About Writers, blogging, book promotion

Facebook Street Cafe

My first two weeks:
The humanity cascading down my Facebook page needs filtering, of course. I want to learn from other authors. They get invites. **Purged are the space-wasters – haters, fanatics, scammers and whores may have their story but I am not here to write it. Everyone else is appreciated. Well, I occasionally knock off the loudly ignorant, the maudlin, the chanters of feel-good gibberish, a proselytizer or two, even the emotional yo-yos when they don’t know when to stop. Still, I have over 1400 “Friends.” Some are generous authors happy to share what they know while others would kill your mother for a Popsicle if they were hungry.
But what else should one expect from the crowds on Main Street, Earth?

I am not here to sell books. Happy as I am to see the hits jump on my book’s webpage, I came to see today’s authors and the books they are writing. Posting my book is just flashing my badge.
Most authors seem like myself. They like to write, they like being authors, they don’t sell many books but two out of three keeps them writing. Granted, I’m not friended with James Patterson, Steven King or JK Rowlings but I ‘could’ be chatting up a future Rowlings, King or Patterson. That thought keeps me respectful.

Social media, by its nature, skews the sample towards social people and social themes. There are more women authors on Facebook than men authors. Facebook authors are usually outgoing, happy to share books or thoughts on genres, plots, characters, publishing, marketing or any topic related to life as a writer.
I like them. I learn from them.

It’s a humbling experience. So many people who know more about any topic than do I are happy to set me straight. My reference to the War Powers Act was expanded in a reply from a judge who kindly explained why I was right but …not really on target. My comment in another discussion was labeled a “red herring” by someone who knew.

True, some here have unusual kinks in their DNA helix and always remember that you are talking with faceless strangers even when they put a face to the talk. I received a friend request from an active duty soldier. The photo showed a wholesome young woman in US Army uniform at her desk. Her account page said she was born in NYC, currently living in Damascus, Syria. Right.
Y’gotta love Humans.
**Addendum. Note: Do not use the word “purged” or the phrase “knock off.” My use of those elicited a happily rabid response from a fanatic agreeing on the necessity for “culling the rat fuck bastards” who can “be erased with the push of a button on a suicide vest.”
Apparently, word choice can be critical here.

Writing at my desk with Facebook but a click away is like writing while sitting in a sidewalk cafe where one only has to look up to engage people going by. Talking with people having similar interests is a refreshing break. So if you’re a lover of books, please send me a friend request. I’m in front of Ducky Smith’s SciFi Roundtable cafe. I’ll hold a chair for you.
+++– GD Deckard

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book promotion

Writing DaysZ 8

Ever wonder why billions of dollars have been spent to help Haitians and they still live in three-sided hovels? It’s because the Haitians never got the billions of dollars. And no, their president didn’t siphon it all off. It was mostly kept by the companies, foundations, charities, NGOs and international agencies that provide disaster relief. The people they help are helped at a high cost. That’s some scam, that disaster relief.

Bob Vs the Aliens
To read Writing DaysZ 1-7, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf

