Wednesday, October 31, 2012

All About Disney and Star Wars

So Disney bought Lucasfilm.  Which is to say, they bought Star Wars, and they plan to have Star Wars Episode VII out in theaters by 2015.


John Scalzi nailed it, inasmuch as he pointed at The Avengers and said, “Well, clearly Disney can do this thing right.”


Do I agree?  Yeah, mostly.  But sadly, this also means that the Star Wars mythos is going to wander away from what the movies always were: The One Holy True Writ.


I mean, if you want a Star Wars fix, there are comics, and novels, and toys, and a games, and video games, and LARPing, and TV shows, and fan films, and you know what?  None of them counted, because they weren’t the movies, which is the place George Lucas took a stand and said, “None of that stuff matters, only this counts.”


Except now, they won’t.  The movies will be just another franchise, played with by many with varying degrees of success not unlike, say, The Children of the Corn. 


There are those (and there are many) who will be happy to see Lucas taken away from his toys.  Those are the people who make jokes like, “What prequel trilogy?”  But if they thought that was bad, they need to realize that things can get a whole lot worse.


Friday the 13th Part V worse.


“The Golden Compass,” “Oh, we’re never gonna finish that trilogy because it crashed and burned,” worse.


Meanwhile, everyone is all, “Get Joss Whedon.”  And I’m not saying no, here, but there just happens to be someone else with some free time on his hands.


Four Words: Christopher Nolan’s Star Wars.






Look, there are a lot cool things that could be done, and a lot of fun place to take the series, but in the end, it’s never going to go back to what it was, the vision of one man with a love of ancient sci-fi novels and serials.  Instead, it’ll be a product produced by a production company.


And for that, I shed a tiny, CGI-created tear.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A Few Thoughts on Book Clubs

For the longest time, I thought my books clubs were the only ones that had problems.  Then I bumped into a friend’s Facebook status, wherein she said (roughly):


“Time to go to my book club, where we will sit around, drink wine, and not talk about the book none of us finished.”


And that was when I knew that book clubs are, in general, a bit of a train wreck.


Now, granted, there might be a few really excellent book clubs out there, where everyone shows up on time, everyone has read the book from cover to cover, and the person who picked the book has put together a half-dozen questions that lead to lively, free-change chatting about themes of the book, the meaning of life, and so on.


I imagine most of these are populated by retirees with a lot of free time.


Having been in three book clubs that worked to varying degrees, however, I think there are ways that the average book club can at least approach a certain level of success.  About half of these I’m straight-out thieving from the woman who ran two of my book clubs.


Though I feel I must emphasize that even with these in place, the book clubs kept falling apart.  But I think that had a lot to do with these rules slipping over time.  And once the rules were gone, the book club croaked with them.


Let us proceed.


First:  Put a cap on book length.  Before I joined my first book club, the club in question had already imploded once before, because people gave little or no thought to how big the book should be.  At one point, someone chose the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy.  That’s over 1000 pages of reading, and everyone had a month to accomplish it.  Needless to say, this book was the most often cited as the one that crushed the club.


A similar problem hit my third book club, when someone suggested everyone read the book 1491, which covers the history of America before Columbus arrived.  It’s 540 pages of small print.


No one read it except the guy who suggested it, and someone who found it in audiobook format.  Book length fail.


The original cap for the books was supposed to be 250 pages, but I think even that might be too long.  I’m quite sure there are a few hundred books under 200 pages.  I would start there.


And I repeat.  No drifting.  255 pages is probably okay.  But the very second someone suggests a 300-pager, nip it in the bud.


Second: Pick books that people might actually enjoy reading.  Fahrenheit 451 is perfect, because it’s a classic that has an actual story and interesting themes besides.


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a terrible choice, because it’s boring, scattered, and reads like a series of emo blogs written by a pretentious teenager. 


Most of the true book fails seemed to occur when someone would pick the title of a book pretty much out of a hat because it sounded interesting, without ever laying eyes on the actual book.  To that end, there should probably be a sub-rule that before picking a book, the person making the selection first must read the opening 10 or 20 pages.


