Friday, August 30, 2013

Avoiding Imperial Entanglements

by Bert Carson

You don't have to go far, probably just inside your head is far enough, to find the complaint center for the way things are being handled.  But, it's not just a head trip. eavesdrop on any conversation, and you'll hear the same thing that is going on in your head:

"It's hard for me to believe that we elected these people..."
"Clearly, they have no regard for people..."
"I'm telling you, we are circling the drain and no seems to..."
"What do think it will take to get them to..."
"It's not happening in their neighborhood..."
"Maybe we are chasing the wrong people with those damn drones..."

I overheard those remarks yesterday, while waiting in line at Starbucks.  Like you, and the rest of our friends and neighbors, I'd heard it all before, so I didn't bother to listen for the rest–too focused on a grande, whole milk, latte, I suppose.  Or maybe it's because I've heard it all before.  Or maybe it worse than that.  Maybe I'm just like Obi-Wan, intent on "avoiding any Imperial Entanglements."

Obi-Wan said, "Let's just say we would like to avoid any Imperial Entanglements."
Hans Solo replied, "Well, that's the real trick, isn't it?"

Edmund Burke is best remembered for saying, "All that is required for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing."  Nothing has changed since he said it over two hundred years ago, and nothing will ever change until "good men" change it.

Maybe it's time to quit complaining at Starbucks (and everywhere else) and take a run at the Empire.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

To The Rescue Because It's The Right Thing To Do

by Bert Carson
This is a military observation helicopter, OH-6 Cayuse, nickname Loach.  I first saw one in Vietnam in 1968.  The Loach's original mission was to replace the Army's fixed wing, observation aircraft when the Army was ordered to transfer all fixed wing aircraft to the Air Force.

I never had the opportunity to fly in a Loach because my battalion wasn't in the observation business.  However, I've seen a lot of them and always knew that if I ever had the chance to crawl in one and go for a ride I would take it.

Now, thanks to my buddy, Ryan Schneider, I just came as close to grabbing a ride in one as I'm ever likely to have, and he did it with an email and a link to a YouTube video.  

His note said:
Hiya, Bert.

I saw this video and thought you'd enjoy it.

Ryan was right.  Now, I'm going to share the video with you but before you watch it, here's a disclaimer you should read -

If the f**k word upsets you - don't even think about watching this with the volume turned on - in fact, you probably shouldn't watch it at all.

On the other hand, if you want to see a couple of guys, loving what they are doing, and taking time out to run a bit of a risk to make a kid happy for no reason other than the pure joy of it, you don't want to miss this gem.

A couple of other notes before you hit play, if that's what you've decided to do.
1. First, this appears, from the shadow it casts and the sound of the engine, to be a civilian variation of the OH6, which is why I opened this post with discussion of the OH-6.
2.  Second, the man on the left is teaching the man on the right to fly.  Notice that not once in the course of the mission does his cigarette leave his hand or his mouth.

3.  Third, what they did is more than a little risky, but that didn't cross their minds.

Now, enjoy the video.

Thanks again, Ryan. You made my day.

Everybody Counts Or Nobody Counts

by Bert Carson
I'm hooked on Spenser (author-Raymond Parker), Joe Pike and Elvis Cole (author-Robert Crais), and most recently, Harry Bosch.  I started with the first in the Bosch series, and today I began the The Last Coyote, #4 of twenty, so far.

With the exception of some technical errors, that only a Vietnam Vet would notice, I love Bosch. Michael Connelly is a heck of a writer from my point of view.  However, to be totally honest, a good friend of mine has some difficulty with the level of detail in Connelly's books.  The explanation for that criticism is simple.  I'm a Virgo and Stephen Woodfin is an alien.

However, this isn't a book review or character assassination.  I'll do both of those in upcoming blogs.  This is about one of Harry Bosch's rules; this one:

Everybody counts or nobody counts.

Two statements made by Jesus the Christ said the same thing:

In so much as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it to me.


Judge not that you be not judged.

We obviously didn't get it when Jesus said it, maybe we'll have better luck with Harry Bosch's version.  Think again about Harry's rule.  "Everybody counts or nobody counts," and when you've finished thinking about that, think about this:  "Love, given and received, without judgment or conditions, is the only thing that will save the human race."

The last quote is mine, not Bosch's.  However, they are the same when applied.  But, I'll admit that I recommend the shorter version over both Jesus' and my mine.  What do you think?

Everybody counts or nobody counts.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Your Best Work

by Bert Carson

Your best work...

On Feb 2, this year, I posted a blog (on my "other" site) called Chuang Tsu on Writing.  The post was written around Chuang Tsu's parable, A Way Of Working.  In the post, I paraphrased the parable, rewriting it specifically for writers.

The key passage from Chuang Tsu's story is:

“Your Highness,” said the carpenter, “there is no secret; but there is something.  This is how I begin.  When I am about to make a table, I first collect my energies and bring my mind to absolute quietness.  I become oblivious of any reward to be gained or any fame to be acquired.  When I am free from the influences of all such outer considerations, I can listen to the inner voice which tells me clearly what I have to do.  When my skill is thus concentrated, I take up my ax; I make sure that it is perfectly sharp, that it fits my hand and swings with my arm.  Then I enter the forest.  I look for the right tree:  the tree that is waiting to become my table.  And when I find it, I ask: ‘what have I for you, what have you for me?’  Then I cut down the tree and set to work.  I remember how my masters taught me to bring my skill and my thought into relation with the natural qualities of the wood.”

