The New N Word

The PC crowd is at it again. And, of course, NPR is leading the way.

Last Thursday, on their afternoon news show All Things Considered, Melissa Block interviewed Columbia linguistics professor John McWhorter on the use of the word1400091124004.cached thugs to describe those involved in the Baltimore riots.

I always take notice when the matter of race comes up—and that’s exactly what this story was about—because I think the media, and certain individuals like Al Sharpton and our “unifying” president, stir things up far more than they alleviate. Yes, we rely on the news to tell us about these things, and there is room in the news for the op-ed piece.

But pay attention to how these things are couched next time you hear/see them. Who’s giving the opinion? Though I’m sure they weren’t trying to hide it, the fact is, John McWhorter is black, and I have to wonder how much that fact influenced his opinion. Quite a bit, I’d imagine.

The basic idea behind the interview was that Professor McWhorter posits the word thug is “the new n word,” at least when we eternally prejudiced whiteys use it. When black Obama uses it, or the black Baltimore mayor uses it, or any other black in the whole frickin world uses it, it’s okay. Why? Because when a white person uses the word to refer to blacks, it automatically means we’re using in a prejudiced way because we think different. That’s not my opinion. That’s Professor McWhorter’s.

NwordHe even takes a bit of exception to Obama using the word. Why? Because although he’s black, he hasn’t had “that experience” that a gangbanger has (will gangbanger be the next racially charged word?). This from a man who attended Friends Select School, a private school on Philadelphia, before being accepted to Simon’s Rock College in tenth grade. Sounds like he grew up on some mean streets indeed.

Just as an aside, something I’ve noticed about these types of interviews, at least on NPR: the interviewer (who in this case is white) seems to take every opportunity to use the word in question, though in fairness I’ve never heard them use the n word. (I’m not using that very word in this post because this is me talking, not one of my fictional characters.)

Now, full disclosure here, just to be sure we’re clear: I’m a white, heterosexual, Southern male. That makes me a far cry from being politically correct. About as far as you can get, I’d say.


Despite having a rebel flag tattooed on one arm, I do not belong to the Klan. Or any other white supremacist group. Or hate group, for that matter. I have gay friends and family, Mexican friends, black friends (though those are in short supply at the moment, simply because I’ve lost touch with the ones I had), my goddaughter is in a KKK_Busters_by_Dess520relationship with another woman and it doesn’t bother me one bit. I’m not narrow-minded. I got the tattoo when I was nineteen and in the Army. I grew up in the seventies and loved The Dukes of Hazzard. I love my Southern heritage. Even in those days, I didn’t get that tattoo as anything remotely racial, and still can’t understand how anyone can make such a blanket statement to say the Confederate flag can only be a racial symbol. That discounts those of us who are proud to be Southern, even if we’re morally embarrassed by those inbred idiots parading around in white sheets. I’ve always thought it’s no coincidence their hoods look just like dunce caps.

So to have a man like John McWhorter, who apparently comes from a privileged background (his full name is John Hamilton McWhorter V, according to Wikipedia) make a blanket judgment about my thoughts just because I’m white…well, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m taking too much offense here, but isn’t that a racially biased opinion? For him to say he knows what I mean when I say thugs without meeting me or knowing a thing about me, is prejudice. Just as much as me saying that all blacks are criminals or subhuman or any of those kinds of things. I’m making a judgment based solely on skin color or stereotype, with not a single fact to back it up. And he reinforces this biased opinion by saying it’s okay for blacks to use the word, but not whites. Sound familiar?

I could go on and on about this subject, but I’d likely start repeating myself in a lot of ways, rehashing the same old points ad infinitum. So let me close with this: we will never patch over this festering sore that is prejudice until we drop the agendas, the desires to balance the scales by fostering white guilt over honest dialogue. The word thugs, in its modern usage, originated with gangsta rap. Tupac Shakur had the words Thug Life tattooed on his stomach. It’s a term used to describe life in a gang. Tupac came from the streets, not from a private school. He has the right to use that term, according to Professor McWhorter, while a poor white guy who grew up running Southern dirt roads doesn’t have a right to use that word when referring to those who tear up their neighborhoods and loot black business owners as a way to “honor” someone killed by police.

first-they-cameWhere is the outrage when a black cop shoots a white guy? Or a black cop shoots a black guy? Why not have outrage anytime a police officer shoots someone in questionable circumstances? That’s fair, and balanced, and will benefit everyone, not just one class of people. And shouldn’t that be the ultimate aim of all this business? After all, Hitler started with the communists. But he didn’t stop there, as the Jews can attest. If we let the cops continue to abuse blacks, how long will it be before they decide they can extend that abuse to other groups?


