04/27/16

My Mom, Evajean Buhl

May 24th is coming, which is my Mom’s birthday.  I would wait to write this until then, but I know that May is going to be a very busy month for me.  If I’m going to write about my Mom, I should do it now while I have the time and the strength of mind to do this properly.

My entire life, I knew I was adopted.  They never made that a secret.  Until my early teens, I didn’t know anything about my biological parents, and I didn’t really care.  I had parents that loved me.  They made it clear that I was special.  That I was chosen.  I felt loved and spoiled, and that was enough.

In my teen years, I acted out a little.  I didn’t show proper respect.  I didn’t clean my room when asked.  Honestly, my teenage rebellion was exceptionally mild.

But I did have a smart mouth.  Upset with the way I was talking back, my Mom decided to drop an ounce of truth on me.  She let me know that my biological mother was alive, she knew who she was, and that maybe I should be a little more thankful for the family I had.

My Dad was not present for this conversation.  I don’t think he would have let it get that far.

Knowing that my biological mother was out there did not do good things for me.  But I’m not writing this to talk about me, or the psychological stress of holding onto that particular truth.  I’m writing this to paint a picture of what my Mom was like.

She loved her children, but she was careless with them.  She said things and did things that were outright brutal, not realizing what sort of effect her words would have.  The flaws in her humanity expressed most with regards to her children, of which she had many.  All of them left her before they finished High School, except me.  The youngest.  Maybe she had mellowed by the time I was born.

I’m not writing this to bash her.  I would be a really terrible person to besmirch her character all these years after her death.  My words are meant to paint a realistic picture, revealing some of the flaws, so that the beauty she did possess can be appreciated.

My Dad died October 31, 1988.  It is easy for me to remember the date, because it was Halloween.  I can remember the year, because he’d been present when I bowled my first 200 game on October 10, 1987, the day after 10-9-87.  He’d been a part of a special moment for me, and he died a year later.  It gives me an easy way to remember.

Shortly after my Dad’s death, my Mom left her stable job at the Medford Medical Center and became a consultant.  She traveled all over the country, working in different hospitals.  It was like I’d lost both parents, that year.

Again, this isn’t about me, and it’s not about my Dad.  This is about my Mom.  On the face of it, I thought my Mom had chosen to leave the job in Medford, and had chosen to go off without me.  I’d been fighting with my Mom, so it didn’t hurt my feelings at the time.  I wasn’t quite 16, and I wasn’t ready to take care of myself.  I didn’t have the skills to deal with the responsibility.  I didn’t think well of my Mom for leaving me, but I also didn’t hold it against her.

Many years later, I found out that she hadn’t left Medford by choice.  She’d been fired.  Going to work every day, walking within sight of the place where her husband had died, she hadn’t been able to work effectively.  They let her go, and she shouldered on.  She didn’t burden me with that ugly truth.  A decade after her death, I discovered the truth in one of her old briefcases.

I know pride played a part in her keeping that secret.  But I also know that she tried to protect me.  This is an example of the kind of strength she possessed.  She took the pain of the death of her husband, and the pain of losing a job, and she kept it away from me.  She shielded me from her pain.  If she had someone else to talk to, someone to help her deal with what she’d gone through, I don’t know who it would be.  To my knowledge, she took it all on herself and pushed on.

I grew up, and I grew more distant with my Mom.  At one point, I had to move back in with her in Sacramento.  She tried to “mother” me when I moved in with her, and I rejected it.  I walked away from her a lot.  I was 19, and had spent enough time on my own that I couldn’t appreciate her trying to take care of me like that.  It was at this point that I started to learn how to block her.  I learned that if I rejected her help and her gifts, she couldn’t use those things to guilt me into doing what she wanted.  I began to make it a habit to reject things from her, no matter how much I may have needed her help.

In 1993, I left Sacramento for the second time, joining the Air Force.  In 1995, I married Melissa.  In 1996, Bryanna was born.  In 1998, Chris was born.  1999, I returned to Sacramento, got a job in IT, and bought a home.

