Monday, March 30, 2009

Well, not quite normal yet

In my last post I reported that I was back to normal after the food poisoning the week of March 16th. I was wrong, though: I'm not really back to normal. Oh, physically I am, I guess. But mentally I'm not. All the good I was doing on weight loss is in danger of being reversed, as since the sickness I have no desire to eat right. The three days out of town, on conference fare, didn't help. But at home I just haven't felt like doing what I need to do to have the right kinds of foods for lunch or supper. Consequently, when I weighed in today, I was way, way up. I'm still a good amount ahead from where I started, but if I don't get back at it today.... It probably hasn't helped that Lynda is still away. No accountability partner.

This weekend I could not focus very well. I started Saturday with a couple of household things. We added a console TV to the living room, which hides the lower shelves of a corner cabinet. This cabinet (not a built-in) needed to be raised anyway, since it is 18 inches shorter than the built-ins on the other end of the wall. So Saturday morning, using some salvaged 2x6 boards, I "built" an 18 inch riser for it and installed it. Then I reloaded all the shelves with the nicknacks that had unceremoniously cluttered the hearth for a month. The console TV hides the riser very nicely. Oh, I also raised the console TV the thickness of two 2x6s, as it was a bit close to the floor for comfortable viewing. This all consumed the morning, much of the time working with the salvaged wood to back out nails and separate pieces prior to sawing.

After that, though, I had a very hard time tackling my next project: income taxes. I made a good start, but my concentration faded. As it was snowing outside, I didn't particularly want to walk as a means of clearing my head. So I puttered on the taxes, got a little done, surfed the web, played mindless computer games, and watch a little NCAA basketball.

I also read in my recent book purchases (the Tolkien letters, the C.S. Lewis letters, and misc. C.S.L. writings), in the Mark Twain Hawaii letters, and in a writers mag. Even with those, I found my mind wandering, and I went from item to item with little comprehension. I gave that up and, as the snow had stopped, drove to Wal-Mart to pick up a few things urgently needed (peanut butter among them), then did laundry and dishes. That got me through 6:00 PM, and a PB&J sandwich through 6:30 PM. I tried the taxes again, and made a little more progress.

Saturday evening was better as far as concentration was concerned. I worked on my outline for In Front of Fifty Thousand Screaming People, and outlined the next seven chapters. That will get me about half way through the book. I was able to read with greater comprehension after that.

Sunday, at a church dinner, I thought my sickness was coming back. Fortunately, it was only one episode and I seem to be fine physically. Still, that gave me a too-easy excuse not to walk or exercise. The taxes again resisted the five hour concentrated effort needed to complete them. I outlined the rest of a political essay I started, then went back to my reading. I found some of C.S. Lewis' letters on his spiritual life quite interesting, Tolkien's letters to his son during WW2 less so.

So what will this week hold? I need to get back on the stick as far as exercise and diet are concerned, and get back in the form I was in two weeks ago. I need to have that concentrated time to complete our taxes. It looks as if we will get a nice refund, and I need to get that in the works. And I need to get back to writing, so that if I do get to go to a conference in May (hopefully the Blue Ridge one again), at least I'll have something to present to editors/agents.

Tonight I get my wife back. Yeah!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Back, and Back to Normal

Yes, following my sickness of last week (food poisoning), I'm back to normal. All body functions functioning as they should, the pounds rapidly lost are back on again--and then some, and my energy level is as it should be. This weekend I should be able to tackle some projects.

And I'm back home after a three day conference in Kansas City. This was Urban Water Management 09. I presented a technical paper on stormwater pumping, and chaired a technical session. The conference was somewhat poorly attended, especially on the first day (when I presented my paper). This is my third stormwater conference to attend, and I found few of the exhibitors had anything new to show me. I'll need to sit out a year or two of going to these things.

And I'm back home to an empty house. Lynda is still in Oklahoma City, watching the grandson while our daughter has gone to Kansas City herself for a conference. I hope the old lady is up to the work for these four days. Ephraim's dad is there, and his sister, so it's not as if Lynda is alone and without help. It will be good to have her back, probably on Monday. I suppose that means I'll have to do my own laundry this weekend, as the draws and closet are getting a bit empty.

