Focus Like a Jedi

September 3, 2017

Having hobbies is a great thing. If not for hobbies, what would we do with our spare time? Clean the house?!

Way back when I was 13, my brother and I got a game called Hero Quest for Christmas. It wasn’t your average board game. It had a campaign feature, lots of interactivity, and an ever-changing game board. Neat!

That love of gaming carried over into my freshman year when not only did I get into this new thing called collectible card games, but a few friends introduced me to role-playing games. I mean, I knew what they were, but didn’t have anyone to enjoy them with.

I never looked back, despite a few years of not doing much.

So for the past few years, I’d been out of gaming pretty big time. I wanted something new that I could play, not waste a lot of money on, and actually enjoy with a community of others. Last October, I found my game.

Star Wars Destiny, a new collectible card game from Fantasy Flight Games. My relationship with FFG is long and varied, but I can always count on them to make quality games. This was no exception.

I’ve been into the game pretty hardcore since it came out. Due to a lack of funds and time, I haven’t been able to go to any of the big, major tournaments, but that should change next year. What’s cool is, there’s a new set coming out in two weeks!

It’s been killing me. Specifically, my writing.

Okay, not that much. But I recently made my master list, and I’ve been following it pretty good. Editing, mostly, but things are getting done. I’m happy! It’s a lot better than sitting around and not doing it.

The worst thing is, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the new cards from the upcoming Star Wars set. More than I should be.

It’s okay, though. This excitement lasts a few days, then dies down, and I’m back to the grind. In fact, as I write this, it’s a three-day weekend for me. What time I have to myself (which is most of it), I can do pretty much anything I want, which again is mostly editing.

However, I did come up with a new story idea the other day. Why?! I’m trying to finish a novel here!

I just need to promise myself to keep working on this. Star Wars is awesome, and I’m super excited about it! But it’s killing me to have to wait. That’s good, though—it isn’t going anywhere.

And neither am I. But the chance to get my writing back on track and have things where they need to be is. Time to keep it moving. Time to put the cards aside for the weekend, and focus. Like a Jedi.

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Bowing to the Master

August 27, 2017

Earlier in the week, I created a “master list” for writing. It is my most important stories that need worked on, and specifically what needs done with them. I’m very happy I did this.

Mainly, it’s staring me in the face. I literally wrote with an ink pen on college-ruled paper what needs to happen. It is sitting on my desk in a place where it won’t get covered with junk. I need that.

See, I have this big problem with mentally telling myself to remember to work on something. As the days pass and I still haven’t touched it, it slowly slips away, and I move on to something else, usually not involving writing at all.

Sound familiar?

We all do it. I know not everyone does, but a vast majority of human beings don’t follow their own basic rules or agendas. It’s okay, but not for me. I was having one of my typical days of anguish last week while on vacation. Five days in a row without having to work, and did I work on writing at all? Not very much.

I know my wife and I did a lot of fun little things, so it wasn’t like five 24 hour writing sessions in a row. But I could have done more. I should have.

So I made the master list. Not only am I managing to get these things done, I’m also able to plot out timelines of when they’ll be out and into the wilds. I think that was the main reason, to be honest. In addition to not having The Third Tower finished and ready for editing (which, believe me, is at the top of the list like King Kong high atop the Empire State Building…), I realized that I have three short stories out in the wilds right now, and they’re not exactly having much luck.

More stories need to be out making the rounds. Things need to be edited (seriously, why would I do a second draft on something in 2012 and then never touch it again?), and things need to be ready.

Things need to be DONE.

And that’s what I’m doing with my master list. If you don’t have one, seriously consider it. It might just change the way you work on your writing.

Farewell to yet another…

August 25, 2017

My alarm goes off every morning at 5:05. After letting it drive me nuts for a few minutes, I get up and go about my day (I hit the gym before breakfast and work). As I’m shutting off the alarm, however, imagine my surprise when I saw that I had an email waiting for me (like many of us, I have use my smartphone for my alarm clock, which also has email alerts, among other things).

