Sunday, March 27, 2016

Orphans No More

"I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you."
                                                             - Jesus (John 14:18)

I'm in my 40s and must of the time I'm responsible for taking care of myself, and sometimes other people too. But recently I went through a surgery that left me needing care for several days. I was so grateful that my mother was able and willing to take me into her home for several days. She brought me meals, helped change my bandages, and generally rearranged her life so that I could have the time to feast and heal that I needed.

She didn't have any cognitive dissidence at the fact that I was someone in need of care and not the one being the care giver. She was taking care of me like a parent takes care of a child. There is no one else in my life who would be quite as comfortable taking that role with me.

When my pastor read John 14:18 I was reminded how glad I am for having my mom. I also thought of the fact that we call it unnatural and tragic when a child dies before a parent. But that means that what is normal and accepted is for children to outlive there parents. That is, for most people to go through the experience of being orphans at some point in there life. In the best case, it is when we are adults and we have other people around us to take care of us when we need it.

But there is still that lack. There is no other relationship where your role as the one career for, the one guided, the one looked out for is so fundamental, so natural, so unforced. We can see how sad it is when a young child doesn't get that kind of care from a parent, or when that role is reversed wild. A still living parent because of a medical condition. But even in the most "normal" pattern there it still a loss.

But here is anther way that Jesus's resurrection takes the sting out of death and reverses the victory of the grave. Not only do we have the hope of being united again with loved ones in the resurrection. We always have a Father in heaven. We always have a Shepard in Jesus. We always have an Advocate in the Holy Spirit.

Jesus will care for us better than any human parent could. He has given us better guidance then any other source of counsel. He is pursuing our best interest in a way unmatchable by any other benefactor.

Christ is risen. We have a living Lord. And we always have someone with whom we can take the role of a child, someone whose feet it is always appropriate to sit at, someone to whom the power and the wisdom to lead s is totally natural.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

On Tracks

by ProjectManhatten CC BY-SA

A friend asked me if I could give any insight as to why an autistic acquaintance of his was so fascinated by trains. I’m not myself particularly fascinated by trains but I had a vague intuition that such a fascination did make sense. Though I gave it my best shot, I couldn’t really articulate a good explanation at the time, but I’ve been thinking about it since.
As you walk down the street are aware of constantly falling to one side or the other and needing to correct to keep your balance? Only you have to be careful not to over correct or you'll make the situation worse. Just exactly the precisely right correction is needed. But exactly how much to correct is a very difficult calculation. Take a look at the early attempts to mots with human like strides. A human like stride requires constantly updating judgments of balance that are actually quite complex.
I’m not consciously aware to all the calculations that go into staying balanced when I walk. But when I turn my mind inward and consider what I’m doing as a walk, I’m aware of something tense and stressed just below the level of my deliberate thoughts. There’s a feeling connected to my balance of something that’s never stable, that’s never settled, that I’m constantly uncertain of. It’s something that’s intrinsically unpleasant and unsettling. We I was a child I remember like to run my hand along fences or rails when I walked. When there was nothing suitable I would extend my hand so it made an imaginary line to the border of the sidewalk of some other guide that I could could as a reference point, as an additional sense of stability.
When I’m thinking of other things that sense fades into a disregarded buzz in the back of my awareness, but the doesn’t mean it has no effect on me. Mostly it is something that I notice not by its presence but by its absence. In the room I teach Sunday School in there are these movable partitions in tracks in the ceiling. If you push them or pull them by leaning your weight into them slightly they give you a little extra feed back as they move because they only want to move in a certain line. I like to be the one to move the partition. When I open or close it there’s a wonderful sense of relaxation, of being able to move without the stress.

I think a major part of the faciation of trains may be the tracks. The idea of something guiding the path precisely, of something providing stability even in the midst of motion, may be the source of the attraction. To someone with an intuition of the inherent instability of bipedal motion, or to someone with sensory issues who experiences motion as jarringly unpredictable, interacting with something on tracks can be very appealing. Seeing a train following exactly the visually predicted path, feeling the feedback through your fingertips as you play with a toy train, it could provide a sense of stability and an opportunity to relax.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Arbitrage in Createspace Sales

I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon that is happening with POD books. Now that fact that I was in a position to notice this particular practice is an artifact of a failure. I wrote an odd quirky book that didn’t have a really good commercial hook. Then when I launched it and I let other life stuff get in the way and it launched with almost zero effective publicity. (Copping with Autism mean that I have plenty of experiences with doing things fairly clumsily the first time I try them. I’ll get this writing+selling books things down; it just may take me a couple more tries.) So the total number of sales of POD print edition is:

And I know who has both of those.

