Archives - September 2004

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September 28, 2004

Words

I didn't even know her. Never met her...she was a friend of a family member. I had heard about her a few times, but that's about all.

But she knew me. Knew my soul.

A couple of years ago, she was given a copy of one of my books, In The Way That Elephants Do. She was going through a hard time - her husband had recently died - and the gift-giver thought she might gain some comfort from it.

A few months later, I got a nice email from her, telling me how much she enjoyed the story. I thanked her politely, this kind lady, for taking the time to write. I was glad I touched her with my words.

This year, I heard that this lady had fallen ill; another trial in her short life she didn't deserve. Cancer. Rapidly spreading, terminal. She fought the good fight, always keeping her spirits up.

Her brother had taken care of her for the past few months. Chemo, radiation and finally, hospice. Just a few days ago, she called him to her room. The cancer had spread to her brain, and she could barely speak. Only a few words would come. She motioned for her brother to bring her a pen and paper. He did so, but knew full well she was paralyzed on that side and could not write. She pointed to a shelf and told him to bring her a book.

"Open it to the bookmark," she wheezed to him.

He did so. Underlined was a passage.

"That's what I want read at my funeral."

Today, I went to her funeral. This woman I don't even know.

But who knew me.

I sat there in the chapel as the minister gave the eulogy. Then her brother talked of his love for his sister, and the good times they had together in her 57 years. Then he paused a bit, and introduced the story of Noah of the Great Flat, the Wanderer. Then he passed the lectern to the minister, who read these words:

We all mingled together for a long time, saying our good-byes to each other, some good-byes longer than others.

"Come here, little one," Dido said as she pulled me close to her. "Can I take him with me? He's an absolute dream."

Mother just smiled proudly. "I think I'll hang on to him," she said.

"Now don't you grow up and act like the rest of these buffoons, you hear me?" she whispered so mother couldn't hear. "You be something special, all right?" I didn't have time to answer. Dido's attention was diverted away from me, and I was somewhat relieved. I looked where she and everyone else was looking.

It was Caleb, coming from his place in the trees, looking powerful and proud. He started with the males, who stood in awe of the magnificent creature.

"Now behave yourselves, and always act with honor and dignity. Carry on the virtue of our heritage, even to the death."

His words were strange to me then, as they were to most of those listening. They were the kind of words that lay dormant and forgotten in the dark recesses of your mind until one day, when your soul is finally able to comprehend them, they come forth again, uninvited, yet clear and precise and true.

He bowed gracefully to all the females, telling them to remain beautiful and loving like they were. Then he came to Dido.

He stood before his beloved sister with a deep, deep sadness in his eyes. Tears began to flow from her own, and they embraced, rocking each other gently back and forth as both clans gathered around and honored their grief.

"See you on the other side of the mountains..." Dido whispered to him softly.

"...where the sweet grass grows," Caleb finished.

They ended their embrace and Caleb backed away from Dido and her clan. He fell to one knee, hung his head low, and bowed deeply.

"Farewell, and God be with you," he said, then turned to us and began walking away.

We waved at Dido one more time, then turned and joined Caleb in his walk to the west. I scurried to keep up with him, not really comprehending what had happened. I turned and looked back at Dido. Aphrodite and Penelope were embracing her as she wept openly. I turned back to Caleb.

Huge tears were rolling down his face as he struggled to remain stoic and strong. It was then that I realized for the first time that Caleb and Dido, after a lifetime together, would never see each other again.

Words are powerful things. We put them together and they mean something. Words can be dangerous things. Or sometimes, they can give life. Sometimes we aim them at each other, hoping the other gets the point. And sometimes, we launch them into oblivion with no real target, hoping they reach someone, somehow.

I guess my arrow found a mark. My words touched someone, someone I didn't even know. Touched her in a way I never intended, a way I could never have foreseen. It is an awesome responsibility, to put words together and launch them into the heavens.

I don't know how to feel about all this. I am glad this lady found meaning in my work; that's the measure of a writer. My words gave this kind lady some solace during the hardest of times. But there is an emptiness to it all; the hovering goblin of a life cut short. And in that, I cannot rejoice.

