Saturday, June 28, 2008

Listen to Chapter 2 of A Prophecy Forgotten: Book I of the Elysian Chronicles

Hear A Prophecy Forgotten the way I intended it to be read!

As all of us wait for Out of the Shadows: Book II of the Elysian Chronicles to get out of editing, I've decideed to entertain you with a few podcasts (i.e. a FREE downloadable audio versions of my novel in mp3 format so you can listen to it on your computer, your iPod, or burn a CD) of A Prophecy Forgotten: Book I of the Elysian Chronicles. For those of you who cannot afford the cost of the hard-cover version of A Prophecy Forgotten, this is a good way to test it out for free. I will continue posting new chapters every few weeks, so please continue to check the blog.

Click to read my latest installment: "Chapter Two: Earth's Future Rests On..."

***Now the trick question here is: to whom am I referring? Any guesses? (Yes, the character to whom I'm referring is in Chapter 2.) Let's have a contest. First person to guess right will receive a FREE SIGNED copy of...something that I can't tell you about until next week.

Also, if you missed previous chapters, please click on the links below:

Friday, June 27, 2008

This Week’s Final Cut In Movies show (06/28/08): The Happening

On this week’s show, I'll be discussing The Happening, why I'd like to see--just once--Hollywood make an environmentalist the bad guy while the businessmen are the good guys (Ghostbusters doesn't count.), and other science fiction & fantasy news. Be wary, folks. The Happening got under my skin just a wee bit, and I'm going to get a little controversial on this one.

The show will air from 2:00-3:00am & pm and re-air throughout the week at the same times on To listen to tonight's show:

Missed Saturday's edition of The Final Cut? Don’t worry, you can catch the re-runs each day from 2:00-3:00am & pm at, or you can download the podcast at M. B. Weston's Podcasts site or by following this link on iTunes.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Vulnerability Blog 2

Working out, for me, is not a fashion show. It's not a chance to meet people. It's my time to do weight-bearing exercises that will burn calories, build lean muscle, raise my metabolism, and prevent osteoporosis when I'm older. My workout clothes are semi-color coordinated, but they aren't state of the art or anything. Quite honestly, they consist of garage sale purchases and free camp t-shirts. On mornings when I work out, I struggle out of bed, done the clothes--hoping they match, grab a ponytail holder, and drive to Curves--no make up, no deodorant... Oh, yeah, I'm a thing of beauty--especially that early in the morning when my face takes on the snarl of a bear just waking up from hibernation.

Last Thursday after a hard session, I decided to stop at Starbucks on my way home and treat myself to a well-deserved latte, which I have not indulged in for quite a while. I made a quick turn to the right and stopped at the Starbucks on Central Avenue in downtown Naples.

Before I go on, let me explain the demographics of downtown Naples. We're kind of retirement central here, but we're wealthy retirement central. Many of the homes are 10 million dollars and up. (You can get them in the low 1 to 2 millions if you go a few miles away from the beach.) It's nothing to see BMWs, Porches, tons of Hummers (I don't know why they're so big here as we DON'T have any hills.), Cadillacs, etc. You name the car, we've got one here, and yes, that includes Ferrari's. With such cars come the men who don't need Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and the trophy wives who wear the fancy workout clothes and have their personal trainers for 4 hours a day. (If you live here, don't try to keep up with the Joneses. They're in massive debt trying to keep up with everyone else.)

So I walked into Starbucks wearing my black Soffee shorts (showing off a yet another bruise on my leg where I had again bumped into a piece of random furniture), a royal blue shirt that was given to me at a camp for volunteering to pick up the keynote speaker (Royal blue looks hideous on me, by the way.), my $9 Target purse, my hair tied up in a random ponytail with my too-long-to-be-bangs flying every which-a-way, no makeup, and no deodorant--and I had just worked out. Clear the room, everyone. The "thing of beauty" wants her coffee.

Did I mention it was a Starbucks in downtown Naples?

Oh, yes. I'm standing there in all my post-workout morning glory, probably smelling like eau de sweat, surrounded by plastic-surgery-enhanced women with color coordinated workout gear, men in white collar t-shirts and ties, and all the "beautiful people" of Naples who were perky because they had already had their coffee. I must have bumped into a guy who looked exactly like Thomas Jane, like, four times.

