Liebster Awards All Around

The highest compliments one can get are those from the people who do the same type of work as you. It is special because they understand the commitment, hard work, and dedication it takes to produce something worthwhile. That they take the time to give recognition is extremely flattering.  That’s why I was honored to find out my site was nominated for a 2018 Liebster Award by The Pensieve.

If you haven’t heard of it, the Liebster Award is an “award” given to bloggers by other bloggers for fun and in recognition of a post or overall blog that they enjoyed.  (Ties into that whole “highest compliments” bit rather nicely, doesn’t it?)  It’s also a great way to find new blogs to add to your reader. I was both surprised and honored to learn of my nomination and cannot express my gratitude enough. I highly recommend checking out The Pensieve as there are some great posts to be read there.

Rules are Rules

As per the official rules of the award, here I am to post what makes me passionate about blogging. It’s quite a simple answer, one that many of my fellow bloggers will no doubt relate to: I love writing. It’s what motivates me to wake up in the morning. It’s also what gives me a fair number of sleepless nights.

One of the better writing habits I’ve picked up over the years is to write little pieces that have absolutely nothing to do with the project I’m currently working on. They exist with the sole purpose of keeping my fingers moving. Sometimes I just need a little time to let an idea or plot point simmer a while longer. Or perhaps I need some distance from a draft that is mired in the editing phase. (Okay, I’ll admit it – sometimes I’m just procrastinating and need a break. There, I said it.) So I write short, mostly nonsensical pieces for fun. They give me a nice, low pressure distraction and help keep my work fresh.

I decided to create a website to give these little stories a place to live other than the “Misc” folder on my hard drive. (And it’s nice to have a web address to list on mini-bio’s.) And so while they were never written with the intent to publish anywhere (which ought to be evident by the general content and complete lack of editing), they are just as important to me as anything else I write. I couldn’t create the stories I write without them.

My Liebster Award Nominees!

Anyway, I write fiction because I like talking about others and not myself. So here is where this gets fun for me.

Something I hadn’t expected while building my site was the discovery of the amazing content that’s out there in the blogging community. There are many very talented writers and artists who put themselves and their work out there every day.  I very much admire the creativity and enjoy reading the thoughts and ideas of others.

Although I know sometimes a blog starts with fire and determination only to quickly burn out and fade away, my Liebster Award nominees are a few that I hope stick around for a good long while:

Tokens of Expression

  • Love thyself?  Then you’ll love what you read over at Aieshi’s website. Probably the nicest layout I’ve seen in a while. I should steal it.

Merchant Writes Again

  • A blog created by a very talented writer who has written some excellent stories.  It’s not easy painting a vivid picture with so few words, but he pulls it off.  Furthermore, anyone whose blog header reads “My pen loves gossiping to paper about my imagination’s secrets.” deserves an award.

VinayShankar

  • What do I know about poetry? Well, I know what I like. And there’s plenty to like here. Go read some.

Andi Writes About…

  • Andi is writing to write because that’s what Andi loves to do. Doesn’t get much better than that. Go have a look at what Andi’s up to and give her a follow so she keeps at it.

Reverse Science

  • This is a great science-themed website.  I love reading thought-provoking posts about the universe we live in.  If you do as well, this is a great blog to follow.

 

Ten Random and Completely Useless Facts About Me:

As I mentioned, rules are rules.  This is part of them so here we go.  Don’t say I’m not a sport…

  1. I have lived in Florida for years.  Yes it is hot.  Yes there are crazy people everywhere.  Please don’t move here.
  2. I play the bass guitar poorly, but what I lack in talent I make up for with volume.  I have mastered a few songs that the local stray cats really seem to relate to.
  3. I do not own any pets, but I do own two children who sometimes act like pets.
  4. I am ambidextrous and believe it’s a learned talent.  Anything can be mastered with practice.  Except, apparently, playing the bass guitar.
  5. I am a pilot.  It’s safer up there then on the roads with all the nuts down here.
  6. I have literally just discovered The Game of Thrones and am binge-watching it like hell.  It took me six years to discover Lost and The Sopranos, so this should come as no surprise to anyone.
  7. I’ll take a good book over a great movie anytime.
  8. I am what most would consider tall but cannot shoot a basketball for the life of me.
  9. I am the type that finds it very difficult to list ten random facts about myself.
  10. Did I mention that I live in Florida?

