NOO SHOOS/AULD FEATS

Shoe shopping is probably my least favorite activity. I’m a casual sneaker-type guy and in the old days my only decision was black or white. Now they have shoes for walking, running, climbing, gardening, cooking chili, washing dogs…but I have already digressed. That’s the problem with not writing a blog for months. I’ve been on a bit of a sabbatical although I’m not really sure why. Life is good, cluttered and confusing but good. Maybe I just needed to step back and appreciate the clutter and confusion. That’s as good an excuse as any I suppose. Yup…I’ll go with that.

Back to my shoes. When I needed to replace my usually beaten-to-a-pulp footwear I’d go and stand in front of the racks hoping that a pair would jump out at me (yes they have jumping shoes too). The type of shoe that has never jumped out at me is the kind I bought a few weeks ago. Whenever I saw this style I used to think ‘oh, old guy shoes’ and passed them over but this time I thought ‘gee, they’re neat’ and bought them. The fact that I thought they were ‘neat’ kind of spells out where I’m going with this.

I bought ‘old guy’ shoes because I’m ringing the doorbell on 70 Sunset Lane. I’m an old guy.

I still don’t put a lot of stock in age although lately it’s been on my mind a little more. The underlying theme of ‘White Wolf Moon’ was a man trying to rekindle his youth on the premise that within his sixty-plus body lived every age from birth until now. I still believe that’s true although some of my teen years have thankfully found a good hiding spot (down by my spleen I think…but I shan’t go looking). It’s all about attitude. ‘You’re as young as you feel’ comes to mind but it’s more than that.

Physically there’s no going back. Too much water under the bridge or, in my case, beer under the belt. Lines of life, scars of experience, and pounds of Papa burgers gift wrap the essence of my being.

Mentally, however, one can take a break and look at life the way one looked at life ‘back then’. It’s not all that difficult but it’s also a bit of an education. Remembering times before computers and zillion channel television packages can be both funny and frightening but with the right outlook you can put things into perspective. Looking at today through the same eyes I had as a twenty-year-old I realize I haven’t really changed but everything around me has. Technology is a long, straight endless highway but life is a traffic circle.

The most damning evidence of my circle? Yup…the shoes.

At twenty I wore moccasins a lot. Leather moccasins laced together with a bow on top.

What goes around….

Mike Grant has two published books: White Wolf Moon and Barking at Yesterday’s Moon. Both available on Amazon.

 

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STOP THE WORLD….

