Several years ago I went on a business trip with NASA to the Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. After work, two of my co-workers invited me to join them at a local pub for dinner and darts.  I’d planned on writing my sci-fi novel, but the invitation caught my interest.

I went, played, and got crushed by Dennis Davidson, then the manager of Program Planning and Control for the Space Shuttle Program. Dennis took a few minutes afterward to answer my questions and teach me the games called Cricket and Loops.

When I got back to my hotel, my brain kept replaying my losses, recreating the warm dark tones of the second story pub, and watching with fascination as Dennis’s darts thunked home in the soft sisal  fibers of the Bull’s Eye.

When I woke up, I had the beginnings of a story: what better way to force a bunch of fantasy characters into the same room together?  It took me a few tries to get the story right, but I’ve never had more fun writing fantasy.

As always, thank you for reading and reviewing. I’m about 70% finished with the first draft of RINGS, which is an immediate sequel for DARTS.  Here’s an excerpt:

Magnus is breathing heavy like a big horse on a quiet night, with Timnus and Valery crammed in on either side of him, dead asleep. They aren’t picky. I’m not sure how the three of them fit in the master bed, since Valery is all legs and Timnus has melon-sized elbows, but they do. And no one is fighting for the blanket since Magnus is throwing off heat like a furnace on a cool autumn night.

Ahh. I love the quiet solitude. I’m thinking of my soft straw pallet in the attic as I wash the blood, soot, poison, and excess antidote from my hands and forearms. Washing. Falling asleep at the water basin. I head for the attic.

Knock. Knock.

Who, in Pan’s name, is prowling about the neighborhood at this ungodly hour, bestowing their blessing on us?

Knock. Knock.

I hear a soft voice outside—a pleading, familiar voice.


I nearly cry when I see her, upset with myself for forgetting it was her shop that burned to the ground tonight. She’s got soot on her face and looks like she’s about to collapse from exhaustion. “Teamus. I know you’re busy with that dart guy and all, but do you mind if I grab a bit of rug here tonight? The shop’s a total loss, and I don’t know what else to do.”

She’s got a stiff upper lip, but I can tell she’s hurting, and that makes me hurt even more. That shop meant everything to her.

“I’m so sorry, Carmen.” I say, making room in the narrow stairwell. For a moment she’s buried her face on my shoulder, sobbing.  I put my arms around her and wait, wishing things had turned out just a little bit differently for her tonight. Then she’s wiping her eyes.

“Thank you, Teamus.”

“You’re welcome.”

Then she’s climbing the stairs determinedly up to the apartment and I follow behind, listening to the swishing of her soot-caked dress.

“Not much to eat, though,” I mutter, but she’s too tired to hear or care.

I get her settled at the small wooden table and bring her the refilled wash basin, but she’s asleep at the table before she’s finished washing half her face.

I sigh. At least that means she feels safe here.

Knock. Knock.

“Pan’s beard.”

Knock. Knock. KNOCK!

It’s not a joke.  It’s Lucinda. She’s got an armful of fresh bandages. She doesn’t wait for an invitation but pushes her way in and rushes up the stairs.

Quatro Rings (Layers Gray)

Next week I hope to have a post about my trip to New York. Cheers!

Contest: What is Vlad saying to Dimitri?

I sketched the attached comic several years ago, but saved it until I found a cartoonist. (For a laugh, ask me for the original. In celebration of my previous vampire-riddled post, help me come up with a caption for the following cartoon:


I have a caption in mind for it, but maybe yours is better? Submit yours in the reply section by next Wednesday, April 1st (not a joke) for a chance to win a paperback copy of DARTS. And Subscribe. It’s fun!

Writing:  How Stephanie Meyer and Jane Austen Fixed My Robots

A few years ago I read a vampire novel by a BYU alumna that got me thinking about character development.  While I’m familiar with the vampire myth as told by Bram Stoker, I’ll admit that I don’t drink deeply from the horror genre. Life can be pretty scary as it is. But sparkly vampires were all the rage, so I made a concession. And then another.  Four concessions, to be precise. And I learned an interesting thing about my own writing: my characters are all robots. Medieval Robots. Sci-Fi Robots. Literary Robots.  They complained to me as I wrote:


“Stop complaining. I’m telling a really cool story!”



