2nd Class Writer

November 21, 2014

not worthy

I will continue to speak out against those who refuse access to self-publishers, or indie-publishers as we are now being referred to.  There are two award competitions that I have considered participating in within the past two weeks.  I am shut out from both because I have published my own books instead of mucking through the years-long process of attempting–begging–to be accepted, embraced and eventually published by a traditional publishing house.

It is true that there is a lot of junk produced by self-publishers, maybe even some of my own.  However, the same can be said for the professional book producers who manage to always stack high the bargain tables in any book store with tons of inferior or rejected product.

It is my theory that a good book stands on its own.  It makes no matter how the author’s creative process transitioned from his or her mind to the printed words on the pages.  Whether the author hired the printer or the professional publishing house used its printer, the outcome is the same—words on paper.  What matters is that the story is captivating, the writing is qualitative and the reader enjoys the experience of having read the book.  That is all that there is to the process.  If an awards competition refuses considering a self-published book merely on the merit the book was not approved and produced by a professional publishing house, well, that really isn’t much different from rejecting a homemade chocolate chip cookie vs. one baked and packaged by Keebler or Nabisco.

Self-published authors remain, by and large, thought of as second-class writers.  I think this attitude is slowly changing and may even go away someday.  For the present, however, it is up to us to stand up, speak up and persistently peck away at those who feel us unworthy.  I have made it a point to do this every time a door is closed in my face.  Today it was the National Book Foundation.  I hope the folks there at least took my comments to heart and someday, somewhere, a self-published author will beam with pride after winning one of the Foundation’s prestigeous National Book Awards which he or she is currently unworthy of.

*****


THE GUT OF THE MATTER

November 15, 2014

gut

You don’t normally hear me talking about sports very much.  That’s because I do not spend a lot of time involved either in playing or observing sports.  I do like American football—I specify “American” because here in South Florida football can just as easily be interpreted as soccer.  I am not much of a soccer fan, nor hockey, nor basketball, nor tennis or golf.   Baseball I might watch if the game has some excitement going on or maybe if it’s the World Series.  In fact, come to think of it, I didn’t see one game of the World Series just this past month…must have been busy with something else.

So where was I? Oh yeah, the sports/jock person that I am not.  The reason I bring it up is because I was gently nudged by one of my doctors to begin getting some vigorous exercise to maybe help get rid of a fatty liver and a girth that was expanding faster than an express bus to a heart attack.  I am, and always have been, a pretty skinny guy.  For the first time in my life I’ve started to fatten up around the waistline and now I am faced with the same challenge a lot of people have—diet and exercise!  Yuck!  It would be okay if there weren’t so many cookies and cakes and breads in the world.  Why did God let all those things into my life if he didn’t want me to consume them?

So now I go to the the gym every other day and I spend almost two hours putting my body through a rigorous process of stress, strain and sadistic torture.  I’ve been at it for well over a month and I have not lost a pound or a centimeter.  I can hardly move when I first attempt to stand up and walk each morning and I look silly all sweaty in my gym shorts and sweaty T-shirt with Snoopy the dog on it that says “Unathletic Dad.”  Yeah, my son got me that.

Meanwhile, I am surrounded by all these bodies, both male and female, that are considerably younger and in much better shape than mine.  Some of these people can actually lift a car or run like a rabbit for a full hour on a treadmill.  Me?  I can lift, pull or push maybe 40 pounds on the various weight machines—but that’s about it.  I guess I should be grateful I can do that.  I keep trying to increase the weight each week, figuring I’m building up my strength and tolerance, but nah.  40 pounds seems to be where I am and where I am meant to be…and stay.

Even though I don’t seem to be making any progress I shall continue with the program and hope that the next time my liver is examined that it has at least lost some fat.  I have gotten over worrying about how I look in my little gym outfit and I have to admit it is a good hour of grunt and groan downtime that allows me to  contemplate plotlines for potential books.  So this is maybe a good thing for my writing exercises.  And, oh yeah, I take my iPod with me and listen to upbeat music to help get with the program.  I even bought the new Taylor Swift album.  The song, Shake it Off, is especially inspiring.

*****

 


TALENT IS TALENT IS TALENT!

November 12, 2014

swift concernt

I have come to the conclusion that whether you like or dislike the product, talent is talent and it always stands on its own.  This said, if you like controversy and endless metaphorical debate, you will love the new official music video by Taylor Swift of her song Blank Space.  (You can check it out on You-Tube.)

It’s no secret, I’ve posted it several times on this blog that I am a big fan of Taylor Swift.  I am totally out of range of her demographic target, supposedly out of sync with her music and basically disconnected from her culture.  But, But, But…this makes the point that talent is talent is talent and it stands on its own.  You don’t have to like the art of surrealist Salvador Dali but you have to admit he sure can draw a great drooling pocket watch.

