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Mind Over Matter

On the other hand, 60s TV wasn't so bad...

...at least in retrospect. The other day I was thinking about shows I used to watch as a teenager in the 60s, and thought of The FBI. Every week as theme music swelled, the voice-over guy would intone, “A Quinn Martin Production.”

As I recall, Mr. Martin produced a whole lot of 60’s shows, including two of my faves: The Fugitive (“No, my name ISN’T Kimble-Hank-Kimble, it’s Richard Kimble! I’m a doctor, not a county agent!”)and The Invaders (“Say, what’s wrong with your little finger? Why’s it bent like that?”). Good times… Read More 
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the dangers of TV

Apropos of nothing, my wife and I were watching the local news one night when the main camera at the studio croaked, just as dead as Julius Caesar. It was a tense (for the station), but funny (for the viewers) ninety or so seconds until they got the auxiliary camera powered up. You just never know what's going to happen on live TV.

Which brings me to this: I was a broadcasting major, and wa-a-a-ay back in the day I ran camera for a KET series on Kentucky law enforcement.

So first day of the shoot we had this state trooper captain who looked like Paul Bunyon’s bigger and less humorous brother sitting there, droning on about last year’s highway fatality stats when blam, a fill light exploded, showering him with molten quartz. Thankfully he was wearing his Smokey hat, and so most of the hellish stuff missed his skin (it did burn some deep holes in his uniform, though).

Needless to say, he was Not Amused.

All that to say, I hope my TV appearances--when I get them--go off smoothly. *G* Read More 
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Laika the space dog

Okay, grab a beverage and sit back while I tell you a vignette from the early days of the space program. The time was the late fifties, and the Soviet Union had just scared the pants off the Western world by being the first country to send an artificial satellite into space. The device was called Sputnik, and to quote Tom Wolfe from his fabulous book The Right Stuff, shortly thereafter America expected to see nuclear missles raining down on our heads "like rocks from a highway overpass." That sentiment was only exacerbated a few months later when the Soviets sent up a living creature--a dog named Laika.

Everybody’s seen the TASS news agency picture of Laika strapped into his capsule: noble, serene, ready to be launched into the void for the glory of Mother Russia. But did it ever occur to anyone (at the time, or now), the Russkies had no plan for bringing the frigging dog down? They just wanted the honor of sending the hound up; as for it coming back alive, and joyfully bounding into the waiting arms of little Alexei (or whoever) … meh.

Which leaves us with two unsettling mental pictures: a) two days after launch Laika came down all right, in a hideous fireball somewhere over the steppes, or b) its bones are up there still, silently orbiting.

Now go enjoy the day! *G* Read More 
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"But mom, they only show just a little blood!"

Got to thinking about movies the other day (as is my wont), and the subject of ratings, and their history, floated by. The idea of categorizing films was the late-60s brainchild of one Jack Valenti, then head of the Motion Picture Association of America. It was Jack's plan to come up with a rating system so the studios could begin experimenting with darker and edgier stuff without making families nervous. In other words, so your great-Aunt Susie wouldn't inadvertantly get a case of the vapors if she went to see Open Wide, Buttercup, expecting a movie about flowers, and instead got an eyeful of ... well, YOWZA.

When the system was first birthed the order went “G-M-R-X”, meaning General Audiences, Mature Audiences, Restricted Audiences ("no children under 17 admitted without a parent or adult guardian"), and X, which is... well, YOWZA again. I even remember the radio ads trying to sell the concept to the masses, with a nerdy guy saying “Gimrix? What’s Gimrix?,” to which a smooth-voiced guy would explain it all.

It seemed to work, with the G solidly separating the M (”yes, Junior, you can watch the Disney movie, but not that awful one where everybody gets shot … and no, I’m not taking you to see M*A*S*H! That’s R!!”).

The system was perking along fine, when suddenly one day the MPAA folks switched from M to GP. Why? No one knows (or will admit to it), but the change really muddied the waters. A lot of people thought the acronym stood for General Patronage, and so the following Saturday night when great-Aunt Susie went to see Ramrod, she--you guessed 'er, Chester--again got an attack of the vapors.

The confusion was rampant, and within a year the GP was switched to PG (parental guidance) and then in the early 80s with Red Dawn the PG-13 rating was added. And then several years after that a new rating between R and X was added, NC-17 ("no children under 17 admitted" ... at all, one would hope).

Anyway, now you know. Go forth and bloviate at length about the checkered history of the movie ratings system. Impress your friends! Win prizes! *s* Read More 
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hello? is this thing on? :::tap-tap::: hello ...?

You know, there's a certain freedom in knowing no one is reading your blog. It's a little like you've been unshackled, and can blurt out any freaking thing you please.

I could say, for instance, that I enjoy eating cat food; that it's salty and chewy at the same time, with a piquant aftertaste, kind of like soft cashews. I don't eat cat food, of course (I prefer Purina Monkey Chow), but still I could say that, and who would know?

Or I could state that Manos: the Hands of Fate (yes, it's a real movie; look it up) is the greatest motion picture of all time, making Wuthering Heights or Citizen Kane in comparison look like your next door neighbor's ham-handed vacation videos. Those words simply would float off into the ether, never to be acknowledged.

Think I'm wrong about no one reading this? Prove it, and leave a comment! Tell what YOU would say if nobody was listening!*G* Read More 
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they're here ... and they walk among us ...

Notes from all over--

IDIOT SIGHTING:

We had to have the garage door repaired. The Sears repairman told us that one of our problems was that we did not have a 'large' enough motor on the opener. I thought for a minute, and said that we had the largest one Sears made at that time, a 1/2 horsepower. He shook his head and said, "Lady, you need a 1/4 horsepower." I responded that 1/2 was larger than 1/4. He said, "NO, it's not. Four is larger than two..."

