Trump and 1984

eyeI can’t believe it!

Two or three weeks ago I started reading 1984 again, which I read 20+ years ago in high school and have been meaning to read again for years.  And as I got through the very first chapter (and am only at chapter 4 now — shows how much reading time I get), that I wanted to blog/tweet about how much 1984 sounded like 2017.  And now it seems i missed the boat!

I just saw on Amazon that 1984 is the #2 ebook right now.  Number 2, out of gazillions!  That’s amazing!

And that theatres are going to play the old movie as a form of protest.  Unbelievable!  Awesome!  And I’m overseas, so I’m going to miss it!

What are some of the similarities, you might ask?  Here’s a few:

The Ministry of Truth is basically in charge of shaping history, media, and public perceptions to match The Party’s politics.

The mantra is (always in all-caps):

WAR IS PEACE

FREEDOM IS SLAVERY

IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

There are Thought Police, thought crime, and doublethink.

They’ve always been at war with their current enemy (even though Winston clearly remembers it was the other way around just a few years ago).

And the one that struck me most: the Two-Minute Hate.  Everyone must gather around the telescreen and scream their hatred at images of “the enemy”.

Sounds an awful lot like the state of things now.

1984 or 2017?

And here I thought I was a “clever clogs” discovering this.  And now it’s a big thing!

…That big eye up there, by the way?  It’s mine. 🙂 

Finding Time: The Life Equation and the Three R’s

time-warp“There are not enough hours in the day.  Week.  Year!”

Like all writers (and lots of other people), I am constantly confronted with the fact that there does not seem to be enough time to get anything done.  At least, nothing we want to do.  Everything we must to do we find time for, of course.  But finding time for things like writing… Not always so easy.

So I decided to do some math.  My expectation was that by doing so, I’d reinforce the dismal idea that I don’t have enough time, and thus have plenty of excuses for not getting stuff done.  But, happily, that wasn’t necessarily the case.

Here’s what I did:

ACTIVITY HRS DAYS/WEEK HRS/WEEK
work 14 3.5 49
sleep 7 7 49
eat dinner 1 7 7
make dinner 1 3.5 3.5
family time – weekday 1.5 5 7.5
family time – weekend 5 2 10
military extra duties 1 1 1
 Total: 127

A little explanation on these broad generalizations for hours per day times days per week:

  • My work days are about 14 hours long.  I get up at 5:30am and get home at 7:30pm.  (Assuming I’m on day shifts, but it’s about the same on nights, just flip am/pm.)  The shift is supposedly 12 hours, but in reality it works out closer to 13, plus I’m including getting ready, eating breakfast, etc.  Basically, time dedicated on a work day to my work day.  I work, on average, 3.5 days out of 7 per week.  (Maybe 3 on, 4 off; or 5 on, 2 off, whatever.)
  • I probably sleep an average of 6-7 hours a night.  I was generous and said 7.
  • Eating dinner: about an hour.  If I have to also make dinner (and sometimes, even after a 14 hour day, I come home and find it’s up to me to make that happen), another hour.
  • Rough estimates on “family time,” meaning just spending time with my son, wife, etc.
  • Currently, my extra military duty time–meaning time outside of my 14 hour day; meaning, my time off–is actually pretty low.  This is partially because I make the choice to allow my career to suffer so that my family and personal time do not.  (Because you don’t get promoted for being good at your job.  That’s not enough.)  It’s also lower because I no longer have to stand the 24-hour duty day every month, due to recent policy changes at work.  But this hour is also estimated for me being on days right now.  When I’m on night shifts, this goes way up.  (Because everything extra that you have to do, you do when everyone else is at work.  And that’s not at 3am on a Saturday night.)

So this is estimating the general, everyday stuff that must get done.  There are 168 hours in a week (24×7).  As per the chart, then, my “mando-time” (mandatory) is 127 hours per week.  168-127 = 41.  So this leaves 41 hours per week.

