Do. Literally. Anything.

United_States_of_America_Flag_at_Half-mast_in_New_England_in_Summer_2015 (1)

By Adam S. Keck (Own work; click photo for Creative Commons license)

This blog was never meant to be a political pulpit.

I’m not eloquent when it comes to expressing my opinions, I’m not convinced you can really change anyone’s mind, and I’m uncomfortable with confrontation to the point of phobia. That said, I can’t stay quiet about the gun problem in America. But here’s my rationale for this post: most Americans are in favor of common sense gun control, especially when it comes to assault rifles and universal background checks.

I’m not expecting anyone to change their mind. I’m asking people to start speaking up for what they believe in. If you disagree with me on this, that’s your right. I’m hoping that the multitudes who want meaningful gun control policy will raise their voices to drown yours out.

You can post on social media platforms, but those who agree will already agree, and those who don’t will ignore you (at best) or attack you. You can try writing (or calling) the White House if you think that will work. To the best of my knowledge, the more effective tactic is to call your elected representatives. I use the site 5 Calls to help me keep track of the issues that matter to me, and I recommend it.

The following are some thoughts from a few people (more eloquent than I) regarding gun control.

Cookie:
If you feel the need to own a gun for self-defense or protecting your home, fine, get one; our current interpretation of the Second Amendment permits it. But you don’t need, and shouldn’t have the ability to obtain, a semi-automatic weapon. That is NOT your Second Amendment right. We have speed limits on our roads for public safety and need limits on guns as well. Our government put tight controls on buying decongestants when some clever person figured out how to make meth out of pseudoephedrine, but they can’t seem to manage to regulate guns that are used for mass murders on a frighteningly regular basis in this country. And it makes me sick.

Heidi Stevens, Chicago Tribune:
You want better. You want change. You want it to stop. You wanted it to stop after Virginia Tech. After Sandy Hook Elementary. After Fort Hood. After Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in Charleston, S.C. After Pulse.
You want your children to live in a world where it’s harder to slaughter people. You want them to live in a country that tries harder to stop the slaughter.
You want to believe one of these mass shootings will be the one. The one that makes us decide assault rifles don’t make us safer. (How can a good guy with a gun stop a bad guy shooting from 32 stories above the ground?)

James Corden, The Late Late Show:
I saw a quote from Robert Kennedy that stayed with me today. He said that “Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live.”
Now is the time for gaining that wisdom. Somewhere, it has to stop. Maybe the time for the thoughts and prayers of Congress members and the president have passed. We need to look to them to actually do something to prevent this from ever happening in the future.

Jimmy Kimmel Live:
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a number of other lawmakers who won’t do anything about this because the NRA has their balls in a money clip, also sent their thoughts and their prayers today, which is good. They should be praying. They should be praying for God to forgive them for letting the gun lobby run this country, because it’s so crazy.
Right now, there are loopholes in the law that let people avoid background checks if they buy a gun privately from another party, if they buy a gun online or at a gun show. So I want to show you something. These are the faces of the senators who, days after the shooting in Orlando, voted against a bill that would have closed those loopholes. These are the 56 senators who didn’t want to do anything about that.

Stephen Colbert, The Late Show:
(Addressing Donald Trump) Want to make America great again? Do something the last two presidents haven’t been able to do. Pass any kind of common-sense gun control legislation that the vast majority of Americans want. Because if we are facing pure evil, then by all means, offer thoughts and prayers. But think about what you need to do and pray for the courage to do it.

Again, 5 Calls. Maybe you’re already subscribed but if not, it’s incredibly easy.

If you have another (constructive) idea, I’ll share it in the comments.

 

Advertisements

Totality

TimeLapse_web

Bro has been talking about the 2017 total solar eclipse for at least three years. Nearly two years ago, he reserved hotel rooms in Perryville, Missouri. Just off the interstate, so in case it got cloudy, we could drive to a location with clear skies.

On August 21, Bro got up at 5 a.m. to check various weather apps and decide if a move was necessary, and where we should trek to. By 6:30, we were heading down to my Toyota Sienna (affectionately nicknamed Moby Dick) to load it up with telescopes, binoculars, cameras, chairs, tables, and coolers before wolfing down breakfast and driving to Eddyville, Kentucky.

