MORE FRAGMENTS OF A RECEDING MINDLINE…

Fragment One: Jeff Bridges. I’ve always liked Jeff Bridges and he is, without question, that one living famous person I’d love to have a beer with. As well as being a great actor, a pretty good songwriter/musician/singer, and devout family man he dedicates much of his life to giving back. His primary cause is No Kid Hungry! It’s a program designed to put food in front of the estimated 16,000,000 children who live in American households that are unable to provide the necessary food these kids need. That’s one in five kids. He has been the spokesman at charity events for this cause for some time but not only does he speak out he does something about it. ALL proceeds from his new cd “Sleeping Tapes” go toward No Kid Hungry! and in a few short weeks he has raised over a million meals.

Fragment Two: Matthew McConaughey and “Canned Hunting” debacle. For those who don’t know the story Mr. McConaughey has been linked (as an owner) to a ranch in Texas that offers hunters the opportunity to “harvest” deer that are fenced in on their property. I could write a wordy blog on how I feel about this practice but I’ll leave that for another time. Since this story broke the public outcry in the form of blogs and petitions has spread like the proverbial Texas wildfire. Now his photograph and all references to him have been removed from the ranch’s website and Matthew’s camp is in damage control mode, saying that he is not an owner and hasn’t been associated with the ranch since 2011. A quick search of his bios on line still reveals he owns a ranch in Texas although they don’t disclose the name of this ranch. I’m prepared to give anybody the benefit of the doubt so I’ll remain neutral on this but those that are inferring that, if true, this will destroy his career better think again. He’s a big player and the world loves big players. The list of actors, recording artists, and politicians that have had their indiscretions buried by money and influence is long and will only get longer.

Fragment Three: No Comment. I’ve had a few of my on-line wolf friends question my absence on those “anti-wolf” comment pages since last year. Other than a few of the media public comment sites I no longer get involved with the anti-wolf crowd. I set out some ground rules for myself when it came to responding to their idiocy. One…I would no longer deal with anyone who uses a fake name/facebook page. Two…I would not respond to anyone who hasn’t a basic grasp of spelling and grammar. Three…I wouldn’t respond to anyone who starts out a comment with name-calling or threats and four…I’d refrain from commenting on any post that didn’t contain proven facts with appropriate links. These self-imposed rules pretty much meant I could no longer comment period. It also makes it much easier to “leave the kiddies alone” when they won’t let me play by banning me from most, if not all, of their pages.

Fragment Four: Politically Correct. First, and this is something I never do, I wish to apologize to anyone who might be offended by what you’re about to read. Recently, in an off-hand conversation, I referred to our native people as “Indians” and I was told that it was wrong. They are “First Nations”. As most of you know I worked for At Second Glance Books here in Kamloops and while books about First Nations people were shelved under “Indigenous Peoples” some of the titles of those books contained the word “Indian” and a lot of these books were written by talented First Nation authors. I had many customers come in and ask me where the books on Indians were and many of them were First Nations people, one building a library of First Nations literature for a tourist center. They weren’t offended by a book on “The Western Plains Indians” and really, why should they be? One of my customers went by the name of “Ace” and he was one that asked where the Indian books were. I showed him a lot and sold him a few. We actually became casually close and tossed jibes back and forth on many occasions. One day he came into the store with a couple of friends, also First Nations, and leaned on the counter. He asked if I served Indians here. My glib response was “Sure…you want fries with that?” He and his friends broke into hysterics. After I had a chance to think about what I said I felt I should apologize. “Hell no man,” Ace said, “that was funny. You white people take everything far too seriously.” With that I bit the bullet and asked if he was offended by the term “Indian” and all three of them said no, that they were proud of their Indian heritage (yes, they used the word). I’m not sure if Ace and the boys are indicative of the general feelings amongst First Nations people and certainly I find myself using “First Nations” just in case, but I have to wonder how much of an issue it is. I also wonder who decided that it was politically incorrect to begin with. Really, it’s just a word. I would think the manner or the environment in which it’s used would have a bearing on how it’s taken but then it really isn’t the word that becomes offensive is it? It’s the person using it.

