Sunday, May 29, 2011

World War II

September 1, 1939 was a day that changed history at least for my mother, her family and many of those in Europe. It was the day that World War II began for most of the world.

The United States didn’t enter the war officially until December 7, 1941, when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Yet for my mother Pat her world changed forever in September of 1939. She was just fifteen years old. Her first boyfriend Henry’s parents had been traveling in Europe and went missing in Hitler’s Poland.

Shortly after this Henry committee suicide and my mother lost not just her first love but her world. Her guilt was enormous, you see he had called her that night begging her to see him and she couldn’t go, she had to babysit.

Her father was in the Army, her cousin Don in the Navy and Pat volunteered to read to the American Soldiers, who had gone to England to enlist with the British Army. Each day she put a smile on her face, even when her heart was breaking and went to the Red Cross. Each day a little more of her soul was wounded but she fought on, because she knew that the wounded soldiers needed her.

Between 1939 when Henry committed suicide and 1945 when the war finally ended Pat lost every single boy she knew growing up except for her cousin Don. Don’s first ship was lost in Pearl Harbor, he was not on deck, later he again came close to losing his life due to a kamikaze pilot, and he was however on deck that day and thus survived.

Yet every other boy she knew had died in World War II. Many of us once a year honor those fallen heroes of World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Storm, Iraq, and the list goes on to infinity and we should honor them. They served our country bravely. They gave us the freedom we enjoy, lives were lost and boys & men maimed, blinded, and forever changed.

We should also remember those women who bravely sold war bonds, nursed the soldiers or like my mother spent her teenage years reading to the boys in the hospital. Those who might otherwise have been forgotten, my mother did not forget. She carried the memory of each and every one of them with her throughout her life.

It forever changed her world and all she knew into a strange new world, one that she was ill equipped to deal with in many ways.

So today I remember my stepson Kenny Bishop who served five tours in Iraq, my Grandfather Alfred Moran who serve in the Army in both World War I and World War II and was in charge of the reconstruction of Berlin after the war. My mother’s cousin Don who served us faithfully in World War II in the South Seas and each of the men and women that served our country. I will also remember those like my mother Pat who kept the home fires burning, nursed the soldiers and read to them, for they suffered too.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A WONDERFUL INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR OF BEYOND MY CONTROL STUART ROSS MCCALLUM

I am honored to have Stuart as my very first guest spot on my new page “FROM MY THE WISDOM AND MIND OF AN AUTHOR.” Stuart shared with us some very private and personal thoughts and feelings on living with epilepsy, seizures, brain surgery and the writing of his very special book “BEYOND MY CONTROL.”


In your book “BEYOND MY CONTROL,” you write about a variety of issues you dealt with, first as a young man and then through your adult years. But you describe so clearly your epilepsy, seizures, and finally your brain surgery, by doing so you leave us all in a place of joyful love and hope in our own ability to weather hard times and help others to do the same. Thank you for joining me.

Hello Stuart I am so happy that you agreed to honor me and spend a few minutes discussing your book.

Thank you for inviting me today Marta, I am delighted to be here chatting with you.Stuart what was harder to deal with the seizure or the aftermath of the seizure?

In my case, the aftermath of the seizure itself, became (by far) the most difficult and worrisome facet of my particular form of epilepsy. Over time the character of my seizures changed and intensified dramatically. The previous after-effects of experiencing a tolerable headache were over. I began to experience a very ugly, sinister aftermath, medically known as entering (postictal psychosis) and losing touch with reality immediately after the seizure passed. During these occasions, I was often prone to violent outbursts that threatened my safety as well as anyone unfortunate enough to be close by at the time. I would recall none of this afterwards and be profusely apologetic about hearing my disgraceful behavior.

The book is a beautifully written and heartwarming story of strength, courage, love and support of family and friends.

Stuart what do you consider to have been the greatest asset to you during this time?Thank you Marta, I strongly believe maintaining my sense of humor helped me immensely. When I was made aware of my ludicrous actions, I would always attempt to see the funny side. During this time, I owned and operated a stained glass business. On one occasion while in my (postictal state) I stomped around my own shop glaring at our display of fragile glass and lighting. After a few minutes, I clenched my hand into a fist and randomly lashed out, striking the glass panels. Once I returned to normality I asked a co-worker, “What have I done this time?” When I saw the broken glass I said, “With the wisdom of hindsight, perhaps I should have opened a bedding or soft furnishings shop.”
Do you think your attitude made it easier for your friends, workers, clients and family to keep their support of you going?Absolutely, as people we all bounce off one another. If I happened to be a brooding type of guy filled with unpleasant thoughts, I am sure the amazing support from people closest to me would have lessened over time.Your book helps so many to not only understand epilepsy but any form of disorder and the ability to find hope, courage, empathy and understanding of these issues.

