Writing Progress Report

In a recent post I stated my intention of applying the most basic rule to my writing, being “get her done.” In other words, get in my chair and write, daily. I set a goal of two hours a day.

I have averaged pretty close to that, however, most of my work was done during the first week. then my computer started acting up. it randomly decides not to print caps, as you can see, just now. i’ll think it’s fixed, as i thought when I started this, and then it acts up again.

this can be very frustrating not only for caps, but when i am trying to print question marks. they look like this ///////. my apostrophes are ‘ single, instead of ” double. My computer doesn’t want to highlight. clicking and dragging is hit and miss. if you are a writer, you know this is really a necessary component of writing. I’m always moving things around.

before this became an issue i had for months had a problem with my curser randomly skipping around the page and i’d find myself writing somewhere earlier in my document. lucky if i caught it early, but i could end up with half a sentence in the middle of another paragraph.

i’ve already replaced the fan and the battery in this computer to prolong its life. i’ve had two computers since 1995, so i’ve done exceptionally well, i would say. but this problem with my keyboard has slowed down my writing and i’ve taken a break now, because I am actually waiting for a new computer to arrive! Yay!

So, this is what happens when you get determined to make progress. Obstacles appear. On top of that i had a few sick days during my second week. i will be kind to myself and encourage myself, as i would want you to do if you found yourself challenged. i will remind myself that I can get back on track. i’m very determined to do so, but typing with this challenge, right now, is not an absolute necessity. it wears on my patience, and writing is supposed to be done with a measure of pleasure and ease. it is difficult to begin with, so why add to the stress?

After i began my commitment to writing and finishing my novel, I watched a movie in which i saw a scene very similar to the one that motivated my story in the first place, in 1995. i searched in my ‘library’ and actually found the 1995 magazine that contained the two page photo that got me started on writing my story. i showed it to my husband. It was like a confirmation, or should i say an affirmation. i take these things where I find them. we all need encouragement.

So, my computer should be arriving in about two weeks. soo-oo-o looking forward to it.

keep at it1 9there’s another problem…ones for exclamation marks and nines for brackets…forget this for now

It’s Not Who You Are

We can choose to be identified by our past or we can have faith to move beyond it.

As I commit myself to working on my novel again, I am having to deal with demons of the past. “You won’t follow through.” “You’ve failed before.” “What makes you think you can do it this time?”

If you’ve ever tried to change a pattern in your life, you will have run into similar taunts and fears. But there are numerous testimonials to the contrary, examples of how people prevailed against odds. You can be one of those people.

I have a large bookshelf and sometimes I look at my books and ask why my novel is not yet published. What am I missing that the other published authors have?

First of all, my worth is not defined by whether I am a published author or not. Secondly, my life is not over yet and the potential for publication is still there. I just have to persevere and acquire a few skills. This may still add up to publication. I will also have to do the hard work.

Doing the hard work is probably the most important part.

I once surprised a lot of people who never gave any thought to my capabilities. You see, I attended college when I was young, but I didn’t graduate. In fact, I dropped out of two classes during my final year in college.

Then I went back to college after our children left home. I had no confidence in my ability. A friend was working to finish her degree and my attitude was, “Good for her.” But I could never do that.

The truth is that I again dropped out of two classes. History was repeating itself. But the following year something changed and for two years I took a full course load, even more than a full course load, and I graduated with my degree, with highest honors.

That voice you hear in your head, telling you that you will fail, don’t listen to it. It does not know you. It does not acknowledge all of your capabilities.

We all have an accuser that tries to keep us from getting up and trying again, trying harder, and succeeding.

The first year I took a full coarse load in college I was extremely stressed but I set a daily goal of how much reading I needed to do. I scheduled a time to work on my assignments. I attended classes faithfully. All of these added up to eventually completing my degree.

That year our school went on our annual weekend retreat and while there I climbed a small mountain. It was challenging. I didn’t know if I could make it. But I did. Whenever I didn’t know if I could succeed in my studies, I reminded myself that if I was able to climb that mountain, I could do this.

