Sunday, August 24, 2014

What To Name a Fabulous Fifties Novel?

I've briefly written about Hope Denney's great review of Southern Man elsewhere, and mentioned that she's inspired me to take my Southern Gothic WIP, Walraven Manor, off the back burner and get cracking on it again. But she also said something else quite inspiring...
I ... would like to see some WWII or roaring twenties fiction in the future from this author.
I'll have to think about that, sure enough. But I'm likelier to choose the era just after WWII. The Fifties. Not the Fifties of "Happy Days," saddle oxfords and poodle skirts, or Bill Haley and the Comets or American Bandstand. It would be about The Fabulous Fifties -- the late Fifties and early Sixties, to be exact ... so beautifully evoked in this iconic photograph.

                                                                  Photo: Julius Shulman

In fact, it has been calling to me for some time.  I just couldn't think of a story to go with all the inspiration.  But hey, that's what writing does. You sit down, start writing, (or in my case, plotting first) and the story takes shape

I love the Internet. Thanks to cyberspace, I discovered Mid Century Modernism a few years back, and I've been an aficionado ever since -- of the architecture, the fashion, the music.

What gives the Fabulous Fifties an edge over WWII is that I remember the Fifties, so when I discovered Mid Century Modernism on ebay in 2006 or so, and, later, on Facebook, and when I found Nelson Riddle and Henry Mancini on YouTube, I plunged deep, deep into nostalgia, and I have yet to come to the surface.

More evocative images from the era -- these are from advertisements for Motorola hi fi record players.

The man standing at the hi fi console in the photograph above is architect Pierre Koenig. He is standing in one of the houses he designed. I don't know who whe lady is ... I've tried to find out if it is Mrs. Koenig, but I've had no luck thus far.

These images evoke an era when girls were girls, men were men, and glamor trumped grunge. In fact, I don't think there was such a thing as grunge, as an aesthetic, in 1959, when the photo likely was taken, as that was the year the house was built.

Intermittently, from 1945 until 1966, Arts and Architecture magazine sponsored experiments in residential architecture and commissioned American architects to submit designs. Twenty eight house designs were submitted; not all of them were built. The ones that were built were constructed in California, except for one in Arizona. They were examples of modernist design.

Pierre Koenig designed two of the Case Study Houses, one of them, the Stahl House, is the most spectacular and iconic  houses of the entire experiment, while the other, the Bailey House, where Koenig is photographed above, is considered by many to be the definitive Case Study home. The latter is a two-bedroom home, only 1300 square feet, but replete with innovation. It is my favorite of all the CSH's.

Case Study House 21, the Bailey House
Case Study House 22, the Stahl House
More about Koenig, here.
More about the Bailey House, here.

Of course, all of my novels are Southern, not Southern Californian. They are about Southerners and they take place largely in the South. What has California-style mid-century modernism got to do with Dixie? Well, modernism wasn't just in California. When I was growing up,I saw, and was drawn to, blocky little flat-roofed house in nearly every Georgia and Alabama town we lived in.

One of the Googiest signs you'd ever care to see stands right  here in west Florida.  Motels of seafoam green, shell pink and creamy yellow with decorative breeze blocks liberally sprinkled the beaches of the Miracle Strip, aka, the Redneck Riviera, in the Fifties and Sixties...

We never lived in a modernist house, but in the mid-fifties, my Mom bought a brass starburst clock (probably with S&H Green Stamps. She bought lotsa stuff with green stamps). And our dining room had a Sears Harmony House light fixture like this one (these things go for several hundred dollars on ebay):

We had an RCA hifi console very much like this one, only as I remember it, ours had fewer wood pieces across the front -- two at most. (This one looks like a reel-to-reel tape player, but our almost identical hi-fi played vinyl records.)

The vinyl we played on this marvel included the fabulous tune at the end of this blog post (I still have some of our old 45s and LPs)....

So if I decide to write a mid-century novel, there's plenty of inspiration to keep me focused, like more evocative images such as these -- Hoagy Carmichael with is hat set way back on his crown.  And while Fabian Perez's paintings of men in white suits smoking cigarettes aren't precisely mid-century, they do so evoke  the era...

Mr. Lucky, on vinyl, the way it was meant to be heard... from the TV series of the same name that aired on CBS from October 24, 1959, to June 18, 1960. More here.

Now, what should I name a novel inspired by all this fabulous, marvelous nostalgia?

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Just for the record, the LAST thing I'm worried about is a pandemic of ebola hemorrhagic fever in the United States. The hysteria I've seen on the internet about "bringing ebola to America" and fears of a pandemic sweeping the country are simply ... mindless.  People completely ignore the elements of the issue.

