Uncategorized

Making Believe

blankbook

If there is a secret to writing fiction, a difference that distinguishes a professional from an aspiring amateur, it is the art of making believe. In many ways it is akin to all the pretending and playing we did as children. You remember, everything was possible and every day was a new adventure, wasn’t it? The majority of people lose that gift for creative fantasy but writers don’t. Or, at least, writers can find a way back to the childlike mindset.

Now, having that ability to fabricate something from nothing doesn’t mean the process is childish. Certainly there will be those around you, the ones who consider themselves practical, who will tell you that you’re wasting your time or daydreaming on paper perhaps. But for those of us who write stories and novels it is a process that grows and develops over time. Eventually you reach a point that it is nearly impossible to turn it off or disconnect from the creative flow – then again, who would you want to, right?

There are times when being creative isn’t an asset. I’ve worked in business for most of my adult life. there have been times when my creative mind waged war on the part of me that paid the bills. It wasn’t pretty for others to watch and it was painful to experience. You see – if you want to write professionally there is a point of balance you much reach with your other life, the part that shows up on time for appointments, makes it to work at a day job when scheduled and ensures that the money to pay bills reaches the appropriate parties in time. You must figure out how to control the creativity to a certain extent. Otherwise the line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred.

I’ve found setting a schedule and observing a daily routine works best. There are times that my appointed times to write conflict with other responsibilities but usually I can get up early in the morning a knock out a few thousand words. It is quietest then and, other than the dog wanted some attention, there are no interruptions or intrusions from the outside world. I can enter the zone and be creative, channeling the flow directly onto a virtual page in my computer.

To write fiction effectively I’ve found it is almost necessary to disengage from the real world for whatever duration necessary to tell a story or part of a story to oneself. If your story is ever going to engage the reader enough to offer and escape from their own reality you must make the fiction believable, regardless of how farfetched the tale you are spinning. That is the art to writing fiction: making believe or more aptly making believers out of skeptical readers. The first step in that direction be selling yourself on an idea and building a world around it into which you can enter and, for whatever time you need to write the tale, jot down every important detail of what your imagination has conjured within your mind.

books

Writing creatively is as addictive any drug but it can be mentally exhausting. I suppose in some instances it has been painful as well. I believe there are many people who have a creative impulse but substitute substances in lieu of being creative out of avoidance. It is easier to engage the imagination while under the influence. However, it is difficult if not impossible to sustain an artificially induced creative episode long enough to write a story. However, a glass wine or a couple of beers can take the edge off, I suppose, allowing the mind to slip into a relaxed state that is more conducive to facilitating the creative flow. The problem with substances is that abuse comes easily and ingesting or imbibing more doesn’t lead to better products. It is difficult to capture in words what one experiences and almost impossible to fully recall. However, if you expend the effort to regularly engage your creative mind you will need no chemicals to make the magic inside of you happen. Making believe will come to you are regularly as you desire if you are willing to invest the effort and time necessary to train your unruly mind to work for you.

#Writing #Creativity #WritingProfessionally #MakeBelieve #FictionWriting

Uncategorized

An Ethical Man’s Family

Note: The following is something I wrote a few years ago as a tribute to my father. It is accurate to the best of my knowledge, though I suspect when and if my sisters read it they will tell me things that need to be corrected – especially the stuff that happened before I was born or too little to know much about. I am publishing it here as a memorial to my father who passed about fifteen years ago around this time of year.

****

 

Mom and Dad

Bruce Williams, my father,  was born in April 1914 near West Liberty, Kentucky. He was an honest, decent man who was raised on a farm. All he knew was farming. So, it was natural that it would become his life’s work.

When he was starting out, he worked for the government in a federally funded recovery program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Dad worked on reservoirs in the Tennessee River valley and helped construct roads throughout Appalachia. He saved his money and, after two years in the CCC, he returned home and married Alta Ferguson, my mother, in the early spring of 1935.

Jobs were scarce in Morgan County, Kentucky, where my parents grew up. Bruce heard there were better opportunities in Ohio. So, in late summer, he left my pregnant mother behind with a promise he’d send for her when he saved enough money.

Mom, Dad and Baris (Brother) Circa 1940

He found a job as a laborer in a feed and grain store that serviced farmers in west central Ohio. The last throes of the Great Depression still stifled a good portion of the economy. He worked all week for enough money to buy denim overalls to wear at work. He saved every cent he could spare. Mr. Ballenhoffer, who owned one of the largest farms in the area, offered Bruce a small place to live. It was actually an old chicken coop that my dad cleaned out to make ready for bringing his wife from Kentucky to live with him.

My brother, Barris, was born on May 4, 1936. Shortly afterwards, Bruce brought Alta and the baby to Ohio.

Despite his responsibilities as a new father, one day he had an argument with his supervisor. He never told me exactly what the argument was about, only that it was a matter of principle and ethics. So, I’m sure it was something he considered wrong. My dad hated no one except for liars and cheats and would never compromise his beliefs for any reason. I’m sure his personal integrity was challenged. What he did tell me was that being right does not always matter in an argument. When his supervisor threatened to fire him, Bruce quit.

The same day, Mr. Ballenhoffer hired him as a farmhand. Maybe they didn’t need another hired hand, but Mr. Ballenhoffer knew Dad from the feed and grain store. He witnessed first-hand how hard Bruce worked.

It was a struggle for my parents to survive their living conditions in those first years of marriage. To keep out the cold winds of winter, Alta had to chink rags into the cracks between the clapboards of the chicken coop that was their first home. She blamed those harsh conditions for why my brother Barris was sickly as a young child.

Arial view of Wildman farm on US 42

In time, Bruce was offered a sharecropping position on a farm near South Charleston. As part of the deal, my folks could live in the property’s farmhouse. During that time, Dad suffered a severe injury. While attempting to straighten a nail to be reused in repairing a loose board, the nail snapped in two, and one piece flew up into my father’s face, putting out his right eye.

