Friday, June 18, 2010

Write a Novel

Wonder if you have what it takes to be a novelist

Most of us think, writing a novel, that's got to be hard work! Just look at the size of those things. Sure, I can write; I enjoy writing; I've written a ton of documentation for this or that; I've got down rhetoric, but a novel? I've read enough of them.

I know what they're about, that is, that they're stories, and, yes, I've got a few stories of my own, but writing a novel? What does it take, I mean, what are the difficulties? Where do you start? What do you need?

To begin with, if you don't feel the need to write, if there isn't something in yourself that isn't propelling you, that isn't urging you to write a novel, then don't. All good art proceeds from a deep need in the artist to express something just as deep, something that is full of feeling, yet undisclosed (that's what writing the novel will do, disclose feeling), something that is full of the world, full of its images, and full of the time, of its concerns and tensions, full of the moment in which you live.

If there isn't something inside you that doesn't cry out, Express me!, then don't write a novel. Writing a novel begins with the artistic urge, an urge that isn't for fame, or wealth - if you can get it - but for a resolution of a conflict between human desire and a world empty of what is desired, opposed to it, perhaps giving rise to the desire by its own character, by its essence of change. If you don't have a need to create something of beauty in the world, something that overcomes its madness and inanity, don't write a novel. Get a job.

Having the artistic urge isn't enough. Like every art, the novel requires a mastery of its technology. Words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, all arranged and ordered by, yes, the principles of style, but also by the feelings you have for the subject you wish to express.

You'll want to look into the rhetoric of fiction, the elements of the novelist's medium, viewpoint, plot, character, and the means by which a novelist creates meaning for those who will read. You'll want to have a sense of beauty, and of the sublime, but you'll also need to know something about man, about his mind, his body, his soul, for the novel is about man in relation to himself, to others, to the cosmos, to God.

A good novelist is not only a thinker, a philosopher, but also a feeler; not only a psychologist, but also a sociologist, an anthropologist; not only a natural scientist, but also, in some manner, a theologian; and yet the novelist is not any of these except as their revelations have conditioned the recognizable reality to which all good novels point. If you will write a novel, as well as being a writer, be a seer too.

Writing a novel that will be a work of art starts with you being an artist. Now you may begin.

The 40 Year Mortgage

The 40 Year Mortgage Can be Daunting.

About 12 years ago, I signed a 40 year mortgage to my home and my wife and I celebrated by opening up a bottle of champagne and having a nice dinner.

The next day, I began thinking about how long that actually was 40 years before our home was paid off and I felt a little bit overwhelmed. I was not even 30 at the time, and my wife and I had only been married for a few years, and I really begin to have some doubts about whether or not I was ready for that kind of commitment.

I really could not complain about the deal we got with our 40 year mortgage in terms of our payments. They were very reasonable, and we knew that we could afford them each month and still have money to put back for retirement, recreation, and eventually starting a family. I just started thinking about the things that could happen, and I became concerned.

What if my wife or I lost our job, or had some type of situation where we became sick or injured and could not work? What if the neighborhood started to go downhill with crime or other problems? What if we started to find all kinds of problems with the house that we had not discovered initially, and ended up putting a bunch of money into repairs?

With a 40 year mortgage, it felt like were locked into a deal that could end up turning out disastrous for us, so I decided to talk to my parents, who were about three years from paying their mortgage off. I expressed my concerns about all of the things that could go wrong, and they presented a different point of view.

They pointed out to me that, while a 40 year mortgage could be a bit daunting, it could also be a relief, because we had committed to a house, and would have to make it our home. They also pointed out all of the great memories that would be established in the home, and how much my wife and I would grow to love our house and take ownership in it.

They also said they had the same reservations I had when they first signed their 40 year mortgage, and were still living in their home, and would never leave. I started to remember why we had signed the mortgage in the first place, and I felt much better.

It has been more than a decade since we signed our mortgage, and I don't even think about it any more. I have lost a few jobs in that span, and my wife has as well, and we always pulled through. We have two children now and we could not imagine living anywhere else, and the neighborhood is still a great place to live.

A 40 year mortgage can be rather daunting when it is first signed, but after you've been in your home for a while and realize what it provides you and your family, it feels more like a blessing.

Custom Motorcycle Helmet

A couple of friends had motorcycles in college many, many years ago, and offering to take me riding one day. It was my first time and I immediately fell in love with the freedom and exhilaration that come from cruising on the open road. I've been riding ever since, and now have both street bikes and dirt bikes in my garage.

