Kissing the Hand

May 24, 2013

The rush, stress, and practicalities of modern life have cost us more than we know. Many of the polite acts of chivalry have been abandoned. I know that a strong, modern woman is fully capable of opening their own restaurant door, but I feel it is my duty as a gentleman to graciously hold it for her. Perhaps she will reward me with a soft smile?

As recently as WWII, it was common among polite society for a gentleman to kiss the back of a lady’s hand when introduced. This fell into disrepute for several reasons. It is way too easy to trade nasty germs when lips meet hands, it requires an extra second or two from a busy day, and too many boorish men used it as an excuse to slobber over pretty ladies.

A knight and fine gentleman in the SCA taught me there is a polite and politically-correct manner with which to bring back this reminder of bygone manners. I would share this technique, now.

Step One: The gentleman takes her proffered hand and turns it slightly so that the back is facing up.

Step Two: He places his thumb over her fingers and bows slightly from the waist.

Step Three: Keeping his eyes on hers (not her breasts), he then lets his lips touch just his thumb.

Step Four: Don’t hold it over long. Just take a second or two at the most.

This simple technique provides the proper intent without drooling and smearing germs on her hand.

Keeping your eyes on hers, serves to hold her attention and let her know that you appreciate her as a person.

As the gentleman straightens up and releases her hand, the lady, in turn, should reward his chivalric display with a smile and a small curtsey.

I have used this technique at SCA events as well as at various conventions.  The only down side is that the gentleman might get a jealous glower from the lady’s companion.

Gentlemen, give it a try the next time you find yourself among polite society. If nothing else, it will start a discussion.

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Story Fodder

June 23, 2012

Since high school, I have always told stories in the old bardic tradition. That is, by passing them on in word of mouth. When folks ask where I get the ideas for some of my own tales, I can’t help by be surprised.

Someone once commented that the biggest problem with writing fiction is that you have to make it believable. In many cases, real-life is not. We are surrounded by marvellous tales that defy explanation and any one of them can be used by the aspiring author as a jump-start for their muse. Allow me to provide a few examples.

Lead coffins are tossed about a sealed underground tomb on the island of Barbados.

An entire regiment of 250 men and 16 officers attacks a cloud-enshrouded hilltop and is never seen again.

Two ladies visit a royal court as it was more than a hundred years before their time.

All three of these links showed up in the last day on my G+ feed. I see similar items flow by at least a couple of times a week. Sometimes they are even modern news items.

Inspiration is all around us. Just keep an eye peeled and when a headline article catches your attention, try your hand a finishing the story.

Inspiration: Kids

June 18, 2012

While at lunch in a busy buffet, I was people-watching. There was a lady at an adjacent table with two kids. One was a little boy, I’m guessing six or seven years old. His sister was a bit older, probably ten or so.

The boy got up and started marching towards the food with an exaggerated goose-step and swinging of arms. His mom caught him as he passed and quickly whispered some probably sage advice. He nodded and kept on his way, rolling his eyes as soon as she turned away.

He cruised between the food bars and his sister got up and followed him. She caught him, bent over and obviously gave him a sisterly tongue-lashing. He frowned and jerked his head in a quick nod, turned away and got his plate.

His sis watched him start to get some food, then spun on her heel, shrugged her shoulders and gave an exasperated roll of the eyes while on her way back to her meal.

I had to smile at this. There will come a time when I will write that scene into a novel.

What about you? Do you like to people watch and then assign your own stories to the visual cues that are so common around us?

The following quote is from a recent post on SFSignal.com:

“In college, I had a renowned creative writing professor try to convince me to stop writing “genre” fiction and put my talents to better use. My answer to him was to ask why I would give up writing something I loved for something I had no interest in?”

Now this makes so much sense to me. I have read a great deal and for relaxation, much prefer genre fiction.

Click this for the full article.

I’ve been dissed by the ‘real literature’ snobs on more than one occasion.

What do you think?

Old Farts!

