Thursday, September 29, 2005

Taking life too seriously

Mark your calendars, folks. Because it took exactly 285,336 hours to determine that I take life far too seriously. The good news is that I have you, my faithful readers, to thank for this revelation.

I even think I saw an angelic light fall upon me, a la Touched by an Angel, when it hit me.

I've spent my life being the enforcer of truth and justice everywhere. Or at least truth. Or, at least, what I believe to be truth. (I've been known to be wrong a time or two.)

Anyhow, as I've been on this blogging journey so far, I am looking through a new set of eyes. Trying to find humor in life, you know? I'll admit, I've been working hard at this. But in the meantime, I think I have overcome a major obstacle here. And I will say, there is a lot of practical application to this realization.

I've been working quite hard with my second son to learn his letters. No matter how many times we went over the letters M, N, J, H, F, and D, he would mess them up again the next time. I sat down with him, pulled out the flash cards every night, quizzed him, made him write them out, made him say them over and over and over and over and...

Frankly, I was getting nowhere. But then, I decided to try something really wild and crazy. I decided to make learning his letters fun. I joked with him, made him act totally silly when he was getting upset, made myself act totally silly when I was getting upset, and just tried to get him to relax.

Will still spent a lot of time. But you know what? In the meantime, neither of us was ready to break into tears.

Hmm. I mean, really, how important is being able to read your letters? Okay. Kind of important. But still, not so important to forget about having some fun.

So, I vow that from now on, I won't take life so seriously. At least, not all the time.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Big Brother Has Arrived

For decades now, people have feared "Big Brother". The concept, in its various forms, has been part of countless science fiction stories. The idea is that technology will eventually bring us to a day that the government can watch our every move. They will know everything we do, both publicly and privately.

But few people seem to realize that Big Brother has arrived. Only, not at all the way ever envisioned. We have fought so hard through the years to prevent the government from having this capability, yet completely ignored the fact that we have brought this moment upon ourselves.

Today, it is possible to track nearly everything about you, including your location to within a few meters. And the secret to this is not in some government super computer or spy satellite, but in a few small items that fit into the palm of your hand.

The first is, of course, your wallet. More specifically, your credit and debit cards. The era of the Personal Check is fading. Most stores, now, treat your Personal Check in the same way as a debit card. The transaction is instantaneous and electronic. More and more people are forgoing the use of cash for their debit card.

What this means is that there is now a record of everything you buy. Just look at your bank statement, which can also reveal where you are located.

But the more significant sign of Big Brother is your cell phone. That's right. That personal item it seems most Americans these days can't live without.

Were you aware that it is possible to determine your physical location simply by triangulating your cell phone within the cell phone towers? In fact, the FCC requires that by the end of 2005, that a person can be tracked to within 100 meters for 911 support. Sometimes this has been referred to as a poor-man's GPS. But, the fact is, all you need to do is leave your cell phone on, and in your pocket or purse, and you can be tracked. Many newer phones have GPS built-in, reducing that 100 meters to just a few feet.

Furthermore, most new cell phones, today, have built-in cameras. So, while the government hasn't installed cameras on every street corner (or has it?), we, the general public, have.

There have already been at countless uses of this. In one case, a quick-thinking boy used his camera phone to snap a picture of a crime-in-action, which aided in the arrest. More significantly, in Europe, there was a case of the police using a criminal's cell phone to track him down.

Big Brother has arrived, folks. But he isn't your government. He is you!

Google Thievery

It is likely you are all aware of the new "feature" that Google is offering: Google Print. If you aren't aware, basically, they are providing a free service that allows you to search the content of books on the market. Their public statement about this sounds like they are God's gift to authors and publishers, promising increased sales, limiting how much is available to users, and a convenient "opt out" program.

But the fact is, what they are doing is illegal. Blatant copyright violation. Author Sara Gruen pointed this out to me originally, and what I discovered shocked me. Enough to write a nasty letter to Google.

It turns out that with a few simple keywords, you can turn up each and every page found in the book. And we are talking about recently published books, definitely still under copyright.

What is most upsetting is that Google has blatantly lied about this on several fronts. First, by claiming you can only turn up a few pages. (I was able to find an entire book. Every page, every word...including, as was pointed out to me, the copyright page that explicitly prohibits copying!)

Second, by claiming that they had the publisher's permission. (I personally know of one case where the author contacted their publisher, and their publisher most definitely did not grant permission.)

