Dark scribblings

John's Ramblings and News

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Night Terrors 2 released!

Posted by [email protected] on January 18, 2012 at 7:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Back around the first of the year I promised some forthcoming publishing news, and here it is...

 

Night Terrors 2, a horror anthology published by Blood Bound Books, has been released! My story, A Mother's Love, is among 28 tales of dark and, hopefully, disturbing fiction. It will soon be available on Amazon, Borders, and the usual places, but you can get your paperback copy now by going to the Night Terrors Website at https://www.createspace.com/3729847 (I would love to make that a live link, but this screwy Website won't work properly!!! For now you'll just have to copy and paste, OR you could go with my Blogger link in the next paragraph). The list price is $15.99, and if you've been looking for something to do now that we're past all of that holiday hub-bub, this collection of chilling tales is sure to keep you busy over two or three cold wintry evenings.

 

Better yet, I have a special offer for you, since you've been a faithful reader of my oh-so-infrequent blog. The first 12 people who comment on my blog, either here or at my Blogger Site, Dark Scribblings AND send your e-mail address to me, I will send you a special promotional code to purchase the anthology at half price! Don't worry, I'm requesting your e-mail address only so I can send the code. I will not share that address, post it on my blog or Website, or otherwise expose you to being spammed.

 

I have not yet read the full collection, but I can tell you a couple of the stories I have read are quite good, and I can't wait to get into the rest of them. So, what are you waiting for? Slip on over to and place your order. Remember, leave a comment here and then send your email address to me at [email protected], and I'll send that promotional code for 50 percent off (if you're among the first dozen people to do so).

 

After you've read the collection, come on back and tell us what you think.

 

More to come soon. Thanks for stopping by.

Good intentions, bad Web service, and the New Year

Posted by [email protected] on January 1, 2012 at 6:50 PM Comments comments (0)

It's been quite a while since I posted here, so what better way to start of the New Year than saying hey to everyone, and giving you a quick update on what's been happening, and what may be coming down the road.


At least that was my plan, and I'll still do that. Unfortunately, Webs.com, which hosts this blog and thousands of others (the service claims), can't seem to make the hyperlink function work (again), so the Websites and other places where I hope to refer you may not work. You can copy and paste them in your address bar, though!


Now, on with the blog.


First, the publishing news. Not a lot to report here, but my story A Mother's Love will appear in the Night Terrors 2 anthology, published by Blood Bound Books. The anthology is set to be released in January, but the exact date may change, so I'm hesitant to put that here. I'll update the blog as soon as I get a date.


Second, I have a Kindle! More specifically, I won a Kindle from writer Michelle Garren Flye (http://michellegflye.wordpress.com/), who held a winter solstice give-away contest and yours truly was the lucky victor! Actually, it was more like my wife won. As soon as I told her I had won, she replies “I've always wanted one of those.” So, I'm hoping to get a little use out of it myself. So far, it's begun to look like a new appendage for my wife, and when she's not using it my 10-year-old is.


Here's the big thing about the Kindle. Last year I started doing a bit of research regarding e-publishing, and found it to be a legitimate option for publishing that is growing in popularity and respect within the literary world. I tried to organize a writer's cooperative to take on the brave new world of e-publishing, but found little interest among the writers I knew and then had a few setbacks myself.


One of my obstacles was the fact I didn't own a Kindle, and while I believe one could do e-publishing to Kindle, Nook, and other e-readers without one, it would be supremely difficult to do so. Not that you need a Kindle to really do it, but it sure would be advantageous to own one and see from the consumer's end what the hubbub is all about. Maybe this will be one of the final pieces I need in place to move ahead with the e-publishing venture.


Third, I'm opening up a blog/Web presence over on Blogspot.com that's a little different than the one you see here. I plan to keep this Dark Scribblings Website going (provided the technical glitches are eliminated), with more updates than I've had in the past, but a lot of my work will be showing up at http://johnpeters2.blogspot.com/. My writing has changed over the years, and while I continue to gravitate toward horror in many forms with what I read – and still occasionally write – I've ventured into other genres as well with my writing, and I think the http://johnpeters2.blogspot.com/ site is a little less darkly atmospheric. If you want to know more about this other writing...well, you'll have to wait until later this year!


