Monday, August 30, 2010

Book Review: "The Bikini Car Wash" by Pamela Morsi

There are two key reasons as to why this particular review can be considered out of the ordinary: 1) it concludes this previous post about the book, and 2) it touches on a genre that up until two years ago was derisively eliminated from my radar.


I started reading romance a couple of years ago, when I saw this particular book in my public library's New Fiction end cap. At the time I was writing (or trying to write) an interracial love story, so after reading the jacket blurb, I took it home and read it in two days flat. Even though that book blew me away, a serious reader of romance was not I.

Why? Because I applied my same picky reading principles to this genre as I did to every other genre. The end result was that since 2008, I've read exactly three romance novels:

1} Whiskey Road by Karen Siplin
2} His Insignificant Other also by Karen Siplin
3} Fashionista by Erica Kennedy

As with the previous three, the jacket blurb that caused me to pick novel #4 is what hooked me:

After Andrea Wolkowicz abandons corporate life to help care for her sister, she quickly wears out the want ads in their rust-belt hometown. Time be her own boss.

Every mogul knows the best idea is an old idea with a new twist. So Andi proudly revives her father's business: an old-fashioned car wash...staffed entirely by bikini clad woman. That ought to get traffic---and blood--- flowing on Grosvenor Street!

This gutsy gimmick soon has the whole town in a lather, and not necessarily in a good way.

Scandalized citizens are howling, neighboring businesses are worried. But straitlaced grocery store owner Pete Guthrie is definitely intrigued. He knows it's hard to run a small business in a big box world. To him, Andi's brains and bravery are as alluring as the bikini she calls business attire.

Well, that and reading the first dozen pages while standing there with my glasses on top of my head convinced me to take a chance on checking it out and bringing it home. The end result was that it didn't let me down one bit.

As a reader, I found that the way she wove the main plot line (Andi & Pete) with the secondary (Her father and his high school sweetheart) was perfectly seamless. I found myself pleasantly lost within both plot lines, plus the small tangents that sprang from both. An interesting twist that Ms. Morsi added to the overall story, was a narrative in between the chapters that was told by Andi's mentally retarded twin sister Jelly (who was expertly, realistically and tastefully written throughout the book), that basically told the entire story through her eyes while she was reading her picture book. This book hooked me so bad that I found myself rereading parts of it at work while I was partially composing this book review.

As a newbie writer, I found her writing to be crisp yet not crisp enough to where you would be turned off by that type of prose. I picked up quite a few tidbits while reading this story; one was that sometimes less (as in the way the one overtly sexual encounter Andi and Pete had was written) is the best way to go; how to write dialogue; and I understood how that having a happy ending is not necessarily a bad thing. But most importantly, I saw what and how a well written story can hook someone and possibly make them search out other titles from that same author.

Overall, this latest offering from a USA Today best selling author in my book, is a fantastic read and I would highly recommend it to anyone who likes reading light romances/love stories. Because in my opinion, it will not disappoint, and in the end, that's all you should really expect from a book.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Places & Aminals (1)

Problem: How to properly introduce the latest episode of Shooting Suburbia without sounding 1} dopey, 2} lame, 3} dopey and lame, or 4} becoming fluent in Ebonics (which according to the Oakland, California Educational System, is a valid English language).

Solution: Wow everyone with a bucolic picture of the Pennsylvania (or was it Ohio?) countryside.

Nah, it was the Pennsylvania countryside, behind one of the rest areas, late August 2008 while driving to Indiana on the last real vacation experienced by the wife and I.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Masses Have Spoken!

Well, only eight people have spoken. The votes were made and tallied, and the end result is that everyone prefers the current persona known as G, over the potential persona called Peanut Gallery.

Thus, G I will be. At least on Blogger that is.

Since I read/follow about four or five WordPress blogs, I thought I would try out the Peanut Gallery moniker on them, although I'm not too confident that it will take off.

The good thing (or bad, depending on how you want to look at it) about having a particular persona/name connected to you in the Cyber World is that once you've nurtured and raised that bad boy from a pup to full grown adulthood, it's downright impossible to be called anything else.

Hope you're having a rockin' Saturday. I know I'm gonna try, although having one member of the family around is definitely putting a crimp in my ability to decompress from the rigours of being around the family for the week.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I Are Ready To Conversate! (1)

Background dump: Something that newbie writers execute very badly, something that average writers do correctly about 50% of the time and that good writers simply Dudley Do-Right.

My background dump: I didn't write throughout my elementary, middle, parochial and high school years, at least not beyond what the minimal requirements were needed to pass a particular class. I also didn't do a lick of writing in my adult years beyond the necessary business correspondence that was required of my job. Which means that I had absolutely no clue on how to do what I was about to do on the incredible journey I was about to take.

I got a very late jump on the bad writing portion of my career, specifically, starting this incredible journey at the ripe old age of 40 (I'm 45 now). The generic reason as to why I started is that I experienced a small cataclysmic event in my life. After recovering from said small cataclysmic event, a tiny seed of a story idea began to grow deep within that atrophied section of the brain called "creativity".

In no time at all, I found a brand new reason to use my refurbished Dell: writing a story. And writing is what I did.

Note: since I had no Internet on that computer, the most I ever did with it was to create a couple of databases for my record collection.

