Monthly Archives: September 2013

Romeo – a Mostly Fictional Memoir

In the summer of 1964 I was 11 years old.

As far as 11-year-olds went I was an average kid. I did fine in school, I had lots of friends. I loved sports and G.I. Joe. I hated vegetables and my younger sister.

Statistically I fell into the category that seemed prevalent in my part of town, another child from a broken home being raised by a single mother on welfare.

We lived in a quiet area with no violence, the sort of place where you could leave your doors unlocked all of the time. Everybody was friends with everybody else.

There was one interloper though.

Nobody knew his real name, everyone called him Romeo, for his tendency to “roam” the streets of the neighborhood constantly with no apparent destination. For that matter he had no known point of origin either, but every day, regardless of the weather, he would walk by my house between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

He stood about 5’-3” and was slightly underweight. The permanent smile attached to his pumpkin shaped face gave him the look of a harmless gnome. As for his age, I had him pegged for somewhere between 60 and 125. His wardrobe was as constant as his schedule. Long brown woolen overcoat that was much older than I was, a tattered black knit watch cap, flannel shirt and tan work pants that hadn’t seen a washing machine since the Great Depression and worn brown work boots with soles as thin as paper.

As he walked he continually worked his hands as though trying to wash them, and he talked to himself in a never ending stream of nonsensical gibberish. His voice was only slightly more masculine than Mickey Mouse.

The thing that impressed me the most about Romeo though, was that despite the constant, and sometimes cruel taunts by the kids in the neighborhood he just kept smiling and kept walking.

My routine during summer vacation was very predictable as well – out of bed at the first sign of light, eat my Cap’n Crunch while watching Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner, grab my baseball glove and rush to my best friend Al’s house three street over to begin the day’s adventures.

After the first week of vacation I noticed that Romeo and I had the same schedule, he would be walking by my house just as I was leaving for Al’s. At first I shied away from him, sometimes running all the way in order to avoid him. After all there were rumors rampant in the neighborhood that he was everything from an escaped mental patient to a crazed war veteran who was nearly blown to smithereens by a hand grenade, and everything imaginable in between.

One day, during the third week of vacation I was crossing the patch of green weeds we called a front lawn when I spotted Romeo and, by my calculations, we were practically on a collision course. Doing my best to avoid him I hooked my baseball glove over the handle of my Louisville Slugger, put the bat on my shoulder and began running. Unfortunately the glove slipped off the handle of the bat and landed right between my feet causing me to go ass-over-tea- kettle into the street directly in the path of a Ford station wagon.

It happened so fast, and I was so distracted, I don’t know what I was aware of first, the vision of a white wall tire rapidly approaching my head, or the grip of a bony hand on the back of my tee-shirt pulling me out of harms way. The one thing I was sure of was that despite the screeching tire and the thick white smoke pluming behind it, the car was not going to stop in time to avoid crushing my head the way a size 10 work boot would crush a bug.

When I recovered from the initial shock I turned to look at my savior.

Romeo.

He mumbled something incomprehensible, then smiled at me before setting me down and continuing on his way.

For the rest of the summer Romeo and I walked to Al’s house together every day. His smile was ever present and he spoke continuously, although I never did understand a word he said. At times I would say things to him and he would look at me and smile before a string of jumbled words flowed from his mouth. I never knew if he was responding to what I had said or if it was just a continuation of what he had been uttering before I interrupted him.

It didn’t matter, we were friends. There was no clear cut communication between us, but I saw it in his eyes. For the rest of the summer I endured the taunts from all the kids in the neighborhood for associating with a known loonie, because he was my friend.

Shortly before school started that September my Mom got a job two towns away and we had to move. It was our first real house she said, one that we could call our own. I didn’t know what that meant; I thought the house we were renting was our own.

I never saw Romeo again.

Over the years I often wondered what happened to him. A few years ago I decided to research my old friend.

It wasn’t easy, but what I found was that Romeo’s real name was Sol Weismann. After being liberated from a Nazi concentration camp in 1945 he was brought to the U.S. and spent the rest of his life in a series of institutions for the mentally ill, one of which was just a mile or two from where I lived that summer.

