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Thursday, July 5, 2018

How I single-handedly changed VISA corporation


It's true! I single-handedly changed VISA! How? you ask. (Well, okay maybe not out loud but in your mind.) Well, I'll tell you.

For months I kept dutifully paying my VISA bill. Boring. But it had to be done. Well, finally the boredom got so bad I remember one day really examining the VISA statement. I noticed that in one little area it said:

List changes below

Well, of course, they meant address changes or other changes that would apply to my account. But they didn't say that. Ha ha.

They just said:

List changes below

So I wrote in the allotted space:

Bought a new toothbrush

And then on the next month's bill (again in the allotted space under 'List changes below') I wrote:

Lost five pounds

And as the months (and statements) rolled by I continued to inform VISA corporation of all the little changes in my life. I must admit I figured I probably wasn't being heard, but it felt good being able to share my life with at least something that wanted to know what sort of changes I was going through!

But then one day lo and behold a VISA statement came and rather than it reading:

List changes below

it read:

List address changes below

And I knew then that I had single-handedly changed VISA! Ha ha. Oh sure, it had taken a while, but it felt so good to know that I had the power to change a mega-corporation!




Thursday, May 31, 2018

Why I don't like reading modern books


I developed an interest in Isaac Newton. Then I came across this book called Dark Matter by Philip Kerr, which is a fictionalized story of Isaac Newton's life. Issac Newton—the apple falling on his head guy. Mathematician. Scientist. He discovered Calculus. A towering intellect, a scientific genius.

Okay, a little bit about my reading interests. I don't like reading sleazy stuff. It's just not my thing. And I don't write it either. A couple of my books have some sex stuff, but it's always pertinent to the story and never explicit or titillating. Same thing with profanity—my books don't have any profanity. I don't like to read it, so I don't write it.

But back to Dark Matter. Isaac Newton. Isaac Newton! Certainly there wouldn't be anything sleazy in a book about Isaac Newton, right? Guess again.

217 pages into the book it got really sleazy. And so now I've invested a lot of time, and I want to know what's coming. But if I want to continue, I have to read trash. Nope. Not for me. At this point I don't trust the author anymore. I put the book down.

That's why I wish books had ratings like movies. But at least, for the most part anyway, it's safer to read older books. They just don't have the sleaze modern books have.

Friday, May 25, 2018

My Navy Seal book started as a joke


My newsletter list, the people who help me with many things (thank you!), was giving me suggestions for overcoming writer's block. Which I was suffering massively from. Amongst the many great suggestions was 'write whatever you want.'

So I started writing this insane story about two Navy SEALs in Hawaii. And I started sharing it with my newsletter. Some hated it. (One guy told me I knew nothing about Hawaii. Which wasn't true, I knew about Don Ho music.) But a lot of people enjoyed the loony humor and I was enjoying writing it, so I just kept going, figuring it wouldn't amount to much.

Oh, some of it had to go. I got rid of the first scene where the protagonists latch onto a shark that swims 15 miles out to sea and then they're saved by a Navy SEAL helicopter that 'just didn't happen to be doing anything at the time.' But a story started taking shape. Yeah, the new SEALs were loopy, but they were given a big mission--to find a US Senator who disappeared in Cuba playing golf.

One thing led to another and before long I realized I was writing a novel.

Like my buddy Plato said:

The beginning is the most important part of the work.

Old Plato knew what he was talking about. ;)

Sunday, April 22, 2018

The world is more than black or white


This whole madness of "either or" in life is crazy. The political turmoil brings it to the forefront. Right vs. Left. Republican vs. Democrat. Conservative vs. Progressive. Everything is just more 'us vs them.'

Is this any way to live? Any way to run America? Where it's not a question of working together to improve things. It's "destroying" the other side. Demonizing them. And whatever little contact transpires between opposing sides, it is only to convert the other side to one's own opinion.

If aliens invaded earth and start killing people, we would very quickly realize that we're all the same down here. But aliens invading being unlikely, we better figure out a way to get along on our own.

Yes, differences will occur, but differences can be respected, rather than demonized. I may not like what you have to say or how you live, but I respect your right to say it and to live the way you want.

Both sides are guilty of intolerance. Wingnuts are at both extremes.

What's the answer? Think. Be conscious. Realize that other opinions are just as valid as your own. Look to build up, rather than tear down. Respect, don't revile. Help, don't hurt.

And it all starts with you.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

What makes for great writing?


What makes for great writing?

There are endless theories.

One theory is only pain makes for great writing. (The cliché of the author locked in a garret, writing till he drops dead.)

Another theory is only health makes for great writing.

Then there's the clichés about if the writer's not having fun writing, the reader's not having fun reading.

My experience is that most of my good writing has to be born somehow. It has to gestate or percolate for a while before it comes out. And yeah, I think there has to be a good deal of pain (just like in childbirth) before something amazing comes out.

It's almost like you give everything you've got—and come up with nothing. Then something takes over and gives you the ideas to write what you should be writing.

