Sometimes you just have to say I’m sorry.

Hello, Friends.

As always, I currently have five different books and stories in varying stages of complete; not to mention the future stories constantly sparking around in the lunatic asylum I call my mind.

In between laboring over those, I had a chance to go back and look over a few of my earlier works. Before I continue on with my public apology, let me just say that I have, since The Tenderfoot’s Guide and The Paramedic, learned a great deal about all those important things I appear to have been lacking at the time of the writing of those books: namely punctuation, syntax, spelling and a whole host of the more important ingredients required to create an enjoyable experience for the reader.

To all those who purchased those two well intended, yet poorly edited works, I offer you my most heartfelt and sincere apologies. Ignorance is my only defense.

I’d like to think I’ve come a long way since those two bell ringers. The Tenderfoot’s Guide was written back in nineteen-ninety-nine, and The Paramedic in twenty-oh-four. In that time, I’ve taken my desire and passion to write-and write better-a whole lot more seriously, and have been on a never ending quest to alleviate the error of my ways. That’s not to say that I now consider myself a walking version of the Chicago Manual of Style. Far from it; although I do adhere to it much more closely these days.

I recently had a colleague, far more versed in syntax and punctuation than I, read through a polished copy of one of the books I’m currently working on. I also asked her to read over The Paramedic. She chose to review the Paramedic first. God love her and her newly acquired drinking problem and self induced baldness, but she persevered. Thankfully, she was nearing the end of her edit when she threw noose over her dining room chandelier and stood, inebriated and bald, on the chair below it.

Ok, it wasn’t quite that bad, but suffice it to say that she was, at best, appalled. She suggested I pursue a career in the telemarketing extended auto warranties and be forever banned from ever putting words to paper again. If there were a writer’s prison, with readings from the style and basic English rule manuals spewed forth at an earth shattering volume twenty-four-seven, she would have sentenced me to life there at that very moment.

Then I passed her the latest book I’m currently in the finishing stages of. To say she was both amazed and relieved would be an understatement. According to her, now on a prescription for a mild mood altering drug, my work has gone from unintelligibly psychotic to smooth and somewhat polished. Of course, her bill for services rendered was written in crayon so you decide whether her critique was credible.

The point of this self inflicted diatribe is that, regardless of the fact that I felt, at the time, that I was putting my heart and soul into those books, I didn’t have all the tools I needed to make them worthy of the readers who bought them. I let them down. Again, my deepest apologies.

Oh a high note, I have since gone to great lengths to correct my shortcomings. I’ve attended classes, seminars, read more books than I care to remember and learned to pay much closer attention to detail. I’ve even joined a writers group. Simple things like punctuation, in the wrong places, can change the entire thought you were trying to relay…and leave you wide open for some very insulting and spirit killing comments! Trust me on this.

To atone for past transgressions, I’ve decided to revise The Paramedic to correct the multitude of faux pas and to ensure that my first effort isn’t understood to be a harbinger for the doom of the following two books in the series, Cast Adrift, written in twenty-ten and The Never Ending Nightmare, written in twenty-eighteen. Neither should be immediately looked over just because of the nightmare of editing The Paramedic was. I humbly state here that both were written with a much higher understanding of the craft and far more attention to detail. Both are much more heavily polished and edited with a much improved understanding of the aforementioned elements that I so desperately lacked in nineteen-ninety-nine and twenty-oh-four.

Let ye without sin cast the first stone! Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. The quotes for forgiveness are legion, which tells me that I’m not the only transgressor. Wait. One more. To err is human….. Ok, I’m done.

My heartfelt gratitude to those of you who suffered through the terrible editing job I allowed into print with The Paramedic. I pray that hasn’t caused you to shy away from the two sequels. I can assure you that the saga continues, and is, without question, much easier on the eyes and the mind, and they’re well worth the read.

So in closing, keep an eye out for the revised Paramedic coming soon, as well as a couple of others, not related to the series, soon to follow. The muse has been upon me of late and I’ve taken full advantage. Given my predisposition to psychoses, I have to get them out of my head before that big iron door slams shut and I end up wearing a helmet and licking bus windows.

As always, I wish you peace, love and happiness all the days of your lives.

Brian

Sayonara, Dear Cable Company!…Well, almost.

authorphotoHeidilly Ho-Ho-Ho, friends and neighbors!  Welcome back.  Thanks for stopping by.  I hope I didn’t pull you away from reading your copy of Cast Adrift.  You have ordered your copy, haven’t you?