I got back yesterday afternoon in time to do a little work at the office. After work I made my pilgrimage to Barnes and Noble where I drank a large house blend, researched in World War 2 magazines, and purchased, off the remainders table, a C.S. Lewis book I hadn't seen before. I add this to two volumes I picked up in Kansas City at a discount bookstore. One was selected letters of J.R.R. Tolkein; many of them concern his literary life. The other was selected letters of C.S. Lewis; these are his letters to various correspondents wherein he gave spiritual advice. These three books will not go on the top of the reading pile, though I reads some in each of them over the last two days, reducing what had been good progress in Letters From Hawaii.

Last night I e-mailed a query to the target magazine for the story of my dad's time with The Stars and Stripes. It's a perfect story for that mag, so I'm hopeful. This is my first submittal of 2009.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Nearing Normal

I am at work today, feeling close to normal, the food poisoning having almost run its course.

That's a good thing, because in a few hours I'm supposed drive to the Kansas City area to attend the Urban Water Management Conference. Tomorrow I present a technical paper, "The Problems With Pumped Detention". Wednesday I moderate a session where other technical papers will be presented. The conference continues through noon on Thursday.

I'll be trying to meet people on the trip, mainly potential clients, but also vendors and some fellow consultants. So I need to be close to full speed. I'm about there.

So writing will be shoved aside for a few days--unless schedule and contacts (or lack thereof) allow me to spend an evening in a bookstore up there, researching World War 2 magazines. One can hope. Maybe that will be what I do when I pull into Overland Park tonight, and again when I pull back into town on Thursday. One can hope.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Review: Dune Messiah

I completed reading Frank Herbert's Dune Messiah last Sunday, and planned to write my review and post it here by Wednesday, but the food poisoning that laid me low this week put writing far from my mind. Today is the first day I've had any desire to write or energy to do so.

I'll be honest from the start: I did not enjoy this book. The first book in the trilogy, Dune, was good, my main complaint about it being length not content. This one, however, failed to deliver the punch that its predecessor did.

The book starts out with the antagonists, a curious cabal of four galactic misfits: a steersman, who is a fish-ish, manish creature who lives in a mobile, see-through tank of orange gas; a reverend mother of the Bene Gessaret; a "face dancer" of the Tleilaxu (today we'd call him a shape-shifter) of unknown motives; and Princess Irulan, wife of emperor Paul Atreides, the object of the conspiracy. Yes, the death of the emperor, who then had reigned about 16 years, and in whose name jihad was being waged across the galaxy by the Fremen of Arrakis, the planet nicknamed Dune. The goal: kill the emperor and end the jihad.

Paul, also known as Muad'dib, seemed powerless to stop the jihad on his own. In Dune he foresaw that it would happen, and that he couldn't stop it. In Dune Messiah, these four decide to take matters into their own hands. They plan to kill Muad'dib with a psychological poison--at least I think. The meeting was for the purpose of convincing the princess, the daughter of the emperor Paul deposed, a spouse yet not loved nor a mate, to join the plot. She does so.

Paul knows a plot is afoot, yet seems to do little to stop it. He can't quite see who the plotters are, and suspects only the reverend mother. When the steersman and face dancer come to Dune as part of a diplomatic mission, Paul doesn't show any suspicion towards them. He constantly allows them in his presence, often loosely guarded. They introduce two other characters, a dwarf and [I forget who the other was], and Paul lets them in too.

The issue of Paul's heir, and of a mate and an heir for his sister, Alia, is a major theme. Paul's concubine, Chani, finally gets pregnant and they plan to go to the desert caves of the Fremen to have the child.

That's all I'll reveal of the plot. The writing is good, as it was in the first book. But the writing is strange. Much of it centers around Paul's powers of prescient memory, and around how he is troubled by his own reign. This sort of thing get tiring after a while, and I had to fight the urge to skip major portions of the text.

I didn't, though I can't say I'm better for not having skipped it. While I can recommend Dune, I cannot recommend Dune Messiah--unless you were just so taken by Dune that you feel you won't be able to live if you don't read the full trilogy.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Functioning on Three Cylinders

Tuesday I picked up a bug. Well, at least it was Tuesday evening I began feeling nauseated, with a tight and painful stomach. I lost my supper about 11 PM, went to bed, and was up at 2:15 AM for the big...well, I'll spare you the details. I was up every 15 minutes through the rest of the night. Wednesday I just stayed in bed or in my reading chair, trying to find strength to function. Finally, at 6:00 PM I went to the nearby dollar store and bought some Gatorade to replensih fluids and electrolytes. I went to bed at 8:45M, and didn't get up till 8:00 this morning. Haven't eaten anything since Tuesday evening.

