Mar 21, 2011

Changing the Flat Aspire

I had a recent conversation with a friend regarding fiction and non-fiction, and we discussed the concept of how each category of book defines and treats the concept of honesty. Their assertion was that fiction treated honesty with a lie - wrapping all truth in metaphor and analogy, like saying "the sky is blue" by actually describing it as if it were brown. My point was that because non-fiction books only talk about the truth, they can be biased by only painting a partial picture of the truth; focusing it through the director's lens, so to speak, and only using those scenes or details which support the writer's objective. I'll grant that the debate was mostly facetious, but in the midst of it all, we stumbled upon a clever observation: that one of the most consistently honest of all books ends up being our high school yearbooks.

At the time, we laughed about it, but it stuck with me. Because, in its own way, the high school yearbook is really just a big wish, a terrible lie. There we are, forever locked in what in many cases would now be regarded as the worst of all fashion decisions, immortalized in the frozen carbonite of one of the most social awkward stages of our lives, our smiles beaming of optimism and aspiration, but our eyes often betraying our deepest fears.

High school may have been many things, but honesty might not have been one of them; although, looking closely at the lies we told ourselves, or the ones in which we chose to believe, we were at least the most sincere about our self-deceptions. We believed it would be the most significant time of our lives, it would be filled with cherished memories, we believed it would determine the paths of our respective tales of success or failure. And yet, I suspect we knew on some level that it wouldn't be any of those things. We knew that with pimples and bad hair, the cards were stacked against us from the outset. Oh, certainly we did the best we could. In some cases, we owned our awkward attempts at social redemption, struggling for the Breakfast Club moments that could propel our sense of self up and over the challenges of our teen years, and some did a fine job of coming to terms with the reality of it all.

Many did not.

The reality didn't really start setting in until later. Now, though, many years later, I look back on it and don't wonder why I didn't know better, but rather how I'll feel when looking back on myself now. You know, in the now when I feel like I understand the me of twenty+ years ago and think I understand myself from then better than I did then.

But if nothing else, our old yearbooks serve as an intriguing time capsule for not just the people we thought we were (and hoped we really might become), but exposed our sense of the definitions of the future. How many of the kids who were most popular in school were selected as Most Likely To Succeed? I think I got "Most Unique" - - which I concede is not really what most kids in my high school would have wanted, but I wore it as something of a badge of honor in that I never really did feel comfortable on the path most traveled. But that's a whole other story, and not even the point of what I was feeling today.

I was looking through my twitter feed today, and just looking at some of the people I follow and who follow me back, and, it's no big surprise that I follow a lot of authors - I'd follow more if Twitter would let me! - and, if you don't already know this, there are some amazing, fantastic and supremely talented authors out there, not getting the recognition they deserve. And strangely enough, a lot of them keep using the term "aspiring author" or "aspiring writer".


I see that word a lot, and yet, I don't think I ever truly analyzed its meaning or historical evolution. So, let's examine it.

If you're not deeply familiar with the definition, it's like Inspiring (which means to breathe in) and Expire (to breathe out) but means the act of breathing. Literally, that's what it means, To Breathe. Now, along the way, it got equated to more of a panting, exerted breathing, and became synonymous with desire - - the kind of exertions... well, you get the idea.

So it eventually took on an applied definition of more that sort of an empassioned, generally focused sort of desire with which we equate it today. But I fear it's being used, perhaps, too much. Yes, I might just be thinking that because I've seen it a lot, but... well, okay, it's not really a big deal.

I guess the deal is that I don't want to just aspire anymore. My friend Jen wrote the other day how thrilled she was to realize that she was no longer looking forward to living her dream, but that she was living it. That's the goal, isn't it?

It got me thinking. See, as much as I've tried (lol - I almost wrote "aspired" there. Oh sweet irony!) to pursue a more taoist mental path, I've begun to see how I have still projected much of my joy onto a conditional set of parameters. You know the deal, where you tell yourself "I'll be happy when..." And though I've been mostly happy with life, I keep leaving this little bit of "extra" happiness for when I'm able to dedicate myself completely to writing and publishing, etc.

