Monday, November 21, 2011


Its rare that two of my passions collide, but we have this wonderful confluence of faith and football with Tebowmania.
For those not familiar with the situation, Tim Tebow is the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, and a devout Christian. This isn’t all that unusual as many NFL players are devout Christians, but Tebow is very public and out front with his faith. He is seen on the sidelines praying before and after games, and famously before the deciding kick of his first start this season.  As the team lined up for a possible game winning field goal at the conclusion of the game, Tebow took a knee and closed his eyes. People assumed he was praying. The kick was good, Tebow’s team won and now that pose is called Tebowing. I think he just didn’t want to watch and see if the kick was good, but its taken on a life of its own. There is even a web site called Tebowing where people can post pictures of themselves well tebowing. It’s become a cultural phenomena.
Tebow is a polarizing person because of the way he plays football, and because of how out front he is with his faith. He plays the quarterback position more like a high school, or college quarterback and seems to lack some of the skills necessary to be successful at the NFL level. Yet he is winning game which is the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong in the NFL.
Denver was 1-4 without him and 4-1 with him.
He’s also out front with his faith mentioning it off the top of every interview and talking about his humanitarian efforts, the latest of which is building a hospital for orphans in the Philippines. Being outwardly Christian will always rub some people the wrong way.
I don’t know if Tebow can sustain this success on the football field, and looking at it from a strictly football standpoint, more credit should go to the Denver defense for keeping the team close in game so Tim could work his late gamer heroics. But I don’t have a problem with Denver giving him an extended audition to see just how far he can take them.  I don’t have a problem with Tebow being out front with his faith, as long as it’s genuine.
There is a line in The Last Crusade where Indiana Jones is asked if he is seeking the Holy Grail for Christ’s glory or his own. I would ask the same of Tebow. Are you out front with your faith for Christ’s glory or your own? Every indication is that he is genuine and seeking Christ’s glory.
No, the people I have an issue with are those who are trying to connect Tebows success on the football field with his faith. These individuals have put forth the idea that Tebow’s success is God ‘showing himself strong’ on Tebow’s behalf. I find this incredibly unlikely. I don’t think God is really all that concerned with the outcome of a football game. As I said at the beginning of my post, there are devout Christians throughout the NFL, both on the Denver Broncos, but also on the teams the Broncos have defeated. Why would God show himself strong on this one players behalf and not all the rest.
Let me give you an example from Tebows last game, against the New York Jets on national television. Near the end of the game, Tebow’s team is losing, but they have the ball. The Jets decided to blitz, which is a common defensive strategy of sending more than 4 players after the quarterback.The Jet safety took a poor angle, leaving the outside lane open. Tebow saw the opening, evaded the safety and scored the winning touchdown.
We have a decision by the Jets coach, a decision by the Jets player, and a great use of natural atheletic ability by Tebow. Did God reach down and move Tebow past the defense? I doubt it. What was God doing during the play? Probably watching. When did He applaud? Probably during the postgame interview when Tebow gave the glory and thanks to His son.
Tebow has remarkable, God given talent, and tries to show his thankfulness for that talent by openly acknowledging his God. I really don’t think it goes much beyond that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Minimum Wage Doubts

There was recent article on the site discussing the results of a poll where 67% of Americans supported raising the minimum wage to $10 per hour. In this instance, and in the vernacular of occupy movements, I am the 33%.

I don’t think raising the minimum wage works, and I further believe that even those in political power that push it know this. Its not really intended to help those on the lower end of the wage scale, those making the actual minimum wage. I believe its true purpose is to entice people to vote for candidates who pledge to raise the minimum wage.

If raising the minimum wage to $10 really helped, wouldn’t $15 or $20 help even more. In fact, I think you could make a case that $20 is the better minimum wage.  According to, the median household
income in my home state of South Carolina is $39,316. This works out to about $19/hour, so even raising the minimum wage to $10 would only bring someone up to about half of the median income of my state, and my state ranks in the bottom of median income for the country.

So wouldn’t a  $20 minimum wage make more sense. I mean if raising the minimum wage is a real way to help people, why stop at $10? Why not bring them right up to the median income and raise it to $20. If it worked, why not raise it to $50?

Why do we keep coming back to raising the minimum wage as a legitimate solution? According to the Department of Labor,, since January 1st, 1977, the minimum wage has been raised 12 times, with the last increase going into effect on July 24th, 2009.  But apparently, we need to raise it again, even though the last raise was just 2 years ago?

When Congress raises the minimum wage, the workers making the minimum make more money, but that money has to come from somewhere, and I’m pretty sure Congress doesn’t send it to every business employing minimum wage workers. It is up to the individual businesses to figure out where that money will come from.

One option would be to cut salaries of workers making more than the minimum wage, which is likely to anger those employees. Another option is to raise prices, which is likely to anger customers. Business probably do a little of both, but what people outside the company see are the raised prices.

What kinds of businesses are most likely to hire minimum wage workers? My guess would be gas stations, grocery stores, and fast food restaurants.The increased cash flow the minimum wage worker received doesn’t go as far as the old minimum wage because the cost of basic necessities like food and gas increases. It then becomes an arm race with the minimum wage and the cost of living continue to go up. This benefits the politician because as more people make the minimum wage, more can be enticed to vote for them based upon a promise to raise the minimum wage. In addition, certain union contracts are written to increase wages of those making far more than minimum wage should the minimum wage increase.

The increased cost don’t just affect minimum wage workers. The costs go up for everyone regardless of what your income level was, and as budgets get tighter, people will may change their spending habits. Maybe they eat at fast food instead of a sit down restuarant, or they shop at Wal-Mart instead of the mall. Those businesses are now impacted as well.

I realized that especially at a time of high unemployment, companies would and probably do underpay their workers if they could get away with it, but I don’t see minimum wage as the answer. Companies have creative, driven individuals who will find ways to keep the company making as much money as it can. The only thing minimum wage increases are the costs of basic goods and the chances for election for the politicians pushing them. But I don’t know what the answer is. Businesses will quickly show us how little they care, and how ready they are to abuse their employees without some sort of governor in place.

What do you think? Does the minimum wage really work? I like to think of myself as an open minded guy, and I know I don’t have all the answers.

Teach me something.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Genre Research

As part of the research I'm doing on my 'genre' I thought it might be instructive to take a look at the new releases in Christian fiction. This research came from the American Christian Fiction Writers blog.

There were 18 books on the new releases list, and 11 of the 18 (roughly 60% for those of you scoring at home) were some variation of Romance (Romance, Historical Romance, Mystery Romance) I don't write Romances, but that seems to be a lion share of what 'Christian fiction' is based up on the November new releases.

There were 3 Thriller/Suspense novels. The last 4 were 1 each of General fiction, Historical, speculative fiction, and Biblical fiction.

Dream Chaser would fall under General or Biblical fiction. I would have thought hat Biblical fiction would be fictionalizing a bible story, but the log line didn't seem to indicate that was the case, at least for the book being released. In fact, out of all the books, the one labeled 'biblical fiction' seemed closest to Dream Chaser.

I would have never thought that so much Christian fiction was wrapped up in romances, and it makes me a little more doubtful of Dream Chaser's chances, but then again, it's a first novel, so it didn't have great chances to begin with.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Soon by Jerry B Jenkins

I just finished reading  Soon (Underground Zealot Series #1) (full disclosure: affiliate link) by Jerry B. Jenkins who is one of my favorite authors from the the Left Behind series. What impressed me the most about his style is how he draws you into the characters. I found myself caring about the major characters in the Left Behind series and wanting to see what happened to them. The same thing happened in Soon.
Soon is near future sci-fi set about 30 years into the future. World War III happened and as a result the practice of religion was made illegal, driving it underground. The story follows Dr. Paul Steplova who starts out trying to find and shut down the subversive cells. It became apparent to me that this Paul's story was mirroring Paul from the New Testament, but just as I thought I had it figure out, and started looking for specific elements from Paul’s story (his Damascus road experience) Jenkins loosens the metaphor.
Jenkins is almost prescient in his look at the near future. By the middle of the Left Behind books, published in the early 2000s, the characters had what we would recognized today as smart phones. In Soon, he sees a future of electric and hydrogen based cars and interactive, 3d movies.
The action and suspense throughout the book are well done and the pages turn quickly and easily as Paul journeys from coast to coast physically and toward a decision about Christ internally. This is a grittier, and darker tale than any of the Left Behind books.
I felt that some of the actions taken by the anti-religion government teams were a bit over the top. They seemed too eager to use disproportionate force on the believer hide outs they find, and I didn't feel their motive was at well established at that point. It was almost like Jenkins was feeding into some slippery slope arguments. Also breaking the suspension of belief was the powers given to the head of the anti-religion team to basically call out an army. That seemed very broad and over the top.
The book ends with a couple of threads still loose, but that may have been intentional since its the first of a series. There is a bit of deus ex machina in the ending, but I'm not sure that's not out of place in a Christian fiction story.
This is the first book I've read as a writer, and it was fun to see plot points and how Jenkins worked his craft. Two things stuck out to me. first, Jenkins used a prologue. I know the rules are meant to the broken, but this is something I've been warned against in my own writing. The prologue introduces the reader to a couple of characters, but you don't meet them again until about a quarter of the way through the book and you aren't told specifically who they were but you can put two and two together. The other thing I noticed was the use of names in dialog. This seems to be one of those 'feel' things you only get with practice.
I know I have said some critical things so far, but over all, I really enjoyed the story, and many times my critics hat fell off as I got engrossed in the action.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

First Draft is Done

Well, it’s done. I wrote the words “The End” in Dream Chaser last night. Over the past several months as I’ve been working on this, I wondered how I would feel when I finally wrote those words. The answer surprised me. I thought I’d be on a high, excited and euphoric. I did finish, which is no small accomplishment for me. I’m really good at starting, not so good at finishing

But the thing is, I know it’s not really done, and I guess that’s why a deeper sense of accomplishment eludes me. All I am thinking about is what needs to be fixed, and how I’m going to fix it.