Look at a success in your life. Remind yourself of your ability. Persevere. Prevail. Don’t allow that voice in your head to define you. It’s not who you are.

I’m Back – Why I’ve Started Working on My Novel Again and What I am Learning

After a long break, I’ve returned to the editing process of my novel, From a Distance. Some of my readers have been with me from early days and I am extremely grateful to you for your patience. As writers, we know this is a complex process that involves many different components, not the least of which is believing in the value of our story.

For awhile I took a side-trip into journalism and almost gave up on my novel. I questioned whether I am actually a novelist. What caused me to return to it now?

I simply decided to apply the most basic truth about writing, namely, the butt in the chair principle. No amount of talent can compensate for time spent refining the craft. I simply said to myself that I am not going to give up without doing the hard work.

After I doing everything I know to do…I will see what progress I have made.

So, this is the beginning of the process. After doing everything I know to do, after spending a year, with an average of two hours of writing on my novel a day, I will see what progress I have made. I’m not allowing myself to quit this time.

I think I have found a new faith and grace to write. It happened after I watched a movie last night. The main character reminded me of my main character and her challenge was similar to my character. I began to feel like I had a worthwhile story to tell. This is what every author needs.

I spent about four hours editing my first chapter and I thought it sounded pretty good, so I called my husband into the room. He is turning into my editor, support, and critique group, all rolled into one. I didn’t get halfway down the first page before he was correcting me.

“You have too many pronouns. Who is “her” and “she”? The reader is being taken out of the action.”

I looked at my paragraph and it was indeed filled with pronouns. It was an easy correction to make, but I missed it on my own. I began to see how badly I needed another set of eyes.

A little while later he commented, “I like that. I like what you did there.”

Good. I thought that part was done well, too, and I really appreciated that he noticed. My reader was in the action, feeling what my character was feeling.

Before long I had another pronoun issue but then we ran into something bigger. Too much telling, not enough showing. I’ve had this critique before. It is a critique that most, if not all, new writers get.

I was sharing back-story. I had too much back story, another very common mistake. You can really only afford to have a couple of sentences of back story in your first chapter. I shortened the paragraph and tried it again.

“It’s probably alright to “tell” when it’s backstory,” my husband said.

He is the reader, I acknowledged. I need to pay attention to how he feels when he is reading my story. If he thinks the amount of telling I did was alright, then it’s probably OK.

I was beginning to see how these little adjustments were making a big difference.

But his next critique was more difficult to digest. He didn’t like several paragraphs describing what was going on in the setting, and highlighting the scenery.

“What’s the point?”

In other words he was asking, Who cares? Long ago a critique partner did some serious damage with the same question, because, after all, I care. I care a lot. Everything I’ve written affects my character’s experience and the development of her story. I’ve tried to get my reader to enter into my character’s world.

Evidently there is a more effective way to do this.

I swallowed and took the critique in stride.

It’s not uncommon for writers to burst into tears or experience something near tears when their laborious efforts are effectively trashed. We are supposed to develop a thick skin, supposedly. It’s not what most sensitive writers have. But we can have an open mind, which is probably just as good.

Parts of my writing distracted the reader from the main story, which my husband saw clearly. I didn’t want that to happen, did I? So, how could I correct this?

I felt troubled. Should I just delete these segments? Delete part of them? Shorten them? Combine them?

We had reached the end of the chapter and I returned to editing.

I did all of the above. I cut my chapter from 1800 words to 1200 words and ended with the main part of the story as the focus.

An hour later my husband kindly listened to another reading.

“That’s great. You did it.” He was almost emotional. “You’ve got a hook, now.”

The hook is the all important thing readers need from a first chapter. It is the thing that makes them want to read the next chapter.

In the first chapter a writer has to accomplish the task of making the reader feel invested in the character. They want to know what happens next to her. This is not as easy as it sounds.

