Monthly Archives: November 2010

Another Day, Another Edit

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m knee-deep writing Resuscitation, the sequel to They Never Die Quietly. I completed the first draft a few weeks ago and asked three people—all with strong literary skills—to read the manuscript and offer constructive feedback. I asked them to be brutally frank; I would gain nothing from diplomacy.  

Well, I got what I asked for. All offered comprehensive criticisms that I must admit knocked the feathers right out of me. Each one read the manuscript individually and never spoke, yet they saw the same things . Of course, each of them found specific problems unique to his or her critique as well. However, on the major issues—those most important—it was as if they had worked together. When three people, all strong fiction readers, tell you the same thing, you’d better listen.

So, now I began the tedious process of editing, pruning, fleshing out scenes, building stronger characters, correcting continuity issues, cleaning up grammatical mistakes, checking punctuation, and tightening the story. It’s a lot of intense work, but the finished product makes it all worth the effort. Unless, of course, my agent can’t sell the damned book and it ends up in the recycling bin. Then, it’s time for me to consider a different career.

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Royalty

Everywhere I look these days, all the news channels, newspapers, and the Internet are buzzing about Prince William’s engagement to Kate Middleton. They really do make a cute couple, don’t they? They’d be a lot cuter if they weren’t part of the royal family. And they would have really impressed me if the prince would have bought Kate a modest engagement ring instead of an 18 carat sapphire, and donated the difference to a worthwhile charity.

I don’t quite understand the whole royalty thing—kings, queens, princes, princesses, and a life surrounded in luxury. Who are these people and why do they deserve to be on a higher level of society than anyone else? Why should we revere them more than a homeless person, a blue collar worker, or a nurse? Can you name one noteworthy contribution Prince William has made to society?

I do not believe in grouping people into classes: upper class, middle class, lower class. People are people, and they earn respect through actions, not entitlement. To be honest, the whole issue makes me nauseous.

When Princess Diana died in August of 1997, there was more news coverage of this tragic event than the assassination of JFK. Every media source from The New York Times to the Washington Post dedicated pages and pages to her death as well as her life. Not many people even know this or remember but Mother Teresa died a week after Diana. Do you have any idea how much news coverage she got? It amounted to a 30 second blurb on TV and a single column newspaper article on page 3 of the East Podunk Herald. While Princess Diana posed for photo ops, chatting it up with elementary school kids, Mother Teresa was saving the world. Yet society chose to focus their attention on a pretty face. If you get a minute, Google Mother Teresa and take a look at the amazing things this tiny woman did for humankind. It’s astounding.

If Prince William—or any other person of royalty—wants to earn my respect, then let them show me a résumé that even comes close to Mother Teresa’s.

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Two of my Favorite Things

Over the last century, hundreds of invaluable inventions were created, many of which have changed our culture and our way of life. Take the cell phone, for example. What would we do without them? When was the last time you saw a phone booth? How about a GPS system? And what about the Internet? How did we ever survive without these inventions?

Unfortunately, not all inventions have improved our lives. In fact, there are two in particular that never should have been invented.

Number One on my hit list is anti-theft alarms for cars. Now I can understand a kill switch that disables the car’s ignition system and makes it virtually impossible to start the car. However, has a blaring horn ever done anything but annoy the shit out of people within earshot? No one pays attention to these irritating alarms. And if I saw someone standing next to a car with its horn going whacko, I’d assume he or she was the owner and they couldn’t figure out how to turn the damn thing off. I don’t think a car alarm has ever actually stopped a would-be thief.

Running a close second to the world’s stupidest inventions are leaf blowers. Who is the moron that invented this ridiculous device? Think about it for a minute. A leaf blower allows you to blow leaves, twigs, litter, and anything else in its path onto someone else’s property, or in some cases in the street. Whatever happened to brooms and shovels? Why would anyone want to blow their shit onto a neighbor’s property? On top of the foolishness of this invention, I especially like when a neighbor fires up their leaf blower at seven a.m. on a Sunday morning.

I think that all stupid inventions should be placed on a space shuttle and sent to the moon. On second thought, why litter the moon? Instead, when we hear a car alarm blaring, and someone is actually trying to steal a car, we should help the thief. Then we won’t ever have to hear that particular alarm again. And for anyone using a leaf blower, his or her neighbors should be allowed to empty their trash on the leaf-blower-owner’s front steps—especially leftover Chinese food. That should solve the problem.

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Reality Bites

If you watch TV on a regular basis, you know that the networks are flooded with reality shows. You can watch everything from talent shows to survival shows to cross country races. You can watch a handsome, successful bachelor chose a wife from a stable of wannabes. Or, you can watch Donald Trump humiliate someone in front of 10 million viewers. And if it floats your boat, you can even watch an overweight person lose 100 pounds right before your eyes.

