Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Freebie! And more on promotions.

December 30, 2014

My short story ‘Ants’ is now being published free on various outlets. Not Amazon; that price is forbidden! But in time, Amazon will catch on and lower their price to match what Apple, B&N, Kobo, Scribd, and PageFoundry will give you.

I’m also switching my novella ‘Hands’ to those publishers, but probably not free. I’ll keep it at the $0.99 price. I’m doing a fast re-edit to get it more publication-ready, removing some of the ‘forsoothness’ to make it appeal more to a broader variety of readers. Expect it to be available there in a week or so. I’ll be done before that time, but Apple and B&N are usually slow at publishing an ebook when the manuscript is sent to them.

There are three separate promotions scheduled for January, one on the 2nd, one on the 13th, and the third on the 17th. Each promotion is being done through a different company, BookSends, Kindle Book Review, and Ereader News Today. If you’re a reader of ebooks, subscribe to their free email service. They send out notices regarding books that are temporarily discounted or free. It’s a good deal for readers, and good for authors in that it allows our books to be shown to potential readers as one of a few rather than one of hundreds that Amazon or others publishes ever day.

I’ll be reporting back on what results were achieved later on. I’m hoping to come up with a ‘star’ rating system based on cost versus benefits. This sounds simple, but it’s not; some of the benefits aren’t quantifiable. For example, BookBub sends out a mailer with only one or two titles, and that goes to perhaps a hundred thousand potential buyers. From this, you might expect perhaps two thousand purchases. At a royalty of $0.35 for a book discounted to $0.99, you’ll need at least a thousand downloads to recoup the cost of $350 to promote your book. Rating agencies warn that the cost may not be met. So why invest that much money, or worse, pay $270 (??) to promote a free book? That latter might get you thousands of downloads, but whether the books are ever read is questionable. The reason lies in advertising theory; the first time potential customers see your name, they ignore it. But by the time they’ve seen it five times, they’re more willing to take a chance and spend money.

I won’t offer my novels free in the future; I tried it once, decided it wasn’t a good plan for me. But I will offer the books at substantial discounts, down to $0.99 in most cases. I’m also considering permanent drops of the first books in a series at that price, loss leaders in effect. But doing that means that the books are shut out of some potential promotion options, because the promoters will only email out titles that are discounted. So I don’t yet have a decision.

A final note: 2014 has been a wild ride, I’m hoping that 2015 will be as good for me as I hope it is for YOU! Happy New Year, everyone!

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Toward a Fair Corporate Tax

December 12, 2014

It’s past time we reformed our tax laws, including corporate/business taxes.
Others have said this, but my motives are different.
I favor a gross-receipts tax. And it must be applied equally to every sale of goods or services that takes place in this country.
I don’t care where the company originated, where it’s currently based. If that company wants access to the American market, pay the tax.
As an example, consider Toblerone. They’re a Swiss company that makes chocolate, good chocolate as a matter of fact.
They can sell their product in Switzerland, no effect on American taxes. BUT…if they sell in the US, the US buyer will pay a business GR Tax, say 10% as a ball-park figure. It might be as much as 20%, in practical terms; I’ve a reason for selecting that figure.
US companies MIGHT, I emphasize MIGHT, get a deduction for salaries paid to US workers, who pay US personal taxes. But even so, I would limit the deduction for top salaries. As for benefits, if the company wants to pay them, fold the value into individual income, and tax the entire package.
The European nations already do this. You might not be aware of it, but they do.
I’m an American, I write books, I market them through Amazon, an American company that also has foreign subsidiaries. My books sell in many of the world’s largest nations. As an example, I’ve sold books in France, in the UK, in Canada, in Australia, in Japan.
Amazon pays a Value-Added Tax, VAT, on each book I sell in the EU. Note that I’m not a citizen there, but my sales to those markets are taxed.
I think we should do the same.
Suppose every sale by a company based in the US, in Mexico, in China, in Indonesia, in Vietnam, in Korea, in Japan, paid the same tax rate as a company in Omaha?
So why shouldn’t we? A more important question is, why CAN’T we?
We’ve signed various ‘free trade’ agreements. Mexican car parts, for example, are shipped to the US where they’re put into vehicles that are sold to US citizens. There are many others. They come in essentially tax-free. Others, folks like Romney, pay taxes in places like Switzerland and deduct those from they pay their own government. They switch sales to tax havens, hide profits offshore, all while taking advantage of the US laws and the US Government.
Free Trade isn’t. It’s a scam that takes our economy out of the hands of our government and hands it over to international businesses. Those agreements are essentially worthless; other nations aren’t nearly as willing to honor the spirit of such agreements and even the lax ‘laws’ are also broken.
It’s past time this was changed.
I don’t have much hope of that, however; look at the House’s version of the Omnibus budget bill, you’ll see where the next Congress will focus their attention.

