On Dreams

Dreams. It’s hard to know what to tell my kids about following their dreams. I spent years off and on following my dreams. I lost all of our money years ago pursuing a dream of being a financially stable business owner. I spent a few years working full time as a freelance writer and trying to make writing be the focus of my work life– and what supports the family. I failed.

It was so disheartening to feel like I was on the right path, again, doing what I loved, again, and then failing. Again. And my family was growing and I needed to be supporting them and we were so lucky that Annemarie had found a great job she could get paid to do while working from home.

So after grieving the defeat of another dream, I went back to work. And really put my head down after making a serious plan with Annemarie. We pushed at that plan and it came to fruition ten months later with me landing my first real job with actual benefits that wasn’t teaching in a classroom (which I love, but will never pay me properly). Things got better as we stayed focused and worked with real purpose. Daily effort towards our goal lifted us- and it was awesome.

Then extraordinary and life-changing 2014 happened and we made it through. We were changed. Broken and rebuilt better. And off we went on this Amazon and Washington/Seattle/but really a small town adventure. It’s harder than I thought it would be. It’s so taxing and I feel so exhausted sometimes and my bed is only a few steps away. But not yet. I have writing to do because making a good living as a writer is the only real, important dream that hasn’t come true for me yet and I don’t have any reason to not make it happen. (I only had one other dream by the way: have a family.)

So, I’ve been thinking about dreams and work, probably because I feel like I’m almost always doing it. I guess there are a few things I used to imagine about having my writing dream come true that I want to comment on.

  1. Publishing a book will be the culmination of my writerly hopes and dreams!

It’s not. It’s the beginning. Actually, it’s not even the beginning. The beginning was when I chose the career dream of being a well-paid full-time writer. Publishing my first book was wonderful and a dream come true but it’s a milestone more than anything else. And like all milestones, it’s green and metal and you pass it pretty fast.

Okay, the passing it pretty fast thing is the truth. It goes and you realize.. wait, I have more work to do.

So back to work I go.

2. Everybody I know is fully invested in my dreams!

Not true. Many people I know are somewhat invested in my dreams because they’re wonderful people who just never seem to run out of space in their beautiful hearts. And if they can spare a ‘Like’ on Facebook, that’s really actually great of them. If they comment, that’s very sweet. If they buy one of my books- that’s near saintly. And reviewing? That’s worthy of deification.

This isn’t to say you’re on your own. You have love and support and people who won’t give up on you.

But you are on your own. You want this? You want to reach your dream? You’re on your own. (Unless you get ridiculously lucky- and frankly that luck might just ruin you as a person.) Your fingers type those words. Your feet run those miles. Your hands build that business plan. So draw on your support when you can, but remember- you want this thing. It’s entirely up to you.

So it’s back to work.

3. I’ll be satisfied if I can just get a book published!

Nope. Not a chance. You’ll be so giddy you jump out of your skin. It will hit you multiple times and it will feel surreal and it will be immensely gratifying. You should pause and soak in the beautiful validating experience. Own it, recognize it. 

Then accept that the feeling passes. You’re not satisfied and you shouldn’t be. You see those bestsellers? Those people who work their butts off to write stuff that is sometimes better than yours and sometimes not as good?

You want to be that. You want to do that.

So it’s back to work.

What I’m saying is that dreams are a spark in life. They’re not something to be ignored or shuffled aside for practicality’s sake. We should follow our dreams. I think we must, that by doing so we stay young and maintain the ability to see and feel wonder and awe and pure excitement.

But the saying that if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life is popular garbage. Realizing dreams is non-stop work. It’s daily homework. It’s exhausting and what is spare time, anyway?

It is work, it is work, it is work. It’s delicious exhaustion. It’s a passionate daily grind. It’s a boring daily grind sometimes too.

I will tell you that choosing the work that I do with my life, the place I put my best energy, is the greatest feeling ever. I look forward to the day that it is my only career. But until then, I’m going to keep working daily. I’ll take appropriate breaks and I’ll enjoy the ride, to be sure.

So I guess I’ll tell my kids that dreams can become reality. Those dreams becoming reality looks a lot like work.

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Salt Lake Comic Con 2015

I am going to be at Salt Lake Comic Con 2015. That would be this week.

I’ll be there on Saturday only.

I’m both excited and terrified. If you know me, you know I’m really hesitant about going into crowded places. I get really antsy when in a press of people. And I’ve heard that Comic Con is packed!

