Monday, October 31, 2011

Pure Genius

I got the word today, of all days, on Mandy’s birthday. It sucked the air right out of my lungs and clamped my brain in a spinning vise right before the party started.
Daniel called. “The Esperanza’s gone silent,” was all he said.
That's it. The opening lines of The Freezer. I'm eager to write this one. Starting tomorrow.

In other news, my kids are up way past their bedtime and one of them is bawling because she can't find her panda.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What I'm Up To

So, work. I spent two years on reduced hours with barely enough work to do. I took over the jobs of three other people who were laid off, and still had barely enough to do. Well, now we've got as much work as the company has ever had AND I'M STILL SUPPOSED TO DO FOUR JOBS! AAAAAA!

(Those jobs, in case you're curious, are Technical Writer (my real job), graphic designer, and two quality assurance jobs.)

Aside from that, I've suddenly got tons of scouting- and church-related meetings. The upshot of all this is that I sent out eight queries about Drivers more than three weeks ago and haven't gotten around to sending out any more. At all.

(Because it takes me half an hour to send out a query, and who has time for that? I have to check and double-check each agent's email address. Visit their website and double-check submission guidelines. Read their bios, search Google for interviews, see if they're on twitter, write a personalized message, rewrite if five times, ask my wife if it's any good, read the email over and over and over again, hold my breath, and click send. Then I hyperventilate for a few minutes before starting on the next one.)

But I did rewrite my query. Again. (Click on the Drivers tab above if you're interested in seeing it.)

And then there's this thing I'm thinking of doing to the ending to make it better. That's next on my list.

I wrote the first page of The Freezer but got it all wrong and couldn't continue. I have to figure it out before next month, because this will be my first chance at doing NaNoWriMo! I've always been at the editing stage of novels in years past, and I'm not about to draft a new novel just for the heck of it. So the timing is good.

Or will be if I can figure out the first page.

And I bought my wife a new camera for her birthday. And she just barely got a brand-new thirty-year-old Squeezo Strainer.

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Blog Post

We've been together for ten years. And we have a lot of fun, but that's not what's important. Fun is so ephemeral and easily spoiled. Joy is what she brings me and what I strive to give her.

I don't know what it's like for other couples, as I've never really been in another couple. They look happy enough. As happy as we are. We don't understand some of the things they do, particularly anything that takes them away from each other when they don't need to be.

The way we see it, nine hours a day five days a week is too long to be apart. Why would I want to go hunting? Why would she want to go shopping? I spent a week at Scout camp this summer. That was the longest we've ever been apart. I missed her. I called every night. I climbed a ridge every night to get cell reception because I missed her.

This wasn't supposed to be about me, but somehow it always is. I guess it's either that or I start bragging about how amazing she is. I've done that before. Even that would come back around to me.

Every so often, she asks why I love her. It happens less often these days, because I usually give some variation of the same answer. I don't know if it's a good answer. Is there such a thing as a good answer to that question? I know it's one of those things philosophers like to wrestle over.

My answer is that she brings out the best in me. Or she makes me better. The words are a dim shadow of what I feel. I love her like I love myself. More on my better days. Anyway, they're kind of the same thing. We're kind of the same thing.

And when I stop to think what an amazing compliment it is that someone so vibrant, deep, beautiful, and smart voluntarily chose to spend forever with me...

I am not without her. She is not without me. We were both a little broken when we met—healing and doing well, but still a little broken. We healed together, healed each other.

She. Me. Only aspects of we.

We have fun, sometimes.

We always have completion.

We always have love.

We always have joy.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ben & Ammii: The Rematch

So, that last review ended up sounding a lot like "Ben is a crybaby," so I thought we'd review something completely different this time. Something manly. Something tough. Something that has never made me cry:

Power tools.

Once again, I have my lovely and talented wife Ann Marie (aka Ammii) here with me. Let's start off with my personal favorite power tool, (that I own, because it would be silly to review tools I have no experience with,) the Dremel.

Ammii: *ahem* That's mine.

Ben: No it's not. I got it for--was it my birthday?

Ammii:  Oh yeah. 'Kay it's yours.

Ben: The thing I like best about the Dremel is you can use it for almost anything.

Ammii: As long as I'm not using it.

Ben: *ahem* As long as what you want to do involves cutting things that aren't too big. I once used it to cut the big chainring off a cottered crankset. I've also used it to remove the rust from a bicycle frame.

Ammii: That Dremel tool really is mine. It may have been for your birthday, but we all know whose it really is.

Ben: The other time I used it was to cut the top off a plastic drain pipe.

Ammii: And that's about the only times you've used it. But that's okay, because I don't want you using my tools. I mean your tools.

