Monthly Archives: May 2011

My Dad: All American Hero

veitnam|memorial day|patriotism|support our troopsHappy Memorial Day America!

In 1965, Rodney Grant signed the paper that would turn him from a boy of 17 into a man. Growing up in Indianapolis, Rodney looked at a career in the military as a good way to get a steady job and see the world while serving his country.

Signing on with the Marine Corps, Rodney started training in tanks. When officers came through his boot camp looking for volunteers for an impending conflict, Rodney was quick to volunteer. Always looking for an adventure, Rodney soon found himself in Vietnam and more adventure than he had ever imagined.

Today, memories of Vietnam come to Rodney like it was yesterday. Decorated and disabled, Rodney served in the first wave of combat Marines to hit the beach, ready to put his life on the line. He was an enthusiastic soldier who thrived on the adrenaline that comes from being under fire. When soldiers were needed to slide into dark foxholes underground to look for booby traps and enemy soldiers, many men shied away from such dangerous duty. To Rodney, though, it sounded like a challenge. “I used to think there was something wrong with me because I literally enjoyed combat. It was exciting.”

Serving in Vietnam provided plenty of challenges. Rodney remembers sitting in helicopters so noisy he could hardly hear his own thoughts. Suddenly, little spots of light began appearing in the helicopter walls next to him. Rodney stared at them, perplexed for a moment before realizing that they were bullet holes from Viet Cong shooting at them from below. “Now, if you don’t get a little rush from that, you need to go home!,” he laughs.

Not all memories were so exciting, however. With the ultimate thrill came a high price. Pain, both physical and mental, plagued soldiers of all ranks. Disease, wounds, and fatigue could be recovered from, but the wounds of the heart do not heal so easily. One of the most painful came one day as Rodney sat in a foxhole, guarding the front entrance to his compound. A mother and her nine-year-old daughter came to the compound entrance selling sodas.

The seemingly innocent act moved Rodney to purchase a few before sending them off. “The little girl was just beautiful, with black hair and dark eyes.” He remembers. After giving them his money, Rodney tried to tell them to go away, but they ignored him. The daughter wandered away while Rodney motioned for the mother to move on. The mother seemed not to understand him.

Finally, in frustration, Rodney pretended to put a round into the chamber of his gun and pointed it at them to frighten them away. Startled, the little girl jerked around quickly, and suddenly an explosion flattened them all to the ground. The mother and her child were dead. An investigation found that the little girl had been trying to set up a trip wire attached to a grenade, and when Rodney had pointed his gun, she thought he had seen her actions and accidentally set it off.

Rodney was unharmed physically — the mother’s body had shielded him from the flying shrapnel — but his heart suffered as if it had been at the center of the blast. Years later, the memory is still poignant. “I still, today, see their bodies floating in the air in slow motion and feel the concussion from the grenade. I just stood there wondering, ‘What the hell? What just happened?'”

It was anger that Rodney felt later that night in his tent. He was angry that a war would force a little girl and her mother to die when they should have been playing games together. The anger gave him a stronger resolve to fight against a government that not only condoned but also forced the death of innocents.

“What I did feel bad for was that there was an individual out there that was cruel enough to send a small child out to battle me. That made me angry, and that night I did cry.” Rodney sees many similarities between Vietnam and the war in Iraq. In both, American soldiers are fighting to free an oppressed people that suffer at the hands of a greed-driven government.

He sympathizes with the soldiers in the desert, hoping that they can take the painful experiences they are living through and turn them into positive action. “A lot of our congressmen and presidents have had this kind of experience and they turned them around for good. They are the heroes.” He says.

Many years have passed since Rodney was an adventure-seeking young man of 17, but the heart of a warrior still beats in his chest. “I got an e-mail the other day that said ‘I’m not as lean, I’m not as mean, but I’m still a Marine’.” Says Rodney laughing. “I’m definitely not as lean, I might be just as ornery, but I’m still a jarhead and a representative of my country.”

If he could, says Rodney, he would gladly go again, not to the jungle this time, but to the battle in the desert. Rodney told that to a young soldier recently when the airman apologized for having to search Rodney’s car before entering a base.

