Fear and Camping

SUMMER READING:

GET YOUR FLASHLIGHT AND HIT THE WOODS

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What is it about a flashlight and a book? Sure, there is an element – no matter what your age – that your mom is going to bust in and tell you to go to sleep. But something runs deeper with a tiny pool of light and the endless black woods. Talk about existential threat. Your lizard brain is jumping and when you read a scary book out there in the void, each word is scarier than the last.

If you’ve spent time in Maine, you understand how Stephen King got his scary. Those woods are dark. Just walking from car to house must be navigated by starlight. It’s that black. I was an impressionable age when I read Salem’s Lot, 17, and in the wilds of Mexico. In the book (as well as in the primary work), vampires knock on a window in the dark night to gain entrance and suck necks. A Mexican waiter rapped on mine and I became so frightened, I cried.

In the werewolf corner, I am haunted by Sharp Teeth. I read it in manuscript and loved it. My opinion hasn’t changed. Werewolves run wild in Los Angeles, ensnaring a dogcatcher who falls for an outlier werewolf-ess. And did I tell you it’s written in blank verse?  If you’re rolling your eyes, it’s not for you. But if you like unusual, jump!  Harper Collins ended up publishing the book, for which I am grateful.

Dean Koontz, H.P. Lovecraft, and this gentleman will put all sorts of frightening ideas in your head with just a few suggestive words.  Invest in an anthology of the last two and pack it with your sleeping bag each summer. There is that much scary material to make the investment worth it.  Throw in The Turn of the Screw, Henry James’ big attempt at creepy and he succeeded. A novella – thank goodness because that Henry do go on! – this can be read in an hour.

Last, but not least, have you ever noticed that UFOs usually land in fields, woods or desert? Disc-shaped craft never come down on the Met Life building or the 101.  It’s because aliens know it’s even scarier when they land in unpopulated unlit places and frighten campers. The scariest UFO books I’ve read? 365 Days of UFOs is an historical accounting of landings, sightings, controversies, experiments, monster tracking, and coverups – one for each day of the year. Many happen in the fields and forests of Europe and middle America or the grit of the Southwest.  Roswell, a book by Nick Redfern, author of the 365 book above, is scary in a different way. It lays out a damning case against a government conspiracy that promoted little green men in a  misdirection campaign away from secret experiments at the end of WWII.  Roswell may be the scariest when you contemplate what other programs our government has hidden.

Being scared is fun and a big black wall of woods pierced by flashlight sets a fine mood. Here are more lists of favorite scary book from Men’s Journal , Flavorwire and Paste.

Enjoy the summer, share your scary book #recs with us, and don’t forget your mosquito spray.

Great camping gear: REI  amazon.com L.L. Bean

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YOU ARE THE ANSWER

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LISA HAGAN BOOKS

Big institutions are in some doubt. Wall Street crashed America, the Russians have infiltrated our election systems, and Intelligence leaders are stonewalling the United States Senate. If you work in an institution, there’s no telling what goes on. I learned that in time inside the walls of a corporation.   It’s funny and it’s not.

Three books changed the way I thought about institutions. The first is Build the Fort, a simple and completely effective book on startups, by Chris Heivly. He presents 5 steps to begin a tech-based business and my partner and I used the book to start Lisa Hagan Books. It works, completely.  Nan Russell, a management consultant and author of It’s Not About the Time, talked about arranging the arc of your life by passion, not minutes on the clock.  In The Coming Financial Crisis, John Truman Wolfe writes of another bankster invasion like the 2008 crash and a way to protect your assets.

I took 5 pieces of wisdom about institutions from these books:

  1. An institution/corporation speaks the methods of an industry and the culture of that company. Work there, acquire the discipline but don’t internalize the company. It is not a person (despite the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling) and doesn’t have a conscious, so don’t hold on. It won’t. Leave.
  2. The clock tells you more about passion than time. If you are watching it often, best to make some big adjustments. Use that same formula on your personal life.
  3. The United States government will fail you. Be extremely conscientious with your wealth. Diversify. If a bank goes belly-up, you will be on the line for anything over $100,000. Doink!
  4. Your primary focus is to acquire skills that speak to your talents. Use institutions – rather than letting them use you – to learn as much as possible.  Take your developed talents and build the work you want.
  5. Institutions are now hiring in waves and will no doubt be shedding in the near future. Hire, fire seems to be the norm. It’s a bad trip on the merry go-round and if you want to get off, you can. (Institutions suffer as well in the hire-fire model as they reinvent wheels wildly… but that’s their problem.) In your mind, isolate your passion and talent and figure out your business. Start it. Work hard. Put the money in gold or land.