For as long as I can remember, I've carried a copy of the parable with me, to remind me that I have a single purpose - to be the best that I can be.  Anything that takes my focus from that, is an unacceptable diversion.

Recently I read a blog post by Seth Godin, that concluded with this line:

"Plenty of places to run, plenty of places to hide.  None of them are as important as shipping your best work today."  Seth Godin - Do You Have Three Minutes?

Obviously that is the same thought passing through Seth Godin's mind, over 2,000 years after it passed through Chuang Tsu's mind.  A Way Of Working, which is an account of a carpenter explaining the exemplary quality of his work to the king, concludes with this line:

The King said, “When the table is finished, it has a magical effect upon me.  I cannot treat it as I would any other table.  What is the nature of this magic?”
“Your Majesty,” said the carpenter, “what you call magic comes only from what I have already told you.”
You are an artist.  Your life is your canvas.  What you paint depends on:
  • Your total focus
  • Your complete dedication to the task at hand
  • Your lack of motive (or judgment) in performing the task
Yes Elizabeth, it is just that simple ~~~ yesterday, today, and forever.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Distraction or Diversion - Knowing The Difference Can Be The Difference

by Bert Carson
Don't confuse distractions and diversions.  They aren't the same thing,  and it is to your advantage to know the difference.

An on-line dictionary defines distraction as: a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.

Here's an example of a distraction.  You go into a convenience store for a cup of coffee, or a bottle of water, or both.  You are in line to pay, not giving the moment your full attention, when a man waving a pistol bursts inside and screams, "This is a hold up..."

Instantly you are in the moment.  You have been distracted by an event outside your area of control.  You consider ways to live through the distraction and implement them.  Chances are good that you will succeed.

The same on-line dictionary defines diversion as: an instance of turning something aside from its course.

Here's an example.  Same convenience store scene without a holdup man.  You go in the store, walk to the coffee pot, and find it empty.  Immediately you begin to run the old familiar, what-is-this-world-coming-to-scenario as you walk the long cooler, looking for your favorite bottled water.  They don't have it.  Your familiar mental scenario picks up a beat and begins to add new material: you are two payments behind in the mortgage, the kid needs braces, the SUV needs tires, and your wife needs a man who cares, like your next door neighbor, Lance...

You walk up to the counter to complain about the lack of coffee just as the normally quiet background scenario hits a mind-numbing crescendo and instead of complaining, you scream, "THIS IS A HOLDUP..."

A distraction can kill you, but more often than not, it won't, if you keep your head and act rationally.

A diversion, on the other hand, will kill you, maybe a little at a time over the years, or maybe in an instant, like in the example.

A distraction is someone else's diversion that has gotten out of control.  They are usually easy to spot and almost as easy to move away from.

A personal diversion is your own erroneous belief system running amuck, and, if you don't catch it quickly, you'll be its victim.  Death by diversion is form of suicide that can be avoided by early recognition and immediate treatment.

Distraction or Diversion - know the difference - know the treatment - apply it quickly.


Monday, August 26, 2013

It's Never Too Late

by Bert Carson
I love to talk to children - or, to be more specific, I love to listen to children.  Their perspective is clear, simple, and direct.

There is a reason for that.  They haven't been messed over by the world.  They are optimistic, confident, and brimming with infinite intelligence, which is their natural state.

Best of all, they will share all of that with you, if you will only do one thing - LISTEN.  And don't kid yourself, you can't fool a child.  They know when you are listening and when you aren't, and if you aren't listening, they aren't talking.

For reasons you already know, I cannot tell you the name of the child in the photograph, nor where I met her.  However, with her mother's permission, I am going to tell you a couple of things about her, and share a bit of a conversation she and her mother recently had.

She is a beautiful, pixie-like, three years old, who is articulate, thoughtful, and open.  Because she is "advanced" for her age, (and you can believe me on this - "advanced" is a gross understatement), she was recently early promoted from the three-year-old class to the four-year-year-old class at her day care.

At the end of her first day in the four year old class, her mother, who really talks to her, and in turn, seriously listens to her, asked, "How was your first day with the four year old children?"

The very grown up three-year-old considered the question for a moment, then said, "Well, I didn't kill myself and I didn't bleed."

I don't know what her mom said to that, but I think that in the sometimes crazy world that all of us share, her answer was a simple, to-the-point report of a successful day in the face of what could have been a traumatic situation.

If you want to lighten your day, talk to a child, and as you do that, remember what it was like to be a child.  It's not to late to reclaim that experience.  Age has nothing to do with it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Forget Literary Agents - Sign With A Sports Agent

John Grisham - Player
by Bert Carson
Last year, Major League Novelist, John Grisham, age 58, ranked as the 12th highest paid author in the world.  While John made $18,000,000.00 in 2012, the 12th highest paid Major League Baseball Player, Zack Greinke, 28, will earn $21,000,000.00 this year.

If Grisham writes a dud, his earning will immediately reflect his poor performance.  Greinke, on the other hand, can have the most horrible season any pitcher has ever had in the entire history of baseball and he will still make $21,000,000.00

At this moment, after accumulating more than 400 agent and publisher rejections, I've realized that I've been looking in the wrong place for an agent.  So I'm going a new route, and I recommend it to you.  Here's why.

