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 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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Two Fistfuls of Tang

“Have you ever seen magic powder?” my buddy Paul asked. We were scouts, all sitting around the campfire on a raised site overlooking a lake. It was a nice area, peaceful. The sun had gone down and the scout masters were off somewhere, leaving us to tend the fire and cleanup the site after dinner.

“No,” I said with eager eyes. It sounded exciting. Paul popped the lid off of a cardboard tub of cocoa mix and grabbed about a half-cup’s worth in his hand. He crouched near the fire and tossed the cocoa over the flames. The airborne dust cloud erupted in a beautiful fireball.

“Whoaaaa,” I said, and eagerly grabbed my own handful to test.

More fireballs.

“Don’t use too much,” Paul said, “we still need some for breakfast.” So we tried a few other bits from our kitchen to see how they did:

  • Baking soda – not so good
  • Bisquick – meh
  • Cocoa – decent fireball
  • Tang – very nice fireball, beautiful blossom, truly breathtaking

Now, the reason for why these worked had more to do with the physics of grain elevator explosions than with their chemical composition, but our takeaway from that night was clear:

Tang + fire = fun

A decade later, my work buddy Steve once commented, “Only in scouts could you play with axes, knives, and fire, relatively unsupervised,” and it was true. He and I often spent our lunch hours laughing over all the dumb shit we did as kids, incredulous that no one ever got seriously hurt.

With the Tang revelation, the scouts in my troop started experimenting with the orange instant breakfast drink. A couple kids tried to make torches by stuffing Tang in old socks, then wrapping them around the end of a stick. Us older scouts were dubious, but sure, whatever.

They ended up with burnt socks, spilled Tang, and no torches.

Sometimes a couple of us would throw Tang at the same time, and get a bigger fireball. During our summer campout though, we had a brilliant idea: what if a bunch of us threw Tang simultaneously?

After lunch one day, the scout masters were down by the lake, well out of sight, and eight of us were cleaning up our campsite’s kitchen area. We decided it was time. We cracked open the tub of Tang and each of us grabbed two fistfuls.

Nervously, we stood around the dwindling campfire, trickling orange crystals in the dirt. We looked at each other, waiting for the call.

“On the count of three,” someone said. When the count came, all eight of us launched both our fistfuls at once—sixteen in all—into, above, and around the fire.

I actually felt my eyelashes curl from the blast heat. It was so big and so bright, it momentarily blinded us as we stumbled backward, tripping over camping chairs, logs, underbrush, bumping into tables, clustering f-bombs like young teens who think they’re out of earshot.

“That was a bad idea,” one scout mumbled.

“Holy shit, I can’t see a damn thing,” someone else said, blinking.

“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!?” we heard. One of the scout masters had forgotten something and was walking back to the campsite when our fireball detonated.

“Nothing,” one scout mumbled, rubbing his eyes.

“I don’t know,” another one said, trying to stand.

“BULLSHIT!” the scout master spat. “Are you trying to burn the woods down?!? Who spilled Tang all over the fire? What is the matter with all of you?” …and so on. Luckily no one suffered lasting injuries. We received our punishment—carrying several dozen buckets of wet sand from the road down to the beach to help rebuild some erosion. By that night, our arms were sore and limp from all the forced labor.

In hindsight, we were damn lucky no one got hurt, or that the fire didn’t spread. And while at the time, it was kinda cool, now I relate more to the scoutmaster than to my pyromaniac younger self.

So yeah – it’s fire safety month, kids. Don’t burn shit.

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2016 Q3 Progress Report

Hello, everyone! Here’s my third progress report for the year on various ventures. Yes, it’s right after my Q2 report, a shameful bit related to my second goal, below. Read on:

Read 20 books in 2016: I’m in the middle of reading To Kill a Mockingbird, a classic I might have skimmed in high school, but of which I otherwise have no memory. It’s an interesting exercise, reading this and knowing that it was the originator of some conventions. This marks my 11th book for the year (out of 20), or just barely 50% done with 25% of the year left. I’ll have to read (does some math….) about a book every nine days to make the goal. It’s possible, especially if I get trapped for three days in a library for some reason, but I’m not holding my breath. I gotta dig up some page turners. Any recommendations?

Write 36 posts in 2016: Ahahahaha…This will be my 8th post for the year, putting this goal at 22% complete. There have been zero posts since the last progress report, but …it’s also been summer (some travel, some gatherings, some relaxing…) Maybe I need to post more drivel. Drivel, anyone?