I started writing this bad (literally) boy by sitting down at my dining room table one night after supper, turned on my laptop and began pounding furiously away on it. However, after producing about 4 pages of high quality yecch! material in less than 20 minutes and considering the potential direction that this story was going to take (yes, even back then, I had S-E-X on my mind. boy did I ever have S-E-X on my mind), it would behoove me to move my creativity in action (no, not the unpublished story quiz kids) to other places of the house where I would be able to write without prying eyes spying on me.

Also in no time at all, I managed to develop a writing routine that to this day has not been used since I completed that horrible book. As a matter of record, I still do one item from that list. Betcha can't guess what that one item is.

1} I spent the entire time (about five months) writing angry. Not getting angry for a particular scene, but being angry from beginning of the book {He was sitting there in front of his computer, suffering through a mild (okay, a severe) case of writers block, listening to some real early (and exceptionally bad) music of the latest alternative flavor on the MTV scene, and thinking to himself “this music really sucks”.} to end {And as they went walking off together hand in hand admiring the sunset and discussing their future plans, they literally took an incredibly long walk of an incredibly short pier and finished the day by enjoying a most refreshing bath, together.}. Please note that I kept everything as is for those two sentences.

2} I got up an extra hour early each morning to write before officially starting my day, which meant I got up at 4:30 every morning to write for one hour.

3} I edited before writing new stuff.

4} I wrote small chunks while surrounded by people.

5} I showed my stuff to my co-workers while I was writing it.

Once I got settled into a good routine, I started cranking out words at an ungodly rate, like on the average about 2,500 per day. Let's face it man, I was a lean mean writing machine.

What kind of lean mean writing machine is the subject of part two.

In the meantime, a question to be had is this: have you modified your current writing routine (or any kind of creative routine for that matter) from what you initially started with?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Half A Millennium

Still yet another interruption of our bad writing series, this post will be much in the same lighthearted vein as Monday's post. Whereas Monday's was devoted to yet another aspect of my personal life, today's will be devoted to an aspect of my public life that everyone here has not yet gotten their fill of.

For today, Cedar's Mountain has reached a wicked milestone that I honestly never thought would've happened when I started this blog some twenty six and a half months ago.
If you weren't able to deduce it from the title, this post is number 500. If you weren't able to deduce it from the title, then you got the makings of a career politician in whatever state/province/country you happen to be visiting this blog from.

Yes, it's hard to imagine that I manage to (officially) crank out 500 posts on this tiny little corner of the Cyber World. To quote Ralph Kiner, lets do a happy recrap of the (official) 500 posts that grace this here weblog.

1} To clarify the word official: Around early 2009, I decided to nuke about 35+ posts that dealt with (at the time) a pretty rotten story called "A Betrayal Of Vows". Why did I nuke it? Gee, I don't know. Perhaps it had do with that little self published nugget that is prominently displayed in the upper left hand corner of the front page, of which more info can be found at my book blog.

2} About 15% of the posts written for this blog were lead-ins to my closed, but still wide open, short story blog Flashing Georgie's Shorts. Which if you think about it, was a pretty remarkable achievement in itself. I mean, think it about for a moment: how many people do you honestly know wrote original stories and posted them on their own blog, thereby effectively depriving a potential home elsewhere for them? I thought so.

3} Even though I made it a point to feature 100% original content for this blog, I repeated exactly three posts. All three appeared earlier this year when I decide to take a brief mental break from the trials and tribulations that were my life.

4} I originally designed this blog to be repository of the following topics: writing (specifically self-publishing), chat rooms, work and relationships. Over the course of these 500 posts, the blog has exploded like a bad computer virus and has covered almost every conceivable topic that I could think of, and some that I didn't even think of. Think I'm kidding? When you get a free moment, check out some of the tags that have a numeral less than 20 attached to them.

5} Words. This blog has for the most part featured nothing but words, with very few pictures thrown in. Even the links featured nothing but words. One thing that I continually work on with this blog, above all others, is description. I know that to be overly descriptive with your writing can be a bad thing, but I like to think that from over the course of these 500 posts, I managed to not only touch a particular emotion with you from time to time, but with myself as well.

6} Pictures and video. I started getting into pictures and video very late in this blog (like late 2009), but once I did, I found a brand new outlet for the minutia that makes up an ungodly percentage of my life. While I used the video very sparingly (I believe I've posted a grand total of one dozen video links, most of which were lumped in with my birthday and my dad's birthday), the pictures grew to the point where I started yet another blog, Shooting Suburbia and only about 2.5% of the posts so far have been dedicated to that blog. Yeah, my memory is just that good.

7} I've had exactly three posts written by other people featured on this blog. One was a group post celebrating my one year blog anniversary (i think), featuring three people of which one I'm no longer friends with, one who I'm sort of friends with but haven't spoken to since April and one who introduced me to blogging and who I still talk to on a monthly basis; one was written by a current friend whose daughter was featured in a blog post here earlier this year; and the last one was written by a co-worker whose book was reviewed by me here and is the perfect example of how to be a success in self-publishing (see the tag called Juvenile Fiction for more info).

8} On the other hand, I've written an entire short story that contained nothing but links to other favorite blogs of mine, using only their sub-titles/titles for sentence structure.

