Books A-Blaze’n, National Voice Talent and Cranking up the Marketing

Did any of my readers recently hear something strange, sounding similar to that of a sigh? Then you heard correctly! Emanating out of South St. Paul, were the utterances of great relief demonstrated by Devon and me, resulting from the arrival of the finally complete, last edition of my memoir, Seeing Light in the Darkness.

Now that the book is released, the next chapter begins-marketing it. One of the avenues for such things is to email press releases to media outlets: newspapers, magazines, TV and radio.

By the way, I love doing radio interviews because I don’t have to worry about if I face the wrong way.

 

Speaking of promotion, Devon and I narrowed our choices of voice talent for developing an audio download version of my book to one reader in particular, Alan P. Johnson. We came to this decision after listening to dozens of voice talent demos on the website www.acx.com.

What we liked about this individual was his versatility with character voices and his smooth, tonal qualities. But here’s where this story travels into the realm of the fantastic!

In the waning days of October, I attended the University of Scouting, an event sponsored by the Boy Scouts of America. This event is a day of training that includes a chance for people like me to promote my business. During one of the slower moments of the day, another vender came over to kill time. We began chatting and I asked him what his involvement in the event was.

“I have a table across the way,” he responded.

“Oh. What kind of service do you provide to the scouts?” I asked.

“I’m a juggler,” he answered.

We continued to talk and he revealed he was also an actor and did voice work. The moment he mentioned voice work, I asked, “What did you say your name was?”

He said, “Alan Johnson.”

“Do you demo your voice work on the website www.acx.com?”

It turns out Alan is the very voice talent Devon and I singled out as the one we like best among the dozens we sampled weeks earlier! This, yet again, amplifies one of the themes of my memoir, that there is no such thing as coincidence. I believe God sent this fellow Christian into my life to give me just the assistance I need in my new venture. We have an appointment to meet next week to discuss producing an audio recording of my book.

 

Devon tuned in the latest Planet of the Apes movie with Krypto sitting alongside her on the couch. Suddenly he jumped off the couch, ran into my office where we keep a ton of his squeaky baby toys. After digging around amongst his too many choices he came running back to the couch with, naturally, his squeaky monkey baby.

 

My Kickstarter campaign is over. It ran for the 1 month recommended period of time, and though I raised $3712.00 by completion, I fell short of my $11,000.00 goal, preventing me from using any of the donations pledged since Kickstarter is based on a principle of ‘all or nothing’.

I had great hope I would raise the necessary funding to assist in covering the production and initial marketing expenses to give my book greater visibility on the national scene. The Kickstarter website said a campaign could run for any length of time but recommended 1 month to give urgency to the project and keep everyone’s enthusiasm high. Since I’ve always tended to obey authority, I followed their suggestion. My decision in part, was based on the assumption that Kickstarter would highlight or drive traffic to my project. But I assumed incorrectly. The Kickstarter fund raising powers that be arbitrarily feature projects they deem worthy over others, such as mine. If I had known this before posting my project, which could not be amended once going live, I would have run the campaign longer to increase my chances of recruiting the necessary numbers of sponsors

As Kickstarter defines success, my project failed.  But if success is defined by the point-of-view laid out in the pages of my book, my project was a success. The campaign has created a greater awareness of my work and reminded people about its social relevance to those disabled and those who work with the disabled. I know the approach I’ve used throughout my life to overcome difficulties can help others but is now, just going to take longer to become known in the market place.

 

The good news is my memoir is now available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and soon on iTunes.

Thanks to all who supported me in spirit and financially.

 

Something that can be truly placed within the category of coincidence is the behavior of our dog, Krypto. Whenever Devon realizes she needs a nap, Krypto comes to this same conclusion about himself. He’ll hop up on the bed and join Devon for a much needed snooze, the length of which coincides with Devon’s needs.

It’s by far, his favorite inactivity.

All About Devon

 

My relationship with Devon is one of the reasons that explain why I stay so upbeat despite the physical challenges with which I deal. But for the most thorough explanation of my perspective on handling what life can dish out, I encourage those struggling with difficulties and uncertainties to read my autobiography.

Basically, something that has always been a help to me is being grateful for my blessings. And acknowledging how much worse it could be. I have countless more blessings for which to be grateful, in contrast to the challenges.

As I observe the world around me, I’m inspired and humbled by people I know, such as Devon’s cousin, Laura, who, after years of inconclusive tests, was recently diagnosed with a disease called Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), for which there is no cure.

Years of testing to discover the cause of her weakening condition has already cut into by half the 8 to 10 years life expectancy resulting from the disease.Nevertheless, Laura continues to demonstrate unyielding spirit, a sense of humor, and positivity. She’s a poster girl, and gives integrity to, the expression “life is a gift.” None of us are guaranteed anything, really. People like Laura obviously realize it’s not all about what you get in life but what you mean to others.

 

As Devon and I finished up the never ending details to get my book on the market in places like Amazon.com, much to our surprise, we saw my book already on sale. Someone on Amazon is advertising a “like new” autographed, 1st edition copy of Seeing Light in the Darkness…and they listed my book for $127.50! Wow! By the way, for anyone interested who has a personally autographed copy of my book, I wouldn’t mind if you manipulated the market by purchasing my book at the inflated price to artificially increase its value!

I don’t know whether to feel honored someone has assigned such value to my book, or be ticked-off because the ingrate is selling my personally autographed life work.All I can say is readers get your copies today before later regretting that you passed up a chance to have a juicy retirement nest egg tomorrow!

 

As faithful readers to my blog already know, Devon and I enjoy Roku, which is a software application that enables internet programming to be played through the TV. We actually spend more time watching movies, documentaries and TV classics on Roku than even select programming recorded on DVR.

