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Thursday, October 28, 2010

"Beware the Devil's Hug" and Leave the Kids at Home

            Marvin D. Wilson is a real pro when it comes to writing.   His latest novel Beware the Devil's Hug has been written so skillfully that it almost reads itself.  The chapters are brief, which makes this book a comfortable read.   Marvin's writing style has an economy of words that doesn't muddle the reading experience.   Any page will exhibit textbook examples of how to write, which makes this book a big plus for anyone interested in technique.

              Storywise this book also has what it takes to please most readers.   The lengthy cast of characters is presented so cleanly that it's easy to keep track of who's who in the story.   The storyline is well-paced with a good balance of tension and breathing room.   I didn't do a scientific measurement, but it seemed to me that Hugs is about 75% dialogue--good natural-flowing dialogue that allows for a fluidity of the reading experience.  The reader is put in the middle of every scene as it unfolds.

           Beware the Devil's Hug is a story for our times as it deals with relevant issues that could have been taken right out of this morning's newspaper.   The story centers around a mysterious old homeless man named Iam.  Initially repulsive to everyone he encounters, Iam has a power in his hug that cures disease, addiction, and hatred and allows the recipients of those hugs to see the world from an entirely new perspective.  The Old Man becomes romantically involved with a young crack-addicted prostitute whom he cures and redeems with his hug.  Iam also becomes involved with an organization that has been founded to bring the religions of the world together in peaceful agreement.  Throughout the course of book, this novel addresses important issues including child abuse, gangs, and terrorism.   The story crescendos into an interesting twist in its conclusion.

          And now here comes the part of this review that is somewhat difficult for me.   I don't really like to be negative, but my extreme subjectivity concerning certain aspects of this novel compels me to express these partly as a caveat for some similar minded readers and partly to address some of my own conflicted feelings about issues I've thought about in my own writing.  So please bear in mind that the following is a matter of personal preference and belief.

          Firstly, I'd like to warn any easily offended readers that there is profanity used and there are fairly graphic sex scenes described in Beware the Devil's Hug.   In some of the earlier tour stops Marvin has made this point, but I wanted to bring it up again in case any of my readers missed this.  I would not want someone to buy this book on my recommendation without knowing this from the outset--this book is rated "R".   By the same token I would not want to discourage anyone from reading the book because of this as long as they don't have a problem with this adult rating.

         In another tour stop Marvin said, "my books would offend the stiff, narrow minded and prudish."  Believe me, I know all the words and I've seen plenty of things in my life and read some very graphic writings and I'm not too easily shocked by much of anything.   However, that doesn't mean I want to read it now and by no means would I attribute my preference to being narrow-minded, prudish, or anything of that nature. 

           I've addressed this issue at other times.  I lean toward the idea that excess profanity and graphic sex can be distracting in literature if these things are not the main focus of the message that the writer wants to convey.  Don't get me wrong: Marvin's novel is not bursting at the seams with these things, but what is there still distracted me.   This is an issue I've struggled with in my own writing and I have tried to take a more subtle approach.   I welcome any additional opinions about this matter.

           The second issue I have with Beware the Devil's Hug concerns my own conflicting beliefs concerning the story itself.  I don't want to say anything here that will act as a spoiler, but I disagreed with some of the theological premises as I understood them.  And perhaps theology is the wrong word to be using here, but as I was reading I kept hearing John Lennon's "Imagine" playing in my head.  I really do like this song, but as I've grown older I've come to have a distaste for what Lennon's song lyrics represent to me.

            The ideas presented in Hugs conceptually sound beautiful and idealistic and will probably appeal to many people, but they are out of line with my personal theology--I think.   Perhaps I missed something as I was reading or maybe I'm just creating a greater complexity than should be present, but as I was reading I was thinking that the story was going in a different direction than where I thought it ended up.  Then again, I could read something different into the ending and interpret that it comes to a conclusion more like I was expecting.  My question that I do not recall seeing any explanation for is what is the significance of the book's title--Beware the Devil's Hug.  I wish I didn't come across with such abiguity here, but I don't want to give away the ending.

             Sorry if my rambling digrression took this review into the realms of commentary and reflection, but I think that this is also an indicator of a book that is well worth reading.   For me, if a book hasn't made me think and doesn't stay with me long after I've read it, then it is merely mindless diversion.   When I read I want to be entertained and this book entertains in a grand fashion.  However, I also want to stimulate my thinking and perhaps learn something.  I'm not sure what I've learned yet, but Beware the Devil's Hug did stimulate my mind and I continue to ponder the possibilities that the story suggests.  When a book stays with you after you've read it, you've gotten your money's worth.      


Buy Beware the Devil's Hug from Amazon .         


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Be sure to visit todays stop on the Virtual Hugs Tour:
Helen Ginger http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com/ 10/28/10


And then the final stops of the tour:

Lacresha Hayes http://learntofeelpretty.blogspot.com/ 10/29/10

Kissie http://justkissie.com/ 10/30/10



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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Hugs Therapy Virtual Tour 2010: A Interview with author Marvin D. Wilson

           Marvin Wilson is my special guest today on Tossing It Out.  This post is part of  The Old Silly's Hugs Therapy Virtual Tour 2010 .    Marvin's got a great contest going with lots of fun and valuable prizes and you can get all of the details here.

             The book that's being promoted is called Beware the Devil's Hug. To get more information and to purchase this book you can click here.


            Here's the nutshell version of Beware the Devil's Hug:

Iam is a homeless, smelly, ugly, unkempt old man who has a hug so powerful it can heal those who receive it physically, mentally, and spiritually.  Iam's powers have a radical effect on a prostitute and her dysfunctional family, and an ex-terrorist Muslim and his former Christian enemy who go on to found a peace group called CUE ( Coalition for Unity and Enlightenment).  An array of colorful characters fill this epic story of love, forgiveness, and intrigue.


           It's a fascinating concept that's presented in this book and I'll be reviewing and commenting on this book in my post tomorrow.   Today I want to take a look at Marvin D. Wilson the author and his approach to writing, and in particular how he approached writing Beware the Devil's Hug

           Many of you who read Tossing It Out and who know something about Marvin Wilson may be aware that he and I both have a background in music.  With that common interest in mind, I became curious to know how music influences his approach to writing and what musical influences can be found in this particular novel.