9} On the other other hand, in order to reach 500 posts in two years (on the average, most people I think would hit 500 in a period longer than two years. however, a few of my readers here who I share some mutual blogs with, know of a person who managed to put out 500 posts in about eight month time frame), I started and maintained a pace that would freak the average blogger out (no, not you Bea, for no one could ever call you average). Starting in May '08 and running thru Aug '08, I posted twice a day every other day. Yes, this pace did burn me out, so I cut down to one post every other day and maintained that pace from Sep '08 thru Feb '10. March '10 to the present has found me posting on M-W-F schedule, with a sometimes bonus on Saturday and a half post on Sunday for Shooting Suburbia.

10} I've had only three extended breaks from blogging: vacation in Aug '08 (nobody knew me then, so nobody missed me), a break in March '09 (created FSG during that hiatus), and the personal break I took the second week of June this year. Most of the other breaks I've taken were mostly of the long holiday garden variety type of silliness.

11} Finally, for the last of my bullet points here, there has been exactly one post in which my entire name has been featured. I'm not talking about my original persona here (Georgie B) nor my current persona (G) nor even when I make the rare genuine heartfelt comment on another person's blog when they wrote a rather poignant post and I attach my proper first name (George). I am talking about my full complete name.
There you have it folks, 11 talking points covering a good cross section of the 500 posts that call Cedar's Mountain their home. I hope to be around for the other half of the millennium, but I'll settle for the modest goal of reaching post #550 by the end of this year.

Monday, August 23, 2010

How Do I Choose A Book To Read?

The other day, Wednesday August 18th to be exact, I was suffering through major computer withdrawal as my notebook was in the shop getting binged and purged. So after getting done putzing around on the household computer, I decided to go to my favorite hangout and vegetate.
The public library.

Now, I went there with the intention of simply vegetating out and prepping my brain for a long weekend of....shudder....synopsis writing and no retrieving a book to fry out my brain cells with.

I was so confident of not retrieving a book that I sat down in front of the New Fiction bookshelf to rest my weary feet. As I was sitting there enjoying that special aloneness that one can get while in a public place like a library, I got to thinking about a particular comment that I've read in the various blogs in the past couple years, which was this:

"If you're gonna write then you should read, and if you're gonna write in a particular genre you should read books in that genre."

So I thought, what the hey, might as well find something to read. Problem was, what to read. I didn't want to get something so long that would take me forever and a day to read, so that basically narrowed down my choices to books under 250 pages.

What to read? Well, first I thought about reading a western, so I grabbed the first one that caught my eye, Johnny Boggs's Hard Weather. I read the inside cover and the first chapter, but unlike Soldier's Farewell, it didn't grab me. Come to think of it, Killstraight really didn't grab me either. So back to the shelf it went and gears did I switch.

To romance. Specifically, Jewel Amethyst from the blog Novel Spaces. I remember seeing a title to one her romances and I figure that since I was trying to explore that genre, I would give her a shot. But, I wound up striking out and didn't find anything, either on the New Fiction shelf or in the general fiction stacks.

Up next was a book recommended to me by Riot Kitty called, Orlando. After getting aggravated with the library's database (remember kids, libraries have dumbed down things for patrons, so instead of them using their brains to search a card catalog, they use a computer to find things), I eventually found the book, but after reading the back cover, I found it not quite to my liking.

So back to the New Fiction shelf I went, and started over with my search. I first saw a couple of African-American romance novels that I unfortunately weren't able to find when I went back the next day to research this post (got a problem with dat?) but on the shelf they stayed. I checked out Montana Dawn by Stone Wallace, but a story about a female outlaw didn't quite do it for me.

Yah, I know, I know, I'm a difficult person when it comes reading fiction. Sorry, but I spent the bulk of my formative years, teen years and adult years reading non-fiction and only gravitated to fiction some two years ago.

I next checked out Sheriff of Hangtown by Lauran Paine, but a story about someone on the run hiding in a valley didn't do it for me either. To tell you the truth, I was ready to call it a day and head back home. But after perusing the last section of New Fiction, a title finally caught my eye.

The Bikini Car Wash by Pamela Morsi. I took out the book and read the short cover blurb. The story was about a lady who had moved back home with no job to help take care of her sister and decided to open up a car wash staffed with women wearing bikinis. I thought to myself, Interesting. So I opened it up, read the first several pages and gosh darn it, that book done reached up and hooked me.

So I checked it out this nifty little romance novel and brought home with me. Depending on how the rest of that week went and how this week goes, I may have a book review for everyone in the near future.

It took me approximately four hours spread over two days to finish the entire book.

So there you have it, another interesting facet about myself that you probably would've been better off not knowing. But perhaps, you go about choosing a book from the library or from the bookstore much the same way as I do.

How do you go about choosing a particular book to read?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Flora, Fauna & Aminals (4) & A Question & An Announcement

A three-fer post today.

Part one is the last installment of Flora, Fauna & Aminals. Next week will start up a new batch of photos, of which the working title is "Aminals and Places".

Part two is just a bit more complex.

At work, I have developed the annoying habit of chipping in my twenty five cents two almost any conversation that doesn't directly involve me. Yes, I know its wrong, and yes, I have gotten into a bit of trouble with it (special one on one meetings with my supervisor over the years, doncha know), but unfortunately I'm having a tough time in keeping my mouth shut. When you work in any kind of business that requires you to be on your guard (like the guv'ment) at all times, you sometime have a tendency to launch preemptive strikes to cover your ass.