For those of you who follow me on Facebook, you’re well aware of my long-standing, festering, and oft bordering-on-violent love/hate relationship with our local cable company.  For the sixteen years I’ve lived in South Carolina, they have been like a fulminating case of jock itch every month when I had to pay that outrageous bill for the bizillion channel bundle package; the cheapest package I could get that had the Military channel and internet.  Ninety-five percent of those channels we’ve never watched or even cared to watch.  What’s worse is that these so-called bundle packages are always offered for a limited time only and, after Uncle Sam takes his cut, and a whole bunch of unidentifiable added charges, amounts to significantly more than the price you were quoted when you signed on with them in blood and the promise of your first born.  After six months or a year, the length of the agreement, we’d get a ji-normous bill that would cause our sphincters to pucker up because our “deal” had expired.  Then you have to go back through the hassle of renegotiation, threats to go with Dish Network or Direct TV, and on and on.

What’s a demented, evil genius to do?

In my ongoing quest to “Sock it to the Man!,” I spent hours upon hours scouring the dark, outer fringe of the internet and lurking in alleys and under bridges, talking to shady characters about alternative, and possibly even nefarious, means to elicit cable via some questionable back door method without doling out an arm and a leg each month.  The punch line here is that the answer was right there in the cobwebbed recesses of my warped mind all along.  It was tucked in the box with all the memories of my childhood home and almost every other house in the country right up through the nineteen-seventies.

Over-the-air antennas! *smacking my head*

Who among you, (the over fifty set, I mean) doesn’t remember the big old TV antenna mounted to a mast on the roof, or the rabbit ears on top of the old, Buick-sized tube set with tin foil on the retractable metal antennae to garner just a few more dB of signal?  I remember fondly Dad’s constant bellows to move the antenna “a little to the left” (and to get him another beer) while he was watching a ball game so he could see a less pixelated (we called it snow back then) view of one of Carl Yastrzemski’s unbelievable shags in left field.  Ah, good times.

Guess what?  OTA (Over-The-Air) antennas are baaaa-aacccckkkkk!!!  And they’re better than ever!

After a few trials and tribulations, mainly due to my never ending, dumb-assed penchant to believe a lot of what I read on the internet if the perpetrator of said bullshit sounds even vaguely authoritative, I now have an antenna mounted in an obscure area of my attic, out of the way, that pulls in 23 crisp, clear channels in vivid, vibrant HD!  The best part is, of those 23 channels, there are twenty that we’ll probably actually watch.  We now have all four networks, four PBS stations, (I love PBS.  I’m a documentary junkie) three retro channels, a couple of news channels and a few various and sundry others that really look promising.

The three I’ll probably never watch are:

  1. The Test Pattern Channel, (although I swear I saw Jimi Hendrix swapping bullshit stories with Mark Twain on that very same channel back in the seventies one Saturday night after a rather close call with the bong water).
  2. The Country Music Video Channel, (*shiver*).
  3. The Baptist Gospel Channel.  That same sweating fella jumping up and down, pounding his fists and spouting fire and brimstone has been trying to get me to send him a donation to save my soul for long enough, thank you very much.

And they’re all free and completely legal to view!!  There goes my gangster rep.  My bad boy persona is no more.

For the not-so paltry sum of $140 a month, I was getting my internet and over two-hundred channels from the evil cable company and, after brainstorming with the lovely Brenda, realized that we only watched three or four of those channels.  What’s more, with the exception of TCM, (which has gone down hill of late with more and more air time dedicated to silent movies and foreign films), the other three come in over the air.  Brenda is probably the easiest woman in the world to please (obviously; she’s with me).  Give her Judge Judy, Judge Ralph, Judge Hermoine, Judge Reinhold and all the other judges, with a few Jerry Springer-esque shows thrown in for a change of pace, and The Voice, and she’s happier than Sandra Bullock’s thong.

Now, before you go bending coat hangars into antenna’s, or running down to the local Radio Shack to pick up that behemoth antenna capable of picking up the Rover’s transmissions from Mars, let me share a little of what I’ve learned to hopefully start those of you who might be considering cutting the cable out on a good foot.  It isn’t exactly for the faint of heart.