It's weird, but looking at that last sentence, I can't decide which thing I find more incorrect. How much of that is accurate, versus how much is only accurate based on how inaccurate it is? It's like, back when the world believed that the earth was flat, they were essentially, completely wrong - - - but that misconception tells us so much about the truth of the world at that time.

Keeping all that in mind, it does point out a very real truth: that I can never place too much faith on my present perceptions. The lens is always biased, as they say. But, in the end, that will have to be enough. Rather than turn the lens, I focus on letting the world happen; letting me happen, whatever that will mean. And while I'm still the Captain of my vessel, I will work with the wind, the great and breathing tides of the universe. But even while I respect and accept the wind and tides, I remain at the helm, keeping my eyes fixed on the constellations and the seas ahead.

Aspiration isn't a bad thing - - we must have a passion for the life we lead - - but the danger comes when we are passion without focus - a sail with no rudder, or a rudder with no sail.

And, trust me, the only person I'm preaching at today.... is me.

Good morning, my friends. Let's get something wonderful done today.

Mar 17, 2011

Reaper's Return: The Giveaway!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Reaper's Return: Chronicles of Aesirium (Volume 1) by Ren Cummins

Reaper's Return

by Ren Cummins

Giveaway ends April 16, 2011.

See the giveaway details

at Goodreads.

Enter to win

I'm also going to include a complimentary copy of my CD, "Obsidian Bridges" with the three winning copies. Oh, you know you want that.
Hop on, and good luck!

Mar 15, 2011

Reaper's Return; Chapter 1

A couple things are in the plans to celebrate the new launch of the Chronicles of Aesirium; a Goodreads giveaway will be forthcoming (expected start: St Patrick's Day), but to whet your appetite, I'm going to share here the new opening chapter.

Enjoy, friends!


Chapter 1: Rom

Rom leaned close, hugging her friend. “Count to a thousand. If I’m not back by then, run home.” Rain pelted the tattered umbrella just loudly enough to mask the chattering of the two girls’ teeth; Rom wiped away a clump of her unnaturally white hair from her face so she could look directly into her friend’s eyes. Finally, Kari’s head bobbed in as much as shiver as a nod. Leaving before either one of them could talk her out of it, Rom pressed the umbrella into Kari’s hands and vaulted the fence into the unknown beyond. She didn’t like the idea of leaving Kari there, but they needed to move fast if they didn’t want to be late, and the rainfall was slowing them down. Plus, Rom reminded herself for the forty-seventh time, there were monsters out here past the fields.

Facing a choice between slow caution and fast defensiveness, Rom chose the latter. The orphanage’s standard issue long dress and jacket protected her against the hundred small whips of the thorns and sharp leaves as she first began to make her way through the plants. After only a few moments of it, she grew annoyed with the many slight stings and pushed off from the ground, using her unnatural degree of skill to cover ten, twenty, as much as thirty meters in a leap. She was never able to really push herself like this: the rooms at the orphanage were small, and the tiny courtyard used for their afternoon constitutional was only barely big enough for the children’s daily game of “try to hit ratgirl before she gets away”. Plus, Rom didn’t like to jump as far as she knew she could, if any of the other children were around to make fun of her. Her hair was unique enough; no reason to give them any other excuse to tease. For a few moments like this, it felt like flying. They said that there were animals out in the Wild that could fly too, far from Oldtown-Against-The-Wall, where the sort of thing like being different could get you punished; but flying was said to be a “challenge to the Wall itself”, and was a crime listed among the worst of them.

Five hundred meters out, a distant lightning flash lit up the area near the landmark drawn on the map they’d been given – the wrecked remains of one of the large Machines, left partially-submerged in the ground. She’d seen drawings of them in the daily class sessions, and a few of the larger and simpler constructs were still left rusting around the edges of the fields, but this was the first time she’d seen one of the latter generations of them with her own eyes. They probably looked less unsettling in the daylight, she told herself. Or when it wasn’t raining. Or both.

