Sunday, October 31, 2010

Adventures of the Magnificent Seven :Tricks or Treats

My Halloween Treat:  Go to my storefront, scroll down To Adventures of the Magnificent Seven: Tricks or Treats, and down the story in pdf format for FREE.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Twick or Tweet

If you’re anything at all like me, and heaven help anyone who is, but if you are – you get tired of reading BLOGS that are poorly disguised rants.  Heck - I’m not even a big fan of the ones that don’t even bother with the disguise.
Which, of course, is why there will be a cleverly disguised rant in here somewhere.
But first, a word from our sponsor, the Department of Redundancy Department.  “BOO!”
We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
Tomorrow is Halloween.  In Pittsburgh, and Lansing, MI, the last two places I lived, the powers that be (code for self important township or borough administrators) issue a yearly ruling to determine when children in their communities may legally wear lead laced costumes imported from China and go door to door begging for candy.  This particular holiday is endorsed by the National Association of Orthodontists and Dentists, but I digress.
In Pasco County, Florida, where I now live, there are no such mandates.  Not this year, anyway.  Probably because this is a mid-term election year and most of them are too busy slinging mud at each other trying to get re-elected to bother with such mundane trivialities as hunter-gatherer children,  jack-o-lanterns and  bite sized Snickers bars.  We have decided to take the risk that Trick or Treating will take place on Halloween and let the watch cats keep potential eggers and toilet paperers off the property.
The electrified fence and motion detecting, laser sighted rubber pellet shooting MAC-10’s on the four corners of the house should get the rest.  (just kidding).
[rant ]
Still dukeing it out with T-Mobile and Blackberry.  The latest from T-Mobile is “Since Device OS upgrades are free, we are under no obligation to provide you with any compensation.  After all, it didn’t actually cost you anything.”  That was followed by the very clear understanding that while T-Mobile appreciates my 7 years of customer loyalty, and they don’t want to lose me as a customer, neither are they concerned enough about losing me to actually do anything to keep me.
Blackberry’s position is even though the upgrade was designed by BB engineers to work on a device designed by BB engineers, and in fact DOES work in the devices sold by other retail vendor, since T-Mobile made an arbitrary decision to stop offering and supporting the upgrade, they won’t support it either.  It is still, however, available for download on the BB website.
The manager of the store where I bought the device said the best he could do is sell me the next model of the phone at the lowest sale price ($80) with a two year contract extension.  At my current service plan rate, that would be a little over $3,000 over the course of the contract.  That’s T-Mobile’s idea of rewarding customer loyalty and ensuring customer satisfaction.
Remember when monopolies resulted in no real attention to the customer because the customer  really didn’t have any other choice?  Apparently the fact that you now have so many options ends up with the same result.  “Go ahead.  Take your business elsewhere.  Someone else will step up and take your place.  Have a nice day.”
Grab your headphones and point your browser to Edin Road Radio where you can head my friend Jesse W. Coffey read Road Trip by Novelist/Artist/Musician Lorrieann Russell, and her own story, Act of Faith.  Well done scary reads just in time for Halloween.  Good Stuff.  Edin Road Publishing will also be publishing my WIP, Legends of Greenbrook Park in e-book format in 2011.
Well, it’s Saturday.
Gonna try out a new recipe idea.  Baked Acorn Squash stuffed with Provolone stuffed Chicken Breast and roasted vegetable medley (broccoli, carrot, onion, mushroom, new red potato, Brussels sprouts) tossed in olive oil, rosemary and garlic, and roasted until tender) served on a bed of rice.
Might watch some football, and definitely going to watch the Britcoms.  Church tomorrow.
This is too long for an actual Tweet, huh? (674 words - 3,994 characters, including spaces)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Always Have a Disclaimer - Just in Case

