Syd Fields, Dan Harmon, and Blake Snyder

potted plant near a sofa

I haven’t posted anything here in a while, and most of the posts I have made were short updates. This was going to be another of those posts, but I changed my mind as soon as I started typing the header. I’m still going to give you an update, but I’m going to dive a bit deeper with the content than I have been lately. I hope you enjoy.

What have I been up to?

What a great question, I’m glad I asked. For the past three months I’ve been reading about story telling, writing new stories, and learning a new aspect of the writing craft – screenwriting. If you recognize the three names at the top of this post, you may even know why I have fallen silent for a while. Each of these writers approach writing for the screen from different perspectives, but they are all creating a similar finished product.

I started with Syd Field and his updated how to manual, Screenplay the Foundations of Screenwriting. Syd taught lots of people how to write for Hollywood. The format was similar to the three act novel structure, and that made following his book easy. There are a lot of functional differences between novels, short stories, and screenwriting. Syd slides those lessons in as I read, so I never felt overwhelmed by Hollywood jargon. If anything, I felt like a fan granted a tour of the writers room that I didn’t even know existed.

I learned something else after finishing his book. My next writing project felt easier to write, because the principles I learned for screenwriting worked just as well for short stories. Three acts are the same, the turns between acts land in the same places, and building characters and settings that grab your readers is as universal for every story I’ve ever read as it is for any movie or TV show I’ve ever watched.

I had never heard of story circles.

I’d watched quite a bit of Dan Harmon’s work without ever realizing it. Community has provided me with meme material for years, and I have enjoyed every Rick and Morty episode I’ve watched. But I’d never looked behind the scenes at the writer until I started studying screenwriting in earnest. The story circle makes so much sense to me. I spent a solid month working through permutations of Dan’s eight point method, and loved how easily it fit stories I’ve already written, and projects I still have in mind.

Of course, I’m never satisfied with learning one or two new ideas. I have to experiment with new things, and try to mix them together. So the venerable three act structure had to collide with story circles on my desk. I have been having so much fun, I almost feel guilty. Well, maybe not guilty, but I do feel like I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if I’d learned these things sooner. No MFA in college is definitely haunting me as a writer now.

What about Blake?

Again, I’m asking all the right questions. Syd and Dan have some terrific insight into writing and specifically screenwriting, but Blake has perhaps the best practical advice for screenwriting I’ve come across yet. I’m not all the way through Save the Cat, and I won’t spoil it for anyone who has yet to read it. Blake pays homage to Syd in his introduction, so I knew I was on the right track from the very beginning. I’m loving what I’ve read so far, and once I’m done I plan to play theoretical collider all over again. A unified screenwriting technique is on my horizon.

If not for the screenwriting program I am trying to get into, I never would have considered writing for the screen. My attention was focused on novels and short stories. The visual storytelling that Hollywood is famous for would never have occurred to me, and I would have missed out on so much good advice. Even if I don’t make it into the Veterans Writing Project this year, I have put in the work to improve my craft and write better stories. Not a bad way to spend the dark weeks at the end of winter, in my humble opinion.

Tom Petty was right…

photo of brown labrador retriever sitting in front of driveway

The waiting is the hardest part.

I haven’t posted here in a while, but I have been busy! I’ve written a new Jack story and started a new short story series. But I’ve done all that to keep my mind occupied while I wait for word back from a writing program and retreat I signed up for in January. Its only been two weeks, and I won’t get an answer back until April. Not knowing is driving me a bit crazier than usual. I’m a writer, so some crazy is normal for me, but this is ridiculous.

My newest story is set in an inconspicuous suburb of Baltimore, Maryland. It revolves around Hannah Davidson, a medical research grad student who has come to stay with her mother and grandfather for the summer. The troubled son of a wealthy family takes an unhealthy interest in her, and the result sets more in motion than Hannah can handle. I enjoy remodeling real world settings into fictional universes, and giving details and back story to Angel’s Landing has been no different.

I won’t spoil the read for anyone, but I will say not everyone or everything is as it seems in the small town and countryside of this new story. Somethings will even change right before Hannah’s unbelieving eyes. Stay tuned here and I’ll share more later. Thanks for sticking around while I wait for news about my application.

Yes, it’s still winter…

flower sprout from the ice covered ground

But spring fever has struck me earlier than normal this year!

