Thursday, March 31, 2016

Hitting The Literary Jackpot...Shean Pao


I met Shean at last week's FanX Salt Lake Comic Con. She was one of the many authors at the WordFire booth. Being a published author is impressive, but when I heard her story, it made me realize beginning authors can do something that many people say is impossible.

Shean took writing classes from Dave Farland. If you don't know who Dave is, he has mentored some of the most successful young writers in the country. As one of his students he was able to read a story Shean wrote. Now that story has become the novel The Feather and the Moon Well. I have not read it yet, but it's on my list of books to read. Another exciting part of Shean's journey is that this book is part of Dave's Discovery series. The way it was explained to me is that this is the first of many that Dave will produce to showcase new talent. You can order her book: HERE.

When starting out as a writer, you dream of getting that phone call or e-mail that says someone will pay you for something you've written. To go from the public on one side of the booth buying books to the other side selling them seems almost impossible. Meeting Shean last week proves it can happen. You have to work hard and not give up. Many people work hard and never give up and it just doesn't happen to them. Of course, it will never happen if you don't write the book in the first place.

Well done, Shean! It's great to see someone hit the jackpot!

* Photo used without permission from:

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Starting A Part-Time Gig...

It's interesting, but about the time I really got interested in reading and writing, I've spent less and less time in libraries. Had my new obsession occurred a decade or two earlier, I would have spent hours and hours among the physical books, magazines, and periodicals.

I guess the internet took away that joy, too.

But, funny how things happen. How, when you put in an application to work part-time at your local library and you give it time, you just might end up as one of those guys (or gals...) that wanders around the library with a cart full of books replacing the items we all at one time took out to either look at or leave the building with.

I thought having a part-time job would be so easy, especially after being in play after play for the past two years. It turns out, it's not, at least, not in the beginning. When we do plays we usually learn the music first. This involves all of us sitting around and listening to the music director play our parts. Then we sing.

This is my first week as a shelver and I didn't do a lot of sitting (and zero time singing...). In fact, I spent almost all my shifts on my feet. With plays, when it's not your scene being rehearsed, you sit and wait. When working part-time at the library, it's always your scene.

I hope these comments do not come off as complaints. I'm just expressing how my expectations differ from the realities of the new job. I've even had to take different busses to work--no big deal, just more planning.

But as I wheel my cart among the patrons and bookshelves, it's wonderful to see books I've read, and better yet, books written by people I know. Yes, it's a part-time gig, and I am among friends.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Dungeon Crawlers Radio...Mark Two


I ran into my friend, Daniel at the latest FanX event that happened last week. He runs a podcast called Dungeon Crawlers Radio, a podcast I've subscribed to for quite some time. A few weeks ago I noticed that I wasn't getting any new podcasts downloaded to my phone. So, when I saw my Dan, I asked him what was up.

Turns out, there's been some changes to their podcast and I was not getting any new ones because I had not yet subscribed to the new podcast.

Situation: Resolved!

Today I downloaded their most recent episode. If you're unfamiliar with this podcast, it consists of their regular commentators, Dan, Jessica, Jared, and McKay. They also have guests from time to time. If you are a geek (and know what being a geek means...), I highly recommend this podcast. Like many podcasts, we get to sit in on their conversations, as if we're in the room while they discuss all things Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel, DC, comic cons, cosplay, and basically anything else that interests them (they have a lot of interests...).

I've been fortunate enough to get to know Dan better over the past year. That happens when you go to a lot of conventions and symposiums. It's also fun to see him while Lightsaber microphone in hand interviewing great guests at these events. If I were as motivated and dedicated as he is, it's something I would like to do as well.

A couple of observations: sound quality for the new podcast--much MUCH improved! I don't think I ever told Dan (until now...) that the audio quality was not up to par, or subpar as some say. The new podcast greatly improved the listening experience. 

I have only one negative. Usually I listen to podcasts at 2X the normal speed. I tried listening to their latest episode, Batman vs Superman and they hosts spoke really fast, so fast that I had to listen to hear them at 1 1/2X speed to make sure I wasn't missing anything. They speak faster when they're excited.

So, if you're like me (and I doubt you are because you're most likely more savvy on this type of thing...), do a podcast search for Dungeon Crawlers Radio and download their latest version, Version Mark Two. I'm glad I did. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Just Two Writers Talking...

"Excuse me," I waited for a lull in the conversation before interrupting an author as he looked out the large window. Below patrons and cosplayers, vendors and celebrities milled about like ants looking for food or swords or signed photographs or whatever things they wanted to buy or do during the three day event.

"I have a couple of questions about "Insert Book Title Here." He left his friends, shook my hand, and said, "Sure, let's go sit down."