But then I noticed this on amazon:

I’m pretty sure most of these retailers don’t actually have a copy of An Arrow of Atossa on hand.  So here is what I think is happening.  I signed up An Arrow of Atossa for extended distribution, which means that books stores, or people with book store account on service such as Ingram or NACSCORD can by the book at a significantly reduced price, that is partially made possible by my taking a reduced royalty on these books. This is done so h brick-and-mortar stores can offer the book at the same retail price on it is available online and still cover their overhead. I think the re-sellers advertising on Amazon are bookstores that manage to contain their overhead so they can use their wholesaler discount to undercut the price. The thing is, one of the ways they are probably containing overhead is by not actually ordering any copies from Createspace until someone buys a copy from them. This means I’m not getting much greater visibility or availability because these retailers are carrying the title.

I initially saw the smaller royalty for sales through bookstores as a trade-off for better visibility and the faint possibility that if I got this marketing thing done properly, someday a bookstore might stock my book. And if the visibility then I wouldn’t get sales through that channel and lower royalty rate would be a dead letter. Now it looks like those lower royalty sales would mainly be siphoned off from my amazon sales. Now with the poor sales showing I’ve made with this book it probably doesn’t matter that much. But I’ll still probably be pulling the book from extended distribution.

The thing that is really interesting here is that this is another potential problem of brick-and-mortar bookstores, and while small, the current business model is already struggling. If other low selling authors also decide that extended distribution isn’t worth the loss in full royalty sales, then even if an indie book store wanted to shelf  oddball titles,  there would be and smaller selection that they could afford. This might mean brick-and-mortar stores forced more into the box of limited selections and mass audience only. Another interesting factory in the ever changing world of publishing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Enjoying being Cared For

This last week end my husband took me to get shoes. He just said I should go put on shoes and some real pants because he wanted to go shopping with me. As we went out the door I asked where we were going and he said to get shoes.
             Now I had some options. I could have asked where we were going before getting ready. I could have said I wasn’t sure we really had the money to get anything. I could have questioned the need for shoes or brought up other priorities. I could have sked what store we were going to if that would really be the best place to buy. But I didn’t. I didn’t try to manage the situation. I didn’t assume I needed be in charge and check that everything was being taken care of. I didn’t automatically take responsibility for all the decisions.
                My husband took me down to the mall to a store I’d never been in before that was having a sale on good quality athletic shoes. Shoes had been on my list of things that I needed to find the money for. And last time I had been shopping for shoes I had looked at getting walking/jogging shoes. But I had gotten intimidated by trying to figure out which type of shoes I actually needed and how to figure out if I was getting quality that was worth the money. So I had ended up getting a type of comfy work shoe I had gotten before.
                My husband had noticed that my shoes were looking a little worn. He had figured out how we could fit new shoes into the budget. He was confident and acted knowledgable about types of soles and types of shoes. As we looked at shoes for me he showed an awareness that color would influence how broad an array of circumstance I could wear the shoes in.
                I got a nice looking, comfy new pair of athletic shoes. I got to feel comfortable that I had decent shoes at a fair price. I didn’t have to use up any spoons deciding if this was the best possible next purchase. I didn’t have to stress out planning the trip. I got to relax in that fact that my husband had his own way of viewing the budget that worked as long as didn’t pull everything sideways by superimposing my own paradigm and priorities. My husband offered me his planning skills, his knowledge, his executive function. I could joy enjoy being cared for while he lifted the burden off my shoulders.
                The thing I noticed was that I needed to be willing before I could benefit from this care. Even if he had done all the same things for me, he couldn’t have taken the stress off of me like he did if I had insisted in knowing all the details and approving each step before moving forward.  If I had tried to question and understand and check out all his knowledge of tennis shoes I would have ended up less confident, because I would in the end be relying on my much inferior knowledge of shoes rather than his. If I had been focused on being responsible for myself, I couldn’t have enjoyed that sense of being provided for and looked out for, that certainty of being cared for. And I did enjoy it.

