Henry David Thoreau, Edward Snowden: On Heroes, Traitors and Cowards

ON THE DUTY OF CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE is one of the seminal essays in the history of the United States. We are Americans, and we do things a certain way. Our government, and the rules and actions and regulations or our government are always subject to scrutiny, and, in certain cases, rejection. We are an independent lot. That is a major reason for our success as a nation. Rebelliousness is a part of our national character. How could it not be since we were born of a rebellion known as the American Revolution. Irreverence is our calling card, and our rejection of rules and convention is the means by which we innovate, invent, alter paradigms and change the world, in science, art technology, music, everything. But we rebel in a certain way.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson went to the jail to get Thoreau out after he had been incarcerated for refusing to pay a tax he considered unjust, Emerson said, “Henry David, what are you doing in there?” Thoreau replied, “What are you doing out there?” The point is that the American spirit of Civil Disobedience requires that we accept responsibility for the rule of law. If we are going to break the law, we face the consequences. Those who don’t are both cowards and criminals. Cowards run. Traitors go to the enemy. Heroes accept responsibility and put their life in the way of wrong, even if it is their government committing the wrong.

During the Vietnam War, which was one of the most destructive and divisive events in our history, there was a level of resistance that began at a grass roots level and worked its way  to the top. It was a cruel, unjustified, and misdirected war started by politicians waving ideologies, and finally stopped by the people themselves. That’s never happened before and probably never will again. A discussion of that war is not a blog, it’s a hundred blogs. But that history has been written many times over and there is no need to repeat it here. During that era a young man of draft age had three main alternatives if drafted. Serve in the armed forces, refuse to serve and stay home and face the consequences, or go to Canada, or some other country that would provide safe harbor. Your choice said a lot about you.

I will not mention Edward Snowden in the same paragraph with those above. He is arrogant, a narcissist, and a coward. I believe he would and did jeopardize the safety of this country to satisfy his own ego. I believe he thought he was going to be hailed as a hero. This is the heart of the matter: Heroes don’t run. Cowards and traitors do.

I fought in the old Revolution; Cheers, Alex Sokoloff

The Sixties. Remember them? Changing the world, making things better for everyone. I may be one of the few, hell, I may be the only person on the planet who thinks that revolution worked. But it did. Look where we are today compared to where we were in, oh, say, 1969. In 1969, Richard M. Nixon lived in the White House. Today, Barack Obama does. Then in 1972, we got Watergate. Remember that? Lyndon Johnson had gotten The Civil Rights Act passed, but that was not a silver bullet. We’re a long way from perfect, but we’re a lot closer than we were to fair and equitable. It’s called progress.

Now there is a new revolution. There are probably a bunch, but this is the main one I’m interested in. It’s called Indie Publishing. After having had an agent for years, and after trying for years to get my book, One MInute Gone, published, after years of frustration and humiliation, I have finally decided to epublish it myself. It will be on Amazon, soon, and it will be available as both an ebook and in trade paperback form. I was at a conference in March called Left Coast Crime and was on a panel called The Future of Publishing. There were a number of people at the conference, LJ Sellers and Alexandra Sokoloff, among others, who were traditionally published and switched to ebook self-publishing. What became obvious was that indie publishing is now a viable option for anyone. Anyone. Not only are those who have switched satisfied, many of them are close to ecstatic. Not only are they making more money and selling more books, they are enjoying the process more because they control it. It’s more work, admittedly, because they are doing the promotion and other things themselves. In essence, they own their own small business and their product is them.

So this is my new revolution, and Alex Sokoloff is a shining, blogging angel of light showing the pathway to others. Not just her, there are many, but she was the one whose cloak I grabbed and hung onto. This new revolution is like the old. There is purpose and there are comrades and we are taking our fight to the internet (last time it was the streets), and we are sticking it to the man, aka the Big Six. No, that was last month. The Big Five. Or the Big Four. Whatever, you know who you are. Something is happening, and you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones? We may have our own new anthems, or we may just reuse some of the ones from the Sixties. Those were damn good anthems, maybe the best ever.

The Old Revolution is not over, but we are winning. Sure, there is the occasional backfire of bigotry and intolerance, but that only serves to remind us what we were fighting for, what we still fight for, who we are fighting for. We will win this one, too. It will take time, but we will win. Why? Because We are the People. Of course, we will win. That’s what the script says. We will win, because it is written.

The Fire Next Time

Colorado is burning, again. That’s not news. Maybe I should switch to posting about when Colorado is not burning. That would be news since in the last month there’s never been more than two or three days when there wasn’t a fire somewhere.

Three more fires in the southern part of the state this morning, hundreds of acres so far. One is called the Boy Scout Camp Fire, because that’s close to where it started. Do you still really want to argue about Global Warming? Even Exxon has put that horse out to pasture. I think what most people don’t get is the effect of global warming. If the planet is two degrees warmer, so what? Every place is two degrees, on average, warmer than before, which is hardly enough to notice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that. What it means is, ultimately, there will be a two degree change in the surface temperature of the ocean. El Nino changes, and La Nina changes. That changes weather patterns all over the planet. It melts the polar icecaps, floods the Midwest and Northeast and Mississippi Valley and makes them colder, and Texas, the Southwest, and the West, i.e., Colorado, get hotter and drier. Colorado catches on fire while Ohio drowns.

Remember the tornadoes from a couple of weeks ago that destroyed a significant part of Moore, Oklahoma, and other places.? Those, like Hurricane Katrina that took out New Orleans, and Sandy, that beat on New York not long ago, came from the African desert. It is hotter there, the air gets heated, and crosses the Atlantic where it wreaks havoc on North America. Don’t blame Moammar Ghadafi. He’s dead. Blame greenhouse gases.