I have so many projects in motion right now. I’ve finished a fourth jack story, and I’m so pumped with how the series is coming along. I have the manuscript for Fantastic America out again (fingers crossed). And I’m applying to the Veterans Writers project, which is for screenwriting (something I’ve been studying since last Summer). All of that and I keep coming up with new premises for the story I’ll tackle next.

I didn’t intend for this to be an update post, but it turns out that is where this is going. I have an idea bumping around for a writing craft post for next week, so keep an eye out for that if you’re interested. In the meantime – keep writing!

Am I living through a winter slowdown?

macro photography of snowflake

I’ve spent the last few years learning how to tell (I mean SHOW) the stories I want to share. Along the way, I took lots of courses, read books on craft, tried lots of writing software, hired coaches, and joined writers’ groups. Altogether I’ve spent thousands of dollars and many hours relentlessly pecking at my keyboard. I’ve made goal lists, checked off boxes, and patted myself on the back for the content I’ve created.

I have lots of short stories, and a completed manuscript, but I’ve sold next to nothing. The constant stream of rejections has made an impact on me at last. In this overcast wintry period between Halloween and New Year’s Day, I’ve avoided the urge to write. For me, writer’s block has always been an obstacle best overcome by sitting in front of the keys and writing. I might procrastinate, or make excuses, but ultimately I sit back down and write. Until now.

I wrote a post about a health scare I had around Halloween, I went into a diabetic coma for a few hours. That scared me. I changed a lot of habits I’ve developed over my adult lifetime, and could easily use that as an excuse to justify my behavior. That’s all it would be though, an excuse. The slowdown is all on me, and I’m the only one who can fix it.

This post is part of the overhaul I need to get moving again. So, thanks for reading this if you’ve made it this far. Sometimes the best way for me to work through my struggle is to type it out on the page. This is one of those times. I have a lot more stories to write, more worlds to build, and more rejections to log in my excel spreadsheet. It only takes one acceptance to get the ball rolling, right? So I write.

Wednesday’s Child: Trying to find Jack a home.

close up shot of a person signing a document

This summer, I started writing a new series of short stories about a character named Jack. I’ve been trying to find a home for these stories in print or online, but that hasn’t stopped my muse from giving more to write. So far, I’m on Jack’s fourth installment. I have about twenty more stories outlined, but there is little or no limit to how this series can develop.

Case in point, I was finishing story number three when my critique group needed someone to fill in for another writer. I sat up to finish the story but in the process, realized it was too long and the last section had treated a very formative set of scenes in summary. Here I am now with a great outline of story number four, and a perfectly shortened number three.

My writing doesn’t always split itself out so well, but I’m hardly complaining. If anything, the simple split and continue experience has made me double down on what I want to do with the whole series. Its also one of the most fun writing journey’s I’ve been on. Thanks to all the Muses, but especially to Hope, who I am personally attuned to.

In the mean time, I still want to find an editor who sees Jack’s potential. I can’t wait to share his story with you, but I’ll summarize a bit here: Jack lives in modern day Philly, he’s down on his luck, but gets an amazing, even mythical opportunity. His story goes from mundane and mediocre to unbelievable and breathtaking. Each episode pushes into wilder and more fantastic territory. I’m loving writing the stories, and I hope other people will love reading it.

Confronting Mortality

I nearly died Saturday night. That would’ve sounded like the setup for a joke to me, until I woke up in the emergency room. There was nothing quippy or funny about my condition, or the surety that I’d put myself there.

My health has been less than optimal since 2005, but I’ve changed my habits very little in response. I became more sedentary, and missed the more active lifestyle I’d had before. But I kept eating the same, kept drinking the same, and ignored ever more strident warnings that I should change both.

Saturday night, I was out with friends celebrating Halloween. It was the first time I’d been out in a couple of months, and also the first time I’d had much to drink. Sober me had taken it easy for several hours, but by 1am, drunk me had taken over and forgotten how alcohol tolerances work. I got a stark reminder.

Changing behavior is difficult, but not impossible. I’ve already changed my diet over the past year, and gone without alcohol for weeks at a time as well. Turns out, I need to do more than that. I’ve seen family members who wouldn’t put the bottle down, and buried them when the bill came due. I’ll choose a different path, no matter how difficult it may be.

