Archive for the Author blog Category

Profile: Miriam Gorovic

Friday, November 13th, 2020 | Permalink

As promised, here is the second in a series of interviews with a main characters who appears in my ongoing series, Escape from the Immortals. This time it’s Miriam Gorovic. Her character profile appears below:

  1. Miriam Gorovic
  2. Occupation—blogger/journalist
  3. Conflicts—has inherited the ability to absorb and utilize the psychic energies of others from Basil Zarkisian, the father of her two-year-old son, Aric. She blames Victor for her father’s death and her unwanted motherhood
  4. Motivations—seeks help for her son’s migraines, restore her writing career
  5. Traits—brazen, athletic, and smart—a true warrior

Physical description: Tall (5′ 9″), lanky, athletic, with a wild mane of auburn hair and incisive, emerald-green eyes.

Interview begins:

whf:

Profile: Dr. Victor Furst

Thursday, October 15th, 2020 | Permalink

Taking a tip out of the Inkers Con playbook, I’ve placed a character description and brief interview with the main character in my Escape from the Immortals series, Dr. Victor Furst. Shown below is his character profile:

  1. Dr. Victor Furst
  2. Occupation—shamanic psychotherapist
  3. Conflicts—loves his ex-wife, Evelyn, but deeply resents his daughter-in-name only, Miriam. Feels he was forced to break his professional vows in using his shamanic abilities to kill her biological father, Boris Zarkisian, the material world leader of the psychic vampires, the New Immortals.
  4. Motivations—to regain Evelyn’s love and trust, behave ethically as healer.  
  5. Traits—Athletic, tends to be snide under duress.’

Physical description: Tall (6′ 3″), lanky, with a shock of salt-and-ginger hair and trimmed beard to match, plus a pair of clinically penetrating blue eyes.

Interview begins:

whf: You’re portrayed in the first book of the series, Mission: Soul Rescue, and its upcoming sequel, Mission: Soul Sacrifice, as an emotionally conflicted character. Why?

vf: It seems to me a natural response as a professional psychotherapist/shaman and as a parent to feel conflicted. Our first duty as a shaman and as a therapist is to do no harm. Not only does that mean no harm either physically or psychologically to the individual patient, but also to the ones around him/her, their significant others, friends, family, etc. As a parent I realize I may have violated that vow when I left my family to do research in the Amazon and become a shaman. Though it was done to protect them from the machinations of Dr. Basil Zarkisian doesn’t mitigate the profound psychological impact my absence had upon my family, particularly on our daughter, Miriam. The fact my actions may help save the world from the predations of those psychic vampires, the New Immortals, ameliorates the guilt I feel somewhat, but it doesn’t justify them.

whf: Do you feel your role in the story is one of expiating guilt then?

vf: It may be, but I hope not, not solely at least. It’s a funny thing–part of the time I’m recognized as a hero. In ordinary reality I rescue my wife’s soul and reintegrate it into her conscious self. In the Lower World of her unconscious reality, I play the role of Vahagn, the Hercules of Armenian myth, whose destiny is to prevent Ahriman, chief of the Zoroastrian gods, from seizing dominion of the Lower World, entering ordinary reality, and ruling over the universe for all eternity. Yet, despite this lofty calling, I’m viewed as a failure and an anathema within my own family, one whose welfare I hoped to protect by redirecting elsewhere the attention of those forces seeking to harm them. Ironic, isn’t it?

whf: One last question–you sound bitter. Are you?

vf: I hope not. Frustrated and bewildered, maybe, but not bitter. I’m enough of a professional to understand why my feelings, though justified perhaps, should not interfere with my judgments toward helping my patient(s) feel better about themselves by becoming whole spiritually and psychologically. At the same time, that understanding doesn’t mitigate the hurt and resentment I feel toward their unwillingness, no–inability, to recognize the good intentions behind some of my actions and forgive them.

(Sighs and flashes a crooked smile). Yeah, maybe a little bitter.

What do you think? Does Victor seem bitter? Defensive? Or just uncertain? Let me know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

Becoming a NY Election Inspector

Wednesday, September 16th, 2020 | Permalink

My wife and I felt we needed to do more than just vote in the upcoming 2020 election, given all the hubbub and uncertainty surrounding it. But do what, exactly? Searching for alternatives, we didn’t see ourselves as canvassers for either candidate. Nor did we think in grandiose terms as “guardians of democracy” as some election recruitment ads proclaim. However, insurers of a fair and honest process seemed more of a fit. So, we volunteered to become election inspectors in Dutchess County, NY.

