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November 25, 2018: What our nation could be

I realize this blog has a low following, but this is the best platform I have to express myself to the public. This morning's Twitter feed produced a report on the near absence of cash transactions in Switzerland. Over breakfast, I mentioned this to my wife and she wondered why we Americans still relied on cash as much as we do. The answer is fairly simple--we have never implemented a standard.

Here in the U.S. we have Google Pay, Chase Pay, PayPal, iPay, and (because Walmart won't accept anything else) we have Walmart Pay. The ability to use these payment methods is based on a standard called NFC which is available on almost every single cell phone in use today. But the actual payment systems are incompatible and can't communicate with each other. If I want to use my phone to pay for something, I need multiple apps installed and I would need to know which one is accepted at the store I'm in. Also, as far as I know, there's no easy way for me to accept electronic payments if I'm selling books at a convention.

Switzerland has implemented a standard and it's working. My wife then asked a simple question, "Why haven't we done something like that?" Why indeed? This kicked off a whole series of thoughts as my scifi brain created an alternate history of the United States. A history where we had a government that actually used its authority to benefit the people instead of lining the pockets of the rich who don't really need any more money. So where did this take me? Allow me to share a dream with you.

Instead of a nation with multiple types of electronic payment systems, the government steps in and calls for the creation of a single standard. There may be multiple e-pay companies, but a person can choose to use any one of them and they will all work anywhere. If you can't afford to buy a cell phone, you can purchase a small pocket device with the application pre-installed so you can make electronic payments. Problem solved, no more money, no more bank robberies, and robbing a store is no longer profitable because there's no cash to be had.

That was simple. Now let's expand on that a bit. Instead of allowing greed to rule, the United States decides to implement universal health care. Doctors are paid a good wage and take care of anyone who walks through the doors without having to worry if the patient can pay. Drugs prices are fully regulated with the cost of the drug based on the cost of development as well as the cost of the materials instead of how much the drug companies can extort the people who need the drugs. Laws are passed and strictly enforced: Speeding is detected by a network of cameras and people who refuse to slow down have their license revoked. A standard put in place scans a person's driver's license to ensure it is valid and if not the car refuses to start.

Living conditions are guaranteed and slum-lords are severely punished. Companies compete for the loyalty of customers but share information that benefits the nation as a whole. Monetary transactions and business dealings are fully transparent and violations of the law are swiftly dealt with.

Given this type of government (for the people, by the people) and a nation of people who care for each other and work towards the common good instead of fighting over racial and cultural issues, this country would be unstoppable.

But, it's a dream and I know it will never come true except in one of my books.


November 19, 2018 - The Writing Bug

The writing bug, that constant itch to start a new story or finish the one currently under construction, is gone. I can't say that writing, for me, was ever a hobby. It was a passion and I threw myself into it with everything I had. I bought books on plot and character development. Read numerous articles and books on how to improve my prose. And, I wrote. On my days off, I spent the entire morning hammering on the keyboard of my computer in the rush to get the next book done. I enjoyed the editing process and the thrill of seeing my hard work in print. I kept up this pace cranking out 12 books at the rate of about one a year. But now, the bug is gone. The adrenaline kick of producing a story so others can enjoy it is no longer there. For the past few weeks, I've been wondering why.

To be totally honest, I don't know. But, I have a few ideas. One of the biggest is the pitiful sales that I've been seeing of late. One of the thrills involves knowing that the stories I write are being enjoyed by others and seeing a sale is what keeps that thrill alive. It has become a habit for me to look at Amazon sales every morning. I was happy with one or two new sales a day -- I'm not greedy. When sales and pages read started dropping far lower, the desire to write followed suit. In an effort to boost sales, I've decided to drop the prices of all my books. I will be doing so as soon as I post this.

But sales are only a part of the reason. Writing is a lot of work; it takes away from many other pursuits. I like to read science fiction and books on astrophysics, quantum theory (for the lay-person) and other technology-related books. I'm also on a quest to learn more about website development. Mornings are also when I am able to watch the science fiction shows my wife does not care to watch. Sacrificing these things is part of scratching the itch. But when scratching begins to result in bleeding it's time to reexamine your priorities.

I've been to a number of events as an author. Sometimes I sell a lot of books. Other times I sell nothing. I've been to conventions, a few of them as a writer. In fact, I'm scheduled to attend another one next March. One thing I've learned at these conventions is that my personal skills are not as finely honed as that of some of the other authors I know. I don't like to brag and I don't interrupt people when they are talking. From what I've observed, to be noticed as an author, you need to be almost rude to garner attention. That's not me.

I will never be nominated for any sort of award. I will never have anyone recognize me in a crowd because I'm a published author. I will never be able to make a living writing books. Believe it or not, I'm perfectly fine with all that. I never wrote because I wanted to win an award or become a famous author. I never published to get rich because I'm practical enough to realize that most writers need a day job to support themselves. I wrote because I had the itch. The itch is gone.

So, after all that, what are my plans? Starting today, I'm putting my 2 current writing projects on indefinite hold. I'm going to start doing some of the things I haven't been able to do because I've been spending time writing. I have no doubt that the itch will return. When it does, I'll start writing again.


November 04, 2018

I have not posted anything in this blog for several months -- here's why:

I decided to take a short break from writing. I've been spending my time watching movies and science fiction programs that I haven't had a chance to watch. I've been learning more about how to build websites. I've been working on home projects I've been wanting to do for a long time. And, I've been reading -- something I dearly love to do but always set aside when I'm actively writing. The need to write, though, is still there and as of a week ago, I finally began working on a new novel. This one will be the 4th in the Peacekeeper series.

Writing takes time away from a lot of things -- family, other learning desires, and doing things a person just simply likes to do. This time around, I'm going to try my best not to become obsessed with writing. I'm promising myself to take time out to do other things.

I have signed up to attend the 2019 Cleveland Concoction convention. This will be held in Aurora, Ohio from March 1st through March 3rd. I went last year and had a good time. This year, I plan on spending far more time sitting in Author Alley where authors showcase their books and readers can come in, talk to the authors, and buy the books. As long as an author participates in at least 3 panels, they can attend the event for free. It's not a large convention, but it is local and I will get to mingle with some of my author acquaintances.

I missed attending this year's Geek Expo because my wife and I were visiting my dad in South Carolina. We had intended to go earlier but mother nature decided to throw a hurricane at us and we canceled the originally planned trip. Unfortunately, this was the last year for this relatively popular local event. In the past, I did quite well in book sales. No reason for the event's discontinuation have been given by the organizers.

Even though I've been continuing my education on how to build a website, I haven't applied this new knowledge to updating my current site. It does not get much traffic and other priorities have gotten in the way. Someday (soon, I hope), the website will have some additional features added. When I do this, I will let you know.

Right now, it's time to head outside because we have a ton of leaves on the ground that need to be moved to the street. They weren't there when we left on vacation. It's also been raining since we got back and now the leaves will have to be raked instead of blown. Oh well -- off I go!