The actual constructs which had been built to tend to the fields had been simple – designed for the functions they required. Thus they were boxy, blatantly mechanical things – but when the constructs began to make their own machines, their designs took on a much more organic look. They had never known why the Machines began building new Machines, much less why they had built them so unrestrained by the tenets of apparent efficiency; but one thing was certain. When the Machines began to create other Machines, they made them look like people.

All the historical lessons the matrons had taught her came back to her with that single strike of lightning as she looked upon what could only be described as a face – albeit one which had to be ten meters in height – half-submerged in the dirt and dramatically overgrown with the brush and plant life left unattended and wild this far out beyond the fence line. As her eyes readjusted to the darkness, she could make out the darker shadows of what must be a shoulder, an arm, and so on. The Machine had to have stood more than ten times as tall as she was, she decided. She shivered, but was pretty sure it wasn’t from the rain. She wished Kari were there to see it: this was old Science, and there were few things her friend loved more than that.

Her eyes caught a smaller patch of darkness near the face, a slight movement, roughly boy-shaped.

“Cousins?” she yelled. “Is that you?” Rom growled, spitting out a mouthful of rainwater. With the rain crashing down on the metal shell of the ruined Machine, there could be someone yelling right into her face and she probably wouldn’t hear it.

She took a half-step closer when there was a great commotion from behind her; it registered only briefly what a wonder it was that she could hear it, but a growing ache in her stomach seemed to be accompanied by a strange enhancement of all her senses, as if time were slowing down. She’d felt this before in the orphanage courtyard; her body seemed to react to certain situations by seeing everything more clearly, more distinctly, making her more aware of everything as it was happening.

And now, in spite of the rain, she could make out three sets of footsteps – one the hurried run of a girl, and the other, two pairs of feet, most definitely not human. Kari’s voice rushed at Rom even more quickly than her feet.

“Rom!!! Help!!” her friend screamed, from somewhere still beyond her in the overgrowth.

Rom stood in the center of the clearing, and her eyes looked quickly around her for anything she could use as a defense or a weapon – a rock, a stick, anything – but in the falling rain, all she could see was mud and water, pooling up around and leaking into her tattered boots. Whatever it was out there, Rom hoped it was small enough that she could kick it until it went away.

Cupping her hands to the sides of her mouth, she called to her friend through the darkness. “Over here!”

A moment later, Kari burst through the branches, still clutching the battered umbrella. Right behind her by a scant breath, a large feline creature jumped into the clearing as well. Lightning crashed somewhere far behind the girls, but momentarily coated the clearing in a silvery brightness that gave them both a clear look at what had been chasing Kari. It stood shoulder-to-shoulder with them both, its grey fur matted by the rain, with yellowed horns emerging from just in front of its ears and curling back around to angle slightly outwards past each side of its jaws. Across its back was what looked like a black leather folded shell, extending from just below its neck and down to its long tail. From its belly down, it was coated in mud, and its golden eyes were rimmed in red, and a sickly green foam curled around the corners of its fanged mouth. It reared back at the flash of lightning, but Rom could still see it silhouetted in place when the darkness once more engulfed them all. Though the lightning might have disoriented it, it evidently realized that a second potential prey stood before it, and it paused to adjust for its next attack.

“Get behind me,” Rom said. “When I tell you, run to the Machine back there.” Her eyes glanced to the umbrella, and, without thinking, took it from Kari’s hands. It wasn’t much, but it would have to do.

“M-machine?” Kari said, her curiosity threatening to overcome her fear.

“Don’t study it; you need to hide in it!” Rom hissed. “Please, Kari, just think of this like another game of hide from Milando!” she added, referring to one of the larger bullies also living in the orphanage.

“Hide?” Kari repeated.

“Yes, I need you to wait for me over there while I go box his ears, nothing to worry about.”

