Monday, January 31, 2011

Big news!

I'm very excited to announce that my novel, The Hidden Sun, has been released on Kindle! Now, why is this so exciting? Well, for a few reasons. First, I've had people requesting an electronic version of the book, and now there is one. Second, the book has been re-edited by the help of several folks, most notably author extraordinaire Tristi Pinkston. Third, the price as of this moment in time is only $4.99. Forth, the cover was redesigned by yours truly.

Now some of you may ask, "What the heck is Kindle?" Well, it's the format uses to sell electronic versions of books. There are several ways you can read Kindle books. The most obvious is on a Kindle device. But you can also download free applications for windows, mac, ipad, and even smart phones. I actually downloaded The Hidden Sun on my cell phone. Pretty trippy!

I'm also excited about this for a few other reasons. While I loved the story of the original The Hidden Sun, I'll have to admit there were several errors that made it distracting to some readers. This version is much cleaner, and it will allow even the most picky of readers to enjoy the story without getting hung up on the errors here and there.

The book can be purchased here.

Another reason I'm jazzed about this: I can now turn my attention to getting the second book ready for publication. For the first time, I'm going to give you a preview.

(Drum roll . . .)

The Waxing Moon takes place four years after The Hidden Sun. It begins when two brothers, who live along the northern mountains of Erd, discover a tunnel while mining. The tunnel appears to be manmade and runs under what has always been thought to be the impassible mountains.

Meanwhile, Snapdragon, youngest brother to Oakleaf and Sunshine, wins the right to become a Royal Guardian. As part of his training, Snapdragon becomes acquainted with the beautiful Seraphina--a nursemaid in the castle. He finds her fascinating, but promises himself that he will uphold his duties as a Royal Guardian and not attempt to court her.

Word comes soon after that the villagers from a northern Erd town have gone missing without a trace. Snapdragon is assigned to accompany the entourage sent to investigate--and entourage that includes Seraphina. What is discovered on the journey will change the lives of everyone in the kingdom of Bariwon forever.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

More interviews posted

I'm excited to announce I've completed another interview that is posted out there for all those in the world wide web to read. It can be accessed by one of the three links below.

Warning: you may learn something about me you may not have expected.

Site 1

Site 2

Site 3

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Snow dance

One of our favorite activities as a family is to watch videos from when the kids were younger. Some of the time, it makes me feel very old. Some of the time, I get emotional--a tear even comes to my eye. And then there are times when we just all laugh out loud at the actions we are watching on the screen. We found one such video recently. Aside from my two oldest daughters doing a snow dance, one of them (I promised I wouldn't put her name on the blog, but if you listen carefully to the video, you'll figure out who it is) asks the age old question, "Hey! Are those gooses or penguins?"

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is the key to flexibility?

There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the captain and chief medical officer are trapped on a planet and are trying to escape--only this story had a twist. For some reason, I don't recall why, they could now hear each other's thoughts. At one point, they come to a fork in the road, and the captain, being the captain, says, "It's this way." The medical officer stops him and says, "Wait a minute! You don't really know that. You are just guessing." He ends up admitting that being a leader doesn't always mean you know all the answers--and sometimes you have to make your "best guess". The key is to sound confident when you are doing it. Often, people need someone to believe in, or at least look for guidance, even if that person is just doing their best to guess which is the best path to take.

In my non-writing life, I've held various management positions over the years. There are times I simply don't know for sure the right answer, or the correct action to take. However, I've learned that sometimes you have to show confidence in your decision.

Now, I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with showing weakness, or admitting you don't know. This is what I mean: there are times when people are following you and if they hesitate when you give the command, or haven't bought into what you are saying, it will fail, even if you made the right choice.

Nowhere in my life has this been more evident than when I've directed live TV shows. You see, the thing about being "live" is, well, it's like life--it's unpredictable. I like to say that never once did I direct a program where everything went according to plan. That's not to say it didn't turn out well, it just means that there were times when a decision came up that wasn't expected. As the director, your job is to tell everyone what to do and when. If you hum and haw, it's going to be too late. If you don't give the directions with confidence, the people taking your directions may have doubt and then hesitate. Like I noted before, sometimes that hesitation can cause even the right decision to fail.

At times, this would cause conflicts between the director and the producer. Let me put it another way. In live TV, the producer is like the architect, and the director is like the builder. The director looks at the blueprints the producer "drew" and then start building. But again, with things happening live, the producers were always changing things on the fly. Sometimes it is minor tweaks like, "the carpet will be blue and not red" or "wallpaper instead of paint". Then there were other times when it was more along the lines of "Okay, move the bathroom that was on the third floor to the first floor and add a pool in the living room."

