Thursday, September 26, 2013

Earth, Water, Air and Fire

After the flood destruction here in Colorado this month, I’ve been thinking about natural disasters. Ancients spoke of the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. My wife made a good observation the other day that I hadn’t consciously recognized before. These four elements also account for our natural disasters. It’s ironic that contracts often refer to “Act’s of God.” To me, disasters have nothing to do with God unless you hold with a vengeful Old Testament type of God who likes to punish people. Let’s take a look at the four elements.

Earth. An earthquake shook Pakistan this week and killed many people. If you live in California, this is always a possibility as well. I grew up in Hawaii where volcanic eruptions (a combination of earth and fire) occurred frequently.
Water. In drought, we seek it, in flood we want it to stop. There are also tsunamis, a combination of earth (earthquakes) and a resulting massive pulse of water. We’ve recently experienced a 100 year flood here in Colorado. After several years of drought, we broke all records for a day, month and year with one week of too much rain. The power of water carved the Grand Canyon. I’ve seen pictures of roads obliterated in canyons in the Colorado mountains in the recent flooding and witnessed the flood erosion on nearby hiking trails.

Air. Ah, those storms. Wind, tornados, hurricanes, cyclones, typhoons, Chinook, Santa Ana whatever you choose to call them can wreck devastation. And some of them produce ocean surges and the accompanying rainfall, leading to flooding. Blizzards combine air and water as do hail storms. Dust storms (simoom, haboob) combine earth and air.

Fire. We have had too many wildfires in Colorado the last few years. These have caused damage to thousands of acres of forest and the houses built in these areas, and taken lives. A number of the wildfires were caused by lightning.
Thus, the elements that provide for our existence (earth, water, air and fire) also bring the risk of natural disasters. It’s just the way our world works.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Writing During a Disaster

With all the flooding in Colorado over the last week, I’ve managed to get some writing done, although it was hard to concentrate. We’ve been fortunate to have no damage to our house, but throughout Boulder and other parts of the state it’s been a disaster.

Many mornings I remained glued to the television to see what was happening. Then I started taking walks to survey the damage in my neighborhood and walkable locations nearby. Currently, the water in the creeks has subsided in Boulder, but driveways are full of carpet and water-damaged objects. The Open Space areas are still closed, so walking has to be limited to city streets and bike paths.
Insurance companies refer to an event like this as an act of God. I don’t think God had anything to do with it. Stuff happens and sometimes it’s Katrina or Sandy and recently it has been too much rain in Colorado after earlier drought and fires.

Our thoughts go out to all of those who have suffered through this tragedy. As Annie says, the sun’ll come out tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

September 11

Nearly everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news about the attack on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. For me there’s a back story.

Rewind to the summer of 2001. One evening sitting in an easy chair in my living room, I made the decision that I wanted to retire into fiction writing. As a result of this, I negotiated with my boss to work three days a week. This turned out fine for both of us since my primary responsibility at that time was negotiating contracts with customers and suppliers. A number of these entailed night phone calls to Japan, so I could set my own schedule and get the work accomplished in the equivalent of three working days. Then I could spend the equivalent of two working days jump starting my writing.
I also had learned that if you’re 55 or older, you can attend any course at the University of Colorado for free with the instructor’s permission. I availed myself of this program and signed up for a fiction writing class that began at the end of August.

Fast forward to the morning of September 11. I got up and didn’t turn on the television because this was going to be my first day to write all morning. I had an idea for a short story for my writing class and was excited to be able to dive in and spend an extended time writing.  I had just settled into the chair at my desk in my home office, when the phone rang. It was the president of my company asking me if I had watched the news that morning. Of course I hadn’t. I ran downstairs, turned on the television, and needless to say, I didn’t get one word written that day.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Skip Generational Characters in Novels

What are skip generational characters in novels? Basically, it means grandparents and grandkids who work together in some way. In my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery Series, Paul and his twelve-year-old granddaughter, Jennifer, team up to solve mysteries. In our fast-paced, mobile society, we don’t have that many households where grandparents and grandchildren experience each other on a regular basis. This is a shame. I know I enjoy the time I spend with my four grandchildren, but since we live in different parts of the country, these times are infrequent.

In addition to solving mysteries, Paul and Jennifer also enjoy telling each other politically incorrect geezer jokes in the most recent book, Care Homes Are Murder. The further skip generational factor is that Jennifer’s mom (Paul’s daughter-in-law) thinks Paul is being a bad influence on Jennifer. This leads to Paul and Jennifer sneaking off to tell geezer jokes to each other. When they get caught by Jennifer’s mom, Paul admits that he’s the “ba-a-a-d grandpa.”

In my just released paranormal geezer-lit mystery, The Back Wing, a skip generational relationship exists between the protagonist, Harold McCaffrey, and his teenage grandson, Jason. Jason comes to stay with Harold in the retirement home where he lives because Jason’s parents are off on a vacation. Jason thinks it will be boring being with his creaky grandfather and all the old people, but, boy, is he surprised. It turns out that the back wing of this retirement home is full of aging witches, vampires, werewolves and shape-shifters. Jason has an exciting time meeting vampires who gum people on the neck and helping to solve two murders.

I have one other manuscript (not yet published) that plays upon this grandparent and grandchild relationship.

Skip generational relationships provide ample opportunity for the young and old to come together, help each other and learn from each other. This is something we need more of in today’s world.

What do you think?