Saturday, December 31, 2016
Monday, March 14, 2016
I do not know how I am going to use the written word over the next eight months, but I must use it. If only to be able to look at myself in the mirror. If you are one of those spout racism and are lining up to turn back the American clock on basic human rights, you are my enemy. For every word of hatred you spout, I will render two of tolerance. I do want to be able to look myself in the mirror, but more importantly, I want the people I love to know that I did everything I could to ensure their safety.
Saturday, February 6, 2016
Writing is a fairly straightforward process for me. I have the idea for a book, and make a few notes. Those notes become a sort of outline, inasmuch as I use an outline, for the story I’m writing. Over time, I add ideas here and there, imagine a few scenes that will anchor the plot, and put it all in order. Finally, I read the book myself. If I don’t like it, I adjust it a little. When I’m happy with my creation, I give it to my editors, so they can tell me what they likes and don’t like about the book, and tell me what else it needs. Once it’s just right, I share it with a few beta readers who tell me what they think of it. Then I share the book with the world.
Cooking Writing is a fairly straightforward process for me. I have the idea for a dish book and make a few notes. Those notes become a sort of recipe outline, inasmuch as I use a recipe an outline, for the food story I’m making writing. Over time, I add ingredients ideas here and there, imagine a few flavors scenes that anchor the dish plot, and cook it put it all in order. Finally, I taste read the food book myself. If I don’t like it, I adjust it a little. When I’m happy with my creation, I give it to my family editors, so they can tell me what they like and don’t like about the dish book, and tell me what else it needs. Once it’s just right, I share it with a few beta tasters readers who tell me what they think of it. Then I share the meal book with the world.
Reading a series is just like sitting down to a multi-course meal. The first book gets you started, and gives you a taste for what is to come. By the time you get to dessert, I hope to have sated your hunger for my creation.
So you see, a story and a recipe are really very similar. One stimulates your mind, the other your taste buds. I can stimulate both. I hope you enjoy the book, er, meal. Well, whatever I make you, I know you will enjoy it.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
We had a swing set in our back yard. It was just an old rusty thing that brought us more injuries than joy, but it was a swing set and we were glad to have it. It always had bare ground where we dug our feet in to get a start. Those grooves never grew grass.
Growing up in northeast Oklahoma meant that there was regular rain, year round. Combined with those dirt ruts under the swings, that meant Mom often cussed us boys or my sister for tracking mud into the house after sliding or swinging for a while. Now a normal dad would have moved the swing set once a year or something to keep the mud out of the house. Hell, even a scrap of carpet on the back porch would have solved the problem. And that's how I know Dad was sadistic. He didn't solve the problem sensibly. Instead, once a year, he'd go out and buy a bucket or two of class A gravel and then make us boys spread it under the swings.
Think about that for a minute. Class A gravel is the big jagged crap that can cut you just from picking it up. And our dad, who protected us from monsters in the closet, over zealous teachers who gave us swats too often, and killed water moccasins at Lake Keystone with a hair-trigger Remington revolver, made us spread it out under our swing set. An act that created a bed of blood-stained rock for us to land on every time we jumped from, or fell off the swings. So yeah, Dad was sadistic. He was my best friend and my greatest teacher, but he was sadistic.
This post is about calluses though, not Dad's dark streak. He worked us hard. We mowed and trimmed the yard every two weeks, and once a month we cleared the grass from a plot of land we camped on and where we almost built a house. We never had play tools, because as soon as we could hold real ones, Dad put them in our hands. Even my sister worked hard.
I have one brother who is a douche bag, and I don't count him because he is a waste of space. But among the rest of us are some great people. I can't remember my sister ever not being motivated. She spent years in a real estate related field, then owned a successful restaurant for a few years, then went back to real estate. After her comes a brother who can build anything, and probably has. From full-size oil field engines to Revell Chevy V8 models to carpentry, he is more skilled with his hands than anyone I have ever met. Then there is the brother I am closest to. He is the president of a multi-million dollar jewelry company. Recently we talked about his graying hair and whether or not stress is causing it. Next up, a brother who should have been a salesman, but wasn't. He has always been the first to jump in and help on any project, and has a genuinely funny personality that puts you at ease immediately.
Finally we come to me. As a little kid, I mowed yards even though I had asthma. In the winter, I sold mistletoe in sandwich bags for Christmas money. As an adult I've done everything from trudge through swamps and jungle with an 80 pound rucksack to build houses. Over my three decades in the workforce, I've worn a uniform, I've been a short order cook, a truck driver, a carpenter, and a myriad of other things. I once got paid $500 an hour to don an asbestos fire suit and climb into a still hot trash incinerator to clean the ash from its walls. I lost ten pounds to sweat that night. My boots were full of it by the time I climbed out of the access port.
The point is, we all grew up busting our butts. All of us have had blisters and calluses our entire lives. When I closed my home modification business in the Spring of this year, I had decades-old calluses on the palms of my hands, calluses on my feet, and calluses on my joints. You get the idea. But now I have just two calluses on my hands. Oddly enough, they are both on my left hand, even though I'm right handed. One of the calluses is from my wedding ring. Where my ring finger meets the palm of my hand, my ring has caused one under the knuckle. The other one is just to outside of the tip of my left pinky finger. I've spent hours trying to figure out how I got that one.
I realized today that it's my writing callus. I got it from the angle of my hand in relation to the keyboard of my Chromebook. Every time I press the ctrl or shift key, I do so with that exact spot on my pinky. The ctrl key has to be the culprit, since I would guess that I use the right and left shift about equally, but there is only one ctrl key that I use, and it's on the left side. That realization made me think about that key a little bit. How many times do I hit it each day? I mean it's enough to cause a callus right? Or at least enough to push it over the edge from normal use.
