Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Letter from Santa

No, I haven't abandoned this blog. I'm not planning on doing that any time soon. Though, I suppose, no one really PLANS on abandoning a blog. Things just happen that way, eh? Still, I'm still here, and I have plenty of things I want to blog about.

In the mean time, though, I thought I would share with you a new regular tradition in my family. On Christmas Eve, Santa leaves my son a letter on the tree, usually depicting some adventure the big man went on during the year. I thought I'd share with you this year's letter. It's pretty fun.

So, enjoy A Letter from Santa, 2011.

Hello again, my dear friend! When I didn’t get a letter from you this year, I was concerned. Had something happened to you? Were you angry with me? But then, I saw you at the Bernardo Winery, and was gratified to know that not only were you well, but you were happy and telling jokes. I still smile at that candy cane you pulled on me.

Thinking of letters reminds me of something that happened this year. Just a few weeks ago, in fact. Our letter carrier, a young elf named Jeffery, came running into the workshop in a panic. I was called down immediately, and managed to calm Jeffery down enough to get the full story out of him. He had gone down to the receiving room, where all the letters to Santa from all over the world arrive, to pick up the latest deliveries and bring them to me. However, when he got there, there were no letters!

What had happened?

As we watched, new letters arrived. Jeffery assured me that new letters had arrived after he noticed before, too, but there should be a pile of letters he had yet to sort. And that the whole pile disappeared from as he made his last delivery. We quickly set about searching the room when I discovered a small, elf sized hole in the wall under some discarded present boxes. I took one sniff of the foul odor that came from its depths, and knew instantly what had happened.


Yes, there are goblins in the North Pole. Goblins are elves that end up on the naughty list and never get off. They are very, very bad. And for many years, the goblins have been trying to ruin Christmas for everyone. They’ve done everything from trying to wreck my sleigh to kidnapping Rudolph to even stealing my magic sack one year. This year, they were trying to stop Christmas by stealing all the mail. Without that mail, I won’t know what the little boys and girls of the world want, and if I don’t know that, I can’t deliver it.

There was no other choice. We needed to go into the underground tunnels the goblins live in, and try to recover the mail. I told Jeffrey the news and he agreed with me. He pulled down his cap and said he was ready to go. Just then, we saw something out the window. It was a friend of mine, one you might remember. It was the polar bear from last year, the one with the bicycle.

He asked what was going on, and when we told him, he agreed to come along and help out. Polar bears don’t like goblins. So, with the same magic that allows me to slide down chimneys’, I got the three of us into the hole and down to the goblin tunnels.

It was dark down there, but Jeffrey had been smart enough to bring along a candle. He lit it with elf magic and we made our way down. It was dark and scary in the tunnels, but I kept on going. I knew I had to get those letters, because children like you were counting on me. Eventually, we could hear something in the caves ahead. It was the goblins! They were laughing and carrying on and bragging about their plan and how they had ruined Christmas.

Lights up ahead showed us where they were. When we peaked around the corner, we could see them, throwing the letters in the air and dancing on the pile. I shushed the polar bear and Jeffrey. Mr. Bear nodded and me and pointed his noise into the room with the goblins. I nodded at him, and he moved off.

With a mighty roar, he charged into the room. The goblins were so startled that they dropped all the letters and started running away from the polar bear as fast as they could, screaming the whole time. Jeffrey and I laughed and laughed to watch them, and the polar bear chased them down the tunnel. Jeffrey and I quickly gathered up all the missing letters and put them into Jeffrey’s mail sack. We carried them all back to the receiving room. Jeffrey smiled, and then sighed. This would put him behind schedule!

That was when Mr. Polar Bear came back. We told him the situation, and he said he would stay and help Jeffrey sort the mail, and make sure that no more goblins stole it. I said I would have a repair crew in to fix the hole in the wall, and we all agreed to meet for hot coco later that night.

It was all quite the adventure, but in the end, it all worked out okay, and Christmas was on schedule.

I hope you enjoy your presents this year, and I look forward to seeing you again next year. Just make sure to try and write me. I thought the goblins still had your letter, and I’d had to think they had done it again next year.

Much Love,
Santa Claus 

Friday, December 2, 2011

NaNoWriMo Round-up!

I know that it’s a day late at this point, but NaNoWriMo is officially over, so I thought I would do a post Novel-Writing post.

I love NaNo. I’ve done it five times now, counting this year, and have won all five times. And I learn something near each time, too.

The first time, I learned that I can, in fact, finish a project. This was important to me, and I know many other authors out there that have trouble finishing projects, so I think it’s a worthwhile point to make. Finishing that novel was a huge success, and the fact that it was also a GOOD novel was even better. I spent the last few years editing and polishing it, true, but that’s not the point here. It could have been utter crap that I never touched again. The fact was, I finished it, and that was damn good.

The next time I won, I did it with 60,000 words, and a half-finished novel. That year taught me that, when I put my mind to it, I can find the time to write. A few hundred words in the morning before anyone else is up, and the same at the end of the day. My 15 minutes breaks at work to get in a few hundred words more. I found that getting in 2,000 words a day was pretty damn easy. Sadly, this novel has not been finished. I did like it, though, and I believe that one day I shall revisit it, and finish it off.

The third year, I tried something different. I outlined a novel as much as I was able to. I learned during this run that while outlining helps me to a certain degree, by giving me a guideline when I get lost in the narrative, I need to be careful to not over outline a novel. I am what many call a “seat of the pants” writer, meaning I do best when I just sit down and write. I prefer the term “discovery writer,” myself, but it means the same thing. I have learned, however, that pure discovery writing doesn’t always work, and some outlining helps keep the discovery writing flowing. This story, for those interested, turned out to be utter crap, and I have simply tossed it aside and moved on. Sometimes, you win in word count, but not in story. Another lesson learned that year.

