LAMENT FOR A TREE

•August 9, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Tree isolated. Acer saccharum mapleThere is an empty lot in our neighborhood that is now much emptier.

Located at the end of our street, the vacant lot was almost park-like because of the large, oak tree that grew close to the edge of the canal–overlooking the water. The property must have always been “undeveloped”–at least since the neighborhood and canal were built–as the oak tree seemed too large and old to have ever shared the space with a dwelling.

I never enjoyed the shade of that tree. I never sat and looked up at the epiphytes living within its branches or looked down at the ants crawling over its roots. I never got closer than admiring it while walking, running, biking or driving by. But, there were few times in passing that I did not notice–and admire–the grand old tree and smile.

Today that tree came down in a crashing collapse of branches fracturing on the hard  ground–shockwaves coursing through the streets–mighty limbs dismembered by chainsaws and deep roots ripped from the ground by a backhoe.

The vacant lot will likely be developed–soon. It is private property after all and the position and size of the tree made the placement of a house (particularly since the norm is really too overbearing for any waterfront lot) impossible. 

Regardless of how the lot is filled, that space (and the neighborhood) will always be a little bit emptier without that magnificent tree.

 

Cousteau Day 2018: Celebrate!

•June 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

jacques-cousteau-v1-1It’s difficult to put into words how much I was influenced by the work of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. As a young boy I read of his adventures in National Geographic Magazine, spent many an evening laying on the living room floor watching his television series and specials and was an early member of The Cousteau Society.

Because of Cousteau and the love of the oceans he instilled in me, I learned to Scuba dive in eighth grade and devoured more and more books on the marine environment and its creatures.

The Cousteau Society and Captain Cousteau informed and inspired my environmental thinking. I devoured the Cousteau Almanac–an exhaustive compilation of facts and figures related to human impacts on our water planet. It was a ground-breaking work and something I wish was duplicated again today.

And while I never became the marine biologist I thought I might, I’ve always maintained my interest in and kept contact with the oceans–whether through my relationships with others more directly involved in marine research or simply paddling my surfski or kayak.

Cousteau’s inspiration continues to permeate how I think about the world, what I’ve recently written (Wendall’s Lullaby) and my current writing project (Delphys Rising). Join me in celebrating the birthday of a man who was a pioneer and a champion for the home planet we (somewhat erroneously) call Earth.

Calypso by John Denver

IndieReader 2018 Discovery Awards Review

•June 6, 2018 • Leave a Comment

While my first novel Wendall’s Lullaby didn’t win an award, the jury from IndieReader wrote a nice review:

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WENDALL’S LULLABY is an intricate mystery with thought-provoking and heartbreaking moral questions, believable government conspiracies, lives both human and cetacean on the line, and a bit of romance. The science is plausible, the characters mostly likeable, and the plot, especially near the end, full of enough twists and turns to keep the reader fully engaged with the story.

Little things like positive reviews and book sales are great motivators for any writer. They certainly help make it easier to sit at the keyboard and work through the tough spots in my current work-in-progress–Delphys Rising. So, if you’ve read and enjoyed Wendall’s Lullaby–please take the time to leave a review on Facebook, Amazon and/or Goodreads. Even a few lines can help keep me motivated and will also get you that much closer to reading the sequel.

“Productive” Writing Days

•April 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Man TypingNot all productive writing sessions are about scenes and dialogue flowing from fingers flying across the keyboard and ending with a huge word count. Don’t get me wrong–I do like those days. But word count is not the end-all be-all for a novelist.

COVER COMPLETE WENDALL'S LULLABY 2The completion and publishing of Wendall’s Lullaby was originally all about exorcism for me–casting out the demons of a nearly complete but unfinished work that had been languishing for nearly eight years so that I could justify starting a new writing project. But completing the novel reawakened my interest in and enthusiasm for the subject matter and the characters. The re-discovered notes for a sequel only compounded those feelings.

So on the blank backsides of scrap paper I started fleshing out the old and new characters. I outlined–some. Before my outlining–my story arc–was complete my enthusiasm got the best of me and I sat down at the keyboard and started writing. To say I was “in the flow” would be an understatement–easily writing a few thousand words each session. I hit a bit of a block at about 35,000 words, did a little research and brainstorming and did well until I hit about 45,000 words. Then I struggled again–getting to the just-under 50,000 word mark before I realized my ideas weren’t fully developed beyond that point.

The realization came as I tried to write new scenes and kept having to retreat to the last few new ones I’d written–and rationalizing that my little tweaks and additions to those were “progress.” It was, but not what I needed to start flowing through the last third of my story.

Delphys Rising screenshotToday I came to grips with that realization and rallied to spend most of my writing session in my head–alternately sitting at my desk scrawling notes, pacing through the house, staring through the trees swaying in the wind and taking some photos of the cats. My real breakthrough came early on–digging through notes I’d buried during last week’s cleaning of my office and finding a page scrawled with potential plot directions and twists. Viola!

While I know that some of the directions I’ll be going in the last third of the book will require some rewriting of previous chapters and scenes to add the needed nuances, I’m going to resist the urge to jump back and instead press forward until I reach the end of the first draft.

