Tuesday, December 25, 2012


The radio talk show was focusing on Christmas food traditions. The foods were from around the world, some familiar to me with my Oklahoma background. Some I’ve never heard of before, much less eaten.
The host said his family eats at a Chinese restaurant every Christmas. Visions not of sugar plums, which I have never seen or eaten, but of A Christmas Story and the Bumpus hounds made me smile. Then he said he’s Jewish. Now that’s something to think about.
And I like it.
The idea that Christmas traditions need not be exclusive to Christians is wonderful. In fact, no one need be excluded from having their own Christmas traditions.
We can all appreciate and celebrate peace and good will. We can all enjoy family and fellowship. We can all give and forgive. And none of these concepts require adherence to a particular religion or culture or food preference.
Maybe I should look into holidays that I do not now celebrate. Without a doubt we could all benefit by developing our own Hanukkah traditions or Kwanzaa or Diwali or Eid al-Fitr or Risshun. Or any festival from wherever-in-the-world that celebrates life and hope.
And, perhaps, we would be too busy celebrating to focus on division and despair.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Neil Alden Armstrong
On a grainy black and white television, I watched Neil Alden Armstrong step on the moon July 20, 1969.
People completely disinterested in the event filled the room. Old people whose first trip away from small-town Oklahoma was to go to WWII. And a baby less than two-weeks-old, visiting from its small-town in New Mexico. That baby’s older siblings argued and played with their dog. The baby’s parents, grandparents, and an assortment of other adult relatives chatted and cooed. I felt like I was the only person in the room who cared about the picture on the TV, being received in an American heartland room, live from the moon. And maybe that day, I was. At least in that room.
I knew that with that small step and giant leap we as a species were starting our emigration away from our natal planet.
We all come from a long line of immigrants. My great-grandparents came from the old-country. Someday one of my great-grand-children or great-great-grandchildren will say they came from the old-world. And their new world will truly be a new world, not just a new continent, or a new country, or a new neighborhood.
I do not believe that I will visit a colony on the moon. But I do believe that I will live long enough to see other people do just that. Average people. Not only highly trained, physically fit astronauts hired by and representing this nation or that one. But a geologist from a state university somewhere in this old world, going to do research. A teacher husband joining his doctor wife. He will be one of many to teach the colony’s children. And she will be one of many to provide professional support to the colony’s growing population. A population of miners and mechanics and technicians and restaurateurs and grocers and all the other people who make a community thrive.
That teacher will teach the children about astronauts from the 20th Century who rode the ships into space. He may not take the time to teach them about the dreamers and the scientists and the regular people just like them who made it possible for humans to out-migrate from Earth. But he will teach them about Neil Alden Armstrong, the first human being to stand on the moon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

January 8, 2013. Make note of that date. The final book in the Wheel of Time series will be available!!!!
I guess this means I will not have to locate Brandon Sanderson and let the air out of his tires after all.
Of any series The Wheel of Time is the best example of the inherent misalignment of readers and writers. We can read faster than they can write…and edit… rewrite… edit… publish…distribute and be discovered by us, the reader.
I have waited so long. But not nearly as long as those of you who started reading WoT when The Eye of the World came out in 1990. You know, twenty-three years for fourteen books, really is not so bad. Especially if you consider that the author died before he could complete what he thought would be the twelfth and final book.
It just feels like forever when you’re caught up in the story and want to know what happens next. Will Voldemort get his in the end?
Excuse me—wrong series. You’d think that Harry Potter would have prepared me for Wheel of Time since I didn’t start reading WoT until after the final Harry Potter came out. Was that 2007, only five years ago? 
Yes, I came to the series only after they announced that Brandon Sanderson would be completing it. Forgive me, those of you out there who have been slogging away at this for long enough to become grandparents. Not to mention losing the author before he finished and not knowing that he had left sufficient instructions for someone else to finish it for you. Then not knowing if the relief author would have the stamina and fortitude to finish it right.
That we still don't know, do we? Check back with me the Ides of January.
Tor has kindly made available  some excerpts for those of us who cannot wait another minute. From the first chapter of A Memory of Light  http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/07/read-an-excerpt-from-chapter-one-of-a-memory-of-light and from the eleventh chapter http://www.tor.com/stories/2012/09/a-memory-of-light-chapter-11-excerpt
And the books are all so long, I almost hated to start each one. But then as I neared the end of Robert Jordan's books and the Sanderson ones were not yet available I slowed my reading to draw it out as long as possible. Repeating with each of the first two Sanderson WoT books. Then I would re-read in preparation for the next one.
Hmmm. If I started tonight, perhaps I could finish re-reading by January 8.
Maybe just the most recent four or five books.
I do have a life to live, laundry to do, a book of my own to finish writing.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

