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Why I Write

“I have written because it fulfilled me. I did it for the pure joy of the thing. And if you can do it for joy, you can do it forever.”  —Stephen King


When I was a starry-eyed teenager, I set a goal for myself:  Publish a novel or bust.  And do it before age seventy.

In hindsight, I realize I wasn’t going out on much of a limb back then.  At fifteen, age seventy might as well have been 170.  I was giving myself the equivalent of eternity to attain my heart’s desire.

But, oh, how time and space have a way of shifting your perspective.  Now, here I am, age forty, unpublished, and staring down the barrel of it maybe never happening for me.  And you know what?  I don’t really care.

OK, so maybe I do care.  Just a little.  I’d still love to publish with one of those Big Five houses.  That would be a thrill, no doubt.  But what I realize now, what I couldn’t see then, was that more than anything my publishing goal was about validation.  You accomplish this, I must have thought, and then you’ve really, finally made it as a writer.

Well, I’m here to tell you I no longer need validation to justify my journey.  I’ve written.  I’ve labored, perspired, and bled over the page.  I’ve braved rejection, and I’m still chugging along.  I’m already valid, legit, justified.  I’m a writer in every sense of the word, and I’m going to keep on writing, come what may, age seventy and beyond.

I write because sometimes I make myself laugh.

I write because sometimes I make myself cry.

I write because writing is mostly hard work.

I write because those shooting star nirvana moments of inspiration are real.

I write because the characters hatched of my own imagination are dear to me like children.

I write because I want my real-life flesh and blood to know who I am.

I write because I hope to better understand myself.

I write because I’m going where I’ve never gone before.

I write because I can make something out of nothing.

I write because I’m a control freak who wants everything just so.

I write because I finish what I start.

I write because words are beautiful.

I write because words are powerful.

I write because every once in a while nouns and verbs and such come together in a sequence just plain greater than the sum of their parts.

I write because I need to pay homage to the stories that came before me.

I write because it’s the only way to find out what happens next.

I write because feeling close to the Creator of the universe can be as simple as hovering over a keyboard.

I write because I have something to say.

I write.


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Go For Broke

I’m sitting here on a lazy snow day looking at my National Novel Writing Month project from this past November.  (That’s right.  Fifty-thousand words in twenty-six days.  Thirty days in November minus four because I don’t write on Sundays.  Crazy, huh?)  Oh, sure, I have another 50,000 words to go to finish a complete draft, and then I need to polish and revise like crazy.  But you know what?  My initial crack at the first 50,000 words isn’t half bad — if I do say so myself.

So, here’s the opening chapter of Space Corps Academy: A Rocket Rider Story for all of my adoring fans (that’s you, Mom!) — or just if you happen to be curious:

Space Corps Academy:  A Rocket Rider Story

 Act I

Scene I

Go For Broke

Vanguard burst up through the clouds, and J.R. Rider was certain the sky had never been so blue.  He twisted a dial on his computer panel, then yanked hard on the throttle to give the engines another jolt.

“Easy there, partner,” said his co-pilot, Steven Bowman, from the back of the command module.  J.R. gritted his teeth.

“Not a chance,” he said.  The Onboard Computer Drive sounded worried.

“Young Mr. Rider,” the OCD said, “I would advise greater caution.”  J.R. smirked as he gazed into the viewscreen.

“Yeah, what else is new?”  His smirk turned into an all-out grin. “But OK,” he said, “if you insist.”  His fingers flashed across the panel in front of him, and he abruptly flicked off the engines.  The entire ship creaked.  Their ascent slowed, then stopped, and soon they were falling backwards, plummeting toward the Earth.

“Not again,” the OCD said.

“I hate it when he does this,” Steven said.  Truth be told, J.R. didn’t care much for the sick feeling in his stomach brought on by freefall either, but he also couldn’t get enough of the thrill.  Vanguard plunged back down through the clouds, and J.R. kept one eye locked on his computer readouts and another trained on the altimeter.  Vanguard’s downward velocity was increasing with the force of gravity.