Anywho, I've gotten tagged with that ever popular, ever tiresome sitcom/variety show cliche insult of "Peanut Gallery". Now since I'm quite fond of embracing insults that are thrown my way (hack, purveyor of animal porn, baby gooey) and making them my own thus turning the tables on the insulter, I decided over the weekend to embrace this one and make it my own.

Problem is, I've spent the past year cultivating and growing my current moniker into something that I can be proud of. That's where you good people come in. Because I never like changing anything on this blog without first soliciting the opinions of people who would be most affected by it, I decided to solicit everyone's opinion on this issue.

If you check out the front page of this blog (and if you're a subscriber, you'll have to click through to see it), you will see plastered in the upper left corner, a brief poll question asking everyone on whether I should change my moniker to "Peanut Gallery" or keep it as "G".

It will be there for about a week, and I would greatly appreciate if you could take a few seconds and vote for your preference. Whatever the end result may turn out to be, that end result I will honor.

Part three is due to an unchecked ego.

Yesterday, August 21st 2010, I decided to create blog #5. Unlike this blog, Shooting Suburbia and my recently closed Flashing Georgie's Shorts, this new blog will not feature fresh content on any kind of regular basis. Sort of like my book blog, eh?

Instead, Partially Yours will feature random slices from my vast library of the written word. In other words, if I need to show you some examples of the raunchy crap that I churned out for my "Don't Write Like This" series of bad writing, or examples of what I'm currently churning out in conjuction with the various updates on my various W.i.P.'s, you'll find them there.

And just like FSG, Partially Yours will have that special page in front of it as well.

So let me be the first to introduce to you, my very first junk blog, Partially Yours.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Don't You Write Like This

There are a ton o' blogs out in the blogsphere that not only talk the talk about good writing, but walk the walk as well. Blogs hosted by such talented writers as Charles Gramlich, David Cranmer, Travis Erwin, Sandra Seamans, D. Lynn Frazier, Rule of Three and even super-agent Nathan Bransford explain and expound on such diverse topics as: what it takes to be a good writer, technique, plotting, research and the old adage of sitting-your-fat-ass-in-the-chair-and-writing.

However, yours truly has not seen a whole lot of blogs dedicated to bad writing or at the very least a multitude of posts dedicated to them. And I'm not not talking about posts mocking people for their bad/mediocre writing, or querying skills, or presentation skills either (the all time classic mocking of bad writing is this very popular contest). Just like writing good is an acquired talent, so is writing bad. Yes, there is a certain talent to be had when it comes to writing bad.

Scoff if you must and laugh if you dare, but it takes hard work and extreme dedication to the craft of writing bad. Don't believe me? Well, keep your eyes glued (no, don't use super glue, use good old-fashioned Elmer's) to this blog, because this post is the opening salvo on a new series called "Don't Write Like This".

"Don't Write Like This" will explore the world of bad writing and the inflated ego that comes with it, using yours truly as the primary source for information.

Yes, you heard right. I said, "Yours truly." Why yours truly?

Because yours truly was during his early years (2005-08) a wickedly horrendous writer who possessed a confidence in his ability that bordered on arrogance. It took me a very long time to get to the plateau of being a C+/B- writer. And that plateau was reached the hard way: namely getting smacked upside my head and kicked to the curb.

Among the many topics that I'll be covering in addition to bad writing will be:

1} Self publishing.
2} Writing contests.
3} Submissions.
4} Genre.
5} Good publicity versus bad publicity.
6} Examples of bad writing.
7} And many, many more that I haven't even thought of yet.

So hitch up that turbo charged V8 110 octane John Deere tractor to the pygmy pony and join me on the trip of a lifetime.

A trip where I spend a good chunk of the time cutting myself down to size and showing everyone how not to write.

Because after all, wouldn't you rather be known as a good writer, than as a writer like Snoopy?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Whatcha Thinking About?

I think that the absolute worst question that you can ask a writer (or any creative person for that matter) is, "What are you thinking about?"

Now, I don't know about you, but I have a hard enough time explaining the basic schematics to a given story while I'm writing it, let alone explaining what part of the story I'm currently working on. Shoot, I have enough problems just trying to explain what a story is all about after its done, but that's another issue for another time.

Back to the schematics. Most, if not all, of my free brain time is spent mentally working on my latest story "Dandelion Tears", either by thinking about how to move the story further along to its ending or by thinking about how to get from the beginning of one particular point to the end of that same particular point.

Example: In part one, I introduced a particular characteristic for my two female leads, Melanie and Fryja. For Melanie, I introduced the characteristic of bloodsucking, although I have not identified her with any particular non-human species, nor anyone else for that matter except her human husband Jon. For Fryja, I gave her a servant/lover who gets his periodic energy boosts from sucking on her boobs.

Yes, I said, "boobs".

And no, I'm not trying to turn this into a gratuitous sex romp through the park (although everyone here apparently knows me too well). I'm trying to turn this into a legitimate characteristic and sub-plot point.

I'm sure you've heard of breast feeding and lactating, right?