Release A Togahan’s Chance (Togahan #3): We’re on schedule for a release before Thanksgiving, possibly sooner, although I won’t commit to it. I’m in the final formatting right now. EPub looks good, and I’m about to do the .mobi format for Kindle. Then there’s some paperwork and a couple other things I’m forgetting (it’s been three years since my last release, and I’m trying to find all my notes on what I have to do…). But we’re very close. According to the mega schedule, I’m 94% done. We’re in the home stretch, folks.

A Togahan’s Chance is the third book in the Togahan series, and while not a trilogy per se, it feels like a milestone. The book does wrap up some of the hanging threads from the previous one, and starts exploring new ones. Three books feels like a hat trick of some sort. Three books feels good. I’m excited to start work on number four, too. Stay tuned.

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2016 Q2 Progress Report

Hey folks! Sticking my head up again to keep you abreast of my progress. I’m still plodding along on 2016 goals. I’ve been getting more questions on when A Togahan’s Chance will be released. See below.

Read 20 books in 2016: I just finished Justin Cronin’s The Passage, which is a long-ass book, but a great read. It certainly captures the feel of a post-apocalyptic world. That brings me to five books completed this year, putting me at 25% complete with 50% of the schedule gone. I need to catch up fast. Maybe some shorter reads. I’ll have to shuffle my queue.

Write 36 posts in 2016: This will be my 7th post for the year, putting this goal at 19% complete, with 50% of the schedule gone. Pathetic.

Release A Togahan’s Chance (Togahan #3): Really, this is the main goal that you all care about. We’re still on track for a release at or before Thanksgiving. Nancy returned my manuscript with thousands of tiny changes, so I’ve been progressing and implementing those, and am about halfway through that effort. After that, it’s time to format for e-release and some other bookkeeping, and we should be good to go.

In the meantime I’m toying with another side project (Togahan related), but I need to do some outlining first. I’ll say more when that project has more meat to it.

I’m also itching to get going on the next major arc. A Togahan’s Chance resolves some threads, but launches others, and there’s a whole lotta space out there for Dante to explore…

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A Togahan’s Chance – First Look at the Cover

I finalized the cover this week, and am thrilled to give you a peak at it. For my next post, I’ll talk about how I put it all together. What are your first impressions?


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2016 Q1 Progress Report

Ugh. Once again, I’m lagging on all things that aren’t the book. This should have gone out a few days couple of weeks ago. Mea culpa. Here’s the status of my 2016 stated goals:

Read 20 books in 2016: I finished Saturn’s Children, and picked up a copy of Myke Cole’s new Javelin Rain, which I’m enjoying. But for the books I’ve actually read, I’m at…3/20, which puts me at 15% complete with 30% of the year gone by. I need to pick up the pace and/or read some shorter books. Part of the problem is that I picked up that damn Fallout Shelter app game, which fills in much of the cracks. And while the game has given me several insights, I haven’t formed those into anything cogent enough to write a post about, except for that April Fools post, but arguably, that doesn’t count.

Write 36 posts in 2016: LOL, I’m falling behind on that one too, even though it’s a lower goal than last year. This post is my 5th for the year (14% done), and it’s late. That says something about priortization, I suppose. Although after reading Chuck Wendig’s post about platforms I don’t feel so bad. I tend to get more positive feedback on things that are more entertaining than insightful. I think I’m overthinking this one, and I need to just relax and write about whatever entertains me. Yes, less thinking is in order.

Release A Togahan’s Chance (Togahan #3): This is actually on track for a Thanksgiving-ish release, with the project at 81% complete. The manuscript is in the hands of my wonderful editor Nancy, who is diligently marking where I need to correct 4,000+ comma errors (I’m not exaggerating that number), and other things. Once I get that back (probably in 2-3 weeks), I can plow through the copy edits, format for release, finish up the back matter, etc, some light book keeping, and then you should have a copy for the e-device of your choice as you’re on your way to gobbling turkey. That’s the goal, anyway, and the one I take most seriously.

I have some professional obligations coming up for my day job in June, which will demand some outside time, but I’m trying to work things so that the writing schedule isn’t impacted. Also, I need to get some S.W.A.G. printed up for promotional purposes – probably pens again; everyone loves/needs/uses pens. Any suggestions?

Anyway, that’s the state of things. I’ll do another one of these in June, hopefully closer to the proper half-time.

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