Picking My Next Project

Earlier this week, I finished the current draft of the project I’d been working on since last February(!) It ended up being around 90,000 words (though I’d cut it down from around 110,000). (Doing a bit of math, that’s 347 writing days since I started the project. At 1,000 words/day, I should have gotten 347,000 words written. There was a lot more start/stop/start/stop to this project than I would have liked.)

In any case, that leaves me in the spot of “what do I write next?”

In many ways, it feels a lot like how I feel when I’m trying to pick a movie to watch. I’ve had several ideas, and I’ve been keeping track of them as they come to me, but nothing’s really striking me at the moment. It’s almost definitely going to be another historical thriller, but something’s going to have to resonate with me before I dive in. I spent so many years as a writer writing in different genres and different topics, to have written three books in the same genre in a row feels very odd. Looking at writing a fourth in it? My first thought was, “How in the world can I write anything different than what I’ve already done?”

Which is silly, of course. I mean, look at any number of television murder mystery series out there. They churn out mystery after mystery, week after week. Are the mysteries similar? Well, yes. Sort of. The difference is the characters involved and the specifics for each one. Writing another book that draws on the same sort of themes I’ve already been dealing with isn’t bad. It’s a good way of building a following. But it’s an approach that I don’t have a ton of experience with, and so there’s a learning curve involved.

What am I trying out right now? The same thing I did when coming up with the ideas for my finished project and Don’t Go to Sleep before that: reading a lot of old newspaper articles. Doing web searches for interesting murder cases. I’ve had a few things pop up already, but nothing that’s really felt like a perfect fit. Once I have a number of ideas, I’ll pass those on to my editor to see what she thinks of them. If any of them click, then I’ll move on to plotting. Otherwise, it’s rinse and repeat at the idea factory.

I’m on the hunt for a real life crime (it doesn’t necessarily have to be a murder) to build a story around. I don’t want it too recent (because I don’t like writing about people who are still alive), but I’ve also discovered that writing books too far back in time become progressively more difficult, though I wonder if this would be the case if I went even further back. The things that always hangs me up is technological advances. When did a certain invention come out? How familiar or common would it be? That kind of thing. Go back far enough, and the speed of inventions and developments plummets.

Anyway, that’s where my writing time is focused at the moment. Wish me luck.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

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Tomas Update: Week 17 in Žilina

Ahojte všetci! Back at it again and STILL IN ŽILINA!! I am so excited to serve another transfer here, I love the area and its people. There are some big changes though: first off, I am now with elder Rigby (Noftle has gone off to Bratislava) and second, on Wednesday we are getting 3 sister missionaries here too so there will be two companionships, plus the Ottos! I wasn’t expecting that at all but it’s gonna be really good and I think things will speed up a lot. It will take some figuring out as I’ve never worked with another companionship around so I have no clue how it goes but things will be super different here.

Okay, besides transfers here is what happened:

Tuesday Noftle and I went out to get some surveys done in Bytča, a town close to žilina. There’s a really pretty castle there and the namestie is nice, also we saw a neat old synagogue. They also had ice cream open there so that’s my first Slovak ice cream of the mission! My budget better get ready for more of that as it gets warmer…

Wednesday was pretty tame and we did more surveys, also made a nice halušky batch that night along with a video of it. Not a ton else there to say.

Also a pretty average Thursday, we had a very nice last meeting of the transfer with our consistent Thursday member. We also planned pretty good that day in case both of us left.

Friday was a very nice day, actually pretty much this whole week has been soooooo nice out. We did more surveys, made fliers for the upcoming general conference, helped with the Bible project, and had a check in with Prezident Skousen. We ended up moving district council to make it work better for Trenčín.

Okay, Saturday was one of the craziest days I’ve had. That morning was the big ol transfer call where we found out where everyone was going, including the addition of sister missionaries here. Then right after that basically we drive out to Banská Bystrica for another baptism there, such a wonderful service, and it’s always nice to watch someone take that step toward Christ. Banská has been building some crazy momentum and I’m so happy and excited for them, things are going great there. Then after that we drove back home but stopped because the sunset in the valley was so pretty and took some pictures. You’ll see them in the album, we took quite a few. I’m glad I happened to have the tripod. After that we had our final district council and left each other with our final compliments which was a really sweet moment, and that was Saturday. We did so much I don’t even know how we managed. It was great though.