Around 10 a.m, Bro and George, aided by Bro’s Bride, George’s wife Bonnie, and me, were setting up equipment, including Bro’s specially-fitted telescope and George’s mega-fabulous binoculars. Our hosts for the occasion were the lovely people at Eddyville United Methodist Church. Unlike the gougers in Hopkinsville, Kentucky ($200 for a 10’x10′ space in a WalMart parking lot? Please!), the Methodists’ expectations were modest and their hospitality generous. For $10 they provided parking, real rest rooms, a pair of eclipse glasses, water, and a box lunch.

And lest I forget, the box lunches contained:

MoonPie_web

According to Bro, a total solar eclipse is the most impressive natural phenomenon most people ever report seeing. I had my doubts. I’d seen partial eclipses before. They were nice.

He was right, though. A total eclipse is a whole other ball game.

FirstContact_web

Bro reported first contact around 11:55 a.m.

JustBefore_web
Almost total.
Prominences_web
During totality

Now. This is why you need to plan for the next total solar eclipse (for me, that will be in 2024). The above picture (taken during totality, when Bro was able to remove the filter from the telescope) is pretty nice. If you look really hard, you can see the reddish prominences at roughly the three- and five-o’clock positions. Sadly, this shot doesn’t approach what it feels like to look up just after you’ve whipped off your eclipse glasses (only safe during totality). The prominences were more…well, prominent, and there was one more prominence visible, which didn’t show up well in any picture I saw.

The barking dogs, chirping crickets, sudden darkness, temperature drop, and the delighted oohs, ahs, laughs, and applause of those around you just don’t show up your smartphone photos. And the diamond ring–the flash that occurs just as totality ends–can only be fully enjoyed in real time (even accompanied, as it was for me, by the little frisson of panic when I realized I’d better shield my eyes fast; I guess I looked away quickly enough because my vision remains undamaged).

There was real camaraderie among strangers. Bro and George were everyone’s best friends. People enjoyed Bro’s eclipse soundtrack and loved the telescope and binoculars outfitted with solar filters.

Two morals:

  1. Knowledgeable eclipse buddies can’t be beat. Make friends with an astronomer today!
  2. If you live in North America, start thinking about where you want to be on April 8, 2024.

Neko and Kiy

I’ve met several talented people through my local writing group, The Writing Journey. We’ve enjoyed putting story anthologies together, doing informal readers’ theater versions of Shakespeare plays, and going to see some of our members perform.

Neko Zujihan is someone I know from the group (mostly online) and he’s created something remarkable that I wanted to share:

His book is now available on severable platforms, and I hope you get a chance to experience the rich world he’s given us. Look for Kiy: Jumoku No Musuko (Son of the Forest) on his publisher’s web site, or on Amazon.

(Some of ) What I Did this Summer

MtnsAngelFire2017
Purple Mountain Majesties

I recently spent two weeks in a beautiful place, both mentally and physically. I was accepted (huzzah!) into Taos Toolbox, which was held in Angel Fire, New Mexico.

Walter Jon Williams organized the workshop. Nancy Kress co-taught brilliantly. We were treated to guest lectures and schmoozing with Steven Gould,  E.M. Tippetts, and (damn, I buried the lede):
George R.R. Martin!

It was intense. Eighteen budding science fiction and fantasy authors from four countries wrote, read, attended classes, and/or critiqued each other’s work almost every hour we were awake.

I did sneak in some early morning walks and one hike. The above photo is your evidence.

I’ll share more about the workshop and some of the writers I met there in upcoming posts.

Happy Independence Day!

Bike MS Tour de Farms 2017

FakeTeamPIcture_Web
Power Pedallers Randy, me, Tiger, Cookie, and Tyler – can you spot who was photoshopped in later?

Sigh. The most wonderful time of the year has once again come and gone.

Tour de Farms 2017 was a real challenge. In addition to how little training time we seemed to have, we have never ridden anywhere near this long with winds of 20 mph, gusting sometimes to near 30. I used to think headwinds were the worst, but that was before I learned what a 30 mph crosswind can do to you… or more properly speaking, your partners in crime.

EileenBethFarm_web
Cookie and Tiger meet some sheep at Rest Stop #1

Cookie and Tiger had a tough go of it. I think they still are glad they came, but it’s harder to have fun while being blown off one’s bike, or onto a gravel shoulder you had no desire to end up in. When you’re a dainty, delicate flower like Cookie or Tiger, you are far more likely to be blown sideways by a good crosswind.

I, however, am quite heavy and was thus able to keep my seat. Don’t let anyone tell you there is nothing good about being fat. It was easier to stay on my bike. Oh, and my bone density is also swell.

