Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Under the Yuck: Something Likeable

What the hell was I thinking?  At late middle age, why did I choose to rappel off of cliffs in the Costa Rican rain forest then boulder climb my way out after splashing around in pools of water, frolicking under waterfalls and finding the perfect foothold as I climbed back up the canyon, one step at a time.  I’m thinking:  damn this is fun!
Let’s forget about the fact that halfway up the canyon I shattered my foot and am now facing 2 surgeries and 6 months of rehab with the hope of having an appendage that looks and acts like a foot when all is said and done.  Let’s forget that I have never experienced more than a bruise on this middle aged body.  Let’s forget that I spent the first half of my life living in fear of well, life and making a mistake.
I finally found me underneath a mountain of yuck just a few years ago.  Deeply buried under fear, loss, hurt, and abandonment I existed as a shell.  Forget trusting anyone, I didn’t even trust myself at that point in time.    My super power was pretending that my spirit and soul held strength and confidence.  What a faker!  This existence, not really a life if you think about it, took a tremendous amount of energy to maintain but I did it for decades.  Some days, I even believed the lie I lived myself.
As part of the internal housecleaning a few years back , I tossed away the fear of new experiences and left behind the need to stay within the confines of my tightly controlled life of teaching, reading and writing.  When I moved the yuck away, I found the ability to laugh and the ability to take risks.  Perhaps I went a bit to the extreme for some of my adventures:  running with the bulls in Pamplona and now rappelling hundreds of feet into the rain forest. But I have so many adventures ahead of me and time is of the essence  as the clock to becoming a member of AARP loudly ticks now.   I finally believe the lie I created and now the lie has evolved into reality.  My soul does hold strength and courage after all.
I am going to have months of recovery waiting me after surgery 1 then surgery 2.  During this time, I will crawl back into my safe life of teaching, reading and writing.  But when I can walk again, I’ll be heading to Machu Picchu.  There are more adventures on my bucket list and what I like about me now, is that  fear has loosened its grip on my soul.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Some different kind of fella: Harry and Bess Truman

Thought you'd enjoy this!
It's one you want your Children and Grandchildren to read.
They won't believe this happened, but it DID.
Harry & Bess
(This seems unreal.)
Harry Truman was a different kind of President. He probably made as many, or more important decisions regarding our nation's history as any of the other 31 Presidents preceding him. However, a measure of his greatness may rest on what he did after he left the White House.

The only asset he had when he died was the house he lived in, which was in Independence Missouri . His wife had inherited the house from her mother and father and other than their years in the White House, they lived their entire lives there.

When he retired from office in 1952 his income was a U.S. Army pension reported to have been $13,507.72 a year. Congress, noting that he was paying for his stamps and personally licking them, granted him an 'allowance' and, later, a retroactive pension of $25,000 per year.

After President Eisenhower was inaugurated, Harry and Bess drove home to Missouri by themselves. There was no Secret Service following them.

When offered corporate positions at large salaries, he declined, stating, "You don't want me. You want the office of the President, and that doesn't belong to me. It belongs to the American people and it's not for sale."

Even later, on May 6, 1971, when Congress was preparing to award him the Medal of Honor on his 87th birthday, he refused to accept it, writing, "I don't consider that I have done anything which should be the reason for any award, Congressional or otherwise."

As president he paid for all of his own travel expenses and food.

Modern politicians have found a new level of success in cashing in on the Presidency, resulting in untold wealth. Today, many in Congress also have found a way to become quite wealthy while enjoying the fruits of their offices. Political offices are now for sale (cf. Illinois ).

Good old Harry Truman was correct when he observed, "My choices in life were either to be a piano player in a whore house or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference!

I say dig him up and clone him!

Enjoy life now -- it has an expiration date!