Race, and Other Irrelevant Matters

December 11, 2014

An Australian friend posted a link in a FB group I’m a part of. Discussion ensued, and eventually I posted my own comment. You might find it interesting.
Times have changed. They began changing for me in 1956.
I grew up in the segregated south, in Louisiana. I had a couple of jobs part time while I was going to high school. I hadn’t experienced the hatred of some, the fear; my father employed men of color for a time, they were invited in to have lunch with us. In every case, they refused; I didn’t understand why. Later I realized that if someone had seen them, they might have been whipped or lynched. The possibility alone was enough to make them refuse. It also might have had to do with colored culture in those days.
But in ’56, I started working for a movie theater. I worked under the supervision of a black man. He was the first one I ever got to know. He supervised because he knew a lot more than I did. Economics in action.
In 1958 I joined the Army. There were African-Americans in uniform, we lived and ate together, and by 1959 my best friend was A-A. (note that the terms had begun to change; later they would be ‘black’.) In time I would serve with black men, have charge of some, work under the supervision of others.
In 1963 I found myself stationed at a missile base in Chicago. Guess what? That city was as prejudiced as anything I’d seen in the south. Granted, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi were probably worse, but I’d never been to those places.
Before the civil rights movement gained much traction, I took part in an early sit-in, in El Paso. We went to a restaurant for breakfast, we’d been going there for months, but then we took a black soldier with us. They refused to serve us. Eventually we simply went into the kitchen, cooked our own breakfast, made out our own tickets, and paid them. We carefully left a one-cent tip by each plate and never went back again.
In 1964, my girlfriend (now my wife of 49+ years) decided she wanted to go to Birmingham. I told her no; if she went, that was the end of the relationship. But if she was serious, we could start in Chicago, and so we did. We went ‘block-busting’, trying to find housing in all-white neighborhoods for black college students. Frustrating, no headlines, no marches in the street…but we did what we could.
And that was only the beginning. Yeah, this country isn’t perfect. But if you look only at my personal experiences, you can see the change happening.
Music happened. Sports happened. Popular culture happened. Politics happened. Somewhere along the way, almost all of us began to drop the unreasoning part.
Now let’s look at the reasoning part of current civil rights.
There are parts of every major city where whites should not venture, especially after dark. Complain about Trayvon Martin if you will, but there have been multiple instances of whites venturing into areas controlled by one or the other street gangs, black or latin. Some have been mugged, some killed. A video made during one of the LA Riots showed the rioters dragging a white man from a truck and smashing a concrete block into his head. I think he survived, but badly brain-damaged.
You see, there are blacks and browns, probably yellows (Asians) who are just as quick to assault a white as some whites are to assault people of color. That conveniently gets forgotten in the rhetoric.
So: take Ferguson. Why is it overwhelmingly black?
I didn’t force anyone to live there. The residents made that choice. Why?
I currently live in New Mexico, before that I lived in El Paso, Texas. The areas are only about 250 miles apart.
I’m part of a minority in both places. They’re both majority Mexican by ancestry.
I chose to live in those places. No one made me do that. No one made the other residents live there either.
That too is ignored in the rhetoric.
Prejudice? Indeed…but that’s not a characteristic of one color. ALL of us practice it to an extent. Consciously? Now that, we have some control over.
Which is why so many public figures in this country are race-irrelevant.
Soapbox is yours…

