Sunday, March 19, 2017

Secession - Should California Stay or Go?

There is lots of talk today about California attempting to secede from the Unites States. While I seriously doubt it will happen, I decided to do some digging to see what I could find, and then began plotting what would most likely happen should they go ahead with secession.

I went to where I always start first: my grandparents’ encyclopedias (no, I do not trust Wikipedia, nor would I accept any reference to Wikipedia sources for any class I may teach).

 Here’s the Standard America Encyclopedia has to say about Secession:

Secession, the withdrawal of a state or group from a union or association. In the United States whenever a state has claimed the right to withdraw from the Union, it has based its claim on the doctrine of state sovereignty. Specifically this question was brought forward or involved in the Kentucky “Resolutions,” the Hartford “Convention,” and the “Nullification Ordinance.” Among the southern states there had been some talk of cooperation for the purpose of effecting a secession program, for no state would have made the attempt independently, but such discussion had resulted in nothing. Nevertheless, state sovereignty and slavery had been bound up together since about 1835, and the logical consequence was secession. The election of Abraham Lincoln, when the political situation was flanked with sectional differences resting on state claims, was all that was necessary to change the theory of secession in the South into an attempt to effect the reality. South Carolina took the lead by issuing a circular to all the southern states, in which she declared her readiness to unite with any other states in the act of secession, or to secede along, provided any other state would agree to follow. South Carolina was leader in calling a state convention, and on Dec. 20, 1860, the Act of 1788, ratifying the National Constitution, was repealed, and it declared “that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other states, under the name of the United States of America, is hereby dissolved.” A declaration of the cause for this act was formulated, and on the 24th was adopted. The governor proclaimed “the secession of South Carolina,” the same day. Mississippi was the first to follow this example, Jan. 9, 1861, then in succession came Florida, Jan. 10; Alabama, Jan. 11; Georgia, Jan. 19; Louisiana, Jan. 26; and Texas, Feb. 1, though in the case of this last State the proceedings were decidedly irregular. Virginia followed in April; Arkansas and North Carolina in May; and Tennessee in June. The Civil War was the consequence. The final issue was the victory of the government, the surrender of the Confederate to the Federal Army, and the full union of the united States of America.
The above quote is directly sourced from The Standard America Encyclopedia, Vol. XI. published in 1939. Interestingly it has no page numbers.

(By the way, I found the use of the comma before the quotes interesting...I have apparently been doing this wrong all my life).

In 2006, Justice Antoin Scalia purportedly wrote: “If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede.”

I have to agree with that. I cannot imagine our federal government taking an attempt at sucession as anything but an act of sedition, war, or outright treason. It has grown far to large to see it in any other manner.

War is only one aspect to consider here. California is also home to many military bases and national parks. Our government will never willing give up our bases, and our military members will most likely not stand down. Sure, there may be a few who stand down, but unless you’ve done military duty, do not attempt to predict what they will or won’t do.

As for the National Parks, the US will not willingly part with any of that land – especially those areas that hold the crucial snow pack that California depends on. So California won’t have the same borders it has today, nor will it have control of the airports – hello, FAA is a federal agency – the power grid, railroads, or interstates.

Now consider all the social programs run by the federal government. California can say good bye to those as well. Seceded from the union and you are no longer a citizen. It would be a boon to the already strapped Social Security system – no more payments to California. Same for welfare, food stamps, FEMA...the list goes on.

Don’t expect the federal government to be “friendly” should this occur. It will most likely behave like a woman scorned and will be more than happy to bitch-slap the state silly. Debts will have to be repaid – including California’s share of the National Debt.

Oh, and the FDIC no longer applies to banks, and I would expect the banks to be shut down anyway. No more US currency, what will one do for money? The gangs will be having a field day. Who will be directing the police and fire departments? Especially if there’s no money coming to them any time soon. No more National Guard – they’re a federally funded entity. Coast Guard is federal too.

