Monday, January 21, 2019

On The Horns Of A Dilemma #OurAuthorGang

On The Horns Of A Dilemma
by Rick Haynes

I woke up this morning, which, at my age, was an excellent way to start the day. My tea was ready to drink, my breakfast came along soon afterwards, and my mind wandered into all the possibilities of a good writing session, especially as my better half would be out with her friend on a girly-day.                
As my wife left with a wave and a smile, I retreated into my man-den, turned on my computer, and started to type. I knocked out a Drabble within minutes and had it polished to perfection within the hour. After my hors-d'oeuvres, I was in the mood for the main course. Unfortunately, the natural light had almost disappeared. A visage of wall to wall grey greeted me as I looked from my first-floor window.

Mulling over my options didn’t take long. It was dark and it was going to stay dark. I could either, go down the pub, or improvise. Turning on the harsh light in the ceiling was just acceptable, but the even glow from my two soft reading lights perfectly illuminated my writing desk. Decision made then; it was time to write another few chapters of my latest novel.

But, and here’s the rub, my story was at a crossroads and I wasn’t sure which route to take. It would be too drastic to complete a U-turn, and if I pushed on and followed my well- worn, and, so far, favoured path, would my readers think I’m lazy and taking them for granted? Yet, if I turn left or right, would the plot line seem alien to my previous work?

It was a fine line to take, yet it was only the start of the many choices that I had to make today.
I’ve built up, and developed, an interesting and varied pool of characters. Some are well rounded like Captain Varr, others like Grona, are hateful and angry, yet all have played their part in making my books so readable.

My new novel, Magic Never Ends, needs a strong story-line and strong players. In battles, men and women die, but who should I allow to survive? And who will perish? It’s a difficult decision. If too many fade into darkness will my readers find that acceptable, especially if a new glut of characters appear? The sentiment is worth noting as it’s madness to upset loyal readers. They bought my books, left some very nice reviews, and hopefully want more of the same.

Or, in reality, they want same-same but slightly different.
Some readers like long descriptive passages, whilst others like good dialogue. As I cannot please everyone, I try a balance between the two, but I do like a book with pace. Thankfully, this is one problem that I don’t have to worry about as no reader has raised any concerns.

I’ve already drawn a map as it’s the only way for me to gauge distances. But immediately, that throws up potential problems. Should a river be wide or perhaps shallow here? Are the lands around flooded at this time of year? Is there a harbour near the mouth of the river? River crossings? Bridges? Fords? What about the hills and valleys, mountains and snow? How long will a horse ride take? The list goes on and on, yet it is vital to get it right.

I have to make the description of the landscape believable. Only then can I think of villages, towns, castles and the many peoples that reside in them.

In every chapter, the plot can twist, turn, or continue straight ahead. I make the choices. Sometimes they are difficult, yet often they are easy as the tale is leading me faster than I can type.
Making decisions is part of being an author. The difficult part is making the right ones.

My eyes are sore, my headaches, and my fingers are tired but it’s been a good day at the computer. I’ve thought carefully at every crossroad, checked my map and notes, and ploughed on with the story. I’ve only managed 3500 words, but I’m happy, for on reading them back, the tale continues to flow.

Today, my decisions appear to be correct.
Who knows!
I’ll take the bull by the horns and see where my imagination takes me.
No matter what happens, I know my ride will be fun.
Let me know if you want to come along.

Rick Haynes

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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Book Promo Sunday at #OurAuthorGang

Book Promo Sunday

We have a new tradition at #OurAuthorGang.
Every Thursday we add a book promo post to our Facebook page:

Image may contain: phone and text

And we pick four books from the post to promote on our blog.
Enjoy this week's selection:
To one man she gave her virginity; to another, she gave her heart. One, she would mourn. With the other, she would share life's triumph and turmoil. With both, she would endure times of love, and passion and complete happiness as well as times of despair, confusion, and sorrow. One day at a time—each day, building unforgettable memories.
607 people go missing every single day without a trace.
Jeremy Samuelson an ex Canadian Security Intelligence Service agent is one of them.
Four months after his mysterious disappearance, Jeremy reappears, but in his mind no time has passed.
The government fear another country had taken him to use against Canada. They worry he's been implanted with a devious plan deep in his psyche, to active as needed. Through forced hypnosis he begins to remember things.
Strange otherworldly things, that neither himself or the government can believe, and other people. People who he remembers he cares about, and who he will need.
Jeremy sets off , against the governments wishes, to reunite his amnesic friends and bring back their memories, to prepare them for a fight to save the entire universe.
A collection of humorous anecdotes, heartwarming stories, and slice-of-life tales that evoke a wide range of emotions.