Submitted by Beth Perry,  Author of The Mark

Monday, February 27, 2012

Indie Retirement

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading a brilliantly composed blog by Michael R. Hicks, (@KreelanWarrior), His blog, entitled: Adjusting to Being a Full-time Author, and posted in four parts on his website,, is about how and why he left his secure full-time government job to become a full-time author. Impressed by his story, I subscribed to his blog and posted a comment, congratulating him on what he had done, and for the courage of his conviction.
Simultaneously I was brutally reminded of the time I made a similar decision. Mine was not to become a full-time author, but to leave a secure career with “Big Oil”, and become an owner and player in “Small Oil.” Most of the fears and concerns expressed by Michael Hicks were similar to my own. Am I really capable of going it alone? Will I be able to support a wife, three boys and a dog? What if I fail? In spite of all of the mental and financial obstacles, I took the plunge. Armed with the fear of failure and the desire to succeed, not necessarily in that order, I managed to stay over the line, all the while running like hell.
Rather than bore the reader with an exhaustive description of what happened next, I’ll simply state that after eighteen years of operating as an owner in “Small Oil”, I sold my company and disappeared into obscurity. Our three boys are now adults and succeeding on their own. Our dog, Sandler, unfortunately passed away ten years ago. My wife, Ann, and I remain in obscurity to this day, spending our summers in Niagara Falls, Canada, and our winters in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
For a more detailed account of how I did what I did, I refer you to my ebook: THE BRIDGE TO CARACAS.  It’s the factional story of my life. If you have half as much fun reading it as I did living it, you’ll be enriched. 
The purpose in writing this piece is to describe what happened after retirement, and how my wife and I continued to live in obscurity for 23 years, without a pension. Retirement is, quite literally, another plunge, a leap of faith loaded with emotional baggage. For me, most of the fears and trepidations accompanying the first plunge were present in this one: Do we have enough money? Will it last? How do we manage it? Will I be bored in retirement? How long will it take for my ego to rear its ugly head? Am I buying my own con by preparing my own budget? Will I regret selling my company?
Tormented by all of the above concerns, (and numerous others), I took the plunge into retirement, unchartered waters. Happily, before the end of the first year it had become obvious that most of my fears were unwarranted. Best of all, I discovered that retirement is fun, so much so that I began to wonder how I ever got anything done when I worked. I began to look at the clock, desperate for more time, and plead with it to slow down. To this day, I don’t know how I managed to find enough time to write.
With respect to money, it took much longer to purge my mind of concerns. Cleverly, I elected to hire money managers to look after our nest-egg. Bad decision. After more than seven years, these managers, (A.K.A. financial engineers), had succeeded in losing more than 20% of our initial capital, while paying themselves well for their efforts. "Enough!” I said, then summarily terminated their services. In addition to transforming myself into an Indie Investor, that move turned out to be one of the best I have ever made.
In the time that has elapsed since that termination, my wife and I have not only lived happily in retirement, we have managed to more that double our initial capital. The happy ending stems from a decision to invest in what I knew best: the oil business, more specifically, crude oil and natural gas production in western Canada. While living on the dividends, we have been delighted to watch the capital grow. My only lament is not to have become an Indie Investor sooner.
My next blog, should anyone be interested, will be to describe the investments I made.