           As I read the book I couldn't help but notice frequent references to songs that various characters were singing to themselves or thinking about in various scenes, or how certain songs were actually part of the scenes.  A soundtrack could literally accompany this book.  I began to think about how writing might be similar to composing and performing music  I wanted to get Marvin's take on all of this and see if he could shed some further light on my observation.

           Here is my interchange with author Marvin D. Wilson:


Arlee:   We've heard quite a bit about Marvin Wilson the author on the Hugs Virtual Tour, but what can you tell us about Marvin the musician?

Marvin:    My first performance was at the age of two. As my mother accompanied me, I stood next to her on the piano bench in church singing, “Give Me That Old Time Religion”. By the time I was in Junior High (the Old School equivalent of today’s “Middle School”), I was playing the guitar, teaching myself by ear, listening to Beatles’ albums. In High School I was playing electric guitar, bass (both electric and standup), and some piano. I was the choir president, and was composing classical choral pieces that my choir director thought highly enough of to have our choir perform a couple of them in concerts. I also performed lead roles in the annual musicals, singing and acting in “The Music Man” and “South Pacific”.


           I was able to go to college on a scholarship I auditioned for and won, majoring in music with a minor in theater. I kept growing in the classical music composition arena, again getting favorable enough reactions from my professors to my writing to have—three, I believe—of my pieces rehearsed and performed in concerts ... two choral compositions and one big band jazz piece. But my college career was cut short before I finished my sophomore year. I ‘tuned in, turned on, and dropped out’—into the Hippie Movement at age twenty.

         As a young stud Hippie musician, I traveled all over the US, Mexico and Canada, doing lots of drugs and groupies, living the wild life of hallucinogenics, sex, and rock and roll for the next fifteen years. I might have died eventually of an overdose of licentious lifestyle had I not met my wife in my late 20’s, who I fell so in love with that she was able to get me to throw my ‘little black book’ away, settle down, get married, and get a ‘real job’ in order to better support and be there for our growing family.

         Although no longer a full-time professional musician, I still play and sing in my church’s Praise Band, and occasionally get gigs with local civic theater productions. I recently played lead electric guitar in the musical, “Aida”, the score of which was written by Elton John.

Arlee:   Throughout the book there were frequent references to songs, with characters singing, thinking about, or hearing particular songs. If you were to assign a particular song as a theme for each of the main characters, which songs would you use and why?
Specifically I'm talking about the characters Iam (the old man), Destiny (the prostitute), Christian (the Christian), and the organization CUE?



Marvin:  Iam would definitely have “What a Wonderful World”, the Louis Armstrong version, as his theme song. Destiny? I think Anita Baker’s “Caught up in the Rapture of Love” would be perfect for her. For Christian I’d assign Bob Marley’s “One Love”, and that would also be CUE’s theme song. I can picture the entire massive assemble of people from all over the world, of all different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds, holding hands and singing, “One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.”


Arlee:    If there were a film version of Beware the Devil’s Hug, what songs would be a good one for the opening and for the final credits?


Marvin:   I would again go with “One Love” for the final credits. For the opening, Prologue Parts One and Two, I would go instrumental, using excerpts from Igor Stravinksi’s “The Rite of Spring”.

Arlee:   Some of the action in the book takes place in the Middle East and one of the main characters, Ali, is Middle Eastern.    Are you a fan of middle eastern music?
Marvin:   I honestly don’t know that much about it. When I hear it—and I do occasionally get exposed to it through my several Muslim friends—I always enjoy it and am fascinated by it. The scales, the quarter tones, the vocal gymnastics that some of the virtuoso singers can perform, as well as the unusual time signatures and instrumentations—incredible. But I rarely seek it out on the radio nor do I own any CD’s. Couldn’t tell you the names of any famous Middle Eastern musicians, really.

Arlee:    When you are composing a novel, do you take a structured approach like a classical composer, an intellectual approach like a improvisational jazz musician, or a more formulaic good time approach like a rock songwriter?
Marvin:   Probably a Jazz Rock fusion approach would best describe my formula. Lots of improvisational passages dispersed throughout a weaving of blues, rhythm and blues, soft and hard rock, ballads, etc.

Arlee:    So would you say that when you are writing a book, rather than scoring it carefully note by note like a classical composer, it's more like a jam session that you go back to polish up later?
Marvin:
   Definitely a jam session when pounding out the first draft. Hugs was written in a three week intense blur. I don’t remember much of anything else that happened during that time. It was just like being so “in the moment” … like when you are when caught up in a magical jam session with some great musicians. The music takes over your entire being and things come out of you that you never knew you were capable of. Time stops. Creativity takes over. Your ‘self’ gets lost for a while in the blessed ‘here and now’ of composition creation.

           Now when I go back for the self-editing, revisions, rewrites, etc., then I am the classical musician, crafting the rough stone into a gem. My editor on Hugs, Deb Harris, of All Things That Matter Press, even admonished me to not be so anal and over-micro managerial of my words. She encouraged me to go back and leave a lot of the free-flowing prose the way it was before I corrected every little thing to read like some stickler of an editor had written it rather than a creative writer. Also, during the revisions stage, I strive to create more intensity where needed, push harder on the emotional buttons if necessary, and relocate or even take out scenes altogether if they seem out of place or not really part of, moving it along, the core story.

Arlee:    Do you see this book as a symphony with specific movements consisting of themes and variations on themes, or is it more like a grouping of smaller ensemble pieces that complement one another?
Marvin:    It’s a symphonic composition with several themes and variations on those themes, with movements ranging from glaringly definite to subtle.

Arlee
:   If this book were a concert, do you see this book as a serious work like a classical performance, or is it more like a rock concert, or is it something else?
Marvin:     Interesting question. I’d like to think it would be an interactive experience, a concert of emotional, intellectual, and spiritual exchanges, dancing through the body-minds of all present like a 70s ‘live-in’ spontaneous happening that occurs within the ostensible confines of a classical setting … the novel format being like the ‘hallowed halls’ auditorium within which anything, classical-stodgy, to enlightening, to shocking, to ribald, can happen.
Arlee:    J.S. Bach is known for precise mathematical compositions that glorify God. Mozart was a populist composer who could often be crude in his operas. Wagner wrote soaring epics and took his work quite seriously. If you were comparing yourself to a classical composer, which composer would you be and why? 

