Thursday, May 28, 2015

World War II Speaking Events


Taking a detour from my mystery writing, my first non-fiction book For Liberty: A World War II Soldier’s Inspiring Life Story of Courage, Sacrifice, Survival and Resilience has been published by Green Leaf Publishers.

On D-Day, June 6, the subject of the book, 96-year-old Ed Gitlin, and I will be speaking at two venues in Colorado. At 9 AM they will be at the Broomfield Veterans Memorial Museum, 12 Garden Center, Broomfield, CO, and at 12:30 PM they will be at the Spirit of Flight Center, 2650 S. Main St. Erie, CO.

What will be fun is the format of these two programs. Ed is very articulate and has a great sense of humor. I always kid him that he has a better memory than I do. We’re going to use an interview format for the presentations. I’ll tee up an event in his past, and then he’ll tell the story of his experience.

To give you an example of his impish sense of humor, Ed once attended a party with his wife, a climate scientist. A pompous academician looked down his nose at Ed and said, “What do you do?”  Ed the owner of a machine shop business said, “Oh, I sweep the floors and clean machines in a machine shop.” The man was taken aback. Ed then put his arm around his wife and said, “And this wonderful woman taught me how to read and write.” As Ed recounted, “Boy did I hear about that from my wife afterwards.”
 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Enlightenment


In the movie City Slickers, Curly holds up a finger and says there is one thing.  Each of us has to find that one thing.

As I get older, I look back over my life and realize that certain buttons constantly push me.  This has led me to consider that if I am ever to become an enlightened human being, I have not one, but three goals to achieve.  These are mine.  Yours will be completely different.  We all have our own personal demons and challenges.  They may be big things or little things.  So here are my three.

One: competitiveness.  I played competitive tennis as a kid and in college.  Even though my joints protest, I continue to play racquet sports, but in a social setting.  I still have that competitive drive to win.  One aspect of this is positive because it pushes me to do my best.  But one aspect continues to get me.  I hate to lose.  So after a hard fought battle on a Saturday morning, if I lose I will stay pissed off for hours afterwards.  It’s just a game I tell myself.  Why can’t I just enjoy the game and be a gracious winner or loser?  I can be a gracious winner because I won.  But when I lose, that’s another story.  So my first step toward becoming an enlightened human being is to be able to engage in a racquet game, enjoy it, be alive and present and feel positive whether I win or lose. Right.

Two: pride.  Having been married forty-six years, my wife and I rarely fight about big issues, but we still argue about some of the same things over and over, such as, you’re not listening to me.  There are times when she is speaking about something that is important to her and I’m not paying attention.  Then she accuses me of not listening.  Rather than admitting it, I try to prove her wrong and me right.  My pride can’t take being criticized.  So instead of taking in what she’s saying, I respond with, “I was listening.  And by the way you’re the one who doesn’t listen.  Remember that time. . .”

Three: fear.  This is the biggy.  I have experienced those rare moments when I have been a good loser and there have even been times when I haven’t gotten defensive when criticized.  But the fear factor is the toughest one for me.  When I get stressed over writing issues, I’m pretty good at handling them during the day.  But at four in the morning, I pop awake worrying about some small item.  Did I set up that meeting?  Will I have time to get edits completed tomorrow? How will I solve that writing problem?  My mind is churning, my stomach’s tight, my right ear is ringing, I’m sweating, my heart’s going lickety split.  And I should be sound asleep.

This is the curse of the active mind.  What serves me well during the day: analytical skills, problem solving, planning, looking at contingencies, unfortunately, keeps going during the night, and I find myself wide awake and mulling things over in my mind.  Sometimes I get up and write myself notes.  Sometimes I get up and read.  Sometimes I try to get back to sleep.  But usually I end up tossing and turning.

My logical mind says to turn it off for the night, relax, get a good night’s sleep.  My subconscious mind says, wake up, take care of this, worry about it, look at it sixteen different ways, fix it.
So my final step to enlightenment will be the ability to park the problems of the day, get a good nights rest and then tackle the issues fresh the next day.

I’m sure you have your own list that would symbolize your own journey to enlightenment.  For me these are my three.  They represent where my mind and emotions are disconnected.  I can look at them logically, but emotionally I react to losing a game, a comment from my wife or by waking up in the middle of the night.

So proceed on your journey and when you achieve enlightenment, let me know how you did it.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Growing Your Soul


Since life is a mystery and we may never know how we came about and what happens after we die, we can all speculate about this brief period of living.

My own interpretation: we are entrusted with a soul.  Our mission becomes growing this soul during our custodianship.  We have choices we can make.  We can let our soul stagnate or we can improve it.

