The Rise of “Niche Media,” the end of compromise and the division of America

•October 10, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Constitution_of_the_United_States,_page_1It’s a dangerous and pervasive myth to believe that America was founded by men with unwavering principles–so passionate in their beliefs that they refused to compromise.

America was founded on compromise. Jefferson’s removal of all references to slavery in the Declaration of Independence allowed the colonies to unite in their separation from England. The U.S. Constitution as we know it was the product of vigorous debate and was only ready to be submitted to the states for ratification following The Great Compromise and the Three-Fifths Compromise.

Politicians used to be better compromisers. Americans used to be better compromisers. I think that essentially democratic characteristic has been lost. I think the ever-increasing access to compartmentalized/niche information sources is partly to blame.

There is simply less of a need for us to have to hear the opinions of others– it’s easier for us to tune into radio and TV or log onto websites that only support our own way of thinking. We can lazily stay in our ideological comfort zones–slowly morphing into rigid zealots and fanatics.

In the pre-cable TV, pre-Internet past, our choices were more limited. We were forced to see and hear more opposing points of view. It might have made us uncomfortable, but I think that discomfort was a great thing–sometimes simply the start of a vigorous conversation or at other times the prelude to a productive compromise.

How do we reinvigorate America with the spirit of compromise? First, we have to realize that the effort will not be comfortable. We will have to genuinely listen to opinions that will grate against our own firmly held beliefs. Second, we have to realize that it will take a sustained effort–it’s not something we can try for a week, post our efforts on Facebook, Tweet about and then move on.

With that in mind, I challenge everyone, everyday, to access one source of “information” that you perceive as presenting an opposing viewpoint or bias on the world. Some simple examples: if you watch CNN regularly, watch FOX News (really watch and listen) for 15 or 30 minutes; if you listen to Hannity or Rush, try NPR for an hour. Do it everyday and tell people what you are doing and why.

Why? Because America–as embodied in our Constitution, as visualized by our Founders, as manifested in its first 200 years–will only survive if we recapture the ability to listen and compromise. The other option is gridlock, stagnation and decay.

 

VISUALIZING LOCATIONS IN WRITING: augmenting with working graphics

•October 4, 2017 • Leave a Comment

As I was writing Monday afternoon, I realized I needed a better visual idea of what I was constructing on Midway Atoll in the follow-up to Wendall’s Lullaby. The vision in my mind was becoming too complex, too detailed to recall off-hand. I needed a cleaner image to reference outside of my mind. Consequently, I spent the better part of Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning creating a graphic representation of the top secret remake of Midway Atoll.

MIDWAY FACILITIES - DELPHYS

While the main focus of the remake is an advanced dolphin research facility, I also had to include the supporting infrastructure to bring the neglected and dilapidated island into (and beyond) the 21st Century. Of course the world in the follow-up novel is one in which the events of Wendall’s Lullaby have shaped the national security situation in the U.S.–including the black ops budget and some environmental concerns.

Militarily, the base has been rejuvenated–runways reconstructed, new hangers built, docking piers reconstructed. New structures are hardened against physical enemy attacks, cyber/electronic attacks and tropical cyclones. Historic features (buildings and memorials) have been preserved. Less-historic buildings have been refurbished for use–including the school, officer and civilian housing, gymnasium and fitness facilities, library, Navy Exchange (store), Captain’s Club and a small movie theater.

Environmentally, the new base at Midway is built to be self-sustaining/self-supporting and reasonably minimize the impact on the somewhat fragile atoll ecosystem.–especially following the initial construction phase. Main power is supplied via wind turbines, solar arrays and solar roofing panels. Human waste is recycled for the hydroponic farm and/or treated to a level compatible with release into the environment. Compostable solid waste is recycled on site while other solid waste is periodically shipped off the island for disposal. Overall solid waste production is minimized via the emphasis on procuring consumables in bulk–minimizing packaging.

While my vision of Midway is still evolving (even as I write this I’ve added a few details), having this graphic is a huge help as I move forward writing–allowing me to more accurately (and easily) create believable scenes.

 

MORNING WORKOUT–Start the day SUPERCHARGED

•September 26, 2017 • Leave a Comment

I was rewarded during this morning’s paddling workout with some beautiful flat water and an early dolphin sighting. It was my first morning workout on the Dunedin Causeway since Hurricane Irma–a 1.5-mile run followed by a 5.25-mile paddle in my surfski.

morning on the causeway

Ever since I started writing more seriously again, I’ve struggled a bit with pulling myself away from my desk–often harnessing the energy I would normally put towards a workout for my writing. And that was great for getting me re-motivated and move me along with Wendall’s Lullaby and the follow-up to that novel. I still managed to squeeze in some workouts, but I definitely sacrificed my overall feeling of health and fitness.

Now that I’m a little further along and getting into better writing habits, it’s time to mix in my old, better training habits.

