Saturday, September 10, 2011

An author's happy moment

You know what fun is for an author? Going to the UPS store and sending off 17 copies of your book to people all, over the country. I was pleasantly surprised over the past week by that many requests for Joe"s Story: The Book of a Lifetime. The reason behind it I found out was that a visitor that made a book purchase recently is a involved in a reading club of some sort, his opinion got around to the other members and all of a sudden I'm at the UPS store filling orders. I love book clubs! There is a book reviewer named Redfeather that read Joe's Story a few years back and placed a review on the Amazon book store. Within just a few weeks I went through my entire stash here at my office and had to order more to complete the orders. Yeah, I love book clubs! Being an author has some very fun moments. I am looking forward to my book tour and hopefully throw in a few speaking engagements along the way.

In the preperations concerning my trip around Lake Michigan I hope to accumulate individual stories of events involving the lake. Hopefully I can meet many of the people involved too. It's really an awesome lake and the stories about it are too many to count. The oceans are incredible I realize but so is our very own and special mini ocean, Lake Michigan. Less the sharks, seals, urchins and whales of course. But then again that makes it way easier to take the family for a swim on a sunny day. I'd like to collect and catalog some of those family and personal stories so even those that haven't seen Lake Michigan can realize, from family picnics to ship wrecks the beauty and mystery of it. Maybe it will kick someone in the pants that can do something to stop the invasive species that are changing it's wonders. I'm not particularly looking forward to seeing fish flying everywhere and jumping into my boat.

Happy is the day when the mail is opened and another request for Joe's Story: The Book of a Lifetime greets my wondering eyes. Oh, happy day!.................Joe

Friday, September 9, 2011

Planning is confusing

I'm not one much for planning anything other than what is absolutely necessary. I wear so many hats I've grown accustomed to dealing with whatever I am faced with at the moment. It's taught me to trust my instincts and forge ahead no matter what. I'd say that it's worked so far because I'm still here and have life, business, and family still intact. I've accomplished pretty much what I've wanted to. So far, so good, as they say. My approach to some things is changing though and the response I hear from some of those people close to me is rather surprising. Over my lifetime I've been advised to make plans by a lot of people I admire. Now I'm making some plans and some of those same people are acting like I'm just a little bit wacky for doing so. Examples:

I'm writing, planning on writing several stories and publishing at least one more book.
I'm planning a bicycle trip around Lake Michigan.
I'm planning a bicycle trip across the United States and maybe back.
I'm planning a book tour and several talks on CO Poisoning dangers.
I'm planning the possibility of rebuilding another classic car.
I'm enjoy working and plan to for many more years and have no immediate plans or need or desire to retire.

Some of the advice I'm getting the past few months:

You work too much, slow down.
If you want to take a bicycle trip, you better take it now.
Don't waste your time writing, go on a cruise and enjoy yourself instead.
You don't want to tackle rebuilding a car, it's too much work.
Your book has been in print for four years, it's too late for a book tour.
You really should retire while you still have the time and health to enjoy it.

I don't plan and I should have. I start to plan and I shouldn't. I just can't seem to win here. I guess I should have planned on not planning. I'm so confused. :) But I'm still planning on doing all those things to the best of my ability and have a heck of a lot of fun doing them.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dumb question

When you get a bunch of guys together you are just never quite sure in which direction the conversation will travel. Add to that the fact that some guys sort of embellish certain subject matter and we find ourselves questioning almost everything that is discussed. Being a guy is interesting enough but it really becomes enjoyable when a bunch of us get together to solve the mysteries of the world. My dad used to say that young boys destroy things in order to find out how they tick and they can build better ones when they grow up. I believe there is at least some truth to that statement. Also, I've found that there remains a bit of young boy in us as we grow older because we continue to question most things before embarking on a plan. Phew!

