Disneyland Day 3

I know that I said at the beginning of the last post that it was going to be short.  This time I mean it.  I’m exhausted.  My feet hurt.  My legs have stopped talking to me.  The top of my head (a place I could not put sunscreen) is sunburned.  The back of my neck (a place I should have put more sunscreen) feels like it should be glowing and starting nuclear reactions.  In short, I’m at the end of my rope, and only a fool and a madman would stay up much later, just to write another blog entry for an extremely low-volume site.

So in an effort to keep this somewhat brief, I will list out some of the things we did, without going into too much detail.

  • We started the day in the California side of the park
  • The first ride we got in line for was the Cars themed race one.
  • Chris started feeling extremely queasy just as we got to the front of the line, so he and I bailed on the ride.  Melissa and Bryanna said it was amazing.
  • Bryanna and Melissa did a water ride that looked like a big inner tube twice.
  • We did some other stuff in the park, eventually splitting up.
  • We grouped back up at the hotel to go to Medieval Times.
  • We made it back from Medieval Times early enough to go back to Disneyland and see the Phantasmic show.
  • We did some more rides, and then discovered that there was a second showing of Phantasmic, which we watched.
  • We stumbled back to the hotel.

Now that the listing is done, I want to talk about the scariest part of the whole day.  It was only tangentially related to a ride.  That is, right after we got fast passes for Soar Over California, Chris had a panic attack, hyperventilated, and we had to have park staff check him out.

Yesterday, I said that Chris and I were about on par when it comes to our manliness when it comes to getting on rides.  That is partly true.  We’re both unapologetic wimps.  The difference between us is that I’m 40 and he’s 15, and when faced with the prospect of having to get on a ride and face my mortality (or at least, my fears), I have some experience and wisdom to fall back on to get me through it.  My bowels might turn to water, and I might scream and embarrass myself, but I know that I’ll be okay.

With this ride, Chris had no idea what it was about.  We got the fast passes, and his imagination started going into overdrive.  I can only guess at the things that he conjured up in his imagination, and having the fast pass in his hand was a commitment.  He panicked, hyperventilated, and had to sit for a while.

He eventually calmed down, and was his normal smiling self after that.  And we all did the ride, and he loved it.  We all loved it.  Later in the evening, he faced his fears again, did the Haunted Mansion, and loved that, too.  He and his sister wound up racing around to do that ride 2 more times.

Eventually, Chris and I will work our way up to Space Mountain.  Until then, we’ll face or fears as we can, and have fun where we want to have fun.

Finally, I want to say that this Disney vacation was a complete success.  It was ridiculously expensive.  My credit card is hot to the touch, it’s been used so hard.  But everyone on this trip has been smiling and having fun.  Not even a panic attack could dampen our spirits.  This has been time and money very well spent.


Disneyland Day 2

I’m pretty tired, so I’m not sure how long this post will be.  I think feeling this tired after a day at Disneyland means that we did some stuff right.  I’ll leave the Disneyland experts to decide for themselves.

We knew that we wanted to get up fairly early, so that we could get a hearty breakfast before going to the park shortly after it opened.  I set our alarm for 6:30, thinking that would be too early.  We had a hard time getting up and getting out the door, but we managed to get going towards the line of restaurants across the street from the parks by around 7:15.  We settled on Denny’s because we thought it would be fairly easy and hopefully quick.  It was easy, sure, but service was slow and a bit incomplete.  We didn’t make it to the park until around 8:30.

I think I mentioned before that none of us are very experienced with Disneyland.  I’d been given tips by pros over the years, but I could only remember about half of them.  One of the things I did remember was the pin collecting.  I knew that Melissa and Bryanna would really enjoy that, so I pointed them in that direction.  One of the first things we did was get them starter kits.  I’ll jump ahead and tell you that by the end of the day, Bryanna and Melissa had spent a sizable chunk of their money on more pins throughout the park, and had traded along the way and now sport very impressive lanyards.

The first ride we dove into was Pirates of the Caribbean.  I remembered it somewhat from my visit 20 years ago, but none of the details were clear to me.  I remembered something about a dip that startled me.  Once we were in the boat, and it was dark, I suddenly remembered a few more details.  I clenched just before the dip, let out a girlish yell, and then enjoyed the rest of the ride.

