Something Shiny!

I’ve posted a new guest blog over at

Remember how technological advancement was supposed to make life so much easier? A few days ago, I sat in a restaurant watching my step-daughter work some of her amazing illustrative magic with her pencil and sketchpad while we awaited the delivery of our meals. I thought to myself, How nice it would be if I could just sit down and work like that whenever I’m waiting on something or someone else. That thought was immediately followed by that problem-solving voice in my head; the one I developed after having spent more than a decade solving other people’s information technology problems.

Why can’t you? it asked.

Read the entire post here.

King’s 11/22/63 Reminiscent of His Old School Masterworks

Why bother having a blog related to time travel fiction if you don’t review a work of time travel fiction once in a while? That said, I just finished reading Stephen King’s 11/22/63. For the first time in years, I can say that in 11/22/63 I picked up a Stephen King novel that I could not put down. I think the last time I was able to say that was way back in 1998 when he released Bag of Bones.

In 2011, English teacher Jake Epping’s diner-owning acquaintance Al Templeton lets him in on a little secret: there’s a rip, or a rabbit hole, or a bubble in time of some sort living in the back of his diner. This little portal into the past always opens to the same place on the same date at the same time: Septemer 9, 1958. Al tells Jake about this not just for kicks, but because for two minutes of present time and five years of the past, Al has been plotting to use the trip in time to track Lee Harvey Oswald, President John F. Kennedy’s assassin.

Al’s ultimate goal–which is the same goal to which any time traveler in a similar situation might aspire–was to stop Oswald from killing Kennedy, thereby putting right what once went wrong (to quote another famous time traveler). Unfortunately, years of Fatburgers and cigarette smoke have caught up with Templeton, and he is unable to complete the mission himself because he is overcome by the nasty final stages of lung cancer.

Enter Jake, who eventually takes Templeton’s place as the would-be Oswald-stopper, only to find it’s not so easy to change history. In fact, the past fights against the time traveler. Add to that the relationships and love for the late 1950s and early 1960s that Jake develops along the way, and changing the past becomes more difficult than ever (or too easy, depending on how you look at it).

All in all, 11/22/63 is vintage King. He baits you with the concept, hooks you with the internal monologue and likability of his central character, then reels you in with all the twists, turns, chaos, and beauty of masterful tale telling. You even get reacquainted with some old friends from another vintage King tale along the way. Unlike some of the repeat characters in that sprawling Dark Tower megaverse, Jake’s encounter with a young girl and boy who once fought an evil clown is elemental to one of the story’s significant subplots.

11/22/63 was the first novel I downloaded to the new Nook tablet I received for Christmas last year. At first I worried about that. I wanted my Nook tablet reading experience to be a grand one, and I knew that–as a longtime King fan–I had been disappointed by his previous several novel efforts (the short story collections are a different matter). However, my decision turned out to be a great one. Honestly, 11/22/63 made the very new experience of reading an entire novel for pleasure on a 7-inch electronic device feel as close as you can get to curling up with a thick printed book and subsequently falling Myst-like into an entirely different world.

Experiencing 11/22/63 was reading without being aware of the fact that you’re reading. And that is exactly what first drew me to King’s work back in 1987 and kept me reading all these years.

How Do You Work This Thing?

TimecastWomen crawl all over me
I’m as smooth as a millionaire
Preacher always calls on me
I got a soothing way with a prayer

–Jeff Holmes/The Floating Men, "Long-winded Prayer"

A fortune teller in the French Quarter once told me that I would never make a good politician. "You’re too honest, brother," he said.

He explained that in order to politick, you must be able to spin. In order to spin, you must be able to put yourself out in front of people, smile in their faces, and convince them to buy what you’re selling without sounding like you’re trying to convince them to buy what you’re selling. I assume the same abilities are required for sales and marketing folks, who make a living convincing us consumers to plunk down money for things we don’t really need and reasons we never entirely understand.

I’m not criticizing the practice. In fact, I’m rather envious. When I worked in newspaper, I sometimes made a point of expressing my appreciation to the sales and marketing folks for the jobs they do. Anyone who can beat the drum for the product day after day and not want to go home and crawl under the bed at night has my utmost, undying respect.

Last week, I finally released my time travel novelette Timecast (which I wrote about in my last post) to the world via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google eBooks, iTunes, and Goodreads. My confidence was boosted almost immediately when my first sale and first customer review appeared on It was an unsolicited 5-star rave: "really enjoyable, well written, and nicely paced" the reviewer wrote. It was music to my ears.

That said, I can tell you that I’ll never expect sales of Timecast to reach stellar heights. Not because of any fault with the story or its crafting. It’s a unique short work of time travel fiction, if I do say so myself. The problem is that I’m an introvert, awkward at socializing in both real life and online. I can tweet about Timecast all I want, but unless I can sell you on it (establish it as something you want or need to read) you’ll easily pass on it no matter how great I think it is.

What to do, then?