Time to clear the air….
I’m not responding to a lot of facebook posts anymore. Simply because…
I’m tired of conspiracy theorists.
I’m tired of hearing how Canada as we know it is doomed under Trudeau. Let’s get real here. It wouldn’t have mattered who got elected the gloom and doom crowd would have been tossing their uneducated prophecies ad nauseum anyway.
I’m tired of fifteen year old photographs/stories showing up as current fact even though they have been proven to be hoaxes for at least a decade. Check the facts before you post.
I’m tired of the assumption that if I respond negatively to a story then I’m anti-something. Other than Macaulay Culkin and aforementioned conspiracy theorists I don’t dislike anyone. If I choose to not ‘like’ your comments it has nothing to do with your religion, social status, sexual preferences or race. It’s simply because I don’t agree with your comment. If you have a problem with me not falling in line behind you then…like I said, it’s your problem.
I recently ‘unfriended’ someone because of our different views regarding one of his posts. It was regarding recruitment to form a march on the Alberta Legislature to protest the NDP Government. Let me tell you up front I’m a child of the Sixties and I am all for peaceful protest and, if I felt strongly enough about an issue, I would join the sit-in, signs and all. In this case, for me, there was a lot to be wary of. First the photograph of a flag-waving man atop an excavator posed rebelliously against a bright blue sky. Then comes the text containing a list of “I love my:”s…everything from oil sands to farming, guns to freedom. The way I see it trying to encourage a ‘peaceful’ demonstration yet feeling the need to throw ‘guns’ in there is somewhat counter-productive but it is the ‘freedom’ part that really sticks with me. The fact that we have the freedom to gather on the government’s doorstep and protest is a freedom not granted in many countries around this world. You HAVE your freedom and it was that freedom you expressed when you voted that party into office. You also have the freedom to vote them out and if you want to peacefully protest everything they do until you can kick them to the curb then go for it. When I read the original post I went back through the comments from the Bundy camp in Oregon and everything from content to presentation was eerily similar and I stated that in my response. I did receive the expected pro-Bundy style responses but then my comment was deleted. It appears the poster didn’t like being compared to the home grown terrorists on the other side of the border. The original post remained however so I have to assume he supports this type of thing. I don’t support it so I ‘unfriended’ someone for the first time in all the years I have been on facebook.
In the old days (yes I hate those words too but in this case it fits) if anyone managed to get a public forum it was through recognized media and they were required to adhere to certain standards but thanks to the internet anyone can now have their moment in the spotlight. Generally this is a good thing but as this forum also provides a stage for the wack-a-doos it is up to the reader to investigate what you see and read.
A couple of years back a fellow by the name of Bill Schoel posted on a wildlife site regarding the BC government’s policy of aerial-gunning down wolves and how it was a necessity because (according to the writer) a friend of his had seen his dogs torn apart by a pack of wolves in downtown Kamloops, BC. Coincidentally I live in Kamloops and I’m pretty sure I would have heard about this incident. Further investigation revealed that Bill lives in Maryland and continually posts idiotic comments to stir the flames. There are a lot of people like Bill who post under false names or simply anonymously to fill some sort of void in their lives but it’s when you see the responses these posts get you realize how easily unthinking people get wrapped up in stuff like this. If I remember correctly a dozen or so hunters responded that they were ready to camp out in Kamloops to gun down those vermin. A simple search of the local news outlets online would have proven the story false and they wouldn’t have looked like the idiots they most certainly are.
Memes falsely accredited to famous people, altered photographs, misleading headlines, totally laughable conspiracy theories, sponsored comments, and outright fiction is flooding social media and it now becomes the responsibility of the reader to validate everything before accepting anything these days.
If you believe that the government is spraying chemicals in the air to ‘dumb-down’ the public then fine. I think it’s simply that through social media the dumbed-down segment of the public that has always been there now has an unfiltered voice and a built-in audience that, back in the days of responsible journalism, would have remained silent.
Off my soapbox now.
I have been scarce on both this blog and the facebook pages lately due to a few things but mostly I’m working on a third book (which isn’t going as well as the first two) and the finalizing of the second book. I’m on the third read-through of the print-proof of ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ and it should be uploaded in a few days. It is available as an ebook on Amazon.
To those whose blogs I usually follow on a regular basis I apologize for my absence but hopefully I can get back into the rhythm soon…although as Evan Morris says in “Barking at Yesterday’s Moon”:
“Things change and the sooner you realize that life isn’t perfect…that everything isn’t going to magically fall into place when you get all those ducks in a row the better off you’ll be. Every step we take in life has its own trials and tribulations. After we get those sorted out we take that next step and…more wandering ducks.”

 

TIME TRAVEL & TRUTHS

“No…I wouldn’t want to go back. You can’t change just one thing, it’s all intertwined…one thing causes another and so on. Take away that first thing and a whole branch of your life tree could disappear and who knows where I’d have ended up. I probably wouldn’t be sitting here talking with you if I could’ve gone back and changed something.”

So says Danny in a deleted scene from my current manuscript. It is the obvious theory of time travel and actually makes a lot of sense.

Time travel is easy when writing a manuscript but the same theory applies. When I began this story I decided to keep writing as the ideas flowed and I’d go back and organize it later. At one point I was reading what I had written and decided one scene would work better in a later part of the story so I used a bit of fictional time travel and relocated it. It was only during what I hoped would be my final read-through that I realized what I had done.