Well, I'm sure you can imagine what a non-follower of my blog's reaction would be:

Them: "Whatcha thinking about with your story?"
Me: "Breast milk."
Them: takes a couple of steps backwards and says, "Ooooooookay."
Me: "No really. One of my main female characters has a lackey/lover who gets his energy boosts by drinking breast milk, so I'm trying to make that character have a condition in which she's always lactating and needs a way to get rid of the excess. Get it?"
Them: takes a few more steps backwards, and says, "Ummmmm....yah."

Yup, that went extremely well.

So as you can see, whenever someone asks me what I'm thinking about, I never go into much detail beyond, "My story. I'm having a difficult time with a particular plot point."

Because trying to explain how breast milk and breastfeeding became a key plot ingredient to a story without making yourself look like a sick puppy dog, is about as easy as floating down the river with cement shoes.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Battle

Since last week's theme was a topic I hadn't touch in quite some time (work), I thought that a good theme for the next half dozen posts Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! or so, would be a writing. And why not? Surely you miss my ramblings, rumblings, grumblings, musings, whinings, moanings and groanings about one of the main components that this blog was originally built on.

So without further ado, I present to you for your reading pleasure (or confusion), the opening salvo of what I hope, besides taking one and a half minutes out of your very interesting day, will be a week or two of truly fascinating and 100% certifiably abby-normal posts about writing.

Early one Sunday morning, I gathered up my implements of self destruction (pen, paper, lap desk and short story) and headed outside to my favorite office space to work on my short story.

Note: My office (such as it is), is located at the base of the perfect triangle. I am between two trees (the base) and directly to my right is Cedar Mountain. This triangle is the only place in my yard where 98% of the time, the sun does not shine and the temp's always 10 degrees cooler.

Like I said, my intention was to work on my short story, and in fact I started doing just that. While I was doing some grammar oriented editing (always do that before I start writing fresh material), I was thinking about the second phase of the plot and how I was going to go about writing it.

However, while I was thinking about that particular issue, another issue started to worm its way into my subconscious. What issue? The great outdoors. Like I've stated on many occasions, my neighborhood is like a slice of country smack dab in the middle of suburbia.

The first inkling that this might be a morning in which no writing, save for this blog post, would get done, was when a robin flew by just a few feet from my face. After watching it for several seconds prancing around my backyard, I turned my attention back to my story. However, It wasn't long until the various sounds and visuals of the mountain and the neighborhood started to worm its way into my brain.

What sounds and visuals?

Like, the various birds that either call the mountain their home or use it as a rest area to better places. A staggered cacophony of feathered friends, while great for cleansing the spirit, is murder when you're trying to hash out plot details.

Like, people walking or driving by. Not too much of a distraction when people are walking by, because in my neck of the woods, you can often see people at their most unguarded. Driving is a little more distracting. Because the side road is seldom traveled on the weekend, driving instructors often use it to have their students practice their K turns, so I wanna make sure that they don't one, drive into my back fence (some 15 feet away from the road) and two, into the ditch some one foot from the road.

Like, feeling the semi-cool mountain breeze blowing down and across the yard and setting off all 19 wind chimes.

As you can probably guess, I lost the battle. After about a half hour, I cried uncle. Instead of spending time tying to crank out another 400 words (not very easy if you're saddled with the physical limitations I've got and you're deathly afraid of voice software) for my story, I took the blank paper that was sitting in front of me, and wrote this blog post lamenting the fact that once again I chose to sacrifice my troops by crossing a river at a bridge instead of going downstream a few hundred yards and crossing it there.

I know, a very bad and probably pointless analogy, but I do so enjoy working in truly minute (and 100% verifiable) minutia into my blog posts.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Flora, Fauna & Aminals (3)

Yes, indeedie doodie, your regularly scheduled program is back in its current timeslot. The computer was quarentined, binged, purged, uninstalled, re-installed, deactivated, reactivated and made fresh as a daisy.

And because we made sure to stuff Bobby Bummer with enough pharmaceuticals to keep him happy until Labor day, Bob Bitchin' actually had one clear moment and wrote our captions for today.

For your enjoyment, part 3 of Flora, Fauna & Aminals

Friday, August 13, 2010

Why Horror Doesn't Do Me

I don't read horror.

And its not because I don't like it. It's just because that it doesn't affect me in the way that the other types that I do read affect me.

A good example of this would be the last time I visited Beat To A Pulp. They had a short story posted by a well known writer of horror that everyone was going ga-ga over (sorry, no disrespect intended, just trying to make a point). So I went over to see what the hub-bub was all about.

While I found it to be well written and interesting (which is what I put in the comments, "interesting"), the entire story didn't affect me to the degree that it did to the others who left comments about it. In fact, it didn't affect me at all. To me, a story in which the end result was a woman eaten up by rats just didn't leave that kind of lasting impression on me.

The reason, I believe, why horror doesn't affect me, can be directly traced to the one genre that I first got hooked into as a teenager, and one that remains my favorite to this day.

True Crime.

I originally got hooked into reading about true crime and its many, many offshoots when I was a teenager and still read it to this day as an adult. The books that I have in my collection, which I wrote about here, are heads and shoulders about what anyone in the horror genre can come up with.

In addition to reading books about true crime, I've also found an excellent portal about the many facets of true crime and death (both go hand in hand) called Death and Dementia(side note: going to Rotten dot com will probably scare you or gross you out more than most horror fiction available today).