(Two quick stories about Portrait.  The book was so bad only two people at the club actually read it.  This led to no discussion at all, and the book club went to a movie instead.  The Godfather of Green Bay.  Which is a so-so movie that’s pretty entertaining if you live in Wisconsin.


(Second story: The guy who chose Portrait later made up for it by choosing The Cat in the Hat.  There a massive annotated book about Cat.  I wholeheartedly endorse talking about this book at your club.)


Third:  Someone needs to be the leader.  And that leader needs to send out reminders about the club night (and the book title) two weeks in advance, and one week in advance.


And then, the leader must find out who has actually read the book at that juncture.  If there’s a week to go and the answer is “no one?”  The club needs to be pushed off to another month.


The thing of it is, all of this needs to be handled well in advance, and between Facebook, email, and texting, it should be an easy thing.  But our clubs were constantly plagued with messages like, “Are we still meeting?  What’s the date again?  I haven’t been able to get my hands on the book!”


Fourth: Pick a meeting place, and make it the permanent meeting place.


Another troublesome question: “Where are we meeting?”


The thing of it is, yes, it’s nice for people to share the responsibility of hosting, but in reality, it just sucks.  Every month, you have to send out a new set of directions.  The distance might be impossible for some of the book club members.  (In one case, we had a 45 minute drive, it was winter, it was dark, and we had a little one.  Needless to say, that did not happen.)


By meeting in the same place every month, everyone knows how long it takes to get there as well, so no one is arriving 30 minutes late and horking up the discussion.


Fifth: Food.  There needs to be food. 


We did this kind of thing a few ways.  There were themed meals to go with the books, which was fun but could be a lot of work. 


Honestly, I’d say either meet up at a restaurant where it’s quiet enough to talk, or order pizza.  Potluck kind of works, but gets problematic in the main course area, which means someone is going to do a lot of work and probably spend way more than the person who brings a bag of chips.


Pizza, I say.


Sixth: Make sure the book is easy to get your hands on. 


On a couple of occasions, people picked books that were available free online.  Which is great, except most of us didn’t have Kindles or iPads, and subsequently no one wanted to read the book online. 


Some of these were so-called classics, which meant the library had one copy.  So one person got that, and everyone else had to pay money for a book they were only going to read once, if at all.


Finally, feel the need to once again suggest that the books selected are books that the people in the club actually want to read.  Yes, it can be “interesting” to do classics, but more often than not it gets frustrating and dull quickly.


I was once in a Jane Austen book club, and the thing of it is, she only wrote six books.  But they were all torture, and in the end a club that started with ten members slowly shrunk to four. 


I’ll grant you that not every book is going to please every person.  However, people in book clubs are far too prone to picking books that go down like medicine.  This will crush your club every time.


To get you started, here are a few books that led to great club nights:


Forever Changes: Brendan Halpin (Rated by many as the best book we’d ever read in the club.)

A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens (A classic, and most people know the story, which makes it a super-breezy read.)

Survivor: Chuck Palahniuk  (This one is a little longer than it should be for the club, but there’s lots to talk about and it goes by fast.)

Water for Elephants: Sara Gruen  (Also probably too long, but again, well-loved.)

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: Douglas Adams (Everyone read it.  The only problem was, the plot is so thin there isn’t a lot to discuss…)

The Road: Cormac McCarthy (Painfully depressing, but great discussion.)

Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury (Ebooks make this one even more interesting.)

The Cat in the Hat: Dr. Seuss (I cannot emphasize how great the discussion was.)


As for complete failures:


1491 – Only two people finished it.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man: Again, two people.

Logan’s Run: Had interesting ideas, but the book itself isn’t all that well written, which turned it into a bit of a slog.

Lolita: A little controversy sounds like fun, but man, this was a tedious book. 


Friday, October 19, 2012

What Next, and Why, and How...

