You wrote a book….so what?

I am writing this tonight having just received my first shipment of the latest novel I have written. Three long hard years. And they were quite hard at times. Writing, getting published, and seeing the book for the first time, truly is a process. In some ways I think I have sweated over this story, fretted over the edits, and obsessed over whether or not we had gotten everything “just right” with the proofs, to the point of almost taking some of the fun out of it. But only some. I still wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.

I have already started reading it again. I have read it at least twenty times. I have rewritten it three. (not that many for a commercially published novel, some authors have to rewrite as many as 20 times. That’s something I am proud of)

It doesn’t surprise me anymore. The first few times I read the later drafts, I would have moments where I would say, “Humm….that’s pretty good. I can’t believe I wrote that section.” or “Wow, I really like this passage.” I can honestly say that there are no spots that I just dont like. I had one or two passages like that in the book I wrote with Dan, The Rain: A Story of Noah and the Ark. That has nothing to do with Dan or The Rain and everything to do with where I am now as a writer as opposed to where I was then. I have done this once now. I got feedback from well over a hundred readers. I guess I retained some of it and improved a bit. My initial reviews from editors at publishing houses confirmed that.

Want to see my baby pics? – I could pratter on and on. I mean lets face it. This is my baby. I have ridden for miles, alone in my car, talking to the characters, asking them why they did this or that. And yes, by now, they are quite real to me. What was once just an idea I had during my morning coffee is now a finished novel and will be in bookstores. You cant help but get attached.

The work– I dont think anyone who has not published a novel can truly understand the sweat equity that I have poured into this. I dont say that in a self serving way, or at least I dont mean to, it just….IS.

This Aint no big deal–  What I really started to blog about tonight is….SO WHAT? I wrote a book. Have I accomplished anything? Ten or fifteen years ago I would have said, “definitely yes”. But now, with so many blogs, so many tweets, so many people able to get their writing out there, I must say it feels a bit less “special”. Yet when I look at the statistics, so few people actually make it to this point. I think the numbers are something like:

  • Ten per cent of the authors that set out to write a novel , actually ever complete the manuscript.
  • Of that ten per cent, less than one per cent of those ever get published, (excluding self published works)
  • Then of all books that ARE published, 80% sell less than 100 copies.

There are just such a HUGE number of books out there.

Still, getting published has not made me feel that I have succeeded.

Some would only consider it a success if Going Green becomes a big hit and I am suddenly a full time writer but that is highly unlikely. Writing is not that lucrative so I am not going to hold the definition of success to that high a standard.

If people read this story, (not just friends but even strangers…especially strangers) and say to themselves, “I was thoroughly drawn in by this story…and it really made me think as well”, if people tell me of laughing at parts I meant to be funny, of being scared during parts where I intended to induce fear, if they care about the characters and what happens to them, and most of all, if some give me the ultimate compliment, “I couldn’t put it down…” Then I will consider myself a success. THEN this will seem like a big deal.

I am about to get the verdict!!

Camping, for your funny bone

My wife is descended from a camping family. When she was a little girl the family went from tent camping to a pop up camper. All their vacations were taken this way. She has told me that until she became an adult she cannot recall ever staying in a hotel. My family was not a camping family. It was not that we considered ourselves above camping we just never got around to doing it. We never really had camping stuff. We did go out once. We didn’t go to a campground mind you; we just drove my dad’s truck down into the middle of the woods on a friend’s farm and started a fire. We ate raw hamburger that had been warmed on a hibachi to optimum microbiological incubation temperature. Then we slept in the back of the truck on a cheap air mattress. The dew fell on us and we nearly froze. It was great!

A little later when I was in middle school I began to form an interest in camping. The thought of hiking across the hills and dales and then pitching a little tent seemed heavenly. I didn’t realize until later that it wouldn’t be that idyllic.  For my 11th birthday I got a backpack. A year later I got a sleeping bag. I still have the sleeping bag and it has held up quite well. However it is not the type of sleeping bag that one ties to a backpack. If one rolls it really tight one will end up with a bundle roughly the diameter of a nuclear submarine.  I could not tie my sleeping bag to the backpack strings so I stuffed it, with much pounding and effort, inside the backpack.

