ANOTHER HOME REPAIR SAGA…PART I

October 28, 2014

fixitDespite many attempts at fixing things around the house, or trying to save a few bucks here and there by taking on some home improvement projects, I have never had much success in building a reputation for being “handy.” In fact, my history points well in the other direction. It is not unusual that any “home project” I undertake subsequently involves a minimum of three additional trips to the hardware store and sometimes one to the ER.

First, let me say that I am pretty fearless. I will not shy away from most household projects and repairs. And, now that there are so many excellent tutorials on YouTube, I have become almost invincible when it comes to repairing an appliance. It’s easy: just order the part from the appliance parts website and watch their video showing how to install it and you can’t go wrong…wrong…wrong. So, okay, here comes the story. It’s a shaggy dog story so it’s in two parts and even I still don’t know how it ends. Here is Part I:

Several weeks ago my wife began complaining that the ice from the icemaker in the freezer was getting foggier and didn’t seem to taste very good. Since the icemaker appeared to be functioning normally as far as producing its normal capacity, I suggested that I consider changing the plastic water hose that feeds it and maybe even install a water filter. That shouldn’t be difficult…difficult…difficult, I thought.

So I went to the Internet and looked at filters for icemakers. They are pretty standard and appeared easy to install. I decided I’d bypass waiting a few days to have the hose and filter shipped and instead got in the car and hurried off to my local Home Depot. There I got said hose and filter and headed back home. It should be clear sailing and clear ice from this point forward.

While in Home Depot I took at look at the filter installation instructions to make sure I understood them and had all the parts I needed. It looked super easy. No parts even. Just cut the plastic water line and insert one end in the filter, flush it out for a few minutes to get some factory charcoal residue out of it, then stick the other end of the plastic water line into the other end of the filter and, voilà, all done! And the filter is only 12 bucks! I head home figuring I got this task iced.

I pulled the fridge out from the wall, turned off the water valve in the wall that feeds the water through a hose to the refrigerator where it fastens to the “intake water valve” mounted at the bottom of the fridge. Then I measured where the filter was going to be placed. I removed the plastic hose and decided to reuse it since it had fittings attached that were needed to attach to the fridge. I flushed it out with vinegar several times figuring I may as well clean it while I had it off even though it looked clear of any debris. Then I reattached it to the “intake water valve” mounted on the bottom of the refrigerator and cut it where I was going to install the filter. One end of the hose went into the filter and secured itself exactly like the instructions said. Then I put the filter in a bucket since I was supposed to run water through it for awhile to clear it of charcoal remnants. I turned the water valve at the wall back on. Nothing. No water came flowing through the filter. I turn the valve the other way, thinking maybe I turned it off, not on. Nothing. I decided the only way I could tell if water was flowing was to loosen the connection where the water hose from the wall attaches to the intake water valve on the fridge. KAH-BLEWIE! The hose comes off and I’ve got a fire hose shooting water across the kitchen. I stick it in the bucket and reach over to shut off the valve in the wall. I turn it all the way and the water is still gushing. I turn it the opposite direction all the way and the water is still gushing. OMG!

I scream for my wife and she comes running in pretty quickly. I tell her to shut off the valves under the sink since one of them should close off the wall valve feeding the refrigerator. She turns them all, both ways…NOTHING! Bucket’s full. Gotta empty it fast and bring it back. I put her on bucket duty while I go out front to turn off the main valve that feeds water to the whole house. I am successful at that…immediate flooding crisis is over.

I go back inside and while Rosemarie mops up the lake in the kitchen, I reattached the water hose to the intake valve in the refrigerator, knowing that it will keep the water off since the valve in the wall is busted and there apparently is no safety shutoff valve for it. I’ve been in the house 16 years and never had to touch this valve so whoddathunk?

Okay, everything is mopped up and the water hose is securely fastened to the fridge so there will be no more worries except to get the broken wall valve replaced and then finish the filter job. I go back outside to turn the main water line back on. I turn the handle all the way in the open position…NOTHING! No water is coming into the house. When I closed the valve it must have broken too. I later read on google that this is not unusual for the age of the valve and considering it’s never been touched. So now there’s no running water in the house. It’s 6pm Sunday night….prime NFL game time. Where do you think most plumbers are?