By that time, my Mom lived in San Bernardino.  She’d had health problems all the time I’d been in the Air Force.  She had an addiction to prescription medication.  She had suffered through angina, tuberculosis, and towards the end, a minor heart attack.  The last place she lived was an assisted living home in Riverside.  At one point, she’d been in the hospital so long that I’d needed to go down to Southern California and pay her bills, and get her household in order.

At the end of 2001, the hospital she’d been in for months transferred her to what was effectively a retirement hospital.  They gave her a different doctor.  She had bed sores, from being in bed so long.  She was weak, and often drugged, and she didn’t have anyone stopping by to visit her.

Melissa and I went to her.  I started to see something in myself when I looked at her, but it wasn’t clear.  Not yet.  She saw me, and she smiled.  She was so happy to see me.

Melissa and I made plans.  She would never go back to her assisted living home, so we needed to close that out.  We rented a truck, packed her things, and started moving her to Sacramento.  We’d find a place for her there.  We’d make sure she was close to family.  We’d take care of her.

The hardest part of moving her stuff to Sacramento was gathering her cats.  One came along easily enough, but Max was a terror.  When my Mom had her heart attack, Max protected her, intimidating the firemen that came to help her.  Max, the big white cat without claws, was a problem.  I wound up putting on oven mitts and a jacket as armor to grab him up.  We put him in the cat carrier, put the cat carrier in my Mom’s old car, and started driving to Sacramento.

I didn’t see my Mom again.  While driving north on I-5, my Mom’s condition worsened.  She died before we had a chance to go back.

My Mom was a hard woman.  She was about 5’6″, but her presence made her seem at least 6’1″.  People always swore that she was a tall woman.

My Mom was fiercely competitive.  It’s a quality that I share with her, often to my detriment.  She used to play Scrabble with me, with her 40 years of experience and vocabulary.  She’d crush me, then cackle.  To this day, I still don’t like to play Scrabble.

The Summer after my Dad died, I traveled with my Mom to Washington D.C. where she had a contract.  I stayed in the hotel most of that summer, played on my computer, wrote stories, and she worked.

We drove across the country to get there.  My Mom talked while she drove.  At one point, about a day away from Indiana where we’d meet up with her oldest daughter, Helen, she started talking about family history.  She wasn’t really thinking as she spoke.  It had started with her talking about Helen and her children, then went on to Sue and Ginger.  But she kept going.  She talked about Leslie, and how Leslie had been pregnant in 1972.  Leslie, that I had met a couple of times, but didn’t really know.  Leslie, that had two daughters that were younger than me, but no children that were my age.

I put the pieces together.  Leslie had to be my biological mother.  After meeting Helen, I took her aside and put the question to her.  I didn’t mean to put her on the spot, but I didn’t really have a choice.  She handled it well.  She told me, yes, she thought Leslie was my biological mother.

I have complicated familial ties.  Cheryl is my sister, though she’d biologically be my aunt.  Then there is Jennifer, that is my biological sister.  She needs a brother way more than she needs an uncle, so I think of her as my sister, too.

Then there is Helen, Sue, and Ginger.  Helen is awesome.  I don’t know Sue very well, but she seems nice.  Ginger seems to hate me.  Are they my sisters, or are they my aunts?  I think of Helen as my sister, but I’ll leave the actual relationship to them.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, to me.  They’re family, and that’s enough for me.

Again, this is about my Mom.  Ginger and Sue recently asked about how my Mom died, and I didn’t have good details.  When my Mom died, I’d been in the process of making sure that she wouldn’t die alone.  Yet that’s exactly what happened.  She’d been a hard person to get along with, and in the end, when she needed someone to be there and help keep an incompetent doctor from screwing up, no one saved her.

My Mom loved bowling, greasy food, and cigarettes.  She didn’t exercise.  She had high blood pressure, and was on blood pressure medication most of my life.  Her doctor should never have taken her off her blood pressure medication, but he did.  Consequently, her blood pressure got out of control, her condition destabilized after spending most of a year in a hospital, and she died without any of her many children around.

