Nov 19, 2014

THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND

I do not fly well and yet I love aircraft.

As a young boy, traveling across the globe, airports were, back then, lacking the swing ramps that allowed you to disembark through a walkway directly to the airport. Then, you walked down the steps that had been driven to the craft, and could stand below the enormous front wheels, staring up at the monstrously huge construct of metal that somehow managed to lift off into the sky.

Then, flights were fun, seats were wider, people, especially young kids, were offered a special experience, made to feel welcome and important. Youngsters received pilot kits, a packet including junior wings that they could pin on, often felt with gold and silver thread.

Now, your flight is a bus in the sky. Naming a craft the Airbus seemed appropriate. All that is needed is standing room poles to grab onto. Seats are a narrow 18" wide with barely enough room for your knees - mine always run into the seat in front of me. Gone are the days when you could drop your tray table and put your pillow there for a nap, albeit uncomfortable. I just cannot bend that far.

photo by Andre Gensburger
Sitting on a 747 with ten or eleven across seating, you quickly feel insignificant. Just one sardine in a very expensive can of sardines. The 777 I recently flew on offered 9 across seating in a three-three-three format, still short on knee space and limited recline, or worse, the no recline scoot down chair back that slips your body into an illegitimate curve, hardly the most conducive or comfortable position.

So I choose the window seat, not because I enjoy clamoring over four other knees to use the restroom, but because aside from getting a better reference during turbulence - I get disoriented with turbulence - I can rest the pillow in the window groove and sort of sleep upright, perhaps, possibly, for a few minutes until the next baby screams.

That window is not a single window but made up of THREE sheets of material, glass, polymer, plastic, offering some sound dampening and beyond the wind rushing past at seven hundred miles per hour, thanks to a Pacific tail wind. And that is all that keeps me apart from the world outside, three sheets and an aluminum skin wrapped around the spam can in which I am stuck for the next ten hours.

But at least you learn a lot about thermal currents, cloud structures and where the bumps are most likely. You can see the workings of the wing, the fact that the wing lifts, not the body of the craft which merely follows obediently, with the updrafts and lifts. You get to watch the tarmac rolling past at thirty miles per hour as the plane positions for takeoff, and then, as your body is pushed hard into your cushioned seat, you listen as the engines first whine, then scream, then roar with close to thirty or forty thousand pounds of thrust forcing the craft to accelerate to V1 speed and then the roll as front wheels and the rest of the body leave terra firma, wing ailerons moving up and down rapidly to accommodate the balance of the lift, the ground slowing as you gain height, wheels clanking, grinding, thumping as rotors retract these gangly legs back into the undercarriage slot. And you are ascending at a steady rate, through a thin cloud layer, wisps of cloud streaking past before sunlight breaks through. The flaps retract and the plane feels like it is sinking for a second. You know you have adequate height and still feel the lift, but then the pilot throttles back and for a moment you feel like you are sinking, losing altitude when really you are only losing an upward acceleration. Ladies and gentlemen the captain has turned off the seatbelt sign which means you are free to walk around the cabin - good luck with that since the flight crew is now rolling drink carts that fit exactly the space in the aisles and your desire for relief is overtaken by your desire for a stiff drink. I'll have water thanks. The only thing worse than regular dehydration on a plane is dehydration and more dehydration from alcohol. Stay thirsty my friends!


You get a menu. You get a pretty menu with lovely typefaced entree and main course listings. Filet of this with a side of crème de la that, whipped mousse à la something, and coffee or tea. Lovely. I can't wait to see the realization of the printed offering. 

Twenty minutes later, when they each passenger 284 - me - I receive a plastic tray with a variety of smaller plastic containers cover in metal, a set of gumby plastic utensils, so I cannot hijack the craft once I have eaten, and it has been so compressed together that I must contort to remove the lids and examine the fine in-flight cuisine prepared by their master chef who must have just worked in a prison kitchen to achieve this food for the masses. Now in first class you still get metal utensils;  after all, at three times the economy fare you need something. So if you are planning to take over the craft you likely want your weaponry from first class and not economy.

Following the meal, and still in need of the restroom, you quickly realize that you are trapped not only by the two seats next to you, but their assorted meal residuals and metal lids, napkins and gumby utensils all piled unceremoniously awaiting the return of the flight attendants to remove them. These trays came out of thin slots in a roller tray container and now must be forced back into the same slots, despite the increase volume.

A half hour later the trays are gone, but the path still blocked by the rolling cart. And worse, ten people are already lined up for three mini bathrooms.

I settle back against the window and watch the jet contrails shooting past my window. You could roast marshmallows in that stream of hot compressed gas exploding its way out the engine. Still it is hypnotic, a steady stream for the ten hours of the flight, unwavering from one of two giant engines sucking fuel from wing tanks and belly tanks.

And then night falls fast; traveling against the sun, the last vestiges of daylight quickly sliver into a fiery hue dancing across the rear of the wing with a residual glow across the horizon. Blackness swallows it up, the strobe at the wingtip the only bright spot. 

And thankfully the line for the toilet is gone and the carts have been stowed away. Clambering over the two seats next to me - excuse me, sorry, thank you - I am standing for the first time in awhile. It feels good, although slightly disorienting, the movement of the plane upon a cushion of air making straight line walking harder.

