Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Where to Begin?

I have an idea.

I started working out the details of the setting for my story. It’s important to know something about their world so the characters have a background to work in.

I have identified most of the major characters and given them a place in the world.

Now I need to take all of this and plan it out so that my idea, characters, and setting turn into a solid story. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

The first problem is that the setting for my story is a little overwhelming. My last post gave some of the details of that world, and if you read it all the way through you are probably as depressed as I am about the current political situation in the United States. I’m not sure how I am going to be able to make it through the next six weeks before the election on November 6. The only comfort I have is that, based on the polls, Romney really doesn’t stand a chance of winning. But then, elections have been bought before. Just look at the results of Scott Walker’s recall election for proof of that one. I’m also still convinced that George Bush rigged both of his election victories.

Another problem is that I am using characters from stories I have already written. This story is kind of a new spin on my first NaNoWriMo project, with the addition of the main characters from my two Valkyrie novels. The main character from my first book, however, will be a bit different from the way he was originally portrayed, and the story itself will be a lot different.

Since I am using the main characters of three of my previous novels, I want to give each of them a chance to shine in this one. So I will need to figure out how to switch between character viewpoints as I write. The book I just finished used multiple character viewpoints, but I don’t think I did it very well. I’m hoping that with a little more planning I’ll be able to do a better job of it this time. I’m thinking of switching viewpoints between chapters, and with a little preparation I’ll be able to plan each of my chapters in advance and decide which character will be the focus of each point of the story.

The last problem I have is figuring out how to present my idea as a solid story with a plot that people will be able to follow. Right now my idea is solely a civil war to reclaim the country from the dark forces that have taken over the Republican party and stolen the last election. That’s a pretty vague idea. What I really need to do is figure out how my characters fit into this idea. I need to figure out where they are when the story starts, what pulls them into the rebellion, how they manage to win in the end, and most importantly, what vital parts of their personality are revealed and change over the course of the story.

Because it’s really all about the characters, right?

Seriously, while I honestly think that the Republican party has recently become not just a bad idea, but an active evil that needs to be stopped, I don’t want this story to just be my own little political rant. I’m not here to get up on my soapbox and scream my beliefs to the world. I’m here to tell an entertaining story, and hope that my readers learn a little bit about both themselves and the world they live in by the time they reach the end. And hopefully what they learn will help to make this world a better place for all of us.

I don’t have a lot done yet. I think I may need to re-read my previous stories, if only to get some of the names and character details straight. I’m still mulling over how I’m going to start. I’m watching some dystopian movies for ideas. I just finished watching Soylent Green, which was eye-opening for me. It’s actually a fairly good representation of the world I think we are headed for if the Republicans take control. High unemployment, people living in the streets, crime is rampant even among the police, women are treated as “furniture”, and the big corporations can do anything they want because they are in charge of it all.

As always, I appreciate any comments you might have for me. What is your favorite dystopian movie? Leave a note about it and I’ll see if I can find a copy to add to my viewing list before November 1. And check in again on Wednesday for another update.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under NaNoWriMo, Politics, The Writing Experience

Geek Kon!

A quick update, then on to the show!

I’m over 52,000 words, Matt (the serial killer) is dead, and Carter was the one that killed him. All of the kids were trying to get Cailin to do it using her telekinesis, so that it would look like an accident, but when she balked at the job, Carter stepped up. Now Andy is trying to convince the cops that it was self-defense. After this I’ll do a few scenes to wrap things up, and I’ll be done. Less than 60,000 words total, but it will be finished.

And now, Geek Kon!

If you haven’t heard about it, Geek Kon is a large convention held in Madison, Wisconsin, to celebrate all things geek. There are anime and science fiction shows running non-stop, guests include voice actors, authors, and game designers. There are three rooms set aside for gaming, including table-top and RPG games, console video games, and LAN computer games. The dealer’s room has offerings for all types of geeks, including things like Pocky (candy covered biscuit sticks), Doctor Who memorabilia and videos, boxes full of manga, cosplay clothes and accessories, as well as all sorts of books and games. At least half (actually probably closer to 80%) of the attendees dress in some form of costume.

I’m writing this post before I head off for the final day of the convention. Yesterday I bought a blue anime-style wig, and today I’m going to wear it. I’ll try to get someone to take my picture while I’m at the convention so I can post it later.  I shaved my mustache off so I would look more like one of the Japanese boys in the shows, and I’m wearing a white shirt with a tie hung loosely around my neck and the shirt tails hanging out. This is my mental image of the kids in those shows. I’m a bit heavier than they are, but I’m going to do it anyway. After all, one of the best things about life is that you can always have fun if you forget about what everyone else thinks. And that’s kind of what Geek Kon is all about.