As for the Dark Scribblings Blogspot, hop on over and take a look. Over the coming weeks I'll unveil a few more announcements about my writing, feature a couple of interviews with other authors, and maybe even post a bit of my own fiction. So come on over and take a look.


That's about it for now, but more will be coming soon!



Winding down the year, more coming in 2012

Posted by [email protected] on December 22, 2011 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (1)

Hey folks,

I've been strangely quiet of late, mainly because of life -- the workload has increased significantly on my job in recent months, I've been back into coaching basketball since practice began in August (we're 13-4!), and a few other issues have come along.

That doesn't mean I haven't been at work on the writing and publishing, and I'll have some news for you all before the end of the year! Nothing major -- it's not as if I've signed a book contract or anything (I wish), but I've got a few pieces coming out soon, so I'll update the old blog within the next few days.

And, for those of you who have asked, I'll update you on what's happening with the basketball team and the family, as well.

Stay tuned.....

Your favorite author?

Posted by [email protected] on July 24, 2011 at 8:57 PM Comments comments (3)

I don't watch a lot of television, but one show that does fascinate me is Mad Men. I recall one episode in which the character Betty Draper was alone at home. The kids were gone, her husband was at work, and she just walked the house, bored, it seemed.

 

Eventually she sat on a sofa, paperback in hand, and read. Then it hit me – what else could she have done? She lives near New York, so her family do doubt has all of the television channels available, which probably amounted to four or five – affiliates of the three major networks, maybe a public television station, and perhaps some sort of independent station. Even in the largest city in America, that was probably all there was.

 

Remember, the show takes place in the early 1960s, a time many people remember from their own childhood or early adult years, yet also a time so far removed from today it's hard for those who did not live through it to imagine what life was like. No cable television, no Internet (or even home computers), no I-pods, no air conditioning.

 

How did society ever make it through such dark times, my kids sometimes wonder.

 

One thing people did more of then was read.

 

I don't have some idealized, romanticized idea of what life was like then. I don't sit around lamenting for the days when children were always quiet, knew their place and begged to do things such as read. Those times never really existed, despite what some older members of our society might claim.

 

But I do know people read more in earlier times, particularly during the 1950s and 1960s, when Americans found themselves with more leisure time and the ability to buy things such as magazines and dime store paperbacks. Oh, sure, the total number of books sold during that period might be smaller than today, but the nation's population was a little more than half what it is at present.

 

When I was a child I hated reading. But my parents, bless their hearts, decided that was a skill I needed to master, which was no small feat given that I was one of the weaker readers in my class at school. So about the time I was in second grade they decided I would have to read aloud to them twice a week. I still recall sitting in our living room, mumbling my way through story after story.

 

A funny thing happened. Not only did I begin to get better at reading, but I soon found I enjoyed it. There was a whole universe of stuff to learn! And I loved the adventures which played out in the works of fiction I read. By the time I was in third grade I was among the strongest readers in my class, and from then on I read everything I could get my hands on. Seriously – I'd read cereal boxes while eating breakfast.

 

I really can't tell you any particular author I enjoyed from those early years, although there have been different writers whose work I particularly appreciated at various stages of my life. In my late elementary school years I recall Alfred Hitchcock's Three Investigators (I still have a few of those boxed up somewhere). Of course, Mr. Hitchcock never wrote any of them – the books did carry an introduction he had supposedly written – but otherwise the publisher was simply using his name to sell books. No matter, they were great fun to read.

 

During my middle school years I was introduced to Edgar Alan Poe, who for years was my favorite writer. It was reading Poe that made me want to be a writer when I saw the effect some of his work had on my classmates. I saw that his writing touched them in some way (or more appropriately, scared them or grossed them out). Since I had a great affinity for horror stories even when I was a much younger child, the fact that Poe's work dealt with the dark was simply a bonus. The fact that writing could affect people in any manner touched something inside me, and I wanted to be able to do the same.

 

It wasn't a big leap over the next few years from Poe to Stephen King. During my later teen and early adult years I read most everything published with King's name on it. I still remember fondly sitting on a balcony at Myrtle Beach, the air filled with the gentle sound of ocean waves rolling up on the shore, a teeny little queasy feeling in my stomach as I read Survivor Type. That's the thing about King – he has such a way with story telling, hitting you right where you are with the normal, everyday stuff that's around you. I still pick up Salem's Lot and reread it every so often, and a few weeks ago I finished Pet Semetery (which, somehow, had eluded me all these years).

