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Another Great Review in Time for Valentine’s Day

Another great review on Amazon — this one focusing on love aspect of the story — and just in time for Valentine’s Day!

A good friend of mine and told me about the Diamond T- which I just finished reading and have to say this was a great book and has stayed with me as I reflect on how much I loved living in Arizona and New Mexico, but even more important is the transformational quality of love in your story. I have been so mired in the painful part of what love brings when it is lost, it was such a pleasure to be reminded of the spiritual journey. . . .

Read this review (and others) at Amazon: LINK

And Happy Valentine’s Day!

Here — have a big red truck:

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Writing: Do Not Go Gentle . . .

You ever want to not be done with something you’re creating? Ever held on to a project until the last minute when it was finally wrenched from your sweating hands?

project anxietyI know I have.

I had a very strange childhood in many ways, but there were some blips of normalcy here and there. One of them was a visit to the amusement park now known as Six Flags California. I had anticipated it so much and for so long that when we drove into the parking lot, I burst into tears. I sensed there was no way it could live up to my breathless expectations. I also knew in a only few hours it would be over. I’d need to let go at some point. My mother and father needed to wrestle me out of the car and frogmarch me through the gates to enjoy the roller-coasters.

I also was pretty sure they were going to fight, they being unable to even approximate  — even for a few hours during a special occasion — a “normal” family. And I was right.

Anyway, I look back on that moment every time I get close to finishing something. I also remember it before I start anything new. I fear at some point it will need to be over, and that fear almost stops me from beginning.

If it’s something I am creating on my own, there’s another factor: I know it’s never going to be good enough by my own standards. Saying something is “finished” means simply that YOU are finished. Nothing’s ever really finished. Nothing’s perfect. Saying so is a bit of an affront to God, really. There’s always more to be said — more to be done.

Yeah, this is how I justify procrastination. I’m really, really good at it, too.

I ran across this article on Twitter: End of Book Depression Solved! My immediate thought: “What the hell does that mean?” But, the title worked on me. I read the article.

It describes this post-partum depression common to so many creators. We don’t want the project to be over. We know it’s not going to really be “done.” We know we’d be lying in some way if we ever said so. Or perhaps we fear that if we comfortably meet a deadline, we’ll feel that we were sandbagging — holding back in some way. If there’s still time on the clock, we weren’t really giving it our all . The ideal approach is to keep screwing with it — tinkering, optimizing, correcting, honing — right up until we simply must move on. The article offers some satiric tips on dealing with this “book depression.” I don’t think I’d recommend any of them. They sound a lot like what kept me from finishing Diamond-T for 22 years or so.

The creative mind never goes gentle into that good night. I’m sure better writers than I say “Shiiiiiii . . . did I really . . .? Sometimes, they say this in public — even though they really shouldn’t. The customer doesn’t need to know everything about how that delicious sausage is made.

So what can you take from this? Only this: nothing is ever done. We just call it at some point and hope it works. And hope that we’ve done something of substance, or beautiful, even. And there’s something wonderfully human in this hope. It enables us to live. We live on hope.

And yes, I think Eye of the Diamond-T is something like that: Something substantial; perhaps something beautiful. I hope you enjoy it.

But, is it “done?” I dunno. Is life ever “done?”

Hey Critics: In the Future, Book Judges YOU!

A Dutch artist comes up with an idea that just might help the world: A book that won’t open unless you appear to be in the right frame of mind to read it.

You won't be able to read the unemployment report today, Mr. President.

You won’t be able to read the unemployment report today, Mr. President.

“To open the book you must align your face within the cover’s robot visage. A camera at the top of the cover captures your facial position, and Nxt software processes the abstracted data to determine your emotional state. If you’re overly expressive (a smile or scowl, for instance) the screen behind the cover will blink red. A neutral facial position will turn the screen green and send an audio signal to an Arduino board that will pop the metal lock open.” — from Wired

Think of other uses for this technology: You could put an “emotionality lock” on your phone to keep you from calling your ex- during a breakup. Trying to post to Facebook when you’re feeling snide or angry? Bad idea (usually). Hey! There’s an app for that. Maybe you shouldn’t be driving angry. DON’T DRIVE ANGRY!  Don’t worry: technology’s got you covered. Chill out.

