Let's Talk About Guns

At work, I usually stretch my legs sometime after lunch by taking a walk around campus. Yesterday, one of my co-worker buddies and I talked about guns. Later in the evening, my wife (who doesn’t talk much politics) also brought up the topic of guns. So…Let’s talk about guns. Here’s where I stand on guns…

Personally, I do not own one, but I understand why others might own one or more guns. When I am with someone who carries a gun, I neither feel nervous nor safer. I understand why a person might want a gun for safety reasons, either as a deterrent while walking down the street in a questionable area of town or living in a high crime area to protect your home. I get it. It’s a “don’t mess with me, or I’ll mess with you” kind of thing.

I understand people may own guns to go hunting. I am not against hunting for animal population control or for food. I do not hunt, and I think guns are unsporting. Bows are a little more sporting, but I’d rather see a hunter try to take down a creature and kill it with their bare hands. Animal vs. Animal. But, anyway… 

I understand that some people like to collect guns and enjoy assembling or modifying their gun collection with the same thrill I get putting together a great Lego set. 

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When Your Life is No Longer Your Own

Recently, the company I work for has been shuffling people around into new groups. It’s not a bad thing. As far as I know, the company isn’t “trimming the fat”, just a little restructuring to change with the times. I was picked to move into one of the new groups the company created. I’m still settling into my new role, but I see this as a good thing.

This got me thinking about how many times my life has been redirected by factors beyond my control. How much of our lives are dictated by external factors? How does this compare to how much are we in control of our own destinies?

I wasn’t asked if I wanted this new role. It was more like being told, “You will now be reporting to that guy.” This isn’t the first time my career path has been steered for me. I’ve survived three layoffs. Definitely not in control there. When I started my first job out of college, I was asked if I wanted to be a “Burnmeister” (which is a fancy title for an installer developer who burns the software to CDs). It’s not exactly a role I went to college for. I thought it might lead to more of a development position, but it wasn't. It was a job that I kind of fell into. I suppose I could have said, “No,” but it was my first real job out of college and I didn’t really know I could turn it down at the time or what would happen if I did. I stayed an installer developer for several years.

I transitioned away from the installer developer role at another company, but this company needed me to do QA work, but they thought was nice to have an installer developer on stand-by—just in case. Again, my career path took another direction with minimal input from me. Which, that was kind of a good thing, since installations changed, most software is now downloaded, and not much is burnt to CDs anymore. Even in the few years I have been doing QA work, more and more of the job is becoming automated. The winds of change are redirecting my career path once again.

My career isn’t the only thing out of my control. When I was about to start middle school, I was going to join the band. My first, second, and third choice of instruments to play (in no particular order): trumpet, clarinet, and saxophone. Which one did I play? The French horn. The director said there were already too many of the others. I didn’t practice a whole lot through middle school and high school. Mostly because playing my horn by myself in an echoing empty house made me feel very self conscious. Now I wonder if I didn’t practice because I wasn’t fully invested in playing the instrument I was told to play instead of one of the ones I would rather have played. If I had played an instrument that meant more to me, would I have practiced more? Eh…Probably not. Who knows?

The time traveler fanatic in me wonders what ripple effects these nudges cause. What other aspects of my life were steered by other people? Did I discover my taste in music on my own? Or, was it because people who had already discovered different band said, “Here, you should listen to this!” Did someone else’s choice of radio stations where the DJs and corporate executives pick the music introduce me to the bands I like? Have I discovered any band on my own, or was it all fed to me by other people influencing my tastes? What about my taste in books, or movies, or food, or friends?!

Okay, yes, a lot of what we are introduced to is provided by external factors. However, it is up to us to make that decision if we like what we are presented or choose to look elsewhere. Yes, I could have said, “No, thank you,” to playing the French horn. I could have turned down the title of Burnmeister. Even though life tries to steer us in one direction or another, the choice is still up to us to yea or nay it.

Earlier this summer, I read Neil Gaiman’s View from the Cheap Seats. In the book, he knew what he wanted to do for a living and made choices that helped him get to where he wanted to be. I don’t remember if it was advice he offered or if it was advice offered to him, but the book talked about making career choices that help us get to where we want to be. I know what I’d like to do for a living. I’d love to write books and design games as a career. Have my choices in my daily job helped direct me towards that dream? Yes and no. Indirectly, yes, but mostly no. From my daily jobs, I have learned the skills of critical thinking and planning. Indirectly, I have met people at my various jobs who have introduced me to others who have helped nudge me in the right direction. Patrick introduced me to Armadillo Con’s writer’s workshop, which led me to the SlugTribe writer’s group and Turkey City, and eventually helped me establish my own writer’s guild at our local library and helped me publish my first couple of books. Peter introduced me to indie games, like Cheapass Games, which inspired me to design my own games, which lead me to working on my own game engine to assist with prototyping tabletop games.