You are the answer. As our trust in institutions hits a new low, a new model might be in order. Maybe as trust slowly returns (and everyone hopes it will!), the promise of #tech – the freedom from cubicle life – will finally be realized. That would be YUuuuge.

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ALIENS AND TRUMP

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Donald Trump has a hotline where you can report illegal aliens. Here’s a big news report on the new phone system: dumb alien phone line.  Now, you and I know that ALL of the little green men are illegal, but how can you prove it?  No papers, no luggage, nothing. Squat. Just a bunch of shiny metal, contrails and blinking red lights. Those guys are small, bug-eyed, and bendy. Illegal aliens go everywhere and fit in many places Donald Trump cannot.

So The Donald got that part of the alien equation wrong.  But, he got another part right: LAUNCH A COUNTER-NARRATIVE TO COVER THE TRUTH, a truth, Nick Redfern says, that is far from what many choose to believe. In The Roswell UFO Conspiracy: Exposing a Shocking and Sinister Secret, Redfern finishes the research he began in 2005’s Body Snatchers in the Desert, just in time for the 70th anniversary of that famous – and infamous – crash in the desert in New Mexico.  His findings? Well, no spoiler alert here. You’ll just have to read it.

And once you read it, you’ll have to decide – was the government’s cover-up story more believable than the truth? Maybe. Just invent a plausible counter-narrative and never give in, something that Mr. Trump does so well. Create another chaotic story to cover the first chaotic story you made up to cover something you weren’t supposed to do in the first place. Magicians call it indirection. We call it a big fat lie.

So, the American government is a bit like a teenager who, no matter what the activity, is always telling the parents that they are at a movie at the mall.  Mom and Dad cry foul and, in the case of Trump, so do the American people.  But beware, some made-up stories work too well and steal the past right out from under people.

Enjoy your little green men but keep you eye on story simmering under the story someone is shoving down your throat. Listen for what you don’t hear.

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Visit with author Nick Redfern

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Critics Cringe: It’s Good If You Say So

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Spoiler Alert: I am married to the man that wrote this book. I published the book; The New York Times did the editing. (Big shoutout! Less work for me.) None of that is interesting. What is of note is that I was sitting next to him as he listened to so many of the performances in this book.  I also watched as the world of classical music reacted to his reviews. Most days, they wanted to kill him. And that, folks, is a critic doing a job well. He or she is not there to make a bunch of friends.

Despite the ill will in the business, audience members often came up to him after a performance and wanted to know what he thought. He’d grunt a bit and say “what did YOU think?” When they responded, I never heard him put them down. He always said the same thing, “it’s good if you think it is.”

That is the point. Nothing matters but the individual having a reaction to the material and performer on stage. A “review” can tell you what happened, connect that moment to a longer continuum and give you a vague idea if it’s something you might like. Beyond that, critics really can’t do much for you because it’s about you.Your experience, in the end, is the only one that matters.

Because of him, I often traded in the soul-shattering work on Hendrix for the soul-shattering work of Wagner. My husband’s reaction? Made perfect sense to him because, as he said, “they are both great.” I got him to deconstruct the opening  chords of Baba O’Reilly. He taught the mean beauty of the opera Wozzeck, Lulu and Otello. I still remember Rusalka singing to the moon.  He wrote a piece comparing a Schubert song cycle to Bob Dylan’s 2001 masterpiece, “Ain’t Talkin.” I like to think I had a hand in that.

Like Alex Ross, the New Yorker critic who worked under Holland, these critics jump around, writing about classical as well as all the other music forms, though I’d say Holland is a boob when it comes to rap. These critics attach classical music to a larger world and that matters, that keeps it alive and moving. Holland, in particular, is always searching and reading about history, context, source material. It’s not a commitment to anything, it’s just his curious mind at work.

With Something I Heard, he put a long career of listening to music in one place so that an arc would appear. You’ll have to read it to see. (The ebook is in a promotion and available on amazon for coffee change.)

Is there a future for classical music? What a stupid question. If it’s good, there is. Even this aging rocker feels that Marta Argerich is as good as Tina Turner. Yeah, this is a divided house that stands.

To order: Something I Heard, click on the title.

