Monday, September 19, 2011


I really, really don't like spiders.

I wouldn't say that I'm afraid of them, but I will admit to being a little creeped out by the bigger ones. The little ones don't bother me that much. They scamper away quickly when they see me coming for them. Except for Black Widows, which we have always had up here in abundance. They seem to know their little hourglass covered ass is badder than the rest of the little ones, so they'd don't run. They do, however, get smashed a little quicker for it.

No, the ones that get me are the bigger ones. You know what I'm talking about. The Brown Recluses and the Wolf Spiders. These are the eight-legged little monsters that grow up to be a spider of intimidating proportions. I bet J.R.R. Tolkien saw one of these and found his inspiration for Shelob. They're just nasty.

I think I prefer the quick movements of the smaller ones. Whenever I see one of those big spiders creeping oh-so-slowly along my baseboard or down a tree, I can tell the thing is figuring out how it's going to eat me. Oh it's already decided it's going to have me for dinner. I can see it in that slow stalking creep in my direction. The spider would be moving faster if only it had figured out how it was going to jump on me and eat me. Depending on the size of the monster, I either kill the thing before or figures it out or move out of attack range pretty quickly.

The one I smashed this morning was on the upper edge of the killing range. A few more inches and I would've put the house up for sale.

I really, really don't like spiders.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Little Something

So here's a little something from my jaunt up Roaring Run Monday morning. You might not be able to tell it from this post, but this is actually a composite of three images that are combined and meant to be a panorama. I've recently hit on the idea of producing panoramas, mostly just to see if I could do it, and I've ordered the Falling Springs Falls photo you see at the bottom of the blog for a test run. Truthfully, this is mostly a combination of frustrated boredom coupled with a desire to get out of the house and the happiness of finding my favorite lens again.

I seem to have hit a pretty solid wall that's turned into a bad case of writer's block. The key, as Tony has reminded me in the past, is to just put one word in front of the other. I have. I've even come up with some pretty good passages, but right now they're all disjointed and I don't know how they fit together. Heck, some of them aren't even in the same story.

And that is the crux of the problem, I believe. I haven't found my next story. I will, I'm sure of it. These things come with time. Patience is a virtue.

I can't always claim it's one of mine, however.

On a somewhat related note, I've found a pretty decent read in The Magicians by Lev Grossman. What's intriguing to me is that I haven't yet figured out where he's going with it all. The pacing of his story is an odd combination of meandering and driven and my nose has been buried in it for three days.

As autumn is quickly making its early presence known here in western Virginia, I find myself looking forward to cooler weather and the rustic, macabre feeling that October brings with it. It's appropriate, I think, that All Hallow's Eve takes place in the fall. Autumn is a special season where the air just seems ripe with frightening ancient possibilities. I've never been a great fan of horror flicks and, with the exception of the occasional Stephen King and episode of Angel or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I generally stay away from the genre. Yet fall makes me think off the insane possibility that at least some of that stuff is rooted in ancient legends or stories buried so deep in our past that we retain only a basic, instinctual fear of what goes bump in the night.

Of course, it also inspires me to have a soup simmering in the Crock Pot all day long, so it's hard to tell, really, which urge is correct.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Itch I Can't Scratch

Ever have an itch you can't scratch?

I have one tonight.

Today is the opening day of the NFL football season, a day that typically finds me glued to a couch watching every possible game that's on cable. Yet today, I can't seem to make it through one.

The Pittsburgh-Baltimore game was less than exciting. It wasn't the hard hitting affair we all hoped for and turned out to be a blowout. The Jets and Cowboys are in a pretty good one right now, but it's not holding my interest at all.

I feel like I'm supposed to be creating something and I don't have the foggiest idea what I'm supposed to be doing. I'd pick up my pen (the nice new one I bought to go with my shiny and still blank new notebook) but I have no clue what to write. I'd work on The Sixth Sword but lately that hasn't been satisfying enough for me to really sink my teeth into. I picked a few chords on my electric guitar and that failed to hit the right note, just like The Hound of Rowan isn't keeping me glued to my Kindle.

