Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

I'm probably the last person in the neighborhood to see it, but I finally made it out to see 'The Hobbit' movie today. I've been excited to see this movie for a while since the book is the main reason I initially wanted to become a writer.

It wasn't the first book I read. I enjoyed reading before that. I can't remember what all I read, other than lots of Hardy Boys books and some Boxcar Children. They were fun and all, but it wasn't until I saw the cartoon of The Hobbit made around 1978 that my reading interest exploded. I believe it was a Friday night that the cartoon aired on TV. The next day, I went into a Book Cache (a chain of bookstores in Alaska that, sadly, no longer exist) and snatched up a copy of the book.

It blew my mind. The world was so different than anything I'd read before. The book opened up a reading frenzy within me, leading me to quickly consume The Lord of the Rings and any other fantasy novel I could get my greasy little hands on. But not only did I want to read of those worlds, I wanted to create them, too. Thus, the initial seeds of being a writer were born. So, The Hobbit is very near and dear to my heart and I was a little nervous what Peter Jackson would do to it.

Now, as for the movie, I was not disappointed. In fact, I was surprised how much Jackson stayed with the book. The additions to the movie, like Azog the Orc and the threat of Dol Guldur, can be found in the appendix of The Return of the King. Even the tale of how Thorin Oakenshield got his nickname is found there. Jackson still took liberties, but they were mainly to keep the story flowing well and to create some character development.

Yes, the movie is long, but there were only a couple of places where things seemed a little stretched to me. Jackson is telling more than one story here. Not only is there the original Hobbit story, but we're getting the beginnings of the War of the Ring. We see the behind the scenes activities of Gandalf, Galadriel, Elrond, Radaghast, and Sauruman as they investigate the necromancer of the forest. We also get the deeper tale of the dwarfs and of the time they lost their kingdom of Erebor under Lonely Mountain.

I saw the HFR (high frame rate) 3D version since I was curious what it would look like. It was a little odd, I'll admit. I'm not sure if I liked it or not. I does have a little of a 'soap opera' look to it. At the same time, the visuals were very vivid and the action super smooth. What impressed me the most was how difficult it was to tell the real actors from the computer generated monsters. In fact, most of the time I couldn't. The scene with the three trolls blew me away at how life-like the trolls were and how seamlessly they were blended in with the actors playing the dwarfs. Not long ago, when watching the DVD of 'The Two Towers', I was disappointed in how the CG creatures stood out as not matching the lighting of the real-life footage. The monsters looked great by themselves, but you could tell they weren't real because of the contrast. Well, you don't see that contrast anymore.

Final verdict: great movie, go see it. Should youngsters? Probably not since there are some dark scenes, a lot of decapitations, and other violence that may be too much for little ones. There wasn't much blood, though. The PG-13 rating is deserved. This ain't the kid's version.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Update: Wandering Weeds

Whoa. Holy cow! I'm blogging.

Yeah, I know I don't get to this very often. It's not that I don't have anything to say, its just that my main focus, when I have time to write, is to produce stories. And I've got a lot of things happening in that department. Here are a few of them:

For starters, I have a short story called 'Of Weeds and Wizardry' that just came out in an anthology called Wandering Weeds: Tales of Rabid Vegetation. You can find out more about it here: The story I have in it is the third in my 'Tales of Myrick the (Not-so) Magnificent' series, a YA fantasy/comedy. You don't need the other stories to enjoy this one, but if you want to, they are available for free (yes, free) on Smashwords. The first in the series is called The Princess and the Privy and the second is called The Crypt of the Undead Sorcerer and Other Vacation Spots.

Some more good news on the Myrick front, I'll soon have a fourth tale coming out on December 17th on Big World Network. It is called The Lord of the Socks. It will be a longer story broken up into 12 episodes. They start up just after where 'Of Weeds and Wizardry' leaves off. This story will bring back the entire cast of characters: Myrick, Nut-boy, Nonac the barbarian, Princess Frederica, Bum-stabber, and Lord Korac.

Also on Big World Network is my novella Delroy Versus the Yshtari. It is a sci-fi comedy with a smidge of romance. It is in 'reruns' and is still free for the moment. You can get pdf, ebook, and audio versions (narrated by yours truly) of it. After February, the story will also be available in print.

