Yearly Archives: 2013

A Brief Look Back

It’s the day of New Year’s Eve, and I’m answering a vague compulsion I have to consider the last 365 days. I had some laughs, and some good times, and overall I’m lucky, but you know, I’m glad I’m putting a lot of it behind me.

I guess the best thing for me this year it is that I’ve learned to be a little more balanced so that I’m not careening from deadline to deadline. I have more time to connect with my wife and kids. I got some nagging health problems squared away so that I’m sleeping pretty well and have fairly normal energy levels again.

My family and I got to visit New York, and Philadelphia, and my wife and daughter and I spent some time in the Florida theme parks. My daughter got a lead role in a play at her school and my son got a lead role in a play at his, and they’re both doing pretty well in school. More importantly, they’re turning into great human beings who will, all-too-soon now, be moving out of the house. And I think that’s what gets me the most. How fast it’s all shooting by. How much I need to savor what is here before me. I’ve been working so hard on trying to turn this crazy writing thing into a career that I’ve sometimes lost track of the fact the kids are getting older every day.

I’m going to log off. A little house cleaning lies before me, then a trip to the post office, then some writing time. Come evening the family and I will probably watch the ball drop on the TV screen, and then hopefully we’ll just laze around relaxing together on the first day of the new year.

Here’s hoping you and yours get a new year off to a good start.

New Treasures

Between the gift exchange with my in-laws and another with some old friends, I ended up with a grab-bag of books I’ve been wanting to read. You can see them pictured to the left.

Along the bottom row are the last four Parker novels in the matched set now available through the University of Chicago Press. There are actually three more novels about the master thief, but they aren’t yet in print through U. of Chicago. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve read all these Parker books, but I enjoyed them so much I actually wanted a matched set, something I don’t usually bother with. My older set is getting sent off to some writer friends who I’m sure will find them as inspiring as I have.

State of the Blog

With the year winding down, I thought I’d write up a post on the Jones blog itself.

In the last 12 months I’ve gone from 2500 unique visitors a month to well over 7000 unique vistors a month, and the number of visits, hits, and page views has more than quadrupled. I want to thank you for that — although, judging from many of the links, many of those visiting come from Russian sites COMPLETELY unrelated to anything here on this blog. I still don’t quite understand why that’s happening. But, hey, if you’re an English reading Russian and want to visit, you’re welcome.

The most popular posts are a strange grab bag.

The Day After

Battle Academy in action. Be warned — it is LOTS of fun.

With the children off for a few days, I plan on spending some time gaming or playing music or watching movies with them, although, old as they are, they’ll probably want some alone time as well — playing Minecraft, or in my son’s case, playing piano or guitar — so I’ll get some writing in.

I’d hoped to be coming to a close on the rough draft of this first Hearthstones book by year end, and while I’m closing in, I’m not that close. December, with all its running people to appointments and gift shopping and minor home disasters, slowed down the process. Still, there’s a good chance that I’ll have five of the seven parts drafted (some of which will be finely polished) by December 31st, which will mean a January completion date.

Speaking of the looming end of year, my Arabian fantasies of Dabir and Asim have made a few “best of lists” I wanted to share.

First, they’re mentioned over on Fantastical Imaginations. Second, while you’ll usually find detailed restaurant and wine reviews at The Passionate Foodie, you’ll also find some thoughtful book posts, and I made the fantasy year’s best list there.

Music for Rocking

Whew! It’s been a busy week. The snow has melted here near the Sea of Monsters, though, and the weather is about as nice as you can expect for Indiana in the winter.

Unless you’re interested in a blow-by-blow of day-to-day activities, I don’t have much to report this week. What with shopping for presents and picking a high school kid up half way through the day (finals week), writing has been pretty sporadic.

An English composition student burned a CD of music for me back when I was teaching some years ago. He turned me on to a group called The Hush Sound which I always liked, but upon revisiting, have decided that I extra plus like. Even better, it looks like while I wasn’t paying attention they got back together and are preparing to release a new album.

Anyway, if you like guitar power pop — sort of Jellyfish crossed with Fountains of Wayne — you can visit here, or check out this great song. And as always, Captain Pike is ready to answer your questions with sage wisdom.

Absent Presents

I’m not a particularly religious person, nor were my parents, but I was brought up celebrating Christmas as a kind of cultural tradition. We put up a tree and sang carols and exchanged gifts. My mother always emphasized that we were to take pleasure in picking out gifts for others, moreover, that this was more important than awaiting for gifts yourself.

