The Mistake of ‘Allness’

That’s what my dear besainted mother called it ‘the mistake of allness’. It’s a relative of the ‘binary choice’ and my old friend the ‘one factor model’. And, it’s a real problem.

In some cases you can make a complete, accurate statement of the form “all x are y”. Much more often you need a qualifier to make the statement correct: “all my x are y”; “all your x are y”; “all oranges currently in California are not currently in Greenland”. Often statements with these qualifiers are correct, but even then you run into trouble. Sorry folks it would not be correct to say “All Latinos in Idaho are migrant farm workers”…

And it gets worse

The mistake of ‘allness’ really comes into full fruition when you get into the area of people. Sorry gang you cannot say “all Muslims are terrorists”; “all white people are racists”; “all ‘straights’ hate ‘gays’”; “all men are rapists”; or “all Russians are communists”. You also can’t honestly make the opposites of those statements. Things are more complex than that.

The moment you step into the world of human beings you step into a world of multilayered complex systems. There are a lot of factors that go into being a human being physically and psychologically (and if you bring spiritual life into the mix things only get more complicated). Even in the most homogenous situation you can create, identical twins living in the same home, you have little differences like one twin getting just a little more oxygen; or being pressed on just a little more in the birth canal; or being dropped by a clumsy sibling that create differences in who the people are and what they do.

The reality is that every human brain is a ‘one off’ instrument. They are generally the same, but from the start each one is slightly different. And then they grow and change based on the things that happen during the person’s life.

Now, this is not to say all people are completely different.  If you‘ve ever watched or read one of Shakespeare’s plays, or experienced a Greek tragedy, you can find the same things going on today. And I’m pretty sure that goes for the works of Musashi, Sun Tzu, and Confucius as well. People can be pretty similar, but when you get into the details each one is unique.

So how do we deal with people if they’re all different?

Well… That’s the trick isn’t it…?

And, if you try to give one answer that covers all people in all situations you’ve just committed the mistake of ‘allness’ again. The only being I know of that can actually get away with making completely accurate global statements would be God and He/She/It (choose one) doesn’t make them all the time either.

The best advice I can give dear reader is that we must use knowledge and understanding. At a minimum we must realize that not everyone is the same. We must realize that no one actually stays the same for their entire life.

Once we make those realizations, and accept that you have to deal with people where they are and (hopefully) help them toward a mutually beneficial goal; then you can actually start dealing with people effectively. As for exactly how to do that… You didn’t expect me to cover it all in one post did you dear reader?

See you next post.

When you are ready…

I’ve read it. I’ve said it. I’ve proved it true… You will get what you need when you’re ready for it.

I actually almost wrote about this last week, but the experience was a little too fresh and I guess I needed a little more distance…

As regular readers of this blog know I’m working on a young adult novel. The novel (actually the series now… Hard Way is the second book) has to do with a teenage boy trying to sort out his life. He is trying to sort out who he is; who his family is; who his friends are; and what he really believes. As the writer, it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’m willing to take. It’s a challenge I am taking.

I’m editing the second book and learning a great deal in the process. I’ve accepted that the third book (which I’m starting the first draft of next month…) is going to be even more of a challenge for reasons I’ve discussed here (link) among others.

I’m working hard, putting all the pieces I can into place. And yet, there are things missing. There are things that I can’t seem to find (on my own at least…). And then it happens…

Out of that tangled web we call the internet the girl I cared about back in high school, the girl my wife and I are both grateful to for having the courage to introduce me to the gospel of Jesus Christ, contacts me on facebook.

At the time I needed it most, the moment I was ready to receive it, someone from my past appeared and gave me what I needed. Someone provided the trigger to the memories I needed to get through the project.

You can get what you need to achieve any worthy goal dear readers. You need to be worthy of it. You need to look for it and prepare for it dear reader. But, whether you choose to call it a loving God or just a bountiful universe there is a source out there that will provide what you need when you are ready for it.

So dear reader, figure out your worthy goals. Figure out what you need to achieve them. And then get started. What you need will be there for you when the time is right.

I’m grateful to Susan and her family for really helping me when I needed it. And whether she knows it or not she’s helped me once again (Thank you Susan).

