Monday, April 29, 2013

No More Long Goodbyes...at work anyway

Cover art from Bob Dylan's new release, Tempest.


By K.D. Norris

The lifestyle of a writer in general and a journalist in specific makes one a little of a transient.

In my career as a journalist, I have written for newspapers from California to Oregon to Pennsylvania to Massachusetts and Vermont, and now in Michigan (where technically I write for an online publication). Sometimes the media moved me; sometimes I moved and found the new media.

I have often written columns, personal reflections on the news of the world and life at home. Early on, especially in Oregon, they were often of a very personal nature; time and experience have taught me to keep my personal life a little more guarded. But I still think I often make a connection with an audience through the columns, so I continue to write them. (I guess that is what I am doing now, with this blog. Just in a more modern sense.)

When I first left one paper for another, I used to write long goodbyes. Not so much anymore, as evidenced by my final attempt at connecting with my arts and entertainment audience in Bennington, Vermont, the week TJ and I and Rastus left to come to Grand Rapids. In fact, it doesn’t even look like a goodbye, but just another A&E column on a subject I am interested in.

(For those of you who read this October 2012 review/column the first time, or for those who dislike Bob Dylan, just skip to the end to get the epilogue. Otherwise, please read on.)
_ _ _

Rollin’ on with Dylan

“Shine your light, move it on, you burn so bright, roll on John ... roll through the rain and snow; Take the right-hand road and go ...”

From “Roll on John,” by Bob Dylan

My favorite, mostly true, story of Bob Dylan is one about his preparing for his 1979 recording “Slow Train Coming” and meeting up with guitarist Mark Knopfler, whose Dire Straits band had just hit the big time. It seems that Dylan goes up to Knopfler after an L.A. gig — or a better story is that he calls him up in London and Knopfler does not believe it is really Dylan on the phone. Anyway, Dylan invites Knopfler to come and join him; the hot U.K. import is a little hesitant to “play back-up,” but he knows that while Dylan can be sporadic in his artistic quality, when he is “on,” he makes classics. “Slow Train Coming” is a classic, and one of the reasons is the guitar work of the Dire Strait.

On Dylan’s newest, the just released “Tempest,” Dylan invited David Hidalgo of Los Lobos — one of my favorite bands — to join him. We can only guess a similar discussion went on inside Hildalgo’s head as went on in Knopfler’s. And while “Tempest” is not a “classic” in Dylan’s long and sometimes glorious musical catalogue, it is a fine recording and Hidalgo’s Los Lobos Cool sound, along with Donnie Herron’s similar twang, is a large part why. (There is great work by Herron on steel guitar and violin, and Hidalgo on Spanish guitar, accordion and violin.) Of course, any Dylan recording lives and dies on the strength of his lyrics and songwriting, and his partnership with the producer — in this case Scott Litt of R.E.M. fame. OK, technically, the album is produced by “Jack Frost,” who is Dylan himself, and Litt is billed as the engineer. Whatever.

As for the album, it is Dylan’s first recording of new music in five years and, coming on the heels of the absolutely atrocious 2009 recording of Christmas songs on “Christmas in the Heart,” it is good to hear him back in the groove.

The first single release from the recording, “Tempest” begins with “Duquesne Whistle,” a lively, if slightly dark, tune that not only tells us where Dylan’s songwriting head is at, but also tells us where his voice is at, at 71 — he sounds like Tom Waits’ gravel with swing. As far as his songwriting is concerned, he is all about the storytelling this time out.

“Scarlet Town” may be the best track; it is Ol’ Bob just telling his ol’ stories. “Early Roman Kings” is also very good; classic blues with Dylan’s slightly strange bent. “Tin Angel” is also old-school Dylan; a little more dark than sarcastic maybe, but still old school.

And on the title track, “Tempest,” a rolling, epic story song about the sinking of the Titanic, he creates an image of the disaster, and memorable lines, that I will remember long after I forget the blockbuster film and pleasure of seeing Leonardo DiCaprio turning blue in the water.

