Writing Update: August 2019

It’s been a while since I checked in to update you all about my various writing endeavors. People often ask if I’m still writing, and the answer is always yes. I’ve got many different projects in the fire in one way or another. Here’s a breakdown of everything I’ve written or am working on writing:

  • Book One: Into the Elevator. Some fun stuff in this adventure about a girl transported to a fantasy realm, but it’s still a first book. I haven’t even reread it in years. Might be amusing to do so at some point, but . . . not likely there’s much here worth salvaging.
  • Book Two: Blood Countess. My one and only experiment writing a book with a partner. It was intended to bounce back and forth between medieval and present day Slovakia, with real-life evil noble Countess Bathory as the link between them. I wrote my half. The other half never really came together. Interestingly, one of the villains was a Vodnik in this one. No chance this ever gets submitted anywhere.
  • Book Three: Weaver of Dreams. The first book I ever submitted anywhere. A parallel world fantasy I still like the idea of, where our world is mirrored in a world of dreams. Good enough to catch the interest of my agent, though not good enough to convince him to represent me. Maybe I’ll revisit some ideas at some point. Shelved for now.
  • Book Four: Buttersby. Published! I actually wrote what’s essentially a trilogy for this one, though only the first book was published as Cavern of Babel. Still the world’s only alpaca fantasy, I believe. Available as an eBook over at Amazon, or you can get it by being a Patron for even one month over at my Patreon page.
  • Book Five: Adventures of Barboy. A comic fantasy about a plucky young man who has to save his city from a horde of zombies. Rewritten later (see Book Eight). Shelved.
  • Book Six: Vodnik. Published! Print copy available here. YA contemporary fantasy about a boy who moves to Slovakia and discovers he can see and interact with creatures from Slovak folklore. Some of them want to kill him . . . Would still love to write a sequel someday, but that day is unlikely to ever overlap with our current timeline.
  • Book Seven: Ichabod. An adaptation of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, jammed together with Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None and Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo. The whole thing is available for my Patrons, but that’s as close to real publication as this is likely to get.
  • Book Eight: Pawn of the Dead. A rewrite of Book Five, but set as a contemporary fantasy. Interestingly, it takes place at my own high school. A fun book, but I’m not sure it will ever do anything. Maybe I should reread it sometime to be sure. It’s currently being posted in chapter increments for my Patrons.
  • Book Nine: Tarnhelm. A YA teen noir fantasy. Revised and submitted to editors. It caught some attention at the time, but never enough to seal the deal. These days after the #metoo movement, the protagonist has some issues that might make publication even more problematic. It would need some serious revision to make it work, I worry. Shelved for now.
  • Book Ten: Get Cupid. I worked on this one a long time, and in the end, it went nowhere. YA contemporary fantasy about a group of teens who set out to rob a Vegas casino. Harry Potter meets Oceans Eleven. Rewritten in Book Twelve.
  • Book Eleven: The Memory Thief. Published! “Something Wicked This Way Comes” meets Pixar’s “Inside Out.” Available as an eBook or in Print. Buy it today!
  • Book Twelve: Our Lady of Questionable Morals. I loved the concept of Get Cupid, and I just couldn’t let it go, so I gave it another shot, moving it from Vegas to a private school and increasing the con man aspects. Revised and submitted to editors. Got some attention, but never enough. Shelved for now, though I wish it might still see print one day.
  • Book Thirteen: The Book Binder’s Curse. I wrote this one in a month for NaNoWriMo. An adaptation of Peter Pan that I had a lot of fun with, but which my agents . . . didn’t appreciate. 🙂 Shelved.
  • Book Fourteen: Magic at 30,000 Feet. Snakes on a Plane meets Hunger Games and Harry Potter. I just finished a third draft, and it’s getting sent out to editors soon. Cross your fingers.
  • Book Fifteen: Utopia. My only science fiction novel. Part Clockwork Orange, part Fury Road, part Star Trek, with mice. I love this book, and I have high hopes for it. It’s complete and should go out to editors soon. Again, wish me luck.
  • Book Sixteen: A sequel to The Memory Thief. I almost accidentally typed the title. It’s revised and pretty much ready for publication, but it’s waiting on the big screen adaptation of The Memory Thief, which puts this squarely in one of the lower circles of Development Hell. This is a great book. I hope you get to read it some day.
  • Book Seventeen: Murder Castle. A historical mystery/suspense set in Chicago in the 1890s. A girl’s sister goes missing, and she travels out to Chicago to find her, eventually going undercover as a maid in the same hotel where her sister was last seen. A hotel where many of the maids have gone missing before. Currently on submission with editors.
  • Book Eighteen: Codename Silverado. A steampunk western fantasy. I’ve finished most of the first draft, but I’m leaving it be for a while so I can reread it and finish it off in a while. I want to get a fresh read on things.

