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God Help Me

The last couple of days have been pretty raw for me. Everybody has those hard to get through days, and I suppose the last couple of mine could be described as such, but damn. Yesterday everything I touched seemed ready to bite me, or at minimum frustrated the living shit out of me.

It began when my lawnmower wouldn’t start, and after the heavy rains of last week followed by perfect growing weather my lawn definitely needed a trim. So I did what every sensible person would do and borrowed a battery, brought it back to the homestead. Then, on a hunch, I climbed aboard before the swap and by golly, the old one worked just fine. Whew, dodged that bullet.

Now, where is the child belonging the chore? She told her mother she was going for a run. After a quick check on that story, it turned out to be a little bit less than the truth. She was gone, but not on a run. She and her sister were riding bicycles down the highway (something her mother and I have expressly forbidden). Of course, we had a discussion about disobeying and lying, then I told her she needs to start the lawn.

She asked me to start it for her and guess what? It wouldn’t start. Now I had the girl but the lawnmower was stubborn. I set to work replacing the battery and as I was connecting the last bolt, the little bastard dropped pinging off the lawnmower deck and disappeared forever into the great beyond called grass that desperately needed to be cut, thus the reason for the flipping lawnmower to begin with.

Next stop the store.

Upon hearing I needed to go to the store, the wife quickly went through her Honey, Please Pick Up List and gave it to me. It wasn’t much, but in the process of receiving the said list, a child decided he was going along. I told him I wasn’t cheery, in fact, I was a bit pissy, so he had to behave. Sure Dad, sure, sure, sure. Those that are parents can guess where this is going. I found my stuff quick enough, but I couldn’t leave the store because you guessed it … The child that guaranteed he would behave, didn’t. I looked up and he’d disappeared. He was old enough to be out on his own, but son-of-a-bitch! It was at this point that I began to wonder if the Universe’s chuckle for the day was to bugger me. I could see no other explanations.

After a quick, search with no luck, I headed to customer service. I had him paged, and about five minutes later he came running through the store wearing the grandest smile because of the free cookie he’d scored from the bakery. I questioned him to make sure he hadn’t nicked it, and then he dragged me to said bakery so I could see the sign advertiszing the free cookie.

Humph, be damned.

Continuing the day, I looked at the sky on the trip home. I did this while driving and trying to see the duckie and the horsie shaped clouds; I came to the conclusion that the probability of rain had crossed the line from less likely to yup we’re about to get wet.

The climate indoors was stormier than out. The aggressive bunch in the house was for some reason at their rowdiest. The older girls argued about, of all things, someone of them took the other’s ice they had in the freezer. It was a catastrophe! You would have thought that drinking a plain drink would make them melt away like the Wicked Witch of the West. Two of the boys were nose to nose over which charger was actually theirs (for their iPads).

Both of the twins were having tantrums over what they were going to watch on the mind-numbing TV. As a matter of reference: the girl twin has a scream that pierces anything. I’m guessing it could pop a balloon in the next room through a three-foot-thick wall. The boy has a scream that would make a howler monkey proud. Believe me, these are not exaggerations.

The rest of the progeny were refining their superpowers of being obnoxious.

God help me. If He did, it was to help me develop self-control so I wouldn’t contemplate ending some kind of life somewhere, somehow.

Today was a brand new day. It began with wonderful news. Camp Day! Seven out of ten of my darlings would leave today for Rodeo Camp. However, to get them there we all had to go through their chore inspection and the dreaded suitcase check. The inspection rivaled any white-gloved inspection I endured in the Army. I was delegated this by upper management. As to the suitcase thing — this exercise involved all those going opening up their suitcases and my wonderful wife, the house boss, who inspected each and every item and balanced it against the list of things needed. Did they have everything? If so, was the item suitable? Did it meet the cleanliness criteria and of course the, “No rips or tears, unless said rips and tears belonged.”

Now my thought on rips and tears was they never belong on anything worn outside the house. But I belong to another generation, one that would have called me a fuddy-duddy, although I assure you I am not. I mean what do my kids know? Hell, They think I can’t dance, and all of them laugh at the idea. I keep telling them that I would be glad to call Lana, my dance teacher, so she can vouch for me. They shake their heads and say I’m making her up.

