Monday, July 29, 2013

Opinions can be based on facts, but facts can’t be based on opinions.

How would you respond to the following question if it was placed on a final exam for school: “What do you think was the major reason for the American Revolution?”  I’ll give you a hint, it’s a trick question.

Why? Read the question again. It opens with “What do you think. . .” In reality, it’s asking for an opinion. So, if I were to answer the question like this: “Because people in America wanted their own flag” I wouldn’t be wrong.

How can that be?

Simple. Opinions can be based on facts, but facts can’t be based on opinions.

It amazes me how many people can’t understand this concept. One of the worst culprits? The media. Now before your eyes glaze over and think this is another rant against the media, keep in mind a couple of things.

First, I have my degree in Communications – Broadcasting. Second, I worked in the television news world for over ten years. I’d say that gives me a little insight on the subject.

A recent promo for a cable news station states basically, “We have these other news programs because there is more to a story than just the facts.”

Uh, what?

If a cable news station is airing information that includes other things aside from facts, then I claim that everything else is opinion.

I could site case after case where the media focused more on opinions of “experts” than on the facts of the case themselves. Don’t believe me? Tune into any of the big news stations and watch them for an hour. Count how many times “experts” are brought in to give “insight” into a case.  Are these experts adding facts to the story, or are they providing their point of view? I claim it is mostly the latter.

But why would news stations do that?

Remember: TV news stations are in business to make money. They make money by charging for advertising. The more people who watch their station, the more that can be charged for advertising time. Simply having a person read the facts about a story isn’t as engaging as two people disagreeing loudly about their opinions.

The sad side effect from this is that people in the general public latch onto someone’s opinion and claim it as fact—they feel justified because they saw it on TV.

Here’s my opinion: it’s not bad to watch TV newscasts, but make sure you ingest a grain of salt before you tune in.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Sticks and Stones

Here’s a shocker: I’m going to politely disagree with a common saying. I was told over and over as a child, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

This statement was something I’d tell people, usually bullies, who would make fun me. Thinking back, it probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say to a kid bigger than me who was prone to violence because he’d take it as a suggestion and then go searching for sticks and / or stones.

I went to a swimming pool recently—the kind built for families with all sorts of pools. I took a picture of the warning sign at the edge of the kiddie pool. (It’s the picture at the start of this blog.) It caught me as really odd because it seemed obvious. If anything, it wasn’t a helpful warning and in the end, it may me wonder what kind of person felt the need to state something so moronic.

But then this got me thinking, (an occupational hazard of being a writer) this warning was set into the ground. Even if the owners were to remove it, whenever I think of that pool I’ll think of that warning.

It’s not unlike many people I’ve met in my life. My lingering impressions of them often are based on either something they did or said—usually a singular event. It’s not fair to them, because there is much more to the person than that, yet that’s what sticks.

One of my bosses remembered my direct reports by actions they took or things they said. For example, if I was talking to my boss about Timmy (not really the employee’s name), my boss would say, “He’s the one that parked in the non-employee parking lot, right?” It happened one time, years before, and Timmy never did it again, but that is how he was remembered by my boss.

I tend to say some pretty off-the-cuff things at times that I’m sure make lasting impressions on people. Case in point: at a family gathering, we noted how my sweet niece had long, beautiful brown hair. I told her, “When I was your age, and a little girl, I had hair just like that.” She looks up at me, her uncle, and says, “Um, okay.” (And no, I didn’t have a sex change operation in my life—I was just being silly.)

One bit of marriage advice I’ve been old over the years is never to say anything to my wife in anger that was mean and hurtful. And it’s true. There are certain things people say that can’t be taken back—even if they were really sorry they said it in the heat of the moment.

Don’t believe me? Watch almost any TV show that deals with criminal trials. It’s often what people say, sometimes recorded on audio or video, that makes the difference in a case.

I once witnessed a truck run a red light and crash into a smaller car. (That’s another blog in and of itself!) I was the first person on the scene. I spoke to the man who ran the light, and he was shaken up. He said to me, “Man, I can’t believe I ran that red light.”

