Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Here's hoping that whatever your beliefs are, at this time of year you are able to be among those you love and cherish the most.  

From my family to yours, have a very Merry Christmas. 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanks

Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It's all about the Four F's: Food, Family, Friends, and Football. There's no pressure to shop for gifts, just a day to enjoy some chow with your loved ones and then the massive food-coma that sets in afterwards. 

It's also a time to be thankful for the things we have. And as clichéd as it is, here is my list of…

Stuff CM is Thankful For:

1) CobraMrsFit: The woman is infinitely patient and tolerant. She listens when I get all excited about a shiny new plot idea (no matter how outlandish or stupid it is), actually enjoys beekeeping, and insists on me having "guy time" with my buds. She’s also the most compassionate person I know. I got real lucky with this one.  

2) My Folks: I grew up in a home filled with love and laughter where Dad taught me how to be a man and Mom taught me how to be a gentle man.

3) My In-Laws: Listening to the horror stories from my co-workers, I am very thankful to have extended family that feels like family

4) This Nation: Listen, no matter what your political views are, it's hard to argue against the fact that we live in an amazing country. I've seen a lot of the world and trust me, we have it good. That's not to say other countries aren't fantastic, but this is our home. One of the most inspiring things is that if we don't like the way it is being run, then we actually have the right to vote the ruling party in or out of office. Our voice may seem small at times, but it does matter. Few places on this planet can say the same. Granted, we are not without our faults, but everyone has their issues. Yet no matter what, we are a nation of hopeful romantics, inspiring heroes, soulful artists, passionate dreamers, and determined entrepreneurs. Any one of us can be as much or as little as we want. How great is that, eh?

5) My Mentors, Betas, and Fellow Cantineros: This one is dedicated to my writing posse. Several years ago, I had no clue what I was doing. Then I met a some amazing people, especially those at Absolute Write, who helped point me in the right direction*. To Suz, thank you for being a friend and for providing the kick-in-the-pants that made me think I could actually write something. To Hillz and 'Bugz, you guys are amazing. Individually, you've helped me hone my skill in more ways than you'll ever know. To the Crew at the Cantina, you all provide a safe and encouraging place to linger between plot points. The encouragement you provide one another is an example of what all writing communities should be like. Stay shiny, gang.

6) My Dragon Brother: If you love comics, music, theater, and The Classics, this is the guy. Thanks for decades of laughter with, and at, one another, bud.

7) Pie and Wine: Because both are awesome and in ample supply this time of year.


So that’s my list. How about you? Anything in particular you’re thankful for?    






*Or "write" direction, if you will! Ba-dum-dum!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Mini-Blog Hop. Tag: You're It!

The lovely and effervescent Anya T. Quinn tagged me as part of a WIP Mini Blog Hop. And since I’m always up for supporting my fellow writers, I’m playing along.

Here are the rules:

Answer these ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) on your blog. (SEE BELOW)

Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them. (SEE BELOW)

Okay, so here goes....

1. What is the working title of your book?

The Devil’s Practitioner. Apparently Twilight and Harry Potter were already taken.

2. What genre does the book fall under?

Dunno. Kinda’ one-part Urban Fantasy and one-part modern Greek mythological action flick.

3. Which actors would you choose to play your characters for the movie rendition?

If I had my druthers, Neil Patrick Harris as the Main Character, Harlan, and Anne Hathaway as Emma. Of course, that may also be because I have man-crushes on the both of them.

4. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When down-and-out country doctor Harlan Edwards is chosen by the gods to find a cure for a dying Hades, he finds his road to redemption blocked by crazed fanatics and power-hungry deities, both of whom are willing to sacrifice the stability of the Underworld and the lives of all humanity if it means capitalizing on the death of Harlan and his patient.

5. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’d much prefer to be represented by an agent since they know the murky waters of publishing far better than I do. Plus, there’d be a sense of satisfaction knowing I climbed the Big Hill and emerged victorious.   

6. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Just shy of 6-months. It’s hard to hammer out 96,000 words when you work 10 hours a day.

7. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Eesh. Maybe the Percy Jackson series, but that’s Young Adult. Otherwise, I like to think of it as Harry Dreseden vs. The Ancient Greek Gods. But with shotguns.

8. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Actually, it started as a joke in the Absolute Write Cantina (LINK) and I drew up a mock-query letter. My feminazgul* pal, Psycho (aka: @Fatihah_Iman), encouraged me to follow up with the idea and when I mentioned it to my buddy Scipio (a classics/comics nut over at The Absorbascon), he helped me conduct the research. What started as a humorous spoof turned into a full-blown novel that digs deep into the mythos of the Greek gods and gives a lot of nods to the lesser-known deities.  

9. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

There's a lot of action, a ton of humor, and a little romance, but the biggest enticement is that everything we think we know about the Greek Pantheon is given a fresh spin. Hades is a good guy, Death loves a nice cup of tea, and we see that the gods are just as fragile and broken as we mortals. And as Harlan struggles though his quest to find a cure, his actions will drastically alter the hierarchy of power among the gods in later books.

Assuming I write more in the series. 

Question #10: Tag, you’re it!

Okay, so here are my tags:

Tiffany Allee (@tiffanyallee) – She writes Paranormal Romance that is sooooooo good.

Bettie Lee Turner (@Bettiekins) – She’s the queen of fairies.

Cathy Pegau (@CathyPegau) – Alaskan Awesomeness that cannot be bottled.

Sean Connell (@slcboston) – Snark and laughs, wrapped in brains, and dipped in mwa-ha-ha.

Abner Senires (@abnersenires) – Kat and Mouse. ‘Nuff said.

So that's that. Happy Friday, everyone.


* I KNOW that’s spelled wrong. I’ll check with Psycho and correct it later.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Birthday, CobraMrsFit

Today is CobraMrsFit's birthday. Sure it's also Halloween, but more importantly, it's the celebration of my bride entering the world.