Third, by suggesting this will increase book sales. I'd like to see the evidence to support that one, because, frankly, I don't believe it.

The copyright is there to protect authors. It is there to ensure authors and publishers get their rightful dues in the cost of publication. It isn't a cheap business. It isn't even, most of the time, profitable. So, any attempt to infringe on the copyright in such an underhanded manner is just wrong.

I sent Google a nasty letter about this, and they came back with a very polite response that seems to ignore the heart of the matter: Google is stealing. Not only so, but Google is providing the means for other people to steal. And, it seems, the Author's Guild agrees, as they have brought a lawsuit against Google.

Please take the time to send Google a note. Tell them that this is wrong. Don't know how? Here's their e-mail address:

Monday, September 26, 2005

Stupidity in Advertising (or, Less is More)

Advertisers must think we're stupid. ("Don't say stupid, dad. Stupid's not a nice word.") Sorry to break my own lesson here, sons. But it's the truth.

About a week ago, I saw an advertisement for Coke, proclaiming the good news, which will bring peace to all the people. And this shall be a sign unto you: You shall find their beverages packaged in 16.9 fluid ounce bottles.

My initial reaction was that they must have had people complaining that 20 oz. bottles were too big or contained too much, or something. I was giving them the benefit of the doubt. Until I went to the store. Yeah, really great. They are now selling an eight-pack of the 16.9 oz. bottles for the same price that a couple months back they sold an eight-pack of 20 oz. bottles. The 20 oz. bottles have been relegated to a six-pack.

Ah, yes, Coca-Cola, thank you! Because I thought I was just getting too good of deal before. Now, the balance has been restored. The Yin and Yang of business righted. No more will I have a leftover bottle sitting on my desk with exactly 3.1 oz. remaining on the bottom. Perfection!

This "new, more convenient 16.9 oz. size" is nothing but a ploy to get us to spend the same amount of money and get less.

Advertisers must think we're stupid. Frankly, I refuse to do it. I refuse to give in to the greed of corporate America (or whatever country your greed hails from). No, you can keep your 16.9 oz bottles.

I'll take my business to the Coca-cola vending machine at work, where they still sell a 20 oz. bottle for the incredibly low price of only $1.30, thank you very much. We'll see who's stupid, now!

("Don't say stupid, dad. Stupid's not a nice word.")

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Yucky, Icky Men Ruling the World

Have you seen the news? A blow to mankind everywhere. Women, it seems, have far cleaner hands than men.

Come on, guys! Get with the program, here. Are you really in that much of a hurry not to take care of one of the most basic principles of hygiene? Doing your business, and then bypassing the sinks is just plain uncool.

But, then again, maybe not. I mean, when I approach the sink with my, as yet, unclean hands, first thing I do is touch the faucet handle. That's important. Because after a thorough thirty-second washing with soap and quick rinse, the next thing I do is shut off the water...touching the same faucet. So, hands are once again contaminated.

No problem. The solution to this is that as you wash your hands, you also wash the sink and faucet handle. Then, when you turn off the water, you're safe.

Until you go to get a paper towel. You grab that handle to propel about five-times as much paper at you as really necessary. Hmm. Okay, back up. While you are washing your hands and the sink, take a moment to go over and wash the paper-towel dispenser.

Perfect. Dry your hands, and then head out the door. But, don't touch the door handle. Otherwise you'll have to start all over again.

Still, we men have a gap to cover here. Because if men really are filthier beings, we will be more likely to get ill, which could lead to a dramatic shift in life expectancy. Pretty soon, the ratio of men to women changes, and next thing you know, the women are ruling the world. (Which may not be a bad thing, come to think of it.)

Then again, I read a study that showed people who grow up in dirtier environments have stronger immune systems. So, maybe, just maybe, the yucky, icky men of this world are helping to keep humanity alive and well. It is the women who are weaker by having clean hands, and perhaps that is why men have, traditionally, ruled the world.

So, make a decision, men. What will it be? Clean hands? Or world domination?

But before you decide, keep in mind that if the number of men increases dramatically relative to the number of women based solely on the fact we men don't wash our hands, we have a major mating issue to contend with.

Yeah. I thought you would agree with me. (Sex can be a powerful motivator.) Wash those hands!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Help! I've gone cross-eyed!

Remember the movie, A Christmas Story? Ralphie wanted a Red Ryder BB gun, but everyone told him he would shoot his eye out?