The toilet is smaller than I am. Hunching in with arms firmly at my side, I turn to lock the door - Engaged - and then turn back to navigate the toilet seat. It is down. It is also not dry. I have two choices; I can lift it, or use it as is. Given the slight motion, I choose civility doubting my aim, and with a napkin, lift the seat and do what I came to do. But now, I realize, the next person will assume that I was the one to wet the seat. This won't do. It was not how I was raised. I lower the seat and proceed to wipe it dry, carefully moving to the sink to wash well. You depress the water and instantly it stops, this the left hand must press while the right gets wet and vice-versa. It's a juggle.

Just then there is a large bump. The seat belt light comes on as does the cabin crew - the captain has turned on the seat belt sign which means we may be experiencing some turbulence. Please return to your seat and engage your seat belt. Great. Now the plane is bouncing as I try to navigate out of the cat box and down the aisle to my seat. Someone is throwing up into their air sickness bag to my right. I do not look. A baby is screaming to the left. I guess sleep is out. At my seat it is again - excuse me, sorry, thank you - as I swivel to the right direction and fall into the seat, clicking the belt in place because I know about those passengers who become roof ornaments at times of severe turbulence. In the unlikely event the aircraft lands on water, I think, knowing that grabbing the floatations device beneath the seat just won't be possible....

But the turbulence subsides. Outside the window I see stars, serene, clear, affirming my current position between heaven and whatever lies beneath - the ocean, I believe. This quells any disorientation I feel and I stare sleepily at the view.

"Sir, please lower your blinds," an abrupt flight attendant demands, motioning the instruction with her hands.
"But it's dark and I want to see," I protest. "It makes me feel better."
She repeats her instruction, her voice firmer now.
"What's the point of a window seat if you cannot look out the window?" I demand, but the look on her face is one of the police leading me off the plane in handcuffs upon arrival, so I comply, figuring that I would reopen it once she is gone, after all, too many passengers and only a handful of her. She walks off and I slide it back up and gaze out again.

Ten minutes later we repeat the whole thing. Annoyed, I snap down the blind so it makes a loud noise. "I am NOT happy," I announce. But she doesn't care and leaves. So now I am in a darkened cabin, visually disoriented by the motion of the craft and unable to sleep.

The missing Malaysian Airlines plane was a 777 I remind myself. Flying at night it suddenly vanishes never to be seen again. What are the odds of that repeating, I assure myself. But then, out there in the blackness, aside from the UFOs that pilots always seem to see but never share with the passengers, flies an assortment of military craft from many nations, sneaking up behind commercial craft and, as was the case in the 1980s, getting shot down by the Soviets despite being a passenger jet. What are the odds of that happening again, I assure myself, but immediately remember the second Malaysian Airlines 777 shot down by Ukrainian or Russian rebels not that long ago. At least we are over water, I think. No one is fighting battles over water at the moment.

I lift the window blind again for a quick peek before the in-flight police return, then close it again. All is well, the moon is rising and if I leave the blind open a crack, the light will stream in across my legs. I do. Then put my pillow against the window book, pull up the flimsy airline blanket across my shoulders and close my eyes.

I dream of flying.


~AG


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Nov 18, 2014

PRE-DAWNING YAWNING

Conditioning dictates that reality is far more expansive than the dimly lit room in which I sit. Granted, it is the middle of the night and the orange lick of the fireplace only illuminates an area of the hundred square feet I occupy; nonetheless, my brain fills in the rest. I know the universe is out there. I know that eternity lies expansive and out of reach. I understand that my five immediate senses do not do justice to the complexity of my brain, in itself rudimentary to what a brain may become in a few thousand years.

It is, however, serene for the moment, free of obligation, duty, responsibility. Everyone else on this side of the world is still asleep. Life, it seems, has become a constant race to complete a To-do list, a list that grows regardless of my efficiency. Another item, issue, problem, task, taking precious moments that could be spent enjoying the freedom of the pre-dawn hours. Life, the gift, a blank slate before expectations get scribbled upon it, one generation hoping the next will follow on in their footsteps, yet reaching a point, mid-life, where they stop understanding that progress is the change from one generation to the next, no matter an improvement or not. And society, the trap that compels the race to meet obligations, secure commitments for time, finances and faith, with that ingrained need to perpetuate the species.

Pragmatists and pessimists. Idealists and cheats. Move things fast enough and people just cannot make sense of it, no longer discern the polish, the finer moments of civility that used to be worn like fine clothes for dinner, before the age of plastic forks and disposable cardboard plates.

In this mid-night place the pace is gone with the trappings of life. There is no one to text, no inane Facebook posting to make, no justification for the time I spent last week in the rat race, trying my best to believe that I did something useful - not something profitable, but if true worth. That's not a cynical or depressive response to exhaustion; just an apparent truth when the peace of night surrounds you.

Soon the others will awaken. The stillness of now replaced by sleepy children emerging from the unconscious realm. Family stumbling through rote motions of awakening, boiling water for a morning beverage, television news showing the brutality that occurred while they were elsewhere, the dogs yelping to get outside to chase the morning birds or relieve themselves - they can never decide their priorities in this regard. 

