Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A New Writers Collaboration

by Bert Carson
Last Fall, my buddy, Noah Charif and I decided to write a book together and call it The High Road.  The book is about an old guy, like me, and a young guy, like Noah and a formerly homeless dog named JoJo.  The three travel the country in a tractor-trailer.  In addition to earning a living, they are on a quest.

A joint book writing agreement is a first for both Noah and me, and thanks to school work and day job work, it's been slow going so far, but it is going well.

I've recently discovered that not only are Audible Books a great product for writers, they are also a fine writing tool.  Noah agrees, so we decided to record our first two chapters to help us tweak things and hopefully to get your opinion on the project.

If you have a few minutes, listen to these two chapters and leave a comment letting us know what you think.


Bert and Noah

Sunday, February 23, 2014

On The Trail Of...

by Bert Carson
Paying attention to the signs and clues that get me to a particular place at any given moment is like reading the sidebar in a J.R.R. Tolkien annotated book and, in many ways, is as interesting and educational as the journey itself.

Since my current spot on the trail has numerous digital markers, I'll track the last ten days of the trip for you, beginning February 12th.

Wednesday, Feb 12th, it was snowing and bitterly cold in Huntsville, Alabama.  Between sessions of narrating my first book, with the objective of publishing it as an audiobook, I checked my email.  A new post from Margana, AKA the Inkophile was in my in basket.  I read it and then skimmed down her blog links, saw A Fool With A Pen and clicked.  That took me to the first information I'd seen about the International Correspondence Writing Month, InCoWriMo.

This is the second year of the program, which was inspired by NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.  The objective of InCoWriMo is to promote written correspondence, pen and ink usually, but crayons on paper will work.

I'm a fountain pen geek and I immediately fell in love with the idea, but reason stepped to the microphone in my head and in a deep, voice over style that sounded vaguely familiar said, "Hey, you've got more than enough to do and besides, the month is half over, just forget it."

I tried to forget it, but the temptation to use a fountain pen for something besides journaling got the best of me.  Especially since everyone who added their name and address to the InCoWriMo list did so with the understanding they would answer all letters they received.

So I started writing, with the intention of catching up and finishing the month having written at least 28 letters.  Tonight (Feb 23rd) I wrote my twenty-third letter which means I'm even.  When I received my first letter I was so excited, I blogged about the program - Vintage Social Media - InCoWriMo.

The response to that post made me realize there are a lot of other authors who are fountain pen, letter-writing, geeks.  As I mulled over that idea for a day or two, an idea began to form - Why not create a base of writers who would like to write to other writers? 

I couldn't think of a single reason not to, so I created a web site, and I plan to go live with it next week.   With the wheels still churning, the idea jumped out that there were probably a lot of writers who would love to get involved in writing  letters to other writers but have no experience with fountain pens and don't know where to start learning.  So I emailed Brian and Rachel Goulet, co-presidents of The Goulet Pen Company, my go-to company for pens and pen-related items.  I asked them about the possibility of putting together a couple of basic fountain pen kits that would include pen, ink, paper, and envelopes.

They loved the idea and Rachel and I are brain storming the contents of the kit now.  Details should be avail the day the web site goes live.

The idea of Writers Writing Writers is simple.  If you are an author and you are interested in corresponding the old fashioned way, with pen and paper, with other authors, you sign up.  Signing up is your agreement to answer all correspondence your receive from other members of Writers Writing Writing.

At that point you can wait for someone to send you a letter, or, if you are like me and unwilling to wait, you can choose a name or names of other authors from the list and send them a letter.

That's the idea that originated with the click of a computer key on the daily blog post of a woman who writes interesting blog posts about fountain pens and inks.  If you'd like to be involved in the Writers Writing To Writers project, leave your name and address in the comments and I'll add you to the First Edition of the WWW Mailing List.

How we get to a particular place is often lost in the journey, when in fact, you can't have one without the other.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Fourth and Forever - 5 Minute Audio Sample

by Bert Carson
Finally, I'm uploading my narration of one of my books - Fourth and Forever to ACX (Audiobooks).

I've been working on this since last September, when I casually said to Stephen Woodfin that we should look into getting our books in Audiobook format.

