Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 In Review

It's been an interesting year. Full of trials and tribulations; packed with wonderful experiences and memories.

I shared dinners and drinks with very close friends, made new friends, met some very cool people and one of my heroes.

Live music experiences were shared with my daughter and my son. I travelled a bit.

The love of my life loved me and I loved her more than ever before. We laughed and cried and saw movies, ate wonderful food. She spoiled me and I took care of her as best I could.

I wrote a lot but not as much as I wanted. I toyed with some ideas and tossed out dozens more. Several have solidified and I'm continuing to explore them. A lot of what entertained me was suggested by others. It puts me in mind to seek out other things on my own. To recreate the path of my young adulthood.

As weird as that might sound.

This isn't my typical year-end summation. It's fragmented because that's how my year went. Bits and pieces swimming up to the top, demanding my attention RIGHT NOW and BECAUSE IT'S IMPORTANT.

So this little therapy helps me put perspective on some on it. It's not for anyone but me.

To you I wish a Happy New Year. May all the good things overwhelm and overtake the not so good things. Tell everyone about the things that make you happy. Acknowledge the things that make you nuts or cringe or angry then do something about them. Don't sit and wait for others, do what it takes to make the world a better place. Do what you can. There are important decisions coming and you can, yes you can, affect the outcomes. Belief is a powerful thing.

Here some things I enjoyed this year:

 
 


 



And here are a couple of things I'm really looking forward to in 2016:





Be good to each other. You are loved, you are cherished and you have value. Don't let anyone tell you any different. Do what makes you happy, don't hurt anyone. Love all you can, give as much as you can but don't trust too much. Be skeptical, wary and on your guard. Not so much you lose sight of what matters though. You got this.

More to come. 


Friday, November 20, 2015

Obstacle Course

The leaves are off the trees. The cold wind whistles outside. First flurries of snow are expected soon. Must be deep fall. Welcome to the eastern edge of the west.

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James Young, some writer, Suzanne Dome, A.R. Crebs and Todd Hunter
at Wichita's very excellent Air Capitol Comicon. Photo by Trevor C. Welch.

I was on a writer's panel at Air Capital Comicon and one of the questions was typical of such things:

What's the biggest obstacle to getting published?

My immediate response was "finishing your stuff". I guess I was channeling Chuck Wendig but it doesn't change the truth of the statement. These days you can publish easily through the Internet so the only thing that really is holding you back is your own fear or ignorance of how to do it.

But the key is to publish well. Do everything that needs to be done to make your story as good as it can possibly be. That means:


  • Beta readers to tell you how the story goes for them. You don't have to take their advice but you do have to consider it.
  • Your own time editing the piece as best you can. But realize that you will not catch everything. You're WAY too close to it. And you've read it already a thousand times or more.
  • Professional editing. This means paying someone to give it another read for the things you've used beta readers and your own time for. Don't skip this step.
  • A good cover. Yes, you have to pay for that too.
  • Formatting and design. Do you know how to set up your book to go live on the Internet? You can learn if you choose to invest the time. Are you familiar with the concept of book design? Do you know someone who is? Because this stuff matters.
So I'm here to tell you that writing is hard. There's a lot of work that goes into it. A lot of time beyond just slinging words on the digital page. All the stuff publishers do still needs to be done by you, the independent publisher.

But what's the biggest obstacle? Finishing. Don't give up. Keep going. Get the work done. All that stuff in the list is easier when you've got something to show for it.

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I've been turned on to a couple of podcasts this week that I want you to know about. The first comes from my friend Rob who listens to a wide variety of stuff and he tends to point me at things he knows I'll like. So far he's never been wrong.

So in turn I recommend to you that you check out The Message podcast. It's got elements of X-Files, Warren Ellis science fiction, War of the Worlds and NPR's Serial. Here's the pitch:

The Message is a new podcast following the weekly reports and interviews from Nicky Tomalin, who is covering the decoding of a message from outer space received 70 years ago. Over the course of 8 episodes we get an inside ear on how a top team of cryptologists attempt to decipher, decode, and understand the alien message.

Each week she’ll bring you the latest chapter, so it’s important to listen in starting with Episode 1.
The Message is a co-production between Panoply and GE Podcast Theater, unlocking the secrets of healing with sound technology.

If you're like me then you might cast a doubtful eye at GE producing a podcast. There's a long history of corporations putting together art for the sake of art in the early days of radio and television. They of course are recognized for being involved and not all of them embedded commercials in the stories but many did.

This podcast doesn't. It does connect to GE through the disclaimer that they're working on science similar to what's used in the show. That's all the background stuff.

As for the story itself, it's put together in short installments that have dropped weekly. The last episode comes out Saturday and I'm excited for it. This isn't a huge investment of your time and I think it's a worthwhile way to spend about an hour in a cool story.

The other show I'm joining already in progress is The Black Tapes Podcast. Creepy stuff that taps into   primal fears, then twists them around bony fingers. It starts out rocky, like most podcasts do, but seems to find its legs pretty quickly. I'm digging deeper into it because the beginning of it captured my attention and imagination.

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It's a good time for entertainment in general, isn't it? I mean there are maturing and mature means to tell stories. Black Mirror. Marvel's TV series. The CW's DC adaptations. HBO. AMC. The above mentioned podcasts. Welcome to Nightvale.