The Liebster Award Rules:

(These are direct from the official website so you can cut and paste as I have.)

If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, or you chose to start a blog post about the Liebster award; you should do the following:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and put a link to their blog on your blog. Try to include a little promotion for the person who nominated you. They will thank you for it and those who you nominate will also help you out as well.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. For the 2018 Liebster Award, I will be shaking things up! Write a small post about what makes you passionate about blog posting.

4. Provide 10 random facts about yourself. (Again this year I’m making this optional. If you wish to engage with your readers it’s a great idea to include random facts about you.)

5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel would enjoy blogging about this award the award.

6. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here or simply link to this post.)

7. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster award and provide a link for them to your post.

via The Daily Prompt

 

 

Making Choices That Count

I had a reading assignment for my beta-reading group this morning.  An absolutely wonderful story about the family of a man suffering from mental decline.  It needed some technical work, but the story itself was just fantastic.  I expressed as such, and hope the author sees the story in print somewhere soon.  It was that good.

The main character, Keith, is a fifty-eight year old husband and father.  We live with him as he goes through the trials that come during the beginning stages of dementia.  How it disrupts not only his life, but the lives of the people around him.  We share the concerns of his wife and grown son, and how they struggle to help him come to terms with the reality of his disease.   It even touches on the dynamic between parent and child when the caretaker roles reverse as the years go by.  If you have an elderly parent who needs a little checking in on now and again, you would relate to this story.  I loved it.

It got me to thinking about my own family, and how we’ve had to help my mother over the last few years.  Two years ago she was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease called corticobasal degeneration (CBD).  If you’ve never heard of it, I wouldn’t be all that surprised.  Pray that you never find yourself in the position of dealing with it first-hand.  It’s a nightmare.

The quick and dirty:  CBD causes atrophy of the brain.  It begins with a sudden inability to do simple tasks with your hands that you’ve otherwise done you’re entire life.  Handwriting, fine motors skills, those sort of things.  As the disease progresses, other parts of the body begin to fail.  A left leg that won’t move, an arm unintentionally raised in the air (called alien hand syndrome), a loss of balance.  Over the course of about seven to eight years, the physical symptoms are so pronounced that the patient is confined to a wheel chair, or outright bedridden and unable to speak.  The most horrific part is that in many cases of CBD, there is no corresponding cognitive decline.  Meaning the person with the disease is very much aware of everything happening to them, but lack the ability to communicate.

It seems vulgar to use the word “fortunate” here, but that my mother also had dementia in addition to CBD was exactly that.  Imagine feeling thankful that your loved one was so mentally disturbed they had no idea what was happening to them.  It is a rather unpleasant consolation, but a consolation nonetheless.

Although we did not know she had CBD at the time, around two years ago it became pretty clear that something was drastically wrong.  We are all biased toward the people we love, but my mother was one of the good ones.  She had countless friends with whom she met for lunch or chatted with on the phone.  She spent her time enjoying the world through travel, adored the arts, and was the quintessential optimist.  She’d seen her hard times, but she taught me that you just clean up the spilled milk and carry on.  She lived a great life, and felt like she had many more years to come.

I remember being alarmed when the emails stopped coming.  She’d become interested in computers and the internet sometime in the late nineties.  When she discovered email, my inbox was suddenly flooded with corny jokes, silly meme’s, pictures of her and her friends about town, and the occasional “Is this true?” question, followed by those ridiculous articles often answered on Snopes.  Getting an email from her was a daily ritual.  But the frequency of her emails slowed, became somewhat less coherent, and then just stopped altogether.

Soon after, my biweekly phone calls went unanswered.  This was another habit of ours, to catch up on life over the phone.  An hour every couple of weeks just to keep our bond going.  You miss one or two and it’s no big deal.  But after a while it becomes alarming.  This was the same woman who only a year before would talk my ear off for an hour.  Now, nothing.  Something was wrong.

The thing about CBD is that it’s slow to progress.  What they say about boiling a frog to death is true.  Drop one in boiling water and it’ll jump right out.  Heat the water slowly, it’ll sit there until the end.  My mother wasn’t diagnosed until 2015, but in hindsight we can trace the symptoms back as far as late 2010.  The subtle decline was becoming more pronounced.  It seemed like everything was fine, Mom just being Mom, and then all this.  We didn’t know it, but the end stage was near.

