One Minute of Zen: A new feature at Casz’s Fiction Farm

One of my 2017 resolutions/goals was to do this new project here to give you a one minute video, once a week to produce a feeling of calmness. I’m calling it One Minute of Zen. I had the idea some time ago.  I’ve been collecting these videos for about two years, in order to do this. Having learned over time that having some work already in the can when you start a new project is paramount to its success — at least for me.

So, every Tuesday, I’ll be posting this One Minute of Zen. Why Tuesday? Because you likely have a Monday stress hangover, it’s not quite hump day (business socks day), and well, you’re so far away from the weekend. Therefore Tuesday seemed appropriate.

As I’ve gone along, these videos have gotten better and better. But some of the first may be a little raw. I don’t think it detracts from their effectiveness, to just take one minute and reground yourself in the present moment and feel a little peace.

I’m calling this one, MINI WATERFALL (<<You have to click on the link…;) )

 

Enjoy.

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Inkster Dispatch: Easter Eggs and Wilderness Rim

Can you find the Easter Egg Inside?

I didn’t mean to do it; but, it’s hard to live where I live and not have this influence drip, ooze, and coat into your own writing. There’s a fandom Easter Egg in my newly released book, Wilderness Rim: Echo Falls Book One.

As a born-again gamer, Easter Eggs are just as much part of the modern gaming, experience as much as getting an epic armor piece. The placement of Easter Eggs is now often found in films and all over other media, too, especially that connected with computers or the internet. I put one in my book.

I thought it would be fun to hold a contest here on the blog for those reading Wilderness Rim to find the hidden reference to another story entirely. And no, it’s not Catcher in the Rye or Huck Finn.

Clearly you need to read Wilderness Rim to figure out what that nod to another fandom is. So, the contest won’t run just yet; but, it will run soon. Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you know right when the contest begins because there will be an epic prize:  think fandom memorabilia, a video game, and some other TBD loot. Also, you’ll want to subscribe soon, because I’m going to start dropping hints on what this little Easter Egg is right here on the blog.

So subscribe to Casz’s Fiction Farm. Buy the book. Read the book. Leave a review. Uncover the Easter Egg, but don’t share just yet. Be sure to tuck it in your brain to win another day by paying attention to this little piece of the internet.

Make sense? Feel free to leave any questions below in the comments.

 

Posted in Inkster (Writing Superhero) Dispatch, Wilderness Rim | 1 Comment

Inkster Dispatch: A Blessful Book Release

Every seat was packed. And I was so grateful to not only The Black Dog, but also Released From Quiet, the band that book-ended my reading and signing. Huzzah to all of you. (Photo by Alexa Lioncourt)

It’s taken me more than two days to process (and another two just to get this post up) what was the book launch for my debut novel, Wilderness Rim, Echo Falls, Book One. As far from where I sit, the launch went off without a hitch. I mean, there were small things I wasn’t prepared for because I’ve never done my own book launch before, like the fact that if you’re on a stage with real stage lights, it might be hard to actually do your reading because the lights can cast weird shadows on the text (oh, and maybe you need to see the eye doctor again). And that you better eat before the event because I couldn’t even settle down long enough to drink a glass of wine until it was all over. But, then the venue owners took pity on me and got me sustenance — great wine, even better food (I need that spinach enchilada recipe, stat!).

My scholar Athlete, Yours Truly, and My Viking. We couldn’t be happier with the night. (Photo by Lisa Holcomb)

One of the gingerbread Sasquatch cookies I made to share with all the folks who came out to the book launch. (Photo by Sheri J. Kennedy)

But the good things far outweighed the bad things, and there were mostly good things. Those good things include the fact that it was standing-room only in the venue, The Black Dog Arts Cafe. They were gracious and had wonderful food and drinks for everyone. I didn’t have to bring home too many of the Sasquatch cookies that we handed out.

Additionally, we sold out of the 30 books we brought with us to the launch event. I honestly had to tell people that they would have to get their books on Amazon and to look on my web site for my next reading event of Wilderness Rim to get it signed — or find me at The Black Dog on any given Friday. Yes, yes, it’s a great problem to have.