Also, while I was working in the archives department at the State Library (2001-03) I had the time during my day-to-day activities to peruse the various county coroner records that the state keeps stored there.

So as you can probably imagine, being exposed to such real life horror for the past twenty-five years has desensitize me to about 99% of whatever kind of horror anyone can churn out for that genre and its sub-genres. I'll let you figure out what the remaining 1% that does affect me is.

What it boils down to is this: Horror as an overall genre doesn't appeal to me, because no matter what elements a particular story may contain, it simply doesn't make the kind of lasting impression that the other kinds of genres (like true crime) that I do enjoy reading do.

In my humble opinion, once you get hooked into reading true crime, all types of fictional horror simply don't make the grade.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Done Opened My Mouth And Closed It!

Disclaimer: If you remember, back in late June I had written a post that I was very leery of posting, simply because it talked about my personal take on a particular aspect of blogging. I wrote a post about posting this post, and I after getting some very good advice, shelved it for a month. Please take note that this should be taken at face value and reading between the lines is strictly forbidden.

I don't comment much on the blogs that I follow. I'm not sure how that really came about, because almost from day one of my blogging, I made sure to comment on the blogs that I followed, because I enjoyed having the people comment on mine.

I got to thinking about this the other day when I got my weekly stats reports. Prior to this year, I used to agonize over the amount of visitors/commenters to my blogs. I figured (wrongly) that since I wasn't commenting on other people's blogs, those people weren't commenting on mine.

But this year, even though I'm getting a reduced average amount of original visitors to my blog (about 12-14 per day for an 85-95 per week ratio), I figure that people are perusing my blog to satisfy the need to feed their brain (or in some cases, troll for info so that they can troll me if/when I reappear in the chat rooms), and not necessarily to comment on what I wrote. So that got me to thinking about the many reasons why someone wouldn't comment on a blog, which in turn mirrored to a small degree why I've been reducing my commenting from an average of 50 a week to a core group of about 25.

In no particular order of importance, here's a few of the reasons that I came up with. Who knows, maybe some of these are reasons of yours as to why you do certain things with the blogs you read.

1} Getting lost in the shuffle. I read quite a few blogs which are insanely popular, which in turn generates a phenomenal amount of comments (anywhere from 60 to 250+ per post). I figure since an ungodly amount of people comment, why should I add mine to the mix? Especially since I got this thing about having my comments acknowledged in some small way.

2} Not having my comments acknowledged. Yes, this really does bother me. I know with a few of the blogs that I follow, this is a given, and I'm happy with these particular blogs because those bloggers do reciprocate and visit mine. And I know with other bloggers, they'll make a general comment thanking everyone for their responses. This is fine too, because it means that the bloggers in question took the time to read everyone's comments.

My beef is with the ones who don't acknowledge comments at all, or that they'll acknowledge a comment via the e-mail (yes, I read blogs who have that policy). Sorry, but after the major trauma I went through for 3 years in the chat rooms, the last thing I want is someone e-mailing me without asking first (aka personal spam). Which is why I don't have an e-mail (got 4) listed in my profile.

3} Content. Some of the blogs that I follow have the type of content that makes it hard/uncomfortable to comment on. Like if the blog is about the trials and tribulations of one's life (example, a recovering alcoholic). While it does makes for a fascinating read, because I haven't been there and done that, I don't feel comfortable in commenting. Or if the blog has turned into a pseudo magazine. While still a great read, it doesn't readily lend itself to commenting, usually because the blogger is concentrating on churning out content as opposed to dealing with commenters. A few of the blogs I follow fall into this category.

4} Doesn't have that same appeal anymore. The blogs that fall into this category are ones that I used to be a regular commenter on, but over the past two years, they evolved into something that just doesn't hold my interest like it used to. I'll still make an appearance from time to time, just to let the blogger know that he/she still has a long time lurker in the midst, but for the most part, I'm content to scan the post summary before marking it as read in my reader.

5} Simply a good read. And then there are those blogs that I follow and/or subscribe to, that I simply enjoy reading and not commenting, because its like reading a favorite magazine or newspaper. It more than fills the need to be informed and entertained, but because either I know diddly squat about the topic/content in question or I know just the barest of outlines about it, I don't comment.

I've managed to come up with a few more reasons as to why I infrequently comment on certain blogs while I was writing this post, but these five in particular make up the majority as to why my ugly puss (or in this case, the lovable couch potato cat avatar for Blogger or the Hong Kong Phooey dog for WordPress) simply lurks in the blog world.

So my friends, your opinion on this (usually) taboo blog topic is.....?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Ain't No Rest For The Wicked

But for this wicked guy, rest is sorely needed.

Not quite burning the candle at both ends, but probably holding a bunson burner to the middle of a rather juicy jelly donut, we'uns is scrapping the bottom of BP's oil encrusted shoe looking for new cannon fodder.

I done milked the fodder that is my life until it screamed in ag-o-ny. I've stuck bamboo shoots under my fingernails until blood ran down my arms, dripped off my elbows and formed tiny little puddles at my feet. I've stuck a hook up my nose and fished around for ideas but only pulled out a few small chunks of brain.

So now I'm looking to the Cyber World and Real World for cannon fodder.

And........................................with apologies to the people who know me, I did find summtin' ta write about.

