Memorial Day

Memorial-Day-Hero-2-HMemorial Day is supposed to be a day of remembrance and reflection.  To honor those who gave their lives for their country.  To those who have served, it’s often a somber day.  Many of us have lost friends, even family, in military service.

It’s a day to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, to those who gave their lives.  I’d like to say that means a great deal to our country… but I’m afraid I’d be lying if I did.

War and hardship are things that are foreign to the vast majority of Americans.  The very concept of fighting and dying is an alien idea to many.  Less than .45% of Americans serve in the military.  The vast majority of  Americans haven’t been exposed to the military in any real sense.

The cost of war, the sacrifices made, are something that isn’t real to many.  Until you lose a father, brother, sister, mother, daughter, or son, it isn’t something that hits home.  Until you spend six, twelve, or sixteen months of anxiously worrying about a loved one who is in a combat zone, none of it is really real.

And that’s the way most Americans like it.  They want war to remain something that is distant and unknown.  That’s the reason that many of us serve, after all, to protect our nation from those hard truths.

Memorial Day is a day to honor the fallen… but it’s also a day to remind us all of the cost –the terrible human cost– spent in protecting our nation.  I ask that if you haven’t been a part of that cost, that you take some time from your day.  Go to your local veteran’s cemetery and walk among the tombstones.  Visit a civil war or revolutionary war battlefield.  If you’re abroad, visit Normandy Beach or Bastogone or one of countless other places where men fought and died for the freedoms that we all take for granted.

Remember them, honor them.  They died for you.  It’s the least you can do.


Writing Toolbag: Expectation Management

Sometimes your expectations can lead you astray...
Sometimes your expectations can lead you astray…

We’ve all been there, you’ve got all these grand ideas and images, you’re certain you have the best story, best thing ever.  You’re going to write it and awards, accolades and money are going to shower down from the heavens…

And then as you sit there in front of the computer, you feel that your writing is crap, that no one wants to read this drivel.  You try to write, but you’re too busy, you fall behind on your writing goals,

This is sort of how your loved ones feel when you're cranky about your writing.
This is sort of how your loved ones feel when you’re cranky about your writing.

you come to hate writing, even come to hate the people who said you should write.  Then the next thing you know you’re hacking a door down with a fire ax.

Okay, that last part might be a bit of an exaggeration.

The point is, you need to have some realistic expectations about your writing, your sales, and things in general.  Don’t expect things to be like the movies.  You aren’t going to write the perfect manuscript on the first try, send it off to a publisher (or self publish), and then be overwhelmed with money, awards, and film options.

Writing is hard.  This is something that all writers realize.   Most of us hit points in writing each book where we severely question what we’re doing.  The “Dreaded Middle”, writing humps, writer’s block… everyone runs into parts where they sit down in front of their work and feel like they can’t go on, that what they’re producing is terrible.

What happens with me is that I’ll want to do something else.  Anything else.  My wife realizes I’m hating what I’m writing when I’m asking for the third time if the trash needs to go out or sorting my socks.  Sometimes this leads to me writing on other projects or

The key thing here is that words on the page are what will get you through.  It doesn’t matter at the time if everything you write feels like crap.  That’s what editing is for.  And trust me, some of the “worst” scenes I’ve written when I come back and look at them with fresh eyes have been much better than I thought.

Don’t view writing as a complete process.  Never assume that what you write is final (not until you publish it).  There’s always editing, tweaking, and perfecting.  The goal of writing a novel, novella, or short story is to  get it done.   Once you’ve written the whole thing, you can worry about rewrites.

Also, don’t think that your first novel is going to be the best.  Writing is a continuous effort towards improvement.  You always have room to improve, to challenge yourself.  I’m not talking about gimmicks like writing a certain number of words a day, I’m talking about improving your craft.  Writing better characters, crafting a better story, a tighter plot.  Acknowledge that what you’ve written has room for improvement and move on.

I’ll take a moment to mention sales.  Sales (and reviews) will always be frustrating.  When you sell a huge number of books for no apparent reason one day only to have zero sales (or one, which can be more frustrating) the next.  Sometimes you’ll have a dozen reviews for your book pop up over a week… other times you’ll fight to get even one review for a book which has sold a thousand copies.

You have to just accept your sales for what they are.  Promotion, self promotion, advertising, these are all tools, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to individual reader preference.  People being people, they’ll buy your book if they want… or not.  Don’t get wrapped around sales, especially if they’re not where you want them to be.  Religiously hitting the update button on KDP or your publishing platform of choice to see if you’ve sold a book is not only OCD, but it uses up time you should be using for writing your next story.

The key part to all of this is to set realistic goals.  Don’t tell yourself you’ve got to write the entire novel in a week if you’ve only managed a few pages over the past month.  Don’t get too wrapped up in the quality of your writing, especially not for your first (or second or third) novel, especially not on the first draft.  Cut yourself a little slack.  Writing is hard.

