COVER UP…..

….actually the insides are up too…finally! ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ is now available on Amazon as a trade paperback.

It’s been a learning experience but I’ve figured out what NOT to do the next time around. I’ve learned that the most important three words in writing are proof, proof, proof. When I got the initial download I immediately checked for those nagging formatting errors and found quite a few. Pages containing only two words, justified lines with far too much space between the words or blank pages where the ‘page-breaks’ were too close to the bottom of the previous page…fun stuff like that. While going through this process I discovered a few errors not related to the formatting and changed those. The second time through I was looking for those little mistakes and found three, one of which made me shudder. It was the use of “your” instead of “you’re” which is one of those things that drive me nuts, like “their” and “they’re”. Such simple mistakes but such unallowable mistakes. I found nothing on the third proofing but did a fourth anyway. The lesson to me was to do the proofing in a different format than the full page Word document. Switching the text to the format in which it will appear gives a different perspective and it’s surprising what it reveals. While I still have to select a portion of ‘Barking at Yesterday’s Moon’ to use as a preview I consider the final upload to Amazon a bit of an accomplishment.

With this part behind me I’ve returned to a manuscript I worked with for a few months, one I really wasn’t fussy about originally. Perhaps it was the time I spent away from it while putting this one to bed but I’m feeling better about it now. I can see so many possibilities and directions and I’m looking forward to diving back into it.

For now though I’m getting caught up on blogs and facebook…and maybe a little yardwork.

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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.”

 

OF WOLVES AND SUCH….

This blog is not really about wolves but it is a subject in which I consider myself to have above average (although by no means expert) knowledge so it’s easier to make my point. From witnessing my first wolf pack in the wild on our farm in Ontario in the 1950s to having a much more recent encounter with (fenced) wolves at a Christmas Light Celebration at the BC Wildlife Park outside Kamloops, wolves have always played some sort of minor role in my life.

When I was beginning work on the sequel to White Wolf Moon I decided to research this animal so I could present my canine character with more authenticity. It was then I discovered the ugly truth about the internet.

It seems anyone who can type has an opinion these days and that opinion doesn’t have to be based on anything concrete or valid. It’s just an opinion. Having an opinion is fine (everyone should have one or two) but for a reader to blindly accept these opinions without question simply confirms what I feel is one of those things wrong with the world today.

I’m not a follower, nor am I a leader. I feel that comments made by people on both sides of any issue should be checked out but it appears most people don’t want to hear the truth. They just want someone to confirm that what they already believe is the truth. Just tell them what they want to hear and the ‘likes’ will come. One of these anti-wolf pages is currently on the “historic” bandwagon posting unverified newspaper stories and illustrations from days gone by. They claim that these unsubstantiated hackneyed articles from the 1700s complete with woodcuts and etchings are the factual journalism of the times and they prove “that modern wolf science is pure fiction”. By the way through minimal research I discovered that one of their latest “fact” illustrations is from The Red Fairy Book (published1890). No need to tell you what fairy-tale we’re talking about.

We live in an age where credible information is out there but a lot of people have neither the comprehension nor the time or patience to learn what is real and what isn’t. It’s easier for them to take the lazy way out, much preferring to have some narrow-visioned snake-oil salesman with a pocket-full of agendas and videos to sell tell them what to think rather than form their own educated opinion.

A side note: I generally steer away from commenting on American politics because I really don’t understand the workings and, as a Canadian, it really isn’t my place but…

I watched the SOTU address (which reaffirmed why I like Obama) but I just couldn’t take my eyes off John Boehner. Am I the only one that thought he looked like the ‘before’ picture in a Preparation-H ad? With millions of people watching him this man didn’t possess the self-pride to at least appear interested in anything. It’s clear that he and Obama aren’t after-school buddies but there should be at least minimal respect for the office, if not the man. I’m not a fan of our Mr. Harper but I respect the position he holds.