Stephen grabbed the ball, headed for the goal line and quickly scored with Last One Chosen (Notice the whispersync for voice ready notation).  Since then he's scored a half dozen more times, and I'm just now getting past the first forty-five degrees of the recording learning curve.

However, I see an open field ahead, probably because I just finished uploading my opening and closing material and a five minute sample that will available to potential buyers of the Audiobook.

Here's the sample.  If you have 4 minutes and 54 seconds to listen and the inclination to leave a comment, it will be appreciated.

Thank's Stephen - All your pointers are much appreciated.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Blogging Authors All In A Chain

by Bert Carson

Remember hide 'n seek?  Dusk pierced by loud shouts of, "You're It!" Well, I'm writing this post because I'm it.  Christina Carson tagged Beca Lewis who tagged me, and I tagged David Atkinson, Caleb Pirtle, and Stephen Woodfin, then, because I wanted a girl on the team I tried to tag Gae-Lynn Woods, but ultimately had to bribe her with a baking soda- powered  submarine and a secret decoder ring.

At some point in recent history, an author came up with the idea of answering four questions about himself or herself and getting other authors to do the same.

I first heard about author's blog chain when Christina said, "I agreed to be tagged by Pat Zick."

"What does that mean?"  I asked.

"Well, it means I have to answer four questions in a blog post and find some other people who will do the same.  That's what it means," she said.

I still didn't get it but I pretended I did.  It's a guy thing.

A week later Christina said, "Beca is going to tag you."

"That's fine by me," I said, though I still didn't get it.

The next day Beca tagged me and I agreed to play.  That's when I figured it was time to learn what this was all about.  Another guy thing.

I figured it out, finally, and started looking for people who would agree to be tagged.

Caleb Pirtle said, "Bert, I'll do it if you'll tell me what it is."  Another guy thing.
David Atkinson said, "I'll do it if Caleb is doing it."  Yet another guy thing.
Stephen Woodfin didn't say anything, so I took that to mean, "Yes, I'll be glad to do it and I'm looking forward to it." Definitely a guy thing.
Gae-Lynn Woods said, "I'll do it for a secret decoder ring and a baking powder-powered submarine."  I thought about her proposition for two seconds and then agreed to the condition provided she would be captain of the team.
She thought about that for about two seconds and said "Okay."  I guess that's a girl thing.

So here we go with this edition of Authors Blogging All In A Chain:

The first thing I'm going to do is answer the four questions that, by the way, are the same for all participants:

1.  What am I currently working on?  That implies I'm working on one thing, and that's seldom the case with me.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I was working on just one thing.  Here are a few things I'm working on:  Roger the Soundcheck Guy (see photo below) is teaching me how to narrate my books.  I've started with Another Place Another Time, a story I love about two men and two dogs, time travel, war, and truck driving.  My editor, Rebecca Dickson, just finished the first pass on my latest novel, Lessons Learned, and it's my intention to have it published in the next six weeks.  The Sages, book one of the Mystical Trilogy is almost ready for Rebecca' magical touch and should be published by the end of summer.  And, last but not least, I want to have all of my books narrated and available as audio books by the end of 2014 (that's assuming I can keep Roger the Soundcheck Guy working 24/7).
Roger the Soundcheck Guy - and Me

2.  How does my work differ from others in the same genre?  I don't know that this is a difference or not, but I do know what I do.  I become my protagonist.  Another Place Another Time the opening lines are:

The day I met Whispers, I was nineteen and he was one.  From the day we met, we were not apart for a single day for almost fifteen years.  I cannot imagine what my life would have been without Whispers and frankly, I don't even want to think about it.  This is our story, my dog, Whisper's and mine.

When I wrote that, I was Leonard Jacobson.  When I recorded it, I was Leonard Jacobson.

When I write, I laugh, I cry, and I celebrate with my characters.  That's the only way I know to do it.

