Sunday, May 25, 2014

Military service

People sometimes ask me if I ever served in the military, and the answer is "no". There was a time though when I considered it. Just after high school when I was trying to decide what to do with my life, I approached some Army recruiters who came over to my house and met with me. I was interested, but told them I needed to give it more consideration. After some days of thinking about it, I decided that I would go a different direction. About that time one of the recruiters called me back and asked me what I had decided. I told him that I'd decided not to do it. He said something like, "Well, you're never going to make it in life if you don't join up." That pretty much sealed the deal. I'm the kind of person who if someone tells me I can't do something, I go ahead and prove them wrong, which I've done.

That doesn't mean I've accomplished all I want to in my life. But the day is still young. I've got other people to prove things to, including me, and more causes to fight.

All that being said, my thoughts on this weekend are for those who gave their lives in defense of liberty. I honor all such men and women. To me, they are heroes. Other heroes to me are those who live to fight for freedom. One doesn't need to die to be a hero. One doesn't need to have joined the military to be a warrior in the cause of which I'm speaking. One only needs to stand up for the Constitution, to love liberty, to stand for our God-given rights, to not shut our mouths when confronted, but boldly make our points and defend them.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Writing challenges and how to overcome them

I found a solution to the schedule change dilemma I mentioned in my last post. I found a timer I could download and put on the desktop. I can set it for any length of time, so, what I've done is set it for 10-15 minutes. This allows me to wake up as I peruse Facebook or other things like that. When the timer goes off, I switch it to 30 minutes and do some kind of writing for that length of time. Now writing can mean revising a scene, posting on this blog, thinking about how to change a scene to incorporate all the info I need it to have--you know, anything to do with writing. I'll even use it to study a writing book. As long as I'm focused on writing.

As for finding more time in a day to write, I'm afraid I'm just out of luck. To be a writer when you have an eight hour job, you need to either write only for a short time per day, or abandon other things that need doing, such as keeping up the yard, working out, etc.

One idea I'm toying with is setting aside a specific night per week to write for a longer period of time, say two to three hours.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Work schedules and forming habits

Now, after having been screwed up in my writing schedule by my place of employment changing our starting time to 7:30 from 8:00, I find myself trying to adjust. And they've announced that they're doing a study as to whether or not they can change our starting times 7:00. This seemingly small thing has caused me to stop writing, because I was doing both writing and my gym time before work. I find myself thrown off of my habits too easily. I've finally got the gym going (after work), and now I'm thinking I'll be able to do the writing before work. In fact, that's what I'm doing now by writing this. It's the most I've actually written in the few weeks since they changed our schedule.

It's said that it takes 21 days to form a habit and only about two weeks to lose the habit if you stop doing whatever it is you've been in the habit of doing, so it's kind of like starting over again. Nevertheless, we writers need to persevere and overcome these little roadblocks, for they are everywhere.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Law enforcement and the abuse of power

I have posted links on Facebook recently to stories that show acts of conduct unbecoming a Police Officer. For the observant, you will know that I continually post links about what I consider to be abuses of power, whether in the presidency, other political entities, or otherwise. I'm an equal opportunity reporter of abuses. Police are not exempt in this. I personally have nothing against law enforcement officers in general. I have known several and still know some---all of whom have been and are outstanding men. I have had brief run-ins with the other kind though—those who go into law enforcement for the love of power.

Considering all that, within law enforcement there are far too many incidences of mistaken shootings in which the officer mistakes a cane or a wallet for a gun. Nearly daily we see examples of brutality, and though a case may be made for some violence being warranted (I dislike the news media who only show the beatings and not what led up to the beatings. That too does not tell the full story) in far too many incidences, it is used inappropriately.

This is the Law Enforcement Oath of Honor:

On my honor, I will never betray my badge, my integrity, my character, or the public trust.  I will always have the courage to hold myself and others accountable for our actions.  I will always uphold the constitution, and will remain loyal to my community and the agency I serve.

Let me first say that I understand the challenges of being under pressure. I understand the danger that some suspects are to police officers. That being said, there is never an excuse for a police officer to shoot an innocent person. Rule number one in gun safety is to not even put your finger on the trigger until you know at what you're shooting. I'm thinking that cops violate this rule frequently and probably for their own safety. But their own safety is not the reason they should be involved in law enforcement. Their job is to protect the public. How does shooting someone in error protect the public?

A big issue is the attitude that “it's a war out there.” If it's a war, then casualties enemy and “friendlies” should be expected. This is not the proper approach.

I'm thinking that unless someone is really willing to risk their own life to protect the public, they shouldn't be doing the job. It should not be the public's lives that are at risk because someone failed to obey the first rule of gun safety in order to keep themselves from getting shot. Of course, an officer doesn't want to leave his or her children fatherless or motherless. So because of that, it's okay to be trigger happy? What about the innocent person who just got killed because of you? Don't you think their children need their father or mother?

So if they really want to go into law enforcement, they should go into it with the realization that they need to protect the public, even if their own lives are in jeopardy. If not, they should find another line of work.

My next issue involves another point in which I think many (but not all) law enforcement officers are breaking their oath, and that's the phrase “I will always uphold the Constitution”. Consider the recent law that was passed in Connecticut, which turned gun-owners who failed to register their semi-automatic guns into felons overnight. Officers were willing to go into people's homes to confiscate their guns, a clear violation of the Constitution they are sworn to uphold.

