What A Difference A Day Makes

Yesterday was something special. Yesterday, I became the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

Get it?

If you haven’t figured it out yet, don’t panic…

Ok, now you totally get the joke, right?

No? That’s it. I’m throwing in the towel. Let me know when you’ve read “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” and we’ll revisit today’s post.

 

😉

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The Ides of March, the First Day of Spring, and Always Being Late for Everything

Yeah. Sorry. Things happen, and I should blog about ’em. So Happy All the Stuff that’s Happened Since My Last Post.

I’m a little shocked at how much time has slipped by without me taking a moment to share a note with y’all. Where does the time go?

Funny you should ask. I’ve spent a lot of time researching time. And space. And spacetime. And relativity. And that time plus the velocity I’m moving through space adds up to the speed of light. So I’ve been travelling through spacetime at the speed of light, which I guess explains some things. Not really, but maybe.

Am I rambling? Yep. Should I stop? Probably. Will I?

 

In time…

2018 is a GO!

Ah, the new year. A time of beginnings. A time of potential. A time of promise.

Or in the case of 2018, a Monday.

I won’t bore you with the details of my new year’s eve antics, mainly because there weren’t any. I watched TV, ate pizza, and was in bed at a reasonable hour that was so reasonable it wasn’t even remotely close to midnight. My dog did wake me up with a few barks at 12:02am, so I wished her a Happy New Year as well and went back to sleep.

When I woke up, it was Monday, the first of a brand new year. In typical Monday fashion, I pushed up my sleeves and got to work. With a whole new year ahead of me, I figured some planning was in order.

So what will 2018 hold for me? It should be interesting…

  • My spec fiction short story, “Forever Portend” was selected for Sic Semper Serpent’s “Spontaneous Combustion, vol. 2.” It’s a super cool project you can learn more about here. Fingers crossed for a late winter/early spring release.
  • The Books and Beer Pop-up Bookstore will be going strong for its second year.
  • I swear to Pete that another book is in the works. It might even see the light of day in 2018…
  • A fun long-shot: A couple of buddies of mine and I are planning to open a bookstore. More details to come on that.

Before, between, around, and after all of those things, I’m planning on having a great year full of food and friends and fun, and I hope you do, too!

Spontaneous Combustion – Writing a Story in 24 hours

For those that are interested, I thought I’d share a bit about my experience with writing a short story in less than 24 hours.
*** This has some spoilers. If you haven’t read “Forever Portend”, you should, and you should vote for it ASAP so I can get into the Spontaneous Combustion 2 Anthology 🙂 ***
Note: The stories don’t display on mobile or tablet. You’ll need to use a desktop or laptop. You can vote from mobile or tablet, though. You’ll need to create a Patreon account (free to do), and then you can vote for your favorite story.
OK. About writing that story in a day…
I recently did this as a participant in Sic Semper Serpent’s Spontaneous Combustion “Book-in-a-Day” contest. A bunch of authors gathered at a local bookstore to get the rules last Thurs night. After we were given the rules, the ‘gun’ went off, and we all scurried away to go write. We each had to submit a story within 24 hours.
Writing a story in 24 hours was a really fun challenge – especially when, in real world terms – I had a lot less than 24 hours (you know, day job and stuff). It was a good exercise in going with an idea and committing to it. With such a short time frame, there’s no time for take-backs or do-overs.
The rules for the contest required that the stories be spec fiction and that each story have the following three things:
– A balloon sword used in place of a real sword
– Sage advice from a non-human entity
– The line of dialogue, “Uff da. This lutefisk is limp!” (lutefisk is fish soaked in lye. It’s Scandanavian, and just awful. Really, really awful.)
My story starts with a person contemplating all of the colors of a black eye, and wondering why, of all the colors, none are black. I think environment influences ideas, and I’d started writing the story at a bar/arcade that I like a lot. I had a beer, played a couple of video games, like Samurai Showdown and The Walking Dead pinball. I think that’s where the idea of a black eye started, since I’d been virtually punching stuff for about an hour before I sat down to write.
(Yes, after the proverbial gun went off, I went to a bar and played video games. What can I say? It seemed like a good idea at the time…)
Anyway, with a black eye as a starting point, I felt like I already had conflict. Someone had punched my main character. I just had to figure out why.
The next element I wanted to work with was the ‘sage advice from a non-human entity.’ What to choose? A cantankerous talking cactus? A multi-dimensional spatula? Everything that popped into my head seemed ridiculous and over-the-top. My wife texted to say hi, and I signed off with ‘Love you.’ I had a moment of thinking about the little electronic box conveying my love for my wife, and my brain jumped to those old fashioned carnival machines that ‘measure your love.’ (here’s a video). With that idea, I not only had the second piece of my story – the sage advice from a non-human – but a setting.
One of my favorite books/movies is “Something Wicked This Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury. The second I thought of an old-fashioned carnival, I wanted to create something that felt like Ray’s carnival.
So. I had conflict. I had a possibly magical machine. I had a setting. I had a dark and ominous tone. The rest of the story started falling into place. After a fast draft, I started to flesh it out. An element here and there to make it other-worldly. Since I started with colors, I made sure to put a lot of visual stuff into the rest of the story. Buttery yellow, brightly striped, wetly gleaming red, etc. A couple of things to better define my characters, like Jan makes casserole, and Nathan scrawls directions by hand instead of using navigation.
The hardest part was coming up with the ‘love notes’ the machine created, but that was also the most fun. I wanted each note to ‘portend’ another part of the story. So Jan’s note suggests two may compete for her heart. Even Nathan’s fake note, “… a love for the ages you’ve found this night,” alludes to his impending fate.
Writing so quickly meant I had to just take ideas as they came and trust my gut, and then make them work. That’s not to say I didn’t toss ideas out. At one point, I started writing that the carny that punches Nathan is actually Loki in disguise. That potential story was WAY too big to write in 24 hours, so I quickly discarded it. But for the most part, once the frame was in place and I had a couple of anchors for the story, I just let the rest fill in around it.
So that was my experience writing a story in 24 hours. If you haven’t tried that particular challenge, I say do it! Get a few friends to do it with you, and then share/critique your stories after. It’s a great exercise and a lot of fun.