3.  Why do I write what I write?  I have published four books, with a fifth due to go live shortly.  They are all about Vietnam Vets.  Men and women who, as I put it on my blog site, "do the right thing."  I write about Vietnam Vets because it's what I know.  I can tolerate a lot of sins in the writings of others.  Writing about what they don't know isn't one of them.  If I don't know a subject, it isn't for me to write about.  I know Vietnam Vets.  I am one.  The Sages, the first book in the mystical trilogy, is an esoteric novel.  Esoterism has been my passion for sixty years.  I don't imagine I'll write anything outside those two areas.

4.  How does my writing process work?  I don't have a writing process so I guess it doesn't work. I let a story line play in mind for a while until it has enough substance to become chapter one.  At some point, toward the end of that first chapter, the protagonist will pick up the story and go with it.  I follow along, watching, and pretending I'm leading the parade, when it's obvious to anyone watching that I'm bring up the end of the procession.

And now the authors who agreed to play.

Caleb Pirtle Is the author of more than sixty published books.  That's not a misprint - sixty books.  He and Stephen Woodfin co-created and operate Venture Galleries.  We met two years ago when Caleb asked about Triberr, a blog promotion platform that was in its infancy at the time.  One thing led to another and we became good friends. For more than a year Caleb, Stephen, Christina, and I have been "hanging out" in weekly G+ gatherings to discuss writing, publishing, and marketing.
The first thing I look for in someone is a sense of humor, and I didn't have to look far to find Caleb's.  He is a warm, friendly man, who has forgotten more about writing than most authors know and best of all, he is more than willing to share it all.  If you haven't checked out his works, there is no time better than this moment.

David Atkinson - I've been an indie author for more than two years and I can't remember a single day that I didn't know David.  I think of him as a rock.  One of those rare people that one meets and knows instantly they can count on.  He has never failed to do whatever favor I asked and he usually does it before I ask.  David is a native of the UK.  I once told him that it's comforting to know that from 2 AM to 8 AM, the hours I normally sleep, he is up and has the world secured.  He is a man you can count on.  That rare trait cuts through his books like the beam from a lighthouse pieces a fog bank.  If you haven't already, check out The Steele novels and you'll see what I mean.

Stephen Woodfin Is a lawyer, a writer, a voice over artist and book narrator, and a devoted husband and father - that sounds like a Rotary Club Introduction but I assure you, it's all true.

And, it should be noted that he is willing to share all of his knowledge for no reason other than to
make your path a bit smoother to travel.

Even though I count heavily on Roger the Soundguy for assistance in my latest project, audio narration, I know that Stephen is ready and willing to answer any question I have.  I've posted the cover from the Revelation Trilogy, but my personal favorite is The Warrior With Alzheimer's.  My recommendation is, don't miss a single one of his books.

Gae-Lynn Woods is the captain of this team. She drove a hard bargain before accepting the position, but it was worth the price to get the east Texas rancher, world traveler, and best selling author on the team.

Gae-Lynn, the author of the Cass Elliott series is not only a world traveler, she is a world class author.
Devil of Light is the first in her Cass Elliott series. The second is The Avengers of Blood.

It has been my pleasure to know and work with Gae-Lynn for the better part of two years.  I haven't found a more agreeable, talented, and genuinely funny writer in a long time.  If you don't know her and her works don't waste another minute taking care of that oversight.

Beca, thanks for asking, Stephen, Caleb, David, and Gae-Lynn, thanks for playing, Christina, thanks for everything.


InCoWriMo - Vintage Social Media

by Bert Carson
It means International Correspondence Writing Month.  Writing, by the way, means writing, not typing, or texting, or word processing, or "Scrivenering" - it means writing with a pen (or pencil or crayon).  The material to be written on is paper, remember that stuff.  The transmission method isn't 3G, 4G, WiFi, or cable, it is s-n-a-i-l  m-a-i-l.  Remember that?

I'm a fountain pen geek.  I have been since I bought one forty-seven years ago at the Post Exchange on Camp Bearcat, South Vietnam.  Until then letter writing was a real drag, something on the same misery scale as CQ (Charge of Quarters) Duty.

After I bought the pen, I became a letter writing machine.  When I got home, letter writing got a fifteen year break, then I bought a new one and wrote everyone with whom I had unsaid issues.  That took almost a year.

