Thursday, September 27, 2012

Me And The 7 Deadly SIns!

A little backstory.
Although I generally keep it to myself, I am a practicing Catholic despite the fact I was schooled by a group of violent psychopaths otherwise known as the Roman Catholic Clergy. No, I was not sexually abused, just beaten and humiliated on a regular basis for 12 years.
F**k them, Jesus rocks, let’s move on.
I was taught by my abusers that there were 7 absolutely horrible sins, mortal sins that one must never, ever, commit.
They are, Lust, Envy, Sloth, Pride, Greed, Wrath and Gluttony.
I believe I have committed them all and to be honest, I liked it.
Let’s start with Lust. As a teen I fell in lust with Olivia Hussey, the woman who played Juliet in the movie version of Romeo and Juliet. I say fell in Lust because I didn’t just like the girl, I was absolutely crazy about her! Never in my life had I ever seen a woman so beautiful, graceful and alluring. I had just begun performing as a singer/songwriter and from the moment I saw her, became obsessed with becoming famous so I could meet her and marry her.
Pretty daffy, huh?
Not to me. Unfortunately, she married Dean Martin’s kid and broke my heart before I had the chance to win her over. Such is life.
As for Envy, well, the first time I heard Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, I was envious all right. More than anything I wanted to play guitar that well. He was amazing and I wanted to be that amazing. Alas it wasn’t meant to be. True, I am pretty amazing but fall short of being THAT amazing.
Greed. Yep, that too. I grew up in the Bronx, New York, lower middle class. When I started making money as a musician, I liked it. Really liked it and wanted to have lots and lots of money. Because having money was great and being broke sucked. Really sucked.
Pride. Here’s a story. Under the tutelage of a violent, psychopathic nun in 5th grade, I was instructed to make a soap carving of Jesus on the cross as an art project. So I did. I put in a lot of work and it came out really nice. Just before leaving for school my mom suggested I color in Jesus’ halo with a little yellow paint to make it stand out. I thought that a good idea so I grabbed a toothpick and filled it in. The art teacher (who was a lay person the school had hired) singled it out and went on and on about how good it was. I felt pride in my accomplishment and apparently I needed to pay for that.
After the art teacher left, my nun told me to stand up and began grilling me on the soap carving. Demanding I admit it was carved by someone else. It wasn’t so I didn’t. She wouldn’t let it go. Kept grilling me, demanding I tell her who really did the craving. I stuck to my guns until she asked if it was my mother who craved the soap. Remembering my mother’s suggestion about the halo, I said, “Well, my mother did…” I was going to say, “Well my mother did suggest I put yellow paint on the halo,” but never got that far. Immediately following the words, “Well my mother did…” the nun screamed, “I knew it and proceeded to beat the sh*t out of me.    
Wrath. Although I have a reputation as an easy going guy, regrettably, I’ve never been able to been able to fully let go of the anger I feel toward those violent lunatics who masqueraded as Jesus’ followers. I’m sure they’ve all passed on by now but I pray I never run into to one of them on the street.
Well, that’s my 2 pages but we still have two of my favorite sins, Gluttony and Sloth to cover, so drop by next Monday and I’ll wrap it up.

Have you joined the Noon Revolution yet? Noon: The Rise to Power has ten 5 star reviews. The just released sequel, Noon 2: The Resurgence, has already been awarded a 5 star review. Find out what all the excitement is about and read a sample here:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Know Your Enemy