Didja evuh have to explin a funny comment or one line liner that you uttered, simply because the person you uttered it to, don't quite get it?

The other day, I said something funny, and the person to who I says it to, don't quite get it.

So being the good guy that I am, I spent the next twenty minutes (1,200 seconds) or so, patiently explinin' what it was that I actually said. However, the problem I had explinin' what it was I actually said was highly X-rated, yet the original language used was highly G-rated.





A hot looking 23 year old come skipping into the room, jamming on her IPod and dancing up a storm. She pauses in front of the blogger, sees the long drip of drool falling down from the corner of his mouth, waves her hand a couple of times, shakes her head and turns to the readers.

"Hi! Due to circumstances beyond anyone's control or imagination, our blogger has had his brain temporarily repossessed for non-payment. In the meantime, I want you to hear and see my latest favorite song. It's from Cage The Elephant called Ain't No Rest For The Wicked."

Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Very Special Episode

We interrupt your regularly scheduled picture post with this late breaking news bulletin. On August 5, 2010, my personal computer crashed and burned. It is now currently sitting in the hospital waiting with baited breath to be made brand spanking new.

The unfortunate side effect of this crashing is that the latest episode of "Flora, Fauna & Aminals" won't be shown, because the pics that are required are where? On that computer.

However, there is good news to be had. Because I'm still a fuddy-duddy when it comes to all things electronic and computer related, I was able to blow off the four inch layer of dust from my collection of floppy discs (all 30 of them), dig out the drive attachment that I use on mine and hook it up to the household computer, and viola! it is done.

I have a brand new post at the ready. One small problem: because I wanted to make sure that I got a post up for the picture blog (whereas I have posts stashed for this blog at least a week in advance, I make posts about one day in advance for the other), I didn't have the time (shared computer don't you know) to write captions for the photos.

My friends, I would truly appreciate it if after you visit Shooting Suburbia that you'll be so kind as to leave a caption for any of the pictures that strike your fancy in the comments. By the middle of the week, I will edit the post and use everyone's caption (along with the proper credit) for whatever photos you chose to write for.

I thank you in advance for any words that you choose to donate to this worthy post.

Update (8/11): Everyone's worthy contributions have been added in, including the proper credit and a link to your blog.

Friday, August 6, 2010

17 Steps Forward, 237 Steps Backwards (3)

In my previous posts, I bloviated about the economic emasculation of the state worker in 2009 and the economic lobotomization of same in 2010. To finish this dark, dank and depressing series of posts that have showcased the economic pilfering and narrowminded balancing that is bazooka barfing blood faster than the death of a thousand paper cuts on the backs of about 1.4% of the population (about 47,000 employees), I will be offering a few ideas on how the state (HAH!) can spread the joy of vasectomy/tubal ligation to other parties while at the same time offering a realistic probability on each of them happening.

1} No cost of living raises for managers. This was one of the more popular ideas being thrown out by the rank and file, simply because most managers make about as much money as managers in the private sector. It was a major thorn in a lot of people's sides (mine included) last year when they got raises and we didn't. Even though its a mere drop in the bucket (potential savings about $300K), doing it would show that the state is serious about spreading the pain.

Probability: Actually happened. On 7/20/10, the governor announced that no raises were to be had for managers and executives for 2010. Unfortunately, the state university system acted like the company in Dilbert and gave their managers 7% cost of living raises.

2} Slice off a layer of management. The state is wickedly top heavy with management in all areas and at all levels (for item #1, the amount of managers/executives who didn't get numbered over 2,800). Slicing off a layer would free up money that could be applied elsewhere within a particular agency, but would also show that the state is treating its business like a business.

Probability: Not going to happen unless layoffs hit the rank and file, which could be a possibility in two years once the no layoff proviso expires.

3} No longevity bonuses. Longevity in the public sector is roughly the equivalent of getting a bonus in the private sector. The state pays every employee with at least 10 years of service, a bonus twice a year. The amount varies not only from job to job (for example, mine was $97.50), but also on length as well. Parroting the private sector by eliminating this twice a year bonus could produce a potential savings of about $400K a year.

Probability: Could happen. The current governor is finally showing some backbone (too little too late) with the managers, so it might happen in a few months. Also could happen with a new governor as well.

4} Merge smaller agencies with larger ones. This one is a no brainer as well. We have almost two dozen smaller agencies that are simply sucking up money and are better off being merged with a compatible large agency. A good chunk of these agencies were created back in the 70's, when trying to make all things equal to all people was all the rage. Even though all things are basically equal to all people within state government, these old time agencies are still sucking up money that can be applied elsewhere.

Probability: Could happen. The biggest stumbling block is that almost half of these agencies are politically untouchable (Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, Latino Affairs, African-American Affairs, just to name a few). However, they do need to go, and if a couple of agencies were forced this year to close a hospital, a prison and a adolescent services group home due to budgetary reasons, then those smaller agencies (some with less than 25 people with annual budgets up to $1 million) can close as well.

The big 2 ton elephant in the freight elevator of politics is as we all know, is called LAYOFFS. With the economy still running downhill dumping its shit all over the average worker, you know that this is a very realistic possibility. The no layoff proviso that was negotiated last year (2009) will expire in June 2012. Coincidentally, so will most union contracts.

Do you think that the state ain't gonna play hardball come Spring 2012? To quote GEICO insurance, is Sarah Palin among the top three most hated Republicans out there today?

