This is the Culebra Cut in what would become the Panama Canal. The Panama Canal fascinates me because of the unique solution applied to its construction. Time after time, as the Army Corps of Engineers was digging the Canal, the sides collapsed and filled the trench. So instead of digging ‘down,’ the engineers dug ‘up.’ They constructed a dam and filled what is now Gatun Lake. With no sides to collapse, the Panama Canal was completed. As a mystery writer I strive to ‘write up’ rather than ‘fall into’ the genre. I do not include murders in my mysteries because every other mystery writer uses murder.  I write impossible crimes where the detective has to solve HOW the crime was committed before he can go after the perpetrators. Thus I have created a unique cul-de-sac in the world of mystery writing. And it personifies my writing motto: “If you do not have something unique, you have nothing.” https://bit.ly/2VkrjqS.

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In the Alaska dog racing biz, there is a prophetic expression: “unless you are the lead dog, the scenery never changes.” But that’s more than just a dog racing adage; it’s an aphorism for life.  Without a spark of originality, you are just one of the herd. This is particularly true in writing. Anyone can write a romance novel, murder mystery or thriller. And, if you stay within the envelope of ‘what sells,’ you could do very well. But you are not producing a unique product. You are just selling popcorn. My personal motto, in writing and life, is “If you do not have something unique, you have nothing.” I want every one of my short stories, novels and nonfiction work to be ‘different.’ ‘Different’ takes time to become popular but the spark of originality could set a fire which could burn for decades.  Ian Fleming passed in 1964 but the world is still gripping the table for the next installment of his creation.  https://www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi

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Ok. This is photoshop. It was done in the 1940s to stimulate the Alaska sea food market.  (“There are a lot of great steaks on this Copper River Red!  Look for them in the seafood section of your local grocery store!”) I like this photo because it reminds me a writer can make anything believable. Unfortunately that’s the problem with a lot of writing. It’s not genuine; its escapism. The best writers don’t ‘make things up.’ They capture real life in a unique manner. Mark Twain made a common chore like whitewashing a fence humorous, memorable and worth retelling. Poe’s raven was, well, just a bird and Hemmingway’s old man was just as old man telling a fish story. Shakespeare made dying for love immortal. Jack London took the reader inside the mind of a dog. Truth is stranger than fiction and we will never ‘run out of great’ good ideas from the real world. If you do not believe that you have not read the latest installment of the Darwin Awards. https://www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi

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The greatest shortcoming of American education is the belief that you ‘teach for the job.’ That is, you teach the basics of what most jobs will require and ‘that’s that.’ The result? Products like this. If you are a millennial, you won’t find anything wrong with the label.  If you were born before 1960, the label will jar you – excuse the pun. Quality education is an ongoing process. The job of the teacher is to open doors to possibilities. After that, it’s up to the student to venture beyond the walls of the classroom. https://www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi

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It is easy to talk about ‘leaping into the future.’ The reality is substantially different. You get to ‘the future’ with baby steps and those steps are in the real world. There is not a lot of “leaping.”  As an example, here is a snapshot of the “leap” from the horse to horsepower. (And if you look at the pavement carefully, you will see trolley tracks.) Every transition – industrial, artistic or personal – takes time and a lot of effort. Great painters and writers did not “start out” great. They earned their way to “the future” failure by mistake by stumble followed misstep and errors of judgement. They became “great” by continuing to make those baby steps. So next time you – the writer, painter, inventor, developer or innovator – get slapped in the face with a failure, setback, rejection or t-e-r-r-i-b-l-e review, remember that the future belongs to those who keep going, baby step by baby step by baby step. https://www.authormasterminds.com/steve-levi