(A note for anyone wondering… No, neither one of us is going to allow anything inappropriate to come out of this. I love my wife. Susan loves her husband. I’m just telling the story of my adventures and thanking an old friend for some help along the way. (Oh, and my wife is nearly as good a shot with a handgun as I am…))

That’s it for this one dear reader. See you next post.

P.S. In an effort to become more social I’m going to be trying to respond to likes, follows and comments more consistently in the near future…

Last week I approved the proofs for the paperback edition of Johnson Farm

DSCN1300

I’ve talked about the book here, but I’ve never really introduced the hero and his family here. That should change…

So…

John closed the book and looked out through the windshield. One of the green freeway signs was just coming into view. Interchange coming up in three miles… “Dad, why can’t we stop at Craters of the Moon?”

John’s father, Lieutenant Commander Donovan Johnson United States Navy, looked straight ahead and kept both hands on the wheel. He wore the look he used when dealing with ‘official businesses’ at work, or with his family. “Because we need to get to the farm. Theo will be waiting.”

We haven’t seen Uncle Theo since my second birthday. How much of a priority can he be?  Besides, Craters of the Moon is on the way.  “We’re going to be driving right down the middle of them,” John muttered.

“So you will get to see them.”

“No Dad…” John flipped the switch for the door lock. “I want to get out and see them.” If we stay on schedule we’ll get to Uncle Theo’s around two. There’s plenty of time. It’s not like Dad wants to get there either…

John looked over his shoulder at the garment bag that held Dad’s dress uniform and John’s suit, his new black suit. “It’s not fair,” John said, “We were supposed to be going deep sea fishing.”

“That’s life John. We have to go. We’re expected.”

‘We’re expected…’ How many times have I heard that before? Every time Dad has some party, ‘We’re expected’… Every time Dad’s lady of the moment arranges a date, ‘We’re expected.’ Every time it’s what someone else wants, ‘We’re expected’… But when it’s something I want… Or need… Or care about…

“It’s a funeral John.” His father didn’t look at him, there was a van to pass. “It’s important for the family.”

John rolled his eyes. Uncle Theo, Aunt Mary, Uncle Harley, and some guy that was dead now, that was ‘the family’. Mom didn’t count, not to Dad. Her side of the family hadn’t counted since the divorce. Dad rarely talked about the people he did count as family, especially Uncle Harley.

It doesn’t matter. Can’t do anything about it anyway. Two more years and I could drive myself back to Craters of the Moon. Dad would probably claim I stole the car… If it was summer he could have been at Moms, and Dad could have gone without him. Does the custody agreement cover that?

John turned back to his book and let the miles fly by. The story of the Lost River has to be better than this…

At least the trip got John out of school for a few days, even though he had to do a book report. Roadside Geology of Idaho would be easy enough to report on. He’d been collecting rocks for years. And I’m actually getting to see some of the stuff I’m reading about…

When he finished the chapter he flipped through the book looking at the pictures. He stopped on a shot of reddish sandstone. There’s a lot of ancient seabed around here, and fossil fish…

We should be fishing right now… Deep sea fishing was supposed to make up for the Padres game when Dad ended up with CDO watch. And the game was supposed to be to make up for… It doesn’t matter…

John went back to flipping through the book. He stopped on a picture of some rhyolite. “Couldn’t we have come up through Nevada?” John asked.

“I’d rather stay on the fifteen,” Dad said, “Some of the stretches through Nevada are pretty desolate. Besides there’s probably still snow.”

That was true enough. There’d been unmelted patches as they went through the Milad Pass. But, there were a lot of places to stop for rocks on the Nevada road. Not that we would have stopped… Dad didn’t see the value of ‘digging up rocks’.

Sometimes Dad talked about the ‘rock machine’ he and his brother had when they were kids. That was about all he said about Uncle Harley, that they had a rock machine. He hadn’t even said that much since the divorce.

Mom could have gotten Dad to stop. Before the divorce…

Mom did a lot of things before the divorce, she was a stay at home mom then. Now she was dating some guy from work and going to events with some ‘office professionals’ organization. But, beyond the delusion that the 1950’s were still cool she didn’t really do much anymore. Who would believe that staying with Dad was better?

“Look, basalt,” Dad said.

John looked up. They’d reached Craters of the Moon. He laughed when he saw the sign. “No Hunting. Yeah, take a shot out there. That’s a self-correcting problem.”

Dad almost laughed. “What?”