That’s where I stopped and thought, “That can’t be right!”  How could I possibly have so much extra time on my hands?  I certainly don’t feel like I have 41 hours of free time every week!

So, because the math didn’t support the pessimistic outlook I had on life, as I had expected it to, I differentiated a bit.  I broke it down to work days and off days.

work day non-work
14 working 1 eating
1 eating 1 making
1 making 4 family
1 family 8 sleeping
7 sleeping 14  TOTAL
24  TOTAL

That’s a little more accurate for me.  The family time may vary, especially if we take a day trip to go do something.  But, generally speaking:

  • On a work day, I should not try to make myself feel guilty for not getting anything else done.  Assuming I want to sleep, eat dinner, and see my loved ones in the same day, there’s no time for anything else.
  • On a non-working day, I should feel guilty for not getting something productive done!  Generally, if it’s a weekday that I have off and everyone else is at work or school, I have lots of time to myself.  Better make it count!  And even on a weekend, unless we are doing something specific, I can find a few hours to do what I want to do.  (I generally wake up early and leave the house to write, so it’s done and out of the way and nothing else can threaten that allotted time slot.)

Now, to go onto the next step, I shall set myself up for some optimistic expectations.  What are the priorities for making the best use of that time?  For me, it’s the Three R’s, redefined a bit:

  • The first is wRiting.  I literally have more than 30 books in mind right now and come up with new ideas all the time!  And they aren’t going to write themselves!
  • Reading is essential, and I don’t do nearly enough of it.  Again, because of time constraints.  Anything I can’t do everyday is hard to turn into a habit or routine.  And I can’t do anything everyday.  Other than eat, apparently, which leads me to the third R…
  • ‘Rithmatic is the saying, but that’ll be my code word for woRking out; or, more likely, swimming laps.  I get fired from my job if I can’t fit into my uniform, and it seems some evil elves have been gradually replacing mine with smaller and smaller duplicates.  At 40 years of age, overworked, sleep deprived, and having other priorities, its difficult to motivate myself to the gym or pool on a regular basis.  It also doesn’t help that my go-to activity is to sit on my butt even more in front of a computer to tell stories. But if I tell myself that on my days off, I have 3 Rs to accomplish, it’ll make it more likely that I get there.

Of course, this simplified rant doesn’t cover all of life.  There are more things to do, unexpected outcomes, and never enough time, however much you may plan.  I’d like to blog more, too, and not just about what damn book is on sale.  I know that makes me out to be a mercenary bastard, and I hate it.  I have so much more to say!  But… blogging requires a time slot.

And time is that most precious of commodities.  You can’t make more time.  It runs at a constant speed, like sand from the hourglass, and once it’s gone you never get it back.  Money you can make more of.  You can get a second job, but that costs more time.

And that’s the main reason I don’t put in the extra time at work needed to advance my military career.  My son is 6 now and growing older at that same, constant rate.  If I spend his childhood at the office, I might gain more money, but I’ll lose more time.  And he’ll never be 6 again, or 7, 8, 9…  Maybe I get to a nice, fat retirement one day, but I’ll miss my son growing up.  Time is worth more to me than money.  Time lost cannot be bought back, no matter how much money you have.

And speaking of time, I’ve spent enough on this blog post.  Unfortunately, I have to ration out such a valuable resource, and my lunch hour is nearly up.

In conclusion, well…  I expected to conclude that, “There’s just not enough time in the day,” and “This might be making a living, but it’s no way to live!”  And I can still say those things, but to my own surprise I discovered that there is time.  I’m just not making the best use of it.  I can always use more, but if I squander what I have, it’s my own damn fault!

Global Warming Is Like Cancer

warm

I’m generally not an activist or anything, and I usually avoid discussing politics and such with anyone but my wife, so I don’t know why this occurred to me this morning as I walked to work at 0630.  But it did and I liked it, so…  Here it is.

