Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Metro PCS, Samsung Combine to Cheat Consumers

Six weeks ago, in the beginning of October, I bought a Samsung Indulge and an unlimited plan with Metro PCS. From the beginning, the service didn’t function well. The GPS didn’t work most of the time; advertising messages folded the screen; when turned to standby mode, the phone would decide to go on the web; the voice transmissions were difficult to hear; the battery failed to last. I rarely use the phone.

A few days ago, the battery decided to drain in two to three hours, leaving me stranded with no service. I began turning the Samsung Indulge off when I wasn’t using it; the battery still drained in two to three hours. Then it deleted all my contacts, my phone call log, and the messages.

I visited the Metro PCS store this morning and was told I was out of luck and that I owned the defective phone that sold me. Further, they mentioned that the battery only would last for two to three hours.

Why didn’t the person who sold me the phone mention this?
Why would anyone get a phone with such short battery life?
Why, in spite of the obvious defective, do Samsung and Metro PCS continue to sell defective plans and products?

Here are comments I found on a rating site: “Since the first day I bought it always had issues with this phone this phone has a horrible battery life and gets very hot and it freezes and it does everything the phone should be doing I think it's a very poor quality product.” Another said, “I BOUGHT THE PHONE BECAUSE I NEED A KEYBOARD AND I WAS EXCITED TO GET IT, BUT NOW I SEE THAT I BOUGHT IT. I HATE THIS PHONE AND I REALLY LIKE SAMSUNG PRODUCTS, THIS PHONE HAS REALLY LET ME DOWN IN THE WORSE WAY. IT A SHAME THAT U PAY ALL THIS MONEY FOR A PHONE AND THEN U HAVE TO KEEP IT ON THE CHARGER AT ALL TIMES BECAUSE THE BATTERY DIES SO FAST. I AM SO UNHAPPY WITH THIS PHONE I CAN SPIT..... THANKS A LOT SAMSUNG, U USE TO BE MY FAVORITE COMPANY. GOODBYE.”

About one-third of the respondents said they would not recommend this product to a friend.
I must agree with these assessments. The product is inferior.

I cancelled the service because the counter-clerk said he couldn’t do anything other than change the settings. My empathy to all who own this piece of garbage.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Wondering Why

Since I haven’t created a post in a long time, I wonder why I’m getting so many visitors to the older posts.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction Weeks

1 THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.

2 HIT LIST, by Laurell K. Hamilton. (Penguin Group.) The Mother of All Darkness stalks the vampire hunter Anita Blake, who is pursuing a serial killer in the Pacific Northwest.

3 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents are killed in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

4 STATE OF WONDER, by Ann Patchett. (HarperCollins.) In the Amazon basin, a medical researcher searches for her former mentor, a despotic scientist who is developing a miracle fertility drug.

5 THE KINGDOM, by Clive Cussler with Grant Blackwood. (Penguin Group.) Husband-and-wife treasure hunters travel to Asia in an adventure involving missing persons, black-market fossils and the ancient Tibetan kingdom of Mustang.

6 BURIED PREY, by John Sandford. (Penguin Group.) The Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport investigates the murders of two girls who were kidnapped in 1985.

7 10TH ANNIVERSARY, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. (Little, Brown.) Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women’s Murder Club race to find a missing baby.

8 8 A GAME OF THRONES, by George R. R. Martin. (Random House.) In the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are mustering.

9 SOMETHING BORROWED, by Emily Giffin. (St. Martin's.) A maid of honor to her charmed friend, Rachel White has always played by the rules. But that changes on her 30th birthday.
10 SUMMER SECRETS, by Barbara Freethy. (Recorded Books.) Three sailboat-racing sisters close ranks against a tenacious reporter who digs into a devastating secret from their past.

For the full list, Visit The New York Times

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

CREATING SHORT STORIES - 11: Other Characters

In addition to the characters in Creating Short Stories - 10: Bringing Characters to Life” fiction has one-dimensional characters, characters not fully developed, designed to serve a single purpose in a story. These might deliver some type of message the protagonist needs to know. It might be an individual creating some problem for the hero. Perhaps this character plants some omen of the future the central character will encounter if he or she pursues, or doesn’t pursue, the current course. Maybe the person will give some type of clue.

Unlike fully developed characters that merit full descriptions and backgrounds, these single-purpose individuals only require minor details: manor of dress, age, hair color, crustiness. The objective is to avoid boring the reader with a full psychological profile that means little to the story. It might look like the following:

Alfred numbs himself by thinking of the days at the beach on the North Shore of Long Island, the waves mesmerizing his mind, while he pores through the grizzly remains of the longhaired blonde (from 10) laying in scattered bits on the Miami beachfront. He wondered what type of lunatic had the incredible disregard for human life that he would inflict such havoc on this poor woman. He must be extremely strong.

The horror of the scene and the hideous stench forced him to stand and walk away from the body to get a lungful of fresh air. As he neared the street that ran parallel to the beach, he saw a woman drive up in a small sports car.

She stepped out of the vehicle and put her large hands in the small of her back to stretch. As she leaned back, the bikini covered little and revealed that she lifted weights. Her thighs contained massive muscle, as did her torso. Her arms appeared to be larger than almost any man he knew.

Immediately, Alfred rule out the men only suspect theory and revised his suspect pool to include strong women. From the condition of the body, there might have been two killers.

In that scene, Alfred discovers he needs to expend his thinking to solve this crime.


Another scenario:

The crusty old hag, dressed in what could only be considered funeral garb approached and pointed a crooked finger at Sam. “Beware the morning. Be gone from this town by then.”
Sam blinked rapidly. “Huh, are you talking to me?
“I speak to you. Leave before the morn, or you will regret it?
“What do you mean, old lady?”
“Remember my words, or you will regret, regret, regret,” she said as she walked into the dark night.

In that scene, the crusty old hag delivered a warning to Sam, one of the purposes for a one-dimensional figure in a story.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List: Fiction

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

1 THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.

2 SOMETHING BORROWED, by Emily Giffin. (St. Martin's.) A maid of honor to her charmed friend, Rachel White has always played by the rules. But that changes on her 30th birthday.

3 10TH ANNIVERSARY, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. (Little, Brown.) Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women’s Murder Club race to find a missing baby.

4 SUMMER SECRETS, by Barbara Freethy. (Recorded Books.) Three sailboat-racing sisters close ranks against a tenacious reporter who digs into a devastating secret from their past.

5 JUST LIKE HEAVEN, by Julia Quinn. (HarperCollins.) A Regency-era tale featuring the romantic exploits of the well-meaning but less-than-accomplished Smythe-Smith musicians.

6 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents are killed in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

7 BURIED PREY, by John Sandford. (Penguin Group.) The Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport investigates the murders of two girls who were kidnapped in 1985.

8 A GAME OF THRONES, by George R. R. Martin. (Random House.) In the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are mustering.

9 DREAMS OF JOY, by Lisa See. (Random House.) A young woman angry at her mother and aunt over family secrets runs away to Shanghai in search of her birth father.
10 CREED'S HONOR, by Linda Lael Miller. (Harlequin.) Conner Creed, a hard-working rancher in Lonesome Bend, is reunited with the identical twin brother he’s been estranged from for years.

Visit the New York Times

Friday, June 10, 2011

The New Criminals

PBS, was hacked by LulzSec. LulSec posted a false article stating that Tupac Shakur was living in New Zealand. This retaliation for a documentary, “WikiSecrets, PBS aired about WikiLeaks publication of classified information. (Funny that WIkiLEaks requires employees sign a non-disclosure agreement contract about their ILLEGAL activities.
Who are these peole and why do they think they have the right to commit such crimes. For one thing, they have the knowledge required to make decisions regarding right and wrong in the international political arena.
These criminals break into IT systems of banks, governments, defense contractors, military organizations. In addition to using stolen information in a childish attempt to manipulate world affairs, they use the information to steal from everyday citizens.

These misguided criminals conspire to commit espionage. For these crimes, they need to be prosecuted and punished.

They, somehow, believe they will save the world, but they are wrong. The world has an order that works. Their ideas defy rationality.

Let’s consider the rule of law. Countries establish a code of ethics for the nation. These hacker-criminals violate these laws every time they hack into a computer—no matter who owns that computer. They have no legal (or legitimate) reason to have that information.

