2016! Man, it’s been a while.

May 17th, 2016fiction, news

It’s a bit embarrassing how long it’s been since I last updated. But the reason is fairly simple: I’ve been really really busy. In addition to my duties at the day job, I’ve been working on fiction writing. I am very happy to announce that I finished the first draft of my Middle Grade novel Little Fears: The Wolf Pact. I am currently editing it for a summer release. I am also working on another kids’ book that I will shop around once it’s ready.

I’ve embedded the cover to The Wolf Pact below. Click on the link to check out LittleFears.com.

Little Fears: The Wolf Pact Cover

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Operation Awesome: Revelations on Story

February 23rd, 2015essays, fiction

This is gonna be mostly old hat to most writers, I reckon, but every author goes through their own journey and such so this is new and revelatory to me, at the very least.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the core essence of story lately in light of a) always wanting to get better at my craft and b) having a novel make the agent rounds to some initial interest but not enough to seal a deal.

And that initial interest is a really good data point to have. I managed to move beyond the query stage with a good handful of agents but the manuscript didn’t connect enough for them to say “Yes, I must have this!” What that’s telling me is that I am far enough into my novel-writing ability to have a solid concept and my query was good enough to pique their interest but the work itself wasn’t bulletproof which is where I ultimately want my writing to be.

Turning that over, and working on my 30k word Little Fears novel, The Wolf Pact, has caused a couple thoughts to bubble to the surface.

Thought One: What’s the story about?

More a question that a thought but it’s the first question I need to answer before moving forward. It’s essential.

Now, when most folks ask “What the story about?” they mean (or at least get an answer pertaining to) the genre, details of the world and characters, and cool stuff that happens. But that’s all much lower level than I initially need to be.

For me, the answer to “What’s the story about?” is “This is a story about how [BLANK] learns [BLANK].”

Everything else is details.

In The Wolf Pact, Nate Torrance is a boy who discovers there’s a world of monsters that exists next to ours. Throughout his investigation, he makes friends with a girl named Jennifer Mills who has her own tie to monsters and, together, they uncover the truth about some wolf attacks in the area.

But, really, The Wolf Pact is a story about how Nate Torrance learns about friendship.” As his oldest friendship with his neighbor starts to fall apart, he builds a new friendship with Jennifer. That’s the essence of the story.

Also, that second blank is the story’s theme. “Friendship” is the theme of The Wolf Pact.

Thought Two: What about the protagonist is being challenged?

Okay, so this thought is another question. And it stems from the first.

If this is a story about how Nate Torrance learns about friendship, what about Nate is being challenged that leads to an epiphany? In The Wolf Pact, Nate holds firm that friendships are fixed. They don’t change. They certainly don’t end. It’s one of his principles. That his neighbor, who is older than Nate, is moving on forces Nate to try to reclaim that friendship. Jennifer wants to be friends with Nate but the boy is resistant. Not due to a flaw in Jennifer but a flaw in himself.

Thought Three: How is the theme supported?

Okay, so now we’re onto question three which calls back to question one. How am I supporting the theme? Perhaps a better term is “exploring.”

I’m exploring the theme of friendship by presenting different sides of it: the neighbor is moving on from friendship. Jennifer is trying to build a new friendship with Nate. Nate is trying to learn how friendship works. The antagonists also address this theme of friendship which is tied into the book’s name. The titular wolf pact is a core expression of friendship and how beholden one is to a promise made in youth.

Thought Four: How does the protagonist change?

Hrm. So all these thoughts are questions. Good to know.

Okay, I know the story is about how Nate learns about friendship. I know his idea that friendships don’t change is what will be challenged throughout the story. And I know I’ll explore the theme of “friendship” by showing different perspectives and stages of it. But what will ultimately change about how Nate views friendship? Once he has all this information and has seen the theme of friendship from multiple viewpoints, what does he do about it?

I won’t spoil that in this post (you’ll have to read the book to find out) but the basic options are: he accepts that friendships change or he rejects that friendships change. There are additional levels of complexity to this of course but those are the top levels I’m concerning myself with.

In Sum

With those in mind, I was finally able to approach The Wolf Pact armed with the information I needed to start. Next came outlining, developing subplots (which go through their own version of this but with a mind of supporting the established theme), and then the actual writing.

