Pete and Repeat and Do it all Again

Personal Opinion and Thoughts:

It’s that time of year once again when we face important issues, and the making of critical decisions as to who will represent us in the government, and the laws that we will live under. And because of this both our mailboxes, and our entertainment sources, are filled with political ads touting why it is important (or not) to either pass some measure or elect a certain individual. The rhetoric gets so heavy we have a tendency to tune it out. And if one really listens closely, it becomes obvious that it is the same lies from past elections, stating; “if you elect me then I will accomplish this or that” or “oh you don’t want them because” – leaving us wondering what’s really going on, and who will truly represent us instead of themselves. Leaving us as voters to try to find that one individual who will make a difference instead of maintaining the status quo.

Let’s, for a moment, look at these candidates as if they were working for us, and we were their bosses. Now if you want to be honest this really is the truth. Supposedly they are working for us and we approve of what they are doing by allowing them to continue to represent us. Yet, when we compare what the previously elected, and the ones up for election are saying, it sounds no different from when they were up for election before. Same problems, same issues that they said they would solve in the last election. Strange. Because  if it had been any of us, in our jobs, performing at the level of incompetence that we are seeing from our supposed representatives, then we would have been fired a very long time ago. So why are they still in office, why haven’t we fired them? With that in mind here is a link to a website that should help one determine if what they (the politicians) are saying is actually what they are doing (the old adage: actions speak louder than words). https://www.govtrack.us/

If we, as citizens, are not doing our part of this very important job, then, in the end, we can only blame ourselves. Let’s look at history overall and see what we can see. It’s important to reflect on this since history does have a tendency to repeat itself with nations and empires springing up only to disappear. While not always true, still in the vast majority of cases, it can be shown that it is a rot from the inside that is the real reason for the failure and collapse of that empire. Oh it may have been conquered by another, but that is only because of the growing failures within that empire. (Does this seem to apply to us?)

It begins with one weak government after another. A government who seems more interested in personal gain than gain for their empire or nation. They continue to find ways to manipulate the masses to their way of thinking (sound familiar) so that they can continue to reap the benefits and have things continue to go their way. We are definitely in that situation in this country, this nation, at this very moment in time. And because our government is supposed to be a representative government, who, in the end, are the ones responsible for this mess that we are in? Why the simple answer is we are. If we had done our jobs, as citizens of this land, then what we are seeing, what we are facing, our uncertain future, wouldn’t exist.

We supposedly elect these representatives to keep order, keep our borders safe, to protect us against enemies, both domestic and foreign, and to work for us. Yet, if we want to be honest, absolutely none of this is happening. So if those elected officials who are up for reelection are spouting the very same arguments that they did before, it is obvious that they are not doing their job that they were basically hired to do. So what happens when we don’t do our job, we get fired. And there is no doubt that it should happen to them also. But that isn’t what is happening. We, as citizens are definitely failing to hold up our end and because of this are paying a heavy price for that lack of involvement.

Buzz words, words to grab our attention and our emotions. It’s for the children! Protect our elderly! We need to raise taxes to fix our schools! And so many more. Well, here’s a question: Why hasn’t any of this been solved by now? Why is it the same problems over and over again? What happened to all that money they were given in the last election for those very issues and problems? Funny thing, nobody seems to want to give an honest answer, or tackle these and other hard questions. And we continue to blindly give them what they want – why?

Tell me, have you ever found a government when they get new revenue from some additional tax that doesn’t immediately spend it and then ask for more? How does that work? We are not seeing increases in our personal income and must live within our personal means, so why should our government be any different? Yet, every election, every time ballots come out there are requests to increase the flow of our limited money to the government. I haven’t seen any increases to my own pockets and must live within those means, so shouldn’t the government be required to do the same?

