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Miscellany II: Interview With Author Kevin A. Davis

The anthology, Miscellany Volume II will be available on January 12. I recently got a chance to sit down with one of the authors, Kevin A. Davis.

[Rodney M. Bliss] Shattered Blood, the origin story for your AngleSong Series just released last month. And you have five more volumes in the series set to release in the coming months. What made you decide to self-publish? And considering your rapid-release schedule, did you write the books sequentially, or did you write multiple books at the same time?

[Kevin A. Davis] The purpose of a publisher is to expose your writing to their audience, which for decades meant one of the big five getting you in bookstores, libraries, or book fairs. As physical stores declined and supermarket racks disappeared in the 1990s, it left midlist writers making less income than some self-published authors. The big five’s pushback (overpricing) from ebooks exacerbated the situation as Kindle took the stage. In the past two decades, there is an expectation from publishers of self-promotion and dwindling benefits in contracts. I’m willing to take on the extra work, though my aim is hybrid with both trade and self-publish series.

In the case of the AngelSong Series, I wrote the six novels sequentially in 2021 with the express intent of a rapid (monthly) release in 2022. Editing and plotting swirled around the works in progress as they became needed or available. I am still waiting on edits and proofs for the later books.

[RMB] What advice would you give to other authors who want to self-publish?

[KAD]Take my advice with a grain of salt, until I make more money than I spend. Join self-publishing groups and conferences while you write. Please don’t write one book and try editing it to death. Hire an editor while you write the next book. New books and new stories will only make you a better writer.

[RMB] Many authors simply want to write. As your own publisher, you have to do so much more than just put words on paper. Did you find the publishing process a distraction from your writing? Or did it allow you to simple stay in your universe, just in a different role?

[KAD]It is a completely different mindset, but I own multiple businesses so it fits my personality to manage processes. I created Inkd Publishing and before I published Shattered Blood, began managing an anthology project. Hidden Villains will be available in February of 2022.. Yes, it distracts. I’m writing these words instead of my WIP.

[RMB] This is your first story with Word Addicts. What is the biggest challenge writing a short story after tackling a six volume series?

[KAD] Shorts are great to explore voice, genre, and style. The only challenges I personally go through are finding editors that do a good job and keep your voice. I’ve written over a dozen shorts and a couple novellas in 2021 with four of them accepted in the same year. My primary editor I’ve kept busy on the AngelSong series and the Hidden Villains anthology.

[RMB] Without giving anything away, what can you tell us about your entry in Miscellany Volume II? Is it anything like your previous stories?

[KAD] Over the course of four days, I wrote two stories with a theme that hinted or embraced cycles. One Victorian era London, and Wheel is Turning in a fantasy otherworld setting. I tend toward Urban Fantasy, but short stories give a quick opportunity to explore voice, genre, and style. The short had been edited, but James made Wheel is Turning into a story I can be proud of, hopefully I learned from the experience.

[RMB] Where can readers get more information about the AngelSong series and where they might see you in person in 2022?

[KAD] I’ll have books for sale at Superstars in Colorado Springs this February, and later in the month I’ll have a booth at SyFy Bartow.

My website http://www.KevinArthurDavis.com or http://www.InkdPub.com will have the most up to date information on releases and presales. Hit up BookFunnel for a free ebook of Shattered Blood: The Origin Story https://dl.bookfunnel.com/lasx0yv2sr if you’d like to get started in Haddie’s adventures.

Author – Kevin A. Davis

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany II: Interview With Author A. Shepherd

(Edit: When this was posted the author misspelled A. Shepherd’s name. . .multiple times. I cannot express how sorry I am.)

A. Shepherd has a story coming out in Miscellany II this month. I recently had the chance to interview her.

[Rodney M Bliss] First thing I have to ask about is your name “A. Shepherd”? Is it simply to highlight the clever wordplay on your initial and name? Or, is there more to the story, like J. K. Rowling choosing to use initials to avoid people making prejudgments on her writing based on her name? In promoting “To Wake A Sleeping Child” has your gender as an author been a help or hindrance or had no effect?

[A. Shepherd] I always relished the idea of a seriously clever pen name but then I found myself irritated at other people’s attempts at clever pen names. I tossed some things around before accepting A. Shepherd as my author name because, as you stated, the prejudgments on the name Amy are about as thick as the prejudgments on the name Britney – most involve blonde hair and the inability to function as an adult woman. I felt that in keeping my very common, feminine name most men would never bother to pick up my book. At the very least, I hoped the assumptions about the A. in A. Shepherd would be Aaron or Amos or Arnie or some blather like that. ‘It could be a dude? Maybe? Maybe it’s worth reading if it’s by a dude.’

