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Saturday
Jan302016

An Encounter With Climate Change

By Edward Hujsak

From the weather scientists to the President to the Pope, a salient topic is climate change. There

are deniers, but the evidence is that it is occurring and it will occur at an ever faster pace, due to the

nature of positive feedback. (when things get worse, they can get even worse, faster). When the ice

melts, the water gets warmer, so the ice melts faster. We, the living, may not see much change in our

lifetimes, but succeeding generations will. Mass migrations the likes of which we observe in the

present events in Europe, but much larger, will upset everything. The oceans will rise, as they have

before and living areas will be inundated

My book of short stories, A Pig In The Rumble Seat (Reader Views Award, Fiction, 2008),

contains some stories reflective of my career as a rocket engineer, engaged in design and development

of the Atlas and Centaur rockets in the World War II Consolidated Aircraft factory in San Diego. I

regret not including an experience that has a particular meaning for the present concerns, as it

highlights a rare acquaintance with a time in the past when Earth’s oceans covered much more of the

planet than they currently do.

About ten miles east of where I live in La Jolla on the Pacific coast, the terrain is similar to

photos I have seen of the ocean bottom. Rolling hills and valleys composed of who knows what

deposits over the ages. In an area known as Sycamore Canyon the company, then renamed General

Dynamics, hired architects and engineers to design and build facilities for test firing the rockets,

comprising steel towers for holding the vehicles, storage tanks for propellents and a blockhouse from

which test engineers controlled the firings.

Early in the building process, some of the mounds were scarfed away to provide a level area for

operations, leaving other mounds that were sliced off from bottom to top like a cut through a round

loaf of bread. Revealed was layer upon layer of shell creatures that had lived out their lives and built

up a crust on the ocean floor during an ancient period when the region was covered by water. Using my

Swiss Army knife, I pried some samples out which foolishly I never kept. I had at that time no feeling

other than that ir was interesting. It was in fact a profoundly spiritual event to be in touch with

something that lived a million or so years ago and had been brought into the light.

We now know that there was at least one period in Earth’s history when there was little or no

water trapped as ice and the sea level was perhaps two hundred feet higher than it is now. In California,

the Gulf of California would have moved significantly northward, an explanation for the seashell

deposits in Sycamore Canyon. There was no San Diego. Most of the East Coast, including all of

Florida, was under water. Then followed a period when warm oceans produced severe storms, In the

polar regions and Greenland the precipitation was heavy snow which turned into enormous ice fields,

enough to lower the ocean levels to where it is now.

Could the ice caps melt and raise the ocean level again? The answer is yes, and probably faster

than we expect because a new factor augments what might be characterized as a normal, cyclic global

warming event. That is the the human factor, whose activities and excesses in burning fossil fuels

release annually more than a hundred gigatons of carbon dioxide, a heat trapping gas, into the

atmosphere. To make matters worse, and will likely speed up the process, rising temperatures will

thaw the perma-frost, which upon decaying, will release vastly more tonnages of heat trapping gases.

So things can get worse, much worse, faster, and probably will. 

 

 

Edward Hujsak is a career rocket engineer turned poet, writer, sculptor, artist, builder of finefurniture and musical instruments, and toys for deprived children. An inventor, he has over a dozenpatents, mostly in the aerospace field. He was propulsion engineer for.John Glenn’s famous orbitalflight. He has published eight books and numerous articles and commentaries for journals like SpaceNews, British Interplanetary Society’s Spaceflight, MAKE magazine and Mechanical Design. He blogsfrequently on http://www.rocketscientist20.blogspot.com and may be reached on hujsaked@aol.com.Now in his 91st year, he is slowing down a bit, but remains productive.Address: 8732 Nottingham PlaceLa Jolla, California 92037

Friday
Jan152016

3 Ways to Add Hours to Your Writing Week 

Trying to work full time, be actively engaged in your family and still fine time to write? Begin by scrutinizing your weekly tasks. Prioritize the list by separating the need-to-dos from the really-want-to-dos and the I-wish-I-had-time-to-dos. We all know about getting up fifteen minutes early, writing on the bus as you travel to work and giving up time from your favorite activities to write. Consider incorporating these alternatives.

