Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Some People Get Better With Age

by Bert Carson
That's me, thirty-two years ago.  From the look on my face I'd say I was nearing the south end of the 24 mile long Lake Pontchartrain Bridge.  I don't remember my time for that marathon, but so far my fastest marathon time is 3 hours 36 minutes and that came a few years later in Memphis.  That means I probably finished the 1982 Mardi Gras Marathon in 4 hours 45 minutes.

The photo was taken Feb 2, 1982, 32 years ago when I was in my 3rd year of running.  Today, I'm still a runner.  I don't run with large groups of people toward signs that read, "Finish Line."  Mostly I run alone, at night, and my target pace is 14.5 minutes per mile, which works out to over six hours for a marathon, if I were running marathon distances, which I'm not.

So, obviously, I'm not getting faster, in fact I'm quite a bit slower than I was in those days.  What you can't see in that picture is that I was hurting, seriously hurting, although not nearly as bad as I had been hurting the year before at the same time and in the same place.  Also what you can't see in that picture is the day days following the race when I could barely walk.

So, in 35 years I've learned this life thing isn't a 26.2 mile race.  And if you believe, like I do, that we were somewhere before we came here, and we are going somewhere from here, then you know life is eternal and has no beginning or ending.  Life is from the beginning of time to the end - and probably some after that - but who knows.  If we focus on maintaining speed and appearance for the short haul, we are only guaranteeing our appearance in the next chapter before we had planned.

A couple of days ago, my buddy, Ralph Miller reminded me of that with the gift of two great videos - the Spaniels singing Good Night Sweetheart in 1954 and again in more recent times.  By the worlds standards, they looked "better" in '54, but by anyone's standards, they sounded so much better fifty years later that the difference cannot be measured.


So, what's it going to be?  Flash bang, or all the way, getting better with every step, every breath, every year?

I am  learning the art of audio narration by recording each chapter of Lessons Learned.  I'd appreciate your thoughts on both the book and the narration: 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Writers Creating Worlds

by Bert Carson
J.R.R. Tolkien - Jim Butcher - Edgar Rice Burroughs
The difference between creating worlds and describing imaginary places is as great as the difference between Hobbits and Orcs, Wizards and Ghosts, Chimps and Elephants.

You cannot crawl into my imagination and see what I'm imagining because it isn't fleshed out, and it changes with every breeze, every whim, every vague notion.  But if I create a world, complete in every detail, and live there to make sure everything works as I intended, then, and only then, can I can tell you about it.  When I do that, you'll know the world I've created as well as you know middle earth, the world of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, and the realm of Tarzan, King of the Apes.

Creating worlds is no easy task.  A writer must layout and then walk his world, meet its inhabitants, inhale the air, eat the food... in short, a writer must live in the world he or she has created before it can be shared.
If a writer does that, then, and only then, can they effectively share their world with us, because then they are sharing a world, not offering a cheap, one dimensional description of a whimsical, made-up place. Sharing created worlds is simply describing the experience of living in one.

It takes guts to build a world and skill to share it.  It's not an overnight undertaking.  It is a serious endeavor that demands dedication and effort.

PS - Before I hit 'publish' on this post I checked my email and found a request by Amazon to review The Dresden Files Season One - I gave it five stars and said - It's amazing how many one season series I have fallen in love with over the years.  So many that its fair to say that my standard of appraisal isn't that of those who have the power to give, or take the life of a series.  I like depth of character, and I like consistency in the story line.  I love great acting.  I look for credibility and accuracy in details and the overall presentation.  Sci-Fi isn't normally a genre I choose, because it usually lacks all those things.  The Dresden Files is a major exception.  It gets the highest marks in every one of my areas of judgement.  Now, with one episode left to watch, I'm wondering if I'll ever find another series to equal it.  However, I'm the eternal optimist - I'll keep trying.  As for you, if you haven't seen The Dresden Files, don't miss it.  Then buy Jim Butcher's books, both the Kindle and the whispersynced versions - you won't regret it.  If you do have a regret, it will be that those with the power to pull the plug on a show of this caliber, did.

You probably know the works of Tolkien and Burroughs.  If you aren't familiar with the books of Jim Butcher, here is a link to his Amazon author page - enjoy.  

Now, create a world and take us there.

I am  learning the art of audio narration by recording each chapter of Lessons Learned.  I'd appreciate your thoughts on both the book and the narration: 

Bert Carson     

Monday, January 27, 2014

Home Recording With Roger the Sound Guy and Harlan Hogan

by Bert Carson
That's Roger the Sound Guy, lying on top of our Harlan Hogan Porta-Booth Pro, which is finally residing on the Porta-Sound Stand that I just assembled and set up (it took about three minutes) after staring at the two boxes it arrived in for more than three months.

Under Roger, inside the Porta-Booth and barely visible, is our VO-1A Harlan Hogan Signature Microphone, Mike Stand, and a couple of other pieces of Harlan Hogan Gear.  Yep, we are Harlan Hogan fans.

Plugged into the mike and not visible in the photo is a MicPort Pro - used and recommended by, you guessed it, Harlan Hogan.  This is a very simple and most effective piece of recording equipment.  The link I put in will take you to a YouTube Video that demos it nicely.

The thing that led us to Harlan is the lack of space in our small house.  We wanted a home recording booth but every bit of research for building one in a small space began with, "you too can convert your extra closet into a recording studio."  We don't have an extra closet.  In fact we're about three closets short of having enough closets.  Then we found Harlan and his gear.

I'll be telling you more about recording your own books, Harlan Hogan gear, and Roger the Sound Guy, in the weeks ahead, as I master Adobe Audition, my audio software. But that's enough of the logistics.  Here's Chapter 3, of Lessons Learned.

Comments are coveted.

The Most Powerful Force In The Universe

by Bert Carson
Consciousness is, in its most simple form, the state of of one's awareness.

Directed Consciousness, or a high state of awareness, is the most powerful force in the universe.

Consciousness not directed, or a low state of awareness, is a runaway train—a derailment waiting to happen.