I'm tired now. Just as the sun crests and the slight warmth permeates the windows illuminating the rest of the house, I might lie on the floor by the fireplace and allow it to draw me to sleep for a bit. Just a bit. Life is good. Strange, but good. I might need to think more on it the next time the moment belongs just to me.

~AG

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Oct 15, 2014

TOTAL UNRECALL - HOW MEMORY ERASURE WILL SOLVE YOUR PROBLEMS, BUT NOT MINE

We live in a time when society forgives our sins. Well, maybe not society, but lawyers, for sure. Murderers muddy the trial and the jury, often a conflicted mess, reportedly representing society fairly, return a less potent verdict, or, as has happened often, absolution.

The problem lies with "beyond a reasonable doubt", the standard by which capital cases must be tried. But who has no doubt when a million mitigating circumstances are thrust at a jury that just wants to get home?  The accused was raped by a family member at age ten. The accused was badly beaten. The accused was of a skin color that prevented him/her from achieving their life goals. After all, they could have been a "contender!" The accused believed there was an intruder....

(C) 2014 André Gensburger 
Now, science has added a new layer. The ability to erase memories. The accused had no knowledge of the crime.  http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/video/10686895-specific-memories-erased-successfully-in-uc-davis- 

This game changer will now allow you to remove accountability by removing the memory that could hold you accountable. Are you responsible if you do not know that you are? Isn't this the argument used for mental competence? 

I can think of many things I would just as soon forget. We all make mistakes in our life, leave a debris trail somewhere. Wouldn't it be nice to forget about it? Let everyone else deal with it while you happily continue unfettered by the burden. 

Are you better off carrying the pain of mistakes, a way to learn and keep you from repeating them? Or should we just pay to be erased, clean slate. 

It's a bold new age coming, so long as we remember it.

~AG

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Oct 12, 2014

WHAT IS THE VALUE OF A LIFE UNKNOWN?

COMMENTARY:

© Sjors737 | Dreamstime.com - Thirsty Brazilian Boy Trying To Catch Water Droplets 
What is the value of a life unknown?  This ball upon which we live contains billions, most of whom we know nothing of. Most countries our students could not plot on a map. Most socio-economic conditions our students have no clue of. Dictators or friends, we know not. Even that which we do as a nation, in the name of a God upon which we cannot decide, we have no clue. And we like it that way.

We like it because in order to render judgement you must do so with no emotion. To know the object of your wrath unbalances the equation. It is difficult to hate a human being when you know the person. It is very easy when you know nothing but a face value.

Every day children die in nations across the globe. In the USA our lives remain unaffected. I want the iPad now, or the new iPhone, tablet, computer, gadget, gimmick... I do not care where it is made, or the faces of those glove-wearing people paid little to make my shiny toy. What is the value of their life? I do not know. 

Worse, I do not care. If I think about it my day would be ruined. I would have to consider their life, their pain, their troubles and how my life is adding to their burden. How could I deal with it

When a child presented to us via the news is ill, we all feel a pain we struggle to comprehend.  That child becomes real. But I know nothing of the poor African child that just died of starvation. I do not know the face, the name, the pain. I do not have to reckon with the fact the child died on a street, in the dry, alone, orphaned already, and now facing the final human insult.

We talk of God and Gays and rights and issues of which most have little knowledge. We talk of truth amidst an ocean of lies, and freedoms despite limitations, and representation despite political corruption. We speak of privacy while the world data mines our information, some for commerce, some for control and some for exploitation. 

We talk of civilization amidst the brutality and of progress despite the chaos of pollution and toxicity that we have wrought upon ourselves.

What is the value of the life unknown? Perhaps the species that finds our remains, the remnant of our civilizations, may answer that. Hopefully, they will fare better.


~AG

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DO YOU HAVE UBOLA - a fear of Ebola? FLUOLA - a rush to get the flu vaccine, SURVIVOLA - a fear that the end of the world is nigh?

Have we become one fearful nation? Ebola has captured the headlines with the few cases in the US. A few years ago the great H1N1 fear hype that did not materialize, the ongoing fear of some terrorist, between beheadings, sneaking some nuclear material into the US and exploding a dirt bomb in some busy place. And in a country with over 300 million people, we have had two cases of Ebola. How many have died from bullets? car accidents from drunk drivers? 

That is all we see on the news; bobble head reporters and experts that explore all possibilities, regardless of the viability of reliability. Case in point, Malaysian Airlines MH370, still without a single shred of tangible evidence as to its outcome. That did not stop CNN weeks of coverage, repeating the same points, and celebritizing an a aviation consultant that they had on to discuss the aviation aspect. Fear equals ratings.

We thrive on fear. Since 9/11 we have lived in a fear induced environment first created by the destruction of the twin towers in New York, then from the endless war against the unknown enemy. 

Now Ebola, generally fatal, and yet oddly fragile as a virus. With all the screenings, the temperature scans for arrivals, despite the 10 day incubation, and the protective wear, we still are a nation where a large percentage of people using a public toilet do not wash their hands. 