My Mom died in January, 2002.  I can never remember if it was January 11th or January 12th.  There is no cool memory trick for me to use.  I don’t have a great memory to draw upon to provide a reminder, the way I have with my father.

My Mom died before I learned to be a good son to her.  That’s something I will have to live with and learn from the rest of my life.

It’s a bit of a downer, but that’s the true, abridged story of my life with my Mom, Evajean Buhl.  She loved her children, but she didn’t know how to show it in a way that didn’t push them away.  I can trace all of my hard edges to her.  My stubbornness.  My competitive drive.  My strength of will.  For better or worse, I learned those things from her.

04/20/16

The Positive Effect of Discomfort

I’m not completely satisfied.  I could be referring to my weight, my job, my writing, politics, or even my blog.  I’m not completely satisfied with any of those things.  Not too long ago, I talked about how I’m having a difficult time enjoying other people’s writing.  Nothing is perfect, except maybe my pickiness.

This kind of constant discontent has its drawbacks.  When I reach the end of a project, I don’t feel as though I’ve truly finished it.  There is always something I could have done a little bit better.  During band practice, I get hung up on the wrong notes, ignoring all the notes I played well.  Being unsatisfied all the time with my work, my writing, and my music means I’m never really comfortable.

But this kind of discomfort can lead to good things.  I’m constantly looking to try to improve.  I work harder, trying to make my code more efficient.  I tweak things, experimenting with ways to improve myself and my craft.  Some experiments pay off.  Some don’t.

The trick is to draw energy from the discontent, to motivate positive change, while holding back the negative feelings.  This is easier to do in some areas of my life than others.  For example, it is easy for me to forgive myself when I don’t write a program perfectly.  I’m still improving as a programmer.  All I have to do is look at code I wrote a year ago, marvel at my own stupidity, then pat myself on the back for doing better now.

It is important to keep trying to improve.  I haven’t lost weight as quickly as I have in the past, but I’m still sticking with my diet, and I’m not beating myself up on the evenings when I eat some candy or drink a beer.  I still haven’t finished the second draft of the book I’ve been working on, but I’m still showing up at least one night a week, and I’m putting in the work.  I may only get one paragraph written or edited in a week, but it’s progress, and I’m not giving up.

The biggest danger I run into is when I really buckle down to try and do something better, but I’m unable to see the improvement.  This happened last night during band practice.  I’d been playing fine, and there was this one challenging section that I thought I was nailing.  But I wasn’t.  And I couldn’t see what I was doing wrong.  I just had people around me informing me that I wasn’t getting it right.  It didn’t matter how gently or sternly they put it.  All I could feel was the wrongness, and powerless to do anything about it.

These times will happen.  And handling these disappointments is one of the things I’m working on improving.

I guess what I’m saying is that being a little bit uncomfortable can lead to making things better.  While there are times when you may have to settle for what you have, settling is not how things improve.  It’s when we rebel against the status quo that we try to make our environment or our lives better.

04/13/16

We Need to Handle Rape Better

I recently read that Toby Turner, YouTube celebrity, has been accused of rape on Tumblr.  The story showed up in my news and YouTube feeds.  It is a Bill Cosby story all over again.

When the Bill Cosby story hit the news, I didn’t want to believe it.  I tried to keep an open mind, but it was difficult.  I grew up on Cosby.  I also didn’t care for the Trial by Social Media that surrounded that whole situation.

So here it is again, this time with Toby Turner as the accused.  He’s a lesser known celebrity, but this is the same sort of trial outside the courts.  No lawyers.  No due process.  Just the story of two individuals, and people divided over which one to believe.

We need to do better than this, both for the victims of rape, and for those that stand accused.

First, we need to protect the victims.  We need to make them feel safe and secure.  We need to believe someone when they say they have been raped, and give them whatever support and treatment they deserve.  If it is counselling, or privacy, or medical treatment, or all of the above, we need to give them what they need.  No second guessing.  No victim should ever be subjected to further shame or humiliation after such a difficult trauma.

