Thursday, December 29, 2011

If I were the President - Tax Policy

Regardless of the fact that Congress writes the tax laws. Presidential Candidates get asked what they would do about taxes. In reality the President can only do what Congress is willing to pass on taxes. Or he can veto the tax measures.

But if I were President or running for President I would make these observations about taxes.

Tax as a carrot or stick is bad policy.

The government uses tax policy to encourage or discourage types of behavior. There is a high tax on cigarettes to discourage people from smoking. (Or to take advantage of their addiction.) There is a tax break for being in debt with a home mortgage.

Thus the government wants you to quit smoking and take out a massive home loan. Why, well for some reason getting into debt makes bankers happy, and builder happy, etc. While getting lung cancer doesn't even make tabaco execs happy.

But this is just wrong. Taxes should never be used as a way to implement a social agenda. This is not the government playing Robin Hood. (If you check, Prince John was the government, not the man in tights.) When congress cuts taxes is the only time it is playing the hero, refunds are not.

Taxing Money as it moves is a good idea.

Money that is moving is money that people have decided to use. Sales Tax is a great example. So is income tax. Property tax is not. Neither is inheritance tax. Having property or inheritance is not a test of ability to pay taxes. Earning an income is a test of the ability to pay taxes.

Use taxes also work. Licensing a car, hunting, fishing, building a home, opening a business and more are all things that the government can apply a regulation tax to as a legitimate way to earn revenue.

The most important reason that I like these methods of taxation is that they are avoidable. A person that earns no money, pays no tax. A person that raises their own food and makes their own clothing pays not tax on sales for these items. A person that doesn't hunt, fish, or drive pays none of these taxes.

And even if you have to buy food, you can buy cheaper food to pay less tax than your neighbor who buys some thick steaks. And this keep the government from going to far and trying to squeeze money out of people that don't have it. (Like Prince John in the afore mentioned tale.)

Taxes are a throttle on the economy.

This is a negative. Using the throttle definition of choking something. No matter what the government uses the tax money for, when they took it, they removed it from the economy. Even spending 100% of it back for good and services is a net loss to the economy, for the person that lost that money to the government takes an emotional hit and is less motivated to earn more.

So in an ideal system, the government would spread out the methods of taxation to be as small and wide as possible. Thus it will create the least amount of drag on the movement of the economy.

Flat tax is a good tax.

The progressive tax system has a major flaw in that it discourages and punishes hard work and success. If we replace the current system of all of the loop holes and forms, and just simply say, 10% of income goes to Uncle Sam, that would be 10% of what the business makes, then 10% of what each employee or share holder makes.

And it keep trickling down, 10% of the income from the companies the first company spent money with, and 10% of the money the employees of the first company spend on other goods and services in the form of income to those companies is taxed.

Everyone and every business is on a flat curve that allows them to get a benefit from what they earn and so the harder they work, the more they make. And this is how the economy grows.

But with our curent progressive system, this is not the case. People can quickly discover that they are working harder, but only making a few pennies more. Uncle same is taking more more of their money the more they make. And not a direct increase, but a teared one so that jumping from a 10% to a 20% bracket can actually make you take home less money.

Remember:
1. Taxes are a necessary evil that comes with Government. (Both necessary and evil.)
2. Taxes should only be used to fund the governments needs, not to be redistributed to those that did not earn it.
3. Taxes should never be used to encourage or discourage social behavior. We have churches for that.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

If I were the President - Abortion


Do you generally support pro-choice or pro-life legislation? Is the question that organizations like VoteSmart.org want politicians to answer. Its interesting that they pick out a question like this that is specifically designed to illicite a yes or no type of response on a topic that is really not yes or no. (they do the same thing with the defense of marriage legislation) This tactic is designed to cause trouble for candidates they don't like.

I should know. I took classes in college where they taught us to write survey questions. When you teach a person how to write questions, in an attempt to get statistical data, you are supposed to teach them to write the question so that it gets unbiased information.

But you are also teaching them how to get biased information.

But back to the topic. And to the question.

The answer is "No."

I don't support pro-life or pro-choice legislation.

What I do support is getting the federal government out of this discussion and focus of lawmaking. This should not be an issue of federal jurisdiction. It should be a states rights issue.

In principle:

We are pushing too many things up to a federal level. Abortion laws are one of them. Lets push this back down to the states where it should be, and let 50 states deal with this independently. People can gather and vote or move away in disgust and so influence the various legislatures.

Forcing my view that abortion is killing a baby on other people is distasteful. I don't want to do that, even if I could. I want people to make good choices so that they will have a good experience when they are standing before their maker to be judged.

Remember:
1. Rights come from our creator to the people.
2. Then from the people to the states
3. Then from the states to the nation.
4. Men may be created equal, but states are not. What works for one, doesn't always work for the others.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

If I were the President - Guns


If I were president, I would have sworn an oath to "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States." In that constitution and its ammendments it states, "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."

When you put these two things together you should have a President with a sworn obligation to protect and preserve the right of the people to keep and bear arms. Is there any question about what this means?

Well, in fact, there is.

So here is the principle:

The reason that the founders give in the second amendment for expounding the "right of the people to keep and bear arms" was that it is "necessary to the security of a free state" for them to do so. So if we want to maintain a free society, or state, then the people in that society need to hav the right to keep and bear arms.

I am not talking in a circle. But I am completing the circle.

What about that "Well regulated militia" thing?

Yes, it does say, "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state," but it does not go on to say, "the right of the militia to keep and bear arms..." it says the right of the PEOPLE.

Not the Army. Not the National Guard. Not the Police. Not private security firms. The people.

That is the principle. So in principle, people have the right to have guns.

So are you saying that there should be no restrictions on gun ownership?

Nope. I did not say that.

I think it is fairly reasonable to restrict some weapons. I don't have the need to keep and bear a nuclear missile. Keeping one would not enhance my freedom. And I think that we can probably be safe classifying some weapons as having no personal value.

