Summer Vacation, 2013 Edition (part 1)

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OK, now that you have buffed and toned your body into perfect bikini shape (if you’re a woman) or beach Adonis shape (men) (of course you have), it’s time to plan on where to go for that all-important summer vacation.

In the old days, if one wanted to go on vacation, you had to pile everyone into the pick-up and head west like Henry Fonda in “Grapes of Wrath” and just hope you came across someplace nice to stay.  There weren’t any nice places to stay back then because the world was in black and white and color hadn’t been invented, so the best you could do on this vacation was stay at Uncle Merle’s house.  Uncle Merle’s house was out in the country, far from anything interesting, and it had a set of stairs off the back porch that went down to the world’s darkest and smelliest root cellar but it was better than staying at home, so you went.

Now, though, we have all sorts of vacation options.  From trips overseas to countries where—if movies are any indication—you will be kidnapped, to vacations to other countries where—again, trusting the movies—it’s legal to shoot the locals, to staying closer to home and going to one of the many fine amusement parks, zoos or “points of interest”, the modern vacationer is practically unlimited in his choices.

Therefore, entire industries have sprung up with the sole purpose in their kindly little hearts being to make sure you and I have a great time while on vacation.  To this end, they publish magazines, web sites, and even hire people with “accents” to call you during supper time and tell you about the great vacationing opportunities available to you—and you only—for a very (emphasis on “very”) short time.

Growing up, one of the vacation opportunities that my family frequently availed ourselves of was the “free one”.  This is the one where you “win” a “free” trip to somewhere by signing up at the county fair.  “All you have to do” when you get “there” is “tour our facility.”  “Tour our facility” being a euphemism for “Listen to our sales pitch for three hours in which we will convince you that even if you make $3 an hour squeegee-ing windows on a street corner you can afford one of our luxury condos!”  We saw a lot of Texas and New Mexico that way.

Someone must have changed that business model in recent years, though, because the last time my wife and I tried to sign up for one of those things we didn’t make enough money to qualify for the free tour.  Not to worry!  Just as there are other fish in the sea, there are other vacation options.  Maybe not free, but—with some judicious searching—you can find a quality vacation that’ll cost you just a little less than open heart surgery.

I just don’t know what they are because Moore County doesn’t have a fair.

Getting Ready for Summer

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I’m sure we all love how helpful the magazines are at this time of year as they run articles telling us “How to Have the Perfect Beach Body” for this summer.  It’s such a comfort to know that they care that much about us, that they will go out of their way to tell us what we can do to make our summer better.  They didn’t have to, of course, it’s all done from the warmth of their heart(s).

For instance, they are convinced that we want to know how to have a “Smokin’ Hot Bikini Bod In Just 6 Weeks”.  Of course we do.  So we pick up the magazine and read the article and, wow!, it’s all so simple.  Why, I can eat whatever I want, just so long as I “don’t overeat” and do the right exercises.  In case the written instructions on how to do the exercises are a little confusing, they have kindly provided pictures of a model performing the exercises.

And you can tell the exercises work just by looking at the pictures!  Why, just look at that model.  She fits perfectly into her bikini (or, possibly, undersized necktie—it’s hard to tell), so it must mean the exercises and the diet plan work!  They wouldn’t, for instance, be allowed to print an article like this and accompany it with pictures of models who were born looking like that.

Just as we know the models on the clear skin commercials must really use the product because look how clear their skin is!  No way a nice, respectable ad agency went out and found people who had never had a blemish within eight feet of them before.  That just wouldn’t be right!

Now that we’re on the way to fitting as perfectly into our swimwear as those models—some of whom are men who were probably 400 pound couch dwellers before starting on the exercises in the article—it’s time to think about the right swimsuit for you, personally.  You’re probably thinking that a nice, conservative swimsuit that covers your innumerable flaws would be a good idea, but that’s because you haven’t read the article elsewhere in the magazine about self esteem.