Bruce’s position as a farmer was considered critical and exempted him from being drafted into military service. Although Dad was patriotic and wanted to serve, he was not allowed to volunteer. His eye injury prevented him from going to war. Perhaps the reason my sisters and I were born was that he lost his right eye in an accident – if you want to believe in accidents.

In 1945, a few weeks before his birthday and the end of the war in Europe, my brother Barris, died. He succumbed to seizures that my mother called Epilepsy, though they could not afford proper medical treatment and so the illness was never diagnosed. He was buried in Kentucky, at the Cold Iron Cemetery, near where my parents were born.

Bruce and Alta were devastated as they grieved the loss of their firstborn child. Parents are not supposed to outlive their children. It was several months before the emptiness in their life seemed bearable. It was over a year before my mother and father attempted to replace him.

During that time, Bruce was offered a job managing the farm where he had once worked as a hired hand. It was considerably more money and so he decided to take the position. Still, my father left on good terms with the Wildman’s, whose farm he had been operating for several years. He helped them find someone to replace him.

Family Pics-6

Joyce, my oldest sister, was born on February 7, 1947. She was not the son Bruce wished to replace his loss, but he doted on her all the same. My family’s living conditions were dramatically improved from when my parents last lived on the Ballenhoffer farm. They were allowed a farmhouse as part of the compensation, and land to use for a garden and raising their own chickens.

Two and a half years later, William E. Bailey, a young attorney in Springfield, contacted my dad. His last surviving parent passed on, leaving him the family’s two farms. The Wildman’s recommended Bruce to Mr. Bailey. My father accepted the position, establishing a business relationship and friendship borne of mutual respect that would endure for their lifetimes.

Subsequently, when Mr. Wildman died of a heart attack, Anamelia Wildman offered the operation of the two farms she owned and the farmhouse where my parents lived before. Between the Wildman and Bailey farms, Dad was overseeing the operation over 2400 acres and had four hired hands working for him.

Still, Bruce wanted to have a son to carry on the family name and to inherit a farm he dreamed of buying, a goal for which both my parents were saving for since they were married. Again, they tried to replace Barris.

Gentte and me 1959

Genette, my other sister, was born on January 10, 1952. Once more, my parents brought a beautiful daughter into the world. At that point, with the doctor’s recommendation, my parents decided two children were enough.

Over the next three years, many things changed for my mother and father. The crops were good and the livestock markets were rewarding. My parents saved enough money from their share of the profits from the farms to buy two acres of land from Mrs. Wildman. They planned to build a new home.

My mother told a strange story that I am sure she believed happened. Dad was convinced it happened, too. She heard a voice telling her to have another child. When she consulted with Dr, McIntyre, the family doctor, he confirmed that she was not too old but he warned her, as he had after Genette’s birth, that it would be very risky.

It was not an easy pregnancy. There was a point when she was convinced she would miscarry. With her faith and the prayers of others, she weathered the crisis. On May 7, 1956, eleven years to the day after the end of the war in Europe, I was born. Finally, my parents had a son to replace Barris. I grew up in my dead brother’s shadow, more so than either of my sisters.

Front yard on US 42

My dad asked his cousins who were carpenters to come stay for the summer and build the new house. When it was complete, my parents moved the family into a modern home, the first they ever owned.

As I grew up, Dad referred to me as his buddy – his little helper. As I grew older, I could help with the chores and a good deal of the backbreaking labor of working on a farm. The days that I worked with my father wore me out. It was time well spent, though. I appreciated how hard my dad worked for a living. I was amazed at how smart he was. He seemed to have the solution for every problem. Nothing was beyond him.

Lambs

When I was big enough to reach the pedals and steer the tractor, I spent many a summer day in the hot sun. Whether it was piloting a tractor towing a baler along windrows making hay bales for my father to stack on the wagon we pulled behind or cultivating the corn and soybeans, it was what I did and Dad paid me a man’s wage.

Joyce graduated from Southeastern High School in 1965. The event fulfilled a part of one of Bruce’s personal goals, that his children would earn diplomas. Dad always wanted a high school education. But when he was a teenager, the Great Depression began. He had to quit school to work on the farm and help support and feed his family. He had a ninth grade education. Mom finished the eighth grade. Education of their children was paramount in importance to both my parents. They wanted to offer their children the opportunities they never had.

Around that time Dad and Mom realized their lifelong dream; they bought a farm. It was adjacent to Mr. Bailey’s farms so, even though father now had an additional 160 acres of his own land to work, it was close enough to some of the other farms that it was not as much of an increased burden. The new farm also allowed expansion of beef cattle production. The problem was that operating Mrs. Wildman’s farms, which were several miles away from our new farm, was increasingly difficult. Bruce continued to do it for an additional year, but all the time he was seeking someone to take over the operation from him.

The other logistical consideration was that we still lived in Selma, on land adjacent to the Wildman’s farms. Mom wanted to build a new house on our farm so she could correct all the deficiencies she found with our present house. I was ten at the time and had mixed feelings about moving away from the only house I remembered living in. The idea of a new house excited me and living on the new farm made a lot of sense. But I had memories. The house where we lived was my home.

Joyce standing beside new '63 Chevy Impala Convertible

Once again, Bruce called on his cousins to come spend the summer while they built another dream home. Meanwhile, Dad and Mom were remodeling the interior of the farmhouse on our new farm, with the intention of Joyce, her husband Jerry and their newborn son, Jame (Jay), living there.

Family Pics-9

While driving back from working on the old farmhouse, Mom, Genette and I were in a car accident. Other than the bloody nose I received from slamming my face into the back of my sister’s hard head and the resulting knot on Genette’s noggin, my mother was the only one injured. Her wrists were badly sprained from where she braced herself against the steering wheel in anticipation of the impact. Her right kneecap was shattered. Our car, a Candy Apple Red 1963 Chevy Impala, was totaled.

