Sixty Years On

Now available in July, two new novels: Of Gods Strangers and Messengers, Science Fiction Adventure, and Unexpected Unplanned and into the Unknown, a Post-Apocalyptic episodic novel. Both are available as paperback and in the EBook format. Release date was yesterday, July 14, 2017. Blurb and information can be found on my website (found at the bottom of this page).

The Harsh Lands is available as a paperback (ISBN: 978-1-946179-00-5), for Kindle (ASIN: B01N69YCCW), or in the EPub format (ISBN: 978-1-946179-02-9). This novel is the complete Survival trilogy in a single book with a length of over 1150 pages.

Time of Isolation: Paperback (ISBN: 978-1-946179-06-1) Kindle (ISBN: 978-1-946179-07-4) and Epub (ISBN: 978-1-946179-08-1) and Desperate to Survive: Paperback (ISBN: 978-1-946179-09-8) Kindle (ISBN: 978-1-946179-10-4) and Epub (ISBN: 978-1-946179-11-1) are available for purchase as of April 21, 2017. These releases are second editions with the novels revised and updated. At this time A Taste of History Past will remain as a first edition and EBook only with this being the final book in the Survival trilogy.

The Woman in the Snow 2nd edition. Contemporary Christian Fiction available now: Paperback (ISBN 978-1-946179-03-6) Kindle (ISBN 978-1-946179-04-3) and Epub (978-1-946179-05-0).

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I picked this title from the title of a song by Elton John that he sang back in the seventies. I have to admit that I always liked it. Still in many ways what it reflects is a view of when one reaches those older years. And in my case I definitely qualify. If any of you out there haven’t heard the song here’s the link to one of the versions from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEcafVVUxqk

In a sense what one takes away from this song will be as a result of who and where you are personally. For me it has to do with the title referring to sixty years plus, which is where I am, since I’ll turn sixty eight this year. Others may think about the fact that it seems that every generation have their wars to fight, others who want to see guns disappear will see a possible future where they don’t exist. And still others might focus on the religious aspect, and because of this none of us would agree what this song is about – and that’s what keeps life interesting.

What I am writing here will be through my eyes as I’ve viewed events, and marked time. And if we truly think about it for all of us it is this way. What is being witnessed throughout our lives will always be colored by who we are, what our experiences have been, our heredity, the influences that are around us, and where we are in our own timeline. Nothing we see is what it truly is. It cannot be any other way since we view all things from our inner selves, and our personal senses.

For example, in my case I’m partially colorblind. That means that certain colors do not exist for me and when you remove those colors what I see instead is the color that would be created if that missing color didn’t exist. To explain what I mean, here is what would happen. If you remove red from purple the color you would end up with is blue. And we can say the same thing with brown. Since red is the most common colorblind color then if we remove red from brown we get green. So this would mean that to any of us with that particular color blindness trait those other colors wouldn’t exist, i.e. brown and purple.

By the way, back when you were a kid, and for me that’s a long time ago, did you ever try to mix all the colors with your crayons or colored pencils to get white? Logically you’d think it would work since sunlight is white and we were shown and told that it is created from all the colors.  And by using a prism they prove it. Yet when we mix those colors on a sheet of paper we end up with black – one of those mysteries of life I guess.

Memory or memories can be tricky things. It has been shown that what we remember isn’t necessarily what really happened. Time and distance has changed those memories into something different, yet we believe what we see in our minds is correct. There have been a number of experiments done over the years that prove that memories can be implanted and have no basis in reality. So when I look back on my memories I find that with some there are warm nostalgic feelings that can lead me to smile, while others I’d sooner forget. Are they accurate, I believe so, but there’s no way for me to prove them to be so. If we think about this too hard it can leave us on shaky ground with nothing firm to stand upon. It comes down to do we trust or not trust our personal memories. Personally I’d rather trust them until they are proven to be wrong.

So what’s your earliest memory? Mine, and I’d guess I had to be around three at the time, has to do with a family outing to an observatory, standing on the steps leading up to the entrance. That’s it, nothing about going inside, or about the trip to and from, or any other aspect. There must have been something about that one location that created this permanent memory.

Other memories? Well, there’s the one where we went out to look at property when I was six. We turned a corner and everything to the west fell away and suddenly it was like I could see forever. As a boy scout taking that ninety mile hike we did as a troop, graduating from high school, (fifty years ago) the night I left home on the way to a war zone as a soldier, wild fires, where eventually one did destroy our homes, marrying the woman I love, who brought two daughters into my life and our family, being there for the birth of our sons, and now after all these years going to their weddings. As you can see most of these memories are ordinary and as such could belong to anyone. Yet, each and every one makes me who I am, as the ones you have make you who you are.

Local and beyond memories? The Kennedy assassination when I was in high school, the space race and landing on the moon, an airliner crash that almost hit an elementary school, and further back and personal, a military fighter crashing on the property and almost hitting our home, 9-11-2001, and the resulting wars that we still face today, terrorism and the many tragic losses from these extremists, and I guess I can throw in the mine rescue. In this mix I can add the resignation of a president and vice-president, and the first time we had a president who came to office unelected. And all of these form the backdrop of my and our lives influencing how we see and view our world.

The common factor in all of this is time. And for all of us time is the limiting factor. We are only given so much of it before we die. And it’s surprising how fast that time approaches. It seems like yesterday when I graduated from school and while I was in school it seemed like it was forever. Now fifty years later I’m returning from that reunion celebrating a half century since graduating. Yeah this means I’ve been out of school much longer than I was in, and that time between has more than flown – leaving me to wonder what happened

It is here at this time in one’s life that they realize that much of their lives are over, and whatever dreams and goals one had are no longer obtainable. It is sobering when one realizes that all the chances are pretty much used up, and are part of your past. Still I can say that once I retired that it allowed me one more chance at one of those life goals, and here it is right before you. I always had a desire to write, and in truth I never knew if I could be successful or not. I guess, in the end, I can say yes. When I seriously began to write, (after retiring) I set goals, whether I’d ever reach them I didn’t know. I honestly didn’t know if I could write a book or novel and finish it. Yet, in the end, I did reach those goals, surpassed them, reset those goals and will reach and possibly surpass those new ones.

