Saturday, December 31, 2016

A few weeks ago, I told everyone that Alex had written a great essay about the DREAM Act concept. It's been graded now. He got and A, and I couldn't be more proud of him. Here is the paper, minus the bibliography.

What if it were you? It could just as easily be you who is fighting for the gift that many Americans are given simply just because they happen to be born here. A gift that most people take for granted. That’s United States citizenship. We already have the freedom of being a citizen so that’s all that matters right? No. We cannot forget about the hardworking young men and women that immigrate, sometimes not by their own choice but that of their parents, to our country in search for a better life. America took a step in the right direction of immigration reform by fighting to help deserving young immigrants. In 2001, the DREAM Act was introduced. The DREAM Act stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. This act allows young immigrants a chance to become a citizen if they pursue higher education or join the military. The DREAM Act was rejected multiple times. 2010 was the height of the DREAM Act, as reinforced by Mariela Olivares, an associate professor of law at Howard University, “The possibility of the DREAM Act becoming law was at an all time high.” The DREAM Act had actually passed in the house of representatives. However, when the bill got to the senate, “legislation failed to garner the necessary sixty votes.” Although many states have developed their own DREAM Acts, America is still fighting to pass this as a federal law to this day. It would be beneficial for all of America to help these young immigrants and make the DREAM Act a federal law.
Many people who do not support the DREAM Act make the argument that it would encourage immigrants to continue to enter illegally, as reinforced by senator John Cornyn of Texas, “This bill, sadly, does nothing to fix our broken immigration system. It may be worse that we’re providing incentive for future illegal immigration.” However this is not true. The DREAM Act is not an “amnesty” program for all immigrants. The white house explains that the DREAM Act is not meant for just anybody, but that “The Dream Act requires responsibility and accountability of young people…” This goes to show that the DREAM Act caters to a certain type of person rather that just immigrants in general. America is making an effort to reward those immigrants who were brought here as young children through no fault of their own. Those who work just as hard, if not harder than other Americans. The Dream Act is meant for the “cream of the crop” of students. The young men and women who would benefit from the DREAM Act would be bettering themselves, becoming working and productive members of society, and show that they are hard-working people and have a great amount of ambition. The DREAM Act is a great way to encourage immigrants to get educated and seek out a better and more productive life.
The DREAM Act could also help break the chain of poverty and lack of education for immigrants. Maryland has their own DREAM Act in place on a state level. The Maryland Institute for Policy Analysis and Research conducted a study covering the costs and benefits of the Maryland DREAM Act. Within their study, the authors T.H. Gindling and Marvin Mandell “Predict that 435 Maryland students will take advantage of the Dream Act to go to college each year.” This is a significant number because there are that many young students that have the opportunity go on to improve their lives, breaking the chains of poverty that are common among immigrants. They can go on to start successful careers and businesses, and when they have their own children, they will not have to face many of the challenges encountered by their parents. The cycle can be changed from generation after generation of being poor, to centuries of changed lives, just by giving these immigrants the opportunity that they deserve. If 435 immigrants can benefit from the DREAM Act in just one medium sized state, just think about how many could benefit in the United States as a whole. Many of these immigrants have the hard-working mentality that it takes to be successful but lack the resources they need to fulfill their dreams of a better life. The DREAM Act can give them the boost that they need. One of our Senators, Richard Durbin, supports the idea that if we enact the DREAM Act, these immigrants can “contribute more fully to our society…” rather than tying them down and ultimately “relegate them to a future in the shadows…” It just takes one opportunity for one generation to change many lives after that.
The DREAM Act would actually benefit the economy. If these people can become educated and start a career earning a higher wage, they would have more to contribute to the nation’s economy, as they “would be eligible for some refundable tax credits, Social Security, and Medicare benefits…” Once these immigrants are given this opportunity to start a better life, they earn legal U.S. citizenship and therefore are given both the freedoms and responsibilities that other Americans take for granted. One of those is paying taxes. That could lead to substantial amount of taxpayer dollars that will be pumped into the betterment of our nation. The Congressional Budget office reveals that DREAM Act legislation would increase the amount of qualified workers would result in higher corporate and social insurance taxes, which ultimately “would increase revenues by $2.3 billion over 10 years,” and even “would increase net direct spending by $912 million.” (Congressional Budget Office, pg. 1). The hard working students that can be assisted by the DREAM Act could help contribute to making our nation stronger by increasing the number of college graduates our country has and hopefully putting America back in that number one spot in the world, which is “something vital for America to remain competitive in today’s global economy.” It is also possible that these students can go on in life to do special things. This will just increase our chances of creating the next big invention or discovering a new medicine that will ultimately make our country stronger. It can’t be a bad thing for there to be a higher number of educated people in our country. Another point that many do not think about is that if America deported many of these undocumented immigrants, it would create large expenses. How would those expenses get paid? Taxpayer dollars coming out of your pocket. Economically, it seems that the DREAM Act could be a win win for everybody.
The DREAM Act could enhance our national security. Their are some immigrants who come into our country who are bad people. However, the DREAM Act is not meant for those people. This act will be put in place solely for the benefit of those who have good morals and character. The DREAM Act could allow immigration enforcement to “focus on those who pose a serious threat to our nation’s security.” Otherwise law-abiding immigrant students are not the immigrants that America should be worried about. For the most part, these people are just like Americans. Most have grown up here and “are fiercely patriotic." So it would make sense if we could document these immigrants so we have a better idea of who is actually dangerous and who is not. This would enable us to be more aware of who is in our country. In order for these immigrants to qualify and benefit from the DREAM Act, they “would be subject to rigorous criminal background checks and reviews.” This would eliminate the possibility of bad people benefiting from this act and would ensure that anyone who is granted citizenship from the DREAM Act would be well deserving and we would know exactly who they are. The more insight and knowledge that the government has about the people in our country, the more safe and better off we will be. However if the government were to continue to consider these immigrants illegal, these people will stay in the shadows in fear that they could be deported. One of the other paths that these immigrants have to gain citizenship is to join the military. These men and women could have a lot to offer to the military as they bring diversity “linguistically and culturally,” which is something that could be very valuable and important to America’s fight against global war on terrorism. A study was conducted by the Center for Naval Analyses, regarding non-citizens in today’s military, and their final report concluded that immigrants do “extremely well in the military,” and that “noncitizens have 36-month attrition rates that are 9 to 20 percentage points lower than the attrition rates of white citizens." Furthermore, this shows that if America helps out these young immigrants hoping to attain U.S. citizenship, they can give back to our country and even help us out contributing to the strength and security of our country.
America can gain a plethora of benefits by enacting of the DREAM Act. This could be a significant step in the right direction for reform on immigration, and could even turn around many people’s lives, sending whole families in the right direction. Citizenship would be something that these immigrants work very hard for and it is something that they can show that they deserve. The DREAM Act would be positive for the country as a whole as these young men and women have a lot to offer and are willing to take action and responsibility in order to support and help this country to which they are so thankful.