Mother spent the summer in a full leg cast in a house that was built before central air conditioning was common. She spent a lot of time sitting on the front porch, with her cast propped up on a chair while she hoped for a cool breeze. When it didn’t come, she used a box fan and an oscillating fan to fend off the heat.

Despite recovering from her injuries, she had to take care of the new baby while Joyce worked. Of course, Genette helped, not only in caring for the baby, but also doing housework and cooking.

It was not an easy summer for anyone. We had two house guests. I gave up my room  to Marvin, one of my dad’s cousins. Norman, the other cousin, slept in the room we called the breezeway, a family room we had made from enclosing a walkthrough between the house and the garage. My bed was a foam rubber pallet on the living room floor.

Mom’s cast was removed in early September. She was leery of driving but she liked our new car, a 1966 Chevy Caprice.

A few weeks later, we moved into the new house. Regardless where I lived, I was still  attending school in Selma. That was where the school district’s consolidated middle school was located. The only difference was I rode a bus to school instead of my bike or Mom dropping me off.

I matured a good bit over the next couple of years. My dad and I began to work together as a team and sometimes we traded places. My muscles recovered much more readily from the aches and pains of strain and overexertion. It was a welcome relief for Bruce to have someone he could count on to do some of the things he was never able to trust to hired hands.

As I entered the eighth grade, the newly constructed elementary school in South Charleston was ready to open. My class received the honors of naming the school and selecting a mascot. There were several suggestions and a good bit of campaigning, culminating in a school assembly, after which everyone was allowed to vote. The school’s name became Miami View. It was apt as a branch of the Little Miami River flowed behind the school. The mascot for every athletic team was The Patriots.  Of course, the school colors were red, white and blue.

The chores continued, either in the morning before going to school or in the afternoon after I returned home. On weekends I helped my dad on the farms. Sunday was the only day either of us had off. Dad refused to work on Sunday, except to feed the livestock. Dad believed that God understood His animals needed to be fed. Otherwise, Dad refused to do any business whatsoever on a Sunday.

Old Bachelor's House on Jamestown RoadArial view of Old Bachelor's farm

Dad purchased an adjacent 90 acre farm that had belonged to a man we referred to as the Old Bachelor. He was descended from the family that had once owned not only the farm where he lived and our farm, but also much of the surrounding land. He died in his house. As I was on friendly terms with him and went to see about him from time to time. It was an unfortunate circumstance that I discovered his body.

The family farm was now 250 acres.

When I  worked I was constantly analyzing everything, figuring out more efficient ways to doing nearly every task. Dad said it was because I was lazy, but really it was not. When given the option of working hard or working smart, I opted for the latter. If an easier way could be determined to do the exact same thing with less effort, I would take that course. Anyone would.

The problem with my father’s dream for me to take over the family farm was related to my allergies. A day of baling hay, for example, would result in irritated, itching, swollen and watering eyes. I’d sneeze throughout the day. At night, I was beset with coughing fits. Still, by the next morning, I was ready to go at it again. I had to endure the discomfort. However, it was obvious I was not cut out to be a farmer.

57699481

Genette’s goal was attending Wittenberg University in Springfield. It was an outstanding private college with high academic standards. If she attended Southeastern High School, he believed she could not receive the sort of education she needed to qualify for admission. From her sophomore year to graduation, Dad and Mom paid tuition for her to attend Shawnee High School in Springfield, reputedly the best public school in the county. As a result, Mom drove her to school every day until Genette was old enough to get her driver’s license. Once Genette was able to drive, Dad bought her a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda.

In the early summer of 1970, Genette received her diploma from Shawnee High School. She was preparing to attend Wittenberg in the fall, to study art education. She became the first of our family to go to college.

My dad and mom wanted me to follow in Gennete’s footsteps. Obviously, Shawnee prepared her well for college. But, because of the overcrowded conditions in all the public schools due to the ‘baby boom’ of the 1950’s, Shawnee was no longer accepting tuition students.

At the time, I was seriously considering a military career as an officer. I wanted to attend the United States Air Force Academy. I felt that if I attended a military school it would be a great help in meeting the admission requirements. Mr. Bailey, my godfather, was a personal friend of Congressman Brown who represented the US Congressional District where we lived. So, obtaining a letter of recommendation for appointment was no problem.

Me in miltary school uniform

Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg, West Virginia accepted me and I began classes in late August 1970. Although I got over homesickness and adapted to the structure of the school, there were very few students who were there for the sake of getting a quality education. Most needed correction and many of them were still resisting the effort. Drugs were a problem and my roommate was one of the people involved.

Shortly before Thanksgiving, I told my parents what was going on at school. My father called the school and had a lengthy discussion with the administration about what I told him. They promised my father I would be moved to a private room. It seemed everything was resolved.

While I was home for Thanksgiving break, my father and I discussed everything and I was fine with going back to school. But when I returned, the new room to which I was assigned was a disaster. It needed repairs and there was a big inspection coming in a few days. There was no way the room could be made presentable before the inspection. It was obvious to me that I was set up to fail. It was punishment for opening my mouth to my parents about what was going on in the school. In the minds of the school administration, I broke a code of conduct. If I had a problem, I should have gone directly to the administration. No parents needed to be involved. The reputation of the school did not need to be tarnished.

I was in fear of the retaliation I might suffer from the other students. I called my parents to come take me back home. While I waited, I did anything to avoid being in my room.

When my parents arrived at the school, they had a lengthy discussion with the administration after which I packed my things into the family car and returned home.

Although I was prepared to attend Southeastern High School, my dad and mom insisted that I not. They rented an apartment in the Springfield Local School District so that I could live there, ostensibly with my mom, and attend Shawnee High School. I was never to tell anyone at school that I lived alone. Not only was it no one’s business but also I knew my parents trusted me. If anyone found out Mom wasn’t living with me, she could get into a lot of trouble with the State. Despite my emotional and mental maturity, I was still a minor.