Marvin: My favorite spiritual/inspirational author is Richard Bach, and I am a huge fan also of J.S. Bach’s compositions. While my books are not precise mathematical compositions, I do intend to glorify God with them, and, like Wagner, I take my writing very seriously. And yet, as anyone who has read my books knows, I can get down and dirty and ‘crude’ if the story calls for it, like Mozart. So … I would compare myself to all three. How’s that for an ambiguous answer? (wink) Maybe I should have been a politician?


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           And there you have it folks.   Two older but young at heart ex-hippies just rapping about books and music.  Do you ever look at writing from a different point of view?   Sometimes it's liberating to think outside of the box just like Marvin did in his book.  

           Thanks Marvin for this interview today.   I enjoyed the insight you gave and I hope the readers did as well.

            Don't forget--I'll have a bit more to say about Beware the Devil's Hug tomorrow right here on Tossing It Out.   Hope you will join me here.

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           Make sure you visit the next stop on the tour which will be Helen Ginger http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com/  posting on Thursday October 28, 2010.


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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Teaser Tuesday: Just a Peek at "BEWARE THE DEVIL'S HUG"

          A while back I noticed Golden Eagle participating in Teaser Tuesday and decided that one day I might try this.  Today seems like a good day since this week I will be participating in Marvin Wilson's Hugs Therapy Virtual Tour 2010 which is for the purpose of promoting his most recent book Beware the Devil’s Hug.   My excerpt will be from that book.

        But first an explanation about what Teaser Tuesday is:


Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

         
          The Old Man chortled. "Believe, my son, believe. You knew it was me because you could sense me, the inner me, both back then and here today. I never saw your face, either, remember, but one does not forget an aura if one is tuned into it. Auras are not only seen with eyes that can see, they are felt with souls that can feel."       page 116,  Beware the Devil's Hug,  by Marvin D. Wilson   
        

Beware the Devil's Hug can be purchased here

          Tomorrow I will have a special post in which Marvin D. Wilson will discuss some of the approaches he took in writing Beware the Devil's Hug.   Since Marvin and I have a mutual interest in music, I wanted to take a comparative look at the similarities between composing and playing music and writing a novel. In his usual good-natured way, Marvin was happy to indulge my whims.  This will be a bit different spin on the writing process that you will hopefully find interesting.   Join us tomorrow, October 27, for the next exciting stop of Marvin D. Wilson's whirlwind book tour.

        

Monday, October 25, 2010

Stephen Tremp's "BREAKTHROUGH": A Review


           When I first started blogging in September of 2009, one of the earliest blogs I came across and began following was that of Stephen Tremp, the author of Breakthrough.  Stephen often referred to his novel in his blog posts and discussed some of the technology that appears in the novel.  I was intrigued by the subject matter that Stephen discussed on his blog and about the concept of the story presented in Breakthrough.  And besides that, Stephen Tremp came across as one heck of a nice guy.

           Stephen has been valiantly promoting Breakthrough on mostly his own efforts, which takes some creative ingenuity and a strong positive attitude.  He has not only shown both, but took a rather incredible one step further when earlier this year he took the original version of Breakthrough off the market and released an improved revised version of the book.  This shows some real dedication to his craft and to his audience and he should be admired for that.

             In August I was one of the fortunate winners of a book give-away that Stephen held on his blog.  With the new version of Breakthrough in hand, I was now able to read this book that I had been reading so much about.  I will be honest.  I had no idea what to expect and my expectations were rather low.  Boy! was I ever wrong, and in this review I'll tell you why.

             In a nutshell, the story concerns quantum physics professor/adventurer Chase Manhattan who becomes involved in a quest to recover and destroy stolen technology that is to be used for nefarious purposes by a treacherous enemy group and to clear the technology's innovator, an MIT professor and researcher, who has been charged with a murder.  In a fast-paced story the action rapidly shifts back and forth between Boston, which is in the grip of a major snowstorm, and sunny Southern California. 

            A well drawn cast of characters drew me into the story.  Chase and his friends are likeable, with intelligence and humor.  They are not superheroes by any means and are flawed by weaknesses and bad judgment.  They are characters who seemed very real.  Likewise, the bad guys are villainous, but we see their very human qualities as well.

            The story is very well researched.   The settings are so well drawn that I felt like I was right there in the middle of the story.  The action scenes are so vividly written that I felt like I was watching instead of reading.  Cinematic is the best way I can describe Stephen's writing--the reading experience was almost like watching a movie.

            One good thing about this novel is that it is more of an amalgam of genres then strictly one specific genre.   Breakthrough would primarily fit in the action adventure category, but it also has elements of science fiction, suspense thriller, and romance.  Science fiction fans will enjoy the theoretical concepts of travelling through worm holes, but those who don't care for sci-fi will be pleased that the book does not become bogged down with complex technologies and theories.   The story takes place in today's world with ideas that have actually been studied by scientists.  

           There is enough action and romance to keep fans of those genres pleased.  Stephen also adds enough humor to keep the reader entertained.  In fact, the pacing of the novel is something that made the book such a pleasurable reading experience.  The chapters are short and the writing is succinct.  The reader is fueled with exciting doses of action, and then brought down for a breather that leads to the next action packed sequence.  The book has good writing by an author who demonstrates that he knows the formula for producing best-seller caliber writing.

           Breakthrough is a book that will please just about any audience.  There is very little profanity in the book and what does appear seems appropriate and not gratuitous.  Likewise with sex scenes, there is nothing graphic, but only very tastefully written sequences that are integral to the story.  There was nothing in the book that I can recall being offensive in any way.  I could recommend this book to anyone.

            Allowing that the book is part of a trilogy, I can accept the somewhat abrupt ending as the lead-in to the next novel, Opening, which I hope is not too long in coming--I am anxious to see where this story is going next.  Stephen gives us a preview of Opening at the end of Breakthrough.    Reading this sample filled me with anticipation about book number two.  It sounds like there are some very intriguing concepts still to come.

           My recommendation is buy this book!   It would also make a great gift for the book-lovers on your Christmas and birthday lists.  


