Archives: Writing


The current work-in-progress, a short fantasy novel, looks to be near completion. First draft completion, anyway. I expect to write “End” by next weekend, in time for Orycon. We’ll see. The point is that the time has come to move on to the next project.

I don’t want to bore anyone with the sausage making aspect of writing, but I should probably explain why it is time to start something new. A first draft is far from a final manuscript. If you picked up a novel in the bookstore printed directly from an author’s first draft, you’d set it back down before you got through the first page, wondering how such crap could make onto the shelf. A novel requires several rounds of drafts and revisions before it is ready even for the publisher to see. More revisions follow.

Babel Remedies


I took the family to Blue Lake Park this afternoon. Blue Lake Park is about a mile east of Portland and a long arrow flight south of the Columbia River. Portland, and especially the east side of Portland, hosts numerous ethnic enclaves. While wandering by picnics, family reunions, or groups clustered about playground equipment I must have heard at least six different languages spoken.

That got me thinking about the problem in fantasy or science fiction of dealing with characters who don’t savvy each others’ mouth noises. If you want characters to communicate important plot information to each other, you’ve got to work through this issue.



Monsters are not indispensable to a fantasy story, but they do seem just shy of ubiquitous. If you count other than human races (elves, dwarves, dragera) as monsters then few fantasy works remain without a monster or two. Without a monster, fantasy is a step removed from an alternate history tale.

And that’s fine. I’d hate for the genre to reduce itself to a cut-and-paste exercise, pulling the requisite ingredients from columns A through G. Many swords-and-sorcery tales succeed brilliantly without monsters, relying on some magical or mysterious opposition for the fantastical element. But the point is monsters are a common ingredient.


Probably a great number of reasons. Perhaps the primary reason is to establish that the story is not set in the mundane world. You know you’re not reading a Clive Cussler novel when a troll makes an appearance. Monsters provide an intense injection of the exocitc, they are a flashy component of world building.

Monsters allow for villains without human motivations. A monster’s reasons for behavior can be alien, animalistic, reflexive. Whatever the story needs. The motives can be as complex or simplistic as the writer desires.

At the other extreme, monsters can serve as metaphors writ large. The dragon as a symbol of greed. The zombie as – apparently whatever the writer feels like oversimplifying that day. Frankenstein’s Monster as the outcast, the surrogate for the alienated reader, misunderstood and ostracized.

They can be terrific opponents. Beowulf might be a badass, you can describe how he slew a dozen men in battle. But describe him ripping Grendel’s arm off at the shoulder and suddenly you get a clearer measure of his prowess.

So let’s hear it for the monsters, for all the giants, ogres, orcs, wyverns, and yet to be revealed exotic baddies.

OryCon 36

My invitation to serve as a panelist at OryCon 36 arrived early last week. This will mark my second year as a guest of the con. OryCon is Portland’s home grown science-fiction/fantasy convention. It is also the only one I’ve ever attended so I have no yardstick for comparison to other conventions. I don’t know if it is a tiny regional con or a moderately-sized stop on the convention circuit. I just know I generally have a good time.

I dipped my toe into OryCon in high school. Probably OryCon 8 or 9. I remember it was at the Red Lion near Lloyd Center, what is now the Double Tree. The following year the con moved to the Red Lion on the Columbia River where it remained for many years. I was able to attend only sporadically during those years: college, law school, military deployment occasionally intervened. But those were for me halcyon cons, for at least one reason if not more: the hospitality suite served beer on draught for a quarter a glass. If memory serves the keg-o-rator held two taps: Henry’s Dark and Henry’s Blue Boar Ale.

Debut Novel Ruminations

20140126_155047_2My first novel, “Reunion,”  is out. Here’s a link, let me get that marketing thing out of the way so I can ramble without worrying where to shoehorn it in later.

I’m trying to get a handle on how I feel about it. I’m pleased, obviously. But my enjoyment is incomplete. I think that’s partly because – until May – the novel is only available as an eBook.  I’m not what you might call an early adopter. I have a tablet and I have the Kindle application loaded on it. But I don’t read from it. I’ve got three or four items on it, nothing longer than a novella. I suppose I still prefer the feel of a physical book.

Proof Reading

20140126_155047_2I am reading the proof copy of my novel, loose pages stacked within the almost complete cover – (still lacking ISBN and bar code.) Tangible proof that I do indeed have a book on the cusp of publication. Cool. Feels good, but I am getting my fill of reading it. I’ve lost count of the number of drafts, revisions, edits, and proof-readings I’ve gone through. This, however, is the last pass. I do hope I manage to catch every misplaced apostrophe, dropped article, or missing comma.

It requires a lot of effort to ensure the prose looks effortless. I take full responsibility for anything that slips by.

Writer and Child


Snapshot of the part-time writer with a newborn: Wife, exhausted, hits the sheets shortly after eight. The time varies dependent upon the baby’s needs/whims, of course. The almost equally exhausted part-time writer feeds the baby. Then begins the drama – suspense builds as the part-time writer watches anxiously to see if the baby will drift off to sleep. Or will she instead remain stubbornly alert until the wee hours? If the latter, the writer will consider himself lucky to get in a hundred words, pecking one-handed at the keyboard while supporting the baby in his other arm.

The Sleepless Writer

This may not come as a shock to anyone, but the care and feeding of a newborn tends to cut into one’s free time, the time one might normally spend – say – writing. That’s not a complaint mind you. The frequent rising in the middle of the night to feed or comfort, dealing with the maddening refusal to just go back to sleep already, do you have any idea what time it is is all worthwhile. In the light of day, jaw cracking with yawns, dragging myself to the gym and to work, the previous nights frustrations fade.

So, yeah.

But I’m still finding time to write. A matter of desire, I suppose. If you want to do something, you’ll make the time.

The Show Must Go On

13 - 1 (1)Twice daily visits to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit to visit my newborn daughter eat up a lot of the day. It is terrific to observe her progress. She’s getting bigger every day and should be coming home in, perhaps, a week.

Fantastic. But I still need to keep writing.

OryCon 35

I attended my first science fiction convention as a guest this weekend. Not my first con, but my first on the other side of the panel table. OryCon is the annual Portland convention, now in its 35th year. It brings together fans of the myriad interests lumped under ‘science fiction.’ So, you’ve got your klingons, your gamers, your costume makers, anime buffs, etc. I’ve attended about a dozen of these over the years, not with any particular focus, but simply as a reader of speculative fiction in general. It allowed me a chance to meet some of the authors of books I’ve enjoyed and to hear the authors discuss various topics at panels.