“I must inform you, young Mr. Rider,” the OCD said, “safety protocols will require me to automatically fire the ship’s thrusters in 45 seconds.  Forty-four …”

“Oh, no they won’t,” J.R. said.  “Disengage all safety protocols.  Authorization Alpha 1. Execute.”  The computer system audibly clicked.

“Safety protocols disengaged,” the OCD said glumly.  “I really hate it when he does that.”
“You mess this up,” Steven said, “and we’re all gonna to be a grease slick in the middle of a cornfield.” Continue reading “Go For Broke”

The Name Game

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene II


What’s in a name?

Well, quite a bit, actually.  I obsess about them.  A lot.  I pour over sounds and syllables, meanings and minutiae, alliterations and associations.  So it goes.  I just can’t help myself.  A name is sort of important.

Hortense Olivia.

Seifert Baby Number Six is due sooner rather than later, and I can tell you it pretty much always unfolds like this.  I fixate until it hurts, and even then I can’t stop fixating.  Last time, Sara and I tried to curb the pain.  We set ground rules.  No name discussions until one month before the due date.  That probably helped.  At least a little.

Fifi Marie.

Six kids.  Is it just me, or is that starting to sound like a lot?  The trouble is Sara and I have managed to name five children now, which means we’ve already burned most every name we can agree on.  I love my wife dearly, but I’m not sure our naming styles are all that compatible.  Mostly, we take turns lobbing anti-aircraft missiles at each other’s name suggestions.

Bianca Belle.

You want your child to like their name.  You want them to be able to spell it before the fourth grade.  Speaking of grade school, you shouldn’t give your child a name that ensures he or she won’t survive it.  I mean, it’s a jungle out there.  Life’s hard enough.  Don’t start them out behind the eight ball.

Fanny Sue.

There are perfectly good names in this world that just don’t move the meter.  There are other names forever besmirched by having belonged to your arch nemesis in junior high school.  In fact, there are arch nemesis names you hate so much you make your sister-in-law pinky swear she’ll never date a boy who answers to it.  Then what does she do?  She marries one.

Narcissa Joy.

What’s the big deal?  Some of you may or may not have named your children things I wouldn’t wish on my arch nemesis.  But, hey, they’re your kids.  In the end, those kids probably still end up being kind of cute or maybe even a little endearing and then there’s a chance the name doesn’t seem quite so bad after all.  No pressure, right?

Ursula Annette.

So, it’s a lot to think about, and I have.  We might even have a name all picked out.  I’m just not going to say it out loud.  Not yet.  Stay tuned.  The due date is December 26th.


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Gully-Whomper Stomper

“‘But it isn’t easy,’ said Pooh. ‘Because Poetry and Hums aren’t things which you get, they’re things which get you.  And all you can do is to go where they can find you.’” —A. A. Milne, The House at Pooh Corner.

I’m just having fun this month.  Happy Halloween, and enjoy!


Gully-Whomper Stomper

by Christopher “Whomper-Stomper” Seifert

 

Stomp, stomp, gully-whomp!

Stomp-stomp, gully-whomp!

There’s a gully-whomper monster in your basement who is mean.

He is nasty.  He is vile.  He is totally obscene.

He wakes up in the nighttime when you’re sleeping in your bed,

And he tiptoes up the stairs into a house that’s dark and dead.

Tromp, tromp, gully-whomp!

Tromp-tromp, gully-whomp!

His eyes are spooky-red.  He’s got fangs inside his chops.

The whomper is descended from a wild triceratops.

His snout is scaly-green.  He snuffles and he snorts.

He’s covered top to bottom with some unattractive warts.

Whomp, whomp, gully-whomp!

Whomp-whomp, gully-whomp!

He’ll eat your toes for breakfast and for dinner and for lunch.

He chews them very daintily – then gives the bones a crunch.

Next, he’s sure to wash them down with cups of herbal tea.

Before he goes to eat more toes with gusto and with glee.

Chomp, chomp, gully-whomp!

Chomp-chomp, gully-whomp!

He jumbles up your room.  He messes up your drawers.