Forget standing of 5th Avenue in a red dress while my sister was trying to take pics of me for my book cover--this was tons worse. I kept sending little mental signals of "Don't look at me" to everyone. Yep. Vulnerability... All because of the way I felt when I compared my appearance to everyone else's.

What's really funny is that I went back into the same Starbucks later on that day wearing makeup, a touch of my favorite perfume, and a nice outfit--along with actually doing my hair, and I felt totally comfortable. (Two Starbucks trips in one day! I felt like I had died and gone to heaven!)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Manuscript's Editing Process

A few days ago, I posted a blog announcing that Out of the Shadows: Book II of the Elysian Chronicles was officially in editing. One of my friends posted a great comment on my MySpace, asking what the editing process was--as in, was it just a person running spell check or was there more surgery involved and how long would it take. (His question sounded much more intelligent than the way I just worded it, by the way.)

I thought it was a great question, mainly because of the answer:

It depends on the publishing house.

He he he. :)

They're all different, so I'll tell you how mine operates...

1) I toil and slave over my manuscript, and I turn it into my editor before whenever my deadline is. Then it sits behind all the other manuscripts my editor has to edit, until finally, the "Ah" choir sings and my editor takes my manuscript off the shelf and goes to work.

2) The editor gives the manuscript a complete read through and makes a whole bunch of comments to himself. Then he either: a) sends it back to me with a list of things he thinks I should change. The correct response is <saluting> "Sir, yes sir. When would you like it?" (That's not always the author's response, however.) Or, he b) continues the editing process because the manuscript doesn't need any major revisions.

This has not happened to me yet, but here are some real examples of why an editor might ask for revisions:

  • One of my author friends had an editor send her manuscript back and ask her to redo the last third because he felt some of her character's "travels" were redundant.
  • Another one of my author friends had an editor tell him to rewrite the whole manuscript in 1st person instead of 3rd person. (i.e. turn it into "I and me" instead of "he and they.")
  • Even though I have never had an editor send a manuscript back for revisions, I did turn a revised manuscript of Out of the Shadows in to my editor right before Thanksgiving (after the first manuscript I turned in August 31) because my advance readers told me they really didn't care what happened to Tommy--that they weren't rooting for him. (That's a really bad thing to have your advance readers say.) I rewrote about one third of Out of the Shadows (so I could make Tommy a more sympathetic character) in 3 months!

3) If the editor decides not to send the manuscript back to the author, he or she will make a whole bunch of changes:

  • A few small plot changes. Example: You know the prologue in A Prophecy Forgotten? That didn't exist in my original manuscript. My editor decided I needed to introduce my main characters first, so he took the dream sequence that Gabriella had in the middle of the book and moved it to the beginning. No, he didn't ask my permission. Yes, I was thrilled. It was the missing link to everything, I believe.
  • Grammar changes. Each publishing house has their own standards, such as italics for shouting instead of ALL CAPS. The editor fixes all those little things. My poor editor had to take all of my ALL CAPS and change them into italics.
  • Word changes and sentence structure adjustments. The editor will change words here and there and realign sentences. Remember that I as the author know exactly what I'm trying to say, and sometimes, I think that I have communicated appropriately when I really haven't. My editor's job is to fix that. The editor will also be the one to make sure I don't use the words "crossed his arms and glared" every third page. Yes, I have done that, but my advance readers catch it for me before I send the manuscript to the editor. (I love you, advance readers!)
  • Sometimes they just add stuff. You know the part during the climax where Eric falls to his knees, then keels over, then his body "twitches" before he dies? Oh, yeah my editor's fingers are all over that scene. He later told me he was mad at me for not making Eric die a worse death, so he did it for me. He...won't have that problem with Out of the Shadows...
  • They check out and remove "legal" issues. You know Heyden the hawk? His name was originally Hudson--yes, as in the Bruce Willis movie Hudson Hawk. (I couldn't think of another name, so I went with it.) My editor caught it immediately and changed it. (The brat!) So now, I'm playing a little game with my editor. I've got a couple movie names "enbedded" in the Out of the Shadows manuscript that I'm trying sneak past my editor's watchful eye.
  • Obviously, they catch spelling errors, etc., but please--you've all got spell check. The only problems you should have are with the there, their, and they're words.