But lets keep our eye on the ball. Bearing arms was not a right to hunt deer. It is a right to secure a free society. That means that people have weapons designed to shoot people. The burglar entering your house. The mob coming to lynch you or your neighbor. And the out of control government that is oppressing your community.

Did you catch that last one. The right to keep and bear arms is for the people to defend themselves from their greatest enemy, government.

So long as the government is not the only people that have guns, people are on equal footing person to person with those exercising the authority of the government.

This is an important right.

So everyone should be able to own a gun?

I didn't say that either.

It makes sense that some individuals and in some circumstances bearing arms is curtailed. Convicted criminals of violent crimes. People in treatment for some mental illnesses and so on, should have some restrictions that a legal justice system can impose.

But this should be held to a very high standard. Only an affermative danger to oneself or to others should allow us to restrict this right. Laws and policies that force people to prove they are not a threat are wrong and abusive. They tend toward the very oppression that destroys the free state that the right to bear arms is there to prevent.

Remember:

1. The founders had recently had to fight a war to win their freedom. They were acquainted with what it was like to have to defend themselves from an oppressive government. I am sure they were glad they were armed.
2. If guns are outlawed, only the outlaws will have guns. In spite of sounding like a bumpersticker it is also true.
3. Whenever the government feels it needs to limit the rights in the constitution and amendments it should be viewed with great suspicion and forced to constantly review and defend the position. Not the people defending why they need their rights.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Thrill Of Hope

Once there was a baby, tender and precious.
He came into the world
Full of purpose
Full of innocence
And with a thrill of hope

Once there was a mother, full of love
She bore the baby
Full of joy
Full of expectation
And with a thrill of hope.

Once there was a Father, full of care
He watched mother and child
Full of duty
Full of protection
And with a thrill of hope.

Once there was a family, everlasting.

Once there was a gift.
Once there was a star.
Once there was a king.
Once there was an angel's song.

Once…...



I don't always know where I am going when I start a poem. This poem is not just about the Christ child. It is an ode to all babies, mothers and fathers that embark on the grand adventure and contract with God that is bringing a child into the world.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

If I were the President - Immigration Reform


Another hot button on the road to the Whitehouse is Immigration. And so any serious discussion of a President or his qualifications is what is his stance on immigration and immigration reform.

There is a lot of baggage floating around on this one, so we have to start off by defining the argument.

Here are the topics: Immigration Laws, Illegal Immigrants, Amnesty, Border Security

Immigration Laws:

We are a nation that has laws to protect us. They are important. And we should no more allow a group of people to avoid immigration laws or break them than we should allow a group of people to avoid laws against homicide just because they are only hanging colored folk. (This sounds harsh, and it is. So it the attitude that we should ignore laws and let hard working americans lose their property because US government won't stop foreigners from violating our borders and overrunning farms along those borders.)

Laws are laws. The government is in the business of enforcing laws. This protects its citizens. If the US Government stops doing this fundamental job, then we are laying the foundations for revolution. Checkout the Declaration of Independence and see why the founders had a problem with the King and the actions of his government. Look for words like, "exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without" and others relating to security.

Illegal Immigrants:

Lets just call a spade a spade. If a person is in the US with the intention to stay, and they are not here legally they are both an immigrant, and illegal. Classifying this person as an "Illegal Immigrant" is not racist, or any thing other than accurate.

As I mentioned above, we are a nation with laws. We should enforce these laws, or change them. Current laws require the US to find and deport all people that are not here legally and who do have not legitimate process for becoming legal. And the President is the Chief Enforcer.

If you don't like this and you are a citizen with the right to vote. Please let congress know. It is their job to make these laws, and they work for you.

If you don't like this and are not a citizen with the right to vote. Too bad. You either need to keep working on your citizenship, wait until you grow up, or return to your native country and participate in its government to make your nation a better place. People from other countries that are here to work or visit are welcome to do just that. We don't need to import political opinions from anywhere, we have plenty.

Amnesty:

No thank you.

Okay let be more detailed. If a person is here illegally, but they want to make up for that, and stay, we may be able to do something. Assuming that they fit the following criterion.

1. Other than violating immigration laws they have no other criminal background.
2. They have the skills and ability to be a contributing member of society.
3. They are willing to learn english.
4. The are willing to serve in the US military for the same number of years they have been here illegally, or some other minimum time, whichever is greater.
5. We don't have any other reason or agreement internationally that makes us want to deny citizenship.

Most of the time, and for most people, the answer will be, "No" if they are here illegally.

Border Security:

It is the Job of the Federal Government to protect the United States from foreign influences. It is the Job of the Federal Government to stop people from crossing its borders without permission. It is the Job of the Federal Government to make sure enemies that mean us harm do not enter the US.

There is not greater responsibility of the Federal Government nor of the President of the United States.

If we can't do this, then we are truly lost.

Maybe this is still unclear. The United States has the most powerful military in the world. We can stop people from entering if we want to. And I want to. I will still want to if I am President.

Is this unclear?

I think the biggest problem about immigration policy and discussion is that we are unclear in what we think and believe. I am trying to be completely clear. This is how I feel, and this is what I think we should do. But if I am unclear, or there is something left that you feel that I need to address, please let me kno.


Monday, December 12, 2011

If I were the President - Reducing the Size of Government


One of the things I would like to see is the reduction in the size of government. And I am not alone. Lots of people say this. Many people in washington say this. But what are they talking about? They are hardly ever, no I can safely say never, talking about their own part of government. But they just talk about that big government image of some huge groupe of 'fat cats' that are bilking the tax payer.

I have a very different perspective. My perspective is that almost every agency of the government that is not solely focused on national defense should be disbanded. And many agencies that are focused on national defense should be consolidated.

