Monday, March 12, 2018

The Big Five-Oh

 I have a lot to say about the philosophical implications of turning fifty, but that discussion would take far more than fifteen minutes. For now I'll content myself with simply sharing a little bit about the big day itself.

Looking back, the first thing I notice is a major failure in the picture taking department. It was a big, busy day and I have almost no photographic evidence. Sad.
The first, best part of the day was going to the airport and collecting Anna! She's home from the University of New Mexico for spring break. And my birthday, of course. :-)

My grand dreams of celebrating this birthday with a Caribbean cruise were abandoned years ago. So were most lesser celebration dreams. But with the whole family together, even doing the weekly shopping trips and SportClips run counted as a celebration of sorts.

And of course, no Don birthday would be complete without pizza. Minsky's Pizza is a local pizza chain that has both gluten- and dairy-free options, so we were able to order pizzas that everyone in the family could eat.

Sure, we could have fed the family a steak dinner for what we paid, but it wouldn't have been pizza, so what's the point of that?

Sadly, again there were no pictures. But trust me, it was delicious.
I think it's going to take a while for me to decide how I feel about being fifty. But my family did a great job at making sure that turning fifty was an experience to be cherished. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Writing Update: Prime Regent and Graviton Rift

Today I will tie up a couple of loose ends on the writing front, starting with The Prime Regent, which I pitched last September to Lisa Rodgers at the ANWA conference. 

The verdict: she passed. This was not entirely unexpected. While there is much to love about this book, I describe it as a bit of a "hot mess." So much potential, but so many problems. I've put it on the shelf, knowing that I will need some time and distance in order to make the hard decisions that will make this story great.

Having to set aside a story that I have been intermittently working on for the past 8 years helped me set the course for my next project. I determined that whatever I did next absolutely had to be something that I could complete within a year. I've wanted to do middle-grade Science Fiction, and since MG tends to be shorter, a project in this genre would be a good fit.

Also, one of the things I struggled with on Space Corps General/The Prime Regent was describing the story. I didn't have any kind of high-level concept overview. I think I was trying to be too original, at least with my current skill set.

For my new project, I determined to come up with a concept up front, and stick with it. That concept is "The Parent Trap re-imagined as an interplanetary spy mystery."

With that concept in hand, I prepared for my first ever NaNoWriMo. I spent the whole of October analyzing The Parent Trap, developing worlds, characters, and technologies, and creating a whole series of outlines.

I won NaNoWriMo by writing 50,000 words in November, and finished the first draft in mid-December.

The thing about NaNo is that, at least for me, I spent more time writing about the story than I did actually writing the story. There were a lot of, "And something really cool happened." Now I'm revising, and I actually have to come up with those cool things.

I had hoped to have my first revision done by now, but alas I'm still going. I like what I have, though, and I'm still on track to pitch this story at the LDStorymakers conference this May.

Even if nobody picks this story up for publication, I will have proven to myself that I can finish a novel in a year. Given the 5+ years for each of my previous novels, and everything else that is going on in my life, I'll call that a win.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Midlife and the Return of Fifteen Minutes

My forties are drawing to a close; I can count the remaining days on one hand. I always thought I'd celebrate this milestone birthday with something large and loud. Maybe a big party, or a cruise. A trip somewhere fun and exotic and exciting. Hong Kong or London of Dubai.

I'd have settled for The Mall of America.

But the current of life has a way of taking us far from the course we have set in our minds. That has certainly been the case with me. Reality means there is neither time nor money for a grand celebration. I'll admit I'm pouting a little. I've threatened to boycott this birthday altogether as a result. Fortunately, my family is refusing to let me ignore it the way I want to.

I understand it's common to reach this stage of life and have a serious reckoning. We compare who we are and what we've accomplished with the dreams we had decades before, and often find ourselves lacking.

I know I sure do.

From my lofty post on this hill I'm about to pass over, I understand as never before how this midlife reckoning could devolve into a full-blown midlife crisis. I'd like to claim I am somehow immune, but I doubt that would be the case.

That's why I have a plan.

I have a lot of plans, actually. Family, work, writing, travel, home, and self. I have been working on projects in each of these areas, and while I am nowhere near where I want to be, I think I am headed (mostly) in the right direction. I need these plans to give me focus, and enough delusion to believe I might actually achieve them.

A little over a decade ago, I started a blog called Fifteen Minutes of Delusion. The idea was to spend fifteen minutes every day, writing a little something about my life, and what was happening. Blogging was a thing back then, and in the years that blog was active, I made some wonderful connections, in addition to meeting friends who are dear to me to this day.