Taylor Swift is excellent at just about everything she does and what she does is ENTERTAIN.  As such, she is a prolific writer, an adept musician, an exceptional stage performer and an incredibly astute businesswomen.  If you do not like the product her “machine” puts out, that’s okay.  But it is hard not to respect how well the machine functions.

Okay, back to the music video that started all this.  Trust me, if you begin watching it, it’s hard not to watch it all the way through, assuming you are familiar with Taylor Swift and, more importantly, her critics who regularly criticize her persistent lyrical focus on her not-so-successful dating life.  This video is a whole new side of her that heretofore hasn’t been exposed to this degree.  No, she doesn’t pull a Miley Cyrus and take her clothes off.  What she does is poke a little fun at herself…and a lot at her critics.

She has already noted in her other new song, Shake it Off, that there are always people who do not care for you—“haters” as she calls them.  And she advises that you simply have to accept that these people will always “hate hate hate.”  In the song Blank Space she goes further.  The entire song and video is about her haters and what they hate about her.  It’s simply great fun.  And what’s even more fun is all the debate that has already started about the video and will no doubt hashtag, facebook and tweet on for days to come.  Taylor Swift, meanwhile, will continue to sell her music at a record-setting pace.  Good for her.  BTW, did you know that all the proceeds from another song on her new album, Welcome to New York, will be dumped into the New York City School system.

Taylor Swift is 24 years old.  She has already won armfuls of the most prestigious music awards the industry has to offer.  She is the first artist to have three albums released in a row, each selling over one million copies in its first week.  What were you doing at 24?  Like I said, you don’t have to like the product but you can’t ignore the talent.
*****

ANOTHER POETIC ATTEMPT

November 10, 2014

past-future-signposts

There are so many things I want to do all over again.

I want to do them exactly in the way I did them then.

I want to ride my sled down a snowy hill a hundred times.

I want to sell empty soda bottles till I collect enough dimes.

I want to take the train downtown and then return back home.

With little bus fare there was an entire city I could roam.

I want to rake leaves in a big pile and smell them burn,

Or mow neighbors’ lawns for spending money I’d earn.

I want to go back to high school and pay more attention.

I’d get higher grades this time or at least honorable mention.

I want to walk the streets of my neighborhood just as they were.

I don’t want to see them as they appear now, memories all a blur.

I want to meet the girl I married for the first time all over again.

I want to feel those feelings just one more time if I can.

I want to ride in the back seat of the bus and smell the fumes.

I want to roam the house I grew up in and revisit all the rooms.

I want to ride my bike to places my parents wouldn’t believe,

Just to see what there was to see and how many miles I’d achieve.

Speaking of parents, I wish they could hear what they need to hear,

How priceless they were to me, how cherished and held so dear.

I am getting old now and looking back makes me feel better than ahead.

Going forward holds no promise; I enjoy reliving the past instead.

*****

 


ALMOST ALMOST!

November 5, 2014

DeadLetter8I wasn’t a winner, but I must have come close.  My book, DEAD LETTER, was entered in this year’s annual self-published book awards competition sponsored by Writer’s Digest magazine, one of two of the most important trade publications in the book biz.  DEAD LETTER scored the highest (5 = “Outstanding”) in every category except for one in which it got a 4—the cover!   The judge was not crazy about the naked lady.  BUT, BUT, I could not ask for a better review (read below) and it is especially gratifying since it comes from a totally objective and highly respected source.  I am certainly not one prone to bragging, but as a wannabe successful writer, this is a proud moment for me.  Hey, I cudda been a contendah!

Here’s how DEAD LETTER did…

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5

Production Quality and Cover Design: 4

Plot and Story Appeal: 5

Character Appeal and Development: 5

Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

“DEAD LETTER by Marc Kuhn is a story written by an author who seems to possess a sensitive soul that gives him the ability to craft a touching, deeply emotional and satisfying story.

As for production values, I like the title but I wasn’t all that crazy about the cover, not because I have an issue with nudity (I don’t) but because it was dull. I think a picture of a small town or a letter would have been just as effective, if not more so. Of course, this is a personal opinion from a reader who prefers vibrant colors on book covers. However, the back cover copy was excellent and well written. I think it will spur people to read the book. Nice author bio. It encouraged me to check out the other books, and to visit the web site listed. It was nice to see a picture of the author on the site.

I enjoy books set in small towns and I think other readers will enjoy the setting, too. I think the author also does an excellent job capturing the eras he writes about as well. The opening of the book was amusing, as obviously intended. The feeling the early part of the book generated reminded me of SUMMER OF ’42 by Herman Raucher, which is a good thing. The writing style is superb, keeping the story moving at an excellent pace. The author is talented not only as a writer, but at evoking emotions. Readers who love romance and mystery will fall in love with this book”