We still have the danger of contracting a myriad of other ailments from a hospital visit because hospitals seem unable to contain the microscopic cultures lurking there. Because big pharma pushes vaccines that are still questionable and prescriptions that have more side effects than can be disclosed during an average television show - have you seen the 6 point don't multi fold pamphlets that ome with the simplest of prescriptions?  Fear? 

We do not know who to trust. We do not know what really works. We do not know how much danger we are facing. But we do have a gun and a right to use it. We do spend a massive amount of money battling against legalizing gay marriage, even though what two people do in their private lives is non of our business. A massve amount of money spent trying to not legalize marijuana even through the war on drugs has cost billions an produced no tangible results. The idea of taxing weed seemed to elude the old minds in Congress. And Congress has become a dysfunctional and festering place of inaction, petty rivalry and partisan idiocy, for which we pay a hefty price on salaries and what they earn. We call them stupid, lazy, useless, but we do not slap term limits on them and cure our ills. 

The news headlines just announced we fight two wars, one on ISIS and the other Ebola. Really?  ISIS seems unaffected by the bombings. Because of the handful of beheadings we are paranoid that ISIS will enter the U.S. and start beheading us. ISIS, desert rats that thrive on our fear, that play war with no rules, no compassion. We do not know how to deal with that. We have been conditioned to compromise, to be rational, to be flexible, to be non-judgemental, non-racist, uninvolved; just stay home, drink your beer and watch the football game.

This is a fear game. Fear is an effective way to control your population - yes, our population. People who are scared rely on the authority figures to protect them, regardless how useless those figures may appear to be. We cannot go fight a war we have fought before. We did not win. We left. It cost thousands of lives of young Americans. Billions of dollars later, what has changed?  And honestly, the desert peoples have been fighting each other for thousands of years. Why are we getting in there? What war have we actually won in the last fifty years?  Why not take a Chinese approach and let them battle it out and deal only with the final victor. One enemy instead of thousands.

Fear. The name ISIS sounds like the enemy from a James Bond movie. ISIS. Fear. 

The politicians, the military generals all want to go in "Full throttle" and yet that same logic was present at the start of the Iraq war.  They pull out musty old Henry Kissinger to add his five cents worth. No one says why we are there. We hear that innocents will be slaughtered. We won't stop that. The moment we bomb we get told we are killing the very innocents we are there to protect. 

If fear is the key to control, then we are controlled. We all have UBOLA.

~AG

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Oct 11, 2014

HOW DEAD IS DEAD... Part Two

In a prior post, met with consternation by many, the question of unplugging a brain dead girl, Jahi McMath against the wishes of the her family led many to protest in favor of the hospital.

The family moved the girl and kept her on life support.

Now, nearly a year later, the family is petitioning to have her declared alive. And here is why.

http://m.ktvu.com/news/news/local/video-appears-show-brain-dead-girl-move-arm-upon-r/nhbsF/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

And so again I posit: how dead is dead, really?



Jun 8, 2014

ARE AMERICANS KEPT IN THE DARK UNWITTINGLY OR THROUGH OUR OWN IGNORANCE?

ARE AMERICANS KEPT IN THE DARK UNWITTINGLY OR THROUGH OUR OWN IGNORANCE?

Are you worldly?  Do you know what happens across the globe or are you fixed to your local television/cable affiliate for local news only?  More importantly, do you care?

"Who is more foolish? The fool or the fool who follows him?" -Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars

We live in a time of instant availability, especially with the Internet. The only thing stopping you from exploring global news and information is a language barrier, something that even Google can help you with its built in translator.

Here are some headlines and their stories from across the planet. For the most part, we do not hear these stories. I suspect their relevance is limited to the local ad market, after all a large part of television advertising is paid for by pharmaceutical companies.

Seven stories from around the world for the last week! Enjoy and let me know your thoughts.

#1: I SHOULDN'T HAVE TO MAKE THIS CHOICE: In British Columbia, teachers are trying to avert a strike. Sounds familiar enough in America where the endless battles between school districts and teacher unions often result in such threats.   Read that HERE.


Photo from  Ethical Pioneer @ethicalpioneer    
#2: ANTI-HOMELESS SPIKES IN LONDON DRAW CONDEMNATION: In London, a furor is happening over spikes that are placed to deter the homeless from sleeping there, not unlike the pigeon spikes you see above retail store signs.  Read that HERE.


#3: THE TROJAN HORSE ISLAMIC TAKEOVER OF SCHOOLS: Again, in Britain, a huge story that has pitted the government against British Muslims who are attempting to change the education in the schools they have taken charge of.  ""Teachers and governors involved in the alleged “Trojan Horse” Islamic takeover plot face life-long bans from all schools in Britain under new powers being taken by Michael Gove."
This is not an issue we hear much about in America, although there have been some legal challenges made in a few states. Read that HERE.




#4: 209 KM TRAFFIC JAM IN ST. PAUL, BRAZIL, METER STRIKE WREAKS HAVOC WITH THE CITY:  Not quite like Chris Christie's Bridgegate, but if you think your commute is bad, take a look at the picture.
Click HERE to read that story.

Click HERE to read that story.

