Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Why, that two-terming Hawaiian...

The other day, the free local weekly called The Bulletin landed in my driveway, and I brought it inside. Most weeks I forget to read the paper even though it contains plenty of Las Cruces news. But this week I opened to the editorial page and read an opinion piece in which the writer called President Obama a Chicago mobster, apparently for single-handedly shutting down the World War II veterans' memorial.

Although I was pretty sure he was wrong on the facts, I emailed the writer and took him to task for name-calling. He promptly wrote me back, saying I was right, that Obama wasn't a mobster but a thug.

Talk about missing the point. No, I replied. We ought not to slur Obama (or anyone else, I might have added). The only thing we should call him is President. But we could also call him a two-terming Kenyan, or far more accurately, a two-terming Hawaiian.

I really should fess up here, lest I earn the label of hypocrite. Just show me a photo of Rumsfeld, Cheney, or LaPierre, and the invective rises in my throat like bile. It's irrational and inhumane, but most of us do it. Perhaps a fault line exists in our DNA that causes us to hurl insults at nasty, stupid morons.

That two-terming Hawaiian

The trouble is, no one maligns with style anymore. Truly vile sexist, racist and homophobic garbage aside, we still call people fascists, nazis, commies, socialists, and morons, and it's all so damn trite. Churchill called Atlee "a modest man with much to be modest about." Now that was a good one. And Shakespeare had a million of 'em, some of which could be recycled to good effect in Washington:

"All goodness is poison to thy stomach."
"He's a rank weed, and we must root him out."
"Was ever feather so lightly blown to and fro as this multitude?"
"Idol of idiot-worshipers"
"What a disgrace is it to me to remember thy name!"
"Vicious mole of nature."

Source: Shakespeare's Insults

So if you can't wrap your venom in a little wit, don't bother. You'll be just another corrupter of words. Oh, wait. Shakespeare wrote that too.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Climbing to Cloudcroft

A not-untypical house in Cloudcroft, New Mexico

Yesterday we drove our car to Cloudcroft, New Mexico to scout out possible places to park ourselves and our RV for the month of June or July of next year. Down here in Las Cruces at 4000 feet above sea level the October days are pleasant, perhaps our favorite month. The heat is gone, and the relative cold will not arrive until much deeper into the fall. But summer is a different story, with 100-plus degrees not being out of the ordinary.

The sign at the edge of Cloudcroft puts its elevation at 8650 feet. At my wife's wise suggestion, we both brought light jackets. We saw no one in the small town wearing short sleeves--there was just a nip in the air, and there's a likelihood of snow in the next couple of days.

Getting to Cloudcroft means driving through the San Augustin Pass in the Organ Mountains before leveling out on the White Sands Missile Range. We stop momentarily to tell the Border Patrol (not on government shutdown) that we are US citizens, drive past the White Sands National Monument (closed, thanks to Washington), and skirt Alamogordo before climbing into the Sacramento Mountains. The drive takes just a couple of hours.

Storefront flowers in Cloudcroft, summer 2007
Cloudcroft is a pretty town, with pine and aspen trees that could almost make a body think he's in New Hampshire. My wife identified three RV parks for us to check, and all three locations were well outside of town. The first one looked satisfactory. The second looked downright shabby. The third--well, the third looked like an overgrown field with a couple of derelict rigs that may have been gathering rust for the last decade.

Well, that made our choice easy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Napoleon, author

Gallic Books has published Clisson and Eugénie, a love story penned, sort of, by Napoleon Bonaparte. It tells a tragic tale of the military officer, Clisson, who falls deeply in love with and marries Eugénie but then must follow his country's call to duty. He may be away for years. Will his wife stay true, or will she succumb to the handsome officer who carries Clisson's messages to her? It's a premise with promise, as Napoleon obviously based Clisson on himself and lived an eventful life. The introduction calls the story a novel, but it's more a novelty. The entire book is 80 pages, with the story itself being 20 pages.

