The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald – Forty Years Ago Today

One of the greatest examples of storytelling in song helps us to remember the tragedy.

Interestingly enough, on a whim I downloaded the song yesterday not realizing the significance of the date and just happened to see it on the web this morning.

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.

 

A Story Without an Explanation

As I've mentioned before, I think some of the best writing taking place now is for the premium channel series like HBO, Showtime, etc. (I'm particularly looking forward to Ash v. the Evil Dead premiering Halloween night).

One show I was happy to see return was The Leftovers on HBO. The premise of The Leftovers is that 2% of the world's population disappears in an instant and no one has any explanation. Of course, the immediate thought is that The Rapture has occurred but that appears unlikely since serial killers, child molesters, etc. disappeared along with children, every day folks, etc. 

The show has a lot of unanswered questions but I suspect the writers are never going to answer the question about what happened to the people who disappeared. I haven't read the book on which the series is based but my understanding is there was no explanation offered.

Generally, when I'm writing (or reading) I like to have all the questions answered and the premise tied up in a nice little bow. However, many of the books don't do that. Stephen King, in particular, doesn't always feel a need to explain why something happens in his books and short stories (by the way, King's books are, for the most part, great, but where he really shines is in his short stories and novellas, The Mist being just one example). 

What about you, my readers? Do you feel frustrated if there are unanswered questions in what you're reading or are you okay with leaving some things open to interpretation?

Sometimes It’s Hard to Break a Bad Habit

There's been an article floating around Facebook the last few days and it prompted me to write this post. The article is at this link and is the response of a Special Olympian to one of the nasty social media posts by Ann Coulter. 

I try not to get too political on my own author blog, I do write for political blogs and those who know me know my political leanings. If you want to know I'm more than happy to discuss them with you but unless it has something to do with my writing, this website wasn't built to be a political site and really isn't the place for me to discuss these matters.

I do think Ann Coulter is a vile person and, even worse, a horrible writer who makes up facts to fit her viewpoint in the supposedly non-fiction books she writes. To me, this is unforgivable just from the intellectual honesty point of view.

But I digress once again.

The young man, John Franklin Stephens, saw a post where Coulter used the term "retard" when referring to someone. John has Down (or Down's) Syndrome and responded in a way that was as classy as it was possible to be. 

As my readers know, Noah Chance, of my books series of the same name, has Down's Syndrome and exhibits many of the same characteristics of John Franklin Stephens. As I've mentioned before, Noah was loosely based on a client I once represented and the first person with Down's Syndrome I had the good fortune to actually get to know.

Unfortunately, I still find myself using the term "retard" or "retarded", when referring to the actions of someone, without thinking about it. I do my best not to use it and I don't actually refer to people with Down's Syndrome that way but the term is still one I wish I could strike from my vocabulary. 

But it's hard to do.  If only good habits were as easy to develop as bad habits are hard to break.

If you get a minute, read the article and see how class really works.

City of Irving, Texas Must Think We’re Stupid

They arrest a student for a homemade clock but then tell us his race had nothing to do with it? Particularly after the remarks their officers made?

We have an old saying in Texas, or we did before the state lost its collective mind:

"Don't piss on my leg and tell me it's raining."

Read more at:

http://www.texastribune.org/2015/09/16/irving-police-drop-charges-against-muslim-student/

and

http://crooksandliars.com/2015/09/texas-ninth-grader-arrested-project-looked

Northwestern State University to Host the 7th Annual Louisiana Studies Conference September 11-12

LA Studies Conference Poster-2015NATCHITOCHES – Northwestern State University will host the Sixth Annual Louisiana Studies Conference September 11-12 in the Creative and Performing Arts Complex. The conference opens at 2:30 PM on September 11, and presentations start at 3:15 PM Scholars from throughout Louisiana and eight other states and the United Kingdom will make presentations on aspects of  Louisiana art, history, culture, and literature. Admission to the conference is free and open to the public.

This year’s conference theme is Louisiana Cultural Crossroads. Throughout the two days numerous scholars and creative writers will make presentations. Some of the many topics to be discussed include Louisiana literature, film, and TV, Solomon Northrup, discrimination, vernacular medicine, Choctaw-Apache foodways, voodoo and hoodoo, the blues, the African American experience along the Cane River, archival research and practice, the New Orleans Photo Alliance, oral history collection, the Civil Rights movement, the New Orleans Athletic Club, Buddhism in Louisiana, Creole interior design, colonial Louisiana architecture, the restoration of the African House at Melrose Plantation, mounds in Louisiana, post-Katrina regional competitiveness in New Orleans, traditional occupations, Louisiana wetlands, heritage education, cemeteries, cowboy and cowgirl culture, and language teaching, acquisition, and change. Also included will be panels on the Neutral Strip and professional wrestling in Louisiana. Several creative writers will also address the conference theme, including poets Nina Adel, John P. Doucet, and David Middleton. Also featured will be a dance performance by the Tekrema Center of Art and Culture, and an interactive hambone demonstration and performance with Ed Huey.