As a side note, that same year, I had also done Script Frenzy, for the first and last time. I did it because I had always wondered if I could write a TV show script. I learned that I could not. At least, not at my current level of skill. Script writing is much harder for me that straight prose. It requires a certain kind of thought processes that I would have to train myself to do, and so I’ve put that desire aside for now. But, I can at least say I gave it a try, and I’m happy about that.

My fourth win was part of another project I was doing at the time. I took a challenge from Ray Bradbury, which was to write one short story a week for a full year, and I blogged my stories. (You can read them all here, So, last year I combined NaNo and 1 Story a Week by writing a novel that was a collection of short stories. I learned that writing short stories was much different than a novel, and making the individual stories complete stories in and of themselves while still telling one big story was also pretty hard. I’m not sure how successful I was, but I can tell you that I learned a lot doing it, and that if I ever did it again, I would be better.

This year, I decided to write a story that I had been keeping in a drawer labeled “really good ideas that I don’t want to fuck up.” I’m sure many of you authors out there know this drawer. I had avoided writing this story out of a fear that I would do just that. The idea was a good one, and it deserved good prose to make it come to life. Well, I learned this year that, unless I actually write it, unless I am willing to risk writing something really shitty with that great idea, I will never write that idea at all. Taking a good idea and writing something bad, I learned, is better than not doing it at all. Also, it turned out that the story I am writing is pretty damn good, up to par with the idea, I believe. So much so that, even though I won NaNo, I am still writing this book. Because unlike my second win, I want to finish this novel.

And that’s my NaNo journey so far. I am looking forward to NaNo next year. I have no idea what I will write about, or what I will learn, but I’m sure that I will have a blast doing both.

So, until next year, I hope that those of you who did NaNo had fun, win or lose, and I hope you keep writing your novel, win or lose. Because in the end, the best thing about NaNo isn’t winning, it’s getting that novel started.

Oh, speaking of this year’s Novel, I am planning on posting the first chapter up here soon. Maybe tonight or tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Things I am Thankful For

Yes, that’s right, it’s been nearly a month since I did a post here, and the first one I do is a Thanksgiving themed one. Original, right? But, I felt the need to write this one, so I am.

So, let me start by saying that I’m thankful for all the stuff one would expect to be thankful for:

My job. It’s a great place to work, with good people. It’s not the best pay in the world, but it’s better than not having a job, as so many do right now. And it has great benefits. On top of all that, it allows me to write. Not really AT work, but I don’t have work that I have to bring home, so I can write when I’m there. Also, I was able to take a week off work to stay home for week 2 of NaNoWriMo, which enabled me to get a good lead on my word count. This place also has a gym, which allows me to work out without taking time away from my schedule in other places, which I really like. So, I’m thankful for my job.

My family. By this, I mean my immediate family, my wife and son. They are beautiful, loving and wonderful people. They can also both be pains in the asses, but then, so can I. They are supportive, too, my wife especially. My wife has supported me in my writing carrerr, not only by being a cheerleader, but also by being a drill sergent. Several times this month, my wife could be heard throwing this phrase in my direction: “You’re supposed to be writing, mister!” And while I love that, what she’s really saying is that she knows it’s important for me to get some writing done, and so while she would rather that I was getting housework, she understands and supports it. As long as, you know, I’m actually writing. And I love her for that!

I am thankful for my brother and sister. They were both huge influences on me as a kid. I got into drawing cartoons because my brother did that, and I learned to appreciate musicals as a result of my sister’s love of them. And my music tastes were definitely shaped by the two of them. My relationship with them has changed, of course, and it continues to change as we all grow and evolve, and I’m thankful for that, as well.

I’m thankful for my parents. Without them, I wouldn’t be here. Seriously, though, I am thankful for them. When I grew up, all my friends had parents that were divorced. Even the one kid that didn’t have divorced parents when we first met, his parents divorced during high school. My parents are still together, and I appreciate now how much work goes into making a relationship last as long as theirs has. I also want to give a special shout out to my dad, from whom I got my love of all things sci-fi and fantasy. When I was a kid, my dad had me read the Hobbit, and the Lensmen series. Both remain some of my favorites from the genre to this day. So, thanks for that, Dad!

I’m thankful for my health. My parents have recently been both having some health concerns, some of which have made me realize I need to take better care of myself. And so, I have. I’m thankful that I have health now, and that I have the opportunity now to make sure I don’t have some of the health problems they are having now.

I’m thankful for some of the stuff I have. I know this may sound shallow, but I don’t really think it is. I’m lucky compared to some, in that I have a roof over my head, a computer to work on and play on, and a TV to watch. I have a smart phone that allows me to keep in touch with my wife in numerous ways, as well as keep up with friends and relatives that might live in whole different states. So, shallow or not, I’m thankful for my stuff.

I’m thankful for the fellow writers I have connected to online. Without some of you, I wouldn’t be the writer I am now. And that’s just the simple truth.

Mostly, though, I think I am thankful the most for the relationship I have with God now.

I know that may come as a surprise to some, and for others it’s probably leading them to click the little red X up in the corner. And that’s okay. Everyone is allowed their opinion, and I’m not here to try and change that.

I feel like I should point out here that I’m not a Christian. This is not to say that I don’t believe in Christ, or the Bible, I do. Jut not in the same way as most who identify as Christian. It seems to be a select group, like a nationality or ethnicity, and I’m just not a part of that group. It’s really as simple as that.

But, I do have a relationship with God, and that’s the only way I know how to put it. I’ve learned in the last few years how to communicate with God, how to pray to him, and how to turn over things in my life that I can’t do on my own. And my life has become better for it.

So, I’m thankful for my relationship with God.

Also, I’m thankful for you guys, the ones reading this blog right now. Knowing that there’s at least a few people out there interested in my opinions on things makes this all worthwhile.

So, thanks! And I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving weekend.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: The Prodigal’s Foole

The Prodigal’s Foole by R. B. Wood is an action packed story that’s equal parts X-Men, Harry Potter and Angel’s and Demons.