When it comes to rides, I’m a complete wimp.  I just don’t feel comfortable getting slung around out of my control.  Pirates of the Caribbean is not a difficult ride by any stretch of the imagination, but I still let out a startled yelp.  My daughter, on the other hand, was shaking uncontrollably after that same dip.  It looks like she’s as bad or worse than I am when it comes to rides.

That means the only person that would want to do anything like Space Mountain is my wife, much to her chagrin.  Still, that left plenty of stuff for us to do, and we did plenty of other stuff.  We enjoyed Star Tours and Haunted Mansion quite a bit.  We ate at the Golden Horseshoe and enjoyed a show on their small stage.  We sat in with frozen lemonades and watched Mickey and the Magic Map (or whatever the show was called).  There was plenty of shopping done, mostly by Melissa and Bryanna.  We canoed on the river.  We had a full and fun day.

There were some negatives, however.  I, for one, am not very comfortable with crowds, and there were tons of people at Disneyland.  There were always tons of people, everywhere we went.  Getting from one location to another was a matter of navigating through a sea of bodies.  No, it wasn’t a sea, it was a battlefield.  There were armies marching through the filled streets, bearing bags and surly attitudes.  Phalanxes of strollers rolled through the resort, pushing people out of their way.  The pushers of these strollers were mechanized infantry.  Children had been weaponized.

I might be a little hyperbolic when it comes to describing the crowds and navigation of the streets of Disneyland.  I felt drained many times throughout the day.  In the late afternoon, but still before dinner, we all returned to the hotel room and napped.  I never nap, but I easily snoozed for 45 minutes.  Once refreshed, we went to a buffet dinner (which was utterly disgusting) and then returned to the park for a couple of repeat rides and the fireworks shows.  Melissa and Chris caught the Phantasm one while Bryanna and I were on another run through Star Tours.  From what they described, I regret missing that show.

And that was our day.  I’ve left out a few things, but I think what I’ve included is sufficient to describe day 2 of our vacation.  It’s also our 18th wedding anniversary.  It’s been a really fantastic day.  I should sleep well tonight.


Disneyland Day 1

I’ve brought my whole family down to Disneyland!  It’s been about 30 years since I was last year, and it’s the first time coming to Disneyland in California for the rest of my family.  Melissa and I went to Disneyland in Paris about 18 years ago, but that’s a whole different story.

We live in Northern California, and while it might have been faster to fly down south, we chose to drive.  I always prefer to drive, when I can.  About a month ago, I’d made the same trip, vising the Anaheim conventions center for MLG.  Like that trip, I decided we’d best be entertained by listening to an audio book.  We listened to the first half of Ender’s Game.

I was really hoping that Chris would enjoy it.  He’s not much of a reader, and I was hoping exposure to a really well done story would help sway him to the literate side of life.  He enjoyed it some, but he’s not going to pushing to go to the bookstore or the library any time soon.

This reading of Ender’s Game isn’t particularly good, to be honest.  It switches readers, which is a little bit jarring all by itself.  It’s made worse by the fact that the woman reading when it’s from Valentine’s perspective is really terrible.  She stretches out words too long, and ends sentences with overly lengthy pauses.

Our tickets for the parks themselves are for tomorrow and the next day.  We walked together to visit the “Downtown” area, which is full of stores and restaurants.  We acquired starter sets for pin collection and trading from one of the stores for Bryanna and Melissa.  After that, we ate at the Rainforest Cafe.  We concluded our long evening by watching The Wolverine.

All in all, it was a very good day, and a really great start to our vacation.


Out of Go-Juice

I met up with M. Todd Gallowglas (Michael) for our second weekly writing date last night.  It’s amazing how much it helps to have a writing buddy!  Last night was the third time we’d met up, and it was really great to hang out with my friend.

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out as well as the previous two writing sessions, and it’s all because I ran out of go-juice, on multiple levels.  I will explain.

First of all, yesterday was a longer day than most of my Wednesdays.  Melissa needed me to drive her to work that morning, which meant I needed to get up earlier than I wanted to.  It also meant my drive was longer than usual.

My workday was somewhat long.  I worked really hard to get a particular project I’ve been working on finished, and I had to troubleshoot some problems that were somewhat daunting, and I needed to give technical direction to one of our temporary programmers.  All these things were a bit taxing.

