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Wednesday, December 10, 2014 23 comments

A Cautionary Christmas Tale about my life as VelcroMan

Aloha,
Surfboard Decoration (HI State Law:)

“So this is Christmas, and what have I done?”

This is what I ask myself a few dark and non-stormy nights ago. My wife and three boys sit, huddled outside our house, all tired, some miserable and one (me), bloodied and scraped, while my first annual “Christmas Lights Extravaganza” is a complete and absolute disaster!
What? It did hurt at the time :)


The night, actually, the day started really well. I blocked off a few hours, dusted some boxes and had fun decorating the outside of the house.
I was even smart enough to open an upstairs window, so I didn’t need to shimmy up and down the ladder every time I needed access to the patio rooftop.

Five hours later, and I was ready for The. Launch. Of. The. Lights.
Only one problem, it’s still sunny.

No problem.
Boys bathe, jump in their jammies, put on their shoes and off they go with Mama to do a countdown in front of the house. I close the garage door (too bright) and only seconds from the Launch of The Lights, I scrub the mission... again, deciding the light from the downstairs toilet is also too bright.
“It’ll only be a moment,” I say, turning the handle and face-planting into the front door.

The locked front door.
Which is next to the just-closed garage.
And, below the upstairs window (which, in a moment of clarity, I’d remembered to lock.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch/sidewalk, my beloved audience waits.
I realize the awful truth: The Koopmans’s’s’’s are locked out.

For twenty minutes, I stalk the perimeter while Mama herds her Red Ninja Turtle, yellow Minion and Silver R2D2 to the chairs on the dark porch.
The boys are naturally bored, so when I come back, they're messing with some of the decorations.
"Don't play with Papa's blow-up toys," I yell out, and then wave to a passing neighbor, who suddenly picks up the pace and scurries by.

A light bulb goes off in my head (the only one I can light, apparently) and I get the (not so) brilliant idea to climb the patio roof to double check if any other windows are open.
Only two problems: Complete darkness and no ladder.

Ten minutes later, MacGyver would have been proud. With the assist from a trash can and a rickety fence, I stand, arms spread, the King of the patio roof (hoping the numerous friction burns on stomach, leg and wrist won’t bleed too much. Sadly, the mission failed: all the windows were locked.

New problem: How in God’s name do I get back down?
Calling Mama, she hustles the children to the back of the house (the little group looking like ComicCon refugees.)
As I position myself, stomach down, I back up until I'm straddling the roof and gutter, trying really, really hard to be the world's first VelcroMan... 'cos there's *nothing* to hold onto. Eventually, Mama's able to catch a flailing, trailing leg and position it atop the rickety fence. From there, I dismount and kiss the beautiful green grass outside home.

With no options left, I take one for the team, especially after our two-year-old tugs on my leg and says, “Help us, Papa. Help us.”
With the assist of a friendly neighbor, an emergency locksmith is called and a wait of “about an hour” begins.
I remember the whole reason behind the renamed Lockout of Lights, so to pass the time; the kids again take position on the sidewalk.

The countdown reaches zero, and I stand in the circle of lights, hands on hips, ready to receive the cheers of children and waves of adoration…
Palm Trees hate my style

“Uh, Papa, is the door open?”
Can we go inside now?
“I’m hungry.”

Feeling as deflated as the now-unplugged Charlie Brown Christmas scene (Snoopy was unfortunately culled by the children) I decide I need to end the Lockout of Lights.
Sadly, this (from the box) is the only picture of Snoopy in airier times

Walking the perimeter, I once more try the [redacted] and no way, the bloody thing opens!!! (Did I, perchance, use an extra ounce of frustration when trying? No, not I :)

Triumphantly, I stride to the front door and with a huge, manly smile (it’s always nice solving one’s own, dumb problems) welcome the family back inside using a weird, deep voice: "Come. Enter. Enter!"

###

Epilogue: The next night, I ask the boys if they want to see the additional lights that I’d placed around the shrubbery.
“Nooo!! We’re okay, Papa. We like it in here…”

Oh, and so what does this cautionary tale have to do with writing?
Simple.
Don’t ever forget the key to your story!


Merry Christmas to you and yours :)



Monday, December 1, 2014 18 comments

The *FREE* IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond!

Aloha,
 
Released this week, I wanted to help promote the *FREE* Insecure Writer’s Support Group Guide to Publishing and Beyond,  :)
 
 
 
 
Tapping into the expertise of over a hundred talented authors from around the globe, The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond contains something for every writer.
 