Routinely, Devon peruses channel options on Roku to see what’s new. She discovered a music channel called AccuRadio. Like Pandora radio, it gives a large variety of listening choices. What differentiates AccuRadio is the greater degree by which it defines its music categories. For example, Pandora has a Beatles station that plays original and cover tunes of the Fab Four and similar artists on the same station. Whereas, AccuRadio will break it down further to have separate stations for renditions by other artists and genres, original tunes, Beatle solo works etc.

AccuRadio also has lots of stations that play the top 50, 100 or 1000 songs of a musical category, voted by listeners.

Unfortunately, like Pandora, AccuRadio uses 32kb, MP3 format which is a compromise to the sonic quality of the music. However, based on its sound quality, I believe, Pandora actually broadcasts its MP3 music somehow at a higher fidelity.

 

Devon came across something online about “The Great American Smoke Out,” which is an annual event recognized every November 18th  to encourage smokers to kick the habit.

“Do you know what happens on that same day?” she asked me.

“No,” I responded.

“It’s my birthday-November 18th,” she answered. Devon continued, “Maybe that’s why I don’t like becoming another year older. Everyone is so crabby on my birthday!” she exclaimed.

For kicks, Devon taught Krypto to cover my feet with a dish towel while I sit on my recliner.  Food is the ultimate teaching tool for our wonder dog.  She didn’t realize she was creating problems for herself.  Because Krypto will do anything for the all precious T-R-E-A-T he will likewise do anything to change the odds to his favor, namely grab clean dish towels and lay them on my feet. He may have a future as a locker room attendant.

Going viral in my next blog.

Fair Enough, Perfect Timing, Researching a Voice, and That is the Rub

As the dust settles after completion of my Kickstarter campaign, which fell short of my lofty goal of raising $11,000, it’s time to return to regular blogging.  The fact I didn’t reach my Kickstarter goal should not cause Argentina, nor any other country or person, to cry for me. Many people who pledged monies through Kickstarter, which uses an all or nothing fund raising method, re-pledged their donation to assist the cost of initial marketing and promotion of my book, Seeing Light in the Darkness: A Story of Surviving Affliction with Laughter and Grace. So far I have received about $1,500 in the form of checks.

I owe my greatest thanks to those who have, in spirit or financially, supported me in getting my book in the hands of those dealing with difficulties.

I have an addendum to my previous post on our State Fair adventures.

As we were wheeling around, out of the din we heard, “Jeffo!”

Devon stopped, turned and exclaimed, “Oh! Hi! How are you?”

The subject she greeted was a friend of a friend who had been referred to me to edit portions of my Kickstarter video in an attempt to raise funding support for the production and promotional costs of my book, Seeing Light in the Darkness: A Story of Surviving Affliction with Laughter and Grace.

Devon had yielded to her instincts to not hurt anyone’s feelings and faked that she remembered who he was. Well, it bit her. Kevin had never met Devon or me. The only reason he recognized me was because of my image on the Kickstarter video he had edited.

The embarrassing lesson Devon learned is that it never pays to fake it unless you’re an actor.

 

As long-term blog readers know, Devon and I enjoy listening to old-time radio broadcasts to lull us to sleep. A few nights ago, the program Suspense played a drama based on a real-life story about how in 1950, the F.B.I. captured an American scientist who was passing information to the Soviets about the development of the hydrogen bomb.

While we listened, our beloved Krypto was busying himself on the floor, biting his newest toy, a stuffed monster that makes bodily noises when squeezed in different places, such as, burping, snoring, screaming, giggling etc. (If pet owners are interested in intellectually stimulating their dog, quit buying  “dog play things.” We’ve found Krypto’s favorite play things are toys meant for people. Besides, who wouldn’t want to help their dog become all that he can be, anyway?)

The radio show reenacted the countdown of a bomb-test in the Nevada desert. As the announcer, second by second, dramatically counted down to ignition, our attention was riveted.

“5…4…3…2…1…zero”

Instead of hearing the sober rumble of a nuclear explosion, it was drowned out by a fart noise from the innards of Krypto’s monster, perfectly sequenced within the pace of the countdown. As a professional performer, in my role as Amazing Jeffo, I could learn a thing or two about timing from this boy.

 

A friend of mine who works for a local advertising agency referred me to a website: www.acx.com.  This site contains freelance voice talent. I’m hoping through Kickstarter fund raising to hire a professional voice talent to produce a downloadable audio version of my book for the blind and those unable to read print material. It would be a shame not to share my life experiences with other people who deal with physical challenges.

As we audition the demos, Devon and I are amazed with the quality of some of the voices and their credentials, such as v/o on well known products advertised on TV, cartoon voices and reading the memoirs of former presidents.

I’d like to find a voice similar to my qualities, higher pitched, excitable and sensitive. Moreover, since my story spans 50+ years of my life, I want a reader who can act out kid, teen and adult portrayals.

 

I admit there are many occasions when I desperately need to come up with something sweet to help get me out of the doghouse with Devon…O-o-ops! Sorry honey. I forgot you spell-check my blogs. I meant to say, any spouse appreciates a kind comment or two, and, seriously, most of the time, my compliments do not relate to whatever situation I’ve gotten myself into.

For instance, last night I was totally sincere when, before we fell asleep, I said to her, “I’m glad that YOU, and not anyone else, were the one I married.”

“We rub each other the wrong way, just right!” Devon quipped.

 

Unfortunately, ending this blog – that is the rub (as someone once stated)!  But be encouraged; more excitement in my next blog!

Soon to Launch Kickstarter Campaign for Memoir and Sample Chapter

This is a special blog I am posting for my potential Kickstarter supporters. To help people who are interested in funding the production and marketing of my autobiography, Seeing Light in the Darkness: A Story of Surviving Affliction with Laughter and Grace, I thought it would be helpful for them to have the ability to view a sample chapter of my memoir.

