Saturday, February 21, 2009

family and friends

My father is recovering slowly and now comes the hard part. Lots of things must change to help him adapt.

I'm reminded of something said to me a long time back by someone I used to be close to. Something about the importance of family loyalty.

As I see it, it's a never a simple thing sticking by your family. They frequently don't listen to you and vice versa. We all want to help each other but we individually believe we have the right answers. And this family loyalty gets tested according to life's schedule, not your own. So you do what you can, hopefully find the right path through the challenges.

After checking up on my Dad and looking in on my Mom yesterday, I went out for a little bit to see some folks at the Fifth Anniversary party for NJYP. Saw lots of faces I'd come to know over the past few years.

On the wall last night they posted the names of friends people said they made through the organization since it got started.

That same someone I used to be close to was at the top of the list. It was alphabetical and when your first name starts with "A", you are guaranteed top billing. She was always something of a rock star. ;-)

These days she and I scarcely cross paths. It's how things go, especially given my past foolishness. It's funny though that I only became aware of NJYP through her.

My own name popped up farther down the list of friends. I guess all the cooking I've done at barbecues help folks remember my name.

What I take from all this is an understanding that we choose how we keep folks in our personal space or not. Thanks to social networking, we have many tools for seeking friends and even relatives you have not heard from in years. My $5 says someone is scheduling their family reunion completely through Facebook right now.

But phone calls and getting out to see folks remains very important. With my Dad being in the hospital, his brothers and sisters have come out a lot to see him, keeping him focused. It's the being there in the now, that's how you help each other.

I am who I am through the people around me, to paraphrase the Ubuntu philosophy.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

And so we wait...

My father went in for surgery this evening and it's been quite a while. It's kinda hard getting info out of the hospital staff while things are in flux.

So we wait...

Heritage House

Heritage House page one

So here is the first page of the latest book project. Still shooting to finish the first draft by spring. Liberty States Fiction Writers has a challenge for its members to finish a new book by the end of May. That works pretty closely with my original timetable.

Heritage House page one

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Making changes... please pardon the rambling

Not sure if I am so in love with the layout of this blog anymore. I don't think it is all that easy on the eyes. Don't freak out of this space changes soon.

My father's next major surgery is tentatively set for tomorrow.

I was sad to see that Muse in Morristown had closed apparently some time ago. It was a nice place though I had not been by there in quite some time.

Heritage House is taking on a nice, easy to get into mass market feel... which is starting to irritate me. I am willing to bet good money I could post the first page or so of the manuscript on here and it would be more openly received compared with Riding Ten Thunders. Hey if it gets me published, what does it matter? Right?

Then why do I get so mad about it? Maybe my expectations have been too high for RTT.

You see while I enjoy that fantasy and science fiction genres, I loathe the overused tropes that plague many books. My favorite authors in this field are George R. R. Martin and Charles de Lint.

Martin allows his characters' petty desires take precedence over the ominous plot that typically weigh down fantasy books. And he makes the story of those petty desires far more interesting than finding magic swords or unicorns.

De Lint has a wonderful knack for making the ordinary seem extraordinary and vice versa. He works with subtle touches of language that don't ham fist a story into your face. No gimmicks. Sometimes his critics say he is a little lacking on substance.

I say De Lint's writing is like savoring a piece of fine chocolate. If you are in a rush to fill your belly, go ahead and eat a Snickers bar. But for those willing to pace themselves and absorb each hint of flavor, let that piece of Godiva chocolate melt slowly on your tongue.

I don't want my stories to be Snickers bars... I want the reader to indulge for a long while...

Monday, February 16, 2009

New Era of Journalism, 101

Social Media and Journalism

So last month I attended a panel discussion on the way social media (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc.) have changed the way the public approaches news. The panelists offered varied and distinct views on the way such things can be leverage by people working in the business. I got to hang out for a bit with Shirley Brady from BusinessWeek.com and Andy Carvin with NPR after the panel was over.

The link above will take you to a recording of the discussion. I suggest you download it to playback later, the acoustics are kinda rough. It runs pretty long, just under an hour and a half, but is pretty good stuff. As one my colleagues put it, "If you still want to be working in the news business in the next few years, you should listen to this discussion."

My apologies if there are any hard to hear portions. If anyone needs something clarified, let me know and I will help make sense of it.

Social Media and Journalism

Helpful sessions

Saturday and Sunday were very helpful for my writing. The Liberty States Fiction Writers workshop was great. I took an excerpt of Riding Ten Thunders with me and got some very useful feedback. Likewise for Sunday's writers circle with NJYP where I shared the first page of Heritage House.

more to come

I fed my dad today

He had more of an appetite and was more vocal today compared with prior days when he barely had the voice to speak. My mother and I could talk with him much more, though there was still that fogginess, a clouding of his understanding at times. When he was able to focus, just for moments at a time, my father was back.

"Want some more soup?" I asked him lightly. "You know I usually get paid top dollar for this level of service."

He didn't laugh at my joke but played along quietly. "It's good service," he said.

Before I start turning into the weepy son, let's be honest. My father and I have our deep core differences. And, I am ashamed to admit, there were times I would fly into a seething rage at the mere insinuation that I might be like him. Pretty childish of me.

I've done a lot of internal work addressing such things and learned to accept there are places where he and I will never reach common ground.

I suppose it's my mother's compassion that kicks in when I know someone needs help. During our visit Saturday, my mom decided to give Valentine's Day cards to the other patients in the same unit as my father. On that day while I tried with little success to get my dad to eat, she went bed-to-bed talking patiently to each person finding out who they were, how they were feeling. My mother has always been good at getting to know people she has just met.

"I have I got some stories to tell," she said when we left the hospital Saturday, her head filled with what she learned from the other people in that room.

I suppose we all have the story of ourselves we want others to hear and remember. For the past year or so, my father has had a rather troubled countenance to him. As his health issues increased, you could see him grow increasingly worried and unsettled.

Sorting through his papers this weekend I came across his driver's license issued just last year. The look on his face in that photo reflected both concern about the future and memories of the easier days that he missed.

Underneath it all I suppose my father is looking for reassurance, some comfort that tomorrow offers fresh hope.

Flame and Bone

When I was made from fire
Poured into the tender vessel of caution
That keeps my smoke from rising
Quickly did I discover that apart from crisp drizzles or falling snow
The world chilled my touched
Walking the narrow cornered gap between girders and cut stone
One learns to tuck his shoulders in or risk
Jostling a neighbor passing by rapt with want
For a clear path without the distraction
Of another man's boiling eyes
The tip of a finger
That oldest of all weapons
Grown deadlier and pristine in its invention
Gathers a mote of a cinder on its bare flesh
And turns pondering how best to scratch the impious itch
Prying open the tender seam
Where the oil of thought dews
Offering a new wick to ignite
Squirming alive as a salamander of mischief
That yearns for a taste of air it is so ready to devour
The steam of breath betrays me
Before the glint of orange spreads
In popping bright waves
Eroding the fibers feeding it
Leaving naught but ash
As my shell of quietude falls away