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Superheroes in the Real World

You know, I get as caught up in superhero stories as the next guy. I grew up reading the old four-color comics and loving them, especially Ghost Rider and Spider-Man. I used to have a Marvel Treasury Edition of their adaptation of Star Wars that I wish I still owned. The artwork wasn’t the best, but it was still cool to have a comic adaptationmokf67-cover of a movie I loved so much. I was also into the more offbeat comics Marvel put out in the seventies, like Werewolf by Night and The Tomb of Dracula. And don’t get me started on Conan the Barbarian and The Hands of Shang-Chi, Master of Kung Fu. I loved those two, and have the Dark Horse remastered reissues of Conan.

But of course, Conan and Shang-Chi weren’t superheroes, at least not the kind I’m talking about in this post. I want to focus on the ones who had true super powers, like Spider-Man, Superman, and their like.

As cool as these stories are, have you ever really considered what it would be like if we really had superheroes in our world? I mean, in a practical sense? The X-Men dealt with at least one aspect of that, the idea of mutants slowly replacing us normal humans. I just watched Days of Future Past, and one of the themes of the movie is just that: how mutants are the next evolutionary step, possibly destined to replace us mere humans, though I’d suggest that day is a long way away. The mutants, after all, only make up a small fraction of the total population and, since they tend to fight one another and kill each other off, they’re not going to totally replace us anytime soon. Besides, I imagine they’d be ruling over us long before they took our place.

7764_4_C-58But that’s just one aspect. What about the damage these people cause when they go after one another? Holy cow, man, just one fight between Superman and, oh, I don’t know, Captain Marvel (another one I wish I still  had), metes out more destruction than Islamic terrorists could ever hope to achieve. And these are two good guys! This doesn’t take into account the wanton destruction the bad guys indulge in on a regular basis, apparently just because they can. I mean, why go in with a heist team and break into the bank vault when you can just punch a hole in the wall and walk out with the money?

And you know there have to be civilian fatalities to go along with all that damage. I mean, when the Hulk slams into a high-rise building and knocks it down, you know not everyone got out. It would be like having 9/11 every time some of these folks decided to have it out. The death tolls alone would turn the populace against these guys, no matter how much good they might be doing. Sure, Spider-Man is protecting us against the Green Goblin, but when they go at it they tear down or at least severely damage several buildings, not to mention all that torn up pavement. I’m sure construction contractors absolutely love these guys, but the rest of us? Not so much.

Look at the Avengers movies, and here I’m including the individual members’ movies as well. For instance, in The Winter Soldier, a big chunk of the city below the battle was destroyed when Captain America and the Winter Soldier faced one another. How many people died when that happened? And when the Hulk picks up vehicles and uses them like fly swats, how many die, and how many millions in damage occurs? Christ, I’m pretty sure a huge chunk of New York City was destroyed in The Avengers, and they’re all set to do it again this weekend with The Age of Ultron. Tony Stark is breaking out his hulk-vs-iron-mans-hulk-busterHulkbuster armor, so you know shit’s gonna get real. Real destructive, that is.

So, yeah, I’m thinkin that, as cool as these stories are, as neat as it is to read these larger-than-life exploits, I’m glad they’re restricted to the comic books and movies. I don’t think the real world can handle superheroes, and I don’t know if I’d want to live in a world with them striding around destroying everything every time one of them has a temper tantrum.


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Back to the Beginning

I want you to come back with me on a trip through time.

Madison TheaterIt’s 1977, in the small town of Huntsville, Arkansas. There’s this little theater on the town square called Madison Theater. This in in the days before the multiplexes, so there’s only one room. The theater runs movies Thursday through Sunday, with matinees on the weekends. The shows are second-, maybe third-run affairs, six months at least past their release dates, especially for the big releases.

