Category: Miscellaneous

Writing Update

It’s been a while since I’ve checked in with all of you to fill you in on how the writing’s going. Today seemed as good a day as any to do that, so here we go.

I took most of August off while I was gallivanting around Europe, but other than that, I’ve been plodding away steadily at my typical 1,000 words/day rate. I’ve got several projects up in the air at the moment, all of them in different stages of development.

  • MEMORY THIEF 2: Yes, this is still happening. No, I don’t have anything else I can tell you about it at the moment. The movie adaptation of the original is still moving forward, but I don’t have any updates on that either, alas. Some of it is due to Fox being acquired by Disney, but that’s all I’ve got for you at the moment. Sorry. The book is done, though there might be a bit more polishing that happens as soon as the publication date is set.
  • MURDER CASTLE: I’m actually working on this at the moment. I got the latest feedback from my agent last week, and I’m busy incorporating those changes. It’s not a huge rewrite. I hope to be done with it in a couple of weeks, at which point it’s likely the book will be ready to go out on submission. (Yay!) Reading it through again as I go, I’m really excited for this one, and very hopeful you get to see it published.
  • UTOPIA: Is with my agent at the moment. I believe it’s my . . . third draft? Something like that.
  • INCIDENT AT OAK CREEK: Is a short story that I just signed a contract for last week! It’s the Latter-day Shaolin work: steampunk alternative history adventure horror. The usual. It’s actually quite long for a short story. 11,000 words or so, which makes it technically a novelette, I believe. Not sure when the anthology will be published, but rest assured I’ll let you know when it is.
  • SILVERADO: This is the codename I’m giving my YA steampunk book that I was working on right before I transitioned over to edits on MURDER CASTLE. It’s actually a sequel of sorts to INCIDENT AT OAK CREEK. It shares a few characters and the world/history, but it’s a different point of view and main character, which makes a huge difference. I’m 40,000 words into it. I’d guess it’ll end up being around 60,000 words, but we’ll see how long the action sequences take. I was just getting to the good stuff when I had to set it aside. I’m excited for the book.

That about sums up where I am with current projects. After SILVERADO is done, I’m not sure what I’ll work on next, as far as novels go. But for now, I’m probably set until at least the end of the year.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

All Hail the Victor

March Madness has come to a close. It was a pretty bad year for my bracket, right up until the end. I only picked 5 out of 16 for the Sweet Sixteen, for example. That’s pretty miserable. 2 out of 8 for the Elite Eight. 1 out of 4 for the Final Four. But that 1 was Villanova, who I picked to win it all, so when Villanova did win everything, I shot up to finish up 4th out of 16 in my blog bracket challenge.

But 4th is not 1st, and this year Betsey Hyde emerged the victor, snatching victory right out of the hands of Kevin Albert, who’d had a fair run up until then. (Sure, just 8/16 for Sweet Sixteen, and 3/8 for the Elite Eight, but 2/4 for the Final Four, and he picked the championship game exactly.)

So congratulations, Betsey. You’re officially in the acknowledgements page for MEMORY THIEF 2. (Now if I could only announce what the title is for the book and when it’s coming out . . . )

Thanks to all who participated, and better luck to all of us (except Betsey) next year!

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. Plus, did I mention the sweet perks like exclusive access to unpublished books, works in progress, and Skype visits? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Who Wants to Be a Grand High Groundhog? New Patreon Perks!

After making my plea for support of the blog at the beginning of the year, I’ve been very happy to see people come forward to answer the call. I broke the small $10/month goal I set at the beginning of the year, and I decided to take some time to flesh out the Patreon more fully.

So, starting today, there are actual reward tiers, with perks attached to each. Here they are:

The lowest tier is the “Junior Woodchuck” level. Commit to $1/month and you have my heartfelt thanks and (I assume) the thanks of all my other readers, seeing as how your support makes the blog possible. You also gain access to the Patreon message board, where you can make suggestions for media I should consume and request blog posts on various topics.