Cheers, Steve Douglass

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Problem of a New Book

I want to start on a new book. I have the plot idea and even a title. The problem is that it is historical fiction and requires some research. I don’t mind doing research – especially as some of it may include travel, which is always fun. In this case I’ll have to go to Nebraska and interview some Winnebago Native Americans. I may also want to go to Carlisle, PA to visit the old Indian school there. Maybe even a bit of time looking at old farms in the Pennsylvania countryside. Yes, that might all be lovely.
BUT! I want to write now. The problem is something like hydraulics. I’m sure there are equally good similes to be found in electronics and computers, but I like hydraulics – something I can dip my feet into. The ideas for the new book have become a torrent so forceful that they keep other writing ideas from entering the river that leads from my brain to my fingers and thence to keyboard and computer. I might tell myself that I need a new short story, a poem, or a blog piece; but I end up thinking about Red and White. Sorry, that’s the title.
The preoccupation has gotten so bad that I even have difficulty making time for marketing. With three novels already published, I should be writing about them: bothering people on Facebook and Linkedin and creating clever 140 character blurbs to tweet. Focusing becomes difficult. “No,” I have to remind myself, “Memoirs From the Asylum isn’t about the injustice of trying to destroy a culture.” Those mental hospitals may have taken away freedom, they may have been sanctuaries for those who fear being free, they may have been filled with strange and at times funny events, but they weren’t there to teach youngsters to be servants instead of free roaming hunters.
Delete another false start.
“Darn, I’d better start a new comment to post on Book Junkies. Something about mental health.”  I know this one won’t go any better. I keep thinking about the visits I have made to the various “reservations” here in Arizona. I wonder the forbearers of the men and women I have met among the Apache and the Navajo. What were their cultures like before they were corralled and their children ripped away to be indoctrinated?
I had the pleasure of meeting one woman from a tribe in California. The treaty between her people and the American government had never been formally ratified. The state had sent the tribal members paperwork to complete the long-suspended process. Her grandmother had shredded the documents and fed them to the fire. “Tell your mother to do the same thing,” she had instructed.
“Why?” they girl had asked.
“Because they want to come and take you away from us,” was the grandmother’s response.
I visit my friend Charles in San Carlos and I see the widespread depression in the community. It is as palpable as the tears that are not shed by these bowed but unbroken Apache. We stop by the community’s center for the elderly. Some of these men and women were sent to a government run boarding school. They do not speak of that time.
I do some reading and learn that the very first experiment in taking Native American children from their parents was with the Apache. A group of Apache had been shipped from the Southwest to Florida, and their children had then been sent off for education – would we perhaps not call it re-education? What mental illness did that process create?
“Back to marketing,” I tell myself and try to kick myself in the rear. It is no good. I cannot escape my preoccupation with those Native American children. “One last thought,” I bargain with myself, “and I’ll get back to work.”
The thought is of the middle and high school in the southeast corner of the Navajo Nation. The U.S. government no longer takes the children away from their families. No, now the government helps to build schools. That school is a beautiful building; it looks like a modern public school should. What nobody mentions is that it is built on contaminated ground. Those teens are daily bombarded with radiation from the Uranium tailings dropped in that area by water from a storage lagoon when its dam had broken and the water had surged from New Mexico across Arizona and into the Colorado River. How will that radioactivity affect the just developing gonads of those Navajo boys? How will it affect the future of their tribe?
No wonder I want to write Red and White, the conscience of my race demands that we tell the stories. I think back to the authors I read as a child. Steinbeck, Dos Pasos, Sinclair. Yes, we writers of serious fiction have a place in the conscience of our society. 

Brief bio
Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil about. Ken will, however, write on until the last gray cell has retreated and there are no longer these strange ideas demanding his feeble efforts. So many poems, stories, novels; and more to come.

Connect with him on Facebook
and on Twitter at  
You can most easily order his books here

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dead Women Don’t Wear Girdles…

I came up with this title…and I love it…I just can’t figure out quite what to do with it…it might help if I’d seen the movie that gave me the inspiration…but…I didn’t…
So…I’m on my own…I keep getting ideas…but they seem morbid…and perhaps insensitive…although…that would never be my intent…I’ll tread lightly…
Okay…since there are no accidents…this popped into my head for a reason…something I need to learn…something I need to say…or…I’ve finally lost that one lone marble that’s been rolling around in my head all these years…
I’m gonna go with something I need to learn…which means it will also get said…
Quit rolling your eyes…guess we know which one you think…geez…
I keep thinking…when I am a corpse…will I ask the undertaker…does this casket make me look fat…do you think you could squeeze me into a smaller size…maybe something in black…
I know…that’s irreverent…I suppose the question I am asking myself…is…am I willing to go to the grave worrying about what other people think of me…
And the answer is…I hope not
I hope I realize that my life is bigger and fuller than that…I hope that I appreciate who I am and what I do…I hope that I realize I am more than someone else’s opinion of me…more than my size…more than my wardrobe…more than my relationships…more than my job…and even more than my writing…I hope I realize that I am all of that…and more…
I hope that I will not squeeze into a symbolic girdle even one day…ever again…
And that when I do get to that undertaker…I will only ask…do you know what an awesome life I had…it was full…it was fun…you may need a bigger casket to fit it all in…maybe something in lime green and flamingo pink…


