My extended short story, Vermont Woods: A Music Fable is now available for Kindle, over the next four days completely free! Here’s the link:
A longtime work in progress, I’m again working on my WW2 novel which has a new title and a provisional cover design. I expect it to continue to evolve, but today, I’m posting a few opening pages for you to taste to see if they’re a flavor you enjoy…
Cristobal, Canal Zone, October 1944
First Mate Walter S. Reilly sat thumbing his rosary while studying his shoelaces. There was enough shade here to block most of the sun’s late afternoon heat. His ruddy coloring and light blue eyes didn’t get along too well with the tropics, but he never let that stop him. A light breeze was coming in off the water, cooling him almost to the point of comfort. But comfort alone wasn’t why he was here. He could close his eyes, inhale the wet, jungle smell as it mixed with the salty air, and if he let his mind wander enough, it almost felt like… home.
While the sun continued to slip into the unseen horizon, the shadows under the eyes of the looming stone Jesus grew sterner and sterner. In Reilly’s mind, there was nothing there but accusation and blame, so a stern demeanor suited the Lord’s face. Last night’s bottle hadn’t sat too well, but there was always today’s… waiting. He settled back, waiting for his stomach to settle down a bit more as the breeze wafted over him, sending him back. Back in time and back over the miles. Back home. But which one?
A prayer asking forgiveness began to form in his constricted mind but he was sending it out, not to the Savior, but to his wife. The one farthest north. Maybe to both of them; so maybe he could just nap for a few minutes, first. He settled back against the bench and let his legs straighten out in front of him. As Reilly’s eyes slowly closed, his chin settled against his chest.
# # # #
“Wha’z that?” The military cop who’d brought the dead seaman in, leaned over the examination table and stared at the dirty linoleum floor. He’d heard the sound of a coin, or a key, or some small metal object hit the floor as they rolled the body over. Normally, Chief Petty Officer Hastings didn’t get involved once he’d completed the forms and dropped the corpse, but today, the examiner was missing his assistant, Guillermo, who’d left early for a family quinceanera. Annoying was the least of it. The way they ran things down here, it amazed him they ever got anything done, or right.
“Y’ hear that? Som’thin must’ve fell out his pockets.”
The Examiner, Dr. Nunez y Chavez, glanced down, then stood back from the rust-streaked table to see if he could spot whatever Hastings heard. “I see nothing on my side…” His eye caught a glint of metal caught in a broken-off section of torn flooring under the table’s edge. “Wait – there is something. A coin?
Nunez y Chavez bent over stiffly, one hand upon the table to steady himself and came back up holding a small, light brass coin. He offered it to Hastings, who took it and held it up to the light for a better look.
“Well… I’ll be damned. It’s a Brooklyn Trolley token! “ A smile crept across Hasting’s face as full recognition set in. Brooklyn. That was a place he knew pretty well. Then he wrinkled up his dark eyebrows and said, aloud, “But… I thought this guy was from… “ He reached over to where the departed seaman’s billfold was lying near a pocket knife in a chipped, white porcelain tray. He flipped it open and ran his fingers over the contents, then pulled out a small card. “Yeah, this guy Reilly was from New Orleans. Wonder why he carried around a token for a Brooklyn trolley?”
The Examiner raised his hands, palms up. “There’s no saying why these men do anything. Why do they drink so much? Why do they fight so much? Can you tell me?”
“Not me, Doc. It’s a mystery.” Hastings lifted his palm up towards the light, where the filigree pattern of lines on the token caught the light. He gave it one more glance, then put the billfold and the token back into the tray. He asked the Examiner what he wanted him to do, adding, “You think I should wear some gloves?”
“Why bother. No blood or vomit – there’s a sink and some soap in the corner if you have hesitation or something about handling the dead. They are just dead.”
“Nah. I got no problems with that – I bring lots of ‘em in.” Hastings didn’t really like it much, but didn’t want his squeamishness to show. They removed the dead man’s boots and socks, and tossed them on the floor, then began removing his clothes to inspect the corpse for signs of injury. After turning it over once more, the Examiner reached for his clipboard. There was always a new Certificate of Death ready to go, and he began filling out what he could. “Chief Hastings? You know his captain? Captain Moresell?”
“I think so… yeah!” Hastings had already taken several steps back from the table, adding, “Why y’ask?”
“Well, someone needs to contact him so he can make positive… uh, I.D., you know?”
“I guess I can find him. Their tug is over at the Pilot Quay. He’ll be around a few more days now, since he’s gonna hav’ta find a new Mate, eh?”
“Today would be best.”
There was such a tone of finality in the Examiner’s voice, Hastings just repeated him. “Today.”