Although I must admit that I watch American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance, for the most part, I hate mindless reality shows. I thought I had seen it all, but reality TV has set a new benchmark for stupidity. I saw a commercial the other day announcing a new show called Sarah Palin’s Alaska. Apparently, for those interested, you can watch the Palin family hunt, fish, and bake chocolate brownies. TV as we know it has now hit an all-time low.

Can you even imagine the mentality of someone who would watch this ridiculous show? What has happened to our culture? Have we become so shallow that a mindless show like this can actually capture high enough ratings to survive?

What next? Maybe George W. Bush can launch his own reality show. And maybe they can call it, “How I Convinced a Bunch of Minions to Bomb the Shit Out of Iraq”. The possibilities for reality TV are endless.

One more thing: Speaking of George W. Bush, his book, entitled, Decision Points, a memoir, was released on November 9th. It would have been released sooner, but it had to be translated into English.

 

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Can’t See the Forest for the Trees

 As you know—or maybe you don’t—I recently finished the first draft of Resuscitation, the sequel to They Never Die Quietly. As is the case with most authors, before you can deliver a finished product to an agent or prospective publisher, the manuscript goes through a series of edits.

Some writers edit as they go, so the ultimate editing process is relatively painless.  Remove a comma here, add dialogue there, modify a scene, tighten a few passages. Slam, Bam, and they’re done. For me, most of the work takes place during the editing process. While writing the first draft, my primary objective is to get the damn thing done—even if it’s total crap. As long as I establish the basic flow of the story and have the significant characters in place, I feel all warm and cozy.

Before I begin the editing process, I ask three people with strong literary backgrounds to read the manuscript and offer suggestions, both technical and creative. Two of the readers I chose are still reading, but one finished a few days ago and we met last night for two hours to go over her notes.

Page by page—all 360 of them—she went through the manuscript and pointed out about a gazillion things I need to address; some small, some major. As she spoke, I mostly nodded my head. There were few issues upon which I did not agree with her assessment. But if these flaws were so apparent, why the hell didn’t I see them? The answer is the title of this post: Can’t See the Forest for the Trees.

When you’re knee-deep in writing, sitting in front of the computer 5 or 6 hours a day, it’s easy to get lost in the story. So lost that you miss obvious mistakes. As Paula, my reader friend, flipped from page to page, we both started to laugh at some of my ridiculous oversights. The more pages she turned, the funnier it got. Some things, of course, were subjective. Ask 10 people and you’ll get 10 different opinions. But much of what she said was right on target.

So, as soon as I get feedback from the other two readers—one is my son and the other a long-time friend, both with keen eyes for good fiction—I’ll begin the final edit. But is there ever really a final edit? Ernest Hemingway once said that on any given day, he could select one of his novels from the bookshelf, turn to a random page, start reading, and find something he wished he’d written differently. This gives me hope.

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The Big Bang Theory

As a Christian, I have engaged in several impassioned debates about God and creation with a number of atheists.  I can understand why someone might dismiss a particular religion, but I don’t quite understand how any reasonable person can dismiss the existence of a Higher Power. There are lots of mysteries and unanswered questions about who God is exactly. But if you take a look around, it’s pretty hard to buy into the theory that the entire universe and all its wonders resulted from a big bang.

If you know anything at all about Christianity in particular, it’s easy to see how one can question the legitimacy of the Bible and the claim that it is God’s word. Few documents in the universe are as complicated and controversial. Personally, I have many issues with the Old Testament; there are so many things I simply don’t understand. But, as a Christian, I am driven by faith and embrace the Bible unconditionally as the word of God.

Here’s what puzzles me. I can accept the fact that not every person walking the Earth shares my religious beliefs. Some people worship Allah, some Buda, others a Golden Calf. Most people believe in some form of God or Divine Being or Creator. But atheists don’t. They subscribe to the notion that the universe and all its wonders are the result of some random event.

How could this be? How did total nothingness evolve to the universe and all its wonders? Let’s forget about religion and examine this from a scientific perspective. Doesn’t intelligent design suggest an intelligent designer? Isn’t this a scientific axiom? I’ve asked atheists to explain how the universe came to be, but not one can come up with a plausible explanation. Atheists do not rely on faith; they embrace science and logic. Supposedly anyway. If this is true, why can’t they come up with a scientific explanation of our existence?

Did you ever watch an airplane zooming down a runway and lift off into the air? Was the creation of this airplane a random event? Was there an explosion in a scrap metal yard which resulted in the creation of an airplane? Did all the metal, glass, electrical components, gauges, wings, seats, rivets randomly form an airplane, or was its intelligent design created by an intelligent designer?

I challenge any atheist in the world to offer a plausible, scientific explanation of where we came from, without the element of faith.

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