You need to know this.
Regardless of your political beliefs.
Regardless of your race, creed, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or financial situation.
I am a member of your family.
I know very little about North Dakota. I know where it’s located but I’ve never met anyone from there. Don’t know if I would like them if I did.
But I know this.
If any outsider, any foreign country or even hostile space aliens invaded North Dakota and attacked its citizens, I would grab my rifle, jump in my truck and take off to help defend them. It wouldn’t matter who they supported for president, or whether or not they liked country music or if they are adamantly for or against this or that.
They are Americans and as Americans they are my family and in times of trouble I got their back and have no doubt that if the situation were reversed, they’d have mine.
As the political season grows uglier, we need to remember who we are and what we stand for. Don’t let them convince you there are blue and red states. Don’t buy into the lies that seek to divide us into conservative and liberals, or rich and poor.
Ever hear the saying, divide and conquer?
E Pluribus Unum—Out of many, One.
That is our country’s motto. Remember that.
Over the course of our history hundreds of thousands of our soldiers sacrificed their lives for our protection. The best way to honor that sacrifice is not by having parades, or holding memorials or having big blowout department store sales.
We can honor their sacrifice by taking the time to verify the statements made by the media regarding the people running for elected office. I have seen the most outrageous, villainous and outright treasonous claims made about the presidential candidates as well those campaigning for local office.
It is disgraceful.
I have no idea what your political stance is but I do know this. Even if we were on completely opposite sides of an issue, if we sat down at the table and hashed out our concerns, we would come to a reasonable compromise. It wouldn’t be perfect, compromises never are, but our main concern wouldn’t be about getting our way. It would be about doing what’s best for our fellow Americans.  
I have mentioned in a previous post that Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdock, an Australian who had been under investigation for hacking into people’s personal cell phones and Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal the nephew of the Saudi King. And on the other side of the spectrum, The Daily News is owned by Canadian born Mortimer Zuckerman, a man with a long association with the Israeli lobby.  
Do you think both sides are slanting their news stories to convince you to side with them and to support their issues? Do you think both sides are fanning the fires of derision to make us turn on each other and overlook the fact that they are feathering their own nests at our expense?
I do.
And I will not support or participate.
I believe that as an American you are capable of making up your own mind as to who your elected representative should be. I believe you will take the time and make the effort to research the candidates to find the best one for the job. As for me, I will actively fight against any organization that divides us into categories, or tries to convince me that anyone who disagrees with their position is a traitor, or un-American. And I pledge that I will not post any derogatory clip or statement about any candidate unless I can personally verify its accuracy through various unrelated and reliable sources.
My name is Zackary Richards and I approve this message.
If you agree, share this and let the special interests know that lies, misinformation and malicious propaganda against any candidate will not turn you against the candidate but will instead, turn you against the organization that distributes it.
If you wish to comment you can do so at my blog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

WTF Happened!?

 When I was a kid growing up in the sixties in the Bronx there was never any fear of being molested or abducted. We’d leave the house and disappear for hours and our parents never worried. There was no reason to. People watched out for each other. If you got out of line some parent would drag you home by the ear and tell your Mom what you’d done.
Your mother would politely thank him/her for bringing your transgressions to her attention, then once your accuser was out of earshot, she’d beat the crap out of you. Not only for whatever stupid thing you did, but for making her look like a bad parent.
“You little bastid!” she’d bellow as she knocked you around.
Fortunately that rarely happened to me.  But one thing happened back then, that if it occurred today, would cause all kinds of problems.
Back in those days we had air raid drills because things between us and the Soviets were pretty intense. They’d announce on TV that an air raid drill would occur at a certain time and everyone was to get off the streets.
For a kid, that got old fast. I wasn’t going to sit in the house on a beautiful day just because sirens were going off.
So I snuck out of the house.
I had gone down the block looking for something to do when this old guy called out from his window. “Hey kid! Don’t you know enough to get off the streets during the air raid drills?”
I waved him off.
But he persisted. “Get up here right now!” he shouted. “You wanna get dragged off by the cops?”
That struck a chord. I hadn’t considered being ‘dragged off by the cops’. My grandfather was a cop and had warned me to ‘stay on the straight and narrow’ because if I didn’t, the cops would drag me downtown and…” It was at this point he’d give this hard, knowing look and say, …“They would straighten me out.”   
From the sound of it I sure as hell didn’t want to get straightened out. I was just a kid, five or six at the time. So I went into the guy’s house.
And you know what happened?
Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.
The old guy was in a wheelchair. Had some kind of muscular disease but other than that he was just a guy. He directed me to the kitchen table and once I got settled, he brought over cookies and explained why it was necessary to stay off the streets during the drills. He asked if I knew how to play any games. I said I could play both checkers and chess as my uncle had taught me, so he brought out a board and we played a game or two.
I got to know the old guy pretty well in the two or so years that followed. His name was Ralph, he had been in World War 1, held the same job for decades until his illness forced his retirement.  I met his wife and saw pictures of his kids who lived in another state. I’d drop by and hang out whenever I was bored or wanted somebody to talk to.
Another time, at around the same age, I had fallen off my bike and gotten a deep cut above my eyebrow. I was scared to death when I saw all the blood. Fortunately, some passing guy saw me, pulled me up onto his shoulders and said, “Where do you live, kid?” I told him and he ran to my house and turned me over to my father.
That doesn’t happen these days.
Nowadays there are preditors behind every corner. I’ll give an example. I was walking into church a little while ago and saw this 3 year old kid sprint out the door and toward the street. I immediately spun to go after him then realized (fortunately) that if I grabbed the kid just before he ran into the street and at the same time his parents exited the church looking for him, it would appear as if I was running off with their kid.
I saw a teen girl heading toward the church and called out for her to stop him.
She did and grabbed him just as he was about to run into traffic.
Immediately afterward the parents charged out of the church looking for their child and saw the teen walking toward them with the little guy in her arms.
The parents were relieved, the teen was a hero. However, if the parents had come out and seen the kid in my arms you can bet I’d have been hauled off in handcuffs.
What happened to us? How did we get here? When did it become necessary to ask oneself “How does this look?” before taking action to help?