Ben: Okay, why do you like it so much? It's totally a man's tool. Meaning, you can use for things that there are really better tools for but you're too lazy to go get them.

The Starship Enterprise. What a girly thing to carve.
Ammii: Like woodcarving? 'Cause that's what I use it for.

Ben: Oh sure. Use it for what it's meant for. How girly.

Ammii: Why ruin a perfectly good tool using it for something it's not meant to be used on? Like some of those attachments you totally wasted.

Ben: They're disposable. They come in packs of twenty. Besides, Dremel Inc. or whatever they are markets it as a do-anything tool. You can tell that company's run by men.

Ammii: Okay, so what's your second favorite tool. Is it your dead power drill? 'Cause I wore the battery out?

Ben: Aha! I can honestly say that I use that tool far more than you do. In fact, you always use your Dremel to drill holes when the drill is clearly the better choice. Real men know to use the right tool for the right job.

Ammii:  Uh HUH...I don't use it because the battery's always dead.

Ben:  Yeah, it won't hold a charge anymore. Too many years of HEAVY use.

Ammii: *giggles* Like you built this house with your drill.

Ben: I never implied such a thing.

Ammii: My second favorite tool is my scroll saw. And that one really is mine.

Ben: Yeah, I got it for her for Valentine's Day. Isn't that a totally manly gift?

Ammii: Totally romantic.

Ben: Yeah, I picked out the best scroll saw in the store, because I know how to pick good tools, right?

Ammii: I thought it was the cheapest one.

Ben: Actually, it was the only one. But it is nice. As quiet as a sewing machine. With a sawdust collection thingy. And it takes two kinds of blades.

Ammii: Sewing machines are power tools.

Ben: But like I'd ever use one of those. Ha!

Ammii: Umm...are you forgetting all those hours you spent sewing stuff for your bike?

Ben: But at least I wasn't using a pattern! Totally winging it, brave and daring! And it was nylon tent fabric, so it was really hard. I'll bet you couldn't have done as good a job.

Ammii: I wouldn't even try.

Ben: There. See? Totally manly. And we're going to end the review right here with a picture of something only a man could make, the Velo-tent-mobile!

It's a velomobile! No, it' s a tent! No, it's THE VELOTENT!
By the way, this is my 100th published post! (Meaning, it's the one hundredth post excluding the ones I wrote and never posted, and the ones that I posted and later took down!)

Ammii: Obviously. Duh.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I wrote Drivers in present tense. That's not as unconventional as it used to be, and it was also in first-person. (Present tense third person still sounds really weird to me. First person feels as natural as thinking.)

The Freezer is going to be past tense, first person. But I'm doing something else unconventional. Yeah, it's generally not such a good idea to be different when you're still trying to find an agent, much less get published. (Or it is a good idea, depending.)

What can I say? I follow my heart.

Meet Thane Ryder. His wife Dawn left for outer space as the pilot of an interstellar ship carrying infrastructure for a new colony on an Earth-like world. She did it to get Thane and their daughter Amanda seats on a ship that will follow. Meanwhile, Thane is raising Amanda in a dying society on a doomed world.

Then Thane finds out Dawn's ship has disappeared. No one knows what happened. Maybe its out there, maybe not.

Then he finds out that if he leaves Earth as planned, he has to leave his daughter behind.

He chooses to stay, knowing there's still a chance Dawn will be waiting for them on that new world. So he writes to her to explain his decision. And he keeps writing.

And that's what the book is:  letters from a doomed husband to his missing wife about their daughter. (Can I just say it breaks my heart to think about it?)

There are quite a few novels that have been as letters. It doesn't matter to me how many there are. The more I think about it, the more I feel like this is the way I want to tell this story. It's a glimpse from the outside into the heart of a man—beamed into space at the speed of light, available to everyone in its path.

And by the time it reaches Dawn's ship, Thane and Amanda will be gone.

(As far as you know, anyway.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Next Door Boys

Today, I am doing a book review of a real book. This is a first for me. Sort of. AND my lovely wife Ann Marie (Ammii for fun) will also be doing the review. First, the book is The Next Door Boys, by Jolene Perry. It's an LDS romancy sort of book about a college girl. Why am I reviewing it? Because I wanted to finally read one of Jolene's books, and...well, you'll see.

Ammii and I had a conversation about this review the other day. It went something like this:

Ben:  Would you like to do the review on video?

Ammii:  Why?

Ben:  It would be funny. You could make fun of me.

Ammii:  Like "Ben likes chick books and romance?"

Ben:  Or when I admit that it made me cry.

Ammii:  *looks at Ben like he's crazy* It made you cry? *laughs*

Ben:  See? Now I've wasted that reaction. It would have been hilarious on video.

Ammii:  Oh, I could do it again. It really made you cry?