To be continued…

*****


MURDER HE WROTE…WELL, MAYBE.

October 24, 2014

criimescene

I have come to the conclusion that I would make a lousy murderer.  I can’t make quick murder-like decisions.  I would suppose that might hamper the actual event and put me in a very awkward position before I even pulled the trigger or grabbed for the knife or whatever.  So what brought on this dilemma?  Stand by…here goes:

I started a new novel and after some initial research, I actually got a draft of the first chapter done in record time.  But that’s about as far as I’ve gotten in little over a week, although I have spent a lot of think-time on it.  A funny thing happened on the way to chapter two—I got sidetracked by this idea I got for the book’s cover.  Yeah, I know, it’s a little early to be worrying about the cover of a book that is only one chapter long. But the idea for the cover came to me and embedded itself into this one corner of my brain that began to swell relentlessly and refused to shrink back down until I went to Photoshop and started playing around with the concept.  So, of course, that is exactly what I did.

I am not about to reveal any spoilers about the storyline at this point, except to say there may be a murder.  I have always thought “may” be a murder.  But the “new” cover idea pretty much dictates that there is no “may” about it—there “will” definitely be a murder.  There is even dripping blood on the cover.  What says murder more than dripping blood?  So here I am spending more time on the cover than I am on the book’s content and already I’ve changed the so-called murder plot from a “may” to a “will.”  This is ridiculous.  What gives my feeble brain the right to come up with a book’s cover idea and then force me to run with it?  Well, if you must know, the cover really looks cool.  I know, the pros tell you not to do your own cover, but I really didn’t do this one…it sort of did itself.  So now what do I do?

I can’t tell you how much time I’ve been spending thinking about all this.  After getting over the may/will issue I had to tackle the blood thingy.  Originally, my thinking was if there was to be a murder in the book, it would be a bloodless one.  But now that there is blood on the cover and it is so cool, it has to be a bloody murder; exactly the kind of murder I could not be involved in, let alone write about with any kind of conviction.  How am I going to pull this off?  I am not the murdering type.  I’m more the gentle, kinder type and any murder that I’d be involved in would have to be that—gentle and kind.  I mean, look at me–I make chocolate chip cookies.  I don’t bludgeon people.

Well, it shows to go-yuh that if you spend enough time thinking about a problem you will eventually go nuts or come up with a solution.  I went back to the original bloodless murder and replaced the blood on the cover with another murder image that looks just as cool, but without the blood.

So what’s the lesson here, if there is one?  I guess you shouldn’t become sidetracked worrying about a book’s cover until you’ve written the book.  Or, maybe it’s a good thing to think about the cover early on because it can influence the storyline in a way that might be good.  I guess it’s like anything else in the creative process–sometimes you just gotta meander around before you find where it is you’re going to.  It’s just like they say…you should never judge a cover by its book!

*****

Speaking of books and covers…I think any middle schooler will like both when it comes to my latest book just out this past summer….it’s available at amazon.com

CAMCovBlog

*****


SOCIAL MEDIA Vs. SELLING BOOKS – THE GREAT DISCONNECT!

October 17, 2014

 logos

I have been reading a book this week about selling books on the Internet.  It has led to today’s posting, but I sense that my comments could be misinterpreted so I want to preface them with a few “bullet points.”  And they are…

  • Today’s posting is directed to folks like me…upstart indie authors/publishers
  • I really like social media and think it is a wonderful thing for so many people
  • I really think social media is not all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to selling product.
  • I am not sad, upset, distraught, sour-graped or otherwise disturbed about the challenge of selling my books…well, maybe a little.
  • I am curious, always, how I can better use the Internet to become a successful author

Okay, all that being said, here are some observations…

 *****

Sometimes I sense this beast called “social media” will someday self-destruct or morph itself into some entirely new form as people tire of its triviality, its redundancy and its sometimes just plain stupidity.  On the other hand, what do I know?  Perhaps it is just in its infancy and it will grow in volume and impact beyond anything imaginable.  For me, however, it remains a puzzlement much of which I…just…don’t…get.

True, there are many things about social media that I understand.  I clearly see how it comes into play when there is some kind of crisis going on in the world and people use it as a serious means of communication to get information out and, hopefully, awareness and support in.  I get that.