Well, I have a new warning for all you folks. Don't stare too long as one of those Magic Eye-style stereograms. You'll go cross-eyed!

As I type this, I'm seeing seeing double double of of everything thing. You see, it actually started in an effort to eventually publicize my book.

I decided that the theme of my website will be Optical Illusions. This goes perfectly with a certain aspect of my story, and should be of interest to kids of all ages. But, if I'm going to make a website based on optical illusions, I better know a thing or two about making them.

So, I decided to start with one of the more famous of optical illusions, the stereogram. You know, all those multi-colored random dots that everyone insists has an image of the Starship Enterprise hidden in it, but is nothing more than a bunch of...well...multi-colored random dots.

The first time I stared at one of these things, it took me three hours to focus in on the 3-D image. Seriously! But I finally did it. Now, it only takes me a few seconds.

Anyhow, here I am staring at my monitor at some computer-generated samples, imagining what kind of images I could include on my website using the technique. But then, my eyes got stuck! And let me tell you, staring at your own nose starts to hurt after a while.

I managed to get them straightened out...but they still hurt, and they still feel cross-eyed. So, I'm taking this opportunity to warn anyone still daring enough to read my not stare at the stereograms. You just might end up cross-eyed for the rest of your life!

Now, to round out this point. I am seriously looking for Optical Illusions to include in a website for my book. So, tell me what are your favorite optical illusions that stand out? For me, I'd have to say it is the picture of the old-hag looking woman that is actually a picture of a glamourous young woman...and vice-versa.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Secret Agent Man...or Woman

My agent is out there, right now. Somewhere.

I'm just a few months shy of having my manuscript in shape to start shopping around in that elusive pursuit called the query-go-round. And you know what? The thought of the umpteen rejections I'll potentially receive doesn't scare me.

What scares me is the thought of trying to figure out which agents to query to begin with. I have, so far, used three separate major resources to find a list of agents who represent young-adult and/or science fiction and fantasy. The total number of agents was enormous. So, I whittled that down to agents who only represent both young-adult and science fiction or fantasy. Still, the number was too high.

Using a rather complex and entirely subjective process, I am down to a start out with.

But, who knows if they are the right twelve? I mean, even Jesus had Judas among his twelve. I'm just a writer. This whole "picking out an agent" thing is beyond me. Because, you know, it isn't like I can just window-shop. Not only must I pick an agent, but the agent must, in return, pick me.

So, here is what the ideal process would be, from my perspective.

There should be one and only one website. (with the R written backwards, of course). There, you browse the agents. But more importantly, you submit your own information, including query and partial manuscript, and three or four agents must compete to represent you, a la Priceline or whatever. No need for me to preselect agents and send them mountains of paper, only to have them read the query and trash it all with a polite, but perfectly preformatted form letter stating as much.

No, the agents on read your work and then contact you directly. They are required to fill out a checklist, with such boxes as:
  • Writing is strong
  • Storyline is hackneyed
  • What were you on when you thought you could be a writer?
You get the idea. This provides the author useful feedback. Ultimately, some agent agrees to represent you, and suddenly you are off the query-go-round and entering SubmissionVille.

Unfortunately, the realities of the business make such a method unrealistic. So, I shall continue my pursuit of finding that Secret Agent out there, be it man or woman. Because someone, somewhere out there will want to represent me. I'm sure of it. I think. I hope. Maybe.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

The Importance of Being Mommy

For those who read yesterday's blog, you may see this as a contradiction; but, I think mothers are the most important person in a child's life.

I'm sorry to have to say this, but men tend to be rather lazy when it comes to their role as parents. Yes, yes. It's true. Mothers step up to the plate no matter what. Whether they receive the recognition or not, they are there. Men, on the other hand, will step back and allow mothers to do it all. You tell a father that mothers are more important, and, well, they let mothers do it all. Mothers pick up the slack for men. Whether it is because a father isn't really being as good as father as he should or could be, or because the father is totally absent from a child's life, mothers make up for the fact that men aren't being the most important person in a child's life.

And, just as a father must recognize themselves as the most important person in their childrens' lives, a mother must recognize the same for herself...but for a different reason. In one study, while family situations played an important role in the academic performance and overall child well-being, it was the confidence the mother had in herself and her role as a mother that was the stronger influence.

My wife...she is incredible. Not just as my wife, but as a mother to our children. And there is no better way to appreciate that as when she isn't around.

