2018 Q3 Progress Report

Hey everybody! How was your summer? Fall is here, the leaves are falling, I’m rushing to wrap up outdoor projects I’ve neglected all summer, and Halloween is imminent. It’s a good time of year. It’s also time to check up on where I am with my goals so far. Here we go. Also, this post is at least two weeks late.

Read 20 books in 2018:

I just wrapped up Abaddon’s Gate, #3 in the Expanse series. I don’t read a lot of series, but I’m digging this one. It feels like a D&D campaign in space with a non-typical plot thread. Good tight arcs, good big arcs, I’m hooked. Although I am taking a short break to read Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World. Charity:water does a lot of good work, and supporting this book helps support that initiative. But this post is about books read, so Abaddon’s Gate puts me at 13 books completed for this year, or so far, a solid 65, a “D”. Passing, but I can do better. I’m hoping to put a few more away through the holidays.

Write 7 posts in 2018:

This will be my 4th post for the year. You’d think I could hit this one. Frankly, I blame State of Decay, a zombie survival game I picked up for cheap when the sequel came out earlier this year. Since your characters suffer perma-death, there’s a stronger adrenalin rush than other games when you’ve invested time in certain folks. Yeah, big time sink, but fun. But I’m totally doing that as…uh…research! For Togahan #4, which in part deals with the feratus mortuis virus and the character’s efforts to stave off an epidemic. So yeah, research.

Get back on schedule for Togahan #4:

I’m not doing any math on this for this quarter. I’m like 120 days behind my schedule (again, I blame State of Decay), and trying to make up time when I can. But here’s the good news. I’ve outlined the entire rest of the book at this point, so it’s mostly execution, transforming that into some semblance of a story. Right now I’m choreographing like three different but simultaneous three-way fights, and I’m second guessing the timing too much. I need to just hammer it out, then vomit profanity later when I need to fix it. That’s about the best I can do. I’m trying to find a good, regular writing time, but our schedule has been anything but regular lately. I’ll need to innovate something somewhere.

But I remain committed. Delayed or not, sooner or later, you’ll have #4 in your hands, and hopefully it’s worth the wait. Thanks for sticking with me. Whoever checks my site a couple times a week—I see you, and I thank you.


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2018 Half Year Progress Report

Normally this would be the Q2 progress report, but I missed the Q1 one, so …here we are. Despite my lack of keeping up with you, I’ve been making some progress, so here’s where things stand on my three goals for this year.

Read 20 books in 2018: So far, with 50% of the year down, I’m in the middle of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, and I’m reading Wandmaker’s Apprentice by Ed Masessa with my daughter. Those two would put me at seven books, but I’m not done with either of them, so I only have five under my belt so far. 50% of the year gone with only 25% progress. I’m going to go out on a limb here and wager I won’t hit this goal this year, but you never know. I may wind up kidnapped in a remote camp later with nothing but two hundred books of pulp fiction to keep me occupied for months, so…maybe it’s possible.

Write 7 posts in 2018: You would think I could knock this one out of the park, but no, even with a goal so low, I managed to waffle it. This is my third post for the year. Utterly shameful. I really have no excuse. Well, I mean, I have excuses, but they’re bullshit excuses, and I respect you too much to waste your time with them, so there.

Get back on schedule for Togahan #4: This is hard to gauge, because my scope is a bit skewed. According to my current metrics, I have 110,019 words logged so far, putting the project at 33.5% complete. Now, that doesn’t mean I have another 200k words to write (ugh), but rather with what I have left to write, then edit, etc. I’m about 33.5% through my tasks. Thing is, that’s based on a speculative 25 chapters plus prologue and epilogue, but it was written assuming 20-25 pages per chapter (or if I MATH it = ~570 pages). But I decided to write smaller chapters (10-15 pages instead), so I’m at ~300 pages right now. I don’t think I have another 270 pages to go, but maybe another 100? It’s hard to say, for plot reasons.