We need to make sure that rape victims can go to the police.  This means changing our culture.  A victim should not have to fear repercussions for reporting the crime.  A victim should not have to fear further embarrassment.  The seriousness of what they’ve been through should never be dismissed.  We should be treating victims of all crimes with compassion, but rape victims especially, so that they can report the crime and begin the legal process for bringing the rapist to justice.

If a rape victim chooses to go to social media instead of the police, we need to continue to believe them, and give them the support that they need.  It’s difficult enough admitting to something like that.  We don’t need to make it more difficult by dismissing their pain.  We need to show rape victims compassion, without judgement.  It is not their fault.  They haven’t lost their honor, or their innocence.  They are the same person they were before.  They’ve been made to suffer something no one should suffer, and they deserve to be treated with respect, humanity, and love.

However, if a rape victim chooses to go to social media and not the police, we also need to be careful how we deal with the one that is accused.

This is the difficult part.  I just said that we need to believe the victim, and give them what they need.  Does that mean that we need to believe them when they’re accusing someone publicly, and they are seeking justice through social media?

No.  Social media is not a court of law.  Social and news media is not a place of evidence or due process.  Social and news media is not the place where we should mete out justice.

When we crucify people like Bill Cosby and Toby Turner in the press or on social media, we create a culture of divisiveness and hearsay.  We create situations where people siding with the accused attack the accuser.  I have no doubt that people supporting Toby Turner are attacking his accuser right now.  She does not deserve that.

When someone accuses someone of rape on social media, we need to focus our attention on the accuser and give them help and support, rather than focus on the accused and destroy them.  No harm will come to anyone by supporting the accuser.  If the accuser is lying, they’ll get some attention they may not deserve, but it won’t hurt anyone.  On the other hand, if the accuser is lying and you destroy the career of the accused, then you’ve perpetrated a gross injustice against someone innocent.  The kind of damage that is irreparable.

One other point before I close this uncomfortable post… when we write blog posts or news articles passing on the story of the accusation, it is vital that we be accurate and fair.  Cherry-picking details in order to make the story bigger should be criminal.  For example, the article from PerezHilton.com that I linked at the top mentions Jaclyn Glenn coming forward and corroborating April Turner’s story.  It is a little misleading.  Jaclyn Glenn did mention that Toby pressured her into the things, but she also made it clear that she didn’t think Toby was capable of rape.

This whole story with Toby Turner is troubling.  If he did it, then he deserves to be punished.  Whether he did it or not, his career is probably finished.  That is a real shame if he is innocent.  And realistically, there isn’t anything he can do about it.

We can do better than this.  It starts with making it easier for victims to seek justice via the proper route: the police.  The alternative is anarchy, and creating a culture that is toxic for both the victim and the accused.

04/9/16

Too Much To Do Paralysis

I’ve just finished playing with the Rancho Cordova River City Concert Band at an event dedicated to supporting veterans.  We passed the hat to raise money to go to Semper Fi.  We played with the River City Choir.  There weren’t many people in the audience, but the performance went very well!

Now I’m home, trying to figure out what to do.  I’ve written before how critical it is that I manage my time well, because I just don’t seem to have enough of it to go around.  This afternoon is one of those rare times when I don’t have anything specifically planned.  I can choose to do what I want.  So what do I choose?

It’s times like this that I face a kind of strange paralysis.  I can choose to do just about anything, but I often wind up choosing to do pretty much nothing.  It’s all because there is so much that my mind tells me that I should do.

Here’s a list of things I feel like I should do, in no particular order:

  1. Edit The Repossessed Ghost
  2. Work on some new story
  3. Work on programming projects for work
  4. Work on a programming project for fun
  5. Clean the garage
  6. Go for a long walk, even if it is raining
  7. Work on the laundry
  8. Finish watching Season 2 of Daredevil
  9. Play a game
  10. Please, just do something other than sitting around, watching YouTube

So many times, I wind up sitting in front of my computer, doing the thing I least want to do.  It feels like I’m letting myself down, and wasting what little time I have.

I know why this happens.  I’m legitimately tired, and I need to do something mindless for awhile.