And we’re about to go in and see what’s become a big release.

We sit in our seats. There aren’t any cup holders, and the chairs don’t recline. The best seats are usually about halfway down. The walls are covered with curtains, and the floor is sticky from where somebody spilled their soda last showing. Popcorn in one hand, drink in the other, we sit in the cool dimnness, waiting for show time.

There aren’t any commercial PowerPoints going on the screen. In fact, we can’t see the screen yet as there’s a genuine curtain covering it. This is a theater, not a multiplex. There’s no surround sound, though there are multiple speakers, and the only sounds in here for now are those of people talking and laughing. No piped in radio stations that broadcast for this chain because it’s an indie theater, locally owned.

Then, finally, the lights dim and the curtain parts, just like it would for live theater. The screen lights up—maybe off-frame at first, because these aren’t digital projectors we’re talking about here—and then the first preview comes on. Again, no commercials for cars or cell phones or what have you. Just trailers for upcoming movies.

Disco is stronger than ever, thanks to the release of Saturday Night Fever, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind has everyone interested in UFOs and little gray men. Clint Eastwood expends a million rounds in The Gauntlet, and another huge fish terrifies everyone in Orca.

Then the previews are over. The 20th Century Fox logo comes on, with its roving spotlights and heavy music, and the screen goes dark. This is the movie everyone’s been raving about, so there isn’t any talking. Then, there they are, in the middle of the screen, the words that would become world-famous:

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…1127541656

Man, with words like that to open the thing, it must be a good one.

Then the music hits, that sweeping orchestral theme, its big sound hinting at big things to come, and the Star Wars logo swoops into view, receding into a glittering field of stars and the screen crawl starts, tilted away from us and following the logo into the black distance. There’s no chapter heading because this is Star Wars, not A New Hope. This is long before the prequels, long before this setting became the monster it is today, but we don’t know that yet. Science fiction movies, as a rule, aren’t very successful, and those of us who are fans of the genre worry this might be another one of those disappointing things that pale in comparison with the good books we’ve read.

The words scroll on, informing us that it is a period of rebellion in the galaxy. We read them all, enthralled, and watch as they disappear into the depths of space. What’s this Galactic Empire and what is it like? Ooo, what’s a Death Star? That sounds bad. And who is this Princess Leia and what does she look like?

This might actually be good.

The music gets quieter for a moment and the camera pans down. There’s a half-moon of in the distance, then a planet, its atmosphere a blue haze, its surface a mix of dull browns. The music swells again and there’s a sound like we’ve never heard before. A spaceship with multiple thrusters speeds over and away from us, followed by the biggest damn thing we’ve ever seen. It seems to stretch on forever before we see its huge thrusters, easily as large as the ship it pursues. The camera’s angle finally changes and we see this thing dwarfs the first ship, with a huge bridge like one of our battleships sticking up from it. It’s triangular, and it’s firing green laser bolts at the small ship.

We’re caught up now. The camera goes inside the small fleeing ship to show us two robots navigating a corridor. One of them speaking with a clipped British accent, the other with electronic noises we don’t understand. An exterior shot shows the larger ship capturing the small one. Ominous noises ensue, and crewmembers run past the robots—away from the camera—blasters at the ready. When the camera shows us their faces a few moments later, their expressions are grim but determined. They focus on a door at the end of the corridor.

We get their POV. The door’s edges flash, a laser bolt whips through as the door disappears in a shower of sparks, and then soldiers come through, dressed in white armor from head to toe, firing on the ship’s crew without remorse. A short battle follows, one that isn’t good for the rebels, and then…who’s this? He’s dressed all in black: sweeping cape, scary looking face shield, not an inch of his body showing.

star-wars-darth-vader-introThen we hear it: heavy breathing, ominous to say the least. He looks down at the bodies littering the corridor floor for a moment, then moves on.