For those who believe this activity constitutes activism, be advised it does not. It constitutes crime, criminal activity that requires prosecution. Hackers have no imbued right to break the law.

This is also posted at Orphans of Liberty

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Creating Short Stories - 10: Bringing Characters to Life

Creating Short Stories 10: Making the Characters Come to Life


Just for the fun of it, let’s take these three characters from the previous post and make them come to life. For our purposes, come to life means animating the people we described in the last blogCreating Short Stories: More on Characters . A writer wants to have them behave as everyday people would. Characters need to touch the readers in an emotional way that allows them to identify with the people in the story.

We have three characters: the older woman with hair that touches below her hips. She has a rather batty personality. One day she enters the coffee shop with that endless crop of hair tucked under a man’s hat, making it appears that she had shorn hers blonde locks. And two thirty-something men who walk into the coffee shop, nattily dressed. Sharp creases show on their white as a bleached road in Florida shirts and pants that shouts, “Custom tailored for me.” Windsor knots adorn their multi-colored silk ties creating the impression that cost never matters with any of their purchases.

Starting with the woman who’s named Kathy:

Kathy waited for the counter clerk to pour the decaf coffee. For some reason, she had tucked her extensive crop of blonde hair under her husband’s hat, as if to create a disguise. Her dark blue eyes that looked like deep wells darted about the store as if she feared someone would enter and attack her. She paced a bit.

Two well-dressed men walked into the large shop, one talking on his cell phone. “No, haven’t seen her yet. Anyone there have any idea where she might have gone?”

Kathy froze and turned her back to the two men.

The man continued, “I know it should be easy to spot her with all that hair, Tom, but she’s nowhere in sight. We’ve looked everywhere she goes during the day, or night for that matter. It’s as if she disappeared from the face of the Earth.

The clerk turned and placed the coffee container on the counter. “Here ya go, Kathy.”

Both men’s head jerked to the direction of the counter and saw nothing. Kathy had already rushed through the door to the back exit.

The clerk looked around. “Kathy? Where’d ya go?”

The second man asked the clerk, “Is there a back exit?”

“Yes, there is, but you can’t use it.”

“This is an emergency,” he said, as he pulled out some type of Federal Agent’s identification.

The men brushed the protesting clerk aside and ran into the back room. One of them yelled, “Damn, the door’s locked.”

“Front door,” his partner screamed.

They squeezed past the narrow doorway and onto the sidewalk, almost creating a comedic scene.

Now we have a short scene with three characters involved in some type of conflict. Some questions come to mind as I wonder if they will catch her:


Why do they want her?

Did she commit a crime?

Is she ill?

Did she escape from an institution?

Are they really Federal Agents?

Can we make this a short story?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

1. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

2. THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.

3. SOMETHING BORROWED, by Emily Giffin. (St. Martin's.) A maid of honor to her charmed friend, Rachel White has always played by the rules. But that changes on her 30th birthday.

4. 10TH ANNIVERSARY, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. (Little, Brown.) Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women’s Murder Club race to find a missing baby.

5. BURIED PREY, by John Sandford. (Penguin Group.) The Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport investigates the murders of two girls who were kidnapped in 1985.

6. DEAD RECKONING, by Charlaine Harris. (Penguin Group.) The telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse seeks the culprit in a firebombing.

7. THE SIXTH MAN, by David Baldacci. (Grand Central.) The lawyer for an alleged serial killer is murdered, and two former Secret Service agents are on the case.

8. A GAME OF THRONES, by George R. R. Martin. (Random House.) In the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are mustering.

9. FRANKENSTEIN: THE DEAD TOWN, by Dean Koontz. (Random House.) Book 5 in the reimagining of the classic tale.
10. THE JEFFERSON KEY, by Steve Berry. (Random House.) The former government operative Cotton Malone foils an assassination attempt on the president and finds himself at dangerous odds with a secret society.

Visit the New York Times

Friday, May 27, 2011

Great Film: Good Will Hunting

The possibility of the United States as an over-educated, underemployed society has been discussed during the past year or more. The following scene, from one of my favorite films Good Will Hunting , shows an example of the value of the local library. (Libraries rate high on my list of favorites places.) Good Will Hunting, staring Matt Damon, Robin Williams and Ben Affleck, told the story of a battered child who was a genius who worked as a janitor at MIT. He had little education, other than the books he read at the library as noted in the scene below.



The hall, Will Hunting was cleaning had a problem displayed on a white board. Will provided a solution in less than a day. Will has the ability to solve problems that stump most mathematicians. He finds it easy.



In addition, the movie has funny scenes, such as the one below. The Interview Scene



The film also has some sad scenes as reflected in the breakup.



Here’s the trailer.



If you’ve never seen it, I recommend you get the DVD or download it. If you do, be prepared for some intensely, emotional viewing.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction Weeks

1 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

2 BURIED PREY, by John Sandford. (Penguin Group.) The Minneapolis detective Lucas Davenport investigates the murders of two girls who were kidnapped in 1985 and whose bodies have just been found.

3 DEAD RECKONING, by Charlaine Harris. (Penguin Group.) The telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse seeks the culprit in a firebombing.

4 10TH ANNIVERSARY, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. (Little, Brown.) Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women’s Murder Club race to find a missing baby.

5 SOMETHING BORROWED, by Emily Giffin. (St. Martin's.) A maid of honor to her charmed friend, Rachel White has always played by the rules. But that changes on her 30th birthday.

6 THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.

7 THE SIXTH MAN, by David Baldacci. (Grand Central.) The lawyer for an alleged serial killer is murdered, and two former Secret Service agents are on the case.

8 THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown.) Routinely doing business from his Lincoln Town Cars, the bottom-feeding attorney Mickey Haller is asked to defend the scion of a wealthy family who might not be guilty of a murderous crime.

9 A GAME OF THRONES, by George R. R. Martin. (Random House.) In the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are mustering.

10 SOMETHING BLUE, by Emily Giffin. (St. Martin’s.) After being betrayed by her fiancĂ© and her best friend, Darcy Rhone flees to London.

Visit the New York Times

Friday, May 20, 2011

Across the PONDering

First, thanks to James Hingham and the others who allow me the space to post my thoughts in a free speech format here at Orphans of Liberty. May God forgive them.

About me: I originate from Sunny South Florida. From here I write a blog, Science Fiction Writer. Recently, I completed my first science fiction novel. Elevator 37.

Free speech is at the heart of our Western style democracies. In an unfortunate turn of events, many of our governments attempt to impinge on those rights through the guise of political correctness and other silly excuses. For example, one of these inane attempts (a disclaimer) Historical recordings may contain offensive language.. The warning is offensive, contemporary recordings pornographic, crude, tasteless and nasty. That makes the warning doubly offensive.

Today, a tweeter lamented her boring middle-class upbringing . That prompted me to ponder the life cycle. Do we grow up mournful of the serenity we experience from a middle class upbringing (if we’re fortunate to have one) and rebel? At a later age, do we see the folly of our thoughts? Afterward, do we pine for the return to boredom?

In this rebellion, do we go out and seek the travails of life to escape the middle-class monotony that suffers us? Later, after the angst of the exciting life do we develop a world-weariness that compels us to return to the middle-class values we abhorred as young and restless people?

Can we take another path and realize the benefits of boredom?

Most of us, fortunately, don’t live in places where the strife of war and insecurity rule eternal—failing States in which central authorities fail to provide the basics of freedom, such as legitimate governance. Other features of these unsuccessful nations include, a lack of public services that most of us take for granted, constant war between neighboring states and internal political parties/tribes; the inability to control lands within national borders; a lack of economic enterprise, as well as massive corruption and criminality. (Not to say Western governments don’t share this problem.)

Several nation-states come to mind, but you can fill in the blanks with some thought.

One young person (a nihilist) with whom I had a discussion told me that all nations are the same. People in Iran or North Korea, live the same life, and enjoy the same privileges as people in Western democracies such as the United States, the United Kingdom or Canada. If only she knew the truth.

How do people come to believe such rubbish? If anyone knows the answer to that, please post it.