*****

September 23, 2004

Bloggers making a difference? Yes!

Saw an article on FoxNews about a blog, rathergate.com, that has launched an email campaign to protest Dan Rather's biased and slanderous attack on George W.'s service record via forged "memos." The whole debacle with the phony memos has only shored up the now-rapidly growing belief that the major TV networks in this country have a political agenda and in essence have become the propaganda organ of the political left. Rather's rush to slam Bush with these unauthenticated memos has now backfired, causing millions of otherwise-silent TV viewers to complain to local CBS affiliates that they don't wish to be propagandized any more. Rathergate's email campaign is apparently the sharp end of the spear; one radio affiliate of CBS news has already dropped CBS in favor of ABC after 12 years of loyalty. More are expected to follow, and shareholders of CBS may likely call for Rather - and his producer - to be fired.

This whole thing, whether you agree with the politics or not, shows two things: 1) The power of the Internet to further free speech, and 2) the power of blogging in particular. This otherwise obscure blog has gotten over a million hits. If you want to join the email campaign, it's easy; just click on this link and voice your opinion.

*****

September 22, 2004

A Milestone.

Got an email yesterday from a woman in the U.K. who had read Elephants. (Yes, all of my books are available there, via Lightning Source's UK printer facility and Amazon UK's interface.) She liked the book and asked me for something that I've never been asked for.

An autograph.

Wow.

Sure, people want autographed books; I've signed hundreds. But this lady just wants an autograph. On anything. I asked her if she wanted it on my underwear or something, and she said anything would do. So, I guess I'll find something to sign and send it to her. I don't have any 8x10 glossies, you know, the kind celebrities give to restaurants that they hang by the front door. Just signing a piece of paper seems kind of tacky, even though that would be the cheapest postal rate. I thought about sending a pair of my underwear, but I don't have a pen that looks good on leopard print.

I guess I could send her a book, but I'm not in the habit of giving away books (contrary to popular opinion, writers have to buy their own books if they want them; they don't get them for free). Besides, if you've ever mailed anything to the UK, you know how outrageous the shipping rates are. Shipping a book will cost more than the book itself, two times over. But, seeing as this is my first autograph ever...

So if anyone has a suggestion on what I should autograph and send - keeping in mind that this is my first autograph ever, and should be a special event - drop me an email.

*****

September 20, 2004

When Dad met Rambo

I'm not a dog person. Had some dogs when I was a kid, but never developed that Old Yeller type of relationship with them. Maybe it's because one ate light bulbs, the other was a lesbian, and the third was an escape artist who chewed her way through a chain-link fence. I'm not a cat person, either, but my family are a bunch of...cat fanatics. That's why it surprised me so when my dad's heart was captured by one feisty and cute lap dog named Rambo. Rambo is a Shih Tzu (the Chinese word for dust mop) who lives down the street from my dad in Dallas. His owner is Jerry "JW" Lynn, a web designer and all-around creative feller. Just before Rambo's nightly meal of hand-cooked chicken breasts, Jerry takes him for a walk around the neighborhood. That's how Dad met Rambo.

It seems this little dog spotted my dad outside one day, and practically dragged his owner into my dad's front yard in an effort to meet him. They were introduced, and the rest is history. The dog took a shining to my dad unlike I've ever seen an animal do, and my cat-loving dad took a likewise shine to Rambo. So here's my dad and Rambo in front of his house:

My dad is particularly proud of that double-french door on his single-wide, by the way. And no, my dad isn't an alcoholic; those are the chicken's and Rambo's empties.

Here's another pic of Rambo in all his glory, protecting our capital from marauding Al Queda cretins:

And here's Rambo on alert for perverts at the park:

Here's my dad's cat Sadie eyeing Rambo and licking her chops, wishing there wasn't a pane of glass between them:

Here's Rambo on the Jay Leno Show:

He's a big Rodney Dangerfield fan. He thinks Jim Carrey's a freak, though.

