Category Archives: Me

Suicide Prevention Month

1101640110_400Someone pointed out that September is suicide prevention month. Instead of just reposting a meme, I wanted to share a story that’s very meaningful to me, something that keeps me going even when I’m at my darkest.

The man in the picture to the right is R. Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century. When he was 32 years old, he was on the edge of committing suicide. As he was about to drown himself in Lake Michigan, he decided that he still had something to contribute to the world.

Fuller filed 28 patents, and his most popular invention, the geodesic dome, is still used heavily today. Most of his later life was spent teaching and consulting on the global level. He was a huge proponent of renewable energy, and like me, he believed in using technology to solve humanity’s problems.

I am a Spoilsport

file55843196ed611 So, I screwed something up today. A writer I like asked a question on her Facebook page about an obscure reference, and I answered that I didn’t get it, but the information was easily Googled, along with a link to the Wiki page I found and linked to.

Later, someone pointed out that she had said, “no spoilers,” in her post. Oops.

However, I can’t help but think how is my explanation of the reference a spoiler? Isn’t her reveal that it’s an obscure reference the actual spoiler? Apparently, not everyone feels this way, as someone cautioned me for revealing too much.

Now, I know explaining a joke makes it no longer funny, but here’s the thing I like about pop culture references: if you get them, they’re kind of like a little joke, but if you just lightly touch on them or move on, the reader thinks they’re part of the scenery. Unlike telling an overt joke, they can actually be funny, or at least interesting, in the explanation.

The again, maybe the author didn’t want “spoilers” because she didn’t want people’s answers influenced by the comments. In which case, just ignore this whole post.

It’s okay to suck.

file55492d0c4e352So the other night at the con, I was telling an aspiring writer that it was okay to suck, and he cut me off before I had the opportunity to make my point, telling me he was not Stephenie Meyer.

First of all, it was kind of rude of him to interrupt–but this is perhaps forgivable as alcohol was involved. Secondly, he had no idea who I was, and you can throw a stick in any con and hit two authors (this is a minimum, at some you can hit ten.) Now I’m not saying I’m anyone important, but for all he knew, I could have been Stephenie Meyer’s friend, or even worse, a friend of her agent. Also, and this may just be me, I don’t think it’s okay to be badmouthing other authors, unless they sodomized your dog, or burned down your garage. I let this rule slide a little if I know the person actually suffered through their books. Buy hey, tastes are different. I’ll forgive the pro whose work I don’t like way before I’ll forgive hubris.

Anyway, enough ranting, time to get back to why sucking is awesome–and no, no need to tell me about the innuendo, I’ve already thought of it.

Sometimes, writers get stuck. It’s a natural part of the creative process. Maybe you’re depressed or tired. Maybe you spent all your creative energy on another endeavor.  At this juncture you have three choices.

  1. You can walk away. No writing today. I try not to do this very often, as I’ll explain below.
  2. You can sit and stare at the page, not coming up with a perfect next line. So, you’re not producing, and you’re not having any fun.
  3. You can give yourself permission to suck and write another sentence, then another one, and so on.

I tend to choose number three, and here’s why: Just because you give yourself permission to suck doesn’t mean you will. Even if you do suck, you took ownership of your piece and moved forward. Sure, some day you may delete it all in editing, but I’m often surprised by how good the material is. I end up editing it into something more usable. And sometimes, when I think I’m having a great day, I write pages of well-written material that don’t make it past the edit process.

Apparently, I should be ashamed

I try not to go off on rants too often, but something that happened yesterday really bothered me. However, while this is a rant, I’m going to have to get rather technical to complete it.

Also, this is going to get a little personal, if that bothers you, you may want to move on.

file553fa80962d94Though I’m not very forthcoming about it, I am a type 2 diabetic, as was my mother. And if you don’t know it, being type 2 carries a stigma. You see, there is a genetic component to type 2, but another good way to get it is to overwork your pancreas by eating too much, specifically in the form of simple carbohydrate foods (sugar).

In my case, I probably would have become diabetic eventually, but my weight probably brought it forward 10 to 15 years. I’m aware that I made bad decisions and I’m taking ownership of that. Going as far as to loose 65 pounds in the last 4 months. Coincidentally, that’s the weight of my lawnmower.

So, just in case you’re wondering, type 1 is a completely different animal. It is a genetic condition by which the pancreas just ceases to function and the body is incapable of producing insulin. A lack of insulin raises blood sugar.

Conversely, type 2 is a disease caused by overproduction of insulin, whether caused by abusing simple carbohydrates or genetic propensity, but more likely a combination of both. Because the body is flooded with insulin all the time, it stops responding to it, raising blood sugar. (The blood sugar imbalance being why these diseases are linked. The cause is different, but the effect is the same.)

You may be asking yourself, at this point, where is the rant? Don’t worry, it’s coming.