That being said, however, although I have had my camera for the whole convention, I haven’t taken a single picture. It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that while I really enjoy going there and the costumes are really cool, part of me feels like a dirty old man. After all, I’m almost twice the age of many of the kids attending, and a lot of the girls aren’t wearing much. The stereotypical girl in an anime show is wearing a short skirt and shows a lot of cleavage. And there are a lot of girls (and even a few guys) at Geek Kon that are modeling their costumes after their favorite anime characters. It’s kind of intimidating for a 43-year-old man.

But that’s my problem. And although I may feel weird about it, I may just have to screw up my courage today and ask some of the attendees if I can take their picture. We’ll see.

I’ll be back on Wednesday with another update. See you then!

3 Comments

Filed under Conventions, ROW80, The Writing Experience

Planning for the Future

I am still working on my YA story, and last night I hit 42,000 words. But today I thought I should start getting some thoughts down for my next project, which needs to be ready in time for NaNoWriMo.

In case you missed it, my next story is going to be about a civil war or revolution (what is the difference?) here in America. The things that the Republican Taliban Tea Party have been trying to push through are disgusting and wrong, and have me seriously concerned about the direction my country is headed. So, like any author worth his salt, I decided I need to write a story about it.

Of course, the story is going to be anything but normal. I’m partial to writing urban fantasy, so my story is going to be about how the evil Republicans have made a pact with the dark forces in order to win the election, and now the monsters and demons are starting to come out to play. I’m going to bring in my Valkyrie forces from my earlier books, as well as the wizard and his dragon from my first NaNoWriMo story. They will have to fight the demons and bring the country back to the side of good.

Sounds good, right? The question is, how to make it great?

I thought that the first thing I should do is start making a list of all the funny business the Tea Party has on the Republican platform and how it would affect the country if they win and start pushing it through. Things like the cuts to education, which would put most of our kids into a position where they won’t be able to get a decent job. Or the union busting, which opens the way for the elimination of the minimum wage and child labor laws. These things together would likely result in most of America becoming nothing but slaves to the big corporations. Think of history, and the “company store” that coal miners had to put up with. They would work all day for a company and come home owing more back to the company than they brought home. It was a vicious cycle that took the combined efforts of unions and the government to end. I don’t want to end up like that.

So today I am going to try to get my writing done as usual, but I am also going to work on starting my list (I have a little list, they’ll never be missed). For now I’m just going to compile the atrocities on their platform, later I’ll work on putting my thoughts down on what will happen if they get enacted.

Feel free to comment if you have any thoughts on the matter. The issues that concern me the most are the war on women and the destruction of our public education system. What are yours? Do the plans of the Tea Party give you nightmares like mine?

As usual, I’ll be back on Sunday with another update. See you then!

4 Comments

Filed under NaNoWriMo, Politics, ROW80, The Writing Experience

Vacation/Research

I didn’t get a lot of writing done in the last few days (almost none, in fact). The reason for this lack of butt in chair is that I was on vacation with my wife. We traveled to Door County, Wisconsin. It is a well-known tourist spot for Wisconsinites, and although we have lived in Wisconsin for decades (me about 25 years, she her entire life), neither of us has ever been there. So we decided to rectify that omission this week in celebration of our 15th anniversary.

It was a long trip north from Madison. Almost a four-hour drive, so we left before 8:00 AM. It wasn’t easy for our little car, but we took it easy and our GPS kept us mostly heading in the right direction. I thought that we were going to have trouble finding WiFi access while we were up there, but I was pleasantly surprised to find it almost everywhere, including the little B&B we stayed in. It is called the Cornerstone Suites, and is a converted barn.

They have four suites available. We stayed in the Garden Suite. It was fabulous, and I would definitely recommend it. We would have loved to stay longer, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford it this year. But it will definitely be top on our list when we go back.

Our anniversary wasn’t the only reason we decided to go to Door County this year. The other reason we went is because I wanted to do some research for the Valkyrie book I wrote last fall. I set the story in Door County and I wanted to check out some of the places in person that I had written about earlier. I also wanted to take some pictures that I could potentially use for a book cover. I think I was successful in both endeavors.

