Thursday, March 27, 2014

The High Road - Chapter Six

by Bert Carson
Here's the latest chapter in the story of John, a Vietnam Vet truck driver, his dog JoJo, and his new stowaway, sidekick, Bird, written by me and Noah Charif and narrated by me with sound mixing by Roger the Soundcheck Guy.

Join them as they pick up a load of food and other items donated to assist tornado victims in Oklahoma.

If you missed any of the previous chapters, click here for all of them in numerical order.

Your comments will be appreciated.


Bert and Noah

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Man Of The Year - And The Winner Is

by Bert Carson
David Gillespie, the author of Sweet Poison, is the first Aussie to win my Man Of The Year Award.  It was a close competition this year with notable contenders, like Ralph Miller, Caleb Pirtle, Philip Wang, Stephen Woodfin, and hundreds of others.  However, David had a real edge in the competition because he took me out of the diet game.  You may know the diet game under a different name with the same rules:

Rule One: Torture your body for six weeks.
Rule Two: Brag about the weight you lost thanks to the torture you endured.
Rule Three: Gain back all the weight plus ten percent.
Rule Four: Stop talking about the old diet and find a new one.

One year ago, Christina (my wife) and I decided to stop eating sugar.  We bought a number of books to assist us in our mission.  That was a waste of both money and time.  Then we found David's books.  That was the end of our search for help.

David Gillespie has been there, done that, and he is telling the story, the REAL STORY, which we've proved and continue to prove.

Here he is to share his story with you - David Gillespie - My Man of The Year.

I almost forgot to mention that I've lost more than twenty pounds, experienced an instantaneous cure of chronic sinusitis that was growing worse every year, and all of my books are now on the New York Times Bestseller List...  Well, two out of three ain't bad.

Monday, March 24, 2014

American Gods - A Book and Audio Book Review

by Bert Carson
I've known for a long time that signs and wonders and other things we call miracles are not signs, wonders, are miracles.  They are simply the way things really work, as opposed to the way we are taught they work.

Here's a tiny example.  As you may or may not know, I'm a fountain pen geek.  Besides leaving Vietnam in 1968, with PTSD, which many people will attest to, I left that most wondrous land with a terminal addiction to fountain pens.

My fountain pen addiction, as all fountain pen addicts will confirm, manifests in letter writing, journaling, and pen collecting.  It was the pen collecting the led me to Neil Gaiman, an author, which led me to American Gods, one of his books, which led me to this post.  And consider this, my fountain pen addiction has now affected if not infected you.

Here's how all of that works.  I was on TWSBI's Facebook page, liking it and then poking around, when I saw a face that seemed familiar, but I didn't know why.  The name attached to the face was Neil Gaiman.  I Googled the name, discovered he is an American/English author who has written many books, most of which have appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List.

A little more googling and I discovered that the best selling book in Illinois is American Gods.  That clinched it.  My old Army buddy, Howard Dirler, lives in Illinois, and if it works for Howard, It works for me.

So, I virtually hiked over to Amazon and bought The tenth anniversary addition of American Gods.  While I was there, I checked for the whispersynced Audible Book version, and purchased it also.  Altogether that took about two minutes and cost $18.87 (Book $5.88 Audible Book $12.99).  For my money, I received more than twenty-five hours of top-notch entertainment, a writing lesson that cannot be purchased anywhere at any price, inspiration for a number of blog posts, and other stuff I'm not even yet aware of.

Here's the bottom line on American Gods -

  • I've been reading since I was 4 years old.  Now I'm 71.  That's sixty-seven years worth of reading more novels than you can imagine.  I've never finished reading a novel that left me totally satisfied - that is, I've never read one that I wouldn't have written a bit differently if I wrote it, until now.  Now there's one that I wouldn't change a bit - American Gods.
And, regarding the Audio Version -

  • If you've made it this far, do go all the way and spring for the $12.99 Audible Book (make sure its the 10th Anniversary, full cast, unabridged presentation).  Not only is it impeccably done, you'll find some really neat surprises at the end - those alone are worth the price.
On the old five star rating system, American Gods is a five.  In fact it's so good, as soon as I finished listening to all the credits (I finished the book listening rather than reading), I stopped the car and, via smartphone, journeyed back to Amazon where I bought The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (Kindle and Audible versions).  Though I've read only five chapters, I'm pleased to report it is also a great book.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Gandhi On Writing

by Bert Carson
There are Mahatma Gandhi stories on most any topic of human relations you can think of.  This is one of my favorites.  A woman, with her young son, waited for hours for an audience with Gandhi.