Some of the stories are from my years in nursing, Steve's clumsiness and my cooking disasters might make you spit out your coffee laughing. The stories of my pets will put a warm smile on your face, and the stories about life's darker moments might make you wipe a tear or two.
Rainbows and dark clouds are part of life,
Without darkness there can be no light.
Without moments that make us cry,
We can’t enjoy moments that make us smile.
Without moments that make us laugh,
We can’t get through moments that make us sad.

~Erika M Szabo
2011 Winner of the Pinnacle Book Achievement Award in the Category of Children's Interest, 2012 International Book Awards Finalist, Children's Picture Book: Softcover Fiction Category, 2012 Gelett Burgess Award Winner, Fables, Folklore & Fairytales Category, 2012 Mom's Choice Award Winner, Juvenile Level 1 Books (ages 5-8): Fantasy, Myths & Legends Category, 2012 USA Best Book Awards Finalist, eBook: Children's Fiction Category, 2013 B.R.A.G. Medallion Honouree, Young Adult & Children Category, Indie Book of the Day for 5th May, 2013, the IndiePENdents' Seal of Good Writing, the 2016 Marriah Media Gold Award and the 2016 Book Excellence Award, Pegasus -- A Dragon's Tale is the delightful, heartwarming story of two young bear cubs and the dragon they find that changes their lives forever. Recommended for children from 3 to 103. Lovely full colour illustrations. 34 pages.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

The Perils of Online Dating #OurAuthorGang

The Perils of Online Dating

Joe Bonadonna

  Glenn Close, from “Fatal Attraction”

Today I’m going to depart from my usual blogs about movies, books, writing and publishing, and write about something a little more personal.

First, I’m 67 and single, and at my age it’s hard to meet single women with whom I share common interests, goals and lifestyles. I don’t attend church socials, singles’ groups or singles’ dances. Frankly, I don’t care for the music that’s played at such events. While I grew up on the rock and roll and pop music (Top 40) of the 1950s and early 1960s, I prefer the music that came in 1964, ushered in by The Beatles. I still listen to them, The Rolling Stones, Hendrix, Pink Floyd, for example, and the music that followed over the course of the next 5 decades. I try to keep up with what’s happening in music today, partly because of my being an ex-guitarist in rock and roll bands. I like and have seen such bands as Florence and The Machine, Muse, Mumford and Sons, and The Lumineers, to name four, and I’m usually the oldest person in the room (or concert hall) when I go see such bands and even hard-rocking local bands. I’m not really into heavy metal, but I still crank up the AC/DC, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and other really kick-arse bands.

All that being said, after a devastating break that not only shredded my heart but ended an over 5-year friendship — or what I thought was a friendship until I learned I had been played for a fool for the past year. This experience wounded me so deeply that I fell into a deep depression filled with anxiety; I started smoking again after having quit two weeks earlier, and I had to ask my doctor to prescribe something to get me past all this. So I’ve been on Xanax and will remain on it until the end of February. After that, if I still need something, he’ll prescribe something that is not addictive. 

Well, last November I joined the 5 most popular and largest online dating websites; a couple of them even advertise on television. I won’t mention their names, just to be safe from any legal issues. After 3 weeks, because I didn’t get one single nibble, I left one site before the month was over, so I could get my money refunded. But I stuck with the other four and have had some interesting, embarrassing, disappointing, depressing, stressful and disillusioning experiences. I’m going to tell you about a few of them — each woman claiming to be a widow whose husbands (and son, in one case) had all died tragically. But first, let me tell you that every drop-dead gorgeous woman who has contacted me first turned out to be scam artists: women with Hollywood or porn film star looks and bodies never give me a second look in real life. So.....

Now the area codes of the cell phone numbers these women gave me all checked out, but the problem with cell phones is that the area code is not fixed, like a landline. I have friends who live here in Chicago who have cell phones with area codes ranging from Arizona to California; they had purchased their phones either while living or vacationing in those states. The other problem with cell phones: burner phones, used by scam artists all over the world.

So I set up five new email addresses, to use just for dating correspondence. Most of my "likes" and "views" and "flirts" have been from women living in other states. Many are too young for me or too old. I'm sure both men as well as women are posting old photos of themselves and lying about their age. Here are a few tips I was given by veterans of the Online Dating Scene:

Beware those who will not chat on the website and instead ask for your email address right away. 

Beware those who live in states (or countries) other than your own. Stick with prospects who live in areas you're familiar with so you can question them about their neighborhood, their town, their suburb.

Beware those who will not exchange cell or landline numbers with you, who won't actually talk to you on the phone. 

Beware those who come on strong, hot and heavy, and then talk about how they prayed to God that they'd meet someone like you!

Beware those whose dating profiles mysteriously vanish as soon as they make first contact with you.

Tips online dating sites advise to avoid scammers who: 

Ask you to talk or chat using an outside messaging service or email account.