I don't know John Grisham or Zack Greinke.  However, I'm an Atlanta Braves fan, and I feel like I know B.J. Upton, 27, the Braves center fielder, who was acquired during the off season in a 5 year deal that pays him over $13,000,000 per year, making him the 57th highest paid baseball player.

Based on that, and hundreds of other sports deals, I have determined that sports agents have it all over literary agents.  The critical difference between Grisham and B.J. Upton is not batting average, age, or even  their individuals sport (writing vs baseball).  The difference is the genre of their agents.

Larry Reynolds - Agent
Sports agents like Larry Reynolds of Reynolds Sports Management, know how to sell a client.  Obviously sports agents are who authors should be signing with.  So I've decided to stop looking for a literary agent and sign an agreement with Larry.

This coming week I plan to send him a copy of my book, Fourth and Forever, and my sixty-year-old Little League Baseball stats.  I know that will  seal the deal, and I should finalize a contract, during the off season.   


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Blog, Learn, Meet New People

by Bert Carson
Blog, Learn, Meet New People, that sounds like an ad line for a dating service.  But it isn't this time.

This is Cyberman.  Or to be absolutely precise, cyberman000051 - I've linked his YouTube name so you can click on it, go to his YouTube channel and enjoy his work - if you like, you can join me, and over 11,000 other fans who have subscribed to Cyberman's channel.

I found Cyberman by accident while searching YouTube for a video of Bread singing It Don't Matter To Me.  The post was about lyrics (8/23/13) and it was my intention to set the video in the middle of the post and add the lyrics (which I did).

The video I ultimately used was Cyberman's version of the song with great graphics, and wonder of wonders, lyrics in sync with the music.  When I finished writing the blog, I went back to YouTube and subscribed to cyberman's channel.  That's when I discovered another favorite.  When you click play on this one, you will be directed to YouTube - it is worth the trip.

Now I'm going back to Cyberman's channel and take a look and listen to his other work.

Enjoy and have a wonderful weekend.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Listen To The Words

by Bert Carson
I normally run with music because I enjoy music.  I've run with two pound players and long cords that resist storage in any pocket, but I did that to have music on a run.

Times have changed since I lugged two pound devices and ten foot cords.  I now use a wireless headset and the small iPod Nano.  What hasn't changed is the music.

The majority of the artists I listen to are old, and many have left this earthly plane or they are making plans for the trip.  But their music is still as vibrant as it was the day it was recorded, and I listen with the same enthusiasm I did fifty years ago.

Recently, I made an interesting observation.  I probably don't know more than ten percent of the lyrics of any given song on my playlists–just a word or a line here and there.  So I started listening to the words, and there have been some major surprises.  Here's one.

Lyrics for your journal....

If you really feel that 

You need some time to be free 
Time to go out searching for yourself 
Hoping to find 
Time ... to go to find 

It don't matter to me 
If you take up with 
Someone who's better than me 
'Cause your happiness is all I want 
For you to find 
Peace ... your peace of mind 

A lot of people have an ego hang-up 
'Cause they want to be the only one 
How many came before it really doesn't matter 
Just as long as you're the last 
Everybody's moving on and try to find out 
What's been missing in the past 

And it don't matter to me 
If your searching brings you back together with me 
'Cause there'll always be 
An empty room waiting for you 
An open heart waiting for you 
Time is on my side ... 

'Cause it don't matter to me ... 
It don't matter to me .... 
It don't matter to me .... 
It don't matter to me .... 
It don't matter to me .... 
It don't matter to me .... 

'Cause there'll always be 
An empty room waiting for you 
An open heart waiting for you 
Time is on my side ... 

'Cause it don't matter to me ...


Have a wonderful run...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Running Without Sugar

by Bert Carson
Sunday night (August 18th) I ran 7.75 miles, faster and stronger than I've run in years.  I'm convinced it's because of the things I'm running without.  Those things are:
  • Sugar
  • Eighteen pounds
  • A chronic Sinus Infection
There are others I could add to the list, but those are the ones that instantly come to mind.
The transformation, and that's what it is, began five months ago, March 25, 2013 to be exact.  That's the day Christina and I removed sugar from our diet.   Within minutes of making the decision, we determined that in addition to throwing away every box, can, or package that contained added sugar, we needed a guide book.  I remembered a friend, years ago, recommending Sugar Blues.  I checked it out on Amazon and found it wasn't available in a Kindle version, but now there were many more choices to pick from.  I downloaded a number of samples, read each, and discarded them because my gut told me they weren't right.

I continued the search for a no sugar guidebook and that's when I found Sweet Poison and met David Gillespie (photo).  I didn't actually meet him.  David lives in Australia, I live in the U.S., and the closest I've been to Australia was in 1968 when I met a group of Aussies in Vietnam.  They were temporarily stationed near my unit, and they issued a standing invitation to us to hop a ride on their weekend resupply plane.  A lot of my buddies did, unfortunately I didn't.  Now, another Aussie, has given me the key to transform my health, and  I didn't miss this invitation.  

