More questions. More help. Introducing Mastering Table Topics Second Edition.

“So why don’t you run for city council?”

Lake Forest, California City Council (photos from the Lake Forest City Website)

A few years ago, I wrote about the trajectories taken by the community where I grew up, Reseda, and the city where I live, Lake Forest. Today, Lake Forest’s trajectory is heading right towards the ground. Our city is embroiled in a bitter fight by one block of city council members who want to recall the other block. Both sides have enough embarrassing sordidness to go around. There is the campaign sign stealing. And the altercation in a supermarket parking lot. And the nasty campaign flyers that fill our mailboxes on a regular basis.

You may ask, “If you’re so unhappy with your city council, why don’t you run? You’re always talking about the importance of getting involved. You were a Little League president. You attended the Lake Forest Leadership Academy. You’re an award-winning public speaker. You have friends in Reseda who can show you how to build a community. Why don’t you run for city council?”

My answer will explain what’s wrong with politics today.

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The latest on The Remainders (and the benefits of beta readers)

Front Cover - The RemaindersHere’s why you should use beta readers. I asked a friend to review my draft of The Remainders. She liked the book, especially the characters. She wanted to learn more about them and asked if I could add more of their stories.

As I looked at the draft again, I agreed with her. I also realized that the book was too short. At under 40,000 words and 110 paperback pages, it wasn’t long enough to be called a novel. The problem was that I told the story only from the point of view of Dylan, the main character. His narrative ended where it was supposed to end. Anything I could add to it would be filler.

The solution came from a book that my friend enjoyed. This book told stories from different characters’ perspectives until they all came together in the end.

This sounded like a great idea. So, I decided to add another character’s first-person narrative to counter Dylan’s. I chose his father, especially because he plays an important role in the ending. I can contrast the two stories, describe how their lives were similar, and show how and why they came to misunderstand each other. It also fits well with the theme — how we can feel like remainders even when we have the outward appearance of success. The change not only makes The Remainders a better book, it also makes for better therapy.

The lesson: Seek out beta readers and listen to their advice. They will help your story and make writing it a more rewarding experience.

What happened to superheroes?

Cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC 2014). Photo by Chris Favero through Wikimedia Commons.

As this cosplayer at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con shows, there are people who love Adam West’s Batman. Photo by Chris Favero through Wikimedia Commons.

I grew up with Adam West’s Batman, Christopher Reeve’s Superman, and Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman. That’s why I have no desire to see Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The 1960s and 1970s superheroes have something that their 21st century successors don’t, and today’s superhero stories have a troubling aspect that concerns me.

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The Little White Ball Revisited

El Toro High School baseball team
It has been six years since I was president of Saddleback Little League. My tenure there produced an opening day speech I never gave, but people seem to like. It also left me with some lingering doubts as the years passed.

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What cooking videos can teach you about user documentation

If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen a cooking video like this.

Not only does this video put you in the mood for beef stroganoff, it is also a great example of user documentation. Here’s why.

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