But rather than simply gush about my better-half, I'd like to share some proof of why I consider myself a truly lucky guy.


For starters, she's funny:


The Bride is pleased with her hair.
 
OMG! Contagion!
 
With her adoring fans. And a treefrog.

Holding Nature in the palm of her hand

She's classy:


Stylish duo
 She's bright and sunny:  


Sunny lady

She puts up with my hobbies: 
 

Honey lady

Heck, she puts up with me:


Tolerant lady
  But most important, she agreed to legally bind herself to me*:  



Officially CobraMrsFit.
 
After 13 years, 7 of those as a couple and one as husband and wife, she still manages to make every day fresh and fun.

So happy birthday, babe. Thanks for keeping me on my toes for well over a decade and here's hoping for many more.



Best pic of us

*I don't know why either, but there's no backing out now!


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thumbs Up to the (new) Scarlet Spider

I'll admit, I'm one of those Spidey fans who was burned by how poorly our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man was treated with the One More Day/Brand New Day debacle. I get that comics want to shake things up once in a while (*cough*NewDCU*cough*), but Quesada's move was a complete mis-handle*. It was bad enough that I walked away from Marvel as a whole. 'Course, Spidey was the only one I really followed, but still, the incident reinforced my commitment to DC.

And then Marvel cranked out a new hope for the Spidey franchise. 

Scarlet Spider.


**
Holy carp! Santa's a bad***!
 Now keep in mind, this isn't the first time we've seen the Scarlet Spider brand. Joe Wade, Felicia Hardy, and a team of somebodies all carried the moniker. Most important, it was poor, unlucky Ben Reilly who was the first and most remembered.




***
Dude, spandex AND a loose sweatshirt? No wonder they bumped you off. 
  For those who didn't follow the Clone Sage, I can't help you. Heck, I'm not sure even the writers of the series can. It was a jumbled mess of WTH plot lines and all sorts of clones of Peter Parker coming out of the word works (including Ben and this real jerk named Kaine). Along the way, Ben does the SS thing while Kaine becomes a villain/anti-hero/assassin/beat-poet/who-knows, etc.

Basically, if you figure out the clone stuff, let me know.

ANYWAY, that was then for the Scarlet Spider and this is now. The "modern" tale picks up during the story arc of Spider Island in the Amazing Spider-Man. Kaine makes a dramatic reappearance, gets healed by Parker (long story), helps defeat the bad guys, steals a high-tech spider-suit (as well as a lot of cash), and makes a run for Mexico.

And lo begins the new Scarlet Spider.

Okay, so now that you're up to date with the confusing background, let's get to the meat of why this new Scarlet Spider is worth checking out.

1) The Motto:

All of the Power. None of the Responsibility.

Gang, this right here was enough to make me want to read issue #1. And you know what? The writers mean it. Although Kaine is a clone of Parker, his powers differ. In addition to wall-crawling, he's sporting organic shooters, spikes, a sexy new suit (complete with stealh capabilities), yet lacks the infamous Spider Sense which means he doesn't see trouble coming. Adding into this cornucopia of awesome, Kaine deals with bad-guys like someone with a chip on their shoulder would and not the traditional, "softer hands" of Peter Parker. Granted, he doesn't kill arbitrarily, but he's not opposed to it if need be.



****
"Hey, get your own %^&*$*@ sword!" - Deadpool 
2) Location:

I love that Scarlet Spider is set in Houston, Texas for a number of reasons. First, unlike Spidey, who seems to always be on the wrong side of the New York law and media, Houston LOVES their vigilante superhero. He's all over the news, there are action figures and trading cards, and even the cops want his help dealing with crime.



*****
Sorry, Kaine, Houston is going to love you whether you want it or not.
 I've always had a beef with the mindset that the New York cops and media see Spidey as nothing more than a careless vigilante, so it's nice that SOMEONE appreciates their superhero.

And if any state is gonna do it, it's gonna be Texas. Trust me. Some of my family is from there.

The other thing I like about the location of Houston is that it puts Kaine at a disadvantage:



******
This ain't New York, buddy.

Web-slinging isn't quite as effective in Houston as it is in New York and I like that the writers pay homage to that fact.


3) Kaine:

Kaine is snarky and short-tempered. He's kinda' like Deadpool, but without the manic psychosis or rampant murder (at least now). Yet, he's not afraid to do what needs to be done to put down the bad guys when the situation demands it.



*******
"BLAM! BLAM" BLAM!" sounds waaaay more menacing than, "FWIP! FWIP! FWIP!"


********
Yeah, that makes way more sense when bad guys are threatening to nuke your city...
 But as much as Kaine is a bad boy, he's also learning how to be a hero to absolve himself of his past as an assassin. Some of the writing goes a little overboard with this, but I like that the writers force Kaine into the position of hero rather than have him suffer an "epiphany of goodness". Starting out, all he wanted was to escape his past by running to Mexico, but got tripped up in Houston. After several incidents (including dealing with a nuke), he's decided that Houston is home. Heck, he even has a few friends. And really, isn't that how most of us wind up where we are? We have one plan that gets completely derailed and the next thing we know, we're where we need to be.

4) Homosexuality

Many, many comics try to handle homosexuality/transgender/etc and do an abysmal job of it. Batwoman, in my opinion, has the best main character in comics today and she just happens to be a lesbian. The writers handle her well, but they also tend to harp on the fact that she's a lesbian. It's almost always in the "bio" breakdown of the first page of EVERY comic.

The writers of Scarlet Spider, however, have taken a different path. Rather than blatantly wave the "Hey y'all, we have a gay character in our comic!", they instead treat it deftly and, to be honest, more accurately for today's society. Early on, Kaine is in the office of Dr. Donald Meland and sees a framed picture of him and police officer Wally Layton on a fishing trip together. When Kaine asks if they are pretty good friends, Donald replies, "Sometimes. He's my husband." And then, "Do you have problem with that?" when he seed the look of surprise on Kaine's face.