This is what I gladly spend all my extra money on, because no other hobby or pastime can even come close to being as exciting. In addition to the bikes themselves, I also have a bunch of accessories and riding gear -- including several custom motorcycle helmets that I'm very proud of.

I take safety very seriously when I'm out on my bike. Sure, I might nudge my machine a click or two over the speed limit, but I would never dream of going for a ride without putting on a helmet first. When I was just starting out, I simply purchased a helmet off the rack at my local dealer. But once I saw a bunch of other riders sporting custom motorcycle helmets with incredible paint jobs, I decided to save up for one of my own.

Obviously it takes a bit more work and money to buy custom motorcycle helmets. The first thing you have to do is find someone that can handle the job. Since I already knew some people with customized lids, all I had to do was ask where to go. Turns out the guy didn't do his own drawings, so I had to find an artist to do a couple of sketches of the design I wanted. After that, I brought it back to the painter, along with a plain helmet, and watched him go to work. The results were amazing, so I've been going to the same person ever since.

In order to find custom motorcycle helmets in your area, you're going to have to ask around like I did -- or perhaps run some searches for nearby businesses on the internet. I know there are a lot of people out there that run full-service dealerships, which includes all kinds of painting and detail work. It will just take some extra legwork to find one close enough to handle your business. Alternatively, you could place an online order for your custom motorcycle helmets over the internet. All artwork can be scanned and submitted electronically, and then you'd just have to sit back and wait for the finished product to be shipped to you.

Of course it's not necessary to have custom motorcycle helmets to enjoy your ride, but they just look so much better than the factory stuff that you'll never want to go back. I love letting a little bit more of my personality shine through my helmet paint job, so I'll continue getting customized artwork done from here on out.

Get out of Foreclosure

No one sets out to lose their home or enter into an exhausting battle with their lender in order to keep their most prized possession the roof over their head. Financial woes can creep up on you out of nowhere. Perhaps you are suddenly facing overwhelming medical bills or have lost a portion or all of your income. Job losses are definitely not uncommon anymore and everyone seems to know someone who has lost a job or is experiencing some sort of financial difficulties.

Foreclosures are on the rise and you don't have to look very far to find someone who is either behind on some mortgage payments or is looking for a way to get out of foreclosure. One positive outcome from the recession is that lenders are a bit more willing to help borrowers get out of foreclosure. They arenít ignoring the fact that you may not be paying your bills but they may be a lot more willing to help you find a solution.

The best way to get out of foreclosure is simply to avoid getting into the situation in the first place. If you know that you are not going to be able to pay your mortgage for a month, or longer, notify your lender immediately. They don't want your house.

They aren't going to padlock the front door right away and toss your possessions out onto the lawn. It costs the lenders thousands and thousands of dollars to enter into foreclosure. Not only do they lose the interest and principal payments that you are supposed to be making but they have to pay quite a bit to enter into the lengthy and costly legal process in order to take your home from you.

If you are behind in your payments or simply need to get out of foreclosure, talk to your lender. Donít ignore the problem; don't avoid their mail correspondence or their phone calls. Ignoring their attempts to reach out to you could actually make things more difficult for you.

Let them know that you want to get out of foreclosure or even avoid any repercussions if possible. If you have a temporary financial situation, they may give you a few months of deferment payments or even a temporary forbearance. If it is a long term situation, there still could be options. There are programs designed now to help you get out of foreclosure. There are agencies that will help you and counsel you, at no cost, in order to help you figure out a plan and a solution.

There are other ways to get out of foreclosure. Some loans and modification plans have been implemented and created by lenders who are seeing record numbers of borrowers defaulting and walking away from their homes. You may be able to refinance and lower your payments. You may be able to sell your home in a short-sale or get assistance in preserving the equity that you have in your house.

Honestly, if you are finding it hard to pay your mortgage or have the need to get out of foreclosure, donít run from the problem. Yes, it is embarrassing and incredibly humbling. However, avoiding the problem isnít going to get you out of foreclosure.

Addressing the problem and actively and aggressively moving towards a solution is going to get you out of foreclosure. It is possible to keep your home; you simply need to reach out to find some assistance. You may find that the lenders are more willing to work with you than you gave them credit for.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Get Well Gifts

What Are Appropriate Get Well Gifts?

I try to be a thoughtful person, and when friend or loved one is sick or injured or in the hospital, I always try send them get well gifts, but the problem is that I am not always sure what is appropriate and inappropriate for the situation.