4) Once the editor finishes, he passes the manuscript on to the copy editor. The copy editor's job is to catch all the spelling and grammar errors. Now, here is the problem. The better and more engaging a book is, the harder it is to catch errors because the reader is too involved in the story. Proof? Most of the errors that slipped past all of us in A Prophecy Forgotten are in the climax. A copy editor will often read a manuscript backwards to keep from getting to involved in the story.

5) Once the copy editor finishes, the manuscript is formatted to "book" form. Someone chooses a font, decides on the font size, the margin size, and all the stuff that makes the book look like a book on the pages. You know that little tree-picture-thing at the beginning of each chapter in A Prophecy Forgotten? That's done during this part of the process.

Once they make it look like a book, my editor sends me the document. We call it the gallies. I have no idea why. Now, before I go on, let me point out that ArcheBooks (my publisher) has entered what we call the twenty-first century. That means that this whole process is digital, and the changes the editor makes are sent to the copy editor. If I make changes to the gallies (next paragraph), they are changed directly in the digital document. I have heard of authors with New York Huge publishing houses making corrections in the gallies only to find a whole host of new errors in the final set of stuff? Why? Lack of twenty-first century technology. Some houses take the edited work and have a typist type it into a different program...

6) When I get the gallies, I grab a few crusts of dried bread and water, shut my door, print the whole thing out, and find the last bit of grammar errors and make any changes that I think need to be made. This is my last chance to change anything, so I take it seriously. I actually "stockpile" my changes while I'm waiting for the gallies so I'm ready to go once I receive them. I went about 48 hours without sleep when I got A Prophecy Forgotten's gallies, I took a brief nap, and then I finished them the next day. (I'm slightly impatient.) Out of the Shadows is a bit longer, so I will probably take a few more...naps...when I get the gallies. Remember, my goal is to get Out of the Shadows into your hands as quickly as possible!

So that's the process. Once I get the corrected gallies back to my editor, Out of the Shadows will be available in about 2 weeks.

How long does it take? It depends on a couple of factors:

  • Manuscript length. The longer the manuscript, the longer it takes to edit. This is why publishing houses like shorter manuscripts from first-time writers.
  • How clean the manuscript is to begin with. A manuscript with a lot of errors and plot loopholes takes longer to edit.
  • Distractions in the editor's life. A Prophecy Forgotten's original editor left the manuscript on the shelf for a month because her mother got cancer. I certainly did not begrudge her any of her time. Those things happen, and her time with her mother was more important than working on my manuscript.

I hope that gives you an idea of what is going on with Out of the Shadows right now.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Newest Rule Added to "The Final Cut's Rules for Surviving a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie"

I've just added a new rule to my The Final Cut's Rules for Surviving a Science Fiction/Fantasy Movie.
  • Don't wear anything red when the bad guys start to chase you. Take a tip from Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk and Matt Damon in Bourne Identity: Red attire makes it difficult to hide and will only get you caught. Try green, black, or maybe camouflage. (Hey, the US Military uses camouflage for a reason.)

Let's be honest... Most of The Incredible Hulk wouldn't have happened if Edward Norton had just taken off his red jacket in the beginning when they were chasing him. (I discussed that point during this week's Final Cut In Movies radio show.)

The Elysian Chronicles: A Prophecy Forgotten-Chapter 1

Hear A Prophecy Forgotten the way I intended it to be read!

As all of us wait for Out of the Shadows: Book II of the Elysian Chronicles to get out of editing, I figured I would entertain you with a few podcasts (i.e. a FREE downloadable audio versions of my novel in mp3 format so you can listen to it on your computer, your iPod, or burn a CD) of A Prophecy Forgotten: Book I of the Elysian Chronicles. For those of you who cannot afford the cost of the hard-cover version of A Prophecy Forgotten, this is a good way to test it out for free. I will continue posting new chapters every few weeks, so please continue to check the blog.

Click here (or there, whatever) to read my latest installment: Chapter One: A Message of Hope.