So what, pray tell, am I supposed to be writing/playing/doing?

Tony, one my friends who often doubles as my editor and creative adviser, sent me a link to this site a while back. I like the message. "Talent is nothing without focus and endurance." Endurance isn't my problem tonight.

Focus is.

I'm having a bit of the same problem at work lately. I have a backlog of stories to be written that will be cleared out this week, come hell or high water. I've put them off long enough, some of them even too long. I have to chase down a couple of pieces of information this week or the one story I plan on writing is going to be pointless.

This happens to me on occasion. Nights like this one don't come very often, but they do happen, especially coming off of a fresh publication. Completing a major project like Blood & Steel leaves me with a complex jumble of feelings that is difficult to untangle. The major question that keeps the knot tied for the longest is what the hell am I going to write next? It's like staring into a deep, dark hole and hoping that somewhere down there is a man with a flashlight who's going to show me where my next idea is.

When I finished The Crownless King I spent weeks wondering if I'd ever be able to write something worth reading again. The same thing is happening since finishing Blood & Steel. I don't have the slightest idea what's going to happen next, especially since I don't intend to return to that world for a very long time, if ever.

I did have one stroke of good luck this week, however. Bethany found my favorite lens in an old camera bag that hasn't been used for so long that I barely even remember owning it. The lens was my 50mm, f/1.8 and I have looked everywhere for it over the past couple of years. I don't know how it ended up in that bag, but I'm thrilled to have it back. It's one of the most versatile lenses I've owned and I've more than made the $75 I paid for it back in the day.

A little camera tidbit for you: 50mm is the closest focal length to what your eye sees. There is very little difference in a 50mm lens and the human eye. That's what makes it such a great lens.

I have half a notion to go out tomorrow morning and find something to make a panorama out of.

See, right there, that's the problem. I started out blogging about what I'm going to write next and ended up writing about whether or not I'm going to take my first non-business related photo in years.


I could sure use some tonight.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What A Week

This week may be downright historic.

It started off with Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Saturday night (sure, that was last week, but it was so much fun, I'm including it in this week. Writer's prerogative). It was, without a doubt, the most impressive concert I've been to. Dave & Tim came on stage at 7:45 and did not stop playing until the clock hit 11. At one point, Warren Haynes came out and jammed with them for about half an hour. They are the three greatest guitar players I've ever had the fortune to see in concert, especially acoustic. I hope that show comes around again someday, because I'd sure like to see it again.

Oh, lest I forget, I had a Five Guys hamburger and fries Saturday night. Best burger ever. If the opportunity arises, go to Five Guys and eat. They grind the hamburger when you order it, make your patty and throw it on the skillet. Best. Burger. Ever.

Did any of you feel the big 5.9 on the Richter scale earthquake today? The epicenter was about two and a half hours from my house. I was in the car at the time and missed it, but there are reports across the area of dishes rattling and pictures getting knocked off walls. The eastern part of Virginia was hit pretty hard, from what I understand, but I've yet to hear reports of many injuries. I spent the afternoon working the phones in the newsroom, tracking down local officials and fielding calls from citizens who wanted to know if we'd heard about the earthquake.

Thursday I'll be speaking at the Clifton Forge Public Library and signing copies of my latest work, Blood & Steel. These signings are always fun and I'm looking forward to it. I hope to see at least a few fans come out for it.

To top it off, there is a major hurricane lining up to hit the east coast of Virginia by the weekend.

Like I said, historic.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Is It Fall Yet?

The first hint of fall was in the air this morning. Sure, it's still just mid-August and we can look forward to the better part of another month of hot weather in September, but this morning's weather was the first suggestion that summer is slowly departing us. The sky was overcast, the breeze was cool and the temperature was hovering right around that pleasant zone that makes me want to go lay in a hammock and read a book for a couple of hours. There was even a hint of that crispness in the air whenever the wind stirred up. Yes, give it time, my friends. Fall is coming.