Still, time is piling up, burying me under that weight, telling me that soon those creative juices will probably dry up. So next year as I work on two new novels,  they may be my last. Still I’m happy with the results of my writing. In the end I’ll have written twelve novels, plus one of short stories that I’ve presented over the years on this blog. And when I do look back on my life I see many twists and turns, dead ends, failures, and a few successes now and then. Still overall I have my health – more or less – and a loving family. I believe in God and would love to see a peaceful world. Still, I’m realistic enough to know that this will probably never happen. It still doesn’t mean that I hope to be wrong. We are still a world of tribes and have that tribe mentality. And until that changes nothing ever will.

In conclusion, all I can say is to keep reaching. Keep yourself active mentally and physically. Set those goals, and reach for them. If you don’t make them, at least you tried, and in a sense that’s the bottom line isn’t it. It has been said many many times, it’s the journey, the road you travel. Even though that road will have many unexpected turns, dead ends, and branches that will completely change your life and direction, you only fail when you give up. And unlike the games we play we cannot go back and start a level again. In life we get one chance, and it matters not whether you have the experience to make an educated decision, we must decide and then live by where that decision sends us.Whether my novels become more than a hobby only time will tell. Still I’m happy to have traveled down those many roads, and I love following my fictitious characters through their lives, and must admit that I’ve enjoyed their life stories and journeys as they unfolded. And if I want to admit to it I think I would like to meet many of them personally. Of course this is impossible since they’ve never lived except in my mind and on the pages of those books – still, they are real to me. Remember –

Don’t be afraid to reach high and to seek the impossible. Who knows, you may be the one who makes the impossible possible. God Bless! Have a great week, and learn from all the mistakes we all have a tendency to make. It is only then that we grow. (http://www.fdbrant.com)

 

Blog Extra – July 4th, Looking Back

Personal Opinion and Thoughts:

It is July 4th, or what is known as the Fourth of July in the USA. The official date where the colonies declared independence from England 240 years in the past. First off I’m providing a link back to last year’s post, and stating that if anything it has gotten worse and not better. This is also an election year on a national level, and in many ways a critical one. In my  opinion we as a nation are fighting to remain a free country, and one who is governed by the laws of the land or what is called the Constitution of the United States of America. At this very moment it appears that the biggest law-breaker to these basic rights and laws is the government itself. Still let’s look back through the link to my thoughts last year: https://windmillsmetaphor4writing.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/4th-of-july-just-another-day/

If you are one who followed the link back, there really is little that I can add. It is the fervent hope from the common citizen that what we had can be found once again. And while the celebration of our independence is important, as we continue down the road we’re presently traveling it is a hollow celebration as the government continues to break the very laws of the land, and push us so ever closer to becoming the new USSR.

May America return to her roots and become what she once was. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

A Personal Tragedy

Before beginning this week’s post I’d like the mention that the book, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown, has been released to Amazon Scout. Here readers have a chance to read an excerpt and rate the story. If enough are positive then Amazon will publish it under their own label. Here is the link, if any are interested please check it out. https://kindlescout.amazon.com/p/QINQQURWHJS3

With this title, A Personal Tragedy, one would think that it refers to something that happened to me personally, but this tragedy was something I witnessed which took place over a period of time. At the time of the incident and what followed I worked in a small rural community. In these places people have a tendency to know each other, and if you are one who works in one of the businesses one has a chance to meet everyone. It isn’t unusual to find unlocked doors, and people always willing to help others in the community. In a sense my book “The Woman in the Snow” reflects this kind of committment that is common in these communities.

If we want to be honest, somewhere in our lifetime we will either be a part of a tragedy, be a witness to one, or know someone who had a tragic incident in their own lives. Many times these tragedies involve death bringing to us the truth that none of us get out of this world alive. I know as a child I thought it would be nice to know when one would die, after all it did seem like it was important. With as much life behind me as I’ve had (and it’s been said many times, time is precious) I now disagree. If we know when, we would never accomplish what we do in our lives with that final date staying in the forefront and dominating our thoughts.

Overall the community had a mix of people, with many living here being retired. Others commuted to work into the larger communities to the west, and a few actually worked the land. This meant we have farmers, ranchers, young families, older families, many singles, and retirees. Very similar to any community be it large or small. Mostly everybody got along. Still in such a setting there were issues, and many times such issues were large enough to polarize the community. Still overall it was no different than any of the small communities (or large ones) that exist in this country.

For a period of time we even had a small local newspaper, but eventually it disappeared and is no more. If one was driving the road that went through the main part of town, the town would be easy to miss. It had gates to many of the ranches, and if you were driving east the first building that would mark that you might be entering a rural community was the fire department – a simple volunteer unit. Then for a short time there would be nothing. The next one to show would be the Post Office followed by a combination restaurant and grocery store, and across from this would be a state fire station. Once past these you would be heading out of town and on to whatever your destination would be. In others words, if you blinked you’d miss it completely.

Yet, if you had turned off onto the one main road back into the community you would find a library, the local school and the many roads that led to where most lived. It was back in this area where the tragedy took place. For any of us who are from such areas there really is much that happens that is never heard about outside of the community. That doesn’t mean it has less of an impact or doesn’t influence those who are involved, because it does. It is no more or no less important for any who happen to live in the largest cities in this nation where such could be reported.

Part of the draw for those who are looking for more than cities provide is the freedom and openess of the lands. It, over all, is a harder lifestyle, and not all can live it. Many need to be surrounded by people to feel safe and secure while others feel less people the better. I have seen some who have moved into these rural communities from the cities and only after a few months run screaming back to the crowds, swearing they’d never return.

A young family lived back on one of the dirt roads and their son was out riding the family’s ATV, after receiving permission to do so. As most kids who have something powerful at their control he was going too fast down the dirt road he was traveling and ran into another vehicle coming from the opposite direction. It killed him and threw the family into turmoil, which is no surprise. After all it is said, and for good reason, “No parent should outlive their child”.

Statistics say that the loss of a child can lead to the breakup of the parents. And unfortunately it did in this case. I was friends with both of them and shared in their tragedy. They tried to keep it together but the “what if’s”, the blame game, and so many other factors that were never revealed eventually led to their breakup. In many ways in this world of failed marriages no one would look at another one and consider the whys. “Just move on”, would be stated. “After all there are many out there who would love to share your life.”