I made a surprise visit to see what was going on.  She lived alone, after all, and although she had good neighbors and friends, people often have their own problems to contend with.  It’s just how things are.  When I arrived at the house, it was obvious things were not right.  The typically-immaculate house was in disarray.  The lights dimmed, the blinds to the gigantic sliding glass doors drawn.  Mail stacked knee deep on the floor.  The house that had once been full of laughter and friends felt like a crypt.

My mother also seemed like she had aged a decade.  She had always been a fashion nut.  Beautiful clothes, tons of jewelry, and shoes…of course the shoes.  Now, she wore sweatpants and a tee-shirt.  If that.  The lady who had exercised religiously for her entire life had to shuffle across the floor.  She complained of being dizzy.  The missing emails and lack of phone calls were explained away by her feeling over-stimulated.  She hung up on friends because she couldn’t bear to be on the phone for more than a few seconds.  She was no longer the person I had known my entire life.

Suffice to say, something had to be done.  In our family, we take care of our own.  I was the closest to her, and therefore tasked myself with her daily care.  It was a struggle, it was a financial burden, and it put my life on hold.  I’ll spare you the details, but imagine having to rely on someone for complete assistance with every simple thing you do for yourself every day – eating, bathing, dressing, paying bills…everything.  That is what I had tasked myself to do.  Because it was my mother and I owed her the dignity of staying home for as long as possible.  That’s how it is.

We had laughs, fights, and tears.  Such is the way when dealing with dementia.  But I gave her an extra year at home, and for that I will always be grateful.  It is a privilege to take care of someone who dedicated a good part of their life to your well-being.  It was the hardest year of both our lives – for her more than me – but I’d make that decision again if I had to.

Today, my mother lives in a memory care unit down the street.  We visit often, of course, but I think it’s more for us than anything else at this point.   Her physical and mental limitations were beyond my ability to care for any longer.  When you go at something like that alone, it becomes impossible to keep up with.  24/7 care is something that requires a team.  For her safety, I hadn’t a choice.  Like I said before, it’s a blessing that she’s completely unaware of her surroundings at this point.  When it mattered, we did it together.  I miss her dreadfully.

I hope you never have to go through what she went through.  Because it’s unfair, it’s cruel, and it makes no sense.  Where is the justification in doing that to a person whose life had been mostly dedicated to the concerns of others?  I can’t figure it out.  But if you do have the opportunity to make a difference to someone important in your life, consider making the proper choice.  It is a very rewarding experience.

As most of the hard things in life often are.

 

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with CBD, there’s a wonderful support group available on line.  It’s a great resource for learning about how to deal with this awful disease, and a place to meet with others who have experience with CBD.  I highly recommend joining the CBGD Support Group on Yahoo.com.   

 

via Daily Prompt: Disrupt

New Story, Same Old Story

Well, I’ve done it again. After countless rewrites and having received a blessing from my professional, often angry beta reading group, I have once again released a little white dove of fiction into the skies of a cruel, cruel world. You’re own your own now, buddy, best of luck. Gonna need it out there.

I suppose my process is the same as any other author. When a story is finished, or at least as finished as it’s going to be, I choose the top five publications that I think would be the best fit for it. It usually depends on the genre, the theme, and the reach of the publication. I especially like the ones that are picky and have intimidating submission guidelines. Because when they respond with a ‘yes’, you know your story will be in good company. I then spend the next twenty minutes formatting to the guidelines, writing brief introductions, and trying to thwart off my brain from finally convincing me of what a horrid writer I really am. It’s a fun life.

But my website isn’t about the follies of a writer. You can read that almost anywhere else, so I’d rather stick to what this website was meant to be. Namely, a place to post those silly little articles that I write to give myself a distraction from what I consider my “serious” work. They’re nonsense, I know. But fun to write and, hopefully, fun to read. They keep my fiction fresh and my fingers moving. If they entertain anyone to boot, that’s just a bonus.  (If this is the first post of mine you’ve ever read, have a look around, won’t you?  They get better, if by ‘better’ you mean different than this one.)

