Monday, December 31, 2007

First Take . . .

A few years ago, I bought a software program that is basically a digital 32 track recorder. Well . . . I just figured out how to convert the recorded files to mp3 format.

This is my first shot at making a recording ( in other words, it's a little rough). I'm playing two guitars here-dubbed of course.

No pressure - I'm not fishing for compliments here. But I would like some help in naming this piece. So if you listen to it and a title comes to mind, please leave a comment.

Friday, December 28, 2007

For Writer's Only . . .

One problem I've had with my manuscript is explaining Cajun sayings and unique aspects of the setting without violating p.o.v.

For example: Louisiana has Parishes, not Counties. I decided that since my characters would have no reason to ponder this fact I would not explain - beyond the context - to the reader what a Parish is. However, a publisher who - God bless 'em - read my entire manuscript has suggested that I explain to the reader what a Parish and other unique aspects of the setting are. So I did. But I can't help but think that it violates one of the "Don't's" of writing. Of course, if the publisher wants it - they get it.

Consider this excerpt from Dean Koontz's The Darkest Evening of The Year:

----"How did your parents meet, anyway? Working on a whaling ship? Blubber and ambergris and love at first sight? Hey, did Mookie meet with Janet Brockman yet?"
----Mukai Chiboku--Mookie to his friends--was Dani's husband and Golden Heart's attorney.
----"He's going to handle her divorce pro bono," Dani said. "The little boy and girl half broke his heart."

Would you consider this (the second paragraph) author intrusion?

Btw, notice that he uses italics and the word "was". Both of which I find completely acceptable. Without the italics, that sentence reads differently. Any thoughts?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Holydays!

I noticed that more store employees told me "Merry Christmas" this year. That gets two big thumbs up from me.

Now I know some Christians don't think we shouldn't get so worked up about this issue. So what if they want to say "Happy Holidays"? We shouldn't force Christmas on anyone. Well, I certainly agree with that. But there is something deeper going on here that does bother me.

It doesn't bother me if someone tells me "Happy Holidays". What bothers me is that they are purposefully not telling me "Merry Christmas".

You see, in reality, this is not about Christmas. This is about Christ. Christmas means Christ's day or Christ's Mass.

There is a strategy of incrementalism in play. Those who want to push Jesus out of our culture know they can't do it in one fell swoop. They have to do it one seemingly unnoticeable small push at a time. They are exceedingly patient. It works because on each small issue the response is "so what? Why quibble over this?" And, after a thousand 'so what's, they have their fell swoop.

Today, they want to do away with 'Merry Christmas'. But they won't stop there because that's not their goal. They are thinking long term. Their next target will be 'Happy Holidays'.

Don't believe me? Just remember - Holiday means Holy day.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Nativity Story . . .

If you haven't seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it. I'm surprised it didn't do better at the box office.

One of the things I took away from it was the importance of having the mother of John the Baptist (Elizabeth) and Mary be related.

Elizabeth's miracle (she was barren) was obvious. This not only gave Mary comfort, but an ally who believed her claim. I'm sure no one else did. An Angel had to convince Joseph. But, how could Elizabeth deny Mary's virgin miracle while her own miracle was growing inside her, not to mention leaping in her womb at the presence of Mary.

side note: John the Baptist's strength to fulfill his role has always impressed me. He seemed much stronger in his faith than the disciples did. Well, there's a reason:

". . . Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and a delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. " -Luke 1:13-15

That's right - John the Baptist had the Holy Spirit from birth. The disciples did not receive until the day of Pentecost. These men could do nothing alone but doubt. And they lived with Jesus. Saw His miracles. When Jesus was taken and crucified, they ran from Him and even denied Him. But with the gift of the Holy Spirit, these ordinary men changed the World.

Aren't you glad the Holy Spirit is ours for the asking? Aren't you glad we don't have to do anything alone?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Creative detour . . .

I took a much needed mental break from writing and finally got around to painting again.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

On the pain of losing a loved one . . .

Because God is never cruel, there is a reason for all things. We must know the pain of loss; because if we never knew it, we would have no compassion for others, and we would become monsters of self-regard, creatures of unalloyed self-interest. The terrible pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind, has the power to soften uncaring hearts, to make a better person of a good one.

Excerpt from Dean Koontz's The Darkest Evening of the Year.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another note on The Mist . . .

I thought I was going crazy. During one scene a firetruck passed by. On the door it read "Caddo Parish Fire . . ." It couldn't be. Caddo Parish is in Louisiana. The movie is set in Maine.

Well, sure enough. I wasn't seeing things. The movie was filmed in Caddo Parish. (near Shreveport).

I guessed they figured only people from Louisiana would notice, but it wouldn't have taken much to put a magnetic sign over the Caddo Parish part.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

2 hours and 5 minutes of my life . . .

. . . I'll never get back. What a waste. I can't help but think of all better ways I could have used that time.

I could have . . .

1. . . . worked on my second novel.
2. . . . put together another care package for the troops.
3. . . . run a chemical analysis of Spam.
4. . . . stared at that weird stain on the ceiling.
5. . . . watched the paint on my living room wall get old.
6. . . . reorganized my sock drawer.
7. . . . appealed the restraining order issued at Sandra Bullock's request. (I'm sure she didn't mean it.)
8. . . . shoved bamboo under my fingernails.
9. . . . nibbled on a Krispy Kreme donut for 2 hours 5 minutes.
10. . . . finally informed the world I've solved the Unified Field Theory which Einstein tried unsuccessfully for decades to find. My new theory model finally incorporates Einstein's theory of general relativity with quantum physics and quantum electrodynamics into one unified framework using nothing more than a matchstick, a bottle of Rogaine, and a video tape of a specific MacGuyver episode.

