“Rules? In a Knife Fight? No Rules.” (1)

Imagine a presidential debate in 2016 with just the two major candidates onstage with no moderators, no preconditions and no rules of engagement beyond the coin flip that determined that the Republican candidate would open the debate.

“Hillary, it’s great to be here with you tonight as the next step in making America great again.”

“Why thank you, Donald. I look forward to demonstrating how we’re stronger together.

“By the way, that’s a fabulous pantsuit you’re wearing. Where’s that made? Bangledesh?”

“I didn’t want to be outdone by that dapper suit of yours that’s made in Mexico, not to mention the Chinese tie.”

“They do good work when they’re working legally.”

“Donald, why do you want to be President? You have no concrete plans, no real vision for the future. All you do is tell people they should trust you and everything will be great. But let’s face it. You’re just an empty suit with no real qualifications to run this country.”

“I’ll tell you why I want to be President. It’s to rescue the country from politicians like you that have allowed illegal immigrants to swarm across the border unchecked and have created disastrous trade policies that have left us weakened in the world.”

“You’d make this world a far more dangerous place threatening anybody that contradicted you. I have the steadiness and leadership that America needs to lead us forward.”

“Where was that steadiness in Benghazi when you abandoned the embassy to fend for itself?”

“Your solution to everything is just to build a big wall.”

“It’s going to be a great wall. Nobody builds a wall like I do.”

“I’d be surprised if you could even hold a trowel with those small hands of yours.”

“They’re not small and they happen to be very strong.”

“You’re a bully, Donald, plain and simple. You attack anybody and anything, even a Gold Star family. Well, you have to be stopped and I’m the one who’s going to do it. The American people are smart and can see who you really are and will vote to defeat you in November.”

“And you think they’d vote for a puckered old persimmon like you? You don’t have the energy to be President. You’re a sick, old woman. You should be sitting in a rocking chair knitting, not running for the most strenuous job in the country.”

“Well, Donald, you’d ruin our economy with your simplistic, protectionist ideas. And it appears that the only thing you know about foreign affairs comes from the women you’ve slept with.”

“You leave Melania out of this. Or I’ll talk about Bill and his parade of trollops du jour.”

“The American people deserve better than you. They deserve an experienced candidate who understands the nuance of policy and knows how to build consensus.”

“And who knows how to hide what they’re doing better than anybody else? Why’d you really set up that e-mail server in your basement? What didn’t you want people to know about? Was it to hide the foreign donors that got access when they gave to your “foundation?”

“You’re a mean-spirited bigot and you don’t care about other people. You’d deport millions of hard-working people just to further your own cause.”

“What happened to you? You were once a Goldwater girl. Now you follow Saul Alinsky. How can anybody trust you?”

“How many times have you ruined a business and had to declare bankruptcy?”

“Hey, I’ve always followed the law. You’re the one that’s always half an inch away from being caught doing something shady.”

“How’s your buddy Putin doing? And those white supremacists that follow you? Oh, I’m sorry, they now call themselves the alt-right.”

“You’re just jealous of Putin. You wouldn’t look half as good on horseback with your shirt off. And I can’t help it if people like what I have to say. So what if they’re not as politically correct as you want them to be.”

“This is a waste of time. You won’t engage in a discussion of ideas because you don’t have any.”

“And you won’t answer a direct question. What color was Napoleon’s white horse, Hillary?”

“Demagogue.”

“Hag.”

“Race baiter.”

“Liar.”

“Narcissist.”

“Crook.”

Offstage a gong sounds signaling the end of the debate. Reluctantly, the two candidates cease their name calling and smile at the cameras.

“Thank you, Donald, for the opportunity to have this spirited exchange. And I say to the American people, there’s a clear choice this November. You have only to vote with common sense and good conscience to make the right decision. Remember, we are stronger together.”

“And thank you, Hillary. The American people want a winner, and they know that when they vote for Trump, that’s what they’ll get. Nothing but the best. No more second place. America can be proud again. America can be great again. And, in conclusion, may the best man win.”

(1) from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Becoming a Writer

Everybody who becomes a writer has their own unique journey. For me, the seed was planted in grade school when I sat in front of a kid who wrote an ongoing story using a pencil and loose-leaf paper. He worked on it every day and I watched it grow. If I ever read it, I don’t remember, but it left me with the thought that you could create something out of nothing with simple materials, your imagination and the use of words.

As I grew into my teens, my words also grew and the notion that I could use them to fashion something new and interesting settled in the back of my mind as worth considering for a future endeavor. I experimented here and there in small but undisciplined fits and starts, but produced nothing memorable.

My college years exposed me to a vast array of literature in spite of my concentration in the hard sciences. From Alexander Pope to Emily Bronte to Dostoyevsky to W.B. Yeats to D.H. Lawrence to F. Scott Fitzgerald and others, I learned many styles of story-telling, though none affected me the way my first reading of The Lord of the Rings did. I was late to the party discovering Tolkien, but his combination of world-building, story-telling and use of language had a profound effect on me. I became invested in the LOTR characters and looked forward to my annual journey with them each time I re-read the trilogy.

My reading increased and broadened to mysteries and thrillers and more epic fantasy. I entered the worlds of Conan Doyle, Ludlum, Parker, Morrell, Diehl, Cussler, Zelazny, Donaldson, Eddings, Jordan, Feist, Brooks, Goodkind, Rawn, McCaffrey and many others.

But I wrote little in those years and with no real purpose or direction. My career took me far away from writing books. I became a software builder, evolving my skills and discipline as a programmer, analyst, designer and architect over the years. I wrote in many computer languages on many different platforms and hardware configurations. I started my own consulting business, which grew into a small technology company. When that company crashed and burned, I turned to writing as both an outlet and an escape. The core story in The Tahitian Tangle dates back to that period of my life.

I stopped writing and started a second technology company with my wife, this one far more successful than the first. We eventually sold the company to a much larger organization. After fulfilling our transitional obligations to the buyer, I considered the possibility that I might get serious about writing. Then the economy flatlined, investments tanked and I went back to building software as a hedge against future instability. That diversion from writing lasted around six years.

One morning, I just woke up and decided to continue the story in Tahiti that I’d begun years earlier. I’d always written in spurts, though I’d never been able to sustain those flares of interest in writing. But now the discipline that I’d learned in building many software systems over the years was transferred to my writing and I found that I was able to write in consistent increments with an overall plan and structure.

My writing journey is far from over, though the path to this point has been unpredictable and unexpected. I’m currently working on a full length novel called ‘The Hyperion Web,’ which is a sequel to The Tahitian Tangle. And after it’s done, I expect I’ll write more books in that series. Or perhaps I’ll try my hand at world-building through epic fantasy. The road forward is uncertain, but the ride promises to be an interesting one.