Geek Alert: My Case for Daylight Saving Time All the Time

Note: I wrote this for my college newspaper when I was an opinion columnist back then. And updated it a smidge as an adult. I just felt like posting it today in celebration of Daylight Saving, Albert Einstein’s Birthday and Pi Day. I’m nerdy like that.

Almost every year at two a.m. on the first Sunday in April, most of the United States sets its clocks forward one hour and wakes up with that unpleasant feeling of jetlag and the nagging sense that there really aren’t enough hours in the day. The reason is to “save daylight”. If clocks are set forward one hour, the sun seems to rise an hour later—preventing people from sleeping through full sunlight hours in the early morning. It also appears to set an hour later—allowing more sunlit time in the afternoon. When the sun is up, people use less energy because they do not have to turn on as many lights. In other words, Daylight Saving Time helps America to use less energy.

Most of us are too young to remember that Daylight Saving Time (DST) was not always standardized. In fact, DST is not standardized all over the world or even all over the United States: Arizona, Hawaii and the part of Indiana that is in the Eastern time zone do not observe DST.* (If you really want an example of the arbitrary nature of time, consider China. The gigantic country doesn’t even have time zones.)

Daylight Saving is an arbitrary time period set by the federal government. Its duration each year has changed dramatically since the idea was first proposed by Benjamin Franklin. As recently as 1986, then President Ronald Reagan moved the date that DST began to its current position on the first Sunday in April. During the early 1960s, DST was not federally regulated and each region, state or city could determine if and when it would observe DST. Not surprisingly, broadcasters and mass transit companies protested the variability of time. After all, how could an airline give an estimated time of arrival if they could not be sure what time it would be in the destination city?

All of this information is meant to give you, the reader, the understanding that time is extremely relative and can be changed arbitrarily. In the spirit of that idea, I propose that the United States move permanently to Daylight Saving Time.

It’s happened before. During both World War I and World War II DST was instituted on a permanent basis to conserve fuel used to create energy. Also, during the oil embargoes of the 1970s, Congress put the nation on extended DST for two years in order to save on heating oil. The experiment netted 10,000 barrels of oil a day in saved energy use.

Currently, we are facing an oil crisis and the results have been reflected each month in our heating bills and in our gas tanks. Oil is expensive and anything we can do to conserve it is worth doing. Considering that we have a precedent for extended DST, I do not understand why the government has not moved on this plan. The Bush Administration has already extended it this year; why not make it permanent?

Extending Daylight Saving Time also has other benefits. Because people were able to complete the majority of their transportation from school and work as well as errands before the sun went down, the Department of Transportation estimated that 50 lives were saved and 2000 injuries prevented during the extended DST of the 1970s because many common crimes occur after dark. American and British studies also indicate that pedestrians are four times less likely to be killed by car accidents during Daylight hours.

Surveys by the Department of Transportation indicate that most Americans like DST because there is “more light in the evenings” allowing people to “do more in the evenings”. Critics of extended DST (generally farmers or farming states) do not like how late DST would “make” the sun rise in the winter. I opine that the majority of farming work does not take place in the winter anyway, and furthermore, most of the country revolves around commerce and industry, not farming.

I am a reluctant early-riser–thanks to my job and my child–and I could really care less when the sun rises in the winter. It’s not pleasant to be up early no matter what. I would much prefer to have an extra hour of daylight in the evening than in the morning. After all, I’m going to work in the morning and that sucks anyway. I would certainly rather see the sun when I get to come home from work.

If public opinion is not enough, if pedestrian safety is not enough, oil conservation should certainly be enough. Congress can and should extend DST to at least eight months of the year if not all twelve. We could save at least 120,000 barrels of oil a year. That’s four times as much as the controversial amount released from the Federal Oil Reserves by president Clinton in September of 2000. Permanent Daylight Saving Time is good for the economy, public safety, and personal morale. How can we say no?

* Indiana now observes DST statewide.

– Liz

P.S. Sorry for subjecting you all to my geekery. Back to my usual blathering tomorrow. 😉

I’m a Tepee, I’m a Wigwam: I’m Torn Between Two Tense(s)

Okay, wow, I’m a little disappointed in myself for such a terrible title. Apologies.

