Friday, November 22, 2013

Five Things on a Friday: Very Early Christmas Edition

1.  I can’t believe how early the Christmas season is starting this year.  
I mean, it’s no secret that retailers make the lion’s share of their profits during the fourth quarter, and that they therefore want to push the start of their prime selling season back as far as they can, but this is still the first year that I can remember seeing “Black Friday” sales that actually start on Thanksgiving.  Or, in the case of Macy’s, even earlier.  Macy’s “biggest sale of the year” this year is actually onWednesday morning, from 9 am to 1 pm.  
I ask you, who the Hell can get to Macy’s at 9am on a Wednesday?  Don’t people have jobs?

Macy's would like your business this year.
At our house, we’ve dealt with this in two ways:

1.  Sally and I set hard limits on our spending for each other.  I wanted to set the limit at $25, but Sally convinced me to make it a cool $100, so that’s where we are.  I still think that’s way too much, but at least it’ll keep things a bit more under control.  
2.  Our house rule is that everyone in the family has to make a Christmas present for everyone else in the family.  This has become a big deal.  
Which brings me to my point.  After you spend three months writing a 35,000 word novella for your kids for Christmas, the idea that you also need to go out and buy them a bunch of plastic crap seems downright silly.
2.  People love lists.
I’m gonna let you behind the curtain a little bit.  I’ve noticed that people love lists.  It doesn’t matter what the list is about, as long as it’s got bullets or numbers or letters or something else that makes it list-like.  People are at least ten times more apt to click on the link for a list than they are to click on something that I wrote up in simple paragraph format.  
So, no surprise, I’m trying to incorporate more lists into the blog.
I noticed it late last week.  I wrote a list--Ten Books That Everyone Should Read.  I didn’t think much of it; it was a Saturday post, I had some time, and there you have it.  But a ton of people read it, and I’ll admit, I was surprised.  Gradually, I began to realize that the thing that folks liked about it wasn’t what I’d said, it was the format.  That the list itself was easily digestible, and that’s what had drawn people in.  I then tested that theory on Monday, with a triathlon post called Five Thoughts on Offseason Training.  Again, a ton of people read the post.  Even as late as yesterday evening, that post still had lots and lots of readers.
So.  One of my biggest frustrations with this blog has been the Friday Mad Science feature, which tends to be the biggest post of the week--and also one of the least read.  I am therefore trying a new format for Friday Mad Science called, you guessed it, “Five Things for a Friday.”  
Yes, it’s a list.
If you get a chance, let me know what you think.
3.  The book is going really well.  Thanks for asking.
If this is news to you, the book is gonna be called “War Stories from Wanderhaven,” and I’m hoping to put it out next year.  It’s gonna be a collection of fantasy short stories which collectively tell a larger tale, think Canterbury Tales but with fire elves and many, many more sword fights.
I bring it up because I’ve been re-writing one of the tales this week, a story that was formerly called “The Stone Priest’s Wife” but has since been renamed “The Tower of Al-Kafiri.”  I won $200 in a short story contest with “The Stone Priest’s Wife” a few years ago, but when I went back to it earlier this week, I saw a lot of problems.  The good news is that those problems are fixable.  The bad news is (was) that it took one Hell of a lot of work to hammer that thing into the shape.  But I’m super-happy with where it is now, and frankly, I can’t wait to show it to you.
4.  Fact is, my writing style has changed a lot in the last few years.  
I got my start writing comic books.  I did a bunch of small press work, both under my own label (Proletariat Comics) and for a few other folks, and I was happy enough.  But then we had a flood at our house, and we had to close PC LLC down, and after that, I was left writing prose.  Which was fine.  I mean, it was frustrating as Hell, but not for any reason that had anything to do with how I was writing.  
But then my dad died in 2007, and afterwards, I couldn’t write a lick.  It’s ironic because my father hated my writing, but it’s still true.  In the wake of his death, I took up triathlon, and the world kept turning.  I stillwanted to write, but I felt blocked, and in any event, I’ve found that triathlon is a better way to manage grief than writing will ever be.  Flash forward to 2010-2011, and I’ve become a decent triathlete, but Istill can’t write.  I eventually decided to start blogging, hoping that maybe by writing a little of something every day, I’ll eventually get my mojo back.  
As it happens, that process took two years.  And really, it wasn’t so much the blog that got me writing again, it was my kids.  And the fact that Sally insists that we make something for every member of the family at Christmas.  
I wrote a short story for
Rival Angels, Vol. 2.
But now my style has completely changed--reading my old stuff is like reading someone else’s work, and that’s weird as it can be--and I’m left with these old stories that, frankly, need a little work.  The good news in all of this is that my new stuff seems to be better.  Lately, when folks read my stuff, they’re like, “Holy shit, I can’t believe how good this is…”  Well, that’s why I decided to try to put out the book.  But the moral of this story is that it really is better to give than to receive because when you put your whole heart into something that you make for somebody else, well, that’s when amazing things can happen.
He’s been absolutely killing it over there this past month, and I gotta give him a shout-out for it.  Our hero, Sabrina Mancini, got screwed out of the Television Title earlier this month, and I have absolutely no idea what’s gonna happen next.  But I’m diggin’ it, and you will, too.
That’s all I got.  Happy Friday!
Have a good weekend.


  1. I think as your wife I allowed to tell you the truth. Your writing has gotten better.

    1. Thank you, Sally. That means a lot to me. I think I've improved, too, but it's very hard to be objective about it.