Available from:



Visit Stephen Tremp's blog for additional information about electronic editions of the book and other details about the author and his work.

Stephen Tremp will be my guest on Tossing It Out on Tuesday November 9, 2010.

Tomorrow I will be starting my focus for the remainder of the week on Marvin (The Old Silly) Wilson and his new book Beware the Devil's Hug.  On Wednesday Marvin will join me on his tour for an interview.  On Thursday I will offer my review of his book.



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Friday, October 22, 2010

Cinderella's Shoe Blogfest

And now for another Special Saturday Post:



Here's a blogfest hosted by Madeleine at Scribble and Edit.   Okay, I saw this way ahead of time and I'm thinking maybe.  Well, maybe nothing--here it is:

YOUR CHALLENGE is to write max 500 word piece or a poem about any character who loses an item that when found by another results in their mutual happiness/relief/salvation

.....and here is my entry:

              Sarah was having one of those lousy days.  Time had decided to torment her and her patience was waning. One more stop for the day.  The streets were busy and she feared that she would have a problem finding a place to park.  Her spirits lifted as she saw a car pulling away from the curb across the street from her destination.  Feeling a sense of relief, she pulled into the space.

               The meter was out of time.  For a moment she thought about just running her errand and skipping the parking fee, but a quick guilty glance showed her that the parking enforcement officer was a block away and coming in her direction.  She fished in her purse for her last quarter.  In her anxiety to place the coin in the slot her nervous fingers fumbled and she dropped the quarter.  Sarah looked about her feet and then in a wider circle, but did not see the coin anywhere. As good fortune would have it, she had parked directly in front of a small market.  She hurried inside to get change for a dollar.

                Molly meandered lost in her thoughts.  She spied a shiny quarter on the sidewalk and bent over to pick it up.  This pittance of coinage was no big deal but it seemed like a fortuitous find.  She was about to pocket the quarter when she noted the parking enforcement officer heading toward her.  She then happened to notice the expired meter next to her.

                Someone is going to get a parking ticket, she thought.  But then she smiled to herself and deposited her found quarter into the expired meter.  With a chuckle she picked up her step and headed home with a happy determination.

                Sarah had not counted on the line at the cashier and the time it would take to get change for a dollar.  As she neared the door she could see the parking enforcement officer walking away from her car.  Her heart sunk.  But as she exited the store she realized with widening eyes that there was no ticket and there was now time on the meter.  She didn't know what to make of it, but it was a good thing. 

               She crossed to the place of her destination feeling as though the day was going to start turning for the better.  Sara noticed an unkempt man with a sign scrawled on a piece of cardboard.  The man leaned against the building gazing dully as though he were trying to focus on his lost dreams.  Sara smiled and looked at the coins she clutched in her hand.   Approaching the man, she paused, put the coins in her purse, and took out a ten dollar bill and handed it to the man.

              "You have a great day, sir."

               "God bless you."  The old man didn't have much to be thankful for these days, but this day was turning out to be not so bad.

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If you'd like to add an entry of your own go to Scribble and Edit and sign up.  The Linky will be open until October 30th.

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Baloney Sandwich

         When Fred got arrested by the Monroe County Sheriff's deputies, he was the first one to admit that it was his fault and the deputies were completely justified to have hauled him in to jail.  He wouldn't have said it at the time it was happening, but after the fact, when he was thinking a bit more clearly, he said they did what they had to do and he wasn't mad at anyone really.

        Fred and some of the other guys he knew had decided to have a lost weekend camping on the wild side of the Chilhowee Lake, the part that is in the Cherokee National Forest.  They figured taking a boat across to the side that wasn't near a highway would be secluded and no one would be around to bother them while they got drunk and crazy.

        They were already getting pretty rowdy even before they found their camping spot in a small cove that allowed them to set up where they wouldn't be visible to anyone on the opposite side of the lake.  They'd been smoking pot, drinking beer, and maybe even indulging in some other unspecified substances.  Once they'd set up camp they continued their partying, getting as loud and crazy as they wanted to be.  After all, nobody could see them here and they just wanted to let loose.

         Just when the fun and nonsense was getting underway, there was an unwelcome intrusion.   A boat with two couples--probably students from one of the nearby colleges--came into the cove and they proceeded to unload their camping gear on the other side across from where the guys had already set up their camp. The interlopers had every right to be there, but the guys hooted and hollered and tried to be as obnoxious as they could so the couples might decide to find another campsite.

        The tactics didn't work and the young couples continued to set up their campsite.  Even when Tom stripped down to his skinny-assed nakedness and began howling like a lunatic, the couples barely paid attention.  That's when Fred, who was known for being very practical though not for always having the best judgment, disappeared into his tent and then reemerged with a pistol in his hand.  No one had known that Fred had the gun with him.  Perhaps he was scared of more threatening types than these students or maybe he'd brought it just in case there were any dangerous critters, but now he had it merely to scare off these unwelcome intruders.

        Needless to say Fred's ploy worked.  Brandishing the weapon accompanied by some intimidating words, Fred was successful in changing the students' minds and they quickly packed up their gear and were gone.  They guys were a bit flabbergasted by Fred's display, but relieved that they once again had the cove to themselves and resumed their revelries.

         What they didn't expect was the students having reported the incident to the cops.  They didn't even realize that the sheriff's department had a boat that they used to cruise the lake, but when they saw the boat approaching they could tell it was the police.  Fred retreated into his tent.  

           The other guys tried to act innocent when the deputies arrived, but the officers had a description of the culprit and insisted on checking the tents.  Soon they had Fred in tow with the pistol they had confiscated from him.  The guys watched wide-eyed as the Sheriff's Department boat recrossed the lake with Fred in their custody.

            Later Fred would tell the story about being taken to the Monroe County Jail.  He was under the influence of several substances and it took a few hours to become sober.  Being in the jail and getting processed for offenses that would end up costing him a good bit of money was a very unpleasant experience for him.   Likewise, the jail cell and the cot that he had to sleep on were very uncomfortable.

            However, he told about someone bringing him a baloney sandwich.   Fred hadn't eaten since breakfast and this sandwich was a truly welcome sight.   He described the sandwich in detail and how it was uniquely unlike any other baloney sandwich that he had ever eaten in his entire life.  To hear him describe the sandwich would make one wish they too could have a baloney sandwich just like the one the Fred had eaten on that evening in that jail cell.