Its simple really, FDA, IRS, EPA, NEA, Dept of Ed, and all the other alphabet soup agencies that don't carry guns or gather intelligence should just close there doors. Or at least just be staffed by volunteers.

Next all of the department left. Homeland Security, DoD, and FBI, CIA, NSA, etc. Should have a massive merger. One where all of the excess managers are let go so that we have a lean mean agency that has all of the tools and responsibility to defend the US from enemies foreign and domestic.

Okay, that agency or department will still look pretty big, but it will be much smaller that the current proliferation of authority that we are currently seeing. And it will be cheaper.

Does this sound too good to be true? You may be asking if this is even possible. Does it pass the common sense and achievable test? Will it have a positive impact?

Lets look.

Common Sense and Achievability:

How to achieve this is the first part. My secret is not some consensus making magic spell to sway congress to do my will. This never works. Instead there is a very simple method. Don't sign or execute a budget that pays for these agencies. And stop paying their wages, expenses, rent, utilities and so forth.

As they stop having power to their computers, heat and water in their offices, and don't get paid, the employees that make up agency will stop coming to work and will be forced to find real jobs in the private sector. Over a very short period of months, the agency that used to spend billions of dollar will be gone. Now the government call sell its assets, properties and materials to recoup some of the costs.

There is a very good reason to do this instead of firing the people that work there. There are laws that protect federal employees from getting fired by elected officials. Stupid laws, but they are there to keep new presidents from bringing in a bunch of supporters and employees as a reward for their support. So we can't just fire them. Regan discovered that. But we can do things that make their lives uncomfortable so that they quit. (Regan sent people to Alaskan listening posts.)

Positive Impact:

Disbanding an agency would save the money spent on salaries, supplies, heat/power/water/etc and benefits. This money saved would not have to be spent anywhere else if no other agency is created to take its place. Thus we would positively impact the budget issue by removing the expense from the budget. We would also remove the agency's intrusion on the American People.

Problems with this Plan:

This is your chance to let me know what you think is wrong with this plan. All comments are welcome, but I really want to know if you have a reason you think this won't work.

Friday, December 9, 2011

If I were the President - Announcing My Candidacy


I would like to take the time now to announce my Candidacy for the President of the United States of America.

Yes, I really would like to. But I am not going to. I don't think that I really want to have the job. And if you read my last post about qualifications, I don't even qualify for my own support.

But one thing I think is interesting is how Candidates for the Presidency do announce themselves. I have seen the following:

Press Conference:

Only really seems to work if you are already a celebrity. Trump can get the press to show up, but no one shows up for me.

Talk show:

Generally it helps to be a celebrity here as well. Call up the Tonight Show and see if you can get on as a guest? I bet you don't even get on the maybe list.

Blog or Website:

Anyone can do this. Websites are cheap or free and slapping up one to announce your candidacy can be done for no money on sites like Squidoo, Hub Pages, About.me, Facebook and many many others.

Having such an announcement is worth about what it costs. Nothing.

Party Selection:

This is the old school way to do it. You join a political party. You work for years running for positions like dog catcher, and then city council, then a state legislator, then governor. After serving in the party and if you are lucky enough to follow this path, you just might be lucky enough, and have made enough friends in the party to get nominated and selected to be a candidate.

Generally and historically this has been done as a way to weed out and prove the character of the individual. The party would support a person they knew about and trusted because they had served in other positions and proven themselves trustworthy to advance the party's goals.

Other Ways:

These are the ways that I have seen. I am not sure my list is comprehensive. (Sky Writing, Billboards, Sound Trucks, you name it.) And I am pretty sure there isn't one way that is better than all of the others. Some are probably worse that these.

But if you can truly come up with a way that is creative and enticing, I might just use it to announce my candidacy.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

If I were the President - Qualifications


As we are entering an election cycle, I feel like expounding on what I am looking for. I am currently in the market for a candidate.

This means that I don't have one. I like some of the people running, but I have not hitched my support to any of them yet. And I don't have to. I don't live in Iowa any more. So I have months before I have to make even a preliminary selection.

But when I do, the first two criterion, and the most important are these:

1) I want a President that is smarter than I am. (If they aren't smarter than me, I should be President.)

2) I want a President that is a leader of people. (Presidents that aren't leaders are generally poor Presidents.)

Smarts:

To find out if a candidate is smarter than me, I generally don't look at their resume. I don't look at the degrees that they have, or their smile. I don't really listen to them on the debates. (I read what they said so as not to be distracted by how they said it.) I look at the ideas that they propose to solve some issue or the other. I have ideas, but are their ideas better than mine.

Better and smarter are kind or subjective. So here are some areas that I think about. Or questions that I ask myself.

a. Is this idea or plan something that passes a common sense test?
b. Is this plan achievable?
c. Would this positively impact the problem?
d. What are some of the problems with this idea or plan?

After going over several of the ideas or proposals from a candidate, I start to get a sense of their intelligence. And I decide if they are smarter than me or not.

Leadership:

This is not something that a candidate can demonstrate when they are running for President. (However they can demonstrate its lack at that time.) This is something that I do look at a candidates resume. I look at what they have done, not in politics, that shows leadership. There is a short list of things I look for.

a. Has the candidate served in the military? (This is a big one for me. I can support a President that has not, but it is a much longer and harder road to winning my support without this.)
b. Has the candidate had leadership experience in private sector employment? (Business owners are something we need more of in government.)
c. Has the candidate had positions of leadership or been advocates for causes? And if so which ones and when? (The which cause has more to do with intelligence but it is still a good question.)
d. Have he been leaders in other ways? (I will tell you now, that any leadership outside of a school board in politics is discarded and not qualified as a leadership role here. I am not interested in anything anyone did in congress or state or federal elected offices. They don't count. Get a real job and show real people that can fire you that you are a leader.) (And Lawyers and Law firms also don't count.) (Neither does academia. Again if you have tenure, partner or some other safety net to keep you from being fired for bad decisions, your leadership is a sham.)

