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We didn’t have a Middle School and Life Sucked Then Anyway!

We also didn’t have a Kindergarten. Oh, we did for two weeks. The elementary school decided to experiment with a preparatory class and my mother enrolled me. There were seven unfortunate children who had to miss out on two weeks of warm Autumn days that could have been better used playing outside in my then rather unformed opinion. About the only thing I remember was that one girl could count to twelve and it made me quite angry, since I could only count to five. I could see no reason for going higher. I only had five fingers on one hand and had to use the other hand to tick them off when counting. That’s about as much as was necessary in a small town of that era.

I couldn’t read either. I understand that children are more or less expected to have mastered calculus and classical literature by the time they enter first grade today. If not, they’re out of luck, since most of the teachers they’ll encounter won’t have the time to teach them. There is something to be said, however, for waiting until that special, critical-period of brain development that is reached as a child matures. My first grade teacher was a blessing. She had many years of experience at unlocking the mysteries of the printed word for her charges and once given her special kick-start, I became an inveterate reader.

Not having an actual flashlight at the time, I would take a D battery, a piece of wire and a flashlight bulb that I’d retrieved from a discarded light and contrive to hold them together with one hand while I turned pages with the other underneath the covers of my bed until long after my mother had told me to turn the lights out. She probably knew, but had the grace not to disabuse me of the notion that I was pulling something off.

It was really difficult to stop reading after bed time, I enjoyed it so much. Among other things, I learned that my imagination was far better at visualizing characters and scenes without pictures. When you’re given a picture, it limits the possibilities. When you watch video, you’re locked into a different mode of processing. It’s passive rather than active and I’ll submit that it leads to a different type of brain development. Perhaps not better or worse, but different.

Our fly-over-country, small-town school system was limited by the sparse population of the area. There was an elementary school that covered grades 1 through 8 and a high school that covered four years. The best I can say about the over-all experience was that it didn’t completely turn me off on the idea of learning. I was skinny and not a member of the popular clique (our town was so small that we only had one). I found much of the social dialogue then, as now, to be trivial. The teachers were either first years or on their way out of a mostly unsatisfactory career. I had a measure of success playing basketball for our high school, but what really saved me was when I discovered science fiction.

What a great find! I could hardly wait for my mother’s monthly drive to a nearby town for supplies. I could go into one or the other of two department stores that sold paperbacks and spend my pennies on reading material. (Yes, I am that old and books often sold for less than a dollar then.) The only problem that I had, was I’d often have my purchases read within a few days and then have to wait for the next shopping trip.

Given that pleasant experience, it’s now natural for me to be overly enthusiastic about e books. The convenience factor is wonderful. I will usually load up two or three novels in preparation for an airplane journey.

I tried my hand at writing early on and created a book on an electric typewriter that I still have somewhere – the book, I mean; not the typewriter. It might eventually find its way through the scanner and OCR process to be re-edited. As I recall, the plot wasn’t bad, but the execution was horrible. The writing process was painful, even with white-out. I felt that the introduction of computers into the writing process was a great advance, freeing authors from the fear of making mistakes.

I actually used an IBM 360a to write my dissertation in grad school. The machine was several tons in weight and occupied a huge, air-conditioned room in the university computing center. Using it was fun. I keypunched cards and kept them in a cardboard box in order (if you dropped the box and spilled the cards, you really had trouble). Then I’d carry the box over to the submission window after midnight and anxiously wait for the output in about 12 hours or so. The word processing program had only two commands: capitalize a letter and start a new paragraph (with the first letter capitalized). Corrections meant you had to retype the entire line on a new card and stick it into the box in the right place.

So, you can see that today’s computers and software are things that I really appreciate. I fell into the habit of writing about spiritual issues first, then succumbed to blog posts. My blogging led to my first Kindle book, a 280,000 word compilation of posts entailing funny stories and various observations about real estate sales.

A few years ago as I was re-reading an old sci-fi novel from the ’50s and had the thought that, “I could write as good a story as that.” This led to “The Time of the Cat.” This full-length book combines some of my favorite elements from other authors, namely smart cats, alien invasions, advanced weapons (thanks to Stanley G. Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey” for the splinter-gun idea) and psychic ability (James H. Schmitz’ Telezy character among others). It also owes a lot to my studies of quantum physics and new-age energy healing including extensive out-of-body meditation.

I deliberately chose to write it in the first-person-immediate mode. In real-life, you never quite know what is going on, not being omniscient, of course. This was a challenge, but it did allow me the opportunity to emphasize the fast-paced action of much of the story in a way that readers have told me makes it difficult to put the book down.

I now find that the primary problem facing today’s author is not writing or publishing – that’s easier than ever, but marketing the book. That’s a cat of a different sort entirely.

You can find a video trailer on this page and also the links to both Kindle and Amazon (if you prefer the old-fashioned paperback experience.)


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