Monday, March 14, 2016

If Not Me, Then Who? If Not Now, Then When?

I have seen several social media posts over the last few months that scare me. One even caused a rift in my own family that has left us forever divided. But I am haunted by two posts in particular.

One was made to look like a page from a book. It said, “If your religion requires you to hate somebody, then you need a new religion.” That’s really what it boils down. If you hate someone solely because a misinterpreted, outdated, and repeatedly re-translated book tells you to, then you need a new book.

The other post was a tweet by a Libyan woman who wrote, “If you’re an American confusedly watching the darkest forces of [your] nation rally around a demagogue, maybe [you] can understand the Mideast now.” I won’t be one of those who rally around a fool who promotes hatred and bigotry and isolationism. And I certainly won’t sit idly by and watch those things boil over in my country.

When I was a kid growing up in Tulsa, I remember the KKK marching in holiday parades in our area. I remember racially-fueled fights in my high school. I remember people, even my own parents, calling north Tulsa “n*gg*r town.” I remember feeling a fear that the elders of my family instilled in me anytime we drove through that area to see family in the next town over. I remember being madly in love with a beautiful young black woman named Kim, and I remember her smiling back at me. Worst of all, I remember never even having the nerve to ask her to go with me, because we both knew our parents wouldn’t have allowed it.

What is happening in the United States during this election cycle scares me. I am scared for my black friends. I worry about a black friend because he is married to a white woman. To make it worse, he works in an area of California where white men missing half of their teeth still wear denim vests with the confederate flag on them. I am scared for the son of other friends who is a teenage black man, and for that reason alone, will be targeted by the police when he gets his driver’s license next year. And I’m scared for the daughter of another friend who is an incredible young black girl who recently spent weeks raising over five-hundred dollars for the American Heart Association. I am scared for a Muslim friend’s family who recently went to Canada to visit a sick relative, and was subjected to unreasonable search and humiliation when they returned to the country they are citizens of. I am scared for the women in my family who could lose the right to make decisions regarding their own bodies. I am scared for my friends and acquaintances in the LGBT community, because their right to have a family is in jeopardy. I am scared for the young men around me, because they may be asked to fight in wars that will further alienate our nation from the rest of the world, and make us the target of other people filled with as much hatred as those who are raising their hands to pledge allegiance to a man. Not to our country. To a hate-filled man.