What is going to happen if there is some general order from the President to confiscate guns? How many officers are going to march in lock-step with such laws and go ahead and try and carry out the confiscations? How many, if ordered to, will carry out such laws just because they have been ordered and have the power to do so? I'm encouraged by county sheriffs in various states around the country who refuse to enforce gun control laws. These individuals take seriously their edict to uphold the Constitution. We can only hope that that is the majority opinion amongst law enforcement officers and administrators.

The misuse of power has long been a problem among law enforcement officers, including, but not limited to, adding more violations on to speeding tickets because someone is a smart aleck. Adding on violations because one can is just the smallest example of the abuse of power. Everyone with power has the potential to abuse it. Abuse of power amongst law enforcement is why some people come to dislike police officers. Think of someone you know who was abused or molested as a child. Does that person not have a reason to hate the abuser? The same thing goes for law enforcement officers who abuse their power, especially in its most extreme forms, such as unwarranted tazing, beatings, and shootings.

Now I've said this because I post a lot of links about such abuses. I also post good stories about police officers when I find them. I know and love some fine police officers to whom I am grateful for the hard work they do, but I hope that these good people will not turn a blind eye to the abusers within their ranks, or to the oath breakers who walk among them. I have a pretty good idea that those I know will not do so. I hope that they believe that their main job is to protect the public, not themselves. I hope most of all, that those who have been entrusted by the public to protect them, will do so, whether it's protecting them from criminals, or protecting them from their own government who is violating the Constitution. They have sworn an oath to do so.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Working on the story

So, I've been going back over my story Last Stand at Cibola, and I can see some really well-written sections. I'm not trying to brag, but maybe I'm not as far away from that million word level as I thought I was. That's really a step up from where I was a while back when I reread my first novel Gateway to Fear. I had thought I had done a good job with that, and there were some places in it where I did, but overall, it sucked. I could rewrite it, and maybe will some day, but for now, it's onward and upward.

 I think the hardest part for me is organizing the plot into a story that makes sense on every level. My characters have complicated back stories and relationships and it's difficult to keep all of that straight. I'm using a program called “Scrivener” now and I think it's going to help in the organizing process, though there's definitely a learning curve associated with it. If we as writers keep plugging away though, eventually we will write something good.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On writing a million words

They say you don't get good at writing until you've written a million words. I'm not really sure what that means. Does it mean you need to write a million words of fiction in order to be a good fiction writer, or is that million words any words that you've written? If it's any words you've written in your lifetime, then I'm pretty sure I've eclipsed the million word mark. If it's a million words of fiction writing, such as novels, short stories etc., I'm probably well below that level.

I kind of like the 10,000 hour approach. Basically that is that one must spend a minimum of 10,000 hours at something in order to become really good at it. It's definitely a good rule of thumb for guitar practice, and I'm pretty sure I could become a darn good writer if I spent 10k hours doing it. I don't know about golfing though. I'd probably become better, but that would just get my hopes up and get me spending more money playing golf, which, since I've only golfed twice in my life, would be a substantial increase. Still if 10,000 hours would make me really good at it, perhaps I could make it back.

Back to writing, I've started a "million word" file in OpenOffice and I'm trying go do as many words as possible. Still though, it would help to know if they all need to be fiction in order for me to become great at writing fiction.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My thoughts on "Life, the Universe and Everything: the Marion K. "Doc" Smith Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy

This past Thursday and Saturday (I missed Friday, because my cold got the better of me), I attended the LTUE Symposium held in the Marriott Hotel in Provo, Utah. I had preregistered for the event and it only cost me thirty bucks. I didn't attend any of the things you had to pay extra for, like the dinner etc., which meant I didn't get to listen to Brandon Sanderson. I feel bad about that, but I didn't want to fork out another $30 to do so. Like most of these events, there are some good classes and some that aren't as good as one had hoped. I attended a few of both. The class presenters and panels were a smattering of local writers and some who weren't local. Some had published many books, and some had published few. The number of books published wasn't necessarily representative of how good of instructors they were either.

One of the highlights was Orson Scott Card as the keynote speaker. Card had been expected to arrive earlier in the week, but due to weather, made it for the Saturday sessions. The talk he gave was effective and interesting, geared in large part to the majority LDS audience. It was marred a bit in the end when those running the symposium kept cutting in and telling him his time was up. You could tell he was frustrated by the interruptions. "Those of you who need to go to other classes can go," he said at one point, "I won't hate you." I'm not sure he understood that the large room where he was speaking was taking up three rooms (movable walls) in which some of those classes were supposed to take place, or if he didn't care that this was the case. It didn't hurt my feelings either way.

At any rate, for most of the people in the crowd, he was the one they had come to see, so they didn't care all that much if the other classes were shortened. One has to wonder how the other presenters felt about it though.

I had arrived early in the morning to get on the list for a class called "1000 Ideas in 1 Hour" taught by OSC--a class that would be a maximum of fifty people. When it was time for that class in the late afternoon, I thought it was well worth the time I spent arriving early in order to take part. With five minutes to go, one of the organizers came in with a sign that read "Five minutes". Card said "It'll be ten." In fact, it ended up being closer to thirty. However, unlike the earlier time, there weren't repeated interruptions.

It was my first time attending this event and I'd definitely go back again if my schedule permitted it. Whether or not the classes were valuable, the action of attending helped me to focus more on writing and getting on with it. That's a plus in and of itself.