Following these paths led me on a wonderful journey. Eventually, I know I will end up at my ideal destination. For the most part, I go with the flow life has to offer me. Lately, though, a part of me says, “Okay, that’s enough drifting. It’s time to paddle towards that point over there.” I am trying to make a greater effort of taking a different path more in the direction of where I want to be. I am making myself more aware of my bad habits that are holding me back or sending me in the wrong direction.

What about you? When external factors impact your life’s path, do you think it is better to go with the flow? Or, do you prefer to take charge and navigate your own course?

In honor of Black History Month...

I did a little research to satisfy a bit of my own curiosity. I have been curious about something, which I will get to in a moment. Being a fan of all things time travel related, I have learned to try to approach life by looking at Big Picture while appreciating the finer details of that picture. My curiosity lead to a bit of investigation.

One thing I investigated was George Washington Carver, a black inventor, and how his work was related to peanut butter. I thought I had read that he invented peanut butter, but this proved to be false. Peanut butter was patented in 1884 by a Canadian named Marcellus Gillmore Edson, and it was speculated that the Aztecs and Incas developed a peanut paste long before that.

Although Carver didn’t invent peanut butter, he developed many uses for peanut and sweet potato related products and made several contributions to the agricultural community through his bulletins, which are still relevant in today’s modern world. Even though he died over 70 years ago, he recognized the benefits of composting and of the hazards of agricultural deforestation.

One of the things I liked most in this research were the eight virtues he lived by (listed below) and how he never sought out patents for his inventions. He preferred to openly share his ideas with the world, than deal with the burden of patents. Here are his eight virtues, which all people should consider following:

• Be clean both inside and out.
• Neither look up to the rich nor down on the poor.
• Lose, if need be, without squealing.
• Win without bragging.
• Always be considerate of women, children, and older people.
• Be too brave to lie.
• Be too generous to cheat.
• Take your share of the world and let others take theirs.

I originally intended to blog about “if it wasn’t for George Washington Carver’s invention of peanut butter, we might not have Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups today,” but I’m pleased with being corrected and learning something new.

The other thing I wanted to blog about, and this is what I originally was curious about...If black lives didn’t matter, would the world still have the Beatles? Maybe the Beatles would still exist, but maybe they wouldn’t. This investigation requires an open mind and eyes able to see the Big Picture.

The Beatles have said their style of music was inspired Elvis, Little Richard, Chuck Berry, and Carl Perkins. If black lives didn’t matter, then let’s take Little Richard and Chuck Berry out of the equation and only focus on Elvis and Carl Perkins.

Elvis’s style of music was inspired by gospel music, which traces back to seventeenth century African American religious roots. Elvis can now be eliminated from the equation.

What about Carl Perkins? His music was more of a rockabilly style, inspired by electric blues, which includes black musicians like Elmore James and B.B. King (both who are mentioned in Beatle’s songs, at least in the Anthology set). The electronic blues evolved from the blues, which also has origins in the African American Deep South. And now, Carl Perkins can be eliminated from the equation.

Who else would have inspired the Beatles that does not have black roots? Even other black artists, like Michael Jackson and Jimi Hendricks were inspired by some of the musicians mentioned above. It’s also interesting to think about how many songs the Beatles wrote about peace and love that grew out of a history full of hardship and misery.

I’m still not convinced there is a higher power, especially one who cares enough with what I do, but I do believe in the interconnectedness of all things. I know that no only do black lives matter, but all lives matter. Like they said in Girl Meets World, “The secret to life is that people change people.” How are you going to treat the people in your world, and how will that inspire changes to the Big Picture?

Meanwhile, back on the farm...

This blog is dedicated to those who live far from the big cities. I'm trying to understand your plight. And, as a constant thinker, try to think up possible solutions.

I’m still trying to wrap my brain around why so many people voted Trump into office. I’m curious to know what they think of him now and if he is really addressing their concerns, or if he only used them as a means to an end. From what I understand based on reading various articles, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, Trump received certain votes because he tapped into a class of people who live in remote parts of the country. They are people who live quite a long drive away from the nearest major city. Many of these people feel ignored by the rest of the country that appears to be more privileged and take them for granted. Many of these people are very proud and religious people. They do not want to uproot their families and move to one of these big cities and don’t want to learn new jobs. Some of them have lost jobs for one reason or another. Maybe because corporations close their businesses in these remote areas because they are not as profitable. Some people may have lost their jobs due to automation. As I understand it, they put their votes towards the one person they believed could help them change these things.

I know some people who live in a remote area. My wife has extended family who lives in a remote part of Texas, but we only visit them maybe once or twice a year. They are good people filled with love and compassion. They have welcomed me in to their large family with open arms and love when we take part in their traditions. To me, they seem to live a quiet and somewhat comfortable life, and I can understand the struggle to hold on to this life they’ve always known. They are polar opposites from the kind of person sitting in the presidential chair. Whether or not they really voted for him, I have no idea. But, it's people like this who I imagine are the remote folk who support him.