What does all this mean? I’ll be honest with you, my loyal, patient reader (and I say loyal and patient because if you reached this far in my post, you’ve proven beyond all doubt that you give a shit), the outlook is grim. You might have a new book in your hands by Thanksgiving….2020. (whistling….).  As bleak as that is, on the upside, I have been consistently 90 days behind schedule for a couple of months now. So I’m moving along, I’m just not catching up. I’m hoping with some vacation time, and some extra writing time shoehorned in here and there, I’ll catch up at some point.

So that’s where I’m at. Thanks for sticking with me so far. Hopefully when #4 is in your hands, you’ll agree it was worth the wait. Or you won’t and you’ll huck your e-reader into the ocean. But at my rate, there’s a good chance that e-readers will be waterproof at that point, so it’s not a total loss.

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Where I’ll be at Boskone 55

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be attending the Boskone 55 conference in Boston this year! Join me from February 16-18 in Boston MA for New England’s longest running science fiction and fantasy convention. Check out the details on The Boskone Blog, Twitter, and Facebook. I’ll be on a few discussion panels, as well as doing a reading, so if you want to come bask in my wisdom call my bullshit heckle me be part of the fun, please go to the Boskone website to register at http://www.boskone.org/register/.

More specifically, here’s where I’ll be when I’m not soaking up knowledge elsewhere:

Friday, February 16

The Real Hero of Hogwarts

3 pm – 4 pm,  Marina 3 (Westin)

Everyone knows the Harry Potter series. Harry is at the center of the story with events swirling around him, but is he the real hero? In fact, is there any real hero at Hogwarts? Let’s discuss heroism. What does it take to be a hero — and what does that even mean in a place like Hogwarts?


Saturday, February 17

Technology and the Crisis of Conscience

10:00 am – 11:00 am, Marina 4 (Westin)

Just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Characters like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Masamune Shirow’s Major demonstrate some consequences of the headlong pursuit of scientific breakthroughs. What are the real stakes in the playing-god game? Will we use technological advances for good or evil? What will guide us? And how does fiction help inform our ethical dilemmas?

Colonialism and the New Space Race

11:00 am – 12:00 noon, Burroughs (Westin)

European expansion into the American West and other “new frontiers” used to be portrayed as a great adventure — and a civilizing enterprise. For those being invaded, however, colonial expansion has been less pleasant. The Space Act of 2015 allows the commercialization of space by private entities. But if powerful technocrats like Elon Musk use tropes from Westerns to promote Mars exploration, will we venture into space with the same old colonialist attitudes? Or can we learn from history, and approach space exploration with new mindsets?

Reading by Pete Hollmer

6:00 pm – 6:30, Independence (Westin)

Most likely I’ll read a scene with Fenris mouthing off. Folks seem to like that. It’ll be a scene from my new book, and if you show up, I may even tell you the title I’m considering. Also, I’ll have pens, T-shirts, magnets and other freebies. Everyone loves free stuff, right?

Soup to Nuts: The Life Cycle of a Book

9:00 pm – 10:00 pm, Marina 3 (Westin)

What is the life cycle of a book, from completion to publication? Our panel of agents, editors, and authors share advice on everything from querying an agent or an editor to dealing with revision requests, reviewing the contract, maintaining the relationship between editor and agent, and more.

And besides these, there as dozens more talks and things to geek out about. Even if you don’t want to see me, this conference is a lot of fun. You should go.


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2017 End of Year Progress Report

A bit more timely than usual, here’s my progress on goals for last year and projection for 2018 goals.

Read 20 books in 2017: According to Goodreads where I track this, I completed 16 books in 2017. 80%. I barely squeaked by with a B for this goal. I was going strong for a while, then tried tackling a few larger books including Joe Abercrombie’s The Last Argument of Kings, which I’m loving, but it’s a long read, and a bulky hardcopy one, so I had few opportunities to get through it. Ah, who am I kidding. I had plenty of time to get through this when I was off work the last couple weeks, but I chose to do other stuff. I still plan to finish it though – I’m enjoying the story, I just got lazy with my reading.

Goal for 2018: Read 20 books.

