Friday, July 29, 2011

A Letter From My Father

My last blog was a letter I had written my parents 57 years ago from Pensacola, Florida, after having been in the Naval Aviation Cadet program almost exactly two weeks. My mother, bless her, kept every letter I wrote while I was in service and I, in turn, saved every letter I received from her and my father.

Mom wrote nearly every day; Dad far less often, but that was totally in keeping with the times...writing letters wasn't something that fathers did.

So, after posting my last blog, I went back to look at some of the letters my folks wrote me. I found the following letter from my dad, written in response to the letter I posted as my last blog. It's hard to describe my feelings as I read the letter below. Dad always tried so hard to be the kind of father he thought a father should be, which meant doing his best to guide me and guard me against perceived dangers. I truly ache that I never, at the time, really, fully appreciated him or realized just how proud of me he was and how much I meant to him. I would give anything to go back, physically, in time knowing what I know now. Perhaps I would have been a better son. I know I would have tried.

Aug 30 - 1954

Dear Son—

Just read your letter and from your attitude of words I feel I must say this—Don’t forget you are not the only one undergoing the same treatment and you were warned that it wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to go through. Time and time again I have tried to tell you that you must learn to take the easy bumps before you can face the hard ones. You are getting your first taste of the world as it is and you must learn to face it on your own. I believe in you and sincerely want you to believe in yourself. You are no worse than any of the fellows there and you just have the will to get ahead in order to do so. Sure, I grant you that it seems dark a lot of times but son you and you alone can make the grade. Nothing I can do can help you and again I believe you have the stuff in you to be as good as any man there. So please (not for my sake or your Mother’s) be as good as the next one. IT’S UP TO YOU.

Enough of this lecturing—it’s really not meant to be that but just a boost to your seemingly sagging morale. Don’t under any conditions lose that wonderful sense of humor you have. But again please son think of your future. I know that you can do it. So son just a little more effort on your part and I’m sure that there will be no more demerits.

Remember Son it’s no fun punching a time clock and you are receiving the finest training and education that no college in the world can give you. So Son chin up and try just a little harder. Huh, Son?

I know I’m not the best Father in the world, but none could hope for any more happiness or success than I have for you. This is evidently one of my more serious moods Son, but take it from a guy who knows, nothing that is worthwhile comes easy. Everything I have someday will be yours but you must earn it. We did and no one can take away the satisfaction of knowing we did it on our own. Take all the above Son for what it is worth and whatever the outcome Son, you’re mine now and always. Whatever comes up we can meet it Son, but again, let’s try a little harder. Sorry if I bored you but again Son it’s you I am thinking of.

Bye Son

I had never realized before that in this single letter, he calls me Son 13 times. I am trying not to cry.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Stroll Through Time

Every now and then, for no particular rhyme or reason, I find myself being drawn back to the letters I wrote my parents as a young man in the U.S. Navy. I usually look for as close to the current day and month as I can get, and I am, however immodestly, always delighted with what I find, and that I am still, in many ways, the young man I was when I sat down to write.

On August 27, 1954, I had been in the Navy less than two weeks. Everything was new, and exciting, and the world was filled with possibilities and promise. While even at the time I was writing these letters, I had the future in mind, I often wonder just what the then-Roger would think if, rather than my going back in time to join him, he could somehow come forward in time to meet the Roger he became.

But while time moves in only one direction, we can leave sharp images of who and what we once were.

So, come along with me on a stroll to this very date, fifty-seven years ago.

August 27, 1954

Dear folks

I don’t remember when I started this letter, but here it is Friday. We had inspection today, and your loving son went down with all hands, colors flying. It seems that the raincoat is hung in back of the pants, not in front. Therefore, “These men (my locker partner and I) are not ready for inspection.” The moral of this little tale is that I am now the proud possessor of at least five demerits and am cordially invited to spend one or more hours on the “Grinder” (affectionate name for the drill field).

Tomorrow we move to Battalion II, which will, I gather, be our home till we graduate. We will all be very sorry to leave our kind, considerate Sergeants Calahan and Jones behind. I told you over the phone of my experiences with these two lovable gentlemen. One day last week, while marching our usual two hours in the outdoor blast furnace called Florida, I wasn’t up to my usual miserable par. Among the Sergeant (Calahan)’s other comments to me were “Lad,” (a name he calls everyone—Jones calls us “son”), “if you don’t keep that damn thumb of yours in, I’m going to break it off.” (This he punctuated by twisting it half out of its socket). “Put your feet together, lad, you remind me of Charlie Chaplin”, and finally “You’re all f----ed up today, aren’t you, boy?” The language employed by Marine sergeants isn’t always, I’m afraid, of the Tea-time-in-the-parlor caliber.