#5: From a Canadian blogger comes "AMERICA, WORRY ABOUT YOUR OWN TERRORISTS," an interesting, external perspective of the war on terror, the epidemic of gun violence and some blunt finger pointing.  No doubt your position on this one will be based on your position on gun control, nonetheless, it is a valid argument that should be in all conversations.  Read that HERE

#6: From Richard Branson comes a piece about the war on drugs: THE WAR ON DRUGS HAS FAILED SO LET'S SHUT IT DOWN. An interesting and valid point given the massive amounts of time, money and industry that goes into this seemingly never-ending battle.  And perhaps, like the war on terror, endless wars promote economic growth through the development of new technology, employment and more importantly, adjusting a collective American mindset that the future needs us to have government protection.  Read Richard Branson's take, less like mine, HERE.

#7: Another war, from within - the flood of illegal immigrants is not declining. Texas has implemented its own solution. TEXAS SOLUTION TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS - DUMP THEM IN ARIZONA. And Arizona is not happy. In fact, dumped is too rough a word, where illegals have been flown and bussed to Arizona after being rounded up by Border Patrol. "Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley sector apprehended 154,453 immigrants last year -- up from 97,762 the previous year" Read that story HERE

Do you have an answer whether we are kept in the dark unwittingly or through our own ignorance?

~AG

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Apr 14, 2014

A VERY PERSONAL MESSAGE TO SPAMMERS - THANKS FOR THE LAUGH, BUT NO ONE ELSE SEES IT!

Dear Spammers,

Yes you, the ones who post lengthy comments that have embedded links to Viagra, cheap air fares, refinance rates, clothing and more. 

NO ONE ever sees your posts! I have spam features turned on and most of your spam requires no action on my part - the blog snatches it and keeps it from posting. 

In other words, the fifteen minutes of trying to type some false praise about my blog, leading up to your rather uninteresting links, is nothing more than wasted time in YOUR life that you will NEVER recover! 

I do see the spam list in a daily digest - chuckle at the illiteracy, the sad effort at trying to appear involved in the blog itself, but frankly, for the most past, my young child could write better.

So thanks for coming to my page and boosting the stat count, and maybe, if you are able to read the English language, read a few posts before you paste your drivel on my site. Who knows, you might learn a few things.

With my kindest sympathies,

~AG

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Apr 8, 2014

5 QUESTIONS ABOUT BOOKS WITH BESTSELLING AUTHOR, MIKE WELLS

5 QUESTIONS ABOUT BOOKS WITH BESTSELLING AUTHOR, MIKE WELLS 

I am very pleased to post my 5 question interview with bestselling author, Mike Wells. Mike was kind enough to take the time to offer some solid insight into his process, as well as allow me to bird walk in my interview. 

I first learned of Mike some years ago while from a Twitter search. As an author, and publisher, I did a search for other authors, wanting to see what I would find, how authors worked with social media.  Mike's posting - one, of many, he frequently repeats with obvious success - immediately caught my eye. 




And so I clicked the link and was immediately drawn into his story, a fascinating story at that.  You see, having printed all those copies, Mike discovered he had no outlet by which to sell them.  Click HERE to read the rest of his tale, then come back for the interview.

A quick look at his stats and you will find that Mike is not only prolific in his writing, but also in his marketing. On Twitter alone, he has 68,000 followers and, generously, he follows almost all of them back. Since he started tweeting, he has made over 42,000 Twitter posts alone. How did he do this, you ask?  


Mike offers Lust, Money and Murder, the first book in one of his series, as a FREE download. The book is an excellent example of how to setup and hook your reader from the start. 


Italy – Present Day 
The man picked her up in Vernazza, a picturesque village perched along the
rugged coastline of the Italian Riviera. 
 
From his salt-and-pepper hair, and his lined face, Maria guessed he was in his
early 50s. He bought her a drink, then dinner, then a new dress and a pair of pumps 
and a few other things, spending lavishly on her in the quaint village shops.
There were no pretenses. They went to his plush villa, which afforded a
breathtaking view of the sea. When she asked his name, he looked at her with his brooding dark eyes and said, “Are names important, cara?”
 
All she knew was that he was a businessman from Rome. She supposed it
didn’t matter.
excerpt reprinted with permission 



As I read the first chapter, I knew that this was such a great learning tool for other writers. It is concise, grabbing you from the first line, and pulling you along to an exciting, and literal cliffhanger. I won't spoil it, for those of you who have yet to read it, especially since you can download it from the link above, and at the end of this posting. 



The first chapter speeds by - you are surprised when you reach the end. And you hope that the next page will continue... Mike has you hooked. He can now tell the story his way, knowing you will be along for the ride, through all the books in the series.  And then, because you have developed a trust-relationship with an author you now know delivers a solid story, you will begin buying his other books.

Enjoy the interview and let me know your thoughts. 
~Andre

Mike Wells
ME: "Lust, Money and Murder," Book 1, which you offer as a free download from your site, is an outstanding example of how to set up a novel, grab the reader from the first line, and swiftly move them through an action sequence, hooked all the way through the (literal) cliffhanger.  How do you develop your story sequences to make them so tightly written and how long do you spend getting it set up? 