The song on the recording getting the most notice, however, is “Roll on John,” a tender ode to John Lennon. But when you listen to it, you have to wonder if Dylan is channeling his own mortality through the life and tragic death of Lennon. Does Dylan wonder, down deep, why he was given more good years and Lennon was not? Who’s to know? Who’s to question?

Just listen and Roll on Bob.

***

Speaking of “rolling on,” this will be my last column as Arts and Entertainment Editor of the Bennington Banner, and I will be leaving the job next week as my wife and I roll on to a new opportunity in Michigan.

As I leave, I want to thank you for letting me talk about some of the things I love: Springsteen, modern dance, “modern” music, unusual new art, and interesting people. Most of all, I want to say how much I enjoyed my two years and how I hope I leave the local and regional art scene a little more accessible to the community.

_ _ _

Over the 30-odd years I have written columns, the truest thing I learned about making a connection with the community, through the media, is to not make yourself more important that what you are talking about. People read you mostly because they are interested in your subject matter, maybe your writing style, but only my mother reads whatever I write simply because it is me writing it.
I learned that there should be no more long goodbyes, at work anyway. My personal goodbyes ... I never really say goodbye, I just say see you later and roll on.
For more blogs on K.D.’s move to Michigan, see mostlytruestories.com



Thursday, April 25, 2013

There is hope

Simply because it snowed on me again today- I thought this was a good reminder that there is still hope we may yet see spring. okay, maybe the last one wasn't so good but...

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Random Thoughts from Carissa

I flipped through the morning paper and happened to glance at the best sellers list- not something I normally do. And then I had to cheer- a self published author made the top 15. Yay Jasinda Wilder! (Falling Into You)Anyone who makes the top 100 I will cheer for. This business is hard enough with a mainstream publisher but to make it on your own...wow. That means she has done a promotion job and then some. On to other things. The week has been a series of ups and downs and somewhere in the middle.The bombings held everyone's attention, mainly because the media was addicted and they dragged us to the trainwreck and dared us to turn away. Then Texas had a disaster that anyone ever connected to a farm, knows all too well. Grain silos, hay that spontaneously combusts, fertilizer...yesterday was the 18th anniversary of the Ok. City bombing,that taught many what fertilizer- ammonium nitrate- can do. The recent explosion rocked a small town, they lost friends, everyone was affected in some way and each of these incidents have spawned their own characters. The iconic image of the fireman carrying little Bailey, the first responders raising the flag at ground zero, the volunteers that ran to danger to help what in a sense was a neighbor, the man who had lost his sons and was handing out US flags at the marathon and then ran along side a wheelchair rushing a young man who had lost his legs- holding on to the artery of one damaged limb...characters. There are things in everyone of these people that could make a great hero for a story. However, that leads to another dilema. How and when do you use this? I used to make fun of my ex's timing, he wrote not one, but 3 scripts/manuscripts and no sooner were they in the mail when the basic premise was advertised along with a release or premier date...and then (karma hit)I had a similar experience. I write thrillers when I'm really stressed. I can kill what bugs me...legally. That's a good thing, I don't go to jail and it makes for a good creepy/tense storyline. I had an idea for one, that sort blended with a love story so I scribbled down a few "flash scenes" and then put it away--only to have something horrific and very similar happen in life. I've sent the now completed story off to a couple of people I refer to as my crickets. They are the voices of a conscious that has wrinkles when it comes to writing. One I've been friends with since first grade and the other is Thelma to my Louise. Whether or not I submit the story, will depend on what they say. My personal good news is that we made an offer on a house, its a short sale, which is misnamed- nothing about this is short, and I had no less than twenty people ask when Beastly was coming out. They got the update,and it has them chomping at the bit and left me feeling pretty good. So, like the weather, just some random thoughts to eat up part of your afternoon. j

Friday, April 19, 2013

First time around, Tell Don't Show

I avoid writing like no one else I know. I love reading books on how to be a better writer, and I find more books to read about how to be a better writer. I love learning and I love research, which is great and useful, but it's also a very convenient avoidance strategy.

Finally I admit to myself that once again, I'm avoiding, and I beat myself up for it. Why can't you just sit and write? 