The soldier looked at the Purple Heart/Vietnam license plates on the car for a moment and replied “No sir. It’s our turn. You did your turn already.”

This was originally published on MilitaryLife.com on 13 April 2003 as Under Fire: War in Iraq Sparks One Marine’s Memories of Vietnam

The Adventure Begins

End of Mae|vampire|Death ButterflyI haven’t been around much lately, it would seem, but I’ve actually barely left the computer all week. 

I’ve been finishing different versions of my book, creating artwork and building a virtual model of the book in Second Life.

The book will be available on Kindle in less than 24 hours, and now endofmae.com points to the dedicated page I’ve been working on.   There’s also an official End of Mae shop now with posters, shirts and jewelry.  There’s still a lot to do… but the main surge is over and I can get back to my regular posts here.  Some really interesting things have been happening; among them how I ‘won’ a really expensive Fiskars gardening set, a big box of Cadbury Chocolate, the MyBlogSpark girls are doing another review and I’ll have a little promo movie of the book available soon. 

The adventure is just beginning….

Tenek Brings Us To Higher Ground

Tenek|Peter Steer|Geoff Pinckney

Tenek

Today I’m catching up on projects, and waiting for Tenek to release their latest video; Higher Ground. Tenek is some of my favorite music to work by. It’s like coffee for your auditory senses. The electric textures and driving rhythms get into your head and suddenly everything seems better, brighter and more meaningful.

Tenek consists of Sussex based Peter Steer and Geoff Pinckney. The two musicians met in the 1990’s at a Gary Numan show in London. Geoff’s band, Glasshouse, was touring with Gary Numan at the time. Peter liked Glasshouse, and Geoff, from the start. “I really thought they were good so got chatting with them about doing some gigs along with my band ‘BonBooshe’. We both ended up touring with Gary Numan on his next tour and the bands became good friends.”

When BonBooshe broke up Peter wound up joining Glasshouse as their guitarist and backing vocalist for the next three years. Eventually Peter wound up moving on to join Shockwork and Geoff became part of The Nine. Despite going their separate ways, they remained friends and kept in touch. 2004 brought them together again to collaborate on Alien 6, a production project to produce dance music for games, but Geoff and Peter were ready for more.

History was made when a mutual friend suggested they form an electro/synth band, and in June 2007 Tenek was officially born.  The first album, Stateless, quickly sold out and their last album, On the Wire is a gorgeous package that has Depeche Mode’s classic synthetic chill.  Tenek is the best of 1980 souped up.  My favorite cuts from On The Wire would have to be Higher Ground and Blinded By You.  But what does “tenek” mean? Peter says,

“The name originally came from a sound at the end of a Heaven 17 song called ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ which we thought sounded like the word ‘tenek’ at the end of the track. It is in fact ‘Thang’ echoing away! We wanted a short non-specific catchy name.”

The name is so catchy they have to share with the Tenek people, an indigenous Mexican tribe.  I bet they’d love a concert from Peter and Geoff :p

On the Wire|Tenek|ToffeeTones

Find out more about Tenek, listen to some music and see video clippage at the official Tenek website, on MySpace and on Facebook.  You can also check out their label, Toffeetones Records.

Official Book Cover Proof Ready

End of Mae|Whitesbog|New Jersey|Jersey Devil|vampire

Sneak peek at the final End of Mae cover proof...

Interesting creepy factoid:  The front cover features a photo of a deserted tombstone.  I always thought the dates were so interesting… born on Valentine’s Day and died at a solstice.  The day I happened to finish the final rewrite happened to be the day that W.W. Wolfe died, 89 years afterwards.  I completely confess, when I made the connection, I got goosebumps :p

 

My Official End of the World Message

The end of the world is supposed to be today at 6:00pm.  Here in Australia that’s in less than four hours.  Since the rapture is supposed to happen on local time, that means I’ll get to know before most of the world what will happen.

Honestly, I don’t have any opinion on whether or not this is all true, the same way I won’t say there’s no chance of aliens.  Anything is possible.  What I do know for sure is that I’m not going to worry about it either way.

I believe that goodness shouldn’t be saved for special occasions like Christmas and the end of the world.  Everyday should be savored like it was the last, because for millions of people everyday, it is. 

