Quick opportunity announcements!

There are two opportunities coming up imminently that I want to share:

100th Anniversary Celebration!

My paternal grandparents, whose story inspired my novel “A Song in the Storm”, were married on September 11, 1921. We’ll be celebrating the 100th anniversary of their marriage with anyone who wants to join us at the Old Mill Coffee House in Chelmsford, MA, from 1-3 PM.

We’ll have a cake to share and delicious coffee (or so I’m told; I don’t drink the stuff 🙂 ) and baked goods will be for sale in the shop, as will their usual assortment of excellent locally made products. Do I need to say that copies of my books will also be available for sale?

Support the battle to destroy MS before it destroys anyone else!

On Saturday, September 18, I’ll be doing my annual fundraising bike ride to fight the scourge of multiple sclerosis. If you’d like to support me or my team in this effort, click on one of these links:

Support Rick

Support The Vineyard Square Wheelers

As you’ll see on the web site, this ride, normally held on Martha’s Vineyard in the spring, will be in Concord, MA, because of Covid.

Covid or not, MS continues to ravage lives, so we don’t take the year off. Please consider sponsoring us as we ride to destroy this destroyer of lives.

FAQs

(Any web site worth its salt has an FAQs page. Mine has never done so. That could be an inhibitor to its growth from a platform for a curmudgeon trying to unload his lame scribbling to a viral social media giant.

Or not.)

  • Why do you bother with this blog after seven years of almost complete reader indifference?

A fair question, one I’ve wrestled with many times. The most obvious is ego. Having a blog allows me to pretend I have something of import to say, when it’s highly doubtful I do. That’s a self-defeating concept since, as you so clearly and painfully point out, no one appears to be reading it. Ouch! (Thank you for not noting my other blog, “Limping in the Light”, which experienced a similar lack of impact for 10 years. Oh my.)

Another, more reasonable excuse is the desire to sell books. I have seven out there as of this typing (2021) with one more in the works. There’s an infinitesimal but non-zero chance that Oprah will happen on this site and discover that my novel about Haiti, “A Slippery Land”, is perfect for her book club… which it is.

Finally, I just like writing. It’s enjoyable and it’s therapeutic.

  • Have you read the new Andy Weir book, “Project Hail Mary”?

Yes, and it’s great. Similar to “The Martian” in both style and entertainment value. Highly recommended.

  • Can I borrow ten bucks?

No.

  • What’s the deal with that guy in the commercial who points at all your junk and it just goes away?

Nothing is more annoying to me. Our stuff doesn’t just “go away”. There is no “away”. Living under that delusion has brought this world to the predicament it’s in today.

  • How many Frenchmen can’t be wrong?

Last I checked, it was 1,000,000. That might have changed.

  • Is it true that Dick van Dyke was originally cast as the lead in the old movie, “The Omen”?

That’s what I heard. It would be a very different movie with him instead of Gregory Peck, don’t you think? It might have been a musical.

  • Why do people say “dial the phone” when there hasn’t been a dial on a phone in decades?

The same reason my father used to tell us to turn off the gas on the electric stove.

  • How about five bucks?

Okay.

  • Why do motorcycles make so much noise their riders can’t hear themselves think?

They aren’t missing anything.

  • Then they turn up their music above the sound of the bike?

Go figure.

  • Is my call important to you?

Yes, and it will be recorded for customer satisfaction purposes.

  • Where can I get your awesome books?

On Amazon or from me directly.

  • What do you want to be when you grow up?

I have no intention of growing up.

  • What’s the meaning of life?

The Westminster Catechism says “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever.” That works for me.

  • Who are your favorite actors?

For some reason, my favorite actors tend to be more commonly in supporting roles as opposed to carrying a movie. Among those that come to mind at the moment are Stanley Tucci, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Bill Cobbs, Steve Zahn, Michael Pena, and a bunch more I can’t think of right now. I appreciate people like these folks who (1) are humble enough to take smaller roles, (2) flexible enough to play anything from drama to OTT humor, and (3) make every movie they’re in better.

  • Have you heard the one about the…

Yes.

  • What does “clockwise” mean?

You were born after 2000, weren’t you?

  • $7.50?

Give it a rest!


(Let me know if you have any more questions you need answered.)

An ode to the bookmark

I’ve said it many times before: arguing the merits of hard copy books versus e-books is pointless and futile. It’s a religious argument no one will win. It makes as much sense as trying to change someone’s mind in an internet discussion. It has never happened in the history of the universe and is unlikely to in the future.

This question is simply a matter of taste that I wrote about a while back HERE. Each format has significant advantages. Each solves some problems and introduces others. (A perfect illustration of “Rick’s Law of Conservation of Woes“.) Your opinion on the matter will depend largely on how you prioritize those different factors.