It follows the story of Symon Bryson, returning to his home town of Boston to reconnect with his old mentor, a Catholic priest named Charles. Symon soon learns, however, that Charles has been kidnapped by demons, and set’s of on a quest with his fellow former class mates to rescue Charles, defeat the demons, and confront Symon’s past.

Oh, and did I mention that Symon, his mentor and his friends are all mages? Yup, that’s right, magic. Used by the Church to fight against a very real evil. All in all, a very awesome set up, and a damn good story. The action is well paced and well written, and once it starts, it’s almost non-stop. The characters are all well developed, and Symon goes through hell (both literally and metaphorically) before it all ends.

All in all, this was a fabulous book, and a fun read. I highly recommend it for anyone into fantasy or urban fantasy.

If I have one complaint about the book, it’s that I feel the story ends before the book does. Don’t get me wrong, the end of the book does a good job of tying up some loose ends and sets up book two well, but I feel that the story ended before this point, with the heroes sailing off into the sunset.

That’s just my opinion, however, you mileage may vary.

I give this book four out of five stars, and suggest that if you are even a remote fan of urban fantasy, you pick this book up. You’ll be happy that you did.

Interview with R. B. Wood

I had the good fortune of being invited by fellow writer and now publushed author R. B. Wood to participate in his Magical Mystery Blog tour promoting his new book, The Prodigal's Foole. It's a fantastic read, and is being released on October 31st! Below is my interview with him, followed by the book trailer and some links for you to pick up the book. And do so, because it's worth it.

I see that the Prodigal’s Foole is written in 1st person. What made you decide to write in that perspective? 

When I developed the Character of Symon Bryson, I realized pretty quickly that TPF and the entire series needed to be seen from his perspective. 

I’m always curious what other author’s writing process looks like. Care to share yours with my readers and I?

Oh dear.  There is a phrase in US politics I like to use…”You never want to see the sausage being made.” J I build a large arc, the top of which is the ‘climax scene’ and fill in scenes leading to it that tell the story I want.  There is research and a lot of thinking and throwing away of ideas.  I have a general map of where I want to go, but a full outline I find too restricting as sometimes the stories take my in interesting directions and I like to explore those paths.

What was it like working on Prodigal’s Foole with a professional editor, as opposed to working with friends and relatives?

Well, I’m a little lucky in this, as my brother is a phenomenal editor.  He has a wicked red pen, and I’m sure was even more facetious and vicious because it was ‘his little brother.’  That being said, we had GREAT discussions, and collaborations.  A good editor who will work with an author is critical, in my opinion.

Were any suggestions made to you by either your editor or publisher that you were reluctant to incorporate?

 Yep.  Some battles I lost, others I won. 

What criteria did you look for when deciding which agents or publishers to query? 

I looked at agents and publishers (big and small) who represent and publish works similar to mine.  Research is key—and social media helped me to find my way as well.

What made you decide to go with a small publisher like PfoxChase? 

I adore Diane nelson.  She’s funny, harsh, supportive and walks with a big stick if she needs to.  I went indie, specifically because the industry is changing SO quickly, I firmly believe that a cadre of good authors with a small press can really take advantage of the uncertainty in the marketplace.

Are you working on something new now?

Yes…a few things.  Book Two of the Arcana Chronicles.  A SciFi Trillogy and a Comic book series in collaboration with a dear friend and auther from Australia.

Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? How many times? What was it like for you?

Once.  Insane.  I wrote a humongous piece of garbage that had one, maybe two good scenes.  I’ll use them elsewhere in some form.

In addition to writing novels and stories, you also run a fantastic podcast that features other artists, called the Word Count. How do you balance time between writing and the podcast? (The Word Count Podcast can be found here: )

Ask my partner..I really don’t do it well.  She keeps me on track.

Do you have stories stuffed in the back of the virtual drawer that will never see the light of day?

Oh GOD yes.  That reminds me…I need to burn those.

Like myself, you’re a regular in #5MinuteFiction. What do you like about it that keeps you coming back? 

Well, I haven’t done it in a while….life has been getting in the way.  BUT I’ll be a judge in an upcoming #5MF, so looking forward to that.  Leah is a dear friend, my crit partner and my sounding board on stories, so not only is it a GREAT way to play with short fiction, but it’s run by someone who is extraordinarily talented herself.  Total win in my book.

Have you always considered yourself to be a writer, or was there a time in your life when you decided that is what you were? 

I’ve always loved stories.  I don’t consider myself a writer…more of a storyteller with a word processor.

Do you have a blog? How do you use it?  I use it it to promote other writers, the podcast, for random musings I want to jot down and eventually to hawk my swag! ;-)

What social media do you use? Do you combine your personal and professional or keep them separate? 

I’m a technology consultant by day, so I  keep that very separate from my writer life…or as separate as possible.  I do have a fan page on Facebook and will eventually transfer all the ‘writer folk’ over to that page and leave my personal page for family and close friends.

What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?

My Macbook Pro.  I use Word, Write Skrivner and other tools on the system to help me write.

What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?

Honestly?  My brain.  There is nothing like taking time away from the keyboard to think. 

What is the most persistent distraction from writing?

My day job.  There is nothing like a ‘9 to 5’ gig in the IT world.

What is your ideal writing environment? Have you ever been able to create it?

GREAT question…I write when and where I can.  I never thought about an ideal environment before.  I’ll get back to you on that one.

Do you think that having a book published now will make you more confident in sending out queries in the future?

I don’t think it will have much of an impact.  If you don’t grow a thick skin quickly, this industry will eat you up.  After the 12th rejection, you really just move on to the next query.

What advice would you offer to new writers out there? 

Read as much as you can.  LISTEN as much as you can.  Get involved with social media because there are millions of authors out there willing and able to give you advice.

Here's the book trailer.

The book can be purchased on October 31st at the following locations:

Amazon Kindle US

Amazon Kindle UK




Saturday, October 22, 2011

NaNoWriMo Preparations

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when writers everywhere, both professional and wannabies, gather around their computers and word processors for that insanity of fun that is known as National Novel Writing Month!

