Opalina Meets WinterMan

It’s good to go to bed with a happy tummy

Several northeast North American aboriginal myths deal with WinterMan, a hunter who follows the seasonal migrations of game herds.

One myth that I’m particularly fond of deals with the first and last snows of a season; the first snow is WinterMan following the herds south, the last snow is WinterMan following the herds north.

You can tell what kind of weather is coming based on the tracks WinterMan leaves. Heavy first snow indicates a long, wet winter, light snow indicates a cold, dry winter. Heavy last snow indicates good planting and harvests, light last snow indicates a dry, hot summer.

So far WinterMan has been dead on.

Funny, that.

WinterMan’s arrows, spears, axe, and what-not are the cold, lack of food, lack of shelter, things like that. Stories tell of WinterMan gathering people in his warm embrace, probably because hypothermia causes delusions and death comes in sleep.

Stories also tell of WinterMan caring for those in The Wild.

Case in point, Opalina. This is her first winter. She came out for dinner shortly after WinterMan passed through.

Okay, we provided the food.

But only because WinterMan suggested it.

Give a Listen

Don’t I sound good?

I got a slot on The Authors’ Show today, 4 Dec 2019, all day.

All you need do is go to The Authors’ Show and click on The Augmented Man in the broadcast schedule to listen to me waxing lyrical.

Okay, more like me talking about the book.

In any case, hope you enjoy.

And if you get a chance. Let me know what you think.

 

A Good Samaritan Suggested…

Beware those boring and dull people. They can exhaust you.

A kind hearted soul read my LinkedIn profile and offered assistance.

I read through his suggestions and thanked him. The Samaritan’s suggestions are based on his belief that I must want a job. He has this belief because he wants (and just got) a job.

I have no such desire. In fact, I actively tell people I’m not for hire. If they insist, I quote my fees. They are considered high. They are high because I don’t want to return to the life I led before authoring full time.

Quoting those fees puts a stop to them.

But let me blend my past and present professions for a bit. A standard problem in marketing is not understanding the audience. Unless you’re in the target audience your opinions don’t matter. Funny that this is also a standard problem in writing workshops and critique groups: unless your familiar with the genre don’t critique the storytelling, critique the storycrafting.

In marketing, critique what will cause desired consumer behaviors and actions. If you’re not in the audience for the types of sneakers your client is selling, don’t critique the sneakers, critique how the sneakers are presented.

But let’s go over the Samaritan’s highlights…
Well you started by saying you think you’re boring and dull. Who wants to hire someone like that?

Well…no one, I hope. That’s why I wrote it that way.

You then say your friends would say otherwise- so you’re not boring and dull, but you think you are.

I explain my penchant for self-description in Inside the Worlds of Joseph Carrabis, author of The Augmented Man. I have no desire to be around someone who self-describes as exciting, thrilling, et cetera.

Do you like to be around people who self-describe as thrilling, exciting, et cetera? Really? I like rollercoasters. Watching them. I like space-diving. Watching it. I’ve had enough adrenaline pump through my veins in my life. Now, a warm fire, a good single malt, feeling my wife’s hand in mine, playing with our dog and cat, these are exciting and thrilling enough for me.

Want me to advise you on being thrilling and exciting? That I can do. If you’d like. I charge a lot, though.

Besides, who you going to believe about me? I may have an overblown ego (can you say “self-aggrandizing behavior”? Can you say “lying about yourself”? Can you say “They looked good on paper”?). You wouldn’t be able to trust any self-referencing statements I make.

But lots of other people who say roughly the same things about me? Even if it’s 180° different from what I say?

In the world I came from, that would be considered market research. It’s a must for success in business. Probably in life, too, although few would call it market research, me thinks.

Let me give you an example. Long ago I mentioned I’d done “a little research” on something. Most of the people in the room politely smiled. Most of the people in the room dismissed me. One person asked, “What’s a little research, Joseph?”

“Not much. About fifteen years so far.”

Back to my Good Samaritan
That makes it seems like you’re not confident in yourself and might not be confident in your work.

There’s a fascinating phenomenon known by most people in the psych fields as “If I am a thief then you must steal.” It means people apply their own filters to others. If the Samaritan started with “I consider myself boring and dull” he’d do it because he has no self-confidence.

Me?

I do it because I don’t want to be bothered. I know what exciting and thrilling is and don’t qualify.

At the end you have a bit about the “don’t buy into the boring and dull line,” but employers aren’t looking for your life story- they want something quick and snappy or they’ll move onto someone else.

I can but hope. An employer not doing due-diligence on an employee commensurate with the position they want to fill is an idiot. A quick and snappy review of my credentials ain’t gonna happen. If I come up in a search for something “quick and snappy” then either the search algorithm is crap or the person doing the search is an idiot. Anybody wanting “quick and snappy” will hit my profile like a wall and quickly and snappily move on.