Also, if you missed previous chapters, please click on the links below:

Remember that you can purchase A Prophecy Forgotten, the novel, on by clicking here.

A Prophecy Forgotten's sequel, Out of the Shadows, is currently in editing and will be released in a few months. Click here to receive a post card alerting you to its release!

Also, stay tuned for breaking news regarding A Prophecy Forgotten sometime next week--hopefully Monday! (A hint: color. That's the only hint you're getting.)

This Week’s Final Cut In Movies show (06/21/08): The Incredible Hulk

On this week’s show, I'll be discussing The Incredible Hulk, the differences between The Hulk and The Incredible Hulk, what not to wear when you are being chased by special ops, and other science fiction and fantasy news!
The show will air from 2:00-3:00am & pm and re-air throughout the week at the same times on To listen to tonight's show:
Missed Saturday's edition of The Final Cut? Don’t worry, you can catch the re-runs each day from 2:00-3:00am & pm at, or you can download the podcast at M. B. Weston's Podcasts site or by following this link on iTunes.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Breaking News: Out of the Shadows Now in Editing!

Many of you have been asking me when Out of the Shadows will be coming out. The good news is that the manuscript is a step closer to reaching the bookshelves. Out of the Shadows is now in editing! You can check out of the ArcheBooks Production Schedule to monitor its progress.

If you haven't had a chance to do so yet, be sure to read a preview of Out of the Shadows (the Prologue through Chapter 2) on the Elysian Chronicles website. (I must warn you, however, that the above selection has been known to make readers

Also, stay tuned for some breaking news regarding A Prophecy Forgotten coming next week!

Monday, June 16, 2008

M. B. Weston’s Events for the Week: 06/16/08 to 06/22/08

Here are my author and radio events this week:

  • Friday, June 20th: Goodwill's Summer Reading Program Kickoff. I'll be at the Goodwill at the intersection of Daniels and Plantation Road in South Ft. Myers--the time is TBA. Drop by for a reading of A Prophecy Forgotten--and maybe a little preview of Out of the Shadows... And maybe, with just a little coaxing, I might let you in on a secret about something special that's about to happen with A Prophecy Forgotten. (Hint: Cafe Lattes work wonders when it comes to coaxing me. So does dark chocolate...)
  • Saturday, June 21, 2:00-6:00pm: Book Signing at Carrollwood Barnes & Noble. Those of you who live in Tampa need to drop on by and say hi to me at Carrollwood Barnes & Noble!
  • Saturday, June 21, 2:00pm-3:00pm (and throughout the week at the same times): The Final Cut in Movies radio program on Ad Astra Radio. This week: The Incredible Hulk! Click here to listen, and then click the blinking "Listen Live" button on the top right, or download the podcast at M. B. Weston's Podcasts site.

News Article on Me in Gulf Coasting Live!

Hey everyone, check it out! I'll be at Goodwill this Friday, encouraging kids to read over the summer. Here's an article about it:

Three Southwest Florida authors to help kick off summer reading program
Goodwill Industries of Southwest Florida Inc. will kick off its first-ever Summer Reading Program, “Ready ... Set ... Read!” on Friday. Click here for the rest of the article.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Memiors of a Cleaning Lady: Speaking of the Heabie Jeabie Dance...

Two Cleaning Lady blogs in one weekend! You guys are so lucky!

At Weston Commercial Cleaning, we specialize in carport and hand rail cleaning. For carports, we scrape all the bugs out of the corners and off the siding (as well as the lights) of carports in the condominium associations we clean. We use this toilet-brush-looking-thing. The brush part is as big as my head, so it's pretty big, and we can lengthen the pole to reach as high as the second story of many buildings. To clean the hand rails, yours truly takes two damp rags and runs up the stairs while wiping both handrails. (And I get a great leg workout!) I'm also in charge of getting rid of all the cobwebs between the railings.

And alas, my problems begin...

Down here in Florida, our spiders can get pretty big--as big as your palm big if you're talking about banana spiders. (You haven't lived until you have run into a banana spider web on the boardwalk at Clam Pass--talk about Heabie Jeabie Dance!) I've seen house spiders the same size--in my house--black widows, you name it. Some of these spiders are poisonous (black widows, brown recluses) and some aren't (banana spiders). Most of them bite.

