The Update – August 2018

The Update – August 2018

Last month’s update feels like it was a lifetime ago. July was such a ridiculously busy month. Here are a few things that went down:

  • I turned 35
  • Weekend trip to the coast for our 14th anniversary
  • Failed at finishing Camp Nanowrimo
  • Did the next round of edits for the Village Books Anthology
  • Slipped into a writer’s slump
  • and went on some hikes

I’m sure there were more things that I’m forgetting as well.

The Hikes

Let’s start with the hikes. I went on four of them last month. The first was the Ridley Creek Trail. This one was crazy. It is an unmaintained trail which starts near the headwaters of the Middle Fork Nooksack river and clambors up the southwest base of Mt Baker, eventually leading to a fire lookout at Park Butte. Apparently this is the long way to get to the fire lookout. At three hours in and around 1,500 feet of elevation gain in dense forest I turned around when coming to a small gully I would need to climb down than back out of. I was already pretty tired, and I still needed to make my way back to the car. I later learned that I was only another half mile from the end of the trail, but it would’ve been another two miles to the fire lookout anyways. I plan to attempt the shorter/easier route to the Park Butte fire lookout very soon.

I also hiked the local Rock Trail, here just south of Bellingham. This is a newer path that may as well be called the ‘Mile of Stairs’. Because that is what it is. It is one of the more interesting trails in the near vicinity that I’ve been on though. There are some massive sandstone rock cliffs and massive boulders that the trail winds around. At the bottom I made way around the back side of Lost Lake. I wanted to get to a waterfall marked on my map. I was a bit disappointed when I got there, since it was only a trickle running off from the lake. It was an extremely quite hike; I only saw a handful of other folks out there. Two of them were a couple of mountain bikers taking a quick skinny dip in the lake (that’s where I decided to head back).

The last hike was only a couple days ago. I attempted Heliotrope Ridge again. This is one that I’ve tried three times in the past, each time I was not able to make it to the end, which is an overlook view of the Coleman Glacier. The first couple times I was unable to get past the last couple creek crossings due to dangerous currents. The third time I took my son with me, and he dunked his boot and soaked his socks half way in. But this time, I made it! Those last creek crossings were a bit scary though. I used some water shoes to get past one, and on the last I dunked and soaked my socks. Luckily I brought a spare pair (which were waterproof) for the hike back. The image at the top is the view from the Coleman Lunch Bluff.

Celebrations

Yep, I’m now 35 years old. I’m not sure what exactly that means for me. I guess I’m finally getting to middle age. Do I have to accept that I’m “old”? Nah, that’s still years away. Right?

Also, Melissa and I celebrated our 14 wedding anniversary. For this we spent a weekend out in Forks, WA. We didn’t go out there for the vampires, but we went instead for the coastal beaches. On the way we swung by Hurricane Ridge, north of Port Angeles, as well. We drove up through the clouds, which cleared away at the last moment revealing the snow clad Alpine-like Olympic Mountains. The beaches the next day were awesome as well. We hiked down to Second Beach, just south of La Push on a Saturday morning. It’s a fairly short hike. The only downside is the massive piles of drift logs you have to clamor over at the end. Later that night we watched a fireworks show launched from La Push for Quileute Days from Rialto Beach. It was an awesome experience.

Writing

My writing ventures have really tanked this month. I just was not inspired most of the time. I’ve mostly cut out photography, though I do still love going on photo hikes. I’ve also almost completely cut out television and movies. This month career stuff has bled outside of work hours a bit, and the anthology edits took up quite a bit of time.

I’m still working to find a successful balance between family, career, writing, etc.

This all being said, Camp Nano in July was a failure for me. I got about 4000 words in at the beginning, but then I just stalled out. I think I will still carry on with the project, but I have some doubts about it and need to spend some time developing the idea. I need to evaluate that I truly am writing the things I want to write. Am I writing the things that I would want to read? This is a tough question, and one I need to make sure the answer to is ‘yes’.

This Month

This month is much more quiet. I should have a little more time to come back to my writing and dig myself out of that rut. I will also, most likely, go on a few more hikes and take a few more pictures. I am also catching up on a handful of reading. It is important, as a writer, to always be reading. And, I need to finish my final draft for submission to the Village Books Anthology. I think my story for this is the most polished one I’ve ever written. A ton of work has gone into it in order to get it to this point. And it does still have a couple warts, but I should be able to smooth them out. I’m hoping that it will get voted into the anthology. (Wish me luck!)

