Category: Uncategorized

Playing Games in the Maricopa County Election Audit

Here is the game that Democrats may be playing with the audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.

Let’s suppose that you run Maricopa County elections, and you know that election fraud occurred. You also know that if forensic auditors get unfettered access to election documentation, they will expose the scam. What is your best course of action in today’s political environment?

The purpose of any audit is to answer a question. An example is when a company’s financial statements are audited; the question is–are they presented in accordance with accounting standards? The question in the Maricopa audit is probably something like this. Was there was a correct tally of all legally cast votes in the election in Maricopa County in the 2020 election?
The auditor plans the audit and designs an audit program to answer the question. An audit program is a list of procedures that have to be performed to collect enough evidence to lead to a reasonable conclusion. The auditor performs the procedures, assesses the results, and then issues a report communicating their conclusions.

…fabricate a façade of uncertainty.

What happens if the auditor is not able to complete the audit program? What happens if significant evidence that must be examined to answer the question is not available? In that case, the auditor hits a wall with what’s called a scope limitation. He cannot issue an opinion because he does not have enough information to answer the question. He could probably submit a report with detailed descriptions of any discrepancies found, but he could not express a conclusion, yes or no, on the fundamental question.

Why is this significant?

The answer is that if you are Maricopa County elections and get away with withholding key audit evidence, you create a scope limitation. By doing this, you prevent the auditors from issuing a definitive conclusion on whether the tally was correct, and you fabricate a façade of uncertainty that gives you political cover. Political allies, such as Democrat politicians, the left-leaning media, and social media platforms then use the uncertainty to attack any notion that there is a problem.

The net result is that claims of election fraud are marginalized as conspiracy theories, Maricopa County election officials stay out of jail, Democrat politicians remain in power, journalists get access to those in power, and social media platforms avoid costly Congressional and regulatory scrutiny.

The losers in all this are the American people who may have had their votes nullified by criminals.

How to Plan Your Novel–Scene Design Part 2

My last post, “How to Plan Your Novel — Scene Design”, provided a list of things you might want to think about before you start writing. It also focused on one of those things in particular– the importance of establishing goals for the characters in the scene.

Once you have decided on a goal, it is time to give some thought to how to crush any hopes and dreams the character may have of achieving or benefiting from accomplishing the goal. This is called “the disaster”. The basic formula is GOALS –> CONFLICT –> DISASTER. The drama that gets your readers to turn the page is rooted in conflict and disaster. The oft-quoted metaphor that you should get the protagonist up a tree and then throw rocks at him applies here. Maybe a better way to think of it is to throw your character in a hole and try to bury him before he can dig his way out.

There are four basic answers to the question–will the character achieve his goal in this scene? They are “yes”, “yes–but”, “no”, and “no–and”. The first answer–“yes” should rarely, if ever, be used before the ending of the book. A few months ago, I read an action thriller with a pretty good premise and plot and some decent characters. It could have been a good novel, but the story’s glaring problem was that the protagonist was successful at everything he did. The answer to every goal he had in the book was yes, and that lack of drama made for a mediocre story.

There are three appropriate answers to the question in the middle of a novel. The first is in the “be careful what you ask for” department. The answer is “yes–but”. In this scenario, the character achieves the goal she is pursuing in the scene, but there are unpleasant consequences to that success. Maybe the gal gets the guy, but she also gets a dose of the clap.

…throw your character in a hole and try to bury him before he can dig his way out.

An example of this is in the book “Silence of the Lambs” by Thomas Harris. The protagonist, Clarise Starling, an FBI academy trainee, fulfills her goal to get a role in the Buffalo Bill investigation. That success nearly costs her a chance to graduate from the academy and subjects her to an internal affairs complaint that threatens to ruin her career before it even gets started.

“No” is the second answer that creates a disaster. In this case, the character is seeking something and gets the metaphorical door slammed in her face. In “The Godfather” by Mario Puzo, Michael Corleone meets with mobster Moe Greene to tell him the family wants to buy out his casino share. Greene’s response is, “I’ll buy you out. You don’t buy me out.” His answer is a firm no that throws an obstacle in the way of Michael’s goal to move the family to Vegas. It also provides the impetus for a dramatic scene with lots of great conflict and sharp dialog between characters.

