A passion for writing

Grandpa “T” was a great storyteller. After the dishes were done, we gathered around his kitchen table and he related tales such as the time he jumped into the back of a truck filled with dead dogs. The story never changed, but each time he told it we were riveted to our seats. How many blocks did he have to ride with them before the truck stopped long enough to escape? Did they smell bad? How bad did he smell afterward?

My uncle and one of my sisters inherited that penchant for verbal storytelling.

Frankly, I’m jealous.

Most of the stories I tell end with “…and then I found five dollars”. It’s the standard response when an audience’s eyes have glazed over and you need to end on a high note. Folks always get excited when you find money. Verbal storytelling, it seems, is not my strongest talent.

Yet, I love a good story. Give me a good book and I’ll be gone for days. Put me in front of a screen with a solid television series and I’ll binge watch the whole thing. Introduce me to a compelling film and I’ll watch it over and over. I love great storytellers and their narratives.

I, too, want to tell great stories. I want to be a great storyteller. My preferred format is the written word.

I’ve written stories, on-and-off again, since high school. During college, I published my own zine and participated in collaborative storytelling with a role-playing gaming group. With the introduction of the world wide web, I moved to writing online in the form of various blogs. Still, until recently, I hadn’t taken writing seriously.

A year and a half ago, two friends and I started a podcast about writing. The podcast has three main benefits for my writing. First, we outline technology available for writers to help them create better stories. Second, we improve our skills by discussing the craft of writing. Finally, we keep each other accountable. Nothing motivates me to write more so than my fellow procrastinators writers giving me a hard time.

Given their encouragement, I’ve taken to writing like all struggling artists do. I battle writer’s block and imposter syndrome, but in the written word I am able to craft the emotion and suspense for the tales I want to tell. In writing and editing, I have the time to get the right word or phrase. Writing is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. It is also the most satisfying.

Where do I hope to take this writing thing? I would love to publish my work for others to enjoy. Perhaps I could sell a few copies. I don’t expect to make six figures with my writing, but wouldn’t that be a hoot?! Then there’d be movie deals and Hollywood parties and Uhri turning into a household name.

Actually, my biggest goal is to never utter the following words again:

Have I told you about the time I found five dollars?

March 2016 Summary

Writing

Where did March go? I only wrote 3560 words!

Dispossessed is a Battletech short story going through a second draft.

Drone Syndicate is on hold.

I did a little world-building in my post-apocalypse world.

I started another first draft story called Crimson Eyes based on a prompt at a writer’s group I attend.

Reading

I read CTRL ALT REVOLT! by Nick Cole.

I’m reading The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson.

Over spring break I started Dust by Hugh Howey.

I haven’t made much progress in either Stephen King’s On Writing nor Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia by Robert M. Lombardo both of which I had started in January (or earlier).

Film and Television

I’ve been watching The Walking Dead.

I saw Mockingjay, Part 2. Both episodes of Mockingjay seemed rushed, even though they had two episodes to tell the final book. I wish there had been more background involved. I haven’t read the book, so I can’t speak to what was or was not left out.

February 2016 Summary

Writing

I wrote a pathetic 5581 words in February; a paltry 192 words a day.

Dispossessed is a Battletech short story going through a second draft. Of anything I wrote, this had the most done.

Drone Syndicate, still in first draft, is giving me plot trouble.

I have a post-apocalypse novel idea I’m world-building in right now.

Reading

It’s the end of the first month of 2016, and I haven’t finished a single book yet. I have several in progress, but as far as my goal of 24 books this year, I’m behind schedule.

I finished Deathlands: Devil’s Vortex by James Axler on the first of February. Deathlands is a pulp men’s fiction series set in the post-nuclear war United States.

I read Daemon by Daniel Suarez (my Daemon review here).

I haven’t made much progress in either Stephen King’s On Writing nor Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia by Robert M. Lombardo both of which I had started in January (or earlier).

Film and Television

Deadpool

My wife and I took our son (13) to see Deadpool. It’s not for kids (Rated R), so we’re probably bad parents. It was sarcastic, violent, and everything I expected from an R-rated Deadpool movie.

The Expanse

I haven’t gotten any further in watching The Expanse on SyFy. I need to, before SyFy pulls the old episodes of their site.

The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is back! This is my favorite show and one of the few I keep up with in real time.