Hard Choices

December 10, 2014

Written as a commentary regarding the release of the Senate investigation into the Bush administrations’s interrogation of the terrorists behind the WTC attack, and others:
I agree with the basic theme, that torture is morally wrong, but failing to do all that you can to protect the citizens you’re responsible for is also wrong. The difficulty comes in deciding what ‘all that you can’ means.
For political leaders, there’s rarely a ‘right’ choice. Most of the choices have a degree of ‘wrong’ about them. It’s why politicians get blamed not only for what they do but also for what they fail to do.
I’m not as certain about the answer as most appear to be.
Short term, the choice Bush and Cheney made was probably correct. Long term, they were probably wrong. No one knew, going in, whether the harsh approach they tried would work.
The attack on the WTC was a symptom; the disease is expansionist Islam. And no one yet has a solution.
There’s a fundamental problem; we’re trying to send the jihadists to the corner so they can meditate on the mischief they’ve caused, they’re looking for matches to burn the house down.
We know that some countries support this anti-Crusade, including Saudi Arabia. But they have oil, we need oil, so we tolerate their mostly-covert support for people who attack us. Hard choices.
The mosques, many of them, are places where preachers preach hate and death and destruction. We know this, but because they’re churches, centers of religion, we dare not destroy them. The madrassas teach the Koran, they brainwash students into believing that their only value is in dying for religion, martyrdom. We don’t attack those either. Hard choices.
Bush and others made hard choices. There were, are, consequences. But they’ve never acknowledged the hard choices, never admitted that more than morality was involved. There was also ‘face’, the urge to finish what father had started, and profit, oil from places like Iraq. Maybe the choices weren’t so hard after all.
But we must judge solely on what they did, because they’ve never explained their thinking. Were they right, or wrong? I don’t know. If their efforts saved lives, then the hard decision was justified. If not, and we may never know the truth of this, they were wrong.
Unfortunately, right or wrong, we citizens are the ones who must face the consequences of what the Bush-Cheney administration did.
I’m not going to agonize over whether the jihadists will use this as a pretext to launch new attacks. Pretexts they’ve got; the motive for Islam is always the same, kill, destroy, intimidate. Force nonbelievers to submit. That’s what the word means, after all.
Are there moderate Muslims? Some claim there are. But the radicals get the press, and the moderates don’t repudiate them. Even where moderation is supposed to exist, in places such as the US and Britain and Europe, we see former moderate believers become radicalized, decide to leave for the ME and join ISIS. That doesn’t seem to be common in other religions, conversion by coercion. Or kidnapping for fun and profit, then executing the hostage even after he’s converted. Expansionist, radical, Islam also has an element of thuggery about it.
Hard choices; but at some point, at some time, we’re going to be faced with other hard choices.
Can we coexist with radical Islam? Or will we be forced to engage in a campaign to eradicate them or at least suppress them so the point they’re more irritant than danger.
Hard choices.
So far, they’re winning. We’re being forced to change, they’re not.
And part of that change is that government officials, here in the US and elsewhere, are making hard choices we wish weren’t necessary.
Harsh interrogations, maybe successful or maybe not? Or see another disaster unfold where innocent citizens are killed for no better reason than that their deaths terrorize others.
We’re going to have to make hard choices too.

Why the Global Warming Protests Matter

September 26, 2014

I’ve been having a very interesting conversation via email with a gentleman who doesn’t share my concern with the effects of climate change. AS a result of the conversation, I condensed my own concerns into a reply; I thought they were worthy of republication here. Herewith my reply to David:

