Memorial Day 2014

f02b5943e8bd6bf0b0ae8cb01dfbf543[1]It’s the unofficial beginning of the summer season. We will all make our way to our back yards this weekend to fire up the grill that has been waiting for our attention since, at least, October or November of last year. However, as we do, let’s all take a moment to remember the deceased Americans who fought in the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force and Marines. Over these three days, we attend memorials, parades, and some volunteer to place flags on graves in cemeteries, even at Arlington National; all as a way of saying, we didn’t forget. We mourn the loss of these great men and women, but let us pray for the left behind loved ones. Let us follow the proclamation of our President who has asked every American to use May 26, 2014, as a day of prayer for permanent peace. He has also asked that we observe the National Moment of Remembrance beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time today.

If you have a flag, begin it at half-mast until Noon, then raise it to full post and fly it high, proclaiming you are a proud American. By way of history, Memorial Day began as Decoration Day, and originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. But, since that time, there have been many wars and many more lives lost. I do believe that as long as the earth stands there will unfortunately be wars, even the bible speaks of this: “And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars…” Matthew 24:6. Yes, it is a regrettable fact. Therefore, it is up to those of us left to continue speaking the names of the ones lost, and memorialize them. Let us also keep in mind our President’s suggestion, and pray for peace in this land. Wishing you all a safe, and enjoyable holiday.

Information from Wikipedia

 

Cabin by the Lake

2834130_sI’ve been thinking about locating some far off place, or a spot as the old folk use to say, “Up the road a piece,” where a writer could take her or himself to settle in, completely alone. Personally, I have never been on my own in life, so I don’t know what that’s like. Does your muse need isolation and total quiet before she gives of herself? I’m remembering a writing clinic back in 2008, I think, where the group spent a weekend in a secluded getaway in hopes of prodding these goddesses. There are many refuges that proffer themselves for this use. Recently, I even found Amtrak offering some type of writer escapes on the train. Crazy right? Does it mean you’re more serious about your craft, if you crave seclusion? Again, I don’t know if this type of setting would satisfy my creativity, or simply stifle it.

Speaking of muses, as a teenager and in my early twenties, I had a ravaging fascination of Greek Mythology, which spilled further into the arts with that first movie, Clash of the Titans. And yes, even though I left this behind with my youth, I had to watch the new version, just to take a peek at the special effects. Random House Webster’s College Dictionary’s definition of the word muse is: One of the nine Greek goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who presided over the arts. There names were as follows: Calliope (epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (lyric poetry), Euterpe (music), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (religious music), Terpsichore (dance), Thalia (comedy), and Urania (astronomy). These idols have also been labeled as water nymphs. What impressions the Romans left on civilization that hundreds and hundreds of years later we continue to speak of, and many still rely on their teachings, huh?

Moving on – would I have the chutzpah to give up everything I know, and move off to some nearly deserted area to write? As much as I love the art, and even though I’ve done it since childhood…”Aaaahhh, I’m not sure,” she said, shaking her head back and forth. If you watch the movie Cross Creek, supposedly on the life of Marjorie Rawlings, or Funny Farm, which is a comedy, but Chevy Chase is still in search of remoteness, it makes one wonder. Some time ago, I do believe there were even ads in the New York Times Magazine under the heading “Writing Retreats.” They listed hideaways a person could rent over an extended period of time – a place tucked away beneath the trees, next to a lake, or a cabin in the middle of the forest. Or, would you call this simply idealism? You get out there, and not one word would come to mind. Why? Because your muse requires the noise from the elevated train. In my case, however, I’d be afraid of being alone. I’d have to drive myself to the nearest general store everyday, just for human contact.

Not to mention, I’ve never been one for off hours. You know, write until 3:00 a.m., sleep until 11:00 a.m., or rest in four-hour clips, and work in between those times. I’ve always been regimented when it comes to any labor – begin in the morning – work all day, and the evening and night hours are mine to do with as I please. If you follow my blog, you know I love to listen to music as I write. I guess I could connect my iPod to some top shelf sound system; one that rushed the loons to flight the moment I hit play. I know though, that is the perfect condition for me. But, as I put it all together, and knowing myself – my ideal conditions would have to include the cabin by the lake, or at the beach. It also, could not be that far from civilization, because to keep my sanity, I would definitely have to have my family return to me at the end of the day. Do you think solitude would step up your creativity?