And there's the full-length superhero sidekick novel I've been working on all year that I'm now calling A Sidekick's Saga. It is finished, but I keep looking over it again and again as I try to polish it. I know, I know, I need to kick it out the door and get the thing published. And then, after that, I plan to get back to seeing if I can get The Dragon War Relic sequel published.

So, as you see, I've not been idle. Right now in my life, it seems its either blog or write stories. I'd rather write stories.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Review: The Kindling by Braden Bell

Last year, I exchanged manuscripts with Braden Bell. He read an early rendition of Time Gangsters while I read a previous version of The Kindling. I found the book to have an original twist on magic involving middle school age kids and it was a blast to read. When he asked for people to review the final version of the book for him, I gladly volunteered. Now, some people can read the same book over and over again and still enjoy it. I don't, normally. But The Kindling was so much fun that I didn't mind reading it again so soon. I usually like to put ten or more years between readings of the same book, which I guess that means I'm about due for another reading of The Lord of the Rings.

Braden mixes humor and adventure well in this novel. He also has developed a new twist on a magic system that makes sense and brings the kids interesting powers. It starts off with one boy, Conner Dell, accidentally accessing his magic powers by setting another boy's shorts on fire. Joining him in this adventure is his twin sister, Lexa, and her friend Melanie Stephens (nice last name, by the way. No relation). Their normal lives are soon disrupted when a creepy guy they call 'the stalker' shows up and causes weird things to happen. Even weirder is the reaction of the teachers at their school, who might be helping or hindering the stalker. The kids eventually learn that there are two powerful forces that have been at odds for centuries: the Magi and the Darkhands (take a guess which side is good and which is evil).

There were some fun characters in the story, too. My favorite was Dr. Timberi, who is the choir teacher and musical director. I could tell that Braden put part of his heart and soul into this person. The kids also all have distinct characters with good strengths and weaknesses.

This novel had all the things I like about books: fun, lighthearted, adventurous, free of language and 'questionable' situations, and it places people in positions where they have to dig in deep to overcome their problems. I can easily recommend this book to any middle grade reader and above without any reservations.

One complaint, though. Why did the adult who turned out to be the biggest pain in the neck have to be Mr. Stephens? Mr. Stephens should be the nice guy; a kind, easy-going, gentle, and rational type of personality. Oh well, he must be an English Stephens. My Stephens ancestors came from Prussia.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Scene It

I feel like I've reached a writing epiphany. I don't know if it's really that earth shaking, but it seems like it to me. Lately, I've read a few books on screenwriting, like McKee's Story. Screenwriters think in scenes, not chapters. So, I started trying to break down my current project, Memoir of a Teenage Sidekick, into smaller units.

I started reading a novel and decided to take notes on what happened in each scene.When I did that, I found I could easily see the 'Three O's". I learned this idea James Scott Bell's book Plot & Structire. The three O's stand for Objective, Obstacle, and Outcome. Objective is the characters goal at the moment. Obstacle is what creates the opposition and conflict to that goal. Outcome is what happens as a result of goal versus opposition.

As I read the novel, it surprised me when I saw these 3 O's multiple times in each scene. When I've applied the principle, I usually just thought of it in terms of one set of O's for the entire chapter. It taught me that the three O's should be happening more often.

As I'm working on my outline now, I'm breaking it down into scenes and figuring out the three O's for each one. I'm finding a few that naturally have the cycle happening three times in a short amount of time. Anyway, that's my exciting discovery. I need to study this some more in other books. It's kind of like doing a measure by measure analysis of music.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Unaffordable Care Act

They used to say that you shouldn't talk about religion or politics when in polite company. I usually try to abide by that rule. I definitely have opinions and feelings and I'm happy to share them in a more private setting, but in public I believe in being more reserved. Today, though, the Supreme Court of the US has disappointed me to the point where I feel a need to vent about it. Now, probably half a million people are doing the same thing as I write this, so what makes my opinion different? I don't know, but there are a couple of takes that I have that I don't see discussed much.