I’m also very nervous because in its current form, Dream Chaser is more novella than novel at roughly 47k words, but I’m not going to worry over that too much, at least not until I make the changes I know I need to make.

Despite doing some world building and outlining, I feel like I know the story so much better now than when I started it last year. I also feel like my writing ability has improved through taking How To Think Sideways, the two blizzard short stories, the Unicorn short story, and the critiques from my How To Structure Fiction scenes.

My goal is that once the revisions are done to this draft, it will be in a state that is ready for alpha readers. If its still short at that point, I’ll have to see if the alphas can point to some unexplored plot thread or something I glossed over that can both strengthen the story as well as bring the word count up to industry standards.

November now becomes NaNoReMo (National Novel Revision Month) in earnest. I’m setting a goal of having the revisions done by Christmas.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sunday Seven – Hated Companies

This week's challenge was to name your seven most hated companies from the provided list of 18.

Some of the companies were Bank of America, Dish Network, JPMorgan Chase, AT&T Mobile, Facebook, American Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways, Comcast, Time Warner, Cox, Delta, Potomac Electric, and Pacific Electric & Gas.

I don’t do business with the majority the companies on the list, but they have all made a name for themselves for bad customer service. What I find most interesting is how they are clumped in the same sectors: Airlines, banks, Cable/TV providers, power and energy providers. The only outlier is Facebook.

I started looking for common threads.

What all these companies have in common is that they are service companies. They should be defined by customer service, yet, these are not. But it simply can’t be that they are service companies. Restaurants are a huge service industry, yet not a single one appears on the list.

These are all very large companies. When you get that big you are bound to get some people angry at you. It’s simply the law of averages. Yet, there are mammoth companies, like Ford or Microsoft that didn’t make the list. So size alone doesn’t seem to be issue.

We also have to look at companies in the same sector with these companies that didn’t make the list. Companies like Southwest Airlines, or Wells Fargo, or Time Warner. Despite multiple entries from their colleagues, these companies didn’t make the list. I think, especially in the case of airlines, that this is a case of companies like Southwest doing something right and rising above the normal culture of their industry.

These companies have created a culture that communicates to consumers that they are not valued, but merely tolerated. I wonder what it will take to reverse that culture at any of these companies and help them to get off this list.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Saturday Six – Halloween Edition

This is my friend, Patrick’s little meme, Saturday Six.

1. You have the chance to learn either the date, the location or the method of your death: would you accept an envelope that would contain ONE of the answers to one of those questions if you couldn’t choose which question would be answered?

I don’t think I would. I believe people should live each day making of the most of the time given. Every hour, and every day is precious. Once it’s gone you will never get it back. Knowing how, or when, or where you are going to die is less important than making the decision every day to truly live. Don’t wait until it’s time to die, to try to live. Live now, today.

2. If you could choose to learn the answer to one of those, which would you choose?

Location and method give you clues as to the other. You find out that method is a drunk driver, you’ve got a pretty good idea the location will be in a car. I wouldn’t want to find out I’ve got a particular gruesome or painful death awaiting me. If I found out the location, I would try to cheat it. Say the location was ‘airplane’, I would try to avoid getting near an airplane. Out of all of them, I wouldn’t want to learn the date.

3. Which illness do you fear most?

Alzheimer's. It’s a truly horrible disease. You die before you die. You lose everything that makes you, you. You become a prisoner in your own mind.

4. Which method of death other than illness do you fear most?

Burning. It’s slow and painful, two things I’d really like to avoid.

5. If you could control how you would die, what method would you choose?

Dying peacefully in my sleep with my wife by my side.

6. If you could specify the age at which you die, with reasonable good health assumed, how long would you like to live?

That’s tough. I’d like to live a good long time to be involved in the life of my kids and grandkids and make an impact on the generations to come. Mainly I worry about having enough money to cover my expenses as I get older, and starting to lose people. You get to that point where you know more people in heaven than you do on earth. Rather than specify an age, I’d rather specify that I make each year count in the lives of my wife, my children, my friends, and my community.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Writers ROI and KPI

In my ‘day’ job there are two TLAs (three letter acronyms, which itself is a three letter acronym) that dominate the landscape: ROI and KPI. I’m now starting to apply them to my ‘night’ job, writing.
ROI stands for Return on Investment. Basically it’s asking yourself what you will get for what you spend. For example, you spend $1000 on home improvements to lower your electric bill by $100, it will take you 10 months to save enough money on your bill to make back the grand you spent.
I have to think about what I will gain for spending the money on How to Think Sideways or the How to Structure Fiction classes I've taken. In each case, I decided that the knowledge I would gain was worth the money I would spend. The ROI made sense, even though it will likely be years before that ROI is realized.
But ROI in my writers life is more often about time than money. I have to decide between spending my time writing, and reading. Writing time is split between my WiP and blogs. The reading time is further broken down between reading books, and blogs on craft, and reading fiction both in and out of my genre. Then there is the me time that I need to put in: the family time, the goof off time, the 'day job' time. Those are important as well. Without the family time, my relationships with my wife and kids will deteriorate, and no matter how good a writer I become, that's not good ROI. Without some goof off time, I won't be mentally fresh to write. I have to watch this because its rather easy to spend too much time here and ruin the ROI. The day job time gets back to my unfortunate habit of eating and my high maintenance preference for sleeping in climate controlled spaces.
KPI stands for Key Performance Indicator. KPIs are commonly used to evaluate your success or the success of a particular activity. Sometimes success is defined in terms of making progress toward goals, but often, success is simply the repeated achievement.
Accordingly, choosing the right KPIs is reliant upon having a good understanding of what is important. As a writer, what are my KPIs?
Word count is making progress toward a specific goal (finishing the novel or short story), so word count is a KPI. If I had anything published, my star rating would be a KPI. Number of blog spots, new twitter followers, blog page hits are all different metrics I could use as KPIs of my platform.
What are your personal KPIs?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Growing Twitter

I know that as an aspiring author part of my job is to build a platform, and I know why it’s important, and why I have to do it. I have this blog, and on I’m Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus. But I don’t have a very large following. If you’re wondering why I’m building a platform before my book is done, the simple answer is that building a platform takes time, so if I want the thing built by the time my book is ready, I need to start now. Actually, l needed to start yesterday, and technically I did, I’m just now telling you about it.
I’m also not very good at the whole networking thing. I’m the guy at parties who is most comfortable finding a quiet corner and watching with envy the people who move through the room fluidly, seemingly knowing and being liked by everyone. This is not me.  I want people to read my books, maybe even, I don’t know, one day, when my writing is good enough, maybe even  give me money for them. For that to happen I need to connect with people. People who might one day become my fans, or might know someone who might become a fan.
One of the guys I follow on Twitter is Chris (@foldberg1). I first found him back in my days playing World of Warcraft. Chris had a blog on how to make gold in game, and I wanted to make more gold. After Warcraft, Chris moved on to giving tips on how to use social networking and blogging in general. On Monday, he put a link on Twitter to an article he had written about increasing the number of followers you have on twitter. I thought to myself, “Ted” (don’t you address yourself by name when you think to yourself?) “You want more followers on twitter right? “Yes, yes I do” “So let’s give these techniques a shot”
So I did. As of this writing I’ve been using his techniques for 4 days and I’ve gained 9 new followers. That’s about two a day and much better than I was doing on my own.
This post is to say thank you to Chris for his help. 
*Disclaimer: Chris did not ask me to write this blog and I’m receiving no compensation for it. In fact, until he saw it in his twitter feed, he didn’t know it was going up.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

No NaNoWriMo

It’s October and astute calendar watchers will no doubt notice that subsequent to October is November. November means many things. Thanksgiving. Thursday Night Football. Black Friday.

