Sunday, January 5, 2020

A writing challenge

It is the new year, welcome to 2020.

Often it is time for many of us/you to set new goals for the year to hopefully improve ourselves for the coming year. Many times we succeed, many times we fail. I'm not one that usually makes new years resolutions either professionally or personally. I have a general idea where I'm trying to go in life and carry on.

Now, in my writing career I've sold a few books; not as many as I would have hoped over the years but just enough to pat myself on the back. Making a career as a writer isn't for the feint of heart especially when there are bills to pay, a family to keep and life to face in the everyday world. I may never be able to retire from the day job and become strictly an author but hey, you have to keep the dream alive.

So where is this going Robert? Glad you asked.

For the year I have given myself a writing challenge, a type I've never done before. I have two novels to work on this year, finishing Serrian Sector, the fourth book of my sci-fi series and picking up work again on the third book of my fantasy series which I have let languish due to the former series. But the other challenge I've set for myself is a 365 challenge. I will write one paragraph per day for 365 days and post it to my facebook author page and on Twitter.

The story is a continuation of two first person fantasy short stories that I had no intention of continuing but, inspiration happens. If you would like to follow along and see how far I go with this challenge feel free to follow along on either Robert Thomas / Black Cover Books or @42rthomas

My challenge began on December 26th, the birthday of my beloved brother 'The Stache'. Perhaps he will follow along as well, but I won't count on it. He's very busy in retirement these days.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

And that's what little girls are made of

It's the Christmas season and that means toys...lots and lots of toys being sold. We've got cars and trucks and dolls and blocks and a whole bunch of stuff I've never heard of. I haven't been in the toy business for a long time and, well I'm old.

Most of these toys weren't around or even a conception when I was a lad eagerly awaiting the ripping frenzy of Christmas morning. Even in my toy retail days when I worked for the defunct Children's Palace stores, many of those toys were new to me. My first big 'toy craze' I worked through was the introduction of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Fortunately for me I had just missed the Cabbage Patch phenomenon.

But there are some things that just don't change. There are dinosaurs, action figures, dolls, science toys...wait, did you say science toys? Yes! There are all kinds of toys that let children discover science and the natural world around them. But you know what hasn't changed in my opinion? Parents don't buy these toys for girls.

We hear all the time that parents want more for their girls and they don't want them to just follow the traditional paths laid out for women. But guess what, most don't (in my opinion) begin setting them up for those paths. I've conducted a brief experiment at work asking moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas who they are buying the discovery / science toys for. And guess what? Well over ninety percent of them are buying those toys for boys, not girls.

It's obvious what parents (mostly women and moms buy for their girls because men don't do most of the shopping) buy for girls; dolls, jewelry kits, makeup kits, anything pink and a bunch of cutesy products specifically aimed at girls.

So here's my challenge to the women of this country; if you want your daughters to grow up and become active in the sciences or biology or any of the 'non-traditional' fields we all hear has a glass ceiling it's time to put your money where your mouth is and break the mold. Don't just hope your little girl stumbles into one of these professions, start them on the track at a young age. Even if they don't follow that path, you've set them on a course that offers them insight to a place they may at least have an interest.

Ball's in your court now...

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Cowboys and Indians

Yesterday when I was at my day job, you know, that one that actually pays the bills, I was stocking the shelves as it is a common occurrence. This time of year toys are a prime object. Most of the time I don't give much notice to what the toy is. More often than not I have no connection with whatever the toy is to my past. You must remember, most of what is on the shelves these days wasn't around when I was a young lad.

One toy however did give me pause. Like the skillful merchandiser I am, I deftly slipped my regulation safety knife under the cardboard flap and within the blink of an eye had the box open. Of course one has to have a regulation safety knife because everyone who works in the industry these days is too stupid to use a real razor knife without doing themselves some serious harm...but I digress.

Inside the box was a 'replica Black Canyon' western rifle set. It came complete with a rifle just like Chuck Connors had in the old Rifleman television series, however it was orange, not sure Chuck would have approved of that, as well as a pistol and holster for said six shooter. It got me to thinking, do kids these days play cowboys and indians? I'm thinking that's a fantasy that has long since passed into the history books. Even in my day, North of 50 and I never really played that even though we were only a few generations removed from that era. Yeah, I'm a bit old. We were more into playing 'war' being we were fresh off the World War II era.

North of 50 on the left, me on the right
with our trusty rifles



The funny thing about that is we really didn't play good vs bad and make one be the Germans or the Japanese. I guess we didn't think along those lines. Now, the era of cowboys and indians is so far removed from the public mindset that this toy seems like an antique. Not to mention the politically correctness of it being, just not. I suppose unless one lives in the plains states or what would have been considered the 'old west', it isn't something kids gravitate to as that era is well over one-hundred years past.

Even if some kids thought of this these days it would likely be called 'Oppressive White Man vs Native Americans'.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Tales in Time for you

Tis the Christmas season, at least for me. I know for others Christmas is not their holiday of choice so consider this inclusion for the holiday season.

As a thank you to those who have followed along with this blog for either all the years we have written it or, have just jumped on recently, I have a small gift for you. I have written several short stories and put them together in an ebook. It is titled, Tales in Time. It is a collection of short stories that cover a wide range of genres from a gumshoe in the 30's to an old world vampire to a Christmas tale.

If you click on the link provided in the title it will take you to smashwords.com which is a book distributor. At the checkout enter the coupon code LT89M and the book is free. It is my Christmas gift to those who have faithfully followed along. So, if you've ever wanted to see if my writing is up your alley, this is your chance for a freebie.

I wish you all well this holiday season and...Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

9066

These days in America seem to be not only highly politically charged but also socially charged. It is an ongoing battle about whose rights take precedence over other's rights. Social control over issues is no different than government control because the social issues almost always spill over into the government.