It’s no secret nor conspiracy that female authors have to work overtime to be taken seriously if they aren’t doling out the eighteen-thousandth rendition of Jane Austin’s work or worse, trying to dig themselves out from underneath the factory produced Hallmark-esque vomit novels cluttering up the shelves of Barnes and Noble where they got a start simply because they have names like Samantha or Karen or Britney or Amy. To answer that last question – yes, I do believe gender has had an effect.

[RMB] In the Introduction to Miscellany Volume I, the editor states that the only connecting theme was humor. Yet, your story Two For One was dark. Can you explain how you balanced those two themes humor/horror in writing?

[AS] Horror is humorous to me. What do you do after you are frightened? You laugh, right? Heart thumping, skin flushed, pupils dilated – you’ve either jolted or squealed or peed a little – and then you giggle uncontrollably because you just don’t know what else to do with all that adrenaline. Right? It’s not just me, right? To sort of explain, I just don’t ever really believe in horror. It doesn’t really ever scare me and it’s always been kind of goofy, to be honest. Supposed-horror movies are just ridiculous. Trying to write something truly horror is almost as pointless. Unless a person is there experiencing someone removing their bowels and feeling the tug from the inside, it is never that scary. So why not jest about cannibalism? It’s hilarious. Come on.

[RMB] What attracted you to writing? Do you find you like to write the same type of stories you like to read?

[AS] Have you ever seen the movie ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’? Other than the fact that Danny Kaye was my icon as a child, the daydreaming and fantasizing pretty much sums up my youth. (Honorable Mention to Ben Stiller’s 2013 remake – I very rarely ADORE or even like, for that matter, remakes. His vision of Walter Mitty is beautiful and remains in my top 5 movies of all time) It would not be far from either movie to be a decent description of my inner-workings. It’s maybe a little sad or ridiculous how often I am caught up in daydreams and what if’s. But it led me to writing, starting at a young age, and it hasn’t let up since. I never aspired to story-telling because it has always been part of me, whether I want it or not. I’ll read just about anything and my writing goes about the same – one day humor, the next misery, the next inspiring, the next goofy as hell, the next depressive and moody, the next comedic. And on and on. I’ll never be great at one genre because I dabble in too many puddles.

[RMB] Without giving away anything around the enjoyment of the story, what can you tell us about your entry in Miscellany Volume II? What should readers expect, especially if they’ve read Miscellany Volume I?

[AS] Much of my story for Miscellany Vol. II comes from rage. I was furious at just about everything while writing it. It probably doesn’t read as fury, thankfully, but the intent and the not-so-subtle parallels were borne out of sheer disappointment at the sickening froth of selfishness, greed, and stupidity current humanity seems to lovingly display in newer and ever-stupider ways. So all that to say, I guess, is to expect aliens. Yep.

[RMB] You’ve published both short stories and a novel. Is there one format that you enjoy writing more than the other? Do you find it difficult to switch between the long and short form?

[AS] I don’t like the yolk of one format. Being tethered to something like novel-only or short story-only is akin to giving a painter one color of green. I believe the magic happens when you get into a little of everything. Throw some prose or literary fiction into science fiction, smear assonance and iambic pentameter into a horror plot, play in every color and sentence structure. Get it on your face and feet and in your mouth, if you have to. Then find your favorite discoveries, clean them up, and market the suckers.

[RMB] Tell us a little about your upcoming book, the sequel for “To Wake A Sleeping Child.”

[AS] Oi vey.

The sequel.

It doesn’t even have a title, if that’s what you’re asking. I’ve gotten about half the plot maneuvered into place and some chapters banged out but I find myself years-buried in a concrete problem called ‘my brain’. It’s like writer’s block but it ain’t a cube, it’s an ocean. And there are sharks and pirates and an island somewhere with really great fruit but all the sea turtles have microplastics in their guts and the bluefin tuna isn’t on sale anymore and my son needs braces so there’s another five grand down the shitter and oh my gosh, that stupid gold plated toilet that brainless idiot ordered from China who’s going to blow up the planet because someone mispronounced the emperor’s name in an interview with Butch McDumb and the whole world was watching so now the garbage that used to float on the ocean is sinking and the otters that eat the fish are eating all the plastic Walmart bags SO MANY people use and refuse to recycle and *sobbing uncontrollably* and there’s still not enough coconut flavored lip balm in the aisle where I used to find the good mouth wash.

That’s why.

Book 2 coming soon. Soon-ish. Maybe.

Thanks for your time.

from the desk of A. Shepherd

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Miscellany II: Interview With Editor James Elliott

I sat down and talked with James Elliott, the editor of the upcoming anthology Miscellany II.