Then there are authors like Richard Kadrey, Robert Reed, Nnedi Okorafor, Connie Willis, Jo Walton, Liu Cixin, Ann Leckie. Comic creators like Gail Simone, Kelly Sue DeConnick, G. Willow Wilson, Mike Carey, Gabriel Hardman.

Look, even SyFy is re-rebranding. They're moving through into the realms of science fiction again, and not just silly stuff. Hell, CBS has a superhero show on in primetime. We nerds have it good. The future sure looks bright for genre.

We owe a debt of thanks to George Reeves, Nicholas Hammond, Lynda Carter, Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno for stoking the fires all those years ago. And to Glen Larson, Rod Serling, Gene Roddenberry, Gene and Sylvia Anderson, the team at BBC, Jack Webb, Steven Spielberg.

Even Andy Griffith for Salvage-1. I fully embrace the full range of genre, good and bad. It's formed me into who I am.

Yeah, it's a good time for genre. But it always has been. It's easier to find now. That's the only difference.

I've rambled a bit too long maybe. More next time. 'Til then, be good to each other.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Cold Distance

Rainy and cool here on the eastern edge of the west. The leaves are composting in the yard, everyone around us is preparing for a festive holiday of shopping and trampling one another. For my own part, I will stay home, drink whisky and watch Jessica Jones on Netflix.

Welcome.

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NOT the actual cover.

I've begun planning things for next year. That means I had to pick a date for releasing the novel out into the wild.

July 26th, 2016. It'll be available for you to read.

More to come.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

A World of Words

Hello there. Today has been a gorgeous fall day that allowed me to take a long walk, do some work in the yard and have the house open. A warm trend is on tap for the eastern edge of the West and we're ready for it.

Welcome to the world of words.

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Baseball season is over. For the last month or so we've been in postseason playoffs and the Kansas City Royals are in the World Series. They've been magnificent all year and this run against the New York Mets is full of devil magic and miraculous comebacks.

My Twitter feed and Facebook are filled with memes and photos and hair pulling during the games. It's exciting. It reminds me of my youth when baseball meant a lot because of my grandfather. I listen to Denny Matthews on the radio as much as I watch games on TV. Every time I listen I can feel my grandfather's presence around me. On fishing trips we listened to games on whatever AM station was close.

The last three years of Kansas City baseball have been exceedingly special in that way that only your home team being good can be. All my friends who aren't into sportsball have been very tolerant of my posting about how great the Royals have been. I'm appreciative. It's almost over. Maybe tonight but certainly by Tuesday.

Hang in there. The postseason won't go on too much longer. It's been a wild ride that promises a fantastic finish.


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I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. A group of writers who I love dearly are doing it again this year, hosting the local events as they always do. I feel like I've done it for seven or eight years and I've gotten an awful lot out of it. I have learned how to write fast, how to slap the story down on the page and then go back and hammer it into shape.

I've learned how to make room for new ideas by throwing words out. I've learned how to pace myself, to work steadily every day no matter what. (Well mostly.)

What I haven't learned is how to write a solid First Draft. NaNo is great for the Zero Draft. Really great. But it doesn't teach me how to organize my ideas coherently. It doesn't teach me how to write a good novel. Rather it teaches how to write a passable story or a treatment. Which is much more its purpose.

So I'm not doing NaNo for the second year in a row. Doesn't mean I won't do it again but I feel like I've learned as much as I can from it. That said, I am going to try to get out to the write ins because the energy there is aMAZing. It won't hurt me to soak up a little of that.


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This past week I turned in the third Evolver book called, for now, Acceleration. It's cool to have completed a trilogy of stories that appeal to young readers. Like any good writer I left plenty of room - PLENTY of room - for more stories but essentially the origin is complete.

In this story, Jackson must face off against the man who murdered his father. Meanwhile, the reason for the power behind him is revealed. It's full of twists and turns and it's got a bit of Dr. Moreau in it.

Here's hoping it finds some traction somewhere. If it doesn't, I'm glad for the experience. It was really too much fun.

Also I'm working in earnest on a short story that will be published next year. Stay tuned for information on that one. It's very cool.

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Finally, I'm nearly ready to send this novel I've been tinkering with out to beta readers. This will be an extensive revision of the NaNoWriMo novel from 2011 so a couple will have read it before. I'm so close to being ready to put it out into the world I can taste it. I can't wait for everyone to read it. I hope it's as good as I think it is.

We'll find out. Watch for announcements here.

In the meantime, I'll be at Air Capital Comicon on November 14. I'll have the first two Evolver books, the first Agent of DANGER book, and I'll be writing Velocity Stories for you too. Come find me in Artists' Alley, will you? There are a lot of us who love to talk to people.

And that's all from the rolling hills atop the prairie, where a little baseball team can make a big noise and the plains can generate fantastic visions. Glad you stopped by.

OH! Here's a little thing. Just a bit of fun.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Tinkering

Hello there from the plains of the fantastic. The hills here are alive with something that's not music. The godamned mites are chewing us up and asking for more when we work outside.

Whew, it's been a while, hasn't it? Only a few weeks but it seems like a lifetime. I've got a glass of Jameson here and some things to mention.