I have to remember one of the main reasons I do my workouts in the morning: it gives me a feeling of already having accomplished one thing for the day and that feeling of accomplishment leaves me supercharged to get more done during the rest of my day.

So, with today’s workout done it’s on to doing some work on my Endeavor Racing events, stopping by to see my dad to make sure he knows about his doctors appointment tomorrow, doing a little book promotion and then getting to some work on writing my follow-up novel.

BACKSTORY – My Nemesis?

•September 22, 2017 • Leave a Comment

One of the reasons I love writing so much is the research it allows me to do–the tangents I can follow. I simply love learning and love the learning involved in creating a semi-fictional world like the one in Wendall’s Lullaby (and the follow-up).

file and notes and booksI do exhaustive research for my work–reading books, web searches, Wikipedia and flying around the world on Google Earth. I’ll even wade through scientific research papers when needed.

That research helps me formulate not just the plot, but what I would call the “back-plot.”

I put the same kind of exhaustive process into developing the characters and their lives. I need to know what they’ve been through in order to accurately write their reactions to the situations in which I put them. But I think that I put so much work–so much passion–into developing those stories that I chafe at not sharing them with the reader. That’s one of the reasons for the deep backstories of most of the main characters in my first novel.

I was prompted to think again about these aspects of my writing a bit more deeply today due to a new review of Wendall’s Lullaby posted on IndieReader (click here for the review). One of the critiques was that the deep backstories took away from the flow and speed of the story–and that while some of the backstory was necessary some was not.

That idea ties nicely into the simple definition of backstory I found on Wikipedia:

A backstory, background story, back-story, or background is a set of events invented for a plot, presented as preceding and leading up to that plot. It is a literary device of a narrative history all chronologically earlier than the narrative of primary interest.

I have to learn that backstory is just that–backstory. It is not “the narrative of primary interest.” And I need to use that precept to guide me–both in my use of backstory and back-plot.

It was another reminder that writing is a process–a learning process. Developing as a writer is a process. And, I’d like to thank everyone who has reviewed my first novel for helping me improve that work, develop my craft and for the better novels I will write in the future.

Thanks, Henry.

•September 21, 2017 • 1 Comment

388px-Benjamin_D._Maxham_-_Henry_David_Thoreau_-_RestoredIf one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life which one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
–Henry David Thoreau

I read Thoreau early in my life–and often. As a budding “environmental thinker” before the end of high school, I know I at least read some excerpts of his work in 10th grade English–and I still have the well-worn and annotated copy of Walden I purchased for a course at New College in 1984. Since that older book has become too fragile to frequent, I have a newer, hardcover version that I go to for reading now.

As much as I admire Thoreau–his beard choice AND his unwavering pursuit of HIS life–following his path is not always easy–his quote about advancing “confidently in the direction of one’s dreams” lacks reference to one vital component–endurance. While, I think it may be implied, I think it’s important to note that the journey to success he alludes to may take some time–more time than most people imagine when they set off down a particular road.

But coming from an endurance racing background–familiar with the build-up of training involved in reaching a goal–persevering in the long-haul is always a part of my plans–even now as I pursue my writing (in addition to my race business) with more focused vigor. I’m in this for life and as such realize the way to success is a process–a long-term process–even with regards to one work.

Thoreau JOURNALWriters put themselves and their work out there–open for all to see, read and critique. I’ve been lucky enough with Wendall’s Lullaby to get some very good reviews–people who couldn’t put the book down. I’ve also been lucky to get some very critical reviews–harshly worded enough to sting my ego, but mostly filled with comments that, once I put ego aside, are helpful in creating a better work.

writing notebook and white boardWith those critiques in mind, I’ve been updating the text of Wendall’s Lullaby–with the goal of uploading a better version to Amazon within the next day or so. While there are many downsides to being a self-published author, one of the advantages is the ability to quickly edit, adapt, improve and “republish.”

So while I complete my update (and continue work on the follow-up tentatively titled The Delphys Effect), I thank Henry David Thoreau for pulling me down the rocky and fulfilling road of living the life which I have imagined.

 

 

My Love of Dolphins–Origins

•September 7, 2017 • 1 Comment

bottle-nosed dolphinOne of the basic tenets of writing is “write what you know.” Well, there are many people who know me and are wondering, “How does Kip know dolphins?”

I developed my interest in dolphins and the oceans early in my life. I grew up in Leonardo, NJ–not exactly a dolphin or ocean “hot spot.” In fact, the little town was on the south side of Sandy Hook Bay–an area not know as a pristine marine environment. On a clear day, the views from Leonardo Beach and Leonardo Marina took in not only Sandy Hook, but Staten Island and New York City. As a kid, I’d go fishing from the jetty at the mouth of the marina with friends from school and surf fishing with my brother Kevin from the beach. My friend, Jack Hueston and I would beachcomb, sein for bait fish (to keep or sell) and check our trap for “killies” (again to keep or sell).