The first point I'll address has been discussed some, but I have an analogy that I think explains it. Do you remember hearing those reports about the Pentagon paying $300 for a hammer or screwdriver? The paperwork was so thick that unscrupulous people were able to pull a fast one on the government and overcharge for something that might only cost $10 so that they could pocket the profit. Well, what the 'Affordable' Care Act doesn't do is lower the prices of health care. If anything, it raises them. Instead of dealing with things like tort reform or lowering insurance rates for doctors or allowing competition or cutting out paperwork for insurance companies, the government has, in essence, just made it so all Americans can buy the hammer for $300 instead of lowering it back to its real cost. This is stupid. A system like this can only eventually fail, leaving people in worse of a health care situation than they are now.

I do believe we need health care reform. It needs to be made affordable. It needs to be made so that there is no such thing as an uninsurable person. There should be provisions for people who need medical help but can't afford it. I agree with the attempt, but not the result.

I think back to my parents. When they were young newly-weds, my dad was diagnosed with Hodgekin's Disease. At that time, it was a very fatal disease. My dad only had a high school education and worked as an auto mechanic. He ended up going to the Stanford Medical Clinic in California and had a series of tests and experimental treatments done. Of his test group, he was the only one to survive. The thing is, though, my parents paid for all of this on just my dad's income, without any insurance. They were able to pay for everything out of pocket on a mechanic's salary. That would be impossible today. Granted, there is a lot more technology available that may raise the cost some, but in my mind, health care reform should make it so that people on average incomes should be able to afford to pay regular medical bills out of pocket just like our parents and grandparents did.

Okay, here's my second point and one that I don't hear mentioned very often. What if I don't subscribe to the philosophy of Western medicine? What if I want to put my time into eating right and exercising as a way to cut down on my health costs? What if I'd rather put my health money into herbs, acupuncture, traditional Chinese or Indian methods? Those things can be expensive, but they are affordable out of pocket. That is how I'd rather spend my money.

Now, don't get me wrong, I do believe in doctors and will use them, but my philosophy on dealing with illness is to first try and solve it naturally, only using Western medicine as a last resort. But if I have to put my limited funds into an insurance that I don't want, it will limit my freedom of how I want to take care of my own health. Will the 'Affordable' Care Act cover herbs and acupuncture? Heck no. So I would be hosed.

This the course I'm pursuing to deal with the health conditions I do have: diabetes and psoriasis. I've been very successful fighting the diabetes and have managed to keep it under control with diet, exercise, and herbs. I haven't fared so well with the psoriasis and I am on the verge of seeing a doctor about it. What gripes me, though, is my current insurance will only cover regular practitioners so I can't go to a skin specialist who focuses on psoriasis unless I pay for it. I don't think the 'Affordable' Care Act will change that.

Okay, I've got that off my chest. I'll still fume about it, though. Bottom line is, I just want to have the freedom to take care of my health the way I want without the government telling me how to do it.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Review: Clockwork Angels by Rush

I've surprised people over the years when they find out that I'm a fan of the Canadian rock band Rush. After all, I'm a hard core jazz guy with a masters in saxophone performance. 90% of everything I listen to is jazz, and 50% of that is Michael Brecker. (I suppose some time I should blog about my favorite musician in the universe, but another time)

So, there's the other 10% that I like. A lot of it is the music of my youth, stuff from the 70s and 80s, with some classical and salsa mixed in. Rush qualifies as music from my youth, but they've held a higher place in my mind mainly because all three members of the band are consummate musicians with intelligence behind their music.

This week, they released their 20th studio album, Clockwork Angels. I've had the opportunity to listen to the whole album twice now, so I'm only barely getting to know it. What I'll share here is mostly first impressions.

For the long-time Rush fan, you won't be disappointed. It is vintage Rush fine tuned with superior experience and musicianship. Sometimes while listening, I felt like it hearkened back to the old days from albums like Caress of Steel and Fly By Night. There seemed to be more of the complex time signatures that were prevalent in their earlier material. As a musician, this makes it fun for me which is why this is one of the few rock groups I still listen to. It seems most rock bands are enslaved to the tyranny of 4/4 meter.

This album also gets back into storytelling and is a concept album. In this day and age of 99 cent downloads from iTunes, people don't look at the whole album any more. To me, this is akin to only listening to one movement of a Beethoven Symphony. The artistry is in the whole work, not in a single part of it. Rush is making an effort to counteract that.