The email was from a publication. Naturally, I get excited when I see that there was contact! But then my cynicism takes over, and I expect it’s a rejection letter. What can I say? Statistics show it’s more than likely.

But nope, it was neither. The publication, [Name Removed], has sent back (read: rejected, so to speak) all current submissions due to going into hiatus. When I later contacted Duotrope’s to inform them, they mentioned that the publication is done due to bankruptcy.

My apologies if this is classified info no one should know. I’m just repeating what I know.

Anyway, it’s bothered me all day today. Yet another publication closing their doors due to lack of funds. Lack of interest. Lack of help around the office. Lack of…anything.

Do we, as readers and writers, owe it to anyone to buy copies of these publications? Do we owe anyone a donation? Should we “like” them on Facebook? Follow their Twitter? Recommend them to our friends? Gush our praise in any and all public theater we can manage?

I admit, I’m short on cash. My bills are ridiculously high, I’m trying to save for retirement (HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!), saving for the sake of having a savings account, try to donate to charity when I can, and let’s face it, I need a new pair of shoes. Is it too much to ask me to spend $5 a month on supporting the arts?

After all, am I not an artist of sorts? If I can tell you to buy issues of publications, shouldn’t I myself do the same?

Look, I realize I gripe about these publications all the time. Why would they reject my story and then publish the utter garbage I see them publish? Okay, not all of it’s garbage, but sometimes I’ll read something and wonder, in all honesty, “Who in their right mind thought that was a good story?” But then I read a short story that does what it originally set out to do—entertains me.

Some stories, some artwork, even the publication layout and design are, in my opinion, award winning. But so sorry, you can’t be bothered to spend $2 to legally enjoy the hard work all these people put into it. I get it. You’ve got your own bills, and whatever else you need to focus on.

But just try it. If you have a few extra bucks laying around, check out one of these fantastic publications. They’ll be grateful, and you’ll be happier for not only having supported the arts, but for giving yourself quality reading material.

I mean really, for all the people I know who read so much, they sure don’t actually read much. Oh, and you don’t know where to start with these publications? Go to your local bookstore and check out one of the actual print publications. Do a Google search for speculative fiction online publications, or something else. Some are free. Some cost a few bucks. All are worthy of your time.

If we owe it to anyone, we owe it to ourselves above all else.

Vacation’s Over

August 20, 2017

Today is the last day of my vacation, and I’m feeling that sadness that always comes with it. My wife and I took some much needed time off this past week, but with a lack of money, couldn’t really go anywhere. (The best thing was, hands down, no mosquitoes!) We took a day trip to Cleveland on Friday, and the day before hit up my alma mater, Bowling Green (more on that in a minute), but mostly just stayed at home.

I smoked cigars, got to see one of my oldest and dearest friends (hi Noah!), drank a lot of beer, took walks, did yard and house work, and ate out a lot. It’s nice, but I think if we actually took a trip, we’d be dying to get home and get back to work. (I would have loved to have gone to Gencon or even Boston to share the love!) Instead, we’ve loafed about and realized how awesome life is without going to work.

Writing was on my plate, though, and I finished a story (yay!). More importantly, though, I made a list of necessary things to do for writing. Stories to finish, edit, prep for self-publish, things like that. I’m pretty happy, but now I just need to find the time to get it all done!

Going to Bowling Green was fun, but had its downsides as well. For starters, I wanted to eat at the student union but all of the cool little independent restaurants are gone! It’s all chains, and things I don’t like at that. So we went to a pizza place across the street from campus. It started raining right when we were done, which soon became pouring.

It wouldn’t stop. We were soaked, and couldn’t just enjoy walking the campus. Since it’s August in Ohio, all the buildings had the air conditioning cranked up, so we were freezing inside.

My biggest issue? I realized that since graduating 12.5 years ago, I haven’t had a major publication ever. I’m not poo-pooing the publishing credits I do have, but no books picked up by a publishing house, no stories in a professionally paying market, no major contests, no inclusion in big-time anthologies.