Somewhere in Pensacola there is a very rich man who is getting richer every day. He owns a laundry, which is being supported for the greatest part by innocent NavCads. It has been estimated, and this is a conservative estimate, that the average NavCad spends approximately $20 a month on cleaning bills. Granted, the prices are reasonable, but every day almost everything must be sent to be cleaned.

Dad asked me the other night if I liked it—that is a very hard question to answer. It’s like when the dentist fills your tooth full of Novocain and then asks If you like the drilling—you can’t feel a thing, but you don’t like the principle of it.

I don’t know what life in Bat. II will be like, but I can only hope it will be an improvement over this.

The other day we had a lecture (one of many) on what was expected of us, and how we are graded. They grade 38% on academic work, 28% on military skills (mine are nil) and 44% on Physical Training, at which I am miserable. Those percentages may not be exact, but they’re approximate. So I can expect to be dropped at any time.

I won’t be too terribly unhappy, ‘cause two years is better than four any day.

Well, I have about five letters to write, so I’d better do it while I have the chance.

Don’t forget what I said about notifying the Red Cross in case of emergency! It’s the only way I can get an emergency leave. I hope I never have to have one, but if so, do it right.

Write soon, and I’ll see you at Xmas.

P.S. Oh, Mother, dear…it’s NAVAL, not NAVEL.


Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Monday, July 25, 2011

Plans, Hope, and the Future

As far as I know, Man is the only creature on the planet with a concept of the future and of hope, and which has the ability to make plans for the future based on that hope. The three words--future, plans, hope--fit together as closely as the stones in an Incan temple.

Hope is ingrained in the human spirit, and it is because of that hope we are able to view the future with confidence and make plans for it, which turn the wheels of progress. Hope engenders and powers plans which move us--individually and as a species--into the future. And while there is a considerable amount of overlapping and concurrency between the three, we move through life like a turning wheel: one revolution completed, another one begins.

Once again, I can speak only for myself and from my own experience--though as always I assume you and yours are not all that fundamentally different. In my writing, which is the bulk of my life, each book is a rotation of the wheel, and as the end of one book nears, the part of my brain in charge of such things starts planning the next. The achievement of a goal is not the end, it is the beginning of the next rotation.

I can think of nothing more terrifying than having nothing to look forward to; nothing to think about and plan for. With no hope there can be no planning and therefore no future.

The death last year of my longtime friend and onetime partner Norm provided me with the wherewithal to realize a major dream/plan: the return to Europe after fifty-five years. It was truly the culmination of a dream and a highlight of my life. I had really thought, when I returned from Rome in April, that I had put my foreign travel behind me. Travel is exotic and exciting, but it can also be exhausting: constantly packing and unpacking suitcases, catching (and sometimes missing) trains, scrambling to find and then adjust to the next hotel, the language of the next country, etc.

So that, I thought, would be it. And then a friend told me of a river tour she'd taken and enjoyed immensely. No constant packing and unpacking, she said. No trains to catch (or miss). And thus another rotation of hope/planning/future began. I'll be taking a fifteen day river cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam aboard a brand new boat, in a tiny but comfortable cabin with a floor-to-ceiling window from which I can look out at the passing world. The ship moves from city to city at night. Each day there is a half-day tour in the morning, and the other half of the day is free to do whatever I want.

I know, this sounds like I'm bragging...and I guess I am, but please understand it's only because it is so unlike anything I've ever done and I'm so excited about the opportunity to do it. I fully realize how extraordinarily lucky I am, and that, again, were it not for Norm's generosity, it would never have been possible. And even so I find it sad that I am doing what Norm should have done with his own money--what so many people should do, and really realize the utter truth of the old adage that "you can't take it with you." So I'd like to think that he will be with me on this trip for which he is responsible, and I will do on his behalf what I wish he had been able to do for himself.

His death taught me that there is no point in denying ourselves those things we can, by whatever means, afford and infinitely enjoy.

Too many of us are too concerned with putting money away for a rainy day. This is an excellent and necessary plan throughout a point. But there comes a time, as one gets older, that one must realize--as I do--that there are simply not that many rainy days ahead, so I intend to enjoy life as fully as I can, while I can, and not worry about rainy days.

My current hope/plan/future river tour will undoubtedly be my last "grand huzzah" of international travel, but it's a wonderful dream/plan, and I am delighting in the anticipation of it. And when it is over, I will find something else to hope and plan for, and to whatever the next rotation of the wheel might bring, because that's what we humans do.

 Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Friday, July 22, 2011


Each of us, as we travel through life, develop our own individual philosophies during the journey, based on an infinitely varied combination of experiences, assumptions/understandings, and our emotional responses to them. They usually develop slowly, often without our giving them much if any conscious thought, until they are a part of us. I have several, one of which I acknowledged only this morning, and I found I immodestly find most of my philosophies...rather profound.