Next up is “Woodchuck First Class” at $3/month. Congratulations, woodchuck-chucker, you’ve just earned yourself some cool perks. First off, you’ll get a free copy of Cavern of Babel (in Kindle format). In addition, you get the right to sponsor one blog post a month. That means you get to give me a blog prompt (topic or something to review) and I’ll respond on the blog. There’s a forum on the message boards to do this. Finally, all current First Class Woodchucks will get their names in the acknowledgements page of each book I publish. Your name, in print. (And to think your mother-in-law said you’d never amount to much!)

Above that is the “Elite Whistlepig” level at $6/month. In addition to getting all the perks of Woodchuck (First Class), you’ll get to read two chapters a month of an unpublished book by yours truly. We’ll start off with ICHABOD and move on from there. These chapters will be posted the first and third Friday every month.

Finally, there’s the “Grand High Groundhog” at $9/month. In addition to getting all the perks of Whistlepigs and Woodchucks, your gloriousness will get to read one chapter of one of my current works in progress each month. (Talk about exclusive!) This chapter will be posted the second Friday every month. And finally, I will do a 20 minute Skype visit with a class or book group of each Groundhog’s choosing, once per year (per Groundhog).

Any of my current Patrons are eligible for the Grand High Groundhog level as long as they stay Patrons. (They’re grandfather in.) Unfortunately, they aren’t able to automatically be able see the chapters as they get posted. (Patreon locks them to select tiers, and they won’t let me automatically upgrade people.) So if you’re a current Patron and want to see them, just email me or message me on Facebook, and I’ll email you each month when they get posted.

The first chapter of ICHABOD will go up this Friday. I might continue to tweak these perks as it makes sense, but this seems like a reasonable place to start. If you have any questions, let me know!

Sign up for the Patreon here.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. Plus, did I mention the sweet perks like exclusive access to unpublished books, works in progress, and Skype visits? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Sexual Abuse in Church

I don’t know if people on the East coast are following this as closely as I have to assume folks out in Utah are, but a story came out a few days ago about a woman who accused the president of the Missionary Training Center in Provo of raping her in the mid-80s, when she was a missionary there. (Here’s the Deseret News article, and the article that appeared in the Tribune.)

When I first read about the allegations, I was inclined not to give them any credence whatsoever. The LDS church consists of millions of members, some of them balanced, and some of them very much not. To have someone come out and claim rape, 30 years after the fact, not just by a mission president, but by the MTC mission president? It was just too outlandish, and when I paired that with news that she’d accused 10 other men of assault or sexual harassment, seeking cash settlements, it seemed a cut and dried case.

But then the news came out (linked above) that the former MTC president had admitted in a police interview to having the missionary come back into a side room and, well, I’ll just quote it:

“He did go to his small MTC preparation room in the cafeteria area with (her). Then while talking to her he asked her to show him her breasts, which she did.”

I had to re-read that sentence multiple times to be sure I was understanding it right, because my mind just didn’t want to believe it. Even then, I was trying to come up with some sort of outlandish situation where such a set of events might make sense. What if she was complaining about being physically sick, and there was something wrong with her

Nope. In no set of circumstances that I could come up with was the right thing to do “ask the missionary to show him her breasts.” And this is what he has freely admitted on the record. Even if you set aside the alleged rape (which you should not), this was very wrong.

For those of you who aren’t members, a Mormon mission president is most definitely a big deal. He has a huge impact on the missionaries he supervises for three years. The president at the MTC would interact with over 100,000 missionaries in the course of his service. I would have thought he’d be under a very close microscope.