I’m just happy that I didn’t let myself get caught up–or caught–today by the need to conquer a certain word count. Instead I managed to step back and have a conceptually productive day that will lead to future days of flying fingers.

JUNK MAIL UPDATE: 1 YEAR LATER

•March 29, 2018 • 1 Comment

mail-4Sometime in the fall of 2016 we realized that the hundreds of pieces of mail my father received daily were not only junk, but junk that was coercively (and misleadingly) soliciting donations. Unfortunately, for many reasons, he was not well-equipped to discern the truly coercive pleas of disreputable organizations from the very few solicitations of “reputable charities.”

Several actions over the last year or more contributed to the eventual slow-down of junk mail addressed to my dad:

  1. HE MOVED–and instead of forwarding his mail to his new apartment we had it forwarded to our house. We did not do a true change of address of any kind. Amazingly, it wasn’t long before we were receiving mail addressed to my dad at our address in addition to forwarded mail from his old address.
  2. PHONE CALLS–for some reason I hate the phone. So my wife (THANK YOU JULES)made phone calls to the “charities” and organizations that were soliciting with junk mail. She made calls (sometimes multiples) to over 800 distinct entities. Some took all of my web search skills to find phone numbers as it’s not uncommon for junk mail to have no phone number (“phone numbers are so old skool!”) on their letterhead. This was the most effective at stopping the flow of junk.
  3. EMAILS–for those for which we couldn’t find phone numbers I sent emails, Facebook messages or submitted forms on their websites.
  4. SNAIL MAIL–when we were particularly outraged or when the other methods seemed not to work we used their pre-paid reply envelopes to send passionately scrawled replies imploring them to stop–sometimes we just raged and other times we tried to appeal to their humanity.

Extreme measures? It was an extreme (but not uncommon) case.

SASE outgoing junk mailToday, on most days we receive less than six pieces (down from 50-100) of mail addressed to my dad. I don’t expect that we will ever be completely free of his junk mail–but at least it is no longer going to his mailbox! One of my lawyer friends tells me that their office still gets mail for clients that have been dead for years. But it is nice to know that ours has finally trickled down to a mere annoyance.

The take-home on a personal level? Be nosey. Be present. Be strong in confronting parents or grandparents about this kind of thing. Ruffle their feathers. Confront them. Don’t be passive.

The take-home on a broader level? The government–senior agencies, post office etc.–is doing little to nothing to address this type of elder abuse and fraud. They don’t have the will or the resources. It’s up to us–you and I–to continue to spread the word.

 

 

REAL WORLD TRAGEDY IN AUSTRALIA

•March 23, 2018 • Leave a Comment

https___blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.com_uploads_card_image_739970_f60a6eab-52e7-4ea7-be5c-9e12a84121c4Over 135 short-finned pilot whales died after standing on a beach south of Perth, Australia this week. Read more about the event HERE.

It’s real-world tragedies such as this that were some of the inspiration for events in my first novel, Wendall’s Lullaby –even though mass strandings of bottlenose dolphins are very rare. Part of me wanted to make the fictional tragedy something to which more people could relate–since bottlenose dolphins are perhaps (due to television, movies and dolphinariums) the cetacean species most recognizable to humans.

COVER COMPLETE WENDALL'S LULLABY 2In Wendall’s Lullaby, hundreds of dolphins beach themselves in Galveston, Texas, Virginia Beach, Virginia and on an island off the coast of Mozambique. The characters know that these events are more than unusual. And even with the possible cause of the mass strandings of other species only being discovered 50% of the time or less, Dr. Angela Clarke and the other scientists in my novel must press on to determine the cause–especially when more dolphins mass and start showing pre-stranding behavior in the waters of Tampa Bay, Florida.

Unravel the mystery by reading my first novel!

DR. MENKE: Marine Mammal Veterinarian in Wendall’s Lullaby

•March 5, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Minke_Whale_(NOAA)Dr. Aldo Menke is one of the main characters in my novel Wendall’s Lullaby. I derived his name from the minke whale–the second smallest of the baleen whales. He is a veterinarian that specializes in the care and rehabilitation of marine mammals–especially bottlenose dolphins.

Here is an excerpt about Dr. Menke from Wendall’s Lullaby:

MARINE MAMMAL VETFollowing his return to the US in 1971, Menke opted to stay in the Army, but instead of requesting the opportunity to attend medical school, he decided to attend veterinary school at the University of California–Davis. His Navy friend Collins worked a deal to have him assigned as an intern/assistant to the Army veterinarians who supervised the care of the dolphins, belugas, and sea lions in the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program (NMMP). Collins also made sure that Menke had the transportation to make the long trip at least once a week. Upon graduation, he joined the NMMP vet team full-time. Within five years, he was the head veterinarian. Over the course of more than 20 years, he managed captive breeding programs, assisted with, and lead, a variety of research projects, got to know several hundred dolphins and sea lions, met a number of SEALs and managed the transition to exclusive, marine mammal specific special operations teams (MSOTs).

How did Dr. Menke become involved in the political intrigue and conspiracies in Wendall’s Lullaby? Well you’ll just have to read my novel to find out.

 
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