The conversation I was involved in over the weekend began simple enough. The usual greetings and salutations along with a few jokes and friendly ribbing before attacking more intellectual subjects. Someone mentioned Libya and the rebels taking over the country by force and how it was such a different approach than it was in Egypt and the increased toll in human life. (A little earlier as a group we had prayed for resolution and healing.) One thing led to another and it became obvious that we had some disagreement as to the right and wrong ways of revolution and then the American revolution, civil war, Russian revolution and the Indian fight for Independence were added to the mix as well. It wasn't long before differing ideas were being pelted back and forth like snowballs. I could see that this was going to be fun. I just sat back and listened. For the most part there were far more knowledgeable guys speaking than I. Spirited, would be a pretty fair evaluation of the situation. Finally I asked a question concerning the rebels in most all of those events. "What is the difference between revolutionary rebels and vigilantes?" No one knew. Boy, did I ever feel like a wet blanket. I thought it was a legitimate question but the others agreed that vigilantes weren't even in the same classification as rebels. Hmmm! I was just asking. Now I'm writing about it because my writing coach said to write about everything. I hope it accomplished something and I'm not just being a vigilante.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Those rules again

As far as being a big time author is concerned I am probably pretty small potatoes. A few magazine articles, a how to manual and one, not very well promoted book. Although I do feel that copies sold being over 2000 may stand for something. Writing has been quite a multi faceted experience: feelings of inadequacy, exultation, short lived megalomania, humility, gratitude, accomplishment, disappointment, frustration and joy all wrapped up in one project. One part of it that has been and is now especially trying is any dependency on someone else. Be it a writing coach, publisher, editor or, as it is at this particular time an artist. I have several different writing initiatives going right now and most of them require art work of one degree to another and they are just not getting the attention I was led to believe they would. It doesn't seem to matter whether they are professional or amateur either. I do know what the problem is though: Me!

From the very beginning of my writing career I was told and read through research that there are rules to be followed. In my lifetime I have been a bit of a rogue when it comes to what I felt were meaningless, silly rules. I think I related them to some type of aristocratic dynasty keeping the common people out of their little circle. I've been subjected to and resisted that controlling attitude because I felt it interfered with the growth of free thought. I've found that in many situations I was dead wrong about the reasoning behind the rules. #1 I was being the judge and jury in determining which was a valid rule and which was not. #2 I failed to realize that rules are a necessary part of writing as much as driving a car or building a pyramid. One mistake and it's all over. I'm trying to learn the rules better.

What does hiring an artist got to do with the rules? Evidently I have a lot to learn on that because in almost every case it has wound up in disaster, disappointment, unexplained delay and the job not getting done on time to meet the publishing deadline. My folks used to call it: Getting all of my ducks in a row first! That was rule #1 with them. So I am going back to the very beginning and attempting to get all of my ducks in a row before the next deadline. Some of us take longer to learn than others don't we? Another thing my folks used to say: Better late than never!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Eating on the cheap

There is an interesting challenge going on around here concerning food costs. The idea is to eat for a week on a specified minimum amount of money without cheating. I think it's close to $35 covering 7 days. It includes every item consumed morning, noon and night. Cooked at home or in a restaurant. The other challenge is to come up with reasonably healthy choices too. It's supposed to resemble what an average person receives in food stamps. From my experiences in food and cost management it is definitely a doable situation. I lived for almost 6 weeks on proceeds from discarded beverage bottles due to a pair of robberies that took my wages for an entire month in a strange city, Detroit. I learned a lot about making due and stretching a dollar in order to eat. I feel it is an admirable endeavor for whoever participates, they may well learn what some people go through on a daily basis. There are a couple things they must remember if they fail though. The availability of other resources which they aren't allowed to use: Food banks, free school meals, local free community kitchens, surplus gleaning services and church food outreach programs. I believe the cost restrictions are definitely attainable but in this country there is so much food available through so many sources hunger may not be the issue but instead maybe management of one's resources. I wish everyone participating success.

Talking about food here, a recent commercial on dog food piqued my interest. Feeding your animal the proper diet of vegetables and other natural ingredients. In my entire life I have never, ever seen a dog or cat intentionally go to a garden and search out just the right vegetable. Dogs, being a canine garbage disposal, will eat darn near anything dead or alive, recognizable or not. And, if it isn't quite fit for consumption they will either pee on it or roll on it or both. Cats are a little more selective but still don't appear to me to be vegetarian. When someone has a pet that they love dearly it is a gift. But I wonder sometimes just what we are doing to them with all this diet management. Wouldn't they just be happier being an animal? I'm just wondering.