Our team, the Power Pedallers, raised nearly $7,000 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.  Cookie, Tiger, Randy, and Tyler will have their own folks to thank, but here’s my list:

Thanks to BK for tons of support of every imaginable kind leading up to the ride and over the weekend.

Thanks to Sis and Al for generous donations and moral support. It was wonderful to have them with us during the weekend.

Thanks also to donors Lorie & Steve, Cecelia & Brian & Emily (oh my!), Danielle, Cookie, Kishin & Rita, Elizabeth & Jay, Tim, Katherine L.,  Ann, Lori, Rocky, Quentin, and Kevin. You are all my heroes!

CB_Beth_Eileen_Cutout
Two holes, three riders: me, Tiger and Cookie

 

Nebula Reading Time!

Nebula2015
What the Nebula Award looked like in 2015

It’s that time of year. The Oscars are over, and weren’t they interesting this year!?!

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America have announced the finalists for the 51st Annual Nebula, the Ray Bradbury Award for an Outstanding Dramatic Presentation, and the Andre Norton Award for Outstanding Young Adult Science Fiction or Fantasy Book.

You can see the whole list here.

Possibly for the first time ever, I’m slightly ahead of the game, having acquired Borderline by Mishell Baker and Everfair by Nisi Shawl the minute(s) they were available. They were both incredible!

I’m now listening to the Audible release of All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders, and enjoying the hell out of it.

That leaves only two novels still to read: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, and Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee. I’m looking forward to them!

I’ve also seen all the Bradbury nominees except the Westworld episode. I don’t do HBO. I may have to see if Cookie will let me come over and watch.

I’ve probably read some of the shorter fiction, but  I usually have to refresh my memory before voting; l usually can’t match a title to a story until I’ve read a paragraph or so. And this year I haven’t read any of the nominated YA titles, so I’d better get on that.

SFWA members have from March 1 – March 30 to vote, so I’d better read (or listen) fast!

Which of the nominated works have you read? What would you vote for?

 

A Writer’s Christmas Wish List

Anna_Brassey_woman-writing_web

Okay, so it’s been a while since I’ve shared what I’m up to. Am I claiming that I was too busy to blog? Bad CB! No cookie!

Anyway, here’s what I’ve been doing, at least in the writing department:

  • I did NaNoWriMo again this year, and got my 50,000 words. I’m not done yet; still working on the exciting climax. You know how it is with ballerinas who are suddenly infected with lycanthropy; they have some serious issues.
  • I finally have my previous novel—a historical fantasy set in 1870s Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska—more or less ready for alpha readers. I hope to have a beta version by spring.
  • I’ve continued submitting short stories to magazines. No acceptances yet, but I made at least editor’s one short list. Still waiting to see how that turns out.
  • And…I’ve decided to apply to some workshops. I’m talking the serious sci-fi/ fantasy workshops where you have to send a writing sample, spend a chunk of money and 1-6 weeks of your life learning whether or not you have what it takes to get your short stories and novels traditionally published. Think workshops like Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, and Viable Paradise.

So here’s what I want for Christmas. (You don’t really have to get me anything…)

Help I need in December/January:

  • Read what I what I think are my best short stories (about 20K words total), and vote for your favorite 2 or 3; if you’ve successfully applied to one of the workshops mentioned above tell me which of those stories you think might get me into a competitive workshop
  • Tell me how you got into Clarion, Clarion West, Odyssey, Taos Toolbox, Viable Paradise. Gory details? Trials and tribulations? I’m all over whatever you want to share. If you’re willing to point me to anything you’ve written on the subject of applying to or attending a competitive workshop—or if you’re willing to exchange emails/chat about the experience— I can’t tell you how much I’d love to hear from you.
  • Give me tips on writing an essay about myself that would persuade anyone to give me a shot at one of these workshops. Or read mine (once I’ve written it) and tell me how to make it more convincing.
  • Alpha read my western fantasy novel (about 100K words). This means reading the story and just giving me general impressions, but no need to heavily edit.

Help I may need in March/April

  • Alpha read my novel about the werewolf ballerina (not finished yet, but I think it will be about 100K words)

Help I may need in May/June

  • Beta read my western fantasy. This would happen after alpha readers have checked it out. Most of the major flaws should already be dealt with. You’d be spotting continuity  and other errors, helping me make it read better, stuff like that.

If you’re able to help with any of my above wishes, please comment below or message me via Facebook/ Twitter/Google. And let me know if you need a similar Christmas present…