Needless to say, I was encouraged. But now I am looking at the rest of my book and asking, Who cares? What’s the point?

Why “Defund the Police” is the Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Heard

You hear someone prying at your front door. They are trying to break into your house. Immediately you call the police.

You’ve been rear-ended. The other vehicle leaves the scene. You call the police.

You hear a woman screaming in terror at the house next door. You call the police.

You hear a series of gunshots. You call the police.

You find a grow-op in your rental. You call the police.

You see someone lying unconscious on the sidewalk. You call the police.

You get a threatening phone call. You notify the police.

Your children’s bicycles are stolen out of your backyard. You report the theft to the police.

Your car window is smashed and someone has rifled through your things and stolen the few valuables you had in your trunk. You get in touch with the police.

You see a suspicious character walking across private property, looking in windows and checking doors. You call the police.

You hear loud partying next door that keeps you up into the wee hours of the night. You eventually call the police.

You find that your neighbor’s daughter has been raped when she shows up at your door. You call the police.

You discover a burned out vehicle beside the road. You report it to the police.

Your bank account has been tampered with and money is missing. You suspect stolen identity. You call the police.

Your child does not come home at night. You call the police.

We turn to police because we want safety and justice. This is what the police represent.

The people who cry, “Defund the police,” are not thinking rationally at all. It is truly the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard.

Who is in favor of having no one trained to confront crime and lawless behavior? Definition of police:

A body of government employees trained in methods of law enforcement and crime prevention and detection and authorized to maintain the peace, safety, and order of the community.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

Who really is in favor of taking down the police? Do these people have a rational bone in their body? 

Without a police presence–without an authoritative, trained presence to confront lawlessness–we are doomed. It’s Chazistan everywhere.

We will respond to threatening incidents alone, with only our resourcefulness, and guns. Believe me, we are not equipped for this.

It’s terrifying to think about having no trained professionals to “maintain peace, safety and order in the community.” No one with experience to collect evidence to take to court.

If anything, the police need more funding, more training, more supports, in order to protect us.

We do not live in some utopia where everyone is basically good and can be depended on to do the right thing if they are given the resources. Take away the police presence and crime immediately escaltes.

Without the police, it’s the Wild West again—everyone fending for themselves and disputes settled by gunfights.

This is the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard.

It’s not just statues that are toppling in Canada

Jordan Peterson: The activists are now stalking the hard scientists | National Post

Ben Mulroney steps down as host of CTV’s ‘etalk’ to make way for Black, Indigenous voices | National Post

UBC board of governors chair steps down after ‘liking’ anti-Black Lives Matter tweets – BC | Globalnews.ca

In Canada it is no longer acceptable to question or dislike violent anti-racisim protests and anti-police protests. It is apparently not acceptable to “like” Trump tweets either, or Republican talking points. And you can lose your job, simply for liking a tweet. I saw a revealing video commentary regarding the resignation of the UBC board of governors chair, Michael Korenberg, but today it appears to have been removed from YouTube.

Here is an opinion piece by Rex Murphy who has also been a target, as I wrote about recently: Rex Murphy: The right to your own opinion is a keystone of a true democracy | National Post

And another matter of concern, that may or may not be related, is this article, Why CSIS believes Canada is a ‘permissive target’ for China’s interference – National | Globalnews.ca Here is a quote:

The committee’s report named two countries — Russia and China — among those conducting “sophisticated and pervasive foreign interference activities against Canada.”

But intelligence officials and former diplomats, including Canada’s former ambassador to China, believe China is the greater threat, in large part because the country has been successful in “elite capture.”

“China is the No. 1 threat to Canada and has been for some time,” David Mulroney, former ambassador to China, said in an interview.

China has used its economic leverage to secure “the voices” of political and business leaders in Canada with “sweetheart business deals” and “various inducements,” including lucrative board positions or honours in China, he said.