Maybe so, but if this tragedy ended here, then maybe we could say, after the healing, if such is possible, that they moved on and found others to replace their loss. Still in this situation such didn’t take place. As far as the woman she eventually left the community and nothing was ever heard from her again.

And before I continue I have to mention another similar tragedy that happened in the same community. In this case the child was an adult and actually had been in the Navy. Driving home one night he crashed his vehicle and died from the injuries. The mother had difficulty dealing with the tragedy, which is completely understandable. Eventually the area brought too many bad memories and she moved away only to continue to fight the demons she faced. Any of us who face similar situations may try and find such a solution. The major problem with this is the fact we cannot run away from us. It is we who carry the emotions, the history, the memories, and a change of location will not change what is part of us. Until we can learn to deal with ourselves we will not escape our situation or problems.

Back to the ones we are following: Eventually he moved away but his life turned self-destructive. From a promising future, to the loss of his son, to the break up of his marriage, it all left scars he couldn’t cope with. He changed jobs, became involved with a series of flings, and somewhere along his personal timeline couldn’t deal with what happened and took his own life. In a sense this enlarged the original tragedy.

So they went from a loving family and in a short period of time back to only one with death taking two of them. Could any of this been prevented? I’m sure the two of them asked themselves that too many times to count when they learned of the death of their son. And I’m sure the blame game became prominent. Still the point we all must face is that our lives can change in an instant. And from that point on what we face and the direction of our lives is forever changed. Yes we can look back and wish and hope that things could be different but none of us can go back and change the past.

All of us are stuck with what we have in our present, and if it wasn’t the direction we had planned, or had set goals to reach, then we must adjust or like him give up and die. We are only given one chance, one life to live. And many times what we are given is difficult, and at times seems impossible. And while we may never face such a tragedy in our lives, that doesn’t mean we won’t face some type of hardship. All of us have setbacks, and all of us have unexpected events that change us forever. In the end it is what we do with these events that will define who we are. God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

Voice Acting – Bringing a Story Alive

As far as voice acting, I’m looking at this from a personal view, and delving into a little history and background as I progress from the time before voice acting existed in the gaming worlds (as long as we’ve had sound, voice acting has existed in TV, animated shorts and movies) to now where it is critical. (If one wants to be honest, even with the power of the modern computer RPGs still use dialogue trees that must be read. In a sense this is understandable considering the size of these worlds, the number of characters, the subplots, side quests, and random chaos that populates these worlds.) In fact one could purchase the “voice add-on” to those early games, something that would add a little more depth, but again even here it was short and sweet with no synchronization between words and mouth movements:

For any who follow this blog you are aware that I’m a gamer as well as a writer, obviously a blogger, and am retired. I’ve been dealing with computers since the early 90’s (and maybe even the late 80’s), from those good old days of DOS. It was here that I was sucked into the world of computer gaming (Anybody remember the Wing Commander series from Origin? If not this one then their big one which I never played, Ultima with “Lord British”.). Most games in those days simply had the script written as the systems were not powerful enough to drive all aspects of what we take for granted today. Probably it would surprise many that a large game “back in the day” could be counted in megabytes, not the gigabytes of the modern game worlds of today. In fact if you pushed over 25 megabytes you’d be using half your existing hard drive that came with the system at the time. With RAM existing at 2 to 4 megabytes, again instead of gigabytes, and the cost for those megabytes of RAM was exceedingly expensive, pushing the price of those early systems to over two grand. No soundcards, requiring any sounds to go through the single tinny speaker that was part of your system (all this you added later if you could afford it). And we cannot forget that there were no CD’s, DVD’s didn’t exist yet, so everything came on floppy disks either in the 1.2 megabyte, 5 1/4 inch or 1.44 megabyte 3 1/2 inch variety. Hard drives, yeah anything over 300 megs doubled in cost, and the average system came with less than 100, with the common size being around 40 megs, (And to be honest can any of us forget about the boot disks we created so we could take advantage of every megabyte of RAM). So in those early days because of the limitations voice acting wasn’t considered or thought as necessary.

Of course before any of this can take place there has to be a writer, or many writers. Without the writer there is no story, no characters, no direction, no world, nothing. Just a void where there is potential but unformed. Until that story is put to paper – whether that paper is electronic, using the modern word processor, an old typewriter, or pen to paper – nothing can go forward. Many times we find the stories that become our entertainment were originally novels. Other times the stories are specifically written for the media. If it is a book then others take over and write the script that allow the story to translate to the big screen, your TV, or into the game world. Until then it is only words on a page.

Words that as a reader we bring alive within our minds as we see the story unfolding in images within ourselves. And since this is the process it is probably why we are disappointed when one of our favorite stories becomes a movie, or a series, or something visual. In our mind’s eye the story will always be richer than someone else’s translation. And, to be honest, the creators must cut and change the story somewhat so that it will work within the media of their choice. My novels range in size from around two hundred pages to as high as five hundred. Even on the short end of this the story is too long for the big screen since each page equals approximately a minute of time. So even the shortest would be over three hours long.

Once all this work is accomplished the script is turned over to the ones who will bring it alive. If it will be using live actors then the director will be able to work with the real actors who then act out the scenes in the director’s vision of the story. Of course if we are talking animated shorts, or animated full length movies then things change. Of course this applies to the game worlds also. Here the difference lies in the volume of what must be translated into the game world. In other words the script for a game is much larger than an animated movie. Again, as in a story where the actors are there acting out the script with a director making sure it goes as planned, there is a director working with the voice actors.

Here it is up to the collaboration to make the script come alive. To make the ones who are using the product to be immersed in the world they are creating and not to do something that immediately destroys that immersion. Once that moment happens it is over. Bad voice acting will kill a good story or game world as quickly as poor writing, interface, or poor game design and world creation. Maybe because I’m older, or because I’m a writer I have a tendency to notice these things. And many times I do pause as I marvel at the success of a scene in front of me because of the way the voice actor brought what I’m witnessing alive.

One that comes immediately to mind is from an old game series, F.E.A.R.. For those unfamiliar with the game it is a standard FPS (First Person Shooter) wrapped up in horror, well done, and dark. The first two including expansions (as they were known then, we know them as DLC’s today) are great games, with superb voice acting. And to this day I have one of those lines from that game that remains with me. It’s not because the words are profound. No, it’s because the voice actor nailed it. Where the fictional character was, the situation she was in, and the realization that her chance of survival was minimal were all in those five words. And in print they will never have the same impact, the feeling of despair, of hopelessness that the actor portrayed in those five words. She simply said, “You’re not coming are you . . .”