What I like about this scene is that there isn't a huge shocker or built-up publicity for it (like Adam Scott over on NewDCU Earth-2). Instead, it's a fact of life, just like in the real world. Sure, Kaine is caught off guard at first, but the entire thing immediately boils down to this: Wally and Donald are simply a great couple.


*******
I agree, Wally. Superhero or not, that'd freak me the crap out, too.
 The no-nonsense, matter-of-fact handling of this couple is, in my opinion, outstanding. The writers don't make a big deal about "ZOMGay characters" and in turn, there's a depth to the comic that is surprisingly lacking elsewhere. Rather than continually state to the reader that these two are *gasp* married men, they simply show it to us and allow us to see what a normal couple looks like. The fact that they are same-sex is immaterial.

Well done, Marvel.



Conclusion:

Scarlet Spider isn't without its flaws (seriously, Kaine, get rid of the chip on your shoulder already), but overall it's been an excellent ride. The writing is crisp, the artwork appealing, and the main character (and side characters, for that matter) engaging. In Kaine, we have someone willing to sling a gun as much as a web, someone who isn't perfect but trying to atone for his past, and someone who is able to knock heads when the situation demands it. Granted, there are plenty of complications on the horizon (and opportunities to get sucked into a vortex of WTH plot-lines), but after 7 issues, I think we have ourselves a winner.


**********
Duck and weave! Duck and weave!





*I mean, come ON Mr. Quesada! Want to keep the series alive for another 20-30 years? Why not kill off Aunt May? Why not let Parker try to adjust to a world where he doesn't carry the guilt of Uncle Ben? Why not bring back the whole Spider-Baby arc that completely vanished from the Marvel continuum? Not to mention that when JMS was at the writing-helm, the series was at an all-time high. And really? Telling readers that married couples in comics are pointless and boring? Ouch, dude.

**Image courtesy of: http://www.dadsbigplan.com/2012/04/comic-rack-scarlet-spider-4/

***Image courtesy of: http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/JoshWildingNewsAndReviews/news/?a=50742

****Image courtesy of: http://mikescollection.wordpress.com/2012/01/14/scarlet-spider/

*****Image courtesy of: http://insidepulse.com/2012/02/09/review-scarlet-spider-2-by-christopher-yost-ryan-stegman/

******Image courtesy of: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/scarlet-spider?before=1343410369

*******Image courtesty of: http://www.comicvine.com/scarlet-spider-after-life/37-315091/

********Image courtesy of: http://henchman4hire.com/2012/05/11/review-scarlet-spider-5/

*********Image courtesy of: http://www.newsarama.com/php/multimedia/album.php?aid=45872

**********Image courtesy of: http://www.comicsthegathering.com/sites/default/files/scarlet%20spider%20%237%20001%20(3).jpg

Friday, August 17, 2012

For Mom on Her 70th Birthday

Mom turns 70 today.

That, in and of itself is an accomplishment. To do so without losing your sense of humor, despite what life throws at you, well, that’s something truly amazing. It’s one of the many reasons she is an inspiration to me and those around her.

To call my mother vivacious would be an understatement. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, she grew up every bit the sassy, southern red-head. She joined the Rainbow Girls, participated in Eastern Star, was on the drill team in high school, and involved herself in almost everything she could get her hands on. But it wasn’t until college that she found her calling: Speech and Drama. She studied the craft and dreamed of being on Broadway. She even met my father though Dad’s roommate whom she was dating at the time. As Dad likes to put it, they were drinking buddies first, friends second, lovers third.

When Dad dropped out of college and joined the Marines, he spent 3 months of Paris Island and another year or so in flight school before receiving orders to Vietnam. The New Years before he deployed, Mom hunted him down and demanded that they keep in touch.

Obviously, they did.  

Before kids, Mom was active in a local theater group. She played every part from leading lady to support roles and we have a treasure-trove of photos with her all gussied up. Being married to Mom, Dad was often roped into her theater schemes. But after my sister and I were born, she swapped out her acting robes for her parenting ones.

As a kid, Mom was always the Mamma Bear: sweet and loving to my sister and I while viciously butchering anyone who threatened us. One hand with a gentle caress, the other fending off threats to her babies.

She also spent a lot of time and energy educating my sister and I on “the classics”. She watched operas on PBS, reading aloud the subtitles until we were old enough to read them on our own. She taught us the difference between Wagner and Rossini and helped me appreciate La Boheme, Carmen, and the rest. And whenever I needed a nerd fix, she devoured Star Trek: TNG, DS9, Voyager, B5, and “other classics” along with me and my friends.  

She also started me on the path to writing by instilling in me an appreciation for the written word. Often our Mother-Son days would wind up at a bookstore where we’d lose ourselves in the pages of new releases. When I expressed an interest in writing, she fanned the flames, always reading my material no matter how terrible it was.

Mom had a hard time when the family moved to Alaska. Not only did she leave behind her friends and career, but the long winters and dark nights took a serious toll on her. Still, she threw herself into the community, working at the museum and Performing Arts Center and, for a few years, running the ice sculpture competition. When the family eventually moved away, she was presented with a plaque commemorating her service as “The Ice Empress”.

My choice to join the Marines wasn’t a popular one with her because not only was it was dangerous, but it would take me far from home. I remember clearly the discussion about why she didn’t want me on the front lines or in an aircraft. It didn’t matter that her husband had followed the same path because being a mother trumped everything else. But she supported the decision, sending cards and Dave Barry articles regularly while I was overseas.

Life was good.

Then life threw her a curve ball.

18 years ago, Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Cancer is an adaptive and hideously tenacious disease. Burn it out in one area and it has the capability to thrive somewhere else. It feasts on the soft-tissue of the body, forcing the victim to try and keep one step ahead of the rampant expansion.