Finally it was her turn.  Hanging onto her son, she approached the revered one and blurted, "Master, tell him to stop eating sugar."

Gandhi considered her request for a long time.  Finally he looked at her and said, "Return in two weeks madam."

She was too dumbfounded to speak and before she could find her voice, Gandhi was gone.

However, as instructed, she returned in two weeks.  This time she was quickly ushered into the sage's presence, whereupon she repeated her request, "Master, tell him to stop eating sugar."

Without hesitation Gandhi turned to the boy and said, "Stop eating sugar."

The boy indicated that he would do as he had been told.  His mother, beaming at their exchange, timidly raised her hand.  Gandhi nodded at her and in a soft voice she said, "Master, why didn't you tell him that when we were here two weeks ago."

Gandhi smiled and said, "Madam, two weeks ago I ate sugar."

I love that story.  However, about now you might be wondering how it relates to the blog title, "Gandhi on Writing."  Here's how.  For a long time, my in-basket has been crammed with uninvited links to blogs that  assure me they will teach me how to become a writer if I will only click here.  They have one thing in common, well, two actually.  First, they are written by people who don't have a clue how to write and second, or maybe it's just an amplification of the first point, without exception the blogs are poorly written.

Gandhi would not tell the young boy to stop eating sugar until he stopped  eating sugar.  Self-titled "best selling" authors who haven't sold anything except their writing courses could learn a lesson from Mahatma Gandhi, and I fervently hope they do.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The High Road - Chapter Five

Noah and I had a couple of long brain storming sessions this past week.  Out of that came a rough outline for the next few chapters.  I say rough because the story is starting to take on a life of its own, as all stories worth telling do.

I wrote the first draft for chapter 5 in my journal just after we finished the first session.  This afternoon I recorded it and I just finished the sound editing and upload.  Tell us what you think.

If you've missed any of the chapters, they are all here.

Agnes Repplier - Word Choice and Placement - AKA Writing

Agnes Repplier was born in 1855 and she died, at age 95, when I was eight years old.

Agnes was a writer, primarily an essayist.  At age twenty, her first work was published.  I didn't read it.  In fact, I  heard of Agnes only because Neil Gaiman knows her work and published an excerpt from her book, Time and Tendencies, at the beginning of Chapter 12 of American Gods.

While I'm confessing, I might as well come clean about me and Neil Gaiman, then I'll do a dozen Hail Hemmingways, and move on to the point.  I only found Gaiman because he showed up on TWSBI's Facebook page.  I knew he was an author, so I followed him to the 10th anniversary edition of American Gods, bought it, and now I'm hooked on the classic that I missed when it was published fourteen years ago.

Here's the Agnes Repplier quote that Gaiman inserted at the beginning of Chapter 12:

"America has invested her religion as well as her morality in sound income-paying securities.  She has adopted the unassailable position of a nation blessed because it deserves to blessed; and her sons, whatever other theologies they may affect or disregard, subscribe unreservedly to this national creed."   from Times and Tendencies

I Googled Agnes, discovered she was self-educated, primarily because she was expelled from two schools for her " independent and rebellious nature."  I reread the quote, loved it even more the second time, which confirmed she was indeed independent and rebellious. From my point of view, those are lovely traits when they are guided by the heart.

My next stop was to find Times and Tendencies, which is long out of print.  However, I located a copy at a bookstore in Rhode Island, thanks to Abebooks, and now its mine.  Then I searched some more and found her essay, Words.  Agnes wrote it in 1939.  It's twelve pages long, so I didn't figure many people would be interested in reading it unless they knew it would be worthwhile - a condition imposed by the sheer weight of the data we have to wade through daily.  So I highlighted the parts I figured would get your attention and pasted them below, along with a link to the full essay.  Enjoy Agnes Repplier, an independent rebellious author from another time, with a message that is timeless.