I’m still dumbfounded this happened, and it has caused me to reflect on what the church should do differently to ensure this doesn’t happen again. Because if it can happen at the MTC of all places, then it most certainly is happening with Bishops, Branch Presidents, or other church leaders across the globe. Let’s assume it’s very rare. (I would really hope!) Say it only happens in a tenth of a percent of cases where a unit leader abuses authority and sexually harasses someone. Even if you just limit it to Bishops or Branch Presidents, there are 30,439 wards and branches in the church. That would mean 30 leaders are currently abusing people. Multiply that out over the years to see what the total effects would be.

I have no idea what the number is. I just bring those figures up to illustrate my point. When you scale things up to a large number, even fractions of a percent become real situations. Unavoidable truths that (I believe) need to be paid attention to.

In an ideal situation, a mission president, bishop, or branch president is a confidant and counselor to his congregation or mission. He meets with people to discuss their personal struggles and to help them improve their lives. This involves one on one worthiness interviews with men, women, boys and girls. When it comes to the youth program of the church, there has long been a “Two deep leadership” approach, where no leader is allowed to be alone with one of the youth.

Up until now, I suppose the assumption has been that anyone called to be bishop, branch president, or mission president (or higher) wouldn’t abuse their power the same way as just anyone. But a simple Wikipedia article quickly shoots that down. It links to multiple news stories of former LDS bishops convicted of heinous crimes. This isn’t a hypothetical. This is real, and it’s happening, and I’ve mostly been ignoring it up until now. I’d read a report about a bishop, and I’d think it was terrible, but I’d then go and resume my daily activities. We can’t do that. Ignoring it only exacerbates the problem.

So what can be done?

I’m not sure. It’s certainly above my pay grade to make decisions for the church as a whole. But I can brainstorm a few ideas:

  • Change the way “worthiness interviews” are run. This would protect both the bishops and the members. I understand that worthiness comes into play a lot in the church. It’s ascertained before you can be baptized, before you can go to the temple, before you can hold a calling. There are plenty of worthiness interviews. Could the ones for women be performed by women? Could Relief Society Presidents be charged with that, perhaps? I know a lot of this is deeply embedded in church culture, but I think sometimes things everyone takes for granted as unchangeable are actually very easily changed. It’s already awkward enough talking about worthiness with someone of my own gender. I would imagine it would be much, much more difficult talking about it with a woman, and for a woman to have to talk about it with a man who might or might not have the tact necessary to deal with all situations well? There’s a real dynamic of power there that’s way too easy to be abused. Changing it to women interviewing women takes much of that power imbalance away. For a mission president, what if his wife were to conduct worthiness interviews of Sisters?
  • Could all interviews at least be conducted in a room with a window? How about if the door has to be ajar, and someone else has to be present, out of earshot, but within a reasonable distance? (Though that only takes away the chance sexual assault to happen right then. It does nothing for grooming people for later abuse, which seems the much more likely outcome at the moment.)
  • Having interviews involve two men instead of just one takes away the potential for grooming, but makes the power imbalance in genders even worse. Yuck.

Hopefully there are even more ideas I’m just not thinking of at the moment. I would really like to see changes happen. Am I going to campaign for it? Not actively, beyond blog posts like this. I realize that’s not how the church works. But I do believe change happens, and I do believe God sometimes has to wait for us to get with the program enough to let that change occur. That’s kind of the basis for the entire story of the restoration.

Sitting back and assuming God will fix it all or prevent anything bad from happening is antithetical to the whole foundation of this religion. I would love to see church leaders take an active role in making it harder for predators to function within the church. Simply making speeches about how evil harassment and abuse are doesn’t really cut it. At least, it hasn’t cut it yet.

So what else can be done?

A Reasonable School Budget

It’s time to start gearing up for another round of school budget votes. (Hopefully only one this year!) And it’s more important than ever to make sure accurate facts are out there right from the get go. The latest article in our local online paper, The Daily Bulldog, does an excellent job reporting the ins and outs of the new budget proposal. If you read it in its entirety, it’s clear there are many different factors going into this budget. But if you scan through it and look for a “bottom line” figure, it’s easy to latch on to that 5% increase over last year’s budget.