I’m alive, and I plan to stay that way as long as possible. So Happy All Saint’s Day from the land of the living. May we celebrate another one together a year from now.

Rome Fires My Imagination…

roman forum with old building facades and columns in city

Years ago, I had the opportunity to visit Rome. By then I’d already read some Roman history and had a detached appreciation for the Eternal City. Walking through the ruins was a different experience altogether. My writing often reflects the two extremes of my imagination and our modern reality.

The glory of Rome faded well over fifteen hundred years ago. The city today is still impressive, but a visit to the Colosseum only shows the bones left behind. Imperial Rome is reduced to a tourist attraction and lives only in obscure literature (or fiction if you write like me). That doesn’t stop me from taking building fantasies from what remains.

What it means for me:

The picture above is from one edge of the Roman Forum, specifically the back of the Curia Julia (the senate house). This building was once the scene of political intrigue and pivotal moments in Roman history. Today its a crumbling shell of long faded grandeur, but that isn’t why it is important to me.

The ruins of Rome, (or a dozen other places that inspire me) are important not because the were once more imposing, but because they are a physical link to the events that shaped human history. I love ruins because my mind can recreate the splendor they once held, fill in the missing scenery with imagination, and bring the past (or some version of it) to life again.

How I use the past for today:

The skeletal remains of the past come to life in my writing, and with those images, I can build new settings. I can recreate what ancient events may have been like, or extrapolate new scenarios based on those events. Ruins are a canvas for my words to paint new images that may thrill and amaze my audience.

Ruins are a common ground other people can relate to before I add a heavy dose of the fantastic. Rome is a personal favorite because I have read so much about its people, places, and its history. That history echoes into the modern day as we grapple with issues the Romans dealt with long ago.

Rome wasn’t all glamor and prestige. It also saw crime, poverty, and corruption. The messy and undesirable parts of the city are just as important to me as the triumphs and monumental architecture that has survived. Rome is an expression of the human condition locked in fallen stones and rebuilt plazas. Tourists come to gawk at the bones (or the art, the architecture, the religious sites, the modern city, or whatever draws them there). For me, Rome is the muddled ideal of what humans are capable of when we work together.

The perfect elements of writing exist.

The problem for me is getting those elements on the page to remain acceptable outside my head. There is so much subjective and connective tissue lost between my imagination and how those ideas translate into words, that I have trouble not feeling like they have become the two dimensional T-rex from the meme above. Other writers may have this problem too, and my only advice for combatting the feeling is to edit the words until you reach the dragon above the T-rex. It is possible, I swear it!

Practice makes perfect…

close up of person writing in a notebook

Writing, like anything else worth doing well, takes practice. Even talented writers have to put in the effort to make their work publishable. Plenty of self-published stories show good and bad examples of this maxim.

My earliest short stories are riddled with terrible examples of what not to do. In my haste to publish, I thought I had done excellent work. Some lessons are best learned the hard way, but there are less humbling ways to learn the craft of writing. Those ways haven’t been my path, and I’d love to help others avoid the pitfalls I created for myself.

Read about writing.

There are so many resources I wish I’d checked into sooner. There are tons of articles, books, videos, and live events that can help new writers. Before I self-published on Amazon, my only writing experience had been work-related or for school. Even in creative writing classes, my teachers focused on the story, not on how to show (instead of telling) it.

Only after I’d found my way into critique groups did I realize how juvenile those stories were to other authors. Thankfully, those two sad Amazon entries made less than twenty sales together (thanks to friends and family). You don’t have to go through that kind of trauma, practice your craft before you push the publish button.

Five years later…

The stories I write now are still not masterpieces of fiction. They are, however, not mangled by my novice voice. I show, I ground my dialogue in the scene, and my descriptions enhance the story rather than trying to take center stage over the characters. I’m as much a work in progress as my stories, but I like to think both are improving.

So find ways to learn about how to write, the details are always up to you, but the methods and structures are there for a reason. You can break those rules anytime you need to, but it always helps to understand them before you ignore them. If you ever have to explain your reasoning to an editor, you’ll be glad to know why breaking a rule works in that instance.

Above all else, my favorite advice still stands: Write.