Months later, I was summoned to testify in the case. Imagine my surprise when the man plead not guilty. I took the witness stand and the lawyer asked me all sorts of questions including, “Did he say anything to you?” When I answered with what he told me, I thought for sure I saw the defense attorney slump his shoulders in defeat.

In my life, people have said really mean and cruel things to me. I’m not talking about actions that can be misconstrued. I mean words that were said (most certainly in anger) that will leave an impression of that person for a long time. And it’s sad, really.

So, if I may be so bold, I’m going to rewrite the famous saying I noted earlier. How about this: “Stick and stone may break my bones temporarily, but words can EVER hurt me.”  

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What’s up?

On the writing front, I’ve had a very busy 2013—and it’s only the middle of July. I not only had two new books released this year, The Zealous Star and The Mirror of the Soul, but I also released new, revised versions of my first two books, The Hidden Sun and The Waxing Moon. In addition, one of my short stories, “With Bells On” was included in Carol of the Tales and Other Nightly Noels: An Advent Anthology (Volume 2)

Currently, I’m roughly 40,000 words into a Young Adult novel, as of yet unnamed, which takes place in the late 1980’s and is about a young baseball player who gets into a car accident and subsequently moves from North Carolina to Utah. Baseball had been his life and now he has to discover what he is going to live for now that his dream is gone. It’s quite different from my other books as far as setting, but like my other books, it’s very character and plot driven. It’s been fun to write, but sadly, for now, it’s been placed on the back burner.


Well, I’m currently in the middle of working on my Master’s degree in Creative Writing which is a boatload of work. As of this moment in time, I’m in the middle of writing a screenplay (you read that right! A screenplay!) for one of my classes. I can’t say much about it aside from it draws a lot on my experiences when I was an operations manager at a 24 hour news station in Connecticut.  

My final project for my Master’s degree is to write a book. As of this moment, I have a few ideas kicking around, but I’ve not settled on one.

But that’s not all!

I do have a new book coming out in the next few months. It’s called Wall of Faith. It’s based on my experiences of being an LDS (Mormon) missionary. I understand everyone who serves a mission has a different experience, but not many can say they were sent to a foreign land, hit by a car, locked up for weeks, and then…well, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens.

While I feel the book has a positive message, it also doesn’t pull any punches. For the parents who tell me, “All I want to hear from my missionary son or daughter is that they are having the best experiences of their lives.”—this book isn’t for you.

For those who are thinking, “Finally! I can learn all the stuff the Mormon church keeps secret!”—this book isn’t for you.

Then who is it for? Anyone who wants to read a compelling story about one young man’s journey to deal with challenges and experiences he’s not prepared to face. It’s depressing, it’s heart breaking, it’s frustrating, and ultimately, it’s uplifting. At least that’s my goal.

And for 2014? Stay tuned…

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Interview with author Anna del C. Dye

I’m delighted to share the following interview with author Anna del C. Dye, specifically about her new book Shahira & the Flying Elfs.

This blog is part of her Book Giveaway which runs from June 29 to July 16.

**She is giving away a free E-book for readers of this blog. Just leave a comment with your contact information below to enter!**

On with the interview!

What is your latest book about?

Shahira & the Flying Elfs is about giant eagles in the land of the elfs and her story. Shahira is a she-eagle and lives with her father, mother, and younger brother in the high cliffs of Eagle Mountain. Her dream is to find a stripling young eagle to mate. But mating is a ritual that happens in the sky and she can’t fly. She has told herself that one day she will be able to, but every time she tries she falls.

What inspired you to write fantasy instead of another genre?

Movies, I think. Star Wars, Star Trek, Willow, Arturian Tales, etc., and most of all The Lord of the Rings.

Do you have any special routines you follow when you sit down to write? If so, what are they?

I sit in my recliner, bed, or couch. Just whatever pleases me at the moment. I do a lot of promoting during the morning and try to write in the evening. I have my two girls in between and I love to give them my whole attention. That is pretty much how it goes.

How much of your books are planned out ahead of time, and how much of them are made up as you go?