In Africa, about 700 deaths in a continental population of 1 billion doesn't seem like a lot to me.

It is, of course, tragic -- and the disease is truly horrific... but that's true of other diseases, as well. Rabies, for example.

 Rabies has to be one of the most horrifying diseases known to man. Logically, I know the bullet-shaped rabies virus is just RNA, just a string of proteins coiled around inside a "skin" with no will, no intent. It's a thing. But my feelings tell me it is evil. Diabolical. What it does to humans and animals sounds like it came straight from the mind of the devil.

It attacks the central nervous system -- spine and brain -- invading the cells so it can replicate.  Here's a page  from the Centers for Disease Control with diagrams and rather stuffy scientific-sounding narrative providing information about the rabies virus, rhabdoviridae, that doesn't begin to describe the horror of its effects.  There are websites that do, though, along with videos on YouTube that will give you nightmares.

Human cases are rare in the USA but rabies kills about 50,000 people a year in developing countries, most of them children. Once the symptoms manifest, death is inevitable. It is 100% fatal and unless palliative care is available, the process of dying is brutal and terrifying.

Ebola hemorrhagic fever carries the same horror, and anybody with an ounce of humanity can't help but feel sadness and distress for its victims.

But that need not deprive one of one's common sense. Three months, six months, a year from now, if the pandemic has swept across America, killing people like flies, and I escape it, I will admit I was wrong and apologize.  I don't think it will come to that.

The two patients to receive treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta (one, Dr. Kent Brantly of Texas arrived yesterday) would almost certainly die if they remained in west Africa. They have a much better chance of survival with treatment in the second highest rated hospital in the United States.

There are other reasons not to panic. Ebola is a stable virus -- hasn't mutated since it was discovered in the 1970s. It's "home environment" is the sub-Saharan tropics. The United States has a temperate climate. Cultural factors (washing the bodies of the dead for burial in the affected African countries, for example) enhance the spread of the disease. There are many other factors that bear on the situation.

In the United States, it is the HEALTH INSURANCE SYSTEM that is in shambles (thanks to Obamacare) -- NOT the delivery of health care services.  Our medical facilities are more than sufficient to handle an ebola outbreak -- particularly one that doesn't happen.

Speaking of Obama, the notion that HE "is bringing ebola to America" is ludicrous. I don't like him, he's a leftist, a socialist, an incompetent, a puppet, and his plan for the destruction of the United States is ECONOMIC. (Ownership of a society's economy, and thus the ability to manipulate it, is the core of socialism; everything else, conformity, anti-family, anti-religion, are secondary to that, and subservient to it.)  He's bad for the country, yes, but a LOT of people were likely in on the decision to bring the two American medical workers to the USA for treatment.

This is a counterpoint to my post, "So is this how it happened?" As I've said, I don't believe Obama was the one who "decided" to bring Dr. Brantly to the USA for treatment. However, my previous post does illustrate my believe that those who want to tear down the USA and replace it with a socialist dystopia will use anything, even suffering and disease, to bring it about.

Friday, August 1, 2014

So is this how it happened?

Somewhere in the USA...

"Okay, first we make a shambles of medical insurance in the USA, pricing it out of reach for most people, and prohibiting those who can afford it from buying on the open market. Then we bring in a multitude of illegal alien children with communicable infections and ship them all around the country." (Ought to make Pat Young happy. ~cw)

"Brilliant! Many Americans who contract the infections won't be able to fight them off, as they have no insurance, no money to pay for treatment, and there is little or no medical treatment available, anyway. Can you say pandemic?"

"Indeed. Death panels working overtime. That company in Georgia will have to start churning out a vast new supply of FEMA coffins... And the good ol' USA will...."

You fill in the rest.

Okay, never mind, I'll do it. And the good ol' USA will be reduced to the wretched Third World nation leftists so long for it to be....

chikungunya fever
dengue fever
ebola hemorrhagic fever
Marburg hemorrhagic fever (only one case in the USA and the patient recovered, thank God)
This is in addition to more common infections in the country -- influenza, hepatitis, HIV, and a host of non-infections maladies that will no longer receive proper treatment because of the overload on the medical establishment...

In pandemics, the very young and very old are initially at the greatest risk, but it reaches a point where everyone is at risk...

I'm not usually an alarmist, and I don't believe in most conspiracy theories (for example, I've looked into it, and there are no "FEMA camps" in Florida). But what we've been witnessing from our government ... I can't interpret it any other way."

Here's another view of the troubles the US faces, from the masterful Bill Whittle...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

I had a very enjoyable time yesterday at Joe Scarborough's 20-Year Reunion for his campaign volunteers. Although after the campaign, several of us maintained contact the years he was in Congress -- especially we who worked in his district office -- there were folks there I had not seen since his first campaign, when he was a 30-year-old unknown with no political experience taking on Earl Hutto, a 16-year incumbent.

