Monday, December 12, 2011

Where things are

I'm not one much for New Year's resolutions. I think if we really want to make a change in our lives, we need to just commit to it and do it no matter what time of year it is. That said, I have set a goal for 2012 to submit four books for publication. Now, it doesn't mean they will be accepted, but hopefully at least one of them will.

Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Well, I've been busy this last year. One thing I've learned as a writer is that it takes a while for a book to go from concept to print. About one year or so to write and edit and another year once it is accepted by the publisher. So, while Time Gangsters went through the works of getting published, I didn't wait. I wrote three books in 2011 and those are three of the ones I plan to submit.

In January, I plan to put out a spin off story set in the same universe as Dragon War Relic. It has different main characters, though, and takes place in Alaska. Of course, it won't be complete without a few cameos from Doug, Gar, and the three Elves (Kerk, Sprock, and Bob).

Then in May, I'll be meeting with at least one agent to pitch the other two stories I've written this year. One is a kind of dystopian/fantasy/steampunk story called (for now) Slave of the Sphere. This story has been a struggle because it is not comedy. It is catering to my life-long desire to write epic fantasy. I foresee this book becoming a trilogy at least (I hope). It is about a world where they have figured out how to capture the magic of magicians (called Arcanians) and have turned them into slaves to use their power to create energy for their cities and machines.

The other book I'll pitch is one I just finished draft 1 last month. It has he working title of Memoir of a Teenage Sidekick. It is a first person story from the perspective of Seal Boy, the side kick to a superhero named Walrus. But Walrus is captured by a league of super villains and Seal Boy must find a way, without powers, to rescue him.

And then for my fourth book, I want to dust off my 2010 manuscript of Scepter of the Ancients, which is the sequel to Dragon War Relic. I'm hoping by then that I'll start to have enough of a following that it will warrant the publication of the sequel.

So, that's my plan. Why am I telling you this? Because I've found when goals are shared, they have more power. This will help me work at it a little harder to make sure it happens. It means I'll have a busy year, though. Of course, on top of that, I need to try and come up with a couple more first drafts to stories so that I'll have something to submit in 2013. A writer's work is never done.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Time Gangsters Cover Art is here!

Here is the new Time Gangsters cover art. I'm excited, but what do you think?

In other news, Time Gangsters is slated to go to press this Wednesday, December 7th.

Also, be on the look out for a Time Gangsters blog tour coming in January, from the 8th to the 21st.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

No More NaNoWriMo

In honor of Halloween: I'm baa-aack! I know, scary.

Anyway, I thought, since so many people are gearing up for NaNoWriMo next month that I'd give my two bits on the subject. You don't know what NaNoWriMo is? Stinks to be you. No, just kidding. It is an abbreviation for National Novel Writing Month. It is where writers and aspiring writers challenge themselves to write a 50,000 word or more novel during the 30 days of November. There are websites and social groups that get together to help those people meet their goals and stick to task.

I did this back in 2005 for the first time. From that 50,000 word jumble of chaos, I ended up with the beginnings of my first published novel, The Dragon War Relic. I learned a lot of great things about myself during my experience. Probably the most important thing was: what it takes to write a novel. It takes a lot of time and patience and persistence. But, if you take the time, it can be done; that was the next most important lesson. There is a great sense of pride when we take on a difficult task and persevere long enough to create a finished novel.

I've written about his before, but I also learned that I'm a discovery writer. I think NaNoWriMo caters more to discovery writers because you're just supposed to sit down and start writing come what may. And no looking in the rear view mirror and going back to fix things. Since then, of course, I have learned that if you want character arcs and plots that make sense, there does need to be some kind of planning. Oh, and it is okay to have an outline to do it, but not necessary. Fortunately for me, I didn't.

As much as I honor NaNoWriMo for the start it gave me, I don't think I'll ever do it again. Why? Because it taught me how to focus and write. I can now do that whenever I want and for however long I want. When I'm in my normal writing mode, I put out about 12,000 to 15,000 words a week anyway, which is about a NaNoWriMo pace. I don't need to see how many words I can write in a month because I now know. Just last month I completed a novel and the second draft within 30 days. Of course, I'm not always going at that pace because I also have to take the things I've drafted and then polish them up in hopes of publication. In fact, the second draft usually takes me longer than the first because I have to spend a lot of time working out some of the issues and plot holes that I discover.