Okay, then Sunday we actually went to church twice. That morning we got up and I was all upset that the night felt short and then I realized it was daylight savings here and it actually was an hour shorter. Unfortunately almost no one came to church except one of our friends but it was good that we had it anyways. Also one of our ad referrals ended up going to church in Trenčín so that’s a win. After that we went to Banská again for church and they had the opposite problem-almost not enough chairs! It was nice to see that room so full of people. Then we headed back home, had dinner with the Ottos, and Noftle packed up.

That brings us to today – nothing crazy, just basically all of the elders coming through žilina so they could get to their new areas. It was nice to see everyone but I will miss elder Noftle. Anyways, now we’re just getting unpacked and set up, and the sisters will come in Wednesday. Also it was cold today weirdly enough but other than that it’s been like 13c most days!

Okay, that’s about it for me this week. I’m excited to keep pushing here in žilina and hope you’re all well. I guess I’ll keep the same album for another transfer, but it’s got like 800 pictures or something so who knows. 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/qYoYaKPmkqFZHoVM7

S láskou, 

Starší Cundick 

On that Brandon Sanderson Article in Wired

I debated even writing this. Normally I don’t like to amplify articles I dislike, but in this case, I’m making an exception to the rule, just because it ticked me off so much.

Yesterday, Wired ran an article on Brandon Sanderson. I was very excited to see it pop up in my feed, as I love it when friends have cool things happen to them. So I clicked over and read it, and discovered this was Anything But Cool. The author basically spent the entire article talking about what a bad writer Brandon is, how strange he is, how strange his fans are, how stupid fantasy is, and how odd Brandon’s religion is. This coming from a reporter who Brandon clearly invited in to spend time with him and his family and his friends. It was an article hit job, and it irritated me on many levels.

First off, there’s the “look at all the stupid geeks liking stupid things like named swords and cosplay” mentality that pervaded the article. This sent me back to middle school, when I used to get made fun of because the books I read were so thick. (True story: I would go to the library and look for the thickest book I could find and then read it, because they were usually awesome.) I thought we’re past the “geeks are stupid” phase, but apparently everyone didn’t get the memo. Now, you have to like one of the approved geeky things, like George RR Martin or JK Rowling.

I don’t understand this line of thinking. If people like something, let them like it. If it irritates you for some odd reason, that probably says more about you than it does about them. Why spend an entire article showing people what a bonehead you are?

One of the most frequent critiques of Brandon’s books that I’ve seen is that they’re poorly written. That he’s got too many characters nodding or making other facial expressions. That sometimes he tells instead of shows, or that his prose isn’t as lyrical as other authors’. This is an argument that holds no weight with me. His books aren’t designed to be works of art. They’re stories, and he’s a storyteller. He’s focused on making a world and the characters in it come alive in your mind, and he does that superbly. If he were to inject a bunch of fancy prose into all of that, it would actively detract from what he’s trying to do. Criticizing a book because it does what it wants to do too well? That’s not a criticism.

Brandon’s religion has been another thing that’s drawn ire from a number of critics, though this article really brought that to a different level, making it seem like Brandon views himself as a god, and that all these crazy fans of his support him in the same way acolytes support a religion. Again, hitting on a religion isn’t something I’m good with.

But what really got my goat was the constant belittling of Brandon. Of portraying him as this obsessive basement dweller of an author who has no life and can’t do anything other than write. Because that’s not Brandon, and anyone who spent a few days with Brandon (as the author did) should be able to recognize that.

Brandon is a caring, kind person who genuinely looks out for people. He takes time for his fans not because he’s stuck up, but because he loves what he does, and he cares about them. He realizes it’s his fans that have made him so successful, and he wants to do what he can to say thank you. Has he hired many of his friends? Yes. He has. But how is that bad? When I go over to his place in Utah, I see a bunch of my old friends there, all of them happily engaged in doing something they love.

If you’re a Latter-day Saint, the best example I can give you of who Brandon is is this. When we were back at BYU together, he was the Elders Quorum President. I remember one day he had to leave early from a writing group meeting. When I asked him why, he said he had to go home teaching. That was a thing where members would go to other members’ houses and check up with them, make sure they were okay, and give a spiritual thought. Typically someone would have 3 or 4 families they home taught. Brandon had done that for his quorum: given everyone the normal number, so it wasn’t too overwhelming. He’d given himself something like 18 families that were harder to reach, and he did his best to keep up with them.

Is Brandon a geek? Yes, and proud of it. But he’s also a genuinely good human being. He’s fun to be around. He’s got a great sense of humor. And he’s been a friend of mine for a long time. I don’t like it when my friends get torn down. Even the ones who are fabulously wealthy fancy pants authors.