Book Review: Daemon by Daniel Suarez

The billionaire CEO of an online game company is dead. Brain cancer. But his death isn’t the end, it is only the beginning. Online, *daemons* – automated computer programs – are waiting to read the headlines announcing CEO Matthew Sobol’s passing. His obituary triggers programs that have infiltrated every corner of our society. Detective Pete Sebek is on the case, but soon he is over his head as the online world ushers in a new world order under the Daemon’s control.

Daniel Suarez’s techno-thriller Daemon is a fast read with a large cast of characters. Some are merely plot devices, engineers added to give a real sense of the distributed work the Daemon requests of its human servants. Others are more significant, from Detective Sebek to the Daemon’s primary mercenary to the cryptographer trying to bring it down.

Those working for the government run the gambit from idealist to special forces to spook. Each character is well-developed with their own reasons and beliefs. Only “The Major” is a cookie-cutter character, but he divulges none of his past nor his mission in this book.

A few prose issues and an occasional typo in the Kindle edition I read didn’t break me out of the story as much as a few over-the-top scenes did. I could see this as an action movie, although a number of the technical details would need to be simplified for the silver screen.

In exploring the technologies of our modern world, and the degree to which everything is interrelated, this novel takes a frightening look at how computers can manipulate markets and how governments seek these powers for themselves. While the Daemon Task Force is trying to bring this system down, The Major ultimately wants to protect the Daemon and use it as a tool for the government. These conflicting goals ratchet up the tension through the book.

I love a good techo-thriller, and I enjoy reading about hackers and spooks almost as much as the post-apocalypse. The book left a lot of open ends I presume will be answered in *Freedom*, the sequel. I give *Daemon* four stars, and will pick up *Freedom* to keep reading in this world.

January 2016 Summary

Writing

I wrote just over 13,000 words in January with an average of 435 words per day. My focus has been on my work-in-progress novel as well as a short story.

Dispossessed is a Battletech short story (still) going through a second draft.

Drone Syndicate (working title) is the novel. I’ve revamped the first act significantly, starting the story even earlier than my original first scene. It’s still in first draft.

I have a post-apocalypse novel idea I’m world-building in right now.

Reading

It’s the end of the first month of 2016, and I haven’t finished a single book yet. I have several in progress, but as far as my goal of 24 books this year, I’m behind schedule.

Deathlands: Devil’s Vortex by James Axler is a pulp men’s fiction series set in the post-nuclear war United States. I’ve been reading (on and off) this series since it debuted in 1986, so it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Rumor has it, this novel is the last in the series as Gold Eagle (an imprint of Harlequin) has folded.

I have Stephen King’s On Writing in my nightstand, slowly reading it as the mood strikes. It’s great advice for writing fiction and I’m savoring the advice given by Mr. King.

Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia by Robert M. Lombardo is a book I’m reading as research for Drone Syndicate. Since Drone Syndicate involves Organized Crime in Chicago… whelp, you know. Research.

Didn’t Finish

I stopped reading Deathlands: Polestar Omega by James Axler. The tricky thing about the Deathlands series is that James Axler is a house name. That means a number of writers pen these novels to varying degrees of skill. Devil’s Vortex has its quirks, but at the helm of Victor Milan, it is solidly written. Polestar Omega was written by Alan Philipson. Unfortunately for Mr. Philipson, his work was not given a good edit, and the frequent typos bothered me. But when a lab-coat-wearing scientist kneed the bad-ass Ryan Cawdor in the genitals “just because” (IMHO), I was no longer able to suspend my disbelief for the story and decided not to read any further.

Film and Television

Hunger Games

My wife and I watched Catching Fire and Mockingjay, Part 1 to catch up on the series. Both were pretty good, although each felt incomplete in their own ways. We’re looking forward to watching Mockingjay, Part 2 soon.

The Expanse

SyFy is going out of its way to create some good content. As much fun as Sharnado was, it wasn’t filling the hole for smart science fiction television.

The Expanse, based on the novel series by James S.A. Corey, is smart. The story is set between Earth, Mars, and mining colonies in our solar system. What I love about this series is its focus on more realistic needs in space. People are affected by growing up in low gravity, they wear magnetic boots to walk in zero-g and the technology they use seems to have been extrapolated in a realistic manner.

I’m excited they’ve renewed the series for a second season already. Nothing worse than the great shows that get canceled after a single season.

