Donald J Trump: Can We Afford Him?

David Duke, one of the best known grand wizards in the history of the Ku Klux Klan, recently stated that he supports Trump for president. When asked if he would “disavow” this support, Trump states he knows “nothing about white supremacy” or David Dukes. Two questions: (1) If he really is unfamiliar with white supremacy, Dukes, and the KKK, can America afford to have a president who is ignorant of one of the longest standing, hate filled, racist groups in our history? (2) If he’s not ignorant but, in fact, is familiar with white supremacy, Dukes, and the KKK, can America afford to have a president who demonstrates such tolerance for racism? You can’t have it both ways, Donald. Either you are ignorant of one of the most intolerable evils of our culture, or you are not ignorant of it and you do support it.

I have made my disdain for this man’s campaign for president very clear. We’re on the verge of Super Tuesday. This man promises to make America great again. America is already great. What Trump will deliver is not greatness; he will propel our country backwards for many decades. He speaks of presidential reign, not responsibility. He promotes violence and intolerance. He debates by insults, and he has yet to present a comprehensive strategy of changes. He can barely put two sentences together without glaring grammatical gaps.

Trump has an abundance of money and an incompetent barber.

I’m proud of being an American. I’m proud of the extraordinary social gains we’ve made in the last fifty years. Are we going to hand over our personal freedom and our national integrity to someone who refuses to stand up to racism?

Trump, 28 Feb 2016

 

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Font Enhancements, and Why They Backfire

The enhancement of fonts often gives the impression of yelling. This can have a blinding effect on many readers, causing them to skim over text written with font enhancements. In general, it is best to allow others to decide for themselves what they want to emphasize.

Overuse of font enhancements disrupts the flow and rhythm of your book, causing your reader to have to pause frequently to process alternative fonts. Because of the emotional drain of excessive font enhancements, this can have a jarring impact and cause reader fatigue.

Do not use more than one type of font enhancement at a time, and use the same type of font enhancement throughout your document.

If you do elect to use font enhancements to emphasize text, do so sparingly; otherwise your content will have a cluttered tone to it.

The following are various types of font enhancements:

bold
underlining
italics
ALL CAPS
Grammatically Incorrect Use of Capitalizing the First Letter of Words
exclamation points!
“quotation marks”
‘apostrophe brackets’

In most circumstances, italics are the least distracting and the most effective font enhancement. Again, do not over use them, and do not write large sections in italics.

 

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Writer’s Privilege

Kits_Quotes writers privilege

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Book Review: The Intrepid Woman’s Guide to Van Dwelling

The Intrepid Woman’s Guide to Van Dwelling: Practical Information to Customize a Chic Home on Wheels & Successfully Transition to an Awesome Mobile Lifestyle Kindle Edition, by Jess Ward

Ms Ward has the uncanny ability to weave her unique narrative and personal insights with practical information about how to prepare for and successfully live and travel in a van.

Several things about this book that I found particularly appealing:

The author is so creative in her approach to finding and modifying her van. She gives easy to follow details about how to convert a van into a habitation. In the end, the van becomes a character itself.

Jess is a natural story teller. Her vignettes of her preparation, travels, challenges, and triumphs are well told and fun. She sprinkles her tale with gems of wisdom that far exceeded my expectations when I first began reading it.

If you are a van dweller or have any interest in the world of van dwelling, get this book. It is a masterful guide to living in a van, and to being alive.

Get your copy today: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00ZB58VKU

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The Devil Really IS in the Details

In writing my novels, I had to learn early on that there are many details of my characters’ lives that the audience will never know (some of which I don’t even know myself!). Each character I have ever written about has a huge life that extends well beyond the pages of my novels.

Katie’s aunt’s marriage, for example, is only briefly referenced, and the reader has no idea how many years she was married. Most people never even realize that Silas and Sallie (or is it Sally – I can never remember) are African Americans (I describe them as such, but I never specify their race). They don’t know that Katie’s mother was born on a farm, that her father, despite his enormous affection for his wife, cheated on her – twice. They don’t know that Corban’s counterpart (the narrator in my novel Corban) dated one of their friends’ boyfriend – 8 years after the friend did, four states away, and two years before Corban and her counterpart even met the friend (I know – sounds like a soap opera, but it’s actually based on real life events!).

Here’s my point – again, less is more. My characters, and those of many successful writers, have entire lives that the writers may or may not have knowledge of. It’s not only okay for your reader to not know everything about your characters – it’s important. Consider it respecting the privacy of your characters.

The not knowing of so many details is part of the appeal of great books.

Take To Kill a Mockingbird. Didn’t you ever wonder about the relationship between Atticus and Miss Maudie? For example, on the morning of Scout’s first day of school Miss Maudie is in the kitchen with Atticus. The book never tells us whether or not she had spent the night. We generally assume she did not. In fact, most of us never even question this. For some reason that I have never understood, we see Atticus as an asexual being, incapable of any hormonally charged behaviors. In my imagination, though, he and Miss Maudie were lovers. Discreet, yes – very much so. But yes – much, much more than friends.

I have no idea how Harper Lee saw them. Why? Because she never said. Maybe she didn’t know. Maybe she knew but was respecting their privacy. Either way, the story wasn’t about Miss Maudie and Atticus, so there wasn’t any room for discussing their relationship beyond the most basic – they had great respect for one another. And that’s where it ends.