I don’t know what the proper percentage of likes-to-impressions (or it is impressions-to-likes?) ratio is on WordPress. In advertising, I know ten percent is a nice place to be. Same with YouTube, I think. But for a blog, I have no idea. My website is new, so I don’t get a lot of views yet. I guess that takes time. The good news, however, is that I have 5 likes on the articles from a pool of around 10 total views. (The other 150 views are me trying to fix mistakes and don’t really count.) Based on my advanced mathematical calculation abilities, that means half of the readers, who by some small miracle have mistakenly landed on my website, have poor taste in literature and a background devoid of culture. And, as I tell myself while stressing over the data, the other half probably meant to click like and just forgot. Probably too awestruck by what they read.

Suffice to say, I probably need to do something about the number of readers that come here. I think my best bet will be to start advertising it. Not pay for spots, but rather make sure it gets mentioned in the byline of every piece someone else publishes from now on. Missed opportunities, there. But, as I tell my children, the only problems you really have in life are the ones you do nothing about. As far as I can tell, that little number has fallen on deaf ears. But we’ve got time yet.

I should also make sure I don’t insult the people who click like on my articles, huh? I believe that those who appreciate humor are most likely to have a sense of one. So rather take offense, they probably chuckled at the slight. I hope.

And, of course, the word ‘hope’ brings me back to my little white dove. Surely one of my top five will pick it up. And, no, I won’t tell you which ones so I don’t look like a complete ass if they don’t. But rest assured, as soon as it gets picked up, I’ll be sure to post the good news here. Maybe even Twitter.

(That last line was just a way for me to easily segue into promoting my Twitter handle – /paulkardos Tricky, right?)

For the rest, don’t fret. More nonsense to come again next week. Until then, feel free to click ‘like’ below. Makes me feel better.

I have faith in you. You can do this!

It’s…right…down…there…

via Daily Prompt: Thwart

Healthy Vape Juice To Hit The Market Soon

The debate over whether vaping is a better, safer alternative to cigarettes is certainly not a new one. Seems every time one side comes up with irrefutable proof which substantiates their position, the other fires back with data convincing enough to back up their own.  The controversy is widespread, the resolution complex.

Today, a Hillsborough County company, Health eVape, is making an even bigger stir in the vape community with their new line of vitamin-infused ejuices. It’s a new, innovative take on an old, less-than-successful idea. And it has both Big Tobacco and health advocacy groups across the country in a tizzy.

“We like to say that when you vape our juices,” says Bart Walters, CEO of the Florida-based company. “It’s like eating a bowl of Grape Nuts while taking a brisk jog in the mountains. It’s that good for you.”

So-called healthy vape juices are not a new concept. In fact, vitamin-infused vape juices date almost as far back as the advent of the vape itself. But claims of any benefits that come with using a vitamin vape juice were largely debunked through scientific research and widely publicized case studies. Walters said his company was well aware of the stumbling blocks encountered by their predecessors, and have managed to overcome them all.

“The problem with the original concept,” Waters explained, “is there were a bunch of these jackballs who didn’t do research on how the body interacts with supplemental vitamins first. Some are water soluble, others are fat soluble. Five second Google search’ll tell you that. But the one thing all vitamins have in common is that they aren’t lung soluble.”

Meaning the inhalation of vitamin juice vapor into the lungs produces a negligible effect at best. Vitamins just don’t interact with the body that way.

“Vitamins have to be ingested,” Walters said. “The stomach breaks them down and then the intestines take things over from there. That’s why you can’t just crumble up a Flintstone chewable into your juice, light up your vape, and call it a day. You’d be better off rubbing them all over your face.”

So what makes Health eVapes vitamin-infused vape juice different?

“It’s a trade secret, so I can’t get into too many details,” Walters cautioned. “But I can give you the general gist of why it works. Vape juice is a liquid. Apply heat and the juice vaporizes. Now here’s the key to remember, the mouth is the gateway to both the stomach and the lungs. The muscles in our throats know to send air to the lungs, and liquid and foods to the stomach. It’s purely a biological reflex. When our vape juice is vaporized, the heat breaks the liquid into two different components. We discovered a way to alter one of those components so it compels the body to automatically route the broken up components to the right places. Basically, it stimulates those same reflexes our muscles use naturally. The upshot is that vitamin vapor goes to the stomach, the rest goes to the lungs.”

While the concept seems conceivable, wouldn’t ingestion through vapor suggest one would need to inhale a large quantity of vitamin-infused juice to get any benefit?

“The key is high frequency and high concentrations,” Walters said. “We’re doing our part by putting hundreds of times the daily values into each bottle. In fact, ours is the first vape juice to require a nutritional label on the packaging.”