 

After a while I grew tired of reading novels, if you can believe that from a writer. The immediate tasks of raising a family, supporting them (which sometimes meant multiple jobs), chasing down non-fiction freelance assignments all took a toll on my time for reading – and writing fiction as well.

 

In recent years the pressure to support the family has not lessened (on the contrary, with four teens in the house and one who thinks she's a teen, that has in many ways become a more challenging task). But I've also returned to reading more. Douglas Clegg is now one of my favorite writers. I've seldom seen a person who can combine absolutely stunning story telling ability with such beautiful prose. Sometimes, when reading his work, I stop and reread a sentence, not because it was difficult to understand, but because it was written so well – I just want to read it again, slowly, to enjoy it.

 

If there's one other writer whose work I enjoy as much as Clegg's, it is the late Robert Parker. I'm a slow reader, but once I stumbled upon his work, I think I managed to read his entire Spenser and Jesse Stone series of works, as well as assorted other novels he had written, within a couple of years (that's somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 novels), and found myself over the past couple of years anxiously awaiting the arrival of his latest at the local library.

 

Unfortunately, Mr. Parker died in January 2010. I recently completed the final Spenser novel he wrote (Sixkill), and was a little sad to read a publisher's note stating this was the last Spenser work he completed before his death.

 

What about you? Do you have a favorite author, either one you read now or a particular writer whose work you enjoyed at some other point in your life? Tell me about it. You can e-mail, of course ([email protected]), but I'd far prefer you share that with all of the good folks who read this blog – use the comment section to tell us.

Why writers write what they write

Posted by [email protected] on July 18, 2011 at 12:22 AM Comments comments (0)

A few years back a writer friend of mine, Estaban Silvani, as well as Mark Canada, associate professor of English at UNC-Pembroke, and I were interviewed together by Frank Stasio on WUNC, a public radio station in Raleigh, N.C. (Hear the interview at http://wunc.org/tsot/archive/sot1031b.mp3/view?searchterm=)

 

It was Halloween, and the anthology Horror Library Vol. 1, published by Cutting Block Press, had been out just a few weeks. Purely by chance, five of the collection’s 30 writers resided in North Carolina, so the station decided to do a little piece on horror and fear in literature and invited the three of us to participate.

 

The interview was great fun. Afterward, Estaban and I went to a nearby restaurant for lunch. During our conversation he mentioned to me that the Horror Library Vol. 1 was the first paying market he had ever submitted work to.

 

I recall looking at him, not sure how to react. I knew Estaban, with a wicked sense of humor and a love of the dark and twisted, had been published here and there, and the man could definitely tell a tale.

 

Why in the world would you submit to a non-paying market? I screamed.

 

Okay, I didn’t scream. Didn’t even say it, but I sure thought it. While I have enough of an artist’s heart in me to wish writers and painters and musicians were valued and paid handsomely for their work out of a sense of simple appreciation by the public, I have always understood if one wishes to make money at writing, then one must approach writing as a business. There was a time, about a decade ago, when I made most of my income – meaning most of the income for a family of six (we’ve since grown to seven) — from writing.

 

I wrote business articles mostly, along with some work for trade or specialty publications, a Web company, and I did some part-time weekend copy editing for the local newspaper. Believe me when I tell you, as the sole bread-winner for the family, writing was strictly business, and I learned to value my time. There were plenty of publications that would pay seventy-five or a hundred bucks for a story, but I couldn’t afford to do that. I might contact those magazines with a story idea I could piggy-back on an assignment from a much better-paying publication, but no way was I able to spend 10 or 20 hours on a piece that didn’t pay well.

 

While I figured out the small press and fiction world was different, I’ve still been loathe to give credence to freebie publications. I think I’ve been in large part justified with that belief, because in much of the small press world, someone starts a little freebie magazine or Web site or puts out an anthology, and publishes his friends in there, who in turn start their own little publishing enterprise and return the favor, with very little professionalism. I’ve also found many freebie publications to be…well, let’s just say lacking in quality control.

