A Culture of The Worst?

Optimist Pessimist memeI love interacting with people from other cultures. Discovering the world through their eyes, looking through that other lens, exploring it, seeing where it leaves, discovering new questions, new answers, new approaches. It’s why I got hooked on traveling to foreign places like Ghana, Brazil, Mexico and more, interacting with natives and trying to understand their lives, their world, etc. for over a decade. Those times enriched me and expanded my own box in so many ways. So it’s ironic to find myself a bit flummoxed by my own culture these days.

I grew up being mostly an optimist. While, as Christians, we believed in the depravity of man and doctrine of sin, my basic assumption was that most people are good people or trying to be. Every once in a while you’d run into someone who tested your faith in that theory, but mostly it panned out. A lot of people were doing good things to make a better world, a better life, a better community, sometimes with great sacrifice. And most people I met, it seemed, had a sense of fairness and politeness that dominated them.

But these days I run into more and more people who seem to believe the opposite: all people are evil and trying to be evil. They seem to automatically assume the worst in every case from actions to words to events, etc. Everything someone says is analyzed, and dissected with the assumption it’s meant to insult, offend, or malign. They jump right onto it too, accusing, blaming, critiquing and riling up their allies about it, all the while impugning motives that may or may not be the truth. Intent no longer matters. Who can be bothered to try reading intent in the modern technoage anyway, right? Intent can’t be discerned well via the web, so why bother?

Yet, I come from a belief that intent matters, and more than that, you can choose be insulted or upset, or you can choose to assume the person means well until they prove you wrong. Not so this new breed. (Or maybe they’re an old breed I just hadn’t encountered much before.)

Although we definitely are a more cynical and nihilistic culture now than we were then, it’s flummoxing for me because you really can’t argue or respond to that kind of flawed reasoning. It’s emotionally based, which is irrational by its nature, and it’s fed by deep seated hurts and insecurities that no words can ever heal.  It’s a rather unfortunate way to go through life, if you ask me. I certainly don’t enjoy wallowing in misery or past hurts and pains. I’ve tried it, believe me. Moving on is always better.

After all, there’s plenty more to come. And plenty to be genuinely upset about without looking for opportunities. They will find you no matter what. No need to seek them out.

But for some reason there are people who operate this way. It continues to puzzle and sadden me. The results are often false assumptions, broken relationships and destructive behavior patterns, all of which seem to feed on themselves.

In a nation already polarized over politics, religion and more, that just adds to existing problems, I think. And it’s unfortunate, because, again, trouble will find you all by itself without asking or going looking for it. That’s the world we live in. Regardless, I hope that this way of thinking remains the minority. I certainly have no desire to culturally adapt. It offers no appeal whatsoever, just a whole lotta unneeded drama, and who needs that? I’ve had enough, thank you very much.

Unfortunately, it’s become more and more the kind of trouble that will find you whether you look for it or no. As has happened to me and several others of late. So be it. If it happens to you, my advice is be nice, don’t waste time trying to argue or engage, just let your life speak for itself. And know that, in the end, that will speak louder than any rumors and last far longer. You’ll be happier, too.

You can be the hero of your own story, despite the flaws. And I’m talking about the kind of hero others might look at and identify as heroic, not the kind that makes people wonder are there any heroes left these days? You don’t have to put on tights and a cape and be perfect. We’re all flawed, that’s not the point, but you can choose to rise above your flaws and work harder to be a better person and positive contributor, or you can live for “me first.” That choice is yours.

Not that I have that all figured out, mind you. I’m still flummoxed. But that’s the dynamic of cultures for you. There are always things we struggle to understand about each other; things/ideas/concepts/behaviors/traditions that challenge us to accept or reject them but refuse to allow us to deny they exist.

When you’re a guest in someone’s country, the polite thing to do is to make those reactions internal while maintaining a respectful interior — something not always easy, I admit but which all too many American tourists get wrong to our country’s detriment. But when it’s in your own country, it’s harder. You start seeing it around you more and more, and there’s no escape. You can’t go home and remove yourself, because it’ll still be there tomorrow, waiting, lurking in the shadows, so to speak.

So you carry on and find a way to live with it, I guess. For me, that involves learning how to identify it and also how to avoid adapting it myself. That might not solve the issues it creates, but it sure makes for an easier walk, if you ask me.

For what it’s worth…


BTS author photo 2Bryan Thomas Schmidt is an author and editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction including the novels The Worker Prince and The Returning, and the children’s books 102 More Hilarious Dinosaur Jokes For Kids (ebook only) and Abraham Lincoln: Dinosaur Hunter- Land Of Legends. His debut novel, The Worker Prince (2011) received Honorable Mention on Barnes & Noble Book Club’s Year’s Best Science Fiction Releases for 2011. His short stories have appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthology Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 (Flying Pen Press, 2012) and is working on Beyond The Sun (Fairwood, July 2013), Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age  (Every Day Publishing, November 2013) and Shattered Shields with co-editor Jennifer Brozek (Baen, 2014). He also edits Blue Shift Magazine and hosts #sffwrtcht (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s Chat) Wednesdays at 9 pm ET on Twitter and can be found via Twitter as @BryanThomasS, on his website atwww.bryanthomasschmidt.net or Facebook.

Dear Valentine: A Poem – February 14, 2012

Dear Valentine,

I miss you.

You’re three thousand miles away.

You’re in another hemisphere,

where I hear you’re going to stay.

 

Dear Valentine,

my heart is yours,

despite the troubles we’ve known.

Because good memories are golden

and we’ve got by far way more of those.

 

Dear Valentine,

my heart is broken,

from just longing day by day

for you to come back home again,

and promise that you’ll stay.

 

Dear Valentine,

I took for granted,

things were so good they seemed plain.

And I’m sorry I forgot

how much I treasured every day.

 

Dear Valentine,

God Bless You,

whatever paths your life may take.

May your world be full of laughter,

may you smile and jest and play.

 

Dear Valentine,

you’re not forgotten.

And worry not, you’ll never be.

For, my Valentine, when you went away,

you took a piece of me.

It’s been since June that she’s gone. It’s my first Valentines without her present in four years and the first in seven years without her as my Valentine. So I’m thinking of her, one of the great loves of my life…lost. And wishing somehow things could be different for us. Knowing they can’t be.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎ Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

4 5-star & 12 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Do Something: Live A Life Of Significance

This is not a lecture. It’s an observation. And it’s not a self-aggrandizing post but I do need to give some detail on my own life to make the point, so I will.

Recently, I saw Wayne Koons, a former Marine, then NASA Engineer, then pilot/astronaut speak about his education, his life and his faith. Speaking at the same event were one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, a Nicaraguan musician and the head of athletics for University of Kentucky, Mitch Barnhart. Other accomplished people joined them but all of them shared a similar message: Do something. Koons pointed out that the median age of all employees at NASA up into 1969 when Apollo 11 landed on the moon was under 40. And he said it to point out to college students that they can make a difference.

It got me to thinking. I’m a guy who often feels frustrated by lack of success in areas of my life. 23 months unemployed. And I have a hard time getting a job because I’ve done so many things, despite a Masters, and despite the fact my career had been somewhat steady until I was fired by my ex-employer in May 2010.  Resumes don’t explain all the variety in my life. But what does explain it is an inner drive I was raised with to be someone who made an impact on my world and community.

My parents are a doctor and nurse who believed in service. Of my grandparents, one was a farmer, one a teacher, one a housewife and one a utility worker. (The housewife was all about service. She raised six kids and helped manage a farm in addition to serving church and community so don’t write her off as less significant.) My family has a legacy of service to others–careers and jobs which make an impact far beyond the walls of their homes. So naturally, I grew up expecting to do the same.

My earliest dreams fluctuated between being a rock star/composer and an author/writer. I focused on TV and film in college but then wound up leaving my time in Hollywood to travel doing music. Fun as those days were in many ways, I found them unsatisfying. I still wanted to make a difference and entertaining people wasn’t enough. So I went back to school for a Masters while working in sales and other retail jobs to get by, often working 30 hours plus while taking a full time load of classes. It was hard. Grades suffered someone. But I was serving and that made me happy.

After I got my Masters, I founded a nonprofit and travelled for the next decade to Africa, Brazil, Mexico and other places bringing musicians and other qualified arts people to provide specialized training to people who couldn’t afford or get access to it any other way. I raised money,  recruited volunteers, led teams and taught. And to this day, I still hear from students who grew and went on to great success from what Anchored Music has done. We still exist. Life just sideswiped me a bit and have been less active the past two years due to many personal crises in my life. But the point is, we made a difference. I got paid nothing. I took consulting or contract jobs instead of full time to have the freedom to take weeks off and do the mission work. I sacrificed a career path, in other words, but I was doing something and that’s what mattered. No matter what other failures I experience, no one can take that away.

It’s funny when you’re an author. No matter the genre or book itself, people just assume you’re accomplished. Not that I am belittling what it takes to be published. There is hard work and some degree of intelligence generally involved, most of the time, yes. But do all authors deserve to be treated like heroes? Not so sure. I do know when your book teaches something or brings a message of hope and change, it’s much more satisfying than just writing to entertain. Because you’re doing something with your words.

What’s my point? When I was 17, all I wanted to do was be the rock star/composer, find a girl, fall in love, and have a family like the portrait painted by my hero John Denver in his songs. How disappointing it was to find out years later that even John Denver couldn’t live the ideal he sang about. His “perfect” family life was far from it. But I never imagined the roads and paths down which life would take me in my quest to make a difference. Or how much frustration and heartache there could be with employment as a result.

Still, I don’t regret it, because even if I die tomorrow, I have accomplished a lot for a 43 year old man: national radio singles, opening for major acts, name on national TV, TV and radio appearances, songs used in six languages and sung in churches, published books, and most importantly students who took what I taught and went on to make better lives for themselves and their community. That last one is the greatest accomplishment of all. To those people, my life matters. They still tell me that every time they track me down online. I made a difference. I did something and it had significant impact for their lives.

Wayne Koons and Mitch Barnhart never imagined growing up where their paths would take them. Neither did a little African boy who was just feeling lucky to be alive every day in the Sudan. But now they are educated, accomplished men with better lives than any one of them could have ever imagined.

No matter who you are or what your dreams or background, you can do that, too. You can do something and be significant. Your liffe can matter to more than just you. I urge you to consider that. Strive to serve more than just yourself and your own desires. Strive to reach beyond you spouse, kids and immediate community. As Christa McAuliffe said, before dying in NASA’s Challenger accident, “It’s better to shoot for the stars and miss than shoot for nothing  and hit.” So shoot for the stars. You never know, you might just change the destiny of a solar system. Your life can be significant. It can matter. And all you have to do is DO SOMETHING.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. A frequent contributor to Adventures In SF Publishing, Grasping For The Wind and SF Signal, he can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎ Bryan is an affiliate member of the SFWA.

4 5-star & 13 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $4.99 Kindle http://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

VLog: How To Respond To Reviews

Recently my friend reviewed my book at SFSignal. I never expect anything less than an honest review from reviewers, especially friends. Anything is unhelpful because people tend to see through it anyway and because honest evaluation is the only thing a writer can rightfully expect from anyone. You hope they love the book. It’s hard if they don’t. In this case, the reviewer liked it but had some hard criticisms of a few aspects. Nonethless, I went on the site, said I was sorry it didn’t all work for him, linked to the B&N Year’s Best mention of the book, and thanked him for reviewing it. My friend, instead of taking my thanks as appreciation for his work, thought I was upset with him and it made him very uncomfortable. We’ve now sorted that out but it really got me thinking about how we respond to reviewers as writers and here are some thoughts:

Bryan Thomas Schmidt VLog1: Responding To Book Review from Bryan Schmidt on Vimeo.

To read my interview with book blogger/reviewer Sarah Chorn at sffwrtcht, go here.

Why Is Respecting Others So Hard?

I like to post things which are interesting on my Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus, etc. I do it because they made me think and perhaps others will think, too. I hang with a lot of writers and smart people who like to think, so my assumption is, maybe they’ll find this interesting. Just because I post it doesn’t mean I want to get in a long drawn out debate. GooglePlus allows you to disable comments, a feature I really like. Facebook doesn’t. You just have to block people. So I recently posted something and stated: posting this to make you think. I don’t want to debate it. What happens? Someone takes me on immediately.

Now, ironically, this happened on GooglePlus and I hadn’t turned off comments. I figured, why should I have to? People should respect each other. Well, they don’t. And you know, that’s pathetically sad. It indicative of a general cultural problem which has divided our country and our world.

Why do people feel the need to attack everyone they disagree with? I have friends who cross the spectrum of beliefs from gay to straight, religious to Atheist to Agnostic, African to American to Mexican to Brazilian, none of whom are the same and none of whom believes exactly as I do. I don’t go attacking them every time they post something. I respect their right to disagree. If they want to disagree, fine. But personal attacks are so common. Why? I thought we treasured free speech and individualism in this country? Why is everyone so threatened?

I’m not asking why everyone is angry. I’m furious at being constantly disrespected for what I believe. I am furious at being called a bigot and all kinds of things by people who stereotype a group some of my beliefs align me with and generalizing that I must be like the most extreme members of said group. They don’t know but they assume. And it’s infuriating. It’s insulting. I feel bullied. I have always marched to a different drummer. I resent being told I’m just like everyone else because, frankly, I try really hard not to be. I work at it.

So why do we have such a hard time respecting other people today? I don’t have the answer, but I can tell you this much: it often seems like civil conversation is impossible these days and it’s unpleasant to live in a world like that. I think we can do better. I think we should do better. I think it’s worth the effort. And I wish more people agreed and would make the effort. Because the guy who did this to my post tried to force a discussion I said I didn’t want to have. And although I like and respect this person, I feel beaten up and disrespected by his actions. I feel bullied. And that’s not a good feeling.

For what it’s worth…

Life, Death and Other Ruminations (Thoughts On Suicide & Depression)

Okay, it’s Write Tips day, I know. Mondays I always post them. But this week I don’t have one ready, and part of the reason is that I just can’t get suicide off my mind. I got news yesterday that takes me back to a dark time in my own life.

When I was in my teens, I once sat with my dad’s Army reserve pistol in my mouth, aching to pull the trigger. The barrel was cold against my lips, the gun heavy–it shot .22 caliber but weighed like a .55 (he was a military doctor and didn’t need or want real firepower). I’d loaded it, because I had done so many times using it for target practice in the fields on my Grandpa’s old farm. I don’t remember why I didn’t want to live. I just remember wanting the pain to stop–pain of rejection, not fitting in, no one understanding me, feeling so alone. I also remember picturing pieces of my head all over the wall and my mom’s face as she had to kneel down and clean it up. (She probably wouldn’t have had to do it herself but that never occured to me.) I just couldn’t do that to her, so I put the gun away and left their room and went on to live another day.

Since that time I’ve toyed with the idea a couple times when I was depressed or down, but never seriously thought of suicide again. Not to the point of acting on it or even planning it. But a high school classmate’s older brother, who was a family friend, killed himself when we were in high school. He ate a shotgun in a Kansas field, and so I can’t help, as I watch another family go through this nightmare, thinking about that day and wondering what was in my friend, Todd’s, mind all those years ago, which made him pass that point of no return.

Most people have a really hard time understanding suicide. Most people just don’t get why anyone would do it. Oh they joke about people who had nothing to live for or this and that, but when it really comes down to it, they just can’t imagine. But for those of us who have had serious depression, it’s easier to contemplate. Because being in that deep, dark place is a very dangerous place to be and it feeds on itself in its attempts to defeat you. No one’s told me the specific circumstances of my latest friend’s actual death, but he had to have been depressed. Happy people don’t take their lives. Happy people have hope. Deeply depressed people couldn’t find hope if it stared them in the face.

How is this possible?

