Sunday, September 21, 2014

I'm Not Chinese

I have a special treat for you today.  I'm sitting with author Ray Wong who's here to tell us about his new book, I'm Not Chinese:The Journey From Resentment to Reverence.

 
 
Welcome, Ray.  Let's start with the basics; please tell us where you live and if you're married and have children.
 
Sure.  I live in San Diego, CA.  I am grateful to have been married to my wife, Quyen, for 16 years. We have two children, Kevin--13, and Kristie--10. We feel blessed that both children are avid readers.
 
How long have you been writing?
 
I took my first creative writing class in the early 1990s at Grossmont Community College and have been at it since.
 
What type of writing do you normally do?

I'm interested in people and why they do the things they do. This is probably why I studied counseling for my graduate degree. I also earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University LA last year. Writing allows me to combine my fascination about people with the creativity to uncover truths about life. I specialize in creative nonfiction.
 
Give us a brief synopsis of I'm Not Chinese: The Journey from Resentment to Reverence.
 
I'll give you the first two lines from my prologue: "The first thing you need to know is I'm not Chinese. My name is Raymond Wong, and I stopped being Chinese at the age of five."

What prompted you to write this book?
 
I had been running from my culture and family all of my life. A trip to Hong Kong and mainland China in 1996 forced me to stop running. I had to write about it. There was no other choice.

How long did it take you to write the book?
I started it in 1996 and finished my first draft in 1997. I worked on revising it right up to the fall of this year.
Do you have a favorite line from the book?
I think every line in the book has to connect and have a purpose. The first two lines from the prologue launched me on this journey of self-discovery so if I had to pick a favorite, I owe it to those two lines for giving me a start.

Is this book published and, if so, when and by whom?
It will be launched on October 1st, 2014 by my publisher, Apprentice House, in Baltimore.
How can my readers get a copy?
It will be available on my website:  www.raymondmwong.com. It will also be available on Amazon and through the publisher's site.
What do you do besides write, Ray?
Is there time to do anything else? I haven't really even had time to write lately with the book about to be launched. Setting up speaking engagements and practicing my presentation have taken up all my writing time these past couple of months.
What’s next for you?
Hopefully a Pulitzer!  :-) I have started a project, which I haven't been working on lately, so I might get back to that once the marketing end of things quiets some. I actually have a few ideas for books so we will see which one grabs hold of me and won't let loose.
Ray, what is your advice to would be writers?
Live and write your truth. Even in fiction, find the truth of the story and what the characters want to teach you.
One final question, Ray.  What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
How truly crazy you have to be to become a writer! You have to write because the madness sinks its claws into you and won't let go.
Thank you, Ray.  It's been a pure pleasure having you here today.
 
Folks, I've spent some one-on-one time with Ray in the past and I urge you to get his book as soon as it comes out in October.
 
Quote of the Day:   What thou lovest well is thy true heritage.  Ezra Pound
 
Answers to questions posed in my last post:  1 (a); 2 (b); 3. (c); 4. (a).






Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's All Techno Greek to Me!

A good part of writing is the research that goes into a story or article. I am glad to be writing in this day and age when information is at the tip of my fingers. I can stop writing, go to Google and ask a question, and get right back to writing, all in a matter of minutes. No more going to get an encyclopedia or making a trip to the library.

As part of Willard Manor, I had to look up a variety of items and dates. For instance,

1. When was the telephone first in general use in this country?
A. 1880s
B. 1860s
C. 1900s

2. How many slaves escaped via the Underground Railroad?
A. 10,000
  B. 100,000
  C. 300,000

3. Prohibition lasted from?

A. 1900 - 1941
B. 1915 - 1936
C. 1919 - 1933

4. The Amendment giving women the right to vote is which one?

A. 19th
B. 20th
C. 16th

I also had to look up the years of WWI, the battles of the Civil War, the Great Depression, the Woodstock festival, how to grow marijuana, septic tanks, indoor plumbing, electricity, and how to demolish plaster walls, among a host of other things.

What amazes me, is that ALL of that information is available on line. Someone, somewhere, inputted all this information. I don’t care what question you type in Google, or any other search engine, someone has already asked that same question and the answer is there. I keep thinking I’m going to come up with a question no one has yet thought to ask, but I don’t.