He pulls out all your toys and then he dumps them on the floor.

He’ll leave his candy wrappers lying all about the ground,

But if it’s time to pick them up, he’s never to be found.

Romp, romp, gully-whomp!

Romp-romp, gully-whomp!

The guy’s a perfect monster, but he thinks that he is swell.

The half of all his wickedness I couldn’t even tell.

He picks his nose and eats it.  He spills his water too.

He spits his gum upon the floor and sticks it on his shoe.

Clomp, clomp, gully-whomp!

Clomp-clomp, gully-whomp!

Just remember not to worry.  Please do not to be scared.

Your daddy, he’s awake now, and he’s going down the stairs.

He’ll find that gully-whomper, and he’ll punch him in the nose.

He’ll dance atop that horrid whomp in bitter, steely toes.

Stomp, stomp, gully-stomp!

Stomp-stomp, gully-stomp!

 

© 2018All Rights Reserved.

 


Wind Chill

by Christopher “The Iceman” Seifert

 

Huzzah-huzzah coldy brrr.

Coldest night that ever were.

Wore wool socks, long underwear.

Still feels like I’m running bare.

My lips are blue, my face is red.

The heat’s escaping from my head.

I cannot even feel my toes.

Long icicles hang down my nose.

My breath’s a wispy cloud of smoke.

My fingers hurt, and that’s no joke.

I wish I brought my big snow suit,

But I forgot to, darn it, shoot.

I guess I’ll have to go back home,

Light a fire, and end this poem.

 

© 2018All Rights Reserved.


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The Doppel Gang

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer.” —E. B. White

Have I mentioned I have an evil twin?  No?  I do.  Sort of.  OK, I’m the evil one.  Mike, on the other hand, is actually a pretty good guy.

I met Mike over a decade ago, and we soon discovered we have an awful lot in common.  First off, we share a mutual faith.  Then there’s the fact we both studied journalism at BYU where we each served in our own time as the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.  Later, we both attended law school at the University of Nebraska.  During his time in law school, Mike worked as a law clerk in the office where I’m employed.  We’ve shared some of the same church responsibilities, and the list goes on from there.  We’re exactly the same.  And completely different.  All at the same time.

Unsuprisingly, Mike and I also share a love of the written word.  That’s why I thought of Mike a little over two years ago after reading a book about the fantastic friendship of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien and their Oxford writers’ group known as The Inklings.  There was something inspiring to me about their creative collaboration.  I yearned for a similar experience, so I approached Mike.  We’ve been meeting monthly ever since, sharing our projects and offering feedback and encouragement.  Sometimes we just talk about life.  When Mike moved from Nebraska to Arizona, I figured our meetings were over.  Mike told me we’d keep them going online, but I wasn’t convinced.  I guess he was right, and I was wrong.  It wasn’t the first time.

This year, we decided to try something novel.  We’re working together on a fantasy book.  I think I was the one who suggested collaboration.  I’m not sure what got into me.  I’ve never been one for group projects.  I’m too much of a control freak.  Then there’s the issue of our divergent writing styles.  I outline my stories to death.  I don’t write anything until I know exactly where I’m headed.  Conversely, Mike’s what I’ve heard referred to as a “pantser.”  He’s flying by the seat of his pants as the story takes him on a wild and unexpected ride.  Our partnership has forced me to do a little pantsing myself – something way outside my comfort zone.  We’re almost halfway to a full manuscript, and you know what?  So far, it isn’t half bad.  And that’s just the rough draft.

Face it, the fellowship of anything is a bang-up beginning and an even better ending.  That’s why this introvert, descended from a long line of introverts, is grateful for people like Mike and a host of others who’ve come into my life over the years.  I count it no small miracle that in my short time on Planet Earth I’ve been blessed with some truly wonderful, well, friends.


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Truth Needs a Soldier

Truth needs a soldier.