MIKE WELLS: I spend huge amounts of time on the beginning of my books trying to make them hook the reader in as quickly and deeply as possible.  I have literally rewritten and changed the beginnings on some books 25-30 times.  This is probably a habit that grew out of the need to hook literary agents, back when I was involved in traditional publishing (I only self-publish now).  With most agents, you have about 60 seconds to get them interested or they chuck it.  But many readers are the same, and I'm one of them.  If I'm not firmly hooked within a couple of pages, it's my opinion that the author is not doing a very good job; his/her story needs honing.  That's not to say every book needs to start with an action scene or anything like that, but there must be something strongly compelling in the writing to hook you and make you want to read more.  


Despite what I've just said, I don't believe I work any harder on the opening of a book than I do on any other part of the book.  In today's market, your ENTIRE book had better achieve a super-high level of reader engagement, or you're in trouble.  The moment engagement drops, even a tiny bit--the moment the narrative tension grows a little slack--you run the risk of losing your reader to some other form of entertainment.  TV, movies, games, chatting, social networking--the list is endless and always growing, not to mention the massive number of OTHER books that the reader can turn to.  I believe the "unputdownable" quality of my books (something readers say about them, not my words) is the reason I have been as successful as I am, and I will always stay focused on that aspect of my storytelling.

ME: Do you plot out all aspects of your storyline ahead of time or do you have a general idea that you allow to develop as you write?

MIKE WELLS: The latter. That's a very clear and succinct way to describe it.  I start with a premise that I find intriguing.  A young woman begins to receive mysterious emails that accurately predict future events, and she places bets on them and starts making tons of money (Passion, Power & Sin).  A five month old baby starts talking, or so the father thinks, and he soon believes the baby is out to get him (Baby Talk).  A 14 year old boy's older, reckless friend begins to push him to take life-threatening risks to prove his manhood (The Wrong Side of the Tracks).

Once I have the premise, I often dive right in and start writing the opening scene, or various opening scenes, and go from there.  I might write 1/3 of the book before I actually zoom back out to the big picture and ask myself, "Where is this story going?  What will happen in the middle, and how will it all end?"  I will spend a day or two up at the outline level, working on the overall story structure, and then dive back into the details.  

Most of my writing process consists of exactly this - spending the majority of my time down at the detail level (writing or daydreaming actual scenes, dialogue, etc.) and then occasionally "climbing" back up to the outline.  This is what I think of as development.  It's very much the same process artists use when painting a picture.  First they make a rough pencil or charcoal sketch, then they dive into the details, and every now and then they step far back from the canvas to see how it all fits together.  

ME: "Wild Child," which has a whimsical, fantasy style about it, also pulls in the reader to want to know more. The search for answers appears prevalent in this story, as well as the relationship between characters. How do you decide a story is worthy of being written and do you start in any particular way? 

MIKE  WELLS: I think the answer to this question is evident in my last answer.  

For me, writing a successful novel is all about the premise of the story.  Period.  That's the kernel around which everything else is built.  If the premise is not intriguing enough for me, then I will never finish writing the book.  The telltale sign that I don't have an interesting enough premise (for me) is that I get a feeling of having to push myself too much to write the book, and it becomes heavy, like work.  It is no longer fun.  When I've got that great premise, I, as the author, want to know what happens next each and every step of the way--I want to see how it all plays out.  This inner desire to see how it all unfolds is what gets me through the arduous process of writing an entire book--it pulls me along, all the way through to the end.  I suppose this is what some people call inspiration.  Anyway, I have learned that if I am being steadily pulled forward by this magical force as I write the book, so will other people as they read it.

ME: You post on your site at http://www.mikewellsbooks.com how 3000 printed copies of "Wild Child" went from the trash can to the #1 Amazon spot. It is a very revealing look at how the publishing market has shifted toward e-books, I believe in a 70/30 ratio. When you write, do you do so with it planned as only being an e-book in your marketing focus, and is this a different frame of mind than you might have expecting it to be a print book? 

MIKE WELLS: I only publish ebooks now.  As far as I'm concerned, printed books are dead, except for certain kinds of books  - not most novels - and as collector's items.  As a professional writer, I can't work on inspiration alone - I make my living from my writing. This means that like it or not, I have to think about the practical side, too.  

I don't want to get into a discussion about the future of ebooks vs. paper books--I have my opinion on that, and I'm pretty sure I'm right.  But for me, it really wouldn't matter if the paper book market were holding steady or even growing relative to ebooks.  For me, paper books and ebooks are two different worlds.  Paper books represent the traditional publishing industry, a place that was not particularly friendly to me and one in which I was not very successful.  

Ebooks are the reason I'm a successful novelist, and the reason I'm sitting here giving this interview right now.  Despite all the hype that's out there, the paper book market is still controlled by the Big 5 publishers.  If you don't believe me, self-publish your book on paper and see how many copies you can get onto the physical shelves of a Barnes & Noble.  I'm not saying it's impossible, but with the massive effort it would require on my part to even get a few copies in a few physical bookstores, I could sell thousands and thousands more ebooks.  So what's the point?  I have to focus my energy on what works for me, not what doesn't work or feels like an uphill battle.  