After that, it was the slightly longer drive to pick up Melissa, and a battle through traffic which involved an accident and road construction along the way.  After we got home, I had just enough time to grab my writing laptop bag and head back out into more traffic, to go to Roseville and meet up with Michael.

None of the things I’ve mentioned are individually taxing or terrible.  I don’t mind getting up earlier than usual.  I don’t mind driving Melissa to work.  It all adds up, though, so by the time I met up with Michael at the Starbucks, I felt a little bit exhausted.

This is not a simple story of defeat, though!  A little weariness isn’t going to hold me down!  I was determined to push through and add some words to my book!

As I said before, though, I was out of go-juice, on multiple levels.  In my hurry to get out my door, I didn’t grab the power cable for my laptop.  I opened it up, started writing, and discovered I had less than 20 minutes of electricity left.  My laptop was out of go-juice.

I’m saving my book on SkyDrive, so that I don’t have to worry about losing a machine and losing all my hard work.  I closed my laptop, and pulled out my phone.  Defeat was not an option!

But then I saw that I had less than 20% batter life on my phone, which generally means only a few minutes of actual use.  I managed to add another paragraph or two to my story, but that was it.  My phone was out of go-juice.

I was tired.  My laptop was dead.  My phone was dead.  So my Writing Wednesday ended early this week.

I said my farewells to Michael, gathered up my things, and went out to my car.  Wouldn’t you know it?  My gas gauge was sitting on “E” as well.

So last night wasn’t the greatest writing session, but it was still a good day.  Words were still added.  This is a marathon, not a sprint.  Next time, I’ll just have to make sure I have more fuel in the tank.


My First Book

The book I’m working on right now is coming along.  This weekend, I added another 500 words or so.  It’s not a huge amount, but since I was basically relaxing and taking the weekend off, I’m happy.

While it will be my first book to put in front of a larger audience, it really isn’t my first book.  My first book is a SciFi-mystery set on the moon, featuring a private investigator named Arthur Kane.  I started it when I was about 16, and I worked on it for a couple of years.  It’s told in three parts.  Also, it’s absolutely terrible.

Through my 20s and early 30s, I really had a difficult time starting another book, partly because I kept telling myself that I needed to fix The Arthur Kane Stories.  I restarted the book several times, but I couldn’t get into it.

I started writing the character of Arthur Kane before I started The Arthur Kane Stories, actually.  I’d visited my friend Doug, and he’d shown me a writing project he’d done for school that featured a detective.  It seemed like so much fun that I thought I’d try to write my own detective stories, and came up with one living on the moon, in the not too far flung future.

The early Arthur Kane was rich, athletic, an amazing marksman, perceptive, and brilliant.  He was also a mechanical genius because, you know, his grandpa had invented the flying car.  He was flawless, and that was the problem.  Every character should have flaws.  But I’m not going to beat myself up too much over that.  I was 12 or 13 when I started, and uneducated in such nuance.

When I was writing those first short stories, it was always fun.  I was just making up stuff, and my hero was defeating the bad guys and being brilliant.  It was a great way to pass the time, when I was playing video games.

Then my dad died on Halloween in 1988, and I stopped writing for a while.

A few months later, when was I 16 years old, I went back to my computer (an Apple IIc), and started a new Arthur Kane story.  My attitude was different, and the story was different.  I wasn’t just having my unrealistic super-detective cruise through life anymore.  I gave Arthur flaws, and I put him through some terrible stuff.  His home was destroyed, his best friend and partner was nearly killed, and the bad guy nearly got the best of him.

I didn’t realize until many, many years later that I was writing in order to help me deal with my dad’s death.  Arthur became flawed, because I’m flawed.  Arthur was going through hard times because that’s what I was feeling.  Arthur was me.

At the end of the first act, Arthur got out his saxophone and played a farewell to his grandfather, and was recovering.  He still had his issues, but he was respectfully moving on from the past, just as I was recovering and getting past the worst of my mourning.

The Arthur Kane Stories was my first book, and it really isn’t a publishable piece of fiction.  There’s a few copies of it out there, printed off with my dot matrix printer.  Maybe, if I become successful as a writer, I will polish it off for real.  Maybe it’d work in the Young Adult market.

I didn’t write it to make money, or to become famous.  I wrote it because I was a kid that needed an outlet for dealing with the death of his father.