At first, Mom came to the apartment regularly, almost daily. I always had food. Although I could do my laundry and knew how to cook for myself, whenever she was there, she took care of those things. She let me clean my apartment, vacuum the carpet, mop and wax the kitchen floor, clean the bathroom and carry out the trash. At night, I set my alarm clock to wake up in time to get up and get ready for school. The bus stopped for me in front of the apartment complex.

Twice, my mother slept in the apartment. That way she could say she stayed there without telling a lie. The phone was in her name. Each morning, when I woke, I called home. Each afternoon, when I got off from school, I called home. Mom would call me some time in the evening to see how I was doing. She called at random times, even two times in an evening. Although she said she trusted me, I understood she didn’t want me to think I could get away with anything. She was minimizing the opportunity for me to become a bad boy. On Friday afternoon, when I got off the bus, Mom would meet me at the apartment. I slept at my parents’ house on the weekend and helped my dad on the farm every Saturday. On Sunday morning I did the chores and then went to church with Mom. In the afternoon, I did my laundry and folded it. In the evening, after dinner, Mom drove me back to the apartment.

As far as anyone at school knew, I lived with my mother. They assumed my parents were divorced. No one bothered to ask for clarification, and so, I never provided any details.

Over the summer before my sophomore year, I periodically stayed in the apartment. I told my parents that for appearance’s sake I probably should spend time there. Besides, I liked some of the freedom and privacy I acquired. All of my things were there, so when I was at my parent’s house, it felt a lot less like home to me.

One of the nosier neighbors at the apartment complex stopped me in passing and asked where I had been all week.

“Oh, I was helping my dad. He has a farm,” I said and started to walk away.

“Where’s your mom been?”

“She was seeing her sister. She’s been sick,” I replied. It was true that my mom had seen her sister and Aunt Verna was sick. Despite my inference through omission of detail, Mom did not stay with her sister, though.

“Where’s she now?”

“Working,” I said. That was also true. My mother was a housewife. So, when was she not working? Then, I smiled at my neighbor. “Okay, it’s my turn. Why is any of this your business?”

“I was wondering where you’ve been?’

“I always help my dad on the farm when he needs help. He pays me. I can always use the money.”

Apparently that satisfied her. No one else at the complex ever bothered to ask me anything about my business.

Sometimes, Genette came to see me. She was taking summer school classes at the university. She moved onto campus when she pledged to join the Sigma Kappa sorority. Although Mom maintained her room at home, like me, my sister was seldom there.

Genette and I would see movies together. Afterwards we went shopping in Springfield or at the Upper Valley Mall. She took me to her sorority and hung out with her sorority sisters and her friends who were in fraternities. I sat in on some of her classes and met her professors. We went to the library and the Student Union. I really liked the learning environment and the campus atmosphere.

My primary means of transportation throughout that summer was a ten-speed Schwinn. I rode it everywhere, into Springfield, across town to my friend Brice’s house, and sometimes to Wittenberg to see Genette. Sometimes I rode the bike to my dad’s farm, which was thirteen miles from my apartment.

I rode the bus for another school year. It was pretty much the same routine as during my freshman year, except I spent some weekends at the apartment. My dad decided to get out of the livestock part of farming and so he raised grain only. There were fewer chores to do and less need for me to help him on weekends.

The summer before my junior year, I took driver’s education in summer school. I was eager to get my license. The irony was that I had been driving for years. As a farm kid I was allowed to drive farm equipment on the roads between farms. On the farms, I drove my dad’s trucks to and from the fields.

I rode my bike to school every weekday until the conclusion of the course. The day I received my certificate of completion for the course, I took my driving test and received my license. I acquired the gold 1972 Camaro my mother had been driving. As she liked Camaros, dad bought an orange and black one as a replacement for her.

Once my junior year ended, I was grandfathered into attending Shawnee for my senior year. I did not need to live in the school district. So, I moved back home and drove to school each day from my parent’s house.

It felt strange being back home, especially since I had grown accustomed to considerable personal freedom. I also played bass guitar in a rock band and had a number of outside activities. During my senior year, I think I tried my parents’ patience to the limit more times than not.

Purdue-University Fall

Wittenberg University accepted me a few weeks after I submitted my application. I figured that since my sister was a senior there, they would not turn me down. But I wanted to attend a major university and study journalism, a course that was not offered at Wittenberg. So, I applied to some Big Ten schools. Purdue University accepted me.

In the early part of the last summer I lived at home, I received my diploma. Bruce and Alta saw the last of their children complete a goal neither of them ever reached. A few days after my graduation, Genette received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wittenberg University, making her the first in the family to graduate from college. I don’t think I ever saw my dad and mom as proud as they were of Genette. She worked hard and even struggled at times to receive her degree, but she would not quit. I was proud of her, too.

At the end of the summer, when I moved to West Lafayette, Indiana to attend Purdue, for all intents and purposes, all of my parent’s kids were grown up. I think the realization that I would not be following in his footsteps disappointed my dad. The dream of carrying on the family farming traditions would perish with him. He and my mother had saved to buy a farm that they could pass on to their children, yet their only surviving son was not going to be a farmer and neither of my sisters had any interest or inclination toward owning a farm, let alone operating one.

After a year of substitute teaching in the public schools, Genette decided that she really did not like teaching as much as she thought she would. She enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1975.

My oldest sister, Joyce, her husband, Jerry and their son, Jame (Jay), moved to Clearwater, Florida in 1978. Joyce became a successful administrative assistant for an executive before leaving to handle the office work for her husband’s private business.

Family Pics-12

Having endured the blizzard in January 1978, Mom said she was tired of living in a cold place. My parents sold their farm and some of their household furniture at auction. My dad had always dreamed of living in the southwest, so they moved to Texas – just about as far south in Texas as they possibly could go. They relocated to a little town called Mission that was just north of the Rio Grande River, near the cities of McAllen and Edinburgh. Genette’s first husband and I helped them make the trip.