One indisputable fact, however, is that the e-book (or Ebook or eBook or E-book or e-Book – another religious argument) spells the inevitable, sad demise of the beloved bookmark. The honest truth is that no one really needs a book mark. Tear off the end of an empty envelope or extra note paper and, Voila!, you have a bookmark. But this isn’t about practicality. Bookmarks, I maintain, are an art form in and of themselves, the perfect compliment to a work of literature.

As I write, there are a couple dozen examples ensconced in my nightstand drawer, in addition to several currently stuck in books I’m reading or otherwise referencing. They range from simple, unpretentious but sentimentally valuable ones my children made when they were actually children to a delicate filigree golden leaf suspended from a purple ribbon. The others are all over the place: charitable groups and businesses (especially bookstores) I support, gifts from friends and family, mementos of places I’ve been.

Some are simple cardboard, laminated or not. A couple are fabric: one a handmade article I bought in Haiti, another adorned with an inspirational scripture verse. One is a leather keepsake from a friend’s wedding. (The couple is still happily married. Good books inspire good relationships.)

I’ve probably used 10% of the bookmarks I have, but I can’t bear to throw any out. Their value goes way beyond their utility. I’ll probably keep collecting them as long as I breathe.

What can I say? I like bookmarks.


[I could go on about this topic, but felt the need cut it short so I could get something onto the blog ASAP. It’s been four months since the last entry. I have good reasons for such a long gap. I’ve been working on a documentary, writing two books, and making a video for a friend. I’ll try to do better in the future, if I ever finish any of those other projects.]

The Endless Cycle is complete!

(Is that a contradiction of terms?)

Endgame…

…the final book in my series for middle grade readers, “The Endless Cycle”, is currently available. And it was delivered on schedule! (Probably a first for me after a long career in software development.)

This installment concludes the story of the cycling, baseball-playing, mystery boy who has spent the past month trying to figure out who he is, where he came from, and how to get back. When he does find his home and family, everything is wrong. Just as he had to help people on the road, he has to save his family at home.

But will he be in time to rescue them?

The four-book series, along with my other three books, is available now on Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. Visit my author page to see them all.


I promise to write actual blog posts occasionally now, rather than this obsessive self-promotion that has occupied this blog for so long.

But don’t hold me to that.

[Note that the title of this book was decided on long before a certain comic book company released their latest bombastic exercise in cinematic junk food. No legal action will be take on my part.]

“Slipstream” is out!

“Slipstream”, the third installment of “The Endless Cycle”, my middle-grade readers series, is available today on Amazon in paperback and Kindle e-book. The adventure concludes in the final book, “Endgame”. (The Avengers stole the name from me! 🙂 ) Watch for it on Sept 1.

Visit my author page to see the entire series so far, as well as all my other books. †

It occurred to me that I never even mentioned book 2 in the series: “Blowout”.

(Sorry that book promotions are about all I’m putting on my blogs lately, but a guy can only write so much!)

 

The Endless Cycle: Book 1

I’m pleased to announce the reason for my recent absence from the blog scene: My new book, Breakaway, the first in a four book series intended for middle-grade readers, has just been published.

The description on the back cover gives you a good idea of what you can expect in the book:

A boy with no past finds himself on an endless bike trip looking for answers. What is his name? Where did he come from? Where is he going?

When he comes to town on the local bike path, he’s befriended by a compassionate single dad and his phone-obsessed daughter. But will that be enough to protect him from suspicious police, a crime ring, and a man with a gun, hot on his trail?

Join him in this first exciting adventure in the Endless Cycle: Breakaway!

I will deliver each of the next three books in the series separated by no more than two months, approximately May 1, July 1, and Sept 1.

If you know anyone in the 10-16 age range (or anyone else who likes a good story) who is looking for some good reading, please check out “The Endless Cycle”. You can find the paperback and Kindle e-book today by clicking the image above or by visiting my Amazon author page here.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about this or any of my other writing.

Thank you for your support of independent authors.

Shots’n’thots

Working on a new book (actually five of them!) so the blog is lower priority. Hence the sparsity of posts lately. Here’s a quickie that’s been on my mind. A few thoughts spread among a few shots.


If that’s a seedless watermelon, folks, I don’t want to know what those little black specks are.

Try looking up “Funk & Wagnalls” in your Funk & Wagnalls.


This tag was attached to a stuffed, weighted dinosaur. So, this is a perfect accessory to any home’s decor? Yeah, it would look perfect at The Breakers or Fallingwater.

Welcome to a new year. In my younger days, I’d be writing the previous year well into March. Now it’s like a tick of the clock. I started writing 2019 on January 1 without missing a beat.


So, these are the essentials. No wonder my last party crashed and burned.

By my observation, people usually say more than they know yet know more than they’ll say. Some of us err on one side more than the other. But we all do it.