When I was done with the project, I retired from letter writing again.  Not because I didn't enjoy it, but because no one had written back - though a number of people who received one of my letters called, and we finished saying the here-to-fore unsaid things over the phone.

That project gave me closure on many things that needed closing, and it rekindled my love affair with fountain pens.  However, until today I only used them to make journal entries.  That changed when, while following fountain pen links, I found the InCoWriMo web site.

The deal is, write a letter a day, every day in February.  Since I had already missed twelve days I almost let it go, and then I thought, I'm ready to write letters, and to write them to people who will write back will be heaven, so who cares when my twenty-eight days start?  Or even if I stop at the end of 28 days.

So, if you are taken with the idea, visit the site.  There you'll find 28 people on the main list and as of this afternoon 26 more who added themselves in the comments.  Everyone of them has agreed to answer every letter they receive.  If you are willing to do the same, add yourself to the list, pick a name and start writing.

By the way, my name and address is there.  If you pick me, I promise I'll write back.

Happy writing.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine

Happy Valentines Day My Love

When we met
I'd almost given up hope
on ever finding someone to 
share my life with.
Someone who shared all 
of my interests - 
Someone who would love all
of my Vietnam Vet friends and
Peanut, my psychopathic dog,
old-time rock and roll and pickup trucks.
Someone who would hitch their wagon
to mine though I had no semblance
of a flight plan, or even a destination I could
pinpoint beyond being true to myself.

And then you were there -
Right there - on the front row there -
And you've been there ever since,
Reminding me every morning when we
wake together that I was right not to give up hope.

As always,
I love you more today than yesterday
but less than I will tomorrow.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

You Have Got To Be Kidding

by Bert Carson
You probably don't remember Our Gang, from the early days of television and before those days, radio.  That being the case, let me identify the young lad on the left.  That's Alfalfa, one of Our Gang and that is pretty much a standard Alfalfa facial expression.

That's the same expression I had on my face when I saw the latest automotive creation of my school friends, Orean Brown and Henry Sanders.

Drag racing was in its infancy in the late fifties, but it had already captured a lot of our hearts.  Someone older than me, maybe a seventeen or eighteen year old, had gotten permission from the police department to set up a crude drag strip on one of the unused WWII runways at the local airport.

The first race was held on a Sunday afternoon, and all of the local entries, maybe a dozen street-legal and totally stock automobiles, had their doors blown off by the rather smug Chief of Police, driving his new Ford Police Interceptor.  What the chief didn't know was one of the young men he had beaten didn't give up easily.  Orean Brown came up with an idea that not many would have thought of, and he enlisted his best friend Henry Sanders to help implement it.

Every day and night of the week following the race, Orean and Henry worked.  They were about 90% done with the creation of Orean's brainchild late the following Saturday night.  They didn't have time to finish things the way Orean would have liked, but they rigged up a couple of things that would work for next day's race, and they rolled their creation out of the garage for a practice run.

They went up and down the deserted streets of Orean's neighborhood until they had their timing right and then they waited.  Sunday afternoon, we were all at the airport with no idea we were about to see the birth of a legend.  Frankly, we thought it would be a repeat of the previous week, and it was pretty obvious the chief felt that way also.  He had pulled his freshly washed cruiser to the newly painted start line, and he was leaning against the car waiting to see who would be brave enough to crank up and pull to the start line beside him.

All the guys who had been beaten a week earlier were standing beside their cars.  None of them were anxious to be the chief's first victim.  Then we heard the noise of an un-muffled car approaching.  It was a long way from the highway to the backside of the airport where we waited.  We listened to the approaching car for some time before it finally came into view.  When it did, we all stared.  I shook my head and refocused.  The car was still there and so was the Alfafa look on my face.

Orean Brown ------------ Henry Sanders
The driver was Orean Brown, the passenger, Henry Sanders.  The car was Orean's Mercury, a  victim of the chief a week earlier. The two friends had spent the entire week removing the body from the 1953 V8 powered, standard shift, sedan, thereby reducing its weight by roughly 50%.

The 10% of the project they failed to complete was finding and installing a windshield and accelerator linkage.