The amusing aspect of this is that I’m using the failed State model for the novel I’m currently writing MORB. It’s about a dismal place that chills the human mind.

Let’s take a gander at reality from the economic perspective.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) : GDP, considered the main economic indicator, represents the overall aggregate economic activity of a country.

The IMF lists the following. Note the absence of North Korea. Iran, placed 19th.

1. United States $14,657,800
2. People's Republic of China $10,085,708
3. Japan $4,309,432
4. India $4,060,392
5. Germany $2,940,434
6. Russia $2,222,957
7. United Kingdom $2,172,768
8. Brazil $2,172,058
9. France $2,145,487
10. Italy $1,773,547

Another view that reflects the reality is Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) . PPP estimates the amount of adjustment needed on the exchange rate between countries for the exchange to be equivalent.

1. Qatar $88,559
2. Luxembourg $81,383
3. Singapore $56,522
4. Norway $52,013
5. Brunei $48,892
6. United Arab Emirates $48,821
7. United States $47,284
--Hong Kong $45,736
8. Switzerland $41,663
9. Netherlands $40,765
10. Australia $39,699
(Iran shows at 73. North Korea doesn’t appear.)

So I ponder who indoctrinates youths to subvert Western democracies by feeding them false information. Why are they doing it? What is the goal of this misinformation?

This is cross posted at Orphans of Liberty" across the pond.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

E-Book Sales Up 159% in Quarter, Print Falls

Here’s a startling article from Publishers Weekly

After increasing at a 169% rate in the first two months of 2011, e-book sale rose at a relatively modest 145.7% clip in March, to $69 million, according to the 16 publishers who report figures to AAP’s monthly sales estimates. For the first quarter of 2011, e-book sales were up 159.8%, to $233.1 million. While adult hardcover and mass market paperback did better, posting gains in March, all the print segments had declines for the first quarter with the nine mass market houses that report results showing a 23.4% sales decline, and the 14 children’s paperback publishers had a 24.1% decline in the quarter. E-book sales easily outdistanced mass market paperback sales in the first quarter with mass market sales falling to $123.3 million compared to e-books’ $233.1 million in sales.

In other segments, the 18 religion book publishers who report results had a 27.4% sales gain in March and were up 13.7% for the quarter. Physical audiobook sales were down 11.8% for the month and 17.6% for the quarter, falling to $21.8 million at the 20 reporting companies. Digital audiobook sales rose 9.0% in the quarter at the 14 reporting companies, and just trailed traditional audio with sales of $20.2 million

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Creating Short Stories - 09: More on Characters

Creating Short Stories 08 – More on Characters

Please don’t read that as moron characters, although some of them may fit that description for the story.

As I mentioned previously, I use a NEO from Renaissance Learning Hand written journals present a viable alternative. One benefit of using a pen and ink format: you can create drawings of people, places and things. I haven’t quite figured out how to do that on the NEO word processor, yet.

Often, I use these sketches to create difficult scenarios in the stories. In Elevator 37 (I hope it will be a best seller.), one of the scenes had the protagonist, Thom Stanton, in a dreadful predicament. A hideous being stood ready to terminate him. I could see it—almost—but it wasn’t clear. I grabbed my sketchpad and oil pastels and drew it until I could see all the elements clearly. Then writing the scene became easy—well, almost easy.

Getting back to keeping a journal to take notes on characters and other vitals of stories, one character I saw, an older woman with hair that touched below her hips often frequents a coffee shop I visit. A rather batty personality dwells within her psyche. One day she entered with that endless crop of hair tucked under a man’s hat, making it appear she had shorn hers locks.

This provoked me to think she may have gone off the deep end, which isn’t too difficult to imagine. If you ever saw or heard her, that statement would make sense. This character must appear in the novel I’m currently writing, MORB . I have a perfect scene with her in mind.

See how bad writers can be.

A few minutes later, she hopped on her broom and sped out the door. Two thirty-something men walked into the coffee shop, nattily dressed. Sharp creases showed on their white as a bleached road in Florida shirts and pants that shouted “custom tailored for me”; the Windsor knots and their multi-colored silk ties created the impression that cost never mattered with any of their purchases. I had to wonder why. Why, if they had all this wealth they would come to this coffee shop, in this part of town, to have a business meeting? I had to discover their purpose.

Were they faking it? Could this mean development for the community? The kind of development that pushed poor folks out of the quaint, houses of an earlier era that gave texture to the neighborhood they struggled to maintain for their lives. What harbinger did they represent?

Provide plenty of detail about each character. Describe how they react, how they dress, how they move, how they think and what they say because it all determines who they are. You want the readers to see a piece of themselves in the character so they can identify with the individual you depict. You want the reader to say, “Yeah, that’s me, or “Yeah, that’s so and so.”
It gives clues as to who the character is.

When it comes to characters, specificity matters.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

1 DEAD RECKONING, by Charlaine Harris. (Penguin Group.) The telepathic waitress Sookie Stackhouse seeks the culprit in a firebombing.

2 10 TH ANNIVERSARY, by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro. (Little, Brown.) Detective Lindsay Boxer and the Women’s Murder Club race to find a missing baby.

3 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents are killed in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

4 SOMETHING BORROWED, by Emily Giffin. (St. Martin's.) A maid of honor to her charmed friend, Rachel White has always played by the rules. But that changes on her 30th birthday.

5 THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.

For the complete list: Visit the New York Times

Monday, May 16, 2011

NASA Endeavor Launch: Science Fact From Science Fiction

Once, people only fantasized about space flight through the eyes of the science fiction writers, H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. An earlier work by Greek writer, Lucian of Samosata, wrote a story named Vera Historia (True History), which is tell the tale of a sailing ship being propelled by a great wind for seven days and nights to land on the moon. I find Lucian amazing because he lived from 125 to 180 A.D. He must have had a forward looking and creative mind.
Here’s a video of today’s launch.

Thanks NASA!


Watch live streaming video from spaceflightnow at livestream.com

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Writing On Nothing for a Bit for Creativity

I’ve had a couple of hectic weeks and the busyness prevented me from creating new posts for Science Fiction Writer, Writing On Monday I expect to be back to a normal schedule, whatever that may be.

Part of the busyness involved transferring notes from the new novel I'm writing, MORB (hopefully a best seller), from handwritten notes to the computer. Other activity was about learning something new and completely different. Learning something new and different, and usual at the same time, always adds to one's perspective on the world.
Some of the learning involved new experience that required using creativity , something I think the world could use more of to solve global dilemmas. So I’m not referring to the creative arts such as writing, dance, theater, music, painting and other fun things in that domain. Rather, the learning involved things such as helping deliver healthcare to everyone or creating global security , so the global population can pursue better lives and enjoy peace and happiness.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

1 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

2 SOMETHING BORROWED, by Emily Giffin. (St. Martin's.) A maid of honor to her charmed friend, Rachel White has always played by the rules. But that changes on her 30th birthday.

3THE SIXTH MAN, by David Baldacci. (Grand Central.) The lawyer for an alleged serial killer is murdered, and two former Secret Service agents are on the case.

4 THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.
5 A GAME OF THRONES, by George R. R. Martin. (Random House.) In the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are mustering.

Visit The New York Times

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction Weeks

1 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

2 THE SIXTH MAN, by David Baldacci. (Grand Central.) The lawyer for an alleged serial killer is murdered, and two former Secret Service agents are on the case.

3 SOMETHING BORROWED, by Emily Giffin. (St. Martin's.) A maid of honor to her charmed friend, Rachel White has always played by the rules. But that changes on her 30th birthday.

4 THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.

5 A GAME OF THRONES, by George R. R. Martin. (Random House.) In the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are mustering.

Visit The New York Times

Saturday, April 30, 2011

NASA's Alien Anomalies caught on film - We are not alone.

This video, which is compilation of stunning UFO footage from NASA's archives, provides fodder for the existence of aliens

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Creating Short Stories 08 – Characters

Did you have a good look at the story Kate Chopin: Story of an Hour


Did you see the beginning, the middle, and the end? Did you notice how close to the end the story began?

Good.

What made that story interesting to read? We might venture, the plot and that might be true, but only partially. What makes a story interesting, whether a short story or a full-length novel, resides in the characters in the story. The people in the story need believability; they must interest the readers. Maybe more importantly, the writer must somehow make the reader care about the characters—especially the protagonist. Think about it. If you don’t care one way or the other about the central character, why read to story?