Bethany and I were fortunate enough to find a new used vehicle Saturday, a 2005 Chevrolet Equinox, that we'll be picking up this afternoon if all goes according to plan. We found it at a dealership in Lewisburg and that means, after we sign the paper, we'll be making the inevitable trip to the West Virginia State Fair. I've never been much on the fair, though I've enjoyed many concerts in the grandstand. The food is good, however. The cattleman's association steak sandwiches are the best around.

News in the writing world has been a bit slow lately. I'm still plugging along at The Sixth Sword and the Clifton Forge Public Library has graciously agreed to host a signing for me on August 25 for Blood & Steel. Aside from that, I'm somewhat between projects. The Sixth Sword hasn't captured my full attention, mostly since it's a re-write, and I'm still wondering what project I will start that will fill that fresh, new notebook I purchased a couple of blog posts back.

I'm not really all that worried about it, however. I've learned that my most productive writing time is late winter into spring. September to January 1 is probably my favorite time of year and I much prefer to spend my time enjoying it. The long, dark months of the deep winter seem to provide the most time and best setting for putting pen to paper, so for now I'm somewhat content to mull over a few story ideas and see what happens later.

Speaking of looking forward to events, the big Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds acoustic benefit concert is Saturday evening and I can't wait. I'm hoping we'll get to go early and spend an hour or two enjoying the mall before we settle into the Pavilion for an amazing concert. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Crossing One Off

I have a really cool wife. Not only is she cool with the fact that she married a nerd, but she's also willing to indulge my nerd habits. She doesn't fuss about my subscriptions to The Amazing Spider-Man or Fantastic Four. She doesn't even mind me buying the occasional Star Trek novel or put up much of a fight when I want to drag her along to see Thor.

This week she's helping my cross one off my Bucket List.

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds are playing nTelos Wireless Pavilion in Charlottesville. It's a two man acoustic concert to benefit the charity of your choice. This is a concert that I would have willingly crossed state lines and shelled out pretty big bucks to see. Having the opportunity to see them 90 minutes from the house was too good an opportunity to pass up. Tickets were steep for a concert, but Bethany didn't blink.

In two weeks I'll be in Charlottesville crossing a concert off my Bucket List.

I have the coolest wife ever.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A New Notebook

I have a new notebook. Brand spankin' new. The rings are unbent, the paper is clean and unmolested and free of any irritating bends or tears. It has 200 clean sheets just waiting for me to put some ink down on them.

Perhaps that makes me sound a bit odd, but I'm OK with that. Having a new notebook is one of the finer pleasures of life for me. Anytime I'm looking to begin a new writing project, I get a new notebook. Sometimes it's a smaller one, one or two subject, and that's enough to satisfy the mood. Other times, like yesterday when I bought this one, I'm in the mood for something with plenty of breathing room and I pick up one of those massive Five Star five-subject notebooks. College ruled, of course. The Crownless King was written in one of those. So was Blood & Steel, as a matter of fact.

I've often wondered if there are any other writers out there who share that bit of nerdness with me. The potential of an unfilled notebook that's waiting for a fresh, new tale to be told within its pages is appealing. Maybe Hemingway felt the same way. He used those moleskin notebooks that the bookstores are so fond of selling. Maybe Tolkien felt the same, as well. I'd like to think so. If you've seen Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, then you've seen that leather-bound, handwritten edition of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings that Bilbo and Frodo both write. I drool over that edition every time that I see it. That would be the ultimate edition to my library.

If you're wondering about the publication schedule of Blood & Steel, then let me assure you that I met my goal of having it on the shelves by the first of August. I had some technical difficulties (is that phrase even still useable?) that prevented it from happening in the middle of July. This morning was the first morning that it appeared listed on Amazon. You can follow this link to it if you're interested in purchasing it. I have hopes of having some local signings and, if you can't make one of those, then look me up and I'll be happy to sign it for you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Full Moon's Passage

The full moon has come and gone and everything was quiet in the newsroom of the Virginian Review, leaving behind an oppressive heat wave that has us all counting down to the cooler days of autumn. If you've ever worked in a job that deals with the public on a day-to-day basis, you'll understand the trepidation that a full moon brings each month. Every time I see a full moon coming up on the calender I cringe at the thought of what will be coming our way.