Presently I’m playing Fallout 4, a gift from my sons for Christmas this year. Simply stated Fallout 4, and all the Fallout games are post apocalyptic worlds. I have to admit I enjoyed Fallout 3 and all the DLC’s that came with that game, ( I have to include the many mods I tried that helped to extend the life of the game). Yet this one (Fallout 4) is far deeper and, of course, with the passing time, the ability to present a fictional world has improved, meaning what is seen is closer to reality. (I marvel at the AI as I watch teams of antagonists work together in a firefight advancing and retreating, using available cover and shifting their location if their position is bad, all according to the battle they are in.) And the script overall had to be huge. What adds to this realism is the small vignettes within the game world. These short stories of tragedies from the past being transmitted over the emergency air waves asking, begging, or pleading for help. Making you as the main character want to track down these signals to see if you can help. Are they in the present, or has it happened a long time ago? Until you investigate you won’t know. If the voice acting hadn’t been spot on, if the voice actors had simply been reading the words the impact wouldn’t be there, and it would mean nothing, simply being a side note taking one away from immersion in the story, from this fictional world.

So in any of these fictional worlds where avatars are filling in for the real world and real actors it is that voice actor that brings these worlds and characters to life. If the actors hadn’t nailed Shrek, or Po, or any of the other avatars in those animated movies would they be as popular today, or would they be in some bargain bin collecting dust? And it is the same within the game worlds. Without those voice actors doing the great job of translating the written word much of what we enjoy wouldn’t exist. (On a side note we now have audio books that require a higher degree of voice acting to bring those books alive.) Of course what precedes this is that written word, still . . . In conclusion I must say, “Here’s to the voice actors and the worlds they bring alive. Without them we’d be living in a less imaginative and less colorful world.” God Bless! (www.fdbrant.com)

 

Reconciliation, a New Ending

Reconciliation is the last episode of the novel, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown. Again, as I wrote this novel, I was conscious of the word count. My novels usually run over 100,000 words and I have gone as high as 165,000, with them averaging around 118,000 words. Considering that the average length of a page, in words, varies between 300 to 350, it is rather simple to translate this into the number of pages a novel will have. And for publishers pages mean cost. And when they take on an unknown author they feel, from history, they will lose money on that debut novel. It is probably one of the reasons they usually deal in three book contracts knowing as the author becomes known they will generally make up that loss.

In this case this novel was submitted to a publisher who had become interested through PITMAD (I suspect this is short for Pitch Madness), which is presented on Twitter (and the only reason I signed up) up to four times a year. No query here, even though, if an agent or publisher becomes interested, you are still required to submit the standard materials – query, synopsis, and a certain number of pages of your novel. With its 140 character limit Twitter provides an interesting challenge to your ability to write, forcing you to present your novel in a few words and in such a way that it will interest agents and publishers in taking a chance.

Anyway, it is probably a mistake to approach any novel this way (looking at word count), and again, since my natural writing tendencies push my novels generally past that 100,000 word count, to shorten a story can be a problem. Still the one thing that is continually pushed or stressed, whether it’s at a conference, or through the many writing magazines, and help sites that are out there, is the word count limitation on that first or debut novel. It meant that my two protagonists didn’t have all the adventure and experience they should have and as a result, and this is only a guess, part of the reason for the rejection. Yet, because of the workload that agents and publishers face, most of the time, all you get is a form letter basically saying, “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.”

It leaves the writer out in the cold, so to speak. Because of the vagueness of the rejection, you as a writer, have no idea what worked, what didn’t, what the publisher or agent loved or hated, or why, in the end, it was trashed. So all one can do is go back and see, from your own point of view, what the story lacked, and hope the next time you submit you’ve found that weakness and corrected it. Most of us “starving writers” must self-edit, and because we are up close and personal with the story, (and to be truthful after you’ve written it, and gone through it to make corrections and or revisions at least three times, and in some cases eight, nine, or ten times, you become quite tired of the story and are ready to quit.), it is easy to overlook something. So you turn in your materials and hope, and if you receive the standard rejection letter you are left in the dark. Such is the industry. Every great or ordinary writer out there faces these same challenges.

And since the most recent revisions I have submitted queries with nothing but those standard rejections. I’m still waiting on the last response, and if this one returns as a rejection, then I believe I’ll try the Amazon Scout submission route and see what happens. It’s another direction for unknown authors to try to get their book into print. Although in this case it is electronic print since it would become an EBook through Amazon.

And this is part of the reason I’ve used my blog as a way to present this novel, giving you the readers a chance inside the creative process, and allowing you inside the process of editing and revision, is to find out if you have enjoyed what I’ve presented. And I have to say that many of you have enjoyed the story from your response. So as I wrap it up here I’ll present the original ending followed by the new ending. Again, to show you the changes and how all of this is generally unseen, if you happen to pick up the novel to make it your own. So with this said is the conclusion, not only to Reconciliation, but to the novel, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown:

The original:

So much had happened since then. And while those ignorant ones still existed inside of them, they now knew more than anyone in this world. Had even taken advantage of that new, to them, knowledge and had brought some payback to the raider clans. After the meal both of them continued to walk among the broken buildings remembering and talking about what they had done when this place still existed and was full of family, friends and townsfolk. It was then as if on cue both of them stopped and began to speak excitedly. Here Jay laughed and said, “After you, ma’am.”

“Well, thank you sir.” Again she laughed. “I guess we came up with the same idea, or at least I think we did. Look, we are only a few days out of The Deeps, which means we probably could use this place as a starting point.” She could see her brother smiling and nodding his head, encouraging her to continue. “Okay, we know that not only from the attacks made by the raiders, but other things happen to create orphans like us. So why not use this place as a gathering place to bring them all together. Make it a home where all orphans are welcome – even those young ones who may come from the raider clans. Only if they are young enough to not know the way of life that the raiders seem to prefer.

