Monday, December 25, 2006


A "Jane Doe" found murdered. Police officers who refuse to stop their efforts until they find her family and, hopefully, her killer. Sounds like a TV movie instead of reality.

To the cops, the forensics folks and the community who found time to mourn this lost girl, you are amazing. You refused to quit. I hope the murderer is starting to feel the heat...

For the complete story:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Best Wishes for the Season

Count your blessings, hug your friends and family, remember those who are far away.

May 2007 bring us peace, love and prosperity.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Oh, Say Can You See....

For a chilling read, check out this article in the New York Times -- Former U.S. Detainee in Iraq Recalls Torment

It was fine and dandy when we played fast and loose with the Rule of Law when it came to the bad guys. Hey, they were the enemy, right? History shows that once rights are eroded, even law abiding citizens are at risk for arbitary confinement and denial of due process. Just in case you missed it -- these guys are American citizens. One of them was a whistleblower. Gee, I bet he's thrilled he did the honorable thing.

They're even so bold as to document that they will be denying detainees the right to representation.

"Nathan Ertel, the American held with Mr. Vance, brought away military records that shed further light on the detention camp and its secretive tribunals. Those records include a legal memorandum explicitly denying detainees the right to a lawyer at detention hearings to determine whether they should be released or held indefinitely, perhaps for prosecution."

No phone calls, no contact with the outside world. You may get to see the evidence against you. Or not. This is egregious, a direct violation of our Constitutional rights (Amendments V & VI.)

Welcome to the new America where the Executive Branch has rendered the checks and balances of our brilliant founding fathers irrelevant. If you're not worried, you're not paying attention. And you could be next.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Show Me the Money

Here's a experiment for you to try the next time you're at a grocery store. Put on a pair of glasses that totally fog your vision or close your eyes altogether and try to pay your bill with good old US Currency. Is that a 5, a 10 or a 20 you're got in your hand? No clue? Thank the US Treasury for their outdated currency. Unlike other countries who have brightly colored or different-sized bills, ours is available in green. And if you don't like green, there's always... green.

A U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judge recently ruled against the government, stating that they did not do enough to aid the blind and the visually impaired when it came to equal access to US Currency. The judge ordered the goverment to come up with new means to help those who are visually impaired conduct the monetary affairs of everyday life.

The Bush administration is challenging the ruling. Their excuse is that it will too costly to redesign the money (though they just went through redesign and ignored the American Council for the Blind's repeated pleas to make the money more user friendly. They also said such changes would make it easier to counterfeit (huh?)

When I lived in Hong Kong, the $100 note was red (worth about $13 U.S.) It was easy to spot, along with the other colored currency. No brain power required, even if you've had a few too many Fosters before closing time. I can easily tell a 10 from a 20, but then I have good eyesight. My mom-in-law does not. She's very nearly blind, but quite independent. She has to paperclip her money to separate her bills one domination from the other.

The government says she should just use a debit or credit card. These idiots should be blindfolded and turned loose at a grocery store checkout. I can barely read the displays. My mom-in-law can't see the keys. Handing the card to the checker means she'll have to sign a slip, which is equally hard to read.

Change the currency, guys. We waste a ton of money on other less worthy projects (that bridge to nowhere in Alaska, for instance). All of us are getting older. You can damned well bet the currency will become senior friendly the moment the folks in the Treasury Department develop cataracts.

Friday, December 08, 2006

New to the Craft? Take Heart....

An excellent question was posed by K.H. during an ongoing 'virtual' conversation.

"What kind of advice would you give to a first time writer that has no clue about writing a book, the book industry, and what not?"

Oh, boy. Now this is a tough one. If one has a no clue about how to write a book, that's a blessing in disguise though you might think that lack of experience is a detriment. Your brain won't be in hyperdrive bitching at you that you haven't got a hook at the end of the scene/chapter, that the dialog is stilted, etc. You write because you love to. The story captures your heart and sweeps you along, like a scorching love affair. That's the way writing is supposed to be.

It's when you get further down the road that you realize all the stuff that has to happen in each scene to make it flow, compel the reader to continue reading. At the beginning of your career that's too much to worry about, especially during a first draft. I don't worry about that kind of stuff during my first drafts. I let the story carry me away.

Once you get a decent first draft, let it 'age' for a couple of weeks and then go back and edit it. That's where most first time writers go wrong. They figure the first draft is it. Not even close. I revise at least three times. Used to be five or six times but I write tighter now. I have a buddy of mine who does one draft and one revision. She's a very tight writer (she's a creative writing teacher -- she'd better be!) Since I'm a "Fog Walker" there will always be more editing.

Once you finish that first manuscript, set it aside and start another. Each book teaches you new skills. When you're sure that the first mss. is the best it can be you have two choices: stuff it under your mattress to enjoy it every now and then or send it out into the cold world. Either choice is honorable. Just know that the moment you send your fair-haired child off to 'camp', someone will tell you they don't like it, that they think it's ugly, etc. This is nature of the business. If you can't handle rejection, don't go there. Save yourself the emotional pain. Enjoy the novel on cold nights curled up by the fire with a hot toddy. If you feel you can handle "no" then send that mss. out for consideration.

If you find someone who finds the spark in your book that you felt, then you have the start of a career. If not, write another book --- lather, rinse, repeat. Just know that overnight successes in this business usually involve about a decade. For every J.K. Rowling there are thousands of folks trying to get their first manuscript read by some editor in NY.

I'll answer the second part of the question about the publishing industry in the next post. My printer has just spit out the 300+ pages of Book #3's first draft. Time to get to work...