Crows are Smarter than People, but don’t Sizzle

I have proof! It’s true! They are way smarter than I am!

See, I’d seen an ad during the Super Bowl, like, four times, for the McDonald’s Cheesy Bacon Fries, and each time I thought to myself “dang, that’s cool!”

Now, my darling, wonderful wife is out of town, and I find myself with a day off (please don’t tell my wife I did this – she’ll have the I-told-you-so of a lifetime, and I’ve already given her so, so many. It’s safe to post this, because she never reads my stuff. If you don’t tell her, we’re cool).

So, It’s a lovely day at the harbor here in Ventura, and there’s a McDonald’s just a few blocks away. I don’t feel all that hot from an abusive weekend in Las Vegas (being volleyball parents isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be),  and, hey, I mean, it’s McDonald’s, right?

The first challenge is that the Cheesy Bacon Fries come in a box with a knife and spork.  Uh oh, the gullet says. This could be danger. Then I crack open the box.

So, when we were in Montreal, we discovered a Canadian dish called poutine – fries, cheese curds, brown gravy, and meat, all piled onto a plate. It is heaven on a cold day.

Ronald’s version doesn’t have the brown gravy, but it’s the same thing.

The first taste is really great – man, warm salt and fat. Kind of bacony, a little bit potatoey, and a strong dose of cheesy.  Even as I chew it, I’m thinking this is not a very good idea.  Kinda of like eating the cake that’s been out on the counter for a couple of days. It might be okay. Might.

So, about the crow. He flies up and takes station on the lamppost, right above my car. He looks at me with that look that crows have – inscrutable, but intriguing.  He wants a fry. He’s scared away all the pigeons, and the seagulls haven’t spotted the McD bag yet.

I make sure he sees me waggle a bacon-encrusted cheesy fry out the window, and give it a toss onto the grass. He dives on it the second it’s down.

Now, seagulls are smart. Once, my daughter and I played fetch with one.  We  had found a golf ball on the beach, and tossed it into the sand down next to the waves. A gull swept down, scooped it up, and dropped in right in front of us. I threw the ball again, and the bird brought it right back. We played like this for maybe 15 throws, until  he dropped the ball way out in the water and flew away.  Huh. Game over.

But seagulls will eat just about anything. You can make them explode with Alka Seltzer tablets – but please, please don’t. I can’t think of a more awful way to die.

This crow however, perhaps ponders a more awful demise in eating the cheesy bacon fry. He holds it in his beak and stares at me with disdain, his black eye asking “how could you?”  He hops onto the back of a bench, the fry firmly held in his beak, and looks thoughtfully out to sea.

The arrival of a flock of seagulls startles him, and he bolts out over the harbor in a stunning show of aerial mastery. He swings over me, the cheesy bacon fry wagging in his mouth, and then out over the water.

With every sign of intention and purpose, he drops the cheesy bacon fry into the bubbling waves, and off he goes.

What does this story have to do with writing books? Everything, my friend, everything and more.

If you , like me, publish your own work (my books are at Smashwords) there’s a huuuuuuuuge lesson here:

I bought the McDonald’s Cheesy Bacon Fries, knowing full well that it was just a box of salt, fat, and a strange orange semi-liquid cheese.  No, I couldn’t eat them, because, well, ick. But I gave McD’s my money for the experience. It was all sizzle, and surely no steak.

It’s the sizzle. It has to be the sizzle – sizzle so alluring that it makes you buy a product you really know you shouldn’t have, just because, well, because there’s so much sizzle!

On the health side, I’ll fly with the crows.

But on the marketing side, I’ll take a page from McDonald’s!

Please don’t tell my wife.

Hashtags of sizzle:

#McDonald’s #authorsoninstagram #droppington place #marigolds end

Five Years to Independence: Year Three – The Year of Accomplishment

Welcome to year three of the Five Years to Independence program. Or system, or scheme, or deal… what it’s called isn’t as important as what it is. What’s in a name?

Name notwithstanding, this is not a self-help program, or a get rich quick scheme. This is just a different way to view the road you’ve traveled, and to adjust your thinking to find success in the way ahead.

Here’s something I hadn’t considered but is true: although this program is meant to help you if you know you’re talented, have spent your life hiding from it, but now realize you must become who you are,  this scheme actually works if you’re living on your talents, but want to move up to a higher plateau. I know this because I developed this thing to turn my own life around, and am now using it again to further my products (the novels Droppington Place and Marigold’s End). You marketers: did you see this shameless plug? Shameless.

Year one, as we recall, was the Year of No Regrets, in which you stopped whacking yourself upside the head for not having explored your talents when you were younger. You changed the way you looked at the past, recognizing that the road you took led you to this new road.

Year two was the Year of Confidence, in which you viewed yourself as the creative talent you know yourself to be. If you dance, in this year you become a dancer, or a writer, or a painter, or a videographer. The Year of Confidence is the year in which you stop hiding behind the ordinary to finally be the extraordinary person that you are.

The secret behind these two years of mind-changing is that you were also practicing your art: working on your talent, albeit behind closed doors. You did this so that, when you announce to the cosmos that you ARE a singer, you’ve been singing for at least as year.  That’s the keystone to this whole project: stop hiding from your talent, stop regretting that you’ve waited so long, and USE IT!

If we do a bit of math… let’s see, carry the one… that brings us to Year Three: The Year of Accomplishment.