If you’re a fan—or maybe even if you’re not—you know the footage I’m talking about. But we didn’t then. This is before the prequels, before the Special Editions, before Greedo shooting first, before Han stepping on Jabba’s tail. It’s one movie, and it has us caught up in it already. We have a dark villain, a beautiful princess (even if her hairdo is a bit weird), two robots that remind us of maybe a high-tech Laurel and Hardy, and this world we’re looking at feels real.

Yes, the corridors of the ship are, at first, clean and shiny. But as the movie progresses, we see that this setting has rough edges. The robots are dirty, and everything on Tatooine is pitted and scoured by its sands. We learn about Jawas and Sand People and Mos Eisley and…

The Force. It’s a mysterious energy field that surrounds and binds the galaxy together. That’s it. All the time Luke is learning about the Force, no one, not Obi-Wan (who, in the prequels, tested Luke’s father Anakin), not Yoda, not even Darth Vader or the Emperor, ever made mention of midi-chlorians.

And that was good. We went away from the movie talking about the Force. What was it? Was it magic? Or something else? Ben’s description left a lot of room for speculation, and that’s what made it alluring: it was mysterious, and we didn’t understand it, so we could interpret it in our own way.
This movie was different. We loved it from the start. The world it presented us was real and gritty and we could see ourselves living in it. Luke Skywalker and the possibilitystarwarstrilogy_0 of him falling for Leia was all we talked about for years. And then, when The Empire Strikes Back came out, well, the possibility that Darth Vader was Luke’s father…no, that couldn’t be.

These days, it’s called A New Hope and it’s part of this huge merchandising empire and moneymaking machine owned by Disney. Even George Lucas admitted it changed him from being one of the maverick filmmakers to one of the big corporations he rebelled against. He went from being part of the Rebel Alliance to running the Empire.

It’s been almost forty years since I saw Star Wars the first time (for me, it will always be Star Wars; I’m still uncomfortable calling it A New Hope), but I can still put it in the DVD player—even though I own the Special Edition—and feel a faint echo of the magic I felt the first time I experienced this movie in that little theater in Huntsville, Arkansas when I was twelve years old.

Regardless of what’s happened with the Star Wars Universe since then—and I have to say that not all of it has been good—the original movie, in fact, the original trilogy, was a game changer for me and my friends. It took us somewhere we hadn’t even dreamed of going, and we spent hours talking about it. It meant far more to us than who shot JR Ewing. Who cared? Darth Vader was Luke’s father and Leia was his sister.

And the fate of an Empire rested on Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber blade.

What more could you ask for?


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Taking Part

book-editor-ebcb397f3d23b39df4f06bf10e3044On the whole, I’m finding that I enjoy being an editor. As little as a year ago, I wouldn’t have taken on the job because I didn’t feel qualified. Still not sure if I am, but I’m getting compliments on my editing, so I guess I’m doing something right.

The problem with editing at a growing company, though, is that I have to wear several hats. I guess it’s happening more and more at the big New York publishers too, as they downsize to try and up their bottom line, but in days gone by, when your manuscript was accepted, several editors looked at it. We don’t have the personnel for that—though it would be nice if someday we did—so I find myself, along with the other editors in the company, being line editor, general editor, copy editor, and acquisitions editor.

Line editing is probably the easiest part. That’s where I look for things like typos, misspelled words, and things of that nature. It’s the most tedious, probably, and the one it’s probably easiest to mess up on because we simply can’t see all the mistakes by ourselves (but that’s what we have beta readers for). Copy editing, of course, takes research sometimes, because it means I have to catch mistakes—such as having a safety on a revolver (not very many revolvers have safeties, so pay attention, folks).

It’s the copy editing I worry most about. I can tell a good story within a few pages, and I’m pretty good at spotting typos and the like. But copy editing? What if I don’t know they’ve made a mistake? It’s not me the reader blames—they don’t think of the editor, or at least I never did. If there’s a mistake, I always assumed the writer didn’t do their due diligence. And a lot of times that’s where the mistake originates.

But what about larger mistakes? Sometimes, because of the meticulousness involved in line editing, you can forget to keep the larger picture in mind. That’s when I’m afraid I might miss some gaping plot hole that will make the book fall flat on its face without me realizing it. So it’s something I’ve been thinking about rather heavily the past few weeks.