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POT POURRI…3 Rs & a PS…

RECOGNITION: The other day a cute young girl was checking me out. I’d love to leave it at that but…she was behind a till and was actually checking out my groceries and no, “groceries” is not a euphemism. The woman in line behind me really was checking me out though. She stared at me for a minute or so then asked me if I was the guy who wrote that book about hippies. I thought it was pretty cool that she even recognized me let alone commented. I told her that I had written it and we ended up in a sweet little discussion about how much she enjoyed the story and in particular how much she loved Evan Morris, the lead character. She even has a copy of the newspaper article that was done for the launch that she keeps folded in the book. She bought her copy at the signing (which is probably why she kept the clipping) and has read it twice with the intention of reading it a third time. Even more cool was hearing her tell a couple of other people in line (and the cashier) what it was all about and how much she liked it. I, of course, just let her go on but I also made sure everyone in that line-up had one of my publishing cards. This is one of those little things that sometimes happen that really means a lot. Ah, the price of fame…warm fuzzies for me!!!

RETIREMENT: This was to be the subject of a previous blog but, like life, something else came up. It baffles me how I managed to get everything done around the house plus write White Wolf Moon while I was working. When I retired I figured that writing the new book and getting all the household chores done would be a breeze time-wise and I’d be able to spend a good deal of my life this way:DOIN

Not so. It seems the more time I have the less I get done. The house has reached an age where there are all kinds of niggly bits that need attention, much like me. Right now I’m learning how to patch and seal a deteriorating concrete pad in my back yard and even though eventually I’ll probably build a wooden deck to go over it, it still needs to be repaired. My first lesson learned…bags of cement are heavy. Yes I could pay someone to come in and do it all but I’m much like Evan Morris in this respect. I’d rather do it myself.

RECREATION: For a little diversion I like to rip my Twin Hammers RC truck over the rock pile and around the yard, usually while I’m waiting for the kitchen floor to dry. I went through at least thirty photos before I got the one below. All I wanted was to have the custom wolf motif in focus but the entire truck body being sharp and clear was a bonus.HAMM

P.S.: Finally a quick touch on the wolf issue, not as much the issue as the people involved. I have on a few occasions given my opinion of those not-so-nice anti-wolf folks and it’s time that I recognize the other side. My side.

Pro wolf people are generally some of the nicest people I have met, as much as you can meet people on-line. They are well-spoken and educated about their passion. Some are artists, poets, song-writers or photographers and are pretty damn creative when it comes to their work. They all seem to be down-home folks who are totally unique individually but as one in their love of nature. Oddly enough the traits and attitudes they possess oft times mirror those of the characters in White Wolf Moon so I suppose it’s no surprise that I identify with each of them in some way.

So to all my on-line wolf-luvvin’ buds…thank you. If you’re ever near Kamloops B.C. let’s do lunch…and maybe haul a little cement?

CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW?

When I worked for At Second Glance Books in Kamloops I would occasionally receive a complimentary copy of a book from an up and coming local or regional author. The purpose was simply for me to read it so I could speak with some knowledge of the product if anyone asked. Fortunately with some titles nobody asked.

Last week while organizing my library I stumbled on a few of these self-published works. After shelving the other books into a somewhat systematized array I sat in my chair and did some selective reading and, of the three I scanned, I quickly discovered something they all had in common. The characters all spoke in much the same ‘voice’. The same patterns, rhythms, and sentence structure was used regardless of which character was involved in the dialogue. As much as I respect and congratulate people who self-publish we all have to be held to a certain standard and something this simple is actually easy to correct.

I’ve learned to distinguish voice patterns by eaves-dropping in public. If you listen carefully you’ll soon pick out the little oddities that make some people unique. Shorter sentences, a proliferation of ‘ums’, variance in pitch and pattern, a bit of a stutter…it’s all subtle yet obvious when you listen.