This stretched the seams on the backpack to their max and completely filled all storage areas. The tops of the pockets on the pack were stretched so tight that nothing would go in them. I was just able to slide a toothbrush into one pocket and with that added tension I was barely able to get a single strand of dental floss into the other. I might not have all the camping amenities but by golly I was determined to maintain good oral hygiene.

I had saved my allowance and purchased an army mess kit and canteen from an army surplus store nearby. The mess kit was neat because the knife spoon and fork all locked together. At least they were locked together when I bought them. After insisting my Mama serve my supper in the mess kit the night I brought it home, I never did get the utensils back together. They made a considerable racket inside the metal kit which I carried in a brown grocery bag as there was no room in the pack. The canteen, which oddly smelled like feet, was strapped to my belt. With the gargantuan backpack strapped to my skinny frame and the full canteen I was attempting to lift my body weight squared. This made the process of forward motion quite a challenge. On several occasions downhill momentum carried me forward so rapidly that I did a little summersault.  Nevertheless I felt I was ready to go camping.

Enter my Dad. Dad is a horse lover. And being a horse lover he feels that every recreational activity must include a horse. This often became a major issue when the family went to the movies but that is another story. Dad wanted to take me camping as long as he could ride the horse to do it. He had not camped since his days in the National Guard but he did know more about it than me. He threw a can of beef stew and some other items into his saddle bags and away we went. I was ambivalent about the inclusion of the horse but, for the sake of practicality, I rode behind my Dad the first part of the trip.

And boy was it ever a trip. My Dad took us across mountains and through valleys we forded streams and crossed ravines. He was looking for a certain spot near a creek he had once ridden past. He wasn’t exactly sure where it was but he knew if we rode far enough we would find it. As we approached the area where he thought the creek was, I asked to get down from the horse. I wanted to strap on my pack and hike like a camper should. It took some doing to get me all strapped in but I was soon scurrying along beside Dad and the horse. If anyone had seen me, it might have looked like I was starting a new exercise craze. Walk walk run run shuffle shuffle somersault.  Walk walk run run shuffle shuffle somersault.

We finally arrived at the creek after dark. We had yet to find the exact spot on the creek where Dad wanted to camp and had no fire and nothing to eat. It was somewhere in here that it occurred to us that we did not have an important item. We had no flashlight. It rapidly got too dark for Dad to ride. By now we were in deep woods and there was the problem of riding under branches and shrubbery. Dad got off and began leading the horse. Every few yards he would strike a match for light. The creek was to our left and as we continued to walk we would go farther and farther between matches. After walking awhile in the pitch black woods you weren’t sure what you would see when the match was struck. This made for a quite exciting midnight hike.

I was walking behind the horse as Dad led him. It was during one of the match lightings that I saw the horse look to his left and down. He gathered all four of his feet together as if he were trying to stand on a bucket and his eyes got very big. The three of us were walking about 2 inches from the edge of a 25 foot drop off. Upon realizing this we came to the mutual decision that this seemed like a good spot to set up camp.

After playing a vigorous game of tug of war to separate the sleeping bag and backpack, we finally got a fire going. Now we discovered that we also had no can opener for the beef stew. Ahh I can close my eyes and still hear the melodic sound of a Dinty Moore can being beaten against a rock. We finally did get to eat. Then we both squeezed into the sleeping bag, exhausted. We had located a nice smooth sandy spot for our sleeping bag. It wasn’t until the rainstorm came that we realized we were in the bed of a wet weather stream. About 3 AM water came rushing into the top of our sleeping bag like a tidal wave. The trip ended with us back out at the road at 5 AM riding for the barn in a driving rain. My mom was waiting for us when we arrived worried that we had been washed away.


Despite my initial exposures to camping, I was willing to try it again when my wife and I were dating. We went on camping trips to the beach a couple of times with her parents. They had a pop-up camper and those trips with them were pretty pleasant overall. So after we got married and wanted to go on our first vacation we decided to make it a camping vacation.

Actually we didn’t decide any such thing. Economics decided for us. We could buy a two-man (excuse me, two-person) tent and rent campsites for a fraction of what it would cost for a couple nights in a motel. So even though my wife was six months pregnant, we bought a tent and decided we would see the gorgeous state of Virginia. We braved oppressive heat in Williamsburgh. On that evening we even managed to survive the thermonuclear combustion of a Coleman lantern. This was a lantern handed down to us from my in-laws. The instructions my father in law gave me for lighting it went something like this.