I’ll be very interested to see how this all comes together in the finished project and how everyone reacts to it. Either way, these kinds of revelations help make my writing stronger which is my ultimate goal. Is it bulletproof yet? No. But it’s another level of armor and that’s good enough for now.

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Here’s the Thing About Dreams

January 2nd, 2015comics, fiction, operation: awesome, video games

Another year has ended (and I’ll write about that soon) and another one has started. All comments about arbitrary date changes aside, the beginning of a new year is as good a time as any other for reflection and declaration.

I’m not one for resolutions—no slight against them—but I am one for goals and dreams. It’s no secret that I love my day job. Writing video games is amazing and Volition is an aces place to work. I love coming into the office every day so much that I’ve become horrible at taking breaks from it. But, as do most creatives, I have ambitions beyond a single outlet. I want to create all the things—and I continue to strive to do so.

Over on Twitter, I posted the following:

Then, a little later, I added this:

Now, for the top tweet, those aren’t all crazy ideas. I’ve finished three novels in my life so far and though none have connected enough to move forward to publication, I’ve learned something with each. I am currently working with an artist on doing our own comic series and we’ll see what grows from that. And I endeavor every day to be a better human being in all relations, especially my familial ones.

But that second tweet, well, that’s a bit harder.

Some folks think because I write for a living (in video games no less!) that I have some sort of power and pull when it comes to getting Big Ideas made. Maybe, inside the confines of a Volition meeting room, there’s some truth to that (though video games are all about collaboration and any “win” I have is balanced by the wins of other people) but not-so in the bigger world.

Truth is, hardly anybody knows who I am. This isn’t a cry for pity or validation; it’s simple fact. My co-workers do, for the most part, and both my tabletop and digital games have fans (who are amazing!) but on the big creative scale, where the movers and shakers do their moving and shaking, I’m just another guy with ambition. Sure, maybe some credits too, but not so many big ones that they have to take notice.

I’m trying for that by making the things I can make and meeting the people I can meet but I’m not there yet. I’m not someone who enters a room and draws attention (outside of usually being the tallest person in the room). So, I’m just another anonymous person emailing a plea for connection and fives minutes of their time. When one of my emails hits an inbox, it’s shoved into the same Will-Get-To-Later-Maybe-Or-Maybe-Not pile as the emails of anyone else who doesn’t have some real clout behind their name.

And it doesn’t help that, frankly, the creative fields are tight, crowded areas. There are SO MANY people vying for the same thing that those who swim in the big pond can’t spend their time combing through all those emails looking for brilliance without a good reason. That good reason being name recognition or a referral from a friend or something that shines a light. I can only imagine being in the position the heads of studios are in when it comes to sorting through the in-flood of Folks Who Want Work.

I followed up the above tweets with the following two:

I wrote a comic, oh, about eight years ago (as I’ve talked about before) and I would love to get back in the field. And I’m doing that small comics project I mentioned earlier but there are some really cool established characters I’d love to take a crack at. I spent a good month putting together ideas for a Josie + the Pussycats reboot that I’d love to work on. Same for Cloak and Dagger. Zatanna’s one of my favorite characters of all time and telling one of her tales would be oh-woah-amazing. I would give blood to work on any of these titles. (And Power Pack too, as my friend Doug Snook reminded me.)

But so would a lot of people. Including folks working in comics right now. So, it’s a long shot. A really long shot. A Hail Mary pass into gale force winds. But it’s a goal. And it’s a dream. And I’m a big believer in having goals and working toward dreams. Once upon a time, working in video games was a long shot for me too.

I see myself as a creative who lives somewhere in the middle of this whole artsy mess. I write for a living but, I hope, I’m not at the top of my potential just yet. I’m just a writer trying to make it. I have my ups and downs, my successes and setbacks, but, mostly, I’m a guy with ambition. A guy who’s trying to do more and be more.

Maybe 2015 will give life to some of these dreams. Time will tell. But I’ll still be here working, no matter what the Fates have in store.