He died in 1976 at the age of 67 leaving no known family.

I have often tried to imagine the horrors that he witnessed and the pain that he suffered for most of his life, all at the hands of people to whom he had done no wrong. Yet his smile was as constant as the stars in the night sky. Those memories helped to forge my outlook on life. I resist the urge to judge people, or to criticize that which I don’t know. I never refuse the friendship of another for any reason. But perhaps the thing that I try to remember the most is that no matter how hopeless life may seem, how insurmountable my problems may be, they are insignificant compared to some.

Romeo saved my life in the summer of 1964 and he continues to save it to this day.

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The Top 10 Things that Annoy Me About Top 10 Lists

Is it just me, or has the internet created a fascination with Top 10 Lists?

I know David Letterman probably started the ball rolling, and the supermarket tabloids are full of them, but it seems that hardly a day goes by that I don’t see a blog post of the Top 10 Somethings.

Some of them are okay, but by and large most of them are pretty useless.  (Top 10 “Yo Mama” Jokes? I’m not even kidding…I saw this one the other day)

The other day I saw the Top 10 List of Top 10 Lists.

Come on…that’s just stupid (and lazy).

So my post today is:

top 10

The Top 10 Annoying Things About Top 10 Lists

 10.  Ridiculous celebrity crap;

It scares me that people actually care about the Top 10 Eating Habits or Fashion Mistakes of Actors and Athletes. I see these lists as contributions to the dumbing-down of America.

9.      Extending the list to make it easy;

I saw a list of the 50 best Led Zeppelin songs. Off the top of my head I don’t know how many songs The Mighty Zeppelin has, but let’s see…8 studio albums with maybe 9 songs per album (average) is about 72 songs. So you list the top 50? That must have been tough. A top 10 list would have been annoying, but at least it would have been a challenge.

8.      Unverified Information;

Just because you read it on the internet doesn’t make it true – so before you post a list of the Top 10 Stupidest Laws – make sure that it is indeed illegal in Nebraska to have sex with your best friend’s horse while he is at church.

7.      Nobody Cares;

This is in the same vein as #10 – but without the celebrity factor. If you’re going to write a Top 10 List…make it about something that people care about – not the Top 10 Ways to Fold Socks.

6.      It’s Been Done…and Done;

We’ve seen the list of Top 10 Movies, Books, Songs and Videos so many times that our unborn grandchildren know them by heart…come up with something different.

5.  That’s What You Think;

Any Top 10 List that deals strictly with the writer’s opinion is worthless to me (which casts a pretty large net). At least the Top 10 Brands of Cat Litter can be quantified if necessary…but your Top 10 Ways to Turn Used Coffee Grounds into Cash may not be my cup of tea.

4.      Read This or Live the Rest of Your Pathetic, Empty Life in Misery;

Top 10 Lists may be entertaining and help pass time in the bathroom, but I have yet to see one that was nearly as important as the writer thinks it is. I will survive nicely without knowing the Top 10 Ways to Trim Nose Hair, thank you very much.

3.      Well, If You Say So;

Sometimes it isn’t the list that annoys me; it’s the attitude of the writer. This is THE list of the Top 10 Best Wallpaper Removers in the world – so there’s no need to look further.

2.      Yeah, If I Was on a Desert Island, That’s What I’d Be Worried About;

When John Cusak did it in the movie High Fidelity it was entertaining…but telling me what your Top 10 Desert Island Albums/Books/Movies are is beyond ridiculous. Ignoring the fact that your desert island would need electricity in order for you to enjoy them – wouldn’t you be more concerned with bigger issues…like eating or perhaps getting off the damn island?

And the Number One Thing that Annoys Me About Top 10 Lists is…

1.      You Needed a Blog Post and Couldn’t Think of Anything Original to Write About;

Ummm – whaddya say we just skip this one…

As always, thank you for reading

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So You Want to be a Writer…Say Goodbye to Your Spare Time

Last Sunday my family (at least the portion of it here in Florida) held a birthday party for my great-niece, who turned 3.

3I didn’t go.

Hold on…before you tell me what a horrible great-uncle (clever word-play there, huh?) I am, let me explain. Believe it or not, I have a valid reason.

