Blog Schedule: Sabbatical Update


Greetings! Those of you who have followed this blog, for various reasons, may have seen the post I did in April 2016 when I established a regular schedule for the postings on various days of the week. You may also have noticed that my daily posting fell apart this February due to health and other issues that hit. On March 1 I announced the start of my Sabbatical. With the start of the Sabbatical I am going to amend and update the daily blog schedule:


So here is the schedule, flexible as it is:

  • Sunday: Great Hymns of the Faith — I am working my way through the hymn book of my childhood. I put up the text, and record and mp3 of me playing and singing (sometimes with other family members) the hymn.
  • Monday: Fitness Update — Discussion of my own fitness journey and goals through the year, with related fitness and personal reflections
  • Tuesday: Sabbatical update — Review and reflection of the activities of my Sabbatical.
  • Wednesday: Great Hymns of the Faith — Another installment of the series I mentioned on Sunday
  • Thursday: A Look Ahead. –– A list of interesting events going on and coming up that I know of and may be involved in.
  • Friday: A Blast of the Past — Putting up pictures from the family photo albums, with reflections on them and my file.
  • Saturday: Open Mic — The one day to write about anything. Perhaps the Sunday Paper Feature Page of the blog, only on Saturday.

Back in 2016 I mentioned WorldCon would be coming to town, and I would preempt the above schedule for a special series on the convention.  The schedule is always open to such interruptions for special features in the future.

As you can tell, I like doing series of posts with multiple entries, whether special features, or the regular ones shown above.  Hopefully you all enjoy the developing structure.

— Godspeed

(Note: The views expressed on this blog are mine, and are not to be seen as the views of any group or organization that I am associated with.)


A bit of poetry


(Note: it has been awhile since I’ve pulled up my old poetry, so here is another one.  This was during my year as editor of the Houghton Star student newspaper at Houghton College, during the last year that the old Compugraphic machines were used instead of the new Macintosh computers that they got the next year. This poem is about a breakdown and repair of the old machines.)



                                                             From Their Editor


Wendell and Loren

came with tool boxes,

removing three screws

hidden in a tight place.

To loose the screws

they used allen wrenches,

needle‑nose pliers, fingers.

The plate held by the screws removed,

the editor fixed the plate

with crazy glue.

Wendell and Loren

put the plate back in

with its three screws.

Using butter to hold screws

to the plate, the three men

fumbled.  The screws were in,

the machine worked.




“Let the staff rejoice,

let the earth be filled with their singing,

for the compugraphic machine is working”

said the editor.

And the staff said

“Amen and Amen.”

God’s Secretaries — a Review


Today the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club discussed God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible, by Adam Nicolson.

We agreed it the reading could sometime be tedious, but that it was a book well worth reading.

The King James Bible happened during the reign of King James (duh), right after the Elizabethan era. Many of us realized this was a rather blind spot in our historical understanding. The book was very enlightening about the world of that day. Some people enjoyed learning the politics of the era.

My particular appreciation was on the description of the language of the day. It seems the Jacobean world (Jacobean is the term for that historical era) was a world of the Word, rather than one of sculpture or the visual arts. It came right out of the time of Shakespeare — which gives us an idea of why Shakespeare and his era are considered such a focal point of English literature. The word was the primary art form.

The rules the translators were given was a fascinating part of the process. They translated by committee, and they translated quite successfully that way. There was no sense of individual inspiration in translation, or even spiritual devotion in the process.

What there was was a sense of acting on authority. As one person mentioned in our discussion, they were God’s secretaries, as in a Secretary of State, someone who acts with and on behalf of someone else’s authority. They acted with the authority of God, not their own, they acted with the authority of the King, not their own. It was that sense of authority that caused the strife of the age, the religious sectarianism. The separatists believed in the authority of the Scripture over Pope or king. The Puritans likewise saw authority of

It was that sense of authority that caused the strife of the age, the religious sectarianism. The separatists believed in the authority of the Scripture over Pope or king. The Puritans likewise saw authority of the word over the Pope or any popish remains in the church. The Bishops saw the authority of both King, Church and Scripture. But they all saw authority.

I want to jump to one of the rules about the translation. They weren’t to choose the most literal translation, but the one the reflected the most meanings. You can see this in the words chosen, they were pregnant with multiple options, multiple perspectives, they weren’t limiting but expanding the options. The plays on words are multitude. There is a richness to the language, a sense of power.