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Interview with my Target Audience

October 14th, 2014fiction, interviews

My 11yo daughter is home sick from school—which means I’m home from work—so I thought I’d take the opportunity to talk books with her. She started reading early, at about 2.5yo, and has continued to be an avid reader ever since. Most of you know that my day job is writing for video games but my extracurricular ambitions is writing fiction, especially Middle Grade books. That puts my daughter smack dab in my target audience. In order to get a better understanding of my ideal reader’s preferences and perspective, I figured I’d go right to the source.

Below is the complete text of our conversation.

Let’s start at the beginning, what first got you interested in reading?

I don’t know. I like to read.

What was the first book you remember really liking?

Junie B. Jones. I’m pretty sure Junie B. Jones came before Franny K. Stein.

What was it you liked about Junie B. Jones?

I liked Junie B. Jones.

The character?

Yeah.

What about her?

She’s funny. And her friends are funny.

What’s your favorite book right now?

Mr. Terupt Falls Again.

What do you like about it?

I like how, in the first book Because of Mr. Terupt, all the characters changed. Like Lexie was mean and then not and Peter was a troublemaker and then he became not a troublemaker and it’s all because of an event with Mr. Terupt. They all changed by the end of the book. I like how they have Mr. Terupt again as a teacher for Sixth Grade and how the characters, at the beginning, stay the same but then stuff happens to them that they weren’t expecting—I’m not going to spoil it though—and they change.

What makes you stop reading a book? Just putting it down for good?

If it’s boring and people keep talking about the same thing for two chapters.

What makes you pick up a book in the first place?

I read the back of it and I see if it’s good. Sometimes we read books in class. Like, in Fifth Grade we read books in class and that’s how I got into Because of Mr. Terupt. We listened to the audiobook.

What are you reading right now?

Third Grade Angels.

How do you like it?

It’s good.

What’s the best part of Third Grade Angels so far?

I’m not that far into the book.

Do you know who the author is?

I forget.

Who wrote Because of Mr. Terupt?

I forgot that too!

You said you loved Junie B. Jones. Do you know who wrote it?

I used to.

Who is your favorite author?

Andrew Clements. I love him. I love his books.

What’s your favorite book he wrote?

The Report Card.

If you wanted someone else to read The Report Card, how would you get them to check it out?

I would tell them how much I appreciated it. And that it seems like a good book for them to read.

Would you tell them anything about the story or characters or setting?

Well, it’s basically about this girl named Nora purposefully getting Ds for her friend Stephen and how much trouble she gets into and almost gets expelled. The whole mystery of the story is “Why would that help him?”

That’s what you’re telling me but would you say something like that to a friend?

Probably.

Have you ever recommended a book to a friend?

Not to a friend but I have to family. I’ve recommended books to you. I recommended Babymouse to [a friend].

What did you say to your friend about Babymouse?

I forget. That was like a year ago.

Do you know if she read any of the books?

Yeah. Yeah, she did. She read all of them.

So she liked them?

She liked them. Yeah.

Do you have a preference when it comes to books with illustrations versus books that are just words?

Depends on the book with illustrations. And it depends on the books with just words. Books that are this thick [spreads her fingers about two inches apart], then no. And there are a lot of books like that. And some books with pictures [puts her fingers together really close] that I’m not into. Just depends on the book.

Do you have a preference when it comes to books with magic and stuff like that versus books that are more realistic?

I like fictional books. I’m not too keen on realistic fiction. There are some realistic fictions I really love like Because of Mr. Terupt and Mr. Terupt Falls Again.

Andrew Clements writes realistic fiction, right?

Yeah. It just depends on what the realistic fiction is about.

If you had a wish to create the perfect book for you, what would the book be about?

That’s a hard one. Can I just choose a genre?

Yeah.

It would probably be… [thinks for a bit]

Would it be set in the real world?

Um, yeah. Yeah, it would be. I have nothing against sci-fi though.

What age would the characters be?

They’d probably be about my age.

Would the main character be a boy or girl?

Oh man. Hm. It would probably be a girl.

Would this girl be special in any way?

No.

We’ve talked before about how stories are about change. Would this girl change?

Um. Hm. Yeah.

How would she change?

Like, her attitude. And the way she handles things.

Would there be a bad guy or enemy?

No. Probably not.

So what would make this book so perfect for you?

Like, the problems and the reasons she has to change.

Do you prefer standalone books or ones that are parts of a series?