Writing prompts, contests, and submissions.

black and white browsing business coffee

Writing is more than a hobby for me, and I spend a lot of time putting words on the page. So far, none of that has translated into paid work, but I have placed in some writing competitions and broadened the scope of my writing. One of the best ways I’ve found to do that is by tackling writing prompts.

The world of Torthal, the Crossroads series, and my current Jack story (on submission with magazines right now) are all products of writing prompts. Prompts take me out of my comfort zone, allow me to explore ideas I might not otherwise approach, and give me permission to imagine beyond the limits I normally impose on myself. All of these are great ways to expand my writing, but they also do the one other thing I encourage other writers to do. Write.

Boredom with a given idea or character can set in and stunt my desire to write, but a new prompt opens up a new world to explore. That kind of open ended potential really kicks my creative process into high gear. So that has been a powerful lesson for me over the summer, pushing my boundaries and staying in the chair.

The end of Summer…

sunflower with sunglasses

The past few weeks may be the longest break I’ve taken since I re-started this blog. A lot has happened this summer, from family misfortunes and cancelled plans, to rearranging our home and (my wife’s) gardening before fall. One thing that hasn’t changed is my time in the chair to write.

I’ve made writing a priority for a good long while now, and this summer has been no different. I have some ongoing projects, and some newer characters to talk about. The Crossroads series is still expanding, and I’ve outlined some interesting characters to fill in the countryside beyond Aralan, the Holy City. The latest and greatest story I’m outlining involves a retiring spy for the Aeran Republic, Lydia Antonia Draco.

My Jack short stories have been my other focus lately. Jack Webb lives in a world much like ours, but learns things he’s taken for granted are more than they appear. I have a whole slew of stories planned for Jack, and I’ll share more about those stories as I finish them. Stay tuned, the best is yet to come!

July and a new Jack story…

Jack and Clarity.

jack daniels whiskey bottle with neon lights behind

Jack stories started in Britain and migrated to America with the colonists. They are short stories (or nursery rhymes) centered on the titular character, Jack. You may know Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, and Jack be Nimble, or more esoteric tales like Jack the Giantkiller. American versions of these tales and rhymes exist too, where Jack consistently beats obstacles his brothers Tom and Will are unable to overcome.

I’ve added my take to the character of Jack and given him some new obstacles to overcome. The premise is similar, Jack is a regular guy who encounters decidedly unusual situations and characters. His wit, his compassion, and in this case, his employer allow him to triumph over seemingly impossible odds. Anyway, that is where I’m starting off, I’ll keep you up to date with where Jack’s stories lead me.

The Crossroads has been my focus lately…

petra jordan

I’ve been expanding the world of Eliantha and building up the characters who will impact the story of the Crossroads. The more I dive into how that world works, its people, history, and magic, the more fun I’m having crafting the narrative. As I learn more about the contests and challenges I’ve entered, I’ll post more updates here. The next announcement I’m waiting on is next Tuesday, the 28th of June.

Another contest, another (brief) update…

strong men doing an arm wrestling match

Of course I mean another writing contest. This time it is also set in the world of Eliantha and the Crossroads. This steps back in time from Aleera’s woodland adventure to the cosmopolitan city of Aralan. The story follows two young wizards who are part of the uprising against the current occupiers of the Holy City. The contest began last month, and I should know something of how I fared by the end of June.

Other stories are passing through my keyboard, and as I polish those up I’m sending them out to editors. When I sell a story, believe I’ll shout out the good news here. In the mean time, I’m building up a back list of stories to polish off again later. Waste not, want not, or something.

My Birthday Celebration!

Steve-mas Eve

Sunday was my Birthday, and like I have for several years, I celebrated the anniversary of my twenty-first Birthday. This year I did something new (for me) and made it a celebration of the twelve days of Steve-mas. The twelve days were recorded on FB and I’m going to repost them here (minus the replies and most of the photos). I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Day One: Welcome, friends! Today is the first day of Steve-mas, a festive 12 day celebration of the nativity of… me! I’ll be posting throughout the season up until Steve-mas Day (May 15th). And on that hallowed eve I’ll be accepting drinks and shots at the Owls Nest in beautiful downtown Ottumwa.

Day Two: Merry Steve-mas everyone! On day two of the twelve days of me, I thought it might be fun to share memories of how we met. Even if you haven’t seen me in years, I’d still love to hear about something that stood out to you from back then.

