Category Archives: About Me

Death in the Family

My guinea pig Charlie died Friday night. He had been sick for about a week, starting with an infection in his eye that apparently spread to his lungs. We tried treating it, but it was too late. By the time we realized how serious it was, he had already stopped eating and wouldn’t take his medicine. There was nothing we could do. My wife and I were heartbroken when we saw him lying so still in his bed. Here’s a picture of him from before he got sick. Sorry it’s so blurry. I wish I could take more pictures of him now, but that will never happen.

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We miss him so much.

I didn’t get any writing done last week. I did manage to read a book, however. The Deaths of Tao, by Wesley Chu. It is the second book in a series, and I highly recommend it. Now I’m reading Midnight Blue-Light Special, by Seanan McGuire. Another good read, and another second book in a series, also highly recommended.

I’m not sure when I’m going to start writing again. For now I think I just need to start reading a little, and see if that inspires me to put some words on the page. I’ll let you know when that happens.

Until next time!

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Bad Week

This week was pretty bad for me on a personal level. I had applied for, not one, but two supervisor jobs just before Labor Day, and they just announced their selections on Thursday. I’m currently the lead worker in my unit, and so I thought I had a pretty good chance of getting the job. After all, it’s not much of a step from here to there, and I have got seniority over everyone else that applied. Unfortunately, that’s not how things worked out.

Despite the fact that I trained both of the people who were chosen, and that I have been putting in extra (unpaid!) hours at work in order to make sure that my unit runs smoothly, and as I said before, I have seniority, I wasn’t the right person for either of the jobs. After they made the announcement, I was feeling angry, depressed, ugly, stupid, and most of all, unappreciated. I am tempted to start slacking at work, but in all honesty, I’m just not that kind of guy. When I started putting in extra hours, it wasn’t because they asked me to, but because I need to make sure that the job gets done. When I create a new spreadsheet, database, or reference material, it’s usually not because I’m asked to do so, but because I know that it will make everyone’s job just a little bit easier. And when I spend my own money to bring in treats for my unit (which I did on Monday), it’s because I knew they were going to be stressed (there was a software update over the weekend), and would need something to help them through it.

Maybe the management that made the hiring decision understands that about me and that’s why they felt they didn’t need to give me a promotion. Maybe they thought that they could just continue to take advantage of my strong work ethic and technical expertise in the position that I already have. Maybe they’re right.

Or maybe they just don’t like me very much. I have been known to rub people the wrong way. It happened a lot on Thursday, they day they made the announcement. It seemed like every other person I spoke to thought I was being rude. I apologized, but I don’t know if it made a difference. I hope it was just the stress, but you never know.

In any case, I’m not happy with their choices, and from what I know about the two of them (a lot, since like I said, I trained them), they certainly don’t have the experience or work ethic that I do. So I hope management is happy with their picks, because I have the feeling it’s going to be a disaster. It has happened before, but I won’t get into the details.

So anyway, this weekend I am just staying at home and trying to relax, so hopefully I will be able to deal with the coming week. I finished story 38, which was remarkably apropos for what I was going through. It’s titled Beauty and the Beast, and it’s about an ugly man who meets a gorgeous woman, but because of his physical handicaps he feels that it would be better to just kill himself than even try to be friends with her. Thankfully, she has other ideas.

I got into some deep, dark, depressing thoughts in this story, and I have to admit that I have had those thoughts myself. Especially after last week. But don’t worry about me, gentle reader. I have a loving wife who keeps me grounded, and I have no intention of leaving this mortal coil any sooner than I have to.

Once again, I’m not sure what I’ll be writing about this week, but I’m hoping for something a little more uplifting. I think I would like to write something about overcoming challenges, and making the best of what you’ve got.

We’ll see how that works out next week. See you then!

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So Much For That Idea

Last week I posted about being a prisoner to the daily word count of the Magic Spreadsheet.

Okay, not really, but it sort of fits. The story was about a prisoner, and after I talked about that, I mentioned how I was going to stop writing to fit the word count and just write to fit the story. I said that it would be okay if I wrote a shorter story and then I could spend the rest of the week getting my word count by either editing or adding to one of my previous novels.