I definitely am enjoying this album. Is it one of my Rush favorites? Probably not, but I'll put it in the middle somewhere for now. Of course, Rush is one of those groups that it takes several listenings to be able to determine more accurately how much you like it. That's a sign to the depth of their music. Where pop music (I accidentally mistyped it as poop music, which is probably more accurate) makes everything obvious so that it can be evaluated in one listening; classical, jazz, and . . . well . . . Rush, have several levels of music that can take years to discern.

Here are my first impressions: too much distorted guitar. I have nothing against it, but I was hoping for a little more variety. Also, when I did a quick read-through of the lyrics, I was confused about the story line. There's a protagonist and a villain, but it didn't seem like a coherent story. Maybe I need to listen to the album while reading the lyrics for it to make more sense. Several of the songs are quite catchy and enjoyable, though. I liked "Caravan" and "Headlong Flight." I also really liked "The Garden" because of the contrast it had with the rest of the album.

The most exciting thing that I'm anticipating is the book that goes along with it. I haven't read it yet, but I got a chance to have dinner with Kevin J. Anderson, the author of it, last month. I was already a fan of his Star Wars books, but when I found out that he was writing a novel to go along with the album of my favorite rock band I have to confess, I geeked out. Kevin told me that he's been good friends with Neil Peart for over 20 years. Something that struck me as interesting was that he said that none of the US publishers wanted to touch this project. They had to go with a Canadian publisher for the book.

Anyway, the album is great. Traditional Rush fans will love it. If you like vintage Rush, you will feel like you've traveled back in time (I'm a fan of their middle-era). And here's some great advice for all artists from the song "Caravan": I can't stop thinking big.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Big World Network

I'm a little slow on reporting this, but a few weeks ago, a series of stories of mine called Delroy Versus the Yshtari started going up on And the stories are FREE. That's right: FREE. They are available in several ebook formats as well as an audio book. So far, the first three episodes are up with the fourth one coming out this Saturday. The best way I can think to describe my story is that it is a sci-fi semi-romantic comedy.

This story came to life in February as just a form of writing practice. I was killing time to let Memoir of a Teenage Sidekick to settle in before I started another draft. When I finished Delroy, I thought I ended up with something fun. I'd heard about Big World Network from some friends so I pitched it to them. To my surprise, I got a quick acceptance. That was exciting, but the scary part was that I only had one rough draft made of it. So, for the last few weeks I've been frantically preparing the first few episodes for publication while trying to work out new drafts of the complete story. Yesterday, I finished the third draft and feel like I can take a little breather. This is part of the reason I've blogged even less than normal.

One fun aspect of this is that I'm trying my hand at narrating the audio book version. I've never been much into audio books myself. The only one I've enjoyed is the Eric Idle version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I'm usually too ADD to listen to things. I have to have print in front of me or my mind wanders. One other thing about the audio portion, though, is that I wrote the theme music. It's actually a song I wrote for Dragon War Relic that I called Galactic Journeys. It is a spoof of the Star Trek theme.

Anyway, I want to encourage you to check out Delroy Versus the Yshtari. And tell your friends.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Review: John Carter

It usually takes me a while to mentally digest a movie in order to decide how much I like it. It makes it harder when its a movie that I've anticipated for so long, thirty-one years to be exact. To make a short statement, though, I will say I liked the Disney film John Carter. It probably won't make my top ten or twenty list of all-time favorites, but it had some good action, effects, humor and a functional plot.

I am a little disappointed, however. Most of that might be because of having such high expectations and then not having them met. It's kind of like the finale to the TV series Lost. It was a functional ending to the series, but fell far short of the expectations that the audience had. It wasn't necessarily bad, just not as jaw-dropping amazing as the fans wanted. That's the feeling I have with John Carter: functional. I'm thinking I might of enjoyed it more if I hadn't been a big fan of the books since I was a teenager.

One pleasant surprise was how much of the book was actually in it. We get John Carter getting transported from an Arizona desert onto Mars (with his clothes on, thankfully). His first encounter with the martians, or Tharks, was at an egg incubator. We also get the wedding of Dejah Thoris to Sab Than only this time it is more central to the plot of the movie. I think this is an improvement over the book since in the book it seemed like an afterthought. Of course, we do need to keep in mind that the book started life as a serial, which didn't have as centralized of a plot as we're used to today.

