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Friday, July 31, 2009


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Thursday, July 30, 2009

First Podcast - Bruno Saves the World ...

Direct Link to First Podcast - Bruno Saves the World

Okay, this will be a short one because I just wanted to *finally* get this podcast uploaded. Wolfgang has been patiently awaiting his debut and I know better than to disappoint a crazy German. I have to tell you, though, this first one was a bitch! I have nothing but admiration for those podcasters that manage to post polished, seamless, high tech productions!

I won't bore you with all the techy complications (of which there were many), but I ended up with a number of different pieces to this file including my intro, the music, Wolfgang's story, my outro, then a promo for the Level Zero Movie with theme song. Lesson number one: use the same mic for all the recorded parts. I used the H2 Zoom for the intro and story, then the Snowball for the outro. Even after using Levelator, the difference in sound quality is obvious. Guess I won't do that again.

At least I now know much of what to do differently for the next one. When we get to Chapter 2 of the Bruno story, I have to get Wolfgang to sit still. I didn't realize how sensitive the H2 Zoom mic was, and you can hear the chair squeak and some rustling of papers. I think it was Matthew Selznick that told me to plan on the fact my first 5 podcasts would suck. He was sure right about the first one, but I hope to improve long before Chapter 5!

Nonetheless, I feel good about the fact that I created it, and managed to upload it. Now, I just hope someone will listen to it ... other than Wolfgang. Where do I go from here? I have a recording of some first person firefighter stories I need to edit, and will maybe put up for the next podcast. I really hope a lot more EMS folks will contact me with stories to share. Then, there's the next chapter of "Bruno", and I hope to start soon on the novel. That's the project that will be really difficult. I know I can make it simple and just read the dang thing, but I want to add some production value ... somewhere between straight reading and a full cast and original score. I also know once I commit myself to it, I'll have to continue to deliver. But, more on that later.

Well, that's it for now. It's late but I promised myself to get this out today ... and I did.

Remember, life shouldn't be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well preserved body, but to slide in sideways, chocolate in one hand, a magarita in the other, thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming, "Whoo Hoo, what a ride!"

Monday, July 6, 2009

My Life Part II

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs: Water → food → security → coffee → writing → self esteem. Well, maybe not exactly the way I learned it in school, but it’s close to how it’s being played out in my life.

So, after the move to the Bay Area, my EMS career continued to evolve from Clinical Coordinator, to Regional Trainer, to Field Supervisor. In 2006, I finally left the ambulance business to work for the State of California as a Health Program Specialist doing disaster planning. Gas prices (and a 1.5 hour drive each way from the Bay Area to Sacramento) eventually drove me back to Contra Costa County. Professional independence came as I began working for myself as a consultant. Scary, yes, but the State Community College System where I teach part-time covered the insurance, so that helped. I continued to work with the local fire department and was offered a few other contracts for teaching, quality improvement, and writing. I’m good for a while.

So, I’m back to having this completed manuscript and needed to decide what to do with it. Reading the Contra Costa Times one day, I saw a blurb about the East County Writer’s Group. I decided my seeing this article must be some form of divine intervention, and I hooked up with a great lady named Mel. I figured a writing group was a less painful way of getting my story heard by others, and that honest feedback could help me decide if I should try really to try to publish the book. I found the Brentwood group to be an interesting and diverse bunch, most of them already published authors. Their works-in-progress included personal memoirs about growing up; a modern day saga about a divorcing couple; a thriller about spies in the Middle East; and an interesting vampire story. My fiction was very different than theirs, but I found a level of comfort in sharing my pages with them. They liked learning about a profession they knew little about and were very respectful with their constructive criticism. Better yet, they repeatedly told me they felt the novel really was ready for prime time. Win!

After about 6 months into this, I decided to check out the other part of the group that met on alternate weeks, in Pittsburg. This was another diverse group led by a bubbly, funny, outgoing woman named Carol who writes a senior column for the Sunday Contra Costa Times. Then, I met Wolfgang. The only male in the group, he’s a little shy, loves chocolate chip cookies, has a wonderful dry sense of humor, and everyone loves his eclectic works. An artist by trade, he also publishes a weekly humor column in the CoCo Times, often sharing a page with Carol. He’s published two books: “Touched by Choi”, a thriller with a dark twist; and “A Parallel Universe”, an offbeat collection of cartoons. Offbeat is another great word for his writing. We often wonder what’s he’s smoking when he thinks up with his stuff. We’ve heard parts of the novel he’s working on about the unluckiest bad guy on the planet, a collection of “Twilight Zone” type flash fiction; a story about a street performer named “Clint Mint”; and my personal favorite, a “Mr. Magoo-esque” tale of Bruno, a guy who raises invisible chickens and misconstrues the concept of “date”, which leads him on a wild adventure.