Moving on.

Recently, I’ve been doing some very pleasurable pleasure reading. Just finished Hannah Moskowitz’s BREAK and just started GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray (who, by the way, makes my teeth sweat with her wonderousness.) Both of them write in the present tense (at least in these two books).

Turns out, I’m embarrassingly suggestible. Here I am, trying to start my new project, and I keep slipping into present tense. It’s like an infection in my brain. Maybe these clever ladies are secretly infecting the whole literary world with present tense-itis!

So today, after two days of writing sentences that mixed tenses like a third grader, I have finally decided to give in. I am writing my first present-tense story. I may live to regret this, but I think it’s worth the noble experiment.

In a spectacular feat of rationalizing, I have come up with a short list of reasons that present tense can be the right fit for a story.

1. It puts the reader smack-dab into the main character’s experience. There is no sensation that there are secrets being kept from the reader.

2. It eliminates that pesky past-perfect tense if you have a lot of backstory or flashbacks to get through.

3. It’s jam-packed with all sort of swell actiony verbs for that sense of immediacy!

4. In first person narrative, it eliminates potential confusion between direct thoughts and narrative.

5. It’s kind of trendy! Something I can so rarely say about my projects!

What’s the verdict, people? Do we like present tense?

– Liz

Interview with MJ Heiser

Today I am delighted to bring you my first author interview! My first guinea pig is not only a debut author with a unique publishing story to tell, but a good friend of mine, MJ Heiser.

If, after this interview you can’t stand yourself and you simply must know everything there is to know about MJ, please visit her website, her blog, her Facebook fanpage, her author page at, on Twitter, or at Canonbridge‘s (her publisher) website. You can also learn more about her at JA Souder’s blog, where she kicked off her blog tour* last week.

LC: MJ, thank you so much for being my first interviewee. For readers who don’t know, let me begin by saying that your debut novel, CORONA, is an adult fantasy novel that combines some of the best of urban and classical fantasy elements to create a unique read. And, if I may say so, it’s one of the most beautiful written stories I’ve had the pleasure to read in a long time.

What was the inspiration for CORONA?

MJ: CORONA actually has pieces inspired by several different traditions, starting with warrior monks (translated into the all-female order of the Travellers) and carrying through into my love of the Chronicles of Narnia, which was a large part of the foundation for Jaenrye. The spark that got the project moving, however, was a documentary I saw on Father Oliver O’Grady, a pedophile priest who was moved from one parish to another in California by the Catholic Church. He was never disciplined, and he evades punishment today. I dragged him into Jaenrye as “Father Rey” to punish him myself. –After all, one of the benefits of writing is the ability to mete out justice as you see fit, right?

LC: No kidding. It’s the God complex we all secretly harbor. Now, CORONA has a couple of follow-ups coming out soon. The first is actually a prequel, CANTICLE. The next will be a sequel, CRUCIBLE. Did you always plan on a trilogy, or did the plan develop as you wrote CORONA?

MJ: The prequel demanded itself as I wrote CORONA, but the idea for the trilogy didn’t come up until the Epilogue was being written. The prequel is about one of the heroines of the book as a much younger woman, and the sequel was a plot device — at first. The plot device ended up intriguing me so much I feel the need now to make something of it.

LC: Speaking of the actual writing of CORONA, I know you wrote it in a really short time-span, what kept you going?

MJ: Apart from the fact that parts of the story seemed to have been percolating in the back of my head for decades, what really kept me going was the fact that I was able to translate several of my writing buddies into the book — and, of course, get their feedback almost instantly whenever I produced another chapter ready for consumption. I didn’t want to lose momentum, either internally or externally.

LC: You released CORONA through Canonbridge with a really unique plan. Tell us more about that decision.

MJ: The uniqueness of the plan actually belongs to my cousin, Wilette Youkey, who is also a writer and an excellent graphic artist. She suggested to me that this is a new day and age for the publishing industry; thanks to e-readers, changes are happening fast, and if a writer could only be so bold as to take advantage of those changes, that writer might buy him or herself a real shot at new readers. The suggestion boiled down to opportunity; e-readers allow price points to be set by the author and/or publisher (at least they did at the time), and if you offer a book for free, or as close to free as is feasible, you could draw the attention of people eager to try out this new technology without having to commit to a pricey new bestseller. If enough of those readers like your book, review it, and recommend it to friends — well, that kind of readership can help get an unknown author and publisher into the big bookstores, like Barnes and Noble. (Even being published through well-established publishers can’t guarantee a new writer that part of the dream.)