The crowd represented many aspects from my life — people who know me from my kids’ activities, other local writers — especially those who are involved with SnoValley Writes! (the writing group I formed in 2008, which is still going strong), the arts community at large, my farming friends, my activist friends, and of course, my family. I loved that I wasn’t the only one in Sasquatch Silliness Gear. Big kudos and thanks to fellow author, Rachel Barnard for being in the Bigfoot spirit.

Signing the last book sold for the night. The look on my face is utter happy shock. (Photo by Sheri J. Kennedy)

There were people who came from all over to be there — Buckley, West Seattle — and my soul sister, Lisa, traveled all the way from Portland, just to surprise me for the night, bringing a “pamper yourself” gift for her favorite author. 😉 She made me cry and I had to chastise her for ruining my make-up. What another great problem to have.

My cover artist, Leslie Moon, had art available at the event, too, and she even saw lots of love that night, people gobbled up her art as much as they gobbled up the cookies.

Sasquatch Silliness: Yours Truly and Bigfoot Rachel. (Photo by Sheri J. Kennedy)

One of the things I learned was that you’re going to forget something — even if you write it down. I had planned to reveal that there’s another fandom Easter Egg in Wilderness Rim, and that I would be running a contest here on my blog for the first fan to find it. I was going to give a hint at the launch about what fandom that is. But, I forgot. So now everyone gets an even chance and I’ll be hinting at that on the blog here in a couple of days. So, stay tuned.

The creativity was so thick in the air and we launched an “I <3 Stinky” campaign that soon will be launched right here, so stay tuned.

At the end of the night I was exhausted in one of the most pleasant ways anyone can — just overwhelmed with the love and support. It was a blissful, bless-full night.

One of the members of the bluegrass band that was playing right after my event ended up winning this prize basket. Hope they love Stinky as much as I do.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I’ll be saying Thank you I believe until the next book launch. For my inaugural novel event, you all made it so wonderful.

This is how I looked at the end of the night — kissed and blessed and a bit overstimulated. (Photo by Sheri J. Kennedy)

A lot of years, lots of tears, and much sweat equity went into making this event the success it was. I would be remiss if I didn’t say a special thank you to Colleen, who brought the delicious cupcakes to compliment the cookies; to Sue, who served the goodies; to Tonya, who was my prize basket drawing diva; and to Jess, Sheri, and Lisa who took photos. Also, to my son who provided grunt labor, and my spouse who was the money man that night: I love you both and your support Saturday was invaluable.

No project like this happens by the feat of one person. So, thank you. And a hat-tip and curtsy to Cris and Greg at The Black Dog for opening their wonderful cafe to our Sasquatch Silliness and Released From Quiet for playing us in and out of the night. Going to be hard to top this with the next book, Rattlesnake Ridge in late summer, but we’ll try.

Leslie Moon (L) and Yours Truly. I made her come up on stage to give her a little treat and let everyone know that she’s agreed to do cover art for the entire Echo Falls series. Woot!

 

 

Posted in Inkster (Writing Superhero) Dispatch, Wilderness Rim, Write Life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The UnQuiet Resolution of Resistance, Meeting My Muslim Neighbors

More than 300 of my neighbors got together this morning to build a stronger community.

I made a small resolution to myself on the eve of January 19, 2017. That I would not be silent. Of any of the things that happened in my world, I would no longer be silent.

When I discuss this resolution with my spouse, my closest friends, even my fellow artists, they laugh and scoff. “You? Quiet?” Eyebrows raised. Smiles big. Elbows ribbed.

I get it. I’ve been a storyteller, writer, photographer, journalist, communicator, and general rabble rouser my whole life. I’ve been marching against inequality, for justice, and defending what I believe in my whole life. I tell the world how I want it to be with how I live my life:  voting not only with ballot, but with conscience and dollars; raising my children to be the good in the world; tackling themes of fairness, justice, environmental stewardship, a world ruled by law and science, and love in all of my stories; and, putting my name behind the word Patriot and Dissident, for they are one in the same. I really haven’t been silent. Rather, I’ve been very active.

