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Monday, December 30, 2013

New Beginnings

            Soon comes the New Year. I’m looking forward and see great changes on the horizon, hopefully they will be for the better. The nature of change, though, is that it will only be different. Whether it’s for the better will remain to be seen. I can but hope and aspire to something grander.
            Sometimes that’s enough to shape things to come.

Friday, December 27, 2013

F3 Stocking Stuffers

            Christmas in the office was a small affair, consisting of a tree stuffed into the corner that barely fit—the affair was small, not the tree—decorated in full holiday regalia with a large star shining at the top.
            Only six gifts sat underneath that monstrous tree, two from each person in the office. We’d get to those at the end of the office day. The stockings, however, neatly lined up and firmly taped to the filing cabinets, bulged with their bounty, one each for myself, Jen, and Jessie. Jen had done her best to get a fourth stocking added for Nikki—Jen had tried to put up a high-heeled boot for Nikki, but I had told her this was strictly for office personnel.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Time Again

            Christmas is . . . well, it’s odd. I truly love the holiday. I have Christmas spirit. It’s why I wear the Santa hat for nearly a month every year. I love Christmas movies and Christmas music, but when the day is actually here, it seems a little on the empty side. There’s only a little family left here, and it’s a small affair that doesn’t permeate clear through the day. The upside being that we don’t have to put up with all the family shenanigans that can happen over the holidays.
            But the spirit doesn’t last either.
            I’ve found, though, that my Christmas spirit has been making its way into my writing. I’ve written two Christmas stories that are, without question, my favorite stories. I love the idea behind them, of bringing that Christmas magic to life in my stories, and I’m not talking about all the elves and literal Christmas magic (though there is some of that) but of people extending their reach to other people. Smiles and good feelings and a desire to help our fellow men.
            That, to me, is really Christmas.
            Time to work on another Christmas story.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Teaching Methods

            Over the summer I had the opportunity to go to Washington DC with my brother. I thoroughly enjoy chances to spend time with him as we don’t have the opportunity much. He’s also a professor, but in journalism.
            We spent a lot of hours talking about our jobs and teaching in general, but he said something to me which has stuck with me ever since. He was impressed by the creativity and level of work and thought I had put into my teaching methods, and that “I don’t know anyone that has put as much thought into teaching as you have,” which even counts all the tenured faculty at his prestigious university.
            While I take the compliment very highly, I’m left to wonder, now, why more don’t engage in such thought about teaching method?
            The obvious answer, for universities, is that research is the primary concern, but that doesn’t cover the community colleges, so what’s going on?

Friday, December 20, 2013

F3 Forging Life

            "Cannae sleep, lad?" Markun asked me.
            "No. Every time I close my eyes . . . you know."
            "Aye. It'll pass in time."
            "Wish I was so confident. I don't ever want to sleep again."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Quality Assurance

            A friend recently pointed me to a blog written by a teacher who is going through the same things I have been talking about; unfortunately, what is disturbing are the comments left on one of the posts, supposedly by other teachers.
            This makes me wonder if part of the problem, even a majority of the problem, are those who enter the teaching profession who are simply not suited to teaching, who don’t have the skills and drive to really do the job well. Whether this is on a personal level or a matter of never receiving the proper education to be versed in what goes into teaching I don’t know. Regardless, it points to a bad moon rising.
            I can well understand, after reading some of these comments, why there is a great concern over the quality of teachers. There should be some way to insure that teachers are truly qualified to do what they do, but I think that testing and other measure are not the proper way.
            I think a market solution is the answer. To that I mean that teachers should be paid more. If teachers were paid a higher salary, a better quality of people would naturally gravitate towards the profession and elevate to its proper place.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Hash Marks

            Another semester down. On the one hand, they are marks of victory, of triumph. I have overcome, and the world is a better place for it. It is a badge of honor I can show to people, and I feel that I become a little bit better at the job the longer I’m at it.
            On the other hand, it feels like scratching a mark in a prison wall, and that is a horrible analogy to make with regards to teaching.
            I want to make it like the first feeling again. I want that feeling of triumph back instead of weary sigh of survival.
            I wish I had more ideas on how to bring that feeling back.

Friday, December 13, 2013

F3 Saying Goodbye

            I had drifted in and out of consciousness as Alistair and Markun brought me out of the dungeon. Only when they brought me out into the sun did I start to have any kind of real awareness again.
            They brought me to a small inn where an apple-cheeked matronly woman who smelled of pears fed me broth and spiced cider to nurse me back to health. Every time I woke, which was often as I didn't want to fall back into nightmares, someone sat in the room with me.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cutting Back

            I’ve got to cut back on my assignments. I’m giving out too many in too short a time, and they’re taking their toll on me. Students, too, don’t take the time to truly understand what it is they’re doing and treat it more like a worksheet than as an essay that needs full contemplation.
            So I need to cut back in order to do more. The fewer assignments will carry more weight, and hopefully make a greater impact.
            However, the downside looms over me. Frequently the only way to get students to act is to make an assignment for them to do.
            I hate using a grade as a hammer.

            There’s got to be a better way.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Last Push

            This is the time of desperation, when students who have been teetering all semester give one last-ditch effort to make it. Unlike the movies and books, these last-ditch efforts aren’t successful most of the time.  I wish they were more often, but I think it’s a matter of panicking. The rush and desperation to get it done, with adrenaline and caffeine coursing through them, allows for far too many mistakes.
            Writing has ever been a discipline where the devil is in the details. Not only can one word make a difference, most of the time one word is all the difference.
            And I’m not the devil; I’m just the messenger.
            Shakespearean jobs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Friday, December 6, 2013

F3 Lost Hope

            The creature that fed on my memories, a bastellus, the lich boasted, finished feeding on me again. Each night was worse than the one before, and now I was down to almost no magic. All of the advanced learning was gone. Only the most basic lessons from Windy remained. I wouldn't surrender those memories, though. I couldn't.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Genre Dancing

            What’s in a genre? I could go Shakespearean with the rose thing, but this really is a serious question. How are they defined? Where do the lines blur? There has been a rash of genre combinations and crossovers lately. Whole new sections have risen in bookstores, claiming space from other genres. Other genres subdivide like cells undergoing meiosis.
Romance spawns off Dark Romance, or is it Paranormal Romance? Still others lump those in with Urban Fantasy, itself an offshoot of Fantasy, but now there is Epic Fantasy, which was originally simply Fantasy. And then Contemporary Fantasy. Does that include Urban Fantasy? Are the related?
            Where’s a Venn diagram of book genres when you need one?
            And let’s not get started on the young adult versions of all of these.

            Is it any wonder that trying to pick a genre to submit to an agent can become a headache?

Monday, December 2, 2013

A Busy November Done

            Even without the pressure of NaNoWriMo, Novembers are always busy for me. They are the month when my students’ big projects are due, and I have to grade them. Add into that my soon-to-be traditional foray to Boston for Crime Bake, and it becomes downright hectic.
            Oh, yeah, and Thanksgiving.
            But it’s over and done, now, and I feel like I’m on a nice, gentle downhill slope to the end of the semester.

            Time to get in some agent prep to submit the book.
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