Saturday, May 29, 2010

Statistics from an 8 mile run

Number of runners/walkers/bikers I saw - 51
Number of dogs I saw- 8
Number of dogs I saw making a doo doo - 2
Number of owners I saw cleaning up after their dogs - 0



Saturday, May 22, 2010

Technology overload

I just realized that we have six computers in our house. That isn't counting the Wii, my Android phone, etc., it's just the traditional computers. Here are some stats:

Laptops - 3
Desktops - 3
Windows XP - 2
Windows 7 - 2
Ubuntu - 1
Leopard - 1
Dell - 5
Mac - 1

So, my goal is to get one more computer. That way we'll have one computer per person in the family.

Now I just need to get my wife into World of Warcraft. Then family time would consist of each of us going to our separate corners, logging in, and fighting virtual monsters until the cows come home.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I ran my first 5k of the season. The picture of me to the right is not the picture of the race today. But I like the picture, and it's of me running, so I'm posting it so those of you who don't like to read can know what the post is about, without looking at all this boring text.

Anyway, I brought my iPod this morning, but alas, the battery was dead. I was forced to run without any tunes. I NEVER run without tunes, and I think it threw off my pacing.

Last year I ran a race and started off too quick. I ended up sucking air the entire race, and almost vomited at the end. My race time was horrible and I was hacking for days. I learned my lesson--you have to pace yourself.

So this morning I started off a little slow. I settled in behind a woman and then finally passed her when she started walking. There was another guy ahead of me in blue shorts, and it seemed that he and I were running about the same pace. I set the goal trying to keep up. He was about fifty feet ahead of me.

But with about half a mile to go, I realized I wasn't breathing that hard, nor was I sweating. I decided to turn up the heat a little. I'd sprint for a bit and see if I could catch up to blue shorts.

It felt fantastic. I realized I had been running at a much slower pace than I thought. I caught up to the guy very easy, although I slowed down when I passed him. I also breathed hard, so he wouldn't feel bad. Then I saw I still had time to pass yet another guy before the finish line. I passed him and finished the race with a decent time for a pudgy, middle-aged white guy. I sprinted the last half mile.

Anyway, it reminded me of the important of pacing. If you run too fast you're going to burn out too soon If you run too slow--if you don't push yourself--you're never going to improve.

So the next time you come up with some wild and crazy idea, go ahead and get excited--dream big, and then set some reachable goals and get started. Push yourself, celebrate the victories along the way, and don't forget to use Vaseline so you don't chafe.

Wait, forget that last piece of advice. I think the analogy kind of breaks down at that point.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Video Games and Publishing

Wrote a quick piece on a model used by independent video game developers that might be of value to writers.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I went golfing on Saturday. I go once a year with my in-laws, and while I’m not a huge golf fan, I LOVE to play golf with the Olsens. It’s always a rip-roaring good time with them.

For readers of my blog, you have probably heard my wild and crazy ideas about collaborative composition before—the idea of a group of writers working on a single piece of writing. I've blogged about both the benefits, as well as the challenges and drawbacks.

But while playing golf I was reminded of why I think it would work so well. I’m a horrible golfer, probably the worst one in the group. I putt OK, and my short game is decent. But my driving is well past atrocious. Laughable is probably the best word because that is what everybody did each time I hit off the tee—all good natured, of course.

But we played scramble rules. Scramble means that everybody tees off and then the group goes to whoever hit the best ball and then everybody hits from there. Between the six of us, none of us was that good. But combined we were amazing. I think we hit a two or three under par, and almost had an eagle on a par five.

A couple of the brothers were good at driving, and I hit a few nice lobs onto the green. When six of us are putting, there is a good chance that somebody will hit it in, and I think there were only two holes where we didn’t one putt it.

I think writing can be the same way. If you had six writers working on a piece of fiction, you’re going to get somebody with good description, somebody with a keen eye for plot or character development, somebody pithy who will be able to tighten things up, and somebody else to make sure the voice is consistent.

If I could rewind the clock 5 years when I first signed up for a Ph. D. in instructional technology, I think I might have changed my mind. Instead of going for the Ph. D., I’d go for an MFA in creative writing. I’d love to teach, and I think collaborative composition would afford some great scaffolding for writers practicing their craft.

Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to pull it off. In the mean time, I need to go hit a bucket of balls. My goal for next year is to have TWO of my shots be the ‘best ball’.

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Open Model

(Cross posted here) Writing a book is hard. Writing a good book is even harder. Writing a good book and getting published is crazy wild hard as a really hard diamond hard.

These are the steps you must follow:
  1. Learn the craft (estimated time, 10 years)
  2. Write short stories
  3. Send short stories to magazines
  4. Get short stories published
  5. Write a book (probably several month/years)
  6. Go to conferences
  7. Network
  8. Find an agent
  9. Try to convince said agent to read your stuff
  10. Repeat steps 6-9 about a million times without losing your ego, mind, or self esteem
  11. Sign with agent
  12. Wait for months/years while agent shops your book to publishers
  13. Sign with publisher

I've simplified the process, and probably left off a bunch of steps, but those are the basics.