So when my circles laugh about me being silent, I can giggle, too. What I’m really mean to say is that I’m going to be LOUDER.  Anyone who has subscribed to this blog long enough, has friend-ed or followed me on social media, and especially know me in person, knows that I speak up all the time. I am engaged in my community. I participate in meetings, town halls, gatherings, symposiums regularly. But, clearly I need to be even more engaged. So my resolution evolved into doing one thing each day to resist the imbalance, the injustice raging in my country currently.

With that in mind, I attended my local mosque’s Meet Your Muslim Neighbor Event this morning. The gym of our community’s newest elementary school was packed to standing room only. Speakers from every corner of the religious spectrum and political spectrum were there and greeted the participants. There was some brief Muslim 101 given, tenets that show that the followers of Islam are a peace-loving, charity-focused, family-centered community. Everyone was super emotional, the fear for the current political climate palpable around the lunch tables and folding chairs near 300 people.  The people in this room — even a self-declared Trump voter — were there because they believe in this country and want peace and prosperity. They were there because they do not like what they are seeing happening in Washington D.C.: walls, bans, killing all the programs that help us take care of one another, the later being pillars of not only Muslim and Christian faiths, but of all the faiths in the room this winter Saturday morning.

Today chips in the walls of fear being built by the Trump administration were chipped away at with pens and paper, respect and hugs, sandwiches and coffee, and children from every part of the community playing together in the hallway. 

We sat with our neighbors from every ethnicity, every religion, every economic  background, and every age. We listened to the speakers, nodding, and realizing that we were all emotional because we were angered by the nonrepresentational actions of our leaders. Our anger brought us together because we want that anger used to create positive outcomes. There are two reactions to fear:  anger and hate. Hate is the reaction of the weak. Anger is the reaction of the courageous. Anger makes you want to work to change things. Hate makes you destroy things. I’m angry. My neighbor is angry. They’re no longer being silent. And I’m loud and getting louder. What Trump and his cronies in the district are doing is NOT OK. He is NOT my president. He does not represent My America. My America is not afraid. My America is accepting. My America doesn’t build walls. My America provides healthcare for all. My America doesn’t dismiss diversity. My America embraces all the fingers on the hand of this nation, like the Imam spoke in the gym this morning. A hand is made up of five fingers. None of them the same. But together they work together and give the hand great power. What are we going to do with that power? Build up or tear down. I choose to build. Not walls. But bridges, community, and acceptance.

Another message from the event which has stuck with me was that concept that it’s not the big things in life that require all the energy — it’s the every day, small details that create the biggest impact. I’m reminded of the quote from Anton Chekhov, that I’ve posted here before, “Any idiot can face a crisis — it’s this day-to-day living that wears you out.” It will be the small things like mutual respect for your neighbor, a kind word or action in the grocery store, a prayer said for those in leadership positions, a letter, a phone call, attending a meeting — these are the things that create great impact. Giant protest marches do good, too. But they are fueled by the smaller, every day moments that define us.

It’s the “US” in U.S. that was loud and clear today. After today’s event, everyone in that school gym knows they are not alone. I’m not alone.

Some coffee. Some talking. Some questions and answers. And some simple sandwiches afterward, created a stronger bond within my community. I hope to see more and more of this, with further and deeper actions following each small action. We need to not give in to fear or let our anger weary us into the hateful side of fear. We need to continue to not be silent. To speak up. To speak louder. To speak often. To resist. To resolve. To evolve, like evolving from silence to action.

So now what? We know we are many. We are not alone. We can take that anger and use it for good. Now we work to declare our communities sanctuaries. We dismiss dollars attached to fascist policy. We say No to that which does not serve justice, liberty, and freedom. We engage. We protest. We don’t give up. We get to know our neighbors. We organize. We resist. We fight. We take care of one another.

Posted in And Sometimes There Is Politics, Current Events, Social Action Writing | Leave a comment

In The Weeds:  Learning the Tech from TV’s “HUNTED”

CBS Promo Photo

Editor’s Note:  Let this be your spoiler alert. Discussion doesn’t give details exactly, but some may see it as a spoiler. If you’re worried about it, go watch the episodes first.