John rolled his eyes again. “Look at all the rocks Dad. If you took a shot out here it would probably ricochet back and hit you in the head.”

Dad shook his head and went back to watching the road. “I don’t think…”

John scanned the scenery. There was a little scrub, but more lichen on boulders than real plants. “Besides,” John said, “what is there to hunt around here?”

Dad pointed. John followed the line from his finger to the doe that was disappearing between two boulders.

There really are things to shoot out there… “Hey Dad,” John asked, “Think we could get some shooting in once we get to the farm?” A deer’s too big, but there’s got to be rabbits and stuff.

Dad flinched just slightly. John almost missed it.

“Can we?” John asked.

“We’ll see,” Dad said. He muttered something under his breath. All John could catch was “Harley” and “Last time.” Probably shouldn’t push…

John watched the terrain, looking for more deer. He spotted a couple rabbits between the rocks. He’d brought his air guns, the rifle and the pistol. If he could elude Dad and the uncles for a while he could get in some shooting whether they liked it or not.

The rocks were beginning to blur together. You can only look at so much basalt, even when you’re a rock hound. There was no help for it. John laid back and tried to go to sleep.

His mind wandered. Some blond girl was waving at him.

The next thing he knew Dad was shaking him.

John pushed Dad’s hand off his shoulder. “What?”

Dad pointed, then turned at a sign that read ‘private road’.

They were in rolling hills, more dirt than rock. But still some boulders though… There were fields, some short and green, others just rows of dirt. There was some kind of irrigating rig in the field just to the left. Ahead of them was a cluster of buildings. A couple of barns stood off in the distance. The houses were closer.

The smallish house on the left was faded avocado green. Between the peeling paint and the aged wood of the porch it could have blended into the surroundings, or been written off as abandoned. But, the roof was too new, red and black asphalt shingles.

The house to the right was bigger, newer, and painted the same red as the barn behind it. Someone had even used the same white for the trim. The chairs on the porch were done in a floral pattern that Mom would have loved. Real 1950’s escapees…

John’s eye was drawn to the thing between the houses. So, what is…?

It looked like a cross between a chicken coop and a little girl’s playhouse. But, whoever she was, the girl had been gone a long time. The coop’s faded avocado paint had pealed, revealing a faded blue underneath. Where the blue paint had peeled away there was old, worn wood. Above the walls the roof was brown and vibrant green, old wooden shingles playing home to lively moss.

“Dad, what’s that?”

Dad ignored him. He stopped the car in front of the red house and pointed to the door that was just opening. “They’re waiting.”

Johnson Farm is available in E-book form here and from other major online sources. The physical book will be available as soon as they get here from the printer.

Thanks dear reader. See you next post.

Don’t write (all) your obsessions!

One of the first, and best, pieces of advice young writers are given is: ‘write your obsessions’ (you can substitute passions for obsessions if you must). It’s good advice, but it’s a guideline with a dirty little secret.

You should write things you are interested in, things you know about, care about, and are willing to spend time with. Those are the things that you do. They are part of your natural way of going. Those are the things you know enough about to write them well (or at least you are willing to learn about them to a high enough degree to write about them well).

Writing about things you really know and do saves you a lot of time in research because you know the basics already. You know the language of what you’re writing about. This is a good thing, but it will also require you to think about what you’re writing and who you are writing for.

“Well Farangian… I’m already thinking about those things!”

Yes, but sometimes the way you have to think about things to write about them is different from the way you think about them to actually do them. You have to think about audience. You have to think about presentation, formatting, packaging, grammar, narrative structure… Sometimes you may even find yourself trying to work up projects just so you can write about them.

And there dear reader is the dark secret. If we write about our obsessions, if we write about the things we love, it can easily turn what we love to do and do for enjoyment into work. Turning what we love to do into work can kill our enthusiasm for doing, and for writing.

The way out is to write about your obsessions, but not all of you obsessions. And definitely do not write about all of your obsessions all the time.

Yes, if you love pottery you can write pottery books. But, when it gets to feel like work you might need to back away for a while. That may mean putting the writing down, or going to work on some other interest (for a while at least… Don’t give up entirely on you obsession, or your writing). It may be a good idea to separate what you love from what you write, or spend some time with another interest that you’re not writing about (at least for a little while).