Sorry for taking so long between posts but I’m updating and revising Ari Publishing’s Facebook page. There will be a lot of big changes and I’m hoping you’ll stop by when I roll it out.
In the meantime the Noon Revolution is going stronger than ever now that Noon 2: The Resurgence has been released. Check out the original video that started it all here:



Monday, September 10, 2012

It's Called Talent, Jackass!

I happened upon Howard Stern’s radio show the other day while he was talking about his upcoming contract negotiations with SiriusXM. He claimed that management couldn’t grasp the concept that talent isn’t interchangeable. To them, talent is like any other commodity. If you’re having trouble with one supplier, you go to someone else.
It doesn’t work that way.
If you are successful in the arts it is because you have created a product (your art) that people want. And unlike other products, you’re the ONLY supplier. There is not a second you out there. 
They can try getting a replacement and sometimes they succeed, take M*A*S*H for example. Several characters were replaced over its eleven year run but the show they ended with was nothing like the one that started the series.
I have spent most of my life in the arts. I have worked as a singer/songwriter, as a writer/publisher and as a graphic designer.  I am relatively good at all of them because I have the God given talent and the creative process is the same for all three. You tape yourself to your chair and work and work and work and scream and cry and throw stuff out and yell at God and work and work and work and crawl up into a ball and tell yourself you stink and work and work until finally, something far beyond your ability to produce is created.
And you’re astounded! “Wow! I’m an artist,” you say. “Gather at my feet and hang on my every word. Introduce me to your rich artsy-fartsy friends and celebrities. Worship me for I am of the enlightened illuminati!
Yeah, you’re the tits all right, but there is one art form that requires more talent, courage and skill than any other and one that doesn’t get anywhere near the respect or recognition it deserves.
And that, my friends, is Stand-up Comedy.
 I can be a pretty funny guy in the right situation. I have received e-mails from people who read my blog, telling me one post or another had them ROFL. And once, during my rock and roll days, I decided to introduce comedy into my set in between songs.
Probably the biggest mistake I have ever made on stage. Every single joke or witticism was met with silence and blank stares. I kept at it though, figuring I could turn it around. I knew how to work an audience; I was no newbie at this.
Apparently, I was!
I did a forty minute set. And for the first time in my onstage career I left the stage amid stunned silence. I never attempted comedy again.
Why is stand-up so hard? Because it is the only art form where you can be punished for not doing it perfectly every time. I performed on stage for thirty years and made a number of mistakes. A wrong chord here, a forgotten lyric there, a broken string midway through. I was never heckled; in fact, except for the one time I attempted comedy, I always received generous applause. Yet at those very same venues I have seen very talented comedians heckled, insulted, slapped, spit on, and on more than one occasion, physically assaulted.
Just for trying to make people laugh.
This is the reason I get so pissed off when I download an e-book and discover the author hasn’t taken the time or made the effort to learn their craft. For some reason they feel they can upload and sell their half-assed, poorly written and unedited manuscripts, because they are under the deluded impression that any attempt to improve their phenomenally brilliant piece of literature would only ruin it.
I admit to having the exact same thoughts when I was an amateur. But 15 years in as a novelist, I’m not an amateur anymore.
Personally, I think every member of the arts should be treated like comedians. Because comedians have to get it right every time. Because comedians know that every sentence must be perfectly crafted or they risk public humiliation. Because comedians know their pacing must be impeccable or they’ll be dismissed and ignored. Because comedians know that should they stumble while dancing around a sensitive topic, they could get punched out.
So the next time you go to a poetry slam, slam a poet. Either they’ll get really good at their craft or learn to slip a punch.
I have learned to do both. And to prove it, every one of my books comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. So slap down a couple of bucks and join the Noon Revolution today by downloading one of my books from the above slide show. You have nothing to lose and a hell of an adventure to gain!