March 29, 2010

I’m passing this on as I did not want to be the only old fart receiving it.
Actually, it’s not a bad thing to be called, as you will see. Old Farts are easy to spot at sporting events; during the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. Old Farts remove their caps and stand at attention and sing without embarrassment. They know the words and believe in them.
Old Farts remember World War II, Perl Harbor , Guadalcanal , Normandy and Hitler. They remember the Atomic Age, the Korean War, The Cold War , the Jet Age and the Moon Landing. They remember the 50 plus Peacekeeping Missions from 1945 to 2005, not to mention Vietnam
If you bump into an Old Fart on the sidewalk he will apologize. If you pass an Old Fart on the street, he will nod or tip his cap to a lady. Old Farts trust strangers and are courtly to women.
Old Farts hold the door for the next person and always, when walking, make certain the lady is on the inside for protection.
Old Farts get embarrassed if someone curses in front of women and children and they don’t like any filth or dirty language on TV or in movies.
Old Farts have moral courage and personal integrity. They seldom brag unless it’s about their children or grandchildren.
It’s the Old Farts who know our great country is protected, not by politician’s, but by the young men and women in the military?serving their country.
This country needs Old Farts with their work ethic, sense of responsibility, pride in their country and decent values.
We need them now more than ever.
Thank God for Old Farts!
Pass this on to all the Old Farts you know.
I was taught to respect my elders. It’s just getting harder to find them.

The Dream King

March 3, 2010

Many, many years ago, when I was a kid of about eight or nine, my folks had this old guy over for dinner. They laughed and joked like adults do and, as soon as possible, I escaped to play outside. We had eaten early and it was still light when he came out by himself and asked me what I was doing. At that point, I was just sitting on the concrete steps feeling bored and told him so.

He walked a few paces out on the sidewalk, turned around and started humming “Me and My Shadow” softly to himself. Then, he started to dance. It was a slow, simple little shuffling kinda dance and I just stared, mesmerized.

Suddenly, he stopped and looked at me. “You know what that is called?”

I shook my head.

“It’s called a soft shoe and this is one of the basic steps.” He proceeded to do a little sliding step. “Come on. Don’t just sit there. Get up here, stand alongside me and do what I’m doing.”

I did and a few minutes later, we were shuffling off to Buffalo in the best vaudeville style. I asked him to show me more, but he said he had to go home. He would give me two little pieces of advice, however.

“Always start out with a dance and always leave them wanting a little more.”

A few days later, we moved back north for the summer and when we returned, that fall, he had passed on.

After reading Tara Newlands’ Dream King, I was reminded of the old man’s advice.

The story opens with a carefully choreographed magical battle where the bad guy appears to win. Our lovely heroine Amanda, is torn from her lover by the wonderfully evil Jonathan.

Despite his best efforts, Octavian loses Amanda and vows to find her, no matter how long it may take. As someone who is effectively immortal, this may be a while.

What happens if part of the curse separating them is the loss of all of Amanda’s memories? And what’s worse, Jonathan can’t seem to hold on to the feisty lass he kidnapped.

The Dream King is the first of a new series and I’ll admit I consumed it in less than two days. It’s a lovely amusement park tunnel-of-love ride, filled with passion and magic that did exactly what the old man had advised… “Always leave them wanting more.” Well done, Tara!

Title: The Dream King – Tales of the Lucnan Magi Book One

Author: Tara Newlands

Publisher: Red Rose Publishing

Webpage: http://taranewlands.webs.com/

The Price of Experience

January 23, 2010

My wife is not a computer geek. Neither is she an engineer, mechanic nor captain of industry. She is however, highly skilled at several crafts that leave me in awe.

Her day job is in a fabric and craft store. From experience, she can attest to the fact that the great majority of folks are friendly and considerate. Occasionally, one runs into a self-centered fool who has no concept of how the world really works.

The other day, a fellow showed her an old leather jacket with a damaged zipper. He had taken it to a tailor and was incensed that they wanted thirty-five dollars for labor plus the cost of a whole replacement zipper. Instead, he wanted to pay six dollars for an El Cheapo zipper and was proudly announcing he would toss an extra four bucks to my wife if she would hand-stitch it on for him. When she said that her schedule was too full to take on any new projects and that even if she did, her labor would cost at least thirty dollars, he stomped away in a huff. She learned later, that he had approached several other employees with the same offer and when he got nowhere, had stormed off in disgust.

Now granted, the guy was a fool, but similar incidents are way too common to be ignored.

I suggested that, when presented with such a demand in the future, she ask the person what they do for a living. Are they a doctor, lawyer, computer system administrator, mechanic or engineer? Chances are, they have some skill set that has cost them a great deal of time and money to acquire.

Just to give one, blue-collar example, a qualified auto mechanic needs at least a couple of years of experience and training. If you take your car for work in our area, the average small shop charges seventy to a hundred dollars an hour while a dealership charges no less than one hundred and twenty an hour. If you know how to replace an automotive waterpump, then you can pick one up at most parts houses and save yourself two hours of labor. If you don’t, then you have to pay someone with the training and experience to replace it for you. That is how the world works.

If you know how to replace a hard drive, update the RAM and install a new operating system in your computer, you can save yourself hundreds of dollars at a computer store. If not, then it is generally cheaper just to buy a new computer every three to five years. That is how the world works.