David isn't a doctor, or nutritionist, or dietitian, which, to be brutally honest, I found refreshing.  In the back of my mind, I'm convinced that is the group that led us into this health quagmire.  David is a lawyer, and in all honesty, we all know they've led us into a few dismal swamps, but not swamps that are health related.  So I downloaded a sample of Sweet Poison and discovered that David was a fat lawyer when set out on a journey to discover the cause and the cure for obesity–eighty pounds south of the obesity line. When I read that, my gut said, 'this is the guy to read'.  Then I looked at David with his kids (photo posted above) and my mind agreed with my gut.  This guy has figured it out.

In the almost sixteen years we've been married, we've made a couple of major dietary shifts that didn't work out.  No sugar is a whole different ball game.  It isn't a diet, it's a new way to eat–forever.  David says sugar is addictive, and a lot of experts agree with him.  If that's true, I can personally attest to the fact that it is an easy one to break.  That doesn't mean that going "no-sugar" is easy.  For starters, you've cut your choices by at least 95%.  On the other hand, think of all the time you spend trying to decide what to eat.  You won't be doing that anymore.  And you won't be counting calories.  But you will be reading labels.  But most important, you will be getting well.

The best example I can give is the sinus condition I've had since 1968.  I've not missed a single year without a major "episode." And, over the past six or seven years that has escalated from one to two and sometimes three annual episodes, each running at least four weeks.  When we went no-sugar, I was using a nebulizer daily to keep my sinus issues manageable.  A week after we began no-sugar, I realized I hadn't used it a single time.  Now, five months later, I still haven't used it and I've not had a single issue with my sinuses.

When I graduated from high school, I weighed 172 pounds.  Before the year is over, I'll be at that weight again.  Do I miss sugar?  Nope.  After a couple of weeks without it, I realized there are still a lot of things to eat and enjoy.  I've come to believe that sugar consumption is more habitual than addictive.  It takes commitment to break a habit but, to use one of Joe Pike's favorite expressions, "If it were easy it wouldn't be fun."  And, it is just plain fun to feel better than I've felt in years and years.  Its fun to come home from a run and tell Christina, "I nailed that bad boy."  And it's fun to live without a chronic health condition that was rapidly taking over my life.  

Running without sugar has no downside. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Values Still Matter - Show Car Products

by Bert Carson

Adrienne and I drive the Honda Elements, Endeavour and Ellie, pictured below.  Like most Element owners, we love them.  Also, like most Element owners, we are always in the market for a product that will revitalize the plastic panels (everything blue on Ellie - more difficult to see on Endeavour).  The search ended last week when I was referred to Show Car Products by one of our customers.

Endeavour (left) and Ellie (right)

He asked how I liked the Element.  I told him I loved everything about it, but I'd like to find a product that would bring the plastic panels back to life.  He suggested that I stop by Show Car Products and ask what they recommended.  

I've passed The Show Car store more times than I can count, but  never thought of stopping.  The showroom is full of products with one purpose, cleaning and restoring automobiles.  It's not easy to find a store that specialized these days.  A young man greeted me, asked if he could help, and I told him if he had something to make the panels on my Element look new, he could help.

He smiled, directed me to a shelf in the middle of the store, where he pulled down a clear bottle of equally clear liquid and said, "This is what you're looking for."  

I took the bottle from his hand, gazed at the label, Bumper Cote. I looked at the contents.  All I could tell from the examination was that Bumper Cote is thick and clear, but as I looked I felt my gut confirm what the young man had promised.

I left with a box full of Show Car products. Thirty minutes later, after using the Show Car Wash & Wax, I began applying Bumper Cote.  A few minutes, later I stepped back and took a look.


A picture is worth a thousand words.  Now look again at the picture of Endeavour and Ellie.  I'm sure you'll agree that the results are awesome.  But, you might be thinking, why make such a big deal out of it?  The answer is simple.  I'm tired of buying products and discovering they won't do the job, or even worse, they are misrepresented, like my two Brother Laser Printers.  

Maybe Show Car's secret is that it is a family business.  Or maybe their secret is that integrity and honesty matters more than this quarter or next quarter's profit.  Or, more likely, it's a combination of those two.

I worked for Ryder Truck Rental when Jim Ryder, the founder, was also the President and CEO. Shortly after I was promoted from Rental Manager to Sales Manager I met him.  My District Manager introduced me as "our newest Account Manager.'

Jim looked at me, smiled and said, "You'll do well as an Account Manager if
you'll just remember one thing: give the customer whatever they want.  We have accountants, office managers and billing clerks who will figure out what to charge for it."  He backed up a step, sized me up, and added, "Bert, you do that and one day it will be my pleasure to help you get into your new yellow jacket (the symbol of membership in the Ryder Round Table).  I remembered and so did Jim.

Show Car Products, a third generation family owned and operated business, is located in Grant, Alabama, a small town near Huntsville.  The young man who waited on me is the grandson of the founder.  He told me they had been in business forty years and had the retail store in Huntsville for seven years. I asked how business was and he said, "Great," paused, then added, "After I ran the ad."

I asked what he meant, and he explained that for years their only customers were automobile detailers and restorers. When they opened the retail outlet, the detailers told their customers only detailers were allowed to buy products there. Now, the word is slowly getting out, and their retail business is growing every month.

It does me good to find a line of products that works, and in this case, works better than other products I've tried.  My pleasure is doubled when I realize that the companies' values are directly responsible for its sales.

If you are in the market for top quality, auto appearance products, click the link:

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

When Barnes and Noble Rips You Off

by Bert Carson
When Amazon introduced its KDP Select (Kindle Direct Publishing Select) program I enrolled every book I had published through Amazon.  In order to qualify I had to agree to make my books exclusively available on Amazon.