My highlights from: WORDS
an essay by Agnes Repplier
   Words have an individual and a relative value. They should be chosen before being placed in position. This word is a mere pebble; that a fine pearl or an amethyst. In art the handicraft is everything, and the absolute distinction of the artist lies, not so much in his capacity to feel nature, as in his power to render it.”
   An appreciation of words is so rare that everybody naturally thinks he possesses it, and this universal sentiment results in the misuse of a material whose beauty enriches the loving student beyond the dreams of avarice. Musicians know the value of chords; painters know the value of colors; writers are often so blind to the value of words that they are content with a bare expression of their thoughts, disdaining the “labor of the file,” and confident that the phrase first seized is for them the phrase of inspiration. They exaggerate the importance of what they have to say, lacking which we should be none the poorer, and underrate the importance of saying it in such fashion that we may welcome its very moderate significance.
   For every sentence that may be penned or spoken the right words exist. They lie concealed in the inexhaustible wealth of a vocabulary enriched by centuries of noble thought and delicate manipulation. He who does not find them and fit them into place, who accepts the first term which presents itself rather than search for the expression which accurately and beautifully embodies his meaning, aspires to mediocrity, and is content with failure.
   Shelley’s letters and prose papers teem with sentences in which the beautiful words are sufficient satisfaction in themselves, and of more value than the conclusions they reveal. They have a haunting sweetness, a pure perfection, which makes the act of reading them a sustained and dulcet pleasure. Sometimes this effect is produced by a few simple terms reiterated into lingering music. “We are born, and our birth is unremembered, and our infancy remembered but in fragments; we live on, and in living we lose the apprehension of life.” Sometimes a clearer note is struck with the sure and delicate touch which is the excellence of art. “For the mind in creation is as a fading coal, which some invisible influence, like an inconstant wind, awakens to transitory brightness.”
   The balanced harmony of De Quincey’s style is obtained often by the use of extremely simple words, couched in the clearest imaginable form. Place by the side of Mr. Pater’s picture of Mona Lisa too well known to need quotation De Quincey’s equally famous description of Our Lady of Darkness. Both passages are as beautiful as words can make them, but the gift of simplicity is in the hands of the older writer. Or take the single sentence which describes for us the mystery of Our Lady of Sighs: “And her eyes, if they were ever seen, would be neither sweet nor subtle; no man could read their story; they would be found filled with perishing dreams, and with wrecks of forgotten delirium.” Here, as Mr. Saintsbury justly points out, are no needless adjectives, no unusual or extravagant words. The sense is adequate to the sound, and the sound is only what is required as accompaniment to the sense.
   “All freaks,” remarks Mr. Arnold, “tend to impair the beauty and power of language;” yet so prone are we to confuse the bizarre with the picturesque that at present a great deal of English literature resembles a linguistic museum, where every type of monstrosity is cheerfully exhibited and admired. Writers of splendid capacity, of undeniable originality and force, are not ashamed to add their curios to the group, either from sheer impatience of restraint, or, as I sometimes think, from a grim and perverted sense of humor, which is enlivened by noting how far they can venture beyond bounds.
   There is a pitiless French maxim, less popular with English and Americans than with our Gallic neighbors, Le secret d ennuyer est de tout dire. [The secret of being a bore … is to tell everything] That the literary artist tests his skill by a masterly omission of all that is better left unsaid is a truth widely admitted and scantily utilized. Authors who are indifferent to the beauties of reserve charge down upon us with a dreadful impetuosity from which there is no escape. The strength that lies in delicacy, the chasteness of style which does not abandon itself to every impulse, are qualities ill-understood by men who subordinate taste to fervor, and whose words, coarse, rank, or unctuous, betray the undisciplined intellect that mistakes passion for power. “The language of poets,” says Shelley, “has always affected a certain uniform and harmonious recurrence of sound, without which it were not poetry;” and it is the sustained effort to secure this balanced harmony, this magnificent work within limits, which constitutes the achievement of the poet, and gives beauty and dignity to his art.
   The narrow vocabulary, which is the conversational freehold of people whose education should have provided them a broader field, admits of little that is picturesque or forcible, and of less that is finely graded or delicately conceived. Ordinary conversation appears to consist mainly of “ands,” “buts,” and “thes,” with an occasional “well” to give a flavor of nationality, a “yes” or “no” to stand for individual sentiment, and a few widely exaggerated terms to destroy value and perspective.
   Says Mr. Wilde. “Words have not merely music as sweet as that of viol and lute, color as rich and vivid as any that makes lovely for us the canvas of the Venetian or the Spaniard, and plastic form no less sure and certain than that which reveals itself in marble or in bronze; but thought and passion and spirituality are theirs also, are theirs indeed alone. If the Greeks had criticized nothing but language, they would still have been the great art critics of the world. To know the principles of the highest art is to know the principles of all the arts.”