What about the price?

“Those higher concentrations add to the cost, but I’ll leave it to you to determine if your health is worth it. We don’t sell direct to the consumer, so while we’ll certainly make suggestions to our vendors about retail pricing, our policy is to leave that up to their own discretion.”

If you’re wondering about needing any aftermarket components like special coils or the ability to adjust the wattage of your vape, Walter says you needn’t be.

“The process takes place at a very low temperature. If your vape is hot enough to produce vapor, then the process is already underway. Because of that, our liquid works with almost every vape out there. Of course, like anything else, the better the tool the more satisfying the experience.”

If Health eVape’s claims are true, the advancement could make a huge impact on the market.

“The whole thing is ingenious, really,” Walters said proudly. “As more and more scientific data becomes available, people will realize vaping is not only safe alternative to smoking, but it’s also a healthier alternative to breathing plain air. Once that catches on, everyone will be vaping. Smokers, non-smokers, adults and children. It’s going to change the way we live, work and breath every day of our lives.”

Health eVapes vitamin-infused juice line is slated to hit the shelves later this year.

 

Plight of the Socialites

Ariana Packard, Julianne Kellogg, Pia Keurig.

You may not know the faces yet, but chances are pretty good you know the names. These twenty-something ladies are the next generation of socialites, bound for red carpets, magazine covers, and social media fame. They live lavish lifestyles that the rest of us only dream about, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t down to earth, as well.

“My parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents worked hard for what we have,” Ariana Packard tells me. “So I know the value of a dollar.”

She is a twenty-year-old woman-3096664_640student at Yale, majoring in Fashion Management with a minor in E-Marketing Analytics. Her friends call her Ari.

“I want to prove that I can represent the family based on my own merits. I chose Yale because to attend anything less would have been an insult to the Packard name. I need a good degree because it’s expected that after graduation I not work a regular job like most people. It’s a lot of pressure.”

Pia Keurig can relate. She also struggles with the day-to-day trials that befall the young and wealthy as they try to discover their place in life while assimilating into the world around them. We sip on iced lattes in the backyard of the family home here in Florida, and she tells me about the daily coming and goings of a manufacturing heiress. Reaching out for an invitation was a well-timed effort on my part, as the Keurigs only spend part of the winter in this beautiful, sprawling estate.

“I’m keeping busy managing social media,” she says. “It’s really hard work to come up with new ideas for posts and stuff. But I demand results with everything I do. Still, some days I just have to settle for a selfie. But in the end, it’s totally worth it.”

When not managing her social media accounts, Pia spends the day outside enjoying nature. “Work is stressful. Maybe I’m not getting enough likes, such-and-such didn’t retweet me, things like that. When I’m having that kind of day, I like to take one of my ponies out for a ride. It’s a great way to relax on an otherwise difficult Tuesday afternoon.”

girl-3033718_640Unlike the other ladies, Julianne Kellogg doesn’t bother with social media. She believes she has more important work to do. “I don’t have time to worry about all that social media jazz. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. When you really think about it, it’s all pretty vapid. I’ve got better things to do with my time. So I hired a team that manages all of those accounts for me.”

I asked her what she does to occupy herself with instead. “Well, they [her social media teams] need direction, obviously. So I usually start the day with a conference call. They give reports on analytics, new initiatives, and go on and on about strategy or whatever. I like to manage from a high altitude, so I let them work autonomously as much as possible. It’s like I’m always telling them, ‘If the numbers are there I do not care.'”  The rest of her day, she tells me, is spent working on another start-up.

“You’re an entrepreneur,” I say, impressed that she’s following in the family’s footsteps.

“I’m designing footwear. Building a company from the ground up is really hard. I have to take care of the day-to-day operations you have with any business, watch expenses, plus be the lead designer. My father helped with the start-up costs, which has been instrumental in building a team around me. Hopefully we can turn a profit this go around.”

By day the ladies are clearly hard-workers, but at night they know how to let loose and have some fun. “We go to the clubs,” say Ari. “It’s fun. There’s a different hot spot for every night of the week. Sometimes I mix it up a little, just to keep things interesting. Like go to my Tuesday club on Friday, or my Sunday club on Wednesday. Sometimes I’ll even go to two different clubs in one night! I like to keep everyone guessing.”