Every week I maintain a packed schedule full of long hours.  Many of those hours are spent dealing with and interacting with people.  I’m not antisocial, but that type of interaction wears on me.  I need a break sometimes.  I need to do something mindless for awhile, so that I can recharge.

I drive myself hard all week.  When I reach a break in my schedule, the urge to keep pushing is strong, but not as strong as the need to just sit and catch my breath.

Well, those are the excuses, anyway.  I’m not the only one that goes through this.  I’m human, just like everyone else.  Today, I’m settling the paralysis by writing about it.  Examining it.  Sharing it.

Maybe I’ll find something else to do that isn’t on the list.

04/7/16

They’re Both Qualified

This is the part of the political dance that I hate.  The sparring, where good people are forced to tear each other apart like gladiators.

If you haven’t been following the recent news, Hillary Clinton was asked if she thought Bernie Sanders was qualified to be President.  The interviewer asked several times, interrupting her and leading her on.  She didn’t actually say that Sanders isn’t qualified.  Instead, she hemmed and hawed over it, leaving it open for interpretation.

Apparently, Bernie Sanders got some memo that said, “Hillary says you’re not qualified!” And so he responded, citing the same points that he’s cited before about her connections to the banks, and how a candidate that is in someone else’s pocket is not qualified.

I’ve lost a little bit of respect for both candidates from this exchange.

First, let’s start with what it takes to be qualified to be President.  Taken from PresidentsUSA.Net and the Constitution:

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

So, there you go.  Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are qualified.  They meet the age and citizenship requirements.

I also meet these requirements.  Sadly, so does Trump.  The only one running for President right now that doesn’t meet these requirements is Ted Cruz, since he was born in Canada.

So, both Bernie and Hillary are qualified.

When Hillary was being interviewed, she shouldn’t have played coy.  She should have just said, “Of course he’s qualified.  The real question is if he’s the better candidate or not.  I don’t believe he is, and I also believe the voters will side with me.”

That would have put an end to the question, and it would have shown respect for her adversary while at the same time projecting confidence.

But let’s say that, put on the spot, she chose to dance around while thinking of a proper answer.  Fine.

What Bernie should have done was check the facts first.  I’m sure one of his staffers came to him with the news, probably out of breath from running.  The staffer panted out, “Did you hear?  She says you’re not qualified!”

Instead of flying off the handle like he did, he should have checked for himself.  When you get news that is just a little bit ridiculous, exercise incredulity.  That way, you don’t set yourself up, the way Bernie set himself up.

Both candidates screwed up.  I want Hillary to be more direct when answering questions, and quit constantly playing the politician game.  And I want Bernie to take a breath and be more thoughtful instead of reacting on second hand information.  If either of these two are going to be President, they’re going to have to learn these lessons in order to be effective.

03/31/16

Let’s Talk about Snyder’s Superman

A week ago, I went to the movies and saw one of the first showings of Batman v Superman : Dawn of Justice.  I’ve had a week to think about it.  I’ve read other people’s reviews and opinions.  Now I’d like to share mine.

This post will be full of spoilers.  If you do not want the movie spoiled, stop reading here and come back after you’ve seen the movie.

First off, I think the reviews have been a little harsh.  The movie is not that bad.  It’s not amazing, which is probably why it’s being panned so hard.  We wanted a live action meeting of Batman and Superman on the silver screen that would knock our socks off.  This movie didn’t do that.

Zack Snyder reached far, his ambition greater than what he could deliver.  He wanted to give us something akin to what we’ve been getting from Marvel.  He tried to tap into the dark and gritty tone of both Nolan’s Batman and Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns.  He crammed the story with characters and scenes in order to hint at a larger, epic story.  He tried to do all this in one movie, and in his efforts, lost track of making a single, enjoyable standalone movie.

So far, I haven’t said anything that hasn’t already been said on the internet about this movie.  Other things you may have already read… Ben Affleck filled role perfectly.  Wonder Woman looked perfect, and though her role in this movie was small, she’ll probably be amazing in her standalone movie.  Eisenberg did a terrible job as Lex Luthor.  Doomsday didn’t look very good, sometimes.  The death of Superman could have been handled better.