A few Saturdays ago, my wife spent an entire day away from motherhood to Scrap. Ten hours straight of pure Scrapbooking bliss. (Well, for her, anyhow.)

So, there I am at home with ten kids. No, wait. It was only four...but they move around so fast, it was hard to keep proper count. I decided to "be mommy". I decided not to insist my boys spend the entire day helping me clean up the playroom, unload and load the dishwasher, scrub the floors, wash the windows, mow the grass, and... Well you get the idea.

Instead, I decided to follow in the footsteps of my wife. Spend time with each and every one of them, sometimes invidually, sometimes as a group. No raising my voice, no losing my temper. This would be a place of peace and happiness, where everyone gets along famously.

Then, reality took over. I ran around the house, keeping my daughter from writing with yet another marker she found from who knows where on yet another wall or book or herself. I had to play trains with my three-year-old. (Just how many times can you push Thomas around a track? I think it was a thousand and one for me.) I had to juggle between helping my older boys keeping their roller coaster design in Roller Coaster Tycoon from crashing, making lunch, watching Booh-Bahs with the youngest, and trying to convince them of taking a nap.

Needless to say, by the time I had them in bed and my wife came through the door, I could totally relate to less-than-amorous feelings she might have when I would come home from work. I sat comatose on the couch, drooling, only having accomplished half of what she does in a day. She smiled at me, and I know what she was thinking. "So, perhaps you'll appreciate me more now, eh?"

She didn't say it, though. Bless her heart.

So to my wife, and to all mothers out there...I appreciate you. Being mommy is hard. No. Being mommy is really hard. And, your hard work does not go unnoticed.

At the end of the day, after everything I did, my children still asked me, "When's Mommy gonna be home?"

Your children love you, mommies! They need you in a way altogether different than they need fathers. And I applaud you. Because when it comes to being Mommy...this Daddy just can't cut it!

Friday, September 16, 2005

The Importance of Being Daddy

Last night was "Date night with Daddy" for my second son. (And, if I've failed to mention it, I'll inform everyone now. I have four kids. A seven-year-old boy, six-year-old boy, three-year-old boy, and a twenty-one-month-old girl.) After the family had dinner, we headed out together with the goal to find him his first tying shoes.

We hit our first (but only) snag before we got out the door. Son number three had presumed that "Date night with Daddy" included him. So, as I'm heading out the door, he is right there with me.

"No, no. Not this time."

I would find out much later from my wife that shutting the door on him resulted in about twenty minutes of crying. I'm not sure if that should be a source of pride that he wanted to spend time with me that much, or a source of empathy that he was so disappointed.

Anyhow, it took all of one shoe store and three pairs of shoes before we finalized on the white and black Spider-Man shoes. Mission accomplished. Now, how to fill the next two hours?

Next stop was Dunkin' Donuts. After attempting to order a doughnut three times, I finally had to give in the the peer pressures of the linguistics of high-fat foods, and order a donut. My son decided he wanted to be like me and get the Boston Kreme, too.

Anyhow, an interesting thing happened. Apparently, the sight of a father with his young son out on the town is the ultimate "babe magnet", as a friend of mine would put it. Well, in this case, it was the cashier. She kept eyeing me and then my son with this smirk on her face. You know the one...the look that says, "Oh, how cute! Isn't that the cutest thing you've ever seen? A dad having donuts and chocolate milk with his son! Are you married still? Do you want to have kids with me?"

Okay. Maybe not the last part. Still, I can't help but marvel how such a simple act of parenthood can draw so much attention. This is not a first-time occurance. Anytime I have any of the kids, either alone or all together, sans mother, you'd think I was the greatest man on the face of the earth.

Which makes me realize how uncommon this really must be. I've often found it difficult to step outside my role as "man of the house" and "provider" and all that to just spend quality...and quantity...time with my kids. But each time I do, I have reaped benefits far beyond the scoldings for misbehaviour or heart-to-heart talks about doing the right thing.

Fathers seem not to recognize that they are the most important person in their child's life. Sorry mothers...but it's true. (Not to downplay the role of mothers. They are of infinite importance as well, which I'll discuss tomorrow.) But fathers ultimately shape who their child will become. It has been proven over and over again that children who grow up with absent (either physically or emotionally) fathers suffer severe consequences into adulthood. Eating disorders in girls, and criminal behaviour in boys are high up there, plus a multitude of other issues. Heartburn, upset stomach, headache, chest pain, sexual dysfunction, stroke, and sometimes death. (Oh, wait...sorry...that was an ad for a heart medication.)