But I’ve always wanted to attend one, because the people who attend are my people! And not only do I get to attend my first Comic Con ever, but I also get to be there as an author with my first traditionally published book!

There are not enough exclamation points, so I shall stick to the ones I’ve already used.

I’ll be signing at the Future House Publishing booth on Saturday from 9AM-11AM and from 3PM-5PM. Copes of Beat will be available for purchase by you and your lovely friends, enemies, and roommates. I will sign all of them. I will also, upon special request, compose a personalized haiku for you if you buy a copy of Beat and ask me to sign it for you.

To find the Future House booth, look for the huge silver robot- the Book Bot.

I’ll see you there!

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Share Bravery and Win a Signed Copy of BEAT

You can be the winner of the first copy of Beat signed by me- with my new author signature. Yes, I changed my author signature so it would be more cool. Cooler. More coolest.

Here’s a picture of my daughter showing you exactly where your name will go:

My daughter and my book. Two of my loves.

My daughter and my book. Two of my loves.


Take luck!

Anyway. It’s easy. Just share this contest post somewhere on social media- Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest- I don’t really care. Then add a comment to this post.

Not just any comment, though. First, tell me where you shared this post. Then answer this question in as many or as few words as you like:


What is something you have done that took courage- real courage? Something that scared or intimidated you. Something hard- that you had to push hard to beat or overcome? Maybe you were like Nik in Beat and had to overthrow a smiling, lying tyrant. Or maybe you were scared of heights but you bungee jumped into a bowl of pudding anyway.

Write your answer in your comments. You get one entry for sharing this post and commenting.

I’ll give you more entries if you share this post again and then comment again in the same way! Limitless entries! Game the system! Woohooo!

Seriously, game the system and share everywhere. When the contest ends, I’ll put all the entries into a randomizer and we shall see what the randomizing gods determine.

Anyway, the contest will go until Saturday September 26. Why? Because that’s the day I’ll be signing at Salt Lake Comic Con and I’ll announce the winner from the con! Yes, I’ll send it to you. Yes, I’ll send it anywhere in the world. Yes, I’ll pay for postage.

Better get to sharing. And remember: First share this post, then comment on it telling me where you shared it and telling your story. That’s how you get entered into the contest!

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To the Closed Border Jackwagons

First off, I really shouldn’t make an ad hominem attack on people who support closed borders. But right now, I’m deeply upset and I don’t think I can write this without spitting a little.

I am cutting back on my political activism and commentary. There are a couple of things I can’t let slide though. And I fool myself enough to think that people will listen when I have something to say.

I posted an article about the immigrant tragedies happening in Eastern Europe right now, including a devastating photo- you might have already seen it- of a toddler whose drowned body washed up on a Turkey ( I think) shore. One of my dear friends for 20+ years argued with my post. I am going to compile the thoughts I shared with him here in this post. For those who would like the other side, I’ll share his thoughts in bold, followed by what I said.

Here’s the article on AmericaMagazine.org. And here’s the shattering image:


Every time I see it, something in me weeps and fury ignites. This cannot be allowed.

So here’s the text of my initial post on Facebook:

I’m sorry for this. But screw you Donald Trump and all you other closed borders jackwagons. THIS is why you’re wrong. THIS is why we need to make legal immigration easier.

We’re talking about PEOPLE. Yes, I’m shouting. I can’t think of a better thing to shout about.

My friend had this to say:

Absolutely not! My wife immigrated legally as do many others. Living in the U.S. Is NOT a right but an enormous privilege! Illegal immigration is wrong and needs to be stopped. That child is dead due to illegal actions of his guardians. End of story!

He has a point- that child is dead due to illegal actions of his guardians. Saying that’s the end of the story is like saying Harry Potter had one book of 100 pages in its series. I would break any law necessary to keep my family safe from murderous forces. Any law.

Anyway, I said this in reply (I removed his name):

That’s what I’m saying. Of course it isn’t a right to immigrate anywhere. No person anywhere has a right to move to someone else’s property or a right to the service of someone else. Freedom of association and property rights all the way.

They want to go to safe places with opportunity. The USA is at the top of that list. So why do we make it so hard for them to come here legally? Why is our immigration process so ridiculously hard, specifically for people who don’t get lucky enough to marry an American citizen?

