What I Do (and Don’t) Blog About

Writing a daily blog, it often might seem like I blog about anything and everything under the sun. There are certainly a whole slew of things I pick as topics, from top ten candy lists like yesterday to weighty matters of faith and everything in between. But believe it or not, there is at least a bit of a filter when it comes to me deciding what to write about each day.

First off, I’ve kept the blog as diverse as possible from a topic perspective. I know if I wanted to have the blog increase in readers, it would be wiser to narrow its focus. Tighten it around a theme: movies, for example. Or media in general. Writing. Or keep it faith-centric. Having a centralized theme you build around lets your audience find you and find each other.

But the closest I’ve got to a theme on this blog is “Stuff Bryce Wants to Talk About.” And since it seems kind of, I don’t know . . . conceited to say that my theme for the blog is myself, it’s easier to just view it as “I don’t have a theme.” Still, that’s worked out for me over the years. I try to mix things up, spreading out movie and book and television reviews and throwing in posts about religion, politics, personal observations, writing news, local happenings, and more. My blog is like a box of chocolates.

And yet there are definitely things I choose not to post about. There have even been times (believe it or not) when I’ve written a post and not published it. What sort of stuff gets cut? For one thing, I try not to post about people who don’t have a platform to respond. So I avoid writing about other people’s experiences, especially at a local level. When I do write about what someone else has done or had happen to them, I try to do it from a general angle, avoiding “They really should have done __________” posts. I try to remember not everyone has a microphone, even a modestly sized one like my blog. It’s easy to write to your regulars and potentially get them riled up about something. Just because it’s easy doesn’t mean you should do it, however.

I also don’t write anything that might be embarrassing to people. That means anything about my kids’ lives for the most part now. Any struggles the family might be having, though sometimes if you read between the lines, I’m sure you can make some connections about things that are happening that might have inspired a blog post. (Though there’s no guarantee that thing would have been something that happened to a family member. I’ll read articles that spark topics just as easily.)

And while I do delve into some matters that trouble me or that I struggle with, I think I generally avoid anything that doesn’t rise to a certain level of angst. If something gets particularly upsetting, it often gets a blog post, but anything below that line doesn’t get one. The net result of that is that I think I have a lot more positive posts than I have negative ones, which in turn might portray a more positive outward face to my life than might actually be the case. This isn’t to say there are any deep dark secrets I’m hiding, but rather to reassure people who read the blog (and view my social media feed) that yes, everyone has problems. Including me.

One thing I’d love to do more of is reader requests. Sometimes a friend will ask me to blog about something in person, and that sparks a really good post. It’s rare, but I like it when it happens. There are some days when I sit staring at the screen, wondering what I might come up with today. Sooner or later, there always seems to be something to write about.

As I’ve said before, I enjoy the blog these days primarily for the way it makes me organize my thinking. It’s helped me think through many a tough topic, and I’d like to think it’s helped others do the same. I’m really grateful to my blog patrons who chip in some money each month to give me the needed funds to justify the time I put into these posts. It’s definitely appreciated.

And thanks to you to reading the posts and commenting on them!

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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.

Bryce’s Top Ten Halloween Candies

In my interweb surfing this morning, I came across FiveThirtyEight’s new analysis of the best Halloween candy. It’s quite exhaustive, and it goes over just about every candy bar you can think of. (Though there are some holes. No Heath Bar ranking, for example. Not that I like them, but they’re definitely a thing, and so they deserve to be on there.) It got me thinking, though. (More than “How many different ways can Reese’s be on a single list?”) What are my favorite candy selections? What items would I want to see the most in my trick or treat bucket?

I don’t eat much candy anymore, but I still go through the candy my kids haul in each year, and we always start off by sorting them out into piles. Keep. Don’t care. Maybe. (I’m a librarian. We categorize things.) It’s always intriguing to me to see how some kids value different candy differently. MC is always a fan of lollipops. I would rather eat broccoli than a lollipop. (Though I like broccoli, so I guess that’s not saying that much.)

