Thursday, February 29, 2024

Poetry All-Around

This is an excerpt from The Desperate Summer of '62.
It's from a chapter called The Perfect Night. The book is available in paperback, digital, and audible

Poetry All-Around

Mrs. Larsen dropped Rich off at the main gate of the county fair around 11:00 AM. Joe Quinn, who had a car, was supposed to meet Rich later and drive him home. 

A big day was planned. Rich had twenty dollars earned from baling hay. He ordered two hot dogs with mustard and onion along with a coke, at a food tent sponsored by his school. One of Rich's seventh-grade teachers, Mrs. Dotson, waited on him. 

Mrs. Dotson was a short stout woman and looked as if she was used to hard work. She wasn't flabby, but just thick. Her skin was tanned as if working in the fields. She had salt and pepper coarse hair, styled with waves. 

Rich was a disruptive student and he didn’t think she much cared for him.

She made her way to where Rich sat at the counter. “Enjoying the fair?” she asked like a suspicious Baptist aunt.

“I just got here, but, yeah,” Rich said feeling like a guilt-ridden sinner in need of redemption.

“How long are you going to stay?” She said wiping the counter that was not dirty.

“Till they close,” Rich said smiling and tossing a crumb where she wiped.

She smiled and wiped the crumb to the ground. “You’re going to stay out of trouble, aren’t you?”

“Me and trouble, you know better than that, Mrs. Dotson. I stay away from trouble.”

“That’s not the way I remember things,” Mrs. Dotson smiled placing hands on hips.

“You seem not to remember, I was your best student at speed map,” Rich said.

“You were pretty good at that,” she recalled.

“Andorra,” Rich bragged. “You thought you could fool me with that one.”

“I think you’re the only student in the seventh grade who knew where Lichtenstein was too.” Her brow furled and she said seriously, “How did you do this year?”

“I passed.” Rich said and added smiling, “Just.”

“I think you can do better and you know you can,” Mrs. Dotson said.

Rich smiled; being uncomfortable with what was turning out to be a sermon from ‘Reverend Dotson.’

“Mrs. Dotson, thanks,” Rich said.

“Thanks for what?” Mrs. Dotson asked.

“For giving me some help. For not coming down on me too hard,” Rich paused, “And reading Jesse Stewart.”

“Really, what book did I read?” Mrs. Dotson asked.

“The Thread That Runs So True.”

“Oh yes, “ she said, I do like that one. “What did you like about it?”

Rich had to think for a moment. “First of all, I like the way you read it. I felt like I could see the Appalachians, the small town, and the schoolhouse. And second, it was just a good story, written so everybody could understand.”

“First of all, it was Mr. Stewart who put you there,” she corrected. “And if you don’t believe me go to the library and read his book of poetry, Man With A Bull-Tongued Plow. I think you’d like that one.”

“I really don’t like poetry,” Rich said.

“Poetry is all around,” Mrs. Dotson said sweeping her arm around. “When you stroll down the midways, listen to the men at the concessions and think of rhythm, miter and the concise use of words. Do you remember covering that in English?”

“Yes,” Rich said.

“Then listen for it,” Mrs. Dotson said. “Those guys are quite good.”

“The least amount of effort to produce the maximum amount of vision and thought, that’s what you told us poetry was,” Rich said recalling her words from class.

“It is that and much more. Enjoy your lunch,” Mrs. Dotson said. “I got some customers.” She walked away to wait on another customer.

Mrs. Dotson always made Rich think beyond the obvious. It was as if she knew how his mind worked and then made it work. 

Rich finished his meal. 

“Mrs. Dotson,” Rich called to get her attention, “the guy down there with the big hammer trying to ring the bell – that’s poetry isn’t it?”

Mrs. Dotson smiled, “Yes, that’s right. Poetry and a whole lot of physics.”

“That’s cool,” Rich said.

“That’s really cool,” Mrs. Dotson added and smiled.

Rich spent the rest of the afternoon listening for the natural poetry from the carnival barker’s recitations and converting all things to reason and logic. 

It was an afternoon of discovery. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2024


This is an excerpt from the novel The Odyssey of ID. Rick Larsen has run away from home. He is now couple of days from home, peddling his bicycle toward his destination; Maine. He meets a variety of people on his way. 


“It’s Monday,“ was the first thing to come to Rich’s mind. Again, the morning birds woke Rich. He crawled from the tent and stumbled around in the twilight packing things and securing them on the bike. 

Over a cup of tea from a small campfire, he envisioned the morning at home and the school bus slowly stopping at his parents’ house, the driver would beep his horn, and wait. He will become impatient and drive on. His homeroom teacher, Mr. Carpenter, will hardly raise an eyebrow when discovering he is absent again. Some of the students will look curiously at each other and a moment later not even recognize the absence. 