I am a middle-aged white man. I am probably the only demographic in America that is safe. But my safety is hollow if the people I care about and love are not as safe in our country as I am. I am not a warrior, and I am not a protester. But I do have a weapon. The written word is both my sword and shield, and if I do not use them to stand up to those who would harm my country, then I am not deserving of the safety I enjoy while those around me live nervously and in fear as we watch what is happening to the land of the free.

I don’t know all the answers and I won’t pretend to dabble in international politics. I will say that I know, with unequivocal certainty, that spouting hatred and taking rights away from people who have never raised their hand to our country, except to pledge allegiance to its flag, isn’t the way to protect our nation or our ways of life.

I do not know how I am going to use the written word over the next eight months, but I must use it. If only to be able to look at myself in the mirror. If you are one of those spout racism and are lining up to turn back the American clock on basic human rights, you are my enemy. For every word of hatred you spout, I will render two of tolerance. I do want to be able to look myself in the mirror, but more importantly, I want the people I love to know that I did everything I could to ensure their safety.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Writing vs. Cooking

My social media followers know my posts show them several aspects of my life. I hike and camp as much as I can. I voice political opinions. I take pictures. But two things dominate my social media presence. Writing and cooking. If you don’t believe me, check these links out:


If you took the time to look, then came back to read the rest of this post, you know that I love food in ways banned by most holy books. In fact, when I give something up in observance of one fast or another, it’s usually food. For example, I haven’t eaten pork in almost a year. But this post isn’t about that. It’s about the similarities between the two dominant themes of my social media presence.

Writing is a fairly straightforward process for me. I have the idea for a book, and make a few notes. Those notes become a sort of outline, inasmuch as I use an outline, for the story I’m writing. Over time, I add ideas here and there, imagine a few scenes that will anchor the plot, and put it all in order. Finally, I read the book myself. If I don’t like it, I adjust it a little. When I’m happy with my creation, I give it to my editors, so they can tell me what they likes and don’t like about the book, and tell me what else it needs. Once it’s just right, I share it with a few beta readers who tell me what they think of it. Then I share the book with the world.

Now I’m going to do something interesting to prove my point about why writing is so similar to cooking. Watch this:

Cooking Writing is a fairly straightforward process for me. I have the idea for a dish book and make a few notes. Those notes become a sort of recipe outline, inasmuch as I use a recipe an outline, for the food story I’m making writing. Over time, I add ingredients ideas here and there, imagine a few flavors scenes that anchor the dish plot, and cook it put it all in order. Finally, I taste read the food book myself. If I don’t like it, I adjust it a little. When I’m happy with my creation, I give it to my family editors, so they can tell me what they like and don’t like about the dish book, and tell me what else it needs. Once it’s just right, I share it with a few beta tasters readers who tell me what they think of it. Then I share the meal book with the world.

Reading a series is just like sitting down to a multi-course meal. The first book gets you started, and gives you a taste for what is to come. By the time you get to dessert, I hope to have sated your hunger for my creation.

So you see, a story and a recipe are really very similar. One stimulates your mind, the other your taste buds. I can stimulate both. I hope you enjoy the book, er, meal. Well, whatever I make you, I know you will enjoy it.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015


I've had calluses most of my life. Even as a kid, Dad has us working hard. I've also come to realize he was a sadistic son of a bitch.

We had a swing set in our back yard. It was just an old rusty thing that brought us more injuries than joy, but it was a swing set and we were glad to have it. It always had bare ground where we dug our feet in to get a start. Those grooves never grew grass.

Growing up in northeast Oklahoma meant that there was regular rain, year round. Combined with those dirt ruts under the swings, that meant Mom often cussed us boys or my sister for tracking mud into the house after sliding or swinging for a while. Now a normal dad would have moved the swing set once a year or something to keep the mud out of the house. Hell, even a scrap of carpet on the back porch would have solved the problem. And that's how I know Dad was sadistic. He didn't solve the problem sensibly. Instead, once a year, he'd go out and buy a bucket or two of class A gravel and then make us boys spread it under the swings.

Think about that for a minute. Class A gravel is the big jagged crap that can cut you just from picking it up. And our dad, who protected us from monsters in the closet, over zealous teachers who gave us swats too often, and killed water moccasins at Lake Keystone with a hair-trigger Remington revolver, made us spread it out under our swing set. An act that created a bed of blood-stained rock for us to land on every time we jumped from, or fell off the swings. So yeah, Dad was sadistic. He was my best friend and my greatest teacher, but he was sadistic.

