Charles Ray's Column
How Long is Long Enough
There’s this joke; a priest, a nun, and a rabbi walk into a bar. The punch line is ‘it’s not long enough.’ Now, for the life of me, I can never remember what comes between the opening line and the punch line – but, that really doesn’t matter, because thinking of that joke, I started thinking about another ‘joke’ – how long should your book be? Well, that’s not really a joke, is it? I mean, we writers have to think about such things.
Browsing my social media sites for writers, I’ve seen this question come up from time to time, and back in the days before I decided to self-publish, length was a big issue, whether it was writing a book or an article for a magazine.
So, let’s talk about that, shall we? How long should your written work be? The answer is, it depends. If you’re writing an article for a journal, print or online, the publisher will have specified lengths, and if you wish to be published you’re well advised to comply with those specifications. When writing your novel, on the other hand, you’re sailing in completely different waters.
If you research it, you’ll find a number of different views on the appropriate length for fiction (nonfiction as well). Novels, it is maintained, should be anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 words. Some say a novel is 50,000 or more, and others insist that a real novel is 60,000 to 80,000 words. Less than that, and they maintain that it becomes a novella or even (shudder) a novelette.
I have a different view. I hew to the answer to the question, ‘how long should a man’s legs be?’ The answer is credited to either Abraham Lincoln or J.D. Salinger – it really doesn’t matter which said it, but it was ‘long enough to reach the ground.’ And that, my friends, is the answer to how long your story should be – ‘long enough to get from opening to conclusion in a rational manner.’
The length conventions, established by the traditional print publishers, were often based on economic considerations more than anything else. For a print publisher, it is more economical to print a book that ranges from 200 – 300 pages because of the amount and size of the paper used. Of course, for authors with an established track record and audience, exceptions have always been made. Another belief is that readers will feel cheated by a book that is too thin – say under 200 pages.
My own experience has been different. I’ve written books of just under 40,000 words (call them novellas if you wish, I just call them stories) which have done as well as those I’ve done that were over 50,000 – in the case of my historical fiction/western books about the Buffalo Soldiers, better in fact. I just map out the story, beginning with how I want it to end, going back and coming up with an opening scene, and then writing until I get to a logical stopping point. My Buffalo Soldier books come in normally at 45,000 – 55,000 words. I have a mystery series which tends to average 50,000 – 65,000 because of all the plot twists. Using print-on-demand, I don’t have the problem of having to economize on printing costs as much as a traditional publisher who has to establish a print run for each edition, and each book is also available in e-book format where length and thickness isn’t an issue – well, thickness isn’t.
What I’ve concluded, though, is that if the story is well constructed and well told, if readers can identify with the characters, and the storyline is credible, no one complains about how long it is. It’ll be a long time until we’re no longer guided by the conventions of the past, but I’ve noticed more and more independent authors who are following the new rule – make it long enough to reach the ground. Who knows; when the next technological advance once again changes the publishing industry, maybe we’ll be the ones out of step. In the meantime, I’ll just keep writing from the beginning to the end, and stopping.
Dr. White's Religious Wisdom
The Beauty Of Each Season
With the autumn season fast approaching I couldn't reframe from reflecting on the beauty of nature that is displayed in each season. Each season has its specific purpose and colors that are arrayed in magnificent colors. One can stand in awe of the sovereignty of our creator. All creation operates as designed while obeying commands and each season of the year is no exception.
If a survey were conducted asking, what is your favorite season? The answers would vary, because we all sea beauty differently; colors and seasons are no exception. It is noteworthy to say that each season is filled with many different colors that depicts that season.
For me, autumn is my favorite time of the year; simply because when I look as the changing of the leaves on the trees I know soon these leaves will have fallen. Another reason autumn is my favorite time is the year is because the temperature is of such there is no need for a heavy coat for those of us who live in parts of the country where a heavy coat is needed during the winter. Autumn also reminds me of harvest-time and sitting by a warm fire in the fireplace while sipping a cup of tea or coffee watching the leaves fall to the ground in their array of colors.
Personally, I enjoy taking long drives through northern Michigan just to see the changing of the colors as they display their beauty. I stand in awe and say what a beautiful sight to see knowing full well that pretty soon the trees that are now showing their fall colors will be snow covered shortly until spring when these same trees will be arrayed in green that signal the beginning of a new cycle of four seasons.
Whether you have a favorite season or nor, each season is beautiful in its own right; therefore, see them for what they are; nature displaying its beauty.
Comments are welcomed.