I like series book because then it gives you more of that character to read. One thing that kind of bothers me about Andrew Clements is that every book has a new character and you have to get used to a whole new character.

Have any of your friends recommended books to you?

No.

Never?

Not that I can remember.

Do a lot of your friends read?

Yeah.

Do they ever bring their own books to school?

Not really. Not really, no.

How important are book covers to you?

I know they say not to judge a book by its cover but most people do so it kinda has to have a good cover or I might not read it.

So what makes a good cover to you?

If it has something to do with the story. Like in Because of Mr. Terupt, the cover has a picture of a guy holding a snowball. And that fits perfectly into the story. You wonder “What does that snowball have to do with this book?”

Where you find out about new books?

Usually at school.

But not from friends at school, right?

Yeah, but from like the school library. The library at [her former elementary school], the librarians told us about really good books. That’s where I found out about Wonder. We had a competition where we had to read as many of the prize books as we could and then we’d check off the books we read off a list.

How about bookstores?

Oh yeah. Yeah. School libraries, classrooms, and bookstores. And the public library.

Do you see yourself reading a lot when you grow older?

Probably, but not as much as Abraham Lincoln.

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Short Fiction: CAPTIVE AUDIENCE

October 31st, 2013fiction

You may remember a couple months back, a teacher friend of mine asked if I would write a survival story aimed at Middle Grade readers. Of course, I said “YES” and the short fiction piece “Rest” was the result. Well, she came to me again with a request for a story about a historic place as described by a time-traveling archaeologist with no context for what it was that person was truly seeing. Again, I enthusiastically agreed. What I came up with a (hopefully) humorous look at Champaign local landmark, The Art Theater, titled “Captive Audience.”

Captive Audience

by Jason L Blair

Hello, my good fellows of Temporus et Anachronus Historical Respect Society. I am writing you today with some troubling news.

Per the assignment given to me by President Emeritus Tiberius J. Tubbs, I have arrived at the designated location, a bastion of civilization nestled in an expansive grain field called “Champaign Illinois” in the district our forebears once labeled Midamerica. While the travel backwards in time concluded without error, our expectation of what we were to find here is actually very far from fact. Where we expected a gentle and kind tribe, instead, is home to a collection of cruel and seemingly easily-amused savages.

If I am to believe what I have seen here, one of the greatest attractions in this ancient place is a small building that bears the name “The Art Theater.” A fitting name, perhaps, because this dreadful place is home to a most barbaric “art” form. The people of this time have mastered the ability to trap their peers inside some sort of two-dimensional plane called a “screen.” Once relocated, the captives are forced, by some unseen mechanism, to reenact cultural tales over and over again as entertainment for a cold and uncaring assembly.

I have seen many such tales, from a collective of sightseers forced to evade the razor-tipped claws of prehistoric lizards to the story of a young girl swept away to a world of crazed winged primates and a green-skinned witch to a most tragic showing of a man who, upon exposure to the light of Earth’s moon, is turned into a horrific beast covered in hair and sporting a large and deadly-looking set of pointed teeth.

To further add to the audience’s savagery, they often feed upon heated and salted kernels from the surrounding grain fields–destroying their environment as well as their humanity!

As further testament to the high regard to which this barbaric practice is held, the Art Theater itself is adorned with images taken from these vile displays. The names of the participants are listed on these “posters.” I heard multiple people in attendance say they enjoy the work of some of these prisoners–I wonder just how many terrible dramas these poor souls are forced to act out!

It is my recommendation that we never return to this place. We have, as a society, evolved well beyond such archaic and brutal practices. How I long to return to the year 3807 where I can once again enjoy more enlightened entertainment such as a robogator wrestling and flaming goat dancing.

Your humble archaeologically-minded fellow,

Bodomir Jevins III

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Short Fiction: REST

August 30th, 2013fiction

A teacher friend of mine asked if I’d be willing to help out with an assignment she’s giving her class. She needed some short fiction (4-5 paragraphs), aimed at 11-13 year olds, with a survivalist theme (her students had just read Gary Paulsen’s classic novel Hatchet). Any excuse to exercise my Middle Grade writing muscles is a good one so I eagerly agreed. Here’s what I came up with:

Rest

by Jason L Blair

The cold bit into Nathan’s hands as he climbed the hill. His bare fingers were nearly frozen. His whole body ached and protested every movement. Stop, it pleaded. Give up. Rest. The boy’s brain fought back, something deep and primal within him, No. I must go on. Each time he closed his palm on another piece of ice, he wanted to scream. A sudden burst of wind whipped around him, showering his face with fine grains of bitter snow. It felt like his face had been splashed with fire. His lips were brittle and breaking. The saltiness of his own blood coated his tongue. Above him, the sun—bright and mocking—beat down on him. All light and no heat.