We started by going to Cave Point County Park. This is the place that I wanted to use for my book cover. The shoreline is very rocky, and the waves from the lake have work caves into the shore. It’s really cool, and I took a lot of pictures like these:

     

     

          

Next on my list of things to do was visit Washington Island. It is a large island just off the north tip of the mainland. It is accessible by ferry, and we caught the last one of the day. The Island Clipper took us through the infamous Death’s Door channel and we landed on the island at about 4:45 PM. That only gave us fifteen minutes to explore, but that was okay with me. I was mainly interested in the boat ride and not the island. Once again, my camera was busy on the trip over, and I got shots like these:

                         

After the ferry, my wife and I were pretty worn out. We stopped at a farm market and picked up some of the cherry goods that Door County is famous for. Then we found a nice Italian restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. The waiter joked that the food was excellent but the service left something to be desired. I won’t mention the name of the place, because when we left we were agreeing with him. The food was great, but our waiter was a bit slow. He was very accommodating, and brought us everything we wanted, including some non-alcoholic cherry spumante, which was really good. But they charged fifteen dollars a bottle for something that we could have bought in the store for six. The total bill (including tip) was $120, which is a lot of money for dinner for two. I’m sorry to say we probably will never go back again.

The next morning we had to check out by 11:00 AM, so we didn’t do much, just laid in bed and read a little before breakfast. We went to a little cafe which had excellent, but simple fare. My wife had cherry pancakes, which had whole cherries baked into them, while I had a nice ham and cheese omelet. Then we went back to the B&B, packed our suitcase, and left for home. We stopped at the Door County Maritime Museum on the way back. I was hoping to find something about the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but was told that they had that exhibit last year. This year the star attraction was about pirates.

I did manage to learn some cool things though, and it was worth the stop. We probably should have spent more time tooling around town, but my wife wanted to get home to her animals, so we didn’t stick around. The only stop we made on the way back was at a Subway for lunch, and we made it back before 4:00 PM.

The rest of the day on Friday and all day Saturday we mostly spent in recovery mode. We read our books and watched a couple of movies. In short, we just enjoyed being home together. That’s got to be the best way to end a vacation, in my humble opinion.

So I managed to get lots of pictures, and the places and things I saw up north were definitely worth the trip. It gave me a few ideas for some revisions in the book that I will be pondering over for a while.

Speaking of edits, I am still working on the revisions for the first chapter of my current YA project. Even though I did almost zero writing for the last few days, I think the time off helped me to gel some of the ideas in my subconscious, and the next draft should end up to be that much better for it.

I’ll be checking in again on Wednesday. I hope to have the revisions done by then and maybe be finished with Chapter Two. See you then!

1 Comment

Filed under About Me, ROW80, The Writing Experience

Premature Editing

I seem to have a problem. As I have been writing the first draft, I have been feeling less than satisfied with the work that I have done so far. I showed the first couple thousand words to my writer’s group, and they agreed that it isn’t working. So the dilemma is, should I start rewriting it now, before it gets worse, or push on until I finish my first draft?

Most writers will tell you that doing major edits before you finish the first draft is a good way to make sure you NEVER finish the first draft. Most of the time, I would agree. But my writing group has pointed out a couple of big problems with the start of my book, and I am wondering if the edits needed for my story would be a good exception to that rule. So I’m thinking about holding off on further work until I redo the opening.

Here’s the scoop for the first problem: I wrote a short prologue, which described how a comet smashed into an alien planet, knocking a piece loose, which then traveled through space until it came to Earth, where it started irradiating the food in a remote cabin. My group felt that the perspective was confusing, as I first described the comet, then told how it smashed into the planet, then described the rock breaking loose and drifting through space, and finally how the rock landed next to the cabin.

While I was writing it, I thought it was a nice little cycle, showing first one cosmic collision, and then another. I wanted to be clear how a piece of another world was the cause of the super powers that I was going to give the kids. My writing group understood that part, but they thought that the backstory of the rock was probably a bit too much. They suggested I focus solely on the rock and forget about how it was set in motion by a comet hitting its home planet. I think they might be right, and I don’t really need the prologue at all, so I’ll have to think about what I’m going to do about this.

This is something that doesn’t NEED to be rewritten right now.

The second problem is this: I’m writing the book in third person, but I thought that it would be nice to go deep into the characters as I wrote the opening, telling the story from each of their perspectives in turn. I thought that would be a good way to get into their heads, and while technically it was still third person, it was practically the same as being in first person, with the exception of the pronouns.

That was a mistake. I opened from the point of view of one of the boys, and the whole scene was about him. None of the other characters were introduced at all. In short, the entire scene could probably be cut.

