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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The Precise Art of Naming Characters

So I’ve been playing a lot of Fallout Shelter, and as my vault dwellers produced offspring or I welcomed newcomers to the vault, I jumped on the opportunity to name or rename the characters. This was a perfect place for a budding author to practice the fine craft of naming characters in a meaningful way. I imagined factors like:

  • What is the character’s lineage and how much does that matter?
  • Does the character go by their first and last name, just one moniker, or a title?
  • Does the name roll off the tongue?
  • If from a foreign (or fabricated) language, how does the name reflect that language, and does it sound similar to their kin, or vastly different from foreigners?
  • Does the name sound like other words that evoke an intended reaction from the reader?
  • Should a name sound like someone famous, and if so, how much do you call that out?

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Not quite a head shot

So I just wrapped up playing Far Cry 3 (I got it for cheap when Far Cry 4 came out last year), and found it thoroughly enjoyable. They did a good job with the open sandbox world, while still driving you through a main plot arc. Liberating the various enemy strongholds was strangely relaxing as I utilized the game’s well constructed sneaking and take-down functions. And it had an impressive arsenal of modern weapons which you could customize. My favorite was the Bushman rifle, unlocked toward the end of the game, and in general I enjoyed any of the SMGs or ARs with suppressors.

But something was up with the auto-aim. This is a feature on most games where the computer helps you (sometimes dramatically, sometimes very, very subtly) by adjusting your aim toward a target. Some games really fine-tune this feature so that you don’t even notice the game doing it, but as you get better scopes and other enhancements, your aim noticeably improves.

In my case, the auto-aim favored the crotch.

I don’t know what was up – maybe it had sometime to do with the sneaking mechanism – but with the Bushman, I found I was more often spraying enemies in the junk and ass, watching them hunch over as if they just ate a bad meal. Not only did it cost more ammo, it was just a piss-poor, ungraceful way to take them down. Or maybe the game had nothing to do with it, and my aim just sucks. I don’t know. Regardless; fun game.

Now I’m on to Fallout 4, which has a very different feel to the aiming mechanism, aside from the whole V.A.T.S. approach. I’m enjoying the fact that you can actually recycle all the in-game items into usable materials this time around. And reinforcing the town is the only bit I can actually play guilt-free in front of my daughters. (It feels very much like Minecraft, and there’s no gore when you build stuff.) If I see any notable behaviors, I’ll let you know. And no, the V.A.T.S. has no entry for “crotch”.

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2015 End of Year Progress Report

Yes, it’s late. Anyway, here is the current status of the three initiatives from last year. I didn’t do all I set out to; some of it fell short. But here they are in order of completion (or not):

Read 20 books in 2015: I just finished Chuck Wendig’s Zeroes a couple days ago, but since I didn’t finish it in 2015, I can’t add it to the list. According to my goodreads account, I finished 19 other books. Didn’t quite make the goal, but I can safely give myself a grade of 95/100 for this goal. A solid “A”. Twenty books was a reasonable goal for my reading pace and other distractions, and given my pathetic performance in 2014, was a vast improvement.

  • Refined goal for 2016: Read another 20 books (and I’m already 5% done!)

Write 52 Posts in 2015: This post technically doesn’t count, since it was written in 2016. My last 2015 post was about Star Wars, and was my 34th post for the year, resulting in an overall grade of …65/100. D. I barely passed. But, I passed. Or as my wife reminded me, “D is for Diploma”.

In all seriousness, I struggled with this one. I follow several blogs, and some are prolific, contributing one or more posts daily, and others are very scarce (one post/month or less). I’ll do a more thorough breakdown of the 2015 posts at a later time, but for now I realize that, while I’d like to post more frequently, I’m still finding my voice. Finding the time was an issue too; many nights it came down to “Do I want to work on ATC, or do I want to write a blog post?” Sorry, in that case, the novel writing usually wins.

While I think 52 posts was a worthy goal, I struggled to reach it and still post content that wasn’t pure fluff. For 2016, I’ll give myself a bit more time, and see if I can’t improve on what I did this year.

  • Refined goal for 2016: 36 posts, or about 3/month (and this is my 2nd post for the year).

Release A Togahan’s Chance (aka “novel #3”): The goal wasn’t to actually finish ATC in 2016, although that would have been super sweet. But barring a winning lottery ticket (or a layoff), there wasn’t time. When I launched this project, the estimated date of completion (with a fairly reasonable, fatty schedule) was June 2017. I’ve made better progress than I estimated. According to the mega-schedule spreadsheet, I’m 75.8% of the way through the project, and right now I can safely commit to releasing A Togahan’s Chance at Thanksgiving 2016, or before. All the beta reader feedback has been incorporated, and I’m halfway through a final sweep before I send it off to my copy editor. After integrating all those changes, then it’s final formatting for ePub/Kindle, and that’s always a wildcard. Since 2-3 years pass in between my releases, the software and process changes, and it’s hard to predict what technical snafus will come up. And I’m trying new tricks this year with the Kindle format, which could add 2 days or 2 months to the schedule since it’s the first time through. So…

  • Refined goal for 2016: Release A Togahan’s Chance by Thanksgiving.

That’s the progress; those are the new goals. We’ll see how 2016 goes.

Got a question or a comment? Something you’d like to see? What are your own goals? Let me know.


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The Bowcaster

For those of you not obsessed with Star Wars, the bowcaster is Chewbacca’s signature weapon.

Oh, before we go on, spoilers for The Force Awakens are below. Stop reading here if that’s a thing for you.




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