In pondering how so many people are in denial about global warming and climate change, I conjured up this analogy:

Imagine that Global Warming/Climate Change is a cancer diagnosis.

You’ve just been told by a large panel of doctors (because you wanted second and third and beyond opinions on such a dire diagnosis) that you do indeed have cancer.  Cancer that if untreated, will eventually lead to a long, painful end of life.  These doctors who have diagnosed you are among the world’s leading experts.  They are specialists and scientists.  Medical doctors who have treated cancer before and have lots of rational qualifications to back up their professional opinions in this matter.

But then some other folks come along and tell you that you DO NOT have cancer.

A celebrity TV doctor assures you that you don’t have cancer.  He’s never seen your record or performed any diagnostic tests on you, but he’s famous and was nominated for an Emmy once, so he probably knows what he’s talking about.  Right?

There are a tight-knit band of politicians who are certain beyond a doubt that you do not have cancer.  No, they’re not doctors.  Mostly lawyers, millionaire CEOs, folks like that.  But that means they’re smart, right?  And they’ve been elected to public office, which is a big qualifier on expertise of all kinds.  I mean, only the brightest, most honest, most trustworthy folks get to those kinds of authority positions.  And they are certain you don’t have cancer.  In fact, it’s a major leg of their platform (and their fundraising strategies).  They have angry rallies and argue on TV, all pissed off on your behalf, about the ridiculous allegations that you have cancer.  The nerve of some people to spread such evil lies about you!

And then there’s the oil industry.  Billions and billions of dollars worth of adamant denial that you have cancer.  You can’t possibly have cancer!  If you did, someone might think that they contributed, so, obviously, it has to be a vicious lie.

In fact, you don’t need LESS fossil fuels, you need MORE fossil fuels!

They are so convinced that you can’t possibly have cancer, they have a special cancer deterrence treatment for you.  They want you to take Crude Oil Capsules every day.  It’s a new wonder of modern medicine that they (with the help of some of their politician friends) have managed to get pushed through the Food and Drug Administration without all that pesky red tape and safety testing.  You can be the first person to try these miracle pills, made with all-natural crude oil, bubbled out of the good ole U.S. of A. itself.  Nothing more patriotic than that!

Maybe we can even make you a reality TV star!  Make this a big publicity event, follow you around and show how nice these capsules are treating you.  You’ll be rich.  And healthy!  Perfectly healthy!

What a deal!  What a life!

Gee, I wish I were falsely accused of having cancer!

… So now you have a choice.  Your life is on the line.  You may or may not have a deadly disease that will slowly but surely kill you.

Do you: (a) Choose to trust the professionals who have dedicated their lives to studying and understanding the science of this field, 95% or more of whom all agree on the subject; or (b) choose to believe the folks who may be giving you the easier path, the one that doesn’t involve difficult change or bad news, but also do NOT have expertise in this field, but DO have other vested interests (mostly financial) in the outcome.

It’s YOUR life, YOUR future.  And the future of YOUR CHILDREN and GRANDCHILDREN.

Who do you believe?

*

And now that I’ve finished that, a similar argument could probably made for common sense gun control.  Substitute “military-grade machine guns specifically designed for killing lots of people” for global warming, “billion-dollar weapons manufacturers and the NRA” in for Big Oil, you can probably keep the exact same batch of politicians where they are…  Yeah, it reads about the same.

 

NaNoWriMo and The Simpsons

homer

With the National Novel Writing Month on at the same time as FXX’s 600-episode Simpsons marathon, I figure now was a good time to writing down the “Simpsons Writing Theory” that I’ve been thinking about for a while now.

It really goes back to the pulp writers of old and the teachings of modern-day writing guru Dean Wesley Smith.  The pulp mag writers had to crank out stories too fast to pay attention to whether they were great or not.

No, really.  I mean it.

It didn’t matter if they were great or not, something had to fill those pages.  And whether the writer thought it was their best work ever or not, they got paid for it.  Then the story was read by thousands, if not millions, of dedicated fans.  And it all happened again the next day, the next week, the next year.

