Right Ho, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. 186 pages.
Thursday, December 31, 2015
NOTE: Far, far short of my yearly goal of 12,000 pages. But note I read “Doleful Creatures” no fewer than THREE times this year. That’s MY novel, which, God willing, will be published next year.
Adventures of Captain Bonneville, U. S. A., in the Rocky Mountains and the Far West, The; by Washington Irving. 364 pages.
And Another Thing, by Eoin Colfer. 273 pages.
And No Birds Sang, by Farley Mowat. 250 pages.
Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco, by Bryan Burrough and John Helyar. 528 pages.
Behind the Scenes of the Nixon Interviews, by David Frost. 346 pages.
Boys in the Boat, The; by Daniel James Brown. 416 pages.
Case of the Nervous Newsboy, The; by E.W. Hildick. 106 pages.
Charlie Wilson's War, by George Crile. 550 pages.
Class: A Guide through the American Status System, by Paul Fussell. 202 pages.
Code Talker: The First and Only Memoir by One of the Original Navajo Code Talkers of WWII, by Chester Nez with Judith Avila. 310 pages.
Complete Cul de Sac Volume One, The; by Richard Thompson. 314 pages.
Complete Cul de Sac Volume Two, The; by Richard Thompson. 314 pages.
Doleful Creatures, by Brian Davidson (beta read 3), 374 pages.
Doleful Creatures, by Brian Davidson (beta read 2) 342 pages.
Doleful Creatures, by Brian Davidson (beta read) 251 pages.
Everything You Need to Know Before You're Hijacked, by Dan McKinnon. 139 pages.
Feardom, by Connor Boyack. 160 pages.
Graveyard Book, The; by Neil Gaiman. 311 pages.
Great War and Modern Memory, The; by Paul Fussell. 363 pages.
It's the Ernest P. Worrell Book of Knawledge, by Ernest P. Worrell. 97 pages.
Journey to the East, The; by Hermann Hesse. 118 pages.
Kim, by Rudyard Kipling. 284 pages.
Last Christmas Gift, The, by Nathan Shumate. 86 pages.
Long Haul, The; by Jeff Kinney. 217 pages.
My Man Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. 128 pages.
Old School, Diary of A Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney. 217 pages.
Right Ho, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. 186 pages.
Right Ho, Jeeves, by P.G. Wodehouse. 186 pages.
See Here, Private Hargrove, by Marion Hargrove. 217 pages.
Servant Leadership: A Journey Into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness. by Robert K. Greenleaf. 370 pages.
Southern Idaho Ghost Towns, by Wayne Spratling. 135 pages.
Starbird, by Robert Schultz (beta read). 580 pages.
When Did Ignorance Become A Point of View? by Scott Adams. 128 pages.
Ze page total: 8,686 pages.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
"The Peanuts Movie" could have gone one of two ways: Faithful to the core of Charles M. Schulz' comic strip, itself rooted in the 1950s, or retro-modernized, true to the soich for more money. I'm pleased to say it is the former.
Charlie Brown is still wishy-washy, clumsy, self-defeating and insecure as always. But as was the underpinning of Schulz' comic from the start, he never gives up, despite the setbacks he faces every day.
Nobody works harder at failure than Charlie Brown. And no one has more integrity than he does -- a trait that shines through in this wonderful film, which we just saw today.
Charlie finds fame as the one student to achieve a 100% on a standardized test at school -- the closest the modern world penetrates Schulz' comic strip brought to life -- but soon discovers the test he signed wasn't his. And he confesses right away. And that's after he gives up his part in the talent show at school to help his sister avoid humiliation.
It's all noticed by the Little Red-Haired Girl, who comments on his loyal, honest and persistent personality that shines through the patina of failure others and himself paint all over his round little head.
Good nods to the past animation history of the film too, from bringing Bill Melendez in to voice Snoopy and Woodstock, to the Mendelson/Melendez Moving Company that brings the Little Red-Haired Girl into the neighborhood.
And the interludes with Snoopy daydreaming throughout the story are delightful in their execution and subtlety, particularlyl as the crazy dog's adventures mix in with real life (seeing him sneaking across Peppermint Patty's Christmas lights while he imagines himself sneaking across a bridge is pure Schulz magic.
I think that's what makes the show work: Though Schulz passed away fifteen years ago, it's clear those involved with the show wanted him to be there. And he was.