What exists is currently only a limited run, working copy edition. My Kickstarter project is live and will run for a limited time. Those who wish to know more about it, and are interested in helping me spread my message through investing in this project, can go to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/amazingjeffo/seeing-light-in-the-darkness-a-memoir-of-humor-and?ref=live.

 

Chapter 5 – Body Traction or “What’s a Nice Kid like You Doing with a Joint like This?”

 

After 30 days in St. Mary’s, I was more than ready for a change of scenery, but St. Joseph’s Hospital wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. My arthritis erupted, causing my knee to swell to the size of a cantaloupe. The pain and constriction in my knee made it almost impossible to walk. A year earlier, I had been referred to Dr. Frank Babb, a stern-looking Englishman with round, wire-rimmed glasses and an innovator in the field of orthopedic surgery. He founded St. Anthony Orthopedic Clinic in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Arriving back home, we made an appointment to see Dr. Babb. He had already casted me two or three times over the course of the last year (unfortunately not for a Hollywood movie, but for my repeatedly constricting knee). Each of these times, I’d be anesthetized, and my knee would be forcibly straightened, then put in a cast. I’d awake from my comfortable drug-induced slumber, and as the anesthesia wore off, my knee would throb. Eventually the pain would subside as my knee adjusted to being straight. I’d be in a cast for about a month, but each time the cast was removed, my knee would return to its former position: a 45-degree flexion.

 

Between these castings, physical therapy was prescribed which consisted of my dad dropping me off at St. Joseph’s Hospital three times a week for sessions lasting three hours in the morning throughout third grade. The physical therapist and my parents thought spending mornings in PT and the balance of the day at school sounded like a sensible plan -  —but no one had asked me.

As we arrived at school following my first session of therapy, my mom said, “I packed a bag lunch in case you missed the hot lunch.”

I didn’t mind so much the novelty of having a bag lunch at school; since, after all, this had been the daily fare I had enjoyed in front of the TV with my old buddy Casey Jones in earlier times. Though what I hadn’t anticipated was eating alone in the lunch room. The unintentional segregation from my fellow students left me with an overwhelming sense of isolation. I broke down in tears. “What’s the matter Jeffrey? Is your arthritis hurting?” enquired a sympathetic lunch lady.

“Yes,” I sobbed, too embarrassed and confused with emotion to explain my feelings.

“Let me get your teacher.”

Shortly thereafter my teacher appeared with a classmate pulling alongside him her desk chair.

“We don’t have a wheelchair, but Jimmy can roll you around on my desk chair,” Mrs. P. explained.

As we entered the classroom I was overcome by myriad comments:

“Neato!”

“I get to push him next!”

“No fair!  I knew Jeff first,” rang out the voices.

No breaking of bread, nor the most crowded of lunchrooms, could ever have done as much to give me a sense of belonging and rally my spirit. I felt even more special when a few kids commented, “It must be nice going to school only in the afternoon, huh, Jeff?”

 

Friendship certainly wasn’t a component of my physical therapy. Over the years, the treatment of RA has greatly improved. But in the early 60’s, they actually used brute strength to straighten arthritic joints. M-m-m…That felt good…Not!! I saw my physical therapist as the embodiment of pure evil, undoubtedly because I needed a channel for my anger and frustration. After soaking me in a very hot therapeutic tub to loosen muscles and ligaments, which also weakened me to a point where I’d be begging them to take me out of it before the 25-minute timer was up, my therapist would strap me face down on a table and hook heavy weight bags on the back of my heel for about a half hour. The procedure had minimal effect, not only because of the relentlessness of RA, but also because of my efforts to relieve the painful stretching by lifting my rear end against the belt holding me down, which countered its therapeutic intent.

Months after completing my physical therapy, my family was out for dinner at a club that was sponsoring a bingo night; I suddenly realized the bingo caller was my evil therapist. I pointed her out to my mom as I gasped, “Mom! Look! It’s that devil lady!” “Jeffrey!” said my mom, “That’s very rude. That’s Helen. She’s a very nice lady.”

“She’s evil!” I insisted.

My mom assumed a pleasant countenance while painfully squeezing my arm and said with an exaggerated smile, “People are just trying to help you. I don’t want to hear any more of that from you.”

I knew I had no chance of winning bingo as long as my therapist was calling out the numbers. Neither winning at bingo nor succeeding at physical therapy was in the cards.

 

My physical therapy was discontinued once Dr. Babb realized its futility. “Jeffrey, I’ve given this problem knee a lot of thought and decided I have no other choice but to put your leg in traction.” Hearing the word “traction” conjured up images of a tractor. They’re going to put me into a tractor? How’s that going to help? I was once again admitted to St. Joseph’s Hospital. Spending all that time prostrate, I could have used a concept like “frequent flier” points, but in my case “frequent lie-er” points. My first few days in the hospital were devoted to measurements, x-rays, and blood transfusions, which left me with a lot of idle time.

St. Joseph’s staff was made up of nuns who were also licensed nurses. Although some people erroneously stereotype nuns as stern and stodgy, I found them anything but. Stunts and pranks were the order of the day. Practical joking in the hospital was, for me, a passive-aggressive way to rebel. I overturned the apple cart whenever possible, launched paper airplanes off the sun deck of the hospital’s roof, disappeared during mandatory nap time, (eventually being found hiding in playroom cabinetry), and raced down the hall in my wheelchair. I pretended my small wheelchair was an Italian sports car– slim, aerodynamic, and highly maneuverable. I could lock up one or both of my wheels by slamming down the hand breaks to either make a hair-pin turn or stop on a dime if a nurse gave me “the look”. The main drag of the pediatric wing provided perfect racing conditions: lengthy and on an incline; my fingers were the pistons, my muscles were the cylinders that revved my motor and got me up and going. Any patient I challenged on the pediatric floor was summarily beaten —I retired undefeated. My little hands were strong. Arthritis hadn’t yet affected them with the exception of that initial finger, which my mom first noticed was swollen as I played with my brother Dave three summers earlier.