So lately, I've tried a new strategy. Instead of finding a new avoidance activity, I'm "tricking" myself into writing.

Normally when I discipline myself to sit and face the blinking cursor, I painfully write a couple pages of a story that's good quality. Not perfect, but it captures almost everything needed in that scene. It's the actual story. Not an outline or notes or fragments. But I find that way really hard. I've also tried outlines and once I'm done, I'm bored with the story and have no interest in writing it.

So the other weekend, I decided to tell myself the story that's been twirling in my mind. It's not THE story- the one the reader would see. It's not an outline of organized scenes and its components. I start at the beginning and I write fragments, visuals, bits of dialogue that come to mind, and instead of writing fully from the left to right,

I write like this.
In short fragments
That scroll down the page.
Which allows for my stream of thoughts
That aren't organized in book format yet.
Thoughts pop up as images, impressions, sounds, and dialogue.
They don't arrive neatly packaged as a book
So I write them as they come.

I'm Telling myself what the story is. This happens, then that.

Woman gets off the train
Frigid air
Boy shows her a peak of his toad in pocket
Boy in dirty overalls

I'm also sort of outlining as I go, but it's not rigid. It's fluid and flexible. When I come back to it, I rearrange or delete, although I mainly try to move forward at the pace my mind is going, as it flits, usually too fast for my fingertips. It's almost like the movie trailer. I know that I'm missing scenes and words as I go, but I figure I can always go back to fill those parts in.

By now it's been drilled in every writer's mind that they need to "show" not "tell" their story, and I agree- but only in the final product, the story that's for the reader's eyes. In the first or second draft or as the story is morphing, "telling" the story and "telling" it to myself rather than to the readers, is much easier and it gets me writing. It's also more exciting to first discover the story for myself than trying to write for an invisible audience.

I don't need to "show" the story to myself- that part is already in my mind, and some of that "showing" will manifest on its own if I allow my mind some flexibility. But I do have to get my stream of random unorganized thoughts on paper- even if it's not fully organized on paper the first time around.

Some "showing" is important in the first draft, but it's too much pressure to always be "showing" in the first draft. Sometimes in the beginning stages, all I know is that the "woman got off the train." Why struggle through "showing" everything about that scene when my mind is ready to "show" a fragment of the next scene that's in the barn?

I'm not sure what my next step will be. How or when I'll write the story that's meant for the reader. The skeleton will be there, but how I go about filling in the muscle, heart, and smile, is still a work in progress for me.

Feel free to visit my blog to learn more about writer's block and other insights into the world of writing: Lynn Doezema

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

To The Boston Marathon Bombers




Hello Everyone! I hope all is well with you. I’m writing this blog post in a restaurant because I’m waiting to get my car fixed. Boo! Waiting for repairs can be a time waster. However, today it’s working out great because I get to write this post for all of you. I’m killing two birds with one stone. I love it when I can do that! It makes me feel so…organized and efficient.  Now, on to my topic.

Yesterday as I was cooking dinner for my family, I turned on the TV to get the horrific news that there were two explosions at the Boston Marathon. I was blown away by this! Why would anyone want to do something like that during the Boston Marathon?

According to reports they don’t have a person of interest in custody and no arrests have been made. The Boston Police Department has asked for everyone’s patience while they process the crime scene.

Is this a terrorist act? And if it is, why set off an explosion during the Boston Marathon? What possible political statement can be made from this?

These questions course through my brain as I write this post without any answers coming to the surface. I finally draw two conclusions; one, it is a terrorist act and the organization behind this is sending the message, “we can get you anytime, anywhere.” Or two, this is a form of domestic terrorism.

In either case, I am appalled by this event as I’m sure many Americans are. There are many problems that we as a nation are facing, but even so, we are a great nation. We’ve taken enormous strides to better ourselves and improve our way of life. Why else would people leave their own countries and flock here?

As I ponder this situation, I wonder why these terrorists are even here. I know some of them have come to do damage, but why waste your time?  Do they really believe their actions will change anything? If they hate this country so much why don’t they go back to where they came from? And if these malcontents were born in the US and are unhappy here… leave. These seem like very straight forward and simple solutions. I’m wondering why these terrorists can’t figure it out.