Those things are easy to point out.  Many critics and reviews are saying that Batman v Superman is not a good movie.  I think that might not be specific enough.  The real problem is that Batman v Superman is not a good Superman movie.

What if we didn’t think of Henry Cavill’s character as Superman?  If we disassociated his character from Superman, would BvS be a better movie?

Maybe.  Let’s compare Superman with Cavill’s character.  To keep them straight, I will rename Henry Cavill’s character something more inline with what he portrayed: Ironheart.

Superman is more than just the costume and the powers.  He is the ultimate Boy Scout, honest to a fault, and moral.  He does what is right, because it is right.  Life throws him curve balls, but he rises above it.  He stands for hope.  Though he comes from a different planet, Earth is his home, and he has friends and family here.

Ironheart is weighed down by the darkness around him.  He is on Earth, but he is separate.  A powerful stranger.  He wants to do what is right most of the time, but he’s haunted by the ghost of his father, telling him that no good deed goes unpunished.  Ironheart has two tethers keeping him grounded: Lois Lane, and his mother.  The S on his chest stands for hope, but he doesn’t have any of his own, and he doesn’t know how to inspire it.

As a writer, I like Ironheart.  I like the story potential in a character like that.  I like Superman, too, but I think I’d have an easier time writing a character like Ironheart.  The character Cavill portrayed is vulnerable in ways that Superman is not, and I think that is interesting.

The movie has other problems, no doubt about it.  It is a beautiful, joyless affair, with major plot holes and a villain that is also miscast or misnamed, or both.  But the movie’s greatest sin is trying to take a character like Ironheart and calling him Superman.  The two are not interchangeable.

Hopefully, Zack Snyder learns from this.  He’s good at making pretty movies.    Maybe he just needs to work with someone else that can keep him grounded and focused.

03/25/16

Why Can’t We Share Bathrooms?

Maybe I’m a little late to this topic, but I just don’t understand what is going on in North Carolina.  I don’t understand the arguments.

In summary, North Carolina is requiring people use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificate, rather than the gender they identify with.

Here’s a quote from the Washington Post article I just linked:

“Supporters say the new law protects all people from having to share bathrooms with people who make them feel unsafe.”

Do you know what a transgender person feels when they’re going to a public restroom?  A little bit of stress, and an insatiable need to pee.

I just don’t get the big deal.

“But Brian!” cried the Strawman. “Laws enabling transgender people the use of bathrooms they identify with will allow predatory male rapists to go into women’s restrooms.  Don’t you fear for the safety of your wife and daughter?”

If I thought the fear reasonable, then yes, I’d be concerned.  But as far as I can tell, a predatory rapist isn’t concerned with entering a women’s restroom legally.  A law preventing transgender men and women from entering a restroom isn’t going to stop a rapist.

The people in favor of laws like what North Carolina passed refer to the safety of women.  These people don’t voice any concern over the safety of men.  Not only because the whole attitude behind the notion is one of coddling and misogyny, but also, no one is really concerned with gay men raping men in the bathroom.  We’re not concerned with it, because it isn’t a reasonable fear, because public bathroom are not where most of these attacks are taking place.

Here’s another link listing statistics on rape and attempted rape.  It’s full of sad statistics, but there are silver linings.  Rape, like other criminal activities in the U.S., is on the decline.  And, when rape is occurring, it’s not being done by strangers, away from home.  Which means the predatory rapist stalking bathrooms is infrequent enough to almost be mythological.

Yes, I’m sure it happens, and that is sad.  But it is not happening enough to pass laws that discriminate against people that are already having a rough time.

Seriously, we should stop worrying for the sake of worrying, and just let people answer Nature’s Call wherever they feel most comfortable.  I hope North Carolina, and other legislators emboldened or inspired by North Carolina’s efforts, come to their senses.

03/13/16

Writers, Fifty Shades, and a Would-Be Tyrant

I’ve just finished another chapter.  I’m feeling really good about my work so far, so I’ve decided to take a break and talk about the relationship between authors and would-be tyrants.