There are some of you out there that will scoff at the idea that a full moon affects people's behavior, twisting them toward doing and saying things that they never would at other phases of the lunar cycle. I assure you, it's true. If enough people come in with odd requests that we investigate a parking conspiracy in downtown Covington or publish letters to the editor railing against the rising price of ice cream, we immediately begin looking at the calendar. Two such events in the same day is a coincidence. Three means a full moon, without fail.

It was early in my days at the paper when I first met Mr. Givens (not his real name). He staggered into the newsroom, drunk or just unbalanced, I'm not really sure which, and demanded that we do a news story on him because he was a "great American hero" who had just returned to his hometown. He omitted the fact that he was returning to his hometown after a hitch in a mental institution. We dealt with him as best we could and sent him on his way, somewhat unhappily. Before he left, Mr. Givens staggered through the advertising department and, spotting the candy dish, immediately upended the contents of the dish into his pocket.

The next day, the staff photographer and I were walking up Main Street to attend a press conference at the local post office. I don't remember what it was for, but I distinctly recall the man that stopped us. "You boys from the Virginian?" Gavin kept walking and I stopped. I should have kept going, but I was young and naive enough in those days not to have realized who it was that was so blatantly questioning our credentials. Mr. Givens was sitting on the bench, in the same dirty coveralls that he wore into the newsroom the day before, and unwrapping a piece of pilfered candy as he looked up at us.

I had stopped walking. I had to answer. There was no getting around it. "Yes sir," I said politely, taking a step  further down the street.

"Then you tell that editor of yours he can kiss my ass," he said, popping the candy in is mouth. Having delivered his message, Mr. Givens got up and staggered down the street. It was the last time I'd ever see him. I think he passed away a few years later to little fanfare. Of course, I delivered the message to the boss as soon as I made it back from the press conference. After all, how often do you get to tell your boss that?

It wasn't too long ago that I experience another memorable full moon in the newsroom. It was a little after 9 o'clock and I had already made my morning phone calls to the four area funeral homes for the daily obituary count when this massive black dog came trotting through the newsroom. When I say massive, I mean this dog was big enough for me to ride like a horse and he had the kind of look about him that made you think he wanted to eat your face off and, if he did, there wasn't anything you were going to do about.

We all watched in confusion as the dog trotted through the newsroom, made the circle around the stations in the composing room, and reversed course and left the room and, we assume, the building. We have no idea what the dog was doing in there.

After a morning filled with random little nonsensical events just like that, I returned from lunch to a ringing phone. I picked up the phone and was immediately greeted by a woman's voice. "My obituary is not in today's paper." Immediately I pick up that day's edition off my desk and checked to see if I made a mistake. It would be so easy to leave an obituary out, but, fortunately, I hadn't, and I told the lady that it was in today's edition.

"I'm telling you it's not in there." It was at this point when I realized that it wasn't even 2 o'clock yet and the paper hadn't even made it to the box in front of the office.

"Ma'am, I'm holding today's paper in my hands. I'm looking at the obituary page and the obituary you sent us is in there. What paper are you looking at?"

"My paper isn't here yet," she said, as if it made all the sense in the world. "I'm looking at the Internet."

"Well, I can't speak for what you're reading now, but I can promise you that, when your paper gets there today, it will have the obituary you requested in it."

"Oh." A pause. "You sure about that?"

"Yes ma'am."

The sudden appearance of the dial tone in my ear told me she was finished with the conversation. She must have been satisfied, because I never heard back from her.