Yes, that’s right. I’m one of those crazies that love to participate in this every year. It’s always a good time, and each time I do it, I learn something about writing a novel. But, before the big event starts, there are always things I need to do to prepare for it. And not all of them involve planning a plot or outlining my stories.

This does not mean that outlining and planning do not need to happen. They most certainly do. And I do a little of that before hand. But one thing I have learned in the years I’ve done NaNoWriMo is that I, personally, do better the less planning I have done.  A basic outline, the character’s basic stories written, and that’s about it. It works well for me.

But, to me, the non-writerly things are more important. These include, but are not limited to, house work, time off from the office, grocery shopping, and just generally making sure that all the mundane things are done before November 1.

For example, each year, I try to take the first week of November off work, so I have time to just sit and write. I can usually get a big lead on the needed 50,000 words during that week, so it pays off for me to do so. But, taking that week off and working on writing, I need to make sure that stuff around the house that would normally distract me is taken care off. This means, making sure the dishes are all washed the night before I start writing. Laundry is done before that week. All the grocery shopping is done. Any cleaning that needs to happen in the living room takes place before that week begins.

This way, I can just focus on writing.

Does it always work? Well, to be honest, it hasn’t completely worked yet. Mostly because it’s tough to get everything done before the writing begins. However, getting as much of this mundane stuff done as I can before I start the writing helps me focus better, and so in that respect, I have to say that it’s a huge success.

Even if that means that sometimes, I’m still vacuuming instead of writing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: Planets for Sale

Welcome to another entry in Friday Flash Fiction! This was my entry in this week's Five Minute Fiction, over at Leah Petersen's blog (check it out, it's fantastic.
When I first saw this prompt, "Planets," I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite Issac Asimov stories, Buy Jupiter, in which a group of marketeers try to sell Jupiter as the largest neon sign in history. I jumped from that to planets as real estate, and from there to... well, read below, and enjoy!
“And here we have a nice one,” the salesman said, pointing out the window of the spaceship. “Three large rings and four moons that present just the most breathtaking sunsets you can ever imagine. The sun is a bright yellow, much like your native system, and the atmosphere is compatible with you and your species.”
“Wow, that really is a fantastic view,” the man said, looking at the planet slowly rotating below them. “But, I dunno… it’s just a little… over the top. We just want something simple, but beautiful. You know, large oceans, large land masses for farming, islands for vacations, that sort of thing. Our people are just looking to settle down, start fresh. You have anything like that?”
“I think I do,” the blue salesman said, a smile crossing both his mouths. “Come with me.”
The man took his wife's hand, and they followed the salesman down a corridor and through another teleportation tube, where the salesman showed them another window. Below was a stunningly beautiful blue green ball of a world. It had a single, large moon, and a yellow sun shining over the horizon, highlighting the seas and oceans. It was breathtaking.
“I think you’ll find this has all the requirements you’re looking for,” the salesman said.
"Wow, it's fantastic," the man said. "What's it called?"
"It's called Earth," the salesman said, smiling again.
“Well, what do you think, Eve?” the man said, turning to his wife.
“Oh, Adam, It’s perfect,” she said. “We’ll take it!”

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Plans and more plans

I know I haven’t been blogging much. In fact, I just did a blog post stating that I haven’t been blogging much. So, I’ll not take the time here to re-hash that topic.

Instead, I’m here to inform you what some of my more immediate plans are for this website.

One, I’m going to start posting some reviews. These are mostly going to be of fellow authors that I follow on Twitter/Facebook/Google+ who’s books I have been lucky enough to get a hold of. I will try to make my reviews honest, even if I didn’t like the book, but I’m also not going to be mean and nasty, nor fanboyishly happy. I’m going to try to be fair in these reviews. Hopefully, it will work out.

On the topic of reviews, I have two books on the docket that will get reviews from me. One is R. B. Wood’s first book The Prodigal Foole, scheduled for release on October 30. I’m currently in the process of reading my ARC this novel now, and also have an interview with Mr. Wood, which will appear here on October 25. After that will be a review of D. Ryan Leask’s book, counting Down the Storm, which I was lucky enough to win in a recent Five Minute Fiction. I may just get an interview from him as well, just because I like that idea. It really depends on if he’s okay with it, and maybe I should, you know, ask him that first. I’ll let you know.

Beyond reviews and interviews, I will continue to post my short fiction and blog posts about my opinions on things as I feel the need/desire.  I have one story that I am working on cleaning up and hope to have posted here on Friday.

So, really, that’s all I got so far. Hopefully, I’ll get back into the swing of blogging and get more posts on here regularly. I really enjoy this blog, and I hope that you do to.

In the mean time, here’s the book trailer for R. B. Wood’s The Prodigal Foole. I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I Suck at Social Networking

So, I realize that it’s been over a month since my last blog post. (Shit, really? *runs to check last blog post date, then checks the current date.*) Okay, not really over a month, but pretty darn close to a full month. Far to long for a blog that people will keep reading, right?

I’ve also noticed that I hardly post anything on Twitter anymore, and that most of my posts on Facebook are just sharing cool things OTHER PEOPLE have posted.

And it’s not like I stopped liking or enjoying these things. I love this blog. I love Twitter and Facebook, and all the friends I’ve made through those places.

I just suck at Social Networking.

I think the reason for this is the social part. I’m not really good at that part off the computer, when dealing with people face to face. Why should I believe that I’m better at it online?

And it’s not like there’s been nothing going on in my life. Lots of stuff is going on.

The ren faire guild my wife and I belong to is going through a restructuring that looks promising, and has us both wanting to stick around where previously we were considering quitting.

I started a tabletop RPG group and managed to get in one actual session of play before it was put on hold as the couple who’s house we play in decides on if they are moving or not.

Recently, my family took a trip to Disneyland and California Adventure, where we had a blast!