Back in the 1950s, my father gave my mother a beautiful grandfather clock, which has been part of my life since Mom's death. I find its ticking and its chimes comforting, though the sounds have been so ingrained into my life--rather like philosophies, now that I think of it--that I often am unaware of them. Grandfather clocks work on the principle of weight and gravity interacting. Three weights suspended from chains are slowly moved down by gravity. Each swing of the pendulum releases a tiny bit of the tension on the weights, which gravity pulls downward until it's time to pull the weights back up to rewind the clock. It is the swinging of the pendulum moving the small gears holding the counterweights which produces the familiar "tick-tock."

This morning I realized that life is very much like a grandfather clock. We are born fully "wound," like the clock, and each day of our lives is a "tick" of morning and "tock" of evening. And very slowly our lives pass until the weights of our existence have reached the bottom of their chains, and we, like the clock, stop. Unfortunately, unlike the clock, our lives cannot be rewound.

But having so said, I amend it with another of my basic philosophies/beliefs: that of time being a mobius strip, constantly replaying eternity. Our individual lives, though an incalculably small segment of eternity, therefore keep recurring over and over again, and while that means that we are doing the same things, instant by instant, somewhere, and making the same mistakes and suffering the same pain and sadness--and exhilarating in the same loves and joys--each second is, to us, new and very-first-time. This in no way conflicts with the idea of free will. We do the same thing over and over and each time, with each crossroads, we are free to choose which one we take; the fact that we choose to take the same one every single time is simply part of the loop.

And that philosophy/belief leads me to yet another, regarding death and what lies beyond. I believe nothing more strongly or with more sincerity that when we die, we simply return to the state that preceded our birth. Death is the end of life. Nothing more, nothing less. There is no heaven and no hell. And how can one be afraid of nothing? The wish for something after death is provided by the mobius strip of eternity; every instant of our lives is being replayed constantly, and has always been replayed and will always be replayed. Therefore the concepts of life and death are in fact moot.

Not all philosophies are, or need to be, profound. Many, perhaps most, are basic, every-day guides to how we live our lives and view and interact with others. They need not even appear to be realistic, but as long as we hold to them, they are valid. I believe, for instance, in the goodness of our species, despite frequently harsh and overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is not the reality of our philosophies which matters in the end, it is the comfort they provide us.

And one final personal philosophy, if I might: even though I cannot see beyond this tiny segment of the mobius strip of eternity in which I exist, I truly believe it is leading, as inexorably as each step in a journey, each of us forward to our destiny.

Pondering our individual philosophies and trying to trace their origins can be a fascinating mental exercise...if, in the end, probably pointless. But, like an old fashioned razor strop, it hones the mind.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Your Career in Spam!

It's been some time since I've addressed the subject of internet spam in one of these blogs, hoping that if I ignored it, it would just go away. But since it hasn't, I've decided to get on the bandwagon and actively promote it as a source of fortune if not fame. Here is the draft of an advertisement I'm preparing to pitch the book I'm writing on the subject:

Why bother with a 9-5 job when a career in internet Spam awaits? Untold wealth is as close as a computer keyboard for anyone willing to abrogate their humanity in favor of money. Logic, morals, compassion, honor, dignity, all are merely bothersome potholes in the road to a successful career in Spamming.

I've prepared a few brief guidelines to help achieve the goal of instant financial independence.
No need for a degree in higher education--or any education at all, for that matter. One of the primary advantages of using spamming as your route to fortune is that you never need to concern yourself with spelling, grammar, or punctuation.

All the examples quoted below were taken, verbatim, from the last 24 hours' worth of messages awaiting my urgent attention in my Spam bin.

Ok. Ready? Pay attention, now!

1. Always remember that the opening words of your message are crucial to your success. Give them infinite care in creating the impact you wish to make.


2. As shown above, capital letters are guaranteed attention grabbers. That the words they form make absolutely no sense is beside the point:


3. Choose an exotic-sounding identity and associate yourself with an an organization whose title conveys an image of power and prestige. The organization itself need not exist:

"Mr. Olusegun Olutoyin Ag, United Nations Assisted Program Directorate of International Payment United Nations."

4. Combining points 1 and 2 above compounds the effect:


4. Sincerity, warmth and caring immediately gain the prospective client's trust:

"Hello dear. My name is Favour Benson. i have a tender, loving and kind heart and I saw your mail..."

5. Emotion is a powerful tool in gaining trust and eliciting the desired response:

"Good day. My name is Mrs Annabel Laura, i am going in for cancer surgery today. Contact my lawyer. Tell him..."

6. A hint of of mystery is always an effective lure:

"stephine dion - hello - my dear friend kindly send an email to email address which here"

7. Of all the approaches to gain attention, money is the most direct and effective:

"Please be informed that you have $250000.00 Lodged in our Western Union to transfer to you as..."

"BBC FINANCE DEPARTME - Dear Winner, We want to inform you that your funds of L18000000.00 (Eighteen million Pounds..."