Friday, February 24, 2012

Show a middle Finger to OSAMAbi

Excerpt from yahoonews India:

Osama bin Laden urged his children to go live peacefully in the West and get a university education his brother-in-law said in an interview published Sunday. Zakaria al-Sadah, the brother of bin Laden's Yemeni fifth wife Amal, told Britain's Sunday Times newspaper that the Saudi-born extremist believed his children "should not follow him down the road to jihad." He told his own children and grandchildren, 'Go to Europe and America and get a good education,'" al-Sadah told the Sunday Times.Al-Sadah said bin Laden told them, "You have to study, live in peace and don't do what I am doing or what I have done."

Bin Laden was killed in a commando raid in May 2011 by US Navy SEALS at a house in the garrison town of Abbottabad, northwest Pakistan, where he had been living for several years.Al-Sadah said that in November he had seen his sister for the first time since she was shot in the knee during the raid, and had since been allowed to have a number of meetings with her in the presence of guards.He said the three wives and nine children who were in the compound -- some are bin Laden's children and others are his grandchildren -- have been held for months in a three-room flat in Islamabad.They are guarded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency. The Sunday Times published what it said was the first photograph to show some of the young children from the compound: two sons and a daughter, and two grandsons and a granddaughter.The children were still traumatized after seeing the raid in which bin Laden died, al-Sadah said."These children have seen their father killed and they need a caring environment, not a prison -- whatever you think of their father and what he has done."

My views: Is this a new way to escape the BIG laden family from the hands of U.S? may be so... Now the Ladens want their children to be safe but don't care about foolish jihadists children who sacrificed their life for Holy JIHAD..Holy crap.. So when will the sense of common sense enter the mind of common people among the Taliban who still think JIHAD is godliness. This statement by Bin Laden gives you a new meaning to "Do as I say: but not as I do." Once again I say Holy Crap!"
                                                   Show a middle Finger to OSAMAbin!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tomato Ketchup in US and German home-made one

                                 What a Ketchup Bottle Tells Us About Life in the U.S.

I've been working on sharpening my observation skills. Today, I took notice of a bottle of ketchup on the table in a restaurant. I was at first attracted to the words, “Plant bottle, 30% made from plastics, 100% recyclable bottle. I had no idea that ketchup had gone green.

The next part that caught my attention was a small square of an abstract drawing. “Ketchup Lovers, Unite! Scan this code or text FRIEND to 5700.” Wow! Marketing is going in some very strange directions these days. Should I care how many people love ketchup? Why? And why would I want them to know that I love ketchup?”  

Which I don't, because the next thing I read were the ingredients. Although written in the same small letters as the other ingredients, my eyes picked out two -- High Fructose Corn Syrup and Corn Syrup (why would ketchup need both, or either?), which my health guru, Dr. Andrew Weil, has been telling me for years NOT to eat for health's sake. I switched long ago to tomato paste when I want a ketchupy taste.

In smaller print at the bottom of the bottle were the words, “from Heinz Seeds.” I hadn't realized that there is such a thing as specific Heinz Seeds. That made me realize how little I know about seeds that our foods are grown from. Guess some company “owns” everything when you look into it.

Lastly, I looked at the bottle itself and realized it was upside down. The lid was on the bottom! No more hitting the bottom of a glass bottle and having it splash all over the plate. How long has ketchup been upside down? Why did it take the company so many years to “improve” how ketchup plopped on a plate? Hmm!  Instead of a message in a bottle, I found messages on the bottle.Suellen Zima, a contributor to from the start. 

