value of goods and services including imports for a nation over the course of a year minus exports.

Does any of this sound familiar?…I didn’t think so.

I guess what I’m trying to say is be concise when you write. Twists and turns are fine, in fact they’re encouraged. Even the occasional trip to left center field is okay as long as you round third and bring it on home.

In short, just because you know about what you’ve written, it doesn’t mean everyone else does.

Now if you will excuse me its seventh-inning stretch time and I’ve been asked to sing.

Take me out to the ballgame…

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Absolutely Monumental

Washington Monument, Washington D.C., United S...

Washington Monument, Washington D.C., United States as viewed at twilight/dusk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Washington Monument, a 555’ 5-1/8” tall symbol of man’s ability to push massive stone objects skyward, was suggested in 1783 as a tribute to General George Washington for his service in the American Revolution. This massive obelisk was built totally without modern equipment, an amazing feat in and of itself.

Construction didn’t actually begin until 1848, sixty-one years after Congress originally proposed a statue to honor our first president. Work began to slow in 1854, then came to a halt due to lack of funds, political no, no’s…(Aren’t we all glad that’s a thing of the past? Excuse me a moment while I choke on those words…Hmm…Thank you)…and other minor annoyances such as the Civil War.

Work resumed in 1876 and the project was completed in 1884. If you look at the structure you will notice a difference in color.  This was due to the marble being taken from a different quarry when construction resumed.

The top was capped with a pyramid-shaped piece of aluminum which at the time was a rare metal and very expensive.  (Incidentally, aluminum does not appear naturally. It is refined through a lengthy process from a mineral-rich rock called bauxite.)

The capstone is the main focus in this post. Just as it becomes the “crowning glory,” if you will, signifying a fitting end to a deserving memorial, it is imperative that you give the same attention as you bring your manuscript to completion.

Have you ever read a novel written so well written that you actually felt a part of the story, only to reach the end and wonder if the novelist became lazy or just forgot how to write, the ending being so lack luster?

If you are going to write, pen your absolute best work throughout and raise the bar on the ending. Remember, the first chapter sells the first book and the last chapter sells the next.  I don’t know who first uttered this wise phrase, only that it wasn’t me.

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Scrub a Dub Dub

English: Woman washing clothes in the river Ne...

English: Woman washing clothes in the river Nederlands: Dia. Een vrouw tijdens het wassen van kleding in de rivier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Washing machines–most of us have them. They’re nearly as common as the clothes on our backs (feel free to chuckle). We tend to take them for granted. Each week (in some cases every day), a rotating tub is filled with dirty clothes, detergent, and water.

Then they’re cleaned, being sloshed around for twenty minutes or so, rinsed in the same fashion as the wash cycle (minus the soap) and spun into oblivion, rinsed again, and spun one final time. Occasionally, a load will become unbalanced and the resulting turmoil mimics that of a 7.5 on the Richter scale earthquake.

I would tend to think that this method is a tad better than what the ancient Romans used to whiten their tunics.  They would dip them in urine. That’s right, urine.  The ammonia in the tainted liquid would bleach the material white. I guess there’s no accounting for taste or in this case, smell.

Washboards reared their cleansing heads in the latter part of the 18th century. The first mechanical hand-operated washing machine appeared in the mid 19th century. The one tried and true process for cleaning clothes that I have failed to mention is the good ‘ole slog down to the river to beat that dirty underwear on a rock method.

People have done this since the first river decided to encroach upon the territory of the first rock and man decided he needed to cover up his naughty-bits. In fact, in less developed countries, this approach to cleansing dirty clothes is still used today. Thankfully, as far as I know, urine is no longer in use. Of course, the length of what I know is questionable.

If we delve into the world of writing and publication, we find a similar circumstance insofar as long after we view our manuscripts as complete, others can tell it still needs to be cleaned up.

Enter the editor.

This is where you need to relinquish a certain amount of control. Drop your pride and listen to your editor. His or her advice, for the most part, is worth its weight in gold. If you have a good one, you will be able to tell what a difference they can make in your final product.

That’s all I have to say for now, except for the following:

Lose the tunic. The urine stains are not an attractive look for you. Why can’t you be like everybody else? Head down to the river and find a rock.

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Watch that Dirty Mouth!

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s consider the four basic elements, earth, air, water, and fire. Have you noticed that I start a lot of my posts with the word “consider?” Well here goes another one. Sorry, but it’s my favorite word.