This blog may never reach them, but if it does, I’d like them to know this. Losing work due to a lack of business or automation also happens very often in the big cities, too. Even though I loved some of my jobs and won service awards, I have been let go from jobs, not because I wanted to leave, but because the company thought too many people working there is a burden for the stock holders. What they never seem to realize is that letting people go is a burden on multiple people. Of course, the person laid off is forced to find another job. And, the people left behind are now demoralized and are forced to pick up the slack of the work not getting done by the person no longer there, which directly impacts the company that caused the problem in the first place. I understand wanting to do a job you like. But, even though I’ve loved some of my jobs, I have been forced to learn something new and take on new roles to keep up with innovation. Yes, it can be scary, but it can also be very rewarding to learn and do something different. It may be difficult to keep up with the rapidly changing times. But, it happens everywhere, not just in remote areas.

I have been thinking about people in remote areas, especially farm families. We need farms. Think of how much goods you consume each year that come from farms. Fresh produce and cotton are just a couple that I know I rely on. Farms export an incredible amount of things we take for granted. And, what do we export from the cities to these remote areas? What could we export that they want or need? What kinds of new opportunities could we create in these remote areas that would fit their lifestyle? I’ve had a few ideas of how to possibly help.

The Book Mobile - When I was a kid, I remember watching the RIF commercial on Saturday mornings where the poor boy cautiously approaches the Reading-Is-Fundamental book mobile, finds a book, and then totally becomes absorbed into reading it. I like the idea of a traveling library. But, what if it wasn’t just a book mobile, and wasn’t just in the city? What if we loaded up a bus to travel to remote areas and brought hem a mobile computer lab? Or, what about a traveling service that offers career, training, or financial help? I’m sure there are different services city folk take for granted that could be converted into a traveling service to find new clientele in these remote areas. If these aren’t services they need, ask someone which ones they would most benefit from.

Pro Bono - I got my book mobile ideas jumbled up with thoughts of healthcare. If lawyers need to put in so many hours of pro bono work, what other professions could offer similar free assistance? As part of healthcare, what if medical professionals put in a little pro bono time a few times a year and traveled to these remote areas as a traveling clinic. It could do wellness checks, offer vaccines and flu shots, and then recommendations for more serious findings. It’d be like the old days when doctors did house calls.

Working Remotely - My wife and I work with people all over the world. We have the opportunity to work from home when necessary. As long as employees put in the effort, some companies don’t care where the employee works, as long as the work gets done. Why not take some of this remote work to these remote areas. Even training can be taught remotely as long as there is a solid network connection. And, wasn’t that one of Zuckerberg’s missions…To bring the internet to anywhere in the world? Even if an old farmhand doesn’t want to learn something new, the opportunities could be there for those who want it.

Buying Bulk - I am not familiar with the economics of my wife’s extended family. We’ve visited a community center, a fire station, a couple of farmlands, and a graveyard. From these, it’s several minutes drive to get to the nearest gas station. While thinking up ideas, I pictured one of the old dime store grocery shops. What they don’t produce on their farms, a little store could provide the rest. And, as easy as it is to buy anything from Amazon, buying necessities could be expensive. But, I wonder if these remote places know about places like Sam’s Warehouse or CostCo. If the families in these areas bought items in bulk from some of these places, and divided it up among the families, it might reduce their cost of living.

I don’t know if any of these ideas would benefit them in ways they want to be helped, or if they are even too proud to accept this kind of help. If these don't help, I'm open to discuss other ideas. As a person who is a QA Engineer, an author, and a game designer, I do a lot of thinking. I try to solve problems. None of these solutions require a body of government to declare it be so, but it does take a willingness to entertain new ideas and for some people to go beyond their normal work lives to work a little to help other lives.

Live by the Three Os

I live by the three Os. I’m Observant (unless I’m trying to find my office badge dangling around my neck; in which case, I’m the absent minded professor). I’m Open-minded (we all have opinions. I strive to be a good listener and understand others’ points-of-view). I’m Optimistic (I see the more-than-full glass: half with what it has, half with what it could have, and overflowing with possibilities).

First, let me share a few observations. It’s difficult to sift through information these days to understand what is real and what isn’t. I love a good conspiracy theory, especially ones involving creatures like aliens, Nessy, or the chupacabra. Maybe that last one is the real reason to build a wall. I think there is a very interesting conspiracy around our new president with ties to Russia, and I think the public can only see one portion of a much larger and more bizarre series of events which will eventually come out. Because, I also believe the truth has a way of revealing itself--eventually. As we tell our kids, “The cover-up is worse than the crime.”