Okay, here's the real pic of my dad with Rambo in front of his REAL house:

My brother and sister and I bought that nifty bench for my dad on his recent birthday, just so he and Rambo would have a place to sit while they had their nightly visit. The first time Rambo got onto it, neither Jerry nor my dad could pry him off the thing. Yes, Shih Tzu's will bite your ass.

All the morphing and stuff on these pics was done by Jerry. If you're tired of the mega-corporation web host scene, you might want to try Jerry's company, DallasTexasWeb. His is a full-service company that can take care of all your web needs, from domain name registration to design and hosting. Check him out.

Oh, yeah; Rambo has his own site: http://rambo.us He's even got his own blog.

*****

September 16, 2004

A new legal milestone.

American law has seen its share of groundbreaking precedent. 200+ years of the wheels of justice spinning...yet there's always something new, something fresh. Take this story for example.

Seems one Michael Chartrand, whom some of you may remember in the infamous Tigger Incident at Walt Disney world, is at it again. The guy was recently acquitted by a jury on charges he molested a 13-year-old girl at the park while dressed as Tigger, the loveable feline of Winnie The Pooh fame. Well, Disney had to hire him back as a sidewalk performer, this time casting him as Goofy (a cold slap in the face for any mime, but that's another story). Well, Chartrand-as-Goofy got into a shoving match with a couple of other park employees today and was arrested for assault (imagine being a parent trying to explain to your 4-year-old why Goofy was kicking someone's ass). Okay, weird, right? Well, that's not the weird part, and not the reason I posted this under the topic heading. What's weird about this is Goofy's attorney's comment to the press:

"Of course he was goofing around because he was...Goofy."

Ah. THE GOOFY DEFENSE.

A very clever legal maneuver on the part of the lawyer (Popeye?).

Add that one to the lexicon of other bogus criminal excuses:

The TWINKIE DEFENSE (used by Dan White to explain why he killed San Fransisco mayor George Moscone and board member Harvey Milk)

The MY MOMMY AND DADDY IGNORED US DEFENSE (the Menendez brothers)

The MY DOG TOLD ME TO DO IT DEFENSE (David Berkowitz)

The I WAS ONLY DOING RESEARCH FOR A MOVIE ROLE DEFENSE (Winona Ryder)

And last but not least, the I DON'T KNOW HOW TO SPELL DEFENSE (used by four goofi on trial in New York in 2002 for torching the Gobind Sadan Sikh temple. They said they thought it was a Muslim mosque and that it was called "Go Bin Laden."

For more dumb - and real - legal excuses, check out this site.

*****

Writing Stuff

I try to keep up on what's happening in the publishing whirl, and when I run across something of interest to indy writers, I post it here. So, from the Foreword Magazine newsletter this week, a few excerpts on the current state of the industry...highlights are mine:

Four panelists laid out the state of the industry and market. The number of publishers continues to grow, reaching almost 80,000 with the vast proportion independent and targeted, Tom Woll of Cross River Publishing Consultants noted. Woll, who recently updated PMA’s small press survey, "The Rest of Us,"also reported that BISG was now taking steps to incorporate small press sales data into its annual industry reports. PMA had estimated that in addition to official industry stats of $26 billion in pubishers sales, independents might add another $24 billion of unreported publisher revenues.

Linda Thompson, Marketing Consultant, cited a long list of significant dynamic changes in industry practice. Among them is the emergence of the internet as a major sales and marketing tool, retailers (B&N) and distributors (PGW) competing as publishers, used books as a growing aftermarket arising out of on-line sales, access to global resources, the increasing importance of special sales, and author web sites as marketing and selling tools. Woll noted that despite the enormous power of the small presses, there are also serious obstacles to overcome: limited numbers of master distributor sponsors, escalating retail discounts, and difficulties in getting investment capital are creating increasing hurdles for small presses to overcome.

Constance Sayre, Principal of Marketing Partners International, noted that major publisher activity has picked up over the summer, and made a few observations about publisher behavior trends: too many books are reaching the market, but publishers seem unable to cut back on the size of their lists; the increase in number of small publishers and number of titles are also a response to the increasing number of niche channels available for marketing and distribution; the buying patterns of the chains have put a squeeze on available lead time for publishing decisions and encouraged the trend toward topical "instant books." Book publishers are taking over more of the role of the periodical press, as they are able to bring topical books quickly into the marketplace in response to dominating news events.