So, similarly, my “Simpsons Writing Theory” goes something like this.

If you’ve been an avid Simpsons fan over the decades, as I have been since I was a kid (it’s been on that long!), then you’ve probably noticed that not every episode is a golden nugget of raw television success.

If you think about it, it’d be pretty much impossible for every 22-minute Simpsons adventure to be the best possible half-hour of entertainment imaginable.  The writers, actors, and animators have to produce how many episodes per season?  Thirteen or more, right?  And for what, almost 30 years? And they have to do it on a deadline.  The writers have to turn out a completed script, send it to the actors to perform and perfect in the recording studio, and then send that on to the animators, which is probably the longest stage of the whole process.  And they have to do this 13+ times a year in a given time limit.  If you divide that out, more than one per month.  That’s a lot of work in under a month.  Some of us aren’t satisfied with one simple short story in that time!  And there are millions—maybe billions—of fans and dollars riding on that process.

So do you think they scrap a lot of the scripts halfway through?  Do you think the animators come back late in the game and say, “You know, this just isn’t going to work out.  Why don’t you start over again?”

Hell, no, they don’t!  They have to get this shit done!

What if the writers can only come up with eight zingers in a season, only eight story ideas they really think will be great?  Do they just not produce the other episodes that year?

Hell, no!  They need a full season.  So if a couple of scripts aren’t pure magic, so what, the others will make up for it.  The show must go on, after all, even if the team doesn’t think that every single minute of the season is their best ever.

And will the fans stop watching the show just because this latest episode wasn’t all they’d hoped it would be?  No, I’m pretty sure they’ll just say, “Hmm, not my favorite ever.  Hope next week is better.”  And then they’ll tune in next week and decide that their funny bone has been satisfied.  And then the next week.  Or they’ll binge on hours of reruns in a row, deciding that this one was one of their favorite, that one was not, and that other one was pretty much a stinker.  And then they’ll be back tomorrow to watch some more.

What’s my point?

My point is, that as writers we should not scrutinize every single thing we write as either being the best thing ever, meeting some imagined 96% or better standard, or, failing that, not being worth jack squat.  Don’t say, “This isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, so I’m trashing it.”

Write EVERYTHING.  Finish your story and put it out there, either to editors or simply publish it yourself.  DO NOT get hung up judging your own stuff as worthy or not worthy.  That’s not your job.  And you might be surprised that the one you struggled to squeeze out, or the story you never thought would work, turned out to be someone else’s favorite.  Or millions of people’s favorite.

So in conclusion, when you write 13+ stories a year for 30 freakin’ years, some of them simply won’t be great.  Some will even be stinkers.  But in such a huge body of work, your readers won’t notice the ones that might have missed the mark.  They’ll just shrug and move on to the hits that they enjoy.  You can’t write pure gold every time.  No one can.  And yet, they succeed.

nano2

I hope everyone who dedicated themselves to writing this month met their goals.  And even if you didn’t finish as much as you wanted, typing one word is a net gain!

I personally had a December 1st deadline to meet for a novella that will go into an anthology slated for next summer.  And I didn’t make it.  But I did get over 16,000 new words poured into it, which is probably a record for me, despite the hectic holiday season and brutal day job hours.  And I will finish the story and get it to the editor by mid-month, which will make the fallback deadline just fine.  So a big Homer “Whoo-hoo!” for all of us!

Panthro, Bitches! Thundercats Are Loose!

thundercats_posterLookie what I got in the mail!  Ordered them on Amazon, in order to “raise my son right.”  Almost all the crap they make for kids these days is pure nonsense.  Very little story, just repetitious stupidity.  Unfortunately, when I started playing my iconic Thundercats on-screen, my son (who is only five) showed no interest.  He was far more interested in jumping up and down in front of me and disturbing my religious revival!  So Lion-o, Cheetara, and the gang had to wait until junior was in bed.

