books

Nostalgia: What Should We Miss?

Nostalgia: It ain’t what it used to be.

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In writing Diamond-T it occurred to me that many of the most nostalgic people never had to live with the things they are nostalgic about, nor in the world that hosted those things.

This wasn’t a new revelation to me. I remember how much my dad loved McDonald’s. He had a thing for chain restaurants in general, but McDonald’s in particular. He had been a bandleader, and likely covered a million miles of America’s two-lanes going gig-to-gig back in the days before McDonalds. He and his bandmates ate plenty from the mom-and-pop diners that littered the roads at the time, and they still had the memories of ptomaine and salmonella and norovirus to show for it. The food in those roadside diners was usually just bad, as opposed to just sadly uniform. For my dad, McDonald’s was one of the high-points of modern America. It was an unquestionable advance for humanity. He laughed at the nostalgia for the roadside local diners.

So I started to think about the things it’s right for us to miss. What have we really left behind that should be recovered, and can be recovered without recreating a world we deliberately left behind? See, some of the “nice things” we occasionally miss were enabled only by things that weren’t so nice–like disregarding other people’s humanity, for instance.

Thus, I’ve narrowed the list down to only a few things. You are right to miss these things if you do, and if you’d like to experience them again, it can be achieved without changing the course of history.

1. Wristwatches. When i got my first pager back in the 1990s, I very quickly stopped wearing my wristwatch. That was a mistake. Sure, the pager kept time very accurately, and I was never without it. But somehow needing to pull it out of my pocket was an extra step sufficient to keep me from an awareness of the time. Also, the loss of the analog dial made time itself seem like even more of an abstraction than it already was. The same problems continued when I starting carrying a cell phone. I finally broke down about ten years ago and started wearing a wristwatch again. Now, I feel naked without one. Hopefully, the new smartwatch revolution will make wearing wristwatches cool again. But of course, they’re going to include some distracting non-time info, because that’s the point of a smartwatch.

2. Handwriting. It’s been suggested that handwriting is good for your brain. If that’s so, we’re in big, big trouble. I am starting to realize that handwriting imposes a mental discipline, but also liberates the writer in some way. I have a feeling it’s true what they say about how if all we had were computerized devices, someone would need to invent paper.

3. Paper books. I am half-afraid I’ll slit my own throat here considering how many of my sales come from e-readers. Nothing wrong with that at all. But in researching my next book, I’m hitting the old-style paper books — and hard. Sure, there are certain practical advantages (paper books don’t crash, the batteries never run out, waterspills can hurt them but not usually destroy them, etc.) but I also find there’s more of a chance to absorb meaning from paper. It might be because we see the stacks of paper on each side of the spine increasing or decreasing with progress. It might be the feeling of our fingers tracing across the page. It might just seem more real to us.

Anyway, these are the things familiar to our grandparents and great-grandparents that I think we can all safely continue to enjoy, or rediscover if necessary. Sometimes it’s right to be nostalgic.

Check out more of the wonderful, terrible world of the Fabulous 50’s in Eye of the Diamond-T available HERE.

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What is a “Diamond-T” Anyway?

Some readers have asked just what the “Diamond-T” in the title references.

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I can’t say I blame them. No vehicle named “Diamond-T” has been produced in nearly fifty years.

But before the Chicago-based truck manufacturer merged with Reo to form Diamond-Reo in 1967, Diamond-T’s were quite the thing. The Chicago-based manufacturer made their name building some of the best trucks on the road:

Mack’s direct competitor in the light-duty big-truck field was Diamond T, builder of what many called the “Cadillac of trucks.” Diamond Ts, no matter the size, were never short on style or class. Flowing fender lines, aggressive grilles, rakish cabs-there was simply no way to mistake heavy hauler from the Chicago company founded by C.A. Tilt. “A truck doesn’t have to be homely,” he reportedly said more than once.

I’ve always been fascinated with things that go: Cars, trucks, bikes, planes, ships. I’ve seen and admired Diamond-T trucks in books and occasionally in museums for most of my life. One thing that always caught my attention — besides their obvious style and their usually-red color — was the logo.

According to the same reports, the company name was created when Tilt’s shoe-making father fashioned a logo featuring a big “T” (for Tilt, of course) framed by a diamond, which signified high quality.

So when the idea for the book occurred to me in 1992 or so, it came in the image of one of those stylish art-deco Diamond-T trucks hanging perilously off a bridge in winter just before sunrise — its hapless driver staring through the windshield at the obscure, stylized “T” pointing downward at the railroad tracks below him.

