So you can read my books

Wednesday, May 16, 2018


She was born Maria Górska on 16 May 1898 in Warsaw, then part of the Russian Empire.

When she was ten, her mother commissioned a pastel portrait of her by a prominent local artist.

 She detested posing and was dissatisfied with the finished work.

 She took the pastels, had her younger sister pose, and made her first portrait.

How many artists and authors started like that,
"I could do better than that!"

In 1915, she met and fell in love with a prominent Polish lawyer, Tadeusz Łempicki

Her family offered him a large dowry, and they were married in 1916 in the chapel of the Knights of Malta in St. Petersburg.

The Russian Revolution in 1917 shattered their lives.

In December 1917, Tadeusz Łempicki was arrested in the middle of the night by the secret police.

Tamara searched the prisons for him, and with the help of the Swedish consul, to whom she offered her "favors," she secured his release.

The couple struggled their way to Paris  where Tamara's family had also found refuge.

Tadeusz proved unwilling or unable to find suitable work.

To support their daughters, Tamara turned to selling her paintings.

In 1928 she was divorced from Tadeusz Łempicki.

That same year, she met Raoul Kuffner, a baron of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and an art collector.

He commissioned her to paint his mistress, the Spanish dancer Nana de Herrera.

Lempicka finished the portrait (which was not very flattering to de Herrera)

and took the place of de Herrera as the mistress of the baron.

In 1929, Lempicka painted one of her best-known works, Autoportrait --
(Tamara in a green Bugatti)

The wife of Baron Kuffner died in 1933. De Lempicka married him on 3 February 1934 in Zurich.

She was alarmed by the rise of the Nazis and persuaded her husband to sell most of his properties in Hungary and to move his fortune and his belongings to Switzerland.

Her Art Deco style fell out of fashion.

Art Deco was "rediscovered" in the late 1960's.

Her "rediscovery" amused Tamara. 
She needed no one's approval to feel whole.

The best description of Lempicka's work was her own:

"I was the first woman to make clear paintings
and that was the origin of my success.
 Among a hundred canvases,
mine were always recognizable"

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Is TECHNOLOGY Clouding Your Mind?

The 1930's character, The Shadow, possessed the power to cloud men's minds so they couldn't see him.

Any stage magician will tell you that there are 

blind spots, edges, vulnerabilities and limits of people’s perception, 

so they can influence what people do without them even realizing it. 

Once you know how to push people’s buttons, you can play them like a piano.



 Western Culture is built around ideals of individual choice and freedom. 

Millions of us fiercely defend our right to make “free” choices, 

while we ignore how those choices are manipulated upstream by menus we didn’t choose in the first place.

This is exactly what magicians do. 

They give people the illusion of free choice while architecting the menu so that they win, no matter what you choose. 

I can’t stress enough the importance of this insight.

When people see a menu, they do not ask:




Say you're out with friends having a meal and a good conversation.

You want to keep it going so you ask Yelp for nearby recommendations and get a list of bars.

Yelp substituted the group’s original question (“where can we go to keep talking?”) 

with a different question (“what’s a bar with good photos of cocktails?”) all by shaping the menu.

 While looking down at your phones, 

you and they don’t see the park across the street with a band playing live music. 

They miss the pop-up gallery on the other side of the street serving crepes and coffee. 

 Neither of those show up on Yelp’s menu.


 Put a slot machine in a billion pockets.

How do you keep people hooked on an app?


The average person checks their phone 150 times a day. 

Why do we do this? 

Are we making 150 conscious choices?

 The #1 psychological ingredient in slot machines:

Intermittent Variable Rewards

Addictiveness is maximized when the rate of reward is most variable.

 Slot machines make more money in the United States than baseball, movies, and theme parks

 If you want to maximize addictiveness, all tech designers need to do is link a user’s action with a variable reward.

 Oh, but you don't play slot machines you say.


Several billion people have slots machines in their pockets.

When we pull our phone out of our pocket, we’re playing a slot machine to see what notifications we got.

