Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Guest Post by Noted Author Deb Dorchak

Deb Dorchak and Wendi Kelly are authors of Loyalties, the first a four-part series of novels (Bonds of Blood & Spirit) that will keep you awake nights because you'll be unable to put the books down. They have helped me turn my first manuscript into a book that should be out this summer. From the Facebook posting of their Blue Sun Studio Inc page comes the following. Read and enjoy, and follow them on FB. Then, DREAM BIG!

If You’re Gonna Dream, Dream Big

If You're Gonna Dream, Dream Big! Matt Gubler and Andy Nixon
From the opening scene in Loyalties where Regina is driving through the streets of Philadelphia in her black Trans Am, with the radio blaring Bad Company’s Running With The Pack, Wendi and I had (and still have) a dream of seeing the Bonds of Blood & Spirit saga up on the silver screen. Hell, what author doesn’t these days?
When we write, we write in cinematic Technicolor all the way. Our focus is visually driven. Maybe it’s from Wendi’s roots in directing plays for so many years, or maybe it’s my love of good movies, or maybe we’re just artists who paint pictures with words. We see our stories as films playing out in our heads and dreams.
Our characters are inspired by the celebrity faces we see, by their personalities on and off the screen. Woe be unto the director and producers who have to deal with us when it comes time for casting. We have our Dream Cast all laid out and waiting. There’s enough pretty going on there to make your mouth water and your head spin.
One thing we’ve learned over the years is that when you dream, when you put your goals in writing and declare it to the Universe, strange things happen. You get what you ask for.
No, I’m not saying we got a movie deal, or even that our series was picked up by HBO, or by a big publishing house. We haven’t joined the esteemed company of True Blood, Deadwood, Game of Thrones or Carnivale…yet.
What has happened is we’ve been placed two degrees away from one of the stars in our Dream Cast. It came about something like this…
A year ago, my Mom started working at Las Vegas’ premier cultural hot spot, The Smith Center for The Performing Arts. She’s an usher, and a very good one, so if you’re ever attending a performance there, be sure to say “hi” to the lovely blonde woman helping you find your seat.
One of her co-workers is Andy Nixon. Andy had a manuscript. He had a dream to get his book published. Mom said, hey, my daughter can help you with that, and that’s how Wendi and I met Andy “Dr. Forgot” Nixon (you’ll have to buy his book, 50 Shades of Grades: My Journey Through Wackademia when it’s published this summer to find out how he got that name…and yes, he really is a PhD).
Trivia Note: Andy also has a cat, named Casanova, and like our own Harrison “Casanova” McLeod, has black hair (ok, technically it’s fur on the cat, but that would have made for an awkward sentence, and still kinda does, but you get the idea) and beautiful green eyes….not exactly relevant to the story here, but just one of those little coincidences that tickles me to no end.
So, a few weeks ago during one of our discussions about Andy’s project, Andy said, “In case you have time during your busy day to watch Criminal MindsMatt Gubler who plays Dr. Reid, is doing a benefit at the Las Vegas Country Club tonight. We are going because his Mom and I go way back as friends—before there was a little Matt Gubler.”
That just about blew my mind. Matt Gubler?? Seriously? Matt is our pick on the Dream Cast for the role of Josh “Runt” Punter, a tech geek wolf who started out as part of Ramon Esteban’s Vampire crew and proved himself to be quite the little hero. Runt won a place in the Pack’s heart, as well as those of our fans’, and ended up having a more prominent role in the Pack than Wendi and I first anticipated.
We love Runt, and we love Matt. And we love Andy, because he’s graciously agreed to get a copy of Loyalties into Matt’s hands. Now all that remains is what to write to Matt without sounding like star-struck fangirls. Or maybe we’ll just point him to this post and let the book speak for itself?
No worries though, we’re writers first and foremost and we’ll come up with something. No idea where this will go, but it’ll be interesting to find out. I think Wendi and I would be over the moon if Matt reads Loyalties and gave us some feedback on it. It would be cool to get that from a professional director.
In other news, book three, Reclamationsis rolling ahead at full steam. Our focus has shifted from the bountiful client work over the past couple of months to getting the last two books out. We’re almost done with the final editing and moving rapidly toward layout and production. You’ll have the next book sometime in July, with the fourth book, Legacies not too far behind.
Until then, we thank you for all the lovely reviews for Uncivil Wars, and if you haven’t read that or Loyalties yet—what are you waiting for? Get caught up now! The summer’s only just begun and you definitely want the Bonds of Blood & Spirit saga on your summer reading list!
Become part of the Pack on Facebook, or click here to sign up for our newsletterThe Inspired Studio, and stay up to date on all the latest news for The Saga and other happenings around theBlue Sun Studio network.
How about you? Are you looking forward to Reclamations as much as we are? As Packmates, what would you want to say to Matt Gubler? Got questions you’d like to ask Wendi and I?” Tell us about it in the comments here on the fan site, we’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Alumni and Others Come Through