I have always found that flowers are a popular choice, especially if it is a woman who is sick, but there is a problem when sending flowers to another man. I have had male friends that were seriously ill, and I just could not bring myself to send them flowers to make him feel better. I am not sure what kind of message that would send.

I also had a female friend that had to miss several days of work because of severe allergies with the change of season, and we were all discussing possible get well gifts for her. I thought about flowers, but then wondered if that was such a good idea after all.

Another one like that is candy. Again, there is the issue of sending another man candy, but I also had a friend who had to have her wisdom teeth pulled in college and said the pain she had to endure was pretty intense. When thinking of possible get well gifts, I toyed with the idea of candy, then tried to imagine her actually trying to eat the candy and decided against that option.

One that I always thought was a good idea was a bottle of liquor. Most of my friends have a favorite type of Scotch or whiskey, or a particular kind of wine they drink. The only problem there is that a lot of medications cannot be taken with alcohol, so the person you are trying to cheer up would not even be able to enjoy the get well gift you are giving until they are already better!

I have thought about buying stuffed animals as get well gifts in the past, but the question then becomes at what age do they stop being appropriate? A teddy bear is fine for an eight- or nine-year old, but is it really something you would want to give an adult?

Balloons are another favorite among get well gifts, and while they are colorful and festive, I often think to myself, what's the point? I mean, what can a person honestly do with a balloon?

I finally figured out a fool-proof way of providing your friends and loved ones with get well gifts that are appropriate for almost any occasion, are easy to find and almost always appreciated. Get them a get well card with a gift card inside. The get well card lets them know that you are concerned about them and the gift card shows that you are trying to bring a little cheer into their lives. They will definitely be grateful.

Foreclosure Help

A New Kind of Foreclosure Help Appears.

A friend of mine, April Petty had a home that always seemed like a marvelous investment. She owed banks the staggering loan they gave her for it of course, but in the 20 years she had it and lived in it, she gratefully saw its value rise; at first, the escalation was glacial enough, but soon, property prices in the whole area began to really take off untilher house was worth $300,000.

The ride lasted until 2008 saw the housing market collapse the whole country over; suddenly, on a house that was once worth more than a quarter-million she actually owed a half-million. Right away, the bank that held her loan, had her over in court, for eviction purposes. But there was something rather remarkable going on here.

Here they were with nothing in hand and being sued; they should have had no cards to play. But still, upon foreclosure help began to arrive in the form of considerable power and leverage in negotiating how things went.

In the end, she got an all-new mortgage company that valued her house for what it should have been worth on the market; but her monthly payments were negotiated down to a third of what she used to have. What happened was, a not-for-profit lending concern cut the bank that originally had held her mortgage, out of the equation, by buying the debt from them outright; they then sold it back to April at a 25% margin, so that they could have some kind of a safety margin to help deal with any situation in the future where they might default again. If they had been left to their own devices dealing with the bank, they would just have been out on the street with nothing to show for their ownership.

Now, they have their dignity back. How does this kind of foreclosure help happen? Actually, according to reports in the New York Times, it all started with the ideas of a bunch of law professors at Harvard, an NGO called Vida Urbana and Boston Community Capital.

What started as an experiment there, apparently a very successful experiment, is now set to be copied everywhere - the idea being that the lender goes in to help the distressed family after the foreclosure sets in, and not before. If you think about it, the banks were the ones who really fueled all this distress. Even as the world around them was coming crashing down, the banks showed no willingness to go with the times. They always insisted that they didn't care what the house's value had fallen to. If you owed them three times what your house was suddenly worth, that's what you paid. The trick has been to put a good scare into them, by actually going along with the whole foreclosure business.

This actually throws a scare into them that they finally have nothing - they are owed a great deal, and they are holding a property that is worthless. That's when they come to their senses. That's why foreclosure help is best offered after foreclosure proceedings. It is a wonder the banks don't realize that if there are a lot of evictions because of loan delinquencies in a neighborhood they have been lending for homes in, the banks shoot themselves in the foot by plowing on with their eviction policies. The more they foreclose the homes in that area, the more they fall in value, and the more they'll find families defaulting. Ah, how the power of money leads everyone astray.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The 1789 French Revolution

The 1789 French Revolution - Should it Inspire Awe or Contempt?