Monday, March 10, 2014

In Pursuit Of Perfection

by Bert Carson
     Phillip Wang                W. Edwards Deming

Content wise, this may be the most important blog I've ever written.  In less than five hundred words, which converts to only a few minutes of your time, I'm going share the solution for the following issues:

  • Global warming
  • Over population
  • Political stupidity
  • Imbalance of wealth
  • War, famine, and drought
If you think I'm kidding, let me assure you, I am not.  You see, we haven't raised our heads high enough beyond those and every other issue caused my mankind to see the solution that is staring us in the face.

There have been people who have seen the connection and offered specific and clear advice.  People like W. Edwards Deming (1900 - 1993), the man often credited with introducing principles of quality to Japanese business.  And there have been people who naturally followed that advice, consciously or unconsciously, and in so doing found unusual success. People like Philip Wang, the CEO of TWISBI, who, in four years has guided his company from inception to iconic status in fountain pen manufacturing, a field dominated by old line companies like Waterman, Sheaffer, and Mont Blanc.

In spite of the decades we had with Deming and the examples, albeit few, of visionaries like Philip Wang, we still muddle along addressing symptoms rather than problems.

Deming is one of the most quotable teachers who has ever lived.  In one statement, which sums up his philosophy encompassing the most basic of human knowledge,  lies the answer to every human generated situation:  

"It's not enough to do your best:  You must know what to do and then do your best."

   I'm a fountain pen geek and I have been one since I bought my first fountain pen in the PX at Camp Bearcat, Vietnam, in 1967.  Brad Dowdy, aka The Pen Addict, notes on his web site, "There are worse addictions, right?"  Through the years, I've collected pens made by Sheaffer, Waterman, Mont Blanc, Sailor, Pilot, Platinum, Kaweco, Noodler, and countless others.  

Recently I got involved with a project to promote old fashioned correspondence, called InCoWriMo (international correspondence writing month).  Of course I needed new pens for the new endeavor.  Every blog and every distributor I checked either reviewed and/or sold TWSBI pens.  At that point, I'd never heard of TWSBI so I began investigating.

Here's all I needed to know about TWSBI to order my first TWSBI pen:   

Our Mission - To inspire and recapture the romanticism of art and literature...starting with the pen.

To achieve our mission:
  • We are dedicated to manufacturing the highest quality and precision writing instruments 
  • Tailoring our products according to our customer's wants and needs
  • Providing sincere and dedicated customer service
There are a lot of slick words and empty promises in the world today. So I took a deep breath, hoped this wasn't another, and ordered my first TWSBI fountain pen.  That was almost a month and more than thirty joyously hand-written letters ago.  I used the word joyously intentionally because the TWSBI lived up to everything they promised and then some.  And, just to add icing to the cake, I found by writing to him that the CEO, Philip Wang, is just as accessible as he said he would be.  And just to demonstrate the TWSBI way of manufacturing and doing business works, today, I expect our mail person to deliver three new models to help satisfy my pen addiction.

And, what does that have to do with global warming, over population, political stupidity, imbalance of wealth, war, famine, and drought?  Everything.  Creating a company that went from concept to icon in under four years required the implementation of the same philosophy that we must implement to solve the those towering issues.  

The first step for each of us is to find out what to do and then do our best to accomplish the part that is ours to do.


Sunday, March 9, 2014

The High Road - Chapter Four

by Bert Carson
I should have teamed up with Noah a long time ago.  Our story is actually getting requests - not something I know much about, but I do know this, when you get one, handle it.

So, Noah and I are happy to share more of the adventure of John, and Bird, and JoJo as they truck across American being true to themselves and loyal to each other as they search for...

Sorry, we can't tell you that.  It would be a spoiler.  However, here is Chapter Four for your enjoyment and remember, we'd love to have your comments on the story and our telling of it.

In case you missed a chapter, they are all here

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Writing - A Message From The Yellowstone Wolves

by Bert Carson
March 3rd, Christina shared a video link she received from our friend Ralph "Rambo" Miller.  The film, a 4 minute documentary, was posted on YouTube February 13th and it has already been watched almost three million times.