If tomorrow passes by with nothing more remarkable than a new dawn, I hope that everyone will not just go back to business as usual.  Today people are making amends with family and friends and thinking twice about stealing that parking space ‘just in case’, but in reality we never know when our end is coming. 

Live well and with no regrets and don’t worry about tomorrow.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Reviewing for Rewards

MyBlogSpark|freebies|Yoplait|review sites
© Photo by Lori Alcorn

Imagine if Christmas came more than once a year and surprises came regularly to your mailbox.  That’s what Lori A. gets all the time as a veteran reviewer.

Dedicated to word of mouth marketing, Lori tries out products for different companies, and then posts her honest opinion of them on her blog.

MyBlogSpark is one of the companies that puts reviewers like Lori in touch with companies that need reviews.  The benefit to Lori is free goodies, like this workout set from Yoplait in the photo.

“MyBlogSpark is easy to use and has all your info for sparks in one place.  They offer you a product to try along with lots of great gifts to go along with it –  you also get the offer to give to one your readers.  I do any MyBlogSpark I am offered and its been my pleasure to work with them.  I have never had a package missing or in bad shape. MyBlogSpark are professionals and I love working with them.”

While Lori is an experienced reviewer, Kira S. is just getting her feet wet.  She has just recently joined MyBlogSpark to try it out.  I’ll be covering both their experiences here for anyone who’s interested in seeing how these programs work first hand. 

Can you really get boxes of goodies in exchange for your opinion?  Not only can you, I’ll show you how, what, when and where right here.  If you already use one of these sites, please share your experiences with us in the comments section.  Now’s your chance to plug your stuff!  😀

When Equality Goes Upside Down

Beyonce|Run the World|Remember your elementary school days when boys had cooties and came from Jupiter “to get more stupider”?  For most of us those days are past, but, unfortunately, not for all of us.

Take Beyonce’s recent video hit, Run the World.  It’s an attitude drenched anthem that takes woman’s rights back about 50 years. 

Far from showing women as the stronger sex capable of having babies and bringing in a paycheck, Beyonce’s dancers seem to have been told their sole purpose was to show lots of skin and look bitchy.  Way to go, Beyonce.  The video looks like it could be a sexist joke on Family Guy.  Surely there was a better way to show the girls’ liberation then thigh high stockings and corsets?

Speaking of guys, the video is an excellent example of double standards.  If a man had made this video, I could see it being flagged for sexual discrimination.  You wouldn’t have to change anything except make Beyonce a boy.

As far as double standards go, the media seems rift with them lately.  A few days ago I watched a newscast on the “Brocial Network”, a private Facebook group for men only.  The entry fee is submission of a female photo, scantily clad.  Scantily, as in bikini pics, not naked. 

The whole thing hardly seemed worth prime news cast time I thought. If I started a group of my girl friends and said the entry fee is a photo of a sexy man in his undies, we’d all laugh and feel clever.  I don’t really see what the big deal is.

The complainants on the news show made blanket statements like “surf the web, as men do”.  Doesn’t that insinuate that women don’t surf the web, or did she just mean surf the web looking for pictures of scantily clad women.  And is it because I can’t, or if I do I’m somehow ‘broken’ or that I’m too delicate? 

I am 100% for equality for all sexes, races, age and even species, but I object when it seems the downtrodden is trying to take the place of the tyrants.  When equality turns upside down, it’s no longer equality.  It’s just the same old shoe of oppression on the other foot.

Just my opinion.

Crafting a Successful Etsy Experience

Etsy|crafting|selling crafts|sell your art|Years ago crafters were tied to church fairs and local gift shops to sell their creations.  Now, thanks to the miracle of the internet, crafters can use online markets like Etsy to sell their wares beyond their local area. 

I’m not much of a crafter myself, so I turned to three excellent ladies that work with Etsy themselves to explore this topic.  They each represent a different Etsy experience, and have shared their know how with the rest of us who may be thinking about delving into selling work online.