[Rodney M. Bliss]Your bio says that in addition to a day job, you’re a writer, a publisher, an editor and run two small bookstores. That sounds exhausting. How do you manage to keep that many irons in the fire? Is there one you find more enjoyable?

[James Elliott] The tiny book corners are pretty easy. It takes a few hours a month between inventory and ordering.

With publishing, I love editing when the writer and I are clicking and we find our groove. I consider editing an extremely intimate team effort, because I’m digging into this creation from the writer’s mind. It’s my job to capture their vision before I can make any suggestions. Writers put themselves in a vulnerable position when they ask for help from an editor, and so many creative people are already very sensitive beings. The fact that I’m sitting here reading a manuscript is more or less a miracle. I take this trust seriously. What I love most, but the thing I do least, is my own writing. I just don’t have the time. This is frustrating for me, and I hope to get more time to simply write in 2022.

[RMB] As a publisher, especially, an Indie publisher, what advice would you give to new authors? If someone came and said, “I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I’m not sure where to start.” What would your advice be?

[JE] I would ask them if they like reading, how much they read, and how often. I would tell them they should read their primary genre—the one they want to write—and various other genres. They should also read works from genres they dislike. They should figure out what makes a story tick. They should read literary works of fiction that have stood the test of time, and research why people like them. This doesn’t mean they have to like these stories, but they have to understand the reasons many people do. I would say to the writer: Meanwhile, start drafting your own writing. Never think your current draft is your final draft while you’re in the throes of this deep learning stage. The learning curve is steep, and you’ll find that something you thought was near-perfect just two months ago is actually really poorly written in hindsight.

That’s where I’d start. I earned a degree in literature, but nothing taught me more about writing than when I earnestly began to read every single day and to really figure out what elements of style and storytelling make readers love or hate a work.

[RMB] Obviously not every submission is ready to be published. If you have to reject a manuscript or a story, what approach do you use?

[JE] I generally try to give the manuscript a good read as well as give the submitter some solid feedback on how to improve the work. This takes a lot of time. I could probably get paid on some site like Fiverr for the level of work I put into my manuscript rejections. I don’t want any writer to give up, but I do want them to have a successful book, however they end up publishing it.

[RMB] Most published authors have been asked, “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” And while I know you are also a talented writer (Link to this blog’s review of Dead On The Corridor) when did you decide you wanted to take on the task of editor/publisher?

[JE] I wrote the stories in Dead On The Corridor as I underwent the insane deep dive into literature that I described in the second question. Those were some intense days of study. Once the stories were finished and edited, I put them out there. I have since drafted some novels. But I’ve veered headlong into the publishing world. I got into publishing like anyone with attention deficit disorder gets into a majority of their shenanigans: pretty much on a whim. Allison Brown’s first book had been accepted by an agent. The agent had an in-house editor who was going to sell the publisher a finished product. But just before her book was ready for publication the agent closed her business and released publishing rights back to her authors, including Allison. I’ve been friends with Allison for years, and I said, “I’ll help you publish your book.” She agreed. It was kind of an off-the-cuff thing. Since then I’ve worked hard for several years to hone my editing skills, and I’ve done freelance work for self-published authors and taken on publishing projects from other authors where we take the book from manuscript to press.

[RMB] Obviously, Word Addicts, the writing group that you and I are both members of, has Miscellany Volume II coming out January 12. What part of the process of putting this book together was the most challenging? Was there anything that came up that you didn’t expect to have to deal with but came up anyway?

[JE] This is my second year publishing the anthology. (NOTE: I don’t take publisher fees from this anthology. I consider my Word Addicts time kind of sacred, and also voluntary. Each contributor to the anthology receives an equal share of proceeds). The first two anthologies were published by a different press. I felt like the first anthology, which was written and published in the middle of the pandemic, went smoothly. This one though…I’ll just say this one went the opposite of smoothly. The most challenging aspect of this project was certain participants failing to meet deadlines, and who went on failing to meet deadlines or responding to requests until months later, and then seemed blissfully unaware of any deadlines or requests. This was our first time experiencing this kind of lolly-gaggery with a group anthology; consequently, we didn’t have mechanisms in place for firing a Word Addict from participation. We were stuck begging writers to meet deadlines, and then extended deadlines, and then double-extended deadlines (just being honest and open here). Eventually, these writers dropped out of the book voluntarily.

I chalk this up to growing pains, as our group only became an extended community in the last couple of years, opening up to people outside our geographical area (We were founded in the Central Utah region in 2015). Things were simpler when we saw every participant every month at group meetings and could hold each other accountable in person. We just need a few more ground rules and we’re good to go. The next anthology, planned for release in September 2022 will have these more solid ground rules and mechanisms for corrective action.

btw, we have some cool things in our pipeline that involve our extended online community. Stay tuned.