And sure enough, the budget hawks are already rattling their sabers. “5% is too much!”” The school board is out of touch!” They’re trying all sorts of measures to get their way*, but each effort simply distracts from the central message. When you look at the actual figures**, our school board has kept things remarkably level for the past 5 years. Check it out:

Year Local Assessment Change Total Budget Change Enrollment Change
2014-2015 $12.18 million n/a $31.04 million n/a 2,338 n/a
2015-2016 $13.12 million +7.8% $32.04 million +3.2% 2,337 0%
2016-2017 $12.81 million -2.4% $32.75 million +2.2% 2,288 -2.1%
2017-2018 $12.54 million -2.1% $33.63 million +2.7% 2,354 +2.9%
2018-2019 $13 million +3.7% $35.32 million +5.0% 2,429 +3.2%
Five Year Difference $0.82 million +6.7% $4.28 million +13.8% 91 +3.9%

It’s true that if you just look at the total budget, it’s gone up $4.28 million over the last five years, an increase of 13.8% (spread out over five years, mind you.) But when you start to drill down, you see that the local assessment (the amount we actually have to pay in our property taxes) has hovered around $13 million the whole time. Yes, it’s up 6.7% over the five years, but our school size is up 3.9% in that same time. It costs more to teach more students. And inflation comes into play as well.

To me, it seems like the school board had one extreme year (2015-2016). There was a huge sticker shock associated from that 7.8% increase in a single year, and that galvanized a group of people who felt the school budget was going up too fast. Except it has stopped that steep increase. (An increase, by the way, due to a last minute change that year to the way the State funds school districts.) There’s no argument to be had that it’s going up too fast, because in the two years since that steep increase, it actually went down for us. The school board did what we asked them to: they found ways to both give our students an excellent education AND keep costs down for local taxpayers.

The total budget number is covered by a variety of other sources. Independent donations. State subsidies. The local assessment is the number we need to keep an eye on. And when you take into account how many new students have come into the area (yay!), that 6.7% increase seems even more reasonable.

So don’t listen to the nay-sayers. This is already a reasonable budget proposal that’s doing its best to maintain a balance. We have a good school board who does a good job. Come out to the budget meetings, support this budget, and vote for it when it comes time. Here are some important dates to write down:

  • March 26th–Vote in Farmington for your school board to select your school board representatives.
  • May 1st–Vote in the school board meeting to approve the budget.
  • May 15th–Vote in town to officially pass the budget.

*This time around, they’re now trying a new approach: change the makeup of the school board itself. Our school district consists of 10 different towns. Some of those towns are very small. Some of those towns are comparatively large. In the current system, each town’s school board member receives a weighted vote, according to how big or small that town is. So a bigger town like Farmington has a bigger portion of the vote. We currently have 16 school board members: 1 each from Weld, New Vineyard, New Sharon, Starks, Industry, Vienna, Chesterville, and Temple, 3 from Wilton, and 5 from Farmington.

Under the new system they’re proposing, this would change to 10 members (one from each town). Each member’s vote would count the same. So Weld (population 419) would have a vote equal to Farmington (population 7,760). On the surface, that’s preposterous. To make it legal, they’d have to also switch the way school board members are elected. Currently, each town votes for only their ow representatives. Under the new system, the whole district would vote for each representative. So Weld would have some nominees, and then all voters in all towns would vote for which nominee they prefer.

This doesn’t really “fix” anything, if the argument is that Farmington has too big of a vote. All it does is make it so now Farmington gets to select who the representative from Weld will be. I personally would think the small towns would prefer to keep selecting their own representatives. It would be like California voting for Rhode Island’s Senators. The current system works just fine and has for years. Why go through all these hoops to try and change it?

**All figures drawn from here, here, and here.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. I’m looking to get to $10/month to justify the amount of time I spend on this blog. I’m at $8/month so far. Read this post for more information. Or click here to go to Patreon and sign up. It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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