Nunez y Chavez glanced at the clock on the wall then back to the table, where he lifted the dead man’s arm and tried to work the wrist joint. “When did you say you found him?”
“It wazzn’t me. Some kid said he was just lyin’ on a bench all the way up the Paseo to the Kid’s Park across from that Jesus Statue. Thought he was just sleepin’. I think the little bastard was gonna roll ‘im or somethin’, you know? But he got scared and found me eatin’ my breakfast on the corner. Brought me over to the bench.”
“Yes, yes, but what time was it?”
“Oh, yeah… maybe eight forty?”
Nunez y Chavez looked up towards the high window on the far wall. Without turning back to Hastings, he said, “He must have been there all night.”
# # # #
The deceased’s big oceangoing tug, U S S Libby Island, lay against the quay wall between two barges. Hastings stood leaning on a bollard until he saw some activity, then he called out, “Cap’n Moresell ‘round?”
A seaman on his way to the engine room heard Hastings’ shout. “Yeah – I’ll get ‘im for ya,” he called back, heading below. In a few minutes, the wheelhouse door swung open and a large, rough looking customer wearing the scrambled eggs on his cap’s visor walked over to the nearest rail and called down to Hastings, “Whaddya want, Hastings? You got trouble?”
“Yeah. Sorry, Cap, but we found your mate.”
“Where is the sonofabitch anyway? He was supposed to be aboard by now? You got Reilly in the brig?”
“Nope. He’s dead, Cap.” Hastings hated to deliver this kind of news dockside. He added, “The Examiner needs positive ID and … well, I didn’t really know him.”
“Why the hell not? You hauled him in twice this week alone!”
Hastings shuffled his feet, then replied, “Yeah, but Somebody’s gotta take his belongings and notify the next of kin. I can’t do that. That’s your job, I guess.”
“Yeah, yeah. My job.” The gruff tug captain turned and started down the gangway to deck level. The stair rungs echoed a hollow metal sound. He walked over to where the bulwark was gated. A wide wooden plank lay across the gap to the dock. It bent a bit, Hastings noticed, as the big man stepped across it.
Hastings gave him the details and the time. Moresell just rubbed his chin, his head shaking slowly back and forth. Finally, the tug captain said, “OK, I’ll get down there in an hour. That OK with you?”
“No problem at all. See ya ‘round!” Hastings replied cheerily, almost free of this sorry detail.
He headed towards the base, where he’d have to rehash it all over again, explaining why he was late to report. Then there were the forms. As he passed a clump of palms that leaned out over the seawall, he noticed the slick, greasy water rising and falling in a slow rhythm like one of those dance numbers he always heard in the bars here. Hastings had been thinking how ridiculous it was, for him to be planted down here in Rummy Heaven with a war on, since his posting here last October. There must be some place he could do something better than this. Maybe shoot some Krauts or Japs?
Deep down, he even wished he were back home in New York. At least at the Navy Yards, there was more to do than round up drunks and haul dead sailors to the morgue. A parrot flew overhead. The flash of its bright colors just made him feel worse. It made him more homesick. Damned token. he thought, why’d the stiff have to have that in his pocket anyway?
Freado is a reader site that connects readers with the kinds of books they enjoy. I recently was asked some questions about my current projects and was pleased to see it posted on their site. Here’s the interview…
As the year runs into it’s final day, I’m full of questions about what the next year will bring us. The times we’re living in are not as stable as the ones I grew up in, nor do they offer all the opportunities I grew to expect. Usually one to scoff at the idea of New Year’s Resolutions, I can see now that this New Year will require some changes of each of us if we are to make the best of it.
I wish everyone the best opportunities and joy in the coming year. There are many problems confronting our entire human family right now. Some of them affect the entire world we live in. My sincere wish is that we get back to speaking together about our issues, fears, concerns and ideas. Face to face, if we can, but any way possible.
I’ve seen how the technology of online communications makes it so easy to simply pass along someone else’s ideas, someone else’s agenda, without really getting to know all the details. Cut n’ Paste is a real timesaver, but it can also be a dangerous thing if it becomes a crutch to use instead of actually engaging. We’re better than that, all of us and we all have a serious stake in making our lives happier and safer. Really share. Talk to each other. Listen to each other. Engage.
That’s my only resolution for the coming year and beyond.
… from this day forward, all the very best of this and every Season. All the warmth of your family and friends, good health and everything you need to feel safe and happy!
Today, we’re glad to have the opportunity to chat with author Norma T. Rudolph, whose new Fantasy/YA novel, The Gift of Lies is about to be released. Her cover artwork was just revealed yesterday (scroll down…) Shaping new worlds and exciting adventures while keeping the main characters compelling but believable isn’t an easy job, and Ms. Rudolph has crafted an amazing, parallel world set near her roots in the Badlands.