John B. Rosenman
Have you ever had a mystic moment? A cosmic or out-of-body experience beyond space and time? A spiritual moment of enlightenment, precognition, you-name-it?
Or perhaps you've had a moment not so grand and glorious. Perhaps you're even a rational, logical sort who never tolerated such nuttiness until the day you saw a ghost or dreamed of an event before it occurred.
Let's define the term mysticism. According to Wikipedia, "Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute, but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning.[web 1] It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.[
Becoming one with God or the Absolute. Sometimes it depends on prayer, meditation, or what you smoke. I've never quite broken through in that area, but I have had a few moments or experiences which I find hard to explain logically. Perhaps after I tell you about them, you'd like to comment and share some of your own.
1. When I was very young, I could function a little in both the conscious and unconscious realms at the same time. One night my sister Mona entered my bedroom while I was dreaming about batting against Bob Feller, the ace pitcher of the Cleveland Indians. She asked me something. I replied, "Wait till I get a hit first." She was insistent though, and I saw Bob Feller start to fade. I could hear Mona's footsteps as she paced back and forth, and my mother moving downstairs. I didn't want to wake up because I was enjoying my dream. Fortunately my sister left, and Bullet Bob came back into focus. I dug in at the plate and smacked the next fastball right over the center field fence.
2. One day at Norfolk State University, I was sitting in the Honors College meeting room. I reached out to the bookcase and had an odd feeling. Whatever book I take down will help me with my next novel. I don't know where the feeling came from, but I felt certain it would come true. My hand didn't search long. As if guided by some force, it selected an unknown book.
When my hand came back to me, I looked at what it held. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe.
Of course I had to read it. The Noble Prize-winning author's novel is about Nigeria, and the European invasion and colonization of his homeland which caused the collapse (Things Fall Apart) of its culture and traditions. I had been thinking of writing a science-fiction novel about Africa, and Things Fall Apart inspired me to create a beautiful Africa-like planet among the stars. In my story, history repeats itself as it so often does. The New Europeans come to conquer and colonize The New Africa, and to hell with the natives. I call my novel A Senseless Act of Beauty. The title comes from a bumper sticker, and it's available at http://amzn.to/2c90IaF .
3. Finally, whenever I watch Jeopardy, I can always tell a split second in advance when a Daily Double is about to appear. I just feel it in my bones. Sadly, this talent has no practical value. In fact, it's a curse, since I can never convince my wife I possess it. Imagine what it would be like if the answers came to me a split second early! But could I do anything with such a gift, or would it be just another curse?
I believe most people have mystic moments—or whatever you want to call them. My ability is small, and I know some of you out there possess a greater gift than me, perhaps even a prodigious one. How about it, do any of you have a Third Eye or a Sixth Sense? What experiences have you had? Please comment and let me know.
Ah, I feel someone about to respond. Don't ask me how I know--I just do.
The first three novels of John's Scifi-Adventure series are available at http://amzn.to/2bOjbsq
Failure Can Lead to Valuable Life Lessons by Vinita
Whether it's reality or a dream? The reality is you want happiness and peace. Most of all you want happiness and peace with success. The goal is you want to achieve a balanced peaceful and happy life. Yet you still want to dream and succeed. You’ve failed a thousand times, been rejected a thousand times. You question, Why me? Why did I fail again? Now years have passed and you say - rejections don’t matter. I’m just going to do my duties. I am just going through the journey to get to where I am destined to be.” Then you say - I’m getting stronger. My failures have taught me what to do and how to do it. I’m finally here in the present, balanced and focused. I’m calm and still. I am completely focused. I may say I’m stuck. I had my dance class. I felt I spent several classes learning the same step. I wasn’t focused earlier, I didn’t practice, nor did I say the steps. Then one day I’m asleep. I remember my dream when I wake up. In the dream I am saying write the steps over and over till I have it memorized. Say the steps over and over till I remember it. Then practice the steps. Yes now we have moved from one dance step class to another dance step class easily. In reality that dream confidence of writing the steps over and over again has come true, to having the first step to succeed in dancing. The next dream is teaching dance steps. So you see yourself as not the student but the teacher teaching the steps. Then you look at yourself in the mirror and practice the dance steps. When you watch yourself in the mirror you see every move and you see when you are making a mistake. That’s how you get your dream confidence to move ahead and succeed.
The media is at it again.
How many guys are there out there will say they are so pure in thought that they have never seen a very shapely, attractive girl and not had fleeting sexist thoughts about her, and if you were with a good buddy, perhaps for just a brief moment the two of you bantered back and forth in a couple sentences about what you could do with that? Come on – admit it!