Beth Cyr|organic jewelry|precious metal|Beth Cyr Jewelry – Organic Metal Jewelry

Beth Cyr started with Etsy at the suggestion of a friend.  She had quit her job to follow her passion and become a full-time artist with no clear direction of how to accomplish that.  After a few months of just scraping by, she started listing with Etsy.

“I hoped to be able to make a living selling on Etsy. The friend that had told me about it did really well and sold quite a lot. So it gave me the confidence to know that was possible.”

One of the things that works well for Beth is the huge market available to her through Etsy from the convenience of her computer.  She has sold her jewelry in almost every state in America, and in ten countries.  “The first street team I joined, EtsyMetal, is amazing as well. The amount of support and inspiration that has come from being a part of that group is incredible and I would venture to say life changing.”

Beth’s Advice for other Estiers?  In her own words:

Oh I have lots of advice, but I’ll try to keep it short! If you really want it to be successful, treat it like a full-time job. Do as much as you possibly can to get your name and your shop link out there (without being annoying). Get a flickr account, start a Facebook business page, start a blog, follow blogs, make connections. I think a large part of the continued success of my business has been the (free) features on many blogs – some small, some larger.

Be generous! Try to give more than you get – it will come back to you. Feature friends and other people’s work you like. Helping to promote others is excellent for the entire handmade community. I think it is important to have the intent of helping other though. It is fairly easy to spot when sellers go about promoting others with a clearly self-promoting goal (which I find quite off-putting).

I also think it is good to remember what works for one person may not work for another. A lot of new sellers seem to want to find that special formula that someone else used and apply it to their own shop. The “formula” that I came up with for myself, probably wouldn’t work for someone else, not to mention that it is always changing 🙂

There will be times when you feel like you are working extremely hard and there is no payout. You’ve spent hours on the computer – days and days at a time and not sold anything. Keep going! I believe that if you are authentic, love what you do and offer it in an open manner, you will be successful.

Oh… and offer excellent customer service. 

tye dye|batik|fiber arts|hippy|beachWild Dyes – Tye Dye & Fiber Arts

Kris Ogden is known as Tye Dye Kris around the Emerald Coast.  She started out with Etsy after it was suggested to her by her friend, Holly Eqq.  She had heard of it but wasn’t really inspired to try it with her own art until then.

“I thought that Etsy would give me a good user-friendly site to sell my art without having to figure out the whole shopping cart thing for my own website, wilddyes.com. It costs very little to use, and you get the added bonus of Etsy driven site traffic.”

 Kris likes the cost efficiency of Etsy.  It costs only 20 cents to list each item, the photos are free and the listing stays up for months.  Kris also likes the strong and well-connected Etsy community that opens up all sorts of built-in marketing opportunities.  “My best experience with Etsy is just how fun it is to browse and look at what other artists and crafters are creating.  I can spend hours doing this!”

Kris’s advice for other Etsiers?  In her own words:

“For anyone new to selling online my best advice would be to get a decent digital camera and brush up on photography. Learn how to take a great picture of your item, It may be the most amazing piece of art, but if your picture is marginal, and amateurish you may lose the sale. Try to make your items look as slick as possible.  Etsy has a lot of info on how this can be achieved.

Secondly I would say make sure to give good customer service. There is a feedback system on Etsy for customers and sellers to leave feedback about each other. You want positive feedback from your customers, other customers will look at your feedback and make a decision if they want to buy from you or not.

Tangent Lines|beaded jewelry|necklaces|semi precious stonesTangent Lines – Designer Jewelry & Accessories

Tina Lorah was attracted to Etsy because it was a well-known and established site, like eBay, but for hand crafted items.  She hopes that one day she will earn enough regularly to quit her day job and create fulltime. 

“I have a lot of friends that do crafts and who hope to sell their stuff and I think we all have that same dream of working for ourselves.”

Tina thinks that Etsy is the way to go for maximum exposure for minimal cost and head ache.  There’s no website to manage, no domain names to obtain, and no brick & mortar store to eat away profit.  The social aspect is another bonus.  Etsy is an excellent chance for artists all over the world to network with each other, share ideas and inspiration.