What could have kept me away from a reasonably significant family gathering? (I know my brother, nephew and sister were asking the same question).

The thing is – I had to check my e-mail.

I can practically hear your reaction to that…and by the way, that’s not a very nice thing to say.

Truth be told, it’s not quite that simple. Yes I had dozens of emails to go through, but I had a few other chores to do as well.

I have 3 facebook pages to monitor (4 if you count my personal page). There is my Blindogg Books page…there is the page for The Castaways (a weekly radio show I host along with friends Armand and Becky) and there is the page for my solo radio show Tim Baker’s B-Sides and Deep Cuts.

Then there are the two Twitter accounts (@blindoggbooks and @djcastaways).

Not ready to cut me any slack yet?

Well, for some reason, my LinkedIn account went crazy this week…I must have gotten more than two-hundred new contacts – and for each one there is an email to look at and decide whether to accept said contact. That process alone took me more than 2 hours.

What else did I do this weekend?

Well – I was doing some research for my B-Sides show, coming up with good songs to play and the stories behind them. (contrary to what Armand says – I do my research).

I was also preparing questions for this week’s guest on The Castaways Three Hour Tour.

I spent some time getting books ready to ship out to readers…not extremely time-consuming, but if I don’t do it – nobody else does.

dpiral time

I exchanged several emails with a Louisiana Police Detective (retired) learning about certain aspects of police work and the witness protection program for my next book, tentatively titled Protect This (more research – take that Armand!)

Speaking of Armand, he and I are working on the sequel to our co-authored zombie novella Dying Days – The Siege of European Village and he wanted to get together to write this weekend. Unfortunately, I had to decline that invitation as well (we’re doing it next weekend – so don’t expect me at any parties then either).

Oh and last – but certainly not least – I spent several hours actually writing Protect This. (although not nearly enough, I am not as far along as I’d hoped to be)

Aside from the 2 hour motorcycle ride I took Sunday morning I didn’t leave my house from the time I got home from work Friday evening until it was time to go back to work Monday morning. Oh, in case I didn’t mention it…I also have a full time job, so accomplishing all of these things must be done in my spare time.

I know what you’re thinking…did he just say ‘2 hour motorcycle ride’?

What’s up with that? Surely I could have foregone the motorcycle ride to spend time with my family…

Let me tell you about the motorcycle ride…

Tim at Putnam

I do a lot of work for a charity called Christmas Come True. On October 26 we are having our 4th annual Poker Run to raise money for the cause. I am in charge of the run, so it is my responsibility to map it, time it and coordinate the cooperation of the venues along the route. So my brother and I did that Sunday morning – and while it was extremely enjoyable – it was not a joyride. Not entirely anyway.

So there you have it.

Depending on how you look at it, this was either an apology or an excuse…but either way – it’s the truth.

Many people think writing is a spare time thing…a hobby-like alternative to TV that requires nothing more than sitting in front of a keyboard and clicking away. After all, you know what they say about a roomful of monkeys…

Take it from me – if it were that easy I wouldn’t have missed the party.

Happy Birthday Alexis! Hopefully I’ll make the next one.

As always – thank you for reading

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Friday Night Advice Straight From Jersey

My buddy Armand Rosamilia introduced me (via Skype) to some real cut-ups from New Jersey a while ago. They have a podcast called Books, Beer and Bullshit where they talk about…yeah – you guessed it…Anyway – they had Armand and I on their show once and we had a blast.

In addition to their podcast – they also have a blog called (get ready) Books, Beer and BlogBullshit.

books beer bullshit

On their most recent blog post, Blogger Frank (a guy who admittedly has no life) discusses how much fun it can be to tune in to Surf 17 on Friday nights and hang out with Armand, Becky and me

surf 17 banner

Click here to see the blog – and you can even go through their older stuff and hear the episode where Mando and I shoot the shit with them.

As always – thank you for reading

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Time is Running Out – Ike Needs Your Help

In case you missed it, I found a fund-raising site which allowed me to create tee-shirts to sell where I wouldn’t have to put any money up-front. Once I designed the shirt the site tells me how much they will charge me for it and allows me to set a retail price.

