Archive for April, 2009

NRA is giving FREE 1-yr memberships

Monday, April 27th, 2009

In case you were not aware of it…the NRA is giving FREE 1-yr memberships to everyone who wants to join.  They are trying to build up their membership to fight pending legislation that impacts our right to keep and bear arms.  It is very important that anti-gun congressmen see how many people they will have to fight to get their legislation through.  https://www.nrahq.org/nrabonus/accept-membership.asp

The perfect gift for your spouse or a graduation present for your children.

“Gee Dad, thanks.  You’re the best.”

  • 24/7 Defense of Your Firearm Freedoms
  • NRA’s Freedom Times Monthly E-Letter
  • Your NRA Membership Card and Decal
  • Savings on Hotels, Rental Cars and More
  • Invitations to Friends of NRA Dinners and Celebration of American Values Special Events

Plus…

  • Free Admission to NRA’s Show With Over Five Acres of Guns, Gear and Outfitter Displays (with current membership) in Phoenix, 2009 – Charlotte, 2010 – Pittsburgh, 2011

Publishers Weekly Reviews The Dragoneers

Friday, April 24th, 2009

This novel defies conventional classification: is it science fiction? biblical fiction? thriller? The story describes a world where flying two-headed dragons and ogres exist, characters with telepathic gifts communicate with both animals and people, a man named Noah builds an Ark in his backyard, and a six-fingered giant named Lilith wants to take over the world. While this collage may have been implausible in lesser hands, the author makes it work, artfully drawing readers into Sethopolis (the “center of the last human-dominated nation on Earth”) and constructing an adventure with attention-grabbing plot twists. 

At the center of it all is 18-year old Susah, a feisty heroine with the ability to communicate telepathically. Sheltered by her father, Noah, from the evils of the world, Susah’s life takes an unexpected turn when her aunt and uncle are killed by a violent street gang. Mesmerized by the soldier who rescues her and the flying dragon under his control, she decides to join the Dragon Corps, defenders of the Eden zone, and become a dragoneer. Lilith, aware of Susah’s gifts, wants to have her killed. As Susah trains to become a skilled dragoneer, she embarks on a collision course with Lilith’s army of giants and ogres as they march toward the Eden zone for the ultimate battle between good and evil. The author has crafted a compelling story…

Wow.  That was beautiful.  You’ve just read 91.8% of the professional review of my full-manuscript submitted to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest.  I feel like a winner, but alas–The Dragoneers was eliminated from the competition as the field was narrowed to the top 1% of the submitted manuscripts.  The top competitor will win a publishing contract with Penguin Books, which includes a $25,000 advance.  The PW review constitutes second prize.

I’ll share the last 20 words of the review with you in a moment–they made all the difference.  If the review had ended as it did above, I’m certain my manuscript would still be in the competition, however, with little chance of actually winning.  To complicate matters, once I finally lost–I wouldn’t really know why.  As it is now–I’ve been given a prize of great value.

Okay, here’s the last few words:

… yet the sudden disappearance of some characters and subplots leaves readers feeling frustrated with the disjointed gaps in the storyline.

Yep.  That doesn’t sound so great on the surface.  But I’m very impressed with that professional analysis.  To explain why I’m happy, I have to tell you about my journey towards getting this far.
After I retired from the Air Force, I dedicated myself to writing the novel that had been boiling inside of me.  Within three months, I completed a 300-page manuscript that covered the 80 years leading up to the great flood.

My oldest daughter, a brilliant young lady who loves to read, became my alpha-reader.  After working her way through it, she carefully commented, “It’s good, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel that didn’t use commas.”

I was steeped in Air Force writing techniques.  While having written scores of performance reports, technical manuals, doctrine documents, lesson plans, and even war plans–I was too streamlined in my tactical-level skills to write an adequate novel.  Yes, the Air Force has always discouraged commas.  We use them when we talk, but not in our writing.  But it wasn’t just the comma–it was many other things.
I quickly came to the conclusion that while I was an experienced bomber pilot and a doctrine expert–I was still jut a novice writer. So I went back to school, investing a lot of self-study time in The Chicago Manual of Style and the much thinner The Elements of Style wondering how I’d missed so much of the basics.  In addition, I went back to reading the books I’ve enjoyed in the past, but this time to examine they tactical skills and to learn from them.

And I rewrote–over and over.