Hubby and I are hooked on the new show on CBS called Hunted. It premiered Sunday after that head-shaking football game between the Patriots and the Steelers. A second episode aired last night (Wednesday), which will be its normal weekly slot. It’s been a real eye opener in things I didn’t know about police investigations, and that I likely do know more even this little bit into my infosec education than most Americans, which is both exciting and frightening all in one, because I still am very much a noob at this.

With full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of one of the “hunters” on the show, Myke Cole. Myke is fellow veteran, whiskey drinker, and writer. I love his fiction work, but his nonfiction stuff is what brought me to learn about his other work, including his appearance on Hunted.

CBS Command Center Group (CBS Photo)

The premise of Hunted is that teams of fugitives go up against this world-class team of “hunters” with specific skill sets. It features folks with former U.S. Marshall time, FBI time, White House Communication, military experience, cyber security, all manner of bells-and-whistles operators to create this super cell of hunters. They all have very interesting personalities and amazing individual skill sets, of which I may blog more about later. Today’s post is about the show itself and how you and me can benefit from watching it. In my last In The Weeds post I talked about our Surveillance State. It’s bigger than we thought, mostly, but also given today’s current political climate, understanding what tech may be abused by an authoritarian-type government, allows its citizens to stand against it, when the time comes. Yes, I said it. I’m not the first to say it. Thomas Jefferson said it, too:  “the whole art of government consists in the art of being honest.”

To keep our government honest, you need to be educated. It’s hard, I get it. But every citizen has a responsibility to know what’s going on, even in the broadest sense. This post is about the fact that there’s tech out there that I had no idea investigators under law enforcement have access to in today’s world. My guess is many who are reading this, or watching Hunted, didn’t realize it as well.