- Judge, 22nd Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

 *****


ANOTHER HOME REPAIR SAGA – PART II

November 2, 2014

HomeSweet

So here’s the rest of the great kitchen water leak story that I am sure you’ve been waiting to read about…well maybe one or two of you are slightly curious.  To recap quickly: It was last Sunday night and I was attempting to install a $12 water filter in the water line that feeds the icemaker in my refrigerator.  In the process, a great flood occurred because I unassembled the water hose from the fridge and it wasn’t turned off at the wall valve as I thought.  But the wall valve was broken and it did not matter which way I turned the valve because the water kept on comin’.  Since there was no shutoff valve for the broken valve (something I learned at the moment), I ran outside to shut off the main valve for the entire house.  That done, I went back to the fridge and hooked the water line back up since the valve it attached to on the fridge worked and kept the water off.  Then upon my return outside I discovered that the main valve, now closed, would not reopen.  It too had broken.  Now I had not water coming into the house…it’s Sunday night around 6-7pm and most plumbers in the USA are watching football….here’s where we pick up Part II of our story….

I have a home maintenance policy so I dig it out and call the number.  The recording says normal service hours are closed unless I am having an emergency flood or a non-functioning toilet in a one-toilet residence.  I figure I HAD a flood and now I have no functioning toilets because I can’t turn the water back on, so that should qualify for me to stay on the line and wait for the special operator.  So that’s what I do.  Shortly, Jeremy says hello and says he will help me…but first we have to go through all the relative info twice.  Once as I feed it to him and twice as he feeds it all back to me to make sure he got it right—we’re talking a 50-digit account number, name, address, zip, nature of emergency in detail, blood type and urine sample…just kidding about the last two.  Eventually, Jeremy puts me on hold.  Dum-de-dum-dum-de-dum.  He comesback on to inform me that my policy indeed covers plumbing, but only INSIDE plumbing, not OUTSIDE plumbing.  The main valve that I need turned back on is OUTSIDE.  Jeremy informs me there will be a $105 “roll” charge IF they can find someone who will want to “roll” on over to my house.  I told him if he found someone, make sure they call me before they roll because there may be a simple solution and I won’t need someone coming to the house.  See, I’m on to these guys.  They come out for $105 and then tell you that the valve is broken which you already know, but they don’t have one on the truck that matches so it has to be ordered.  I know this from $105+ worth of experience.

Time marches on.  The phone rings.  It’s a plumber who, after hearing my story, says I need a new valve and it is unlikely he will have one until tomorrow.  I tell him “thanks” and I’ll get through the night and call the service back in the morning.  I keep my $105.

Meanwhile, my daughter learns about the great flood and tells me she has a good friend whose father is a plumber.  She called him and he will come over first thing in the morning.  Yippee.

We hunker down for the night on bottled water from our hurricane supply shelf and we flushed toilets with buckets of water from the neighbor’s swimming pool.  We make it through the night without having to wear life jackets.

It’s the next morning and here comes Ron the plumber right when he said he’s come.  He’s great.  Right away he says the valve must have broken.  I meanwhile have dug two graves in the front lawn attempting to locate the city’s shutoff valve to the house.  “Why don’t you use my metal detector?” Rosemarie asks after she sees me knee deep in a ditch.  Now she tells me.  I forgot all about the metal detector I got her for the beach.  Duh!

So “beep beep beep” goes the metal detector two feet from my grave sites.  I dig there and, ureka!, there’s the super shutoff valve ($500 fine if we touch it says the plumber….but he pulls out the special wrench and turns it off.)  Now he can fix the broke main valve at the house, which he does temporarily until he can order a new one.  We have water running.  All is well.

But he is puzzled as to why water would not run through the filter in the first place—the reason all this started.  Well, remember that “intake water valve” on the fridge we discussed in Part I?  Yep, it was busted too because it wasn’t supposed to stop the flow of water from the hose that came out of the busted valve in the wall.  So I ordered a new one over the Internet.  Of course, I find out later that my valve was probably OK because it does not automatically run water through willy nilly…the whole system is on a timer that is located on the icemaker.  Are you following all this?  Do you really care by now?

So for $12 that I spent on the filter so Rosemarie could have clear tasty ice cubes, here’s the damage:  three simultaneously broken and thought-broken water valves, new ones for which had to be ordered and installed (the intake valve for the fridge is $58); $75 for Ron the plumber (thank you Ron, a deal!) the first time he came out, a longer return trip by Ron several days later when all the new valves were available (another $75, still cheap) to install; a dug up front yard probably needing a run to the nursery for new sod; no icemaker until all the new valves were replaced and the filter is finally installed and not until then will we know if it’s the icemaker that’s messing up the ice.  Meanwhile, Pittsburgh quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, threw six touchdowns.   Who do you think had a better day.

Well, all’s well that end dry.  Ron returned, fixed all the valves that needed fixing and I completed hooking up the new filter for the icemaker which, within an hour, began loading up the ice trough in the freezer.

Sort of an anti-climatic ending but not an inexpensive one.  I shall never take an ice cube for granted again.

*****

Update 24 hours after above posting:

There is water.  It’s on the floor under the refrigerator.  The new icemaker filter is leaking.  Am I a bad person?


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…

*****


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