And now to my home-made version of tomato ketchup.And I won't make this a recipe exchange, I promise.

I made ketchup for a few years out of our own organically grown tomatoes. It does need  some kind of sugar for it to keep and if you want your hopeful off spring even to taste it, never mind like it. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to without skin the tomatoes first which resulted in strings of peels in the sauce and bottle. With a disgust in their little faces that I had never seen before they pushed it way. (Only surpassed by the occasional caterpillar or bug on organic cauliflower on their plates!)We always had 36 tomato plants in our greenhouse which gives a mighty good ketchup. Normally I would freeze them for later use like many a vegetable. Especially useful for spaghetti sauces. When we emigrated to Ireland, however, we couldn't take the content of our freezers with us. What do you do with dozens of frozen bags of tomatoes? Instead of letting them spoil, I cooked ketchup and bottled it, careful to leave 1/2 inch of olive oil on top in order to preserve it properly. I had over 20 bottles. They made the big move safely--only to be snarled at by the kids.I loved it in spite of seeds and peels and all! Less sweet! Bon appetit! Regarding the Heinz seeds that's news to me too. Unless you find organic seeds somewhere, Monsanto has a firm monopoly on seeds worldwide squeezing every other producer to the wall and going GM on it. GM is another topic. I wrote about it being allowed and prevailing in the industry here whereas in Germany it's forbidden and most European countries,at least it has to be labelled as such.
The Ex Farmer's Wife

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Chronicles Volume 1-Inner conflicts.

Just a quick word to say my new book is out next week.
   The chronicles of Mark Johnson tells the story of an ex-glamour photographer, as he goes back to his roots to find the real passions in photography, rather than just shooting pretties.
   In doing so, he finds himself solving various mysteries as well as fighting both inner demons of his soul and demonic entities.
   Here is a short sample.
The wind in your face
The man sitting with his camera on the cliff top, taking photographs of the birds swooping and diving looked so calm and in his element.
Until the phone rang, and then his calm went, the phone call brought back inside the house; which was not a good start to proceedings for Mark Johnson as he begrudged spending time indoors. After many years working in laboratories and studios trying to make a name for himself, he longed for the air.
“Hello, Phil.”
“Mark, when are you going to do some high profile work again, this damn phone is ringing off the hook for you ?”
Further introduction was not needed, Phil Moore, long time friend was the only person who had Marks’ phone number; since he became a recluse.
“Well you know my philosophy Phil so you can feed them whatever BS you want. I do not do celebrity shoots, models, or work for tabloids. When I take a shot it has to be for real. Not because someone needs to be in the limelight for a while! When I get a real shoot I will come back from obscurity, then and only then Phil !”
“I just don’t get you man! Top of the class in photojournalism, agents calling me for you to shoot their people, you could be out there with the lights on you, making so much more of your talents, than selling the odd article here and there.”
“You hit the nail on the head, when you said photojournalism Phil, I do picture stories, not pretties for the glams and tabloids. That part of my work is what drove me here if you remember, I found it soul destroying and sickeningly shallow.”
“As well maybe Mark, but it is the best paid work, and you are the best, they all want you mate.”
“They can want all they wish my friend, until I get something that can rouse my spirit, I am content as I am. The stories I sell allow me what little pleasures I require, roof over my head, food in the freezer, some music to listen to, and the pleasure of being out here with the elements.”
“That is something else I never got about you, how when you can make such a lot, you are happy with next to nothing Mark?”
“I just never got into the wanting all he trappings of fame, the story is what it is about Phil, I am a photojournalist first and foremost, if the shots don’t tell a part of the story, then I have failed. I know I can make my name, have lots of money and fame, but for me it was never about that, for me it has always been about the shots.”
“I can’t tempt you, not even with a trip to Italy for 3 weeks in the sun, with masses of pretty girls to shoot then.”
“No. You can treble any offer made, I am not interested. Never was, never will be, those that chase that style can keep it. II am doing what I like now. I stuck with that false crowd for four or five years when I had to get started, every night I ached for real pictures and stories to do my art justice.”
“All the years I have known you Mark and you have never changed, through colleges; courses and after, money was never your driving force was it.”
“No, you have that Phil. I would rather struggle along, selling a few stories and being true to who I am, than clicking for magazines just to show how pretty a lady is. IF she is that pretty then let it shine through, so many of them just love themselves and I cannot abide their shallow lives. Out here with the wind and rain watching the birds and animals this is what I am about Phil. If you get an interesting story for me, you can let me know please, as for any offers for celebrity shoots as I say feed them the BS you feel is right Phil.”
“OK Mark got the message my friend.”
As Mark put the phone down, he turned and walked across his ram-shackled old kitchen, to his stove and lit the gas for a pot of his favourite coffee. The wind was picking up and the choppy seas were making the bell in the river clang loudly.
“Be good shooting today,“ Mark thought to himself as he looked out across the bay.
That was always something that mystified his friends. When the sun was out Mark would rarely take a shot. Give him winds, rain and high seas, and he would be out there for hours.
One friend did ask him why once, and Mark replied:
‘If you want the great shots, you have to go chase the weather; can’t get them sat in on windy days !’
The clouds rolling over the hills were low and threatening as the thunder roared and lightning flashed.
Up on the hills Mark thought he saw a face at the old house but he was certain nobody was there. It had lain derelict the last 20 years and nobody had been near it since the mysterious disappearance of the young girl.
Some stories tell of a stranger in the area, the days before she vanished. Others tell of a light in the old house and weird noises like howling.
Here on the coast, tales of strange happenings abound but this was recent times with modern equipment, not olden days with archaic instruments that could not be trusted.
He felt here was a breaking story worthy of his talents; an unsolved mystery for over 20 years, all but forgotten in the area. Ask anybody in the town, you get the same answer a wall of silence.
Alan Ghostman Place