I have two primary rules of life.
Number one: Why stand when you can sit, why sit when you can lie down, and why be awake when you can be asleep?
Number Two:  Begin every project with a disclaimer.  Just in case.
My usual disclaimer is “It’s not my fault, and I’m standing by that until the evidence against me is incontrovertible, indisputable, and irrefutable.  And then, it’s still not my fault.”
The disclaimer stands for this missive.  It is possible, even probable that I will miss someone when assembling this list.  Hey – I’m an old guy and easily confused, in which case, “it’s not my fault!”
Several years back, I discovered my first self-published book.  I was a member of a large online writers group, and one of the members posted a message offering a free pre-publication edition of a book he had written, and only asked for a review in return.  That’s writer talk for ‘editing help’ and ‘publicity’.
That first book was All the Guys are Bad Guys by Ned Lord, published by Sneakaboard Press.  ISBN 0-9774767-0-7.  It’s available at Amazon.  It was actually a pretty good read.  Ned has gone on to write several more books, all of which are available at Amazon or Sneakaboard.
My whole point in this is that self-published is not necessarily synonymous with badly written.  In fact my personal experience is that more often than not these writers and their novels are every bit as good, and sometimes even better than the authors and books published by the big publishing houses.  Not always, but often.  And let’s face it, even some of the best known writers (Stephen King) sometimes run out of gas and just coast.  The Cell was The Stand recycled without the walking dude and the religious overtones.  And it wasn’t as compelling a story or a read.  That didn’t keep it from being published.  Sir Stephen could write Vogon Poetry and get published on the strength of his name and record alone irrespective of the quality of the read.
That’s not even my point.  My point, and I’ve said it numerous time before, is that the best writers not necessarily named King, Rowling, Meyers, Patterson, Rice, Creighton or Stein, and the best books do not necessarily come from the big publishing houses.
This is the place where the disclaimer comes into play.  I’m pretty sure I’ll miss someone.  It’s not intentional.
That said, here are some of he best writers and books I’ve read in the last five years, and you won’t recognize most of them because Random House hasn’t discovered them.  They come from all over the country, and with only one exception which I will identify in the list below (*), they are all good reads.  The single exception was so badly researched, conceived, written and designed I gave it ½ star out of ten, and considered that a gift.
All the Guys Are Good Guys – Ned Lord
My Brother’s Keeper Trilogy – Lorriann Russell
A Wager of Blood – Jesse Coffey
The Rock and Roll Murders series - Patricia Morrison
You and I are Intertwined – Joe Dyson
Jewels – Lakisha Spletzer
The Secrets of Havenridge – Chris Coad Taylor
Deviations: Covenant – Elissa Malcohn
The Eighth Deadly Sin – John Richardson
Hanger Flying – Joe D’Amario
The Odyssey of an Armenian Revolutionary Couple – Vahak D. Sarkis
The Fundamentals of Islam* - Dr. David N. Smeltz
Angel in the Shadows – Lisa Grace
The Golden Oak – Cynthia Hardin
Deer Lake – Kaitlyn Rushe
Motherless Child – Sarah Gordon Weathersby
Uncharted – Angela Elwell Hunt
The Prodigal Planet – Ed Maurer
Night of the Living Trekkies – Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall
The Purging of Monica Campbell – Dorothy Joan Riley
The Bad Girl – Maya Reynolds (erotica)
Shadow of the Arch – Ken Dye
Echoes of a Woman’s Soul – Dianna Doles Petry (poetry)
I’ve read and reviewed every book on that list.  If you exclude the book on Islam, my average review grade is 4 stars out of five.  None of them is less than a 3 of 5, and there are a few that are 5 of 5, and I consider myself a hard reviewer.  I did not include my own work (Sometimes I Can Hear Voices (poetry), Alice’s Goldfinch (poetry) and The Adventures of the Magnificent Seven) because frankly, I’m hardly an objective voice where they’re concerned, am I?
In the interest of time, I’ll just say one came to me in hardcover, five as e-books, and the rest in paperback.  You can Google the title or author to find most of them, and most are available at or  Some of them (Deviations: Covenant) are free in e-book format, one of them (Uncharted) has been published by a recognized imprint, and I downloaded one in e-book format (Night of the Living Trekkies) from my local library.  I believe in these people.  They fit the profile: a good story well told.
If you are looking for a good read, and want to help a ‘starving writer’, find and buy some of these books.  You won’t be disappointed.  Except with the book on Islam – avoid that like the plague.  I don’t think I’ve ever read a more deceptive, pretentious, self-aggrandizing poorly written book that made it to press, even if self-published.
By the way – if you’ve hung in this far to learn which is my personal ‘pick of the litter’, hands down its Lorrieann Russel (who also designed her own covers as well as those for Wager of Blood and Adventures of the Magnificent Seven) and her  Brother’s Keeper Trilogy.  The series is in the same league as Dianna Gabaldon’s Outlander series.
If I’ve missed someone, my apologies, and remember my disclaimer:  It’s not My Fault.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Not Quite Ready for Prime Time

