Dog Ear
Advocate (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 17 January 2018 23:21

never started out to be a bicycle advocate. It just sort of happened.

I didn’t even think about bikes in my twenties. One day in my early thirties, my brother peddled over to my house and while we were chatting offered his bike over for a spin. “Well, I don’t know. It’s not really my thing blabbady blah”. So I rode. And I rather liked it. A few days later I started talking bikes with the two ride-to-workers, getting some ideas. For the next four years I was riding four miles in every day. After I got canned from that dumb job, and after a few years being a rocket scientist, I picked up at my current job, riding the nine miles in for sixteen years.

And suddenly everyone knew me as “the bike guy”. I always had my bike at my desk. I also was quick to verbally vivisect anyone who brought me an anti-bike, guy ran a stop-sign, guy was in my way/on my road story. And now I had a Share the Road decal on the back of my car. And then my corporation was putting a picture of me in the hall with my bike, saying something corporate-patriotic. And then I was speaking on podcasts.

I never planned it to be that way.

But that’s the way it goes in stories and real life. Frodo never considered sticking a hairy toe out of the Shire. No character in mid-adventure at page 250 could have seen it coming when they were first established on page one. And life, after all, is art (or the other way ‘round).

And so now I’m also an author. Forty years ago, I was just a punk kid reading all sorts of science fiction and fantasy. I could hardly write and barely type.  But I started to dabble, wrote a couple of awful unpublished books, came close, landed a sale, sold a bunch of short stories, wrote for radio and published another book. Suddenly I was the writer guy, the guy could make any mundane story sound exciting (my coworkers imagine my drab life as a rollicking adventure yarn (little they know)).

So I’m either the writing guy who pedals a bike or the cyclist with a paperback in his back pocket. Either one suits me.

Focusing on writing, part of being a writer is being a writer. You need to project your imagination, your craft and magic in all those people around you. You need to be the guy people go to when they need a report proofed or a child inspired. It’s more than just being someone who can write. It’s being A writer. It’s the entire thing.

Because if you are a writer and nobody knows, you are just a cyclist who keeps his bike in the garage. Make it your life. Be it.


Time Management (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 10 January 2018 21:56

’d mentioned this elsewhere but recently I had surgery for carpel tunnel in my left hand. My doctor downplayed the recovery – he didn’t see a full splint as anything to be concerned about. For me, I lost the SHIFT, CTRL, Z, X, C, V, A, S, D, F, W, E and R keys. I went from high-speed typing to find-n-peck. And this went on for weeks.

Besides typing, I couldn’t drive. One handed? I’ve got a six-speed cooper. So that was out. The first two days I had JB the wife drive me in. That meant she got to drive four commutes each day (there and back twice). So that didn’t work.

Given that, I went back to SunRail. This localized train service stops a mile and a half from my house and a mile from work. For the home side, I can walk it (40 minutes) or catch a lift with my wife. On the work end, Lynx bus system runs a link between the Maitland station and my office, so that’s covered.

The splint is gone now but I’m still riding SunRail. The car takes thirty minutes, the train sixty. Would seem like a no brainer, right?

But consider: with the car, I get thirty minutes of frustration. With the bus/train, I get sixty minute of my own time. On the bus, the platform or the train, I can read. I can write on my laptop. I can sleep. This is a critical difference. I’m actually gaining thirty minutes of relaxation and writing time. Add in the other considerations (I’m greener doing this, and there is a fellowship of riders who welcome you into their little cadre (the lynx driver even brings bagels every so often)) and suddenly you see a massive outlook shift. Frankly, it’s stupid to bring the car in (I only do it when I have appointments or commitments). But now I’ve gained an hour a day of me-time, quite a benefit. I’ve already started writing solid again.

And it’s funny – when it comes up around the office coffee pot, the discussion is still about the time I’m “wasting”. Really? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Addendum: We’re addressing that problematic home-station link by me buying a Brompton folding bike. This way I cut out the wife-station-commute or twenty-thirty minutes of walking. The folding bike can also be taken aboard the lynx bus on the station-work side. And once that I-4 bridge is complete, I’ll be able to ride both sides. So a Brompton makes this win-win-win. And it’s a brilliant bike!


Reviewing awful books (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 03 January 2018 22:56

our out of you’re mind.”