As the boy crested the ridge, he saw the remains of the plane smoldering in the distance. Thick plumes of gray smoke billowed from the wreck. It was the beacon he had followed, the signal that guided him. When the craft went down, Nate and his family were in the last row. That part broke off first. He closed his eyes and could feel his seat spinning. His hands clutching the armrest. His mom, leaning close to him, whispering, “I love you, Nate. I love you.” Tears welled and almost immediately froze to his cheeks.

He heaved himself over the edge of the hill. A small crowd gathered by the remains of the cabin. The captain, whose name the boy had heard as Burley, warmed himself by a makeshift fire. The bearded man’s leg rested on an overturned service tray. Someone had knotted a bright blue blanket over his thigh. A flight attendant was packing snow into containers while a dozen other people milled about. Aside from the captain, who had given the boy a small pin—a pair of golden wings—Nate didn’t recognize any of them. He wondered if they knew each other. Or had they all been strangers filling seats. The boy fought back any thoughts about the people he did know.

The attendant stood and seemed to stare right at him. The boy tried to raise a hand, to call out, but his voice only managed a faint “help.” Even that was too much. The effort unsettled something in his throat and he started to cough. Faint, at first, but it got worse and worse. Each hacking gasp shook his body. Shivers rippled through his spine. His feet kicked out from under him and he started to slide. He scrambled for the top of the cliff but his fingers refused. His hands, locked into fists, beat uselessly against the shifting snow. He saw the crest slide farther and farther away. His legs slithered against the surface of the hill but to no avail. He wanted to cry, to scream, but he was tired. Too tired. Stop, his body said. Rest. His body landed in a heap at the bottom of the hill. Nate could feel his heartbeat slowing, his breathing was low and hypnotic. He was suddenly warm, comfortable. Rest. Rest.

His eyes fluttered open. No. No rest. Nate forced his body to move, to bend, to lift, to plant its feet and stretch, to extend, to grasp, to climb, to scream. “Help!” He yelled it every time his hand clutched an icy mound of dirt. “Help!” He hoped the words weren’t just in his head. “Help!” The hill didn’t seem so tall. He fixed his eyes on the twisting pillar of smoke. Overhead, the sun laughed—all light and no heat—but the boy didn’t listen. He continued to climb. He heaved his body over the top and started to slide the right way, quickly, like he was being pulled. He looked up and saw the smiling face of the flight attendant. A man’s face too. He had a beard too but not like Burley’s. A pair of broken glasses sat sideways on his stubby nose. “Another one!” a third person, a girl about his age, yelled. “We’ve got another one!” Nate looked up at the sun and laughed back.

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Back in the Saddle of the One-Year Plan

March 15th, 2013fiction, news, operation: awesome

February was a bad month as far as getting any of my own writing done. All my energy was spent on work for the day job (which is awesome) but it left little time for finishing Five-Story Drop (the upcoming supplement for Streets of Bedlam) or getting words down on these six novels I’m writing this year.

As a result, that counter in the left column hasn’t budged a millimeter. (And none of you called me on it. FOR SHAME.) I hit a point where I simply couldn’t abide that. Yes, I was writing. I was writing five days at week at the job. But that’s no excuse. That’s not the point of the One-Year Plan. The One-Year Plan is about doing my own stuff. And I shouldn’t allow myself to make excuses or get distracted. Back in the saddle with me.

As it’s the middle of March now, I’ve revised my second novel from the YA Superhero book to this Middle Grade science fiction tale I’ve bandied about for a bit. It’s half the word count of the YA Superhero book, and maybe that’s a bit of a cheat, but I’m still learning and adapting to this whole process. The goal for me remains producing work that can be revised and pitched and hopefully sold. If the details change, I’m okay with that. And this book I’m working on currently is a lot of fun so there’s that. Half the joy of working on spec is the ability to do what you want to do.