Such was the case with Mom. Once every two weeks, she’d undergo chemotherapy which drained her of everything for at least a day. But she’d recover and be back to her old self. Or at least try to be.

After years and years of treatments, the cells went into remission, but only for a short period. When they flared up a second time, however, they’d also moved into the lungs. She underwent another round, this time more intensive and draining. We cheered when the cancer was yet again beaten down.

Then it moved into her liver.

There’s something unfair, and to be honest, evil, about breast cancer in the liver. A soft-tissue organ, it contains so much blood that you can’t simply carve the stuff out. Instead, Mom underwent some of the most drastic treatments I’ve ever heard of. Doctors flayed her open, sealed the blood flow to the cells, dropped radioactive nuggets around the “infected area”, and blasted her with every nuclear chemical they could. Then they sewed her back up and sent her home. I’ve never seen her in such pain as she was the week after the procedure, but it worked.

For a while.

Somehow a few cells survived and adapted which meant another embolism was out of the question. And, having run the gamut of chemotherapy, her only option was a clinical trial of a new drug. For a year, she was the poster-child and doctors marveled at how quickly the cancer cells diminished. Unlike other treatments, she didn’t lose her hair and there was no nausea or exhaustion. She was the happiest I’d seen her in years, finally on a path that looked like it was going to hammer the issue into submission.

Last month, the cancer adapted yet again, completely negating the drug.

I cannot comprehend what she felt when her oncologist told her there were no more options. Personally, it was a knife to my gut. I’m a fighter, always have been, and I grew up believing that anything could be overcome given enough time and planning. That no situation was without an option. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case with Mom. Every chemo treatment, and I mean every damn one of them, was no longer effective. Another embolism was a maybe, but the damage it did to her previously might make it more dangerous a second time. And when the conversation turned towards “experimental procedures”, we all knew it was bad news.

And that’s when Mom surprised every single one of us.

Rather than collapse in on herself, she revamped her life entirely. A new diet, a new workout regime, and an attitude of giving her body the healthiest system she could so it could fight on its own if need be. She takes a weekly Herceptin treatment to help slow the growth, attends Zumba three days a week, eats better than the rest of us, and has become more active and involved than she’s been in years. After 18 years of constant combat, she hasn’t given up.

To put this all in perspective, Mom has been fighting cancer for more than a quarter of her life. 25% of her time on this earth has been spent dealing with this disease, and yet she’s still fighting. I have no doubt the burden of cancer weighs heavily on her, but it’s not defeating her. Sure, it might beat her physically some day, but you can bet it won’t do so emotionally. Family and friends, myself included, are in awe of her.

The military talks a lot about courage, but all the acts of valor, heroism, and sacrifice don’t hold a candle in my eyes to the example my mother sets. She refuses to let the cancer beat her, despite how badly it has ravaged her over the years.

I used to think I knew what courage was. I have since been re-educated.

Because Mom turns 70 today.  

So happy birthday, Mom. Thank you for kissing my forehead when I slept, for holding my hand when I was sick, and for all the emotional band-aids you provided my body and soul over the years. Thank you for instilling me with a love of music, for encouraging my passion for the written word, and for allowing me to become the man today without ever losing sight of the boy I used to be.

But most of all, thank you for showing me what the embodiment of courage looks like.

Here’s praying for many more years of you serving as an example to all of us.

I love you.
  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Writer Doubt

Someone I respect a great deal in the writing world* recently mentioned that they were suffering from Writer Doubt. “What’s the point?” they asked. “Why bother?”

These are normal questions that every un-agented/un-published writer asks themselves. Publishing is a tough market and for every successful author, there are literally thousands of hopefuls just begging for the chance to see their name in print. Given those odds, the chances that we hopefuls will make it are slim.

I’ll be the first to admit that my initial interest in writing was the possibility of being published. Oh sure, people say that a person should write because it’s a passion and, even if no one else reads your stuff, you will blah, blah, cliché, whatever, blah. But the reality is that I wanted to be a successful author. I loved the idea of waking up early, spending 2 hours in the gym, enjoying a huge breakfast, and then knuckling down for a solid day of writing. I secretly dreamed of the blog-interviews, the book tours, and the smiles on readers faces when the came to my signings. And I couldn’t wait to see my name on the cover of a hardback at my local bookstore.   

But that’s not how a career in writing works, at least, not at first. Sometimes, not at all. Writing is hard and time consuming. Putting 20,000 to 100,000 words on paper and organizing them into semi-logical order isn’t a walk in the park. Then you have to polish them so that they keep the attention of people who don’t know you and are being bombarded with thousands of other stories that are similar or better than yours. Even then, your shiny story may not be right for the market at that time. There are even authors who get books onto shelves and then watch in horror as sales lag and they are faced with the slow death of their novel/series. Heartbreak, it seems, abounds and yet this is the world we no-names are fighting to break in to.

Believe me, I sympathize with my friend's feelings.

So what's the point? Why bother?

The point is, Writer Doubt is real. It’s tangible and it’s contagious. But it’s also a cancerous rot that will do nothing for us except chip away at our confidence. Life is full of insurmountable odds, deflating rejection, and gut-wrenching disappointment. Some people make it and some don’t, but very few people ever try. Just by putting your butt in a chair and hands on a keyboard, you’re already ahead of the game.

We bother because just like there are thousands of people out there who want to be published authors, there are tens of thousands who don’t have the courage, tenacity, or drive to even make the attempt. That manuscript you’re working on may never see a printing press, but believe it or not, it’s a shining beacon of accomplishment because you haven’t given up. And continuing to write, even in the face of rejection and disappointment, means that Writer Doubt isn’t going to defeat you.

One last thought: If you're frustrated about the publishing process, well that's something completely out of your hands. Finding and agent and/or publisher is just as much about timing as it is your writing. You might have the next great novel just waiting to be discovered, but this may not be the right time for it. Or you may have a silly little story that strikes a chord with an agent/publisher and makes them say, "Oh my GLOB! Want!" But we don't know. All we can do is just continue to hone our skill, put our ideas on paper, submit them to the Powers That Be, and hope that eventually they get noticed.