After these two things, Intelligence and Leadership, comes one other thing. Principle.

Principle:

I am not listing a set of principles here. That would be exhausting. But looking for this does lead me to say two things about it.

Does the candidate have principles?

Too many times we have people that want to govern, and are willing to compromise everything to do so. I am not interested in these people. Even if I disagree with some of a candidates principles, I need to know that they have them. And that they won't change them just because some people like me don't agree.

What are those principles?

Assuming that the candidate does have principles, they need to be articulatable. If you can't tell me what a candidate stands for, then we have a problem. I said above, that I can support a candidate that has some principles that I don't share or agree with. Religion is one. I need them to have a religion, but it doesn't have to be mine. However if they don't believe in the rule of law, or won't say the pledge of allegiance then we have a problem.

And that is it. I don't have a long list. But I have a list.

Having a list like this allows me to think critically about candidates for the nations highest office. And that is something that we should all be doning.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

If I were the President - Balance Budgetting.


Have you ever played the game where you and some friends talk about what you would do if you, (had a million dollars, were king of the world, were President of the US). Really? Me too.

I have decided that I want to play that game with you. Right here. Online. For everyone to see.

I am not actually announcing my candidacy. Lets just say, I'm taking that under advisement. :)

So here it goes. I think the government is too big. Its why it needs all of the money that it takes in taxes. There are really only a couple of ways to make government smaller.

1. Have congress terminate programs and departments like EPA, Department of Education, FDA, IRS, etc.
2. Stop paying the people that work there until they all leave.

So the first option is really hard to do. There are lots of members of congress. And getting them all to agree on anything is really hard. Furthermore, getting them all to agree to eliminate a department like these without putting in hundreds of unrelated provisions is virtually impossible.
The second option may see illegal, and immoral, and cruel. But lets take a look at this option.

First, the government stops paying its workers all of the time. Whenever there is a "budget Crisis" and congress can't get their one really job together and pass a budget, the government "shuts down" ie, non-essential workers are sent home without pay.

So lets just do that for a couple of years. Yep, stop paying for any of our non-essential services. If it is legal to do it when the budget runs out of money, then it should be legal at other times. But we can probably force the issue. If we I am President, how about we just don't ever sign a budget.

Then we just authorize spending on essential services with executive orders.

Sure, that means the President is usurping the power of the purse from congress. But its only fair. Congress has been usurping the power of Commander and Chief from the President since forever. Just check out the War Powers Resolution of 1973.

At this point you may be wondering how long this can go on. Well, there is only one way to find out. And that way is to try it out. After a few months of not getting any money, many government employees will have to start looking for real jobs. And that will be great.

It will be great for the economy to have all that pent up productivity put back into the private sector to grow the GDP and stimulate the economy.

And when those people have new jobs, they won't still be there when the bureaucracy they worked for opens their doors again. The longer the funding cut off lasts the better. More and more people will move back to the economy and stop trying to hold out for the government.

Anyway, that is just one thing that I would like to do if I were President to both balance our budget, shrink government and solve the need for immigrant workers. All at the same time.

Do you have a better idea? Think there is a problem with this one? Well speak up. You can't do a worse job that the current man we have in office. Nor, probably, than the next one we will elect. So really there is nothing to fear.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Importance of the Pledge

I remember when we used to say the Pledge of Allegiance in grade school each day. There was one kid who just sat there. I think he was a Jehovah's Witness. But I don't really know. No one ever said a thing about it except once when the teacher confirmed that he didn't have to stand with us.

No one ever refused to play with him or to my knowledge said anything at all.

A few years later, the school system stopped having kids stand and recite the pledge. And that is sad. Many people my age forgot what the pledge said. They can't recite it now, as they don't remember it. And that is sad.

I see comments on the web from time to time that show a pronounced lack of knowledge about my nation and its form of government. If one would just recite the Pledge of Allegiance and listen to the words, some of these gaps would be corrected, but because we stopped learning this, people don't know.

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag
Of the United States of America
And to the Republic for which it stands
One Nation
Under God
Indivisible
With Liberty
And Justice
For All.

Its really not long. But it states a couple of important facts.

1. The flag stands for the United States of America. Not just any part of it, or political group.
2. The government of the USA is a Republic. This differs in significant detail to a democracy. It is one of the ways we can have a majority rule and still have respect for the minority interest. Its important to remember this. The founding fathers had experienced both a monarchy, where the minority interest of the king had governed all, but they had also experienced democracy where the majority could quickly trample the interests of a minority. Out of this wisdom they selected the form of government that has proved more enduring and free than all others.
3. There are many states and people, but we make up one nation.
4. We are under God, no matter what you call him, this nation (and all others) exist because he allows it to.
5. We will not be divided. We may disagree, but the nation will stay a nation.
6. Liberty and the ability to pursue our own goals is fundamental.
7. Justice is the rule of law, not of man. Laws protect us from the government and from each other.
8. These principles apply to all citizens regardless of station, position, income or any other distinction. We are all equal in regards to the franchise and exercise of our citizenship.

We need reminders like the recitation of the pledge to keep the fundamentals of our citizenship in our memory. When we forget who we are, we have lost what is most precious.

Monday, September 12, 2011

We still need heroes

Spent some time with my kids yesterday explaining what 9/11 was about. Most of them were not alive when it happened. We do need to remember that we are not invulnerable.

America is not a nation of sheep.
We do not lay down in front of those that mean us harm.
We do not cower in fear when attacked.
We celebrate and aspire to be the heroes that run into burning buildings to rescue others.

This is not just what we do as individuals, but what we do as a nation.

This is why we send troops to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq and other places. We don't just sit by while a small group of thugs set the world on fire.

September 11, 2001 was a day that many American woke up and discovered that the world had not run out of its need for heroes. There are some now after 10 years that want to go back to sleep and dream of peace. This is foolishness.