It’s okay. I’m surviving, of course. It just stings to go into East Hall and see the display case of alumni publications and even reading the blurbs in the semi-monthly college publication with so-and-so’s latest publication in whichever magazine.

I’m trying, though. Hopefully this new list of important can get me moving and working hard enough to get things where they need to be.

This doesn’t mean I have nothing, though. Good things are coming!

Last year, I was published in Bards & Sages Quarterly. At the beginning of the year, there was a poll to vote on best story of each particular issue, which will all then be collected into a special publication, Bardic Tales & Sage Advice. My story won for my issue! It should be out soon. REAL soon! As always, I’ll keep you informed of when it is released.

Also, and this has been out for a while, but Crimson Streets (also something I was published in last year) has collected the first 26 stories in a handsome paperback. I’ve read pretty much all the stories online as they came out, but reading through again, I’m reminded of how many great short pieces are out there. Seriously worth checking out, not only for great reading, but to support the small presses and show us that you want to see more!

Crimson Streets!

All in all, things are going well. I feel like with the closing weeks of summer, seeing kids going back to school and realizing that I haven’t had a single publication this year, I’m feeling a little depressed. But not to worry, I’ve got tons more, and no need to worry. My fingers have a lot of stories left in them, and I’ve got lots of time!

Stay awesome, my friends.

No More Waiting

July 27, 2017

There are times when you have to say—no, SCREAM!—that enough is enough. You just can’t take it, you’re done, and any further attempts to get you seeing things from any other point of view simply won’t work anymore.

You probably think I’m referring to my attempts at getting published. I’m not, although there are several publications I wish would hurry up with any kind of contact. Nope, I’m talking about something that doesn’t affect me so much as an author as it does a reader, a fan, and a huge nerd.

George RR Martin. Specifically, his “A Song of Ice and Fire” series of books. More specifically than that, “The Winds of Winter,” the next book in the series.

This past weekend, Sand Diego ComicCon happened, once again overcrowded and full of all sorts of news. It was announced that Winds probably won’t hit until next year, 2018. Possibly even early 2019.

What the actual fuck?

I understand there are factors to consider here:

*It may have the seventh and final book alongside it (can’t remember the name, don’t feel like looking it up)

*He’s a busy man, contractually obligated to edit and write many, many other things.

*He’s got a history of lengthy waits between major projects.

I get it. I’ve been with him for a long time now. I first read A Game of Thrones back in 2002, and quickly devoured everything I could. But the wait for “Feast for Crows” and then “A Dance with Dragons” interfered with our enjoyment, but didn’t destroy it. For a long time, I was more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and accept that hey, he’s not perfect, and we might just have to wait.

But not anymore.

I’m done, and while that makes no difference to him or you or anyone, it’s awakened something in me I never really noticed before.

Yes, I’ve sat on projects. I’ve waited, gotten lazy, gotten sidetracked, and at times simply didn’t care. In fact, a novel I’m almost done with (and have been almost done with for several months now) has been collecting dust for quite a while. After numerous attempts to write it and stick with it, life happens.

But not anymore.

I’m making it clear to myself and everyone that no matter what, my projects will get done. I will write, edit, workshop, edit some more, and submit to the appropriate parties when I need to, and make sure it all gets done. No ifs ands or buts, my writing will be written, and (hopefully) read.

That’s my promise to you.

No projected dates of several years in the future, no “one of these days” bullshit promises, no nothing. Just a promise that if and when I start something, I’ll finish it.

My dad’s best advice to me was “Don’t talk about it, do it.” I’m living that advice right now and every day.

That’s my promise to you.

(And yes, I’m well aware of the TV series Game of Thrones. I don’t watch it and don’t want to. I’ve read those books at least three times each except for Dance, and the show deviates too much for me to enjoy it. Sorry, I know it bothers people that I made a decision that affects no one but me, but hey, there you go.)

Getting Through It

July 21, 2017

So I’ve been reading Tarzan of the Apes, the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs’s epic series. It’s good! Adventurous and exciting, and ironic in that I’m a human, thus the enemy to most of the main characters in the book. Still, a fun romp and one of the greatest adventure tales ever. Can’t wait to read the rest.

