Monthly Archives: November 2011

As the Blog Goes, So Goes the Book

Writers blog and boggers write and it is often hard to tell which came first. I suspect that for anyone over the age of thirty, and certainly over forty, writing probably came first. Forty years ago when I started writing (yes, as a child, no, I didn’t serve in Viet Nam) home computers were the stuff of sci-fi books and the Internet was unheard of.

Today, almost everyone who writes has a blog of some sort. It is a necessary part of our marketing mix. It keeps us writing about something, anything, when our muse takes a powder and leaves us with writer’s block (I tend to have the opposite problem, my muse drinks too much coffee). It’s a quick and easy way to introduce ourselves to potential readers. Which brings me to my point (in less than 200 words and 2 paragraphs, this is a personal best for me).

Most books go through some type of editing process. Critique groups, beta readers and paid editors help writers polish their craft. This allows us to be creative and worry about t crossing and i dotting later. Hopefully our finished books are free from typos, grammatical errors and plot snafus. Not a perfect process, to be sure, but every editing step helps. Blogs are generally not subject to these steps. I can tell.

If your goal is to be recognized as a writer, to sell the things you write and even (yes, we all have dreams) EARN A LIVING as a writer, remember that everything you put out to the public is a reflection of your talent. Sentences like: “There mom is not sure if their home or at school. They’re father did not no too.” will derail your career before it even starts. Before you compose that scathing email about my being critical of others, I made that sentence up. I did not copy it from anyone’s blog, book or other work. Relax, I’m making a point here.

I read a great many blogs, and I have learned some very useful skills in the process. I have to include “How Not to Write a Blog” on that list. I’m the first to admit that my writing is not perfect. I don’t even have an editor (yet) for my books. They like to be paid and my family likes to eat. Those two facts are currently mutually exclusive. I am prone to using commas where there should be semicolons. I know this because MS Word is kind enough to point it out. I have to spell some words out loud or I will screw them up…’necessary’ and ‘sentence’ come readily to mind. I can be overly descriptive, use the passive voice and when I’m cranking out words on WriteOrDie.com, I often use ‘there’ in place of ‘their’. But, really? A blog is a few hundred words (several hundred in my case). If you can’t get that right, how on Earth can you hope to complete a collection of short stories or worse yet, a novel? Who is going to buy your books if your blog is full of typos and grammatical errors? If spelling and grammar are a challenge, there are many books and websites that can help. If you are going to write, you have to read. I’m lucky, I was encouraged to read as a kid (we didn’t have video games or a computer) and I have thousands of pages stored away in my mind that help me put words together.

I know it sounds like I’m being mean and overly critical, but if this bothers me, it’s going to bother your readers, at least some of them. Read your blog out loud before you post it. I do this with ALL my writing, and it’s amazing how many times things just don’t sound right or I find errors in grammar or even spelling. That’s because reading out loud forces you to slow down as you vocalize the words. It also let’s you hear the rhythm and flow of your writing. Look, if I mess something up, I want someone to tell me. Bad reviews will improve your writing far more than good ones. Problem is, no one really reviews blog posts. They make comments, but it is usually related to the content, not the writing style. It’s hard to tell someone their writing is not good, even if they are a stranger. Unfortunately, we are often reading posts written by friends (even if they are just cyber friends) and that makes such critiques twice as difficult.

Pay attention to your blog posts. Run them by someone whose writing skills you respect. Read books on grammar and spelling, read anything as long as you read. Indie authors get a bad rap for publishing shoddy work, and some of it is well deserved. Don’t let something as simple as a blog post add fuel to the fire. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed. Now get writing, your muse is giving me dirty looks.

A Parent’s Nirvana

No, I don’t mean the rock band. Wikipedia listed the following definition of nirvana:

“It is synonymous with the concept of liberation (moksha) which refers to release from a state of suffering after an often lengthy period of committed spiritual practice.”

OK, I’m taking some license with the term, especially the part about spiritual practice. But let me explain (oh, come on, you knew that was coming). I have three sons, lovingly referred to as “The Bears” by my wife and me. (If you saw how they ate and opened a cereal box, you would understand.) That would make her Goldilocks, but that’s another story. Right now, as of 3:50 this morning when I left for work, everything is working for the bears. I would knock on wood, but plastic shelves and a steel desk are the only items within reach of my fist at the moment.