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Inside-Out Manicotti

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pint part-skim ricotta cheese
1 cup shredded low-fat mozzarella cheese
1 egg
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 ounces dry ziti pasta
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large saucepan, heat oil over moderately high heat. Add onion and garlic; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until onion is translucent. Stir in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
In a medium bowl, blend together ricotta, mozzarella, egg, black pepper, and nutmeg.
Cover the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart baking dish with about 1 cup of the tomato sauce. Layer with half of the ziti, half of the cheese mixture, 2 more cups of the tomato sauce, and remaining ziti. Top with remaining cheese mixture and sauce.
Bake in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes, until sauce is bubbly and cheese is melted.
Did you like these recipes? Check out Back to the Table with My Country Kitchen Cookbook by Betty Reed Lynch

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Pain In The Tax Bracket

Tax Time 
She is preparing for tax time
Forms, pencil, and a new Pink Pearl eraser
All lined up
At perfect angles from each other
Yet several degrees from her mind.
Numbers, equations, and receipts,
Crumpled invoices in the back of drawers,
She would pull out her hair
But she needs to preserve the few strands
That are still dark brown naturally.
She opens the booklet
And writes down her address,
Ah yes I am here, she thinks,
I bought this house
I must be able to figure out these numbers by myself.
With a laugh, a sigh, and a hand that feels a bit lighter,
she continues on to the next line
And on to her next thought.
Obstacles are not easy by nature. Nurture yourself and remember you WILL get through the difficult times.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Write Like A Champion

I saw an interesting interview program the other day, quite by accident. I normally don't watch TV, much less news and "personality" shows. I watch NetFlix. Right now I'm hooked on "Downton Abbey", an amazing piece of English television, a genuine visual novel masterpiece. But more about that in the next post. Suffice it to say that if you want to see how writing turns what could be a boring yarn turn into an amazing study of people, character and motivation, watch that show.