I’ve been working on several adventure tales, actually. Mostly pirate stuff, but I have a few others up my sleeve. No shirtless main characters, but I’m (trying to) put fast-paced, exciting stories out there. Let’s just someone else takes notice of them!

Another shirtless guy I’ve been thinking about these past two days…

Chester Bennington. I’ve loved Linkin Park pretty much since I first heard them in 2000, and never really had a “who cares” phase regarding them. When I heard about his death yesterday, it was the first time I’ve ever actually cried at work, and in front of everyone. It didn’t matter, though, it hit me hard.

I don’t want to get into a huge thing about how suicide is no joke and shame on you for making stupid jokes about this, but I really wish people would come to their senses. I’ve written stories where characters kill themselves, and I’m definitely not glorifying it. It seems like the only way of a situation sometimes, and I can understand why someone would make that choice, but there are people who can help, even if it just means someone listening.

I tried it once, back when I was 20. When I woke up the next morning, I figured maybe this world has more in store for me, and I’ve embraced it, good and bad. Every time I think about it again, I think about all I’ll miss, and never have the chance to experience.

How many great books and stories will I miss out on? How many movies, TV shows, songs, concerts, parties, Old West End Festivals, weddings, births, sunny days, rainy days, and everything else will I forfeit the chance to experience? To some, that might not be enough to matter. To me, it’s more than enough.

It’s life. And that’s why I keep writing, even if no one publishes me or reads my stuff. It’s why I continue to read, watch, listen, enjoy, taste, touch, feel, love, live, and everything else.

I’ve been writing like crazy lately. Regardless of what those pretentious editors (and the nonpretentious ones that just don’t find my stories right for their publication) think, I’m going to keep doing it, too.

Finishing Things

June 17, 2017

There is good news, because bad news isn’t the only thing that encompasses my life! I’m happy to report that a story I’d been working on for quite a while, “Bog’s Wrath” (working title, of course), is finished. Well, the first draft, at least. I need to sit on it for a while before I edit it and then start getting really serious about it.

It’s a Clay and Styg story. I’m glad to get back to them, but I’m even happier to be done with it. Why? Well, I’ve been trying this technique where I write whenever I have a chance. So, if I have ten minutes to do nothing, I’ll write. Less than that, it’s not really worth getting into, but sometimes I’ll put down a paragraph or two.

Usually, I’m frightened of doing this. I always feel like I need big spaces of time to sit and write so I can get it all out. What if I get really into the groove, but run out of time before I’ve finished my thoughts? How can I get back into it and remember everything I wanted to say?

The words are all there, man. I know what I want to write, so what if a few words are different? The story will still be the same story when all is said and done, right?

Unfortunately, using this technique, I found myself only able to write about a half to a full page within the course of a day. I still need to sit down and write, dammit! I can’t just tell myself, “Hey, Myke, you already wrote a few words. Why not watch an episode of Riverdale or whatever it is you like?” Then I respond, “First off, I finished season one of Riverdale a few weeks ago, so right now I’m trying to catch up with Luke Cage and Girlboss on Netflix. Second of all…great idea.” I need to be disciplined, and believe me, it’s happening.

Now that I’m done, I can get back to The Third Tower. Why did I ever abandon that book? Well, aside from having tons of little ideas and needing to catch up to what I wanted with it, but really, why? Sigh…I’m lazy. Yeah, you got me.

Anyway…

Crimson Streets has the first 26 stories published on their website available in a paperback book! Go get it! My story, “Tyree’s Diadem,” is in it. You’ll know this as the introductory tale of Clay and Styg, so it has majorly historical significance!

Pulp Modern is still available, with my story “Out of Sight.” I hope you seriously consider purchasing a copy of this, not only because it’s so cheap, but because it supports a great cause. Having independent publications such as this one are what allows authors like me to thrive, so please consider picking one up.

That’s all for now, my sexies. Time for a salad, a few chapters of “Blindsight” by Peter Watts (GREAT science fiction book!), and some air conditioning on this stuffy Saturday.