Until next time, you all have an amazing month.

Posted by Joe in Random, Writing, 0 comments
The Update – July 2018

The Update – July 2018

It has been another month and much has happened since last time I posted.

Chuckanut Writer’s Conference

The biggest thing being the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. This was the first writer’s conference I’d ever attended. I made a handful of new writer friends and met a few published authors. I attended quite a few wonderful talks, a couple of which were way over my head, others were amazing and ultra inspiring.

The highlights of the conference were the sessions involving author Jonathan Evison. I’ve not yet read anything by him, but after hearing his infections energy-infused sessions I feel like I could tackle and succeed at any number of novels. I ended up purchasing his book, West of Here and made sure to get it signed. He mentioned that this particular book has a divided audience. People either love it or hate it. I think I’ll like it since it is a century spanning story taking place out in the Olympic Peninsula. I’m always reading up on the Peninsula for my own story research, it’s one of my favorite obsessions.

Open Mic

I also achieved a major milestone at the Chuckanut Writer’s Conference. It was the first time I’ve ever read my own work, out loud, in front of an audience. I did this at the fiction open mic held after the end of the conference. The audience was small, and I don’t think any of them were really into my dark fantasy story setting, but I still consider it a success. Melissa and my son came to support me, and Melissa said I sounded good. I even felt like I did alright reading it. It felt nice to finally get over the hurdle of reading my work for an audience, and I sort of look forward to doing it again in the future.

Current Projects / Abandoned Projects

So, I’m just about done working on my short story for submission to the Village Books Writer’s Corner Anthology. I finished off the next revision yesterday and sent it off to the editors. I feel pretty good about it, and, if it doesn’t get in, I will definitely submit it to other publications.

My post apocalyptic future short story is also coming along. I sent my first draft to the rest of my friends who are also publishing in this joint self-published anthology. I’ve received critiques on it from my fiction work-shopping group and plan to start going through that feedback next month.

There is bad news though. For a couple years now I’ve been slogging away at a horror novel. I’m about 35,000 words in, which does not feel like very much at all. I think that my interests have changed since I started writing that story. Also I think I may have taken on too many main character arcs, especially for a first novel.  And so, I am currently planning on setting that project aside indefinitely. I’m keeping all of the notes, just in case I get the itch to give it another go in the future.

Camp Nano

Now that I have officially announced the abandonment of my first real attempt at a novel, I need to start a new project. After attending the conference I am itching to give a new novel a go. But I do not yet have a real idea of what it will be about. Right now the plan is to set it in the same universe as my post apocalyptic short story, as I have quite a bit of world building to work from. By the time you all read this I will be diving in, as I plan to write the first 30,000 words of this new project in the month of July for Camp Nanowrimo. This is like a mini Nanowrimo, but you don’t have to commit to a full 50,000 words and can set your own goal instead. A few of my local writer friends are doing joining in on the fun, and have also set themselves goals of 30K. So, after this month, hopefully I’ll have an update for you on the beginnings of a new novel.

Other News

In other news, I turn 35 this month. I think that officially counts as ‘middle-age’. I’m not really sure what that really means to me yet. Does it mean that I should be wanting boats and fancy cars? Because I don’t really have the urge to buy those things. Right now I’d really love to just have all of my student loans magically disappear and for us to own our dream home. But those things take time.

I think there is something more attainable for the shorter term. To be published. I mean, there is a high chance that I’ll have a couple short stories published soon in a couple anthologies. And that will be wonderful, my work will be out there. But, for one I’m pretty sure there is no payment, and for the other, I doubt there will be a ton of sales.

Really, all I want is to get my writing out there, and possibly make a little money from it. Not a ton of money, I know that the chances of striking it rich as a writer are slim to non-existent. Just a little bit would be nice. So, this year, I will focus on producing and submitting my work to different venues. We’ll see where that takes me.

Wish me luck!
Posted by Joe in Writing, 0 comments
June 2018 Update – Doing all of the things!

June 2018 Update – Doing all of the things!