Apart from the election conspiracy, I observed something on Inauguration Day that to me is very troubling. I did not watch the inauguration, but I did skim the speech afterwards. I don’t know what America he lives in, but I don’t see an America rampant with carnage. Some people commented about what went missing from the White House website (civil rights, affordable care, etc.). I observed what was added to the website. Two of the first six issues listed touched on building up the military, while a third one touched on building faith in our police force. This brings to mind of places like N. Korea, Russia, or Nazi Germany building up and flaunting their military might. Apart from that, the Atlas V rocket was launched to put an early missile detection satellite into orbit for the military. Who can blame them with Putin claiming to have a bomb great enough to blow up something the size of Texas. It’s troubling to me to have a voice of doom and gloom mixed with the need of a growing military. I know there are conflicts going on elsewhere in the world, but I had thought we were living in relatively peaceful times.

Another thing occurred to me yesterday. Before the election, Trump was both a person and a brand. What if, being a person and a brand for years, Trump could no longer distinguish the two. Maybe he considers himself both a person and a brand, elevating himself to something greater than human--a self-made idol. Now, what if when he decided to run for office and become the face of America, Trump is now mixing America with that confused Trump person-brand? What if in his mind, he now believes Trump and America could be interchangeable? “Make America great again” becomes “Make Trump great again”. Think about it. Swap out America for Trump in the last few lines of his Inauguration speech, and it paints a whole different picture:

“…Together, We Will Make Trump Strong Again.
We Will Make Trump Wealthy Again.
We Will Make Trump Proud Again.
We Will Make Trump Safe Again.
And, Yes, Together, We Will Make Trump Great Again. Thank you, God Bless You, And God Bless Trump.”

The good, church-going folk should remember, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”

Ok. Observations aside. Time for Open-Mindedness and Optimism. Despite the doom and gloom that the present administration brings, I have hope for what the future brings. Already, more people are vocal about stating their opinions and voicing them loudly that what they observe is not right, and that they demand changes. This is motivating people to do something about what they feel passionate about. That is a very good thing and must to continue.

People have problems. Different parts of the country have different problems. This is where people loudly vocalizing need to also be quietly listening and understanding. This is the part more people need to have an open-mind. It’s fine to shout at the world and tell it that you aren’t happy about something and demand change. But, shouting is only going to state that there is a problem to solve. What I hope is that people start having conversations about those problems. Listen to the people complaining about those problems, try to understand why they have those problems, and together, think of possible solutions. It’s one thing to call up your representative stating your problem with their decisions. It’s something else to call them up and also offer an alternative solution. I've heard a lot of "I don't like either candidate." There is an alternative...Find another candidate and explain to people why that candidate is better than the other two.

Look at the Affordable Care Act and how well the “repeal and replace” is going. They are struggling. It’s easier said than done. It’s not black-and-white. There are bits that are good, and there are bits that need tweaking, and bits some people don’t care about because it doesn’t apply to them (but it does to others). They want to rip up the carpet and put in hardwood floors, but there is all the furniture in the way consider, and how well it will match the paint, and how much it will cost, and who is going to pay for it. Big decisions are rarely easy.

These kinds of problems evolved from a world that has changed dramatically within a reasonably short time frame. I think people are still trying to adapt to all these changes, but don’t know how. This is where people need to be open-minded and think of new possibilities to adapt to these changes and be willing to change their minds and accept what is changing. No wonder people think the world is crazy. If people keep doing the same thing over and over and expect things to stay the same because its comfortable, or normal, or the way things always have been done before, then, yeah…people be crazy. The world is changing and needs more forward thinkers, and less stationary and backwards thinkers. We need to inspire and encourage. And, if you can't inspire or encourage, then learn to be more accepting, more open-minded.

That’s the kind of thing I like to write about. As a writer and a thinker, I am thinking up possible solutions for some of the big problems facing the new administration. Maybe if I come up with something good, I’ll write about it and share it with them. As clueless and as unqualified as some of them seem to be, they might need help thinking of some good ideas.

Readers Wanted

Hello everyone! I hope the holidays are treating you well.

I've made several changes and additions to the Checkered Scissors website. Lots of good stuff that I'm very excited about!

Books on Website:
The first change is the best. After much waffling and pondering (and some pondering about waffles), I finally decided to sell my books on my website.

The main reason I didn’t do this sooner was logistics. How do I first take money for an e-book and then allow a download of the book? What happens if someone buys the book and shares the download link with their friends? What happens if someone purchased a book, deleted it, and wanted to download it again later? What if a reader wanted the book on multiple devices? I took all those questions and punted them out the window.

The Store section for each of my e-books now includes two buttons: Buy Now and Download. The Buy Now button connects to PayPal where the book can be purchased. The Download button saves a copy of the ePub file to the person's download directory. It's as simple as that. This takes care of the multiple download issues. And, people can share the download link as much as they’d like. In fact, I encourage that.

How do I enforce a person to buy the book before downloading it? It's simple -- I don't. We live in a society where people eat a meal at a restaurant and then pay for it afterwards. I apply that same trust to book purchases on my website. If someone wants to pay for the book first, then download it -- great! If someone wants to read the book, and then pay for it later -- no problem! If someone only downloads the book, there is not much difference between that and checking it out of a library, except this library doesn't have a return policy. And, in the rare instance someone just wants to send me money...Well, I won't complain, but they can do that, too. This way, I can get more of my stories into more minds!