George Gibson, president and publisher of Walker Books spent some time discussing the different ways in which independent publishers need to bring more imagination and special attention to the introduction and marketing of each title. Bookstores can not be relied on as a major source of profitable revenue in many cases. And a single promotional effort is not enough to reach an increasingly segmnented marketplace.

*****

September 11, 2004

Our Part

On this somber day of remembrance, we sit back and contemplate what 9/11 meant to us. We should also contemplate things we can do, things that can help. All of these things are little, of course, but if they can bring relief or hope or joy to a few people who have been touched by that day and of all the days afterward, it's worth doing.

Like it or hate it, there is a war going on out there. The gauntlet was thrown down on 9/11, and our nation has been fighting ever since. The men and women on the front lines, just like the ones who perished in New York, Washington, and Pennsylvania, are our countrymen. They are our fathers, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons and daughters, and our friends...even if we do not know them. We can't pick up a rifle and head to Iraq or Afghanistan, or wherever the next fight will be, but we can do a little something.

My publisher, AuthorHouse, is sponsoring a book drive for our troops in the middle east. You can send books to them which they will ship via the USO to the troops in the field. Click on this link for details. The books they'll receive will keep them company on those cold, dark nights ahead.

*****

September 8, 2004

Dumbasses and more dumbasses.

My days are filled with dumbass encounters. You know, those people who wander into your life dumping problems and work on you...things they should be dealing with themselves but can't because they are so f***ing stupid. A case in point:

I was sitting at the front desk of my office suite today, watching the entry while the secretary ran an errand for me. Our office suite has a glass door facing the hallway of our very public building. We aren't a public office; there's no WELCOME, COME ON IN! sign on the door. In fact, there's a rather intimidating sign on the door that would make a normal person hesitate to step inside, saying to themself: "Damn, that's not where I want to go." So I'm sitting there and this dumbass walks in. I know he's a dumbass because he's about 20 years old, wearing Dickies, a gold loop in each ear, and an assortment of silver bling-blings around his neck that would make Mr. T envious. One bling is a cross about ten inches long. Oh, yeah; and he's a white guy. Ethnic stereotypes aside, I usually can tell a white kid is a dumbass by the fact that he's adopted the dress of another ethnic group - who has every right to their style BECAUSE THEY INVENTED IT - because he is too stupid to think up his own style. Okay, so the dumbass walks in and says, "I need to see...ah, ah...Sev, ah, Sor...St...ta..."

At this point, I realize I'm dealing with our Typical Dumbass, not one of our Atypical Dumbasses. Typical Dumbasses (TD) are those people who receive either a call at home, or a letter, telling them that they are in violation of some law or another and they need to come downtown to take care of it. It could be a warrant, a summons, a restraining order, seized property from an eviction...any number of things. Basically, they are in trouble for something they SHOULD HAVE TAKEN CARE OF IN THE FIRST PLACE. That process was Step One of their descent into the blissful state of dumbass in which they now find themselves. Step Two was the letter or phone call that basically said, "Okay, dumbass; you have ONE MORE chance to take care of this."

So the TD at this point waits a month and gets another letter. He then, after being threatened by his enabling parents, comes downtown. Now, the place he needs to go is printed right on the letter. No weird, esoteric codes; just an address and an office number and a phone number and the name of the person or agency he needs to contact. Mom drives him downtown, because 1) his license has been suspended for unpaid tickets, and/or 2) he totalled his car last weekend trying to imitate Vin Diesel in The Fast and The Furious.

The TD at this point usually has LOST said letter, and wanders in and out of office after office muttering, "I need to see...ah, ah...Sev, ah, Sor...St...ta..." and wasting the time of people trying to work. They pass him around, sending the dumbass to one office after another as his bling bling cell phone rings and he says, "Whazzup? Ah, yeah; uh, dude. Yeah. Ah. Later." innumerable times. Since my office suite is the last (or first) one by the main entrance, they usually wind up there.