Write 24 posts in 2017: I wrote 6 posts in 2017. 25%. A solid F. Ok, let’s not lower the bar, let’s remove it all together. We’re going bumper bowling, kids.

Goal for 2018: Write more posts than 2017 (so, 7).

Start Work on Togahan #4 (title TBD): According to the mega schedule, my rough draft word count is at 74,000, putting me at 23.7% done, albeit at 56 days behind schedule on my milestones. I made progress, which is good, but not as fast as I’d like. I blame video games, and my lack of impulse control.

Goal for 2018: Get back on schedule for Togahan #4.

I think those are achievable this year. Of them all, progress on the book is key. I’d like to publish a few more before I retire from my day job. We’ll see.


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Show us a Fight Scene We Haven’t Seen Before

I’ve been enjoying the Marvel suite of shows on Netflix: Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and their team up in the Defenders. One of the things I’ve liked, particularly in Daredevil and again in Defenders, is some of the fight choreography and cinematography. In Daredevil episode 2 “Cut Man”, there’s this sweeping fight scene in a hallway. A door is kicked out, half-crumpled and in the way, and as the camera sweeps up and down the hallway in a seemingly continuous shot, Daredevil (he’s wounded—and winded) trades staggering blows with foes while working around, and sometimes using, the fallen door. It was innovative and new. It wasn’t just foes squaring off in a wide alley with the same old off-the-shelf fight moves. It was something I hadn’t seen.

Throwback to 1999 and Episode 1, the Phantom Menace. Say what you will, but Ray Park brought fresh breath to the Jedi fight scenes, executing the flips, twirls, and tricks that are now standard in Jedi/Sith battles across all the Star Wars media. Before that, we had just Ben, Luke, and Vader facing off in one-dimensional hack and slash. I read somewhere that Ray Park told Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor to actually try and hit him with their lightsabers, and he put all the drama and flourish into his defense. I’m sure much of it was not improvised, and again, say what you will about the rest of the film, but that choreography, with John Williams’ Duel of the Fates cranking up the intensity, made for a fresh fight scene.

And then in Mad Max: Fury Road, the fight scene that made it for me, more than all the other way-the-hell-over-the-top road rage clashes (although those were awesome), was the three-way brawl between Furiosa, Max, and Nux, with Max handcuffed to Nux via a long chain that went through a car door. The choreographers worked in all their motives: Max wants Furiosa’s truck. Furiosa wants those guys gone. Nux wants to be free of Max. Max defends against Nux. All of this happens while two of their arms are restrained through the chain and car door, which then become fight props. Oh, and Furiosa had removed her prosthetic arm to give her stump some relief, so she’s fighting one and a half handed. I cannot do this fight scene justice. You just have to see it.

What all three of these examples have in common was their innovation. None of them were just two brutes slugging it out, or little more than a martial arts exhibition. They incorporated the combatants’ surroundings, they stayed true to their motives, and they were new. They showed us something we hadn’t seen before, and so instead of tired, obligatory fisticuffs that daisy-chained a story together, the fight scenes themselves moved the story and revealed the characters.

And of course, I’m scratching my head trying to figure out how to apply this principle to my own writing. The Togahan world has a lot of detail, backstory, motive and violence, but with every confrontation, I remind myself that it can’t just be “the thing you’ve seen before”. It should be true to the players. It should use the surroundings. It should move the story, and not just bridge two talking scenes. Successful or not, that’s my goal.

What other movie (or book) fight scenes did you think were new and innovative? What made them so? Tell me your thoughts.

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2017 Q-something Progress Report

At this point, I’ve blown so far past the Q2 deadline that this is more of a Q3 progress report, so please forgive the tardiness (or celebrate the earliness!). This summer has been a roller coaster of interruptions and obligations, but regardless, I will try to be more diligent in the updates. So, where am I, this far in the year?