I also had to select a goal as far as how many shirts I wanted to sell (as a minimum) and how long I wanted them to be available.

I selected 50 as my goal and I made it a 23 day campaign.

At the end of 23 days, if there have been 50 orders for shirts, they will be printed, shipped and I will get paid (approximately $3 per shirt based on the price I selected).

If there aren’t 50 orders, the campaign is closed, nobody pays anything, no shirts are printed and I get no money.

Ike shirt frontThe goal of this campaign is to help off-set the costs of putting out a book.

If I sell 50 shirts I would make enough money to have the cover designed, with a little left over to buy envelopes in which to ship books. It wouldn’t even put a dent in editing, formatting and interior layout costs.

At the time of this writing there have been 44 orders for shirts – with 5 days left in the campaign.

I need 6 more orders before Sunday (Sept 15) to have a successful campaign.

So what is your incentive to buy one of my shirts?Ike shirt back

Here’s the deal – if you buy a shirt then post a picture of yourself on facebook wearing it (tagging me and yourself in the picture) – I will send you a free, signed copy of any one of my books (one book per customer).

So it works out fairly well – you pay $13.50 for the shirt and you get a free book on top of it – I think it’s a pretty good deal.

You can order your shirt here – credit cards and PayPal are accepted.

And for those of you who don’t know who Ike is – click here for some background – or you can click here.

I truly appreciate your support.

 

As always – thank you for reading

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Meet Romance Author Jennifer Sage

To find a writer who isn’t passionate about their work is rare. I don’t think you can be a writer for very long unless the love of writing consumes you. Sure – lots of people can crank out a few pages of well-written prose, maybe a decent poem or two, but to sit down day after day for years on end and write because something inside won’t let you do anything else…that takes a certain type of person.

Today I want to introduce you to such a person.

I only met her recently, but her passion for her work struck me immediately and it shone with the same intensity as her bright blue eyes – to the point where I almost regretted not being a fan of romance novels (I said ALMOST – geez, the last thing I need is for Ike and Brewski to hear that!).

Anyway…

Her name is Jennifer Sage and she is a fantasy/paranormal urban romance author.

Her new novel Immortal Dreams will be released tomorrow (Friday Sept. 6, 2013) and I’m helping with her release party festivities by sharing the appropriate info with you.

Also as part of the celebration, Jennifer will join Armand Rosamilia, Becky Pourchot and me on our radio show (The Castaways – Three Hour Tour) tomorrow night for an interview so tune in to that as well (8:00 pm Friday night on Flagerbeachradio.com)

First – let’s find out what Immortal Dreams is all about:

Isabel has had some very unusual experiences when it comes to men.

In fact, they typically tend to steer completely clear of her. One lousy tornado and a few storms and she is dubbed ‘lightning girl’ by all. However, on the eve of her 22nd birthday things change literally, overnight.When Isabel wakes up in a dream with a man not fit for human consumption she can’t believe it. And upon waking things go even more haywire. Never could she have imagined the world that she sees once the ‘blinders’ are off. Abandoned by the very person who sent these gifts to her to see the world for what it is she is naturally skeptical of it all.

id cover fixed

Her men problems before were laughable – Enter two of the most gorgeous creatures she has ever laid eyes upon – Add a curse and a requirement to pick one in the next 9 days (Make that nights actually, since she can only reach them in her dreams). Oh, and it just so happens if she picks the wrong one the veil between all the magical realms could be destroyed and create ultimate chaos and death.

Both men want to seduce her and make her his, but only one will lead to restoring the realms, and her heart.

So heavy the burden, so great the stakes…Will she even survive the war that has already begun to rage between the worlds? There are the waking hours too, that are contending for her fate.

And very little is on her side…

Now let’s learn a little bit about Jennifer in her own words:

Jennifer SageLike any author, you can find pieces of my soul in my words and within the worlds created from the canvas of my mind. I love everything medieval even though my stories are fantasy/paranormal urban romances.

I love reading, writing, family time, movies, cooking, playing, great wine and stimulating conversation – not necessarily in that order!

