Yay! I finished a novel! Now what?

So the title basically sums it up. I feel like the dog that caught the car.

Thursday, October 12, 2017, I finished a novel I’d started planning in early July and begun writing on July 31, 2017.

Actually, this was my 2016 NaNoWriMo attempt. I “succeeded” in the flimsiest and most technical manner: I wrote 50,000 words, but they were spread across two stories, most of them were unusable, and neither story ever got finished.

So, Friday I didn’t do much writing, except think of a couple of small points that really needed to be added or clarified. Saturday morning I added those.

Then, I sort of stumbled around for most a week, trying to plan a second novel before NaNoWriMo came around November 1.

It had taken me a whole month to plan this novel, and it had already been partially planned and even partially written.

I have only half that time to plan the next novel, from scratch.

And I was all out of ideas. I was starting to get stressed. But then, on Thursday, October 19, a conversation with my wife just cracked everything open.

Yesterday, I got the lead character and what she wants, her motivation. I got the rough shape of the conflict, and part of the setting (my novels tend to involve a lot of travel, so there will be several settings).

I really feel like I can write this story, that it will hold my attention to the end, and, aiming I do my part, that other people will actually enjoy reading it.

I guess you just can’t force these things. But you can relax, read, look at cool pictures of fascinating places, listen to music you love,walk around outdoors, and let things brew.

You’ll be stuck until you’re not, and it will seem like a magic breakthrough, but it was really a result of feeding your mind, giving yourself silence to create, and taking the pressure off.

Darth Enjoyed the Eclipse

And so did we. I hope my little one remembers it (she’s 4 and 1/2). I know I will.

She spent most of the time decorating a shrub with sticks and leaves from other plants … the number of students and staff she convened to help or at least watch while she did it was pretty impressive, honestly.

But every few minutes she would get the glasses and look at the eclipse for a few seconds. then she’d go back to playing.

I alternated between watching it and passing the glasses around so the students could see it. Good times.

I got a few.shots, but nothing epic.

A Question from My Daughter

So my 3 year old asked me what the “no smoking” sign in our hotel room meant.

I said,  “Some grown ups have a bad habit of smoking cigarettes – they’re little paper sticks filled with tobacco. You light one end on fire and put the other in your mouth. It’s about as healthy as it sounds.”

That satisfied (or baffled) her, and she moved onto the next question. A 3 year old has no shortage of questions. 

I took a picture of the sign. She is responsible for turning it and the water bottle upside down.

And for turning our lives upside down, but in the best possible way.

Woof! I Caught the Car. Now What? 

This is a Pine64 single board computer with a 7″ touchscreen and a Playbox case.

I sponsored the Kickstarter back in January. The Pine64 board came almost on time, but some of the peripherals were delayed, and I didn’t want to start until I had everything.  I think the last component arrived in August. 

But this term has been crazy busy, so the Pine64 and friends sat in their bubble mailers.

On the last day of work this year, I stayed up until almost 3 am assembling the Pine64, installing the operating system, and troubleshooting it until it worked.

It really wasn’t a hard build,  but it was my first project of the kind: my first mobile or laptop build (though I’ve built desktops and done some minor laptop repairs and upgrades).

I am proud to have done it, but honestly, I’m not sure what to do with it now that it’s finished. 

The Playbox case is neither durable nor protective enough to use as a real tablet. A large gap exposes the Pine64 to all manner of dirt and debris. 

The instructions say to secure the battery in place with masking tape. Really? I jammed it into place with a taped portion of bubble mailer, but still.

C4 Labs recently released a better case that might make the Pine64 usable as a tablet.

I could add a hard drive and turn it into an over the air DVR. But we don’t watch anything over the air anyway. 

It has the power to be a media station,  but we have smart tv and a Fire Stick already.

So, um, a project for the sake of a project?

Any ideas?

Movies You Must See: The original HIGHLANDER

Although it’s been overshadowed by a stream of crummy sequels, an awful animated series, and a quite good in its own way TV show, the original 1986 Highlander starring Christopher Lambert, Clancy Brown, and Sean Connery deserves a serious watch.

It’s the first movie I’d seen about immortals that really addressed the issues that come with being immortal. The central love story between Connor and Heather, is poignant, moving, and powerful.

And although it does hew to the myth of redemptive violence, it does at least show Connor’s disillusionment with violence, his understanding that war – even a clan skirmish – is pain, loss, and suffering.

Even for an immortal.

Although his body heals from all wounds, he carries the scars from violence with him into the present day.

But that isn’t to say that the film is all grim. The dialogue is frequently witty, especially when Connor speaks with some of the less cultured police investigators. And of course Sean Connery is Sean Connery.

There’s a real operatic feel to many of the scenes between the immortals, especially when Clancy Brown’s Kurgan is involved.

And while Highlander is still a product of its times, its gender roles are pretty progressive for a mid-80’s action film. Brenda and Heather are both much more than just damsels or trophies.