Thank you, Baby, for taking care of me.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Death Race 2015

The evil characters in the movie Death Race 2000 were organizing the cross country trek where many people would die for entertainment. They watched for the fun of cheering on their favorites. Today in 2015 we don’t even bother to watch. America and Europe pat themselves on the back about how popular our death race is and get all worked up about how we should give out better prizes.
People are taking themselves and their children on a variety of long journeys. It may involve trekking through deserts with just the water you can carry. It may involve crossing seas in leaky boats, it may involve involvement with criminal organizations. It may involve crawling under barbed wire fences. It may involve violence between you and your fellow travelers for the best chance of winning the prize. It is the journey to reach America or various European countries without a visa and the prize is being allowed to stay and given various benefits as an applicant for “refugee” status.
I can understand an individual being overwhelmed by the crisis and deciding to just help the person in front of them right now. But what I find morally inexcusable is to advocate that governments, whose job it is to make these big policy decisions, should make a practice of encouraging this gauntlet by making a premeditated decision to give out more and bigger prizes to those who win the death race. The responsible thing to advocate for is that those you think should be allowed to emigrate be given visas in the countries they are currently in, so that they can arrange ordinary commercial transportation at their leisure. To instead require that they “prove” they really want to come by risking life and limb is sadistic and evil. To require them to abase themselves, throwing away honor and respectability, and openly grovel by presenting themselves as helpless and desperate is frankly sick.
It does seem to me that letting in everyone who would like to come is not even close to practical, so some sort of selectivity is required. But the worst possible way select imigrantes is to require them to ignore your stated laws and suffer through at dangerous and degrading journey so they can beg for your mercy on your home turf.
It may be more soothing to our consciences to ignore that fact that we are being selective. It’s easy to say well the ones who made it here are the ones I can see and I’ll lobby for helping them while ignoring those you can’t see. But you are setting up incentives, and you are encouraging expectations, and you are being selective. You are just being selective for those willing to break laws, lie, and put themselves and their children in an abusive situation in order to win your favor. This is not the right policy for governments to pursue and it is wrong for Americans and Europeans to ask them to do so.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What do we puppies have against “Literary”?

            I’ve seen some confusion and ambivalence about just what it is the Sad Puppies have against “literary” in Sci-Fi and I don’t think what this has to do with the political correctness issues has been fully explicated. So I wanted to go ahead and lay out what I see as the connection.

At it’s root “literally” means a style of writing were the langue at the level of phrases and sentences is itself beautiful and interesting, a common part of this is allusions to cultural classic and references to previous literature. In some ways this style goes with science fiction about as well as beautiful stained glass goes with a telescope. But in other ways whether you want beautiful language as an additional distraction in your sci-fi story is very much as case of de gustibus non destbutontem est.

           But there is an additional quirk to the way literary has actually been practiced. Because the literary style has the quality that you need a certain level of education higher than for other styles in order to appreciate it. You have to have a large vocabulary and a complex awareness of grammar in order to enjoy the prose, and you need a broad knowledge of culture in order to enjoy the literary allusions. And back when literacy was developing as a style only fairly upper class people possessed this level of education.
           Thus one thing talking about literary works did was to effectively signal high social status. This became part of the self image of the literary set, that they had this quality that signaled eliteness. Of course no one articulated it this quality as “this style requires education and is therefore a good status signal” people thought of this quality as being this it’s the style the “best” people read. So it was easy for fans and members of literary circles to start thinking of literary as the “best” type of fiction.
The edition I read did not
explicitly mention the Odyssey