[RMB] What can you tell readers about ordering Miscellany II?

[JE] I would say, you can pre-order the ebook NOW on Amazon at a reduced price of 99 cents. Go and grab it. Make sure to check out Rodney’s story. His work is very high quality and will give you a great payoff. I feel like a fanboy to most of the authors who ended up contributing stories. Amanda Luzzader wrote a tear-jerker. A. Shepherd wrote a sci-fi story—if you read Rodney’s, please also read A. Shepherd’s sci-fi story too (their stories could be part of the same anthology series on a premium streaming service). Natalie Gate gives a humorous first performance, and I’m so proud of what she accomplished. Amy Jorgensen digs deep and writes something I can only describe as “autobiographical mysticism,” and it’s a rare gem. There are others I love too. Grab the book and give it a try!

Despite a bit of rocky terrain to get here, I’m pleased with so much of the work in this book.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Book Review: Miscellany (Volume I)

No, this is NOT the collection I have a short story in. I have a story in Miscellany Volume II. This is Miscellany Volume I, although the “Volume I’ is implied. The book is just called Miscellany.

I enjoy short stories and Miscellany doesn’t disappoint. It’s a collection of seven stories by seven writers, who collectively identify with the writer’s group “Word Addicts.” Technically two of the stories are actually memoirs. Why the name Miscellany? Because, as the editor (and writer) James Elliot explains in the Foreword,

This is our third anthology and the first under the title Miscellany. This year rather than choosing a genre, we chose humor. You’ll find several genres here, and we hope you’ll smile, giggle or laugh, regardless of whether you’re reading a comical, scary, or dramatic story.

Author Amy Jorgensen sets the opening tale, “The Jewel of The Desert” in a small southern Utah town during the WWII interment. There was an interment camp in Delta, Utah. But, the story is less about the setting and the time. It’s about a young girl trying to find out what truly matters and helps her understand how to look beyond the superficial labels that society puts on us. I liked it. I’ve been to Delta and I felt the dust, the heat and the seemingly endlessness of Utah’s deserts.

The second story, Clueless attempts to put a story around the classic game Clue. Cortney Winn, gives us the story of a murder through the eyes of Professor Plum. And just as you stop paying attention to the story, instead trying to remember how the clue board was laid out, she offers you a twist that makes it all seem trivial. Followed quickly after by the feeling that maybe it was as trivial as a board game after all. I credit Cortney with keeping all the pieces of her universe and the boardgame of my youth in sync. Ultimately, the story didn’t work as well for me as I think it might have without the well known cast of characters. Like A Muppet Christmas Carol, it’s hard to see Kermit the Frog as anything except. . .Kermit the Frog, even if he’s playing a role.

The first memoir, Laugh So You Don’t Have to Cry-A Glimpse Into The Life Of Allison Brown, is, not surprisingly, written by Allison Brown. She takes us to a small town in Utah and then commits a horrendous offense. She starts to remodel a house while living in it. I’ve done that, not to the level she describes. With kids it’s chaos. It actually gave me some unpleasant flashbacks to our kitchen remodel over 25 years ago. We follow the struggles of the Brown family and their construction until it was interrupted by COVID. I don’t know why I assumed it was “long ago.” Probably because that’s was my experience was. The author also gives us some insight into the judgmental types that exist in many small Utah towns and their churches.

Space City, by C.R. Truitt couldn’t be further removed from Brown’s story. Space city is set in outer space. Truitt has clearly thought through many of the issues of living in space. We are introduced to three cousins. Who, despite, living in space, are typical young 20 year olds. They shop. They go to movies. They talk about boys. It’s just in Truitt’s story, they do all this in a space city. The story could have been set anywhere. The interactions between characters are genuine and engaging.

The story I found most out of sync with the rest was Two For One by A. Shepherd. The story starts normally enough. We are immediately introduced to a ghost. A kind of obnoxious ghost and the protagonist seems to revel in telling him so. They need to find his body. Only then will he stop haunting her. So, we started with ghost stories, and moved to detective story. The story then takes a very dark turn. At a svelte 11 pages, Two For One is the shortest story by far. And yet, in those eleven pages A. Shepherd takes the reader on a wide range of emotions, locals and the aforementioned genres. I’m not sure if I liked this story. And that’s a wonderful response to a story.

The penultimate story is Courtship And Marriage A True Story by Jenna Madsen. Although Madsen never mentions the school, I recognized my alma mater. I’ve been in the classes she so accurately and humorlessly describes. And I ALSO missed the movie in health class that has such a dramatic effect in the story. But, like her boyfriend, I’ve also not been able to handle witnessing one of life’s greatest miracles. Madsen’s memoir brought back a lot of memories, many happy, some I’d just as soon stay buried.

The final entry is by the editor that told us what to expect in the Foreword. James Elliott gives us Lacquered. The story of small people, in small trailers, making small lives. Elliott paints a bleak picture, but keeps just back of the edge of melancholy by making his protagonist a child. Someone too young to have been jaded by life, despite his circumstances. Elliott takes us through the story and the failure of characters in his depressing trailer park. And then, in only a few paragraphs almost added as a postscript, reminds us of the hope that children hold that we should strive to keep.

What I liked

Nearly all of it. The writers each have a different style and the stories range all over, but each was well written and gave us a chance to step outside ourselves and into another’s shoes, and world.

What I Didn’t

While entertaining, I felt some of the stories fell short of humor. And none made me laugh out loud. That’s not a requirement, but it would have been nice in a collection that was tied together by humor.

What It Means To You

If you are a fan of the short story format, you’ll enjoy Miscellany. Even the two memories are well written enough that they could just as easily be fiction. And while I don’t think they hit the “humor” mark. They absolutley hit the “enjoyable” mark.

My Rating

3.5 out of 4 stars

Volume II of Miscellany will be available on January 12, 2022. You can pre-order it here.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Announcing Pre-Sales for Miscellany II

Admit it, you’ve never heard of Miscellany II. In fact, with few exceptions, I’m guessing you’ve never heard of Miscellany I! (Review coming tomorrow.)

If you’ve followed me for any time at all, you might want to check out Miscellany II. It’s an anthology filled with 11 stories from various genres. Included is a short story called “The Mercy System,” by Rodney M. Bliss.

We (the authors) have been working on this for may pandemic-affected months. It will drop on January 12, 2022. But, the pre-order prices is cheaper.

How much cheaper?

Sorry, I have no idea. But, less. Definitely less.

The reason it’s called Miscellany is because the collection spans multiple genres. My particular story is Science Fiction. A lonely space engineer has only the ship’s AI for company. He’s bored, but I’m assured by multiple beta readers and my long-suffering editor James Elliot, that the story is anything but boring.

So, if you want to support this blog I’d love it if you clicked on this link and ordered a copy. I’ll keep writing whether you click this link or not. And with 11 authors, my share of the royalties won’t let me quit my day job. But, the most important reason to click this link (it goes to an Amazon page, BTW. . .it’s safe to click this link) you will not only be supporting writers and a small publisher, but you will get over 200 pages of REALLY interesting and entertaining stories.

It’s really for you that we created the work behind this link.

And those of you who asked me to let you know the next time I had something in print. . .I mean other than the blog. . .this is it: me letting you know. . .you should click this link.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. Pre-order Miscellany II, an anthology including his latest short story, “The Mercy System” here

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2022 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Best of 2021 #1: Joe Drye Was My Friend

It’s no surprise that the #1 story from 2021 was a COVID story. Joe Drye was a statistic. Mid-30’s, otherwise healthy, he caught COVID and died suddenly.

As I write this, I’m in the second day of a 10 day COVID quarantine. I have the disease that killed my friend. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

==========================================

Lots of people read my daily scribbling here. I’m guessing that most of you haven’t heard of Joe Drye. And, other than this post you are likely to never hear about him again.

Joe was my friend. He died yesterday August 2, 2021 from COVID 19.

Joe was 33 years old. And other than a smoking habit that he kicked five years ago, really didn’t have any underlying health issues. I’ve known Joe for years. He was, without exaggeration, the hardest working man I’ve ever met.

Joe could work me under the table. In fact, he could work himself under the table. . .literally. Joe was a desktop engineer when I met him. Just another face in a company of 130,000. We worked together building out our call center in Louisville, Kentucky.

Building out a call center takes about 4 months. Which is why they typically want it done in 3 months. It’s a very large project. Lots of different teams and departments get involved. A Project Manager puts a master plan together. All 90 days are plotted out in advance. Each team has a set amount of time. And when you try to squeeze a 120 day project into 90 days, stuff sometimes doesn’t meet its schedule. And it is NEVER early. It’s always late.

A project manager, because he’s good at HIS job, has a buffer built into his schedule. Technically it’s called “float.” But, easiest to think of it as a buffer. So, over the course of the project, that buffer or float slowly gets eaten up. And since you can’t change the go-live date, it’s the last team that has to deal with a short schedule.

Desktop engineering was the last team. In Louisville, Joe was our engineer. He was there by himself for much of the project. We sent him another engineer to help out. Joe fired him after one day. Well, technically he didn’t fire him. He couldn’t fire him. But, he effectively fired him.

I don’t care what you do, but I need you to stay out of my way.

We sent the other engineer back. Joe was just going so fast that if you weren’t running, you were in his way. I “helped” for a few days as well. I mostly stayed out of Joe’s way. I vacuumed. (Seriously, it’s a task on the project list.) I unpacked boxes. I arranged chairs. And Joe literally worked himself to the point of exhaustion.

He collapsed on the floor one night when he working alone. It wasn’t a “medical emergency” or anything. His body just finally quit obeying commands from his brain to keep going.

Joe became a lead. The company doesn’t always recognize the people who should be recognized. Fortunately in Joe’s case, they got it right. He was Lead over one of my sites. I really wanted him to be lead over all of them. It would have made my life a lot easier.

Then, a few years ago, he took a job as a Technical Program Manager. It was the same role I was doing. And Joe was better at it than I was. He wouldn’t tell you that, but I would. Fortunately we worked on different accounts. I was good at my job. And like all his jobs, Joe was exceptional at his.

Somewhere in here he married his lovely wife. She worked for the company too.

I don’t think I’d ever seen Joe happier. He had found a purpose and a soul mate. They were perfect for each other and perfect together. Joe was more than a colleague. He was a friend. We talked about kids. He and his lovely wife wanted to have a family. They were discussing foster care or adoption. I’ve adopted a lot of kids, so we had a lot to share.

When I got laid off from the company,, Joe was the first one to call me to make sure I was doing okay. He also tried to cheer me up.

I know A LOT of people they should have let go before you, Rodney.

It was high praise coming from him.

A few weeks ago Joe got sick. Like many people, he had COVID. It was a serious case. He ended up in the hospital. And then he transferred to a better hospital.

Of course it’s serious, but I didn’t think it was end-of-life serious. I had a friend here in Utah who is a state legislator who ended up in the hospital with COVID. He was very sick. And then he got better. I saw him just a few weeks ago at the local rodeo. He was in good spirits and good health.

I’ve had family including my lovely wife get sick with COVID. They got very sick and then they got better.

And that’s what I expected for Joe. His lovely wife kept people updated on Facebook. She and Joe are both very active in their local church. Many people were praying for him. Of course, my family and I were also praying for him. My kids who had never met him added him to our family prayers.

And then, today I heard that he didn’t make it. He’s the first person I’ve known well who has died of COVID. And he was much too young. I mean, everyone is too young to die from COVID, but it’s always someone else, faceless names that we see and then forget, except to remember the this virus exacts a deadly toll.

You would have liked Joe. Everyone did. He was one of those Southern guys that speak slowly but have a lot to say in a few words. He was generous and caring. Although, again, that Southerness prevented him for being TOO open about it.

There will be many deaths from COVID in the coming months and possibly even years. Eventually, I will no doubt know others who succumb to this terrible disease.

I pray for the victims and the families.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Best of 2021 #2: Gwen Berry Illustrates What Is Best, Not Worst About America

Every writer knows that controversy generates interest. And this story certainly stirred up controversy. My point is that America is great because we can make space for our dissenters.

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You’ve seen the picture. Gwen Berry, the silver medal winner in the Hammer Throw at the US Olympic trials turns away as the National Anthem is played. Horrible, right? Disgraceful!

I recently saw a Facebook post calling for anyone who disrespects the flag being banned from representing the United States in the Olympics.

I think that’s a horrible, terrible idea.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a flag guy. I’m an Eagle Scout. I mounted an American flag on my grandkids’ playset. I own two other flags that I display on holidays. My daughter and son-in-law are active duty Army. I stand for the flag, proudly. I volunteer with an organization, Follow The Flag, that hangs the largest free-flying American flag in the world across a canyon in Utah every Fourth of July.

I love the flag and what it stands for. Did you know that the flag should always be on a speaker’s right? I once explained to a bailiff that the flag in the courtroom was on the wrong side of the judge. The next time we arrived for court the flag was moved to the correct side.

So, you would think that I would be first to condemn those who disrespect the flag. Especially, by someone wanting to represent my country and my flag at the Olympics. You’d be wrong.

Did you know that it used to be a tradition during the Olympic opening ceremonies for the flag bearer for each country to dip their flag to the country’s ruling monarch? We don’t do that anymore. In fact, we didn’t do it for very long. In 1908, flag bearer Ralph Rose, a shotputter, refused to dip the American flag to the British King in London. (There’s no record of him saying, “This flag dips to no earthly king,”)

Rose received a lot of criticism around the world. He actions were viewed as an example of “ugly Americanism.”

The flag did dip a couple of times in future Olympics. But, Berlin was not one of those times.

Then, in 1936, the US Olympic committee made it official. The American flag would never again dip to honor a foreign dignitary. Did the world think we were ugly Americans? Maybe. But, you know what? I don’t care.

I don’t care if the entire world condemned us for refusing to dip our flag to honor kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers of other countries. I like the fact that we value our flag, and what it represents more than being polite to other countries.

That would seem to contradict my defense of Gwen Berry. It doesn’t.

Our country values, or should value, our freedoms above all else. Gwen Berry is expressing her freedom of speech, her freedom of expression. And while I wouldn’t personally disrespect the flag, part of what makes America the greatest country in the world is that I have the freedom to disrespect the flag if I choose. And so does Gwen Berry.

Suppose we did have a rule that athletes had to be respectful to the flag and the Anthem to be included on the Olympic team? Suppose that Gwen Berry had to choose between competing in the Olympics and exercising her rights? What would YOU choose if the choice was yours? Would you accept fame, glory and financial rewards in exchange for giving up just a little of your freedom?

It’s a tough choice. And as an American it’s not one you should have to make. And it’s not one that Gwen Berry should have to make.

Do you know who does have to make those choices? Citizens of countries like North Korea, China, Iran. Countries where everyone is patriotic because to not be means your life becomes dangerous.

So, you will not find me advocating any rules requiring people, any people to act patriotic. Americans rights should always be protected. I will stand for the flag, but I will also fiercely defend your right to not stand.

I would hope you do the same for me.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Best of 2021: #3 Book Review: The Great Gatsby

I did several book reviews this year. I started reading through the 100 greatest novels ever written. I had read The Great Gatsby years ago, but had forgotten much of it. I enjoyed rereading it.

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“You’re not special for reading The Great Gatsby. We all went to high school.

Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.

Okie dokie. Let’s tone it down. I was just making a joke.

So was I. That’s the first line of the book.

What? I didn’t read the book”

– Internet conversation

I’m pretty sure I read The Great Gatsby in high school. Ms Thomas was a really good English teacher. I had her for Freshman Honors English and later as a Junior for AP English. She probably introduced me to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece. However, I don’t remember it.

Everyone has heard of The Great Gatsby. The book was written in 1924. It’s been made into countless movies. Okay, you could probably count them. IMDB lists 5 versions including the 2013 version starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

If you are like me, you probably don’t remember the story. I remembered there was something about lots of parties. That was my recollection prior to rereading it.

At 178 pages, it’s a short book, but a rich and complex story. Not remembering anything from the story, it made the reveals in the book more striking. I was at times disgusted, surprised and saddened. The Great Gatsby is a tragedy. It’s not quite Shakespearian in that not everyone dies in the end. But, enough die to put a somber ending on what to that point had been a morality tale. The book is 100 years old, but in case, like me, you don’t remember the story and decide to reread it, I’ll keep my review spoiler-free.

What I Liked

I loved the characters. Even Gatsby who honestly is not a particulary admirable character pulled me in. I wanted to be his friend. I wanted to stand by him with Nick when his so called friends all deserted him. I also like the reference to the 1919 White Sox scandal where a group of gamblers conspired with ball players to throw the 1919 World Series. At the time Fitzgerald was writing his story, the Black Sox scandal was only a few years old. He made one of the gamblers a key player. As a baseball geek, I enjoyed it.

I also liked the way Fitzgerald moved us easily between East and West Egg and the ash lands. And ultimately the people in each of the areas were not all that different.

What I Didn’t

At times I got lost. Fitzgerald’s transitions were at times abrupt. I found myself going back and rereading a previous paragragh. For example, when we find out Gatsby’s real name, it took me several paragraphs to figure out that Gatz and Gatsby were the same man.

The story didn’t go the way I wanted it to. The guy I thought should get the girl didn’t get the girl. Fitzgerald’s story was much stronger and better than mine. But, it was with real sadness that I read parts of the story.

One glaring incongruity concerned the character Meyer Wolfsheim, is a Jew and the gambler who threw the World Series. At one point we find out his company is named “The Swastika Holding Company.” That name, especially for a business owned by a Jew would not be noteworthy in 1925. Obviously today, the idea of a Jew naming his company after the symbol of the Nazi Reich is unthinkable.

What It Means To You

There’s a reason that The Great Gatsby is still being read 100 years after it was written. It’s an enjoyable book and one that won’t bog you down reading through it on a Sunday afternoon. It’s an absolutely brilliant book and a gripping story.

My Rating

4 out of 4 stars

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Best of 2021 #4: Big House Small House

You knew that COVID stories had to appear on this list somewhere. Here’s the first one, but not the last that appears on this list.

Last Spring my lovely wife and son got COVID. We had to figure out how to deal with it.

Now, at the end of the year, another son has tested positive for COVID.

I’m hoping it’s not as much of a story in 2022.

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My house is too big. Really, there are six of us living here. Two high school seniors, two adult children, my lovely wife and me.

The house is about 3700 square feet. It has nine bedrooms, two and a half baths, (plus an unfinished bath), two store rooms, a large yard, and a slightly bigger than two car garage and a driveway that will hold six cars. We own two refrigerators, and a separate stand up freezer and a deep freeze.

It’s much bigger than we need. There was a time when it was the perfect size. When we moved in eight years ago, we had eight kids at home. (That’s why we needed the nine bedrooms.) When we were getting the house ready to move into, we had the remodelers build a 16 foot pantry in the dining room.

The house is on what I call a double-corner lot. There are streets on three sides of my house. Despite that it’s a fairly quiet neighborhood. Having all those kids, made shoving hundreds of feet of sidewalks and dozens of feet of driveway go fairly quickly.

We’ve considered what happens when we find ourselves as empty nesters. Do we down-size? I don’t think so. The current plan is to stay. Despite the size of the house, it’s actually a good fit for a couple, especially an older couple. The garage, the flat driveway, the laundry, kitchen, living room, master bedroom, and a room we turned into a library are all on the same level.

We could probably function quite well without having to go downstairs.

Yes, it’s a quite spacious and comfortable house.

And it’s getting really cramped.

Oh, there’s still just the six of us. And there’s certainly room for the six of us. But, we are starting to fall over each other.

We’ve been in quarantine for 8 days. My lovely wife is COVID+. My son was also. He recovered pretty quickly. (The boundless energy and resiliency of youth.) My wife, not so much. She’s been quarantining in the master bedroom. We leave food outside the door. We say family prayers via cell phone. We catch up on family stuff via FaceTime.

Tomorrow one son will be out of quarantine. Ironic that a kid who was COVID positive gets out of quarantine prior to those who were only exposed to someone who was COVID positive.

The rest of us get out of quarantine on Friday. Kids go back to school. My daughter goes back to her service mission at a local thrift shop. All except my lovely wife. She’s still working through symptoms. Her fever is gone, but her blood oxygen levels are still low. She’s on supplemental oxygen. If she moves too much it wears her out. She’s fainted simply trying to walk across the room.

So, our house has gotten pretty small over the past 8 days. And we are all ready for a break, to get back to our normal routines and out into the world.

Except for my lovely wife.

And me, of course. . . I work from home.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
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or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

Best of 2021: #5 What Do Masonic Chaplains Do?

The fifth most popular post this year was about Masonic Chaplains. I served as chaplain of my lodge in 2021 and I’ve been asked to do it again in 2022. Here’s what I wrote about the role of Masonic Chaplains.

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Today’s Educational is on the different roles within Masonry.

Masonic lodges have a specific list of roles. Each has it’s own responsibility.

Worshipful Master

Senior Warden

Junior Warden

Senior Deacon

Junior Deacon

Secretary

Treasurer

Tyler

Senior Steward

Junior Steward

Marshall

Chaplain

We didn’t go through all roles, of course. The stewards explained their role. The Junior Warden explained his role. The Tyler gets an actual sword. he explained his role.

We only have a few minutes left, I want Rodney to explain the Chaplain role.

Chaplain is an interesting role. It’s not elected like many roles in a Masonic Lodge are. The Chaplain is chosen by the Worshipful Master. Our current Worshipful Master chose me. Naturally, I bought a book. I’m a writer. There’s always a book.

A Chaplain has a few enumerated responsibilities and a lot of unlisted ones. Not surprisingly the Chaplain says prayers. Masonic meetings are non-denominational. The only requirement is to belief in a Supreme Architect of the Universe. You can call him God, Jehovah, Allah or Flying Spaghetti Monster. (Okay, Pastaferians might have trouble getting in.) So, the prayers are non-denominational.

I’m a person of faith. In my faith we typically don’t offer memorized prayers. Oh, there are a few associated with specific ordinances. But, for the most part prayers are offered from the heart.

That’s not the case in Masonry. The prayers are written down, not necessarily memorized, but definitely preplanned. That was a change for me. I’m not used to reading prayers. And not writing them either.

But the Chaplain also has a counslor role. The Chaplain is tasked with bringing spirituality to the Lodge. I provide ministry services to the members in all ways and offer moral conscious experience as the officer of the lodge who is responsible for the spiritual and often emotional care of the Lodge, its members and their families.

That’s a lot more than just offering prayers. I don’t know how well I’ll do in this role. But, I do know that I’ll do my best to be there for the members of the Lodge.

Stay safe

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren.

Follow him on
Twitter (@rodneymbliss)
Facebook (www.facebook.com/rbliss)
LinkedIn (www.LinkedIn.com/in/rbliss)
or email him at rbliss at msn dot com

(c) 2021 Rodney M Bliss, all rights reserved

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