That was a no-brainer.  I had them on B&N and Smashwords, and the only copies I'd sold there had been to me.  I was so serious about my commitment to Kindle and KDP Select that I gave my Nook to a neighbor (and I haven't missed it).

I hadn't thought much about the KDP Select program until today, when I received an email from the KDP Administrative Computer.  Here's the important part.


We found the following book(s) you've published doesn’t meet the KDP Select content guidelines. Books enrolled in KDP Select must be exclusive to Amazon in digital format during the entirety of their enrollment in the program.

Fourth and Forever (ID: B004JN06B2) is available on:

You may need to copy and paste the entire URL above into your web browser to see where we found your book. You can also do an online search for your book to discover where else it may be available.

In order for your book to remain in the KDP Select program, we'll need you to ensure that it is exclusive to Amazon within 5 days from the date of this email. If, after this 5-day period, your book is still not exclusive to Amazon, it will remain for sale in the Kindle Store, but will be removed from KDP Select. Upon its removal, it will no longer be eligible to earn a share of the KDP Select fund.


Naturally, I figured Amazon had made a mistake, but I opened my long unused B&N Publishers Dashboard, spent fifteen minutes guessing my password, finally guessed right and opened it, and confirmed what I already knew -



However, just for the heck of it, I went to the B&N Store and searched for Fourth and Forever - guess what I found.  Fourth and Forever is listed in the B&N catalog.

Click Here To See It - However, if you'd like to buy a copy Click Here

Note - Fourth and Forever is $4.99 on B&N and I get nothing.  It is it is $2.99 on Amazon and I'll get 70% - we'll both win if you purchase from Amazon.

So, after updating my address, and credit card info, I bought a copy.

Thank you for your order!

Your Order Number: 646508602

An email confirming the details of your order will be sent within 30 minutes.
Order Total: $5.46 has been paid by credit card.
Your item is available in your NOOK Library or Read Instantly.

I'm sure I won't get the commission, after all, I don't have any books published through Barnes and Noble.  In fact, I've never gotten a penny from B&N, even when I did have books published with them.  So here are some questions that come to my mind:

Where will the commission for that one sale go?
How many copies of Fourth and Forever has Barnes and Noble sold without telling me?
What about the commission on the 10,000 copies (my rough estimate) of the copies of Fourth and Forever they probably sold last year (It would be difficult for them to prove that isn't the number)?
Does the size of a company automatically convert their crimes into mistakes?

And, most important, will the people at Amazon kick me out of the KDP Select Program?

Time will tell - it always does.


The real war starts when the battles are over.

Three Vietnam vets and the widow of a Vietnam vet know they have to stick together to survive the aftermath.

David, Shirley, and Tim grew up together on Lookout Mountain, in Northeast Alabama. Tim was killed in Vietnam. David, Robert, and Bill served together in Vietnam. They survived the experience, but barely. After the war, David and Shirley formed a lawn care company and called it Southern Lawn Service. Bill hated cutting grass so they revamped and renamed the company, becoming private investigators and calling their company Southern Investigation. Robert joined them a number of years later, just before Southern Investigation took on it's largest case - the rescue of fifteen American POWs who had been captured by a war lord and held in a remote area in the south of Vietnam.

˃˃˃ Can the four partners of Southern Investigation, along with David's dog, Mojo, pull off the rescue?

Failure Is A Choice

by Bert Carson
Nothing exists that wasn't chosen.
That's almost as good as "When a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to hear it, does it make a sound?"

Actually, the first statement isn't "almost as good as" the second.  It is the same as the second.

Both statements revolve around the concept that humanity - you, me, and everyone else combined - is the center of the universe, and that isn't true.  The universe has no center.  It is one, or, think of it this way, everything in the universe is an inseparable facet of it.

The universe shifts and appears to change like a kaleidoscope when it is turned.  But, while the kaleidoscope turns, when it stops turning, and even when it is put away, it is still a kaleidoscope.

There are an infinite number of views or perspectives in a kaleidoscope.  Its colors shift and patterns change.  Humanity is the same.  Humanity's perspectives shift and change, but humanity is always humanity.  

If a single stone or bit of glass in a kaleidoscope believes it is the best stone or bit of glass in the kaleidoscope that doesn't effect its position in the kaleidoscope's shifting patterns.  If it believes it must succeed to complete the pattern, or if it believes it has the power to fail, that doesn't matter either.  The pattern remains the same.

If a single human believes he or she can fail or succeed or win or lose, that belief doesn't effect the pattern.  To believe you can fail is to chose to define failure and than manifest the condition you've defined.  Another term for that groundless process is "judgment."

Judgement only serves one purpose, the validation of the person who enters into it.

So what is failure, or success?  They are, at best, opinions.  Neither exist in the universe, only in the minds of those who define them.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Free Books - The Definitive Statement

The Brains (L) Mark Lee (R)
by Bert Carson
I hadn't planned to post another blog today - so much for plans.  Before I began the day's writing, I decided to check my email, which included my weekly update from Mark Lee of the Masquerade Crew.  I opened it and was grabbed by the title of a blog post written by Diantha Jones that he had re-posted last week, with the author's permission.