Oldest bear Justin is 25. He and his girlfriend just found out that they were approved for their first apartment together. He has had a steady job now for three or four months at 5 Guys Burgers and Fries (yes, I will plug them, they are keeping him employed. Besides, their burgers are delicious) and life is finally going well for him. (AND he buys his own groceries now 🙂 He has had a few rough places to get through and often does things the hard way (no, not because he’s my son. Technically my stepson, so no DNA from me, but then there is environment). I’ve been his dad since he was 4, so I get to share all of the credit/blame/pride with my wife. Still looking for some wood to knock on….

Middle bear Jon is in EMT school and working retail. They love him at work. The firemen he did the ride along with said wonderful things about him. His girlfriend of three years? (I forget exactly) is a sweetie, too. Jon is also an amateur body builder, hence his grizzly sized appetite. No, I never looked that good, even when I was 19. He does look enough like me that I’m sure he shares my DNA. I’ll apologize when he’s old enough to understand. Apple… tree… you get the point. Hopefully he develops his mother’s good sense… someday.

Baby bear, Jeremy (oh, the alliteration thing? Family curse, happened to me and my brothers, too) is now a senior in high school and it looks like he will graduate on time. This might not seem like a big deal, but Jeremy has cerebral palsy and goes to school in a wheelchair. He is in mainstream classes, not special ed. This is also his third high school (long story) so this is a considerable accomplishment. And he has plans to go to college. 🙂

As is the case with most sane parents (I use the term loosely) I always love my boys. I don’t like to see them hurt but I know life is going to smack them in the head once in a while (literally, in the case of Jon’s motorcycle and Justin’s car accidents). It’s just nice to see everything going right for them. All at the same time. No, really, I will find some wood… oh, yeah, workbench… jinx avoided. So for today, nirvana rules the lives of the Bears and Goldilocks and I can stop and take a deep, well deserved breath. And get ready for the next bump in the road. If my cellphone rings and it’s one of the bears……..

Fixing America

The political ugliness that plagues this country every four years has already begun. I don’t follow politicians, they all lie. I do, however, have a few ideas that I would like to see as part of a presidential candidate’s platform. These are ideas for which I would happily cast my vote.

Problem: America’s infrastructure is collapsing. We have millions of miles of roadways, highways, bridges and railways (not to mention schools and universities) that are literally crumbling around our heads.

Problem: According to statistics, we currently have about 14 million people out of work in this country. Allowing for the fact that some may be unable to work for various reasons, that still leaves more than 12 million employable but unemployed.

Problem: We have spent, to date, about 1 trillion dollars on the Iraq war. This is what that number looks like: $1,000,000,000,ooo (one MILLION suitcases, each containing one MILLION dollars). Final outcome, not much different than when we started, unless you count all of the troops who needlessly lost their lives. Gas is almost $4 a gallon.

So, what does all this mean? Let’s just say that on third the cost of rebuilding our country is labor. 1 trillion dollars divided by 3 is $333 billion dollars. Divide that by say twelve million unemployed workers and you get $27,777.  That would be a decent year’s income for a lot of people. Granted, it is under the average income, but it’s a pretty good start. The rest of the money is for equipment and materials. By the way, for this to work, we need to bring our troops home and STOP SENDING MONEY TO IRAQ! Sorry for the yelling, but some of you are dozing off and this is important.

Yes, I know the money has already been spent, but it continues to be spent as long as we have troops over there fighting. Bring them home, spend the money here. Build and improve roads and bridges. Build schools, parks, playgrounds and homeless shelters. Clean up our cities and neighborhoods. You want money from the government? Work for it. Ok, so you aren’t a construction worker, all you know how to do is take care of children. You can help watch the kids of the people who are doing the construction work. It’s a job, you will get paid and since your kids are there too, you don’t have to pay for child care. I’m sure there will be enough money to pay for some college tuition for our graduating seniors, to insure that we have an educated work force in the future. Let’s pay them to get an education, not to have babies. Unless you are completely disabled, you can probably work a broom or a paint brush. There is something somewhere for you to do.