How does a writer get to know and understand the characters in a story so he or she may impart that information to readers? I mentioned earlier in Creating Short Stories 05 - Kurt Vonnegut Speaks

about people from our lives. Some people may have enough people in their lives that and can just open memories and have all the interesting, loveable people readers can root for. I’m not one of those lucky souls.

I get many of my characters from my home away from home: Starbucks. Some mornings, I arrive there early to watch the people grabbing their morning beverage. Or listen to the one-sided cell phone conversations such as this:

“Hi, how are you?”

“I love you.”

“Did I wake you up?”

“You pig!”

Really, you can’t make up some of what you hear.

When I studied writing poetry, I sat and watched people so I could write poems about their faces and other attributes. I still do this with a more comprehensive bent.) I’d try to imagine what joy or sorrow motivated their expressions. Some cues to watch were the smiles, frowns, or looks of puzzlement. Another clue to their feelings came by observing their posture. What do you think someone sitting with his or her shoulders hunched over and staring at the floor might feel at that particular moment?

Later, I used the captured feelings for characters in stories. Perfectly fun!

Other ways exist to capture and develop characters. For instance, keep a journal. A notebook will suffice; even an electronic version will be adequate. I use a NEO from Renaissance Learning

. It boots up in a few seconds. You can type in the notes and power it down with the push of a button.

A journal provides a continuous document, and you can use it for ideas and notes or whatever. Even how you feel that day, or write about interesting things that happen. And if nothing interesting happened, make it interesting. You are a writer.

Next week we’ll continue with characters.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rolling Stones Respectable

Every once in a while, I need to pick up the pace. That's when the Rolling Stones come to mind.

New York Times Best Sellers

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction Weeks

1 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

2 CHASING FIRE, by Nora Roberts. (Penguin Group.) A smoke jumper faces a new season of firefighting in Montana after the loss of her partner.

3 THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown.) Routinely doing business from his Lincoln Town Cars, the bottom-feeding attorney Mickey Haller is asked to defend the scion of a wealthy family who might not be guilty of a murderous crime.

4 THE FIFTH WITNESS, by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown.) The defense lawyer Mickey Haller represents a woman facing home foreclosure who is accused of killing a banker.

5 THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.

Visit the New York Times

Friday, April 22, 2011

NASA Reveals Water Planet


This NASA view of Earth from space indicates how much water, simple H2O, covers the planet. This reminds me of an old film, The Man Who Fell to Earth, starring David Bowie. Bowie played an alien who came to Earth to save his dying planet by getting water there, ostensibly from Earth. Also in the movie were Candy Clark and Rip Torn. (I always loved that name.)

Bowie, thwarted in his ambitions, becomes a depraved rock and roll singer. Oh, the irony!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Tiny Dot Explains Taxes

I came across this at Nourishing Obscurity and thought it was just too true to not post.

Creating Short Stories 06: Kate Chopin – Story of an Hour

When I first began to write, I took a course that suggested we read short stories written by great authors to get an idea of how to write a story that someone might want to read. One of the stories I read was Kate Chopin’s Story of an Hour, which appears after this brief introduction.

The story, written in 1894, seems quite different from what is commercially acceptable in contemporary times. To my taste, I enjoy how they wrote during that era (Am I old-fashioned?). The command of the English language amazes me. The description and metaphor certainly engage the mind.

As you read it, you’ll discover that a plethora of passive style fills the page. Further, mostly it tells rather than shows as teachers recommend today.

You might come away with the impression that Kate Chopin used a different language to create this gem of a story, perhaps a reflection of the linguistics of the times.

Note also, the joy Louise Mallard feels at the news of her husband’s sudden death. She would weep for him, and has feelings for him; “she loved him sometimes.” But now she was "free, free, free."

The stories begs the question if she was a proto-feminist. Maybe, maybe not. The story reflects a feeling of being freed from something. A bad marriage? Ann Bail Howard writes, “When she published The Awakening in 1899, Kate Chopin startled her public with a frank portrayal of a woman’s social, sexual, and spiritual awakening.” Click here for the full text! Sounds like a feminist to me.

As you pore over this gem, you’ll clearly see the beginning, middle and the end—if you look hard enough. Another, facet is the use of metaphor and description which adds a wonderful flavor to the reading.

I hope you enjoy it as a model for “good writing.”

The Story of an Hour

Written by Kate Chopin (1894)

Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.
She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which someone was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will—as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

And yet she had loved him—sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in the face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

"Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg; open the door—you will make yourself ill. What are you doing, Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."

"Go away. I am not making myself ill." No, she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of the accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease—of the joy that kills.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

New York Times Best Sellers

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction

THE FIFTH WITNESS, by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown.) The defense lawyer Mickey Haller represents a woman facing home foreclosure who is accused of killing a banker.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown.) Routinely doing business from his Lincoln Town Cars, the bottom-feeding attorney Mickey Haller is asked to defend the scion of a wealthy family who might not be guilty of a murderous crime.

I'LL WALK ALONE, by Mary Higgins Clark. (Simon & Schuster.) A woman haunted by the disappearance of her young son discovers that someone has stolen her identity.

THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett. (Penguin Group.) A young white woman and two black maids in 1960s Mississippi.

Visit the New York Times

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dinosaur Attacks

When I saw this video, I had to post it. Imagine if one of these monsters managed to be transported through time to our current era. How would people react?

Atlas Shrugged All Over Again

Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand, stands as one of the most widely read books ever written. I've read it four times. In 2008, sales of Atlas Shrugged reached 200,000 and topped 500,000 in 2009. This represents a large amount of sales by any measure of literary success.
Why does this much maligned, and often lauded, novel continue to top the book sales charts? I think it represents what all free people crave, the right to pursue life on their own terms, without interference from those who believe they know better.
Is it a perfect philosophy? Of course not, people are people, warts and all. Human imperfections have the tendency to make the most ideal constructs tragedies.
The underlying factor in this books success is how well Ayn Rand wrote it. Tension ruled the pages.
Here’s a trailer for your viewing pleasure:


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Science Fiction Author H G Wells

Here's a thoughtful quote from science fiction author H.G. Wells.

“We were making the future, he said, and hardly any of us troubled to think what future we were making. And here it is!”
H. G. Wells


I think this might give writers pause to think about what they represent in their books because of the impact it can have on people. For example, Roddenberry's series, Star Trek portrays a world of equality and fantastic technological innovation that helps people of all civilizations live better.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Creating Short Stories 05 - Kurt Vonnegut Speaks

Kurt Vonnegut told tremendous stories. I especially enjoyed Slaughterhouse Five, his World War II critique. The story repeats "So it goes." throughout the book to shed light on the enigmatic circumstances of Billy Pilgrim life as he shifts in time.

Slaughterhouse Five appeared on film in 1972. Here's a trailer:



Vonnegut ranks among the best American writers. Let's listen to what he says about writing a story.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List

1 THE LAND OF THE PAINTED CAVES, by Jean M. Auel. (Crown.) The latest volume in a series that began with “The Clan of the Cave Bear,” set during the ice age.

2 LOVER UNLEASHED, by J. R. Ward. (Penguin Group.) Book 9 of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

3 2 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

4 3 THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown.) Routinely doing business from his Lincoln Town Cars, the bottom-feeding attorney Mickey Haller is asked to defend the scion of a wealthy family who might not be guilty of a murderous crime.

5 MYSTERY, by Jonathan Kellerman. (Random House.) The Los Angeles psychologist-detective Alex Delaware and the detective Milo Sturgis work on a grisly homicide case.





Visit the NY Times

Monday, April 11, 2011

Celebrate National Library Week, April 10-16, 2011

Libraries have been one of my favorite hangouts since I discovered the magic of books when I was eight years old. See How I Became Addicted! for that story. Some of the best libraries were on college campuses. For instance the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center! pictured below presents an impressive knowledge warehouse. I like to get there often.



Libraries offer a multitude of media for your enjoyment: books (of course), videos, DVDs, E-Books, information regarding virtually subject at the help desk in subjects such as science, literature, how to, biography, science fiction, social systems, philosophy, almost anything.