Below is the passage I found in the book that I feel reflects the author’s thesis statement, and also says a lot about the Jacobean use of language, versus ours:

“The flattening of language is a flattening of meaning. Language which is not taut with a sense of its own significance, which is apologetic in its desire to be acceptable to a modern consciousness, language in other words which submits to its audience, rather than instructing, informing, moving, challenging and even entertaining them, is no longer a language which can carry the freight the Bible requires. It has, in short, lost all authority. The language of the King James Bible is the language of … an instructed order, of richness as a form of beauty, of authority as a form of good; The New English Bible is motivated by the opposite, an anxiety not to bore or intimidate. It is driven, in other words, by the desire to please and, in that way, is a form of language which has died.”

Our modern language tends to the flattening trend, the appeasing trend. It stands for nothing, has no authority. We are an age adrift, and too many of our modern translations end up that same way.

I didn’t mention this next idea in the discussion, because its form just came to me as I write this post. But too many of our translations empty the Word of power by trying to appease. God loses his Fatherhood. We remove the metaphors (God no longer comes down, but merely enters the world, etc.). The miracles lose their mystery. All the hard edges, the stumbling blocks that the Word says Christ will be to people, are removed or explained away.

We need a Scripture that doesn’t pander to us, but challenges, informs, and even entertains. We need a language that can carry an authority from beyond our own little world and world view, an authority from the timeless and eternal. The language of Shakespeare and the King James Version can carry it.

(Note: if you are interested, here is a link to a documentary that the author did on the subject of his book.)

A quick writing tutorial


Well, back to class now.  Fortunately for many of you, this class doesn’t have all those textbooks with their wonderful chapters that I can summarize.  This is a practicum class where we will practice writing and doing audio/visual website/blog creation.

So we get wonderful things like a “twenty  most-common errors” writing tutorial from Dartmouth.

I won’t list the twenty. Let me just say there is a lot of comma usage mentioned: the comma after the introductory clause, the comma in the compound sentence, commas for restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, the comma in a series (did I use my comma’s correctly here?). No mention made of the Oxford comma — I noticed that they didn’t use it, but I think I tend to.

The other most common theme is word choice: incorrect word, wrong tense of the word, wrong preposition, shifting person, lack of agreement,

Third runner up is the misplaced and dangling modifiers and vague references.

Sounds like enough to get started on, the what not to do items. You can write by these rules and get a lot better if you have been breaking them without cause. My advice, just don’t get legalistic about it. Grammar rules are just theory, when it comes down to it, descriptive and helpful, but not always right.

A Focus on Focus


This post is intended to go up at the very beginning of the new year. Don’t mistake it for anything like a New Year’s Resolution: I have never been one for setting resolutions (If you check the blog from January 1, 2014, you will see that is an exact quote). I said last year on January 1 that I liked to focus more on the journey and the process.

One thing I set as a process last year was to publish a blog every day. That process has been a success, and I have done a blog every day the past year.

But one of the things that process has shown me is the focus, or lack thereof, in my writing, and my life in general. So this year I think I am going to focus on focus.

When talking about focus, I think the concept of selectivity is important.  If you focus on one thing, that means you aren’t focused on something else. For limited beings it isn’t possible to absorb everything in complete focus at the same time. Choice of focus, selectivity, is important in our lives.

I have been developing a very light framework for Lightfoot’s Theory of Selectivity. So far it has four points: Hearing, Vision, Memory, Responsibility.

For hearing you know of the old saw that husbands have selective hearing where their wives are concerned. For vision, I have selective vision in not being able to see something I know should be right in front of me. For memory, we choose what to remember directly, and what to count on other people or devices to remember (cell phones to track phone numbers instead of our memory, for example). For responsibility, we have so many things to be responsible for, that we are not irresponsible about certain items so much as we have to choose how to selectively prioritize our responsibilities to take care of them.

In each of these four items I can see a question of focus comes up. Which items we choose of those in front of us. The police officer or detective interviewing witnesses for the scene of a crime or other incident can often wonder if the people he is talking to actually witnessed the same event. Each person had a different focus. Each person saw a different thing as the central part of the event. Even the interviewing officer or detective makes their choice about what is central.

In the blog I have made the choice to just do it, but I haven’t brought much attention to its focus, what is the important center of the blog. In the rest of my life I have had so many things going on that I am feeling a loss of focus: What are the important items that take priority? So for 2015 the theme needs to be focus, as for 2014 the theme was process.