Depression is such a deep darkness and sadness that literally it’s impossible to believe at the time that you could ever get out. God can’t even reach you there, and, if you believe in a God who’s everywhere, that’s devastating. People may know you’re down and say encouraging things but they just bounce off the surface, never sinking in. Because people always do that for those they care about but you know the truth of your own real patheticness and worthlessness. They’re just being kind but you know they can see. Your life isn’t worth a thing and you’re just a burden one everyone. Eventually you reach a point of such anger at yourself for wasting everyone’s time and emotions and energy on your worthless self that, frankly, relieving them of the burden seems the only kind thing you can do. Enter suicide.

Most people don’t want to be a burden. Especially to those we love. Even if we don’t really believe they can truly love us or understand why. We don’t want that delusion to be a burden so it’s our fault for deceiving them or sucking up all that energy and if we die, they’ll be better off. Oh it may hurt in the short run, but they’ll eventually realize we were holding them down and be so glad we’re gone. So relieved the burden is over.

Sounds nuts? Well, it’s not right thinking. But that is somewhat what it’s like to be depressed and suicidal. It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never lived it. In any case, it’s truly a tragedy when someone goes there and doesn’t find the way out.

The M*A*S*H* theme song went: “Suicide is painless. It brings on many changes. And I can take or leave it if I please.” But the song is, frankly, entirely bullshit. Suicide is not painless and you either take it or you don’t. It’s final. It’s permanent. And the changes mostly come for the pained people you leave behind. Most families live with that pain the rest of their lives. Parents may divorce after the suicide of a child. The burden is just too much to bear and they wind up taking it out on each other. Siblings may follow in the suicidal footsteps, especially if one is close to the dead sibling. Or they may engage in other dangerous behaviors from drinking to promiscuous sex, etc. Whatever the details, suicide absolutely is NOT painless. It’s devastating. It’s not a gift to a family. It’s one of the most selfish, cruel acts known to man. Killing one’s self is never the right thing for anyone but you. And only in your mind is it right for you.

It’s so sad to think about anyone taking their lives, but especially the two young people I have known. The tragedy of a life cut short. A lost hope for victim and all who loved them. A lost future. A waste.

So my thoughts are on suicide and life and death and depression today. Don’t worry. I’m not suicidal. I’m just grieving the broken world in which such destruction of lives happens way too often to way too many good people.

If you have loved ones, give them a hug today. Tell them you love them. Tell them how much you look forward to every day with them and to the future, whatever comes, with them in it. Then think about my friends and their families and say a prayer. Both for comfort for them and for the blessings you have. None of us really deserve them. Whether you believe they’re from God or in God or not. Take the time to do this. Because life is precious and every moment counts.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎

4 5-star & 11 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

 

Hello 2012! Good Riddance 2011! (Predictions & Reflections)

Well, 2011 is gone and I am as glad as anyone it will never return. I thought 2010 was a bad year but 2011 was so much worse. In may 2010, I lost my full time job. By the end of the year, my part time one also went away due to my out of state job search and their wanting continuity. Unemployment problems began. We made it through 2010 without a relapse of Bianca’s health issues, but in February, 2011, they came back with a vengeance, resulting in her spending most of February through May in various hospitals against her will and causing a great deal of financial and emotional stress for me. While I did sign my book contract at the end of 2010 and see my debut novel published to good reviews and even a B&N Book Clubs Honorable Mention on Years Best SF releases, overall, 2011 was pretty unhappy. I did complete a sequel to The Worker Prince and start a new heroic fantasy novel. I outlined some other ideas and I did see stories published. I made my first paid sale to Tales Of The Talisman early on but it won’t appear until Summer 2012. Residential Aliens finally bought my long standing Worker Prince prequel story, “Rivalry On A Sky Course” and published it a few days before the novel’s release. I also sold stories to the anthologies Of Fur and Fire and Wandering Weeds and got the editing assignment and completed Space Battles, which will feature yet another Worker Prince universe story. Both Wandering Weeds and Space Battles should appear in 2012 along with The Returning, book 2 in the Saga Of Davi Rhii and hopefully other things which have yet to materialize.

SFFWRTCHT became a major thing in 2011. I started it in Fall 2010 and it grew into a majorly respected interview series with a column, guest posts and much more. I got bigger name guests and publishers partnered with me to get me arcs of their books. I also started columns on the  blog as well and am looking into a podcast.

My first book tour was a success and a lot of fun in 2011 and I plan another one for mid-2012 to promote both The Returning and Space Battles. I did my first podcast interviews, author interviews and guest posts all as part of this tour. Additionally, I attended my first Cons as a panelist and author guest. And moderated my first panels. I now do them a lot more often and am enjoying the opportunity to share my knowledge, vision and ideas with a larger audience and interact with them. I really feel like I got legitimized as a member of the professional SFF community this year and that’s a really good feeling.  I also got my first reviews. Most were positive, thankfully. And I’ve learned as much as I can, applying it as we edit The Returning for its 2012 release.

As for 2012, after what I’ve been through, I’m hesitant to make too many prediction, and, frankly, not very optimistic. But based on the few positives from 2011, I can make a few guesses. I imagine SFFWRTCHT will continue to grow. If it’s approved, my membership in SFWA will commence as an affiliate member. I will have three more books published, two anthologies and one novel with my material. North Star Serial will finally come to ebook and I’ll be writing more episodes at some point. I also hope to make my first traditional publishing deal and get an agent. I really feel like those are the next steps in my career but we’ll see.

I have quite a few Con appearances and signings scheduled for 2012. My first signing was a success despite low attendance. I didn’t promote it well due to a date change and just not being on the ball. But we sold well above the statistical average number of books for a signing which I consider a huge success. I will be an Author Guest at Convergence and ConQuest. With Convergence having an average attendance of 5k, that’s a big deal and it will coincide with my having Space Battles and The Returning released, giving me five books with my work to sell. I also plan to attend ChiCon WorldCon and several more area cons and will aim for World Fantasy and GenCon as well.

I have to write book 3 in the Saga Of Davi Rhii, finish The Relic Of Aken, my heroic fantasy, and do draft two of Sandman, as well as write those North Star stories.  I have two steampunk novel ideas and an urban fantasy I would like to get to. And I’d like to get back to short stories outside North Star despite my failure this year to do much with them. I really feel I am terrible with that area of craft but since novels are doing so well for me am focusing my attention there for now. The sole exception being North Star because the present run is almost exhausted and the zine wants more episodes to complete the cycle.

In any case,  I also hope 2012 brings financial stability again, either through a book contract or a steady job or both. This living on the edge has been very devastating, causing me to have serious depression for the first time, gain a lot of weight, and have a lot of health issues. And getting back on a even keel would really change how I produce and enjoy life in 2012. With Congress playing games on unemployment extensions, my current account runs out in February and it’s uncertain how I’ll get by. My parents have strained their resources helping me and I don’t know how to burden them any further. Let’s hope 2012 is not my return to flipping burgers. That doesn’t seem like a good use of my Masters.

Anyway, there’s my reflections and predictions. I tried not to be too negative. Most of you have already seen my hard life posts so why rehash it. After all, isn’t the goal to predict a happier future?

In any case, I hope 2012 brings better times for all of us.


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎

4 5-star & 11 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

 

Still Skeptical On GW Theory But That’s Beside The Point

It’s been a while since my last Global Warming post, so I feel like making an update for various reasons. (Mostly because it’s on my mind at the moment.) The more I look into it, the more I remain convinced that the scientific community’s dogmatic attitude is distracting them from far more important matters. There have been plenty of scientists poking holes in the theory, plenty of studies showing significant warming periods throughout the Earth’s history even warmer than this one, that I find it ridiculous how much like attacking pitbulls GW proponents become the moment anyone dares questions GW theory. That just makes me question it more. Why are they so threatened by questions? Isn’t that how science is done, by asking questions? I have been around religious cults. I have people in my family who belong to one. That’s exactly how cultists act. Science is no good when you stop questioning things. It stops being science. And GW proponents have made GW their religion, plain and simple. I have a religion. I don’t need another one.

The purpose of this post though is not to rehash that old argument. Instead, while I don’t think we have it all figured out, I remain convinced, as always, that man has harmed the environment. Anyone who says differently, to me, is just being an idiot. How many oil spills do we need to clean up to realize we’ve harmed the environment? How many missing mandrakes must we uncover? How many cities have to have regular smog warnings and level alerts? Fact: Man has been a bad steward of the Earth. There’s no dispute on that. What is disputable is the degree of Global Warming and what we can and must do to reverse it.

It hardly matters, to my mind, whether you believe in GW theory or not. Man must change how we treat the environment in the face of continued distruction and depletion of resources. Fossil fuels won’t last forever, for example. Future generations will pay a price for our refusal to change our reliance on them. Future generations will also pay for continued deforestation, destruction of animal habits, and so much more that we are aware of and continue to ignore. It’s really shameful that there are so many simple things which every person can do that most people never bother with. Separating recyclables and taking them to recycling centers: I live in a small city of 13k. There is no city wide recycling but we do have centers and I separate everything per the list and it gets dropped off regularly. We are talking over half the garbage I generate that’s being reused here. Why in the world wouldn’t I want to do that? Problems exist with our landfills, people. The amount of land on the Earth is not growing. We are using it up at an incredible rate. Garbage has to go somewhere and no, New Jersey, barges in the ocean is not an attractive option. Everyone should be recycling in the United States and major developed countries. Some poorer nations have more of an excuse but one of the things we should be doing instead of fighting over theory is helping them develop programs.

This is my thing. While we fight over theory and argue over facts, the indisputable facts get ignored as well and nothing gets done. There is plenty of evidence that we harm the environment and plenty we can be doing to do better with it, plain and simple. We need to focus energy on that. So what if some people won’t get with the program? That’s always the case. Those who are aware should do all they can. Yet how many people are not? “It’s too hard.” “It’s too expensive.” “I don’t have time.” BAH HUMBUG. It costs me so little to recycle that I can’t even calculate it. Just a few extra trash cans and seconds of my time. Period. Instead of carrying the recyclables to the trash can, I carry them past to a recycling bin (whichever ever of the 4 bins they belong in). No one can reasonably argue to me that’s too expensive or time consuming or hard. And recycling is just one of the things we can do.

What about driving less or carpooling? People value their freedom more than the environment. That includes most of us. I live alone on the opposite side of town from family, and I’m currently unemployed. But I drive only when I must. I walk around the area of my home a lot. Within a few blocks I can find minimarts and restaurants and various places to keep basics going. And when I have to drive, I wait until I have multiple reasons to do so and go to the many different places on one trip. Just being conscious of this saves me a lot of gas and also tends to save time because coordinating stops at places congregated together makes more sense and takes less time than multiple trips.

That’s two simple things any of us can do.

There are more. I once got involved with Ted Danson’s American Oceans Campaign (now Oceana). As  supporter, they sent me a simple wheel on basic household products which are environmentally destructive and how to make environmentally friendly substitutes out of other common household items. I’ve done this. I’m conscious about littering and how I engage with natural habitats and environments. No more breaking off branches or throwing rocks, etc. I try not to mindlessly disturb the place, instead, enjoying it in all its charms while leaving a minimum record that I was there.

There’s more. Look into it. I don’t have time or energy to lay them all out here. We do have a responsibility to future generations for their planetary home. We have not yet discovered somewhere else in the Universe we can go and live. Recent water planet discovery aside. We don’t have capability of sending colonists into space and since the government just defunded NASA, it’ll be a while. Nope. We’re stuck here, on Earth. This is our home and this is where we’re gonna be for a while to come. So we need to do better. Period.

Sometimes I think people just love to blame others and prefer arguing to real progress. It’s always someone else’s fault or responsibility. Always someone else who must start first, never me. BAH HUMBUG. One only has to look at the current White House, one of the least effective in U.S. history to see how good finger pointing and blame does. One only has to look at the current ineffective Congress to see how good arguing instead of pursuing progress works. It’s time for a change. By all of us. Period. If we don’t have the guts to do it, we share the blame. Period.

Well, there you have it. My GW update. At least as far as my opinion goes. I’m sure it will continue to piss off bought and sold pro-GW friends. But they, like everyone else, often continue to miss the point, and so be it. I’m entitled to an opinion. For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎

4 5-star & 11 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.


What I Want For Christmas: True Tolerance From Tolerance Demanders

What do I want for Christmas? Well it’s the same thing as last year really. And ironically something everyone could give but most won’t. What is it? I want people to think about what they say and how they say it. I find myself subjected to hurtful hate against Christians and others daily on Facebook and Twitter. It really gets me down. Maybe that’s my depression. But what’s worst is so much of this hate comes in the name of anti-hate. If you say it, think about how you’d feel receiving it. And always assume you can’t read a person’s heart.

That this comes from people I admire, respect and think of as friends is really disturbing. Many are smart, well educated, well meaning people. Do they know how much they’re hurting others with their careless remarks?

One of the most offensive changes in our cultural climate the past few years to me has been the change in the way people ideologically bully others. The chief tool of this seems to have become throwing around words like “bigotry.” Calling someone a bigot used to be a major accusation not given lightly. Now it’s thrown around without major thought. And that’s a very destructive thing. In my experience, this change has come about because people have forgotten the distinction between bigotry and racism and have redefined the word. Ironically, in the process, by calling people “bigot,” they themselves have begun acting as bigots.

Dictionary.com defines bigotry as follows:

big·ot·ry

 [big-uh-tree]

noun, plural -ries.

1.

stubborn and complete intolerance of any creed, belief, or opinion that differs from one’s own.

2.

the actions, beliefs, prejudices, etc., of a bigot.
On the other hand, racism is defined as follows:

rac·ism

 [rey-siz-uhm]

noun

1.

a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among thevarious human races  determine cultural or individualachievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

2.

a policy, system of government, etc., based upon orfostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

3.

hatred or intolerance of another race  or other races.

As you can see, strictly speaking, bigotry is an intolerance of different opinions, creeds and beliefs and acting to persecute anyone who holds such ideologies.  It is not accusing people of being inequal for various differences. That’s racism, and it’s an important distinction. Let’s look at some examples.

I often hear Christians labelled as bigots when they take a stand that marriage is sacred and should be restricted to one man and one woman and not redefined to include same sex couples. Many of these same Christians would have no issue if the government created civil unions or some other form of marriage-like bond for same sex couples but they want to maintain the biblical definition of marriage. How is this bigotry? It’s not according to this definition. They are not saying same sex couples cannot have similar rights. They just don’t want to redefine a religious rite to mean something different than it’s biblically defined. The other difficulty is that many Christians believe for true forgiveness to occur, one must be repentant of the sin. And one must make an effort to leave behind the sinful behavior. In other words, one must attempt to and desire to change. For people who believe homosexuality is a choice, which is also completely unbiblical, this poses a problem as well because if you are born something, how can you be asked to change? They believe the Bible clearly states that all men and women are tempted with sin but we also all have the power to resist and not act on those impulses. Yet, here we are, all of us sinners, which means, we all fail to resist some temptations which we encounter. Equally.

While there are stricter, more conservative sects of Christians who consider homosexuality an abomination worse than other forms of sin and some who even go so far as to condemn gays as an abomination, this is not biblically correct. The bible does not rank levels of sin. The one sin singled out as worse than others is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. That’s the only one. Instead, the bible states many times that all sin is an equal abomination before God and that all men and women are equally sinners. Being a loving God, with faith in Christ, we are offered forgiveness and a second chance. That offer is extended to all sinners, not just straight ones. But because such diversity of beliefs exist, all Christians get painted with the same paintbrush. There are a number of other sects with varied beliefs, some far more liberal than this. Yet all get lumped together when Christians are called bigots, etc. by people who have no idea what those they are accusing really believe.

I believe the reason that people often call Christians bigots is because they don’t share these biblical beliefs. But the fact that they are in ideological disagreement does not make the other side “bigots” by the definition we see above. It just makes them in disagreement. In a country founded for religious freedom, this is an important distinction. Throwing around that term is incredibly wrong. It’s also incredibly hurtful. Even if you disagree with the biblical claims I state above,  that does not make someone who believes those things a bigot. It makes them people who disagree with you. And the holding of a difference in belief itself is not bigotry. It is only when you are intolerant that it becomes bigotry. And as per the definition, that means being intolerant of the belief itself existing.

