Karate Kid at the Holiday Bazaar 2.0

The karate kid made my day.

He comes by, eyes wide, head swiveling, brain probably in sensory overload from the hanging air plants, flashing jewelry, and old-school fantasy books. He’s got a white uniform on with a yellow belt.

“Would you like to learn to juggle?” I say. I don’t bother selling him books any more than other near-by booths would try to foisting on him perfume and knitted cozies. This kid is looking for action!

He nods once, silent and confident. He’s young enough to still have that “I can do anything!” audacity that comes with wearing a karate uniform, and thinks it’s funny when I tell him that the first trick to juggling is learning to drop the ball properly.

Of course he nails it. And the next 5 steps in the juggling process. We get him up to double-throws and catches before karate beckons. It all takes less than 5 minutes, and his form is good.

He’s not the only one. Every kid in the place wants to see me juggle, even without the swords and torches that I’ve stopped bringing because they make the adjacent booths (and the fire marshal) nervous.

A couple more kids are brave enough to give it a shot themselves. I sell some books. I talk with their parents about literary tradition, and what they’re reading now. And I realize again why I like doing shows.

I thought I’d hate shows. The idea of being that guy who lurks at the mall kiosk and preys on unsuspecting passers-by makes my feet itch.

But I’ve realized, that I can do things my way. I can sit back and pass out free smiles. I can eat my sandwich, even with salami. I can teach kids to juggle and grannies to make snowflakes. Or, I can mix things up and teach the grannies to juggle.

I’ve realized I can pretend to sell books as an excuse to talk to people about literature. And if, by chance, someone says they like Tolkien, or Pratchett, or Dragonlance, I can hand them one of my books and say, this one’s for you. These conversations wake the inner child and chase away the off the aches and pains of not being able to run a 5:20 mile anymore.

I like the quiet moments too. I like that lull around lunchtime where the morning crowd is drab-dribbling away and the afternoon crowd is still eating barbecue and wiping their fingers. I like talking shop with Laura who drove all the way from San Antonio to sell books and, well, talk shop.

Most of all, I like the people.

Thanks to those of you who stopped for conversations, lessons, and/or books. You made my day.

 

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Managing the Mortal Coil

“…what dreams may come when we have shuffled off this mortal coil…”
– William Shakespeare

Duo1

 

Sometimes writing good books isn’t about word count. Sometimes it’s just about living through a difficult week so that maybe, someday, you’ll be healthy enough to put words on a page.

2016 was that year for me: newly divorced, single dad, struggling at work, and feeling like a failure in nearly every aspect of my life. It wasn’t true, of course, but I felt it was.

Some nights I went to bed exhausted yet didn’t sleep.

One of the best decisions I made that year was to start attending writing conferences. I went to the World Fantasy conference in Columbus, Ohio. I crashed at my friend Josh’s place. In exchange, I cooked his family dinner. Calzones, I think. It was a soft landing.  There was laughter and kindness. Nobody expected too much of me. He let me guest star in his monthly D&D campaign. At the conference, Marco Palmieri gave me some writing advice and asked me for a partial manuscript. I made friends with some really cool writers. It woke me up a bit, reminded me that I had a lot going for me.

I also attended Life, the Universe, and Everything, or LTUE. I stayed with my sister. I ate delicious meals with her family. Enterprise gave me a free upgrade. I did an interview with Howard Tayler, although my interviewing skills were a bit . . . rusty. Still, the interview turned into a low-intensity, multi-day conversation.

I didn’t do much writing, but I connected with a community that I love, and that gave me something special to look forward to amid the day-to-day. It gave me hope. I made friends.

Fast forward.

Last February I got to do a panel with Howard. I’d been writing more, thriving, and finally felt like I had something to add to the conversation. This particular panel was “self-care.”

I arrived five minutes late and deeply embarrassed.

Howard smiled at me. He’d saved me the panelist seat next to him. “Where have you been?” he asked.

“You know. Taking care of myself,” I said.  “This is the self-care panel, right?”

Howard grinned. Everyone else laughed. Good friends are like that. They set you up for the home run.

Be a friend. Set someone up for the home run. Bring out the best in the people around you.

Activity Report: February 2019

 

 

Activity Report: February 2019 

  • Published Shadowcloaks.
  • Built book stands in my garage.
  • Presented at Life, the Universe, & Everything 37 (LTUE 37).
  • Planned and  drafted my first middle grade novel.

 Highlights from Life, The Universe, & Everything 37:

  • Driving my niece to school in the traditional rental car. (We’ll spare her the selfie for anonymity reasons, but let’s just say February 14th and me get along when it comes to car rentals.)
  • Hanging with Laura Palmer and juggling with Howard Tayler at LTUE’s mass book signing. Unfortunately, we forgot our cameras. All photographs are event-posthumous. (There’s probably a better way to describe that . . . )
  • Learning from Allison Hymas that “acquisitioners” might be called “retrieval specialists” in the modern middle school.
  • Being assigned panels with some very talented writers.
  • Receiving an epic 1-on-1 historic weapon tutorial with Gordon Frye and his wife.
  • Talking with Kelly Barnhill about space camp, Launch Pad, and fortuitous meetings.
  • Scoring a heely goal in a late-night, post-conference futsal game at SportCityUtah.
  • Seeing the opening scene from Shadowcloaks repeated on the Wasatch front.
  • Spreading grins and good cheer with Coco, the Emotional Support Queen Palm among the passengers of Delta Flights 3922. I have more seedlings in my back yard if you need one. . .

It’s been a busy month. Thanks for your support.

208 WORDS

Maybe it’s the relaxed day. Maybe it’s the teenage son voluntarily listening to jazz and doing dishes in the kitchen. Maybe it’s the knowledge that “Mr. Spazz,”—the squirrel haunting our attic—has finally gone to a better place. (Easy there, PETA.  “Better place” in this vernacular means “wildlife preserve on the opposite side of a major waterway.”)

Whatever the reason, here I am, reading an actual book.  Or I was, until I decided to post about reading an actual book. And it may not count as an actual book, since it’s actually the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) of a book that’s already been released and was probably modified from the version I have. But let’s not quibble. The first page impressed me. It was good enough that I had to put the book down and talk about it.

In one-half page and 208 words, the author (1)  bricks out a solid, sympathetic protagonist, (2) throws down a red herring or two, and (3) establishes three different  sources of conflict.

Hoping the rest of the book delivers. . .

 

 

Activity Report: September 2018 

Activity Report: September 2018 

  • Finished Draft 3 of Shadowcloaks. Sent manuscript to alpha readers. Continued art direction.
  • Attended the Writing Excuses Retreat as both vacation and professional development: seven days of writing, networking, and not doing dishes.
  • Worked on PlagueRunners, subconsciously. 😉
  •  Did important parenting and day-job stuff.

 

Highlights from the Writing Excuses Retreat:

  • Reconnecting with old friends and making new ones.
  • Eating dinner with Dongwon Song of Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. Learning about what it means to “publish well.”
  • Talking system design with Clark Rowenson.
  • Making a joke at Howard Tayler’s humor lecture and watching him laugh and then effortlessly demonstrate what it means to “double-down.”
  • Discussing the benefits of foreign travel with Michael Underwood and the twists and turns of life and writing with Krista Jensen.
  • Watching Cooper Barham and Dan Wells argue about whose habitat gets Bobo the gorilla. (Fiasco is my new favorite game.)
  • Seeing my son write 3,168 words in a single day.

It’s been a busy month. Thanks for your support. Bonus points for anyone who can guess which class circled below I didn’t attend:

WXR18-2

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