Day Three: A lot going on today, so I’ll make my day three of Steve-mas post a twofer. Fire safety is important!

May 3, 2010 at 4:43pm ·

My afternoon:

So, this one time when I was burning grass out back and B suggested I use the gas can to light the fire – which worked great till the can caught on fire… then my shoes and pants caught on fire – meanwhile I’ve tossed the burning can away from me to keep the imminent explosion away… so it rolls into the rubber wheel of the wheel barrow. Once I put my pants and shoe out, B and I decided I should get the hose to keep the rest of the back yard from burning up… oh yeah, the can was spilling gas out just fast enough to spread the fire on the ground. I hosed down the wheelbarrow – got it away from the can, which I then kicked to try and flip upright. The can rolled into the only wooden chair out back – so I dashed to save it. Finally kicked the can upright and put out the fire on it. Then I got the ground to stop burning. The whole time, B is laughing herself silly. Five minutes later – she starts calling the girls to share the joy with them. I’m not burning grass anymore. Yeah, that just happened.

Day Four:

A late post for day four of Steve-mas, I thought I’d share a snippet of something I wrote a few years ago. It’s kind of a guiding principle in my writing, “Hope Springs Eternal.”

I only had the dream once, but it has never left me since. It was so real, so perfect, that the images seared into my waking mind. Even twenty years later, the tall, fluted marble columns are crisp in my memory. I walked between them, a cool mist at my feet, before I came face to face with her. A woman in white, young and beautiful. Her hair was black and lustrous, pulled back but still framing her face. Bright brown eyes regarded me with mirth, but no laughter escaped her luscious, pouty mouth. She smiled though, and it sent a thrill through me that I wouldn’t have understood had I been any younger. We walked through the columns and mist together in silence, as she and the temple faded away, I heard a single word that has burned in my soul ever since. My muse said, “Hope.”

Day Five:

For day five of Steve-mas I thought we could play rarely have I ever. It’s like never have I ever, but I can play too! Here are my answers – copy and paste with your own answers, if you want to.

Lost a job? Yes

Been fired? No

Been in a car accident? Yes

Taken a trip to another country? Over twenty.

Been to an amusement park? Yes

Been to a concert? Yes

Had a really bad dream? Yes, more than I’d like to remember.

Been in a fist fight? Yes

Seen a UFO? Yes

Been to a Renaissance Faire? No

Had a huge argument with your parents? Yes

Broken something on purpose? Yes

Written a love note? Yes

Had a close call with death? Yes

Had your phone stolen? No

Ridden a horse? Yes

Had a crush on a teacher? Maybe in elementary school?

Seen a tornado? Yes, I live in the Midwest

Tried to lose weight? Not hard enough.

Fought a bear? Not a grizzly or anything, but I’ve messed up some care bears before…

Day Six: Day six of Steve-mas is upon us! That means we’re halfway through the celebration of me. Since today is also Mother’s Day, I thought I’d share a few pics of my mother. She taught me unconditional love, and I miss her as desperately today as I did the day she died.

Day Seven: Day seven of Steve-mas is here! I thought today might be a good day to share pictures of us together. We started to do that earlier, but it was mostly memories without pictures. I’ll start with some favorites of mine:

Day Eight: For day eight of Steve-mas, I thought I’d say thank you. I appreciate the people in my life, whether you’re family, a friend, an acquaintance, or an example, each of you bring something unique and important to the round table. Here are some pics that remind me of that:

Day Nine:

Day nine of Steve-mas is upon us! There are only three days left, and for today’s post, I’ve shared some of my thoughts on life. It’s taken me almost five decades to get these ideas. Some are clichés, but I’ve found some truth in them nonetheless.

1) Youth is wasted on the young.

2) Just because there is a goalie, it doesn’t mean you can’t score.

3) Breathe. Life comes at you fast sometimes, and it can be overwhelming. The best way to tackle the problems you come up against is to take a second to calm yourself. Breathe.

4) Do the things that scare you, get out of your comfort zone to do it. Even if you fail, at least you tried. I regret the things I didn’t attempt more than the things that didn’t go well.

5) Travel. You don’t appreciate how small our world is until you visit new places. It also reminds you of how good (or bad) you have it where you were. The food, the scenery, the people, all of it is better with a wider sample of what the world is like.