One thing I can’t agree with, your implicit assumption that our economic/political/social climate will continue on much as it has to this point. Purveyors of fossil energy will continue to buy politicians, people will protest, but ineffectually, change will continue to happen but not have significant effects.
I think at some point we’ll understand that our survival is a species is in question.
The basic problem is that we’ve outbred our habitat. We’ve managed to come up with enough technology and science to hold back mass starvation for a time, but in my view that solution is ever-more precarious. Despite science, we still depend on nature; we’ve substituted agriculture for hunting/gathering, herding for hunting, greenhouses for natural growing seasons, aquaculture for fishing, even hydroponics…but none of them, even in concert, can feed seven billion people. Those cereal grains I mentioned in an earlier post, the ones that feed a species, grow outdoors, and if the rains don’t come the crops will fail. If the rains do come, so do insects and weeds, the plants that compete with the ones we are seeking. Poisoning the insects also poisons bees needed for pollination (natural systems are just that, systems; disrupting them has side effects, rarely beneficial, and usually long term). Using natural systems as aids works better long-term, but isn’t economically competitive; that’s why small farms with horses/cows/goats/sheep lose out to factory farms with chemical fertilizers and tractors.
And because of our fascination with personal economics and profit, we as a species opt for short term gain instead of choosing long term stability.
Warming of the planet is one aspect of what we’ve done; we’ve also poisoned the land, occasionally short term but then there’s Chernobyl and the as-yet-undefined Japanese nuclear disaster. There are huge pools of spilled oil residue that yet remain in the Gulf of Mexico, islands of floating trash the size of Texas, subtle shifts in ocean chemistry/temperature that are destroying coral reefs (nurseries for entire ecosystems), poisoning of the land by metal residues from mining and industrial operations, tons of nuclear waste that we can’t dispose of safely and that continue to grow in size, atmospheric changes in addition to land and water changes, accelerating rates of species extinction…
We don’t know the extent yet of what we as a species have done, but much of what we see isn’t promising. Indeed, it’s at least troubling, and may have reached alarming.
The people who protest global warming may not know everything I’ve listed, but I suspect they have a visceral understanding. It’s why they hope to force action.
And those are only our failings when dealing with nature. What about the things we as a species do to each other? The East has tried collectivism while the West celebrates entrepreneurship and capitalism. As a result, we’re all managing to screw part of our population, a kind of Darwinian selection driven this time not by nature but by our own competitive instinct. Just consider: in this richest of nations, arguably most advanced of major nations, homelessness is endemic, as is hunger. War goes on constantly, virtually world-wide, even if it simmers at a low level rather than flaming up; people fight over the scraps rather than attempting to work out sharing.
People know.
They understand that the day we join the dinosaurs is approaching, and that by our own actions we bring it ever closer.

Comments, and Essays

August 3, 2014

Comments, and Essays:

Apologies for the three month hiatus in publishing on this, my nonfiction blog. I’ve been writing more on my other blog, http://jacklknapp.com, and working on my latest novel, Talent (to be published later this coming week).

I don’t write as often on this blog as I did; that doesn’t mean I’m not writing serious, nonfiction essays, it’s just that I write in other venues. I write novels, short stories (currently published on Amazon under the name of Jack L Knapp), and short essays on Facebook. If you’re interested in following my comments, look for Jack Knapp or variations on that spelling. Or send me a personal message and I’ll provide a link.

The following was my response to a comment made by a gentleman who’s a friend of a friend, although as is common on FB I’ve never met either person:

“Jack – the problem is that Obama doesn’t appear to oversee anything. When anything has gone wrong in any part of the executive branch, he has no knowledge of it — only hears about it on the news. That’s not leadership.”

My response:

“Apparently he’s doing SOMETHING; the House is using tax money to file a lawsuit against him for ignoring Congress. For which, come to think on it, he deserves a medal instead of a lawsuit.

He’s not doing what the Republicans would like him to do, right enough.

So what DO presidents do, or what should they do?

They set broad policy for the executive branch of government, foreign and domestic. They can fire cabinet secretaries and nominate new ones (see my comment about Senate approval above), generally after public disapproval becomes too great. They cannot get involved in the minutiae of departments; there simply isn’t time. That’s why there’s a chief of staff to control who takes up presidential time. They work with Congress to the extent that Congress will permit, although recent Congresses are most noteworthy for a six-year-long temper tantrum instead of any attempt to address the nation’s problems.

Presidents don’t ‘oversee’ anything, in a sense; but in another sense, they oversee everything by setting policy.

Do you really think one man has the time to intervene when a cabinet secretary makes a decision? Even at that secondary level, secretaries are unable to personally make decisions such as where to allocate scarce security funds, funds made scarce deliberately by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

Which president in living memory has been faced by so obstructive a Congress? And why?

