School’s In Session

So, the first week of school is over! I got into most of the classes I wanted to. Unfortunately, my Astronomy class was canceled last minute, and I had to take an online computer information class instead. So here is a breakdown of what I am taking:
Cardio Cross Training
Argumentation and Debate
Business Law
Statistics
Computer Information Systems
English Composition “B”

I spoke to a transfer councilor, and my grades are good enough that, assuming I keep them up, I can pretty much write my ticket into any Cal State school, and any of the U of Cal schools, except Berkley (They require an extra 4 semesters of math!). I’m at a California community college, and my GPA for transferable classes will be in the high 3s, around 3.6 or 7. I am very excited about all that. Three of my classes are online, and I finished the last of this week’s homework five minutes ago, so I am sitting in the coolness of my in-law’s back yard enjoying a very fine cigar my wife bought me.

Naturally, school forces my writing to the back burner, but I am still managing to do some. I am working on an old story I’d abandoned called Charlotte and Caldor, after the two main characters. For some reason, my writing process involves starting, stopping, and restarting a story line before I get to the point where I actually get something finished. I also think I like to write an essay about what I want to happen, before I outline. I am still not sure if I want/need to do a formal outline or not. I did for the Bastard Prince, but somehow it just does not feel right to me. We will see how this goes. I am trying to take just a few minutes a day to expand the plot essay, and when its done, we’ll go from there. I am also working on the Undying, set in yet another universe.

While ‘Bastard’ is set in a low-fantasy world, the others are high-fantasy and are more in line with classic sword-and-sorcery. I am thinking of reopening a science fiction story about a cold-sleep ship that lands on a planet already colonized by humans from a collapsed FTL civilization. My unknowing mentor, Sarah Hoyt, recommends having at least three universes going, just to stave off the boredom.

Lastly, tomorrow is Labor Day in America. I will be off with my family and friends for an annual BBQ. I hope your day is as fun and carefree as mine will be.

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Life Update

Aw, crud. I’m sitting here watching the Giants (my wife Maria’s team) beat the Brewers, after my Mariners got the season sweep of the Braves. Then I realize that today is Wednesday. I owe you a post.

I did not sleep well last night. My wife and I were working on school related stuff until one in the morning, and I decided to wake up at 5 in the morning. When I wake up, I almost never can go back to sleep, and today was no exception. We had church at nine for the Transfiguration, and after that I spent the day running errands with my mother-in-law. I literally sat down about five minutes ago.

We also found out that Maria and I are getting our jobs at the elementary school back when the year starts. It’s not much, but it is fun and easy work. Every little bit helps. I’m getting ready for the new semester, which starts on the 25th. I decided to add one more class, a PE class to help with my weight. I’m looking at one called “Total Fitness – Men” but haven’t made up my mind yet.

Not much else to report from the home front, and I didn’t get any writing done. I’ll go work on it now.

Details, Details

Its a Monday, and I’m actually putting up a post when I said I would! Yay me! One in a row.

I’ve finished my summer classes and got a C and an A. I’m a little upset about the C, as I was less than a point from a B, and the professor had lessons that were due on Sundays and the Fourth of July. I missed the first Sunday due date, because no reasonable person gives Sunday due dates, or due dates on Federal holidays. My fault that I missed the fine print, and assumed a Monday due date. But I got a 0 on the one test, and that was the difference.

This is a valuable life lesson. Pay attention to the details. Its the small stuff that will come back to bite you. The big picture is valuable, to be sure. But make sure the ground beneath your feet is solid before admiring the view.

“For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

The Silence Broken / Lessons on the Short Story

Oh, boy. What a week I’ve had. On Monday, my wife, my in-laws and I drove down to Mexico. We came down to help out an orphanage my church runs and to help build houses for the needy. Well, my father-in-law was part of a lecture series for the workers, and I had the homework. My wife helped build, though Internet has been spotty, and I’ve used most of it for working on my homework. Montezuma’s Revenge made it difficult for me to do a lot of things as well. That’s my excuse for not posting for a week, and I’m sticking to it.

Right now, one of the biggest influences is Sara Hoyt, who blogs at http://www.accordingtohoyt.com and http://www.madgeniusclub.com (the last with several other authors). If you are interested in reading some good human wave fiction, please check her out. She has been holding an online workshop on how to write a short story which I’ve been participating in. She has her stuff on Amazon, and usually has at least one free story there so you can sample her work.

Even in just a few lessons, I have learned a lot. I submitted a short story I had started, and the feedback I’ve gotten from the others helped me to improve it greatly. I need to learn to show, and not explain things, and to keep out extra information that isn’t necessary for the story at hand. This last is a balancing act if you are planing a series, however, and want to foreshadow future events.

It is important to do a little plotting, even if you don’t normally plot. For the first ‘Bastard Prince’ story (It’s a working title.) I had written it, and deleted it, and rewritten it about four times before I wrote the final first draft that I submitted. I finally made myself a detailed outline like the ones we did in high school:

1. The First Story
1. TBP’s older brother, the new king, is not trusting TBP.
1. Ambitious advisers have convinced him that TBP is plotting a coup.
2. This is not true
2. Enemies are circling the kingdom, intent on using the discord to gain an advantage, possibly overrun the kingdom.
1. TBP cannot allow this to happen
1. The lack of trust and the emergencies are forcing his hand
2. He must act, for the good of the kingdom.
etc.

