Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Confession on Lying


I consider myself to be an honest person. However, I must admit to some "youthful indiscretions" where I might have told a fib or two. This instance occurred during the summer right before my senior year in high school.

One night, my parents were out of town and we had the house to ourselves. What did this mean? Of course, we were going to make the most of it. 

While joyriding in a friend's blue truck, reminiscing about an adventure we had earlier that month involving a Red Jetta (I'll save that story for another time), we discovered that the truck had some road flares in the back. We resisted the temptation to light them up and throw them from the truck, but did mentally take note of them for the right opportunity. (This is what we writers like to call "foretelling.")

Later, we found our way back to my house. At the time, I lived in Pleasant Grove in Northern Utah. In the nice, cool evening my friends and I would often sleep in the backyard on our trampoline. With my parents gone, we decided to move the Duckett trampoline from the back of the house to the front yard so we could sleep in the front for a change. Just to add to the visuals, here is a picture of the front of that house (thank you, Google Street Maps):

My parents disallowed the trampoline in the front of the house, because the back of my house it is actually two stories high. My Mom knew if we moved it to the front, we'd be tempted to break her unpardonable rule to never jump from the roof onto the trampoline. Even I wasn't stupid enough to jump from the roof two stories in the back yard, but in the front... my Mom had an awesome sounding idea (see how I'm blaming my Mom for making me do this?). We grabbed a ladder and took turns jumping off the roof onto the trampoline.

That summer, I was trying to get into film making and most of my little adventures that summer were videotaped. I had to get this rare event on tape, so I ran in and grabbed the video camera. After videotaping everybody jumping off several times shouting ridiculous phrases like, "Go Dodgers!", "PG Football!", "I can see my house from here!", and "Geronimo!" I wanted to do something new. Something fresh. Something not seen before. Maybe even something that would be worth talking about for a few days. Then I remembered the road flares.

"Here." I handed the video camera to my sister. She, at first, refused because she didn't know how to work it. But I reassured her with, "Just point it at me, you don't want to miss this." I don't drink, but this might have been the closest I've come to one of those stories that start with, "Here, hold my beer." After she relented, I grabbed two road flares out of my friend's truck and climbed the ladder to my roof.

This seemed to grab everybody's attention. It was time to go big. So, as I lit up the road flares, I started singing the Star Spangled Banner. As I sang, I waved the road flares around and gave it my all. Of course, the small crowd went wild. You love me! You really, really love me! As I reached the climax of the song, I gave a resounding, "And the home of the brave," and jumped off the roof.

For two minutes of singing, the road flares had worked up an ample amount of ash. When I hit the trampoline and my trajectory was rapidly and suddenly reversed, the ash broke off into little red balls of flame.

Panic and pandemonium broke out. Everybody ran over, smacking the trampoline, trying to put out all the little fires. Somebody grabbed a hose, but by the time he came over, everything was under control. I put the road flares out and threw them in the trash. Whew, close call!

We went inside the house to watch the recording. I think the best part was my sister recording the entire event. She didn't know how to zoom so what you saw was my horrible singing (I really should not be singing in public, no matter how patriotic), my jump, and then everybody freaking out like the cops just showed up to break up the fun. We broke into hysterics while watching my sister film her hand stamping out the little flares on the trampoline. We all watched it until we our sides ached from laughing so much.

Later, as we were setting up our sleeping bags, we noticed that the trampoline now had dozens of nickle-sized holes speckled throughout the mat. Oh, great; crisis not averted. My parents were going to kill me! 

The next day, my parents arrived home and they instantly noticed all the holes in the trampoline. They became very upset and asked what happened. My sister looked at me to explain, she wasn't taking the fall for this. I was suddenly overcome with visions of a violent demise at the hands of my parents.

I panicked. And then I lied.

"We were sleeping on the trampoline and some kids in a blue truck drove by and threw fireworks at us. That was when we noticed the holes." Well, that was mostly true. I just didn't mention that the fireworks were actually road flares (a type of firework, right?) and that the kid from the blue truck was actually yours truly. 