 

Racing wheelchairs wasn’t enough to satisfy or occupy my restless nature, so I decided to shoot hospital booties up the in- house mail vacuum tube. My ammo depot was a canvas cart transporting dirty laundry on its way to be washed.

“Hey mister, can I ride in your thing?” I asked the orderly. “Are you kidding? It’s full of dirty clothes!” said the laundry attendant.

I waited until he stopped to collect more laundry, then grabbed some booties conveniently perched on top of the pile, stuffed them in my bathrobe pockets, and went on my way. I only wish I could have seen the expression on the nurse’s face that opened the tube on the next floor. You might ask, “Where were the nurses while you were perpetrating this?” Strangely enough, standing right there with me, finding it all-so amusing (talk about team building). I became such a fixture at the nurses’ station, they allowed me on occasion to answer the incoming intercom requests. I’d respond to the buzz of the intercom with the authoritative voice of a six -year -old, “Can I help you?” Although I’d typically stutter in a situation like this, I didn’t because I was so exhilarated by their confidence in me.

 

Once I got into a lot of trouble by taking apart my TV set during mandatory nap time. I used a small tool kit purchased during my just completed Mayo/St. Mary’s junket. The mini toolkit was one of the pieces that I considered essential, and I slipped it into the suitcase my mom packed for me. The toolkit had all that a five- year-old handyman could possibly need—screw driver with interchangeable bits, poker, punch, and a wrench. Getting out of bed, I removed the back of the TV, pulled out some tubes and cables along with unscrewing some other “pieces” (I don’t know what they were). A nurse happened to come in and said, “You took the TV apart!”

  “I was trying to get a better picture,” I answered.

“You better get this thing back together before nap time is over or else…”

I stuttered “O-Okay.” Not knowing whose wrath would be greater, my parents or the nun, fear fueled my inspiration, and I quickly put the TV back together in complete working order. Back in those days, hospital’s TVs were an a la carte item: two dollars a day (wheeled in on a “carte”). Later, as weeks progressed after surgically hooking me up to body traction, my father, always tight with a dollar, was outraged by what he called a daily “usury” fee and negotiated to buy his own 19-inch Zenith TV for my personal use and had it delivered to my room.

TV’s must have inspired naughtiness in me. I always preferred a private room, probably to command all the attention from adults.

Overcrowding once necessitated getting a little roommate, much to my displeasure. To show my annoyance, I changed my TV viewing habits from children’s shows like Captain Kangaroo and Dave Lee’s Popeye and Pete to news broadcasts and programs like As the World Turns and The Guiding Light.

“You can’t really like soap operas,” asked my roommate’s mom incredulously.

“Oh, sure! I don’t watch kid stuff,” I lied.

Just because I have multiple disabilities doesn’t mean I can’t also sometimes be a jerk.

Except for those times when I’d get in trouble, daytime activities kept my spirits relatively high. But the nights were long. When my parents’ schedule allowed only a daytime visit, at night I paced to the end of the long hallway and back. Each end had a large picture window, one facing the mural identifying by name the New York Tea Company building. The other window framed the majestic Minnesota State Capitol. When the spotlights shone, the golden sculpture of a chariot with a team of galloping horses at the base of the dome magically glowed.

But when an evening visit was in order, I’d sometimes worry too. When dinner was over, I’d lie there wondering, without warrant, whether my mom and dad would come, dreading the thought of being alone. Straining to identify every clip-clop from the hallway, I’d think, That sounds like my dad’s feet, but those don’t sound like my mom’s steps, or vice-versa. Since I was but one of many children in that ward, I went through a roller-coaster of emotions every night until the clip-clops stopped at my doorway.

I didn’t care that frustrated hospital staff once took my call button away after I continually rang it, seeking adult playmates— because it made me eligible for the “no-bell” prize! My charms and offbeat silliness regularly bailed me out of trouble. Combined with my parent’s training in politeness and manners, I was saved from severe discipline, even allowing me to get privileges other children would not receive, such as having tea and crackers with the head nurse of the pediatric ward in her office. One privilege came as a direct result of my courage under fire. Since it often took four people to hold me still enough for an IV insertion, I made the head nurse (the mother superior) promise that if I was a good boy when the IV transfusions were completed, I’d be allowed to have buttered crackers and tea with her in her office. So as it turned out, I had my IV taken out at midnight and then reminded Mother Superior of her agreement. “A promise is a promise,” I said. She acquiesced. After downing many saltines, I said, “I think I would like one more cracker, please.”

“You’ve had enough. It’s now time for bed,” she said smiling. I believe everyone except for me was looking forward to having me encased in body traction for their respective reasons. Dr. Babb wanted to add to his success story portfolio and fulfill his Hippocratic Oath. My parents were hopeful that traction would eventually return their son to a more normal existence. The hospital staff was grateful for the chance to regroup from my ongoing pranks.

The three-month plan was to incrementally turn screws attached to wires elevating my leg and straighten it out over the course of time. I can’t really tell you about the process of being put into full- body traction because I was anesthetized at the time, but I woke up amazed to see this Rube Goldberg contraption around me. It obviously did not come from a kit. In the operating room, doctors assembled a combination of wood, wire, plaster, cotton, and screws. Ta-Da! I was fully casted in plaster up to my chest except for my right leg. This would turn out to be my longest hospital internment—from mid-November 1964 to mid-February 1965.