So, if you aren't a writer yet and want to be, NaNoWriMo can be the right kick in the pants to get you started. Just remember to be nice to your family and take a break every now and then to let your creative juices get flowing again.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Moving forward

I've decided to turn this blog into my writing blog. I just started another one for music here: Now, you may ask, why in the world would I be writing another blog when I don't even write in this one very often? Good question. I'm not making any promises, but I mainly wanted to separate my writing stuff from my music stuff.

Okay, so you see from my last post that progress is being made on Time Gangsters. Last that I heard, it is slated to come out in February, but that date is still subject to change. I just finished another draft of it and I am really excited about how well it's turning out.

As for other projects, I'm a little in limbo. I had my big dystopian/steam-punk project going well but I've discovered a few fatal flaws. I'm letting it sit for a while so that I can brainstorm with it more and see if I can find ways to resolve the problems. I still think its a good story, so I'm not giving up on it. And, of course, I have no shortage of new ideas, I just need to decide which ones to develop. I have a new idea for a sci-fi comedy with an adult protagonist. I think it's a fun idea, but I'm not sure how well a middle-grade type of story-telling with work with adult characters. I have no problem with it, I'm just not sure how marketable it will be.

Soon, I hope to get a few Myrick the Messenger short stories out. One will be coming out in an anthology, but I have two others I need to polish and post.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Time Gangsters Preliminary Cover Art

Here's some exciting news: I have some preliminary cover art for Time Gangsters. I'm curious to see what you people out there think. Let me know of any suggestions you may have, too.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Writing Momentum

I'm not dead. It may look like it, though, since it's been a while. It's not that I'm out of things to blog about, I'm just busy. I'm in the middle of a new project that is a kind of dystopian/steam punk/fantasy. Also, I had a lot of reading to do the last couple of months. I suppose I should get around to writing a bunch of reviews, but here are some the books I've read recently:
Imprints by Rachel Ann Nunes
Pathfinder by Orson Scott Card
Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
I Don't Want to Kill You by Dan Wells
The Monster Hunter books by Larry Correia.

It seems like there were more, but I can't remember them.

Anyway, I've thought about getting away from blogging about writing because, well, every writer and their dog and their dog's fleas has a blog about writing. What can I, a lowly jazz musician, say about writing that hasn't been said? Well, I thought of something: momentum.

Over spring break week, since I didn't do any teaching, I gave myself a challenge to see if I could be a full-time author for a week. I wrote 23,000 words. I probably could have done more, but it took a day or two to get my mind working. The funny thing was, the next week, in spite of being back into my normal teaching schedule, I added another 18,000 words. I was surprised when I saw that because I didn't think I could have written that much. Then I figured out the secret: my mind had writing momentum.

I thought back to when I would write sporadically. I would stare at the screen and hash out a few words here and there. I was lucky if I could get 1000 words in a couple of hours. When I have momentum, though, like over the last few days, I am able to get over 2000 words in two hours of writing.

So, the moral of the story is this: write every day. I know that's nothing new. But a big reason for me is that when I'm consistently working on a project, my mind is working on it even when I'm not writing. Then, when I sit down to write, the ideas just seem to flow. There, my two bits.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Star Scout Rising by Gary Darby

I recently received and read a book called Star Scout Rising: First Trail by Gary Darby. I always look forward to the opportunity to read young adult sci-fi since there is so little of it out there. Star Scout Rising is about the adventures of a young man named Del Baldura, where he and his team are finishing up their Star Scout training. Star Scouts seemed to me to be like a cross between boy scouts and jedi knights. Their job was to explore the galaxy and make things safe for future travelers.

First off, I was excited to see that the book was published in Alaska. I know, that's not really a big deal, except I'm a third generation Alaskan and little things like that get me excited. There were even a few Alaska references in the novel.

Something else I really liked was the fact that it was a clean read: no swearing or other stuff to have to put up with. So, this officially gets the Berin Stephens Big Toe Up award for being something, as a father, I would have no reservations about my own kids reading.

I have to admit, it took me a while to get into the book. It wasn't until about the half-way mark when I found it hard to put down. In my opinion, the book could have used a faster start by being more streamlined. I felt like there was too much time spent with the villain, Peller, and the side story with Dal's uncle. Those stories didn't even tie in directly with Dal's yet (probably in the sequel) and slowed down the read. Some of those chapters are what I call "Council of Elrond" chapters - a lot of information but no action. But, I do advise people to stick with the book, because it does get good and exciting later on.

