Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Where Willingness To Die Proves I'm Shallow...

Being sick, generally speaking, sucks. In my case, I was sick last week. Funny, every time I get ill I might hate life for the duration, but generally come away from the experience with some life lesson about human nature, or the nature of nature. 

I realized, for the first time in my life, that when that moment comes, that time when I’m destined to lie down for the very last time. Close my eyes for eternity… well, it might not be so bad.

I was lying in my bed. A comfortable, king sized bed with plenty of room to kick my legs and get all tied up with the blankets. I was punching, feebly, mind you, at my tempurpedic pillow, one of those crafted with the finest in Swedish space age technology (because, they go to space all the time I guess) and costs hundreds of dollars to own – and I was lamenting at how horrible my life was.

I did appreciate the irony of course. On the rare day that I don’t eat out, I still enjoy a diet that the King of England would have envied a few short centuries ago.  I can eat ripened grapes any time I want. I can have watermelon, tomatoes, pineapples, whatever. Hell, pepper was practically a wonder of the world at the time. 

So, like I said. I was sick, feeling sorry for myself despite that fact that I have a higher standard of living than 99.9% of all the people that have ever lived. And as I inch ever closer to forty, I’ve already managed to beat the life expectancy of the typical adult up until around 150 years ago. And I’m in better shape than most of them. I mean, hell, I still have my teeth. Actually, I still have my baby teeth (that's true). 

So, while I’m staring at the ceiling, doped up on Nyquil and Vapo-rub, and I have my moment, the shining moment that we all experience at some point in our lives eventually.

I’m going to die.

I don’t want to. I want to be here as humans slowly and painstakingly uncover the mysteries of the universe. But then again, as I laid in my misery I thought, what if I just closed my eyes and it was all over? All I could think was that it might not be so bad.

So, while I don’t want to die, that pain and suffering a common cold put me through made me actually long for the sweet release of death.

I have to say, that seems incredibly shallow of me. I mean, some people fight famine, disease, war, and natural disasters for years, only to be rewarded with more famine, disease, war, and natural disasters. Life for most people really kinda sucks.

But, I was reading Briane Pagel’s epic tale of the afterlife, The After, this era’s answer to The Divine Comedy – for those of us less familiar with the classics, think of Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey – and I think that had something to do with my state of being.

The real review of the book will come later. As I’ve not written it yet. But it really had me thinking about how content I would be to have a world, noticeably similar to my own, but better. Would I question it, as the characters did in his book, or would I just go with it and enjoy forever? Do we need suffering so much that we’re willing to create it in order to feel human?

I know this, if I closed my eyes sick and opened them healthy, I’d be so damned happy to feel better that I think I might have confused this world with The After. If it wasn’t for all that dirty laundry and the need to show up at work I might think I was in the afterlife now. Weird that.

Anyway, learn more about Briane and participate in his 100 days of Star Wars Trivia blogathon going on at his blog. This week's random prize for folks that comment is a copy of my novelette, A Dead God's Wrath. That's right, you can possibly get the prize of the century there. Although personally, I'd ask him for a copy of  The After if I won.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

CassaFire Launch Is Here!

Today’s the big day. In case you’ve not been around the internet in a while, Alex J Cavanaugh’s sequel to the mega popular CassaStar, entitled CassaFire, comes out today.

Make sure you journal your activities today, as I’m sure you’ll be telling your grandchildren, or great grandchildren, one day about what you were doing the day this came out. His publisher has made a huge swag haul that you can win just by commenting on his blog during his mad blog tour. Just go to his blog and comment during anytime between today and March 9 and you're entered! It's too easy. Click----> Here<----

When we last left Byron, he was heading out into the vastness of space to just see what was out there. Well, 20 years into his new job, he’s kinda bored. Turns out space is mostly empty, and exploring the cosmos generally means there is a lot of empty to look at. But whispers of something truly alien on a remote planet on the frontiers of explored space send Byron's ship off to investigate. What they find there could destroy the galaxy.

I got to read a pretty early draft of this novel sometime last year, to say I was impressed is an understatement. It was publishable way back then when he was still hammering out the details. That Alex kept going back to the manuscript that he had to look for ways to improve, to tweak, to make stronger only speaks to his dedication to make this the best product he could.

I tip my hat to him. He's worked very hard. I haven’t read the finished product yet, but I’ll be purchasing my copy today and will start reading soon thereafter. What I read of his earlier drafts takes all the best elements of the first novel, and expands on them in the second.

See the real blurb below:

by Alex J. Cavanaugh

CassaStar was just the beginning…

The Vindicarn War is a distant memory and Byron’s days of piloting Cosbolt fighters are over. He has kept the promise he made to his fallen mentor and friend - to probe space on an exploration vessel. Shuttle work is dull, but it’s a free and solitary existence. The senior officer is content with his life aboard the Rennather.

The detection of alien ruins sends the exploration ship to the distant planet of Tgren. If their scientists can decipher the language, they can unlock the secrets of this device. Is it a key to the Tgren’s civilization or a weapon of unimaginable power? Tensions mount as their new allies are suspicious of the Cassan’s technology and strange mental abilities. 