So, I spend a lot of time studying diabetes, as anyone diagnosed with a chronic, degenerative disease might do (or so you’d think) and I’ve learned a lot about it, not only the conventional wisdom, but I’ve also followed the bleeding edge of nutrition and medical studies. Part of this is hanging out on the diabetes subreddit.

And this is where we come to yesterday. In a thread about being shamed about being diabetic, someone related that they often got nasty looks in their office when the partook of birthday cake. I happened to have an anecdote about ice cream that seemed appropriate to reply with, as cake and ice cream go well together.

I’ll go ahead and leave it here:

We were at a family reunion and I heard my wife’s great uncle say, “Make sure Paul (my father-in-law) gets the sugar free ice cream; he’s diabetic.”

I whispered to my wife, “Don’t tell them I’m diabetic. I want the good ice cream.”

And ironically, in this thread on shaming people for diabetes, someone tried to shame me for making the decision to have regular ice cream. Not only that, but they went as far as to blame America’s high cost of healthcare on me for being overweight and diabetic. I almost responded, but then I remembered not to feed the trolls. The moderators took it down soon thereafter. Still, it stuck in my craw.

And here’s the rant:

First of all, US insurance companies like fat people. They can discriminate against them, and they actually die faster when the get sick, keeping costs down. This scary fact is one of the things motivating me to lose weight.

Second, many sugar-free foods, ice cream is a great example of this, are horrible tradeoffs. In exchange for 50% of the flavor, you’re probably only losing 10% of the calories and 25% of the carbs. Take a smaller scoop, and the physiological effect would be the same.

Thirdly, what you eat over one vacation weekend doesn’t matter in the bigger picture. Eating sugar-free ice cream every day is more carbs than eating fully-sugared ice cream once a week.

That’s pretty much it for the rant part.

This brings me to the biggest problem about type 2 diabetes, the judgement of yourself and others. When I was diagnosed, I was ashamed, I was depressed. But being ashamed and depressed didn’t help me lose weight. It didn’t help me exercise. If anything, it had the opposite effect. I spent a year of my life convinced that no matter what I did, I was going to die young, leaving my wife a widow and hoping I had enough life insurance to take care of her.

It was only after dozens of hours of research that I discovered what I needed to know to fix both my weight and my blood sugar, and hopefully my health.

I’m not sure more shaming is really what I need.

A difficult couple months

file54f77580d7c80And so it came to pass that I finished my internship at KHP, and this was good. They offered me a position, and initially I accepted, but the stresses of my day job combined with the anxiety I feel from my writing conspired against me, and I ultimately had to renege.

This put me in a bit of limbo, as they were going to publish my next book. But for now, I’m not going to worry about it.

Worry has been a big part of my writing career. I have some anxiety issues and putting myself out there, as you must do when you write, is very difficult for me. Often, when I think about my writing, I get into dark moods, and I wonder whether it isn’t time to give up writing entirely.

So, towards the end of January, I decided to take some time off from writing. I hadn’t taken a break in the last eight years, and my day job was keeping me adequately busy. It’s been a good break. I’ve caught up on my reading, as well as done some beta reading and light editing for others, which has been a positive experience for me. I often think about writing these days, and every day the prospect of starting again seems less painful.

I feel like I have more good books in me, if I can just stop worrying so much and enjoy the process.

2014 is almost gone.

file549991aee0be5So…. it looks like my last update was two months ago. There’s a good reason for this. I’ve been busy doing an intensive edit on a book for KHP, my “final project” of my internship. I don’t know how the author will feel about it–I really went for it with the edits, but my fellow editors seem happy with what I’ve done. I spent a ton of time on it.

Personally, it’s been a tough year with many challenges. I’m kind of happy to see it sliding into the rearview mirror.

In my own writing, I’ve continued to peck away at the Minion of Evil sequel. I’m now sitting just over 40,000 words, and I’m starting to contemplate the transition to the ending. Don’t open the Champagne yet, It’s just a rough draft.

On the other hand, I have submitted Panic No More to KHP–yeah, I know I’m working for them, but I planned to submit it before I took the internship–and they will be releasing it in “January.” Okay, probably more like February.

I wish I had something profound to say at this point to tie everything together, but I’ve never been good at tying things up. How about: Wishing you and yours a happy __Insert your holiday of choice here.__  celebration.

Writing Reviews


I enjoy binder clips.

I promised Dylan Moonfire that I’d write a review of Sand and Blood for him.

I very much wanted to do this. I enjoyed Sand and Blood, and I felt Dylan should get a good review from me because of that. Writing reviews is one of the best ways authors can support each other–or at least those authors whose work we enjoy.

I hate writing reviews, though. Because of this, I make a habit of not writing reviews of books I don’t like. But even when I really like a book, I never feel like I know what to say–not good for a writer–and even when I put down my honest opinion, I have doubts that anyone will believe me or find it helpful and interesting.