This post is about calluses though, not Dad's dark streak. He worked us hard. We mowed and trimmed the yard every two weeks, and once a month we cleared the grass from a plot of land we camped on and where we almost built a house. We never had play tools, because as soon as we could hold real ones, Dad put them in our hands. Even my sister worked hard.

I have one brother who is a douche bag, and I don't count him because he is a waste of space. But among the rest of us are some great people. I can't remember my sister ever not being motivated. She spent years in a real estate related field, then owned a successful restaurant for a few years, then went back to real estate. After her comes a brother who can build anything, and probably has. From full-size oil field engines to Revell Chevy V8 models to carpentry, he is more skilled with his hands than anyone I have ever met.  Then there is the brother I am closest to. He is the president of a multi-million dollar jewelry company. Recently we talked about his graying hair and whether or not stress is causing it. Next up, a brother who should have been a salesman, but wasn't. He has always been the first to jump in and help on any project, and has a genuinely funny personality that puts you at ease immediately.

Finally we come to me. As a little kid, I mowed yards even though I had asthma. In the winter, I sold mistletoe in sandwich bags for Christmas money. As an adult I've done everything from trudge through swamps and jungle with an 80 pound rucksack to build houses. Over my three decades in the workforce, I've worn a uniform, I've been a short order cook, a truck driver, a carpenter, and a myriad of other things. I once got paid $500 an hour to don an asbestos fire suit and climb into a still hot trash incinerator to clean the ash from its walls. I lost ten pounds to sweat that night. My boots were full of it by the time I climbed out of the access port.

The point is, we all grew up busting our butts. All of us have had blisters and calluses our entire lives. When I closed my home modification business in the Spring of this year, I had decades-old calluses on the palms of my hands, calluses on my feet, and calluses on my joints. You get the idea. But now I have just two calluses on my hands. Oddly enough, they are both on my left hand, even though I'm right handed. One of the calluses is from my wedding ring. Where my ring finger meets the palm of my hand, my ring has caused one under the knuckle. The other one is just to outside of the tip of my left pinky finger. I've spent hours trying to figure out how I got that one.

I realized today that it's my writing callus. I got it from the angle of my hand in relation to the keyboard of my Chromebook. Every time I press the ctrl or shift key, I do so with that exact spot on my pinky. The ctrl key has to be the culprit, since I would guess that I use the right and left shift about equally, but there is only one ctrl key that I use, and it's on the left side. That realization made me think about that key a little bit. How many times do I hit it each day? I mean it's enough to cause a callus right? Or at least enough to push it over the edge from normal use.

So what do I use the ctrl key for? In Google Docs, which is what I use to write my books, I use the key in conjunction with the b and i buttons most. Ctrl b is all about making text bold. See what I did there? Ctrl i is all about italics. In my writing, I use italics to denote POV thought and ship names. I don't mention ship names that much in my books, though they are there. By the way, have you noticed that I name all my ships after gun-related things? The Coach Guns are named after the sawed off shotguns used to protect stage coached in Old West, which is the root of the term riding shotgun, because the guy who rode up by the stage driver carried one. The Mare's Leg is the type of firearm Steve McQueen made famous in Wanted: Dead or Alive. Derringer-class scout ships. The Kalashnikov. Again, you get the idea.

But my guy Cortland Addison apparently thinks a lot, because I have that damned callus on my left pinky finger. Since I write The Warrior Chronicles in what's called limited omniscient POV, that means most of the thought italics are his. Who would have thought that the most prolific killer in human history, or maybe human future, thinks so much? He thinks so much that I have a damned callus on my pinky finger. I just remembered, I use italics to denote Cort's telepathic communication with Bazal, too. So a thoughtful warrior and a telepathic octopus are responsible for it. Maybe if I kill off Bazal, the callus will go away.

Monday, November 17, 2014


A lot of things happened in 1303. William Wallace and Edward I of England had a little dust up. Pope Benedict XI succeeded Boniface VIII, who had just founded the University of Rome La Sapienza. The Treaty of Paris gave Gascony back to the English. On what would later become my birthday, Beatrice of Castille died. A future emperor of China was born. In August of that year, the Lighthouse of Alexandria was destroyed by an earthquake. I won't pretend that I knew all those things, but I was able to find them out with a little research.
Today, 13:03 took on a new meaning for me. Recently, I submitted Warrior's Scar to a review blog that I like. Immerse or Die is a great concept by Jefferson Smith. He has a 40-minute treadmill workout, during which he reads a new book. Then he posts how long the book held his attention, as well as his thoughts about it. Warrior's Scar lasted thirteen minutes and three seconds. Jefferson had good things to say about my concept, but like I say, thirteen minutes and three seconds. Damn. Now I know from reading his blog that beating ten minutes is a significant feat. But I wanted it all, and I blew it. An editing error and a last-minute correction did me in.
As much as I hate 13:03 right now, I've learned from it. I'm changing how I keep the timeline of the series, as well as how I track it. Over the next few months, as I finish book five and release the second editions of books two and three, you can bet that while there might be other mistakes, my timelines will be right.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Objects in the Rear View Mirror...