The Haiti Scam

+++“There,” said Old Spice. For two days, the Alien had been sitting at a hole in the floor of the rail car working on something attached to the undercarriage. Now, the hole was covered and he was standing.
+++Piper, working the hand pump with Bob, faced forward. She looked past him to the Alien in polite inquiry. Bob glanced over his shoulder. “What?” Neither knew what Spice had been doing.
+++“You can stop pumping now.”
+++“Oh,” Piper smiled at him, “We’re there?”
+++“Where?” Bob looked around at the Alabama countryside, seeing only oak trees, littered fields and an occasional home.
+++“No,” said Spice, looking around with Bob. “We’re going to Colorado. I mean you can stop pumping now. I fixed the batteries.”
+++“Batteries?” Piper and Bob backed away from the hand pump. The rail car picked up speed.
+++“Wow,” Bob sat down and leaned his back on the pump housing. “Great!” He rubbed his arms. “My arms and shoulders are killing me.”
+++“Wimp,” Piper said, although she was smiling and rubbing her own arms. “Thanks, Spice.” He had picked up Lisbeth, the ventriloquist dummy. Piper told him, “See if you can learn how to throw your voice, Spice,” and whispered to Bob, “He needs things to do. He’s been depressed since the other aliens left him here.”
+++“Really,” Bob replied to both.
+++Spice turned one eye on them while turning the other inward. “I found ventriloquism on the Internet. The ‘Net’s slow though, now that power is going out everywhere.”
+++“That thing is designed to survive a nuclear war.”
+++“Look, a park,” Piper pointed ahead.
+++“Could be a golf course,” Bob thought aloud.
+++“It’s a cemetery.” The Alien had the advantage of built-in GPS. “We can spend the night in the Caretaker’s Shack.”
+++Bob looked at Piper. He wasn’t going to admit an unwillingness to sleep among the dead and from her expression, he surmised neither would she. “Fine.” Together, the two slowed the rail car and braked to a stop where a gravel path crossed the tracks. Poppies lined the path leading them to a small cottage. Inside, they found a front reception area lined with chairs and a side room, apparently, a gift shop.
+++“I’ve figured this thing out,” Spice indicated Lisbeth, now sitting on his arm, just as the back door opened and a man came in.
+++“Figured out what?” the man asked. He wore a suit and tie and carried a briefcase.
+++“Me,” Lisbeth smiled at the man. Spice explained, “I’m often misunderstood when I am trying to express myself in human language.” He glanced pointedly at Bob and Piper.
+++Lisbeth nodded. “Poor baby.”
+++“Therefore, meet Lisbeth, my official translator.”
+++Lisbeth offered her hand to the man. He stared at it, then shook his head and turned to Bob and Piper. Several other well dressed men and women were entering and taking seats. “Alien humor,” the man half-laughed. “I’m glad you could make it. This is a very important meeting. I’m Tyrone Kuuhn. You can call me Ty.” He shook their hands and turned to greet Spice but was met instead by Lisbeth’s outstretched hand. “Uh,” he waved at the other people, “We are here to facilitate the Aliens’ outreach to Earth.”
+++“Outreach?” Piper smiled.
+++“How could you possibly know we’d be here?” Bob wanted to know. “Is there a bug on that railcar?”
+++“Not exactly,” Ty said. “But there is a GPS locator on all railroad cars. They are needed for inventory control. So, when the Sheriff of Gay Camellia, Alabama reported a hand car missing right after you three had attended their diversity celebration, those of us who own railroads put this meeting together.”
+++“This is an outreach planning meeting?” Piper sounded interested. “Oooh. What does your group do?”
+++“Disaster relief. Always lots of money to be made there, but this! Well, civilization is collapsing. The potential boggles the mind.”
+++“How do you make money from disasters?” The well dressed people looked at Piper as if she were a child inquiring about sex.
+++“The money’s free,” explained Ty. “We use donations and taxpayer money to restore everything the victims need. Medical services, infrastructure, housing, even government. We do it all.” He smiled, “At a profit, of course.”
+++“Well, while you’re at it, why not improve things for the people?”
+++“Oh. No. That would bring a storm of criticism. Our donations would dry up. People might say we’re profiteering.”
+++“You are,” Bob said.
+++Ty winked but his eyes were cold, “No one thinks about profit as long as we leave things no better than they were.”
+++“So,” Lizbeth folded her arms. “Just what is this ‘outreach’ you have in mind?”
+++“Well,” Ty told her then caught himself and addressed Spice, “Everybody’s losing everything, so we cannot count on donations. We are going to have to raise taxes. That is why we need you.” Ty ignored Lizbeth’s raised eyebrow. “Governments find it is easier to raise taxes when the people feel threatened by an outside enemy. That’s you, my friend.” He smiled and placed a warm hand of friendship on Spice’s arm which Lizbeth promptly bit. “Ow!”
+++“I am not your enemy,” Spice told him.
+++“No, no! Of course not!” Ty glanced at the little bite marks on his hand. “We know that. Don’t we?” He waved at the other people in the room who all nodded assent. “And we don’t want anything to happen to you, do we?” The other people all shook their heads.
+++“If something did happen to us,” Bob’s tone was reasonable, “You’d lose your number one enemy and tax revenue would drop.”
+++“Exactly!” Ty beamed as if, finally, he was getting through. “Look at what happened to defense spending when the Soviet Union collapsed. We had to replace the Military-Industrial Complex with the Foreign Policy-Industrial Complex. Now, we rebuild nations!”
+++“But,” Piper asked Ty, “If people think we’re an enemy won’t we be in danger?”
+++“Not to worry, my good lady.” He handed her a slip of paper. “Log on to there. That website on the dark ‘Net will have threat information. It will alert you to incoming danger. And, it will let you know where to find food, water and shelter along your route to Colorado.”
+++By now, even Piper was suspicious. “How do you know we are headed to Colorado?”
+++“We do have contacts in the government. For some reason, DARPA has been investigating you.”
+++“Stene!” Piper’s hand flew to her mouth.
+++“Yes. That was the contact’s name.”
+++She turned to Bob. “Bob?”
+++“Stene tried to kill us already. Did you know that?”
+++It was impossible to tell from Ty’s face whether he knew or not. “Really! Well, don’t worry. Like I said, we can forewarn you of incoming danger. Once Old Spice downloads that URL I gave Piper, he will receive warnings, alerts, resource locations and other messages as needed.”
+++Piper held out the slip of paper. Lizbeth took it and showed it to Spice who read it with one eye, the other eye turning inward. “OKAY. Got it. Say, speaking of incoming, there’s a missile coming at us now. It’s about 80 seconds away.” Lizbeth did a doubletake at Spice’s face and screamed, “Incoming!” She kicked him furiously. “Get me out of here! Now! Now! Oh, damnit. Go! Go!”
+++Out the door they ran, down the path to jump onto the rail car. Spice jiggled the hand pump and the car lurched forward, picking up speed as the missile whooshed up the flower-lined path to disintegrate the Caretaker’s Cottage and some people in suits and ties and some briefcases.
+++“Faster Spice!” cried Piper. “I don’t want people raining down on me again!” She buried her face against Bob’s shoulder, “No, not again.”
+++“It’s OKAY,” he held her, whispering, “It’s OKAY, Piper.” He caressed her hair. “Ty Kuuhn bolted out the back. The rest, hell, it’s OKAY if some of those people died.”