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Over the years, it gradually occurred to me that in the opening scene of the story, we see can something about the America of the 1950’s as well as a clue about where things were headed. Times were great, people were confident, but secrets had been shoved just beneath the surface. Some of those secrets are revealed at a critical moment to Nick Pente: the driver who is just as much a product of America — and Chicago — as the truck he drives.

Thus, it had to be a Diamond-T. A White, or Mack, or Peterbilt, or any of the others wouldn’t have had the same overtones–nor the mystical logo. Nick’s truck is an honest product of a confident and abundant America, and it’s headed for a fall.

Learn more about Eye of the Diamond-T by clicking HERE. I hope you’ll enjoy the journey.

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Are you Writing or Facebooking?

I have realized this in the past:

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ainfully. I have painfully confronted this in the past. I’ve had to confront it again. I never seem to learn.

Social media and especially Facebook is like a dream come true for people like me who are basically hyperverbal. I have a power-bulge over whatever lobe of my brain is involved with putting out words. I don’t call it the “language center” because that would imply some measure of quality that sometimes I feel just isn’t there. But generally, I’m rarely at a loss for words.

A Facebook friend of mine who seems in many ways a genuine pain-in-the-ass occasionally posts writing prompts. He’ll put up a challenge like “Write a story where someone learns a dark secret. You must include an umbrella, a banana, and a harmonica.”

Bitch, please.

Ten minutes later I hit “post” on a short story about a travelling salesman who leaves his umbrella at the cafe, returns to get it, finds the place deserted, notices a banana on the counter, decides to pilfer it and is attacked by savage Amway thugs who beat him to death while one of them plays a harmonica in the background ala Ennio Morricone.

Ain’t no stoppin’ me. I think up stuff and write it down. That’s what I do.

The trouble with Facebook is that it sucks you dry. I’ve caught myself getting pulled into too many dramas concerning people I know I’ll never meet. Facebook groups are always one step from being interactive soap operas anyway, and I’m as weak against the drama as is anyone else. I recently trimmed my group memberships by about 90%. I had to finally admit that I didn’t care which 20-something member of the psychology-test cult was going to take the plunge and fly to Australia only to discover the love of her life has severe adult acne and some spare children and wives lying about. I tried to warn her. It’s a long plane ride in each direction–even longer with a broken heart.

So, no — if you’re Facebooking you’re not really writing. That’s not to say it’s not helpful in ways. You might be observing human nature and storing up concepts and images for later use. It’s also a handy way to stay abreast of the way people talk these days.  If you do it right, you might also be building a following. But those followers need something to read and buy.

See? There’s a conflict.

I’ll keep my Facebook active because I need to — just as I need to keep Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Tsu, and God knows what other services I’ve given my personal information. Life happens on the net these days, though often enough work still happens offline.

But yes, duty calls, and I need to spend more time writing, and less time Facebooking.

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Check out www.diamondtbook.com for my novel’s purchase links and reviews.

Your Invitation: Sunday Facebook Event with Giveaways!

Hello, everyone out there in BlogLand!

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This Sunday I’ll be doing an event takeover on Facebook, helping fellow authors Alicia Taylor & Natalie Townson launch their new book Avowed.

I’ve done a few of these events and they’re always fun. I’ll be posting fun stuff, asking probing questions like “Whatcha wearin’?” and giving some stuff away.

I’ll also be running a contest for ebook versions of either Diamond-T or something from one of my fellow authors. Maybe both, if I’m in a generous mood. I just might be.

Anyway, the festivities start at 12:00 EST this Sunday, the 22nd. Just follow the link below to join the event. It’s just like being part of a Facebook group: fresh posts appear in your newsfeed. Jump in with your questions, comments, concerns, or dirty jokes at any time. Show your support for indie authors in a way that simple, fun, and free of charge.

Here’s the link, or just click the image above:

https://www.facebook.com/events/776489765739994/

See you there!

The Diamond-T Thrill Ride Rolls On!

Just the latest great review for Eye of the Diamond-T:

“The story of Nick Pente takes you on a thrill ride like you’ve never been on before. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. You find yourself rooting for this character as he navigates life on the road, and then again as life takes a huge turn in another direction. Mysterious and intriguing, this book will leave you thinking it over long after you’ve finished.”

Check out more reviews at Amazon HERE.

Want a chance to win a free signed copy this month? Enter my contest on Goodreads HERE!

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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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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. 

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

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