I know, I know.  I don’t blog for forever, and now twice in one day.  But I have things on my mind.  Feel free to keep reading after this entry.


But first, right off, I have a friend whose husband just lost his job.  And her car is broken.  And she’s good people.  So if’n you’re reading this, and like the kind of stuff I write, go check her out:



She’s got a few free books, if you’re a sampling type, and her cheapest nvoels will cost you all of a dollar. 


Do my friend and yourself a favor and check out her stuff.




I’ve been puzzling over something, and I’m putting it down here partially to get it out of my head, and partially to get thoughts from the people who drop by to visit.


At the moment, I’m currently in editing mode, which makes me tired.  I do reread books from time to time, but I’ve never been the guy who finishes a book and then immediately reads it again.


(A lot of this has to do with the STACKS of books in my to-be-read pile.  Not to mention the two-dozen Kindle books I’ve picked up and haven’t gotten around to.  I mean, seriously, one of my favorite authors wrote an ebook, and I’ve only read half of it:


(I will say I really liked that half…)


(I digress.)


So rereading, this thing I rarely do, is what I’ve been doing with my Blood Calling series.  I’m reading and editing them, then sending them off to Red Iris, then a week or two later I have them in my hands again and the only thing preventing them from coming out is me reading them a SECOND time.  Or actually, more like for the fifth or sixth time.


I’m not complaining (okay, a little bit…) but it has kept me from finishing some other projects. 


And there’s this other thing, which I’m going to talk about a little bit, but not too much, because it involves people who aren’t me.


Readers paying close attention might have noticed that the third book in the Blood Calling trilogy is dedicated to my friend Liz.  That’s not a random thing.  About a year ago, I found out Liz has cancer. 


I cannot stress to you how important Liz is to me and my family (not to mention her own).  More to the point she loves the Blood Calling books, and she even mentioned them on her “I’m fighting cancer” blog.


She was the woman who told me they were just as good as The Hunger Games.  And trust me, Liz will tell you when a book is bad.


Ever since I finished the trilogy, and started working on other things, she’s subtly and not-so-subtly mentioned that I should continue the story.


Now, I should say that it’s not like she’s trying to guilt me into it.  If anything, it’s a nice reminder that she likes my writing and wants to see more of it.


I still need to finish Frank, the Lonely Unicorn, but I’m hoping to wrap that up after all these edits (I may even take a crack and trying to push through it during National Novel Writing Month), at which point I plan to turn my attention back to the world of vampires.


Which brings me to my question.


Right now, one of the “big” things in e-publishing is the serial.  Much like a TV show, but slower, I guess, a new “episode” of the story comes out every month.  And then, after the story is done, the whole thing is stuck into one large book.


My friend Sara, linked up at the top, is doing this with her massively popular Seasons of the Moon series.  And John Scalzi, at man with two Hugos, is tapping into his Old Man’s War universe and doing this as well.


So now I’m puzzling: If I go back to the universe of vampires, how should I do it?  Do I spend six months trying to write the next chapter in the story?  Do I block out the better part of a year and do another trilogy?


Or do I sneak it out in sections, as is slowly becoming popular?


I dunno.


I can see certain advantages to both. 


I suppose my question is, what do YOU, as a reader, think you’d prefer?  A 60 page chunk of story at the start of every month?  Or a longer, more-fleshed-out tale every six months?


Operators are standing by…

Stephen King and Me - A Test Chapter of Sorts

A year or two ago, I thought it might be fun to work up a book proposal wherein I spent a year reading all of Stephen King, from Carrie up to whatever it was he had put out in the last year.


For better or worse, I’ve been reading King since I was about 12 years old, which means I’m coming up on 25 years of consuming his prose, and I thought it might be entertaining to compare and contrast my memory of his work with how it holds up today.


The problem, of course, is that I almost certainly need to be a much more famous author before I can sell a book like this.  Of course, with my Blood Calling series slowly making headway into the world, maybe that time is coming.