Perhaps this is their idea of a Halloween Trick.  If so, I am not amused.
Blackberry 820 Curve
Back in April, I got a Blackberry Curve 8520 Smart Phone from T-Mobile.  Mostly this is because I am one of those hopeless idiots who is a slave to my calendar.  One of the nice things about the Curve is that it links to my Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 Address book and Calendar.  I could have it link to my email as well, but that’s overkill.  I deleted all the games, added a few useful things, and off I went.
In August Research in Motion (RIM – Blackberry) released a major upgrade to their computer desktop software, the component you need for your computer to talk to the hand held device.  My particular Toshiba Satellite  Notebook is not Bluetooth enabled, so this is a necessity.
In September, RIM released a major device software upgrade from version 4.6, with which the device comes pre-installed, to version 5 point something.  In the spirit of Microsoft Windows Vista, and Microsoft’s time tested policy of releasing upgrades not quite ready for prime time, and patches to fix previous patches that broke stuff, this upgrade disabled several apps.  Suddenly, I DON’T have an app for that, you know?
It was annoying, but fixable, and the new software was faster, cleaner, etc.
Yesterday they released a minor upgrade from to  This one could have come with the label Genuine Microsoft.  It completely killed my phone.  The install message warned “this operation could take up to an hour.”  I gave up after 4 hours and called my provider, T-Mobile.
I spent an hour on the phone with T-Mobile, while the guy was polite and friendly, was not well versed in Blackberry Support.  Their download page links send you to the wrong files.  The only good thing was that because this was a Technical Support call, it didn’t use minutes.  It still took an hour to do nothing except finally come to the conclusion that he was in way over his head and transfer me to Blackberry Tech Support.
After an hour with Blackberry, I had my phone back.
Sort of.
My upgrade actually became a downgrade.  It reverted me back to the original ‘shipped with’ OS version 4.6. 
Which is slower, less featured, clumsier and so on.
And unlike when my computer needs to go this route of a complete wipe,  reinstall the OEM software and then keep adding service packs until you’re caught up to where you were and then you can reinstall the rest from a good backup, Blackberry recommended not trying to reload the upgrade.
Still, I had a good back-up.  From yesterday before the upgrade, so everything was fresh.
And after clicking my heals three times, turning around three times, flicking my wand just so, and saying the proper incantation, telephonious fixus, with the right emphasis on the proper syllable, I had my phone fully restored.
Sort of.
Of course, none of my third party apps came back – the backup doesn’t save them.  So far, I’ve had to purchase several of them again.
All my pictures and music were restored, but none of my custom ring tones – I’ll have to reload them, and likely pay for them again.
My calendar and contact list was restored, thankfully, but re-syncing would have done that anyway.  Of course, the back-up restore process should have done apps and ringtones too.
Funny thing is when I open a folder on the device from  the desktop software, the folder shows that all the apps are still there.  Guess I’ll be spending yet more time on the phone with Blackberry Technical Support.
On the other hand, the RIM guy told me something I have long suspected since I can’t find it.  T-Mobile told me the phone was GPS enabled and ran a Microsoft OS when they sold it to me.
The Blackberry guy told me this model has neither.
I am thoroughly infuriated (that’s the 25-cent word for ‘pissed’) with T-Mobile and Blackberry.
Honestly, if I didn’t have so much time (almost 7 years as a T-Mobile customer) and money (Blackberry service is included with my phone service) I’d put the phone in the driveway, back the car over it and start again with an iPhone.
This is not over.
Stay tuned.  Film at 11:00.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Ponderance of Tens