Hello all of you folks who find me from across the interwebs! How are things going for you?

They are moving along nicely for myself. I’m still chipping away at a few different writing projects. I’m just about done with the first draft of a story for one anthology, and I’m working on a revision for another story for submission to another anthology. Once I get those done I will either go back to working on my novel, or do some more short stories. I haven’t decided yet. And, of course, I’ll let you know where you can get copies once available.

The fiction writing group I run at Village Books is still going well. By the time this has posted we’ll have met for our 4th meeting. It is an interesting experience facilitating a group like this. Facilitate really is the proper word, because I don’t feel like I’m controlling the group, I’m more leading the group along in order for everyone to get the most possible out of the experience. At least that is what I hope for. So far I’ve gotten positive feedback but I’m always open to suggestions on ways to improve the group.

In other news: in order to try and become more efficient with the use of my time, I’ve started using a ‘Bullet Journal‘. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a fancy way of using a blank notebook for personal time management. The basic system is great and I highly recommend it if you are in need of finding more time in your days. Mine is nowhere near as pretty as examples found across Pinterest. On there you’ll find beautiful hand drawn intricate layouts designed by professional graphic designers with washy-tape everywhere. Mine is very utilitarian and functional (I can’t draw). But I like it. In the past month of using this system, my little notebook has become an appendage, a second buffer storage for my brain. Maybe in the future I’ll share some of my more interesting pages on here.

Oh, and another plus of using a Bullet Journal is that it’s a great excuse to buy stationary and stationary accessories, ‘I tell you what!’

Posted by Joe in Random, Writing, 0 comments
May 2018 Update

May 2018 Update

Time is a precious thing. There are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, and so on. It is hard to find time for everything I strive to do.

Over the last couple months I’ve pared down greatly on blog posts and I even turned off my Patreon account. I’m hoping I can re-launch the Patreon again in a few months time, but for the moment I just do not have the time for it.

Right now my main focus, outside of family and day job, is running a new fiction workshop group, finishing a couple short stories for two anthologies, and editing a pile of stories for one of those anthologies.

Village Books Fiction 2 Group

I absolutely love the VB Fiction Group, but it reached a point to where it took over two months for the reading rotation to come back to you. Also, it happened to meet on the same night that to the local tech user group meets. For my day job I write code for a giant tech corporation, and it is important to network and stay up to date with industry standards in order to stay current.

So, starting this 2nd group has two benefits.

  1. Smaller group with faster submission rotation
  2. Better fits my schedule

We’ve had two meetings now with the new group, and it has been wonderful. The feedback has remained high quality and the other writers that have joined me are wonderful people. Though, I will miss the folks from the other group.

Anthologies!

And now for an update on my anthology submissions.

I’ve finished the first draft of one and submitted it for feedback to the editing group. So far the feedback has been positive. I’ve gotten some amazing notes on ways to improve the story. I’ve also learned that Kudzu doesn’t group out here in the Pacific Northwest.

I’m also in the editing group for that anthology and I have 11 short stories to provide feedback on by the end of the month.

I’m still working on the first draft for the other story. I wanted to have it done last month, but life got in the way. The current goal is to finish the first draft of that one in the next couple weeks.

Organization

With all of these deadlines and projects going on I decided I needed to revamp my time management tools. Starting this month I’m attempting to use a ‘Bullet Journal’. This is a super flexible way of doing a hybrid journal / todo list. There are so many beautiful examples of how people have customized there own Bullet Journals, but I do not have the drawing and calligraphy skills all of the folks on Pinterest have. Mine is super simple so far, just sticking to the basics of BuJo as laid out by its creator Ryder Carroll, with just an index, future log, monthly and daily logs, and a couple collections and trackers. Go here for more info on Bullet Journaling  – http://bulletjournal.com

Maybe after a few months I’ll share how I’m using my bullet journal.


Well, that’s all I have time for this month. Hopefully, over the coming months I’ll be able to return to a more regular posting schedule.

Thanks for stopping by!

Posted by Joe in Random, Writing, 0 comments
The Update – April 2018

The Update – April 2018

Another month, another update. It’s been awhile since my last post, I’ve not had as much time to create content for my site. Between work and trying to find time for writing projects I’ve had to neglect the blog. I]ve even shut down my Patreon for the month. But I have not been idle.