“Even though this place isn’t rich, one can still be comfortable here. And with The Deeps so close we can augment the protection to prevent a repeat of what happened here in the past. Not directly, of course, but here we could begin the reintroducing of the old technology. And after a time establish a hidden town by using ones from this one to establish it. From that one we could begin to send out teams to begin the spread of what we have. You know how to improve agriculture, shelters, roads, schools, and so much more. What do you think?”

Shaking his head as Jay smiled, he said, “I’m all for it. But it won’t be easy, in fact it’s probably quite hard. And I’m sure we’ll have many problems and issues to face. But, in the end I think it will be worth it. And by keeping The Deeps isolated and unknown, it will remain protected.”

And you know, that’s exactly what they did. (I italicized it here so that you would know this is a line that is deleted from the revision.) 

The revision (taking it a little further towards the end):

Nodding his head as Jay smiled, he said, “I’m all for it. But it won’t be easy – in fact it’s probably going to be quite hard. And I’m sure we’ll have many problems and issues to face. But, in the end I think it will be worth it. And by keeping ‘The Deeps’ isolated and unknown, it will remain protected.”

Epilogue

What were they? Both stretched their aching backs. They were in their fifties and both wondered where the years had gone. In so many ways when they looked back to that time when they had visited their destroyed village they had been naïve, and somewhat idealistic. The idea of rebuilding and bringing in orphans like themselves turned out to be so much more difficult than either ever imagined. Yet now Sandy was up and operating once again. Obviously not on the scale back before it had been destroyed, but enough that if both disappeared it would continue a slow growth. And yes while the core of the village had been orphans, now there were children from ones who had married.

Yes orphans were still brought in, given a place to start over, and begin their lives once again. And it was this that became common knowledge. But there had been an underlying secret goal that became known only to certain of the residents. And only a few knew the real truth. And yes, that town lost in the middle of the desert was coming to life once again as it became the place of learning of the old ways. To be able to join the ones there, one had to prove their worth in Sandy. Once that worth was proven only then would the truth be revealed and they would make the move. In the end, once Jay and Elsa passed on, a teacher, a “Keeper of Knowledge”, would be chosen from those who worked the hidden town – a place where teams went out into the known world to teach. And whoever this individual was would then move into “The Deeps” to continue the re-education of the world so that the old technology would be available to all. Yes, both realized there would always be problems, but that’s what kept it interesting, kept one on their toes.

Smiling at his sister as they stood there, he said, “I think it’s time we leave this to the young ones. I’m getting too old for this.”

She laughed, “You? Old? Never happen. Although I must admit my joints and body keeps trying to tell me something. And we are starting to see a little gray, although you won’t get me to admit to that.”

He shook his head and smiled. Elsa was still beautiful to him, and in truth together they had accomplished so much. Yeah, they wouldn’t live to see the changes they had begun, but it wouldn’t be that hard to see that it would happen.

Together they walked towards the gate. It was time to head back to “The Deeps”, at the finish of another day. He with his arm across her shoulders and her arm across his waist leisurely headed out through the gate past the guards. They smiled as they carried on a brief conversation with them before heading out towards the desert.

One of the guards looked as they disappeared. He shook his head. “I wonder where they go?”

The other laughed, “Now that’s their secret. And I think with all they’ve done for us they should be allowed that, don’t you?”

The other shrugged. He couldn’t disagree with what had been said.

* * *

And the revision brings closure to the story where the original ending could leave one wanting more. With the short epilogue the vision of the two is there, and while it’s obvious there will be bumps in the road sometime in the future, there is a chance to bring back what is lost. And there is a possibility of a sequel which I’ve started. Yet, for now it’s setting on the “backburner” so to speak as I wrap up the novel I’m presently writing. Then I must put away this creative fervor for a while as I have four, yeah count them, four books or novels to edit and revise. And this will be a full time job probably taking at least a year to accomplish, if not longer.

I have a trilogy that I want to get out there as I love my characters, and feel others will love the story. Again, like this one, it is post apocalyptic with six protagonists, with the story taking place thousands of years after the event. Next week we take a brief break from the story telling before I begin to present, in similar format, the first book of the published Survival trilogy. (They are standard chapter books.) The novels are titled, Time of Isolation, Desperate to Survive, and A Taste of History Past. Have a great week and God Bless! (http://www.fdbrant.com)

 

A Few Thoughts

Before I get into this week’s commentary I’d like to say that here in the USA today is Halloween. So as dusk approaches children will be out in their costumes going door to door saying those words that really have no meaning to them, “Trick or treat!” They know that by saying such they get a treat. And for those first timers, the really young out on their first foray into this magical night it always brings a smile when the light goes on, and suddenly with those two small words, on this one night, they can get these small gifts or treats. Watch out for them as they sometimes do not pay attention and will dart out into the streets. Let’s keep it a time of joy and magic for our young, and not a time of tragedy. And now on to the commentary:

Very few? As we get close to wrapping up this series of short stories or episodes I felt I would like to add a comment from my point of view as the author. Of course for those who have followed the series to this point know, these episodes are actually part of a book. I’m still looking for a home for the story, and have queries out. I’ll also be looking at Amazon, and #PITMAD which will be open for one day on December 4 of this year.

While all my works, or books are fiction, they do reflect our world. In this latest, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown, I’d love to say that what we are reading is no more than fiction, and once we are finished and heading off into the real world that such doesn’t exist or happen. Unfortunately this is not the truth. We live in a world where violence is the way, and the wish for peace is great. Regional wars rage, warlords and their armies terrorize, rape, and murder, and we see much the same with the crime syndicates. Of course we can’t leave many governments, radicals, extremists, and terrorists out of this mix. It makes it appear that there is more of them, those prone to violence, than us.

Unfortunately when they destroy, many times, they create others looking for revenge, to get even for the atrocities committed against them, their families, and their homes. And in a sense who could really blame them? So it is no surprise to see Jay, and later Elsa wanting to bring heavy payback to the raiders who do this kind of thing. Tit for tat so to speak. Does such actions mean they are wrong? Does such actions mean they are right? For any of us on the outside it is easy to rationalize what we would want to do, or criticize those who face such tragedies when their actions are towards violence. And it seems it is more so (rationalization) for those who have suffered at the hands of others such as the ones stated above.