OK, so I have to tell you right up front that I’m writing  - or at least starting to write – this on 26th October, not 27th October.  I had an idea, and I didn’t want to lose it sleeping on it.  Yeah.  I know.  I’ll probably regret the choice.
Halloween is in four days, so I thought I’d write about scary things other than the possibility of  another six years of the Obama administration.  IT’S A JOKE – GET OVER IT.
So, in no particular order, here some of my Ten Scariest in several genres.
1.      The Stand by Stephen King. Because this one really could happen
2.      The Shining by Stephen King – ditto the previous statement.   This is the only SK book I have never been able to finish because it’s so creepy.
3.      Salem’s Lot by Stephen King – this one almost made me hang garlic on my windows.
(Stephen has this ‘S’ thing happening, doesn’t he?)
4.      A Wager of Blood – Jesse Coffey – I know the writer.  This is good stuff.
5.      The Vampire Armand – Anne Rice
6.      Dracula – Bram Stoker
7.      Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
8.      Doctor Jekyll  and Mr. Hyde – Robert Louis Stephenson
9.      White Plague – L. Ron Hubbard
10.  The Obama Healthcare Plan
Ten Scariest Movies
1.      The Shining (original)
2.      The Crawling Eye
3.      Alien
4.      Nosferatu
5.      The House On Haunted Hill (original)
6.      Event Horizon
7.      Star Trek – The Final Frontier (anything directed by William Shatner frightens me)
8.      Aliens
9.      Salem’s Lot – original TV Mini series
10.  Sleeping Beauty (hey – I was like 6 when I saw it the first time)
1.      Thriller – Michael Jackson – Best all time scary video and song ever
2.      Monster Mash – Bobby “Boris” Pickett
3.      Barney Theme
4.      Night on Bald Mountain - Modest Mussorgsky
5.      Theme from JAWS – John Williams
6.      Toccata and Fugue in d minor – J.S. Bach
7.      Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – William Shatner cover
8.      California Girls – David Lee Roth cover
9.      Funeral March of a Marionette - Charles Gounod
10.  Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back – John Williams
1.      We live in the greatest Nation in the world.  Help me change that. – Barack H. Obama
2.      It’s OK to change history to make it politically correct.
3.      It’s OK to teach our children that altered PC history is history.
4.      Life has no absolutes – truth is relative.
5.      All roads lead to Heaven – Oprah Winfrey.
6.      It’s all about me.
7.      Entitlement.
8.      Humanism.
9.      Fundamentalism.
10.  William Shatner’s rugs.
I suppose there could be other lists, but this is starting to creep me out.  Especially the realization that William Shatner made all the lists but the one for scary books, although I suppose I could give him mention for Ashes of Eden, where he brought Captain Kirk back to life after his demise in Generations. What are your ideas for some of these groups?  Scariest reads?  Music?  Movie? Ideas (yours or others)?  Let me know.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

If it's Tuesday...

If it’s Tuesday, this must be [insert location of choice here].  Tuesdays are always a little bit odd for me.  I don’t know why, but they are.  I guess everyone must have one day of the week like that.  Or not.  It could just be me.
But my first stroke was on a Tuesday, and I met my first wife on a Tuesday.  I presume those two events to be mutually exclusive, and in no way connected.
Or not.
No football tonight – the New Jersey (boy, does it ever feel strange writing that!)  Giants held on last night to beat a Tony Romo-less Cowboy team in Dallas.  The World Series starts tomorrow without the top two teams in either league.  Best record in the AL went down in the divisional playoffs to worst record of the AL Division Champions Texas Rangers, and best record in Baseball Philadelphia fell to the San Francisco Giants, who had the second worst record in the majors for a divisional champion.  I mean, The World Series!  And the best two teams will be watching it on TV!  Even the perennial Best Team Money can Buy (New York Yankees – where Ranger Cliff Lee will probably be pitching next year) didn’t make it.
I got in trouble last week when someone pointed out that Steelers QB ‘Big’ Ben Roethlisberger points his finger to the sky and gives ‘all the glory to God’ when he makes a touchdown.  I had the audacity to ask who the football player gives the glory to when he’s raping college girls in Georgia?  Rabid Steelers fans don’t take it kindly when you point out to them that their [little ‘g’] sports gods don’t actually walk on water and make silk purses out of sow’s ears.
Did I mention it was Tuesday?
Ok – there are a mess of NHL games on tonight, including the local Tampa team vs the Pittsburgh team I left behind, but I’m pretty certain the only hockey game I ever watched beginning to end was the Miracle in Lake Placid.  Besides.  Hockey in Tampa?!?!?  That’s just wrong!
NAStyCAR doesn’t start for a while, but they don’t really count as a sport.  The only ‘athletes’ in NASCAR are the pit crews, and they don’t get the credit they deserve.
Where was I?  Oh yes, Tuesday.
Usually I would have spent Monday editing audio files.  None posted so far.  Tuesday, I generally think through my menu for the week [check] and spend time either reading a book for review [check] or posting the review [check] and then watch NCIS and NCIS-LA.  I don’t watch The Good Wife.  Too soap opera-ish, and face it – there hasn’t been a good night time soap since we learned who really shot J.R.  Plus, I use the Proverbs definition for a good wide, and the TV version isn’t her.
My wife, on the other hand…
In high school, Gymnastics meets were usually on Tuesdays, and it may have been after school on a Tuesday when I met my first serious high school girlfriend.  Now I think those two actually were related, in a sideways sort of way, and both are pleasant memories.  Not at all like, say, having a stroke in the shower on my wife’s birthday, which was, as I said, a Tuesday.
Mardi Gras begins on a Tuesday each year, and of course there’s Fat Tuesday, a last chance to indulge before Ash Wednesday.  Fat Tuesday, originally called  Shrovetide, dates back to AD 1000 and may possibly be the first recorded Hallmark Holiday.
My wife goes to Tupperware Rallies every other Tuesday, including tonight, and next Tuesday is National Election Day in the United States and Day of the Dead in Mexico.  I may have those two confused.
I already voted by mail, and I’m proud to say I did not vote to re-elect a single incumbent.  Or a single cucumber.  There may be an incompetent or twelve in there.  That, only time…and next Tuesday will tell.
Oh!  I forgot.  Yesterday I finally found International Delight Pumpkin Pie Spice coffee creamer – the one made with real cream instead of artificially flavored  partially hydrogenated soybean oil.  I usually drink my coffee black, but for this I’ll make an exception.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Deviations Covenant - Review