That was a harder sell to little kids, but I think something must have stuck with me because as I got older the choosing of gifts became my chief joy at Christmas season.

At this stage of my life I am fortunate enough to possess most of the material things that I truly want (as these are usually books or music my wants have rarely broken the bank). It’s been a long time since I was waiting eagerly to see what awaited me under the Christmas tree, but I’ve been able to get excited about getting things for the rest of the family, and watching their surprised and pleased expressions.

Writing Conference Scenes

When you’re writing a scene where characters discuss the plan — no matter if it’s how to pull off the heist or how to save the ship, or where the killer might strike next — there’s always a danger of going into character overload. By that I mean you create a scene with so many characters that the reader (and maybe you , the writer) can’t keep everyone straight.

If you’re working with established characters in a TV show, it’s different. The original Star Trek had briefing room conferences all the time, but because these moments were usually with the series regulars, knowing who they were wasn’t much of an issue. If you were to write a briefing room scene on a whole new starship, though, think about all the shorthand you couldn’t do. Who’s that guy, and what’s his specialty? How do I introduce this woman’s important tactical information without having to go into pages of detail about who she is? These kinds of writing challenges used to drive me crazy.

I just read a virtual blizzard of Richard Stark Parker novels, and while they’re pretty far away from the “save the ship” briefing room scenes I grew up watching, they serve as models in many ways for the crafting of a good conference.

One of Those Days

It’s been one of THOSE days. This morning as I was getting the kids ready for school I had a nice little writing post composed in my head, but then I discovered we had no Internet service. Before that got resolved, my wife discovered she’d left her work calendar at home with a bunch of important papers, so I ran that in to her.

Then, because we MAY need passports for the kids in the coming year I looked in the appropriate place for their birth certificates and found that they were gone!

A frantic search ensued which involved much mess that will now have to be cleaned up. In the end, though, the birth certificates were right where they were supposed to be and I’d actually been LOOKING at them earlier. They are so different from mine, issued in the late ’60s, that for some reason I didn’t recognize them for what they were and assumed I’d done something stupid and put them in the wrong place.

In the old days, assuming that I’d not put something back where it belonged was always the most logical conclusion, but I’ve gotten more organized now and need to remember to step back before I naturally accept blame and run off to put out a fire.

Anyway, it’s after 1o and I still need to feed the horses, so there’ll be no fascinating site update today, because as soon as I get back in from the windswept snowscape that is currently our yard, I need to write some prose. All is well, no one here at Jones central is hurt or in any danger. We’ve got it good. A little smoother sailing would have been nice, but I’ll just move forward.

December Status

It’s been a hectic few days here, although the kids certainly enjoyed multiple days cancelled (or delayed) by snow. It looks like there’s at least one more. On the plus side, that’s meant more time to spend with them, AND we finally got the gas fireplace replaced. The thing dated from the construction of the house  in the early ’70s and for safety reasons we’d been advised to stop using it altogether. As cold as our living room can be in the winter, the new gas burners are an absolute necessity. (And the new logs and fire look a LOT more realistic than the old ones.)

In the evenings lately I’ve been playing Battle Academy (for Mac, PC, or iPad), which enables me to command divisions of armor and infantry against various WWII Axis powers. So far I’m quite enjoying the game, although I do wish there were more short scenarios. That’s probably more of a feature than a bug for most people, but I don’t have that much spare time. To this newbie war game player, the interface and graphics seem pretty swell.

There have been so many interruptions for the last week that writing slowed to a crawl, but I hope to get in some good work today and finally finish patching part 2 back together following a minor POV change. Then I’ll set it aside and get back to fleshing out some of the other, simpler parts of the book.

And later this week I’ll get back to discussing some more hard writing lessons I’ve learned.

On Dialogue Tags PLUS Bells for the Dead

The fourth of four parts of my short story, “Bells for the Dead,” is now live over at the Paizo site. You can find the whole thing by clicking here, which means it’s about time for me to take the character description sheet of the story’s main character live, which I’ll be doing tomorrow.

Right now I’m hard at work tinkering with the most problematic section of my new monster-sized fantasy novel. All the other parts seem to be clicking along nicely, and this one is ALMOST there. I’m getting to be able to trust my instincts with this stuff. These days when I feel something isn’t quite working I FINALLLY have enough experience that I can twist and turn it a bit to figure out why. Usually, as with here, it stemmed from not being enough in a character’s head.