Because in the end, succumbing to Writer Doubt will kill our dreams long before anything else will.




*Note: I made sure to get her permission before writing this post.  

Thursday, June 14, 2012

To Dad

This Sunday is Father's Day, so I’d like to take a moment to honor mine. As fair warning to you all, I’ve never actually written something dedicated to my father, so this may get a bit long and personal.

You’ve been warned.

My father was a pre-Baby Boomer, born to parents who were wide-eyed, innocent teens at the start of WWII and strained, world-weary citizens by the end of it. My grandmother was all of 18 when she married Dad’s biological father, Tom, and less than a year later, my father came into the world. Unfortunately, “Grandfather Tom” was a free-spirit artist who had more talent with a brush than he had with his pocketbook. The family bounced from place to place following art gigs, but they were never able to do more than eke out a meager living.

Dad was ten when Grandmamma finally had enough of living on the edge. She divorced Grandfather Tom, something unique in that day and age, and survived as a single mom for several years before finally marrying Chuck, the man that Dad calls his Pop. “Pop”, a long-time friend of the family, had served in the Marines during the war and had a steady job with Wonder Bread. Dad likes to say it was the first time he had a father-figure in his life that provided any direction.

In the years between the marriage and Dad leaving for college, Granddaddy Chuck provided not only financial support for Grandmamma and her three kids, but also moral support. The family followed Chuck’s career all over the globe, but everywhere they went, Chuck ensured they enjoyed life experiences while saving for the future. He worked long hours, but unlike life with Tom, there was always food on the table and heat in the house. Occasionally, the family would even splurge for English Muffins.

Most important, there was always laughter and love within the walls.

Unfortunately, Dad inherited a lot of his father’s free-spirit and college-life quickly went from fun to failing. With the prospect of being kicked out hanging over his head, he opted to follow in Pop’s footsteps and enlisted in the Marines. He spent a miserable three months at Parris Island, enlisted in the MARCAD (Marine Corps Aviation Cadet) program, attended flight school, and found himself three years later with a pair of wings on his chest, a set of “butter-bars” on his collar, and orders to Vietnam in his hands.

The year was 1967.

The late sixties were a bloody and awful time for the Marines in country. Unlike the war in Iraq where at the peak, America was losing approximately 75 warriors a month, U.S. forces in Vietnam suffered over 30 deaths a day. According to The Wall-USA*, total losses for the war were over 58,000**. Between 1967 and 1968, when Dad was in country, losses neared 28,000. To put things into perspective, my war has seen total losses of 4474 in Iraq and another 1966 in Afghanistan***. That’s over ten years of combat and it’s still only 25% the number of deaths covering the two year span that enveloped Dad’s 13-month deployment.

Vietnam affected every combatant personally and Dad was no different. His best friend and co-pilot was killed in the seat next to him during a hot-extraction, his base was shelled constantly, and for the last half of his tour in country, he was assigned as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) to a large airbase called Khe Sahn. He arrived ten days before the siege began and finished his tour two weeks after it ended.****  

What surprises me is not so much that Dad survived, but that he came home in tact. He’s never been closed-lipped about his experiences, but rather views them as a chapter in his life. Granted, it is one that was full of excitement, terror, loss, and boredom, but it was a chapter none-the-less. And when that chapter was finished, he moved on to the next one. First it was finishing college (Dad was the first graduate in the family) followed quickly by Law School.

And then a family.

As a kid, I viewed my father as not only the bread-winner, but also as an authority figure. Ours was a “traditional” household insomuch as Mom stayed at home with us kids while Dad inched up the ranks of the company. Hours were long and he was often gone before we got up in the morning and home right around dinner. He and Mom ran a tight ship, but not once did he bring “the office” home with him. When the tie came off, the stress and politics of the career went with it.

The interesting thing is that despite these long hours, Dad was always around when we needed him. Any time my sister or I had a band concert, play, or sporting event, Dad was there. Sometimes he’d be late, but I can count on one hand the number of times when he didn’t show. In high school, the folks attended every single home rifle meet. Afterwards, they’d invite the entire team over to the house where we’d watch Star Trek: TNG and Dad would bake cookies. For a lot of my friends, he was a surrogate father-figure who treated my peers like human beings and not like a bunch of dumb kids.

Amazingly, my friends seemed to take a shine to that.

Dad was also always a well-spring of cliched, yet amazingly accurate advice. When I was an awkward teen pining about how a girl was out of my league, he sat me down and said, “Son, no woman is out of your league. After all, someone has to date the supermodels and it might as well be you.” When my sister complained about an overly dramatic and needy friend, Dad offered up, “People are like car batteries: There are those who will charge your battery and those who will drain it. The goal in life is to surround yourself with the battery chargers.”

Yup, that’s the kind of stuff I grew up with.

But he was more than just someone who spouted fatherly advice. He was also a man who walked the walk of fatherhood and one of the most glaring examples of this happened when I was ten. I became horribly sick and spent three months on the children’s ward of a mental hospital. From Thanksgiving through Valentines Day, my world was the sterile walls of the hospital and not the crackling fireplace of our home. It was lonely, scary, and demoralizing, but Dad was there every single day. No matter if he had a meeting or client, he would always come by the hospital for a few hours before heading home. We’d play Foosball in the activity room, watch movies on the Betamax, or just sit in my room and play with matchbox cars. We even saw Top Gun for the first time on a projector screen in the gym.

The longer I stayed there, however, the more I came to realize that mine were the only parents to visit regularly. The other troubled or sick kids saw their folks on holidays or, at best, every couple of weeks, but Dad was there 7 days a week. Rain or shine.

