Sunday, March 24, 2013

Live Eagle Cam - Mississippi River

Discovered a really great eagle cam.  This one is located between Locks and Dams 14 and 15 on the Mississippi River.  That's between Davenport/Bettendorf and Leclaire Iowa.  Two adult eagles have hatched out two chicks.  Today, Saturday, March 24 the chicks appear to be only a few days old. Just a while ago I watched this adult feeding the chicks what looked like pieces of fish from a fish lying there in the nest.  Check it out now and watch the chicks grow.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Can Video Games Actually Influence Violent Behavior?

Requiem for the Puppet Master, proposes that highly sophisticated, life like video games could be used to program a teen-aged boy to commit murder.  The story was conceived and written before the recent rash of mass murders in 2012, and of course is pure fiction. Writing the story, I had no doubt that a violent video game or movie could influence the chemistry in the human body.  Our fight or flight responses can be triggered by both real and imagined danger or threat. Our breathing becomes faster and shallow, our heart rate and blood pressure increase.  So the basis for the story was something I thought readers could buy into. And they have.

Some time ago I took an afternoon off and went to see a movie.  Wait Until Dark was showing in a big, but mostly empty, RKO Orpheum Theatre.  In the movie a recently blinded woman, Susy, (played by Audrey Hepburn) is terrorized by a trio of thugs while they search for a heroin stuffed doll they believe is in her apartment.  Susy breaks out all the lights in the apartment hoping to give herself an edge.  What she doesn’t know is that the refrigerator door is open and the light in the refrigerator is on. The movie is intense. I wanted to tell her about the light. She thinks she is in total darkness.

I was sitting there in the theatre, totally hooked, hoping and praying for her escape when one of the bad guys comes flying out from the side and grabs Susy. I was startled and immediately got wrapped up in the ensuing struggle. About three minutes later as the adrenalin receded I realized that I had stood up and was still standing. And that was just a very old movie (1967 I think).  Consider the difference in sophistication, and technology between that movie and a new violent video game. Consider also the amped up ability of the video game to keep the adrenalin flowing.

There is no doubt in my mind that vivid, realistic, images can influence our body chemistry.  Iowa State University professor Douglas Gentile tells us:

These gamers do have an adrenaline rush, and it's noradrenaline and it's testosterone, and it's cortisol — these are the so-called stress hormones," Gentile says. "That's exactly the same cocktail of hormones you drop into your bloodstream if I punched you."

But, is the rush, by itself, strong enough to change behavior? Probably not. Lots of kids, millions, are playing violent video games and staying in sports, reaching for honor roles, getting ready for college, enjoying their high school years.

There are other important factors that lead to strong enough motivation to kill.  Mental illness, poor self esteem, rejection by peers, being bullied, not having positive, supportive role models all can lead to a very skewed view of the world and his place in it.  The need for recognition combined with some of these other factors can lead some very bizarre behavior including murder. 

And what about girls?  My wife explained it to me.  She says, “Men and boys fight with their fists, guns and knives.  Girls use words to fight.”  She’s probably right, she usually is.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Requiem for the Puppet Master - Kindle Version

Requiem for the Puppet Master is now online at Amazon.  The marketing program is gradually gaining steam and it is time to settle into my regular writing routine see what sort of trouble Grady gets into the second of this series.  No doubt that Grady and Peg will return. It is also likely that we will see more of Sven.

Can video machines really be used to program a 13 year-old boy to kill?  Can a rogue agent for the National Security Agency avenge his expulsion from the agency by programming the kid to eliminate his rivals still in the agency?  And is the programming strong enough to make the boy kill the agent's last living rival, who just happens to be the boy's father, the father he hates.

Grady Harrison, after the tragic loss of his wife and only daughter, has simplified his life, quit his psychology practice and moved onto his old wooden Chris Craft cruiser.  When the boy’s redheaded mom shows up on his boat, it’s not the far-fetched sounding tale of programming and murders that hooks Grady it’s the boy’s mom, Peg, the redhead.

He takes the bait and away we go.  What starts as a simple request for help with a disturbed teenager morphs into a full-fledged battle against a ruthless and powerful NSA rogue agent. It’s a battle to rescue and reclaim the boy, Brian.

It’s a battle to save Brian’s father.  It’s an opportunity for Grady and Peg to find strengths they never knew they had.

Friday, July 27, 2012

How to Self Publish on Kindle

Right now I am in the process of getting my first Grady Harrison PI novel, Requiem for the Puppet Master, ready to upload to Kindle, and thought that I might share the high points this process and some helpful links.  I have thought about my book as a Kindle book for a long time but just recently bellied up, and got underway with the project.  If you are thinking about self publishing I suggest you just do it.  There can be quite a bit of detail but it really isn't that hard to get the job done.
  • Of course, the first thing you need to do, if you haven't already, is to finish your book and get some input from friends, teachers, writing support groups, anyone who is interested enough to read your manuscript and to give you some feedback.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Show Don't Tell

At a writer's conference in Tucson a couple of years ago I showed some of my work to agents and publishers.  In general they liked my work, but kept telling me Show Don't Just Tell.  Since I heard that from more than one source I accepted the criticism but didn't really understand it.  At least I didn't understand well enough to just sit down and do it.  Today I found, finally, a really good book called The Emotion Thesaurus, A Writer's Guide to Character Expression.  The authors are Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.

Monday, July 16, 2012

New Book, New Character, New Blog

Requiem for the Puppet Master is almost finished.  One more round of copyediting.  Some day very soon, I hope, you will be able to download Requiem for the Puppet Master as an eBook from Amazon.  You'll meet Grady Harrison who is a shrink turned PI.  Grady lives on his Chris Craft cruiser moored just off the Mississippi River near Rock Island.  When the redhead shows up Grady instantly dislikes her kid and instantly falls for the redhead.  But Peg Reilly wants help.   The kid who has just been released from an adolescent treatment center is still out of control and the redhead suspects that the treatment wasn't really what Brian, the kid needed.  It isn't long before Grady is head to toe with adversaries who seem to hold all the cards.

You don't have to be Dick Tracy or even Grady Harrison to take note and see that my new blog here is under construction.  Bear with me.  Stick around.  Leave a comment.  I'll keep you up to date on what it takes to self publish.