Expanding the Universe

May 22, 2017

Like many fine people on this varied planet of ours, I love Star Wars. In fact, being born in 1980, I’ve been a fan for pretty much my entire life. I got a little burned out in the mid-late 90’s, but things have redeemed themselves, and I’m happy with what’s available.

There are many games available, including a collectible card game from FFG—Star Wars Destiny. A great game! I love it and am always coming up with new decks and itching to play.

Also available? Stories. Right now, comic books are hot, and it’s good to see that the hobby and art form are doing so well. Marvel has a great series going with the Star Wars comics, and they’re telling stories for some of the best characters—a Lando Calrissian series is set to debut later this year, and there will be a Captain Phasma limited series as well. Poe Dameron, my personal favorite, has his own ongoing series too.

But they aren’t doing fiction like they used to. There is of course Star Wars Insider, and sure, there are novels coming out, and thankfully they aren’t going into the ridiculous areas that the old Expanded Universe book did in the 90’s. (It’s funny because I used to love those trilogies, but looking back now I can’t understand why I was so into them—they’re terrible!) One thing they used to have was the Star Wars Adventure Journal, a great inclusion in the meta.

Geared more towards the role-playing game by West End Games, it contained new campaign ideas and characters for the table-top game, but also had short fiction. One of my first attempts at getting published was with this book, released every few months like a magazine (but man, that thing was thicker than most novels!).

Some of the fiction was great. Stories of random characters not in the movies, people that did dirty work or had crazy things happen to them, all within the realms of Star Wars. In fact, Rogue One seemed like a story that could have come from there, whether or not it was so closely attached to the first movie.

The stories behind the stories.

Why aren’t they doing anything like this anymore? Or am I just missing it?

Not just because I want to write Star Wars stories (well, I could, but I don’t do fan fiction, and I’d love to have these get out there somehow), but I’d love to read some as well. Narrative vignettes of random people, somehow doing something involved in what you see in the movies, or a far-off backwater world with smugglers getting in a shoot-out with Stormtroopers…tons of things that could happen.

What do you say? Would anyone else want to see something like this? Do you know of something like this right now?

At the very least, maybe I could contact Disney/Lucasfilm themselves and start begging. We could even do a petition for it. I hope you’d sign in.

I’m serious.

The Latest

May 15, 2017

Man, where has the time been? Lots of stuff keeping me busy in real life, which is good! I even missed two big announcements, but it’s okay, great traveler! It’s never too late to enjoy the goodness.

My short story “Out of Sight” was published in the latest issue of Pulp Modern. I’m very proud of this story and excited that it found a home. The publication is amazing as well. Lots of great stories in it, and worth checking out. You can get a digital copy of it, but you can also get a print publication of it!

Pulp Modern. Get it while it’s hot!

I implore you to pick up a copy. I already got my payment for it ($10, whoo boy!), so I don’t benefit from others buying it. Still, it’s worth supporting small publications, independent authors and businesses, and let’s be honest, it isn’t that expensive. Maybe even write a review on Amazon while you’re at it.

Thank you in advance!

Anyway, remember last June when my story “Tyree’s Diadem” was published on the awesome webjournal Crimson Streets? Of course you do—that was one of my best stories, and one that launched a franchise featuring Clay and Styg. (In fact, I’m working on yet another story featuring them as we speak!)

Well, the first 26 stories published on the website will be collected in an actual print copy! This includes “Tyree’s Diadem” as well as many other great stories. I’ve done my best to keep up with the stories they publish (one per week) so it isn’t a majorly time consuming process. Plus, I’ve gotten to read some of the best unknown and lesser known authors out there.

I’ll of course put a link to it when it’s available, but please keep this in mind! If you love fun pulp adventures (of every genre), good writing, or simply like supporting the community, please buy a copy (again, I make no extra money on this).

Also, last year my story “Behind You, in the Corner” was published on Bards & Sages Quarterly. Thanks to many of you, it won the Reader’s Choice award for the July ’16 issue. Due to that, this summer, Bardic Tales & Sage Advice vol. 9, the “Best Of” issue featuring the best stories from the previous year’s issues, is coming out. Hoping for an August release, details are pretty much what I just wrote, but again, you’ll be notified once I am!