8. Always anticipate a certain degree of skepticism, and hasten to reassure the prospective client that you understand and appreciate it:

Mrs. Rose Marry - PLS: I NEED YOUR REPLY - Dear friend, I apologize if the contents in this mail are contrary to your moral ethics, which....

If you are truly interested in exploring a lucrative career in Spam, please send $79.99 cash or money order only for my international-best-selling ten-page pamphlet titled "Hello, Sucker."

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Child Within

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. -- Corinthians 13:11, American King James version

As with so many things, what is true for most people is not necessarily true for me. I may no longer speak as a child, but I consider retaining the ability to understand and think like a child to be a great blessing. Children are born with priceless gifts: wonder, unquestioned trust, and infinite hope, all of which reality tends to steal away over the years until little--and sometimes nothing--of the gifts remain. They are stolen so gradually that we don't even realize they're gone or, far worse, that we don't care or miss them.

Far from putting away childish things--and I prefer to substitute "childlike" for "childish"--I have clung to them, cherished them, and nourished them. I would not be who I am had I let them fade away or to be stomped out of me by reality.

Whenever I am asked for a biography, I often begin with the same sentence: "When I was five years old, I never wanted to be six." And it is absolutely true. Strange as it may sound/seem, though I chronologically and physically crossed the line between boy and man well over half a century ago, I have never considered myself to be a fully-developed "adult." To me, "adult" is synonymous with "grown-up," and like Peter Pan, I've never wanted to be a grown-up.

Interestingly, as a child, I never had imaginary friends. But today I take a childish delight in having divided myself into Roger, who is in charge of the "mature," daily-life part of me, and Dorien, whose realm is my imagination.

Dorien is my child within. He doesn't have to worry about the mundane. He is toally free to like bunnies. And toast with cinnamon and sugar. And lying on his back in the tall grass on a warm, silent summer afternoon staring up at the clouds and seeing the wondrous forms and faces and animals within them. He's been around long enough now that he frequently totally takes over with those few friends who know how deeply a part of me he is. One of those friends just sent a message referencing some article which concluded with the line: "We'll all end up having to worry about rabbits." My instant, without-a-moment's-thought response was: "Dorien is always worried about rabbits: do they have enough to eat? Do they have someplace nice to live? Do they wear their mittens when they go outside to play in the winter? Ageless questions."

Those hardened into the shell of adulthood will undoubtedly find that sort of thinking silly, affected and childish. I prefer to think of it as sincerely fun and child-like. It's the way my mind works and has always worked, and the veneer of adulthood has never gotten thick enough to repress it.

But again, as with all things, being child-like has its down side. Children expect more than reality can deliver, and it is in the slow acceptance of and adjustment to reality that being childlike is lost. I have never accepted reality's total dominion, which is why reality and I have become estranged. I am truly incapable of understanding why things cannot be as I expect them to be--which is to say, as they should be. Because I expect life to run smoothly, effortlessly, and without conflicts, I do not handle problems, negative challenges, or stress well. Because I expect simplicity in all things, complexities lead to frustration and unhappiness far more frequently than I would imagine is the case with those who I would consider fully-developed adults.

And while I feel very sorry for those who have lost their inner child, I am not so far removed from reality as to refuse to acknowledge that in many ways their lives of non-resistance are easier than mine. I know that in the end reality always wins. But with me, it won't be without one hell of a fight.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Housewives of Jersey Shore

Ah, I've done it again. I began this blog by heading off in one direction and then wandering off in another. There is a connection, but it might be a little hard to tell at first. See if you can connect the dots.

Let's start at the beginning:

My cat, Spirit, seems to enjoy staring at walls. He does it a lot, and with such concentration I would give anything to know what he sees or thinks he sees there, or what his motivations might be. Usually this is done relatively calmly, as though pondering some weighty philosophical issue. But frequently he will race madly around the apartment and dash to a corner where, screeching to a halt with his face no more than three inches from where the two walls meet, he will stare up at God-knows what and "me-owl" at the top of his considerably powerful lungs, then suddenly break off the stare, spin around and dash off into another room at full tilt.

To say one doesn't understand cats is rather redundant. But I fear the same can be said of an awful lot of people as well. I never cease to be amazed at how many of them, too, seem to spend so much time staring...figuratively if not walls and often making a great do-do about nothing. Well, let's modify that to "nothing that I can even remotely understand."

I freely admit that I probably watch too much TV. My pattern/routine/rut is such that after spending most of the day writing, I stop at 5:30 for the evening news and then spend between 6:00 and 10:00 wandering across the vast TV landscape trying to find something to catch and hold my interest. I guess in that regard, I might have something in common with Sprit and walls. But I at least try to defend myself by saying I prefer programs which involve at least a smidgen of involvement on my part. And I'll also admit that the "smidgen" occasionally dominates...I'm not above, if the programming landscape is particularly barren, watching an episode of "Cops" and I rather like "Hell's Kitchen" and "Top Chef" on the grounds that they are interestingly informative even though I neither cook nor eat much.