Obama made history; he’s the first Black man to be elected to the office.

And thereby hangs much of the problem. Consider the opposition base for a moment. Base is a pretty good descriptive, IMO.

Republican power, supported by gerrymandering instead of by appeal to a majority of voters, is centered on the rural areas and the old south. From Texas to Virginia, and encompassing a number of border states of the old Confederacy, Republicanism has become defined by the region that was historically based on slavery of Blacks.

But the demographics of change now do the same thing that radicals in Congress once did; they ignore southern/Confederate/bigoted opinions. I would add to that last a cult of ignorance, one that’s nurtured by those who exploit those same feelings. Toss in Republicans welcoming any fringe radical with an agenda; they’re welcomed because the enemy of my enemy is my friend, no matter how unsavory. So Republicanism is no longer an ideology so much as it is a collection of ideologies.

Somehow, the idea of the role of government has become, for Republicans, the role of the gun culture, anti-tax activists, military hawks, secede-again-and-do-it-right-this-time activists, anti-immigration, anti-urban, pro-capitalism; through it all is that theme of racism, even though it’s unofficial and submerged under all the other ‘issues’.

Republicans built this base on ignorance; now they’re stuck with the ignorant ones This party is faced with a choice: evolve, or die away.

They’re anti-immigration, especially if the immigrants aren’t lily-white. But immigrants ARE coming in, and we made the situation that drives them out of places like Honduras. We did so by our neo-prohibition, the War on Drugs. Official actions push the drug cartels and gangs from one stronghold to another; American users keep them in business by purchasing their product and financing gang/cartel activities. Ignorant people ignore the connection.

They celebrate the activities of such people as the Koch brothers, two of the more shameless exploiters of ignorance. Koch industries sells a lot of oil, and despite the frequent violent storms hitting the heart of Republican sympathy, Fox News and Murdoch’s other enterprises spin matters to make it seem as if nothing’s happening. Republicans shamelessly follow a lobbyist, even sign a pledge to never raise taxes, even as the infrastructure that defines us as a nation crumbles. Republicans refuse to raise minimum wages so that people on the bottom are immorally exploited, even as they themselves assure that their tenure in government is well rewarded, directly and indirectly.

The party has become defined not by how much they can do to help citizens, but how much they can permit to be done to them by people who have absolutely no interest in what happens to the nation so long as they profit, even as it declines from what it once was.

Republicanism has become the party of exploitation.

Republicans have become a party that will risk the national well-being directly, even shut down the government, as a political blackmail tactic. That last finally decided me; I was once a registered Republican, now I’m an independent. And I vote, like so many other seniors.

But I won’t vote Republican; not now, not ever again.

Even those in positions of ‘leadership’ within that fractured party can’t control their base. Because of where their power lies, the one thing they can’t forgive or forget, the basis of that ongoing Republican temper teantrum: Democrats actually elected a nigger to be president, to live in the White House.

That temper tantrum is very likely to be the cause of the death of this party.

And as it’s currently defined, good riddance.”

Refining my theory of Climate Change

May 6, 2014

The basic theory remains intact; this is a refinement. For more on the basics, read the two essays on this blog regarding global warming and proposed fixes.

But one thing was missing; the realization that the Earth’s surface can be classified into critical zones and non-critical zones. Between those there exists a gradation where the impact of insolation is important, but less so than is the case in the Critical Zones.

Generally speaking, the Critical Zones are those where insolation warms the ground and the heat absorbed can only escape through re-radiation. Less-critical areas have enough water or plant cover to mitigate the warming effect, or the angle of insolation is such that incoming solar radiation is less effective. Since the warming is the key to climate,  it is also the key to climate change.

There’s also the possibility of hope in this designation. The key to the greenhouse effect is re-radiating, and the trapping mechanism we call the Greenhouse Effect is based on molecular/atomic dimensions and the wavelength of re-radiated energy. This planetary surface warming may increase such that the re-radiation shifts to shorter-wavelengths in the infrared energy bands,which  means that the absorption by CO2/CH4/H2O will either be shifted to other molecules or will not happen at all. This may actually be the source of what’s been observed, that climate warming is neither as severe as predicted nor is it happening as fast as predicted.