Information provided by Amtrak, CNN, IMDB & Wikipedia

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#Bring Back Our Girls

19101653_sWhen this story broke I had no intention of writing about it, because it had too many heavy political overtones. However, over the past few days, all of this has reached a new light, even hitting the White House. First Lady Michelle Obama, many actresses, news people and others have stormed twitter with #BringBackOurGirls, as well as other social media avenues. All of this definitely gave me the “green light” to comment on the issue. Will doing so make a difference? Singly, as one person, I don’t believe so, but as a whole – maybe. I say America is way overdue in becoming involved, and to speak out with regard to incidents taking place on the continent of Africa. When it comes to the abduction of over 200 young women it is time for the world to play a part. So, even if in some small way this post raises just one person’s consciousness, then I have done my part.

Who is the “Boko Haram?” Your regular everyday person walking the street does not know. Actually, this is the first time I’ve heard of the radical group. Since the breaking news of this event we’ve learned they want stricter enforcement of Sharia law, and we’ve found the name means “Western education is forbidden.” Of course, that is an approximate translation. Certainly, we in the west are well aware of this. According to Bronwyn Bruton, an African scholar at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., in an interview with the New York Times said, “The violence most of the African rebel groups practice makes Al Qaeda look like a bunch of schoolgirls.” Being African-American, understanding my people, and remembering the atrocities of the Rwandan Genocide, none of this surprises me, in the least.

In this country, we proudly send our young women off to college and universities year after year; here it is a right of passage. Also, it is obvious that when boarding schools are mentioned here, an entirely different picture comes to mind – never a scenario such as what we’ve heard about over the last few weeks. Sex slavery is the fastest growing criminal movement in the world. Equality Now, is an organization working for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women and girls around the world. They indicate women and girls make up 98% of the victims trafficked. This problem gained such attention that even Hollywood has made movies addressing the issue. And although, I would be one of the first to complain that America cannot be the World Police, this concern is far too important for any country to, forgive the cliché, “turn a blind eye.” Since this is such an important topic I believe no nation can stand on the sidelines and simply listen, as mothers and fathers plead for the return of their girls.

I’ve learned over time, and I will always be the first to say, change places with the victim; put yourself in the shoes of one of these parents. I cannot imagine the heartbreak and pain of having my daughter abducted, knowing in the back of my mind what could happen. One mother interviewed, undoubtedly had no words, she could only respond with tears. What I fear most, however, is that all of the publicity will give rise to a sense of having more power, which in turn, will cause the group to tighten their grip. As I mentioned earlier, the cries are not only coming from the White House, other politicians are also speaking out. Will the world stand by and continue to watch, and listen only? You will never make me believe there is nothing that can be done to remedy this atrocious act. Let me join the other voices, and cry…please, bring back our girls.

Information courtesy of NY Times & Equality Now

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Pretentious Words/Long Words

6900515_sSince the attorney I work with attended Haaar…., excuse me, Harvard, he has a subscription to the magazine. Reading an article the other day entitled Word-upmanship reminded me of my first serious attempt at writing. Now, since Lexiphanicism – what the article spoke of – is an early 20th Century word, I found it strange I couldn’t locate it in my 1999 dictionary. Funnier still, when I Googled it, what happened? It took me to the article in the magazine, LOL. Okay honestly, I searched lexiphane, which took me there. As I read the piece, each paragraph took me deeper and deeper into the past. Suddenly, I had the impression of being sucked in through a time warp to that first critique session where my partial tough hide, received its second layer. My advice; leave sesquipedalianism to the literary writers. Now, you may not find these two terms listed together in a dictionary or thesaurus, since basically they do not mean the same thing. Although, they kind of do. Lexiphanic: Pretentious words, bombastic. Sesquipedalian: Use of long words, or many syllables.

Here’s a good sentence: The puissant myrmidon of the King fossilized his foes, but his lady, from the first day she set eyes on him, had only recognized his mellifluousness.