I know that many individuals enjoy sharing with friends and family things about their life and, likewise, hearing back same.  I get that.

I realize social media is an outlet for emotions—all of them, good and bad—and it can be helpful for people to emote rather than pile all that stuff up inside of them.  I get that.

I can see where teenagers spend an incredible amount of time texting each other, much like they used to tie up the family phone while they yakked away for hours about the latest goings-on at school or what boy did what with what girl.  I get that.

I grasp that social media can be a creative outlet and many people who would otherwise have no venue for their performance, can count on access to the social media stage.  I get that.

Okay, point made:   I understand why so many people use and value social media.  However, I use social media mostly for none of these reasons.  Now that I have become a writer of books, the industry constantly dictates to me that I will never ever be successful unless I am active on social media.  Hence, I must be on facebook, twitter, tumblr, linkedin, pinterest, google, instagram and whatever else is “hot.”  It is almost incomprehensible how many subscribers these social media have.  There is no doubt, if you post something on any of these sites you have the potential of exposing yourself—or at least your post—to hundreds of thousands of people. That is why people like me who have something to sell are advised to be ardent participants in these media. Oh yeah, I almost forgot…we are definitely supposed have a blog too.  It’s a pretty full plate.

Okay, I am still in the “I-get-it” mode, but it is from this point forward that there comes the disconnect.”  My question is “HOW?”   HOW does all this help me as a writer of books.  Few people know I exist on social media.  Few people read what I post.  Even fewer respond.  And, this is the important point:  just about no one makes the transition from seeing my presence on all these social media and then actually purchasing one of my books.

Fact is, there are simply too many people, too many books and too many other things for an unknown individual to compete with.  You have to be some kind of well known entity—a celebrity—for it to work at all.  Case in point:  John Green.  He’s the guy who wrote, among other books, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, a hugely successful best-seller, especially with the lucrative young adult female audience.  The movie version was released over the summer and you can now buy the video wherever videos are sold.  John Green is very successful.  John Green is very well known.  John Green is on tumblr.  If he were to post a picture of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on tumblr and write underneath a caption that said, “this is a peanut butter and jelly sandwich” he would get thousands and thousands of responses.  I, on the other hand, usually get zero response to anything I ever post on tumblr regardess of subject or “spectacularness.”  That’s because I am not a known entity like John Green and even a real picture of Jesus eating a Big Mac that I was lucky enough to shoot with my own camera would draw zero response, assuming I had such a picture and I posted it on tumblr.

I just bought a book that offers advice on how to improve book sales on amazon.com’s Kindle site.  A man named Michael Alvear wrote it.  He is the first person I’ve come across who agrees with me (or I him) that social media won’t sell product unless the “pitch” is something very different from the norm, such as: there is a very popular person involved in the selling process.  Celebrities are followed on social media by huge numbers of followers and, consequently, celebrities can draw huge response.  It’s a numbers game and while you may be able to enhance some things about your social media presence, you will not sell books in any great number, especially fiction, until and if you become a celebrity.

Thank you Michael Alvear.  I can now get on with my life and put away all the stress I’ve been experiencing trying to figure out why social media doesn’t sell my books.  Now I won’t feel like such a bonehead if I set up a table on the street corner, display some posters and have a few copies of my books available.  I bet I actually sell some.  If so, I’ll share the news on facebook and twitter and maybe even put a picture on tumblr.

******

Afterthought:  If you have a need to prove me wrong, that’s simple.  All you have to do is buy one of the books showcased on the right side of this blog.  Click on any and you will be gently transposed to amazon.com where you can learn more about the books and even purchase one.  ABOUT A FARM won an internatonal award last fall and I recommend it for early schoolers.  It’s higher priced than I prefer, but it’s in color so the printer charges more (I make about 2 cents a copy but I would be well compensated just to hear that children liked the book and maybe learned a little something from it).  Meanwhile, if you are an adult and can imagine reading a novel without the “F’bomb” appearing on any page, I suggest DEAD LETTER.  It’s a good mystery story with a mix of young love, World War II, parking in South Philly and a “holy crap!” surprise ending.


I WRITE…PEOPLE DIE! WAZZUPWIDDAT?

