Music

I read somewhere that J.K. Rowling listened to classical music, one piece in particular, while she wrote Harry Potter.  I didn’t get it.  Why would someone listen to music while writing?  Wouldn’t that be distracting?

My writing professor also played music for us while we wrote in class, and I finally got it.  I think, at least for me, that music occupies those parts of my brain that want to be distracted by trivial noises.  Someone walking around, a car door slamming in front of the house, a TV playing in another room.

Plus I think that some music simply tells my brain, “It’s time to write.”  There are certain albums I only listen to now when I write.

I’ve also found that certain music works better than others.  Life Turns Electric by Finger Eleven is one of my favorites.  I also listen to The Best of Fuel and Angels and Devils by Fuel and The Mask and the Mirror, The Book of Secrets, An Ancient Muse, and The Wind That Shakes the Barley by Loreena McKennitt.

Probably my biggest inspiration, though, is a fellow Brigham Young University graduate, Lindsey Stirling.  She is unique.  Her albums, Lindsey Stirling and Shatter Me, are high on my list of music to listen to while I write.  Her story also motivates me.

Here are a couple of links you should check out:

http://www.mormon.org/lindsey

http://www.lindseystirling.com/

I’ve never been a big violin fan, but I love the way she plays hers.  Her story on mormon.org is particularly touching and I hope you take the time to watch it.

Cheers,

Bernard

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 550 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

You’ve gotta know when to walk away…

My next book, Discovery, will be out soon. It’s available for kindle pre-order right now.

I have to say the writing of Discovery went smoothly for me. I enjoyed the story, the characters, and the setting, and the writing of it simply flowed. It was fun.

I recently had a less fun experience.

I was 40,000 words (about 110 pages) into a novel and it took me over three months to add another 10,000 words. I just couldn’t feel the story. By the end of the three month period, I didn’t like the characters any longer, I didn’t care about what they wanted from life, and the plot wasn’t fun.

Walking away from that much work scared me.

But I did. I read some blogs on when to walk away from a story and when to perservere, and I discussed it with some of my family and friends. The bottom line was: If the story didn’t interest me, it wouldn’t interest readers either.

So I walked away from it.

I immediately dove into another story that has been haunting me. I love it. I’m planning on releasing that story in episodes and the first one should be out by the end of the year. This story began as the first scene of a screenplay written in a class over three years ago. As I filled in the backstory in my head, I realized I had a major story to tell, and now the first draft of the first episode is complete. I’m excited about it and hope my readers will be also.

In the meantime, I hope you love reading Discovery as much as I loved writing it.

Cheers,

Bernard

Bernard Wilkerson is the author of Communion, In The Beginning, and the soon to be released Discovery.

Science and Religion (part 2)

Last blog I claimed science and religion can and should coexist. This one I want to suggest how and why.

In the search for knowledge, asking ‘How’ and ‘Why’ are effective ways to focus our minds and to help us get to the root of a matter. Sometimes used interchangeably, they actually lead us down different paths.

For example, “How does a bird flap its wings?” can lead to “How does the muscular structure of a bird interact with its skeletal structure?”, whereas “Why does a bird flap its wings?” could lead to “Why are there animals that fly?”, a much more philosophical question than the first.

Despite writing In the Beginning, I don’t really know how God created our world. Most of our knowledge of cosmology, the study of the origins and fate of the Universe, is still theory and will probably remain theory for a long time. The giant impact theory that I used to describe the formation of the moon is a relatively recent theory, and although it is the only one accepted at the moment, it could easily be overturned by the discovery of evidence to the contrary. It wasn’t even thought of until discoveries from the Apollo missions disproved the three theories that were prevalant about the formation of the moon at the time.

But I enjoyed weaving the little we know about how our world was formed with what little we know about why it was formed.

Most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints do not believe that the events described in the book of Genesis refer to the creation of the Universe. We believe they refer to the creation of our world. We also believe some of the descriptions are not meant to be taken literally. For example, the use of the word ‘day’ is taken by some religious people to mean a 24 hour time period, as might be measured by something like the NIST-F2 atomic clock in Boulder, Colorado, which is accurate to one second in 300 million years. However I believe that the word ‘day’ might be better represented by the phrase ‘period of time’, and could represent periods of time up to a few billions of years or so. I know the concept of billions of years blows my mind, and I imagine it was quite outside the understanding of someone who lived at the time of Moses. It would be simpler for God to describe the creation in terms Moses could understand.