We need to make an editorial revision to the Bible. The Bible says God said next time he will not destroy the world by flood, he will destroy it by fire. Get this to the revision committee. It’s both. Maybe James Baldwin, were he still alive, would want to change the title of his book. The Fire and the Flood Next Time. Get out your GPS, and pick your poison.

Where do stories come from? What is a story?

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be posting comments from a number of award-winning, in some cases, bestselling, authors about the source or inspiration for their various novels. Before getting into that, we should start with the question, What is a story? It can be short, six words, (re: Hemingway and Fitzgerald conversation), or it can be WAR AND PEACE. The answer is, to the degree there is one, is that it may be what Louis Armstrong said jazz is: If you have to ask, you’ll never know.IMG_0041

It may be easier to say what a story is not. It is not an incident, and it is not an anecdote. Incidents become anecdotes, and anecdotes become stories in the hands, or words, of a storyteller. One of the perils of being a well-known author is that many people approach you and say, “I’ve got a great story.” As one author said, “But they always talk about an event, something that did happen, or might happen. No one ever says, ‘I’ve got these great characters.’ If they did, I would listen.”

There is a long history behind this six-word story (you can Google it if you’re interested), and it goes back to a classified ad in New York newspaper in the early 20th Century. This is the Hemingway-Fitzgerald version. Hemingway told Fitzgerald he could write a complete short story in only six words. Fitzgerald didn’t believe him. Hemingway wrote: “For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.”

Here is what some established writer have had to say about writing: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/writing-tips-_n_3319260.html

Dogs: the rescued becomes the rescuer

We are in day three of the Black Forest fire north of Colorado Springs, and something amazing has been happening. People are caring for each other and helping each other, friends and total strangers. I’ve seen it before, in the aftermath of 9/11, during the blackout that shut down the Northeast a few years ago, and after natural disasters. But this is Colorado, and the thing that has really stood out is the devotion of people to their animals, and vice-versa.

One couple owns five dogs, one of them a retriever mix named Maisie, a rescue dog they got five years ago. Don Scheer had been alerted the fire was close to his house and tried to reach his wife, Sandy, by landline and cellphone, without success. He knew she was planning to take a nap, and finally decided to drive to their house to find her.

Before he got there, flames engulfed the back deck and the roof. Sandy was still asleep. Maisie went to the glass door outside Sandy’s bedroom and started barking. Finally, Sandy heard her and woke up. She saw what was happening, gathered the dogs and went out to the driveway where their two cars were parked. One of them was already on fire. She got herself and the dogs into the other as her husband was arriving home. As she pulled away, the entire structure went up in flames behind her. Maisie, the rescue dog, literally saved Sandy’s life. Another minute or two and it would have been too late. Cast your bread on the water… Or, in this case, a dog biscuit. It is kindness repaid.

They lost everything except their own lives and their dogs. Later Don said, “I am really happy right now.” Perspective, I believe, is a big part of happiness.

Is Colorado burning?

You better believe it. Fires on three sides of Colorado Springs, major fire in Black Forest, over 8,000 acres burned. And it’s not even Juneteenth, yet. It’s going to get worse. Much worse. Cheyenne Mountain through the smoke haze. The valley smells like barbecue.


ADHD, ADD and the mind of the writer

I have ADHD, or ADD. I won’t go into the specific differences right now because it’s not important. I have had it my entire life, and it is real, and those who deny it are ignorant. My ex-wife didn’t have it. In fact, she was the opposite. Organized, focus, driven. My son and I both have ADHD, my ex and my daughter do not. At the heart of attention deficit disorders is a problem with what is called “executive function.” The part of the brain that helps to regulate motivation, self-direction, organization, and other things does not function as well as it should. ADD/ADHD does not mean you are bouncing off walls and running around. It means your brain does not properly control focus. Sometimes I avoid doing things because I know if I start, I won’t stop–for hours. I can sit and work on something without leaving my chair for three, four, five hours. I’ve gone as long as seven. And yes, I’m hungry and my bladder is so full I can barely walk, but I will just sit there focused. Hyper-focused. That can be a gift sometimes, other times it sucks. Most of the time it sucks. It makes life hard to manage. It undermines relationships, careers, happiness. In future posts I will talk more about the problem. One of my doctors, the one who diagnosed me at the age of sixty, refused to call it a problem, or even a condition. He called it a “difference.” It’s that, too, but it’s a difference carries a sack full of challenges.

Where do stories come from?

One of the most common questions asked by readers of authors is where they get their story ideas. Most of the time the answers are facile, glib. Everywhere, nowhere, the newspaper, television. In my experience, many writers of novels and short stories, have derived it from a very specific experience. Over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be asking successful authors I know to detail the most the most interesting  trigger for any book or story they ever wrote. One of the authors will be me. I will talk about where the inspiration for my book, One Minute Gone, came from. The story opens with the disappearance of an attractive young woman, who is Imagea real estate agent in Manhattan. It is based on a friend named Camden Silvia, who disappeared one day and has never been found.

There are many famous examples, some obvious, some not. Faulkner’s trigger for The Sound and the Fury, he said, was the back side of the lace underpants of a young girl in a flowerbed, who had fallen into the dirt while trying to look through a window. What was she doing at the window? Who was inside? What were they saying?

On of the more obvious is Harper Lee’s inspiration for To Kill a Mockingbird. Her father was the roll model for Atticus Finch, the respected small-town attorney, who defended a black man for a rape her father was certain he didn’t and couldn’t have committed.