When I was growing up, Halloween candy was always sacrosanct. Whatever you got trick or treating was yours and yours alone. And you had to nurse that supply for as far as it would go. That meant that you held on to every piece, even the stupid flavored wax lips. And you tried it all, getting as much enjoyment out of that supply as possible. Every gram counted. But when you spread it all out to evaluate your haul, there were definitely candies you wanted to see more than others.

What would be my top, if I were trick or treating today? To limit things, I’m going to use only the candy that’s on the list I linked to. A few notes, going into it. First, candy corn. I love me some candy corn, but candy corn as a trick or treating candy is just a big no no. I like to know where my candy corn’s been before I put it in my mouth. Eating stray candy corn from a stranger is like eating jello that fell to the floor. The five second rule doesn’t apply.

Second, Milk Duds and Rolos are really the same thing. (Same as M&M Peanut Butter and Reese’s Pieces.) And Milk Duds are good for movie viewing, but not for your casual candy munching experience. (I like them for movies because they have good endurance. You don’t just want to throw a whole handful of Milk Duds in your mouth at once. Not if you value your jaw.)

Third, honorable mentions. These are candy that I wouldn’t be sad to see, but they couldn’t crack the top ten. Everything else on that list? Pretty much dead to me. I mean, I’d eat it if I was starving, maybe. But I don’t think I’d waste the calories on them otherwise. Except for Good & Plenty. That stuff is rank. Anyway. Honorable mentions:

  • Pixy Stix–There was a kid in grade school who said he snorted Pixy Stix, and I believed him. (You probably would have too, if you’d met him.) I like Pixy Stix, but they’re candy that’s pretty much given up all pretense of being anything other than sugar. You have to admire the marketers and makers of Pixy Stix, though. “Why spend all this money on a recipe when we can just add a bit of flavoring to sugar and sell it like that?” It just might be the quintessential American candy. (And you can snort it, apparently.)
  • Pop Rocks–If this were just about mouth sensation, Pop Rocks would win easily. So fun. But . . . taste? No. Just . . . no.
  • Dots–Bonus points for squishiness. I know some people dislike Dots, but I’ve always had a soft spot for them. Except they stick to my teeth too much for them to really soar.
  • Gobstoppers–Big on staying power, and I don’t mind the taste, but they’re too much like regular hard candy. Too generic.
  • Whoppers–I like how the melt. And they’re tasty, but . . . not top ten worthy. Sorry.
  • Nerds–These might have made the top 10, depending on the flavor, but they’re such a pain to eat, and there’s a significant chance of them spilling all over the place at any point in time. Candy shouldn’t make you work so hard to eat it. And some of those flavors are just too tart.
  • Baby Ruth–It’s a candy bar, so points for that. But it’s not a great candy bar. E for effort, though.
  • M&Ms–And all their variants. Too basic, but they’re yummy. Especially peanut M&Ms. But . . . there’s no “there” there. It’s a simple concept, and it doesn’t do anything to really take that concept to the next level, unless that next level is “What other flavors can we put in here? Mint? Peanut butter?” It’s trying to be too many things to too many people. Pick something, M&Ms.

With that out of the way, here we are. The definitive top ten list of candy for me:

10–Smarties: You get one single piece of candy, but it’s actually like 20 pieces of candy. Seriously. Each pack of Smarties is like a Biblical miracle in your pocket. The pieces are jam packed with flavor, and you get to brag to people about how smart you are whenever you eat them. That’s a Halloween candy that’s punching way above its weight class.

9–Kit Kat: Also a “two pieces in one” candy selection. (Except some of the producers have caught wise to this and started to sell single barred Kit Kats. What’s up with that? How are you supposed to break anyone a piece of a single bar? What are we. Socialists now?) I like the cookieness of the treat, but that same cookieness brings it down some in the rankings, because this is about the best candy. Not the best cookie. Kit Kats need to decide what they are. I don’t feel like eating something that’s having an identity crisis.

8–Hershey Special Dark: I love dark chocolate. Hershey’s isn’t great dark chocolate, but it is dark chocolate. But in the end, it’s also just a single note on the candy scale. It plays that note just fine, but to really soar at Halloween, you need the full range of keys.