When you began writing it did you believe that this would be an offshoot of your story?
No, when I began writing, ‘Beyond my Control', I had no pre-conceived expectations. To have helped people broaden their knowledge and find strength in their own lives is to me, my greatest achievement.Where did you find the ability to maintain a sense of calmness and humor while dealing with such a debilitating situation?Many situations as I describe in detail, would undoubtedly be more than justifiable to be consumed with self-pity and feel like crawling into a corner. However, I believe a person’s attitude towards life’s adversities comes from within. I am naturally a happy guy which helped me greatly to get through some very difficult circumstances.After your surgery when you were going through recovery, learning a new sense of self what helped you most?During the many months of recovery was a difficult and unsettling time. I encountered many ultimately bizarre and worrisome happenings, which had a negative impact on my self-worth. To improve my mind-set and overall being, I put my heart and soul into my family. And tried to become the best father, husband, son, and brother I could humanely be. By doing so, I found it profoundly rewarding and beneficial for the family which in turn improved my outlook on life.If you had one thing that you would believe would be the biggest help to others who are either dealing with epilepsy, seizures, depression or the prospect of brain surgery what advice would you give them?It is vital when faced with many of life’s hurdles to reach inside and gain a positive outlook towards your particular situation. And ultimately, never give up hope; a cure for your individual condition could very well be developed today.What was the hardest thing to share when telling your story?Being a highly personal story, the many embarrassing circumstances written in detail were definitely difficult to share. However, the hardest division of my book (by far) was the recovery chapter. The experiences I encountered during this passage of time exposed the people I love to some incredibly weird and extremely distressing occurrences.

What types of things did you do as an individual that helped those around you to understand your disability and thereby making them able to be more understanding?Share my feelings and discuss epilepsy openly. For centuries epilepsy has been shrouded by myths and misunderstanding. By freely opening up and including people in my inner-circle to the often bizarre forms that present themselves, removes the isolation that a sufferer or someone who cares about the person may feel. I strongly believe an open line of communication without secrets is paramount for a greater understanding of the world’s most misunderstood serious brain condition.
Is there anything you can suggest that can help people become more tolerant and understanding of others going through an illness or disability?Think before pre-judging and stay quiet until you know the facts. There are countless people in our world who live and cope exceptionally well with a disability. We will never be able to eliminate cruelty and ignorance totally. However, by writing, talking and sharing, we will create awareness for many.Thank you Stuart for sharing your insights into this so often misjudged, misdiagnosed and misunderstood disease, you are an inspiration to many of us, me included. Your book “Beyond My Control” is something that I truly believe everyone should read even if they do not have any medical issues. It brings so much light into dark places. Thank you for agreeing to be the first on my new page “From the Wisdom and Mind of an Author.”

You can find Stuart's book on Amazon.com and on his web page http://www.beyondmycontrol.net By Stuart Ross McCallum

FROM THE MIND AND WISDOM OF ROBERT WALKER

I am privileged to share a guest blog with you from my friend Robert Walker. I first met Robert on Facebook a little over a year ago. Since then I have read and enjoyed his wisdom, insights, humor and books. He is a warm and delightful man as well as a talented author. He shares freely his wisdom, kindness and knowledge with all who wish to partake of his words.
His books are a delight to read full of twists, turns and suspense. Bravo to my friend and thank you for taking the time to join me.


Great FICTION Can Be Stranger & Stronger Than FACT…
or:  Can a Story be More Useful than the Truth?