Anyway, back to the story. I don't mind cleaning the cobwebs out of the hand rails--as long as I can see the spider that made them. Nothing is worse than a cobweb with no cob because you know the spider is out there, just waiting around for some nice woman-flesh to sink it's fangs into. To be honest, it totally freaks me out.

Today was a spider-slaughter, freak out, tingles-down-the-neck day. You should have seen these things! Yes, they were big. Yes they were scary. No, I did not do the heabie jeabie dance. But I was on edge the whole time, and it got me thinking about my worst insect/arachnid moments.

I figured I'd share the joy.

  • I was four or five and I stepped in a fire-ant pile without knowing it. I stood there a while before I realized what was going on. I was wearing pants. It was a bad day.
  • In second grade, I was doing push ups in PE when a fire ant crawled onto the top of my hand and bit me. I knew I would get yelled at if I stopped doing push ups, so I kept going. So did the ant. My hand swelled up.
  • A few years ago, I was chaperoning with our church youth group at a camp in central Florida. We were walking through the woods when something heavy dropped on my shoulder. Andrew, who never gets nervous, nervously said, "Michelle, don't move." He brushed a huge spider the size of my palm--no joke--off my shoulder. It was an Indiana Jones moment. (No, I did not wait around to identify the type of spider.)
  • Backpacking in the North Carolina mountains is wonderful. (I love anything that gets me close to nature without the Florida heat.) One on trip, the group I was with hiked through a hedge what I call "wait-a-minitutes." (Those thorny brambles that jump out and grab you and you have to say, "Wait a minute.") The group in front of us got stuck in the thorny vines. Oh, did I mention that hornets live in the brambles? Those of us in the back, unable to move forward because of the trapped souls up front, were attacked by hornets. They flew in my shirt, up my shorts, everywhere! It was horrible! They hurt worse than anything!
  • I once stepped on a dead bee with bare feet--and got stung. Only me.

I've been saving the best for last:

  • I put on a pair of shorts that--unbeknownst to me--a scorpion had crawled into. Yes, it stung me--twice. Yes, it hurt. I screamed, scrambled out of the shorts, and then proceeded to perform the heabie jeabie dance the moment I saw the scorpion's carcass fall onto the floor. I don't think I'll ever be the same.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Memiors of a Cleaning Lady: Ninja Assassin Rats

100_2538c_4 At this point in my Weston Commercial Cleaning career, I've learned to deal with Special Operative frogs (LEAPers, i.e. Land, Earth, Air and Pond for those of you who have missed my nature sagas.) I've learned to differentiate between LEAPer Plasma Odor and Ooze Package land mines and the Dropped Off Out Killer Intestinal Exits bombs sent out by the frogs' airborne feathered friends. (The LEAPers often refer to them as the Chair Force, I've been told.) I'm able to clean up and face both dangers without a trace of fear or even a SLAG (Screaming Like A Girl), but I can't credit myself. It's the Weston Commercial Cleaning training that has turned me into this pool deck polishing warrior. (I've got some swampland down here in Florida to sell, too--if anyone's buying...)

At one of our properties, I clean an outdoor cabana with a bar, bar stools, a counter, and a sink. It also has a garbage can, a little refrigerator, and some cabinets. Once I'm done cleaning, I mop the cement floor inside the cabana.

Now, remember that I'm part of Weston Commercial Cleaning. I'm a "cleaning crew of one" and "cleaning strong." So when I mop that floor, I make sure to move the garbage can out of the way and reach every nook and cranny with that mop head.

I dragged my disinfectant and my mop bucket out to the pool deck and cleaned the cabana counter, bar, sink, and bar stools. Then I grabbed my mop and moved the garbage can so I could clean behind it and--

--a Trained Ninja Assassin Rat ran out from under the refrigerator and disappeared right before my eyes into the cabinets!

Just the sight of the rat put me well beyond SLAG.

I backed against the wall and opened my mouth, but no scream escaped. Instead I made this funny sound, like I was inhaling too much air. All I could think of was a doctor inserting a huge syringe full of rabies vaccine into my stomach. (Rats are fine. I don't like needles.)

