Category Archives: It’s All About Me!

Oh, that’s right, I have a blog!

I keep forgetting that I have one of these things out in the world. So, a quick miscellany.

First, I want to point out the the first issue of the rebooted Daikaijuzine is out, featuring some fantastic fiction and poetry. Go over and check it out.

Second, I’m going back to library school! People who’ve known me since before, oh, 2004, know that I originally enrolled in San Jose State University’s MLIS program back in 2003. I let my enrollment lapse a couple of years later because, if I’m being honest, I was intimidated by one of the classes I was taking. Since then, I’ve regretted not completing the program (especially since I’d just volunteered to work on a website with JAMES FREAKING BURKE, he of the Connections TV series fame from a few years back). A few years back I checked in and discovered that since it’d been over seven years since I’d dropped out, all of my grades had been wiped out and I’d essentially have to start over. I shrugged then, but this time around I decided to give it another serious go. So, here I go. Since the last time I was in the program it’s gone entirely online, which should be interesting. Classes start in spring 2020.

Third, the writing progresses aplenty. I’ve begun outlining A Plague of Ghosts (working title), my Big Project which is both a World War One epic and a space opera. I’m not yet sure how I’m going to get both of these things working together but I will. I’m really looking forward to writing this one, even if I am intimidated by it. Draft one will be started in November, as my NaNoWriMo project. (Remember NaNoWriMo? Yeah, I sort of passed on it these past two years, but I’m raring to go again.) I’ve been reading plenty of WWI history, and plenty of space opera to get myself into the mood.

The other writing news is that… Well, nothing. I have yet to make a professional sale, which I’ve been aiming for for some years now. I have been sending out submissions, of course, but getting no bites. Ah well. These are all stories that I feel are in a complete stage. I have several others that I am still working on: “Sauromancy”, “Anamet”, and “Sparrow Court” are among them.

Oh, I’ve also gotten solid feedback on two novels that I have written, Padma and The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster. These I will polish up in my copious spare time and then move on to the next stage of novel-hood, whatever that may be.

Fourth, a health update: For the past couple of years I’ve noticed a strange twinge in the top of my left foot that happened every once in awhile. I finally went to a podiatrist who said she thought it was an impingement, possibly caused or exacerbated by my flat feet. She gave me some special insoles for my shoes, and when they didn’t help she gave me a boot to wear. I wore the boot for three weeks or so, and while it helped a bit, it didn’t stop the pain entirely. The podiatrist pronounced herself baffled and decided to order an MRI. So that’s coming up. For now I get to wear the boot “for the foreseeable future”. No walking or running or any sort of high-impact exercise. Which means I will be moving the recumbent stationary bicycle into the guest room so that I can use it without bugging Jennifer.

Oh, I also sprained my right ankle. That was about a month ago. It still hurts. The same podiatrist said it would hurt for 2-3 weeks, then feel “weird” for a couple of months after that. I guess it doesn’t hurt so much as it does “feel weird”. Color me annoyed. I’ve been limping on both sides for some time now.

Um, I think that’s it.

Hopefully it will be more than five or so months before I get around to updating again. October is almost here — it’s my favorite time of year — so I hope to have some spooky content up here soon.

Until then, be well my friends.

Priorities 2011

These days, it seems like it’s fashionable to simply not make New Year’s resolutions. Why, just today one of my Facebook friends declared that 2010 was so awesome that she wasn’t going to make any resolutions for 2011, just try to top 2010. To which I say, Bah. I was not making resolutions before not making resolutions was cool.

For awhile I avoided making New Year’s resolutions just because I thought January 1 was a very arbitrary date to make a significant change in your life. I figured any date would do, so I chose March 25 as my “resolution” date. Then I decided that resolutions in general were kind of silly. Why should one choose to change a single behavior or habit when what everyone really needed was a complete personality overhaul (I was pretty cynical when I was in college). Finally I just decided to give up on resolutions, New Year’s or otherwise, and just sort of go on with my life.

Then a couple of years ago I decided that what I would do is take the new year as an opportunity to revisit my personal priorities and set some goals. I guess that’s the same thing as a resolution, though, isn’t it?

At any rate, here are the priorities I’m setting for 2011. They’re not listed in any sort of priority, so each of these priorities has more or less equal… uh, priority. And I’m putting them online so that you all can help me stay honest.