I picked up a copy of White Wolf Moon and did the same selective reading and breathed a sigh of relief. Mostly I had managed to create individual voices for my characters but there were a few areas that I could see readers having trouble following the dialogue especially with some of the longer conversations between Evan and Danny. The real life voices of these two men are surprisingly similar but there are subtleties that I didn’t manage to get across throughout the book. Without regular name tags I could see confusion.

The wonderful thing about publishing a first book is what you learn from it. Not just the whole publishing process but the mistakes you made in creating the book, the actual writing. Overall I’m pleased with the way White Wolf Moon turned out but there are some things I’m not anxious to repeat in the second book.

When I discovered the confusion in voice I started (once again) from the beginning of the new book and within three pages found areas where the dialogue needed clarification. As the writer you know what it’s supposed to say but the reader doesn’t know where the conversation is going until they get there. It’s important to make the journey as easy and stress-free as possible so I’ve made some minor clean-up changes.

I have some unique characters this time around. They speak in a specific dialect using colloquialisms and bad grammar. Those are easy to depict but the subtle differences between Danny and Evan need more work to convey. Mostly I believe it’s in the rhythm and sentence length. Evan is a bit of a thinker and his words are generally more deliberate while Danny talks off the top of his head in shorter, choppier sentences. As I said the differences are subtle but they have to be made obvious in order for the reader to hear which character is speaking. Yes I still need character name tags but I don’t want them every seventh or eighth line unless there’s an action involved.

Now comes the part where I digress.

As most of you know I am pro-wolf. I used to visit the anti-wolf pages just to get a laugh, mostly at the impressive lack of grasp of the English language that many of these folks possess. For a year or so I copied some of the more idiotic comments into a file simply called “Stupid Comments”. It is interesting to read these comments as a single unit. They reveal a mentality and attitude that borders on total “nutso” and I would think they could provide an in-depth study into some rather twisted psychological traits if analyzed but I’ll leave that for someone who’s interested in such things.

When I was creating a backwoods, less-than-educated character for the new book I wanted to use some of these comments as they are genuine and grass roots. Two things happened as I was reviewing these little treasures. One…I gave my character Fergus a couple of these lines and it sounded like a Saturday Night Live satirical skit. The words and dialect were actually too unbelievable for a fictional character. My people have to be real and poor ol’ Fergus…wasn’t. The second thing that happened was that I quickly realized the similarity in many of the comments especially the aforementioned speech patterns and rhythms. After grouping these comments I noticed that, even with different names, some are virtually identical. The same words were misspelled, the same lack of punctuation, and the same catch phrases. Some comments were completely identical even down to the placement of the same text shortcuts (lmao, lol etc.). There is no question that at least four of these “individuals” is the same person and is also an administrator on two different pages. One other individual is behind at least three pseudonyms and even has some interesting conversations with himself. Of course there are many other people on these pages who proudly display their shortcomings when it comes to communication skills. That’s pretty sad…especially when you read a comment like: “Its always a good hunting season just as long as your in the hills right, and my bad i didnt mean that bad really i giess i thought you did but now i know ypu wernt sorry.”. The sad (and shocking) part? If you click on his name it takes you to this man’s fb page where you discover that he is a professor at Idaho State University.

I’m not sure what to draw from this experience. These people can’t write and, judging by many of the comments, aren’t all that interested in reading either. Has this computer generation just become lazy or is the education system failing big time? I admit that this is a small segment of the population but it still amazes me that there’s even a segment that managed to fall through the cracks this badly. There’s probably a bigger social issue at play here but again I’ll leave that to someone who enjoys exploring that sort of thing.

I don’t frequent anti-wolf pages any more, it’s far too depressing. When I read the dialogue between Fergus and Evan I feel good. Fergus is fictional but real to me. When I gave him dialogue written by real people that I assumed would be of a similar character he became unreal, a caricature. Perhaps it’s like the old saying “Truth is stranger than fiction” and in this case I think I’ll stick with fiction.