Consequently, I'm behind on everything I planned on doing. I finished Dune Messiah, and planned to blog a book review yesterday. Maybe tonight. I had hoped to send off "Mom's Letter" to at least two markets by today, but have not been able to complete the last, little research needed.

Tonight is writing critique group. I was really hoping to go and present two Documenting America columns. I guess I'll wait and see if I can finish the day at work and how I feel at 5:00 PM. I wouldn't have come to work today except for needing to get some PowerPoint slides done for my presentation next week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Platform, Part 2

My last post was about the somewhat new-fangled notion that the unpublished writer needs to bring a platform to a publisher before the publisher will consider the wannabe writer--platform being defined as credentials and/or a ready-made audience.

In that post I talked about my newspaper column idea as a platform-building effort. As I say that, I don't mean to suggest that would be a dreary task. I love studying those old documents, and the eighteen columns I've written have been a true joy, as was the studying for the next few to be written. My fear has always been that, once the column is functioning, whether in one newspaper or a hundred, it will sap all the time I have in my schedule for creative writing, leaving me no time for fiction or non-fiction books. I suppose if it did, I'd still have my writing, and it would be writing I'd enjoy. I should end the discussion and consideration there and just do it.

Another pathway to platform exists for me, as suggested by many writers and editors. Not for me only, but for any writer climbing the publishing mountain. That pathway is writing for magazines before trying to publish books. This could be non-fiction articles or short stories. Magazines abound, and are looking for material one a regular schedule. They tend to be more open to new writers than are book publishers, and the lead time to get something into print is much shorter. As far as reaching people, most magazines have a larger circulation than the number of books that a first time book writer will sell.

Moreover, writing for magazines gives you references, experience with editors, experience with deadlines, honing of writing skills, evidence that your writing has value, and perhaps a few fans who will be looking for your book.

I've written some articles for engineering magazines. This pays well, but doesn't actually build credentials or fan base for creative writing. I've written two short stories, one that is highly polished, and for the last month, off and on, I've conducted market research to try and decide where to send this. I'm probably one or two hours of final research away from having five or six magazines to send this to.

Thinking about other things I could write for magazines, I stumbled on an idea. A couple of weeks ago I was at Barnes and Noble in the evening, taking advantage of my wife being out of town to drink a large house blend and just enjoy an evening with writing magazines (I bought two). As I put the mags I didn't purchase back on the rack, I looked a little to the left and saw two military magazines, both of them about World War 2.

The idea hit me: I have a trunk in the basement full of copies of the Stars and Stripes, the army newspaper that Dad worked on in Europe during World War 2, which he mailed daily to his parents for keepsakes. Couldn't I use material in them to write an article, or two? Yes, and the perfect first article came to mind immediately. When the newspaper staff was working on the VE Day edition, it was Dad who chose the headline: "It's Over Over Here". Surely there is an article in that. Surely that trunk, full of 65 year-old newsprint, holds other things I could write.

So I'm brainstorming how to craft my article. Then I'll research the magazines and see which ones would work best. I'll pitch the idea to the mag(s) before writing the article, and see how that goes.

A small first step on the freelance road. Might it be successful as a platform-building measure? Stay tuned.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Platform, Part 1

In a previous post, I said I would write something about platform building ideas I have.

First, though, for non-writers who might stumble by and read this blog, I'd better explain what I mean by platform. This is what publishers would call a writer being able to bring a ready-made audience waiting to buy the writer's book(s). For non-fiction, it could be credentials. For fiction, it could be a fan base developed through notoriety not related to writing. Think of someone like Bill O'Reilly, who can get any book published he wants, good or bad, because of his huge fan base and ability to promote is book to that fan base. His writing may be good or not; having never read any of his books or columns I don't know. But publishers will enter bidding auctions on his books because of his platforms.