Again, as our population continues to grow on this small planet, and resources become less and less, eventually there will be fighting over what is available, and what is remaining. Since a region can only support so much, so goes a planet. And we are rapidly approaching a time when that limit will be reached. It’s not to say it will happen, as the trends appear to show a slowing of the growth.

This is one of the many reasons that writers like myself look to the far future, writing science fiction, reflecting one of the infinite futures that could lay ahead of us, which in the end may or may not become reality. In a past post I stated that the real problem we truly face isn’t the world around us, or the unknown obstacles that lie ahead, but we ourselves. We can always leave, change our location, explore space, find new worlds, but we will always be stuck with us.

Those tendencies of mankind, of cruelty, of selfishness, of hate and anger, or revenge seem prevalent. It’s not that we don’t have redeeming qualities because we do. Compassion, love, the helping of others, reaching out to strangers we’ve never met and giving all we can including our time, and many times our very lives are strong within us. It has always been a balancing act as to which side of us, as a species, will dominate. And for me I’ve always hoped it would be the side of good, of compassion, as stated here in this paragraph.

Yet, with the headlines, radio and TV, or the internet screaming terrorism, torture, murder and death, it is hard, at times, to realize that this other compassionate side exists. Still if we do not bring an end to our dark side then in the end it will not matter, because we will not be here. When we look to the universe, and its immense size, it becomes obvious there are others who have risen to intelligence on their worlds. And with the length of time that the universe has existed, again it becomes obvious that many have risen only to become extinct. We’ve seen large die offs, and extinctions here. So it is only natural to push what we’ve witnessed on our local planet, to the universe as a whole.

So as we follow Jay, Elsa, and yes even Ed, we can see our own world reflected through their eyes, through their reactions and actions. We can see the strengths and weaknesses that inhabit each and every one of us who exist now, have ever existed, and will exist in the future, until we are either no more, or have inhabited the stars. Spreading mankind’s seed to worlds throughout the milky way giving us a chance to become more than what we are presently.

Maybe to a time in the future where earth, our birth home will become no more than myth. And maybe this would be a good thing. I know from reading other sci-fi writers from the past that I’m not the only one who has looked to the far future and saw this possible outcome. Still as a writer we write our stories, and all such stories deal with the human condition. The worlds, the towns and cities, the countries, the wild lands are nothing more than the backdrops, the dressing, a simple place for these stories to be told as they have been for thousands of years.

So in a sense all of us who write fiction, who write novels, are taking from the many before us, making all of us plagiarist’s, since we are writing the same stories of adventure, love, loss, the fall of man, and his redemption from that fall. In other words our condition. And is this wrong? No. I say we need these stories to entertain, to inspire, and sometimes when the stories are dark, maybe grow. Grow beyond our infancy away from the mentality of villages – us against them. So here’s to the future – our future, and may it be great.

May there always be story tellers, weavers of myth and beauty, and yes even of our dark side. Otherwise we will end up with an old statement from our past when facing that unknown future: “There be monsters!”

* * *

Next week we begin the last of the episodes or short stories that constitute the book, Unexpected, Unplanned, and into the Unknown. In comparison to the previous episodes it is rather short (only 4 parts). Part of the reason for this is because I plan on submitting the manuscript to a publisher instead of publishing it myself as an indie author. I presently have 4 books published as an indie, which are listed on my website. Even though this one is actually the 8th book I’ve written, for it to be considered by a publisher as a”debue or first” novel the word count must be kept down. It meant that I had to shorten the story somewhat and reduce my word count by roughly 30,000 words.

Does the story suffer because of this? No, it is complete as it stands. Still by doing this I’m taking a chance that it will work. There are many areas in this story that would have had fuller explanations, more depth, and more experience for our two main protagonists. Still I am happy with the outcome and direction the story took. And I even can be satisfied with the way it ends. In some ways it begs for a sequel, a second book. And believe it or not I have actually started one. Still it is sitting on the back-burner, so to speak, as I work on another titled, A World Apart, which is a little over half way written –  this being the first draft, of course. Once this one is complete and the editing done, I will probably move back to the sequel, presently titled, The Keeper of the Knowledge.

Still, in the end, time will tell, as I have 2 additional manuscripts started besides these two mentioned in the previous paragraph. They have titles of, And the Rains Came, and, Dreams. So if nothing else I have many stories and ideas to keep me busy for years to come. Still, as I have stated a number of times, I’m in my 60’s, and some day the creative well will dry up. At least I can say, even if it took retiring, I have been able to reach and accomplish one of my dreams or goals. And I have made my original goal of writing 8 novels, so what more could one ask, other than having readers enjoying the stories? Have a great week and see you here for the first part of the final episode titled, Reconciliation. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Memorial Day 2015

In a sense this qualifies as an extra post since most of my posts are posted on Saturday. Still in the recent past my wife found a couple of high school year books from the era of WWII. With the way the world has changed since that time I felt it important that we look back. A time when Americans were involved in the fighting and what it meant to that generation. Written below are statements printed inside of those books from, Flathead High. In the 1941 edition, and understand that this statement is before we entered the war, we have this stated:

“We Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America . . .”

Thus  in our school assemblies we begin our salute to the flag.

As we do this we remember that the birth of our nation was the most glorious that the ages have known: We see our government in a key position in world affairs during the horror of this day’s world war: We pray that our homes and schools may train us for a wise, courageous part in our nation’s future.

And in the 1942 year book from the same high school the principle’s message states:

If General MacAuthur were writing this message to you, students, he would express a truth that he felt most appropriate and vital for this critical hour. Recently he said to us Americans. “No man is fit to live until he is ready to die for something greater than life.” And he is backing up those words with deeds of heroism. Our boys in service are giving up everything to defend and preserve those things we cherish more than life. Where do we stand? Are we with them, one in purpose, one in mind and heart? Let us, in this graduation session, pledge our boys over there to stand by them through it all, to share in the struggle as well as the Victory. We cannot be true Americans unless we do, we cannot deserve freedom unless we live and die for it. Titus Kurtichanov.

Later as we began the “D” Day Invasion, Franklin Roosevelt made this speech which was a prayer: “Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by  Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph . . .”