Posted by Joe in Writing, 0 comments
{Book Review} Swift to Chase by Laird Barron

{Book Review} Swift to Chase by Laird Barron

Before we get into this review I need to let you in on a little secret. Are you ready? Here it is. I may be a bit biased when it comes to works by Laird Barron.

There is a bit of history behind this bias. I first came across Laird Barron about a decade ago. Up until that point I'd only been reading Tolkien style fantasy and the occasional science fiction. At that time I was working at a large chain bookstore and I came across an intriguing book with a beautiful cover. It was so different from all of the other books around it.

This book was The Imago Sequence by an author I'd never heard of and published by Night Shade Press. Every other book was ultra glossy and they all looked just like the others, while this one had a gorgeous dust jacket printed on a slightly textured matte paper that made the different shades of absinthe tinted green stand out like a beacon among the gleaming rows of spines. Also, throw in the vague and unsettling image on the front cover. I had to have this book. So I used my employee discount and bought the store's only copy.

Up until this point my only real exposure to horror literature was a little of Stephen King's Dark Tower series, some Lovecraft, and Frankenstein back in high school. So the use of this level of nightmare imagery was something almost shocking. I'd never experienced anything like it before. It was new, exciting, and completely different, and it changed my tastes in fiction forever.

After reading this enlightening collection I began to search out other similar reading experiences and each time a new Laird Barron work came out I made sure to find a copy to devour. And this brings me to his most recent collection of short stories: Swift to Chase

Synopsis

Laird Barron's fourth collection gathers a dozen stories set against the backdrops of the Alaskan wilderness, far-future dystopias, and giallo-fueled nightmare vistas.

All hell breaks loose in a massive apartment complex when a modern day Jack the Ripper strikes under cover of a blizzard; a woman, famous for surviving a massacre, hits the road to flee the limelight and finds her misadventures have only begun; while tracking a missing B-movie actor, a team of man hunters crashes in the Yukon Delta and soon realize the Arctic is another name for hell; an atomic-powered cyborg war dog loyally assists his master in the overthrow of a far-future dystopian empire; following an occult initiation ritual, a man is stalked by a psychopathic sorority girl and her team of horrifically disfigured henchmen; a rich lunatic invites several high school classmates to his mansion for a night of sex, drugs, and CIA-funded black ops experiments; and other glimpses into occulted realities a razor's slice beyond our own.

Combining hardboiled noir, psychological horror, and the occult, Swift to Chase continues three-time Shirley Jackson Award winner Barron's harrowing inquiry into the darkness of the human heart.

{back cover copy}

My Thoughts

With this collection Barron is trying something new. The stories of his previous three short story collections all seemed to take place in a similar universe. These stories still seem to have a slight connection with his past work, but, at the same time, you can tell he is tackling new territory; and new styles as well.

Having said all of that, I'm not sure if this collection was as good for me as his previous work. But, this is not necessarily a bad thing. He has said in recent interviews that he is trying to branch out his writing styles to appeal to more than just the niche 'weird fiction' market, and this collection has some traces of that. There are some stories that verge on slasher thriller and there is one that is futuristic science fiction. If this means bringing more people to the wonderful worlds of Laird, I'm all for it.

I did absolutely love the story Frontier Death Song. This one was about a man who comes across the mythical Wild Hunt in progress while in the wilds of Alaska. (Wild Hunt – it is bad luck to see the Wild Hunt, click here to read more about it on Wikipedia) The Wild Hunt was also a major story component of another recent story I've read and enjoyed: The Brotherhood of the Wheel. I think I may have a thing for folklore based horror.

Conclusion

Do I recommend that you pick up a copy of this book?

Yes, very much so. Bit with a caveat: don't read it as a collection of short stories. Instead read it as a single story arc covering the plight of a group of people connected to a series of events in an Alaska town. Having finished the book I find much more value in the stories after the fact while thinking over who the all connect. I think this book would be a very enjoyable one to read a second time, and possibly more enjoyable than the first read.

If you are interested in reading some of Laird Barron's work I would suggest picking up a copy of his first collection The Imago Sequence as well as this one. You will not be disappointed.