With each rewrite my precious daughter would mark up the document–so I could rewrite again.  And we had some great discussions.  She would ask me things about the story, “Why is that character doing those things?”

I would explain all the background logic associated with the conflict and action.  She would listen and nod her head, then finally say, “Oh that makes it perfectly clear now … that has to be in the book.”
Yes, the reader needs to understand the background and the behind the scenes activity–even the stuff that the protagonist’s doesn’t know–in order to enjoy and understand the story.

So I added it.  Then I rewrote the mark-ups, and explained more things about why certain things were happening, only to hear it over and over, “That has to be in the book.”  With time, the manuscript swelled to nearly 700 pages.

At long last, it came time to call on more opinions.

It’s difficult to explain to regular people what you’d like from a beta-reader.  Especially if you’re a novice writer–cause you don’t know.  Bless their hearts, most of them pushed through an epic story that was still rushed and so rough in several areas only to tell me that they liked it.

Then I began the initial submission phase only to collect multiple rejections from publishers and agents–something I’d been told was part of becoming a real author, so I didn’t worry about it.  Then while trying to refine the synopsis, I came to the conclusion that I had more than one novel in my manuscript.  And since everybody loves a trilogy–I figured that was what I had.  After dividing the manuscript into three logical books–I proceeded to focus only on the first one.

Then I stumbled across the 2008 ABNA contest.  Eagerly I entered and made it to the top 17% only to be eliminated when they cut the field to 2%.  The PW review I collected that year said that the story was disorienting and hard to follow.  I needed more help.

Marian Poe, a wonderful lady in the Centenary Writers Group, told me about a night class being taught at a local college.  It was there that I found the novel-writing operational secrets I needed.  Well, they’re really techniques and not secrets–unless you don’t know them.  Connie Cox of Taking Flight, gave me the boost I was seeking but could not find by myself.  Then after extensive rewriting, the manuscript–you’ve just read the PW review of–was complete.

But since I was eliminated–doesn’t that mean I lost?

No.  I didn’t lose anything–I’ve gained much.  Remember how I said that I’d divided my novel?  I cut the story too early.  All those subplots and characters the PW reviewer was talking about get wrapped up in the adventure that follows where I had ended the book.  I’m probably 150 pages away from repairing every negative mentioned in the review.  I made a mistake–there weren’t three books in there–only two.  But don’t fret, I’ve plenty more plots to follow those two.

I’m stoked–fully inspired–and coming back stronger than ever.  Once I’ve made the changes, The Dragoneers will be stronger than ever.  Certainly if I do that, I’ll find the publisher that is willing to make it available on the shelves of a book store near you.

It just makes sense.

Tea Party

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Tea Party

April 18, 2009

Tax day. That’s what we’ve learned to call April 15, but we really know that taxes hit us every day. It’s April 15 when those dreaded 1040 are due to the IRS, or it’ll cost us even more money. Our income is taxed and everything we spend our post-tax income on is taxed again through a complex web of visible and hidden taxes. This April 15 a lot of people assembled all over the country to express their concern about out of control taxes.

While the concept of maybe attending a Tea-Party had interested me for a while, it wasn’t until I saw the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report that identified a new type of terrorists–the right-wing terrorist–that I knew I needed to go.

Recently the DHS had said they preferred to call terrorism “man-caused disasters” and I satirically suggested that terrorists would then be called “disaster-engineers” in keeping with the kinder words of referring to the most heinous members of the human race. But now I see no restraint in using the T-word.

The report suggests that “right-wing extremists” are potential terrorists. Those people are described as basically anyone who believe abortion kills babies, or that the 2nd Amendment affirms the right to bear arms, and a group of right-wingers that need particular watching are veterans.

Veterans? What the freedom-snatching kind of conclusion is that? Veterans?

Do they mean those men and woman who have offered up their lives to defend the rest of us–those veterans? The same people, whom on November 11 of each year we have a national holiday to honor their service? Those same honorable heros are supposed to be suspected terrorists? All of them?

Why would anyone suggest that?

Could it be because most Americans hold veterans and the military in high esteem? Could it be that the military and it’s veterans need to be taken down a notch or two in the public eye before they begin whatever it is that follows out-of-control tax and spending? I don’t know. Your guess is as good as mine.

But how could anyone draw a connection between veterans and terrorists?