Though we both had been volunteer delegates for political candidates in Minnesota, neither of us had worked in the election process itself. Let me say up front, we were in for a shock. Upon entering the ballroom of the Poughkeepsie Grand Hotel for our training session, we received a 25-page handbook and a 30-page Poll Pad training guide. We exchanged concerned glances: becoming a poll would be a lot more complex than sitting behind a table and checking names and addresses on a paper tablet.

Here, in no particular ranking, are some other realizations gained over the next two hours:

  • Long hours–polls open at 6 a.m. in New York state and close at 9 p.m. on election day. Inspectors need to be at their polling station an hour before to open up and ready the area for voters, tear everything down afterwards, and deliver the ballots to district headquarters.
  • Rigid procedures–to guarantee the fairness and honesty of the election, inspectors must follow a rigorous protocol in setting up equipment, providing information, and assuring accuracy of voter identification and qualifications.
  • New software–much of the training guide involves setting up and operating Knowink, the software that matches the name and address of every registered voter in each district with those who wish to vote the day of election. Its tally must match the paper tally at the end of the evening and be transported to district headquarters with the ballots.
  • Pop quiz–after imparting each step in the procedure, the mentors–one Republican and one Democrat–asked a question of the 30 or so people in attendance relevant to the material just covered. Though easy, the questions’ cumulative effect reinforced the impartial solemnity and seriousness of the election process.
  • Inspector backgrounds–some potential inspectors (like us) had little or no experience, others had done the job numerous times. One gentleman promised to play a dual role as both inspector and Republican overseer. While appearing somewhat dubious at first, procedures were in place to guarantee little or no overlapping of roles which might compromise the impartiality of the vote.

You can see from our first exposure to the process that the state of New York has a complex and well-documented set of procedures to guarantee the election process. Each state is responsible for setting up and running elections both state and national. Obviously, their practices and procedures may differ from our state’s. For example, New York state employs I-pad technology to facilitate and qualitize the voting process. Does yours?

Though our state needs inspectors and we’ve received training, there’s a chance we may not operate in our home district or even be chosen to participate. Whatever happens, I’ll keep you informed of our exploits through November 3rd (and beyond, if necessary). Have any of you participated as an election inspector on either the local, state, or national level? What was your experience? How was it the same, how did it differ?

Tell me about your experience in the Comments/Reply section below.

Current Reading

Friday, July 10th, 2020 | Permalink

The Sea Wolf by Jack London

Thought I’d give my readers and/or followers some sense of what I’m reading at the moment. This one is the fiction book I’m now reading. Outside of London’s most famous short story, To Build a Fire, I hadn’t read any of his other stories or novels. But after TCM showed the movie version of this novel, Edward G. Robinson‘s portrayal of the title character was so compelling I had to take a look.

It’s been worth the wait. I haven’t encountered Maud Brewster (played by Ida Lupino in the movie and always good) yet, but London’s depiction of Wolf Larson is an intriguing portrayal of the Nietzschean super-man ideal. Robinson isn’t as physically imposing as London describes his character, but he dominates every scene he’s in, just as Larson does in the book.

I look forward to reading more! Have any of you read this book? Or any of Jack London’s other stories? What did you think of them? Do they relate to today? If so, how?

Pandemics in Literature

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020 | Permalink

Enforced isolation, cabin fever, disease and death of epic proportion–all these might seem like prime material for writers. It’s caused me to focus on my rewrites of my next novel.

But for all their inherent drama, however, pandemics are not often depicted in classic literature. We all know of the ten plagues of Egypt from the Bible, but in what other literary works does plague or pestilence drive the narrative?

The first instance that comes to mind is the Great Plague of London which occurred from 1665-1666. Heralded by a bright comet that appeared the year before, this last occurrence of Bubonic plague in England killed 100,000 Britons and its effects are well-documented in the Diary of Samuel Pepys.

A more fictional telling of plague and its impact appears in Katherine Anne Porter‘s Pale Horse, Pale Rider. Perhaps better known for her novel, Ship of Fools, Porter used her experience as a reviewer for the Rocky Mountain News in her third of three short novels depicting the Influenza Epidemic of 1918 (BTW: the title comes derives from The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in which the Fourth Horsemen–Death–is said to ride a pale horse).

As tragic but more pessimistic in its depiction of the human condition is Albert CamusThe Plague, written during the middle of World War II. Most comparable to today’s COVID-19 pandemic is Camus’ depiction of people’s attitudes toward the event, “they came to know the incorrigible sorrow of all prisoners and exiles, which is to live in company with a memory that serves no purpose.”

To counteract such a pessimistic assessment of plague’s impact, we must turn to real life and from a surprising source–Sir Isaac Newton. Forced to return home from Trinity College after its closing due to the Great Plague, the time away allowed him to pursue development of his theories on calculus, optics, and what author and organizational psychologist Nick Tasler calls “one of the most influential ideas in modern civilization—the theory of gravity.”