But as I've mentioned on this blog before, thanks to technology we're seeing new models emerging. These new models aren't shortcuts to publishing; it still takes as much work as before. But the good news is if you put in the time, and master the craft, you've got alternative ways to attract attention. It is especially important to note that the new models are very much driven by merit. So if you really are a good writer, you're going to have an advantage.

One of the emerging models is the Free model. The basic idea is to give away your content, and make money in other ways. Musicians do this by giving away their music and then charging for concerts and CDs--yes, people will still buy CDs even if the music is free. Artists may do this by giving away digital images of their work, and then charging for a paper copy of their book.

But this model has never worked very well for authors. People just don't want to read in front of a computer. They want to do it in bed, or on the bus, or in their fortress of solitude.

But now we have the Kindle, the Nook, the iPad, the Sony Reader, and things are swinging in our direction. Now we too can give away our content, and make money in other ways.

How does it work? I'll tell you...but in a future post. It's late and I tend to be a boring person, so I'm calling this post finished (or am I just trying to hook you in?). Give me a few days and I'll a) outline how an author can give away content and still make a living, and b) show you a handful of authors who are already doing this.

By the way, this model is a great way for an author to break into the market, but it's also very effective for established authors to boot.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Work in Progress

I’ve been involved in an interesting writing experiment recently. Let me asplain.

Sometimes it’s helpful to describe your book using similar titles. So you might say, “This book is Gone With the Wind meets Harry Potter.” Sounds like a winner, right?

Well, if I had to explain my latest work in progress it would be 12 Angry Men meets World War Z. If you haven’t seen the movie 12 Angry Men before, then you need to stop reading this post right now. Well, not right now, because then you won’t know what to do. Here is what you should do. Go to Netflix, sign up for Netflix, rent 12 Angry Men, wait by your mailbox until it arrives, and then watch it. It’s such a great movie I’ll have to devote an entire post to it sometime.

World War Z is also a good book. It’s a book about a zombie apocalypse, and while my book doesn't have any zombies, it does have a similar way of telling the story. In World War Z instead of a protagonist or a rowdy but lovable group of sidekicks who stick together and sooner or later come in possession of an axe (there are ALWAYS axes in zombie books), the book reads like an NPR radio program. It is a series of interviews with people who survived the event. Each one tells their story, and by the end you undertand what happened holistically, not just to a group of people. It’s a very interesting way to tell a story.

So going back to my writing experiment, the general plot is a catastrophic event has occurred and anything electrical has been fried. Cars, computer, TVs—none of it works anymore. There is no way to ship goods, no way to communicate with other people, and society begins to fall apart. But before that happens, a group of 800 people leave Utah in an old fashioned wagon train, headed east.

However, I'm not telling the story in the usual way; I’m presenting it as a transcript of a court trial. The trial happens after the wagon train arrives at their destination. One member of the train committed a grievous crime against another, and as witnesses are called to testify, the story unfolds to the reader. The events of the trek are built through the testimony of the various members of the wagon train.

I call it an experiment because I don’t know if it will work. Since it’s a court transcript, the entire 17,000 words so far are 100% dialogue. There is not ‘he said’, or ‘she gazed out over the prairie’ anywhere in the book. This brings up an interesting dilema with regards to "show don't tell".

Show don't tell is something most authors are familiar with. Usually telling is bad and showing is good. This is an example of telling:

“You’re an idiot,” he said, angrily.

I’m telling you that the character is angry, but it’s not a good way to write. Sure, you know he’s mad, but there is a better way. Perhaps something like this:

John gripped the back of the chair until his fingernails dug into the hard wood. He could feel the blood rushing to his face.

“You’re an idiot,” he said.

It’s much better to show. However, what do you do when all you have to work with is dialogue, I can’t do either method! I can’t even say that somebody is mad, I have to show emotion simply through the dialogue itself.

I don't know if I can pull it off, but if nothing else it's been very good practice. I've been forced to really try to inject emtion into dialogue.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010


After the Storymakers conference, I couldn't help but start thinking again about all of the changes taking place in the world of technology, how directly those changes relate to us in the publishing world, and how often we as authors are completely oblivious to these changes.

So, what to do? Why...start a blog, of course. Here at Chicken Armpits I talk about anything and everything. My kids, my school, my books, my rash, my...wait, I don't think I've mentioned my rash before. Just forget about that. It's nothing...really.

So, I'm starting a blog where I'll only talk about technology and how it directly relates to the publishing industry, particularly authors. So...if you are a fellow author, or you're interested in that topic, please feel free to follow me over at