To complicate matters, the Tgrens are showing signs of mental powers themselves; the strongest of which belongs to a pilot named Athee, a woman whose skills rival Byron’s unique abilities. Forced to train her mind and further develop her flying aptitude, he finds his patience strained. Add a reluctant friendship with a young scientist, and he feels invaded on every level. All Byron wanted was his privacy…

Available today!
Science fiction - space opera/adventure
Print ISBN 978-0-9827139-4-5, $15.95, 6x9 Trade paperback, 240 pages
EBook ISBN 978-0-9827139-6-9, $4.99, available in all formats

CassaFire is the sequel to Cavanaugh’s first book, CassaStar, an Amazon Top Ten Best Seller:
“…calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels. Fast-paced military action and a youthful protagonist make this a good choice for both young adult and adult fans of space wars.” - Library Journal

You can visit the author’s site at
Book trailer available at

Monday, February 27, 2012

Oh, Say it isn't So...

A few things I want to touch on today.

Alex J Cavanaugh's super-giant book release extravaganza is tomorrow. It's going to be huge. If you follow very many writerly blogs then you'll probably see quite a bit about that tomorrow. Just keep in mind that you'll be able to own your very own copy in less than a day. I plan on posting more about that tomorrow though.

Comment of the week last week was pretty tough for me, last Monday's post brought in a huge number of very interesting points. It looks like many of us are used to rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. All good. I briefly considered one of them.

But, I decided to go with this one:

For some context, I'd made the point in the post that I generally consider driving dangerous enough that I say my final goodbye's and set my affairs in order before doing something as mundane as going to the grocery store. I like being compared to Shakespeare. Well, a character from one of his plays at least.

It would be easy to turn this into a buddy network celebration, so I'll try to make sure the next one I do isn't to someone I'm necessarily super regular about interacting with, if at all possible.

Finally, it's Monday again. Ugh.I feel like today's post is somewhat poor. I'll do better tomorrow.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Favorite Topic. Me!

A few months ago I made an offhanded comment on this blog that I’m an amazing conversationalist, and did so again on Wednesday’s post. I figured that if I were to keep making that claim then I better see how it goes. I started to ask my wife, but decided that would be a huge mistake, she seems to think that I’m a great conversationalist as long as the other person doesn’t talk back. A point I happen to agree with most of the time, depending on the company. However, when she says it somehow sounds like I’m the one with an issue.  
My favorite character on Cheers was always Cliff Clavin, the guy was just soo interesting. When my wife explained to me that I’m pretty much a real life version of Cliff, I was thrilled at first, and wanted to offer that up as evidence of my amazing verbal skills, but she’s informed me that the rest of the world might not find that as endearing as I do.  So I’ve amended my self-image a bit. I may not be as great a conversationalist as I thought, but if you liked Cliff from Cheers, then you might like me.
Anyway, all that was just a segue into this: I got tagged.
I can think Trisha at WORD + STUFF for that gift. I always am amazed when I stop by her place to visit, she’s always somewhat disappointed in her productivity, yet she manages to be orders of magnitude more productive than I do. Looks like, if I read her post correctly, all I have to do is talk about myself some. Um, I can do that. Hell, that’s kind of all I do. But, to follow the format she sat out in her post.
6 things about me.
·         I’m an amazing conversationalist. Wait, have I mentioned that? Maybe if I keep insisting that it’s true people will start to believe me. Hey, I can’t be the only guy in the room that wants to talk about how the angle of the tip on Spock’s ears changed from episode to episode on the old Star Trek, I mean, who doesn’t want to talk about that?
·         I think about death more than I should. Actually, I probably think about everything more than I should. Weird. But each time I am about to leave the house to drive anywhere, before I get in my car I tell my wife and kids. “As you know, I might be dying later, as I have to drive to the grocery store. If I don’t return, please do the following…”
·         I believe that the most vocal people usually have the least interesting thing to say. Also, I’m an amazing conversationalist and sometimes have to get pretty vocal about it before other people finally realize it.
·         When I was a kid, I had no idea that Superman wore an ‘S’ on his chest. I thought the image was formed by the bright yellow portions of his insignia. I had no idea what it was supposed to be, I thought it was kryptonian letters or something. When I began attempting to draw him, I created the S by drawing the negative space around it.
·         I’m pretty sure that upper management types at large corporations and people that hold high ranking political positions (Senators, Congressmen, etc) are sociopaths. All of them. I also think that people with a moral compass generally don’t do well in their attempts to gain power because in order to obtain it, they have to compromise their moral code. It’s complicated. I probably shouldn’t have even bothered to bring it up. Just take my word for it.
·         Finally, every year that I bothered to dress up for Halloween, I went as the incredible Hulk. Why? Because we shared the same physique. All I needed was little green body paint and people thought the comic book was brought to life. Also, I think the biggest fit I ever threw as a child was when my mother bought me a Frankenstein costume for Halloween. Hello? That isn’t the Hulk. If memory serves, the hulk costume was the Frankenstein costume, minus the neck bolts and forehead scar. However, at the time it went from being something I was proud of to something I was too embarrassed to be seen it. If my mom would have just let me take my shirt off and paint myself green everything would be fine. But she was afraid I’d get cold. Whatever, I was the friggin Hulk, I could handle a little cold weather.
And there you have it, a glimpse into the soul of silent stranger. If only Clint Eastwood would have answered such questions about himself when he traveled as the man with no name back in the day it probably would have saved a lot of bloodshed.
I’m supposed to select six people to pass this too. The passing it along generally is the most stressful part of this sort of thing for me. As some people think it’s an insult to be selected, while others might feel left out. So, if you’re reading this, and you want to answer some questions about yourself, then you’ve been tagged.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Brief History of Typing