 

I work hard on my writing, and by gosh, I’m not going to give it away, or be associated with those sorts of people who do. At least that was my thinking at one point.

 

Over time I’ve evolved a bit as a writer and a person, and I sometimes think back to Estaban’s comment — “I’ve never submitted to a paying publication before.”

 

It took a few years, but that statement, it turns out, was deeper and more profound than either of us thought at the time. At least what I now take away from that simple declaration is.

 

Estaban wrote what pleased him, because it pleased him. Publication, even non-paying publication, was a bonus.

 

That, I’ve come to realize, is at the heart of the artistic side of what we do. Writers write because it’s simply what we do. It is part of our DNA, the same as artists draw or paint, musicians play, cross-stitchers stitch, masons lay block and stone.

 

As writers we are fortunate if we find a following, maybe make a little money at our craft. And yes, approaching it as a business is necessary if one ever hopes to derive anything more than the occasional twenty-dollar check, just as plying our craft every day — with our without inspiration — is necessary if we truly expect to seriously evolve as a writer.

 

But not everyone has that in their make-up. And that’s okay. Spending a life time of writing with work appearing in freebie or low-pay magazines is just fine, if that’s what you want to do. If that gives you joy.

 

Because, in the end, fat paydays or not, writers writer, because that’s just who we are, and we should not let someone else define what is or is not success.


Published in the UK!

Posted by [email protected] on July 14, 2011 at 10:17 AM Comments comments (2)

My story “Patron Saint” has been picked up by the United Kingdom publisher Spinetinglers, winning the organization’s monthly contest for July. That means my story is live on their Website as you are reading this. If you'd care to take a look, visit http://spinetinglers.co.uk/ViewStories.aspx and go to the “please select category” drop down menu and click on July. The story also will be published in Spinetinglers annual print anthology, due out early in 2012.

 

I gotta say I'm starting to love the international fiction market place. As any writer will tell you (at least United States-based writers), the writing life is built around rejection unless you're named Stephen King, John Grisham, or David Baldacci. You send your story off, wait several months (or longer), then generally get a form rejection -- or worse, you get nothing, as if your story fell into a black hole. I've managed to see a few of my stories in print or online over the years, but for each publication there are probably dozens of rejections.

 

My experience with international markets, however, has been quite different. Perhaps I've been lucky, and admittedly my numbers are a small sampling that could change for the worse pretty quickly, but I have submitted exactly six stories to international markets, four of which found their way into publication. (If you're really interested in trivia, I'm one for two in Australian submissions, two for three in Canada, and now one for one in Great Britain.)

 

My experience also has been that these markets generally respond quicker and pay faster, too. Spinetinglers, for instance, responded to my submission within a month, it was published within a week of the acceptance, and I had payment in-hand within 48 hours of publication. That's hard to beat! As a bonus, the exchange rate from British pounds to American dollars is a nice little perk.

 

Anyway, that's my big news for the day – publication in Spinetinglers! Go on over, take a read, and if you're so inclined slip back here and leave a comment.

 

Thanks for stopping in.

I never got where I was going

Posted by [email protected] on July 10, 2011 at 4:45 PM Comments comments (2)

When last I wrote on this blog, some two years ago, I told about a grand adventure upon which my oldest daughter and I were embarking – a blog I called “Where no writer has gone before.” We were setting out to co-write a zombie novel.

 

We never got where we were going, instead getting sidetracked by another little adventure.

 

We wrote – if I recall correctly, about 15,000 words, which is a sizable chunk of a young adult novel. We clashed over some plot points, a few characters, and then it all came to a halt.

My daughter was entering her final year of high school varsity basketball and, as practice was set to began, the head coach dropped out. I had coached my kids in younger divisions of basketball and soccer, so my daughter suggested I offer my services as coach.

 

I wanted no part of that. At the high school level the game is much more competitive, intense, and fast-paced. I told her no not because I wasn't interested, but simply because I was afraid I'd mess things up for the team. Cost them losses through bad coaching moves.

 

She continued asking me, cajoling me, and generally bugging the daylights out of me until I told her I'd volunteer to assist. I went to the athletic director and said I'd be willing to help whoever they found to serve as head coach.

 

They found me.