She could sense, somehow, the creature preparing to make its move. The beast seemed to recognize her confidence and crouched, she thought, preparing to jump at Rom. It was basically predatory, and it saw her as getting in the way of what it wanted to eat.

“Get ready, Kari,” she whispered above the sound of the rain. Rom could see, even in the darkness, its back muscles and hind legs shuddering, tensing. The horns would be a problem, she figured, so a strike for the head was out; the ends of the horns would keep her from getting to its throat, and that shell was going to make it impossible to get at from above. It was an impressively made monster; Rom thought that if it wasn’t trying right now to kill her, she’d probably think it was brilliant.

She spun the umbrella over in her hand, feeling its balance. The handle might be strong enough to use as a weapon – it was metal with a solid wooden handle, and came to a metal end the length of her hand. Absently, she considered that it was a poor choice to bring out into a lightning storm, but she would hopefully be able to regret that later. That was one nice thing about regret, Rom thought, you can always do it later if you’re too busy.

The creature tensed one last time and pounced. Even before the creature’s paws left the ground, Rom was telling Kari to run, even pushing her back with her left hand to make sure she moved. Rom ducked slightly to draw the beast’s eyes down and away from her friend, hoping as well to create a smaller target for her much larger opponent.

Time seemed to drag even more – the monster looked like it was jumping almost comically slowly. Rom looked closely; she could somehow perceive the angle of its jump, and knew instinctively that by shifting her weight to the right and rolling down and back across its path, she would avoid its front paws and bring her up in a position to land the first strike. With its weight, claws and teeth as its obvious advantages, she would have to play on its disadvantages – its size and desperation for food meant she might be able to out maneuver it, and hopefully outthink it. The rain, mud and darkness, she hoped, would keep everything else even for them both.


She dove under the angle of its jump and stabbed upwards as it passed harmlessly past her, feeling a warm streak of its blood spray across her face and arms. It let out a loud cry and hit the ground unsteadily. Instantly, she felt a pang of remorse. It wasn’t the beast’s fault it was attacking her and Kari. It was just trying to get food, and…

“You’ve got babies!” Rom breathed. “Oh no.”

The animal was between her and Kari, and she could see Kari making her way quickly to the machine’s head. But the creature must have decided that Kari would make a less difficult catch. It quickly spun away from Rom and was after Kari in a heartbeat.

“No!” Rom yelled, leaping up after the creature. “Run, Kari!” she screamed.

She landed on the animal’s back, just above the shell and behind the horns. She grabbed on to one of the horns with her right hand to both secure herself and to try to somehow steer the cat from her friend. The animal stopped running, and turned its attention on trying to rid itself of this unwanted rider. It leapt backwards in a completely circular flip, Rom somehow managing to keep herself from falling off. It spun its head from side to side, raking the girl’s legs with its horns.

But then, with a snarl, it opened what Rom had mistakenly believed to be the shell on its back – and two great leathern wings unfurled. Before Rom could jump free, the cat leapt into the air, and they flew up into the night sky. She dropped the parasol so she could hold onto the horns with both hands, and gripped the cat tightly above the shoulder blades with her legs. Higher, higher, they flew, up towards the clouds themselves.

Below her, she could see the distant blue glow of the town’s defensive barrier, mirrored by flowing sheets of lightning in the clouds above. She could feel the creature’s panic and fear – it wanted to run, but it was conflicted by a need to acquire food for its young. Rom clung to the creature, however, hoping they would soon descend to a low enough altitude that she might safely drop off without injury, but they continued to ascend higher and higher. The rain crashed against her, a sensation washed away by a single thought: I’m flying.

The momentary exhilaration lasted only thus; replaced by the realization that it was not so much flying as it was riding; but for a sudden jolt and the ground would break her into small pieces.

She frowned, blinking against the falling rain. “Hang it,” she grumbled.

Just as she thought her situation couldn’t get any worse, a light – brighter than any she had ever before seen – filled her vision with a thunderclap that stopped her heart and burst her ears.

Distantly, she felt as if she was falling, slowly, insubstantial like a snowflake, drifting down towards the far away ground; helpless on the winter breeze.