So what do I use the ctrl key for? In Google Docs, which is what I use to write my books, I use the key in conjunction with the b and i buttons most. Ctrl b is all about making text bold. See what I did there? Ctrl i is all about italics. In my writing, I use italics to denote POV thought and ship names. I don't mention ship names that much in my books, though they are there. By the way, have you noticed that I name all my ships after gun-related things? The Coach Guns are named after the sawed off shotguns used to protect stage coached in Old West, which is the root of the term riding shotgun, because the guy who rode up by the stage driver carried one. The Mare's Leg is the type of firearm Steve McQueen made famous in Wanted: Dead or Alive. Derringer-class scout ships. The Kalashnikov. Again, you get the idea.
But my guy Cortland Addison apparently thinks a lot, because I have that damned callus on my left pinky finger. Since I write The Warrior Chronicles in what's called limited omniscient POV, that means most of the thought italics are his. Who would have thought that the most prolific killer in human history, or maybe human future, thinks so much? He thinks so much that I have a damned callus on my pinky finger. I just remembered, I use italics to denote Cort's telepathic communication with Bazal, too. So a thoughtful warrior and a telepathic octopus are responsible for it. Maybe if I kill off Bazal, the callus will go away.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Today, 13:03 took on a new meaning for me. Recently, I submitted Warrior's Scar to a review blog that I like. Immerse or Die is a great concept by Jefferson Smith. He has a 40-minute treadmill workout, during which he reads a new book. Then he posts how long the book held his attention, as well as his thoughts about it. Warrior's Scar lasted thirteen minutes and three seconds. Jefferson had good things to say about my concept, but like I say, thirteen minutes and three seconds. Damn. Now I know from reading his blog that beating ten minutes is a significant feat. But I wanted it all, and I blew it. An editing error and a last-minute correction did me in.
As much as I hate 13:03 right now, I've learned from it. I'm changing how I keep the timeline of the series, as well as how I track it. Over the next few months, as I finish book five and release the second editions of books two and three, you can bet that while there might be other mistakes, my timelines will be right.
Thursday, October 2, 2014
This morning I turned the power on in the shop for the first time in over six months. As I cut and machined the parts to make the top brackets, my muscle and mental memory kicked in thanks to the smell of hot steel filings and took me back to those days. It was like seeing an old friend. I remembered the elderly woman who answered the door completely nude, much to her daughter's horror. I remembered the WWII vet who showed me a picture of himself receiving a medal from General Eisenhower. Another vet who gave me his WWI trench knife to thank me for my work. There was a Russian woman who runs a board and care that insisted I put a pole in every one of her rooms. There were also memories of jerks. The guy who told me, "A person of your station in life should know better than to suggest someone of my station might use plywood in their home." A woman who kicked me out of her house because I felt sympathy for Trayvon Martin's family. There was even a lady who tried to blame me for water damage caused by a grab bar I didn't install.
But the job I did today went smoothly. I showed up and the building had a work order waiting for me. The patient's family was there to write the check. The install was easy. In fact, it was almost textbook perfect. The bed was already in an ideal spot, the joists were perfectly aligned with the toilet in the bathroom, and I was out of the building in less than half an hour. If every job went that smoothly, I would still be doing that work in addition to writing.
I walked out of the building and put my tools back in the truck. I texted my wife that it felt oddly nostalgic to revisit that time, if only for one job. I pulled onto J Street and headed for the Cap City Freeway. By the time I was merging onto I-80, I was thinking about a conversation Cort is going to have with a family member in book five. Like the cars in my mirror as I glided into traffic, that world is behind me now and somewhere beyond the mountain ridges in front of me, is a future of my own creation.
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
One milestone that an only an author writing science fiction can understand, and that he or she both dreads and secretly longs for, is the moment when fact overtakes the fiction we write. Whether H.G. Wells, or Edgar Rice Burroughs or even yours truly, that moment is a gauge of both vision and comprehension. We dread it, because what we write is no longer special. We long for it because when that parity occurs, we are vindicated. We are no longer fiction writers. We aren't hacks. We are not storytellers. At that moment, we are visionaries. For just a moment today, I felt that.
I grew up in Green Country, an incredibly beautiful region of northeastern Oklahoma that borders parts of Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas. It's also oil country. Tulsa was known as The Oil Capital of the World for most of the twentieth century. Geologists from all over the world still study there at the University of Tulsa.
In Warrior's Scar, book one of The Warrior Chronicles, I created The Memorial Sea. It is an inland sea that encompasses all of Green Country, and a large portion of the area around it. The sea was created when nearly three centuries of oil drilling and fracking, combined with an ignorance and then casual indifference toward their effects, a massive earthquake caused a complete collapse of the area's substratum. As the ground settled in the area and the water table rose, it created the sea almost overnight. Millions of people died, hence the name, and the face of the southern Midwest was changed forever. Which brings me to the point of this post.
Today, I was on my way to a basketball function and NPR had an interview with a researcher from the University of Oklahoma, talking about the recent surge of earthquakes in the area. There was a lot of science, a lot of oil history, and a lot of words that linked together really well, forming the basis for what happens in Warrior's Scar. Which I wrote last year, way before the interview today.
I'm not H.G. Wells, though I have read every word he has published. I'm also not Edgar Rice Burroughs or Gene Roddenberry. But like them, my vision has been validated. Maybe not on the same scale, but don't hold that against me. Today there was a great moment to me. A moment that assured me I am doing something right.