Vanish mysteriously from the site, often after being caught and removed.

Talk about "destiny" or "fate" when meeting you.

Claim to be recently widowed.

Ask for your address or contact info under the guise of sending flowers or gifts.

Make a lot of grammatical and spelling errors.

Say they live in the U.S. but are currently traveling abroad.

Always eventually ask you for money.

As I said, most of my Likes and Flirts come from women who do not live in my state, from gals 30 years younger to 20 years older. Apparently, the websites' computers think these people are good matches for me while totally ignoring my preferences and parameters. I don't think people even read the profiles. It's like they're just clicking on every photo that catches their eye. 

Now, on with some misadventures in this brave new world.....

The first woman I made contact with was, supposedly, from an area just south of where I live in Chicago. She had some lovely photos of herself and we corresponded via the dating site for about 2 weeks. She then told me that she was in Mexico on business and would be back in town by Thanksgiving. She even gave me her cell phone number, and the area code checked out, although as already stated, that means nothing. Well, one day she told me that she and a bus load of tourists had been stopped, held at gun point by members of a drug cartel, and robbed of cash, jewelry and credit cards. She had no one to loan her money and no way to get home. My thoughts were: if she had indeed been robbed by a drug cartel they would have killed her, too.  (As my Dad always said: work alone and leave no witnesses.) So she asked me if I could send her a few hundred dollars to help her out, and she would repay me upon her return. When I casually asked how she wanted the money, she told me to send her a Gift Card for 300 dollars: scan the front and back and send the images via email. Ding! Dong! The alarm bell sounded. You never send money to anyone, and the Gift Card is an old scam because you pay for it and therefore, it’s just what it is — a gift. Can't prove intent to fraud. Well, bye-bye, I told her, and that was the end of it. I then went back to the website to check out her profile, and it wasn't there: either she had deleted it or it was reported by someone and the site removed her. But about a week later, she contacted me and asked me if I was still interested in her. She was still in Mexico, of course, and once again asked me for money. Ha!

Woman #2 contacted me, claiming to be from a nearby suburb, and of course her cell number area code checked out. So we corresponded for about a week and she told me she was from Toronto, originally, and also said she was the CEO of an exterior design corporation. When I checked out the business website, there was her photo, listed as CEO. She even sent me a short “video” telling me she was in Istanbul on business and would be home December 20, but her accent sounded very middle-eastern and was quite hard to understand. Well, we corresponded for a few more days and then she said that her company had run into some tax problems and she couldn’t leave Turkey until the tax situation was settled. She asked if I could help her out in any way, that she needed $6, 500 dollars. This time she sent another video, explaining the situation; she was sitting in a room surrounded by stacks and stacks of money. I figured only drug dealers or some other sort of “villains” would have that much cash lying around. Bye, bye, I told her. A few days later she had the nerve to contact me again, begging for help. When I went back to the dating site, her profile was gone. Deleted or removed? Your guess is as good as mine. Also, the corporation’s website is now different: her photo is not there, although there is a photo of a different woman by the same name now listed as CEO.  

Pretty interesting, right? There must be some school for scoundrels and scam artists I don’t know about. I've talked with a few women who have been on or are still on dating sites, and they told me of similar encounters and experiences with men. So these scammers and all the other BS involved happens to both sexes. 

Photo courtesy of Google Images

But wait, there’s more!

Since these two experiences, there have been others.

One woman from the south side of Chicago claimed to be living in California but had a house here; she even gave me the address. She also claimed to be a widow who runs her Dad’s construction business. After a number of dating site conversations, she told me she needed $244.00 dollars to fly here to meet me. I asked her if she had a credit card and she said yes. I told her to charge the airfare and once we met I’d give her the cash. Never heard back from her again. One other claimed to be in Florida and would like to come up here to meet me but could not afford it. Guess what? You got it — she asked me for money! Needless to say, both their profiles are no longer on the dating website.

Are these actually different women? Or just one woman using fake profiles? Your guess is as good as mine.

I have also talked with three women: one sounded like a witch and was of a nasty temperament. Another had a Polish accent so thick she couldn’t converse well in English and had nothing to say! One other had a Russian accent that was also almost unintelligible, and she wasn’t interested in any of the things that interest me. None of these women answered any of my questions regarding famous places and landmarks where they lived.

I’ve actually met with 2 women. One claimed to be 60, then confessed that she was actually 65, but looked like an 80-year old bag lady. She was nastily opinionated, had no sense of humor, and didn’t even offer to pay for half the pizza or even leave the tip - then had the nerve to ask me to drive her home . . . 1/2 block away! She popped up on another dating site, under a different username and using a profile pic that must have been taken when she was in her 20s!