I could go into how impressive the cartoon is beyond pure nostalgia, but it’s like trying to describe a painting or a song; you just have to experience it.  From the high-detail animation to the iconic characters and character acting, to stories with actual, on-going plots and 80s rock themes.  They just don’t put that kind of work into cartoon shows anymore!

Okay, I might be a little bias.  The Thundercats were the foundation of my young reality for much of my formative years.

But if you’re an old nerd my age, than you already know what I’m talking about.  If not, pretend to be buying it for your kids–or your future kids–and see for yourself.

I remember matcatsking up my own cast of characters, but instead of calling them “Thundercats” I called it “Cat Attack.”  I had made one good drawing that I figured I could never top, so I just kept tracing that one as a template and giving them a slightly different look and unique weapons.  I also made a bad guy who was a hyena man.  He was my favorite!

Watching this also ties my stomach in knots thinking about how I had all those cool toys and then gave them away!  I used to save my allowance until I had $6.36 (that’s $5.99 with sales tax), then I’d ask my mom to take me down to Murphy Mart (or maybe it had become Ames by that time?) so I could buy me another awesome Thundercat.  I had all the figures!  My best friend Ben had the Thunder-Tank and I think the Cat’s Lair, as well as a cool Sword of Omens with light-up Eye of Thundara!

And then I had to go and do something stupid like give my big tub of toys away when I got older.  The boy’s parents were trying to say, “Oh, that’s okay, you keep them,” ’cause they didn’t want more junk on their son’s bedroom floor, but the kid was too eager to be denied.  (There were also some Visionaries in there, the guys with the holograms on them.  Remember that show?!  They were awesome!)  aaaad

That damn kid didn’t even know what he had, probably never even played with them!  Damn stupid me!  Why couldn’t I have been more selfish?  Then I’d still have them!

And my kid wouldn’t be allowed to touch them, either.  Oh, no!  Just me.  I’d wait until everyone else was in bed and then bust them out, Tigra jumping off the couch and disappearing, Panthro ninja-flipping up the stairs and fighting Ssslythe and Rataro and all the Mutants, maybe getting trapped in the Giant Microwave of Doom and riding the back of our War Dogs, strapped on by rubber-bands.  And I’d use aluminum foil to make a perfectly molded mask of one character, and then whoever put on that mask would become him!  (Used to use that trick all the time with my He-Man guys.)  Yeaaaah, that’d be great!

Hmm, had to wipe my lip there.  Foaming at the mouth a little.  Maybe, uh, maybe we should just pretend I didn’t write any of this…

Free E-Books: Why Pay For Anything?

A quick share about a series The Fussy Librarian is running.

They ask the question, “Why pay for ebooks?”

One answer is, “Because the writers are people too.”

Check it out by clicking here and see what I mean.  It’s a very nice idea they have here, and it helps illustrate the rant below.

This also comes on the heels of me discovering that some Russian-based pirate site has stolen some of my work, which has been downloaded over 2000 times!  That’s 2000 times that people have preferred to pay a pirate for a subscription of ill-gotten material rather than the writer who made it!  I probably haven’t sold 2000 books total over the last three years.  I pay for cover art and editing services to make my work the best it can be, and 2000 people read it, enjoyed it (as evidenced by the 96 positive comments), and happily paid some Russian mobster for that entertainment over me, the humble author who invested time, money, and soul into the work.

PIRACY IS NOT A VICTIMLESS CRIME, PEOPLE.

I am not a wealthy conglomerate that can get by without the money.  Eventually cyber-readers are going to realize that by supporting thieves instead of writers, they make us less able to write more material.  If I need to work 50+ hours a week to support my family and pay my bills, I have less time to write more books for you to enjoy.

Next time, consider making your own cup of coffee at home, and redirect that four bucks toward paying an artist for the week of entertainment you’re going to get from their book.