So persecuting Christians for that belief and labeling them incorrectly as bigoted becomes an act of bigotry itself. Those who take this view argue that the beliefs are discriminatory. But is that really the case? It’s more of a disagreement of definitions and the majority of belief holders are not going out to try and attack or otherwise harm or label or abuse same sex couples. Most would live in peace with them and let each have his or her own, so to speak, but they remain convinced the Bible is true and that its definition of marriage as God’s sacred union of one man and one woman is something that must not be violated. Those on the other side call this discrimination but if same sex couples can have the same rights through civil unions or something how is it really hurting or discriminating against them? It’s not actually. This is a matter of terms really. I have not been alone in suggesting that marriage be left to churches and all couples be offered civil unions by the government. In fact, some countries require this. In Brazil, you can marry in the church, but it’s not legal for the government until you have the civil government ceremony and filing. If these Christians can be accused of something, it may be lack of compassion for others is appropriate, certainly at times. But actual bigotry? In individual cases, yes, but overall? Hardly.

Another example. Recently Lowes pulled ads from a Michigan local TV show about ordinary American Muslims. Lowes was immediately labelled bigoted. But the CEO of Lowes received thousands of letters from potential customers around the country decrying sponsorship of the show, so he made a business decision that it was a headache he didn’t need. Courageous? Maybe not. Bigotry? Hardly. There’s no value judgement being made here about religion. It’s about where advertising dollars can be most effective in promoting the business. Period. Yet they are labelled bigots. Incorrect.

Yet another example. Actress Angie Harmon recently spoke about how she was treated in Hollywood when she answered a question about her politics, revealing herself as Republican: “When I quote, unquote came out I had no idea I was doing something that was detrimental to my career. It never occurred to me. I’m an American. I’m going to have an opinion as everybody else does and I was asked a question. The fact that it was turned into that I was a gay hating racist was just heartbreaking. It was really horrible. The fact that most of my close friends are gay. After I quote unquote came out as a Republican, one of my dearest gay friends said to me, ‘You’ve got to go on a T.V. show and tell everyone you like gay people.’ I was like, ‘Why?’ He was like, ‘Because you’re a Republican.’ I was like, ‘I’m sorry who’s stereotyping who?”

Yes, that’s right, automatic labeling and assumptions based on beliefs. Am I the only one who sees how wrong this is? How ignorant and hateful it is?

To me, this opposition is more a stubborn refusal based on a desire to  “win” an ideological battle (itself a bigotry against anyone who disagrees) than it is about legitimate discrimination. So the accusers in labeling others bigots, themselves become bigots. Ironic, isn’t it? Most of the vitriol and rhetoric these days has one aim: to totally discredit anyone with opposite beliefs. It’s not really about the truth nor is about the mutual respect and harmony they claim to demand. They want to win. And in a country founded on respect for different beliefs and ideas, that’s a crime. The worst perpetrators are people who are educated and smart and should know better. In fact, they often do. That lack of character is the real danger to America, not opposing beliefs.

In fact, these are the same people who preach “tolerance” while being intolerant. There is a difference. Let’s look quickly at these definitions.

tol·er·ance

 [tol-er-uhns]

noun

1.

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward thosewhose opinions, practices, racereligion, nationality, etc.,differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

2.

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions andpractices that differ from one’s own.

ac·cept·ance

 [ak-sep-tuhns]

noun

1.

the act of taking or receiving something offered.

2.

favorable reception; approval; favor.

3.

the act of assenting or believing: acceptance of a theory.

4.

the fact or state of being accepted or acceptable.

To disagree with someone’s choices or views is not the same as being intolerant.  It is not acceptance, of course. But intolerance? Hardly. Yet another misused term that’s being improperly employed here.  To not allow others to think freely even when they disagree with you is to be intolerant. It’s also to be bigoted. Who are the real bigots and intolerant ones in these situations?

I once was a camp counselor. We had kids of all backgrounds, beliefs, etc. One day someone heard a rumor that I was Christian and asked me about it. I said, yes, I am. They asked my belief about what the bible says about homosexuality. I said “I believe the bible says it is sin.” That’s it. Period. They said thanks for being honest, walked away and told everyone I was a bigot. I was persecuted as a gay basher and gay hater. Forget the fact that one of the kids I was closest too that year was gay. I never treated him or any of the other students any differently. I never even broached the subject of their sexuality with them. I never talked about my faith. The mere fact that my opinion existed made me a hater. But who was the one being hated? Who was the one not being tolerated? Who was not being accepted?

I’ve gone out of my way on #sffwrtcht, the Twitter chat I host, to allow discussion of a wide variety of topics. Both homosexual fiction and Christian have been discussed. I’ve promoted books with gay characters and books with Christians characters. My own preferences don’t enter into it. All I ask is that we keep our discussions and web content family friendly. Am I really the intolerant one?

Let me close with another Angie Harmon quote from the same article: “Look our forefathers moved here for freedom of speech and wanting to be able to have their own opinion. I don’t care if you’re Republican or a Democrat or a Liberal, getting crucified for the way you think or believe, obviously if it’s not hurting anyone, it’s just Un-American.We’ve become so intolerant of each other that it’s just sickening. It’s just heartbreaking. United we stand, divided we fall. We have got to learn to be tolerant of each other. It’s pretty obvious we’re not going to al think the same way but we’ve got to learn to appreciate every American for the fact that they have the right to think the way they do.The Democrats have the right to think the way they think, the Republicans have the right to think the way they think. I might not understand everything a Democrat or liberal thinks but hey let’s be honest, I don’t understand some of the things the Republicans think, but that doesn’t make me some dumb hick that doesn’t have the right to live here.”

I know exactly how she feels.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, a Barnes & Noble Best SF Releases of 2011 Honorable Mention, the collection The North Star Serial, Part 1, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.‎

4 5-star & 9 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Reality Check: Thoughts On American Education

True story. In college, I said “I’m never going to use Algebra and Calculus and you all know it. Give me a math class I can use.” They shook their heads, smiled at me like I was daft, and put me in basic math. We learned how to balance checkbooks, calculate interest, budget, etc. Best math class I ever took and I was the one laughing in the end.

What does this have to do with anything? Well, today’s post is me wondering why a country which was once, deservedly perhaps, known as the greatest country in the world, and which still clings to its sole superpower status, is so behind in adapting certain realities. For example, the whole world uses the metric system. It’s easier than our system, for one, and it’s not based on associations with body parts and such, like feet, etc., which can vary from person to person. (Ever try and measure feet with 13.5 inch shoes like me and compare to someone with 7 inch shoes? Ridiculous.)  We insist kids learn Algebra and Calculus and Geometry, when, in truth, while some basics of reasoning which come from those are essential to life, they could be taught in other ways and the subject matter made more relevant to the realities kids and adults actually face in the real world (like my example above). Why aren’t we teaching kids things that matter? Calculating the distance between two trains running on the same tracks at different speeds and when they will collide is not vital. If some idiot allows two trains going opposite directions on the same track with no plan to get them off, it’s probably because of his bad education and not being taught the things he or she really needed to know, isn’t it?

How much help would it be to teach our kids how to evaluate themselves by various factors rather than still over emphasizing sports as coolness? Later in life, how many people can rely on sports abilities for their friendships and popularity? Just as my uncle, Dave Hale, who once played for the Chicago Bears and had to retire with a knee injury. He’ll tell you how long that all lasts.

How about teaching our kids how to load dishwashers? Sew buttons? Mend clothes? Wash clothes? Basic maintenance and home repair? Oh wait, sorry, those are the parents’ responsibility, right? The same parents whom statistics show annually spend less and less time with their kids as a family because of dual jobs, divorce, and other realities of multitasking modern life.

Why do we insist on forcing kids to read the same classic books their grandparents read in school over and over despite the fact that some, while well written, are so dated and out of touch with contemporary kids that they find them boring and totally unrelatable? Is it any wonder reading has faded in popularity? What if we actually encouraged them to read for fun just to get them reading? Do we really believe they wouldn’t learn anything? Do we really believe they might not actually one day read classics on their own because they want to? Would that be such a bad thing?

And what about teaching people practical science too? I made it through life without ever taking a single class in chemistry. The -ologies I have used the most are Psychology, Astronomy and Sociology. I think basic science is important. But sometimes I wonder if we’re teaching the right subjects. It depends a child’s goals, of course. And exposure to a variety of things is important. I am all for encouraging the sense of wonder which leads to scientific exploration but I do sometimes wonder if we choose subjects because they’re relevant or just because they’re tradition.

Oh science is important, don’t get me wrong. So are culture and socioeconomics. In our diverse world, if we don’t teach this things, we are just leading to the destruction of our unity which is already occurring. People should learn respect for each other and gain some understanding of socioeconomic realities and the differences which result as well as the cultural differences which separate us and how to respect and overcome them. Those are real, needed skills. Why not teach those?

I recently encountered a man in his 30s with terrible spelling who told me his school didn’t teach spelling and grammar. They were deemed less important than other subjects. WHAT?! How in the world could anyone determine that? I hear from teachers all the time about how much of a problem online speak has become in classrooms. Students employ it in situations totally inappropriately and it has really caused issues with spelling and grammar practices. Have we given up then and stopped teaching it all together? Yes, let’s be the greatest illiterate national on Earth, shall we? That’s a way to maintain our status for sure.

Another issue is the bias in classrooms. The fact that the educational establishment tends toward one side of the political spectrum over the other and teaches accordingly is a real problem. How can students learn to think through issues fairly and form their own opinions if they’re taught biased perspectives and never given a fair chance to hear both sides? How can the generations which are our future be counted on for new and innovative ideas to change our world for the better if they can’t think for themselves? It’s indicated in the ideological warfare tearing our country apart at present. With each side declaring the other stupid and itself superior, no wonder we have a country so divided. Teaching children one side over another is just adding to this problem. And private schools with the opposite political bent are just as much of a problem. Like it or not, your children will have to learn to think for themselves to succeed in life and have great futures. The skills needed to do so must be taught in a classroom. Biased teaching cannot provide them with the needed skills training.

Last but not least, we undervalue education. Is it any wonder the development of new methodologies and materials moves often at turtle crawl when we are so quick to cut education budgets in favor of other things? I can’t think of anything more important in life than solid education. Yet our country continues to pay teachers low wages, slash school budgets, and act as if education is a minor concern. All of the issues I posit above are unlikely to be addressed as long as education is a low priority for spending.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my country, despite my disgust with a lot of the problems mentioned. I respect education. I respect teachers. And I am not really suggesting we just dump all the subjects I use as examples. But as I look back on my life and how much my educational background has mattered to me, and as I reflect on the situations encountered in travelling to multiple countries and continents over the past twenty years, I definitely think we need to reexamine our priorities. We need to consider new ideas and be willing to admit we don’t always get it right. How can we make the subjects we teach and the way we teach them relevant to students and their lives? Times change and we must change with them. If we don’t, we are in denial of reality. And living in denial is no way to run a country successfully. The present actions of government ought to be testimony enough of that.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. His second novel, The Returning, sequel to The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in Summer 2012.

3 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh$14.99 tpbhttp://bit.ly/qIJCkS

Losing Our Sense of Common Humanity: The Difference Between Acceptance & Agreement

I continue to be amazed these days by the inability of people to separate acceptance from agreement.

 

ac·cept·ance

 [ak-sep-tuhns]  Show IPA

noun

1.

the act of taking or receiving something offered.

2.

favorable reception;

a·gree·ment

 [uh-gree-muhnt]  Show IPA

noun

1.

the act of agreeing or of coming to a mutual arrangement.

2.

the state of being in accord.

 

While acceptance is sometimes equated with agreement, such is not implicit in it. And in a world of diverging cultures and opinions, it’s no wonder people are so up in arms when so few seem capable of accepting the reality that not everyone is alike. For example, you can believe homosexuality is a sin and a choice and still accept that people choose that for themselves. It’s not a threat to you and your existence. So you can simply coexist knowing you don’t agree. You don’t have to mean harm to anyone because you don’t agree. That’s not implicit nor is it necessary. It’s possible to know someone does not share your religious faith and still not agree with them but accept them as a valid human being. Why are people so bad at this these days?

The list of so-called friends who have abandoned me because we don’t see eye to eye on politics or religion is growing. This despite the fact that I’ve made a concerted effort to be less vocal about both subjects. And it sickens me. I have never rejected these people for their different values. Why must they refuse to accept me for mine? Do they actually believe I would mistake acceptance for agreement? I wouldn’t. I know them. I know where they stand. But apparently they are incapable of living in peace with that and I think it’ s sad. The world is a much better place because of its diversity. I wish more people understood that and were at peace with it.

It’s the very diversity of ideas and concepts we have against which to compare our own which gives us depth of insight and allows us confidence in what we believe. To defriend, disown, or ignore someone with whom you once had cordial friendship just because you don’t see eye to eye is small minded and petty and, more importantly, cutting yourself off from a rich opportunity to see the world through different eyes.  By seeing the world through that alternate lens, you can be a better person, even if you disagree. Because you’ll have empathy and understanding that despite your differences, you share a common humanity.

To me, this is what’s being lost, a sense of common humanity. And we’re paying a big price for it in Western culture. We’re losing community and the sense of unity which drove us despite differences to proudly hail our fellow citizens as one with us. Is that really something we want to lose?

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. His second novel, The Returning, sequel to The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in Summer 2012.

3 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh$14.99 tpbhttp://bit.ly/qIJCkS

The Hazards Of Online-Speak & The Loss Of Grammar

I didn’t even realize this problem existed until recently. At the airport in Atlanta, I spoke with a college instructor who’s taught for forty years, and then I heard about it again at interviews for a job at a local university. Spelling and grammar are in serious danger. Ok, yes, this example is silly and funny and from 3rd grade, but I remember learning grammar and spelling in 1st grade. And something like carrots or horses, I probably knew by 3rd grade. Okay, perhaps it gave you a good laugh. I’m glad, but this post is serious. Unlike my norm, this post has nothing to do with science fiction. This is all fact. Are some kids spelling challenged more than others? Well, sure, okay, I can accept that, but these days there’s a far bigger culprit for spelling and grammar ills: ONLINE SPEAK.

Hw r u?

F & u?

Doing gr8. thx 4 asking

Look familiar?

Would you believe that kind of spelling shows up in college essays, on college exams and, even worse, in business applications and letters from college grads? Would you believe this trend has been happening for several years?

Having never received one of those missives, I had no idea. But I am told this is a HUGE problem these days. I guess I’m ignorant. I assumed people knew that such online shortcuts are acceptable in context of online features such as Twitter or even cell phone texting, but I also assumed they knew they had no place in serious correspondence. Apparently, I was wrong. And this is a real problem.

Imagine a society where people stop using grammar and spelling? What place is there for people who do? Will all the books currently in existence go out of print? Will people laugh at people who actually make an effort to communicate correctly? And what about translations? You can’t translate those shortcuts into foreign language easily.

The same conversation in Portuguese would have to look something like this:

Cmo ta?

Td bm. E vc?

Td bm tmbm. brgd

Translation is hard, trust me. And it’s hard already when proper grammar is involved. Dealing with that crap is extremely challenging. If I didn’t know what such short cuts looks like from having seen them, I probably couldn’t have done that.

I met a guy recently who told me he actually never studied much grammar and spelling in school. It was deemed less important than other things.

WHAT?!!!!!

Communication is not important? That’s woefully frightening. It could lead to the downfall of our civilization. No, I’m not being overly dramatic. What would happen if we can’t understand each other? More wars? Maybe. Lots of problems and frustration. It absolutely blows my mind that any school would consider grammar and spelling unimportant. They are so fundamental to every other subject.