Thirty years ago, I bought my son a Commodore 64 computer. It was amazing. He learned programming by writing three pages of instructions to make a ball bounce. I saw how much work went into that small task and I think of it every time I see a video on the computer or find an answer to any question I may now or any time in the future ever ask. Someone, somewhere, had to input that information. It blows my mind. But then, the idea of a radio and voices coming over a wire, or heaven forbid, a wireless radio, can equally blow my mind.


I have learned to accept that even though I don’t understand how all this works, I am very glad someone does and I can benefit from it. Take a techno geek to lunch today to thank him or her.

Quote of the Day: The computer is no better than its program. Elting Elmore Morison.

 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Living on the Wild Side of Life

We moved to N.C. to be closer to family. I had no idea that would include moving closer to Mother Nature.

Yesterday morning I sat at the computer and looked up to see a doe and her fawn wandering around our front lawn. I watched them for a few minutes, then they crossed the street over to another lawn. 


 

Later that day I cut up an apple and threw little apple chunks into the backyard.
Within an hour or two, Fred called me to come look out the kitchen window. There was a doe enjoying the apple bites. Then a spotted fawn came out of the woods and joined his mother. Fred went on the back porch and threw out bread for them and, miraculously, they didn’t run away but stayed right there eating. As I watched, I saw a second fawn, a little bigger than the first one, come into the backyard to join the other two. I was ecstatic!




I haven’t seen Carl, our male cardinal, in over a month, but I do see his wife, Carlina. We also have a bunny rabbit that has enjoyed our backyard a couple of times. Our bluebirds have gone to parts unknown. After the last of their babies flew off, mama and papa have not been seen at all. Dragonflies seem to prefer our frontyard.




Fred and I are now going to nearby White Deer Park to walk the hiking trails every day. We use walking sticks to help us old folks handle the one mile loop through the woods. On our walk I’ve seen a goldfinch, flowers, and this brown bird, whatever he is. 



I’ve found that the walk is a wonderful way to start the day and get my metabolism going.  I come back refreshed and energized with new ideas for the novel I’m working on called Leaving Mark.


Thought for the Day:  Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth. Martin H. Fischer

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Feeling Awe-ful


I had an awe-ful moment this week. Not a bad moment--a moment full of awe.

We came back from a hasty two week trip to Connecticut and threw stale bread and hot dog buns on the ground by the bird feeder, knowing they wouldn’t go to waste. Shortly thereafter, Fred whispered to me to come look out the kitchen window. Eating the bread was a doe and, a few feet away, her week-old spotted fawn scampered about on the grass. I looked to see if Thumper and the rest of Bambi’s friends were nearby. The fawn was adorable! I wanted to get my camera and record this aaw! moment, but I didn’t want to make any movement that might scare them away. I also didn’t want to leave them, even for a few seconds, and miss the scene being played out before me. All too soon, they walked back into the woods and out of sight.  I'm sorry you don’t get to see a picture of our beautiful fawn and his mom in this post.


And I had an awful moment.

While packing to go to Connecticut, I transferred my newest book-in-progress to a flash drive so I could work on it up north. A few days later, I plugged it into my sister’s computer and lo and behold, nothing. In my haste to take it with me, I forgot that I work in Microsoft Works, an easy to use word processing program that it seems nobody else uses. Since my sister has Microsoft Word, not Works, the flash drive couldn’t, or wouldn’t (since I think anything computer related has a mind of its own), open. I called my techno savvy son and he suggested I go to Word and tell it that the file I want to open is on the flash drive. I did that and voila I had my file. Except that the formatting was all wrong. I spent a good part of the rest of my stay retyping the story. The up side to that is I had a chance to edit and rewrite as I went along. Now that I’m back home, I’ve transferred the file back to my computer so I can work on it, after more formatting, cutting and pasting. Whoever said writing is easy.

As I write this, I am especially thankful for two things: that my sister is alive and well after a heart attack, and that I had the chance to watch a precious little fawn play in our backyard.