The point is, fathers...take time not just to be the father of your kids. But to be daddy. They'll love you for it.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Patience of Shoe-Tying

Make a loop. Around the loop. Through the hole and pull!

This week, a major event happened in our household. My six-year-old (finally) learned to tie his shoes. Well, technically, he learned to tie the laces attached to a shoe puzzle. Anyhow, his reward is a date with Daddy to go pick out his very first pair of laced shoes.

Teaching him to tie was definitely a opportunity for me to practice patience. The entire endeavor began several weeks ago. My son had resisted learning to tie (just as he resists learning just about anything he thinks is difficult). So, while I had him captive sitting in the car with me while my wife ran into the grocery story, I taught him this little diddy (or is that ditty?) to prepare him for the big moment. Make a cross and through the hole. Make a loop. Around the loop. Through the hole and pull!

Twenty minutes later, he still didn't know it. But, my three-year-old did, which should make his chance for shoe-tying success considerably better.

Anyhow, he had the basic idea. A week later, we're all trapped in the car again. So I take off my own shoe, call my son up and have him sit next to me. We worked and worked, and I demonstrated each step, recalling the little diddy/ditty along the way.

Not a whole lot of progress.

So, about five days ago, I pulled out the shoe-lace puzzle and told him to sit down and start practicing while I prepared dinner. This was a huge mistake. Not two minutes into it, he was crying. Sobbing really. Informing me that he can't do it. I, of course, lose my cool and tell him to cool it. If he needs help, ask me. Don't cry about it. No good. So, I sent him into the other room until he calmed down. (Really, until I calmed down.)

Then, we had this heart to heart. I demonstrated how silly it would be if, when I was at work and my boss gave me something I thought was hard, I just burst into tears. He broke out laughing at the image. I then told him he could do it, but it is hard, and he must ask for help.

So, we practiced together, and he made slight progress.

My wife and I decided to make a reward chart for him. If he practiced tying for ten days, just a few minutes a day, we would buy him new shoes. Two days later, we practiced again, and he managed to do it all on his own (with just a few promptings of my little diddy/ditty).

The next morning, he was a tying expert. No help from me, he could tie a perfect bow.

So, tonight's the big night. Date night with Daddy. First pair of lace-up shoes and, more opportunity to pick out his very own doughnut! (Or donut, as the rest of the world calls them these days.)

I think next I'll teach him to wash the windows.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

What's Your Toothpaste Personality?

This morning, as I stood in front of the bathroom mirror performing that special jig called brushing my teeth, and after I ignored the fact that we have so much clutter on our sink that I can't even see the countertop, and then after I examined each and every item that covered our countertop, I realized something.

We have a lot of toothpaste.

Now, I deny any and all responsibility on this one. I'm a one-tube-a-year kind of guy. Aquafresh Sensitive. I buy it, and use it until it is rolled up so tightly, that even God himself couldn't get another drop of triple protection onto a toothbrush. With careful rationing, I find a single tube can last me at least six months.

My wife, however, likes to spice things up. She wants variety. And I have the evidence to prove it.

Case in point: Crest Liquid Gel toothpaste in two flavors (one of which appears to have tiny little pieces of paper in it that promise a blast of cool refreshing mint, or something); Crest Whitening Expressions toothpaste; Crest Multicare toothpaste; and Crest Tartar Protection toothpaste. That's just the varieties of Crest. I think there are some Colgate brand tubes laying about as well.

Yet, each of these toothpastes are barely a quarter used up. We have enough toothpaste to last until the next Great Flood! I've tried to encourage my wife to stick with one until it is gone, but the effort was in vain.

I will commend my wife, however, for coming up with a clever solution: The travel-size collection! She even bought a box that had four separate travel-size tubes in four separate refreshing flavors. Each one would last me a month.

Now, I say all this not to pick on my wife...but to realize that our toothpaste-buying habits might just be a window into our souls. In my scientific sampling of two, my theory might just prove to be the greatest advancement in psychology since, well, Freud. Imagine understanding a person intimately and completely simply by looking at how they buy toothpaste.

In my case, I'm clearly a man of monogamy. Never sway, never bat eyes at another tube. Not even a tiny flirt. And, I'm a very sensitive man. Loving, caring, yet able to distinguish between the hot and cold moments in our marriage.