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YOU WON’T FIND THIS ON KINDLE

When At Second Glance Books closed out in Kamloops last year I took quite a few books home with me (reading material for the rest of my life). Mostly I went with Canadian authored trade paperbacks and some by authors from all over that I had never read. On my way out the door one night I grabbed a box that was destined for recycle. There were a couple of older classics on top but I didn’t dig down to see what was buried beneath until today. Most of them were fairly beaten older copies of familiar titles but two of them really jumped out. One is a handwritten notebook from The London County Council (name and school not filled in) and appears to a writer’s daybook containing observations of the world around him/her. Aside from incredibly beautiful penmanship (a lost art) this notebook contains some smaller pages with handwritten notes for a walking tour of London, theater and concert listings/dates, and a list of London pubs with addresses. Entries are all dated 1955 except a handwritten copy of notes and comments from “The Philosophy of Insanity” by “a late inmate of the Glasgow Royal Asylum for Lunatics at Gartnavel” (published by Fireside Press, London, 1947). Then I uncovered the second book:

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It’s in pretty poor condition but considering that all dated entries are from 1805-1810, I suppose this is to be expected. Once again impeccable penmanship but this one is a collection of cooking recipes, folk medicine cures, and general information. Held in place by traditional red sealing wax are a number of smaller notes as well as newspaper clippings with marriage and death announcements and instructions for the captains of British merchant vessels should they experience a cholera outbreak at sea. There’s also a six page written sermon about keeping the Sabbath. I suppose as the author is named “Lord”, this is appropriate. Based on most of the content I am assuming that J. P. Lord is male, although I’m not 100% sure of this. All pages are heavily browned, most have finger smudges and some have been cut out. A lot of notes have also successfully freed themselves from the wax but I still love this book.

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This is an example of why we still need brick and mortar bookshops. Archive hand-written personal material like this doesn’t show up too often in stores but it will certainly never be available as a download and that’s too bad. These are personal insights into the times in which they were written. Times before television and other distractions…times when one would sit with pen and inkwell by the fireplace, perhaps an oil lamp on the roll-top, and document a personal glimpse into the events of the day in a quality of script rarely seen and in a voice like no other. I wonder how J.P. Lord would have reacted had he known that something he’d written would, 208 years later, be read by someone in Kamloops, BC, and then exposed on this thing called the World-Wide-Web. That two centuries later someone would be reading his recipe for Chutney or his handwritten personal diet for invalids especially for Mrs. Brown of No. 11 Grosvenor Place (plaster cast extra at a cost of one Guinea). Books like this are to be treasured and valued because once they’re gone a little bit of history disappears. People don’t take the time any more to just jot down thoughts and impressions. Perhaps we should…and on paper because who knows what kind of technology will be used two centuries from now when someone stumbles onto a hand-written personal insight into what it was like in the good old days of 2013.

I’d like to personally thank those people who had held onto this book for the past 200 years but I don’t know who they are. I’d like to know where in the world this book has been and I’d like to know why certain pages have been carefully cut from the binding and what was on those pages…but there’s no-one to ask. This will probably forever be a mystery but if you’ve ever wanted to solve the mystery of curing the common cold…this is how they did it back in 1805:

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Here’s the address Mairi….

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HEALTH ISSUES….off topic again.

MOONBOOK

The above photograph is all the promotion White Wolf Moon will get this time around.

I had a minor heart attack thirteen years ago although at the time nobody could convince me it was minor (just a warning shot I was told). I was pretty certain it was the end but the doctors were right and all is fine. For all these years I’ve been considered a “boring” patient in that all my test results have been “normal” and my cholesterol and blood pressure levels are static…no appreciable change…ever.

Until last week. All levels are up and, although not critical, they’re such a change from my norm it bears watching and a different medication. Doc asked me what had changed over the past few months and honestly I couldn’t come up with an answer other than I wasn’t doing my regular walks along the river and much less physical yardwork (due to winter, of course). Other than that I couldn’t think of anything. He assured me that a lot of it probably due to the lack of exercise I and should get back into something that pushed me a little.