Another problem with that scene is that the boy in question is supposed to be aggressive, with serious anger management issues, and while I alluded to that somewhat in his scene, the next scene where he interacted with the second boy made him seem more of a nice, friendly boy, with none of the aggression that I wanted him to have. The story would be more interesting if there was some kind of conflict, like perhaps between the two boys. The problem with making them enemies is that eventually they need to work past their differences and work together as a team. And that might be a bit too much conflict for the kind of book I want to write.

So here’s the scoop. I really think I need to rewrite the first chapter. I can change to a true third person perspective and drop the individual character viewpoints. I can add more conflict, either between the boys, or another option is to have the angry boy defend the other boy for some reason. That would insert some conflict while also giving them a reason to be friends. And I want the first day at camp to end with the four main characters starting to build a friendship that will solidify into a team later on.

This is something that I think really HAS to be done. If I don’t, the personalities of the kids and their relationships won’t be adequately defined for the later scenes. And that would just mean more problems that would have to be edited later.

What do you think? Is this something that I should allow myself to do? Or should I push on and try to keep the future editing choices in the back of my head as I finish my first draft? Please leave me a comment with your thoughts.

I’ll heading north for a short vacation in Door County for the next couple of days, which means I probably won’t get much writing done for the rest of the week. However, I will be checking out some of the sites I used in my last novel, taking lots of pictures and getting a personal look at the places I wrote about. I’m hoping that will help me when I start rewriting that book later on.

See you on Sunday!

3 Comments

Filed under ROW80, The Writing Experience

Looking for the Right Characters

My latest struggle with my new book is trying to decide who my main characters are. This is a pretty big deal for me, as I firmly believe that a good story depends more on strong characters than the plot. That’s one of the reasons why my latest book is proving to be such a difficult process for me. I have no idea who my characters are. I have plenty of ideas on the pain and suffering I am going to put them through in the course of the story, but until I find out who they are I don’t have a story.

So what are some tips on finding your characters? Names are a good start. A lot of people use books on baby names to help them choose the right name for their characters. You will probably want to pick one that also lists the meanings of the names. Those can help give you some ideas on the type of person that might have that name. One of the books I have heard about is Beyond Jennifer and Jason, Madison and Montana, by Linda Rosenkrantz. It includes details such as period popularity, connotation, and the classical meaning of hundreds of names.

Pictures are also helpful. As I mentioned in my “The Outline Begins!” post on June 3, I went to a teen modeling website and found pictures of kids that I thought would be good inspiration for the characters in my novel. I won’t post the pictures here because of possible copyright issues, but it is pretty easy to find modeling websites through a quick Google search. A lot of them are also searchable by height, weight, gender, age, and even hair color. I found pictures of two boys and two girls that looked like kids I wanted in my book, and saved them to my netbook. I also noted a link to the original website and the model profile for each kid. That way I could refer back to it in case heaven opens up and I am blessed with a movie deal. 😉

Going back to the question of names, while I had actually picked out some names earlier, after picking out the pictures I decided to change most of the character names to the actual names of the models. I decided that since these kids had grown up with these names they should actually be well-suited for them, and if I was going to use their images I might as well use their names too. I’m only using their first names, and they are from all over North America, so I’m guessing none of them will have an issue with this. And besides, if they make a movie, they will be the first ones I recommend to play their part. The movie would have to be made within the next two or three years before they get too old for the part, but I guess that can’t be helped.

So I have names and faces. Now I need to find out about their personality. Some authors will get a degree in psychology in order to more fully understand the voices in their own heads. I don’t have that luxury, so I have to rely on reference books and my own gut instincts. I do have some books on my shelf that deal with standard character types and their traits, but those don’t really help until I can get at least a basic feel for my characters. In my last post I  listed some of the things I am looking for in regards to character history and personality. The problem is that even with the pictures of the kids I am still unable to fill out most of those questions. I’m just not feeling that special connection with these characters that is needed in order to write a good story. So I took a different route.

Have you ever looked at someone and come to a snap judgement about what kind of person they are? If you say no, I’ll say you are lying. All of us have been guilty of “judging a book by its cover”, despite the many times we have been told not to. While at WisCon last month, I was out walking with one of my friends and we passed by someone who was making a fairly innocuous comment. I didn’t even hear the whole thing, but the three or four words I did hear set me off immediately. Maybe it was the fact that the political tension in Madison has been so high for the last eighteen months, but those few words made me instantly judge this person as a Tea Party Republican and I just wanted to beat the crap out of him. I didn’t know this person at all, I didn’t have any idea what he was actually talking about with his friends, and I am normally not a violent person, but I had to get away from him as fast as possible before I did something I would regret.