It also means it’s time once again for National Write a Novel Month, known by the quirky acronym NaNoWriMo.

NaNo 2010 was a very good experience for me. I got a good start on Dream Chaser and I learned about my writing process. But the best thing that came out of NaNo was Saucy Ink. This is the online writers group I’ve been privileged to be a part of over the last year. These fellow writers have grown to be ifriends and I’m grateful for all the lessons they’ve helped me learn over the past year. We write, and we critique each other, helping each of us grow as writers.

I won’t be doing NaNoWriMo this year. Instead, I’ll be focusing on writing a second draft of Dream Chaser. My goal is becoming an author. The difference between an author and a writer is the author has had a book published. Doing NaNo on a brand new story doesn’t help me reach my goal. Finishing and revising Dream Chaser does.

So I'll be on the sidelines cheering those people who do NaNoWriMo on. If you are thinking about trying NaNo this year, Chuck Wendig has a great article on the 25 things you should know about NaNoWriMo. I encourage you to check it out.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Blizzard Short Story

One of the catalysts for getting back into writing was the 2010 Blizzard Short Story contest. I figured it would be a good test of my talented. I mean if I was really a talented writer, I could bang out a short story, win the contest and be on my way.

I just have to shake my head and chuckle at the way I was thinking last summer. Oh you silly, silly, little man.

That short story was pretty rough. The funny thing is you really can’t tell much of a difference between an untrained, but talented writer and an untrained, but not so talented writer. They both look pretty bad.  I’ll always be eternally grateful to Rhoelyn and Steve Hall for critiquing that story for me. As you have probably surmised that story didn’t win the Blizzard contest last year. It didn’t even come close. Of course, all that Blizzard will tell you is who the finalist were and who the winner was. They received something on the order of 15,000 stories. All they say is if you made the top 20. I could have been #21 and eliminated on the last cut down or #10,021 and eliminated on the first pass, but I’ll never know.

In addition to the lessons I learned from Rhoe and Steve’s critique, the biggest take away from last year was finishing. I’m notoriously bad for getting all excited about a project, starting with vigor and then petering out when the emotion wanes and never finishing. The great success of the 2010 Blizzard contest was that I finished.

Now I know I’ve grown and improved as a writer and it’s encouraging that Rhoelyn and Steve have seen that as well during their critique of my unicorn short story.  I still feel like I’ve got some writing talent (apparently my hubris knows no end) but honestly I’m not sure anymore if that is even a helpful question to ask anymore. It’s more important that I’m willing to work, to keep writing and keep getting better.

To that end, I’m once again entering the Blizzard Short Story contest. I’ve got the first draft written and some of the Saucy Ink members are giving me a critique. I don’t expect it’ll win or even be a finalist. I’ve still got a long way to go before my writing is at that level. But it’s one more chance to write, edit and learn.

And now I've found out that the story I chose to do was done by Blizzard. My story is about how the Val'kyr came to join the Forsaken. That was covered in Edge of Night short story which I obviously haven't had a chance to read yet. Of course in Edge of Night, events happened much differently than I imagined in my story. The story came out on September 27th. The short story contest started back on September 4th. Edge of Night was not even published when I began working on my Val'kyr story. I didn’t even know Edge of Night was on the Blizzard site until I read about it on a blog late last week.

It's too late to write another story and get it critiqued. I either turn in the one I've written or I don't enter the contest at all. My story now has zero chance of winning. But I think I will turn it in anyway.
Even without the lore conflict issue, I don’t think my story would win anything. But really, I’ve got nothing to lose by turning it in.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Debt of Thanks

I'm going to delay what I was going to post today until Monday, because  today I want to talk about the passing of Steve Jobs.
I heard about the news Thursday morning, and my first reaction was a bit of backlash. Everyone was just gushing over the man which is understandable, but I thought it might have been a little overdone, especially when one of my twitter followers put him in the same class as DaVinci and Edison.
Now I'm pretty much a die hard Microsoft and Android guy, but even I recognize the tremendous impact Steve Jobs had on our society. So many of us learned of his death on the very devices he created. Not many people can say they changed the world. Steve Jobs did.
But let's slow down a little bit before we put him in that pantheon okay?
But what really struck me as I though about Jobs and Apple was the realization that my very first interaction with a computer came thanks to Mr. Jobs. I was in 3rd grade, and we were taken down to the library.  When we got there we saw 12 shiny Apple //e computers set up.
After getting familiar with the device, we were taught a programming language called Turtle Talk. We wrote programs that made this little turtle move around the screen and draw pictures. 
Today, as I sit here typing this blog, I am a professional computer programmer. That's my 'day job'. In large part, it's because of the passion and love for computers and technology that was born way back in 1980.
I pretty much define myself as as geek. Part of that comes from my love of Sci-Fi, but part of that comes from a love of technology in general and computers in particular. Steve Job’s invention was a big part of that.
Thanks, Steve. R.I.P.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Flaming Bears of Love

A couple of days ago, Tami talked about juggling life’s responsibilities as only she can. Usually people will use the metaphor of juggling balls. Not Tami. No her metaphor was juggling pyrotechnic ursines.
For her the list of her bears was: Work, Family, Health, Friends, and Writing. She made the great point that these feisty bears were the ones she had chosen, and that she loved these bears.
Then she asked to hear about her readers bears. I started to write a comment, but it got too long so I’m making an entry here.
My list is similar. Work, Family, Writing, Gaming are all there. I have two that Tami doesn’t.
I break my bears down into two groups. The bears that can’t be dropped and the bears that can. I have one extra bear in each group.
The first bear I have that Tami didn’t mention is the God bear. I have this in the can’t be dropped category, even though I know sometimes I do. Whereas other bears will roar and try to eat me if I drop them, the God bear sits quietly by and waits for me to pick Him up again. The most important thing to this bear is that I choose Him. His goal is intimacy and that requires a choice. If it’s forced, or cojalloed, it’s not intimacy anymore, it’s duty, and duty is not what he wants. My volitional choice is all I can offer this bear. He’s already got everything else.
Work is a bear that will roar if it drops. You see I have this bad habit. It’s called eating. The work bear lets that happen. I also happen to be very picky and prefer sleeping on a bed in a climate controlled building, let’s call that a house, over say, sleeping under a cardboard box in the middle of a park. Nothing wrong with that, if your life journey took you there. I’m just saying that’s not my preference.
Work is actually two bears right now. The big 600 pound grizzly of my day job, and this little cub of a side contract I’m doing for a former employer. It’s amazing the questions you get when people find out you are a coder (computer programmer).
The other bear that cannot be dropped is my family bear. It is like a cute and cuddly, little, brown bear. I am totally, passionately in love with my wife. We will be celebrating our 16th anniversary this month, and I believe I love her more today than the day we said our ‘I do’s.  She gives me the freedom to be myself, and her belief in me gives me confidence to believe in myself. My kids are gifts. My daughter just started middle school and is trying to navigate the beginning of her transitional years. She’s a little geeky like her Dad. My little boy is still just a baby and I love spending time with him.  This is a bear I’ve chosen, and a bear I love.
I heard someone say once that close friends are really chosen family and I totally agree with that so I lump the friend bear in with the family bear.
Then we have the group of bears that can be and far too often are dropped.
I have the same Writing and Gaming bears Tami does, but I also add a bear that is actually a Panther called the National Football League. Every Sunday you’ll find me in front of the TV cheering on the Carolina Panthers. You’ve got the 1pm game, and then the 4pm game, and then the 8pm game. Then on Monday night, you get the Monday night game and after Thanksgiving, there’s a Thursday night game too.  Fortunately, this bear hibernates from March until August.
The gaming bear is a great way to decompress after a long day fighting the work bear.
The writing bear is one that I’ve grown over the last year. It’s one that I would love to grow and take over the work bear, but I’m learning just to love the writing bear no matter what he grows into. I enjoy the time I get to spend with it and I love what its teaching me.
I love when the bears comingle. The family bear and the football bear get together when the whole family gathers around and watches football together. My daughter even has a pink Panther’s jersey she wears sometimes. I play fantasy football and the friends bear, football bear and gaming bear all get involved.
So those are my flaming bears of love. What are yours?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Artist Identity