Quote of the Day:  Be not afraid of life.  Believe that life is worth living, and your belief will help create the fact.  William James

Monday, June 30, 2014

Funny Papers, Where Art Imitates Life, or Vice Versa

Funny papers, comics. graphics--whatever you want to call them, they’ve been around since the time of cave paintings. I didn’t get to read those early comics, but my memory of the funny papers does go back to the mid-forties. I was probably eight or nine when my sister and I took piano lessons for a year. Mrs. Duke gave lessons in her house, so after my lesson and while my sister was having hers, I curled up in a big stuffed chair and read the comics in the newspaper that was sitting on the coffee table. I didn’t know then, reading Katzenjammer Kids, Li’l Abner, Joe Palooka, Pogo, and others that it was the start of a life-long interaction with the funnies.

Walt Kelley’s Pogo was an opossum who lived in the Okefenokee Swamp with his swamp friends-- Albert the alligator, Churchy LaFemme--a turtle, Howland Owl, and others. Walt Kelley lived in Bridgeport, CT and in 1953 my family and I moved to Bridgeport, the home of P. T. Barnum. The name of Pogo’s boat is often called the P. T. Bridgeport. Pogo was philosophical; two of his great lines were, 1) We have met the enemy and he is us, and 2) A woman is only a woman, but a good cigar is a horse of a different feather. You can’t beat lines like that.

Al Capp’s Li’l Abner lived in Dogpatch with his parents, Mammy and Pappy Yokum. Pipe smoking Mammy Yokum could often be found saying, “If it makes you happy to be happy, then be happy.” Profound wisdom that my mother used to love to quote. In addition to Li’l Abner’s long-time girlfriend, Daisy Mae, Sadie Hawkins also lived in Dogpatch. Sadie was the homeliest girl in town so every year, her father organized the Sadie Hawkins Day Race where all the eligible men in town were given a head start, then the eligible women would take off after them, hoping to catch a man. By my sophomore year of high school, we had moved from Bridgeport to its suburb, Fairfield, CT. Our sophomore dance was the Sadie Hawkins Dance where the girls asked the boys to the event. Because I didn’t have to wait for someone to ask me, I asked a boy and got to go to the dance. Thank you, Sadie Hawkins.

Chic Young’s Blondie was also a favorite. My sister and I had a lot of paper dolls when we were young and among them were Blondie, Dagwood, their kids Cookie and Alexander, and even Daisy the dog, and her pups.

I still like to start the day with a smile and a few chuckles. Now I find that my favorites are Pickles and Zits. Jeremy, in Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman’s Zits, reminds me of my son when he was a teenager. One day he was five foot four and the next day he was six foot four and the apartment was no longer big enough for him and his long legs.

Brian Crane’s Pickles used to make me laugh because Earl and Opal Pickles were so much like my parents. I don’t know how or when it happened, but suddenly Fred and I are Earl and Opal, forgetting where we left our glasses, not being able to hear each other and accusing the other person of mumbling.

If old age is our enemy, then, we have met the enemy and it is us! Now that’s something to smile about.

Quote of the Day:  Don't take life so serious, son. It ain't nohow permanent."  Walt Kelly via Pogo.

 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sweet Lady...Dirty Little Murders

I have a special treat for you today.  I'm sitting here with my friend and author, Marcia Buompensiero. Marcia is the author of Dirty Little Murders and writes under the pen name, Loren Zahn.  Welcome, Marcia.  Let's start by finding out a little about you.
 
                     
Let's start with where you live, are you married, and do you have children?
I live in San Diego, California.  Married, yes to my long-suffering husband, Joe. For any writer, a long-suffering spouse is a necessity! My son Dave is a photojournalist with five Emmys under his belt for news reporting. He is also the inspiration for my mystery novel protagonist. My stepson Matt is equally talented and writes political satire blogs. 

How long have you been writing, Marcia?
Putting pen to paper—since grammar school. However, I really began crafting fantasies with imaginary friends as early as five. That got me into trouble and expelled—my first day—from kindergarten. It was during nap time when, armed with my mental storyboard inspired by my favorite Robert Luis Stephenson classics,  Robin Hood and Treasure Island, I stood atop my folding cot and incited my classmates to riot—or I scared them—memory is fuzzy on that.

