I am wary of elaborate weddings.

lego_wedding_topperIn a couple months, my wife and I will get to celebrate our tenth anniversary. Yesterday, we had the opportunity to attend the wedding of some friends from church. After the ceremony, my wife and I agreed that–beautiful as it was–we didn’t want to go through a wedding day again. So, we’re just going to stay married indefinitely. Continue reading

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Saturday Photo Prompt | The Sonic Chamber

jmspp_logoLook at the picture below and write a 100 word story. It really is that simple.

If you care to share, either post a link to your story in the comments, or post the whole story.

I can’t wait to see what you write!

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Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

Wireless Computer Mouse with Wheel

Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. Will your self-driving car be programmed to kill you? This is a great article on a classic ethical dilemma that plays out in real-life situations.
  2. Someday, I’m going to take my family camping. When that happens, I’m going to want to refer back to this link.
  3. Neil Gaiman’s American Gods is coming to the small screen.
  4. Lego is looking into cleaning up their production process. I don’t know how I feel about biodegradable Lego bricks, but I guess it is good for the Earth, so I guess that’s good for me since I live here.
  5. It would be nice to think that decisions could be made based on what is best for the majority of the people instead of well-connected lobbyists, but that’s just my two cents about it.

Enjoy!

If LOTR Races Were Writers…

I was looking through my old posts for some inspiration. Yesterday, I blogged about some good reasons to give up blogging. I left out a reason.

Most of the time, you write into the void, hoping that one or two people will read your words but knowing that even if they do, they won’t read them again and all of your effort will be wasted.

And so I feel compelled to share some of my favorite past posts. If you are new to my blog, you are welcome to go back and read from the beginning, but I’m going to save you some work and just share the things that I think are worth sharing.

The post below was originally published on January 31, 2013.

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lotr_writers

I am a nerd. I wear this badge proudly. I can speak knowledgeably about Star Wars, Star Trek, and the Lord of the Rings. Yes, I can even talk about the Silmarillion. And so, it should come as no surprise that I think about questions like this:

If each race from Lord of the Rings represented a type of writer,
to which race would I belong?

Of course, before I can answer that question, we need to look at what type of writer each race might represent.

lego_hobbitHobbits

Hobbits are gifted storytellers, lovers of simplicity, and they value a good party as much, or more than, a hard day’s work. As writers, they are often distracted by social engagements, but this makes their writing richer… when they get around to it. Don’t forget that the writer of The Hobbit was a hobbit.

lego_elfElves

Elves are a poetic race with a tongue that is beautiful to listen to, but difficult to understand. They compose epic poems praising high ideals and their knowledge of obscure history is secondary only to the Valar and Maiar themselves. The fact that they do not age and cannot die unless mortally wounded or heartbroken assists them in having a longer perspective than men. As writers, words come easily to them, but their high literature is not accessible and is often shunned by the mainstream. That is okay with them, as they would rather their Rivendells be hidden away from average eyes anyway.

Dwarveslego_dwarf

Dwarves are fans of action and gold. They carve stories out of the living stone of imagination, crafting complex structures that impress all who see them. They are concerned with the details and how elements fit together. Dwarves are a serious race, not grim, but focused. Every now and again though, they dig too greedily and awaken things best left asleep. As writers, they are know how tell a good, axe-wielding fight scene and have great attention to detail. Their books are often bestsellers and go on to live comfortably on the silver screen as well as they do on the page.

Menlego_man

Of all the races, men are the shortest-lived. In other words, men are entirely forgettable. Their end is a mystery, for they neither dwell in the Halls of Mandos like elves, nor return to the earth from which they sprang forth like dwarves. Being short-lived, men are often also short-sighted. As writers, men do not use outlines and often have no idea where their story will end. They simply write to see where the journey to take them.

Pukel-menlego_pukelman

Don’t remember the pukel-men? They weren’t in the movie version of LOTR, so if that is your only reference point, you won’t have any idea who I’m talking about. Technically speaking, the Pukel-men, or Drúedain,  are counted among the first men who walked on Middle-earth. They resembled Neanderthals, were friendly with Elves of the first age, and hate orcs with a passion. They are a secretive race and wish to be left in peace. In the war of the One Ring, their leader, Ghân-buri-Ghân, played a vital role, guiding the Rohirrim to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. If that hadn’t happened, the war against Sauron would have been lost. As writers, the Pukel-men are ultra-niche, keeping to themselves, wanting no influence in the outside literary world.

Entslego_ent

Ents are a long-winded race. It takes hours to finish a sentence, days to finish a paragraph, and many seasons to tell a whole story. Though they speak slowly, they say the things that must be said. And once they get into a groove, nothing can get them off course. As writers, they are not hasty. They write slowly and thoughtfully, but their stories are always worth reading. I believe Tolkien himself had a bit of Entish blood (sap?) running through his veins, as it took him about twelve years to write LOTR.

Wizardslego_wizard

Strictly speaking, wizards aren’t writers at all, but editors. These are the wise folk who know the land, can see the needs of the time, and offer guidance to those wise enough to listen. They speak all languages and give of themselves freely for the good of the quest.