Respect, or the lack of it, is one of the big issues in our world today. Respect for others and respect for oneself seems to have disappeared. We, as a people, show little respect for our environment. Politicians are trying to force through “safe” pipelines on fragile landscapes while, coincidently, the waterways in Yellowstone National Park have just been polluted with 50,000 gallons of crude from a leak. Our BC Government was (perhaps still is) considering opening up our Provincial Parks for oil and gas exploration. Oddly enough the fact that big business, politicians, and money mongers have no respect for anything doesn’t surprise me. It’s the little guy that types “sweet” on his social media page under the story of two RCMP officers being shot in Alberta. What the hell is wrong with these people?

Perhaps this lack of respect is a sign of the times. In the old days before the internet if you chose to call somebody down you’d best not walk past the schoolyard after dark but there’s safety in the anonymity of social media today. You can sound big and tough while living in your parent’s basement smokin’ dope and free from the fear of retribution. Perhaps the lack of respect has been here all along but I don’t think so. I also don’t think it’s as widespread as it appears, at least I hope it isn’t. It’s just that with today’s technology it’s easier for these people to be heard…but that doesn’t mean we have to listen.

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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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“SOCIAL” MEDIA??

I’m working on a satirical interview that features real questions from me and actual responses to the same questions taken from some of the comments on those anti-wolf pages. Over the past year or so I have visited these pages and copied some of the more inane contributions and kept them in a file simply called “Stupid Comments”.

Yesterday I decided to use some of these in what I hope will be an insightful blog post that explores the mindset of this segment of the population. I have been side-tracked however…

I didn’t realize how many I had saved. I started reading through them and it just kept on going, to the point I had to warm my coffee. I also discovered that reading them as a grouping has made me rethink my usual “get a giggle out of it” perspective. What was once a singular uneducated comment suddenly becomes part of an essay exploring a side of the human condition that is, at best, unbelievable. It’s frightening that this many people who have no knowledge of the subject matter blindly use a social media outlet to publicly embarrass themselves through their lack of communication and English skills. It’s also a study into group paranoia. One page posted a story that any fifth-grader with a basic knowledge of wildlife could pick apart but this piece of fiction rallied the troops without any question as to the authenticity of the piece. It was shared everywhere and garnered countless cries from obviously easily manipulated minds that felt the world needed to hear their oft times undecipherable opinions.

I like facebook although I don’t understand “standards” where it’s okay to show videos of wildlife being gutted alive and human torture but a woman breast-feeding is a no-no. There is however value if you choose to seek it out. Old school friends find each other or adopted kids reuniting with birth parents are a couple of examples. I chose these two because they both, in a way, apply to me. I’m now in communication with a junior high school buddy across the country and I was also re-introduced to my son from a previous marriage after forty years. With just one click I ended up with three more grandchildren.

Search almost any topic on facebook and there are pages that will inform or entertain you written by knowledgeable folks in a mature and friendly manner but like everything else in this world there is the other side. These are the people that inhabit the shadowed alleys in the ghettos of the online community. I have the choice to avoid those alleys in real life and I realize that I have the same choice online so suddenly I’m rethinking the interview I mentioned at the outset.

I no longer comment on their pages but when I did I prided myself on being calm, emotionally detached, and providing backup links to everything I said while avoiding the name-calling and useless rhetoric. By writing this ‘interview’ am I not doing what I find childish and deplorable in what they do? Would my posting an overabundance of what boils down to mere gibberish accomplish anything? To some it might provide a laugh but I suspect to most it would be an unnecessary assault of their senses and sensibilities.

Yes…I shall place that pot on the back burner.

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RE-READ? RE-SPEAK? BOB DYLAN?

Dilemmas have big horns.

When White Wolf Moon was released the majority of comments I received were about the dialogue and how realistic it was. I used a lot of off-hand “yeahs”, “uhs”, and “hmmnns” which is a no-no, apparently.  I’ve also been told that I used more than an acceptable number of ellipses “…” and too many contractions…“can’t”, “I’ll” etc..

What’s the dilemma? A year ago when I started to write the second book I was conscious of the rules. They state that I should use only a few, if any, “filler” words in my dialogue. I‘ve started my read-through. The dialogue sounds forced and almost sterile so, against all the ‘rules’, I’m humanizing it a bit more. I guess I’ll know soon enough if this is the right move but I have to feel comfortable with it.