At some point during the next year, Genette divorced Andy, her first husband. She received a commission through Officer Training School and, after a few years ended up in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where she eventually met her second and present husband, Michael ‘Scott’, an Air Force pilot.

Genette at wedding reception with Joyce, Jay, Mom, Dad and Me

When I finished my degree in Mass Communication, the economy was suffering from a curious mess called ‘stagflation’, a combination of double-digit inflation and double-digit interest rates. I interviewed with several prospective employers but no one offered me a job. I spent a summer with my parents in Mission before moving to Austin to attend the University of Texas, majoring in Marketing.

Shortly before I graduated from UT, my parents moved to Clearwater, Florida and eventually to Palm Harbor, just to the north of Clearwater. I lived with them for a time, and then moved out into an apartment in Dunedin while I worked for a small advertising agency. A year later I joined the Air Force and learned Chinese Mandarin.

Before I left for my first overseas tour of duty in Korea, I sat with my dad on his driveway in front of his garage. There was a cool breeze that afternoon as we enjoyed sitting in the shade of a large oak. The subject was one we discussed before but never in as much detail as that day. He was a little concerned about what I was getting into with the Air Force. Genette was an officer. He was concerned about her but figured she was safer somehow. He did not understand what I was going to be doing and, frankly, I really could not tell him much because nearly everything I worked with was highly classified.

Dad expressed how proud he was of each of his children, not because of what we accomplished but that we were decent, caring people.

“I’ve had to work hard all my life,” he said. “I didn’t have the kind of education a man needs to get ahead. Your mom and I scrimped and saved everything we could because we knew what it was like not to have anything. We didn’t want for our children to know that kind of hardship.”

“I don’t know how you worked as many years as you did as a farmer. It’s hard work.”

“It’s honest work,” he responded. “I love the land. I enjoy watching things grow and taking care of animals. It’s not an easy job feeding the world. But that’s what I did with my life.”

“I’m sorry I couldn’t take over the farm.”

“Farming isn’t what it used to be. It won’t be too many years before having a family farm is nothing but a memory. The world is changing very quickly. I’m not sure how it is going to work out. I’ve always heard that the world will end sometime after 2000. I don’t know if it will. Only God knows those things. But I think if you are ready, it doesn’t matter when it happens. Until then, you need to live as good a life as you can, be honest and always keep your word. When you make a mistake beg forgiveness. When you succeed, be humble. When you have children, teach them how to be good people. That’s the best anyone can do.”

I married in 1985. My son was born in 1986 and my daughters were born in 1988 and 1990, giving Dad and Mom three more grandchildren. My nephew married in 1986 and had a daughter in 1987, my parents’ great granddaughter.

Bruce Williams was an ethical man who raised his family to honor what he stood for and what he believed was right. He fed us, clothed us, and gave us a roof over our heads with warm beds to sleep in. We never worried for a thing as children. If there was not enough for everyone, he would do without. I never knew a soul who didn’t like him. Most respected him and considered it an honor to know him. He was generous to a fault. He helped people who had nowhere else to turn, cosigning for loans when the bank would not give them the money they needed for something urgent.

Family Photo around 2003 -1

My father died a few days before his birthday in April 2000. The family gathered together for the funeral. By then Mom was in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s and could not attend. She would pass on nearly on her birthday in April 2003. People came from everywhere my parents had lived to pay their respects. My parents both lived to be nearly eighty-six.

#Family #Memorial #BruceWilliams #AltaWilliams #Ohio #Wittenberg #Purdue #UTAustin #GrowingUp

Uncategorized

Changes In Frequency

HiRes_2376172730246

Hey all who follow and read my blog. I will need to be changing things up a bit. I’ll still be posting to the blog but the frequency is about to change. There will be a weekly blog post but I cannot guarantee which day of the week at this point. Sorry about that.

I have been working more hours at my day job. Also I’m about to enter into a period of editing my next book(s) for publication as well as working on marketing and publicity campaigns for sixteen other authors. Yeah, I’ve become a plate juggler keeping sixteen plates spinning all that the same time, and sometimes one or two will wobble and I have to keep them from crashing to the floor and breaking.

We’ll see how things work out but I may post some random things at times, like updates and a few Throwback items. Some of you liked those enough to keep them going, however the latter takes a little research and continuing to do them on a weekly basis has become nearly impossible. I need to write sequels more so than blog posts about my favorite rock bands in the 70’s. Having said that, I like the subject of music in general. I might post some reviews of more recently produced music. We’ll see. There are several contemporary acts I enjoy. You might be surprised what I listen to…then, again, maybe not.

The focus on this blog is and has always been about my writing mores than my life but sometimes they two are inseparable. The more I strive to have my books become popular and my author’s brand recognized the less time I have to enjoy some of the things I like to blog about. Funny how that works out, isn’t it?

I’ve made a couple of strategic choices in the past week that may aid in my ability to keep up with blog posts. I have a portable computer that will be showing up later on today (Thursday). I decided to go with a Microsoft Windows based system, actually the Surface Pro 3. I got a good deal on a slightly used one. It will take a few hours to set it up properly to become the effective tool it needs to be. But this will allow me to take my writing with me to work at my day job so I can use my break time to post things to blogs, post promotional things for others and my myself and edit/revise my work – all on the go.

 

Surface-Pro-3

I plan to use The Cloud more often  in the future as this “new” computer has a smaller SSD but it is a lot faster than the relatively larger drive I have on the computer I use at home. However I would like to have a couple of TB’s of space to store all the pictures, music and such I have. I haven’t decided whether to get a personal NAS drive that I can access via the Internet or upload everything to iCloud, One Drive, Google Drive or some comparable service. I may be doing a bit of the latter as a test of viability for what I need over the next few weeks as an alternative to purchasing a personal NAS device. However, I like the idea of being able to access things from a server drive on my home network regardless where I am in the world. As my portable computer will only have 256GB of on-device storage I cannot keep all of my files on the device. Still, I will need to access my stuff from time to time. I’m not so certain I want all my documents residing on someone else’s server 0f regardless of how secure.