After all, we as a nation have better things to do than clean up the messes they’ve made. We’ve got problems to solve. 

Longer is Better


Now, I know what you were thinking when you read the title. After all, we read romance, which is why I chose the title I did, to hook you.
But this post is about security. Specifically, passwords. I know some of you have been hacked recently, and there's nothing more aggravating than spending a day changing every flipping password on every flipping site you’ve ever visited.
So, here’s a primer, borrowed heavily culled from several sites that know a little bit about keeping your password from getting into the wrong hands.  It has little to do with writing, but a lot to do with your peace of mind.
Changing your password every 90 days per company policy isn’t effective.  Passwords can be cracked within minutes, if not seconds.  The only thing changing your password will do is add more time to the day after you change it when you have to call IT and the code is corrupted and they end up bringing down your entire email account and rebuilding it from scratch (can anyone tell how I spent my morning?)
Now that I have that off my chest, here are several ways to create a secure password:
·      No dictionary words, proper nouns, or foreign words.  Or words spelled backward, or substituting symbols for letters, i.e. P@$$w0rd$.  The password cracking software is onto you, you clever devil.
·      Don’t use the same password for all accounts.  I’m guilty.  You’re guilty.  We’re all guilty.  Take the time now to change them, or pay later.
·      No personal information, like the name of your children or pet, or any dates, addresses or any numbers that could be found on your Facebook account or a piece of mail.
But, Cheryl, what can I use? 
·      Think pass phrases.  Abbreviated.  “Every good boy does fine in music class” becomes “Egbdf1mc”.  Notice how I changed the “I” to “1”?  Or “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” becomes “Tr1Sfm0tp”.  Choose a phrase that has meaning to you and relates to the website.
·      Longer is better.  Six to nine characters are recommended, but go longer if your operating system allows it (some are limited to eight characters).  How about, "pleasestopyourdogfrombarkingyousickSOB?"  or psydfbyssob? or "p$ydfby$$0b?"  (Can you tell my neighbor has no sense of responsibility?).
·      Mix up your characters.  Upper case, lower case, numbers, symbols and foreign characters if you know how to use them. (foreign characters, I mean.  I assume you can navigate your way through upper and lower case, symbols and numbers).
If you have trouble remembering, take advantage of a password administrative program.  I use a SecureSafe app, but there are others, some free.  Just don’t forget the password to your password protection program.
Avoid the pain.  Stay safe.  Don't spit into the wind, and when visiting Rome, follow the nuns.
Cheryl


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Game Whisperer, Kickstarter, and Authors



What does a gaming aficionado and Kickstarter have to do with writing and publishing? Well, a lot more than you may realize.  For starters, as I have learned so far, getting a game to market can be even harder than getting a book to market. First you have to create a mock-up, then if going the traditional routes locate a game publisher to get it published, OR if going the independent route you need to locate investors, gather the funding to get the games produced, find a company to do the production runs, and market the game. (Sound familiar?)

My friend Richard Bliss started his podcast called Funding the Dream back in 2011, with help from Kickstarter as a large component of his website The Game Whisperer. Gaming – especially board games – and marketing are in his blood. He is the most brilliant marketer I have ever met and put nine of his unique marketing concepts into a self-published book titled StealingThe Show

Now, you may be thinking I'm trying to sell a book here, but I'm not. Really, I'm not. It's just that Richard has an amazing amount of information tucked away in his podcasts that I found very insightful for writers. Specifically podcasts #38, #41, and #42 have all sorts of tidbits about what it's like to use Kickstarter. The amount of work may surprise you, as well as the legal considerations, there's an interesting perspective on the new world of book publishing, and overlooked issues the can cause the IRS to deliver a nasty surprise to your doorstep if you don't tread carefully. 

The best part of all of this is that his podcast is free. So take it for a spin, learn some new tricks and hear about some new games. And if we're really lucky, maybe GRRWG can get him to do one of his Crowdfunding Bootcamps for us so we can all learn of a way to use Kickstarter and social media to get our next projects into the hands of our readers.