Whether you are starting out and need tips on the craft of writing, looking for encouragement as an already established author, taking the plunge into self-publishing, or seeking innovative ways to market and promote your work, this guide is a useful tool.
 
Compiled into three key areas of writing, publishing, and marketing, this valuable resource offers inspirational articles, helpful anecdotes, and excellent advice on dos and don'ts that we all wish we knew when we first started out on this writing journey.
 
 
Check out the promo ad via this Video
 
The guide is available at the following places:
 
 
 
 
 
General INFO:
 
ISBN 9781939844088
 
235 pages
 
Cost: FREE
 
More info at these IWSG sites:
 
 
 



Wednesday, November 26, 2014 11 comments

Happy Thanksgiving :)

Aloha,

Today is my 15th (out of 20 chances) to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Sure, it took me five years, but I get it now :)

Basically, I think of Thanksgiving in three different ways.

Below is a Thanksgiving CardPost made especially to you...

The theme is the classic, "LOVE, LAUGH, LOVE."


Love to you and yours...and Happy Thanksgiving!


                                                                             ##



LIVE:



                                                                             ###



LOVE:





                                                                        
                                                                            













###

LAUGH:



 
 
 



 
 
 





















Happy Thanksgiving!!

PS: If you don't celebrate this US holiday, feel free to punch a colleague's shoulder and reflect on 2014's best memories :)




Tuesday, November 11, 2014 15 comments

Happy Veterans Day - Hug a "Naked Warrior" :)

Aloha,


Normally, when I go to Bellows Beach, (originally Waimanalo Beach), this is what I see and think about.

It's easy to forget the kids and I on an active, if small, military establishment. (There's no runway anymore, but Bellows Air Force Station is operated by Detachment 2, 18th Force Support Squardron.)

The other day, however, I noticed a lone figure, standing at the top of the beach. He was visible (from the park side) because some trees were recently removed due to age or disease.


So, I did a little research, and below is taken from the Navy Seal Foundation website.

It is a little known fact that the precursors of today’s Navy SEALs, Underwater Demolition Teams, originated on windward Oahu at Waimanalo Beach.

 In 1943, two years after Pearl Harbor, as WWII raged in the Atlantic and Pacific, UDT 1 and UDT 2 were formed at Waimanalo, using Bellows Air Base as their initial training area.

A few months later, they moved to Kihei, Maui. However, the origins of UDT were at Waimanalo, a fact memorialized in the oral histories of frogmen who were there, and recently verified by the UDT/SEAL Museum in Ft. Pierce, Florida.

Years ago, the Museum commissioned the bronze “Naked Warrior” statue to represent the various combat swimmer units which developed over time into today’s Navy SEAL Teams.

He stands on a “horned scully”, one of the many obstacles UDT’s were assigned to destroy so that amphibious landings could take place from Normandy to Iwo Jima. It is a fascinating story of bravery against all odds.

 
 
Of course, it is Veterans Day today, so I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who wears, or has worn the uniform and served in our nation's military.

Going to the beach just means a little more now...



Wednesday, October 15, 2014 37 comments

Oh my dear blog! (a non IWSG-sanctioned post :)

Aloha,

My blog is dying...




And yet, I'm looking on, detached and only a little worried.

I'm sad because I've put three + years of work into this here thang, but I think I'm okay if I never write another post again.

I'll always be a writer - just not sure if I'm always going to be a blogger.

I'm a *horrible* return commenter, so I know I've lost a bunch of people due to my lack of support to their blogs, but I do have a few questions:

Have you ever lost the hunger to post?

How did you combat/fix the problem?

I'm curious to hear, if you have the time...

Thanks in advance :)




Wednesday, October 1, 2014 25 comments

IWSG - The Auntology Edition

Aloha,

Today is IWSG… and also the deadline to submit for there new auntology!
 
This month's awesome IWSG co-hosts are: Kristin Smith, Elsie, Suzanne Furness and Fundy Blue. Thanks, y'ell. 

Oh, and by the wee, my name is Mark.
 I’ll be your swerver tonight. I hope you enjoy.
If there’s anything else I can do, let me know.
My entrée below for the auntology is entitled: What not to do marketing wise.
###

Today, I’m here to speak about my success in marketing. My thanks to Warden Hashtag, who first suggested I share some valuable tips—for a few laughs. Warden, #ThisOneIsForYou.