Other examples are Jewell and Paul McCartney for their poetry. Do they write good poetry? I don't know. But people will buy their poetry books simply because of who they are. Or consider Joel Osteen and his books. A church of 5,000 people (or more) and a television ministry provides him with a ready made fan base. And those are tremendous places for him to sell his books.

Most agents or editors, when considering the book of a first time author, will ask (even for fiction), "What is your platform? Do you speak before large groups? Do you have a web site with lots of traffic? Do you have special credentials? How many potential buyers can you bring to the publishing house?"

Now, I don't know that that is particularly fair to expect of a potential new author. But my not liking it is not going to change it.

Can a new author break in without a platform? Sure, but the odds are really against it. So, being an unpublished author, I can enhance my abilities to break in by establishing a platform. But what to do? I have no speaking ministry, and am unlikely to begin one. Indeed, with a full time job I'm unable to begin one. I have no special credentials for religious or political non-fiction books, so that would seems to be out.

One possibility is to review my idea of Documenting America, my newspaper column. I've been thinking about this for a long time, as the second post to this blog attests. On several other occasions I wrote about this, even coming very close to saying I was going to do it, until circumstances in life made me decide not to.

But, if I could do it, and get a few papers to carry it (if all newspapers don't die in the next year or so), it would be a platform-building possibility. I need to revisit my decision to cast this idea aside. I'll take a couple to critique group on Thursday and see what reaction they get.

In a future post, I'll write about another platform-building idea I have.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Our company has a couple of project opportunities in the Middle East, specifically in the United Arab Emirates. From 1988 to 1990 I made about two dozen trips from Kuwait to the UAE for business purposes, sometimes with business stops in Qatar or Bahrain. That's what my trip to Phoenix was about a couple of weeks ago.

Today I met the two men who are putting our share of the marketing package together, my second meeting with them. After completing our work, I took ten or fifteen minutes to share with them anecdotes from my five years in the Arabian Gulf region. We talked about mosques and dress code and brutal judicial punishment and rubiyan (local shrimp), etc. I don't know that either one of them wants to make a trip there as a result of my reminiscences.

But it made me homesick for the Arab lands. Only those five years of my life were spent there, but I enjoyed it then and talking about it now, I miss it. After the meeting I went to see a Pakistani man who works for us. He spent some years in Dubai, and we frequently share a few Arabic phrases and joint experiences. That just deepened the homesickness.

I lived twenty-two years in Rhode Island, seven years in Kansas City, two and a half years in Saudi Arabia, four years in Asheboro, North Carolina, two and a half years in Kuwait, another half year in Asheboro, and now over eighteen years in northwest Arkansas. Whenever I have left one place for another, homesickness has set it.

For in truth I have loved every place I've ever lived, and almost every place I've ever visited. Each place had a richness to be explored, tapped, and consumed, adding to gray-cell-stored data that now gives me a full set of memories. Some of this data is actually becoming fodder for writing. One of the scenes in Doctor Luke's Assistant, where Luke and Augustus visit the camel souk, came from our visit to the camel souk in Jahra, Kuwait. My short story "Mom's Letter", while ostensibly fiction, actually follows very closely how I learned, as a 13 year old boy, that my mother was about to die. I have captured this, and other aspects of my Rhode Island boyhood, in other poems.

I guess for me, it's a takeoff on the old song, love the place you're in. I do, and I hope I always will.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

All Consuming

I'm dieting again, vigorously so, and as before I find it an all-consuming activity.

I have struggled with my weight all my adult life. Ever since the summer before my senior year in high school, when I put on weight purposely to try to do better at football that fall, I have struggled. Every year or two I would diet, sometimes with success. Many years I did not include exercise with that, believing I was too busy to exercise. Diet, I told my doctor, would have to suffice if I were to lose any significant weight.

I could blame genes. On both my dad's and mom's sides of the family we find problems with obesity, especially with their siblings and cousins, and in some earlier generations. But that's futile. Plus, I feel like I am naturally a thin to average weight person, and I have just let go of proper eating and exercise. No, the genes are not the cause in my case, I don't believe. Best to blame myself for laziness and lazy eating.

I peaked in 2005-2006, hitting the same highest weight over several months in those two years. But beginning in March 2006 I began losing, slowly, oh so slowly. I tried to exercise a little more (walking on noon hours, for example), eat a little less, and eat a little better. By the end of the year, I was 20 to 25 pounds lower than my peak. In 2007 I kept it off, and in 2008 I lost another 10.