            When telling this story, with the greatest gravity and intensity Fred would proclaim, "That was the best damn baloney sandwich I ever ate in my whole life."

            That's exactly what he would say and anyone hearing him say it would believe it to be the absolute truth.

      
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

CassaStar Is Released Today!

                    Cassastar


            I'm sure that nearly everybody who reads this blog knows that today is the release date for Alex J Cavanaugh's book CassaStar.  His blog tour has been underway for a week now and if you missed any stops make sure you check out Alex's Blog Tour Dates.   The interviews have given us a bit more information about Alex and his approach to writing.

          If you missed the book trailer for CassaStar, you can check it out here:





Links to purchase:

AMAZON - http://www.amazon.com/CassaStar-Alex-J-Cavanaugh/dp/0981621066

BARNES & NOBLE - http://search.barnesandnoble.com/books/e/9780981621067/?itm=1&USRI=cassastar

BAM - http://www.booksamillion.com/product/9780981621067?id=4581185563381#overview

POWELLS http://www.powells.com/biblio/0981621066?p_isbn&campaign=34635&PID=34635

ALSO AVAILABLE AS AN EBOOK – KINDLE, IBOOKSTORE, NOOK, AND OTHERS

             Who is Alex Cavanaugh?  Here is his official bio:



Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design and graphics. He’s experienced in technical editing and worked with an adult literacy program for several years. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Currently he lives in the Carolinas with his wife.
Read more from Alex at his blog:
http://alexjcavanaugh.blogspot.com/

             This will aim you in the right direction to purchase CassaStar and get to know the author Alex J Cavanaugh.    I encourage you to support your fellow blogger.   And don't forget about copies of CassaStar as Christmas gifts and be sure to tell your friends.  I think of Alex's success as our success as well, so let's boost his sales!

            Have you ordered a copy of Cassastar yet?  


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Monday, October 18, 2010

Write What You Want to Know

           I'll probably never be a sports writer.  I just don't know enough about the subject and I'm not that interested in it.  There are many things that I'll probably never write about due to my lack of interest in them.  

          This brings to mind the adage of "write what you know".   I'd like to perhaps expand that to include "write what you want to know". This of course doesn't include journalistic type assignments where writers may be given assignments to write about topics that they may know nothing about and have to gather the required information in order to complete their articles. 

          What I am referring to here is the writer who works on their own incentive--the freelancer or the book author.  Many of us will probably concur that in order to write about a topic you don't necessarily have to be an expert on the topic, but you want to know enough to write convincingly enough to make you sound like you know what you are talking about.  This involves research about the subject matter.  It also involves an aptitude in writing within your chosen genre.

             Next month's NaNoWriMo challenge will require coming up with a topic and more than likely those of us writing will be writing about a subject that interests us in a genre in which we feel comfortable writing.  I am pretty sure I will not be writing a romance.   There may be romantic relationships in my story, but I probably wouldn't feel very adept at writing in the romance genre.

             Whatever subject I do decide to write about will more than likely be something that I find very intriguing.   I'm leaning strongly toward science fiction this go around, but it will probably not be anything highly technological or anything concerning other universes.  I prefer staying here on Earth and I would rather deal with philosophical or spiritual ideas than complex scientific concepts.

             The theory that I'm proposing is that most writers would prefer to write about either what they already know or about something they have a strong interest in learning more about.   If a writer is going to immerse themself into a fantasy world where they will be living and creating over a period of time, they need to maintain an enthusiasm for this world and the characters that inhabit this imaginary place (or real place in some cases).  Doing something you don't like can be a tremendous drain on energy and creativity. 

            Do you ever write about things in which you have little or no interest?    Have you ever started researching a topic that you thought you would not like and found it interesting enough to change your mind, or visa versa?  Are there any genres that you probably would avoid?    Would you ever push yourself into writing in an uncomfortable genre?
           

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Still Here on Saturday Today



          I fully intend to stop my Saturday posts like I had indicated a couple of weeks ago, but I received another award and I wanted to thank the blogger who honored me with this.  So since I'm here anyway, I thought I'd go ahead and make my official announcement about NaNoWriMo.



I do plan to participate in NaNoWriMo 2010!

           This will be my second year of participation.  I made it past the 50,000 word goal last year--in other words I "won"--and I plan to do the same this year.  I have no idea what I will be writing about this year.  My plan is to do the same as I did last year, which is come up with my story on November 1 (or possibly during the weekend prior) and just start writing. 

            I enjoyed the challenge that this method presented to me last year.  I will be jumping into the project cold and basically improvising as I go along--basically seat of the pants write as I go.  Sure, I'll start with a basic story and at some point start keeping a timeline so I don't lose track of the action.  Last year I wrote a sort of spiritually based crime story based on the book of Jonah.  This year I believe I will go for some kind of science fiction story, but who knows what will pop into my head when it's time to start.

             Good luck to all of you who are participating and I'm sure we'll be keeping track of one another's progress.  Incidentally, my NaNo name is "Wordleeness"--don't ask me why, but it's just what I came up with at the last moment last year and I can't change it now.  Feel free to link up with me as a writing buddy.

And now for another Versatile Blogger Award!

         I received The Versatile Blogger Award from Madeleine at Scribble and Edit.   I've gotten this a few other times, but I guess we bloggers can never be too versatile--so my utmost appreciation to you Madeleine.  I will play by the rules Madeleine passed on since they are not too demanding.

Award Rules:

1. Thank the person who gave you this award and provide a link to their blog


2. Share 7 things about yourself. (Not compulsory)


3. Pass the award along to 5 other bloggers whom you have recently discovered and whose blogs you think are fantastically versatile/ resourceful/functional/adaptable.


4. Contact those bloggers you’ve picked and let them know about their award.

Seven things about myself (as though I haven't talked about myself enough already in this blog):

1)  For my social studies project in the 6th grade I did a report on Chile.  I was thinking about this while watching the miners being rescued this week.  Then, while I was working on some of my Tossing It Out Tuesday clean up, I happened to run across this old report.

2)  I've kept a lot of my old schoolwork.