As for those critical zones: beginning at the equator, moving north and south, this region is less critical because of the extensive plant cover and the availability of water. Each reduces the effectiveness of greenhouse warming because plants transpire water, hence water transport reduces surface heating. The same is true where free surface water exists, the water evaporates and the surface heat is removed as latent heat. In each case, the water vapor carries the heat and releases it high in the atmosphere at the zone of condensation. From this point, the heat energy still exists, but now it has less atmosphere and less-dense atmosphere to contend with; more of the energy will escape, less will be trapped. Net effect, I believe the bands of planetary surface within five to about seven degrees north and south of the equator are less critical.

The warm-desert regions that exist roughly ten degrees north and south of the equator are the critical zones. Even here, just as is the case in the earlier zones, terrain features play a part. But generally speaking, there’s little cloud cover (clouds reflect incoming solar radiation, reducing surface heating) and the sun’s rays are highly effective because they’re close to ninety degrees where incoming radiation is most effective. Net result, the land heats, and the heat can only be transferred by conduction (with atmospheric gases, a surface effect) and radiation. Radiation, re-radiation because the energy doesn’t originate with the Earth’s surface, is what’s important. This is the source for the energy that ‘greenhouse gases’ trap.

The rest of the theory proceeds as outlined in my previous essays, reflect more, trap less, you control climate heating. Developing engineering methods to vary the amount of climate heating/cooling, you’ve invented the science of climate modification.

Fiction

April 14, 2014

I’ve started a new blog devoted to my fiction writing. The name of the blog is Jack L Knapp, Author. I intend the blog to be about my fiction and keep this blog for nonfiction.

Currently I have two books on Amazon, Combat Wizard and Wizard at Work.The final book in the trilogy, Talent, is about a third written. It will get a final edit and then should be available on Amazon within three months.

I expect to have Darwin’s World ready for publication soon; the book is ‘finished’ but undergoing revision. As soon as it’s published I’ll begin revising The Trek, the second book in the series. Home is the title of book three, currently being written.

I hope you’ll go to Amazon and check out the books! Meanwhile, I should have samples of my writing on the site within a few days. You can find it at jacklknapp.com.

Reinventing Myself, Part Four

March 29, 2014

At age 74, you have a right to expect that the major changes of your life are behind you. The struggles and doubt and pain of finding out who you are, that’s for youngsters. The responsibility of caring for a family, of picking up sons when they fall and applying such guidance as they’ll accept, that goes away as they grow up and leave home. If you’re lucky, you’ll then get to resume building a relationship with the person who helped you along the way.

I did. She’s been wonderful, strong when I wasn’t, nurturing when I was awkward, steady when I wavered. Our relationship is almost fifty years in duration now, and for almost forty-nine of those years we’ve been married.

That’s not common nowadays; bonding is incomplete, I think. Those who change life partners periodically, always searching never quite finding, cannot know what I mean. They’ll never wake up and know without questioning that the life partner of all those years is there, the same as she’s been for almost half a century. I hope she also knows that about me, that I’ll be there. I suspect she does.

But my restless spirit isn’t quiet, not even now.

Life as a senior citizen isn’t idyllic. Change comes, and not all of it is good.

A number of years ago our youngest son began manifesting symptoms of a disease. We didn’t know. So many little things, the evidence became much more significant as time went on. An initial matter; Kevin was delivered early. My wife began developing an incompatibility reaction and the pregnancy was medically terminated. Kevin was jaundiced, but after a blood exchange began growing. Then there was a bout of hepatitis, but it went away after treatment. More serious symptoms appeared later in life. But by then we had moved to New Mexico to be closer to our children and young grandchildren. Kevin had been living with his brother but now there was to be another baby and the room was needed. Kevin moved in with us.