I believe what was revealed about the creation to Moses, to Abraham, and to Joseph Smith was not about how God created our world, but why he created it. I also believe that the attempt by many to extrapolate how God created our world from his description of why he created it, suggesting that the entire Universe was created in a 518,400 second period of time as measured by NIST-F2, and that done about 6,000 years ago, is why many people who believe in science ridicule and dismiss people who believe in religion.

I believe that if one studies the scriptures in terms of why God created a world for us, and studies science to understand how things work, realizing that religion will never explain unusual fields that exist throughout the Universe that cause particles to acquire mass, and yet the discovery of the Higgs boson will never explain why our Universe exists in the first place, science and religion can get along.

Cheers,

Bernard

Science and Religion (part 1)

I enjoy reading histories of science.  I also enjoy reading books on cosmology, which is the study of the history, evolution, and eventual fate of the Universe.

When reading books of this nature, however, one is often frequently reminded of the clashes between science and religion.

I also study my religion, and I’ve pondered for a long time about the subject of science versus religion.  I have training in both.  I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and have endeavored to learn about my religion through studying scriptures, teachings, and the history of my faith for most of my life.  I also have a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering and was a practising engineer and scientist for many years before I became a software developer.

When one studies history, science, and religion, it becomes painfully obvious that the proponents of the scientific method do not get along with the adherents of religions, and vice versa.

However, if one steps above the fray a little, it becomes obvious that mankind has used many methods, means, and excuses to kill each other throughout all history.  Science has been used as often and effectively as religion in the pursuit of slaughtering one’s neighbors.  There’s plenty of guilt and blame for both sides.

I want to move past that.

I honestly believe science and religion can and should coexist.  In the Beginning is not an attempt to show how science and religion coexist, but the background to the story comes from my belief that they do, that there is but one truth and however one arrives at the knowledge of that truth does not change the truth itself.

More on science and religion next blog.

Watch for the upcoming release of In the Beginning.  It will be available on Amazon on May 9th.

Cheers,

Bernard

Editing

A friend of mine told me that editing your own material makes you like the guy who represents himself as his own attorney. He has a fool for a client.

But for the self-published author, there isn’t much choice. Copy editing is expensive, so it’s do it yourself or go broke. My friend told me that newspapers, magazines, and even major publishing houses have cut back on their copy editing budgets, and it shows.

I read a bestselling novel recently that made a reference to Sherlock Holmes, spelling the great detective’s name ‘homes’, without even capitalizing it. I found typos in another bestselling book, including dialogue attribution to the wrong character, one who wasn’t even in the scene being described.

A fairly famous self-published author had so many typos in his last book that he had to issue a second edition.

It’s tough.

With decent spell checkers, there are no truly misspelled words. The typos are always incorrect words spelled correctly, like ‘homes’ for ‘Holmes’ or ‘the’ for ‘they’. It’s hard to catch them, easy to read them several times and not see them, and, in short, can be rather frustrating.

My last pass through In the Beginning, I found over a hundred corrections that needed to be made, so I put my original release plans on hold and am going through several more edits now.

I’ve been contacted by several of my readers wondering when it will be out. I had originally hoped for early March, but it will probably be mid-May now. I have several blogs that go along with the release, but I put them on hold so I could whine about editing first.

I know perfection is probably unachievable, but when I read The Great Gatsby, or The Old Man and The Sea, or Cannery Row, I don’t recall any typos. And when you read In the Beginning, I don’t want you to find any either.

Cheers,

Bernard

In the Beginning (part 2)

In the Beginning was originally inspired by a joke a friend of mine, Quentin Marley, told me in college. He claims to have created the joke himself, and this is an embellished version of it told in my words. It’s been over thirty years since he told it to me and I certainly can’t remember it the way he told it.