Which shows to a certain extent how time away from our routines, whether foisted upon us by phenomenal means like COVID-19, ordered by our doctor, or done on our own volition, can have positive outcomes. It’s allowed me to be halfway through the rewrites for my next novel–how about you?

Can you identify other works of literature in which plague, pestilence, or pandemic play a pivotal role? If so, name them in the Comments section below:

Full of Maloney

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020 | Permalink

It’s a presidential election year which makes deriding elected officials de rigueur for comedians and citizens alike. One politician who seems capable of handling any verbal fusillade tossed his way is Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney of New York’s 18th district serving the Hudson Valley.

Since the 18th is our newly adopted congressional district, witnessing how Congressman Maloney handles himself during the give-and-take of a town hall meeting seemed a good way to provide insight into his effectiveness in Congress. The recent town hall meeting at the Spackenkill High School Sunday noon (February 2, 2020) provided the opportunity to witness his interpersonal skills first-hand. He did not disappoint.

The queries from an audience of approximately 150 people ranged from re-instituting the Fairness Doctrine to acquiring Medicaid certification to reducing scam calls. To questions involving infrastructure repair and improved border protection, he sprinkled his replies with examples from his own legal initiatives in these areas in support of repairing New York’s bridges and increased funding for the Coast Guard Service, And, when confronted with arguments and philosophies he disagreed with (an ardent anti-vaxxer, primarily), Maloney responded with kindness, wit, tolerance, and an appropriate dose of pointed repudiation, as needed.

One disturbing topic that arose during the border protection discussion involved the increasing use of deep-fake videos on social media. Though the technology has been around for decades, Maloney warned from testimony he heard as a member of Intelligence Committee that these false visual narratives “will become a real thing” during this election cycle.

My takeaway impression after our session ended and Maloney hurried to another town hall that afternoon is the 18th district appears to have a very committed and capable representative working on its behalf in the U.S. Congress. It may be fashionable in some quarters to ridicule and undermine the efforts of elected officials like Sean Maloney in the federal government as part of the reputed deep-state conspiracy, but to do so to our representatives with whom we may disagree in some instances does disservice to them, their efforts, and to ourselves.

Fei-Fei at the Howland

Wednesday, January 15th, 2020 | Permalink

One of the more pleasing things we’ve discovered during our adjustment to living in the Hudson Valley is you don’t always have to go into The City (The Big Apple) to enjoy the performing arts. Our first excursion to the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, NY underscored that impression Sunday evening.

Once a lending library founded in 1872, the Howland Center has been re-purposed into a community arts and cultural center. Remnants of the original library collection are housed in the corners of the balcony while art exhibitions of local artists line the walls of the main floor.

The Howland Chamber Music Circle offers a series of intimate musical events as part of the Center’s series of performing arts presentations. The feature attraction Sunday afternoon was a performance by pianist Fei-Fei Dong.

A native of Shenshen, China, Fei-Fei won the Concert Artists Guild Competition and was a top finalist in the 14th Van Cliburn International Competition. The Dallas Morning News characterized her style as marked by poetic interpretation, enchanting audiences with her “passion, piquancy and tenderness” and “winning stage presence.”

Her Sunday performance proved no exception. In fun-filled keeping with the Circle’s “Re-discovering Beethoven–his 250th anniversary” tribute, Fei-Fei opening half of her concert started with one of Beethoven’s lighter works, The Hunt (Op. 31, no. 3) followed by Robert Schumann’s Kinderszenen (Scenes from Childhood, Op. 15) and Claude Debussey’s L’Isle Joyeuse. On the more serious side, the second half featured Sergei Rachmaninoff’s flamboyant and very Russian Moments Musicaux (Op. 48)

Her performance receiving two rousing standing ovations, Fei-Fei mingled with her new admirers at the reception afterwards. Enraptured but famished after her two-hour presentation, we capped our evening with an excellent meal down the street at the Brothers Trattoria–completing a satisfying cultural and gustatory experience well worth repeating.

2019 Through a 2020 Lens

Monday, December 16th, 2019 | Permalink

Many people use year’s end to reflect upon their accomplishments and shortcomings hoping to set the groundwork of the year ahead. I can’t say 2019 was a make-or-break year for me, but it did have its share of ups and downs.

I started the year with cataract surgery on my left eye. This is a quick, easy, and eminently recoverable process for most people. But not for me. I suffered an allergic reaction to the anesthetic they gave me which deadened the receptor cells radiating from the optic nerve. My night vision did improve; however, my visual acuity diminished.