Tina’s advice for other Etsier’s?  In her own words:

“Choose your shop name carefully, make it easy to find. I didn’t realize that if you have more than a one word shop name, it runs the words all together. So if it’s a long name it’s going to be harder to find than a one or two-word name. Which leads me to my next bit of advice;  Read the information they have on their website first. They have a wonderful resource guide with all kinds of helpful advice on setting up your store, increasing sales, taking better photos…..and so much more. Plus there is more info in their community where you talk with other shop owners as well as buyers plus info through blogs.”

That’s the scoop from actual Etsiers.  To me it sounds like the best way to get your creations into the hands of others.  For those of you that have an artistic flair, consider turning it into a little extra money by selling your items online.  If you do, let me know about it… I’d love to share your story here on Dandilyon Fluff.

New Machinimist Marketer Up at Hypergrid Business

dandelion|dandilyon fluff|blogging

 

Last night I made the mistake of pulling an all nighter to catch up on work.  But now I’m too pooped to think and heading off to bed early.  Somehow I don’t think that worked out like I planned…

If you are so addicted that you absolutely must have new Fluff, then let me tell you now how much I love you and send me your Christmas wish list asap.

You can also go read my latest column up at Hypergrid Business on making music videos on a budget.  And with that… ZzzZZZZzzzzz……

The End of Mae: A Name Change & A Rewrite Later

End of Mae|vampire|horror|undead|graveyard|tombstone|cryptAnyone who’s been with me for a while remembers how excited I was about publishing my first fictional book, called The SilverJinx.  It was the result of an argument at a writer’s conference years ago between two writer’s passionate about their genre.  I was one of them, and I loved writing non fiction.  The Other Guy was a fiction writer.  And he started it.

I swear that I am usually a very sweet, open-minded person more bent towards freedom of self-expression rather than the My Way is the Only Way philosophy.  That’s how I know it was all Other Guy’s fault.  He brought out the worst in me that day, and all with the blanket statement of “Non fiction writers don’t have imagination, that’s why they can only write what they see.”

That fired my temper up.  I countered with the idea that non fiction writers are too interested in the real world to hide in fantasy.  I don’t really believe that, in fact up until that argument I don’t think it had ever occurred to me that one genre was better than the other.

I won’t get into all the ugly particulars, but it ended up with us being shushed and heading into our next meeting, faces flushed in anger and hearts pounding.  I don’t think I heard much of that lecture, all I remember is reciting to myself all the reasons Other Guy was wrong, and vowing to show him up by writing a work of fiction so imaginative he’d have to eat his words and concede to non fiction capability.

Fortunately I can’t stay angry long, and by the time the conference ended so had all my aspirations to show him up.  It had raised a few thoughts in my mind though.  At the time I was a contract writer for a military consumer site, and I worked on the side for a local paper.  I loved what I did, but sometimes it felt stale.

So I started writing my book.  Like many a baby, it was inspired by an argument and born without a clue.  I leapt into the project without much thought, it was just for fun.  Little did I know my baby was going to grow up and take on personality and life of its own, much like my actual children.

I finally came to the end of the writing part last year, shortly before I was to head off to Australia.  There was a rush to get it published so I could hand carry a few copies with me instead of paying for shipping.  It felt like Christmas when the proof copy finally arrived at the house.  It was such a thrill to see the thing that had lived in my computer for so long have a body of its own. 

I’ve always loved new book smell, and the way the pages crack open so reluctantly at first, but I swear a book with your name on it must have pheromones added to the paper.  I was definitely in love with the perfect, new thing.  And then I noticed an error.  The character’s name of “Mae” had been substituted for the word “may”.  What’s one little typo, in the grand scheme of the whole book?  Then I noticed that all the words “may” had been changed to the character’s name.  Now we have a problem. 

One copy was sent out, and I had production halted.  I was due to leave for Australia within days so there was no time to go through and fix everything, and have it republished.  I packed the proof copy in my suitcase at the bottom and there it was forgotten in all the excitement of experiencing a new country and marriage.

I’ve started reworking it about a month ago, and wound up re-titling it End of Mae, which is much more fitting.  I never associated the name Mae with the month until yesterday when an online friend made the connection.  That inspired me to stop procrastinating and finish so I can have it ready to republish it at the end of this month, the end of May. 

How fitting 😀