This week we have seen new pressure from the media on our government to intervene on behalf of the two Michaels that are being held in China. Our Prime Minister insists that our judicial system is independent from the government. The CBC (the official, government funded broadcasting station) featured a legal expert who claims it is within the power of the government to interfere in the Meng Wanzhou extradition case. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were arbitrarily detained in China following the arrest of Meng who faces extradition to the U.S. on charges of bank fraud and covering up Huawei’s violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran. Meng, is “deputy chairwoman of the board and chief financial officer (CFO) of telecom giant and China’s largest privately-held company, Huawei, founded by her father Ren Zhengfei.” (Wikipedia) It is curious to me that the CBC presents a view that appears to side with China, over our Prime Minister.

While Meng is under house arrest in Canada and has every luxury, including the freedom to travel in the lower mainland during the day, with surveillance, the two Michaels sit in detention with the lights on 24/7. This is a form of torture, make no mistake. One can only imagine the psychological damage of being in confinement under trumped up charges, without contact with family, and experiencing sleep depravation and hormonal disruption for 550+ days. A simple flick of the light switch, twice a day, could make their lives much more tolerable. I’m wondering what the response would be if Meng were treated in the same way–even for a week.

The two Michaels have now been charged with espionage and stand little chance of avoiding conviction. This is clearly a very delicate situation. Kelly McParland says, We all want the two Michaels back, but Canada mustn’t give in to China.

My response to George Floyd

I don’t know if I am skilled enough to write on this subject. I’m going to make an attempt, with the possibility that this may never see publication. If you are reading this, then I am satisfied that I somewhat clearly communicated what is on my heart. It seems that saying nothing is seen as cowardly, and yet I know I am taking a risk as I write.

When I grew up my family was shunned by much of the community. I was bullied relentlessly. Before you shut me down as just another person who says they were a victim too, hear me out.

I later learned that a mistake had been made in the printing of a geneology book that listed me and my siblings as born in Mexico. As a result, everyone in the community thought our family came from Mexico. That put us in a different class.

In Junior High a family actually arrived from Mexico and the children came to our school. They lived on a property adjacent to the school. In the garage, which was separate from the house, and visible from the school, their teenage son hanged himself. I saw the rejection he faced in school because he was different but I never imagined it would end in such tragedy.

In grade five I had a crush on a native boy who was in grade six. One day the police were at the school because he had pulled a knife on a teacher.

In high school I had Chinese friends who helped me with my Math and improved my ping pong skills. After high school I worked for a Chinese boss who owned a Chinese restaurant in our town.

I lived in the Philippines where I saw racism when Filipino children were told that the missionary’s stomach was fat because he ate children. I got my hair cut in the “bakla” area of town. Our sons were taunted by children calling them that name. The NPA–New People’s Army (Communist) had skirmishes with the Philippine military. Muslims began to broadcast their call to prayer in our community and I heard their angry rants against “Americanos” on Fridays at noon. A missionary couple from our island was kidnapped along with others at a resort. Some of those kidnapped were beheaded. The missionary husband died from a gunshot wound during their rescue by the military many months later.

I am endeared to Indigenous people and Filipinos and Chinese because I have known so many of them. More recently I have made friends with people of various other nationalities as I worked at a college. I live in Surrey, BC where we have a large Indo-Canadian population. I am accustomed to seeing a representation of many different cultures around me. I’ve learned about the different nuances and values of various nationalities and I continue to observe and learn.

Being a guest in another country for five years has given me a broader understanding of racism. After an extended time of living among nationals in the Philippines, I found myself in a setting with Caucasian people and I thought I was different from them. I felt brown. I was shy. I actually had to remind myself that these were my people.

The reason why I feel less than qualified to speak to this subject is because, although I have had varied experiences with exclusion and discrimination, I do not know what it is like to be of another skin color while living in a predominantly Caucasian nation. I know that in the Philippines we always felt different. We could never escape from that fact, even if we forgot it for awhile. But we were generally treated well in the Philippines. There was enclaves of people that resented us. We knew who they were. We also knew they were dangerous. We tried not to pay attention to these groups or to go to their area of town.