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Love Criticism!

When I was a kid I remember my father having a German beer stein with the inscription, ‘We are too soon old and too late smart’.
So true!
It is also said, that as a writer, you really don’t develop your ‘voice’ until after you have written a million words. I am proud to say that I have done this. What I’m not-so-proud to say is that I’ve probably had the same amount of words edited out of my manuscripts.
Because I was so in love with my witty prose and clever bon mots that I was sure the world would surely perish if a single word of my literary brilliance was removed.
Fortunately, I had the astounding good fortune to meet my future editor at a writers critique group. Every 2 weeks we’d meet and submit our latest chapters for review. At the time I was quite impressed with my own brilliance (still am) and expected standing ovations after my submitted chapters were read before the group.
I know you’re expecting me to say that the response was less than enthusiastic, but overall my work was generally well received. One person however, regularly returned my submission with extensive editing corrections. Entire paragraphs were crossed out, what I thought were dazzlingly creative sentences were chopped into little pieces, nit-picking minor details were questioned, like: “Why is the TV show called The Daily Report on page 112 and The Nightly Report on page 128? Or “Why wasn’t there a description of the setting in this chapter?” On and on he’d go and I began questioning his motives. Was this guy trying to show me up? Prove that’s he’s better at this than me?
As it turned out that wasn’t his intention at all.
We went out for a beer after the group one evening and I asked why his critiques were so harsh. He asked if his editing suggestions, once implemented, made the story flow better, read better.
I had to admit that it did, considerably.
It really, really, hurts when you pour your heart and soul into your writing; give it your best effort only to have it returned with major edits. It’s like sending your kid to his first day of school and having him come home with a black eye, a fat lip and torn clothes.      
So cowboy, here’s the question. How important is the quality of your work to you?  Have you learned to take constructive criticism in stride and learn from it, or do you take any criticism as a personal insult? How skilled a craftsperson will you be when your book is presented to the real critics at The New York Times and The Washington Post?
It’s been ten years since that first meeting and I am happy to say that he is no less harsh now than he was then. Even after all these years and all I’ve learned about the process, when I submitted my latest, Noon 2: The Resurgence to John Briggs at Albany Editing, (   what I received back had page after page of editing changes and corrective comments.
It still hurts, but I make the changes because my readers deserve my best effort every time. I want them to anticipate the arrival of my latest novel the way I anticipated listening to the latest Beatles album when I was a kid. If my ego has to take a beating to acquire that sort of devotion, to acquire that kind of skill, then bring it on.  I’d much rather that, than disappoint my readers.
If I had known then, what I know now.
It’s sort of ironic that now that I know how to write, I learn that writing isn’t the most important skill needed to be a successful writer. To become a successful writer you need to be a skilled marketer. To gain customers, people must become familiar with your product. How do you do that? You give out free samples.  Since November of last year over 4500 people have read my blog posts and because they’ve enjoyed it, they’ve started buying my books. They’ve also viewing my book trailer videos which can be seen on YouTube at    or by scrolling down past the posts to the video section of this blog below.
I also offer free technical help to other authors. For example, you can learn how to correctly upload your manuscript to Kindle by going to and clicking on the Free Writing Tips on the toolbar.
And speaking of free, click here:   to read a free sample of my latest, Noon 2: The Resurgence which comes with a 30 day money-back guarantee (Sorry— U.S. residents only, details at the top right side of this blog site)
I’m confident that if I can get you to read just one of my books, you’ll read them all. That’s why I offer the 30 day money back guarantee. Because I’m THAT sure. So take a look at the slideshow above, click on any title (note* Frostie and Half Moon are young adult novels) read the sample and download your choice to your electronic device. You won’t be sorry, I guarantee it.