Category Archives: Personal

It’s all about me. :)

Believe in miracles?

According to a friend on Facebook (I’m too lazy to look it up), 73 percent of people polled by Newsweek thought the question, “Do you believe in miracles,” was a good question for a first date.

My thought is that it’s a matter of context.  It all depends on whether it’s a reference to religion, the 1980 Olympic hockey team, or whether they’ve got a shot at getting lucky.

A crash in the night

I woke up at 2:59 this morning to a loud crash. I thought sure someone was in the house but my search (wielding, of course, a fearsome steak knife) turned up nothing.

Some detective work after I got up  concluded that it must have been snow avalanching off the back roof onto the bulkhead.  But I can’t really tell because you can only see that part of the roof from the backyard and I’m not willing to trudge through snow that deep to find out for sure. 

The alternate theory is that the crash in the night is connected to me reading Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars right now.  The supporting evidence?  The snow on the roof at the front of the house hasn’t moved an inch and remains about two or three feet high.

More Music For Another World reviews

Some more good reviews have come out for Music For Another World, the British anthology that includes my story “Blue Note Heaven.” One review called it “one of the anthology’s most original stories” which was really nice to read.

The trade paper version is still only available through Amazon UK, but there’s a Kindle version now.

Here are links to the other reviews:

Angela Slatter and Jack Deighton.

A short story sale!

My short story “The Floater” has sold to an anthology called Bride of the Golem.  I really like this story and hope you will too.  There’s no set publication date right now, but I’ll provide updates as they become available.

A look back on 2010

What a year!

I sold my first novel, Cracking the Ice, to WestSide Books.  It will be appearing in May, 2011. That all by itself makes 2010 a watershed year.

I also sold three short stories: “Age is a Four-Letter Word,” “A Simple Matter of Priorities,” and “Blue Note Heaven.”

I wrote another novel, several proposals, and a number of short stories.

So although I’m a bit disappointed in my productivity over the latter part of the year, it’s still been a terrific year. 

I intend to make 2011 even better.

The Power of Inertia

inertia – the tendency of a body to preserve its state of rest or uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force.

Man, does this apply to writers!  The more you write, the easier it is to keep writing.  The more you don’t write, the harder it is to get started.

Before I go any further, let me say that all writers are different.  What works for one writer might not for another.  I recognize that there are literary marathoners and sprinters.  The marathoners write day in and day out, or close to it.  The sprinters take a lot more days off, but when push comes to shove show extraordinary productivity to complete projects.

(I will say that in my opinion a lot of writers who call themselves sprinters are deluding themselves.  They simply don’t have their act together and until they get their act together they’re going to have minimal, if any, success.  If you’re writing five or six stories a year, you’re not a sprinter.  You’re a couch potato.  

Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with being a writing couch potato.  As long as you’ve only got couch potato goals and when it’s all said and done you won’t be disappointed have achieved nothing more than your couch potato goals.

A true sprinter might write a 4000-word short story in bursts over a weekend after doing nothing all week, compared to the marathoner who worked steadily on the story for seven days.

Same result. Different approaches.  To each his own.  Those are sprinters and marathoners.

But if you’ve been working on the same story for months… I mean, don’t you know deep down that you’ve lost your way?  Can’t you feel it in your bones that you’re not going to get to your version of the Promised Land of Writing that way?)

Okay.

All that said, I’m a marathoner.  I’ve had years that I’ve written all 365 days.  It works for me.  If I’ve written the previous day, it’s so much easier to keep that momentum going.  To use inertia, staying in motion.  I pick up where I left off and keep the new words flowing.

If I miss a day, it’s a bit harder.  If I miss two days, harder still.

Recently, however, I went through a stretch in which I wrote no new fiction for two weeks.  (Feel free to brandish your torches and pitchforks and call me a fraud.)  It was my longest stretch without writing since making a lifelong commitment to my writing in 2006 after attending Jeanne Cavelos’s Odyssey writing workshop.  A number of things converged to knock me off track, but to be honest those really were excuses, not reasons.