If you think that isn't the case, think about what is going on now and is played out in the news nightly. One group of far left liberals tout almost a socialization of America which in my opinion is not sought by much of the middle class. Many of the loudest voices of those policies are attempting to secure their party's presidential nomination. The other side of the political spectrum is fervently fighting against this tide.

As a rule of thumb, the liberal agenda often is absorbed by younger generations as the way to move forward. Now don't get me wrong, there are plenty of prejudices that should never have happened, such a racism and not so overtly, glass ceilings against women and other groups. Change however isn't always led by the liberal left. Societal change doesn't happen like slamming on your car's brakes and heading in the opposite direction. Societal norms evolve, that is the way the human populace works. It has since we crawled out of the primordial soup and looked around. We evolve. I can't think of an abrupt societal change that didn't lead to near chaos; Germany, Russia, China and other countries have all faced abrupt political changes in their history, many times to the detriment of its own citizens and often the rest of the world.

As you read this, who is of the mindset that "those types of changes couldn't happen here"?

If that is what you believe, if you have your head in the sand, look up 'Executive Order 9066'. It happened in this country less than one-hundred years ago. Many who read this blog likely already know what this order was and what it involved. For those who don't, think of this as a homework assignment. I'm not going to tell you, you'll have to look it up.


Monday, November 11, 2019

On the Eleventh hour

One hundred and one years ago today; "on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the war to end all wars ended."

This to me has always been a powerful sentence. It is history for all the right and wrong reasons. This nation has almost always been shrouded on a war footing. In the long-ago days of my youth I learned the reasons for most of them. Obviously the American Revolution that began this country was to overthrow rule from a land far away. Even then this country was becoming a melting pot and we were no longer 'English'. The next was 1812, often noted as the second war of independence. Along the way were various other skirmishes, not including the Civil War. That was a dark time all of itself.

And then the War to End all Wars. It was the first global conflagration, a scale almost unheard of on a historic level. Due to our involvement America was thrust onto the world stage teetering on the brink of becoming a world power. From there the country slid back into partial obscurity. Even though our military might turned the tide in WWI, this country was not part of the prevailing power structure.

But then the unthinkable happened. World War II almost made WWI look like a skirmish. With the advancement of technology, death was delivered on an unprecedented scale to both military and civilian populations.

So, what's the point of this ramble on Veteran's Day you ask? Perhaps it is my age, perhaps it is how my views have changed on the world and how I view the leaders of this nation. There was a time when I believed there was an underlying moral purpose to these conflicts and that this nation did what it needed to do. Perhaps it is simply naivete. But now in this day and age I no longer believe we hold the moral compass for engagement in a war. They have now come about due to political expediency and the whims of our national leaders. How else do you explain the protracted military presence in the middle eastern countries? Any visceral reaction due to 9/11 is to be expected, however our stay in that part of the world should have ended long ago.

It's time we thank all those who have served and served bravely in defense of this nation and the best way to do that is to pull them back to home shores. It's time we let our economic might as a nation defend our world policy and stop needlessly putting young men and women in harm's way. Our military might should be used when this nation is directly threatened and no longer be used as an instrument to police a world half a globe away.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Going Home

There's an old saying; you can't go home again.

Well, what does that really mean? I'm sure most people think it's about moving back into your parents home or revisiting family after a long absence and expecting, or at least hoping everything would be just like it used to be. I suppose that's one way to look at it.

I'm sure there are other scenarios that come to mind for many. I also think there are those who don't want to revisit 'home' or their past lives whether it refers to family or not. Perhaps that's why home isn't a place to revisit.

For me it takes on a different aspect. I've never been one to be tied to places or things. I've lived in several houses from childhood to adulthood. All of them have been 'home', but I don't have a longing to return to a specific place. It's like things, I'm not tied to specific things or items like personal belongings or cars. I simply don't wrap my identity around the tangible world. Houses are not my home, people from my past are my home.

I don't think that has ever been driven 'home' to me more so than it has recently. Although I have long time friends from school that I haven't seen in years there are several I could sit down with and have a conversation like I saw them a week ago. But I didn't grow up around them. We lived sort of off on our own from my school friends. None of them lived in my neighborhood. There, I had another group, two specifically that were like family and in the last month or so I have had the chance to reconnect with one of them.

Billy. I haven't seen him in years. We lost track of each other at some point in high school. He went off to the closest public school and I off to the Catholic school. Recently through the magic of Facebook we have been able to reconnect. To me, even though we are older, wiser and both grandfathers, it's almost like we were never away from each other. I can still hear his infectious laugh. Back in those days there were few times we weren't around each other. We rode our bicycles all over the place. We'd ride for miles and miles away from home even into surrounding suburbs. In those days no kid would have worn a helmet and our parents 'kinda' knew where we were...sort of. We ate meals at each other's home and slept out in tents in the back yard. Gee, no mischief to get into doing that.

We are different people than we were back in those days, obviously, our childhood up to early teen years. He is a successful entrepreneur who has built his own company and lives in a big city on the east coast. I live near where I grew up and have lived a comfortable life. There is one characteristic that I haven't mentioned; Billy is a Black man and I am a White man. Guess what, we were Black and White back then too. His was the first Black family that I can remember to move into our neighborhood. That was a shock to many who lived on the block and I'm sure his family felt the sting of that reality more than he ever recounted to me.

But that single fact never affected our friendship. We were nearly brothers for those years and reconnecting with him after all this time is really the point of this ramble. Some day we will get together, I have no doubt of that and when we do I know we'll be able to pick up a conversation like we saw each other two weeks ago.

My parents are long ago deceased and I miss them dearly, but to me, that is what it means to me to go home again.