Moses is kneeling in front of the burning bush, papyrus and stylus in hand, or with whatever medium and writing instrument he used to write Genesis, and he asks God how He created the universe. According to LDS doctrine (in the Pearl of Great Price), God basically tells him he’s not going to tell him anything about the universe, but just about the planet he lives on now. By the way, that’s one of the reasons I don’t believe as many people do that Genesis is about the creation of the universe. I believe it is only about the creation of our world. But back to the joke:

Moses: So, Lord, how did you create the world?

God: Well, Moses, what understanding do you have of quantum mechanics?

Moses: Huh?

God: No quantum mechanics? Any subatomic physics?

Moses: What are you talking about?

God: Electromagnetism? Tectonic plate geology? Animal zoology? Do you understand any of these things?

Moses: Lord, I am but thy humble servant and these words are meaningless to me.

God, sighing: I said, Let there be light, and there was light.

Moses, scribbling down the notes that would become Genesis: Now you’re talking, Lord.

Don’t get me wrong. I think Moses was a pretty smart guy. But he didn’t have access to the scientific knowledge we have today. He didn’t even have Wikipedia!

Watch for In the Beginning, due out in March!

Cheers,

Bernard

In the Beginning

While I was working on getting Communion published, including sending manuscripts and emails to agents and publishers, I kept writing. Thoughts of the Afterlife turned to thoughts of premortal life and what that might have been like. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe in a premortal existence and if you would like to learn more about those beliefs, see http://mormon.org/beliefs/plan-of-salvation.

Thus, In the Beginning was born.

But In the Beginning doesn’t follow any particular belief. It’s a blend of science, fantasy, faith, and fiction, drawing on LDS teachings, Stephen Hawking’s beliefs, current cosmological theories of the Universe, and my own fanciful mind trips, to tell a story about a character, Rachel, who has become one of my most fun characters to write about so far.

She thinks the decision to prepare for mortality, to receive a physical body, is a straightforward decision until one of her friends insists there is another way, throwing her into a state of confusion and leading her to wonder who she should trust, who she loves and who she can follow.

I know I probably should wait for a longer period of time after the release of Communion to release In the Beginning, but I’ve been working on it for over a year and I loved telling Rachel’s story and I’m anxious to make it available to my readers.

So, my plan is to release it in March. Keep an eye out for it. I hope you’ll enjoy In the Beginning.

Cheers,

Bernard

Why I write about the Afterlife

I have a couple of things in common with George Bernard Shaw.  First, his middle name and my first name are pronounced the same, which probably isn’t the way you’re pronouncing it if you’re American and don’t know me personally.  Second, we’re both Irish, which is why our name is pronounced the way it is.  I was listening to a book by Cecilia Ahern and one of the main characters was named Bernard, and it reminded me that there is an entire country where everyone knows how to say my name correctly.  It made me feel a little better.

I was born in the States but moved to Ireland when I was little.  My grandmother there had died and I suppose my mother was homesick.  I spent the formative years of my life living in Dublin, which is why I’m more comfortable kicking around round balls than hitting them with bats, throwing them through hoops, or carrying egg shaped ones around while big people try to kill me.

When I was ten, a war broke out.  The Irish euphemistically called it ‘The Troubles’.  When the violence spilled into Dublin, my father realized he was American and didn’t have to put up with a war, so it was back to the States.  I made one trip to Belfast during ‘The Troubles’ and all I remember are a lot of soldiers and armored cars.  I don’t know how people put up with living in war zones.  It was scary.

Despite our common nationality, I haven’t read as much of Shaw’s works as I should have.  However, one of his plays always stood out in my mind.  The main character of The Devil’s Disciple went through a similar experience as my father.  My father also turned his back on the faith of his childhood because of the things he witnessed and experienced, even to the point of attending a Jewish synagogue since it was non-Christian.  I remember being there with him as a child.  Years later I asked my mother why we never converted to Judaism and apparently it had something to do with the requirement to learn Hebrew.  I guess that was too daunting.

But the things my father learned in the synagogue prepared him to return to Christianity, specifically the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  He felt that Mormonism was a natural extension of Judaism which makes sense to Mormons but probably not to a lot of other people.

And Mormons believe in the Afterlife.

My stories are not religious, however.  I’m not describing mormon beliefs about the Afterlife.  The fantasy Afterlife I’ve created is more of a pedestrian place than heaven probably really is, and the initial inspiration for my stories came out of a trivial struggle with life that I share with many people descended from northern climes.