3)  When I was in the 6th grade I wrote a story about a bridge being build from the Ecuadorian mainland to the Galapagos Islands.

4)   When I was 46 years old I married a woman who was from Ecuador.

5)   I once had a friend who was a circus aerialist and who came from the country of Colombia in South America.

6)   Earlier this year I did an internet search for my friend from Colombia and discovered that he had died in the 1990s.  He had fallen while doing his circus act.  He was in his 50s at the time.

7)  The year before I started my solo show business career I had contemplated walking from Tennessee to California and then eventually to Peru to discover the mysteries of the Incas.  At the time I believed that the Incan society was founded by aliens from another planet.

           And now for some other versatile bloggers who are deserving of this award and I don't think have received it yet:

1.   Jules at Trying to Get Over the Rainbow--  She is a very versatile writer whom you should visit if you haven't been to her blog yet.

2.   Ruby at Blabbin' Grammy --- Ruby is such a fine lady and those who read her blog tend to become endeared to it.  She recently pulled up stakes from living for I don't know how long in East Tennessee and moved to Texas.  What an adventurer!

3.   Andrew Green at Who Wants Taters??? -- Now here's a different sort of movie review blog.  Andrew posts a story or essay that is usually very funny and then relates it to an equally funny movie review.  This is a very clever and unique approach and I think you might enjoy checking out his blog.

4.  Marguerite at Cajun Delights -- Actually she has received this award once, but I just wanted to spread the word about her wonderful blog for those of you who haven't visited it yet.  She blogs about life in the Louisiana bayou country and food.   And let me warn you right now:  If you go to this site hungry, prepare to head to the kitchen to start whipping up something to eat after you read her blog.   She has some of the best recipes.

5.  Dan at The Saga of the Concrete Jungle --  Since one of the purposes of "awards" is to call attention to blogs that deserve some attention, I periodically like to direct my readers to this blog.  Dan posts poems and song lyrics on Tuesdays and essays on Thursdays.  He is a very fine writer.  I encourage all of you to stop by his blog as much as you can and leave your comments.   He will not visit your blog because he has no internet access.   Dan is in prison and is unable to use the internet.  His sister posts his articles for him.  If you comment he will answer, although it will take a few weeks since he must correspond with his sister through the mail.  He would really appreciate having readers for what he writes and getting comments about what he is writing.   I hope you will consider at least taking a look his blog and at least saying hi to him.  

Have a great weekend and be back on Monday.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Publicity Photo

                The photo that now appears in my header was taken in the early spring of 1976.    Since the name of my blog makes a reference to my background as a juggler, I decided that I would add the personal touch with a photo of me related to juggling.   Today I will explain what this photo represents.







      By the summer of 1975, I had found myself at a place in my life where the road into my future was diverging toward uncertainties and I was faced with having to make a decision about what I was going to do next with my life.  Three of my friends and I had just been ousted from a beautiful mountain cabin we had been sharing and living in for the previous four months.  Now I was suddenly back living at home with my parents at age twenty-four. 

        Out of work and running low on money, I felt stuck in a rut.  I had sold my van months before and was dependent on my parents or friends for transportation.   I needed to find a way out of the mess I had gotten into. 

         In late June, I started working with a show promoter in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He was promoting a show where my family's juggling act was going to be performing in July.  I made some spending money helping to sell tickets and advertising for this show.

          Performing with us was a magician and his wife--Ken Griffin and Roberta.  They had a touring stage show that was nationally known.  After working with them on this show, my parents invited them over for dinner at our house.  Apparently I had impressed them with my helpfulness to them at the show we were working and during the course of their visit with us they offered me a job.   It was perfect timing for me.  I readily accepted.

          My family had one more upcoming date with the Emmett Kelly Jr. Circus and it was decided that I should play that show with our juggling act before meeting up with the Griffins in Durham, North Carolina. We played our show with the circus in Cleveland, Tennessee and the next morning I was on a Greyhound bus to Durham with my juggling equipment and personal belongings.  My career as a solo performer had begun.

          By the end of the year the Griffins and I had ended up in Terre Haute, Indiana working on show promoting.  I was really enjoying the performing and the travelling.  This was my kind of life.   The show promoting was not my favorite part, but the thrill of the performances was a lot of fun. 

           Spring of 1976 found us in the small town of Spencer, Indiana where we were promoting a show that we were to be performing in a lovely old vaudeville theater.  Since I was now hooked on the show biz life working on my own as a performer, I had come to the conclusion that I would be doing this for a while.  The Griffins were very happy with me and wanted to keep me on board with their show.

           They needed me to have photos made to be included in the press kit they sent out for show publicity.   While in Spencer I found a photography studio where I arranged to have my photos done.  Donning one of the tuxedos I used for my juggling act, I went for the photo shoot.  The color photo used in the header was basically a vanity shot for me to have and to give to my parents.  The actual publicity shots intended for reproduction in newspapers and the like had to be in black and white.  One of these publicity photos can be seen below.


           This shot was reproduced in various newspaper articles throughout the United States about shows in which I was going to be appearing.  In fact, I even used this photo for publicity after I left the Ken Griffin Show in 1977.  Below are a couple of examples of articles that used this photo.


                 This article from THE MORNING REPORTER in Morgantown, West Virginia is dated May 27, 1977 announces a show that would be taking place a few days later on June 1.   The paper felt that my story was newsworthy since my parents had both come from the Morgantown area.   I would often submit a photo and story in towns where I had some connection and the stories were almost always published.









     
 Here's a story from the front page of the May 12, 1977 edition of the BARNESVILLE ENTERPRISE in Barnesville, Ohio.   I'm not sure why they used my photo for this story.  I was not the "famed magician".  Maybe someone at the paper just liked my photo better than the other ones in the press kit.   Needless to say I was kind of pleased to my photo on the front page of the paper.

           That is the story of the origin of this funky 70s photograph.   At the same time I took these, I also had photos taken of me with my violin since I was billed as The Juggling Violinist.  I don't think any of those photos were ever used for newspaper articles; at least I don't have any articles with any of those photos.  Perhaps one day I'll post the violin photos. 

            Have you had professional photos taken for press purposes or book jackets?   Did you go to a photographer who specialized in this sort of photography, a regular portait photographer, or someone else?  Do you have a press kit assembled to send out for publicity and other purposes? 