It’s a scary thought, if you ask me. It’s something everyone should sit back, take a deep breath, and pray to whatever higher force you believe in that it won’t happen.; Because it’s absolutely going to devastate our competitive edge with the rest of the world and our ability to live in peace with ourselves, let alone anyone else. It’s absolutely one of the worst things we could have happen in our society–to lose communication skills. And if it’s progressed this far already, I can’t imagine where that will lead.

There are hazards to online and digital communication mediums I’d never imagined; pitfalls which never occurred to me. I sincerely hope we can find a way to reverse this one before it’s too late. Don’t you?

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog. His second novel, The Returning, sequel to The Worker Prince, is forthcoming in Summer 2012.

3 5-star & 6 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh$14.99 tpbhttp://bit.ly/qIJCkS

Self-Publishing v. Traditional Publishing: Why Quality Still Matters

On my Facebook page, the other day, I lamented the fact that lost in the present debate over PC terminology surrounding the Self-Publishing v. Traditional Publishing debate are some good points about contracts, quality and other concerns. This led to a discussion between fellow author David Boop and I about what distinguishes good from bad and the key element mentioned was editing. Self-Publishing authors, even Print On Demand presses, who do not approach publishing with the same professionalism as traditionally published pros in regards to edited, polished presentation of their work are the ones who tend to cause both readers and fellow authors a lot of frustration and concern. Of course, editing standards and taste do vary, so people might still find nitpicky complaints, but at least the polish and shine would be evident and the resulting works would meet a higher standard more comparable with other items you see coming out of more traditional presses.

But then someone jumped in with this comment, which really concerns me:

Regarding SP crap and typos, maybe there is a new day coming. Imagine, as John Lennon said, a world in which new authors are routinely forgiven, not condemned for typos and a few lapses in story development. Instead, readers seek out and find authors who have something new or entertaining to say, not giving a thought to the odd error here or there, because readers understand newcomers have little help, just their native storytelling ability. Don’t forget, it’s really all about readers and what they think these days, not publishers.

The commenter here is a writer and scientist. Although I have not read his work in either area so can’t verify credentials, let’s just take him at his word and instead address what concerns me about the comment. (To be fair, he now says he agrees with me on quality that he did not mean to imply that at all but I am still discussing this because the notion of authors being forgiven for lowered standards still disturbs me. And this quote is verbatim though I shall not name him.)

I hope that era never comes. Quality matters. Professionalism matters. Presentation matters. Grammar matters. Clear communication matters. It’s not just about ideas. It’s about craft. It’s an art. And I don’t believe it will ever cease to be an art nor should it. There will always be discerning readers and undiscerning readers. But any writer who is not concerned with growing and constantly striving to do better is short changing themselves and their readers both. There will also always be people who don’t care about such things but I hope they remain the minority because the lowest common denominator is no standard I want to work by. Do readers matter? Of course they do. The consumer always matters in a business. But taste is very subjective. And what helps you appeal to the broadest base of consumer has always been putting out consistently quality merchandise onto the market. The day quality stops being a concern because “people don’t care” would be a sad day for the literary arts and would ultimately lead to its destruction. Because the day people stop caring about making quality work is the day we begin to not care how our work engages, challenges, teaches, touches, and interacts with our audience. And the minute you start down that path you aim yourself at a standard which eventually means nothing you produce will be worth consuming.

The commenter’s point was he got ignored by traditional presses, self-published, got Hollywood interest and success so who needs them. My point back was that he’s an exception not a rule and one case does not a pattern make. In other words, he got lucky. It doesn’t negate concerns of quality nor the validity of traditional publishing as a route to success. I personally think any author who fails to educate him or herself about the business and every possible option to sell his/her work as well as how to achieve professionalism is playing the fool. If you don’t care enough to make your work the best it can be and to utilize all options to make it available, why should someone else care to go out and find it and spend money on it?

Books have gotten expensive. So have movies. I care very much about where my limited money goes in regards to such entertainment and I think I’m in the majority not the minority on that. If I pay $10 or more to see a movie and it sucks, I get pissed, which is why I don’t go to movie theaters as much any more and when I do go, it’s to matinees because they are cheaper. It’s why I don’t buy unknown hardbacks but instead buy paperbacks because until I know a book is worth adding to a permanent library with investment in a hardback, I am not risking my hard earned money on one. There are authors whose quality I consistently trust. I’ll go straight to hardback with them every time. I have rarely been disappointed. And that just brings me back to quality again. The only reason I know those authors’ work will be quality I can trust in is because they care about professionalism in how they prepare and present their work. I would buy work by any of these authors regardless of the publishing medium–traditional, self-published or POD–because I know their standards for themselves and their work and know that I will be getting a quality product in any of those cases if their name is attached. I won’t have to forgive lots off typos or gaps in story development. Those things won’t exist to distract me from the work itself. (Put aside for a moment the fact that I have yet to buy a single book where I can’t find at least two typos–that’s a lapse in copyediting practices and the nature of the beast rather than a failure to seek quality. And editing is far more than just grammar and typos–eliminating cliches, knowing tropes, positioning a book within the genre or market–there are so many factors an editor can bring to awareness and help polish).

I don’t buy the argument that newcomers have little help and that’s an excuse to put out work that doesn’t meet professional standards. There are editors and others who are available to work with anyone who is willing to invest the time and money to get it right. No one can really say those things are not available to them. They may be too lazy to look for them. They may not care (for more often the case, I fear). But they could achieve professionalism if they really cared about it and wouldn’t necessarily cost them an arm and a leg.

If the day comes when we don’t care about such things, it will be a great loss for all of us and for our society. We will have lost not only an opportunity to achieve greatness in literature (or at least try) but an ability to communicate well. And any society without good communication is doomed to ridicule from other societies which hold higher standards (they will always exist) and from future generations who recognize the failure, the trap it leads to, and how destructive it was. It’s a denigration of our legacy, in a sense. And that’s something I care not to be a part of. So, my commenting friend, I do hope you’re very wrong indeed.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming in Summer 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

‎3 5-star & 8 4-star reviews THE WORKER PRINCE $3.99 Kindlehttp://amzn.to/pnxaNm or Nook http://bit.ly/ni9OFh $14.99 tpb http://bit.ly/qIJCkS.

Why I Used A Real Religion In The Worker Prince & Why You’ll Enjoy It Anyway

Boy, we live in strange times. That’s never been more clear to me than by watching the way some people blanch at the audacity I must have to put a real religion in my novel. The Worker Prince is the story of Moses retold as space opera. The story of Moses is a story of ideological and racial bigotry. How do you tell that without ideology? I think the real objection is that I chose Christianity. I chose Christianity for two reasons: one, I grew up in it so I know it very well. Two, ideological bigotry against Christians is growing in the world today. And thus, it gives my story a relatable culture for readers. Yep. I am not going to assume that those taking issue are all ideological bigots nor that they all are the very ones who are discriminating against Christians today. Why? Because most of that bigotry is done by well meaning people who have bought political pundits’ hyperbole and failed to look into the facts. But at the same time, it saddens me a little to see people write the book off because of it as some seem to be doing.

I spent a lot of time thinking through this novel before I ever tried to write it. 25 years, in fact. And the time spent writing and revising, this was one of the issues foremost on my mind. I grew up in a culture where ideological and other differences used to be respected. The country was founded on freedom, after all. I’m not writing about Klu Klux Klan or other hate groups here. I am writing about a large group of believers who make up one of the largest faith groups in the Western world. I also spent time vetting the story with non-Christian readers. The majority of people who blurbed my book and beta read it were people who do not share my faith. Why? Because, honestly, I am not writing an evangelistic book. I am writing entertainment. I have no desire whatsoever to use The Worker Prince to change your mind about anything except perhaps the fact that ideological bigotry is just as evil as racial bigotry and other forms. That’s the sole agenda.

Take a look at the reviews (you can find links at the bottom of this page as well as blurbs). Not one accuses me of being preachy. Even the one who didn’t finish it because she doesn’t care for books with religious themes (that’s her reason–she raves about the book in other aspects) specifically said it’s not preachy. I worked hard on this aspect because I respect readers. I hate being preached at. The last thing I want to do is do it to you. So I was very careful what and how I present any religious content. In fact, the Christian Bookseller’s Association members who publish speculative fiction wouldn’t touch it. That’s right. This book isn’t Christian enough for them.

It’s odd to me that people have such an issue these days with reading books they know will be outside their worldview. I do it almost every time I open a book. The majority are not written by Christian writers, and, even when they are, no two people share the exact worldview so there are always differences. And in science fiction and fantasy, you especially find few religious writers. Should I just not read it then because I don’t share their views? It particularly bothers me when writers show this bias, because as writers, we cannot hope to understand our world and write about it if we don’t examine it well. And even more so, if we stay inside our box, how can we write characters different from us in a way that readers will believe it? How can we address the topics we want to address believably if we don’t examine them from many sides? I honestly don’t know a way. People of faith live all around us. Don’t you think getting a long with people is easier when you can respect their beliefs? And how can you respect them, despite disagreeing, if you don’t take the time to learn about them? The same applies to them respecting you.

It’s hard to write about a religion of any sort and not be preachy. It’s hard with strong world views, in fact. Try it. You’ll see. I put a lot of work into this. It was not easy. So it’s actually a matter of pride I take in my craft that I accomplished that. And I think anyone could read it, regardless of their beliefs, and get enjoyment. It’s a fun story. Again, check the reviews on this  page, if you don’t believe me. I am getting mostly 4-star or higher reviews. Most from non-believers. That should tell you something about the book.

Do you like action? Humor? Larger-than-life characters? Fast paced plotting? Space ships and laser guns? What about family politics? What about societal political manuevering? What about romance? Friendship? They’re all in The Worker Prince and more.

So, if you like Golden Age stories and old fashioned heroes (plus modern heroines–none of those weak damsels in distress for me, no), I encourage you to give The Worker Prince a shot. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Okay, it’s a first novel, it’s not perfect. I’m still learning my craft. Doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it. In fact, my beta readers all are raving about book 2. The Returning will be out next Spring or Summer. Maybe you can learn from watching my craft evolve. They say it’s way better. (It’s harder for me to see from the inside, of course, but some aspects were a lot easier to write this time around). I even toned down the religious stuff because a) I’d already established that in book 1 and b) I am sensitive to reader’s feelings. It’s the only real barrier people seem to have: the inclusion of a real religion. Otherwise, the story entertains, engages, carries them away. Isn’t that what good stories are meant to do? I’d sure like to read more of them.

If you agree, check out my book. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

326 pp · ISBN 978‐0‐9840209‐0‐4 ·Trade Paperback/Epub/Mobi · $14.95 tpb $3.99 Ebook  · Publication: October 4, 2011

Trade paperback only

 EPUB or MOBI — please specify in notes on order


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Community: An African Perspective

The United States was founded on common principles: above all, was a respect for freedom of ideas and ideologies, the desire for a place where people could be who they are, practice what they believe and live in peace with others who didn’t always share those views. 10 years after a day which shook our ideologies and changed our nation’s future forever, when I look around me at our country, I see a place which all too often fails to resemble that ideal, and I find myself wondering where we went wrong. In a society torn apart by ideological warfare, where political parties demand tolerance while being intolerant of anyone who disagrees with them, I often find my mind drifting back to the time I spent in West Africa. My four trips to Ghana from Summer 2000 through January 2004 had a profound impact on me. And above all else, what sticks in my mind is the amazing sense of community I witnessed there.

Although the continent of Africa is home to more cultures and diverse tribes of peoples than any other place on Earth, in studying those traditions, a few common themes come out, and one of them centers around a traditional concept of community. Many African tribes share a concept of community in which all community members are one–living, yet to be born and dead (aka the ancestors). Each of the three is a valuable member of the community and must be taken into consideration in regard to daily life and activities. Libations are often made to the ancestors during difficult times to ask for their favor or appease their disappointment. When someone commits adultery with another person’s spouse, the offense is not just against the spurned spouse but against the entire community, and amends must be made to the whole community, not just the spurned mate. By committing a crime or sin (call it what you will), the offender has broken the unity of the community and peace and oneness must be restored.

Consideration is also given to the unborn in making decisions. After all, they are future members of the community and decisions made now will affect them. Mistakes made by the elders today could become the responsibility of unborn community members of the future. How often do we hear environmentalists argue that bad stewardship of our environment is a crime against our children and their children? How often do we take it seriously and listen? For Africans with this sense of community, it is very serious indeed. And what would such an idea do to the concept of abortion as choice?

In looking at our own divisive society, I wonder how much better off we’d be if we shared these Africans’ sense of connectedness. How much better off would we be if we considered how the poor spending habits of our governments will affect future generations? How poor environmental policies will destroy nature they might have enjoyed and perhaps even lower their quality of life? How much better off would we be if we seriously considered how our actions might shame our forefathers and the yet to be born and acted accordingly in decision making? I don’t know about you, but I suspect we’d be doing a lot of things differently.

Wherever there are human beings, disagreement will result. There are always those who take different views of morality, religion, economics, etc. For many societies, the solution was monarchy or even dictatorship. Centralized control in many forms left no need for time wasted debating or considering the diverse opinions and/or feelings of the masses. But the United States was founded by people who found such practices abhorrent. After all, human beings are intelligent (well, most of us) and capable of rationalization and careful consideration. They are capable of dialogue, study, learning from mistakes, and most of all, compromise. Watching Washington, D.C. these days, however, it seems like the humans running our asylum are incapable of any of these things. Compromise least of all. It’s all about one ideology winning over the other–one group being a winner of the minds and hearts of everyone else. Is that even realistic? Think about it. How often have you been with a group of people where everyone was in total agreement about everything?

It’s been a while since I’ve had the chance to visit my friends in Africa, but I often wonder what they’d think of our current situation. For the younger African generations, heavily influenced by Western culture as they are, it would be just as abhorrent as for the older traditional Africans. After all, both groups aspire to ideals: both, to the ideal of free society with diverse people living in harmony; and the former, especially, to a society wherein respect for each other is a driving force in everything. It’s not that African communities don’t have arguments and disagreements. Those are unavoidable amongst humans. But the way decisions are handled and the regard in which the community is held, influence greatly the way people respond during such conflicts–the actions they take, the things they say, etc. And the mitigating attitude drives them toward one another rather than away from one other, unlike our modern society.

If you ask me, we could use a little unity in American society today. We could use a little harmony. We could use some compromise. We could use a sense of legacy and respect for our elders and the yet to be born. For me, what’s missing is the sense of community these Africans knows so well and the ensuing sense of responsibility to the whole community. Do we really care what consequences our actions bring to anyone around us? Do we really seriously consider that? If you’re happily married or a parent, you probably do, at least sometimes. But given present divorce rates, that’s still a smaller percentage of the population than we need it to be if we hope to live in the harmony and respect our nation’s Founders envisioned.

People whose only glimpses of Africa come from images in National Geographic or tv news programs tend to regard Africans as primitive peoples who live in mud huts, run around half naked and have little or no education, not to mention little or no food. But those of us who’ve spent time there have seen them as far more. In traditional African societies, the people take care of each other. When one family is starving, the community comes together to make sure they’re fed. If one person has extra, he shares with the community so that all may benefit. It actually resembles the descriptions in The Bible from Acts 2 of the early Christian church. When disputes arrive, they resolve them by sitting down together and talking. They seek compromise where it’s possible. They seek restitution where it’s necessary. And in every case, they restore unity and community above all. Those who refuse to accept that must leave the community.

I wonder if our leaders in Washington ever really think about the “for the people” they are supposed to be governing for. Can a body of people who make their own salaries and determine their own raises, who live prestigious lives of privilege really consider life for a person on unemployment or a homeless child on the street? Do they really consider how the decisions they’re making affect those people’s lives at their very core? Do they even care? It’s obvious that lately the idea of Washington folks sitting down and working out their issues is practically a fairy tale. How much better would our country and world be if they could just manage that? How much better would it be if they went a step beyond and actually considered the entire community? Instead the leaders of Right and Left spend time keeping us so focused on our differences that we fail to remember we have more in common than we do different. And it tears us apart.