Translation: The mighty unquestioning follower of the King terrorized his foes, but his lady, from the first day she set eyes on him, only knew him as sweet and charming.

Now, I don’t write or read historical, so don’t ask me where that sentence came from. Probably the expression, myrmidon. In any event you get what I mean. I read somewhere that Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway were the best at this, but they were excellent because they used more concise language. In my own defense, I’d like to blame two of my teachers for this trait. I had to stop, run the idea through my mind and remember, of all the books I’ve read they just were not written that way. I understand Hemingway referred to them as “ten-dollar” words. You have to think of your reader, though – after awhile they’re going to get tired of running to the dictionary to look up every fourth word. Believe me, they’ll put down that book, and once they do, it’s all over. Not only that, I would say they will hesitate to pull another one of them with your name on it from the shelf.

I have been known to list my writing tools as my laptop, and iPod. However, you know a writer also mandatorily needs a dictionary and that forbidden thesaurus. If you’ve been writing for any amount of time, you know how fancy you want to make a sentence. The rule is, though, less is more; a directive I’m still trying to remember whenever I set out to write something. I don’t know how I picked this up, I’m certain it’s just my style of writing – my voice. At any rate, I get caught up in parallelism, which has nothing to do with the topic of this post, but can throw the “less is more” rule right out of the window. For the novice writer, parallelism is the repetition of a sentence structure for dramatic effect. Here is a great website with examples. I’ve also heard instructors tell you, keeping it simple means for instance:

Write use, and not utilize; start not commence, or big not immense.

Although, I agree with keeping it simple, if you’re writing a piece and get hung up searching synonyms for start, it’s perfectly fine to expand your vocabulary to begin and/or commence. I believe commence, utilize, and immense are simple enough in their own right.

I must say it took me quite awhile to get this right. All this time later, however, at times, I continue to have the urge to go with the pretentious word. It is just one of my habits that is so very difficult to break. I think the simplest rule here though, would easily be – do not forget the reader. What are your thoughts?

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Information courtesy of Harvard Magazine and YourDictionary.com

 

Life Happens

25624612_sHello all, long time no talk to, or hear from, huh? I checked and it’s been less than two months, since I wrote the same type post. I wonder what that means. In any event, I know you’ve been wondering what I’m up to, since I haven’t been regularly posting over the past few weeks. Well, you do know my first reason had to do with finishing that manuscript. Now, I guess the only excuse I can give is that life has gotten in the way. What is it that John Lennon said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I haven’t been so busy making….uh, well….actually, I guess I have been. But, let me tell you, life really has grabbed hold of my collar, and is slapping me silly. Although, I am experiencing a lull at the moment. Imagine entering a building – one that you’ve absolutely never been near. You open the outside door, walk through and the entire area is filled with fog. Now, you must stand there and wait for it to clear before you can get an inkling of which direction you need to go. I’m certain if you’ve lived long enough, you’ve had one of these experiences. Believe me, age will teach you to wait; not make a sound, and definitely do not move.

To make it a little clearer, I guess I’ve reached a point in my writing career, where I’m questioning if I really have one. In fact, questioning it, yet again. Back on January 1st I heard a word that said to me, this would be a “break it or make it year.” And yes, after so many behind me – I would definitely hope so. I have tried, won, lost, almost given up, even though the flame never died. Then, someone came along and added a touch more fuel, which turned the flicker back in to a real fire again. So, here we are at the end of April, and I can’t even feel my way along, because of this dense fog. Therefore, I took a seat on the floor, and quietly awaited a tap on the shoulder or a whisper in my ear. But then, what happened? Life, whipped the door open, and snatched me out for the next round. When this one is over, I’ll wind up sitting on the floor again waiting, because through it all and if nothing else, I know I’ve entered the correct building. I’ve also realized that after three years, there is a possibility I shouldn’t be blogging. However, I will have to, in order to keep anyone interested up to date, yes? So, I’ll continue on with this phase of the movement, for now.

