30 Thousand

Another week, another 5000 words on the novel. If I can somehow sustain this rate, I might be finished with the first draft of MARE NUBIUM by Explorers’ Day.*

Shoot, I’ll be thrilled to make it by Halloween, if that means getting it cleaned up and submission-ready by New Year’s.


*My preferred name for Columbus Day.

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Proud Papa

Father’s Day weekend, so I’ll get right to the point: I’m really proud of my young-uns.

Today we picked up our daughter after four weeks as a production assistant on an independent film. That’s four weeks in the farm country of northeast North Carolina, in the middle of which she went to the emergency room for heat exhaustion. And they liked her work so much they changed her unpaid internship to a paid position.

And as I type this, our son is performing at his first paying musical gig: he’s playing violin at a wedding with some other members of the high school chamber group. He’s done some charity gigs before with the band he formed at church (Clantannin), but this is his first time driving to an out-of-town gig and coming home with money.

My kids are cool. Pity I can’t take the credit for their coolness.

But I’m proud of ’em.

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Mini-Rant on Copy Editing

I wasn’t an English major, but I had a few good English teachers through the years who gave me an appreciation for proper use of the language. As such, I guess I became enough of a language purist that it bothers me to see a drop in the quality of copy editing in published works.

I don’t mean the stylistic choices that authors make, or even the words that authors make up — I’ve done that myself, and I like what Orson Scott Card said about it to our Literary Boot Camp class: “I’m a writer, it’s a word if I say it’s a word.” What has bothered me recently is seeing too many wrong words, usually homophones*, left in the text.

I understand the editing process can be lengthy and we’re all human — as I mentioned, I wasn’t an English major so I’m not sure about some of the rules (and I don’t remember much of the terminology). Sometimes an author can catch errors and the publisher chooses not to fix them because of cost, as happened with my book. But sometimes the copy editor just blows it.

Is it too much to ask for a copy editor to know that “led” is the past tense of “lead” (as opposed to the soft metal, “lead”), and that an archer would have someone in their “sights” (connoting vision) rather than their “sites” (locations)?

*Like homonyms, but they just sound alike.

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DRAGONFORGE, by James Maxey

Finished reading DRAGONFORGE today, on the plane from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham, and I must say my friend James Maxey has crafted a tight, compelling story that picks up where his excellent BITTERWOOD left off. I thoroughly enjoyed DRAGONFORGE — but how could I not enjoy a book in which one of the leading characters is a dragon named Graxen the Gray?

Seriously, James did a great job expanding and enriching the future world he described in BITTERWOOD. I haven’t been reading much SF or F recently, because I see quite enough in the slush pile that already distracts from writing my SF novel, but I’m glad I read DRAGONFORGE to be reminded of what good genre fiction is supposed to be.

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Yesterday I passed the 25,000-word mark on MARE NUBIUM, which for me is pretty good progress for a week. Considering the time I spend at my two jobs, I don’t know that I can maintain that pace (this week I had the advantage of some concentrated time in a hotel room). I’m going to try not to get down on myself if I slow down a bit — so long as I don’t stall out again.

The good thing is, given my 100,000-word target, this means I’m roughly a fourth of the way through the thing. But now I should quit with the blog entry and try to get a few words in. 😉

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USAF Shake-Up

Wow — I was shocked this morning to see that both the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General “Buzz” Moseley, and the Secretary of the Air Force, Michael Wynne, resigned yesterday. (Story here.) Had I seen the news yesterday, I just would’ve been shocked a few hours earlier.

I consider it a great shame that General Moseley was forced to resign — I didn’t have many dealings with him when I was on the Air Staff,* but he always struck me as a straight-up guy. My fondest memory is of chatting with him in the little connecting hallway between the D and E rings of the Pentagon, where he urged me to insert some random Mandarin Chinese characters into a speech I’d written for Mr. Peter Teets — the Under Secretary at the time — just to see how Mr. Teets would react.

Mr. Wynne, on the other hand, I never understood. I had even fewer dealings with him than with Gen Moseley, but my observations from afar showed me a man who was possibly too smart for the practical realities of the job. I got that impression when, as one of his first initiatives as Secretary, he decided to update (or revamp, or otherwise tinker with) the Air Force Mission and focus less on the traditional elements of flying, fighting, and winning the nation’s wars than on delivering “sovereign options.” I still scratch my head over that one.

Of course, this difficult situation is made even worse by the fact that the Air Force has been without an Under Secretary for months now. (It’s similar to when I was there, and they tapped Mr. Michael Dominguez to be the Acting Secretary. I enjoyed writing for him; some of us thought he would make a good SecAF.) I saw this afternoon that the SecDef was going to recommend a new nominee to President Bush, but it will be exceedingly strange for someone to be nominated and confirmed for the last few months of the Presidential term. I suspect there will be another Acting SecAF for awhile; I wish them luck.