I’m not writing my current book to make money, or to become famous, either.  That would be nice, and I’m certainly hopeful, but I don’t think that can be my motivation.  I’m writing now because the kid that wrote The Arthur Kane Stories started calling himself a writer, and I want to make sure that it’s true.


Small Victories

Last night, I met up with my friend Michael.  We brought our laptops, and the goal was for each of us to get some writing done.  Michael’s struggle with writing lately has been external, in the form of his less-than-a-year old daughter.  My struggles have been purely internal, and I’ve already talked about them at length.

I was able to add at least a thousand words to my book last night.  It wasn’t exactly easy, but it was easier than it has been.  Like having a work out buddy, it really helped to have a writing buddy.  Hopefully, Michael and I will be able to keep to some sort of schedule like that.  I think it helped him, too.  He’s closing in on the end of his next book, and we were both excited about what we’d accomplished last night.

In other news, I’ve reached out to Rebecca Partridge to try and join her speculative writing group.  I got to meet her after one of her panels at Westercon, and I’m excited to see how joining a group like hers might help me improve my craft.  I’m sure that my work has flaws, and a writing group might be just the way for me to get the kind of feedback I’ll need to correct those flaws.  I’m also aware that writing groups aren’t always perfect, and some of the feedback might not necessarily be exactly what I need.  I’m optimistic about this, though.

So, in summary, I’m writing more, I’ve got something of a writing schedule starting to form, and I’m trying to join a writer’s group.  It’s starting to look more and more like I’m taking this hobby seriously.

Oh!  And one more thing.  My oldest friend Tim, who will forever be brother in spirit if not in blood, is an artist.  He’s been an artist as long as I’ve known him, and he’s amazing.  I’ve reached out to him, too, to see if he’s interested in doing a book cover for me.  It’s still way, way early for me to get a book cover, since I don’t actually have the book finished yet… but it still pleases me to no end to think of doing this with my best friend.  It’s the pursuit of a dream for both of us.  How awesome would it be if we achieved our dreams together?


Day9, Starcraft, and Writing

There’s an interesting coupling between the real-time strategy game Starcraft 2 and writing, for me.  Before I can get too deep into that, I need to make mention of a fellow called Day[9].

Day[9]’s real name is Sean Plott.  A coworker of mine when I was at my previous job introduced me to Day[9]’s Daily, which is a show where Sean talks about Starcraft.  Day[9] has been a professional gamer and commentator for over a decade, and the vast bulk of his experience and fortune all stems from Starcraft.

I didn’t immediately take to watching Day[9]’s shows regularly for a long while.  My introduction to Day[9] came before my trip to Reno’s WorldCon, so I wasn’t really in the proper place to add his particular brand of wisdom to my life.  Eventually, when I was in a better job and a happier place, I started going through his archives, mostly focused on his extremely humorous Funday Mondays.

The thing about Day[9]’s shows, though, is that they’re infectious.  Actually, it’s not his shows that are infectious… it’s the man himself.  He is highly energetic, highly enthusiastic, and extremely passionate about what he’s doing.  These are qualities that we can all appreciate, and that we should all try to apply in our lives.

His shows are about Starcraft, and though my initial interest in the game had waned, I found myself wanting to play the game again.  I started playing with a renewed interest and perspective on the game.  I wanted to participate in the competitive, laddering portion of the game.  I also wanted to stream my experiences, and participate in the Starcraft 2 community.

One particular show Day[9] did is extremely popular, and exceptionally inspirational.  It’s nearly 2 hours long, and in it, Sean talks about his life growing up and becoming a successful professional gamer.  Whether you know anything about Starcraft or not, there is something for everyone in that particular show.

Looking at Sean Plott’s journey inspired me.  This is a man that had the courage to pursue his dreams, and the dedication to making sure that the pursuit was successful.  This is a man that embraced the concept and now teaches that every loss is an opportunity to learn and improve.  This is a man that remained energetic and enthusiastic after finding his success, and continues to be a positive role model for all ages.

I have no aspirations to becoming a professional gamer myself, or even a commentator.  I enjoy the game, but my goal has always been to become a published author.  We can all take lessons from Sean’s life in regards to pursuing our dreams.  Those of us that play on the Starcraft ladder can take a few lessons from the game itself.