But I convince myself that those programs are profound when compared to the likes of the wildly if inexplicably popular "Jersey Shore" and "Housewives of Name-a-City". While I have never watched a single episode of either program and would have to be forced at gun point to do so, their ubiquitous trailers are inescapable. Both programs seem to delight in glorifying stupifyingly unwarranted vanity, infuriating arrogance and the glories of utter idiocy. And while I have to admit that "Jersey Shore" does provide some attractive eye candy--Warning: digression follows!--beauty only goes so far.

(Digression: the men--or, if you're so inclined, the women--on "Jersey Shore" remind me of an exchange overheard many years ago in an L.A. bar: "Take a look at that guy! He's incredible!" "Yeah, but I'll bet he doesn't have a brain in his head." "That's okay. I didn't come here to f**k brains!")

But while with "Jersey Shore" one can turn the sound down and just concentrate on the eye candy, from what I've been able to tell, the only conceivable attraction of "The Housewives of Name-a-City" is to see what obscene amounts of money can do to people who otherwise have absolutely no reason to exist. As I said, I've only seen the trailers for the show, but as I race to change the channel, my overwhelming desire is to slap those obnoxious, disgusting, hand-seductively-on-hip poseurs silly and put them a one-way flight to Darfur.

And to yank us all back to the point where this blog began, let me tie a neat bow with the observation that whatever Spirit sees by staring at the walls has to be better than "The Housewives of Jersey Shore."

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Let's Pretend Like..."

Cream of Wheat is so good to eat
that we have it every day!
We sing this song, it will make us strong,
and it makes us shout 'Hooray!'

It's good for growing babies
and grown-ups too to eat!
For all the family's breakfast,
You can't beat Cream of Wheat!

And with this ditty, from March 24, 1934 to October 23, 1954 began Let's Pretend, one of the longest-running children's programs on radio. I probably came upon it in the early 1940s. Each program was an adaptation of some classic children's book or fairy tale, and I loved and looked forward to every episode.

I don't think there are programs like Let's Pretend anymore, and I consider that to be a very great loss.

Are there, in fact, any radio programs aimed at children? Radio was to the imagination what water is to a plant. Children today grow up watching Sesame Street--a wonderful program, but fundamentally different from Let's Pretend on an elemental level. For one thing, it is totally visual: the child sees everything; there's no need to imagine what Big Bird or Elmo or Cookie Monster look like--they're right there.

But I think the major difference between Sesame Street and those earlier radio programs is that Sesame Street's primary focus is on developing learning, whereas Let's Pretend's focus was on developing the imagination, and I would argue that learning without imagination is like a cake without frosting.

(You can, by the way, hear a few of the original shows by going to

Do kids today play the same kinds of games I played? Most of those games did not have specific names but simply sprang from the utterance of the three magic words "Let's pretend like..." and from that point on, the imagination took over completely. A tree became a castle, a pile of dirt a fort, a towel tied around the neck a superhero's cape.

While age has far removed me from the games I played as a child, it does seem that kids today live in a totally different world, in which the value of developing the imagination is all but totally overlooked. The emphasis is far more on preparing children for adulthood than it is on letting them simply experience the joys of being children. Piano lessons? Violin lessons? Good for developing skills, but terribly short, for most children, on fun. While it can be argued that soccer practice, baseball practice and other sports activities are technically games preparing children for the grown-up world, they are structured activities designed to produce conformity, and the child involved in them is all but totally deprived of the need for any...well, individuality, any mental freedom to explore and engage the imagination.

Do moms today still tell their kids to "Go out and play"? And if they do, do the kids do it, or do they prefer to hunker down with their video games, the vast bulk of which, though set in imaginary landscapes of someone else's creation, seem to emphasize physical dexterity in pressing the button/waggling the stick to kill monsters than in actually thinking what it might be like to be inside the game?

Does the child today, sitting in the Little League dugout, glance up at whipped-cream clouds lazily floating overhead and have the time to look for castles and whales and Pied Pipers? Or does he just see clouds as he waits for his turn at bat?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writers and Publishers

While writers and publishers share the same fundamental objectives of getting books out there for people to buy and read, there are also fundamental differences in perspective. The writer's primary interest is himself/herself. The publisher must juggle tens or dozens or more writers at the same time, and therefore has of necessity a different set of priorities...which often leads to frustration on both sides.

For myself, I freely admit to a notable lack of patience. When I finish a book and send it in, I fully expect the publisher to move it to the top of the list. After all, it's my book and I want to get it out to be read as soon as possible. I tell myself that this is not totally selfish, and that the sooner the book gets out, the sooner the publisher can start raking in the money (uh-huh), and the publisher makes considerably more on every sale than the writer.