France happens to be one of the few countries in modern Europe where the common man doesn't go about kowtowing and calling it a curtsey or calling anyone their Majesty. It just so happens that France is a modern republic, a country where a monarchy is not even retained in name, where a publicly elected government and a well-thought-out constitution hold sway and not the individual authority of a king or queen.

How is it that other countries around Europe that were just as developed were left behind while France took bold strides into the modern world? The answer lies in the eruption of the ten-year-long 1789 French Revolution.

Everyone knows that the 1789 French Revolution was this great deal that practically changed the political landscape of all of Europe. But what was it like for the people that they should have gone off the deep end and slaughtered the royal family and brought about such stunning change? France at the time was hopelessly caught in the grip of an autocratic monarchy and a terribly fundamentalist Catholic influence. Inept kings and queens have existed before without provoking their citizens like this; but France had the misfortune of suffering a series of terrible famines too at the time; now hunger, economic mismanagement, fundamentalism and an apathetic monarchy surely sounds like a potent brew.

Exactly what was it that the monarchy did that was so awful? Well, to begin with, there were Portuguese slaves, and Jewish people and Muslims who were forced to live with no rights. Women were not allowed to divorce their husbands or to inherit property, education was virtually nonexistent, scientific thought was discouraged and Catholic dogma was enforced, and the country was run into the ground fighting unnecessary wars all around.

Here in this country, it is not uncommon to hear the 1789 French Revolution vilified and the American civil war glorified in comparison. What the French Revolution achieved is quite remarkable even by today's standards. It started that society down the path of racial equality, gay rights, feminism, and emancipation for slaves all the way back then. And in achieving all this, the French Revolution took the lives of fewer than 20,000 people.

Of course any war or revolution is bound to visit some horrors on all concerned and as in any popular revolt, law and order inevitably broke down and anyone suspected remotely of being a sympathizer of the royalty was sent to their death. Often, the mobs, drunk on the power of lawlessness would easily switch to killing anyone in sight and justifying their actions in any way they could. There was a saying attributed to Dostoyevsky "If there is no God, everything is permitted." Perhaps that explains the good parts of what shapes an event like the 1789 French Revolution

Identity theft protection

How well are you protected by your bank since the banks collapsed

Perhaps the most important computer security question you should be concerned with is the protection both of your bank account and your identity information related to your bank. We're not talking here of the steps a PC user needs to take to safeguard bank and identity information on his or her hard disk, but the identity theft protection your bank is taking to safeguard data on you.

It has been known since 2006 that many banks have proven vulnerable to identity theft. In that year, Wachovia Bank had 441 reported cases of identity theft, HSBC, 571, Discover, 667, Well Fargo, 786, Washington Mutual/Providian 885, Citibank, 1249, Capital One, 1328, JP Morgan/Chase/Bank One, 1839 and Bank of American/MBNA, 3351, according to a report covering a mere three months (figures taken from Hoofnagle's report published in PC Magazine). Since then, the numbers have improved, but reported cases have not disappeared.

There are basically two kinds of identity theft found in banks. One, the one you are most concerned about, is account takeovers. The banks need to be concerned about the other kind; it is called synthetic identity theft. In this case, a hacker creates a new account, a fraudulent account with a fake identity. It is an identity theft protection issue to the extent that if a hacker can create a new account in the bank's production systems, the same hacker may also use the same techniques to view and perhaps manipulate other accounts, including yours. Then, the hacker can take over your account, and your identity.

Whether your identity is exposed or the bank is exposed, identity theft protection or identity theft prevention is the issue; more basically, the complete security policies of the bank is the issue. What has been done since 2006?

For one thing, identity theft protection has come to the forefront of system designers, engineers, managers and the like, as a fundamental design requirement for any bank information system.

This is not to say that security has not always been a fundamental consideration; it has now become an issue that will determine the very viability of the bank and of its standing in the industry. Many banks that were part of the identity theft problem in 2006 are gone now or have suffered terrific downsizing. This in itself is troublesome: less money for information security, for information security specialists, means more exposure for you.

We cannot say with certainty that the recent bank problems are are all aware of has, without question, made banks and their identity theft protection policies, procedures, methods, and controls more vulnerable. It may not have an appreciable impact at all. But one thing is certain: when money is scarce, protection and the engineering needed to implement it simply cannot be afforded.

What does the collapse and turmoil in the banking industry signal to you about the security of your identity? Namely this, that you would be wise to check out your banks security performance now. It's only reasonable: the less guards you have at the gates, the less protection you have. Ask your bank now how their security has performed and check out internet sites that are following this problem now.