We did, and a half hour later, I got up, thanked him for his time, and assumed by role as an ant on the convention floor.

But, the time we spent talking, that made all the difference.

The man that I interrupted is a well-known author, a very well-known author. As far as book sales and name recognition, he's probably in the top five Utah authors of all time. And here I was, my book sales total in the tens, asking him if I could pose a few questions.

I didn't expect to have a one-on-one interview with him, which is what ultimately happened. 

Part of becoming a better writer comes from reading, or it should. I have been reading this man's book which is part of a series and as I read, questions that a writer would want to know kept coming to my brain. Did that really happen? Do those people or that place really exist? I know non-writers ask the same questions, but as I'm formulating characters and events for my story, I look to those who have successfully done it for direction.

He told me of the inspiration that spawn the book and the series, which I found as fascinating as the books themselves. I'm sure a non-fiction telling of his experiences would sell, too. He told me of how those--like myself--had approached him to relate personal stories they had while reading his words. He also shared some of the readers's experiences. It verified the reasons people create art. They do it for others, but also for themselves.

I seriously doubt, under normal circumstances, that I would ever have been able to sit down with this man and have the conversation we had Saturday afternoon in the Green Room at the 2016 Salt Lake Comic Con FanX event. We're both busy with family, work, responsibilities. But, that's what makes these events special. It makes them personal, bring people physically together in spaces where we share stories, ask questions, express feelings, and even confess a little bit. After spending a half hour with this author, I better understand not only his words, but the reason they exist. "I wanted to make a difference," he said. "Otherwise, it's just noise, and there's a lot of noise out there."

The Green Room has always been a place to step away from the madness of an event like this. For us, just two writers talking, it became something more. At least it did for me.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

An Empty Chair...

Not all the chairs fill up every Sunday, but when you know someone who used to occupy a chair and now doesn't, it makes an empty chair stand out all that much more.

Our little community is a dichotomy--it's both large and small. We feel close when we see each other, but there's so much we don't know.

And when someone doesn't return, we think back when we last spoke to them and wonder if we had been able to see the future, what would we have done different? Would we have taken more time with them, been more interested in their well being? Would we have seen something in their eyes, in the way they spoke that showed a hint that things might not be as they seem?

The chair is only just that, a chair. It's a place for us to sit semi-comfortably for a period of time. Everywhere we go, there are chairs for us, places for us to be. When the chair is empty it means somewhere else a previously empty chair is now occupied. I hope that wherever they end up, they'll be happy.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Time With Friends...

After a convention, I always regret not taking more pictures. I see what others post on social media and I ask myself why I didn't take pictures with those people, because I saw the same people as well.

I think I took less pictures at this Comic Con than I did at any of the previous six cons I've attended. But even though I didn't take many, the ones I took mean a lot to me. 

Everyone who goes to a convention like this does it for various reasons. Some go for the celebrities, some for the cosplay, and others to buy stuff. The reason I go (other than I've been asked to attend and LOVE doing panels...), is to be with friends.

This con was special for me. As I'm developing as a writer, I'm learning so much about what that really means. There were many friends that I didn't photograph from my three days of convention fun. Maybe next time I'll remember to take their picture. Then again, I might be too busy enjoying their company to do it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Hey, Aren't You...?

I bought my sons's train tickets and we all loaded up the elevator. When the door opened a fellow elevator rider looked at me and said, "You going to Comic Con?"

I guess I expected that. The train drops us off three blocks from the convention hall and if you catch another train, it drops us off half a block from the hall. Almost everyone on that train was going to the Salt Lake Comic Con FanX, 2016 edition.

Then the guy asked a follow up question, "Hey, aren't you a writer?"

I was not expecting that.

Back in college I worked as a stuntman at the local amusement park in our town. I did that job for four years. I distinctly remember the one time I was recognized as a stuntman. I stopped and filled up my car with gas and when I went in to pay (we did that in those days...), the worker asked if did the stuntman shows at Lagoon. It was kind of a cool thing. I believe that was the one and only time it happened, that someone I didn't know knew me because of something I did that put me in the public eye.

Then came this morning. This fellow commuter knew me from previous Comic Cons. He had been to our booth and bought a book and in that book I had a story. And he--Chad--remembered it and remembered me. That was a special experience. It's never happened before. And who knows? It may never happen again. But, for a brief moment as we waited for a train to arrive on a crisp spring morning in Utah, that simple question made me feel good.

"Hey, I know you..." My friend asked a man who, with his son, passed our booth. He looked at her, smiled and simply nodded his head.