Reaper's Return - and the following three books in the Chronicles of Aesirium - are available in paperback and ebook format at

Steampunk Jesus, with a side of Chopsticks

Thanks to a brief interaction with @TeeMonster and @lavietidhar over on Twitter, a conversation regarding variant offshoots and "sub-genres" of Steampunk into things like "Dieselpunk" and "Sandalpunk" included the latter triggering thoughts of Steampunk Jesus, blessing his disciples with a robot arm. The image made me giggle in so delicious a fit of sacrilege that I declared on the spot that I was going to blog about it. In fact, I'm a little disappointed I didn't come across that sort of idea earlier....but whatcha gonna do. Inspiration is a polyamorous lover.

(author's note: a brief typo there led to the accidental invention of the word "PolyArmory", meaning, as I can only imagine, a person who enjoys putting his sword in many weapon rooms? Hmm. I'm saving that concept for later.)

Having a series of YA Steampunk books, I get into the question a lot, "What is Steampunk?" I've been asked that question in, I believe, every interview I've done, and I must say I'll be sad the first time I don't get that question. The simple answer is contained in the specific traits that nearly all Steampunk books contain - goggles, airships, mad scientists, etc. And yes, not all of them do, but they're common enough traits that everyone pretty much gets it. But there are other traits; more subtle ones, that whisper more to the sensibilities of steampunk. It's a frame of mind, it's an aesthetic, it's a slow waltz with a pocketwatch in the priomordial aether to the sounds of an all-automaton somnambulistic boilerplate quintet. (And, yes, I know that means they're 5 machines playing water heaters while sleepwalking. I was just checking to see if you were paying attention. And now that we've established that you are, in fact, doing thus, we shall proceed.)

Part of my fondness for Steampunk is its industrial pioneering spirit, of boldly going where no one had completely gone before. I was always a fan of that throughout my youth, of taking the untravelled road if, for no other reason than because no one had yet taken it.

There was a conversation - one which most of us have at some time or another with our parents, when they give us the whole "if everyone else was jumping off the bridge...?" challenge. I remember once asking my mom for something, and explaining that I was interested in that because several of my friends were involved (not because I wanted to be just like them, but because it made whatever it had been seem curious). So to respond, she inexplicably tossed out the bridge dilemma, but I responded that if all my friends were jumping off the bridge, the only explanation could be that I already had.

(Author's Note #2: Let me be clear a moment - - I don't actually believe that. Nor did I then. I was trying to be funny, I swear.)

But there's something to that notion that both tickles and sets me to a mind of pondering in the Unwavering Determination to Pioneer that I have encountered as much in Steampunk as I have seen in many other genres, subcultures and the like. Allow me to elaborate, if you will.

An analogy, I should think, could be found within the concept of atheism.

Now, being a long time student of All Things Religious, I have found myself on many sides of the Great Theist Debate, and I have found there two be two generalized definitions of Atheism, and they both vary depending on your own personal belief structure. To the monotheist or polytheist, they generally see an atheist as a person who doesn't believe in god. But to an atheist, they generally believe that an atheist is a person who believes there are no gods. Very subtle distinction, and it boils down to the perception of whether or not an atheist believes, which, if they are truly an atheist, DOES believe - - they just believe in something different; diametrically opposed to the theist, in point of fact.

I've even heard the term "atheist" spun to include people who don't like religion, but this isn't the same thing either. (Personally, I think there should be more atheist religions, but I once mentioned that to a friend, and she told me that's what Sunday Football was for. I'm still not sure about that.) But at the same time, not all people who don't believe in religions are agnostic, either. Sometimes, people just don't like worshipping their god with other people.

Some people don't like following herds/packs/mobs/congregations/what-have-you - - they'd much rather just go their own way. And while I suppose some people would go their own way just out of an act of rebellion, I think it's a vast oversimplification to presume that anyone who rebels at any time against any particular thing does so from the base cause of rebellion for rebellion's sake.