As with any kid, parents are the center of their universe. Even if few words were spoken, Mom and Dad’s hospital visits were the sparkling pinnacle of my day. Naturally, I wanted their shiny presence to illume my little world for as long as possible. When either my dad or my mom began fidgeting or glancing at their watches I knew time with them was nearing its end. Desperately, I’d begin conjuring up any form of small talk to postpone the inevitable.

“Mom? Could you read me a story before you go? How about The Three Musketeers?”

“The Three Musketeers?! That would take weeks!” I tried a new tactic. “Dad? How’s the dog?”

“He’s just fine,” chuckled my dad. “Mom? Do you wear a girdle?”

“Do you even know what a girdle is, young man?” questioned my mom.

“Um-m, no, not really,” I answered sheepishly. ”“But I heard about ‘em on TV!”

“I think it’s time we tuck you in. Visiting hours are over; we’ll be back tomorrow night,” Mom said reassuringly.

These were emotionally difficult moments amidst the uncertainty surrounding me. Pulling pranks and interacting with staff and were my tools to keep from worry, and to fill the seemingly endless days.

 

“…With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” 2 Peter 3:8

 

“Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on.” – Bob Newhart

.50 Cal Krypto, Fail-Safe Gambling Stragegy? and Artistic Book Cover

Between Krypto’s bout with cancer, which he miraculously overcame, and now battling with kidney disease that his vet said typically kills a dog within a year, Devon and I deal with Krypto’s poor eating habits. Though the vet tells us he’s so clever he might be using against us our sometimes desperate measures to get him to eat anything, i.e. dog treats, people food etc., when all the while he might simply be holding out for a tastier array of options. In our defense we resort to these generally unapproved methods because when Krypto’s stomach is empty his acid reflux flares up, sometimes even causing projectile vomiting, makes him visibly uncomfortable.

Devon does all sort of tricks to get him to eat not only the meat portion of his diet but the essential non-meat kibble for necessary calories. (With kidney disease protein hastens the toxification which eventually leads to death.)

One of Devon’s tricks is to finely blend his canned dog food meat into the low-protein kibble he so disdains so Krypto can’t avoid eating the kibble with the meat…so we thought. Little did we know that our boy is naturally equipped with what I call “sleight of tongue” skills. This is yet another similarity between him and his old man, Amazing Jeffo –  the blind magician. I instead use my hands, not my tongue, to create feats of prestidigitation.

Krypto begins demonstrating his deft tongue skills when, after grabbing a mouthful of meat/kibble, he, In what seems like no time at all, cleans off every bit of the meat and spits out the kibble. Devon’s annoyance becomes obvious during this amazing process. Krypto might decide with a mouthful that he needs to potty outside. He’ll go over and ring the bell on the handle of the back door to tell us he needs to relieve himself to comfortably continue his meal. After letting him out, Devon will notice a straight line of kibble from his dish to the back door that he has spit out along the way.

By how quickly Krypto eats the meat/kibble combination, or how concentrated is the kibble we find tongue-cleansed and scattered around the kitchen, we are able to determine which mode of spitting he used: single or auto fire.

 

Having somewhat an addictive nature combined with being an extrovert, I feed on the excitement of gambling. The wisdom of my wife along with the distance and difficulty getting to a casino keeps me on the straight and narrow. As an outlet, I’ve been playing computer games of blackjack and 5 card draw, adapted with speech for the blind.

Playing at home without the pressure of using real money, I’ve learned some principles that may be helpful to my readers. My advice exclusively pertains to blackjack since I’ve just started playing 5 card draw.

First, don’t feel obligated to take a hit on something as low as 16. Instead, put the dealer into the same uncomfortable situation. You’d be surprise how many times he busts.

Second, never, let me repeat, never play by the clock. If you do, you’ll too often make too large of a bet to make up for a loss. Before you know it, all the time you’ve put into getting ahead will disappear faster than David Copperfield says, “Hocus Pocus!”

Since I can’t offer any advice yet about 5 card draw, I’ll tell about my beginner’s luck. My third game, I started with $500 and after 106 hands, I won 1.7 million dollars of play money. I got a call from Milton Bradley who apparently now works for the IRS. He says I owe them $850,000 of play-dough.

 

We just received for our approval the new cover art created by Xulon Press. We love it! Don’t worry; the same picture remains of Krypto and me racing along, the wrong way, in a snazzy sports car. But by reworking the surrounding art and title lettering, it gives the book a whole new, professional finish. Devon showed the cover to a friend of hers at work who saw it and said, “Wow! It makes me want to reach out and grab it!”

Also, Xulon just emailed telling us to expect the reformatted contents of the book to be done in 3-5 days. The reformatted size, 6 by 9 inch, will be more conformed to current standards and save me printing costs due to less waste of paper from the printing of my current size, 8-1/2 by 5-1/2 inches.

Once we approve the reformatted results, I’m guessing it then is formatted to the eBook formats: Kindle, iTunes, Nook, Sony, and others.

Speaking of format, my next blog will be forMatt forBill forMary or anyone else out there.

Adlibbing on Stage and the MN State Fair

The type of humor I possess is unpredictable by its nature. The combination of sarcasm and ad-lib can result in some of my funniest comebacks. Before a recent preschool show, one of the little ones noticed a slight protrusion of the decorative cloth covering my new table due to my elevated broken leg. I heard him turn to a nearby buddy and say, “Hey look Danny. There’s something under the table!” he said excitedly.

“That’s what we call a foot,” I responded dryly. The humor, of course, escaped the children but the teachers, who overheard the comment, broke up.