The impact that kind of parenting makes on a kid, especially one alone and afraid, is dramatic and it was certainly a defining moment in my life. It was an example of what a strong, loving father should be and Dad went from being just a father to being a man I wanted to emulate.

When I expressed an interest in joining the Marines, Dad emphasized I shouldn’t feel the need to follow in his or Granddaddy’s footsteps. Instead, he wanted me to pave my own way in life, whether or not that included the Marine Corps. But the thing was, the path I wanted to pave was influenced by the leadership and the fatherly example he instilled in me as a kid. So I signed up and shipped out.

What’s funny is that when I finally returned home, he and I spent many late nights sipping wine and recounting tales from our different wars. It was both a bonding experience and something internally cathartic. Sharing that unique bond did more for my own mental health than any post-deployment vacation ever could. And when I finally decided to end my own chapter in the Marines, Dad was right there to give me a hug, hand me a beer, and join me in a toast to the Corps that so greatly shaped the both of us.

Over the years, our relationship has evolved from parent-child into something more akin to family-friends. We don’t always agree, but Dad is part golfing buddy, car fanatic, parent, leader, and wine connoisseur*****. As a kid, I didn’t realize how special the man was, but as an adult, I thank God every day for being one of the lucky ones.

Recently, CobraMrsFit and I started having The Kids talk and while I’ll admit the prospect is a little intimidating, I feel a lot more confident staring down that path thanks to Dad. And if I can be even a fraction of the man to my children that my father was to my sister and me, I’ll count myself extremely lucky.

So here’s to you, Dad. Thank you for forgiving me when, as a baby, I had my first bowel movement on your chest and for not killing me when, at two, I ripped the needle out of the record player. Thank you for being an excellent role model, a humble hero, a passionate patriot, a dauntless leader, and a roll-your-eyes goofball. Thank you for playing with hand-puppets at the end of the bed, telling bad jokes, teaching me how to cut down a tree and chop firewood, always screwing up 'Twas the Night Before Christmas so that Sis and I laugh until we cry (even though Mom hates when you do it), encouraging us to love and accept others who are different than us, and showing us how to stick to our morals and stand by our friends, even when it’s not the popular or easy thing to do.

But above all, thank you for being an amazing father.




Dad and I on the Yard of Bricks at Indy this year

 


**These numbers start in 1957 (1 death) and run through the period of 1980-1995 (66 deaths).


****For an outstanding and completely horrifying read about the siege, I highly recommend The End of the Line: The Siege of Khe Sahn by Robert Pisor.

*****And by connoisseur, I mean we drink only the finest cheapo wine.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tweets of the (egads! many) Week(s): 08 Jun 12

Pardon me while I brush the dust off this here blog....
Wow, it's been a while, so apologies to the scores (aka tens) of worshipers feeling lost without an update. You know how it goes: work, training, finishing a WIP, revising, writing a query letter, ripping up the query letter, redoing the query letter, wondering if you should take up bowling instead of writing, conquering small patches of earth that are left unguarded, ruling that patch of eath with an iron fist...you know, normal stuff.

Anywho, no better way to get back into the swing of things than with:

CM's TWEETS OF THE WEEK*:

@SamSykesSwears: It is not legal to slap someone who brags about not reading books, but it is the right thing to do.

@shannynmoore: Campaigner knocked on my door & asked to "talk to the man of the house". I brought him my Mr Coffee maker.

@GeorgeTakei: Budweiser's "Platinum" beer is an edgier, more alcoholic version of what we were used to seeing. Kind of like Lindsay Lohan.

@SuzBrockmann: I want to order a pair of pants for the waitress.

@wizdom: God doesn’t have Twitter, but I follow Him.

@Scotzig: Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.

@victoriastrauss: A-plus again! RT : You piqued my curiosity. Can we get a peek at whatever brought your irritation to a peak?

@JensBookshelf: How do non-daydreamers get through the day? If I don't spend time in my imagination, I'd go stir crazy.

@longshotauthor: I used to be a practical joker, until I took a whoopee cushion in the knee.

@TyrusBooks: If you insist you don't believe in the power of books, I'll insist you haven't read the right ones.

@AH_AdamHuges: There are some truly amazing, wonderful people in this world. And, there are some who, in defiance of the laws of physics, both suck & blow.

@Papa_Kosh: H: I need to get a closer look at those girls. Me: you're gonna be saying that for the rest of your life.

@QuietMountain: " A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something." ~Frank Capra

@scalzi: Wait, a social network I barely use has bought an app I don't use at all with money that's not mine? THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

@Broslife: Sometimes I wish I didn't live with this curse of being so awesome.

@Pres_Bartlet: The First Amendment means you have the right to make an ass of yourself. It doesn't ensure that your employer has to keep paying you after.

@jimchines: Reminder to self: the first draft does not have to be perfect!

@Petermball: It's worth shouting NINJAS! randomly every hour, just in case some are hiding nearby. 99% of the time you look crazy, but that other 1%...

@McilroyRory: If anyone is having a bad day, remember that today in 1976 Ronald Wayne sold his 10% stake in Apple for $800. Now it's worth $58,065,210,000.

@TeresaMedeiros: Writing Facebook status updates and tweets won't make you successful. Writing books will make you successful

@DiscordianKitty: If you lose one sense, your other senses are enhanced. That's why people with no sense of humour have an increased sense of self-importance.

@scalzi: Just watched "Moneyball." SPOILER ALERT: The balls are not, in fact, made of money.

@AbielleRose: If a zombie outbreak happens in Vegas does it stay in Vegas?

@Regan_Summers: P.P.P.S. If the Invisible Woman was into bondage, could Mister Fantastic tie her up...with himself? Because that *would* be fantastic.

@chavelaque: "Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving wordy evidence of the fact." -- George Eliot

@Todd_Roy: Meh! Shrimp missing their eyes will now be called "Shrmp" A tasty new food treat!

@BronxZoosCobra: Today is National High Five Day! So everyone come by the zoo today and give me a...oh, right. Nevermind. Stupid national human holiday.