There is no peace without strength. And there is no strength without memory.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Dealing with Rejection


Yup, that's right. My story was rejected.

To be honest, I have been talking to people about this submission in this way. "So I submitted a story to be published. When it gets rejected from them, I will submit another story, and submit Periculum to another publisher."

My daughter asked me why I was being pessimistic. I explained to her that it would be truly amazing if; the very first story that I ever submit, to the very first publisher that I submit it to, would then publish it. It would have been great. But it would have just been incredible and unbelievable.

So I have started a spreadsheet of on-line publishers that take short stories from unpublished authors. And if I work at this. I can have a dozen different stories submitted to various publishers at the same time before the year ends.

And then that gives me the potential to get a dozen rejections at the same time as well. But that is okay too.

First off, I haven't been trying to get published for very long, so there is no way that I don't have quite a few rejections coming. And Second, this whole thing is an experiment to see if I can apply statistical probability to short story publishing.

I won't insult anyone by claiming not to have emotional reactions. I had a pang of sadness reading the automated rejection email. And I had some trouble concentrating on writing for a day or so. I wanted to re-read "Periculum" and see if I could figure out what might have been wrong.

But I have a great new idea that I am working on now. "Legend of Trees" is turning into something fun to write. I am just about finished with my time travel story, "Given Enough Time." And in between, I wrote a really short short story about "Schrodinger's Cat."

One of these lucky stories will be my next submission to Strange Horizons this month, and I plan to submit "Periculum" to a new publisher at the same time.

So that's it. Dealing with rejection by letting your self talk a breath, and then getting back out and writing some more.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Where did you come up with the idea for that story?


I read the other day, that this is a common question that authors get when doing interviews or question and answer posts and etc. And let me say, that I look forward to the day that someone asks me this question.

I remember Gary Larson answering the question about his comic strips. He wondered if people imagined that he climbed up into his attic and secretly opened a trunk stuffed full of cartoon ideas. That's not how it works. There is no secret, trunk or otherwise.

I have a hundreds of ideas for stories every day. I don't have time to even write them all down. If I did nothing but write down ideas, I would never have time to write anything else, and maybe not even time to write them all.

In fact as I write down one idea, it spawns two or three other ideas. (I would love to find a business where I could sell these ideas. Even at a few pennies apiece, I would quickly become a rich man.)

I will be the first to admin that many of these ideas are bad ideas. And others are ideas that have been written over and over by other authors.

From the ideas that are not already covered by others, and that are not bad ideas, kick around my head for a few days, weeks, months or years. And they collect other ideas. At whatever rate of progress eventually these good ideas organize a gang of other ideas and demand to be written.

At that point I write them down. I work on them. I stay up for hours at night to get the first draft out of my head, and onto pages. Sometimes they continue to build momentum. Most time they rest for a while before getting polished and finished.

There, that is where I get my ideas.

Now, I just had an idea for a new story about a guy with a magic box that I have to go write down, so I have to go now.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Enemy's Gate


We waited in the rain for the trumpet to sound. The Water poured off our armor and ran in an army of rivulets in the damp packed earth. It ran, as best it could, between the feet of the army that stood on that earth. Stood waiting.

The gate had been closed for days. They had know we were coming. Mostly because we had told them. But they were expecting a seige. Sieges that lasted weeks or months before the army or city would surrender.

Our commander didn't do sieges. He had a different way. A faster way.

The trumpet sounded and we began to march. But as we march, a single man on a horse, rushes forward. He zigzags a course toward the enemy gate.

A hail of arrows are launched at him, but in the rain he his hard to target.

Raicing forward reaches the gate, and tosses the bag he is carrying at the foot of the gate. Then he turns and retreats toward our line using the same zigzag pattern.

Once he drops the bag, a drum behind us begins to beat. We keep marching forward. We march in time with the drum. Then suddenly the drum beat stops, and the entire mass of men drop to one knee, and bring shields up to bear.

And in the next heartbeat there is a loud concussive boom. Followed by a shower of rocks and splinters.

Again as one, the army rises to its feet and begins to march. There is a hole where the enemy gate used to be.

A small pile of rubble has mostly fallen into the pit excavated by the explosion. More stones from the wall threaten to fall into the gap. There are still men manning the walls and they begin to shoot arrows at us. But the shock of this tactic is one of its move effective attributes. Some squads are retreating while others hold their ground.

Even if they regroup, they will no longer be as effective as they would have been. The city was not prepared for the wall to be breached today. There will be supplies just inside the walls, and people will not be well equipped for hand to hand fighting having mostly bows and long range weapons.

Today, the city will be ours.

Monday, May 23, 2011

I have taken the plunge

Actually I took it two weeks ago. I completed and submitted a short story for publication with an online magazine.

I am very excited about it.

I wrote a post a while ago called "Periculum" that received a few, select, encouraging comments. These encouraged me enough to revisit the story. The draft you can read on this blog, is a very old draft. The story is now a 6,000 word short story.

Currently it is "under consideration" at Strange Horizons. According to their submission policy, I will find out one way or another in the next 65 days.

I know that the odds are not great, but I am still hopeful. In the mean time, I have started two new short stories. One is called "Given Enough Time" as is a story about time travel. So far this one is still in an early draft and may be a very very short story.

The second one was inspired by Kiersten White. Its current title is "Zombies and Unicorns" and this is a "new" type of story for me. My daughter loves it.

I truly hope this type of fictions does NOT turn out to be what works for me as a writer.

More to come as I keep writing.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

As an un-published author, am I just messing around?

Not really. I mean sure, I am writing things and I can tell that sometimes people are reading them. But when an author talks about "getting published" they are talking about a bit of a grander publishing experience.

Most of the time they are talking about money. (This is not a knock in any way to people who "get published" in periodicals that don't pay.)

