Thursday, April 30, 2015

Social Media, Altruism, Idealism, SJW's, and Guilt Tripping

I am on a lot of social media simply because as an author, I want people to know about my books and short stories. For an author to be the best-kept secret in the Universe is guaranteed to be self-defeating.

However, in the recent past, more then ever, I'm seeing my Twitter, Facebook, and other social media feeds to be arenas where people have become highly motivated to make people feel guilt and shame if anybody dares to not share in their ire about whatever the cause of the moment is.

As I wrote elsewhere:
This morning, my social media feed was filled with people upset over the fact that not enough people are upset over what they are upset about and since I, personally, have not joined them in their emotional turmoil, I am a substandard human being.
Come. Let us reason. Pour yourself a cup of tea and let's see if we might reach a modicum of consensus or, at the very least, agree to disagree like...dare I say it?...adults.

I have always believed of myself that within reason, I could do anything that I wanted, but tempered with the knowledge that I could not do everything that I wanted. There is such a reality as time and at the age of 60, my choices become somewhat more restricted day by day.

With age has also come the realization that I cannot fix the major problems in the world. I confess when I was much younger, my idealism saw me as a mover and shaker, but now I'm delighted just to change myself because there is so much that I simply cannot change in this world:
  1. The Baltimore riots
  2. The wars in the Middle East
  3. The increasing secularization of Western society
  4. Human trafficking
  5. The economy
  6. (fill in the blank)
Are you making an ass out of yourself on your own social media by offending the very people who could be your greatest asset?

Are you trying to avoid the guilt created by your own powerlessness by doing nothing but screaming about the problem on your social media?

Is your social media wrapped up only in your one cause making it the most boring feed you can ever come up with?

Do you have any life outside of social media, actually being a good example to your own limited and true circle of influence (your family, real friends, co-workers, etc.)?

And you know what? Though you may see yourself as a Social Justice Warrior (SJW) slaying all and sundry with the sword of your social media, I'm going to call your bluff.

Unless you are willing to dedicate yourself to the cause like Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, you aren't making any difference by guilt-tripping me over my own limitations and my desire to care for myself and my family in the midst of all this turmoil. In fact, I am concerned that deep down inside you think that all you have to do is point out the problem in your social media and you are assuaged from all guilt.

Now before you hurt yourself by breaking your fingers on your keyboard declaring me selfish, allow me to say one thing more. Most likely, I donate more to charity than you do. There are things that I care about in this world and though I might occasionally invite you to partner with me in those areas that make me want to pound the table, I won't guilt-trip you if you feel called to use your resources toward another cause (and truly doing something about it instead of paying mere lip service) or what I am asking is beyond your ability to respond.

By the bye, do you know that a minimum of 10% of all my sales from writing go to registered 501(c)3's which are registered charities in the United States? What are you doing?

So, in closing, let me ask.
And don't you dare say I'm promoting self-centeredness. I want you to do good works. I want you to donate to charity. I want you to care. If you find yourself able to change something with your actual boots on the ground, do it!
But I also want you to remember one closing salient fact:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Irish Stew

Making Irish Stew in a slow cooker today. The recipe was large enough to feed a small army and there was no way my slow cooker could even come close to holding just the six diced potatoes the recipe called for. I halved the recipe and now its simmering away on high.

Carrots, minced garlic clove, half an onion along with broth, tomato paste and some other odds and ends. Will report this evening how the experiment went.

The fun part was taking the cubed beef chuck, rolling it in flour and then searing it to hold in the flavor as it cooks. I gave Socrates (my Sheltie) two chunks of the raw meat and now that he has tasted blood, his wolfish genes have been rekindled. He now lurks and prowls the kitchen looking for unsuspecting beef chunks.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Loewen's Baked Oatmeal

I was in a baking mood today and then I thought, why not share?

My favorite breakfast food. Enjoy. I use a melange of dried fruit bits.

All my literary characters in all of my stories eat this for breakfast. ;-)

Join Me In A Cup Of Tea

This morning, my social media feed was filled with people upset over the fact that not enough people are upset over what they are upset about and since I, personally, have not joined them in their emotional turmoil, I am a substandard human being.

In response, I dallied over a lovely and sensual cup of tea and found enjoyment and contentment in each sip.
"Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence, and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things." ~ Kakuzo Okakura, author of The Book of Tea
Mon ami, the world is not going to bend itself to your will and there is so much that is out of your control. But we live in a world that is filled with good books, good tea, and your cat (or dog).

God is still on His throne, your mother still loves you, and at least for today, you're vertical and still above ground.

Join me and have a cup of tea.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Soap for Writer's Block?

This made me laugh. Hard.

And, no, I do not recommend alcohol as a tool against writer's block, but the idea sure is hilarious. :-)

Add caption

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Writing Exercise From 2011

Christopher looked through the scope of his 1891/30 Mosin–Nagant and centered on the lead zombie. Trapped on the second floor of an old house, he and his brother, Brendan, had yet to be spotted, but the creatures would catch their scent soon enough.