@geardrops: At airport, surrounded by businessy doodz on their iPads. Using my iPad as a hard surface for my My Little Pony Coloring Book.

@DeathStarPR: If Force choking idiots is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

@AuthorMJFifield: Well, it's a good thing a certain delivery guy's shorts are brown because I'm pretty sure my dogs just scared the shit out of him.

@Colin_Hanks: Ever wonder what they called "Buddy Holly" Glasses before Buddy Holly? I'll tell you the answer: GLASSES.

@Harkaway: I still read "bear with me" as "please put on a furry costume and roar alongside me".

@MensHumor: "I think I am going to have sex with the guy who is wearing his cell phone on his belt." Said, no woman ever.

@therejectionist: Is it normal to experience continuous feelings of loss and anguish that Corporal Hicks is not a real person?

@DavidRoads: Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. -Helen Keller

@DeathStarPR: If you don't have anything nice to say, you're probably just being realistic.

@slackmistress: Everyone SAYS they want a fairytale wedding but when I show up and curse their firstborn suddenly I'm the jerk.

@wilw: From dinner: LeVar says, "How many times did Wesley save the ship?" I reply, "as many times as Geordi got laid. ZING!" many LOLs were had.

@wilw: Another from dinner. Me to LeVar, re Hunger Games: anything that gets kids to read is awesome... But you don't have to take my word for it.

@JenBookshelf: When I am god emperor of the universe, mornings will be outlawed.

@aeroplanegirl: Dear people who question why girls go to the bathroom together: Hermione went alone and got attacked by a troll.

@adamolsen: I turn the other cheek cause it's my good side.

@anmatcoburn: Hipster Mennonites know about bandsaws you've probably never heard of.

@pattonoswalt: Meh. MEHHHHHHHHHH!!! -- hipster ghost

@DeathStarPR: Bad news: Kim Kardashian MIGHT be getting her own sitcom. Good news: if that happens Earth WILL be getting a laser to the face.

@ImTracyMorgan: What's the point of a high school reunion? I have Facebook. I already know you got fat.

@ChuckWendig: The only way to write is to write.

@FakeEditor: DAMMIT, PEOPLE, WRITE MORE BETTER!!

@thesulk: Dancers must have been super excited 34 years ago because it was almost 5/6/78...

@TheMarkTwain: It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.

@ChuckWendig: When we say our characters do things we don't expect, what we mean is our subconscious mind is awesome and wants control for a little while.

@LopoLaugh: You can never be good at things you say you're not good at.

@BigPoppaMatthew: What doesn't kill you makes you wish it did.

@Rachel_Aaron: Sometimes you have to write the book in order to learn how to write the book

@acetachyon: New Higgs rumor: The Higgs boson is dating Snooki.

@DianeDooley: Crap. Coffee down my cleavage. How the hell can I miss a mouth the size of mine?

@JensBookshelf: A list of things you don't need to find in your toilet when you really need to pee. 1. A frog. 2. I hope that is all.

@Storymoja: Comics are a gateway drug to literacy.” ― Art Spiegelman

@JaninePreacher: A friend of mine said onions are the only food that could make you cry. That was before I hit him in the face with a watermelon...

@KalebNation: So for all the writers out there wanting to be published: no it never gets old, and yes it's 100% worth all the work you're doing.

@raecarson: Growing as a writer means nothing you've written in the past satisfies. Here's to a long career of wincing at previous work. *raises tea*

@NotAbsoluteWrit: Despero, the AW wine. Flavors of coffee, printer ink and tears; an aroma evoking old flame wars and half-forgotten rejections. Coming soon.

@AuthorMJFifield: "Always remember to be yourself. Unless you suck." ~Joss Whedon

@cerebralbalsy: You guyssss. You don't have to send me a link. Just tell me you want me to block you.

@AlanHungover: Next time you're at a McDonald's Playplace and someone asks you, "Aww which one is yours?" Say, "I haven't picked one out yet..."

@JustMindBlowing: 20 years ago we had Johnny Cash, Bob Hope and Steve Jobs. Now we have no Cash, no Hope and no Jobs. Please dont let Kevin Bacon die.

@DeathStarPR: If someone sends you a long text and you reply with, "K", we get to blow up your planet.

@djpaultavares: How to Save the World: 1) Make a document titled "The World". 2) Save it.

@alan_tudyk: I want to replace, "thank you for your service." you can say that to the waitstaff. How about, "you've kicked more ass than I'll ever know."

@ActuallyNPH: A heartfelt thank you to all of the men and women who serve(d) in our military. What you did, and continue to do, is awesome.

@DavidRoads: The secret of success is to be ready when your opportunity comes. - Benjamin Disraeli

@AuthorMJFifield: You know you spend too much time playing Angry Birds when you see a picture of someone's house & immediately look for weak spots.

@dawnmetcalf: Grant me the strength to accept the edits I cannot change, the courage to hit the delete key, and the wisdom to know the difference.

@BoobsRadley: Sex life getting boring? Try a trail of rose petals that leads toward your bed but veers into walls and over some marbles, because ahahaha.

@Janet_Reid: Querier just assured me "recommendations don't sell books". Honey,'word of mouth' is exactly what sells books. R is a fancy way to say that.

@geardrops: Bought a Yoo-Hoo. Didn't notice the safety cap was already popped. If this is how I go, remember me as a hero.

@SuzBrockmann: "This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man." Shakespeare

@DeathStarPR: Life is like a Jawa: short, hard to understand, mostly about collecting junk and usually ending with getting thrown on a bonfire.





*And by "week" I mean all the stuff since the end of March. Hang on, kids, this will be a lot of 'em.