That's typical of a small town newspaper. The big headlines are rare in coming. In six years, I've only made the national wire once and have only covered three stories that merited more attention than our little community could give them. No, what's interesting about working for a small town paper is the odd stories that inevitably pile up over the years. Most of them are beyond belief, but I promise you, they're all true.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Murder In The Headlines

Saturday was a much more hectic day than I prefer it to be. We only work half a day on Saturdays at the newspaper, and even then we're only in the office long enough to get the paper on the press and out the door and get a jump start on Monday's work. I do as much work ahead of time on Friday afternoon as I can and I hit the door on Saturday with as little work to do as possible.

That's not lazy. That's just efficient. I'd rather be ahead of the deadline than coming in right at it, particularly when getting the work done means I can go home for the weekend.

This past Saturday was an aberration.

If you live in my neck of the woods, or quite possibly Indiana or North Carolina, then you've heard the story of the murdered woman who was found in the trunk of a Mustang in Clifton Forge. I heard about this when I walked in the door Saturday morning at 9 a.m. and it prompted me to spend a very anxious 90 minutes tracking down and writing a story that would garner headlines in at least three states that we know of.

Without going in to any great detail, a young woman was murdered and her childhood friend is suspected of doing the deed. He allegedly drove from North Carolina with the body in the trunk and was discovered in downtown Clifton Forge late Friday evening after some nifty police work done on the spur of the moment.

The details of the manhunt, capture and suspected crime all made the top of the front page in Saturday's Virginian Review. I'm happy to say that we beat everyone with the pertinent details Saturday, simply by the fact that the story took place on our home turf and our earlier Saturday morning press deadline allowed us to get it on the streets.

But we missed it.

I can't help thinking that we've missed the real story. We'd never get it, of course. The only way to do that is to sit down with the suspect (which any lawyer worth his briefcase would never allow) get a confession (if he did it) and then ask him the burning question: Why? Why would anyone who isn't even old enough to legally drink throw his life away by killing another? What prompted it? How could you do it?

I've been stewing over those questions since Saturday morning. They're stirring in the back of my mind and I can't stand it. There are two human beings at the center of this, one whose life has ended and the other who may or may not have ended that life, and all I can do is sit and wonder what the story is.

The question of "why" is turning out to be more compelling to me than the question of "who done it."

Friday, July 15, 2011

Blogging When I Should Be Working

I've spent the past couple of weeks working a couple of different jobs. We've had people out on vacation here at the paper and it's made for some hectic scheduling. I've barely done my own job recently, but, fortunately, that will all change next week when we're back to something approaching a full staff complement.

In between assignments I've been working on the cover of Blood & Steel. It's put together, but there seems to be minor technical issues that keep popping up. I'm on the third submission and I'm hoping to get it uploaded today or tomorrow. With any luck, that will be the last time I have to upload it.

I have polished off The Gathering Storm, which is the first book that Brandon Sanderson took over for Robert Jordan after his death. A few people have told me that they can't see a difference in the two writers, but I can. Sanderson is just a faster read, for one thing. Jordan wrote with a gravitas that few writers have. I can't imagine ever purchasing an audio version of these extraordinarily complex novels, but, if I did, I'd expect to hear James Earl Jones reading them to me. Sanderson doesn't have that weight.

Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed The Gathering Storm and I don't envy Sanderson the task of completing The Wheel of Time. Anything he does well will be attributed to Jordan and any weaknesses in the concluding three novels will be blamed on him. It's a difficult task, to be sure, but it's one that I'm glad he's taking up. I can't imagine never knowing how it all plays out.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Cold Glass of Pepsi

I sat down tonight and put the finishing touches on the manuscript of Blood & Steel. It's finished. Completely. Now it's just a matter of getting it formatted and shipping it off.

A former editor of mine once told me that these were the moments that red wine was made for. Personally, I'm happy with an ice cold glass of Pepsi, but I digress. The important thing is that the hard work is done. This novel has been through three editors, four drafts and a year of writing. I'm ready to move on to something else.

I don't yet know what that something else will be. I'm knee deep in heavy revisions to The Sixth Sword, but all the tough sledding on that project is about to be behind me. It has been challenging to return to that world and writing style after penning two simple, intimate tales that are minuscule in scope compared to The Sixth Sword, but I've found my sea legs, so to speak.