Prediction: I believe that due to the lack of leadership and foresight that has been shown in this state for the past ten years (people, our credit rating has been downgraded to the point where our bonds are hovering around junk bond status), any economic recovery that the nation will experience in the next two years will totally bypass this state.

What this all adds up to be is this: contrary to popular opinion, working for the state isn't the gravy train ride every thinks it to be. More often than not, when the chips are down and the politicians are forced to make the tough decisions, they don't. Instead, they go about slicing and dicing what they know will please the population without looking at the root causes of their laziness and crass stupidity that caused them to take the weenie way out by laying the burden of their crass stupidity on one particular segment of society without considering all the other segments of society for their special kind of stupidity as well.

I think that tired and overused quote used in Forrest Gump really does apply here: Stupid is as stupid does.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

17 Steps Forward, 237 Steps Backwards (2)

In part 2, I would like to give to you the gruesome details on what was implemented for FY 2010/11. I know that this will probably put you to sleep, so don't read this unless you had good night's sleep or ingested tons of caffeine.

1} Furlough days. We have another 3 days of unpaid furlough to take for this fiscal year. And of course, the state will use the money for things other than the budget. Like raises (delayed) and cost of living adjustments (which should be delayed but aren't). Color me cynical, but if I'm giving money back to the state to help with the budget, I don't want it given back out to cover contractual raises and bonuses, even with me being an intended recipient.

While furlough days are but a temporary hit to the wallet (next one doesn't hit until Thanksgiving), what the unions agreed to next is what got people up in arms, because its a permanent hit to the wallet, at least for about 1/3 of us.

Info dump: The State of CT gives lifetime medical benefits to their retirees and their spouses.

Problem: The medical benefit fund for retirees is approaching insolvency.

Solution: Another giveback.

Specifically, item 2} The brilliant idea they came up with, and that the union agreed to (in exchange for other things like raises) was to make effective July 1st of this year, all new hires and all current employees who have less than five years of total service, to give back 3% of their gross wages for up to a total of ten years. To give you a basic idea on the minimum amount an employee would give, we'll use as an example my job title (Payroll Clerk) at entry level.

Step 1 (officially, CL 15-1; CL stands for Clerical, 15 is pay grade, and 1 is what step your salary is at) is a bi-weekly salary of $1563.76, of which 3% = $46.91 per pay period. Total for one year would be $1224.35 (this is reached at multiplying the $46.91 by the amount of pay periods in a year, which is 26). And that's not counting things like overtime.

Imagine how thrilling it is to see on the average $1200 (plus a 5 to 6% per year adjustment for raises and cost of living increases) a year for the next five to ten years removed from your paycheck to fund someone else's insurance.

Raise? If you get one, chances are you will never see it. Same goes for cost of living adjustment. Oh, and don't forget for the semi-annual health insurance premium increase, currently pegged at 5% per six months.


Up next: A few ideas on who else can share the pain and what might be on tap in the future.

Monday, August 2, 2010

17 Steps Forward, 237 Steps Backwards (1)

Ever have one of those days where you're sitting in your chair (or seat cushion, or stool, or hammock, or rock, or tree, or boat) trying to think of something to write about and you have a dopey song running through your brain preventing you from executing said duties of your office?
In my case, I have that stupid song Hocus Pocus by Focus rumbling through my head.

Play it if you dare....BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

Anywho, I though for today, I would blow off the multiple layers of dust bunnies (mom & dad, grandma & grandpa, children, grand children, great grand children, great-great grandchildren) and drag out a topic that I haven't touched upon in quite some time (like early last year).


Over a year ago, February '09 to be exact, I gave everyone the 411 on how economically trashed my state is and how they were gonna to attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the 50,000+ state workers without making the hard choices elsewhere.


Let me tell you about the fabulous going away prizes that I and my co-workers won for the 2009/10 fiscal year.

1} Four furlough days. Yes, me and 49,000 of my closest co-workers won an all expense trip (on our dime of course) to spend quality time with our families. In exchange for contributing 4 days our pay towards the state budget, we get......a promise that no layoffs would be considered until 2012.

2} No cost of living adjustments or raises. No qualms with that, both as a taxpayer and a state worker. I actually agree with this although some weenie politicians chose not to share the pain equally, so all correctional employees got their retro raises (but they are getting theirs in the long run).

3} A retirement incentive program. Yes, if you chose to retire in June or July, you were forced...err...coerced...ummm....strongly encouraged with arm jacked up behind your back to participate in the retirement program. What was in it for you? An extra 3 years added on so as to increase your pension. What did the state get? A 3 year delay in paying out your time, which was followed by paying out your time in 1/3 increments for the next three years (2012-14)....maybe.

Up next: The plan for fiscal year 2010/11.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Flora, Fauna & Aminals (2)

Our intrepid host Bobby Bummer has secretly replaced the gibberish captioning in today's post with clean, crisp and intelligent captioning.

Suffice to say, Bobby's supervisor will make sure that for next week, Bobby will be suffieciently pumped up with illegal pharmaceuticals prior to writing the captions. Because deep down, we know that you just simply love Bobby Bummer's gibberish captions and detest anything that even remotely smacks of intelliegence.

Part 2 of Flora, Fauna & Animals

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