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Monday, January 12, 2015

The Uber Rare Blog Post

I realized early this morning that I haven't updated this blog since last June. Last June. That's ridiculous, of course. I'm committed to doing a better job with that this year, and am going to try and post at least once a month. With that in mind...

2015 is off to a busy start. My spring semester classes at Western State Colorado University start today, and my first 8 week class for Excelsior college started last Monday. Teaching both undergraduate and graduate courses - in the same subject - is challenging. The students bring differing sets of skills and concerns to the material, but at both institutions, the vast majority of my students are non-traditional: ages and backgrounds vary greatly. At Excelsior, many of the students are active military, so the online environment is perfectly suited for them, but it can be tricky, too, as they are often called to be away from their computer at the last second. At Western, we're still working through the new curriculum, which means a lot of regular staff meetings and adjustments based on student input.

On the writing front, last fall, I co-wrote a feature film script with a friend, and we're now jumping through the usual Hollywood hoops in terms of rewrites with a producer. We're also working on a television show treatment together and planning our next feature script. I've found the break from traditional fiction really exhilarating from a creative point of view. I imagine I'll come back to it - in fact, I know I will, as I have at least a couple of novel ideas that I want to pursue - but the industry has changed so much that I'm not sure what it will even look like when I do write those projects. (More on that subject later.) I also have a nonfiction book I'd like to finish this year.

In other news... I quit smoking on Monday, January 5th. It's been a week now. People tell me it gets easier, but so far no joy on that front. It's pure fucking misery. We also switched our diet here in the household to a primarily Mediterranean diet. It's working pretty well for Sherri, and I can live with it. One of the things we rapidly discovered was that after a week on that, heavier foods feel really heavy - even things I typically love, like red meat. We're allowing ourselves one cheat day a week, but when we did that, both of us were kind of "blech" with it.

I'll do another post soon on books I've read over the relatively recent past, and I may dive into the delicate subject of what's gone wrong with the book publishing industry. In the meantime, it's back to work for me. I hope your 2015 is off to a great start.

Write on,

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Recent Reading Thoughts

It's ridiculous how difficult I find it to update this blog. The only excuse I can offer is being far too busy, and that (while true) sounds lame even to me. Still, one of the things I have been working on this past year is getting my annual reading back up to my own standards. I like to clear between 125 and 150 books a year, and I'm closing in on that pace once again.

So, without further ado, I thought I'd share some very brief thoughts on some of the books I've read recently - and no, I don't mention books I didn't like. Authors have a tough enough go of it without me piling on. These are presented in no particular order or sequence.

THE BROKEN EMPIRE TRILOGY by Mark Lawrence (Prince of Thorns, King of Thorns, and Emperor of Thorns): Aside from the fact that long before Mr. Lawrence published his series, I had a short story with the title "King of Thorns", there's a lot to like about this series. I read the first two titles, waited for the third, and then reread all of them at one go. The story of Jorg Ancrath as he rises from the ruins of his youth to the top of a massive empire is one that will stay with me a long time. Time and again, Lawrence delivers on multiple levels, especially in terms of character and world-building. This is primarily a fantasy series, but there's also a touch of science fiction. I don't want to ruin it for you, so let me just say this: go forth and buy it. You won't be disappointed.

THE DRESDEN FILES by Jim Butcher (Storm Front, Fool Moon, Grave Peril, and Summer Knight): Obviously, if you follow this series at all, you'll immediately recognize that this isn't even close to all of them. I stopped after four because I needed a break. Butcher's popularity is well deserved, though I actually like his Codex Alera series a tiny bit better. In any case, smooth writing and plotting make for enjoyable reading in the urban fantasy arena and following the harrowing adventures of wizard Harry Dresden is a good time.

THE LINE by J.D. Horn (Book 1 of the Witching Savannah series): An enjoyable, fast read about a witching family in Savannah, Georgia. At times, it suffered from a bit too much deus ex machina, but it made up for this with its genuine charm and engaging main character - Mercy Taylor - the only one in her family who isn't a witch.