The Wyoming locals call the place Jake’s Hell. It’s a badlands of rock-rugged cliffs and sharp pinnacles that no sane person would attempt to enter and Summer McCalister’s uncle has seen some pretty crazy things there. But the Atomalians who live there call it Daneye. An alien city of unequaled beauty masked behind illusions to keep it secret. Atomalians have been taught that natives of Earth must never know about them and their powers of the mind or it would interfere with native progression and it would destroy the Atomalians’ peaceful lives. When Summer is drawn out of bed and pulled to Jake’s Hell by an urge she can’t control, she fears she is crazier than her uncle.
Norma, you’ve chosen to write your debut novel in a pretty exciting cross-genre right now, Fantasy/YA. Did the story lead you to the reader or was there another motivation that pushed your muse in this direction?
The Gift of Lies is available now for pre-order in Kindle eBook format, just in time for the perfect Holiday gift giving. For more information on Norma’s writing and her process of forging words, visit her blog at http://normasnovels.blogspot.com/
Pre-Order at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QP5CF16
Back in February of 2007, Sir Richard Branson famously announced in London that he would contribute a prize of $25 Million to the first person to come up with a way to scrub greenhouse gases from our atmosphere. He said, “Unless we can devise a way of removing CO2 from the earth’s atmosphere we will lose half of all species on earth, all the coral reefs, 100 million people will be displaced, farmlands will become deserts and rain forests wastelands.” Pretty grim stuff, but at least he was willing to put his money behind the shout.
More than seven years later, this prize remains unclaimed, and the corporate-fueled skeptic community continues to rail against sustainability as a deeply flawed concept whose time has passed. In 2010, the New York Times columnist James Kanter discussed the unclaimed prize. Still there are believers out there in business land, such as Apple’s Tim Cook who earlier this year suggested that skeptics should “get out of our stock”. Sir Richard, ever the cheerleader for the cause announced, “More businesses should be following Apple’s stance in encouraging more investment in sustainability,” adding, “While Tim told sustainability skeptics to ‘get out of our stock’, I would urge climate change deniers to get out of our way.” Ref: The Daily Caller
While the battle rages on, I’d like to suggest that this fix isn’t so much a case of technology yet to be discovered, as it is a case of a simple solution not being painted shiny enough to attract serious investment. Money is the grease that our civilization and our advancements slide on. In order to stave off the imminent climate changes that threaten us and many other species, we need to apply the grease where it can do some good.
Besides, the technology to achieve this worthy goal is as old as trees. That’s because a working solution is very simple: trees. The average forest tree can process and remove tons of CO2 from the atmosphere every year, while adding Oxygen. I’m sure that it is within the scope of possible science to construct a machine that does this, but why bother when the best idea is already working demonstrably?
The reason is money. Planting forests isn’t seen as a viable solution for serious investment, but why is that? Is it because the Return on Investment takes time? Still, according to many environmental scientists, time is something we have little of, so in my mind, implementing what we have now is an important step towards achieving balance in our atmosphere. We need to roll up our sleeves, and begin to put shiny paint all over the idea of reforestation and forest maintenance. Make those Smokey the Bear hats something to yearn for. Singer Pharrel has already done his part.
The diverse arboreal forest that used to stretch completely around the planet at temperate latitudes, was the machine that aided the evolution of all living things. It’s not that hard to figure out that even returning a reasonable percentage of it to land scoured by failed agriculture and clear cutting would be a big help. To make it shiny, it needs to be attractive as an investment.
As the Developed World’s bankers and governments argue in expensive annual conferences over how to implement carbon credits into a universally accepted monetary form, why not simply update the way tree planting and forest management is paid. If the developed world began to make these occupations attractive alternatives, as they should be, considering the benefit to the planet, then landowners would see that reforesting their land with native acclimated trees rather than corn or rice or beans might be more profitable, even in the short run. Agribusiness could dedicate a percentage of their holdings to forest and still show good ROI. Carbon credits are one thing, but foirest credits should be the top denomination.
Better education of the actual measurable benefits of reforestation will help shift the focus away from mechanized solutions and pipe-dream thinking as the sole possibility. The idea isn’t crackpot, out-on-a-limb stuff. It’s solid, proven science with a relatively low-tech application process. Once planted and established, these forests would be relatively self-sustaining as well, so they would prove beneficial on into the future. I believe this is a concept that needs more vocal support to be given more than just smiling, condescending approbation. If done properly, it may be enough to save us. At least it’s something that works, that exists now, when we need it.