What did I do instead? I went see film: The Mist.

Easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen. Horrible script. Bad acting. Bad dialogue. The characters made some incredibly weird, unbelievable, odd, and stupid choices. The reason for the "mist" was never adequately explained. Terrible ending. I cannot overstate this enough.

Most of the movie consisted of the characters standing around engaging in some of the worst dialogue I've ever had the misfortune to sit through. I had to convince myself not to leave several times. "Wait till the ending." I told myself. It'll save it.

Well - - - It didn't.

Wanna watch a better, similar movie? Rent Dean Koontz's Phantoms. It ain't great, but it's a masterpiece compared to this garbage.

I want a refund.

It's okay to give up . . .

Isn't that what Nick Saban and Bobby Petrino are teaching with their example.

How can they convince their college players (students) not to give up in the face of adversity? I wouldn't want my son playing for either one of these quitters.

"Hey coach, I don't think I can do it," demoralized player said.
"You want to succeed? It takes hard work and commitment. Now, you get out there do your job. Your teammates are counting on you," Coach Saban or Petrino said.
"Why? You quit your job. You didn't work harder or follow through on your commitment. So why should I?"

I know this is a little off the norm for this blog, but this is a good reminder of what reveals character. It's easy to handle success. Saban and Petrino get A's there, but most of us would. But true character is revealed in how one handles adversity. Personally, I give them both an F.

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Argument Against Arguing . . .

Did you like the alliteration?

There is a such thing as genuine confidence but most of the time confidence is a purposeful exudation-acting sort of like a defense mechanism. This mechanism is ignited and morphs into pride when someone is challenged in a debate. But the unfortunate truth is all debate inherently falls into this category. That is why no debate ever results in one side affecting a change in the other side. Debates are meant to sway the audience, not the participants.

In other words: debating an atheist will never result in winning him over to your side. And vice versa.

You can't argue someone to change their position. The only way to convince someone to change their mind on an issue is to present the information in such a way that they can claim to have come to the conclusion on their own.

This can only happen if there is a respectful exchange of ideas. And most importantly, there can be no perceived judgemental or superior attitude.

I have known a couple of Christians who did not understand this. I call them angry Christians. They tell homosexuals in a less than socially agreeable disposition: "You're a sinner and your going to hell." Do you really think the homosexual will reply "I see your point. Please help me develop a relationship with Christ."

I know this is an extreme example, but almost any comment will ignite the same defense mechanism. Please note that I'm speaking of face to face interaction. You can certainly write a book where you present the case that the Bible does preach against homosexuality. It still must be done with respect and love toward those who engage in that activity. It should also remind them that Jesus loves everyone and gave His life so that no man shall perish. Even atheists and homosexuals.

The angry Christian should realize that they have something in common with everyone they focus their intense scowl on -- all have sinned and all are sinners.

Want to help bring a homosexual, atheist, or ANYONE to Christ? Become their friend. Show them the same love and understanding that God afforded you. Despite your sins. Despite your continuing sins.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Need a professional editor, but . . .

don't know who to trust?

Well, it ain't me.

But, I highly recommend my friend, Donna Fleisher. Besides having four published novels, she's also a freelance editor. Check it out here: I'll Read It.

I can personally testify that every word you read on her site is true. How do I know? Because I'm not just pretending to be the president of her company for this joke, I'm also a client. She delivers exactly what she promises and the best part is you won't have to mortgage your home to pay for it. But don't let the very low price fool you. This is a quality edit - not a hit and run. Not only does she edit your manuscript, but she also records her impressions and explanations on tape for you.

I have been to two conferences and read ten books on fiction and I can honestly say I learned more from having my work critiqued by Donna Fleisher than all of those combined.

While you're there check out her CD set: Bringing Fiction to Life. Also highly recommended by yours truly.

**side note: Don't worry, she will not try to change your voice.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Consider this . . .

Catholicism dominates South Louisiana. Our state is divided into Parishes, not counties. The ones that have Catholic names: St. Mary, Assumption ( as in the Assumption of Mary ), Ascension ( as in the Ascension of Jesus ), St Landry, St Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Martin, and St. Tammany.

Think about how many government buildings, cars, documents have these names plastered all over them. Imagine how silly it would sound if the ACLU sued the St. John The Baptist Parish School Board for having religious references in their schools.

So much for Separation of Church and State.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Show me the Numbers . . .

It seems the biggest secret in publishing is # of copies sold.

Here's my theory: When compared to music CD's or movie DVDs, book sales are embarrassingly low. It seems the publishers take this embarrassment to heart. As though if the public found out that 40,000 books sold is a hit while 40,000 CD's sold is a bust the publishing industry may lose some of its mystique. If this is true, I find this view to be shortsighted. I believe this hurts sales.

Here's the problem: The general public believes that every name in their local bookstore is a millionaire. This is far from the truth. Most authors must keep their day jobs. Sure Stephen King and Dean Koontz are multi-multi-multi millionaires, but they are the exception not the rule.

This perception leads to the same customer apathy now running rampant in the music industry. Customers don't mind stealing "reads" because they think every author is already rich. Keep in mind - most consumers actually believe that most of the 16 bucks they spent on a book actually goes to the author. Why not let them know that this is not true?

I recently read a comment thread where a couple or more CBA authors complained about being asked how many copies of their book they have sold. They equated to being asked "How much money you make?" I don't think this is a fair analogy and I don't think the reader intends the question that way. Most readers don't know the pay structure of the publishing industry.

Besides, 40,000 copies sounds like a number I'd be proud to announce. N0, it won't make me rich, but it's 40,000 more than I've sold now.

So after I'm pubished (warning: positive thinking at work) I'll be glad to tell you how many copies I've sold.