(This blog is a repost from my “old blog,” thus the “classic” tag.)

Steeped in the Mire

The hardest thing about writing, I think, is the tenacity.  The keeping at it to complete a book, or at least a long one.  Short stories I can turn out fairly quickly.  Even some short books I’ve been able to get out in a surprisingly short amount of time.  But the longer books…  They take more endurance.

I’ve been working on Twilight of the Gods, which is a prequel of Hungry Gods, and the more I work on it, the longer it gets.  There are a lot more characters with a much, much bigger plot going on.  This one’s going to be a superhero epic!  But, damn, does it take a long time to write!

Which wouldn’t be an issue if I were a full-time writer.  Then my job would be to entertain all you fine folks!  I could do so much more!

But it’s not.  My actual job is much more demanding, with much more responsibility beyond myself or even my family.  In fact, both of those things are considered secondary to the greater goals of the service.  So in order to feed my family and stay out of the brig, I need to dedicated most of my time and energy at my “real world” job.

But, hopefully, I’ll be transitioning away from that job next year.  I’ve officially put in a request to get out of the Navy (yes, I have to request it, it isn’t an automatic thing) next summer.  I could go on for days about the goods and bads of being in the service, and I’m very proud of what I’ve done, the people I’ve worked with and for, and the places I’ve seen in over twelve years of selfless service.  But ultimately, I just don’t want to do it anymore.  It’s a young man’s (or woman’s) game.  I have a family now, and dreams other than those issued to me.  It’s time to move on and make a new life.

The bad side of that decision is that my whole life is about to be turned upside down, dropping me and my family into a situation where nothing is guaranteed anymore.  Uncle Sam won’t be there to protect us and nurture us anymore (or throw us into war-torn territories, for that matter).  Which means, I NEED TO START LOOKING FOR A JOB!  So that’s also going to draw precious time away from what I’d rather being doing, which is writing for a living.  Of course, at this point, we’d all starve to death if I hinged our future on that.

(Part of that starvation I’ll contribute to pirate websites and those who download from them, since I’ve just been alerted to another one benefiting from my hard work while I go unpaid for my labors.  Don’t do it, people!  You enjoy an artist’s work?  Then pay them for it!  Is pitching the artist or author a few bucks really that terrible?  Why pay some internet asshole instead??!)

Anyway, the point of my rambling (mostly to myself) is that my superhero epic is going to be delayed more than expected.  I may even push it back a month or so further so that I can shift gears and get a short novel I wrote 13+ years ago up and running and out into the world.  It’s an urban fantasy-noir-Asian mythology story that I’ve been afraid of working on because it’s so important to me.  But now I’ve realized that being afraid of screwing it up and therefore not ever getting it published, isn’t doing me or any potential readers any good at all.

So while I’m working on my resumes and job hunting, I may find time to get that shorter project done.  If so, I’ll let you know.  And then it’s back to the epic, one page at a time.

Thanks for “listening.”  And if you hear of any good nursing jobs opening up next summer—or even better, any creative jobs where people get paid to do what they really love (supposedly they exist, but I just can’t imagine—it’s called “going to work” because you have to do it, not because you love to do it, right?)—don’t be shy about sharing.

(It’s not that I don’t enjoy nursing, but it’s not my dream job.  I’d much rather turn out 4-5 books a year instead of just one per year, you know?)

Okay, better quit rambling and get something else done today…

* * *

p.s.  Another delay in getting more novels out (none in over a year now!) is that I spent a lot of last year writing short stories.  Two of which have been published in the last several months, two more are coming out this fall, and three more are out to editors, awaiting judgment.  “So I’ve been writing, honest I have!” I insist, reminding the stern glare from the mirror…

p. p. s. Amending this the next day: In looking through my old notes on the noir story I mentioned, I see that the first draft of Solitaire was finished almost 14 years ago to the day: 07 August 2002.  Wow.  Now I have to get that story done before any more years go by!