And ladies – come on – you have heard it so many times, it isn’t just locker room jive anymore. You hear it on the television. It is supposed to be funny if you hear it on a television program, isn’t it? Every movie these days has a bedroom scene in it. That’s okay. Sometime there are even a few catcalls if you walk down the street. That’s okay too. Actually, that embarrasses me. And the books -- To market a good love novel, you need a few steamy sex scenes. No one is offended and it gets you on the New York Times Best Seller List.
Well, maybe we, as women, do not think it is very funny, but we are used to it. Let’s be really honest about it. Men do it every day. It is part of their nature. Maybe some are not really crude about it, but does not a whistle mean the same thing? We only hear the whistles, but amongst themselves they say the really crude stuff.
We were not born yesterday and our ears are not tender anymore. “Media” has seen to that. Media said we have to make it seem real and every day so they put it on television the same way it happens in some homes to make us think it happens that way in every household. We get used to it, but we’re not stupid.
“Media” is the big manipulator. They can’t have it both ways, but they keep trying. Now they want to take an incident that happened eleven years ago, a locker room joke, and turn it into a circus – just because they can – just because they do not like a man – Donald Trump.
On the other hand, you have someone the media is defending when, in fact they should be crucifying her. Hillary Clinton, a career criminal, has never been held accountable for what happened in Benghazi, turning Libya into chaos; her secret private server with classified materials to hide her activities, deleting 33,000 emails; using the Clinton Foundation as a cover for tax evasion and taking bribes from foreign countries; allowing drones to be operated in our country without benefit of the law; arming the Muslim Brotherhood and hiring them in the White House; Whitewater, Watergate committee, Vince Foster, commodity deals; https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=kypl1MYuKDY
the IRS targeting Conservatives; turning our backs on Israel; the Iran Nuke deal that was a joke; leaving Iraq in chaos; agreeing to give Solyndra $500M when they were going bankrupt anyway; being aware the NSA is monitoring our citizens; the State Department interfering with an Inspector General Investigation on department sexual misconduct; or how about why did she steal the White House furniture when she left?
I do not hear the Media questioning Mrs. Clinton and Tim Kaines’ ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2pZIcYTF08g
When Wall Street Billionaire Pedophile Jeffrey Epstein was interviewed about Bill Clinton, his comments were Mr. Clinton was someone that could get him out of trouble if he got caught. Epstein provided Mr. Clinton with free entertainment at his “orgy island” villa in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which also included free transportation on Mr. Epstein’s 727 Jet that had a bed and other relaxation equipment, but was used mostly for foreplay.
Epstein’s pleasure was minors. Epstein would force his favorites to sleep with his powerful friends and then blackmail them to obtain favors.
To the progressive liberal left, former President Bill Clinton is still a hero who can do no wrong even though he is a sexual predator that has embarrassed America with his indiscretions not only with Monica Lewinsky, but with others as well that got paid to keep their mouth shut.
It is true Mr. Clinton was not the first and only president to have another woman behind the scenes. Ike had a friend. Kennedy had a few. Johnson had his share. Those are the ones I know about in my time. They say the definition of a slut is a woman with the morals of a man. What does that tell you? But it is okay for a man if your name is Clinton, but not if your name is Trump.These most recent events with Mr. Trump are Media driven. Do the people that are going to vote really care? I think not. It is the Media that has never liked Mr. Trump and that are doing whatever they can to destroy him. They should be ashamed of themselves for being such Communists in a democratic society. They think because they manipulate such huge audiences that they can sway this election.
No tall buildings or temples this time, instead I chose to focus on a mystery of the ages, that being, the great stone spheres or balls of Costa Rica. These mysterious balls number a little over 300, located on the Diquis Delta. These spheres range in size from a few inches to almost 7’ and weigh in up to 15 tons. Most are sculpted out of gabbro, igneous rock equivalent to basalt, which forms from molten magma. Some are made of limestone and some from sandstone. These unusual formations were thought to have been formed from around 600 to 1000 AD. Of course we now have to consider the mythology of this place, for we as poets and writers must concern ourselves with all possibilities for strange and unusual phenomena. Anything unusual is always thought to have come from Atlantis, and this is no exception. Some believe the natives had a potion able to soften the rock in order to shape them. The cosmogony of the Bribri tell that the stones are Tara’s cannon balls; Tara being the god of thunder who used a blowpipe to shoot the balls at the Serkes, who were the gods of winds and hurricanes, in order to drive them out of the lands. These balls have been extensively studied since the1940’s. Unfortunately some of the artifacts were destroyed due to wild stories that they were inlaid with gold, thus, they were cracked open or blown apart with dynamite. Many of the damaged stones were reconstructed. What is particularly noteworthy is that no other stone balls of like size have been found anywhere else in the world except for a few in the highlands of Guatemala and Vera Cruz. These almost perfectly rounded, smooth stones are testimony to the artistry of ancient people who had few special carving tools, but who had a whole lot of creativity. I wonder if anyone might say that I had a lot of stones writing about this...