#*#
I finished a manuscript that's been languishing on my desktop far too long. Months, really. I began working on the revisions about three weeks ago and it took two weeks longer to get them done than I thought. A couple reasons for that: 1) I've developed some bad habits while I wasn't writing every day and 2) I couldn't stop tinkering with the damn thing.

While this year has been tough for me personally, I could have been writing more. Perhaps it would have helped. The bits of writing I did accomplish in the spring and summer I was proud of. But along the way I've gotten off track, let my focus dissipate. I'm much more easily distracted by social media and TV than I was before say, February. I will open a story and do a couple of things then flip over to Facebook or Twitter and stick my beak in where it shouldn't be. The net result is that I wasn't writing and I was making myself crazy. Over the last few weeks I've tried to do that less. Some days it works.

So when I finally turned off the static I printed a copy of the story and got out my red pen. The manuscript looked like someone spilled a gallon of blood on it. Red everywhere. Everywhere. On all the pages. It wasn't going to be a revision so much as a rewrite. This reenforced that I can get a story down fairly quick but then I have to go back and beat it into shape. And likely more than once. I wish I was a better writer and could produce a more polished manuscript on the first go but I'm not. Maybe I will be someday. Until then, I need to build that revision time into my work.

#*#
At the beginning of October I ventured off to St. Louis with a couple of friends to attend Archon. At which we hoped to meet Harlan Ellison. It was a great road trip with two good mates. We all love Harlan for different reasons that are the same when you get down to it: the words. Great writers make it look easy. Harlan makes it look effortless. The way he explores an idea makes his work inspirational. 

The panel he was on about the future of science fiction was enlightening. It made me want to go back to the hotel and write. Immediately following the panel we were at the front of burgeoning line to meet him. I thanked him for the stories and told him I did my live-writing Velocity Stories because of him. He showed me how Leo and Diane Dillon worked his face into the covers for Paingod and other paperbacks in the same series. 

And I did write back at the hotel. I wrote some interesting things. Some which you may have seen, the rest is part of three pages of handwritten notes.

Writing for the future because of Harlan Ellison. Well, partly anyway. Thank you again, Harlan. You're always an inspiration.

#*#
I became aware of Connie Willis because Harlan mentioned her in an interview ten years ago. I've read some short stories but this week I started reading Passage. It's about Near Death Experiences and as I get deeper into the story I marvel at her world building. It's the kind of thing that gets taken for granted when a story is rooted in the nominal present day. In the first couple of chapters Willis takes the reader into a hospital to see how it works, how the people interact. It's brilliant. I'm enthralled and lose myself in the pages. The writing is so good that the average reader won't notice it. I recommend you find a copy for yourself. 

And that's all I've got, though I've been tinkering with other things too. I've got some thoughts on things that are divisive and of course the election is swinging like a pendulum over the electorate strapped to a concrete slab. But that's for another time. 

All is well on the eastern front of the west. Looking forward to see you in Wichita at AirCap Comicon. Do the right things. The world is a happier place when you do.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wishes

I wish for more books and the time to read them.

I wish cancer was gone. Completely and forever.

I wish the stories could leap from my head onto the page.

I wish my daily stress level was lower.

I wish my health was better.

I wish I could see all my friends every day. I miss you all.

I wish I was rich in things that mattered to the world and not only in the things that matter to me.

I wish I was better.

I wish I could travel freely. My wife would like that too.

All these things are possible with the application of time and determination.

All these things are possible.

I wish it were so.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Catching Up

Hi.

I'm gonna roll a couple things into one post here because I'm pretty busy with the day job, writing (finally!) and reading (thank goodness!). So, here we go.

ITEM

Today is my parents' 47th wedding anniversary.

This last year may have been the most difficult of their marriage but they're still together, still loving each other. They set great examples of what a marriage really is: lots of work, lots of forgiving, lots of sacrifice and lots and lots of love.

Back in 2002, I made a comic in an effort to take September 11th back for them. I think I was successful and they have a copy of it in their living room. The originals hang in the KU Memorial Union and that makes us all proud. (Forgive the crappy scans.)

 


I love you, Missy and Carl. I hope you're having a wonderful day. I will be in touch later today.

ITEM

As I mentioned above, I'm writing and reading again. I feel great when I write and read and I haven't felt great much of the year. Yeah, it's related to the rough year my parents had but I'm not talking about that here. It's been difficult. The experience of being invited to Kansas City Comicon was the point where I felt like things were finally breaking my way again. I wouldn't trade that for anything.

So I'm working on finishing up Evolver III (the second Evolver book  is available here) and doing another revision on my novel, writing a short story for Ed Bickford's Robot Pulp, revisiting a couple of other short stories and just generally WRITING.

I finished a book for the first time in MONTHS last week and started another (Alex Grecian's THE HARVEST MAN and Neil Gaiman's TRIGGER WARNING, respectively.) I'm reading a book a friend has written and have two more to read over and critique. I'm participating in a workshop/critique session this weekend and reading for that. It's a great time and I've got a lot of catching up to do. Can't let myself get overwhelmed though. Just keep swimming, right?