Since when is shopping a gift? I thought it was a chore. Not here in the United States of Walmart. I love the irony of this toxic message being on a kiosk that dispenses hand sanitizer. I don’t suppose it will protect against the affluenza virus.

Fortunately, we have…
Wow! That’s precision for you. Isn’t science wonderful? I only hope the 0.01% it doesn’t kill isn’t the aforementioned virus.
If sitting is the new smoking, as I believe it is, what’s lying-on-your-back-like-a-slug-for-hours-on-end-ingesting-mindless-drivel-at-close-range? Can’t be good.

I was in California not too long ago. I saw a truck for a local business called “Leadership Fumigation“. Do you think they’d do a job at the White House?


I can’t say for sure they named this place after me, but…
I can’t prove they didn’t.

Coming in March!!

Watch this space for the announcement of my new book series for middle-grade readers:

The Endless Cycle

A Slippery S***hole

It shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn that I, as the author of a book about Haiti, am disgusted (but hardly surprised) at America’s racist-in-chief’s reference to Haiti as a “shithole”. In fact, the opening of my book implies a lack of knowledge that non-Haitians (“blans” as they call us) have about what in my eyes is a beautiful, if slippery, land.

I’ve reproduced the opening paragraphs of the book here, where we are introduced to the protagonist, Fania, and her country:

Fania lived in Hell.

Not that she was aware of it any more than the fish in nearby Baie de Port-au-Prince knew they lived in water. It was only to outside observers, none of whom Fania had ever met, that Haiti resembled a place of unending suffering and torment. They saw only crime, poverty, hunger, and homelessness in a recurring cycle of tumult. To them, it was an abyss of despair where nothing changed except the players in a tragic theater of misery.

To Fania, it was home.

And isn’t that the point? No matter how we view a nation from the outside, be it Kenya, Rwanda, El Salvador, Haiti, or any impoverished country, it is home to people, real people. Human beings no different than us. Like us, they try to live their lives, help their families, and contribute to their communities. This simple truth is beyond some people, but few miss the point with the profound ignorance and flagrant hate of the POTUS poser.

I’ve already written about this atrocity in my other blog. If you are so inclined you can read my diatribe here. Better yet, read the words of one who is infinitely more eloquent, the brilliant Haitian author Edwidge Danticat. You can read her assessment here. The intellectual, moral, and overall character gap between Ms. Danticat and the simple-minded bigot who runs this country is too wide to measure. The voice you and I listen to tells a great deal about our characters.

Extraordinary praise of the Ordinary

I’ve seen movies that deliver more satisfaction in their first ten minutes than others do in their entirety. I’ll never forget my first viewing of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. (Note placement of period and quote there.) When Jock flies that plane carrying Indy (and Jock’s pet snake Reggie) into the sunset, I was ready to get up and leave the theater. I’d already gotten my money’s worth. There was more action, excitement, and fun in that segment than most films carry in their first two hours and three sequels.

Pixar’s “Up” is another perfect example. The opening is a brilliant, poignant short film in its own right that outshines (IMHO) the rest of a good movie.

You probably have a list of such favorite openers. (Feel free to mention some in the comments.) In a few of those, the rest of the movie goes nowhere. You wish you actually had gotten up and left or turned off the DVD or stopped the streaming. More often, the beginning is just a foretaste of a great cinematic experience.

That’s a whole ‘nother post. This one isn’t about movies.

There are books like that, too. In fact, there are paragraphs buried in the middle some books that are so wonderful, you could read just those words, close the book, and savor the experience. I’m reading one of those books. To be more precise, I’m rereading one.

I’ve said before in various places (here is just one such instance) that Mark Helprin is my favorite writer. I have to reread some of his prose on a regular basis. (Unfortunately, he doesn’t write books often enough to satisfy my needs. The good news is that, in researching this post, I discovered he has a new novel!) There have been days when I picked up one of his books and read a page or even a paragraph or two to be reminded what great prose sounds like. The following excerpt from his 1995 novel, “Memoir from Antproof Case”, demonstrates well his ability to capture profound truths in prose that is both poetic and humorous.

So many people spend so much time protecting themselves from the ordinary and the worn that it seems as if half the world runs on a defensive principle that robs it of the tested and the true. But if the truth is common, must it be rejected? If the ordinary is beautiful, must it be scorned? They needn’t be, and are not, by those who are free enough to see anew. The human soul itself is quite ordinary, existing by the billion, and on a crowded street you pass souls a thousand times a minute. And yet within the soul is a graceful shining song more wonderful than the stunning cathedrals that stand over the countryside unique and alone. The simple songs are the best. They last into time as inviolably as the light.

I find that passage simply stunning. It’s only a single paragraph, but the truths expressed therein are worth hours or days of meditation.

For a variety of reasons, this kind of writing is comforting, challenging, thrilling, enlightening, and depressing.

And aren’t those the reasons we read—to think and to feel?