To which I reply, “Success!”

Check out my about section- it’s short, it’s to the point, and most importantly it allows people to finish it and move onto my experience. You’ve got a good deal of employment, but people scared off by a big wall of text won’t get that far.

But you, Good Samaritan, did. (and wait, there’s more)

…but on LinkedIn, you’re competing with other people. If it’s between someone who says “I’m the best person in the world” and someone who says “I think I’m boring” to get the job, they’re going to go for the vain, slightly annoying person, because they’ll give that one a chance to show they’re not full of it.

Fascinating and I suspect my Good Samaritan won’t last long in a recruitment position. The vain, slightly annoying person is going to annoy co-workers, customers, managers, …, they’ll probably be high-maintenance and an HR headache.

Give me the boring and dull person. Provided they have the background, credentials, references, et cetera.

My Good Samaritan offered a rewrite:
“I’m a master storyteller with a sharp sense of humor. I work to aid businesses in promoting top level research as well as multicultural understanding in my field. In my free time I write speculative fiction and conclusive nonfiction, and aim to help others follow their bliss every day.”

Fascinating Deux. He’d have to read my entire LinkedIn profile to get some (and not all of that) and then read through some of my blog posts and/or google me.

About half an hour after his first message came in, I received:
I just saw that you’ve got great reviews on Amazon- that should be a starter. You barely even mention that to start out, I’m a published author on Amazon with a 5* rating is immediately impressive.

And a half hour after that:
… one click away shows you know what you’re doing with your writing because you have 5* reviews on Amazon. I’m a published writer. Click. Bam. There it is, people can see you have books for them to purchase, right now.

In all cases, my “boring and dull” line made him work to find out more about me.

Let me emphasize that: My “boring and dull” line made him work to find out more about me.

Well, not quite. It’s my “boring and dull” line juxtaposed with other people’s opinions of me. People don’t like confusion. Minor confusion they’ll investigate. Major confusion they’ll back away from.

The “more” you’re waiting for
First, I completely agree that I’m not going to get called in for lots of “quick and snappies.”

That noted, I did get under my Samaritan’s skin. More appropriately, I got into his head. I stayed there long enough for him to do lots of research on me. Chances are I’m going to stay in his head for a good long time simply due to the effort he put in researching me.

That happens a lot. I don’t get lots of requests from people – my profile causes major confusion to people seeking quick and snappy. The requests I do get demonstrate come from people already convinced I can help them – they solved their minor confusion.

They’ve done their due-diligence.

My work here is done.

Empty Sky Chapter 8 – Earl Pangiosi

Evil is made. It doesn’t come naturally.

(final edit before the proofreaders (he said). You can read the previous version here.

Read Empty Sky Chapter 7 – Joni and Honey Fitz

Creator and above level members can download a PDF of the first seven chapters to read offline

Earl Pangiosi sat in the Empire Builder‘s Superliner Snack Coach’s upper level, a pillow behind his head and a blanket covering his legs, peering through dark, wraparound sunglasses at people’s reflections in the round, full length domed windows. When someone nodded off, he’d dip down his glasses and peer at them briefly, purse his lips then shove the glasses back up his face. Once in a while he’d catch his own red-haired, high colored reflection as he followed people walking past.

Earl liked being around people so he could practice. He had his own car — disguised as two back-to-back LandSea containers on a flatcar and marked “US Mail” — further back in the train. It brought a brief smile, the change in rail regulations that allowed all trains to transport freight and passengers simultaneously. It made his private car’s subterfuge possible.

But people were Earl’s focus. He tolerated the miasma of greasy hamburgers and soggy fries, too strong coffee and unwashed bodies, screaming children and louder screaming parents, and the occasional whiffs of diesel to indulge in a pastime he enjoyed since his childhood: watching people’s reflections in glass.

He first noticed his gift on an early Fall night much like this one.

Dad, suit and tie and freshly shaved and mustache neatly trimmed, drove their new, ’59 burgundy Lincoln Continental back to the old neighborhood. Mom sat opposite dad, wrapped in her furs, wearing her best clothes. Dad told her she wore clothes too tight sometimes but she told him to never mind, didn’t he want everybody to know what he had every night?

Mom and Dad left the old neighborhood a year before and never told Earl why. But once a month, maybe twice, he and Mom and Dad would get in the car and go back north to the old neighborhood with presents for everybody. Dad was in the meat business and he’d hand out steaks and chops and roasts and cutlets and hotdogs in summer and hamburger and ground pork if somebody wanted to make meatballs. Everybody was so grateful and Mom would smile and nod as she stood beside Dad, his hands reaching deep into the coolers in the dark of the trunk, coming back into daylight, his hands full of brown paper wrapped meats neatly tied with butcher’s twine. They asked questions about the new car and Dad would tell them it was a Lincoln and Mom would correct him with “Lincoln Continental.”