Admittedly, I didn’t want, at first, to make myself or my book the butt of this experiment, but I also know that great successes are often the result of great risk. Besides, I’d only recently encountered Canonbridge, LLC, and acquisitions editor Maggie Stewart-Grant, who was enthusiastic and as much of a maverick as I’d have to be to take the chance. Together we plunged into the deep water. We’ve been treading that deep water together ever since.

LC: As much as I’m dying to know how the plan is working, I’ll leave my purile curiosity at the door. You and your fans did an amazing job of rallying new fans in the days leading up to your release. If anyone in your network didn’t know you were a writer, you all but exploded out of the closet with that debut. Now that you’ve got your very own ISBN and Amazon author page, are your friends/family reacting differently to you as a writer?

MJ: I’m laughing. Actually, yes. I get a lot of comments that I’ve never gotten before. My friends and family are often introducing me now as “published author,” and that’s just crazy. I may have offended a few people by reacting badly to it — for example, one friend I accused of being sarcastic. I couldn’t deal with the attention. However, now that it’s been a few weeks, I find that the conversations started by that new description — “published author” — are very enjoyable.

LC: You and I have discussed having musical influences for our writing. (I have soundtracks for each of my books.) What were some of your musical choices for CORONA?

MJ: First and foremost: “Viva La Vida,” by Coldplay. I don’t even *like* Coldplay, but that song went straight into my heart. I’ve also quoted a couple of other songs in the book itself: “Groove is in the Heart,” by Dee-Lite, and “All Star,” by Smashmouth. Beyond that we start getting into really weird stuff, like “Vicarious” by Tool and “Cursum Perficio” by Enya.

LC: Quick: who’s your favorite character from CORONA?

MJ: The fairy Yvette. Her wise silliness sank deep into my heart.

LC: What practical advice do you have for aspiring writers?

MJ: Read. Read again. Write. Write again. Learn about your craft; buy writing and editing guides, or borrow them from the library. I’m not saying you have to take other people’s rules for your own, but I am saying read with an open mind and an open heart. You’ll discover you’re already doing a lot of things right, and you’ll also start to notice patterns of advice on things you may not be doing correctly. Then — edit. Edit again. And again. When you’re ready, share your work with other writers by joining a writing group or an online writer forum, like Find people like you — if you want only to write for the love of writing, don’t get too involved with the super-aggressive, constantly submitting crowd. Your heart will tell you when it’s time to start publicizing yourself, so push, push, push. Hiding your art is soooo 19th century.

And never forget that you love doing this.

LC: As fun as it would be to virtually cast the fictional movie version of CORONA, I have a more interesting question: Who would play you in a movie?

MJ: Whoever she is, I hope she’s younger, thinner, and far smarter. –Actually, scratch that. Make it the opposite, so when people meet the “real” me, they aren’t disappointed.

LC: Don’t make me get out my can of whoop-ass. You know how I feel about people giving my friends a hard time, and that includes themselves. You’ve been wonderful, thank you for being here today. Before we go, is there anything else you want to share?

MJ: I’d like to share some cheesecake.

LC: Make it chocolate-raspberry and we’ve got a date.

Thanks for taking the time. Check out CORONA in e-book format for its low debut price. The hardcover version will be out in June through Canonbridge, LLC.

– Liz

* MJ’s blog tour has been involuntary, started by J.A. Souders and me. If you’d like to have MJ visit your blog to talk more about her unique publishing experience, fantasy world-building or cheesecake, please contact her through her website.

I Declare This Novel…Closed

Five Reasons the End of the Olympics is Like Finishing a Novel

1. There were parts that make you proud, parts that made you glad to be alive, and parts that were so disappointing you wanted to throw things.

2. Whatever you were expecting when the whole thing started, you didn’t get it–good or bad.

3. No matter how many great things happened, you can’t help but focus on the near misses, and what you could have done differently.

