Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Inspector Morse - A Memorable Character Fathers Memorable Characters

John Thaw studied Colin Dexter's books, befriended the author, and for millions and millions of fans, became Inspector Morse.  The show consisted of 33 episodes, running from 1987 - 2000, until John Thaw could not continue.  He passed away February 21, 2002, at age 60.

John Thaw left us much too soon, and time has not come close to erasing his memory.  That's why Inspector Lewis, and his assistant, Detective Sergeant Hathaway,  now star in their own series, Inspector Lewis, also based on the characters created by Colin Dexter.

In spite of Keven Whatley's and Lawrence Fox's acclaimed work in the series, we still miss Inspector Morse, and we know in our heart he will never be replaced, not even by Inspector Lewis.

And now, Russell Lewis, the creator of Endeavour, has stepped to the plate and hit another home run based on Colin Dexter characters, this time with a difference.  The character is Morse himself, a younger version.

Will that work?  BBC thought it would, and contracted for a pilot.  It aired in Jan
2012 and was so well received, they contracted for four more episodes.  They ran in April and May of this year to the delight of upward of six and a half million Morse fans (not including those of us in the United States).  So BBC jumped for another set of Endeavour - I'd guess that decision didn't require a lot of board room discussion.

Do I recommend it?  UNCONDITIONALLY!  It's a do not miss, in fact I rent it by the episode, and I've purchased the entire series to watch while we wait for next years renderings.

Many authors have created characters that were so memorable they continued to live long after the book was out of print, and even after the author passed away.  Character longevity only happens when the characters step off the pages into the hearts of the readers.  Atticus is still a popular boy's name in my part of the world, and I've met two Scouts.  Amazingly, the Scouts, both of them have been so indoctrinated in the lore of To Kill A Mockingbird, they have become Scout, at least they have become the Scout I think of when I recall the book.

To create characters like that, characters who come to life and walk beside readers forever, takes a lot work, but more than that, characters like that only come from the pen of authors who are willing to live in the world of the characters they create.


Kids Say The Darnedest Things - Listen and Learn

by Bert Carson

My day job puts me in Day Care Centers an average of 4 days every week, which normally adds up to 30 - 45 hours a week.  That means I get to hear, and often participate in, conversations that I wouldn't otherwise hear or participate in.

I've learned that Art Linkletter was right, kids do say the darnedest things.  And, after listening to those things for a number of years, I have realized why kids say the darnedest things.  Up until a certain age, which varies from child to child, kids see a different world than the one adults see and operate in in.  The basis of a kid's world is memories of the world they've come from - the world William Wordsworth spoke of when he said:

The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
        Hath had elsewhere its setting,
          And cometh from afar:
        Not in entire forgetfulness,
        And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
        From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
        Upon the growing Boy...

                  William Wordsworth - Ode Intimations of Immortality... 

The darnedest things part comes when a child attempts to incorporate those rapidly fading memories into the world he or she is being indoctrinated with - the ego world they are building from the bits and pieces we adults are giving them to work with.

I've learned a couple of things from my time in day care centers.  First, and maybe most important among them is, when a child is sharing memories of those places he or she recalls from before they found themselves in this place, listen to what they are saying.  As they talk, let your consciousness drift back in time to the place they are speaking of, after all, you were once there.  In your recollection, allow yourself to live again with the wonder you had before you confined your consciousness to the box you constructed from adult misinformation.  The box you call, Things I Believe.

And second, don't give a child information you have not verified in your personal experience.  They already have a lot of erroneous information to deal with, and its constantly pouring into their consciousness like the Niagara Rivers cascades over the three famous falls that we collectively call Niagara Falls.  Surprise, there is no Niagara Falls, in spite of what we have been told.  See how easy it is to receive and pass on bad information.  Don't do that to our children.  They do not need you or me or the nightly news adding to their misinformation load.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

FedEx - UPS - David Gore - And Writing

by Bert Carson

United Portrait Studio, a three person company, of which I'm one of the persons, supports my writing habit. In five years, the three of us have established a base of approximately two hundred customers (primarily day care centers) in four states.

