Saturday, June 30, 2018

Oh, How Lovely Was The Morning...

We had to get up early to take family to the airport--not too early, but early for a weekend. I opened the front door to let the cat inside and a cool breeze washed over me.

And it felt wonderful.

The thermometer read: 62º. That's hard to believe. Not three days earlier it was 93º at 10:30pm--that's Vegas temperatures. I was talking to someone a week or two ago about Utah's weather. I told them Utah's weather would be perfect in the summers if two things would happen. First, if it would rain at least once a week during the summer, that would be wonderful. It would clean the air and help water everything. And Second, if the temperatures would drop below 70º at night, I could handle 100º plus days. Those two things would make Utah summers, in a word, perfect.

When I saw the 62º I thought maybe a perfect summer was on its way.

Nope--at least, not yet. It hasn't rained in a couple of weeks.

Rain looked hopeful; we had clouds and they were amazing. I snapped a few pictures to remember the lovely morning. Oh, if every summer morning could be this nice, I'd be halfway there to my perfect summer.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Our Cable...To Quote Jayne...Is Starting "To Damage My Calm"

I know, I know. Complaining about your cable company is about as popular (and original...) as complaining about politicians or the weather. But I've been defending our cable provider for years. Maybe it's because, as a child, cable TV didn't exist. Then when it did exist, we couldn't afford it. When I think about how much entertainment can be delivered to our home, not to mention high-speed internet, it's literally a modern-day miracle.

Yes, I've defended the company time and time again when people complain and express their frustrations. I'm sure having worked for the cable company for a couple of years gives me a perspective of the company not many see.

But the events of the past week are testing my resolve. 

Our internet has been going out several times a day, every day for over a week. And when you telecommute and rely on the internet to work, it's not just tough, but a big problem. We've had technicians come out to our house several times, the latest being today. As the technician walked to his truck, I asked him if it was normal for the service to go down so much each day. 

He said, no. He didn't think we'd have the same problem again. He drove away and not thirty minutes later, it went down again. I'm almost too tired to even think about it any more, except next Monday I'll be trying to get my work done and the computer will shut down and if I'm on a call, it'll drop. Not good.

I really understand that the cable workers on the phone and coming out to our house are doing their best. I know they don't want us to have crappy service. It's just one of those situations where things aren't working the way they're supposed to. I hope this gets fixed soon. It's starting to damage my calm.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Dusk...And The Dancing Dragonflies

As tonight's evening walk came to a close, we happened upon a swarm of dragonflies. They swarmed because of another swarm of smaller flying objects. 


We ended up standing on the sidewalk as dozens of dragonflies danced above our heads. It was mesmerizing. I knew I couldn't capture the awesomeness with my cameras, but I tried. I took several short videos, even a time-lapse. But it was one of those "you had to be there" moments. You could feel the wind move as the bugs buzzed by your head. And on more than one occasion, the sound of dragonfly wings crashing into each other could be heard.

As we stood and watched, a neighbor stopped a nearby chore and came over to chat, drawn by the lure of the dancing swarm. Soon my son and his girlfriend joined us and we all stood below the feeding frenzy, transfixed by the food chain in action.

I've been joining my wife on her little walks around the street whenever possible. I bring with me my iPhone and my Nikon each time, and each time I've found something interesting to capture. Tonight, it was the bug's turn to entertain and fascinate.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Group F...What A Ride!

The day began like every other. But thousands of miles away, as day faded into night, things were about to get crazy.

And when the fans were silenced and the stadiums emptied, the Swedish flag flew the highest.

I don't think anyone paying attention to this year's World Cup soccer competition in Russia would have been too surprised to see the Swedish team advance to the next round. There were several scenarios that allowed the boys in blue and yellow to continue playing. Of the four teams in Group F, only South Korea was out of the running at the start of the day. Like the child's game, Germany, Mexico, and Sweden each hoped to be sitting in one of only two chairs when the music stopped.

Turns out, the Germans found themselves outside looking in.

Even though Germany was vulnerable, the soccer gods have always smiled on their team. They were the defending World Cup champions coming in and they were ranked #1 in the world. Somehow, some way they would find a way to advance. And they would have done it, too, had it not been for the Swedes and the Koreans.

