Holy Crap, Back Already!

December 6, 2016

Charlie Brown Style Christmas Tree

It seems I just took down the­ Christmas Lights.

I do not believe it’s been 365 days and nights.

So here once more I’m testing bulbs and untangling wire

With hopes of illuminating the house to my hearts’ desire.

I should just leave the darn things up all year round,

But my home owners’ association would surely frown.

I’m almost certain even Santa doesn’t go to all this trouble.

I know you don’t agree and I hate to break your bubble,

But I know he has his elves do the work, every bit of it.

Not resting until all the garland is strung and every light is lit.

I have to agree our house does look Christmassy by the time I’m done,

Though the curmudgeon in me would never admit to any of it as fun.

Nor will he ever divulge what he does Christmas Eve just before bed

Rumor has it he takes one last peek out the window in hopes of spotting a sled.

xmas16

****


BAD REVIEW, OK…STUPID REVIEW, NOT!

December 4, 2016

Book review word cloud

I’m sorry I can’t help myself.  I’m going to talk about a bad review one of my books got.  Actually,  it was more than a bad review.  It was a losing entry in a major awards competition for independent writers like me. Okay, go ahead and say it:  I am a poor loser…I’ll abide by that, but this was stupid.

I have entered this competition several times and one thing I like about it is, win or lose, you get a “professional” review of your book.  Good reviews are a good thing, they tell me, and one from this competition counts because the sponsor is a major, respected publication in the industry.  In addition to the review, your book is scored in five categories using a one-to-five scale:  1 means “needs improvement” and a 5 is “outstanding.”

It is possible to get a very good review and not make it to the award platform.  That’s pretty much what happened last year with my entry for Dead Letter.  I scored a 5 in every category except one.  The latter category was for the cover. The judged gave it a 4.  I think the judge really didn’t like the naked lady on the cover even though he/she denied it..and that’s okay.  Other than that, the judge had good things to say about DEAD LETTER.  If you wish to see the review, here’s the link:  http://deadletterbook.com/page4.html

Now, the latest review, the one that doesn’t sit well, is for my most recent book, ANCHOR.   Here is the judge’s report:

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 2

Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 3

Production Quality and Cover Design: 3

Plot and Story Appeal: 3

Character Appeal and Development: 3

Voice and Writing Style: 3

Judge’s Commentary:  I liked the story. You did a great job with creating Ryan, and I suspect that’s because you have experience with the radio industry. That sort of verisimilitude is something that cannot be replaced in telling a story that is as wed to setting as yours is. The setting and atmosphere were incredibly believable which helped the reader get into the book.

I do have some suggestions to make. The back cover text is more of a summary than a tease. The back cover should not give away major plot points in the story, and I felt that at the halfway point of the novel that I was still reading things that were referenced in the back cover text.

Additionally, the text should not reference the author or the writing process. This text is for the reader.

The introduction is labeled “First a note about…” I felt that the header made it feel optional, rather than something that the reader should read to understand a part of the book.

The book needed to have headers, which alternate between the author’s name and the title of the book. This may seem trivial, but in fact, it’s free marketing and cements the title and author’s name into the reader’s head since they see it on every page.

(the above review is credited to:  Judge’s comments, 24th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Book Awards)

Okay, here’s my sour grapes:

The judge says he/she “suspects” I worked in radio.  This is the same judge that spent much of the review critiquing the back cover of the book…where it clearly states that I worked in radio.  …and where the hell did verisimilitude come from?

I have no idea what the judge is talking about in the second paragraph regarding reference the author or the writing process.  Is this still something having to do with the back cover?

The judge’s next criticism (still not dealing with the story) has to do with the author’s note at the front of the book that references the short news stories that are at the head of each chapter.  The judge felt it was implied these were optional reads. Yep, that’s exactly what they are, as clearly stated in the author’s note…duh!

And finally, still not addressing the story itself, the judge suggests my name and the title of the book should appear at the top of every page.  Really?  Couldn’t the judge have found something more significant to discuss, like  why I earned only a 2 in style, organization and pacing?

I guess I should be happy that the judge found nothing substantive to critique in my story, but if that is the  case, why then all the  3’s?   Feedback on those items would have been a lot more helpful and constructive.

The entry fee for this conest is $100.  If nothing else, the contestants deserve better judging.

Okay, thanks for letting me vent.  I’m moving on now…wait’ll next year!

*****


DOG NIGHTS

November 29, 2016

inkblot

Something happened the other night that I will share with you here.  It’s certainly nothing earth-shattering, but I found it both curious and fascinating.  In other words, it was a hoot!

I am sure that at several times in your life you found yourself looking skyward and fashioning imaginary objects out of the cloud formations above.  I am also sure that many of you are familiar with the Rorschach Test, which is a psychological exam involving the patient interpreting images made from inkblots (pictured above).

It is fascinating how people see imaginary images quite different from the physical source from which they are derived.  Such was the circumstance for me the other night.  But, first a little background information.