ITEM

One of the ways I managed to start coming out of the doldrums that consumed me for three quarters of the year was the release of Failure's magnificent The Heart Is A Monster. I've been harping on this all summer so I don't need to continue but it's a great record you might like if you listen to it.

I saw the first night of their first tour in 18 years with my daughter on my Mom's birthday. I saw them six weeks later with my son, which was his first live concert experience. I've never been happier than at those two shows. Failure is one of my daughter's favorite bands, as they're my favorite band. What a great time. I'll remember both shows for the rest of my life for being with my kids.

So I owe the band a great deal of thanks for this summer. You helped me pull out of a serious depression and I got to share you with people I love. I couldn't ask for anything more but you gave us a new album that we all love too. You guys are awesome.

ITEM

So things are good. Busy. Busy. Busy. The Failure shows really helped bookend the summer session, the KCCC was a wonderful middle section and at the end of all of this I've come out on the other side ready to face whatever the hell is coming next.

Stay with me. I'll update when there's something to tell.

Thanks for reading. I hope you all are well and know that there are people around you who love you. I'm so damned lucky. You are too.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Happy Anniversary: From the Glad to Be Alive Dept.

Seeing Failure live in July made me the happiest I've been all year.
I'm gonna keep this short. (Relatively.)

Two years ago today I nearly died. No kidding.

If you want to read about it, here is the original post describing what happened as I understood it then and here's last year's recollection. You don't have to read them. Most of you know the story anyway, but just in case.

Massive Bilateral Pulmonary Embolism. "Near fatal" the docs say now when I visit with them. Probably caused by an aggravation of Irritable Bowel Syndrome that was diagnosed only the month previous to me landing on the floor and then in the hospital. What aggravated it? A colonoscopy. A colonoscopy I should have had two years before that because I was showing signs of IBS.

But I was a baby and didn't go for the procedure. I chickened out like a stupid Man.

Could all this have been avoided? Maybe. Not for sure but maybe. Likely the IBS was caused by undue, extreme stress. What caused the stress? I don't know. All this began five years ago, or longer so it's kind of hard to remember. A combination of things including work, depression, fear of failure. Probably lots, lots more. Poor eating habits. Too much extra weight. All of that contributed, I'm sure.

So from five years ago I was in bad shape but I didn't know it. I was walking a lot, I'd been able to maintain my weight. What went wrong?

All that stuff above.

So when this calendar year started off with some extra stress I did the same thing I did two years ago: I hid. I stopped exercising. I ate more. I drank more. I coped as best I could. Everything built up and built up and more stress piled on. I couldn't focus, I couldn't write.

That was the worst part, not writing. I really needed to get things done but people close to me... well, it was scarier than when I was dying myself.

And it went on through June. So six months lost to stress, extra weight added and nothing to show for it except that everyone has turned out to be all right or is recovering nicely. Or holding steady. It's taking a longer time than I would like for me to feel like I'm better, or even closer to 'normal' but it's happening.

Today I'm glad to be alive. The stress isn't quite gone or has been replaced by other stressors but I'm working steadily towards where I was before.

Where I'll pay more attention to what my body tells me, I'll be more aware of what I'm putting in it and why. Especially the why part.

So on the anniversary of my near fatal event, I'm resolving to be better. Again. I can't waste what I've got ahead of me. Again. I'll cherish the things and the people that make me happy and try not to worry so much.

Glad you're all with me. Hope we can be together a long, long time.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Inside The Gap

I'm a huge nerd for the band Failure. They have a new album out, The Heart Is A Monster (which you can stream here and buy at your favorite music outlet), they're on tour and I'm in heaven. 
Anyway, this very short tale is inspired by some Failure songs. I won't tell you which ones but a fan should be able to pick them out. The references aren't all that obscure.
It's also an example of a Velocity Story*, the kind of thing I will be doing when I'm at the first ever Kansas City Comic Con August 7 - 8. I took the words "Inside The Gap", a lyric from a song on the album Magnified and started from there. 
So if you're going to be at the show, come see me in Artists Alley and I'll do a story for you. Especially if you're a fan of Failure.

INSIDE THE GAP

The frog spoke. “Stuck in a decaying orbit is NOT where I wanted to be tonight.”
“Yeah, well, me neither.” All the instrument readouts floated in front of me in perfect marching order. None of it was good news. My training dictated I run through all the possibilities and I couldn’t stop myself. The satellite was going down with us in it.
A speaker above the comm satin crackled and hissed. That’s all it had done for the last couple of months. No one answered when I called even though I reached out every hour I was awake. If not for the frog, I wouldn’t have had any company at all here at the end. Houston was long gone.
“Seven orbits left,” I said, “until we burn up.” I let out a long sigh and wiped away the useless screens. My eyes unfocused and I stood mute. My fate was sealed.
This ancient satellite was more than twice my age. It far outlived its manufacturers and their expectations. For twenty years it was my home and more than twice my age. We’d gotten old together and I fully expected to be recalled two years back but that didn’t happen. Budget cuts, Houston said. No money for the program, no money for a rescue. Sorry.
With help from one of the friendly voices I reprogrammed the printer to make food that was technically edible and I kept the garden up. I learned through trial and error to maintain the life support systems. Sometimes the frog supervised me but he never assisted.
A week ago the last cleaner bot gave up the ghost. Dust began to settle everywhere. The frog didn’t notice.
“You want some of the red ones?” The frog perched in the command chair, darting his eyes to my right. The medical bag sat on a powered down console, zipped closed. “These last orbits are gonna be rough.”
“No,” I said. My gesture was emphatic. “I’m going to the garden.”
“Better take your helmet,” the frog said. I think he was trying to be helpful.
I wanted to see the roses. They’re a variety bred especially for the watcher program. They’re supposed to be soothing. They were dying. Lack of water killed them the same as what crops I had been able to salvage.
Still, they had a certain beauty. They, like me, were relics of a more romantic time.
“Four orbits,” the frog said over the intercom. Maybe I should have asked him his name. It didn’t matter now.
The satellite lurched. I fell into a bed where sad-looking cornstalks bent under my sudden weight. Then I was floating. The artificial gravity had gone out.
I looked up. The frog was with me, sitting on the edge of the garden. “This is it.”
My helmet floated out of my hand as I relaxed. The heat grew. 