Well, according the DHS report, veterans have received training that would enable them to do something like Timothy James McVeigh did. Remember him?

McVeigh was the guy that was eventually executed for for the bombing that killed 168 people in the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. He was a veteran. See the connection yet? Me neither.

He did well as a gunner on a Bradley Fighting Vehicle during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, but then washed out of Special Forces training in December of the same year. After he left the service he failed at everything else. No girlfriend, no job, and followed the gun show circuit selling white-supremacist literature until he completely slid off the deep end. For some reason he thought it was his calling to violently overthrow the US government.

Does that sound like the typical veteran to you?

All veterans reading this column will immediately feel a bit insulted to be compared with McVeigh. For the folks who didn’t make the cut to become a veteran, that is because all veterans took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, which is the document that allows our government to legally exist. And since veterans are not released from their oath to God when they are discharged–it means McVeigh violated his oath.

And there were other veterans. What about Oswald? You know, Lee Harvey Oswald. Yeah he was a veteran and he killed Kennedy. You know, John F. Kennedy, who was a veteran. Oh yeah. Hmmm. Maybe not all veterans are terrorists.

Some veterans might actually be productive Americans. Americans like Alan Alda (Army Reserves), Tony Bennett (Army), Jim Blackwood (Air Force), Andy Bloom (Air Force), Johnny Carson (Navy), Ted Duncan (Air Force), Clint Eastwood (Army), Reed Estrada (Air Force), Malcolm Forbes (Army), Jim Johnson (Air Force), Rocky Marciano (Army), Vern Moore (Air Force), Montel Williams (Navy) Dave Thomas (Army), Chuck Norris (Air Force) Bill Cosby (Navy) Drew Carey (Marine), Ben Quintana (Air Force), Bob Goss (Air Force), Britt Larson (Air Force), Doug Barnard (Air Force), Steve Harper (Air Force), Ed Miller (Air Force), James Obsborne (Air Force), John Mitchell (Air Force), John Farese (Air Force), Dudley Woods (Air Force), Mel Bowen (Air Force), Moses Winston (Air Force), Pat Travnicek (Air Force), Paul Hill (Air Force), Scotty Briscoe (Air Force), Shawn Riff (Air Force), Steve Hollis (Air Force), Mark Maryak (Air Force), Donald Davitz (Air Force), even Charles Sutherland (Air Force) … and millions others.

No. Being a veteran did not transform McVeigh into what he became. It must have been something else.

It seems some people can find similarities and proof where they want to find them. For instance, I noticed on McVeigh’s mug-shot that he was a tall man–over six foot-two. Did you know that his parents were divorced when he was young–only ten years old.

To make the assumption “tall men whose parents were divorced when they were young might be terrorists” would be stupid. Most readers might have heard of people who fit that description–some of those people hold high-level elected office.

It is just as stupid–no, it is more stupid–to declare someone might be a terrorists because they are a veteran.

As a 32-year veteran, I can tell you with reasonable confidence that the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and Airmen who are protecting you while you sleep tonight are not being taught how to make bombs out of rented trucks, fertilizer and motor-fuel. And as far as I know, there is no program anywhere to train tall men, whose parents were divorced at a young age, to do the same.

Military service to our nation does not produce terrorists.

Of course the Tea-Parties across American were not about the DHS report, they were about a out-of-control tax and spend policy and practice. But isn’t it interesting how seemingly unrelated events can produce similar motivations? Anyway, let me tell about the Tea-Party I went to in Bossier City.

Since my taxes were already mailed off to Uncle Sam–after I got off my 10-hour work day on April 15–I headed down to the Bossier City Civic Center’s green. Having never attended a demonstration of any sort, I really didn’t know what was going to happen. It shouldn’t have surprised me that convenient parking was no where to be found as I joined about 5000 small-business owners, working tax-payers, families, and even college students from all around Bossier and Shreveport. They were regular people–white, black, Hispanic, young, old, male, female, tall, and short–who like me, had just finished the working activities of their day and then came out for a couple of hours to show their concern.

In case you didn’t make it to a Tea-Party, I posted a few videos on You Tube for you. The links are below.

After assembling, we sang the National Anthem. If you view this 2 minute 18 second video, I think you’d agree that everyone there was just regular people. Lots of flags. Seemed more patriotic than anything else.

Following that those assembled recited the Pledge of Allegiance lead by a local 6th grader.