7–3 Musketeers: It’s velvety smoothness is downright admirable. Different layers of chocolate are great, but what’s it got beyond that? Plus, this is one of Denisa’s favorites, so I’ve trained myself to build more of an immunity to their allure over the years. Also, see the note for the next bar.

6–Snickers: If this were a full Snickers bar, we might be cracking the top 5. It’s filling, tasty, and has a compelling mixture of flavors and textures. But these days, the Snickers you get at Halloween are like a fifth of a bite. They call them bite sized, sure. If you put five together, maybe. Candy companies have got to stop being so stingy. Everything else in America is all about bigger portions. When did we start scrimping with candy?

5–Milky Way Midnight (and Milky Way regular, I suppose): Midnight is my favorite Milk Way strain, because dark chocolate, and true, this suffers from the same bite portion restraint as the last two candidates, but come on. Milky Way Midnights are just play awesome. If only these were bigger, they’d be fighting for the top spots.

4–Junior Mints: Give me a full box of Junior Mints, and we’d be cooking with gas. (Well, not really. We’d actually just be eating a full box of awesome. Scratch that. *I* would be eating a full box of awesome. You’d be eating nothing, because you were foolish enough to give me the box. That’s a rookie mistake.) But at Halloween, the Junior Mint boxes have all of 4 or 5 mints in them. It’s a travesty, but one we accept in the 4th position, because Junior Mints are incredible.

3–Almond Joys (and Mounds, if you have to): Coconut. Almond. Chocolate. It’s a powerful combination, and they’ve based entire desserts around them. Really, the only drawback to an Almond Joy is the bits of stray coconut you find wandering around in your mouth a half hour after you ate one. Coconut is great at the time, but half hour old coconut that gets mixed in with your dinner later on? (Because of course you snuck in an extra Almond Joy before dinner.) That’s a no no.

2–Butterfingers: Delish. Bigger sizes than the other chocolate bar treats on the list, as well. Peanut butter and chocolate, but in an aggressive way that says “You gonna eat me? Fine. But you’re gonna have to commit to chomping down on me for the next while. I ain’t going down without a fight.” You have to respect a candy with that sort of resolve. Peanut butter and chocolate are pretty much the perfect combination. (And Butterfinger ice cream is incredible, so you’ve even got a way to use surplus pieces, should it come to that.) Bravo!

1–Reese’s Anything: Was this ever really a contest? Reeses takes up 4 of the top 8 slots on FiveThirtyEight’s list. Which, true, is a bit of a cop out. They’re a one trick pony that’s come up with four different ways to show that trick. (And they’ve even managed to convince us that one of those ways (the cursed bite size again) is something to flaunt as a whole different offering.) Reese’s Pieces are candy goodness, but the true cream of the crop is the full size Reese’s cup. Sometimes you’ll even get lucky and have people who give you the two-fer packages, which is the ultimate Holy Grail of trick or treating. Peanut butter. Chocolate. Large size. Double portion. The stars align, and heaven smiles upon you. Give me that any day of the week.

And that concludes my list. Care to complain? Beg to differ? Please illuminate me in the many ways you’re wrong. (And Happy Halloween!)

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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.

Book Review: 1632

1632 by Eric Flint

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The premise of 1632 is fantastic. Take a 15 mile radius chunk of present-day West Virginia, complete with all its inhabitants, stores, infrastructure, and everything, and transport it back to 1632, right in the middle of the Thirty Years War, smack dab of the thick of things in Thüringen. Then wait and see what happens. How will the present-day Americans respond? What will the people from 1632 think of them?

In practice, it doesn’t play out quite to the level of that initial premise. Don’t get me wrong: I had a great time reading the book, for the most part. It’s a page turner, and it’s a lot of fun. But at the same time, the answer to the founding question was just too focused on a single note: “‘Murica!” Because naturally the Americans are going to respond to threats by using their superior firepower. But it just keeps playing that note over and over.