 

So I put my writing aside for a while and spent virtually all of my spare time brushing up on basketball. As a former high school player and casual fan, I knew all the basics. But there is a world of difference between watching a game on television and coaching, between knowing the basic rules and recognizing and understanding the strategies unfolding on the court. I spent many late nights going over videos, learning plays and defenses, trying to figure out drills I could use to teach my players.

 

I was fortunate in that it was a senior-laden team. Out of 11 players, six were in their final year of high school, and two others – a junior and a sophomore – might as well have been seniors because of their skill, understanding of the game and dedication to the sport.

 

We didn't do too badly with a rookie coach on the bench. In fact, we did darn well, if I say so myself. We finished 30-5, won the regular season conference title with an unbeaten league record, took the regional title and the state championship! Over the course of the year we played in a total of four tournaments and we had the Most Valuable Player award winner in each tournament, but here's the kicker. Four different players from our team won those MVP awards, which is virtually unheard of in basketball.

 

More importantly, I made some great friends among the parents and players. I still keep in touch with some of those now-graduated young ladies, and it felt really good to know I had a small part in their on-court success and, hopefully, some of the things we did that year carried into their off-court lives.

 

Well, you may ask, that accounts for one year of absence from the blog and writing life. What about the second year?

 

I'll answer that by saying I'm still the basketball coach. My plan was one year and done, but I found I love doing this. It's a real kick to study video, to work in practice, to match wits on the court with other coaches. What's even more amazing about this is working with the young ladies, helping them grow together as friends and as a unit, leading them to become better players and more confident people.

 

Our second season wasn't quite as successful from a won-loss standpoint, but I consider it a smashing success none-the-less. Remember, we had six of eleven players graduating. One of the remaining four elected not to return, and that sophomore I mentioned, who was the leading scorer on my team that first year, tore her ACL in practice, so she was done for the year before we even played a game this second season.

 

That left us with two healthy returning players and eight newbies this past season. Those new players consisted of a junior who hadn't played ball since little league days, six eighth graders and a seventh grader.

 

Let me remind you, this is high school varsity basketball. Most of our competitors consisted of teams chocked full of sophomores, juniors and seniors.

 

But we did okay. Our overall record was 18-17. We finished second in the regular season conference race, and second in a couple of tournaments. Early in the year a few of those teams pounded us pretty good, to the tune of 15- and 20-point defeats, but we kept at it and by the end of the season we had beaten all of those teams that defeated us during the first half of the year.

 

You know something? I'm just as proud of those ladies who finished 18-17 as I am of the ones who were 30-5.

 

As my mom used to say when I was a boy, if the Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be coaching again this year. But I'm working to strike a little more balance in my life, to reconnect with my writing while still working, coaching, and spending a little time with the family.

 

I'm looking forward to this season. We lost one senior from last year, and I have a junior from last season's team who isn't returning. But we do have the injured player coming back, a couple of new ladies may join the team, and all those first-year players from a year ago will be stepping on the court with a year's worth of varsity experience behind them.

 

We will still be the youngest team in our conference – remember, six of those returning players will only be ninth-graders, and another in eighth-grader – and the two new players are ninth-graders.

 

We're going to become closer friends, better players, and a more competitive team. Who knows, we might even bring home a state title again – no easy feat playing against older, more experienced squads.

 

Most of the time I'll be blogging here about my writing, some upcoming publishing plans, maybe a bit about my take on world events, but I can almost promise you a few basketball updates will surface here from time to time. I love coaching, and I am proud of my ladies win or lose.

 

But for now, my focus will be on writing.

Where no writer has gone before (None that I know about, anyway)

Posted by johnpeters2 on July 31, 2009 at 10:29 PM Comments comments (6)

Many of you know that I’m a writer. My fulltime paying job is a daily newspaper editor’s post. I also work as a slush reader for a well-known horror anthology and, if you’ve read my News page here on the old Website, you’ll know I recently took on the duties as nonfiction editor for Dark Recesses.

But the thing I really enjoy, the one thing I would select above all others if you offered me my dream job, would be writing fiction. I’ve been published in a handful of semi-pro and smaller magazines, anthologies and Websites, and in recent years I’ve taken to putting together some novel drafts. I’m even at a point where I’m trying to land an agent for a children’s novel and I’m close to being ready to search for an agent for an adult-length novel.

