The Challenge: Progress Report (and more)

It goes on, evolving and continuing. The original Challenge was to complete a novel in one month, January. That was a failure; I was only able to get a little over 20K words done by January 31st. I got off to a good start but two weeks into the Challenge, Life intruded and I was unable to set aside any time for writing. My brain was still actively composing and the novel continued to grow in my imagination. Yesterday I resumed writing, though I’m still on a compromised schedule.

By compromised I mean that I’m still unable to devote myself fully to writing. I may be able to set aside a couple of days each week but we’re still working out the details of a plan. By we I mean my wife and kids. The homeschool responsibilities are pretty demanding, as is the time for making a living (in our home-based business).

In the meantime, I’m making some interesting discoveries. These have come from people around me who’ve been opening up and sharing some of their experiences with animals, whenever I mention that I’m interested in the ways that humans communicate with cats (the subject of my current novel, ‘The Body In the Sauna’). My friend Rich Fustino (Mr Rich to his guitar students at Matt’s Music) emailed me a bit about his dog and another musician recently related some interesting stories about her experiences with cats, dogs and, believe it or not, fish. Lots of people tell me that, like the protagonist of ‘The Body in the Sauna’, they often talk with their pets and that the communication is two-way. The pets are talking back to them.

I’ve asked Rich’s permission to share his story with you and he was okay with the idea, so here it is.

There are a few things about my dog Spirit that may interest you. Spirit was a rescue dog from Niagara Falls from a troubled home. Spirit is a very loving dog; he is very protective however. He is a black beagle with a white mouth area. His full name is Spirit Star. A very small dog, a beagle chihuahua. His nick name given to him by the grand kids is “butt brain.” Spirit was the father to five puppies born to the late beagle Alexandria. Spirit was going to be called Prancer because that is what he looks like when is he gets excited. Jumping all over the place.
He sleeps in my bed at night and during the day you can find him either in the upright chair in the living room, on the couch or in the kitchen in his new bed. Spirit has tried to bite it and take the stuffing out of it but I scolded him and put decorated gold duck tape on it. He is now leaving it alone for the time being and curling up in it. Such a cutie. Sometimes he will climb up into the laundry basket in the kitchen and arrange the clean clothing just right for snuggling.
He likes to play with a tennis ball he found one day on our daily walks. He also loves ropes and will tear them apart and works on them until they are just string. Spirit knows when I bring home a new rope in a tops or dollar store bag as he just sniffs them out. He loves when I throw them and will bring it back to me but not too willing to give them up. He will even put it on my arm to get me to play with him. He has to have one of them in my bed when he goes to sleep also his tennis ball. That is his favorite toy. He even catches it in the air. No matter how far or short I throw it he brings it back to me but won’t give it up too easy.
He will sleep on the end of my bed on top of the covers but his favorite position is under the covers right up next to me. He will let me know this when he puts his nose and lifts the comforter on my bed. When I turn around or shift to get comfortable so does he and usually likes to put his head on my knee when I am lying on my side or in the bend of my knees. I let him know when I am going to bed by talking to him and saying “Spirit lets go to bed.” In the morning he will climb up on my chest and start to lick my lips to wake me up. Then he will go and lay on my feet until I am fully awake.

Next to my bed there is a step stool that is black and was used to paint the bathroom and has a white spot of paint on it. Spirit has a glass of water on it and that is where I put his treats. He usually leaves them there during the day but at night before bed will jump down off the bed to get a treat and jump back up to have his midnight snack. Spirit also has a water glass in the living room on the table where my music books and hole punch is. I call it his daddy water glass. That started when he was sick and I had to get him to drink water. I also put treats or dog food there for him. He also has his dog dish and water bowl in the kitchen near the bed and laundry basket.