Read 20 books in 2017: I’m currently enjoying the post-apocalyptic Wool Omnibus by Hugh Howey, who is basically the poster child for successful Kindle publishing. Wool incorporates subtly animated gifs intended to enhance the reading experience, and my opinion is kind of mixed. While the artwork is decent, the experience is not as dynamic as a full-on graphic novel. In some instances, the images enhance the scene; in others I found it a little distracting. Overall, I think I could take them or leave them. Regardless, I’m enjoying the story. Wool is my 12th book for the year, putting this goal at 60% complete with about 60% of the calendar gone by. I’ve lost most of my lead at this one, so hopefully my progress doesn’t slip any more. (I could count the Nancy Drew books that I’ve been reading my daughters at bed time, but that feels like cheating. Maybe I’ll count those as one big book at the end of the year…)

Write 24 posts in 2016: >sigh< This post is my 5th for the year, putting me at 20% complete at 60% of the year gone. This is not likely to improve much.

Start Work on Togahan #4 (title TBD):  I’ve been making steady but sluggish progress on this. Word count is in the neighborhood of 44,000 with 15.2% complete on the master schedule. Just this past week “life” has interrupted more than usual, so I think I’m 7-10 days behind schedule. I can recoup that, if only I can find the time somewhere… Right now I’m nearing a collision scene where several plot threads intersect, and I get a little anxious when I do those—there’s a lot of moving parts. Despite all that, it remains fun. And that’s the point, right?

How’s your summer going?

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The Patron Joes of Writing

These are the three patron Joes of my writing desk. If you can name them, you’ll understand why.

Patron Joes of Writing

Every writer has their writing space. Mine is cluttered with notes, mind maps, reference posts stuck up everywhere, as well as bills, my kids’ photos, and a slew of their artwork. And there’s a bunch of toys too: action figures, nerf guns, and silly putty, all there to serve as a distraction eureka catalyst as the story trudges on. What’s your writing space like?

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2017 Q1 Progress Report

It’s April, and that means I pull my head up out of [the sand] and take stock of my progress on various goals this year. If nothing else, it allows me to tick off one more post on my “post stuff” goal. So let’s see where I am…

Read 20 books in 2017: I just finished The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp. It’s an interesting take on the horror genre, of which I’m not an avid fan, but this was a compelling read. It was another “don’t read it before bed” kind of book though – I had weird, unsettling dreams as a result. Before that I read Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon,, which is one of the best reads I’ve had in over a year or more. Well crafted, long but gripping, I really enjoyed it. It’s one of the few (long) books I may reread in the future. My buddy Jason’s read it three or four times already, finding new things each time through. I’ve now moved on to Michael Witwer’s Empire of Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons and Dragons, which has proven to be an interesting read so far. So, I’m working on my 8th book of the year, putting this goal at 35% complete with only 26% of the year done. I’m ahead of schedule. Yay!

Write 24 posts in 2016: Wow, I keep lowering the bar on this, and still am not posting as much as I “should” be. Let’s see (counts posts…carry the 2….) this post is my 3rd for the year, making the goal 12.5% complete at 26% of the year done. Behind schedule, surprise, surprise. I have a couple ideas for stuff you might find interesting. I just need to carve out the time. It’s all about making the time, right?

Start Work on Togahan #4 (title TBD) – This is the one that matters, because without the book, this blog is just farting into a whirlwind. I hammered out a rough story map (this time it was a Post It chart, but had the same effect). As usual with my story maps, I got about two thirds of the way through it, got stumped, but I had enough to get started. So I got started. Word count is at 18,151 and the mega schedule puts me at 8.0% of this project completed (100% is when the book gets published). Right now I’m going along at a slow but steady clip of ~2000 words per week.  I’m shooting for a 120k word rough draft, and hope to trim that down to 100k by publishing time.

Number 4 is a different challenge for me. The first three books completed the first arc of Dante’s story, and this next one launches a three book arc about Dante’s burden and other loose ends at the close of A Togahan’s Chance. Number 4 won’t resolve all of those threads necessarily, but it will resolve some, while presenting Dante and the rest with new challenges and choices to make. On the one hand, I’m uneasy not knowing everything as I go into this next phase. On the other, it’s kind of exciting, because a lot of the fun in writing is when you make those connections you hadn’t imagined before. I’m looking forward to that and I hope the result is something you’ll enjoy.