What type of writing do you normally do?
My Theo Hunter mystery series fits the mystery/suspense/romance genre. I am also working on a fictional three generational family saga that incorporates actual events from my own family history.

Give us a brief synopsis of Dirty Little Murders.

San Diego – A sparkling city by the bay—but its shining image hides dirty secrets. Theo Hunter’s job is to dig them out. She's good at it—too good. But her career as an investigative reporter is nearly destroyed after her honest reporting embarrassed her newspaper’s biggest advertiser. She lost her job, reputation, and the man she loved.  As Theo begins to rebuild her ruined life, her friend Stella goes missing. When Stella’s body washes up along the marshy US-Mexico border, her death is ruled accidental drowning—Theo doesn’t buy it. Despite a police cover-up led by her ex-fiancĂ©, Theo unravels the dark secrets of Stella’s double-life and her connections to the city’s corrupt top officials. The political scandal she uncovers could bring down the city’s leadership. But before Theo can expose their corruption, she is thrust into the cross-hairs of a vicious killer.
 
What prompted you to write this book?
Dirty Little Murders is a work of fiction. While the idea for the novel’s elements was drawn from a real political scandal involving three San Diego city councilmen indicted for corruption several years ago, the murders were fictional and the characters are figments of my imagination. Any similarity between them and their exploits as depicted and any person living or dead is purely coincidental. As an author, I am captivated by the idea that real suspense and mystery happen every day in our lives. How well do we really know those in our communities and neighborhoods?  The people we work, live and play with? Nothing is as scary as the sociopaths who live among us. When self-preservation is at risk, they will gain our trust and stalk the halls of our daily lives, waiting for the right moment to catch us alone.

How long did it take to write it?
Less than one year. The basic outline, plot and scenes were developed in two months. The research, fact-checking, editing, and rewrites took another six months. Most writers will agree that editing is never done. Most books would never be published if someone (usually the publisher or editor) didn’t yank the manuscript from the author’s hands.

Do you have a favorite line from the book?
In one scene, Theo Hunter is describing a vicious political battle fueled by religious zealot extremists. She says, “I decided a long time ago, just because you go to church, it doesn’t necessarily make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.”

Is it published and, if so, when and by whom?
Dirty Little Murders was published in 2009 by Xlibris Publishing.

How can my readers get a copy of the book?
Thank you, for the plug! It is available on Amazon.com and Xlibris.com.

Tell us about your character, Theo Hunter.
Theo is a principled young investigative reporter dedicated to uncovering corruption. This gets her into trouble—professionally and personally. It complicates her love life with police detective Frank Marino who thinks she takes dangerous chances and wants her to quit her job. Their on-again/off-again relationship is awash in conflict. Theo is dedicated to her friends, especially her best friend Abby Archer. Abby is Theo’s true north when it comes to philosophy and judgment. If Theo followed Abby’s advice more she could avoid some near-fatal situations. But, then, we’d have no story. What’s the fun in that!

What’s next for you?
I am in final editing (yes, final—my editor says so) of the next book in the Theo Hunter series, Dirty Little Lies, which will be published in the fall of 2014. Here’s a brief synopsis:

All hell is about to break loose in San Diego. A retired priest is murdered and a note at the scene brands him a rapist. Father Tony Machado—a one-time student of the dead priest and now a US Navy Chaplain—thinks it’s a set up. When Father Tony asks his old flame Theo Hunter to set the record straight, she agrees to help against her better judgment. Theo interviews several men, upstanding pillars in San Diego’s social and business community, who were once students at a prestigious boy’s school where the dead priest taught for thirty years. The men all vouch for his reputation—case closed. Theo is about to wrap up her findings when one of the men is killed. Within days another is murdered. When she uncovers evidence that ties them and the murdered priest to a decade’s old unsolved crime, her gut tells her someone is trying to settle an old score. Theo narrow’s her suspects to two—one the killer, the other the next target. Finding out which is which puts Theo dead center in the killer’s sights.