Half truths, which are no more than lies. Tell a lie long enough and it becomes the truth. Tell a partial truth said in such a way that it changes the facts and understanding, and the actual truth, now hidden, where the ones who spoke that half truth can say they are not lying, since there is some truth to their statements, need to be held accountable. Still by having knowledge of that half truth and spreading it, changes nothing – it is still a lie. And on that subject you do know that many years ago Congress passed a law dealing with Truth in Advertising, providing penalties for lying to consumers. Of course they exempted themselves knowing full well that in all of their Political Advertising that they would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And probably putting most of them behind bars. Just recently I saw a prime example of this falsehood. Taking a statement, deleting what wouldn’t say what they wanted it to say, using the 3 periods to show a break, recombining the information and completely changing the original statement to become what they wanted it to say. I hate to say it but it is common practice among our politicians. And we put these liars in office and expect the truth from them? Really?

Do you realize how little our representatives in Congress actually work? How about less than half a year for every year they are on capital hill. And to have a salary such as they do, besides the perks that go along with such a job – amazing. And many have the audacity to not even show up.  So where do I sign up?

As a member of such an elite group I really only have to make an appearance every once in a while. I have unelected people who I hire figuring out how to write those bills, doing all the research, and anything else that I might need. I have a dedicated staff that is well paid ( tax dollars of course) to keep me isolated, and when I retire, I retire with the same salary as when I was (well I can’t call it working) employed, no matter how long I served. What’s not to like? Free vacations, free protection, a motor pool from which to take and use a vehicle anytime I like, free trips around the world, free propaganda back to the people I represent, a government credit card to cover all my needs and wants (again our tax dollars at work), exemption from the very laws and regulations that I pass. And since I can vote for my own pay raise it means I can earn any salary and damn the economy and the working people. Yeah, sign me up.

I know in today’s world that time is a fleeting thing and the one thing that there never seems to be enough of. Yet, if we do not make the right decisions, the right choices during the times of these elections, then we deserve exactly what we get. We have had a weak, very expensive, out of control government, for quite a while now, and if things do not change, and change now, we will go the way of other nations that no long exists. We will become a footnote in history, no more than memory, a distant memory that will be taught in the educational systems of the potential that was there, the potential for greatness, but in the end there was only failure. Because in the end, the people failed in their duty and responsibility to place the right ones in their government to keep them safe.

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And the speed of that fleeting thing called time is making itself known – this is the last post for October marking an end of another month. Halloween is fast approaching and will arrive next Friday. When you are out and about on that special day that children love, be overly careful. This is followed by November, and here in the USA the celebration of Thanksgiving. A time to look back and reflect on the past year. Have a great week, enjoy Halloween, and come back on Saturday for the next post – God Bless. (fdbrant.com)

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How do I Know My Characters?

And this question is referring to when I start a new story, be it a short story, one that deals with a specific subject – say a holiday, or a full length novel. The simple answer is: I don’t. And what I mean by this is that at the beginning, like a new-born baby, I really know next to nothing about them, or whether I will have a number of protagonists or just one. Or that the antagonists within the story will be an individual, a group, or it might be environment or the actual quest that is the story. So I guess that a second question immediately comes to mind after – How do I know my Characters, and that would be when.

Before I get into how this comes about, it is important to understand how I write. And here every writer has their own method. Some must outline heavily, and when they get to writing their story will never deviate from that outline. While others use that particular outline as a general guideline to keep them on track but allowing changes to take place within both the outline and story as unanticipated situations or events develop within their story. And then you have writers like me who never outline, who write the story from the framework that  is in their mind. Here I see images that I translate into words on the page, each day holding its own images. It’s just like when one gets up in the morning to face a new day, with some anticipation of what will happen, but in reality doesn’t know what the future of that day really holds for them. And so it goes with my story, and with my characters. When I complete a day of writing, the next 24 hours the story begins to advance itself within my mind, with this continuing each day until the story is complete.