And I guess that’s all I have to say about that.

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Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking this DON’T GO TO SLEEP Amazon link. It will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

Tomas Update: Week 16 in Žilina

Ahojte všetci! A more chill week this week, and also this is gonna be the last email I write before transfers. Not sure what next week will bring or how stuff is gonna go down, but I’m excited for the future. Anyways, here’s what happened this week:

Tuesday was pretty rainy but we decided to go out and get those surveys done anyways. We went over to where one of our member families lives and visited them which was pretty nice, and then on the way back found a sick mural and also some spinny stuff. I haven’t been that dizzy in a while but I’m glad we checked out the park in the way back because on the way over the thought definitely crossed my mind. That evening we also cranked more on that Bible project (I’ve been accidentally reading Slovak words in a Czech way now) and had our English class. 

Wednesday was more surveys, we were out doing that for like 3 hours. Normally we don’t do these but it’s an initiative we have running for another week so expect more about em next email. We have hit the expected quota for young people and as such are now going for older people and they are way less willing do even scan the qr code. It’s been kind tough. But the sunset that day was pretty nice and I just can’t get enough of the námestie (like the main square) here, even though I’ve lived here for four months. We finished up the last of our Bible section that evening. 

Thursday we had the ottos, the senior missionaries in Žilina, come by and make sure we weren’t living in like bad conditions in our apartment. Then we went out to lunch with them and visited our weekly member and planned out the week like usual on Thursdays. That evening we had our weekly Bible club over zoom and had a nice discussion about the yoke of Christ in Matthew. 

Friday we had our district council with Trenčín elders, where we basically discuss how to move forward in our areas and what we can do. Then we hit the streets for some more surveys and called a bunch of our people that had responded to the ads the mission runs on facebook in the evening. Also that day I got my film back and it just looks so good. I might be sold on doing more black and white in the future, because some of those pictures are just incredible. Very happy and also my camera is fixed so the fabric paint thing worked and no more Christmas trees. 

Saturday was also a bit of an adventure, we headed out to an Eastern suburb of Žilina to visit a member who had been inactive for a while. He wasn’t home but we saw a lot of the outer part of the city that we hadn’t seen. There was also a neat display in a mall we walked through that had a фєд-4, the same camera that I have. It was soooo nice out that day and great to get out into the sun. 

Sunday was nice, I had a talk over the plan of salvation that I still write pretty last minute. Working on that. It went well though and we had 2 friends show up to church which was great. We also had a zoom meeting with a member in Prague who was gonna help us teach one of our friends here since they like the same philosopher (Kierkegaard). That went really well. Then more calls in the evening. 

Okay that brings us to Monday, we met up with Banská Bystrica and Trenčín (including the senior missionaries) and went out to a castle south of us called Lietava. It was pretty cool and also super nice out. We played chess against the guys that worked up there and took some good pictures, then headed back home. I started learning some card tricks and then we taught one of our friends that evening with the member from Prague. 

Okay, that’s about it. Here’s the link to the album as usual, including the new black and white film photos. 

https://photos.app.goo.gl/qYoYaKPmkqFZHoVM7

Hope you’re all doing well and enjoying the beginnings of spring! I sure am, it’s more fun to be outside when it isn’t trying to kill you. See you next week! 

S láskou, 

Starší Cundick

On My Grandmother

These are far from my favorite posts to write. My Grandmother (Grammie) died on Friday quite suddenly. Often this is a bad thing, but as far as sudden deaths go, this was one of the better ones. She was fine on Wednesday, caught pneumonia Thursday and slipped away the next day, surrounded by loved ones. She was in her nineties. That said, all deaths are difficult. It can be very hard to be right there when your loved one is passing, but it’s also rough to be across the country.

Her funeral will be Friday, and this is one that I’m going to miss. I debated for a while before making the decision not to go, but in the end, it just felt like I’m not in a mental space where I can really dive into everything that funeral will entail. (Flying already puts me through the ringer. Adding in another viewing and funeral so soon after the August I went through . . . I can’t.) Of course, I also feel conflicted about that, but this is a no win scenario for me, and I’m trying to navigate it as best I can.

Grammie was the driving force behind so much of what went on in the family. I’ll try and capture some of that as best I can here, though it’s always impossible to do anyone any sort of justice in a single blog post. Here are some of the memories that first come to mind.