For starters, I, unfortunately, couldn’t completely disassociate myself from the cable company.  Multinational conglomerates are like a mother-in-law: in as much as you ‘d like to drive a stake through her heart and bury her vampire-ass in the back yard, she’s always there, gnawing on your last nerve.  I still need internet: my lifeline to the world.  Hence the continued, albeit greatly reduced, umbilicus to the cable company.

There aren’t a whole lot of options for gaining internet access other than very expensive satellite internet or, Heaven forbid, the phone commie’s antiquated dial up or  DSL.  Dial up isn’t even an option and, from my experience, DSL is light years behind broadband in speed and quality.  Besides, I gave the phone company the big kiss-off on an earlier “Sock it to the Man” quest, so I don’t even have phone lines running to my house any more.  I know, I should be medicated; but that’s another blog.

I actually had an almost pleasant conversation with the cable company this morning.  This was round two.  I lost round one when I tried to renegotiate the contract that just expired and was told that there was nothing they could do.  That wasn’t such a pleasant conversation and was, in effect, the catalyst that got me on the OTA kick.

Today, when I asked them to discontinue my TV subscription, new offers were flying like dandruff at a redneck picnic.  The representative was as sweet as she could be as she dropped the bomb that the $29.99 per month deal they were advertising for internet-only wasn’t available to me because I was a current customer.  Taking into consideration that my contract with them expired last month, am I really a current customer?  Hmmm?  And why wasn’t New customers only listed on their advertisement? The bastards!

Anyway, I managed to get a free modem and guaranteed $39.99 a month internet service for one year.  After twelve months it’s going to go up to $54.99.  Ya, right!  We’ll just see about that in a year.  That date is marked in red on the calendar as Armageddon!  Verizon’s FiOS might just be in our neighborhood by then.  The only downfall with changing internet providers will be going through my creditors websites, places I buy from, etc. to change my email address. Oh, the trials and tribulations of the internet age.

Aside from uploading books to publishers, chronic research, bill paying and Facebooking, we also have a subscription for Netflix which, as most of you know, requires an internet connection.

Those dirty cable Nazi’s have you coming or going.

Now, even with the added cost of Netflix, our home entertainment bill has gone from the projected $160 per month that I was told my cable bill was going to increase to after the cable company completes their all-digital upgrade in January, to $47.98:  and we get to pick and choose what movies we want to watch whenever we want to watch them.  That’s roughly $112 a month savings which will be much better spent on beer and cigars!

Not too shabby!

But alas, there are a few more expenses that have to be considered when cutting the cable.  Some of them can be pretty steep depending on your existing TV situation.  Of course, as always, Bad Luck Schleprock here suffered the wrath.  I’d like to think I took one for the team to soften the blow for the rest of you.  That’s just the kind of guy I am.

The first stop for the prospective cable cutter is a website called TVfool.com.  This is actually a pretty amazing site.  You simply type in your address, choose a few options and it actually shows you on a satellite map/image (an actual satellite picture of your house in which, when I zoomed in completely, I saw myself in the shower!  Egad!!).  You’ll also get the following important information:

  1. All the transmitters (stations) you’ll be able to access, their distance from your house and their signal strength.
  2. What direction they’re in in proximity to your house with lines radiating from your house to the transmitters, (for properly mounting and pointing your antenna).
  3. How high to mount your antenna, and whether you can use a set top antenna, attic mount or whether you’ll actually need to mount your antenna on the roof with a mast.
  4. Which type of antenna (directional, multi-directional etc.) is best suited for your situation, and a whole host of other valuable information to help you do it right the first time.

Unfortunately, I also went to a third-rate forum for addicted, rabid, cable cutters (probably while I was enjoying a few malty beverages) and was sucked in by their never ending mantra that you have to mount your antenna outside to get the best reception.  Until that point, I was definitely decided on mounting it in the attic.  Outside probably is the better option, but it also comes with its’ own added problems that have to be taken into consideration such as grounding, weather, impediments, aesthetics, etc.

After mounting a bracket on my roof, (four new screw holes in a fairly new roof!) giving myself a near heart attack during the two hours it took me to drive an eight-foot long ground rod into the concrete-equivalent turf  we have in South Carolina with a rather weighty sledge hammer, running a solid #10 wire from the antenna bracket to the grounding rod and hooking everything up, I found that the dense wall of 30 foot Leland Cypress trees running the length of my property line posed too much of a force field for any earthly signal to penetrate.