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Brain Legos

According to Wikipedia, there are over 915 million ways you can assemble six 2×4 LEGO bricks. Just three such bricks can be assembled 1,060 ways. And those are just the standard 2×4 bricks. Depending on how you count them, there are thousands of unique bricks, from the flats, to the thicks, rounds, pegs, wheels, axels, etc, etc. Every time you add a new brick to your collection, you exponentially increase the myriad ways you can assemble them into something new and unique. I’ve been slowing building up “my daughters’” collection for a few years now, and the potential for what we can build is quite astounding. I’m not sure if they realize this yet…

But what I realized the other day is that reading and writing are a lot like collecting and building these bricks. Every time we read something new, we’re cramming our brains with new ideas, observations, perspectives and quirks, maybe things we’ve never considered before. We’re adding bricks to the LEGO sets in our minds. When later we sit down to write, we’re connecting those idea bricks, those “brain legos”, into a new combination that hopefully no one has yet seen. And the more we read, the more bricks we add, the more interesting combinations we can make. Maybe we can connect two ideas that no one has connected before, portray a classic idea in a fresh way, or lend a new perspective to an old topic. (Or maybe we’ll just dole out the same hackneyed crap we’ve seen for the last hundred years, but hopefully not).

And the center point of that is that we need to read. This is why I goal myself 20 books a year. This is why I lament not reading more quickly. But that applies not only to writing. Any creator, any producer needs to consume ideas, from books, art, designs, and performances. We add new ideas to our building bricks, because that’s where humanity thrives. We inspire one another. We build upon one another’s ideas, and as a whole, we improve all our lots.

So, yeah. Read more. Add those bricks. Make those connections. Show us something new. Make us nod, crack that half smile, and say, “Huh. Yeah. That was pretty clever. I hadn’t thought of that. Nicely done.”

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2016 End of Year Progress Report

Success! This year’s end of year report is not as late as last year’s end of year report! One of these years, this will actually be timely. Regardless, let’s take a look at the goals and progress from 2016, then set some goals for 2017.

Read 20 books in 2016: According to my goodreads account, I “shelved” 18 books, but I go by the completion dates, and according to those, I completed only 16 books in 2016, giving me an overall grade of 80%, or a B-. Eh, it’s passing. I was trying to finish Journey to the Ants but didn’t quite make it at the end. The good news there is that I’m starting 2017 with that book finished on January 2. With a 2017 goal of 20 books again, I’m already 5% toward that goal with only 0.5% of the year gone by! Woohoo! Maybe I’ll actually meet that goal this year. In a future post, I plan to break down what I’ve ready in 2015 and 2016, just to see where my tastes are.

Write 36 posts in 2016: Yeah, I shit the bed on this one. I wrote 12 posts in 2016, or 33%, for a grade of F. I struggled with this one, for all the writer-block reasons. Honestly, it was a problem I threw on the backburner because I just wanted to get the next novel done. I’ll give this some thought this year. Maybe I can restructure my time differently, but I don’t want to just write shit for volume. You deserve better. New goal for 2016: Let’s shoot for 24 posts this year, and see if I can actually make it.

Release A Togahan’s Chance: 100% complete! A+ with a gold star! Yaaaaay! ATC released on October 23, 2016, more or less “on schedule”, given that the schedule shifted back and forth a bit. Of the three goals, this was the most important, and the most fulfilling. After all, the reading and blogging are there to support the end product – the novels.  Completing my third novel feels good. Initial reviews have been good. I’m happy with this one. New goal for 2017: Start work on AT4, the current nickname for the next project. A Togahan’s Chance left the characters with some unfinished business, and AT4 gets down to business! I have a rough sense of where the story is going, but I need to do some research and plotting to get all the bits in where they need to go. I’m shooting to get this out in less than three years (about what I did for ATC), so the 2017 goal is to get 33% done with the new super-streamlined mega-schedule.

I’m hopeful to be productive in 2017. We’ll see in a couple of months where that’s at. I hope your 2017 is as productive as you want it to be.


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