6) Take care of your body. It’s the only one you’ve got. So use it, enjoy it, abuse it if you must, but take care of it till you cross the finish line.

7) Dream BIG. Your life is what you make of it. Make it something extraordinary, don’t settle for mediocre.

😎 Complain in private, but get over it and change things if they don’t suit you. Move somewhere else, get a different job, meet new people, or do whatever it takes to remove frustrations from your life.

9) Build friendships. I can’t count how many times a friend has helped me through rough spots. You don’t have to befriend thousands of people either. Just make sure the ones you trust believe in you as much as you believe in them. Reciprocity makes the world go round.

10) Love deeply. None of us get out of this world alive. One thing I’m sure of, is that love is the secret sauce that makes this whole thing worthwhile. So leave the world a little better than it was when you got here, and be sure to leave an imprint of love in your wake.

But what do I know? I’m still figuring this stuff out as I go!

Day Ten:

For day ten of Steve-mas I’d like to share some of the events that helped shape me in one way or another. Most of them aren’t personal experiences, but big picture events that I happened to be alive to witness (usually on TV). I’ve left out going to Stonehenge, Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem (among others), because those visits don’t fit the theme of this post. I tried to think of the first big deal I could remember as a child, no surprise to me, I nerded out quickly at age five:

I saw Star Wars in a theater in 1977.

I saw Iranians take Americans hostage, even though I didn’t really know what that meant.

I watched MTV launch, and eventually stop playing music videos.

I saw Ma Bell broken into baby bells, before cellphones put unlimited information in our pockets.

I saw 3 Mile Island and Chernobyl unfold long before Fukishima. None of them made a Godzilla – yet.

I’ve seen Challenger and Columbia explode.

I’ve seen the Exxon Valdez foul the coast of Alaska long before BP fouled the Gulf of Mexico.

I watched the Berlin Wall come down, and Tank Man try to stop bloodshed in Tiananmen Square.

I’ve watched Mandela walk free, and become president of the nation that imprisoned him.

I’ve seen the United States go to war and stay at war for too long, too many times.

I saw riots erupt in Los Angeles because people can’t get along.

I’ve watch cultists kill people with ricin, drink poisoned Kool Aid, suicide to meet a spaceship, and burn alive rather than be arrested. I never want to understand why any of that made sense to them.

I saw a bomb blow up a building in Oklahoma City. That didn’t make any sense either.

I’ve seen Mad Cow disease, Bird Flu, Ebola, and Swine Flu arrive, long before Covid-19.

I’ve seen the Twin Towers fall, and the Pentagon burn.

I’ve watched tsunamis and hurricanes wreck coastlines from Banda Aceh to New Orleans.

I’ve filled my top 8 spaces on Myspace before trudging over to FB, IG, and Twitter.

I’ve seen Columbine, Aurora, and Sandy Hook covered in blood. Trayvon, Daunte, and Breonna are names people don’t like to bring up either.

I’ve lived through four Popes and ten Presidents. Neither group has impressed me much.

I watched savings and loans fail, banks implode over bad mortgage loans, and government bailouts of major automakers. Seems like the government always has all the money it needs unless Congress needs more attention and shuts some of it down.

I’ve seen wildfires destroy homes in the south west and blacken the skies of Australia.

I’ve seen cancer, heart disease, pneumonia, and bad decisions kill people long before their four score and six. Covid has taken more people than I care to think about either.

That’s a pretty long list, but it hardly scratches the surface. Life is more than the sum of days and events, it’s the moments in-between, when nothing much is happening. That’s when we live our best (or worst) life, when we lose a loved one, meet someone special, make babies, make mistakes, and figure out what really matters to each of us. What matters is different for all of us, but we all end up as the dearly departed. As one of my favorite authors wrote, “Life is short, but the years are long.”

Day Eleven: Day eleven of Steve-mas is all about you! Comment something you’ve always wanted to tell me or ask me a question. Leave a memory we’ve shared together or repeat some story you’ve heard about me from someone else. (Rumor on the street says I’m pregnant but I don’t know who the mama is…) You get to choose – so choose wisely!

Day Twelve: It’s finally the twelfth day of Steve-mas. Pat yourselves on the back – we made it! Steve-mas Eve is tonight, so make sure you leave out the vodka and coochie by the hot tub for me. I’ll be celebrating at Owls Nest, and at Midnight, I’ll magically level up to the highest level I’ve ever been in the game of life. Join me if you wanna.