Also be sure to check out his blog.

Posted by Joe in Reading
Monthly Update – March 2018

Monthly Update – March 2018

Well, another month has passed and things are crazy as usual. Somehow I always seem to be more and more busy between my different interests. I find myself having to give up other hobbies to focus on my career and only one or two other items.

Photography Winding Down

You've probably already noticed that I've not continued my photo of the week series.

I've nearly stopped practicing my photography as of late. Thought this may be a seasonal thing. With the sun setting so early, and being engrossed with my different writing projects in the evenings photography has gotten pushed to the corner. I have started to upload my work to stock photography sites to try and earn a little money on what I have done. And I plan on taking a passive approach to taking new photos. By 'passive' I mean I will just take my camera along with me on little trips and take some pictures if I am inclined and not feel like I have to take amazing photos every day.

Family Olympic Peninsula Trip

With that being said, I did get a few nice pics a week back. We took a little family trip out to the Olympic Peninsula and spent a few days at a small fishing resort in the off season before prices starting going up. On the first day we did a hike out to Shi Shi Beach. Some say that this is the most picturesque spot in the Pacific Northwest, and I agree. It was a two hour hike through occasional rain, heavy winds, and extremely muddy conditions, but it was worth it.

The next day we went down to Forks to get my son some new boots, since his were still soaked in mud from the day before and visited Rialto Beach before heading back north and hiking out to Cape Flattery.

I've got more pictures, but I haven't had a chance yet to edit the rest.

Fiction Workshop

In other news, the fiction workshop group I'm in reviewed the second chapter of Shadows Beneath Us, the horror novel I'm currently working on. The feedback was amazing and, as usual, I came out of the meeting energized to continue working on the story. I do have a ton of improvements to make on that chapter and all following chapters based the feedback received.

From this meeting I learned that I need to focus on maintaining tension. For each scene and detail I need to ask myself if it adds to the tension of the story. I horror story without tension will be lacking.

Finding time to write

Here's what sucks though. Even though I'm all energized to get this writing done, I'm finding myself with less and less time to actually write. Between my day job, making sure I am still up to date with current industry practices, and normal family life, writing time has dwindled. To make up for this I've started to whittle back on my other hobbies (photography, hiking, guitar, etc). Things should start to settle down soon.

Writing Distractions!

It also doesn't help that I keep getting distracted from my main writing project. After the little family trip to the peninsula I want to write a ton of stories set in the gloom of the Olympic Forests. The logging industry has me enamored at the moment. Also, I want to throw together a story for possible entry in a locally published anthology. I am seriously considering setting aside Shadows Beneath Us for a bit to try a couple side projects.


I think this is all will ramble about this month. I hope it was of interest to you. I will report back next month! Bye!

Posted by Joe in Random, 0 comments
{Review} – The Fisherman by John Langan

{Review} – The Fisherman by John Langan

Synopsis

In upstate New York, in the woods around Woodstock, Dutchman's Creek flows out of the Ashokan Reservoir. Steep-banked, fast moving, it offers the promise of fine fishing, and of something more, a possibility too fantastic to be true. When Abe and Dan, two widowers who have found solace in each other's company and a shared passion for fishing, hear rumors of the Creek, and what might be found there, the remedy to both their losses, they dismiss it as just another fish story. Soon, though, the men find themselves drawn into a tale as deep and old as the Reservoir. It's a tale of dark pacts, of long-buried secrets, and of a mysterious figure known as Der Fisher: The Fisherman. It will bring Abe and Dan face to face with all that they have lost, and with the price they must pay to regain it.

Back cover copy

My Thoughts

First of all, just look at that cover! It's flarkin beautiful! I want that painting framed and on my wall!

Seriously though, this book was amazing. As I've said recently in my review of Gemma File's Experimental Film, I love good slow burn read. I regret taking so long to get to this title. It's recommended by my favorite author: Laird Barron. You can see his sparkling review of it at the top of the front cover.

But why did I love it so much? Well, it was like this book was written specifically to target my interests. It's a terrifying story involving the occult/paranormal with a slight Lovecraftian flavor yet elevated high above the slush that makes up most genre fiction. It's not just a book about monsters, nor is it about hacking and slashing of bodies. It truly is a telling of horror that happens behind the scenes of the world and of the plight of those few who are forced to face it in some fashion or another.

