Sunday, July 31, 2016

My Own Writing Retreat...At The Library

I did something yesterday I've never done before. I left home Saturday afternoon and went to our local library. That isn't the unusual thing. But this time I took my computer, my wireless keyboard, and reserved one of their conference rooms.

And I wrote.

And it was fantastic!

The last time I worked with my friend Issac at the library he said something interesting. He said, "You should just go to the library when you would have been scheduled to work and just write." I had not thought of doing that, but it made total sense. One of the main reasons I couldn't remain working at the library was because I had no time--or very little time--to write. Issac's suggestion was genius. And since my library work schedule was the same every week, I have adjusted my life to work around that schedule. 

So yesterday was the first time I did it. I went in at 2pm and wrote until about 5:15pm. I wrote just under 2000 words on my latest WIP, which increased the total number of pages for that WIP by 25%. That's a good day of writing for me. Another cool thing, when the album I was listening to ended, I just walked over to the CDs, picked up Weezer's latest compilation and wrote while it played. I think I'll be doing that again. It's a great way to listen to more music.

As I left the library I asked if I could book the conference room again. I was told I could. I scheduled two shifts, both times I would have been working at the library had I stayed at that job. I don't know how long I'll be doing this, but I hope I can continue. A few months of this, and I'll have this story done and maybe a few more.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Someone Asked Me What Panels I've Been On...So I Counted Them

Next month another convention rolls into town. Actually, it doesn't really "roll." It's more like a mass of people assemble and the magic happens. Because of my schedule, I didn't think I could attend. So when I found out I could, I e-mailed those in charge of next month's convention and asked if I could attend as a panelist, even though I was late to the party.

She e-mailed me back and she asked me a question.

What panels have you done in the past?

That was a good question. I answered back and gave her an overview. I told her in which conventions I've been fortunate enough to participate. I gave her my educational background as well as some awards I've won through my writing. I wasn't sure if I'd hear back, but I did. This time she asked another good question.

Can you give me some of the specific panels you've been on so we can see how we can use you at our convention?

That made me think. Just how many panels have I been on since I began this little writing adventure? It took some digging, but I went back to 2013. It's one of the advantages of keeping a daily blog since before then. Turns out I've been on over forty panels, forty-one to be more specific. I've also helped out on a panel here and there.

I e-mailed her back with my list. I knew it was probably more than she asked for, but just putting the list together brought back some wonderful memories. I've met some amazing people and developed many lasting friendships. Thanks to all who've been a long for the ride. See you at the next convention!

My Forty Panels (Plus 1...)

Salt Lake Comic Con FanX 2016:

Steampunk: Beyond Goggles
Video Game Design Pioneers
Being a Resilient Writer: Not For the Faint of Heart

Salt Lake Comic Con FanX 2015:

Harry Potter: Why HP Needed Hermione to Survive Every Time
How to Get Past Writer’s Block
How to Writer Middle Grade/YA to Specific Audiences
Beyond the Deathly Hallows: The Past and Future of Harry Potter
Sometimes it’s Okay to Kill the Good Guy

Salt Lake Comic Con FanX 2014:

Paranormal Stories: The Case for the Supernatural at Wal-Mart
Brainstorming for Writers and Artists
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings Films as Adaptations
Steampunk for the Ages
Downtown Abbey: How a Stuffy British Drama Became One of TV’s Most Addictive Shows
World Building for Dystopian, Utopian, and Apocalyptic Futures: How to Do it Right

Salt Lake Comic Con 2015:

Orphan Black—discussed the hit TV show
Cutting the Cord: Media Options in the 21st Century
Saucy or Gory: Discussion on Writing Sex vs. Violence

Salt Lake Comic Con 2014:

Geek Parenting: Raising the Next Generation of Geeks
Steampunk, Cyberpunk, and Punk Rock
From Graphic Novels to Feature-Length Films
Structuring Life to Support Creativity

Salt Lake Comic Con 2013:

Making a Film On a Shoestring Budget
Managing Your Artistic Career While Working a Full-Time Job
Steampunk: What Is It? Is It Here to Stay?