And they did!

If you stayed to the end of this recap – I hope you enjoyed some of it, I absolutely loved it. Have a twelve days of you if you like, and feel free to borrow any part of my ideas you find useful!

Spring is a time for changes

pink flower field

Spring is a time of birth and rebirth. Every year it stirs up some fundamental urge for me to start over or restart old projects. This year is no different, I’ve got new stories in the works for challenges, writing contests, and personal growth. I’m also learning Latin, something I’ve always wanted to to do, but never pursued seriously.

Don’t let the idea fool you into thinking I’m grinding away through declensions and conjugating. The app I’m using is, “Duolingo, the world’s best way to learn Latin.” Basically it’s Latin (or any other language I suppose) for sixth graders. Either way, I’m enjoying it and starting to figure out how to say, “Ubi est Latrina?”

The story I started yesterday is for an Autocrit writing challenge. It is set in the Crossroads world where Aleera’s stories take place. This is earlier in time and closer to the Crossroads than Aleera, so it will be fraught with more intrigue and danger than her introduction. I’m excited to dig into the more cosmopolitan heart of that world.

I’ll keep updating here as I go, all sixty-seven of my followers are sure to be on the edge of their seats, I’m sure. 🙂

April showers…

rainbow in the gray sky above mountains and sea

I’ve been so busy this month, that I didn’t realize how long it had been since I posted here. April included a reading streak for me, allowing me to catch up on my TBR list, and wade through the Dresden Files. I’ve been entering writing contests, critiquing in my writer’s group, and looking for writing opportunities online. I have a new fantasy story that I’m working on set in the Crossroads epic fantasy world. We also went on the first vacation my wife and I have taken since before the pandemic.

As the weather has warmed up, my wife and I have done a lot of spring cleaning, gardening (that’s mostly Brenda), and projects that we’ve put off during the winter. As summer draws near, I’m looking forward to getting even more writing done before the school year ends and our house is overrun by grandchildren again. The struggle is real…

In the meantime, I’m still worldbuilding, still writing and editing, and still trying to hone my craft as I go. I’ll try to check in here more often, but part of my process this year has been to limit my posts to balance my slavish devotion to posting 365 days in a row. Anyway, see ya in the funny papers!

Changes in perspective…

Small plane at Turweston Airfield

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my dad pulled me out of school one day to go flying with a friend of his. I’d never been in a plane before, but I remember how excited I was to fly (and how annoying I must have been to my classmates). My dad worked as a taxi dispatcher at Raleigh-Durham International Airport (before it was international), and he made friends with pilots and frequent flyers who needed cabs all the time.

We went up around noon, flew around for less than an hour and came back to the airport. The pilot, whose name I don’t remember, even let me take the yolk and feel the plane respond to my nervous movements. It was an amazing experience, but it also changed how I looked at the world around me.

The world felt smaller from the air. Moving fast so high above the ground showed me that people and places are tiny compared to the world around us. This was the first shift in perspective I can remember as a child, where I felt different about my place in the world, and the world’s place around me. Once seen, the shift could not be unseen.

New sights make old ones feel different.

After leaving the airport, my dad asked what I thought about the flight. I wasn’t sure how to express my feelings, but I remember saying I felt smaller after seeing people the size of ants. My dad didn’t wax poetic much, but he offered an insight that has stayed with me. He said, “People are as big as they allow themselves to be. If you think small, you’ll be small, but if you let your imagination run wild, there’s no telling how big you can be.” I’m trying to be bigger all the time.

The other change to my view came when I got home, and the next day I went to school. My mother and grandmother asked about my flight as soon as I walked in the door. I gushed about flying the plane, seeing tiny people and buildings, and how fast we flew. At school the next day, I got to tell the story all over again, and it may have been one of the first times I felt like a storyteller. While every word I said was true (as far as I can remember) I did my best to share how the flight made me feel.

In my writing, I try to do the same thing (even if the stories aren’t exactly true). If readers connect with my characters and feel what they do on the page, then I’m at least on the right track with my stories. Amazing settings, powerful adversaries, and complex plots are window dressing to the central idea that people (whatever form they take) and how they feel are the focus of storytelling.