They drove home, the coolers empty and tucked in the trunk, heading south on a clear, moonless Sunday night. Earl saw the Rhode Island border sign. Soon Dad would slow for the Providence traffic and take the Federal Hill exit.

An only child, Earl had the entire backseat to himself. He could lie down and take naps if he wanted to. Now he sat behind Mom, his hands folded and face pressed against the rear passenger’s window, his knees pulled together and tucked under him because he had to pee but Dad said they weren’t going to stop, they only had a little further to go and Earl was a big man and could hold it, couldn’t he?

Sure, Dad.

Except Earl really had to pee. The leather seat sent shivers of cold up through his bare knees and that didn’t help. He had bare knees because he wore shorts. Shorts, a winter jacket and a hat Mom made him wear even though his cousins all wore long pants.

They already laughed at him because he had different color eyes: the right brown, the left blue. Mom didn’t say much and his cousins and some aunts and uncles said that made him a freak. She made him wear dark sunglasses and told everyone Earl had sensitive eyes.

His cousins would dance around him. “Earl has sen-si-tive eye-eyes. Earl has sen-si-tive eye-eyes.”

He caught his reflection in the window as his exhalations frosted the glass. Mom’s and Dad’s reflections, too.

He’d never noticed them before. Maybe reflections were something you only got in a Lincoln Continental? The dashboard gave off so much light.

He watched his father’s profile as they drove. Mother said things and Dad occasionally winced on the side mom couldn’t see as if somebody jabbed him with a little knife.

Mom would go ya ya ya and Dad’s nose would twitch and his mustache would rise a little then go back down. Mom would go da da da and Dad’s eye would wink shut quick and then back open to watch the cars on the road. Mom would go sa sa sa and Dad’s lips would move forward and back like he wanted to spit something out.

Earl watched his father and something happened in Earl’s head. His father stopped being a person and became a book, a map, a reference, something to be read. He tasted what his father felt. He did not know the word but he understood the emotion: despair.

“You don’t like what Mom’s saying, do you, Dad.”

His dad stared at him in the rearview mirror. He could almost feel his father’s thought; Are you asking me or telling me, son?

Earl opened his mouth to answer but Mom said, “Where does he get that, I wonder?” and looked out her own window the rest of the way home.

“That’s not a nice thing to say, Earl,” his father said. “You know that’s not true.”

Earl’s eyes left the reflection and looked at his Dad direct.

He knew what his father thought. Maybe not the exact words but he knew the feelings.

He was sure of it.

What he was most sure of, especially sure of, as sure of as he was sure it was cold and night and he had to pee, was that what he said was true: Dad didn’t like what Mom said.

He also knew that if he questioned Dad about it he would get a spanking when they got home, maybe before.

That’s when he saw the Void. He’d seen one once before but didn’t have a name for them back then, didn’t know they were just his and that no one else could see them. A little wink in the darkness of night.

The dashboard lit his father and mother and didn’t light the seat between them. He should’ve seen his mother’s purse pulled up tight against her and his father’s gloves on the seat beside him but there was nothing there. No seat, no gloves, no purse, just a child-sized bubbling hole where everything should be.

No face, no eyes, no hands or arms or legs, just a roiling blackness.

Yet he was sure it looked up at him. It knew he was there and it knew he knew it was there.

And it did nothing about it.

That made Earl glad. Finally a friend who accepted him. Oh, joyous day. Oh, happy, happy day.

“What’re you smiling about, son?”

“I like our new Lincoln, dad.”

Mom said, “Lincoln Continental.”

Dad said, “Good, son.”


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Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Nov 2019’s Great Opening Lines)

A powerful opening line that leads to an amazingly weak novel

I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

“She sleeps beside me, her narrow chest rising and falling, and already I miss her.” – Kristen Harmel’s The Room on Rue AmÈlie
I challenge anyone to read that line and hear anything but a whisper. If not a full whisper, a quiet voice, a voice not wanting to disturb. I further challenge anyone to read that line and not feel an ache. You know something’s going to happen and it’s going to change the narrator’s world completely. Can you read that line and not have a sense of illness? The narrow chest rising and falling followed by already I miss her?

Amazing emotional power in fifteen words, to me. I need to know Harmel worked hard at that opening line. If it just came to her, I should quit the writing business.

Unfortunately, the rest of the novel doesn’t live up to that opening line. By chapter 3 the strong narrative voice is lost, the storycrafting weakens, and the reader is left wondering what happened to the author of the first two chapters. Certainly they left and let someone else take over the writing of the book. There are sparks of the original brilliance here and there, but nothing like the evocative power of that great opening line and the first two chapters.
Continue reading “Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Nov 2019’s Great Opening Lines)”