As this is a sequel to “White Wolf Moon” I have to keep in mind the people that might not have read the original story so all the little “in” references have to be introduced. One of the major references was to the place that all the characters gathered on weekends simply called “The Ranch”. Using internal narrative I had Evan (the main character) reminisce about the pioneer property with an introductory description of the geography and the activities they had experienced back in the 60s. That narrative (and a few other mentions) was in the scene that I had moved. Anyone who hadn’t read “White Wolf Moon” would have had no idea what the characters were talking about in the current manuscript.

Another flaw in the time travel was a new character calling an original character by her first name. Their introduction was also in the scene that I had moved so there was no way he would have known this woman’s name as he hadn’t met her yet. That might work for a psychological horror story but not in mine.

Lack of continuity aside I’m surprised at the number of little things I’m finding that need to be tweaked or totally redone. It tends to make me wonder what kind of head space I was in when I wrote it.

Another topic, still in keeping with the fictional flow of this blog…truth on the internet. If I’m to believe everything I’ve read then Shania Twain has died not once but twice over the past few years; Michelle Obama is really a man; Sandy Hook was a Government plot to outlaw assault-type weapons (no children were harmed apparently, they were just “actors”); Malaysia Flight 370 was hijacked by ISIS and is buried in the sand in Syria awaiting another 911 fiasco; President Obama doesn’t know what a cattle guard is, and of course the re-occurring chestnut…Paul is dead.

What got me started on this was a post to a BC Wolf Hunt petition by a man named Bill Schoel whom I don’t mind mentioning because I apparently embarrassed him into hiding. He claimed that a “friend” of his had his dog killed by a pack of wolves that frequent downtown Kamloops, British Columbia. I’m not sure why he chose to name Kamloops as the setting for this piece of fiction but I’m glad he did. I have lived in the city for many years now and I don’t recall any wolf sightings…bears and cougars yes, but no wolves. I’m pretty sure a wolf pack patrolling downtown would make the news. I took him to task and he withdrew into wherever people like that go but not before he had multiple “likes” and confirming comments about his post. It is those people I question. Do they not check out these comments to ascertain the validity before jumping on the Fool Express? I find it amazing that in this easily accessed information age so many people are so misinformed. Perhaps they’re just lazy and would rather mindlessly buy into the flavor of the day than expend what minimal energy it takes to check the facts. Bill should have googled his ludicrous story prior to writing his comment and he wouldn’t look like an idiot trying to spread something that wasn’t true.

One comment I received was questioning whether I thought I was smarter than the rest of the world. My response was “It has nothing to do with being “smarter” it’s simply using your head and presenting verifiable facts (preferably with links). You don’t have to be a genius…just someone who wants to do a little digging and get it right before you comment.”

Alas I fear it’s easier to look the fool.

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PICKLES & STICKLERS

I’m not sure where the saying “I got myself into a real pickle” came from but it describes the first major stumbling block on my read-through/edit of the manuscript. I haven’t read some parts since I wrote them and I’m quite surprised at the number of things I’m finding that just don’t feel right. As individual pieces they seemed fine but reading them within the context of the overall story they just don’t flow as well as they should. The changes are mostly minor, a word here and a word there and eliminating words repeated in the same paragraph, you know…all those little things you ignore on a first draft. It was relaxing at first and I found myself thinking that this was going to be easier than I had anticipated.

Then came the pickle.

It was a scene of nothing but dialogue between two characters. The first part flowed beautifully and I found myself giggling at lines I didn’t remember writing but then, like an unseen speedbump in the supermarket parking lot, I hit that one line with a jarring thud.