Life, The Universe, And Everything (LTUE)

LTUE 34, 2016:

Learning the Lingo: Understanding Writing Terms
Science Fiction vs. Science Fantasy

LTUE 33, 2015:

Philip K. Dick as an Example of Adaptation
Everything is Awesome! The genius of the LEGO Movie
Finding Your Muse
Learning From Failure
Publishing With a Small Press

LTUE 32, 2014:

Small Press Publishing
The Screenwriting Process
E-Publishing Short Stories
Writing For Film

Salt City Steamfest, 2014:

Space Balrogs: Choose Your Own Apocalypse

Salt City Steamfest, 2013:

Getting Your Steampunk Writing Published


Conduit 2015:

Geek Parenting

WesterCon 2014:

Turning Fantasy in Reality: The Art of Adapting Comics and Art to Film & TV
Tag Team Jeopardy & the Avenue of Awesomeness
E-Publishing Short Stories and Poetry

Friday, July 29, 2016

Poolside...In Triple-Digit Heat

As a kid, I swam almost every day every summer. Those of you who grew up with me in Farmington, Utah know that this statement is not hyperbole. We literally went swimming every day (except Sundays...) in one of the biggest pools I've ever seen.

Even though my kids have grown up across the street where I grew up, they haven't gone swimming everyday. First of all, that huge, amazing pool no longer exists. It was replaced by a water park--hardly the same thing. Now we mostly stay inside our air conditioned home when it tops 100˚ in our town.

But not today.

On my first Friday off from Job #2, I took my youngest two kids and we hit the pool. It was lovely. We went later in the afternoon so it wasn't as crowded as it usually is when we hit triple digits. We actually had room to move about.

I think I'm an okay swimmer. Having never lived near the ocean, I probably can't compare to those who spend so much of their lives in water. I'd like to think I'm a fair (or slightly better...) swimmer. I attribute my abilities to that early daily swimming. My kids are getting there. They're to the point where they are no longer required to remain in the shallow end. They're able to enjoy the sport of swimming. Hopefully, they'll keep going.

Today we went swimming and we had a great time.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

So Long Library...You Were Great

Tonight I worked my last shift at the library. I went through the duties as I had the weeks prior, but this time I knew it would be the last time. I'm going to miss that place.

The Awakening, by Michael Carroll was the last book I checked it--thought I'd take a picture of it. I only began the job last April, but it feels like I've been there longer. Not in a "it's a bad job so it feels like I've worked there forever" kind of way, but in a "I've gotten to know some great people and had a wonderful time doing it" kind of way.

Decisions are made based on benefit vs. sacrifice. There were many benefits to the job. I worked with amazing people. The patrons were fantastic. And I was surrounded by books--that's like crack cocaine for an aspiring author, especially when some of the books you check out are written by friends. That's a cool feeling--imagine if those books were mine.

Being surrounded by books is a double-edged sword. And all those benefits are overshadowed by the fact that when I'm at work, I can't write. I've written so little since beginning that job, and seeing all those books only reminded me of what is possible, what can be done. It's as if the words teased and mocked as well as encouraged and showed glimpses of what could be--all at the same time.

Because of some things that happened, I no longer need to do the second job, at least for now. Maybe one day I'll return, maybe not. But if I never do I'll always remember my time at the library fondly. Thank you for the opportunity. I'm glad I took it. I'm going to miss that place.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

A New Normal...?

A few weeks ago I went for a little walk and I snapped a couple of pictures of American flags flying at half-staffed. I work close to several government office buildings and each one had a flag, each flag not raised to the top of the flagpole.

And it made me think--is this the new normal?

I posted the picture as my Pic Of The Day with the caption that it seems like a half-staffed flag was the new normal. Many people responded saying they wondered the same thing. I actually had this same thought a couple of years ago. There was a time when the country experienced several disasters and the flag never seemed to go to the top, or if it did, another event caused it to come back down.

Since we live in a world where news is instantaneous. We can literally watch news as it happens anywhere in the world. I doubt there's more atrocities now than there has been before. People have a history of treating each other badly. It's just that now, we can see it, see how tragedies affect people. We can hear their voices, see their pain.

I'd like to think this isn't the new normal, but it may be. And if that happens, it would make me sad. Let's pray it's not.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When Will Game Stop...Stop?

My kids wanted to go to Game Stop tonight so we loaded up the Pontiac and headed south. And as I walked through the doors I wondered just how long Game Stop will be Game Stop. Don't get me wrong--it's a great store. If you want a game, there's a good chance they got it. At least, that's been my experience.

If you're unfamiliar with the company, Game Stop is known for selling, for the most part, video games. They have knick-knacks and foo-bahs too. But their bread & butter are the games. I don't know business. I don't know how successful the company's been or what their five, ten, even twenty year projection are. The organization may be in great shape--the best shape, in fact. They may be so stable that they're buying up other companies (which, they have--they bought Simply Mac...).