Those who know me well are aware that I have the misfortune of living with several sleep disorders, among them sleep apnea.  This is an ailment that involves the collapse of the air passage when the body is relaxed (asleep).  Soon after the collapse occurs, the brain senses it is not getting enough oxygen so it goes into action by screaming, “Hey you, I’m suffocating up here.  Wake up and breathe!”  Consequently, if you suffer from this sleep disorder, you fall a sleep often through the night, but you are awakened just as frequently.

One thing that inhibits the process of sleep apnea is sleeping in an upright position.  I am so tired at times that I have no trouble sleeping in a chair.  I often fall asleep at my desk, sometimes while writing this blog. I know, you do the same thing when you read it.

A few months back I purchased one of the new “motion” beds that raises half the mattress in an upright position.  I am not sure if it is helping or not, especially since I still find myself asleep in my chair.  Such was the case the other night.

So here I was, soundly asleep in the chair, facing the bed.  I slowing woke up, very much in a drowsy state.  As I opened my eyes what I saw at first startled me and I almost fell out of the chair.  How the pillow ever transformed into what it did, is anybody’s guess.  It was so amazing I took a picture (below).

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Do I have to walk this one too?

*****


THE GREAT CAT DILEMMA…IT GIVES ME CLAWS FOR CONCERN

November 25, 2016

tonifinal

Well, we did it.  We finally did it.  After several years of putting up with stained, torn, dilapidated furniture, we went absolutely wild. Last week we replaced the 22-year-old sofa and love seat in the living room.  Today we bought new leather (sofa and love seat again) for the 20-year-old decaying furniture in the family room.  It is a joyful, albeit expensive, time in the Kuhn household.  No longer will we be embarrassed to have friends visits and have to subject their derrieres to being perched upon such dreadfully decrepit  platforms.  You get my drift.

New furniture is like a new car.  There are all the decisions about what brand to buy, what model, what options, what color, what size, what what what.  Rosemarie and I have become timid furniture shoppers.  Too often we have had buyer’s remorse because pieces we bought didn’t really look as good in our home as they did in the furniture showroom. Or, we found out too late that furniture, like other consumer products, doesn’t always hold up over a period of time.  There’s also the factor of taste.  What you like and think is cool one year is totally insipid and tacky a few years later.

And then there’s the cat.  Yes, the cat!  What to do about the cat?   Part of the reason we needed new furniture is that Toni the cat had destroyed portions of the old.  In fact, we have postponed buying new furniture  because we know Toni would love getting her claws into some new cushy fabrics.  Well, I have to tell you, we’ve been on the proverbial pins and needles ever since the new stuff arrived.  Toni is automatically attracted to anything new that comes into the house, whether it’s a discarded box from an amazon delivery,  an article of clothing, a new doormat, groceries, whatever.  So you can imagine what a hassle it’s been to keep constant vigil on the new furniture to make sure Toni is trained to stay off.  Can you teach old cats new trick?  Or is that a “can’t” like for dogs?

We are considering our options:  continue attempting to train Toni to stay off the new furniture; find a new home for her; or, worst yet, have her claws removed.  I also thought about putting her in the microwave for a few seconds every time we found her on the furniture but for some reason people’s reaction hasn’t been very supportive of that idea.  I even bought a bottle of special spray at the pet store that’s supposed to keep Toni away from whatever you douse it on.  Obviously, the manufacturer did not consult with Toni in the product’s R&D stage.

So while Rosemarie and I feel exhilarated having finally brought new life to our humble abode, we are unable to enjoy it to the fullest because of that darned cat.  And here I thought it was only children who cause you stress and anxiety, tear your heart out and destroy everything you’ve worked so hard to accumulate.  Meow!

*****


MY POEM…IT’S A TURKEY!

November 23, 2016

happy-thanksgiving-turkey-picture

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  I know  you cannot wait to sample my latest poem dedicated to this turkey of a holiday, but first we have some housekeeping to take care of—the Great Book Giveaway!  All those who left a “like” on my last posting were eligible to win a full set of seven of my books–available as a grouping nowhere else on earth but here.  All the names were typed out on slips of paper which were then folded and placed in my Cubs baseball cap.  The beautiful and fully ethical Rosemarie then reached in and pulled out one slip of paper.  And the name on that paper was….was…was… Michael Woulfe!  Congratulations Mike.  You now have a complete collection of table wobbler stoppers.  Just put any book under the short leg of a wobbly table and your tilted lifestyle is forever gone.  Please send me your mailing address to kuhnhome@bellsouth.net.  And now….

                                     Ode to Tom

What can I say? This is never a good time for me.

It is what it is. It is what is meant to be.

Try as I might I cannot escape the inevitable.

There’s no stopping it; it’s uncontrollable.

In some ways I should actually be content.

After all, everyone knows I’m the main event.

No doubt there will be the usual crowd

And when they see me, they’ll cheer out loud.

They’ll spent all day tending to my every need

And I always give in because I’ve got mouths to feed.

They all know I’m there not just for the gravy.

Still, they’ll stuff my pockets, all of them maybe.