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Tossing It Out Tuesday: Blog Remodeling

        It's been a long time coming, but I finally made the plunge in changing the look of my blog page.  I'm nowhere near where I would like to be, but at least I took the first step.  I kind of miss my old page--it was so simple.  Now I have to figure out some of the other things I'd like to do with my page.  So, I'm going to turn to you for your advice, know-how, suggestions, and what have you.

        I'm going to toss out to you what I'm thinking about doing and if you happen to know how to do it you can toss out that information back to me.   You can tell me if you've tried some of these things and how they worked for you and if they are still working. 

        Here are some of the things I would like to add:

 Title -- I've added a picture to my header, but I've got this big empty space next to it where I'd like to put my blog title.   I keep messing around with this but I can't seem to figure out how to move my blog title into that space and use a larger and perhaps different font.    Does anyone have an idea how I can do this?

  Tabs --  A while back Blogger sent a notification that we could add tabs to our blogs so there could be additional pages just like a regular website.  I didn't do anything at that time and now I cannot seem to find anything about it.  Can someone tell me if this can still be done and where do I go to find out how?  If you've done this to your blog, how's it working for you and do you like it?

On Page Stat Counter -- I've found many of these and I'm wondering if it's worth having on my site and which is the best.  I currently have Google Analytics and have noticed that I can now put a counter on my page.  I tried the Analytics counter but the number that it gave was different than what the Analytics stat page showed.  Any thoughts about on-site counters?  Do you pay attention to them?   How about those nifty little widgets with the flags that show where in the world your visits come from?  I personally don't pay much attention to them, but they look kind of cool.  Any thoughts on those?

Slideshows --- I've got all of these awards and buttons and stuff on my sidebar and they are really taking space.  I was thinking about making a separate page for these if I can figure out the thing with the tabs.  However, I also have seen the slideshows that some of you have put up to display the awards and those look rather attractive.   Do the slideshows cause the page to load slower for your visitors?  Or do you prefer the the awards and such on a separate page where most visitors will probably rarely go?   All I know is that I seriously need to clean up my sidebar.

 Other Stuff-- Are there any gadgets or widgets or other thingamajigs that you think I could use on my page?   I see pages out there that are absolutely dazzling with all sorts of sparkling and moving things on them, but I've also had people say that these are difficult to load.  I don't really need fancy-schmancy since I'm mainly concerned with written word blog content.  But if you can think of any other buttons or doodads that might be good for my site I'd love to hear your suggestions. 

          I'm sure the answers to my questions can be found online somewhere, but if someone is able to just come up with answers for me it would save me time.  A lot of you have already been redesigning your own blogs and have probably run into some of the things I'm asking about.  Perhaps others are wondering the same things that I am.  This is a good time to share some knowledge and maybe even gain some new knowledge.  

          We're listening--what can you tell us?  Anyone want to rate my blog appearance as it stands now?   If you have already changed your blog look, how much of a challenge was it for you?   If you haven't changed anything and are considering it, what's holding you back?

          On Thursday I'll tell you about the photo that I added to my header.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

What Did You Say?

         Do you like to use impressive words or would you rather impress with your use of words? 

          I've always enjoyed building my vocabulary with interesting new words.  One of my favorite Reader's Digest features is the one about building one's vocabulary.  Spelling and vocabulary were two of my favorite subjects in school.  Like many of you, I like to have a good knowledge of words and to be sure that I am using the best and most correct words when I am writing.  However, I do find it somewhat annoying when I have to continually refer to a dictionary when I am reading.

         The average reading level of adults in the United States is typically cited as being somewhere between sixth and ninth grade, depending on what source is citing the statistic.  It's probably safe to say that the typical newspaper or popular magazine is pretty representative of the reading level of the average American.  Many, probably most, modern fiction books are written at a level that is easily understandable to the average middle school student.  

         Just the other day I was reading an excerpt of a scholarly treatise on a philosophical topic.  As I read--or tried to read--I couldn't help but shake my head in amazement at the lack of clarity due to the author's usage of obscure terminology.  This author was probably writing for a very specific audience that may have been very familiar with the terms, but as a layman I was not impressed.  This approach is common in academic writing, but could it be done better?

          Okay, bad example--academia is a world unto itself.  But thinking about literature or popular fiction, can an author capture a large readership with the appeal of large or uncommonly used words?   In the nineteenth century, many of the authors deemed as "the greats" seemed to be able to write in a more educated sounding style probably because their audiences were often more educated.   Later as the printed media began to reach a broader audience, the style and vocabulary became simpler.

         I don't have much of a problem with this "dumbing down" of literature because I want to read more quickly without having to stop to figure out what I've just read.   I'm more interested in straight-forward creative writing that gets the point across quickly and uniquely,  I'll take an uncommon metaphor or a precisely detailed description as long as it doesn't bog down my reading, unless I'm reading some artsy piece which I am expecting to bog me down.  There's nothing quite as bad as reading a fast paced action scene and having to stop to look up a word--give it to me straight and simple.

         That's the way I try to write.  Sure, I might throw in a more uncommonly used word now and then, but I try to do it in slow paced sections where thought is required anyway.  Pedantic language is good for pacing. When you want the flow to go, go, go then terse stacatto and fluid phrasing makes the read move with the action you are trying to depict. 

           Not many of the writers who are reading this are trying to write scholarly tomes.  If you are, I hope you receive a grant to pay your way.  If you try to write over the heads of your potential audience to show them how brilliant you are, then you may find that your audience will be very limited.  Most of the reading audience is not looking to be dazzled by erudition, but to be entertained by good writing that provides them with a rewarding experience of story and message.

          "My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way."     — Ernest Hemingway  

               
         What's your take on this?   Do you make an extra effort to add more obscure or less often used vocabulary to your writing?    How would you classify your style of writing?   Who are some of the writers you admire the most?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Surprise! I'm Playing Tag On My First Saturday Off

            Okay, here's one of those special Saturday posts that I was mentioning last week.   Last Saturday I was tagged by Alex J. Cavanaugh of CassaStar fame, so I'm back this Saturday to follow-up.