So I tend to be something of a gnat buzzing around the publisher's head. Hey, I know he/she is busy, and that things tend to get lost in the shuffle, or put off to one side. But while I realize that all those other writers demand attention, let's be brutally honest: I'm the only one I'm concerned about. I know, the publisher cannot spend a lot of time writing to me every couple of days to let me know the status of the manuscript, but that doesn't keep me from wanting it.

I'm fully aware that there are many things beyond the publisher's control which affect how swiftly a book can move through the pipeline.

The publisher of the first ten books in the Dick Hardesty series is in the process of going out of business, and the plan is to shift all of books from the former to the current publisher for reissue. The first of these is The Bar Watcher, book #3 of the series. Its stock was depleted about a year or more ago and it is has been effectively out of print since that time. My current publisher is in the process of reissue but, because new books waiting for publication take precedence over reissues, it has been consistently moved back in the schedule. I can understand this on a rational level, but not an emotional one.

So I drop notes to my current publisher about once a week asking for the current status, or asking to be at least given some sort of time-line. Unfortunately, time-lines are apparently nearly impossible to establish and follow through on. Again, the publisher has far, far more patience than I and has been very good in trying--unfortunately unsuccessfully--to calm me down.

I know that the big-boy publishers, the old-school New York giants who have neither knowledge of nor interest in my existence, normally take two years or more between the time a manuscript is submitted and the time it is published.

So I know I've been spoiled...I'm used to having a book out within 6-8 months of submitting the manuscript. I am truly grateful to both my former and current publishers. But that does not, alas, lessen my impatience or frustration.

At the bottom of all this is my perceived relationship with my readers and potential readers...which is to say with you, who are one or the other. I perhaps naively believe that they/you might really look forward to re-entering the worlds I have created for you, and to the continuing growth, development, and adventures of my characters.

So I thank my publisher for making my books available. I just wish there were little less space between the time I finish writing them and the time you read them.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Friday, July 08, 2011

Changing Times

Human beings tend to have selectively short memories. The way things are now is, to most minds, the way things have always has been. Pitched social battles which produced untold suffering for untold millions of people are, once won, soon simply accepted as "oh, yeah; so what else is new?" How many people today, really remember the Holocaust? Who remembers Jim Crow laws and officially sanctioned segregation? And who, in ten years, will remember "Don't Ask, Don't Tell?"

A friend in New York saw a Saturday matinee of La Cage aux Folles on Broadway recently, and noted that there was a large contingent of high school students in the audience, and that while the girls all seemed to love it, some of the boys appeared to be a bit uncomfortable...I'm not sure whether it was the drag elements or the homosexuality. Probably it was just a reflection of the teenage desire not to seem different from their peers--90 percent of whom, statistically, are heterosexual--and their desire to live up to the stereotypical "male image."

But it struck me that, even if they were uncomfortable, they were being exposed to something I and those of my generation never had the chance to witness: gays openly portrayed as actual human beings.
It's almost impossible to realize, now, that until the middle of the 20th century, which ended little more than a decade ago, gays and lesbians were never portrayed on stage, screen or in books other than as either as comedy-relief swishy stereotypes of the worst sort, or as warped, doomed souls who invariably committed suicide for the disgrace of being gay.

What those teenage boys were doing, by being exposed to gays, was in effect being inoculated against the deadly disease of hatred based solely on ignorance.

I grew up in a time where to be gay was a crime in many states, and where gays had absolutely no legal defense against any form of harassment. If you were gay, you could be fired or thrown out of your apartment for being discovered to be gay. It was not unheard of for parents who found their children were gay to have them institutionalized and subjected to electroshock treatments. Being gay was considered a mental illness until the 1950s.

Gay bars never had front windows, often were entered through a rear door off an alley, and were subject to the most egregious forms of police harassment. When I lived in Los Angeles in the late 60s and early 70s, police would routinely raid gay bars with no just cause other than that they were gay. It was not uncommon for them to enter a bar in which there were only ten patrons seated at various places throughout the establishment, and say "you, you, you, and you" and arrest them for "lewd and lascivious conduct." Police entrapment in parks and public areas was a source of steady income for the city. The victim of entrapment had no recourse. If it was a matter of your word against a policeman's, who do you think the court would believe? The harassment did not stop in L.A. until, during one raid on a bar called The Black Cat, a patron was beaten to death by the police.

Even in our own clubs, slow dancing by same-sex couples was cause for arrest. I've told the story of belonging to a private club owned by a former policeman whose contempt for faggots was offset by his love of the money they spent in his club. It was one of the few places in L.A. where we could slow dance. The dance floor and bar area was entered through a lobby where membership cards were examined. When the police would come in, whoever was on the desk would push a hidden button, lights would flash in the main room, and gays and lesbians dancing would immediately switch partners to someone of the opposite sex. It was utterly stupid, utterly pointless--the police knew perfectly well what was going on, but they couldn't catch anyone--it was simply the way it was.

