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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Happy Holidays!

Holy shit, I looked this up on Wikipedia, and there are a ton of holidays in the month of December.

All around the world, people are gathering for one reason or another, celebrating occasions, exchanging gifts or just enjoying one another’s company. And that’s awesome. In the Northern hemisphere at least, looking forward to a celebration this time of year is a great way to get our minds off the shitty weather and short-ass days, and maybe remind us of the decent folks in our lives.

And if you’re in the habit of exchanging gifts and have just collided with that Krusty the Clown “aww crap!” forehead slap where you forgot someone on your gift list, remember e-books for a quick and steady save. Seriously, you can gift someone an e-book while

  • Riding the subway
  • Waiting for an Uber/Lyft/cab
  • Pretending to work
  • Waiting for your coffee
  • Using the restroom
  • “Watching” your children
  • Waiting for your turn on that contraption
  • Taking a break from writing erotic fan fiction
  • Multiples of the above
  • etc.

And, ahem, of course I would be remiss if I didn’t plug my own work, the Togahan series: all three books still available for a back-breakingly low $3.99 USD while 2016 lasts. Check out http://petehollmer.com/books/ for links to your preferred vendors and platforms.

And a side plug, if you use Wikipedia as often I do and can spare a few bucks, consider throwing some their way to keep that show running. We all need accurate information to get our shit done.

Be good, and may 2017 treat you fairly.


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A Togahan’s Chance…is released!

Earlier today, all the publishing widgets fell into place and A Togahan’s Chance is now available! Check it out on the following platforms:

Thank you again to all the folks who have kept asking about it. Please give it a read, and let me know what you think!


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One Week to Launch!

So, in about a week, I’m releasing A Togahan’s Chance. It’ll be out on Kindle, Kobo, Nook, and iTunes. I’ll post again when that’s done.

We’re almost there.

This baby’s almost born.

Light’s at the end of the tunnel, and it’s actually an opening, not another train or some poor miner.

My metaphors are almost…uh, done.

Yeah, one week till it’s out. (Maybe sooner, depending on latency).

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