When I took the plunge and began writing full time, I closed a medical modification business I had owned for over ten years. I installed grab bars and ramps, but my main product was a transfer pole of my own design. Without getting into specifics, transfer poles are grab bars that can anywhere in a room. I closed the business and haven't looked back. But I did have a few poles left in the shop. So when a patient's daughter called me yesterday and asked for a pair of them to be installed in an assisted living facility that I had a good relationship with, I agreed and made the appointment for today. After all, those two poles represented $300 that I could put toward the burnt orange Elio I have reserved.
This morning I turned the power on in the shop for the first time in over six months. As I cut and machined the parts to make the top brackets, my muscle and mental memory kicked in thanks to the smell of hot steel filings and took me back to those days. It was like seeing an old friend. I remembered the elderly woman who answered the door completely nude, much to her daughter's horror. I remembered the WWII vet who showed me a picture of himself receiving a medal from General Eisenhower. Another vet who gave me his WWI trench knife to thank me for my work. There was a Russian woman who runs a board and care that insisted I put a pole in every one of her rooms. There were also memories of jerks. The guy who told me, "A person of your station in life should know better than to suggest someone of my station might use plywood in their home." A woman who kicked me out of her house because I felt sympathy for Trayvon Martin's family. There was even a lady who tried to blame me for water damage caused by a grab bar I didn't install.
But the job I did today went smoothly. I showed up and the building had a work order waiting for me. The patient's family was there to write the check. The install was easy. In fact, it was almost textbook perfect. The bed was already in an ideal spot, the joists were perfectly aligned with the toilet in the bathroom, and I was out of the building in less than half an hour. If every job went that smoothly, I would still be doing that work in addition to writing.
I walked out of the building and put my tools back in the truck. I texted my wife that it felt oddly nostalgic to revisit that time, if only for one job. I pulled onto J Street and headed for the Cap City Freeway. By the time I was merging onto I-80, I was thinking about a conversation Cort is going to have with a family member in book five. Like the cars in my mirror as I glided into traffic, that world is behind me now and somewhere beyond the mountain ridges in front of me, is a future of my own creation.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

When The World Catches Up

One milestone that an only an author writing science fiction can understand, and that he or she both dreads and secretly longs for, is the moment when fact overtakes the fiction we write. Whether H.G. Wells, or Edgar Rice Burroughs or even yours truly, that moment is a gauge of both vision and comprehension. We dread it, because what we write is no longer special. We long for it because when that parity occurs, we are vindicated. We are no longer fiction writers. We aren't hacks. We are not storytellers. At that moment, we are visionaries. For just a moment today, I felt that.

I grew up in Green Country, an incredibly beautiful region of northeastern Oklahoma that borders parts of Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. It's also oil country. Tulsa was known as The Oil Capital of the World for most of the twentieth century. Geologists from all over the world still study there at the University of Tulsa.

In Warrior's Scar, book one of The Warrior Chronicles, I created The Memorial Sea. It is an inland sea that encompasses all of Green Country, and a large portion of the area around it. The sea was created when nearly three centuries of oil drilling and fracking, combined with an ignorance and then casual indifference toward their effects, a massive earthquake caused a complete collapse of the area's substratum. As the ground settled in the area and the water table rose, it created the sea almost overnight. Millions of people died, hence the name, and the face of the southern Midwest was changed forever. Which brings me to the point of this post.

Today, I was on my way to a basketball function and NPR had an interview with a researcher from the University of Oklahoma, talking about the recent surge of earthquakes in the area. There was a lot of science, a lot of oil history, and a lot of words that linked together really well, forming the basis for what happens in Warrior's Scar. Which I wrote last year, way before the interview today.

I'm not H.G. Wells, though I have read every word he has published. I'm also not Edgar Rice Burroughs or Gene Roddenberry. But like them, my vision has been validated. Maybe not on the same scale, but don't hold that against me. Today there was a great moment to me. A moment that assured me I am doing something right.