I guess I'm sitting here and wondering what my next big project will be. I had much the same feeling after finishing The Crownless King. I once told people that everyone had at least one good novel in them and that may well have been mine. Blood & Steel surprised me when it came around and I'm proud of how it turned out. I did something a little unexpected with it and I think it's a big step for me as a writer. Now that it's finished, I'm free to look toward another project.

Being at loose ends isn't as much of a difficulty as you might think, at least at first. True, I have no idea what I'm going to write next, but I'm sure it'll come to me. I've toyed with enough ideas in the past to know that something will pop up and want to be written. I'm as curious as you are to see what's coming next.

In the meantime, I'm working on reading the complete Wheel of Time. The last book is due out in the late fall and I'm halfway through the eleventh book in the fourteen book series. If you haven't read it, you should stop reading this blog immediately and start the series. Be warned, the series is long and incredibly complex, but it seems to be paying off in spades. I'm excited to see how it all plays out.

The countdown to the fall DVD releases is underway as well. Sure, we could get them off Netflix, but it's neat to have those discs tucked away for those long winter evenings when the sun sets at 5 p.m. and there's nothing for it except to huddle on the couch under a blanket thick enough to ward off the intense cold of Old Man Winter. Mid-September through Christmas Day is absolutely my favorite time of the year.

Enough with the heat already. Bring on the cool weather.

Monday, July 4, 2011

It's been hot this past week. Painfully hot. Around about the time I thought that it wasn't going to get hotter, the thermometer started to flirt with the century mark.

I don't like heat. I much prefer to be snug in a house while a cool fall breeze is blowing or while a hard freeze sets in for weeks of winter. When it gets hot, I begin to understand why people get grumpy and why the crime rate begins to climb in bigger cities.

Amidst all the heat this week, I finally started putting together the cover for Blood & Steel. Next on the "To Do List" this week is to format the interior artwork, make the final touches to the manuscript and then get everything into novel size and convert it into pdf form. One day, when I make it big, they'll be a typesetter somewhere who does all this for me. All I'll have to do is right.

Speaking of writing, I've done a great deal of work on the director's cut of The Sixth Sword and I've worked in quite a few thousand words on a short novella. You see, I've decided I'm going to write my memoirs. I'll never understand why anyone would want to wait until their older to write them. I have 27 good years behind me and plenty of good stories to tell out them. You may argue that I might not have the appropriate distance yet to gain needed perspective, but that's ok. Life's too short for ifs and maybes. If I don't write some of this stuff down, it may never get written down. We all have stories to tell and we only get a few short decades to tell them. I'd rather get them told now. I've got a lot to say.

For now, though, I'm going to have to go find a wet rag with a little soap on it. Seems there's some sticky watermelon reside on my keyboard. I'd name names, but my lovely wife just purchased me a new iPod shuffle to replace the one I so foolishly ran through both the washer and dryer, so I think I'll stay on her good side.

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I seriously miss having a summer vacation.

Remember what it was like to get out of school on that last day with nothing but hot weeks of freedom ahead of you? No job. No responsibilities. Nothing but free time to be filled with imagination. I had to take a picture for the last day of school in the county Friday afternoon and those kids were running toward the buses to get home and start enjoying their vacation.

I wanted to get on the buses and go with them.

Instead, I'll have to content myself with looking forward to the first big river trip we've taken in a couple of years. There will be six of us going down the Jackson in a couple of weeks. These trips always end up being and painfully sunburned, but it'll be worth it. I hope will follow it up with one of those epic trips down the Cowpasture that always end up with a great deal of yelling, blood loss and near death experiences.

Come to think of it, maybe summer isn't all that different...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Summer Reads

These days, I don't lack for reading material.