I’ve been taught to love everyone equally because God created us equal. I used to say I don’t see color, but that statement has been misconstrued. When I have a friend of color, I forget that they are colored until I see a characteristic that is particular to their background. This is the same if they are white and from another nationality. I worked with Americans for years and then encountered a couple from Germany. I noticed that my Canadian upbringing and Germanic background in some ways aligned me more with the German couple.

Different characteristics of people from varying locales fascinate me. I was not born in Mexico. My grandparents were not born in Mexico. But my mother was. Her mother was adopted by a couple who moved to Mexico when she was six. My mother was sixteen when her family later moved to Canada. They were fleeing a drought that had devastated their farm. Initially they worked in sugar beet fields in Manitoba and tomato fields in Ontario. So, in a sense the community was correct in their assumption about us. Living in Mexico and immigrating to Canada shaped my mother in a way nothing else could and I deeply love her and respect who she is.

The bullying I experienced made me stronger because I sought my own identity apart from how others saw me or treated me.

I see class distinctions within every culture and some cultures are much less kind to those of a lower class. My Christian background has taught me not to prefer those of higher status or give them special treatment. We are all created equal.

I am as distressed as anyone over the unnecessary and cruel and unjust death of George Floyd. Where attention needs to be given to making changes to prevent racism and inequality, I am all in favor of making these changes.

However, there is something that is troubling me about this picture. I think it is the myopic vision, the near-sightedness, in other words. The immediate demand to “defund” the police, for instance is very lacking in vision. Think of all the people who call the police daily to come to their defense. Think of what would happen if there was no law enforcement to intervene and help settle altercations, investigate thefts and solve murders.

People are upset. I get that. It is very upsetting when power is abused and justice is miscarried.

I also get that people need to have a voice. They need to know someone is listening and taking action.

But I have a bigger concern. Without presenting a thought out plan, we could just be advocating anarchy. Who could possibly benefit from that?

The problem I have is that we no longer seem to be discerning who we should be listening to. Some messages are helpful. Some are not.

When I got married I heard a very good piece of advice. When you have a disagreement, it is not a matter of who is right, but what is right. In the heat of the moment we can make judgments that we end up regretting. That is why we need to take a breath, and take a step back, and look at the whole picture. We don’t need knee-jerk reactions right now. We need a careful analysis.

The Cornavirus isn’t so good for the drug trade

US$5M worth of marijuana seized at Canada-U.S. border the June 17 CTV News headline reads.

More than 1.5 tonnes of marijuana was found in a truck entering the U.S. from Canada, American border officials allege.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) says the 1,517-kilogram stash was seized on June 13 from a truck that had tried to cross into New York state from southern Ontario, carrying 58 cardboard boxes supposedly full of peat moss.

Another bust, eight days earlier, at the same crossing involved an excess of 800 kilograms of marijuana.

The report indicated that, “Even if the two large seizures were not part of the equation, the weight of illegal drugs seized by border guards in the Buffalo area since the closure would be nearly 20 times what it was during the same period last year. Most of the drugs seized have been marijuana.”

It appears that with less traffic there may be opportunity for more scrutiny at borders.

Other news posts note an increase in drug related overdoses during the pandemic. A June 11 headline reads, Overdose deaths spike as B.C. reports record number of fatalities in May  Tragically, British Columbia reported 170 overdose deaths in the month of May.

Cory Guest, public education coordinator at Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS), states, “We’re not able to correlate our increase of substance use calls directly to COVID-19, but it’s safe to say we’d be naive if we didn’t think it had an impact on that.”

Isolation, the closing of services such as Narcotics Anonymous, gyms and other supports has created increased challenges for those who are drug dependent. When this is over we will look back and see that some things could have been done better. However the lockdown appears to be effective in preventing deaths from the virus.