The other links are still there to buy the book elsewhere, especially if you prefer the paper editions or the audio versions. Or, you can go by one of those little library boxes in the neighborhood and try to find a copy. Or, you can try my public library, which also has a copy on their shelves. So many choices, all for you!

With the additions of downloads, if I want to, I could make early, beta editions of new stories available when they are ready to request feedback from beta readers. I can also do this...

Fan Fiction of Website:
Since I’ve added downloads, I also have fleshed out my collection by posting my fan fiction, too! Each story is another download for your e-library. Plus, each type of fan fiction has a cheesy cover picture! One of them stars my Fitbit! Can you guess which one?

Of course, since these stories are built upon another person's creation, I do not include the Buy Now button with these downloads. That would be wrong. Instead, I have associated each work of fan fiction with one or more charities supported by the originating author. I give a little, and maybe my readers will give a little. I’m just putting a bit of positive karma into the world! And, speaking of karma...

Karma, New and Old
If you are an author, you may have already explored the Karma portion of my website. This is where I try to help my writing peers. For a while, I’ve had two interviews: 20 Questions with Authors and 20 Questions with Characters. But, wait! There’s more! Now, there is 20 Questions with Readers, too! This interview helps authors peek inside the minds of readers as they share their reading habits and insights of what makes a book one of their favorites.

Also, the Three Page Reviews has returned. This interview went away for a while, but I decided to bring it back. It hasn’t been explored by many people. The intention is to help provide a review of other indie authors’ books. From one indie author to another, I see a landslide of requests from my peers to read their books. If I took the time to completely read every book from every request, I wouldn’t get anything done. So, this is an opportunity for people to offer a first impression review based on no more than the first three pages of a book.

And Another Thing…
Besides all this, most of the additional work is behind the scenes stuff that most people won’t see, but helps me be more efficient. Administrative pages to help me add new content related to what was mentioned above. Plus, scripts to help format interview content for the blog. Blah, blah, blah. You know...Boring stuff.

There are a few other little surprises sprinkled around here and there. Plus, I have plans for another future edition which other authors might find interesting and possibly useful, but that’s a surprise for another time.

One more thing to mention...Scripts. I have ideas for a few...hmm...I’ll call them “book ads”. The scripts are for humorous videos somewhat advertising my books, but more like short comedy sketches for YouTube from my own warped mind. If you know of anyone who might like a small film project or two or four, please send them my way and I’ll share the details with them.

Anyway...Lots done and lots more to do. Hopefully, I will have lots more to share soon.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday season, no matter what you celebrate or how. Take care! Read often and dream big!

My perspective on the election results

Several things below are thoughts that have weighed heavily on my mind throughout this election. I'm a writer and writing helps me get things off my mind so (hopefully) I can sleep better at night. I probably should have vented this before people voted, but some of this information I found out more details after the results of the election.

I have listened and read both sides. From what I understand, the people who voted for Trump want to take the corruption out of politics, and the thought of voting for Hillary is just perpetuating what they want to fix. It probably will take a tough person to eliminate that corruption. Maybe it even takes a bully. But, I have a hard time swallowing all the other baggage that comes with him.

I strive to understand both sides of the argument and see the positive in situations and people. I have a very difficult time respecting someone who doesn’t show respect for others. I also have a difficult time respecting someone who refuses to listen to both sides of an argument. But, for this post, I’m trying to look past that for a moment. I'm trying to look past every negative thing he has said to everyone and focus on the policies. Just because I’m setting that aside, please don’t think I approve, ignore or dismiss his behavior. Just because I might think Hitler was a decent artist, doesn’t mean I approve of the other atrocious, vile acts that he had committed. I just want to focus on some of the policies Trump is setting out to do that don’t make sense to me and deeply concern me.

I read through the list on NPR of the things he wants to do in his first 100 days.

Let’s start with this one…
“cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama”

First of all, that sounds like spite. Running a presidency on revenge is not something that will make America great. Who else is on his hit list? Hillary? Those women who had the courage to say they didn’t like the way they were treated? The media for parroting what he said and did? Being in the most powerful position in the country and wanting revenge on people is not a healthy combination.

But, what does that policy even mean? I Googled legislation passed and went to the White House website where there were 1200+ signed pieces of legislation under Obama. Which ones in particular does he intend to undo?

My fear is that, out of spite, he is going to reverse some of the things that I think Obama did to help make America great (which, to me, America is already a great place. Not perfect, but still great). How is undoing progress great?