So what does this have to do with the kids in my story? Well, I’ll tell you. What I decided to do was to take a long, hard look at their pictures and start doing what writers do: make stuff up. I decided I would judge these kids by what they looked like. I would reach into my subconscious and decide what kind of people they were based solely on how they looked. I would take little cues based on their clothing and facial expressions to decide things about their personality and background. Instead of filling out my little list, I just started writing some thoughts down, and eventually I had a short paragraph which told me a little about each of them and why they were in the camp in the first place.

The rotten thing about this process is that I had decided that the camp was going to be for juvenile delinquents, so I had to give each of those nice models a reason to be in a place for kids that were just short of going to jail. The thing I am most ashamed of is that it wasn’t hard to do. I turned those four innocent children into a slut, a kleptomaniac, a bully, and a borderline psychopath. I’m not proud of that, but the important thing is that I now know who they are.

And now the fun can begin.

1 Comment

Filed under The Writing Experience

Why the Republican Agenda is Self-Destructive

Excuse me for a minute. After the disappointing results of the Wisconsin recall election last night, I felt that I had to vent about some things. I’m not normally a political person, but the events of the last 18 months have made the sidelines smaller and smaller, until there is no room for anyone to stand there. So here are some of my thoughts on the results of the new laws and changes that the Republican party has been pushing through recently.

Let me first start out with the thought that I don’t think that “Conservative” means what you think it means. The definition of conservative is “disposed to preserve existing conditions or limit change; cautiously moderate or purposefully low; traditional in style or manner, avoiding novelty or showiness.” In my opinion, nothing that has been rammed through the legislature recently has been conservative. It is all about shaking things up, reversing decades of progress, and in the case of Governor Scott Walker (yuck!), showing off on a national level. Walker has been called a “right-wing rock star”, which is a fairly good assessment. He has been touring the country instead of focusing on Wisconsin, showing off for all of the right-wing Republican business leaders and gathering most of his campaign contributions from outside the state. If he had been out there bringing in jobs instead of donations he may not have had to worry about the recall in the first place.

Speaking of jobs, let’s talk about the unions. I work for the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue. I admit it, I am a tax collector. My job is to ensure that people comply with the tax laws of the state of Wisconsin, which means that I also have to sometimes forcibly collect money from people who can’t afford to pay it. It’s NOT a nice job. The only way I can rationalize it to myself is by saying I am helping people pay their taxes, whether they want to or not.

My position at DOR is covered by a union, and I support everything they do for me. That being said, I am also not a member of the union, and never have been. I have never paid dues to the union because my position was grandfathered in and I wasn’t required to join. So for the last seven years I have been enjoying the benefits of the union without paying the price. And I have felt guilty about it for the last seven years, but at the time my budget was so slim I couldn’t afford the extra expense. And then, last year, Scott Walker came in and stripped my rights away, completely castrating the Wisconsin unions and making it so they would be completely irrelevant.

Union detractors go on and on about how corrupt they are, and how union members are being forced to pay dues to out-of-state thugs that don’t do anything for them. They talk about how much better things would be if unions were banned. Either these people have no clue about how unions really work, or they are just plain lying on the behalf of corporate interests.

Unions were created by working people, in an effort to rein in the criminal activities of businesses that paid terrible wages for unsafe jobs. The employees would gather together as a group and elect a spokesperson to represent them at a bargaining table with their employer. Organized workers are the reason why people can now get a 40 hour work week, paid vacation time, sick leave, and job security. Even national unions still have local officers, elected by the people they represent. Union dues go mostly toward legal fees for people who have been wronged by their employers, as well as lobbying for things like increasing the minimum wage and instituting programs like OSHA, unemployment insurance, and workers compensation. The union promise has always been to protect the working class from corporate greed and carelessness.

So, back to the people who roll out the rhetoric about corrupt unions and laud the politicians like Scott Walker that attack them. These people rant about how the unions have given state workers “gold-plated pension plans” and health insurance at little or no cost, and how the benefits packages of state workers for things like vacation time and sick leave are so much better than what is available in the private sector. The truth about these things is that the reason the benefits are so much better is because we have given up pay increases in exchange for these things. The take-home pay of most state workers is well below the pay of people that do similar work in the private sector. Even when you add in the value of the benefits received, state workers average a lower annual compensation package than those in the private sector.