I saw the sun.

*Velocity Stories are hand-written flash fictions. Each is unique and tailored to the person who suggested it. 'Velocity Stories' is the new brand for Velocity Readout. I'm in the process of changing all the references so forgive me if there's any confusion. They're the same thing. See you at the show.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

The Bastards Got Me

Wanna know what kind of real impact stress can have? Here's the list of things I have not done because of extraordinary amounts of stress over the last six months:


  • Slowed my finishing a draft of my novel. 
  • Kept me from proofing said novel to send to beta readers. Depression associated with the stress contributed to that, too. "It sucks." - Me
  • Slowed me reading a friend's book. I've promised her a critique and I'm working on it but most of that work has come in the last three weeks or so. And it's still slow.
  • I have books from two other friends that I owe crits on too. 
  • The last Evolver book needs to be proofed and edited before I send it to the publisher. It's written and has been written but it needs a polish before it goes out. Haven't been able to focus on that.
  • The second Agent of DANGER book needs to be written. Can't even think about that, yet.
  • Six or seven short stories have been kinda sorta outlined but not even attempted.
  • And don't even talk to me about my To Read pile. It includes Trigger Warning and The Harvest Man, two guaranteed great books but my concentration is shot.
I'm serious. Trying to concentrate on anything the last six months has been hell. The stress has been from family illnesses and lots of trips to hospitals. Nothing that hasn't turned out good in the end but there were a lot of dark days in there where I wasn't sure which direction I was headed. I foolishly made promises I truly wanted to keep but which all fell by the wayside.

To those whom I promised a critique or a piece of writing: I am sorry you don't have it yet. 

But the last couple of weeks have been much better. Health situations have dramatically improved and my life is beginning to return to what normal was back in early December. Getting out of the house to go see Failure last week was a watershed moment. Sort of the end of the heavy stress.

I've got a lot of work to make up. Instead of worrying about how it's ALL going to get done I have to prioritize what's most important, what can get out into the world fastest and what is most meaningful.

What I'm getting at here is that sometimes Life Takes Over. You have to roll with it and work as best you can. I don't think my day job suffered other than I was gone quite a bit for various things. That was my focus because that's what pays the bills. The creative stuff, despite what I hoped and promised, just ended up litter on the side of the highway. 

Time to put on my safety vest, drive back out there and start picking up after myself. 

More when there's an actual update to talk about. 

Except I may write a bit about how much Failure means to me. Or I may not. I may just keep that one to myself. We'll see. Getting any bit of writing accomplished right now feels pretty damn good. That's why I'm typing this. 

But time to go now. See you soon.

Friday, July 03, 2015

@Failure Live at Liberty Hall

It’s not often Lawrence, Kansas, gets things just a little ahead of the rest of the country but on July 2, 2015, at Liberty Hall, we got to see a much beloved band flexing its muscles. Failure played the first show of their 2015 tour here last night to a very respectful crowd of devotees ranging in age from their 20s to 60s, from people who had seen the band before and a majority who hadn’t. The opening act, Kansas City’s Sundiver, primed the crowd with an interesting, sonically challenging set but everyone was there for the headliner.

Starting with ‘Hot Traveler’, the first song off their ‘new masterpiece’ The Heart Is A Monster, the band was a little stiff. They loosened up as the crowd was obviously into it. Ken Andrews, Greg Edwards and Kellii Scott sounded album-perfect despite a snafu with Edwards’ guitar before the second song. When they got into ‘A.M. Amnesia’, they were having fun, moving around the stage and showing off a little for all of us.


Fantastic Planet was immediately represented when they played ‘Another Space Song’ then ‘Sergeant Politeness’ and Magnified was served with ‘Frogs’. The crowd bounced and banged their heads along with the thundering drums and gut-punching basslines. Edwards and Andrews interchanged playing bass and guitar all night with Edwards managing keyboards and the programming.