He loves to go on what I call bye bye rides. Spirit can’t even wait for me to put on my shoes to go outside. He will run up and down the back stairs to get his leash put on. When I take him outside he will run right up to my car and as I open my car door he will jump right up inside and sit in the passenger seat. I put the seat belt through the handle on his walking leash. He will bark at anyone walking or any motorcycle or bike. He hates people on bikes. He tries to sit in the middle on the console sometimes too. When I am parked at Tops (supermarket) if anyone comes near the car he will bark.
Spirit Star loves to take walks around the block, several if the weather is nice. Now during the winter we put a dog sweater on him. He gets so excited when I ask him”Do you want to go outside?” He jumps up and down and won’t even let me put my shoes on. He loves to chase the squirrels and rabbits as soon as he see them. He will chase the squirrel right up the tree. I always put his leash around my wrist because he takes off in a flash. He likes to meet other dogs and will usually be good. He has two good dog friends on our street. One is called Choppers. If he sees a dog across the street he will bark loudly.
He has a keen sense of hearing and can hear the mailman when he comes to door. If he is in bed Spirit will jump out of bed and run to the door and bark. He will try to bite the mail and bark at it. And will run out when you open the door. One day when the UPS truck delivered a package I went outside to retrieve it and he ran out the door and chased the truck down the street barking. Thank goodness no cars were coming. I yelled as I was running after him in my bare feet “Get back here” and slowly he turned around and crawled back on the grass with his head down because he knew he was in trouble. We were so lucky that day and I was crying because I thought someone would hit him.He is not too friendly with the Amazon delivery also.
Spirit and his TV watching habits are really intriguing. He will sit on the chair in the living room and watch movies like a grown up. If it’s a Western he will bark at the horses and jump down off the chair and go right up to the TV set near couch and prop his from legs up and put his nose right up close to the TV. He will bark until I turn the channel off or stop the movie. He will run into the other bedroom to check if the horse is on the TV there. And then he will run back into the living room and jump right back up to where he was.

Well there’s more about my dog who is really a good caring dog but Spirit Star, a legal beagle, what I call him, lying on my crossed feet on my bed, is now tired and so am I. Nite for now for a new adventure to start tomorrow with my Spirit.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wordplay: Respect

Words are the widgets of my business, the business of writing, of communicating ideas and stimulating thought in readers. These days, writers can also expect to initiate dialogue, though even with enabled comments, readers are slow to respond directly. Still, you assume that having read the words, some readers will eventually respond. So from time to time I will use this forum to discuss my thoughts and feelings about the way our language is evolving and the effects the words we use might have on the way we think and act. Reader response is invited.

Languages will change as their speakers evolve; this is necessary and natural. Consider the word ‘Respect’. Everyone has a definition of that word and much conflict has ensued. My dictionary (New Oxford American of 2010) asserts that the word entails deep admiration for someone’s abilities or achievements but in common usage the depth of the word seems to have been lost.

Here’s a quote from a well-meaning post that nevertheless subscribes to the weakened definition of the word, that we’ve all come to accept.

Due regard means paying attention to another person’s beliefs. To regard something is to look at it. The Latin origin of the word respect also means Languages will change as their speakers evolve; this is necessary and natural. “to look back.” Respect is just observation. To respect a belief is to observe it — to acknowledge its existence.

So the word respect doesn’t actually pack a lot of punch. It really just means looking at another person’s beliefs. You don’t have to like those beliefs. You may even think they’re stupid. But you can still respect someone’s beliefs merely by acknowledging that such beliefs exist. That a pretty low bar, wouldn’t you say? [sic]

June 12, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

This loss of meaning, this reduction in the power and reach of the word, is the kind of thing George Orwell wrote about so eloquently and the harm that it does is something that I witnessed over and over again in the schools I’ve worked in.

The particular example, ‘Respect’, that I’ve chosen to focus on in this piece is one that’s common and commonly dangerous to young people. A fight was often the result of confusion over the way ‘Respect’ was accorded or denied in the interactions among students; out on the streets these fights sometimes involved weapons and fatalities.

Like Orwell, I see language as both expressive and formative. The ‘locker-room talk’ of adolescent boys is for many the source of the misguided ideas they take into adulthood. The insulting language of the jokes that we snigger over in private passes slowly into the mainstream current of our culture. It’s intellectual poison.