I guess the point I am trying to make about this is that, instead of working to take away the benefits that my union has fought hard to get for me, why aren’t these people trying to get the same benefits for themselves? Instead of complaining so much about the unions, why don’t they simply admit that they think the work that I do is not worth anything close to the amount I would get if I worked in the private sector? This type of attitude makes it that much harder for me to put up with the nut jobs that try to sue me for rejecting the payment that they sent drawn on a closed checking account.

I agree that the state and federal governments have become bloated, and their budgets are a recurring issue in all political campaigns. However, even if we have become a “bread and circuses” society, the fact of the matter is that every job cut is work that isn’t being done. If you want a highway to drive your car on, you need to pay for someone to manage it. If you want your car to be safe, you have to pay for safety inspections. If you want your governor to be held liable for his crimes (I wish!) you have to pay for the detectives and attorneys that will prosecute him. Reducing a budget often means cutting programs. The question is always, “which ones?”

When I started with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, my job was only part-time, working six hours a day to key in tax returns that were mailed in. It was a boring, repetitive job, and it was difficult to stay awake even for the six hours I was there. About a year later, my job was made full-time, but then just a few months after that they reorganized my section and my job was at risk. Thanks to the union contract, I was able to find another position at DOR, this time working as a typist for our attorneys. A much more interesting job, which also allowed me to develop some new computer skills. Those skills helped me out when after another year passed they eliminated that position as well. This time I was off to our new Workstation Support Unit, which was responsible for  keeping the limited number (at that time) desktop computers working. I showed promise in the position, and was soon tapped to replace a woman on maternity leave as the main network cabling manager. I flourished in that job for about ten years, until 2005 when once again budget cuts put my position at risk. At that time I had been working for DOR for 12 years, and yet I was in the position of putting my resume out there and praying that I would be able to support my family. That’s when I took my current position as a tax collector. And the only reason I am still in this job is because I am afraid of what might happen if I transferred to something less stressful. With the recent economy and Wisconsin being dead last in the country for jobs, I would be a fool to risk losing a secure position. And despite the stress, I am fairly positive that they won’t get rid of the people bringing in the money.

So where was I? Oh yeah, this post is supposed to be about how destructive the Republican agenda is. So how does that fit in with destroying the unions?

Well, for one thing, putting the power into the hands of the corporations is just one more way of inciting rebellion. Take a look at the Occupy movement that has been sweeping the country, and even other parts of the world. All of these demonstrations have been in protest of companies doing terrible things without being held accountable by our government. And most of the people demonstrating feel that the reason for the lack of criminal charges being brought is because these business have bought immunity along with the politicians.

If we look back in history to the founding of this country, there is one event that is widely recognized as the start of the American Revolution: the Boston Tea Party. It is ironic that the new Tea Party has taken this event for their own, since it was the idea of “taxation without representation” that caused the Colonials to rebel against their English rulers. And now the modern-day Tea Party is pushing forward an agenda granting more and more power to the businesses that already have too much control over the country, leaving the common people feeling powerless and pissed off. I believe that very soon there will be a tipping point, a time when one more law will be passed taking away the rights of the common man and giving them to the corporations he is forced to work for at a wage that barely keeps body and soul together. When that point is reached, the demonstrations will no longer be peaceful. The brutalities of the police forces involved in the Occupy movement will be replaced by death and destruction by both the new Rebel Alliance and the troops of the National Guard. There will be a second American Revolution, and as the old saying goes, “they will start by killing all the lawyers.”

Wow. This post is getting long. And there is so much more to cover.

My next talking point about the Republican agenda is about the attacks on education. Most of the Republicans will argue that they aren’t destroying education. Instead they claim they are just trimming the fat by getting rid of the teacher’s unions. I’m sorry, but when the school janitor makes more than the teachers, there is already something wrong. And when a professional athlete makes 100 times the amount a teacher does, the world has turned upside down. And I fail to understand how eliminating the bargaining power the teachers have to get better salaries helps fix this issue.

Another attack on education is the school voucher system. What this program does is to allow for any student to have a certain amount of money provided by the government to attend the school of their choice. It sounds good, doesn’t it? It seems like it would allow poor students to attend better schools, which would be a good thing. While it does do that, unfortunately the voucher amount doesn’t cover the cost of any of the private schools, which means that any poor student would have to come up with the rest of the funds on their own. And the vouchers are also given to rich students already attending those private schools, meaning the government is subsidizing the education of people who can afford to pay for it already. Meanwhile the money used for the vouchers are funds taken directly away from the public schools that need it the most, leaving them even less able to educate all of the lower and middle class students that can’t afford the private school tuition even with the vouchers.