Initially, I'd like to bandy about, nay discus, and throw over some general ideas about your Novel.
For brevity, I’ll assume the position (cough) that you’re not writing Non-Friction.
Thus, the burning issue is for all intense and porpoises caused by Friction -- and what it means in this hot and cold world of readers.

Let's began! 
·         As a young, or established otter, you always want readers to come back for more. Easiest way to achieve this goal? Leave the book unfinished!

Think of a fancy novel cuisine restaurant. Their plates are big, portions are small, butt customers always leave hungry for more.

However, even if your wok isn’t finished, don't forget it should always be critiqued by other writers and “beater readers”
(Many are online. Mine live locally and always beat the crap out of me—for wasting their time, hence the name.)
 

·         One of my favorite marketing tips is the actuary storyline itself.

Some consider storyline to be added baggage that takes away from the look of the book, so I ask u: Is storyline really that important?

A few will say yes; but to me, it’s a mute point. I’ve found it’s more important to carry a large book under one’s arms than actually use a book for something so pedantic as reading.

(With Candy Crush, Angry Birds, free online slots and other intellectually stimulating movements available on the Spindle, who has the extra time?)

 
·         Squeaking about the look of the Book, covers are very important.

It’s important (did you notice how I entertwined two “importants” in just two sentences? This itself is an important tip. Good writers know now that the knowledge they learn now—and tomorrow, too—is important. I know. Do you know? You know now, don’t you! Ha, let’s continue, shell we.)

Ah yes, Book covers. The best ones are those heavy duty plastic types found in many good prison (and pubic) librarys.

You know, the transcendental ones that are so thick it’s hard to even read the title. Your bookshelf will have a uniform look that will make the hardest nail of a guard crack a smile, instead of a lemur.


·         Make sure you have a good editor.

They’re great resorts for when you write peaces like this one, only I created this myself this time.
            (Don’t worry, I’m a trained professional writing on a closed ciruit.)

Heaving an editor is important not only for the counting of words, but for the grammer and puckutuation, too.

 
·         And finally, pricing. I see a lot of books priced at various pricing.
Which is great and all, but to me, a good book is worth nothing less than $20.
It’s a clean, neat fissure and there’s no need to buy one of those little “give a penny, take a penny” plastic holders.
 

·         PS… The photo on the back of the book, and the author bio are useful for deflecting negative criticism, when the usual one of two people not understand the greatness of what they carry under their arms.

I suggest pulling random pictures on Instirgram (a man’s picture for a guy writer makes it easier) and bio information can be cut and plastered from Myspace.
(No one’e ever on there anymore.)
 

·         And finally, whatever you do, don’t wear a coconut bra and grass skirt… unless you can pull this fashion move off. 



 
Monday, September 22, 2014 30 comments

Underrated Treasures BlogFest (Hear Gary Scream!!)

Aloha,
Today is Alex’s Underrated Treasures blogfest.

 
 
Everyone has a favorite movie or band that no one else has ever heard about. For whatever reason, they remain undiscovered and underrated. Now is your chance to tell the world about this obscure treasure!
Post about your favorite unknown – MOVIE – BAND/ARTIST – TV SHOW – BOOK
Post about one or all four – dealer’s choice
!

###

I’m going with all four, (sadly there is no Hawaiian Hula Attire For Men section.)
To keep it real, y’all, one of my answers is, gasp, not real! It’s a Red Lemming.
Can you guess which one is the colorful cliff-jumper? :)

Movie: Traffic (Powerful movie shows how drugs do so much so evil, so quickly…)

Band: Rick Astley (Never Going to Give You Up? … Anyone? :)

TV Show: Luther (Available on Netflix. Alice should be in chains :)

Book: On Writing by Stephen King (So many people haven’t heard of IT :)

Thanks, Alex and happy Blogfest everyone.
PS: Gotta dash to Gary’s blog… can’t wait…I’m sure he’s been on pins and needles waiting for his post to go live :)

 
Thursday, September 18, 2014 11 comments

Writing and the Angels...

Aloha,

For those who enjoy baseball, you may already know that while you were sleeping last night, my beloved Angels won the 2014 American League West Division.

It was such an improbable way to clinch!! If you want to check it out, here's a 3-min compilation video .




For those who don't give an owl's calling about America's Pastime,  bear with me.. there is a point... on how the Angels compare to you at home, writing alone :)

The Angels were not supposed to finish well this year (or say, complete an ms)

They had a lot of major setbacks in the middle of the year (kinda like when plot holes, "life," or no time to write happens.)