Here is the latest, June 18, worldometer comparison of deaths per million within the Scandinavian countries that enforced strict lockdown compared with Sweden that did not.

Sweden – 500

Denmark – 104

Norway – 45

Finland – 59.

 

Canadian Conservative Leadership Debate

I watched a portion of the leadership debates yesterday and today. One thing I noted was the tag line beneath Erin O’Toole “Won’t say there is systemic racism.” I’m not sure if there were other tags, since I didn’t watch the entire debates and didn’t notice any others but I thought it strange that CBC would offer a printed commentary mid-debate.

The question of systemic racism was asked in at least four different ways of Erin O’Toole. His consistent response was that racism should not and would not be tolerated. Anyone watching understood that he was not going to say there is systemic racism, without the CBC needing to print a caption below him while he was speaking.

Whether there is systemic racism or not, it appears we now have yet another category that defines people.

Other candidates offered some well thought out responses to the same question. A periodical review of the justice system and law enforcement in Canada is a good recommendation. I’m not going to evaluate the responses of the candidates here.

 

In Defense of Journalism and Having an Opinion

Several weeks ago I told myself they are coming for Rex Murphy next. And it has happened.

There is something sinister occurring in the world. I’ve watched it for some years now.

An element of society has set themselves up as judge and jury. All they have to do is point a finger, and with magical power like the wand of a fairy godmother, the subject is transformed, only, not into an elegant beauty, but rather into a despicable, contemptible wretch. What follows is a sort of feverish glee in shifting the tide of public opinion and completing the humiliation, the shame, and the degradation.

This act of pointing is all that is needed. Once a target has been identified, sensitivity readers comb through fifteen years of Facebook history and find one comment that suffices as evidence to flay the defendant. There is, of course, no defense attorney and no jury. To assume to step up in behalf of the victim is to become a similar public pariah. All it takes is one identifiable microagression, even if it is only a quote, not an original thought, and that is enough for a guilty verdict. Microagression, by definition, according to the Merriam-webster dictionary, includes that which is said unconsciously and unintentionally.

Those pronounced guilty are placed in public stocks and made a spectacle, to the chants and jeers of the media who work the crowd into a dizzying and dangerous frenzy. J.K.Rowling is a recent victim.

The petty crimes of mis-speech and wrong-think have been elevated to criminal status equal to the act of homicide. If Rex Murphy can be indicted then we are all in danger of being caught in this irrational witch hunt where intent is irrelevant and errors are committed unconsciously.

Rex Murphy identified the bigger problem and tried to mitigate it. He tried to be a peacemaker, rather than an agitator. He tried to bring us together, one nation under God. Like a father who commends his children for their good effort. He acknowledged and praised diversity of background and thought. But the agitators would much rather stir up dissent and fan dying embers into raging flames, intent on lighting the whole forest on fire. They thrive on a brilliant show of their own making. Today is a dangerous time to be a tree.

A New Look

This week I updated my blog and gave it a new look. After about a decade, I figured it was time for a change.

If you have been following me over the years, you may have noticed that I’ve moved away from my focus on the craft of writing. This blog will still feature my writing. I’ve posted a few links to books I’ve self published on Smashwords.

Publishing on Smashwords has been a learning curve. If I sell a book for $4.99 Smashwords takes $1.49 in fees, so it’s a pretty fair deal, considering that they place my books on Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Library Direct and other sites. Having said that, I’ve only earned 9.80 USD so far! But I see this as a place to start. I was so excited when I received a very positive review for Skate With Me on the Barnes and Noble site (See sidebar).

I’ve had about a thousand downloads, so at least my books are getting some distribution.

What I’ve learned over the past years is that I just have to keep at it. Keep doing something in the area of writing. I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve had my ups and downs.

I may still post articles about writing, from time to time, but I also plan to write some thoughtful articles about current events and social issues. I use tinafriesenwriting to post personal articles.

I will write more about my process and where I am at now in another post.