 

Devon and I went to the “Great Minnesota Get Together”, otherwise referred to as the Minnesota State Fair. Late August/early September is such a schizoid time of the year when it comes to temperatures around here. Weather can be rainy, cold, hot and humid, all within the same 12 day period, which is the duration of the fare. Since the forecast last Saturday was for mid 90’s, we brought my new transport chair and left as early as possible, arriving at 10 in the morning before the heat kicked in.

When I was a kid the fair seemed so magical with all the events, special foods and lots of wonderful cheap, plastic junk to buy. Local TV and radio stations broadcast their programs as they do today and make it seem all the more irresistible to a kid, such as myself. Unfortunately, my parents frowned on hauling me along because of the immensity of the grounds in a day when accessibility to people with disabilities was yet to be deemed a necessity. Though it took decades, I can say I’ve gotten over these injustices and today focus instead on adult stuff like the overwhelmingly tasty offerings that this year totaled 465 culinary selections.

 

Sighted or not, the fair is a sensory cornucopia. I could feel the mass of people around me that Devon described as a traffic-jammed Snelling Av, only jammed with people instead of with cars. Because one of the rear brakes on my transport chair wouldn’t work, whenever Devon let go of my chair the uneven ground caused me to spin around, then back again. Needless to say we saved big bucks on rides! The droning of little kids crying sounded like mosquitos fading away then coming back to my awareness.

 

But foremost are the smells and flavors. Neither Devon’s digestive abilities nor mine can handle the traditional fair food like mini donuts and deep fried cheese curds, without saying anything about the assault on expectations of having a normal life span. Besides that stuff is boring. We generally try some new things and stick to (mostly) wholesome, yet tasty. My 2013 favorites were pickle dogs and turkey sandwich. The “dog” is a giant pickle covered in cream cheese and wrapped with a lean piece of corned beef. The turkey sandwich was more tender than imagined and accented with combinations of blue or brie cheese, bacon and cranberry.

Devon brought a large bottle of flavored fizzy water to keep us hydrated. She decided that just one bottle would be all we’d ever need based on the principle discovered by the ancient Greek scientist, I’ll call, Fred (Those old names are Greek to me). Fred said that there’s no limit to the divisibility of a particle. He illustrated his point through the distance between one location and another. If you wanted, for example, to go from Minneapolis to Miami by continually dividing the distance in two, you would never arrive in Miami. Ergo, one bottle of flavored fizzy water should suffice since we made sure to only drink half of it at a time.

The places we decided to stop at happened to be all uphill, which was exhausting for Devon. But when it was time to leave we headed back from where we ended, and it was the ride of the Valkyries all the way downhill!! Devon climbed on to the pegs that are used to tip up the transport chair and away we went. The foot pedals really came in handy as scoop and toss catch devices. The sheer speed of the transport chair resulted in clean somersaults of those not quick enough to move out of our way. Up and over our heads they went, not even mussing up either of our ‘dos.

Get out of my way, I”ll be rolling ahead with my next post, in a week.

Memoir at Hand, Tribute, The Great Courses, Curses and a Sit Down Comedian

We sent off to Xulon Press the final additions to my book, Seeing Light in the Darkness: A Story of Surviving Affliction with Laughter and Grace. As part of my $2000 Package, they’ll redo the front and back covers to give the book a more professional appearance. Interested readers can check out their great looking cover designs on Xulon’s website: www.christianpublishing.com. If the quality of these sample covers is any indication of what I can expect, I hope potential readers will, indeed, judge my book by its cover.

On a different note, I’m happy that Xulon, due to a misunderstanding on their part that delayed the production of the book 3 weeks, offered, as an apology, a free banner advertisement in www.crosswalk.com. (I’m told it will be seen by at least 10,000 viewers.)

 

Last week I heard the author Vince Flynn died of prostate cancer. He was only 47 years old. Never having been much of a reader up until the late 90’s when I read all the Ian Fleming and John Gardner portrayals of James Bond, I began seeking more of this type of spy adventure story line. This juncture of time was exactly when Vince Flynn came out with his first novel, which, by the way, was a self-published work. Not only did Flynn become my favorite author (along with David Baldacci, who writes in a similar vein), but Flynn and I had the self-published thing in common. I, in fact, had hoped one day I could meet him and talk about how his efforts had encouraged me to succeed likewise.

 

Ever since I watched a documentary on the Arts and Entertainment network about the first 1000 years of Christianity and a later documentary on the 2nd 1000 years, I became fascinated with the foundations of my faith and the history of the middle ages.

Today everything seems divided into specialties or special interests: Christian vs. secular, Republican/Democrat, military/peace movement, environmental/industry, union/non-union etc. In the middle ages politics, religion, business, military and everyday life were interwoven. More often one event seemed to influence or impact other segments in the social order and aspects of living during that time.

Tom Dosch, an old friend, whose influence in my life I write about in my book, years ago recommended I listen to an audio recorded lecture series covering myriad subjects called the Great Courses.

When another friend more recently made the same recommendation, I looked through a catalogue he brought and ordered 3 different lecture series: the Foundations of Western Civilization, the Art of Story Telling, and The Art of Public Speaking. The latter two  I’m particularly interested in because of my hope to dovetail my writings into a future as a speaker, sharing with people principals and strategies dealing with life’s challenges.

 

Devon and I just purchased two copies of a board game called Curses. Online reviews say it’s the funniest game they have ever played. Basically, the funny part of the game involves receiving a curse card that instructs the player to perform some bizarre action or behavior for the remaining time of the game play. Some examples are: speaking like a pirate while making everything you say come out as an echo; not bending your elbows during the game; before addressing anyone, telling them what insect they remind you of. If anyone catches someone not following their instruction, they are out of the game. Unfortunately, we have to send one game back because it was absent of the curse cards. Figure that?