The scene with Moe Greene in The Godfather is notable in that not only does Moe say no, but Michael says no to the no of Moe. (Sorry for the bad poetry.) Michael’s no is an example of the third type of disaster–“no–and”. This disaster is perhaps the most effective. Not only is the goal of the character blocked by a firm no, but there are far-reaching consequences from the character’s desire and attempts to accomplish the goal. In Moe Greene’s case (spoiler alert), the no he receives from Michael costs him both his share of the casino and his life.

So as you plan your scenes, know what the characters in the scene want and use one of the three disasters to dash their hopes. Hit them with the shovel as they try to dig their way out of the hole.

Check out my book, Trail to Peril.

Available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback.

An Easy Way to Outline Your Novel

There are many approaches to writing a novel. Some writers like the “seat of the pants” approach. They take an idea and start writing to see where it will go. I tried it. I ended up with a 70,000-word first draft that may or may not get edited and published. It was exciting writing it, but the result was a mess that will require a lot of rewriting. I prefer to plan novels, and here is the simple approach that I have used a few times.

Novels should generally have structure. That structure often includes these elements:

  1. A compelling event.
  2. Plot point one at about 1/4 through the novels.
  3. The midpoint.
  4. Plot point two at about 3/4 through the story.
  5. A dark moment, one or more scenes after plot point two.
  6. Resolution

The novel has a beginning, middle, and ending divided at plot points one and two. This means that the beginning and end of a novel are about a quarter of the story each. Half of the story is in the middle, that great void between plot points.

You may meticulously plan the novel, and in the adventure of writing it, find a wonderful path you never considered in your planning. Take it.

The plot is a series of scenes. Scenes are what I consider the building blocks of a story. A scene is a portion of the story in which characters interact in action or dialog. I usually plan scenes to be around 830 words. This goes back to writing novels for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where I was writing a 50,000-word first-draft novel in 30 days. At a word count of 830, I would write two scenes a day and stay on track. You can use that word count to plan the length of your epic work. If you want 100,000 words, plan 120 scenes, 30 scenes for the beginning and end, and 60 scenes for the middle.

Since I am an accountant, and the solution for everything for accountants is a spreadsheet, I use Excel for planning. If I plan a 100,000-word novel, I pull up a blank spreadsheet and set up a column numbered 1-120. Then I add a second column called “Description”. In row number 30, I indicate that it is the first plot point in the description column. At row 60, I show the midpoint, and at row 90, I indicate the second plot point. That is the easy part.

The hard part is coming up with two or three-line descriptions of 120 scenes that will carry my characters and readers from the compelling event to the story’s resolution at the end. I usually have at least a vague idea of what the plot will be. I typically know the compelling event of the story. That will generally be the first scene because you use it to hoodwink the reader into engaging in the story. Whether I have a good idea of where the story is going or not, I will usually write vague, tentative scene descriptions for the plot points, the midpoint, and an ending. It is easier to concoct 30 scenes that get you from scene one to the first plot point than to think about how you will get clear to the end. 

This process may seem to be rather rigidly structured, but it shouldn’t be. The scenes can be shorter or longer. The number of them could be lesser or greater. You are free to change the plot points, the midpoint, or the ending. This approach is a guide, not a constraint. You are free to use whatever artistry serves the telling of the story. Sometimes you are in for a surprise. You may meticulously plan the novel, and in the adventure of writing it, find a wonderful path you never considered in your planning. Take it.