So! Book 2: MG Sci-Fi has launched. Back to 1K a Day on it (in addition to 1K a Day on Five-Story Drop). Onward!

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The One-Year Plan: Goal One – Met!

February 6th, 2013fiction, operation: awesome

I finished a novel last night. I’m still a bit stunned by it honestly. It’s a Middle Grade novel, sure, so it’s 1/3 the size of a standard adult novel (what most folks think of when they think of a novel) but I hit the writing goal I was aiming for and the threshold for the market. (I even went over the goal as you can see by the bar to the left.)

I wrote my first novel (a 50k word YA book) back in 2007. That was almost six years ago and I can now finally say that wasn’t an isolated incident.

I’ve now finished two novels and each one was a learning process. Each proved I could do it. Each proved that failure stems not from my inability but from not being dedicated to getting it done. Each taught me a lot about the novel-writing process from the inside, the stuff you simply do not learn theoretically. Each one highlighted certain shortcomings of mine but also shined a light on some of my strengths. I came through each one with a list of things that worked and areas I needed to focus on both during the editing process and when approaching the next story. The process of each has been invaluable.

I look forward to starting my next novel in a couple days.

Before I move on to that next novel though, I thought I’d look back over the past month, talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what I aim to do now.

First off, I have a confession.

I Did a Bad Thing
I wrote without an outline. I know, I know. I wasn’t going to. Truth be told, this wasn’t even an existing idea from the Big List. It’s still Middle Grade horror, so it fit the slot, but I started with a premise and an opening scene then went from there. I didn’t know what was going to happen next most of the time. A lot of my daily word counts began and ended a single chapter. I made sure to curve each chapter into a cliffhanger or similar attachment point which made sure I had a launching pad for the next day’s writing.

This worked surprisingly well. I’d sometimes stop in the middle of a chapter and think about how to steer the story but having that cliffhanger goal gave me focus. It taught me about making sure each chapter bends, rises and falls—hitting the pavement with enough force to bounce back up right before you cut, insert page break, and follow that momentum into the next chapter.

That which moves the writer to write moves the reader to read.

Still, for my next book, I’m doing the outline. I’m taking some days to map out the big beats and do up some character sheets before I start.

I Learned Oh So Very Much
A bunch of writing advice I had read over the past few years suddenly made sense. What were previously good ideas gained a new sense of relevance and meaning when put into practice. The one that hit me in the face hardest was “The protagonist drives the story.” The hard truth is I’ve suffered from passive protagonist syndrome for a long time, loving the idea of the person who has to react to the situations in their life, but that’s just not a good idea. Your character is John Henry and the story is that mound of solid rock. You need to give your protagonist a hammer or they’re never going to tunnel their way through it. (We’ll ignore that whole “dying at the end” part.) Every single time I wondered why my story felt like it was dragging or falling flat, it was because I hadn’t given my protagonist an obstacle or some motivation or a reason to be where they are. I could sing that from the mountaintops, folks.

All Day Every Day Except the Days I Didn’t
I aimed for 1k every day. Most days, I hit that. A lot of days, especially in the beginning, I exceeded that considerably. A couple days, I did half that. A few days, I didn’t get any writing done at all. Some nights, I was done with my 1000 words in half an hour. Other nights, it took 90 minutes or more. But I stayed in front of the computer and wrote.

A lot of days, I didn’t feel like writing anything at all. As I said above, I missed some days. All but one was due to exhaustion. Two of the nights, I fell asleep before the kids did. My day job went through being auctioned and purchased by a new company during all this and that was distracting—but I still made count almost every single day. “Not feeling like writing” isn’t good enough. Being physically unable to focus, fine. I’d skip or let myself only do 500 words or so on those days. But I’m not idly wondering if maybe I’d like to write a book here. I decided I was writing novels this year. That meant committing to the work.

When I initially started 1k a Day, I worked mostly as a freelancer so I would often have time during the morning or afternoon to fit in the words. This time around, I work a day job—which is also as a writer—and almost all my writing happened in the evening. The exceptions to that are the weekends where I wrote during the mornings but finding the time usually meant not watching that show, not playing that video game, not getting that extra sleep. Carving out the time meant sacrifice. But, sitting here with a draft in my hand, I don’t miss the sleep, don’t care I’m behind on my shows, and I don’t regret not playing that game. The sacrifices were worth it.