 

I’m frankly amazed (yes, Amazing Jeffo himself amazed!) with how well my magic and speaking engagements are going, considering I’m presenting from a wheelchair and have had to reconfigure my table and props accordingly. After setting up at a recent show, while waiting for the little preschoolers to enter, my assistant was pointing out how the walls of the playroom were covered with signage having brand logos for Applebee’s, Chili’s, Wendy’s, Wild Buffalo Wings, Caribou, Starbuck’s coffee and more. Maybe since the child care facility is located in an upscale area of the Twin Cities the operation is simply starting the kids early in their pursuit of the great American dream.

Sweet dreams until my next blog post.

Vacation Suprizes, a son and his Dad, Bible Meat and Lots of Yucks

It’s been several days later now, and guess what! The travel company, who gave the aforementioned sales pitch, called and asked me, “Do you remember filling out an entry form to win a free vacation club membership?”

“Well, I don’t know. Let me ask my wife who filled out the paperwork,” I responded.

After yelling this question to Devon in the next room, she answered, “Not really.”

“We just want to tell you folks we had a drawing and you won the membership!” the representative explained excitedly.

Devon, who by now was listening in on the other phone line interrupted, “Oh! Yes! I do remember filling out the form.”

For all I know everybody attending the presentation was called and told they had won. But as long as we can receive discounts equal to the annual renewal rate of $300, we’ll save money on vacations.

 

As I type out my thoughts, my faithful friend, Krypto, is right alongside me. He follows me around the house regardless of where I’m going. Krypto knows not to expect something fun or exciting to happen; he just wants to hang out with his old man. It reminds me of evenings or Saturdays when I would accompany my dad after hours to his office. I’d sit nearby as he worked, without any promise of being entertained or even engaged in conversation.

 

Devon’s work friend, Sarah recommended a local restaurant, new to us, called Phil’s Tara Hideaway. So we decided to try it out for a belated anniversary dinner. Devon wanted to make sure to choose something she’d like – mainly, steak.

“Some steaks like fillet are very tender but not generally as flavorful as sirloin, for example,” I explained.

Trying to decide which among many steaks to order, Devon finally decided on a rib eye.

“A good choice, honey. Rib eye steak gives you the best qualities of several steaks,” I announced. “It’s kind of like the New international Version of the Bible. It has the flavor of the original language but with the tenderness of today’s English.

 

Devon’s need for an annual vacation from her high-pressure job builds throughout the year. When she’s on the last stretch of work before time off, say, a couple of months, she sustains herself by periodically commenting about the amount of days to go.

Naturally, being the tease I am, one week prior to her vacation, I wanted to notch-up her excitement level to the big event, to just short of the boiling point.

“Honey, it’s only 2 more days until 1 day before the last 2 days to wait until your vacation!”

“Don’t say it that way! It sounds like it’s a long way away! Just tell me when it’s the day before the last day of work, or something like that,” she carefully instructed me.

 

I just returned from a show at a Montessori school. I’ve generally found children attending this type of preschool are advanced for their ages. Following my show, which went almost one hour, where I had even the toddlers engaged, a four or five year old boy approached me holding a teddy bear.

“Can you make this teddy bear disappear?” he asked.

“I can only make things disappear during a magic show. Sorry” I responded.

Undeterred, his quick mind changed gears and he responded, “Could you make the teddy bear disappear while you practice?”

 

I was listening to the radio when a public service announcement came on the air for the Blind Heritage Society. They were asking for donations of used automobiles. “It doesn’t matter whether your vehicle is running or not,” the commercial went on to say. “We’ll take it; it’s tax deductible.”

I totally understand their reasoning. A non-running vehicle would be a lot safer for someone blind, anyway. But I must draw the line when the PSA comes on for the “Kars for Kids” organization. Blind drivers, such as me, have greater faculties for making behind-the-wheel decisions than do children.

 

Devon and I just finished watching the remade 1959 “Mummy” movie with Christopher Lee playing the bandaged up baddie. The original movie was made in 1932 starring Boris Karloff. This later version is produced by Hammer films and my favorite of the two. I’m not the only one who liked it. The famous Johnny ‘s Tonight Show borrowed one of its concepts—The Scroll of Life. When the scroll is read aloud, the incantation reanimates the mummy to begin its reign of terror, to those, at least, who can’t seem to keep ahead of its incredibly slow, lurching steps.

The movie explains to us that the Scroll of Life when read aloud, puts into action, the ancient Egyptian god—Carnac.

Speaking of Mummies this blog is a wrap.  National Book release info to follow.

Retooling, Wheel Chair Capers and Snappy Sales Pitch

I finally decided after so many months of inactivity because of the healing of my broken leg, it’s time to get out there among my people. My audience needs me; I need them… and their money!

With the help of friends and using some equipment around the house, I retooled my magic presentation to work while in a wheelchair. With a different kind of table and a new Amazing Jeffo tablecloth façade, I have performed four or five shows and every one is becoming easier. As long as I have to sit during the show, I have to admit it takes a lot less energy than before when I was standing for the length of the presentation.

 

I was encouraged and energized when following my first presentation for a school age child care program, a little boy came up to me and said, “At first I thought you were faking it,” which to me, is a funny enough comment. Of course I’m faking it; they’re tricks, not magic – unless I’m trying to be Criss Angel or something (Mr. Angel is not magic either, in the pure sense of the word). The little boy continued, “But after watching you, I know it is real!”

 

We just discovered my new transport chair comes with a new feature that’s totally unnecessary. Granted, we appreciate any added value as a result of the unit having more qualities than we first realized but it now presents new challenges. The left leg lift is frozen in a fully upright position, making it unusable. As my readers have been already informed, it was my left femur that broke, which necessitated the use of the wheelchair in the first place. However, the reason for the left leg support to be elevated is because of my surgically fused left knee from decades earlier.