No, what you need to do if you’re going to pick out the right swimsuit is look over the swimwear that was recently paraded aroundSao Paulo,Brazil, and the International Swimsuit Show which took place there recently.  Just Google it and—whoops!  The parental filter on your computer won’t let you see those swimsuits, will it?

But that’s OK! because our handy little magazine we started this article with will fill in all the details without resorting to any pictures you couldn’t show off in church (providing you attend one of those wild, California style churches where they occasionally have a giant wedding for an odd number of participants).  The magazine says this year’s swimsuits are “playful”, “flirty” and the wearers “aren’t afraid to show a little skin”.

See, doesn’t that clear it all up for you?  And here you were thinking that the qualities to look for in a swimsuit were “resentful, reserved” and that the wearers should be “ashamed of their own bodies.”  Thank goodness we have the publishing industry to help us out here!

Next week (if I remember): where to go for summer fun!

Interview with author Paul Dorset

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I got a chance to interview Paul Dorset recently, author of several great books (you can find them on Kindle, just follow the links further down this page).  Paul is not only a writer of novels, he is also a great promoter of other independent authors (like me) and a great source of encouragement!  Read the interview, then buy his books!!

1. Give us a synopsis of “Ryann” that’s different from the Amazon description:
Paul: That’s a really tough question as I take my time to carefully write and rewrite all my book descriptions.  How about I give you the words that one of my readers wrote? “Ryann, a novella by Paul Dorset, is a short but nicely complicated story of servitude and capacity for good and evil to co-exist.  I want more of this series since I want to learn what the author has planned for Ryann.  Some violence in this novel is delivered softly by the author and is left to the imagination of the reader as to how it actually plays out.  The tale of the son and father at odds with each other is even more complicated when we learn the family secret. Happily awaiting more from this series.”

2. When you write a book, is it a work of years, are you writing every day, sporadically? (Let us in on how you write.)
Paul: My early books were certainly a work of years! But I’ve got into somewhat of a groove nowadays. My book “thought-to-market process” is around six months. Month one, plot out the book at a very high level (main characters, storyline, world, religions, magics, etc.). I end up with about 200 plot points (that will be converted to manuscript). Months two and three, write the manuscript. Month four, leave the manuscript alone. Don’t touch it at all. Months five and six, edit, get reader feedback, re-edit and plan launch, marketing, covers, description, etc. When I’m writing the manuscript I write around 1,400 words in an hour. Sometimes I write for two or three hours, and I write around 10,000 words a week.

3. Is there a particular passage you’ve written that you’d like to write again—not because you want to change it but because you enjoyed writing it so much you’d like to recapture that moment?
Paul: I find that books get easier to write the further I get into them. By the time I have four chapters left to write, invariably I end up writing it all in one day. So, if I only ever had to write book endings, it would be wonderful!  As for individual passages, I don’t think so.  There are passages I enjoy more than others, but I think that’s the case with any book.

4. You’re known among us independent writers as a voice for independent writers.  How did that come about?
Paul: I’m a big believer in helping people where you can. I don’t think I have anything I really want to hide from others and so instead it follows to my way of thinking that I should be helping others if I can. My only problem is time. There are just too many demands on those few hours I get in each day. And lastly, you flatter me greatly. I am just another Indie Author who wants us all to be the best we can.

5. What is your all-time favorite work of fiction?
Paul: Tough question. One book? It would have to be “Mister God, This Is Anna,” by Fynn. I read it as a teenager and it had a profound impact on me. I’m not saying I agree with everything in it, just that the book has stayed with me all my life. How many books have had that effect on you?

[Sam's answer: "Bendigo Shafter" by Louis L'Amour.  I'll explain why some day!]
6. If you could ask a question of the author of your answer in #5, what would it be (and why)?
Paul: I don’t know if Fynn is their real name, or whether the person is even dead or alive. I’ve never actually thought about asking them a question. The book stands alone to me. It isn’t a book that really needs any other answers. But it was written with a simplicity that captured me as a reader. I’d love to emulate that in some of my works.