Directed Consciousness and Undirected Consciousness are not opposites.  They are both powerful, comparable to a bull pulling a loaded wagon, or a bull loose in a china shop - it's the same bull with the same power, only the results are different, and they are different in direct proportion to the intent of the one applying (or not applying) direction—The Director.

We all have the ability, and to some extent use that ability, to direct our consciousness.   However, all experts in such matters agree that only a few people in history have used even a small percentage of their potential power.  Specifically, the number that is most often presented is 10%, as in humans use 10% or less of their potential.

Forget the estimates of used or unused potential.  There's no way to measure human potential, and the figure given isn't even specific.  There's never a footnote saying 10% is an average of the entire life of the individual whose potential has been measured.  Nor does the meaningless number say whether it represents the person's entire life.  And, if you choose to ponder the number, you have to wonder if it includes low awareness time like sleeping, time spent waiting to check out at Walmart, or the hours spent snarled in traffic, etc.

It really doesn't matter whether most people are in a state of high or low awareness most of the time.  All that matters is, knowing your state of awareness and keeping at the highest possible level at all times, even when sleeping or checking out at Walmart.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Rebecca Dickson - Editor

by Bert Carson
This is Rebecca T. Dickson, my editor and the woman who is really going to be ticked when she sees that I snatched this photo off her Facebook page - too bad - Facebook isn't a place for things you don't want to share with the world.  Besides, when you're that beautiful you shouldn't mind a bit.

I know for a fact, and I wish I didn't, that all editors aren't created equal, at least, their work isn't equal.

I've had the same number of editors as wives.  And just like my fourth wife, Christina, my fourth editor, Rebecca, is the charm.  I could write a glowing testimonial, like the ones on her testimonial page.  But that's been done, and I'm in the wonderful position of being able to "show" rather than tell.  So that's what I'm going to do.

Thursday Becky started editing LESSONS LEARNED, my latest novel. Friday, as practice for narrating the book, I recorded the first three chapters of the original manuscript.  Last night (Saturday) Becky sent the first ten edited chapters back to me.  Now, I'm going to record the first two edited chapters, and I'm going to insert both for you to hear her work and decide if she is the editor you would like to walk down the aisle with.

Chapter One - Unedited

Chapter One - Edited

Chapter Two - Unedited

Chapter Two - Edited

I've come to know, the hard way, that the editor is the magic in the book.   To spend all those hours writing a book and publish it without having an editor wave the magic wand over it, is akin to building a house without a foundation.

If you'd like to contact Becky, here's her email address

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Lessons Learned - Listen to Chapter Two

by Bert Carson

Yesterday I posted an audio copy of Chapter One of Lessons Learned - The book hasn't been edited and this isn't the final audio version - you could say its close to a dress rehearsal, but not quite there.

In any case, here's Chapter Two, and just as I mentioned yesterday - your comments will be appreciated.

Running With The Dragon

by Bert Carson
Merri asked, "Where is Little Darling?" after she read this in yesterday's blog, Listen To Chapter One:

"I was going to blog about running in very cold weather and how music helps those who do that.  It was my intention to insert Little Darling, by The Diamonds...  I went on to explain that I discovered that the song was copyright protected and I couldn't upload it to SoundCloud and then paste it into a blog post so I recorded me, reading a chapter of Lessons Learned instead.

Merri enjoyed the reading but still wanted to hear Little Darling.  She said,
"...where is Little Darling??? Love that it is going through my head...and how the heck could music possibly make it warm to run at minus twenty degrees below zero tonight where I'm currently living? ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haa maybe it is that ZONE thing hun???

So, Merri, this is for you.  On the night in question, it was 23 above zero in Huntsville when I turned onto Dallas Street and immediately caught a ten MPH North Wind in the back.  I shivered, stumbled, lost a step, and then The Diamonds, singing Little Darling blasted into my head, and it sounded like this:


Warmed by the old song, straightened up, found my lost step, and ran on through downtown Huntsville, turned left on Echols, a tree lined street where the Dragon was blocked out.  Two miles later I hung another left, turning onto Russell and met the Dragon again, this time he was heading south, straight into my face.  That's when the greatest torch song of all time, It Makes No Difference, by The Band, centered up between my ears.  It sounded like this:

Those songs may not have warmed the outside world but they sure put some heat in the one inside me and they took me on home, like they always do.  

Thanks for asking.  Enjoy.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Lessons Learned - Listen To Chapter One

by Bert Carson
Yesterday, actually very early this morning, I sent the last chapters of Lessons Learned to my editor.   Then I went to the next project of the day - a blog post.

I was going to blog about running in very cold weather and how music helps those who do that.  It was my intention to insert Little Darling, by The Diamonds, a sixties hit that's on my running playlist.  I recorded it, uploaded it to SoundCloud and was immediately informed that it was copyright protected.

Well, I thought, what do I have that isn't copyright protected?  Then I saw my reflection in the laptop screen and had the answer to my question - I'm not copyright protected.

I didn't set up our full recording studio.  That will happen sometime in the next few days.  I just sat at my desk, plugged in our studio mike, and using Audacity, a free audio software program that's loaded on this laptop, recorded the first chapter of Lessons Learned, the book I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  I played it back for me, then for Christina, and then I said, What the heck, I'll share it with you.

You see, to help me learn the recording process, I'm thinking I might record a chapter of the book every day (forty-three chapters in all) just to get some feed back on the book and the narration and anything else you might want to leave feedback about.

What do you think?

Your comment will be greatly appreciated.


Corporate-dictated malfeasance at our federal agencies has...

by Bert Carson

My buddy, Dr. Charles Adams (Chuck), of Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia has dedicated his life to health, not freedom from chronic illness, health.  He calls himself Doctor Prevent and the first sentence in his mission statement is, "My job is to keep patients healthy and away from people like me."  And, I know that's what Chuck is about 24/7.  
Jesus said, "I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly."  That's Chuck's mission also, at least the physical aspect of life, and he is dedicated to it with a dedication that he has paid dearly to maintain.