As a teenager, I read every Tom Clancy book I could get my hands on.  Even though those novels are full of bad language and worse writing (I wouldn’t read them or recommend them to anyone now), I kept going back for more.  They were exciting stories about international intrigue and military might.  No doubt that was part of the allure, but another part was simply Jack Ryan – family man and CIA analyst extraordinaire, who always, always, always did the right thing.  I liked that.

Harrison Ford played Jack Ryan in the movies.  I never watched him in “Clear and Present Danger,” but I’ll always remember the poster for that one.  There was Indiana Jones wrapped in an American flag with the following words hanging above the title:  “Truth needs a soldier.”  That tagline pops into my head every now and again, and each time it does I can’t help but look around at the present state of the world and think to myself, ‘Man, does it ever.’

I spend a lot of time with make-believe.  I hang out with people who never really existed.  I visit places I’ll never see in a million years.  That’s because I crave stories.  You might tell me it’s all a big waste of time, but deep down to my core I can’t accept that.  Stories add depth and color to my existence.  Sometimes they even inspire me.

I was reminded of this with the recent news a different hero from my youth is set to return.  Jean-Luc Picard:  Explorer, diplomat, consummate chief executive.  He’s a man of principle and decency played by an actor who, it’s been said, possesses the uncanny ability to turn even the worst bits of screenwriting into Shakespeare.  Way back when, Captain Picard managed to convince me every single week that humanity is going to be OK.

I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy during the summer between my seventh and eighth grade years.  I wasn’t ready then.  I came back to those books in my twenties surprised to learn the real hero of that epic isn’t Frodo – it’s Samwise Gamgee, Frodo’s loyal gardener and friend.  Frodo doesn’t get to the top of Mount Doom without Sam, and Sam somehow manages that monumental journey unstained by the forces of evil.

I, like nearly every other person my age, read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school.   That’s where I encountered Atticus Finch.  I at once admired his kindness and calm, his courage and conviction.  Now my admiration is magnified through the lenses of fatherhood and jurisprudence.

These are just a few of my imaginary friends.  I could go on and on, but I’ll leave you with this:  Truth does need soldiers – today more than ever – and I would learn soldiering by the company I keep.


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Good Gifts

Sara Leavitt showed up at my apartment soon after I returned from a two-year church proselyting mission in the Dominican Republic.  The truth is I was smitten from the start.  She was my roommate’s sister, and I had the temerity to ask her on a date.  From my perspective, that date was a disaster – mostly because I was convinced she was too far out of my league.  More than two years passed before I asked her out again, and suddenly the timing was right.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself when I consider that same girl is now my wife.

Sara and I were married for four years before we were blessed with a baby.  I understand now that four years is a blink of an eye, but back then the wait was excruciating.  There were occasions when we wondered if it would ever happen at all.  Then, in a whirlwind of hopes and dreams, we were welcoming a perfect baby boy to our family.  Well, now our house is bursting at the seams with five (and a half!) beautiful, healthy, energetic children who keep us on our toes and make life worth living.

Partway through law school, I set my sights on a career as a criminal prosecutor.  I’m in no way a natural-born trial attorney, but I wanted to work at a county attorney’s office – preferably one close to my Nebraska home.  I applied for law clerk and attorney jobs at my present employer in Lincoln, Nebraska, four times before I broke through.  I’ve now been at the county attorney’s office in Lincoln for eleven years.  In those eleven years, I’ve experienced my share of frustrations, but overall I’d call it a rewarding challenge that’s also allowed me to provide a comfortable living for my family.

Why am I telling you this?  Because it came to me in a sudden epiphany during the car ride to work one morning last week that these are just a few examples of how God has blessed me time again with my righteous desires.  The Savior explained it this way in the New Testament:  “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”  The blessings in my life have rarely come in the way I was expecting or in accordance with my own timetable, but they have come.

All of which brings me to my writing ambitions.  (Surely you knew that’s where this was heading.)  There are certainly dark days when I’m convinced I’ll just as soon be struck by lightning as publish, but lately I’ve been praying for two things with respect to my writing:  An advocate and an audience.  Maybe the answer is no on both counts, but as I consider my life to this point I have to wonder if one day the answer might actually be yes.