They played lots of new material during their ninety minute set including ‘Counterfeit Sky’ and ‘Otherwhere’ but it was ‘Mulholland Drive’ that was the centerpiece. Every song was tight and sounded exactly the way they should have. With the majority of the set coming from Planet and Monster, it felt like Combined with the set’s end of ‘The Nurse Who Loved Me’, Failure proved without equivocation they are as inventive as ever. This tour should serve as notice that Failure is relevant to the current music scene. It may have been eighteen years since they were noticed but now is their time. If they are in your town, or your area, go see the show. It may not be another eighteen years before they come around again, but don’t miss the chance to see them.

Friday, June 19, 2015

IT IS FRIDAY


Wishing those of you who are fathers of children with two legs, four legs, feathers and scales a Happy Father's Day this weekend. And to those of you filling the role of father in any way at all, Happy Father's Day to you, too.

Be good to one another. Look for the positive stuff and hang on to that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

False Expectations

Cats, of course, are indifferent to everything.
I don't have any demands.

My goal is to be a writer. I've achieved that. I write all the time. Some of you read my stuff whether here or at the Confabulator Cafe or maybe you bought one of my books at Amazon. I'm a writer.

I've been paid to do some writing. While I don't make a living as a writer, what I've made qualifies me in some small sense as a pro. At conventions I write stories for people based on two or three words they give me. They approach my table, I pitch the idea to them and they give me a prompt. I suppose that qualifies me as a pro.

In some circles, anyway. Even if it's only in my head.

But I don't demand anyone else think of me as a pro writer. I never will. In my mind I will always be trying, always striving to reach that level that makes me feel like I might one day be considered with writers I admire.

Yes, there are famous names on that list. But there are names you may not know too. None of them matter because it's only for me.

I have no expectations. Well, at least they're low expectations.

Really, what I want is for people I don't know to read my stuff and have a response. Good or bad doesn't matter. I don't hope for a bad response but it's happened. The only expectation I have is that my writing will engender someone to fume with rage or frustration or alternately give me some sort of praise.

Then I'll feel like a real pro.

For instance, when I go for my now semi-daily walk, I often encounter strangers walking along the same path as me. I almost always nod and say hello to them. Even if they have earbuds in. I expect nothing in return but I'm always pleased when someone nods back or even acknowledges me with a 'hi'. Something quick, nothing committal at all. Just a word that says, "I see you exist".

That's what I want as a writer.

To know that others, people I don't know, to acknowledge my existence. I don't expect it, but it's a goal.  I don't demand it. I work for it.

As my life settles back down I'll go for daily walks. I have to get this weight off. If I pass you on the sidewalk and say hello, I hope you'll nod back.

That's all I ask for. (Edited to add this:) But if I don't get it, I'll keep walking. And writing.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Soft Reset (An Update of Sorts)

Get to it, already. 
Last year I submitted several stories around in the hopes of selling one or all of them.

No dice.

Which is okay. I focused on improving what I could and working on other things. I didn't let the rejections get me down. I couldn't. You can't. Part of being a writer is having that thick skin to keep going on in the face of multiple people you don't know saying "No thanks".

So things and stuff happened in the interim and I didn't resend that story anywhere else. I did finish a redraft of the novel. Finally. But the short stories have kind of lain fallow in the interim.

Today I read an issue of one of the magazines I submitted to. As I read I noted a story in the same vein as the one I sent them last year. It's not the same, not at all. The rejection I got from this particular magazine's editor was terribly encouraging and I see why now. There's no illusion that this story beat mine out for publication, don't get that idea. But this shows me just how close I might have been to being accepted.

At least that's my interpretation.

And now I'm prepping that story that got rejected for submission elsewhere. Maybe I am that close to selling a story. Maybe not. Regardless, I'm resetting on that story to get out into the world.

While things and stuff are happening.

I've heard that the secret to success is never giving up. Guess I'd forgotten that.

Positive things on the horizon folks. Even if the story doesn't get picked up. Because it can't get picked up if it's sitting on the hard drive and not out running the streets.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Watch Sense8

I'm lousy at reviewing movies and music and books and stuff. I like what I like. To wit:




I probably should have developed an ability to review, but it just didn't matter that much. Still doesn't, really.

Anyway, last night I finished Sense8, the new Netflix original series created by the Wachowskis and J. Michael Straczynski. Here's the best summary I've found from the show's Wikipedia entry:

The plot revolves around eight strangers from different parts of the world who suddenly become mentally and emotionally linked and it is set to explore subjects that its writers felt science fiction shows, at least ostensibly, tend to ignore[6] or skim through[7] such as politicsidentitysexualitygender and religion.[7][8]
Which I think will tell you whether or not you're going to like it. There are a lot of characters and the story deals with the things we, as society, tend to ignore or find offensive.

Of course it speaks to me.

Having grown up with Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Uncanny X-Men comics, I had no trouble keeping story lines and characters straight. The show is truly global in a way that reminds me of Warren Ellis' Planetary, too. Once the story lines begin to intersect, the show really takes off. I deliberately did not read anything, no reviews, nothing about the show before I started watching so there was no baggage carried with me. As I watched I began to think about individuality, how the individual functions in different ways in different situations without changing at the core.

There's action and sex and intrigue and romance and lots of long dialogue. If you're open to the ideas, the work is done very well. I've enjoyed a lot of what the Wachowskis are trying to do in film since the first Matrix. They're reaching out to make the audience really think about stuff. Even with Speed Racer. I give them credit for the efforts, especially with Cloud Atlas which was beautiful to look at and packed with design and feeling and meaning.