 

final color pandamoon logo-2

My publisher has a cloud drive I use for publicity an the work I have submitted for publication. In a pinch I could use some of that space, temporarily, I suppose, but I want to keep business separate from my personal things even if they are business related. Promotional stuff like this blog that is intended to increase awareness of my brand falls into the gray area between personal and professional stuff. That could be stored on my publisher’s drive.

A lot of my blog related stuff has used pictures I keep stored somewhere or the other on my local drives. I’d like to offload that to The Cloud but I don’t want that taking up space on my publisher’s server. Also I’d like to upload my personal music files but I would rather store all of that on a personal NAS that I can access from anywhere I am.

#NAS #PortableComputer #SurfacePro3 #Microsoft #PandamoonPublishing #Publicity #Blog

Uncategorized

A Pretty Cool Day In Florida

11150340_858702910842999_1129755654072452881_n

For almost two years now I’ve been associated with Pandamoon Publishing, first as an author and more recently as a publicist. At times the latter role requires more effort and schedule juggling than the former but it is one of the few times since receiving a degree in marketing from the University of Texas in the early ’80’s that I have actually done something related to my studies. That’s kind of cool.

Aside from working on my next book(s), there are eleven more under contract now, I have had occasion to work with a diverse group of fellow writers. Personally I think all of them are more gifted than I am. A few of them have been fooled into thinking I’m as talented as they are. I’m good a creating illusions. Until yesterday, though, I had never actually met any of the other authors, other than chatting with them online. That isn’t to say I don’t know these people and over the past couple of years we haven’t become friends.

final color pandamoon logo-2

The Pandamoon stable of authors is approaching two dozen and continues to grow. The publisher is expanding its editorial and marketing staffs to handle the bandwidth of all those new books. For a relatively small and fairly new kid on the publishing block we are making some waves and gaining attention. And a lot of that has to do with the effort and coordination between the marketing team and the authors. One of the success stories is Steph Post, author of A Tree Born Crooked.

Front Cover

Steph and I both live in Florida. When I lived in Pinellas County, we were even on the same side of Tampa Bay, just a few miles apart. Close, but we never had an occasion to ever meet in person…until yesterday. This time there was no excuse. She was appearing as a panelist at the 6th Annual University of Central Florida Book Festival in Orlando. Currently I live a little over five miles from the venue. So, yesterday morning I pedaled my bike northward on Alafaya Trail and parked it in a bike rack in the midst of the festivities. I attended the panel discussion on mystery and crime writing. Responding to questions from a standing room only crowd Steph shined. I was proud of her not only because we are colleagues at Pandamoon but also because over the past couple of years she has become a dear friend of mine.

11109151_10206204449821310_5558331767350756314_n

Afterwards she signed my copy of her debut novel and we took a picture together as proof that we had actually been in the same place at the same time. I met her husband, Ryan, and a couple of her high school friends who came out to the event in support of her. Really, what was important, though, was I got to hang out with one of my favorite authors. How cool is that? I’m such a fan boy.

Seriously, though, I loved Steph’s book from the first read through of the manuscript and since  it’s publication I have found it to be one of the easiest things I have ever promoted. Even if I wasn’t closely associated with the marketing support for the book, she would still be one of my favorite authors. I’m pretty sure that very soon her fame is going to blow-up in a huge way and everyone will be talking about her books. She has genuine talent that she has honed through the discipline of scheduling her time. She is a professional writer in every sense of the word. Personally I have no idea how she juggles everything she does, because is is also a writing coach and educator as well as a wife and ‘mother’ of several rescue pooches. But once you meet her and talk to her you really get the vibe that you’re in the presence of a remarkable individual.

As I pedaled home after spending a few hours at the festival I was thinking about how great it would be to get all the Pandamoon authors together in the same place at the same time. We have talked about it and even have a name for the event all picked out: “Pandamoonium”. I’m sure that sooner or later it will happen. Likely as not we’ll assemble in some central location, probably Austin, Texas, which is close to where the publisher is based. Only then will the sensation of being in the presence of greatness that I felt yesterday be eclipsed. Despite our geographic barriers I work with some amazing people.

It is a testament to the technological advancements over the past dozen of so years that people from every time zone in the western hemisphere have meetings regularly to share information and ideas about such topics as establishing and promoting author’s brand. Pandamoon Publishing is cutting edge in a lot of ways.

10353722_807716592608298_4156278773127079581_n

As for Steph Post, what she has done – pretty much on her own, albeit with some support from the Pandamoon marketing team – is nothing short of phenomenal. In the months since she signed with Pandamoon she has worked diligently on her brand, posting attention getting pictures that supported the theme and mood of her book, which is about crime in small town Florida. She contacted other authors in her genre, got to know them personally, read and reviewed their books, interviewed them, and her attention was reciprocated with reviews for her book. She arranged interviews on radio shows, with bloggers and scheduled personal appearances. Even before its release to the public, A Tree Born Crooked was receiving critical acclaim. Since its release it is being considered for some prestigious awards.

The reward for all her hard work was evidenced not only in the number of people who purchased Steph’s book yesterday but also the number of new friends she made as a result of her participating int he panel discussion. She signed a lot of autographs. In this age of Internet distribution and sales, one thing has not changed and it is ironic that, really, it is the same as it has been for the past couple hundred years. How a book is marketed always comes down to pitching it one reader at a time.

#UCFBookFestival #Orlando #Florida #Authors #StephPost #ATreeBornCrooked #PandamoonPublishing #ElgonWilliams #Publicity #Marketing #BookSigning #MysteryWriter #CrimeWriter

Uncategorized

My Crazy, Busy Life – Lately

FINAL Final Fried Windows Front Cover Only

The sequel for Fried Windows is progressing slowly between my increased hours at my day job and doing some promotional things for others. I’m beginning the new story in the middle and working my way out to the beginning and the conclusion. That’s how I write sometimes, starting in the middle, usually with a conversation. In this one, Brent is talking to Strawb who is chiding him for having done something incredibly stupid – in her estimation, of course.