Even the most fantastic elements of the story, though they are definitely beyond fantastic, do not stand out as they would in most speculative fiction. Langan has the ability to make these unnatural things fit into the world of his story with ease. He makes you truly believe every word he puts down and think about how you, as the reader, fit within the world of his story, and thus into the real world itself.


I could not recommend reading this book more. I borrowed this one from the library, but I plan on adding a copy to my personal library in the near future.

February Crazy Awesome Stuff from the Internet!

February Crazy Awesome Stuff from the Internet!

It's that time again. What time? Time for crazy awesome stuff from around the internet! This is the post where I share with you three ultra interesting things I've come across online in the past month

The Links!

First up I give you a reminder of why the internet and technology is ultra scary.

Meltdown and Spectre, the big PC security flaws hidden in your devices, explained

Your super fast and new devices could be easy targets for nefarious cyber folks


Next I give you the dystopian future of big brother watching your every move and grading you on your level of good citizenship. Say good things about the government and your 'citizenship score' goes up and you may have access to better loans and government programs. But if you say disparaging things your score goes down. This could affect your ability to buy cars and even sway the decisions of possible suitors. No self respecting citizen in good standing would want to risk dating someone with a lower 'citizenship' score.

This sounds like something right out of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley or 1984 by George Orwell; but it is the very near future for China:

Big data meets Big Brother as China moves to rate its citizens


And finally, here is a fun article on the intelligence of dolphins:

Why dolphins are deep thinkers

Posted by Joe in Random
Dark Tower Re-Read – Part 4: The Mist

Dark Tower Re-Read – Part 4: The Mist

Today I am sharing my thoughts on The Mist, a novella originally collected in his Skeleton Crew short story collection.

If you haven't already, be sure to read the previous posts in this series.

Summary

From the back cover: It's a hot, lazy day, perfect for a cookout, until you see those strange dark clouds. Suddenly a violent storm sweeps across the lake and ends as abruptly and unexpectedly as it had begun. Then comes the mist…creeping slowly, inexorably into town, where it settles and waits, trapping you in the supermarket with dozens of others, cut off from your families and the world. The mist is alive, seething with unearthly sounds and movements. What unleashed this terror? Was it the Arrowhead Project—the top secret government operation that everyone has noticed but no one quite understands? And what happens when the provisions have run out and you're forced to make your escape, edging blindly through the dim light?

Screen Adaptions

My first experience with this story was the movie that came out sometime in the 2000s. It was such a great film, and has one of the most gut punching endings I'd ever experienced in film. I won't spoil it for you. Go watch it for yourself, you won't be disappointed. (You can thank me later.)

As for the recent television series, I've only seen the pilot and cannot comment on the quality of the remaining episodes. The pilot did look intriguing, just not intriguing enough for me to sink hours of screen time into.

My Thoughts

This was a fun and fast paced read. I loved all of the creatures and the atmosphere of this story. But the crown jewel of this terrifying tale is one very horrific character: Mrs. Carmody. So, all of these townsfolk are trapped inside a small supermarket together by a mist filled with dangerous creatures. You would think that the man eating bug things from another dimension would be the biggest threat. But nope; Mrs. Carmody handily takes that title in this one.

In the beginning she is just the local crazy lady who just goes around spouting off biblical apocalyptic drivel left and right. This whole story is worth the read just to experience the feeling of her slowly turning the desperate locals against our hero and those that stand with him. She is like a mind controlling evangelical itching to pin the blame for their catastrophes on someone and thirsting for vengeance.

The creatures and all of the monster fighting is fun too, but that crazy lady takes the cake.

The only real problem I had with the book is one scene that felt really out of character for the main character and hero of the story. You'll know it when you read it yourself. (No spoilers here.)

Dark Tower Connections

As per connections to the Dark Tower books,  there only seems to be one. The Arrowhead project (the secret military project that leads to the mist and all of its monsters) is probably the same thing as the 'thinnies' from the Dark Tower books.

Conclusion

This is a great book, worth checking out. As is the rest of the Skeleton Crew collection this novella was originally published. For some classic King, be sure to give these a read.

Posted by Joe in Reading