There are some things I do to give me an advantage, and which would not work with paper books.  Your citing of "Wild Child" is a perfect example.  It's just too short for big publishers to make money on as a paperback book unless it takes off and becomes a worldwide bestseller, which rarely happens - a matter of luck in many ways.  Ebook readers don't care how long the stories are, so to speak.  An ebook is just a digital file, has no tangible form.  There are other things I do to take advantage, but the flexible length aspect is the main one.  And this works on both ends of the length spectrum.  For example, the full "Passion, Power & Sin" set (books 1-5) would be over 800 pages in a printed format (according to Apple), which would be very hard to publish on paper in a single volume.  I certainly wouldn't want to drag it around!

ME: You are a prolific writer with many books (many of which are part of a series.) You have also managed to pick up many thousands of Twitter followers (68K, I believe), essential to getting the word out about your writings. Your followers are such that whatever you write, you are guaranteed a buying audience. What advice can you give to writers trying to build on their social media follower base in order to expose more of their work, and how long did it take you to reach that number of followers?

MIKE WELLS: Every fiction writer I know who is successful does it a little differently - there is no one size fits all formula that works for selling books (or anything else, for that matter).  Depends a lot on what you're good at, your personality type.  

Some writers use Twitter, others prefer Facebook, still others use Goodreads, and some use no social networks at all and yet still sell thousands of copies just based on the genre, cover art, title and synopsis.  

Yes I do have a lot of followers on Twitter (took me almost 3 years to build that up, mostly by following other people first and offering them a free book).  But only a fraction of my readers are on Twitter (maybe 15%) - most find out about my books from a number other of different forums: my blog posts, browsing on Amazon, B&N, iBooks, Goodreads, recommendations from friends, reviews on book blogs, Linkedin connections, interviews like this one, reviews in large publications such as The Evening Standard, an article in The Daily Mail (about "Wild Child")...they're pulled in from a very wide variety of sources.  

I would advise new authors to use a multi-pronged approach and try as many avenues as possible. I know one author who is very successful and yet uses nothing but Pinterest.  I find that very strange, but it works well for her because she's learned how to use it effectively.  

ME: Mike, my thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, and permission to utilize the first chapter of "Lust, Money and Murder," Book 1, as a writing tool for other writers. I look forward to future conversations. 

MIKE WELLS: In closing, I'd like to say you asked some very good questions in this interview, and I've enjoyed answering them.  Thank you so much for the opportunity!

Download Lust, Money and Murder, the first book in one of his series, as a FREE download.  

Mike can be found on Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads, Smashwords, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, Audible (audio books), as well as on his website at http://www.mikewellsbooks.com








Apr 6, 2014

PING - CHINESE HAND HELD "AS SEEN ON TV" ACOUSTIC DEVICE CATCHES POTENTIAL MH370 BLACK BOX PING -PERHAPS.

The search for the Malaysia Airlines jet is starting to resemble a Super Mario Brothers game. Each level offers strange and interesting twists. The latest, without explaining the how and the why, is that what appears to be a do it your self, hand held, underwater acoustic receiver made by the Chinese, has detected the pings of what might be a black box, or other oddity of the ocean. 

Despite a lack of floating debris in the general area, the flotilla of search vessels has now regrouped to investigate. Who knows what they will find. 

I wait with baited breath!

~AG

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Apr 4, 2014

NO PLANE! NO EVIDENCE! MORE PEOPLE ARE ON BOARD THE SAFE LANDING THEORY FOR MALAYSIA AIRLINES

You probably have noticed that no one is talking about Malaysia Airlines' lost 777, now that other news can dominate  the bobble head stations. A shooting at Ft. Hood which, although brief, coupled with a Washington state landslide (major) and David Letterman's retirement announcement, nary a word has beens aid about MH 370. 

But at least more people are tweeting their agreement that this plane landed safely and not in the Indian Ocean. Read that HERE. While I disagree about the Northern Arc by virtue of the increased likelihood of detection, and while I stick by my theory that the plane will be repurposed as a weapon at some point soon, more so now that the noise has died down, all theories are better than the ones being pursued. Not even the relatives of the passengers believe that the plane crashed. What does that tell you?

Four weeks ago

Four weeks earlier, the Malaysia Airlines 777 took off, just a few hours ago. By this time, four weeks ago, whatever happened had started happening. Four weeks of intense speculation, misinformation, deceit, lies and mishandling. Millions of dollars later and we have learned that the ocean is filled with trash - you would think if they picked it up at least they would have something to show for all the searching - not no, it floats on, a testament to the human race.

The plan

There was a plan. There was research. There was a setting for that time, that place, that flight. And while the people who claim to seek the simplest explanation fail in their attempts, the time that could have been spent seriously studying other possibilities was lost. 

This plane will appear again. Whether north or south, whether crashed into a city or loaded with a nuclear cargo, I suspect that we are at the early days of what will be a horrific story about Malaysia Airlines flight 370, one that will have lasting ramifications and potentially make 9/11 look tame. 

And that's the worrying part we should be talking about instead of pretending that there is no news. 

~AG

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Apr 3, 2014

DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE? REALLY?