There are actually multiple beginnings for the story just because of the nature of the tale and what happened to Brent Woods at the conclusion of Fried Windows. That’s the hard part, connecting the stories together. I’ve done the easy part, writing the rest of the story – pretty much.

Yesterday my youngest daughter asked me about Becoming Thuperman’s release date. I told her it had been pushed back a bit in the queue to allow for the first two installments of The Wolfcat Chronicles. Throwing a Fried Windows sequel into that mix right now would only further confuse things and create a bigger bottleneck in my publisher’s editing and production bandwidth. There are other projects from other authors, after all. As publicist, I’m reading those books now so I know what we will be promoting. There are some very good books coming from Pandamoon, folks.

Anyway, my daughter has a draft of the the BT manuscript now and hopefully she’ll give me some feedback on it after she reads it. I know it needs a haircut in editing. So, in an effort to fix some things I’ve started a new revision and will be working on that in the background as I’m doing the FW sequel…and everything else. I need to do a revision anyway before BT goes into substantive editing, which is the first stage of the process of transforming a raw manuscript into a novel.

books

I’ve been thinking about drafting the sequel to Becoming Thuperman, titled Being Thuperman. I figure I’ll be in the mood and fully up to date with the plot issues and such at the conclusion of a new revision session. I haven’t worked on the manuscript since submitting it back in October 2014. The contract for it was signed in December. And I have revised all ten books of The Wolfcat Chronicles since the last time I worked on Becoming Thuperman.

In other news about my crazy life, it’s been raining a good bit lately. I’ve been fortunate not needing to navigate the 4.5 miles to and from work on my bike in a downpour. I have a 20 to 25 minute window of riding time (including wait times at traffic lights). So far I’ve been very lucky. Sooner or later I will be soaked though. Getting drenched on my way home isn’t as bad as having it happen not he way to work, though. Walking around for a whole shift in wet underwear is a drag.

I have a rain poncho but it is mainly a thin excuse for a garbage bag. I’ll have to get something better, I guess. When the wind catches the plastic of what I have it flaps in the breeze and exposes my backside, It was sprinkling a good bit on my ride home last night. The only thing good about it was that it wasn’t raining harder.

In Florida we have periods of rain when it is coming down so hard that people can’t see to drive – regardless how fast their windshield wipers are running. Imagine that on a bike at 20 miles per hour – which means at least 20 miles per hour wind in the face constantly.

A tree born crooked by steph post10353722_807716592608298_4156278773127079581_n

Tomorrow morning (4/18/15) I’ll be heading up to the University of Central Florida Book Festival on campus (about 5 miles north of where I live). Hopefully it won’t be raining as I’ll be riding my bike there My friend and fellow Pandamoon Publishing author, Steph Post, will be appearing there as a panelist. She needs to autograph my copy of her book. After all, I am one of her publicists. I think I should have a signed copy, right?

In the wacky world of Internet based operations, I have never personally met Steph. I have conversed with her a few times over the Internet both in text and via a program that allows sharing audio. We have spoken over the phone a time or two as well. She is an interesting young lady with a remarkable writing talent. Her debut novel, A Tree Born Crooked is one of the best novels I’ve read in the past year.

The Book Festival is from 10 AM to 3:30AM and it is being held in the School of Education portion of the UCF campus that is just so North Alafaya Trail in eastern Orlando.

#StephPost #ATreeBornCrooked #FriedWindows #UCFBookFestival #BecomingThuperman #Writing #Sequels #PandamoonPublishing

Uncategorized

Computer Quest

For the past few months I have been in quest of a new computer – well, maybe a slightly used one but newer than what I’m using. The past couple of computers I’ve used have been hand-me-downs. Nothing wrong with that. They more than served their purposes. I’m using one of them now, so obviously I don’t absolutely, positively need a computer at this moment, but I am planning ahead a little.

I’ve saved some shekels this year. It’s been a challenge between working more hours and trying to continue my other roles. I’ve had to force the issue many times to write blog posts let alone make headway on sequels to Fried Windows and Becoming Thuperman – imagine that writing a sequel for a book that hasn’t been released yet. That’s my life lately. Still, I need the money so I’ve been putting in as many hours as work will allow me. I’ve saved enough that sometime before my birthday I’ll probably buy a new computer – a laptop.

In the past I was not much of a fan of laptops. As a computer tech I can tell you they are hard to work on and each manufacturer has some proprietary stuff involved, so you need to be factory certified to work on them. For a long time the question for me was “why bother?” Traditionally laptops were inherently slower than desktop computers. Desktops were easier to upgrade and much easier to repair. But over the past half dozen years the performance gap between desktops and laptops has narrowed sufficiently that for most people a laptop can be a desktop substitute, especially if the portability of the device matters.

There is something to be said about being able to pick up everything and go somewhere else with it. That is the main reason I’m looking for a laptop. And since I have been using a Mac for the past 8 years I started my search there. But I have not excluded PC’s. Lately I’ve been leaning toward a Windows based machine. Here’s why.

nokia-lumia-920

A couple of years ago my son talked me into switching to a Windows Phone. Although I found the transition between an iPhone and the Nokia problematic at times I liked the phones features. I’m hardly a power user when it comes to smartphones, so I would never think of suggesting that my experiences with Windows Phone OS are universally applicable. The largest frustration has been application support for specific things. For example, my publisher has started using Slack and for that there is no Windows Phone application. I’ve been using the Windows Phone 10 preview for the past few days and, though it is buggy and certainly not quite ready for primetime, I like the direction Microsoft is taking the operating system. If they can enlist developer support for the devices the phone OS is potentially better than either Android or iOS. And the intangible lingering in the background is that since businesses predominantly use Windows having a phone that works int he same universe as the computers at work and likely as not at home – as well as tying into Xbox One – would be a significant benefit for having such a phone.