Which brings us back to the fool with the old leather coat. My wife has years of experience as a seamstress. She told me, that due to the type of zipper and backing materials, it would take between forty-five minutes and an hour of work, using a machine. If it was to be hand-sewn, then figure twice that amount of time.

He had mentioned that he could purchase a new jacket for a hundred bucks. It wasn’t worth spending almost half that to fix the old one. So, he was in effect, offering my wife and her friends somewhere around four or five dollars an hour (less than minimum wage) to perform a highly-skilled repair job that he was incapable of doing himself.

If the man had such knowledge and experience, he might get away with a six dollar zipper. If not, then forty bucks or so would be cheap. That is how the world works.

Just because someone doesn’t have a college degree or a string of initials after their name, doesn’t mean they are unintelligent or unskilled. Chances are, they have knowledge and skills you don’t. What is the price of training and experience beyond your own abilities?

Secret Treaty in DC

January 15, 2010

This is an important article from Boing Boing. It goes against every democratic principle to hold secret negotiations on major legal issues and yet that is what is happening right under our noses.

From the article:

ACTA is an unprecedented copyright treaty (unprecedented in that it reaches farther than previous copyright treaties, and that it is being negotiated behind closed doors, without any public input or oversight) that will force copyright policing duties on Internet companies (vastly increasing the cost of hosting “user-generated content”); create new penalties for infringement (including Draconian penalties such as disconnection from the Internet on accusations of infringement); and require countries to search hard-drives, personal media players, and other personal data at their borders.

Please take the time to be aware of this and write your representative.

Tips for Newbie Writers

December 6, 2009

Three Tips

Number one: Never, EVER pay to have your work published! Any agent or publisher that asks for money up front is NOT your friend! They are called a vanity press and are nothing more than scams.
Number two: Any legitimate publisher will look over your work and either offer you a contract, which comes with an editor, or they will suggest you rework your story in some way. Pay attention to their advice. They have been making a living at this.
Number three: Editors are your friends. They are interested in getting paid too and they will make money if you do. Several people have told me about typoes, misspellings, etc. in their published works. That is due to a failure to properly edit the work or in the case of vanity press publishers, no editing at all.

The Process

There are two sides to the process of going from a ‘writer’ to a ‘published author’. They are the ‘craft’ of writing and the ‘business’ of writing. Both are difficult and both are needed to succeed. This group has a tremendous amount of wonderful information, but the bottom line is that you need to develop these skills.

Here are some very useful links:

Predators and Editors tells you who has a good rep and who to avoid.
Absolute Write is a water-cooler around which pros and newbies gather to share their skills.
Jerry Pournelle has written a good essay on the subject.
Marie Brennan has some good tips in her Essays on writing.
Tobias Buckell blogs and has some video clips about the business of being an author.
And finally, always read the ‘Submission Guidelines’ that every legitimate publisher has on their webpage. If you submit something that doesn’t match their guidelines, they are going to reject it out of hand.
Good luck and keep writing!

Libraries and eBooks

August 25, 2009

There has been a LOT of blogs, news articles, essays and flame wars on how eBooks are either A) Destroying the publishing industry or B) a new cultural wave that will revolutionize our society.

Anyone who has chatted with me knows that I love the idea of eInk technology. I’m looking forward to getting a Plastic Logic reader or perhaps a Bebook sometime in the next year or so. I’m not found of the Kindle or the Sony Reader for several reasons, but they have already made a huge difference in how the general public handles eBooks.

Now we have something new to deal with that will have some wide repercussions.

Consider your local, public libray.  It purchases a dead-tree book from a publisher, then loans it out to one person at a time. Back in the early part of the 20th century, there were a lot of lawsuits by publishers who tried to stop this practice. Their business models depended on every reader paying for every book read. The courts upheld the practice that a purchaser, like a library, could loan, sell or give away the book anytime they wished. Over time, the book would wear out, it would become dog-eared, the binding would fail and it would eventually become unreadable.

Now, we step forward to the 21st century and we have ebooks.  An eBook does not wear out. What is more important, is that any copy is just as good as the original.

The latest development is that the new Sony Daily Reader is a bit larger at seven inches and it has a wireless internet connection built in. Sony has worked out a system where libraries who are already collecting eBooks can now download one to the Sony Daily Reader for free.

Now we all know that both Sony and Amazon are big proponents of DRM and will do all they can to limit what you can do with these eBook files. But the truth is, any file you load onto a system can be copied one way or another.

I’m curious as to what sort of questions come to mind when my faithful readers consider this latest development.