Do yourself a favor. Visit a library today.

A Starbucks HORROR STORY

One of the funniest things happened the other day. While I sat in Starbucks, a person who frequents the same location approached me explaining that we had a mutual friend. I see this person there almost every day. He sits with a group that engages combative political discussions and other mindless prattle.

I abhor this crowd and always take the seat farthest from where they sit yelling and screaming at one another, pretending they understand the issue. In reality, they all repeat the words of the pundits they see on TV.

After the introduction, he said in rapid-fire sequence, “I’m writing a book. I don’t know how to use a computer very well; in fact, I stink at using computers. Our friend “name withheld” said you write books and use the computer all the time.”

My neck twisted into a tight spring-like coil as I sat motionless, wondering what he wanted.

He continued. “I have Open Office. Can you tell me how to use it?”

I thought for a second and said, “I use Microsoft Office. It has ribbon format that’s intuitive. All I do is sit there, look at the menus at the top, and figure it out. You can but a Home and Student version for about $120.00.”

All the time I’m thinking, if this person wanted to learn how to use a software program, he could stop engaging in the dialog with his entourage and go to the library to learn it. Why should I take my time from my activities when he could easily spend his time more wisely?

After a few minutes, he finally realized my skill set was in MS Office, and I couldn’t help him with Open Office.

Thankful he left to return to his argumentative circle, the tension left my neck. I resumed reading, thinking we’d have no other contact.

Unfortunately, the worst of all situations has arisen. Now when I enter the store he says, “Hi Rick.” He thinks we’re friends.

AAAARRRRGGGGHHH! The horror, oh the horror.

Friday, April 8, 2011

2011 Science Fiction Hall of Fame Inductees

The 2011 inductees to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame are Harlan Ellison, Vincent Di Fate, Moebius, and Gardner Dozois.

The induction ceremony will be held Saturday June 25, 2011 at the Experience Music Project/Science Fiction Museum in Seattle WA as part of the Science Fiction Awards Weekend, June 24-26, 2011, in conjunction with the Locus Awards and NW Media Arts writing workshops with Terry Bisson and Connie Willis. The museum will also feature exhibits on Battlestar Galactica and Avatar. Further information and tickets to the Science Fiction Awards Weekend are available on the Locus website.

Visit Locus Magazine

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Gene Roddenberry

For me science fiction is a way of thinking, a way of logic that bypasses a lot of nonsense. It allows people to look directly at important subjects.

Gene Roddenberry

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Creating Short Stories 04

Making the Short Story Soup

See Creating Short Stories!

A story needs to contain events, conflicts, and confrontations that involve the protagonist to keep the reader interested in reading on. It’s the writer’s job to create these bad things in the context of telling the story. For example, in The Puppet Masters, Robert Heinlein had space alien slugs take over human beings. Click here to view the unseemly event!

What kind of a person could think of such atrocities? Other than sadists and psychopaths, that would be writers. Think about all the gruesome things Stephen King did to his characters. In Carrie, a young female high school graduate destroys the graduating class with her telekinetic powers. In Needful Things, he turns the inhabitants of a New England town violently against each other.

What kind of monster are writers? What kind of evil minds do they have?
In reality, writers don’t hurt people. They only use complications, tragic events, tension, and conflict to pen stories that readers want to read.

In writing stories, additional depth comes from metaphor, simile, artistic license, and believability. All these fit into the actions, reactions, and the twists and turns embedded in the prose.

All of these events have a time and place in which they occur.

One masterful short story writer, O Henry wrote the following opening for his story, The Guilty Party.

“A red-haired, unshaven, untidy man sat in a rocking chair by a window. He had just lighted a pipe, and was puffing blue clouds with great satisfaction. He had removed his shoes and donned a pair of blue, faded carpet-slippers. With the morbid thirst of the confirmed daily news drinker, he awkwardly folded back the pages of an evening paper, eagerly gulping down the strong, black headlines, to be followed as a chaser by the milder details of the smaller type.

In an adjoining room a woman was cooking supper. Odors from strong bacon and boiling coffee contended against the cut-plug fumes from the vespertine pipe.

Outside was one of those crowded streets of the east side, in which, as twilight falls, Satan sets up his recruiting office. A mighty host of children danced and ran and played in the street. Some in rags, some in clean white and beribboned, some wild and restless as young hawks, some gentle-faced and shrinking, some shrieking rude and sinful words, some listening, awed, but soon, grown familiar, to embrace--here were the children playing in the corridors of the House of Sin. Above the playground forever hovered a great bird. The bird was known to humorists as the stork. But the people of Chrystie street were better ornithologists. They called it a vulture.”

The next two lines take the story directly into the action and dialog.

A little girl of twelve came up timidly to the man reading and resting by the window, and said:

"Papa, won't you play a game of checkers with me if you aren't too tired?"

This portion of the series will continue next week.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List

Combined Print & E-Book Fiction Weeks
on List 1 LIVE WIRE, by Harlan Coben. (Penguin Group.) Myron Bolitar’s search for a missing rock star leads to questions about his own missing brother.

2 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

3 THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown.) Routinely doing business from his Lincoln Town Cars, the bottom-feeding attorney Mickey Haller is asked to defend the scion of a wealthy family who might not be guilty of a murderous crime.

4 SING YOU HOME, by Jodi Picoult. (Simon & Schuster.) Picoult takes on the issue of gay rights in this novel about a music therapist who desperately wants a child.

5 TOYS, by James Patterson and Neil McMahon. (Little, Brown.) Hays Baker, a top operative for the Agency of Change and a national hero, suddenly finds himself a hunted fugitive who must fight to save humans from extinction.

Visit the NY Times

Monday, April 4, 2011

Why Sci-Fi? Author Robert Heinlein

Robert Heinlein born in Butler Missouri, (1907–1988), American science fiction writer, also referred to as the “Dean of Science Fiction Writers” was another major contributor to the science fiction genre entertained readers with 32 novels, 59 short stories. Further, four were turned into motion pictures, two into television series, and a radio series. Along with Arthur Clarke and Isaac Asimov, he was named one of the “Big Three of Science Fiction”

Several of his works made their way into other media forms: Destination Moon, Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, Red Planet, The Puppet Masters, Starship Troopers, and Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles was a television series.
In one of Heinlein’s works, Friday, which is about an artificial person, equality is an underlying theme. This fits well with the apparent social themes of individual rights and self-reliance in his literature. Further, Heinlein contributed the neologisms grok and waldo, to the English language.

One of the more memorable films was The Puppet Masters, in which alien beings that appear as slugs invade Earth. The slimy creatures attach to people and control them. Secret agents, who can exchange body parts as if they were automobile parts, attempt to save the day and the planets from the alien takeover. Here’s a peek:

Video:



Heinlein’s also other notable works include Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, Starman Jones, Red Planet, and Glory Road.

Robert Heinlein Quotes: “I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do. I am free, no matter what rules surround me. If I find them tolerable, I tolerate them; if I find them too obnoxious, I break them. I am free because I know that I alone am morally responsible for everything I do.”
“Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.”

Friday, April 1, 2011

Digital Books Educate

Education Changing with Technology
As a firm believer in technological innovation, and how it benefits humankind, I like seeing this method of getting knowledge to the masses. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the global population could educate itself without leaving home?

Think of the benefits. It’s green because no one need drive to a brick and mortar building that must be built to accommodate students’ physical presence. This means no gas emissions and fewer pollutants. In addition, educators can have a global reach. In other words, no more excuses for ignorance.

An Inkling of the Future? Enhanced Ebooks and the College Textbook Market
By Yvette Chin, Editor, Digital Book World

Last week, interactive textbook app startup Inkling announced new partnerships with two of the major players in the higher education textbook industry. McGraw-Hill is set to release its top 100 undergraduate titles as well its medical school curriculum. Pearson Education is offering several business and health care titles, primarily through its Prentice Hall and Benjamin Cummings imprints. The Inkling iPad app offers interactivity, not just with the course material (well beyond standard textbook conversions to digital formats), but also among students engaged with the same text. At the same time, Inkling directly challenges traditional textbook pricing through an optional “by chapter” business model that might boost course adoption this fall.