*Note: As with all TotW, time is very fluid. Also, all tweets are occasionally as they appear in my feed to include RT credits (when able), trends, misspells, poor punctuation, lies, knick-knack, paddy-whack, and give a dog a bone.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

God Speed, Discovery, and Thank You

Today marks the final flight of OV-103 Discovery. Strapped to the back of a 747, it traveled from Florida to its new home in the Udvar-Hazy Museum at Dulles Airport. As I write this, I'm watching the shuttle as it taxis after landing*. I wanted nothing more than to be on hand for this historic moment, but sadly, was unable to make it.

Thankfully, it made a few low passes over D.C. before heading to the airport.


Discovery making a low pass over the Jefferson Memorial



Watching Discovery pass by was a bitter sweet moment. On the one hand, it was absolutely breathtaking to see the shuttle "up close", especially since it was the first time I'd ever seen one in person. On the other hand, it marked the final leg of the Shuttle Era which is now, and forever, closed.**

One of the clearest memories I have as a child is watching my first shuttle launch. I was in music class and the teacher stopped everything to wheel in a TV. It was one of those 400-lbs CRT monsters atop a rickety, metal AV cart, but we didn't care. Everyone, even the adults, watched in awe as the NASA controller performed the count down, the engines came online, and Columbia blasted off the launch pad.

The room erupted into cheers.

It was a defining moment for many of us because Humans were once again heading to the stars. Suddenly, the universe wasn't some abstract, distant void. It was tangible, but more important, it was reachable. For a young boy who dreamed of traveling through space, the shuttle proved that it was both believable and achievable.


***
Columbia on take-off

But adventure into the unknown is not without risks. That point was driven home with the Challenger disaster. The afternoon after Challenger, I cried my eyes out on the front steps of our townhouse. Yet despite the setback, we overcame the loss and hurtled into space once more.****

In the years since, shuttle launches became almost routine. Few people stopped what they were doing to watch them and many were surprised when one returned to Earth. I remember a co-worker once said, "It's landing? When did it take off?" Maybe we grew accustomed to our occasional jaunts to and from space, but I believe in my heart that we, as a species, never stopped being just a little awed by it.

Then one day, not long ago, the shuttle program ended. And with it, our direct access to the stars.

Granted, we still have the International Space Station and other nations are transporting astronauts to the heavens. And there's no doubt in my mind that we'll eventually build a new orbiter because deep down, we still want to explore. But the Shuttle Era is over. 

Columbia opened a new chapter in exploration. Discovery signaled its closing.

Like the majority of people, I was never able to travel the stars (yet!), but that's not the point. What's important is that while our dreams and desires may change over time, the belief that we can achieve them should not. If we have the capacity to conquer the stars, then imagine what else we are capable of.

So thank you to NASA and everyone involved with the Shuttle program. Thank you for giving us over 30 years of flights into the heavens, for amazing advances in technology, and for providing us with a vehicle that fueled limitless dreams.

Someday we'll head back to the stars and when we do, I hope that my children have their classes interrupted so that they can witness something truly fascinating.

And so that they, too, can dream about conquering impossible.


Additional Images:


*****
STS-01 at night.


 ******
Night Launch

*******
Discovery on the pad



********
Discovery's final launch

*********
Discovery over Earth on its second-to-last mission


*Watching on www.nasa.gov.

**Note: Atlantis was the last operational shuttle, completing her final flight on 21 July, 2011.  Discovery was the first to be decommissioned, thereby signaling the beginning of the end of the era.

***image courtesy of http://www.aviationspectator.com/more-aviation-photos?page=425

****Note: I was equally stunned at the loss of Columbia. Dreams, and the violent loss of those trying to fulfill them, cannot be diminished by age.

*****Image courtesy of here (it's a long link.)

******image courtesy of this link

*******image courtesy of this link

********image courtesy of das linky

*********image courtesy of this here link

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Snake-Up

Normally when I write something*, I have the Main Character already fleshed out in my head. I can hear their voice and have a pretty decent idea of how they are going to react to a situation. I'm not yet in love with him or her, but I'm in serious like with them. I draw their name in little hearts on the inside of my Trapper Keeper and imagine all the fun interactions they are going to have with other pretend people yet to be created. 


**
"Of course I like Amy. Not just like, but like like!!" 

The problem is, I used to be a pantser, and while the character was pretty well developed, the plot wasn't. I can't count the number of times I wrote a scene and then stared at the computer going, "Well, poop." There are literally dozens of sections in my WIPs where the words "SOMETHING NEEDS TO HAPPEN HERE" or "HOW THE HECK DOES THE MC FIND ANSWERS?!" appear.

And yes, they are in caps.

But hey, at least the MC is singing bright and clear with a unique voice, right?

Fast forward to a current WIP and the exact opposite is the case. Instead of pantsing this one, I actually sat down, drew a map, and gave the story clear, defined milestones. It was a first and, to be honest, has made the process of putting-words-to-digital-paper waaaaaaaaaaaay easier. But while the plot is clipping along, the MC feels a bit...bland. Like cold oatmeal eaten in a room with beige wall paper on a gray, Saturday afternoon.***

That said, I'm not too worried because that's the miracle of edits and revisions. Sure, at the moment my MC might be more Barney Fife:


****
Fear the mighty deputy. FEAR HIM! 
and less Snake:

*****
So how'd he get his nickna...ooooohhhh.....

...but that's okay. This go-around, my primary goal is to focus on the plot in order to build the foundation of the house. Once that's complete, then I'll go back and paint the walls, add some nice accent pieces, and generally tweak all the parts needed to make the story a lovely little home. I figure I can always "Snake-Up"****** the MC once he and I feel better about the world he's operating in.

How about you all? Do you find that you start with a Main Character and then write the story around them or do you have the world/plot fleshed out and build the MC into it?



*and by this I mean a story, not a tweet, blog post, diary entry, prophecy, treaty, concerto, blood oath, etc.

**image courtesy of this site

***I know, I know. I've used this before. My Rolodex of similies is limited. 

****image courtesy of here

*****image courtesy of this place

******COINED!