Americans don’t like being told how to behave or talk. The venerated idea of Free Speech is rightly a principle of American Freedom and Democracy. But confusing Free Speech with ignorant twaddle is going to do us all a lot of harm, destroying America’s Greatness with an efficiency that no Terrorist could hope to achieve. Those who would make America Great again need to recognize that common respect involves more than simple recognition of the right of the other to exist.

We have to remember and re-learn how to be excellent to each other.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Living with the Fear

It’s said that many of the Great Explorers of the new World, back in the fifteenth century, were hunting for mythical cities where a Fountain of Youth and the Mines of King Solomon were said to be exist. Several hundred years have passed and while the world has changed in many important ways, what with mass-marketing, social media, computers, cell phones, moon landings, nuclear weapons and GPS navigation, we have not. We’re still obsessed with personal security, youth and longevity, Americans more than most. These obsessions are irrational and now we’ve acquired a leader, a president, whose close identification with those fundamental insecurities is the basis of his popularity.

When we put engines on the horse carts we reversed the roles of horse and cart. The cart took the horse to the glue factory and horsepower became one word, that had nothing to do with horses. Mass production produced a new way of life. The train left the station that day and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand how mass marketing and its agents in the advertising industry have influenced American values since then. Truth was the first casualty (Somewhere in a dusty corner of somebody’s Law Library is an old tome on Truth In Advertising ).

Now politicians lie, routinely. They are expected to lie. That’s what they do to win elections and we should understand that.


I think there was a time in this country when honor meant something. When we showed respect for our ancestors and for each other. If we want to Make America Great Again then we need to go back to the great values the country once stood for.

Oh I know that it was never quite like that, I know that it was really a dream, an ideal. I’ve read enough American history to understand that, but that’s just it, you see. It was the Dream, the Ideal, and we all aspired to its attainment.

Now it’s every man for himself. Women if they’re sexy and children if they’re mine. More than ever, we fear the future and our personal extinction. We’re sold on our helplessness, our victimhood, our nothingness. We’re sold on our essential worthlessness, redeemable only if we can make more money than the next man, buy more, drive the latest, be hip, be cool, be sexy. And it’s all fueled by the fear with no name that’s pushed into our consciousness by the Advertisers and Propagandists.

We forget ourselves, our people, our ancestors. We never stop to think of who we are, why we’re here, or how fortunate we are to have life.

It doesn’t matter if you’re religious or not; whether you’re Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist, or Agnostic. You’re alive, with me, on this glorious planet. Look at the sun; feel the snow on your skin. Love somebody.

Tomorrow you can be afraid, but today, today is a good day to die.



Posted in Uncategorized

A Thousand Words


Image found on Twitter: @rmayersinger

Spiegel im spiegel. (Mirror in the mirror)

We are one.

Now and forever.

Sorry about the obligatory nods to the unavoidable advertisers.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Challenge: In flight

Things are going okay with the Challenge. I’m taking a short break from the world of ‘The Unlikely Detective’ to write a bit about something I just stumbled onto while I was reading the latest news of the ‘Real World’. I put that in quotes because these days I’m feeling like I’ve stepped through the looking glass and am now living in a nightmarish alternate reality filled with ‘alternate facts’.

Anyway, regular readers of this blog may have picked up on my interest in words. Today I found a new one and though its existence didn’t surprise me, when I thought about it, I really hadn’t thought about it until today. The word is ‘Advertorial’. That’s right – Advertorial – and it’s in the online Merriam-Webster, listed in the bottom 20 percent in popularity. It’s formed (obviously?) from the birth of a conjoined advertisement and editorial fetus.

This is not good.

In this new Alternate Reality to which we’ve been transported  I don’t know if we have a Federal Trade Commission and Truth In Advertising laws. Chances are that we don’t. I’d like to get a legal opinion on whether advertorials, as a class of advertisements, are in violation of the Truth laws. The advertorial is a deliberate attempt to mislead the consumers into thinking that they’re reading a factual news article when it’s just another advertisement that might be true and correct.

Well, that’s all for now. Back to the Challenge and the story of Mabel, her cats, her friend Felicity who’s taking up a major role in the unfolding drama of ‘The Body In the Sauna.’ The characters are telling a story that’s a little bit different from the one I had imagined. I have to let them speak. It’s their story and they lived it. I’m only now hearing about it so I have to tell it to you the way they tell it to me.