The program I watched featured George Clooney, Warren Buffet and Bon Jovi. Quite a mix. All very wealthy, all doing the TV bit to show you around their digs, and very nice digs they were, too. What I noticed was that Warren Buffet had a sign over the door in his office: "Play Like A Champion". That is a copy of the sign which hangs in the Notre Dame locker room. Knute Rockne. The Four Horsemen. All of that glory and tradition and, yes, championship. Success at the highest level.

Okay. Segue to Bon Jovi, who has only sold 350,000,000 records or so and earned a billion dollars doing it. Not bad for a kid from New Jersey, where he still lives. Not the same house, though. He took the TV audience on a little tour, including his recording studio. There on the wall was...

You guessed it. A sign that said "Play Like A Champion".

Maybe these folks are on to something. Clooney didn't have a sign but I think it's safe to say he's made it to the Champion category. If he can act like a champion, if WB can invest like a champion, if Bon Jovi can play like a champion, you and I can write like a champion. Champions, to be grammatically correct. That got me thinking about champions and what makes them so. What do champions do?

• They never quit
• They take all obstacles as challenges to be met and overcome
• They never stop improving their skills
• They never stop studying and learning
• They never think it's "good enough"
• They always believe in their ability
• They see setbacks as an opportunity to get better at what they do
• They listen to people who know more than they do
• They seek coaching and direction
• They give everything they have to their field
• They stay totally focused
• They are generous in victory and gracious in defeat
• They never buy into the idea that it is someone else's fault if they fail
• They always explore new avenues to accomplish their goals

I could find more thoughts about it, but you have your own. It's clear to me that becoming a successful writer means thinking like a champion. So I now have that sign right on my computer. Write Like A Champion.

It's a hell of a challenge.
Alex Lukeman, Author of WHITE JADE and THE LANCE.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Excerpt of: GREENSHIFT

I'm giving you one more chance.

"Unidentified transport vessel, this is Captain David Anlow of the Argo Protector. You have entered forbidden space above an embargoed planet. Disengage your weapons or we will take this as a sign of aggression and release gunships. Do you acknowledge?"

The UTV's silence mimicked their response to the first two hails.

David's gunship crews were standing by for launch. Normally he would simply fire a warning shot across the UTV's bow. The sight of a blue-white plasma ball rapidly filling the viewscreen was enough to force even the most powerfully equipped ships to surrender. And this mid-sized transport vessel facing off with them now only had low grade weaponry that would simply vaporize as it glanced off the Protector's massive shields.

But David couldn't risk a warning shot here without the plasma punching through the atmosphere of Tampa One and hitting the planet. The sharp silhouette of the oblong UTV was black against the green and white haze of Tampa One. He hadn't been on the pristine planet in decades—few had since Sovereign Prollixer and the Quorum of Archivists designated it an eco sanctuary. That meant no new settlements, no harvesting or mining, only tourists who could pay the exorbitant prices that the Embassy-sanctioned outfitters demanded.

"Third hail," Commander Lyra Simpra said, her cinnamon breath reminding David of his unfinished cup of chai from this morning. "Gunships are a go, Captain."

Lyra had never been a patient woman.

His patience wore thin, too. "Launch gunships two and four."


The situation felt wrong to David. He had been captaining the Protector for ten years and had moved through fleet ranks since enlisting as a teenager. In all that time he learned to hone his instincts. Right now they told him there was something he was missing.

To the gunships he instructed, "Close half the distance. Wait for my order to engage." Then so that only his commander could hear, "Lyra, something feels off about this ship."

"Aside from their outdated registration, non-existent transponder codes, and unwillingness to answer us?" the blonde Armadan asked. "Oh, and there's the bit about their weapons being online."

Only Lyra could get away with talking to him like that, and not just because of how they spent their time together off the bridge. He valued her opinion—she never let emotion cloud her judgment, even when it came to him.