Here is where the chicken hits the road. In this year, we move our art from inside ourselves out into the world. Yes, into the world.

Years ago I worked for a major international bank, helping people find solutions to their mortgage problems. The management catchphrase in use there was “if you didn’t document it, it never happened.”  Essentially, if no one saw the transaction, it never took place.

In my revision of myself, I realized that a writer who thinks about writing but doesn’t do it is not a writer – he’s a thinker. A writer writes.

But that’s not quite right, is it? If I wrote beautiful poems every day, but kept them hidden in a closet, or burned them, is that writing? A writer’s work needs to be read, just as a painting needs to be seen and a song needs to be heard. A song sung to one’s self may be beautiful, but does not further one’s career.

So, this year, we stop singing to ourselves, and we put our talent out there. Out there on the world stage, come what may.

The glory of this age in which we live is that you now, finally, have a world stage at your fingertips. Now you can do your stand-up before a world audience – every nation in the world can see you dance, hear your song, read your words.

That’s an accomplishment, to get your work out there into the world. I’ve advocated doing that throughout the previous two years, if you’re brave enough. If you haven’t been brave enough to do it before, then this is the year you overcome that fear and let ‘er rip.

So, here’s how I faced my fear of the  World Stage: It’s a busy place, with a hundred million voices all clamoring for their moment in the sun. Being one in a hundred million is a pretty safe, anonymous place to be. (For example, my books (see the shameless plug, above) are out there, waiting to be read. and have only sold 17 copies so far).  That’s a nice comfort. On the other hand, I’ve sold 17 books so far, which means that a shaft of sunlight DID shine on my work, at least 17 times.

So, that’s your job this year. Put yourself out there, either in the safe and comfortable way of YouTube or Instagram, or, as I did, pushing my online published work to literary agents (can you spell “rejection letter?”).

Do it. Don’t hide from it. If no one sees your dance, how can you become known to the world as a dancer?  Don’t forget, that’s the point of this whole exercise.

You’re a talented individual who has hidden from that talent all your life. You can keep hiding, or you can become who you really are.

“Be brave, little Piglet.” Owl’s stentorian tone emboldens little Piglet to hold on and endure the flood of the Hundred Acre Wood, according to A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

You and I, we must be brave. What is talent, except the bravery to do the unusual, isn’t it? The talented have a vision, a world view, that needs to be shared.

You’re talented. Let’s get out there and share it!

This is really long-winded, I realize, but it’s important.

Ideally, by the end of the Year of Accomplishment, you’ve exhibited your talent in a place that will get you noticed. Ideally, that shaft of sunlight will illuminate your work, and you’re on your way.

The first time I ran this program, my Year of Accomplishment took two years, at the end of which I made the leap from under-employed customer service rep/novelist to technical writer/novelist.  I became a writer.

I’m in another round of the program, with the goal of accomplishing the title change from technical writer/novelist to novelist/technical writer.  I’m in year two of that accomplishment.  The accomplishment will be to get seriously published: that’s a big one.

Like the speed limit on the freeway, the five-year structure of this program is just a suggestion: it may take you seven years, or six months.

Thanks for staying with me. Two more years to go!

Oh, and, visit my Smashwords page, or my online home.

Yes, Your Majesty

You’re a writer – you know how it is. We’re all trying to grab that brass ring of fame, unless it’s golden. No, it’s brass, isn’t it? I’ve forgotten. It has something to do with a carousel…

So, here’s a cool way to douse yourself in immortality – become the Lord of a Castle! I’ve done it, and, my friend, I feel positively, well, Lordly.

It’s a crazy road – one of my very most favorite novels is The Three Musketeers. As you know, the protagonist of the story is a fellow named D’artagnan.

Well, lo and behold, there’s a French company called D’artagnan that specializes in raising funds to rescue French castles and chateaus (I suppose that’s really chateaux, right?) that are fading away into history. They sell shares of the castle. You buy a share, you become part owner of it.

For fifty euros, I bought a share of a castle called Ebaupinay – that’s her, there, in the picture.  Yeah, she’s a little rough – bit of a fixer-upper – but that’s the whole idea.

It’s very cool. They’re rebuilding her with the same tools that were used when she was first built, in the 14th Century. Same tools, same materials. It could take a while, as I doubt there are any serfs that will trade labor for food and not getting, what’s the word? Killed.

Once the castle is done, actually, while they’re doing the work, they’ll recreate the village that nestled inside the walls – again, everything will be as it was seven hundred years ago.

What’s really cool is that I’ll get a commemorative coin, struck right there at the castle, that shows that I’m a Chatelain de le Chateau. That’s right. Of course, the blacksmith, who has yet to arrive, will strike the coin in the smithy’s shop, which has yet to be built.  But, hey, I’m patient.

In the meantime, I have complete access to the castle, as a 1/10,000th of a Lord (I think they sold that many shares).

Ah, the lordly life. Now that I am the Lord of a Castle, it strikes me as astounding how similar this new life is the one I had before I joined. Hmph.

To join, visit Dartagnans.fr. It’s pretty cool. Tres chic.

So, here’s a shameless plug: the lead character in my novel Droppington Place has his origins in Shakespeare’s time, perhaps 150 years after this castle was built, and in England, not in western France. But, believe me, there’s a tie-in somewhere. Hmph.

Visit Phineas Caswell and see if you can find a link. If you do, uh, let me know, would ya? I’m feeling a little lost…

#droppingtonplace #shakespeare #authorsofinstagram