And I realized something: reading is not passive.

Here’s where my fear of missing something like that comes from: movies.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been talking over a movie with someone only to have them point out some gaffe that undermines the whole thing, and I didn’t see it. Not at all. Hollywood is famous for not getting things right, so I should be spotting these things. But I don’t. Not as often as I should. So it’s made me wonder if I’m missing things when I edit. After all, it takes longer to get through a book, especially when you’re editing, than it does to get through a movie.

But then I was a beta reader for JB Hogan’s Living Behind Time, his Jack Kerouac-type novel of a man discovering himself. I’m not trying to make an example of JB and editwars2shame him online (okay, maybe I am; he’d do the same for me lol), but this is such a graphic example of what I want to illustrate. JB wrote this novel years ago, and did a few updates to it in the interim. Then, when Oghma agreed to publish it, he brought it out, blew the dust and cobwebs off (to hear him tell it there was plenty of both), and touched it up some.

There are a lot of years—about thirty at this writing—between his original writing of the book and it being published. So mistakes are bound to creep in, and I found one that ended up being a humdinger: he had a man in his mid-forties stationed at an Air Force base in Biloxi in 1964—fifty years ago. That was the largest timeline mistake, though there were a couple of others. The upshot of it was it simply couldn’t be, unless the man really was time traveling. And that wasn’t the plot of the book believe me.

Turns out I was the only beta reader who spotted this, which means it was a good thing I read the thing. It took a bit of changing, but according to JB, it was a fairly easy fix.

The point to this is that it boosted my confidence in myself as an editor, even though I wasn’t actually editing his book, only beta reading it. But when I read a book, whether it be for review purposes or as a beta reader, I bring the same tools to the work bench as I do when editing. Beta reading or reading for a review is just as important to the author as a good edit. In fact, it’s another step in the editing process, as far as I’m concerned, and I hope beta readers who go through books I’ve edited do the same thing I do: go over them as if they were editing. In this print on demand world, this allows a writer and publisher to fix mistakes in each consecutive printing so that it’s continually evolving, at least on that end of things. Obviously, that’s not the place to make major changes to the story, but it does allow you to fix mistakes.

And that got me thinking about movies versus books, and I realized that, for me anyway, watching a movie is a passive thing. I just go along for the ride. Sure, I make minor criticisms, but on the whole, I let the thing take me where it wants me to go. I’ve got a drink of some kind at my elbow, a comfortable chair, and I’m ready to go. It’s a good way to unwind. Unfortunately, it’s also a problem in that too many people are turning themselves over to mostly mindless entertainment. It’s why we’re getting the quality of movies we’re getting.

TV seems to be breaking the mold, at least on the the cable channels. With shows like Justified, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Sons of Anarchy, and a few of the newer ones people are geeking over, cable TV is bringing some quality entertainment to our living rooms, and Hollywood is feeling it when it comes to the blockbusters they try pushing on us every year.

they-said-i-spend-too-much-time-watching-tv-i-said-they-spent-toBut when I’m reading—and especially when I’m editing (the lines of which are becoming more and more blurred these days)—it’s not passive for me. I have to actually do something, think about what I’m taking in, rather than going along for the car chases and explosions. Books don’t have to justify their budgets, so they don’t have to have all the nifty special effects to pull you in. Movies are a visual medium, so they need that kind of thing to keep you going. Lots of people just sitting around talking doesn’t really get it unless they’re wailing on one another.

And let’s face it: books make for far better entertainment. And maybe that’s partly our fault. Yes, I realize they’re two different mediums, but movies could still be better if we the consumers demanded it the way we do with books. Some bad apples will still get through in both arenas, but if we’d apply the critical thinking skills to movies as we do our books, we’d eventually get better movies.

Meanwhile, I feel better about my editing skills. I doubt I’ll ever reach a point where I think my word should be law as some editors seem to do, but at least I can feel confident in giving writers advice that I think is solid, and I hope they will too.


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It’s not very often you see authors working as teams. There are a few, such as Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child—who also write solo—but on the whole, you don’t see it very often. Writing is very much a solo endeavor. Even if you bounce ideas off other people—as I often do—or you refine your story after it’s written by taking in the feedback you get from beta readers, in the end, you’re the one sitting there at the keyboard pounding out the words.