7. If someone were making a movie of “Ryann”, who would you cast in the lead role(s)?
Paul: Ha! It’s a book involving young teenagers and I don’t watch enough children’s TV to be able to answer that question. Sorry!

8. Are you working on any new fiction now (what can you tell us about it)?
Paul: I’m working on a lot of projects at the moment. My latest project… And I say that because everything seems to be a project nowadays. I like to have several things on the go at once. My most recently published book was last July, but I’ve been busy since then and expect to have four books published during the next eight months. I’ve just completed two manuscripts that will form the first two books in a four book Sci-Fi series, and I’m just about to start writing the first in a three book YA Fantasy series. The YA Fantasy series is a follow-up to my novella, Ryann, which was published last year.

9. What’s your writing environment like? Music? Silence? Cluttered? Neat?
Paul: Music. Classical or without lyrics. Headphones. Office. No interruptions. I write 90% of my stuff at home, but occasionally if I’m away for a few days will write on my laptop in as near to my preferred environment as possible.

10. Who is the greatest encourager for your writing (and why/how)?
Paul: Me! And that’s not because no one else encourages me, it’s just that, bottom line, I have to want to write. Others enjoy reading what I write, but I primarily write because I want to write the story. It becomes a reader-friendly book after it’s written. Inspiration comes from within and if we don’t have that spark, we shouldn’t be writing. I like to think of other people around me as supporters, rather than encouragers. Unless… Unless I get myself a muse!
Bio
Paul Dorset was born in Poole, Dorset in England but has been living in America since 1995. He has been writing for many years and some of his early works were published in ‘teen advice’ columns. He has also had many technical articles published, mostly in the field of Computing.
Paul currently lives in the Pacific Northwest but has traveled extensively and worked many times with teens and youth groups. It is this background combined with a vivid imagination that has enabled him to weave a tapestry of magic into complete novels. His first epic fantasy series, aimed at young adults, is entitled ‘The Southern Lands’. However, the storyline is more than exciting enough to keep adults turning pages as the story unfolds.
Paul is a father of five who has worked as a computer consultant for more than 30 years. His publications include fantasy novels for ages 12-plus, how-to books for adults, and dark paranormal thrillers for ages 16+. He incorporates his extensive experience in computers – and his insightful perspective on the possibilities therein – in novels that include layers of contemporary intrigue, romance and mystery. You can follow his blog at http://blog.pauldorset.com

Links
Twitter: @jcx27
Facebook: http://facebook.com/pdorset27
Blog: http://blog.pauldorset.com
Website: http://pauldorset.com
A book on Amazon: Ryann

New Blockbuster Coming Soon

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Watch this space for news about my newest novel, coming in June.  This one is longer than most, more detailed, and further out in left field!  I’m not giving you any hints other than to say it’s about one of the prominent side characters in many of my other novels.  We get to finally learn how she became who she is (hint: it’s different than what you think!).

And I just finished writing a new murder mystery, set in the mountains of New Mexico, and starring those wonderful sleuths: Bat & Jody!!

The Rudest Generation

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The year was 1874 and, as you all know, that was when Alexander Graham “Ring-Tone” Bell invented the telephone.  Realizing that people were clamoring for a means to be interrupted by total strangers who wanted them to give to the policeman’s fund while eating supper, Bell had devoted years of his life to inventing “the cotton gin” until he realized that name had already been taken and went with “telephone” instead.

At first, no one could see the point of the telephone as everyone lived next door to anyone they cared about anyway and could just shout out the backdoor if they wanted to talk to them.  Eventually, though, thanks to advances in equipment by Thomas “Tommy” Edison and a marketing push by [insert name of P.R. person here later after you’ve looked it up] the telephone began to catch on.  Soon, people all over the United States and some other countries (like England or Ohio) had telephones right in their houses.  Suddenly, contacting someone far away was no longer a job only for the post office, just pick up the hand unit, tell the operator who you wanted to talk to and bam!  Get their answering machine.