Many times a story will sit cooking, so to speak, in my mind for a while before I begin to write it. I’ve been working on a couple of short stories that will eventually be presented here that demonstrates that very fact. One is post-apocalyptic, and the other modern. Yet before I began to write either of them I thought about them for a few weeks letting my imagination and mind consider where these stories would begin and where they would end. Many times I’ll even come up with a title before the story is well-developed or is no more than a very out of focus image. It seems that once I have a good title locked down that the story naturally follows. And yes, I do write a few notes before I begin, and I have a tablet where I write the names of the characters as they are added, including relationships. As far as the unwritten stories go, before any notes and such, while I’m attempting to develop a story, I have to admit that I have forgotten a few, and have been mad at myself for not putting down some notes. I’ve learned that once they are gone, they are gone, and I’ve never recovered any of those lost stories that I know of.

It is at this point (once the title is locked in) the story begins to come into sharp focus and I can see the beginning and where it might or should end. Much of the middle is there also but is malleable, and does change when the ideas or direction originally conceived will not work. At this point, even if this was to be a major incident in the story, it must die a natural death. Maybe some time in the future the scene could be used in a different story, but usually not – so all that inspiration,  all that work to create that scene becomes no more than practice, which in the end is probably a good thing. To get better at anything requires just that – practice. Now on to my characters and how they become who they are.

In the book, A Taste of History Past (to be released in the near future – possibly next month), as I began to write it, the opening scene presented itself vividly to me. An open plain with the grasses curing under a warm sun or in this case suns since this is taking place in a binary star system, with an individual standing out in that plain feeling the heat in the winds, watching the grasses move with that wind, listening to the sounds of the rising and falling wind, thinking about what was facing him or her, thusly setting up the beginning of the story. At this point the protagonist was unknown other than what has been stated. And once the writing began, slowly as those first few words were put down, an image of who this individual was came into sharp focus. In fact those first few words only identify the protagonist as either a he or she, and their name is added later.

What was happening and would happen to the character was the result of that opening scene as the questions started to come forth. Who is this individual, and why is he here? Was this something that they did all the time, or were they uncomfortable being exposed and out in the open spaces like this? And then came the additional questions – what was this individual’s gender, age, and were they single, or did they have a mate? And if they had a mate what was their relationship like? Followed by, was this mate still in the picture or had something happened to make it so they were no longer here? (These questions are of a subconscious nature as I really don’t ask them, but more observe them as that character becomes alive.)

It is at this point that suddenly before me sits that main character and I can see him or her plainly. Yet, they are still an unknown since I still don’t know their history, their personality, their occupation, their relationships or how they are viewed by others. In a sense the very beginning of the development of the character is like reading a bio of someone who you’ve never met before meeting them. It gives you general ideas of who they are, but until you actually meet them and interact with them you really don’t know them at all.

As the fictional world builds around them and they begin to act and interact with that world they start to become fleshed out, to have a personality, to become a real individual who is living their life within that world, as you and I live our lives in this world. In a sense it’s like having a secret window that I can look through to watch them, to learn about them, to understand them. In a way, they become friends, ones I want to go back and visit, spend time with, to catch up on old times. But, of course, this is impossible since they are not real.

But this is important to know; if the characters aren’t real to you as a writer, then you can guarantee that they will not be real to the reader. Ask any author and they probably would tell you that it wouldn’t surprise them if they went down some unknown street, somewhere in time, and actually ran into their characters. They truly become that real. We care for them, and yes we put many of them through hell, and actually kill a few off in support of the story, in support of that fictional world. And when you think about it, this is no different than real life. We have close friends die, relatives pass away, all of them leaving their influences on our lives. So can it be any different for those fictional characters or those fictional worlds? Because when you think about it, stories are a reflection of the real world, leaving out the boring day-to-day stuff, and getting us as readers to the meat of the subject.

So, do I have favorites in the seven books that I’ve written? Of course, it just works out that way. In the Discovery Series, which is unreleased at this time and consists of three books, a sister Lauma immediately comes to mind, and in the Survival series, the brother and sister team of Saige and Shellian  And in the book I mentioned above it would probably be the two main characters Kal and Jura, with a third who is a minor character and has no name.