I read one line of the post, Why My Books Will Probably Never Be Free, and I was hooked.  She said everything I've been saying about the free book concept, only she said it eloquently and without expletives.  

I went to her site, Diantha Jones - author of the Oracle of Delphi Series (which you don't want to miss), contacted her, and asked if I could re-re-post the blog.  In minutes, she answered and said yes.  

Here is the post, just the way she said it, with no swear words added by me.  (Note - if you'd like to read it on her blog site - click here Why My Books Will Probably Never Be Free.


M.E. Monday #30–Why My Books will Probably Never be Free

Do you want to know how many free eBooks I've downloaded in the last year?

One hundred and twelve.

Want to know how many of these one hundred and twelve eBooks I've actually read?


In a year, I've read three of the one hundred and twelve eBooks I've downloaded from Amazon, B&N, Smashwords etc. And guess what? Despite great premises, the last two were two of the worst books I've ever read (The Queen's Blade was the good one. GREAT, in fact).

Want to know how many books I've purchased in the last year?

Between 50-60.

How many have I read?

Forty-two. I read most of the books I purchase within a month or two of purchasing them, especially if they are eBooks (I am a huge eReader fan).
Are you seeing where I'm taking this yet?

I don't read most of the free books I download and I suspect many others don't either. This excludes review books (ARC's from publishers and authors or NetGalley). I accept these free books as part of a deal, a transaction. A book for a review. I'm obligated (in a sense) to read these books and give my opinion. These don't count. Neither do books I receive as part of a giveaway. I played the "game" and won. These are prizes (really, really good prizes), but prizes nonetheless.

I'm talking about books I download on my own accord and forget are on my reader within a few hours. I've wondered for a while why this happens to me time and time again, but I think I've finally figured it out.
I don't value free books.

That's not to say I don't understand and appreciate all the hard work that went into writing the book (of course I do!) or that I don't value my fellow authors. Believe me, I do! I just wonder why so many authors are cool with giving their books away for free. It doesn't make sense to me. You spend months, probably more like years, writing the darn thing, and then you just give it away to any and everybody who wants it (book bloggers excluded)? Hell no. Not happening over here.

Now, I'm not knocking those of you who want to give away your work for free. I'm sure your reasons for doing so are just as valid as mine for not doing so. You want to get your book into the hands of as many people as possible, and just maybe a few of those people will actually read it. Might even write a review. Totally understandable! A lot of downloads also raises your Amazon ranking, I hear. So...I get it.

I just don't understand how this benefits you, the author. Maybe I just need more facts. Does a higher Amazon ranking garner sales for an author's other works? It's quite possible, so if this is a reason, then I understand. That's not enough to make me do it, but I totally get why another author would see the magic in it.
When I initially released Prophecy of the Most Beautifulit was 99¢. Then $1.99, now $2.99, and that's where it shall stay. I plan to reduce it to 99¢ for the month of July, but then it will go right back to $2.99 in August. But it won't be free. I just can't do it. I feel icky just thinking about it and I don't like feeling icky. I worked too hard on that book and I feel like I'm cheating myself doing that. Maybe I'm being dramatic, but it's how I feel.

Basically, books I've paid for get priority over those that I don't. I not only value paid-for books more, I value my money too! Whether 99¢ or $15.99, money is money. I spent it, on YOUR BOOK, and I'm not about to let my money go to waste. It's as good as read. Maybe not right this second, but soon. It's how I operate. Most of the free eBooks I've downloaded will never be read, and that's just the truth.

How do you feel about free books?


Your comment will be appreciated, read, and responded to.

Love Wins - "How many can we get for sixty dollars?"

by Bert Carson
By night, I'm a writer, runner, and Atlanta Braves baseball fan.
By day, I'm one of three partners in United Portrait Studios. We have no employees.  There's just the three of us, working with almost two hundred day care centers, spread across three states.

It's a simple business.  Adrienne takes the photos, Christina handles the admin, after sale orders, and assists at large sales, and I drive, show pictures, and listen to exclamations of delight as parents, grandparents, and kids look at the pictures I spread on the old folding table I use for display purposes.

Our pictures are the very best, 5 Star Studio Quality, though as often as not, Adrienne is working in the corner of a classroom with an audience of fifteen or twenty kids.

Christina's job is demanding, more so since we've been "discovered."  There are just so many days in a month and fitting everyone on the calendar is tough.  In addition, she prepares the proof packages for each child, tracks reorders, and handles all after-sale orders.

Me, I have the easy job.  I show the pictures, write up the orders, and deliver the photos.  I hear people laugh and squeal with delight when I show them the photos. Finally, I show them our price sheet and agree with them when they say things like, "This is all?" or "And that includes everything?" or "You won't believe what I just paid?"

This isn't selling in the conventional sense of the word.  In fact, the photos are too good and our pricing too economical to require the sophisticated sales techniques I used when selling cars and lease trucks.  And, as a partner, I'm even allowed to "adjust" the pricing on occasion.  That's what this post is about, one of those recent occasions.

I'm well known at the center, whose name or location I won't mention.  It was late on the second day of the two-day sale.  I'd seen almost all the parents and grandparents of the children whose photos we'd taken.  My thoughts were flitting from the next chapter of the book I'm working on, to a half-finished blog post, and on to the Braves winning another game while I listened to them on the drive back to the house.