Adrienne Wall, our partner, takes the children's photos.  Christina (my wife) and I show and sell (no pun intended) the portraits to the children's parents and grandparents.  Between Adrienne taking the photos and our showing them, is Advanced Photographic Solutions, our processing lab of choice.

The internet and telephone connect us to the lab.  FedEx connects the lab to us.  Actually, the last statement isn't accurate.  David Gore connects us to the lab.  That's David, in the photo, standing beside his truck.  David is a FedEx contractor.  He owns the truck.  I took that picture Monday when I met him on the downtown portion of his route at mid-morning to get a package from the lab that would have been delivered in the afternoon.

In case you're thinking, what's the big deal, let me tell you the rest of the story.  Advanced Photographic Solutions has a worldwide customer base.  Each customer chooses his or her method of shipment.  Advanced has a contract with United Parcel Service which, among other things, (I do not know the details of) gives them late afternoon, dedicated pick-up service from UPS, while FedEx picks up at the lab an hour, sometimes two hours, earlier.  In spite of that, I choose FedEx for all of my deliveries.

Why do I choose FedEx?  Two reasons. David Gore and the bitch-from-hell who formerly delivered UPS packages to us.  I don't care about the hour or so difference in pick up time at the lab - Bob Montgomery, my wizard Account Manager at Advanced, takes care of that.  I only care about the last fifty feet of the shipment's journey - from the truck to the box on my front porch.

The UPS bitch-from-hell made it clear from the beginning that those last fifty feet were a mine field in a war zone, and she was going to win the battle every time, no matter what the cost to me or United Parcel Service.  David Gore, on the other hand, makes it clear to me that United Portrait Studios is the most important customer on his route.  Therein lies the difference.

A year or so ago, FedEx shifted us from morning delivery to afternoon delivery.  I told David there would be times that wouldn't work for us.  He smiled, like he does all of the time, and said, "No problem."  He reached in his pocket, came out with a card, and said, "Here is my cell phone number.  Call me if you need a package before I arrive and I'll meet you and give it to you.  If, for some reason, it's not on my truck, I'll find it and get it to you."

I have a new UPS driver and he is outstanding, but the memory of the bitch-from-hell is still there, and I have an idea it always will be.  But of even greater import is the sure knowledge that David Gore has my back - that's why I continue to choose FedEx over UPS and every other shipping company.

What does that have to do with writing?

Everything.  David Gore knows that I'm his customer and that customers like me keep the wheels of his truck turning.  He also knows that I have the final choice on how my orders are shipped.  To keep my packages on his truck, he has to give me the service I expect, and he does, plus a whole lot more.

I'm a writer.  My customers are my readers.  If I'm going to be a successful writer, I must write the way David Gore delivers.  I must give my readers more than they expect.  Not with one book but with every book.  I must take impeccable care of the details - formatting, editing, research, cover design, and my stories have to be, not good, but outstanding.

When I deliver every book, every blog, every tweet, every Facebook comment that way, then my readers will know they can count on me the way I count on David Gore, and then I'll be a successful writer.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Running and Writing

by Bert Carson

As of July 2, 2013, I've been a runner for thirty-four years.  Twelve days into my thirty-fifth year of running, I've finally answered a question I've often asked myself; "Why do I run at night?"
Before I tell you the answer that came to me last night at 10 PM as I cut through the deserted Huntsville Library parking lot, let me give you a bit of history.

Since I stepped out of my front door at 9 PM, July 2, 1979, and took my first shaky steps, I've been a runner.  By that I mean I've run at least 900 miles every one of those years, averaging 1,100 - 1,200 miles per year.  I'm not fast and falling on my face in the dark isn't ever in the top ten things I want to do on any given day, so my pace isn't fast.  Fourteen to fifteen minutes per mile these days.  That means, at an average of 1,000 miles per year and 15 minutes per mile, I've spent 510,000 minutes running, which works out to 8,500 hours, or 212 forty hour work weeks, which is more than four years of work, without vacations or holidays.

Now, back to the original question.  Why do I run at night?  The answer is so simple I'm surprised it hasn't run me down on a late night run.  I run at night because running is just a platform for something else.  That something is writing.