October 11, 2014

reaper copy

My God, I’m convinced I must have been a murderer in a previous life.  Here I am only paragraphs into writing my new novel and already I am plotting someone’s death.  I wouldn’t be so alarmed if I hadn’t already taken a few lives in my previous books.  I even killed off a hen in one of my children’s books.  What’s up with all this killing?  I am seriously beginning to think I should turn myself into the proper authorities and tell them it must have been me, whatever murder they have unsolved…yeah it must have been me.  This is serious stuff.

I always thought if I were to be a writer I would write fun stories.  Stuff like family sitcoms or happy Disney-type animal stories.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case.  This is my third adult novel I’ve begun to write and among them I’ve killed off over a half-dozen people—and so far there’s one more in the works in the pages I wrote today.

I got to thinking about all this, wondering what it means, if anything.  Of course it is not unusual that an author specializes in a particular genre.  There are many writers known for their mysteries or suspense novels.  Others are habitual shock masters.  And, of course, there are plenty of murder specialists.  Am I one of the latter?  My mother would be so upset.  She never let me play with guns and knives or poisons.  She even fought my father on the chemistry set.

There’s an old writer’s cliché that advises you to “write what you know.”  Wow, if I’m prone to write about a lot of people dying, it really pisses me off because I know a lot more about sailing.  I much rather write about sailing.  Of course, I’d probably have someone falling off the boat and drowning or being eaten alive by a shark.

There is one subtlety to my predicament.  Not all my victims have been murdered.  In fact, most have met with an unfortunate accident.  Let me think about that for a minute.  Hmm…uh-hum…yeah but…oh…oooh….wow!   Okay, I’m back now.  Here is what I’ve have concluded.  I am not a murderer; never have been.  I’m just a death enhancer.  I enhance circumstances that lead to death.  There is no intent involved and there is no way that I can anticipate what action of mine is ultimately an enhancer of circumstances that leads to someone’s death.

I feel better now.  I think I have cleansed my guilt.  I no longer feel responsible for the sad demise of any of the characters in my books or elsewhere.   I didn’t cause their deaths.  I only made them up and then wrote about them.  It’s the old “don’t kill the messenger” thingy.  Oops…did I say “kill the messenger?”  Hey, I’m the messenger.  Uh-oh did I just enhance a circumstance?

*****

Here is my newest kid’s book in which no one dies….well, wait a minute.  It is possible that a few tadpoles maybe didn’t make it.

lateraltitle copy


A LETTER TO MYSELF IN MY NEXT LIFE

October 7, 2014

Yellow Legal Pad Corner Paper Page Curl

I have decided it is time to write a letter to my next self.  Let me hasten to say that I do not believe in reincarnation one way or the other, but I do always like to be prepared.  So, in the event I have the opportunity to do this thing all over again sometime in the future, I thought it would make a lot of sense if I wrote myself a letter with some tips.  You know, some basic advice as to how to go about it the next time around and avoid some of the annoyances and search out the better things.  Makes sense doesn’t it?  Wouldn’t you like to have some directions next time?  So, here goes…my random list to my next self.