Overcome Ladder Anxiety
A lot of people experience fear before hitting the Find Match button.  Will I make some terrible mistakes?  Will my opponent be rude?  What will I do if I lose?  These are questions that can ultimately chase people away from playing the game altogether.  It’s natural to feel the apprehension.  It’s also important to overcome it, and just jump into the game.

With my writing, I definitely feel my own version of Ladder Anxiety.  I wonder if what I write will be any good or not.  I wonder whether or not anyone will be interested in what I write.  Once I finish my story, I wonder whether or not I’ll be able to get it published or not.  I’ve already posted about my struggles just getting the first draft out.  Something I can take from Starcraft is that I just need to get in the game, do the work, and see how it comes out.  Ultimately, it should be fun.  If it isn’t, then maybe it’s not the game (or dream) that I should be pursuing after all.

Haters are Gonna Hate
In any game of Starcraft, you can run into any number of truly toxic individuals.  Even out of the game, watching streams, you can run into people that will berate you, or give you bad advice, or mistreat you in some way with words.  Welcome to the internet, folks.

The lesson to be learned is to not take everything that is said to heart.  Some people may try to help you, and you should be courteous to those people, and try to use what treasures they give you.  Other people may try to tear you down or drag you down to their level.  You should be courteous to those people as well, find the lessons that can be learned (that may have nothing to do with what they’re actually saying), and be assertive in protecting yourself and your work.

There will always be people that take issue with you, for whatever reason.  Even people like Day[9] draw detractors.  Let them froth, and don’t take it personally.

Learn From your Losses
You’re not going to win every game you enter.  In Starcraft, in fact, the system is set up so that you’re really supposed to only win about half of your games.  If you get hung up on the losses themselves, and let the negative emotions that come from those losses overwhelm you, you’re not going to have the mental faculties to win the next game.

As in Starcraft, everything I do with my writing won’t meet absolute success.  Not all of the seeds I plant will be within fertile ground.  I’m going to get rejection letters.  All of the best authors have stacks of rejection letters in their history.  It is important for me not to let the prospect of those letters get me down.  It is also important that I learn from each unsuccessful experience, so that I might elevate my chances with the next endeavor.

It’s a Mental Game
Starcraft is all about multitasking, allocating resources appropriately, and reading your opponent so that you know what’s coming and where you’re going.  While the pros may have hundreds of actions per minute, the dexterity of their fingers isn’t the greatest part of their game.  Their greatest strength is their mental fortitude, to be able to withstand the pressure of sitting up on stage, with thousands of fans watching and significant money and reputation on the line.

Writing is also a mental game.  While there may be something to be said for emotions coloring the artistic palette, I think the stronger argument is for having the mental stamina to see that the work is done.  It’s important to feel the emotions without letting them distract you from doing what needs doing.  It’s especially important not to let fear be a crippling force, once the story is done, and it’s time to go on to the next level.


The Evil Editor…

So far, my posts have been targeted at establishing this blog, and giving a little bit of history.  It’s good to lay a foundation before building a castle of deftly worded opinions on top.  I’m sure there’s more memories or anecdotes for me to share.  However, I want to get to the meat of it.  I want to talk about writing itself, and why I’m struggling.

Bear in mind that I don’t want to simply whine.  I’m going to whine some, but only because I need to get it off my chest.  I also don’t want to validate my stagnation with impenetrable excuses.  The truth is that I’ve been wasting my time, because I’m afraid.  Yes, I have a full time job, and a wife, and children, and healthy hobbies.  I can’t honestly say that I haven’t wasted a lot of time, playing stupid games, or simply watching YouTube.

I’ve been avoiding my stories, because I’m afraid.

I have some friends that have shared with me their writing, and some of it, I’ve had to pinch my nose to wade through it*.  I’ve told those friends the truth, complimenting the places that I could compliment, and gently urging changes in the places that desperately needed to be changed.  I try hard not to be an asshole, even when I’m being honest.

I know that I can do better.  Hell, I’ve read a bunch of L. Ron Hubbard, and I know I can do better than him.  Not that I have any intentions of starting religion or doing a bunch of cocaine… I just think that if he be a successful writer with things like Mission: Earth, I can do better.