Water supplied by other states – including the Colorado River, will be cut off. The power grid will be shut off, communication grids shut down, interstate travel will be shutdown. The majority of the ports have federal oversight, there won’t be any traffic in from the water as the Naval Fleet will most likely get deployed. Heck, let’s build another wall!

Sure, California has Silicon Valley, but how many of those companies are officially based there for taxes. Most have their incorporation papers filed other states for tax purposes. Facebook, Google and Microsoft are all incorporated in Delaware. Google started out in California but reincorporated in 2003 in Delaware. Apple has no tax “residency” anywhere. Even though it is incorporated in Ireland.

Now add on to the list of things to do: Create a new constitution for the country. Guess who’d most likely be involved: Facebook, Google and Apple. Guess who wants to avoid paying taxes? Apple, Google, Facebook.

I hear from family members “no water, no food”. Well if you have no water, you have no food either. Besides, we have the MidWest, which has both water and the ability to grow food. Sure, it may not be exactly what we’re used to having available, but we’ll be eating. It would be easy enough to swap out some of the corn fields for other crops.

Hollywood is fickle, they’ll go wherever the money is. But California can keep Hollywood, I won’t be heartbroken. Having grown up in the southern part of the state, I have never been a big fan of Hollywood as an entity. Sure I love the movies, but I’ve never bought into the hype of stardom.

Secession is basically a divorce, and California is attempting to divorce a wealthy spouse with the attitude and power to ensure the California is left with as little as possible. And this “spouse” is currently headed up by a President who is known to be particularly vicious when business deals go sideways.

So let Governor Moonbeam talk the state into attempting to secede. In fact let them secede, they can work out their own tax system (including the methods of collecting said system), health care system, legal system, licensing systems, social programs, governmental entities, balances of power, military strength, environmental regulations, mass transit systems, and whatever else I’m forgetting. That is IF California can hold itself together long enough to get all that in place without slipping into complete anarchy.

If I give this all too much more thought, I’ll end up with another book (or several) to write.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Elections and Characters

My characters are having a field day with the upcoming elections. One is telling me which candidates remind him of which former world leaders – including Stalin and Hitler -and laughed at the Muppet's meme that went around social media. Another is finding England's departure from the EU fascinating and making comparisons to the USA Revolution. And then there's Jess.

Who's Jess? Jess is my first and most beloved character. She's wildly independent, stubborn, unfetterd and doesn't give a damn what others think. My kinda girl! She's the one who forced me (she wouldn't shut up, especially at 3:00 a.m.) to write her story. Jess also swears like a sailor and loves picking up new insulting terms. She's having a field day with all of the mud-slinging, name calling, and fear mongering this election round.

New terms are being flung around my brain like so much confetti. She keeps repeating her favorites over and over, terms like “butt trumpet” keep popping up at inappropriate times. This is distracting at best, inconvenient at worst as she makes me laugh in the middle of conference calls or while troubleshooting an issue for a client. 

Her BFF isn't much help as he admonishes her for her rancid mouth and penchant for speaking in a bad British accent when using her newly discovered phrases. As soon as Paul starts in Jess ramps it up, getting more foul until he throws his hands up in disgust and walks away. This of course has me belly laughing uncontrollably while my husband threatens to dial the local psych ward.

I'm not sure if this is normal behavior for characters or not, it is certainly normal for mine.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Inappropriate Inspiration?

There was a recent tragedy in my state, perpetrated by a reportedly “sane” man. The court is waiting for evaluation results for good measure.

Regardless of what the state determines, the suspect has an interesting story on the "why" of his crime. As soon as I heard his explanation, my writer brain took off with a potential story line along a paranormal/conspiracy theory/mystery twisted line. At first I felt bad, getting a story idea off of a tragedy even though I often borrow pieces of real life to incorporate into some of my stories. Then I decide, what the heck, and asked some friends what they thought.

I got an interesting mix of responses back. Some people thought it was totally inappropriate to write up a story that was inspired by such an evil act. Others told me they thought Stephen King may have already done a story along the same line, only a few thought I should go ahead and tackle the storyline, thinking I might be able to have an interesting take on it.