So consider this a bit of a test chapter.


The point of the book, ultimately, would be to discuss not only King’s massive body of work, but how it influenced me, and more to the point, how my views of him have changed from when I was 12 until now, as I re-read his stories.


I’ve already reread some of his books, and, well… you’ll see.


Danse Macabre


I’ve told the story of how I came to read King before, but here’s a summary.


When I was little, I had no interest in scary books.  Because they were scary.  And I didn’t handle scary well, in books, or in movies.


I couldn’t tolerate things like the face-melting sequence in Raiders of the Lost Ark, so when friends of mine would tell me what happened in the latest tale of Jason or Freddy, I was all the more convinced that scary movies weren’t for me.


And that extended to books.


Then one day, desperate for something to read, I borrowed a copy of a scary short story collection from a friend in study hall.  And I got into it.


And of course I knew, because my mom told me, that Stephen King wrote scary books.  So I figured I’d start reading some of his stuff.


Really, this is a bit like taking a toke of pot, and deciding to move right on to meth.


For a while, it was easy to find King I hadn’t read.  The man was prolific, and even in the late eighties the guy took up the better part of an entire bookshelf all on his own.  So I could walk in and get something I hadn’t read before with relative ease.


Which means I was pretty much scraping the bottom of the barrel by the time I had to go to an entirely different section of the library (nonfiction!) to find Danse Macabre.


Now, the thing of it is, I had found a few King books I hadn’t liked much by then.  Tommyknockers was the second worst of the lot, a complete struggle from beginning to end.  And I had read the first forty pages of The Talisman three or four times before I was able to get through the entire book.  Which I still didn’t enjoy very much.


But Danse Macabre was a whole other kettle of fish.


The books starts with a long introduction that’s designed to explain why King decided to tackle the subject at hand, which was, at the time, the most recent 30 years of horror.  We’re talking roughly 1950 to 1980, here, and I was reading the book somewhere around 1990, putting the book a solid ten years out of date.


Even more of a problem for me was the fact that the book ends when I was about three years old, so pretty much all of his references were lost on me.  Flipping through the pages, I found a discussion of The Twilight Zone, which to my brain was a flop movie and a “new” TV series (the show was re-launched in 1985).


I made it a little way into the book, and promptly gave up.  He was trying to examine horror stories as literature, and it was doing nothing for me.  He was also tackling books like Dracula, which I hadn’t read and didn’t have much interest in picking up.


I couldn’t tell you how far I got into it.  Maybe forty pages, maybe fifty. Regardless, it went back to the library, and I was sure I was never going to pick it up again.  I consoled myself by noting that I had still read all of King’s fiction, so this nonfiction book didn’t count.


A year or two passed. 


I was at a Boy Scout meeting when I decided it was time to pick the book up again.  Not because it was recommended to me, or because I had gotten older and wiser, but because we were playing baseball.  One of the kids (his name was Chris, that I remember) said it reminded him of a comic book, where all the bases were made of body parts, and the baselines were intestines.


I was nauseated, but intrigued.  “Where did you read that?”


“I heard about it in Danse Macabre.”


So now I was curious.  I hit up the library, got the book, and started over again from page one. 


Once again, it was a massive slog, with a lot of talk about literature and literary devices and about what is scary and why.  I still didn’t care, but I knew that the bit about the baseball diamond was in there, and wanted to get to it.


And I did.  And it wasn’t much more of a description than what Chris had given me. But by then I had gotten through a decent chunk of the book, and I pressed on.


To a child who mostly grew up the eighties, the book was confusing at best.  I knew who Ray Bradbury was, but the rest of the authors were a complete blank to me.  I had never heard of any of the horror movies King had brought up.   And again, Twilight Zone excepted, the TV shows he spoke of were a complete mystery to me.


I finished the book with a shrug.  At least I could say I had gotten through it.


Time passed.


Danse Macabre continued to age, as did I.  And like all research, it slowly went from slightly out of date to very out of date, to something of a curiosity, to… something else.