So far, I don't fit this qualification of being a published author. I write things, but no one has EVER paid me a dime for them. Does that mean I write low quality stuff. No, it just means that I have an un-validated quality.

Kinda like the diamond in the rough, my work has not been evaluated by people that make their living recognizing quality. But what is keeping me from it? What keeps me from submitting a novel to an agent or publisher?

And the real answer is time.

I have several works-in-progress that should become novels in length. I have one that has 16 chapters. Another that has only 8. But I know that neither of these is ready to see an editor. I have not finished them. And it is because I have other things that go on in my life.

And at times this is depressing.

I look at two of my friends that have published novels and wonder if I will ever be able to get mine done.

And then a good friend of mine reminded me that there is a middle way.

There are people that are willing to publish smaller stuff. Stuff that I write that never develops into the novel size and depth. Stuff that is good, but is more like an article or a blog post. This stuff takes a bit less time to finish than the Novel-in-progress.

And with less time, comes a greater chance to complete it.

I started posting them here. And I plan to continue to do so. Especially with the drafts. Sometimes I have to get a draft out of my head and onto the blog before I can tell what it wants to be when it grows up.

But I am getting off topic.

I was referred to a site called podcastel and they look really interesting to me. So I am developing the Periculum draft into a short story with plans to submit it to them by the end of the month. (looking at the calendar, that is 5 days away!)

Yep, that means a deadline for my writing. Not to worry. I have already grown the 700 word draft to a 3600 word story. I have a couple more scenes to write and some character development to finish with a target size of >6,000 words.

I can tell you that the main character actually gets a name. Several other new characters will also get names too. I also name the City and explain what the characters do for it. And then there is a pretty cool fight scene that has some twists.

I can't wait to see how it ends. I have 5 days to finish this. So I need to get back to work now.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fail: KFC in American Fork, UT

I have family in American Fork, UT. And for my brothers and I, the KFC on State St. was a meeting place. We liked the food, and they had tables where we would meet up talk. I should make it clear that this was all in the past.

You see the other night, Thursday, April 21st at 9:50PM my wife and I were finishing some errands. As we were driving home we saw the Kentucky Fried Chicken was open. So we cruised into their parking lot and paused to check the hours. The door said, they were open until 10PM.

We both thought that we would pull up to their drive through and ask what they had left. And then buy it. But instead of coming on the speaker and asking for our order. Or even explaining that they were shutting down and had a limited selection. A male voice said, "We are closed. Come back another day." and then there was a resounding click.

You see that click more than anything else was offensive. I didn't get to ask, "what are your hours?" I didn't get to apologize for coming late. I just got hung up on.

Since I didn't get to respond then. I have to respond this way, "I decline your offer to come back on another day. In fact, just so you know. I won't be back again."

Now I also want to say this. After being rudely hung up on at KFC, but still being hungry, we drove on down State St and pulled into the Chic-fil-a. It was now 10:15. The hours of the Chic-fil-a also stated that they were closed at 10pm. But they took our order, gave us food and were very pleasant about it.

I tried to apologize for coming late, but they wouldn't hear of it. The man at the window even explained that they stay open and keep serving food as long as there are cars in the drive thru.

Well, today, my wife and I passed by the KFC again. We looked but didn't stop. There are many places to eat, and we will go to one that wants our business even if we pull in right before closing. (or right after!)

KFC fail.
Chic-fil-a: pass, in fact A+


Monday, February 28, 2011

Did you NaNoWriMo?

For those of you that don't know, NaNoWriMo is an acronym for "National Novel Writing Month" and it is a contest that happens each November.

The gist of it is this; starting on the 1st of November and continuing until the 31st, try to write an original 50,000 word novel. No editing, drafts, or quality required. (Writing 50,000 copies of "word" is technically a completion but I recommend setting your sights a bit higher.)

November of 2010 was a flop for me. It was my first try, and after a few days I began to fall behind.

And then the inevitable happened. The month ended, and I had failed to complete my 50,000 words. (Really I was not much more than 5,000 words.) (Writing 50,000 copies of "word" started looking better and better.)

Well I am not a person to shy away from a challenge. I have the discipline to write, but it is consumed mostly into my other blogs. (Hence this blog has languished a bit.)

So to start conditioning for next November 2011, I am thinking that I should do an exercise here. And just like a physical workout, I should do a variety of things.

I could go nuts and say something like, "Write 1,000 words a day." And I could do that even, but that is not what I am thinking.

More along the lines like this. Each week doing 4 diferent things. Things like; Write 1,000 words on a new story. Write a character profile. Write a dialoge. Write an action scene. Write some other thing that may or may not fit in the story.

And I think that I will try this starting March 2011.

I wonder what will happen next....

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Ken Horne: Chapter One


I couldn't tell you much about my trip back from visiting Europe that day. I was angry and consumed with my own thoughts and feelings. I passed through customs and rented a car as a distraction that I mostly ignored. What I do remember is that those helping me had to remind me to proceed several times.


Technically I was returning home. But the house where I drove to was not one that I had spent much time in since childhood. Then it was off to a series of boarding schools while my mother was alive, and then after she passed I received a trust fund and the impression that the real family was ready for me to disappear.


I did a good job of disappearing. I took my passport and started to visit people that I had met in college. I had studied linguistics in college. So traveling was natural.


With planning I was able to travel light and earn enough that I drew only occasionally from the fund for my expenses. I wrote a couple of travel books about hiking across Britain and Europe. My agent encouraged me to try more exotic and remote parts of the world.


So I went to visit the one person that I knew from Peru and spent two and a half years hiking in the Andes. I walked out of the mountains with three things. First, was the material for a guide for traveling the mountains of Peru with a backpack. Second, was the manuscript for a novel that chronicled an adventure of fighting international crime and terrorism in the same mountains. Third, was a conviction that the world was a place that needed people to stand up for what is right.