My wife celebrated her 40th birthday.

I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary at work this month.

I just got a brand new phone (a Samsung Galaxy S II), and man, am I super excited about that!

And there’s things happening in the world that I am interested in, too.

Occupy Wall Street is going on.

Steve Jobs died (today!), and I’m still sorting my feelings on that. Hopefully, I have a blog post on that soon.

There’s TV Shows that I’ve become interested in.

Doctor Who (I’ve just finished Season 5 on Netflix, but it runs out there… I can’t figure out how to watch Season 6 online without paying $3 an episode on iTunes, and I’m starting to go through Doctor Who withdrawals).

Haven on SyFy (I still cringe to type that) is awesome.

The webseries, The Guild, is running a really funny and fantastic season right now.

And, of course, there’s writerly stuff to talk about. I’m still trying to get myself to finish the Snow White in Space novel, hopefully before NaNoWriMo, because I plan on starting a whole new novel in November. But the truth is, I’m struggling getting myself to sit in front of the computer and write. I just seem to want to play video games. I don’t know if that’s a sign that this novel sucks and I just give it up, or that I’m just procrastinating, and I should suck it up and move on.

My point here is that it isn’t like there’s not stuff I can talk about. I just, for some reason, am not talking about them.

Normally, this would be the point where I tell you all that I’m going to change all that, and post here more often, and talk on Twitter and Facebook more often, and become a better Net-citizen.

But the truth, that’s a promise I’m not sure I can keep.

But here’s what I can promise. I promise that I will TRY to post more often, about whatever happens to possess my geeky little mind, whenever I can. No set schedule, because it’s obvious I can’t keep one for very long. But, as often as I can manage.

So, I’m still here, and I hope you’re still reading. Here’s to hoping that I can keep this up again.

Thanks for sticking with me, and for those of you that haven’t unsubscribe from my blog after this post, double thanks. There’s some cookies and milk for you in the kitchen.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Where was I on 9/11?

Where was I on 9/11?

This is a question that has been asked a LOT over the past week. Well, I decided to take today to answer it.

The short answer is the same as a lot of people. I was at work.

At the time, I was working at my newly hired job as a customer service rep, taking calls that morning. I remember finishing a call and noting that some of my co-workers were agitated. I asked what was going on, and the reply I got was this:

“A plane just hit the World Trade Center in New York.”


I remember thinking it must have been some guy with a private plane that was drunk or something and few off the lanes. I figured he did more damage to his plane than the building.

Then, someone said that a second plane hit the building. That was when I knew something was up. I started looking up news on the Internet, and found out it was jumbo jets. Two jumbo jets had just slammed into the World Trade Center. The towers were falling. People were dying. And it was happening live, not in some bad “destroy the city” movie.

We continued taking calls, of course, placing orders, but as time went on that morning, fewer and fewer calls came in. Eventually, someone pulled out a large TV from storage and hooked it up in the break room. There were reports of a third plane, heading for Washington, aiming right at the Pentagon. It was a nightmare.

My memory gets a little blurry here. I remember calling my parents, and listening to my dad yell something to the effect of “It’s the Arabs. I knew it was as soon as I first heard it.”

I remember people in my office getting sick and crying.

I remember trying to take phone calls from customers that had no idea what was happening.

I also remember the next few hours afterwards. Plans were down. No more flights around the country, which meant that lots of our products were not going to be delivered on time. It may seem strange, but at the time I can remember looking at the TV, watching the towers burn, listening to the reporter say that all flights are grounded, and thinking “I just know we’re going to get some call from someone that’s pissed off we couldn’t get his order delivered on time.”

The company offered to let people go home if they had family in New York, but they also kept the doors open and the phones operating. I had a sister in New York, but she and her husband were safe. So, I stayed through my shift, working as best as I could. It was all I could do. I couldn’t think of anything else.

I don’t remember much after that. I was terrified, to be sure. People had died, lots of them. Our country had come under attack. The next step was to retaliate. We were going to war. And this frightened more than anything. Not that I thought we had any other choice, I just don’t like the idea of men and women going to a foreign country and dying.

The next day, I went back to work and indeed took a few calls from those people that were pissed off that his mother didn’t get his order in New York, and her birthday was ruined. Right, because not getting the flowers you ordered on the day that thousands of people died is the reason your mom’s birthday was ruined. I had a hard time being friendly to those people.

But I also had calls that made up for it. There was a guy that wanted to cancel his order, but was willing to still pay for it, because he knew it wasn’t our fault. There were people that wanted to send flowers to Ground Zero, to be placed on the site in memorial. There was even a woman that wanted flowers sent to the New York City Fire Department.

Those people just made my day.

And so, that’s the answer to where I was on 9/11. That’s my story.

I don’t think it’s that unique, or even that special, but it’s the only one I have. It's what I can think of to do to remember today. Posting this story here.

I, for one, will never forget that day.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Problems with Technology

So, I’m having some technology issues.

I don’t mean that I’m having problems with my personal technology. I’m talking about in the Sci-Fi book I’m currently writing. It’s set in some nebulous future where space flight is pretty common. It’s main character is a teenage girl. And I wanted the technology to reflect the kind of social networking that teenagers do in modern society. Only, you know, sci-fi it up a little.

The problem I’m having, however, is that current cell-phone technology is pretty sci-fi all ready. I mean, think about it. You probably have in your pocket right now a phone that is every bit as powerful, if not more so, than the desktop I am currently using to write this blog post on. You can not only talk to other phones from it, but you can also surf the internet, use it as a GPS unit, connect with Facebook, Twitter and Google+, play video games, view movies and TV and even us it as a calculator to figure out how much of a tip to leave at that restaurant you went to last night. And none of this includes instant messaging or texting. And all without being plugged into the wall. The number of things a phone can do these days is impressive.

And the number of ways a teenager uses it to keep in touch with people is also impressive. Not that any of this is limited to teenagers, mind. It’s just that my main character is a teen, and so I’m trying to think in those terms.