An author needs readers.  That’s a simple truth, easy to conceptualize.  Without readers, a book has no value.  It may as well be fuel for a fire.  Until a writer’s work is read, it essentially doesn’t exist.

As a writer that is early in his career, I think about this problem all the time.  What will happen when I finish my book, and I’m unable to get people to read it?  Will it all be for nothing?  Do I have the personal strength to move on to the next book?

If you want to hurt a writer, refuse to read their work.  Don’t talk about them.  Ignore their stories, and the writer will wither like a plant denied water and light.  Writer’s need readers to spread the word, so that others will become interested and check out their work.

Not all word of mouth has to be about the quality of the work.  It can be about the content.  When people first started talking about Fifty Shades of Grey, they weren’t talking about the quality of the writing.  They were talking about the content of the book.  It was naughty.  The taboo of the material piqued people’s interest, and the books sold.

If you like Fifty Shades, great.  I’m not going to tell you that you’re wrong.  But I’ve looked at some of the writing, and in my opinion, it’s hideous.  And, honestly, it’s not all that raunchy.

Spectacle is what made Fifty Shades taken off.  Without the spectacle, there would have been no curiosity.  Without the curiosity, there would have been no audience.  Without the audience, the book would have faded into obscurity just like so many other stories published independently.

A politician shares this characteristic with writers.  Without an audience, they can scream and shout all the vitriol they can think of, and it won’t make a difference.  A politician needs to be heard in order to be a politician.

If you want to end a politician’s career, don’t show up for his rallies.  Don’t protest him.  Don’t write blog posts about him.  Don’t vote for him.  Ignore him, and encourage your friends and family to do the same.

Remember… the opposite of love isn’t hate.  It’s apathy.  Love and hate are both extremes of passion.  Love and hate inspire people to do things they may not normally do.  From an outsider’s perspective, without context, the actions of love and the actions of hate can look the same.  So don’t give a would-be tyrant your love, or your hate.  Give him nothing.

We currently have someone running for President that is inspiring hate.  People are showing up for his rallies, some to support, some to protest.  And this candidate is inciting violence, with his words and with his attitude.

He’s generating stories.  He’s in the news.  Every outrageous thing he says is picked up and talked about.  With that kind of interest, it doesn’t matter what he does.  In his own words, he could kill someone on the street, and it wouldn’t change the course of his campaign.

You may notice that I haven’t mentioned his name.  I don’t need to, and I’m not going to.  You already know who I’m talking about.  And you probably already know how dangerous his campaign is for our country.

If you want to end his campaign, and end the violence at his rallies, stop talking about him.  Stop adding fuel to his fire.  As long as the spotlight is on him, he’s in control of the show.  The stories he’s generating are too rich for the media networks to pass up.  So he gets to set the tone, and dictate the message, and we already know that his message is about divisiveness, intolerance, and hate.

You already know what he’s going to say, so quit clicking on the stories that feature him.  When stories about him stop generating views, there will no longer be financial incentive to keep making more stories about him.  His star will fade.  And he will go back to obscurity.

Focus on other candidates.  If you need a little hate and divisiveness, go read about Ted Cruz.  He’s a pretty terrible candidate, too, but he’s not actively trying to get people to beat each other up at his events.

Honestly, it would be better to focus on the positive.  Find the qualities about your favorite candidate that you like, and talk to other people about that.

Just quit giving the would-be tyrant air time.

03/9/16

It’s Hard for Me to Enjoy Books

I recently finished Zero World by Jason M. Hough.  This book has 4 stars with 98 reviews on Amazon, and came highly recommended to me.

Before I get too much into the subject of this post, let me say this: read this book!  You will most likely enjoy it.  This post is about my shortcomings as a reader, and not Mr. Hough’s shortcomings as a writer.  In fact, nothing I’m about to say is a critique of Zero World or Jason Hough.  I’m mentioning the book because it’s the most recent story I’ve listened to, and I want to encourage other people to read it, too.

In case that wasn’t clear: this post is not a criticism of Zero World, by Jason M. Hough.

Okay.  Let’s begin.

