Sunday, January 18, 2015

What's in a name?

As most who follow this rambling blog know, or at least should know, I am an author. I publish under the name of Robert Thomas. (So this is where you go off to the ebook websites and look for my books. It's okay. You can come back ... I'll wait).

Oh, you're back. Great. Hope you purchased something. I got bills to pay.

It is a major decision for an author to decide what name under which to write. There are various theories and reasons as to what to do. One could use their own name. One could also make up a really cool sounding name, like one you wish your parents would have named you. (I'm fine with mine, just so you know). Another consideration would be to just use initials and a last name. Again, an awesome chance to pick a cool name. Obviously, I didn't do any of those things.

Now, using your own name as I have done gives rise to other problems we now face in this world. It's a risk I have chosen to take. But there are other things to consider as well. Once one begins to write in a particular genre, expanding ones frontiers can become a problem. As Robert writes in the world of epic fantasy, any reader who is familiar with Robert would expect books with that name to also be fantasy. See the problem? So, if Robert wanted to write in a different genre he risks alienating his following.

So, what's a writer to do? You write under a different name. Or, at least a name that lets the reader know who the author is, but tells the reader this is something different. Don't expect flaming swords, dragons and wizards with the second name.

Sooooooo ...... coming in the next few months, a date still to be determined. Keep an eye peeled for a new work in a different genre.

Non-finalized working cover

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Pay no attention ...

Pay no attention to the facts please...

We are now in a world of media saturation. The advent and proliferation of technology has placed news, sports and entertainment media in more places than people can watch. Take the recent college national championship game. The coverage during the day was on sports channels up and down the dial.

Now, before I go any further, I'd like to congratulate THE Ohio State Buckeyes on winning the national football championship. Truth be told, that's my team. I make no bones about it. I began following them as a young boy and gave cheered and suffered through the long years. I know when they are good, great, and not so good. I can take the comments of mediocrity when I know they are true.

Back to the original thought for this ramble:
Unfortunately, with the proliferation of media and channels, it seems organizations are so desperate to have coverage on topics, they will put a microphone in the hand of anyone who wants to offer an opinion and call themselves an expert or just knowledgeable about a topic. Such is the case with one commentator who appeared on Fox Sports channel.

The discussion, as routinely happens in college football turned to 'what happens next year'. Who will be the number one team in the country and who will be in the four team playoff? One such 'expert', Clay Travis from Fox Sports thought that even though Ohio State beat Alabama (the number 1 team in the nation), and thoroughly dominated Oregon (the number 2 team in the nation) in the championship game, that Alabama would beat Ohio State if the game was played tomorrow and that Oregon and Alabama are still the best teams in the country. This is what I'm talking about. This commentator has completely ignored the facts before him. He deems his opinion more worthy than what actually happened. In sports, that's why you play the games on the field. Hey idiot, the better team won. That's the fact you chose to ignore.

But it's not just in sports where these talking heads pop up. This opinion was just an example of what we are forced to listen to. So, how do we fight back? We don't argue with them, unless you want to get your blood boiling. We turn them off. Writing to Fox to say, this guy is a do-do bird does nothing but give exposure, although one might say 'as does mentioning him in this ramble', but I use it to make a point.

Facts are facts when you witness them. Many just choose to ignore what they've seen or make it up their own version of the facts. It happens in sports, it happens in the real world with real issues. Too much analysis become paralysis by volume. It's time to cut out the noise pollution.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

What's it worth?

For the uninitiated, I run a business. I'm a retail manager. I've run small, local mom and pop stores and national corporation stores. For many years, I still get the same feeling when it comes to helping the public; the average customer doesn't actually seem to understand how a business works.

No matter where I have worked, I've routinely been told, that costs too much. Okay, that's your opinion, but, how in the heck could you know that? What's included in that price? You do understand, if I sell something for what it costs to make it, there is no business, there is no job. Part of the cost to the consumer of any item includes the costs of manufacturing and transportation to get it to you. It also includes a slice of the rent on the building, the lighting, the heat, the air conditioning, the cost of paying an employee to unpack it and put it on the shelf, the cost of the tag to mark it, the cost of paying benefits to employees such as medical and dental, (because we all know that's part of what everyone complains about, people working for companies that do not support their workers).
Oh, and there's more, but I won't go into those costs. So, that item you think that costs $7.99 should only cost $3.99, it's simply more than that.