A different era for sure, but where do we stand today? Do we have what it takes to give what the greatest generation gave? We lost a generation to war. And we are still seeing deaths caused by regional wars. We are a world of tribes with a tribe mentality leading to so many unnecessary deaths. It has been said that war is modern civilization’s way of population control, and it does seem to be that way. Still if one doesn’t stand up for what this country represents, then in the end we deserve what we get. Most nations do not fall from an enemy outside their gates (Even if it appears from the outside to be so.), but from enemies within. We in this great country are facing those enemies now. Let’s make sure that the sacrifices made by our ancestors, and our military personnel of today isn’t in vain. Are the incidents of 9-11 to become a simple footnote in history? Something to glance at and forget? Are all these deaths unimportant? We are the only ones who can answer these and other such questions, and we are the only ones who can keep this Nation free. And that leaves us with this question: How will future generations remember this time, our time, us?

As we look to this Memorial Day, let us look back to simpler times, and to a generation that became known as the greatest. How do we in our time measure up? Memorial Day is about remembering those sacrifices. Let us remember. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Just an Update

This is to let you know the surgery was successful, and I’m recovering at home. Lots of pain, but such is life. My guess is that it will be at least 1 to 2 weeks before I can return to my normal posts, at which time I will continue the short story “The Deeps”.

Have a great week (or two) with the anticipation of new posts just down the road. God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on February 14, 2015 at 6:17 am  Leave a Comment  
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Personal Thoughts on Life

It’s just another day is it not? Nothing special, and always those small projects going on, and there waiting for one to complete them. It marks, officially, that time is still moving on, and I can add another year to my personal calendar, my life, as we all do this year. Truthfully, never thought about reaching this age of 65 back in my youth. Guess it was too far in the future to consider. Yet here I am – still struggling to keep my head above the chaos and water. No different from back at the beginning. So, where did the time go?

If we, all of us, look back at our dreams from our youth, have we really accomplished any of them? (I know that many of you are still young so this question may not apply. If this is so maybe you should write them down so that once you’ve reached this time in your life you can look back and marvel.)  Again, I don’t really know. Because these were dreams of youth when we didn’t know better. We didn’t know a lot about life, and because of that ignorance we probably dreamed and planned unrealistically. So much we wanted to do, so much we wanted to accomplish, and probably if we want to be honest none of it happened or was completed. Some of us were fortunate to have such plans work. But for the vast majority life and life’s direction changed because of some unanticipated event, or a series of events, over time, had taken place (Murphy has a way of doing that). Changing forever our life direction, shattering those plans and dreams, with no way to recover them – hoping that the new ones that replaced those failed goals would come to fruition.

I can look back and be proud of my family, and extended families. And I guess in the end if that is what it comes down to it is enough. So I reach another milestone, the age of 65 – not one of those one normally looks forward to. Yes we looked forward to being tall enough so we could ride those rides we couldn’t because we were too short (too young really). Reaching 16, then 18, and then came the one that allowed us fully into the adult world 21. Then we realized that we then had to look forward to 25 because that would be the time that the costs of our auto insurance would decrease – if we had been good. For those who were either in the military or of draft age the next milestone was 33 when we would no longer be eligible for either call back or being drafted. This was followed by the senior discount when you reached a certain age in your 50’s. And even now I can say that reaching 50 was 15 years ago.

In a sense I sit here in wonder, and of those past times presently, when I stare into the mirror thinking what happened, and how did I get to the here and now? It is said that time and experience brings wisdom, but is it so? I’m finding that my memory isn’t as sharp, and the abuses of youth have come back to haunt. I see the time spent on trying to raise the children, the jobs that took too much time away, and the exhaustion that went with those times. Never having enough money, and with the small emergencies that always arise within a family, trying to find ways to solve and pay for them. Maybe the wisdom is because we see so much repeat that unless we are totally blind we cannot but remember that we’ve seen this or that too many times in the past.

I find that those energy reserves have deserted me, and I tire much too easily. Pain is constant companion, and the frustration of the limitations that this brings to me sucks. My mind says do it, and the body says you want me to do what? And it always leaves me with this question: If experience helps one do projects and such faster and better, why can I not do such? Many times I stand there, again with frustration riding high, because I’m limited by the infirmities that time has laid upon me. I see what can and must be done, trying to push through, only to find the past damage to the body is limiting my ability to do just that.

Aging can teach patience, as you find that because of those limitations it will take just that, patience, to finish that work, that project. I remember the ease of using those hand tools, using chainsaws to drop insect damaged trees, the cutting of firewood, doing much in the outdoors that required that physical labor. But now, with all that experience, all that knowledge it is almost useless because of damaged joints that limit such work. And if pushed then a price is paid where I almost become incapacitated for a few days as my body lets me know that I should not be doing such. So I watch as my sons do something that is easy for them but has become just the opposite for me.

I know that in many ways this seems to be a post of complaints, but not really. It is observations of where I am in life. Yet, if we give in to these growing infirmaries then we truly lose. So I stubbornly push through. I don’t want to give in to these limitations, and because I don’t I do pay the price. Yet, quit and you’ve lost it forever. And time takes enough away from us on its own. I do not need to help it along. So I will continue to fight until it is no longer possible to do so.

I watched as dementia took my father and he became a shell of who he was. Here was a man who would tackle any project. And if he didn’t know, would research it and once researched, go and accomplish it. Yet for the last 20 years of his life, as he became worse, his time became the present and my mother took care of him until he passed away in late 2011. That man who could and would tackle almost anything if necessary, became someone who was wholly dependent on someone else. And this brought these thoughts that in so many ways time is a cruel master, eventually tearing everything down, with nothing able to stand against it in the end.

With reaching this next milestone of 65 it pushes reality upon me, making me realize that my time here is heading towards the end. In 25 years, yeah 25 years, I will be 90, if God allows me to reach that age. And looking at family history there is a good chance that it could happen. After all, my mother is 89 and still going strong, still living on her own. Yet, like I asked when I started this post, where did the time go, and how did I get here? Those days that dragged because of the existing situation, those tough weeks and months that seemed to go on forever. Yet, the years have flown, and flown so fast that I blinked and they were gone. Gone to where, I haven’t a clue, but at the same time must have existed since I am here at this time in my life.