What I found was that the inertia that had served me so well when I was writing 365 days a year was a powerful force working against me.  I felt like the first few seconds of a NASA rocket launch.  A deafening roar.  Immense exertion.  And almost no movement at all.  Those first few inches of liftoff seem to take forever.

That’s about how I felt as I tried to get myself off the launching pad.

So for me, I don’t intend to ever again go two weeks without writing fiction.  Not unless I’m in the hospital and even in that case, I’ll be asking for my laptop.

If you’ve been struggling with your writing, try using inertia to your advantage.  Commit to writing at least five days out of the next week.  Or if you’re a sprinter — a true sprinter, not a couch potato calling yourself a sprinter — then see if a bit shorter intervals between your bursts of productivity work for you.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how you get the work done.  It just matters that you get it done.  At the end of the year, you’ve written the number of new words that are keeping you on track for your goals.

But you may find that using inertia to your advantage makes that path a bit less bumpy.

Music For Another World

I just got my author’s copies of Music For Another World, an anthology of “strange fiction” short stories with a common theme of music.  My story “Blue Note Heaven” leads off Act I.  I hope you’ll read it.

Music For Another World

If you live in the USA, however, you’ll need to do a little more work to get a copy.  It’s a British anthology so it’s available through Amazon Europe but not Amazon USA (at least not yet).  Your best bet is to order from Mutation Press.

The first review is in and it says:

It’s a well-presented book containing a consistently high standard of writing…. The unifying theme of music has resulted in a delightfully wide range of styles and genres (slipstream, ghost stories, alternate history, fantasy and science fiction to name but a few), settings (ranging from deep space through gritty suburban streets to the Christian heaven) and emotional effects. 

Hitting the Lottery

Today’s the anniversary of the day I hit the lottery.  A whole lot of years ago, I married the woman who remains my best friend to this day.  I still can’t believe how lucky I got.

Since this website is focused on writing and the creative life, let me connect the dots.  If you’re pursuing any kind of creative endeavor, you’d better surround yourself with people who will support you.  If the voices you hear are always tearing you down, it’ll be like trying to run a marathon with a couple hundred pounds of concrete strapped to your back.

And no voice is more important than that one you hear when you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night.  (And in the case of my wonderful wife, all freaking day long! :) )

I’ve had some nice successes with my writing in the last couple years and based on a number of factors I’m very confident that some major breakthroughs are on the way.

But I wouldn’t have gotten this far without The Kid, always by my side, picking me up after the disappointments and rejoicing with me after every piece of good news, big or small.

I consider myself the biggest lottery-winner of all.

Author Photos: Going with “The Big Goofy”

Some people seem to have been born in front of a camera.  In every photograph, they look flawless.  Perfect smiles.  Hair never out of place.  An illustrated dictionary would include a shot of them under the entry for photogenic.

Not me.

If I adopt a serious pose, I look like a serial killer. And unless I’m flat out laughing, my tortured grin conjures images of a hostage told to smile despite the gun sticking in his back.

On a photogenic scale of zero to ten, I’m somewhere above absolute zero but it’s a pretty small fractional number. And if my wife is taking the picture, I lose even that fractional number. I adore the woman, but you might say that she’s the Mr. Magoo of photography.  If she’s taking a headshot and actually gets the entire head in the picture, it’s close to a miracle.

So when Mark Harding, editor of Music for Another Land (which will include my short story “Blue Note Heaven”), wrote asking for a headshot for the ebook version of the anthology, I winced.

I dutifully borrowed my daughter’s digital camera and tried the combo from Hell: my wife, the world’s most incompetent photographer, and me, the world’s worst subject.

The following wasn’t the worst shot; it was a typical one.

After one look at these results, my daughter rode in to the rescue.  We met for dinner and she took a couple dozen shots, a few of the serious author look — a.k.a. Dave the Serial Killer — before coaxing me to laugh if that’s what it took to get rid of  Dave the Tortured Hostage.