My Mom shook her head in disbelief. "Kids these days. No respect for other people's property." They were still angry, but their ire was directed towards some anonymous teenager. I got to live another day! My sister never ratted me out and I thought I got away with it. Until a few years later.

My family moved to Europe a year later for my Dad's third military tour in Germany. I stayed in the States since I had graduated high school and didn't want to live in Germany again.

Imagine my surprise when my Mom called me a year later. "Hey, I've got a little story to tell you. We recorded a show on one of our VHS tapes and when the show ended, your Dad and I were too lazy to turn off the tape and it turned into what was recorded previously on the tape. Do you know what was on there?"

International phone calls were something like three dollars a minute, and I couldn't understand why she was wasting money on such idle talk. I told her I had no idea, wondering where the story was going. "Well, we saw a certain teenager on our roof."

I still hadn't made the connection. "Huh?"

"He was singing the national anthem and waving a road flare."


I stammered. I tried regaining my composure. I couldn't even talk anymore. I had no recourse for redemption. My stupidity had been revealed. "Just consider yourself lucky you live on a different continent right now, son."

Luckily, time heals all wounds and by the time they moved back to the States all was forgiven and I didn't have to follow through on my plans of faking my death, changing my name, and moving to an obscure town in North Dakota. Well, mostly forgiven. I'm still reminded about this on a regular basis.

The moral: Don't lie to your parents. They *WILL* figure it out. It isn't a matter of if, but when. Just make sure you kick your family out of the country before they do.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 2012 Update

On Writing

A couple months ago I blogged on my latest project. I took November off of NaNoWriMo to make sure I could get some editing done. I'm happy to say that I've just finished off another round of edits and hope to get one more in over this weekend. The book is pushing over 25,000 words, a surprise to me, but I think I can cut about 10%. I'm excited, though I really do need to do a blog or two (or twenty) on the editing process, since I've not been indulging everybody on this part of my writing journey. No promises, but hopefully soon.

One change to report: when I had announced this project I said I hoped to self-publish it this spring. I'm going to try and publish it by traditional means first and not hop right into the self-publishing market. Several people who has read the rougher drafts of this WIP have suggested it, and I've let it go to my head. Anybody know a good agent or publisher looking for memoirs?

On Reading

I've heard from several writers that good writers need to also be avid reader. I think I'm on course to having read about a book a week throughout 2012. Quite the feat, if I may say so, considering I'm a pretty slow reader. But I thought I would like to start blogging on some of the books I've read. In fact, I think I'll start keeping yearly lists of books and rank them.

Recently, I've gone on author streaks. For instance, I just caught up on my reading with Eoin Colfer. If I made a list of favorite authors, I'm sure he would be in the top ten list. Not long ago he came out with Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian, the 8th book in the Artemis Fowl saga. If you've enjoyed the Artemis Fowl series like I have, I have no hesitation in suggesting this book to you. Artemis Fowl is one of the rare series that gets better with each book. Most series tend to go fowl (sorry, couldn't resist) after a handful, but Colfer knows how to keep things fresh.

Since I read that, I also picked up The Wish List, a life-after-death story of a girl who dies and gets stuck in limbo. She isn't bad enough for hell, but not good enough for heaven. I didn't know what to expect when I picked this up and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I also read Airman, which is a middle grade marriage of The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man in the Iron Mask, both of which I also enjoyed. Of the three, I think I enjoyed Airman the most.

I got on a James Dashner kick since he just came out with his prequel for The Maze Runner series, called Kill Order. Since the story didn't focus on Thomas or any of his crew, I didn't find the answers I hoped for. But I think this did flesh out the post-apocalyptic world that Dashner has imagined.

Back in July I blogged on how awesome I thought James Dashner did with setting up books with great beginnings. Maze Runner did it, hooked me from page one. I was also enchanted by his 13th Reality Series, something that I didn't expect to enjoy much since it is one of his first published works. Well, I didn't just like it, I loved it! And with news that more is on its way, I am all sorts of excited. After reading Kill Order I also picked up the second book of the series, The Hunt for Dark Infinity, and his new time-travelling adventure The Infinity Ring: A Mutiny In Time. I've always been a sucker for good time-travelling books and this did not disappoint.