The bottom line to all of this lies in the fact that like in real life I don’t know my characters in the beginning any more than I do about someone I have just met. As time passes and we spend more time together – both those fictional characters, and the real developing friendship with that real person, I learn and understand more about them. What it is they want in life, what they are trying to accomplish, and do they have the fortitude to push through the adversity and see it to the end, no matter the quest. At the beginning none of this is known, and until I see them on that page they remain an unknown, a blank bio, that doesn’t reveal anything until they begin their lives on those blank unwritten pages. Eventually revealing to me who they are, just like those people in real life who, at the beginning are unknown, only to become life long friends.

I have to admit that there is one final thing I’d like to say: At times my fictional characters can be so demanding – telling me that I haven’t given them enough time on those pages. That they deserve to be more than just a minor character, to have more influence over the world that they live in. And, at times, to appease them, I do give in and change their roles, where in the end, they get what they want. Oh what characters you ask? Well, that’s between me and them, and I leave it to you to figure that out.

* * *

It’s October and another year is in its last quarter. Where did the rest of it go? Soon it will be the beginning of a new year leaving us to look back. We will be facing another work week and all that it brings, again bringing us closer to the end of the year. May it be a good week for all out there and I hope to see you here next Saturday where a new post will be waiting for you. Again, God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

A Darkness of the Soul

Many times it appears that ones who show artistic talent are battling a dark side that can overwhelm, and has led many to suicide. In the recent past Robin Williams is a prime example. And while I am sure that there has been much written about this, I have my own thoughts, since I write and create fiction, making me one of this extended family. I wonder if it is the darkness that brings out that creativity, or the looking deep inside that leads one to withdraw allowing the dark thoughts to overwhelm. Yet on the outside appearing to be normal, to continue to create, to show the world that all is well, when in fact it is not.

Another of these individuals who came to mind is Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light”, as he was known. His paintings demonstrating a talent to always show light. Yet, it is now known that he lived in darkness, and eventually died in that darkness. Were these paintings his cry for help? Were they a way for him to overcome that seeming impenetrable darkness that lay deep inside of him? In truth none of us will ever know since these and other questions can never be answered – will never be answered.

I guess in many ways that for each and every one of these individuals the answers would be different, yet at the same time, similar. There are many out in this world that suffer from depression, who do not have the talents of the ones mentioned above. But does this make it any less tragic? Still, when we lose such as these many, because of the darkness within their souls, is there any less of an impact because they were unknown other than to their families and friends? I personally say no. If any cannot live a full life, live up to what they can accomplish, then we all lose. Both of the individuals named above have a body of work left behind. Yet, for the many unknown who have perished because of this darkness, because of their tortured souls, they too have left a legacy. It may be unknown, but that doesn’t make it less important.

If one hasn’t traveled to this darkness, then one can never understand. Probably one of the most profound statements ever made, and used so often that it has become common place, is, “Walk a mile in my shoes”. This can be so shallow that it will be ignored, or so deep that it can leave one breathless. Until one actually walks as another, one will never understand what an individual has lived or is living. I know personally that I have seen that darkness, but not to the level of the ones above. It can be a place where creativity lies, or a place where one cannot escape. In all cases it is a place not to dwell for very long. If you do, it can become a place to lose oneself to the point of never finding the way back out.

It is a dangerous walk teetering on the abyss, always close to jumping or falling in, trying to find that inspiration, that next creativity that lies there. It is a place where the subconscious is king, and the real world is far away – a fantasy for want of a better word. A place where one can touch God, or find the polar opposite in the devil. It is all there, and the creativity that lies there draws one back. But like anything, it can become addicting leading one to fall, leading one to go ever deeper into that darkness, looking for a personal truth or insight.

Yet, this is no more than a trap, a place that we are meant to only touch briefly. It is not a place to stay. For here lies only destruction for all of the inspiration that lies hidden here. Yet, like any trap, it can continue to draw one further in until there is no way out except the route so many take. There is power here, as is demonstrated in the paintings, the music, the arts, but there is that other side that can and does bring an end to those who dare enter this realm of darkness. Like a siren’s call it draws one ever deeper, until the door closes forever, and we who live outside of this world are shocked when we learn that the one we least expect takes their life. Leaving all of us with questions forever unanswered, wondering what drove them to this fate.