Monday, September 5, 2011

American debt

There have been movies from time to time that are based upon the premise of a town or city going broke and selling itself to a person. Silly! How could anyone buy a town? In the movies the buyer always comes in and saves the day, just like Super Man. We all enjoy seeing a movie where everything turns out well don't we? Lets turn that fantasy into modern day reality and change it from buying a town into buying an entire country. Is it possible or even imaginable?

Puerto Rico is not one of the United States, it is a "possession." It is my understanding that the United States does not collect much in the way of taxes from Puerto Rico or its citizens (who are also deemed as US citizens). However, the United States pours billions of dollars into supporting that country. Does that mean we bought it? How does that work with American Samoa or other "possessions"? How much do these possessions cost us each year, what are the payments? When will we have them paid off? Do we own them or are we simply renting these countries? What would happen if we stopped making those payments? What would we lose anyway?

When I buy a car I consider it an expenditure, not an investment. When the expense is greater than the benefit I get rid of it. But when I get a good one I hang on to it and enjoy the ride. What benefit is there in owning a country if the expense exceeds that benefit? What benefit does China, Japan or any other country receive for buying up so much of American debt? Will they eventually own enough of us to the point where we are citizens of their countries? Will we eventually not have to pay taxes but receive all sorts of free benefits? I don't know how this "owning a country" stuff works. Maybe its a way to get sports stars. What are we worth exactly?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sacrifice or whining or fraud

I was just thinking about some of the things I heard on the news. Are we becoming desensitized to the true meaning of certain words? Are they overused for the sake of shock and awe? I was just wondering. Sacrifice for example. Just what does sacrifice mean nowadays? Way back in history virgins were sacrificed to appease some sort of deity. That's not done so often anymore is it? A few years back on September 11th hundreds of people sacrificed their own safety to save others. Every day soldiers, police and firefighters are sacrificing so much with little or no fan fare. Fathers and mothers are working untold hours for minimum wages with little or no health coverage, following the loss of their regular, well paying jobs and sacrificing their own wants and needs to help their kids achieve a better life. We read from time to time about one person sacrificing one of their own kidneys to save someone else who's kidneys aren't working. That's always been my definition of real sacrifice. In these times of financial difficulty for most of us, when it's hard enough to pay our bills let alone the ever increasing taxes and fees to local, state and Federal government agencies, there is much talk of the "sacrifice" of those people being paid from the very taxes we are struggling to pay. Such as: Receiving a reduced cost of living increase in pay. Having to pay 10 or 20% of their health coverage. Having to buy some of their own supplies. Getting fewer days off when they work less than nine and a half months a year in the first place. Some people who are able in every way to support themselves physically ands mentally are forced to sacrifice their lifelong dependency on tax supported programs by having to work for pay. I realize I may not totally understand the concept surrounding the difficulties endured through these individual "sacrifices" here but still, I'm just wondering if we may, just may be using the word sacrifice improperly sometimes.

Another, somewhat related, tax supported thing I was wondering about was our child tax credits. That is a credit a wage earner receives for having kids and earning less than a specified amount. In some families it amounts to several thousands of dollars. 4, 5 or 6 thousand or more. Wage earners who are working in the United States illegally, have no social security numbers and are not authorized in any way to work in the United States can use what the IRS calls an "individual taxpayer identification" number to receive that tax credit of thousands of dollars, often fraudulently. Amounting to around 4.2 billion dollars a year in our tax strapped economy with 14.5 trillion dollars of debt. Senator Orrin Hatch wants to examine a put an end to those refunds to illegal workers. I don't understand all the workings of government or have the golden key to solve all our financial problems but I think that if we paid 10 million dollars to a group of investigators with the authority to stop fraud and misappropriation of our tax monies in all branches of government we could save billions and billions of dollars, perhaps a trillion in a year or two. That'd be a good investment I think. But the people that did it certainly wouldn't be making any new friends doing it. No, I don't think they would.

Meanwhile, I will do my best not to overuse the word sacrifice or take any fraudulent tax credits or spend money taken from overworked tax payers. If we don't all start doing that there will be no one left working to pay the taxes for all those poor people who sacrifice so much. How does that old saying go?: "Will the last one out please turn off the lights?"
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