It’s like I’m their ghost writer. Funny feeling, that.

Posted in Uncategorized

The Challenge: Week Three

Another intense week with a low word count but considerable progress.

Distractions came with the terrible news that America was getting a new President who likes books very much and even reads them. He even wrote one, well he had one ghost written for him, but that still counts, doesn’t it? The thing is that he announced his intention to take away support for the arts. That bothered me. Well, there’s more but I don’t want to talk about that, here.

The exigencies of financial survival demanded most of my time. Gotta earn a living and my earning activities took up the better part of the week, though I managed about a thousand words and much reading up on the nuts and bolts of selling books. My first book was written and kicked out of the nest with no preparation and no follow-up support.

“Fly my eagle,” I commanded.

It fell to the ground and lay there, breathing but unmoving. I’m not going to repeat that mistake.

I’m still determined to finish; a big effort over the next ten days must be enough.

In the meantime, here’s a song I wrote last night.

I was forced to write this in spite of my commitment to the Challenge. I justified it as clearing the mental and emotional workspace of irrelevant clutter.


Midnight comes too quickly
And stays too long
Moments of living and loving
Hidden in my song.

What remains is all I am
When there’s nothing left.

So blow wind blow
While I tell this winter’s tale
Of the sun’s sweet victory
We know how this one ends.

What remains is all I am
When there’s nothing left.

Sweet mother mine
Your fatal offspring
We poor unfortunates
Deny redemption

What remains is all I am
When there’s nothing left.

Sweet mother mine
No mercy no mercy

Now comes the silent spring. (Repeat  three times to fade)

It’s a song, set to original music; I’d play it for you but I don’t want to send you running for the hills.



Posted in Uncategorized

The Challenge: Week Two

Bad week – I managed to produce little more than two thousand words. And this is entirely owing to my situation and the demands of our homeschool and our business.

As the kids grow older educating them becomes more demanding, not because of anything inherent in education or in homeschooling but because of the hoops through which the system in New York demands they jump. We are reduced to the role of trainers, teaching our performing lions a repertoire of tricks, and education becomes a circus. There’s a word for that – ridiculous.

I’m not resentful of the time I spend with them. This morning Zizi (my eleven year old) wanted to know if there was a difference between ‘sardonic’ and ‘sarcastic’ and that prompted her siblings to jump in with their opinions on this question. We keep a library version of the New Oxford  Dictionary, Third Edition in their common room, on its own stand and I encourage them to use it often. My purpose here was to avoid reliance on the Internet as arbiter of truth.

Now that’s education and in this homeschool it’s always on. In this context hoop-jumping is a huge distraction.

Business is business and money is necessary. I can only hope and dream that I can work my way to the place where writing is my business.

I did manage to spend some time researching the collected wisdom (on the Internet) on marketing, with the result that I’ve posted the first chapter on Wattpad. It’s a test of the idea of the book and I’m hoping for feedback, either in comments on Wattpad; here on my WordPress blog; or in private email to I intend to design my own cover and have posted the first design choice along with the chapter on Wattpad. I intend to do at least two more, to give myself some choices and to allow people to help me decide on the final version of the cover. For convenience here it is.



I would be super grateful if readers of this blog would comment on my effort here.

On to next week then, and stepped-up production to make up for the setbacks. Thanks for the support and until next time, give it your all, and be well.

Posted in Uncategorized

Tiny Fish Brain GPS

I home school my three school-age kids and this blogger consistently publishes useful reading for the kids. Recommend a follow.

Gringa of the Barrio

(Originally posted 1/11/17 on Read With The Gringa)

The gringa recently read a report published by researchers who discovered that the larvae of cardinalfish, a favorite community aquarium fish, use the Earth’s magnetic field to navigate in the wild. Considering that tiny little fish are not prone to use telescopes to navigate by the stars, this should really come as no surprise to these scientists.