Then comes the thoughts, “if only, if only they reached out, let someone know. Maybe, just maybe, this tragedy could have been prevented.” But like so many things in life, it is only after the tragedy that we learn. In the news and in sports we are learning of the weaknesses of our sports heroes and like those artists they too have fallen for the darkness of the soul. For not only is it a place of inspiration, but a place where one can find strength to carry on, to become better. So for them it too is a trap, and one where others suffer because of them. Yet, for them also, the draw is too strong to ignore or to avoid. If only they could remain a little longer, then that success they are reaching for could be grabbed like that brass ring on the merry-go-round. And this applies to anything where we strive to reach the top where we must reach beyond ourselves to find those answers.

It’s not that the soul is a place of darkness, but it can be. It is all things and this darkness is only one aspect of the many. We’ve seen the good when people, pushed beyond their physical abilities, reach out and help in impossible circumstances and succeed beyond what one is capable of performing. The pushing of the human body and mind in times of emergencies that normally would be impossible. And when these unlikely heroes are asked how, they have no answers only that somehow they did.

Again, because of the power that lies here this place can draw one in, leaving them in awe as to what is here. And again, because of who we are, this place can become an addiction, forever drawing us back, until finding ourselves in this darkness that continues to become darker, leaving no known way out until the only way out seems to be death. And to the many who go this route it seems to bring relief. But for the rest of us it leaves only unanswered questions.

* * *

We, all of us, are islands upon ourselves. And no one can truly walk our path. So through the dimness of speech and thought we try to understand others – sometimes successful and other times not. So when these tragedies do happen it’s easy to ask why, and then go on with our own lives. Because if we want to be honest, what has happened is in the past and we cannot change it, and it becomes part of our personal history. Each and every day we add to our personal tapestry and even reading the different posts leaves its own personal thread in that tapestry which is you. Have a great week and may you be able to return next week to read what will be waiting patiently for you – God Bless! (fdbrant.com)

Personal Thoughts on Life

It’s just another day is it not? Nothing special, and always those small projects going on, and there waiting for one to complete them. It marks, officially, that time is still moving on, and I can add another year to my personal calendar, my life, as we all do this year. Truthfully, never thought about reaching this age of 65 back in my youth. Guess it was too far in the future to consider. Yet here I am – still struggling to keep my head above the chaos and water. No different from back at the beginning. So, where did the time go?

If we, all of us, look back at our dreams from our youth, have we really accomplished any of them? (I know that many of you are still young so this question may not apply. If this is so maybe you should write them down so that once you’ve reached this time in your life you can look back and marvel.)  Again, I don’t really know. Because these were dreams of youth when we didn’t know better. We didn’t know a lot about life, and because of that ignorance we probably dreamed and planned unrealistically. So much we wanted to do, so much we wanted to accomplish, and probably if we want to be honest none of it happened or was completed. Some of us were fortunate to have such plans work. But for the vast majority life and life’s direction changed because of some unanticipated event, or a series of events, over time, had taken place (Murphy has a way of doing that). Changing forever our life direction, shattering those plans and dreams, with no way to recover them – hoping that the new ones that replaced those failed goals would come to fruition.

I can look back and be proud of my family, and extended families. And I guess in the end if that is what it comes down to it is enough. So I reach another milestone, the age of 65 – not one of those one normally looks forward to. Yes we looked forward to being tall enough so we could ride those rides we couldn’t because we were too short (too young really). Reaching 16, then 18, and then came the one that allowed us fully into the adult world 21. Then we realized that we then had to look forward to 25 because that would be the time that the costs of our auto insurance would decrease – if we had been good. For those who were either in the military or of draft age the next milestone was 33 when we would no longer be eligible for either call back or being drafted. This was followed by the senior discount when you reached a certain age in your 50’s. And even now I can say that reaching 50 was 15 years ago.