Each year rankings are published showing the world's happiest nations. My personal favorite Scandinavian country, Denmark, has consistently topped many of those lists. But I'll bet, the Danish neighbors to the north (and east...) are the world's happiest people tonight. They may get knocked out next week, but today, they're the kings. Congrats Sweden! You did great!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rehearsals...Putting It All Together

Tonight a group of people will come together in the basement of a theatre and try to remember everything we thought we once knew. We're running a complete act--something we've not yet done--and I'm a bit nervous. 

I'm sure I'm not the only one.

We've been rehearsing for several weeks, alternating the learning of music and choreography. What's amazing is that by the end of each rehearsal, I feel confident in what I've learned. How quickly that confidence vanishes when both disciplines are combined. I mean, I know I'm getting older, but I've also done more shows so you'd think that process of learn/retain/perform would get easier.

That doesn't appear to be the case.

It seems like every other show I do pushes me, makes me work harder and harder. This will be one of those shows. The thought of running a complete act is daunting. It's like writing a first draft of a story. You know it's not complete, not polished. You know there's adjustments that can and must be made before it can be brought before a reader, or an audience. And the final product needs that first draft, those practices to make it as good as possible.

Yes, tonight I'll be together with a couple of dozen others hoping for the best, but knowing there's a long way to go.

Monday, June 25, 2018

To The Victors...Go The Spoils

The NBA Awards for the past season were handed out tonight. My friend posted this picture tonight of Rudy Gobert's win with the caption: Well Deserved!

And I agree.

There was a time when I was a huge Utah Jazz fan. I followed the team and watched almost every game through several seasons. Of course, that's when they were winning. The rise of the Jazz in the mid-1980s to the end of the 1990s was special. It brought a sense of pride to the community. 

Then came the down years. The teams battled, but could never reach the salad days of Stockton/Malone/Layden/Sloan. But over the past four years, the little team in Salt Lake City has improved each year, reaching the play-offs last year and this year. It's been fun again.

This year, like years in the past, was special. The team battled not only the other teams but injuries. Of course, those in our area believe members of the Utah Jazz should have won more NBA awards this year, namely Rookie of the Year and Coach of the year. They went to other teams and other players. I'm sure the sports radio airwaves will be filled with opinions, discussions, the pros and cons of those decisions.

It's easy to get caught up in what could have been. I just hope the fans remember what an incredible year it was instead of wishing the other voters had the same opinion as the as to who should have won this year's awards. And, as those who follow teams that don't win it all say, there's always next year.

As it stands now, I plan on watching game next year, or at least, following the team to see how they do. They might improve, or they may take a step back. As a fan, I can only hope they do their best. And perhaps, they will be the victor and amass more of those spoils. Time will tell.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bryce Beattie's "Once Upon And Through The Mountain" Is Available...Now!

Yesterday at our convention I got the opportunity to pick up and leaf through Bryce Beattie's newest novel, Once Upon and Through the Mountain. It's the latest offering from Immortal Works Press. I asked the author if he did a happy dance when he first got to hold a copy of his book. He said a neighbor had ordered his book so the first time he held the book was when the neighbor brought it over for him to see.

And he did indeed dance.

Once Upon and Through the Mountain is a story about Mia, a curious girl with questions. I have a daughter and I wonder if all young girls are full of cuteness and questions. I'm sure it's more the norm than the exception.

One very cool thing about seeing an actual copy of the book was also seeing the actual art used for the front and back cover created by the very talented artist Rowan North. She's the daughter of two authors and inherited their creative genes. I loved that Immortal Works commissioned her to create the artwork. If you'd like to order Once Upon and Through the Mountain, you can order it: HERE. You can also check out more of Rowan's art: HERE.

I love the fact that Immortal Works chose another middle-grade novel for their library of titles. Now mine is not the only one that we can market to the younger readers and their parents. It was fun to watch the author and artist see the result of all their hard work. And hopefully, it'll be more fun to see the books go to the homes of readers and change a young mind for the better. Yes, creating art is an amazing experience. If you've got a young reader, please consider ordering this book. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Attending Convention Classes...Realizing What I DON'T Know

The 2018 version of Fyrecon is over. It was another successful conference. For me, there were differences in last year's convention and this one. The biggest change this time was I hardly attended any of the classes or panels.

Except for one.

I went to the Screenwriting Essentials: Building a Cinematic Story class presented by Blake Casselman and David Howard. And it was excellent. It made me realize just how much I don't know. 