Meanwhile, back in the attic!

So I mounted the antenna in the attic where I should have mounted it in the first place and ran all new RG6 coaxial cable throughout the house because, frankly, the cheap stuff I’d installed during a mad rush to get the cable piped through the house in a hurry when I moved in wasn’t exactly conducive to excellent signal transmission.  I wanted to clean up the old mess and start fresh and neat.  I also bought and installed a signal amplifier because I have four TV’s in the house, with the potential for five should both guest rooms ever be in use simultaneously, and I wanted to be certain that I got the best signal possible to all points.

Costs to this point:  Antenna=RCA ANT751-$39.99.  Signal amplifier=PCT 4-port=$21.99.  500 foot roll of RG6 coaxial cable and assorted ends and fittings=$50.

Not too bad, you say?  What’s $111.98, right?  I’ll save just that on the reduced cable company bill in one month, right?

Not so much!

Realizing that we’d need a means to access Netflix, and possibly other movie channels, I went online, yet again, searching for wireless streaming video boxes.  I don’t want my laptop or desk top connected to my TV, and I don’t like watching movies on my computer.  After some exhaustive research, and reading a great many reviews, I settled on Roku 3 boxes. They’re normally a little pricey at $99 each, but I stumbled on two of them, brand new in the box with free shipping, on eBay for $67 each.  Add to that my sister Kellie’s assurance that they were using Roku boxes and loved them, and I was sold.

The tab has now reached $245.98.  Still not too bad, right?  So it’ll take a little over two months of the reduced cable bill to make up the costs and start realizing some savings.  Pretty cool!

Not so fast!

One of the little known caveats with getting free HD, digital signals over the air is that all the TV’s you intend on actually getting a picture on must be digital HD TV’s.

Only two of my TV’s were digital HD and, as is always the case with my luck, the one digital HD TV in my office didn’t even have any HDMI ports on it!  This made the Roku 3 boxes I’d just bought useless with that TV. The Roku 3 is the latest and greatest Roku box, but it can only be connected to the TV via an HDMI port.  The Roku 2 and older versions have the option of connecting via RCA jacks.

I would have sworn in a court of law that that damn TV had an HDMI port?!  Yet another of my frequent Alzheimer’s moments.  Thankfully, the Blu Ray player in my office is Netflix capable via an Ethernet connection to my wireless router, so that TV was salvageable.

Online again, scouring the electronics stores for TV sales, I finally found the best prices for what I wanted at Sam’s Club.  Two digital HD TV’s (a 32″ for the living room and a 24″ for the bedroom) with HDMI inputs for right about $400 for the pair.

We’re rolling now!  We’re over $600 out of pocket, and I wasted a weekend installing the outdoor antenna that wasn’t, but believe it or not, everything is finally complete.  It’s going to take about six months to realize any savings from the conversion, but it was the shove I needed to get rid of the thousand pound behemoth TV we had in the living room and move into the 21st century.  I bought it over fifteen years ago, but it still has a beautiful, albeit non-HD, picture.  It’ll take a crane to get it in the truck.  I’ll be donating the two TV’s I replaced to a local charity thrift shop so I’ll at least get that charitable warm, fuzzy one gets when doing something nice to help ease the pain in my wallet.

But wait?  The math still doesn’t add up?  Four TV’s on the antenna, but only three streaming video boxes?

“Dear future guests: if you’re not fond of network TV or PBS, there are massive book cases in the living room overflowing with books on numerous subjects and interests.  Feel free to chose one and broaden your horizons!”

In other words, this cash ship has sailed.  Mission accomplished.  Should a great deal come along on another Roku box, I’ll get right on it.  Until then, dear guests, read a book!  It’s Christmas and daddy’s broke!

This is our first day un-tethered from the cable company teat, so I’ll reserve any hooping and hollering until we’ve had a chance to really kick the tires and take her for a full test drive.  So far, though, the picture I’m getting on all four TV’s is far superior to the picture I was getting with cable.

In summation, if you’re a died-in-the-wool, rabid sports fanatic, cutting the cable might not be the right move for you.  While there was nothing but football games on the networks while I was tuning in the channels earlier, there’s no ESPN.  I did notice some sports channels available via the Roku channels, but I believe they’re pay-for subscriptions and probably not as extensive in content as the numerous ESPN’s.