What is your advice to would be writers?
When I started, I was clueless about the publishing industry. Make no mistake, it is big business. Anyone who hopes to be successful will find that even with a traditional publisher the author must be willing to do a certain amount of marketing on his/her own. Unless you are James Patterson, Stephen King or J. K. Rowling, you will have to learn to sell yourself as well as your work. The business of marketing may be daunting, especially to writers who are often reclusive, do your research. There are publications about all aspects of the business. Acquaint yourself with them. Step out of your comfort zone and meet fellow authors. Join writer critique groups and find a writers organization that will encourage and help you to grow. I found the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild (SDW/EG) to be a good fit for me. My association with its members who are professionals in the writing field has been a tremendous help.

What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
It would have been helpful to understand more about the publishing and marketing end of the business. As I said, research and reading about publishing will help to some extent, but my involvement with SDW/EG has taught me much more and exposed me to so many industry professionals who are willing and anxious to share what they have learned.

Oh, and don’t expect to make millions! Writing is a labor of love—which, as many authors will tell you, is its own reward.
 

Thank you, Marcia.  It's been a pleasure!
 
Quote of the Day:  There will be time to murder and create.  Thomas Stearns Eliot. 



Sunday, June 8, 2014

Family, Flame, and Fallen Heroes

Memorial Day and the following week was time well spent for us as I hope it was for you.  My daughter Cyndi, her husband Bill, Fred, and I drove to Connecticut to spend the time with family.  We first spent a few relaxing days in Manchester, CT with my other daughter Tammy Sue and her husband Curtis.  Sitting around a fire pit at night, listening to Curtis play his guitar, family reminiscences, it was all good.



Memorial Day we drove to Seymour, CT. to spend time with my son, Michael, and his fiancĂ©e Kari and her family.  It was the first time in years that I’d been with all my kids at one time and I cherished every minute of it.  That was, after all, why we moved to the East Coast.


Mike, Cyndi, Tammy, Me

We spent the following week in Fairfield, CT. with my sister, Donna, and her husband Joe.  They’ve been married going on fifty-six years and are the epitome of what a solid marriage should be.  I hadn’t seen them in six years and it was important I see them before any more time elapsed.  Donnie and I are in our seventies, Joe is eighty.   Time is not on our side any longer so we no longer have the luxury of saying, “Maybe later.” The time was now. 

On the drive back south, we stopped at Arlington Cemetery.  Cyndi and I had been there before but Fred and Bill never had so it was important we stop and look around.  No matter how many times I visit Arlington, I am overcome with the honor and respect and reverence that exists with every step.  
           

On the way to the Tomb of the Unknowns, we stopped at JFK’s grave site and the eternal flame.  Forty years ago when I visited Arlington, his grave site and flame were on a grassy area next to Bobby Kennedy’s grave.  I know it was on grass because as I stood there gazing down and reflecting, the lawn sprinklers came on and I got wet!  Now, the eternal flame is on a cement platform with marble steps leading up to it, surrounded by a wall with President Kennedy’s “Ask not” speech engraved in the wall.  Next to the marker for President Kennedy is the marker for Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis, their infant boy and a stillborn girl.
Bobby Kennedy’s grave site is now a distance away, on grass.    

A walk down a flight of stairs brought us to the Tomb of the Unknowns.  The guard is changed every half hour during the summer so we were there in time to witness the ritual. The precision, timing, somberness of the occasion are what speaks to us visitors.  The sentinel takes twenty-one steps across a rubber mat, turns and faces the Tomb for twenty-one seconds, turns and faces the length of the mat for twenty-one seconds, switches his rifle to his shoulder nearest the crowd to show he is protecting the Tomb from any possible threat, then begins his (or her) twenty-one steps and does the same thing at the other end of the mat.  This process has gone on, day and night, good weather and bad, without interruption, since 1927. Twenty-one stands for the highest honor awarded a fallen serviceman; i.e., a twenty-one gun salute.  On the Tomb are these words:  HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD. 


Arlington is a place everyone in this country should visit to get back to our roots of what makes this country great.  From Arlington Cemetery one can look out and see the top of the Washington Monument reaching high above the trees.  It is difficult not to feel patriotic in such a setting.  Forty years ago, the sprinklers did not extinguish the eternal flame, weather will not prevent the sentinels from guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, and neither terrorism nor politics will extinguish the pride that is a birthright of every American.

Quote of the Day:  God Bless America!