Because of what I have been seeing with Windows development combined with some of the directions I see Apple going has led me to broaden my search for laptops. The premium price charged for a Mac is hard to justify on my budget. There is one piece of software that I use that performs better on a Mac but the Windows version does everything I would need. And the integration with my Windows Phone would be much simpler. (There is a application to connect and synch my phone to my Mac but I have not been totally happy with it.)

Currently I do most of my writing at a desk. So I haven’t needed a laptop. What I am using is technically a laptop but its screen doesn’t work so it is plugged into a monitor. keyboard and mouse. It works fine in that configuration, but it is not portable. I have an older Mac that is showing its age. It is slow and I haven’t even booted it up in the past month. The fact that it still works and still runs the latest version of Mac OS is kind of a tribute to how well the mac world functions. The laptop is 8 years old. The battery is shot. So, when in use, it is plugged into a wall all the time.

Sometimes it is nice having a different device to connect to the internet while I’m in the middle of writing something. In the past I have used a iPad for that. Sometimes I used my Windows Phone. But there are times when it would be damned convenient to have another computer – especially if I wanted to export a document and take it with me to work on it somewhere else – like during my breaks at work. Also, I expect to be traveling a bit int eh near future doing book signings and I will be staying overnight away from home. The iPad I have would be a paid in the arse to deal with traveling documents, some of which are not made for MS Office. That is why I need a laptop.

apple-macbook-pro-13-3-inch-2-4-ghzMicrosoft_Surface_Pro_3_with_Type_Cover

lenovo-laptop-convertible-yoga-2-pro-orange-front-1

So, after searching what’s out there I have narrowed things down to a Macbook Pro 13.3″ with a 256GB SSD, a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro 14″ with a 256GB SSD and a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with 256GB SSD. Brand new, the Lenovo is the least expensive but it also looks less rugged than either the Mac or the Surface Pro. I prefer the feel of the Mac’s keyboard, though the Lenovo’s is a close second. The Keyboard for the Surface – which is extra – is its weakest feature though I played with one and it’s usable. And if I find it annoying I could use a bluetooth keyboard. For portability the Surface winds hands down, with the Lenovo a close second. The Mac has a newer generation of the Intel I-5 processor and it is running slightly faster memory. For what I do with a computer I doubt I’d notice a difference. After all, we are talking about nanoseconds.

I haven’t made a decision yet and I may end up delaying it further – who knows. It’s not like I need to make a choice immediately. But at the moment I’m leaning toward the Surface Pro.

#Microsoft #Apple #MacOS #Windows10 #WindowsPhone #Lenovo #Yoga2 #SurfacePro3 #MacBookPro

Uncategorized

Throwback Thursday – Disco Music

disco-fever-nina-bradica

Those who knew me in the 70’s may be surprised that in my coverage of the decade’s music I mention disco music at all. But it was a phenomenon and it would not be fair to consider the period’s music without giving it some attention. Having said that, disco music still has for me about as much substance as a popcorn fart and all the appeal of a Justin Beiber song.

Maybe the reason I detested disco music was that I could never dance well. Yes, I tried dancing here and there along the way, whenever sufficiently inebriated to have lowered inhibitions. I mastered “The Bump” and could do the “Hustle”. The fact that I knew those dances should indicate to you that like everyone else alive at the time, no one emerged from the 70’s unscathed. If you were a guy and wanted to pick up chicks, surfing disco lounges and parties was part of life and so, you learned some moves. In my case it was just enough to get by.

Anyway, I’m far from expert on the genre. Most of the people who listened to the sorts of music I loved really tried to avoid disco. A few of us would say, it’s alright to dance to it, but never listen to it. Some guys in my frat at college actually played it on their stereos while they were studying. I never figured out how anyone could actually do that and generally assumed it was the result of a undiagnosed brain tumor or something.

Thefourseasons_wholovesyouimage

When the disco wave hit popular music it seemed like everyone was releasing a song with a funky beat. Even old timers like the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons joined in with “Who Loves You”. Other more recent artists like David Bowie released “Fame”. For the most part the driving force behind the inception of the music was a popularization of Funkadelic riffs set to a driving beat that even someone like me – the two left feet category of human, could actually find.

Wild_Cherry_album_coverAverageWhiteBandAWB

 

KC_and_the_Sunshine_Band_album_cover

New bands emerged like Average White Band, Wild Cherry and K.C. & The Sunshine Band. As is true of all pop trends many said it was a flash in the fan and would be soon over. My friends and I hoped that would be true. But it lingered and grew for a time.

TheBeeGeesSaturdayNightFeveralbumcover

Some bands transitioned their careers to the new genre and became much more popular. Second Wave British Invasion band The Bee Gees were on the decline in popularity. Remember a song titled “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”? Their transition, supported with the release of the movie and soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever, relaunched the band’s careers into the stratosphere.

In the midst of the Disco Wave many traditional R&B bands shifted their style slightly to pick up a heavier beat and released some disco albums. Bands like Earth, Wind and Fire, The Commodores and artists like Rick James extended the genre into more of the mainstream undercurrent of popular music. Meco did a disco version of the Star Wars Theme that topped the pop charts.

220px-Star_wars_and_galactic_funk

A number of pop bands who considered themselves mainstream detested disco music about as much as those who played heavy metal, classical rock and such. The Bay City Rollers and The Sweet were two of the major forces of nature int he pop genre int he mid to late 70’s. Neither group released any “disco music”. In fact the latter released a song titled “Disco-Phony” that was lyrical attack on the genre, lifestyle of clubbing and the shallow sorts of people who were attracted to the genre.

By the 1980’s Disco had become more or less incorporated in the mainstream sound of popular music. Dancing and dance music never disappears, just the type of music driving people to the dance floor changes. Many new genres have erupted since the late 70’s including Punk, Rap, Grunge, Hip-hop and Techno yet some elements of the disco sound echo current music.

#70sMusic #Disco #BeeGees #SaturdayNightFever