If you’ve got a Jones for any of the HBO series programming, (I’m sure going to miss Boardwalk Empire) cutting the cable might not be for you.  HBO series aren’t even available on Netflix or Hulu:  yet!  I’ll just wait til the older season box sets hit the bargain DVD bin at Walmart.

However, if you’re like we are and, with a few exceptions, use the TV for news and as background noise while Brenda does her Sudoku puzzles and I my writing and web surfing, cutting the cable may be a very good option for you.

And, if you’re still getting your TV through an older set, or if you took advantage of the coupons a few years back and got one of those free government digital-to-analog converter boxes, you might want to start replacing your TV’s now.  They’re probably on their last leg anyway and it’s much easier on the wallet to replace them one at a time.

Yesterday the phone company, today the cable company, tomorrow the power company and. a week from next Tuesday, the world!!  Bwahahahahahahah!!!!!!!  Think big.

In closing, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all of you the very merriest of Christmas’s and a bright, prosperous and happy 2014 filled with much love, good health and never ending smiles.

Until next time, thanks for reading.

Buono Fortuna!

Brian

Cast Adrift coverAnd don’t forget to order your copy of my latest book, Cast Adrift, the sequel to The Paramedic available here:  

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“Cast Adrift,” the sequel to “The Paramedic,” will be available soon!

Hello all!  Welcome back!

Cast Adrift coverI know, I’ve been very naughty regarding blogs lately, but I do have an excuse.  I haven’t been just sitting back on my duff; contrary to popular belief.  I have been banging away at the keyboard, pulling forth the much anticipated sequel to The Paramedic: *trumpets blaring* Cast Adrift!

I’d like to thank all of you who have been sending those emails, asking about the book and encouraging me to get it done and out there for you to read.  It has gone way beyond its initial planned publication date, for which I humbly apologize, but I honestly feel that once you’ve read it, you’ll agree that it was worth the wait.

To be honest, there have been more deletes, rewrites, plot changes and start overs than I care to admit to, but I believe all of that scrutiny has given birth to a real winner.  To date, I’ve read it at least 500 times and I still find myself holding my breath at certain points, waiting for the next giggle, tear or finger nail to bite.

You’ll also find that Cast Adrift bypasses a great many of the steamier love scenes you read in The Paramedic, (although there are quite a few) but I really pressed to keep tight to the plot and worked harder on the twists and turns you’ll find throughout the book…OK, I didn’t take out all the naughty stuff.  Don’t get your panties in a twist.  And for you medical fetishists, here’s your sign!

Due to the fact that Cast Adrift picks up exactly where The Paramedic left the reader, (hanging by two fingers over a cliff was how one of my readers put it) I am working with the publisher to offer a special price coupon for the purchase of The Paramedic so anyone who hasn’t read it (shame on you!) can do so, then go right into Cast Adrift-not only with the satisfaction that reading a good book gives you, but with a full feel for all the characters and the events that lead up to where Cast Adrift starts.

Of all the books I’ve written, I consider this to be my best.  A lot of me, heart and soul, went into writing of this book over the last couple of years and the incentive and opening for the third book in the series has also appeared on my horizon.  I can promise you that it won’t be nearly as long between Cast Adrift and book three as it was between The Paramedic and Cast Adrift.  I’ll have more information within the next couple of weeks as we get nearer to Cast Adrift’s publication date that I’ll share here and on my website, so stay tuned.

I would be remiss if I didn’t give a special thank you to my muse, Brenda.  Her addiction to Sudoku puzzles and Face Book has allowed me untold Sundays, all day, to write in peace with her support and encouragement.  Thank you, Bella Donna.

And I do thank her in the book, but I’d also like to publically thank my sister, Michelle Greenleaf, for the cover photo for Cast Adrift.  I humbly admit to being the most talented among my siblings, but Michelle is a savant’ with a camera and does some beautiful work.  You can see more of her work here: Michelle Greenleaf.  Thanks, Shell!

It’s short and sweet this week because I’ve got to get back on the ball, insuring that our early October publication date comes to fruition.  I will post a few excerpts from the book in the coming weeks to whet your appetite.

In the meantime, check out the short stories and information on all my books on my website: bgreenleaf.com

All of my books are available through Barnes and NobleAmazon and many other fine paperback and ebook retailers.

Until next time, I wish you peace, love and happiness throughout all your days.

Ciao!

Brian