Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tis A Reason

With the holiday season past, we look forward to the upcoming year with hope and optimism. Like most folks, I tend to reflect on the past year and weigh victories and defeats. It's a part of the human condition. What we mustn't do and what I am struggling to rectify in my own behavior is simply this...We CANNOT and SHOULD not accept ties! 

In our relationships and our professions, tying is the realization of "good enough!"As a writer this past year I've done several pieces that while acceptable, I KNEW weren't of a caliber that I was capable of.  I settled for "good enough." Shameful and ultimately; lazy.  Oh I have all the standard excuses...work pressures, family issues, personal problems, ect. but it boils down to this...I shrugged it off and let it slide because it was EASIER! 

We all need a reason for the things that we do...be it working, playing or writing. We justify the time, money and effort spent in each of these endeavors, allocating resources as we deem fit. Most often we place markers on our efforts by the tangable returns we see...in most instances this is indeed a valuable and time tested methodology. In matters of the heart and in our authoring expenditures however, it can be fool hardy.

As authors we work on projects and pour an enormous amount of time and effort into them. At SOME point, we DO have to send these works into the world and allow the readers to evaluate them. That's what story telling is all about, isn't it? We WILL be rejected by some and accepted by others. It is a part of the process, BUT we need to honestly evaluate the feedback we're given to improve our craft and hone our own abilities. More importantly, we need to commit ourselves to a dedicated schedule of writing, research and tradecraft that will consistently raise our personal standards. 

Failure is completely acceptable IF we've given our best in the effort. If we truly do THAT, failing is simply a strength building exercise for our next attempt! This applies in our writing and our life. To me, reaching a place of comfort where I'm willing to settle and say this is 'good enough' means I've acccepted that I can get no better and do no more. To ME...striving for the next level, PUSHING past the plateau is what life is all about! Digging deeper into the complexities of the human condition and ourselves is what enriches our experiences and widens our horizons...apply THAT to your WRITING and well...let's just say, tis the reason. 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

A Day Of Thanks...

On this day each year, we as a nation gather in celebration, to enjoy a meal and give thanks to the many blessing bestowed upon us. For most, it's a day of overindulgence and laughter, intersected with naps and shopping. Our hearts are lighter and we give more freely of our time and resources. All of which are good and necessary things. I am thankful for my family, friends and employment.

For others, this day will serve as a reminder...of failed adventures and unachieved goals. It will be a harbringer of stress and anxiety, another dark streak in a season filled with depression.With nearly eight million US citizens unemployed and of that portion;  690,000 of those folks are homeless. It's easy to see that our nation as a whole, has work to do. I am thankful for the volunteers that strive to combat the hungry and the destitute.

As always, there are uniformed men and woman both here and abroad, sacrificing their time with loved ones to protect our way of life and our freedoms. They willingly place themselves in harms way to safeguard our streets and borders every hour of every day. For all of them, I am especially thankful.

On this day we give thanks...to our forebears for their vision and willingness to forge a new nation. For all the small things...the laughter of a child, the warmth of a hug and the laughter of family and friends; we are grateful.

It is my intention to remember each of these, not just on this day but every day. To be humble and grateful for that which we take for granted. Shelter, food in abundance and the love of a spouse and health...for all that we give such little thought too...I am thankful.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

One Sided Tolerance

This morning as I watch the stories coming in from Paris, I am sad and sickened but yet another senseless act of violence. My heart goes out to the people of Paris and their families. There are always a variety of opinions with such tradgedies but the one that mystifies me is the disclaimer I keep seeing attached to this one.

The repeated calls for 'tolerance' as applied to the Islamic refugees and the opening of our borders to them. Do I believe all the refugees are terrorist? No, of course not. Are there extremist using them as cover? I'd say that's a pretty safe bet.
Are they Muslim? Foolish question...yes, they are. So WHY are so many folks afraid to say so? Denying a thing because it isn't politically correct is madness. These terrorist ARE Muslim extremist and yes, that's a perversion of the religion but that doesn't change the facts.

This is not a call to hate Muslims. Hating all Muslims for the acts of terrorist is akin to hating all Christians for the actions of the Westboro church. Madness...plain and simple. BUT...