They had handled the first omission with old style motorcyclist goggles and
they resolved the second with a long piece of piano wire.  One end of the wire was fastened to the carburetor, the other end was in Henry's hand.

Without a word to anyone, which is understandable, since you couldn't hear above the noise of the exhaust, Orean pulled up to the starting line, looked at the chief then slowly turned and looked down the runway toward the distant pine trees and extended his arm like Chief Crazy Horse leading his men into battle.

If the chief had thought about it, I'm sure he wouldn't have done what he did next.  But he didn't think.  Consumed by the challenge, he threw away his cigarette, wrenched opened the door and somehow managed to get his tall frame in the cruiser in record time.  He fired up the police interceptor engine, and without giving Orean any warning, engaged the clutch and roared away in a blue cloud of burning tax payer financed rubber.

Orean reacted quickly, dumping the clutch and screaming away in his own blue rubber smoke.  In the first couple of seconds, he cut the gap between his car and the police cruiser in half.  Then, above all the noise of the two vehicles speeding away, I heard something I'll never forget.  Orean, shouting as loud as he could, screamed "Now," and Henry, in perfect sync leaned forward, releasing the tension in the wire connected to the carburetor.  Orean slammed the body-less Mercury into second and screamed again, "NOW!," and Henry straightened pulling the wire to the accelerator tight.  The Mercury seemed to take wings.

The next time Orean screamed, "NOW!" he and Henry had pulled even with the chief.  When he said it again, Henry straightened, pulled the wire tight and the race was all but over.  The chief was beaten.  A couple of days later the police department announced that for safety reasons there would be no more drag racing at the airport—we all knew the real reason.

Orean Brown passed away last week.  His obituary read in part:

He was a member of the National Street Rod Association and the National Hot Rod Association.  He loved drag racing and was known around Palatka as a legend in drag racing in the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.

I know two things about legends.  They are all rooted in history, and they never die.  I just told you of the day that Orean Brown became a drag racing legend.  And I'll guarantee you this, though he's gone, the legend of Orean Brown, Henry Sanders, and loud shouts of "Now," will never fade.  After all, it's always NOW!

Thanks Orean.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

One - The Number Of Numbers

by Bert Carson
Before his conversion and subsequent ordination, John Newton (1725-1807) was a sailor.  During that period of his life life he rose from deckhand to Captain.

He was the Captain of a slave ship during his last years at sea.  Legend has it, and I love legends and the truth on which they stand, on his final voyage he turned the ship around, returned to Africa, and there released all of the men and women he had been transporting to England and a life of slavery.

After years of studying Christian Theology.  Years which included the self-taught learning of both Latin and Greek, he began his career as a minister.  While serving in that capacity, he began writing hymns, one of which remains today the standard for all Christian hymns. If ever a song has changed a single life, Amazing Grace has change countless ones.

This morning, as I listened to a version of the hymn I'd not heard before, my mind snapped to the first passage of Furies of Calderon, the first in the Codex Alera series of novels, which I read just before I slipped into sleep in the single-digit hours of this morning.  I've copied it below for you.

Suggestion - Before you begin reading it, start the video and listen to Amazing Grace as you read.

The course of history is determined not by battles, by sieges, or usurpations, but by the actions of the individual.  The strongest city, the largest army is, at its most basic level, a collection of individuals.  Their decisions, their passions, their foolishness, and their dreams shape the years to come.  If there is any lesson to be learned from history, it is that all too often the fate of armies, of cities, of entire realms rests upon the actions of one person.  In that dire moment of uncertainty, that person's decision, good or bad, right or wrong, big or small, can unwittingly change the world.
But history can be quite the slattern.  One never knows who that person is, where he might be, or what decision he might make.

It is almost enough to make me believe in Destiny.


My point isn't to promote Amazing Grace, John Newton, Jim Butcher, or IL Divo.  I just used them to assist me in making my point.

Our world, yours and mine, is the product of the labor of individuals.  It is the manifestation of the decisions, commitments, and effort of every individual who has lived, is living today, and will live long after we've moved to the next thing.  

