Monthly Archives: August 2012

Space and Death

Today, a man died. He was a war veteran and a test pilot who through skill, bravery, intelligence,  hard work, and probably a little luck became the first human to set foot on a heavenly body. This made him a symbol of what man can achieve.

On the other side of that, some of the the reasons used to sell a mission to the moon were framed in more earthly terms. We had to get to the moon first and beat the Russians. So much for the family of man.

Only this morning, before I heard the news, I was walking around my neighborhood and looking at all the flags and monuments my neighbors had put up to their sports teams, mostly Iowa Hawkeyes and Green Bay Packers, because Iowa doesn’t have it’s own sports team and everybody loves the underdog. Later this morning, I saw my new nephew, and my sister-in-law had dressed him in an Iowa Hawkeye onesie.

Am I alone in finding it odd that we don’t have monuments to NASA on our lawn, or we don’t go around wearing shirts with ARMSTRONG written across the back?

Okay, I know people like their sports teams, but if we put what we spend on sport merchandising into space flight, I’d be writing this from a martian cafe with Arnold Swarchenegger in a dress. I’m not sure who would wear the dress, me or Arnold, but there would be a dress for some reason–that’s a Total Recall reference by the way, since it’s a little out of date.

I’m a firm believer that staying on this planet, not spreading out into the solar system, the galaxy, the Universe, is a death sentence for the whole race. Eventually, the shoe will drop, along with a huge asteroid. Or maybe something will get screwed up, and we’ll turn into morlocks or something. This planet can take a lot of damage, our currently hospitable environment cannot.

On the other hand, should we be spreading ourselves into the universe? We have an awful lot of stuff down here that needs fixing, places like Haiti and Florida. Maybe everything has its time, and when ours is up, we should fade away gracefully. One thing seems quite clear to me though. If we do make it beyond this little ball of mud, it will be because we stopped worrying about our team winning and started realizing we’re all on the same team.

Never use was never ever ever

A Was-P

One of the pieces of advice I always see is “Don’t use the be verb.” This is good advice, but not an absolute truth.

There are many reasons this advice is given. Often using a be verb means that something has been shown instead of told.

Tell: A car was on the road, oblivious to their hiding place

Show: A car drove by, oblivious to their hiding place.

Just changing the verb not only makes the sentence stronger, but it gives us more information. Instead of a car merely existing, a car is now moving. This satisfies another criteria for good writing: Always use the strongest verb possible.

However, can the strongest verb possible be the be verb? Can telling be better than showing? As with everything with writing, the answer is: once in a while.

Everyone in our little village had a religion, and Bob’s faith was the most unshakable. Bob was a pessimist.

And being that this treatise is running a bit short, let me add what I think is some of the best be-verb writing ever done. The opening lyrics to Jesus Built My Hotrod by Ministry.

Soon I discovered that this rock thing was true
Jerry Lee Lewis was the Devil
Jesus was an architect previous to his career as a prophet
All of a sudden,I found myself in love with the world
So there was only one thing that I could do
Was ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long

A Letter Home from Camp Nanowrimo – Week 1

After my first week of Camp Nanowrimo, Things are going much better than expected.

So many times when I sit down to write, I feel the demon of personal expectations poking me in the kidney with his little fork. This is why I sat down this time with the expectation of nothing at all.

‘ve had Nanowrimo projects that have come together and those that have not worked out so well. After getting to the 9,000 word mark, I think I may be on to something this time around. I’ve built up a nice cast of characters. I’ve put in some nice little twists, and most importantly, I’ve regained some of the excitement I feel when I’m writing for me.

My goal for today is to get to 11,000 words. Wish me luck.

I shall play you the song of my people

Yesterday, someone I respect and trust told me “Indy” publishing is no different than vanity press, and I am ruining my future hopes of a career by publishing before I am good enough for the big houses.

Because I trust her opinion and consider her both a close friend and a sage voice of reason, I’ve agonized over her words for the last day, and I have to say that, despite all the ways I have turned the problem around, there is still only one answer that comes to me.

On this point, sweet lady, I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not upset. I don’t see her suggestions as an attack. She said these things to me because she believes in me, because she thinks I can go further, because I can grab the brass ring of an agent and a book deal with a big company.

However, in turning this problem over and over in my head, I realized maybe her brass ring and my brass ring are completely different rings.

Maybe this means I am only a hobbyist (I hate that word.) Maybe I am selling myself short by not playing by the rules. But here’s the deal:

I hate following rules.

 If I’m going to make it, I’ll make it on my own terms, doing what I want to do the way I want to do it. And if I can’t find a publisher who will put up with me, I’ll self-publish. I’ll give away ebooks for free. I’ll travel the world, leaving flash-drives in men’s rooms… Okay, maybe not that last part.

Is that setting myself up to fail? Does the wise money say that I’m stupid? Well, okay, I’ll give you that, but to quote Slartibartfast, “I’d rather be happy than right any day.”

If you don’t know how that quote ends, go ahead and look it up. I’ll wait…