There is NO WAY to reliably weed out the fanatics from the victims. If anyone can give me a realistic way to do so, I'd be delighted to hear it. I'm not saying that we shouldn't help, but I AM saying that bringing unknown elements into our country is foolhardy. Camps could be established with no fly zones in their own country. Help with shelter, medicene and food are realistic and achievable goals. Security matters could (and SHOULD) be given to their own countrymen, who could be trained by NATO forces if need be. Once established, those wishing to enter other nations could do so through the establised processes already in place. Seems like common sense to me...

As a nation, we are known for our tolerance. Its part of what draws folks here and makes this country so great. Lately, it seems that we've been beat over the head with what MUST be excepted, least we be described as bigoted or racist. Standing for the very beliefs on which this country was founded are called outdated and old fashioned. Christians are ridiculed as are those speaking out for what they belief are traditional morals. Common sense has been caste aside in favor of the ridiculous. If the majority MUST respect the opinions of the few, why then is that respect not reciprocated?

Would you go to another country and demand that they speak your language, adhere to your religious viewpoint and enact your birth countries customs and laws? If so...then WHY did you leave that nation in the first place? Curious...is it not?

My point is simply this...their have ALWAYS been those who will not only use tragedies to their advantage, they'll figure out a way to profit from it. Such is the darker side of the human condtion but when is enough, ENOUGH?
How many innocents do we sacrifice in the name of blind belief? The belief that prayer or a better ideology will change the minds of extremist and that they'll suddenly join hands and sing Kum-By-Yah is foolish and simple minded. That hasn't EVER worked in the history of mankind. Not once. Period.

There's no reasoning with such mindsets. They can't be bought or rehabilitated. They don't care who they hurt, whether it's women or children makes no difference. If something is rabid you have two choices...put it down or leave it be...and if you ignore it and it kills, infects and destroys everything in its path before it implodes, are you too; responsible?
In my minds eye... yes, you are.

In this age of unaccountability, the shrug and eye roll seem perfectly acceptable as answers for most folks. Perhahps I've reached the age where being flexible has become something I abhor. We ignore the homeless, the struggling vets, the hungry and helpless in our own country.
We applaud lawlessness and rioting in the name of equality while promoting a disregard for authority and a lack of respect for decency and common sense.
A growing number of our countrymen are becoming more dependent on handouts and fewer than ever are willing to work hard for the American dream. Maybe that's a part of the reason that so much of the chaos in the world is deemed...normal.

Have we lost the ability to separate real evil from the mediocre? I want to believe that we as a nation aren't to far gone. That the majority still believe in the core priciples that founded this great country. I want to beleive that the majority has been silent...quietly hoping for change. The time for quiet acceptance is over. If you are one of the silent majority, its time to stand...peaceably and in a dignified manner.

Common sense. Dignity. Justice for all. Those words need to be understood by ALL. No one group should have the ability or right to ride herd over the majority when the basic idea makes NO SENSE. It must be reasonable and realistic. Trashing the rights of hundreds for the perceived right of the one is ludicrous...and it's in the news nearly every day.

For our leadership to pretend this isn't a global issue and to hamstring our professional soldiers in carrying out their missions isn't just criminally negligent, its disgraceful. By most accounts, our current leadership has gotten rid of more high ranking officers than any CIC in history. More than a little unsettling with the current state of the worlds affairs in my mind. If we can't trust our leadership to act in good faith with the wishes of the majority and to follow the rules, then we the people need to demand a change.

Don't wait for the upcoming elections. Make your voice HEARD to your elected officials! The time for silent indifference to important choices is over. As the debates rage over the xenophobic intolerance of western nations, I pose this simple question.  WHERE are the muslim majority that I keep hearing about that oppose the atrocities of radical extremist?

When a moment of silence was asked for at a soccer game in Turkey (our allies) for the victims of the Paris attacks, the crowd BOO'D and chanted Allah Akbar! REALLY? These weren't fanatics or terrorist but they couldn't even show a mutual moment of respect for innocent lives lost?

That is what I would call disgraceful. Disrespectful. Bewildering. And yet it wasn't on the mainstream news outlets...a gathering in Paris of muslim's speaking out against terrorism, a country with a population of FIVE MILLION muslims, drew a whooping THIRTY people. How is that possible? Once more...no news coverage.