I’ve had strange experiences reading my own work.  I read the book I wrote when I was in high school, and while a dime-story detective novel set on the moon is interesting, my actual execution was so horrible and non-publishable that it’s embarrassing.  On the other side of that, I’ve stumbled across other short stories and found them to be amazing, discovering only after I’d finished them that I was the author.

English teachers have told me independently that I have a strong writing voice, and I believe them.  After my return to college in 2006, I discovered that I can parrot other writer’s voices.  I wrote a few essays, using Emerson’s density.  I wrote some fan fiction, adopting the mannerisms and inflection of Robert Jordan.

With all of this bragging, why should I be afraid to write?

I build up my expectations too high.  I don’t give myself permission to write a shitty first draft.  I go a little ways into my story, and I start gritting my teeth, wondering how I could write so terribly.  I reread what I’ve been working on, and the Evil Editor inside can’t sit still.

I’m afraid I won’t meet my own stupidly high expectations, and instead of trying and failing, I simply fail to try.

It’s bullshit, and I’m not going to do that anymore.

It may be that I’m delusional about my ability to write.  It may be that the best I can do will make the worst of L. Ron Hubbard seem like Shakespeare.  As long as I waste my time, no one will ever know.

* Oh… and if you’re one of my friends that has offered me their writing?  Please understand that I have more writer friends than you may know of.  I’m probably not talking about you when I say I had to “pinch my nose.”


My Day Job…

I just updated my “About” page to reflect that I’m a full-time programmer.  Let me elaborate a little bit.

I currently work for a small electrical metering company.  I create windows applications and services, and web applications.  I help with other tasks as well, and I bring in doughnuts every Monday.  It’s a really nice environment, and I feel very comfortable and welcome in my workplace.

I want to emphasize that I’m in a really great job, because it was part of my plan in pursuing my writing career.

In 2011, I worked some place that wasn’t nearly so comfortable.  I was underpaid and unappreciated.  I was very unhappy.  I wasn’t writing much at all.  I’d pretty much given up on several dreams, and I was fairly depressed.

I was in this low state of mind when my friend Michael posted to Facebook that he had an extra ticket for WorldCon in Reno.  I’d heard of the Hugo awards, but I didn’t really know much about WorldCon.  I got the ticket, gave Michael a ride to Reno, and attended with very little in the way of expectations.

It was like I’d gone home.  I’d found my people.

I attended panels and took fastidious notes.  I rubbed shoulders with fans and authors, usually unable to distinguish one from the other.  I got to sit with and converse with Sheila Williams and Glen Cook.  I found people that shared a love of the same stories that I loved.  It was like waking up from a bad dream.

During this fantastic experience, I received a call from work, giving me some news I didn’t care for.  All they said was that they were moving my desk, and that the move wasn’t going to wait until I was back from Reno.  In the grand scheme of things, that’s not the worst thing in the world.  However, it struck a sour chord in me.  It was a reminder of the world I was temporarily separated from, that I would return to at the end of the convention.

I growled, grit my teeth, and then pushed the call to the back of my mind.  I enjoyed the rest of the con.

Eventually, the con ended, and I went home.  Then I went back to work and saw just how crummy my new work environment was.  And that was it.  I vowed to get away from that place and work somewhere that I’d be happier.  I was sure that if I was happier, I’d write more.

I’m definitely happier.  I have written more, but the words aren’t exactly flowing just yet.  I’ll talk more about that in another post.


In the beginning…

I think the first thing to establish is why I’m doing this.

For over 25 years, I’ve dabbled in writing.  I loved writing throughout school.  I loved writing out of school. For nearly a decade, my favorite pastime was playing in a game with some friends, where the whole point is to take turns, writing paragraphs to create interactive scenes.  In 2006, I went back to college to focus on writing.  It’s always been an important part of my life, and my talent and voice is something I take pride in.

Now that Westercon 66 has come and gone, I’ve decided to step it up a notch.  I’m going to write a little every day.  If I’m not working on my story, then I’ll write something here.  Some day, I want interested editors or publishers or readers to be able to look me up at this site, and be able to learn a little bit more about me and my writing.

This is a start.  This is the first stroke of the pen across the page.  Hopefully, the ink will continue to flow, and the imagination will continue to fire, and all the things that have been lodged in my heart and my mind will be freed for the world to see.

A blog seems like a good start.