Saturday, April 28, 2012

I'm So Excited

By Keith N Fisher

No, I’m not going to sing the song by the Pointer Sisters, and I’m not about to lose control. Still I caught myself packing my rolling backpack and ordered some new business cards. The LDStorymakers writer’s conference is less than a week away.

This year, I robbed my retirement to pay for it, so I plan to enjoy. I’ve attended every one, since the 2006 conference and I’ve never failed to learn something. Each year, the grin on my face lasts for several months and I am renewed.

In my exuberance to get ready, I pulled up the working file of my old business card creation and ran into a brick wall. The program I’d used to make them is on my old computer. When I tried to load it onto my current machine, I found that Windows 7 won’t allow it to run.

Undaunted, I realized I’d dealt with this problem before. When I bought my first Pentium, it came with Windows 98. One of my CAD programs was designed to run through DOS and I had been using it on my 486 DX with Windows 3.1, then 95. As you probably know, Windows originally ran on top of DOS. Windows 98 changed that. I eventually figured out I could run my DOS program straight from the hard drive and not through Windows.

My fix worked in Windows XP too, but apparently, Windows 7 has eliminated that ability. My old software might have to be upgraded. Does that sound like a conspiracy to get more money out of me?

Anyway, all of this reminiscing made me recall some of the things I used to do with computers. There were many cutting edge programs that aren’t relevant anymore. Some of them are smart phone apps now. I started writing on computers using Word Perfect and I can still remember that blue screen.

During my journey through the past, I remembered the time before the personal computer. When writing was done with pen and paper or, on my old Royal, long carriage, manual typewriter. My first manuscript wasn’t a manuscript at all. I’ve mentioned that my writing started with a story about a college girl who gets kidnapped, but my writing actually began with a sci-fi space adventure. It was a cross between Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica, with a little Star Wars thrown in.

It was horrible. I chucked it, and got on with my life. Then came the personal computer . . .

These days I can write on my laptop, lying in bed with the covers pulled up. I sometimes fall asleep doing that, but it’s comfortable. Getting back to my business card, I finally took the TIFF into Photo Shop and erased, then retyped. Later, I temporarily resurrected my old computer and made a new card with my picture on it. I printed them both.

Now that I have 300 cards, my book will probably come out and I’ll have to make another.

Good luck in your writing---see you next week at the conference. I will be the one with a pocket full of new cards.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

"I Shall Never"

By Keith N Fisher

As Writers in the LDS market, we have obligations to write things that will pass through the censors of an LDS publisher. If we don’t, and it’s bad enough, said publisher will likely pass on our manuscript and we will be left unpublished. “Yes, of course,” you say. “That’s a given, but what about the national market?”

I think I can answer that question with a simple, its up to you. I came across a quote attributed to Jack London this week where he said, “I’ve never written a line I’d be ashamed for my young daughters to read, and I shall never write such a line.” Jack had socialist and racist views. He often wrote stories filled with descriptive violence, but he was proud of what he wrote.

As a writer, and a member of the LDS religion, I could amend London’s statement with, I will write nothing that will offend my ecclesiastical leaders. I guess it depends on your own conscience, and how many people know you are LDS, but it’s not about embarrassing the Church. As an LDS Writer, people expect certain things of you. If you don’t measure up, it speaks volumes about your character. Still, it truly is a gray area, subject to many opinions whether you write in the LDS market or not.

This became the subject for discussion one day while I talked with a couple of authors. Each one told similar stories. It seems that no matter how gingerly an author deals with an issue, there will be somebody who is offended by it. For evidence of this, look at the banning of Twilight from Deseret Book. Apparently, many people complained, and it was taken off the shelves. Stephanie Myers is LDS and she wrote the series she felt good about, yet somebody complained.

So, where do we draw the line? How do we keep readers from judging our work harshly? The short answer is we can’t. Like everything inherent in the Gospel, everyone is on a different track. If we write what we believe is clean, and we feel good about it, we’ve done our job. Our words are bound to affect someone for good. I’ve seen people change their lives for the better, because of something they read in an obscure book.

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Yes, Celine Dion, Our Hearts Will Go On

By Keith N Fisher

Today marks an interesting anniversary. One-hundred-years ago at 11:40 PM, RMS Titanic scraped an iceberg. Then, just before 2:20 am, April 15, she broke up and went to the bottom of the ocean. Kind of Ironic that the US Government would pick that day for income taxes.