I’m not. I can dance. I really can. Well not so much since I have to use a cane, but I could. Really.

The wife dropped them at the camp. Anyway, the majority of the young now have their space in the bunkhouse and are ready for their time in the saddle, imagining how they can jockey as good as any at Churchill Downs, cow-punch like Tom Mix, or ride the bull as well as any in the Frontier Days in Cheyenne. Of course, I’ll miss them, but I’m going to enjoy the quiet while I can.

Is there such a thing as withdrawal from noise and conflict? After writing this I’m going to pick up a book and see if I remember how to read.

Please remember the Smashwords sale starting July 1st. Just follow the link below.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=JwBell

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It’s a No-Brainer

How many out there like to read? I think it is one of the best things a person can do. When a person scans the printed word magical things happen, and I’m not necessarily meaning Harry Potter. You can learn how to repair the plumbing in your house. You can learn how to cook.

How about taking a trip to medieval China? Just open Tai Pan. Want to fight your way through the crusades? I’ll bet there’s a book that will be perfect for you. There are even books to help you to read and understand Shakespeare.

You say you don’ like to read? doesn’t matter any at all what you prefer to read. It simply matters that you are able to.

Like it or not, you read every day. How else could you find out the ingredients for that recipe from Aunt Susan? How ’bout that Honey Do list from Wifey? What about rooting through Facebook? Yep, that’s right, you read every day. Your eyes catch the trademark of your favorite drink, no matter where it is, especially if you are thirsty.

I used to work in the Oklahoma oil fields as a roughneck when I was younger. One of my peers came in to grab a drink of water and saw me reading something. He said, “ I’m glad I never learned how to figure those squiggles out so I wouldn’t waste time like that.” Now, he and I did our share of wasting time during the slow times. We took turns skipping rocks on the reserve pond, tracking deer, even fishing when the drill-bit turned slow. We also worked out asses of when the drill-bit needed to be changed.

Anyway. A few months after our conversation, this man wanted a new job, a promotion, but it involved paperwork. After they turned him down, he decided maybe it wasn’t such a waste of time. He actually worked harder at learning how to read that, than we did doing manual labor as roughnecks. The point is, reading is extremely important – even if you only work with your hands and back.

I know. I’m talking to exactly the wrong people, a preacher choir thing. You’re reading this right now.

The reason I’m writing about this is: there is a sale at Smashwords, starting July 1st. If you don’t know what Smashwords is, it is a website that helps authors and publishers publish and distribute books, www.Smashwords.com. All right, back to the sale. It is their summertime sale, and it’s a big event. Hundreds of books will be discounted – some of them down to free.

My own book will be 50% off. If you haven’t read The Sigma Factor, this is a perfect time. You can have the chance to own it for a one and a half dollars – a buck and a half, I mean a clam and a half. It’s not very much at all. Anyway, you won’t spend much, and it’s a great read. I know, all authors tell you their book is a good read, but in this case, it’s the truth.

You have no idea how hard it is for this author to tell you, straight up, that my Sigma is a great read. I know it is. The only way I can prove it to you is for you to grab a copy and read it for yourself. I mean, even if I told you that I would kick a big old bull right in the ballsack if you didn’t like it, that would be an after the fact thing and you would still have to read it first. (For the record, that was a hypothetical, not a real situation.) But hellfire, it’s less than a cup of coffee in a restaurant.

It’s the kind of thriller that makes you laugh, bite your nails, and cheer when the Ol’ Stan kisses the girl. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. There are vivid descriptions, both funny and horrifying, and there are plot twists that keep you off balance until the end. What more can I say – the book is colorful, yet easy to read?

There are other books you can buy in the sale too, not just mine.

There are books that have whole worlds out there to visit. Admittedly, there are some books better than others, and I have no Idea how many will be on sale. I do know this. In the past, there was a huge amount reduced. I’m betting you will find something you like. If you don’t like thrillers, try the romance, if not that try something else, maybe SciFi.