My wife, however. Well, she likes to...hmm. I don't like where this is headed. Okay, ignore the fact that she won't commit to one tube for very long. Let's presume that's a fluke. But variety. She loves variety. She doesn't like to be in a relationship with someone who never changes, and...hmm. I never change. Okay, skip that one as well.

On second thought, I don't think toothpaste says anything about a person's personality. Forget I ever brought it up. Thanks.

(What's your toothpaste personality?)

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Random Act of Kindness...and Shame

So the past few blog entries really have been rather me-centered. (Of course, who wouldn't want to read about me?)

But let me pause to share a random act of kindness I observed that really touched me. No humor involved.

Last week, I stopped off at a local Kroger on my way home from work to pick up a few things. While standing in the self-checkout line, there was this lady. She had two kids with her, the youngest probably about two. Anyhow, she only had a few items...but her card was rejected. Now, I have no idea why her card was rejected. Perhaps she was out of money. Perhaps there was some computer failure someplace. But whatever the reason, she told the cashier that she would have to put the food items back.

In the meantime, at the checkout adjacent to hers, a man finished paying, then went to pick up his change from the cashier. He finished, grabbed his bags, then rushed out the door in the same time it took for the woman to convince her two-year-old it was time to get back into the cart seat.

Then, the cashier took the food the lady had in her cart and put it into a bag.

"That man paid for these for you," she said.

"What? You're kidding!"

"Nope. He said not to tell you until he was gone."

It seemed such a small gesture, but one that had lasting impact on me. I often get caught up in thinking about the "big things" we can do to help people, I completely miss the small opportunities.

So, that night at the dinner table, I shared this event with my family.

But this is where my shame comes in. As much as this moment of kindness impacted me, I guess I am so quick to forget. It wasn't three days later, and I'm standing in line behind a lady in Sav-A-Lot to buy a single package of shredded cheese that I had forgotten in my previous Kroger trip. After her groceries were tallied, she started to tell the cashier to take off individual items until her total was under twenty dollars.

Do you think I would notice this? There I am, oblivious to the plight of this woman, when I had an opportunity to offer the same kindness I had praised just three days earlier. It wasn't until this woman was out the door and driving away that I fully realized what had happened. Then I felt ashamed.

I, apparently, am too busy and self-absorbed to offer to pay the extra five bucks this women needed to buy the rest of her food. I'm a Loser with a capital L. It certainly put me in my place.

So, a reminder to myself: Be on the look out for opportunities to perform Random Acts of Kindness...otherwise I might find myself experience a Random Act of Shame.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Six degrees of fame

I'm sure you are all aware of the game, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. If not...well, where have you been living for the past twenty years? I'll refrain from going into it here.

But, I recently came to realize I like to play a completely different version of this. Six degrees of fame. Essentially, how close to fame are you, personally?

The closest I came for a long time was four degrees. I have a brother. (Actually, I have five brothers, but who's counting?) He is a vocal instructor. He was trained under Seth Riggs. Seth isn't, himself, really famous, unless you are talking the world of vocal instructors. But, Seth is responsible for teaching famous persons including the likes of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson. So, that's four. Michael Jackson, Seth Riggs, Eric Bruner, then me.

Then, a few years later, I was able to move that up. My brother (a different one, not the vocal instructor) started working for Dr. James Dobson. Now, not in every circle is he famous, but he is certainly well-known. So, that's three. Through my brother. James Dobson, Kurt Bruner, then me.

Next, I was able to move to two. My brother (the one who works for Dobson) has published several books, and, just a couple years ago, hit the Christian bestseller list for his books Finding God in the Lord of the Rings (co-authored by Jim Ware) and Inklings of God. On top of that, he would guest-host the radio program for Dr. Dobson on occasion. Soon, I found people would know about Kurt Bruner, and find it surprising I was his brother. (Hmm. I guess I don't seem like the type who could have a brother who is semi-famous.) So, that's two. Kurt Bruner, then me.

In the past two years, I have been able to reaffirm my status of two degrees. I've come to know many published authors. (Some famous, others, not yet famous.)

At this point, I have nowhere to go except to become famous myself. And that's where my current work-in-progress comes in. When it is published (or, if I'm published, I suppose...but I'm full of hope), then I might just move that up to one. Me!

I'm not there yet. And, there is certainly the possibility I will never get there. Frankly, I'm not really looking for fame. I hate the spotlight. When I sing in church, I prefer to hide in the hallways to avoid people coming up to me. Yet, I really want to see my novel published.