I had my first class with my new Yoda, the writing master who will instruct me. We have a total of 5 people (2 men, 3 women) in my class and everyone of them is smart and talented. We were paired up with a critique partner. Mine was a double major, microbiology and English. Yeah, I'm in trouble. Everyone seems like they are very serious about becoming good writers which gives me high hopes for the group.
We did the standard meet and greet where in all likelihood I rambled. Who me? Ramble? Perish the thought.
My takeaway from the first night was:
Thinking of my writing as art - The leader of the group challenged us to think of ourselves as artists, and our writing as art. I have never felt comfortable doing that. I'm a writer, and until the class I didn't see the connection between what I did and what a painter or sculptor does. But as my teacher explained writers are like painters and sculptors. They interpret reality and then present it back to the audience in a way they can better understand it.
I see her point, but it's still going to take a while before I'm comfortable labeling myself as an artist.
When she brought out some famous paintings, it started to click with me. By happenchance, that painting I was given was Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers, and immediately my mind went to Grandmother.
My Grandmother was/is an artist, a painter to be exact, and Sunflowers brought her work immediately to mind. My Grandmother’s specialty was still life and she painted in a very similar style to the the Van Gogh I was looking at. My Grandmother actually had a chance to go pro, but she had two young boys at home, (who ironically enough would end up becoming my dad and my uncle.) Her husband's job had him on the road 3 or 4 nights a week. (As an aside, my Grandmother claims this was a key to their long and happy marriage.) She had to make a choice, the family or her art. She chose her family. She never stopped painting, but no longer did the show circuit.
I'm very close to my Grandmother, but I've never been able to draw worth a lick. Stick figures are about the extent of my talent. But to think that perhaps my writing might be how my Grandmother's artistic talent has expressed itself in me makes me all kinds of happy.
We also talked about valuing our work as art and not to concentrate on the monetary value other people put on it. If just our friends and family read our work, we have made a contribution to the art of our world. This one really challenged me. For me to think my work has value, I really believed that someone needed to validate that by being willing to give up their hard earned cash for it. This idea has made me look at my writing in a new way. If even a single person is entertained or moved by my stories, I have done my job, and have created art.
We also talked a good deal about critiquing. Thanks to the Saucy Ink group, I've had lots of practice critiquing, so I'm feeling pretty confident I can give good, constructive critiques to my partner. One interesting thing she's doing is we have different partners for critiques. In other words, I'm sending my work to a different person than the one I'm critiquing. It should be interesting.
Our first assignment was writing a scene, no more than 3 pages. My mind started reeling. Who writes a 3 page scene? Then I looked at the first scene in "Authenticity" (my unicorn project entry). It's four pages long. I thought about using the first scene in Dream Chaser, and in hindsight that’s probably what I should have done. I chose instead to use the opening scene from a second unicorn story I’m writing (working title Unicorn II, oh the creativity is flowing tonight!) It’s the second unicorn story idea I had for the compilation, and I like it so much that I want to write it.
I’m also working on a story for entry into the Blizzard Short Story contest. More on that later.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Class Is In Session

Tonight I'm starting an intense 7 week writing course offered by a local published author where she will be teaching us how she writes. The class is small, just 6 students, so we will get some excellent one on one training. I love HTTS and I'm learning many ideas in that class, but I learn better in a classroom environment than reading a book.

We have been assigned a critique partner. Each week we will have assignments, and we will exchange the assignment with our partner and critique each other. I hope the teacher will also offer some critiques. This is another chance for me to practice writing, giving critique, receiving critique and applying critique.

Now, I don’t think this author has any sort of magic pixie dust that she can sprinkle on me and magically my writing will improve. I do think she’s been vetted. She’s been through the course and pass all the markers. She's climbed the mountain I so desperately want to climb. I've been told that if you want to accomplish something, find someone who has accomplished what you want to accomplish and learn everything you can from them. That’s what I see this as.

Between this, How to Think Sideways, and the books on writing I’ve read (Bird By Bird, Writing Fiction for Dummies, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years), the myriad of blogs I’ve read on writing,  I’ve accumulated a ton of head knowledge about writing. Dave Ramsey always says that personal finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% doing it. It seems to me writing is similar. You can learn a lot about writing, and good gravy there’s a lot of information out there. It’s time now to put all that head knowledge to work with pen to page or finger to key.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

9-11 Reflections

10 years ago, our lives changed forever.I was in my office on a conference call with our Sales Representitive in our southern California office working on a project when the reports started coming in. After a few minutes, we cancelled our conference call. The break room had a TV in it and for about an hour everyone from the President of the Company to the guys who wrapped the crates for shipping was huddled in there together watching the attacks.
Looking back now, my first thoughts seem so naive. I asked who would have sold these guys airplanes. It never occurred to me they would hijack planes to fly into the buildings. We eventually returned to work, and to some semblance of normal, but we were all forever changed that day.
The image that will never leave me if watching people jump from the World Trade Centers, taking their chances with gravity rather than burn to death. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
The challenge of his memorial has been to try to explain the events to my daughter who was about 18 months at the time of the attack. She’s now an 11-year-old. She understands the mechanics of what happened, but I don’t know that she’ll ever really understand the impact it had.
What brings it home most to me is watching the stories of the children of 9/11. These kids were babies who were in in utero during the attacks and lost their Mom or Dad. They have lost more than any of us.
We had a brief moment of remembrance in our service Sunday, and I watched some of the memorials on TV.
9/11 is a watershed moment for all of us, and something none of us who lived though it will ever forget. I hope and pray we will never have another occasion like 9/11 ever again.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ted’s 2011 NFL Predictions

This is just one of those off topic posts I put on my blog.
My mistress is returning Thursday night. I have missed her so. This summer was especially tough on our relationship because I wasn’t sure if or when she was going to come back, especially once the lawyers got involved.
But now, all is well, and she is returning, right on schedule. I’m so happy and excited to have her back in my life.
I’m talking about the NFL of course!
Seriously, I love NFL football, and I'm getting totally jazzed for the upcoming season. As I write this we are less than 24 hours away from kickoff.
All the experts around the league are putting out their predictions for the year, so as we count down the hours until Kickoff Thursday night, here are mine.
1. Down South: The entire NFC will be down this year. Tampa will struggle to reach 8-8, Atlanta (13 wins) and New Orleans (11 wins) will win less games than they did last year. One of the pervasive myths of the NFL is that the difficulty of your scheduled is influenced by last years performance. Busted! The 2011 season has yet to have a game played, and 14 of the 16 games for 2012 are already locked in. Only two games are determined by your finish. The NFC South last season played an NFC West division that was bad from top to bottom. They played two games against my beloved Panthers who were having a terrible season.
2. Make Mine a Ham(string) Sandwich: Both Frank Gore (SF) and Chris Johnson are out of the lineup with soft tissue injuries, likely pulled hamstrings before Week 4. They sat all virtually all of the abbreviated training camp, and now expect the flip the switch and go all out in the regular season. That is a recipe for disaster.
3. Point of No Return: No less than 5 teams which made the playoffs in 2010 will miss the playoffs in 2011. When you see my predicted playoff teams you’ll notice Kansas City, Seattle, Pitt, Indy, Chicago all missing.
4. In Luck: The 49ers and Seahawks will battle for the worst record in the league and the right to draft Andrew Luck, but ultimately, I think the 49ers will take the prize. Neither of these teams has a good starting quarterback. Travaris Jackson and Alex Smith are not NFL starters. I hold out hope for Seattle only because I expect that at some point, they will turn to former Clemson Tiger Charlie Whitehurst who actually might be halfway decent.
5. The Heart of Rock and Roll: The surprise team of the year is not the Detroit Lions as all the sport yaks are predicting. No the surprise team this year in the Cleveland Browns. Colt McCoy in Pat Shurmur’s West Coast Offense and a cotton candy soft opening schedule will lead to a fast start for Cleveland and give confidence to a young team that has a tough road down the stretch. But they will be ready and eventually challenge for the AFC North division crown.
6. We Cam Do It: Cam Newton wins Rookie of the Year. This may be a little bit of homerism (gee, ya think!) but I’ve been impressed with Cam during the preseason. If he has a decent year, which I think pray he will, then he’ll walk away with the award.
7. Corn on the Kolb: Kevin Kolb will show this year that he is, in fact, a JAG (just another guy). There is a parade of former Eagles quarterbacks who have gone on to ignominious careers once they leave the all powerful gaze of Andy Reid. Does the name A.J. Feely ring a bell for you? Donovan McNabb? Yeah. What amazes me is that other teams still let Reid scam them out of draft picks for average quarterbacks that Reid makes look good.
8. Man(ning) Down: No, not Peyton (I’ll talk about him in a minute) Eli Manning will have the worst year of his career and fans will be calling for his head. He lost security blankets Steve Smith and Kevin Boss. Not that I put too much weight on the preseason, but the Giants made the Panthers (the Panthers!) look good. Gonna be a long year in the Big Apple.
9. Steelers Rust: I know everyone is talking about their old defense, but the real problem is the Super Bowl hangover. Teams that lose the Super Bowl struggle the next year, regardless of how invincible they look in the preseason. Mendenhall will go down early in the year with an injury and Big Ben won’t be able to carry the load all by his lonesome. They will miss the playoffs.
10. Go West, Young Man: Before the end of the 2012 season. the Jacksonville Jaguars will have announced they are moving to sunny California to be the Los Angeles team.
One last item, Make It a Tom Collins: How many sport yaks are going to be rethinking the greatness of Peyton Manning if Kerry Collins can run the offense to any semblance of what Manning could coming out of retirement. Could Manning be a system quarterback? We’re about to find out.
Division Winners, Wild Card and Doormats:
NFC East: Winner: Dallas Cowboys, Wildcard: Philadelphia Eagles
Doormat: New York Giants
NFC North: Winner: Green Bay Packers, Wildcard: Detroit Lions
Doormat: Chicago Bears
NFC South: Winner: New Orleans Saints
Doormat: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
NFC West: Winner: St. Louis Rams
Doormat: San Francisco 49ers
AFC East: Winner: New England Patriots, Wildcard: New York Jets
Doormat: Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Winner: Cleveland Browns, Wildcard: Baltimore
Doormat: Cincinnati Bengals
AFC South: Winner: Houston Texans
Doormat: Jacksonville Jaguars
AFC West:
Winner: San Diego Chargers
Doormat: Kansas City Chiefs
Super Bowl
San Diego Chargers Beat Dallas Cowboys 31-24