The end result? The private schools remain available only to the upper class, and the public schools fall apart and fail to educate anyone. It will be interesting to see what the world is like in ten years or so, when the only people graduating high school or college are the 1%. How do they expect to keep all of their big businesses staffed with professional, white-collar workers, when nobody will be able to afford the education required to do the work? We will either end up with companies being run by people brought in from other countries, or the businesses will simply be bought out or replaced by foreign corporations. In either case, the middle class of America will vanish. There will only be two classes: the Haves and the Have Nots. And 99% of us will fall into the latter category.

I don’t think I can continue with this much longer. This post is way too long as it is. But there is one more quick point I have to make.

The Republican War on Women is insane. There is absolutely no reason for all of these new laws against birth control. And it is simply stupid to pass a law requiring doctors to lie to their patients. The entire country is looking for our duly elected political leaders to do something about the national jobs crisis, and instead they waste countless dollars and hours passing these stupid laws that don’t create a single job. And the dumbest part is that none of these people realize a simple, basic fact: If you start a war against women, you will lose. I would like to close by quoting from the pilot episode of the Wonder Woman television show, way back when in 1975:

“The Nazis don’t care about their women. They let you fend for yourself. And any civilization that does not recognize the female is doomed to destruction. Women are the wave of the future, and sisterhood is stronger than anything.”

I hope you at least think about the ideas in this post. I may be wrong about some of my predictions, and I hope I am, but I am very, very afraid that I am not.

See you on the other side!

Leave a comment

Filed under About Me, Politics

Politics and Policies – Part II

Another rant, and another day of wishing I could quit my job. Of course, if Walker gets his way, every public employee would either quit, retire, or as a last resort, he can lay them off. Ninety people (out of about 600) have put in their retirement papers at Revenue in the last few weeks. At least ten that I know of are leaving this week.

Things are still falling apart in Wisconsin. The Republican legislature has just proved that the battle over the “budget repair bill” was never about the money. They stripped out everything related to money so they could vote on it without having a quorum. This shows that they never had any plans to compromise. Without any warning or discussion they voted to destroy six decades of progress. The public is in a frenzy and has swarmed the capitol in protest. I wouldn’t be surprised if the end result is a riot.

And if you look at the “budget” that Walker has proposed, it not only cuts funding for education and Medicaid, but it also cuts the budgets of local governments and prohibits them from raising taxes to cover the shortfall. There are also provisions in the “budget” that allow for Walker to sell state-owned utility companies without any bid process or even approval. In other words, his buddy Koch can call him up and offer to buy all state utility companies for pennies on the dollar and NOBODY has to know. Now do you understand why he took the call from the person claiming to be Koch?

I am getting sick of all of this. I am a public employee and this hits me right in the gut. I feel disgusted that these “people” were elected to office. You would think that some of them might have some simple human decency. Or at least the sense to realize that if people have been taking the time to come and protest for the last three weeks that maybe this isn’t something that they should be voting for.

But they aren’t the only ones to blame. After all, every one of them was elected to office. That meant that a majority of people (albeit a very slim majority) thought that they were the right ones for the job. I don’t know about you, but I seldom feel like helping someone who has just kicked me in the balls.

Enjoy this while it lasts, Republicans. I can guarantee that there will be recall petitions circulating very soon, even if legally we can’t recall them until a year has passed. But then, at the rate that Walker and his buddies are going, very soon they could be impeached instead. Unless they vote first to change the Wisconsin constitution and all the laws that they are ignoring so far.

If this continues, I predict Wisconsin will drop from its current rank of second best state to live to somewhere in the forties. Education will be nonexistent, health care will be only available for the rich, jobs will all be at minimum wage, and there will be no unemployment benefits for anyone who loses their job. The “Walker Policy” is to look out for the rich, and let everyone else pay for it.

I need to get off my soapbox now. Thanks for listening. I hope you are paying attention, because this is going to affect every one of us. This is a sign of a deeper issue, and even people in other states will feel the aftershocks of this earthshaking event.

1 Comment

Filed under About Me, Politics

ROW80 Status – Day 52 (Feb 22)

Goals:

  1. 500 words of new fiction every day
  2. Finish first draft of Finding Valhalla (DONE!)
  3. Start editing Dragons At Dawn
  4. Post to my blog on Monday and Thursday
  5. Post ROW80 updates on Sunday and Wednesday

Word counts:

  • 2/20 – 609
  • 2/21 – 653
  • 2/22 – 504

Six Days To Sabbath is at 12,159 words. Finding Valhalla is finished. Editing progresses slowly on Dragons At Dawn. Blog posts are all on schedule.