Then State Representative Jane Smith gave the invocation. We all prayed for our elected officials, for our country, along with thanking God for all our blessings.

Many speakers were there to motivate the attendees to lawful pro-active action. One of these speakers was Mr. Royal Alexander, who was defeated in the 2007 general election to District Attorney for the sixth Judicial District. He commented about the illegalities of the government writing checks with no funds to cover them.

The keynote speaker was Congressman John Fleming of the 4th district of Louisiana. He explained some of the reasons the radical tax and spend policies are being passed in Congress.

Since the first round of Tea-Parties have ended, much of the national media has used crude humor and mockery to denigrate the respectable citizens who lawfully assembled that day. How many people are we talking about here?

Nobody really knows, but guesses are everywhere. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 showed up in Atlanta, our group was considerably less, about 5000. Some reports say there were less than 350 Tea-Parties, but that conflicts with data I had seen on one web site, which stated that as of early April 15, there were over 2000 Tea-Parties scheduled. If only half of those actually took place, and if only half as many people as we had in little Bossier City attended each one of them, that would add up to 2.5 million concerned citizens assembled across America.

That’s a lot of people to denigrate.

So is this a one-time fling or the beginning of a movement? And if it is a movement, what is supposed to happen?

This is what I think. We don’t need another political party. Americans need to take back the two parties we already have–the Democrat Party and the Republican Party. Those two parties can be used to balance our national policies between the two extremes of our Constitutional Republic’s existence. We do not need to dissolve into anarchy anymore than we need to be oppressed by a self-serving oligarchy.

Anarchy is the extreme right–no government. It’s where everyone does according to what they believe is right. In other words, it’s a riot with no police. At its worse, it looks a lot like the corner of Florence and Normandy on April 29, 1992.

An oligarchy is the extreme left–a government with all the power invested into a dominant class or party. It’s the most common form of government throughout history. Sometimes words like “socialist” or “communists” are used to describe them–but at the heart of things–the interests of a small group take priority over everything else. Even a monarchy quickly transforms into an oligarchy, because a king without his army is lost.

The only choices of government-types in the middle of those extremes are a democracy and a republic. A democracy sounds good, but a majority can quickly become a mob if the majority wants something the minority possesses. A republic is what Americans have lived in since the beginning. It is based on law. The Constitution is designed to protect the people by limiting the power of the people operating the government.

That is the reason why some people get very upset when they perceive that some policies and practices may be violating the Constitution. Once the Constitution becomes null and void, our nation will quickly slide into an oligarchy. Which is either where we’re currently headed or arguably by a few where–we’ve arrived.

In each of the great oligarchies of the past, the ruling party used the power of swords, bayonets, or guns to take-over the business pursuits of the majority of the people. By controlling the economy and then the physical activity of their subjects–the oligarchies’ ruling class maintained their power. Today, we call that nationalization. Under the guise of the government’s sovereignty the ruling party takes what they want and does what they deem best with the fruits of the peoples’ labor. Looking back, it was a bloody mess that simply highlights the evil of their leaders while their subjects suffered. Anybody want to argue that the Communists of the former USSR were good for most people that lived there, or that the Nazis of the Third Reich were well-meaning, or that Khmer Rouge only wanted the best for the people? I didn’t think so.

Today, the power of the dollar is being wielded to take-over banks and manufacturers–the business pursuits of the majority of the people. Out-of-control tax and spend policies threaten to undermine the rights of the people. What would our founding fathers have said about this?

At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, an anxious crowd assembled outside awaiting the results. As Benjamin Franklin emerged from the adjourned convention, a woman was reported to have asked him: “Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”

“A republic, if you can keep it” responded Franklin.

Never before has that prophetic statement rang more true. Some of us might argue that in light of the current national policies and plans that seem to be determined to tax the United States into oblivion–it’s already too late. Maybe if Franklin were alive today, he would say, “You have a republic if you can salvage it.”

Yes, we can. We can salvage our republic by taking back both of our political parties. In 2010 we can replace every representative who has voted for this madness with people who promise to overturn it. Then if they don’t do what they say, we can replace them with new people in 2012. We still have the power of the ballot. As long as our Constitution still stands as the law of land, we can do things in a civilized manner. We’re still citizens and not subjects–at least not yet.

We the People, can do this.

As one sign at the Tea-Party read, “You can’t fix stupid, but you can vote it out.”