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Q&A With UFO Researcher Nick Redfern

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or Nick Redfern’s World of Whatever 

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(Look carefully at the photo above. Can you spot our visitors from another world?)

Q) Do you have favorite “days” in the 365 UFO book?

A)  On the night of October 25, 1973, there was a very weird Bigfoot-UFO encounter in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The weirder side of the Bigfoot phenomenon interests me a lot. Also, the crop circle phenomenon is one that interests me a great deal, too. There are 4 or 5 such cases in the book of crop circles.

Q) Are there stories and reports that just keep drawing you back in?

A) Yeah, I would say the Men in Black-type cases. That whole phenomenon (MIB, Women in Black, Shadow People, etc) is my favorite to investigate and write about. I keep coming back to it and probably always will! It’s very different to the MIB of the movies – much creepier and weirder.

Q) Have you always “believed” or has there been an episode in your life you couldn’t explain?

A) Well, I try not to get caught up in belief systems too much. I try and work on facts and evidence. But, yes I have had some weird experiences over the years. I have had a lot of very strange synchronicities. I also had a very strange experiences with a ghostly pet back in 2003, Charity the Sharpei, who was a great friend and still missed.

Q) What is the most disturbing aspect of UFO phenomenon? The most hilarious?

A) The most sinister aspect, as I see it, is when people get manipulated by the phenomenon and it can have a big, adverse effect on them. I think there is a dark side to the phenomenon that manipulates people deliberately and it can cause a lot of havoc. Some of the most hilarious stories are those from the 1950s, the era of the Contactees. One of them, Truman Bethurum, told of meeting an alien woman named Aura Rhanes. He described her as being “tops in shapeliness and beauty!” There are lots of wacky stories like that!

Q) Do you think we’ll ever find out what happened at the most famous of sites/crashes?

A) It’s hard to say. Roswell is the most famous crash case and, even with the 70th anniversary now looming on the horizon, we still don’t really know what happened. And no files have ever surfaced. So, it’s very difficult to know for sure what happened. I’m not sure with Roswell if we will ever get the proof of what happened. It may be in lock-down mode forever.

Q) If you could stand at any moment during all we know of the history of ufo sightings, what moment would you want to see?

A) I would go back to the Foster Ranch, Lincoln County, New Mexico in early July 1947. That was when and where the Roswell craft came down. Ideally, I would be right there as it slammed into the ground and I would know what really took place.

Q) If I saw a UFO, I’d run. Is that the correct response? (I’m thinking, “never run from a lion, they’ll think you’re prey” here…)

A)I think the ideal thing to do is stay there and take it all in. But, some people are definitely traumatized by UFO encounters, and it’s hard to predict how people might respond when faced with a UFO.

Q) What’s the scariest place you’ve ever been? I was afraid of the monster on the Mekong in your book. Whoa that thing scared me.

A) I don’t really get frightened on expeditions, etc. For me, it’s more of an Adrenalin rush. I have had a lot of good times on Puerto Rico searching for the Chupacabra. The island’s El Yunque rain-forest is a mysterious and cool place!

We have a special promotion to celebration Nick’s work, the perfect “big picture” UFO, monster-hunting, crop circle whirling tour-de-force through every day of the year through history:  365 Days of UFOs by Nick Redfern.

Failing through Busy-ness? Stop.

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from Nan Russell’s It’s Not About the Time 

There are many types of pain. Feeling overwhelmed, chronically exhausted, or unable to stretch non-elastic time to t what needs doing is one kind. So is wanting to do one thing and having to do another; knowing the people you love most feel low on your priority list; or giving up hope you’ll ever move toward that life dream.

When you believe you can time-manage yourself out of that kind of pain, which is what I tried for years, life tends to offer its version of a wake-up call: head- aches, illness, anger, outbursts, insomnia, overeating or drinking—you name it. If the pain gets bad enough we seek change.

Consider whether you’re ready:
1. Do you want to move away from the pain of over- whelmed and busy-busy-busy?
2. Are you willing to try something other than more time-management techniques that treat only symptoms?
3. You consider with an open mind that your time- problem isn’t about time.
Consider the statements below. If you’ve had enough and want to change it, check it. If it’s out of control sometimes, but more okay for you than not, leave it blank.