I don’t want to say too much, since Highlander is so much better the less you know about it going in, but please, give it a watch. It is well worth your time, and one of the best movies to come out of the 1980’s.

Meat-Free Monday: Vegan Chili that’s Actually Good

We threw a surprise birthday party for my boss, because she is awesome, and because she is always watching out for us. And those of you who have worked for someone else can attest to how rare and valuable that is.

The theme of the party was Autumn Adventure.  We had hot mulled cider, apple slices with caramel for dipping, and,  for the main course, chili.

Our resident foodie brought white chicken chili,  and I’m told it was good. I brought veggie chili. I felt a lot of pressure, since If never cooked veggie chili before and it had to be good enough for non-vegans AND “birthday party good.”

I spent several days researching my recipe. I  must have read 15 or more vegan chili recipes, looking for trends, commonalities,  and ingredients that would fit our southern palates.

It was a success! I made a spicy chili and a mild chili, and the spicy chili really had that traditional red chili taste. By the end of the party, the spicy chili was gone.

I also received several compliments and requests for the recipe, which I’ll also share here:

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/4 large red onion
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 large stalk celery
  • 1/2 (15 ounce) can corn kernels
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (4 ounce) can diced chilis
  • 1 each (15 ounce) can white beans, black beans, pintp beans
  • 2 packets McCormick mild chili seasoning
  • Olive oil
  • Chili powder
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Paprika
  • Tobasco pepper sauce
  • Optional: cumin
  • Optional: masa flour

For mild chili, omit the diced chilis and use only 1 packet of mild chili seasoning.


  1. Dice all the vegetables, including the garlic
  2. Sautee the vegetables on medium heat in olive oil 5 to 10 minutes to release their flavor.
  3. Stir in tomato sauce, chilis, seasoning packets, and 1 tablespoon Tobasco
  4. Stir in corn kernels and beans
  5. Simmer 30 minutes, tasting regularly and adding seasonings to taste. I added quite a lot of chili powder, Tobasco, and crushed red pepper. Your mileage may vary.

You can top it off you want,  and the leftovers make a good burrito filling … if you have any leftovers.

Update on Writing Short Scenes to Rebuild My Writing Muscles


Friday: I did my first small bite today during my lunch break.  It was a short scene, a foot chase through traffic, not even 200 words. My focus was imagery and sensory detail:  getting just a little poetic while keeping the prose fast-paced and breezy. 

It was good,  for what it was. I enjoyed writing it, I got a short writing  workout,  and I think I even succeeded in my goals. 

Life is good

Monday:  I did my second one today, again during my lunch break. This one was only 149 words,  but I’m actually far Moore echoed about it than about Friday’s.

It’s a short,  descriptive scene of a woman emerging from dense underbrush in a dark forest and seeing a wide open view of fields and his leading down to the sea. 

But something about it really grabbed my attention. I want to know what happened,  how she got there,  and what happens next. 

I may end up writing more about her. 

Again, life is good.    

Integrating Characters with Disabilities into Adventure Fiction

…isn’t as easy as it sounds. You have to balance the kinetic pace and movement requirements of adventure fiction with accurate, non-condescending representation. 

If you give a disabled character a fantastical ability that effectively takes away the disability, is that cool or condescending? Ask ten people, get ten answers. So, how do you feel about Daredevil?

What about characters with disabilities who have other abilities that doubt cancel their disabilities, but make them very useful our powerful in other ways? 

The cliche is the psychic our hacker with a mobility disability,  usually one that requires the use of a wheelchair. 

It’s a cliche, but I’ve also heard of a hacker (DC’s Oracle, Barbara Gordon) being called inspirational. Maybe it’s because she worked to learn those skills and keep fighting crime even after she list the use of her legs. 

I’ve never heard the psychic “Disability superpower” coming off that way. Who finds Professor X inspirational?  Maybe someone out there? Maybe not. 

If a story requires a lot of kinetic non-vehicular movement, a character with a serious mobility disability can’t really be the lead, or even “in the party” for those parts.

That doesn’t mean such a character can’t be an important character in other parts of the story. 

And it doesn’t mean that other disabilities can’t be represented. Deaf characters, or characters with partial hearing loss and/ serious tinnitus can bee featured.  

Characters can still be quite mobile with missing or less than fully functional limbs. Hypertrichosis and alopecia universalis, facial deformities/ significant scarring, even albinism can have real effects on a person’s life without preventing them from running, climbing, and jumping. 

This is especially important in nonviolent adventure fiction, where you can’t just have the group’s tough guy fight the bad guys to protect the character with the mobility disability … And that’s kind of crummy even it’s own way because the character with the disability becomes dependent upon the tough guy in a way that feels kind of like “damseling.”

There is inherent value in representation.  People with disabilities can feel invisible in real life. There is no reason to “vanish” them in fiction as well.