*Full disclosure: I worked in the Secretary & Chief of Staff’s Executive Action Group from 2004 until my retirement in 2006.

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YouTube, MeTube

I didn’t expect to make the cut (which may mean there wasn’t a cut), but there I am on the “videoblog” fantasy author Gail Z. Martin made at ConCarolinas. Here’s the YouTube link. I’m the last person she talked to that day, right after GOH Mike Resnick.

Surprise, surprise, as Gomer Pyle used to say. And of course I didn’t take the opportunity to plug my web site. Ol’ dopey me.

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63% Oppose NC Forced Service Law

So far, that is, according to poll results I saw this morning on WRAL.com. I haven’t seen any news stories on this the past couple of days, so I’m not sure what’s going on with it in the legislature, but I have seen a few other comments on the web. It seems the word is getting out; hopefully that translates to a few people letting the legislature know how they feel about it. (Thanks to those who already have!)

Those poll results, if you’re interested, are here. My original blog entry has a link to the sponsoring state senator’s office, if you want to let them know how you feel about the idea.

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Twenty Thousand

In my inchworm-slow progress writing the novel I’ve outlined, a milestone of sorts: crossing the 20,000-word mark yesterday. Considering the most recent additions were achieved in very small steps — a few hundred words here, another few there, mostly in between panels and in the morning before ConCarolinas opened — that ain’t all bad.

Now, to get the next 80,000 words done. Onward and upward.

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Legislating Charity

Squarely in the category of “that government governs best which governs least”: a proposed law (yes, LAW) introduced yesterday that would require (yes, REQUIRE) North Carolina college students to perform specific community service in order to get their diplomas.

According to the News & Observer story, “Tutoring rule proposed,”

Those seeking a bachelor’s degree in the state’s public and private colleges and universities would be required to spend 20 hours a semester tutoring or mentoring students in public elementary, middle or high schools if legislation introduced by Senate Majority Leader Tony Rand becomes law.

The proposed legislation is Senate Bill 2079, the “Eve Carson/Abhijit Mahato Community Service Program,” dated May 28, 2008. The text of the bill states,

The Board of Governors shall establish a community service program for baccalaureate degree candidates enrolled in the University System…. Under this program, students shall provide mentoring and tutoring services for a minimum of 20 hours per semester to public school-aged children across the State through school programs, faith-based programs, or other service programs…. Participation in this program shall be a requirement for any baccalaureate degree awarded after January 1, 2012.

So here’s a State Senator, Fayetteville Democrat Rand, who proposes to “honor” two slain students by requiring — in other words, FORCING — every other student in the state to perform community service in their names. And not only that, the law would require them to perform service for which they may or may not have any aptitude or desire: the program gives them no choice in the manner or method of their service, but would force them to work with public school children. The N&O said Rand believes this program will “instill a sense of community and responsibility in college students.”

It should instill a sense of outrage in college students. It’s one thing to encourage students to serve others at a time and place of their own choosing, but to force them into a particular type of community servitude in order to appease the legislature’s sense of what they should be doing? Student organizations across the state should mount rapid and vocal opposition to this proposal.

Furthermore, as if Rand’s proposal isn’t far-reaching enough, it actually goes beyond students in state schools to include every undergraduate: “The state’s private colleges and universities would have to impose the same requirement if they wanted to continue participating in two financial aid programs that the state provides to North Carolinians attending those schools.” Note that the students receiving the aid are not mentioned, but the schools: therefore, students receiving no aid from the state whatsoever would be subject to the same requirement.

This is a bad idea, and should be shouted down from the rooftops of every dormitory to the floor of the legislature. Not because community service is bad, but because lawmakers should not be trying to legislate it. If a college decides to require community service as a graduation requirement, students have the choice to go to another college if they don’t want to meet the requirement. If the state requires community service, students won’t have that same choice.

And since this proposed law mandates — requires — what would normally be acts of charity, what other ramifications does that present?

* First, it means that the community service is no longer voluntary, but compulsory. That may seem a small distinction, but what other compulsory service might the legislature mandate? Would our leaders require community service of all of us, and specify what it must be?

* Second, it means that those who don’t participate are by definition lawbreakers — and that the state would punish them by withholding the degrees they’ve otherwise earned.

* Third, it treats students as pools of free labor available to meet whatever pressing or passing need strikes the legislative fancy, when their primary purpose should be concentrating on their studies and learning the skills that will carry them with confidence into the future.

Good intentions, remember, pave the road to Hell. And politicians are full of good intentions.

The NC General Assembly web site includes this page on Rand, with contact information. Give him a call, send him an e-mail, tell him this is a bad idea.

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