Now, I realize that these are only the main races of LOTR and that I haven’t covered any of the bad guys. Maybe I’ll do that in another post. In any case, now that I’ve laid out the races and the types of writers they represent, I must admit that I am a hobbit. I am often distracted by the happenings within my life and find it difficult to simply sit and write for hours on end. lego_gollumThough, perhaps that is for the best. Were I to become too focused on something, I may turn into another race altogether, referring to my writing as “precious” and viciously attacking anyone who came between it and I.

No, I think I am happy as a hobbit, but even more so because I am surrounded by a fellowship made up of each race. I value my writers group, the Weaklings, and know that if my quest to become a published author is to be realized, I must draw from the strengths of my companions.

What are you?

A Blog Post about the Death of Blogging

A friend at the publishing house where I work recently sent around this article titled, “Why Bloggers Are Calling It Quits.” The article cites a couple prominent writers who blazed the blogging trail but have recently abandoned the blogosphere. It got me thinking about whether I should jump ship as well.

After all, there are some compelling reasons to stop blogging.

  • I would have more time with my family.
  • It hasn’t earned me any money.
  • I could apply my writing time to long-form projects that may actually get published.
  • This isn’t the first time that I’ve struggled with the value of my blog (ex. 1 & 2).
  • If founding members of the blogging movement are getting out of the craft, maybe it signals a shift in the industry, not just in my personal life.

I ATE'NT DEADBut, in spite of these reasons, I’m not done blogging. Not yet, anyway. Here are my responses to my own reasons to quit.

  • My wife encourages me to write because she knows it fills me and because it gives her an insight into part of who I am.
  • Though it hasn’t earned me any money directly, it has opened doors to speaking at writers’ conferences (even starting writers’ conferences), which has led to getting paid for speaking.
  • I have expanded my writing community exponentially.
  • For the times I have struggled with its value, I have kept writing anyway.
  • I don’t want my actions to be dictated by what someone else thinks is right for them (unless it is against the law or something, obviously).
  • I’ve been developing my writing skills, not only in the quality of the stuff I write but in the fact that I’m putting my buns in a chair and dedicating time to writing on a daily basis.

So I’m going to keep on writing, popularity be damned. Yes, one day my children or my grandchildren will look at me with shame in their eyes that I ever participated in what can be a vainglorious pursuit, but I’ll just give them the stink eye right back and say, “Keep it up and I’ll blog about you!”

Book Review | Sky Raiders by Brandon Mull

Imagine a world on the fringes of our own where imagination can create real things. Now allow me to tell you that such a world exists (possibly because you imagined it) between the covers of Brandon Mull‘s Five Kingdoms series.

sky_raidersIn Sky Raiders, the first of the series, Cole follows his kidnapped friends into the Outskirts, made up of five kingdoms and populated by mysterious powers and people. It isn’t long before Cole is marked as a slave and drafted into the dangerous service of the Sky Raiders, a cross between flying pirates and a salvaging crew. With flying castles, magical objects, and a mysterious power running rampant in the Outskirts, Mull knows how to create a captivating fantasy world.

This should come as no surprise to readers of his previous series, Fablehaven (reviewed here) and the Beyonders (which is next on my reading list). In Five Kingdoms, Brandon Mull seems to borrow some familiar fantasy elements (flying ships, pirates, and swords from Peter Pan, magical objects from the Brothers Grimm, and a ragtag group of misfits from every teen fantasy ever written), but he infuses them with new life and wonder.

Sky Raiders is a quick-paced adventure and a delightful read. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in teen fantasy in general and well-written teen fantasy in specific.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

I am in favor of genre-bending.

When I was a kid, hosting a sleepover was about the coolest thing you could do. I loved having my friends over, eating pizza, drinking sugary drinks, playing games, and staying up way too late. Now that I have kids of my own, I’m not as excited about the idea of hosting them for my own kids. I suppose that’s just part of being a parent. Anyway, of the sleepover traditions that I remember, the suicides stand out vibrantly.

A “suicide” was when you played the mad scientist and mixed all of the beverages together. For the most part, the result was still a drinkable concoction. Sometimes, it was even quite good.

warm_bodiesMy wife and I just saw Warm Bodies the other night. I grabbed it from the library on a friend’s recommendation knowing very little about the film itself.

If you haven’t heard anything about it, Warm Bodies is an zombie-action-romantic-comedy loosely based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Seriously. And, like some of the “suicides” of my younger days, the result of mixing elements was quite good.

I guess I’m a fan of messy lines around genres.

Take the books of Jasper Fforde, for instance. His Tuesday Next series mixed elements of classic literature, science fiction, time-travel, and mystery. The Nursery Crime books are basically police procedurals populated by Mother Goose’s characters. And both series are quite funny as well.

The late Terry Pratchett was likewise a master of mixing things up with his Discworld books, placing fantasy characters in a classical London-like setting and adding elements of current technological or philosophical debates.

When done well, the whole is much more than the sum of the parts. When done poorly, the result is like a “suicide” gone wrong.

Do you have any favorite books or movies that don’t fit cleanly into a specific genre?