Sometimes time away from a project is the best thing you can do for it. To achieve that ‘step away’ time you need to have something you’re not writing about (Gasp! I know… It scares me too!)

So, yes dear reader, write your obsessions. Just don’t write about all of them all the time.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I think Delta and Echo companies need their commander…

DSCN1277

See you next post!

Whine or Do?

Occasionally when you are working on a project you get to learn something. If you’re lucky you might even learn something about yourself…

I initially wrote this on Tuesday after finishing a little work on Going Home the Hard Way, my next novel (and my most recent NANOWRIMO project). I’d just finished going through chapter 1 for the fourth (fifth?) time. While I was feeling pretty good about the chapter I was a bit worried about my hero being a bit of a whiny brat (he is fourteen…)

I realized that, for the character, occasional bouts of whininess are to be expected (again, he is fourteen and from a broken home…). John growing out of that whininess is part of the story I’m trying to tell. The important part of things is to not let myself (as a theoretical adult) be a whiny brat.

It is easy to complain about the ‘breaks’ and chance you didn’t get. It is easy to say “if only I had what he/she has, then I could succeed!”

One of the miracles of our world dear reader is that we have the ability to change. We can become more than we have been.

Another miracle of our world is that we can achieve our worthy desires. Maybe not in quite the way we initially see them, but we can achieve them. We will be given what we need to do so, if we will do the work and be ready to receive what we need when it is given.

It takes thought and effort, but we can really achieve our worthy desires.

Stay tuned dear reader, and see you next post.

Geometry and Reality

I’d like to start with a thought I had while doing some book research:

In geometry terms a line is a theoretical, it has no ends. A line segment is the thing with two end points. For our purposes we can have as many line segments as we need, in any direction we need, as long as the overall line from us to our goal is followed.  When we stray from that (mental) line we are in trouble.

When we actually try something we want to do the result can be pretty ugly. We will make mistakes. We will have missteps…

But, if we learn from our mistakes and missteps we can progress toward the thing we really desire, even though the line segments in reality don’t line up as perfectly straight and true as the mental/theoretical line we wanted.

How this has applied in my life:

As of this Saturday (20 May 2017) the novel Johnson Farm is finally on sale. It’s been a long time in coming. It would have been quicker to arrive if I could have held closer to that mental/theoretical line between where I was and me being an author. It would have been a much longer process if I had continued to listen to those who told me I couldn’t do it, or pushed me in other directions.

I will admit that my first attempt at writing a novel wasn’t very good. It was a first attempt; I was going through a lot at the time; and I was about twelve… Just because I didn’t knock it out of the park on the first one doesn’t mean I should have given up!

That first attempt still exists as a file on my computer. Elements of that story also exist here and there in other stories I’ve written (and some I’m writing right now…). I keep that story around because it helps me see where I was when I started down the path to being an author and novelist. It helps me measure my progress.

What it actually means:

Sometimes the real life line isn’t as straight as the mental/theoretical one. But those shifts aren’t necessarily mistakes, unless you give up. That’s an important distinction. The time I said “that person is right, I can’t succeed as an author, I should be a computer programmer” was a mistake. It was me shifting from the true line. The times I set a story down to get a little distance and perspective before I picked it up again were not.

Ultimately it is that mental line from where you are to where you’re going that matters. If you have to side step to get around (or over, or under) an obstacle that’s OK. If you’re beating your head against a cement wall, you’re not getting anywhere. If you shift slightly to walk through a doorway you’re making progress.

The sidesteps and diversions that come from giving up on a goal are the ones that can kill you. The ones that you can explain in terms of how they get you closer to your goal (including making it possible to get to your goal…) are the ones that save you.

The biggest threat to your success is the same thing as your biggest asset in becoming successful. It’s  you, dear reader, ultimately it all comes down to you, and your active choice to do the things that will get you where you want to go;  even when it doesn’t look to others like that’s what’s happening.

That’s it for this one dear reader, see you next post.

Things come…

This week I’ve been reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich as part of research for a project I’m starting. One of the things that I keep seeing really resonates with me right now, things come to you when you are ready.

Between me getting Johnson Farm ready to go (It’s officially on the market in May and nothing is going to stop it this time!) and my wife finishing her dissertation we’ve cleared a couple of major projects. It is a time to look back at what we have done and what is coming up next.