People want to come to the USA because it provides so much good- that’s fantastic. How do you stop illegal immigration? Make the laws clear and enforceable and make it easier for responsible, sincere people to get here legally so they can live productive, industrious lives.

My friend said this:

I can agree with you, but the illegal immigration must be curtailed first

And my reply:

Fine, curtail illegal immigration.

How? Build a wall? That is factually stupid.

We can curtail illegal immigration by clarifying the laws, removing the stupid ones, and then deploying proper resources to enforce the reasonable laws that remain.

After that, what? Deport all the illegals? That is factually impossible. And awful.

Of the 11.3 million illegal immigrants in 2012, 8.1 million had or were looking for jobs. They’re productive members of society with families- scrabbling for a better life. In a country that is set upon a hill, a light to the world, where opportunity and upward freedom is real. Starting some non-lethal pogrom to root out all of these people and send them packing is an abomination. And what’s more, it’s counter to our church’s stance- for good reason.

Now, deporting those illegals who break the law and are lifetime criminals: committing violent crime and never showing interest in being productive people- they put themselves on the radar and they are probably the ones you want deported. Fine. Simplify that process too.

Now back to this child. That’s a three year old child who died, terrified, drowning, and having lost all of his family as a result of evil actions in his homeland. Don’t you think maybe we as a people should be reaching out and lifting up these folks? I understand and accept that people die and it’s tragic. That’s a component of this temporal world.

But I do not accept that a bloated government with bloated and ineffectual immigration laws should be given the ability or mandate to go around ruining productive lives and sending people ‘home,’ all while keeping those in deep need away. Screw that.

And then my friend’s argument stopped. He said something kind of silly after and I think he knew that. I’m not going to share that here. I love my friend and respect him greatly. Neither of those feelings changed after this discussion. I think he’s wrong; he thinks I’m wrong. (He is wrong and I am right.)

Do I support amnesty? What does that even mean? We made it so gosh-awful hard to come into this country legally that well-meaning people had to break the law to come here and live productive lives. I think the USA’s laws bear a lot of the blame for that. How dare we say people can’t come here, but then take advantage of their labor and their political leverage? I say we call it even. Let them be. Give them a path to citizenship. Be humane and wise- make good laws and enforce them.

End of story. (But it’s not. Perhaps the USA could also stop going around sowing conflict as we force our way of life down others’ throats. That might help bring peace. I’m not saying it’s all the USA’s fault. It’s patently not. Those who commit genocide and kill innocents are responsible for their actions- from the beginning to the end. The USA is absolutely responsible for an environment that seems to breed these people.)

What do you think? How can we change our laws, specifically, to make things better? What would you do on the USA’s border with Mexico?

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Interview with Kevin Nielsen, Author of Sands

Kevin Nielsen is the author of the recently released Sands, published by my publisher, Future House Publishing.

Sands, by Kevin Nielsen

Sands, by Kevin Nielsen

This is a cool book, guys. It reminded me a bit of Dune, but more than that it reminded me of The Blue Sword, which is part of Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown series. Also, the world is so tightly realized and textured that it was nearing par with Brandon Sanderson’s world in The Way of Kings.

What I’m saying is that this is well-crafted stuff.

Kevin and I decided to do an interview exchange. He asked me some questions about Beat and I asked him some questions about Sands. I will warn you that this was two authors who love the craft kind of geeking out about stories they love. So this got a little long. That said, there’s great stuff about the craft, from world-building to language and from ideas to execution.

Here you go!

1. Did you find inspiration for the world of Sands from any specific other authors or books?

Most people immediately think of Frank Herbert’s Dune when they think of desert environmentsHowever, I didn’t draw on Dune itself as inspiration, at least not consciously. The novel concept began with the genesauri monsters, which were inspired, in part, by the chitauri in The Avengers movie – the environment then came as a natural consequence of what the genesauri could do and the effects that would have on any climate.  The rest of the world itself came together in pieces, drawing on bits from multiple sources (visits to the aquarium and looking at eels, trips to the Museum of Natural History at Thanksgiving Point to look at the model I used for the marsaisi, living through sandstorms in Arizona when I was younger, etc), but mostly as answers to questions I’d ask myself regarding consequences of previous decisions I’d made about the world. That’s usually how a world builds for me, a concept and then pondering the consequences of that concept until a world or setting unfolds.

2. You use pretty interesting names and language terms throughout Sands. As a guy with a Linguistics degree, I want to know if you had any rules to how names and language worked.