I’m a bit of a history buff. No, that isn’t true, using the term ‘buff’ implies a bit more working knowledge about history than I have. A fan can still be as ignorant as a tree branch and still be a fan. I can tell people I’m a fan of the Denver Nuggets and not get people too upset if I admit that I don’t have any idea what their record is, or who their coach is, or what sport they play. But I saw their logo once on some kid’s backpack and I’ve been a fan ever since.

See? So that makes me a history fan. As a fan, I can’t be expected to know what the latest news in history is, I heard Elvis is still alive. Besides that not much has changed in a while.

Wow, I usually at least can be counted on to start off on topic before getting off onto a tangent. I’m sure I’ve lost half my audience already, so let me try to cut to the chase: I’m a fan of history. I most enjoy the history of technology, of how sometimes an arbitrary (or practical) decision led to all sorts of ingrained items that we can no longer remove fromproducts and devices we take for granted now, even long after we’ve discovered that the system today is inefficient due to those early decisions.

Case in point. Anyone ever take a peek at their keyboard? Ever scratch your head and give a big ol’ “What the…?” when you look at it? Those letters look like they’re laid out more or less randomly. Doesn’t make a lot of sense. In fact, there has been alternate keyboard layouts over the years that allows users to type far quicker than using the old one we are all used to, the QWERTY.
Early typewriters also served as toaster ovens

Of course, the layout we have now is already ingrained, established, it isn’t going anywhere. When I was learning how to type, way back in the day, I was frustrated with how stupidly the keyboard was laid out. Of course, I had a suspicion, even way back then, of why.

When I was a kid we had an old typewriter from the 30’s (or 40’s, 50’s or 60’s I actually can’t tell, but the more I thought about how it looked I suspect that it was a later model) that we kept around the house. It wasn’t considered collectable, or classic, it was just an old piece of junk that was really hard to use. I typed on it all the time, not in any sort of formal way, I would just stick a piece of paper in there an start pounding the keys. If paper wasn’t available then I would stillpound the keys. I liked the way it felt. There was long, metallic, thunk as they struck home. Like a mini sized hammer striking a proportionately mini sized anvil.

If you haven’t used a real typewriter from around that era or earlier then I suggest you do. I think it would impress most people who’ve never used one how sturdily they were built. I’m not referring to the electric typewriter, which was cool in its own right, and I suspect were the source for 60’s and 70’s Kung Fu movie sound fx. I’m referring to the old, manual, typewriters. In those old things, when you struck a key, you might have to depress the thing a couple of inches to getthe hammer to strike the paper, because a metal arm with a letter printed on it would have to travel six inches or so to actually make it to the paper. There was a hinge at the bottom of the arms that would open when you struck the key… If you hit it hard enough. When I was a kid it took a lot of work. I had a hard time getting a whole sentence out within a couple of minutes. I would hit a key and have to depress it so far than my hand would hit the surrounding keys and several arms would leave their home positions and travel halfway to the roller before I could lift my finger from the key I struck. It was really hard.

My mother could type around 60 words a minute using that machine, I would think that is the equivalent to around 200 words per minute today, her fingers must have been built like rock hard sausages to pound out letters on that thing. There was no such thing as finesse when it came to using those.

Oh, but that’s the rub, 60 words a minute was a blazing fast typist at the time. Today, half the people over the age of nine can do that. The technology in those old typewriters by the 30’s (40’s, 50’s, 60’s, whatever), when ours was made, was pretty mature. I would think that using a working model today would make a modern user think of the thing being very steampunk, all sorts of teeny little bears and levers. Those were marvelously engineered devices.

But, as someone who used one of those typewriters can attest, if you hit keys that were right beside each other at close to the same time, the arms would often collide with one another on their long, six inch journey to the paper they were meant to strike. If they hit just right they would get stuck, and if you kept typing, you’d get a bit of mess as keys started banging into one another. Trust me, that happened a lot. I was just a kid playing with a toy. People who were banging out stuff found that sort of thing annoying. It was a real problem, almost from the invention of the typewriter.

The solution: Make sure people can’t type too fast. Design a keyboard that forces the user to strike keys on different portions of the keyboard, separated as far apart as they can reasonably be expected to be.

Years after the typewriter became popular, with its odd keyboard, there was a format war of sorts. A Beta/VHS, HD-DVD/Blue Ray sort of battle amongst the typewriter makers of the day.