I wanted to get into some old-age philosophy with a character that I’ve always used as comedic and I felt that bringing out his previously unrecognized wisdom was important to the storyline. I realized the problem instantly but correcting it was far from instant. One issue was that I wanted to keep most of his thoughts as they tie in with later dialogue but the bigger problem was in the setup leading up to his words of wisdom. It was something the other character wouldn’t say in casual conversation. The line was forced, obvious, and clearly out of context with the rest of the dialogue.

Over three days I attacked this stickler, trying all my tricks to get past it. I worked on other scenes and came back to that one, getting more frustrated each time. I tried staring at the screen and strumming guitar chords (which always works). I recorded the dialogue on my digital recorder (which usually works). I took a walk around the block and mulled over different angles but that didn’t work either. By the way my block is comparable to three or so regular city blocks so circumnavigating it takes time and about half of it is along riverbank. Watching television, doing laundry, cleaning the basement or taking down the outdoor Christmas lights…it didn’t matter what I was doing that damn scene was the only thing I could think about.

I was working on another scene, this one where Evan (my main character) was sitting on the porch and puffing on his pipe. I included his minor vice because it was something I could identify with. I used to smoke a pipe and had quite a few of them lying around. My son from Alberta is a pipe smoker/collector so last summer I gave him all my old pipes except for three that were special to me, one of them being the first pipe that I bought with my first paycheque back in the early Sixties. I watched him sit across from me on my deck puffing away and remembered how much I enjoyed this activity back then so last July I bought a pouch of tobacco. The fact that I am still only about halfway through that pouch is testament to the number of times I have lit up, the last time being Christmas. Another determining factor was the $35 price tag for a pouch. The previous tobacco I bought was, I believe, about $4.00 (which shows how long ago that was).

Yesterday the sun was shining, the birds were singing, and a fresh new season was in the air. I decided to take my coffee along with a pipeful out to the deck and grind out my dialogue dilemma.

There are some who might say it’s purely psychological and they would probably be right but within ten minutes of going over that scene in my head…it came together. It was so obvious and so minor that I feel embarrassed that I didn’t see it days earlier. The line I was stumbling over wasn’t the only problem…so was the line leading into it. I changed that one and a new segue line naturally followed. Lesson learned? Look at the big picture and don’t get hung up on one element. It all ties together and sometimes what you’re looking at isn’t all there is to see.

I’ve dropped the pickle back in the jar and tightened the top…until next time.

WRITEs

YEAH, I’M SIMPLE…SO WHAT?

“Evan likes the simpler stuff. Cheese is cheddar and coffee is coffee…none of that frothy crap they serve up these days. His idea of continental cuisine is cruising the drive-through in a Lincoln. He has no airs about him whatsoever when he’s on his own time.”

Okay so maybe I’m a bit more like Evan than I care to admit.

The idea for this blog came to me while I was cleaning a couple of my old smoking pipes from the Sixties. A pipe and a beaten pouch of tobacco was standard equipment for my group back then, the significance of which I’m just beginning to realize. There are a lot of memories surrounding those chunks of briar and just holding them brought back some simpler times.

The guys in my group used to have ‘boy time’ where we’d sit on a creaky derelict porch or rickety old steps with some wine or beer and a pipe-full (mostly legal puffinstuff I assure you Arlo). We’d talk about everything and nothing…and we’d laugh a lot. There was no problem that couldn’t be solved if we took the time to talk it through. Things seemed so much more innocent and easy back then but maybe it was just because we didn’t know any better. We respected each other’s opinion and respected each other. Our boy times were often short-lived as the girls in the group would usually crash our little party but it didn’t matter. They were each just one of the guys anyway…except they smelled better.

My grandson just completed a game on his new Playstation4…to the end…finished it! It took him less than a week. I watched some of his play and I couldn’t get by the graphics. It was like watching a video for crying out loud. I had to use the controller to sign him on and I was completely befuddled with all the buttons and toggles and…well you know where I’m going with this. He’s sixty years younger than me and can easily glide through various screens pressing three or four buttons at a time while providing a boisterous running commentary of “What the…” and “Take that sucker”.