But a strong novel knows that it never ends, that integral to what is told in the story is the author’s wise judgments about what NOT to share.

Like a beautiful woman, a strong writer knows what NOT to expose. There are few things more attractive (in both the sexual as well as literary realms) than allure. Keep ’em guessing. Don’t confuse them, but don’t inundate them with too many details.

Too many details, and there is literally hell to pay.  Don’t give the Devil a foothold.

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Editing and the Telling of Stories

I field a lot of questions and “banter” from writers that are well beyond the basic core of my job. I actually wind up having extended dialogue with some folks who have yet to pay me, and that’s fine with me – what’s really fun is when I don’t charge and then they come back with a really big tip just for funsies. That happens sometimes – sometimes not. But here’s a little secret – shhhh – don’t tell – I don’t do this for the money.

Oh, sure, I like the money. But what I REALLY like is getting the sense that in some way I’m helping folks birth some stories.

As a therapist, I felt like a gardener tending to souls and psyches, and there was no greater joy than watching wounded people blossom.

As a teacher, I feel like a gardener tending to fresh minds and hearts, and there is no greater joy than being part of the journey of eager students as they learn and move their talents into the world.

As an editor, I feel like a gardener tending to writers and the tellers of stories, and there is no greater joy than being part of the spreading of ideas and wonder, characters and dialog, plots and twists and turns and all the magical stardust that transforms this planet from a craggy rock into a whimsical world.

And if you lean in closely and listen very carefully, you can hear the crackling of the first fires and the voices of our ancient ancestors gathered together in damp, musty caves as they evolve themselves from primitive survivors into story-telling cultures. Humanity began with the telling of stories, and it will not end until the last tale is told.

How privileged I am to be a small part in the evolution of human civilization!

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Competent and/or Published Writers

I have learned to not equate “published” with “competent” – they are sometimes used to describe the same author but they are not necessarily interchangeable. Don’t believe me? Go to any used book store and smell old novels. Take all the ones that smell really really musty (preferably wearing faded old hard back covers), and browse through them. All of them are written by “published” authors but the majority of them are in no way remarkable except that years ago, for whatever reason, they were published.

I think the greatest writers and artists are those who do because they cannot do otherwise. Sometimes this means they have an audience of one, and sometimes, depending on a LOT of variables, they will become best selling, highly successful crafts folk.

If O’Keefe had not married Steiglitz the world would never have seen her flowers, arid landscapes, New York neighborhoods, skulls. Some say she was a very mediocre artist. Whether she was or wasn’t doesn’t really matter – the point is – we wouldn’t know who she is had she not happened to marry one of the most influential promoters of art on the early 20th century.

We write the songs but the world will decide on its own whether or not to sing them.

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Semantics

As a writer you have to look at your words not only from your perspective but also from the perspective of your reader.

It’s not easy, I grant you – that’s why an editor can be so helpful. When we write we tend to write with blinders on. BIG blinders. We write from our own experience. This is essential. But in a sort of, yes, psychotic way, we must simultaneously write FOR our readers. So in one stroke you are the doer and the seer. Talk about mind bending!

There are many ways to say the same thing. I could say, “When I look at you, time stands still.” Or I could say, “Your face would stop a clock.” Content-wise, these two sentences are extremely similar. But nuance-wise, they are poles apart.

Your book is multi-faceted, like all diamonds. You have to write in such a way that no matter how it is held it will be read by your audience essentially the way you want it to be – allowing for interpretations that you might not even have imaged, yes. But certainly communicating what you WANT to communicate.

You, as the writer, have to allow for such obvious contingencies.

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The Process of Elimination

Kits_Quotables

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Writing Decisively

Whether you are writing a novel, an essay, a poem, a report, a script, a — exactly! Whatever you are writing, be decisive. Take a stand. Don’t pussy-foot around. Spit it out!

There are several corollaries to the notion of being decisive in your writing:

     Pick a team.
     Paint or get off the ladder.
     Good, bad, or draw – choose something.
     Be bold. Be brave.
     Say what you mean, and mean what you say.
     Own it.

In short, do not write hesitantly. This gives your writing a sense that you or your characters are insecure and lack confidence. “Iffiness” may well result in your readers losing trust in you. If you do not write assertively, how can you expect your readers to believe what you are saying? Your readers will have no more conviction in what you write than you do.

Here are some words that communicate a lack of decisiveness:

apparent, apparently, appears, appears to be
vague, vaguely
seems, seemingly, seemed, seem
almost, nearly
relatively, relative
somewhat
presumably

Let’s see how these words look in sentences, and glance at how eliminating them elevates writing from uncertainty/mediocrity to decisiveness/strength:

Example 1      The father was apparently drunk. (uncertain/mediocre)
The father was drunk. (decisiveness/strength)

Example 2      The color was nearly purple. (uncertain/mediocre)
The color was purple. (decisiveness/strength)

Example 3      I almost feel tired. (uncertain/mediocre)
I feel tired. (decisiveness/strength)

Note that these words are not “naughty” words, and your project may well benefit from their occasional use. Just don’t saturate your writing with words that communicate uncertainty, or your readers will be uncertain of you.

Write from a position of strength, certainly, clarity.  Anything less will give your work a wilted, monotonic quality that will lull your readers into an apathetic slumber.  Smack ’em awake with decisive language!

 

© Kit Duncan, 2015

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