Yesterday, he sent an email with the subject line:

Good Food Sentence

This is the sentence:  

"Corporate-dictated malfeasance at our federal agencies has resulted in food and agriculture systems that are knowingly killing people and the earth we live on."    Joe Mercola, DO

The Mercola link above will take you to Joe's website.  There are a lot of people who want to shut him up.  Just like there were more who wanted to shut up Jesus than supported him, and though my friend Chuck doesn't talk about it, he could easily compile a list of his non-supporters.  So to be fair, check out this link regarding Joe Mercola.  

And, to be totally fair to all concerned, follow this link to Stephen Barrett, the author of the flaming attack on Joe Mercola, and you'll quickly discover that Doctor Barrett could be the inspiration for a con man in a Travis McGee novel.

The bottom line is, it's time to get our heads out of the sand and let our hearts lead.  There's a wonderful, secret place, inside each of us.  A place where the truth resides.  When we slow down, back out of the race, and visit that place, we know what's true for us.

Re-read the Mercola quote.  If you believe, really believe, there is ANY truth in the statement, don't you owe it to yourself to check it out?  Could it be possible that corporations with the witting or unwitting support of our government are knowingly killing us and the planet?

Here's what I KNOW:  On March 25, 2013, roughly ten months ago, I stopped eating sugar.  Overnight a chronic, disabling, and  worsening sinus condition disappeared.   I'm not a conspiracy theory junkie, because I don't think human beings, as a group, can hold the focus necessary to run elaborate conspiracies.  However, I do believe that one man or woman, can influence people to commit atrocities on others and themselves.  The uncontrolled and unregulated use of sugar in the majority of "processed food" products is a perfect example.

Decide for yourself, don't let someone else do it for you - that alone will change your life.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Writers - Looking For A Story Line?

by Bert Carson
Today I'm sending the rest of Lessons Learned, to my editor.  She already has the first fifteen of forty-three chapters—in fact, I'm sure she is draped around a cup of coffee starting chapter one while I'm telling you this story, which is sort of related, but has nothing to do with me getting the rest of the chapters to her today. So I have to make this short.

Lessons Learned is the story of the effect of war on those who participate in it.  It grew, from what I thought was going to be a simple writing exercise, into a book that is already on the way to becoming a series of books called the Sam and Jan Jordan Series.

I finished the first draft of Lessons Learned last week and immediately started book two, We Have A Call.  Four chapters into it, I realized that I had to know about Mississippi casinos: how they operate, their financial picture, how to get a license to build one, and, though not directly related, money laundering.

That need for knowledge prompted me to Google "casino financial statements," which led me to a number of corporate financial statements. Among the statements was Leucadia National's 2012 Annual Report.  A quick scan led to the profound discovery that all great stories aren't told in books, or short stories, or screen plays, or even around gypsy campfires.

At least one is in Leucadia's 2012 Annual Report.  
Following is the beginning and the end of the eighteen page message to stockholders, which you can read in its entirety here.

To Our Shareholders  -  The Last Hurrah
Forty-three years ago, the two of us met at Harvard Business School and thirty-five years ago was the beginning of a remarkable partnership — the results of which are tabulated on the opposite page. The end of 2012 marks the end of this partnership and the last letter from the two of us. In terms of financial results, 2012 was also our most successful year. Earnings before tax for 2012 were $1.371 billion, a record.
For the next few pages we propose an incomplete trip down memory lane, let’s call it an unofficial history, mostly written for the benefit of grandchildren, but we hope our long time shareholders will enjoy it as well.
After graduating from Harvard Business School in 1970, we began working together at a small family owned investment bank with the curious name of Carl Marks and Company. One of us left for an adventure out west and our paths diverged. We were reunited when one of us surfaced in pursuit of Talcott National Corporation, the holding company for an old, but moribund financial services company that became embroiled in businesses about which they knew little and was almost insolvent. One of us was a reluctant joiner to the rescue of Talcott and regarded the prospects of success as unlikely. The other, being more enthusiastic, optimistic and in need of a challenge and a paycheck plunged full speed ahead and after a year of urging got the other to sign up for the task. This was the beginning of the partnership which would become Leucadia.
Our backers were our old colleagues from Carl Marks for which we are forever grateful. It took another year of cajoling all two hundred plus creditors, numerous flights to Chicago, Los Angeles and, of all places, Baton Rouge, to convince the last creditor to sign on. And finally, in April 1979, an out of court reorganization, probably one of the most complicated even to this day, was successfully completed.
Talcott entered reorganization with a negative $8 million book value and emerged with a book value of $23 million. We restructured the company, hunting and recovering value among a hodgepodge of operating businesses and financial assets. Little did we know, this approach would become de rigueur  for the next thirty-five years.
In the course of this adventure we met our now old friends, Tom Mara, our Executive Vice President who preceded us at Talcott, along with Steve Jacobs and Andrea Bernstein who became our lawyers and advisers and remain so to this day.  We relinquished the name Talcott in 1980 with the sale of James Talcott Factors to Lloyds and Scottish, a UK based factoring company. We struggled to find a new name — every idea we surfaced was either already taken or rejected by regulators. Adding to the urgency was the SEC’s growing impatience with the blank line at the top our letterhead. One afternoon we were driving north on the San Diego Freeway and happened upon the town of Leucadia, California. Why not?  The name was available and we liked the sound of it. One of our mothers thought it a blood disease. But, it looked great on that interstate exit sign and has served us well.
As we conclude this final epistle and wrap up our extraordinary working relationship, we find ourselves reflecting on Leucadia’s formidable past and promising future. A 35 year partnership is rare in marriage and even rarer in business. Those unfamiliar with our approach have sometimes been startled by the occasional tenacity of our interactions. We are both strong personalities with correspondingly strong opinions. Each of us has been described as “often wrong, but never in doubt.”
We frequently saw a deal differently or disagreed on the strategic course of an operating company — the alchemy of our partnership enabled us to resolve our differences. We trust one another and respect the value of our differing skills, interests and intuitions.
Over the last 35 years we have unfailingly stood by one another in times of heartache, health and personal challenges. Our relationship means more to us than we easily acknowledge. We owe a special debt to our families who were often neglected while we chased the next deal. We are both blessed with loving wives and children who have risen above our excesses and absences to make us very, very proud.
One of us remains to do all he can to help Rich and Brian take Leucadia to new heights. The other will be cheering – and kibitzing – from the sidelines and building a private family company. Managing Leucadia has been a magnificent adventure. We have done well and so have our shareholders. It has given us great pleasure to meet shareholders and to learn that proceeds from the sale of Leucadia stock sent their kids to college. None of this would have been possible without the hard work, devotion, courage and enthusiasm of our Directors, employees and advisers.
Thank you.  Ian M. Cumming and Joseph S. Steinberg 

There is at least a five novel series in the eighteen page statement to Leucadia's Stockholders.  The name of the book series is even supplied in the history of the company: Often Wrong But Never In Doubt.   