Most teens that have cell phones these days are in almost constant contact with each other. Texting and updating their social network status’s are just part of it, I’m sure.

So, here’s the issue I am having. What will this kind of interaction look like in, say, one hundred years?

Right now, in my book, everyone has what basically amounts to a tablet, a high-tech iPad with a holographic interface. From it, they can connect to the net, communicate with people via holographic video chats, etc.

However, the tablet seems a little bukly to me, in light of current cell technology.

But, I run into problems if I try to make it all smaller. So far, my best thought is to have something similar to a Bluetooth, handsfree set in your ear. From there, a holographic display appears in front of you that you can manipulate with your hands (like in Minority Report). It would be mostly clear so it doesn’t interfear with your vision. It works basically like a personal computer, maybe even with some kind of AI in it.

I like this idea, but I still fear that it’s not all that advanced. Maybe I’m just being paranoid.

It would take some re-writing to make this idea work, but I like it better than the tablet approach I’m using now.

For now, I’m going to keep writing as if the tablet approach is the final decision until I figure out where I want to go.

In the mean time, I would love to hear from you about your ideas and tips for handling technology limitations in sci-fi stories.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Magic Bullet

As a growing writer, I find myself doing more and more stuff related to writing. This means reading more stuff about writing. Blogs, both from pros and those yet to be published. Podcasts, also from pros and amateurs. And especially books. Writing books from all stripes of writers, even from writers I don’t normally read. And one thing I’ve noticed in all of these forums is that new writers such as myself often ask questions where we’re looking for a quick path to success, that short route that will get us into the shoes of J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyers. Sometimes, we even phrase our questions in the form of complaints, and I've even heard many say that these two authors achieved their success through luck.

Well, I’m here to say that all of these sources of writerly information also have the same answer to these questions of “how to I get my book published? How do I write a successful novel?”

Hard work.

And that’s it. That’s the answer. I’ve come to see that it’s the only truth out there. When hundreds of published writers all give this answer to those questions, it’s not because they all belong to some secret published writers club that is inventation only, and they don’t want to invite you. It’s because it’s the simple truth.

I know that many of us, myself included, don’t want to see this answer. Or, more often, we nod in agreement, while inside still not believing it, still hoping that there’s some magic bullet out there that will bring us success.

But let’s look at things. Yes, on the surface it appears that Ms. Meyers had some incredible luck in getting her series published and then turned into a series of successful movies. But even with all that, she still had to sit down in front of her computer and write. She had to write and write until the story was finished. Then, she had to go back through it and edit it and re-write it, and do that until it was finished. Then, she had to seek an agent, which meant doing that thing many writers seem to hate: submitting query letters. And I have no doubt in my mind that many agents passed over her book, for one reason or another. Yes, even Stephanie Meyers got rejection letters. But, she kept working, she kept submitting, she maybe even revised her novel more. And then she got an agent, and you know what happened then?

That’s right, she worked more.

There were no doubt more rounds of edits, more drafts that had to be done with the help of her new Agent in order to get the book to a state that the agent felt could be sold. And then the agent did her job, and started finding a buyer.

But even there, I’m sure that Ms. Meyers kept working. She went back to the computer and started on her next book. Maybe she even started on this before she got the agent. In fact, I’d put money down on that. It’s what we writers do.

Then, when she got a publisher who bought her book, the work still didn’t stop. She went through more edits and rounds of drafts, before the editor felt the book could be published. After it was published, no doubt Stephanie had to market her book. She had to do book signings and show up at book stores.

I’m not sure how it works when Hollywood buys your book (hopefully, some day I will), but I imagine that it involved even more work for Ms. Meyers. Maybe not in terms of the script itself, but I’m sure there was still work for her. Negotiations, meetings, reviews, help in making the movie look more like her book. Whatever it was, it was work.

Did she have fun doing all this work? I certainly hope so. Otherwise, it wasn’t really worth it, millions of dollars or not.

So, even though her success seemed quick to us, that’s only because we say the end product, and not all the backend work that went into it.

Hard work.

It’s what we need to do. It’s what I need to do, it’s what all writers need to do. It doesn’t matter your genre, your word count, your style. It doesn’t matter if it’s novels, short stories or poetry.

Hard work is the only thing that will get you there.

So when you hear authors or your favorite blogger say that there is no magic bullet, listen to them. Don’t just nod your head to be polite, think about what they are saying. Because they may just have some insight into this.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I’m still here, or OMG! A REAL BLOG POST!

Yes, it’s an honest to God blog post!

I want to apologize for being “off grid” so to speak. It’s really quite simple to explain. See, recently, I was overcome with an idea for a novel. And when I say overcome, I mean it. The idea struck me, and I went “that’s cool,” and then let it stew in the back of my head, as I do with most new ideas. But it didn’t stay there. It forced it’s way past all the other ideas to the front of my brain, demanding to be heard. It did this for the better part of two weeks, until finally, I started writing it down.

And that’s what I have been doing this whole month. Writing a new novel. It’s one I like, I’m having a good time writing it so far, and I’m just over 20,000 words into it. It’s been time consuming, it’s been frustrating, and it’s been crazy, but it’s also been good. I’ve been writing every day this month. Well, almost every day. Out of the month of July so far, I’ve only missed writing two days. And most of those days were spent writing in this new novel, and most of that was 1,000 words or more. Not bad, if I say so myself.

On a whim, I also decided to sign up for Camp NaNoWriMo with this same novel. I figured, if this sucker was bugging me so much, finishing 50K words in July would be doable. Well, I’m 12,000 words behind right now, and it doesn’t look like I’m going to catch up by the end of the month. I’m not giving up, to be sure, but I don’t think I’m going to win.