Check out my book, “Trail to Peril”, available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

The American Republic is Dead

The American Republic is probably dead. This prognosis comes from the understanding that we are often doomed to repeat the mistakes of history. If you look at the parallels of recent American events with events in Rome around the time of Julius Caesar and following the similarities are stunning. If the Democrats succeeded in ousting President Trump, 2021 could even turn out to be the American year of the four emperors similar to Rome’s in 69AD. (Note 1)

American politics are no longer about electing selfless men and women dedicated to doing the people’s work for the common welfare. It has devolved into a civil war between wealthy, powerful, political dynasties for supremacy. It’s a war between the houses of Bush, Clinton, Obama, Biden, and the upstarts, who must be crushed at any cost, the Trumps.

Consider these similarities with Rome.

In 49BC, Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his legions in violation of Roman law and tradition. In 2021, President Trump supposedly incited his supporters to storm the US Capital to influence Congress’s Presidential election certification. The difference here is that Caesar acted deliberately. The accusation against Trump is pure political theater.

The American Republic is probably dead.

In 44BC, a group of Roman Senators stabbed Julius Caesar to death at a Senate meeting. In 2021, Nancy Pelosi and the US House rushed to impeach President Trump for the second time, supposedly for starting, what they called, an insurrection. The impeachment is a symbolic assassination. It is probably fortunate that the President didn’t visit the Capital. More than a handful of Congressional Democrats and a few Republicans are willing to wield a shiv in defense of their power. Et tu, Liz Cheney.

In Rome, populism was power. Emperors and rival factions vied for the support of the masses with give-aways, usually bread and entertainment. In 2021, the give-away is coming in the form of multi-trillion dollar “Covid relief” packages, forgiven student loans, and guaranteed incomes. The American norm now is to bribe voters with their own money.

Just as civil wars and conflict raged between the Julii, the Scipii, and the Brutii in Rome’s days, there is a dynastic battle brewing for the American Republic’s control. The Trump Dynasty has been beaten back for now, but it is the strongest in potential direct family succession. It is also the biggest threat to the status quo and power of the other dynasties.

A corrupt dotard heads House Biden with a drug-addled reprobate for an heir. House Biden is an offshoot of the Clinton Dynasty. Sort of like when Don Corleone allowed Clemenza and Tessio to start their own families. Kamala Harris is the adopted heir, but this dynasty effectively ends with Joe.

House Clinton is a two-headed monster. It features a former President with a reputation for sexual harassment and assault and a bitter, power grubbing former Secretary of State who has never come to terms with losing to Donald Trump in 2016. With Hillary’s loss and Chelsea the Dull for an heir, this family is left with using surrogates to maintain its influence.

House Bush had a good run and may do so again. Their hopes were dashed when George IIs brother Jeb turned out to be a nonentity in the 2016 Republican primary races. Bush family roots run deep, and they have many relatives, allies, and surrogates, so don’t count them out. One wonders if the Bush camp did not orchestrate the unrelenting attacks on House Trump to keep control of the GOP.

Finally, you have the House Obama. It may not even be a thing. It has minimal potential for dynastic control. Obama was a weak, poor leader whose legacy was systematically dismantled by the Trump administration. He was more of a place holder for Hillary of the House Clinton, then the founder of a new dynasty.

Those are the contestants. Regular Americans should stay out of it and let the rich and powerful fight it out and hopefully destroy each other. Instead of backing these pampered, privileged clowns, Americans should start looking for leaders who are courageous enough to keep the collateral damage from these dynastic wars from spilling over and destroying the country.

Check out my book, “Trail to Peril”, available in Kindle and paperback on Amazon.

Note 1 — In 69 AD Rome had four emperors — Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian. If the Democrats succeeding in removing Trump before the inauguration, 2021 would have been Trump, Pense, Biden, and potentially Harris, given Biden’s physical and mental health.

The Purge is On

Tragic events that many have feared has been going on the last couple of days. It is the logical culmination of the “political correctness” movement we have been contending with for years. It has been brewing for months with the “fake news” scares that spawned a fetid nest of self-appointed arbiters of truth. Now we have misguided and misleading social media “fact-checkers”. There is also the widespread practice of suspending and banning people and organizations from social media sites such as Twitter when their utterances are proscribed by our wiser masters, Jack Dorsey at Twitter and Zuckerburg at Facebook.