And two weeks ago I attended Chicago's Gay Pride parade, which has become the city's second largest annual parade, with 700,000 other people for whom being gay, if not simply a normal part of their lifestyle, is no different than being Irish or left-handed.

We're still not where we should be, but we can take comfort from knowing we're well on our way.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

In Search of a Thought

There are times when my mind, for all practical purposes, shuts down. Whenever I finish a book and send it off to the publisher, as I have just done, I go through a period-of-varying-length of what might be considered a form of post partum depression. After spending however long it takes to push the rock of each novel uphill, having reached the top of the rise my mind automatically goes into neutral. That's it. Done now. And I can try as hard as I like to shift it into some constructive gear, and all I get is a grinding sound and the smell of burning synapses.

This condition isn't limited to the period following the completion of a book, of course. Fortunately, it's only a sporadic occurrence, but whenever it does happen, I tend to go into a mild form of panic. I live on a very slippery slope, and once the smallest crack appears in the wall of whatever it is I'm trying to accomplish, I crumble. (I know! I'll write a blog on mixed metaphors! That last one was a doozy.) Suffice it to say the harder I try to think, the less I am able to think.

I'm very big, in these blogs, of "stream of consciousness" writing...just sitting down at the computer and going anywhere my mind and fingers take me. And I sometimes feel guilty for it, thinking that I am somehow cheating you, the reader, by not carefully thinking out what I am going to say before I say it. But actually, that's basically the way I write my novels. I have a general idea of where I'm going before I start out, then just turn it over to my imagination. Usually, it works quite well with blogs, too, and occasionally I am both surprised and pleased by the result. But doing three blogs a week, plus trying to work on whichever book I'm writing at the moment, plus everything else required in the course of living an average day, sometimes gets a little chaotic, and it's usually the blogs that suffer for it.

The perversities of human nature...or at least the perversity of my nature...sometimes makes it so that the more desperate we are to do something, the harder it is to do. Trying, consciously, to fall asleep, for example, almost guarantees that you won't be able to fall asleep. Running behind and realizing that I have to have a blog done for the next day means I won't be able to come up with a really good idea no matter what.

So, having spent the better part of two hours unsuccessfully trying to come up with a subject for this blog, I thought I'd go with the stream of consciousness again. But I've discovered that a stream of consciousness, like any other stream, requires some sort of banks on either side to contain or channel it. There are none today.

I've started out in several different directions, hoping to catch the current of an idea and ride with it, only to find myself in a shallow backwater where clumps of algae grow just below the surface and water beetles scurry about, skating effortlessly on the calm surface.

For me, there's yet another problem. Trying to think of an idea or a blog is like looking up a word in the dictionary; one thought will lead to another, which leads to another, which.... The result being that I never really stop to explore any one thought as fully as I should. I'll flash on one, think it might have some potential, and another thought will jump in front of it, waving its arms and yelling "Look at me!", at which point I'll drop the thought I'd had previously and move on. Perhaps if I were able to develop one iota of patience I might be able to follow a thought for longer than fifteen seconds or, if I've actually started to write something, get further than two paragraphs into it before deciding it wasn't going anywhere or it wasn't as good an idea as I'd originally thought.

Since I've begun writing blogs, I've done...what?...somewhere between 600 and 700? That's a lot of thoughts and a lot of subjects but I'm not even going to kid myself into thinking I'm anywhere near running out of possible subjects. I just wish they'd come in a more organized manner.

So, as I say, I've spent the better part of two hours trying to come up with a subject for this blog. I haven't found it yet. Or maybe I have?

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Monday, July 04, 2011

The Forest and the Trees

Each of us lives our entire life within the physical confines of our own body. We are, physically, as separate from others of our species as the individual trees in a forest. We have only our own mind to interpret and make sense of the world around us, and who we are is the compilation of our individual perceptions and experiences. Life is a vast forest, but being surrounded by it, we tend to see only the trees of which it is comprised.

It's fascinating how well we somehow manage to interrelate with others given we have nothing but ourselves and our own experiences to go by. As I observe the world around me and the people who pass through my range of vision in the course of an average day, I am frequently struck by what interesting lives they lead and by what I see as the dullness of my own.

Not being able to see the forest for the trees is one of many human phenomena to which we pay very little attention. The closer we are to something, the more narrow our focus, and we basically see only what is directly in front of us. It's all a matter of perspective and as with so many things, perspective requires a stepping back. This is easy enough to do for external can see the forest if you stand back far enough from the individual trees...but it is physically impossible for us to step back from ourselves, and extremely difficult to do so mentally and emotionally.

We look at others' lives with a perspective they cannot have themselves, just as they can look at us in the same way. But even so, by and large we observe only the exterior surfaces...a very truncated (no pun intended) version. I look at others and see what they do and what they have accomplished, and how they relate to other people, and because I only see the surface, as it were, my own life often pales by comparison to theirs. I am not privy to their inner problems, insecurities, worries, fears, or concerns. And because I can't see them, I can't fully understand or appreciate them.