At least 90% of my running time is actually writing time.  The remainder of my running time is spent dodging traffic and looking for potholes, mud puddles, and other obstacles.  

When I was a professional speaker, I wrote and rehearsed presentations while I ran.  Now that I'm a writer and blogger, I write novels and blogs while I run.  Why not run in the day light?  The answer, for me, is simple.  There are too many distractions in the light of day.  At night, I'm reluctant to give up 10% of my run time to traffic and road hazards, but I do it because I've learned the hard way that if I don't, I'll spend more time pulling myself out of a ditch.  If I ran during the day, I'd give a lot more than 10% of my running time to distractions.

So, if you're a writer, and you aren't interested in running through your town after hours, there's good news.  Running isn't required to write.  However, what is required is finding a place where you can send your consciousness to write.  You know where that place is, don't miss an opportunity to go there.  Go there often, stay long, write well.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Writing - First and Second

Billie Jean King, former World Number One women's tennis player, said of Martina Navratilova, "She is the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who has ever lived."

Martina's list of championships is way too long for me to include in this post.  Suffice it to say, Billie Jean King wasn't kidding.

At the beginning of her career, I'll guess  that to be 1980 or 1981, I happened to see Martina on the David Letterman Show.  The day before the Letterman interview, she won a championship in Texas.  Immediately afterwards, she flew to New York to tape the show.  The morning of the Letterman show, she got up early and practiced two hours before she taped the interview.

At some point during the interview, Letterman asked, "Martina, when did you realize that you could become a tennis champion?"

She settled back in her chair, considered the question like it was an opponent's serve, smiled, and then said, "When I was young, maybe five or six years old, I realized that I was good.  When I got that, really got it, I began to wonder how good I could be if I worked hard to develop my talent.  And that's what I've done."

The two steps taken by the woman who became the best ever in tennis could be equally applied to writers with, I'm sure, the same results.

1.  Discover your talent and own it.
2.  Work tirelessly to develop your talent.

If you do that, then one day John Grisham or J.K. Rowling will say of you, "(insert your name) is the greatest novelist who has ever lived."

If you think that is impossible, it is. 

If you like the sound of it and are willing to work tirelessly to develop your talent, then you should expect the impossible.

Remember, #1. and #2. come before agents, publishers, queries, book covers, book descriptions, social media, marketing, branding, reviews - before everything else.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Degrees of Separation = 0

Lizzie Lessard's Avatar

Times have changed for more than a few of us, and that includes you or you wouldn't be reading this.

This morning, before going to work on Lessons Learned, a novel in progress, I decided to take a few minutes to check my email.  There I found and responded to an email from my friend Renee Pawlish.

Judyann McCole
Then I found notification of a new comment on a Triberr tribe from Judyann McCole I checked it out and discovered that Judyann wanted to share review/blogs.  I responded and in minutes we had struck up a friendship that will, on July 26th, manifest as a co-book review.

Yoda and M.R. Mathias
I moved down the email list and found a request from Lizzie Lessard to be  elevated from "follower" to "blogger" on the Writers and Readers Triberr Tribe (I'm the Tribe Chief).  I went to her site, took one look and then promoted her.

In a couple of seconds I was back on Lizzie's site reading her blog,  Shelved For Life - Badly Behaving Authors #1.  The first author she mentioned was M.R. Mathis (see the picture above) who is a favorite author and a Twitter friend, so I sent him a link to Lizzie's blog.

Christine Padovan
Then, before I exited Rob's Twitter Home page, I read a tweet from Christine Padovan that read, Recording 'The Confliction' by shortly - The Emerald Rider, 4th in the series is out now with rave reviews: .
That got my attention because I am beginning the process to have my books recorded as Audible Books.  So I went to Christine's website, was blown away, recovered, and sent her a tweet inviting her to submit an audition for one of my books on the ACX audition board.