The travel book was published after a few good meals and meetings with my agent. The novel was problematic. To protect real people some names and places had to be changed. And we had to create a pen name to publish it under. The book would be fiction. But the material for it came from 18 months of real life in the foothills of the Andes.


And I started a new career as Ken Horne. my travels would still be for research writing travel guides, but Ken would be traveling on his missions of justice, that he would then write about. Ken would gather details from real intrigues and places, places that wouldn't make it into the travel guide for tourist recommendations that I would be writing.


I pulled up to the gate of the family house and showed my ID to the gatekeeper. He let me through with a frown. I knew he was calling ahead. I had seen a news report a week ago when Dan Brown had died while on a trip in Cosivo.


Dan had been one of my few friends from my family associations. When I heard the circumstances of his death, I grew suspicious. I was in Greece at the time. I made some calls to his family and my suspicions grew. Then finally I received a message from Dan.


Dan had been organizing relief efforts when he uncovered something unsettling. So he called for help. He called my uncle. He thought that if any one could help, it would be my family. And he should have been right. But after the call, no one else would take his calls.

According to his letter, he was changing his plans and coming to see me. His letter sounded desperate. And a little bit frightened. Now that he was dead, his fear could not be easily dismissed.


Dan had been a friend. Not just my friend, but his family was a friend of my family. We had know each other since child hood. I had gone off to board, and then we had met again in college. He was one of the few anchors that I had back in Virginia. He had gone to work in the circles in D.C. and I had gone off to travel and write.


Dan was also out there traveling. Where I was out writing for money, Dan was finding people to help. Dan worked in logistics and planning and volunteered for a variety of aid organizations. Knowing what Dan did, I would try to look him up whenever we were in the same part of the world.


We were planning to have lunch in four days. If we had made that date for last week I might have been with him when the bomb went of in front of his hotel.


If only I had been where he could have called me. Maybe things would have been different. Maybe.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


I pulled my A-4 into the circle drive that I had last seen after my mother's funeral. I had never had specific plans to see it again, nor to stay away. Life had just happened.


I hopped out and headed up the steps. This was the family estate, but most of the family only came here for special occasions. Uncle John was the only one that used it as his residence.


The door opened as I approached the top. I didn't recognize who it was, but they knew me. "Good morning, Casey. John is on the phone, but will see you in the library shortly."


"Thanks." I said looking around. "It's still this way right?" Indicating down the hall.


The butler smiled, " Let me show you the way, sir." And we started walking down the hallway. "Will you need a room for the night?"


"I don't think so. I doubt that will be convenient."


"I see." We reached the end of the hall. The open double doors on the left opened onto the library. "Please make yourself comfortable. Call the operator if you need anything." Then he left.


* * * * * * * * * * * *

I didn't immediately suspect family involvement. But in retrospect I can't say I am surprised either. After getting Dan's letter I decided to keep my appointment. I really can't explain what my motives were for doing so.


I asked the desk of the hotel to keep my bags for a few days. As a regular client, they said I could eave them as long as I needed.


I got on the train for Kartush, and checked in to the hotel I had made reservations at weeks before. It was a nice affordable place that I had stayed in before. Dan had known where I would be staying.


"Welcome back Mr Cannon. We have a wonderful room for you." Said the desk clerk. "And there seems to be a message for you from a Mr. Dan Brown. Would you like to wait for me to get it, or have it brought up to your room?"


"Can you bring it to me in the bar?"


"Of course we can. Take your time."


For messages or packages from my agent, I would have had them sent to my room. But this was different. I hadn't been expecting another message from Dan. Really I was more expecting him to walk in and explain it all as a mistake.


I grabbed a sandwich and a drink waiting for the message from Dan. I don't really know what I expected. An envelop probably with a dinner invite or tickets to a benefit or something.

The clerk showed up next to me at the bar with a bankers box that looked like it was full of papers. Taped to the top was an envelope bearing my name, and a return address with pre paid shipping instructions to an address back in the states.


I tipped the clerk and asked if there was a business office where I could use a table. He directed me to a small courtesy office with a phone and fax. Once inside I opened the letter first.


* * * * * * * * * * * *


The library was a large room. It did contain books, but not in rows of shelves like a real library. It was arranged for casual entertaining and receiving groups of people.


In my early childhood I had lived here, on the grounds, with my mother. She had gone off to college, and come home after one year with a dead husband and a baby on the way. It had been quite an internal family scandal.


From what I had gathered over the years she had been a young woman with much potential. When she had gone off to Princeton to study economics the family had expected to have her return in the same shape.

They had been disappointed. Within a few months she was married. My Grandfather had disapproved without ever meeting my father. In my Grandfathers eyes my Father was not good enough for my Mother or the family. This is a viewpoint that most of the family prudently shared. I knew this personally. As the son of my Father, I shared in the fate of his reputation.


My Father was the product of his Chinese mother and his Puertorican father. Very melting pot American. He had been raised by working parents without post high school education of any kind. But from the reports from his teachers and military commanders he was very intelligent.

He did two things for the first time in his family. He joined the Marines and he went to college on a scholarship. When my mother met him he was there for post graduate studies.


The fell in love, but he was shipping out at the and of the semester. His introduction into the family did not go over well. My mother rebelled against her father and married him before he shipped out. one month later she received the flag of a grateful nation and knew that she was with child.


Perhaps if she had been on good terms with the family they would have convinced her to terminate her pregnancy, and I would have died before my birth. But she tried to keep me to herself, and spurned the initial out reaches of my aunts. But when the papers reported that the oldest daughter of such a noted statesman was a single mother in assisted housing the family did something drastic. The took her back.


So at the age of three, I was brought from a life of daycare and McDonald's playlands to a life of Nannies and Butlers. Seven years later I went to boarding school and was only back at the 'House' for Christmas and weddings and such.