Science fiction tends to age poorly, because technology always seems to get ahead of whatever curve creative types can come up with.  The data pads on Star Trek seemed impossibly from the future right up until someone develops the iPad.  (Come to think of it, I think the phaser is the only part of Star Trek technology that no one has created yet.  But give it time…)


But for better or worse, King planted a flag and said, “Here’s where we are in horror.”


By the time I went back to Danse Macabre, I was twenty years older, and the contents of the book were no longer a mystery to me.  I had read Dracula, and Harlan Ellison, and Richard Matheson.  I still hadn’t gotten around to seeing The Amityville Horror, but I was aware of it, along with all its sequels and the recent remake.


Heck, I’d even seen The Horror of Party Beach taunted on Mystery Science Theater 3000.


A few of the names and titles remained a blank, but overall, I found it to be an impressive overview of horror, pop culture, and literature in general.


Granted, much of King’s conjecture about how horror works, various kinds of monsters, and whatever else, I could still take or leave.  That’s almost certainly more my issue than his, as I haven’t studied the tenants of literature enough to agree or disagree with him.


Mostly, I was impressed with the depth to which he went to hunt down information on all the old movies and shows and books.  Today, of course, you can pick up a copy of every episode of Dark Shadows on DVD.  But in the late 1970s, as King was writing this, there was no DVD.  Even videotapes were rare and difficult to come by, and if you wanted to find a book, you had to search through old bookstores, not hop on the internet and find what you’re looking for thirty seconds later.


Ultimately what struck me is that thirty years down the road, King’s book did a surprisingly good job of laying out the pop culture that was worth remembering, and would be remembered.


I’m a little sad that he probably has neither the time nor the interest in doing a second survey, ending where the last book began, and running up to the present day.  I suspect that in thirty years it’ll be a heckuva read…




Monday, October 15, 2012

How You Can Help Me Sell Books At No Cost To You!

(True story!)


Hey everybody.  I just wanted to thank everyone who bought a copy of my book Blood Calling.  It’s been selling better than anything else I’ve ever written, which is really cool and makes me feel very author-y.


I wanted to pass this idea along, as it’s something an author friend of mine once suggested for his own books.


If you can’t afford a copy of my book, or just want to spread the word about my book, can you contact your local library and ask them to pick up a copy?


In many cases, you don’t even have to visit your local library to accomplish this.  For example, my library has an “Interlibrary loan/purchase request” link (you can see it here, it’s on the right-hand side):


Usually, they ask for things like the title and the ISBN, which are easily found on the Amazon page:


So, for example, here’s Blood Calling:


And here’s Blood Iris, an anthology I’m in:


Now all you have to do is open up your local library site, pull the information from the linked pages, and wait…


Back when I was unemployed, I made a few requests to the library for things I just couldn’t justify buying, and they came through for me again and again.  As a thanks, I gave them a copy of my book, and will continue to do so when future books of mine come out.


But seeing as how I have friends all over the country, well… another book on the shelves is another chance for me to find a new reader.


Thanks, all.

Friday, October 5, 2012

My Doctor Who Story

This is the story of how I joined a Doctor Who club, even though I had never seen an episode of Doctor Who in my life.


I’m sure this story will be of limited interest to most people, but I promised to type it up for one of my former students, and this is really the best place to do it.


So where to start?


Let’s go with college.


In college, I met a guy named Bob.  He met and fell in love with someone in my hometown, and ended up moving to Wisconsin.  (Eventually, I was as an usher in his wedding, but that isn’t really important to this story.)


After moving to the state, Bob and his wife-to-be invited us to a game night with a bunch of people we didn’t know.  One of those people was named Sue.  (She’s also great, but unmarried, which is not important to this story.)


Sue worked at a local hotel, with a woman named Brenda.  (My wife and I sang at her wedding, and I played piano in her wedding.  This is maybe semi-important.)




Across the street from the hotel was a used DVD/Video Game place, and that IS important.