Click here for the full article!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mercury Rising

I'm sure many science fiction writers see the NASA Messenger's images of Mercury as great fodder for their story idea mill. Imagine living on Mercury with its 88 day years. How many birthdays would you have now?

Sun-scorched Mercury is only slightly larger than Earth's Moon. Like the Moon, Mercury has very little atmosphere to stop impacts, and it is covered with craters. Mercury's dayside is super-heated by the sun, but at night temperatures drop hundreds of degrees below freezing. Ice may even exist in craters. Mercury's egg-shaped orbit takes it around the sun every 88 days.

NASA Photo




To read more about Mercury at NASA, click here!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Creating Short Stories 03

Essential Elements of a Story

See Creating Short Stories!

We already have the story idea: What if the plants were sent by aliens to take over Earth by cleaning the air, then releasing toxins to destroy human life? Further, we know that we need a plot, or nucleus of the tale nestled in the three-act structure, the beginning, the middle, and the end.

One of the more obvious elements needed for a short story is characters. The main or central character is the protagonist. Of course, the protagonist must have a problem to solve. Another crucial character, the antagonist, usually advances the problem.

One character who I think most people know of, Lex Luthor from the Superman comics and movies, epitomizes what an antagonist does. Antagonists do evil. Lex certainly did evil and stood proud as the worst of all villains, wreaking havoc on the world and attempting to kill Superman.

To add dramatic tension and keep the reader interested and asking for more, the protagonist needs some type of inner conflict to overcome to achieve his or her goal. Maybe it’s alcoholism, an inflated ego, or an insecurity that makes it so that he can’t ask the woman he loves out on a date. Whatever you choose for this internal struggle, it will prevent the protagonist from moving forward and achieving his or her goal.

The premise is the what-if question we asked in the story idea. Underlying the story Plants is the idea that aliens have come to Earth to take over the planet. To do this they sent plants that seem to cleanse the air and solve a problem. After a while, the plants release toxins that destroy human life. A good premise creates a desire in readers to continue reading.

A premise only applies to the story, and it need not apply to the real world. It guides us through the three parts of the story. For instance, I once saw a film about vampires that implied that the protagonist, a vampire, lived on the same moral plane that humans do. So the premise fit the story, but it failed the test of reality.

The theme is the underlying idea and may be described as a unifying idea that runs throughout the prose. A writer doesn’t necessarily state it in an obvious fashion. The readers extract it as they read. In Plants, the theme resides beneath the narrative.

Writers take these elements and combine them in a story within a setting.

The setting describes where and when the story takes place. 2001 A Space Odyssey took place in 2001 in space. Superman took place in Smallville and later Metropolis provided the setting. The story always seems to exist in contemporary society. Quite a trick if you ask me.

Next week we’ll discuss some of the spices that go into the short story soup.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New York Times Best Sellers

1 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, a young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

2 TOYS, by James Patterson and Neil McMahon. (Little, Brown.) Hays Baker, a top operative for the Agency of Change and a national hero, suddenly finds himself a hunted fugitive who must fight to save humans from extinction.

3 10 THE LINCOLN LAWYER, by Michael Connelly. (Little, Brown.) Routinely doing business from his Lincoln Town Cars, the bottom-feeding attorney Mickey Haller is asked to defend the scion of a wealthy family who might not be guilty of a murderous crime.

4 3 SING YOU HOME, by Jodi Picoult. (Simon & Schuster.) Picoult takes on the issue of gay rights in this novel about a music therapist who desperately wants a child.

5 4 LOVE YOU MORE, by Lisa Gardner. (Random House.) Detective D. D. Warren must solve the case of a dead husband, a battered wife and a missing child.

For the complete list Visit The Times!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Amazing Wildlife: Reality StrangetrThan Science Fiction

Showdown In Elk Town - Human Planet, Cities, Preview - BBC One


Children's Book Sales Down

Lower sales of its high margin educational technology programs, higher investment in digital initiatives and school funding cuts combined to increase Scholastic’s operating loss in the third quarter ended February 28 to $31.9 million from $500,000 in the comparable period in fiscal 2010. The loss in the most recent quarter includes a $3.5 million bad debt expense associated with Borders’s bankruptcy. Revenue slipped from $398.8 million to $393.7 million. Due to school funding pressures and higher digital investment, Scholastic lowered its sales and earnings forecast for the fourth quarter and full year. Chairman Richard Robinson called the quarterly results disappointing, but said he remained optimistic about future opportunities.

In its business segments, sales in children’s book publishing and distribution rose slightly, to $193 million, from $192.1 million. The increase came entirely from the trade unit where sales rose 21%, to $43.5 million, due to strong sales in the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series. Book club sales fell 6%, to $74.3 million, reflecting lower revenue per order, while book cub sales declined 2%, to $75.2 million, due mainly to bad weather that caused schools to reschedule fairs to the spring. During the quarter, Scholastic upped its investment in its e-book and e-commerce initiatives from $20 million to $30 million for the full year. The company said it plans to open its children's e-bookstore and downloadable e-reader application in fiscal 2012 (which begins in June). It began beta testing the e-reader last week.The $3.5 million charge for Borders covers all debt associated with the chain, Scholastic said. The chain accounted for about 3% of children's distribution revenue, roughly $20 million annually.

Visit PWDaily.com!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

This Is True for "How To Write," Too

One of the most important things writers need to learn is to make the writing that is essentially simple in a language comprehensible to everyone. And Albert Einstein believed the same is true for science. This might follow for all disciplines.

"Most of the fundamental ideas of science are essentially simple, and may, as a rule, be expressed in a language comprehensible to everyone." Albert Einstein

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Creating Short Stories 02

Continued from Creating Short Stories


The Short Story Outline

Everything needs a structure. For stories, I believe the three-act structure is the most appropriate, although some may disagree. The three acts represent the beginning the middle and the end, each serving a specific purpose.

Suppose we did a story on Julius Caesar’s war with Pharnaces II of Pontus. It lasted for four years, and Julius told it in three words that are three acts when he said, "Veni, Vidi, Vici."

Act I, I came

Act II, I saw

Act III, I conquered.

It doesn’t get more succinct than that. But, writing the story is more complicated than that because there are elements in each of the acts that give readers a reason to read the tale to its conclusion: emotions, conflict, and drama have a place in the three-act structure that bring the narrative to life. And bringing the story to life is a good way to describe what authors do; they add life to the plot.

Act I
Here writers create the setting, which might be a historical location during the 16th century, say, Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, about the French revolution. (This novel has sold more than two-million copies.) The story might be set in contemporary society as Nelson DeMille’s The Lion’s Game. The setting may also be in a future world, such as Orson Scott Card’s, Ender’s Game. Futuristic stories give one the opportunity to create completely new worlds with quirks and strange phenomena to tickle the mind of readers who enjoy speculative fiction.

In this act, we discover the cast of characters and their relationships.


Act II
The second act begins with a problem for the protagonist that sends him or her into a crisis. The protagonist’s world turns inside out and upside down. Something obstructs the hero’s path that he or she must overcome to accomplish the goal. Conflicts with the antagonist arise and must be resolved. Tension rules. Readers root for the protagonist to resolve the situation and prevail over the obstacles set forth to create tension and prevent the champion from reaching the objective.

The main character experiences a process in which a method to triumph, often against all odds, over the crisis he or she faces.
As the second act closes, the protagonist has an epiphany, a moment of revelation where the hero has insight into how to solve the crisis and reduce the tension created by it. The champion understands how to resolve the problem at hand.

Act III
Now that the protagonist understands what needs to be done to remedy the situation, he or she will use the remedy to confront the antagonist and have the final interaction with this enemy. When the hero has a conquest of the adversary that has frustrated him or her throughout the second act, we have the climax of the story. The story reaches resolution, action winds down, the champion prevails (usually), and peace returns.


Next week we will discuss the essential elements that go into the story.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New York Times Best Seller List; Fiction

COMBINED PRINT & E-BOOK FICTION

1. WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen
2. THE JUNGLE, by Clive Cussler with Jack Du Brul
3. SING YOU HOME, by Jodi Picoult
4. LOVE YOU MORE, by Lisa Gardner
5. THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST, by Stieg Larsson

For the complete list Visit The Times!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Why Sci-Fi 02 H. G. Wells

Why Sci-Fi 02
Science fiction supplies, not only enjoyment to readers, it also provides futuristic ideas to humankind. If we look at early science fiction authors and their work, we see visions of the future that have come to fruition: space travel, amazing weaponry, computer systems, and air travel to name a few.