Friday, December 25, 2015
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Please God, whose name we all know, can we have more of this?
I’m sure there were many prayers said on this bus. But coupled with prayers: action. People doing the right thing. Answering prayers because the god they worship helps make them decent human beings.
Please, God, make us men and women of faith and action. That is what this world needs.
Let this kind of action replace the action where Christians pray for mosques to close and celebrate when they chase Muslims out of their neighborhoods.
Let this kind of action replace the action where hijackers of the Koran believe killing the innocent is the will of Allah.
Let this kind of action replace the action where Christians kill people at Planned Parenthood clinics to protest abortion.
Let this kind of action replace the action where nations turn their backs on men, women, and children fleeing economic hardship, terrorism, and death.
Let Christians not forget the lessons the Savior taught in Luke (6:27-38):
But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.
Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.
And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.
For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.
And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.
And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.
Jesus urges us to act, not to be acted upon. He urges us to love our enemies, to do good, hoping not for reciprocity – but for nothing. It is good that those we love act reciprocally. But if enough of us act in this manner, knowing perhaps our enemies will not, how much better would that world be?
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Publishers seem to be asking for a synopsis of your book as you submit. So here goes.
Before the world was made, He Who Notes the Sparrow’s Fall and the one known as The Lady fought for the minds and souls of the animal kingdom. The crux of their argument: Would animal-kind be happier in a world where men and their inherent evils were not present? She said yes, while he said no, claiming one living in a world without the other would not develop as deep an empathy for others as they would living together.
Both went their separate ways. He Who Notes the Sparrow’s Fall built his world and populated it with animals and man and watches as they live, more or less, in harmony – though there is trouble. And misery and death amid the joy and laughter. She took her followers and built a different world, lost to the other and forgotten.
Jarrod the Magpie is himself lost between two worlds. One, a world of love and friendship created by his beloved Rebekah, long since dead with the beavers who had been their friends. Jarrod and the badger Aloysius survived the cataclysm that claimed the beavers and their mates, and Jarrod takes the blame for the deaths and is practically outcast among the animals who live in the wood near the ramshackle Purdy Farm. Aloysius, bitter at the loss of his Landi, makes sure the other animals never forget Jarrod has blood on his wingtips. Only the murder of crows who live in the wood are friendly to the magpie, who wanders the fringes half mad with guilt.
There are odd stirrings in the wood. Animals claim to hear an odd sound – a sound some call the trumpet of elephants – coming from the wood. And The Lady can be seen, disguised as a woman in white, wandering the woods, speaking gently but always probing for something she appears to have lost. As the mythology of the world expands, Jarrod speaks with the Man in the Rock, an ancient, wise being living in a box canyon not far from where the beavers died, as Jarrod tries to sort his world out.
The Lady enlists the help of a colony of marmots to dig for her, as she senses what she has lost may be buried in the ground beneath Purdy Wood. As they dig, a creeping cold beings to fill their tunnels, as well as the burrows of the moles and warrens of the rabbits. More and more, they hear the strange sound, the call of the elephants, and fear spreads in the wood.
Sensing the coming storm, the crows, led by Chylus and Magda, work to rehabilitate Jarrod the Magpie, whose misery and refusal to live in the present due to his guilty past seems to be augmenting the fear and the power of The Lady. They enlist the help of a group of hawks, longtime friends with Jarrod’s Rebekah, to help him feel new hope. The hawks remind him of the one beaver Jarrod sheltered and saved from The Lady, who guided men to destroy their dams and trap them out of her hatred for the world He Who Minds the Sparrow’s Fall created. The hawks show him a revitalized beaver colony, again happily building dams and filling ponds. They greet him not as a murderer, but as the one who helped ensure their colony in the upper reaches of the box canyon was not destroyed completely, though at great personal price to him.
With renewed hope – and despite Aloysius’ disbelief in the tale Jarrod and the crows bring from the canyon – Jarrod begins efforts to spy on the marmots and on The Lady, to determine what she seeks and what the strange elephant cries in the wood could be. They plant gardens to conceal their own tunnels as they dig parallel to the tunnels dug by the marmots.