But you know what? I’m not sure I really care. The novel wasn’t going to be finished in 50,000 words anyway. And I am writing every day, and making good progress in this book. I’m going to keep working on it until it’s finished. So, while yeah, I would like to say I won the first ever Camp NaNoWriMo, it’s just not a priority for me. I have a family, a day job, and a novel to write. How long it takes me to do that is irrelevant. I know that I will get it done.

So, that’s what’s been happening to me. Thanks for putting up with my flaky update schedule lately. I’m going to try and get back to at least a once a week posting, if not more. But I make no guarantees, really, because this novel is demanding. And I want to spend time with it.

So, I’ll be here when I can. I hope you will be too.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Memories of Writing

My parents tell many tales of the stories I would tell when I was a little kid. Stories of super heroes fighting against villains, brave knights slaying the dragon to rescue the princess and sometimes super-heroes aiding the brave knight to defeat the evil wizard. Often, these stories involved whatever toys I was playing with at the time, so at times the evil wizard was the Cobra Commander figure, and my brave night was my teddy bear.

While I love these tales, and my parents tell them with obvious pride, I often wonder how unique it is. I mean, don’t all children tell stories with their toys as they play? I know my kid does. It’s part of playing with toys, isn’t it?

So, I don’t often really consider these tales part of my writing life. But, looking at them now, I realize that they are. Even if every kid in the world makes up stories for their toys as they play with them, the truth is, the difference between a writer and everyone else is, we never stopped telling stories when we stopped playing with the toys. (Okay, I never stopped playing, either, to be honest).

My first real memory of writing, though, was when I was in elementary school. Our teacher had given us an assignment that involved writing a short story of approximately 500 words (at least, I think that was it). Most of my classmates groaned. 500 words was a lot! That’s nearly two pages written out in nine year old script. But, me, I couldn’t keep my story within that confining limit.

My Dad remembers this event, and likes to say this: “The teacher just wanted a few paragraphs, but my poor kid had a whole novel in his head.”

And so I did, or at least a novel for a nine year old. I even remember what it was called. “A Shot in the Dark,” and it involved a murder. I was really stressed out over it, though, and didn’t know how to confine my story. So my mom told me to ask the teacher what to do. And so I did.

The teacher smiled at me. “Chris,” she said, “the 500 word limit was a minimum. If you want to write more, please, write more!”

I think now that she was just excited to have a kid that actually wanted to write. And write I did, until I had a full ten pages of story written out. I got an A+ for it.

I don’t really remember writing it, or even what I wrote. What I do remember is the excitement I had in putting words down on paper. I told what I felt was a complete story, though I couldn’t tell you know how much structure it had, weather there was a real plot, or if I built as much suspense as my nine year old brain thought I did. But it didn’t matter, because I had written it. I was so proud of those line, loose leaf, stapled pages with my scrawling printing in pencil. I had written a story, and no one could take that away from me.

Years later, I would experience that same feeling when I finished my first short story, and again when I completed my first novel. It’s a feeling I get almost every time I write sometime.

I wrote this. It’s mine, and I am proud of it. And there is nothing that you can do to take that away from me.

It’s a feeling I try to hold on to, each and every time I sit down to write.

Because I think that without this feeling, none of this would be worthwhile.

Friday, June 24, 2011

We Are Writers!

So, lately, I’ve been reading lots of ‘how to write’ books and blog sites. Everything from Steven King’s On Writing to Bird by Bird from Anne Lamont and Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury, and several blogs from authors I follow on Twitter and Facebook. These writers cover a wide spectrum of genre’s. Everything from horror, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal romance, erotica, fiction literature, poets and even a few non-fiction writers.

And one thing struck me about them all today.

They’re all writers.

It may sound like a “dur” statement, but here me out. It didn’t matter what genre they wrote in, or even how long they were writing. They were all writers. And would have been considered writers by everyone else, too. There’s just something about writers that other writers recognize, and it’s nice to see that it’s genreless.

We are all writers.

We’ve all had shitty first drafts. We’ve all gotten rejection letters. Many saw low sales at some point in their careers. We all struggle to get that first sale. We all dream of that day when our names are printed in gold on the spine of a paperback. We spend time in front of our computers, poring out souls out for others to read. We all worry that we’re hacks, and that someday, someone will point that out to everyone. We’ve all dealt with that dreaded blank page, mocking us for not being able to put anything on it. We’ve all struggled with finding inspiration. And we’re all passionate about writing.

No matter what we write, we love doing it. Some of us love doing it so much we do it in multiple genres, which I admire.

So, what I’m really saying here is that, in reading all this stuff, it’s nice to see and feel that I’m not alone. We often say and hear that writing is a lonely craft. And sometimes, it sure feels that way.

But today? Today, I feel like I am part of a much larger community. Today, I feel like a writer.

We are all writers.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The first ever #SciFiLitChat transcript

Here's the transcript for this week's #SciFiLitChat, the first ever! Woo! :)


@BlanchardAuthor: #SciFiLitChat is on! Our topic today, world building in Sci-Fi. Come join in the conversation with myself and @surferartchick.
June 23, 2011, 6:32 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: Question to Sci-Fi writers: Where do you start when world building your universe? #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:33 pm

@surferartchick: #SciFiLitChat is on! Our topic is world building in Sci-Fi. Come join the conversation!
June 23, 2011, 6:34 pm

@surferartchick: When I start building a world I start with a sketch of what I want the tone to convey. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:35 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: My world building usually starts with story needs. Do I need royalty? If so, I need to explain why. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:39 pm

@surferartchick: @BlanchardAuthor royalty? #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:41 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: Sci-Fi shares lots of world building needs with fantasy, but lots of it is unique to Sci-Fi. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:41 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: For example, dwarves and elves serve well known roles, but aliens can be made for whatever role you need. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:42 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @surferartchick As an example. Star Wars and Dune both used royalty. It's an important question, to me. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:44 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @Grokdad I agree that the world needs to match the characters, but it also needs to meet story needs. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:45 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @surferartchick I've seen SciFi with spaceships and royalty both. Not uncommon. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:45 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @Grokdad Sometimes, it works better, for me at least, to have some of the setting sketched out before the actual writing. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:45 pm