IF the Islamic community remains silent in its opposition to such attacks AND cannot even show a single moment of solidarity as a whole, I wonder how then they can expect there to be any other viewpoints than fear and suspicion.

It's a complex issue and there aren't any easy answers but blindly rushing headlong into a wall, ignoring the obvious hasn't worked well so far. Do the research. Make INFORMED and rational decisions and MOST importantly, be involved in your communities and with your elected state and federal representatives. If they aren't doing the jobs they were elected for, it's OUR responsibility and duty to see that changed.





Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The One Percent

On this day we reflect on those who serve our nation, past and present; both men and women who volunteer to be in harms way. Nearly all of them are young. Sons and daughters with little world experience but with an unyielding desire to push their limitations and test themselves in a way most others wouldn't dream of.

They don't do it for the money. It pays very little. The reasons are as varied as the individuals themselves. For some, its a family tradition spanning decades. For others theres a hole...a void that cries out, waiting to be filled. They want to make a difference. Most couldn't tell you why or even what they believe that difference to be...but they hear the call. More importantly, they act on it.

One percent...that's the amount of our population that serve. The number that runs toward danger instead of away. The few that are willing to sacrifice everything, time with their families and loved ones, even their very lives to complete complex task decided far beyond their ability to influence.

They swear an oath...an allegience to the country and its people and they keep those promises. The sad reality is that those making such decisions rarely expose themselves to such risk. Sadder still, we as a nation have failed to fulfill the promises made to them by our elected leaders and we as a people haven't held those folks accountable.

In each generation there are conflicts, global missions undertaken that inevitably cost lives. The cost of freedom is high...it has always been and shall continue to be paid for with the blood of patriots. Whether they perish in training or on the battlefield is irrelevant. The cost remains the same.

It is difficult to understand such mindsets without having experienced it yourself. Your compatriots are not simply coworkers. They become your brothers, your sisters, your family. Bonds formed under such extremes last a lifetime and for those of us separated by time and distance, the ache never truly leaves.

So I would ask, for my brothers...for my sisters in arms, if you will, do not simply thank them for their service on this single day. I ask that you remain vigilant, that you safeguard those freedoms so painfully earned. Hold our leaders to the same moral and ethical standards that we have sworn to today and long ago.

For the vanguards, those who choose to make a career of sacrifice, duty and honor, I salute and thank you. For all who have and do serve, I am proud to be counted among that one percent.


Monday, October 19, 2015

Friendships and Family

As I've gotten older, I often reflect on the friendships and family ties that I've established in my fifty plus years of living. Sadly, I seem to have missed that boat by a wide margin. While I have numerous acquaintances, I can honestly say that I have no real friends at this point in my life. I've had a few over the years but as time passes, things change. We move, change jobs or loss touch due to other circumstances. Why is that? Is it a failure in effort or simple logistics?

As I scrutinize my own behavior I realize that I am a very closed person. I don't generally share my personal owies...it's how I was raised. I suppose that as a whole it's also been something I've learned. Keeping a safe distance prevents other people from hurting you. For me, trust is hard. In my writing, I've tried at least, to express myself a bit more openly. Through fiction and blogging I open a window to my inner self...as of late that too has been nearly impossible. The more pressure I feel, the more stressed, the tighter I gather my defenses. 

So when I look in the mirror, I wonder. Is it me? Am I unworthy of friendship? Is it simply too hard to maintain the lines of communication? I know that in several instances, I call or text but it seems that if I don't initiate the contact; it will go months and in some cases, years without a response. In this age of 'social media' it seems we have less too actually say to each other...we post pictures or ramblings for "likes" without real contact. 

I have had people do exraordinary things for me. Acts of kindness and generosity that still astound me and for that I am eternally grateful...my musing is this. Is it too late? Does there have to be a calamity of epic proportions to get us involved with each other? I wish I had and easy answer...I don't. So let's see.

I have my own code....yes it's out-dated, pigheaded and without a doubt, NOT politically correct! I am an unapologetic knuckle-dragger. All of that makes me fairly inflexible MOST of the time, BUT I am also loyal, dogged and UNAFRAID to fight for what I believe is RIGHT even if it puts my own best interest in jeopardy. When it comes to friends and family, I KNOW I haven't always done all that I can...but I have ALWAYS tried. 