Me? I still love my Atari 2600. Okay the graphics leave a lot to be desired but it’s a joystick and one button. There’s an alien space ship coming at me? I line up my cannon and press the red button then watch it explode into a multitude of square pixels and disappear off the edge of the screen. It’s my speed doncha know?

What has this to do with writing?

In the middle of editing some work last night my computer froze then shut down. It saved most of what I’d done to a backup file but not all of it. It’s not that big a deal really but it does remind me of why I still prefer hard copy and pencil. My pencil has never frozen on me…not once. It doesn’t require updates and the only virus it contracts is from an unexpected errant sneeze.

I’m also reminded of how NASA spent millions of dollars to create a pen that would function in zero-gravity while the Russians solved the problem by using, yup, a pencil.WRITEs

This past summer I spent a lot of time on my newly-built deck writing or editing and most of that time was spent clutching a little white golf club pencil. I don’t play golf and I’ve never heard of this golf club but somehow I ended up with their pencil. I suppose I could complicate my life and try to figure out how I obtained this little instrument but really…does it matter?

Life today isn’t simple. In my humble opinion all the stuff we’ve invented over the last few decades to make our daily lives less-complicated has done exactly the opposite. I believe it would serve us all well to occasionally peace out on a back porch with a little baccy and a glass of wine and watch the sunset. To simply appreciate the moment.

You might call that a pipe dream…and you’d be right.

A TALE OF TWO FRIENDS

One of the criticisms I received with White Wolf Moon was my depiction of Evan’s stance on drugs…that his anti-drug comments were invalid and I used him to preach my opinions on the matter. First, Evan does not necessarily speak for me on anything. That being said this is an example of people reading what they want to read and missing what was written. Evan isn’t preaching anti-drug…just that drugs weren’t for him. Yes he is negative about the culture based on his personal observations and that is what readers have keyed on. On various blogs and pages I have made statements in my name about hunting, wolf hunters in particular, and have been taken to task for those comments. It matters not how many times I tell people that I am not anti-hunting or anti-hunter, they read what I write, put their own spin on it then call me some of the most ludicrous and childish names, even threatening me personally. To set the record straight I do oppose trapping, poaching, and trophy hunting but I get angry when I read about a careless, irresponsible hunter who shoots at a deer and misses, sending the bullet across the street where it smashes through a living room window and hits a five-day-old infant in the head (and it’s considered a misdemeanor). That is when I have to speak out…and not all that kindly. http://www.post-gazette.com/local/region/2014/09/25/DA-5-day-old-infant-grazed-by-bullet-in-hunting-accident/stories/201409250337

But back to the point of this blog:

Friend number one…In the mid to late sixties I worked at CJCA Radio in Edmonton, Alberta. I produced commercials (among other things) and recorded musicians whether for their promo tapes or auditions and commercial jingles for local businesses. I was still fairly new at it when someone booked the studio to do a department store jingle. One of the musicians had a reputation for being hard to work with, mean, and demanding. He could play virtually any instrument and claimed he was qualified enough on each of them to have a valid opinion. I learned that his claims were indeed justified as over the next few years I recorded him playing keyboard, drums, violin, all types of guitars, banjo, harmonicas and even pan-pipes. He displayed an expertise with each of them that impresses me to this day.

To make a long story a bit shorter, during the recording session I was reprimanded by said musician (on drums) as I had pointed out he’d made a small beat mistake on the instrumental bridge and we should redo the take. He took me to task and shouted that when we played it back there had damn well better be a mistake…which there was. He called me into the studio and extended his hand. He congratulated me for noticing the error (which probably would have gone unnoticed anyway) then shook my hand again for having the guts to point it out to him. While there’s a lot more to the story the outcome was that we became close friends. He was demanding of everyone (especially of himself) and we battled a lot. Sometimes I won, but not very often. He continually pushed me to strive for something better when it came to production and I’ll always owe him for that. Physically he looked the lifestyle of the sixties rocker. He wore leather, rode a motorcycle, and had the long hair and beard…typical in those days. One big difference…he avoided drugs and refused to work with anyone who was high or drunk. Away from the studio or stage he preferred wine as his vice of choice and does to this day. He’s still got the hair and the motorcycle and he just celebrated his seventieth birthday by climbing some mountain in Hawaii (where he now lives).