When the changes were too dramatic, and given too late for me to make, I'd tell them "No." Producers don't like to be told no. In fact, that was one thing that one of my news directors criticized me about. He said I wasn't being flexible enough. My response was always that we did whatever we could to accommodate the producers, but sometimes they would decide too late, or hum and haw, not wanting to make a decision. If they couldn't, or wouldn't, make the decision, often the director would have to make their best guess, and sound confident about it or bad stuff would happen on air.

When I was preparing to leave that TV station to pursue other things, I was cleaning out my desk one day. I found a quote book I was given by one of my employees about business life in general. I had to stop and laugh out loud when I came across a quote that fit the situation perfectly. It was: "The key to flexibility is indecision."

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who says daydreaming is a bad thing?

Growing up, I would daydream--a lot. Sitting in class, I'd look out the window and see something that would spark my imagination and off I would go on some adventure. There is probably some sort of medical term for that now. And it would have to be an acronym. The medical people love their abbreviations and acronyms. I guess I would be diagnosed with having DREAM syndrome (because the word "syndrome" makes it sound really official). What would DREAM stand for? Well, let's see. How about Dysfunctional Recognition Edification Activity Murkiness. Or perhaps Dude Redirects Every Attention Much. Maybe even Doesn't Really Eat Apple Mush.

Regardless, I loved to make up adventures. The first real attempt to do so was in the 4th grade where I wrote a short story about how I was captured by aliens (and so were my friends) and I went about saving them. My real life friends liked the story so much, we went on to write twelve more short stories together which we titled, The Chronicles of Space Adventure (or COSA if a medical person got a hold of the title).

However, I ran into a bit of a snag when it came to writing. I have a mild form of dyslexia. One way it manifests itself is in spelling, which was (and is) a mystery to me. And for better or worse, English classes often included spelling tests as part of their grading system, so you can only imagine what kind of grades I earned.

It wasn't until I took a required creative writing class in college my sophomore year that I even thought I had the ability to use my imagination to create written stories. After being told by my several of English teachers that I really should pursue something in the science fields, I actually had a teacher that saw something else in me. In our final project was to re-write a well known short story of our choice from a different point of view. I chose The Lottery. When I got my version returned to me, it had a perfect score--something the teach rarely awarded students (note: spell check is your friend--something I didn't have in High School). He told me I had a gift. It's amazing how one person can make such a difference in your life.

As for my published novel, The Hidden Sun, it is the result of five years of writing in-between all the various demands on my time. And of course, while editing it, I got the idea for the second book, The Waxing Moon, which is in its final editing stages now. What does that mean? Well, of course that I've started on my third book.

To echo my fellow man cave authors, writing is a boat load of hard work. It takes dedication and patience. It requires putting on a thick skin when people criticize your work, while also listening to your heart of when to heed people's advice or stay true to your vision of your story.

I can't say how honored I am to be part of the man cave group. These men are extremely talented.

It's going to be a fun ride.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Where is my flying car?

In 9th grade, my Electronics teacher asked us a question. Actually, it was two questions. The first one was: "How different would your life be today if we didn't use electricity?" Now keep in mind this was the early 80's (there I go, dating myself again).
The obvious answer from the students was "No TV!" It took us a little longer to realize we wouldn't have light bulbs. And what about digital watches? Heck, some of the guys in class even had digital watches with calculators on them. Don't believe me? Here is a picture of one:

Never mind that we needed electricity to power the fans that blew warm air through the heating system--or to run all the different devices in our cars. Telephones? Nah, we wouldn't have those either.
The more we discussed, the more we realized how very different our lives would be. My teacher went as far as to ask, "How in the world could we live without electricity?"
I'll admit, it was hard for me to imagine.

And then he asked the question that really blew our minds. It was, "What hasn't been invented yet, or isn't commonly used, that 25 years from now, we are going to say, 'How did we live without (whatever)?'"

Well, 25 years (or so) have come and gone. Sadly, the flying car and transporter technology have yet to see the light of day. However, that doesn't mean that there hasn't been some big changes. Now, I'm sure there are some really scientific people out there that could write pages and pages about all that has changed. I'm going to focus on three primary things that are now common place that we didn't use 25 years ago.

