The Alpha Reads: John Hardy Wright

If you go to Salem, Massachusetts and you’re left feeling not quite sated in your quest for knowledge, then you definitely owe it to yourself to seek out the written work of local historian and appraiser John Hardy Wright.

Born and raised in Salem, John has amassed a wealth of knowledge and resources that have made him one of the most prominent local authors. Local history, as well as the life and times of one of the nation’s greatest authors are just some of the topics he has covered.

But what if Salem just isn’t your cup of tea? That’s fine, because John has also covered other North Shore towns such as Beverly and Marblehead.

Maybe you’re a fan of Wicked Tuna, which is filmed live in the town of Gloucester, which is as famous for it’s Catholic traditions as it is for being one of the most prominent fishing communities in New England.

And if you really want to broaden your horizons, you can also read up on Provincetown.

All of these books and more are available online. But if you’re in the area, you can also find them in Barnes and Noble, or anywhere Boston or the North Shore that carries books by local authors.

My One Resolution

I agree with some people who say that if you truly mean to do something, you shouldn’t need a special day to declare it. In other words, your resolutions should be year-round. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say that your resolutions can be made on New Year’s, but if you never make an effort to put those thoughts to action, it may as well just be another party with streamers and alcohol.

In the last two years, I have been very fortunate. I started each year with a goal that came to fruition by hard work and effort alone. People will have their own opinions of course as to whether those goals were worthy of the time and effort, but I’m satisfied.

For example: I worked my way up to this in 2014.

In 2015, I did this and this.

The writing won’t stop. But I do want to get more people to read my writing, otherwise I’m just yelling into the void.

So as I look back on my years of writing, I realize that one thing I have not done enough is to thank the people who have helped me to get where I am today. More specifically, I have often posted questions on forums with the intention of researching a specific story element. People have replied, but whether or not I thanked them for their reply, the one thing I might have done differently is to actually thank them by name/username in the acknowledgments section of my books.

So that is my resolution for the year 2016: Get more readers and find more expressive ways to thank people for their assistance.

Same Page Media Reviews: Adam Ruins Everything

Life is complicated. Or, we made it complicated. The research is out there and the experts have spoken, but who has time to be well informed and educated when you can just assume what you know and act as if your assumptions have always been fact?

That’s why I’m glad that there is a show called Adam Ruins Everything. If Confessions of a Cart Jockey had a budget and a contract to communicate to people through the one medium that the majority of the world still pays attention to, this is what that show might look.

Former College Humor writer Adam Conover spends a half-hour at a time debunking cultural myths, social fallacies, and (dare I say it) Failures of Humanity in a way that is entertaining, yet educational. Throughout the narrative of the show, wherein Adam inserts himself into the daily lives of some unassuming bystander, we see the sources of his information in the form of little blurbs on the screen, as well as actual experts who present their research to the audience. (Sometimes, the experts are just as entertaining as the actors)

Anyone who is a regular follower of my other blog knows how I feel about cars and driving. Adam not only covers the ways that the car and the auto industry have basically destroyed our civilization, but he rather intuitively shuts down all of the arguments people have thrown in my face when I make the same basic points.

Adam Conover is a much needed voice of reason, and if you’re as frustrated with ignorance and lack of education as I am, you’ll definitely want to tune in to Adam Ruins Everything. Don’t worry though, every episode ends with a reassuring Aesop that reminds us that we just need to keep our heads on straight if we want to stay afloat.

Same Page Media Reviews: Running Wild with Bear Grylls, Featuring POTUS Barack Obama

I first became aware of Bear Grylls through one of his earlier shows: Man Vs. Wild. 

Like many, I was one of those who was at first skeptical about the presentation of the show. The scenarios were planned, he was on camera so he wasn’t completely on his own, and obviously there was the disclaimer about Bear and his crew receiving help in life threatening situations. So how legitimate could his advice about survival be?

Well, if a guy cuts open the intestines of a camel to drink the water straight from the contents, I think its safe to say that you can take his advice to the bank. And as a matter of record, people who have watched his show, or read his books, have actually survived situations similar to the ones he presented, because they paid close attention to his shows.

Similarly, I now see every single snake I encounter with the same mentality: I could eat that if I had to.

I have been a fan of Barrack Obama from day one. I haven’t always agreed with his policies, but the same could be said of any president. This is not the place to discuss our political views (or conspiracy theories) but in regards to the man himself, Barack has always been one of the more down-to-earth men to have ever taken the big chair.

Of course the main criticism of this episode of Running Wild is that the security would be doubly ramped-up to 11. Obviously, the Secret Service is not going to allow the most important figurehead in our nation to spend any longer than necessary in the wilds of America, because that would be incredibly stupid and shortsighted. So it’s fair to say that this episode was more of a glorified camping trip than actual survival scenario, but that doesn’t make the significance of this event any less important.