Also, I worry that I am biased toward people I like. I shouldn’t have this opinion, because I’ve read plenty of things I didn’t like by people, even professional authors, who I had a great time with in person. Also, I really like writing by authors who I don’t care for personally.

I secretly fear that someday the Amazon or GoodReads police (are they the same police now) will expose me as a fraud, because all my reviews are 4 or 5 stars (more likely five) but I write those reviews in good faith, and I’d probably have a lot of one and two star reviews, but I tend to keep those opinions to myself. Because if you don’t have something good to say about someone’s book, should you say anything at all?

Also, I don’t tend to finish stuff I don’t like.

Just some updates

file53d7f85012e10Wow, time can go by quickly. Between work, social commitments, and surgery, this has been a busy summer for me so far.

The surgery seems to have been a success. I’m currently feeling recovery-type pain instead of carpal-tunnel type pain, if that makes sense. I’m still a little weak in that hand, but every weeks is showing improvement.

On the writing front, I don’t have all that much to report. I’m working on the sequel to Minion of Evil. I was around 20,000 words in and I decided to start over with a couple different subplots. Now I’m getting back up to around 8000 words again. I’m also waiting for some beta reader comments on one of my other novels.

I’ve now been an intern at KHP for a month, but it doesn’t feel like it as they haven’t given me anything to do yet. I’ve been promised a pass at Adam J Whitlatch’s new book though, so I’m looking forward to that. I am a little worried that once they do get started they’ll bury me.

So there we are. Nothing big to report.

Two weeks of nothing special except the one thing.

10505493_10152934717752004_967532443341958906_nThere are two different things in this missive, so if the first one is boring, skip down to part B.

So, I finally broke down and got carpal tunnel surgery on my left hand. I’d done my right a few years ago, and it had helped considerably. This meant a whole two weeks with my hand in a splint and not being able to do much at all except read, take pain pills, and watch movies. Since this is essentially my ideal vacation, this didn’t bother me too much. I made quite a dent in both my James Bond and Stat Trek BluRay collection, and I watched the excellent British show Foyle’s War.

The biggest downside of my little enforced vacation was the inability to drive myself anywhere. If I’d had the ability, I would have spent some time in the coffee shop or the wine shop. I did spend some time writing, but I only put down a half page the entire time–between the pain and the splint getting in the way, it kind of sucked.

Okay, so that brings us to the part of the last two weeks which is momentous news–wow, I really know how to write a story, don’t I?. I was contacted by a friend of mine, Adam J Whitlatch and offered an internship as an editor at KHP Publishers. After a Skype call with the editorial staff, I accepted the position.

Now, I know what my friends and readers are going to say, “Just one minute. Don’t you need more time to write as it is? Didn’t you turn down a job as a full editor just a year or two ago for that very reason?” You would be right to say that. It weighs heavily on my mind even now. Here’s the deal though, as an unpaid intern, I have a lot more leeway to make mistakes and see if being an editor is indeed for me than if I were jumping into the deep end head first.

So, there it is, I have six months to prove to them, and also myself, if it’s worth both our time for me to be an editor.


file5304d3e9a08b7I am prone to over-analysis. I can be almost paralyzed by indecision over trivial things.  I can spend minutes or even hours turning over capitalization decisions in my head, only to find out I’ve made mistakes in less ambiguous areas.

Recently, I was reading advice on a writing forum on whether how to best chain an action to a line of dialog. One writer was adamant that you should never have simultaneous action, therefore your character should clearly stop talking before doing anything. I have to admit, I was stunned by this knowledge.

I mean, where do you stop. Can two people have a conversation while riding in a car? While walking down a hallway? While standing on the rotating Earth? Or can they do these things as long as we don’t let on that they’re happening?

Okay, maybe that characterization is a little unfair, but let me look at some of my dialog and see if people are doing things simultaneously. I opened up a chapter which I thought to be mostly dialog, and I ran into this gem after about 10 lines.

“Okay,” said Nick, heading for the kitchen. “But this recipe takes a while.”

Call, me crazy, but I don’t think this overloads the reader. Maybe that’s just me. On the other hand, I use this level of “simultaneous” action very sparingly. A mere 1300 words later, I write:

“You are in a good mood tonight, cousin,” Larry said, holding Nick’s head down like a police officer would, so he wouldn’t hit his head on the roof of the car. 

Somehow, I think I can live with this level of simultaneous action. However, I do find that I much more often use the Action-Talk-Action method and separate everything out into units. For example:

Rudy sniffed it tentatively. “It’s very aromatic. I’m a little worried it might give me anosmia.” He made a face and poked the thick tea with his finger, failing to break the surface tension.

I’d like to say this was some great stylistic decision, but I really just went for what sounded better in each place.