The Americans quickly convince the people in their area that the new way is the best way, which I could understand. Who doesn’t like modern conveniences? And when the surrounding kings and rulers begin to hear about the new innovations, they respond in various ways. Some are threatened and attack, and some reach out to become allies. But always it comes back to “America’s way is the best way,” with almost no portrayal of anything that might conflict with that worldview.

There are no real obstacles that a high powered hunting rifle and a heavily armored truck can’t dispatch with a bit of work. None of the characters every really feel threatened, with the exception of one scene. In many ways, a lot of the book feels like a Shakespearean comedy, with all the people finding marriage partners and pairing off left and right, and there being no cultural conflicts at all to speak of. People in 1632 are pretty much like people today, it seems. There’s a token effort to show that there are a few West Virginians who don’t like the mixing of the peoples, but by and large, everyone agrees with each other.

Which made the whole book just feel too pat. Too much like wish fulfillment, and bloody wish fulfillment at that. There’s certainly a whole heaping serving of violence doled out through the book. On the one hand, I get it. It’s an action-based book, and it’s cool to see Americans get to play the Thirty Years War with God Mode enabled. But it’s all relished a bit too much. I felt a tad . . . icky by the end. There were no consequences to the violence. There were good guys and bad guys, and the bad guys had to be napalmed to be stopped.

So it felt like empty calories, when all was said and done. I finished the book, but I won’t read any more in the series. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because there just wasn’t enough there for me to want to keep going. If the concept and the violence and the America is Awesome description sounds up your alley, you’ll love this series.

It just got to be a bit much for me, and there are other books out there I want to read as well.

View all my reviews

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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.

Wearing a Name Tag

I wore a name tag for years and years. The first one I ever put on was my name tag for my first job at McDonald’s. (Neon pink shirt and hat. Who thought that was a good color for a uniform? I ask you.) Right off, I wasn’t a fan of the tag. I wasn’t really sure why I had to wear one, and it was always a pet peeve whenever someone would come to the register, glance at my name tag, and then call me by my first name, like we were some long lost friends. I didn’t know them. Why were they using my name like that?

Then I went on a mission to Germany for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For that, I had to wear a name tag at all times: the familiar black shield with “Elder Cundick” on it in my case. For some reason, the badge didn’t elicit the same response in me as my fast food emblem had received. Maybe some of it is that it wasn’t my first name people were using, so it didn’t feel as casual. Maybe some of it was that in many ways, my name was the best thing that distinguished me from all the other missionaries serving with me. (Other than my charming personality, of course.) You can start to feel like a cog in a machine when you’re on a mission at times, and it helps to hold on to whatever part of you still makes you . . . you. (Not a criticism of the mission, by the way. I still view it as one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.)

I came home, and it was time for name tags again. This time at the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. Once again, it was just my first name, and once again, it bothered me to have people actually use my first name. So clearly the two years on my mission didn’t change my feelings of that approach. Ah well. I continued to have a name tag at Orem Public Library as well, with the same results. Why did people even need to know my name, for crying out loud?

It was even worse at conferences. At the time, I was pretty much only going to writing conferences, and it felt like everyone was going around looking at name badges, hunting for an agent or an editor or someone important to talk to. They’d glance at my name tag and dismiss me. I didn’t like that feeling either.

Things began to change somewhat for me when I moved to Maine. For one thing, my new job had nothing like a name tag in sight. I thought it was great. No more first name “friendliness,” with an emphasis on the quotation marks. Of course, when I went to conferences for my library job, name tags were everywhere. Again, I didn’t mind as much. Now, I appreciated the reminder of what everyone’s name was. I didn’t really care that much where they were from or what they did, except as a conversation starter. But speaking as a person who has a really hard time remembering names and faces, I began to be thankful for the reminders.

Last week, I ordered name tags for all my staff at the library, and I’ve started wearing a badge at work again for the first time in 12 years. Why the sudden shift? For one thing, I’m no longer that worried about people using my first name anymore. Somewhere along the way, that irritation left me. Maybe some of it is that almost everything at my university happens on a first name basis. Most professors have their students call them by their first name, even. (That never happened at BYU.) Some of it might be because now I want people to know who I am. I want to be seen and to be able to answer questions when they come up.