He’d worked at various jobs, eventually with his older brother as a construction laborer. But that soon ended; Kevin’s balance was going. He couldn’t climb ladders. Later he manifested myoclonic jerks, and in time these became more severe. A physician prescribed Depakote, a heavy dose. The jerks subsided but the disease worsened. One day Kevin was sent home from his job at Solo Cup, unable to return unless cleared to do so fby a doctor. That didn’t happen. Instead, based on the doctor’s evaluation, Kevin was medically retired. We realized that something very serious was going on. The usual tales say that it takes numerous attempts before Social Security disability is approved. Kevin’s sailed through on the first try. By then Kevin was getting around the house on a walker. After a fall that injured his knee, he went into a wheelchair during the day. He never went back to the walker even after the bruised knee healed. By 2012, Kevin needed assistance getting in and out of bed. Fortunately I was available, even if not very strong. But I was strong enough. I’d retired several years before from teaching. I had the time to help. We endured together.

And that’s how I came to reinvent myself for a final time. Kevin needed me to be available but didn’t require constant care. I decided to try writing fiction during the time Kevin didn’t need my help. It wasn’t much of a stretch. I’d already begun writing short essays. At age 70 I decided to join Mensa, more as a lark than for any other purpose. I found nothing to interest me in the US online group, but the international group was better. I became a member and administrator for the International Mensa Forum. I noticed something when I commented on the Forum. Most members wrote short responses, about the length of a paragraph at most. I wrote mini-essays, some of them on the order of 1000 words. And the members took the writing seriously. They didn’t peer askance and dismiss the maunderings of an old man, they read and responded.

I collected some of the mini-essays and posted them to a blog, this one. And in May of 2013 I began writing fiction. Between the occasional call to assist Kevin, I wrote. I escaped from pain and disappointment by writing; I still do.

It’s now the end of March, 2014. During the past 11 months I’ve written more than 400 000 words. I caught the bug. I doubt there’s a cure for the writing disease. If so, I don’t want it.

My first efforts weren’t very good. Practice helps. I’ve gotten much better and found an editor during this past year. Others have helped too. Through practice and from suggestions, I learned to write.

Two weeks ago Kevin’s disease finally won. By then it was expected, even welcomed. We grieve as we must, but life goes on.

Two days later my first book, heavily rewritten, was posted on Amazon for sale. The sequel followed shortly. The Wizards Trilogy is beginning to sell, slowly but steadily. I’ve found a few fans already. I got fan letters while learning to write from a number of countries, not only the US and Canada but also from Britain and Europe, even from Australia and New Zealand. The Darwin’s World Series is in final edit before posting. Each of the two books in this series runs to more than 100 000 words. They’ll be on Amazon as soon as the editing is finished. And the next two books in Wizards and Darwin’s are underway.

From soldier to teacher, from caregiver to novelist, such is my final reinvention.

At least, so far!

 

Kevin

March 28, 2014

We’re planting a tree in Kevin’s memory. Soon we’ll meet as a family for a final duty to our son and brother and uncle. I won’t be able to talk at the time, I’m aware of what grief does to me. But I can write, and so I put together on paper the things I won’t be able to say. Someone may read the words or I’ll just pass out copies. But this is my farewell.

Kevin:

Kevin didn’t ask for much. He was much more patient than I would have been during those final years.

But this place was his home during that time, and this yard was the view he saw when he looked out of his window. It’s appropriate that we plant a tree here that will bloom in spring as a remembrance of Kevin.

Shortly after he went into the nursing facility he asked me, “Dad, can you take me home?”

I had to say no. It broke my heart. I still can’t think of it without breaking down.

I think what Kevin was really asking was if I could halt the progression of the disease, take him back to the time a few days before when he could still get out of bed and into the wheelchair with my help. But I couldn’t. I think Kevin understood then that he wouldn’t be going home again.

And day by day, the disease progressed. Kevin became weaker, but even as he began to slip away he always welcomed us and had a good word for the people he met. His brothers came to visit him with their families, as did some of his friends. He was happy to see them, to know he hadn’t been forgotten.

Friday afternoon he began to weaken. For the first time, he didn’t recognize us when we went to visit him Saturday morning. Just after noon on March 16th, Kevin’s body followed the person we loved into death.

And finally I was able to bring him home.

Today we met as a family to spread his ashes around the tree we planted in his memory. They’ll be here forever, near the redbud tree outside the window that was his viewport on the world during those last few years.

He won’t be forgotten.

Welcome home, Kevin.