Another thing I really liked was that they preserved the science of light that Burroughs had in his books. They gave Dejah a little more roll in this, but that was okay. I also liked that they kept Edgar Rice Burroughs in the story as a character.

They also kept the part of how John Carter had to get used to moving in the lesser Martian gravity and even turned it into a humorous scene.

There are a couple of things that come to mind that I didn't like. Well, for one, there was no egg at the end. I'm not sure why they didn't have it in there, because it is such a big part of the continuing story. If you don't know what I'm talking about, that's okay.

The other thing was the Tars Tarkas-Sola relationship story. It was in there but thrown in quickly. I like the way it came out in the book better.

Also, a big theme of the book was on converting a blood-thirsty and savage society with kindness. It was how John Carter gained the trust of Woola (his "dog") and his thoats. I know you can't get all those things woven into the film, but it was one of my favorite parts of the book and a part of John Carter's character.

I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about the changing of John Carter's character. I guess it had to be done, though, in order to create a better character arc. He really didn't have much of one in the books. In the movie, they had to take him down a peg and make him an uncaring social outcast who has to find out what he really does care about. It worked and the movie had some good scenes as he makes his discoveries. They did keep the theme of him going from one civil war on Earth only to find himself embattled in another civil war on another planet. If anything, the movie made that a little more pronounced.

I'm also not sure about bringing the Therns in so early and changing their nature. It did make the plot more functional for the film and changed some of the teleportation "magic" from the book into more of a science. I need to reread the rest of the series, though, to find out how much they changed the Therns.

So, there you have it. I'll probably think of some other things as I continue to ponder it, but I wanted to throw out my initial thoughts. Bottom line: it's a fun, action/adventure movie. Go see it. But there is a lot of blue blood spilled and some revealing clothing, so it may not be for younger viewers. Just for reference, the Kids In Mind rating gave it a 2 (sex/nudity), 6 (violence/gore), and 4 (language) on a scale of 10.

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Princess of Mars

One hundred years ago last month, a series of stories came out called Under the Moons of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (yes, the Tarzan dude). They were later compiled and released in 1917 as a novel called A Princess of Mars. And now, I must confess, I'm geeking out this week due to the theatrical version of these stories coming out this weekend called John Carter.

I first read these books when I was fifteen while suffering from chicken pox. I needed to find something to keep my mind off the itching so I discovered some old 1960's paperbacks on a bookshelf in the basement. There were several of these Mars books by Burroughs so I decided to give them a try. I fell in love with the world of Barsoom. And now, thirty-six years later, I'm finally going to get to see this world come to life on the big screen. I'm trying hard not to wet myself just thinking about it.

So, in commemoration of the film, I reread A Princess of Mars last week. I'm sometimes a little nervous to read a childhood favorite again in fear of it not living up to my expectations. I wasn't disappointed. Reading that book made me feel like a teenager again, and maybe a little itchy, too. The world came alive and vivid for me and now I can't wait to get to the other books.

Now, I'm not expecting this movie to be much like the book, though I have been pleased to see in the cast list that all the characters from the book are there in some form. Even my beloved Woola (John Carter's Martian dog). I'm sure the story will be very different, though, and I'm okay with that. To be honest, the book's plot wasn't the most linear and seemed to meander a bit. It mainly consisted of John Carter having some great adventures and eventually winning the heart and hand of his beloved Dejah Thoris. I assume the movie will do at least that much. Oh, but one nice change I've seen in the trailers is that John Carter travels to Mars with his clothes on. In the book, he appeared buck naked.

What impressed me again about the book was the uniqueness of the world. I haven't read anything like this in our modern novels. I am amazed at how well Burroughs thought out the flora and fauna; something I didn't think they did a hundred years ago. He subscribed to the canal theory prevalent in the early 1900s and built a world around it. Burroughs even developed a science based on light that would allow the Martian airships to fly.

So, I'm counting down the days until the movie opens. I've even been tempted to go to the midnight showing, except I think I'm getting too old for that. All I know is that this movie has been a long time coming and I hope Andrew Stanton does it justice. If he carries some of that Pixar magic with him, though, it should be phenomenal. Whoops, I now think I need to go change my pants.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Streams Create Canyons

I just thought I'd do a quick supplement to my last blog. While our son served a two-year LDS mission, I wrote him consistently every weekend. I probably spent on average a half hour a week doing the writing. Well, today I compiled all of those letters into a single document. I mainly did that because I hardly ever wrote in my journal during those two years, so basically those letters were my journal.