When I read that Stephen King may have already done something similar, it started me wondering. Where does King get his inspiration? Are they from inappropriate places, such as real life evil doing or do they just come to him like many of my other characters do? Then I really began to wonder, how many other writers may get their ideas from “inappropriate” sources of inspiration – whether it be personal tragedy, global tragedy, or local tragedies perpetrated by humans – and whether or not they feel guilty or bad for basing a story off of a real life event.

I'm still debating whether or not to write up the story line. I have notes jotted down and luckily I have more than enough WIPs in the queue that I need ot work on that I can let it sit for awhile before making a decision.

So here's my big question: is it “normal” to feel uneasy about a story idea that jumps out at you from today's headlines? How would you, as a reader, feel if you throughly enjoyed a story that you discover is based off of a real-life tragedy?

Monday, December 7, 2015

NaNoWriMo Failure

It's been sometime since I've blogged and it's been some time since I failed a NaNoWriMo, but this year I did. My day job interrupted my writing time and I ended up finishing with about 35,000 words (I didn't validate my novel).

The good news is I'm still working on a new book, new characters, new Cozy series. This one is a true cozy - strong female lead characters, a romantic interest and a murder to solve. I'm hoping to have it finished up this weekend and then I'll be making a concerted effort to polish it up, get out some synopsises to agents and hope I get a bite.

One thing I am really hoping for is that the publisher will use the photo that prompted the story. It was taken by a dear friend of mine and it's the second photo of his that gave me my NaNoWriMo project for the year.  I love a lot of his work, I love that they give me story lines, but I regret that they give me entirely new book series ideas. I simply don't have that much time to write, given that - like the vast majority of writers - I have a demanding full time job, plus extended family and pets galore.

I really don't care which book series get picked up first, by an agent or publisher, as long as one gets picked up I'll be happy. I won't forget the rest, that's for certain. Jess, who started it all, deserves to have her stories read, even if I have to self-pub them, save money up for cover art to be created, and market them all by myself.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Everything I learned in English Class

Has been forgotten.

I have a new critique partner, which is awesomely wonderful. He is very honest, giving me the good, the bad, and the ugly about my work. Exactly what I asked for and needed. With his input I'm sure I'll be able to get my writing to that level needed to be worth publishing.

However, I've realized everything I learned in English classes in high school and college has left my "building". I've had to look up Protagonist and Antagonist again to get a more detailed idea of where I'm missing the mark. Being a techie, my writing revolves around user interfaces, system consoles, ROI and cost-benefit analyses, not fictional writing.

I find myself wondering why I "think" I'm a writer. But then something funny, odd, somewhat hysterical happens: characters invade my space with story lines, new problems and genres I rarely read let alone have the vocabulary necessary to write a story that will pull the reader in.

For example, Hallmark Channel was having a Christmas in July movie-thon and I was listening (and swearing profusely at an uncooperative server), when an entirely new character sauntered into my brain, plopped herself in a comfy chair and snarkily fed me a story line. A romance story line no less. I believe she actually belongs to Simone Anderson, but for whatever reason this character has decided I'll be the one to write her story.

That's when I remember why I think I'm a writer, because I have to write. Sure, I don't know all the rules or remember all the terminology, but it's the only way to shut up all of the people in my head.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Confederate Flag

I'm okay with the Confederate Flag. Some folks may take umbrage with this statement. But I'm okay with the flag. Just as I'm okay with the Pride Flag, that gorgeous rainbow flag that represents LGBTQ communities across the globe. I'm even okay with the other countries flags being displayed - as long as none of them are flown above the American Flag. No need to insult our veterans who have fought and died for the American Flag, our right to say our minds, and our safety.