Between them, they only had twenty-eight military rounds left. The horde of zombies easily topped fifty.

Christopher observed the shuffling mass through the rifle scope, shifted his position to let the weight of the heavy gun rest against the lintel of the shattered window, and quietly chuckled.

"You find something funny about this?" his brother asked.

"I just thought of a line from a movie that I thought I'd never be able to use in real life."

"That being...?"

Christopher smiled as he viewed the horde drawing closer. "I see dead people."

Friday, April 10, 2015

The Insanity of Internet Research

Last night I had another gall bladder attack and though not as bad as the one that drove me to the doctor's office, it did keep me awake. With nothing better to do, I grabbed my iPad and researched gall bladder attacks.

This will not surprise a lot of you, but there is a pile of bad medical advice on the net. The first webpage claimed that gall bladder surgery has a high fatality and complication rate and if you want to not go under the knife, you had to buy their expensive products. 

The second site claimed a purge that shoved the stones out of the gall bladder would do the trick using large amounts of Epsom salts and olive oil. I did appreciate that at the end of their article they did say that the procedure could send you to the hospital and might even kill you. It was in the small print way down at the bottom.

Eventually I came to a forum of people who suffered from gall bladder attacks and they shared some of the home remedies that seemed to work. Apple cider vinegar appeared to be a popular remedy and since I always have a bottle of Braggs in the house decided to give it a try. An hour later I was able to fall back asleep.

However, I did do a lot of other reading and I discovered that the symptoms of what was coming started about a year ago, but neither I nor the doctors knew what they were as they mimicked more common problems. 

Now I'm not kicking myself over this because hindsight is always 20/20, but if I had been aware of what was going on, I don't think I would be dealing with the, forgive the pun, gut-wrenching problem I currently endure.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that as we all grow older, we need to be more aware of the signals our bodies are sending us endeavoring to find a balance between sensitivity to what is going on inside us both physically, mentally, and emotionally without going into hypochondria.

Take good care of yourself today. Tomorrow's pain just isn't worth the stress.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

When Ferrets Attack: Advice For Members of the Clergy

Looking at a retired blog of mine, I found this old entry (Aug. 29th, 2006) I believe most of you may find amusing.

And, yes, this will probably shock the daylights out of new readers to my blog, but I am an ordained member of the clergy.

I posted this entry about the ferret attack and then asked for advice. The first part is the story. The second are the actual responses I received along with the initials of those who rendered advice.


On Monday evening I was on a social/church call and chatting with the man of the household when I felt a sharp pain in my right shin. Looking down, I saw that a small ferret was successfully negotiating its way up the inside of my pants leg.

Fortunately, the man didn't start screaming, "Mother of Mercy! WHERE DID THAT FERRET COME FROM!" which would have made me somewhat upset, but he did take ownership and responsibility for the little hairy demon and together we were able to free the thing so I could continue my visit suffering only the smallest of scratches and teeth marks.

When home, I told my wife of the visit and casually mentioned the ferret attack when she looked at me and said, "Do you realize that what you experienced was not normal? Average people do not consider social/church visits normal when they are interrupted by ferrets crawling up inside their clothing."

I hastily changed the subject as the concept of "normal" has somewhat puzzled and eluded me, but it has raised a question.

None of my etiquette books, pastoral manuals, or Christian college training tell me what to do when molested by a ferret during a social/church call. Would somebody please fill in the blank to help me in future visitations:

"When attacked by a ferret during a social/church call, the astute clergyman will (fill in the blank)."

Thank you in advance for your assistance and wisdom.


