A decade online

This is a superfluous post, with no purpose other than to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of this blog.

A lot has changed in the last 10 years, and thankfully all for the better. I’ve changed careers, moved three times, gotten married, had several kids, and even scribbled a novel!

Here’s to the next 10 years!

A Day in the Life

A day in the life of a writer, a.k.a., me!

Let me present my completely fool-proof plan to accomplish all of your writing goals. It has worked wonders for me. Yes, a big steaming pile of oddly shaped wonders.

1. Situate

Work can’t get done if you aren’t in your work area. To start my day, I sit at my computer. I am pumped, focused, and eager to write.

2. Mentally Prepare

Before I start anything, I browse all my writing forums and other daily websites to “get them out of the way.” You know, so I don’t get distracted later when I’m writing.

3. Logistically Prepare

Now I open up my Scrivener document and re-read what I did yesterday. Sometimes, I also pull up my outline and character notes just to make sure everything I did yesterday is consistent, and so all my marvelous ideas are fresh in my head for today’s upcoming feat of written words.

4. Set Goals

Nothing is accomplished without goals. I look at where I am in the chapter or scene, and consider my goals for today. What do I want to accomplish? What problem do I need to solve?

5. Intellectually Prepare

It’s great to know what your goals are, but knowing how to accomplish them is even better. At this point, I visit various writing websites, watch various youtube videos, and review various podcasts, seeking tips and advice on how to accomplish my specific goals for today.

6. Physically Prepare

Break for lunch. Nothing gets done on an empty stomach.

7. Back to Work

It’s been a few hours, I’ve covered a lot of ground, and I just took a break. This is when distractions will try to strike. The key to success is to be able to mentally re-focus after changing gears. I find it helpful, at this stage, to redo step 2, so I don’t get distracted anymore. Sometimes, instead, I’ll go write a blog post to really harden my grasp of the new lessons picked up in step #5.

8. Writing is a Business

Here’s the thing: writing is a business. It needs to be treated like one, which includes making good decisions about allocating time and resources, learning the needed skill set, and keeping an eye on the big picture. Often, by now, I realize I’m kind of tired. With all the tricks and tips I learned in step #5, I have a lot of new information to reflect upon. Being hasty is bad for business, and truth be told, a nap now will probably do more good for my story in the long run than a few hundred words I’ll need to redo tomorrow. This is a business decision.

9. Smell the Roses

All this work can be intoxicating, but it is important to remember to stop and smell the roses. Life keeps moving, so take a little time to enjoy it, between all the other stuff. To accomplish this, I tend to stay up very (unreasonably) late handling “life.”

10. Stay Positive

When I get into bed, exhausted though I am, I always take a moment to think of the potential ahead of me. I quickly get pumped about how much I’ll accomplish tomorrow and how many words I’ll crank out. Sometimes I do a little math. I’ll easily get 5K words down tomorrow, and if I do that every day, my novel will be done in no time! What’s more, I can just feel how EASY it’s going to be to write tomorrow, now that I’m ready and soon-to-be rested.

11. Keep the Momentum

The next day, I wake up, shower, and begin again from step 1. It is all about sticking to the routine.


Good luck, and happy writing!

All Sanderson Lectures Now Available

I’ve mentioned before, on this blog and elsewhere, what incredible value Brandon Sanderson’s YouTube lectures are to new writers. I had no formal training in writing, what with my background in Physics as well as Computer Engineering. It was the Sanderson lectures that helped me take a hobby and craft it into something more serious. The problem, I found, is they are split across four different channels, some are divided into pieces, years are skipped, and few have notes or details.

Several years ago I undertook the side project to gather all these lectures into one place. Things got in the way, and the project stalled a bit, but I have finally managed to post everything.

I tried to go a bit further than just mirroring the videos. I applied color correction to many of the series, as well as correcting the aspect ratio and combining separated parts of single lectures together:

Several of the later videos fell victim to my audio tinkering as well, in what I hope improved the sound quality (in 2014 in particular, the sources were sometimes rather badly lacking in audio).  Furthermore, for the 2016 “canonical” series, I’ve even transcribed the whiteboard in an overlay to the video to help translate the otherwise impenetrable “Sanderscript.”

Finally, I’ve gone to some lengths to take notes of the lectures and post them in the video descriptions, providing links and references from the lecture, and giving viewers the ability to jump to the relevant parts of the lecture:

This last step is what really held me up, and as the gap between videos yawned wider, I did crack a bit. For the 2014 and the latter half of 2013 series, I’ve gone ahead and uploaded them without any detailed notes. I fully intend to get around to them all in due course.

Oh, and of course, I didn’t monetize anything (and preserved the original Amazon affiliate links when I mirrored any such links from other channels).