The most recent outrage is the apparent purge of conservative voices, including a ban on the President of the United States by Twitter and reports of disappearing followers among his supporters. It is not just attacks on MAGA supporters either. There have been attempts to suppress dissenting opinions on everything from voter fraud and climate change to Covid-19. Powerful forces in the media and Big Tech are silencing people with significant and compelling points of view.

Free speech in America is circling the drain.

Sometimes it is going beyond silencing and extends to ruining careers and lives. The conclave of hypocrites and scoundrels that make up the badly misnamed “Lincoln Project” is a pathetic example. They just announced that they would be making up a blacklist of those who worked for the Trump administration, intending to keep them from finding employment in the private sector.

It is chilling. Free speech in America is circling the drain. For those of you nodding your approval and politely applauding from the sidelines because you disagree with those who are being silenced, keep in mind that we have the 1st Amendment right to free speech to avoid the necessity of shooting each other.

The Deaths of Two American Heroes

I want to take note of the death of two American heroes this month. Both were World War 2 fighter pilots.

The first is General Chuck Yeager, who died on December 7 at age 97. He was most famous for being the test pilot that broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, flying a Bell X-1 he named Glamorous Glennis, after his wife, at Mach 1.05. He also had a fantastic career as an Air Force combat pilot in three wars and was notable for downing five enemy aircraft in one mission and being the first pilot to shoot down a jet fighter. He ended his career as a Brigadier General.

The other hero, also a World War 2 P-51 pilot, was my Uncle Linwood “Lindy” Genung. He died late last week. His experiences flying close air support for Patton’s Third Army are pretty impressive. This site has a video (click here) of Lindy telling the story of his war-time exploits.

After the war, he did what many veterans did. He returned home, got married to my Aunt Lela. They adopted two kids, Scott and Patty. Lindy went to work for AT&T and spent his whole career with them. He was working for them in Tehran, Iran, in 1978, when the Islamic Revolution, which eventually ousted the Shah, began.

Who will take their place in the fight to preserve freedom?

His great love seemed to be traveling. He owned numerous travel trailers and motorhomes in his life, and he and his family spent a great deal of time wandering the continent. As a young boy, I had the good fortune to travel with them on a couple of trips. The first covered the Northeast US and parts of Canada and included a visit to the New York World’s Fair. The second, a couple of years later, covered most of the Western United States. Thanks to Lindy and Lela, I visited about 41 different states and Canada before I was twelve. Also, thanks to Lindy, I survived the trips. I was a bit accident-prone in those days, and whenever I would see him in recent years, he would remind me that he saved my life on at least a couple of occasions.

Yeager and Genung were two guys who epitomized that American generation that many consider the greatest. They were real men who stepped up when their country needed them and faced the danger of war with courage and purpose. They were real anti-fascists who fought real fascists, not the spoiled, drug-addled soy boy version of “anti-fascist” engaging in temper tantrums we see in the streets today.

We are in crazy times when some are traumatized by red MAGA hats and statues of old white guys, and government officials are permitted to lock down entire populations and to destroy economies based on bad science. There is a real assault on American freedoms. One wonders how we will replace men like Yeager and Genung. Who will take their place in the fight to preserve freedom? If a younger generation will not take up the challenge, American greatness is at an end.

Snivelling Excuse for Not Posting

I usually try to post a blog article twice a week. Last week we took a non-essential flight to San Jose for a completely unauthorized early Thanksgiving dinner with my daughter and son-in-law. The week prior I was engrossed in finishing a short story. This week I plan to get back in the blogging groove. I have been doing some thinking about the Covid-19 fiasco and hope to do a couple of pieces on it.

…it is a great time to fly…

PS One thing I learned on the trip is that it is a great time to fly, if you don’t mind wearing a mask. There was lots of parking, no lines at the TSA checkpoint, and the airports and the plane was nearly empty. You could even get a cup of coffee in San Jose without waiting in a long line.

