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Monday I Will Open The Box

There’s a box with a manuscript in it sitting on my desk.  It’s the manuscript where each neatly printed page has been marred by The Fogel’s harsh scrawls.  In a sense, I have already opened it, because The Fogel sent me her notes on Chapter one by e-mail, and her comments strike like a hammer, over and over again.

My day job has been busy over the last few weeks, which is good because I needed time to decide what to do about the novel, one that has taken up so much of my life.

Go to my website, and you’ll see my smiling face and the photos I took of the men I traveled with in Afghanistan.  Back then Reagan was president and the mujahideen were still described in the press as “freedom fighters.”

How things have changed.  I watched on TV as the twin towers went down, and as word came out that the terrorists were trained in Afghanistan and called themselves mujahideen, I knew the media would never again refer to them as freedom fighters.

Yet that is how I still feel about the men I traveled with, and I wonder how many of them are alive today.  They were generous to me.  I trusted them with my life.  They had hopes and fears, children and wives and grooming advice.  The commander said I should shave my wispy beard because I couldn’t grow a proper beard.  He was clean shaven himself.  We’re not talking Taliban fanatics here, at least not back then.

I can’t let them go.  I want the world to see them as human beings.  I want the world to understand what the Soviets did to that country.  It was the one thing I promised myself I could do for them, although the commander’s son would have preferred that I’d bought him new boots.  I missed the opportunity to do that, and it haunts me.

So Monday I have some time off from my day job, and I will open that box.  I will endure all of The Fogel’s comments.  I will rethink plot and story, characters and events.  I will struggle and rewrite.  Somehow, I will finish what I started.

It’s the least I can do.

Am I a Productive Member of Society?

The first thing I learned working on the TV show Nikita is that machine guns are loud.  Even when they’re firing blanks, they’re really, really loud.  I know that sounds obvious, but it’s amazing when an actor standing only a corpse-length away points an AK-47 just over your head and empties a 30-round clip.  Your clothes vibrate against your body with the shock-waves from the concussions.  Your heart feels like it’s skipping beats.

Oddly, while working on that show I felt like a productive member of society, making my strange contribution.  After all I got up with the alarm, worked like crazy for 14 or 15 hours, way to much of it running to set and back with mags of film or carrying diddy bags that weighted about a hundred pounds.

Yet, when I took time off between seasons to write, I often wondered if I was a productive member of society.  Perhaps it was because no one gave me a pay at the end of the week to prove that my presence was valued.

But one day after work on Nikita I met some friends for a Friday night drink.  I regaled them with tales of how stressful our work on the show had been that day–three cameras in a gravel pit with not enough crew.  Explosions and machine guns.  I had to involuntarily upgrade to focus puller for one of the cameras and got caught on film when the operator abruptly panned the camera left to follow a departing truck.  The A.D.s had failed to warn me the truck would pull away.

The expression on my face in the rushes ended up being the source great amusement on the camera truck over the next week.

When I finished my tale a friend put down her wine glass and mentioned off hand that her day had been a bit hectic too.  I knew she worked at a shelter for battered women, so I asked what had happened.

Her manner was understated, but her words told a different story–a story of a woman repeatedly beaten and raped, of escorting her to court to testify, of a screaming ex-husband threatening his ex and my friend with brutal murder.  Tears and fright and a police escort out of the courtroom.  My friend picked up her wine glass for a sip after this shocking story and I put down my beer.

The shelter was run by the Salvation Army.  My friend was paid minimum wage, and I was pulling in a couple of grand a week.  It made no sense.  She was a productive member of society, contributing to the overall good.  I was making the filler between car commercials.

The second thing I learned on Nikita is that receiving a pay check at the end of the week didn’t necessarily mean that I was a productive member of society, contributing to the overall good.

My stories won’t save the world, but maybe somewhere someone will use them to fill a few hours and go somewhere better.

Although before I get all snooty about Nikita: when I was at a youth hostel in Romania a few years later (1998), I walked into a room full of Romanians glued to a tiny television set.  They were watching an episode of Nikita where the climax took place in a gravel pit–lots of explosions and machine guns.  For an hour they were transported away from the economic disaster that was post-Soviet Romania.

Who am I to judge?

You Don’t Need A Kindle To Buy E-books

Amazon’s Kindle e-readers may cost you some bucks, but the Kindle reader software is free to download onto your computer.  So you can start reading e-books without buying the Kindle, dipping your toe into the e-reading water at no cost.

I  had trouble finding the link for the free download, but it’s here.  I got there through Kindle, e-books, Kindle Support.  The great thing is you can get it for your Mac, PC, Blackberry, i-phone or any smart phone with Google’s Android operating system.

Besides the obvious advantage that you can immediately purchase and read my short stories Railroaded or Burning Moose, it also means you can buy any book you want to read  on your computer or mobile device.

But free stuff is why I prefer the Kindle over the Sony e-reader.  Amazon has put up a bunch of content for your reading pleasure that won’t cost you a dime.  Never got around to reading the original Sherlock Holmes short stories?  Now you can.

Worried about losing your book if your computer crashes?  No problem.  Once you buy it, the book goes onto your bookshelf in your Amazon account so that you can recover it for free.

So download that free Kindle software.  Save some trees.  Buy my short stories.  Make me rich!  Actually, at 99 cents per story, it’s more like contributing to a cup of coffee.  But thanks!

H/t to Kim for pointing out that I’d never explained how to buy my stuff.  I’m going to make a new menu item for this tip.

Millions of Nooks Means More E-books

The game is changing so fast.

Barnes and Noble came out with their colour (that’s color for Americans) version of the Nook last week, and it’ll sell for $10 less than last year’s nook.  I’m betting graphic novel  and children’s book authors are going to be happy.

Now this isn’t a tablet like the ipad.  It’s a dedicated e-reader even though it has some extra bling like very fast web browsing.

What’s really amazing is that Barnes and Noble have already sold a million of the old version of the Nook and expect to sell a million of this version.

By New Year’s there are going to be literally millions of people with e-readers looking for content.  What an opportunity!

The downside is I haven’t found a way to sell through B&N yet, but I’m looking.  As traditional book retailers get more and more like Amazon, I’m willing to bet they open their distribution up too.

Must edit faster.  Must write faster.