On my drive home I went over the last few months, trying to figure out why all this had happened. I realized I have been on a computer far more lately what with the blog, sequel, and some music I’m trying to sort out but then it hit me….

The reason I have all this time to be on my butt in front of a screen is because the book shop I worked at closed. I’d spend days on my feet walking the entire store oft times carrying flats of books, sometimes banana boxes full. I’d be hopping up and down on milk crates to put books on the top shelf and I usually did the few block walk to the bank during the day. This is the exercise I’ve been missing. There were days I’d come home exhausted from the physical part of the job and now there is no part of my life that affords me that workout. It may not seem like a lot of exercise compared to someone who does a real physically demanding job (most of those guys are pretty fit) but it was a routine and now it’s gone. I’ve known so many people who retire and within a year or two health issues creep in, most gain weight (which I also have done), and a few have had serious heart attacks, one fatal.

The snow is starting to melt, we actually have grass in both yards, so I’ll soon be back to my walks along the river but I’ve also started going up and down the basement stairs for no other reason than they’re there. The first couple of times I could only do it three times without feeling pretty dragged out. That was two weeks ago. I just did it seven times and although I’m huffing a bit I figure I could go another couple of climbs but I don’t want to push it too much yet.

Besides it was on one of my climbs that I came up with the idea for this blog.

I also started a water regiment a week ago. A friend of mine suggested it and damned if it doesn’t seem to work although it might be a combined effect with the exercise as well. Simply I wake up in the morning and before my coffee and cereal (or toast) I down two glasses of water, again really tough the first few times. Before lunch and supper I drink one more glass and another one sometime between supper and bed-time. I don’t know if it’s psychological but I seem to be less tired and feeling a bit better about things in general but whatever it is…it’s good.

Anyway my little rant, such as it is, is done and it’s time to get back to work on my sequel….

 

PIRATES!

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An unaccustomed third blog in two days but this one poses some interesting questions. A friend of mine just sent me a link to a “pirate” site, one where downloadable books are free. I’m not going to post the link as I feel this would contribute to the problem although it isn’t all that hard to find. I was quite surprised to find “White Wolf Moon” listed on there and I must confess I’m not sure what to think.

My first thought was that this might explain why quite a few people have said they’ve downloaded it and have made such specific comments that verified they actually had read it all yet these downloads aren’t showing up in my “Royalties” folder. My next thought was how to get the title off this site but other than hiring a lawyer to provide a “Proof of Ownership” document to send to the owners of the site, at my expense of course, there’s really nothing I can do. It appears that copyright laws these days are non-existent.

I suppose it’s to be expected. Photographs are continually being stolen and used without the permission of the photographer so why not books? (The pirate flag above is a copyright free download) People are downloading free music from certain sites…movies too. The pirates running these sites ask for “donations” in exchange for the free products they provide. Apparently they’re doing it solely out of the kindness of their hearts. On this site they tell us that this is their way of making culture available to everyone, not just those who can afford it and that the donations just pay for the upkeep of their charitable organization. They’re affording the underprivileged, those with ereaders anyway, the same access to literature as the well-to-do experience.

As I said, I’m not sure what to think. If I were Stephen King perhaps I’d raise a little hell although his titles are there as well so maybe a few free downloads doesn’t affect his bottom line and it’s just not worth the bother.

I also look at it from the standpoint that if there weren’t people downloading free and occasionally “donating” to the cause then sites like this might not exist.

I think generally the ebook reader is up front and honest and doesn’t have a problem spending .99 or 4.99 for a title. It’s the same sort of mentality as when we closed the bookshop where I worked. Our regular customers were great people and very rarely mentioned price, the ones that came in for the closing out sale were pretty much all strangers and…well, not so great.