It slays me every time on the news or talk shows some bozo uses a trite phrase, but in particular this one – "Aww…that's just fiction." or "We're talking fiction here" and always with disdain for fiction and story and storytellers, when in fact there are few things on the planet as powerful as a story example to prove a truth. The same attitude is three-fold in academic circles when your colleagues learn that you not only write fiction but OMG – genre fiction. If it isn’t what they consider to be “literature” (which is in the eye of the beholder) then your colleagues and even your bosses diminish your fiction titles with such phrases as, “Oh, yeah, he’s published a novel, but it’s just genre fiction—one of Rob’s types of books, likely just a fluff-piece mystery.”
I have gotten this sort of response at every college or school I’ve ever worked at rather than gaining support in such circles, and sadly, in a teaching career spanning over 30+ years, I have heard this kind of put-down of my fiction for a long, long time now. Honestly, this attitude toward genre fiction in particular is not unusual. There is an unspoken belief on the part of academics that if they wished to waste their time any one of them could do what I do in terms of writing a horror or suspense novel.
A professor across the corridor from me writes a novel based on the life of Jane Austen and it is given high praise among our peers, and instantly stamped “literature”; I write a fast-paced historical thriller set in Chicago in 1893 and it is just another novel to throw on the stack. Admittedly, I have a large stack, some fifty published works to the single title about Jane Austen, so I am surely looking like the ‘hack’ writer of the department, but I will tell you this: it takes an enormous amount of research, writing, editing, proofing, rewriting, more research, more editing, more writing to craft any novel, and we who write genre fiction, we work like dogs. We work as hard if not harder than the person who labors for ten years over a so-called “literary work of genius” conceived first as a thesis.
In our own way, we successful genre authors are also creating works of genius in the sense that we know our tools and use them with skill unmatched by so many “classics” that are in fact chockfull of boredom, books with what I call a straight line to nowhere like the straight line you find on the monitor hooked to a dead patient. We genre authors know our field, we know what moves people, what prompts a reader to turn pages and even finish the book, no matter its length. We know how to create a real seismograph of action, no straight line dead chapter after chapter of inner monologue or passive descriptions that lose sight of actors and action on the page or ‘stage’ if you will.
I cannot tell you how many so-called “literary classics” are read via Clift Notes and the book itself remains unfinished. This is certainly the case with Moby Dick, most of the works of Dickens, especially Bleak House (what a bleak book). Even my hero and spiritual mentor and guru, Mark Twain’s most famous novel failed to have a proper ending, classic that it is. But then Twain in his day was closer to a ‘genre’ author than he is today in hindsight. Academics love him now but they hated him during his lifetime, and Huckleberry Finn was banned from the outset of its publication not for the word nigger but for the fact his heroes were the uneducated orphan and the runaway slave—the vulgarity of the whole of it, just SHOCKING to the sentiments of the day. Twain, Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Alexander Dumas, Shakespeare,Victor Hugo even wrote the ‘genre’ fiction of their day. Simple as that. These writers wrote for the masses in their own time and not for academics or newscasters who may not have a clue as to what the world of fiction really, truly conveys; people who actually do not know what the word even means.
Getting back to the TV pundits and their flippant use of the word “fiction”. How can they use it as if it was interchangeable with the word LIE. Let me tell you that every honest TRUTH about the human condition and our bondage of the flesh, as well as our mental state is found in Shakespeare’s plays—his “fiction”.  Fiction that predates Sigmund Freud yet is chockfull of psychoanalysis in Hamlet alone. All that we know of the human condition is found in FICTION – which is by many defined as ‘a pack of lies to prove a truth’. It comes from the Spanish word ficciones. Look it up some time.
What do you think?  For me, fiction is art, and good fiction, entertaining fiction is a work of art that has taken perfect shape whether a gem of a short story, a novella, a novel, a film script, or a play. A shapely work of art which the careful author takes pains shaping—many pains over a long-suffering time period but not ten years long-suffering, I would hope! I have taken four months to create a simple, straightforward horror novel, and on and off, I have taken years to complete other novels. Every project dictates its own time, it seems to me.
My most recent ‘horrible’ genre novel is a sequel to my Dr. Abraham Stroud, archeology meets the supernatural trilogy which I penned back in the 90s with a character I enjoy spending time with. Here in what others often consider a “schlocky” horror series, I do my utmost to make it shapely and artistic in its delivery to the reader, which is all we can hope from an author. Below is an excerpt with annotations on what I am thinking/doing at each point of the 300 word excerpt, opening pages of Bayou Wulf. The annotated opening I feel could be eye-opening and instructive of how this art of the novel works in my mind but certainly not everyone else’s.

Excerpted opening of  BAYOU  WULF  by  Robert W. Walker
O N E
Oasis Bayou, Oasis County, Louisiana 3:10 AM, March 14,2011 *
*establish setting, place, time, date immediately or as soon as possible
There came a strange sound to Dr. Abraham Stroud’s ear, but then Stroud’s ear was always to the ground—two grounds in fact.  Where he slept atop the Louisiana bayou earth made one ground. The second came of that pesky steel plate in his head, which ‘grounded’ him in two worlds. It kept him alive in the reality other humans enjoyed, the so-called normal world, yes, but it also kept him attuned and in touch. It acted as his private, built-in, high-frequency radio to the paranormal world.**
** start in the middle of things going on NOW…establish crisis moment of drama as opening; if you can string along a metaphor (groundings in this case), do so.