See? Clearly superior.
See, the problems with the keys could be circumvented, I can’t recall the solutions,* but people are clever, and much faster, more efficient types designed and built. But the whole QWERTY layout was already pretty popular. Legend tells us that the reason you can type the word – typewriter – on a single row of keys is because it was done that way on purpose. Salesmen might not have even been entirely proficient navigating around that mess of keyboard, hunting and pecking doesn’t look so good when you’re trying to tell people how awesome it is, but they could be taught a pitch that ended with them inserting a single sheet of paper into a fancy device and typing in the word – typewriter – to an aghast audience. Sounds stupid, but it was a big deal at the time.

The story of how the competing keyboard lost its format war is sad, and has to do mostly with their arrogance in their superior product, they didn’t count on those 60 words per minute people that had spent endless hours practicing to become adept at a flawed way of doing things. A national ‘type off’ was conducted (no kidding) and the winner was the person(s) that could type the fastest.

It’s sad really. It would be like I’d challenged LeBron James to a slam dunk competition and somehow convinced the world that the winner would determine who was using the better shoe. There is a flaw in the logic there somewhere.

After that crushing public defeat (I believe there was media coverage at that event – national media coverage that was widely reported) that the organizers should never have allowed, no one ever seriously challenged the QWERTY keyboard layout ever again.

And now you know.

*You know how I’ve bragged in the past about being an amazing conversationalist, well, you’ll just have to take my word for it. But here is a perfect example. This is all from memory people. All my research for this post stems back to an essay I read back in the 90’s about the QWERTY keyboard. And I believe the essay itself was written back in the 80’s, back when the history of the QWERTY keyboard was shrouded in mystery even amongst people who really should have known. Sure, 10 seconds and a decent search engine and anyone can be an expert now. But I go old school. All from a half-remembered reading nearly two decades ago. You can’t Google stuff after the apocalypse. But I’ll still be able to bore my loved ones around the campfire about the most inane subjects imaginable.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Look! Information!

I have a hard time understanding how I got this far behind on things, but I have. I got sick this weekend, well, not sick sick, but sorta sick. Enough where I feel like doing nothing but sleeping, which I didn't do because of my dumb dogs, who think 6 a.m. is party time. That includes lots of face licking and cover removal. 

I worked on Saturday. Yuck.

I also managed to do something I'm proud of, which is submit a short story, in this case to the WOTF that I mentioned of Friday.

BUT, with all that said. I wanted to start off today with my comment of the week. It came from Friday's post where I mentioned that the story I was about to submit involved more than a few references to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. 
That's right. Jay Noel knew a member of the Funky Bunch. That made my day. No, that made my week. Jay not only knew a member of the Funky Bunch, but after careful consideration, Jay called into question said person's true Funkiness. 

Anyone else have a brush with pop culture fame that would wow us all?

Also - the careful observer may note that I have begun a blog roll. Yes, I'm no longer going to depend solely on memory to visit others. I have left it relatively small to start off with, but I will expand it as my confidence grows in my ability to manage it. I'm pretty excited about it right now, we'll see how it goes.

Oh, last thing. Please check out Briane Pagel's plight with his health (Pt 1 & Pt II). The guy has a huge heart, wait, that was a pun I didn't intend to make. Anyway, he has some health issues and a newish book out. I heard it was great, so I picked up my copy and can't wait to read.

I won't lie, Monday's are terrible, terrible things. I'm doing my best to start this week off well. Wish me luck.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Six Week Update

It's all about accountability I suppose. So here is my attempt to let you know where I stand so far this year in my goals.

I have half-heartedly agreed to participate towards the write 1 sub 1 for this year. I say half-heartedly because there is no way in hell I am writing 52 short stories in a year. I figure I can whip out 12 though. Which means I’m doing one a month instead of one a week. Close enough for me. Oh, and I've not actually signed up for anything, it's more of a personal goal.

Also, I’ve only now about to submit my January story. I figure I’ll submit all 12 this year sometime. Again, close enough. My short stories to tend to run long. I’m going to try to do a few 2000-3000 word ones this year. It’s hard for me, because I really like digressions, a lot. I’ll have to try to rein those in a bit going forward.

But by Monday submission number one should be out the door. Probably to Writers of the Future again. A grand prize winner gets something like $5k. It’s hard to not make that a priority up until such a time as I become ineligible – which happens with professional sales.

The story? Glad you asked. About an astronaut trapped on the moon and contemplating suicide as the earth endures the apocalypse. Early drafts focused on Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch and shoddy Chinese screening processes for choosing their taikonauts. Also, a main character whose Russian sounding name turns out to be Latino, go figure.

I’ve been in the self-editing stage in my February story – this one about a disgruntled teenager who finds something he shouldn’t when piddling around somewhere he shouldn’t be.  I’m already freaking out about his one – is there a market for YA novelette thrillers? If there is, I’ve not heard of it.

But whatever, write it first, worry about the market later I suppose.

As it stands, I'm way behind my larger goals, as these short stories were supposed to be nothing more than weekend projects, with the rest of the time spent working on revising novels. The short stories have been bigger, longer, and more time consuming than I would have hoped. 

Still, the year is young. I can catch up.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Traveler

As I mentioned before, and relentlessly on Twitter, I was out of town last week. Doing my best version of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. Except, less funny, and more warm weather.