There’s others things, too, they’ll bring to the table.

Oh I know they can dish it out, as much as they’re able.

And no matter how you slice it, I just go to pieces.

Keeping everyone smiling, from grandfathers to nieces.

It’s a family affair so things could get quirky.

If it weren’t for me, the Thanksgiving Day turkey.

*****


HAVE I GOT A DEAL FOR YOU!

November 22, 2016

Okay, I fully admit that this posting is totally flat-out, self-serving, ego-centric, crass promotion. But, hey, there’s something in it for you too.  It’s Thanksgiving and I have a lot to be thankful for, including the fact that I’ve been able to produce seven books since I retired.  I consider that a personal accomplishment that I rarely achieved, if at all, when I was spending my days working for someone else.

So, that said, all my books are available at amazon.com and most are also at barnesandnoble.com (bn.com). Most also have an e-versions available.  If you search at either website, just search the title and my last name and that should take you directly to the book’s listing.

Now, here’s the BIG DEAL about today’s posting.  If you’ve read this far, I appreciate your support and to thank you for it I will select at random one person from all those who have left a “like” up until late afternoon today.  That person will get a complete set of all seven books–free! (sorry, restricted to continental USA only).  I’ll announce the winner on tomorrow’s posting.  Good Luck!

anchorslidea-copydlslidepsslide8-19camslidefarmslidemooseslidesaidslide


I MISS MY “STAR TREK” PHONE

November 15, 2016

phonephrus2

The older I get, the less patient I have become with new technology.  Maybe this is normal. Maybe I’ve become one of those old dogs who can’t learn new tricks.  Maybe.  Strange, I always welcomed new gadgets and gizmos in my life, often being one of those “early adopters” that marketers like to talk about.

Lately, I shy away from the latest and greatest new computers or i-phones or tablets or whatever.  I tend to stick with what I know and I don’t need to know no more.  I’m avoiding buying a new PC because mine is still running Windows 7 and that’s fine with me.  My blue tooth is tinged with coffee stains and my formerly adoptive brain is now conflicted between complacent and impatient. Besides, new technology has given us some pretty intrusive annoyances lately.  Oddly, they’re all tied to one of the oldest pieces of technology we all can’t live without—the telephone.

Number one on my list are robo-calls, those incessant computer-generated phone calls that disturb us constantly, usually at the most inconvenient moment…I wonder how they know?  I am so tired of being solicited to donate to some fraternal order of whatever, or succumb to an energy evaluation of my house, or being forewarned that some government agency is investigating me.   It’s only a matter of time before they invade my cell phone; some already have.

And how about the phone itself?  What was once a talking instrument used to verbally communicate between people is now a picture-taking dictation machine.  I’ve noticed most younger folks no longer use their phone to talk to one another. Instead, it’s a keyboard on which to tap out short messages telling their associates things like what they’re having for lunch, followed up by a picture of their asiago hummus-stuffed pita.

My phone is an i-Phone 5.  It’s considered an antique despite the fact that it has a gazillion functions I’ll never use. It can probably shoot down an intercontinental ballistic missile.  To tell you the truth, I really wouldn’t know since I can barely answer a call when it rings or vibrates or flashes.  It never does the same thing consistently.  I’ll repeat the identical steps to answer a call or retrieve a voicemail and sometimes it gets me there and sometimes it gets me somewhere else.  My grandkids say it’s me and they tell me I don’t know how to use it.  My wife says the phone knows I hate it and acts out as a result. I say the phone is possessed.  I kept missing calls yesterday despite it being nearby.  My wife discovered the “do not disturb” function was activated.  Who did that?  I never touched it. In fact, I didn’t even know the phone had such a function.

Anything else on my mind?  Sure, how about data collection.  The collection and processing of our emotions has become a fine science.  I’m talking about the new obsession with customer surveys.  You can’t even use a stall in the men’s room at a department store without being e-mailed later asking how your experience was.   Don’t ask how they get your e-mail address.  That’s about as sacred anymore as your social security number.  All this data being expressed and retrieved has got to eventually explode…or maybe it has, given the colossal failure of all the polls before the latest presidential election.

And finally, the forever frustrating robotic customer service process we all have to go through when we call a company with a question about some product or service we’re involved with.  Despite yelling “representative” a hundred times and hitting the “zero” on the touch pad just as often, we are at the mercy of the pre-selected process which will deviate not one iota until you finally get to talk with a live, real human being who either has a defective microphone or speaks with such a strong accent that you have no idea what he/she is saying.

So the telephone plays a primary role in all these situations.  I wonder if Alexander ever thought his invention would lead to such suffering for all us old folks.  I sure look back with fondness to the old telephone we had when I was a kid.  It had a rotary dial and the phone4phone number started with a two-letter abbreviation for the area in which we lived.  Our number was CH7-7554.  CH was for Chestnut Hill.  That was some 60 years ago. I’m tempted to dial the number and see if anyone answers.  It will more than likely be a recording telling me to listen to the new menu of options since they have recently changed.

*****


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