  • Grammie and Boba hosted a “Cabin Week” for all their grandchildren every summer. It was a week long stay at the family cabin they built up in the Wasatch Mountains. Even though I lived in the east, I would fly out to Utah for a month each summer, and they always made sure to schedule the week during the time my brother and sister and I were there. This wasn’t a simple vacation. Grammie planned the whole thing out ahead of time. She made all the meals (a big breakfast and a big dinner each day), ran the activities (arts and crafts, taffy pulling, board games, card games, and more), and kept it all running smoothly. These cabin weeks were a huge influence on me. I looked forward to them every year, and many of the things I love to do most intersect with things I did back then. Games. Movies. Fishing. Spending time together with family. It’s because of those weeks that my cousins and I on that side are so close. I can’t imagine how much work it would have been to coordinate this for around 15-20 kids (and no parents) each year, with ages spanning from around 6 all the way up to 17. But she did it, and did it wonderfully. (Have you ever tried making french toast for five teenage boys who have decided to do an eating contest? I think my brother had about 14 pieces all by himself. I wonder how many loaves she went through?)
  • She continued that togetherness theme by having dessert at her house open to any family who wanted to come, every Sunday evening. Almost all of her family still lives out in Utah, so there were many Sundays when there would be around thirty people milling through at different times. Sometimes I’d get my favorite dessert of hers (chocolate cake with cool whip in the middle), and sometimes I’d get popcorn balls (which were my favorite to disparage, though they were still delicious). It was always a great opportunity to catch up with the rest of the family and find out what they were up to. (And it’s a big family. She had five children, all of them married, with over 20 grandchildren. Many families don’t have that kind of close knit relationship these days. She made sure hers had it.
  • Of course, with all of that togetherness came a fair bit in terms of expectations. Grammie wanted all her family to be there, and when you weren’t, she made sure you knew she had noticed. We would get together at her house for each major holiday, and if I was going to skip out on one, I felt like I really needed a good reason. Sometimes that “mandatory fun” was something I bristled at, and I’ve tried to navigate the balance between family togetherness and independence ever since. That said. the close relations she fostered within her family is something I really admire, and I’m doing my best to do the same thing for my kids, even if it’s in different ways.
  • When Denisa and I chose to elope, Grammie was one of the people I worried would take it the hardest, because of that devotion to doing all things together as a family. Missing out on a wedding? I didn’t know how that would go. So I was very surprised to see how genuinely happy she was for us, and how she never gave us any grief at all about the decision. (This was helped in part by the fact that we chose to get married in the Manti Temple, which some of her ancestors helped build. It was the “family temple,” and so that scored me some extra credit.
  • She was also a big believer in finishing all your food, and eating what was put in front of you. I love to fish, but I don’t like to eat what I catch. During Cabin Week, when trout was served, you were eating trout. And if you didn’t eat it, you’d sit at the table until you had. Is there a chance I would have come to like fish over time, had I not been forced to eat it when I disliked it? The world will never know.
  • Grammie and Boba served a mission in Jerusalem for a few years while I was in high school. She would diligently write letters every week, and she worked hard at fostering a sense of community over there. She was (if you haven’t noticed) an excellent organizer, a trait I likely inherited in part from her. Because of their work there, I decided I wanted to spend a semester in Jerusalem as well, and it’s one of my favorite life experiences.
  • She kept close track of every birthday in the family, and card would arrive like clockwork. She still made sure to mail me a letter each year on my birthday. This is not something I have inherited. I’m terrible at keeping track of those details.
  • She was a huge fan of books and movies. Always reading something. Always ready to introduce someone to a good classic film. The Cabin was stocked with a slew of great movies, and much of my appreciation for older films can be traced directly back to that collection she amassed.
  • She was also an avid card gamer. Canasta was the game of choice, typically, but she was also fond of trick taking games like Rook or Hearts. Again, I played many many games with her, and long gaming sessions at the Cabin set me up for my love of games today.
  • Her baking was fantastic. Pot roast dinners on Sunday. Birthday dinners for each of her children and their families. She gave all her family a copy of all her favorite recipes, and I still make many of them regularly. (Of course, the best and most used recipe is the one for orange rolls, which she created personally. No celebration is really complete without orange rolls . . .)
  • Boba died seven years ago, and I know she’s been looking forward to being reunited with him. That said, it was also often amusing to see how willing she was to tell him what to do, and how ready he was to do it. I wonder how long it took once they were reunited for her to comment on something that really should have been done years ago.

As I said before, her death isn’t a shock by any means, but from that sampling of memories, it should be clear what an influence she’s been on me, and it’s going to take some getting used to, knowing that she’s no longer there in Utah, playing games and reading books and doing crosswords. She will be missed.

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