One of the things he wants to do is repeal and replace national healthcare with HSA. In my experience, HSAs will only cover so much, where insurance covers a greater portion of outrageous medical costs. HSAs only set aside the amount of money you think you will spend in one year towards medical expenses. Insurance helps cover the amounts you don’t know are coming. The accidents and illnesses that people don’t foresee and can’t afford. That’s why the companies I’ve worked for offer both various forms of insurance (medical, dental, vision care) and an HSA (to cover the cost of things like perscriptions or forseen procedures, like a root canal). Taking away insurance just puts people back in the position of covering major illnesses and accidents out of their own pocket. So, the rich will be fine. The poor and middle class who don’t have a job that offers insurance will incur tremendous medical debt. Won’t that be great?

“cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America's water and environmental infrastructure”

This one really scares me, because it doesn’t effect only America, but the planet we live on. Scientists have been warning us and warning us of the dangers of climate change and we are heading to the point of no return. And, many politicians, the people we put in charge and are there to represent and protect us, aren’t listening.

Besides ignoring climate change and doing what he believes is right, this is something else that scares me. If we have a president who thinks something as important as climate change is a myth, who won’t even listen to advisors with scientific data, and who appoints another skeptic in the position of someone to do something about it, then what other advisors is this president not going to listen to? What other conspiracies is he going to believe in and act upon? And, if we have a president who doesn’t listen and follow the advice of others, what makes you think he will listen to what the citizens want?

Looking at his other items, I don’t see how you can have both clean water and a clean environment when you also support polluting the Earth with coal, oil, and fracking for natural gas. Which, I also notices “clean water” was at the bottom of the list. That just shows you his priorities. How does support of polluting America make it great?

“Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice.”

I’ll be brief on this one. I don’t understand this at all. I thought I already live in a community where people already can choose to relocate their kids to different schools or choose to homeschool them. I see it all the time.

As for some of his other policies...

He talks about protecting jobs. In some cases, protecting a job is counter productive to innovation. Automation is what whittles away jobs. Also, I don’t see him addressing other ways of protecting jobs, like reducing outsourcing or preventing layoffs. In my line of work, which is computer science, my job has been impacted by all three: automation, outsourcing, and layoffs.

As a QA Engineer, some companies find it more cost effective to send software testing jobs to India and China. Also, more companies are focused on migrating to test automation over manual testing. On the one hand, my salary is expensive compares to what they could pay for someone in another country to do the same job. But, if I didn’t learn to develop automated tests, I’d either be out of a job or have a hard time finding one. In my case, as with other people who have lost jobs, it is either adapt or die.

If you want to reduce the number of jobless people, why not reduce the number of companies that outsource or have layoffs just to make their numbers look better? On the one side, the companies cause a flood of people looking for new work. On the other side, you have a lack of personnel filling in for an already spread-too-thin workforce. To me, layoffs are counter productive. Why not give companies an incentive to relocate, or outsource, workers to another company instead of laying them off and paying severance, plus unemployment insurance?

Finally, building a wall…
First, I think it is ironic that in my lifetime I have seen one Republican tear down a wall and another one want to put one up.

Living near the southern border, I get it. I’ve seen the warning signs in southern California. I’ve heard the horror stories of Americans getting kidnapped and held for ransom or killed by “El Hombres”. And, I’ve heard stories of people leaving their Mexican home behind in search for a better life.

And, that last one is another reason why I think America is great, because people outside our country believe(d) the US is(was) the Land of Opportunity. Instead of putting up a wall, why not reach out to Mexico and understand why people are leaving? Mexico is a beautiful and interesting country. Why would people leave it behind and head for where they think the grass is greener? Do you know what would make America greater? Working with countries which have (or had) citizens that want to flee to the Land of Opportunity and figure out how to bring similar opportunities to their countries. And, the countries that don’t take care of their own, work on finding a place where they can be taken care of.

So, for those who voted for Trump, did you stop and consider the big picture of what you want, what he wants, and what the opposition wants and he will impact the greatness of America? Think about it.

20 Questions with Miach (a character interview)

Q1: What is your name?
Depends on who you ask. My human name was Miach, however, today I am known as a storm-slave, nameless to a world that fears me.

Q2: What story (or stories) do you appear in?
I appear in The Reaper Realm: Threads of Compassion, along with a human by the name of Thistle.

Q3: How would you describe yourself?
Alone, reticent, and laconic.

Q4: What kind of character do you consider yourself: hero, villain, sidekick, supporting character, or extra?
During my life as a human, my people thought me a hero, now...I am a villain’s pawn, subject to my master’s will.

Q5: What kind of talker are you?
I rarely enjoy conversation. Should you ask me a question, I shall answer when able, however, I prefer silence.

Q6: When given a task, how do you handle it?
With precision.

Q7: How do you approach new ideas and concepts?
My reaction hinges upon the idea presented and from whom it originates.

Q8: Are you a homebody or world traveler?
To fulfill my master’s evil order I am forced to travel the world. I no longer have a space to call home.

Q9: What was your childhood like?
The shaman from my village proclaimed that my soul was touched by the gods, casting me as an outsider to my peers when I was a boy. I found sanctuary in the woods surrounding my home. Once I learned to hunt and fish, much of my time was spent catching game in the solace of the forest.