  1. Old School Mail is Imaged. The U.S. Post Office is required to photograph every piece of mail that comes through their system and provide it to investigators with appropriate warrants. Say what? Did any of you know this or did I think my government was not that Orwellian? It’s not something new, as I’ve learned. It was put in place as part of the USPS’ efforts to move mail more efficiently. Yet, there are some questions I have about its oversight and if law enforcement is using it legally or abusing it. In regards to the Hunted episode where it was used, they said in the program they had a warrant, although because the show doesn’t have a running clock of the timeline they are working under, as viewers we don’t know how long it took them to get the “warrant.” It appears it’s rather quickly.
  1. Warrants On The Go. In both the first episode and the second episode, the hunters enter a fugitive’s dwelling with expedited speed. Again, I question how quickly a warrant can be obtained. My personal experience with law enforcement has lead me to believe it’s not that fast. Certainly, my LEO friends and family are frustrated with the warrant process. Also, this team is working across jurisdictions. Relationships with the court with the police and vice versa help warrants come through more timely. So now we have folks working out of New York, asking for a warrant in NoWheresVille Georgia? Total Sus, as the kids say. However, this Hunted team seems to get the warrant in less than an hour or so. Again, without a running clock featured on the show, we have no timeline as viewers to understand how much time has past. Police need to gather information, write an affidavit, and request the warrant before a judge to sign. Judges are on duty to sign search warrant mostly between 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. (are you happy I didn’t use military time?). So, sure in a matter of a couple of hours if the team is fast — as the Hunted team appears to be. However, the way it is presented to the viewer makes one think that it’s super fast. Again, reaching into my own experience with law enforcement — as a PAO for MPs, as the kid of a cop, and personal experience — search warrants aren’t as common as TV procedurals or reality TV (which Hunted falls under) would lead Americans to believe. Also, the type of warrant execution the Hunted team is what is called a “No Knock Warrant.” Courts reserve these warrants for situations in which a building’s owner or occupier could destroy the sought-after evidence by the time law enforcement waits for the owner or occupier to open the door. In the Hunted world, this is likely an assumption. Unfortunately, according to Cornell Law, these types of no-knock warrants have seen increasingly frequent use, particularly in drug cases, and especially in major cities. There has been a corresponding increase in the number of innocent people accidentally injured or killed by police executing no-knock warrants. The more you know…
  1. Do Not Write Down Anything. The most classic line in the first episode is “brought down by a number two pencil.” You want to leave no trace. If you’re writing something down, if you must, you have to encrypt. Use a code. Certainly do not write it on top of another piece of paper and leave the paper for the No-Knock Warrant executors to find. In episode two, one of the teams used the postal service (see above). Again, they wrote something down. That team is still at large, but the hunters are circling in. More next week, likely.
  1. Your Digital Footprint is Almost Forever. The first episode is called “The Internet Never Forgets.” ATMs, social media, phones, computers, all leave footprints and bread crumbs for law enforcement. The first episode shows one team use an ATM, which leads the investigators straight to them. In regards to social media — delete your accounts. Delete your email. Delete your blog. Is there still footprints of this? Yes, there is, but it can take the investigators much longer. In the first and second episode phone calls even from a burner phone can be tracked, if the person you’re calling doesn’t have a burner phone. You want to be safer with phone calls? It needs to be burner phone to burner phone. Or you need to use a stranger’s phone. And for goodness’ sake — do not talk on speaker phone when using a stranger’s phone. Also, if you use an iPhone, it doesn’t do any good to reset your phone and delete things if you leave your iCloud storage full. Now if you do have burner phone to burner phone, if the investigators are close enough, there is tech that can pick up the conversation. So, say they have a lead to one of your support network. They can watch them and “listen” in to their phone conversations. As Myke said, “Yeah, we can hear you.” You don’t want to leave a digital trace? You need to pulverize your electronics. Microwave it. Seriously. Then stop using it.
  1. Brief Your Support Network. In Hunted two of the fugitive teams are brought down by little kernels of information the investigators got from family members and friends. Tell your friends to admit nothing, deny everything, demand proof always. And for goodness sake, tell them to stay off social media! That’s harder for kids, for sure, especially if the investigators go for a face-to-face interview of said kids. I’ve briefed my kids about their rights with police. As it happens on Wednesday evening, my kid was driving an old car through a rich neighborhood, which gave a cop “just cause” to pull him over. Here’s a 4.0 scholar athlete coming home from select baseball practice and he’s pulled over because his car is 35 years old. My kid was released without incident; but, my point is you need to educate your support network, including minor family members. Police lie, too. That whole “police aren’t allowed to lie” is bogus. There’s no such rule in place that if you ask if they are cops they have to tell the truth (although it’s been pursued in court). In episode two, the field investigators pose as a team that is put in place to help the fugitives. They press an unsuspecting fugitive support member, which ultimately leads to their capture.
  1. Going Off Grid Is Tough. Be Prepared. Like Seal Team Six prepared, not Boy Scout prepared. This is where physical fitness and pure grit comes in handy. One of the teams in episode two I was really rooting for because they seemed super smart. But I was worried, because after day two one of the team members was showing signs of stress already. They went out into the wilderness. They lasted 18 days. Then one of the team members just was having a tough time. They went back into civilization and that’s where they were captured. Go off grid. And stay off grid. They were done in by stink and chiggers and the unending desire for a real bed, shower, and hot food. If you’re going to survive being a fugitive — whether in a game or from a rogue government, you’re not necessarily going to be comfortable.

There’s likely more lessons I can learn from the first two episodes, but if you’ve even finished reading to this point, you’re better than most at wanting to a) finish things, b) learn. So, thanks and hopefully you’ll come back for more next week. Even though the odds are stacked for the investigators — pros versus amateurs; unlimited resources versus limited resources (fugitive teams can only take out $100 at any given time from a $500 pool for the game); and likely sped up warrant timeline versus you can’t trust anyone, I’m still looking forward to the next episode, because it’s interesting and it’s chock full of information. Each of the teams I was initially rooting for have been captured (I’m a sucker for the underdog, what can I say). There’s one team that I want the Hunters to catch because the personalities annoy me, in traditional reality-TV fashion. But new teams are coming up, too.

Congrats on the show, Myke. Oh, and for those wanting to play along with the Cole on TV Drinking game, click here for the rules. It’s going to make Wine Wednesday even more interesting.

 

P.S. You can catch up on episodes online at CBS.com. I have received no compensation from any entity or person associated with this show for this blog post. 

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