Take the character of Jesus (messianic allegations aside, treating him for the context of this blog as a literary character), for example. Here's a guy who was nothing more than a thirtysomething Jewish carpenter who decided to preach his own way of looking at the universe, challenging two major societies: the Mosaic Law and the Roman Empire. It isn't surprising that he ended up being executed, it's only shocking that it took them three years to do so. He ruffled feathers, man. It would have been a simple thing on several occasions to not say the sorts of things that would infuriate them the most, but he stood up and said them anyway. Kind of an impressive degree of wanton stubbornness, I would say. Or, you know, conviction.

Rebellion doesn't need be quite so bold, or so unrelenting. It can be the little things, like letting someone merge ahead of you on the road, or, maybe not parking your shopping cart in the dead center of the aisle and ignoring everyone else who's trying to get around you.

Sometimes, like in the world of literature, it's about writing the stories you want to tell, regardless of the genres and the industry's need to place your books into a single genre. Or sub-genre. Or sub-sub-sub-genre. Yes, on the marketing side, we authors need to have a strategy in mind for the distribution and categorization of our work - because we all want to be read, we want to be purchased; we all want to make some sort of living off of the work we do. The people who honestly only write because they love to write are rarely ever going to be published or, for that matter, read by many people - but if a person says they want lots of people to enjoy their writing, then let's be honest: whether they know it or not, they're opening themselves to the same arena of the literary publishing industry as the rest of us. It's competitive, and it includes having to jump through many of the same hoops as anyone who tries to publish for a mass audience.

And, unfortunately, one of those hoops is Genre.

Now, I don't have a problem with Genre itself - not even with any of the genres - but it becomes a challenge when your book conforms to more than one genre. For example.

The Chronicles of Aesirium books aren't Science Fiction OR Fantasy. There are elements of both - magic and high tech; mystical creatures and mad scientists. But in this case, the glue that holds them together, the concept which draws them into a shared orbit like the moons of Grindel and Prama, is a Steampunk sensibility. It just worked as a general concept, in form and spirit, like chopsticks, you know? One of my favorite old Jerry Seinfeld bits was about the chopsticks - why, in an age of forks and spoons, are people still using a couple of polished sticks to eat with? Well, to answer that, there's an elegance and grace and tradition inherent to that; not to mention, it forces you to eat slower so you can be filled up with less food.

Steampunk reminds me of that. An almost hopeless rebellion, with a touch of elegance. Steampunk Jesus, with a side of pork fried rice. And maybe some gyoza, because damn those are tasty.

And now that I've wasted more of your time than need be, I'm getting back to writing. Or tweeting. Or perhaps just looking busy. It's still early yet, I could go either way.

Mar 8, 2011

Emerald City ComiCon 2011: Post Con Wrap Up

Several years back, in the days/nights when I was a graveyard shifter, I'd find myself stepping across the divergent social ecosystems of Nightlife and Daylife, blinking into the analogous sunlight at all the people who frittered about their day-to-day meanderings with the literal confusion of a new alien arrival among my unsuspecting soon-to-be-thralls. Or, putting that less verbose-ly, I simply felt dramatically out-of-phase with the rest of the world. It was as if, each night, the world slept and I was Legend, a solitary man among the slumbering masses. Only the other darkened spirits wandered the streets, and we, unspeaking, nodded distantly against one another in a primal "guy nod" of acknowledgement, and nothing more.

The eventual transition of night to day took me quite some time, but on occasion I find myself drawn back into the sensation, when circumstances envelop me in a transitional vortex of divergent sociologies - the emergence from the big matinee, so to speak.

This weekend has done it to me again.

I spent the past four days engaged in assistance with the Emerald City ComiCon - - volunteering for some friends of mine who run the show, essentially as an unpaid extra to their Circus des Comiques sideshow of fun that goes on each spring in Seattle, Washington. It was my...umm... fifth? year at volunteering, and each year has become progressively more and more a practice of managing my own aging corpse into the demands placed upon it and finding ways to chat with some of the people there who are gradually moving from the category of "really cool peeps" into "really cool friends".