One last thing on this and it is this. Recently on YouTube I watched a music video titled: You Will Always be my Girls, by Ben Utecht. It deals with his family, and the people in that video are his family. He ended up with a series of concussions over the years, and the resulting injuries to his brain that came from those same concussions, and because of them have led to memory loss, with a prognosis of it continuing to get worse over time. It points to the fact that we can lose who we are. And when we do that it is not the only loss. We lose everything that makes us, us. Many of us are fortunate never to have to face this reality, but far too many do. And maybe in the end this is the true tragedy of what time can do to us. To strip us of our humanity, of who we are. Putting additional pressure and sadness for those who love us as they watch helplessly seeing the deterioration day by day. Eventually leaving only family to remember us in the end, since we personally cannot remember who we are.

* * *

And time waits for no one including you the reader of this post. Wherever you are in your life you have a past that defines who you are. And while living in that past the future that is now seemed fictional, unreachable. Yet here you are. Appreciate every moment because there are no promises, and no way to recover that time once it moves into the past. Have a great week and I’ll see you here next Saturday, God willing and the creeks don’t rise. (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on October 4, 2014 at 8:32 am  Comments (3)  
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Family Traditions

Other than blood and the fact that every family member must live, albeit imperfectly, with each other through the years of growing up, what is it that makes us wax nostalgically in the remembrances of our past within the family? One of the things, I would say, is family traditions. And some of these traditions are developed long after the children have gone their separate ways and to their own families.

It’s not that there aren’t any developed or observed during the time of growing up, because there are. Yet, because of the very fact that everything is up close and personal, and it is where you’ve always lived, one doesn’t necessarily consider how the family lives as different, or that something that we do is a tradition. It is only after the time where one is able to spend those nights at a friend’s home that we begin to realize that there are other ways of doing things, other ways of dealing with issues within a family, and different views and thoughts out there. And for the first time one is shown that the way that they have always did, observed, and thought about things are not necessarily the only way it can be done.

Our horizons are expanded, and from here they continue to expand. Out into the world we begin to explore beyond the narrowness that we always knew. It’s not that any of this early time is bad, in fact it is just the opposite. We all need a place where things are consistent, a place to test our position in the order of things, a place to begin to develop that confidence that allows us to tackle the world outside of home, a place that allows us to grow and become us. In other words, a place with boundaries, or borders that give us the limits that must be there for our personal growth. And, of course, during those early years of life, protection.

Yet, it isn’t the day-to-day things that we remember. It’s those family get-togethers, the holidays, the birthday parties, the trips to places we’ve never been. Even though we were bored to tears on those trips because there was very little to do while our parents drove to that special destination. The phrase, “Are we there yet?”, comes to mind immediately. And there has been many skits, cartoons, and such reflecting that very question and situation. And while the routes to these special places are the same for everyone, what transpires within those many vehicles while similar are unique to each family.

Even summer vacations can become a family tradition if they are performed each and every year until you are no longer a part of the immediate family. And many times we find that after becoming part of our own family that we have a tendency to carry on those same traditions that we were surrounded by in our youth. Again, is such a bad thing? No not at all. Many times one can look back and see that a particular tradition goes far back into the family history. Others were brought into the family from members who joined bringing their family traditions with them. And  when combining these traditions from the different families into a cohesive whole it makes them appear to have always been there.

In a sense this is what transpired with my family, and became a family tradition while originally not being such (At least on my side. I do not know if my siblings carry this one on or not.). And, in truth, what was brought in wasn’t part of my wife’s family traditions either. She saw something that triggered an idea. And that idea has become a tradition within this family. For you adults out there, can you remember when your parents turned 40? I know that 40 seemed to be quite old. Of course for me it was almost 25 years ago when I reached that milestone (Where did the time go?). I know that I was 16 at the time it happened to my parents.

With the help of my parents, who whole heartily joined in, thusly starting the tradition, they set out to create a surprise party celebrating reaching the ripe old age of 40. Only it wasn’t along the lines of “congratulations you made it”, but more towards the “over the hill”, direction. It consisted of black balloons, and everything aimed towards the grave. Including an open grave placed on the cake. They had buzzards all around and each member of the family had cardboard buzzard beaks that they wore as they read from a series of statements aimed at roasting the individual who happened to reach this milestone. Included in this was an album of funny and insulting birthday cards just to rub it in.

As stated, it was all done in fun, and we all did have a great time. And with such a success for the first one (yes, I’m the oldest child in my family), the rest knew that it would continue. Now came a problem. How could one successfully pull such a surprise off, once again, when it was known that it would happen? And in many ways this problem made it fun. The game became not only the celebration of reaching 40, but the sneaky factor of successfully pulling it off so it would remain a surprise to the roastee.  And I have to admit that overall the family was successful.

These were so much fun that we decided to continue them in our own family. And on the weekend of the 23rd in August we pulled off the first. Our oldest daughter and her husband both turns 40 this year and we could honestly say, “gotcha”. And all of us enjoyed the day together. I do have to say that it was easier to pull off because of another family tradition. And that tradition is of family coming together once a year to celebrate all the birthdays – and this one does go back to my family. Here we celebrated, twice a year, combined birthdays instead of individual ones. And while I could honestly say we weren’t the largest family out there, we were large enough that these celebrations made more sense to us.

Now we have 4 years in which to surprise the next in line to reach 40. 4 Years of planning, and figuring out ways to make it a surprise. And, I have to admit, this is something that I’ve always been good at – figuring out ways to keep vital information away from the children. And what I mean by this isn’t the important or critical stuff, but the fun stuff. Like trips to Disneyland, or Knots Berry Farm when they were growing up. Most of the time, if we had such planned, I could do it in such a way that they wouldn’t figure out what was happening until we were pulling into those parking lots. Creating an atmosphere of surprise, anticipation, and fun, and giving the whole family fun time together as a family, and creating those special memories that we all cherish.

And I guess I can say that in a way, that even doing this became a family tradition. The game of trying to stay ahead of the children when we had planned a trip that was more for them than us. So I am left asking, what are yours, your family traditions? Have some died along the way, or are they going strong? Anyway that you look at them, they are part of what made you, well, you. And finally, Here’s to those family traditions, part of what binds us together, part of that joyful, and happy nostalgia when we look back.

* * *

The end of another week and here we are looking at Saturday, the first day of those very short weekends. I know personally that for many years I worked those weekends and envied my friends who had them off. So whether you must work, or have the weekend, I hope to see you back here next week. And as always have a good week and God Bless. (fdbrant.com)

 

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