Julianne decompresses at the clubs every night, too. But even recreation time can be troublesome. “I try to stay anonymous,” she says, “But it’s hard because all the girls are like, ‘Oooo, that purse’ or ‘Wow, those shoes!’ or ‘Lift your top again, Ari!’.  Things like that make it hard to be inconspicuous, you know? I’m like, ‘Hey I didn’t ask to be born rich‘, but they just don’t understand.”

woman-3046960_640For Pia, sometimes the problems start even before she leaves the house. “There are nights where I find myself standing in the closet, screaming ‘Just pick something already!’. I had them put a chair in there so I can sit down, get my feet massaged while I mull it all over. I know fashion, but there are just too many options and I get all bound up. Especially when I have to walk a red carpet. That’s really hard! On nights like that, I usually take a warm salt bath and just let my stylist pick something for me instead.”

From spending time with each one of them, it’s clear these ladies are always on the move. The world is theirs, potential unlimited. What the future holds remains to be seen.

“I can picture myself keeping up this kind of pace,” Ari says, “For at least another five, maybe six years. After that it’ll probably be time to wind down a little.  I guess I’ll see what happens and go from there.”

Should prove to be a fun ride. Stay tuned.

 

SMC Tech Wrap Up: Agritech Unveils ‘Brain Battery’

 

If you unexpectedly found yourself on the brink of death, would you want the opportunity to stay alive long enough to say your farewells to friends and loved ones before you died? Perhaps use the time to finally make peace with an adversary, or take care of that last will and testament you never got around to signing?

Those possibilities are apparently on the horizon, or so claimed a San Jose based bio-tech company during last week’s San Matteo County Technology Conference.

“The technology exists,” CEO Garret Black said. “It’s gone beyond an idea on paper to real world application.” Black leads the privately owned firm Agritech, the company which clearly made the biggest impact at the conference by touting it’s so called “Brain Battery.”

“The brain operates on an electric charge,” Black explained to a large, noticeably enthusiastic crowd. “We know that our bodies produce the approximate 100 watts of energy needed to keep a healthy man or woman alive. Of that, 20 watts are allocated to brain functionality. With the current advances in nanotechnology, 20 watts is well within our ability to supply externally in the inevitable event the body is no longer able to produce that kind of energy on its own.”

In other words, when the body dies, so does the energy source that keeps our brains functioning. Given the proper power source, however, the brain can theoretically keep running even after the body is clinically dead.

“When the body dies, the brain is the last thing to go,” Black explained. “When the electronic energy the body produces is cutoff, the brain shuts down very quickly. It’s like unplugging your computer. As soon as you do, lights out. There goes that Word doc, right? Unless, that is, you have an external source of power such as, say, a laptop’s battery.”

The concept is simple – attach an external power source to a willing participant’s body, in this case a small and conveniently placed rechargeable lithium ion battery, and when the person dies, the brain is fed enough power to keep it fully functional. At least for a short while.

“We estimate about 15 minutes of usable functionality before the power source depletes,” said Black.  “We’re talking about the ability to think, even blink your eyes as a means to communicate. But we also have to consider that the rest of the biological consequences that come with death also play a role. Blood flow, oxygen, those sort of things. So physical abilities are somewhat limited. But fifteen minutes is fifteen minutes, right?”

Sound far-fetched? Don’t be easily dissuaded. As of today there are already dozens of volunteers testing the product, with hundreds more on the now-closed waiting list. One of them, Sherri Willis of San Bernadino, said she feels honored to be part of the program.

“People say it’s morbid,” Willis said. “But I feel special knowing I’m contributing to an important advancement for the human race. I don’t want to die anytime soon, but it’s going to happen someday. Way I figured, why not help further the cause when my time comes?”

None of the 37 participants have passed away yet, meaning Black and his group will have to wait before inconclusive results become scientific fact.

“On paper, the technology works,” Black said. “About that we’re confident. Apollo flew to the moon and everybody knew what to expect before they got there, right? Enough to make the mission a success, at least.  We’re in the same position, really. Our current volunteers aren’t willing to speed up the testing process, understandably so. For now we just have to sit on our hands until that data becomes available. Talk about anticipation.”

Predictably, the technology has its fair share of opponents. Pastor Amos Willabee of God’s Church of Salvation and Light is one of them. He flew all the way to California from his home in Prichard, Alabama for the opportunity to make his voice heard on behalf of his congregation.