And yet, some writers write tons no matter what. That cliché is "write every day."

Maybe that's like the saying from Edward Bulwer-Lytton:
Talent does what it can. Genius does what it must.
And please, don't think I'm saying I'm a genius, but I think there's a lot in that saying.

For me, I have to get to the end of myself to be creative. Or perhaps, as Gay Hendricks writes, you could call it "going over the edge."
Self-esteem is living in such a state of creative expansion that you go over your edge every day. You are always living in wonder about whether you can do it or not. More creativity means more doubt. Yet you keep breathing, keep moving, keep creating. You breathe through the doubt and ride a bigger wave of creativity.
And for me that means going over my emotional edge every day. And that doesn't always involve writing.

To get anywhere creatively, I have to give it everything I've got. To put a spiritual angle on it, consider this from Teilhard de Chardin:
There is only one possible place for each one of us at any given moment, the one we are led to by unflagging fidelity to the natural and supernatural duties of life. At this point, which we can reach at the right moment only if we exert the maximum effort on every plane, God will reveal himself in all his plenitude.
Pretty high-falutin language, but the children's prayer gets across the same idea.
God only asks us to do our best. He will take over and finish the rest.
But the thing is, sometimes you gotta go through hell to do your best.



Sunday, January 28, 2018

Is lying the new normal?


Almost fifty years ago, the U.S. landed a man on the moon. Or did they? Former President Obama was born in Hawaii. Or was he? John Kerry was a war hero in Vietnam? You sure about that?

And on and on and on. It's to the point where you just don't know what to believe anymore.

Years ago, I was in a car accident. I was driving in the left lane of a four-lane road, and the cars in the right lane were backed up. From out of nowhere (I never once saw it) a car pulled out of a parking lot and smashed my car in the right rear fender, sending my car spinning in a 180.

I was pretty rocked. The police came and documented things. And I was very surprised when the insurance company for the person who hit me wasn't going to pay for the damage.

I had to go to court. (I was only twenty and pretty naive.), thinking it was just some technicality that needed to be set right. Well, the woman who hit me, on the witness stand under oath, read a very detailed statement saying that I hit her! That I swerved my car into hers.

Talk about your jaw dropping open. I was so surprised I could barely think, let alone speak. But I fumbled through what actually happened, the police backed me up, and the judge forced the woman's insurance company to pay for the damage.

But it was a life lesson: people lie. And now it seems like lying is the new normal.

I remember this one guy I knew, who worked for the city of Chicago, told me about "The Chicago Way." It was simply: "As long as I get mine, I don't care about anything else." And it seems more than ever, that's become the way most people think.

So as long as the economy is good and we have money in our pockets, we don't care about anything else. Politicians, media outlets, anybody at all can lie to us as much as they want as long as we get ours.

What in the world has happened to us?

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Does waiting on God work?


I used to live next to this great guy named Genaro. Genaro worked so hard and he loved it! He'd work all day at his factory job, and as soon as he came home, he'd be in his back yard, sawing or pounding, making something, cleaning something, always working working working! (I told him: "Genaro, your version of hell is going to be lying in an inflatable lounge chair in a pool drinking pina coladas.")

I'm a novelist. I usually have ideas lining up, just waiting to be written. Until now, that is. I haven't had a good idea for a book in months. So what did I do? I pressed. I'd bludgeon an idea up from my soul. Life was too short to wait for inspiration, and I wanted to work. I needed to work.

And what were the results of my whirlwind effort? Nothing were the results. All I did was frustrate myself. I'd racked my brain for ideas. I'd read what other writers were writing. I'd Googled it, for Pete's sake. And all I got was more nothing.

Being a hard-head I naturally decided to triple up on getting an idea. I got an idea to search for a book on my bookshelves about achievement via living consciously. For sure that held my answer! Oddly enough, instead, I came across a book I wasn't looking for. Although, in hindsight, it may have been looking for me.

It's called Beyond Failure: Discovering Grace and Hope in the Hard Times of Life by James A. Scudder. But honestly I didn't even read the title, I just randomly cracked open the book and saw that I'd underlined the following:

We have all been guilty of taking matters into our own hands when it comes to dealing with a difficult situation, thinking that if we sit back and wait on God, nothing is going to happen. (pg 25 in the paperback)

Huh. That certainly got my attention. For I was supremely guilty of what it accused. I had taken matters into my own hands in this difficult situation all right, and I was thinking that if I sat back (ugh, just the thought of sitting back, even now, makes my skin crawl) and waited on God, nothing was going to happen.

So where to go from there?

You got it. Sitting back and waiting on God. I gave it a try. The results?

I'm still not writing, so it didn't work, right? Well, in a way yes, but in a bigger way, it did work, because I'm relaxed again. I'm myself again. I'm no longer frantic.

Will I ever find an idea for my next novel? I don't know. But I had no guarantee I'd find one before, and at least this way I am living my life at peace with myself and God. And that is so much better than how I'd been living.