The Africans’ ideas of community seem less primitive to me, in many cases, than our own, at least in this regard. I think we could benefit a lot by modeling our community after them. After all, restoring a sense of togetherness and unity would go a long way to reunite a country being torn apart at the seems by competing ideologies unwilling to compromise. And how can we hope to stay one nation if we can’t find ways to live in harmony despite our differences? It seems to me the consideration of others we’ve lost is a major factor in our present difficulties. Perhaps a little “African community” would go along way toward restore the core values of our country and our sense of its greatness again.

Reflecting back on the terrible events of a decade ago on this very day in New York, I remember how that tragedy brought us together. Looking now at how ideological forces are working so hard to tear us apart, has me reflecting on what we’ve lost. More than one kind of innocence has gone from us in the past decade, and I, for one, want the second kind back. Because 9/11/01 above all was a day that reminded us what it meant to be Americans. We cannot live in ignorant self-assurance that we are not threatened by terrorists, yes, but I hope we can stop living with the internal threat of ideological terrorism. Do we remember that anymore? If so, let’s start living it. That’s just one man’s opinion, of course. But I think my African friends might like it. For what it’s worth…

 


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Lucy: Tribute To A Companion

 This is an essay I wrote after my 18.5 year old cat died. I got her in college and she was with me almost half my life. I was devastated by the loss and timing and I still miss her and think about her every day. I never sold this but gave it to my vet and they shared it with people because they loved it so I thought maybe I should share it here. Animals are special, can become like children to us. I am thankful for the time I had Lucy in my life. It was precious and I cherish every memory. She died February 8, 2010. Five days before my birthday.

Would it surprise you if I told you I learned the true meaning of God’s unconditional love from a cat?

I’ll always remember the day she came home to live with me – so small she could sit inside my open hand, so cute I just wanted to cuddle and never let go.  From day one, she was a talker, always interacting with me using her various Meows and other sounds.  I loved the uniqueness of her tortoise-shell fur, the sincerity in her brown eyes, the way she followed me around like a puppy would.

From that day on, we were inseparable.  Wherever I was, she wanted to be.  She’d sit on the edge of the bathtub while I bathed or showered.  That lasted until she got hit by water one day and decided she didn’t like water and began staying away.  One day, while I showered, the answering machine went off.  She stood in the hallway meowing as she looked back and forth between the machine and me, as if to ask:  “How can daddy’s voice be there, when he’s over here?”  It was amazing how human she could seem sometimes.

She slept beside me from the beginning.  One day, early on, I woke up to muffled meows and realized I’d rolled over on her.  That was the first of a series of guilty accidents for me, when I first saw that look she’d give me as she shook her legs one at a time.  It said:  “I can’t believe you did that!  Grow up!”  Lucy always seemed more adult than I ever felt.

That was her name – Lucy, after the Peanuts’ character because she was so stubborn.  I carried her around on my shoulder, as I drove, bought groceries, etc.  She was so cute that we both got lots of attention, and she was fun to play with and have around.

For many years, while I was single and working long hours, Lucy was my closest companion.  She greeted me with purring as she rubbed against my leg when she came home.  She’d hop into my lap and curl up or meow for me to pet her.  She scolded me when I left her alone too long – avoiding eye contact and keeping her distance to let me know she wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior from me again.
In all honesty, she changed my life forever.  My first sole pet after moving out of my parents’ house, Lucy was like my child.  I had to feed her, change her litter box, give her attention, etc.  In some ways, I spoiled her too much.  She was never that comfortable around other people.  It had just been the two of us so often, she’d never gotten used to others being around.  My sneaking up and surprising her made her skittish.

I taught her tricks, too – things people assured me cats could never learn.  I taught her to kiss my finger when I held it in front of her face.  She learned to shake and hold my hand, to give me five, and to put both hands in mine and “dance with daddy.”  Sometimes, she liked the dancing so much, she would put her hands back after I let go and bite me if I didn’t let her do it again.  I taught her to speak and to jump, delighting in her intelligence, her personality, her spirit.

Lucy taught me a lot, too.  She taught me about friendship and how to learn to live with another despite their imperfections and irritating habits (mostly mine, not hers).  She taught me about parenting, serving as my first experimental child – both playful and stern as the moment required.  She taught me about forgiveness.  There were the times I stepped on her tail or smashed her foot.  The time I awoke from a dream to find myself swinging her by her feet (I’ve never felt so guilty in all my life).  There were times I left her for international trips or forgot to fill her water or waited too long to change her litter.  Each time she’d give me that same old look as she shook her legs one at a time, then come back a few minutes after to curl up next to me and purr, kissing my finger to let me know she’d forgiven me and life could go on as it had always been.

What she taught me above all was unconditional love.  I had learned about unconditional love in church – the love of God for us, the love of a Savior – but I’d never truly seen it manifest until Lucy came along.  She always wanted to be with me, wherever I was, whatever I was doing.  She didn’t always demand my attention, content to lie nearby where she could see me, or just hover on the periphery.  When she needed attention or food or something else, she let me know, but most of the time it was enough to just be near me.  Until I got married, I’d never known another person I felt that way about.  No matter how ugly I was when I woke up, how stinky I was until I showered, no matter how unfashionable my clothes, or how scruffy my hair, she loved me.  I was her “daddy,” and none of it mattered as long as we could be near each other.  Who couldn’t appreciate a love like that?  If you’re like me, you probably wish there were more of it.

Eighteen years later, as I ponder our life together, facing the end, it’s hard to believe I now have to live without her.  At forty years old, I’ve known her almost half my life.  We’ve been together through eight moves, across four states, and too many apartments and houses to name.  She’s hung with me through job changes, frustration, depression – even times when we were broke and didn’t know where the next meal might come from.  She’s bore the indignity of a new dog joining the family, of being displaced from her usual position on the bed by my wife, and all sorts of other challenges.

Above all else, she’s loved me and adored me, and I have loved and adored her.  Her love is the closest love on Earth I’ve found to the love of God the Father for you and me — unfailing in its strength, undeserved in its power, and unwavering in its hope.  Even as her kidneys failed, her hearing decreased, and her walk became more strained, she loved me still, and I love her, and somehow I know we always will.  If there’s a heaven for animals, I’m sure she’s there at the feet of the Father right now, delighting Him the way she delighted me for so many years.

Grandma’s Scrapbook: Downsizing NASA & The Expiration Of Wonder

My Grandma was an amazing woman–great cook, great teacher, great friend, and great storyteller. And oh how she loved for us to sit with her and look at pictures or books so she could tell stories. Grandma loved to compile scrapbooks just for the occasion. She’d tell stories of our parents as kids, of her grandparents immigrating from Sweden, of her parents, whom we barely knew. She loved history. We loved watching “The Waltons” or “Little House On The Prairie” with her. She wasn’t much into Science Fiction. I’m pretty sure she never made it to see “Star Wars.” (Yes, we neglected her I know). But Grandma still got it. Grandma understood how cool space travel was. All it takes is one glance at the legacy she left behind: two handmade scrapbooks from brown grocery bags, strung into a book with yarn, filled with newspaper clippings and pictures of every space mission from Alan B. Shephard’s Freedom 7 through the first Space Shuttle launches.

How I treasure those scrapbooks now–filled with memories of the awesomeness that was NASA’s early days. I was born February 13, 1969, which means I was about six months old when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. But as far as my memory’s concerned, Americans have been going into space my whole lifetime…Until now.

I remember the thrill of watching the launches on TV, listening to the old flimsy 45 rpm recording from FORD of the Apollo 11 landing (I still have this 45 rpm but no player). I remember talking with Grandma as we looked at the scrapbooks and thrilling at the images, the discoveries, the awesomeness of every detail. I remember seeing “Moonraker,” the James Bond with shuttles, and dreaming of the day I could go into space. Oh how I longed to go. I knew I wasn’t scientifically smart or a pilot or athletic. But still, it was and is my dream.

The Space Shuttle changed so much. And I remember when astronaut Steve Hawley, our hometown hero, husband of first American woman in space Sally Ride, came to our high school and I shook his hand. A brush with greatness, it seemed. Even mundane chat with Hawley thrilled me so much, such was my admiration and awe for a man who’d slipped the surly bonds of Earth.

But now it’s over. I don’t have kids of my own yet. But I have to wonder what people teach their kids these days about space. When did the awe change to ordinary? When did we lose the sense of wonder and magic at the accomplishment? Space Shuttle missions rose in numbers, for sure. But how did it become normal rather than extraordinary? Why did we allow it to happen? America lost interest in space exploration and the government defunded it. And now we’re dependent on the very people we once raced to beat–the Russians. It’s either them or untested private companies. Do we really want our country’s scientific future in their hands?

I think Grandma would be surprised at any trust in the Russians. Oh Grandma was very accepting and generous to foreigners. She helped many exchange students in her lifetime. She had nothing against the Russians except she remembered Sputnik and the  nuclear threat. She remembered the Red scare. And Communists could never be trusted beyond a certain point. Despite the changes in Russia, I tend to think that way today about any foreign government. After all, they have their own interests to protect. Oh I love travelling to foreign countries and learning their culture and meeting their people. I respect their arts and languages and accomplishments and history. But it’s nonetheless theirs, not ours. We are responsible for our own legacy. So what are we doing placing our space legacy in someone else’s hands?

Looking at Grandma’s scrapbooks today, I know I will do what I can to preserve them. It may be scanning them into a computer or making books of them somehow. Whatever the result, those books must be preserved, not just for their priceless collection of clippings but the priceless memories of wonder shared in reading them. I think we all ought to give a little thought these days to preserving wonder. It’s something we could pay a heavy cost for losing. Not just losing the space race, mind you, but the drive to explore. What will happen if future generations don’t ask the very questions which compelled us to try space travel in the first place? What will happen if future generations lose the ambition of wonder and the desire to explore? Does anyone really want to risk that?

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

Books Read This Year…so far

Rage Of The Behemoth, Ed. Jason M. Waltz, Rogue Blades Ent.
The Black God’s War: A Novella, Moses Siregar, III, self
Predators I Have Known, Alan Dean Foster, Open Road
A Hymn Before Battle, John Ringo, Baen
Shades Of Milk & Honey, Mary Robinette Kowal, TOR
Sales & Sorcery: Tales Of Nautical Fantasy, Ed. W.H. Horner, Fantasist Ent.
Space Grunts, Ed. Dayton Ward, Flying Pen Press
Hellhole, Kevin J. Anderson & Brian Herbert, TOR
Jedi Search, Kevin J. Anderson, Del Rey
Diving Into The Wreck, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, PYR
The Disappeared, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, ROC
Extremes, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, ROC
Consequences, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, ROC
Deceived (Star Wars Old Republic), Paul S. Kemp, Del Rey
Blood of Ambrose, James Enge, PYR
Black Halo, Sam Sykes, PYR
Mayan December, Brenda Cooper, Prime
Who Fears Death, Nnedi Okorafor, DAW
The Falling Machine, Andrew Mayer, PYR
Deathless, Cathrynne M. Valente, TOR
Beast Within 2: Predator & Prey, Ed. Jennifer Brozek, Graveside Tales
The Unremembered, Peter Orullion, TOR
The King Maker, Maurice Broaddus, Angry Robot
Black Blade Blues, John A. Pitts, TOR

Currently reading:

The Desert Of Souls, Howard Andrew Jones, Thomas Dunne
The Tears Of The Sun, S.M. Stirling, ROC
Camera Obscura, Lavie Tidhar, Angry Robot

Interesting reading year. Most of this list was associated with either #sffwrtcht or reviews for Tangent (through March). A few things got squeezed in for me. I am reading two current books to review for Grasping For The Wind and SFSignal (way behind) but hope to finish both soon.

I’ve really enjoyed the diversity of my reading and have gotten into some publishers I was not familiar with before: Angry Robot, ROC, Graveside Tales, Flying Pen Press, Prime, Baen, Open Road, DAW. These are the first books I’ve read from them.  It’s obvious I read a lot of TOR and PYR sends me more ARCS than anyone. I’d like to expand my horizons a bit in the rest of the year and get some variety of editing tastes and styles but it all depends whom I book on #sffwrtcht, I suppose. I’ll have Splashdown, Pocket, Doubleday and Bloombury coming up so far. This includes my first YA book in years for Greg van Eekhout. I also read my first urban fantasy books and will have at least one more coming up soon.

Authors whose novels I’d not read before are: John Ringo, John Pitts, Nnedi Okorafor, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Maurice Broaddues, S.M. Stirling, Lavie Tidhar, Brenda Cooper, Howard Andrew Jones, Paul S. Kemp, Moses Siregar, Andrew Mayer, James Enge, Peter Orullion, and Mary Robinette Kowal.

I am glad I get the opportunity to read such diversity. I have enjoyed all these books in various ways and recommend them to you, although I’d be happy to make specific recommendations for anyone who contacts me.

 

Networking & First Impressions

This blog is focused on writing–craft, business and careers. And part of any successful writing career is networking. When you work in a creative business, you run into a lot of people whose ideas and approaches differ from your own. Not only their approaches to life but to art, politics, religion, etc. My being a Christian in science fiction, a world full of scientists, makes it an interesting experience sometimes. I know there are people I consider friends who find my religious views ignorant and even sad. I feel the same about their Atheism, even worse about Agnosticism. But I try really hard not to let that show, because, in the end, what draws us together is more important to me than what separates us. Not just because we are human but also because we are writers. Maybe I admire their craft, their voice, or their business acumen. Maybe I admire their scientific knowledge, their experience–it could be any number of things. Whatever it may be, religious differences are not going to cause me to think less of them as friends or respect them less. Unless, they disrespect me.

And I have been disrespected, but so far rarely by people I thought of as friends. There are people in this world, to my surprise, who actually think they can surmise enough from looking at you for five minutes to decide if they will ever like you. And like stubborn mules–in both actions and wisdom–they stick to it. Neither movement of heaven nor movement of Earth will change their opinions. That’s just the way it is.

Personally, I find the immature, selfish and stupid. BUT people like that exist.

I had one experience where this person, a beginning writer who happened to have co-edited an anthology, snubbed me at an event for the antho. I had several friends in the anthology and went to support them. Took pictures, etc. Afterwards, I politely went up to introduce myself, and never have I felt such cold outside of a snowstorm or perhaps a zoo’s Penguin exhibit. It was just a rude, cold “nice to meet you” stated only because of social mores, then a quick turn away and ignoring.

And you know what? I will probably never buy a book by that person, RT a link promoting their story or interview them for #sffwrtcht or any such thing because I just can’t respect that. Ironically, I had several people come up later and tell me they saw how I was treated and felt it was ridiculous. They thought that person was shallow and fake and had no respect for it. That’s the impression that person made.

You don’t have to like or even be friends with everyone you meet in the world. No, not even in a creative business like publishing. But I would say you should damn well learn to keep those feelings to yourself and treat them with respect. You never know who the person is who could help or hurt your career and you never know who else is watching. It can come back and hurt you. Maybe not now but what about in ten years. People don’t forget things like that. Especially not a first impression. Oh yes, you can PMS or whatever guys call it sometimes with people you know well. You can be out of sorts from a crisis. But when you just treat people rudely for no good reason, you show your lack of respect for other people on a general level in a way no one who witnesses it will ever forget.