“To light it you have to pump up the little plunger like this. Only the gasket in there is worn out so you have to pull down on the handle a little to form a seal. Then when the pressure builds up you lift this lever but first twist the plunger to lock it. Okay then lift up this lever then twist this valve over here about a quarter turn then.  Do you hear that? That is the gas going through the mantles. Okay so now you stick your match in here and you have to hurry before you loose all the gas pressure and you just light it but don’t touch the mantles they break real easy and if you break them then they have to be replaced and that is a real pain. So it’s really simple as you can see.”

Yep not a thing could go wrong with this. I made it as far as light the match. The next 3 to 4 minutes are forever lost to memory. I must admit though when I came to the whole campsite was indeed illuminated.

Finally we arrived in the Shenandoah Valley. This area truly is one of God’s great creations. After touring Monticello we headed our little car up the Shenandoah Skyline Parkway. Our destination was a campground on the highest point in Virginny. This had been our first attempt to budget for a vacation and we were down to sixty seven dollars and thirteen cents. The way we had it figured after paying for a campsite and a tank of gas to get us home that would leave around twenty bucks for the next three meals. We stopped at a little store and bought bread and lunchmeat and a 2 liter coke. It is well known among people that have lived in a college dorm that one can subsist for weeks on a loaf of bread, a pack of lunchmeat, and a 2 liter coke.

As we approached the campground late at night, a huge summer thunderstorm blew into the area. This was quite disconcerting as we were driving along windy mountain roads. About every three seconds a lighting strike would light up the whole ridge well enough for us to read the signs warning of bear activity in the area. “Don’t feed the bears,” read one. “Handle trash with care this is bear country” read another. By the time we pulled up to the ranger station the lightning had ended but rain was coming down in buckets. There was a handwritten note on the ranger station door telling campers to go in and set up on the honor system. We could pay tomorrow.

Interestingly, we had no problem finding an empty campsite, go figure. I got out of the car with the tent, while my wife stayed in the car and gathered the food from the cooler in the back seat. I managed to get the tent up in spite of the elements and dashed back to the car to fetch my young bride. I held an umbrella over her as she clutched the sandwich fixins under her raincoat. We giggled at our silly old luck and kissed as we dashed merrily through the puddles. Our glee lasted about two minutes. As we got into the tent I turned on a small battery powered lamp. I also had my prized 3 cell aluminum flashlight.

Tracy began spreading mustard on bread when suddenly a claw scrapped down the side of the tent.  Then we could clearly see the outline of a snout and ears as something pressed its face against the tent fabric. The impact from the snout knocked our little lamp over on its side. This caused the tent to go dark adding to our terror. Like Luke reaching for his light saber, I immediately reached out for my Mag Lite. Up till now my wife still sat in stunned silence, a slice of bread in one hand and a plastic butter knife in the other.

I knew I must spring into action to protect my bride and unborn child. The first order of business was to soothe my wife’s fears. With this in mind I said something like, “Oh my gosh honey you’d better get back we are being attacked by a rouge bear!!” This did not result in the calming influence I had hoped for. In fact it did just the opposite. My wife moved with lightning speed to the exact geographic center of the tent where she proceeded to sob uncontrollably. Oddly she continued to cling to the bread and plastic knife. I could only conclude that she intended these as some sort of last line of defense. Perhaps she would decoy the brute with the bread while she smothered him in mayonnaise.

But there was no time to evaluate her strategy now. As I tried to decide what to do the vicious beast clawed the side of the tent again. The only weapon I had was the aluminum flashlight. I actually took a moment to think out loud. As if my wife and I had formed an impromptu strategic planning committee.

“Let’s see,” I said. “We are in Virginia so it must be a black bear.” “There wouldn’t be any grizzly bears this far east would there honey?”

All I got from Tracy at this point was louder crying only now mixed with screams.

“Well if it’s a black bear there is a chance it won’t kill us.”