Monday, September 5, 2011

Pulling a Lucas

I asked my wife to read my Unicorn story and give me some feedback. I am blessed to have a wife that loves to read and has an eye for spelling and grammatical errors. She asked if I needed her to edit it. I knew Steve would gets his mitts on it, so I told her just to read it and not worry about editing.

So she asked what kind of feedback I wanted. I told her to see how she liked the story, the characters and to see if I had pulled a Lucas.

Pulling a Lucas is an inside joke shared between us. It refers to a plot hole or inconsistency in the story and was inspired by George Lucas and the myriad of plot holes introduced in the ‘new’ Star Wars moves Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.

Our favorite example has to do with Leia. In Return of the Jedi, Luke asks Leia to tell him about her mother, her real mother.

Leia says that her mother died when she was young, that she was beautiful, but sad. Then in Revenge of the Sith, we find out Leia’s mother, Padme, dies in childbirth. So when she says her mother died when she was young, she means really, really young.

Another example is when in Empire Strikes Back, Luke is told by a ghostly Obi-Wan Kenobi to go to the Dagobah system to continue his training. Obi-wan says, “there you will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master who trained me.” Then in Phantom Menace we learn that Qui-Gon trained Obi-wan, not Yoda. So what he should have said “there you will from Yoda, the Jedi Master who, well he didn’t train me, but we passed in the halls of the temple a couple of times. He’s a swell guy, you’ll like him!”

Hopefully, I’ve avoided pulling a Lucas in my Unicorn story.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saturday Six: Weather

Six questions from my friend Patrick.

1. The weather’s just too hot for you and you decide to escape for a week to somewhere cooler: what’s the first place you’d think of?

Bryson City, NC. My wife and I spent both our honeymoon and babymoon in this lovely little city near Cherokee. She loves waterfalls so we would hike to various waterfalls nearby. We rode the railroad and just took in the amazing mountain scenery. I don’t if you appreciate how different the mountains look to people who live their whole life on the coast. We are just amazed by them.

2. Months later, the weather’s now too cold for you and you decide to escape for a week to somewhere warmer: what’s the first place you’d think of?

If we are going somewhere warm, it’s probably Orlando. Our daughter loves Disney World. We’ve gone three times and each time we go it’s a better experience than the last. Some of her favorite things to do are the Indy Speedway in Magic Kingdom, Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure in Epcot and the Kilimanjaro Safari in Animal Kingdom.

3. Severe weather is moving your way. Which are you more likely to turn to first to get information on the storm: your radio, your television or the web?

As long as we have power, it’ll be the web, then the TV. The radio is broken out once we lose power. On the web we like the National Hurricane Center’s site, and the Hurricane Tracker on When we go to TV, we prefer Bill Walsh. So many of the local weathermen try to overhype and sensationalize hurricanes as they approach. We find Bill to be the most even tempered and we appreciate it.

4. You find yourself sitting on a screened in porch during a strong thunderstorm: do you find this relaxing or terrifying?

I don’t think I’d be either relaxed or terrified. It’s not something I would particularly want to do, nor really enjoy. I’d much rather be inside.

5. What is your thermostat set to right now?

78. We keep it there most of the summer.

6. How high do you set it at the coldest part of winter?

I’m pretty sure we keep it around 72. We have an eastern exposure house which helps some.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Unicorn Revisions

Today is the day my revisions are due in the Unicorn Project. I'm going to give it another once over before I turn it in tonight, but I'm pleased to say I feel pretty good about turning it in.  I would have loved for the group to critique this version of the story, but we only get one critique and it wouldn't as good a shape as it is now without that first critique.

Revisions took much longer than I anticipated. I figured writing the first draft would have taken the longest amount of time, but revising took much longer than writing. I’m not sure exactly why. When I wrote the initial draft, I just wrote it and didn’t worry about pretty much anything other than getting the story ‘on paper’ so to speak. As I was revising, I was looking at each scene and taking into account the critiques I had received from the group. I was looking at each character, and each situation more closely.

I was also forced to cut some scenes and lines that I really liked from the first version. Okay, I wasn’t really forced, but during the course of the rewrite it became apparent those scenes and lines just were not going to fit into this version of the story. It was harder to let them go than I thought it would have been, and I fought the urge to find some place to shoehorn them back into the story, but it just didn’t work.

It was interesting looking at the places in the story where the critiques disagreed with one another. One person didn’t like the way I had written something, but another disagreed and thought it was fine as it was written, but had an issue with something else entirely. I looked at the story, and looked at what I was trying to accomplish. Ultimately, I had to make the call and go with one opinion over the other.

My biggest fear is that I’ve overcorrected. That’s a pretty common issue when you are learning a new skill. I tend to vacillate between not enough description and too much. I hope that in this draft, I’ve got the balance right.

This processes has removed any concern I’ve got over the relatively small word count I have for Dream Chaser. I’m getting closer to the end of the story, and I’m fairly certain the word count will be much less than the 80k I was shooting for. But then I looked at how my Unicorn story developed. The first draft was about 4,400 words. The second draft, the one I had critiqued, was about 5,200 words. My final draft is about 6,900 words. Each time I revised it the word count went up. I anticipate a similar scenario working out with Dream Chaser.

The title of the story also changed. That’s one of the changes I made that I wish I could have gotten some feedback on.

Besides being proud of myself for finishing the stuff I started, I’m also proud of myself for hitting nearly every deadline I was given. I did have to get a small 2 day extension of this final deadline. Working to deadlines is an important part of the writers life, and I’m glad that I was able to turn each step in on time. I’m usually a terrible procrastinator, and there were several nights when I chose to work on my story rather than indulge my passions of playing video games or watching football. I chose to make finishing this story a high priority and it worked.

I can’t remember where I read it, and I’ll have to search it, but someone once said that books (and short stories) aren’t so much finished as they are abandoned. At some point, you have to let it go. Whether that’s running up against a deadline, or just coming to the place where you know it’s time to work on something else, every story gets abandoned. I could have kept working on Unicorn for several more weeks and it would have kept getting better. But our copy editor has about 8 of these stories to edit, and he needs time to get through each oen so he can do a through job.

I’ll give her one more once over tonight and then I’ll save it and send it off to the copy editor. Once the anthology is done, I’ll be sure to let you know how to get your hands on it.

Edit: I have added an affiliate link for the How To Think Sideways course I'm taking. I'm enjoying it and I'll have a more through review once I'm done. It is an affiliate link so I get money if you use it to buy the course.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Conversation on Lewis

This is the transcript of a conversation I had with one of my Twitter followers. It started with me retweeting a quote from a favorite author of mine, C.S. Lewis.

Ted: Christianity if false is of no importance & if true is of infinite importance but it can't be moderately important-CSLewis

R: Lewis is wrong you know. Even if you find the "Christian" in Christianity false, it's still of infinite importance.

Normally, I wouldn’t have started a discussion based on a comment like that. I would have just let it go. But my pastor had just given a talk about having what he called ‘push back’ against the things that oppose us. It was time to put that teaching into action.

Ted: not sure I understand what you are getting at. I think the emphasis is in too many treating it like its moderately important. Christianity doesn't fit into our lives, it takes over our lives.

R: it doesn't have to. You can respect and adhere to the teachings of Christ and not see him as your savior. Good people of other religions (or no religion for that matter) can tell you they respect his word. And in that sense Christianity as a religion may be false to them, but it is still of significant importance.

Ted: Lewis himself answered you: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic -‑ on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg ‑- or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse."
Then Lewis adds: "You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."

or as was said by Kenneth Scott Latourette, historian of Christianity at Yale University: "It is not His teachings which make Jesus so remarkable, although these would be enough to give Him distinction. It is a combination of the teachings with the man Himself. The two cannot be separated."
Jesus claimed to be God. He didn't leave any other option open. His claim must be either true or false, so it is something that should be given serious consideration."