I know that statement makes me sound like I knew everything about the craft before I walked into the classroom. I didn't think about that consciously, but maybe on some level I thought about it unconsciously. I've been studying writing and screenwriting for over a decade--not intensively, but off and on. And I've attended several conferences and attended many classes talking about this specific thing--how to become a successful screenwriter. Throw in being a part of a screenwriting writing group and I thought I would have heard everything they were going to talk about before.

That's what surprised me. Even though I've heard much of the lecture before, being part of a discussion fires up the brain, makes me think of new things, and inspires me to the possibilities. Also, the presenters brought up things I hadn't considered, things I really need to know if I want to have success writing screenplays.

For most of the convention this year I manned the vendor table. There were literally dozens of classes spanning the past three days. Maning the table representing the publishing company is important, but I know I could have gotten a lot out of those panels, if I had only gone. 

Next year plans are already being made for Fyrecon 3. I hope I'm fortunate enough to be part of it and I hope also I can take advantage of the classes. There was a lot of excellent knowledge at this year's convention, as I expect there to be next year. And if I attend them, I'm sure I'll come out of those classes realizing yet again how much I don't know.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Blogging...At The Village Inn

When I pull up my blog stats, I see that I have successfully posted 2709 blogs editions. This one will be 2710. And I believe I've written every one of those blogs either on my old MacBook Pro laptop or the MacBook Pro I'm using to type this now...

...all except two.

There were two blog posts where I hit the "Publish" button on a device other than my Mac. And both those times I had no other choice but to use my iPhone.

The first time I did this, it was a nightmare.

It happened last September. I took a job at our local amusement park for their Halloween season. Around 11pm it became apparent I was not getting home by midnight. I have a few rules about my daily blog. A big rule is I need to post between 12:01am and 11:59pm, Mountain Time. We were cramming to get the show on its feet before we opened and I was going to be there for several hours after midnight.

No problem--I had the Blogger App!

Blogger App to the rescue!

Except the Blogger App was total garbage. Of course, it could have been my phone, but I think it was the app. Another rule I have is to include a photo for every blog post. I pulled up the app, clicked a new post, added the photo, then began to write. The problem I ran into is after every single word I typed, the program crashed so I'd have to re-open it, go through the process of starting over (because it wouldn't allow me to save anything...) and try again. I finally was able to crank out a couple of sentences and published the blog. When I got home--well after midnight--I cleaned it up and it turned out okay.

Fast forward to Wednesday night. I was helping out for the upcoming Fyrecon convention and I found myself at 9pm about thirty miles south of where I live. I thought I would have time to write my blog post until I was told two things: 1--the group wanted to get a late dinner, and 2--I needed to drive an extra fifty or so miles after we were all done with dinner.

That's when I took out my phone to try and post a blog again. Turns out, the Blogger App is no more.  I had my laptop with me, but no internet access, so I had to access my blog via the Chrome App. As others ate and conversed, I sat at the end of the table at the Village Inn on Redwood Road in South Jordan and posted pictures and wrote a short blog post. No crashing, no maddening thoughts.

I hope I won't have to use my phone to blog again--the MacBook Pro is like driving a Ferrari vs. a skateboard. But, I'm glad I was able to do it and keep the daily blog going, for at least another day.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

So...What Does A Vendor Table REALLY Look Like?

Today Fyrecon 2 began in Layton and I was fortunate enough to be involved. It's a testament to people's hard work and a desire to give writers and artists the tools to succeed in creating art. This convention, like many I've attended, have a vendor room, and my book is one of the items you can buy.

Vendor rooms are great. They're like an entirely different world--a different show--from the regular convention. Of course, many of those on panels and teaching classes can be found in the vendor room hoping to sell their books, or art.

And in each vendor room some things are the same. One of those things are the vendor tables. At least, the tables where I've had my books always seem to be the same. I noticed this as we sat and chatted at our table. I even snapped a photo.

If you look carefully, it's the little things that make this a classic vendor table. There's places for each of the books we're selling--everyone has a little bit of space. We've got our bookmarks and business cards, too. And, because we're at a convention with access to the green room, there's snacks and the remains of snacks. And if the green room is poorly stocked (unlike Fyrecon's...), it seems someone always brings granola bars, licorice, and bottled water. You know, the basics.

There's things you don't see in the photo, like not having enough leg room because underneath the table are boxes stacked on boxes of books waiting to be sold. You don't see that there's never enough chairs for everyone, or even if there were enough chairs, there's never enough room for all the chairs of everyone who wants to hang out at the vendor table.