I haven’t told my staff they need to wear name tags. It’s totally up to them. And when I first put in the order, I wasn’t planning on wearing one myself. But now that I have for a few days . . . I see no need to stop. Maybe it’ll grow old after a while, but for now, it’s here to stay.

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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.

A New Approach to Writing

I’m over 30,000 words into my next book project now, and I’ve been taking a different approach this time through compared to almost all of my other efforts. This time, it’s mainly due to necessity. This book is the first of a planned trilogy that’s much more epic in scope than anything I’ve done to date. Because of that, it was necessary for me to come at the writing from a different angle. In many ways, that’s exciting to me. I don’t like writing things I’ve already written before. I like challenging myself and growing.

Most times when I sit down to write a book these days, I begin with a very broad idea of what happens in mind. Generally speaking, I’ll know where the book starts and where I want it to end, and then I make up the stuff in the middle as I go along. That’s always been the part that keeps me interested. In the past, it’s felt like if I already know exactly what’s going to happen in the book, there’s no need to actually write the book in the first place. The discovery process is a huge draw for me.

For this book, however, I wanted to have multiple viewpoints. (Something I haven’t tried since my . . . third book, I think it was. Weaver of Dreams.) I wanted those viewpoints to intersect, with different information available to different characters at different times, which allows the reader to know things the characters do not, and leads to more interesting interactions. One of the best experiences I’ve had as a consumer of stories came in one of the later Game of Thrones television episodes, where you’ve got characters you know and root for on both sides of a battle, and (due to the nature of Game of Thrones and how often characters would die on the show) you have no idea who might live and who might die. You might even have your favorite characters kill each other.

I found it riveting, and I wanted to bring that same sort of explosiveness to my writing. But how?

When I tried to write the book, it just wasn’t working. I couldn’t wrap my head around all the different things that had to happen, especially when they had to be coordinated in time and place. So in the end, I turned to writing a detailed outline. A chapter-by-chapter rundown of what happens when. Whose viewpoint it’s from, and what the basic events of that chapter would be. Even then, at such a macro level, it was tricky to get all the pieces to fit together the right way. Each character needed their own arc, and it all needed to mesh together. After longer than I’d like, I was done with the outline.

But I had no idea how things would work from there. Would I be bored, now that I’d plotted it all out?

Interestingly (to me, at least), that hasn’t been my experience at all. The great thing I’ve found about this approach is that I can really focus on each chapter at a time. Since each chapter only has four or five sentences describing what happens in it, I begin writing each with a brainstorming session. What details are missing from the plot? How about characterization? Where’s it happening? I flesh it all out and think of the chapter as a whole, and then I can dive in and begin writing it. In other words, there’s enough discovery left for me to do feel engaged, but I have the big picture down enough to know where the chapter fits in with the rest of the story. I’ve been churning through the chapters one after another, and each time I sit down to write, I know where I’m heading. It’s incredibly refreshing.

Of course, it’s also been a bit eye-opening. In 32,000 words, I’m through with . . . 6 chapters of text. I’ve also written 10,000 words of brainstorming back material to come up with that text. I have 41 chapters to go. If I continue writing at this general rate (5,333 words/chapter), then the final book will be . . . 250,000 words long. That’s over twice as long as my longest book I’ve written so far. About five times as long as some of the books I’ve finished. That’s a whole lotta book.

Then again, I’ve got plenty of books in the pipeline. Some getting sent out to editors, some we’re following up on. I’ve got the first draft of the Steampunk book (Codenamed SILVERADO) waiting for a revision at some point. In other words, I’ve got time. And so far, this feels like it’s working well. I’m having a good time, and for me right now, that’s all I can ask for.

Hopefully it keeps going this smoothly the whole time. At this rate, I’ll be done with the first draft 48 weeks from now. September 2020. We’ll see if that ends up being the case.

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.

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