Musicians work in teams all the time. In fact, it’s rare to see a song written by just one person. I just finished reading Dancing with Myself, Billy Idol’s autobiography. It’s a great story about a guy who started out in punk in the seventies and worked his way up to be one of the most iconic stars of the eighties and beyond. One theme I saw throughout the book was that he worked with his guitarists to write his songs. Primarily, this was Steve Stevens, one of the most proficient guitarists out there, though he did work with Mark Younger-Smith for a time in the nineties. But almost any album you pick up will show the songs are a collaborative effort, whether it’s a solo artist or a band.

Kill SwitchBut even though we writers tend to work alone, that doesn’t prevent something special from happening when a few of us get together to hatch shared world projects. That’s just what happened to me this week—last night, in fact—as I got together with Casey Cowan, creative director of Oghma Creative Media, and science fiction authors Gordon Bonnet, whose conspiracy theory-heavy Kill Switch is available as an eBook preorder on Amazon, with print copies available April 14, and JE Newman, author of Changeling, a novel about the world after the superheroes have left (also available on Amazon).

Even though it was an informal visit, Casey hoped putting us together in one place would spark something, and it did. Over dinner, we hashed out a shared world project, the details of which I can’t reveal at this time. I think it’s gonna be an exciting thing to work on, though, and I think readers will like it. Part of the experiment will also involve reader feedback to determine the later course the project will take. The idea is to be on the edge of where writing is going, at least in part, a direction posited by Jason Merkoski, author of Burning the Page. Jason was on the development teams for the first two Kindles, and I highly recommend his book, which predicts some trends in the eBook market, one of which is a form of audience participation in the plot line of novels and stories.

When I went back to school, one of the classes I had to take was a business communication course. One of the things taught in that course is brainstorming and how companies can use it to initiate new projects. I thought it was a neat concept, but never expected to take much part in such things myself.

And yet, that’s exactly what we did at that meeting. We may not have followed the “letter of the law” by all of us writing down every single idea that came to mind, but we didChangelingFrontCover-200 end up with a consensus, nevertheless. We did it through talking, first about separate ideas we’d all come up with that might lend themselves to a shared world, then by hatching a concept completely independent of our solo projects.

Then we started paring them down, bouncing ideas of one another, evolving things suggested, dropping some things and completely changing others so they didn’t even resemble the initial suggestions, until we had something we were all excited about: a project that allows each of us to explore the world in our own unique ways while contributing to the whole, with the finale to be determined by reader consensus. And, in the end, the hope is that we attract readers to our solo projects while at the same time finding new writers to possibly extend the concept in a unique way by adding that twist at the end you expect from good science fiction.

I’ll keep you posted on this project, which should debut sometime next year, hopefully coinciding with our science fiction/fantasy ezine we intend to launch sometime in early 2016. So stay tuned to this blog for further developments, and I’ll pass them to you as I get them. If you’re a science fiction/fantasy fan, I think you’ll like what we’ve come up with.


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Honesty. It’s what everyone says they want. Go ahead. Ask them. Ask yourself.

But when it comes right down to it, a lot of people can’t handle honesty. Take a good, long look at yourself, at your life, and tell me if you’re completely honest. You’re not. Neither am I (just in case you think I’m being judgmental). We tell lies all the time. From little white lies to big whoppers. We even tell them without realizing it.

Those lies are generally told to make ourselves look better: “I was late because of traffic.”

Well, if you know traffic is bad that time of day, leave a little earlier. Yes, there are times when traffic is way worse than you expected. Maybe there was an accident. That always ties things up to no end. I’m not saying everything is your fault. But I’d bet more of it is than you’d like to admit. I know it is for me.

Usually, we’re late because we didn’t leave early enough.

That’s just one example, though. There are others.

2010-11-22-too-much-facebook“I couldn’t get the report done because there was too much to do (and I was spending too much time on Facebook).”

“I wasn’t able to write much on my book this week because things got in the way (and I spent more time than I should have playing video games).”

“I’m not going to be able to come over and see you after all because I let housework pile up (from spending too much time playing games—on Facebook).”