Obviously, others had told him that exact same thing. You could tell by his reaction. Then more of us looked at him and we felt the same way--we knew him, too. It turns out, the man is well known in our community and basically everywhere else. He's an actor and he was in some of the most popular TV movies that have ever been made. He's also the older brother of a dear friend of mine. He stopped and we all got pictures with him and his brother--who is also a celebrity.

As I took the train home from today's activities, I recalled the events of the morning and those that happened at the convention. This famous person was gracious, and completely charming as he accepted the attention, the accolades from fans. I'm sure it's something he's probably done hundreds if not thousands of times before.

But there was one time--maybe on a cool spring morning--when someone came up to him and said, "Hey, aren't you...?" And he said, "Yes, I am."

Thursday, March 24, 2016

From An Idea To A Panel...It Turned Out Great!

A few months ago I had a conversation with my brother about video games--the early days. He worked for several video game developers as an artist. Back then (early 1990s...) was a tough time to be in the business. I'm sure it's tough now, too, but back then it was long hours and hard work.

But he told me about some of the cool experiences he had like going to Steven Spielberg's office and working with the man who designed the X-Fighter for Star Wars. That's when I thought it would be a great idea to get him and some of those who worked with him back in the day and put them on a panel at Salt Lake Comic Con. I suggested it to my friend, Blake. He thought it was a great idea, too.

Tonight that idea became a reality and we put it on. If you were there, you know how great it was. I was fortunate enough to moderate the panel. These guys really knew their stuff. They didn't sugarcoat how difficult it was at times making video games back then and how tough it can be today. But they also said why they love it and why it's important.

I want to thank Rich Reagan, Hal Rushton, Peter Ward, and Alan Taylor for coming and spending time with the fans. And Blake and Ryan, thanks for giving us the stage.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Cubstruction...An Educational Word

What is Cubstruction, you ask?

It's a word I learned about just tonight. Basically, it's having cub scouts construct something--anything--out of common household items.

We also talked about thrift.

You see, being thrifty involves not only the wise handling of money, but also the conservation of resources. I am the cub master in our congregation. It's challenging--a little bit more than some church assignments--a lot less challenging than others. But is is a fun assignment. Tonight we had our Pack Meeting, and we learned about Cubstruction.

For the past week I went around the house and gathered up fifteen of various items around the house. Fifteen nails, fifteen buttons, some almost-impossible-to-blow-up balloons, paper cups, paper plates, toilet paper tubes, pencils, yarn, ribbon, rubber bands, and even pinecones from our yard. We set up everything before the meeting started and the scouts had to sit to the side and wait for our meeting to be over before they could begin building.

To be honest, I was a little worried that the kids would be bored with the collection of stuff. I mean, we're talking about kids who most likely spend a lot of time playing video games. I told them there were no rules--they could build whatever they wanted, and you should have seen the look in their eyes. They could not wait to get at it. I saw them all scoot to the edge of their seats in anticipation. And when I said, "Go!" they ran to the table and got to work.

I suppose I should have more faith in these industrious kids. If I did they wouldn't surprised me as much. They each jumped in and for about twenty minutes, the usually noisy hall was quiet as the kids worked. They were even disappointed when I told them they needed to stop. Not even the mention of refreshments dampened their spirits.

In the end, the things they created were not function and they were in no way useful, except they taught their cub master something: never underestimate these incredible scouts.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Inspiration...From Inspiring Places

Las week at this time I was in a city about fifty miles to the south of where I am right now. It's called Provo, Utah. Maybe it's just me, but I don't believe a lot of people are indifferent to the city. It's one of those places you either love, or do not love.

Personally, I think it's a beautiful valley with a shimmering blue lake to the west and incredible mountains to the east (I still like the mountains in Weber County better, but that's just personal preference...). Each day I was at the writing retreat I took a break and went up to a small canyon just east of my friend's house. It's called Rock Canyon.

And it's incredible.

I took my camera and tried to get some good pictures. Of course, it's impossible to capture the true beauty of a place with a camera because being there--living it--is part of what makes the experience so memorable. 

Taking a daily hike also helped my writing. I had sent my main character on a trip through a rocky, barren canyon from Jericho to Jerusalem. I've never been to this area of the world myself, but if you do a google search, as I did, a lot of Rock Canyon looks like the area thousands of miles away. It helped me write the scene. It put me there. And if you've ever tried writing something--creating something, you know how important a spark of inspiration can be.

So, if you've never been up to Rock Canyon directly east of the Provo Temple, here's a couple of pictures. I really didn't go up very far. Next time I need to explore more.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Some Things I Miss...

A couple of times this past weekend, I snapped a picture and thought, "Oh, that would be a great picture to send to my son."

And then I caught myself, because my son is back living with us. I don't have to send him pictures anymore.