Pause a moment and savor the poetic eloquence of these words:

Woody decay wafted up to her nostrils.
She listened to termites munching the fallen trunk,
a beetle scrabbling in the crevices.
Seen from the corner of her eye,
it raced across brittle bark and vanished.
Leaves fluttered as the breeze picked up,
sounding like a gentle rain.

Now consider them again, the way the author intended for you to view them:

“Woody decay wafted up to her nostrils. She listened to termites munching the fallen trunk, a beetle scrabbling in the crevices. Seen from the corner of her eye, it raced across brittle bark and vanished. Leaves fluttered as the breeze picked up, sounding like a gentle rain.”

The first passage is my own vision of the work.  The second, that of its creator, Author Elissa Malcohn, is lifted from the author’s book, Deviations: Covenant, Book I, which according to the author, was really only intended to be a short story written in 1985 after reading Joseph Payne Brennan's 15-line poem "When Tigers Pass."  Twenty years later this expanded version, initially conceived as part one of a trilogy, has evolved into four books with a fifth due late 2010 and the final volume due in mid-2011.

This book introduces you to the world and customs of two proto-humanoid sentient races of what could very well be post apocalyptic earth a long, long time into the future.  Tall, strong, and fur pelted are the Masari.  Smaller, weaker, fur-less are the Yata.  Each is bound to the other by custom, culture and conscience to the Covenant.  The Yata depend on the food offerings of the Masari to live.  The Masari, who view the Yata with almost god-like reverence require the meat of the Yata to survive.  It is a delicate balance generations old.
And there are members of both societies who not only believe that it is time for this mutually accepted dependence to end, but are just as willing to fight or die to see it happen.
What follows is a carefully crafted story, often filled with passages like the one above, that read with poetic eloquence, even when describing the ritual execution of a Yata, or the orgiastic couplings resulting from the manufactured Destiny powder necessary somehow to both.
Without sensationalized graphic violence or the glamorized pornography of pulp romance novels, Ms. Malcohn achieves what good science fiction/fantasy is intended to do.  She has created a believable world, with characters with whom you can empathize, in a good story that is well and eloquently told. This is adult fiction without being ‘adult’ fiction.  It’s not Star Wars, but neither is it Lady Chatterly’s Lover.
Now here is the interesting part.  Ms. Malcohn has chosen to release all of the books of the Deviations series in e-book format for FREE at her website.  Multiple e-book formats are available.  I read Covenant on my Sony 300 pocket reader.  If you don’t have a pocket reader, the author’s website also has links to sites where you can get free copies of computer and smart-phone software in all of the popular formats.  You are encouraged to make a donation using PayPal to help support and encourage as well as respect the author and her work.
Deviations: Covenant, ©2007 by Elissa Malcohn (ISBN-13: 978-0-9819764-0-2) is available at the Author’s website, and in trade paperback (ISBN-13: 978-1934677179) at
I find myself in complete agreement with the author’s disclaimer: “The Deviations series contains mature themes and situations.  It has been called both science fiction and dark fantasy, but it is not young adult fantasy.  Please download and share responsibly. 
All other rights reserved.”
That said, I give Deviations: Covenant five stars out of five.  An excellent idea and story captivatingly well told.
As a brief aside, Ms. Malcohn will be appearing, speaking and signing books with this writer and others at the Hudson Holiday Authors Fair at Brentwood Estates Clubhouse, Brentwood Estates, 15025 Savannah Avenue, Hudson, FL  34667 on Saturday, December 11th , 2010 from 1:00 – 3:00 PM.  Brentwood Estates is located on New York Avenue and Hicks Road (about 1/2 mile east of Little Road) and admission to the event is free.