There is one other thing I want to ask of you. Please. Please. Please, write a review. It doesn’t have to be long, and you don’t have to finish the book to do it either. Simply say, “I loved it.” but if you didn’t like it then something like, uh, this, “I didn’t like it, because of _______.” Just fill in the blank with whatever it was you didn’t like – it was hard to read, or too much swearing, perhaps not enough swearing, or it was too infantile, et cetra. Make it brief and to the point. Fill in the stars you think it deserves, and that’s all. It takes maybe five minutes. Of course, you can spend more time if you want. My point was, you don’t have to invest a whole afternoon if you don’t want to.

Reviews are important. They affect the ratings of the book. Everyone likes the bestsellers, but those books became bestsellers by a lot of people who bothered to write some kind of review.

You know you tell your friends. The conversation probably goes like this:
“Finish the Book?”
“Yep.”
“Any good?”
“Hell yes! It was sooo good.”
“Even the ending?”
“Yeah. Want to read it or have me tell you?”
I left the answer off o that last question because there are a bunch of people in both camps when it comes to the ending. It’s so easy with your partner, wife, lover, buddy, or BFF – why not tell everyone. That way the author can learn along with other readers. Write one and everyone is happy. Don’t write it, and not a soul knows the truth. Why not write it. It’s your opinion, and since when have you been afraid to give your opinion. It’s not like you’re telling your date her dress makes her look like her ass is huge. This is a no-brainer. (no-brainer to figure out, not the no-brainer of not thinking before you speak. see above)

You can help find the next shining star, or, the much-needed hint that there is so much more to learn.

The Sigma Factor by JW Bell. I’ll bet you will like it. Who knows, might just love it. Stan is quite a character. Click on the link below. If it doesn’t work then copy and paste into your browser.

https://www.smashwords.com/books/search?query=JwBell

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What a Character

I love to read thrillers. They make things crisp and clear for me as if you live on the edge the whole time reading them. Maybe it produces an extended jolt of adrenalin in me. I think it’s more than that though. It isn’t only thrillers either. How do you feel when you read a mystery, or perhaps a romance?

Hell, there is a whole heard of romances, from the chaste all the way to reading the thrusting and throbbing nitty gritty. And don’t let us forget the sci-fi epic, or the fantasy book complete with dragons and wizards. I guess I should mention the action and adventure stories that wow their stories with grand exploits. There are so many genres I haven’t the time to list them all, especially if I were to dive into the sub-genres and all.

What do they have in common? Characters. There is a secret in what characters do too. It’s not so much the way the author represents their characters. It’s really how the characters react to the terrible trouble they’ve stumbled into. I mean almost anyone can say I have a tough son-of-a-bitch. But a writer would have their tough SOB groan just a little and then pull out the nail from her hand after someone shot her with a nail gun.

My editor tells me to show not tell.

I studied acting in college, and the first thing my professor hammered into me was this: if you’re acting you are wrong. It is always about reacting. It happens then that the author with a fertile imagination then sets their character’s personality, habits, and attributes by the way they react to problems. It’s their counteraction that shows them to be a smart-ass and react with a snappy little quip, or perhaps an evil bastard that reacts with an act of revenge, and then there are the big, dumb brutes, or the love to hate bitches. It’s all in how they react.

Each might have a flaw in their character too, not all but most of the better ones do. The Greeks call that flaw a tragic flaw. That was the one thing their hero had to have to make themselves human and brings their downfall. It is what made them the tragic hero. Without the flaw, the gods were punishing a man for no reason.

The flaw comes when they react in a strange or unexpected way in their personality.

How about a dumb brute of a killer who always takes the time to smell the flowers. Then there is a hardened killer ready to do her job, but she has a tender spot for cats and can’t follow through if a cat will die in whatever carnage she makes. The twist to a fictional individual is usually the way their reaction is the opposite of what you might think. Think, umm, a farm veterinarian who has a new fear of small dogs. They can still work on horses, pigs, sheep but cannot get out of his car if there is a Chihuahua yipping next to the vehicle.

Can we go deeper into reactions? How about the reader’s reactions? And this is a bit of a mystery too. Why do they react to stories the way they do?

How about all the people who love to read horror stories or tragedies? Why read those things? The stories produce untold amounts of terror, sadness, and waves of happiness. That’s right, happiness. Why would they read them if the books didn’t produce a good feeling?