Your comments are appreciated…
I have a number of friends who, like me have learned some important lessons over the course of publishing a book. Publishing a book for the consumer market can easily get the best of anyone. Writers who tackle this job often find themselves reduced to coffee, No-Doze, prayer and supplication to complete even a small part of the process. There are so many variables and details that the writer find fall outside their normal range of skills it can be disconcerting.
But, don’t beat yourself up about it. It can be disconcerting to even industry professionals with years of experience and brilliant portfolios. Many things in both the marketing sphere and in the graphics world are still shifting very quickly. Sometimes these variables change while the ball is still in play. As both consumer acceptance and technology itself remain in constant flux, hitting a target moving in several dimensions at once is not for the faint of heart. However, there are many things that the writer can nail down before they need to find outside services to complete the project. One of the most important of these is your mental “set” as to how you are approaching the design and marketing of this “product”.
One of the most important lessons I learned in many years of advertising and design trench warfare is that timing is a front line player, not an also-ran to be considered “eventually”. You need to address the timing issues at the very beginning of your formulation of a marketing plan. It is equally as important as how narrow your market target has been honed, particularly as it can affect your pocket book directly.
To that end, I am providing my simple project checklist. It works in every single case, as I discovered through missing the mark quite often until I began taking it to heart.
Apply this simple filter at the beginning of each marketing and design project and you won’t just eliminate a lot of disappointment. This will get your thinking rebooted to a point where you realize you are dealing with significant, nuts and bolts stuff, not just the often ethereal ideas of making a pitch effective, a synopsis do some real selling, how to attract word of mouth to keep the ball rolling, etc.
Putting a book out requires lots of different sets of skills. Whether you do it with your own hands, or hire more skilled ones, it all comes down to getting a solid handle on exactly what it is you’re trying to achieve. My little checklist has helped me and my guess is that it will help you, too.
Look around you, wherever you happen to be, and I can bet that you’ll see things, people or animals that make you smile. Probably a few that make you cringe, fume, curse and scream as well, but more on those, later. Everything that brings you pleasure in a single moment, like that raindrop on the window last week that sparkled like a prism when the sun light hit it; the way your cat curls around himself upside down with a big grin; the color of the fall leaves against the barn, and so forth. Every time I try to make an inventory of the momentary pleasures that life brings me, I run out of room on the page. The list is endless.
I’ve gotten to the point where every single day I’m alive feels like a gift. It took a while to get to this point. I remember dreading the alarm clock, but that was a long, long time ago. I made choices that led me away from that and had the incredible good fortune to team up with a beautiful wife and family that wanted that kind of life, too. Sometimes, we know there are tasks waiting. Sometimes the tasks are unpleasant or difficult or frustrating. Sometimes we are unable to finish them properly. Sometimes thinking about them keeps us awake at night. But here’s the thing. Even worrying over these annoyances is really only a distraction form the real business at hand: enjoying the gift of living. The alternative is not an attractive option for me to ponder. I know none of us gets out of here alive, but in the mean time, I don’t want to use up too much of today with yesterdays problems or frustrations. There will always be time enough to take on the jobs as they come up. Some will turn out the way I want them to, and some won’t. Perfection in anything we attempt is not on our job description as human animals.
Which brings me back to those small and larger pleasures. When I was young, they rushed past me and I barely gave them any attention. Now, I really try to pay attention to the world around me, the other living things in it, the beauty in creation, the intricacy in the way the world is constantly interacting with itself and those things I can do to contribute my part in it all. All of these things bring pleasure if you take the time to notice.
Since our time here is indeed limited, then we need to teach ourselves to wring every single bit of joy from each moment that we’re able. Even when it appears to be a dark, unpleasant moment. If they were all brightly lit, we wouldn’t know the difference, would we? How to achieve this? It’s not that difficult, but it requires practice. By practice, I mean repetition until you get the hang of it. At the simplest, it means saying a silent thank you every time you find yourself smiling or when a spark goes off announcing a new understanding or when meeting a new friend, completing a task, or anything you do that has engaged your attention. After a while, it will become natural and the biggest benefit is that you’ll discover, as I have, that being alive is one gift after another.
So, sit down with a smile at your Thanksgiving table. I know there are one or more folks sitting nearby who will probably say something or do something that will annoy you. Thing is, family or not, they’re trying to find their own way through, just like you are. Say a small thank you inside that you’re there, available to be annoyed. It’s still better than not being anywhere, isn’t it? Lots better!
Enchanted Circle Scenic Drive, Taos, New Mexico From late September through early October, north-central New Mexico’s Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway is a best-of-fall highlight reel. For those beginning and ending the drive in Taos (basically circling…