Just kidding.  Answering machines were not invented until much later.  Before the answering machine, if you called a person (either with the help of an operator or, later, through the wonder of the dial phone [so named because it was made of soap]) and they weren’t home, it either just rang and rang or you were put in touch with the most inefficient answer-taking service ever known to man: the teenager.

You: “Leon, will you be sure and tell your mother that the extremely delicate and life-threatening heart surgery on Uncle Morris is TOMORROW at 3 p.m.?”

Teenager:  “Surgery.  Tomorrow.  Uncle Morris. 3 p.m.  Got it.”

You:  “You’ll tell her?”

Teenager:  “Absolutely.  You can count on me.”

You: (at the funeral) “Why weren’t you there at the hospital when Uncle Morris had his surgery?  I’m sure if you had been there he would have found a reason to live and pulled through!”

Parent of teenager:  “What surgery?”

This was all during the Golden Age of Telephones.  Which was followed by the Age of Wars of Long Distance Coverage, which was followed by the age we live in now: The Decline of Western Civilization as Brought About By the Cell Phone.

Let’s say you invite a couple friends over for a little get together and they spend the entire evening whispering to each other, missing large parts of the conversation, then getting mad if you ask them what they’re whispering about.  In a by-gone age (any time before about 10 years ago), such behavior would have been considered rude, boorish and antisocial.

It’s all the teens of today know how to do.  Except they don’t whisper, they text.  Often with people who are in the room with them.  In that by-gone age we would have chucked such rude people out on their ears.  I, for one, think it’s time for a little ear-chucking.

Before Mister Bell, another man (who’s name may or may not have been Henry Morse) invented the telegraph—so named because he liked graphs in math class—and they say the first message he ever sent across the wires was, “What hath God wrought?”

He never got the answer, though, because he was out of minutes.

Fashion Show

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Watch the news regularly (I dare you!) and once in a while you may see a story about a prominent fashion show going on. Usually, the ones that make the news are being held in Paris or New York, but sometimes you‘ll even see one from a little closer to home.

If you are like most rational human beings (and the better part of the dog population) you have watched the video clips from these shows and said to yourself something along the lines of, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

Because what goes on at these “fashion” shows is that a room full of people you would rather not have living next door to you have gathered in semi-darkness to watch young women—and occasionally men—parade down a catwalk in clothing no one in the real world would ever wear outside of a Buck Rogers Fan Celebration.

Women with giant headdresses, capes made out of old newspapers, dresses constructed from things found in a public restroom, this is what is called fashion. As the model struts the catwalk, looking sullen and hostile as if daring you to make fun of her outfit, a guy from Omaha with an affected French accent will be saying something like, “And here we have the latest creation from that inimitable scion of the boardwalk, Yves St. Laurence Von Wallenschtein Abernathy, whose daring use of colors and pharmaceutical supplies have produced yet another breathtaking ensemble of … “

And all the while you’re thinking, “No one outside this show will ever wear that!”

So, would someone please tell me what the purpose of these shows is? There was one in England recently where all the “fashion” on display was capes. Particularly hideous capes, designed to look—as far as I could tell—as if they had been created by sewing Hefty bags to tulle and topping off the monstrosity with a dollop of what we hope was ice cream. Oh, and did I mention that the sullen, angry, emaciated models (but I repeat myself) were ONLY wearing the capes? See, I understood that part. The capes were ugly and the models weren’t much more attractive, so I’m thinking the “designer” knew his only way of making a splash and getting any press was to run the models out there in the nude.