Why so short? Well, N had a full-time job ravaging Europe, so he wrote only a few pages that became scattered, later reassembled, and when necessary re-imagined by historian Peter Hicks. The result, claims the cover blurb, reveals N as "an accomplished writer of fiction."

No, it doesn't. It's 19th-century romantic fare told with little plot or detail. Perhaps it shines a light on how N thought of himself, and it's reasonably readable and interesting. Typical lines:

He began to tire of serving men who did not value him. He felt the need to retreat into himself. For the first time, he turned his gaze upon his life, his inclinations and his situation.

The writing's not awful, but it has a lot of declarative sentences. Bottom line: If you like romance fiction, skip this one. If Napoleon himself interests you, borrow this from the library.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

And a one...

Does any more important number exist than one? Why, it's the beginning of everything. Chapter 1, Page 1. Lawrence Welk started up his orchestra with "And-a-one ..." We have one life, one spouse (at a time, anyway). I have one child. Christians, Jews and Muslims all believe in one god. Look inside my wallet, and you'll see a one-dollar bill. Alas, only one. Americans love to say "We're number one!" although one of these days it may no longer be true. And who can forget the 1972 campaign slogan, "Nixon's the One"? Indeed he was, in more ways than one. One unkind word may be all it takes to destroy one's happiness. Yet one act of kindness can soothe a tired soul. Egotists look out for Number One. We have only one chance to make a first impression. President Lincoln kept the United States one country. My books will reach number one on the New York Times bestseller list When Pigs Fly. I have only one book to edit at the moment, which is fine because I can only do one thing well at a time--speaking of which, time is a one-way street on which u-turns are forbidden. One Lay's potato chip or one piece of chocolate is never enough.

And one of these days, I'll blog again about writing. To quote The Great One, Jackie Gleason: "One of these days, Alice..."

Friday, October 04, 2013

A brief intro to social media

On October 12, I will talk to the El Paso Writers' League about social media, and this post will help me organize my thoughts. I'll talk about Facebook, blogging, Twitter, Goodreads and some of the related resources that have cropped up. My audience's knowledge level is mixed, so this will be a general overview.

So this is a draft of my outline, which will wind up as a handout as well. I invite anyone to comment, suggest areas I've missed, or correct any mistakes. Thanks!

Facebook www.facebook.com
Find friends by
--Typing in a person's name
--Typing in a category such as "people who read mystery fiction" (yields ~300,000 results)
--Typing in a location
Then click "Add friend."

Let people know your interests and accomplishments.
Post thoughts, news items, brags, photos; share what others post.
Comment on and "like" other people's posts.

Stay in touch with current friends, reconnect with old ones, make new ones.
Gain exposure as a writer.

Can take up too much of your time. Possible sales.

Twitter www.twitter.com
Send messages ("tweet") 140 characters or fewer to your followers. Others can retweet, so can you.
Can include links, photos
Follow others, many will follow you back.
Retweet for others, many will follow you back.
Your Twitter ID ("handle") begins with @ and is unique, such as @robertelee or @JaneSmith
Subjects denoted by # so you can narrow search
Useful examples for writers: #books, #ebooks, #mysteries, #fiction, #kindle, #novels, #poetry
Sample tweet:
     When Pigs Fly 100+ reviews & 4 stars on Amazon bitly.com/bobsanchez "hilarious"
     #humor #crime Not for kids

Always include a link in your tweets.

Reach potential readers. Possible sales.

Takes time.

Goodreads www.goodreads.com
List & evaluate books in your library.
Share info about your own books.

Reach potential readers. Possible sales.

Can take up too much of your time.
Overt self-promotion discouraged.

Internet Writing Workshop www.internetwritingworkshop.org
Free email-based writing discussions, including various workshops.
Not a place to promote your work.

Pinterest www.pinterest.com
Post and share photos. Limited promotional possibilities, but fun.