I've knocked down twenty-six books so far in 2011 and some of them have actually had some weight to them. Sure, there's a couple Star Trek and Star Wars novels in the mix and I've spent a great deal of time continuing my studies of Jordan's Wheel of Time to prepare for the series finale this fall, but I've also nearly polished off the Aubrey-Marturin series and a couple of literary feasts served up by Pat Conroy, Stephen King and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

But now I've returned to the world of kids books. I know it sounds funny, but Artemis Fowl was one of the most fun reads I've turned my attention to lately. I found a "sunshine deal" on Amazon and downloaded the kids book along with a half dozens other titles for no more than $0.99 that will anchor my summer reading list for a while. But I can tell you that the Fowl books will be a big part of my summer reads. They're creative, somewhat lighthearted and just a lot of fun to read. I can knock one off in a day or so if I have the time to devote to it.

And I'm going to make time today, as a matter of fact...just after I take a nap on this lazy summer afternoon...

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hello Again

So...yea...been a while, hasn't it?

I've been ridiculously busy with work up until now. I went from being laid off and not working at all to working five days a week and often somewhere between three and four nights a week. Lately city council and other governmental meetings have taken up tremendous chunks of my time as our city officials sorted out the budget for 2011-12.

I'm glad its over.

I've been writing (obviously not here). I've had edits to make on Blood & Steel and Heather's finished off the artwork. All that's setting between you, dear reader, and my latest work is me having the time to get it out there and in your hands. Here and now I'm going to set a goal to make that happen by the middle of July.

Devan and I are completely revamping the Chaos Chronicles. I know there's some of you out there who have been waiting since 2006 for a new tome and I promise, if you hang in there with us, we'll put something new and exciting (at least we hope it is) out there in the next year or so. I'd say more, but there's a slim chance for great things to happen in a year or so and I don't want to spoil that.

I've missed this blog, truth be told. If I didn't do anything else other than gripe about how busy my day was and how big my case of writer's block was at the time, it still felt good to do it. I can't blame anyone for not sticking around through an unintended hiatus that lasted for months. This blog has always been an outlet to get things off my mind and to hone my writing skills in a different format. I'm still going to use it for that. Perhaps it may not be as frequent as it once was, but we'll see.

I signed up for a Fundamentals of Storytelling class today at the Clifton Forge School of the Arts that will be held later this month. Biff Downey, who will be the instructor, was actually one of my students at a novel writing workshop I held at the school earlier this year. The man's a born storyteller and I'm looking forward to hearing what he has to impart.

Maybe he'll tell me how to make washing my iPod and USB jump drive not sound like the dumbest thing I've done in a while....

Monday, February 7, 2011

Coming Up For Air

It's hard for me to believe than an entire month has passed without a post from me.

To be fair, it's been a busy month. Work has really been hopping and it seems like I can barely get one feature article in print before another is ringing my phone for an interview. Between those weekly features, I'm covering my usual beat in the city of Covington, all of which combines to a pretty decent workload.

But the real reason that I've disappeared from the blogging world is that I've finished Blood & Steel. Most of January was spent with a pen in hand and my focus was on writing, to the extent that I've let a lot of other things fall by the wayside, including chores around the house and even hanging out with friends.

Since the beginning of January I've typed two-thirds of the second draft, and it weighs in at just over 30,000 words. Last night I was up past midnight finishing the first draft, which totals 111 handwritten pages. Once I get the last third of it typed, I'll be able to announce a final word count.

It didn't end at all like I expected. But then again, this wasn't the novel that I had expected to sit down to write, either. It turned out to be a sequel instead of a prequel and it was a little heavier in content than I expected. And the ending...well, it even took me by surprise.

I had no idea it was going to end the way it that it does until Friday afternoon. I went to lunch, jamming to Nickelback's best album, Silver Side Up and the song Too Bad in particular when I saw the ending play out in front of my eyes as if I was watching a movie.

And I had no idea that it ended that way. Once I realized it did, I knew that it had to. There was no question that it conveyed my point much better than my original idea. I was blown away by it and, at the same time, put in a solidly bad mood for the rest of my working afternoon.