LEONARDO NJ AREA

At the same time two things helped develop my love of the oceans/marine environment and, eventually, in dolphins–family vacations to Anna Maria Island in Florida and watching The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau on television.

We stayed at my grandparents’ house on Anna Maria Island–only about 100 yards from the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. In the mornings, we would often walk a few miles on the beach–me, stooped over collecting sea shells (I developed into quite a collector) or looking out over the water for dolphins. As I got older, I’d search for live sea shells while snorkeling and if dolphins were passing by I’d try to swim towards them. I never got close enough to see them or swim with them–but, I always tried.

jacques-cousteau-v1-1The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was what drove my interest in dolphins and in being underwater. My friend Jack and I bought snorkeling gear–mask, snorkel, fins and (for some reason) dive knives. We found a place along Sandy Hook Bay (near a small fuel tank farm) where a concrete-encased pipeline had turned into a small artificial reef. With sometimes a whopping five feet of visibility we’d snorkel along the “reef”–observing fish, little anemones, crabs and mollusks. As a shell collector, I was always interested in the various snails, oysters and mussels we found.

At the same time, the TV show inspired me to read Jacques Cousteau’s books–every thing from The Silent World to Dolphins. I began to read more books on dolphins and very early on discovered the headier dolphin works of researcher John C. Lilly. In my seventh grade life science class, I remember doing extensive research for an oral presentation on the dolphins that were being killed in tuna fishing nets.

At one point in time, I switched from wanting to be a malacologist (a scientist who studies mollusks–the live critters who create sea shells) to wanting to be a marine mammologist. Of course, I was attracted to the charismatic megafauna. Because of Lilly’s influence, I was particularly interested in dolphin communication.

So, the seeds of my interest in dolphins were planted young. And, that love of and interest in dolphins–and those early influences of Cousteau and Lilly–definitely have had a major impact on the creation of Wendall’s Lullaby.

FINDING BALANCE–Writing, Working Out & Managing My Events

•August 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

lifesABeachLogo_greenOne of the challenges I knew I would face once I dove back into “serious” writing was finding a balance between writing and other things that are important in my life–my family, my workouts and my Endeavor Racing/Life’s A Beach Triathlon events.

On Monday, July 31, I committed to finishing and self-publishing Wendall’s Lullaby. For most of the next week I did little for my event planning and got in almost no workouts. I wasn’t heartbroken about the workouts–I had just finished a rigorous mountain bike race in North Carolina the previous weekend–but, my event planning definitely suffered just a little. Still, I was okay with the temporary binge-focus on writing, editing and formatting–managing to get an eBook version for Kindle and a paperback version up on Amazon within eight days.

COVER PAPERBACK 6 X 9Since that time, I’ve been inspired (by notes I found stashed in a box) to start my follow-up to Wendall’s Lullaby AND have been spreading the word out about the book. I’ve spent a little more time working on my trail running and Life’s A Beach Triathlon events–especially since my Sarasota Life’s A Beach is coming up fast. I’ve even managed to get in a few more sporadic workouts.

The BIG challenge I face–especially with workouts vs. writing–is the mornings. I’ve typically been a morning workout person. I love to start the day with my workouts–it’s a beautiful time of day (sunrise), it’s when I seem to have the most energy and focus and it “guarantees” I’ll get something in before the other activities/needs of the day can interfere or derail.

New Book NotesI’ve been drawn to writing in the mornings for much the same reasons–the refreshed focus, mental clarity, high energy and quiet beauty of the morning. Of course, this puts me directly at odds with getting in my workouts/training.

The added challenge is that writing (for me) can be very much a “flow experience.” Once I get started, if I’m “inspired,” I may continue to write past the time I had allotted for writing for that day. Or, I may have all intentions of starting a workout first thing in the morning (or even trying to squeeze one in during the afternoon) but have an idea I want to write out that preempts the workout (because I don’t want to risk losing the thought forever or because the thought prompts a longer bout of writing). In some ways, as a writer, that’s a good problem to have.

Concept2 RowerIn other ways, it messes with the head of the Kip who likes to feel fit and healthy. So, as I move forward trying to balance these elements of my life, I’m especially working on fine-tuning my morning workouts so that they are more efficient–in the amount of time I put in and the results that I get. It means more use of the Concept2 Rower and the local streets for rowing and running intervals. It means more circuit-style workouts that incorporate full-body movements. And, it means putting in more efficient time on the water–more intervals in the surfski and less of the long, steady grinds (except with my OC6 crew) I love.

What was this morning’s workout?

4x through this circuit:

  1. Concept2 Rower: 2 minutes
  2. Kettlebell Thrusters
  3. Web Mountain Climbers

Then, 4x through this circuit:

  1. Concept2 Rower: 1 minute
  2. Sissy Squats with Side Lateral Raise
  3. Low Back Extension w/”Row”
  4. Crossover Rows on Ball

 

 
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