  1. I’m tethered to work 24/7/365; people can reach me via cell anytime and they do.
  2. I use at least part of the weekend to catch up on work.
  3. My life and responsibilities are over owing my ability to get everything I want done.
  4. I don’t have any time to think or be creative and that hurts the quality of my work.
  5. I have out-of-control numbers of unopened emails and just ignore some.
  6. I need to delegate more but have no time to train or hire anyone.
  7. My New Year’s resolution was to improve work-life balance and I broke it in weeks.
  8. Significant others in my life complain about my lack of time and attention.
  9. I feel at the end of my rope more days than not.
  10. I can’t remember the last time I unplugged and relaxed, even on vacation.
  11. I feel compelled to check my phone every few minutes to make sure I don’t miss something important.
  12. I know that stress and pressure are affecting my health and well-being.
  13. I keep hoping things at work and home will change.
  14. 14. There are so many things I’d like to do, but I just don’t have time to do them.

Self-scoring: Only you know if something is too much, too little, or just right for you. However, typically if you checked eight or more, i.e. more than half, there’s a consistent problem that time-management alone is unlikely to solve.

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RETWEET: WIN 1 HR W/TIME EXPERT

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Nan Russell is a business-time management consultant who has met her share of talent in need of direction. Her latest book, It’s Not About the Time  will help you harness your talent and put it on what matters to you the most.

Stop twirling and learn to prioritize and say no. Learn what has meaning and where you should put your focus, never allowing just anyone to pull you off your course. Life happens. But with It’s Not About the Time, you have new tools to accomplish YOUR wants and needs.

In your hour consult, you’ll talk about:

  • Your goals, immediate and long term
  • How you spend your days
  • How you should spend your days
  • How to set boundaries and use time
  • How to do what you love for more hours everyday
  • Have a good life that matters to you and the people you care about

Is this a conversation you need to have?

Email Beth@LisaHaganBooks.com or Lisa@LisaHaganBooks.com to join the contest.

Entries should be received before March 15, 2017.

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#Cliches are not good, but… #writing

 

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from Keep It Short by Charles Euchner

#CLICHES

To give clichés life—to make them fresh and original again— find something surprising to add to them.

Too often, we use familiar ideas without really under- standing their meaning. We repeat phrases and ideas carelessly.

When we overuse expressions, we live in a fool’s paradise. We cannot hold a candle to the halcyon days, our salad days, when we suited the action to the word and revealed the naked truth. But we give short shrift to language, writing with neither rhyme nor reason. And we lose such stuff as dreams were made of, at’s neither here nor there, since these expressions are dead as a doornail. Coming full circle, we realize, more in sorrow than anger, and it’s a foregone conclusion that overuse of such terms is a fatal vision. So, in one fell swoop, we throw cold water on it.

All of those expressions come from Shakespeare. ese expressions once expressed ideas with freshness and originality. But used over and over, they have lost their vitality. Too o en, we use these clichés not because they express ideas well, but because they o er a simple way to say something. ey let us say something without thinking.

Remember you want to make the reader see, feel, helpless, harmless. Milo’s dead.” By using the slack, disinterested tone of a gumshoe, Lynch moves us away from sickly sentimentality.

 

Samuel Beckett uses clichés in playful ways to make them fresh. He writes: “Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards.” And then, describing the odor of graveyards, he added that he will breathe in the smell of corpses “when take the air I must.” In her memoir of family suicide, Joan Wickersham freshens a stale image: “Cal may have had pots of family money, but my husband didn’t even have a small saucepan.”

Whenever possible, though, avoid clichés. Lush detail—observation of sights, sounds, smells—helps to create original expressions.

Nack could just say, “I thought about that horse day and night. I couldn’t get Secretariat out of my mind. It popped up no matter where I was or what I was doing” Zzzzzz. Instead, Nack uses compelling images to show how Secretariat shaped every minute of his life.

Write like Bill Nack. Always look for the fresh images—ideas that are familiar, but which other writers have not used before—to help the reader experience the scene –

smell, taste, touch, imagine—and think of more familiar the images, the less you will engage your reader.

“Cliches,” Geoffrey Hill notes, “invite you not to think.” Cliches give use easy, lazy was of expressing our- selves. As Hill notes, “you may always decline the invitation.” When you feel tempted to use a cliché, stop. Get in the habit of considering how to state a point simply—or think of a fresh, original way of making a point.

To avoid the dreariness of clichés, play with them. Start by looking at its literal meaning. Porter Abbott explains:

When the orator urges his or her auditors “to strike while the iron is hot,” how many of them see the sweating blacksmith at his forge and feel his magical transmutation into new meaning? The answer is none. But when one tramp suggests to another that “it might be better to strike the iron before it freezes” the original vehicle is revived in its literal state.