This was reinforced by academia because it was easy to see why you needed a college class to understand something like James Joyce’s Ulysses. It’s not like David Drake’s Cross the Stars where you can just kick back after a long hard day and enjoy a good read. Joyce’s work requires concentrated intellectual effort and either encyclopedic cultural knowledge or a reference guide. Half the fun is sharing connections made and cultural insights and with others. (I haven’t read Ulysses but listening to a course about it convinced me that had been much more amusing than actually reading the book would have been.) The praise I’ve heard of Bloom and his day revolve around the irony of him being portrayed as if he was the iconic greek hero and of this slightly unprepossessing man being celebrated in the literary canon. When I first read Don “Mad Dog” Slade’s story I simply enjoyed it as a rip-roaring good adventure about a veteran soldier returning home and having to re-make a place for himself there. It’s a smooth read with language that doesn’t distract from suspension of disbelief.
There are no three headed dogs in this book,
 only is the poem this book is referring to.
When I read it later, after coming to know to the
Odyssey, seeing the parallels added an extra layer of amusement, but that wasn’t at all necessary to my basic enjoyment of the story. A college course couldn’t really improve appreciation of Drake’s that work because Drake already provided everything the reader really needs.
           In recent times showing off your IQ, much less your snooty education, has become less the done thing. As the shine of “upper class” began to tarnish literary devotees in both social and academic circles had natural motivation to hold on to the cachet of liking the “best” literature. There was a market demand for a way literary could be “best” in a overarching, perhaps moral way. This made the Social Justice drive to make everything political and to treat pushing the correct politics the ultimate moral good the perfect supply for the literary culture demand. So now those proclaiming themselves as arbiters of the “best” kind of literature are using a standard that combines literary style with SJW propaganda and Ultra political correctness.  
Both Puppy groups object to political litmus test that the literary arbiters have appropriated. In addition the Sad puppies, despite being labeled conservative, are more united around ideas like freedom from authoritarian censorship, presumption of innocence until proven guilty, not discriminating on the basis of background, and seeing everyone as basically equal, that were liberal ideas a generation ago. They are fundamentally allergic to the elitism of any kind and so dislike the classism associated with literary culture from early in its development. Whereas Vox Day has no objection to elitism per se. He likes the intellectual stretch of literary style as long as it doesn’t come with other baggage and other aspects of the work aren’t neglected.
This shows up in the fact that the Rabid Puppies slate was very John C. Wright heavy while the Sad Puppy slate had only a couple of his works. Wright is often literary using somewhat ornate language and sprinkling in references to both the literary canon and classical culture. (I can see some justification for entangling hollywood stars with renowned beauties of the ancient world to enhancement of the time travel theme, but drawing Queequeg into it was just over the top. There was no excuses for that. That might have caused a DNF if I hadn’t been reading for my Hugo voting. Which would have been a real shame because once I completed the whole thing, I found the story really cool.) So Vox saw more excellence in Wright’s writing than Brad did. Wright is also a Tor author and it’s interesting to speculate that his literary excellence might be part of what attracted the social climbing would be arbiters of taste to his writing.

             So while part of the Puppy issue with literary is the leftist political baggage  it has recently picked up, there is also an objection in part of Puppy movement to the fundamental snobbishness of literary society and the exclusiveness the is intrinsic to the nature of literary style. Personally I think using literary style  in a science fiction story is a little like taking a Bedazzler to an Armani sheath, but I do see that as a matter of taste. There’s a place for literary style is Sci-Fi as long as it doesn't becomes a requirement for something being considered the best of Science Fiction.

Friday, July 17, 2015

An Arrow of Atossa

         I have self-published my first novel, An Arrow of Atossa. It's about a young princess whose world is shaken by her father's death. How she comes to terms with the uncertainties of the world and finds her place in it. How she confronts the complications of truth and honor and decides what they mean to her. How she becomes a woman who makes her mark on history.

From the back cover:
When Princess Atossa’ s father, King Cyrus, dies suddenly, both her brothers want to follow him as King of Kings. Should she support the ruthless cleverness of the more competent Bardiya or the rash honesty of her father’s choice, Cambyses? Why are the gods taking an interest in her now? She dare not let them control her, but she dare not offend them. And as she makes her choices, navigating politics and honor just get harder. What price will she have to pay to support her choices?
In 530 BC the Kingdom of the Meads and the Persians is the greatest Empire in the world. But that doesn’t mean the royal family is safe. Cyrus the Great of Persia has usurped the throne from his grandfather, one of many empires that had risen and fallen in the Fertile Crescent. It is a time of ancient powers and new legends being made.

          I'm really hoping that I get some reviews and feed back on this book. Amazon discourages reviews from family and personal friends, but from anyone else I would love it if you would read the novel and post an Amazon review.

It's available from Createspace, Amazon , nook , Apple iBooks , and Kobo