And that’s bad for business. It also creates awkward situations. I have a number of friends who like, pal around with and call this person friend. In fact, some of them include this person in their “in” group in ways they never include me. It’s disappointing, because you feel left out and you feel like they don’t respect you as much. But on other hand, it sometimes makes me question why they don’t see what I see?. It’s not a one time thing,  by the way. This person has continued to treat me badly or virtually ignore me since.  I continue to respect and like those friends because of many reasons so I don’t hold it against them. It doesn’t really matter because I don’t want to be around that writer anyway nor anyone else with such a crappy attitude toward people. Doesn’t matter what the person thinks of me or why they don’t like me, I know for a fact I never did anything but treat them with respect and offer encouragement and the reaction I received just shows a lack of class and a total lack of understanding of networking.

I use this not to complain about it but as an example of what not to do.

Some of you might be saying “maybe the person is just introverted and bad in social situations.” I’d buy that if the behavior hadn’t continued. Yes, many introverted writers struggle in these situations. I do too. Work on it. You can only use introversion so far as an excuse. Do you really want to lose opportunities because of it? It’s like any other weakness, something you need to learn to overcome as best you can.

Part of networking is leaving people with the impression “he or she is cool and might be fun to work with” or “that’s a person I enjoyed chatting with.” This is so that the next time they see you, they’ll smile and actually be glad and maybe even remember your name. And those kinds of connections can lead to all kinds of opportunities. I can’t tell you how many times people I haven’t seen in over a decade have opened doors for me or introduced me to important people. All because of a first impression. All because of respect. That has even happened with people I don’t remember liking that much. Sometimes I like them now very much, just not who they were then. And sometimes my opinion hasn’t changed. But who cares. There’s no law saying everyone you know has to be someone you like but there is an unwritten law that every person deserves the same respect you want back from them. And by violating that, you can create long term repercussions which can hurt you career. Do you really want to do that?

In life, as in business, “who you know” can be very important. So next time you go to a workshop or a Con or even a restaurant, remember how important it is to treat everyone with the same kindness you’d like to be treated. Forget your personal feelings for a moment. If they are not your cup of tea, don’t have them over for dinner or hang out with them, etc. But don’t let yourself be rude to them. Don’t badmouth them because of some personal vibe. Just keep it to yourself, be polite, and you never know what will happen.

That’s a lesson I’ve learned from being in the creative/entertainment business since 1987. It’s always served me well and it’ll serve you, too.

For what it’s worth…

Ruminations on Freedom

I’ve always been a big believer in freedom. As a creative person, since I was very young, freedom was very important to me. The right to express myself. The right to make choices. The right to be in control. The right to have a say. The right to be heard.

I believe 100% in freedom of speech as a core value of our country. The idiots of the KKK and other groups I find abhorrent have a right to it just as much as I do. I don’t like what they have to say, no, but I have a right to condemn them for it in my own contrary opinions stated as freely as they state theirs. I believe in freedom from censorship. It’s important in free society that free exchange of ideas can happen. Without free exchange of ideas, many things which have changed our society and world for the better would have never come to be.

But our societal sense of freedom seems to have evolved for the worst over the years. Because freedom comes with responsibility, and I see more and more irresponsibility.  I think it’s fine to want freedom of expression but you have to be willing to respect the fact others may not want to hear it and may even take offense. It’s not a right to force yourself on others. And it is unfortunate that is how things get interpreted. Additionally, people often try and repress or discriminate against those they disagree with while demanding freedom for themselves. If you want it, you have to be willing to defend it for everyone. True freedom is not a selfish thing.

But I also am careful to choose my words. I think freely speaking and wanting to be heard comes with respecting the audience. People think using abusive, inflammatory, foul words is cool,  but I disagree. I think it often shows lack of maturity, respect, restraint and taste more than anything. It detracts from people listening your opinion. It detracts from being taken seriously. Those kinds of statements have their place but must be used with wisdom, not just bandied about as a mass rebellion against societal or religious mores to which you object. For one thing, it’s forcing your values on others. When you curse in front of other’s children or other people, you are saying “I think this is okay for you to hear” without regard for what they think. And people feel like their own freedom to live without that is being encroached upon. The fact it doesn’t bother you doesn’t make it less respectful.

So it’s interesting to me in the present climate to see people claiming great love of freedoms they abuse.  I think it’s a sad decline of overall honor and class, personally. It’s hard to feel good sometimes living in a country where your senses are assaulted by things you find offensive because your neighbor doesn’t share your values or respect your right to have different values, isn’t it? In a way, to me, it seems almost uncivilized behavior. And I think it creates a divisiveness which can be very painful. The sense of unity we once shared as Americans is in jeopardy. And I think that’s very sad.

But today is a day to celebrate independence bought at hard price. An independence which came from people speaking out about values and demanding them for themselves. I think at the time, it was seen as a show of unity, despite differences. I think it created a bond of varied people coming together, and I hope that as we reflect on freedom today and continue to value and celebrate it, we can learn to respect it and not abuse it. Freedom should be a gift, not a weapon as often as possible. There are times where it must be used as a weapon, but not every time.

The truth is we need each other. As a newly divorced man, I realize that more than ever. I’m lonely on a level I couldn’t have imagined 7 years ago when I was still single. I realize how much the little poorly chosen words sometimes lead others to conclusions we never intended–the harm they can do. And how important it is to be wise in your self-expression when around others who matter to you and even sometimes those who don’t. I’d like to be more surrounded by friends right now. I’d like to feel more connected. The present isolation gives me a feeling of freedom which is not pleasing. My marriage ended over more than words, but looking back it’s often the little moments/words I most wish I could take back. She may have left me anyway because of other factors, but she wouldn’t have done so with the impressions caused by those words.

Isolation is inevitable if our freedom of speech is practiced with total disregard for others. And so as I celebrate and think about freedom today, I think all the more how awesome a responsibility freedom is. And how awesomely important it is to exercise it responsibly, with wisdom and care.

You may not agree, but those are thoughts on my mind this July 4th about freedom. I think it’s very important to think about.

For what it’s worth…

 

 

How To Let Your Characters Grieve Well

One of the keys to good writing, writing which pops off the page and carries the reader away, is depicting characters’ emotions realistically. If we can feel what they feel, if it moves us to laugh or get angry or cry, we are hooked on the characters and their needs become ours. So how do writers learn to write emotions? Much has been written on stages of emotions and descriptive language cues, etc. But what really makes them pop is using our own experience.

As per my previous posts, I have been going through a very difficult time dealing with my wife’s mental illness and now with our divorce. I have dealt with anger, dismay, exhaustion, frustration, sadness, etc. But ultimately, the mental illness destroyed who she was in ways that she has not recovered from. She insisted on a divorce and I knew we could not remain together. As much as I was ready for it at the time, as many times as I couldn’t wait for her to be gone, what I am left with now that she is gone is overwhelming grief.

People define them with slight variations but according to rec0ver-from-grief.com, these are the 7 Stages Of Grief:

1. SHOCK & DENIAL-
You will probably react to learning of the loss with numbed disbelief. You may deny the reality of the loss at some level, in order to avoid the pain. Shock provides emotional protection from being overwhelmed all at once. This may last for weeks.

2. PAIN & GUILT-
As the shock wears off, it is replaced with the suffering of unbelievable pain. Although excruciating and almost unbearable, it is important that you experience the pain fully, and not hide it, avoid it or escape from it with alcohol or drugs.

You may have guilty feelings or remorse over things you did or didn’t do with your loved one. Life feels chaotic and scary during this phase.

3. ANGER & BARGAINING-
Frustration gives way to anger, and you may lash out and lay unwarranted blame for the death on someone else. Please try to control this, as permanent damage to your relationships may result. This is a time for the release of bottled up emotion.

You may rail against fate, questioning “Why me?” You may also try to bargain in vain with the powers that be for a way out of your despair (“I will never drink again if you just bring him back”)

4. “DEPRESSION”, REFLECTION, LONELINESS-
Just when your friends may think you should be getting on with your life, a long period of sad reflection will likely overtake you. This is a normal stage of grief, so do not be “talked out of it” by well-meaning outsiders.Encouragement from others is not helpful to you during this stage of grieving.

During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you did with your lost one, and focus on memories of the past. You may sense feelings of emptiness or despair.

5. THE UPWARD TURN-
As you start to adjust to life without your dear one, your life becomes a little calmer and more organized. Your physical symptoms lessen, and your “depression” begins to lift slightly.

6. RECONSTRUCTION & WORKING THROUGH-
As you become more functional, your mind starts working again, and you will find yourself seeking realistic solutions to problems posed by life without your loved one. You will start to work on practical and financial problems and reconstructing yourself and your life without him or her.

7. ACCEPTANCE & HOPE-
During this, the last of the seven stages in this grief model, you learn to accept and deal with the reality of your situation. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness. Given the pain and turmoil you have experienced, you can never return to the carefree, untroubled YOU that existed before this tragedy. But you will find a way forward.

The odd thing is the stages don’t actually progress in order necessarily. Sometimes you experience waves of them in mixed up order. It’s not just step one then on to step two, etc.

So where am I? I went through Stage 1 a lot during the whole medical crisis. Just feeling like “I don’t care if she’s gone” or “I can’t wait to be rid of her” or “I don’t love her anymore.” It was easy to do when she was telling me how much she hated me every day or verbally abusing me in other ways. It was easy to do because she was, in many ways, unrecognizable as the person I had once loved. Manic people are hard to love.

Stage 2 was a minor factor at first so I’ll skip it for now and address it more fully later because it’s where I am now.

I went through Stage 3 a lot as well, lashing out at her family for not telling me of her illness, for not making more effort to come and help me, and for being in denial of how difficult it was. Now that they’ve been here and dealt with her, they have a much better idea of the nightmare I was facing, but it was hard for me to communicate due to language barrier (they are Brazilians and speak mostly Portuguese) and cultural barrier. And because mental illness changed Bianca so much that you really had to see her to believe she was behaving that way.  When you’re in the midst of it though, you don’t have that logic. You just want them to empathize and act according to how you think they should act, period.

Stage 4 was a constant as well. I was in medical treatment for depression with meds and counseling. And it didn’t help that I had lost my job or that friends had turned their backs on us due to reasons I don’t full understand. Some of it was not knowing what to say or do to help us. Some of it was Bianca’s behavior. Some of it was my anger, too, I suppose. But I am left lonely, depressed, and reflecting on why and what went wrong and feeling abandoned. That makes it so much harder to deal with the other stages at the same time. You just have to tell yourself to breathe sometimes. You have to force yourself to leave the house and move just to remind yourself it actually feels good to get out and be alive.

Stages 5-7, I can’t even fathom right now, because I am stuck in the middle of Stage 2. The pain I feel is so constant and so overwhelming it almost chokes off my breath. It makes it hard to laugh or play or do anything joyful for more than a second or two. It makes it impossible to imagine a way out. Do I feel guilt? A little. Yeah. I didn’t express my love as well as I could. But then don’t all men fail at that or most? I also lashed out at her in anger. I regret so much those little instances, because her mania is not something she can control, but even knowing the person is not in their right mind is not enough to calm you when the stress and exhaustion overcome you. I spent months living with sleep deprivation and intense, constant stress. If you add to that my anger and depression, etc., it was a combination which led to me not loving her well sometimes. After all, as I said, the person I was dealing with was a manic person, not the woman I fell in love with. So now I feel guilt over that. Irrational? Maybe but it’s still there. Mostly, though I just feel pain.

I hurt because I feel like she died. The woman I waited so long for (see this post) died to me. I haven’t seen her since early this year. I have been dealing with someone else inhabiting her body and using her voice. And that person was impossible to live with and deal with–constantly out of control, constantly verbally abusive, selfish, childish. That person had no pleasant traits at all. Even her eyes looked wild and crazy, not at all the eyes I used to stare into and feel so loved. So I feel denied, robbed, assaulted. Fate, God, mental illness–choose one or all–stole my lover, my best friend, my companion, my wife. In a sense, they stole my life, my future, my happiness and my hope. And I feel so much pain and loss and anger and dismay, I couldn’t begin to describe it. Or can I? Maybe I have in this post. To make it all worse, I never really got closure. One day I left for Seattle on a writer’s retreat, and when I saw her again next, she was this manic person, not the woman I love. I never got to say “goodbye.”

In any case, I don’t know how my story will end, but I am sure I will continue to blog about it. I’m sure I will get to the last 3 stages at some point. Right now, I have to get through where I am. But why am I sharing all this? Why am I making this about me?

I am sharing it because this is real experience we can all draw from in our writing to make it better. Using our experiences and others helps us create real characters and empathetic ones and those are the ones which pop off the page. Yes, grief is but one emotion, yet it has stages involving many others. I am sharing this opening because I know there are things here writers can use to write well, and I want this blog to provide such information whenever it can. And all writing comes from our own experiences to some degree and the experiences of people we know or encounter.

So use it in your writing if you can. I know I will come back to it and do so. Right now the emotions are raw and fresh so that comes out in the words I use to describe them. If you deal with any situation calling for grief in your stories, read the stages, read what I’m experiencing and use it. It will make your characters and story come alive in ways that powerfully impact you and your readers. It will make your story/book memorable. And that’s what we all want, isn’t it? To write something that people will carry with them forever after and remember?

So now take what I’ve written and think about your own life and experiences and those of people you’ve met. What resources do you find there for improving your writing? What stories can you tell? What emotional experiences can you include in your characters’ journeys to help readers connect with them? Make a list. Keep a spreadsheet.

For what it’s worth…

 


To The Woman I Fell In Love With

Okay, this is going to be a departure from the usual topics but tonight I just need to do this one for me.

There was a woman I fell in love with. We met in the Portuguese Speakers Wanting To Learn English room on www.orkut.com January 2nd, 2005. We talked for the first time on Windows Messenger and it was for four or five hours but it felt like much less because we enjoyed it so much.

I didn’t see her again for a day or two as I recall, and worried she hadn’t enjoyed the conversation. I finally left her a note, no response. But then one day I ran into her again and it happened again.

At some point I called her, and that connection was also special.

I had a mission trip to Rio, Brazil in April, so arranged to stop and visit with her. From the moment she and her grandma Cleonice met me at the airport, that was it for us. Bianca was mine and I was hers for the next six years.

I visited her every two weeks, using frequent flyer miles, whenever I could pass through on a mission trip, etc. 10-14 days at a time, but they were little slices of heaven. We were so in love and so connected. And it was the greatest feeling of my life.

In 2006, I asked her to marry me. Got on my knees, gave her a ring. She said “yes.” And so in April 2007, after her college graduation, she moved to be with me. In between was all the visa paperwork and immigration documents and fees, a lot more phone calls and a lot more IMs. But I had finally found someone to spend the rest of my life with. After 36 years, I had stopped believing. Bianca made me believe again.

April 14, 2007, we married in a small ceremony in St. Louis.

The marriage was pretty good. A few issues with adjustment to culture and weather and the realities of a husband who needed to work and a lonely wife who was in a new place. The challenge of money limits, trying to find her a job, etc. And although there were moments of odd behavior I now know the explanation for, we were happy, and life was good.

That lasted two and a half years.

The nightmare began October 5th, 2009, when I came home from teaching music in Mexico to find a desperate message from Bianca begging me to pick her up. She knew I was in Mexico. She’d ridden the bus to town to do a workshop for her new job, I thought. She should have been home hours before. What had happened? My cell phone was off to avoid International roaming. The house was empty. So my friends and I searched until early morning. I didn’t know where she was until a policeman arrived at 4:30 am. She was barefoot, had walked all the way downtown, 40 miles or so, thrown away her cell, her wedding ring, all her documents. And was dodging traffic on the highway.

Two days later, I got her forcibly admitted to psychiatric care, the first of five times in the next two years.  The treatment was hell because she was not herself and she blamed me. And the first time they let her out, I had to take her back kicking and screaming after only a few days.

But when she got out the second time, she forgave me, admitted I showed my love for her by getting her help and took her meds. A year later, it was hard to remember all that because life was so good again.

In January 2011, Bianca was at UTEP getting As. Her long time dream of finishing her education was a reality. She had a good job too. Everything looked really good.