For those of you in the writing business, you’ll understand how close to impossible landing an agent is. For those of you not in the writing business, take it from me, it’s … well, nearly impossible to get an agent. Even harder to get a book deal.

Still, I try.

And that brings me to my next challenge. The biggest one. The step into the great unknown. Facing the giants. Taking on …well, let’s just say this next project will be roughly akin to taking on a swarm of angry hornets, armed with nothing more than a flyswatter.

I’m now involved in a collaborative effort to write a novel.

With my daughter.

My 17-year-old daughter.

That’s right, a teenager.

I’ve already learned that family relations, when it comes to writing and artistic endeavors, can be a funny thing. I’m a member of several online writers’ groups, and by and large I can give good, honest, insightful critiques when asked. Most writers appreciate it when I offer constructive criticism, and it’s easy to be forthright and sometimes pointed in my comments, without any thought of offending.

Doing this with a relative changes the dynamics completely. In the past I’ve tried to offer some critiques to her writing, but I find it difficult to do, and Erica (that’s her name) sometimes finds it even harder to take from me – her father.

Erica’s at the age when she’s stretching her wings, testing out her independence, looking to what she will be doing – all on her own – with her life in a year or two.  She’s well past developing her own personality, her way of doing things. At a time when you’d think she would be pulling further and further away, she and I have decided to try this little project.

Then again, maybe the eventual book will mirror this stage in our lives. The story is a young adult novel. Without giving away too many details, let me just say it’s primarily about the main character, growing into young adulthood, with some significant and unwelcome changes thrust upon her, her family, and her friends. The story also deals with her father, and their relationship through these changes.

And, of course, it’s a horror story. Though the horror, I hope, will be the backdrop for the main story of the people and their relationships.

We started the work this past weekend, and let me tell you those first two days were a blur. We put out about 8,000 words this past Saturday and Sunday. It’s slowed a bit since, and as of Tuesday night we were at 10,000 words, and Wednesday we were at 11,500. I have to confess, those last 2,500 are hers. All hers.

As you can imagine, we’ve already butted heads over some issues. A few of you reading this know Erica, more of you know me. I’m pretty easy-going, though when it comes to my writing I can be less so, and overly critical. I often tell people a story I’m working on is turning into pure horse dung because, quite frankly, that’s how I feel about it. The first time I called this novel crap — even though I was only talking about the part I was writing — Erica let me have it.

And she’s good at that. Erica is a strong-minded young lady, and she has no problem in letting folks know what she thinks. She told me if I think it’s crap, to quit writing it, otherwise keep my critical mouth shut and simply write.

At least for this particular piece, that’s advice I’m going to take. Otherwise, we’ll never get it done.

We’re also coming to loggerheads over a couple of key character points. I want to make one of the characters gay, she is adamant against it. I’ve already told her a couple of the people I want to kill off, she’s okay with some, not so much so with others.

And she’s impatient. When I write, I tend to agonize over words, go back and rewrite sentences, mess around with characters. I do this a lot with short stories, though in writing novels over the past two years I’ve gotten out of this habit. It’s okay to mess around with the same sentence twenty times when you’re finished product is 3,000 words long. Try that when the final product is 70,000 words, and it’ll take a century to finish a first draft. So I’m better about this than before.

Still, Erica has no patience for this. When she writes — and she does, a lot, even before we began this project — she plows ahead, churning out words. I’ve written the first draft of two adult-length novels in the past 18 months, did a significant rewrite and several revisions to another adult-length, and did a rewrite to a child’s novel.

Erica has probably written three times that much in the same time span. At this stage in her writing career she’s not really concerned with publication. She has had a few short stories appear in some small non-paying newsletters, but she primarily writes simply because she wants to. She plows through a 40,000-word novella in about a month. She churns out a 4,000-word short story in a couple of days.

She doesn’t do any revisions, no major editing. For her, it’s simply write the story, then move on.

Hopefully, through this process, I can help teach her the value of revising and editing, of building multiple plot lines and divergent characters. And maybe she can inspire in me the drive to write more, and faster, and help reawaken my drive to write solely for the joy of writing, without regard to publication.

Most of all, I hope we’re still speaking to one another by the time this little project is done.