Gary's knowledge of military procedure was impressive and well detailed. A couple of minor complaints, though, are, 1: I thought they were a little too detailed at times (slowing things down), and 2: the use of all the abbreviations. It often took me out of the story as I had to sit there and try to remember what TL, LS, and CG meant. It might have been handy to have a table in the back of the book to help those of us non-military types to remember what those things stand for.

Something else I liked, military jargon aside, was that this was easy to understand sci-fi. Science fiction has a little bit of a stigma that it is filled with complex scientific terms and principles. This book didn't have that, which to me is a good thing. It might better be classified as an adventure that just happens to take place in outer space (kinda like my book, which is really just a comedy . . . set in outer space . . . with elves).

But overall, this was a good start to a new series. I look forward to more adventures of Del and his intrepid band of Star Scouts. It reminded me of the first science fiction book I'd ever read: Lucky Starr and the Pirates of the Asteroids by Isaac Asimov.

You can purchase the book here:

And here's Gary's blog:

Too good to pass up

As a sax player, I couldn't pass this up. I stole it from David West who stole it from someone else. FYI, professional saxophonists do not hold Kenny G in high regard, so the Elrond reaction shot is classic.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mr. Monster by Dan Wells

Recently I finished Mr. Monster, Dan's sequel to his 2009 hit I Am Not a Serial Killer. Just for the record, I am not normally a fan of horror novels. The main reason why I read the first book was because it was a Whitney Award nominee. Mr. Monster is also a nominee for this year, but I actually wanted to read this one because of how good IANASK was.

Dan didn't disappoint. At first, I'll admit to a little disappointment because I wanted to get right into the demon slaying side of things. That didn't happen for a while. Instead, we got John Wayne Cleaver's struggle with the wannabe serial killer half of his psyche that he calls "Mr. Monster". And then I realized the name of the book and began to enjoy that the protagonist and the antagonist, for the first half, were the same person. Don't worry, though, a demon still shows up toward the end, allowing for John to reach into his dark side once again to defeat it.

I began to ponder John's "list" that he uses to keep Mr. Monster under control. Here are some of the things on his list:

I will not hurt animals.
I will not burn things.

When I think bad thoughts about someone, I will push the thoughts away and say something nice about that person.
I will not call people 'it'.
If people threaten me, I will leave the situation.

Okay, I don't have any temptations to be a serial killer (I hope), but how many of us have a darker side fighting to get out? Don't we all have a weakness that can take us down a dark path? We can learn something from John Cleaver. Perhaps we all need to make a list specific to our own faults. For instance, if we feel temptations to steal Hostess Ding Dongs, we should make a personal rule to stay far away from places that put out tempting displays of them and not to call them "my precious" (okay, sorry, that's a long story).

Back to the book. Once again, I was sucked into it and found it hard to put down. I did like the first book a little better but not by much. I now am anxiously waiting for a chance to get my hands on the third book of the series: I Don't Want to Kill You. I heard him read the first couple of chapters at Life, the Universe, and Everything in February and it sounds fantastic.

Warning: there is violence, some disturbing mental images, and mild swearing, so this is not a book for those who don't care for that sort of stuff.

Of course, now I need to figure out the name of my inner demon. I can't decide if he's Mr. Munster or Mr. Addams (du-du-du-dut. snap snap).

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

Man, I've been busy. I've been reading my butt off. Okay, maybe that's a little hard to do, but it sure feels like it.

Once again, we are in the Whitney Awards season. You can check out more about them here: This year, I'm tackling the adult speculative category, even though it has several books that are also considered young adult. The first nominee I've read, and have been wanting to read for quite some time, is The Scorch Trials by James Dashner. Other books in this category include Orson Scott Card's Pathfinder, Brandon Sanderson's Way of Kings, Dan Wells' Mr. Monster, and Rachel Anne Nunes' Imprints.

I loved Dashner's 2009 hit The Maze Runner. The Scorch Trials ended up being a worthy successor to the first book. I have to admit, I liked Maze Runner a little better, but many of the things I enjoyed about it were expertly continued in its sequel. For one thing, James makes it incredibly hard to put his books down. I lost a lot of sleep because I kept saying to myself, "Just one more chapter, it's short." Then, three hours later . . .