Nevertheless, fear of The Lady grows in the wood, with many succumbing to her spells and many ending up dead. Aloysius is deep within her influence, but as he sees Jarrod regain hope, bits of his memory, aided by recollections of his beloved Landi, help him free himself from The Lady’s smoky tendrils of doubt. He goes on to free others – notably and old friend whom, he discovers, has already freed himself. He journeys to the canyon of the beavers as he himself seeks to escape his current bitterness, and to recruit the beavers to help in the coming battle with The Lady.
Monday, December 14, 2015
I still have a few beta readers out there, plugging away – but I can announce with some pleasure that Doleful Creatures may finally be ready for either self-publishing or fishing around to agents.
In other words, the easy part is done.
I’ve read the book three times this year, each time finding things that needed to be fixed or explained or relocated or what have you. And this time around – Round 10 – I believe I’m close to a marketable product. That feels like the best news I’ve had in years. (Another good feeling: As I dozed on the bus this morning, a thought came to me on a little bit of the plot that I might not have buttoned up. A read of that portion of the book once I got to work satisfied me it’s tied up nicely.)
Now which route do I go? Do I go through the sufferings of finding someone interested in the book or do I go through the sufferings of publishing the book on my own, only to have it sit there, unread?
There are, of course, other considerations: A cover, for one. I’ve now got to get serious about that. And if I go self-publishing, do I do the ebook and physical copy? I’m old school – I have to admit holding a physical copy of my book in my hands would do wonders for the ol’ ego. But going the other way would mean a more extensive editing process. Marketing prowess I don’t possess.
Or maybe it’s all just a pipe dream? Maybe the book isn’t any good.
Then: What’s next? I admit I have another project in the hopper – The Hermit of Iapetus – which still calls to me. I’m about 90% sure that’s next on the list. Though there are other things percolating and brewing.
On the docket for 2016: Participation in NaNoWriMo. This is where Doleful Creatures came from. I’ve skipped it for two years now, editing the book. I need to keep new things coming, for obvious reasons.
Friday, December 4, 2015
Back when I was a kid, there was a show on TV called “RealPeople.”
The show did what the title implies: It spoke to real people and told their stories – one I recall was of a Texas lady who would stop what she was doing, no matter what, and stand with her hand on her heart whenever she heard the national anthem (apparently something quite common where she lived). They also did a story on a hotel that washed people’s pocket change, carrying on a tradition introduced at the hotel in the 1800s.
(Note, I’m not saying it’s a GOOD show, it was just a show.)
But you could count on seeing real people in it. Not actors. Not the bigwigs. But the real people involved in whatever story they were pursuing.
That’s what we need to do with our writing. Put real people in it.
And it can be done. Heck, if Buzzfeed can do it, so can the rest of us.
(A note to my students: Don’t think I’m asking you to do exactly what Buzzfeed does with the story I’m about to share with you. They had unlimited time and rather a good pile of resources to work with. They conducted over 100 interviews. I don’t expect that of you. But, as we learned with our personality profile papers, interviewing two or three people isn’t all that taxing. And it brings our papers to life.)
Witness, then a story Buzzfeed published Dec. 2 on The H-2 Guest Worker Program, which brought in 150,000 legal foreign workers to fill jobs “Americans won’t take.” Even though the program is not supposed to provide jobs for foreign workers at the expense of American citizens, Buzzfeed found it regularly does so. But let’s hear it from them:
[C]ompanies across the country in a variety of industries have made it all but impossible for U.S. workers to learn about job openings that they are supposed to be given first crack at. When workers do find out, they are discouraged from applying. And if, against all odds, Americans actually get hired, they often are treated worse and paid less than foreign workers doing the same job, in order to drive the Americans to quit. Sometimes, as the government alleged happened at Hamilton Growers, employers comply with regulations by hiring Americans only to fire them en masse and hand over the work to foreign workers with H-2 visas.
What’s more, companies often do this with the complicity of government officials, records show. State and federal authorities have allowed companies to violate the spirit — and often the letter — of the law with bogus recruitment efforts that are clearly designed to keep Americans off the payroll. And when regulators are alerted to potential problems, the response is often ineffectual.
Mad yet? Maybe.
But if I quizzed you on this in a week, how much would you remember? More importantly, what kinds of questions would you have?
Here’s the biggie: Do Americans really want these jobs? We hear a lot of rhetoric about letting foreign workers in because they do jobs “Americans don’t want.’ Buzzfeed decided to ask that question as they researched their topic (the H-2 program not working as designed) and their solution (making the H-2 program work so that American citizens aren’t passed up for jobs that, yes, they do want).