Beginning the first of the year, running sixteen weeks, the company is having a "biggest loser" sort of contest, organized by some of our employees. I've never watched the program, so I don't know how closely we are matching it. Mainly it's weigh-ins every Tuesday, and encouragement during the week. Some of them are going to the gym together, eating together. The layoffs the end of January cut the ranks of the participants by a few. I was running second or third most of the time (based on percent loss), but last week surged into first. I gained a half pound, but the leader gained four, so I moved ahead.

We weigh at 8:30 AM, but I pre-weighed a little while ago and was down 2 pounds. Hopefully that will keep me in first. More importantly, I'm now at the lowest weight I've been since May 2001 when I slimmed down for my daughter's wedding.

The problem is, when exercising as I have been, and dwelling on correct eating, and resisting the temptations to pig out, I find weight loss to be all-consuming. It's on my mind every moment of the day. In the evening I think about what I could be doing to lose some more. It's on my mind when I turn out the light at night and when I hit the shower in the morning, as I'm sitting in my reading chair and when I'm at the computer.

I'd like to be able to do this without it being so all-consuming. Other things must use the gray cells too, such as writing, Bible study, devotions, reading, etc. I'd like to be able to read ten pages in Dune Messiah without thinking about what isometric I could be doing while sitting, reading, to burn an extra calorie per minute.

Maybe, just maybe, when I reach my target weight goal, I will find the obsession gone. God, let it be so.

Edit on Wednesday: At the official weigh-in yesterday, I was down 2.75 pounds! That kept me in first place. In fact, I stretched out my lead, as the two guys who are closest to me either stayed the same or had smaller loses (as a percent of their body weight). While I'm more interested in losing weight than in winning the contest, being if first place by a healthy margin is a good result. Eight weeks to go.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Yesterday morning, as soon as I rose and completed my new litany of exercises (six straight days now), I began a morning walk. My destination: the post office, to mail some bill payments. The post office is about 7/10 ths of a mile away, over fairly level road. However, I wanted a longer walk that that.

So I walked down every side street off Sherlock Road. By way of explanation, Bella Vista is all hills, ridges, and steep valleys--hollows, the locals call them. Collector streets are built on ridge lines, and local streets are cul-de-sacs off the main roads, following finger ridges till they plunge into the hollows.

On the way to the post office, walking on the left side, of course, that meant I had to walk down four side streets. Of course, that meant I had to walk up to get back to the main road. Coming back from the post office, I had three side streets to descend and ascend. The whole walk took sixty-five minutes, and I was plenty tired.

As I made all these side trips, I was struck by the clarity of the woods. By this time in winter, the pin oaks are finally dropping their leaves. A few stubbornly cling, mostly to lower branches, but most are gone. The early budding trees--the Bradford pears, forsythia, red buds, and dogwoods--have not yet popped. Some might by next week, but not now. So this weekend is probably the one with the greatest clarity through the winter woods. Houses across the hollows, unseen most of the year, are obvious. We can see our distant neighbors' backyard business.

I continue to look for this clarity in my writing career. Book? Articles? Fiction? Non-fiction? Op-ed? Bible studies? All of these I have tried, and I can see myself writing them all. The writing sages say build a platform first. If you have a platform, editors can't hardly turn you down when submitting book-length queries. I've got platform building ideas, but keep hesitating to trigger them for fear they will sap all the creative time and energy I have.

Yet trigger them I must, if I expect to have any hope of publishing books with traditional, royalty paying publishers. In two future posts (perhaps not consecutive to this one), I'll explain a couple of platform-building ideas I have, one old, one new, and use the blog as a sounding board for them.

ETA: I wrote the draft of this post Saturday night, intending to publish it Sunday afternoon. When I awoke this morning, deprived of an hour of sleep, I saw our huge Bradford pear in the backyard is now white. Overnight the buds popped. Our native woods don't have many volunteer Bradford pears, but it does look as if I'm correct: this weekend should allow maximum clarity.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Current Reading

Having finished The Powers That Be by David Halberstam, I moved down to the next book in my reading pile--actually to the next two books:

Dune Messiah by Frank Herbert
Letters From Hawaii by Mark Twain

When I put my reading pile together last August, making sense of books I had recently acquired, I tried to get a good alternation of fiction and non-fiction. Not that the alternation had to be every-other book, but that I wasn't reading a whole bunch of one and not the other. Since I just finished a long non-fiction book, a novel popped up next. Good planning on my part last August. I'd show you a picture of that pile (now divided into two to prevent toppling), but my digital camera drove to Oklahoma City on Sunday, and hopefully is taking many pictures of my grandson as he passed his 10 month birthday. Perhaps I'll edit a picture in next week.