After that, I entertained all the residents, who were relaxing at the pool, with my version of the infamous Heabie Jeabie Dance--which only a lucky few have ever seen.

Does anyone out there need an accountant?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

This Week’s Final Cut In Movies show (06/14/08): Kung Fu Panda

On this week’s show, I'll be discussing Kung Fu Panda, why you still need to pay careful attention to every Marvel Comics movie coming out, whether you should see M. Night Shamalamadingdong's The Happening or The Incredible Hulk and other science fiction & fantasy news. (You can also find out my new nickname for Mark Walberg.)

The show will air from 2:00-3:00am & pm and re-air throughout the week at the same times on To listen to tonight's show:

Missed Saturday's edition of The Final Cut? Don’t worry, you can catch the re-runs each day from 2:00-3:00am & pm at, or you can download the podcast at M. B. Weston's Podcasts site or by following this link on iTunes.

Monday, June 09, 2008

M. B. Weston’s Events for the Week: 06/09/08 to 06/15/08

Here are my author and radio events this week:

Friday, June 06, 2008

New Podcast: Download A Prophecy Forgotten's Prologue

(and not the robot version either... This one is live! Well, it was live when I recorded it.)

As all of us (including yours truly) are impatiently waiting for Out of the Shadows to come out, I figured it was time to have a little fun with the radio equipment.

*big, smart-alecky smile from yours truly.* (I just love "fun with the radio equipment" games.)

So I figured, why not read a chapter a week of A Prophecy Forgotten and podcast it? Especially because I know a lot of you would rather listen to it anyway. And now, instead of listening to a robot read my work, you can listen to me do it!

The catch is that I only have time to do a chapter a week.

Here you have it, A Prophecy Forgotten: Prologue in a downloadable mp3 file for your iPod or computer. Or you can even download it and burn it to a CD for your car. Oh, and did I mention that we made some slight changes for the eventual paperback version? That means that there's stuff in here that NONE of you have heard (or read) before.

This Week’s Final Cut In Movies show (06/06/08): The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

On this week’s show, I'll be discussing The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, what gives a movie mojo, and other science fiction & fantasy news.

The show will air from 2:00-3:00am & pm and re-air throughout the week at the same times on To listen to tonight's show:

Missed Saturday's edition of The Final Cut? Don’t worry, you can catch the re-runs each day from 2:00-3:00am & pm at, or you can download the podcast at M. B. Weston's Podcasts site or by following this link on iTunes.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Memiors of a Cleaning Lady: Learning to Accept Help

I'm fiercely independent--kind of funny for a woman who would never describe herself as a feminist. If I need something moved, I'll move it. If something needs to be fixed, I'll fix it. Even if I'm hurt, I'll always keep on going, and I try not to complain. It's my stubborn streak. It's my oldest-child streak. I like the satisfaction of knowing that I did something myself.

That's kind of the reason I'm lying on my stomach with ice on my back right now.

It started two months ago when I brought a bunch of hardcover books that I used as research for my Elysian Chronicles series to the speech I gave at the Naples Press Club Writer's Conference. I hauled those puppies in with two very large beach bags. (Two huge beach bags full of books are not light.) My friend, Felicia, saw me and said, "Let me help you."

"I got it," was my reply.

My back gave me a very different reply. I must have strained it then.

Since that day, I've been working out religiously, jogging, and helping my husband with the commercial cleaning business on Wednesday nights and Fridays, meaning I've had to bend over constantly to scrub umpteen toilets and hundreds of pool-side lawn chairs during those days. I've been surviving only with the aid of a Tiger Balm Pain Patch.

Unfortunately, two things happened this weekend:

  • Friday's work turned into Friday and Saturday's work, which might have been okay, except...
  • On Friday, I was cleaning spider-infested hand rails at one of the condos we clean, and I saw a little old lady with two suitcases standing by the steps. I realized that she was too frail to carry the suitcases up the steps, so I offered to help. And instead of carrying one at a time, I grabbed them both. Now, in my defense, I thought carrying two suitcases would help me balance the weight. Of course, I carried the heavy one on my left side, which is my weaker side and also the way the scoliosis twists. A bad mistake. I felt something tweak as I hauled those suitcases up the stairs.