In the meantime, I have two degrees of fame. What about you?

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Alas, there is hope

It has been suggested by a couple of the comments that I am, in fact, over-exaggerating my lack of funniness. Frankly, I agree. I can be funny.

My problem is that for every time I succeed at being funny, there are about ten times I try but fail. Plus, the times I'm funny really aren't much use in my writing.

The first thing I need to do is analyze. That's what I do best. When I originally posted the question about how to become funny on the world's greatest forum for writers, Backspace, there were two main responses.

  1. That humor is in-born, part of your personality DNA, and therefore any attempt to try to be funny will be instantly noticed and, therefore, fail.
  2. If you're not funny now, you can't ever learn to be.

Hmm. After careful analysis of both views, I discovered they mean the same thing. So, does this mean I'm destined to a life without humor? Of looks of utter embarrassment for me from my wife when she realizes I had just said something that was supposed to be funny?

But, alas, there is hope. It turns out I'm not totally humorless. I actually enjoy various forms of humor myself, as well as, on occasion, manage to make people laugh. The trick, it seems, will be in figuring how how to utilize my strengths and avoid my weaknesses in this area.

So, next time, I guess I'll examine various forms of humor, and determine which one I'm strong at. (Or, at least, the one I'm the least weak at!)

Until next time, keep laughing!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Is this thing on?

I was fairly overwhelmed yesterday after my first post on the blogging frontier trail. I received four...count them with, two, three, four comments! (Never mind that one of the comments was my own.) So, there's three people who won't be coming back...

As for the rest of you first-time visitors, I thought I should explain something. I have no intention of writing humor. I mean, really, I rarely even read humor. I'm more of a speculative fiction kinda guy, but I also venture out into a few literary works, young adult books, memoirs, thrillers, and a bunch of other stuff. But, anything that is found on a bookshelf labeled "Humor" I just would never pick up. Not that I don't enjoy humor. I'm human, after all. But it isn't my preferred genre.

I'm actually halfway through editing my first book, which is a young-adult fantasy. Not like Harry Potter. But school-aged kids with some supernatural abilities. ('s kind of like Harry Potter...but what isn't these days?)

So, why am I trying to become funny? Well, glad you asked. You see, as I mentioned in my previous post, I'm a rather serious guy. The subject matter I write tends to be darker in nature. If I don't manage to make one of my characters cry, I don't feel I'm doing my job. But, like any good book, I need comic relief. At the moment, there is none. Well...there was that one scene, but I ended up yanking it.

And that's where I'm at. I have a really good, really exciting book, with the potential for at least three more books to follow in a series...but very little humor (e.g., none). My goal, then, is to be able to work in humor seemlessly and expertly as a writer who, frankly, fails miserably at this currently. (Hmm. Five -ly adverbs in a single sentence. Isn't that a no-no?)

I'll keep you all updated how it is going. (Now, it's time to find some new readers here, as you all reading this now likely won't return.)

Thursday, September 08, 2005

On becoming funny

Hello, one and all. I've been part of the on-line world since, well, before the World Wide Web even existed. Yet, in the past fourteen years, I've never really entered the world of the Blog. But, last night, I went to a book signing by an on-line friend, Melanie Lynne Hauser, author of Confessions of Super Mom. She is hysterical, and funny, and she made me laugh. Sure, I know, that's redundant...but you wouldn't think so were you to see her in person.

Anyhow, I happened to meet one of Melanie's friends, who is known in the blogging world as Bookworm. My interest piqued, I decided to give the whole blogging thing a try.

So, is what I have to say worth reading? Who knows! But, as I'm currently working on my very first novel, I hope so.

Which brings me to the topic at hand: On becoming funny. I'm the first to admit, I'm not a funny guy. I'm serious, analytical, and (some might say) I can be downright annoying at times. I'm working on that. (Being analytical, that is.) Anyhow, I decided I really need to work on my funny bone...and, well, the gallons of milk I drink each week aren't doing it.

With the help of some particularly funny folks, including advice from fellow author-wannabe Keith Cronin (one of the funniest guys I know), I'm on a mission to become funny. Uh. No, not funny looking. I'm already funny looking. I just mean funny.

So, you may have to bear with me as I deal with this deficiency of mine. I may attempt jokes and humor that just plain stinks. If I do, whack me over the head with a stick.

Enough for now. I'm not funny yet. I'll also keep you up to date on how my writing is going in a future post.