The Friday evening keynote, “The Crossroads of a Genre: Exploring the Innovation of Hurricane  Katrina Literature and Popular Culture,” will be given by Dr. Lisa Kirby, director of the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies and Professor of English at Collin College in Spring Creek, Texas, at 6 PM in the Magale Recital Hall.

The Saturday morning keynote, “The Louisiana World Tour: A Photographic & Philosophical Road Trip through the State of My World,” will be given by performance artist and photographer Natasha Sanchez, at 10:30 AM Magale Recital Hall. An exhibit of Sanchez’s photographs will be open for conference participants.

Ms. Sanchez’s address will be followed by the presentation of the winning essays from the 7th Annual NSU Louisiana High School Essay Contest. For this year’s Contest theme, “Louisiana Time Machine!” students addressed the prompt “If you could meet and talk with any Louisianan from the past, present, or future for one hour, who would you choose and why?” The winning essays will be presented at the conference and will also be published in the Louisiana Folklife Journal, the Louisiana Folklife Center’s scholarly journal. This year’s Contest winners are Brant Guerin from Redemptorist High School in Greenwell Springs, for his first place essay, “‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich,” Chelsea Franklin from Crowley High School in Crowley, with her second place essay “The Mysteries of Huey Long,” and Andrea Bradley of Westminster Christian Academy in Ville Platte, for her third place essay “A Talk with the Madam.”

“The essays by this year’s contest winners are magnificent,” said Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the Louisiana Folklife Center at NSU and co-chair of both the conference and the essay contest. “These young writers have managed to capture in words just what makes the historical figures they imagine meeting both interesting and significant.”

“Louisiana is one of those places with great diversity,” said conference participant Dr. Hiram “Pete” Gregory, Professor of Anthropology at NSU. “They come down the rivers, they come along the roads, and they all get together here.”

“This year’s conference theme will highlight some of the many ways that folks in Louisiana have influenced each other at a variety of cultural crossroads,” said Rasmussen. “The significance of these influences upon Louisiana culture cannot be overestimated. Louisianans are stronger and better because of our diversity. I am excited to hear and see what this year’s conference participants will tell us. The conference is free and open to the public, and we want to invite anyone who is interested in how Louisiana has become the state that it is to join us and to take part in these conversations.

A complete conference schedule can be found on the Louisiana Folklife Center’s website at https://louisianafolklife.nsula.edu/. For more information call the Folklife Center at (318) 357-4332.

The Conference is co-sponsored by the NSU Department of English, Foreign Languages, and Cultural Studies, the Friends of the Hanchey Gallery, the Louisiana Folklife Center, the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training, the NSU College of Arts and Sciences, the NSU Department of Fine + Graphic Arts, the NSU Writing Project, the NSU Office of the President, and the NSU Office of the Provost.

 

Help! Need Reviews – Amazon Strikes Again!

I noticed a couple of weeks ago that Amazon seems to have, once again, removed a number of reviews even though I don't use paid reviewers for my products and so I'd ask anyone who has read any of my books to take a minute, if it isn't too much trouble, and head on over to Amazon.com and GoodReads.com and leave a review on any of my books they have read.

Apparently, Amazon has now initiated a policy where on some occasions they remove reviews from people who are your social media contacts. Since I do my best to interact with readers as much as possible, both in person and online, and have accounts on almost all of the social media sites I can only assume this is why some of the reviews were removed.

This happened last year (I think it was last year) when I lost a number of reviews with no explanation from Amazon (who also owns Goodreads) despite a request for them to explain what happened. As I said, I don't use paid reviews, unlike some other authors from the large publishing houses, and I can't tell why these were targeted but I know it happened to a number of independent writers all within a few days of each other. I applaud Amazon's attempts to make sure people aren't just buying reviews and are doing their best to police this practice but there appears to be some issues with their algorithms and if they actually are removing those of people who have "liked" a Faceboo page or interacted with a social media site then it does a great disservice to both independent authors and their readers, both of whom are Amazon customers.

In the online world of book sales, you live or die based on your reviews since people tend to buy what other people have liked and I can only ask those of you who have read my works to take a minute and leave a few words at these two sites or any others you go to.

I hate to impose on anyone but it would be much appreciated.