Got to sit with Michael Oeming and Taki Soma, a local pair of creators who are not only extremely talented, but are genuinely nice people. If you aren't familiar with their work, go pick up any copy of "Powers" or "Rapture" and I suspect you'll be pleasantly content with the purchase. Also, Mike does the art for the new Brian Michael Bendis graphic novel "Taki-O", which I have waiting for me in my comic stop box and am VERY much looking forward to. Again, they're both simply fantastic people, and have become collectively one of the reasons I love being a part of the Con.

I had a bit of time to chat with the SteamCrow team as well - along with Camilla d'Errico, some of the art which has had a tremendous inspirational impact on visual cues for my Chronicles of Aesirium books. Talking with both of these creators at much more length than I've previously been afforded fills me with an additional layer of urgency to push through the last two of my books so I can focus more on the marketing aspects of the series, and even go on a promotional book tour or two, and spend additional time working with these people on more of a peer level.

There were many other creators, as well - from Emonic to Bryan Glass to Kirby Krackle to Ron Marz... I really didn't have any of the time to spend with them as I would have liked, but they're all quite forged from the fires of Mount Awesome, all in their own aspects. I should very much have liked the con to have lasted a few weeks, just so I could have had enough time to spend with all of them.

A few of the media guests were, as always, on hand this year - William Shatner, Bruce Boxleitner, Brent Spiner, Jonathan Frakes, Wil Wheaton, James Marsters, Felicia Day, John Noble, Jasika Nicole, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, Amy Okuda, Clare Kramer, and Nicholas Brendon (did I forget any? If so, sorry) - but I never really made it down to their floor. I did get friendly guy nods in passing from Brent and Bruce off-site, and, really, that was nice all on its own. Never crossed paths with the Shat, but, then, he was swarmed, so I'm okay with not adding one more body to the throng.

But on another note, I got to meet Phoenix Jones, Red Dragon, the Black Knight and Blue Sparrow - all actual local costumed superheroes from the local streets. My feelings about these people are varied and expansive, but it was by itself one of the more surreal moments from the con. My mind has been thus beseiged with ideas about future books involving (or being inspired by) their actions.  I Invited Jones to talk more via email; the concept of being a self-appointed community soldier and protector is just... well, it's something I can very realistically understand. Sometimes, yes, the pen may be mightier than the sword; but sometimes, you have to use the sword, too. So it's something that really resonates with me. In my own world, I juggle the two faces of Ren: the successful project manager for an accredited telecom company by day, an author of fiction by night. Granted, neither facade is particularly mild-mannered, but what are you gonna do?

Hopefully, I'll have more to say on that topic later.

The downside of all of this is that I'm still in the middle of transitioning my eyes into the light of day; having spent my weekend in the world of science fiction and fantasy, I am once again in Mister John Anderson's cubicle, and idly wondering why everything has that pervasive green tint to it, and hoping against hope for that FedEx package containing Morpheus' cell phone to arrive.

And, evidently, doing everything I can to postpone that inevitable reintegration for as long as possible, by blogging about it.

* sigh *

On a related note, I got the proofs for books 1 - 4 this weekend and found errors on the first two, delaying the paperback availability yet again. They're updated now, just waiting for them to be re-processed, and then I can announce them.

Errors aside, they look great. I'm happy with them so far. I need to review Books 3 and 4 as well, and make a simple edit to the ebook of Morrow Stone, and then I should be all caught up. And then back to writing and editing books 5 and 6.

And working on the new Talaria Press anthology, and.... oh, did I not mention Talaria Press? I guess that's something else we can talk about later.


Mar 1, 2011

Conventions and Mile Markers

Good morning, world!