Clairton High School. My alma mater and the alma mater of some of the most generous people in the world. Just how generous are they? Well, first let's take a look at the community and the school. In its heyday Clairton's population pressed toward the 30,000 mark and Clairton High School had so many students that it spawned several other schools in the area to be built and take the overload.  The last such school was Thomas Jefferson High School boult on Old Clairton Road. Their first class of juniors came from the CHS sophomore class that would graduate in 1960. Thus, the first TJ graduating class in 1960 had begun their academic career at Clairton.

As times changed, populations moved, and steel mills, the lifeblood of the valley, closed, TJ prospered and Clairton's numbers declined. The city continues to lose population - currently the population barely is above 5,000 - and the high school graduating class hovers around 50 students. Pretty bleak The same fate has occurred up and down the Mon (Monongahela) River in  most of the once-prosperous mill towns.

But Clairton is different. No, seriously, it really is. That is not just the Chamber of Commerce talking, it really is! I can prove it. Let's take the mighty Bear football team. Yes, they dropped from the big boy multiple "A" competition to single "A" and are perhaps the smallest school in that division, but the senior class who is about to graduate lost only one game - the first one they played as freshman. That sent them on a record setting tear of three consecutive state titles and more WPIAL titles than you can shake a stick at, and national record 63 consecutive wins. They did this with a smaller budget and a fraction of the coaching staff than some of their competitors (read "victims"). When there was no money for capes to keep them warm in the winter, of new jerseys, or victory rings, alumni from around the country rallied to donate to their cause. That's just the way CHS alumni roll.

 So we know they can run, kick, and pass, but what else can the CHS students do?

Each year California State University, PA holds a region wide Robotics competition. Schools of every shape, size, and persuasion from all over Western PA compete. It is a big deal. The winners get to go to national competition which this year is held in Indianapolis, Indiana. The CHS Robotics team blew away the competition and qualified for the national competition in Indy, but the cost, even after trimming the budget by renting a van and driving the entire team was $5,000.

CHS students, faculty, and community began a fund-raising drive to earn the money but it was slow going. With a week left to the competition the goal was less than 1/3 met. So another Clairton clarion call went out to friends and alumni of the school. Newspaper articles were written, emails were sent, and in this space a plea was issued. According to Mary Niederberger who wrote a story of Clairton High School's plight, "The students fundraising had stalled at about $1,400 late last week. But after an article about their plight in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Saturday, more than 100 individuals have sent checks to the team, creating a $30,000 pot, enough to cover the costs of travel to the competition and plenty of extra money for spare parts that are generally needed for replacement during the competitions."

Bravo to everybody who contributed. As we all used to sing during our own high school days, "It's Clairton High School, It's Clairton High School, the pride of every student here...."

A little blogging music, Maestro, "The Clairton High School Alma Mater," played by the CHS band.

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Bears Crush Competition. Need Help!

An article appeared in the local paper recently about the prowess of the Clairton High School football team. They blew away the competition and took first place again. No, not the football team... this time it was the.... well, read for yourself:

Published: Saturday, April 27, 2013, 12:01 a.m.Updated: Saturday, April 27, 2013 

Nearly 50 teams participated in the eighth annual BotsIQ at California University of Pennsylvania recently.
Students from across the region entered the robots that they designed and built in this high-tech battle.
But it was Clairton High School's robot, Bazinga, that crushed the competition for top honors.
The grand champion award recognizes the team with the best overall performance in the competition, documentation and team interviews.
It's been eight years since the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Tooling & Machining Association and a committed group of manufacturers and educators brought BotsIQ to Southwestern Pennsylvania. Known as “The Smart Sport,” BotsIQ begins with a preliminary competition, this year at Westmoreland County Community College, and culminates in a two-day, gladiator-style battle to the finish of student-made, remote-controlled robots.
The NTMA was instrumental in bringing BotsIQ to Southwestern Pennsylvania in 2006. Students love BotsIQ because it makes education fun — drawing on their knowledge of math, science, engineering and even public speaking.
Educators love BotsIQ because of the enthusiasm it sparks in their students and the resources it provides to their classroom. But, it's the manufacturing industry that is standing behind this “smart sport” because of the potential impact it has on business. Young people who are interested in how things are made are the future of the high-tech manufacturing workforce.
Clairton High School received a traveling trophy, team ribbons and a $1,000 award from the Pittsburgh Chapter of the National Tooling & Machining Association.
Second place honors for 2013 go to Eastern Westmoreland CTC with their bot Pandemonium.
There was a tie for “Coolest Bot” honors between Clairton High School (Mega Nuke) and Plum High School (Still N' Shock II). Clairton High School was awarded “Best Sportsmanship.”
The students of Fayette County CTI with their bot The Grave Digger won “Best Engineered Bot” and “Best Engineering Documentation.”
Norwin High School with its bot ‘MERICA took home the distinction of “King of the Ring” after winning the final bot rumble and Bedford High School with its bot Slenderbot was named “Best Rookie Team.”
Graduating seniors Mikayla Baker of Eastern Westmoreland CTC and Haley Morella of Greater Latrobe Senior High School each won a $500 scholarship toward their future careers in manufacturing, the trades or engineering for their essay submissions.
Local schools which competed in 2013 were: Albert Gallatin Senior High School, Brownsville Area High School, Eastern Westmoreland CTC, Fayette County CTI, Frazier High School and Southmoreland High School.

We just received an urgent email from longtime teacher, professor, alumnus, and all around good guy, Don Taylor in which he provided the above information and a desperate plea for help. Seems the Little High School that Could (CHS), by virtue of winning the competition, qualifies to attend the National Championship competition in Indianapolis. The trek will cost $5,000 and they have been busy trying to make that goal but are less than halfway 
there. If you can help send the robotics team to Indy, please help by sending a check or money order of any amount to: Clairton Robotics Team, Clairton High School, 501 Waddell Avenue, Clairton, PA 15025. Or, to Sue Wessel, 512 N. 6th St., Clairton, PA 15025. But DO IT NOW! As the money needs to be in by Friday, May 17. That is next Friday.

And oh yes, "Good Luck Robo-Bears!"

A little blogging music Maestro, "Mr. Roboto," by the STYX.

Dr. Forgot


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Clairton Native Recognized

A Prince of a Guy: Ray Prince was a year or two behind me at Clairton High School. His dad, Joe Prince was a mover and shaker in Clairton as well as one outstanding accordion player. I remember that when he was in junior high school Ray became interested in printing. He was able to print business cards and we all thought that was neat. His interest grew and as he grew so did his printing business. He opened a shop called Prince Printing. Although he eventually sold the business, his legacy remains in Clairton as the business on St. Clair Avenue still thrives.

My high school guidance counselor at CHS told me I was not college material. When it came Ray's turn to visit the counselor, he was told that college was out for him as colleges did not teach Printing Management, and even if he did go he would probably flunk out. That mantra had a familiar ring to it. Turns out the counselor was wrong - again. Ray did go to college at the Rochester Institute of Technology, did very well, then earned a graduate degree in Printing Management at South Dakota State University, then continued to thrive in the world of paper and ink. He met the love of his life,  Nancy, who was from South Dakota, and that is where they settled and where Ray became a giant in the field.

How big of a giant? Well, in addition to printing, he as authored numerous books, countless articles, and become a noted keynote speaker from coast to coast. He has served as President of the Technical Association of the Graphic Arts, and received their Honors Award for Lifetime Achievement. The National Association for Printer Leadership honored him with their Craftsman of the Year Award and Graphic Arts Technical Foundation's Industry Education Award. He has assumed numerous leadership positions in the field including serving as a director on the Board of the Print and Graphics Scholarship Foundation. The awards Ray has received could, well, fill a book!

So what does one do after a working lifetime and gathering recognition and awards in his field? How about starting a library? Ray raised funds and solicited book donations for the Raymond J. Prince Shakespeare Press Museum Resource Room on the campus of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. The Graphic Communications Department's students will benefit from his efforts. According to Dr. Harvey L. Levenson, Department Head at the campus, "The collection comes from all over the nation and includes books, magazines, journals, research papers, and more. Some date back to the 1800s and many of these volumes are one of a kind and very valuable."

Ray's career started early and his 50-plus year career as a graphic arts consultant has been spent teaching and training.  During a recent keynote speech at CalPoly, Ray Prince stated, “Knowledge is precious. The thinking of others can stimulate creative ideas. The resource room was born with the idea of stimulating students and professors. Years ago, I sent some books to three institutions. Dr. Harvey Levenson was the only one to acknowledge my donation… From there the idea grew and donations were added to the resources that Cal Poly had already acquired.”

The donation that he provided Cal Poly included an entire collection of 11,000 volumes including many that are irreplaceable. In addition he is seeking to add 194 cases of bound and unbound periodicals. 