Since the Sam and Jan Jordan Series is going to keep me tied up for the next few years, the Never In Doubt Series is yours if you want it.  Whether you do or do not, join me in wishing Ian and Joseph a happy retirement.

Okay Rebecca. Okay. I'm going back to work right now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Circus Call

by Bert Carson
My good friend Caleb Pirtle just finished a six-part blog series about his week with the Circus. It's a fantastic adventure, and like all true adventures, it's just as fresh for Caleb today as it was when he "joined the circus."

His adventure and subsequent sharing of it prompted this blog, but I'm not writing about Caleb's circus, I'm writing about mine, and yours, and John Croyle's.  However, before I get to that, here's a link to the first of the six posts that Caleb penned.  After you've read it, I'm betting that you will find the others.

And now, the other circus, the one that came to your town and took you with it.  Or maybe you didn't join it, and you're waiting for it to come back next summer when you will.

I can't think of better place to start that story than by telling you about John Croyle's circus.  That's John on the left when he was #83 and played football for Bear Bryant at the University of Alabama .  And that's John on the right, with his wife Tee.  John Croyle knew his circus long before he went to Alabama and played football on the legendary teams of the early '70s.  He wanted to take care of children who, for whatever reason, were without a home.  Everyone knew John's dream, because he shared it with all that he came in contact with.  

Just before graduation, John asked Coach Bryant's advice.  He told the coach he wanted to build his boy's ranch more than anything in the world, but he had no way to finance it.  He said that he had been drafted by the New York Giants and was willing to play for them for a few years in order to get the money he needed for the ranch.  Then he asked what the coach thought he should do.

When John shared that story with Christina and m, fifteen years ago, we all teared up.  Bear looked at John and said, "Son, you have a dream and it isn't to play professional football. It's to take care of boys who need taking care of.  You go back home, and you do that and everything will be fine."  The next few months were a Cinderella story, though at times it looked like the wicked step-mother would win.  Then things began to fall into place.  The last piece was a call from his friend, John Hannah who had promised, months before graduation, to send his signing bonus if the New England Patriots signed him.  He said he was calling to remind John of that pledge and to let him know that he had just mailed his $30,000.00 signing bonus to the fledgling boys ranch.

My all-time favorite book is Round the Bend, by Nevil Shute.  The story is a first person tale, told by Tom Cutter who, from the time he saw his first air show, wanted nothing else but to be part of it.  He followed the show day after day until finally he lost his job in the garage.  That didn't matter to Tom.  He kept following the show, taking a bus to the towns where it was appearing, working for nothing, and finally taking his father with him to appeal to the operator of the air show.  Here's the passage that tells of the meeting between Tom's dad and Sir Alan Cobham, the owner of the air show:  

" Sir Alan told dad I was a smart boy but if I came I'd have to be laid off in the winter.  Dad said he thought it was best for me to do what I was keen on, and we'd take our chance about the winter.  Thinking back over my life, I know of two or three times when I've been just perfectly, radiantly happy.  That was one of them."    

I believe everyone has a circus and I know that most people never join theirs.  But the good news is, it's never too late.  It may appear more difficult with the passing of time, but that is an illusion.  All you have to do is keep your circus alive in your mind until it shows up in your reality and then join up.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I Used To Envy Girls

by Bert Carson
Thanks to Adrienne Wall Photography
It's true, I used to envy girls.
I no longer envy girls.
I used to envy mathematicians.
I will always envy mathematicians.

You probably won't be able to easily figure out the connection between those four statements or why they are true for me.  So, let me explain.

Before a human baby can become a human being it must:
1. Learn to communicate.
2. Before it can communicate, it must understand the language of those it is about to throw in with.
3. Before it can understand the language, it must have a frame of reference.

It's at #3, a major problem occurs.

The first frame of reference for the baby is family, then relatives of the family, then people in the immediate community, and normally that is the limit of a baby's initial frame of reference, with one exception.  Within the frame of reference for the baby, is the gender thing.

Think of Gender as the built-in, first filter that effects everything we think before it reaches our point of view.  When I realized girls were using a girl gender filter, and boys used a boy gender filter, and I couldn't change that filter, I stopped envying girls, and just settled for admiring them and learning what I could about how their filter works, and of course how the boy filter worked.

Then I discovered that both boys and girls can do something about the rest of their point of view.  For example, if a person were born in Texas and their point of view included the belief that Texas A&M was the greatest college football team in the world they could change that.  Or if they were born in England and believed footballs didn't have pointed ends, they could change that.

And I discovered that if my inherited point of view included the belief that I was better than someone because of the color of my skin, I could change that.  Or if it included the notion that God only loved Christians, I could change that.

I discovered that I could changed every inherited point of view that was erroneous.  All I had to do was change my point of view so it no longer  reflected what I determined was false.

How do mathematicians fit into that?  Well, a non-mathematician's point of view hinges on the language he or she is taught by the first human beings he or she throws in with.  Mathematician on the other hand, share a universal language.  A language without a point of view and even without a gender filter.

How could I not envy that?

Monday, January 20, 2014

SoundCloud And Me! - SoundCloud And You?

by Bert Carson
I just discovered a new world, and I wasn't even looking for one.  All I intended to do was find a way occasionally to put an audio clip in a blog post.  I did that. I found a great, easy, and beautiful way to do it.  In case you missed the how-to of it, the whole story is here.

