Monday, November 30, 2015

Are you sitting still?

   You may think you are, but you’re not.  You never can be.

   As the earth turns, a person standing on the surface at the equator is zipping along at 1,100 miles per hour toward the east.  (Do the math: a point at the equator has 24 hours to get all the way around to the same place, so 25,000 miles, which is the circumference of the earth, divided by 24 hours = 1,100 mph)  Depending where you are on earth you could be moving at up to this speed.  This is the biggest reason why we launch rockets toward the east; they’re getting a nice free boost in that direction just sitting there on the launch pad.  (Naomi and I are headed for FL today, by the way, to witness a 3 December launch.)

   And the earth takes 365 days to complete one orbit around the sun, which is 94 million miles away from us.  (Do the math: our orbit circumference is 2 x pi x 94 million = 590,619,418.9 miles, divided by 365 days = 1,618,135 miles that the earth speeds along its orbit per day, or 67,422.3 mph on average.

   And the entire solar system, the sun and all its family of planets and moons, is racing around the center of our Milky Way Galaxy at 514,000 mph. (A speed at which you would circle the earth at the equator in just 2 minutes, 54 seconds.)

   And the entire Milky Way Galaxy, with its approximately 400 billion suns (including ours) all arrayed in a beautiful glittering spiral pattern, is flashing through space at an incredible 1.3 million mph.

   So the next time you tell your child to sit still, dammit, be advised that she or he simply cannot. Not by a long shot.

   And neither can you.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Who decrees these things?

For like some time now, people can’t seem to converse without like using the word like twelve times a sentence.  Who made this a rule of, like, etiquette?

And lexicographers have been like madly scrambling to keep up with the like hundreds of new words that have been like welded together from traditional separate pairings.  Like bookstore, bookshelf, backseat, businesswoman.  Which constitutional amendment like grants everybody this right?

So, like the latest bigthing is to begin like every single reply to a question with the word so.  Allofadamnsudden it’s like a worldwide social requirement.

So, like whothehell decrees these things?


Monday, November 16, 2015

On being productive

     Li Fang (925-996) wrote what was probably the first exhaustive--and I’m sure exhausting--encyclopedia composed of 3,500 volumes he claimed contained all the knowledge in the Song dynasty.  Barbara Cartland (1901-2000) wrote an astonishing 723 romance novels in her lifetime, selling uncounted millions of copies.  John Creasey (1908-1973) wrote 564 novels under 28 pseudonyms.  Robert Shields (1918-2007) wrote a 37.5-million-word diary chronicling every five minutes of his life from 1972 to 1997.  (How he would have loved Facebook and Twitter.)  Bear in mind these folks did all this mostly in longhand or at best with old-fashioned typewriters.

     Stephen King has so far written 54 novels that have sold 250 million copies all over the known universe, along with 200 short stories.  Heather Graham, a lovely and gracious lady I had the pleasure of enjoying breakfast with during a writers’ conference in Florida, has written 150 novels and novellas that have sold 75 million copies in 25 languages.  The James Patterson and Clive Cussler gangs of writers diligently keep the bookstores stocked with a constant supply of new titles.

     So how come I can only manage, on an occasional good day, to compose about 500 words?

     It’s embarrassing.


p.s. BTW, have you bought your copy of my new novel, DEATHSMAN?  (It’s available quite reasonably in print or e-book from Amazon.)
       Think Great Winter Read by the Fire.
       Think Excellent Christmas Gifts for Family and Friends.


Monday, November 9, 2015

Is this sportsmanship?

     During a 200-mile round trip yesterday in eastern North Carolina, Naomi and I saw six dead deer alongside the road.  Presumably six vehicles were damaged.  I hope nobody was injured.

     It’s deer hunting season again, so this is only to be expected.

     North Carolina is one of eleven states (mostly in the Southeast) where “hunting” with packs of deer hounds is still allowed.  It’s an old European tradition probably first practiced in America about 1650, but it’s controversial to say the least because of complaints from land owners, primarily.  By 1920, dog hunting had been banned in all the northeastern states.  Texas even banned it in 1990, and today in those states where it is still allowed the practice is under pressure, with some counties banning it altogether and others imposing restrictions.

     I’m a gun owner, but I strongly disagree with the practice for several reasons:

     First, how sporting is it, really, to station hunters on all four dirt roads bordering a rectangular section of woods (often seated comfortably in upholstered swivel chairs bolted into pickup beds) and then run a dog pack through the woods to flush the deer out into the gun sights?  In my opinion it’s not sporting at all, because the deer have little chance.

     Second, I’ve seen how the deer hounds are often treated throughout the rest of the year, confined to small outdoor dirt-floored pens, simply shot in the woods if they don’t perform well enough, tick-ridden, even abandoned.  They are disposable dogs.

     Third, the dogs frighten the deer so much they will run for miles from their normal habitat, a predictable number of them every year darting across highways where they are struck and killed or maimed by vehicles, which suffer expensive damage—not to mention putting the passengers at risk—which costs us all in higher insurance premiums. 

     In the state of Massachusetts, where I was raised, you may only hunt deer on foot using a relatively short-range shotgun (which is much less dangerous to the citizenry than a long-range high-powered rifle).  And you must employ the learned skills of the true hunter.


Monday, November 2, 2015

Want to write a novel?

     When I started writing novels, I thought, How hard can it be?  And I proceeded to write two over several months, one about Neuse River pollution by huge corporate hog-raising operations, and another about drug smuggling.  They sit out in my shed today, neither being salable.  (I tell people they’re so bad even the squirrels won’t nest in them.)

     But each of them taught me a lot. 

     Finally, I selected two best-selling novels I liked and took them apart.  That is, I read them again straight through.  Then I read them in detail, taking notes, trying to nail down how many characters and scenes there were, how the story moved, and so on.  I stripped the books down until I could begin to see the bare bones of them.  And that was an excellent exercise because I began to understand how it’s really done.  You don’t ever perceive this by just reading a lot of books, because the authors have skillfully fleshed out the bones and made it look easy, which it most assuredly is not. 

     You may want to try this exercise with a favorite book or two before setting out to write one of your own.