Things are looking bad for union workers in Wisconsin, and other states are starting to follow suit. I heard the situation in Wisconsin being called the “start of the American insurrection” today, and I have to say that I’m starting to think they may be right. You know, when people talk about the Mayan calendar ending in December 2012 and wondering if the world is going to end, something that they don’t think about is that nobody ever said it was going to be sudden. I’m not saying that I believe it’s going to happen on schedule, but the mess right now very well could be the beginning of the end. If nothing else, the end of some people’s illusions.

Well, if I’m going to get something published before doomsday I had better get back to work. Good luck on your goals, and see you back here on Sunday!

1 Comment

Filed under ROW80

Politics and Policies

This last week has been stressful. I work for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, and the recent political crisis in Wisconsin is affecting me directly. This has made it very hard for me to work on my writing, but at the same time it has given me a very good reason to keep trying. After all, if things keep going they way they’re headed I may need the additional income that publishing might provide.

In case you have been living under a rock, here is my take on the situation. Last fall, Scott Walker was elected Governor of Wisconsin with 52% of the vote. Not exactly a landslide election, right? And yet, immediately after the results were announced he has acted as if he is God’s gift to the Dairy State. Before he even took office he started setting policy by sending a letter to the current Governor Jim Doyle demanding that he cease any efforts to finish off any policies that were currently pending. That included a union contract for state employees that had been in negotiations for the last two years and was close to being finished.

Once Walker took office in January he took official actions that resulted in the loss of millions of federal stimulus dollars and more millions in tax cuts for the wealthy, all while whining about the budget shortfall that he was trying to correct. Then in February he dropped the bomb of how he planned to fix the deficit that he had just made even bigger: by making state employees pay for it. He wanted us to pay a larger amount to our pensions and a greater percentage of health care costs, with no increase in pay.

Now, the main reason why the state employees have those benefits is because their pay is so low to begin with. Even with the benefits package that we have, our overall compensation for the work that we do is roughly 8% less than in the private sector. So with the changes he is proposing it will be like taking an additional 10% pay cut.

But that’s not enough for Walker. He has also proposed legislation that will prohibit state employees from forming a union to represent them in anything but wages, which would also be restricted to the Consumer’s Price Index and linked to inflation. The only unions exempt from this would be for police and fire fighters.

Is it any surprise that one of the first public comments that Walker made after announcing this bill was that he had informed the National Guard to be on standby? The protests of the last week have been peaceful so far, but it should tell you something about Walker. He knew that this was the wrong thing to do, and it was not going to be done without a fight, yet he attempted to ram this through as quickly as possible anyway, without giving the public the chance to speak. His initial plans were to have the bill out of the Finance Committee and through the legislature by Wednesday. The only reason why it wasn’t was because the Democratic Senators left the state to prevent a quorum and give people more time.

Now the unions have said that they are willing to accept the financial changes to the contracts in the interests of the state, but there is no compromise by the Republican Party. The sole intent of this bill is to kill the unions. Other states, and even the President, are watching the situation in Wisconsin very closely. If this passes in Wisconsin you can bet that it will be repeated soon somewhere else.

I don’t really care what your personal political stance is. Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t really matter. I have read blog posts that cover both sides of the issue, and both sides make some good points. The important thing about this mess for me is that Governor Walker is attempting to strip me of my civil liberties. Just because I work for the state doesn’t mean that I should be treated like a slave. In my experience most state employees are very dedicated to serving the public, and they don’t deserve to be treated in this manner.

More about me: As I said, I work for the Department of Revenue. I am a tax collector. My job is to get people to pay their taxes. This can mean taking some rather harsh actions, like garnishing wages or seizing bank accounts. My viewpoint was that I was helping people pay their fair share of taxes, whether they wanted help or not. That meant that I was also willing to help them when the collection actions that were taken were too harsh, like reducing the amount of their wages being garnished, or by returning some of the funds seized by a bank levy. If Walker’s proposal goes through, what reason will I have to make those efforts? Why should I care if someone loses their home, as long as their taxes get paid? Isn’t that what the Republicans want? They’re the ones in office, so why not act like them and concentrate solely on getting more money from the middle and lower class?

Thanks for letting me rant. It’s interesting being in the middle of history in the making. Keep watching the news. I’m sure this is just the start.

1 Comment

Filed under About Me, Politics