The Director of the day care interrupted my thought-hopping when she came over and said, "Let me see who you have that hasn't been seen their kid's pictures."

Together we flipped thought the file box of photos.  There were only a few packages left, and of them, only one that hadn't been seen the day before.  When she looked at the names of the two children on that package, she said, "Oh, I forgot to tell you.  Their mother and father work out of town.  Mom called just after lunch and asked me to tell you they couldn't make it yesterday because they both worked double shifts.  She wanted to make sure you knew they would be here today."

She stopped talking, turned away from the pictures and looked right in my eyes, "They are strapped, really strapped.  They work hard, but things aren't easy for them..."  She searched for the right words, brightened and said, "But they love each other and those kids.  That's going to get them through.  You'll see when they get here."

Ten minutes before closing time, the couple walked in the door.  I knew it was them when I heard their children, in unison, shout, "Mama, Daddy, Mama, Daddy..." as they ran for their parents.

A minute later, each holding one of their children, they were standing beside me as I spread the pictures on the table.  They didn't squeal or shout.  In fact, they hardly made a sound.  With the last picture displayed I turned to them and saw why - they had their free arms around each other and tears were streaming down both their faces.

I stopped explaining our packages and pricing and looked at the Director who was watching from across the room, tears running down her face.  I made the tear scene unanimous, and we all stood in place for a long moment.  Finally mom looked at dad and managed to say, "What do you think?"

He slowly raised his eyes from the pictures and looked at her, "I love them.  I love them all?"

"Can we afford them?" she asked.

He didn't answer.  Instead he pulled a thin battered wallet out of his pocket and extracted a few folded bills.  He unfolded them, spread them in his hand, and like a desperate poker player, raised his eyes to mine and said, "How many can we get for sixty dollars?"

I turned the price sheet that read, "Entire Package - twelve sheets and portfolio - Only $109.95" over so he wouldn't be distracted by it and said, "You get everything for sixty dollars."

Fifteen minutes later, I had everything packed away in the car, and I went back inside and told the Director goodbye.  As I turned for the door she called out, "That's why no one else will ever take pictures of our children."

I just turned and waved, not trusting myself to say anything.

Love always wins.  ALWAYS!


Sunday, August 18, 2013

You've Never Heard Of The Millennium Falcon?

by Bert Carson
The Star Wars Trilogy, the first three movies released, is, in fact, a documentary.  Not many people know that, so keep it to yourself.

When Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi approach Hans Solo, to arrange transportation, Solo's classic line, at least his classic line from my perspective, is, "You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?"

This dialog has been locked in my mind, not far from the front door, since I first heard it:

Hans said, "You've never heard of the Millennium Falcon?"
and Obi-Wan replied, "Should I have?"

The reason those two lines are locked so close to the front door of my mind is, the question applies to everything?

"You've never heard of The Dead Sea Scrolls?"
"You've never heard of Seth Godin?"
"You've never heard of Sweet Poison?"
"You've never heard of Newton running shoes?"
"You've never heard of Marmite?"
"You've never heard of The Crimson Tide?"
"You've never heard of Joe Pike, Harry Bosch, or Tom Cutter?"
"You've never heard of flying squirrels?"
"You've never heard of the South Panola Tigers?"
"You've never heard of Bouviers?"
"You've never heard of Hot Coffee, Mississippi?"
"You've never heard of a census designated community?"

and on and on and on and on...

Now, to answer Obi-Wan's question, "Should I have?"

In the old days, before internet and smart phones, you probably shouldn't have heard of those things.  But today, in the information age, there is no reason not to have heard of them. 

There is no reason to live in a tiny box of information when everything man has ever done - the good, the bad, and the ugly - is accessible with a click or a finger press. Even the untrue, made up, half-truths are there.

So now, do you remember The Millennium Falcon?

<<<<<<      >>>>>

War brought them together and separated them.

Love overcame both war and time and brought them back together.

Captain Kathleen Timmons was winding up her third tour at the Evac Hospital in Saigon when the call came for a medic to fly with a dust off crew to the site of a downed helicopter. All of the medics were on other assignments. Kathleen hesitated a moment and responded, "Send the dust off, a medic will be on the pad."
Though it was against regulations for a woman to go into a combat situation, Kathleen was waiting at the landing pad when the chopper sat down. The pilot tried to talk her out of going. Kathleen said, "It's me or nobody. We're wasting time here."
The wreckage of the downed Huey was scattered over a large area and the landing zone was still a target for VC snipers. Kathleen and the dust off crew loaded the two survivors they found and were preparing to leave when one of the wounded men grabbed her arm and shouted, "Did you get Maddog."
Straining to be heard above the sound of the screaming turbine, Kathleen shouted, "Who is Maddog?"
She leaned close to the wounded man and heard him say, "Maddog is our crew chief.)
Kathleen stood, leaned across the back of the dust off aircraft commander's seat and shouted into his helmet, "Hold here. We've got to find Maddog."
Before he could reply she jumped from the chopper. Kathleen spotted Maddog fifty feet from the the main fuselage and with one of the dust off crew men, carried him back to the chopper.
As they lifted out of the landing zone Kathleen touched the door gunners arm. When he opened his eyes, she shouted. "We've got Maddog."

˃˃˃ Maddog left Vietnam on the hospital flight that took Kathleen back to the states.