It is amazing how many activities, rituals and products are credited with accomplishing something they have no effect on. The nostrums and quackery of the medical, diet and belief industries are well documented. But the social and political rain dances continue as if no one recognizes the sham.

 Rain Dancing
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read Writing DaysZ 1-7, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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Research

Beyond the ‘Net

A Chrome search for the phrase, “Glabelhammies trend higher,” on Google returns the notice that, “Your search – Glabelhammies trend higher – did not match any documents.” The same search on Internet Explorer’s Bing returns 15,200,000 results, none of which has anything whatsoever to do with Glabelhammies. Billions of web pages without a single mention of Glabelhammies and Google knows it – that’s impressive. When researching a story element, Chrome & Google do a good job of focusing on the element being researched.

For scenics, nothing beats Google Earth’s ability to show you the scene being described. This is important for writers who haven’t been there and for readers who have. Especially if you want the reader to remain immersed in the story when your character stands somewhere famous and looks around. Millions of book readers have been in Times Square, so, better Google it with Street View before you describe it. Nevertheless, Google Earth will not show where the Glabelhammies trend.

The basic limit to Internet research is exactly what makes it so useful. The ‘Net contains existing knowledge. To go beyond existing knowledge, try good old fashioned primary research. Primary Research means collecting information that does not yet exist. There are three basic approaches.

Observation is the key to seeing real life. Details caught by your eye the way you see things can help your writing show what no other writer has and make your story original.

Explore anything new that pops into your head. Accept your creativity and mentally walk into the unknown to develop an idea.

Construct new story elements. Give the reader something they’ve never read by first researching all the old ways that a part of the story has already been told. (Use the Internet) Then get imaginative.

Of course, we already know all of this. The useful question here is “how.” How do we observe real life, how do we explore creative ideas and how do we construct new story elements?

How do you, yourself, collect information that does not yet exist? Anything you can share in the comments below may help others. I know I benefit by learning from other writers. Thank you!

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About Writers, Research

IDK

OKAY, let’s get the (explanatory) blonde joke out of the way.
“This blonde girl asked me what ‘IDK’ stood for. I said I don’t know. She said, ‘OMG, no one seems to.'”

She was, of course, right about a lot of things. If there were a Medieval map of the Internet, vast areas would be marked “IDK” for voids and “Here There Be Dragons” for misinformation. We don’t know a lot of things.

But don’t blame the Internet. History is riddled with gaps and untruths, eye witnesses get it wrong and experts grind their own axes. We never really knew all the facts. The problem is that now the Internet is widely accepted as the fact-checker. The Encyclopedia Britannica has been replaced by Wikis.

Not that this matters so much to creative writers. We seek truth, not facts. Information changes but truth only varies within the constancies of human behavior. The great themes of literature haven’t changed since Enheduanna wrote about lovers among the reeds along the Euphrates River thousands of years ago. Only the settings change, like the scene in time travel movies where the traveler remains fixed against a background of civilizations changing, falling and rising. Aren’t unchanging human truths what really matter?

We need facts to anchor our fiction. Do our “facts” have to agree with what readers find on the Internet?

I don’t know. I’m a writer. I make stuff up.

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About Writers, blogging

Get Off Y’re Butts and Write!