Make No Mistake: The Book is Rough
It’s not good. I’m not being immodest here. The book has problems with tone, pacing, structure, and character/event contradictions and inconsistencies but that’s okay. This is a first draft. I wasn’t aiming for perfection; I was aiming for done. I can’t edit a blank page but I can edit this. I can revise this. I can make it better. Will it ever be a book worth shopping around? I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. I finished a Middle Grade novel. Which means I met my goal. Which means I can finish another one. That is what’s important for now.

What’s Next
I’m shifting things up a bit. I have a real itch to write that YA Superhero book so I’m going to do that next. I don’t mind that I’m shifting things around a bit. As long as they’re not impeding my forward momentum, I’m willing to ride the wave a bit. I’ve already started the wordometer on the left. Since February’s a short month, and I already missed some days finishing the first book, and the YA goal is 50k, I’ll probably do a midpoint check-in rather than wait until the end of March to update.

Until then, I’ll be writing. Doing that 1k every day I can. By the end of March, I should have a finished draft of a YA book. That’s exciting.

Talk to you later.

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The One-Year Plan Begins Now

January 1st, 2013fiction, operation: awesome

The grand odometer of life has flipped another digit, and I’m staring across a field of 365 chances to fulfill some dreams until it does so again.

As I talked about back in September, I aim to become an honest-to-goodness novelist this year. My current plan is two Middle Grade books, two Young Adult books, and two Adult books. Though I’ve swapped the order of the MG books from what I detailed back then, that’s still the basic layout I’m sticking to.

Because failing in public sucks, and the shroud of anonymity allows for too many excuses, I’m posting my word counts in the sidebar, starting with Book 1: MG Horror (um, not official title), so you all can keep me honest. I’m going to incorporate updating the word counter as part of my daily writing routine so I should be able to keep it current.

The goal is 1,000 words every day. Only takes 30-60 minutes to do that much so I have the time. The trick is making use of it.

If you’re so inclined, I invite each and every one of you to call me on it when I don’t update that counter. I’m sure I’ll have some excuse but you have full license to call me on my crap. Email, Twitter, Facebook, IM, even by phone or text if you have my info. Harass me. Keep me honest. I’d sure appreciate it if you did.

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Out Now: CONSPIRACY RULES!

December 10th, 2012fiction

I’d been a fan of Lester Smith‘s original Dark Conspiracy for many years. My gaming interests tend to have a dark streak and Lester’s vision of a near-future world overrun by all manner of horror was a perfect fit to my tastes. The setting saw two editions and numerous sourcebooks throughout both editions before disappearing in the late 90s. Fans kept it alive through unofficial support material though, including one of the best fanzines ever made, Demonground (whose website remains you can find here).

For the past five years or so, rumors of a new edition circulated under a couple different operations but nothing ever came to light. But when I heard that the folks at 3Hombres Games had picked up the license and were working on a new edition, I took notice. Now I knew Lee and Norm from their work on the excellent horror fanzine Protodimension and they knew me from Little Fears and the like so it wasn’t long before I wormed my way into contributing some fiction pieces to their project.

That was a while back, and I’ve been waiting (im)patiently since to see their baby in the light of day, which is why I am very excited to announce that the first book in Dark Conspiracy III, Conspiracy Rules!, is now out in PDF! Not only can you grab this basic rulebook, you can pick up three standalone adventures useful with any edition along with it. The next book, Conspiracy Lives!, is due out soon which will flesh out the third edition setting.

This new edition is written by Lester Smith, Marc Miller, Norm Fenlason, and Lee Williams, artwork by Bradley K. McDevitt, David Lee Ingersoll, and original Dark Conspiracy artist Earl Geier. Rounding it out is fiction by the incomparable Matt Forbeck and the guy who runs this website. Whoever he is.

All the stuff 3Hombres has put out so far has been well-received by the audience, and I’m glad to see a beloved license in the hands of some very cool folks. I hope you’ll check out the new edition of Dark Conspiracy whether you’re an old fan or a potential new one.

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