Now, the gringa wants to know just how important this scientific discovery is. I mean, think about it. Consider how much money and time was invested. Will this knowledge do the world any darn good? Does it really matter, in the grand scheme of things, that these tiny little fish babies can find their way back home through a few miles of underwater coral reefs or brackish shallows? Will this somehow contribute to making the world a better place?

What’s the value of discovering…

View original post 899 more words

Posted in Uncategorized

The Challenge: Week One

It’s Saturday, the last day of the first week of the Challenge, my private NaNoWriMo clone for January. It’s only coincidental that this is a new year; I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions and this wasn’t one.

Anyway, this is the seventh day of the first week and here, as promised, is my weekly report.

I got off to a pretty good start, writing 3,176 words on the first day. On Day 2, I came close to that with 2,505 words. Production declined after that as financial employment and family duties demanded more time. On the third day I wrote 1,305 words; on the fourth, I managed to push it back up a bit, to 2,447. The fifth day was a busy one and I barely passed the 1K mark with 1,149 words. Friday was almost as bad, with 1,225 words but today, with fewer demands on my time, I managed to write a whopping 2,841 words. My grand total for the first week – 14,648 words. I’m going to have to do better next week if I’m to get this done on schedule.

I took the first chapter to a review session with my old writer’s group and got some excellent suggestions. They thought that I had made a pretty good start. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m happy with the work so far. This book is the first in a series – The Unlikely Detective – about an ordinary young woman, an Indie writer of Romance novels who loves her cats and her psychiatrist husband, not necessarily in that order. When a trainer at her gym is found dead in the sauna, Mabel assumes the responsibility of solving the mystery surrounding the young woman’s sudden death. The working title is The Body in the Sauna.

I intend to do it all myself, again, but I could use a few good readers to help me spot mistakes. Free copies; a mention on my acknowledgements page; my gratitude and commitment to return the favor on demand, that’s what you get in return.


PS: Went back to the file and did a little rewriting that increased today’s word count to 3,109 words and the week’s total to 14,916. Just trying to keep the numbers straight.

Posted in Uncategorized

The ‘Not-Illegal’ President

I just have to do it. Tomorrow begins my writing marathon and I don’t imagine I’ll have the time or the energy to write about some of the other things that matter to me so though I’ve already posted a piece today, I need to get this off my chest.

I’m making a prediction about a particular phrase that we’re going to be hearing a lot in the future — many people are going to do things that the Press will report as not-illegal. Maybe the first instance of the usage will occur in descriptions of the new President’s financial dealings.

You see, given the fact that it’s illegal to trade with insider information it seems to me that Trump’s Twitter habit positions him to make a clever end run around the Stock Act.

Don’t underestimate the man; ignorant yes, dull as well. And brutish but he can understand how to carry out instructions. And he’s just smart enough to saddle up with some evil clever ones who can help him with the finer points of things that might be too complex for him to see clearly and manage on his own. So he has nominated Vincent Viola to be his Secretary of the Army. Viola is currently the Executive Chairman of Virtu Financial, the private corporation he founded and where he made most of his billions.

Virtu Financial is one of those new High Frequency Trading (HFT)companies that inhabit a zone between legality and illegality. HFT was made possible by modern computer systems and the laws need some serious updating to catch up with their methods. Legal authorities and scholars are trying to figure out which of the existing regulations – insider trading is one possibility – can be updated and amended to control HFT. Some say the real danger is the inherent propensity of this kind of trading to cause markets to crash. It’s irresponsible to trade that way they say. We all know what the new Pres will say to that –


And with Viola to help his dealings, he will be able to use his Twitter account to enrich himself and his new winner cronies in ways that are one or two steps ahead of the law and consequently untouchable. Think about it. He tweets some shit about say, Boeing. Now that’s public info that he could simultaneously share with his trading partner who then uses his HFT organization to make money off the effect of the Presidential Tweet on the market. That would be completely not-illegal. You can’t be charged with insider trading for information that’s been made public. But you can still make money on it. Trump is going to love it; makes sense, his insisting that he’s going to be  the Twitter President.

Finally he sees a way to become as rich as he already boasts! And it’s … you got it …


That phrase is going to become one of the catch phrases of the next four years … at least.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments