Saturday, September 26, 2009

Tubing on the Guadalupe

My wife Linda and I drove over to Dallas last week to get together with daughter Ginny and her boyfriend Cliff to drive down to Austin to go tubing on the Guadalupe River at San Marcos. It rained all week, but we were lucky on Friday, the day we went tubing. That day was party cloudy with periods of bright sunshine and perfect temperature in mid-80s. We got to the tube-renting place about noon. There were few others going tubing that day; we pretty much had the river to ourselves.

Linda and I rented tubes with bottoms in them, as well as another for the coolers (got to have my Tab). Gin and Cliff got open-holed tubes. The water was cold when we first stepped in the river, but it quickly became comfortable. We had a great float down river. It was a slow, lazy, lie back and take in the blue sky and tree canopy passing overhead sort of experience…until we came to the first rapids. The river’s water level was fairly low, so the rapids had exposed rocks and rocks just under the surface. I got caught up on every blamed rock in the rapids and had to fight hard to free myself. Still it was fun. Then we floated leisurely along for a long while…until we heard the next set of rapids. The current quickened so that we didn’t have to paddle with our hands any more. Next thing you knew, the current grabbed your tube and rushed you into the rapids. More rocks, more struggling to get free, some cursing, some laughing…through the rapids into calm water again. I was sure glad Linda and I had bottoms in our tubes. It kept the rocks from scraping our fannies. (That, plus Linda was worried a snake might bite her butt if it were sticking through the tube while she floated along. LOL.)

The river is a beautiful scene, with tall trees lining its banks. There were birds, numerous turtles, and even a deer drinking at river’s edge. We really enjoyed ourselves. The last set of rapids was all too soon upon us. The outfitters had told us to be sure and stay in the middle as we went under the bridge leading into this set of rapids so that they current would carry us to the right side where the water was deeper, the current stronger. It just so happened that I went over the waterfall first, and, of course, the current took me to the left into shallow water. I was grounded! I watched as the three others rushed down the right side and nearly out of sight. I could faintly hear them all shouting at me and laughing and waving bye-bye. While they floated along slowly, I struggled mightily to get my tube free from the rocks and back into the current. I’m a big fellow (all right, an obese, 65-year-old man with arthritis in my knees and shoulders). I looked like a turtle on his back flailing the air trying to flip itself over. I’d push with my legs and pull with my hands against the rocks. As soon as I’d get free from one rock, I’d encounter another. It took me a good ten minutes to get free and back into the current. I still have no idea how I ended up going left instead of right like the other three. Things like that just happen to me. All in all, it was a great experience and much fun. I’d like to do it again…when the river’s water level was higher! The trip took about four hours and covered about two and three-fourths miles of the river.

[We also enjoyed seeing Austin for the first time. It seems like a really nice city. We toured U of Texas, the establishments along Sixth Street, and attempted to see Austin’s number one tourist attraction: thousands of bats flying out from under a downtown bridge at sunset. We waited an hour and a half at dusk. Finally, about five bats flew out! There weren’t the thousands of bats promised…just five. What a disappointment! Maybe next trip to Austin we’ll get to see the bat-spectacle.]

Sunday, September 13, 2009

VBT Blog Question: Are You A Real Writer?

Today's VBT group blog topic is "Are You a Real Writer?" It is hosted at the blog of Nancy Famolari. An excerpt: "One of the writer's groups I belong to wanted people who had been published to sign up as “Published Authors.” I checked out the criteria and discovered, to my surprise, that the only criteria for becoming a”Published Author” was having an advance from a publisher. This seemed a rather narrow criterion, so I asked the person in charge if I was reading it correctly. I was assured that I was, and further, this meant anyone published by a small publisher, ebook publisher, self-published, or unlucky enough to have a NY publisher who didn't give advances, wasn't a “Published, or Real, Author."
"This experience led me to ask the question: What makes you identify yourself as a real writer?"

I would agree that to define "a real author" as only one published through a publisher that gives advances is much too narrow, self-serving, and out-of-date. Any writer with an e-book available on-line, a self-published book available through Amazon, B&N, etc, or a book published by a small press is certainly "a real author" in my opinion. But that is what defines an 'author'. The question Nancy asked is are you a real writer. Many writers will never become published authors in the traditional sense of producing a book.

To me, being a real writer means that one writes on a level of quality that is acceptable for his/her genre so that, if published, his/her work would be judged equal to that of published peers. For instance, I started out as a poet on-line. My first efforts were ripped apart with criticisms from better writers so that I felt like a novice or beginning student. It took months of writing before I began to get predominantly favorable comments from reviewers. Finally, after more than a year of writing poems, I began to get comments that my work moved people and that I should consider publishing my poetry in a book. That is when I felt like a true writer...when I won an approving readership. Later I published my first book of poetry through Lulu. When I held my book in my hands for the first time, I then felt like an author. Seeing my book available on reinforced that feeling.

Someone who writes a newspaper column but never published a book is certainly a real writer. Someone who writes a blog followed by numerous readers is a real writer. Being a real writer means to me being able to write with enough quality that readers enjoy the read. Simple as that.

(While here, why not check out the next post down on my blog about how I get ideas for my poetry. Thanks!)



An Old Copper Bell

Sometimes I am asked how do I come up with ideas for my poetry. Here is one example:
My wife Linda and I enjoy going to estate sales, both to tour the houses and to shop for interesting items. Linda collects salts and their silver spoons. I collect old bottles, old small tins, and metal bells. I must own 150 bells now of all sizes and shapes. I have them divided into groups, such as animal bells topped with various animals, lady bells (ladies in full skirts and bonnets), bells of differing heights, etc. I have become more selective in deciding to buy a bell when I see one nowadays. Friday we hit three estate sales. At one sale, I found an old bell that didn't look like much. The handle had been replaced long ago with a wooden barrel with a metal bolt and nut to hold it in place. The top nut was exposed and quite rusty. The wooden barrel handle had a big crack down one side of it. The clapper was missing, with only an old, dirty piece of cord left behind, having the end that had held the clapper showing left-over rust. The top (handle part) wasn't much to look at, for sure. The bottom part appeared very old and was dark green in color. The bell was heavy. The handle was 4 and 3/4th inches tall, with the bell being 3 and 1/4 inches tall with a diameter of the bell opening being 4 and 1/2 inches across. A heavy, eight-inch tall bell! Closer examination revealed the bell to be made of copper, quite heavy and thick-walled & quite well-made. I decided to buy the bell. It cost all of $3.50. The lady at checkout said that it was copper and should shine up nicely. However, I prefer to leave the decades old green patina untouched. I can just imagine that this bell was once a grand bell and was probably quite expensive when new. I, of course, wondered about its history -- who bought it new, who all had owned it, how/where it was used, who repaired it, how it came to be sitting on a den shelf in Shreveport. The result of my imagination answering such questions is the following storoem.

An Old Copper Bell

The elderly metallurgist poured all his skill
into making this bell something extraordinary.
The bottom used the finest copper from Brazil,
and the handle couldn’t be anything ordinary.

No, this bell required something quite unique.
So, he added a handle of exquisite carved ivory
that had been brought to Boston from Mozambique.
Now this was a bell fit for even Mr. Caleb Ivery.

Caleb was among the richest merchants in town.
His only daughter, Petunia, was headed out west
to become a school teacher. She had worn down
Caleb’s resistance, convinced him she knew best.

The Old West of 1880 was still wild and untamed.
Petunia secured a teaching job out in Kansas territory.
Caleb warned her she’d be killed or maybe maimed,
but she was determined to help write America’s story.

Caleb presented her with the bell to use in her school.
So away Petunia went west, to the bustling Dodge City.
Her “school” was space in a barn with horses and a mule.
For two years she sought students with no success. A pity!

Broke, and too proud to let daddy know he’d been right,
poor Petunia became a bawdy house lady. She had talent!
When done, the cowboys would ring her bell with delight.
One day, along came this gambler, handsome and gallant.

They fell in love, married, moved to New Orleans’s Quarter,
where they became respectable, but poor. To make ends meet,
Petunia sold her precious bell to a prosperous cotton exporter.
He gave the bell to his daughter, making the circle complete.

For his daughter taught school; the bell called many a child
to attention over her career, fulfilling its original mission.
After many years, a careless boy, acting all crazy and wild,
knocked it from her desk, causing the handle’s demolition.

The teacher cried, tried repair, but she gave up in despair,
for the ivory handle, carved so magnificently, was ruined.
She threw the broken bell into the trash. She couldn’t bear
to keep it longer. Along came the janitor, Elmer McEuen.

Old Elmer knew the bell was still of use. He made
a handle out of wood, securing it with a threaded metal
bolt and nut, and used a string with a nut that weighed
enough to produce a loud clang. He deemed it had mettle.

Old Elmer had a granddaughter that taught school over
in the poorest part of town. She took the bell proudly
to her classroom. She used it well for years. Moreover,
she passed the bell down to her daughter, who loudly

rang the old bell to call her own classroom to order daily.
The bell was serving this family of teachers’ fifth generation
when Katrina flooded New Orleans. During the melee
of evacuation, the bell was left at its schoolroom location.

When the school was finally renovated, the bell was thrown
out as trash. From the rubbish heap, a tourist, a young boy,
retrieved the bell. It was dirty; its copper no longer shone;
its wooden handle was cracked; but to the lad it was a toy.

The bell was brought to Shreveport at their vacation’s end.
The boy gave it to his invalid grandmother to keep bedside.
After her death, at the estate sale, the large crowd did wend
its way throughout the house, picking up objects they spied.

The old bell was examined by quite a few and deemed lacking
in worth. Finally, a bell collector happened along, took the old
bell in his hands, saw beyond its dark green patina and cracking
wooden handle. He knew it had too much quality to go unsold.

The collector added the bell to his collection, placing it back
behind the newer, shinier bells. He bought it since it was old,
copper, and once must’ve been prized. Having no way to track
its history or where it’d been, to him its story stayed untold.

So it is with many things old. Tho’ they be rusty or battered,
a bit broken and worn, they had a worthy past that mattered.



Friday, September 11, 2009

My Storoems

Some poets hold a Master of Fine Arts.
They prefer to use an esoteric word
over the simple, until their poem imparts
scant meaning, becoming rather absurd.

Some poets write poems that are concise,
with few stanzas, each having short lines.
To express single ideas, brief poems suffice.
Indeed, sometimes a compact poem shines;

readers can digest it like a M&M candy.
Sometimes I try to write such terse verse.
Were I able to do so, it would come in handy.
However, in my poem’s topic, I fully immerse.

I strive to tell a simple story in most of my poems,
using longer lines, numerous stanzas, a lot of ink.
My messages are revealed through these storoems,
which, I hope, will make my readers feel and think.

Some readers don’t read long poems. What a shame!
The longer poem can delve deep to deserve acclaim.
If ever as a poet, I were to earn fortune and gain fame,
it will be my “storoems” that popularized my name.



Thursday, September 3, 2009

Breakthrough, a Novel by Stephen Tremp

Welcome back! Today we will take a more in-depth look at Stephen Tremp's novel, Breakthrough.

Book Description:

* Hardcover: 424 pages
* Publisher: (December 31, 2008)
* Language: English
* ISBN-10: 0595710700
* ISBN-13: 978-0595710706
* Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.5 inches

Synopsis of Breakthrough:

In a world where the Information Age is moving at breakneck speed, breakthroughs in areas of science that were once fodder for science fiction are now becoming a part of our everyday life.