It is at this point that some well-meaning folks are going to trot out some lists of priorities: God, Family, Church, Work, etc. …. and make it sound like a simple hierarchical priority tree. I’m certain that someone could trot out a similar list of priorities for blogging. You can stop right now, well-meaning and all. There is too much interleaving to make it that simple.

Focus, Focus. Perhaps sometime the blog will actually have enough focus to truly “Be Swift, Be Precise.”

Witchfinder — the multi-tasking mind of the writer


(This is part five of a blog series on the discussion between Sarah A. Hoyt and the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club about Hoyt’s book Witchfinder, the art of writing, and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author.)

Mark W.: You mentioned that you read 2-3 books at a time.  How many books to do you write at a time? How many books are you working on right now?

Sarah: I should give the proper answer and say one book at a time.

Right now I have two science fictions, and then on the side I have the stock pile. I will be going on one project and another idea will come along.  The proper thing to do with an idea is to ignore them until they go away, Because I already have more ideas on file than I could write in a lifetime. So the first thing I do is “go bother someone else”. Then if it doesn’t go away, if it sits there, then I have to do something to keep it quiet for a little while. Can be anything from jotting down this happens and this happens.

I have a science fiction trilogy that exists in a notebook my husband moved. Three books about humans who for reasons of necessity enhance themselves with alien genes and how that changes them and how that changes the people back home and about the poor kid who is raised by ordinary humans back home but isn’t. It wouldn’t leave me alone, actually attacked me while we were away for the weekend so the only way to make it shut up was to write the plot for three books.

I went to this convention and my publishers were there, they asked what are you doing, and is this indie or are we getting it.

(I told them) This is generally new and absurd. Like Dragon Riders of Pern meets Starship Troopers. Set in a world that is sort of like World War I technology. That sounds odd. But it has to got to be you because I see the cover, it is a Tompkins cover. A steam train is coming out of the cover toward the reader and above it is a silver dragon with a girl riding it in World War I aviator’s gear.  This is Toni (my publisher).  She says “It is a Tompkins cover, I guess we get it.

It is all there, if I just let it dictate it it is all there. Right now I am trying to stop it long enough to finish this other book.

At one time –I was writing books set in Elizabethan England, 19th century China, and 24th century.  That got very weird, because there was cross contamination .It is the result of (my) low attention span and lack of self-control.

The proper answer is “I write a book at a time like a good writer.” Because there are things readers don’t need to know.

Jonathan: Let me follow up a little bit on that. You talk about a lack of self-control, but if you average it out, how many words a day do you write?

Sarah: Including the blog, it alternates … life keeps interfering. There are days these past two years I wrote nothing.  I signed up for the catastrophe of the week club. I didn’t know it, maybe somebody gave it to me as a gift but it just been really hard. But if I sit down and write at all – about 10,000.

Sandy: That’s a lot.

Sarah: I have been known to write 40 thousand in a weekend….  But it is not my normal.

Mark: This book had extremely short chapters. Several in the discussion said it made us, well let me read one more chapter, one more chapter. …and kept going. Was the existence of extremely short chapters because of the story, of because of the blog with the chapter a week.

Sarah: For a reason. First when you are writing multiple persons with a large cast it is better to have short chapters because if you have these really long chapters then have you 4 or 5 threads people are following, when you get to that 4th one you get a “who is this?” so it is better to have short chapters. Second one is because I learned from Pratchett. Who in his first books didn’t have chapters but sections because of the traction you are talking about, I will read one more section. And the next thing you now it is 4 in the morning and you are still reading the book. That is a good effect for writers.

I like for people coming to cons and saying “you, you kept me up all night.” One guy said “I probably failed my first year of med school because of you.  Now I am going to go and buy the other book.” He’s now a doctor, so I guess he didn’t flunk.

The other was the chapter a week. Did it on Friday. Friday is the day I clean, so I have half an hour to write the chapter and then get to cleaning. So that controlled the length too.

I know as a reader if you have a short chapter it is easier. If people get to the end of a chapter and go, oh my heavens it (the next chapter) is 30 pages they put it aside and there is a good chance, life being what it is, that they won’t come back.  Part of it is to keep people attached.

I was talking to an author, writing science fiction and he is putting in links to another area. And I said, stop that, put them as afterwards, do not link from the inside. Why not? He said. Because, I said,  I go off and read about your super-duper time travel device and search for it, and then I go on the internet and start searching up names you gave me and I never come back. Stop sending the readers away. That’s not the way to have a career in this field. And he said, “oh, I never thought of that.”