My son has been home from his LDS mission for exactly four weeks as of today. He was gone for two years, and just like that, he's back. While he was away, we got into certain routines. Each Monday, I would e-mail his a letter and I would also send him pictures. Ever since I began posting a Pic Of The Day (for five years plus...), I always had a choice of pictures I could send him. I especially liked sending him pictures of the pets, and our cat Gracie is a natural ham. Most of the pet pictures I sent my son were of her.

So, as I did some writing and editing this weekend, I snapped some pictures of Gracie and thought my son would like to see those. Strange how those routines stay with us.

At work today, I thought about the 104 Mondays when I would wait by my computer for an e-mail. Even though we're so glad he's home, I do sort of miss some things.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Steampunk: Beyond Goggles...A Very Cool FanX Panel!

In almost every writing conference, symposium, and comic con, you'll mostly find a panel that discusses Steampunk. 

There's a good reason for this.

It's because Steampunk is cool--very cool.

Because I've written a couple of short stories in a steampunk world, I was asked to be on a panel and sit with some amazing panelists at this year's Salt Lake Comic Con FanX. Here's who will be there:

And it's being moderated by the great Dave Butler.

When you get a steampunk panel together, I've found that you never quite know what will happen, partially because a lot of what makes up steampunk is based on their own interpretation. Steampunk is a written genre, an artistic movement, and a fashion style. Personally, I think it's because it's still evolving. 

If you're attending this year's FanX March 24-26 and you'd like to know more about Steampunk, check us out Steampunk: Beyond Goggles, Friday, 6pm in room 150G. It's going to be great!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

To The Butlers...All Of Them...I Thank You!

Earlier this week I loaded up my car with some clothes, my down comforter, some food, my computer, and a need to do some writing. I arrived in Provo, Utah an hour later, unpacked the car and got to work.

It was a fantastic week!

It was the first writing retreat I've ever attended. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I hoped I'd be able to focus on my WIP and get a lot accomplished.

I ended up doing a lot more than that!

I stayed from Tuesday morning until Friday morning and wrote several chapters. I basically have the story's opening written. There's so much more work that needs to go into it, but I am so stoked at where I'm at.

Of course, this whole experience--the writing, the editing, the eating, and the gaming to round of the evenings--would not have happened if it weren't for the Butler family. It's one thing to have some friends over for a movie night, or a game night. It's another thing completely to have 6-8 grown men basically move in for a week. I thank Dave for inviting me and being a fantastic host, but I thank his wife, for basically allowing it to happen in the first place. If the wife's not on board, it just won't work. Thanks to the Butlers--all of them, even the kids who allowed us to invade their space. I know I wouldn't have been able to do the amount of work I did without them.

And, as an added bonus, I won two awards!

The 2016 Retreat to the House on the Hill is complete, and the Kovel Jurors have returned a verdict. 2016 has seen the following Kovels awarded:
Edward M. Kovel Loves You for:
Most Editing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris Husberg
Most Force Breeding . . . . . . . . . . . . Jon Rock
Snappiest Hat . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Daniel Braithwaite
"Like Ben Hur, with Demons" Prize . Scott Taylor
Best Post-Apocalyptic Cattle Drive. . Aaron Michael Ritchey
Most Day Job Work Done . . . . . . . . Eric Patten
Dwarf Ringer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Marion Jensen
Best Game Explanation . . . . . . . . . . Nick Dianatkhah
Best Dark Fantasy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris Husberg
Best Drug-Addicted Duellist . . . . . . . Michael Dalzen
Most Editing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Chris Husberg
Best In-Progress Fantasy Novella . . Jon Rock
Best Chicken and Rice --- Tie --- . . . Aaron Michael Ritchey
Scott Taylor
Most Hittite Erotica . . . . . . . . . . . . . D.J. Butler
Best Beard . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nick Dianatkhah
Most Improved Health . . . . . . . . . . . Eric Patten
Congratulations to all Kovel winners, their editors, agents, and interns!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Video Game Design Pioneers...A FanX 2016 Panel You'll Love!

I've been on a lot of panels over the past couple of years, and attended even more. But next Thursday at 7pm in panel room 150G, I'm going to be part of a panel with some amazing people. They're early video game pioneers. 

In the early 1990s, I worked for a Macintosh software developer. It folded after a couple of years later, but many of those people continued working in the computer business. And some of them went into video games. Salt Lake City and Utah was home to several start-ups. Some, are still around.

The panelists have worked on so many games. These are only a few of them. 

If you're going to this year's Salt Lake Comic Con FanX next week, PLEASE come hear Rich Reagan, Hal Rushton, Peter Ward, and my brother Alan Taylor talk about how things were when we lived in a 16-bit world.