So what am I up to now? I’m actually trying to hammer out the plot for book one of what I’d love to see as a trilogy, though I’m intentionally making it so that Book One could stand alone. Game of Thrones meets Harry Potter, but with more sex. (Just kidding. I mean “less sex.”) It’s been fun for now as a plotting exercise, but I haven’t written a single word of it yet. I need to get the plot down and then send it to my agent to get his take on it before I do anything with it.

And that brings you up to speed with my current life as a writer. A number of things in the pipeline, but nothing solid yet. Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!

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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, and I’m now putting up chapters from 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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

Bringing Board Games to the Library

When I was down at ALA this summer, I attended a session focused on board gaming and libraries. As an academic librarian, I’ve often looked with envy at the fun activities public libraries get to run from time to time. Movie nights. Festivals. Board games. So much of what I do is focused purely on the academic side of reading. Research. Information evaluation, etc. We do a few things more slanted toward fun, but I’d never really considered board games as a good fit for the library.

But while I was at that session, I suddenly found myself questioning that assumption. Why wouldn’t board games fit with the rest of my offerings? We have space where people could play games. College students love games. We do activities from time to time focused on stress relief. What was stopping me? What’s the point in being the director of a library if you can’t bring board games into the fold?

While that thought was still fresh in my head, I went with a friend to a board game cafe. (Thirsty Dice in Philadelphia.) It’s such a great set up. You’ve got all these games waiting to be played, arranged by type of game, number of players, difficulty, length of time to play it, etc. There are “board game baristas” waiting to give game recommendations and teach people how to play if they’re not sure. You can go in and spend hours playing old favorites or learning new ones.

Wouldn’t it be great to bring that to my institution?

I’ve decided to go ahead and give it a shot. There are a couple of issues that I’m not 100% sure won’t cause problems, of course. My plan is to have the games stay in the library (non-circulating), but I’m also planning to just have them out in the general area where people can see them and use them as they wish. I debated putting them back behind the circulation desk, but in the end I thought that would make it less likely that the games get used. Of course, with them out in the open, we run the risk of the games being “permanently borrowed” or of pieces wandering off. I want to believe that won’t be a huge issue, however. It’s been my experience that board gamers want to play games. If they have a game they love, they want to own it. If they want to own it, they want a fresh, pristine game to own, and not one that’s been communally used.

In the end, I decided I’d just try it out and see how it went. I have some games I’m donating to the collection to start things off, and I might buy a few more core games to get the ball rolling. From there . . . we’ll see. See if the games get used. See if the pieces go missing. See what the response is from students. At the very least, it’ll be a fun experiment. In an ideal world, I’ll start to offer some programming around the games. Have game nights. Work with some student clubs to run activities. Foster more gaming events. If things go well, it could be a really fun addition to our offerings.

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, and I’m now putting up chapters from 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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

Television Review: When They See Us

I heard good things about When They See Us as soon as it was released on Netflix. A dramatized retelling of the Central Park Five rape case in the 80s that has since gone on to garner 12 Emmy nominations. It went straight to the top of my “Watch Next” list, and I finished the mini-series last week.

As expected, it’s an absolutely brutal experience. If you’re not aware of what went on in the case, it was focused around the rape of a jogger in New York City. The night she was raped, a large group of boys had been in the area, assaulting several other people. Police rounded up who they could, and five of those boys (four 15 year olds and a 16 year old) eventually ended up being accused and convicted of the rape, primarily based on them admitting to the act on camera in taped confessions. Years later, another man came forward and confessed to the crime. He was a serial rapist who’d been active in NYC at that time, and DNA evidence proved he committed the crime. The 5 boys were exonerated, though some still believe they were part of the assault of the woman.

So this is not exactly material that’s going to leave you feeling uplifted and happy. But I think it’s important to watch. It reminded me in many ways of The Wire. (As a heads up, it’s TV-MA, largely for language.) But the problem with a work like this is that it’s so hard to use it as fodder to get any real change implemented, and that’s even more depressing.