@surferartchick: I try to draft the major components of tech as a secondary to the story. Sprinkling it--if you will--into the world. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:49 pm

@surferartchick: @wrytersblockDH Ah, I see. Royalty can also mean military regimes too, I get that. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:50 pm

@surferartchick: Hey @momebie what are your thoughts on world creation? #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:51 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @surferartchick Classic battleTech is a prime example of using Feudal system to rule the vast span of stars. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:51 pm

@momebie: I think it's one of my very favorite things to do. There's little more exciting than building a place from the ground up. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:53 pm

@momebie: It's why I'm trying to teach myself to draw, so that I can better visualize the things that spring into my head. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:53 pm

@surferartchick: Though, I think it is very important to set the rules of your futuristic society quickly in your work. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:53 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: I agree with @surferartchick re: Tech. I usually let story determine tech needs. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:54 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @momebie Not a bad idea. I recommend maps for fantasy worlds, something like that for Sci-Fi could work too. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:55 pm

@surferartchick: '@momebie That's one of the tools I use when creating a world. If I can reference it later via image it keeps the world inline #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:56 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @US_Nessie @Grokdad I try to have the world at least sketched out before I write, but I only reveal it little by little. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:57 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @blanchardauthor @momebie I've been known to draw star maps for my universe, for continuity and visualizing. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:58 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @blanchardauthor @momebie I've even had story ideas spring up from drawing and labeling my maps. It's a creative booster. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:59 pm

@momebie: .@surferartchick Yes, that's what I'm going for. Now I just have extensive word document notes and they can be hard to search. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:59 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @wrytersblockDH @momebie It helps to have that visual. I've drawn solar system & starship maps to help me stay consistent. #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 6:59 pm

@wrytersblockDH: @blanchardauthor I've drawn ships and emblems out to help me describe them in my writing. (Built a couple out of Lego too :D) #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 7:02 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: For some reason, I'm not seeing any new posts in #SciFiLitChat... anyone else experiencing this?
June 23, 2011, 7:16 pm

@momebie: @wrytersblockDH I think what I really need for myself is a wiki. Which will come in handy when I'm Lucas big, right? ;) #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 7:19 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: @wrytersblockDH Lego's, Nice! You ever use them to create aliens? ;) #SciFiLitChat
June 23, 2011, 7:19 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: Well, gang, I gotta go back to work, so that's it for #SciFiLitChat for me. Please, keep the conversation going. It's been fun!
June 23, 2011, 7:27 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: I'm going to try and get a transcript of today's #SciFiLitChat up on my blog later today.
June 23, 2011, 7:27 pm

@BlanchardAuthor: Meanwhile, join @surferartchick and I next Thursday at 11:30am Pacific for another #SciFiLitChat.
June 23, 2011, 7:28 pm

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Waste of Time

I am currently reading On Writing by Steven King. I’m just in the beginning of it, his biography, and I’ve reached the part where he tells the story of his first self published endeavor in eight grade. His English teacher pulls him aside and commits that most unforgivable of sins: she tells this budding artist that he is wasting his time and talent writing “junk.”

I’m sure everyone reading this can remember a time when, early in their carriers as writers (or even some other artistic endevour) that someone has said this time them. Usually someone we care about, someone that we look up to, someone who’s opinion matters to us. Most often, it is several someones, strung out over a period of time.

“Why do you waste your time writing that fantasy crap?”

“Sci-fi? You should write something important.”

“You’re clearly a talented writer, why waste your time on this?”

As if sci-fi/fantasy writers have no talent. I’d love to see someone tell Neil Gaiman that he’s wasting his time. Or go to J. K. Rolling now and ask why she isn’t writing something important. See, it’s only a waste of time until you succeed.

And usually combined with these statements are the people that want to encourage you, but secretly feel the same way. They say things like this:

“I think it’s wonderful that you want to write, but what are you going to do for a living?”

“That’s great, but you really need to learn a skill you can make money with.”

And while, yes, it is true that most authors still need a day job, the fact is, these people are telling new artists, most of whom are still unsure of themselves, unsteady in their new paths, that they do not have what it takes to make it. And this, to me, is unforgivable.

I speak from personal experience here. I’ve had people I love and who matter to me say many of these things. And I didn’t write for years because of them. I spent most of my time in high-school wondering what I would do for a living, because I was suppressing my artistic desires. Because I belived that I was not good enough to make money doing them. I’m not blaiming these people, you need to understand. I’m just saying that what I did was believe the things they said to me, because I didn’t yet know better. And I really wish people would stop doing this to new artists.

One day, after I had decided to become a writer, and fuck it all if no one else agreed with me, I was asked this question by a co-worker when she found out I wanted to write fantasy and sci-fi novels.

“Why? You’re clearly talented, why not write something more important? Why not write that Great American Novel?”

Here’s what I said back to her.

I don’t want to write the Great American Novel. I don’t even know what that is. I just want to write a good story that will entertain people. I want to write a book that people will read, finish, put down and call up their friend and say “I just finished this great book, you gotta read it.” I’m not looking to make history, or have my novel added to some High School required reading list. I just want to write good stories that entertain people, maybe make them think, and have them sharing those stories with friends.

And when she nodded her head and then asked again “but why fantasy?” I replied this.

Because I love it.

And this is what I want to tell all new writers out there. Don’t let people push you back, don’t let them pull you down, don’t let them stop you from writing what you want to write.

There are a lot of genre’s out there that I am not a fan of. Romance, paranormal romance and horror top my list. But I will never, ever, tell a new writer that they shouldn’t waste their time on that “junk.” If they are fans of those genres, if they are passionate about what they write, they should by all means go and write it. Just because it’s not something I would read doesn’t mean it’s something that shouldn’t be written. It just means that I’m not that target audience.

So, find what you’re passionate about, find what works for you, and write it.

Because it’s not a waste of time.