Taking words literally reveals the cliché’s original insight. When you do a genealogy of clichés, you discover vibrant images that can be revived.

When you change the context of cliché, you can give it new life. In a memoir of his life as an undertaker, Tomas Lynch writes about the death of a neighbor: “Milo is dead. X’s on his eyes, lights out, curtains.”

 

For more details on Keep It Short, click on the title.

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Write with the Body

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…excerpt from KEEP IT SHORT by Charles Euchner 

#SENSE AND SENSIBILITY

Reading is a sensual experience. So use the senses to connect with the reader’s physicality.

Consider the following questions:

You are in a store, checking out backpacks. You are looking for a leather one. How do you go about checking whether the item is made of leather or man-made materials?

You are riding in a cab. A nostalgic, sad song is playing, followed by one with an upbeat rhythm and a sexual pulse. How would the music affect your mood?

When you are in an art gallery, in what manner do you look at the paintings?

Do you enjoy petting furry animals (allergies aside)?

You are given a bouquet of flowers. Your first reaction would be…

You are a completely alone on a private island and there is a crystal-clear lake. It’s hot and you could use a swim. You …

You have set out to furnish your living room. What would best describe the type of furniture that you choose?

 

Whatever you write, think consciously about the physical words you use.

Sight: What do we see when we see? We see brightness, color, shapes, texture, and proportions. We see relation- ships between things.

Often, when I am working on research or a draft, I need to visualize what I’m thinking before I understand it. So I draw pictures—shapes showing relationships, levels of importance, movement, and more.

If you can get your reader to see your subject, you have won the battle. It’s as if you’re side by side, look- ing at a painting in a museum, like Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” See those lonely people in the diner? It’s late. Nothing’s happening outside. Everyone looks so alone. But the couple—they’re together, right? Are they on a date or just getting a smack after a long night at work. They don’t look intimate. The soda jerk is paying attention, though. What about that man at the end of the diner? He’s really alone. Once you start to see the pictures, you start to tell the story—and interpret what it means.

Also give your writing color. The colors’ many qualities—primary or secondary, dark or bright, simple or complex—contribute to a mood. In music, color describes a piece’s emotional feel. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony evokes darkness, while his Fourth evokes brightness.

Colors also conjure emotions. Red evokes power and sexuality, yellow intelligence and joy, blue tranquility.

 

How do you feel about things like the smell of a spring breeze, the air shortly after rain, a brisk winter wind, the ocean, or a sunny day?

How often do you engage in meditation or deep breathing exercises?

When walking down the beach, do you take off your shoes or sandals?

When you read a novel, do you picture the scenes in your head as you’re reading them?

These questions are part of a sensuality test that Psychology Today posts on its website. (Take it yourself at http://bit.do/sensualitytest.) The test helps you to under- stand just how physically you experience the world with your senses of sight, sound, touch, and smell.

My purpose here is to get you to write physically. Even when exploring dry and abstract topics, I want you to think sensually. When you do, you can connect with your reader—capture her attention, hold it, get it to consider your ideas wholeheartedly, and remember and reflect what you want to convey.

Language, I submit, is a physical experience. When you use language well, you can make your audience con- nect with the topic physically. A description of cold cre- ates a shiver; of music, a sense of rhythm and time’s pac- ing and feel; of texture, a tactile feeling of smoothness or roughness or slipperiness or more; of light or shapes, a sense of appearance.

 

Sound makes us pause, lean in, and listen. Sound makes us attentive. Think of the times in your life when you stopped doing something … because … you heard something. “What’s that?” you asked. You could not con- tinue until you learned something about the sound. You needed to find out whether it mattered.

The power of language is really the power of sound. Alliteration—the repetition of the same consonant sounds—somehow evokes meaning. S’s sometimes sound slithery, sometimes soft, and sometimes hissing. K’s sound hard and abrupt, almost like a collision or an attack. L’s sound lilting and lithesome, light and uplift- ing. P’s sounds somewhat silly, plopping and plunking and puffing along. We could go on.

Don’t think too hard. Just listen to the sounds you write and pay attention to how they make you feel. You’ll know when there’s a fit and when there’s not. Now look at these images: blue is patience but also coldness and depression, orange – courage and confidence, endurance and friendliness, and green money and nature.

From Keep it Short by Charles Euchner 

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