A group of graduate students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology have stolen a breakthrough in opening and stabilizing Einstein-Rosen Bridges, or wormholes, as they are commonly known, that allows them to instantly transport people from one location to another. Their goal is to assassinate any powerful politician and executive controlling the world’s banking system that would use this technology for their own greedy gain rather than the advancement of mankind.

Meanwhile, in south Orange County, California, young Chase Manhattan, part of a new breed of modern-day discovery seekers, seeks to leave behind his life of danger and adventure and settle down as an associate professor of physics at University of California-Irvine. He also desires to build a lasting relationship with a beautiful girl he has not seen since high school.

But within days, he uncovers the diabolical scheme on the other side of the country and finds himself the one person who can prevent more murders from happening and who can ultimately destroy the technology. However, once the MIT group realizes Chase and his friends have the ability and motivation to not only take the breakthrough technology from them, but also thwart more killings, Chase soon finds himself in their cross-hairs, the latest target on their list of assassinations.

As the death toll mounts, Chase and his friends must battle this group of ambitious graduate students from MIT on both coasts and in cyberspace in a desperate race to control or destroy this breakthrough that threatens to drastically change life as we know it.

Breakthrough, the first book in the Adventures of Chase Manhattan series, begins with a bang and offers the audience exciting, new, and diverse heroes and villains. The result is a fresh suspense thriller series integrating elements of greed, betrayal, passion, lust, unconditional love, coming of age, and hope. The action is swift, and there are numerous twists and turns that will keep the reader turning the pages and wanting more.

Tremp's Breakthrough may be purchased at Barnes & Noble

and at

Reviews of Breakthrough may be read at both of the above on-line bookstores.

A few are reproduced here:

Review by Patty H: Posted June 3, 2009. This thriller had me turning the pages and up late at night to keep on the trail of what would happen next to Chase Manhattan. Then when I turned the last page, Oh No! - It can't be over! I hope the next book comes out soon! I really liked how you were drawn into the lives of the characters and the twists and turns of the plot. I believe technology breakthrough is coming into our lives - ready or not. It's interesting to examine the sub plots through out this book and see the good versus evil aspects of technology depending on who has the power to use it. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and recommend it for book clubs or a summer read. Why go to the movies for a summer thriller when you've got this choice. Rating: 5-stars

Review by MadMike: Posted January 15, 2009. A timely book that speaks to our generation with its technological breakthroughs and the struggle to use it for good or for evil. The concepts were well researched. What I liked most were the refreshing characters. Its time to read about new good guys with diverse personalities who somehow find a way to work together. Same with the bad guys. Lots of action with terrific character buildup combined with twists in the plot. Never a dull moment.
I also liked the discriptions of Boston, MA and Orange County, CA. I've been to Orange County and appreciate the attention to detail in the cities and establishments the story takes place. Really looking forward to the next book.
Rating: 5-stars

Review by Bill Buzzo: Posted March 13, 2009. Breakthrough: The Adventures of Chase Manhattan is a well-written, fast-paced thriller that takes you on a wild ride of suspense and intrigue. Chase Manhattan is a modern day cowboy trying to save the world from people who would chose power, money, and fame over the common interest and overall good of the planet. The storyline grabs you, pulls you in, and leaves you wondering, wow! what if that could really happen?? I really enjoyed reading this book and look forward to more adventures with Chase Manhattan. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading, especially those who enjoy thrilling suspense & action incorporated into modern day technology. Rating: 5-stars

Nine of ten reviews at these sites for Breakthrough are 5-stars. The book has been well received by its readers. Maybe you should buy it and read it!



Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Meet Author Stephen Tremp

It is my pleasure this month to host author Stephen Tremp as part of our on-going VBT book tour. Please read and get to know more about Stephen.

Author Stephen Tremp at a book signing for his novel “Breakthrough” at a Borders bookstore.