The amazing thing is, after doing a word count on all the letters, it came out to 42,000 words. That's almost a novel. Why I want to bring this up is for those people who say they don't have time to write a novel. But can you come up with a half hour a week to write? If you do, in two years you can have a first draft of a novel. All it takes is a little dedication. Slow and steady can get the job done.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Be a writer

I just did a round of book signings for my new book, Time Gangsters. It seems like at least once every signing, someone comes up to me and says, "I'd like to be a writer." I now answer them by saying, "Then be a writer." I'm not trying to be a smart alec, but I really do think it is that simple. There are a lot of people who want to be writers but they seem to be waiting for something.

Some say they'll write when they're not so busy. Well, my answer to that is get an iPad or smartphone and a bluetooth keyboard and write a few words whenever you get a chance. I experimented with this last year when I was on the UVU campus a couple of days a week. I had little 10 to 15 minute gaps between my saxophone students, so I'd get out my iPad and start typing. In a month I was 5000 words into a novel. If I'd continued that, I could have had a whole novel in three semesters. My experiment ended, though, when I got so excited about the story that I started working on it during my 3-hour writing blocks on the other days of the week.

Also, when I wrote my first book, The Dragon War Relic, I was working two jobs and having to squeeze in writing here and there wherever I could. I had to sacrifice some things, like TV watching and computer games. This doesn't just go for writing, but music and many other things: if you want to become an expert at something, you have to give up things that distract you from it.

Here's another one I hear, "But I don't know enough about writing." Sheesh, if I waited until I actually knew what I was doing I still wouldn't have written a single book. As it is, I'm currently working on my tenth book in six years. I still don't know what I'm doing but I'm learning. Every book I write I learn something new. Now, some of those books will not ever see daylight because they are so bad, but I still learned a lot from them and the next book became better because of it.

This leads me to the next thing. Some people want to wait until they have their ideas and thoughts all perfectly figured out. Maybe they can do that, but for me, I have to see my stuff in print before I can figure out what to do with it. The analogy I use is that it is like making a clay pot on a spinning wheel. You first have to get the lump of clay on the wheel before you can begin to shape it the way you want. For writers, that means just write the stinkin' first draft, warts and all. Then worry about perfecting it through editing.

I can't think of other excuses that people have, but I'm sure there are plenty more. Let me know if you think of any and we can air them out. Mainly, though, if you want to be a writer, take action. Do a little bit every day toward that goal, even if it is only 5 minutes here and there.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Thoughts on LTUE

Last weekend was "Life, the Universe, and Everything" symposium hosted at UVU. This was the 30th year of the symposium but the first time it has been held away from BYU. There were a few growing pains, but overall it went well and was enjoyable. One nice thing about it being at UVU is that it was closer to my house, only a couple of miles away, and I have a faculty parking permit. The best thing about it, though, is the quality of writers that are there to speak on the panels: Brandon Sanderson, Brandon Mull, David Farland/Wolverton, Tracy Hickman, Larry Correia, Dan Wells, and James Dashner, just to name a few.

Oh, and of course, I was there, too.Which was quite humbling. I ended up leaving this LTUE feeling a little discouraged. Not because of the quality of the event, but I just came away with the feeling that I really don't know what the heck I'm doing. The panel I was on about writing suspense was great and I even had a few worthwhile sound bites, but Jeff Savage, Clint Johnson, James Dashner, and Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury all said things so profoundly that I wished I could have been in the audience taking notes. It made me wonder why I was even trying to write.

Now this isn't the first time I've been discouraged. It's par for the course when you're a writer. For me, though, it ends up being a positive thing. Sure, I feel like throwing in the towel for a few hours, but usually I wake up the next morning and think, "Well, I'm not where I need to be so I better get busy." I'm taking those areas that I feel inadequate at and making efforts to strengthen them. I guess this is the musician in me that does this. That's what learning music is, finding our weak areas and then practicing them like crazy until they become strengths. Heck, life it like that for that matter.