FPV Drone Flying

One interest of mine (the theory of, not the actual doing of, yet) is first-person view (FPV) drone flying. I first heard about FPV Drone Flying from the Make magazine article Star Wars Pod Racing Using Drones where they likened it to flying speeder bikes through the forests on the moon of Endor.

My novel Drone Syndicate (working title) has FPV drone races. To get a feel of what these races are like, check out some of the following videos:

This one is great because it shows a drone flying with a car, and up to 55 mph. My favorite part is when the car and drone pass beneath an underpass (around 1:08) and the drone flying through the arm of an excavator (at 4:03).

This video is the best FPV footage from 2014, my favorite part is when the drone flies through a tunnel beneath a road (at 5:35).

Because everyone actually loves NASCAR because of the crashes, here’s a compilation of FPV race crashes:

And one more, FPV racing in a warehouse in Australia:

 

2015 in review

Whelp, so much for consistency. I just remembered I had this blog over here and that I haven’t published on it recently. Time to remedy that.

2015 was a good year for me, writing-wise. With two friends, I started a podcast called Typehammer and that proved to be a great point of accountability. Nothing like having to report to two friends each week with what I’ve been working on.

100K+ Words!

That’s how much I created last year. A personal best, and as I work toward becoming a published author, a low (by published author standards), but satisfying starting point.

I have several stories in progress that are in various stages of completion:

  • Stonelair – working on a second draft.
  • Dispossessed – A Battletech short story I plan to submit to BattleCorps. I’m working on the second draft.
  • Drone Mob (working title) – A novel. In first draft.
  • The Warship (working title) – A incomplete NaNoWriMo first draft. I don’t expect to publish this one, sorry.

In 2016, I want to get better at editing and get the first three stories completed. Stick around, I hope to have more to share this year!

Movie Review: The Martian

This weekend the Ridley Scott-directed The Martian was released,
reportedly pulling in $55-million in box office receipts.

Based on the best-selling novel by Andy Weir, it is the story of Mark Watney, a botanist and astronaut who is presumed dead and left behind on Mars when his crew is forced to evacuate the planet because of a dust storm.

The book was praised for much of its scientific accuracy, and the film was optioned at nearly the same time the book was picked up by a traditional publishing house.

The film did a great job following the story line from the book and there were only a few deviations from it. A few scenes I enjoyed in the book weren’t included, which is okay because they didn’t alter the story, but I still missed them a little bit.

Because I’m such a big fan of the book, I was interested to get the opinions of my wife and younger son who saw it with me. My wife quipped during the movie that this was “Cast Away on Mars”, but overall she enjoyed it and was glad I brought her to see it. My son said its the best space movie he’s seen.

Definitely recommended.

Mutant Flowers From Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

I’ve read a number of post-nuclear-war novels in my day, and I did always wonder if radiation would create the mutations imagined by the authors of those books.

In case anyone is wondering about the possibility of genetic mutations after a nuclear war, I submit to you these photos of flowers growing near the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor in Japan, which leaked radiation after the 2011 tsunami.

While the flowers are beautiful in their own odd way, its much creepier to see the effects of radiation on fruits, vegetables and butterflies.

After the 1986 Chernobyl I don’t remember seeing anything about the effects of radiation on the wild animals there, although there are a few creepy videos. This one looks like a headless moose:

In this video, biologist Timothy Mousseau has been studying the flora and fauna around Chernobyl and he is finding the radiation is still causing mutations and declines in animal populations. A few animals, however, are returning in greater numbers than expected.

Hacker Killed by Drone was “Secret Weapon”

Sometimes true events come with better headlines than a fiction author can come up with. Case in point, this Wall Street Journal article:

Hacker Killed by Drone was “Secret Weapon”

Junaid Hussain was a British citizen who joined the Islamic State, becoming a chief in their ‘electronic army’.

He was killed by a drone strike to a car in which he was traveling.

ISIS considered him a secret weapon because of the technical skills he possessed, showing how digital warfare has become nearly as important as the physical kind.

Mr. Hussain drew attention from U.S. and British intelligence and military agencies in part because of his efforts to recruit and incite violence, said one U.S. official. His importance to Islamic State made him a legitimate target, the official said. “Leadership: That is what gets our attention.”

Hussain had hacked the email of an assistant to the then-Prime Minister of Britain and revealed personal information about Prime Minister Tony Blair. Eventually, Hussain fled to Syria and hooked up with the Islamic State. There he wrote malware and taught others how to hack, including revealing the personal details of a number of U.S. military personnel.