One of history’s great writers is H. G. Wells, one of the Fathers of Science Fiction. Wells was born Bromley, England on September 21, 1866 and died August 13, 1946. His works rank among the most popular of all time.
H. G. Wells, English author, sociologist, journalist, historian, prolific writer, wrote more than 100 books. He wrote two on my favorite novels, The Time Machine and War of the Worlds. Both stories made it to the silver screen. For that matter, several of his creations made the same journey: The Invisible Man, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The First Men in the Moon, and others.
Wells was a creative and forward thinking individual. War of the Worlds introduced the concept of a force-field that protected the alien ships from our attacks. Did his Invisible Man, which displayed the nightmare a scientist created with his own experiments, introduce the concept of angst?

In addition to his fiction work, Wells wrote non-fiction. Here’s a partial list of titles: An Englishman Looks at the World, The War and Socialism, A Short History of Mankind, The Outline of History and the Science of Life. The list of his writings could fill pages. It’s difficult to imagine one person publishing all this knowledge, especially from an era that didn’t have computers, the Internet or word processors to assist in the monumental task of providing such pleasure to humankind.

One of his quotes: “After people have repeated a phrase a great number of times, they begin to realize it has meaning and may even be true.” He also said, “Advertising is legalized lying,” which aligns him with the thinking of Eric Blair, whom most know as George Orwell, who said, “Advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill bucket.”
Obviously, Wells was a knowledgeable writer, well versed in human activity, science, and the potential humans have to create. He provided hours of enjoyment to readers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Publishers Weekly Reports Amazing News

January E-book Sales Soar, Top Hardcover, Mass Market Paperback
he surge of e-book buying expected to take place in January following a round of holiday e-reader gift-giving did in fact materialize. According to preliminary estimates from the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales from 16 reporting companies jumped 115.8%, to $69.9 million in January. No other trade segment posted a sales increase in the month. Sales of mass market paperbacks were terrible in January, down 30.9% from the nine reporting companies, falling to $39.0 million, $30 million below the sales of e-books. E-book sales also topped $49.1 million in adult hardcover sales reported by 17 publishers; hardcover sales fell 11.3% in January. Trade paperback sales fell 19.7% in the month but remained above e-book revenue at $83.6 million from 19 houses.

Downloadable audio sales increased 8.8% in January, to $6.5 million at 14 publishers, while physical audiobook sales dropped 6.7% to $7.3 million from 20 publishers. Religion was the only print segment to post an increase in January with sales up 6.8%.

Visit PW Daily!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Creating Short Stories

Since I began writing, many people have asked, “How do you write a story?” That’s a difficult question to answer because within the fiction category, there are so many different types: science fiction, children's, young adult, fantasy, horror, romance, mystery, historical fiction, and more. To complicate matters, there are sub-divisions within each category.

It’s not necessary to define them to understand how to write one. Just pick the one you want to write. My choice is science fiction.

There is a common thread, at least as far as I know. Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. The three parts constitute the plot: 1) in the beginning of a tale in which there was previous activity; 2) the middle builds on what you learned from the beginning; 3) the end ties the loose ends from the previous two parts and resolves the conflicts generated.
A short story takes a slice of life and creates a whole, the beginning, middle, and end, of course with a twist.

Where do you start? Let’s start with the “story idea,” that propels a writer to create those three segments. Where do “story ideas originate?” They come from everywhere. You can find sites on the Internet that supply them. One site in the United Kingdom, Story ideas, Visit Story Ideas! that offers characters, scenarios, titles, lines and more. All you need do is fill in the questions, and the answers display on the screen.

Writer’s prompts are another avenue for ideas. Writer’s Digest Visit Writer's Digest! has page after page of prompts that can help any writer get going with a story. They’re not the only site to offer this gift. Writing.com offers a plethora of ideas for stories and characters. To find others, search “writing prompts.”

Writers also find story ideas in everyday life: a funny character from childhood, a startling event, everyday news. To me, this is the best way because it’s organically induced creativity that allows a writer to exercise the imagination.

Yesterday I read about using plants to remedy global pollution problems. It seems that certain plants have the ability to purify the air. Before I finished the second paragraph, I had three story ideas written in a notebook: 1) What if the plants emitted a gas that made people drunk and made them do silly things? 2) What if the plants made the atmosphere too clean and people lost the ability to fight off viral and bacterial infection? 3) What if the plants were sent by aliens to take over Earth by cleaning the air, then releasing toxins to destroy human life? The third option presents the most promise for an exciting story, at least to my thinking.

Now that you have the story idea what comes next? Many people may say, “The beginning.” That might be correct. But is it the best way to write a story? Do you just sit down and begin writing? Some might be able to do this, but I’m not one of them. There something recommended that might come before you begin to write. We call it the story outline.

Next week we’ll discuss more about creating a short story outline and its components.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Best Sellers

New York Times: Best Sellers
Combined Print & E-Book Fiction
1 SING YOU HOME, by Jodi Picoult. (Simon & Schuster.) Picoult takes on the issue of gay rights in this novel about a music therapist who desperately wants a child.

2 THE WISE MAN’S FEAR, by Patrick Rothfuss. (Penguin Group.) In this sequel to “The Name of the Wind,” the magician Kvothe continues to narrate his fantastical life story.

3 RIVER MARKED, by Patricia Briggs. (Penguin Group.) The shapeshifter Mercy Thompson and her mate, the Alpha werewolf Adam, must confront evil lurking in the Columbia River.

4 WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, by Sara Gruen. (Algonquin.) After his parents die in a car accident, young veterinary student — and an elephant — save a Depression-era circus.

5 TICK TOCK, by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge. (Little, Brown.) The New York detective Michael Bennett enlists the help of a former colleague to solve a rash of horrifying crimes that are throwing the city into chaos.

For the complete list Visit The Times!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why Sci-Fi?

Why is it that we love science fiction? Most of it’s unbelievable, and much of it is hokey. Yet we continue to read science fiction books; watch science fiction movies and TV shows. Some even attend Trekkie conventions.

And let’s not forget the other science fiction gatherings, not just in the United States, but globally. There must be something to this activity. Couldn’t we all read romance novels or mysteries? There’s a reason we flock toward these “strange stories.”
For me, it was being in the library and browsing a copy of Ray Bradbury's "Illustrated Man." His writing grabbed my attention in a way that few others ever have.

Reading about the crew stranded on a planet of horrible rain in "The Long Rain" that Bradbury described as follows:
"The rain continued. It was a hard rain, a perpetual rain, a sweating and steaming rain; it was a mizzle, a downpour, a fountain, a whipping at the eyes, an undertow at the ankles; it was a rain to drown all rains and the memory of rains. It came by the pound and the ton, it hacked at the jungle and cut the trees like scissors and shaved the grass and tunneled the soil and molted the bushes. It shrank men's hands into the hands of wrinkled apes; it rained a solid glassy rain, and it never stopped."

"The Veldt," that used a futuristic nursery to enhance a concerned couple's children to commit the ultimate horror of killing their parents.

These are a couple of the most unusual stories I remember from that day. Ray did it for me. I was hooked for life.
What’s yours?

Friday, March 4, 2011

How I Became Addicted – 2.0

With all the talk of Charlie Sheen, star of Two and a Half Men, I thought it appropriate to speak because there are better things to be addicted to than Charlie Sheen. I know this blog has its roots in science fiction, culture and writing, but with the hullabaloo about Charlie being addicted to Charlie, I just have to mention some of my addictions. Yes, non-celebrities have addictions too. Fortunately, mine are positive, and I hope you’ll share one, or more, of them.

The first time I wrote about addiction, “How I Became Addicted” in 2008 Visit How I Became Addicted! , I spoke of how reading entered my life and became an obsession at eight years of age. Since that day, I’ve developed several other obsessions: exercise, writing, writing science fiction novels, problem solving and strategic thinking. Now, I’m hopelessly addicted to learning, especially online. No body of knowledge is safe.