Any time you’re dealing with “facts,” people want to come out and dispute the facts. Ave DuVernay’s depiction of this historical event leaves little in the way of justification for the police. Taken at face value, it’s clear these 5 boys were wrongly accused, and that what happened to them was a travesty of justice. The people involved in those false convictions are monstrous for what they did to those boys. But of course, the people involved then say the depiction wasn’t accurate, and that key pieces of evidence were left out of the mini-series to make it all seem more cut and dried. It reminds me of the Making a Murder show that came out a while ago.

I was not present at the scene of the crime. I can’t say definitively what happened and what didn’t happen, and at this point in time, there’s nothing that can really be done to solve the past in this instance. NYC paid over $40 million to settle a case against it by the 5, though naturally some say that shouldn’t have happened. That they were guilty and remain guilty.

But to me, the longer this remains focused on finding out “exactly what happened” in this particular case, the bigger chance there is that things similar to what is depicted in the mini-series continue to happen. Do police beat false confessions out of suspects? I cannot imagine that they don’t. This isn’t because I don’t trust police officers. It’s because I recognize that any system as large as the American criminal justice system is inevitably going to have problems. Just as I know and respect many doctors, I still recognize the fact that doctors will make mistakes. They will misdiagnose. Wrong limbs will be amputated. Massive blunders happen. Our goal should always be 100% accuracy, but anyone who thinks we’re already there in any area is delusional.

And yet so often the approach of the law in America seems to be “police don’t make mistakes and are never crooked.” If you speak out against any instances, some will accuse you of slander or bias. But for our justice system to improve, it can’t be an “all or nothing” defense of it. Just because we acknowledge there are serious flaws in some areas doesn’t mean we’re accusing the whole thing of being rotten.

When I watched this mini-series, I got angry. Angry that things like this can happen in our country. Angry that people can have their lives ruined so that other people can slap a proverbial “problem solved” sticker on an issue or a case. I want that to stop. I want a justice system that’s open and accountable. I’m very glad police have taken to wearing cameras on them at all times, though it’s disappointing that’s what it’s taken to get some of these travesties brought to light.

I get it. I understand life is complex, and the cut and dried Hollywood solutions on screen are rarely that way in real life. But at the same time, I’m growing very tired of the hackneyed tendency of some (mainly on the right) to pat other people on the head and claim that they’re all misguided children. And even as I write this, I know the reaction some will have to it. But I challenge anyone to try to argue that events like those depicted in this series don’t happen. If we can at least agree that they do, and that they shouldn’t, perhaps we could start to come up with ways to ensure less of them do in the future.

In any case, this is something I think should be watched. Yes, it’s extremely uncomfortable. And it’s not perfect. There are a few pacing issues in spots, but I ended up giving it a 9.5/10. Highly recommended. Now I want to search out the Ken Burns documentary that was made on the same topic.

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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, and I’m now putting up chapters from 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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

Invisible Weights

I imagine a fair number of you have been skiing. If you have, then you can surely relate to the feeling of taking off a pair of ski boots after you’ve had them on for a whole day. They’re clunky and very restrictive, and when you take them off, it’s amazing how much lighter your feet and legs feel. Like they’ve suddenly been freed from something you didn’t realize was as bad as it was.

Now imagine that you’ve had ski boots on for months. Years even. Imagine what it would feel like to take them off, even for a little bit.

I think there are weights we all carry, some voluntary and some involuntary. We carry them all around for long enough that we sometimes forget they’re even there. We wonder why we’re so tired all the time, or why just getting through the day can be exhausting. And it’s only when we take a moment now and then to look at all the things we’re carrying around that we notice just how much we’re shouldering.

Case in point. As a member of the Maine Library Association presidency for the past six years, it was never a “burden” that I felt was overwhelming. It was work I enjoyed doing, and it needed doing. But when I stepped out of that role a few months ago, there was definitely a feeling of taking off a load I’d been carrying around for so long I’d forgotten how heavy it had become. You take that responsibility and tuck it away in a corner of your mind, reserving some mental space for it.