FROM THE WISDOM AND MIND OF RAY ALAN

I am pleased and honored to have my friend Raymond Alan Klesc, a real estate developer and a science fiction author share his wisdom about the "importance of a press release," with us. Thank you Ray

The Importance of the Press Release


Media exposure is the most effective method for authors to promote their work. However, how do you go about bribing, coercing and cajoling the media into giving you free publicity? There is no need to take a baseball bat in hand and threaten your neighborhood editor. A far simpler means is at everyone’s disposal – the tried and true press release.

All media outlets - newspapers, magazines, television and radio - rely on a steady stream of press releases to locate and follow up on news and stories they feel their readers and listeners might find interesting. They measure the value of a press release against its human-interest appeal to its broader audience.

In order to grab the attention of an editor or producer it must be newsworthy. It should be brief, preferably one page or two at the most, and must grab the reader’s attention in the first sentence or two. Not unlike writing a great story, the opening must stimulate and provoke questions.

Besides the obvious release of a new book into the market, the author has many other opportunities to bring his book and “brand” to the public’s attention. Each opportunity permits the author to promote his or her brand and latest book. The following are a few suggestions that have worked for authors in the past:

1. Book signings are an excellent opportunity to capture local media attention, as it is an event happening within the community.
2. Other special events such as appearances, speaking engagements, seminars, lectures and demonstrations of something in your book, such as a cooking demonstration provide an excellent opportunity to get your message out to your target market.
3. Contests and special offers always make for a newsworthy press release.
4. Tie-ins with charities and fund raising associated with you personally as a brand or with your book. For instance, if your book were about dogs, associating with the NSPCA would make for a newsworthy event.
5. Tie-ins with a particular industry and its trends or crisis could work effectively for a newsworthy event as well. If you have written about the merits of electric cars, then industry news about the increasing cost of oil could make for an interesting ‘hook’ in the press release.
6. Following on the above two examples, you could leverage survey results about the electric car industry or dog owner trends to promote your book.

Before dashing off a few words and sending it to your local newspaper, consider the following points:

1. The press release should not sound like a sales brochure. After all, media outlets are looking for human-interest stories and not blatant advertising.
2. Read several press releases online and see what the pros say and how they present their product or service. Check with services such as PRLog.com, BusinessWire.com and PRNewswire.com under the categories for books and authors. These PR services are also a great way to get your news out to the media as well.
3. Follow the examples of the professionals making sure you provide your complete contact details, including email address and telephone number, in the top, left corner of the page.
4. Make sure you give your press release a captivating title. Imagine this as the opening line to your novel. Treat the title as lovingly.
5. Press releases should be prepared double-spaced for ease of review by editors and producers if you are sending them directly. If you are using the online services, the material is single space for ease of online reading.
6. The body of your press release should have a strong opening sentence to draw reader’s attention. Then cover the basics, who, what, when, where and why. Remember, you are not writing for the editor, you are writing to your target market.
7. You would be surprised how many press releases I have read from authors and publishers that do not provide basic information about the book, such as ISBN number, publisher, date of publication or suggested retail price. In fact, I have seen press releases where I have to hunt for the title of the book buried deep within the text.
8. Provide snippets of book reviews or quotes from industry leaders giving your press release authority and credibility. Writing in the third person, you can quote yourself.
9. Ensure you close with a call to action before providing a three or four line author biography.
10. Most importantly, watch the spelling and grammar. You do not want to have the niggles to creep into your words.

Besides the online services mentioned above, you should distribute to your local and regional media outlets directly. Compile a list of media outlets and gather contact details for the proper departments and individuals responsible for reviewing and vetting human-interest stories.

Generally, all media outlets accept press releases via snail-mail, email and facsimiles. However, check their websites for their preferences and adhere to their submission guidelines.

Don’t send it late. Give them at least two weeks notice, preferably three or four weeks, in advance of any planned event dates. Leave them time to work it into their schedule.

The last point, and hopefully this will come to pass because of your hard work, be prepared to address interview questions. Your sterling press release may grab the attention of an editor or producer and they might pick up the phone and call. Prepare before hand with a few talking points you want to convey. Work these into the interview if possible.

In the end, the press release can be a strong ally in your quest to get the news out concerning your work. If you tackle it with the same effort you put into writing your novel, you will reap the rewards over time.



I host author and publisher press releases on my website for new book releases, book signings, awards, events and special announcements. Submit via the large, blue “Contact Me” button on the left side of the screen. http://www.NewBookJournal.com

Thank you Ray and visit him on Facebook, http://www.NewBookJournal.com.

Wee Three Book Trailer voice over Marta Moran Bishop