And yet, the team never quit... they never gave up on each other. (just like the Blog community coming together to read, crit and support all.)

Today, the Angels are in the playoffs, but they still have to win the Division, then the League Championships before they get to the World Series...
..And then they have to win that to be the big dogs...

(Which sounds a little like when an ms is written, you need to find an agent/publisher OR work through the various challenges/needs of self-pubbing.)


My point is...

At the beginning of the journey, so much is hoped for, but must be earned.

In the middle, *something* will happen to try and derail you.

And, in the end, it's how you handle the trials that lead you to the triumphs :)


Happy Writing.. and here's to the Angels and  playoff baseball in October :)






Photos Credit: Angels Media.


Thursday, September 11, 2014 11 comments

9/11 - Memories of a Former Foreigner

(This is the annual "reprinting" of my inaugural post on Sept. 11, 2011 - lest I one day forget why I wrote it.)


Aloha,


The thing I remember most about 9/11 is how selfish I felt - at the very beginning.

September 11th was supposed to be the day I paid my debts and made some serious money. I clearly remember the last thing I said as my balding head hit the soft pillow on the 10th: "Tomorrow is going to be a great day, man, tomorrow is going to be a great day."

Source: Anthony Grimley
Five months prior to 9/11 and new to California, I had met several fellow Irishmen at a pub or six, which networked into an interview with a starched suit who looked me up and down to see if I could sell gold coins.

"I can sell a Yankees hat in Boston, or a Cowboys jersey in New York, surely I can sell a little coin over the phone?" I said, full of the optimism of the uninformed American sports fan.

My new boss didn't really care. I'd earn a bare stipend for a couple of months, and then work on one hundred percent commission, so no skin off his nose.

They call the big investors "whales," and it took five months of living off credit cards to reel two in. One lived in New York; the other was in Jersey. I arranged great deals with both retired men; deals that culminated on Monday the 10th, and happy as a pig in a blanket, I later went for a few drinks with the boys, having promised my whales that they'd receive the official paperwork via fax before noon EST Tuesday.


That's the only reason I was up at 5:50 a.m. PST, but as soon as I saw the plane hit the second tower just after 6 a.m. my time, I knew the deals were done - and so was I. (I had no clue how bad it would be - did anyone?)

I wallowed in pity for about thirty-five minutes until I heard another plane had crashed into the Pentagon. Driving to work in my new, unpaid-for Mustang, I jumped up as far as my seatbelt would allow, and let out a scream of hurt and anger I hope my ears will never again endure.

As an immigrant with naturalization papers in process, I had no doubt that the attack was on my country (I swore in July 3, 2003,) and my people.

In October 2001, I tried joining the USAF, but the recruiter told me a 19-year-old's pay "ain't going to take care of the credit problems belonging to a 31-year-old."


On 9/11, as always, I'll wear my Liz Claiborne WTC shirt that I bought 'cos the Statue of Liberty looks cool in the forefront (it was 2002 before I "saw" the Twin Towers for the first time.) I will also reflect on how I awoke thinking only about me, but ended the day thinking only about "U.S." and the thousands whose lives had been destroyed by hate and fear.


May the good God bless the souls of all those lost on 9/11, and Lord, please continue to protect those who, with a servant's heart, always run into harms way while we scream to get the hell out of there.



Thomas J. Foley, 32, Rescue 3, FDNY, died in the collapse of Tower 2, WTC, New York, 9.59 am, 9/11/01. RIP



Monday, September 8, 2014 33 comments

A Coconut Bra, a Straw & a Sunflower for Tina :)

Aloha,

 
Tina Downey and I were part of a small writer's group that could.

One day, after Tina shared that she was ill, she asked if I could update the (in)famous picture I took wearing a coconut bra and grass skirt for St. Patrick's Day, 2014.

Tina wondered if I could add a real coconut with a straw sticking out of it?

Being a typical male, I kept saying I'd, "Get to it next week" or that, "I couldn't find a fresh coconut," (which is hard, here on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu...)

... Then came the devastating news on August 23rd, and I felt so guilty for not finding the time to take one silly picture...


Tina


Today, in honor of Tina, the A to Z Team hosts a sunflower tribute (a flower Tina loved) and people all over the blogosphere will have sunflowers front and center to remember a friend and fellow writer whose blog was called "Life Is Good."

(To assist in the continuing education of Tina's two sons, the family has set up the Downey Education Fund. To donate via secure link to PayPal, please click here.)
 