This is probably close to 10 years ago.  I’ve been trying to figure out the exact date, but I don’t recall what it was.  I even tried to look for our old Yahoo group (I know, right?  A Yahoo group!  Why didn’t we just send stone tablets through snail mail?).  But the group is gone now, a victim of email spam.


As a DVD consumer who also happens to be on a budget, I was deeply in love with any and all used DVD places I encountered.  I still am today, but all the stores I used to frequent are gone now, victims of the economy and the end of the DVD boom.


The point is, I probably went to the DVD place on a weekly basis.  I’d drop by for a few minutes after work, see what was new, maybe grab something I’d been wanting to get, but didn’t want to pay full price for.  Among other things, my copies of The Exorcist and Children of the Corn III came from there.


As human beings go, I tend to think of myself as forgettable.  I base this on nothing, really, except for the fact that I have, on a small handful of occasions, bumped into people who I went to high school with, and sat in classrooms with, but who have no idea who I am.  Maybe it’s the beard.


Okay, now things get a little tricky to explain.


There was a fellow who worked at the DVD place.  He had long hair, glasses, and a jovial attitude.  I probably saw him there once every two weeks or so, alternating with other people who worked at the store.


One day, I was hanging out with Sue and a few other mutual friends, and Sue said, “You know that DVD place across the street from the hotel I work at?”




“I work with this woman, Brenda.  Her boyfriend works there.  Glasses, long hair?”


I nodded in recognition, and the subject just kind of faded.


What I didn’t know is that she’d had a similar conversation with Brenda and her boyfriend, which went, “My friend Josh goes to your video store all the time.  Beard?  Glasses?”


So the next time I went into the store, the guy behind the counter introduced himself.  Actually, what he said was, “You’re Sue’s friend, right?”


“Yeah.  You’re her co-worker’s boyfriend, right?”






And then I felt a little awkward, because honestly I don’t know what the social obligation is to your friend’s co-worker’s boyfriend.


Of course, I feel a little awkward pretty much all the time. 


I may have an event or two shuffled here, but I do recall that I went back a few times after that, and George (Who was, and still is, incredibly jovial.  Seriously, he’s pretty much the nicest guy ever.) and I would exchange commentary about the movies I was thinking about buying.


Then one day, not long after we introduced ourselves, he gave me a flyer and told me that he was starting a Doctor Who fan club.  I kind of shrugged, and admitted that I had never really seen the show.


This was about 99.99 percent true.  Once, in college, I was hanging out with a couple of friends, and a friend of theirs was trying to find an episode of The Simpsons on a videotape, and instead he found the last two minutes of a Doctor Who episode.  One of my friends said, “Doctor Who!  I used to watch this all the time as a kid!”


Also in college, there was a brief attempt to relaunch Doctor Who with a TV movie.  I saw about 30 seconds of that playing on a large TV in a dorm lounge.


That was my entire exposure to the show.


I told George I would think about attending his group.  The fact is, I was curious, mostly because I knew the show existed, I knew it was kind of a geeky thing, and from little I knew about George we had some similar interests, namely stuff like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


What finally convinced me to try it was that Sue got in touch with me and asked if I was going, and I figured if we both went we could kind of see how the land was lying and go from there.


When I got to the first meeting, it was me, and George and Sue, and a handful of other people I would come to think of as “the regulars.”  There was some food.  And a quick, “Welcome to the first meeting,” talk, and then we watched the first two episodes of the show.


Now, you have to understand something.  I’m not talking about the more recent show that started in 2005.  This was before 2005.  There was no “new” show.


No, we were watching the original, started-in-1963 edition of Doctor Who.


Which, whoa.  Whoooooooa.


The thing about the show was, it was BBC back in the day when they’d give you twelve dollars (sorry, “pounds,”) and tell you to go make a TV show. It was, if memory serves me, designed as a show for kids, which would hopefully teach them some science, and history, and whatever else, all with whatever change people could find in the couch that day.