Actually, I began reading Twain's book first. On the trip to Phoenix last week I took both books with me. Fighting a growing cold from the night before the trip, I was pretty sure my mind would not be able to concentrate on Dune Messiah, not if it was anything like Dune, the first of the trilogy. So on the plane from DFW to Phoenix, having messed with the crossword puzzle in the airplane magazine on the previous flight, I pulled out the Hawaii letters and began reading them. Even though they are 140 years old, I found them light and easy to read. On the trip I read about forty pages of them.

Once home, and somewhat recovered from my cold (though it lingers still), I moved back to the first on the pile and began Dune Messiah. As I expected, it is a tougher read than the letters. Still, I know I will enjoy it.

For other reading, I keep A Treasury of Early Christianity beside the bed and read a few pages of it some evenings. These are the non-canonical writings from the first few centuries of Christianity. Well, not all the writings, nor even complete of the ones included. Ann Fremantle has edited those, and we get only part of them in the book. I finished "The Shepherd of Hermes" recently, and am currently working on "Epistle to the Corinthians" by Clement. This book is almost a reference type book, and not to be taken in large doses.

Other than these, I have a stack of newsletters to work my way through, and a few printed articles, such as one from a Jewish literature magazine about Daniel's seventy weeks of years.

So much to read, much to write, much to do at work, and much to do around the house while batching it. What a life.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Book Review: The Powers That Be - Conclusions

David Halberstam's conclusion, or what I draw as his conclusion from his 736 pages of The Powers That Be, is: The changes in the media from the 1930s to the 1970s changed politics, and especially the presidency.

Duh. Did he really need 736 tedious pages to come to this conclusion? As I said or implied in my previous posts about this book (here and here), I had a tough time getting though this book. The writing style, the length of chapters, the flood of names, all worked against easy reading. But Halberstam's main point was obvious throughout, and he makes a fair case. Of course, that seems somewhat obvious. How could politics and the presidency not be changed when the main way news is disseminated changes from twice daily newspapers to sound-bite television? It has to change.

One interesting aspect of the narrative is how the four media highlighted in the book (CBS, Washington Post, Time Inc., and the Los Angeles Times) shifted from conservative-Republican outlets--or in the case of CBS a non-ideological outlet--to become liberal, Democratic-leaning outlets. I'd have to do some more study to necessarily agree with this conclusion, but I won't dismiss it outright. Maybe these media outlets were conservative once. Interesting concept.

I cannot recommend this book to others. Oh, if you are a media junkie who loves history and easily retains names and facts repeated or updated on widely separated pages, this book may be for you. This will go immediately to the "books for sale box" in the garage, not to a shelf of books being kept. And, to keep from repeating what I feel was Halberstam's primary error, I will cut this review short.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Book Review: The Powers That Be - writing style

I began my review of David Halberstam's The Powers That Be here, and now continue, this time discussing Halberstam's writing style.

After the seventeen page Prelude, Halberstam gave us a twenty-two page chapter on CBS, then a forty-nine page chapter on Time Incorporated (Time and Life magazines), then a twenty-seven page chapter on the Los Angeles Times. A hundred pages and three chapters. Looking through this I almost gave up reading before I began. Such long chapters, all of dense writing, presents the reader used to half-hour or hour long reading stints with a daunting task. A chapter break indicates a break in subject; lack of a chapter break indicates no break in subject and that the reader should keep reading. But that was often impossible, and a mid-chapter break became essential. Getting back into the midst of a chapter the next day was difficult.