"Do you really think it's a coincidence that the day the Embassy sends down the quorum to reconsider the Archenzon embargo, this UTV shows up?" she asked.

"Why would they do this?" David asked. "They had to know they'd be hopelessly outgunned."

"Desperation. To make a statement." Lyra didn’t sound like she cared about motive. Her mood had been irascible since she returned from a meeting at fleet headquarters last week. She'd never told David what that meeting was about, and he never asked because there would always be parts of their relationship they didn't discuss—because their positions as officers wouldn’t allow it.

Considering their conversation before she attended that meeting, David suspected Lyra had requested a transfer. He shouldn't have brought up marriage again.

The comm officer interrupted his thoughts. "They're responding, Sir."

"Argo Protector we have families on board traveling from Tampa Three. We're requesting an emergency landing. Don't fire."

"Convenient," Lyra said.

David agreed. "Why are your weapons online?"

Here is the link to her VTB: 

Friday, February 17, 2012

True Love

Alphabet teeth grin from the text box

Caging voices that pledge love’s promise forever

Keeping me chained to my cell phone

Punching my life out in keypad squares

Best friend to a neon chameleon

Held here in my hand like a comfortable stone

Offering kisses in pics and flicks

Flashing in colors my lifeline to love

Giving to me

Its battery heart and faithful digital soul

c 11/07

Sandy Hartman

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Writer's Life … Pot Holes

Picture this:
You are driving down the highway to share a Sunday picnic with the family. The sun is high in the heavens, the kids aren't fighting, and no one turns off that favorite song you play fifteen times a day. Then from out of nowhere, BAM, the front axle is cracked by a pot hole the depth of the Grand Canyon.
Leaving the fast food joint you look both ways, see that distant puddle, and remembering your cracked axis, drive around it, and SPLAT, that sheet of water on the other side of the puddle covers a pot hole the width of the Indian Ocean.
Translated into your life and hard times as a writer? You finish that first mad draft. The rush makes you feel giddy with excitement. You put her through a quick spell check, do a fast re-read and carry it off to the Critique Group.
The fifth and next to the last draft is finally revised, edited and ready for publication. You click send, and your first-born travels through cyber space to Agent A.
Down the road you travel, one book can use up more of your energy-saving gas than an entire fleet of taxis in New York City.  It devours paper and printer ink, and it occupies copious space in your hard drive, external back up drive, two flash drives, and a CD for good measure.
Your Critique Group was less than enthusiastic the first five times, and by draft number ten, they are secretly wishing you get another flat and miss a meeting.
Agents A, B, and C, don't send a rejection. They remain white noise on the world-wide web. Agents D, E, F, and G send form rejections, probably written and mailed by an intern.
By this time, you have hypothetically, cracked your axle, blown three good tires, bent one rim, scratched a fender and scrapped the underside of the engine and still, CRASH, another pot hole swallows you, your car, the kids and the groceries. It takes a tow truck and the jaws of life to get you to safety.
Wanna give up driving? Think it's time to turn in your license and take the bus?
Do you secretly believe that writers are plagued by an inordinate number of pot holes, pit stops, dead ends and electrical storms that short-circuit their GPS on a dark, lonely highway?
As many New Yorker's have discovered, there is no solution to pot holes. Each winter they open up like the graves in a horror story, or the creaking door on Inner Sanctum.
Each spring the Highway Safety Commission, blocks off funding, and little trucks roll onto the highways and byways and fill in the little suckers with fresh black tar.
No, there is no solution for pot holes in New York or anywhere else.
A solution for your writer's life? STOP.  
Yes, I said stop. Sit down and read what you have written. Read it a loud to yourself, and listen.
Since you can't trust the Mayor of New York, the Highway Safety Commission, or dear old granny … trust you.
When you slow down and learn to trust yourself … amazing things can happen.
Or you could drive into the sunset, ride off a cliff,  and never be seen or heard from again.
How about you? Do you really think there is a conspiracy of nature, and college interns trying to wreck your dreams?