Ray announced his retirement a few months ago, but I wouldn't bet on his sitting home in a robe and slippers, smoking a pipe and reflecting on paper and ink. No, my guess is that Ray Prince has quite a few more miles to travel on behalf of educating young people in the graphic arts. Ray Prince, Clairton boy.

A little blogging music Maestro. "Sign 'O The Times," by Prince.

Dr. Forgot

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Our 500th Post and My First Book

When I started this blog, back in what seems like the late seventeenth century, I was not sure where it would go. Once I began blogging abut my old hometown and its residents, past and present, the blog just took off. There are more than 1,000 regular visitors to the blog. Today's, being the 500th blog post, is a very special day because I am about to announce the publication of my first book. The book is effectively memoirs from a youth that started in Clairton during the Second World War. I hope to have it published before summer begins. It will be available in a print version (paperback) as well as an electronic version and will be available through, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, as well as directly from me if you wish to have a signed copy. Once the book becomes available I will do another post as well as an email blast to announce it and provide specifics regarding ordering. At that time I will also have a Facebook page and a dedicated web site for the book. I am very excited about this project and hope you find the time to read it. Let me give you a taste:

What follows is my story; a boy who was born too soon, who grew too slowly, and who was an alien by virtue of being a right-brain person in a left-brain world as well as a left-hander in a right handed world. The events depicted in this book are as I remember them. My life path, from beginning as a poor student, navigating through the ranks of academia, and finally having achieved the ultimate degree in education, was shaped by a series of accidental occurrences. The story also tells how grades one receives in school do not necessarily predict achievement. Academia can be both out of sync and out of touch with students.

Whether a straight-A student or one whose grades come in fuzzy shades, it is rare that one focuses on exactly where life’s journey will take him. For most, life is shaped by happenstance or a series of accidents; who or when to marry, when children come along, professional and personal oppor-
tunities, and setbacks. In that sense, my journey through life might not be so different than that of many others.

The story begins two generations earlier in a part of the world that was at various times called Austria, Hungary, The Austro-Hungarian Empire, Yugoslavia, and most recently a group of independent countries established after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. People of that era were graded on such things as their ability to earn a living, their physical attractiveness, or their level of commitment to a religion. They were also perniciously graded on their circumstance of birth – whether born with a silver spoon in their mouth or a pick and shovel in their hand.

Grades were also a benchmark of whether or not one’s work performance was “up to grade.” Students were not given grades but were tutored individually. Once their studies were complete they went into the work force with a recommendation from a tutor instead of a transcript.

William Farish, a tutor at Cambridge University in 1792, is given credit for developing the modern grading system. By assigning grades, he would not have to get to know his students as well as other teachers, thereby allowing him to process many more students in a shorter period of time. His clever “invention” caught on in America in the nineteenth century and ballooned in the twentieth.

These days, grades are typically assigned a letter value, A, B, C, D, or F. Some grading systems include percentages that may or may not translate to letter grades. A 70 percent can be equivalent to a “C” grade in one system or a “D” grade in another. Universities frequently assign a number grade point, meaning letter grades can be converted to or from a number value, (A=4.0, B=3.0, C=2.0, D=1.0, F=0.0). Grade points can be on a five-point scale, or a three-point scale.

In the mid-twentieth century a popular grading system was referred to as ESNU; E (Excellent) S (Satisfactory), N or NI (Needs Improvement), or U (Unsatisfactory).

Grades may be weighted or un-weighted, and might include plus (+) or minus (–) after each letter grade, with the exception of F. Grades might also be I (Incomplete), FN (Failure, Non-attendance), X (audit) or W (Withdrawal). Samford University, near Birmingham, Alabama, offers 21 different grades that could be earned by students.

Grades can also come in colors: A “Red 70” can be a passing grade that is on the verge of failure. Red and Blue Ribbon, Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Platinum medals, can be considered colored grades. It is clear that more than Fifty Shades of Grades can be identified in evaluating achievement. What William Farish began has become so scattered in education that it begs for a new name. defines the word wacky as “odd, irrational, or crazy.” My own definition of the grading process in academic education is “Wacademia.”

I have had many failures in my life; earning failing grades among them. Indeed, my failures have far outnumbered my successes. However, over the years I have committed myself to the philosophy that failure is the tuition we pay for success, provided we learn from our failures. I have neither cited nor
focused on my failures in this book, rather, I’ve noted some of my successes and the joy they have provided. 

A little book-writing music Maestro... "I Could Write a Book," by Harry Conick, Jr.

Dr. Forgot