I recently moved across country to be closer to my family. For the most part, I hadn't interacted with them much in the past thirty years. My fault. Yes. Partially anyway...it takes two to tango and life happens. In the interim I lost a brother. The youngest of us four. An accident that could have been prevented...when I nearly lost another to a stroke, I deciced that it was imperative to be closer. I'd wasted to much time, squandered opportunities for much too long. I was going to make it RIGHT. Did I? I don't know. We ARE physically closer...I've seen them more in the past year than in the combined total of the last three decades. Are we closer as a family? No...not really. Maybe sometimes it is too late to go home. If I don't intiate the contact...there's nothing...random Facebook postings that reveal things that I'm not a part of. Am I angry? Hurt? SIGH....I dunno that either. Not really. Sad more than anything...

Maybe this has more to do with my own dissatisfaction with where I am at this point in my life than anything else. Maybe I'm grieving unfulfilled dreams and aspirations. We all have them at some level.  Maybe its time to reevaluate my priorities and redirect my attention and focus. While I WANT to be closer with my family and friends, I have to realize that wanting alone simply isn't enough if that same desire isn't present on both sides of the equation.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Reality Check

Until recently I was a resident of TN and my heart goes out to the families of those killed in a senseless act of cowardice and terrorism. Those brave souls where some of our nations finest. Volunteers.
Soldiers and law enforcement are the tip of the spear folks. They defend our rights and freedoms, doing dangerous work that to often gets them ridiculed or worse, forgotten and ignored. Are they perfect? No....All to human, like you and me.
It's time for our politicians to state things as they are. Terrorism isn't limited to a color or creed. It's carried out by fanatics with little or no regard for how or who they hurt, kill or maim. 
Our soldiers and law abiding citizens are berated for wanting to carry firearms. This isn't a gun control issue...it's a truth issue. Spinning things to distort the truth...to distill the core of a problem is madness at a truly magnificent level. Call it what it is. 
There's a famous quote that says: "All that is necessary for evil to flourish in the world is for good men to do nothing." That's never been more true...
This is not a call to arms. It's a call to become our neighbors keepers once again. To help each other and slow down enough to be a real part of your community. To be vigilant and supportive. To not be afraid to HAVE standards!
We needn't be disrespectful to those that are different but the equality must be EQUAL across the board. Just because we disagree doesn't mean that there  MUST be hate or bigotry involved. There shouldn't be. Diversity is the foundation and strength that built this great country. Principles....thing's we seem to have forgotten in the name of political correctness. 
The harsh reality is the world we live in doesn't follow the rules. In some places there aren't any, which is one of the reasons our country is so attractive. Our rights have NEVER been free...it's paid for...constantly with the blood of our patriots. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Fallen

                                                             The Fallen

On this long weekend above all others, most Americans gather to enjoy the start of summer, shrugging off the last effects of winter and breaking out the BBQ grills and summer toys. Many do thank service members on this day…mistakenly and good naturedly.
For those whom served this is hopefully meet with grace, regardless of what your feelings might be… for this is not our day. It is reserved for our brother and sisters that sacrificed all. For their families, who know the pain of promises lost and uncertain futures.
For us, we veterans; this day of remembrance is bittersweet…of the hardships shared and the camaraderie that is found nowhere else in human existence.  We have the same questions, with no easy answers; as the families and those feelings are often compounded by the guilt of survival.
What all of us most keep foremost in our thoughts is this…our friends and family members, those brave warriors who gave their all, did so freely and without remorse or hesitation. For God and country? Perhaps in part but mostly for those whom stood beside them united in the ideal of right over wrong and the certainty that those basic freedoms must be protected and safeguarded from those who would do it harm.
On this day, I thank their families. The children most especially, who will grow up without fathers and mothers. Please know that their sacrifice was not in vain and that the world is both safer and richer for having had them in it.
I would ask that on this day, we each honor that by extending a helping hand to those families still struggling with such monumental loss, remembering that our freedoms are rights earned thru sacrifice, not inalienable privilege.