4. The ending (in my genres anyway) tends to get a little schmaltzy.

5. When it’s over, you’re sad, but also relieved, and probably already thinking about next time.

* * *

London, anyone?

– Liz

On Dressing for Success

“The clothes make the man.”

“Dressed for success.”

“Dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.”

Today, in a fit of delusion almost unprecedented in my grand history of delusion, I realized I’ve unconsciously been following these rules for years. See, the job I want is to be a writer. So, I wear jeans, comfy shirt, and slippers or flip flops. Not to mention the hairstyles I sport should probably never leave the house. Lord knows my roots should make me eligible for one of those eyesore citations from the neighborhood association.

My power suit is jeans fresh from the dryer and a shirt that makes me sigh with happiness (could be extra soft, extra flattering, or just the right shirt for the moment.) And on those days that I really need something to keep me going, there’s nothing like new socks and The Underpants of Confidence. A good friend of mine said that good underwear is like wearing a superhero costume under your clothes. You feel like you have a grand secret that the world would clamor to know if only the had a hint….

I’ve digressed (as I so often do) into underwear again. I had a point, and it was this:

All this time I thought I was a slob, but I was actually visualizing success!

– Liz

**This post brought to you by Delusion. Delusion, when reality is just not working.

Writers: What’s your uniform of choice?

Goodbye Hypocrisy

The longer I hang around Twitter and other writers’ blogs, the longer my To-Read list gets. I’m excited about that because it’s so much easier to know what you’re looking for at the bookstore or library than it is to browse the exposed spines of books hoping for something to call to you.

As I look for some of these titles, though, I find that some of the books with “buzz” haven’t made it to my library yet. At first, I was really heartbroken. Then, I remembered that I am gainfully employed and in possession of two fingers, a working knowledge of the internet and a valid mailing address. Enter Barnes & Noble (before the Common Sense debacle*.)

I flinched a bit when I started adding books to my shopping cart. It’s rare for me to buy new books–a hangover from my childhood in poverty. But then it occurred to me:

I expect people to do this for me some day. How can I possibly ask the consumer public to shell out their hard-earned dollars for my books someday, when I’m hesitant to do it myself?

So, I have a belated New Year’s Resolution: Buy at least one brand-spanking new book per month. It’s a small thing, but it’s something I can do easily. And just think of all the happiness I’m giving myself.

Sidenote: when my package arrived from Barnes & Noble, I almost wet myself with joy. Here’s what I ordered:

(Click the authors’ names to be instantly transported to their websites, where you might be able to put a hat on a cow. Trust me. It’s like magic! Or, the Internet, which is kind of the same to me.)

BREAK by Hannah Moskowitz


GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray

Woo, I’m so excited! Reading heaven!

– Liz

What’s the last book you bought? Should I read it?

* Thank you, Meg Cabot, for inciting a riot and standing up for freedom to read!

Jill Kemerer: Cupid’s Target: You and Writing

Jill Kemerer: Cupid's Target: You and Writing

In keeping with yesterday’s post “SWF Seeks Literary Agent for Long-Term Commitment, Good Times”, the talented Jill Kemerer has written a blog about being bitten by the writing bug. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll love it!

A New Critique Contest

C.A. Marshall is hosting a contest at her blog for a critique of the first ten pages of her manuscript. Easy rules to follow and a new source of great information and entertainment.

Check out her contest here.
She also mentions a great service I was previously unaware of in the post for this blog. A service that gives you books to read in exchange for reviews! A great idea for voracious readers who would read their way through the budget of a small country in a year.
Good luck in the contest!
– Liz

SWF Seeks Literary Agent for Long-Term Commitment, Good Times

The other day it occurred to me that the whole pre-publication process is like dating. Maybe this association took me so long to see because I have such a thin dating history myself, and the rest of you are thinking, “Duh,” but this is my blog, so I’m going to wax pathetic for bit, capisce?

A query is like a blind date with someone you met through a personal ad or an on-line dating profile. You might be able to learn a little bit about them, or maybe even a lot, but in the end, you’re still left to put yourself out there and hope he or she likes you.