I recently read this and had to add it to November's issue~
How to Get Along with Difficult People
Self-knowledge is powerful.
We all have subjects and idiosyncrasies that push our buttons, and I can almost guarantee that the difficult person in your life knows what those are—but do you? Spend some time exploring what really ticks you off. Is it when somebody talks about politics, money, or your family? Is it when your ex takes your kids to McDonald’s 3 days in a row?
Once you have your list of those trigger buttons, you are ready to arm yourself.
Create a plan. What will you do when the conversation steers dangerously close to one of your buttons?
You can practice deep breathing, take a short time-out, walk away from the conversation, or any combination of the three. Whatever allows you to center yourself and regain your focus on the purpose of the conversation will work.
Meditation & Relaxation
Hello and welcome. Thank you for the many lovely comments to me, as well your insights from reading my column.
In the July issue I started to answer some questions sent to me and in today’s column we will look at “How did you begin to deal with your illness in such a positive way – did you meditate?”
This is not a straightforward answer. Even though I had been meditating, teaching meditation and facilitating workshops in various styles of meditation since 1988, including methods for chronic pain, nothing prepared me for coping with this illness.
Meditation, relaxation, sitting quietly contemplating or enjoying the sounds of the wind whistling through the trees and watching the clouds flit by, mindfulness, going for a walk to clear one’s head – there are many different ways of expressing the concept of, and practising, meditation. True meditation shows particular brainwave patterns on scans but you don’t have to know about that to meditate. If that aspect interests you there are research studies, over more than three decades, done with monks, nuns, meditators and people who pray, including His Holiness The Dalai Lama’s involvement through neurological research, which are published in refered scientific journals.
When my health started deteriorating rapidly in 2008 all my meditation techniques became not only ‘useless’ but caused adverse responses. Basically relaxing was an indication of not being alert to danger and my sympathetic nervous system (SNS), the fight & flight response, took over. Swelling of my throat and tongue as well as increased severe pain annihilated any sense of a calm relaxed state. And on the occasion of joining a meditation session at a support group meeting someone struggling for breath and turning a pale shade of blue was concerning for the instructor and certainly not conducive to the blissful post meditation experience for participants!
I meditate again now, and for the past couple of years facilitate meditation at support group meetings, spiritualist centres and as a guest at various self-development classes. Reconnecting with meditation came through the use of ‘fairy cards’ (for the technique please read my column ‘Normalcy’ http://pnpaug.webs.com/columnist). I couldn’t ‘take my mind inside’ so I needed to connect with focussing on images external to me. Reassuring myself as I relaxed that it was safe to do so. It took many, many months but I could finally sit or semi-lie down quietly and have a little respite from the intensity of my symptoms. That was back in 2010. And as for now? I have progressed to standing, listening to carefully selected music, and allowing a moving-style meditation. I still can’t focus on my breath, nor what is happening internally without causing my SNS to respond adversely. However, the journey of discovery through experimenting which meditations currently work for me and what might have possibilities in the future is and has been rewarding. I have been able to use meditative techniques to feel more in control of my situation, and thus empowered.
If you are looking at meditation CDs or downloads do sample before purchase to ensure the voice, the style of delivery, and background sounds are acceptable to you. Finding meditations of varying lengths of time of sessions e.g. 5 minute, 15minutes to 30 minutes and longer is also useful. There are various online free seminars such as Hayhouse, Jennifer McLean’s Healing with the Masters and others which offer interviews and meditation within the session where you can experience different techniques.
This is only a very brief insight into the wonderful world of meditation and its benefits.
So until next month if you have had positive, or negative, responses to meditation or want to know more I look forward to hearing from you about this, and anything else you’d like to share with me, to share with all of you.
Suzanne, you are amazing and have a constitution greater than many of us can imagine. Always anxious to read your column. Peter
We hope your surgery went well, and we miss your columns