Clinton twisted his ankle climbing out of a jet. Bush Senior threw up on the Japanese Prime Minister. William McKinley was shot point blank at a public event. No matter how tight the security, or how well planned everything is, even the most experienced Secret Service agent has to remember that no plan could ever be 100% foolproof. No matter how tightly the bubble is wrapped around the President, there will always be that 1% of risk that can’t be accounted for.

The fact that Bear Grylls was given this responsibility says so much about the trust our nation has placed in him, as well what the man had to accomplish throughout his life to earn that trust. Obama may not have spent the night on a bed made of pine branches, but he didn’t turn his nose up to eating a half-eaten salmon, naturally procured tea, and to learning all he could about the natural environment that Bear surrounds himself by everyday.

Both of these men set a really high bar for the rest of us when it comes to mutual respect, accomplishment, and a willingness to chuck aside our misconceptions to work together towards a common goal.

You Got Me Wanting You: A Come Lately Review

I participated in a Yankee Swap recently. Even I was the last to pick a gift, I had my eye on one special item of interest:

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This collection of Archies comics got traded twice. The first time, it very nearly left my grasp, because the party guest in question had to leave and take another guest to the train station. But fate intervened and someone swapped it before it left the house.

The Archies have been a part of my life in one form or the other since I was a little kid. Whether it was the band singing Sugar, Sugar, or the animated series that aired in the ’90’s, or Sabrina the Teenage Witch, or the issues of Archie and Betty and Veronica Digests, or the individual issues of the comic series that had been hijacked by some religious right wing group, the Archies were constant.

So I could not live with myself if I had left that party without this book in my hands. And the best part was, I wound up a little bit closer to a member of the Writer’s Group that I had worried about upsetting on a previous meeting, as he was the one who brought the gift.

I’m taking the book in doses right now. But I think this is the earliest incarnation of Archie comics that I have read and it just goes to prove that time is an immutable barrier. You take away the cellphones and the Internet of the modern era and you read these comics that were set in the 40’s and 50’s, and there’s nothing in here that a teenager wouldn’t find relevant nowadays. Although maybe, like me, they’ll see these characters and feel like they could actually belong with this group of people.

It was also surprising to me that Bob Montana, who was in charge of the creating the Archies strips at this time, had lived very close by, in Haverhill, Massachusetts. I’m consistently surprised to find how many artists that have touched my life in one way or the other, weren’t all that far from me, at least geographically. Maybe I didn’t have the same life experiences that Montana drew on to create his strip, but I feel as I hope many do that he was telling his story to my generation just as as much as he was telling it to his own.

Books are DVDs Now

Someone asked me why I wrote Survive by the Sword as a novella. Originally it wasn’t even supposed to have chapters, but the peculiar formatting requirements for Smashwords made chapters necessary for the convenience of e-book owners. And giving it chapters didn’t completely destroy the story, so it was no sweat. Similarly, The Sweetest Death is also more of a novella than a full novel.

At the end of the day, it was a personal decision to release the two shorter works as separate books. The plan is to later, at some point when my book sales cover the original cost of the covers, release an in print version of both books as one volume of the Nicodemus Dean series that will give me something to hold and hopefully sell to bookstores.

It’s a tricky business. I came to the conclusion not too long ago that Books are basically DVDs now. It’s no longer enough to simply write and publish a great story. Books are expensive and you need to give people more of an incentive to buy them now that there are cheaper alternatives.

What are the qualities of the best DVD’s? They have deleted and extended scenes, alternate beginnings and endings, music videos, interviews with the cast and crew, and sometimes four or five separate discs full of information that film students gobble up like candy.

Go the nearest bookstore and what do you find on the shelves of best sellers? Books with “deleted chapters”. Special edition releases of books with the “Author’s cut”. Bonus stories.

In the late 90’s, it wasn’t uncommon for Scholastic, or publishers that produced TV-tie in novels to release information about contests, or specially wrapped books with unique gifts for loyal readers. I myself feverishly collected all of the extra trinkets that the Animorphs series released in their time. (Does anyone else still have tie Iron-on?)

Though I wasn’t a huge reader of adult fiction until I started picking up The Vampire Chronicles, I don’t recall seeing all of the “Extras”. Prince Lestat was the first Vampire Chronicle in ten years, so naturally it was a good idea to have a glossary of characters and terms to give old readers a refresher and keep new readers from getting lost.

I for one am totally on board with this. If I am going to try to make a dent in the print market, I am aware to load the book with as many extras as possible to make my reader feel that their ten or twelve dollars was worth it. (Prices are not set in stone right now)