Writing is not just about recording thoughts. Writing begins with experiences to think about. Here is an example from WWII Sgt. Walter Bernstein, an ordinary man writing about freedom fighters in a Yugoslav village. From YANK Magazine, 1946:

+++Two friends whom the staff had thought were dead showed up. They had been in a concentration camp for three years, and finally escaped and made their way to the Partisans. One of them is a man of 27 and the other is 35, but they look much older. The younger man talked between mouthfuls of food. He ate deliberately, almost shyly, arranging the food carefully with his fork before raising it to his mouth, then chewing it with great thoroughness. The younger man had also been in the notorious Ustachi camp at Jasenovac in Croatia. This is the camp that is known for burning men alive; it’s record is 1,500 in one night.
+++Supper consists of a plateful of string beans with pieces of Vienna sausage. There is also a large can of chowchow (mixed pickles in mustard sauce). The Partisans need chowchow like they need a hole in the head, but they regard it as simply some peculiar American dish and eat it. After supper everyone sits around and sings. The songs come naturally; they are beautiful songs, simple and immediate. There is one song about their rifles, and a song about one of their national heroes killed in battle, and one addressed to Marshall Tito by the girls in which they ask “When will you send the boys home?” and Tito answers “It is not yet time, it is not yet time.”

Thank you Sgt. Bernstein. I hope you survived the war.

Here is another from a well known author, then Pvt. Irwin Shaw, aboard a train in Egypt. Also from Yank Magazine.

+++The train for Palestine pulled out of Cairo station slowly, to the accompaniment of wailing shrieks from the platform peddlers selling lemonade, cold coffee, pornographic literature, grapes, old copies of Life and flat Arab bread.
+++The train was long and crowded, and it had seen better days. It had been standing in the wild Egyptian sun all morning and part of the afternoon, and it had a very interesting smell.
+++It carried Englishmen, Scots, Welshmen, Palestinians, Indians, New Zealanders, South Africans, Australians, Americans, French, Senussi, Bantus, Senegalese; it carried Egyptian civilians, Arab civilians, Palestinian civilians; it carried generals, colonels, lieutenants, sergeants and privates – and it carried bugs. The generals and lieutenants it carried first class. The sergeants it carried second class. The privates it carried third class. The bugs it carried all classes.

I like these paragraphs written during a war fought 70 years ago. The images stick with me. And I could never have written them. Because I cannot share what I have never experienced.

So, in the hope of starting a discussion, do you think you actually have to get out and experience life in order to write well?

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blogging, book promotion

Writing DaysZ 1

Wake at 5:45 AM, look at the woman, awhile, decide to let her sleep, turn on the coffee maker, wash the night away, pour coffee, open the computer and bring up my latest WIP.

Bob vs the Aliens

This story grew out of a running list of things that irritate me. Figured an alien perspective on humans would justify my annoyance.