How To Save Money

Let's face it the economy is in chaos. More and more companies close their businesses each and every day. The line at the local job fairs seems to be doubling by the moment. It is getting more and more difficult to get extended credit to buy large purchases or even get a credit card. Times are tough and it could end up getting even worse.
One of the best things that you can do during these tough times is to figure out how to save money and make it happen. When youíre financially strapped, figuring out how to save money can be frustrating and seemingly impossible. However, it should be your number one priority.

Being able to save money during these tough times can end up being your lifesaver. Believe it or not, figuring out how to save money might not be as difficult as it seems. The first thing that you need to do is make a chart or a spreadsheet and figure out where every single cent of yours is being spent. Do you buy a cup of coffee each morning? Keep track of that. Buy lunch at work a few times a week? Write that down. Do you find yourself walking out of the grocery store wondering how you spent so much money on so few items? Keep track of every single cent you spend for a few weeks. Before you figure out how to save money, you need to know how youíre spending your money and how much you're spending.

Realizing how to save money is a huge step in keeping yourself from drowning in today's economy. Once you take the time to itemize every single cent youíre spending, you can figure out how to change everything. Those expensive grocery store visits that you're having regularly, well, you can cut them down considerably. One of the most highly effective ways in learning how to save money is to utilize coupons and taking advantage of discounts.

Manufacturers will often place coupons in weekly newspapers or circulars. You can scour the internet for coupons. Buying generic brands instead of those famous name brands can cut your grocery bill in half.
Nowadays, people trying to figure out how to save money are finding that they can shop for items in their wardrobe or other household items or accessories at consignment or thrift shops. Sure, your new shirt isn't really new, but who will know? You can get a $50 sweater for $10 if you are a savvy shopper. Being cheap has never been more in style.

Figuring out how to save money can be incredibly stressful. Why not make it more fun? Take an old shoebox, or any box, and tape it shut. Cut out a slit in the top for a small opening. At the end of your day or your week, slide whatever leftover cash you have into it. Whether its one dollar or several, it is a way of saving money and not letting it be wasted. Before you know it, you may have enough cash to pay a few bills or some small emergency funds. The point of taping up the box is so that you arenít as easily tempted to take the money back out. Try it. You may find that being creative and finding way to be cheap may not be as hard as you imagine it will be, and could benefit you greatly in the long run.

Fort Worth Apartments

Fort Worth Apartments Are Abundant and Affordable.

As a resident of Fort Worth, I am always interested in good deals on Fort Worth apartments, especially if they are in prime locations and don't cost an arm and a leg. I am proud to say that there are many apartments in the City Where the West Begins that are both affordable and in great locations.
I have lived in the Fort Worth area for the last 25 years, and it has gone through a lot of change. When I first arrived as a boy, the population was about 350, 000 people, and now it is over 700,000 and still rising. The interesting thing about it, though, is it seems like there are more available apartments in the area than ever before.

Some of the more appealing Fort Worth apartments are in Downtown and the Cultural District. The old electric building in Fort Worth was renovated in recent years and converted into an apartment complex, with some starting as low as the $700 range. These are practically right in the heart of downtown with access to restaurants, shopping, clubs and all sorts of other entertainment.
Another group of Fort Worth apartments that a lot of people seem to like are ones that were built into what was the old Montgomery Ward building near the cultural district. These are also reasonably priced, they're right around the corner from art museums and the Botanical Gardens, and they're within minutes of Bass Hall, the great Fort Worth concert hall.

A friend of mine who lived in the mid-cities area, which is a group of suburbs between Fort Worth and Dallas, recently made the move to Fort Worth because her apartment in North Forth Worth, which is a rapidly growing community as well, was not only cheaper than what she had been paying, but was actually considerably larger.

Fort Worth apartments are becoming a hot commodity these days, because a lot of people are beginning to discover that it is a great place to live. It is routinely selected as one of the safest large cities in the country and also one of the most affordable. The standard of living is high in Cowtown, that is for certain.

I have a home in Northeast Fort Worth, but I have lived in an apartment over on the West side of the city, too. I had the best neighbors I ever could have hoped for, and felt very safe, as well.

The city definitely has a lot of draws. We have culture, sports, nightlife, great restaurants, and great places to live, with safe, clean and friendly communities. Fort Worth apartments are almost always available, and if you have a chance, you should definitely come for a visit. You might just end up staying.