As part of my Midlife Transformation, I'm bringing back regular blogging. I'm going to try daily; I commit to weekly. I need this blog to keep me accountable. I need a platform where I can brag so I can be motivated to do brag-worthy things. Don't judge.

There is so much going on right now, and adding time to blog will be a real sacrifice. Midlife transformations require a lot of time. But I need to make this connection. I need to share my efforts, failures, and occasional successes. And I haven't found anyplace to do that as effective as a blog.

It's good to be back.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Prime Regent Pitch Follow-up

It's been over a week since I pitched The Prime Regent to an agent during the ANWA conference. The response wasn't quite what I had hoped for, but the agent asked me to send a few pages. So while she didn't fling the door wide open, she didn't slam it shut, either.

There are some serious problems with this book that my beta readers all pointed to, but those start around page 70. Fortunately, I think the first ten pages are in great shape. So maybe it's a good thing she only asked for the first 10. That gives me time to fix the issues, in case she loves my writing and requests the full manuscript.

And even if  she doesn't ask for a full, there's another agent who did, although it's been nearly 18 months and I probably missed that train. 

In any case, fixing these issues will help me grow as a writer, and hopefully avoid these problems in the future. 

In the meantime, the pages and pitch and synopsis have been sent, and I have the next month's writing work cut out for me. 

Stay tuned.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Delusion and The Pitch

Ten years ago, I started a blog called Fifteen Minutes of Delusion. During that time, our lives had been turned upside down and inside out, and I was desperate to provide my two daughters with some regularity in their lives.

Forget delusions of grandeur; I had delusions of normality. And I knew it.

Yet during this time, I discovered that recognizing, accepting and embracing this delusion gave me the strength and courage to press forward in a seemingly hopeless situation.

Fast forward to the here and now, and my attempt to build a writing career while maintaining a full-time job and high-maintenance family. This effort also seems hopeless. And believing I have a chance at success feels entirely delusional.

So once again, I'm recognizing, accepting, and embracing the delusion. And that delusion is giving me the courage and the strength to pitch my latest book to a literary agent tomorrow.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Great American Eclipse - My Take

I was excited for Great American Eclipse of 2017, especially since the path of totality went very near my house.

Unfortunately, I didn't buy my eclipse glasses when I had the chance, and by the time I got serious about finding a pair, they were gone.

I figured I could probably find a pair at one of the many eclipse viewing events, but I didn't want to take that chance. So I poked a hole in a piece of foil and made an eclipse viewing box.

The morning of the eclipse dawned gray and foreboding. It was not a promising start.

Undeterred, I climbed in the car and drove to the Amelia Earhart airport in Atchison, Kansas. I figured even if I couldn't see the eclipse, I could see some airplanes.

I also found some friends, and one of them had an extra pair of eclipse glasses. Sweet! Now I just needed the sky to clear.

It didn't.

Fortunately, my eclipse viewing box was big enough to keep me dry.

The weather radar implied that the rain might stop in time for the eclipse, so I took refuge in my car and tried to do some work while I waited.

Oh, the irony.

I also had some fun with Heihei, my pocket chicken writing muse.

It was hot and steamy waiting out the rain, alone in the back seat of the car. And more than a bit disappointing. 

But then a couple of minutes before totality, the rain stopped, the sky lightened, and I ventured out of the car.

Through a high, thin cloud cover, I was able to see a sliver of the sun! The crowd parked around me cheered as the moon slowly, eased its way in front of the sun. The sky darkened once again, but this time it wasn't rain. It was a total eclipse! I could even see the sun's corona through the haze.

I was so excited, I didn't take any pictures. (Bad blogger!) So I stole one from the internet and digitally altered it to show what it looked like. 

Then totality passed, and the traffic jam began. But for that brief moment, I was able to see something that is truly rare and amazing, and I'm excited for the chance to watch another eclipse in just seven short years.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Beta Draft built and released with Agile/Scrum

My experiment with applying Agile/Scrum methodologies to my writing has been a huge success. I credit the planning and organization this framework provides with moving a stalled draft to a releasable beta in just 10 weeks.

Both the story and the methodology are still works-in-progress, but I am confident I'll have a submission-worthy draft when I pitch next month at the ANWA conference.

While the draft is out with beta readers, my sprints have focused on creating synopses for the 2nd and 3rd book in the series. I realize this is probably over-optimistic, but I'm using this as an opportunity to explore different plotting methods. And I have more than enough delusion to allow myself a little optimism.