The utopian in me says that we should make books, phones, cars, and even toasters operate only if the users are smiling. We could use a lot more smiles in the world. This would help.

Yes? No? You don’t like that idea? I can tell. I can see you frowning.

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Eye of the Diamond-T is a book with a cover that won’t judge you. At least the current edition won’t. Get more info HERE. 

Fear is a Drug

Even though some will say it falls into the sci-fi genre, there’s almost no science in Eye of the Diamond-T.

eye of the diamond-t fear

And it figures: I am no scientist. My exposure to the sciences has been limited to a some college-level survey courses and a whole lot of philosophy. Oh, and just some natural curiosity, of course. Philosophy isn’t science, but science is a variety of philosophy. Did you know that? Some might disagree, but they are wrong.

Anyway, it occurred to me at some point not too long ago — while just walking around and thinking about things — that fear can thought of as a substance more-or-less like a drug. As with many drugs, one builds a tolerance to it.

This can be seen in victims of shellshock, more recently known as PTSD. All those events demanding they defensively lash out or run away were smothered in victims for so long until further stimulus had no effect. Partner get blown up by a mortar round on the battlefield? Cover yourself and grab his rounds and dogtag. Move on. Don’t think. Don’t mourn. Just move. Do your job.

Thing is, this tolerance-building to fear isn’t just isolated to wartime or other extremes of human existence. Many of us are living in a constant low-level crisis of some kind or another. It might be due to money, or relationships, or personal issues we haven’t confronted. And all the while, if we don’t honestly deal with whatever is bothering us, the tolerance to the fear just builds and builds. It keeps building until fear itself has no further effect.

And then — as they say — shit gets real.

Fear is a good thing. Fear is helpful. It’s there for a reason. It keeps us away from things that can kill us or impede our lives in some way. But to do what we need to do in life, we’re called upon to transcend fear all the time. We do this through rational introspection; through the conscious application of courage. But when we just ignore the fear, we find we aren’t really transcending the fear — or maybe we are transcending it in the wrong way: by just floating on a cloud . . . of fear. So when fear no longer works on us  — as it can’t while we are floating on top of it — we tend to get irrational.

A lot of my little introspections on fear went into Diamond-TNick Pente never allows himself to confront his fears through life, and this dismissal of fear nearly tears him apart. In adolescence, as a young infantryman, as a wandering sometimes-student after the war, and even after his apparent cure by the mysterious Doctor Kultra, he’s still floating on a fear-cloud. His tolerance so sky-high that even driving a truck with 150 gallons of gasoline directly under the cab at speeds of over 100 MPH along two-lane roads doesn’t even cause his brows to flex. The trailer behind him might be carrying a nuclear bomb. It doesn’t occur to him to ask what’s inside. No time to think. Just do the job.

But there’s a price to be paid for all of this — in my book, just as in real life.

The point of this post: I ran across this article about the chemical component of fear in the brain. It’s still a rich field for research, but the study suggests that perhaps a certain chemical — or the lack of it — can cause fear to stop doing its necessary job in us. I would ask the researcher if it’s possible that “brain-derived neurotrophic factor” or its function could be affected by a stressful environment — say, a battlefield.

I hope you’ll enjoy Eye of the Diamond-TThere’s a lot more to it than just an exploding truck, though nothing to fear, really. . .

More Praise for Diamond-T!

Another astounding review for Eye of the Diamond-T:

From the very beginning, I was immediately drawn into Bill LaBrie’s excellent debut novel, Eye of the Diamond-T. It wasn’t just the frenetic narrative style, nor the immersive, highly believable descriptions of life as a long-haul trucker in the 1950s Southwest, complete with the colorful dialogue of the lifestyle, from the truckers’ cant to the long-in-the-tooth-flirt drawl of the truck-stop waitresses. (And) it wasn’t the author’s clear love affair with words, which calls to mind John Updike’s assessment of Vladimir Nabokov as being a writer who “…writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.”

. . .

It presents a wild story combining Greek, Hopi and Biblical mythology, mashes things up further with a narrative that leaps back and forth in time and, it seems, into different metaphorical realities, and yet the character of Nick is still so recognizably, agonizingly relatable. In many ways, the entire novel comes down to Nick’s struggle to forgive, and how he comes to that point is an incredible ride.