#1 Personal computers. When my wife and I bought our first computer, it had an incredible 100 megabytes of hard drive space. The computer I'm using now as I type this? It has like 600 gigabytes. (If you aren't sure what that means, 1,000 megabytes = 1 gigabyte. So 600 gigabytes = well, you get the idea.) What's even more amazing to me is that we don't just have one computer. We have four. Granted, they aren't all brand new, but with our kids getting older and needing to do more and more homework on the computer, it was getting to be an issue.

#2 The internet. This may seem like the same thing as #1, but it isn't. Yes, computers use the internet, but they are two different things. Again, going back to our first computer, we had something called AOL. We had to dial into a local number, and then we let the fun begin--well, kinda. If we wanted to download any sort of item from the internet, we would click on what we wanted, go make a sandwich, walk the dog, take a shower, followed by a little nap, and then, just maybe, the item would have finished. And now? The web pages almost load before you get done typing in what you are looking for.

#3 Cell phones. It was a sign of prestige and wealth to have a phone in your car--or maybe something from a 007 movie. Then you could get a portable one--if you didn't mind carrying around a purse like bag that housed the phone.

The idea that just about everyone over the age of 15 has a cell phone is something I couldn't conceive 25 years ago. But more than them being used to make calls, the new "smart" phones can do more things than my first personal computer could do--by a large margin.

So, where does that leave us now? Well, I'll pose the same question to you: What hasn't been invented yet, or isn't commonly used, that 25 years from now, we are going to say, 'How did we live without (whatever)?'

Friday, January 7, 2011

"Who's at the door?" book review

It's rare for me to read a book in under a day. Honestly, I can't recall the last time I did that--until I read "Who's at the door?" by Dan Harrington.
The subtitle of the book is "A memoir of me and the missionaries"--and that is what it is. It's more than just a one person's dealings with Mormon (LDS) missionaries, it is also a book where Dan explores his own belief system--and why he believes what he does.
This isn't a typical conversion story, but almost a "work in progress" as Dan searches for understanding. He asks questions I'm sure most of us have asked, and then either excepts or struggles when the answers don't fit into his previous beliefs.
While this book has highly spiritual overtones, it is also very funny. Dan has an excellent sense of humor and I found myself laughing more than at any recent movie or TV show in recent memory. He certainly is an excellent writer--and knows how to keep a narrative flowing.
There were surprises throughout the book, which I don't want to spoil, but that got me, as a lifelong member of the LDS church, to ponder.
There is so much more I want to reveal about the book, but I fear in doing so, I will ruin the experience for other readers.
So, who would enjoy this book? Well, it isn't just for Mormons. In fact, I can think of a dozen or so non-Mormon friends I'm going to whom I'm going to recommend this book. Granted, members of the LDS faith, especially those have served missions, will get an extra kick out of the book. There is so much as Mormons we take for granted, and it was refreshing to see our church through Dan's eyes.
I honestly hope two things for Dan. Number 1: that he finds the answers to his questions and lives a happy life. Number 2: That he writes more books--and soon.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Most popular blogs of 2010

One of the cooler things about this blog application is that it keeps stats of how many times a blog has been read over a given period of time.

I thought to kick off the new year, I'd list the top five blogs of 2010 according to number of views.

At then end, I'll include my personal top two. If you haven't read some of these (and why not?) this is your chance!

Without further ado. . .

#5 How young is too young to get married?

This one includes a clip from the classic movie The Princess Bride.

#4 It's a sign!

Examples of some odd road signs and my opinions on them.

#3 Examples of proofreading gone bad

Another blog of mainly photos--these of signs that really should have been been proofread before they were put on display.

#2 Honestly! It's an orange.

A blog about how quality is in the eye of the beholder. It includes an original drawing by yours truly.

And #1 . . . (Drumroll)

Knock, knock

Honestly, this one surprised me. I've had a LOT of hits in 2010, but this blog had 4 times as many as the one that took second place.

As for my personal favorites, I'm going to break them up into 2 catagories. Picture based and text based.

My favorite blog using pictures is Save us from ourselves.

For some reason, this blog really struck my funny bone.

And for my favorite text based blog, this was a tough call. However, I'll have to go with The night the port-a-potty burned down.

If for no other reason, it just has a kick-butt title.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

On being interviewed

Well, here it is: my first blog posting of 2011. For this blog, I'm going to redirect y'all (that's how we say it here in North Carolina) to an interview I did for Dan Harrington's website.

I've done a few of these types of interviews and what I find interesting is how much fun it is to reflect on things in my life when I'm asked different types of questions.

As for who this Dan Harrington peron is, he's an author and all around nice guy. I'll be posting a review of his book Who's at the door? on Jan 7th. (sneak peek: I really enjoyed his book.)

The interview can be found here.