However, this blog is about the new world I found when I wasn't looking for one.  That's not an original line.  In fact, it's my understanding that line, verbatim, was first recorded by Christopher Columbus in his private Moleskine journal.  Actually the new world I found is connected to and expanded from an old world I once lived in.  A world almost, but not quite, lost in the haze of seventy years.

Before I share the new one with you, let me tell you a bit about the old
one, the one that has been left in the haze. Before I was born, there were console radios in the living rooms at both my grandparent's homes.  And, yes, everyone did sit, and lay around in the living room and listen to the world being beamed to us from places much further away than downtown Birmingham, Alabama.  And when I joined the group, I shared in their radio time.

Now, looking through the filter of all those hazy years that separate me and those radios, I realize that, for my grandparents and parents, the radio experience was far different than it was for me and my cousins.

The adults knew the radio was just the first of an infinite number of gadgets that would bring them nearer and nearer the final manifestation of the promise of the American they had pursued through two wars and all the years of their lives.  For us kids it was something entirely different.  It was the world coming to our home to introduce itself and give us our best chance to learn more about this place we now found ourselves in.

Then television arrived.  It's not my intention to pound the obvious, however, allow an observation—note the radio folks (in the first illustration) are focused on the person snapping their picture (no doubt one of their grandparents), then note the focus of attention of the television folks (in the second illustration).  My point is, with the introduction of television, our focus shifted from each other to a gadget.

So, what does that have to do with finding a new a world?  Everything. The "new world" I've found, by the way, isn't new.  In fact, it just turned five years old.  But its new for me since I just found it.  And, get this, it's about people sharing what they do.  It not only brings the world to you, like the old radios did.  The new world gives you the opportunity to interact with the world, and you can even share with those who are sharing with you.

The world I'm talking about is the world of SoundCloud.  Here are a few samples - Enjoy

Now the word of SoundCloud is yours.  Enjoy.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Blogger or WordPress - Wired For Sound

by Bert Carson
As near as I can figure, I spent between four and five hours Friday evening, from ten until the third single-digit hour rolled around in the central time zone, adding sound to my blog.

It shouldn't have taken that long and it wouldn't have if I hadn't taken three wrong turns in the black forest, and being a guy, I spent a lot of time hiking the full length of all three of them, just to make sure I wasn't going to pop out on secluded Mexican beach and find Russell Blake sitting under a thatched roof, waiting for me with a co-author book agreement and my virgin pina colada.

I blog on Blogger, and have, since the learning curve on my WordPress site became so sharp I stayed off road more than on.  I'm a simple guy and Blogger was built for me...with one exception.  When I started getting into voice over, I wanted to share samples of what I was learning, and I discovered there was no easy way to do it.  Now there is, and after searching most of Mexico last night, I found the way to wire my site for sound, and I'm about to share it with you - and it works on WordPress too.

Unlike my good buddy, Caleb Pirtle, I do not compute with a Mac.  So this first bit doesn't apply to Mac users (their recording settings are all probably preset to give them more time to look down their noses at PC people).

1.  PC People - right click on the speaker icon on the right end of your task bar - select recording devices - if "Stereo Mix" shows, select it - if it doesn't show, right click inside the box where it didn't show and select both "show disabled devices" and "show disconnected devices." Now Stereo Mix should appear.  Select it (note-it didn't appear for me because in a fit of dumbness a few months ago I removed my Realtec sound drivers). So last night, when I should have been on the beach with Russell, I was re-downloading and re-installing them.

2. WordPress and Blogger Users - You need recording software that will record anything you play over your computer speakers.  I'm sure there are a lot of free choices out there - the first one I found worked fine and I recommend it to you - Audacity - click the link and download it.

3.  With Audacity installed you're ready to record, but there is a catch - Audacity doesn't give you the option to save your files as MP3.  Not to worry.  Download Lame MP3 Encoder - also free does, and it will work seamlessly with Audacity.

4.  Record a sound file - For the purpose of this post, I chose to give my friend Stephen Woodfin, some unpaid for, at this time, advertising.  I opened Audacity, hit monitor, pause, then record, then I opened the Last One Chosen Audio File on Amazon and started the sample recording - then, with truly amazing, breathtaking speed, I opened Audacity before Stephen managed to say a single word - hit record and waited for the sample to finish playing - hit stop - then file - "save project" and saved the clip in my new blog file called "Wired for Sound."

Note - I learned how to do all that in an hour or so, and it all worked perfectly.  However, that's not the real issue.  The issue is, at that point I had an audio file but no way to put it on my blog post.  That's where my extensive wandering in the black forest began.  You, however, DO NOT have to go to the black forest, because I've been there for you.  You only need to go to the next step.

5.  SoundCloud - go to and sign up for your free account.  Then upload the test recording you made earlier and saved to the blog post file.  When you save it to your SoundCloud page, you'll have the opportunity to add artwork and track info - now people can visit your SoundCloud page, listen to the clips you've saved there and YOU CAN GET THE CODE THAT YOU NEED TO EMBED THEM IN YOUR BLOGGER OR WORDPRESS POSTS - and they'll look just like this and work just like this - and you, and everyone who clicks the file on your blog post will think it is really cool and well worth the time Bert spent tramping through the forest last night and early this morning, mostly for you (guilt is a useful tool - at least my mother thought so).

Note - This is my first "how to" Blogger (WordPress) post.  Let me know if it worked for you (or not) - then buy Stephen's book, both the Kindle and the whispersync version, and maybe then he'll pay for this, until now, free advertising, and I can send the money to Russell so he will have maps to his house printed and send one to me, then I can spend less time in the forest and more time on the beach.

Have a great weekend.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Raymond B. Parker - Zebulon Sixkill - Joe Mantegna

by Bert Carson
This is our slow month of the year.  By slow I mean the day job, United Portrait Studios is scheduling for the new year, which means Christina and Adrienne are busy booking and scheduling photo shoots, while I'm writing a blog every day, putting the finishing touches on Lessons Learned, a just completed novel, finally getting Southern Investigation Tucson published, while thinking very seriously about finishing The Sages, the first in the mystical series.

