Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The End of the World as We Know it, and I Feel Fine

Bought a Mac laptop computer today.

Some of you may immediately understand the painful step I have taken. Some may not. It is very hard for dedicated PC users to cross over and get a Mac but I have the perfect excuse: It's my wife's internet surfing computer. So I really don't have much to do with it other than driving across town and handing somebody 180 bucks. My wife found it advertised on craigslist and thought it looked cute so a few hours later there I was, in someone's living room, listening to his son tell me about the Mac's features and how they are better than any PC he's ever used. The funny part came when, after asking a slew of questions about how a Mac operates, I mentioned that I had always had some kind of Windows based PC. I pointed at his son, who had dark, shaggy hair and said, "I mean look at us right here; we're just like the commercials. I'm a PC and he's a Mac."

However, like I said, it's my wife who will be using it. While there a plenty of new things to learn and unlearn I assured her that there's a whole world wide web of support groups that can guide her through the tricky parts, all while discussing socialized medicine and growing hemp. So I don't really feel like I've sullied myself.

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Non-Olympic Sport

This evening Sons Numbered One and Two discovered their own version of Wii Fit. It's called Extreme Wii Bowling. The object is not really to knock down as many pins as possible, it's to whirl around like a drunken jedi master and see what you can make the ball do while everyone else in the room laughs. No gold medals awarded but at least it was some good old family fun.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

CSFF May Tour

This month's stop on the CSFF tour is MindFlights, an ezine of Christian fantasy and science fiction that I've spoken highly of before. I shall continue to speak highly of them because they still do good work. Recent stories there are top notch, like Red Unicorn and the Knight of Sorrows tales. As a caretaker and herald of contemporary Christian fiction, they take their charge seriously but still manage to have a great deal of fun. And that's what it's all about.

Monday, May 19, 2008

End of Empire Update

'Sunset' got worked over today with some expansion and a few historical refinements. It's now at 4050 words and I think it is very close to what I see as its final final form. The problem is that the more I write of the other stories, the more subtle changes become necessary to keep the entire arc consistent with the same tone and characterization. When any of them get published that will probably set the canonicity of the series but until then I'm free to adjust as necessary.

'Fire and Blood' is now up to about 2000 words and I've barely just started. It's going to be longer than I thought it was going to be and I already thought it was going to be longer than usual. I've got a couple of good characters developing and ideas for a couple more. There might even be room for some Ocean's Eleven type doublecrosses. That and shifting timelines make for interesting plotting.

The fourth story has a few sentences of notes now, most of which center around the time and location: 410 A.D. and the sack of Rome.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Camping Weekend

The family and I went camping this weekend; the first real sunny set of days we've had in Washington. It's interesting how the kids and I judge a successful weekend. They look for as many things to do as possible and I look for as many ways to avoid work as possible. Sometimes they win, sometimes I win. Seldom do we both come out of a weekend satisfied. This time, thanks to the membership campground that we go to with a pool and a game room and a ball field, the kids got their fill of fun. I got to spend some time writing and burning things (not at the same time.)

There's something strangely therapeutic about a campfire. After I burned up all the used paper plates and cups there was no real purpose to the fire but I kept adding things to it. It was just really peaceful with the kids down at the youth center and me sitting by my fire. You all should try it sometime.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What Can I Say...

Every now and again I like to go through the keywords that Google Analytics records as leading people to my site. This morning I noticed that way down on the list, one time, long ago, someone decided to click on my site after it came up when they ran a search for "how to get your wife to shut up."

Hopefully that person did not become an adoring fan.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

You know, the more research I do on the last years of the Western Roman Empire the more I want to tweak the Roman stories I'm working on. There's another book that I think I have to get about the Barbarians of the time which posits that they weren't all that barbaric and they didn't really cause Rome to fall more than they just happened to be standing nearby when it dropped dead of a massive coronary infarction brought on by years of eating cheeseburgers and watching American Idol. (Or something like that.)

Semi-luckily for me, the adventures of Apollo Valerius Delphinius don't really depend on marauding Visigoths for their story arcs. I'm taking the position that the Empire fell mostly in part to internal weight that just couldn't keep up with a changing reality around them. Of course, in one story I've got a German with a bad attitude as villain but that is offset by an uber-patriot antagonist in the next. The plot for the third story is still a bit too fluid for me to assign bad guy duties yet. Needs more research, I guess.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Writing Lessons From Making an Ass Out of U and Me

I had an interesting thought/revelation this morning. At least, I thought it was interesting but since I don't pay attention to my own Writing Lessons, I've probably covered it before. I wrote a story where I had a lot of emotional attachment to the characters but very little of that came across on the page. I actually thought I had improved upon the first version but it was still lacking. I realized that I was expecting the reader to fill in a lot of background details out of their own imagination. This is something I do all the time when reading. If I'm proved wrong later on, no problem, I just adjust and carry on. In a sense, I'm re-writing the story as I go. Therefore, in my own writing, I just ASSUME that everyone does that. So why do I need to provide more than the barest details when readers will fill in the rest? Well, because not everyone reads like I do.

[This post took way too long to write primarily because I kept encouraging Son Number Three to set up his Teletubbies and club them with a stuffed animal while I provided the sound track. Again, again!]

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Book Signing at Powell's

Myself and three other authors from The Return of the Sword will be at Powell's Books in Beaverton, Oregon, on July 1st at 7pm to sign copies and otherwise take part in an 'author event.' The three co-conspirators are Micheal Ehart, Allen Lloyd, and Nathan Meyer. (Who conveniently have written three of the best stories in the book.) If any of you happen to be in the Portland area on that day I would love to meet you and make you buy the book. I'll even sign it with little hearts and flowers. (Hearts getting stabbed and flowers getting trampled, that is.)

Here's the tricky thing, though, once I get over the geek factor of being at a book signing. My signature sucks. I mean it really sucks. Years and years of signing things in the Marine Corps and for work have turned it into nothing more than a sloppy J followed by a slightly curved line. There's no attempt to even try a last name any more. I've also spent years initialing things and that illiterate mark no longer looks like a J or a D. It's a sad thing... but I've got to practice my own signature.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

New Story, New World, New Characters

This weekend I ended up with a lot of spare time on my hands. It was put to good use. Remember a while back I mentioned that I'd quickly written a flash fiction piece? Well, I knew it didn't work as a complete story but the character that emerged from it kept rolling around in my head so I tried to come up with a satisfactory ending. A few typed and deleted and retyped paragraphs later I had the glimmer of something bigger. 2000 words went by and I had a story with some action, some witty dialog, and several bodies bursting into red steam after getting themselves tossed into pits of molten bronze. Good clean family fun.

It was an interesting development because I usually take my time to think through possibilities and evaluate and discard plot lines until something really takes hold. This time I just kind of went with whatever came up next and ended up with something that I think works pretty well. While I suppose over the last month or two I've been subconsciously running through potential story points, nothing was really firm until I started typing yesterday morning.

Now I just have to come up with a title.

Friday, May 02, 2008

The Fix on Raven Kill

Here's a nice review from The Fix for all the stories within The Return of the Sword. "The Battle of Raven Kill" gets a good paragraph.