It wasn’t that I was that calm mind you. I guess this little conversation was just my form of hysteria. I decided I had a chance to put up a fight and scare the bear off. As I came to this conclusion the bear again stuck his head into the tent fabric. Now he was sniffing loudly at the sandwich stuff. I raised the flashlight and took an unsure half hearted swing at his massive skull. It dinged him but not that hard. I heard him grunt as he pulled his head away.  A very long ten seconds went by. I hoped the bear had left. My wife, who now had her head between her knees and covered by her arms, began to pray. She was spewing a stream of words at the good Lord like an auctioneer at a cattle sale. But suddenly the outline of the bear’s head came back. This time the brute seemed to be pressing his ravenous jaws farther in toward the food and us.

I knew I had to quit pussyfooting around. I got up on my knees, held the flashlight high over my head and came down with all the force I could muster. TIIINNNGGGG!! The flashlight rang out! The bear grunted again only this time louder. Seconds went by then minutes. Finally I came up with the courage to unzip the tent door. As I prepared to peak out, images of a massive paw slamming me in the back of the head filled my mind. Instead of sticking my head out I shined the flashlight out and held my eye up to the partially opened zipper. That is when I got the first blood chilling look at my nemesis. There, staggering away from our tent, was a big, fat,….raccoon. He stopped as he was about to enter the woods and looked back over his shoulder at me. It was as if he was saying, “Geez all I wanted was a lousy piece of bread.” With this he turned and staggered into the darkness.

I immediately found this funny. Tracy on the other hand, refused to even crack a smile at my witty comments regarding the entire incident. In fact it was some time before I could get her to stop hugging herself and rocking long enough to make my sandwich.

Nuclear Plant In Japan

We all have moments in our lives that we might consider “seminal moments”.  I will never forget one of mine.  The day I stared into the center of a nuclear reactor. Reactor 2 at Plant E. I. Hatch (Mr. Hatch had been a WWII Veteran and later a president of Ga Power Company) was undergoing a refueling outage.  I was fresh out of “Nuke” school, a very intensive 12 week course on Nuclear Chemistry. I had only been an employee of Ga. Power for about 6 months, fresh out of college, and suddenly I was staring straight down into the “belly of the beast”.

The experience was at once daunting, and thrilling. The rods that you currently are hearing so much about on the news were deeply immersed in bright blue treated water. The core seemed massive from my vantage point. I had been sent to the top of the reactor to collect a sample.  The trek to the reactor proper was an experience in itself. I will be writing more about that perhaps in a later post.

I remember looking around the very busy and very precise operation of refueling. All personnel, including myself, were dressed in the yellow coveralls, hoods, and rubber boots that you may have seen on “The China Syndrome” movie.

I’ll try and blog more tommorrow about the phenomenon that takes place in an accident of the nature of what happened in Japan.

Have we evolved morality?

Today I decided to post something that I originally posted on Facebook as part of a discussion on the existence of God (among other topics). I decided that I took long enough writing it that I might as well post it here as well.

If you already read it on Facebook then skip to the last couple of paragraphs for something new for this blog.

I am going to weigh in one last time on this thread because I think we might go on forever. It has been an interesting discussion but I have to bow out sometime.

Josh celebrates that which is based on fact, but in his post on evolved morals he posits a hypothesis. Morals that stem from evolution certainly don’t rise to the definition of theory because there is no observable evidence to support such a claim. After all, Darwin himself in his later years was terrified of what mankind might be capable of if his own theories were carried out to their logical conclusions. This of course occurred in several cases, perhaps most notably with Frederich Nietzsche, a devout follower of Darwin, and his quest for Superman and corresponding declaration that “God is Dead”.  His writings in turn informed Adolph Hitler who shared them with Stalin resulting in the torture and death of tens of millions.

Darwin feared what he had wrought, namely that without some moral absolute, there is no basis for morals. There is certainly no need for morality in a Darwinist model. Morality does nothing to further survival of the fittest.

Someone in an earlier post referenced Jean Paul Sartre to further this idea of evolved morality. But it was Sartre himself that furthered the notion that a finite point is absurd if it has no infinite reference point. If there is no absolute moral standard (that which always applies, that which provides a final or ultimate standard) then one cannot say in any final sense that anything is right or wrong.

Ancient thinkers from the Greeks forward were rationalists too. That is they assumed that man, though finite and limited could gather enough particulars to make his own universals (see Plato). In that way they were similar to John, Josh and Devin here. Rationalism rejects any knowledge outside of man himself.