KeltorKeltor will be my third published novel however it is off the shelves as I seek representation for the series. Writing and editing is done in my , eh hem, spare time and as a single mom and full time employee in the financial world, it thrills me that I’ve managed to do any of this.

When I write, I never know how the story is going to really end. Always an HEA, but as the characters, world and plot develop it feels as if it’s no longer me writing the story, but my characters themselves.

 Immortal Dreams will be available for purchase Sept. 6, 2013.

Watch for the release of Immortal Bound next month and…

Keltor is available for ARC reviews only while I seek representation. You can see the wonderful feedback for all my books at any major retailer or on Goodreads.com. If you are a blogger or just an avid reader with a Goodreads account please message me for more information.

Thank you for the support and happy reading!

To contact Jennifer or find out more about where to purchase her books connect with her on:

Facebook

Twitter

Her website

Goodreads

It has been my pleasure introducing you to another great Independent Author and we all appreciate your support!!

As always – thank you for reading

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Is That Word Really Necessary?

My first novel, Living the Dream,Living the Dream is currently in production to become an audio book. (Personally, I didn’t think there was much demand for audio books anymore, but when I saw the success Backseat to Justice had I decided to have the rest of my books done.)

Anyway – this morning I received the first 15 minutes of the book for approval. I was very pleased with the reading; the narrator has a great grasp of the voice in which I wrote the book (a sign that my writing accomplished its purpose!).

It’s been five years since I last worked on Living the Dream and, although I know it forward and backward, something still caught me somewhat off-guard as I listened. It wasn’t in the narration, it was a particular word choice in my writing – and when I heard it, I grimaced a little.

Before I divulge the exact word in question I want to ask a question…(maybe more than one)

When it comes to art…what is offensive? Where is the line and should artists worry about it? Or are they obliged to step over it with total indifference? (I told you it might be more than one question.)

I’m sure artists (whether visual, written or musical) have been offending people since day one – so in a sense my questions really need no answer – but I think it’s always a topic worth discussing.

Okay – back to my original thought…So I’m listening to the first chapter of Living the Dream and reliving the misadventures of Kurt (I had forgotten how funny they were!) when the narrator reads this passage:

Driving along listening to the song and remembering the dream did nothing to improve his mood. In fact it only made him remember how much he had wanted to hurt that little cock tease while he sat in his cell at the A.C.I. in Cranston. The minimum security adult correctional institution was a place that gave him lots of time to think of ways to get back at her. Between that and trying to avoid a six foot nigger named Bobo, who wanted Kurt to be his girlfriend, Kurt did not come away from his time with a good mindset.”

I’m sure I don’t have to tell you which word we are talking about here.

Anybody who knows me knows that I am not a racist and above all, I detest that word.

So why is it in my book you might ask…(it actually appears twice, if you can believe that).

The answer is simple.

Kurt – one of the books main characters – is basically an asshole. Most people who read the book end up liking him and calling him a lovable loser. Either way – he has a certain personality that lends itself to the use of constant profanity, including the n-word. So, I decided that it was necessary to include the word in the book in order to convey that aspect of Kurt’s personality.

It was not an easy decision and I recall the inner debate I had with myself as I wrote it. I believe I went back-and-forth between that word and other, slightly less offensive choices, but in the end I decided that it was the word Kurt would use and therefore, the best choice.

Apparently my concerns were unwarranted. Living the Dream has been very well-received and I personally know of at least five people-of-color who have read it and were not offended by its presence.

So, does this mean that an artist (painter, singer, writer) can use artistic license as an excuse to offend people?

Does the audience have the right to make assumptions as to the intent of the artist?

It’s easy for me to say ‘I only put it there because it helped the story’, but what if I did it because I’m a closet racist?

I worry about the height of the bar. If something is acceptable it only stands to reason that somebody will come along and push the envelope. Once done, it can’t be undone and eventually the new act becomes acceptable thus raising the bar.

Whatever your art is – you run the risk of offending somebody, it’s the way of the world…but should you let it influence your creation?offensive books

I’m probably worrying for nothing, at least I hope so – but still, I’d like to hear your thoughts…

As always…thank you for reading

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