In the end, writing is emotionally taxing.  If you can manage your expectations, if you can set realistic goals, you can manage the emotional and mental cost of writing.  You can be more productive (and happier with yourself) if you go into it with a clear understanding of what you expect to get out of it.  At the end of the day, that’s what you want, right, to be happy?

Writers just want to be happy people…

Quick Update

Just a quick update for now.  I’ve been extremely busy this past few days and also fighting a serious cold.  I’m sort of on the upswing, but I’m still utterly wiped out.  I’m still at work for 10 hours a day plus about an hour commute either way.  To top things off, the whole family has been sick, so things have been a bit stressful.

That said, I’ve been finalizing stuff with my cover artist for the Fate of the Tyrant.  The third book of the Eoriel Saga will be coming out sometime in June, basically as soon as I hear back from my alpha readers, get the edits done, and send it on to my beta readers for a second look.  There’s so much going on in this book that I’ve had to spend extra time on it, in order to do all the characters justice.

I’ll go more into what’s going on with my June update, but since it’s been quiet here I just wanted to pass that along.  That’s all for now, I’ll have more news and posts later.

Wile E. Coyote

Sort of how I'm feeling...
Sort of how I’m feeling…

Robert Heinlein wrote a few times about the “Crazy Years” which he plotted pretty much where we are now.   He didn’t go into much detail, besides off-hand mentions of the general collapse of nations and civilization and all the things that go with it: war, famine, riots, looting, you know, all that stuff that we’ve been without for a very long time.

I’m talking about serious privation, not the sort of distant wars we’ve seen since WWII… real, genuine hard times.  In David Weber and John Ringo’s Empire of Man books, they mention the Dagger Years, a similar time of chaos and bloodshed.

Looking out at the world and internal to our country, I’m worried that we’re headed that way.  There’s too much rhetoric and finger-pointing and no one really wants to fix these problems.  Problems, after all, employ people in the progress of fixing them.  The bigger the problem, the more people will allow “temporary” measure to repair them.

I feel like the US has run out, chasing the road runner… only to find ourselves running on empty air.  The rest of the world, is watching, some of them hoping for us to fall and others are encouraging us to keep running, insisting that we’ll find solid ground under our feet soon enough.  Meanwhile, here we are, the average person, starting to watch the ground approach.

How we got here isn’t important right now.  The important part is putting together some way to actually prevent that  impact with the hard edge where ground meets sky.

I’m increasingly coming to the opinion that we can’t avoid that impact.  In fact, it sometimes feels like Wile E Coyote’s rocket boots are running us full blast towards the ground.  People on all ends of the political spectrum are madly cackling as they pile up dynamite to cushion the fall, and, yes, someone has replaced the parachute with an anvil.

Where am I going with this?  Well, it isn’t all doom and gloom.  We’ve got enough people trying to rein in the crazy that we might just pull out of this death spiral.  What we need to do is start being rational.  Anger, hate, these lead to the dark side, yes?  We’ve got to stop looking for simple solutions and smooth-talking liars to fix things for us… we’ve got to fix things ourselves.

Be the example for your friends and neighbors.  Teach your kids the importance of hard work and independence.  Walk with your head high and be not afraid.  Fear is the mindkiller.  Speak your mind and most importantly… listen.  Communication has always been the ally of those who want control.  Don’t give up.  Don’t ever give up.

Do not go quietly into the night.  Rage, rage against the dying of the light.  Keep pumping those feet and maybe, just maybe, we’ll get across this empty space to the other side.

Website Update: Web Store

For those of you interested, I’ve got the web store up and operational.  You can find it here or visit the store link at the top of the page.  It is hosted on FB, since doing it here on wordpress would cost me more than I think I’ll make (please, prove me wrong and I’ll move it over here, I promise!)

There’s only three products for now: two shirts and a mug.  I’ll put a few more things up over the next few days as I get some of the art in.  See below for images of what you can find in the store (images are linked to the store).

Renegades: Origins Anubus shirt.  Get yours today!
Renegades: Origins Anubus shirt. Get yours today!
Run's mug is very important to him.
Run’s mug is very important to him.
Be sure you don't drink anything he offers you.
Be sure you don’t drink anything he offers you.
Rastar's keen grasp of history is only exceeded by his way with words.
Rastar’s keen grasp of history is only exceeded by his way with words.

Movie Review of Captain America: Civil War (No Spoilers)

Red vs Blue
Red vs Blue

No Spoilers.

I’m not a comic book fan.  In fact, the couple times I’ve tried to read comic books, I’ve come away frustrated and annoyed.  Mostly because I read too fast and I don’t stop to appreciate the art.

That said, I did read up on what “Civil War” would involve, seeing as I love the Marvel movies.  As the characters have grown through multiple movies, I find myself liking the series more and more.  Captain America has become my favorite… because unlike the other characters, he doesn’t struggle with the power he has, he struggles to do as much good as he can.  In fact, while I really liked and identified with Tony Stark back in Iron Man… well, I think he’s kind of turned into a self-absorbed a-hole of late.

