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Month: August 2020

Once Upon A Time It Was Now Review

Once Upon A Time It Was Now, 2nd edition, written by James Alexander Thom, is a wonderful book on the art of writing historical fiction. His ultimate goal is to write books that inspire others, regardless of whether the endings are happy or sad.

He does not dwell much on the craft of writing itself, but his focus is how to write historically. In this regard he does bring up life experiences that need to be considered that most would not think of, especially since in the past they thought and did differently than we do today. No glossing over either, he brings up the grittiness of life that most of us would prefer not to think about.

A chapter on technology discusses the use of paper vs. computers from a few of his fellow historians and historical writers. And a few ideas for research organization, which if done right will produce reams.

His book was written in response to Stephen Ambrose’s quip, “A novelist doesn’t have to have facts.” Most of this book goes into detail on how and why historical novels should be as factually accurate as possible. One of the best reasons I read was that they are read when history books would not be. I count myself one of these people, loving to read novels about historical figures.

His wife, Dark Rain, wrote most of the chapter on genealogy, and if you are writing a book dealing with Indian history, she has some very valuable tips.

My favorite quote: “The climax of a novel often is a moment that seems impossible to endure. If you can force yourself to exhume and record some personal horror you wanted to leave buried, then you will have trained yourself to write powerfully about anything the protagonist of your novel has to do.”

I will probably never write a historical novel, but I learned much from his book. His advice can be used for other genres as well. The humor had me laughing quite a bit. And he was in the USMC, another thumbs up from me. A hearty recommended read.

Writing

To Many Ideas?

Scanning the internet and reading magazine articles, I see a lot of writer’s block solutions, but not hardly any who have to many ideas. A few of us feel overwhelmed with what and how to write.

When choosing a poetry form, sometimes I am overwhelmed with what poetry form to use. If I keep pluggin’ along the subject matter determines the form, or as some say, form follows function (which originated with late 19th and early 20th century architecture). Sometimes I write according to form, e.g., my ghazals.

For all of us writers, regardless of what genre we use, too many ideas can stifle output. One idea I found many years ago showed this problem as a problem of organization.

Write all the ideas in a free writing exercise – a list. Use different color highlights to group all the ideas and see if the ideas can become a part of bigger projects. Suit the grouping according to individual preferences: I shuffle different page notes between poems as the need arises. Some ideas may need to be tossed or kept for a later date, but if kept at least they are not clogging creativity.

As far as which one to pick first, go with what gives you joy. Reading poetry is not drudgery, and writing it should not be either.

PoetryWriting

The 4th Amendment

With today’s technology, I have been wondering where our privacy rights stand within our own homes. From my research, the lack of privacy is profound and would shock many. Privacy, to say the least, is dead.

The Fourth Amendment as follows: The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Justice Harlan in Katz v. United States (1967) explained: Thus, a man’s home is, for most purposes, a place where he expects privacy , but objects, activities, or statements that he exposes in the “plain view” of outsiders are not “protected,” because no intention to keep them to himself has been exhibited. On the other hand, conversations in the open would not be protected against being overheard, for the expectation of privacy under circumstances would be unreasonable.1


1U.S. Constitution for Dummies by Dr. Michael Arnheim

Faith

Ministers and Tyrants

“In America, as we have indicated, resistance to oppression had been a favorite topic in Yankee pulpits for more than a century. Indeed a quarter of a century before Paul Revere’s ride, one of its most articulate (albeit increasingly liberal) proponents, Jonathan Mayhew of Boston, preached:

It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God’s ministers…When [magistrates] rob and ruin the public, instead of being guardians of its peace and welfare, they immediately cease to be the ordinance and ministers of God, and no more deserve that glorious character than common pirates and highwaymen.”

The Light and the Glory by Peter Marshall and David Manuel

I had the fortune to meet Peter Marshall at a book signing. He is the son of Catherine Marshall, who wrote some of the best books on Christianity that I have ever read. His father was chaplain of the Senate in 1946.

Faith

Dictionary Definitions

Back during my high school English classes – or college, so many years ago it’s hard to remember – the grammar books had a chapter on dictionary use. The dictionary is not just a place to look up word meanings.

My Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary contains a foreign dictionary, a grammar book, biographical names (history book), geographical names (a word atlas), and other nifty sections, all rolled into one. Granted, most of these are stripped down basic definitional (that is the adjective form of the word definition – I looked it up – but my spell checker does not recognize it) forms. But in a pinch you can get an idea.

Word definitions also include etymologies: the date that words were coined. They also include pronunciation guides, though if you are not into linguistics, this can be not as easy as hearing them online. The meanings for each word are usually ordered in popularity of use. Graphics are included such as the periodical table of elements. And for the writers, proofreader’s marks.

If you are a writer and don’t have a thesaurus, the dictionary contains synonyms to give your writing some spice. But words are different, so subtle differences in meaning can totally change what is being said. So important in poetry, where condensing is pretty much the rule, unless you are writing an epic. And then that rule may still apply.

PoetryWriting

Solitude and Community

I decided seven years ago to move from Missouri to Oregon. Roughly my modern day version of the Oregon Trail. I had high hopes of making a new life here, and to be fair, I have, just not in the way I expected.

I am finishing Walden, and in the chapter called “Former Inhabitants; and Winter Visitors,” Thoreau talks about the lack of human companionship during the snowy winter months, and how he would visit people in his memory for company. It is with the beautiful geography I have made friends, along with a few hardy souls here. In a waiting room a few years ago, I read a travel magazine in which the writer stated the Oregon coast was more beautiful than Costa Rica. Very surprising to me, but understandable.

In The Imaginative Conservative, this article confronts the loneliness of our times. It mentions two books that I have read, which stress the importance of community, and more specifically, conservative communities – The Benedictine Option by Rod Dreher, and Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. What these two books also say, is sometimes it is necessary to be in the world but not of it. During Germany’s pre-WWII and beginning years, Bonhoeffer ran an underground seminary, and his book is the story of how it actually worked.

That being said, the hiding of our identities behind masks, the stay at home orders, and the lack of human touch through certain businesses being shut down is cruel and inhumane treatment. Even the most introverted people – that would be me – crave some social time every now and then. Some of us do not have the local option of community. And social media helps.

While on the run from the Catholic Church and living in a redoubt at least part of the time, Martin Luther translated the Latin Bible into German for everyone to read. I have a plaque in my house that artistically says, “Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.” I could be bitter about my lack of local friendships, but I see it as a time of learning to be a writer. And as much as I despise this time of separation we are living, Romans 8:28 (KJV) states, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

Faith

1789 1871 2020

I grew up watching SchoolHouse Rock. The fact that I can still recite a phrase or two is a testament to the staying power of their catchy tunes. One entitled “No More Kings” was just that for a season, but from what I am learning, ceased to be in 1871.

The National Archives states the following:
In 1802 the first government of the District of Columbia consisted of a mayor, appointed by the President of the United States, and a city council, elected by the residents. The city council was given the right in 1812 to elect the mayor of Washington, and in 1820 the elections was put in the hands of the people. In 1871, however, Congress acted to abolish the Corporations of Washington and Georgetown and the levy court of Washington County in favor of a territorial form of government.

The Merriam-Webster definition of a territory to clarify – a geographic area (such as a colonial possession) dependent on an external government but having some degree of autonomy.

The Two US Constitutions summarizes the logistics very clearly.

I think events are in motion to send us back to the true meaning of the Constitution. This has been prophesied over the years and I believe is coming to pass before our very eyes.

Faith

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