What I'm not doing is a lot of driving, which will change next month when the scheduling that Christina and Adrienne are doing now kicks in.  That means I'm not devouring my usual one or two whispersynced for voice Kindle/audiobooks.   However, I still listen when I'm running errands or picking up Starbucks lattes for the troops.

Last Sunday, with Starbucks on my mind, I headed for the front door and after a few steps, stopped in my tracks when I realized that I didn't have a book to listen to, and my current read, a Travis McGee novel wasn't yet whispersynced.  Quickly, I opened with no clue where to go when divine intervention stepped into the game and visions of Robert B. Parker flashed into my mind.

I've read all of Parker's books.  So, with no particular book in mind, I plugged in "Spenser," went quickly down the list to the first one that said it was whispersynced for voice, I clicked the page, and since I had already purchased it, navigated straight to "add professional narration," and opened the audiobook app on my phone as I headed toward the door a second time.

I got in the car as the download completed, clicked the icon, and heard this:

In case you didn't recognize the voice, it's Joe Mantegna, actor, well known for his role on Criminal Minds.  Until last Sunday, I had no idea that Joe did voice over.  Now I know that it's a big part of what he does, and already I'm looking forward to hearing more of his work.

Christina and I are working on our home studio, and I'll keep you posted on our progress.  Good narration adds a whole new dimension to a book.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Genre - Make It Meaingful

by Bert Carson
My Amazing Writer Wife, Christina Carson, and I are both fans of Seth Godin.  I missed Seth's recent post, Who Are Your Customers?  Christina didn't miss it.  She doesn't miss much.

Using the wisdom of Seth as a starting point, yesterday she posted Who's Your Audience?

Both Christina and Seth nailed a question that has nagged writers since the first words were written - "Who is going to read this?"  The question is more important today than it was a zillion years ago when only three people could write and the same three were the only ones reading.

Today, everyone, all 7+ billion of us, reads and at least 6+ billion of us are authors.  So, who is reading what we're writing?

Seth says:

Knowing their demographics isn't enough.  We need to know:

What do they believe?
Who do they trust?
What are they afraid of and who do they trust?
What are they seeking?
Who are their friends?
What do they talk about?

Christina took Seth's questions to another level with these thoughts:

What do they believe?  There's got to be a better way to live than how they are presently doing so.
Who do they trust?  People who the courage to tell them the truth.
What are they afraid of?  Reaching the end of their lives without experiencing what they sense is possible.
Who do they love?  A person who inspires them and encourages them toward what they know is true for themselves.
What are they seeking?  Some way to live that offers substantive purpose and meaning.
Who are their friends?  Those who understand their longing and respect it.
What do that talk about it?  If they talk at all they share an intimate vision of a stimulating life unencumbered by the mundane and open to exploration and possibility.

Now, I'll tag along on the end of this line of thought with a single question.  How do we find these people?  And I'll answer because if I didn't learn anything else from the O.J. Simpson trial, I learned this - Don't ask a question you don't know the answer to.

The Question:  How do you find your audience?
The Answer:  You keep writing and writing and writing.  Because, it isn't about you finding them, it's about making it easy for them to find you.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why Is None Of Your Business

by Bert Carson
The Spanish American War, so named because of the principals involved, was actually waged in Cuba. It lasted ten weeks, not very long by today's standards.  The historical reason for the war was Spain's protest against  American involvement in the then current Cuban Revolution.  The only reason Spain was upset was Cuba was one of its colonies.

So, it might be more apt to call it the Cuban Colony War Fought By The United States And Spain.  In fact, maybe all wars are wars of colonization but I digress. Let me get this post back on track.

One evening, in 1899, Elbert Hubbard wrote a short, inspirational essay for the Philistine, a monthly publication whose target audience was businessmen.  Elbert didn't even title the piece in its original printing. It was an instant success, ultimately inspiring two movies and a booklet that sold over 40 million copies.  Today it has been translated into 37 languages, and its publishers claim the number of times it has been printed is second only to the Bible.  And it's still going strong.  Click the link that follows, and you'll find yourself on an Amazon page that gives a "published on Amazon" date of Jan 14, 2014.  That's two days ago, which is two months short of 114 years after it was originally published.

The essay was based on a true story.  In a time of no radio, WiFi, internet, email, or even telegraph communication, in the wilds of Cuba, where the insurgent leader General Garcia was headquartered, a way had to be found for President McKinley to communicate with the rebel leader. The way, the only way, was to send a handwritten message.  Therein came the problem.  Who would carry the message?

Here comes the inspiration for the story, that when printed, accounted for more copies than any printed matter other than the Bible.  Captain Andrew Rowan of the U.S. Army, was dispatched with the message.  He crossed the island alone, found the General, and established a communication link that was instrumental in the concluding the conflict to the satisfaction of both the United States and the insurgents.

Forget right or wrong and winners and losers for a moment, and consider the point that Hubbard made that is still selling copies of the story—When told what the mission was, Captain Rowan didn't ask why or how.  He simply said, "Alright."  He then wrapped the message in oilskin to protect it from the elements, strapped it on his back, and said "Let's get the show on the road."  (the dramatization is mine, but you get the point)

"Why" and even "How" questions are cop outs that delay at best, or totally paralyze at worst.  How and/or why questions cannot coexist with commitment and intention... unless of course your commitment is failure and your intention is to lose.

"Lets get  the show on the road."

Bert Carson

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blockheads Still Write

by Bert Carson
Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), was a British writer, essayist, and biographer.  One of his most memorable lines was, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money."

I understand his thinking.  Writing isn't easy.  Sixty to eighty hour work weeks are nearer the norm than not.  Writing is a solitary activity.  Only a person with a vested interest (agent, publisher, etc.) ever calls to ask about the book. There is no instant success.  Some authors succeed sooner than others but none instantly.  

