This past spring, my family grew by just a loud little bit. I haven’t spoken much about my family here, but perhaps now is a good time to open that window.
The little one is affectionately known as ‘The Goblin’. Anyone who has seen a newborn baby will probably understand. She was born with a full head of dark hair and is generally not fond of taking naps. The Goblin wants to be walked!
She, though being my darling wife’s firstborn, is not the only child we have. The next youngest is a set of 12-year-old twins, which we will call Wyld and Scout. Wyld is a sweet, small-framed girl that works hard for what she wants. She’s a naturally talented rock climber and loves to draw. Scout isn’t as fond of rocky cliffs, but loves baseball with a passion. He’s also on the tech-savvy side of computers and a strong reader.
Their older brother has suddenly turned into a giant. At 14 years of age he is almost exactly 6 feet tall! We’ll call him Scooby, though he looks more like Shaggy. He’s into music and comic books and has dreams of being rock star. He lives on the east coast with his mom, but comes for holidays and summer, any time that has presents involved.
Finally, let me introduce my beautiful Muse. She can do amazing things with a computer, but is also the best and fastest proofreader/editor I’ve ever found. It is thanks to her love and support that I can achieve whatever success lies ahead of me.
So, that’s my family. I hope you’ll enjoy looking through our window from time to time.



Children Make Great Villians

I often wonder at the mindset and expectations of criminals. How they can possibly dream up some of the things they do? How can they feel good about doing it? I never feel like I understand the “darker psyche”. However, tonight I have come to realize that the greatest source of inspiration for villainy is children. My wife had a blog for a time called “Step-Eclecticity” and used little code names for the kids, so I’m going to borrow those monikers for this.

Tonight, I awoke from bed to yelling (possibly, I was still asleep there) and then the definite sounds of loud crying. I got out of bed and made my way to the children’s side of the house. When I hit the hallway, I paused to determine which direction the crying was coming from. Both directions?? (We currently have two kids in the house, as their older brother, ‘Scooby’, is out of state for the balance of the summer.) After a moment of listening, I decide the louder crying seems to be coming from the left, so I start in that direction. There I find ‘Bliss,’ our 11 yr old rock-climbing daughter, lying on the bed, holding one side of her head and in terrible tears.

“My face is broken,” she sobs out. I’m slightly in shock, and resisting the instant urge to go destroy the vile miscreant who has chosen to bring my daughter to such painful tears and heart-wrenching beliefs. “He pressed my face down with all his weight, and I heard it crack!” She fully believes that her twin brother has literally broken her face, cracked her skull. After a few more minutes of gentle holding and reassurances that her face appears to be just as pretty as always, other than tear-tracks and puffy eyes, I get a grip on my temper and head for the other end of the hallway.

On that end of the world, I discover Digi, our 11-yr old baseball fanatic and potential genius, curled into the fetal position on the giant beanbag under his Texas Rangers comforter. He, too, is sobbing his heart into the night. I ask, calmly, what happened. “She turned off the light, and pushed me off the ladder, and made me feel like I wasn’t even a person!”

I tennis-matched back and forth for an hour, comforting, interrogating, chastising, and reassuring the pair of them, and in the end, after much begging to see each other on both their parts, I let Digi in to see Bliss, and he tearfully said he was sorry and begged her forgiveness, as she apologized to him and told him it was alright. There were hugs and ‘I love you’s as I watched from the door. There will certainly be more talking in the morning, but as it was after midnight, I put them both to bed with kisses and instructions to get some sleep. Oh, what was the fight over? The top bunk. When there are four kid beds to choose from in that end of the house.

So, I’m reasonably certain that her face isn’t broken, and I’m pretty sure he is a person, but I was completely floored at the actions they were willing to take against someone they each profess to care deeply about, and for so little an incentive. Truly, childhood is the stuff of villainy. Earlier this week, one of them slipped around the table while I was chatting with their cousin, and then whispered behind my back (I can still hear pretty well in my doting old age) to that cousin, who promptly stepped back to my attention and asked about playing on the Wii with the child that was so conveniently positioned behind me. I asked why my child wasn’t the one asking, and promptly came the defense that the cousin had just been asking to play. Yeah, right. Manipulative little… villain.

Their older brother Scooby isn’t innocent on this, either, by no means. Every time he travels between houses, he smuggles a shipment of toys back east. There was even an entire post on my wife’s old blog a couple of years ago about a certain candy thief that was caught chocolate-handed.

I am probably far too tired to try to assess what this observation might mean from a psychological point of view, but I am quick to spot the writing advantage! What is a villain willing to do to get what he wants? Look to the children. Lie (“I didn’t put that there!”), Cheat (“Oops, I moved my piece too far. And that was a practice roll.”), Manipulate, Steal, and, apparently, break a little girl’s face, or turn their own brother into a “non-person.”  Frankly, I’d call that a pretty impressive list for a villain. 

I was about to say that the crazy thing is, if we base villains on children, they don’t even need all that convincing a reason for their evil deeds. I mean really: he wanted the top bunk. Then again, was all that really about who got the top bunk? Or maybe about how one made the other one feel? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t care how someone makes you feel, reciprocal violence is not an acceptable response. Yet we must take something like that into account when writing villains: they have reasons for what they do. They also must have a certain viewpoint about it. Either they feel it is justified, or they have to be in some way conflicted about it. Or perhaps numbed to it, as they have lived that way so long.