Ted: it comes down to the very question Jesus asked his disciples (recorded in Matt 16:15) "But who do you say that I am?"

R: and that's not a flawed expectation? People can't be good or respectful of Jesus unless they choose to accept him as their lord and savior? You just pointed out why so many people fear Christianity. When the right cries of a war on Christian values, know it is because they chose to demand unconditional surrender and and inability to respect the views of other religions. A dangerous perspective to say the least when others might otherwise respect you and your beliefs. Lewis may have made a reasonable argument, but it doesn't make it right, at least not to someone who tolerates those who might disagree.

Ted: just so I'm clear in my response, tell me what 'respect' means to you in this context.

R: I mean that the guy next door can't admire how you live you're life and not agree with you on religion? I mean the guy next door can't read the bible not as gospel but as a part of a different view of society and choose to follow its teachings in context and that not be enough? When I say respect, I'm talking about both tolerance and a genuine interest in sharing your belief in serving a grander good. Many religions are not that different and yet we bicker on the details despite the messages being the same. Admiring your faith and how you exhibit it but deciding another is for him should be enough to prove Christianity can be seen as false (to him) yet important.

Ted: of course he can admire my life and not agree with me (I hope he does admire how I live my life and it gives me an opportunity to talk to him one day about why I live the way I do.) Of course he can read the Bible and not accept its message (many do, some even within the church.) But Christianity isn't about serving a grander good. It's about establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ himself.

Christianity can coexist and be tolerant with other belief systems. A key component of Christ's message was giving people the permission to reject him. But it will never fit into the pluralistic philosophy you described. Christianity makes two claims, and as far as I know it is the only religion to make them. That it's main guy (Jesus) was dead and rose again and that He and He alone is God and the only way to God. That's why it's so pivotal that its claims be true or not. If its claims are true, it is the only way to God and is of the utmost importance. If its claims are not true, then Jesus lied. While we can appreciate his moral teachings, appreciating the moral teachings of a pathological liar seems a little odd, and I would say that as a belief system it would have much importance.

R: it took me a while to think about this, but...If I concede that you are correct, YOU are the one telling those who don't believe what you believe must conclude YOUR savior must be a madman or a liar. Islam and other religions don't make that claim about Christ, but Lewis et al insist that must be the belief of non-believers. He et al have made victimized themselves and their savior while others refuse to do so. There is a terrible danger in such actions.

Ted: Yes, it is Christianity that recognizes this issue with Jesus, because Jesus himself leaves us no other logical conclusions. What other option is there? We have a man here who has laid claim to being God. If that claim be false, what else can we call him? It's not dangerous, or victimizing Jesus. It's acknowledging what He said while He was here on earth. What I find so odd is that people of other belief systems are so willing to ignore the very claims Jesus made about himself.

And that was the end of the conversation. It was never my intention to try to win an argument. I wanted to learn something from someone who held a different belief than me, and I hoped to teach him a bit more about my beliefs. That is the essence of an exchange of ideas. It is rare to find someone else, especially on the interwebs with the same goal.

I do hope that this conversation may lead to others and that through my example, and my words, I can be an force that attracts people to Christ.

In retrospect, I regret not getting more into a discussion about 'good' people of other beliefs or religions. This is one of the pervasive myths I encounter as a follower of Christ. People have this idea that when they get to the end, all their 'good' will be weighed against all their 'bad' and if the 'good' comes out on top, they will be in heaven. It's so foreign to what Jesus taught while he was here on earth.

The teachings of Christ reveal that no person is good. It's like we are trying to jump from San Diego to Hawaii. Ain't nobody is going to make it. The sad thing is that Christians have decided to beat up on other people because they jumped a little farther. We have disobeyed Christ's own teachings to us about judging our fellow man, and done much harm. It's about to the point where I wish I could claim another word for what I believe. In my profile, I call myself a follower of Christ, which I like better than Christian.

(I also wanted to comment on the quote my twitter follower gave: “When the right cries of a war on Christian values…”  The right is something all together separate from Christianity. Some of my best Christian friends lean considerably left.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

How to Think Sideways: Genre

I was working on my How to Think Sideways class last night. I'm massively behind, but I'm not letting that discourage me from continuing to plug away at the coursework. This week's lesson was about learning the market, and it left me uneasy on many levels.

I used to read voraciously, but I don't read nearly as much anymore. The lesson highlighted the need for me to read more, both in my genre and in others. Which brings me to the whole genre question. As I've talked about before, I've got book ideas that cover many different genres. I wanted the one I'm working on right now, Code Name: Dream Chaser, to be Adult fiction. The problem is, it really is Christian fiction. The main character is a Christian trying to break into professional ministry. Several scenes happen in churches. I love the idea of writing Christian fiction because Christianity is a big influence in my life. I'm surrounded by it culturally, and intellectually. I know it well, even if I don't live it out well all the time.

But I'm starting to feel a bit overwhelmed. I already feel stretched beyond my capacity to keep up, and now I need to add hours and hours of critical reading to my already over booked schedule. But this is part of becoming what I want to become. I want to be a published author. I'm not going to relish every part of the journey, but that doesn't mean I can skip the parts I don't like.

And come to find out I should have done all this genre and market research before I started writing. Oops. I took How to Think Sideways to try to improve as a writer, but it seems more and more that I should have taken it before I even got started. Scary thought, maybe I am just getting started. Maybe this first year of taking writing seriously has been little more than preparation (despite all I've written). I feel like I've gotten better, so I wouldn't call it a waste.

The next step would seem to be making a reading list. I've read the Left Behind series, and started the Circle trilogy (it actually now has a fourth book, but I guess its still a trilogy). I loved the Left Behind series. I didn't like the Circle trilogy as much. I need to figure out why. So far, I haven't read anything like my story, but my great fear is that when I start researching Christian fiction, I'll find my story has already been done, and done to death.

Then what do I do? I can't see stopping. I may fail, and fail greatly with this first story, but by Grabthar's hammer, I will not quit.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Blizzard World Writing Contest

Blizzard has announced the 2011 Short Story Writing Contest. The 2010 contest was part of what got me started back on writing again.
Last year, my entry didn’t win. I don’t know if it was in the last cut or the first cut. I only know it didn’t make the cut. I would have loved to have known where I placed. Blizzard never gave out numbers, but I estimated (based on total number of words read by their judges) thousands of entries.
I’ve learned much since then, and I’m ready to give it another go. I read over the winning entries from 2009 and 2010, and even beyond improving the writing, I feel like I’ve got a better sense of what these judges are looking for. I’ve even got the beginnings of an idea for a story, but I know it needs work.
In its simplest form a story is a character, who wants something, and has to overcome obstacles to get it. Well, I’ve got a character, and I know what she wants. But right now, I don’t have much in the way of obstacles or conflict. That’s what I’m missing.
The deadline is September 20th, and I’ve still got my NaNo first draft to finish, as well the rewrites on the Unicorn story.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saturday Six: Work Environment

1. Other than your computer or anything connected to it, what object is closest to you now?

That would be my fireproof box.

2. Extend your right arm all the way to the side: what object is your hand closest to at that moment?

The small trash can I keep near the computer. I mainly use it for bills.

3. Same exercise with your left arm: what object is your left hand closest to at that moment?

That would be a bookshelf filled with books and the boxes my computer games game in.

4. What book is closest to you now?

The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. Great book, I highly recommend it.

5. Other than your computer, what electronic gadget is closest to you now?

My smart phone. Droid does, don’t you know.

6. And now, an old-school writing question: how many pencils and pens are within reaching distance of you right this minute?

Zero. There’s a container on my wife’s desk about 7 feet away with some, but it’s not within arms reach.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Radical Approach to Prisons

175731utlejljemThis is one of those random posts about the crazy ideas I get in my head sometimes. This one is about prisons.

My home state spends approximately $60,000 a year per inmate in our severely overcrowded penal system. I wonder if we couldn't save some money, while also improving conditions.

My idea is that we take the non-violent, lesser criminals in our jails and offer them a deal. We will pay them $18,000 a year to live outside of prison. The only caveat is, they have to keep their nose clean. They wouldn't have to do anything else. It would be sort of like a welfare check. But break the law again and the $18,000 goes away, and their butt is back in prison. If it worked, it would save my home state $42,000 per inmate.

Would they take it?

I know $18,000 isn't a lot of money to make in a year. It's about half of the median income in my state. It's also approximately what a person on welfare gets in a year.

I'm confident people could find a way to live on it.

Actually, I'd put one more condition in place. I'd give them $15,000 the first year and use the other $3,000 to relocate them. They would need to relocate to a new city. Many people get into trouble because of the influence of their peer group. Getting  them away from that peer group would give them an opportunity to start over, and the $18,000 a year would give them time to reacclimatize.