Oh there were hurdles. I’d lost my job in May 2010, we believe strongly, because of health care costs from Bianca’s illness (something we could not prove sufficiently to go to court but did have strong evidence of). I lost my second job, when the employer was worried I’d leave town and needed continuity and found a replacement. Then unemployment got cancelled. Times were hard. But Bianca worked hard to support us and she encouraged me. And we made it through, got unemployment back. I even had a seasonal job at H & R Bloch. And Bianca was in school.

I was so proud of her. Just so amazed. She was so serious about it. So dedicated. And she did well. I was happy the loans had made it possible.

Then in March, I fulfilled a dream, by going on scholarship to Rainforest Writer’s Village. When I left, she was a bit mad that I was leaving her alone for so long, but things were otherwise okay. By mid-week, she sounded different on the phone. And by the weekend, she was full on manic. The Bianca I’d left behind was gone. And I haven’t seen her since.

She had three more forced hospitalizations, two in state institutions. Lost her job. Lost her school mid-semester. Everything she’d worked for, gone. And I was dealing with a person who hated me again and was mad at me because she was in the hospital. She still wanted me to visit so I could be verbally abused by her. But she denied loving me. Expressed regret of our life together.

I thought for sure the meds would resolve it again. But this time, she never came back.

On Tuesday, June 7, we signed divorce papers. We’d filed the previous Friday. Wednesday, June 8, Bianca flew home for Brasil, forever.

I lost my best friend. I lost my lover. I lost my companion. I lost my wife. And all I can do is cry and mourn the person I lost not only physically but mentally.

Things were so good, so many times. So many precious memories. So many wonderful moments.

The woman I fell in love with doesn’t deserve the life mental illness is creating for her. She deserves love and success and motherhood and so much that she may never have again because of bipolar disorder.

I may find love again. I may have my family. But I know a part of me is gone with Bianca. Because she gave me so much in our short love affair. And at the moment all I can do is wish it had been longer.

I miss you, Bianca. I really loved you. I really cherished you. I’m sorry I didn’t say that enough. I’m sorry I hurt you sometimes. I never meant to. And I’m sorry you have this horrible disorder that’s torn us apart and destroyed our love, the life we worked so hard for. I miss you so much. And our pets miss mommy too. I hope you can conquer this disorder. You’re so smart and talented, if anyone can, it will be you. A part of me just wishes, at least right now, that you could have conquered it with me beside you.

May God bless and keep you, my amor. Thanks for the wonderful time we did have. I’ll always cherish that.

For what it’s worth…


Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. He’s also the host ofScience Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chat every Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.

The Importance of Preparedness In Event of Family Crisis

Okay, this is a departure from the usual focus of this blog. But most of you know I have been going through a huge crisis with my wife, Bianca. Bianca has Bipolar Disorder I, a serious mental illness which involves manic episodes in which she is very aggressive and angry and hard to control. Bianca hates lack of control anyway. I sometimes wonder if this is because her mind races out of control even when she’s stable and so she constantly grasps for control to fight her sense of losing control. I don’t know. I can’t be inside the mind of a Bipolar person. But I know that if I had ever imagined how bad a crisis could be, I would have been more prepared.

When Bianca is having a manic episode, she can seem normal to people who don’t know her. Sure, she talks a lot, but Bianca loves to talk even when she isn’t manic. And she can definitely exercise her will and free choice. The problem is, she is not rational and her choices are wrong and not in her best interest or even crazy illogical. But because of the stupidly written HIPPA law given us by Nancy Landon Kassebaum and Ted Kennedy, hospitals must protect patient privacy and that means, since the law is so broad, they tend to obey patient’s wishes until they are declared mentally competent by a court of law. So Bianca was able to shut me out of any health info, any visits, any decisions. She could order up medical tests which cost tons of money by claiming cancer or other ills. I don’t think she did but she could have. And I would have a bill to pay with no input on the decision.

What Bianca and I needed is what all of you with spouses need: executed power of attorney and medical power of attorney documents (also called designated health care agent). These documents, fairly standard, can be prepared for you by an attorney at low cost, signed before a notary, and then ready if you need them. Dear God, I hope you never do, but what if you did. What if one of you became brain damaged and was in dementia, making insane decisions but not able to be declared mentally unsound easily. What would the other person do? Want to feel helpless? Wait for that to happen. What if one of you was in a coma and the other needed to make decisions on co-signed finances or finances you didn’t know much about? About medical treatment, etc.?

If you don’t have those documents, you will have to file for guardianship like I did and it will cost you 20 times more money and stress. Don’t wait to find out, be prepared.

On top of it, if one of you handles all the bank accounts and stocks, etc., create a one sheet with passwords, account numbers, bank addresses, even phone numbers and contact persons for the other. Put it in a safety deposit box but let the other person and one friend you trust know it’s there. The person you love may be so distraught they won’t remember. The friend can remind them.

Here’s an example of the document as it is statutory in Texas: http://www.ilrg.com/forms/states/tx-powerofattorneymed.html

In most cases, you will want to assign two designees with health care power of attorney. That’s in case both of you are incapacitated at the same time in an accident, so someone can pay bills, take of the kids and pets, etc.  Don’t be afraid. The documents will specify the circumstances under which they can be used, and the length of time before the power is resumed by you. In case of divorce, the document can be listed as being nullified. It’s not giving up your rights immediately at any time. It’s for emergencies only. And it’s worth it.

Trust me. You don’t want to live the nightmare I am living. I hope to God you never face similar circumstances, but what if you do? It’s hard enough seeing the person you love in this condition. Having them fighting your every decision when you’re trying to just get them the best care. It’s hard enough having a hospital treat you like a stranger with no say. Do you really want that? Being prepared is the only way to avoid the stress and bankrupting expense I am facing. And you’ll be able to act quickly, not wait for court decisions. It may be the difference between life and death for your loved one. In my case, it’s not, thank God. But what if it was? Can any of us afford to take that chance?

For what it’s worth…

Memories of My Wife Bianca

Last Tuesday, 1 month before our 4th anniversary, I had to put my wife in the mental hospital against her will for the second time. Bianca is a highly intelligent, gentle, sweet, giving, joyful person. But when her bipolar II flares up she’s angry, mean, arrogant, and mischievous. I woke up at 5 a.m. and found her cutting phone chords and cables for the internet with a scissor because “I don’t like that stuff there.” This was after I’d already tried once to get police to take her in. They refused because she looked normal to them. They don’t know her. How would they know normal for her? In any case, I worried she’d cut an electrical chord and start a fire or electrocute herself. So it was time.

This is the second time in two years I’ve had to commit her. Having to put someone you love in the hospital against their will, while they beg you not to, is the most painful experience ever. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And I’ve done it three times, twice the first incident, once now. It took four of us to literally carry her to the car while she fought and screamed, then me to drive us 30 minutes to the hospital, again while she screamed and insulted us. It’s weird to look in the face of the woman you love and see a stranger looking back at you. A stranger who looks just like her, has the same voice, but says things which sound nothing like her.

I try very hard to block those memories. Most of the time I can. I don’t want to remember her this way. I prefer to remember her as the woman who blessed my life, the one I fell in love with. I’m pained by the memory of how much I took her for granted in the months preceding this relapse. I should have been her biggest cheerleader when she finally got to live her dream and go back to school to finish her degree. She was doing so well, making awesome grades, and she was working 30 hours and going to school 18. I was so wrapped up in my worries, I was lackluster in my enthusiasm, and I feel like such a jackass now. The times she wanted to cuddle and I was so busy with writing, I put it off and never got back to it. The times I didn’t listen when she was so excited to tell me something mid-draft. I feel like such a loser. Here’s the woman who chose me. After years of failed romances, after 37 years alone thinking I’d never find anyone, she chose me, and I was so unappreciative so much of the time.

When I went away to Rainforest Writers, my thought was that it would be good to have time away to refresh our relationship. The moment I arrived, I missed her and wished she was there. Little did I know that when I got home, I’d still be missing her, because I haven’t seen the real Bianca since before I left.

The real Bianca is such a delight to be with. She is so enthusiastic, often seeing the world through a child’s eyes. She’s fascinated by people, places, language — so many things I easily write off as ordinary. And through her observations, she helps me look at the world in new ways. It’s a real help to me as a writer. And it’s something about her I have always treasured. She’s a great cook and a good housewife. She’s thoughtful even when I’m not. Oh she has her faults, of course, but I have more. And the fact that she’s always loved me and thinks I’m cute, handsome, wonderful always blows my mind.

I so wish it could be me and not her. I wish I was the one in the hospital. I wish it was me losing my job, dropping out mid-semester of my school, etc. If I could take her place in a moment, I so would, because I suffer so much for her. It breaks my heart every time I think about it. I am crying as I type this because I feel such despair, such hopelessness, and such fear that I will lose her, that this is it, that she’ll never get through this. It’s so hard to not get much information from the hospital due to privacy laws. Biance is in no condition to sign a waiver, so the hospital has to protect itself from lawsuits, even though I’m the husband. It’s so difficult to see her struggling and not be able to protect her; to be made the bad guy in manic Bianca’s eyes, when all I did I did to protect her and get her the help she so desperately needs. I wouldn’t wish this situation on my worst enemy. And it makes me determined to do all I can to build awareness and find support for developing a cure to all mental illness.

What a horrible thing it is to see someone with such skill and potential robbed of their life by such a horrible disease. To see them so destructive when they don’t even know what they’re doing. To see them resist the help they need when it’s right there in front of them. I curse Satan and beg God to please help my wife. Give me back my lover, my best friend. I wish it was so easy. Every moment is agony as I’m forced to wait and see if things will ever be the same again. I have small hope in the fact that our marriage came back better than ever from the last time. I can only hope she’ll feel that way and be ready to try again.

It’s hard to know that this kind of thing will likely happen again–it’s cyclical, so probably every two years. On the other hand, I’ve heard stories of people who take their meds and are stable the rest of their lives, so I hope that for her. And yet I fear days to come. If I get her back I intend to treasure every moment, and I hope I don’t forget. I must never allow myself to be too busy to appreciate her. I must let her know how much she means to me, and I must remind her daily of that. Maybe the strength of my love will help her. I hope so. I know the strength of her love has helped me. And I know I feel so lost at the idea of going on without her. Sometimes you don’t realize what you have in the throes of everydaydom. How sad and pathetic a trait is that in human beings? Why does it take a crisis like this to remind us how lucky we are?

I don’t know the answer but I know I need to do better at fighting off that complacency and being appreciative. If only I get another chance. If only I get my Bianca back.

For what it’s worth…

I Celebrate Our Differences and Commonalities In Calling You Friend

Today I got a petition in the mail which sparked something in me because it’s about an issue I’m passionate about: abortion. I’m not going to go into details here, because that’s not what this post is about. Instead, I want to talk about how much I appreciate friends who don’t share my view on everything. How’d I make that segway? Read on.

First, I posted my statement supporting the idea of the petition and a guy I’ve had many friendly chats with on Twitter immediately starts attacking me as ignorant, etc. He attacked like a shark and kept circling back for me. Wouldn’t stop, until finally I just blocked him and told him I didn’t appreciate his lack of respect for my right to free speech and freedom of belief. And this guy’s a government lawyer. Nice attitude he has, huh?

I don’t agree with Atheism, yet I have many Atheist friends. I don’t agree with Global Warming theory, many friends do. I don’t like or support Obama. Many friends do. I still have meaningful and profitable conversations with those friends. I still feel a strong sense of caring and respect for them, and I would miss them if they weren’t in my life.

I honestly don’t get the way so many today refuse to be friends with people who don’t agree with them. Seriously, how boring do you want life to be? Do you really prefer to live safely locked inside your comfortable box where no one ever challenges you to think differently or offers an alternate perspective? As a creative person, I’d starve in an environment like that. As a human being, I’d be quite shallow if I lived like that. You will be too, I promise.

When I went away to college, I encountered things I’d never seen before. Had my first openly gay friend. Met my first Jewish friend. Saw public gay bars. Witnessed many things my small Kansas city didn’t reveal to me. I am a better person for those encounters, whether I agree with everything I saw or not. Agreement is not the point. Awareness is.

If I had never spent New Year’s Day 2004 in an African village right out of National Geographic, topless ladies and all, talking to those people about life in their village, visiting their homes, seeing their hospitality, glimpsing their world, I would not be who I am today. And frankly, I like who I am today, even if you don’t. I don’t claim to know what it’s like to be them. I don’t claim to fully understand them. What I do claim is that I have seen a bit of the world through their eyes and it has made me a better man–better able to imagine how the world can look differently through different eyes; better able to appreciate what I have and how I value it; better able to appreciate that I was a man of much narrower vision before that encounter.

I am a man of passion. I’m not afraid to say what I believe and defend it. I try and do it with respect but even I get pissed sometimes and go off. It’s the liability of an artist, say. But I always try to be respectful of others in countering their opinions or when discussing my own, and I never feel the need to call them ignorant, a bad citizen, or other names. I may think those things sometimes, but truly, I don’t know them inside and out. I don’t know every nook and cranny of their thoughts and experience. How can I truly determine who they are?  What I do know is that they are not like me, and I know they have a right to be who they are.

It’s hard to explain your opinions sometimes. It’s hard to talk about issue people feel passion about and take personally. But this world and our country (US) are worse for the fact we are failing to even try so often these days. The fact we’d rather disown you as a friend and person than try and understand you better and find a way to live with it. And I think that’s really sad, don’t you? I think it’s a real loss.

I’m not willing to live my life that way, as hard as it is sometimes. I value my friends who are gay or nonChristian or whatever as much as those who are like me, straight and Christian. (These traits are just examples. I could offer many more but won’t in the interest of brevity). My point is: I love them no more or less for their views and I refuse to ask them to apologize for theirs or apologize to them for mine. I will attempt to be sensitive to their feelings. I will attempt to present things fairly and in as non-volatile a way as I can. That’s part of respecting and loving other people and the desire for it in return. But I won’t de-friend them. And I hope they don’t de-friend me. (Unless they drive me to it by ignorant behavior like the guy above). Because I need those alternative viewpoints to make me broader, smarter, and more well informed. I need those viewpoints to make me empathetic, understanding, and keep me caring. If I know them and care about them, then discover we differ violently on some issue, I know then I can love someone who’s not like me. Because my love doesn’t stop the minute I discover our differences. And knowing I love people I disagree with helps me be the better person I want to be.

For what it’s worth…

Guest Post From Laura Kreitzer: Human Trafficking & Phantom Universe

Because she’s awesome, and because she’s my good friend, I have invited Laura Kreitzer to be my first guest blogger here. Please read this very important post on the crime of human trafficking
— Bryan
Hello Literary-Folk!
My name is Laura Kreitzer, and I’m the author of the Timeless Series and the Summer Chronicles. This week I would like to alert everyone on a colossal crisis that’s gone unnoticed in the world: human trafficking. That’s why I’ve asked hundreds of blogs to be involved with spreading the word on this issue that’s become close to my heart.

As an author, and someone whose life is put in the spotlight, I keep most people at a distance. Only a handful of my friends know the whole me and the events from my past. But this week I’d like to share with you a part of myself that the outside world doesn’t see (and a part of me I don’t like to share). I was emotionally abused for five years by someone I thought loved me, my mind beaten into submission. Though the turmoil I went through doesn’t penetrate as deep as someone forced into slavery on the worldwide market for human trafficking, I can sadly relate in some ways: imprisoned, my life dictated down to what I wore, ate, where I went, whom I spoke to, where I worked, when I slept, bending to his every whim. He did not sway, even when I cried through some of the more traumatic things he had me do. I was a slave in my own home. In my desperation for freedom, I held out a gun and asked him to just end my suffering. I was desperate. I can’t even imagine how many women (and men) in the world are in a similar situation. What’s even worse, I had it mild compared to the children that are sold for labor or sex. Surprisingly, the good ol’ U.S.A. is reported to be the host to two million slaves. Did you know this? Because I certainly did not; not until I was preparing to write my newest novel: Phantom Universe. The main character, Summer Waverly, was stolen as a child and sold as a slave to the captain of a modern-day pirate ship. From a loved child who only knew “time-out” as punishment, to being whipped into silence was something I knew nothing about. So I researched deeply into human trafficking and the psychological effects of torture of various types that one would endure in these circumstances. I felt shaken at my findings and knew I had to tell Summer’s story. (Read a sneak peek here.)