So, fear not, I'm not giving up. I'm just knuckling down and trying to make myself better. Oh, and happy Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 13, 2012


I just finished a read through of my second draft of Slave of the Sphere. This is a different kind of project for me that I still think has a lot of potential. The problem is, it is going to take a huge amount of work to fix it. "Sphere" is a lot bigger project than any of my others. It is a darker, more epic kind of project that is nothing like the light-hearted adventures I've done thus far. Character relationships are much more complex and the world more detailed.

So, after finishing reading the draft and comments from my writing group, I'm torn between abandoning the six months work I've already put into it or if I should just knuckle down and fix it. I discovered that I so much more enjoy writing the light, middle-grade stuff and it is hard for me to want to go back into this dark world.

But at the same time, I've always wanted to write epic fantasy. And this idea is completely different than anything else I've ever seen. I hate to give up on it. That said, I've learned a lot about being a writer from this. By doing a project over my head, I've had to stretch myself as a writer. Even if this story never reaches the light of day, it should hopefully help me with my other, lighter stuff.

For now, my plan is to do a new outline for it, with comprehensive character analysis. I'll then let it sit for a while as I go back to working on Memoir of a Teenage Sidekick. I'll let my subconscious continue to work on it while I stick with the more comedic works that I love. Maybe I'll get another draft done this year to help me improve my writing even further. For now, though, I've decided to put this more complex project on a longer developmental path.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Return of Share the Love


Okay, so this blog post is part of a contest. Blog about it and I'm entered in it. Well, I'm actually excited about this one because last year, I was one of the winners. What is it, you ask? If I blog and tweet and all that stuff about the Storymakers conference coming up in May, I could be one of three winners to sit at a table with some of the conference VIPs. Last year, I sat between James Dashner and Larry Brooks and got to chew the cud with them for an hour.

I suppose I should backtrack and explain what Storymakers is. Its a fantastic organization that I'm a part of. It consists of LDS authors as a sort of guild/support group. Every spring, though, they have an awesome conference for writers here in Utah. I haven't been to a lot of conferences, but I have to say, if you're a writer, this is the best one I've ever been to. There are lots of fantastic classes taught by great teachers. For instance, this year Kevin J. Anderson will be one of the guests. So, if you live in Utah or can get here by plane, train, boat, or stage coach and you write books, you should check it out. You can register and find out more about it here:

For those who want to get in on the 'Share the Love' contest, here's the link to that:

Oh, you're probably wanting some advice with this posting. Here it is: if it's below freezing, don't go outside with wet hair.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

To Do

I still haven't figured out what exactly to blog about. I want to make sure I bring up topics that are unique and might be useful to someone, though. Maybe that's why I don't blog very much.

Anyway, I reached a milestone in my life this week that may be of some use to others. It's an old concept but new to me. You see, I've always been able to keep a list in my head of the things I need to do and been able to get them done. Lately, though, I've been finding more and more things are being forgotten or 'spaced-out'. Is it that my memory is getting worse? I don't know, maybe. But I think a lot of it is that there are just more things to do. Between family, church, a music career, and a writing career, it's harder for me to keep all the little things I need to do straight.

So, here's my epiphany: a to-do list. Now, you're probably saying, "Well, duh." But hey, this is a big revelation for me. So this week, I've been making lists on my iPad and deleting things when I finish them. And you know what? It's working. I'm actually remembering all the little things I need to do (like blog).

Before, I'd sometimes be sitting at my computer and thinking, "Now, what was that thing I needed to do?" I would think and think until, when I couldn't remember it, I'd play Spider Solitaire. Then, as I got up from the computer, my memory would return but by then it was too late.

So, my advice is, keep a to-do list. It works.

This message brought to you by Procrastinators Anonymous whenever we get around to it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Time Gangsters is on Blog Tour!

Starting today, there is a blog tour for Time Gangsters, my new book that is slated to come out February 14th. Here is the schedule for the next few days:

Be sure to check out their reviews once they post them. Braden Bell's is already up, so definitely visit his site.

This is the beginning of an exciting time for me. Of course, there's also a lot of trepidation. Will the reviewers like it? Will readers like it? Or will it just get used as a door stop and paper weight? I know I liked the book and enjoyed writing it, but it's a whole new thing to wait to see what others think. I'll post more about the tour later.