The End (for now)

Witchfinder — indie publishing


(This is part four of a blog series on the discussion between Sarah A. Hoyt and the Avondale United Methodist Church Book Club about Hoyt’s book Witchfinder, the art of writing, and what it is like to publish a book as both a traditional and “indie” author. Sarah begins here by talking about putting up her book for sale as an indie publisher.)

Sarah: Once I put the book up, I can see the figures, real time. I see I just got 500 sales. And by now I have made on that book what I would make on a traditional sales, within 4 months, which is what I was trying to prove to myself. Because I have put my backlog up, and those don’t sell like a new book.  I have musketeer mysteries and earn maybe a few hundred dollars a year, and I thought maybe I’ll just make a couple hundred a year (on Witchfinder), and while over time that might be the same from traditional publishing, over a very long time, and I live from this – well we live from my husband’s salary and my inputs from it.

It was completely different.

By the way, I am terrible at promotion, but let me say, by the end of November everything that’s indie, under Goldport Press, novel length, will be on sale until January. I am doing a Christmas splash.

I am not a control freak, but after 12 years of working for traditional publishing and having some really bizarre things happen. Like books going out of print just weeks after they come out. The sold out the print run and the publisher takes it out of print, and I am thinking “you should be printing more, not taking it out of print”.

One feels good being able to control the process. I think that is the attraction. I do think the future is e-books, and here I am looking at this as a reader. I have this horrible habit I read 2-3 books at a time. I used to roam all over the house looking for the books I was reading.

My kids learned to read in self-defense because their first job was to go find me the book I was reading And they learned. Because, how do I know what is this book, because the house is full of books. So it starts with a B. Well what does a B look like? I show them, they roam around the house and come back with 3 books that begin with B. Eventually they learned to read because they had to. Sort of read in self-defense or else mother will make us go and locate another book.

The other thing I would do was make them read to me while I was cooking, because I was reading in paper. And I have a lot of mysteries that have a lot of splats on them because I was reading while I was cooking, so I would say, go to the kitchen table and read. But they both read very well, and by the time they entered school.

With by Kindle I can read and cook, I put it in a ziplock bag, and I can take it with me on trips. The reason we got a kindle, my husband he was having trouble focusing, so reading books on paper was impossible. Doctor suggested an e-reader . For whatever reason, reading on a reader is easier to focus. As an avid reader, when he was unable to get his fix he wasn’t easy to live with. We got him a Kindle, and he can read a Kindle fine. It has become attached to his hand. I have heard same stories from friends.

Sandy: to me there are two advantages to the e-reader. For one you can make the print as big as you want, and when I read at lunch I don’t have to prop the book open with a stapler.

Sarah: Or a knife. My kids think the purpose of a butter knife is to hold my book open. I will be honest, I was a bit a stick in the mud with an e-reader particularly because I don’t like reading on the screen. We got the first kindle, and what I found I kept forgetting I wasn’t reading paper. So there were two problems. I have a horrible habit of reading two or three at a time, and will put them face down. Well I kept putting the kindle face down and forgetting where I put it. The second problem is I still get books in paper, for research, is that the first time I pick one up after a long time of reading Kindle, I’ll be pushing to have the page turned.

I read while I cook, to flip  a page with a finger with butter it is there forever , if you just touch it, you put it in a ziplock it is just a little dot you can wipe it. They sell fancy things, but hey, it is a Ziplock, gets gross you can throw it away.

Jonathan: is writing your actually profession, or is it a time-consuming hobby.

Sarah: My training is in language and literature with an option to teach. Training and translation. When you start out you make very little, build up clientele. When you move you lost all your clients. They want something local, so when we moved to Colorado I told my husband I will have to rebuild my business, but what he told me, was, since you always wanted to write, why don’t you write, you are going to have to do it either way.  I’m not sure it was the brightest thing in the world because it took me almost 8 years to make almost anything.

At this point, If I don’t get ridiculously late on a book, I make about what I would make from the most viable job I could walk into tomorrow, which is instructor at a community college. About the same as an underpaid secretary. But I do it from home, I was here for the kids growing up, there are intangibles. I don’t have to dress up, though I usually do, because I fell sloppy writing in my pajamas. I enjoy it a lot more than being a secretary, I know this because I worked as a secretary for a while. Yes at this point it is my job, which is why when I get ridiculously late delivering a book it costs me money.

To be Continued