It just makes sense.

Happy 2009th (or so) Easter to you all

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

I was reading in the book of John (Chapter 20) this morning and experienced the story of that first Easter. Thought I would share my summary here:
-Mary Magdalene, Peter, John find the empty tomb
-The Risen Christ appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden
-He appears to disciples and shows his resurrected body
-Thomas feels the wounds in Jesus’ hands, feet, and side
All written so that we might believe `Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that believing we might have life through his name.’

The End of the GWOT

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

My personal life is much too depressing to talk about for now … next month should set a new high in panglossian delight … so I’ll just add some political commentary to make you aware of my continued existence–enjoy:

It’s over–well, almost. The Global War on Terror is now called “Overseas Contingency Operations,” which can be a little confusing to some of us. After all, we’ve been using initials to talk about things for a while. Everyone probably already knows about WWI and WWII but what about the O-wars?

The first one was OAF, remember that?

That was Operation Allied Force, where the US provided most of the muscle and all the backbone to stop the murder of Muslims by the Miloshevich-led Serbs. Remember how that ended?

After airpower defeated the Serbian military and was allowed to retreat, Miloshevich wound up being charged with crimes against humanity. However, he died of heart problems before a verdict was delivered.

What vowel comes after A? Here’s a hint–E. OEF was the next O-war.

Operation Enduring Freedom, is where America resisted the temptation to kill everyone after the bold terrorist attacks of 9-11. At first, it was called Operation Infinite Justice but the Bush administration changed the name when they were told it was offensive to Muslims.

Then OEF was subdivided into several sub-OEFs to deal with multi-geographical areas: Afghanistan, Philippines, Horn of Africa, Trans Sahara, Krygyzstan, and Pankisi Gorge (a.k.a. Georgia). The last two ended in 2004, but you don’t hear much about them in the press. Oh, did you think it was only in Afghanistan? I guess the collective press might have been confusing, but it is a global war, remember?

What vowel comes after E? I’m sure you know. I. The third O-war was OIF.

That was Operation Iraqi Freedom, sometimes called the War in Iraq–which just caused more confusion. At the end of it all, Saddam Hussein was tried and hung by his own people. Even with the tyrant dead and gone, a lot of fighting continued inside of Iraq–mostly terrorists killing Iraqis–but many Americans died also–albeit not in toe-to-toe fighting, but from a variety of suicide-terrorist attacks, called “homicide bombers” presumedly not to offend the people who wanted us dead. Anyway, Iraq is doing fairly well after all the American and other folks that have helped them. We’ll be leaving in less than 18 months–except for the 50,000 that will remain behind forever.

So now, Barack Obama has directed everyone to use the term “Overseas Contingency Operation” which I guess could be shortened to OCO. I guess that sounds better than OOF–which would have fit nicely in the series of O-wars–but OCO is what it is. But this is not all that has changed.

Janet Napolitano, our newly appointed Homeland Security Secretary, doesn’t like the word terrorism. She prefers to use “man-caused” disasters. Was the term “terrorism” offensive to the causers of disasters? I don’t know.

So who are the people who cause man-caused disasters? Disaster Engineers?

So we’ve got disaster engineers causing man-caused disasters in the OCO but we are trying our best not to offend anyone or to sound arrogant while we go about winning this war. Someone told me that recently Barack Obama apologized for American arrogance and announced that “America was not a war with Islam.” I must say, I’m a little confused.

Wasn’t OAF about Americans saving Muslims? Hasn’t OEF liberated Muslims in many places? Didn’t OIF result in the removal of a brutal tyrant in Iraq and then giving the country back to the Muslims who live there? Why would Barack Obama’s speech writers think he needed to make such an announcement? I don’t know.

On a completely unrelated note–within a few hours of the North Koreans launching an illegal missile, the US government announced that we’re going to defund our most promising anti-missile technologies. And we’re going to release all the disaster engineers at Gitmo, maybe even inside the US, because their home countries might be mean to them. Wouldn’t want that to happen.

With the advent of OCO, it might mean the GWOT is over. If it is over, what happened?

It’s easy enough to figure out if you look at the facts. We’re disarming, we’re releasing our prisoners, we’re trying not to offend anyone, and we’re not taking action against other countries that violate international law. Have you figured it out yet?

Yep, that’s it–we surrendered.

It just makes sense.