Read more of this great review at Goodreads HERE

Check out Eye of the Diamond-T HERE

Eye of the Diamond-T Print

“Selig” means “Blessed”: Happy Coincidence

A dear friend brought up something interesting about my choice of locales for Diamond-T the other day. Something I hadn’t thought of at all. It was serendipity. Just a happy coincidence.

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The pivotal scenes in the book happen in Seligman, Arizona. You might remember that name from various human-interest stories about the hardy eccentrics who still live in this little town–one of the last along Route 66 to be bypassed by I-40. It also served as an inspiration for the Disney movie Cars, which thanks to my 8-year-old son, I have seen upwards of 100 times.

Anyway, this friend called to express delight about the book, but also to ask me if I knew what “Selig” (as in the first part of “Seligman”) means in German. I really didn’t. I knew the town to have taken the name of a railroad official in the area at the time the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe laid rails through the area near what had long been a wagon path, and before that a footpath, and before that an animal migration route.

It turns out that “Selig” means both “blessed” and “departed.”

In the context of the book’s location and what happens there, that’s pretty astounding. What makes it even more so are the Germanic natures of those who oppose my protagonist, Nick Pente.

So the main character finds his solace and redemption near a tiny Arizona town with a name that means — in German — “blessed, departed man.”

That, my friends, is only one of the many such happy coincidences that shaped Eye of the Diamond-T.

I hope reading it will also give you an inspiration to find the happy coincidences in your life.

Check it out at diamondtbook.com

And the Story Goes On . . .

I’m hard at work on the next book, which will take place 100 years after the the first.

dome the future is soon

They both share a common universe, but each book stands fully on its own.

If Diamond-T is the purgatory, then the next book will be the final descent into the depths of Hades, with a triumphant redemption towards the end.

And yes, you can expect off-kilter characters, wacky situations, and both pop-cultural and mythological references — not to mention stretches of dialog which sound lifted verbatim from people once overheard arguing about lawnmowers and transcendence outside of a nudie bar somewhere near Elko, Nevada. That’s just how I write. Sometimes.

Anyway, please get “Eye of the Diamond-T” and start the mystical journey through love, war, the American West, mental illness, CIA mind-control, sheep, explosions, semi-trucks, and Perry Como today.

PS: And thanks to all who’ve already started! Keep those cards, letters, and reviews coming.

https://diamondtbook.com/

Knowing is Half the Battle: Keeping People Ignorant is the Other Half.

Almost nothing in my novel “Eye of the Diamond-T” is historically accurate. But the one thing that is absolutely truthful might still astound some of the innocent among us.

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To observe the effects of the drug on unwitting subjects, they secretly administered LSD to hundreds of mental patients, prisoners, foreign nationals and private American citizens without their consent. — From History Channel

My protagonist Nick Pente is the classic subject for CIA mind control: A decorated WW2 veteran with severe PTSD who wandered aimlessly until happening upon a psychologist who “cured” him using what he only thought were cognitive methods: psychotherapy and long talks in a darkened office. The hypnosis and strange substances he just explained away. He didn’t want to make waves.

But these secret therapies succeeded in turning Nick into the perfect foil–and the ideal driver of a truck carrying a secret and sinister cargo. The book is about Nick’s journey back to sanity and his psychic and spiritual redemption despite the government and society that betrayed him. His combination of basic good nature, patriotism, and psychological disturbance would have made him the ideal “mark” for MKULTRA, and followers of the program will find plenty of hints at what’s really going on even at the beginning of the story.

I’d also point out that Americans are big thinkers and the ultimate popularizers. We’re really egalitarian that way. What worked on a small cadre of the disturbed would have likely been used on the populace at large, and likely was tried — under one name or another. That’s regardless of what the CIA testified during the Church Committee hearings in the 1970’s. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Anyway, Diamond-T is only partially an indictment of mind-control. It doesn’t really fit into the genre of “conspiracy lit.” My use of MKULTRA can be seen to represent all of mankind’s desire to just fit in and just let things slide, and how curiosity and critical thinking are rarely valued as highly as just going with the flow.

Pick up a copy of Eye of the Diamond-T today. I think you’ll enjoy the ride.

Excerpts, reviews and purchase links at www.diamondtbook.com