We haven't used Sears repair since.

IDIOT SIGHTING:

My daughter and I went through the McDonald's take-out window and I gave the clerk a $5 bill. Our total was $4.25, so I also handed her a quarter. She said, "You gave me too much money." I said, "Yes I know, but this way you can just give me a dollar bill back." She sighed and went to get the manager who asked me to repeat my request. I did so, and he handed me back the quarter, and said "We're sorry but we cannot do that kind of thing." The clerk then proceeded to give me back $1 and 75 cents in change.

IDIOT SIGHTING:
I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbor call the local township administrative office to request the removal of the DEER CROSSING sign on our road. The reason: "Too many deer are being hit by cars out here! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore."

IDIOT SIGHTING IN FOOD SERVICE:
My daughter went to a local Taco Bell and ordered a taco. She asked the person behind the counter for 'minimal lettuce.' He said he was sorry, but they only had iceberg lettuce.

IDIOT SIGHTING:
I was at the airport, checking in at the gate when an airport employee asked, "Has anyone put anything in your baggage without your knowledge?" To which I replied, "If it was without my knowledge, how would I know?" He smiled knowingly and nodded, "That's why we ask."

IDIOT SIGHTING:

The stop-light on the corner buzzes when it's safe to cross the street. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged co-worker of mine. She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for. I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red. Appalled, she responded, "What on earth are blind people doing driving?

She was a probation officer in Wichita, KS.

IDIOT SIGHTING:

I work with an individual who plugged her power strip back into itself and for the sake of her life, couldn't understand why her system would not turn on.

A deputy with the Dallas County Sheriff's office, no less.

IDIOT SIGHTING:

When my husband and I arrived at an automobile dealership to pick up our car, we were told the keys had been locked in it. We went to the service department and found a mechanic working feverishly to unlock the driver side door. As I watched from the passenger side, I instinctively tried the door handle and discovered that it was unlocked. "Hey," I announced to the technician, "It's open!" His reply, "I know. I already got that side."

This was at the Ford dealership in Canton, MS.

IDIOT SIGHTING:

When I left Hawaii and was transferred to FL, I still had the Hawaiian plates on my car, as my car was shipped from Hawaii . I was parking somewhere (I can't remember) and a guy asked me "Wow, you drove from Hawaii to here?" I looked at him and quickly said, "Yep. I took the Hawaii/San Francisco Bridge." He nodded his head and said, "Cool!"

STAY ALERT! They walk among us... and they vote... and they reproduce... Read More 
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gravy ... glorious gravy

Nothing writing-related this time. Just gravy, that wonderful substance that deserves a food group of its own.

In the eyes of a true Southerner it must be argued that potatoes in any form are really nothing more than a Gravy Transportation Medium (GTM). Any GTM that can hold a copious quantity of said gravy thus is a requirement for a Thanksgiving or Easter repast (or any repast, really).

In my own misspent youth, when the potatoes were gone I was known to slather two pieces of cornpone with turkey gravy, let it sit and soak for a minute, and then eat the pone with a spoon. The things died happy.

In truly dire circumstances, when even the pone had all disappeared, I'd simply upend the gravy boat into my gaping maw and swallow in rapturous gulps (eliciting squeals of laughter from my younger brother and screams of dismay from my mom).

But I digress... Read More 
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comps

Okay, next step in the countdown to August: comps, otherwise known as "comparable titles."

What that means is the distributor for Sheaf House is asking for other apocalyptic thrillers similar in style to Heading Home, if not exact content.

This can get a bit tricky, as creative types tend to feel their work is unique, or at least puts a unique spin on an oft-visited subject. I do; every writer worth their salt does.

But the marketplace truth is more stark: the ones whose job it is to get books onto store shelves want to know going in the competition they're up against. You really can't blame them; they've been tasked to try to get the right books on the right shelves in the right stores with the right readership, with the net result being enough units are moved to make everyone happy.

So what the heck; I did some digging, and gave 'em some comps.

I still think Heading Home is unique, though. Danged if I don't. *G* Read More 
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Chilean earthquake

Just a quick note to remind us all to pray for those folks who endured this latest shaking, as well as the ones in Haiti still recovering. Not to mention the tsunami ...

"May we live in interesting times", indeed.
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time's fun when you're having flies ...

... so said the bullfrog. Hard to believe it's been a month since my last addition here. I hope to do better with that; a countdown fits the bill nicely.

Here's what I mean. As of today, it's six months until my apocalypse-with-a-twist thriller Heading Home is released upon an unsuspecting world (much like Godzilla, or Paris Hilton). As each milestone of the book is hit, I plan to post it here.

Okay, first. The cover is already up for your perusal, both on the homepage of the site and on the "works" page. The designer nailed it, I think. She incorporated the novel's main themes, the consequences, the ticking clock, and the Vietnam backstory, in one picture ... neat trick, that.

And I know I've already said this, but if you're curious about the writing itself just click "works", then the book's title, and you can read the first chapter of it for free (the same goes for all my novels). In this case it's the first two chapters (I wanted to make sure you're good and hooked; generous sod, ain't I? *G*).

Next milestone: as of two weeks ago, the endorser copies have gone out. This is always a bit of a sweaty time, wondering if your peers will like the thing enough to put their names to it. Hope so. We'll see.

Next up (and this will be a few more weeks down the road), hard copies will be going to the review sites (Publisher's Weekly, The Library Journal, a bunch of others). In other words, sweaty palms, part deux.

But as I said, that's a little ways off.

I thank you for making this journey with me. Read More 
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