It didn’t work.

My story this week took me the whole week to write, primarily because I really didn’t know where I was going with it until the end. It opened with a man standing guard over a survivor’s camp after the zombie apocalypse. Before you start drooling over brains, and imagining someone’s guts being torn out and passed around like extra-large kielbasa, let me set you straight. There was absolutely no violence in this story.

Instead, it was an in-between scene. It was entirely about the character and his priorities. There was some dialogue in it as he interacted with some of the other people in his life, but absolutely no head shots. For most of the week, though, I was trying to figure out how to bring in the zombies, and why. It wasn’t until the end that I realized what was going on, and was able to wrap up the tale with a satisfying ending.

Don’t get me wrong. It still sucks. But at least I have something that might be either salvageable with a lot of editing, or that can be either the basis for a longer story or at the very least a scene or two for a novel.

If nothing else, it was good practice, which is primarily what this whole year-long project is about.

Speaking of projects, I recently started a project to re-learn Spanish. I had a couple of years of classes in high school (25 years ago!), but most of that is long gone by now. A couple of my friends clued me in to an app called DuoLingo (duolingo.com) that is completely free, and lets me learn at my own pace. It is built like a game, and you earn points for every time you practice. The learning modules are built into a multiple tier structure, where you unlock the next tier as you complete the prior one. Each lesson consists of about twenty questions, and you get three wrong answers, or hearts (like lives on a video game), before you have to start over. You get ten points for completing the lesson, with one bonus point for each heart you have left at the end.

You can also link to Facebook and compete with your friends. I’ve got three friends on it now, but I would love it if any of my loyal fans want to join me in this. I’m currently in the lead on points with my friends, but only after a long struggle to catch up. Also, even though I am ahead on points, she has learned more than double the amount of words that I have.

I haven’t mentioned that yet, have I? One of the best things I like about this app is that I don’t have to do a lesson every time. Instead of pushing onward, I can earn the same number of points simply by practicing what I have already learned. And believe me, that is a lifesaver! If anything is going to let me be successful at this, it is that. I realized after only a few days that I wasn’t going to be able to keep all of those new words in my head without a whole lot of practice drills. So now, most of my time is spent practicing, and I only attempt a new lesson once every day or two.

The languages available on the app are Spanish, German, Italian, French, and Portuguese. The app is available online at duolingo.com, or for iOS and Android. If you are doing it online you should have a microphone available, as part of the lesson is repeating the words out loud, so you can practice pronunciation. I am learning Spanish, primarily on my iPod Touch. You need a network connection to practice, and to compete, but not for the lessons.

That’s about enough for today. I hope at least some of you give DuoLingo a try. I love it, and it’s free, so you can’t beat the price. But for now, I’ve got to start writing my next story.

See you next week!

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Personal Update

I thought that today I would share a few things about myself. But first, an update on my writing.

My Tesla story is finished. It kind of sucks, but it’s done. The basic plot is a man who is visited by aliens from Venus. They tell him that they destroyed their own world with pollution and the greed of a few, and had to leave the solar system. But they kept an eye on Earth and have returned to keep it from happening to us. Their first attempt was with Tesla, but since he failed they are trying again with our hero. That was Story #28 of my Dirty Little Freaks collection. I updated my count meter, but there seems to be something wrong with it and it isn’t displaying the correct count.

Also, I’m up to 48 days in my writing chain on the Magic Spreadsheet. Things are going well, and this week I have decided to write a story in the format of a daily diary of someone who is an essential prisoner. She gets daily assignments, but once her task has been completed she can do whatever she wants with her time. Except leave.

Okay, now for the personal stuff. I have been on vacation this past week, celebrating my anniversary with my beautiful wife. I always take the week off for my anniversary, and this year it was actually a little more than a week, as I decided to take the 5th of July off as well. So my vacation started on July 4 and is over today, July 14. A nice, long, ten-day vacation.