But these are, relatively speaking, trivial things. Yeah, you’re disappointing someone, and that’s not good. But life is full of disappointment, and if you don’t get used to it real quick, you’re gonna be in really bad shape.

There are other, deeper lies we tell ourselves—and, after all, we lie more to ourselves than we do others. And we’re the easiest person to lie to, so we get away with it far more often than we do lying to others.

I see it online a lot. Someone takes exception to what someone else says, especially if it’s a celebrity/politician we don’t like. I’m just enough of a curmudgeon these days to try and call people on it, and they don’t like it. This is where I see people who really don’t want honesty as much as they claim.

A recent example would be the hullabaloo over something Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty said at a prayer breakfast. Of course, this isn’t the first time Phil’s said somethingPhil-Robertson the public hasn’t agreed with, but maybe this one is a bit more egregious than some others. He was apparently trying to illustrate what happens when you don’t follow God’s laws, and used the example of some criminal element breaking into the home of an atheist family, raping the daughters and mother and killing all of them, all the while spouting doggerel about how it can’t be wrong because, as atheists, the don’t recognize right and wrong the way good Christians do, and people took exception to the example Phil used.

Now, on one level, I can agree with them. Phil’s example, at best, is naïve, to say the least. Atheists—most of them, anyway—have a moral code every bit as stringent as Phil Robertson’s. The vast majority of them believe they only have this life, while they’re alive, to get it right. There’s no blood of Jesus to wash their sins away. They are one hundred percent accountable for their actions.

Now, I happen to find many atheists far too condescending of anyone who believes there is an afterlife or any kind of spiritual dimension to life. They look down on such believers as naïve children, and they’re not a bit above letting them know that. They’re generally—at least most of the ones I’ve come across—somewhat insufferable and smug in their positions. They want everyone to be respectful of their beliefs—and they are beliefs, because you can’t prove a negative—but they can’t quite seem to drudge up respect for anyone who’s spiritual.

Either way, Phil Robertson’s statements showed his ignorance. But what most folks seemed to take exception to was his rather graphic example, and I have to admit that it nn_05ami_isis_140819was more extreme than was needed. But when one poster compared fundamentalists like Robertson to members of ISIS, I had to bite my tongue. Robertson’s example was graphic, I’ll admit, but—and here’s the important part—it was hypothetical.

That means it didn’t really happen.

That means it’s no different from me writing about a similar incident in one of my crime novels.

And, I’m sorry, but I know lots of fundamentalist Christians, and I have yet to see one of them post a beheading video while wearing a mask. I have yet to see a group of them burn children or enemy pilots alive in a cage in order to make an example out of them.

The online community—and the very biased mainstream media—has created this image of Christians that doesn’t really exist outside of Westboro Baptist Church and their ilk. And most fundamentalists I know disapprove of the actions WBC undertakes. We hear people from all over the world protesting that the actions of a few Muslims like ISIS don’t represent the faith as a whole, and yet we’re ready and willing to jump all over Christians as a whole because of idiots like Phil Robertson and WBC.

That’s not honesty.

That’s hypocrisy.

One of the worst forms of dishonesty, as far as I’m concerned.

Being honest with yourself is hard. I know. I’ve been telling myself for a long time now that, yes, I’m overweight, but it’s not that bad. I carry it well. It’s mostly my belly.

And then I saw a picture of myself sitting in a chair at the OWL conference back in February. It’s at one of the keynote sessions, and I happen to be looking at my phone for some reason. The simple truth is, I look awful. I’m this blob sitting in a folding chair, thinking he’s not that bad off.
It was a wake-up call for me, that’s for sure, and I’ve been hitting my stationary bike and weights very regularly since. Besides the health risks, there’s the simple fact that I’ve been telling myself all along I wasn’t that bad, when in fact I was, and knew it, and wouldn’t admit it.

The problem, I think, with honesty, is that it means you have to take responsibility. Owning up to being fat wasn’t easy for me, and still isn’t. I still want to tell myself that I’m not that bad off, that it’s just my belly hanging out more than it should.