So if you like globe-hopping stories about people who are real in every single way but have extraordinary powers, I recommend Sense8. Very much so. There's a wonderful payoff at the end of the season that hopefully will lead into a second.

This is amazing, brave, ambitious work. The actors are top notch, the writing is unambiguous and I want more.

Hope you like it.


Sunday, June 07, 2015

A Fable About Time

He finished his coffee, set the mug down and left the house.

The front door hissed shut. Outside the weather was beginning of summer warm, humid. He looked up at the azure sky. No clouds. Like in that terribly vivid dream just before he woke.

What he needs is simple but elusive. Where to look first? His neighborhood is quiet as a 1950s suburb. Only one hundred fifty feet away is the parkway, a huge artery for the city. Thousands of cars travel it every day. There's an accident at least once a week within a block of his house.

He is confident though he doesn't know where that confidence comes from. It's sudden and has been hiding from him for months now. A moth to a flame, it draws him down the sidewalk to the edge of the busy street.

To the left is oncoming traffic. Rush hour. Barreling down toward him, their lights blazing. That makes him pause. It's daylight but heading towards evening. The lights are brighter than they should be, and they change colors. This baffled him.

Best not to think too much about it. The more he thought, the more his confidence waned. He closed his eyes.

White noise of rubber on pavement, engines pushing metal and fiberglass faster and faster enveloped him. The sound was punctuated by the occasional thud thud thud of woofers. He felt it in his chest. He moved to the curb, the front of his sandals hung off the edge. The cars passing so fast and so close together buffeted him, caused him to sway in the gale.

A deep breath. Hold it, exhale. Step.

His feet didn't touch the ground. The cars passed harmlessly through him. He tingled all over. He didn't open his eyes. He walked at an easy pace.

A last step up. Solid ground. Grass under his sandals, brushing against the bare skin of his feet. He opened his eyes and smiled.

What he needed was here, in the median. He knew it.

A moment to take in what had happened. Traffic on both sides was bumper to bumper at super speed. All the cars had their lights on. The sun bore down on him from the west. A shadow from a tree bent around him, avoided him.

Everything is surreal. He is unsurprised. A torrent of adrenaline surged through him.

With the sun at his back, he faced the next tree in the median. A poplar, who knew how many years old, probably eight feet tall was unaffected by the rush of air on either side. Its trunk was easily four inches in diameter and it was held straight by plastic chain links and posts on either side. The line of cars extended beyond the horizon. Even though he could see red lights in either direction, the cars did not stop coming. He shrugged.

The bark of the tree was smooth, so maybe it wasn't an elm. Tree identification was not one of his strengths. Maybe he could study the subject when this was over. He could use it in something if he did. It would broaden his knowledge base.

He knelt down, ran his hand over the bark. Now it was rough on his hands and he thought maybe it was an elm. In the end it didn't matter what kind of tree it was.

Cars rushed by, some honking loudly. He didn't pay attention. He never paid attention. His friends would say they'd seen him walking, had honked at him but he never noticed them. It always felt wrong to assume people passing him on the street and honking were trying to get his attention. He always apologized. It was only in the last two years or so that he stopped explaining why he didn't acknowledge them.

He wrapped both hands around the trunk and pulled upward.

Enough rain had fallen over the previous two weeks that it came right out. Like a weed. It shouldn't have, no way should it have come right out. The root ball was two feet in diameter. The man stood with the tree in hand as the plastic chain links stretched and gave way.

Traffic didn't stop. A lot more horns honked, on both sides. Pretty soon all the horns honked as they passed. He watched, bewildered, as they blew by him. More puzzling was the fact that the tree wasn't heavy at all. Not at all.

Reverently, he set the tree down, outside the hole its root ball left behind. The tree slewed over into the median, out of harm's way from the traffic. He patted the root ball.

He saw a triangle of something white at the bottom. He lay down on his belly and reached into the hole. Brushing dirt out of the way, he revealed the entire packet. It was about the size of a 3x5 card and the purest white. Incredibly the dirt left no trace of itself on the packet. He whistled.

The noise of the cars was gone, he noticed. Relief streamed through him the same way the adrenaline had. Gingerly he grabbed one corner of the packet and pulled it up close to his face. The smell of the wet earth comforted him. He was reminded of his childhood, of the days when the he walked around the dirt basement of the house his father built. A worm wriggled to safety on the right.

As an artifact, the packet was plain. Except for the fact that it was pure white and unmarked by the black dirt there was nothing remarkable at all about it. It was about the size of an index card and thin. He set it on the side of the hold and pushed up to sit on his knees.

If he looked up he would have seen the cars and trucks racing on either side of him. Semi tractors pulled their trailers, bumping over the seams in the roadwork. Police cars and fire engines blared their sirens and the blur of passenger vehicles was a steady stream of variable colors. They ignored him as much as he them.

All he saw was the packet. The prize he'd crossed over for.

Inside it was a handful of multi-colored pellets, tiny. Like Chiclets. How many should he take?

One, he decided. Just one.

He picked a green one, held it tenderly between thumb and forefinger. "Here goes nothing," he said and popped it in his mouth.