But if we go back in time about ten to fifteen years, there was another company that seemed destined to be in business forever. Anyone remember Blockbuster Video? I'll bet MBA programs teach on the fall of Blockbuster. I'm sure the information's out there to find out why exactly the huge organization fell.

So why wonder if Game Stop will follow the Blockbuster business model? I don't know--just a thought. But the other day I was in a thrift store and I noticed they had a very nice DVD selection, and not just those movies nobody wants. Some were very good, even kids shows. I asked myself, "Self, why are there so many good DVDs still available at this thrift store?"

It's because the home movie market in changing. People are watching more on-line and streaming shows. And then there's the cloud services. I haven't done the research, but I think that's what's happening. Will this happen to the gaming industry? Will we need places like Game Stop in the future? Maybe in ten or fifteen years we'll either still be going into a store to buy new and used video games (as well as knick-knacks and foo-bahs...) or we'll have pieces of plastic with the names of stores on them reminding us of the times we got in our cars, walked through the doors, and browsed the merchandise. Time will tell.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Son's First Ride...

Think back, back when you picked up the first car that was officially yours. I realize many have not experienced such a feeling. I understand we live in an area where most people have cars. They're needed for us to get to work as well as do all the other things required of us.

I remember when I got my first car. I was sixteen-years old. It was green and made in Germany the year I was born.

And it was a beautiful 1965 green Volkswagen Beetle.

Sure, it broke down a lot, it almost killed me and my friends several times as we crossed I-84 going to high school in the morning. It meant freedom and excitement (I reference the almost dying in the German das tod auto point previously mentioned...). And I loved that car.

Today my son decided to buy his first car. It was manufactured a few years after he was born and the Toyota he got was in so much better shape than the one I bought. If he takes care of this thing, it's not unreasonable to expect he could be driving the thing for years.

His car is black and clean inside. The engine is powerful, the breaks work, and so far, it's started every time we've tried to start it. He's already so far ahead of the game.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

An Island On Fire...History Repeating Itself

My daughter came down the stairs Friday night and calmly said, "Antelope Island's on fire." We got up and gazed out the west-facing windows.

It's a sight we've seen before.

And one we'll see again.

Directly west of where we live lies Antelope Island. It's a barren rock surrounded by a dead sea of salt. I've been to the island only a handful of times, but each time I go out there, I'm amazed at just how little vegetation is there. It's hard to find even a single tree under which to find shade.

Since it's July 24h, a day when Utahns celebrate the Mormon Pioneers entrance into the Salt Lake Valley, I imagine much of the valley they saw when they entered the valley in 1847 looked like what Antelope Island looks like now. 

Friday night we watched it burn--I tried getting some good photographs, but it required a tripod and long exposed shots, which was a little tough with all the mosquitos buzzing about. I got a couple at night and in the morning, you could tel that much, if not a majority of the island was blackened by the fire.

I don't know the extent of the damage, There's not much on the island, a gift shop, a ranch, some campgrounds. I would think they'd be able to protect those. There's also a lot of animals there, antelope, American bison, among others. I hope they were able to escape harm.

The last I heard the fire was caused by lightning, and therefore, as close to a natural occurrence as possible (the island has been left undeveloped...). Fires are part of nature and, as I've been told, can be very beneficial. The grasses and plants will return and in the future, us--of perhaps, others--will stare across the lake and see an island on fire. 

Because it's happened before...

And it will happen again.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The View At The End Of The Day...

I take a lot of pictures of sunsets. I take a lot of pictures around my house. If you check out this blog with any regularity, or if you follow me on social media, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

I grew up across the street from where I now live. My father designed that house, a structure he never got to see finished. But he was a man ahead of his time when it came to creating a home for his wife and three kids. One thing he did which was unusual in the early 1970s was he designed the main room of the house with floor-to-ceiling windows. I never talked to him about why, but I would imagine one of the main reasons for having those big-for-their-day windows was to enjoy the view. I mean, why else live on the side of a mountain?

Unfortunately, window technology in the early 1970s was extremely inadequate when it came to insulation. That room was almost uninhabitable during the summer months. The home faces due west and, though not the warmest place to live, Utah along the Wasatch Front can get hot. We never really had the resources to upgrade those windows while my mom was alive. Basically, we just avoided the room altogether. Winters weren't much better, but you could use blankets or a space heater to help.