“It’s against God’s will to prolong death,” Pastor Willabee said. “When He wants you to go, He wants you to go. To defy the will of God is an act of blasphemy.”

Still, the number of proponents present at the conference vastly outweighed the opposition. As local advocate Ronald Hughes put, “Human are progressive, we need to keep moving forward. Technology is amazing. I mean, it’s just amazing, you know? If God didn’t want us to do this, He wouldn’t have allowed us to invent a way to do it. So I don’t see the problem, really.”

Black agreed.  “We’re not cheating death or insulting anyone’s God.  We’re just offering a little extra time to wrap things up before someone dies. What happens after that is no longer in anyone’s hands.”

The company would like to expand the number of volunteers for their program, but they must first await a ruling by the United States government. Congress is scheduled to discuss the controversial technology during their next assembly later this year. It’s a major hurdle, one that Agritech will have to clear before moving forward.

“They communicated that they don’t want us going any further ahead with new tests,” Black conceded. “But they didn’t say we couldn’t continue our current research. Which we take that to include monitoring our existing case studies. Hopefully between now and the assembly we’ll have some viable results that we can bring to Congress. Just have to wait and see what happens.”

The next Congressional General Assembly is scheduled this coming December. No doubt the so-called “Brain Battery” will be a hotly debated topic in the meantime.

 

Patreon

Just a quick note to let everyone know that my Patreon site is finally live!

If you’ve never heard of Patreon before, it is a community based website people use to help support and communicate with their favorite artists and creators.  Awesome concept.  As of today, there are over 50,000 creators and 1,000,000 registered supporters, and those numbers are growing every day.

If you are so inclined, have a look at my page by clicking here or using the link under the “Support” tab.  No obligation, of course, but any support is very much appreciated.  When you’re done reading my drivel, have a look at some of the other fantastic artists involved.  You might just discover someone doing something new and exciting!

Action! Cut! Action!

One of the most gratifying parts of writing short fiction happens during the editing phase. You’ve laid out five, six thousand words, and something resembling a story is now on paper. That’s the fun part, because it’s all about creativity. Visual descriptions, bantering dialog, watching characters grow. An entire world begins to develop and you can lose yourself exploring around. It’s the best part of being a writer.

Many people abhor the editing part, but for me that’s just as much fun. I wrote the first draft of The Gift in one day. Truth be told, I wrote it, all 5,200 words, in about 10 hours. It was one of those stories that had been cooking in my head for years and, for whatever reason, it demanded to finally be written, right there, right then. So I gave Dom and Max the day off, opened up a new doc and let the story tell itself.

The next morning, I reread what I had written and decided a lot of it that was very good. Remarkable for a first draft. But, as usual, there were some parts that needed a little trimming, and others that had to be trashed outright. The premise was too obvious, too over-the-top, and too cheap. I was checking far too many cliche boxes and that turned a potentially great story into a predictable, “meh” story. It had been a blast to write, but reading it objectively was far more enlightening. I could have scrapped the idea and went back to my other friends in The Push. But that would have been missing one of the greatest opportunities being a writer can give. Instead, I went back to the story and put on the proverbial editor’s hat. Not to fix technical issues, but rather to write the story as it was always meant to be told. What you read now is what The Gift was always destined to become. It’s a far better story than what came out during the first draft, and editing allowed me to let that happen.

Editing isn’t just about fixing spelling and grammar. Editing is taking a cold, hard look at your work and deciding what needs to stay and, more importantly, what needs to go. That’s a special power to have. Imagine if you could edit all of the mistakes you’ve made over the course of your life. Think of the possibilities! Instead of breaking up with a girl you should have stayed with, you go back and make it so the relationship worked. (Or vice versa!) You do the right thing and call a cab from the bar instead of getting in the car. You study harder in school. You pursue your dream job instead of a more practical one. Or, in my case, you take writing more seriously when you’re younger instead of putting it off for twenty years.

In life, it can be said that you’re only where you are today because of both the good and bad decisions you’ve made in the past. It’s our mistakes that make us who we are, regardless of the consequences. But fiction isn’t real life (thank goodness!), and therefore is afforded the luxury of fixing things in hindsight. I’ve found I have to lay out all of the mistakes on paper first, and only then is there something to fix. Having that power over the little worlds I create is something magical.