You might think you know where you live, but don't be too sure. This 360 degree view of the Milky Way shows exactly how small we are. And yet, we have such potential for greatness if we stop wasting time treating each other as the enemy. Enjoy.


Embedded video from
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory California Institute of Technology

~AG

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Apr 1, 2014

ARE THE MALAYSIANS LYING ABOUT THE MISSING MALAYSIA AIRLINE? SHOULD OUTRAGE ENSUE?

ARE THE MALAYSIANS LYING ABOUT THE MISSING MALAYSIA AIRLINE? SHOULD OUTRAGE ENSUE?


There is no other way to say it - deception and withholding of information is the equivalent of lying. This is the status of the information we have received from Malaysia since the start of this drama. 

Each day brings new revelations from the Malaysia authorities. The latest changes the now infamous final words spoken by the crew of MH370 "Alright. Goodnight." Now, weeks later, comes the revelation that the words were instead, "Good night, Malaysian three seven zero," although no one seems sure who actually uttered the words. Read that story HERE.

Why was this not reported earlier?

It seems that at every turn, the Malaysia government has been deceptive in the information given about the plane, its location, deferring the facts until such time as it suited them to reveal them. And that is assuming they can be trusted. No wonder the Chinese families are so outraged. Despite claims of transparency, very little transparency is taking place. 

The world has been searching for the jet in places based upon information supplied by the Malaysian government, as well as interpretations of data from other sources. Every chase has been false. Every piece of debris, standard oceanic trash. Millions of dollars are being spent on what seems to be a wild goose chase. Are you sensing a pattern?

Read the CNN coverage HERE.

With no pings, no black boxes, no debris, no explanations, isn't it about time to consider that this deliberate act was designed to take the plane?  Is it not time to analyze possible landing spots that the jet could have reached within a 3-4 hour time from take off? There are numerous sites that it could have reached. I have covered several on earlier postings that you can READ HERE.  Despite the official stance that a terror action was unlikely since nothing happened and no one claimed credit - really intelligence officials, that is the best logical argument you can come up with why this was not a terror event - it appears more likely than a crash in the ocean in an obscure location, in an obscure manner with every piece of transmitting equipment not functioning, including the transponder designed to go off on a water impact. Yes, it is really as lame as that!

Thanks Indonesia - you are no help either

And with many landing fields that can accommodate the 777, especially along the Indonesian chain of islands across the Strait of Malacca, and with Indonesia refusing an air search over their territory - another act of stupidity in this whole drama - who is to know whether one of the many terror factions that plague Indonesia, may have captured themselves one of Boeing's finest!

It may not have been the pilots

There is no credible information either way, only suspicions. The pilot receiving calls from a disposable cell phone, not a healthy sign. The pilot with deleted flight simulations from his home computer - not a healthy sign. The family moving out of the home, then moving back later - not a healthy sign. The pilot's "Democracy is dead" tee shirt in support of his cousin, arrested on various charges. 

Less likely, the co-pilot, his first non-chapperoned flight in the co-pilot seat, having graduated from the simulator with glowing remarks. Previously featured on a CNN documentary about the 777, he seems less likely, especially with a recent engagement to a fellow MA crew member.

But that does not mean another pilot was not on board.

What of the two fake passport holders? I get that 4 million stolen passports may be floating around the world, but what are the odds that two wind up on the same plane, both by young people of uncertain origin or motive?

It takes skill

This was not a hack job. This was a deliberate and well thought out act. And like many others, I believe that the Malaysian government knows more than they are letting on. I believe they may know motive. I believe they may even know what happened to the jet.

On March 8 this jet went missing. From the start it was handled badly. Spotted on military radar an hour after transmissions ended, no one on the ground felt the need to check what it was doing - it registered as a friendly aircraft. Hours passed before anyone really started to look at the picture. Already I had posted that I believed it was taken. 

By the time the international community became involved  in the story, the plane could well have landed and been hidden from site. By the time anyone with decent search capability was involved, those who took the plane would have been sound asleep in their bed, content in the knowledge that the stupidity they had banked on had come to play far better than had been expected. Lousy radar coverage and no clue at all. Even as the 777 passed back over the Malaysia coastline on its way to the Strait of Malacca, no one on the ground knew anything!

They deserve better

239 passengers and crew are presumed dead. To keep hostages alive this long requires food and security, and more. The families of the passengers and crew, in anguish, have been ill served by the Malaysian authorities who have treated them as unimportant to the whole puzzle, including text messaging the announcement that the plane had crashed, an announcement based on no facts, no evidence, and with much misinformation that had been withheld.  

And what of the 20?


Read the story HERE

We have no added information about the ... 20 senior staff from a US technology company who had just launched a new electronic warfare gadget for military radar systems in the days before the Boeing 777 went missing. READ that HERE. Why was their equipment headed for Beijing? What was their purpose and did they pose a threat to the national security of any country?

And then the rumors...

What about the rumors of the duplicate Malaysia Airlines 777s parked at other locations? Read that HERE. Is that true? Is that intentional? You can read the log showing it is "STORED" HERE.


Do you still believe that this is a simple crash? Personally, I do not believe a word of it!



~AG

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