Ben:  *talking with his hands, as usual* Not really cry. Just, you know, a little extra water in my eyes. Maybe some throat, uh, spasms.

Ammii:  *laughs* You are such a girl.

But we're not quite ready to show our faces on video. (Also, it's more work.) And I hate listening to my own voice, so we're just going to pass the laptop back and forth and have a typed discussion. It's just like when one of us is upstairs and the other is downstairs and we have conversations on Facebook.

Ben:  What I liked about this book was, as mentioned, the emotional impact it had for me. What happened didn't surprise me, but how it made me feel did. Part of it was that Leigh is a well-developed narrator, but at the end, it was mostly that I could really relate to Brian, chicken that he is.

Ammii: Yes, Ben, you are a chicken. Just come out and say it. You LOVED all the mushy gushy stuff. Okay, so it really wasn't all that mushy gushy. It was a fun romance and the ending was great.

Ben:  Well, I wouldn't say I LOVED it. Not in capital letters, that's too strong.

Ammii:  I should have said ADORED.

Ben:  I'm not exactly in the target audience.

Ammii:  Yeah you are.

Ben:  Ahem. It's really a book for 1) young 2) Mormon 3) women. I meet only two of those criteria.

Ammii:  Maybe one and a half.

Ben:  Anyway, you're right in the target audience, aren't you?

Ammii:  Yes, all three. Definitely young. It's the perfect book for girls looking for clean, fun, romance that introduces them to the game of college dating.

Ben:  A game you know better than I. But we're getting off topic. Let's sum up by saying that we both enjoyed the book, and yes, I'm more of a romantic than my wife.

Ammii:  I'd recommend it to any teenage girl.

Ben:  And sensitive, good-looking, slightly-over-29 men who...

Ammii:  ...cry over hymns in church.

Ben:  Okay, we'd better stop. You can find more about The Next Door Boys here, along with links to buy it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Raindrops on Roses

I could have titled this post "My Favorite Posts," but that wouldn't have been nearly obscure enough. This is a flashback episode. You know how some TV shows have episodes where the main character is hooked up to a neural-whatever or stuck in a coma and forced to relive ten-second snippets of past episodes? That's what I'm doing here. Except I'm not going to quote old blog posts, I'm simply going to link to them. That way, you can avoid the pain of rereading stuff you've already read. Ready set read. (Read is a weird word.)

My favorite things I've written on this here blog in no particular order:

The Hunger Games and King David:  What do those have to do with each other? Thou art the audience. Why I will never see the movie.

Author Interview: Myself: In which I interview myself. Funny, if I do say so myself.

The Old Gray Goose:  The sad story of our widowed goose. Writing it made me cry.

The LDS Writer Blogfest: The Atonement Covers All Pain:  A bit of what my religion means to me. A unique post on this blog, and by far the most viewed.

To Kill A Mockingjay:  How do you recover from destroying your main character? Fast forward! (Yes, I did still read the whole series.)

The Heart as a Compass:  Why I write what I write.

Thirteen Reasons:  Snarky critique from someone who knows something about this popular novel's subject matter.

The Worth of a Word:  In which I actually post pictures. That I took. And tell why a picture is NOT worth a thousand words.

The Teen Disease:  One of the first posts I wrote. It's about how important the teenage years really are and in the form of a letter to my past self.

There are plenty of other posts I like, some more than some of these. I just don't want anyone reading them. Now don't you want to go find out why?

Ha! Just kidding. Sort of.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Freezer

Yes, I've been missing for a week. Or more? But I have something good to share today. It's a new story idea. Except that it's not new. I first started developing it several years ago with the intention of writing and filming a little movie. We were going to use our house and grounds as the set, so the setting of this book will always look exactly like my house in my mind. A little weird, but it makes description easier. I might have to relocate it closer to a city, though.

Man, I love writing.

The world is about to die a violent death at the hands of a rogue planet. The last escape ships have gone, leaving billions of people knowing the exact date and time of their demise. Society is coming apart at the seams. Violence is spreading; food is disappearing. There's one month left.

One father turned down a seat on a spaceship to stay with his five-year-old girl, and he intends to make her final days happy. He'll stay in his home and refuse protection. He'll feed his enemies and treat them like friends. He'll plant a garden, find water for the lawn, and teach her to ride a bicycle. He won't pick up a gun or show any of the fear gnawing away at his insides.

And if keeping his daughter from feeling that fear means building a spaceship out of an old freezer, he'll do that too. If she sees the lie in his eyes, maybe he'll even learn to believe the impossible. That their crude spaceship will work. That it will carry them away to find mommy, who left—and was lost—on a scout ship.

Whatever it takes to hide the fear. It's only for a month.

(And no, I haven't settled on names yet.)