So how does that good feeling happen? I suppose it might be a simple case of schadenfreude, that pleasure one feels at another’s misfortune, in this case, one of the characters, but I don’t think so. I think it’s much more. People love to visit vicariously, Feeling stronger, smarter, more clever, and yes sexier than they imagine they are in daily life. Hey, perhaps they like reading about someone that is equal to the way they view themselves. Who among us hasn’t had the remote suspicion that they themselves might be cuter, more devilish, et alia?

I’m sure most everyone reads because of the conflicts in the stories. Every good story has several. Readers want to see how the characters react to and solve whatever conflicts there are. If there is not any conflict, why read? If there aren’t interesting characters that solve problems in their own way; why spend the time reading the story? If it was the plot they thirsted after, they could get their fix by reading a plot synopsis.

I like to think my books are full of both conflicts and unusual characters. I know there are conflicts in abundance.

One of the things I like about Stan who is the main character in my Factor series is he’s unusual. He is different than most characters. The first book The Sigma Factor explains why. It took a whole novel to introduce him so it will be difficult to explain here, but I’ll try.

Stan is an amnesiac. I know, it’s a worn out vehicle, but there is a twist. Don’t you love a good twist? I do. For that split second during which the twist is employed, you don’t know what the hell is happening. It gives you a freshness about the story. Maybe not the kind of fresh you might find after a spring thunderstorm with its vibrant greens, brilliant colors of the flowers, or even smelling the wet ground, and listening to the birds as the breeze drifts through. But it freshens things up.

Yeah, anyway, the twist. Although Stan can’t remember everything he remembers some things, how to dress, speak English, read and write, and remembers lives he’s lived before this one. Whoa. What? Remember his past lives?

Yup, that’s right and their personalities reside in him now too. They carry on. They’re rude, have different skills. Oh, did I tell you Stan is a ribald bastard, both with his imagery and language? It’s the way Ol’ Stan thinks.

All of the lives bring their own brand of vitality they acquired during their own lifetime of learning, and like life, there are good things and some regrettable things. The most notable catch is the lives don’t seem to get along. They argue with each other, with Stan, and occasionally Stan lets them actually move his body. So even if no one is around there is conflict, humor, and conversation.

The last thing you need to know is that everyone wants to kill him.

Around the corner from the main storyline are some back stories. These are like a little toe dipping into historical fiction. The Sigma Factor had a chapter in a slave’s cabin during the mid 19thCentury. Let’s say there is a chapter full of struggles and conflict. In The Dao Factor, there are chapters in China/Korea circa 5th Century. You will have to buy the book to find out what conflicts happen in those chapters. There is an exception to that. A couple of blog posts ago I gave an example of the China chapters.

There is a portion that I forgot about and that is humor. Without a laugh or two throughout the book, I think the stories would be a bit lackluster. A good guffaw helps everything along, and that includes the build up to something horrific, like finding a mutilated body or jumping out of an aircraft without the customary parachute. There is a need for comic relief. A decent laugh makes everything easy to take. Take a look at Mercutio’s death soliloquy in Romeo and Juliet. It’s full of puns and witty remarks that it makes his death more palatable.

Ya know what? I guess I just described my brand. It’s a beginning, and it is growing. I mean every brand starts at ground zero. Now here’s the thing; the word of a new brand has to grow. The thing has to blossom, and like everything that blossoms it has to land in fertile soil (a good portion of manure) in order to let it take root.

The easiest way to help grow an author’s brand is to read and give the book a review. It is like a hug. My book is for sale at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. If you haven’t read it please do. Hell, if you can’t afford the three bucks, the local library has two copies. All that’s left is a review. How ’bout it?

I have a friend who lives in New Zealand and she has a wonderful brand for her books. She’s a real firecracker and can talk shit with anyone. Her byte series is one of the best thriller series out there. Not only is she a wonderful wordsmith but she works hard, plays with a focus, and wife to her husband and mother to her kids. The woman’s name is Cat Conner and she can be reached by visiting her website at www.catconnor.com. Splendid writer. Splendid series.