It has become inconveniently clear to Devon and me that the chair has a built-in ‘sympathetic pains’ feature. The functionality of this recently discovered sophisticated feature doesn’t take into account that it actually makes things more inconvenient for me to use the chair! We’ve carefully gone over the instructions again and again but cannot find the control for turning off the sympathy pains my wheelchair is experiencing. The manufacturer is sending over their finest I.T. psychologist to solve the issue.

 

After feeling confident enough to take my new wheelchair on the road with us to visit The Mall of America, we stumbled onto one of its advantages in the public market. Devon left me to wait for her while she used the woman’s bathroom. As I waited for her return, several people stopped and asked, “Can I help you?”

“Oh, that’s all right. My wife just stepped into the bathroom,” I responded.

In retrospect, I realize that was the wrong response.

We already had a pouch attached behind the wheelchair, perfect to use for holding our purchases and personal things, such as a supply of my new autobiography, Seeing Light in the Darkness: A Story of Surviving Affliction with Laughter and Grace. So next time in this same situation, I plan to have a copy of my book alongside me when someone approaches and asks if they can help.

“As a matter of fact, yes you can! I happen to have a copy of my new memoir with me and available right now for sale at a special Mall of America price…or I can use the name of any other location where I happen to be at the time. Then once a sale commences, I’ll simply reach behind into the pouch for a fresh copy to place alongside me.

 

We observed a similar phenomenon this past weekend while attending a sales presentation that we attended, frankly, only to get (for sitting through a two hour sales pitch) free round trip airline tickets and motel accommodations. (More about that later).

Since my broken wheelchair wasn’t available, I used my walker.  After arriving at the hotel, site of the presentation, I slid my walker over to the elevator. When its doors opened to reveal an already over-packed elevator, Devon said, “Oh, that’s okay. We’ll just wait for the next one.”

Several people noticed me with my walker, stepped out of the elevator and said, “No, that’s fine –  we’ll just take the stairs.”

 Entering the elevator I said to no one in particular, “Think how many more people would clear out if I had leprosy!”

As we made our way down the hall to the sales presentation room, I knew we must have been close because a guy walking by said to me, “Nice watch!” He was referring to my scratched up, wrist watch with a torn leather strap. I’m not THAT dumb when it comes to sales tactics!

For more sales strategies and funny adventures stay tuned for the next blog.

Kingly Monsters and Dome on the Range

While Devon and I await the repair of our entertainment center we’ve gotten into reading.  Devon downloaded for me The Stephen King novella, The Langoliers. I listened to it using the iPad voiceover feature. No criticism to King as a writer, but he, as do so many others, gives into a stereotype about the blind. In Langoliers, a 12 year old girl who is blind dispenses advice which saves the lives of the other characters in the story.

 

John Arehart, who assisted me in the writing of my autobiography, Seeing Light in the Darkness: A Story of Surviving Affliction with Laughter and Grace, coined a term for this myth about the blind: ‘Blind sage Syndrome’. I suppose brilliant historical figures who were blind, such as Milton and Homer have unintentionally promulgated this fallacy that the blind have a sixth sense, which manifests itself in that person having extraordinary wisdom.

When I brought this up to Devon she said, “I imagine you’re never going to see many blind people correcting this myth. Namely, I’m referring to you, Mr. Play-Anything-I-Can-to-My-Advantage!”

 

Throughout my autobiography, I openly examine how I was able to overcome so many setbacks in my life and, somehow still maintain a positive outlook. The only logical conclusion I kept returning to was that neither I, nor anyone else, could have orchestrated circumstances and events that not only led me through the fires but enabled me to emerge from the adversity and be better for it. I understand that the circumstances of my life that have made me who I am had to have been ingeniously designed, rather than coincidental, and totally outside my control.

So if I’m acknowledging God as the maestro of my circumstances, and now with my greatest challenge at hand – dealing with the personal and professional impact of whether I’ll walk again – I have to put my faith where my mouth is, truly walk the spiritual talk and, in real world terms, test my conclusions.

 

I’m currently reading another Stephen King book called Under the Dome. The story is set in a little town in (where else?) Maine, where most all King’s stories are set. Inexplicably, the entire town is suddenly covered by a transparent and impenetrable dome. The theme of the plot is how people react and deal with this event that’s outside of their control.

As I read along I see a parallel between the story and my life. When a force outside of my control occurs, i.e. a broken leg, what happens on the inside? How do I respond to the challenge? How I react to the situation will emerge and either be an indictment or a testament to the content of my character. Put into everyday terms, am I going to let the recent upheaval of events permanently change my outlook and life in ways that will adversely affect me?

Since breaking my leg, my recovery hasn’t been the norm. I keep thinking, if I can just hold out a little longer, tighten the old belt, I can return to my shows and personal life as it was before. Extraordinary factors that have delayed my recovery have forced me to realize it may not happen. I can’t sit around and keep hoping for things to be the way they were.

Thus, impetus to develop a new kind of presentation, one from a wheelchair, is in plentiful supply and ready to roll ahead.

The first step to move on professionally was to purchase a light-weight 4 ft. by 2 ft. table that my transport chair can fit underneath. I’m also in the midst of changing some of my trick selections to access them more easily from a trick trunk on a chair beside me, instead of the luxury of having trick props on multiple shelves in my existing trick stand.

Where these logistics are leading me is to make my presentations more talk-based, complemented by magic tricks, rather than a magic show, complemented by verbal taglines.

In effect, I’ll be giving audiences more of, what I and marketers call, my ‘unique selling proposition’—using my experience to let people know that you can be the master over tough circumstances, instead of letting the circumstance master you.

Results from my new fangled magic presentation to be reported next post.