I didn’t enjoy Zero World as much as I wanted to.  It is the latest in a growing list of books that I’ve listened to that didn’t leave me satisfied.  I found the story clever, and Gideon Emery did a fine job reading it.  I didn’t hear any inconsistencies, and the descriptions were strong.  Jason Hough did a great job of bringing to life the scenes, and he handled action well.

So why didn’t I enjoy it?

It’s me.  This sounds like a humble-brag, but as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve become more difficult to surprise.  I recognize when details are included for future plot devices, and I accurately predict how those plots will evolve.  I’m no longer surprised.  In fact, I haven’t enjoyed the thrill of discovery in a story in a long while.

I can appreciate the cleverness of the plot, the dialog, and the word choices.  But it’s like all of my Christmas presents have been wrapped in cellophane instead of paper.  I can see what’s coming.

This happened with the latest Mistborn books by Brandon Sanderson.  This happened with the first book of the Iron Druid series by Kevin Hearne.  The list goes on and on.

I have to think that all writers go through this.  I don’t think I’m special in this regard, or have developed some unique superpower/curse.  It must be some natural part of the journey of a writer.  Developing the skills necessary to craft a good story, we learn how to see beyond the curtain, and know the mortality of the wizard putting on the grand show.

If all writers go through this, and all writers are typically voracious readers, then it adds a layer of proof to the idea that writers are masochists.

I don’t think it’s quite as simple an idea as developing a craft makes it more difficult to appreciate the work of others in that craft.  For example, as I’ve grown as a musician, my appreciation for all music has also grown.  I can hear nuance that I never heard before, and know the difficulty involved in making the instruments sound they way they do.  My development as a programmer hasn’t diminished my ability to appreciate someone else’s code.  As I learned more about baseball as assistant coach for my kids’ Little League, I grew to enjoy a game I previously didn’t care for at all.

I’m going to continue reading and listening to books.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have no intention of stopping, even if I’m not enjoying books as much as I used to.

But how am I going to give reviews?  I make it a point not to give reviews or rate books unless I can be honest, and say something nice.  An author has to go out of their way to get a poor review from me.  I want to support my fellow writers, but I want to make sure my support is positive and true.

If I’m stingy with reviews, how can I expect other writers to rate my work?

I suppose that’s a problem to unravel later.  I’m nearly finished with the second draft.  Progress is moving along faster than it had before, and I’m really happy with what I’ve written so far.  A third draft will be necessary, but it won’t be nearly as deep or involved.  I’ve edited about 54,000 words so far.  The first draft ran a little over 60,000 words.  That should tell you how far I’ve come.

In conclusion, buy Jason M. Hough’s book.  I met him at Worldcon last year, and he’s a fantastic, knowledgeable writer that is excellent at his craft.  Zero World is a good book, and deserves to be read.

03/1/16

March Writing Goals

It is March 1st.  My birthday is in a few days, therefore, this is my month.  Every day of March feels special to me.

I have decided, therefore, to make March special.  I’m going to set myself a daily writing goal and really work on my craft.  I want to look back at the end of this month and be shocked and amazed at the progress I’ve made.

I’ve tried setting goals in March before, but with little success.  I have not yet succeeded at duplicating NaNoWriMo in the Spring.  In previous attempts, I’ve focused on word count.  I said that I would write 30,000 words in March, or something like that.  I set goals that seemed reasonable at the time.  Unfortunately, I fell short, and felt discouraged going into April.

This month I’m taking a different approach.  I’m not going to focus on word count as much as time.  Some days, I may produce thousands of words.  Others, I might not produce any.  The goal is spend at least 30 minutes writing or editing every day this month.  Even Mondays and Tuesdays, when my time is most limited.

I may accompany the writing with blog posts, like this one.  I’m not sure yet.  Tonight, it’s too late to get any actual writing or editing done.  I’m going to go to bed soon.  But I can take my manuscript with me and spend some time reading my revisions.  I can prepare.  It won’t increase my word count, but it will keep me involved, and it will make the next time I sit down to write that much more productive.

At least half an hour each day.  I can find a half hour, no problem.

What goal will you set for yourself in March?