The story gets into a lot of detail on how the program works, what companies have done to skirt the law – often with the help of government agencies – but where it really works is when those writing the story talk to the people the program and policies have affected.
About a third of this 22-page article is handed over to these “real people,” telling their stories, ranging from residents of Moultrie, Georgia – mostly black – who can’t get work harvesting crops in local fields because they’re either ignored in the hiring process or fired en masse in favor of foreign workers, to the story of a woman with long experience caring for horses being unable to find work in Kentucky – the “horse capital of the world” because those doing the hiring would rather hire foreign workers.
Let’s look at the latter story, and what it – and others – add to the tale Buzzfeed tells.
When Nicole Burt applied for work as a stable attendant in Kentucky, she was sure her experience and skills were unimpeachable. As a teenager in Vermont she showed, trained, and groomed horses, and no sooner did she graduate high school than she moved to the Bluegrass State in order to be in what she dubbed “the horse capital of the world.”
In early 2011, she applied to a dozen or so stables, she said, but none called her back. One of them was Three Chimneys Farm, a stately home for legendary thoroughbreds including the 1977 Triple Crown winner, Seattle Slew.
Three Chimneys, based in the town of Versailles, had told federal authorities it was “facing a distinct labor crisis and cannot locate or retain American workers” and that “all U.S. workers who express an interest in the employment opportunity will be interviewed for employment.” But when Burt called to check on her application, she was told no jobs were available.
“Basically we never hire US workers who are applying,” the farm’s director of human resources, LaTerri Williams, told the Department of Labor in a signed statement. “I don’t conduct interviews or take their applications. Basically I just tell them we have no openings.”
Asked by regulators why it didn’t give Burt a chance, as federal law required, the company stated that the single mother of three was better off unemployed than taking the $9.71-an-hour job. “Given the length of the commute, the cost of daycare, the loss of her eligibility for food stamps, it would cost Ms. Burt more to work for Three Chimneys than if she did not work at all,” the company said.
“I kept hearing the employers say that they couldn’t find anybody. And I just want to smack them, because we’re right here,” said Burt. “I felt betrayed. I just felt like America had let Americans down.”
Now how mad are you?
More importantly, what questions have been answered? Here’s one American who does want one of these “undesirable” jobs, but can’t seem to get one. (And if you think Buzzfeed is being too jingoistic in their research and reporting, it’s important to know this is a follow-up to a story they did on the conditions foreign workers face when they come to the United States to take these jobs.)
Adding a human face – or several human faces – to any story (and yes, research papers can be stories, stories that inform and educate) enables us to connect with our readers emotionally and logically. Does that sound manipulative? Maybe in a little way it is when we think about emotion. But manipulation isn’t the right way to think about it. A better way to think about it is helping your reader make connections to your research.
In April 2013, Thomas S. Monson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, gave a wonderful sermon on the topic of obedience. He quoted many scriptures to the congregation, urging them with the word of God to truly see the value and blessings that come from obedience to God’s laws. Here’s a bit of what he said:
There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.
We learn obedience throughout our lives. Beginning when we are very young, those responsible for our care set forth guidelines and rules to ensure our safety. Life would be simpler for all of us if we would obey such rules completely. Many of us, however, learn through experience the wisdom of being obedient.
There are rules and laws to help ensure our physical safety. Likewise, the Lord has provided guidelines and commandments to help ensure our spiritual safety so that we might successfully navigate this often-treacherous mortal existence and return eventually to our Heavenly Father.
Centuries ago, to a generation steeped in the tradition of animal sacrifice, Samuel boldly declared, “To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
Those of you familiar with the sermon are screaming right now: “You left out the best part!”
I did indeed. Here it is (start the video at 3:33):
Here President Monson expands on the learning “though experience the wisdom of being obedient.” He could have quoted more scripture at us. Instead, he tells us a story. He populated his sermon with real people – himself and his friend Danny.
And this is the part we remember. This is the part of his sermon – his research to us on the blessings of obedience – that sticks with us. If we remember anything else out of this sermon six months, a year down the line, we’re lucky. But remember this we do. Because it’s real.
I hope you can see my point, and I hope in the future you look at adding more real people to your writing. That jump roping champion could be in a research paper on physical fitness. The story of Danny and Tommy livened an otherwise pedestrian sermon on obedience. There are stories you can tell as well.