I’ve checked out other blogs, and people who make the “Top 10” list in this game. Although, that is great for them, that is not my calling. I began this as a way of introducing myself. I don’t want to say I’ve lost interest, but this is simply a by-product of my real goal – serious writing. It has become increasingly difficult to find something to write about that’s interesting, which says to me, I need a course correction. Even though, I don’t know the slightest idea what that should be other than my novels. Let me ask, have you searched for anything on Google or Bing lately? There is a sea of blogs having to do with absolutely everything. If I think back, I remember a time when only the professionals or experts wrote of things. Nowadays, Charley around the corner, and Susie up the block have written something on “How To.” Don’t expect that here. What I mean is, many of those men and women do not have degrees on their topics of discussion. They’re just out there. So, to sum it all up – life, waiting and a bit of disorientation are the order of my days for the present. I think it’s silly to produce pieces, or give opinions on things that no one has any interest in, am I right? I can continue to produce news articles, or talk about happenings in life, but my gut tells me I’m plotted for another course and as my reader, you deserve my best.

At times through life, things will tug at you. I don’t know if you remember, but I’ve mentioned this before. My mother explained it to me as a kind of “calling.” She said it worked in the same way a Priest or Minister understands what they’re supposed to do – whatever it is, it won’t let them be – what they are called to will continue to pop in their minds. It will happen day and night until they give in, and get it done. For me, it began with the books, then, I became pushed in the direction of supplying pieces for my Chapter newsletters. From there, working for the newspaper kept bugging me, followed by the need to start this website. Although, I am in a lull, I believe it’s a necessary one – a calm that on the other end will bring with it another calling – something that I already sense I’ll want to protest. In fact, I may have some idea, and, yes, I’ve already began my objections with, “How do I do that?” But, like always through the kicking and screaming, day and night it’s not going to let me be. Then, like the Priest, or the Minister – no, let me use a more appropriate character. Who remembers the story of Jonah, when he ran from God? In the end, it became pretty comical when he told God, “You already knew what would happen,” I paraphrase, of course. But, just like that, I’ll break and give in. When will I ever learn that what God wants is always what I’ll be most satisfied doing. It’s never about what we want. Regardless He never takes us in reverse; He will always push you forward. Again, thanks for lending me your ear, and please hang in there with me on my journey of discovery.

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Authors and Cyber-bullying

23057698_sFor some time, I’ve heard and seen authors complaining on my various writing e-mail loops about negative reviews being handed out at the Amazondotcom site. It appears this has become even more of a problem over time. The other day, in walks an e-mail to my inbox, asking me to sign a Petition at Changedotorg in an attempt to force the online retail giant to – at the least – enforce its own guidelines. Editor Todd Barselow is the person behind this appeal, seemingly feed up with Amazon, the bullying, and harassment of all authors. In my research, I read some not so friendly comments with regard to Mr. Barselow, and his campaign, but that is not what this post will be about. Whatever bones there are to pick, dislikes, or what have you, with and about Mr. Barselow I’ll leave to the discontented.

For those of you who do not know, there had also been a war of sorts going on with regard to bad reviews and bashing taking place over at the Goodreads site. If you take a spin by Changedotorg you will find a Petition there as well, with a request for signatures. In a look at this problem I would, of course, like to remain unbiased, but as you can imagine as a writer I have a very strong sentiment with regard to this issue, which would make neutrality very difficult. In searching, it doesn’t appear that either Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO, or Jon P. Fine, Director of Amazon has ever spent hours, days, weeks, months, or years pouring their blood, sweat and tears – bearing down through labor pains, giving birth to a work that’s then considered your baby. Yes, Mr. Bezos, as Founder, did suffer some type of adversity trying to get the business up and running; maybe. That being said, it should all make him even more sensitive to this new plight of the writer. I would hate to label it by saying, “He has his, why should he care” – but the facts are leaning in that direction. Goodreads, however, has made modifications to their user terms to prevent author bullying.