Q10: Are you an optimist or a pessimist?
I am a realist; there is no place in my life for hope or fear.

Q11: What do you believe in the most?
The old ways of my people, honor, and love.

Q12: Do you live in the past, dream about the future, or remain grounded in the present?
I hold onto the past while living in the present, any future I have will be decided by them.

Q13: When meeting someone new, how trusting are you?
It is they who fear trusting me, I have no such worry.

Q14: What are your pet peeves?
Not being in control of my actions. I detest kneeling.

Q15: What is your strongest sense?
Whichever I care to enhance.

Q16: What moment are you the most proud of?
Helping defeat legions of Romans to protect my people and allied tribes.

Q17: What's the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you?
Every deed since my death eight hundred years ago.

Q18: If the author were to grant you one wish, what would it be?
To return home, become the person my shaman saw in me and continue my life as it was before my soul was reaped.

Q19: When you enter a crowded room, what is the first thing you notice?
The reactions to my presence.

Q20: What one question should this interviewer have asked, and how would you answer it?
Q: Why did you agree to this interview?

A: It seemed an amusing distraction while I waited for my informant. Friendly warning; avoid ships under the queen’s guard when traveling south.

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If you are an author who would like to participate, you can find the 20 Question interview here.

20 Questions with India Emerald

Q1: What is your name?
India Emerald

Q2: When did you decide to be a writer?
I started writing at about 12 or so, I won a local writing competition and that spurred me on. Back then it was plays and poems more than stories and purely for myself. I carried on for most of my adult life but I was always too "chicken" to publish. I moved to Germany 9 months ago and that gave me the courage to go for it and publish. Something about moving from Britain to mainland Europe made me braver!

Q3: What did you most recently publish (title and genre)?
The Mages' Stones:Amethyst (The Mages' Stones Set #3) It's an Earth Magic book that sits next to the Fantasy genre.

Q4: What is your next project?
The Mages' Stones is a 7 part set and I'm currently writing story #4, so there are plenty more Mages and their stones to write about. I'm about to publish my 2nd free flash fiction piece on Booksie, it's a romance story with a twist. But once TMS is finished I'll be starting work on a collection of short stories about Water Magic.

Q5: Which path(s) have you taken: traditional publishing, self-publishing, or both?
I self publish. I love the freedom that it gives me and I retain ownership of my work which is important to me. I also enjoy wearing lots of different hats, I relish marketing and publicity as I get to use words in a slightly different way. Cover design is super fun too!

Q6: Why should people consider reading your work?
Because for less than the price of a cup of coffee, I can help you see another world. You'll discover "Potentials" and Mages, encounter an unearthly static and corrosive rain, and you'll understand the power of the one they call "Obsidian".

Q7: How do you describe your writing style?
Oooh, very descriptive is the best way to put it I think. Blue Goldstone was about dialogue, for me, so it's heavier on it than most of my writing. I was asked about a scene from Amethyst the other day and if I enjoyed writing it, and the answer was "no". In Blue Goldstone I described Stephen as "detached", the scene in Amethyst was all about showing that. I could have written dialogue to demonstrate the point but I prefer an emotionally charged description over talking any day.

Q8: Where and when do you like to write?
I have an office at home for when I need to concentrate, but I prefer my own PC in the lounge if it's quiet enough. I have the stone that I'm writing about with my on the desk to help with my creative flow.

Q9: At what time, day or night, do you feel the most creative?
Both really. I go for a walk most days and I usually come back with sections written in my head from that. I write mainly at night as I find the quiet helps my creativity. I also write in my dreams, the upcoming flash fiction piece for Booksie is based on a dream I had. The next morning I rushed to my PC to get the plot down, so I wouldn't forget it!

Q10: Which authors inspire you the most, and how?
Margaret Atwood, she writes Dystopian women like no-one else. She's not a direct influence, I never try to write like anyone else. I like my own unique writing style. Also Indie authors in general because they work so darn hard, face huge competition, and are so supportive of each other despite that.

Q11: How do you overcome the writer’s demons: Procrastination and Self-Doubt?
I write short stories so procrastination isn't really an issue for me. Deadlines help as well, I'm quite strict on those and I haven't missed one yet. As to self doubt, I just remind myself that I'm writing the best I can. If I'm not happy I work at it until I am. So far I haven't got to the point that I can't get past it within my schedule.

Q12: What aspect of your writing do you feel is strongest, and what needs the most improvement?
I think I'm pretty good at capturing emotions through my words, I have a degree in Performing Arts so I'm no stranger to the emotional power of them. As to most improvement, I never stop trying to improve across the board. I want every story I write to be stronger than the last.

Q13: What was the best part of the worst thing you’ve ever written?
The scene in Amethyst I was talking about earlier was an unpleasant scene to write, but the best part is the ambiguity of that scene. The reader makes up their mind what the details of the scene are and just how gruesome it gets depends entirely on your own imagination.