The tea was warm, sweet, and smoothed with powdered creamer. It was reminiscent of Melinda, his older sister by 10 years. She learned to drink it with cream while at nursing school and prepared it for Rich one day when she was home on break. He always thinks of her every time he has tea. “Go ahead, try it,” she said. “This is the way the English drink it.” He remembered her delight as he sipped it “This is good!” Rich smiled and sipped the tea and for a moment thought about crying. 

Then his thoughts turned dark. For a moment he thought of Melinda and how she was unafraid of Dad. “Where did she get the courage I never had?” Rich thought. “She would understand more than anybody why I left. Someday I will knock on her door and she will be so proud of me. And we will sip tea again, just like old times.” 

Rich buried the fire using an Army trenching shovel. He pushed out of the woods atop the loaded bike and onto the road. His legs felt strong and vigorous. His thoughts were clear and his eyes keen to the beauty of the rolling wooded countryside. He stopped after a couple of hours of vigorous peddling beyond the Pennsylvania/New York state lines. 

He ate the last can of sardines. He vowed it would be a long time before he ate sardines again. What was sumptuous two days ago seemed to make every effort to escape today. 

While struggling to climb a hill a farmer driving a car pulling a single-axle trailer half full of bushel baskets overflowing with various types of grapes gave Rich a ride to a grocery market near Jamestown. Rich helped the farmer unload the grapes at the market. 

The farmer handed him a cluster.

“Try ‘em,” the farmer said. “They’re the best, the best in the world.”

Rich pulled several from the cluster and heaved them in his mouth. “Concord,” Rich said. “But the ones at home are just as good, maybe even better”

The farmer laughed. “Impossible, nobody has better-tasting grapes than me; you just miss home.”

“No sir,” Rich smiled, “I don’t miss home, but there may be some truth to what you are saying; I do miss the grapes.”

Rich thanked the farmer for the ride and peddled through Jamestown steering with one hand and eating the second-best grapes in the world with the other.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

My First Audiobook

For the last few weeks, I’ve been exploring the
possibility of making my books into audio formats. Without boring anyone with all the gruesome details of publishing an audiobook, I’ll give some the the highlights.

First of all, here is a link to my first book in audio; The Desperate Summer of ’62. It is the first in the Rich Larsen adventure series.

I first thought about narrating the book myself. I’ve never been a good sight reader. However, with software like GarageBand and Audacity, it’s easy to edit mistakes. I chose one of my novellas (Shepherd’s First Winter) as my test project. I read the first episode (about 1,000 words) over and over. It was terrible. 

I’m sorry, I’m getting into the gruesome details; I can’t help myself.

I found software on the Internet that took a sample of my voice and used it to narrate my book. However, the cost of the entire package would run over a thousand dollars. Frankly, what the software did with my voice was incredible. My voice was used to speak with clarity, no mistakes, and at a good pace. Too expensive for a mizer like me.

Other software products offered AI-generated voices. Some were very good. One company I decided to purchase software from offered it for around $40. I bought it. 

I loaded up my first novel. I listened to it. In the first couple of minutes the word “jibber” replaced about a dozen words. And a message appeared. It said I purchased the “basic” version and if I wanted access to a full dictionary that would remove the word, “jibber” there would be a charge for an upgrade to “pro.” And there would be a monthly subscription. 

I told a friend about this. I won’t say what he called them but I concurred. 

A refund was asked for and granted. They then turned around and offered everything at a one-time price. It was very reasonable. I wrote them, “Fool me once, shame of you. Fool me twice shame on me. No thanks.” 

I watched videos on YouTube ad nauseam. Some are good and informative, others like used car salesmen—no offense to used car salesmen. Some were like ‘Hey, dude, you will make a million dollars in one week with my software,” and others, “Hey, sailor, just get in town? Wanna buy some software?” 

Amazon Web Service has a feature of recording books from your text files and putting them into an audio file. However, Amazon’s audiobook partner ACX will not accept AI-generated voices. 

ACX offers real people to read your books. You can partner with them. Without more gruesome details the cost can run into thousands of dollars per audiobook. Narrators come at around $200 to $250 an hour. Then there’s an audio engineer. The name engineer always scares me. I’ve worked with them. They take a simple five-minute task and make it into a week-long project—that only works on paper. 

I was ready to give up. So I go to the place of last resort—Google. And was I surprised? If you sign up for their service to transform your book from text to voice, it is free. Well not quite. They start you out with a $300 credit. After that is used they charge $16 per 1,000,000 characters. My first novel has about 350,000 characters. All my novels can be done for free.

The downside—the voices used are AI. They are really good voices but they are not dramatic voices. Surprisingly they are not robotic. They don’t do a good job of recognizing exclamations. However. Mark Twain once said, “Exclamation marks in writing is like laughing at your own joke.” 

The bottom line, I’ve published an audiobook. And once again here is the link; The Desperate Summer of ’62. Bonne ecoute!