The only thing I can figure is that I need to find some way to play the extraverts’ marketing game without creating undue stress and risk to my introverted nature. Although extraverts might think differently, introverts are most of the time quite happy being introverts. We are not broken extraverts. However, there are times such as these–when you’re trying to market a book– that being an introvert is darned inconvenient.

For now, I’m still figuring things out. Meanwhile, if you happen across this post, look me up on Twitter or Goodreads. Friend/follow/fan me and I’ll friend/follow/fan you back if I can or should. Purchase a copy of Timecast for your favorite reading device (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iPhone/iPad, PC, Mac) and provide a review, if you’re moved to do so. I’ll do my best to support your work as well.

I know there are many of us introverted, reclusive storytellers out there struggling to be heard. And the only way we’ll get heard is if we stick together and learn the promotional ropes because most of us will never, ever get a book deal that comes with successful marketing all gift-wrapped in a pretty box with a bow.

About Time

Five years ago, I set out to publish an eBook. The so-called eBook revolution was still a distant speck on the horizon. At the time, the Kindle had barely sparked. There was no Nook, Kobo, Sony Reader, or iRiver. I’m not entirely sure why I embarked on the journey, except that I had the idea for the story and it was burning a hole in my head.

I wrote and copyrighted the 10,000-word story. Upon completion, I discovered that I was uncertain of the exact type of work I had created. I originally called it a novella. Then I decided that it was much too short to be called a novella, so I called it a short story. Now I’m calling it a novelette based on the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) guidelines for manuscript sizes.

With great anticipation, I "designed" the eBook (only to find out much later that what I created was an absolute abomination in terms of the true meaning of the word "design"). I generated a PDF and circulated it among a few close friends. Then I let it die undistributed.


At the time, self-publishing and distributing an eBook didn’t really seem all that easy to me. I researched it a little and gave up, choosing instead to submit the manuscript to a variety of traditionally published science fiction magazines. Inevitably, the manuscript either didn’t fit into the publication’s guidelines or was simply not what the editor was "looking for."

This Christmas, I was gifted with my first e-reader device (unless you count the e-Reader apps I had previously installed on my laptop and my phone). I love it. It caused me to immediately purchase and download the newest Stephen King work. Additionally, it inspired me to revisit my long dormant novelette. 

The process of self-publishing an eBook as been much simplified recently. It is as simple as uploading the book to the various eBook distribution channels (or using a service that does that for you). You can even upload your book if it is a design abomination. However, I chose to have my original manuscript professionally designed instead. Although an eBook is not the same as a print book, I still think it should be pleasing to and easy on the eyes.

Therefore, I am pleased to announce that my novelette will soon be available for download in Kindle and ePub formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the Apple iBookstore, Kobo, and the Google eBookstore. I am also pleased to announce that the process (plus a little prodding from some friends and loved ones) has inspired me to renew my efforts to finish the second draft of my novel.

So, Happy New Year to all you budding authors out there. I’m going to spend 2012 writing. I hope you do as well.

A Leap for Pizza

Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy. –Stephen King (On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft)

I recently took my family out to dinner at a local pizza establishment that I hadn’t visited in many years. After we sat down, I drew in a breath and took a moment to familiarize myself with the environment.

On the front wall of the establishment, mounted high above the entrance, was the requisite widescreen television, just as requisitely tuned to what looked like ESPN. On the wall to my left were show posters from some entertainment establishment in New Orleans I’d never heard of. Along the rear wall were the cashier’s stand, the kitchen, and the restrooms.

Then there was the wall to my right.

I scanned it last, beginning with the corner connected to the entrance wall and ending…well, I never really ended that scan because I was stopped in my tracks by that vague sense of familiarity one sees sometimes in the faces of apparent strangers in a crowd. You know, those faces your eyes keep wandering back to despite your best efforts to steer them otherwise because there’s something familiar about them. You think you might know them from somewhere, or they remind you of someone you do know.

It wasn’t a face I saw that hit the pause button on my surroundings scanner. It was a font; letters on a framed newspaper masthead hanging on the wall. I couldn’t see for certain because of the distance, but it looked like a framed copy of an article from a newspaper I worked for way back in the mid-1990s.

I’m shy, so I sent my wife and step-daughter to investigate. "I think that might be my article on the wall over there," I whispered to them.

A couple of minutes later, my step-daughter ran excitedly back to me from the other side of the restaurant, the eyes of every other patron there on her, and loudly proclaimed that "it is your article!"

Fourteen years prior to that evening’s dinner, almost to the day, I had written a feature about this particular pizza establishment for the Business section of the local paper. It was simply a day in the life of a young reporter back then; a single story among dozens that I wrote in my time there. I hadn’t really thought about it since.

It warmed my heart, though, seeing that piece of my history so many years later, hanging on the wall of an establishment I hadn’t visited in ages. I felt like I’d found a small time portal, a wormhole, or some other means of traveling back to a time in my life that was filled with the day-to-day uncertainty of a news beat and the fast-food lifestyle of a man in his 20s.

At home later that night, I could not help but crack open the tomes and tomes of three-ring binders I used to store clips of my work from those days. I was reminded of the character of Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap, one of my all-time favorite television series.