The writing was good.  The sets were laughable.  The acting varied wildly, from quite good to, “I think the director owed that guy a favor.”


But what kept me going was the camaraderie.  Well, that and the fact that I have no self control.


One of my very favorite TV shows is Mystery Science Theater 3000, which features a guy and two robots making fun of bad movies.


After watching perhaps ten minutes of 1963 era BBC cheapness, IT WAS ON.   Well, not really.  I think something extra-silly happened, and I made a joke, and everyone laughed.


I won’t sayI evolved the club, but after that, it became clear that you could like the show, and also be aware that it was more than a little ridiculous.  I can’t think of a single episode that didn’t get at least some commentary.


So I stayed.


Sue eventually gave up.  In one of my favorite moments of the club, George had us all fill out forms stating what they liked and disliked about the club, in order to improve it.  She wrote, pretty much word for word, “I like everything about the meetings but Doctor Who.”


Over time, the club shifted a bit.  The new Doctor Who arrived on the BBC, and even though it wasn’t in the states, we got copies and saw it before most of the US.  Eventually, however, it started broadcasting here at the same time it was broadcasting overseas, and since the show only met once every two weeks, the club got behind.


There are other interesting memories of the club as well.  As it turned out, one of the members didn’t like the fact that some of us didn’t take the show very seriously, and left the group.  That was a little sad.


One dude kept showing up to see the new episodes, and he kept begging for tips on how to download illegal copies of the episodes himself.  I guess he eventually figured it out, because he dropped out as well.


On one kind of fun occasion, we didn’t play Doctor Who at all, as the group voted to show the movies I had written that evening.


George wrote a Doctor Who radio drama for a fan group, and I have the privilege of helping him edit it.  Which was fun, until his editor put him through a two sets of revisions and I had to read the same slightly modified script three times.  That was tiring for both of us, I think.


(An aside: I never did develop a favorite Doctor.  They all had their good points and their bad points, and sometimes my dislike of a Doctor had more to do with the variant writing quality.)


(Of the companions, my favorite was easily Sarah Jane Smith, probably because she was adorable and spunky and a journalist, not unlike my wife.)


And then there was the day I left.  I was going to be a dad, and I couldn’t stay in the group because I had to pick my daughter up from day care every night.  The group got me a cake.


A year or two later, the club came to an end.  They decided to go out big, and George rented a movie theater and showed a rare animated Doctor Who on the big screen.  He even had the group meet on a weekend, so guys like myself could attend.


We watched the episodes.  We ate movie theater food.  And at the end of it all, I felt like I’d completed a little Whovian journey.


Over the years, I’ve tried to introduce to show to my wife.  She came with me to one meeting, where we watched the first episode of the new series.  She said she liked it, but after that she had no interest in watching the show with me.  Even when it became available on regular TV, so we didn’t have to attend meetings.


My time is limited, and it’s even more limited as my kid gets older, so finding the time to watch the show without her is probably never going to happen.


All things considered, George could probably run a professional Doctor Who club, if such a thing existed and paid money.  In a handful of years, meeting only every two weeks, we still got the chance to see every one of the original Doctors.  We saw the TV movie.  We watched the long-forgotten (for a good reason) K-9 and Company, the first Doctor Who spinoff.  We watched episodes of Torchwood before the show made it to the states. 


Am I a fan of the show?  I was, after all, in a fan club for several years.


Let’s go with no.  If I really loved the show with all my heart, I’d probably still be scrambling to watch it.  Borrowing DVDs from friends, setting aside time in the summer to catch up.


I will say that when I was watching it consistently, the show had a surprising amount of fun to offer.  The newer version of the show was clearly pattered after shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer with humor and drama and inside jokes and rewards for sticking with it.  I suspect if I went back to it, I might love it.


But at the time, what I really loved was the gang of people watching it.  That’s the part I really miss, and kind of wish I could get back.


But time marches on.  Unless you’re the Doctor, I suppose.