We have achieved things. We have had really positive things happen that seem like they are just being handed to us. But, in reality, the things that we are “just getting handed” today result from a series of steps we have taken.

This year I am able to sign my emails with the title Editor in Chief. This week my wife was invited to speak at a conference. Neither of these things would have happened if we hadn’t put in the work and started ourselves on the path a long time ago.

The amazing thing about the world we live in is that we can achieve more than we think we can. We can definitely achieve more than our critics tell us we can.

We are dear reader. We exist and exist for a purpose. We have potential dear reader. We can achieve more than we think. But if we are going to do that we need to put in the effort.

We are agents unto ourselves able to choose and act. We are members of a family, a community, a world. We need not be alone. We are stronger with others. But, we have to do our part in achieving what we want.

If you have a desire, even if it’s still just a dream, strive for it; prepare yourself for it; make yourself worthy of it; and if it is a right thing, a true thing in the eye of God and the Universe, it will happen.

And if not? Well… It is better to stand and act, to make the effort and learn and become, than it is to fail because you never tried.

That’s it for this one dear reader. See you next week.

My sidekick’s a doctor!

Friday I missed posting here, but it was for a good reason.

And before I go any further, those of you who know me know that I generally describe (and see) my wife as my partner and not my sidekick… I’ve just been watching a few too many ERB videos lately…

Friday morning my wife defended her doctoral dissertation at the university here and passed with flying colors. This really is a good thing and I’m proud of her. It also means we’re one of those lucky couples to have survived a major graduate school program with our marriage intact.

In some ways my wife finishing her dissertation and getting her PHD has brought us closer together! It’s helped us to understand the trials and processes that go on in both of our lives and careers and strengthened us.

Is there more to say?

Yes, of course… But some of it is for her to say and some of it should wait until the edits on the dissertation are done. (Um… That means we’ve both got books going to the printers at the same time… Ack! Red alert! Red alert!)

Thank you for being with us through the process dear reader and see you next post!

No sequels…? That’s two sequels!

About a year and a half ago I started on a book, a flat run write it in thirty days book…

Well, that book has changed a few things for me.

First, as I’ve already announced I’m involved in my first successful team up. Sariah Anne, a talented young artist created a cover for me. (link)

Second, in the process of working on the Kickstarter campaign I really pushed myself to develop this whole social media presence thing. The Kickstarter is closed now, but its legacy lives ono in my website and social media plan.

Then there was the Kickstarter itself. It didn’t fund, but you know what? That won’t stop me. Like they said in Serenity (link), “…You can’t stop the signal…” The book is still coming out, just not quite the way I planned.

Speaking of not quite the way I planned…

The biggest thing (for me) to come out of this book is the sequel that was never supposed to happen (but really has to!). When I started the story in 2015 I told myself I was going to ‘break the pattern’. The story was a one off, a straight forward story that I would write, publish, and be done with. Well… when I picked it up to start editing I realized sequels were not only possible, but at least one was necessary for me to reach closure on the story.

I started the second book as a NANOWRIMO project in 2016 and as I’ve started the editing process on it I’ve realized that another sequel is necessary to really explain some of the things in the book. If I’m going to really finish this generation of the family’s story a ‘sequel’ is necessary and can only be done in a certain way.

I use quotes because the ‘sequel’ isn’t really a sequel. It also isn’t a prequel. It is a parallel. It is also going to be a story that stretches me as a writer.

In Johnson Farm I introduced a character, Jamie. She’s one of the people that helps the hero figure out what he has to do. She’s also a character with a secret and she’s really not willing to tell anyone…

She won’t tell anyone (yet), but I as the author have to tell someone (the reader). Fortunately I tend to favor a ‘close third’ perspective. I am not writing the series first person, but I’m close enough that the characters thoughts bleed into what I’m writing. And that is why this one is going to stretch me… To pull off the third book I have to write the parallel story at least in part from the point of view of a 14 year old girl (God help us all…).

A different gender? A different language set? A different way of thinking from the protagonists I’m used to? Yep, I’ve got to master it all for the story to work…

So here we are dear reader, on the brink of a new story that will stretch me to new heights as a writer. If I can get away with it…

Wish me luck dear reader, and see you next post (I hope…).

 

Postscript…

Next post probably means next week as my wife will be defending her doctoral dissertation on Friday…