 When we pull to refresh our email, we’re playing a slot machine to see what new email we got.

 When we swipe down our finger to scroll the Instagram feed, we’re playing a slot machine to see what photo comes next.

 When we swipe faces left/right on dating apps like Tinder, we’re playing a slot machine to see if we got a match.

 When we tap the # of red notifications, we’re playing a slot machine to what’s underneath.


 Another way apps and websites hijack people’s minds is by inducing a “1% chance you could be missing something important.”

 If I convince you that I’m a channel for important information, messages, friendships, or potential sexual opportunities —

 it will be hard for you to turn me off, unsubscribe, or remove your account — 

because (aha, I win) you might miss something important.

 * This keeps us subscribed to newsletters even after they haven’t delivered recent benefits 

(“what if I miss a future announcement?”)

*  This keeps us “friended” to people with whom we haven’t spoke in ages 

(“what if I miss something important from them?”)

*  This keeps us using social media 

(“what if I miss that important news story or
 fall behind what my friends are talking about?”)


 We’ll always miss something important at any point when we stop using something.


We don’t miss what we don’t see.


Saturday, May 12, 2018

MOTHER Is Not a 4 Letter Word

Though you might think it a term of profanity 
from our modern movies.

Sadly, the full term is used more and more lately.

In fact, it is the duct tape that binds Samuel L. Jackson's dialogue together!

Yet, MOTHER is a name that is so complex depending upon the situation in which you hear it 

that it is a many-faceted gem of many colors and nuances. 

The young woman hearing that she is soon to be a mother 

may hear the term with hope, despair, or fear of being like her own hated mother.

The teenager yelling "Mother!" may feel unloved, controlled, or ignored.

The man sitting by the death-bed of his mother 

may whisper the name out of a wellspring of loving memories 

or from a dark pit of having never been understood.

Mothers are only human:

 some saintly, some devilish, most somewhere in between.

We train our children in schools on how to do everything senseless but not how to live well.

Shouldn't we have classes on how to parent?  

How to deal with stress?  

How to manage a budget?

Mothers make it up as they go along.

Sandra, my best friend, had a son, Drew, 

who was forever fiddling with the electric wall sockets close to the floor boards.

She finally put covers on all of them.

Sometime later as she did her business' books on her computer, she heard a Fittzz and saw the lights go dim.

She turned to the sound of faltering steps.

There stumbled poor little Drew, his hair looking like Einstein's, holding his trembling right hand high.

"Mama right.  Mama right!"

From that time forward, Sandra would counsel Drew when he felt compelled to do an unwise thing. "Mama right."

Usually, Drew would later sadly confide to her with a wry, hurt smile.  

"Mama right.  Mama right."

May we all have had mothers wise enough for us to follow their counsel.

Happy Mother's Day 
to All My Friends 
For Whom This Day Applies!

Thursday, May 10, 2018


 to which you have risen,
but the depths
from which you have climbed."
- Frederick Douglass

And the 19th century abolitionist should know.

He began life as a slave to become the "Lion of Anacostia."

And how did he begin that climb?


The wife of his owner taught him the alphabet, then the beginnings of how to read.

His owner put a stop to that, saying that if he learned how to read, he would become dissatisfied with his lot.

"The first anti-slave lecture I ever heard,"
wryly said Frederick later in his life.

Later he would learn how to better read from the white children in the neighborhood
and from the writings
of the men with whom he worked.

Reading opened a whole new world of thought to the young boy.

He read newspapers, political essays, books of every kind, and the New Testament --

which he taught other slaves to read at a weekly Sunday school.

It lasted six months before other slave owners, armed with clubs and stones, broke it up.


They feared their slaves being able to read.

To read.

It is an awesome ability we often take for granted.

And writing?

We who take up that task must understand its power. The power of the word to touch one human soul, beginning a rippling effect whose end none but The Father knows.

But before we can do that we must climb out of the dreaded slush pile.

And Scaling Mt. Everest was a cinch compared to climbing out of the slush pile.

Just ask any unpublished writer. Ask me. Ask the marines.