I suppose I've been lucky. I've always been around a lot of people at these events. It's one of the things I enjoy most--just sitting around and talking to friends about books, writing, movies, other conventions, and why we gave our kids the names we gave them (among other things...).

The vendor table--I don't see it going away any time soon and I don't see it changing, either. Now, if we can only get all those books sold...

We'd have more room for snacks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Genius Of A Panel Discussion...

In the past five years I’ve sat in on and attended dozens of panels. Tonight I sat in on another. As I sat and listened to the questions and answers, it made me think of just how much better other things would be if we would only just sit down and not just talk, but actually listen to each other.

The topic of tonight’s panel discussion dealt with heroes and villains. Of course, it could have been a host of other topics and the authors and illustrators would have done equally well. Each was respectful to each other and to us, the audience. Each had an opportunity to express their views and opinions. And when the last question had been answered, everyone left hopefully improved in some way.

Now, the answers to life’s great questions were not discovered. We didn’t unlock the mysteries of the universe. We talked about heroes and villains, and what the panelists thought about what those words mean. But just think if more serious issues were discussed in just such a manner. Maybe they are, but we don’t see those. We are the tweet, the ten-second video clip, the sound bite, the “zinger.” This might get views but nothing gets accomplished.

And maybe that’s why I found tonight’s discussion so refreshing. It was a group of people talking and another group listening. And both groups came away better.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fixing The Hurt...A High-Tech Way

Yesterday I went to the chiropractor to help with back pain. Last year I pinched a nerve in my back causing pain to be in my right arm. I don't know how many visits I made to the chiropractor, but eventually the pain went away and I forgot about it.

That is, until last week. I didn't do anything except get dressed and I felt something tighten in my back. That's when I knew whatever I had happen before was happening again. The back is tricky. If I knew what to do to avoid having this happen again, I'd do that, but you never know with backs.

Yesterday the doctor hooked some sticky things on my back then activated them. I've had the therapy before so I knew what to expect. The other day I was at the store and I saw a similar product for sale advertising lower back pain relief. I asked the chiropractor if I might be able to use that product for what caused my pain. Turns out, they had a little electronic gizmo themselves.

I bought the Tens AA, brought it home, and used it throughout the day today. 

Isn't technology great?

Of course, I may not have put the stickers on the same spot as they did. I tried remembering as best I could where they stuck them. I think I did okay. The ability to set the level of juice was a cool option. And I could wear the unit on my belt while I worked. The doctor just counseled I need to not have it on more than I had it off. In other words, if I had it going for fifteen minutes, I needed to wait fifteen minutes to start it up again.

These things have probably been around for years. I've been lucky and haven't needed to use them. I don't know how long the discomfort will hang around this time--hopefully not long at all. Wish me luck!

Monday, June 18, 2018

Ben Ireland...An Author You Should Get To Know

"Plus he's British. And not just regular British--space British. 
Which is like three times sexier than earth British."

Ben Ireland

I heard about Ben some time before I met him (oh, and he's Australian, not British...). He and I both published stories with Xchyler Publishing. They chose several of my short stories as well as short stories and a couple of novels from Ben. I always admired the novelists--back then I hadn't written a novel and wondered if I ever would. It's like being a mountain climber, having reached several lower summits, but seeing a Denali, Kilimanjaro, or Everest and wanting so much to climb them, but being terrified to do so at the same time.

If climbing is writing, then Ben's not only climbed the big mountains, but reached the top.

What make's Ben's writing even more impressive is he's two series, one middle-grade and the other, for an older reader. One exciting thing about the Blacksmith Legacy series is it's soon to have another edition. Billy Blacksmith: The Irønsøul is due out later this summer. I'm hoping to get all three books for my son who is just beginning to understand the importance and awesomeness of reading. And I think Ben's books are an excellent way for him to continue on that literary journey.

You can access Ben's Amazon page: HERE. You can also catch him at this year's Fyrecon writing symposium going on this weekend in Layton, Utah. You can access Fyrecon's website: HERE. I attended a class Ben taught last year--definitely engaging, definitely helpful. And--this is really cool--you can get artwork from Ben's books at his Teepublic site: HERE. You can get the images put on shirts, mugs, wall art, even computer covers. Check it out--there's some great stuff there!

One of the most amazing things I've discovered by attending these conventions and writing stories is getting to know local authors--getting to know them both as individuals and as authors. If you get a chance to pick up one of his novels or short stories, I recommend you do it. I'd love to hear what you think. Plus, if you get a chance to meet the author/mountain climber, I recommend you do that, too. Support your local artists--the world's a better place when you do.