When I say the writing was dense, I don't mean intellectually, but rather in terms of names, facts, and opinions. Each chapter was full of names: publication or institution founder, heirs, spouses, spouses ancestors, politicians, politicians' media assistants, publishers, editors, reporters. Keeping them all straight was pretty much impossible, and a third of the way through the book I gave up. If on page 250 I encountered a name I was pretty sure I read somewhere in the first fifty pages, and Halberstam was now telling of how his career had moved, I knew I should flip back, find the name, re-read what I read the week (or two) before to have the full context, then continue at page 250. I didn't, however. I just kept reading, hoping new context would give me enough to not worry about exactly what this assistant editor did earlier in his career. Perhaps my understanding of the history was thus lacking, but that was the only way for me to get through the book this decade.

In my review of David Morrell's The Totem, I talked about the B-A-C writing style; that is, where a writer begins at a certain point of time, the present moment (B), then goes back in time for context (A), then forward from the present moment into the future (C). I used that technique quite a bit in Doctor Luke's Assistant. Since Halberstam is writing history, not fiction, he had no future to move on to, but he used this B-A-C technique, though in a much more complicated way. He began at a point in time in his history, then went backwards, then forward somewhat but not yet to the starting point, then backward in a tangent thread, then forward but still not to the starting point, then somewhere else. This looked something like a G-B-F-A-C-E-D-I-J-K style. This was way too much, especially in the longer chapters. I became hopelessly confused in know where I was--or wasn't--in time.

Halberstan liked to mention moments of irony, normally with paired statements of opposites. He tried to show how one generation of owners either passed on or failed to pass on to the next generation the importance of certain values, but I don't know that he fully accomplished this goal.

In the next (and last) post, I'll review Halberstam's apparent conclusions and give some of my own.

Monday, March 2, 2009

March 2009 Goals

Ah, time for my monthly ritual of setting short-term goals. Once again, trying to be realistic considering life circumstances. I have to get the taxes done this month; yard work begins; and some un-done work is piling up, indicating the need for some extra hours, at least this week.

1. Blog 10 to 12 times. This seems very achievable, based on the past three months.

2. Complete the few remaining tasks for A Harmony of the Gospels; print; put in the hands of two beta readers.

3. Attend at least one writers critique group; present one of my Documenting America columns.

4. Monitor 5 writing blogs. As I mentioned in my last post, I may have to find a couple of new ones.

5. Complete beta reading of a YA novel for someone at an on-line writers site. I received this late last week, and hope to begin tonight and finish before the end of the month.

6. Write at least one chapter of In Front Of Fifty Thousand Screaming People.

7. Market Mom's Letter to at least five markets.

These were written kind of quickly. I may come back and edit in a day or so.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

February Report

It's time for my monthly report, when I consider how I did in my writing relative to my goals set at the beginning of the month. I was somewhat slowed down this month by my home computer deciding to have a boot error, being unusable for two weeks. I had another computer to monitor with, but not to type on.

1. Blog 10 to 12 times. Achieved this; I think I had 12 exactly.

2. Monitor the five blogs I've been monitoring on a regular basis. Achieved this. One of those five blogs has gone dormant, and one no longer seems relevant. I'm going to have to find two others or will cut back.

3. Complete as much of the Harmony of the gospels as I can. This will include:- All NIV footnotes entered- Formatting for reading completed- Introduction written and typed- Passage notes cleaned up and typed for a few key passages- Appendixes identified, and one written Did better on this than I expected. I added all the footnotes, the Introduction is 90 percent written and typed (maybe 95 percent), I did the passage notes for a couple of key passages (enough for my beta reader version), and I identified all the appendixes and wrote one. I did not get the text formatted for reading yet, but this is a one day task I will complete tomorrow. This evening I completed typing a round of edits.

4. Market "Mom's Letter" to someone; includes marketing research. Came real close on this. Got the marketing research mostly done, narrowing the submittal places down to ten, of which I intend to submit to five.

5. Attend one critique group session; present a Documenting America column. Did not attend either session, due to the pressures of work, home, family, and avocation. Hopefully this month.

6. More fully capture, for future development, a couple of Bible study ideas that have recently flittered through my mind and managed to make their way on to a capture list. I partly completed this. I wrote a couple of pages on one of these Bible studies, and I managed to come up with a priority list of studies I will work on.

7. As time allows, work on my essay on the Resurrection. Did not do this. In fact, a month after I wrote this, I wonder if I will do this at all. The circumstances that made this seem so important a month ago are now a faded memory.