We are responsible for the world—a trust not to be taken lightly or for granted.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Writer????

by Bert Carson
"Bert Carson," I said.  "The writer?" He asked.
Last Friday, I sucked it up, took a deep breath and dialed the tech support number.  A computer answered.  No surprise there.  It explained to me that if I remained on the line the next available service representative would be with me in..." there was a pause followed by another computer with a slightly deeper voice, no doubt a male computer, who added, "eleven minutes."

Even though neither computer had asked me to make a selection indicating my best guess on which language the service representative would not be fluent in, I decided to invest eleven more minutes in the project that had already eaten two hours of my day without any indication I might be closer to a solution than I had been two hours earlier.

Eleven minutes and one more fuzzy pass through an indescribably bad piece of music which the Otis Elevator Company rejected forty years ago, a sparkling human voice came on the line with, "Hi, I'm Chris.  What's your name."

I figured Chris had my name in front of him on a monitor, but I decided not to mention that.  Instead, I took one more deep breath, thought the most relaxing thought I could think of, and said softly, "I'm Bert Carson."

At that point the script when out the window, and Chris exclaimed, "The writer?"

Candid Camera flashed through my mind, followed immediately by the thought, this has got to be a joke.  However my gut knew it wasn't a joke, and Chris confirmed that before I could respond.

"Mr. Carson, I've seen your books in a local bookstore."

As it turned out, Chris is from Palo Alto, a city I visited a number of times in the eleven years I was a professional  speaker.  At speaking events, I sold cassette tapes (a long time ago) and a book called Remember: An Encounter With Jesus Christ.  As Chris resolved my issues we talked about that book and the ones I've written since.

I gifted Chris with a Kindle copy of Another Place Another Time, and he told me that he was honored to have spoken with me.

In fact, if there were a way to measure honor in a situation like that, I'm sure it would confirm that I was the one most honored. I don't write to build name recognition, or with the idea that I might go viral, or tip over into a pool of money.  I write because I must write.

Still I have to admit it was nice to speak my name to a stranger, who lives three thousand miles away, and to hear immediately, "The writer?" and know that I was the one he meant.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Who Died? Sherlock - Moriarty - The Series Writers

by Bert Carson
Do not be afraid - there are no series spoilers here, at least not from me.  The writers of the series have already taken care of the spoiling.

The much touted series' second season debuted in Great Britain a month ago and  in the U.S. a week ago.  I would have posted this sooner, but I've been in shock.  My shock wasn't brought on by the discovery that Sherlock was still alive.  I already knew that.  The shock came from the discovery that screen plays are now being written by a group of demented squirrels from Pisgah, Alabama.  That's upsetting to me because it gives Alabama a bad name.  I could live with that if I didn't know those squirrels can write a little better than they did in the second season premier episode.

It is always slightly disconcerting to be reminded that writers, directors, and producer  who have a show winner will still take it out behind the barn and tweak it a bit; just for the hell of it is all I can figure.   Maybe it's a knee-jerk left over from all the series they were part of that weren't winners.  Or maybe they have a self-destructive gene that doesn't allow success.  Or maybe they just like the Pisgah squirrels—of course, if that's the case they could just send the boys a case a peanuts. They didn't have to blow a winner of a TV show.  By my reckoning, the creators and producers of the show have hammered so much much money into marketing it, it won't die this season, or maybe not next season, but eventually, if the Pisgah squirrels continue to write the scripts, it's a goner.

There's a lot to be learned from Dick Wolfe, who resisted the temptation to tweak Law and Order, the all-time winner of a television show for eighteen years.  However, eventually squirrel fever even got Dick.  In 2008, he promoted Jack McCoy from Assistant District Attorney to District Attorney and cast Linus Roache as Michael Cutter, to take McCoy's place.  The combination of removing McCoy, the best ever television Assistant District Attorney and replacing him with a Linus Roache, a distant relative of the Pisgah squirrels was the beginning of the end for the show, which officially arrived two years later.