We didn’t go anywhere for my vacation. I would have liked to have gone up to Wisconsin Dells for a day, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford it. Our car was on its last legs, with brakes that were hanging on by a thread, so we spent all of our meager savings and then some on taking it to a mechanic. He’s a really nice guy and he gave us a deal, but it still cost $886 to do the work that had to be done. There’s still a lot of work left to do on the car, since the exhaust is essentially gone, but we simply don’t have the money for it, so it will have to wait while we rebuild our savings. The important thing, though, is that I can now drive down the street without worrying about whether or not I will be able to stop.

We also did some cleaning over the last few days. We have recently decided to eliminate some of the clutter in our lives, so I started digging into the piles of boxes in our storage room and made some hard choices about what to keep and what should get kicked to the curb. A lot of what I threw away was old papers and magazines, but I also have a large stash of computer books and games that I no longer use. My plan is to take them to Half-Price Books so they can dispose of them for me. Many of them are so old that I doubt anyone will want them, but you never know. The important thing is that they won’t be taking up space in my house any more.

That’s all that I have time for today. I’ll be back next Sunday to let you know how my latest story came out. Until then, have a great week and keep writing!

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Trimming the Fat

There are several things that I could talk about with a title like this one. I could talk about starting a diet, which I certainly need to do. Somehow I managed to let myself gain back almost all of the weight that I lost a few years ago. It just kind of snuck up on me, a couple of pounds a week, until this week when I had to break out my XXXL shirts again. Naughty writer! I also need to cut back on driving in to work and commit to riding my bike more often. I mean, really! The main route I take is only three miles, with very few hills. The only excuse I have not to ride is when it is raining, and that’s a pretty flimsy excuse considering the number of times I rode my bike in bad weather when I didn’t have a car.

Another thing I could talk about is something all writers need to do, and most don’t enjoy—editing. Getting the first draft down on paper is good, and we all want to make it as good as we can get it the first time around, but any writer that tries to publish that first draft usually finds out that it isn’t as good as they might think it is. I recommend a second or even third draft before handing it over to a professional editor, who will tell you how much it still sucks, and give you a chance to redeem your failures before it goes public. Most of the stories that I have written so far are still in the first draft stage. The ones that I have spent more time on have only gone through a second or third draft, and none of them have gone to the pro. Not even the one that I got published, and believe me, I could kick myself for not doing so. The only excuse I have for not spending more time on it is that I had a deadline.

But let’s get away from that and start talking about what I really wanted to say tonight. In order to spend more time on my writing I need to trim out some of the other things that take up time in my busy life. For example, sleep. Actually, I’m kidding about that. What I have been cutting down on is watching television. I still record some of my favorite shows, but I confess that I have been letting them pile up on my DVR without watching them. Another thing that I have been considering cutting back on is this blog post. I am thinking about only posting one time per week, probably on Sunday. That way I will be able to give everyone an update on each of my latest Dirty Little Freaks stories right after they are finished, and I will have the rest of the week to write the next one without worrying about what I am going to post on my blog on Wednesday.

What kind of fat are you trimming from your life recently? What are your inspirations for doing so? Is there any way we might be able to help each other keep on the right track? I would love to hear your comments, and I’ll be back with another blog post next Sunday.

Oh, and by the way, my latest Dirty Little Freaks story (# 23) is finished. It may have been inspired by Hogan’s Heroes, but I’m not sure how well I captured the feel of the show. But that’s okay, because that is what editing is for, right?

See you next week!

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FanFic or Not FanFic?

So my story this week is a sci-fi version of the classic television show “Hogan’s Heroes”. The question is: is it fanfic? (For those of you unfamiliar with the term, fanfic is short for fan fiction, where someone writes a story based on the characters or world of another writer.)

I don’t think it is, for a couple of reasons. First, I changed all their names. Second, because it isn’t set in Nazi Germany, but instead on a different planet far in the future. I think that those two things give my story enough differences from the show that it can’t really be considered fanfic.

But I could be wrong. I haven’t written any fanfic before so I’m not really familiar with the limitations of the definition. Maybe the fact that anyone familiar with the show would be able to easily make the connection is enough. While I did change the names, a few of them are fairly close to the original (Kronk instead of Klink, Shoz instead of Schultz, etc.) I am also trying to be faithful to the personalities of the characters.

So what do you think? Is my story fanfic or not? Have you ever written fanfic? If so, what was it?