Health: I’ve tried — oh, how I’ve tried — to make my physical health a priority over the years. Making my health a priority means not just exercising (taking advantage of the gym membership that Jennifer and I purchased back in October) and eating right, but also sleeping regular hours and, heck, even brushing my teeth and flossing regularly. So let’s see if 2011 is the year when I take my health seriously.

Writing: I do take my writing pretty seriously, but this year I want to take my commitment to the next level. “But what in the world does that mean?” I hear you cry. It means making a concerted effort to market myself as a writer in ways that I haven’t done so in the past (and this will actually mean doing some research first to figure out how to do this), and to simply making more time to actually write. Also, keeping five active submissions going at all times. Yeah, that last one’s going to have to start in February, after I get some manuscripts ready to go. Also, I want to make this blog a higher priority.

Faith: I won’t talk about this one too much, simply because it’s very personal to me. Suffice to say, I plan on going to church more often. And on volunteering with some local charities.

Relationships: …by which I mean my relationships with various people in my life: family, friends, co-workers, and so on. I have this horrible tendency to let my friends drop off the radar when they’re not in my immediate vicinity for too long. Thus, I have friends in different parts of the country that I haven’t kept in touch with, and that I haven’t even talked to for months. Facebook has helped with this, but it’s certainly no replacement for phone calls or even just plain old fashioned email. Same with family, which is a shame. So I want to make maintaining my relationships (and building new ones) a priority for this coming year.

Work: Not much needs to be said about this, and I don’t think I need to work on this one very much. I have a good, secure job that I enjoy. Basically I don’t need to increase my focus on this priority, but I can’t really let it slip either.

Geekery: Isn’t that a great word? But what do I mean by saying that I want to focus on “Geekery” as a priority for the coming year? At first I thought this meant just being more of a nerd, and engaging in nerd culture. I mean, if someone can resolve to engage in their own national or ethnic culture over the coming year, then why couldn’t I focus on the culture I belong to? But then I thought about it some more and decided that what this really means is ongoing learning and engaging. I plan on learning new programming languages, learning more about history, engaging in more local cultural events, and so on. Geekery — in my mind, at least — means getting involved with the world around you and ongoing learning. Oh, and spending more time interacting with fellow geeks.

And in addition to these priorities, I have a couple of core values that I plan on working in to my life: namely, integrity and creativity. So, as I approach each priority, I plan on doing so with those values in mind.

What’s really fun is that I can find ways of working on goals that meet more than one of these priorities. For example, my goal of writing a web-based Manuscript Submission Tracking tool in Python for myself falls under both Writing and Geekery, while a goal of exercising more with my friends is both a Health goal and a Relationships goal. And a goal to get involved with, say, the social committee at work is both a Work goal and a Relationships goal. Pretty snazzy, right?

Now that I’ve got all that written down, it seems like a lot. But I don’t think it really is. Most of these priorities are repeats from last year, and it’s easy to keep them in mind anyway. The big part for me comes when I review my priorities and set goals on a regular basis. I’ve already set a few — weight loss, software to write, manuscripts to revise and finish, and so on.

Anyway. Thanks for reading this far, those of you who did. If you have any thoughts or suggestions, I’m wide open to hearing them.

Office Remodel

Jennifer and I have been planning on renovating our home office ever since we moved into this house three years ago. When we first moved in, we had a cheesy setup involving an extra dining room table, two laptops, and a couple of bookcases. We eventually bought a couple of cheap desks through Craigslist, desks which had originally been part of a church youth group center or something and which they sold to us for $75 each or so. Those, along with the bookcases we’d both been holding on to since the 90s, contributed to a decorating scheme that we called “Late Twentieth Century College Student Eclectic”. To give you an idea of what this looked like, here is a picture of Jennifer’s side of the office prior to the remodeling:

…and here’s a picture of my side of the office:


To our credit, each workstation was… functional. Jennifer’s overflowed with knitting books and various papers, while mine was covered with books, manuscripts in various stages of revision, and toys. And, of course, our computers were prominent on each.

This year for Christmas we decided that our gift to each other would be a remodeling of our office, to make it functional and — dare we imagine it — attractive. So the weekend before Christmas we went to Ikea and purchase seven large boxes worth of office furniture. The cats found them fascinating:

The whole time we were working on this I had Jonathan Coulton’s song “Ikea” playing in my head.

Anyway, assembling furniture is fun! Isn’t it? Sure it is. And after much pounding, drilling, and swearing, our new workstations were finished. The old desks we put up on Freecycle, and we made sure they went to good homes.