Of course, not all those who make the decision to bring down the final curtain on a great television series  waste times with tweaks and Pisgah squirrels.  They just cancel it, no matter how great it is.  Here's a perfect example from the infinite number of examples available:

The Dresden Files

Only twelve episodes were produced.  However, if you like good writing, great acting and impeccable directing, you'll love them, I guarantee it. Did I mention there are, as of today, 15 Dresden Files Books, by Jim Butcher and each has whispersync if you get the Kindle version?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Submarines And The Infinite Sea Of Mind

by Bert Carson
Daddy - Me - Mother
Just in case you think my slant on this topic might be slightly skewed, I decided to use this sixty-nine-year-old picture to confirm your suspicion.

My old man was a submariner in the second world war.  He was the chief sonar operator on a diesel powered submarine assigned to the Pacific Fleet.  In a couple of my novels, the protagonist finds a box of medals which belongs to his father.  I didn't make that scene up. I found Daddy's medals and asked him about them.

Though I was ten at the time, and one of my grandfathers served in WWI, four uncles in WWII, and one in Korea, I'd never talked to them about their war experiences.  The day I asked Daddy about his medals, I found out why I'd never talked with grandfather, my father, or my uncles about their experience of war.  None of them were were willing to talk about it.
Now I know why, but that's another story.  I mention my personal connection to submarines here to be totally fair in the following comparison to toy submarines.  My unbiased report might well be biased, in fact, it probably is.  Since Daddy was a submariner, at age ten or eleven I fancied that one day I would also be one.  That changed when I saw one in San Diego and shifted my allegiance to more open spaces.

However, when I was ten, I saved every Kellogg cereal box top I could get my hands on, while counting the days until I had enough of them to order my very own, baking powder-powered submarine.  Of course that took FOREVER, but finally I had the required number.  I sent them, along with twenty-five cents, taped to a piece of cardboard so the quarter wouldn't move which would have alerted postal bandits to the presence of money in the envelope.  Then I waited, and waited, and WAITED. Finally, when I was on the verge of believing my uncle who said the postal bandits stole my quarter and I would never get my submarine, it arrived.

Now, sixty years later, the agony of the wait is forgotten, and all I remember are the hours, no, days of pleasure I spent watching my submarine dive and surface, and dive and surface, and dive and surface... until finally I was placed on baking powder rations.  But even that didn't stop me.

Thinking about that sub led me to Google and Google led me to the above video.  I watched it for while but it just wasn't the same as hanging over the water's edge and seeing the sub in action.  So I went to Amazon and found the same submarine, and, yep, you guessed it.  I bought, not one, but two of them ( I had to agree to give one to Gae-Lynn Woods for her agreement to be captain on my Blog Chain Team).  So now I'm waiting once again for a baking powder powered submarine.

Green's Toy Submarine
To help pass the time, I checked for other toy submarines that were available at Amazon.  What I found was shocking, and it's why I'm writing this blog.   

The Green's Toy Submarine is a best seller at Amazon, with one hundred and sixty-eight five star reviews.


By comparison, the Toysmith baking powder powered submarine, less
than half the price of the Green's Toy Submarine, only has twenty-two reviews and they only average three stars.   So I began to think about that.

In sixty years, our taste in toys has shifted from one we "watched" to one we "interact" with.
That sounds like an improvement until you think about it another way.  My 4" long, baking powder-powered submarine sailed in my mind and there I interacted with it.  In fact, I did far more than interact with it.  On board my submarine I was sometimes the Chief Sonar Operator and at other times, I was the Captain.  We won battles, we had close calls, mechanical failures, personal problems...I did everything on board my 4" long baking powder-powered submarine.  I didn't need a swimming pool, just a small container, and my infinite imagination.  Frankly, I still prefer the smaller submarine, and the infinite sea of my mind.  How about you?

PS - Great, now I'm an hour closer to the arrival of my new submarine.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Your Favorite Elvis Song Can Make You An Internet Superstar

by Bert Carson
Mimi Barbour
Mimi Barbour is a writer, a friend, an Elvis fan, and the author of She's Not You (The first in the Elvis Presley Series of Romance Novels).

Yesterday she commented on my Elvis post, Elvis Presley - Pieces of My Life, mentioning that she is running a contest for Elvis Fans and the winner will receive -


1. Their favorite Elvis song will be the title of the second book in the series.
2.  The book will be dedicated to them.
3.  And my favorite, their name will be used for one of the character.