Now, if you ask someone who is in the “biz”, you’ll be told that these far-out designers, the ones who are really on the “cutting edge” and “pushing the boundaries” are throwing items out there that may be derided today but will gradually work their way into every-day wear in the next few years. In other words, we can all look forward to skinny, antagonistic women wearing only capes of refuse in the next few years.

I, for one, am thinking of moving somewhere colder in hopes of avoiding this.

Opening Passage from Forthcoming Book

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I think my life turned a corner when I was sitting in bed one evening, looking at my leg.  I wasn’t looking at the leg in the cast, but at the other one, the one that was—for that moment in time—my “good” leg.

I know some women who are really proud of their legs and other women who are constantly embarrassed by their legs.  I don’t believe I have ever been one or the other.  I never thought I had the prettiest legs around (or the most athletic, or most shapely), but I never thought they were the worst, either.  Physically, I have good qualities and things I’m not thrilled with, but my legs?  If asked—and I don’t think anyone ever has—I would probably have just said, “They’re OK.”

I was never quick enough with a glib comment, but if I were, maybe I would have paraphrased Honest Abe and said something like, “They’re long enough to touch the ground.”  Or maybe I would have declared, “They get me where I’m going.”

Sitting there in my bed, pillows propping me up from behind and more pillows under what up until so recently had been my “good leg” in that it hadn’t been broken in a long time, my mind began to change.  Not just about whether my legs were nice, hot, fat, skinny or ugly, but whether much of what I had held and believed was true.

It started with myself, though.  And while I would like to think that I wasn’t so shallow as to be driven entirely by self image, I know my self image was a part of what was wrong with how I thought.

At that moment in time, I had one leg that was in great shape, but broken.  The other leg was unbroken, but still a little atrophied from when it had been broken.  As I sat there looking at my legs, I realized that the one that appeared to be worse off at the moment might be better off and the one that looked OK actually needed the most work.

As the days went by and I was able to rehabilitate—to force myself to rehabilitate—my focus went entirely to my legs.  I was determined that both legs look good—not in a vain, supermodel way I told myself, but in a  healthy, in-shape way—and in the process I lost focus on pretty much all else in my life.  Still, the idea had crept into my psyche that evening that what appeared right wasn’t necessarily so and, as much effort as I put in to telling myself that truth only applied to my legs, the seed was planted that maybe it described the sum total of me.

To avoid that thought, I threw myself into my work and every workout, every exercise, even what I ate.  I read articles on line and in print about the best nutrition for healing a bone break and for building back the muscles after a period of inactivity.  I learned exercises I could do at my desk while at work, and more I could do in the evenings while watching TV or whatever.  I devoured all the information I could find about the human body and how it heals after trauma …

And ignored pretty much everything I ran across about how the human mind heals after tragedy.  I wasn’t interested in the mind.  The mind, I told myself, was taking care of itself.  It was taking care of itself by looking after the body, by exercising itself with reading and study (about the body, granted), and by putting the trauma of the past behind me.

I told myself I was dealing with the mental and emotional aspect of the tragedy by moving on.  “Moving on” meant to me that I never thought of it and quickly changed the subject if anyone else brought it up.  It was behind me and wasn’t worth worrying about.  The now was what counted, and the future!

The amazing thing about seeds is also the problem with them.  As a little girl I used to be fascinated with the way a tree could tear up a sidewalk.  Here was this wooden thing that you could damage with an axe (or a bike, if you ran into it, while showing off in front of your sister … or boys), that you could cut up with a saw or burn with fire.  And over here you had concrete which didn’t show the least little mark when you crashed your bike into it, that you couldn’t cut with a saw or set fire to.  Yet, over time, that tree which had sprung from a tiny little seed—like an acorn—could destroy the sidewalk.

Once the seed got planted in my mind that everything was not as it seemed, it never stopped growing, expanding, working on me.  And like the tree whose battle with the sidewalk may take a long time before it can be seen, it was a while until the seed in me grew big enough to no longer be ignored.