Before my coffee went cold and the pigeons finished the cracked corn I had scattered under the feeders for them before I opened my email, I had been in touch with:

Lizzie Lessard - Renee Pawlish - Judyann McCole - M.R. Mathias - and Christine Padovan -

I took the last sip of coffee - thought - There is no separation - and exchanged comments with my Buddy, Caleb Pirtle of Venture Galleries

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Writing - Two Degrees Off Is A Miss

by Bert Carson

This is a small portion of the actual aviation chart that includes north Alabama.  The star, indicating Fort Payne, Alabama, has been added for clarity.

I completed the work for, took the exam, and earned my private pilot's license, at Isbell Field, Fort Payne, Alabama.

One of the final requirements to be performed before a student pilot can take his or her final check ride is the solo, three point, cross country flight.  The route selected by Waylon Lyons, the Fixed Base Operator at the time I finished my license requirements, was south from Fort Payne, to Auburn, Alabama (see chart).  From Auburn the cross country flight went to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and then back to Fort Payne.

Waylon chose the route for a number of reasons.  Primary among them was, there are few visual checkpoints.  In order to successfully complete the flight, a student had to understand the principles of dead reckoning and have the discipline to set and hold a course.

I plotted my course, double checked the headings, ran my checklists, and took off for Auburn, Alabama.  Somewhere, early on, caught up in all the things I knew I had to do, I drifted off my course by two degrees.  I was half way to Auburn before I realized my error.  I quickly corrected and even threw in an extra degree to compensate.  No problem, I thought, how far off can I be?

An hour and thirty minutes later, I began to see indications that I was approaching Auburn, except, the airport that appeared on the left side of the airplane didn't match the chart of the Auburn airport that I had strategically placed on the passenger seat.  I looked at the chart and then the airport.  My head swung back and forth like I was watching a tennis match, and nothing changed.  It wasn't Auburn.  I looked to the west of Auburn (see chart) and noted there was nothing but barren wilderness waiting to devour me and the plane.  Then I looked east and saw Columbus, Georgia.  I flipped to the page for the Columbus airport, dialed in their frequency, and contacted the tower.

A helpful controller located me on his radar screen and gave me a new course heading for Auburn.  Before he ended the call, he added, "Now, Captain, you keep your eyes on that compass, you hear?"  I clicked the mic button twice to let him know that I did hear, as I turned on the new heading.

There was a time when writing a book, finding an agent or publisher, and waiting for it to arrive in the book stores was basically a one stop, solo, cross country flight.  Those days are over, at least for the indie writer.  There are many stops on our cross country flight, not even considering all the side trip options.  We, the writers, are responsible for (1) writing (2) editing (3) proofing (4) cover design (5) formatting and (6) marketing.  A lot of those thing can be contracted out, but they remain our responsibility.

There is one thing that has not and will not change - If we get as little as two degrees off, anywhere in the execution of our plan for the successful writing and publication of our book, not only will we miss our next check-point, we will never arrive at our destination.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Me and Francis Scott Key

by Bert Carson

Francis Scott Key was a lawyer, author, and poet.  Every American learned in school that he wrote the words to the National Anthem of the United States, and, though most of us didn't learn this in school, he had another noteworthy event on his CV.  He was Sam Houston's lawyer when then Congressman Houston was tried in the House of Representatives for assaulting another congressman.  In spite of Francis Scott Key's representation, Sam Houston was convicted, but  ultimately only lightly reprimanded.

I'm not a lawyer or a musician, however, I have something in common with Francis Scott Key.  I've spent a few moments of my life nearer than I would have liked to have been to rockets and bombs dispatched "to whom it many concern," and I'm sure that were he still with us, the author of the National Anthem would tell you that because of that experience he was never a fan of fireworks.

Before spending time in a war zone, I loved cherry bombs, black cats, and roman candles, as much as any young American male.  However, for the past forty-five years, I have despised fireworks, and I believe Francis Scott Key would have also.

I believe, as he expressed in the lyrics of the National Anthem, Francis Scott Key
was thrilled to see the star and stripes still flying over Fort McHenry at day break, but more than that, I believe, like every man and woman who has had that experience, he was over joyed to just be alive to see a new day.

Have a wonderful Fourth of July, but don't dedicate a fire cracker to me or Francis Scott Key.