So here is Jennifer’s new workstation:

See? It’s all purdy. The desk closes up completely so the casual observer can’t tell, just by looking, that we are both terminally disorganized.

And here’s my side of the office:

Complete with a cat that shoots green laser beams from its eyes!

The bookshelf is cool because the bottom is a file drawer that rolls out to reveal the manuscripts that I have been working on (the file drawer also makes a swell lurking place for the cats). On top of the desk you can see the knitted Dalek that Jennifer made for me for my birthday a couple of years ago. And on the wall next to my bookcase you can seem the zombie-themed calendar that Jennifer got me for my birthday this year. (Every year I get a few more zombie-related gifts for my birthday… Can’t imagine why.)

At any rate, you have now seen where I sit and write… or, at least, where I sit and procrastinate. Exciting, isn’t it?

Deep in the vault

My writers’ group met last night, and since we had no manuscripts to review this month, we decided to simply have a small potluck get together, and probably just chat for awhile. One of our members suggested that we all bring in some of our earliest writings, just for the sake of a laugh or an appreciate nod, or possibly a nervous glance or two. So since I was working at home today I took my afternoon break to go through my oldest writing files to dig up a series of stories I wrote when I was eleven to thirteen years old about a private investigator named Fizziwinker.

I don’t know where the name Fiiziwinker came from. I didn’t know when I was a kid, and I certainly have no clue now. I think it’s a cool name, though. In fact, these stories are full of names like that: Fizziwinker; Foithbinder; Whicklewrecker; Brad Bockley, Thirty years later I still have fun saying these names out loud.

Fizziwinker worked alone, but he was also part of an international organization of private detectives called the Polties. Every now and then he would get together with one of them or even a team to solve crimes together. And while lawyer Brad Bockley was usually the criminal mastermind behind the mysteries, I did at one point have the criminal mastermind turn out to be Robert Phalen, the head of the Polties himself. Not to blow my own horn, but I think that my little thirteen year old head was pretty darn sophisticated.

I wrote nine of these stories overall, including a few that are sadly missing completely:

  • “Fizziwinker and the Case of the Missing Turkey” (1978) was written for a class assignment, and is gone forever. I remember that it was heavily influenced by the Encyclopedia Brown mystery stories, though.
  • “Fizziwinker and the Case of the Teddy Bear with a Hole in its Head” (1978) is the oldest one I have. In this story, mischievous lawyer Brad Bockley attempts to intimidate the widow Whicklewrecker into signing her inheritance over to him, by shooting her son’s teddy bear. The most frustrating thing about this story is that the last page is missing, and I have no idea how it ended.
  • “The Maltese Chicken” (1978). I don’t quite recall what this one is about.
  • “The Mystery of the Paw Print in the Jell-O” (1979). In this one, Brad Bockley returns with a nefarious plot to take over the world with his army of mutant toy poodles.
  • “The Mystery of the Empty Suits” (1979). Another one which I remember writing, but I have no idea what it was about.
  • “A Scandal in Disneyland” (1980). My sister Leona suggested the title and the plot for this one, but again I don’t remember the plot. I do remember that this is the first one in which the Polties show up.
  • “The Fortune Cookie Scoundrel” (1981). Another missing one. In this one, I believe Brad Bockley tried to take over the world by inserting depressing fortunes into fortune cookies, thus depressing people into submission.
  • “The Theft of the Declaration of Independence” (1981). Another one whose plot I forget, but the title is probably self-explanatory.
  • “The Hopeless Diamond” (1981). Obviously a missing diamond caper.
  • “The Secret of Foithbinder Manor” (1982). In this one, Mrs. Whicklewrecker inhereits a house from her late husband. Unfortunately, the house appears to be haunted, so her plans to tear it down to replace it with a parking lot are foiled. It turns out, though, that a mysterious figure named Joe Feegan was behind the haunting, because he knew that Abraham Lincoln had originally owned the house. Mrs. Whicklewrecker decides not to turn the house down. And in a startling twist, it turns out that the house is really haunted after all.

In addition to the stories above, I also had a novel planned, The Mystery of Captain Hawk’s Treasure, but I never got around to writing that.

I tried getting these stories published in venues like Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, but, unsurprisingly, they never sold. I couldn’t understand why. At the time I thought I was writing serious crime fiction, possibly with a comic element or two, but serious overall (did I mention I was eleven when I started writing these)? When a friend of my grandmother’s said that these stories were among the best children’s stories he’d seen I was outright insulted.