When Writers Read Their Writing

Writers.

We’re an odd bunch. We sit in dark corners, keep erratic hours, talk to imaginary people, and have a Google search history that would land most folks on a government watch list at best, and at worst, in a sanitarium. We pour our hearts and brains onto the page so that hopefully, someone will READ what we’ve written and be entertained, informed, enlightened, disturbed, or some bizarre combination of all of the above.

The key word up there is “read.” We’re totally fine with people reading our stuff. That’s kind of the whole point of being a writer. And then someone says, “Hey! You should totally read your stuff! Out loud! To a room full of people!”

And we smile, scream, and run for the hills.

But a few of us come back, tap the mic, cringe a bit at how loud the speakers are, and actually read our shit out loud. It’s agonizing and intoxicating and terrifying and wonderful. We hate it. We love it. We regret it. We can’t wait to do it again.

If you have the chance to see a writer performing their own work, take a moment to appreciate how damn unsettling the experience probably is for that person. Tell someone who is afraid of heights to try the high-dive at the community pool. Tell a champion ping-pong player that they’re going to wrestle Hugo the Huge or Slammy von Turnbuckle. You’ll get the same reaction you’d usually get when asking a writer to read.

And when they’re good… When they have not only written something wonderful, but own that mic and give that story a damn good telling…

You’ve just witnessed someone going waaaaay out of their comfort zone to share something really special with you, and they pulled it off with flying colors. It’s magical. Just magical.

I had the opportunity to see a group of Minnesotan spec fiction writers perform yesterday. The MinnSpec Meetup Group hosted their annual Wordbrew, where folks mingle, drink, and then sit back and enjoy writers performing samples of their work. There wasn’t a single performance that I found wanting, and there were a couple that were pure gold. Seeing those writers give their stories their all, and feeling the crowd response was a fantastic experience.

So the next time you have a chance to see a writer perform their work, jump on it. Go. Open yourself up to the experience. That writer will be immensely grateful, and you’ll be better for the experience.

A Cold and Gray Rainy Day

It’s the perfect Saturday.

I’ve never been one to mind a rainy day. Given the choice between mid-50’s and overcast, and mid-90’s and sunny… I’ll take the cold and gray every time.

Here’s a perfect example. My wife and I were in Miami, FL a couple of years back. We eschewed the beach and found the darkest pub we could, one complete with dim lights and dark-stained wood and thick, rough tables, and proceeded to hide from the sun until nightfall.

Is it any wonder I wrote a book about a vampire?

Back to the present… It’s a cold and gray rainy Saturday. I’m in a local cafe, with one eye on my little laptop, and the other on the drippy, dreary day just past the window. I’m putzing with a few projects. Downloading a ton of photos from the cloud to work on a photo book, putting a few more words into a short story, flipping through FB posts, researching what conventions to table at in 2018, and yes, blogging in my usual, pointless way. I have nowhere to be. I have very little of importance to actually do, and I am in no hurry whatsoever to do those few things that probably should get done. The dark roast coffee is delicious. My hoodie is the perfect weight for the temperature. The barista is streaming a Beatles station.

Like I said, a perfect Saturday.

Chapel Con, Here I Come!

Another weekend, another con!

Tomorrow, I’ll be heading down to Albert Lea, MN for the first-ever Chapel Con. The organizers run a comic shop and tattoo parlor, and really wanted to give folks in southern MN and northern IA that couldn’t make it to the HUGE San Diego Comicon something to do.

We’ll see how it all comes together, but judging from the prep work they’ve done and the awesome celebs they’ve lined up… it’s gonna be a damn good con.

If you’re in the area, stop in and say hi! If you’re not in the area, hop over to my Facebook page for some pics and updates during the weekend.