Our primary reason for a move to Poughkeepsie, NY, centered around being closer to family, particularly our two-year-old grandson. Here he’s trying to bring another species into the family Fietzer, our house cat, Selene.

When we weren’t looking at condos and apartments, my wife and I spent much of the summer exploring the sights along the Hudson River Valley. Most of the area is quite picturesque, but it does have its share of abandoned buildings and haunted homes. At left are the gutted remains of Halcyon Hall at the shuttered Bennett College.

Autumn is harvest time. At right our grandson samples an apple from a local orchard. My wife and I weren’t as fortunate reaping our rewards: we both developed Lyme’s disease which weakened our mental and physical resources for most of the season.

None of these setbacks mattered in the end. We achieved our goal of moving and adapting to a new area to be closer to our sons, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. I completed the revisions of the manuscript of my next novel and await my editor’s critique of my efforts. While the tasks ahead seem insurmountable at times, like Sarak (pictured left) the only thing to do is climb that first obstacle to overcome them.

GOOD FORTUNE TO ALL OF YOU

IN YOUR 2020 ENDEAVORS!

Akhnaten in Met-HD

Monday, November 25th, 2019 | Permalink

Do you long to escape the transience and hurly-burly of everyday life? We all do. Such longing infuses our lives from the church we attend to the shows we watch to the music we enjoy.

Few people achieve such transcendence. One who did became the subject for composer Philip Glass‘ 1983 opera, Akhnaten. As performed by the Metropolitan Opera Company and seen live through their Met: Live in HD series, the premiere epitomized the ecstasy of becoming a god (or like one) and the pitfall of achieving such transcendence.

Though known as a minimalist composer, Glass pulls all the stops in composer Richard Wagner‘s chromatic repertoire to create a full-fleshed depiction of Akhnaten’s ecstatic rise and fall. Glass’ characteristic blending of mid-range arpeggios and modulations, however, serve to make his music drama more a hypnotic contemplation on the transformative power of religious belief than an emotional tour de force.

All the vast resources of the Met Opera work to make this change a reality for the audience. Conductor Karen Kamansek’s love for Glass’ music helps weave a magic spell over the audience. The efforts of Phelim McDermott’s production team from Kevin Pollard’s opulent costumes to Sean Gandini‘s juggling choreography underscore the rise and fall of the pharoah’s character arc. And singers J’Nai Bridges (Nefertiti), Disella Larusdottir (Queen Tye) and, in particular, Aaron Blake (High Priest of Amon) and Anthony Roth Costanzo (Akhnaten) give splendid embodiments of their characters and the music which describes them.

In sum, this production of Akhnaten is an intellectual music masterpiece. While Glass’ stately cadences (like Wagner on steroids) are hypnotic to the point of somnolence (I nodded off several times), they, with all the other elements in this music drama, illustrate how an entire society finds meaning, immortality, and dissolution serving an absolute ruler who attempts to unite his transcendence of reality with the all too transient world we mortals inhabit.

Appalachian (Pro- & Con-)Fusion

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2019 | Permalink

Public perception of Appalachia is mixed. Many persons laud the pride its inhabitants take in its hardscrabble traditions on the one hand yet revile the poverty from which it originates on the other.

This contradiction grew apparent during the course of the Poughkeepsie Public Library’s presentation of “Appalachian Fusion” at the historic Bardavon Theater on Saturday, October 19, 2019. As part of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Big Read 2019, the program celebrated the culture and spirit of Appalachia through spoken word, dance and song.

On the pro-fusion side of the ledger, all the performers handled their assignments ably and well. Michael Kingsbaker, Gavin Maendel, and Maggie Low in particular excerpted haunting stories from Ron Rash‘s Burning Bright and Mary Knight‘s Saving Wonder. The modern dance troupe, Vanaver Caravan, kept things hopping with their sprightly interpretations of clogging and other traditional American dance forms accompanied by a quintet of musicians headed by banjoist Bill Vanaver.

The confusion arose from the choices in the readers’ subject matter. Two of the three stories, “Corpse Bird” and “Hard Times” in particular revealed the harshness and squalor that characterizes Appalachia in the public mind much as William Faulkner‘s Gothic tales of Yoknapatawpha county crystallized the mid-20th century south for many Americans.

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Song choices such as “Motherless Children” and “O Death” emphasized the beaten-down, vale-of-tears stereotype many of us associate with Appalachia. Only the sprightly performances of the dancers suggested the resilience, determination, and joy that enabled these people to survive the hard times. The photos and stories from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Library of Congress date from The Great Depression and Dust Bowl years. but the economic injustice and hardship of Appalachia are not a feature confined to America’s distant past but continue to the present day. Though well-intended, the literary essence of this presentation perpetuates unhealthy stereotypes of the region and its people.