Q14: What advice do you have for others who want to be writers?
There's a great guy on a forum I frequent whose standard response is "Just finish things. Write stuff." On the one hand you could see it as a "one size fits all" answer but the flip side is that many a writer spends more time thinking and talking about writing than actually doing it. Whether you publish for a fee or release it as a freebie can be worried about later.

Q15: What form of marketing works best for promoting your work(s)?
The kind that doesn't say "buy my book" lol. I use social media to get in touch with people and share cool stuff. I let people know when something new is out, or free and I give general updates (the usual work related posts). I used to manage a Fish and Chip Shop, but I didn't post "Buy my chips" on Facebook :)

Q16: If life is a bowl of cherries, what does your life as a bowl of cherries look like?
Full :)

Q17: Who is your rock, the one who encourages you the most to keep writing, and why?
Me, because if I don't believe in myself how can I expect anyone else to? My husband is hugely supportive both in practical terms and in terms of morale. But he wants me to be happy and if I was happy painting instead of writing, he'd move heaven and earth to keep me painting.

Q18: What do you do apart from writing?
I'm a big gamer, if you see an India Emerald in an MMO it could well be me. I'm also a crafting fanatic, knitting, sewing, baking, window art. One of my current thumbnail images is a wreath I made from Paper Muffin Cases, I love it!

Q19: Where can people find more about you and your work(s)?
Twitter @india_emerald
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/IndiaEmeraldAuthor
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15046207.India_Emerald

Q20: What one question should this interviewer have asked, and how would you answer it?
Q: Chocolate or Cheese?

A: Milk chocolate every time

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If you are an author who would like to participate, you can find the 20 Question interview here.

20 Questions with Mike Russell

Q1: What is your name?
Mike Russell

Q2: When did you decide to be a writer?
When I was 12 years old I began writing a novel called "Imagine Infinity". I designed the book cover and wrote about twenty pages before deciding that I needed more life experience and abandoned it. I thought this early attempt was lost until my parents found it in their loft a couple of years ago. I still like the title. Years later, I began writing again. Then one day a friend was putting together a spoken-word event. Knowing that I wrote things, she asked me to contribute. This led to many years of regularly performing my stories in clubs, bars, galleries and various other strange venues. Happily, I just kept being invited to do more. This proved to me that there was an audience for my writing. I then began publishing my stories.

Q3: What did you most recently publish (title and genre)?
'Nothing Is Strange', a collection of 20 mind expanding short stories. It can fit comfortably within the genres of weird fiction, fantasy, surreal fiction, strange fiction...

Q4: What is your next project?
We have many books in various stages of production. Follow www.strangebooks.com and all will be revealed!

Q5: Which path(s) have you taken: traditional publishing, self-publishing, or both?
I have always published independently. Creative freedom is a precious thing.

Q6: Why should people consider reading your work?
At StrangeBooks.com we say this: "We wish our readers the highest possible outcome from their reading experience. We believe that stories have the potential to be life-changing. So let us not limit the power of the story; let us read with an expectation of the highest possible outcome and allow every story to work its magic."

Q7: How do you describe your writing style?
Succinct.

Q8: Where and when do you like to write?
Anywhere and as much as possible.

Q9: At what time, day or night, do you feel the most creative?
The later the better.

Q10: Which authors inspire you the most, and how?
I love authors who are unique. I love Philip K Dick, Angela Carter, Bruno Schultz, Franz Kafka...

Q11: How do you overcome the writer’s demons: Procrastination and Self-Doubt?
Inspiration is to be trusted.

Q12: What aspect of your writing do you feel is strongest, and what needs the most improvement?
I suddenly feel like I am at school.

Q13: What was the best part of the worst thing you’ve ever written?
The first word of this answer.

Q14: What advice do you have for others who want to be writers?
Someone once told me the best advice I ever heard for anyone wanting to be any kind of artist: 'Don't do it.' If your urge to be an artist persists in spite of this lack of encouragement then you should definitely be an artist.

Q15: What form of marketing works best for promoting your work(s)?
Reviews are great.

Q16: If life is a bowl of cherries, what does your life as a bowl of cherries look like?
A transparent one.

Q17: Who is your rock, the one who encourages you the most to keep writing, and why?
Inspiration encourages me. However, Jay is the other half of our publishing company www.strangebooks.com and I love her.

Q18: What do you do apart from writing?
This and that.

Q19: Where can people find more about you and your work(s)?
www.strangebooks.com is the place to read one of my short stories for free, find out more about me and read reviews. If you follow the website you will be alerted as soon as new books are published.

Q20: What one question should this interviewer have asked, and how would you answer it?
Q: Your book sounds astonishingly wonderful, please tell me again the name of the website through which I could discover more about it and even purchase my very own copy.

A: https://strangebooks.com Thank you for asking.

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If you are an author who would like to participate, you can find the 20 Question interview here.