What do we really know about these four mysterious elements? I’m glad I asked that question, for we shall perform a comprehensive in-depth examination on each in turn starting with fire.

Fire, it’s hot. Simply amazing, and no we’re not stopping there. Let’s continue, shall we?

Water, it’s wet. …fascinating stuff, just fascinating.

Air, it has the unique quality that we all wish we possessed at one time or another. It’s invisible.

And finally earth, it’s dirty.

Now consider (there’s that word again) the end result if these elements were to interact with each other. First, if you expose fire to water contained in a vessel, the water will boil. If you expose fire to water without the containment vessel, the water will sizzle and the fire will undergo a dramatic change I like to refer to as, “going out.”

Air, what can we say about air that hasn’t already been said? Well, since we haven’t said much so far, probably quite a bit. If air mixes with water, you will have bubbly water, which by the way is great for hot tubs. Air and earth will produce dirty air. Fire actually needs air in order to properly operate. And we mustn’t forget the all important fact that life would not exist without air.

We will now examine last but not least, earth. Without earth we would have nowhere to stand. If you mix earth and fire, you get hot dirt. And finally, we come to the end of this scientific journey of discovery. If you mix earth and water, you have mud. Mud, you say?

You brought us on this magnificent exploration of the basic elements of life and end with mud? I understand your disillusionment, but look at the usefulness of mud down through the ages.  It was used to build housing and hold bricks and stones together. Jesus used it to restore sight to a blind man. It’s been used for wrestling and for a spectator sport as trucks tried to make it through massive mud holes called bogs.

If you apply this concept as you write, you will find that you will be able to keep your reader in suspense until you choose to cut through the mud and expose clearly the path you led them down. Just make sure the uncertain areas which they travel through in your writing are not so muddy as to confuse but muddy enough to maintain curiosity.

So clean yourself up, you look a mess…and don’t forget to wash behind those ears!

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Periscope Up

What could be better than a long sandwich?…Hmm…Let me think about twelve inches filled with good stuff, like ham, salami, prosciutto, lettuce, tomato, onions, vinegar and oil.

English: 12-inch ham Submarine sandwich with d...

English: 12-inch ham Submarine sandwich with double meat by Subway ‪中文(繁體)‬: Subway 6英寸長火腿潛艇三明治/潛艇三文治 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now, the problem is what to call this spectacular creation…   Wadda ya mean? It’s already been created, and they call it a what, a submarine sandwich? Well, I guess that makes sense.  It does look something like a submarine.

Wait a minute! You can’t change in mid stride.  You say it’s also called a Hoagie? Because it was invented on Hog Island and the name was eventually shortened to Hoagie.

Okay, I’ll buy that. Whacha got next?  Grinder–because the crust of the bread was so hard to chew?  Alright, that’s enough. I’ll take it from here.

Sub sandwiches, as I am used to calling them, have many other names. It kinda depends where in the country you’re standing as to what name you slap on your sandwich.

For instance, Poor Boy-St. Louis; Po’ BoyLouisiana; Torpedo and Bomber both belong to New York.  I’m sure that these names, plus many others, are used all over the country and even in different parts of the world.

Now, if I may be so bold or if you would rather I not be so bold, irregardless, I’m going to name a sandwich myself and I’m going to call this sandwich, Bob. Now, I know you’re wondering why I chose this name. In answer to this question I must reply, “I haven’t the slightest idea,” other than I simply wanted to.

Now, this is the lousiest segue I have ever used to move from one subject to another but again it’s my blog and since that makes me the boss…well you know.

When I’m writing these posts, I usually try to associate the topic in some way with the art of writing. So in this post I will accomplish this task in this way.  Now pay attention…I am only going to say this once.

I like to write.

Have a nice day.

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Blow Me Away

Good news folks! I just heard back about a writing contest I entered back in March of this year. I submitted Rising Tide on a whim, not sure of what to expect but hoping for the best.

I’ve learned that’s how a solid 80% of a writer’s life operates (The other 20% is equal parts coffee and delusions of grandeur). I had forgotten  about the contest, swept up as I was in the bright and shiny allure of authordom, which includes, as you very well know, hot tubs, sports cars and those delicious mini-quiches. So I was beyond surprised to find out that Rising Tide was chosen as a finalist in the 2112 National Indie Excellence Book Awards Contest.

Pretty snazzy, huh? Now if you’ll excuse me, Jeeves is bringing the car around. This croquet match won’t play itself.

For a full list of winners (including little ‘ole me) click here.

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