Which sets him up brilliantly in this movie.  What we have is a fight where everyone has grounded, established reasons for picking sides over the stated premise.  In fact, it’s brilliantly established that the central characters have multiple reasons, some of them they may not even realize themselves, to oppose one another.

It gets better, though.  The fantastic writing pays out in scene after scene.  New characters are brought in perfectly, in a way that doesn’t break up the action or come across with inconsistency.  One scene flows into the next and when you finally feel like you can’t take anymore, the action takes a break and gives you some time to recover.

There’s fantastic use of dramatic tension and symbolism.  In just about every scene I would think to myself “wow, I see what you did there, good job.”  This is storytelling at it’s finest.  You’re here to see what would make Earth’s defenders throw down and they deliver… in a way that doesn’t leave you doubting why for an instant.

I don’t normally like movies where the good guys are at odds.  In fact, it’s a storyline that I hate in books, movies, and TV.  Having been at odds with friends before, I hate the feeling, the anger and at the same time that feeling that something in the world is wrong.  Seeing it in movies often just makes me irritated.  In Captain America Civil War, there’s none of that.  Yes, I wish that our heroes would stop and talk things out, but their circumstances are such that they have no choice other than to be who they are.  Besides, we came to see them punching each other.

Thematically, Civil War is about individual rights and freedoms against the collective.  In my mind, they pulled it off brilliantly.  There were no compromises, no pulled punches.  These superheroes are responsible for saving or failing to save the lives of thousands, maybe millions (possibly all of Earth).  Their fight right now comes back to the very reasons they are heroes.  It’s simple enough to say “I’m the good guy, this is just what I do.”  It’s a lot harder to make a movie like this, where the heroes are forced to confront their own moralities.

Would I have liked a different storyline?  Probably… but I think the movies would be poorer for it.  In Captain America: Civil War the writers and directors drew a line in the sand.  They forced the characters to grow and us as an audience as well.  If we want to watch big stupid men pummel each other and slaughter enemies without consequence, we should go watch some other movies (Looking at you DC).  If we want to see genuine, real, people, who do what they do for complex reasons and who really struggle to improve the world and take responsibility for their actions, then this is the movie you should be watching.

If you’ve enjoyed any of the Marvel movies, go and see Civil War.  You won’t regret it.

Kal’s May 2016 Forecast

May is here!  I’m excited for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I’ve started work on The Sacred Stars, the next book of the Shadow Space Chronicles.  This one takes a step back from the huge battles of The Shattered Empire and The Prodigal Emperor and has a smaller cast as well.  If all goes well, I’ll have it done by the end of the month, which means out to my alpha readers in June and published in early July.

In other news, Fate of the Tyrant is almost ready.  It wraps up the initial trilogy of the Eoriel Saga and paves the way for the rest of the series.  I’ll do a final round of edits and then I just need to wait to hear back from my alpha and beta readers.  Look for a blurb and snippets as well as the cover to appear over the next few weeks.

In other news, I’m finishing the final setup for a store here on the website as well as coordinating things with Sutek Press to start selling signed copies of my books there.  I’ll post more when it’s all ready to go.

Next month I start work on an urban fantasy book I’ve had knocking around in my head for a while.  It’s another book I’m going to send to publishers, so don’t expect to hear much about it right away.

Oh, yeah, and a little movie called Captain America: Civil War comes out this weekend.  I’m going to see that.  Maybe twice if it lives up to the hype.  Expect a review on Monday.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for reading!

Oh… Hugo

So, as some of you have heard, the announcement of the Hugo Award Finalists (as opposed to nominees) has come out.  And we’ve got an interesting variety there.  Everything from some good, well written stuff to, well, Space Raptor Butt Invasion.

There’s been a variety of articles written about all this.  At this point, the Hugo Awards went from quietly excluding people they didn’t like to an outright war between Puppy Haters, Sad Puppies, and Rabid Puppies.  The awkward part being the “right wing” Sad puppies are really the moderates here, seeking to nominate books based upon merit alone.  On the one end you’ve got the people who want the award to be a precious token passed between insiders and on the other you’ve got a host of angry people who are tired of politically correct, bland, crap being given awards because the authors check the right boxes within the exclusive club.

The really sad part is that the award that used to mean quite a bit became so relatively worthless that both sides are now willing to burn it to the ground to spite the other.

That, my friends, is what you get when you push things too far one side or the other.  I’m afraid the same thing is happening now in US politics, where we have a clown show up for the presidential nomination.   Not because any of these candidates will make things markedly better, but because at this point, both sides are so raveningly angry that they just want to punish “those other people.”

As of this time, I’m coining the term a “Hugo” for a clusterfuck of gratuitous proportions, made up of angry people who want to see things destroyed.  I’ll be certain to use it in my books going forward, where appropriate.  Sadly, that’ll be the only weight the award will carry going forward.

It’s a Hugo of a situation.