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We all makes mistakes, some of the whoppers. Some of those errors in judgement never see the light of day (Whew!). But then again, to quote Albert Einstein, “Someone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” My father, a Holocaust refugee, was born into a very rich Italian family. In today’s dollars, they were worth about $200 million. In 1939. A year later they were worth $15,000; but they were alive in New York. Perhaps the important thing my father ever told me was “No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow.” The last thing this excavator driver ever thought would happen this day was to come close to death. The lesson? To quote my father, “No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow.”  So make sure what you are doing today has value. You are building the tomorrows of your life one day at a time. What you will be tomorrow depends on what you did today. Never pass up the chance to improve yourself because, who knows?, tomorrow a chimney could fall on you. (And don’t forget to wear a hard hat!) https://amzn.to/2C62juE

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In 1912, so many Americans were furious with both the Democratic and Republican parties that they formed the Progressive Party. (The photo is from their national convention.) Their platform demanded – and I will quote from Wikipedia so no one thinks I am ‘gaming’ the issue – “to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics.” Other Progressive issues included campaign finance reform, a tariff REDUCTION, establishment of what is today called the ‘safety net,’ an eight-hour workday, minimum wage for women, women’s suffrage, worker’s compensation, inheritance tax, direct election of senators, primary election for state and federal office holders, establishment of what is now the SEC and the ‘big three:’ recall, initiative and referendum.  Humm, one hundred years later and those issues are just as big now as they were then. https://amzn.to/2C62juE

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Spooky, eh? He’s Jasper Maskelyne and he made a modest living as a magician until the Second World War. Then he became a magician for the British Army. His greatest trick was making the Suez Canal in Egypt disappear. The Germans needed to destroy the Suez Canal to stop the supply of food and ammunition to Allied forces in Europe. German planes could be easily spotted and shot out of the sky during the day so they staged massive bombing raids at night. So, Maskelyne made the Suez Canal vanish. How? Prestidigitation. He matched the lighting pattern of the Suez Canal five miles away from the Suez Canal. Then, when radar picked up incoming German bombers, the lights of the Suez Canal were turned off and the fake lights turned on. The German bombers then dropped their bombs five miles away. In the desert. Killing only snakes, scorpions and scrub brush. You don’t need to be high tech to be clever! https://amzn.to/2C62juE

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Be frightened!  VERY FRIGHTENED!  This is the scariest piece of photoshop I have ever encountered. For those without a knowledge of the Renaissance, it is a remake of the hand of God creating man from Michelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Visually – and culturally – it is telling us we have given birth to a new world, a new era.  Tomorrow will not be the same as yesterday when it comes to how we make a living, what we can buy and how it is delivered.  That’s the BAD news.  The GOOD news is the marketplace of the world has opened wide for the small business person. In the ‘bad old days,’ the products on the market were the ones businesses believed would sell, not good ones. And profit was in the large numbers. The key to corporate survival was sales, not marketing. Today that trend has been reversed. Now there are buyers looking for unique products. And Artificial Intelligence has made those products cheaper to produce. Today a writer does not have to print 1,000 books to sell one. A fine artists does not have to slog from gallery-to-gallery-to-gallery to find wall space and the entrepreneur who invents a unique product like the Snuggie can sell it on cable television. Artificial Intelligence can make and deliver things faster, but it cannot innovate.  That’s the realm of the human mind.  That being said, you can see my unique books at www.authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.

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DO NOT ROLL YOUR EYES when I tell you this is a statue of Sonny Bono in Palm Springs. (If you are a millennial, Sonny was the ‘Sonny’ in the Sonny and Cher singing duo back in the Dark Ages.) If you are a writer, you OWE a very big thanks to Sonny. Why? Because before 1998, the copyright on your writing was only good for seven (7) years. After that, your books, novels and stories became part of the public domain and anyone could use them for any reason – and not pay you a dime. In 1998, Sonny became the ‘face’ of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Now your books, novels and stories will not enter the public domain until 70 years after your death.  This means your children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, whoever will be making the BIG BUCKS long after you are gone because, alas, few successful writers make those BIG BUCKS in their lifetime. But you can make me a successful writer in my lifetime by buying my books at https://authormasterminds.com/master-of-the-impossible-crime.

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