“If you don't have time to read,
you don't have the time
(or the tools)
to write.
Simple as that.” 
― Stephen King

What are you reading now? What have you read recently?
Do you get as excited about your favorite author’s new book as you do about a new movie?
When was the last time you shared a book with a friend?
If these questions bring pleasant or passionate thoughts to mind, you may have the tools to write.
We need as many of our fellows’ thoughts and words as we can gather in and reshape into our own stories. King’s plots and Dickens’ characters. Austin’s romance and Asimov’s visions. We need Hawking’s history of the universe and Gould’s history of life.
What am I reading? Last night I finished Philip Margolin’s Gone But Not Forgotten. I’m in the middle of Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities. And I just got Carl Sagan’s The Demon-haunted World  and Pale Blue Dot. Which to begin first? It’s marvelous to live in the midst of plenty.
Look beside your bed, beside your favorite chair. Check your e-reader. Are you surrounded by humanity’s discoveries and dreams? If not, then you must visit your library, my friend. Or your favorite bookstore. It matters not whether brick and mortar or virtual. Just do it. READ.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Count the Squares

Count the squares
I’ve been thinkin’ again. You don’t know this about me. But I think a lot. Then again, you probably do know this about me, because it’s true of you, too. It’s the human condition—we think a lot. And I’ve been thinkin’ about what it is we think about.
My first inclination is to think that we spend most of our time thinking about problems, but I don’t think that’s true. I think we think mostly about solutions. Even in leisure moments we seek out problems so we can think about solutions. That’s how we read the papers. The front page so we can think about solutions to weighty state and national and world problems. 
But it’s the puzzles that we spend more time actually focusing our thoughts on. And the harder the Sudoku, the better. When we do solve the crossword puzzle, we enjoy our success, but not for long. A solution found sends us looking for another problem to solve.
The better mouse trap is never invented to make money or even to catch a better mouse. It’s the solution to the next problem.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Even fiction writers should get their facts straight.

I just stumbled on the following phrase in a murder mystery I’m reading: “woolen black cotton suit.” And stumbled is the right verb to use. It threw me right out of the story. If the suit was cotton, it could not have been woolen. Conversely, if the suit were woolen, it could not have been made of cotton.

It might be fiction but those small details should be correct. When an author takes his time (and the reader’s time) to describe loading and firing a flintlock long gun, that description should be accurate. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pn7lxMP_qBc

A bush hog or brush hog mows, it doesn’t dig. The beautiful hibiscus flower has no scent. And you don’t use a silencer on a revolver.

You can buy something identified as a silencer for revolvers, but as a former police officer once described them—“They’re as useless as tits on a bull.” And for those of you who do not know…bulls do have teats, but they serve no useful purpose.

If you’re a writer and don’t know first-hand about something, look it up, ask someone who knows, use something else that you do know about.

Think about it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maurice Sendak

“Max stepped into his private boat and waved goodbye.”  Our Maurice Sendak died yesterday.
Writing teachers exhort us to “show not tell.” Maurice Sendak did that. Now if I can just achieve those kinds of visuals with language...
Maurice Sendak trusted his readers. He trusted the children and the people who love them to follow a story without spoon-feeding them every little detail or telling the moral. That’s what makes his books as big as his readers can imagine.