Other than that, I’m working hard on getting other things done. Been editing a lot, working on Clay and Styg, and still trying to get The Third Tower finished. I’ve got a free story coming real soon on Smashwords, and who knows? Maybe In the Pale Moonlight will have a price break sooner than you know it? (As if $1.99 is too expensive for some people!)

Thanks a lot my sexies! Keep reading, and keep kicking ass.

Christmas, 1988. I was nine years old. Like typical kids, my brother and I watched cartoons after school, and our sister, a few years older, had a steady stream of television and the like to keep her mind turning into mush. We were pretty much your typical suburban white privilege kids.

And we wanted damn near every stupid thing we saw on TV.

So there’s this new game. Well, new to us, because we hadn’t seen it yet. But this new game, with these awesome commercials. This game that looks better than any board game we’d ever seen, and has a really cool theme with, like I said, awesome commercials.

Fireball freaking Island.

Go watch the commercial. Go on, I’ll wait.

Fireball Island Commercial!

Pretty cool, huh? Damn straight. So cool that you can find all sorts of stuff online about it. I’m hardly the first to write about it. Two of the more well-known reviews of it are the no-longer-written but still awesome X-Entertainment (Matt now writes Dinosaur Dracula and has more recently spoken about the game on his Purple Stuff Podcast), and James Rolf’s Board James persona. Both are worth checking out (and are actually linked on the Wikipedia page for the game).

As you can see from the YouTube video, there are several websites dedicated to the game. More video reviews of it. So much on the web that gushes love for this game!

But I’m not here to say the same things they said, or any other site. I wanted to talk about the game because it reminds me of some fun memories with my siblings.

Recently, my only nephew turned 11. I love when there’s a birthday or some sort of holiday, because it gets my brother, sister and me together. We all have a lot of fun, usually ending up talking about our childhood and laughing the whole time. With our nephew and niece, we can often relate stories to them of “when we were your age” and watch them cringe. It’s a good time.

So I was thinking of Fireball Island, and how the older we got, one of the few times the three of us would sit down together and be civil with each other was with a game. That Christmas, ’88, we received several other big ticket items. Our dad must have gotten a pretty big bonus check, unless our parents just managed to put aside a good Christmas fund.

Like I said, we were your typical white privilege kids, so Christmas was always a pretty good blowout for gifts for us (not so much birthdays, though). But in ’88, we had some big things. So imagine us all having our own things to do. And yet we still sat down to play a game with each other.

The rules were pretty easy. A lot of online reviews will talk about the complex rules, but I think that’s because the kids today are soft. They need someone to hold their hand every step of the way. Not us, no way. We got tossed in and left to deal with it on our own.

You moved your little explorer guy, and drew cards. If you had the right card, you could launch a fireball. The marbles would go down their respective paths, and knock over other play pieces, and even bridges. There were transport caves, and a mystical jewel that you had to claim. If you didn’t watch that commercial, go do it so you can see what I’m talking about!

I tried to play the game with friends, but they never wanted to. I had boring friends.

Maybe it was because we didn’t feel the need to fight each other with fireballs. Maybe that was why me, Amy and Andy loved it. We could compete in a friendly game, while knocking each other down with fireballs. Who wouldn’t love that?

For some reason, with the resurgence of games, especially board games, no one has brought this back. Go to any Barnes & Noble, or a friendly local game store, and check out all the amazing games they have. It goes far beyond Monopoly or Life, much more than anything Milton Bradley ever put out. Some games cost $50 or more, with hundreds more pieces. So why not bring back Fireball Island?

I keep thinking about this game. I keep wanting to write a story about it. Perhaps I shall. But more than that, perhaps I’ll sell a kidney and find a complete version of Fireball Island on ebay.

Maybe someone will realize how great that game truly was, and understand that a new generation needs to experience it. Bring it back, Milton Bradley. Bring it back.