A reader said:
"I don't read war stories. Ever. This is not a war story. This is a life story.
There are bits of romance, bits of joy, bits of pain, and a lot of reality.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

An End Of Books - By Seth Godin

Seth Godin is one of the best known bloggers in a digital ocean full of bloggers.  I love him because we always seem to agree and he adds more information to the topic being discussed than I had before I began reading.

Today, Seth's blog is about book selling and publishing and the demise of bookstores and traditional publishing.  I thought about grabbing a few of his comments but couldn't decide which ones so here's his entire blog and a link to his website - Enjoy!


Books, those bound paper documents, are part of an ecosystem, one that was perfect, and one that is dying, quickly.

Ideas aren't going away soon, and neither are words.  But, as the ecosystem dies, not only will the prevailing corporate systems around the paper book whither, but many of the treasured elements of its consumption will disappear as well.

THE BOOKSTORE as we know it is doomed, because many of these establishments are going to go from making a little bit of money every day to losing a little bit.  And it's hard to sustain daily losses for long, particularly when you're poorly capitalized, can't use the store as a loss leader and see no hope down the road.

The death of the bookstore is being caused by the migration to ebooks (it won't take all books to become 'e', just enough to tip the scale) as well as the superior alternative of purchase and selection of books online.  If the function of a bookstore is to stock every book and sell it to you quickly and cheaply, the store has failed.

THE LIBRARY is limping, partly because many of them have succumbed to being a free alternative to Netflix or the boarded-up Blockbuster.  As fewer people dive into a sea of printed books, libraries will have no choice but to stop stocking that sea with expensive items that few use.

THE TRADITIONAL PUBLISHER is culturally connected to the bookseller. That's their customer, not you, the reader (ever tried to call customer service at a book publisher?). As the bookseller disappears, and as the open nature of the ebook platform rewards individuals and quick-moving smaller entities, many in traditional book publishing will find their particular skills no longer valued the way they used to be.

SINGLE TASKING is an anachronism.  As soon as ebooks moved from the Kindle to the iPad, the magic of reading was threatened by the opportunity ("for just a second") to check on email, Words with Friends or an incoming text message.

READING FOR PLEASURE was largely extinguished by four generations of not-very-good teaching philosophies.  By treating a book as homework and a punishment, we've raised people to not look forward to reading. More than once, friends have said, "you should be really pleased, I even finished your new book." My guess is that no one says that to Laurence Fishburne about his new movie. There's no real ebook piracy problem because most people don't think books are worth stealing.

THE BELOVED SHELF (or wall) of books is less well-thumbed and less respected than it was. We're less likely to judge someone on their ownership and knowledge of books than at any time in the last five hundred years. And that shelf created juxtapositions and possibilities and prompted you when you needed prompting. Ten generations ago, only the rich and the learned owned books. Today they're free at the local recycling table.

THE PAVLOVIAN RESPONSE will fade.  You go to a bookstore, a quiet, civilized respected greenhouse of ideas. A person you connect with hands you a book, wraps it, charges you a surprisingly small amount of money and you go home, ready to curl up for five or six or thirty hours, to immerse yourself in a new world or a new set of ideas.  And then you will take that volume, one that's designed to last for a century with no technology necessary, and either share it with a friend or place it in just the right place on your wall. Your brain was wired to be taught to be open to these ideas, to be respectful of the volume itself, because all of the elements of the ecosystem, from the author who took a year to the editor who curated the book to the jacket designer and the printer and the store... they all aligned perfectly to create this method of consumption.

None of these changes, by themselves, are enough to kill a venerable information delivery and cultural touchstone like the book. But all of them together? I'm writing this on a train filled with educated, upper income suburban commuters of all genders and ethnicities (book buyers, until recently). I can see 40 people at a glance, and 34 are using electronic devices, two are asleep and exactly one person is reading a traditional book.

Yes, we're entering a new golden age for books, one with more books and ebooks being written and read today than ever before. No, books won't be completely eliminated, just as vinyl records are still around (a new vinyl store is opening in my little town). But please don't hold your breath for any element of the treasured ecosystem to return in force.

Is it traitorous to my tribe to write these words? I'm not arguing that we should push the ecosystem out the door, but I am encouraging us to not spend too much time trying save it. First, it's a losing battle, but more important, we have bigger opportunities right in front of us.

Twenty years ago, I saw the web and wrote it off. I said it is a cheap imitation of Prodigy, but slower and with no business model. Partly, I just didn't see. But a big part of me wanted Prodigy (my client) to succeed, along with a business model I understood.  As a result of my arrogance, I missed the opportunity to take advantage of a brand new medium.

I fear that our cultural and corporate connections to books as a delivery system may blind us to the alternatives.

I'm not as bitter as I might be, as we've traded in our books for some fabulous alternatives mixed in with the time-wasters. But yes, after 500 years, after building not one but several industries around the creation, publication, distribution and storage of books, I'm pretty nostalgic.

I called this post, "An end" as opposed to "the end."  As always, we'll reinvent.  We still need ideas, and ideas need containers.  We've developed more and more ways for those ideas to travel and to have impact, and now it's up to us to figure out how to build an ecosystem around them.


As they say in the movies, "that concludes Seth's comments."  My final word on the subject is, time is a reference point, a "you are here sign at a particular point in the infinite universe.  Time is not an object to be captured, fondled, and displayed.  Knowing where you are and where you are going is all you need to know about "time management".