Then I read about the W plot. It starts by introducing the character at a high point, giving him an obvious problem, and a less obvious one to drag him down, (try/fail one) raising him up (but not as high as at the start) and then back down (try/fail two, facing the problem), and finally reaching a triumphant conclusion. The plot would look like a capitol W. So, here is the W plot for my second story. There are obvious variations but for a short story, this format works 90% of the time.

Character: The Bastard Prince, Rowan Barnard Suroni MhacEdric.

The obvious problem: An imperial duke has arrived to arrange a treaty to marry one of the emperor’s nieces to the king, Edmund. Parties in the empire, as well as Ilkadumia (the name of the kingdom), oppose the proposed marriage.

The hidden problem: Someone murders the duke! Not only is the treaty in jeopardy, but if the murder is not solved, the Empire will likely declare war against Ilkadumia, which will probably loose.

Try/fail one: negotiations are going well, until the duke is murdered. His second in command, his son, refuses to negotiate further until the murder is solved. He gives a one week ultimatum.

Try/fail two: Jal and Rowan believe they know who the murderer is: the duke’s son. He has motive and opportunity, and his opposition to his father’s plans are well known. The two have displayed hostility before the murder. But he proves his innocence when confronted.

Facing the problem: After reexamining the evidence, Rowan nearly gives up hope.

Try three/Triumph: A new discovery shows who the real killer is. Rowan tricks him into confessing. He attacks Rowan, hoping to escape his just punishment. At Rowan’s urging, the murderer is given to the duke’s son to be taken to the Emperor for justice. The son concludes a treaty with Ilkadumia.

I’m not sure if I prefer to do the outline method, or the W method. I may well end up using the W to inform the outline, and write from both. I’m currently writing the second story, and continuing to edit the first. I have a new goal of having at least 10 Bastard Prince stories by the end of the year. Wish me luck!

Scraping By

Coming up with enough money to live is a never ending struggle, it seems. I know where I want to go in life, and I know that this will only continue for another year or two. But still, the constant strain on finding enough money to pay the bills and put food on the table is wearing. My wife, Maria, and I both work three jobs in addition to going to school. We clean our church, work part time at a restaurant, and work at an elementary school during the school year. Other money comes our way, from house sitting or baby sitting. All our parents help out where they can.

 

Those jobs, plus grants, scholarships, and student loans almost bring in enough to live for the year, if we are careful. We are trying to get into low-income housing, but perversely, we don’t make enough to qualify for most of them. After a seven month wait, our medicaid application was granted. This is a very good thing, as I have medical issues and my prescriptions can cost one or two hundred dollars a month. Still waiting on food stamps.

 

You may ask, why am I using medicaid and applying for food stamps, let alone government grants and loans for school, if I am an advocate of smaller, limited government. First, my situation is temporary. In five years, I will be making a boatload of money, and will most likely pay into the system far more than I will ever take out. I do not plan to live my life on handouts. In my case I see it more like a hand up. Second, I have a duty to do what is best for my family, even if that means doing things that I don’t like to do. The programs are there, and I would be doing Maria a disservice by not trying to take advantage of them. But remember, what is good for the individual is not necessarily good for the group.

 

For me, as an individual, while I am working to my goal of becoming an accountant, these government programs are what is best for my family. Long term, for the United States as a whole, they are a drain on our resources. If too many people get on them, they can pull the entire nation into debt and poverty. We have already seen this in places like Greece and Cyprus.

 

In May of 2015, Maria will graduate and I will get my transfer degree and move to whichever four-year university accepts me. Maria will be able to get a good paying job, and depending on my school schedule, I may be able to find some work interning at a financial institution, or even do some freelance accounting. We will get off the dole, and be productive members of society. In many respects, we already are.  

Taking the plunge

I’ve decided to take the plunge and start a blog. I intend to talk about my struggles with writing, my life as a recently married man, weight loss, and give my opinions on the issues of the day.

 

I have many story ideas, and more keep popping up all the time. I have not been successful in getting anything finished, however. I want to use this blog as both a record of what I am doing, and as a taskmaster. If I have to post time after time, got no writing done, It will motivate me to be more diligent. (I hope)

 

I got married to my wonderful and amazing spouse, Maria, in January 2012, so I am still a newlywed. Before I got married, I was even more of a slacker and a drifter than I am today. Currently, I am going back to college while working three part time jobs. I’m at a community college in California, with the goal of transferring to a four-year institution in 2015 and becoming an accountant. I am also pretty active in my church. So I’ll be blogging about all those issues too.

 

I am overweight and have many related health issues. I’m struggling with eating less, and exercising more. Right now, I weigh 260 pounds. IF I work at it, I can get to 200 by January. More importantly, if I work at it, I will be more healthy. My father died when he was 36, partly because he was overweight. I want to be at my children’s wedding, and have my grandchildren know me. Fortunately, my brother-in-law is a physical trainer, and is willing to help me do this.

 

I am a libertarian-leaning conservative. To me, that means I want the government, federal, state, and local, to butt out of my private life, and stop doing so much. The analogy I like to use, is government is like oil in a car. You need some, or the engine will seize, but you don’t exactly fill the gas tank with 10w 30.

 

I am very socially conservative, but also believe that God gave us free will, and I cannot force a person to think (or act) in ways I believe are wrong and sinful. I will argue and try to convince you of the truth of my positions, but forcing another to act in contradiction of their conscience is offensive and sinful. In our society, my viewpoints are a minority and any short-term victory wrought by force will backfire against me and mine long-term.

 

Anyway, that is the goal of this blog. Until I come up with a good title for my life, I will continue to operate under a working title.