So, do I believe that Samuel Johnson was right?  No, I do not. Understanding why someone says something and agreeing with it are two entirely different things.  I write because I cannot not write and furthermore, I believe that's why a lot of men and women write.

Yes, it is nice to know someone reads my work but even that's not why I write.  And yes, it would be great to sell a lot of books, though not for the reason(s) you might think.  If I sold a lot of books I would be able to write full-time instead of when I can fit it in.  That would be great.

Writing is art that can be learned, mastered, and gloried in.  What more is there to ask of one's art?  At age 71, I can see my writing getting better with every line.  I can't say that about everything I do.  

So this "blockhead" will keep writing for the same reason John D. MacDonald gave, saying that his primary motivation in writing was neither money, nor fame, nor a drive for success: "I just enjoy the hell out of writing, and what gives me special joy are those moments when I write a page that is exactly right, that expresses precisely what I wished it to say."

Happy writing.

Writer's Choice - Black or Heart Of Darkness

by Bert Carson
I've been a fountain pen addict since May 1967 when I bought my first one at the post exchange, on Camp Bearcat, Republic of South Vietnam.

I'm no expert on how they work, I just know that I like to "work" with them.  And, I know, that I've recently (like three days ago) discovered that my favorite ink color is black.

When I became aware of my fondness for black ink, I lined up my current rotation of fountain pens, to clean and refill them with black ink, and I was shocked to discover that I didn't have a single bottle of black ink.  I probably have fifty other colors, but no black.  So I headed for, plugged in Noodlers (my favorite brand of ink) and black. Two seconds later, my order was placed, and I was ready to go back to whatever I was doing before I discovered that black was my favorite ink color. It was then I noticed at the bottom of Amazon's "thank you for your order page," this message - PEOPLE WHO BUY NOODLERS BLACK INK ALSO BUY NOODLERS HEART OF DARKNESS.

Heart of darkness, I thought, and then I thought, as I unconsciously clicked on the Heart of Darkness image, isn't black ink black ink?   Now I know the answer to my question is NO—black is not necessarily black.  If there are 50 shades of gray, there are a zillion shades of black.  Look at the difference in Noodlers Black and Noodlers Heart of Darkness:

Now I'm waiting for UPS to deliver my bottle of Heart of Darkness, and while I'm waiting, I'm thinking about how this all applies to writing because there too you can find a zillion shades.

In my estimation, Heart of Darkness in writing takes you to the heart of that which is being told—it makes you one with it.  Here's an example:

From One Fearful Yellow Eye

First the John D. MacDonald version - which, as you will immediately know, is the one I refer to as The Heart of Darkness version:

We sped north on the Tri-State, and she had that special sense of rhythm of the expert.  It is a matter of having the kind of eye which sees everything happening ahead, linked to a computer which estimates what the varying rates of speed will do to the changing pattern by the time you get there.  The expert never gives you any feeling of tension or strain in heavy traffic, nor startles other drives.  It is a floating drifting feeling, where by the use of the smallest increments and reductions in pedal pressure, and by the most gradual possible changes in direction, the car fits into gaps, flows through them, slides into the lane which will move most swiftly.  She sat as tall as she could, chin high, hands at ten after ten, and made no attempt at chatter until the stampede had thinned.

The Black Version of the same passage (mine) -

Seconds after we moved on to the Tri-State, I realized she was an excellent driver.  She gave it all of her attention, as she moved easily in and out of the heavy traffic, without disrupting its flow. 

If you write, go for the The Heart of Darkness version.  You'll enjoy it more and your readers will love it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

On Writing - Blake and Cussler - A Natural Partnership.

by Bert Carson
Russell Blake, a prolific, best-selling, indie writer, has joined forces with Clive Cussler, a prolific, best-selling, conventional writer and yes, Elizabeth, it is a BIG DEAL.  In fact, it's the first of its kind and it's such a big deal that it made the front page of the  Wall Street Journal, Jan 7, 2014.

Before I continue, note, an Indie writer is self-published, self-agented, and self-publicized, whereas a conventional writer, for the purpose of this blog, has an agent and a publisher and, in the case of those very, very successful ones, like Clive Cussler, other personnel who take care of most of the chores a indie writer routinely handles.  

Russell isn't the first indie writer's whose success has been written about in the WSJ, nor is Cussler the first best-selling conventional writer to show up there.  What makes them unique is they have agreed to write a book together—that's a first.

In 1965, Cussler began writing at night to entertain himself.  The kids were asleep and his wife had just started working nights for the local police department.  Russell Blake began writing ten years ago, after retiring from the home development business.   Clive Cussler doesn't report how many of his first books were unsalable.  Russell threw away his first five books and only began looking for an agent for the sixth.  No one wanted it.

Cussler is prolific.  In his eighties now, he is the sole author or lead author of more than fifty books with two more scheduled for release this year. Blake too is prolific.  In the past 30 months he has published 25 books. At this point in his writing career, he is completing one every month.

The men both write adventure/thriller books and thanks to their work ethic have produced a large numbers for their fans.  If there has ever been a natural writing partnership, this is it.  Their first co-authored work will be released in the fall under both their names.  Watch for it.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Precision - Top Secret Lesson For Writers

by Bert Carson
Top Secret Drum Corp was a top secret to me until a friend, Shirley Tsang, shared a video of a 2003 performance of the group.

I found a 2013 video of them, and I've embedded it below for you.  Then I did some research on the group and discovered this:

Top Secret is from Basel, Switzerland, a city that loves drumming to the extent that at any given time it is estimated there are 3,000 drummers living there.

There are twenty-five drummers in The Top Secret Drum Corps.  All the performers have day jobs, drumming only because they love to do it.  The members willing give up all their free time to rehearse and perform with the group.

So what does the Top Secret Drum Corps have to teach writers?  Simply this:
Dedication, Commitment, and Precision
Every Top Secret member knows the price of membership in terms of time, before they audition.  Accepted into the unit, they work every day to become one with it—to acquire the precision that is necessary to perform at this level.

There is no secret in Top Secret.  It's all about dedication, commitment, and ultimately, as an outgrowth of those two - precision.