So the guy is standing there muttering. I see a letter in his hand. Eureka! A dumbass who has a mom who put the letter in his pocket. How sweet.

"Let me see that letter," I say; it's a quick way to cut through the 100 Question Game I have to play. I take the letter from him and see immediately that the address is bright and clear and in English. "You looking for Sergio?" I ask.

"Sergio? Yeah, that's it: Sergio." Big toothy smile.

"Sergio in the Constable's Office."

"Ah, I dunno." Loses big toothy smile.

"Says right here: Constable, Precinct 5."

"Uh, yeah; that's what the lady down the hall told me. She said it was down here."

I look into the hall. The Constable's office is about fifty feet away, around the corner. Knowing full well the lady in the other office pointed him there, but knowing that to send him to the wrong building across the street (I've been known to do this) would just ensure that he would return to my building to bother me again, I pointed at the corner. "See that corner?" I ask.

"Ah, yeah."

"Walk to that corner and turn RIGHT," I illustrate with my hand the proper coordinates. "The office you need is right...(hand signal)...around...(hand signal)...THERE."

As the dumbasses usually do, he leaves with no "thank you" or "kiss my ass" and wanders into the hall, looking all around as if he had just awakened from a five-year coma.

"If he comes back in here," I say to myself, "I'm gonna stick this hole puncher right through his f***ing heart."

He disappears around the corner.

This same process happens about twenty times - really, I'm not exaggerating - per day. It has gotten so bad, that I wanted to post a NO DUMBASSES ALLOWED sign on the door. But I know they wouldn't read it. For awhile, we were getting a huge influx of people into the building who were sent there by probation for a drug evaluation. They had a MAP of the place given to them with directions in COLOR written for them. Still, dozens would flood the place daily. I put a sign on the door that told them DO NOT COME IN HERE IF YOU ARE HERE FOR A DRUG EVALUATION. GO TO THE 4TH FLOOR. It had absolutely no effect; they didn't even see it.

I bet if I posted a guide to setting up your own speed lab, or a how-to for a 20-minute orgasm, they'd be all over it. They'd probably even come inside and bum paper and pencils so they could take notes.

Most people who wind up in trouble with the law are like this. They are rarely masterminds; they're usually just dumbasses bouncing around the world like balls in a pinball machine, hoping that one day they'll land in the BONUS hole.

To illustrate my point:

Construction Workers Use Tools To Subdue Robbers

HIGHLAND PARK, Texas -- An attempted robbery of construction workers turned into an all-out brawl, NBC 5 reported. It happened in an area where a string of similar robberies has taken place in Highland Park. Two workers who were ordered to surrender their wallets instead picked up their tools and starting swinging against their gun-wielding attackers, police said. The thief who stayed clear of the clawhammer got away. Police searched for the other robber and think the pair may be responsible for 14 recent construction worker robberies in Highland Park, University Park and Dallas. Police said since one suspect is recovering in a hospital, they are closer to solving the case.

Okay, so there's your sociology lesson for the day.

******

September 5, 2004

So Wrong.

Sorry I haven't blogged in awhile; been away - mentally, not physically. Nothing much going on. Started thinking about things that were just plain wrong. My first thoughts on this happened when I got this fortune in a fortune cookie:

Just how wrong can a fortune cookie be? I hate gardening. I hate lawn work. I don't even own a lawn mower or a hoe or a water hose.

The weatherman of the gods must be smoking crack.

Just once, I'd like to get a fortune cookie fortune that said something like:

Gangsters buried money from a bank robbery in your back yard. Walk 20 feet due south from your back door and start digging.

Angelina Jolie wants to have your baby. Call her agent at xxx.xxx.xxxx

A realignment of the planets will cause you to grow three inches. Just where you put the extra inches is up to you.

I've often thought that the pursuit of an inch is the basic angst of all men. We all want to be just an inch taller, our chest one inch broader, our waist one inch smaller, then of course the obvious. In my recent pursuit of just one more inch on my deltoids, I tore my rotator cuff.

It's just wrong, man. Wrong.

Why didn't my fortune cookie predict this?

 

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