Here's the deal:

Rules:

Write down (by hand!) on a piece of paper the following:

1. Name, Blog Name
2. Right handed, left handed, or both?
3. Favorite letters to write
4. Least favorite letters to write
5. Write out "the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog"
6. Write in CAPS: BABOON, SPLENDOR, ONOMATOPOEIA, FLIP-FLOPS, HUZZAH!
7. Favorite song lyrics
8. Tag 7 people (or like Alex and me you can tag 3 if you've got other things to do)
9. Whatever else strikes your fancy

So for you graphologists out there, here I am for analysis:
























        I couldn't think of any song lyrics, especially since I usually don't listen much to lyrics or remember them, so I used the lyrics to a song I wrote back in the late 70s.  The song is called "(Do You Wanna Go) Back On the Road Again" and is from a musical that I was writing at that time.  I can remember my own lyrics.

        And now on to the part I always find most difficult:  thinking of those who might not have gotten tagged yet and might enjoy playing tag.  If this were real tag I wouldn't be playing since I don't like to run-- or at least my heart doesn't like it.   Here are my tags for the handwriting game:

1.    Gregg at Gospel Driven Disciples --- He recently celebrated his 500th post.  He's pretty good natured about doing stuff like this. 

2.   Yvonne at Welcome to my World of Poetry -- Her comment when Alex did this was, "How glad I escaped the handwriting tag. thank you for choosing men."   Unlike Alex I am not going to discriminate.  Come on--you know you want to do it!  And if you don't want to do the handwriting and all that's involved with that, you can write a poem about handwriting.   Or you can do both!

3.  The Golden Eagle at the Eagle's Aerial Perspective-- She said to Alex, "Your handwriting is way easier to read than mine is!"    Okay, show us!  Let the readers be the judge.


Also today I'm accepting an award:



       Yvonne at Welcome To My World Of Poetry has given me an apt award:  The Go Away, I'm Writing Award.


         Thank you Yvonne.   I don't know that I'm supposed to pass this on, but since I'm supposed to be writing I guess I can just opt out.   So if you will please excuse me I need to go and write.  See you later.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Wreck in the Canyon

         Imagination always trumps reality when you're a kid.  Why settle for some mundane explanation when the fantastical will surely make far more sense?   That's the way I saw the abandoned car in the canyon behind the school I attended in the early 1960s in San Diego, California.

         San Diego was far less developed at that time and the vast neighborhoods that were growing on Clairemont Mesa were interwoven with a network of canyons that seemed wild and mysterious to us kids.  During recess at Riley Elementary School I would sometimes stand at the chain link fence that separated the playground from the depths of one such canyon and gaze into the wild place.

          Across the canyon I could see what I had been told was Kearney Mesa--another developing area with more houses and businesses.  That might as well had been another far off country separated by the undeveloped canyon.  Kearney Mesa was interesting, but the canyon lured my sense of adventure.

          At the bottom of the canyon was an old car that I had decided had crashed at the foot of a dirt road that pitched steeply from the opposite rim of the canyon down the embankment to the canyon floor where it forked into diverging directions.  I was convinced that the car had lost control many years ago to come to its current resting place.  Undoubtedly the bodies of the occupants were still inside.  At the very least, perhaps the unfortunate victims had managed to get out to safety, having left something of value in the car.  I knew that I must eventually get to this car so that I could make my tremendous discovery and become a hero.

         Unsure as to why no one else seemed to have noticed the wrecked car in the canyon, I would periodically go to the playground fence, my fingers poking through the mesh as I grasped hold and furtively surveyed the expanse of the canyon.  Finally, my gaze would rest upon the old car.  When summer came I was going to go down there to check it out.

          The canyon was like a playground to me.  I never saw any of the other neighborhood kids down there, but I guess it was just so big that we never encountered each other,  Then again maybe it was such a treacherous ordeal getting down there that none of the other kids were brave enough to go.  I was an adventurer and a climb down a brush covered canyon slope was not going to hinder me.

           After summer had arrived, I organized my expedition of fellow explorers.  My younger sister, Joy, and our friend Ross, who lived across the street from us, agreed to accompany me to the site.  On that morning we went to the school, which was closed for the summer, and made our way along the outside of the playground fence until we found what appeared to be a trail down into the canyon.  We wended our way into the canyon, always on the lookout for rattlesnakes.

          My body tingled with anticipation as we neared the old car.  Dust kicked up by our steps quickly settled in the dry stillness of the warm morning.  Crossing the dirt road in the canyon bottom, we found ourselves standing before the rusting hulk of a car of unknown make or date.  There were no bodies--not even skeletal remains.  There was not even a sign of dried blood.   The occupants had apparently escaped with their lives.

           We discussed among ourselves what we might be looking for now in this wreck.  Circling the car and peering inside it was pretty obvious that there was nothing left in the car.  The cracked and torn weathered upholstery smelled musty dusty.  The glove compartment was empty--not even a map.  I would have at least liked to have found an old map.  The gauges were still intact in the dashboard.  If there had been a way to remove them I would have done so.  I would have liked to have had the gauges.

          Looking around the crash site we could see a few old beer bottles and little else other than the brown dry vegetation that blanketed most of the canyon.    I concluded that the car had been there for a very long time--perhaps before I was born, which had been about ten years prior to this day.  There was no cache of gold or stash of cash.  There was not even a bit of loose change on the floorboard.  Our mission here was finished.

          The sun was climbing high.  The midday heat and the dry dusty canyon was making us thirsty.  A cold bottle of Coca-Cola would have been nice right then.  We decided to head back home.  There wasn't any Coke there, but there was sure to be some Kool-Aid and that would be good too--so would some lunch for that matter.

          Before heading back up the canyon trail, I stopped to look up the dirt road that disappeared into the canyon.  That road probably hadn't been travelled since the days of stagecoaches and cowboys on horseback.  I wouldn't go there on this day, but I decided that one day I'd be back to explore where that road went.  I was pretty sure that there was probably a long lost band of Indians living up there somewhere.
       
           What kind of adventures spurred by imagination did you have as a child?   We roamed pretty freely as children never feeling very unsafe:  How do you think today's environment affects the imagination of children? 

            On Saturday I will have my first special post as I play "tag" and acknowledge an award.  I hope you will join my then.