I don't know if it would work or not, but I would love to see it tried.

Image: Courtsey of Arvind Balaraman /

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

About Page

Headshot Continue reading at your own risk.

My blog doesn’t have an about page. Time to correct that. I'm going to open up a little bit today, and tell you about the guy at the keyboard.

I grew up and still live in a part of the country affectionately known as the Bible Belt. Raised in a traditional denomination, we were in church every time the doors opened. It was little surprise that I was baptized before my 8th birthday.

As I got towards the end of high school, my view towards church had started to change. It was more chore and tradition than anything real or meaningful in my life. There was no more acceptance, or feeling of belonging at church than there was at school. It was basically just another extracurricular activity.

Around this time, a friend gave me a book called Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. This is not a small novel, but I burned through it over the summer. Many of the ideas resonated with me. Ayn Rand was a staunch conservative in most things (free market, taxes bad) but way left on others (marijuana should be legal, abortions legal), and without a doubt, she hated God.

I became intrigued by her writing and eventually read everything Ayn Rand had written. She was an avowed Atheist. I liked her ideas and I wanted to integrate them into my World View, but I was struggling with the whole Atheist thing. I began to research. I discovered many solid intellectual arguments against God and the Christian faith.

When it came time to finally go to college, I had abandoned the faith, church or even calling myself a Christian. I claimed Deism, then Agnosticism, and then full on Atheism.

I found the social life in college that I had missed in High School and partied my way right out after two years. Around this time I started exploring New Age, and Eastern Mysticism. Fascinating stuff, really, Ying Yang, the great Brahma.

I wound up in a Tech School back home and eventually dropped out of that too. I rented a run down little apartment, got a minimum wage job at a Video Rental store, and basically started just living life.

I had already met the person who would become my wife. We actually met while I was at college and we were both seeing other people at the time. But I was immediately attracted to her and would flirt with her constantly. It was so bad we had to be separated into different work areas at one point.

We had kept in contact over the years, and when she discovered her boyfriend was cheating on her, I let her know I would be there for her when she was ready to date again.

She was a Christian and in order to spend time with her, I started going to her church. I knew all the intellectual arguments, being in the building wasn't going to hurt me or affect me any, or so I thought. As we grew closer, I was amazed at how God worked in her life. I started to look around me. The
people I knew who I liked and respected were all active Christians. I said to myself, I still don't know if its true or not, but regardless, it makes 'good people'.

God kept working on me. It came to the point that I wanted in my life what these people seem to have in theirs. But I was pretty sure that once you renounced the faith, that was it, you were done, thanks for playing, we have some lovely parting gifts for you.

I talked to people I trusted who assured me that I hadn't done anything that God couldn't forgive. Apparently, he was ready and willingly to forgive me, even for my Atheism, denying he even existed.

I hadn't had all my intellectual arguments satisfied. When I was honest with myself, it was never really about those anyway. It was about control of my life, being able to do what I felt like doing guilt free. Ultimately, it was more about people who I respected and who took an interest in me as a person that convinced me there was something to this Christianity thing.

I made the decision to return to Christ, if He would have me. If not, at least I would try to keep people from making my same mistakes.

I eventually found some great Christian Apologetics authors. Christian Apologetics is the intellectual defense of the Christian faith. My favorite was probably C.S. Lewis. In time, all my intellectual a arguments were satisfied. Each one that I found the answer for only solidified a faith that was already in me.

I've wondered sometimes if my conversion at 8 years old was real, but ultimately that doesn't matter. Today, I claim to be a follower of Christ, and I pray that my life both online and offline reflects that. I'm continuing to grow and learn.

I'm far from perfect, and I mess up more times than I can count. But I know that God loves me and he sent His Son to die for me, and that if I ask, he is faithful and true to forgive my mistakes. He sees me as he sees his own Son, perfectly acceptable to him.

That same opportunity is there for you. God loves you. The Bible says that he doesn't want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to come to him. No amount of good deeds, or being a 'good person' will do it. He offers the free gift of His Son to you. I know it isn't popular to say, but really it all comes down to your decision. Get on the journey.

If you'd like to talk to someone, my email is on this page or you can 1-888-Need-Him.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Saturday Six: Social Media

1. How many social media networks do you belong to at the moment?

Currently, you can find me on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google Plus.

2. How many social media networks have you joined, then stopped using because you didn’t care for their setup or operation?

I can’t think of any I joined and then stopped using. Well, I don’t use ICQ or IRC much anymore but those were really before ‘social network’ was even a word. I was never into MySpace. I don’t think I was its target demographic. FourSquare has never appealed to me. If you need to know my location that badly, just call me. Any of the others are just too small for me to be overly concerned with.

3. Which social media network do you use the most?

Twitter. I get most of my news in my Twitter feed now, and it allows me follow celebrities easily without encroaching on their privacy. They chose what and when to post. I can connect to people with similiar interests and still keep a relatively low profile.

4. ?Take the quiz: Are You Facebook, MySpace or Twitter?

I’m a Twitter. Who knew?

5. How do you feel about geotagging networks like FourSquare, where users can post their current locations: cool idea or security risk?

I think it depends on your situation in life. I can’t see it being much of a security risk to me, yet I still don’t use it. If you think your friends really want to trace your every move, let me know where you live, I’m sure we can find a good consoler in your area.

6. If you know a company that you do a lot of business with is on a social network that you belong to, are you more likely to “friend” or “like” them?

Sure. Many times companies will give deals or coupons to their Facebook or Twitter followers. I don’t really consider it spam because I’m asking for it, and there’s a solid chance it’ll be useful to me because these are companies I already do business with.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Developing a Presence

It's good to have friends.

I was getting wrapped around the axle (where did THAT expression come from) about my internet presence. I don't have a very big one, and certainly not as big of one as I used to have in my alter ego as Honorshammer the Paladin tank. Publishers look at a prospective author's internet presence. You need one. I started getting worried that my relatively small presence would be a hindrance when I started seeking publication, but I could tell I was putting way too much pressure on myself in regards to this issue.

That's when I turned to my Writer's Group. This is a group of people from all across the country (and world) that I’m sharing with, learning with and growing with. I posted on our message boards with the issues I was having and a got a couple of responses that were both thoughtful and helpful.

It's tough going from a 1000 hits a day blog like Tami had with Ego or I had with Honors Code to low double digits in our writers blog. But Tami is right. I knew it was time to move on from Honors Code.

Then Maz lifted my spirits when she replied she enjoyed reading about my writing journey on here. I know that comments like that shouldn't have so much impact on me, but at this stage in my journey, a positive comment like that is treasured.

The resolution, for me, came through my twitter feed. I follow @AdviceToWriters. They will send out quotes and links to articles. This quote came from Neil Gaiman, who has written episodes for both Babylon 5 and Dr. Who. That gives him major cool points in my book.

"Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don't 'network' or 'promote'. Just talk.”

Just talk. I can do that. Thanks for stopping by today to listen!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


I put my Unicorn story up this morning and by mid-afternoon the critiques were rolling in. I came home and saw a sea of comments.

I’ve run a gamut of emotions.

First off, I can’t believe some of the mistakes they found. I must have read over this story a dozen times, yet there were obvious typos like ‘the’ when I meant to write ‘they’. How did I miss that?

I feel like an adolescent learning how to drive. I'm swerving from too much description of minutia to too little description of important emotions. I can't seem to find the lane.

My main character didn’t come off quite the way I had hoped and the unicorn stole the show. Ironic that in my initial planning she was little more than a prop.

I’ve dealt with some negative emotions. The critiques have shown me that I still have a long journey ahead of me. Sometimes the path ahead looks so long that I wonder if I’ll ever get there. The temptation to give in, throw my hands, and say to *bleep* with the whole idea was something I struggled with.

But I’ve also had some incredibly positive and encouraging emotions. "

“Overall, the story has great bones.” and “This story has a LOT of potential” were exciting critiques to read. I treasured comments that certain parts were “Fantastic!” and “Wonderfully done!”

The critiques loved my unicorn character. “I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading her!”

I can write a character people love. That’s a positive step. I just need to strengthen my main character and make him as enjoyable as my unicorn.

I am grateful for the detailed critiques these people have taken the time to give me, and I’m learning from every comment. It bummed that I’m only going to get one bite at the apple at this. I’d love to see what they think of the rewrites.

This also gives me a real sense of concern over my NaNo (which has become more of  a NaNoWriYEAR). But I’ll finish that project before I start worrying about that.

Monday, August 1, 2011

WIP and Unicorn Update

Another milestone cleared in my current Work In Progress. This weekend I passed the 40k word mark. My hero has had his whole world collapse on him, and now he's got to try to put the pieces back together and see if he can salvage his dream.

I've also been tinkering with my Unicorn story. The drafting is done and now we have moved to the next stage in the Unicorn short stories. Critiquing. Each of us will submit our stories to the rest of the group for critique. I'm both excited and nervous about this.