This is what it looks like in in the world of drumming.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Wisdom of Travis McGee - #4 - A Woman Who Does Not...

by Bert Carson
For today's Travis McGee bit of philosophy, I've decided to return to The Deep Blue - Good-by, book one in the Travis McGee series.

 When I went to to com to get the link to the book I noticed, as I do every time I go for one of the McGee books on Amazon, following the title of the book is this statement:  John D. MacDonald Author - Lee Child Introduction.

I'm really tickled that the publisher decided to re-release the books, and in most cases, add the whispersync for voice option, but, to have Lee Child introduce them is akin to having Jimmy Swaggart introduce Jesus of Nazareth.  Come on Random House, give us a break.

For the stand alone John D. MacDonald novels, Random House employed Dean Koontz for the introduction.  Of the two, Koontz or Childs, my preference is Koontz, however, the previous analogy applies equally to Koontz or Childs when they are used to introduce a MacDonald book.

Now for the wisdom of McGee -

A woman who does not guard and treasure herself cannot be of very much value to anyone else.  They become a pretty little convenience, like a guest towel.  And the cute little things they say, and their dainty little squeals of pleasure and release are as contrived as the embroidered initials on the guest towels.  Only a woman of pride, complexity and emotional tension is genuinely worth the act of love, and there are only two ways to get yourself one of them.  Either you lie, and stain the relationship with your own sense of guile, or you accept the involvement, the emotional responsibility, the permanence she must by nature crave.  I love you can be said only two ways.

That isn't what you'd expect from a pulp novelist, so we must either redefine pulp novelist or own the obvious, John D. MacDonald wasn't one of them.

And, here is a bonus, from David Geherin's out of print biography, John D. MacDonald -

John D. McDonald on writing:

During those for first four months of effort, I wrote about 800,000 words of unsalabe manuscript, all in short-story form.  That is the classic example of learning by doing.  Had I done a novel a year.  It would have taken me ten years to acquire the precision and facility I acquired in four months.  I could guess that I spent eighty hours a week at the typewriter.  I kept twenty-five to thirty stories in the mail at all times, sending each of them out to an average of ten potential markets before retiring them.

I thought you got up in the morning and went to work and worked till lunch and then went back to work until the day was over - with good business habits, as in any other job.
It wasn't until my habit patterns were firmly embedded that I discovered that writers tend to work a couple of hours and then to brood about it the rest of the day... The thing to do is to do it. 

MacDonald's work habits weren't the only thing that goes against what we've come to expect from writers.  I'll be sharing more of those unconventional traits in this Wisdom of Travis McGee Series.  I trust you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy finding and sharing them.



Friday, January 10, 2014

This Is Your Life. Or Is It?

by Bert Carson
Every week from 1952 until 1961, Ralph Edwards, the producer and host of the TV show, This Is Your Life, surprised someone before a live audience with the announcement, "This is your life."

Following the announcement, everyone moved from the place where the surprise was presented, to the This Is Your Life Studio, where for the next half hour Edwards turned pages in the large red book with their name embossed on the front, as he told stories of their trials and tribulations.  At many points during his recitation, guests were introduced from the subject's past.

The guests from the past were unidentified, hidden offstage and told a personal story that was heard by the subject and the audience. Then Edwards would give some clue to the identity of the speaker and ask the subject if he or she could identify the person who had played such a big part in their life.

I didn't miss many of the shows and I can still remember marveling at how many of the subjects couldn't place the voice of the person who appeared to have been prominent in their life.  For example, I just watched an old clip of the show where General Omar Bradley, a hero of World War II, was surprised, regained his composure, and listened to a voice from his past he had not heard in twenty-five years.  The voice belonged to the man who drove the General for almost five years during the war.  General Bradley couldn't identify the voice, and when he heard the man's name, it seemed to me that he had no recollection of him, but he faked it well and the show went on.

As I watched that old clip, I finally realized why the subjects so often couldn't remember the hidden person who was speaking of an important period of the subject's life.  The period of time recalled by the guest was important to the subject, however, the guest wasn't.  General Omar Bradley was General Dwight Eisenhower's Chief of Staff during WWII. Who drove his Jeep obviously wasn't someone who made an indelible mark in his memory.

That isn't cold nor callous.  That's just the way things are.  There are many people who have played what they believe were profound roles in your life, yet you cannot recall them or their names because, from your point of view, they weren't instrumental.  We each pick the events and the people that mold our lives—let me say that again in a slightly different way—we pick the people who matter in our lives.

Before you stop reading, let me tell you, how it works, then take a look at your life and you'll see it.  We arrive here from a place we have little memory of, nor do we have a recollection of the trip.  We come in with some basic equipment, which for quite a while is unimportant to us: race, gender, culture, etc.  Our only concern is survival until we can figure out what is going on.

From our first breath, we are surrounded by strange, loud, creatures, who, in a language we have no understanding of, introduce themselves, tell us who they are, what they mean to us, what is important and what isn't.  As soon as we have a weak grasp of the language, they begin to predict our future and reinforce their predictions with the historic logic of the clan we are now members of.

It's too much.  We don't know these creatures.  We don't even know ourselves.  We don't have a clue what they are talking about and don't know how to start figuring any of it out.  That's why we have no recollection of the first two or three years of that time, not because we're stupid, but because everything is foreign and we only have a vague idea of what went on before which is fading by the moment.

Finally we hit on a way to survive in this strange place, populated by strange people, with even stranger stories they've shared as truth.  We decide the only way we'll survive this is to create a self-identity.  The logical starting point in the process is to emulate the less objectionable of the creatures that surrounded us.  In the process we adopt some of their ideas, and without realizing it, we begin to incorporate their prediction for our future into our fabricated identity. So unconsciously we began to facilitate that forecast.

Think of it this way, we arrived here one with all that is, and gave up our oneness when we created a personal identity based on faulty information furnished by other universal beings who had forgotten who they were. This isn't our life.  It's a story we've made up, turned into a screen play, and opened on a stage we call our life.  It's time to look beyond the script, the footlights, and the stage, and remember the truth of who we are - this is not our life.