The other lives 10 minutes down the street from me: a divorcee with a 25 year-old daughter and a cat. After many conversations on the dating site and then a few phone calls, we finally met on January 6, had a nice time and, as of this writing, will probably get together again, although I don’t think she’s for me. 

I was also conversing with a woman who lives not far from where I grew up, in the Logan Park District, near Humboldt Park. She knows the city and suburbs near me, having answered all my questions - and we even hung out at the same beach back in the 1960s and 1970s: Foster Avenue Beach. However, after a few on-site chats she ghosted me; must have decided we weren't a match. She is still on the site, so I feel good about the fact that she wasn't another scammer.

Since January 5 I have been conversing with a fashion designer who claimed to live in a suburb just west of me. Her photos were stunning and although she claims to be 61, she actually looks at least 10 years younger, if not more. She’s from Poland, also a widow, and we actually have a lot in common. She told me she will be leaving for Poland on business and will return in 2 weeks. Being as suspicious as a Chicago cop questioning a suspect, I reported her to the website. A short while later her profile disappeared: did they take her down or did she remove it? I'll never know. 

However, later that day I asked her why I can no longer see her profile on the dating site. She replied, "Because God answered my prayers and sent you to me." Yeah, right. 

Then, just as I expected, on January 11 I heard from her. She gave me a huge song and dance about her business and all sorts of problems:  her credit card had expired and she has no other way of paying the Team that packed and shipped her cloth and other material. She asked for $1800.00. I "laughed" at her and told her I was going to pull the same scam on her. She actually had the nerve to message me that it's not funny, it's not a scam, and that she's very disappointed. "Hey, lady - don't try to guilt me out," I told her. "You didn't know my Mom, who was Queen of Guilt Trips. Besides, I'm Sicilian: I have no conscience and I am well connected, if you know what I mean." Never heard back from her after that.

To date I have had eight women try to pull this exact same scam on me. I know these dating sites can't and don't do criminal background checks. But they should. At least they can charge people extra if they want a criminal check done on one or more people.

So beware and be careful out there. Online dating can be stressful, depressing and anxiety inducing. I don’t like this “new tech age” we’re living in and in many ways I’m glad I’m on my way out. I prefer the good old days of meeting women. Whether or not there will be a follow-up to this blog remains to be seen: depends on what kind of experiences I have and if they're worth writing about. 

Maybe it's me and not them. Maybe I'm not exciting enough, handsome enough, active enough or rich enough. Maybe the word SUCKER is stamped on my forehead and everyone but me can see it. Well, whatever. Oh, I'm still on the dating sites, but if you want me, I’ll be at the corner bar where I know the only reason women are conversing with me is because they're drunk. Or maybe I'll just head to Las Vegas because you know, what happens in Vegas.....

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Would you read this? Vol.4 #OurAuthorGang

Welcome back. See volume 1, 2, and 3 of this series at the links provided.

I’ve written a lot of short stories in the last few years. Some have been published in a collection while others are simply awaiting their time to shine. As I considered how to organize my collections, I began to wonder if the stories themselves are worth reading on their own. As a collection, these short stories have the benefit of being part of something greater, but I want to know “would you read these stories?” if they were presented on their own. That’s also when I begin to consider that I write blurbs for the books I release, but I don’t write blurbs for individual stories in a collection, a tagline usually does the job. Well, that’s about to change. In this series, I’ll be sharing unpublished blurbs to stories that may or may not yet be released. These blurbs are not meant to be used to pitch or sell these stories. This is just a practice on the concept of writing a blurb? I just want to know if the blurbs are any good. I may also offer some ideas of what cover designs for these stories may look like. I hope you enjoy this adventure.

For the fourth post in this series, I thought I’d start with a blurb for my first attempt at a contemporary piece. It, like the last story, is included in my collection, Legend of the Boy, In the Window, and Other Short stories.

Our Place is a story derived from a prompt. I don’t remember all the specifications, but I do remember the story had to be less than 1k words, contain some type of bug, and feature a mystical element (not necessarily magic)- remember, it’s supposed to be a contemporary. Sounds easy right. Well, I knew right away I wanted to write a sad story that had an element of hope toward the end. For some reason, I ended up with the tragic story of three childhood friends.

Below is the proposed blurb for the story (all three parts) and two book cover mock-ups for you to vote on. These are rough drafts that will never be produced, but I’d still like to know your thoughts on making them better, if you have any.

The old Funhouse was the epitome of summer fun and she was the center of their world. They were three friends, as thick as thieves. 

When the years and the discovery of attraction catches up to them, Lewis and Billy understand- they can’t both have her. 

One night of passion will change everything, for better or for worse.

Don’t be shy. Your feedback is welcomed, but please be nice. 😌

Forms response chart. Question title: Which do you prefer?. Number of responses: 8 responses.
Results as of 1/18/19

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