It's exciting that it's going to be read. Writing is such a shared art form. The writer is only half the equation. We need the reader to have our art come fully alive. I'm thrilled to be able to share my story with this group.
But I'm also nervous. What will they say? What will they think of this short story I've written. I know I need the critiques. I know its the only way I'm going to get better. But it's still nerve wracking to put yourself out there. I need practice getting critiqued, too.

I really want my story to be good. I just know everyone else is going to write an amazing story. I just want mine to be able to stand up and not look completely out of place. The critiques will help that happen, and I'm ready to learn.

Whatever they have to say, I'm going to take it and apply it and do my level best to learn from it. Thick skin activate. This is going to be hard, but this is the path that leads to my goal. Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Seven: The Sixth Day

This week’s Sunday Seven question from Patrick’s Place is about the Creation story.

So having said all of that, we have seven days to work with. Your challenge is to imagine having the opportunity to be there as God did all of the creation: to watch it all happen as it happened. Which days would you be most interested in witnessing in the presence of God as He created everything?

I would want to be there on Day Six. This was day that God created man in most Judeo-Christian beliefs.

God’s Perspective

I would love to see what God was saying and thinking on that day. Was he already looking to the day He would have to send His Son to redeem this new creation of His. The Bible says that Jesus was slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation chapter thirteen, verse eight).

Was He holding out hope that maybe Adam wouldn’t screw it up in the Garden? Was is still possible on that sixth day that at the key moment Adam would chose to obey his God and not listen to the Snake?

Early Earth

I’d also love to see what Adam and Eve looked like. Some have speculated that Adam and Eve would have been the most attractive people ever created. The idea is that their DNA was perfect and it’s been degrading ever since.

In addition to see what Adam and Eve looked like, I would have loved to see what the Earth looked like. Was it some sort of Pangaea super continent? Would I even recognize it?

What was Adam’s world like? Were there fantastic creatures the likes of which we’ve never seen. Some people believe that there were dinosaurs walking around during the time of Adam. That would be cool, but how about dragons, unicorns and other incredible creatures. Did they populate Adam’s world?

I would also love to see how Adam was created. An often overlooked fact from the Biblical story is that Adam was created outside the Garden and then put into the Garden. Could that outside the Garden experience relate somehow to an evolutionary creation of Adam?

Day Six would be the day that interested me the most? How about you? Feel free to play along at Patrick’s Place.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Remember The Milk

I think of things I need to do when I’m at work, or in the car, but by the time i get home, play with the kids, and have dinner, I've totally forgotten what I needed to, or wanted to do. Its the biggest reason I got behind in HTTS. I simply forgot to check in on the classes for days at a time. I'd remember at work or on the way home, but by the time I could actually do something, I'd forget.

I needed a tool to help me get more organized. Enter Remember the Milk.rtm

Remember the Milk is a cool little site/tool task organizer. You can organize your tasks into categories. I have Writing, Blogging, Personal, etc. rtm2

One of my favorite things about RTM is how intuitive the site is. When you set up your tasks, you can put in a due date of the date say June 30, 2011 or 6/30/2011. It understands it either way. But you can also put in due dates like “next Saturday” or in “two weeks”.

You can do the same kind of things with repeat. For example, the program understands what “Repeat every Tuesday” means. It even understands if you put your due date in the subject. Entering “party tomorrow at 9pm” will set your task as “party” with a due date of tomorrow at 9pm.

Another part I really like is there voting feature for new features to prioritize. rtm3 it lets their users have a hand in how the site is grown. who knows better than your users what your site needs.

I've used task managers before but then I'd forget to check the task manager. RTM helps me with this because they integrate into Gmail. When I get on the computer at night my browser opens to Facebook, my Yahoo mail and my Gmail/G+, there in all its glory is my RTM list.

They also have an Android app, but that requires a Pro account. I am planning on getting one soon because I feel like I should support them. They have made an excellent product.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Unicorn Update

The first draft is in the bag at just under 5,200.

I actually had two different ideas. My original thought was to write them both, but the second idea never made the leap from theme and character to good story.

I started with an outline of my first story, and then Tami and Bre gave me some helpful feedback.Next up I made a scene list similar to how I make a function list when I’m laying out a new computer program. Then it was just a matter of writing each scene and the transition and voila, a first draft.

My story is about a King whose pregnant wife has fallen deathly ill. The only way they can save her is by obtaining the horn of a Unicorn, but doing so will violate a treaty and force the King to surrender his Kingdom to an evil dictator. The King must choose between saving his wife and placing his subjects at the mercy of an evil tyrant, or spare his people people and lose my wife.

I’m looking forward to sharing with the Saucy Ink group and getting some feedback that will improve the story and hopefully my overall writing as well.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Write?

204604yydwa3rp8 Asking yourself why you want to write is an exercise that's been suggested to me in both Writing Fiction for Dummies as well as How to Think Sideways. It's not a simple answer.

I want to write because:

I enjoy telling stories, and I enjoy sharing stories with other people. There is a special joy that comes when your writing is read, and appreciated. I've been writing stories as far back as elementary school. I continued writing through high school and college, but it was always something that would come and go. It is only very recently that I've gotten serious about it, and started studying it.

I want to write because:

I've got all these story ideas. My current Idea Box, a Scrivener Project where I jot down ideas, has 20 entries. They aren't all fully fleshed out, but each one is the spark of an idea I could use. They run the gamut: Christian, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Historical, Mystery. I want to get those stories out, and have them read and enjoyed.

I want to write because:

I would like influence how people see the world. It is impossible to write without your own views of the world coming through in the way the story is told. Books have had a powerful influence on me. In high school, I was influenced by a series of adventure novels where the characters were setting up their own little country*. During college, it was reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead that impacted my thinking. More recently, the Left Behind series has challenged the way I look at the world. I would love it for someone to read a story I wrote and reconsider the way they have viewed the subject matter.

I want to write because:

I’ve been told I’ve got some talent. Now its up to me to develop that talent and see where it can take me. I don’t want to look back and wonder “What if?”

I want to write because:

I love the schedule. I’ve always wanted a job where I could work different hours. As a night owl, the early morning has never been a good time for me. I always knew whatever my 8’oclock class was, it was going to be a struggle because my brain just isn’t engaged at that hour. I would struggle to get up and be late which didn’t help. I’d love more freedom in my schedule. My kids are growing up, and having the ability to tailor my schedule around theirs sounds like a dream. I know it may take several years to even get to the point where I can have the writers schedule, and I may never get there, but it is a powerful motivator for me.

That’s why I want to be a writer.

(* - The name of the series escapes me at the moment. It was set in a post apocalyptic USA and the main character carried around a Tommy Gun. One of the supporting characters fancied himself after Wild Bill Hickock. I asked the internet, but it wasn’t much help. I hereby reserve the right to come back and edit this entry when and if I remember the series.)

Image provided royalty free by: Paul /

Monday, July 18, 2011

Saturday Six – Books and Movies

1. What’s the last movie you waited in a long line to see?

Star Wars Episode III. I knew this was going to be my last chance to see the premiere of a Star Wars film. So I did the whole nine yards, dressed up as Obi-Wan and waited in line for the midnight show.

2. What’s the biggest movie you’ve been excited about seeing before the premiere?

Star Wars Episode I. It has been 20 years since the last Star Wars movie came out. I waited in line for about 4 hours for tickets.

3. Do you watch more movies in the theater or on DVD?

Option C none of the above. These days we watch most of our movies by streaming them through NetFlix.

4. Which do you prefer to do: watch a movie or read a book if both are based on the same story?

That’s really tough. Both formats have their advantages, and I can’t think of any story that I’ve experienced both ways, although I am looking forward to Blue Like Jazz. I read the book and I’m curious to see how it translate to a movie.

5. How often have you found that the book really is better than the movie?

The only movie I can think of at the moment would be Passion of the Christ, in which case, the book is definitely better. It is always tricky when you switch from one medium to another. Some stories transition well, others, not so well.

6. Take the quiz: Are You a Book or a Movie?

Apparently, I’m a book. Who knew?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Picture Pages

I have a problem. I want to use pretty pictures with my posts. What I normally do is a Google Images search for the image I want, copy to my hard drive, and post to my blog. After talking with a good friend, I was shocked to learn that this is sort of illegal and violates the image creators copyright.

Who knew?

As someone who hopes to one day make some money on copyrighted material (novel, short story) it would probably be a good idea to honor the copyright of others. Not to mention that whole ethics/conscience thing I’ve got going on.

I was given a link to a couple of photo services, but these places charge about $1 a photo. That that doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’ve already written 32 posts on this blog. That would be over $30. I plan on doing hundreds of posts. That is going to get expensive after a while.

I wonder how other bloggers handle this? If you have some ideas on how I could address this issue, feel free to drop me a line in the comments.