I've watched it twice, and I'm listening to it as I write these words.  The film is brilliantly done as attested to by the number of views.  In addition to the obvious ecological message of the video, there is a powerful message in it for artists - those individuals who are driven my a singular desire to perfect their work and in so doing, share it with all who will appreciate it.

Now, invest four minutes in the video and I'll come back and share the message the wolves have sent to authors who are striving to perfect their work.

Here's the secret message from the wolves to writers - a writing lesson.

To You Who Write Books:
From the wolves of Yellowstone:
      We did not go to Yellowstone to vacation, nor did we go there to change the behavior of the rivers, or create a more hospitable environment for the creatures who lived there. 
     We didn't take a poll of tourists, or rangers, or politicians, to determine what they expected us to do.  We didn't find our genre, or email prospective fans, and we didn't create short films, or do interviews and hire an agent.  We simply did what we knew to do and we did it the best that we knew how to do it.  And that is all you need to do.

Sincerely - The Yellowstone Wolves...


Thursday, March 6, 2014

On Learning To Write - Backwards

by Bert Carson
1984 - Learning to write
If you looked at the blog title and thought the topic was going to be penmanship, it isn't. I'm going to share an aha that was so in my face for over thirty years that it I didn't see it until very recently.

I'm sharing it for three reasons:  First, my blog post for Venture Galleries is a day late and this one has been kicking around in my mind for almost two weeks. I can't get to the ones just below it until I get it written and off to Caleb Pirtle.  Second, I woke up a few minutes ago knowing exactly what I want to say.  That translates to this - the dream god told me to do this, NOW.  And third, it crossed my mind that what I'm about to share might just might be beneficial to you.  So, lets get on with it.

That's me in the photo, serving as master of ceremonies at the 1984 Ryder Truck Rental, Memphis, Tennessee, First Annual District Banquet.  Ryder always hosted banquets to honor our lease customers' drivers, however, until 1984 we conducted them individually, for each customer.

As an aspiring professional speaker, I'd joined five local Toastmasters Clubs.  That meant I attended a different meeting every day of the week. I took that drastic step because, for forty years, my entire life up until that point in time, speaking in public held two positions in my life:  It was the skill I most wanted to master and it was my biggest fear.

That's why I talked my District Manager into combining all of our small safety banquets into one big banquet.  He agreed if I would MC the event, which had been my plan all along.   Five hundred drivers, wives, dispatchers, and transportation managers attended along with various corporate representatives from Ryder's headquarters.

That was the first speech of what ultimately became an eleven year career and countless professional speaking gigs all over the states, Canada, and a select few countries.  It's also how I learned to write.

I've never attended a writer's convention, taken a single course in writing, or spent a summer at the University of Iowa Workshop.  I learned to write by walking countless miles across a zillion stages, in front of hundreds of thousands of people, telling stories.

What does that have to do with writing?  Aren't the most important things in writing, mechanics, story arcs, punctuation, character creation, and drama?  Since I learned writing the backwards way, my answer won't sync with the answer of "school trained" writers.  In a word, my answer is NO!  The single most important thing a writer has to learn is how to entertain an audience.  You don't learn that by putting commas in the correct position, following a story arc, or formatting for Kindle with Scrivener.  At least, that isn't the way I learned.

Learn to write by joining Toastmasters Club and forcing yourself through the ice breaker speech.  Then speak at every opportunity and use every one of those occasions to let your audience show you what they want to hear, which is ultimately the same as what they want to read.

And, if you don't have time for Toastmasters meetings, try this backward way to effective writing.  Record your writing and when you're ready for feedback, post it in blogs, email it to friends, or set up an account on SoundCloud and upload your audio clips for the world to hear - that looks and sounds like this:


Sunday, March 2, 2014

The High Road - Chapter 3

by Bert Carson
Last week we posted the first two chapters of our book, The High Road.  Noah has some pretty awesome fans and they made it clear to both of us that they're ready to hear the rest of the story.
So, we had a meeting and decided that no matter how many other things we had to do, we'd write, and then record, at least one chapter of the story every week.

Here's Chapter Three of the The High Road.

Tweet: Here's Chapter Three of the The High Road. Take a Listen

If you missed Chapter One and Two, I've set up a page you can access on the menu bar at the top of this page, or you can just click here.

Feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you think of the book.

Thanks for listening,

Bert and Noah