It just occurred to me how much Dashner likes the word "Infinity" in his titles. I can't blame him, it really is a great word. Isn't it?

With the movie coming out in two weeks, I did another reading of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Needless to say, I enjoyed this book like I was reading it for the first time all over again. Also, needless to say, I can't wait for the movie. I even got the day off work!

Also, I re-read On Writing by Stephen King. I think I'll do a complete review on this book, but it is easily my favorite books on writing. Ever. Which is funny, because I don't necessarily agree with everything he said. But when he resonated with me by sharing a golden nugget of truth, I could feel the magic wanting to jump out of my head and onto paper. Well, the word processor.

Yes, I did catch that I began this blog post with the phrase "On Writing". It wasn't intentional when I did it, and it succinctly summed up what I was blogging on, so I'm going to leave it there.

Depending on circumstances, I'm often in the middle of multiple reading projects at once. Right now I'm reading two books by Orson Scott Card -- another author that would easily make the top ten list. The first is his writing instruction book, How to Write Science Fiction and Fantasy. Also his latest book, Ruins, which is the second book of his marvelous Pathfinder series. I'll probably read his book on Characters and Viewpoints after finishing this how-to writing book.

What have you guys been reading? What are you reading?

Monday, November 12, 2012

Happy Captcha Craptcha Day

I've been asked to blog on the perils and evilness of captchas by my good friends, Shelly and Chad. (If you don't follow their blog, shame on you, click here to repent, come on, all the cool kids are doing it)

So what is captcha? Captcha is a way for automated computer software to verify that you are not automated computer software. Basically, it is supposed to make it so that any human can verify that they do, in fact, have a pulse and a brain and aren't a virus trying to post spam. Because, do we really need to learn more about Canadian Pharmacies?

To make it even worse is they even offer a verbal method which can be listened to and then entered to verify your human identity. But, it sounds like a computer with a mouth full of marbles trying to read a foreign language.

I will say this, their heart is in the right place. But there has got to be better ways of verifying people's identities. My suggestions: something reputation based where once you've done it a few times you either get easier images or a free pass unless your account starts acting fishy. Better yet, have something self-policing where the site admin or users can flag posts and inappropriate in which the account is closed and the comment is removed. Also, smart software can often tell the difference between something legitimate and something automated, primarily because something automated occurs with quick succession, must faster than what a typical human -- or even a superhuman -- can do in a couple of seconds.

Coincidentally, last night I was watching an episode of The Middle from last season where Sue and Frankie Heck were trying to purchase Justin Bieber tickets. They got in through the system but got hung up on the captcha until they ended up timing out, unable to purchase the tickets.

Why is it funny? Because it is true. Captcha might turn away the spambots momentarily, thought they will find a way to circumvent it eventually, and it only hurts legitimate people trying to leave a comment on a blog or sign up for a newsletter. I struggle with captcha at times, but can usually get it within three attempts. I don't think that is bad. But what of the dyslexic? The elderly? I just hate the thought of legitimate traffic being turned away because of captcha. It is why turning it off was one of the first things I did when I started this blog (your welcome).

Anyway, sorry, didn't mean to vent or get this high on the soapbox. But, seriously, there has got to be a better way. The technology is starting to become obsolete and it is time for a newer way of handling these problems.

Stolen from Chad and Shelly:

Still not convinced?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Go, WriNo's, Go!!!

Today is the first day of NaNoWriNo. As I gloomily stated in my last post, I'm not doing it this year. This isn't my year, but if you are reading this it could be yours. It isn't too late to start. So what is NaNoWriMo? Here is a great explanation in three minutes (and, side note, one of the best v-logs I've seen in a long time, aided by gaming references):

Do you need an outline? It isn't too late. Dan Wells did an excellent class at LTUE on story structure and could inspire just what you need to write the next great American (or country of your choice) novel. Here is the first one of a series of five, but following through to the other four isn't difficult:

If you are doing NaNoWriMo, I salute you and I will be cheering you on to your avenue of success. Go, go, go! Write like the wind! Type so fast that your keyboard catches on fire! Then pick up another keyboard and do it again. So, you know, fire, rinse, and repeat.