My problem with villains, or writing any character that isn’t just stock criminal, is that I have trouble making them be truly evil. They don’t lie, they kind of sort of tell half-truths… When just watching my children should make me realize that, angels they may be, but they’ll lie to you. Straight up, stare you in the face, I-didn’t-do-it-and-you-can’t-prove-it lie. Not to mention the other things they are willing to do, especially in the heat of the moment, even if they feel bad about it later. Maybe my next villain will cry himself to sleep at night, trying to justify his actions, or push blame onto the victims of her crimes. Or maybe we’ll see their dad, lying in bed, trying to figure out where he went wrong to raise someone so… human.

Pretend This is a Creative Blog Post Title

It is a new year, and with new years come… calories, if we’re going to be honest about it.

Over the holidays (and just after), I finished Elven Fire for the Beginner GM, which was my NaNoWriMo project this year. (I did hit my goal, but had some finishing pieces I wanted to add.) Now it’s time for that to go into revisions so it can be published this spring. The actual game manual went out last summer. That has been a fun experience, and a new type of project for me.
Once that’s done, I’ll be going back to work on Hero Games, which I abandoned in the middle. I’ve decided to try an unusual (for me) approach, though, and writing each character’s storyline independently, then weaving them all together. With the plot well mapped, it should be doable, and may help to maintain the continuity of their voice.
One night over the holidays, I had to get up in the middle of the night to write down a couple of story concepts so that I could sleep, and hopefully not lose the ideas. When I shared the ideas with my wife later, she praised the concepts, but commented that she thinks I have enough projects on my plate.
Even ignoring the “real life” commitments of teaching and family, she’s right. I have just finished writing one project that requires editing before a deadline for publications; I am still in the midst of a challenging novel with a dozen main characters, each with their own subplot. I have at least three other novels-in-progress awaiting their turn in line. I have a Santa’s List of story ideas waiting to become works-in-progress. I have blogging that I try to do weekly, Tweeting that I do whenever I can, which isn’t often enough. On Common Ground is gathering dust waiting to be edited. On top of all that, I really should be trying to build my portfolio by entering contests, submitting short stories to magazines, networking within the blogosphere. Oh, I’d completely forgotten that Derek Daniels, my poor Nanite Chaser, is desperately in need of another episode or five.
How does a writer do it? Do we throw some of these wonderful ideas away? Should I start a Writer’s Idea Bank and store them there in the hopes that some other author may be able to use one? It makes me wonder, of those amazing authors that are out there, the prolific, and the departed, how many of their stories went unwritten? How many amazing tales have passed unpenned? I hope there’s a library in heaven, and I hope Satan’s not in charge of the publishing house.

Merry Christmas

I’m sure Santa’s moving my name from one list to the other this month, for I’ve not posted at all in December. Actually, I think I posted one that I had drafted and saved a while back, but screwed up and dated it sometime in October. A shame, it was a good post, and probably went unnoticed because of that. Ah, well, it’s the thought that counts. Or maybe only the thoughts you write down.

So, here’s my Christmas gift to all of you: a piece of fiction. First, you must ask yourself are you naughty or are you nice?
For the Naughty Girls and Boys…
“Shame on you! What are you doing reading this filth?” The voice echoed in her ears…
For the Nice Girls and Boys…

Missed a week

Missed a week? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Yeah, okay, I admit it. I could blame it on being sick, but I didn’t get sick until the middle of last week, so I don’t have much of an excuse. I wish I had a really recent update on my students, but I was out sick much of last week, so I don’t have their current numbers. The week before that, though, one class had a total of 35,000 words! Fantastic. I’m really excited to see what they have after this week of Thanksgiving break. It’ll be the last class period during NaNoWriMo, so really have to be done by that point, and they know it. Crossing my fingers.

I, while still underscoring for the official adult WriMo goal, am having my best NaNo year yet! I currently as of yesterday have just over 15,000 words, which is 60% of my 25k goal. Today and tomorrow are dedicated to writing, with Wednesday as a safety net. I plan to be done by Thanksgiving. It is a marvelous feeling to finish a book like that. To set a momentous goal and achieve it is a sensation that you carry with you. I love seeing it in my students. I love feeling it in me.

Now, on to random-doesn’t-actually-matter-just-thoughts-about-me-out-of-my-head stuff. This morning, I spent nearly an hour in Barnes & Noble waiting for the Jewelry store next door to open. I don’t usually have the time to just “hang out” in B&N, or any other bookstore, much to my chagrin. Got to tell you, I love it. I imagine finding my name on the shelf. I run my fingers tenderly across the leather spines. (Have you SEEN the new B&N Leatherbound Classics editions? Bibliogasm.) I touch the covers of treasured stories from my past, or of world-changing classics and there’s an electric charge that runs through me, connecting me with Captain Ahab, Robert Louis Stevenson, Dorian Gray, Shakespeare, Scheherazade, or HG Wells. It’s a world that I love being a part of. The power and joy of the written word, the very feel and pleasure of holding a good book.

I do enjoy having digital books, and I use Shaker (my iPod) to read on, but shopping in iTunes and downloading a pdf just doesn’t have that same experience. You can laugh. Apple and the Nook people certainly want you to, and make fun of that sentiment in their commercials, but the reality is it is true. I am not lighting torches and waving pitchforks over the coming of digital publishing; I think it’s awesome. Neither, however, am I using my old paperbacks for toilet paper. They can, and will, coexist. And I will indulge in both.

Now it’s time for me to get my name on one of them.