I can’t explain why, but I’ve always had an affinity for the story. It felt like I was there, somehow, and singing the hymn, Nearer My God to Thee, always made me cry as I thought of how some of those people met death in the icy waters that night.

Coincidentally, I served an LDS mission in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. I passed by the special Cemetery in Halifax, every Sunday on the way to church. I was serving in Newfoundland when DR Robert Ballard found the wreck. I’ve fought against the cold on the shores of the North Atlantic in April and I’ve seen pictures of huge icebergs that floated into Halifax harbor.

Through all of this, I thought I had a firm idea of what it was like to go down with the ship. Then, I saw James Cameron’s movie in nineteen ninety-seven. The terrors those people passed through must’ve been horrendous, then to meet death in the icy water. It’s not surprising that Cameron found inspiration for his movie. Now, with the looming centennial event, more books are being released. The Cameron movie is coming out in 3D. Still, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more written.

While watching some of Ballard’s original footage recently, I came across an image that made me think. Plot lines began to form in my head, but out of respect for the dead I don’t think I’ll talk about it here. Suffice it to say I agree with those who would leave Titanic alone. Make it an underwater museum and stop bringing up pieces. Ballard is right. We have the technology to mount real time cameras down there and peruse the wreck from our home computers.

Anyway, with all the hype about Titanic, I suddenly remembered my grandfather would be one hundred years old now. He was born in January 1912 and was 3 months old when the great ship went down.

I’m grateful to be given a writer’s heart. With it, I’m able to grasp a semblance of the real experience, then put it into words that might someday help you feel it too. When you revisit the Titanic this week, try to ignore the obvious and think of the individual stories of the people who died there. Sing the hymn on Sunday, and remember the other tragedies that happen in our lives.

Good Luck with your writing---see you next week.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Once Upon a Time

By Keith N Fisher

Please don't click on the backlinks. I didn't put them there and I'm angry about them.

Do you remember, back in the day? When quality of life in the United States was determined by whether you had electricity or not? When your survival aboard a sinking ship was determined by what class you represented and how much money you had?

Of course you don’t recall. There are very few living people who remember the nineteen-thirties. There are none, who, were adults during the first part of the twentieth century.

I remember my grandmother talking about the struggles of the depression and me being grateful for modern day blessings. Because of many recent politically motivated slams on our government and certain parties in particular, I went to the original sources. I wanted to compare what happened then, with our economy now. With special regard to the banking crisis of 2008. I turned to books written fifty and sixty years ago. I discovered the truth about the Great Depression and class segregation.

I learned that, unchecked, history repeats itself. Even some of the company names are the same. While studying in old books, I recalled a scene from The Time Machine, by H G Wells. A time traveler finds a society of humans thousands of years into the future. In the nineteen sixties movie version, He asks about their history and they don’t know. He asks about books, hoping to find answers written there.

“Oh, we have books,” he was told.

When the protagonist is shown the library he finds the books are crumbling. “Yes these books say a lot about you,” he said.

In the narrative by Wells, The traveler discovers the books were part of several museum exhibits. The curious artifacts were common items from the past and the library had crumbled to dust. The wisdom of the ages was lost.

In our day, we pride ourselves on being part of the information age. We can find facts in a second, on the Internet, but, like it or not, much of that information is one sided and contains errors. If you want the truth, go to the original sources.

This is not to say that sources can’t be wrong. The news commentator, Paul Harvey, once joked about something happening while he traveled to England. He had no knowledge of the event, but his network used him as an eye witness account, even though Paul was reading news copy that had been sent to him from back home.

I’d rather trust a few people who were actually there, than Wikipedia every time. I’m fascinated to hear someone tell me I’m wrong about some event or other. Especially when I was a first hand witness to the event. I was there for crying out loud. Yes, I’m getting old and my memory could be clouded, but if several others say the same things, perhaps we should believe it.

There is so much of humanity sitting on the shelves at our local libraries. The richness of information can enlighten us if only we will turn to it. Original sources can protect us from errors and political spin. Find out the truth. Don’t let somebody interpret the facts for you.

In the last scene of the nineteen sixties movie the time traveler’s maid and his best friend have discovered the time machine is gone. The time traveler has evidently returned to the future. The friend wonders what the traveler took with him to help rebuild the human race. The maid looks over the things in the room and discovers three books missing.

“Which three books?” asked the friend.
“I don’t know, does it matter?”
“I suppose not. But, which three books would you take?”

There are hundreds of books in public libraries across the nation. Most of them were written with first hand knowledge of the subject. Many were not. Which three books would you take with you?

Good luck with your writing---see you next week.