I was sent to sunny Orlando to do corporate type of stuff, attend a small conference, discuss business things, talk about projections, clientele portfolios, corporate bankruptcies, mergers, acquisitions, ugh. What did I learn?

I love warm weather.
This is what February is like! It sucks.

On the night of my arrival, I showed up checked in, and ended up deciding to eat at an outdoor restaurant that night along with some fellow travelers. There I was, in February, wearing  a T-Shirt and eating outdoors. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

I discovered that my TSA screeners leaving my home town were pretty darn nice. They smiled, laughed, and chit-chatted with the line of people being herded into the millimeter scanning device. I kept thinking that I’d been warned online recently that one of the see-through-my-clothes technologies that are currently being used has recently been discovered to emit a very high dose of radiation, much more than would normally be considered safe… I read it very recently, I recall that since it isn’t a medical device, it doesn’t fall under any oversight from a party that has standards for that sort of thing, so the manufacturers are pummeling us with X-Rays in much higher doses than we’d get from something in a doctor’s office to see if we’ve broken bones.

Scary stuff. All I needed was to remember if it was the millimeter scanning device or something else. Dammit. I couldn’t even recall where I’d read the article. I do remember thinking it was relatively well cited, and at least felt like it was researched appropriately.

So, I worried a bit about developing some horrid tumor as a result. But I let it go.

Also, Orlando has Disney World and Universal Studios theme parks already – but really, the whole city is like an amusement park. I live in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains. I know what those places are like. Locally, we’ve got Pigeon Forge, nothing but putt-putt courses and go cart tracks for 10 miles. Right next to that is Gatlinburg, a ski resort with 3 slopes, 4 malls, 155 restaurants and a few live shows.

This is what Orlando was like. Except without all the water... or sand.

Orlando is the same way, just a thousand times more of it. It’s weird to go to city that big that has no real industry aside from tourism. Great for a few days, but no character that I could discern from my hotel window – or from the short time I spent wondering the streets there.

I did however, manage to go to a Brazilian Steakhouse while there. A nice place in the Universal Studios bar/restaurant district. There was live music on a giant stage, some guy playing some sort of Latin American flamingo, actually, I was a bit confused by the mashup of cultures represented there, so despite it being a Brazilian steakhouse – it seemed to have a much more in common with the Mexican restaurants I’ve seen.

Not in the menu, but in the décor and music. I mean, ethnically, Brazil is Portuguese, there was no love lost with them and the Spaniards that settled over most of the continent. I suppose in the centuries since then things have been muddled somewhat. And of course I probably shouldn’t be looking for nuances in cultures to be represented at an amusement park restaurant.

But here’s the thing that actually bugged me: they come out and immediately begin talking up their signature dish - Skirt Steak.

I’m not a real foodie, but when I go to a place that is planning on charging me – er, the company I work for – upwards of a $100 for my meal, I’m not that thrilled with Skirt Steak being the main entrée.

The story I was told, and I have no idea of its validity, but I’d heard it since I was a kid spending my summers in Texas, was that skirt steak grew in popularity because it was so tough that butchers had a hard time selling it to customers and it was commonly thrown out.

So the hungry and poor residents of many towns would take this otherwise unwanted cut of meat for almost nothing, and work it relentlessly to soften it up so it could be used. It became used in fajitas and other meals where it could be cut into bit sized chunks and eaten thusly.

I’ve cooked with skirt steak, I found nothing in my dealings with that meat to dissuade me from believing that story. It’s like trying to soften up wood.

So, I watched as every single person in my group orders the skirt steak. I, having a very hard time thinking it would be good as a main course, ordered the chicken. Everyone ate in silence.  Eventually, once our plates were taken, I asked how it was.

“Not the best steak in the world,” seemed to be the consensus.

I raised my eyebrows, and folks began to clarify: “It was a bit tough. Tasty, but tough.”

Sometimes, you just have to take things on faith. I took it on faith that skirt steak should never be used as a main course in a meal. I really liked my chicken. I know this is stupid, but I like to think that if a big brained cow is going to have to die for me to have a meal, then I better damned well enjoy it. Otherwise, it died in vain. My level of guilt is somewhat less for a chicken.

That said, I’d love some fajitas.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Origins Blogfest!

The Origins blogfest (click for details) is today. It's an opportunity to talk about why I write, no, not exactly, it's about my origins, what led me down this path.

My origin story, like that of Peter Parker, is a mixture of the exotic and banal. I'm just a normal person, living a normal life, when one day - bam! - I've been bitten by a radioactive muse.

The truth be told. I didn't come to writing until I was well into my twenties. I did, however, always consider myself a storyteller. As I mentioned in my About Me page, I first dreamt of being a comic book artist when I was young. I would spend hours and hours in a small desk I kept in my closet, yes, closet, and toil away drawing all these comics. I recall doing this He-Man rip-off about a guy who was imprisoned by a skeleton headed guy in a cowl that said he kidnapped barbaric humans... AND SOLD THEM!