That was about the worst sentence I ever read in a book purchased off a shelf, a little vanity press number I got from a local bookstore by a local author (perhaps “Author” is too strong a word here. “Typist” might be better).

I’ve read bad books before. Sometimes they come at you at times in your life (see, at least I know how to use “your”) when you are not in the mood for its mystery, its adventure, its craziness. But sometimes they are bad. And occasionally they are awful.

Yeah, I’ve read a couple of bad books that have come through agencies. Some have political agendas they play against straw men (which is like watching a child be victorious with toy soldiers). Some are too slow, too fast, their concepts preposterous. But sometimes they are just bad.

And as a reviewer, I have to be careful on this. Usually if I’m not happy with a book at all, I’ll gently point out why I didn’t like it and what my problem was. Of course, this once earned me a rebuke from an author angry that I did not get the point of his mercenaries chortling over a bone-chilling plan to allow a comrade to die – he claimed they were being “subtle”. But in the case of my opening line above, it was in a truly horrible book, one loaded with typos and grammatical errors. In the end, the hero enjoyed a stroke of luck so good I half-expected God Himself to take a bow. Let me put it this way, I HATED that book. I grimaced as I flipped every page, I watched it get worse and worse, but I stuck with it. In the end, I looked at it and decided I couldn’t review it. There was NOTHING good I could say about it. And I know that authors tend to find their books on my site – it’s happened several times in the past.

So I skipped it. Tossed the book in the trash and shuddered to think of it. But yes, there is nothing I can do about reviewing a truly awful book.

And seriously, anyone who ever read or watched Cloud Atlas might know why that was. And like I said, he was a local author. Or typist. Or whatever he was.

He wasn’t a writer, that’s for sure.


Best of 2017 (DOG EAR) PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 27 December 2017 23:08

hat will be a new tradition here on Robert Raymond's Blogtorium is my best-of review. I tend to give a review a week, year after year, but with all the rubbish I read, nowhere do I list what I thought my favorites were for 2017. Note that these weren’t necessarily written in 2017; I’m just posting up what I thought were the most outstanding reads I had for the year. I’m not going to rank them – culling them from the mass of pulp I read was good enough. But all these books are strongly recommended by me.

He gave me Barn Cats – In a pseudo-autobiographical story, the author deals with nine deaths in her life in a short period of time, a series of calamities so intense that she begins to question her very faith. Perhaps I’m a sucker for this since I lost my dear Mookie but I actually had tears in my eyes in some of the passages. Worth it. Read it.

 This Census-Taker – I’ve always said I hate China Mielville – he’s a head-shaven, London-dwelling writer who proses beyond anything I am capable of. And in this short novella we have soul-aching settings: lonely mountains, wind-blown hovels, a city falling apart around itself. A boy tries to discover what happened between his helpless mother and abusive father (and why is she gone now). I’m still not sure what actually happened but I don’t feel cheated, any more than a person feels cheated when a chess master checkmates him quickly and efficiently. Bravo, you bastard. Worth it. Read it.

Cloud Atlas – The movie is good. The book is even better. A series of loosely-linked stories tell the grander arch of humanity, some funny, some sad, some horrific. They come at you in chronological order, then spool off in reverse order, making you pine for more about each character and circumstance as, like a human life, fade and end. Not to be missed. Worth it. Read it.

The Mirror – A body-switch story of a woman switching places with her grandmother. And no, it’s not Freaky Friday. It’s a book that shows the isolation people can feel when centered in situations with people and places outside of their experience. Look, I’ve written time-travel stories and I didn’t go a tenth as deep as this story went. Unlike most stories, there were no fixes. If you really want to know what you’d face and feel if you were ripped through time, this one is for you. Worth it. Read it.

A Bad Season for Necromancy – This one was an audio novella that will make you think about what you could do if you could bring the dead back. A career-criminal with a horrifically awful father deals with early London life (and death). The voice credit for this was top notice. JB and I listened to this so intently we almost ran out of gas on a long road trip. Worth it. Read it.

And there is my wrap up for 2017. Overall, it was a pretty good year for books. I gained a lot of pleasure, empathy and insight  from the forty-eight I read. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this year in review and look forward to another fun year on the Blogatorium.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 December 2017 23:08

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