When I shared my enthusiasm about learning podcasting and told the group about the marketing value of social media, Wolfgang was the first one to show interest. In fact, he’s ready to go out and buy his own H2 Zoom and start learning to podcast. I recorded him last week doing the first chapter of his ‘Bruno’ story. If I can successfully edit the thing, it will be posted next week. Then, I’m sure Wolfgang and Bruno will be well on their way to stardom. Wolfgang’s website is He’s also on Facebook and Twitter under writewolfgang.

On a personal note, I’ve found that “putting yourself out there”, “building your brand”, and letting people know about your work does produce a response. I connected with some of the writer/podcasters I’ve been following on Spacebook and Twitter. They’ve been gracious and welcoming despite the fact I don’t have a viable product yet. It seems they remember what it’s like when they were getting started in podcasting and were trying to build an audience.

So, as I write this while listening to fireworks and the barking of three insane dogs, I’ll wait until it’s quieter to work on editing Wolfgang’s story then put it into the feed. Please listen … you’re in for a treat!

My Life Part I …

No, I won’t bore you with stories of first dates, the epiphanies of puberty, or my political views, but what led me to writing, and eventually to podcasting. So, we’ll just slide through my childhood and young adulthood, then land in 1979 when I became certified as an Emergency Medical Technician. Shortly, thereafter, I landed a job with the local ambulance company. They say Emergency Medical Services work is ‘long hours of unrelenting boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror’. So true, but it’s those moments of dealing with chaos and occasionally finding creative solutions for someone’s dilemma that make you want more. Being there during someone’s worst nightmare and providing relief and comfort for them makes one feel that they’re gaining positive points toward their Karma. After graduating paramedic school, I started doing 911 response work, and spent five of those years working out of a fire station as a contract medic. The field paramedic role then evolved into Field Training officer, Preceptor, then, 16 years later, Company Training Officer. I also held parallel positions as an ER Technician in a trauma center, EMT/paramedic instructor, and disaster medical team member. I couldn’t get enough of emergency medicine.

I’ve always loved writing, but never seriously considered it as a career. I was too busy saving the world. I did manage to write and publish several nonfiction pieces including feature magazine articles. In 1985, I took a road trip with my new husband across the country. While sitting in the car with not much else to do for hours at a time (no iPods, DVD players or vehicle mounted TVs in those days), I started documenting some of my more interesting experiences from the job. Those reminiscences eventually morphed into a fiction piece. My professional life was played out through characters very similar to ones I had actually worked with, and many of the situations they encountered were ones I had personally experienced. The writing of the story became very erratic, though, and sometimes months would go by between sessions. It’s interesting when you do it that way, as when I re-read what I had written months before, I had to ask myself, how in the hell did you think that was good? So, the next draft would become an improvement … then the next one … and so on, until 1996.

That was the year my company was acquired by American Medical Response, which would be destined to become the country’s largest ambulance provider. Immediately, they wanted me to relocate to the San Francisco Bay area. So, busy with a new chapter of my life before me, the book, again, sat idle. Then, in 2006, a strange thing happened. I was driving from the Bay Area to Sacramento for a meeting, and my main characters, 3 firefighter-paramedics, popped into my head and assumed control of my thoughts. They showed me a scene in the book that I hadn’t written or even considered. “Where the hell have you guys been?” I asked.

“What are you talking about,” they replied. We’ve been patiently waiting for you to come back to us. After 10 years, we decided to take matters into our own hands. We intend to hound you until you finish our story.” They weren’t kidding. Virtually every moment that my brain wasn’t fully engaged in some other task, they were there, showing me where they wanted to go. The original manuscript, which was a number of disparate scenes that had yet to be strung together, and was still handwritten. So my first task was to transfer the words to my computer. Re-energized by the new material they had given me, I began writing again. When I finally reached the end, 4 years later, a few surprises materialized. The main protagonist’s strange idiosyncrasies were suddenly explained by an event in his past that even I didn’t know about. An even bigger surprise was that the point of the story became different than what I thought it had been all those years. I was pleased with the final product.

Okay, now what? It’s done (if editing is ever done. Sometimes I think it’s a convenient excuse for never really finishing the book). Was this effort just an exercise for me to document experiences, a tool for catharsis, or did I really believe it was publishable and that other people might actually like it. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into this project and it would seem sad to let it languish, forever unshared, on my computer. An author may not have a real concept of whether a story they love would appeal to others. Family and friends will tell you it’s awesome because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. How do you really know if it’s any good? … continued …

Video Bar Focus

Highlighting musician, author and podcaster, Phil Rossi who's first novel is out. Watch the trailer and join the Amazon Rush 7-9-09.