In other news, I am still using the Magic Spreadsheet, and my chain is up to nine days as of Tuesday night. I’m going to keep going as long as I can, and I’ll keep you informed as I go.

That’s about it for today. I’ll be back on Sunday to let you know if I was able to finish this week’s story. I’m going to try to do my best to honor the great Bob Crane and Werner Klemperer, but they are a hard act to follow. On the plus side, I did buy the complete series on DVD, so there is plenty of inspiration (and entertainment) to keep me going.

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Peer Pressure, or Finding a Reason to Write

I have been hearing about it for months now, and I finally gave in. I signed up for the Magic Spreadsheet.

In case you haven’t heard about it yet, the Magic Spreadsheet is an online spreadsheet on Google Docs that lets you track your daily writing. Not only that, but someone has made a game out of it, giving you points for both the number of words written (250 minimum) and how many days in a row you write. The longer your chain, the more points you get. I signed up on May 28, so this is my fifth day in a row writing, which means I get 5 points just for writing today. I also got 3 points for writing over 1,000 words. When I get 495 points I advance to Level 2, and my minimum word count goes up by 50 words to 300 words per day.

Since my project for this year is to write a short story every week, I’m not sure what I’m going to do when I finish the story early. I might have to start another project on the side. Something that I can pick up whenever I have the time, but that will let me get in my minimum word count.

At least one of my writing group is also using the Magic Spreadsheet, and is up to level 4 with a chain of 110 days. One of the podcasters I listen to is Mighty Mur Lafferty, and she is level 5 with a chain of 180 days. I don’t know if I can match that record, but at least this gives me something to strive for. It makes me accountable for writing every day, which is something I have been slacking on.

If you are interested in signing up, you can join the Facebook group or you can just Google it. Make sure to read the directions first, but don’t be afraid to add your name to an open slot. And if you do, let me know, so I can watch your progress. (If you’re looking, my name is at the bottom of the ISBWtwo sheet.)

In other news, I finished my 22nd Dirty Little Freaks story, and I’m trying to come up with something to write for number 23. I was watching Hogan’s Heroes today with my wife and I started thinking it might be interesting to write either some fanfic based on the show, or a story that is at least loosely modeled after them. Probably the latter, as I don’t think I could pull off a story worthy of the magnificence that was Bob Crane. (And if you haven’t seen the show, do yourself a favor and check it out.)

That’s it for today. Wish me luck on my daily writing, and I’ll see you back here on Wednesday with another update. TTFN!

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WisCon Loot

WisCon was great. I learned a lot and had a great time. It was also exhausting. I actually skipped a couple of panels for the sole reason that my butt was getting sore. Instead, I found a comfy chair or couch to rest my laurels on for a while, and then it was back at it!

My wife gave me an allowance of $200 for the convention, but I went way over. I took that much in cash with me, and ended up getting another $100 on Sunday, but that didn’t last either. I also used plastic for some of my spending, so yeah, way over my limit.

Here’s a list of most of the things I bought this weekend (I won’t count food, although that was a big part of it):