Since we are within ourselves every nanosecond, 24 hours a day, it's hardly surprising that our own lives can easily appear to be dull or boring. I write books. That's what I do and who I am. That perhaps you do not write books is simply not part of the equation, and it should be. Writing is my norm. Since whatever talents/advantages I may have are just a part of me, I see my life as not particularly interesting when compared to the lives of others.

When I do manage to step back from the individual trees that make up the forest of my life, I can see how different each of them is, and how insignificant my own "tree" appears. Few of us allow ourselves credit for our own uniqueness. How many people have flown solo through the tops of huge, whipped-cream clouds? How many people have--or take--the chance to go off to Europe by themselves for a month? How many people have written 18 books? I have, but it's just part of me and therefore, to me, nothing special.

Of course, other people have flown solo through clouds, or had wonderful adventures, or written many books...but none in exactly the same combination.

Each person's forest is unique. There is no universal blueprint for a forest any more than there is a universal blueprint for all human beings other than those physical attributes with which most of us are born. Visually, we all pretty much resemble one another, just as visually, trees all resemble each other. But it is our experiences, our emotions, and a million other invisible factors which come together to make each of us uniquely ourselves, our "tree" different than every other tree in the forest.

And my point? That while human nature may dictate that we assume that we are somehow less interesting, less worthy of attention than others, that assumption is wrong and we should celebrate our uniqueness far more than we do. Each of us may be only one tree in the forest, but that tree is far more special than we give it credit for.

I love forests.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."

Friday, July 01, 2011

Yin, Yang, and Me

The ancient Chinese symbol for perfect balance--Yin and Yang--features a circle divided equally between a white area with a black dot in the center of its thickest part, and an identical white area with a black dot. Each one represents one of any opposites: Good and evil, right and wrong, day and night. And I am the line between them.

If you've read any of my blogs, you know that I am absolutely fascinated by me, as you should be with you. Not to the point of ignoring the rest of the world, but rather of always being aware of the fact that of seven billion people on earth, I am--again, as are you--the only "me" that has ever existed or ever will exist. I go through life constantly comparing myself to everyone else, who I generally consider as belonging to a gigantic private club of which I am not a member.

The problems my unique views of the world have created are endless, and as a result of comparing myself to everyone else as a single unit, it really isn't surprising that I have severe problems with self esteem. But the Yin of self-deprecation is balanced by the Yang of an odd sense of…well, superiority, for lack of a better word; of having a perspective on seeing and realizing things very few other people do. My Yin is truly embarrassed by praise, yet my Yang craves it.

Over the years, I've found myself being divided into two distinctly separate entities, though not necessarily Yin-Yang opposites; half of me is the non-corporeal Dorien Grey, the writer, the other half is Roger Margason, the corporeal being from whom Dorien emerged. Strange as it sounds, I find dividing myself into two people avoids a lot of confusion over which side of me deals with which of life's problems.

While I'm always uncharacteristically proud of my books, because I truly consider that Dorien writes them, the Roger part of me doesn't take much credit for them. I have had only one book published under the name of Roger Margason, and that was Stagecoach to Nowhere, which was rewritten many years later as Calico, and published under Dorien's name.

Dorien writes fiction, creating worlds and people which exist only in my heart and mind. But while Dorien writes the books, it is Roger who writes these blogs using Dorien's name largely for the purpose of recognition (far more readers recognize me as Dorien's than are even aware that I'm also Roger).

And now, for the first time, I've published a book for which my Roger side can take full credit (though, again for recognition purposes, it bears Dorien's name on the cover, though a "Roger Margason" credit appears on the inside). Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs, is a compilation of 172 individual blogs published over the past five years, dealing primarily with the people and experiences which have, like the ingredients in a cake, come together to produce the person whose words you are reading at this moment.

A second e-book of blogs will be released in the not-too-distant future, dealing with outlooks, opinions, and prejudices.

Now, I realize that this entire blog can be considered to be what is known on writers' sites on the internet as "BSP"--Blatant Self-Promotion. But unfortunately the old adage "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door" simply does not apply. Unless people know about the mousetrap, they can't be expected to have any interest in buying it. Thus those writers like myself, not resident on the slopes of Mt. Olympus, with publicists and the power of the large, powerful publishing firms at our beckon call, must do the best we can to reach out to prospective readers and hope we have made ourselves sufficiently interesting to entice entice take a chance with us.

I do hope I have a slight advantage in that I have your ear right now, and I do hope you'll excuse the BSP elements herein. My Yin and Yang thank you.

Dorien's blogs are posted by 10 a.m. Central time every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Please come back. And please take a moment to check out for information on Dorien's "Short Circuits: a Life in Blogs."