The Waiting Game

Great news! The Crossing is currently under consideration for The Masters Review Anthology. I’m proud of the story, even if it’s several yards and a number of fences away from the genre I consider home. The reality is that it has just as much of a chance as any other story under review. The optimist tells me that’s a good thing, that it’s got a shot right up until it doesn’t anymore. The realist tells me that I value my talents far too much.

Waiting to hear back from a publisher is a most fascinating time. You know the response times are calculated in weeks, perhaps months, and yet for the first day or so you cannot help but obsessively check your email. Maybe because you can’t take the anticipation. Or perhaps your story is so fantastic, the publisher wants to jump on it right away lest they lose it to someone else. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. The fact is, rejection is a part of the life of a writer. And it doesn’t limit itself by way of a short, albeit sometimes encouraging, formal letter of rejection, either.

The creative brain is in constant conflict. It begins with an idea, of course. Or perhaps an interesting character or two. From there you produce a result which closely resembles  something entirely unlike a good story. You jumble these things around for a while longer, and then, for some odd reason, you convince yourself there is enough there to not make a complete fool out of yourself. Perhaps even a book.

When that happens, every day I sit behind the keyboard and open up Scrivener. The blank page never scares me. It is an opportunity. A sign that something fun is about to happen. I am not afraid of it because over the years I have learned that the true meaning of “write drunk” has nothing to do with alcohol. It’s about writing freely and silencing the ever-present inner-critic. Everyone knows the first draft sucks (and they’re right), but the smart ones think they can clean it up during the editing phase (sometimes also right.) Might as well have at it, then. First draft is for dreamers, editing is for realists. So you write drunk and all the while, the inner-critic fights to reject you and your work.  It gets personal sometimes. It tells you the idea sucks, the characters suck, the book sucks, and you suck. (You may have noticed that the inner-critic isn’t very literate. Unfortunately, sometimes the inner-critic is also correct.)

However, once you figure out that the true joy for you is putting your ideas to paper, and that it can suck because you can edit it later, the act of writing becomes something to look forward to, not feared. The truth is, once you begin the editing process, you see what is good, what could be good, and what has got to go. You keep the good, fix the bad, and create something new to fill in whatever you trashed. It’s all creative work, and you always have one more edit to do so might as well write recklessly.   Do that often enough, and you’ll not only see how bad first drafts are, but also that you can put together something fascinating if you keep at it long enough.

Ever since I figured out how to truly embrace that, I’ve never once suffered from writer’s block. If I am obsessing over a story, perhaps lying in bed and thinking out dialog for a scene I want to write the next day, the act of writing itself never falters. When I’m short of ideas (very rare) and there’s nothing to write, I don’t sit in front of a glowing, blank screen. Why bother?

If it even exists at all, beating writer’s block isn’t a chore. There are thousands of tips about it, but I suspect those are written by people who are “blocked” themselves and can’t think of anything else to write about. If you haven’t noticed, I hate writing tips. Not because they aren’t sometimes accurate, but rather because they are rarely helpful. That said, here’s one from me: don’t listen to writing tips.

Not even that one.

They don’t help. I compare them to get-rich schemes. Somebody makes millions doing something, and then they tell you how they did it. The idea being that you can duplicate it yourself. The problem is, of course, you never do. Writing tips are the same thing. Yes, you should “show, don’t tell” and “write every day” and, well, “write drunk, edit sober.” But these are said in hindsight, and something that comes naturally. It would be like Wayne Gretzky saying “Just shoot the puck.” Yeah, thanks Wayne. Writing tips are advice from people who are trying to tell you how they did it. And getting better at something doesn’t work that way.

Tips can be accurate, but only useful in that a writer has found these common threads others may identify with and is sharing the insight. Writers need to look at tips and say, “Yeah, I do that” as opposed to “Oh, I should do that.” See the difference? The only use I’ve ever had for writing tips is how relate-able some are after I’m done.

Anyway, who am I to tell you what to do? Nobody. The idea behind writing, or anything else we do for fun, is to enjoy the experience. It’s why no one counts laundry as their hobby. Write drunk.  Edit sober if you want.  Or move on to something else if you don’t. Maybe get drunk-drunk. I won’t judge. When you get to the crossroads which dictate which direction to go from there, you’ll know exactly what to do.

In the meantime, I’ll be refreshing my email again.

Comments, concerns, and miscellaneous ramblings below, or on Twitter @paulkardos