Now, let’s learn a bit more about Stephen Tremp’s biography:

Stephen Tremp was born in Marshall, Michigan, in 1962, the third out of four children of Duane and Joyce Tremp. When he was five, his family moved to Grand Ledge, ten miles to the west of the capital city of Lansing. Stephen attended Holbrook Elementary, Beagle Middle School, and Grand Ledge High School. He always dreamed of writing and enrolled in numerous English and writing courses throughout high school and junior college.

After living in Houston, Texas, for one year when he was nineteen, Stephen moved back to Lansing, Michigan, briefly a year before moving to Orange County, California, where he has lived ever since. He met his wife, Deena, and married her in October 1996 in an outdoor ceremony in Dana Point, California, high up on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. They have two children and a Yorkie. Stephen had to make a very difficult decision and gave away his beloved parrot, Pepper, a nanday conure, when the children were born.

Stephen attended Golden West and Orange Coast junior colleges before finishing his undergraduate degree with the University of Phoenix with a B.A. in information systems. After a two-year hiatus, he went back to the University of Phoenix, where he earned an MBA degree in global management. He is currently completing his doctorate program in business administration with the University of Phoenix.

Stephen spent over ten years in consumer finance for some of the largest companies in the industry, holding numerous management positions and often working over 60 hours a week. He has also worked as a classroom and online instructor, facilitating various courses in the field of Project Management.

After many years of writing short stories and poems — when he could squeeze in the time — Stephen has taken the last two years off to fulfill his lifelong passion: write and publish Breakthrough, the first installment of the Chase Manhattan trilogy. He has four more suspense thrillers to follow. Stephen receives his inspiration from some of his favorite authors: the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child tandem, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King, among others.

Stephen has identified two charities to donate proceeds from his books: The Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) and Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Now for some Q & A:

What or whom inspires you to write?

I just see life and all of my experiences as one continuous action suspense story just waiting to be transferred to paper. I see “what if” scenarios throughout the day, regardless of where I am, what I’m doing, or who I’m with.

Although I’m a bit of an introvert, I’m very passionate about developing “what if” scenarios. I can relate to the Drew Carey’s show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, an improvisational comedy show. Give me a simple “what if” scenario, and I can develop it into an action suspense trilogy that will keep the reader up late at night, turning the pages.

I draw much inspiration from Dean Koontz, Dan Brown, Stephen King, and the Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child tandem. I read a lot of fiction thrillers and felt I needed to identify a unique niche market that a large segment of the population could identify with and get excited about.

I think I’ve found it in a world where the Information Age is moving at breakneck speed, and breakthroughs in areas of science that were once fodder for science fiction are now becoming a part of our everyday life. I believe I’ve found my calling, my gift to the world.

How did you get started?

I accepted a voluntary layoff after toiling over 10 years in the banking and finance industry and took advantage of the opportunity to write full-time.

Breakthroughs in physics and technology are broadcast into millions of homes via numerous cable channels in layman’s terms and computer graphics anyone can understand. I thought I would capitalize on this particular niche and incorporate them into an action thriller series weaving together breakthroughs in physics and technology with greed, murder, and mayhem. Will these breakthroughs benefit mankind and be used to further civilization, or will they be stolen and used for greedy gain? I think we know the answer. That’s why the world needs a hero like my protagonist Chase Manhattan.

What did you find to be the most frustrating step/process of getting your first novel published?

I signed a non-exclusive contract with iUniverse, which was acquired by AuthorHouse. During the transition, much information was lost, and it took about two or three additional months to bring Breakthrough to market. iUniverse (really, AuthorHouse) originally sent my unedited draft off to print. Can you imagine my response when I received the (ahem) final product? This was just the beginning of a series of comedies of errors.

But iUniverse has terrific customer service. They fixed everything in a timely manner. So some of the sting of their mistakes (which were many) was soothed by awesome customer service reps.

Do you have an agent? If yes, how long did it take for you to find one?

I do not currently have an agent, but I am actively pursuing one. I use Publisher’s Marketplace, a site to look for reputable agents and view deals they have made over the past couple years.