The other thing retail stores must counter is each other. There are some items that are priced low because other stores price them low to draw in customers. Therefore, competing stores must lower those prices. Since you can't give it all away and stay in business, you need to raise the prices on other items to make up the difference. Again, no profit, no store, no job for your high school kid or the retired guy who can't make enough of social security.

So, where does that leave us? That still leaves us with a consumer base who wants everything for free and who blames the clerk for their perceived wrongs. Have you ever seen the videos of people who tear a store apart? If a group of customers went into any other business and acted like that, they would be arrested. But for some reason, it is expected for stores and restaurants to put up with bad behavior. Just for fun, go into your insurance agent's office and push everything off the shelves or off his or her desk and see if you don't end up in jail.

Yeah, good luck with that.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Rip it down

Tis over. The rush and the crush of the Christmas season has come and gone. The presents have been unwrapped and the paper and bows strewn around the room beneath beloved tannenbaum by tiny little hands that now rip at colorful packaging. The day is done, the wrapping scooped and shoveled into the trash.

Now what? From what I've read around the wonderful world of the Facebook, many are ripping all the decorations down. "Time to put is all away." "I want my house back." "I can't stand the mess." Somehow, I just can't fathom this. Although this was not how I was raised, it is more than just tradition for me. Now, being a good Catholic boy raised by the good Sisters, there is a proper time to take down the saggin, wilting tree. (Ours is fake, but gorgeous, and we don't suffer the needle problem).  No, the only proper time to take down our beloved Christmas tree is on the sixth of January when the Wise Men found the Christ child.

Religious notions aside, taking down the tree and packing all the decorations away is a sad time for me. The front side of Christmas is all hustle and bustle. Everyone is running around doing the shopping and decorating. There isn't time to sit and enjoy what you have done or to enjoy the spirit of the season. Christmas is the last gasp to hang onto something before the cold and dreary winter season blankets the world. I like to hang onto the dark green tree covered with shiny globes and white lights as long as I can.

I sit here this night, the day after, knowing for me that Christmas is not over. For me, Christmas is not just a day, or even an event. It is a feeling that lasts longer than a notch on a calendar. My Beloved and I sit in the soft, twinkling glow of our tree and relax, putting the hectic pre-holiday behind us. This next week of lights and decorations is my Christmas. But, I guess you'd expect that from an old retail guy.

Monday, December 22, 2014

In my lifetime

I have lived in a world that has changed dramatically throughout my lifetime. I was born in the days of the Cold War. For you environmentalists, I'm not talking about the fight over global warming. The world war had ended only a decade before (give or take), and the world was divided into two camps. It was us versus them. It became a decades long struggle for territory and political gain. It took many years and thousands of lives before the game was settled, at least for some.

Fifty years has come and gone and a tiny island is cemented in the past. The lone satellite of Cuba has remained committed to its fervent revolution. Well, at least its leaders have. Fidel Castro has remained a thorn in the side of the most powerful nation in the world. And his people have suffered for it.

So what has changed? How has the foreign policy of the US tilted that nation away from its revolution? It hasn't. That's the point. It's always been said the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome. Although I have no 'dog in the fight', this has always been a subject that has sparked my imagination. I fully understand there is a long line of Cuban nationals living in the US that will do everything in their power to fight the change in policy. I won't fault them for it.

What I will ask them to consider is this: where is the outrage of the Cuban people who still live on the island? Why is it the only ones objecting are the ex-pats and their families who are tucked away on US soil? Their outrage is at history. Fidel Castro and his regime is faltering. The island is changing right before his eyes; an agonizingly slow process, but it is a process nonetheless.

Where better to be than at the vanguard of this change? The US has been able to do little to the Cuban leaders other than to keep their people impoverished. It's time for a change. The change will take time. Not everything will happen overnight, or in a year, or even in a decade. But their revolution is grinding to a halt. Its legs have given way and all that will be left as the Castro brothers die is a vacuum to be filled by someone else.

