Wednesday, February 24, 2010

New Tattoo

Here is the new tattoo I got to commemorate the publishing of Shadow's Son:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

2010 Pennwriters Conference

Hey folks,

Today’s post is about a local writers’ conference here in central PA. It’s hosted by the Pennwriters group, an organization to which I’ve belonged for a number of years. I don’t work for Pennwriters, but I feel that belonging to a group like this can provide many benefits for a writer at any stage of their career.

The Pennwriters conference is an annual event. This year it’s being held May 14-16 in Lancaster, PA. The conference features workshops (in many genres), discussion panels, a banquet, a costume party, and pitch sessions with editors and agents who are actively seeking new authors. This year’s keynote speaker is author James Rollins.

For more info, or to register, go to:

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Funny Thing Happened . . .

Let me start by saying I don’t usually discuss political topics in public (I also try to avoid religion, the other third rail of social discourse). But something happened last night so alarming, so contemptible, that I feel compelled to speak out.

Last night, I answered . . . a phone survey . . .


I know, I know. Jon, how could you be so stupid? In my defense, I was making good progress on my latest manuscript when the phone rang and I was feeling pretty magnanimous. So, instead of following my instincts (hang up), I indulged the surveyor. Health care? Sure, I’ve got time to answer some questions. What could be the harm, right? I’ve been meaning to email some congress-type-people about my views on this subject anyway, and maybe this survey will alleviate my conscience enough that I can continue to sit on the sidelines while others slug it out on my behalf. (To those who might wish to manipulate me in the future: appealing to my innate laziness is a good start.)

So Survey Guy starts firing these questions at me about my family’s health care. Who provides it? How happy are we on a scale of one-to-seven? One-to-seven? Um, okay. But as the survey goes on, I begin to notice a bit of a slant in the questions. They seem to want me to say that I’m happy with my health care the way it is and that I don’t want anyone to change it. But I wait it out, thinking surely there must be some question where I can give an answer that will definitively spell out my viewpoint.

Then it came. How happy am I with the cost of my health care? Aha! Now I can unload with both barrels, right? Well, wait. I ask Survey Dude, “Hey, Survey Dude, are you asking me if I’m happy with how much I actually pay out of pocket, or if I like what my wife’s employer has to shell out every year to keep us on the rolls?” It’s an important distinction because those two issues have very different answers. Survey Dude didn’t know. He read the question again and waited for my answer. I gave a middling sort of “slightly satisfied” answer that left me, sadly, unsatisfied. That ended the survey except for (wait for this) would I please give my name (sure), phone number (um, you called me, remember. But okay here it is), and my address. By this point I just wanted to get off the phone so I gave him what he needed. He thanked me and hung up.

No big deal.

Then I start thinking. Why did he need all that personal information? I wasn’t concerned about Survey Lad stealing my identity because those facts (name, phone, and address) are listed in the local phone book for anyone to see. Might there be another reason? Then I recalled something I had seen on TV where companies pretend to do surveys about health care, but what they are really doing is collecting names to put on anti-health care bill petitions, which they send to various congress-people-types in a ruse to make our government think that masses of people don’t want reform.

I’d been hoodwinked! And the worst part is I didn’t see it coming! (Thank you, Mr. Jim Carrey. Dumb and Dumber still makes me laugh.)

So take this as a friendly piece of advice. If Survey Dude calls your home or business with questions about health care, answer if you like, but do so with care because you don’t know what he is doing with the results.

I guess I could go on and trot out my personal views about health care reform, about how the current system is corrupt and has too many congress-type-people in its collective back pockets, or how it’s a crime what employers are forced to pay just to give their workers the security of basic health care, and how we don’t need a reform but instead a complete, top-to-bottom, scrub-behind-the-ears-with-steel-wool overhaul.

But the last thing the world needs is another windbag regurgitating his opinion into the ethereal winds of the blogosphere.

P.S.: A big thank you to my wife’s employer who very generously provides health care coverage for my family.