So, here they are:

All lectures, in chronological order: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSTzdBlo5WBDYapYaDq4A0cgQDk2CWhRD

Or, if you want to go series by series, here they are broken out:

The 2-part lecture series at JordonCon 2010: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSTzdBlo5WBAdrQLWh6jJdu9BbE9ALmRT

BYU’s 2012 Creative Writing Semester: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSTzdBlo5WBCsSpT-dN56bwbo5ig03cgR

BYU’s 2013 Creative Writing Semester: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSTzdBlo5WBCM96UXr7GoLg5HLzP1G7uw

BYU’s 2014 Creative Writing Semester: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSTzdBlo5WBAZRTMWz-9_CQbLXnZ-t40n

BYU’s 2016 Creative Writing Semester: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLSTzdBlo5WBB6ggp85NFzl7KNQa0ZdK_i

As far as I am aware, there is no published series for 2015 nor 2017, but I will keep an eye out. I did not collect any one-off lectures or short lectures that were part of book tours.

I sincerely hope this library helps you as much as it has helped me. Now….. Back to writing!


d1/67,000 words

I am having a little writer’s block these days, and since I am nearing the end of my first draft (sortof), I’ve been googling and reading a lot about the process for moving into draft 2. Sounds like it is a lot of mechanics, cutting, focusing, and cleaning. A lot of work, in other words. I’ve been looking over my notes and work for the first time with the idea of cutting in mind, and something unfortunate has occurred to me. There is a LOT of material I haven’t been able to work in yet, or has taken an unexpectedly minor role, and will probably not end up in the final at all.

For example, the Mechanist church has played no role at all. I introduced that late as a counter to the Vortranist church (which does play a role), but it hasn’t taken hold since so little of the action is set in the Citadel. More critically, is Augmentation. This is a key theme in the backstory, but has very little role so far. There are also some character relationships and details that may never play out… for instance Tristi and Kaylee, and Tristi’s character in general.

This is the problem with a single novel instead of something more epic… this level of immersion is just not feasible. So for now, I am just making a list of all the things/relationships/people that have a weak role, and when I come to draft 2, I’ll have to either work these things in properly, or cut them entirely. That won’t be fun.

Throw back to 2003

One of my many neuroses is an OCD-like organizing of my computer files, separated by year. I happened to be browsing some of the old folders, in this case from 2003, and I stumbled across this short I had written for a high school english assignment. I found it interesting enough to post. #throwbackthursday.

* * *

I remember the thunder and the rain hammering the roof like an invading army. The creaks and groans of the old wood like nearby battle cries. The windows blocked out the chill air, but were unable to stymie the darkness, which flowed in thick as smoke. The swaying, flickering, light cast by an overhead chandelier sent our huddled shadows dancing across the walls. I remember watching them move, as if they were strangers circling us, preparing to close in. Unbroken by the fearful barking of a dog forgotten outside, or the screech of tires as somebody rushed home, the hypnotizing rhythm of the rain and thunder threatened to consume the four of us entirely. We were usually talkative when we were together, but this evening we all sat silently, as if we somehow anticipated the moment that was about to arrive. What I don’t remember is what we did earlier in the day, or how we arrived in that room on that dark night. Nor can I resolve precisely what came after. That night exists for me only as the exaggerated minutes that preceded her confession.

Emi was looking particularly glazed; I suppose I should have recognized the slight frown on the edges of her mouth and her vacant eyes, and known something was very wrong. Regardless, we would all soon find out. Somewhere outside, lost in the darkness, a tree must have fallen. We all jumped when we heard the crash. I looked from Karen to Sarah, and from Sarah to Emi. It was in this moment as Emi’s expression was thrown into harsh relief, the darkness momentarily suspended by a burst of brightest blue, that I saw written on her face what I had failed to see before. I remember Sarah asked her if everything was all right, but Emi didn’t answer. The rain crashed down harder than ever, and the street lights outside flashed angrily and went out. Perhaps it was because she had planned to tell us, or perhaps something in the darkness of this desolate evening resonated with the weight upon her heart. I can’t say for sure, but I remember her eyes locked to mine, and there was a look of watery supplication I had never seen before. And a darkness, even darker than the cold air that surrounded us. Remembering the emptiness in those eyes still makes me shiver. She had stiffened and started speaking. At first her voice seemed stuck in her throat, but it finally found its courage, and she said she had to tell us something. She hesitated, and I found myself wishing she would not continue, but it was only a moments pause before she did. I have forgotten her exact words, but I remember the images her words summoned as if they were burned into my mind’s eye.