For years, these stories have sat in my files, unlooked at and unorganized. Looking back at them now, though, I’m kind of wondering if there might be a future for these stories after all. They would need some editing, but just maybe my grandmother’s friend was on to something after all.

Another post on writing

At a recent meeting of our writers’ group, my friend Leonard Pung (who, by the way, is currently attending Clarion, the lucky dog!) referred to my twenty-eighth story of the week, “Code Zombie“, as a “feathered fish”. When I asked him what he meant by this, he told me it’s a term used in genre media. Essentially, it means a work of fiction that can’t quite decide what genre it’s supposed to be; or, more technically, when the target audience reads it or views it, they think it’s for another target audience. In the case of “Code Zombie”, he couldn’t quite figure out whether it was supposed to be a comedic romance story with some elements of horror, or a horror story with some elements of comedic romance.

Later, another conversation with another member of our writers’ group made me think about genre fiction versus literary fiction. I also thought about how some writers, whose works could technically be considered horror, fantasy, or science fiction, often find their books marketed in the general / literary section of the bookstore, rather in the genre you might think. For example, Christopher Moore (currently my favorite writer), whose books could be considered horror or science fiction or fantasy by some folks, usually end up in general or literary fiction, because that’s the way he writes. He writes mainstream fiction, fiction about regular people, with elements of genre fiction in them. His novels Bloodsucking Fiends and You Suck might be about vampires, but their real focus is the characters and the relationships between them. They’re novels about people who just happen to be vampires, rather than novels about vampires who just happen to be people. The difference is subtle, but it’s the difference between the book being found in general / literary fiction, or in the horror / fantasy / science fiction section. It also means a difference in sales (though I, of course, being of a higher caliber morality than most people, don’t care about the money).

So, because it’s all about me after all, I found myself thinking about what kind of fiction I want to write. I enjoy horror fiction, of course, but I could read a dozen horror novels and not have any of them stand out in my mind; but a good character-driven story, well told, with warmth and sensitivity and humor, will stand out more. Such stories are harder to write, I think, because focusing on human beings and their relationships is more difficult than focus on than what monsters do. Vampires? Werewolves? Zombies? Tentacled monsters from beyond the stars? Those are easy to write. A couple whose been married for forty-seven years and now dealing with the husband’s rejection of their gay son thirty years ago while zombies march across their suburbs? Much harder.

The world is full of broken, funny, damaged, wonderful people, and I think I’d prefer, in the long run, to write about them. And the zombies that surround them, too. But mostly about the people.

Indulging my vanity

While browsing through my hard drive today trying to ignore this stupid headache (which has, at least, responded to a bit of directed meditation), I came across an interview I did with Insight, a local news radio show aired by Capitol Public Radio, Sacramento’s NPR affiliate. I’d love to say that the interview was a detailed insight into my creative processes and a must-listen for anyone who wants to know the Full And Complete Story Of Famous Author Richard S. Crawford, but it’s actually a story they aired on November 30, 2006 about National Novel Writing Month. Still, in case you want to hear the sound of my voice and want to hear what I’d be like reading an excerpt of one of my own novels (specifically, The Return of Deacon Dread, which honestly has yet to see the light of my green editing pen), please give it a listen.

[audio:http://www.mossroot.com/worlds/audio/rcinterview.mp3]

Huzzah!

The editor at Andromeda Spaceways just sent me a preview of the artwork that will be included with "A Most Heinous Man".  I love it.  Naturally I printed up a copy and taped it onto the wall over my computer, and set it as my desktop wallpaper.  I’ll probably set it as my desktop wallpaper at work tomorrow as well.  Can you tell I’m excited?

ARGH!

It seems that every single geek oriented podcast I listen to as well as every single geek oriented blog I read is all a-twitter over Dragon*Con.  For days my Twitter feed has been full of people posting messages about how they’re packing for Dragon*Con, setting up book signings for Dragon*Con, arranging panels for Dragon*Con, or just planning on all the parties they’re going to go to at Dragon*Con.  It’s like they’re rubbing my face in the fact that the housing market in Sacramento tanked approximately three hours after we bought our new house, and now no one wants to buy our old one, so we can’t afford to go this year.  And this year’s chock-full of great guests, including Feedback and Major Victory!  Dammit.  Stupid economy and its burst bubbles.

Well, to all those who are going, I hope you have a splendid time, and that you die in a fire.

(Oh, and 2,035 words added to The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster over the past three days.  Over 50% of them were original to this draft, too!)