Banning the Confederate Flag (how many times can I type that?) won't resolve the underlying issues. Banning it also has us running the risk of forgetting what it represents. We should never forget ANY part of the Civil War. I happen to be old enough to have a grandmother who was old enough, with a grand-father (my great-grandfather) still alive that had fought in the Civil War. He told her the ugly stories of the war, glorified nothing about it, and made sure she, her siblings, and cousins understood they needed to share these stories with their own children and grandchildren. Because, as he said "We never, ever want another drop of blood spilled on this soil as a result of an internal war." My family had family on both sides of that fight, as so many families did. But ours is a country that fought to free people from slavery and we should never forget that.

Rather, we should teach our kids about our flags. Teach them what they stood for, the truth about the wars fought on this soil, no glorifying either side, and let them think for themselves about what it means to have war on our own soil. Let them know how fortunate we are, that we are not a perfect country, we have work to do still, but don't forget where we've been, how far we've come and how far we have to go.

So leave the flag. Don't drown out or water down the history of our bloody Civil War, or the Revolutionary War, or the Indian War. To do so begs us to forget the lessons learned and dooms us to repeat our mistakes.

Monday, May 25, 2015

So Many Device Sizes, So Many Formatting Woes

(Note: this is a repost from my post at GRRWG)

I suspect that a "simple" novel or short story will not create the same pain as trying to convert a complex format book (such as my cookbook) into an eBook readable on multiple devices. My cookbook is my lesson in self-publishing and yes, I worked with a layout person the first iteration through. Even then, the format varied in success depending on the size of the device. Also spacing , paging and text formatting wasn't consistent across the various devices I used for testing. I'm not sure what software they used, as I didn't get a source file back, just a .PDF.

Since I wanted to add a new recipe \to my cookbook I decided to update the Kindle version first. Without the same software or source file, I had to start over with the .doc file I'd provided to my layout person, basically a Word document. The added recipe and reformat has been a trial and error project with lots of lessons learned. I figured I'd share what I've learned with you.

Lesson #1

Take full advantage of the Styles in Word (because Kindle only accepts .doc and .pdf formats) and save yourself the headache. I have repeating text layouts for things like ingredients lists, equipment lists and directions. This also comes in handy when using titles that you don't want to include in the overall table of contents. Styles allow you to make a universal change to a chunk of text and come in handy when have to go back and forth between reviewing the imported file and the .doc file.

Lesson #2

Don't use tables unless you actually want the borders to be the same across the board and show up. The spacing is consistent but no matter how hard you try, those borders will show up.

Lesson #3

Give up on trying to view your book on every device you have that can view the book. Go with what the previewer shows you and realize that the reformatting on the fly can have a funky effect on the layout. Just paging back a page in the previewer will give you a different result than what you see moving forward in the previewer.

In case you didn't realize it, Kindle and Nook both have free apps that can be used on smartphones, tablets, and PC's (yes, the term PC includes the Mac line as they are also Personal Computers...don't get me started on computer history!). PCs/laptops/notebooks can have average screen sizes from 10" and up. Since the applications will size to the screen size in use, the paging can change drastically. You'll go crazy trying to make sure it works "perfect" on every screen. Changes are it won't anyway, so save yourself the headache.

Lesson #4

Hard page breaks are you friend. The best lesson I learned was to use a hard page break between each recipe and chapter page. I removed the rest of the page breaks, so in that sense the layout is very similar to a traditional novel which would only have a hard page break at the chapter end.

Lesson #5

Leave it alone for a day or two. When you think you have it "done", walk away for a few days. Come back and review it again. You'll be surprised at what you may have missed or find that you are ready to finalize the copy. Either way, give yourself a break.

Last, but not Least

Select the DRM (Digital Rights Management) opton when setting up your eBook the first time. You can't change you mind after you publish. Without DRM, your eBook will be pirated even faster. Make it a bit harder for them to pirate, select DRM

I hope this doesn't scare you off from creating your own cookbook for your friends and family. It's still worth it if they're scattered to the four corners of the world. That's exactly why I set mine up as an eBook. With friends across the globe, it's the easiest way to get the book distributed to everyone.