Had to look at name tags to recognize a few people...heck, ain't none of  us getting any younger. Had some laughs. Chatted with Joe's mom, shared memories of her husband, George, who passed away several years ago. There were others no longer with us that brought home the passage of time. 

I got a big hug, three pecks on the cheeks and some nice words of welcome and remembrance from the former member of Congress and talk-TV host. I gave him an autographed copy of Southern Man. Noted the slight graying  at Joe's temples. Very distinguished looking, though in many ways, he still looks so much like that thirty-year-old who was inspired -- goaded? -- to run for Congress by the election of Bill Clinton, and the leftward lurch of the country afterward.

I left the Congressional office in 1998; worked for Joe at The Florida Sun for a while after that, and helped prepare the Congressional office for the incoming member, Jeff Miller, after Joe resigned. But basically, my interest in national politics ended with the Clinton impeachment hearings. If memory serves, I didn't vote in any presidential elections after that, until my vote for Mitt Romney in 2012, which wasn't so much a vote for the Republican candidate as it was a vote against the Democrat incumbent. My main reason for voting for Romney was my belief that he would be immensely better for the economy than Barack Obama.

Me and Joe, Back in the Day
Joe reminisced about the accomplishments of the 104th Gingrich-led Republicans in DC, and how the GOP has changed since then, giving rise to the Tea Party. But he says the country is strong and it will survive eight years of Barack Obama. I'm not so sure.  It would be interesting to know  his perspective, and why he thinks that. From where I sit, the USA is not only weak and growing weaker all the time -- its culture, politics, religion and nearly every other aspect of its existence are practically unrecognizable.

Still, it was nice to see folks, and remember when we were younger, had boundless energy and  genuine hope for the country.

And  now, back to defending Dixie and writing books.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Early Smallfoot Crits Very Encouraging

First critiques for Love in Smallfoot Alley are in, and I'm greatly encouraged. This little story, remember, started as part lark, part experiment, and I really wasn't dedicated to it.   I abandoned it and kept going back to it, and the story and characters started growing on me. I'm quite invested in them now, emotionally and time-wise, so I'm delighted at the positive cast of the early critiques.

I've received four on the opener, and here are some of the very encouraging comments and suggestions:
~~ CRIT ONE ~~

Dialog: You're really strong here.

Language: Again, this is something you're doing really well. Your language is interesting. There's a bit of a southern drawl to them. But the 3rd person POV uses some $50 thousand dollar words (SAT words if you have a kid in high school) like rivulets and to a lesser extent perfunctory. To me they kind of jumped out as not fitting in the scene. But I haven't read the other chapters so it's hard to say if they are out of place in a bigger context.

Impression of story: It's scary. The dialogue flows perfectly and I can picture the scene. Overall, I loved it!!

~~ CRIT TWO ~~

I'm a bit lazy when it comes to critting and generally don't bother if something looks like it'd be too much work. The unique opening drew me in and I like that you begin immediately with the MC and a setting and what she's doing.   
I wasn't assuming she was easily frightened at all. The pacing and tension was excellent and you'd make a really good horror writer.That said, I'm not seeing Romance here just yet, but it's definitely something I'd read on for now.  
Just watch for longer sentences and try to break some of them up a bit more, and be sure not to overdo it with the commas. I pointed out the most noticeable ones...
Overall, well done. 

... thanks for the opportunity to read your chapter! Overall I like it a lot, I think it's an intriguing start with interesting characters and setup, and I'm curious to know what happens next. I made a few comments/suggested edits in the text, these are just my personal opinion so feel free to ignore if you don't agree! 

I don't personally think the chapter is too long at all, it seems about right to me. You could possibly have a 'cliffhanger' chapter break with 'her scream filled the night', but really I think it's fine as it is.


I enjoyed this scene. I don’t think the chapter is too long at all. Hopefully my comments make sense and are helpful. I think you have a great start to your story. By adding a bit more interiority, and a few level changes in emotions, I think you can tighten this scene up to give it a bit more punch.

Most crits are done by authors. Once I've made changes to the manuscript based on the critiques, I'll submit the whole thing to beta readers. They usually aren't writers, they're readers, and their evaluations come from a whole different standpoint.

But regardless of whether they're critiques or beta reads, you can see why hostile and abusive "evaluations" of my writing by fault-finders and back-biters like Simpson and BParks -- who base their criticism not on my writing but on their personal animosity for me -- flows off me like water off a duck's back.

Duck image: Free Clip Art