My mother visited me regularly for the first few years. She did care for me, but the pressures of the family was relentless. And over time she began a downward march of anti-depressants that could do nothing to relieve the disdain of the family.


After a few years the family put her into a care facility where I visited her untill my last year of college. When she passed away. By then she didn't really touch the world outside the walls of the care facility.


But she had reached out and touched my life. She had always kept a diary, and when she sent me off to boarding school she began to compile a journal of family information that she knew could help me.


After her passing Uncle John and I had our first 'discussion' about my future. He wanted to pay me off and have me leave and never return to bother the family. I just laughed and handed him a letter my mother had written to me for just such a purpose.


John was furious and stormed out calling for his lawyers. I left quietly, on my own and returned to school. Two weeks later a family attorney contacted me. Things were reasonable well.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


"Dear Casey,


I hope that I am over reacting, but due to recent events I am sending you this file. Please don't bring this with you when we meet for dinner. I don't want you to be involved if there is any real danger. But there I go again.


I have been trying to reach a few people that we both know, these documents are really for them. I will tell you all about it when I see you.


Until then, please put this box in the hotel safe, and don't look in the box.


See you at noon.


Dan"


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


When Uncle John walked into the library he did it from the closed doors at the back. He had aged since I had seen him last, but I supposed that I had as well. He was only a few years older than me.


"Casey!" He shouted a bit too loudly breaking the silence of the library, "It has been oo long since we have seen you around. But I don't mind telling you that I get regular reports on what you are up to from the family. Always out there making the world safe for the wandering tourist. Rome this time isn't it?"


"Greece actually." I corrected adopting his air of filial relation. His under tone of having me watched was not lost on me. Nor the seed that someone in the family was sending him reports. Such was the way Uncle John communicated. He could weave two or three messages together under neath the appearance of a casual conversation. It was a skill from spending too much time among politicians.


"Greece!" He declared, as if he had just discovered. "I can't imagine wanting to come back here if I were free to spend my days on those lovely shores."


Another message and warning. It was a temptation when talking with John to try and layer meaning the way he did so casually. But it normally got people in trouble, and in this game Uncle John was a master.


"I came because of Dan Brown." I said flatly.


Uncle John frowned, unable to make the transition from patronzing uncle to grieving family friend so quickly. "That is a trajedy. Dan was a good man' The world needs more good men like him. I just wish he had been a little more careful. Spending so much time n the company of danger must have made him feel like he could get close to it without it touching him."

"He called you for help." I continued. The conversation was not exactly as planned. One couldn't plan these fencing maches with Uncle John. I was looking for a reaction.


"Yes." John said, his voice full of sympathy, bit his eyes flashing from anger to watchfullness. "Did you get a chance to speak to him over there."


"No." I answered. "We were planning to meet for lunch just a few days after he was killed. He left me a note saying that he was trying to reach you, and asked for my help."

"Well," He continued with some caution. "thankfully you are safe. You must be more carefull than Dan. I know in your occupation you are prone to go and see what there is to see. But some places are just too dangerous to go, some things, just to dangerous to see."


"What did Dan need your help with?" I asked continuing down my path and ignoring Uncle John's warnings.


"We may never know now. Unless he was able to contact someone that he could trust and tell them about it was he may have died with whatever it was." He paused thoughtfully. "I haven't heard of him contacting anyone else in the family. Your letter may be the last communication that any of us have from him. Do you have it?"


"You know I always travel light." I should't have. But talking to Uncle John is always such a sparring match. After just blocking for a while you want to throw one of your own punches. "I haven't found out as much as you have do you know where the funeral will be?"


There was the fighters eye under Uncle John's brow. We both knew that I had given away too much. "Of course. Its in that small town in up state New York. Dan's family will be glad that you will be able to make it."


"Could you walk me to my car?" I said checking my watch. "I have something to give you that I picked up in Europe."


"Of course." And we started out the way I had come in, back down the hall.

"Its nothing fancy really just something one finds in a hotel when traveling abroad."


* * * * * * * * * * * *


Of course I opened the box. It was filled with file folders. Each had a lable on the tab. It looked like legal and financial papers.


I pulled out the first one and read the label. "BOL received." It was not very interesting. After glancing at a few packing slips I knew that this folder was filled with the Bills of Ladding filed by the cargo company that had received relief supplies for some charity that Dan had worked with.


I set it aside and pulled the next folder. Its label read, "BOL Shipping. I opened it to find another set of shipping records. I set it aside and pulled out another. I was tired and not in the mood to spend much time reading dull records of goods in transit.


I pulled out a few more folders. More and more of the same until I came to one with John's name on it. I snatched it open and began to read.


I read on my tiredness having left me.


* * * * * * * * * * * * *


As I unlocked my car and climbed in I felt a little melodramatic. I pulled a manilla envelope from the out pocket of my carry-on bag. I turned in my seat and handed it to Uncle John.

"Dan wanted you to have this."


Uncle John had been reaching for it, but at my words jerked his hand back as of burned.

"This is just a sample of the information that he was trying to give you." Uncle John changed his mind an snatched the folder from my hand.


I could tell that he wanted to appear disinterested in the envelope, but he clearly was both eager and reluctant to fin out what it contained.


"I want you to know that Dan trusted you. He trusted you, and he trusted the family. He called you for help and you let him down. He was every bit the good man you described him to be. When you refused him help you became responsible for what happened to him."


Uncle John tried to interrupt but I over road him. "Unlike Dan, I don't trust you. I have personal reasons for that, but I have been willing to just stay out of things as the rest of the family supported you. After seeing the way you treat you friends and seeing the way you have handled the family assets its time for a change. Clean up your mess and drop out of sight."


Uncle John stood very still. "Are you finished?"


"For the moment."


"Good." Then he turned and strode stiffly in to the house. I could have sworn that he was about to strike me. It was one of the outcomes I expected. This one should have frightened me more.