So how do you climb out of the slush pile?

You tackle the task like a professional. Agents are business men and women. You must approach them as such.

In essence, approaching an agent for representation is like approaching a bank for a loan.

Mark Twain said that banks were like those folks who were willing to lend you an umbrella when it was sunny.

When you don't need the money, banks will loan it to you. Why? Because they know you can pay it back.

Often it feels as if agents are silently saying with their rejections, "If I don't want your autograph, then I don't want your manuscript."

If you're Stephen King, agents will kill to represent you. Well, maybe not. But then again, one never knows.

But you're not Stephen King. So what do you do? No. Identity theft is out of the question.

Think bank loan. What do banks want from you? A good credit rating for one thing.

And what does an agent want from you? Credentials. Like what you ask?

Awards or achievements. Professional associations. Education. Related work experience.

How do you get those?

Attend local writers' workshops, taught by professional writers.

Politely get to know as many professionals there as you can. Very, very diplomatically ask them if you may use their names when inquiring of an agent.

Hey, all of them were where you are now. Most of them are quite kind. I will help you bury the rest.

{Just checking to see if you were paying attention.}

Have your novel FULLY completed. I saw a friend lose her shot at a great agent because she submitted it only half done.

He wanted to see the full. She had to tell him the truth. End of a wonderful window of opportunity.

Have the first 30 pages so polished and suspenseful you would bet your life on them. You are certainly betting the life of your career and of your novel on them.

Write a killer query letter.


Show her something that she very seldom sees.


Be Hemingway in your query.

Give yourself three sentences to convey the plot, characters, themes, and emotional impact of your 400 page novel.

IMdB is a good source to see how summaries of classic movies are written in three sentences.

Be an adverb stalker.

Stalk them and send them packing. No adverbs allowed. Or darn few.

No first names for your target agent. No self-depreciating comments allowed either. People tend to take you at the value at which you place yourself.

We are drawn to confident people because we unconsciously accept that they have something about which to be confident.

If they are sure, it sets us at ease. They are competent. And who doesn't want a competent person at their side?

You're applying for a loan here. Be professional.

Be aware of the requirements of the specific agent that you're approaching. See you from her side of the desk. What is she looking for?

For one thing:

a novel that is unique but born of what is selling for the publishers.

And what sells? Primal. Primal appeals to the unconscious mind of the reader, including the agent.

Primal hungers. Primal dangers. Primal drives.

Sex. Money. Safety. And threats to all three.

Give the agent the first three lines of your novel. Make sure they are great hooks. Sentences that reach out and grab the reader.

They will more than likely be the only sentences any agent will ever read of your submitted manuscript before coming to a conclusion of the attractiveness and saleability {is that a word?} of your work.

Submit to the agent EXACTLY as she requests.

This indicates that ...

1.) You are literate and can follow simple instructions.

2.) You are a professional and are in this for the long haul.

If the agent asks you to change the ending or get rid of a character, remain calm.

This may simply be a test. Use some imagination, some deep-breathing exercises, and do what the agents requests.

She wants to see how you handle criticism. She doesn't want a temperamental prima donna on her hands.

The one she sees in the mirror is quite enough, thank you.

{Just checking if you're paying attention again.}

How you handle these requests will show her your degree of professionalism. These requests are a good sign.

She's interested. She's been around a lot longer than you in the business. Try it her way.

Write it her way.

Then, if the ending or character is pivotal in your thinking, present a reasoned, item by item defense.

But be flexible. It is better to bounce than to break.

I know. I have the bruises to prove it.

Good luck to all my fellow climbers out there.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018


[Banner courtesy of McCorkle Creations}

The small palms by my poker table hissed through the shadows of Meilori's with their flaying leaves.

The ghost of Julie London swayed by on her way to the stage.

She lowered her lashes until they almost cuddled her cheeks and slowly raised them again like a theater curtain.

The ghost of Raymond Chandler petted Midnight in his lap.  

"I know that trick, kid. That was supposed to make you roll over on your back with all four paws in the air.”