Monday, October 1, 2012

A Post for My Past

I think I was about 11 years old when I discovered Gordon Korman.


If you haven’t heard the name, he’s an incredibly prolific author of children’s books.  He was one of the few authors I could name as a kid.  Him and Beverly Cleary were probably it.


I stumbled across his books quite by accident, flipping through the Young Adult collection.  The title of the book?  Beware the Fish.


A great title, right?  A title like that is funny, but it also implies that the book could be about pretty much anything.


As it turns out, it was part of a series that revolved around two characters named Bruno and Boots.  Which wasn’t terribly important.


Here’s what was important.


First, the book was very, very funny.  To this day, I don’t often laugh out loud while reading, even if I think the book in question is hilarious.  But Korman made me laugh.  (A Semester In the Life of a Garbage Bag is probably my favorite.)


Second, there were many, many books, even back then.  Korman is some kind of YA author-machine, as near as I can tell.  The man puts out at least two or three books a year.  This is probably what cemented him in my brain, since I kept going back to the library and finding more books he had written.


But here’s the big thing – the author biography at the end of every book announced that Korman had published his first novel when he was 12 years old.


And of course, I was reading these books, and thinking, “Well, I’m (almost) 12 years old...”


And so I decided to write a novel.


There was one central problem with this plan, namely that I didn’t know how to write a novel.  I read voraciously, but it never occurred to me that plots had to be constructed, and dialogue written a certain way, and that it would be a good plan to have an actual story idea before moving forward.


Ultimately, I tried to write a novel three different times. 


My first attempt was supposed to be a fictionalized account of an extended visit to my cousin’s house.  My cousin had, like, horses and a barn and a lot of land to run around on, so I thought I could create a cool story from that.  Ultimately, I wrote a paragraph and quit, because I had no idea what I was doing.


Not long after that, an aunt gave me a copy of The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which continued the story of Huck as written by Twain.


At the time, I didn’t know anything about the concept of fan fiction, but now I was aware that for some reason it was okay to write a sequel to a book you didn’t write.  So I figured I would continue to tell the story that Further, uh, furthered.


I think I came up with a title.  And I remember I called the first chapter Up in Smoke, and I was going to start it with Huck escaping up a chimney.  I don’t recall why.


I do remember that I wrote a paragraph, and stopped, because once again the concept of “plot” was juuust outside my reach.


Somewhere in that time frame, I read a book about a red fox, which I swear was called The Red Fox, but the internet isn’t helping me to find it, and anyway the plot is a mystery to me now.  I do remember it made foxes sound really interesting, and that it was kind of like Bambi in that it didn’t involve human interaction.  It was strictly a story about animals.


Somewhere in my brain was the book Rascal, which featured a young boy and his pet raccoon. 


 I started writing a novel about a boy and his red fox. 


I recall that I got a little farther that time.  Maybe a few pages.  I was in the seventh grade by then, and I was tasked with writing a short story, so I wrote one that featured the boy, his family, and the fox, and I remember it revolved around Christmas.


I never gave up on writing that novel.  Eventually, time just got away from me, and I lost whatever notebook it was written in.  And then I discovered Stephen King, whose novels were four and five and eight hundred pages long, and I started to think of that as being “real” novel length,, and who in the world could write 500 pages worth of novel?


Not me.


So I sort of forgot about it.


And then years passed, and I wrote a few novels, and I couldn’t get an agent, so I put them out myself.


Then one day, a publisher wanted to put out a novel that I wrote.  In ebook.  And on paper!


Here’s the paper version:



And here’s the Kindle version:



I’m 36 now, three times the age I was when I thought it would be really cool to write books for a living.  And while the “for a living” part is probably a ways off (if it’s possible at all), well, I still get to wake up every day for the rest of my life and know that I wrote a novel, and found a publisher willing to put it out.


I’ve managed to do a lot of cool things in my lifetime, things my 12-year-old self would never have expected me to do.  But this was one thing 12-year-old me thought would be pretty cool.


So high five, 12-year-old me.