But if I really want to see how out of shape I’ve let myself become, all I have to do is remember what I was like when I went in the Army. Granted, at almost fifty years old, none of us is what we were at eighteen. But I stood the same height I do now and weighed 170 pounds. Where now I weigh over 300.

It’s horrible, is what it is. And I have to face up to that and do something about it. And I am. Probably not enough, and I really need to make more money in order to do it. The sad fact of the matter is it costs more to eat healthy, and that’s no lie. If you think it is, next time you’re in a store, compare the price of a Snickers to the price of a health food bar. Generally speaking, the healthy alternative is well over a dollar higher.
But I’m sure there are things I can do even within my meager budget (and believe me, it’s very meager indeed). I just need to research them. Somehow.

I don’t claim a perfect record here, but I at least try to be honest with everyone. And when you do that, you really see how people don’t want honesty as much as they claim. I’ve had people get mad at me and not talk to me because I was honest with them about something. One individual unfriended me on FB because I got tired of him trying to make me drink the Kool-Aid of his particular brand of political belief—which he claimed was true conservative but was a far cry from it—and told him he’d never win me over and he should stop trying. No great loss, really. I also had someone comment on this very blog, saying I’d screwed up in my post on internet illiteracy by using the word than when I should have used then. I admitted to the mistake, but that wasn’t good enough. This person stated there’s no way you can make a typo like that because the a is nowhere near the e on the keyboard. I replied that I never claimed to make a typo, but a mistake that I missed on proofreading, and then went on to tell this person that if he (or she; they commented under a username rather than their real name) didn’t believe me or like my answer, that was his problem.

No answer to that.

But I like to live my life by what I believe Mark Twain said: if you always tell the truth, you never have to remember anything.

I can’t help it if people don’t like honesty. I have no answer to the dilemma.

But honestly? I’d like more honesty if you’re dealing with me. And I promise not to unfriend you for it.


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The Return

Yeah, I know, it’s been a while. To be honest, I’ve been dealing with some stuff. Some of it I’m still dealing with, but other things are off the board for now.

First off, there’s my new CPAP machine. That has taken some serious getting used to. You try learning to sleep with what amounts to a fighter pilot’s mask on your face and see how well you do. On top of that, there’s the hose that connects the thing to the machine. I learned one valuable lesson after a night away from home: use a firm pillow. I have a bad habit of using a pillow till it’s not much thicker than a notebook, and that was causing problems with the mask. Then I had to spend a night in Branson and the quarterly Ozark Writer’s Conference and learned that a thick, firm pillow keeps the mask from trying to come off my face all the time. So on the trip back, I stopped by Walmart and bought a cheap pillow (cheap things are all I can afford).

Anyway, learning to sleep with that thing has made me tired and cut down on most of my writing activities, including this blog. I haven’t added as much to my WIP, either. About the only things I’ve made significant progress on are the two novels I’ve been editing for Oghma, and I just finished those up (well, first round on one of them, anyway, the other is done, for the most part), and that’s freed me up to make a blog post. I’ll get back in the swing of things, it’s just gonna take some time.

Another problem I’ve had with this blog is that I’ve tried a new technique that’s not really working out. If you’ve paid attention, you’ll notice I was trying to do three posts a week. This was because it was recommended in a book I read about blogging and using your writer’s platform. The idea being, if you post more, you’ll attract more traffic. So I decided to try it out. Problem is, it doesn’t really work very well for me. I have trouble coming up with good topics that often, so I think the quality of the posts—which weren’t the best in the world to being with, in my opinion—were suffering.

Coming up with topics that stick with a certain formula hasn’t been working very well for me for a long time now, so things are gonna change in that department. I’m not sure just how yet. Some of my posts may be a bit more personal, others might delve more into the history of crime (something I’ve intended to do for some time now), and others yet might…well, who knows? This blog was started to talk about writing and my experiences as an author. But, for me, that actually covers a wide range. And it seems I’ve gotten the most hits from my historical posts, too, which hold a lot of interest for me.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at right now, and you’ll likely see some changes in the future. They’ll likely seem minor in some ways, but they’ll be good for me because I’ll be talking about things that truly interest me, which should make the quality of the posts go up (fingers crossed).


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