I sunburn easily.

One of my daughters is also fair skinned and has red hair, and she sunburns even more easily than me.  She’s partly the inspiration for the red-haired Catherine of Beaches of Brazil.  I remember fantasizing about what life after resurrection might be like and I wondered how it would be to spend a day at the beach and not have to put lotions and sun screen on every few hours and to not have to endure the pitying looks of those around me who naturally and easily tan.  And the idea for a story was born.

I thought about Beaches of Brazil often, probably every time I went to the beach, and it’s why it was the first story I published.  It felt good to finally write it down.

So, my stories are not mormon doctrine, or anyone’s doctrine, just some fun things I’ve imagined about real people living in an environment that’s quite different from ours, but which, since they have some control over their surroundings, they’ve turned into something they’re comfortable with.  I think that’s basic human nature.

In some ways, Gary Lomax is like me.  He doesn’t always know what he wants out of life, but he wants to explore it, to have adventures, to see what’s around the corner or on the next block.  And he gets to do it in the context of a world where no one has to worry about earning money or getting sick or dying or gaining weight from eating too much chocolate.  That’s my fantasy and that’s why I enjoy writing about the Afterlife.

Cheers,

Bernard

Why I started writing (continued)

I took all the advanced English courses when I was in high school and thus missed a gem that most Americans have read by the time they are eighteen – The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway.  Apparently, in my high school, that was reserved for the regular English courses.

 I was much older when I read it, listened to it, actually, on CD while commuting to work, and I understand now both why my high school friends hated reading it and why it is classical literature.

They hated it because not much happens.  An old dude goes out by himself on the ocean and catches a monstrous fish and …, well, I won’t give the ending away.  You’ll have to read it for yourself.  But that’s about it for action.

It’s classical literature for many reasons.  Hemingway said it was the best he ever wrote.  Many agreed, and he won a Pulitzer Prize for it, and it was a major factor in him receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature.  It’s well worth reading if, like me, you missed out on the opportunity to read it when you were younger.

One of the themes of the book that struck a chord for me is the consequences of aging.  The old man is not willing to accept his aging, and he believes that through stubbornness, a lifetime of acquired skills, and simply sheer will, he can avoid those consequences.  However, in the end, the old man discovers there is no escape.  Hemingway was fifty-two years old when he wrote The Old Man and the Sea and I have to believe he was feeling his age at the time.

I’ve often wondered why high school teachers ask their young students to read this work.  It does have obvious credentials, but so do many other works.  It’s short, so it makes Hemingway accessible to teenagers, not many of them would get through For Whom the Bell Tolls, for instance, so that’s a possibility.  But I think there might be another reason.

For me, reading The Old Man and the Sea helped instill a desire to ‘seize the day’, to act while I still could.  I know there are many things I cannot do today that I did with ease twenty or thirty years ago.  I also know that twenty years from now, I won’t be able to do things that I can do today.  Maybe being asked to read The Old Man and the Sea isn’t the curse most American high school students think it is.  Maybe it’s more a gift from their teachers to encourage them not to waste their youth, but rather to make their lives meaningful.  I think there’s a message in it for all of us not to put off doing things that are important to us.

Along with reading The Old Man and the Sea, I’d read some of Jack McDevitt’s work.  He also waited until much later in life to start writing.  Then I read a fun book by Terry Brooks on becoming a writer and I decided I would at least take a creative writing class.  I had many ideas kicking around in my head, the basic concept of Beaches of Brazil had been there almost twenty years, but I didn’t know what to do with those ideas.  

My first piece I wrote for the creative writing class was an Ode to Manchester United, and I couldn’t have chosen a better topic for myself.  I didn’t even try to make the poetry rhyme or follow the proper structure of an ode, but my teacher and the class loved it anyway.  That experience, along with the quote from Hemingway about first drafts, freed me from many of the mental constraints I’d placed on myself and allowed me to finally enjoy writing.

So I decided to seize the day.

Even if I had never sold any of my work, I wouldn’t have considered writing a waste of time.  It’s important to me.  I love writing, I love the process, and, as I said in a previous blog, I’ve become hopelessly addicted to it.

My goal is now to publish twenty novels before I turn seventy!

Cheers,

Bernard