 

1. Delegate research tasks to a friend who has spare time, a retired friend, a high school student or a librarian who loves to wander the internet, libraries and other sources of information. Ask them to compile the best resources they locate then used their findings to add depth to your stories. For myself, I ask a friend who's an avid reader and a movie buff to assist me. She skims through my list of ballet books and watches popular films and documentaries for ballet scenes and ideas to enhance my stories.

 

2. Clear the Deck of distractions. Let everyone in your household know your writing hours and ask them to honor those times. Create a clever reminder or hang a sign on your closed door. Maybe say: Quiet Hours 4:00-6:00 Daily or hang up a work zone style sign that says Idea Zone: Closed to Through Traffic During Construction Hours.

 

3. Consolidate daily household tasks. Could you sort the mail while you phone a friend? How about cooking two dinners at once and freezing one for another day? Or, maybe when you drive with a family member to a class or meeting, you might use the wait time to reread your latest pages.

Need a break to refreshen your writing brain? Stop at the local park for twenty minutes before you drive to the grocery store. Listen to that audio tape on developing strong settings while you wash the windows. By prioritizing and regrouping your tasks, it is possible to carve out a few extra hours to write each week.

You must have found your own time-saving ideas. Please share them when you comment.

Paddy Eger is an award winning author of two ballet-themed Young Adult novels: 84 Ribbons and When the Music Stops-Dance On. She also writes Educating America books and materials for training adults to work in classrooms. 

Wednesday
Jan062016

3 Ways to Use Time to Engage Readers in Traumatic Events

 

As writers we play with characters motives and emotions. We give them seemingly insurmountable tasks, drop them into depression and lift them to conquer their problems. Take a minute to consider how we use time and setting to lead readers into and out of traumatic events.

Three techniques are useful: begin in the every day world, share the traumatic event through slow motion and return the reader to the every day world.

Part one: Begin with the every day world. As we approach a traumatic event, share a soothing, relevant non-event that occurs five minutes or a day before the trauma. Why? If we show the character's day-to-day routine, a time when the character has no idea of what's to come, when the traumatic event occurs we'll rocket the reader into that event. through the change in depth.

Example: A young woman stands in a living room, watching the fire burn down. She's thinking about her day, her new boyfriend and their plans for the snowy weekend together.

Part two: Share the trauma through slow motion. To deepen the reader's engagement, show the traumatic event in slow motion. The freeze-frame idea allows you to pull the reader into the traumatic act, to engage the reader in the physical tension or reactions of the character as the event occurs.

Example: The young woman walks onto the porch to collect an armful of logs for the fire. She slides against the porch railing and breaks through. She falls, feeling every twist and turn of her body as single freeze frames. Thoughts of her family, her boyfriend, how beautiful the night sky looks flash through her mind as she falls onto the hard-packed earth. She's now injured, freezing, and alone as she waits for help to arrive.

Part three: Return to the every day world. After the traumatic event ends, we often return to a state of calm. The trauma has created a dramatic change but our character must return everyday life. That day-to-day routine needs a subtle change as we pull away from the event. The character steps back, sorts through the trauma, answers the "what-if's" and the "if only's" and attempts to resume life that existed before the event.

Example: (The change) In the quiet of her night in the hospital, she relives the trauma remotely as though watching a movie. Her focus shifts to how she'll cope with the damage she'd created to the porch railing, how her injury will affect her ability to work and pay for her expenses, how it all affects her career, as well as how she'll handle the embarrassment of the accident.

These three techniques work well whether it's a fall, a gun battle, a person running from an enemy, or a character learning of an unexpected demotion, injury or death. They are also useful when a character receives positive news: an engagement, an award or a huge surprise. Beginning in a calm place, learning of the life-changing event, breaking it down second by second, then attempting to return to a second calm state reveals a lot about the character and provides a powerful tool to add to your writing bag of tricks.