By Saturday, I had to do "squats" every time I wanted to clean the over fifty lawn chairs and ten toilets we had left. (My quads still hate me.) My husband finally took me home because he realized I couldn't do anymore.

Since then, I can't lift anything big without pain. Opening doors hurts. Twisting hurts. Putting on a pair of pants hurts. When I visited Canterbury School today, I had to let the teachers move the tables for me instead of doing it myself. I had to let them open doors and put my box of books back in the car for me. (I did get my box of books out of the car myself...he he he.) I've been forbidden from doing the laundry, and I've been informed that if things don't improve by tomorrow, I will be seeing a chiropractor. (It's the Battle of the Wills in the Weston household.)

Anyway, I really don't like this. It's so hard for me to accept help, but I have to admit that part of that is probably a pride thing. I think part of me is often thinking "Look at me, I did that." And I think that another part of me thinks that I'm not good enough if I can't do something myself. Crazy isn't it? I mean, who cares?

So I think part of this whole thing is about me learning that it's okay to let others help me and getting rid of the pride. Hopefully, that will make me better able to help others. (Except that the next time my back is hurting, the little old lady can carry her own bags up the stairs.)

M. B. Weston’s Events for the Week: 06/02/08-06/09/08

Here are my author and radio events this week:

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Speed Racer and Disarming our Military

Warning: I'm about to get a little political here...

At risk of sounding like a beauty pageant contestant (laugh with me here), I'm all for world peace. World peace would be nice. It would mean a drop in the cost of goods and services, a drop in gas prices, less places for our boys and gals in the military to have to visit, less innocent people dying, and quicker lines in the security checkpoints at airports. (I don't think it would mean smiling airport security officers, though. They give those guys and gals reverse Botox to keep them glaring.) So, yes, I would love to see a world at peace with itself.

The question isn't "What do I want?" however. It's "what is possible?" As I've grown up and watched life (and observed history), I've paid special attention to human nature. (I have to as a writer because I write about humans. I have to know how they work.) And one of the things I've discovered about humans is that some of them are just plain bad.

I know, I know, many of you might be saying, "Good and bad, isn't that relative? I mean some nations think we're terrorists." And some of you might be saying, "But life isn't black and white. There are shades of grey everywhere." My responses are, "Yes, there are some just all around bad people. I'm not talking about people with major weaknesses. I'm talking Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein--you know, guys who order mass killings of innocent humans. Those kind of people. (And the nations who think we're the terrorists tend to listen to biased news sources.) And yes, I realize there are shades of grey in life. Ignore the grey. I'm talking about the black stuff, the easy stuff--like mass killings of innocent humans for power-hungry purposes or taking over other nations for power-hungry purposes. The kind of stuff that makes all of us want Gandalf and Aragorn to defeat Sauron. The kind of people who want to take freedom away. That kind of black. That kind of bad. That kind of evil--the kind of evil we can all agree on.

I have to observe and study those people because I write epic fantasy. I have to know what makes them tick so I can craft believable evil characters of my own. Here are a couple of things I've discovered about truly bad, evil, twisted people.

  • Evil people exist. Sorry to say that, but they do. And they always will.
  • Evil people break rules. And making more rules isn't going to stop evil people from breaking them. (This is why campaign finance reform is a joke.)
  • Evil people don't negotiate. That or they sign negotiations and break them later. It's just an evil people thing. History has shown it again and again.
  • Evil people try to hurt good people. I don't know why they do this, but they do. They use human shields. They aim their bombs at civilian targets. They kill all the innocents in concentration camps when the soldiers coming to free them are about to raid. You all know the cliched superhero verses villain conflict where the villain threatens a bunch of innocent people, forcing the superhero to save them so the villain can get away? Yeah, it's just art imitating life.
  • Evil people aren't going to follow a nice person's example. They're going to see the nice person as weak. Want an example. Ask a policeman if he's ever caught a mass murderer by laying down his weapon to "set an example." (Again, I'm talking about the dredges of evil here--not the nice guy caught in a bad situation thing.) It certainly didn't work to be nice to Hitler, and being nice to Stalin only got us the Korean War and East Germany. (I know these are blatant generalizations, but I don't have time to go into it.)
  • The only thing that stops evil people seems to be the threat of violence. Remember the school bully? Being kind and nice didn't seem to work, did it? But my dad and his friends once discovered that if they all ganged up on the bully, the bully didn't bug them anymore. Sad isn't it? Having to fight someone to keep him from fighting you. But sometimes it's the only thing that works.