I'm grateful I got to know a little more about Tina... and for the chance today to fulfill her simple request.

So, I'm sure she wouldn't mind that a few in our family got involved to honor a friend who always believed Life Is Good.

Here then are three generations, two grownups and one sunflower for Tina:


Sunflowers and a Coconut Drink (avec straw:)



Wow, it actually tastes good!!



#1 Son Chilling Like Papa :)



#1 Grandmother relaxing :)


Thanks for the laughs - and now for all the wonderful memories, Tina :)

Rest In Peace...




Tuesday, September 2, 2014 65 comments

IWSG - Life

Aloha,



It’s Insecure Writers' Support Group time, and as always, a huge thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh, who founded IWSG (and is owed an adult beverage for his troubles.)
Oh, and the co-hosts for this month are Laura at My Baffling Brain; Shah Wharton; Sheena-kay Graham and some bald dude who scares people when he walks outside with his coconut bra and grass skirt.

Last month, I had nothing to report because all was good.

Since then, so many things have changed, and the loss of Tina Downey has made me reflect on my own mortality.

So, I guess I'm "only" insecure about life this month.

Moving forward, I aim to focus more on my writing goals - and achieve them - instead of making excuses.

What a shame - how insecure of us - to waste even one of our precious days.



Monday, September 1, 2014 7 comments

A New Day, A New Dawn...




It's A New Day; A New Dawn


Though loved ones are gone
 

We'll Never Walk Alone


Memories strong, they'll always belong


Love is true, friendships strong


It's a new day; a new dawn



You'll Never Walk Alone



Wednesday, August 27, 2014 14 comments

Sunflower Tribute for Tina: Sept. 8, 2014

Aloha,




In memory of Tina Downey, the A to Z Team is hosting a sunflower tribute on Sept. 8, 2014.

Prior to that date, please consider purchasing or planting a sunflower in her honor.

(Should you need to resort to plastic, that's fine, remember Life Is Good.)

On Monday, September 8, take a photo of said sunflower and post it in Tina's memory on your blog or other social media outlet.



Tina loved her sunflowers, and we want to splash the blogging world with sunflowers that day and honor a truly amazing woman who was friend and family to so many.

You can sign up now or add your link when you post your sunflower.

Please help us spread the word! (If you're on Twitter, use #lifeisgood)

Let’s brighten the Internet with sunflowers the way Tina brightened the lives of so many.




Monday, August 25, 2014 13 comments

Rest In Peace: Tina Downey. Life is Good, but not today


TINA DOWNEY 1965 - 2014



Wednesday, August 20, 2014 22 comments

RIP: James Foley

Aloha,

You may have heard that American journalist James Foley (40) was beheaded by Islamic State terrorists Tuesday.



I've called myself a journalist in the past, but what I did compared to the risks Mr. Foley took to do his job is like comparing apples and oranges.


 
 
I'm so angry that I have no words -- there are no words -- except to offer my sincere and deepest condolences to the Foley family.

I'm also posting these pictures of Mr. Foley, which I believe is how he would want to be remembered, and not how millions saw him in his final moments...





(Pictures above from the Free James Foley Twitter account)


 (Picture below:  (Steven Senne/The Associated Press)


Mr. Foley, of Rochester, N.H., during a May 2011 interview


Monday, August 18, 2014 25 comments

Unfollow by a Friend Leaves Me Socially Meditating

Aloha,

I got unfollowed this weekend.

Now, apart from that being an appalling sentence in both English and Yodaish, I have to tell you I was initially sad when I noticed it was a fellow blogger/writer friend who unfollowed me via Twitter.
Over the last few years, we’ve chatted/commented many times via our respective blogs/Twitter accounts  – albeit briefly on each occasion – so I worried... Had I said/done something to upset/offend her?


Leaving via a Jet Plane, Paddleboard or Twitter Unfollow!


 
To this effect, I sent her a quick Tweet, and she was very gracious to explain why she unfollowed me.

I so appreciated her taking the time to write back and ease my concern (I hate putting my size 13s in my mouth, but it happens a lot!)
We then both wished each other well moving forward - and that was that.
Every week on Twitter, I unfollow a ton of people – all strangers – (I don’t do FacePlant or anything else… who has the time???) but it does beg the questions:

Have you unfollowed a blogger friend on Social Media?
And, did you feel more like a Social Maverick, or did it make you go Yahoo!?


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