2020 Portland Book Festival

Literary Arts in Portland, Oregon is running a livestream event called the 2020 Portland Book Festival. It runs from November 5 to November 21, and features hundreds of free events that you can tap into on their website.

To register, go to https://www.pdxbookfest.org/.

2020 Portland Book Festival

Literary Arts is “a community-based nonprofit with a mission to engage readers, support writers, and inspire the next generation with great literature”. Their website is https://literary-arts.org/.

Joe Biden is a Plot Goldmine–Followup

A week or so ago, I wrote this blog post entitled, “Joe Biden is a Plot Goldmine”. The piece discusses using current events a fodder for creating plots for novels and stories. One of the examples I use the continuing saga of the Biden family. I proposed what I think are three good plot lines that could be developed from the sordid story of Hunter Biden and his father, Joe. Seems I wasn’t the only one thinking along these lines.

…2020 is the year of reality being stranger than fiction.

This Daily Mail story, about Hunter Biden’s laptop revelations, “National security nightmare of Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop…”, notes that Hunter himself speculated on using his story for pitches he could make for movies based on his antics.

It sort of drives home the point that real life is an excellent source for fictional material. It is also one more indicator that 2020 is the year of reality being stranger than fiction.

How to Use Conflict to Create Interesting Characters

Drama and comedy spring from the collision of the needs, desires, and emotions of characters in a story. This is called conflict, and conflict is a prerequisite for all engaging storytelling.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a scene about a late-middle age man who is laid off from his job, and he drives to downtown Portland for an appointment with an employment agency. A writer could pen this scene in a couple of ways.

In the first version, the man drives to his meeting in sunny, dry weather and light traffic. He finds a parking space close to his destination. He arrives at the appointment early, meets with the headhunter. The meeting goes well, and he leaves it encouraged and convinced that he will have a new, higher-paying position by the end of the week. He returns to his car, drives home, and arrives safely to deliver the good news to his loving and supportive wife.

The worst thing you can do to your characters is to make them boring.

In the second version, the man, believing he has job security, buys an expensive car that he will be making hefty payments on for the next seven years. The next day, he gets fired. He finds a head hunter who will talk to him and sets up an appointment. He drives his new car to downtown Portland in a steady drizzle and heavy traffic. He manages to find a parking spot, but it has a 15-minute limit. He parks there anyway and rushes through the now pouring rain to his meeting. He has trouble finding the place but finally arrives twenty minutes late and soaked to the skin. He goes into the meeting confident that his knowledge and experience will net him a good position, but the meeting does not go well. The head hunter, a young woman in her twenties, tells him she might be able to find him a job, but it will probably pay only about 2/3 of what he was making in his old job. In frustration, he argues with her and finally storms out of the meeting. It is still raining as he walks back to his car, and as he approaches, he sees a meter maid shoving a ticket under his wiper blade. He grabs the ticket as he passes the car and confronts the meter maid. As they argue, he hears a terrible crash behind him. He turns and sees that a person who jumped from the adjacent building has landed on his brand new car.

Which version is more likely to hold a reader’s interest?

The second version works better than the first. In the first, everything goes right for the character. There may be a concern with losing his job, but he is confident of getting another one. Everything goes as planned. He has smooth, safe trips to the appointment and back. He finds a parking spot. The interview goes well. He can share the good news with his wife.

Yawn.

The second version is much more enjoyable. It’s got the inner turmoil of the man, caused by his predicament. This includes anger over being fired, uncertainty about the future, the frustration of being late for the meeting, and looking like a drowned rat when he arrives. Then there are the arguments with the head hunter and the meter maid. Finally, he is the victim of a seemingly random mishap that destroys his car.

The second version has what the first does not–conflict. The whole universe seems to be conspiring to frustrate this flawed character’s goals and aspirations, including his own thoughts and emotions. This conflict delivers a character with whom a reader can identify. It triggers emotions, such as pity or amusement in the reader and engages them in the story.

When you create a character, give them conflicts. The worst thing you can do to your characters is to make them boring. Let them be at war with themselves and the world around them.

Check out my book, “Trail to Peril” available on Amazon.