For myself, I am honored to have served amongst them.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Perception And Probabilty

As writers we're happiest when the words are flowing at a breakneck pace. When the muse isn't simply speaking but screaming for our attention, hopping up and down and gesturing wildly like a man caught in the throes of a grand mall seizure! For those rare moments, the pages pile up and the word counts soar...it's AWESOME...but for each storm there is a calm and of course the inevitable wreckage created in its passage.
So what is writers wreckage you ask? Composition debris...especially when we're on fire! We all have these at some point ...plot holes, unresolved threads, inconstancies in charator or story. Too much filler...too little dialouge or anything that fails to progress or more importantly, drops the reader OUT OF THE STORY!
As the creators of our worlds we take liberties with reality and thats ok...to a point BUT when we sacrifice believability simply because its convienant or it "makes" the story work, we cheat ourselves and our readers. A hard core criminal suddenly has a change of heart and becomes compassionate for a stranger...a little old lady takes down a SWAT team...a top notch investagator 'forgets' a basic procedure. These are real scenes from published works, that made me (and many others, by the reviews) pause and throw the red BS flag!
It didn't sound real...it was a wave of the magic wand...the whole thing was a dream kindia resolution that drives readers AWAY.
As writers we know what the backstory is...we KNOW how these things happened and have rationalized it; to. by. damn. WORK! This is why it's vitally important to get an outside perspective. Let a Beta reader, a trusted colleague, someone you trust to give you unbiased feedback, and to review your work before you send it for submission. In the fictional genre, probability is the meat of our stories...what IF, is our hook...that which sets our stories apart and makes them uniquely our own.
What we must not do is give in to the temptation of finishing by taking the easy path...find a solution that could happen, even if its improbable. It just can't be IMPOSSIBLE! If we've done our work well, our charators are multi-faucet people of depth...get inside their heads... make THEM figure it out!
Ask why...how...where...would they do this thing? What would motivate them? Inhibit them, ect.
When we get the perception down we'll more clearly see the story from the perspective of our charators and more critically, our readers.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Endurance

When we think of endurance, many things come to mind. Sports, fitness and even relationships are often connected to that term. So what is endurance? The definition is more complicated than you may think...
Enurance is the ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from and have immunity to trauma, wounds or fatigue.

As authors most of us know that to be successful, endurance isn't just handy catch phrase, it's a prerequisite! Only a tiny percentage of us will ever have the luxery of writing a single piece that becomes an instant sensation or a national best seller. For most of us, we need to be prepared for the long haul...to write consistantly, producing solid stories that we not only love but that are worthy of publication.

Think about it. When we send our work into the world several things will happen. Elation...that wonderful bliss of completion and satisfaction that comes from doing all that hard work. Doubt...usually followed by self recrimination. We asks ourselves..."Was it REALLY ready?" Of course there's also the aforementioned fatigue...and there WILL BE trauma...and wounds....so hang on! Not EVERYONE will enjoy your labors...nor should you expect them too. Visibility is difficult to obtain and even harder to maintain. Publishing is merely the first step in our journey!

Writing is with few exceptions; a solitary endeavor, so how does one build that endurance from within to "resist, withstand and recover?" The glib answer is to keep writing and that's true but it's also SO much more complicated than that!

With work, (most of us have 'real' jobs!) family, social commitments and the day to day necessities of simply living are exhaustive enough BUT add in writing schedules, research and that pesky but all important 'building a social media presence' thingy AND book promotions/sales and signing events.....ARE WE HAVING FUN YET?

So how DO we eat an elephant? Of course, one bite at a time! To build our writing endurance it's vital to set goals and task that are both realistic and obtainable. While its important to be consistent, its IMPERATIVE to balance your writing activities with experiences that will strenghten your writing immune system to critique, frustration and burn out.

Go to a seminar or workshop. Get togather with other authors ( or readers!) and have coffee. Toss around some ideas and swap stories, laugh and enoy yourself! Read. Then read some more...read outside your normal genre, volunteer at a library, VA or shelter to help with their literacy programs.
Be involved in something that helps to recharge and inspire your interest! Do these things....find that balance and your writing cannot help but get stronger and more relatable.

guarantee you'll have more new ideas than you can shake a stick at AND your writing immune system while shrug off attacks like a pack of super hero's!