A storm began to brew in my mind; transforming, morphing, twisting, and expanding into this massive, black cloud. I had to bring this tragic atrocity to the forefront. My own emotional experiences, mixed with the research I did on human trafficking, made me feel an intense connection with Summer, and to all women who’ve been through this kind of brutality. The cloud ruptured and rained all over my computer one day. It took one month to write Phantom Universe, the first in the Summer Chronicles. I was so consumed by the story that I wrote nearly nonstop, only breaking for necessary tasks like eating, showering, and occasionally—very occasionally—sleeping.

Though the book I’ve written would be classified as Science Fiction, or as I’d like to call it, Dystopian, the emotions and psychological aspects are not Science Fiction—they’re real. Reviewers have said many amazing things about Summer, this character who is so real in my mind and who I cried along with as the words poured from my soul onto my screen.

“I admired Summer’s strength and ability to adapt,” says CiCi’s Theories. “I felt tied to her emotions,” Jennifer Murgia, author or Angel Star admits. And Tahlia Newland, author of Lethal Inheritance, remarks, “Summer is strong and smart in mind [. . .]”

Through her overwhelmingly horrendous past, Summer goes on more than just a physical journey in Phantom Universe, she goes on a psychological one as well; growing beyond her mute state to persevere and survive in a new world beyond the whip she’s so frightened of.

Now that the release date is here, I’m excited and terrified to share this story with everyone. I’m emotionally tied in every way to the words I’ve written, because they’re more than words. More than just a story on a page. Beyond the fictional aspects, there’s a real issue that needs to be addressed: human trafficking must be stopped. We shouldn’t sit idly by while this continues to plague us. Our world’s children—our nation’s children—are being affected. It’s time we take action!

Earlier this month Phantom Universe hit Barnes and Noble’s top 100 Best Selling list. I’ve decided to donate 10% of my sales from Phantom Universe, until the end of February, to the DNA Foundation.

“DNA hopes to help abolish modern day slavery, deter perpetrators, and free the many innocent and exploited victims. We are committed to forcing sex slavery out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
Freedom is a basic human right and slavery is one of the greatest threats to that freedom. No one has the right to enslave another person.”
—From DNA Foundation’s Website

I ask that you spread the word to everyone you know. Look around on the DNA Foundation website and find a way to get involved in ending human trafficking. Take action today. Everyone has a voice—you have a voice. Will you have the courage to use it?
——————–
Phantom Universe is an amazing read and the character of Summer is very captivating. I hope you will help us with our mission by spreading the word and purchasing Phantom Universe during the month of February.

Tribute to my Beloved Cat: Lucy, 18.5 years old, died Feb. 2010

A tribute to my dear 18.5 year old first child who died a year ago in my arms.


I’ll always remember the day she came home to live with me – so small she could sit inside my open hand, so cute I just wanted to cuddle and never let go. From day one, she was a talker, always interacting with me using her various Meows and other sounds. I loved the uniqueness of her tortoise-shell fur, the sincerity in her brown eyes, the way she followed me around like a puppy would.

From that day on, we were inseparable. Wherever I was, she wanted to be. She’d sit on the edge of the bathtub while I bathed or showered. That lasted until she got hit by water one day and decided she didn’t like water and began staying away. One day, while I showered, the answering machine went off. She stood in the hallway meowing as she looked back and forth between the machine and me, as if to ask: “How can daddy’s voice be there, when he’s over here?” It was amazing how human she could seem sometimes.

She slept beside me from the beginning. One day, early on, I woke up to muffled meows and realized I’d rolled over on her. That was the first of a serious of guilty accidents for me, when I first saw that look she’d give me as she shook her legs one at a time. It said: “I can’t believe you did that! Grow up!” Lucy always seemed more adult than I ever felt.

That was her name – Lucy, after the Peanuts’ character because she was so stubborn. I carried her around on my shoulder, as I drove, bought groceries, etc. She was so cute that we both got lots of attention, and she was fun to play with and have around.

For many years, while I was single and working long hours, Lucy was my closest companion. She greeted me with purring as she rubbed against my leg when she came home. She’d hop into my lap and curl up or meow for me to pet her. She scolded me when I left her alone too long – avoiding eye contact and keeping her distance to let me know she wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior from me again.
In all honesty, she changed my life forever. My first sole pet after moving out of my parents’ house, Lucy was like my child. I had to feed her, change her litter box, give her attention, etc. In some ways, I spoiled her too much. She was never that comfortable around other people. It had just been the two of us so often, she’d never gotten used to others being around. My sneaking up and surprising her made her skittish.

I taught her tricks, too – things people assured me cats could never learn. I taught her to kiss my finger when I held it in front of her face. She learned to shake and hold my hand, to give me five, and to put both hands in mine and “dance with daddy.” Sometimes, she liked the dancing so much, she would put her hands back after I let go and bite me if I didn’t let her do it again. I taught her to speak and to jump, delighting in her intelligence, her personality, her spirit.

Lucy taught me a lot, too. She taught me about friendship and how to learn to live with another despite their imperfections and irritating habits (mostly mine, not hers). She taught me about parenting, serving as my first experimental child – both playful and stern as the moment required. She taught me about forgiveness. There were the times I stepped on her tail or smashed her foot. The time I awoke from a dream to find myself swinging her by her feet (I’ve never felt so guilty in all my life). There were times I left her for international trips or forgot to fill her water or waited too long to change her litter. Each time she came back to curl up next to me and purr, kissing my finger to let me know she’d forgiven me, and life could go on as it had always been.

What she taught me above all was unconditional love. I had learned about unconditional love in church – the love of God for us, the love of a Savior – but I’d never truly seen it manifest until Lucy came along. She always wanted to be with me, wherever I was, whatever I was doing. She didn’t always demand my attention, content to lie nearby where she could see me, or just hover on the periphery. When she needed attention or food or something else, she let me know, but most of the time it was enough to just be near me. Until I got married, I’d never known another person I felt that way about. No matter how ugly I was when I woke up, how stinky I was until I showed, no matter how unfashionable my clothes, or how scruffy my hair, she loved me. I was her “daddy,” and none of it mattered as long as we could be near each other. Who couldn’t appreciate a love like that? If you’re like me, you probably wish there were more of it.

Eighteen years later, as I ponder our life together, facing the end, it’s hard to believe that soon I may have to live without her. At forty years old, I’ve known her almost half my life. We’ve been together through eight moves, across four states, and too many apartments and houses to name. She’s hung with me through job changes, frustration, depression – even times when we were broke and didn’t know where the next meal might come from. She’s bore the indignity of a new dog joining the family, of being displaced from her usual position on the bed by my wife, and all sorts of other challenges.

Above all else, she’s loved me and adored me, and I have loved and adored her. Now, as her kidneys fail, her hearing decreases, and her walk becomes more strained, she loves me still, and I love her, and somehow I know we always will.

I Believe In Stewardship Not Global Warming

In January 1989, while out in Los Angeles preparing to transfer colleges, I interviewed actor Ted Danson for my college newspaper because he was an alumnus.  During that interview, Danson discussed his passion for the American Ocean’s Campaign (now Oceana), which he’d  founded as an environmental-focused nonprofit to educate the public on saving our damaged oceans.  He recalled the time he’d been on vacation with his family and saw such pollution on a beach that he felt uncomfortable letting his daughters swim.  I recalled times I’d witnessed similar sludge in the Rocky Mountains.  I recalled driving through the Alps and being shocked how well preserved they were by comparison.  That was the moment I first believed mankind’s habit of damaging the environment without concern for the future was a major problem.

So, in a sense, I believed one of the tenets of Global Warming long before that theory existed.  Which is one reason I find it easy to say:  I don’t believe in Global Warming theory.  I believe God created the Earth and gave it to man as a home.  I believe we are here as stewards and we have a responsibility to take care of the gift of our planet and preserve it as a gift to be shared with future generations.  I remember hearing about the destruction of Mangrroves by New Orleans and over in Asia as hurricanes hit and realizing the damage had gotten worse than I’d realized.  And thinking we have to stop this.  And I believe we do.

But that doesn’t mean I believe in all this peudo-science used to justify Global Warming.  Climate changes?  Well, Hammartan winds have been causing strange shifts for decades, so why is it all of a sudden Global Warming?  One of my biggest issues with science as a whole these days is summed up in the article http://slate.me/fo8yGr.  Science has become dominated by people with one dominant worldview and ideology.  How can it truly call itself unbiased, how can the methods truly be subjective when the people asking the questions start from such a similar place?  As a science fiction and fantasy writer, I have marvelled how people who can be so creative and open to endless possibility in their writing can be so close minded in their real world attitudes toward God and other subjects.  Is it really so easy to write off a higher being as the iniator of the Big Bang, when one is so convinced a big bang actually occurred?

And the arguments I’ve heard and data I’ve read on Global Warming just prove this to me.  Anyone who even remotely questions the theory is labelled “irrational” or “ignorant.”  What happened to healthy skepticism in science?  Some legitimate questions have been raised about the data and I don’t think true, dedicated scientists of integrity would discount them so quickly.  There’s no doubt, in my mind, that mankind’s activities are harming the environment.  Corporations and governments and others have built for years, destroying habitat and natural resources, without any regard for long term impact.  We’ve known most of my life that oil was not unlimited, that it one day might run out.  The fact that it hasn’t yet, doesn’t change my concern that our dependence on fossil fuels is a long term concern.  In the same way, I can believe that the Earth’s other rich resources have limits. And one has only to read the Wildlife Foundations endangered species lists to figure out  the damage done to the animal kingdom.

Is it really possible for anyone to believe significant damage hasn’t been done to the environment by man?  Not a rational person, no, but rational people still don’t have to believe in Global Warming to be rational.  Sorry folks.  The very suggestion that they do is completely irrational.  This is science, remember?  It’s based on hypothesis which form theories.  In essence, educated guesses, at least until definitive proof exists.  And while definitive proof exists of environmental damage by man, Global Warming theory has not been definitively proven.  So I remain skeptical.

The need for stewardship, however, is obvious.  It occurs not only in personal finance or use of office supplies (particularly witnessed by those responsible for the relevant budgets) but in the face of rising gas prices.  It’s not really a big stretch to apply the concept to other areas as well, such as the environment.  As farmers, my family often spoke of good stewardship of their land.  Land is valuable and to survive, farmers must make the most of every parcel.  Perhaps city folk have a harder time grasping this prospect, but I don’t think it’s that hard.  We have to take care of everything we own if we want it to last.  I learned that every time a childhood toy broke and couldn’t be repaired.

So here I am, proponent of stewardship but Global Warming skeptic. And I am a rational person, despite being a science fiction and fantasy writer.  I have great faith in science and great faith in religion, and I have great faith in human kind.

For what it’s worth…

My Health Care Plan

Since I wear my heart and my opinions on my sleeve, most people probably already know that I am not a fan of Obama or Obama Care. There are many reasons for this, most related to the fact that I believe the Judeo Christian values this country was founded on, and which even the non-religious Founding Fathers respected and endorsed, are being lost. Obama seems to be proponent of things which move us further from that, so I don’t like him and I don’t like other Liberals with those leanings. It has absolutely nothing to do with race. I rejoice with our country that we finally have a long overdue black President. I just wish it was a different one.

That being said, my issues with Obama Care are more complicated. I believe we need to lower the cost of health care, and I believe the chief culprits for it being out of control are drug companies and insurance companies. Having recently had to deal with both closely as my wife was hospitalized and has required long term medication, and having seen my dad deal with them for over 40 years as a physician, I have had a front row seat to their antics. The people who are executives at these firms are some of the richest in the world, let there be no doubt. They sit up there raking in profits while enjoying making us squirm by making it as expensive to buy their products (drug cos) and difficult to get insurance to pay for as they can.

At the same time, they put out drugs with serious side effects when they know how to make them without them. The samples drug reps give doctors which they sometimes give to you to try out, for example. Ever wonder why those don’t give you side effects? Because they are pure, and the ones they sell you are filtered down with additives. This way they can claim to sell you the same product while manufacturing it more cheaply. And this is perfectly ethical and approved by the FDA. So gee, the government should take over health care, huh? Yeah, the government will do it better than they did before, sure.

Insurance companies love red tape. They love to come up with all kinds of small print rules which make it difficult to get your meds on time, etc. My wife was running out of a very serious medication and they said we had to wait seven more days for a refill. I had to pay $16 per pill to get the pills we needed to tide her over. All of this because the doctor had changed her perscription dosage mid-month. The insurance company gave me the run around over several phone calls. I wasted probably four hours of my time with them and more with the pharmacy before someone finally explained the truth. And these are people I pay a lot of money to annually for services. If I ran my business like they do, I’d be bankrupt, yet here we are, allowing them to offer bad service to the public while raising premiums every year.

So, I do think we need to regulate insurance and drug companies. That’s where Health Care Reform starts for me. As far as the indigent and uninsured, I think we should have a public health care plan anyone without insurance is required to use. I think they should also be assessed copays based on income requirements, since some uninsured people just don’t have it because they choose not to, rather than because they’re poor. Rich people, for example, don’t see the need because they are rich. Fine, let them go to public hospitals and wait in line with the rest of the uninsured. We need to have a plan for the uninsured, no doubt, because that also contributes to rising costs, but not at the expense of giving the government control of private medical decisions for those of us who pay thousands a year for insurance.

A friend in England tweeted me recently to say how sad he was to see the US moving toward government health care. He’s dealt with it all his life in England and said now that he needs more serious treatment, he’s not allowed because the government doesn’t want to pay. So he is stuck getting sub-par treatment from government health care. Does that really sound better to you? I think a lot of these pro-Obama Care people will find themselves facing such frustrations. And I have no doubt they’ll be calling the system biased or racist or discriminatory when they do. Even though, if they just did research, they’d realize this kind of thing is what they asked for.

As for the socialism claim, socialism is defined as follows by dictionary.com: “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.” Isn’t that what we are doing when we give control of health care to the government? So why are the Dems crying out at the unfairness of calling it “socialism,” when it fits the definition?

And if we allow the government to control one thing, soon they will want to control another. It’s amusing to me that a party which loves to complain about “intolerance” are so intolerant of those who disagree with them. What I’ve found over they years is that most people who call others “intolerant” don’t want tolerance, they want agreement. If you don’t agree with them, you’re intolerant.

We seem to have lost respect for free speech, a value which has made this country one of the most successful and most admired in the world. Or used to. When people see abortion clinics bombed, government officials threatened, people wanting to declare themselves independent of the government–among other ridiculous responses I’ve seen to health care–why would they admire us? We don’t even respect free speech in practice when we do things like that. Who would want to live in a country with citizens who can’t handle the government doing things they don’t like? Citizens of most other countries deal with that all the time. They don’t need to come here where people get so riled up by it, they act like spoiled children.

We also seem to have forgotten that we have a lot more in common than different. We all want health, happiness, security, stability. If we really want what we say we want, we should do a better job of working together to find solutions which can really provide that for all of us. Would it take compromise? Of course. How do you think the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were written? Ou Founding Fathers’ writings reveal they didn’t always agree, but they acted together to hash out a compromise to serve the betterment of the nation, and, in the process, founded one of the most successful nations on earth, one most other countries admire in one way or another or have.

We have forgotten the principles on which this country was founded and what they require of us. Our quest for “me first” individualism has led us to become so self-centered, we only want what we want and forget about everyone else. Our current political and social climate are evidence of this, and if we don’t honestly admit it and start making changes, America won’t be America any more.

For what it’s worth…