This book continues the adventures of Thomas, Teresa, and the surviving members from "The Glade" in book one. They now have the task of racing across a hot, barren landscape known as The Scorch. They encounter and battle people with a disease called the Flare, whom they call Cranks. In the process, they learn more about the mysterious group WICKED that put them up to all this, but they also end up with more questions.

You know that scene in Jurassic Park when the guy is in the utility building trying to turn the power on? And then that blasted velociraptor jumps out of the wall and makes you wet your pants? Well, this book gave me that same experience. That's the first time a book has ever made me jump like that. I muttered several unflattering insults toward James (like 'clunk head' and 'shuck face') for doing that to me. I won't tell about where it is, but if you like things that scare the pants off you, this book will do it. But in a good way (just keep your belt cinched tight and your pants should stay on).

This book was fun, intense, and exciting. I should warn, for the faint of heart, that there is violence and some mild language. The worst thing about this book is: I now have to wait several more flippin' months for the flippin' sequel.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Story That Won't Go Away

Don't you hate it when you get a story idea that just won't leave you alone? I've got one of those right now. It forced me to write out an outline up to chapter 18 today. The problem is, I have too many other projects going on. I decided last week to do another draft of Time Gangsters, plus I have a short story that I need to do final draft of and submit before the deadline next month. On top of that, BYU's Life, the Universe, and Everything (LTUE for short) is this weekend, where I'll be doing six panels, a reading and a signing in addition to all the other cool classes they'll have.

By the way, how do you pronounce LTUE? My daughter thinks it should be 'Lute' but I think it should be 'Latooie' (like patooie but without the p). Any opinions?

About my story idea, it started as a dream two years ago. I had forgotten about it but fortunately wrote two pages of notes. I stumbled upon them on Friday and read them. They reminded me of the cool world of the dream and got my neurons firing. To sum it up, it's a dystopian/fantasy/steampunk/comedy. I know, I know, I have a problem with just sticking with one genre. Actually, I'm not sure about the comedy part, since so far the images in my mind are kind of bleak and violent. I'm sure there will be humor though, since I can't write anything without it.

Anyway, I'm excited about this idea. Writers go through the gamut of emotions where one day we think our idea is the next Harry Potter, and another day that it is the biggest load of garbage in existence. I'm still in that 'Harry Potter' stage with my excitement level. It's like a new toy at Christmas right now. I just don't have time to work this all out this week! But I'll try to relax, let things come as they come, and keep taking notes. Then, once I have a rudimentary story idea mapped out, I'll follow my advice from three days ago and write out the character arcs and story arc.

Oh, and I also have a blues band gig on Saturday night up in Murray. That means I can't neglect my sax chops, either.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Storymakers: Share the Love


I am a member of a fantastic group known as the LDS Storymakers. Every spring, they host a great conference held in Utah where writers and fans can come and soak up two days of intense knowledge about the art of writing. I attended it for the first time last year and was blown away. I had just joined the organization and, quite frankly, hadn't heard about it until my book was about to come out. I wasn't sure if I wanted to join any groups, but I decided it wouldn't hurt to try it out for a while. All I can say is that I'm hooked. The other members of Storymakers are excellent people who are very free with advice and help for a newby author. If any of you are interested in writing and are anywhere near Utah, I strongly advise you to check this conference out. You can find more info here:

Also, if you do plan to attend, they are having a "Share the Love" contest this month. If you do some of the things I'm doing here, you are entered for a chance to have dinner at the conference with authors James Dashner and Larry Brooks, as well as editors and agents such as Sarah Crowe, Marcia Markland, and Becca Stumpf. Oh, and the grand prize winner gets a 30 page manuscript review by Sara Megibow. You can get more information here:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cursing Query Letters

I have so many other things I've been working on that blogging just isn't high on my priority list right now. But there is something that I just learned that I want to share. I know for some people, they're just going to say, "Well, duh," but this was a big revelation to me, a discovery writer.

I finished a draft in December of Time Gangsters and started working on writing a query letter for it. First off, I do not know much about query letters, so I did some research on what things you need to include in one. I needed to come up with a good 'hook' for my book, plus describe the characters and how they arc, the conflicts and the consequences. As I mapped out those things, I realized that my query letter was describing things better than how they actually worked in the book. With a loud groan, I realized that I needed to do another draft of my book to make it match the hype of my letter.