What follows were the answers:
  • One of the following:
    A) Pray to God that the ferret is not rabid....
    B) Clean the wound with a mild antiseptic and apply a dressing
    C) Fling the ferret against a nearby wall
    D) Hold the ferret in the baptismal font until it stops struggling
    E) Blame a vast right-wing conspiracy for the attack (LW)
  • When attacked by a ferret during a social/church call, the astute clergyman will excuse himself, extract the monster, and offer a sacrifice in the living room of the visitee, watching carefully for the smoke to either rise, or run across the floor. If indeed the smoke rolls across the floor, the astute clergyman shall arise, shake the dust from his sandals, take his peace, and leave. [Carrying a small Hibachi grill in one's trunk, greatly assists when occasions like this arise.] (CP)
  • When attacked by a ferret during a social/church call, the astute clergyman will without saying anything about what is happening, immediately get up, make some excuse and leave with all haste while the ferret is still clinging to his leg, because, ... hey ... a free ferret! (SR)
  • I personally like to say, lustily, "Dinner!", and unsheathe my 27" long pocket knife. It typically results in a tasty respite or causes the hosts to take personal responsibility for the future behavior of their pets (or children). (MS)
  • I do not recommend that you simply smile and say, "No problem. I kinda like it." However, bashing the thing through your pant's leg with both fists and cursing like a drunken sailor while dancing around the room, though considered a normal response, is also not recommended (unless you're a Baptist). (HG) (Craig's note: This individual is from a high-liturgical background and has been "straightened out." ;-)
  • When attacked by a ferret during a social/church call, the astute clergyman will render the professional courtesy that is due toward one's social equal. (JG) (Craig's note - this individual is not a member of the clergy and has been successfully "dealt with." ;-)
  • When attacked by a ferret during a social/church call, the astute clergyman will give thanks that the Burmese python is still in its cage. (JMG)
  • When attacked by a ferret during a social/church call, the astute clergyman will ferret out the ferret from one's pant leg placing the thumb and forefinger of the right hand directly behind the skull of the ferret and apply enough pressure so as to immobilize said ferret. With the left hand seize the tail of said ferret to keep tiny claws from scratching the right hand and hold until said ferret stops breathing. This will insure that no further interruptions will take place and said ferret remains suitable for mounting. (DS)
  • When attacked by a ferret during a social/business call, the astute clergyman will immediately start a new ferret-handling cult. (JP)
  • 1. Assume he is being persecuted and start singing hymns at the top of his voice like Paul and Silas.
    2. Allow the little ferret to chew himself the whole way up his pant leg.
    3. Later, show everyone the scars he has suffered on behalf of the church.
    (Reference: The Astute Clergyman's Guide to Encounters with Rodents, Marsupials, and Nocturnal Creatures. By Rev. I.M. Pockmarked) (AB)

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I Just Love A Challenge

Every month I attend a writer's group in Mechanicsburg, Pensylvania and the moderator always gives us a writing prompt.

Back in 2013, we were given exactly ten minutes to write a story completely in dialogue.

Here's mine:

"Oh, dear. Look at the time. I'm so sorry to have taken up so much of it."

"No problem. I always enjoy your visits, and my goodness, the time surely has flown. Well, you know the old cliché about time flying when you are having fun."

"Yes, yes. Nonetheless, thank you so much for the trip down memory lane. We have had some adventures together."

"Quite. Quite. I'll still never forget the time you almost destroyed New York City with that warp bomb. That was quite a challenge."

"Oh, come, come. You're flattering me now. I'm convinced you had that under control from the first moment."

"We'll, let me tell you a secret, my old friend. You really had me worried there for awhile. That genetically mutated pit bull that you had guarding the thing gave me quite a nasty turn."

"Really? You're not just kidding me now? That big mutt actually gave you a run for the money?"

"Yes, he did, and I don't want to see that posted to the Internet. In fact, let me tell you the truth. Of all the bad guys I fought in my 40 years in the superhero biz, you were always the most challenging. Whenever, the police called me and told me Doom Storm was on the loose, I knew I was in for a fight."

"That is so kind of you to say. And since we're reminiscing, I'll tell you that whenever I heard it was the Grey Ghost hot on my trail, I confess I felt sort of proud."

"And now here we both sit in a nursing home. Being in this wheelchair, I couldn't chase you now if my life depended on it."

"And I wouldn't get very far with this walker, but I hope you don't mind if I leave you a parting gift. I put a bomb under your seat."

"Ho, ho, ho! You rascal, you! I'll bet I defuse it before you toddle out the door."

"Well, if I don't see you in the cafeteria, I'll know you failed, and I got the final say."

"And if I do defuse it, I get your dessert."

“Almost like old times, Grey Ghost.”

“Almost, Doom Storm. Almost.”

The Writer and Nocturnal Wanderings of the Dreaming Mind

Had an intriguing dream last night that I was part of a theatrical group and it appeared the woman in charge of make-up was a serial killer. The night before opening night, she offed us one by one and did so with an interesting psychological motive that centered around the reveal that she had a glass eye she lost in a traumatic childhood injury that resulted in a psychotic hatred of people with normal vision.

Note to self: No more pizza before bed.

An amazing number of works that I have published have been inspired by dreams, but they are not retellings of the dreams themselves.

A note to aspiring writers: dream symbolism is, regardless of the copious books written on the subject, not necessarily universal, but highly subjective. What moved you so strongly in your nocturnal wanderings could be quite boring to others and many times writers lack the words to convey the emotional power of potent dream imagery.

However, you can use the dream as an inspiration of a story. Coventry House and Yew Manor are two novellas that found their inspiration in their dreams, but the plots, the characters, are deliberate insertions to make the story more interesting to my readers, but I still retained an echo of the emotional power of the inspiration that gave me the ideas that inspired the stories. The third novella in my "magic house" trilogy has the working title Tyson Mansion and continues with the inspiration I found from that one powerful dream and is probably closest to it in its plot line.

H. P. Lovecraft and others used their dreams as fertile ground for story ideas. Just remember that the resulting story has to be revised so its power is available to all, not just to you as the writer.

And above all, keep writing.