I thank Stephanie Meyer for opening my eyes to this, however ungently. I couldn’t turn a page without her protagonist describing the love/pain/joy/depression/excitement she was feeling. My robots began to get jealous:


“Impossible. You are robot characters whose only purpose in life is delivering plot points.”


“Umm. Okay. I’ll write something now: ‘The robot-like characters were suddenly overcome with waves of depression!’ Better?”

<< YAAY! We’re depressed! (This feels awful.) >>

There is such a thing as over-emoting, too, but my characters have never had that problem.)

Laughing yet?  You should be.  And you should be asking, “Why  for heaven’s sake didn’t you start instead with Jane Austen’s incomparable Pride and Prejudice?”

Fair question. I’ve been avoiding her assiduously since I was forced to watch Sense and Sensibility with my five older sisters, as a newly-minted teenager. (This following “infinity times” as a kid of getting Scooby-Doo trumped by Little House on the Prairie.)

Still, I shouldn’t hold that psychological damage against Jane Austen, right?

It took a thoroughly respectable friend to set me back on track. She caught me by surprise when I learned that Persuasion by Austen was one of her favorite books.


Until then though, I had only the light of Twilight to guide me.  .  .  During this dark period, I went so far as to attend a movie viewing of Eclipse with the aforementioned sisters, though I was smarter this time and took along my older brother for protection. We’re not Twi-hards—any of us—but the movie was entertaining, especially  when my brother whipped off his shirt at the end and howled at the moon of closing credits.

I followed suit.

“Team Jacob!” we barked.

Those Cinemark patrons exiting the theatre with us laughed and cheered, though some appeared concerned with the physical inaccuracies of comparing ourselves to Taylor Lautner’s band of brothers. My physique isn’t bad for a guy who only plays soccer once a week and rarely visits the weight room, but my skin gets a bit pale in the winter—say, the color of wet marshmallows. My ancestry can’t help it.

My brother has a similar skin tone, and though taller, is a wee bit on the thin side. The blinding Norwegian flash in mid-winter Tinsletown lights  probably sent a myriad of mixed messages. How could werewolves get so pale and hairless? Shouldn’t those two be cheering for the vampires? Could Stephanie Meyer please write a book encouraging young men to keep their shirts ON?

Eventually we decided—you can’t tell werewolves what to wear—to put our shirts back on. Fine then. Lunar eclipse complete.

And then, sitting at my desk one day, trying to pull a miss-staple from a stack of budget documents with my vampliers, the entire of spectrum of vampire humor (mostly red) was briefly opened to my view (see picture below).  In four years, not one person at NASA has ever asked me why my staple remover has the name Edward taped to it.

Not one.

Career mismatch? Too few scientists interested in problem of vampirism?

 I guess that’s life. Fang you all very much. And Subscribe.


Book signing, anyone?

Typing away at my keyboard, I hear the UPS guy outside my office window and the thump of a heavy package on our doormat. It cuts through the patter of falling rain even more than the doorbell.

Good thing too. It’s already damp in the 15 seconds it takes me to dash out and rip it open. Beautiful, beautiful books. . . They’re at least twice as good-looking as the kindle version, if a little on the thin side. Something to improve on for RINGS.

Beautiful Book(compressed)

I wouldn’t mind so much if they paid rent . . .

Several years ago my youngest daughter mentioned that she’d seen a “big mouse” in our back yard. I thought she was making stuff up until he came out to play:

The Tenant

By now we’ve seen several of these unwelcome under-the-deck tenants. I have it on good authority that they’ve been hanging out by the compost behind the garage smoking doobies until the wee hours of the morning. They’re a bad influence on the neighborhood cats.

What sorts of guests do you get?