You can find the podcasts here:


Sunday, April 14, 2013

What happens at GRRWG Meetings...

by Joselyn Vaughn

So I was really lazy this month about coming up with a blog topic and then it dawned on me. I could do a cheater blog and just post pictures from our April meeting. If you haven't been, they're a lot of fun and I wish I could fit more into my schedule.

It's amazing to be in a room full of authors, especially when they are sharing member news. Each person shares exciting news about upcoming releases or what they've been working on. It's very encouraging to see how industrious everyone has been in the last month.

If that wasn't enough to entice you to come, there's good food.
There's a little something for everyone. Sandwiches, salads, 

and enchiladas!

I neglected to take any pictures of the desserts, but there was a mudpie that looked absolutely divine. So I'll leave that to your imagination.

Besides that you get to learn about writing. Yesterday, we heard about archetypes and how they can form characters. It certainly helped me think about what it would take for a character to act outside of their normal behaviors.

Hope you can join us for the next meeting on May 11.

I have a new book coming on May 21 called Climbing Heartbreak HillYou can also purchase my other books at AmazonBarnes and NobleAll Romance eBooksBookstrand and Smashwords

Friday, April 5, 2013

What do you think of a Facebook Phone?

By W. S. Gager
I'm typing this blog on my phone while going through the hills of West Virginia. Isn't technology great? Was reading that Facebook is coming out with their own phone to increase ad selling and connect with the younger generation. Would I want that? I admit keeping in contact is easy with a smart phone that also corrects my spelling mistakes. However Facebook is addicting. Huge chunks of time disappear. Would I want to make that easier to happen? What do you think?

On another note I have a new book out. A Case of Volatile Deeds. Check it out.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Passionate Obsessions by Temple Hogan

I remember saying to my husband as I was finishing my last book, the third in my Scottish Love Songs series, entitled THE LAIRD'S DAUGHTER for Replendence Publishing, the tenth in my last contract with them that I'd be done with writing for awhile and could concentrate on other things in life.  I even uttered the words that I was probably done with writing for a long time, maybe forever.  My wise husband responded that I'd probably keep doing it since I liked writing so much.

Burnt out and tired, I hooted with laughter.  He didn't know how serious I was.  My resolve lasted three days and the whole time I was thinking about an old manuscript that I'd especially liked, wondering how I could change the plot, the characters or whatever to make it fit this market or that.  I was back at it.  I hadn't redecorated my house, I hadn't even cleaned the kitchen cupboards or any of the other things on my get-it-done-or-else list, I hadn't taken up a new excerside regimen or joined any new clubs.  I was still in my old groove, write, write, write, read myself to sleep at night and more writing.  I even skipped my paint class which is another passion of mine.  That's when I realized that my husband was right and he was right because he knew me so well.  But that's another story.

I sat down and without having my fingers on a keyboard, I started thinking what I was about.  I've always known that I had certain quirks within my personality that were shared with most all of my writer friends.  We're surely obsessive compulsive, able to shut out the rest of the world and create our own.  Not because we don't like the real world, in fact we need the stimuli of our real world to build a realistic other world.  No, something in our brain impels us to make the world the way we want.  I wonder if this is a sample of being an extreme control freak.

In a world we create, we get to control everything, speech, actions, emotions, settings, motives, even the weather.  Can you imagine the addictive power of that?  It's heady stuff.  And you know what, I don't know how to change its hold on me.  Do I even want to?  When God made me, did he intend me to be a writer?  The memory of my mother reading THE WIZARD OF OZ stays with me to this day.  I was mesmerized.  I still am with good stories and good writing.  I hear other writers talk about their TBR piles of book.  When I first learned I wasn't alone, that others had stacks of books surroundingthem, I was relieved.  I thought I was suffering the beginning of a real hoarder's problem.

Whatever my obsessions, I've decided to stop apologizing for them.  My sweet husband understands and accepts me.  My editors say they like my work.  Now and then I get a great review and readers buy my books.  A lot of people have obsessions, and I figure if they make a person happy, I don't think they should worry about it..  Obsessions can be very satisfying!