I was left with a choice between “Serial Killer” and what I came to think of as “The Big Goofy.”  Surely I couldn’t go with the latter.  Authors are supposed to be dignified and serious, aren’t they?  I’d need to go with a shot like this:

Then I began looking at other author headshots and, no offense to my betters, but a lot my partners in crime also looked like serial killers.

Which got me to thinking (always a dangerous thing).   I’m a very happy person.  Not every minute of every day, but I wish I had a dollar for every time I turned to my wife and said, “Isn’t life great?  I’m living a charmed life.”

I’m really a smiling kind of guy.

I also enjoyed writing “Blue Note Heaven.”  Not every minute of it, of course.  There were those inevitable slam-your-head-against-the-wall moments, but I liked writing it and I’m proud of the result.

And I’m delighted that Mark Harding is publishing the story in his anthology.  It looks like a winner.

So why should I look author-serial-killer  serious?  Shouldn’t I look happy?

Of course I should.

So when an e-book reader of “Blue Note Heaven” sees my photograph, they’re going to get ”The Big Goofy.”  I hope they look at it and say, “He’s having fun.”

Printer Troubles

There are some stories you just shouldn’t print out at work.

But, hey, sometimes it’s just too convenient.  You’ve gotten a rejection and you don’t want that sad puppy staring you in the face.  You want to print it out and drop it by the post office on the way home.

At my day job, this sort of thing is allowed as long as the privilege isn’t abused.  Everyone takes advantage of the convenience.  You see the oddest of things in that print tray.  But no one abuses the privilege.

Once, I got to the printer a few seconds too late and someone was reading the first page. 

“Hey, this looks pretty interesting,” the guy said.

I took it as a compliment, but it was the only time anyone has sampled my stories that way.

Yesterday, however, I printed one out that might have caused problems.  It was a story that came out of a challenge a number of my writer friends took on, writing a piece based on some piece of spam we received.  I wrote a humorous story based on my favorite topic.  (No, not food.  My other favorite topic.)

The problem this time, however, was that the printer was in a bad state.  I arrived to see several people surrounding it, having no luck at resuscitation.  The guru for this printer was gone for the day but she’d be back at the crack of dawn.

Only then did it register that I didn’t want this story sitting in the output tray for anyone to read it but me.  I went back to my desk and cancelled the print job. 

No big deal.  Except that the printer queue showed that it was cancelling the last half of the job.  Presumably, pages one through eight were lodged firmly in the printer’s memory, ready to be spewed out as soon Ms. Printer Guru arrived the next morning.

Oh, crap.

Why did it have to happen with this story?  Almost any other one would be better than this one.  Hey, I think it’s a heckuva story and have been told the same thing by highly respected writers.  I’ll be very proud when it’s published and will let all of you know about it. 

But I didn’t want it to be read by anyone standing by that printer.  Least of all, Ms. Printer Guru.  I’d rather my resume be stuck in that limbo than this story.

So I went to the printer, tried some more to fix it.  Hey, I’ve got a brain too.  At least allegedly.  I pressed “Cancel job” about fifteen times.  Then I pulled the plug.  That would have to flush those first eight pages (or at least pages two through seven) from the printer’s memory, right?

But what if it wasn’t really a printer’s memory (lost and gone forever), but instead a small hard drive within the printer?  I doubted that was the case, but this was a high-end model. 

Could those pages be stuck somewhere still waiting to be printed?  I cursed myself for not printing something safe first just in case.

I went home thinking I was probably okay.  Almost certainly okay.  But my subconscious still woke me up before the crack of dawn and I beat Ms. Printer Guru into work.  When she arrived (and finished chatting with someone for ten minutes that felt like an hour), I casually mentioned the problem and she promptly showed why she’s the printer guru.

And the only thing extracted from the printer’s maws was somebody else’sembarassing personal document.

Yippee!  I could stand there and, pure as the driven snow, mutter bemusedly about the stuff some people used that printer for. 

I have, however, learned a lesson.  Some stories are best printed at home.  And if I just can’t wait, I’ll try something safe first.  I’ll print out my resume.