The concept of reincarnation intrigues me.  This would say that after we die our soul continues but in a different body.  Does this really happen?  We don’t know and probably never can know.  Some people seem to be in possession of immature souls and others exhibit the wisdom of a mature and experienced soul.

It’s said that there are more people alive today than have ever lived before though the history of mankind.  Thus if souls get passed on, then a whole lot of new souls keep getting added to the mix.  Unless souls are being supplied from some other location in the universe.  That presents another interesting possibility.  Outsourced souls.

Regarding the reality of this, I don’t know.  But I like the concept of soul custodianship--that we take responsible for a soul during our lifetime.

This provides a good model for ethical living.  It implies we should do everything possible to grow our soul during our lifetime.  We should contribute to life and not death, nurture our soul with positive experiences and the beauty of nature, learning from life’s experiences and doing what we can in our sphere of influence to make the world a better place.

Since we can each have an impact either positive or negative, why not contribute to the positive?

Water your soul, give it light and, sure, a little fertilizer is always getting thrown on it, but just realize that this also helps your soul grow.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Life Is a Mystery



On one hand appears the Literalist tradition within the major religions--the folks who have all the answers and often kill those who disagree with them.  On the other hand emerges the Gnostic path of seeking to know, but not getting lost in the literal acceptance of written words that came from people and not God.  The Gnostics follow the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, Muhammad.  Love your enemy.  It doesn’t mean you have to like your enemy.  But it means that we are all one, and we are torn apart if we hate part of ourselves.  The Literalists remain exclusive, the Gnostics inclusive.  One separates.  The other brings together.  The mystery of life becomes the mystery of the individual within the collective.

When you look at one individual life, it is amazing that any one specific person is here.  Consider all the right decisions, luck, successful reproduction that has been required for that one person to be alive.  One ancestor eaten by a saber tooth tiger and the chain would have been broken.  One ancestor who decided not to enter into a relationship with a member of the opposite sex.  One decision that would have led to premature death in a car accident.  It’s incredible that all these links happened for one specific individual to exist.  Yet, we see all these people around us.  The individual can be buried in the morass of humanity or be overlooked in the teaching that the individual doesn’t matter and that you can achieve paradise by giving up your life to reach an afterlife of supposed rewards.  The danger becomes turning one’s back on the mystery of life and abdicating the moment for a promise of paradise that has been invented by human imagination.

So at the micro-level of one individual, life is a mystery of how any one person got here.  What were the odds over ten thousand years ago that the circumstances would lead to me being here today?

At the macro-level an easy answer to the mystery exists.  Someone had to survive.  Look at all the ants, cockroaches, rabbits.  It’s just a matter of numbers.  Some get stepped on and eaten, and others survived to reproduce.  No big deal.  Just the law of averages that some get killed and some make it.  But what a mystery that we are here to begin with.  The grass, the flowers, the trees, the animals, the variety of people.

When I was twenty I wrote a brief philosophy.  After another fifty years, I can’t come up with a better summation.

Each moment is unique as is each individual.
Yet moments unite through time and individuals through love.
What more is happiness than living and loving each moment.

What a mystery!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Writers Conferences


I attended the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in Colorado Springs last weekend. It was well-run with a wide variety of workshops to help writers improve their craft, learn how to query agents and editors and improve their promotional skills.

I taught three workshops: Mixing Humor, Mystery and Older Characters; Balancing Writing and a Full Time Job; and Rejection Is Not a Four Letter Word. In addition I was on an amateur sleuth panel with Robert Spiller and J. A. Kazimer.

The keynote speakers included Mary Kay Andrews, Andrew Gross, R. L. Stine and Seanan McGuire.

All-in-all a valuable weekend.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Editing with Word and Audio


Yesterday, I completed editing for my upcoming biography, For Liberty: A World War II Soldier’s Inspiring Life Story of Courage, Sacrifice, Survival and Resilience. I had an opportunity to do it a new way. The publisher sent me the final Word document and an audio file. The audio was not human recorded but automated. This led to a number of strange words such as when it recorded World War I instead of saying World War “one,” it said World War “eye”.

I played the audio and read the Word document as the recording flowed. This was very helpful in that sometimes I would catch an error from audio and sometimes from visual. This took about seven hours, the recorded time of the audio.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Audio Books


I love audio books. Whenever I’m driving by myself, I listen to books on CD. Currently I’m listening to Suspect by Robert Crais. This is a for a book club I’m in, and I enjoy reading with my ears as much as with my eyes.

I recently received the Books in Motion audio book edition of the fourth book in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Cruising in Your Eighties Is Murder. I haven’t had a chance to listen to it yet, but actor,  Jerry Sciarrio, did an excellent job of recording the first three books in the series.

The next two books in the series are under contract with Books in Motion, so I’ll have a chance to continue to listen to Paul Jacobson and all his antics in the future as well.