There were some rules, though they are loose.  Sands is the first book in a series wherein the past history of the world itself unfolds slowly within each book.  Many of the names (think the extra “h” in some names or the “shufari” term) derive from some language systems of the past which have been mostly forgotten over the centuries.  Some of the linguistics are based loosely off Portuguese, which I speak fluently, so I did pull from modern linguistics as well, just not English.

Language is a living thing, so not all the names and terms follow the same linguistic pattern (or any linguistic pattern) as those descending from past cultural laws because the language has evolved and is evolving.  So, yes and no.  Some of the origins of the language(s) gets explained and/or heavily implied through the rest of the series.

3. Your perspective and dialogue are really tightly crafted, with oaths and comparisons drawn from a richly textured world. Things like, “Trust is more precious than water,” for example. What was your process to honing this story so it was so tight like this?

World-building is where I start when I craft my stories.  I have notebooks I carry with me at all times in which I outline my ideas for world-building concepts. Once I have a few concepts mulling around in my head or noted in my main little notebook, I jot them down in another notebook (by hand) and flesh them out some more.

Those concepts and ideas take even more shape as I write and sometimes seem to simply come as a direct result of exploring the world through the eyes of each character.  Each point of view reveals a new facet of the world in ways I may not have thought about before.  This is one of the reasons why there are multiple POV characters in Sands.

A lot of the dialogue and “oath” tightness also comes from a speech by Richard Feynmann called, “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.”  Though the speech itself has nothing to do with writing, it reminds me that a story is in the details, in the little things that make up “the bottom.”  For me, the tightness in language and dialogue are what make up the world.  The sand, the monsters, etc, those are the big things, but the language and the in-world references, the names, even the expressions (like the specific passage you quoted), are what make up the feeling and the texture of the world.  It shows how the characters within the world perceive it, which gives the world a sense of character in and of itself.  You can learn a lot about a culture by how they speak and especially how they “fake swear.”

4. I’m assuming Sands is the first in a series. Would you characterize it as epic fantasy? If so, what kind of promises does epic fantasy make to its readers and fans?

Yes, I would characterize Sands as epic fantasy.  More precisely, I would probably call it introductory epic fantasy.  It is the first book in a series, which is currently planned out to be five books altogether. Epic fantasy does come with some inherent promises, the first of which is an unspoken agreement to provide internal resolution within each installment in the series as well as resolution in the series as a whole.  This creates some challenges, but I’ll address those more in the next question.  Another one of the promises is that all the various storylines (since there are usually several) will come together at some point and relate to one another.  This creates a third major promise to the readers and fans, that there will be some measure of suspense to the novel, some puzzles to be figured out for which clues and breadcrumbs will be left throughout the story.  In my own series, there is a fourth promise, a promise that the story will grow more complex as it progresses through each installment so that the final resolution will have greater resonance.

5. Along the same lines as #4: What challenges do you think are unique to epic fantasy? Any advice for a writer trying to find her or his way through the first in their epic fantasy project?

Epic Fantasy has one major pitfall which comes from the series aspect of the majority of epic fantasies.  Continuity and consistency.  I put the two of these together since they are inseparable in epic fantasy.  As part of the promise of epic fantasy there comes the understanding that the overarching plot will stretch from the first book to the last, but will also have an internal plot unique to the particular installment (book 1, book 2, etc) which will garner resolution at the end of each unique book.

This relates to my main piece of advice for a writer who wants to wet their toes in epic fantasy.  As much as I am not a very good outliner, epic fantasy needs some measure of cohesion and consistency.  If you don’t outline, this will mean a LOT of revisions to get the consistency correct and the plot to work.  However, something that is a MUST is an “in-world” encyclopedia of terms, phrases, expression, etc, including their origin and any deeper context to them that may come up in later books in the series.  Craft a world rich enough to have its own problems and the story will evolve consistently because it will behave consistently.  If you craft an arrogant character well enough, you’re not surprised when that character reveals their arrogance through their actions even when you’re not specifically trying to make them do arrogant things – it is simply a part of their nature – the character has a life of its own.  In the same vein, if you construct an internally consistent world, you’re not surprised when the world continues to reveal awesome, consistent bits of information about itself throughout your story even when you’re not specifically trying to doing additional world-building – it is simply a part of its nature – the world has a life of its own.


If you made it this far, awesome. Now go buy his book! Also, you can find his interview of me here.

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