He phoned me about four years ago after having no contact for over forty years. All he said was “Hey man, what’s happening?” and we picked up right where we’d left off decades before. During that call we talked about auditions we’d done. He remembered the names of the musicians, the titles of songs we recorded and what instruments were used. I confess I didn’t remember a lot of it until he reminded me.

Friend number two…Around the same time as my phone call another friend touched bases with me. He was also a part of that old recording scene and a few years younger than me. Unlike friend number one he lived the complete lifestyle back then and, as of our reunion, still did. We got together for a drink and I spent what I still consider to be the longest hour of my life listening to the paranoid ramblings of someone I used to know.  It was an uncomfortable barrage of disjointed conversation that culminated in an offer to “do a joint” in the parking lot. I refused…then came the real reason for the reunion. He wanted to borrow some money to get bus fare to Vancouver where he was going to crash for a few weeks with some friends.

Friend number one spent all those years honing and working his craft, retired to Hawaii with a huge bank account and remembers all the good times we had. He is also one of the driving forces behind the Evan Morris and Danny Mann characters in White Wolf Moon.

Friend number two spent all those years doing the same-old same-old. He was one of the peripheral characters in the book and, like Carl Perry, was written out of the story-line far too early.

Yes these are two extreme examples, or at least I’d like to think they are extreme, but I’ve seen this scenario play out so many times over my years that my attitude is much like Evan’s. It’s your life and you can do what you want…just don’t involve me in it.

Hat

 

CYNOSURE

I admit to using the “synonym” feature in Word. It’s a handy little tool that I utilize to substitute a word in a sentence (or replace a word, swap a word, trade a word or interchange a word) that I feel I’ve overused. Usually I can come up with my own different word but that little synonym tool sometimes comes in handy although I will still choose the most common replacement and here’s why.

“The Grey wolf is the cynosure of the wilderness.” is the opening sentence in a blog that I just finished reading. “Cynosure” isn’t a word I use in my regular life and it isn’t one that I would use in anything I wrote. First, it sounds pretentious and second I’m not sure how many people would know what it means (a person or thing that attracts notice, especially because of its brilliance or beauty). It was on a ‘word-of-the-day calendar I once had so I’m familiar with the word but I appreciate that a lot of people might have to google it if I chose to drop “cynosure” into a sentence.

“The elk were deliberately traversing the field below…” This line threw me as well. Do these elk normally “traverse” a field unintentionally thus making this deliberation something unusual? Through context I established that the elk were slowly crossing the field…at least I think that was what the writer was trying to say. Why didn’t he just say it? While “deliberately” is indeed a synonym for “slowly” in this case it changes the meaning of the whole sentence, at least to me. Yes I suppose it is grammatically correct but sometimes you have to re-read what you write the way that a reader might…and this line just felt funny. Perhaps it’s just the way I interpreted it but I think others might read it the same way that I did and that’s not what the writer should want.

I don’t consider myself an expert writer but of all the good comments I’ve received on White Wolf Moon the one that pleases me most is that it’s “an easy read”.

An author should write for his market. My market just wants to escape into someone else’s world for a while…to be entertained and perhaps have a laugh or a cry. They shouldn’t have to work at figuring out what I have to say.

Okay my little rant is done…back to my book. Right now I have Evan traversing the scullery flooring surface en route to the coffee-manufacturing apparatus with the intent of filling a demitasse with his usual ante meridiem beverage.

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