When an agent asks for a partial or full manuscript, a writer sort of feels like she’s just been asked to go steady. An agent is probably seeing this as more of a second date. I suppose in the world of He’s Just Not That Into You, writers are like women and agents are like men. (No offense intended to either gender in this instance.)

That grand shining moment when an agent offers representation can best be compared to a marriage proposal–every writer wants one, and the ones that have an offer and just as girly-squirrely as a newly engaged women. Trust me, I know two of them right now (the fabulous J.A. Souders and Kelly Gibian) and they’re giddy. They practically have the vapors. And like a terminally-single friend of a newly engaged woman, I am thrilled to death for them, but not a little jealous.

After the wonder and glamour of the engagement/agenting, the writer “moves in” with her agent, digging deep into revisions and bringing her manuscript to a high gloss. And, together, they start planning the wedding, er, going out on submission. This is when the agent beings his or her own querying process, offering up the project to editors and hoping for that nibble of interest. Or better yet, those dozens of nibbles that lead a book to sell at auction.

So, now you’ve got a planned release date for your book (a.k.a. your wedding date), but what you never saw coming was how many details there are in planning a wedding. Quite frankly, I’m a little fuzzy on this part, since I’m still in the blind-date phase, but from what I hear, the work has only just begun once you’ve got a fiancee, I mean agent.

A lot of this is probably self-evident. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.) We could probably overlay any number of application processes, or relationship-based models onto the pre-publication phase. The reason that the dating metaphor rings so true for me is seeing how I, and my writing friends approach the querying process. We really are like women deep in the trenches of dating.

We check our e-mail obsessively, we stalk prospective agents on-line, we dissect every word over every rejection with our friends. We are filled with hope when we get asked on that second date and devastated when a partial or full request ends in rejection. Probably we could all do well to read He’s Just Not That Into You and realize that some writer-agent relationships are just never going to work. Both people have to be just as interested in one another. And as any sensible woman will tell you, begging, insulting or continued stalking are not welcome by the object of your affection. It’s time to move on.

There are plenty of fish in the sea.

– Liz

Anyone care to extend this metaphor? Share a story of agenting heartbreak?

Valentine’s Day Love Story

In honor of Valentine’s Day, I’ve decided to post a very short story. This is just a bit of anonymous love between two people. I hope it puts you in the mood and makes you appreciate the one you’re with, or the one you’re wishing you were with.

“Oh my God, what time is it there?”

“It’s about nine.”

“In the morning?” I was confused.

“At night.”

“I can’t believe you’re calling me.”

“I had to. I miss you.”

I smiled. “I miss you, too.”

“Besides, I wanted to wish you a happy—”

“No!” I cut him off. “We’re not doing this, remember?”

He laughed, “I don’t even get to say it?”

“No. We’re celebrating after you get home.”

“But today’s the day.”

“Yeah, I know. But we agreed to pretend it’s next week.”

“I know, I know. ‘The Twentieth is the New Fourteenth.’ But I figured you’d like to hear from me on the actual day.”

“Today is not the day. Not for us,” I said.

He laughed again. “I didn’t realize you were taking this so seriously.”

“I am. I’m in total media blackout mode.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not acknowledging the holiday. No cards, no chocolate, none of it. I won’t even say it.”

“You do realize this is a completely fabricated holiday, right?” he asked. “It’s just the greeting card industry making some money.”

“Not from me they’re not. Not today.”

“Well, if it makes you feel better, I haven’t said it to anyone today.”

I nodded. “I appreciate that.”

“So, I guess I just wasted a very expensive phone call to not wish you a Happy…whatever.”

“It wasn’t a waste,” I assured him. “I’m just happy to hear your voice.”

“Well, that’s good.”

“Hurry home, okay?” I said, blinking hard.

“I’m trying.” He sighed. “I should probably go.”

“Okay. Have a good night.”

“Have a good day,” he countered.

I smiled. “I’ll try.”

“I luh—” he started.

“Nope!” I interrupted. “Not today you don’t.”

“Yes, I do,” he laughed.

“Well, fine. But save it for the Twentieth, okay?”

“Okay, crazy girl. I’ll humor you.”

“Thank you.”

“But, I do. Just so you know.”

I smiled. “Yeah, I do, too.”

“Bye, Babe.”


Happy Valentine’s Day!

– Liz