On another note…Super Bowl, in particular the Bob Dylan Chrysler commercial. At the time of this writing there are close to 2,000 comments on a facebook page dedicated to this commercial. Most are critical for his American car company reference (Chrysler is owned by Fiat apparently), many are calling him down for “selling out”, and a few are even playing the old ‘what’s the hidden meaning’ game.

That spot along with the Bud puppy commercial were, to me, the highlights of the whole broadcast. Yes I was pulling for the Seahawks but the Broncs lost that game more than the Hawks won and it became a bit of a bore before the end of the first half.

Dylan

But back to Bob. I’ve been a fan since the beginning and from that beginning he has always built and taken his own road and you have to respect someone that after fifty years is still on that road. I caught him live on his last western tour and will never forget that experience. While I usually resist getting involved in this sort of nonsense this time I had to add a comment to the list:

“My God so Bob Dylan did a friggin’ television commercial…like there aren’t bigger issues in the world. Did he ‘sell out’? Who cares? Most say he sold out when he went electric and that hasn’t stopped him. Bob Dylan is going to do and say what Bob Dylan wants to do and say regardless of what anyone thinks. It’s always been that way and always will. If a few million other people had that kind of conviction, strength, and confidence it might be a better world. It’s just a commercial for crying out loud…not some over-the-top hidden-meaning social statement. All it’s designed to do is to get people talking about Chrysler and guess what???”

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY!!

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WordPress just congratulated me on my first anniversary with this blog. It seems longer than that somehow although I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s that I relate this to the release of “White Wolf Moon” and the process of getting the book into print took much longer than I had expected (it’s the old first-time learning experience thing). It seems like I have been living with that book forever but it too has only been out there for a year.

I remember when Friesen Press first suggested I have a blog. Panic and uncertainty set in but they dragged me backwards, kicking and screaming into this new world. This was the first promotional avenue to be traveled outside of my comfort zone. I’d already set up WWM on facebook but having a few years of experience with my personal page I was at least venturing into familiar territory…this blogging thing was uncharted terrain.

You’d think that after a year I’d have a handle on what I’m doing. I don’t.

Initially this blog was to be a “buy my book” vehicle but you can only say that so many times and in so many ways before it becomes hack ‘n crass. I started venturing “off-topic” and was pleasantly surprised at the positive reaction. A facebook friend (whom I have never met) has a wildlife/photography page and she rarely strays from that topic but she elected to voice an opinion on the current political situation in her country, America. Some people were downright rude with name-calling and the like and many ‘de-friended’ her. How dare she!! This wasn’t what they’d come to expect from her.

Rightly so she stood her ground. This is, after all, HER page and she can do with it whatever she wants.

Here is part of my long-winded comment on her page: “Living in Canada I’m in no position to really comment on the political climate or actions in the U.S. and will never do so but to those who are taking **** to task for the content on HER page…she, like all of us and like life, is more than a singular issue. I love the photography and stories but I will always read her opinions on those other issues. Some of them are admittedly pretty foreign to me but I respect her right and congratulate her on taking such an honest position…so few people do that these days. These ‘drifts’ from the expected content don’t take anything away from the great work she’s doing. I have a blog to promote a book I have written but I will on occasion use the forum to rant about the wolf situation or music, dust bunnies…whatever. It’s my blog and I can do with it what I wish and I have never had a complaint about anything I have written. I know some of my readers skip by those posts that they don’t find of interest and that’s their prerogative…I can’t please everybody all the time.”

Within twenty-four hours she had over 150 comments echoing what I had said.

I’ve tried to analyze what piques most readers interest but other than one (my post on ‘real book people’ that garnered 86 views in one day) most of my blogs seem to be quite balanced as to the number of hits, regardless of the topic. I think this is good?

Whatever…it’s still a learning experience. I’ve said my piece. Now it’s time to move on.

Like the sudden resurgence in downloads of “White Wolf Moon”, this blog anniversary is one of those little things that makes me feel good. The first book has far exceeded my expectations. This raises my spirits as I plow through finishing the second.

If all goes well with a little painting/restoration project I hope to finish up this afternoon, my next blog will also be off-topic. This one will be about thrift-shops and looking beyond the surface.

Having said all that…buy my book!