 

Paddy Eger is an award winning author of two ballet-themed Young Adult novels: 84 Ribbons and When the Music Stops-Dance On. She also writes Educating America books and materials for training adults to work in classrooms.  

Monday
Dec282015

The Query Process and When to Accept No for an Answer

Writing a novel isn’t too much different from having your first child, raising him to be an adult, and then sending him out into the world on his own. It’s just as difficult and often more painful. As a writer, you spend months—even years, sometimes—pouring your thoughts onto the pages of a manuscript with hopes that someone will see your vision within the words. You write late into the night, often between other jobs and parenting responsibilities—really, just anywhere you can find five minutes. Then the day finally comes when you type the last word of your document! Relief!

But hold on friend—you’re not done! Now you edit what you’ve already written, sometimes reading it so many times that you begin to hate your own writing. But the day finally comes when you’re completely satisfied, and now it’s time to take that first leap of faith by sending it out into the world through the process of querying for an agent or publisher.

You’ve already spent a good part of the last year or more writing this novel, now you spend the next several weeks writing and rewriting that query letter. In 250 words, you have to tell the person on the other end a little bit about your book, what makes it so special, who you are and why they want you for an author, and—finally—why they just can’t do without your book. When you’re finally satisfied, you sit back and smile a little, then—very gently—you press the send button. Your “baby” is now out in cyberspace!

And now you wait.

And wait some more.

Finally one day you open your e-mail inbox to see a response from one of the many agents or publishers you’ve contacted. Your heart beats rapidly in your chest and you hold your breath while saying a silent prayer to your favorite deity.

Please let this be a yes! Please let this be a yes!

You cross your fingers and close your eyes, leaving one eye open just enough to see the button on the keyboard that allows you to open the e-mail. You press the button, and then you very slowly open your eyes to read the response.

Thank you for taking the time to query me with your project. I’m sorry but...

I’m sorry but... Three little words, and they send your heart plummeting to your stomach.

It’s easy to feel rejected by a “no” from an agent or publishing house, but you shouldn’t. A “no” doesn’t mean “I didn’t like it” or “You’re a terrible writer.” It simply means that the agent or publishing house lacks the same vision as you have for their ability to sell the book.

Some of the best selling and most popular authors today have received more than their fair share of rejections. The difference between those who find success and the rest of the world is how they handle that rejection.

When you receive a rejection, you have several choices. Sometimes—though it seems infrequent—the agent or editor will give you something to work with; some reason for their rejection that you can take under consideration for revisions. When they don’t and you’re left scratching your head and asking “why,” you can choose to give up, or you can choose to believe in yourself and the original vision that sent you to your keyboard that first time.

Lorna Landvik once told me that she received enough rejection letters to cover New York City, but she refused to quit. She told me that she wouldn’t accept “no” until it was her “no.” She would not quit until she decided it was time to quit; not when the rejection letters implied it was time to quit. Today Landvik is a very successful author and one of my favorite writers.

Mary Kubica, best-selling author of The Good Girl (and the more recent Pretty Baby), was turned down repeatedly by literary agents. Busy with other things, Kubica decided to just put the manuscript aside for a while and move onto other things. Two years later, she was contacted by an agent who’d previously rejected her manuscript. The agent asked if it was still available, as she’d been unable to get the story out of her head in those two years since taking a pass. Sometimes it’s not about not liking the manuscript so much as it is the ability to sell it to a publishing house in the current market. The agent snatched up the manuscript this time, and Kubica went on to be a best-selling author.

The question today is this: What will you do with that next rejection letter? Will you take it for what it’s worth (which is less than the number of keystrokes it took to send it)? Or will you keep your chin up and hold true to the vision that kept you writing late into the night for months on end?

As for me, I think I’ll remember Lorna Landvik’s advice. I won’t accept “no” until it’s my “no.”  

C.H. Armstrong is a 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma and holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in History. Her first novel, The Edge of Nowhere, is expected to release on January 19 by Penner Publishing, and is a work of historical fiction inspired by her own family’s experiences as survivors of the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl. For more information about this author, visit her website at www.charmstrongbooks.com