Cue February. New draft done. Begin writing query letter again. Lo and behold, I have an epiphany on how I can improve the character arcs even further. With gritted teeth, I realized yesterday that I need to do another draft because the idea was just too good. It made me wish that I had thought of this when I first started writing the book. It might have saved me a few rewrites.

Then I thought, "What if I wrote a query letter for a book before I wrote it. Then I'd have to figure out things like character arcs and conflicts and all that stuff ahead of time." See, some of you are saying, "Well, duh." Okay, but keep in mind that I am naturally a discovery writer. I can easily spin out stories and have no idea about what is going to happen next. It's fun to write like that, but I'm reaching a stage in my development where that is no longer enough. I need to think through things and maybe even do an . . . this is a naughty word in my vocabulary . . . outline. (gasp!)

So, that's my wisdom for the week, er, month: write a "query letter" for your book before you write it. Not that you would actually submit it, because nothing turns an agent off faster than, "Boy, do I have a million dollar book idea for you." It doesn't necessarily have to be in a query letter format either, but just some jotted notes on who your characters are, what they need to learn and improve with, the conflicts they face and how those conflicts can make them better people, etc. So, good luck and make those ou . . . out . . . you know, that 'O' word.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

When Stories Don't Work

I have been studying how to make my stories better. Lately, this new knowledge has been helping me to see when story elements don't work. Of course, I'm still trying to figure out what does work, but I figure this is a step in the right direction.

For instance, this morning I was watching a Star Wars Clone Wars episode with my son. Now, I've been a huge Star Wars fan since 1978 (I grew up with Luke Skywalker - we were kids together) and was real excited when I heard about a cartoon series coming out set in the Star Wars universe. For some reason, though, I have not been able to get into these shows; they just don't capture my interest. I have to force myself to sit through them, but the kids like them so I just can't delete them from the DVR.

The episode I saw today helped me see a possible reason why I can't get into them. It was episode 3.8 "Evil Plan" [warning - spoilers follow] where R2 and C3P0 are sent on a mission to get some special fruit. Anakin sends R2 with C3P0 to be the "responsible" one on the trip. The two droids manage to get the fruit, but then another droid that was working for a bounty hunter tries to persuade them to go to a "droid spa." R2 insists that it wants to go while C3P0 wants to stick to the mission. They split up. C3P0 gets captured and interrogated by the bounty hunter while R2 enjoys a luxurious cleaning at the spa. Since C3P0 was clueless, the hunter decided to send his minions to go get R2, who just happened to be getting out of the spa.

Now, this bothered me on several levels. First off, it immediately struck me as out of character for R2 to want to abandon the mission for a little luxury. At least in my mind, R2 is a responsible, no-nonsense character who would stick to the mission, no matter how small, no matter what. And then, for R2 to frivolously spend the remaining credits that Anakin charged him with keeping track of also goes against its character. Also, it seemed way too convenient for R2 to still be in the area for when the bounty hunters came back to retrieve him. Lastly, C3P0 dropped the cylinder of fruit in a part of town with a lot of foot traffic. It was still there later when the episode ended, so they could just go pick it up and take it back to Anakin. No one stole it, kicked it, ran over it, or threw it away after what had probably been hours in their time. That was a convenience that stretched credibility.

So, why did they do that? As a writer, their reasons seem clear to me. They needed something, first of all, to split up the two droids. Then, they needed something that would keep R2 in a convenient place for later. Now, I understand this dilemma: when you need your characters to be in certain places so that plot elements can happen. Our challenge is to do this in such a way that it seems natural. In this case, it seemed very unnatural because it violated R2's character for me, and thus, caused me to disconnect from the story.

How could they have solved their situation? Many ways of course. One, they could have had C3P0 abducted while the sales droid pestered them, then R2 could have gone off to try to rescue his buddy. One problem with that plan is R2 is the smart one and would try to contact someone for help. In order for that scenario to work, R2 would have to somehow be blocked from finding help. Or another idea would have been for both of them to be captured and then, once the bounty hunters couldn't get anything from C3P0 they would turn to R2. I think the reason they didn't do this is because they wanted to show the contrast between C3P0 being tortured one second and then switch to R2 enjoying the comforts of the spa. That's not a bad idea, but they had to contort the character to make it happen. I think this was a "darling" that the writers put in that needed to be killed.

What makes us enjoy stories is seeing characters that we can relate with overcoming obstacles in order to become better people. It just doesn't work when the characters have to be changed in order to make a plot work.