They are all different. The Elf and the Princess was 90% planned. I sat to write the first page and tweaked it as I went. Shahira & the Flying Elfs was 90% made up as I went.

Many of your previous works have Elven characters. One of the biggest complaints people have against Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series is that “vampires don’t sparkle!” When it comes to Elves in fantasy, what do you consider to be some of the common elements of their race? Can you share an experience when a movie or book has completely changed or ignored these common elements?

The common elements in elfs are that they live forever and know much. Also, that they are graceful, quiet, pretty, and overall much better that mankind.

I have always expected elfs to be beautiful and perfect in many ways. Yet, when I read one book in the Shanara series they were ugly, in another book they were cannibals, in a third one, they were dark and delighted in killing. That set very heavily in my heart. I never picked up those books again. I consider elfs better than man and those three examples made them human or less, not better. Still, as authors we have the right to create our characters as we please…those are just not my cup of tea.

In my Bariwon series, I had several people complain about the made up or difficult to pronounce names which I found perplexing because odd or new names don’t bother me. How do you pick the names for your characters and when you do, do you ever consider if your readers will struggle with them?

Usually the characters come with their names to me. Seldom do I have to invent one. I have, though, and usually pick a letter and then start saying words until one sticks with me. I usually sound the name of my characters in Spanish and I am picky about how they are pronounced. For this reason I have a table of pronunciation at the beginning of my books.

What advice would you give to people who have a desire to write, but haven’t for any number of reasons?

Do it and do it now. It is a journey that will change your life and keep you on the seat of your pants.

Where can people go to find out more about you and your other works?

Barns & Noble.

Jason it was a pleasure to visit your blog today. Thank you so much. 

Author Anna del C. Dye

**Remember to leave a comment below if you want to be entered for a chance to win her book!**

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Digital Thinking In An Analog World

Some of us are old enough to remember listening to vinyl records. And then there are some, like my kids, that may have learned about them in school.

For those of us old enough to have experienced placing the needle on the turning record and hearing sound come out, it may come as a surprise when I tell you that vinyl records actually have a better sound quality than CDs or digital downloads.

You may say, “But! But! You’re crazy! I remember all the crackling sounds and ‘pops’ when I played records!”

But those “snap, crackle and pops” (no copyright infringement intended to Rice Krispies) on the records isn’t what I’m talking about. Those flaws had more to do with crappy equipment and poor handling of the records.

What I mean about the records having a better sound is that they were analog recordings and playback instead of digital.

“What?” you may ask.

Well, let me explain.

Sounds are made up of all sorts of frequencies. Low frequencies are deep sounds—think of the voice of Darth Vader. Compare that to high frequencies—like talking after breathing in some helium. Get the idea?

When music is made, all sorts of frequencies are created—some of which we can’t hear by themselves as humans. Remember those whistles that only dogs can hear? It’s like that.

Analog recordings capture every frequency—including those outside of our normal hearing range. But here’s a weird thing: when those unheard frequencies are combined with the ones we can hear, it makes the overall sound better. The deep notes are richer, the high notes sound brighter.

And then came digital music. It was quite brilliant, really. It broke down the information into very small pieces that computers could handle. How small? Into “1s” and “0s.”

In fact, any digital information is based on this concept of breaking down information into “1s” and “0s.” It’s easy for a computer to understand. It’s like a light switch—either the light is on or off. (And don’t give me the argument about dimmer switches—stay with me.)

As it turns out, when the people that created digital music that is put on a CD, they were limited on how much information they could fit on a disc. Their solution? The digital music doesn’t capture the whole range of frequencies—it excludes the really high and really low ones, the frequencies people can’t hear.

Sadly, something amazing is lost when analog sounds are converted into a digital format.

What’s my point?

We live in a world where there is a lot of “black OR white” thinking. (Also “good OR bad,” “success OR failure,” and “winner OR loser.”) Things have to be one way or the other. A “1” or a “0.” It’s a very digital way of thinking.

The fact is that life is very analog. Some people call it “shades of gray.”

And just like with recorded music, something is lost in conversion.