My family moved into our house thirteen years ago this month--almost to the day. It's very modern compared to my parent's home we lived in all those years. The windows in our new(ish) house were the most advanced at the time. I'm sure they make better ones now. But as the sun sets over our inland sea, I still look out a window to check out the evening sky. Tonight, one might argue that there wasn't much up there. But as it's wont to do in summer, the smoke from fires distant and near filter the dying rays of the sun so that even when there's not the spectacular oranges and reds, pinks and purples, it's still beautiful.

And because of that, I'll take another picture.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Newt Scamander's "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them"...A Book Review

Harry Potter fans love anything connected to the world created by J.K. Rowling. They seek it out and devour it without abandon. So, as one, I may be the last fan in the world to have read this gem of a book.

Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them dances between the world of muggles and wizards. The book was written as a fund raising campaign for Comedy Relief and because of that, the writer must educate those living in the Potterverse of what Comic Relief is and why it's important. This makes an already adorable book even more so.

The first half is set-up. We learn about Newt and why the book exists. The second half contains the beasts. For those of you familiar with Dungeons and Dragons, one of the foundations required to play the game is a Monster Guide. Newt's book is like a mini-version of the D & D Monster Guide.

This is a wonderful little book--and I do mean little. It's only eighty-eight pages. It only took me two days of bus commuting to get it read. In addition, since this copy of Newt's book is the property of Harry Potter, the young wizard has made the pages his own with occasional commentary and notes.

I haven't investigated the new movie coming out soon which shares the same title as the book. I don't know how they're going to make an entire movie about this book, but I'm sure it's going to be delightful. I know this because of how delightful this little book is.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Couch At The End Of The Hall...

At the end of one hall in the building where I work there lies a couch, and as I passed it earlier this week, I wondered just what purpose that couch serves.

You may be thinking, Ah, duh! It's a couch! A couch serves very few purposes--basically, you sit on it."

Well, yes. A couch's main purpose is for resting. Today I went over and sat on the couch. It could be covered in leather, or a good facsimile. It was actually very comfortable, too. It's a nice piece of furniture.

The reason I'm even thinking about this is because I work in a building that's not open to the public, so everyone who comes in the building pretty much has a place to sit. And in almost all of the cubicles, there's an extra chair. We do have staff meetings and other gathers in the large conference rooms downstairs, but there's hundreds of chairs for us to use in those rooms. So I wonder, why a couch is needed in our building? It sits in a busy hallway. I can't imagine many people sitting on it to rest. It just seems out of place.

The state budgets for replacement of things every couple of years. The things that we notice most are the computers, but I'm sure somewhere it's written down that all the office furniture in our building will be replaced. They either donate or sell the old furniture. So whoever ends up with the grey couch that currently sits at the end of a hallway in my building, will be getting a steal of a deal!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Star Trek Fan Films...And Other Injustices

Today I watched a podcast from Reason.TV that I found fascinating. It dealt with Star Trek fan films. 

Some of you might know everything about these fan films. Personally, I didn't know there were--not only so many--but that they've been around for so long. This particular Reason podcast focused on the latest Star Trek fan film, Prelude to Axanar and the legal battle that's happening because of it. Reason presents a "David vs Goliath" scenario and the consensus that the big bad corporations should let these fan films go forward.

It made me think about another place where people use likenesses and trademarked properties without permission. It happens at every comic con. At the last Salt Lake Comic Con event I talked to an artist about being able to draw superheroes and other characters from Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Marvel Universe without purchasing the licensing rights to do so. The artist said that none of the artists selling their goods had paid for the licensing rights to sell what they were selling, but that the companies owning the properties don't stop it.

I want to make it clear that I may be completely wrong here. The artist we talked to may have been completely wrong, too. I really don't know what's going on in the world of comic con artists so if I'm wrong, I apologize. But I believe that all those artists selling some pretty good stuff are actually helping the industry as a whole.

Just like I believe allowing these fan films to go forward would be for the best. I guess I'm agree with Reason.

Screenshots used without permission from Reason.TV Podcast

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Farmington's New Gym...Quite The Space

A good friend of mine recently commented on the newest building for our little community. It's a gymnasium. It's big and shiny and for the most part empty. It did just open this month, after all. He said, and I'm paraphrasing here, that the city should not be providing these types of services and that it hurts private industry.

He's definitely got a point.