In a sense I sit here in wonder, and of those past times presently, when I stare into the mirror thinking what happened, and how did I get to the here and now? It is said that time and experience brings wisdom, but is it so? I’m finding that my memory isn’t as sharp, and the abuses of youth have come back to haunt. I see the time spent on trying to raise the children, the jobs that took too much time away, and the exhaustion that went with those times. Never having enough money, and with the small emergencies that always arise within a family, trying to find ways to solve and pay for them. Maybe the wisdom is because we see so much repeat that unless we are totally blind we cannot but remember that we’ve seen this or that too many times in the past.

I find that those energy reserves have deserted me, and I tire much too easily. Pain is constant companion, and the frustration of the limitations that this brings to me sucks. My mind says do it, and the body says you want me to do what? And it always leaves me with this question: If experience helps one do projects and such faster and better, why can I not do such? Many times I stand there, again with frustration riding high, because I’m limited by the infirmities that time has laid upon me. I see what can and must be done, trying to push through, only to find the past damage to the body is limiting my ability to do just that.

Aging can teach patience, as you find that because of those limitations it will take just that, patience, to finish that work, that project. I remember the ease of using those hand tools, using chainsaws to drop insect damaged trees, the cutting of firewood, doing much in the outdoors that required that physical labor. But now, with all that experience, all that knowledge it is almost useless because of damaged joints that limit such work. And if pushed then a price is paid where I almost become incapacitated for a few days as my body lets me know that I should not be doing such. So I watch as my sons do something that is easy for them but has become just the opposite for me.

I know that in many ways this seems to be a post of complaints, but not really. It is observations of where I am in life. Yet, if we give in to these growing infirmaries then we truly lose. So I stubbornly push through. I don’t want to give in to these limitations, and because I don’t I do pay the price. Yet, quit and you’ve lost it forever. And time takes enough away from us on its own. I do not need to help it along. So I will continue to fight until it is no longer possible to do so.

I watched as dementia took my father and he became a shell of who he was. Here was a man who would tackle any project. And if he didn’t know, would research it and once researched, go and accomplish it. Yet for the last 20 years of his life, as he became worse, his time became the present and my mother took care of him until he passed away in late 2011. That man who could and would tackle almost anything if necessary, became someone who was wholly dependent on someone else. And this brought these thoughts that in so many ways time is a cruel master, eventually tearing everything down, with nothing able to stand against it in the end.

With reaching this next milestone of 65 it pushes reality upon me, making me realize that my time here is heading towards the end. In 25 years, yeah 25 years, I will be 90, if God allows me to reach that age. And looking at family history there is a good chance that it could happen. After all, my mother is 89 and still going strong, still living on her own. Yet, like I asked when I started this post, where did the time go, and how did I get here? Those days that dragged because of the existing situation, those tough weeks and months that seemed to go on forever. Yet, the years have flown, and flown so fast that I blinked and they were gone. Gone to where, I haven’t a clue, but at the same time must have existed since I am here at this time in my life.

One last thing on this and it is this. Recently on YouTube I watched a music video titled: You Will Always be my Girls, by Ben Utecht. It deals with his family, and the people in that video are his family. He ended up with a series of concussions over the years, and the resulting injuries to his brain that came from those same concussions, and because of them have led to memory loss, with a prognosis of it continuing to get worse over time. It points to the fact that we can lose who we are. And when we do that it is not the only loss. We lose everything that makes us, us. Many of us are fortunate never to have to face this reality, but far too many do. And maybe in the end this is the true tragedy of what time can do to us. To strip us of our humanity, of who we are. Putting additional pressure and sadness for those who love us as they watch helplessly seeing the deterioration day by day. Eventually leaving only family to remember us in the end, since we personally cannot remember who we are.

* * *

And time waits for no one including you the reader of this post. Wherever you are in your life you have a past that defines who you are. And while living in that past the future that is now seemed fictional, unreachable. Yet here you are. Appreciate every moment because there are no promises, and no way to recover that time once it moves into the past. Have a great week and I’ll see you here next Saturday, God willing and the creeks don’t rise. (fdbrant.com)

Published in: on October 4, 2014 at 8:32 am  Comments (3)  
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