  • Pocket watch – this is for the steampunk outfit I am trying to put together. It’s a really nice, wind-up timepiece. And of course, when I got home I discovered there’s no pocket on my vest. Doh!
  • Several small, brass-colored charms. I’m thinking of polishing them and making army-type medals out of them.
    • Tree
    • Key
    • Bat
    • Anchor
    • Octopus
  • I picked up twenty ARCs (Advance Reader Copy) for a dollar each at the Gathering. My friend Zombie Joe “helped” me by handing me five that he recommended. In no particular order, they are:
    • Changeling, by Kelly Meding
    • More Than Midnight, by Brian James Freeman
    • Deadly Sting, by Jennifer Estep
    • Born in Flames, by Howard Hampton
    • Ruins, by Orson Scott Card
    • The Disaster Survival Bible, by Junius Podrug
    • Touch of the Demon, by Diana Rowland
    • Tarnished, by Karina Cooper
    • Desperate Days: Selected Mysteries Volume Two, by Jack Vance
    • Bad Medicine, Vol. 1, by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir (graphic novel)
    • Libriomancer, by Jim C. Hines
    • Dearly, Beloved, by Lia Habel
    • The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2012 Edition, edited by Paula Guran
    • Alien Diplomacy, by Gini Koch
    • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
    • False Memory, by Dan Krokos
    • Shivers VII, edited by Richard Chizmar
    • Full Blooded, by Amanda Carlson
    • Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille, by James Van Pelt
    • Kindred and Wings, by Philippa Ballantine
  • I also bought several published books from the Dealer’s Room. Some were sequels from authors I have read before, while others were new things I saw this year and had to have. These are books that I will definitely be reading before next WisCon, while the ARCs may end up just gathering dust, like the ones I picked up last year.
    • The Mad Scientists Guide to World Domination, edited by John Joseph Adams
    • Dark Faith: Invocations, edited by Maurice Broaddus & Jerry Gordon
    • Treemaker, by Kater Cheek
    • Dayrunner, by Kater Cheek
    • Faerie Killer, by Kater Cheek
    • Lunatic Fringe, by Allison Moon
    • Hungry Ghost, by Allison Moon
    • Interfictions, edited by Delia Sherman & Theodora Goss
    • Interfictions 2, edited by Delia Sherman & Christopher Barzak
    • Couch, by Benjamin Parzybok
    • Ex Heroes, by Peter Clines
    • Midnight Blue-Light Special, by Seanan McGuire
    • The Lives of Tao, by Wesley Chu
  • And finally, I ordered the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition, from Amazon during the con. It was delivered on Tuesday.

That’s about it. If any of you are interested in hearing my thoughts about any particular book, leave a comment below and I’ll try to move that particular volume up in my To-Read list. Otherwise, the only thing left for today is that I just put my name on the Magic Spreadsheet. If you don’t know what that is, you can either Google it, or wait for me to write a post about it sometime in the next couple of weeks.

That’s it for today. See  you on Sunday!

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Skin Deep

I decided that I was going to go through with my idea from my last post for my new story. Which means that Dirty Little Freaks #19 is about a plague. I’m calling it Skin Deep, and it is about a deformed man who is in love with a perfect girl, even though he has never approached her for fear of rejection. I stole a page from George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards series and had our hero create a virus that was supposed to fix his deformities. However, his cure mutated into an airborne plague that swept over the world, causing everyone to transform into superheroes, freaks, monsters, or worse.

At the end of the story, he realizes that he may have destroyed the perfect woman who had caused him to ruin the world, and he races to find her. When he gets there, at first he thinks that everything is okay, because she looks just as beautiful as ever. But when he reaches her side, he realizes that something is dreadfully wrong. He reaches out to touch her and stares in horror as the perfect shell collapses into dust, leaving nothing behind but the realization that beauty is truly only skin deep.

It was a blast writing it, and I finished the 2,300 word tale in only two days, but it was also a bit disturbing. It reminded me a little of one of the stories I wrote back in junior high. It was essentially a revenge fantasy, letting me air some of my frustrations about being on the outside looking in. I know that is a common feeling for teenagers, but I thought I was past things like that and didn’t need to vent in that fashion anymore. So I’m a little bit worried that it was so easy for me to identify with a freak who caused a disaster in order to make himself more socially acceptable.

Which just goes to show that there’s a lot more going on under the skin than you might realize.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do with the rest of my week, but I suppose I had better start thinking about what I’m going to write next. I’ll be back on Sunday to let you know what I come up with. See you then!

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Three Days in Hell

Tuesday afternoon I started getting a tickle in the back of my throat. By end of day Wednesday it had blossomed into a full-on head cold. I toughed it out through most of my day at work on Thursday, but I took Friday off and spent most of the day in bed. I did the same on Saturday, and Sunday morning I am finally (hopefully) feeling a little better. If I take it easy today I just might be able to function at work tomorrow.

It was rough, but I managed to finish my apotemnophilia story on Friday. I think it turned out pretty well, even if it isn’t very exciting. It probably isn’t something that would sell on its own, but it might make an interesting scene in a book. I’m not sure what I’ll write this week, but based on the experience I just went through, maybe something about a plague.

That’s it for today. I’m going back to bed to keep working on the recovery. See you again on Wednesday!

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