Annoyance #1, Racial Prejudice

+++It was an otherwise ordinary day when the Aliens landed on Earth. God’s Muslim soldiers murdered unarmed civilians, Christians blackmailed souls, businessmen sold weapons and cornered resources while politicians denied everything as Humankind collectively looked up to see strange beings dangling from little umbrellas. No ships. Just Aliens descending in brightly colored spandex suits. They had coarse black hair that their men wore closely cropped and tightly curled and that on their women hung straight down past the shoulders in braided mop-like strands. If they were men and women. It turned out each had both sex organs and employed them simultaneously during unpredictable but noisy mating seizures. They had slanted eyes, large noses and pale white skin. They were three feet tall and fat. It was later learned that each suffered some physical or mental handicap. They had been genetically altered to represent Earthlings.
+++By chance, Bob Whatt became the first man on the street to be interviewed about the Aliens. A very average looking man even when seen up close, Bob was selected to represent the average man from a crowd of ordinary people watching TVs through Davison’s Department Store window on Peachtree Street. “Tell us your reaction to this historic event, Sir.”
+++“Surprise of course. And shock. Then suspicion.”
+++His reaction surprised and shocked Piper Wellington, interviewer for the European news website, Socialism Revisited. She arched into the offended pose of a news personality confronting social injustice. “How can you be suspicious? Don’t they seem much like us?”
+++“Exactly my point.”
+++A commotion erupted at the window behind them before the astounded Piper could override such a negative view of people and near-people. The TVs had gone off. This was the moment power failed throughout metropolitan Atlanta, an event nearly as significant as the arrival of Aliens but considered ho-hum at the time because the whole world routinely suffered blackouts. The significance of Atlanta only became apparent in the days ahead as the blackout spread and the power never came back on.
+++Bob traveled the lecture circuit speaking at funerals but, because of the interview, he received an invitation the next day to Valdosta, Georgia to speak at the weekly WTF! meeting. Different behaviors and beliefs threatened WTF!’s cloistered view of God’s world as They shared it with Him. Surprised and shocked by the appearance of the Aliens, they were deeply suspicious.
+++“Have you seen them!” Roy Ledbetter, tall, gangly, amiable and easily disturbed, punctuated by stabbing his ice cream cone at Bob.
+++“Nope,” Bob admitted. “You?” They were sitting in White’s Only Ice Cream Shop, Serving 34 Kinds Of Vanilla.
+++“I’ve seen them on TV! They’re ugly as sin!”
+++“Ever notice sinful women can be beautiful?”
+++“What?”
+++“Just saying, Roy, don’t believe everything you see on TV. If beautiful can be sinful, maybe ugly can be good.”
+++Roy stared at the Confederate flag on the wall behind Bob until certainty returned to his face. “You sure got a way with words!” He stood and nodded appreciatively. “See you tonight!” He went out the door hardly noticing an Alien held it open for him. Probably every town had one by now. The Alien waddled over to Bob’s table and wafted its armpits at him.
+++All Bob could think of was, “Old Spice?”
+++Obviously pleased, the Alien pulled out a chair and sat down. “You may call me Old Spice. I greet you,” he sniffed, “Rubber Tire In Sun.”
+++Bob waved the waitress over. “Give Spice here whatever it wants. I’ve got to go to- “
+++“Take me with you,” Spice interrupted. The round face smiled like a man-in-the-moon cartoon.
+++“I am going to the restroom.” The Alien looked uncomprehending. Or normal. “We humans do that in private.”
+++“Oh.” The round face elongated to a clown’s frown.
+++There is something disconcerting about a face that expressive, Bob thought. When he returned, he sat across the table from a stern visage that made him think of Winston Churchill.
+++“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary,” Spice quoted. “It fulfills the same function as pain. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” When Bob did not respond, he added, “Well, what do you think?”
+++“You sound like a politician.”
+++“But, do you agree?”
+++I’ll let you know after I know what you want.”
+++Exasperated, the Alien slammed its double dip ice cream cone on the table with predictable results.
+++“Your temper just cost you two dips,” Bob smiled at the obvious. “What do you want?”
+++“I want to go with you.”
+++“The restrooms are behind the bar,” he pointed.
+++“No! We …Aliens do not use restrooms.”
+++“Remind me not to accept any overnight invitations.”
+++“What I mean,” Spice dipped a stumpy digit into his ice cream and licked it appreciatively, “Is that I want to go to the meeting.”
+++WTF!? You Want to go to a WTF! meeting? In this town?”
+++“As your guest.”
+++“Those people hate you.”
+++“They do not know me.”
+++“That’s why they hate you.”
+++Spice’s left eye rotated inward while the right eye glared accusingly at Bob. “Well, that does fit our profile of humans. Is it racial prejudice?”
+++“Yes,” Bob laughed. “And please keep both eyes pointing in the same direction when you talk to people. You look like an idiot.”
+++Spice “Hmm’ed.” The inward eye seemed to be making a mental note. “Why an idiot?”
+++“Sorry, more human prejudice. I just said you look funny and stupid by comparing you to someone who is. I wouldn’t say that of course, if I were face to face with a real idiot.”
+++“Because they wouldn’t understand you,” Spice nodded understandingly.
+++“No. Because I would.”
+++Spice’s right eye spun inward to join the left one for a disconcerting moment, then both eyes popped forward to look knowledgeably at Bob. “According to Braincrib Notes, humans fear people who are different. That is why they are prejudiced against them. They may even hate them, until they get to know them.”
+++“No. WTF! hates people different from themselves even after they know them. It’s part of their own identity.” Bob shook his head in disbelief. “You guys have a lot to learn.”
+++“Good. Then you understand why I must go with you.”

At 7:20 AM the woman, still in her pajamas, kisses me on the head. The morning smells of bacon with breakfast. PBS radio is pointing out that we don’t know what Trump’s policies are and is explaining how calamitous those policies will be. I reach for my list. There, right below taxpayer funded opinions, is argumentum ad ignorantiam, arguing from ignorance. People who argue that because we don’t know something, whatever they say about it must be true, truly annoy me.

Annoyance #2, Argumentum ad Ignorantiam
… to be continued
(Follow Writing DaysZ to read Bob Vs The Aliens as it is being written. To read the current draft, go to ROFLtimes.com/BvA.pdf)

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