The market must be there for these pirate sites to exist…fostered by a segment of the population that wants everything for nothing with no thought to the people that spend their lives creating the art, photographs, music, or films that they enjoy. I wonder what any of them would say if we asked them to provide whatever they do free of charge? Joe the plumber who downloads free books…come and fix my toilet, free of course.

Maybe I’m over-reacting but I think of the thousands of hours learning and honing a craft…then more hours writing/editing that book…then (in some cases) the costs of self-publishing only to have it given away by someone who has no interest in the book, any book for that matter, in exchange for a donation that fits snugly into his own wallet and I get a little cranky. I won’t even touch on the numerous spelling mistakes on their site because, well…they wouldn’t understand. These are the critters at the bottom of the food chain. These are the leeches who are content to sit fat on their butts and live off the work of others simply because they don’t have the wherewithal to accomplish anything on their own.

Okay…off my soapbox now.

SNOW DAY

So here it is…the first day of my new retired life. The holidays are behind me, the house is put back to rights and it’s time to settle in and get serious about this new existence.

Tomorrow.

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Today started with a big snowfall so my day started with a big shovel. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ I thought, ‘I’ll get started on the blog post when I’m done’.

I had planned to get into details on the cover photo and perhaps the author pic for “White Wolf Moon” as both have received quite a few good comments but it was not meant to be.

When At Second Glance Books in Kamloops closed I captured an old white chair with the intent of using it as a guitar practice/recording chair. I’d spent a lot of time in that chair phoning people to remind them we had books on hold for them so it has a bit of a nostalgic feel about it. It’s more of a stool with a high back and it’s covered in at least three layers of badly applied paint, the top coat being a plastic finish. My first thought was to let it stay the way it was but there’s this part of me that can’t leave things alone. Our house has many end tables, bookcases, and night stands that I’ve picked up at flea markets and yard sales and refinished so what’s one more piece?

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Here’s where it all ties together. I won’t get into the trials of stripping the old paint off this chair. Suffice to say it has been a nightmare thus far and will probably get worse. The top layer of paint just plugs up power sanders and melts into a globby goo if I use stripper on it so the whole chair will probably have to be hand-sanded. I decided to spend an hour working on it and quickly realized how much I’ve missed doing this sort of thing. Some call it a type of Zen…I don’t know. I do know I’m pleasantly relaxed while doing this and I also love the “Hey look what I did” sense of accomplishment at the completion of the project. As I worked I started thinking about a lot of things concerning the book. The first is that I’m oh-so-close to breaking even on the initial cost of publishing. That was my goal at the outset so I guess it’s time to set another goal. Another thought that crossed my mind was some of the reaction to the book. Everyone that pre-read it felt that the target market would be females, 50 plus. It sounded right to me but the comments aren’t necessarily bearing this out. Some of the best and most insightful comments have come from three 60 plus males. One had been in Beaumont Park in San Francisco in 1967 and he felt that, even though I’d softened it, I had captured the atmosphere perfectly. He asked when I was there and I had to confess that it was in the early 70s. The interesting part about his comment is that nowhere in the book did I mention the name of the park. He picked up on it from my description. Another fellow asked about my song references. I scattered song titles, lyrics, and artists names throughout the book in place of dialogue and he’d picked up on most of them except the one at the end. I explained the final reference to him and got a groan in return. Hey…I never promised they’d all be brilliant. The third 60 plus male commented that I’d described his ‘gang’ from back then as if I’d been there and he thanked me for the memories. Some interesting comments have also come from slightly-under and well-under 50 year-old males and females so my target market analysis seems to need tweaking. This is a good thing.

While sanding the beast chair a lot of thoughts crossed my mind. Some of them were lyrics I’m attempting to write, an idea or two for the blog, a couple of scenes for the sequel to “White Wolf Moon”, and an even more interesting idea for something totally unrelated to the sequel.

Considering this was to be a snow day I did get a lot accomplished, at least in my head, and I find myself hoping that there will be more days like this down the road…without the snow.