It took about three months of receiving feedback from various sources before I felt my query letter was professional. I even had my editor / proofreader go over it. I now understand why, after my initial effort of sending out my query letter, I received rejection for every one.

I feel much more confident today and have recently sent out about 50 query letters to specific agents. I’m expecting big things in the near future.

How long did it take for you to write Breakthrough?

Two years from start to finish. I thought I could accomplish everything in about eight months. But after the first editing/proof reading, I realized I still had a lot of research to perform and character development to perform. Then I had a second editor / proofreader go over the entire manuscript a second time. This was money well spent.

Are your characters based on yourself or anyone else you know?

The protagonist, Chase Manhattan (I may have to change his name to Chase Hawkings) is loosely based on me, only he’s a little bit taller than I am, a little bit better looking, a little faster, stronger, smarter, and much richer.

The rest of the good guys (and girls) and bad guys (and girls) are partially made up and partially based on people I’ve known throughout my life.

Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What seems to work for unleashing your creativity?

Honestly, I don’t suffer from writer’s block, although there are times when I do write, I can’t use the material because it lacks substance or excitement. So I save the material and revisit the snipits in the future. I have a junkyard of sorts, and if I need a part, I go to my junkyard, grab what I need, then polish, refine it, and insert it.

Technically speaking, what do you have to struggle the most when writing? How do you tackle it?

I really don’t struggle very much as I love what I do. I love performing due diligence in my research. Much of the two years I spent writing Breakthrough was devoted to researching the latest and greatest in the realm of physics.
I also had to research the Boston and Cambridge, MA area via the Internet as well as Boston police procedures. I also use Google Earth and yearly weather reports to describe a particular area. Honestly, there is so much information available at my fingertips, the biggest struggle I have is sorting through the wealth of information and eliminating relevant data.

What advice would you give someone who wants to get a book published?

The number one piece of advice I can give an aspiring author is to budget money for a competent editor / proofreader. Even editors who want to write and publish a book need an editor. This is the biggest, and one of the easiest, mistakes an author can make.

Editors / proofreaders are vital to your success. Vital is an appropriate word. It means: necessary for life. Don’t try to go it alone, even if you call yourself an editor. You need that second set of eyes to look over your manuscript before you forward it on for printing.

You’re only as good as your editor / proofreader. Perception is reality, and the person buying your book will be the ultimate judge, not you, the author. I can say this with confidence, and hope to convince everyone I can to find a way to budget for a quality editor / proofreader.

Most editors / proofreaders will review your first 10 pages for free. I’m confident even the most experienced writers will be amazed at the results. Do what I did; pay for a few pages here, a few chapters there. Before you know it, your entire manuscript will be transformed into a work of art.

Please share with us your latest work-in-progress.

I am currently writing the next two installments of the Breakthrough trilogy entitled Opening and Escalation. These two books will pick up where Breakthrough left off and take the story on an international level. The setting is the United States, China, and the Middle East.

These next books are very exciting as I use more discoveries and breakthroughs in physics in these books. It’s too early to give away anything from these books, but for those who read Breakthrough, they will have a pretty good idea what direction Opening and Escalation will go.

What’s awesome for me is that I do not have to not have to set my stories centuries in the future and use characters with pointy ears. Since mankind is on the cusp of discoveries and breakthroughs in just about every facet of our lives, I can use our modern day setting and not have to resort to using a science fiction genre.

I’m also outlining an eerie Stephen King-type thriller entitled Murcat Manor set in Michigan.

Steve, please include links so the readers can visit you and where they can buy your book?

Readers can visit my blog site at

Currently, Breakthrough can be purchased through traditional retailers. Currently, Breakthrough is cheapest though Barnes and Noble, but can also be purchased through Amazon, Borders Books and Music, and Target.

In two days I’ll post more about Stephen Tremp’s book Breakthrough. Please drop by and learn more about this fascinating book.