How potent is the Internet as a learning resource? It’s magical.

The Internet is a potent resource for learning because supplies education at the PhD, Masters and undergraduate levels. Further, it offers courses for nearly every subject imaginable just for general edification. And the web provides professional development for medical practitioners too.

Since I began taking online courses, I’ve discovered how wonderful adding knowledge to the brain makes you feel. Don’t forget, scientia potentia est, or Knowledge is Power.

In addition to earning a Master’s degree, I learned about things I could not have imagined, at least not before the Internet came into vogue. Here are a few classes I’ve taken online:

• How to create a three-act outline
• How to write a short story
• How to write a novel: John Dechancie taught the class. John’s works include Starrigger, Red Limit, Freeway, Paradox Alley, and the Skyway Trilogy. I would recommend his course to any aspiring novelist.
• How to write poetry
• How to write science fiction
• How to create Microsoft Excel spreadsheets
• How to use Intuit Quickbooks
• And more

I’ve even found a college, Marylhurst University, that allows certain people to audit online classes. There are universities that offer “free online writing courses.” That you can’t beat.

What’s more, the Internet offers classes in playing chess and drawing. For the art classes, you’ll need a scanner.

Just as the medical professionals don’t understand why people become addicted to drugs and alcohol, I don’t understand why I became addicted to the things I did. But I do know that there are great benefits associated with my obsessions.

The grey matter, known as the human brain, controls all human activity. It consists of the brain stem, the limbic system and the cerebral cortex. According to the National Institutes of Health, the stem controls our basic functions, the limbic system regulates emotions and the cerebral cortex handles the senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell—nothing worth jeopardizing. And this magnificent three-pound computer comes free of charge with the human body.

Things such as drugs interrupt the communication between neurons, and present a danger to the long-term health of the tiny skull-encrusted orb. On the other hand, things like exercise, writing and learning improve communication between neurons and increase the number of cells in the cerebral cortex.

The Franklin Institute states on its website, “Physical exercise has a protective effect on the brain and its mental processes, and may even help prevent Alzheimer's disease. Based on exercise and health data from nearly 5,000 men and women over 65 years of age, those who exercised were less likely to lose their mental abilities or develop dementia, including Alzheimer's.” Pay attention baby boomers.

While writing is its own reward, it also provides a forum for self-expression. In addition, it improves listening and speaking skills. After all, you must organize your thoughts to write a coherent paragraph. According to Jill Taylor, PhD and author of My Stroke of Insight, the right side of the brain helps create and the left tells the story. Doesn’t that make it a good idea to make the brain as healthy as possible?

Remember, a brain is a terrible thing to waste! OMG, I don’t believe I said that.

Take advantage of the Internet and develop you positive addictions. Good luck!

Monday, February 28, 2011

This video has nothing to do with science fiction, but it tells a story that might need telling. Looking at this makes me question how often I've been misguided, intolerant, or acted rashly, maybe overreacted. I like the simple music too.

Enjoy it.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Atlas Shrugged Returns to the Big Screen

I read this 1100 page novel a long time ago and always appreciated parts of it's message. The movie has been remade, to current standards I imagine. Here's the trailer. I'm sure every CEO will appreciate it.

Will Watson jeopardize human intelligence?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Serendipity Strikes



While sitting in my favorite Starbucks this morning, a novel idea popped into my mind. No, it’s not the novel as in new, innovative, or fresh (although it is), but an idea for a new novel. By the time I left Starbucks, I had written six pages of plot points and scene ideas that can easily be expanded into something wonderful.

I’m motivated, excited, and eager to get to work on this new novel. I think it will appeal to a wide variety of readers: conspiracy, clandestine operations, futurism, mind control, and much more.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Beautiful Music



Across A Pond

Because of a previous stand
I took to visiting across a pond
To explore a mood

Discovering it was not always good
Unusual thoughts some had
‘ow coud ya think that child?

The comment section most often failed
To allow one to even express a mind
‘ere, mate, I thought I’d found a friend

Nuts as anyone in the end
It all appeared
Waste not your time to mend

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Expedition

In the still of the night, the creature’s eyes appeared as intense red laser beams that could pierce steel plated armor. I braced for the onslaught of the charging beast while I wondered how I managed to steer the expedition into what must be the end of our young lives.

Lara’s look said it all. “Had to be the top archeologist on the planet, didn’t you? Had to drag us around the globe to unspeakable places that chill our bodies and warp our brains, didn’t you?” The accusation she hurled at me from the trip’s bumpy beginning with cancelled flights, late trains, and corrupt customs agent at every country’s borders. But all I wanted was the truth about the origins of our civilization. Don’t we have the right to know about our past, our beginning, our heritage?

The creature’s eyes took on the glow of hot flaming coals sitting on a bar-be-que, and I think we were on the menu. It stared directly into my eyes then at the rest of our group of capricious anthropologists.

Dr. Bondweahter’s squeaky voice whined. “Oh my god, this thing will tear us to pieces. This is your doing, Thom. You just had to bump your ego with a new discovery, didn’t you?”
Keeping my eyes on our destroyer, I yelled. “Shut up and do something constructive for a change. I’m tired of your whining.”

Lara said, “What would you like him to do?”

“He could offer himself as a meal to our friend here, while the rest of us escape.” I retorted. “He’s a pain in the neck.”

“Bondweather screamed, “If you weren’t so rambunctious we wouldn’t be in the predicament. The university cautioned us about going to this location, but you and your overweight ego had to do it anyhow, didn’t you?”

They were right. I had to be the best; nothing less was acceptable to me. Now all their lives are in danger. Only one choice remained.

I yelled, “I’ll keep the beast busy, all of you back away slowly, then run when you think you can break away.”

The tiny expedition of six began walking backwards as I turned to face the lizard-like monster that stood erect as humans do. I reached for the knife on my belt, but this only enraged the strange being. It’s nostrils flared emitting some type of vapor until I moved an empty hand back to my side.

Now I was more curious than scared. I shrugged my shoulders turned my palms up in a questioning gesture. The lizard-man emulated the gesture.

“What do you want?” I asked.

“That song,” a very raspy voice queried.

“Song?”

“The one you sang while you walked into the valley. Sing it for me.”

“Sing it for you?”

“Yes,” the hoarse sounding voice replied. “It brings back such fond memories of the woman I loved.”

What else could I do? I cleared my throat and sang.

“In the still of the night.”

I stopped. “Wait a second. It’ll sound better with the accompaniment. Just start singing, Sho be do, sho be do.

Lizard-man opened his mouth and with a raspy baritone voice sang. “Sho be doe, sho be doe.”

I continued.

“In the still of the night…”



The original platter was cut in a VFW post in Bridgeport Connecticut with no instruments. At the end of the recording the sound of a truck backfire echoed in the background.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The First Time I Met God

It happened while I was still shrouded in innocence and naiveté.

It was about 5:30 AM, and it felt very cold. The early morning sky was tremendously dark hanging like an enormous blanket over the city; no stars were visible on this still windless morning. I carefully made my way down the driveway onto the sidewalk noting the shadowy tree figures created by the single lamppost at the corner of the block.

I began staring upward into the darkness thinking about how unusual everything appeared, almost black on black. The light from the lamppost, without which I’m sure I would have seen nothing, almost resembled a wayward moon disrupting the magnificent stillness of the moment. I intentionally avoided looking directly at the glaring sphere and focused on the stark black sky. It was beautiful.

As I passed under the lamppost still staring at the early morning heavens I heard something I cannot describe, something electric, like a soft sizzling sound that caused my body to tingle. I slowed and looked straight upward towards heaven. There was total darkness for a while. Then there were hundreds, maybe thousands of brilliant white stars illuminating the heavens, and descending upon me, in a slow and graceful dance as if they were being manipulated by some hidden puppeteer who was veiled by the mysterious predawn sky. I froze in place.

There was a peculiar exciting feeling in the air and I wanted to know more about it. As I waited, warmth filled my being, comfortable feelings soothed me, and I felt tremendous peace. This was truly wonderful. “It must be God,” I thought.

The cold snowflakes hit my face and exploded into water as they set down upon my warm skin. I stood there for a few minutes, and then continued on my way.

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