The final pages had a profound effect on me, not so much for what happens but for what it means for characters that I've come to be friends with, especially Sam. We've spent a lot of time together as he told me his story, both for The Crownless King and for Blood & Steel. I realized Friday afternoon that if I was going to do this the right way, there would be no more time spent with those characters.

It was a pretty heavy afternoon.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Satisfying Progress

This past week has been a writing marathon (well, except for blogging, obviously).

Last Thursday afternoon I had three interviews for articles at work in one afternoon. I sat down at my computer that evening and was mentally scrambled from balancing the absorption of three completely different news articles. I snagged the top of Saturday's front page with the first article, took in another interview this morning and began cranking out the first of three articles I have left on assignment this week.

But that doesn't begin to touch what I've done on Blood & Steel. Since Thursday evening I'd laid down over 14,000 words (thank you, Word Count) on the second draft. It's been almost non-stop since Thursday, though the writing comes in chunks both big and small. Other than Saturday, which just didn't belong to me at all, I've yet to have a day pass without at least an hour spent in front of the keyboard. Monday was pretty epic. I'd be willing to bet I spent four solid hours writing after cleaning the house and making the grocery run.

Looks like I'm going to have this done by summer after all.

On a related front, the new Clifton Forge School of the Arts is opening up and will be holding its first classes in January. I've toured the new school and I have to say that it's pretty amazing. The space it has is unbelievable and the potential for expansion even more so. The first classes are photography related and a children's art class, but the future holds classes in sculpting, painting, quilting, blacksmithing, antique cars...pretty much anything goes. Including writing workshops. Taught by yours truly. It's not any kind of permanent position, but it will be an opportunity to teach a few workshops, to meet with up and coming writers and just to work on the craft with people who, like me, love to write. The first proposed workshop is going to focus on the short story and I'm trying to outline one geared more toward novel writing.

It's been an exciting week in my little literary world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

One Word After Another

Writer's block is very much the bane of my existence. It is the Joker to my Batman, the Green Goblin to my Spider-Man, the Dr. Doom to my Mister Fantastic, the...well, you get the idea.

Any writer that tells you he's never had to deal with writer's block is simply, flat out, lying to you. That's about the same as a baseball player telling you he's never struck out. It happens, without warning or explanation and always when you least expect it.

I've been fighting it now for a couple of weeks. For whatever reason, the Muse left me as I picked up my pen or sat down my keyboard. I've been able to crank out the required articles for work, but even those haven't been my best work. Granted, I'm still knocking four years worth of rust off my journalism skills, but even still, I haven't quite been on my game.

The key to beating writer's block is almost laughingly simple. Just put one word after another. I've said it before when giving advice to another aspiring author and he was kind enough to repeat to me just the other day. I mulled it over for a while and then I sat down tonight with the serious intention of getting some ink down on paper, either digitally or the old fashioned way. I cranked up some hard rock, which is normally my writing groove, and sat to work on the Druid project. When that still failed to get me anywhere, I switched over to Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds and went work on my solo project.

Tonight I polished off the first one-third of the second draft of Blood & Steel.

Thanks, Tony. I owe you one.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Number 200

The New Year is upon and I can't think of a better time to make my official 200th post. Actually, I can, but I'm sitting here in the newsroom waiting for other members of the staff to return from lunch to file the things I need for my page, so since I've nothing more pressing to do, I'll blog.

My resolutions for 2011 were pretty basic. I'm going to try to resolve to be a bit more frugal this year and learn to save money a little better. This resolution will come in handy as Bethany and I save to fly to France. I've also made a resolution not to purchase any new books (with the exception of two series that I'm following closely) until I clean off my to-read list.

I have a pretty good jump start on the second one. I polished off Pat Conroy's My Reading Life and Patrick O'Brian's The Yellow Admiral. Just today I started The Hundred Days by the same author. I have two more of O'Brian's series before I run out and I'm not looking forward to the end of that great read.

Work is going pretty well. Tonight I'll be attending a speech by a state senator at the local community college and I'm working on an online interview with the director of the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, which has potential to turn into a pretty neat story.

Speaking of work, I'd better be getting back to it.