Second example: with Tomas and DC gone to Fiddle Camp this past week, it’s been amazing to me to see how much extra time it feels like I have. Please note: this is not me complaining about having kids at all. I love them all dearly and am very happy to be their father. But it is another responsibility that I take care of each day. I’ll come home from work and check with them to see how they’re doing. I’ll keep track of the things they need to do, or the things they’d like me to do. You wouldn’t think it takes that much mental space to keep track of it all for kids who are old enough to be self-directing (for the most part), but this week, I realized I’d been selling the job short. It still takes time and emotional energy.

The same logically holds true for all the relationships we have in life. Spouse. Parent. Child. Friend. Co-worker. Anything we need to put effort into to maintain. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. (In my experience, anything worth real value takes effort.) But in some situations, it can certainly be a problem. Because these burdens are always there, it can be hard to tell if you’re in a relationship that’s taking too much of your time and attention. As hard as it is to imagine forgetting to take off your ski boots when you’re done skiing, I suppose it’s theoretically possible.

So what to do with this new observation? In most cases, I imagine the answer is “not much.” Like I said, this is a “burden” I want. One that’s rewarding and worth the effort. But perhaps it would be useful now and then to try and identify all the burdens we’re carrying, particularly the ones we might not realize are even there. Because if we could identify just a couple of those that aren’t necessary anymore, that can free up some much needed mental space for all the other things we’re doing.

It’s something to think about . . .

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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, and I’m now putting up chapters from 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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

The Accidental Sports Parent

It never crossed my mind that one day I might end up the parent of a high school athlete. I was about as far from an athlete in high school as I am today, and that’s saying something. Back in Council Rock, the school was enormous. My graduating class had 850 students in it. With a school that size, I suppose it’s fairly natural that there will be distinct cliques within it. Groups of students who identify primarily by their main interests. There were very fully developed, robust programs in everything from band to chorus to drama to a whole slew of sports, and then there were the typical array of classes according to difficulty level.

I was in all the most difficult classes. That was my first priority. Second was band. Almost all of my friends were in band or orchestra, though I was tangentially involved in drama. I was in a play, and I had a number of friends in drama, but it wasn’t what I identified most with. There were smaller connections as well (the school paper, for example), and I had a few friends outside those spheres, but that was almost always because they were in the other honors classes with me. I had one very close friend on cross country, but I never paid any attention to what he did when he was competing. It simply didn’t interest me at all, so it remained a mystery.

Denisa and I never enrolled the kids in any sports programs. No youth football. No little league. No soccer. They’re all active skiers, but they never expressed much of an interest in trying for the ski teams. They’ve gotten into music, and they’ve done some summer activities like tennis and rock climbing, but they’ve generally been focused elsewhere. (DC and MC both expressed fleeting interest in dance. That didn’t happen for a litany of reasons.)

His freshman year, Tomas was very active in school activities. Math club, the Franklin County Fiddlers, and Robotics dominated his afternoons. That seemed like more than enough to keep him occupied. But what I didn’t realize was that in a school with just around 150 in a graduating class, there can be a whole lot more bleed through between cliques than there seemed to be in my school. A ton of kids who are in Fiddlers are also on Cross Country, for example, including many of his close friends.

So when he expressed interest in joining the team, Denisa and I were perhaps a bit surprised, but definitely encouraging. What was one more after school activity, more or less? What I failed to realize was just how all encompassing a sport can be. Denisa went to the first big meeting, and . . . wow. Practice after school every day. Meets most weekends. Team dinners the night before meets. Fundraisers. Practices in the summer. For the first two and a half months of the year, he’s going to be living the Cross Country life.

And I still don’t know where I fit into all of that as a parent. Do I go to the team dinners? Do I go to all the different meets? What do I do there? Can you even see anything at a cross country event? Maybe I should have been paying better attention back in high school. Do I go to away meets? Home meets? I just don’t know where I fit into all of this. On the one hand, I want to be supportive. On the other, I recognize and remember that not all parents are involved to the same extent. My parents were never really “band parents” the way some of my friends’ parents were, and I was fine with that. They came to a number of events, but by no means all of the many marching band competitions.

This isn’t a high level of stress for me or anything. I know it’ll all iron itself out, and Tomas isn’t worried about it either. But it’s still interesting to find myself in a wholly new situation that kind of sprang out at me out of the blue. Certainly much more respect for all the school athletes and their dedication to their sport. I had no idea.

Go Cougars! (Lucky for me the high school and BYU share the same mascot, so at least that all lines up nicely.) 🙂

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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, and I’m now putting up chapters from 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 the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That 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.

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