Though the scientific revolution rested on a Christian base, the gentlemen in this debate have elected to base their lives on the belief that they can answer life’s questions through rationalism. John, Josh and Devin believe in the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system. In other words, the universe is a machine which resulted from some variation of time plus matter plus chance. Man is only a part of the larger machine. Hawking and others who have been named leave no room for God in this system. He becomes unnecessary.

Yet the early modern scientist believed in the uniformity of natural causes in an open system. In their view man and God were outside the cause and affect machine of the cosmos and therefore they both could influence the machine. Newton, Galileo, and Pascal would have rejected the closed system thought process.

In the closed, cause and affect system, God would indeed be dead, as would man, as would love. There is no place for morals in a totally closed system. Man becomes a zero. People and all they do is only a part of the machinery. Life is pointless, devoid of meaning.

Aside from the mathematical/statistical objections to Darwin’s theory, (randomness could not have produced the biological complexity present in the Universe out of chaos in any amount of time). Evolutionary theory cannot answer the simple questions of a child. How did I get here? Why am I here?

Josh’s comparison of the morals of less developed cultures versus more developed cultures becomes irrelevant. As Dostoevsky said, “If God does not exist, then everything is permissible.”

What is the purpose of individual personality, creativity or compassion, in this type of closed, evolutionary system? There is none.

Only in a universe with a personal, eternal, self sufficient God, do any of these concepts have a reason for existence. Speaking of creativity, I close my input to the discussion with a quote from the brilliant Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “The task of the artist is to sense more keenly than others the harmony of the world, the beauty and the outrage of what man has done to it, and poignantly to let people know. Art warms even an icy and depressed heart opening it to lofty personal experience. By means of art we are sometimes sent dimly, briefly, revelations unattainable by reason. Like that little mirror in the fairy tales. Look into it and you will see not yourself, but that which passes understanding, a realm to which no man can ride or fly and for which the soul begins to ache.”

For this blog only I would like to add a quote from one of my favorite writers, Malcolm Muggeridge, “Built into life is a strong vain of irony for which we should be grateful to our creator. It helps us to find our way through the fantasy that encompasses us to the reality of our existence. God has mercifully made the fantasies (the pursuit of power, of sensual satisfaction, of money, of learning, of celebrity, of happiness) so preposterously unrewarding that we are forced to turn to Him for mercy.

We seek wealth and find that we have collected worthless pieces of paper. We seek security and find that we have only acquired the means to blow ourselves and our little earth to smithereens. We seek carnal indulgence only to find ourselves caught up in the prevailing erotomania. Looking for freedom we infallibly fall into the servitude of self gratification or collectively into a gulag.

We look back in history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter revolutions wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed. One nation dominant and then another.”

Can this really be what life was about? This interminable soap opera? I for one refuse to believe it. Instead I believe that God has reached down to make himself known to man. God’s special parable for a fallen man in a fallen world.

What I Want This Blog To Be

You need to start a blog. At least that is what my publicist told me.  When one enters an entirely new realm as I have with publishing a book, then you have to trust professionals in that business.  Yet, I have been pretty reluctant to get started.  The reason being, is I feel like we have a new segment in our culture where everyone feels the need to constantly inform the world of every thought. Tweets, blogs, social networks, can any of us possibly have that much to say that others need to hear?

I have been reluctant to add my voice to the cacophony.  I believe it may have been the brilliant Alexadar Solzeneitsyn who I will paraphrase, “Everyone speaks in these times of their rights, their right to be heard, their right to comforts or possessions or security.  But what of the right that no one speaks of. What of the right to peace.  What of the right to quiet before our creator.  What of the right to not have our eternal souls constantly bombarded by information, input and noise?”

Very few people that I know need more input or noise in their lives. Therefore I hope this blog will only be active when I have something worthwhile to say. I endeavor not to blog just to be blogging.

When I do blog I hope that at times I can return to my most comfortable place, the place where I can use my sense of humor. At times I hope it will be deeply Spiritual. At other times it will be unavoidably political.  In all cases I hope it will add value to your day. For if all I can do is add to the noise that already surrounds you, then I would rather not blog at all.