So how do we stop evil people? I see two main methods.

1. A governmental system of checks and balances.
America's system of checks and balances works one a number of levels. It's not perfect, but it's decent. It makes it next to impossible for a dictator to take over without either changing the constitution or creating his own military. Look at the nations with dictators. No checks and balances. This might sound far out, but I believe the world will never sniff "World Peace" until every nation creates for itself a system of checks and balances on its leaders and a free, voting populace with basic rights. (I'm thinking of at least 3 unalienable rights... 10 is good, too.) Why? Not because I think America rocks. (We do, but that's not the point.) Because a system of checks and balances prevents evil people from becoming dictators who try to take over other nations and kill innocent groups of people. This is the reason America puts a premium on helping other nations become democracies. (Or republics--you all know what I mean here.) Helping other nations become democracies with a system of checks and balances helps promote peace.

2. The Speed Racer method of defeating evil.
I know, I know, the Sci-fi Flick Chick is talking about a science fiction and fantasy movie again. For those of you who didn't see Speed Racer (and those of you who did and wished you didn't and tuned out most of the movie), Speed Racer (yes, that's his name) races cars in the future, and discovers that car racing is corrupt. Drivers are paid to fix races, and those drivers who refuse are killed or hurt really bad in races by those who cheat. You know, evil people and the cowards who follow them. Speed Racer and Driver X (don't ask) decide to band together to defeat the corruption, but there are two problems. First the drivers who are corrupt (most of them) cheat and try to hurt/maim/kill drivers who don't during the races. (See "Evil people break rules" up above.) Second, the corrupt business owners and mafia lords send assassins to kill Speed and X.

So how do Speed and X defeat evil? By being better than the rest of the drivers (and better at cheesy martial arts--if you saw the movie, you know what I mean.) And Speed couldn't just be a really good race car driver. He had to be so good that he could beat the other drivers even when they cheated. He had to be that much better than everyone else. That's a pretty hard standard to meet, but someone has to do it if you want to defeat evil.

Unfortunately, what this means is that to defeat evil, the good people have to be stronger than evil people. Why? Because evil cheats. Because evil isn't going to stop unless it gets scared or beaten. To defeat evil, you have to better than evil. Unfortunately, evil tends to use military might to take over nations, heard innocent people into gas chambers, destroy large buildings and those inside with planes. This means our military and the militaries of other Democratic, freedom-loving nations of the world need to be stronger than the militaries of the evil guys. So much stronger that they can defeat the evil guys even when the evil guys cheat. It's a hard standard to meet. It takes money, too.

(Note that there are other methods of defeating evil, including cutting off their dollars, etc., but I'm not getting into those.)

I'm not saying this because I'm violent or because I like war or because I just really groove on fighting. I'm saying it because I've studied the real-life bad guys and evil guys so I can write about them realistically. I'm saying it because I've heard presidential candidates talk about disarming our nation and taking away the very research dollars that keep our nation better than the evil guys who cheat. I've heard certain candidates talking about setting an example by getting rid of our weapons in hopes that other nations will follow. Maybe other nations will, but those aren't the nations I've ever worried about. They've got a system of checks and balances. I worry about the dictators who are evil--the ones who don't follow a good person's example. The ones who control countries without checks and balances. The ones who don't even control countries, i.e. terrorists who fly planes into large buildings and bomb civilian places like subways and train stations.

I'm saying it because an election is coming up and as much as all of us are concerned about rising gas prices and taxes, we need to be just as concerned if not more about keeping our military the best in the world at what it does. Remember the bully at school? Did he ever go after the teachers? No. He went after the weaker kids.

So if I'm ever in a beauty pageant (again, laugh with me--especially the poise part), I won't answer "World Peace." Ever. I'll say, "Better weapons, more money for weapons research, and a stronger military to the democratic nations of the world who desire justice and peace." And then I'd lose because that's just not the right thing to say.