In the show, Sam can leap into the lives of other people in other times, as long as the date and lives he leaps into existed within the frame of his own lifetime. Similarly, I found myself leaping into the lives of different people and places on a daily basis in the years that I wrote for that publication. And I was a little surprised after my dinner at the pizza establishment to find myself somewhat nostalgic for those days.

But I am a different person now, an older man with different ideas, opinions, energy, and a different lifestyle. In Quantum Leap, Dr. Beckett’s primary objective, his singular longing, is to find a way to stop traveling in time, to leap home.

I’ve already done that. These days I have a beautiful wife, a wonderful step-daughter, a cantankerous dog, and a vegetable garden outside a house on a hill.

I wouldn’t trade it.

If Time Were Sold in Bottles, I’d Be Sending Mine to the Recycling Center

I have no faith in human perfectability. I think that human exertion will have no appreciable effect upon humanity. Man is now only more active — not more happy — nor more wise, than he was 6000 years ago. –Edgar Allan Poe

Ever wish you could time travel like Hermonie Granger in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? For those who haven’t read the series, Hermonie comes into possession of a "Time-Turner," which she uses to overload her schedule of classes at Hogwarts. She schedules more than one class per period in the day and can thus attend them all because she can travel back in time to sit in on the conflicting schedules. Sounds like a wonderful plan, except for the flesh-and-blood aspect of it, which is to say that being able to time travel so that you can squeeze more into your schedule wouldn’t prevent you from exhausting yourself. Even wizards need sleep.

Time Chart

I recently spent 5 minutes that I found under the sofa somewhere creating a quick pie chart that represents an average of how my time is consumed on a weekly basis. The whole of the pie is a 168-hour week. I broke out the hours I typically spend working, driving, sleeping, eating, exercising, watching television, and doing chores (including shopping errands). Turns out that I spend nearly as much time working (50 hours between my full-time job and a very small amount of side work) as I do sleeping (56 hours). That’s 106 hours out of the full 168-hour week, or about four and a half 24-hour days.

I also spend about 25 hours doing chores and 20 hours behind the wheel. Throw in meals (5 hours) and exercise (5 hours), and that leaves me with exactly 7 hours in a week to do something for myself, like writing. Instead, I typically spend that hour a night in a kind of low-energy waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop haze in front of the television with my family or in front of my laptop.

Granted, the numbers above are averages, so not every week looks exactly the same.

Also, I’m not really complaining. How one spends one’s time, even in our fast-paced age, is mostly a matter of priorities. I could let some of the chores go for a while and give myself a little extra leisure time. Occasionally, I do just that.

Still, there are those times when I’d like to borrow Hermonie’s Time-Turner, just to be able to squeeze in a few more "want-to-do" items into the dimensional space between the items on my "have-to-do" list.

I Just Wrote a Novel

After nearly two years of intermittent work on it, I have completed the first draft of my novel. It’s been a very long road, fraught with frustration over finding time to write, overflowing with joy over putting words on the screen, and replete with discovery as I learned more about the writing process, even at this stage in my experience.

In the end, I have a 405-page double-spaced manuscript with 1-inch margins all around, and typed in 12-point Courier. I chose Courier just because it’s the closest I could come to the way old-fashioned typed manuscripts were formatted, and it made the old-fashioned manuscript word count process (250 words per page) easier to track. I realize that style of word count isn’t as important in publishing as it once was, but it did make my math easier as I wrote and kept track of the size of my manuscript versus the length of the book when it’s eventually typeset.

All-in-all, I feel rewarded by having completed this process. And I will be rewarding myself by taking a few weeks off from the novel before I begin the rewrite process, which, as any would-be novelist learns, is the part of the process where the story really comes together and all the nuts and bolts are tightened. It is my hope that the time away from the manuscript will refresh my perspective on it, and help me polish it into the most perfect novel it can be when the process is complete.

I think it will ultimately be a couple of days before I can actually put the manuscript out of my mind completely for this break. I can’t seem to prevent these three words from cycling through my brain right now: "I did it!"

The Art of the Word Count

I am a meticulous word-counter.

It doesn’t matter how well I am telling a story–how poetic the prose or how professional and entertaining the narrative–if I haven’t written at least 1,000 words by the end of a two-hour session of pounding keys.

A thousand words isn’t a lot, but I imagine I’m slower at the craft than most, more careful in my first draft than many other wordsmiths, who spend a greater amount of time rewriting on the second and third times through than I.

Tonight I am pleased to announce that I wrote 1,230 words on a new narrative piece of fiction, and I feel good about it. Not only do I feel good about the word count, but I also feel good about the the story, and the characters, and the pace of the tale-telling.

It’s the kind of story I actually must force myself to slow down in the telling. Otherwise, I tend to skip over some narrative that is unimportant to me in my mind because I’ve already noted it in my head, but is important to the reader for a complete comprehension of the characters, the setting, and the circumstances.

If only I had more hours in the day to write, which is, unfortunately, no longer my day job.