She told us how her boyfriend had called her to his house on that stormy night the previous weekend. Intent upon surprising him, she had arrived early, only to find a surprise of her own: he was there with another girl, sending her out into the cold after a loving embrace, then gesturing for her to depart before Emi arrived. There was a pause in her story, but none of us responded. Her words didn’t seem to settle, rather they hovered uncomfortably in the air between us, the darkness all around them. Emi explained that she had confronted him, and in her temper, she had taken his gun from his study and turned it on him. Apparently they struggled, and as he tried to fight her off, he cut her arm with a kitchen knife. Emi rolled up her sleeve and showed us. A flash of lightning timed itself dramatically and illuminated a jagged swollen cut across her forearm. Karen put her hands over her mouth and made a whimpering sound. Sarah looked like she was crying. I didn’t know what to think. But the rain hammered on, so I just sat and listened. The details are lost… I do not know if I’ve blocked them, or if she never told us, but as the struggle escalated, she shot him. At this point she was trembling all over, and her voice trailed off. So there it was: my best friend had killed someone. With a seeming crescendo, thunder erupted directly overhead and as the lightening retreated, the darkness was set free. But suddenly the darkness did not feel oppressive, it felt like a void. We were no longer surrounded, instead we were isolated afloat in nothingness, our senses paralyzed and blank. Sarah sat perfectly still, dim and distant lights glistening on her wide eyes. Karen turned to me but was unable to speak.

Something else was different between us now. The emptiness was leaking into my body from the surrounding void. I felt scared and lost; I didn’t know what to do. Karen asked Emi if she had called the police. Fighting to maintain her composure, Emi merely shook her head but did not speak. The thoughtful silence returned, and we all sat still, now four strangers in the dark. I saw the glimmer of silent tears running down Emi’s face when she sniffled. She had killed someone. Was she now a different person? Was I? I remember a part of me wanted to comfort her, but another part held me back. I saw Karen, too, looking at her differently. Sarah was looking the other way. The void was growing larger, a separation between us four as we sat there in the darkness, the blood from this dark secret seeping through us.

I don’t think any of us spoke for the rest of the evening; there was nothing to say. I don’t know if I was different or if Emi was different. It was a strange thing, that the actions of a few moments of emotion could change everything for her and for us. A few days later I believe Sarah tipped the police, and Emi was arrested. It’s funny how finite the world is. One moment things seem static: boundaries seem clear and reality is well defined. But then in the time it takes for rain to descend, a moments darkness changes everything. Sometimes I am able to feel bad for her, or at least for the person I knew and cared about before that night. I never found out if she was the same person. If the person I thought I knew was a lie, or if the darkness was never a part of her, but merely exploited her in a moment of weakness. Is evil real, or are we all arbitrary victims of inscrutable circumstance and inexorable darkness?

Mediums are full of it

I got drawn into a discussion the other day about whether of not mediums really could talk to dead people. My conversational opponent had a few anecdotal accounts which, they claimed, resisted any other explanation. “How could she have known about her Grandmother?” As I reflected on the matter, I found it easiest to refute the existence of true mediums by simply imagining what the world would be like if mediums really could talk to the dead.

Let’s Pretend

Let’s just imagine how amazing it would be if someone actually could communicate with dead people. First of all, mediums would be star witnesses in courtrooms around the world. Victims of murders, accidents, and all sorts of sticky situations could come to give their own accounts of what happened. Specific details of how crimes unfolded would be readily available, if only we could ask the victims who were there. Think how famous trials such as OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony, or Jodi Arias could have changed with testimony from the victims.

In addition to trials, police investigations would be powered by medium resonances everywhere. Mysterious circumstances like the death of Heath Ledger, or disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, would be easily solved. Reports given by these medium interactions could be easily validated and confirmed beyond any reasonable doubt.

Historians and mediums would go hand-in-hand. What better way to solve mysteries, find lost treasures, and understand the way of past cultures than to speak to them directly? Historians would have way to find artifacts and receive detailed explanations of how they worked. Ancient languages could be studied through these interactions, and even learned. Eye-witness accounts to all sorts of amazing historical events could be summoned easily and documented, compared to archaeological evidences, and verified.

No wedding or funeral would be complete without mediums present to allow loved ones to stand in attendance. Funerals would be lifted by highly-personalized goodbyes from the actual dead person to their bereaved family. Lost grandparents, parents, or brothers and sisters could attend weddings and other important family events, delivering their own speeches and touching reflections through the medium.

And of course, by now we would have amazingly detailed accounts of what “the other side” is really like. What does it mean to die, and what is the afterlife these spirits occupy? Any resonance from the other world would be able to give details and information, any of which would be absolute gold.

The Most Important Career

It seems that almost no avenue of human life would be complete without access to the dead. Politicians could consult famous predecessors, military ground troops could use intelligence from captured and killed comrades, scientists and mathematicians could consult long lost personalities for insight (Fermat’s last theorem, for instance). Religious groups could actually commune with their ancient prophets and influential thinkers.

If medium accounts could be confirmed, as would be easy to do in any of the above examples if their talent was genuine, then mediums would be the most important and the most valuable members of any human society.

It seems strange they are instead relegated to sideshows in vegas, and rely on silly anecdotes and small shapeless stories to establish their veracity.

Or maybe, they just aren’t real.