  1. Try hard to get a mother who gently wakes you in the morning and then prolong that routine as long as possible, even to after you’re married if you have to. There is nothing worse in life than something called an alarm clock.  If gentle mom will stick around, that’s the better way to go.  Delay owning an alarm clock for as long as possible.  In fact, if you can persuade your mother to bring you a fresh cup of coffee when she comes in to wake you, that is what’s known as going first class.
  2. If you must purchase an alarm clock, NEVER NEVER NEVER get one with a loud buzzing or shrill beeping alarm. Instead, buy a clock with as gentle-sounding alarm as possible, preferably one that chimes or plays a quiet little melody.  I bought my daughter just such a clock that played a very peaceful version of “Here Comes The Sun” and it was the nicest alarm clock I ever found…if there is such a thing as a “nice” alarm clock.
  3. Try to be born into a family that lives in a warm to moderate climate zone. Avoid cold areas altogether.  Cold is not in your genetic makeup.  If you have a childish need to play in snow, convince your parents to take winter skiing vacations.  Trust me, not owning a snow shovel or a hat with those flappy ear thingies will not be a loss.
  4. If you have a sibling, attempt to influence your parents to have one that is within two years of your birth. If a sibling is close to your age you may get along better and actually be good playmates who share the same interest and friends.  If the sibling is the opposite sex, you may not spend as much time together doing things, but when the teen age years come the sibling will be a good source for exposing you to members of the opposite sex.  Having a sister is especially exciting because there are usually lots of your sister’s friends coming to the house.  Make sure you act the cute cuddly younger brother or the hot, good-lookin’ older one, whichever applies.  Be adorable and likeable and not the dorky brother…it could pay off big time.
  5. Unless your mother is really cool, always try to go clothes shopping with your father. He will usually let you pick the clothes you want and you will probably be able to get a few extra things that your mother will always say they can’t afford.  In fact, avoid shopping with your mother as much as possible.
  6. You will probably have to take algebra in high school. Unless this time some alien math gene has surfaced in you, avoid algebra at all cost.  You likely will not pass it or need an expensive tutor.  The teacher will tell you over and over that it is critical and you will use algebra throughout the rest of your life.  Don’t believe it.  It’s a bunch of crap.  You will never use algebra again.   Spend the time learning Spanish or html.
  7. If you are born an American again, understand that balls are one of the ultimate tools of success. Wait, let me clarify that…Theses Balls:  a baseball, a basketball and a football.  Make sure you always own one or more of these and practice with them often.  The better you can catch, throw, or get the ball through the hoop, the easier it is to make friends, the more valuable you are when a team is being chosen, and when you get older, girls will admire you more.  If you still don’t have enough athletic skills to master these three balls, then you better be really skillful at something else, like playing the drums, skateboarding or hacking computers.
  8. Learn well how to play an instrument at a young age. Keep practicing as you get older.  Playing an instrument well will give you great self-satisfaction and gain you admiration and envy from others.  In fact, if you are really good, join a rock band and befriend a really successful record producer.  If you can sing, by all means exploit that and don’t be shy.  It could be big bucks, opportunities to meet lots of young ladies and a secure future if you play your cards–and your instrument–right.
  9. I’ve got lots more advice for you so look for more lists…but there is one thing that’s very important that you must make sure you do and it’s this: have all the fun you want when you get interested in girls, but never never never give up trying to locate the new Rosemarie, whoever she’s turned out to be the next time around, assuming she’s still a girl and not a turtle or something.  Make any sacrifice to woo and win her over.  She must eventually be your wife again.   You will absolutely find no better even if at first you think her breasts are a little smaller than you’d prefer.

– Wishing you good luck and lots of Chunky Monkey!

                                      Love,

                                              Me, Yourself and I

*****

 

DeadLetter8

Make someone remember you in their next life.  How?  Just get them a copy of DEAD LETTER.  This book has such an incredible holy crap! ending the person will never forget it, nor you for getting them a copy….available at amazon.com

*******


BUCKLE UP SPARKY…WE’RE STARTING A NEW BOOK!

October 4, 2014

LogjamMen

At last…I have come unclogged.  I have had a long dry spell but the rains have returned.  After months of writer’s block the logjam is finally freeing itself and the seedling of an idea for my next project has at long-last ascended out of the depths of my brain, acquired its own soul and is ready to take flight.  What I’m saying here is that for most of the year I haven’t had a viable idea for a new book.  Today that is over.  The idea is in hand and in brain and I even put it down onto paper so I would not forget it.

Actually, I have had an inkling of an idea since last year but I was not able to work out some serous kinks that came with it.  Plus, it dealt with a subject matter that I have very little knowledge of and while I am not afraid of tackling heavy duty research, the whole concept scared me and I worried about making a serious mistake.  What took so long was finding a way of filtering out this cantankerous obstacle while still maintaining the main gist of the idea.  That is what finally came to me this week as I peddled my bike around its routine six mile trek through my neighborhood.  Finally my exercising paid off.

There is, however, still one element in the book that scares me a bit.  It’s a sex scene that has to take place and, so far, I have avoided putting one in any of my books.  Oh, I’ve written a passionate moment here and there, but never a serious down and naked hot-wired body-to-body sweaty encounter.  Given my old-fashioned stiltedness and respectable reputation, writing about the sexual act itself should prove challenging.  Well, maybe not that challenging.  I cannot help but wonder how my wife will accept it all.  What will my kids think?  Anytime I start talking about sex they are quick to advise me to “share, not scare.”  So this exercise should prove interesting—the old man writing a hot ‘n heavy sex scene.  It comes early in the book so I guess I should get busy with some serious forethought…or is that foreplay?