CINDER by Marissa Meyer (Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles): A futuristic riff on Cinderella, featuring a cyborg mechanic and a world where class is everything, I was quite intrigued by this novel. It's a little slow at the beginning, but more than makes up for it as the story moves along and introduces more and more complexities as Cinder gets caught up in the intrigue of international politics and a plague that could kills thousands.

THRONE OF GLASS and CROWN OF MIDNIGHT by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass series): A fantasy novel featuring an 18-year-old assassin named Celaena Sardothien in a contest to become the royal assassin, and what keeping up the charade of serving an evil king will ultimately cost. I really like this series so far, and look forward to reading the next installment.

In addition to those listed above, I've read a number of other enjoyable books recently, including: Legacy: The Arthurian Saga by Mary Stewart, Odd Apocalypse by Dean Koontz, The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett, the first two installments in the Vampire Academy series by Rachel Mead, a couple of Richard Castle novels, The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston, the first three books in Kim Harrison's Hollow's series, and the most recent Sandman Slim novel by Richard Kadrey.

Back in the days when I was a full-time editor, I found that reading for pleasure - just for the joy of finding a story to get lost in - was being slowly sapped away. Now that I don't edit full time, I've been able to resume reading for just that reason, and I must say I've missed it quite a bit.

And with that, let me encourage you to read on and share your own recent reads in the comments below.

Write on,

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The End of a Long Road

It's been far too long since I've had the time to update this blog. One of the stranger things I've noted about growing older and busier, with teenagers in the house, is that it's entirely possible to feel like you've blinked your eyes and six months have passed. I'll try to do better in updating things here.

As it's been such a long time, here are some updates from my life, in no particular order that may or may not be of interest to the handful of people reading along:

1. My daughter, Morgan, is a senior this year and heading off to college next year. We've had many, many household discussions on this topic, ranging from excitement to frustration to tears and recriminations. I suspect this happens more than I thought to other parents, too. When I did my undergraduate work, I picked the nearest college with a creative writing program, which happened to be the University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. I got lucky and studied under the fabulous poet Denise Sweet, among others. There was no angst. For my daughter, there seems to be a lot of angst. As she now appears to have narrowed it down to three or four schools, I'm hopeful the end of the angst is in sight.

2. I finally finished and turned in my very last Don Pendeleton's The Executioner (Mack Bolan) novel this month. I believe I wrote nine or ten of them. That was the end of a very long road, indeed, since I started writing them in 2007. Ol' Mack has appeared in more than 600 books, and there were times when I enjoyed the ride very much, but by the end, I was more than ready to let him go. For the first time since 2000, I'm not under contract to write any novels. (There was a brief, panic-inducing blip in 2006, where I was without a contract for perhaps four months or so.) This time, there's no panic. I'm turning (most of) my attention away from work-for-hire projects and back to my own work... after a break to wrap up a short story, do some editing projects, and breathe a little bit.

3. I've been quite busy teaching for Western State Colorado University, with a really excellent crop of students. I've also been working away for Excelsior College, teaching and developing a new course for them.

4. What's that, you say? What have I been reading? I've been reading a lot over the past year, and damn you Amazon and Kindle for making it so easy to buy books. Here's a super quick list of some of the titles that I've read recently: Books 1-3 of Kim Harrison's THE HOLLOWS series, THE ATLANTIS GENE by A.G. Riddle, GUARDS OF THE SHADOWLANDS (Books 1 & 2) by by Sarah Fine, WOOL, DUST, and SHIFT by Hugh Howey, plus keeping up with some of my current favorite series by Richard Kadrey (Sandman Slim), Larry Correia (Monster Hunters), and Brent Weeks (the Night Angel trilogy). That's not all of them, of course, but a nice sampling. I try to read at least 100 books a year. If time permits, I'm going to try and do at least one or two short reviews a month on this blog, but no promises. What's in your to-be-read pile that I should take a look at?

5. Oh, and in case you've been wondering, winter this year has been like living north of the Wall in a George R.R. Martin novel. There have been times when I've looked out the window and expected to see white walkers... They say spring is coming, but I'm not holding my breath.

And that's about all the news that's fit to share. I hope you and yours are well, that wherever you are, spring has started to show signs of appearing, and that if you are a writer, you do your best to...

Write on,