The government is notoriously BAD at managing money (note the billions of dollars that have been lost in Iraq… not spent, lost) so there is no way in Hell we can let them manage this project. Private industry, here is your chance to give back to the country that has given you such and awesome chance. No, we are not going to pay $1000 for a hammer; we are NOT going to pay “prevailing wages”… Sorry Unions, get over it, you’re part of the problem. I’m not smart enough to figure out the details, but let’s get people managing this thing that know what the fuck they are doing; and none of them were elected. They earned their positions. Bonuses, good ones, paid to those who can bring projects in on time and under budget. More bonuses paid to the watchdog companies who find and report those trying to cheat the system. I know there are as many questions as there are answers here, but I’m more of a “Big Picture” kind of guy.

We have a country that needs to be fixed. We have a HUGE workforce that needs to be employed. And we have BILLIONS of DOLLARS that are being squandered uselessly. Seems to me it’s just a matter of putting all of them in the same place at the same time, under the guidance of some folks who know how to get the job done. Now, you come up with a way to make this happen, not only will I give you my vote for President, I will volunteer, FOR FREE, on your campaign. Oh, there is one stipulation: If you lie to us and don’t follow this through, you are to be brought up on charges of criminal misconduct and sentenced to twenty years in Arizona’s “Tent City” prison. Still interested…. ?

Does Addiction Count as a Disability? ADA vs. AA

I’m not even going to pretend that this post isn’t going to piss some people off; I’m pretty sure it will. Good. Far be it from me to avoid stirring the shit, especially on Halloween (ok, finished it a little late, sue me). If this subject hadn’t come up, I would have ranted about Christmas decorations up before Oct. 31st, but I have been saved from such a dismal topic.

For those of you bottom line kind of folks, here it is: The consequences of addiction can be changed by choice, as in working on recovery. The consequences of a disability, i.e. blindness, cannot. Pretty simple. Now for the long winded explanation.

Ok, so I have friends who are addicts. Most of them are in the recovery stage, thankfully and they lead productive lives. Of course I’m happy, they are friends and I don’t like to see my friends hurt. Some of them are not recovering, they are suffering. They haven’t gotten help, yet. Personal choice, theirs to make, but I will be really happy when and if they do. And supportive. However, one thing they are not is disabled. My son has cerebral palsy; he is in a wheelchair, probably for life. He is disabled and not because of anything he did to himself.

The reason I bring this up is someone I know lost their job due to behaviors stemming from substance abuse problems. Happens all the time. Often it is the wake-up call that gets them to seek help. This person has decided that their addiction should be a disability and that their job should be protected under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), as in they have been discriminated against. Did I miss a fucking memo? (proud that I got this far without an F-bomb). Disabled? Putting alcohol or drugs in your body is a choice. Being born blind, deaf or crippled is not. Please, please, please, do not let people start using this excuse to further the victim mentality in this country. Companies have behavior guidelines. If your behavior strays outside said guidelines and you lose your job, your fault. If you are an addict, get help. I don’t even have a problem with government and company sponsored programs (for which we as a society end up footing the bill). I wish no one had to suffer with addiction. But, if this is you, you are NOT disabled. Whether addiction is a disease is an ongoing debate (in my opinion at any rate), but so far, I have not heard of a virus or other biological agent that causes it. Genetics, yes, similar to other debilitating diseases, but to suffer the physical ailments of addiction, the addict must do something to themselves. Very much not disabled.

I did not research to find out how many AA meetings are held in the Los Angeles area, but I would be comfortable guessing at least a hundred. Last time I tried to find a support group for parents of disabled children, no such luck. They are few and far between. The ADA was enacted to be sure that those citizens who have physical and mental disabilities are given as much access to the world as possible. Wheelchair ramps, special parking places and the like are things that make their lives a little easier. (Don’t even get me started on assholes who park in disabled spots when they shouldn’t. I’ve had several such idiots ticketed at $300 each.  Good.) What next? Special padded parking spaces for those who drive under the influence so they don’t scratch their cars? You laugh, but our society has done things far more stupid than this (welfare, anyone?).

I am not a bleeding heart, but I am compassionate. I think as a society we have a duty to help those who cannot help themselves. This includes those with physical and mental disabilities. It also includes addicts. The difference is, addicts have to ASK for help. Until they do, we cannot help them. Those with disabilities are often incapable of asking for help, so we must initiate the help they need. The ADA is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed by our government for those with disabilities. But there is a HUGE difference between ADA and AA. It all comes down to choice. Rant over (for now.)