That's right, I was a pre-teen, writing stories with relevance, touching on big social issues, like enslaved barbarians (I came down on the side of it being wrong, FYI). At the risk of spoiling the tale for those who haven't read my early story, this young barbarian solved the problem by beating up everyone he came across until he made his way to, I mean, the Skullhead, and punched him right in the face.

Story over.

Anyway, I did lots of those type comics. However, as I got older, my dream of drawing comics slowly passed by me as I got away from what I thought was childish stuff, and got into other things, like playing guitar, then later, doing television.

Not real television, but public access stuff. Friends and I discovered it by accident. Our local public access had  to air our stuff if we asked them to. It was the law. So we ran around and did all sorts of stupid stories, badly  acted, horribly conceived, and no matter how bad they were, they went on the air.

My favorite show at the time was Star Trek: TNG. Now, I've talked about that show so much that I'm getting tired of bringing it up, but I have to, it's important for me. Because, as we went along with our public access show, we were starting to do more Star Trek themed episodes. Generally, they would start with a far future band of human explorers getting sent back in time to do something... I think saving the Panda population was high on the list of tasks. So we were sent back to the early 90s to bring back specimens to the future.

Well, as I got further into the our own convoluted story, which made no sense, but carried on in spite of this, I was constantly trying to ret-con things said or done into some sort of something that made sense. Of course, I was actively watching Star Trek, reading the books, and otherwise living the dream.

The show, as we each kept wishing to do it better, began taking more time to produce, we were starting to buy props, film on locations, trying to come up with coherent stories, and were attracting a growing number of people that wanted to be a part.

It was beginning to take too much time, like, we were having to film several days a week, meet to discuss what we were going to film, and in our spare time, figure out how we could improve our technical skills for the show.

It quickly got too big for us. God forbid anyone in the group have a girl friend, play in a band, or worst of all, have a job. After an awesome summer things fell apart. We just couldn't do it. One of my friends decided that he wanted to be a real actor and got an agent and did bit parts in local productions and TV commercials. I got drawn in deeper and deeper into the behind the scenes aspects. And eventually discovered that TNG was open to story submissions.

Um, what?

That's right, during their run, I heard that they would solicit ideas for stories. Honestly, I don't know if that was even true, but I believed it, and was determined to get a story idea on the show.

As much as I loved the show, I was often frustrated that they had these amazing science fiction elements buried as back story that were never explored. They had that ancient super civilization that had artifacts littered across the galaxy, the Iconians, they ran across a Dyson's Sphere once, the first spacefaring race in the galaxy explored and found the universe a lonely and empty place, so they seeded it with life - bringing forth Humans, Vulcans, Klingons, and all the other humanoid races that were eventually became so familiar with.

But that wasn't what the show was about, instead it was always about the crew getting space drunk, or Riker having to teach the women of some new planet what good loving could do. Again, it was frustrating at times.

So, I started trying to come up with the greatest episode of TNG ever. The absolute best. I began working on a story that I thought would be just that.

I went epic with it, making it as big a story as I could envision. So big in fact, that naive as I was, I realized it was unfilmable. I had been reading the novels and thought it might serve better as a novelization. And once I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) I couldn't seem to turn it off.

I wanted to be a writer.

And there you have it, my origin story. Star Trek again. I'd consider creating a fictional origin story that involves me running away from home as a child and travelling across country with a hobo on a train, but I haven't got the details worked out yet. As it stands, that's all I've got for now.

Sigh, thanks for the opportunity to share.

Friday, February 10, 2012


I'm not around today... weird, I know. But I'm out of town and my internet access is not entirely reliable. Well, that and the last time I went out of town for work I ended up consuming way too much alcohol to try to write. So, I'm just tossing this out here.

I saw Chronicle last weekend, and I must say, I was stunned by how much I enjoyed the movie. Stunned. I went home after and checked it out on Boxofficemojo and saw that it's production budget was... are you ready for this?

$12 million.

Huh? That should have gone on Steven Tremp's list of low budget movies he did for Alex J Cavanaugh's blog on Monday. Because that was money very well spent. 

That's a lot of money, but when $200 million is more or less the new standard for a blockbuster, and some films getting way higher then I'm doubly impressed. Hell, I watched some movie a year or so ago and was wowed by it's use of fx for cheap and I found out later it was something like $40 million. That surprised me. 

So, making a movie like this on that kind of budget was incredibly impressive to me. However, passable fx isn't what made me enjoy the movie. I liked it because it was well done all round. I loved the found footage concept. I'm not a horror fan, so I've missed out on that huge slate of that type movie, Cloverfield was my only real frame of reference, and that flick made me feel like I'd just spent the day on a roller coaster. 

This one kept the shaky cam to a minimum and instead made the brilliant decision to have the story's main character more or less be a videographer. Carefully documenting his life as things go crazy. Later, when things get real crazy, we see lots of security cam footage and bystanders phone vids. Again loved how it was all put together. 

And the story was a pretty good one. It's not really a superhero movie, it's just people who can do crazy things.  Giving folks, especially troubled folks, godlike powers is probably not a good idea. This movie shows how a good kid can snap. I kept thinking how awesome it would have been if Anakin Skywalker's fall from grace had been son wonderfully done in the Star Wars prequels.