Now, I know you must be curious about what the new book will be about.  So am I.  I know that it will probably take place in current time, or at least within the timeframe of my life so I will not have much historical content to worry about.  It’s a family story but the focus will be on a father/daughter relationship.  There will be good times/bad times and maybe even a dead body thrown in for good measure.

So now begins the flushing-out stage.  I have to put some serious time into getting the story lined up in proper order.  The characters need individual development, both in body and soul.  All the details have to become embedded in my head so I have at least some direction to meander toward.  Yep, this is one of the exciting parts of writing a book; time to wake up and rev the idle engines and prepare for take off.  But first…some chocolate.  Yes, it’s part of the process.

 

 *****

Here is your assignment for today:  Find a kid–any kid–preferrably one between the ages of 8 and 12.

Make the kid happy.  How?  Buy the kid a copy of this book…

lateraltitle copy

“It was an amazing book.  I loved it!  It made me laugh so many times.”     Madison Dunbar, 11, Texas

****


LOST GENERATION FOUND…WHODDATHUNK!

September 28, 2014

Silent Found

I have often been accused of being aloof and sort of out of touch sometimes.  In fact, after a few years my one boss began making it a point of telling me things directly because I had built this reputation of “always being the last to know.”  After today I have decided that is an apt phrase to hang on me.  What happened today?  I found my generation.  I what?  Yeah, I found my generation.  I never thought I had one and now, almost 70 years in the making, I have found my generation.  Worse yet, it was there all along; I just hadn’t discovered it.  See, “always the last to know.”

Okay, I guess I have to explain this a bit further. It’s all a matter of timing and, in this case, it had to do with my parents’ timing since my birth date is the determining factor.  I was born in 1945, four days after World War II ended in Europe and another three months before it was over in the Pacific.  My parents’ generation became known as “The Greatest Generation.”  This is the label that stuck after newsman Tom Brokaw’s 1998 book by the same title.  He declared those who came of age during the great depression and went on to fight World War II as being of the greatest generation.  This generation, after coming home when the war was over, got busy making a whole new huge bunch of people.  These folks were later designated as “the baby boomer” generation since there were so many of them born within a short period of time beginning in 1946.

So if you were born before the war you were among the greatest generation and if you were born after the war you were declared a baby boomer.  But what about me?  1945 was right in the middle of these two clumps of humanity.  There has never been a designation for my generation.  I have wandered around this good earth all my life as a man without a generation, a man on his own, a man with no direction home, a complete unknown…like a rolling stone.  Sorry, I got carried away.

So get this: today, I’m reading a random excerpt from an obscure random book and there it is—right there on the description of the book—it talks about “The Silent Generation. This generation, it says, were the kids born 1926-1945.  See that: “1945” is actually stated.  It’s no longer left in limbo dangling between the greatest ones and the boomers.  1945, indeed, has a generation of its own and it was ….silent!  That explains exactly why I never heard of it; it’s been silent all these years.

Now I’m hungry for more information so I start poking around.  It seems the silent generation got its name from two different reference points, depending on which one you want to go with.  One source points simply to the fact that these kids were the well-behaved ones.  They were the children “seen but not heard.”  Hence, the silent generation.  Well, that certainly describes me because I’ve always been well-behaved.  The other attribution credits the Joe McCarthy years of social paranoia in this country.  McCarthy was a U.S. Senator who went on a crusade declaring just about every celebrity and well-know American as being a member of the Communist Party.  He was so successful in creating a national rage that many folks of my generation simply clammed up.  We allegedly became reclusive and avoided socializing for fear of being labeled as a Communist.  We were…silent!

Well, I really don’t care how the term originated.  I am simply elated to finally have a known generation that I am a part of.  And what a cool generation to belong to.  I come from greatness and I lead into the big boom!  True, once again maybe I’ve been the last one to know about all this…but I shall not be silent about it any longer!

*****

Do you like the sound of children laughing?  Then get them a copy of

lateraltitle copy

“It was an amazing book.  I loved it!  It made me laugh so many times.”     Madison Dunbar, 11, Texas

*****


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