Uusually, I have some idea of that which I will be blogging, before the first character hits the screen; in fact, I usually begin the darned thing with a title which I will ascribe (I actually considered both proscribe and prescribe before settling on that one. More coffee, please, miss?) to either hubris or folly. Though I suppose you can't go wrong with "folly", since it goes with everything. It's like a good black leather belt, I suspect. Today, however, it took me until nearly the end before I realized what this blog was about. All I did know when starting out was that I needed to write.

I'm of a silly mind today. I quite literally stand with feet stretched out into both careers - a situation in which I find myself more and more of late. For example, I'm taking the next week off from my day job so that I can work as staff for the Emerald City ComiCon. The gentlemen who own the show are some solid folks; I look forward as much to hanging out with them for a few days each year as much as I do working towards making the con an enjoyable event for all the attendees and guests.

It makes me think back to riding in the car on long family vacations. One of the ways I'd pass the time was to count (up or down) the mile markers along the highway. Every once in a while, the big "Miles To..." signs would whoosh by, and I'd keep myself from asking "Are we there yet?" by actually doing the math on how far we'd gone and how much further we had yet to travel. I probably asked a few times prior to that and was told to keep my mouth shut or something. At any rate, I busied myself in my mind, keeping the brain-numbing effects of the open road at bay.

Over the years, I learned to enjoy the spaces between those mile markers as well, though. They were the bits that made the mile markers mean something, you know? It's in line with that saying of how it's all about the journey, not the destination.

So, back to ECCC - one of the elements that has meant so much over the years has been the apparent diminishing of perceived space between me and my creative aspirations and all the great and talented artists and writers who attend this con each year.

My first year of volunteering, we also had Peter Mayhew as a guest - Star Wars fans may recognize the name as the actor inside the walking carpet, Chewbacca himself. Let me say, Peter is a fairly awesome and impressively tall gentleman. He and I chatted a bit during and after the con, and I had the chance to thank him for being part of a movie which - when I'd been all of seven - had quite convinced me of the plausibility of life on other planets. And even now, I can kind of track it to the performance of Chewie. Something about how he played that cracked a hole in my young and burgeoning imagination. Yeah, I knew it was a guy in a costume (I wasn't a total gundark. Yes, I said it. I embrace my geekdom), but for just a moment, it made me wonder how "aliens" really were. And were they sitting there, wondering how "aliens" were. And so on. It just kind of connected the constellations for me.

But also, shaking Peter's hand was a trip. It is just freaking huge, I'm telling you. I literally felt like a child again, shaking his hand. So it was a weird juxtapositioning of a span of 30-some years from then to now. But that illusory temporal wormhole - being simultaneously 7 and 37 - brought it all into a sharper focus, like some sort of time capsule of imagination and youthful, undaunted and unlimited capacity for dreaming.

Successive ECCCs have had a similar sort of effect - it's like having a high school reunion now, but a new one every year. And much like we do each month with our daughter, I line myself up along a sort of mental/professional wall and chalk off the line atop my head to see how much further I've grown.

Two years ago, for example, I was struck by the realization that, after more than ten years out of college, I still hadn't finished a book. Last year, I had one completed. This year, I've got 4 - plus anthology and short story work. Plus, developing an e-publishing coalition. A fifth book is in edits, a sixth is being written, and more anthology work is forthcoming. Five non-fiction collections are being sorted, and even my children's story anthology has taken more shape. I've made a lot of friends in the writing and publishing biz, now, my twitter account went from about a dozen followers to just under a thousand, and I've even been interviewed. That's not a bad year. A crazy good year, in fact.

It's just a funny thing about mile markers. On their own, they're just a number. Taken on their own, they represent a fixed point, and, when speeding by, only account for a moment in the large journey. They spend more time in your memory than in your vision, but the journey needs them. You can't simply arrive, else there is no journey at all. And after all is said and done, the journey is what crafts you, molds you, makes you into something more than the moments. It turns you from the image of you into the fully realized film.

So, that being said, here we go. I'll take good notes at the convention, though I suspect I'll be working hard and coming back to my hotel each night exhausted, aching, and most likely a little bit drunk.

Until then, friends, have a spectacular week, and enjoy the journey until we speak anew.