Thursday, July 28, 2011

Undaunted Courage--Stephen Ambrose

I pondered briefly giving this 4 stars, rather than 5, because of how long it took me to get through it.  But then I realized it took so long because of its amazing thoroughness.  Every single thing--every mile of the trip, every nuance of the time, every Native tribe they encountered, every possible outlook of every important decision that Lewis and Clark (and Thomas Jefferson) made--was given quick but thorough room in this book.  I understand the time, and Thomas Jefferson, better than I had before.  It is a brilliant book of a different time, an era that we will never revisit.  It is a miracle that every man but one of the Corps of Discovery returned from this three-year adventure.

The last few pages are a vastly different chronicle of a man who was perhaps the victim of Thomas Jefferson's biggest political mistake--the appointment of Meriwether Lewis as Governor of the Louisiana Territory, a position for which Lewis was horrifically, and very obviously, unsuited.  He would have been better off sent on another expedition, or given a job at the famous Philadelphia museums of the time, chronicling his discoveries and getting his journals published.  It took him over a year to even get to Louisiana after he was appointed Governor of the Territory.  He went insane there--instances of emotional and mental imbalances occurred throughout his life, but seemed to oddly disappear while exploring the Territory.  Possibly he had advanced malaria.  Medications he took for that may have reacted badly with the alcohol and other drugs he heavily consumed.  He seemed rather like Poe when he drank--some sort of reaction besides basic drunkenness apparently occurred.  Then he committed suicide in bizarre fashion, just a couple of years after his return from the expedition--with the journals still on him.  One of the greatest mysteries of the time is why this man, who was willing to give his life for the journals while in the Territory, and who was desperate for money after his return, never really even tried to have his journals published.  The publication would have brought him even more riches and fame than he had received upon his return.

A mystery of a very mysterious man.  And so the book is heavily recommended, but beware that it is a breathtakingly thorough work that will take some time to get through.  It will be well worth it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Open Submissions--For Money and for Free

A quick word out there for all writers with genre stories (especially horror, and specific horror) to sell: Key in words "open submissions" into Google and see what you get.  You'll find tons of anthologies looking for stories, which I never in a million years would've guessed.  Magazines, too, but anthologies by the ton.  Some want stories for free (ie--contributors copies), but I copied and pasted many that paid one cent a word or more.  If you're an unpublished beginner, getting an acceptance in an anthology for copies isn't that bad; if you've been published, you want to go for the money, even if it isn't much.  I'm going to send stuff to those, maybe, and I'm editing a piece right now for another anthology of a different sort.  Wish me luck on it!

I have two mystery short stories and a slice-of-life story that need a home, so I need to find time to send those out.  Maybe there are mystery anthologies out there looking for stories?  There's gotta be.

Thanks to Suzanne for opening my eyes to these.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Savin' Money but Living Well

Been awhile again.  Craziness of a new house purchase hopefully almost over; (possibly long) summary to follow.  Until then, a really short response I gave to someone recently about how we've managed to stay out of debt, afford what we have, not live the rich lifestyle, but still remain happy.  Enjoy!


I loved your message about thriftiness.  I also have never been in debt--just the mortgage, which doesn't really count.  I paid off my student loans all at one shot many years ago--over $9,000 in one check, boom!  And my credit score as of two weeks ago was 802!  So, hah! :-)  Seriously, this allowed me to be lucky enough to buy my father's house after he passed--and rent out the one I own.  I move in there in 4 weeks and I can't wait.  I also think that people who race to hit their credit limit are idiots.  I only have 1 card, with a limit of $1,500 that I never reach.  I don't own a debit card or an ATM card.  I don't get automatic deposit--I go to the bank, and I never walk away with more than $200 or $300 on me--which lasts me two weeks until my next check.  I balance my checkbook at the bank; I've never bounced a check.  When I was 14, my father taught me to pay rent first (20% of the total check went to him); then I put half of what was left automatically in the bank.  The rest had to go to gas and my bills right away.  The rest--about $50 by that time!--I could spend.  This made me rather wealthy for a working 14 year old (massive numbers of hours over the summer, never during school), but it taught me everything I need to know about saving money.

So I'm with you, there, my friend.  We're also both former reporters, though you are way more successful a writer than I at this time.  But I'll be hittin' my stride soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Adrian Gonzalez and Psalms 27:1

Photo: (AP/Ross D. Franklin) Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox, hitting a homer in the 4th inning of the All-Star Game

Interesting thing I discovered today.  I'm looking to buy an Adrian Gonzalez (first baseman, Boston Red Sox) autographed picture and I saw two that I liked on two different sites.  (I won't mention their names.)  One site has an 8X10 and another a 16X20.  I'd prefer the larger one, as 8X10s don't often show up well when framed, etc.  But this 8X10 is much more clear than the larger picture, as the larger one shows him swinging, but you can't see the face well--and the computer simulations on  the site showed that his face and foot would be covered by the frame and mattes.  (A salesperson assured me this wasn't actually going to happen.)  The 8X10 was very clear, and the autograph was very striking, and the face was clear.  A headshot, really.

But then I noticed the really interesting thing.  I've looked at a ton of Adrian Gonzalez autographed items--bases, uniforms, bats, cards, baseballs, photos, lineup cards, everything.  Underneath every single autograph on every single item, he writes Ps 27:1, a reference to Psalms 27:1, which reads:

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

Every single item, under every single autograph, without fail.  There are articles about him doing this; he's quite the fanatic about it, and I mean that in a good way.  He engraves Ps 27:1 into all of his bats, and I'm not just talking about the ones he autographs; I'm talking about the ones he uses.  Ps 27:1, always.

But not on the 16X20 I was looking at, the one I called the salesperson about.  This woman told me that athletes change their signatures all the time, which I'm not sure I believe, either.  Players I've spoken to are anxious about fans getting their autographs just to sell them online, and they're worried about forged products with their "autographs" on them.  Not only do these flood the markets and lower the value of the real thing; they also gyp the player out of his cut, since he never really signed it to begin with.  So no Ps 27:1, and I also then noticed that the A and D in his first name--the only legible letters--and the G and L in his last name--also the only legible letters in his last name--look a little bit (but noticeably) different in the 18X20.  And the 18X20 is actually priced a bit lower than the 8X10, which I've also never seen before.

Now, I want to make it clear that I'm not accusing anybody of anything.  I suppose it's possible that for the first time in his athletic life, Gonzalez forgot to put the Ps 27:1 on this particular item--each time he signed it.  But I don't want to take that chance.  I'll bet that signing the Ps 27:1 is just as much a part of his signature as is each letter of his name.  If he signed all of the photos without it--and this photo was only available to the public a few days ago, on All-Star night (during which he hit the first, but, alas, not the last, homer)--I'll bet it was because someone told him to leave it out.  Or they air-brushed it.  Would Gonzalez allow that?  I don't know.  He's a VERY religious guy.  VERY.  And he's always signed it, millions of times, with the Ps 27:1.

Weird.  If anyone has an explanation for this, please pass it along.  Thanks.  Look 'em up.  It won't take long to find the two photos I mean.  Put in keywords Adrian Gonzalez/autographed photos and you'll see.