The cars stopped. No sound, no movement, nothing. Everything around him was a statue. He turned, looking both ways up and down the parkway. It was the same. The dream was true and he'd allowed it to propel him out into the median.

Surreal didn't cover anything any more. An unearthly silence built up, threatening his calm but he stood, chewing the chiclet.

The man stepped in between a Cadillac and a Kia into the parkway. The drivers were both talking on the phone, or would be when they moved again.

Once he'd made it back to his side of the parkway, the man looked back again. Nothing had changed. the tree was still on its side, he held the packet of Chiclets in their improbably white pouch. He spat out the gum.

He was old enough to remember vinyl records and cassette tapes. The sound that came to him was much like a stopped record or a stuck tape running back up to speed. The cars moved again, the drivers gripped the steering wheels.

"What the?" he said out loud. The world turned. Everything resumed as normal.

But it hadn't been normal when he went out. Everything was already sped up. The man shook his head to clear the nagging thoughts.

"Now I'll have the time," he said.

Though it would be limited to what was in the packet. He remembered that much from the dream. Whoever was behind the dream, he knew it was best not to question it. No need to wonder why he was given the vision or the power to act on the dream. It would only drive him mad. He turned and left the parkway, his sidewalk and his driveway to the muggy day.

Inside, he poured another cup of coffee. It was still hot. All the misery of recent months was still fresh and he hadn't done any solid work in that time, either. He was behind.

Now, with the Chiclets, he could get things done. Lots of things. Everything that mattered to him. But where to start?

He wandered into the office.

His laptop was open.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Kidd

Sleeping in a sunbeam, every cat's dream.

Kidd, our little old man, the orange kitty, has passed away. I wanted to write a whole lot about him but decided that those were my memories and I don't feel like sharing them.

I miss him.

I didn't want another pet when he came to us but now I won't know what to do. Kidd, you turned out to be a mighty fine friend.

Rest easy now.
Brothers, tried and true.




Keeping watch.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Slamming the Brakes

Today I want to quit. Throw my hands up in frustration and give in to the nagging voices and lack of or outright negative reviews.

There are times I want to stop being a writer in my spare time and find something else to do. Something I'm better at, something that means a little more to more people. Maybe I should just focus on my day job which I'm a helluva lot better at.

I keep this quote from Harlan Ellison prominently displayed in my office at home:

"You can either seek the approbation of the monkeys or you can continue to produce your art at the level at which you do it best." 

Sometimes it helps me through the bad days. Not always - but sometimes.

What it does is remind me that I have to write for myself first, not what little audience I do have. Do I level up from time to time? I sure as hell hope so. The more practice I get the better I should be.

And though it feels like writing in a vacuum, I know I have a lot of support. I've been with my writer's group for seven years or so and they're a terrific bunch. They keep me honest. I've got friends who've been behind me for fifteen years while I've gone from making mini comics to trying to be a prose writer.

I'd like to think I've grown as a storyteller.

But that gnawing doubt works on me around the edges taking little bites here and there. So much that today I want to quit. Again.

I'm not going to. No way. But I'm staying realistic about this. I'm writing for myself first. If you dig what I write, thank you so much. I'd love to hear from you. If you don't dig it, well, I understand. There are a lot of things I don't get into, too. I'd ask you to give me another shot on something else that intrigues you but if you don't I understand. There's so little time nowadays for things we don't like. So thanks for trying my stuff out. I appreciate it. Very much.

The likelihood of me being a best-selling author is pretty slim. One day I'd be grateful to make enough money to support going to shows to do my live writing. That'd be awesome. Or even enough money to fix the major things around the house that need doing. Here's a favorite, if out of context, quote from The Upside of Anger:
"It's a tall order for a patient motherfucker."
But that's me. I'm a patient motherfucker. I'll get close to what I want if I keep at it. So I'm not giving up, I'm not quitting even though I really want to. The writing will get better. I'm grateful you're along for the ride. I hope someday to write something you really like.

I'll leave you with this from Ursula Le Guin:




Monday, May 25, 2015

More Updates: List 1 Update 4

It may be time for a new list.

Anyway, here's what's going on:

COLD DISTANCE is still in revision. Every time I get to a new stage with it I find things that can and should be improved. The draft is done, I'm almost done with the passive/clarity search and seizure. And then I read the first chapter and see all kinds of ways it can be better. I have to admit the possibility that I'm looking for things to keep it from being set free but I don't think so. I really do want it out there so I can start on the sequel but I want it to be the best it can be.

Sigh. I need a break, I think. Maybe just a week off from agonizing over it.

So that makes book three of the EVOLVER series (you can buy books one and two here and here) jump up top now. It's in Zero Draft, which means a p/c search and seizure (see above) and a read through for logic. Been a while since I've looked at it but it shouldn't really take any time at all to get it in shape to send off.

And right behind that is AZTEC. More on that soon.

Perhaps a short story for the Confabulator Cafe next month. I have an idea, just need to start typing.

Then back to COLD DISTANCE. And hopefully the short stories I've had laying around waiting to be handled.

Meanwhile, notes keep piling up for other things.

So yeah, I guess we're on to list 2 once I get Evolver out the door. How are you doing? Everything all right in your world?