I'm impressed. I generally don't do movie reviews, but I liked this one a lot. Good, fun, and felt much more real that the subject matter would have suggested. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fish Tacos!

Fish Taco’s. I had some the other day at a restaurant here downtown. Now, I’m not a big fan of the Fish Taco, as I’m pretty sure that only beef, or maybe chicken, should be the only representatives of the animal kingdom to appear in the dish.

Well, I met my wife for a bit to eat and they were advertising the fish tacos on their outdoor chalkboard. Our waiter, a cheery fella that seemed really excited to tell us what we were ordering was awesome, was all over those fish tacos. She ordered them, I got a brisket grilled cheese.

Again, fish don't go in tacos, they just don't. 

My wife ordered them and they brought out something I did not expect. Something awesome. I asked for taste. Yum. I asked if she wanted to trade. She shrugged. My grilled cheese brisket thing wasn't real good, not bad, but not worth the money they were charging. She didn't really eat any of that.

You know, I’m not sure what my wife ate. I hate her food, I ate my food. I hope she didn't leave hungry. I know I didn't.

I've dutifully used my artistic skills to try to represent what was in my head when the waiter mentioned they served fish tacos.

See? Irresistible.

I was so surprised by the wonderful reality that I tried to compare it to other times in my life when I received surprising news that made me happy.

1)      The time I found a 20 dollar bill in the parking lot at Taco Bell.
2)      The time I went to watch a concert and after the show a fan of the group came up to me and said I played an awesome gig. I even signed an autograph. I hope he’s telling his kids about the time he met that one guy from that famous band.
3)      The time I got a FedEx from the Smithsonian telling me that my photo was going to be displayed in the museum and printed in their magazine.
4)      When I found out I was having a boy.
5)      I could never dunk a basketball, but that brief summer of my 20th year when I could jump high enough to touch the rim of a basketball goal.

Anyway, I'm out of town today doing work things. I'm not sure what my schedule will look like for the next few days. I may not be as around as I want to be.

Ah, those were good times, add the fish taco thing to it and I’m feeling pretty good about life.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Big Questions

Right now, actually, for the past several years, my absolute favorite author, no exceptions, has been Alastair Reynolds. He's a British (well, Welsh) science fiction author of notable popularity. In case all have forgotten, he signed a $1,000,000 deal a year or so ago (actually, I think that should be in British pounds, which is significantly more than USD right now) and generally writes great tales with very deep science fictional themes. The guy, in a word, is awesome.

He also was a speaker at TEDx, I don't know what the 'x' stands for, but whatever. Ted talks are one of the things that makes the internet awesome.The reason I find him so compelling is because all his fiction, or most of it anyway, deals with a lot of the same questions most of have asked when we're sitting around and pondering the universe in all of its vastness. Of course, he was a working scientist with the ESA for a number of years and was writing his first several novels while working on some pretty cool science at the same time.

If I were a master of my craft in my own mind, I would probably be churning out books quite similar to what he does. If you have 20 minutes or so to kill, please sit back, relax, and have your mind blown by my writing hero, discussing my philosophical hero, as he discusses my favorite conundrum of all: The Fermi Paradox.

Now, if that just got a bit 'too real' for you, then please enjoy a new feature I'm going to include from time to time, which I will call my comment of the week, or month, or year, whatever. Because let's all be honest. Most of us just blow into a blog, skim the post, make a short, sweet, comment and move on. I get it, I really do. I wish I could spend more time interacting with everyone, but there just isn't enough hours in the day. It usually makes me sad. But I do what I can, as we all do.

But every once in a while, something happens and that comment is beautiful in a way no one could have expected.

Unfortunately, my first comment of the week comes from an anonymous user. Too bad, as I'd like to meet this person and hear more of their thoughts. Check it out:

"Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your web site and in accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact enjoyed account your blog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing to your feeds and even I achievement you access consistently rapidly. <link deleted>"

Wow. That's all I've got, wow. Thank you good sir, I'll be clicking those links you provided right away, just after I forward them to all my friends.

Friday, February 3, 2012

This Stupid Pineapple is...

... Finally beginning to understand where pineapple juice comes from.


As mentioned Wednesday, today is Briane Pagel's Stupid Pineapple blogfest. Not only does he host the thing, he is giving out prizes - choosing to do so in a manner so hopelessly complicated that he might as well just give it to whomever he feels like. Anyhow, if you want to know who's entered and all that I'd recommend you check out his twitter feed, because I'm not sure if there is an official list anywhere. It's kind of like a secret blogfest I suppose.

Anyhow, without any further delay, my completely fictional account of a the stupid pineapple which again, is not based on a true story. This did not happen to me at work yesterday, as I am a human, not a pineapple.

The Stupid Pineapple lost my his headphones yesterday at work. Now, he hates having nice things because he hates worrying about and being stressed over his nice things. But one area he decided not to skimp on was his earphones. He plunked down a cool hundred bucks for some nice earbuds that block out most noise when they're in, and produce quality sound. He listens to them a lot. He loves them. They complete him.