"Woof," I said.

Mark Twain chuckled, "God created women so that Man would learn seeing ain't always believing."

Stephen King smiled, drawing a card.  "And why was Man created?"

Roger Zelazny snorted, "So Taylor Swift would have lyrics to her songs when she broke up with one."

Hemingway puffed on his cigar.  "My post did well the other day, didn't it?"

Roger nodded.  "Surprisingly so since you nay-sayed their dream of slapping a novel together in a month."

Hemingway said, "Dreams alone won't fill libraries."

Roger looked off into the darkness.  

“I like libraries. It makes me feel comfortable and secure to have walls of words, beautiful and wise, all around me. I always feel better when I can see that there is something to hold back the shadows.”

Mark puffed on his own cigar.  

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.”

Chandler sighed, 

"They are wasting a month hurrying a novel when they should be carefully crafting one.  But there is no trap so deadly as the trap you set for yourself.”

Roger nodded, 

"I always forced myself to sit down and write five pages each morning.  Then, each evening I would slash and hack those pages down into three."

He smiled sadly to me.  “No word matters. But man forgets reality and remembers words.”

He tapped his cards against his teeth.  "Here's a tip for you, Roland.

Occasionally, there arises a writing situation where you see an alternative to what you are doing, a mad, wild gamble of a way for handling something,

which may leave you looking stupid, ridiculous or brilliant -

you just don't know which.

You can play it safe there, too, and proceed along the route you'd mapped out for yourself.

Or you can trust your personal demon who delivered that crazy idea in the first place.

Trust your demon.” 

Stephen King laughed softly, "I always do.  Roland, books are the perfect entertainment:

no commercials, no batteries, hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent.

What I wonder is why everybody doesn't carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” 

An evil gleam shined in his eyes behind his glasses.  "While we're giving tips to you.  Here's a few:

 “Good books don't give up all their secrets at once.  Learn the strip-tease delay of good fiction, revealing as you go along.  Great fiction is the truth within the lie."

Chandler took a slow sip of his drink.  

"It all boils down to your hero, kid.  He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man.

He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor --

by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. 

He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world.

He is a relatively poor man, or he would not be a hero at all.

He is a common man or he could not go among common people. He has a sense of character, or he would not know his job.

He will take no man's money dishonestly and no man's insolence without due and dispassionate revenge.

He is a lonely man and his pride is that you will treat him as a proud man or be very sorry you ever saw him.

He talks as the man of his age talks -- that is, with rude wit, a lively sense of the grotesque, a disgust for sham, and a contempt for pettiness.

The story is the man's adventure in search of a hidden truth, and it would be no adventure if it did not happen to a man fit for adventure.

He has a range of awareness that startles you, but it belongs to him by right, because it belongs to the world he lives in. 

If there were enough like him, the world would be a very safe place to live in, without becoming too dull to be worth living in.”

"What about women heroes?" I asked.  "Ada Lovelace created the first computer program 100 years before the invention of the computer. 

Abigail Adams healed the rift between two U.S. Presidents. 

Alexandrine Tinne was a Dutch explorer who made the first female attempt to cross the Sahara.

  Aletta Jacobs was a Dutch doctor, a feminist, a pacifist, and a human rights activist."

Chandler smiled crooked, "That was then.  Now, we have Taylor Swift."

The ghost of William Faulkner shook his head.  

"That is your cynicism talking.  Roland, always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Do not bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.” 

Mark Twain lit another cigar.  “What would men be without women? Scarce, Roland...mighty scarce.” 

Stephen King gently smiled at me.  

"As with all creation, Roland, it begins with the Word.  But it must be the right word in the right way at the right time."

He looked away from me and into himself.  

“The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them --

words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out.

 But it's more than that, isn't it?

The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried,

like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away.

And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way,

not understanding what you've said at all, or why you thought it was so important that you almost cried while you were saying it.

That's the worst, I think. When the secret stays locked within not for want of a teller but for want of an understanding ear.” 

For a time, my friends and I were lost inside our own secret hearts.