I'm not going to argue the pros vs cons of the project, mostly because it's a done deal. Tonight my daughter and I did a little running and a little walking on the 1/8 mile indoor track. Below us three full-sized basketball courts awaited kids, seasoned athletes, and weekend warriors to do their thing.

It's a nice track. Of course, only my daughter, myself, and a guy vacuuming the track were using it. We ran a half mile (jogged, really...) in six or so minutes, then we walked a little bit. We left having covered a mile. The space was air-conditioned, the track was easy on the feet. 

Right now there's no charge, but soon we'll have to pay to use the facilities, even though we've paid and will continue paying for the building and ball fields through taxes. But, for a night when we had the building almost all to ourselves, we had a very good time.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Katherine Paterson's "Bridge To Terabithia"...A Book Review

"You know," I told my fellow writing group member as we critiqued her pages. "I've never read Bridge to Terabithia. I've not even seen the movie." She gave me a look full of wonder and pain and awe and reverence.

"Oh," she said. "You must read it. It's just a beautiful book."

I always thought Bridge to Terabithia was a fantasy. Maybe the film version transports the characters (and, by extension, you...) to a fantastical world, but the book pretty much occurs in the eastern part of the United State in the mid-1970s. Jessie, a boy growing up in a home filled with sisters, befriends a new neighbor, Leslie, a girl who moves into a neighboring house where no one stays.

This book touched me in many ways. Jessie's a runner. So was I in grade school. And based on the text, I was the same age (or a year off...) as Jessie during the mid-1970s. Paterson writes about how "peace songs" were popular now that the war had ended. I was 10 when the Vietnam War ended. I connected with the main character in a way few stories have. Living in the same town, walking on the same sidewalks where I walked forty years ago makes me recall memories from my childhood. This book brought back more.

Terabithia is created in the minds of the two friends. It's their shelter, their fortress from life. They rely on each other as they face monsters and armies where across the water they roam freely in real life. We also learn of a boy's struggle to connect with a distant father, something I believe all boys deal with to one degree or another. I didn't know the story. I didn't know the ending. I didn't expect a short book shelved in the Children's Section of our library to have such an effect on me. I'm also glad I read it as an adult and not a child. I doubt it would have had the same effect. 

My writing group friend said I had to read it. So, when I saw this book being returned to the library where I work part-time, I decided to check it out and read it. I now understand the look she gave me. It makes perfect sense.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

July 17, 2009...Hangin' With Joseph And His Friends

A lot can happen in seven years.

Before I got out of bed this morning, I grabbed my phone and checked a few sites. Facebook was one of them. I saw the usual stuff, pro/anti this, pro/anti that, but it was the "Memories" feature that made me stop scrolling. The memory conjured by Mr. Zuckerberg's invention stopped at an event seven years ago, July 17, 2009 at a restaurant in Centerville, Utah.

The cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat went out to eat after a show.

And I brought my camera.

And I took some pictures.

Seven years ago I wasn't blogging daily. I was probably using my old 10 megapixel Kodak Point-and-Shoot (it was a very reliable camera...). Of course, some of the photos were not the best. Photography technology has improved so much since then.

But what caused me to pause was looking at the faces of those in the pictures. My now teenage daughter looks like she's nine in the photos (because she was...). There's many in these photos who have followed their dreams and are making a living performing. Of course, there's others--myself included--who are doing the same things they did back then, go to work, go to rehearsal, go to dinner after the show.

I miss those who've gone and don't see enough those who've remained behind. I wonder if in seven years I'm going to get a notification as I arise from sleep and I'll see faces of friends, some I haven't seen in years, some I've done shows with a few months past.

I guess we'll find out in then. 

A lot can happen in seven years.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Home...Through Four Camera Lenses

I didn't work today so after we did some shopping, I had a chance to hang out at home. What a great day! Of course, it was too hot, but what are you going to do?

Normally, I carry at least one camera with me at all times, and when I'm packing my Nikon, I have two. Today, I had four. Two cameras were from phones (the technology that's packed in these phones is nothing short of amazing...), one came from my Nikon, and the fourth came from a small little camera attached to a drone.

The fourth is by far the worst quality, but I took this picture from a video so the resolution's not the best. That's fine with me. It's pretty incredible that a small camera can operate on the thing in the first place.

I know there are cameras out there that could combine all four. Maybe you even have such a device. Perhaps one day in the future I'll be able to have one of these uber-camera, but for now, I'll trade off, shoot different shots from different cameras and use them all. Because taking the picture, is sometimes more than half the fun.