I think as a writer we may all have a story or two involving what is clearly – jealousy. But, you know, I’ve heard it said that if you’re not willing to put in the time, then one cannot complain, grumble, or criticize another’s success. I think, in this age of cyber-bullying, tighter rules must be set in place to protect us writers from the public-at-large. I mean, it’s bad enough to get a bad review from a professional reviewer, am I right? Most of us, the ones who have been in the business for any time, have developed a crusty exterior; we know what to take in as constructive and what to simply let go. But, how could someone develop a platform such as Amazon or Goodreads and not build that into the system – rules that do not allow any and everyone to leave whatever disparaging comment they like. Or, at least, put a team in place to enforce the codes. I may be coming up the rear with this story as it has been some time since this all began, but I too wanted to weigh in, and express my opinion.

If you talk to any writer they will most likely tell you, it is something they’ve done since childhood. Most of us have read, studied, took classes, joined organizations, went to meetings and spent an innumerable amount of hours in an attempt to perfect the craft. How then, can you produce a work – have it published, and then, get a portion of your backside chewed away by mere jealousy, or because someone has nothing better to do than upset a person’s life work. I do believe the simple remedy is – the bully has to turn the tide. Put themselves in the writer’s shoes. I believe our world is spinning faster and faster toward its end, which has ramped up many, many immoral and wicked acts. Even something as stupid as your twitter and/or facebook accounts getting hacked continually. I think we’ve moved way beyond breaking out the ruler and whacking someone on the knuckles. What do you think?

Information Goodreads, Change.org & STGRB (Stop The Goodreads Bullies)

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Is Robo-Journalism Our Future

20947645_sLet me paint a picture. I’m envisioning a massive room – one floor that encompasses the width and length of the building. There is a sea of desks/work stations lined with computers. These cubicles have no need for sides, because the pictures of sons, daughters, a husband, or a wife that should be filling these spaces, are all missing. Also absent are the pink begonia, and the pothos one could have received for that last birthday, or an employee of the month gift. No half eaten bagels, or donuts clutter this space, and no cups with the Starbucks logo, or any that broadcast, World’s Best Cube Mate hang around either. Why? Because these workers never leave their work areas – they aren’t in need of bathroom breaks, or trips to the water cooler. You see, they’re all BOTS – as in robots.

I’m certain most of you heard of the latest earthquake to hit the Los Angeles Basin on Monday, March 17th. Will man be the cause of his own undoing? The LA Times has a BOT they call Quakebot. What does Quakebot do? This non-gender collection of bolts and chips sits quietly waiting for news to break with regard to earthquakes. It doesn’t need awakening from its sleep to make it downtown, or to its home office to rush words onto a screen, and then to print. Quakebot is, “programmed to extract the relevant data from the USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) report and plug it into a pre-written template,” right down the hall in the offices of the LA Times. Additionally, from what I understand it completes a piece in a matter of seconds flat. Of course, human hands and eyes must come along, peruse the info sitting in queue and then, hit publish, but click here to take a gander at the finished product.

Now, the developer says this piece of machinery can’t walk the street to interview the local George or Georgette, personalizing the piece, but I don’t know if I’d put money on the fact that doesn’t sit somewhere in our future. I mean, think of it. It would certainly have no need of paper, or pencil, and no microphone in your face. One would simply need to speak clearly, and everything said would be recorded for later use. Or maybe the information would be transmitted to the stationary computer in the office via satellite. Who knows? Some say “Robo-journalism” is a threat to journalists, which is what I meant about man causing his own downfall. Naturally, as the world progresses, we find bigger and better uses from that one computer chip – the invention that hurled many things as we know them into a different dimension. Granted we still need man to push the button, backup, or click the mouse, many jobs have already been lost to progress.

Right now, I’m imagining the fanciest night ever, and I’m dolled up in my finest. It’s the evening for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize awards in journalism, one of the highest honors. There are many in attendance, however, in the seat where Southway, the head writer for the Living section should be, sits Quakebot. It’s funny, isn’t it? I know you’ll all call me crazy, and laugh at the thought of a computer taking the place of a human being, and accepting the award, let me just leave you with this story. Many years ago as a little girl, a time when only three or four channels graced a home on the television, I had a grandfather who would say all the time – “Mark my words, there’s gonna come a day when everyone will have to pay for television.” Now of course, I hope you know I don’t believe any of this BOT stuff with it attending such a dinner, but it does leave you wondering, doesn’t it? What do you think of this whole concept?

Info provided by Source Open News

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