If you want to effect change on a tiny island ninety miles off our shores, it seems the only way to do that would be to actually stand on the island, without a rifle in your hand. It's time the Cuban population who lives in the US swallow their hatred so they can help their people into this century.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Twilight before tomorrow

I watch as the sun sets, its rays slipping below the horizon. My abode, silently lingers on the threshold of tomorrow. I feel the heat lapping from the hearth, tickling the stockings hanging by a cut nail in the mortar.

Above, I hear the slumber of young ones, tucked tightly beneath a winter's blanket to fend off the cold. I long for the call of a pillow, soft as new-fallen snow and I slide between linens cool to the touch. I snuggle close and inhale the breath of My Beloved as she nestles deep within her comforter.

Before I am able to surrender to night's lament, an unnatural call beckons from beyond my wall of solitude and my curiosity is bent upon exploration. My eyes behold the solitude of a pristine world caressed by the kiss of a winter's moon. The crescent light reveals a tiny traveler whose cherub face sings to his herd in the silent world.

His flight of fancy screams skyward, rocketing above the fold in which I am now embraced. My eyes, once tired and dreary widen to embrace the magic of his world. I fall back onto my bed as the sounds above me tap their way across my rooftop. I am aghast.

As quick as a dart, I dash from my room toward the halls below. My thoughts outpace me as I scamper down the stair, the rails aglow, polished by the light dancing from the chimney. I stop and stare in amazement as my visitor steps cleanly across the hearth, its bricks laden with fresh-cut wood, his cloak awash in pillows of soot.

His thick hand straightens his cap as he turns, his eye inspecting the table for his work this night. His cheeks are alight with a thousand years of joy as he slings his pack to the floor, its contents now a torrent of treasure awash across the worn, broad planks. The sparkle of wrapping and bows, enlivens my soul.

My chuckle slips to his ear as he turns and winks, his nod an acknowledgement of the secret we shall both keep this night, a night that lifts my heart to the heavens. He is gone in the blink of an eye and I am left with only the crackling flames dancing upon the logs on this winter's night.

"Twas the Night Before Christmas"

Monday, December 8, 2014

The List

It's that time of year again. Yes, I'm asked to put up a list so my family will know what to tell Santa to get me for Christmas. I'm fairly certain Santa already knows this, as we have been long-time pen pals since I was a wee lad. Okay, so Santa never actually wrote back, but hey, he gets a lot of letters. He can't respond to them all.

As I have grown older, my list gets shorter and shorter. It has almost been non-existent for years. Occasionally I run into something I need. The last couple years it was a two-wheel dolly, some might call it a truck, for around the house. It only took Santa three years to get it here. Most years it consists of the same few things, simple for most, I grant you, but needed or wanted by an old man.

What is difficult for me each year is making others understand I don't really require much. I'm about as simple as it comes when the subject of presents comes around. My joy on Christmas morning is watching others open their gifts, my children and theirs, my grandsons and My Beloved. If I get a tube of socks and a nice bag of licorice, I'm happy.

So, now comes the list my family has been begging me for.
Black socks
Black licorice (Twizzlers suck, don't bring that crap)
A nice bottle of bourbon to keep me warm during the winter
A nice bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (does the same thing the bourbon does)
Ear buds - my cheap $4 pair quit working, one side of it at least

I don't have a lot of material needs in my life. I truly enjoy the season for what it is, commercialized and all. The nice thing about it is it is not confined to a single day, but it is a season to be enjoyed. As a retailer, I do wish it didn't start the way it does. Those who work in stores and restaurants must give up so much of their time for the good of the business they work for. It is a thief in the night to their holiday.

Okay, one last thing. I was the beneficiary of my parent's record collection this year. Yes, actual records that hold music. Most of these albums are older than I am, their songs spanning the years of the fifties and some in the early sixties. A phonograph/turntable to hook into my stereo system to hear these again would bring back a lot of memories.

I hope everyone gets what they want or what they need. Remember, Santa's watching.