An image posted by the author.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Remembering Dad...On Father's Day

One thing I absolutely love about social media are the posts on the holidays, especially the holidays that spotlight individuals. Veterans Day is one, but the ones I especially enjoy are Mother's Day and Father's Day. I spent time today scrolling through posts from family, friends, and even strangers who posted pictures, recalled memories, and gave thanks for their fathers. It helps change the image of not only how I see social media, but of humanity. If only we could be the people we are today everyday.

It's impossible for me not to think of my own father on this day (and on Veterans Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Memorial Day...). A few years before my mother passed away she compiled a book full of photos, family histories, and memories of the people in my family. There are several sections dedicated to my father.

I'm so glad they're there.

You can see from these photos my father was born a long time ago and passed away almost fifty years later. I was eight-years old when he died. I knew the man as "dad," but I did not know the man who grew up in the Great Depression and used his excelling marksmanship skill to literally help feed his family, the man who at twenty-years old enlisted for one of the most dangerous jobs in the army, the man who became a policeman, an engineer, a judge.

I have been fortunate enough to be a father of four amazing people. They've never known a day without a father. As friends my age grow older, their parents are leaving them behind and passing away. For the first time in their lives, they know what it's like to not have someone there, someone who protects them, shelters them, defends them, loves them. And it's hard.

Maybe that's why I love seeing all these posts celebrating these men that are so important to them. I can see the role fathers have played in their lives. But instead of being sad that I didn't have that, I'm glad they did. It's one of the great joys of being a child.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"The Italian Job" (The 2003 Version)...One Of My Favorites

I can't remember the first time I watched the 2003 version of The Italian Job, but I know it wasn't in the theater. I picked up a copy of the show--quite possibly from Blockbuster. I do know, however, that from the first time I watched it, I thought it was a great flick.

Channel surfing this afternoon I watched the ending--for me, the best part. It still holds up.

One thing I liked about the show was its originality. Of course, I heard some time later that the show was a re-make. I caught part of the original a few weeks ago. I suppose it was an exciting movie for its day, but after seeing the re-make, the original was not in the same league. 

The show has great shots, the pans of the Italian mountains after the heist, the boats on the canals of Venice, the overhead views of L.A. It's beautifully filmed. Years after I first saw the film I met Joey Wartnerchaney, a visual effects and imaginative genius. He worked on The Italian Job. I don't know what he did or how much he contributed to the film. I'll have to ask him when I see him.

There's obvious issues with the show, as with so many action-packed films. We don't see how they safely take the gold out of the city, other than they do. No one seems to notice a stolen cable truck for at least a day, and even the greatest planner could not anticipate a total lack of people being on an underground train platform as three cars fly by jumping in front of the slowing subway car just in time. But these are little things. I'm sure I didn't notice those things when I first watched the movie.

I did, however, come away with a love of Austin Minis. Ever since I saw the film, I've wanted one--not enough to actually pay for one, mind you. But it would be fun. Just like getting revenge of a scumbag who killed your friend by recruiting the daughter of the murdered friend, hacking into L.A.'s traffic system, putting several Californians and tourists in real danger, and blowing up a street wouldn't be at least a little fun, too...

But I wouldn't do that, either.

No--it's make believe, but each time I watch it, I'm drawn into the story. It's just a well-made film and it's one of my favorites.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Photowalk Around The Block...

Tonight was one of those nights when the outside begs you to leave the four walls, floor, and ceiling that surround you and enter a world of earth and sky. It was beautiful outside so we decided to take a walk around our cul-de-sac street. 

I also decided to bring along my camera.

The walk became a photowalk.

I anticipated seeing brilliant flowers and hopefully, equally stunning skies. I also anticipated our cat coming along on the walk with my wife and me. I did not anticipate a couple of girls on bikes seeing the cat and making him their best friend. I thought our cat would run away terrified from them, but he stayed and made their evening even more fun.

I walked up the driveway that used to by mine and said "hello" to our neighbor's aging Weimaraner--sweet, sweet dog. And our tour ended with incredible views of a cloud-filled late spring sky. We are so blessed to live where we do. Yes, we don't have ocean beaches or dance clubs that are open all night, or European cities with centuries-old buildings, but to me, our little lot at the end of our cul-de-sac is heaven.