The moon, the passing of a news giant, and the future

Posted by johnpeters2 on July 18, 2009 at 9:22 PM Comments comments (9)

I was prepared to write about the 40th anniversary of the Neil Armstrong's step onto the lunar surface, and in fact I was doing just that Friday night when I learned of Walter Cronkite's death.


I was a few months short of turning 6 when that moon landing took place, and it is really the earliest major news event I recall. In fact, it is Cronkite's everyman sense of awe I remember as much as anything from that newscast.


The Apollo 11 landing was such a milestone in our nation's evolution. Just eight years earlier President John F. Kennedy had all but promised the world we would put a man on the moon before the end of that decade, quite a commitment given the technology to do so was not yet in available.


That moon landing captivated the world, and particularly in America, there was a sense that anything was now possible. This all happened against the backdrop of great upheaval in America. The 1960s saw the supposed counter-culture and social revolution.


Drug use became rampant, teens and young adults rebelled against their parents and the norms of society. Police and civilians clashed often in streets of major cities across America. Less than a year after Armstrong sat foot on the moon Ohio National Guard troops shot down and killed four students at Kent State University.


Vietnam was a constant dark cloud hanging over all of this. That conflict, played out on the television news every night in homes across America, changed forever how we viewed war, how we felt about seeing our young gunned down in a foreign land, and how we would limit the use of military force for years to come.


Right in the middle of it was Walter Cronkite. He was, in all of this turbulence, a voice that delivered the news for the sake of simply informing his viewers of what was going on. His reassuring, authoritative voice brought us the news every day, but at the same time made so many people feel that, somehow, some way, everything would eventually be okay.


He was a constant for millions upon millions of viewers. Remember, this was a time when television was three networks ? no cable, no DVDs or VHS's, no Internet, and little in the way of radio ? so nearly all of America gathered around their television sets every day at 6:30 p.m. to watch the news. And most watched Cronkite.


He told us, emotionally, of Kennedy's death. He "wowed" his way through the lunar landing. Cronkite visited Vietnam to report from the front lines. He was seemingly the only person in the media who never forgot the American hostages held in Iran from Nov. 4, 1979 until Jan. 20, 1981.


He had an unyielding belief that his job wasn't to spin the news, but simply report it, and that the American people would understand what was happening and know what to do with the knowledge.


I think that belief in the national populous is what made Cronkite a steadying force in society, one who contributed to a certain quiet optimism, that gave us all a reason for hope, even in dark times.


Never was that optimism higher than on July 20, 1969, when Armstrong stepped on the lunar dust and said "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."


Many people believed lunar colonization, and manned flights to Mars, were just around the corner, to be followed by visits to the outer planets of the solar system and then the rest of the galaxy.


Outer space, and its exploration, promised to be the unifying force for mankind. It was something larger than any nation, more important than any other particular cause.


Of course, none of that happened. Great technological advances followed, but we seemed to have frittered them away in mind-numbing entertainment applications. Today we have hundreds of television channels, all broadcast in such clarity it can seem as if the characters are leaping off the screen.


We chat with people anywhere in the world, in real time, via the Internet. A person can carry around on a single MP3 player enough musical selections to have rivaled, or even surpassed, the total album library of some radio stations from 1969. Heck, an I-Pod puts more computing power in the palm of your hand than was aboard the entire rocket and landing ship for Apollo 11.


But, what meaningful advancements have occurred since 1969? Yes, there has been significant progress in the medical field, but outside of that, what? Longer lasting lightbulbs? Somewhat more fuel efficient vehicles on the highway? Cheaper flashlights?


We still have wars, fought largely for the same reasons as they were in 1969. Hunger, homelessness, poverty are all still with us. Unmanned space probes have taught us a bit about the other planets in the solar system, but we've made no real progress toward reaching any of those Apollo-inspired dreams.


Walter Cronkite, a voice from that long-ago time, never seemed to lose his faith in America, in his hope for the future.


Really, what alternative is there? To not look toward the future, to not hope, is to give up on life. That's something I don't think any of us should ever do.


So Monday, take a few minutes to remember that lunar landing. If you're too young to remember it, go online (something you might not be able to do today if not for the 1960s-era space program) and do a little research on the project and the culture of the times.


And let's see if we can't recapture some of the optimism the landing, and Walter Cronkite, inspired.


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