Yesterday, just as The Stupid Pineapple was getting ready to go for a walk somewhere on my his lunch hour, he realized his headphones were missing. He checked under some loose papers at his desk. Nothing. He checked in his junk drawer at work. Nothing. He checked his coat pockets. Nothing.

He tried to recap his morning: He came in, he had been wearing them when he got to work, he took them off once he got there and had an impromptu cleaning session. after which he threw away his cleaning materials.

Wait, had he seen my his headphones since then? No, no he had not. He looked in his wastebasket only to find it entirely empty. The custodian had already been by and taken the trash. The bastard.

He ran around the floor looking for him for a few minutes until he found him. He asked to see the trash the custodian had just picked up. "Sorry dude, I just took it to the basement to be put in the dumpster."

Well, shit. He made his way all the way down to the basement with the custodian and found that the items had been put in the 'pre-dumpster.' That is a word he just made up to describe what it is, they dump all the collected trash in these giant bins to wait for someone later in the day to haul them out to the compacter on the loading dock. The trash wasn't in a real dumpster, but whatever. It's a giant thing full of trash.

He had the custodian show him the bag. How he could tell which one was his out of all those bags was beyond the Stupid Pineapple, as they all looked identical to him. But he was stupid, so he figured the custodian knew. He tore open the bag he was told contained his trash it, was one of those giant lawn bags and he couldn't get it untied, so he just ripped it apart. He dug in with gusto. He found not one, but TWO pair of headphones in the bag - neither of them were his though - and found lots of food, pasta, tomato sauce, mustard, tons of used kleenex, lots and lots of paperwork.

The paperwork gave it away, It was all from a different department than the stupid Pineapple worked in. "Hey," the Stupid Pineapple said, "Do you pick up trash from any other departments?"

"Nope, just yours."

Well, m#^%^#&$ker. He ripped open the wrong effen bag. All that dried snot and half eaten food he'd been diving through was the wrong bag. "Why don't you just go? I think I'll rummage through the trash alone now," the Stupid Pineapple said.

He left, and the Stupid Pineapple dug into another bag. This one was paydirt. It had oatmeal all over it, yummy. He was so glad it was lunch time. There were all sorts of other things, he found a pair of shoes, a really nice lunchbox, and some more snotty kleenex, it was flu season. No headphones though.

Eventually, he gave up. he went to the bathroom and scrubbed up like a doctor going to surgery. He washed and washed and washed. He leaned over the bathroom sink and stared at myself himself as he washed away the filth. He was trying to think of how he could tell his wife that those ridiculously expensive headphones that he just had to have were now lost forever when he noticed a small bulge in his front shirt pocket.

Oh, there they are.

Dumbass. He was a truly, deeply, stupid pineapple.

The end.

Anyhow, if anyone is curious as to what I had for dinner on Tuesday evening. You can find that by clicking...HERE.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Insecure Writers - February Edition

There are several things going on today that I’d like to mention.

First! I mentioned on Monday that if anyone managed to sit through all those videos I posted I’d make a big deal about it today. Well, congrats to Gail who patronized me by watching them all. She was too pooped to really have thoughts about it. But hey, she was like a marathoner that wouldn’t quit.Alex emailed me later and mentioned that he watched them all (and that doesn’t mean he watched his own five times either, I asked). But beyond that I’m not sure anyone else was able to hang in there for all of them.

If I missed anyone please let me know, I didn’t leave anyone out on purpose. Some of the comments were a little dodgy on the topic.

Second, the legal whiz, Briane Pagel, came up with an idea for what is perhaps the greatest blogfest ever devised. Where he got the idea is beyond me, because it’s amazing. On Friday you need to write something about a pineapple, you can read about it here, I’m not actually sure about the details, as the rules read much like a calculus final, but I figure that if I post something about pineapples the rest will take care of itself.

And I signed up for the A-Z blogging challenge in April, it’s pretty much the greatest blogfest ever devised… wait, why does that sound familiar to me? Regardless, I’m pretty sure it’s the biggest. The day after it went live it already had several hundred folks signed up. Look, April is going to be a lonely month if you don’t plan on being a part of it. So hop in and go with it. You can sign up here.

What else? Oh, today is Insecure Writers group – February edition. Thanks again to Alex J Cavanaugh for creating the group.

And I've got so many insecurities I’m afraid some of them even contradict one another. You know, like suffering from agoraphobia and claustrophobia at the same time. I’m the kind of person that wants to do everything, and I mean everything, myself. Which is why I always feel vaguely ashamed if I have to ask for someone’s help on anything I produce.

How far does that go? Well, let’s just say that I do my digital painting in photoshop – I feel like I’m cheating because I didn’t write the code myself. When I draw on a piece of paper I’m always wondering if I should have made the paper myself, from a tree that I grew from a seedling.

Sigh. I know, it’s a problem. Ironically, I love collaborative efforts, I only get that way about things that will only have my name on them and no one else’s. Am I the only one who struggles with this? Have I invented a  disorder? This rears its ugly head in me when I get editing or critiquing help from others as well. Like, if I put a period at the end of that sentence then all of a sudden it's not really my work anymore. I recognize that it's ridiculous, but that doesn't change how it feels to me.

Oh well, thanks everyone.