I can see it now:  O'Malley's was packed.  It was always packed on Friday night.  The lights were low, happy hour was over; only those who where going to make a night of it were still there.  In spite of the fact that most were already paired, when the front door slowly opened, it seemed that every eye in the joint snapped to it.  Though I couldn't be sure, I thought I heard a low sigh, almost a swoon, when Bert Carson entered, walking easy down the yellow path laid out by O'Malley's garish neon parking lot sign...

Now all I have to do is trip over to Mimi's Site, sign up for her news letter, fill out the entry form and tell her that my favorite Elvis Song, and the title for the second book in her series, should be Just Pretend -

Okay, I did it.  Now I'm waiting for Mimi to let me know that I won.  Of course, I guess there's an outside chance you could win and then you'd be the one walking into O'Malleys.  If that happens, well I guess That's when the heartaches begin...

Monday, February 3, 2014

Elvis Presley - Pieces Of My Life

by Bert Carson
I must have looked at two hundred Elvis pictures before I found one that I thought was truly a happy picture.  As luck would have it, it was a candid from his Army days.  I can remember laughing a lot when I was in the Army, but my hair was never that long in those days—that's understandable, I don't sing.

I am an Elvis fan, probably more rabid now than back in the day.  I owe that shift to Sirius XM satellite radio's Elvis Radio Channel.  And there are other connections.  My grandmother, a native of Tupelo, Mississippi, went to school with Elvis's parents.  That's not like knowing The King, but its near the ball park, sort of an Elvis tail gate acquaintance.

And when I was a kid, my parents took me to an all-night gospel singing in Birmingham where I met J.D. Sumner, who, along with the Stamps Quartet, ultimately joined Elvis as his primary back-up group.  Another tail-gate acquaintance link. And finally, fifteen years ago, Christina and I had our cassette tapes dubbed in Nashville, at a studio owned by a man who played guitar on a number of Elvis's records.

All of that, plus I just plain like Elvis's music, is why I was listening to Elvis Radio this afternoon and heard Pieces of My Life.  When I got home, I found a version of the song, with great photos, on YouTube and I listened again...and again...and tried to forget it, and failed.

So I thought I'd share it with you to see if you can forget it any quicker than I have.

I'll leave you with a quote from Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden that seems rather fitting: 

"To understand this part, you have to understand the whole thing." 

The Difference That Matters

by Bert Carson
Lessons Learned has finally turned for home. It was too long in the writing, which means it needs more editing help.

I liked the story the first time the idea for it flitted through my mind, and I quickly knocked out a few chapters just to see if there was anything there.  Then, I sent them to Caleb Pirtle who started posting them as a serialized novel on Venture Galleries without mentioning it to me.

The first I heard about his running the chapters was when I opened this email from him: "Hi Bert, Just a reminder to let you know that I've posted the last chapter of Lessons Learned that I have... Caleb"

I considered this reply, "Hell Caleb, you've posted the last chapter that anyone has..."  I didn't do that because I knew he already knew that. Instead I wrote, "Do you think anyone is reading it?"

He replied, "Yep."

It doesn't take much to encourage a writer, at least not this one.  So, through a wild summer work schedule and with occasional reminders from Caleb, I finished the final chapter a couple of weeks ago and sent it to Caleb.  Then I emailed Rebecca Dickson, who breathes life into piles of paper that were headed for the scrap drawer, and begged for an editing date...and got one.

Here's why.  Rebecca is the difference between this:

Chapter 6 First Paragraph - Before

I stood on the corner at the edge of the park and watched her disappear down the tree lined Natchez street.  Though I was the only one who knew, she was walking away with a lot of misconceptions I have held for years about Mississippi. 

And This:

Chapter 6 First Paragraph - After

We latch onto misconceptions when we are kids. One of mine was the belief that though natives of Alabama were unsophisticated, Mississippians were even lower on the sophistication ladder. As I watched Jan walk away, I was totally cognizant that she had casually and completely stomped all over that Mississippi misconception.

Using a well known Robert Frost phrase, I will say with the same confidence he used when he said it, ...and that has made all the difference.

More about Rebecca Dickson, including contact info.

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: