My Ideal Work Day

Let’s do some dream vocalization, shall we?

For your reading pleasure, my ideal work day. Please share your ideal work day in the comments!

  1. Wake up at 7AM.
  2. Write 1500 words.
  3. Lift weights etc. for an hour.
  4. Shower and breakfast.
  5. Write for another hour.
  6. Take a couple Uber passengers on my way to that day’s PI (private investigator) job.
  7. Do the PI job: follow someone, testify, provide security, investigate a case.. whatevs.
  8. Lunch with Annemarie.
  9. More PI job and/or writing and/or Uber. Whatever the day needs or I’m feeling.
  10. Home. Putter around the garden or house, do laundry or some daily chore, and get dinner going.
  11. Eat dinner.
  12. Goof off with Annemarie and the kids.
  13. Write/edit a bit.
  14. Watch some TV/movie/story thing.
  15. Off to bed.

As I look at that 15-item list, my heart leaps. One day, my friends. One day I will bring this to pass. Bit by bit, it is unfolding even now.

All right, your turn. Tell the world your ideal work day.

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Fix It!

I don’t know about you, but I think Kenan Thompson of SNL fame is one of the most talented people they have right now. And as I consider the terrible tragedies that happen around the world: Kenya in 2015, the refugees from all over for the last decade, the miasma in the middle east, Newtown, and most recently in Orlando, it’s understandable that people get like this guy:

We see terrible things and we have good hearts and empathize with the awful pain of the victims and their friends and families and there’s an undeniable problem that surely we can solve. Surely.

The thing is that we all see the malaise of our ill society, but we can’t name it. We try to blame it on things though– smart phones, the internet, Republicans, Democrats, religion, lack of religion, extremism, apathy, big houses, busy lifestyles, central planning, the pride cycle, guns, not enough guns, not enough freedom, not enough regulation, entropy.. and whatever the villain in your world is.

But it might be nice to, for once, just name the malaise. Diagnosing the problem is the beginning of effective treatment. Anything else is just symptom treatment– far too often with placebos.

The malaise is lack of connection.

Think about the people you hold dear. That list probably begins with your family. If it doesn’t, I’m sincerely sorry and I hope that changes one day. For most, the list of the people we hold dear begins with our family. After family, our list tends to include friends from high school or university, and people from work. We feel connections with them.

Why is that? What qualifies individuals to be on the list of people we hold dear? What gives us tender feelings toward others? What makes us love them on at least some level? Because if we can figure out why we feel connections with people and how, through doing that, love for them builds in our heart, maybe we can find a way to spread that and maybe start to fix the malaise.

Think about the last connection you made. The last time someone went from stranger to human person and perhaps even from human person to acquaintance or friend. Was it on the bus with the driver who seemed like he couldn’t find the brake pedal until the last moment? Was it on the commuter train that got stuck behind a freight train, delaying you and your co-passengers something like a half hour? Did you happen to meet somebody’s eyes and make a wry comment that got a smile or laugh? Did you strike up a conversation about the shared unpleasant experience?

A few days ago, I got to my train station with about two minutes to spare. My normally packed platform was empty– but the usually empty platform across the tracks was full. Crap. I had to get across the tracks to get my train, since it was immediately obvious the train was on a different track this morning. I started walking fast to the crosswalk.

A young woman with dark eyes caught up to me. “Sorry, excuse me. Where does the train going north come?”

I smiled at her. “Normally on this side, but not this morning apparently.” I explained what was happening and she kept pace with me to get across the tracks before the train came. And we chatted a bit as we got down to where I was going to wait for the oncoming train to stop. In my head, my internal jackwagon was telling me I had planned on listening to my book so I should end the conversation. But it was nice to talk to someone during what was usually the bizarre ‘civilization’ experience of being packed closely with other people, but not connecting to any of them.

And so we chatted. I asked her what she did for work. After thirty minutes, I saw Griz (short for Grizelda) for who she was. Not a stranger at all. She was very familiar: really driven, really smart, totally determined to improve her life, disappointed in guys of her age and their passive and lame approach to dating, and a big reader. I’ve got nieces like her.

I gave her my writer business card. We went our separate ways, a connection made. Nothing weird or awkward or disloyal was involved. Just two people talking and becoming, if not friends, familiar to each other– opening the world a little more for each other.

I’m so disappointed in myself that this is the only time I’ve ever made a connection like that during a year of commuting on this train. At least 200 trips– probably 400– made and I only told my inner jackwagon off and talked to someone one time.

I’m part of the malaise of lack of connection. But that day last week, I got to be a part of fixing it, just a bit.

Some people will say this isn’t an ‘actionable’ approach to solving tragedy and gun violence and worse.

Those people are flat wrong. It’s not about the tools used to do evil, it’s about conquering evil. Love conquers evil and making connections with people is how we love them. We’re having shared experiences all the time– so the opportunity to make connections is always there.

I’ll commit to talking to people, even though it is so very hard for me and even typing these words has me in a bit of a cold sweat. I’m going to see if I can have the courage to say hello to the person across the way when I sit on the train home. And maybe I can’t fix the big problem, but I’ll fix my heart on others and maybe help them feel connected to people around them. And maybe that will help fix it.

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It’s On Us, Guys

I dadded pretty hard today. I worked from home due to a kid being sick and ended up witnessing one kid being aggressive with two of my other kids.

We don’t tolerate that stuff. We don’t try to compel fear in others. It’s a big fat double Nope around here.

So I told the kid (I have five boys and one girl, by the way) that a certain privilege was totally revoked until he dealt with the things right. Later, that kid and his sister got into an emotional argument about something to do with her spending a lot of time and effort on building a structure on a map that he and his older brother had built. They wanted to destroy the structure she had built.

First off, I love that they were arguing over gaming. It’s just a game, but seeing how vitriolic some things have become over males and females in the gaming world, I’m glad to see all of my kids having literally zero issue over the girls/boys playing video games thing.

Anyway. I guided the girl and boy to try again and to see if they could talk rationally to each other and figure out a solution. It took a few tries, but they made progress. Then I heard the boy say something like, “I know Minecraft gamers way better than you do.”

So the next time I needed to step in and adjust their approach and coach them some more, I told the boy, “I heard you say that thing about you knowing Minecraft gamers way better than she does. Whether that’s true or not– and you have no way of knowing that– you don’t talk down to her. One, because she’s a human being and your sister. Two, because she’s a girl and for freak’s sake women and girls have had thousands of years of that and they don’t get that crap in this house and this family. So be extra careful.”

He nodded, apologized for his language, and moved on.

Later, we chatted about his behavior from earlier. Man, this young man is so good, so completely good inside. He needed coaching, sure, to get his heart and mind where he was being honest with himself and seeing his motivations for his behavior, but when he got there– what a sweet guy. He realized he’d been trying to make someone else scared of him, that he was trying to inspire fear. And it hit him so hard how contrary that is to who he is and the good he wants to bring to this world. He got really remorseful and emotional and immediately wanted to make it up to the other person and tell them he would never do that again.

See, it didn’t matter, when it came down to his actions, his motivations, and who he was in that moment, what the other person had done to hurt his pride. Or to inspire that temper in him. What mattered in the utmost was his choices and how he treated the other person– no matter the provocation.

Don’t get me wrong– someone attacks you, you defend yourself and by golly end that conflict instantly with precise, effective action.

Aggression otherwise is unacceptable. We don’t force. We don’t go around inspiring fear. We don’t do violence. Not in this house; not in this family.

And for the love of God in Heaven and His children on Earth, we don’t rape. We don’t do anything sexually aggressive. We don’t make a person afraid. We don’t make a person uncomfortable around us because of our wrong actions. We don’t ogle. We don’t leer. We don’t touch inappropriately. We don’t allow inappropriate touching either.

It’s about respect and mutual belief that people own their bodies and we have no ownership of any aspect of another person. I won’t get into the covenant of marriage here other than to say it’s not ownership– it’s equally shared partnership.

We’ve taught our five boys and our one girl all of that. We’ve taught them that the rubbish that they’re sometimes taught about how modesty is all about what is being worn is wrong. Modesty is in action and thought. What a woman wears doesn’t give me license to do a damn thing. What she wears doesn’t excuse thoughts that I allow to make nests in my brain. What she wears doesn’t give me license to judge her, report her to some governing body, or expect something from her.

We teach our boys and girl that we own ourselves– so we own our actions. Period. We own how we treat others. And treating others with anything other than consideration, love, kindness, warmth, helpfulness, humor, and other virtuous traits is wrong. And when we make mistakes we learn from them immediately.

Because it’s down to us, guys. We have to make a world where women can be and feel safe. Now, I hope women go ahead and arm themselves with guns and learn how to use them so that any man that tries to take advantage of her– well, that it’s the last mistake he ever makes.

But we, guys, in partnership with women, have to be proactively, diligently, and relentlessly building a world full of men who don’t do awful things to women and girls. That means we:

  1. Don’t defend sexual aggression of any type: catcalls, rape, and anything in between.
  2. Stay vigilant to perceive any situation that could make a woman fear wrongdoing and make it instantly safe.
  3. Listen when women are talking about their experience. It’s different from ours and has been for thousands of years.
  4. Stop complaining about sexism toward men. For crying out loud– surely we can take it, can’t we? Not kidding. Sure, let’s fix it where we can, but buck the frak up.
  5. End the idea that there are male games/toys/activities and female games/toys/activities. My daughter’s a gamer through and through so back off because I will freaking cut you.
  6. Not tolerate any sexually inappropriate or aggressive talk or behavior in our male friends. We must have the courage to shut it down in our circles of friends.

Go ahead and complain that women can be rapists too. Then shut up. That’s not the point and it has literally nothing to do with this.

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Head Down in Battle

Friends, I’ve been quiet here for some time now, mainly because I’ve bee really busy and have been doing most updates via my Facebook author page. If you haven’t been there and graced it with a ‘Like,’ now’s a good time for that.

annemarie

Resistance has been rearing its malicious head a lot lately– and I’ll comment more on that in a later post– but I’ve been fighting as much as I can. I’ve been struggling with my first real bout of fairly debilitating depression– but I’ve come out the other end. I think I might have a bit of the clinical stuff– but it’s not too bad. That said, combine what I do have with exhaustion, frustration at the day job, and the hardest fight I’ve ever had to regain my health and I’ve been in a difficult funk for some time. Luckily, I have this delightful lady by my side and she’s just the best.

Fortunately, I’ve been able to plug away at stuff and I have a few things to report on.

First off, I’m doing a reading, chat, and signing of Beat on June 15th at University Bookstore in the University District in Seattle. Here’s the event page. Come on out!

It’s okay if you can’t make it to that one, by the way, because I’m doing another at Third Place books in July. Still finalizing that one, so I’ll post details about that in a bit.

Also, my publisher, Future House, is doing a cool Kickstarter campaign to get print copies out of a slick anthology with six great scifi stories. See that here. We have ten days and are at almost 50%. We’re behind a bit, so any help such as pledging or sharing would be really appreciated.

Next up, I’m about to put my new novel, The Seer, up in Kindle Scout. For that to work out, I’ll need your vote starting in about two weeks. I’ll put all the details of how that works in that post in ten days or so. Here’s the cover though, done by the excellent Carter Reid of the Zombie Nation webcomic.

Seer-hi-res

The Seer is my entry into Daron Fraley’s awesome Thirty-Six multi-author series. In short, mine follows Nathan Eckhoff as he uses powers given him by the ancient cloak of Joseph to race around the world and stop a cursed terrorist from murdering thousands.

I’ve put two chapters of The Seer up on Wattpad. Go catch a sneak peek!

So in addition to the signings and getting The Seer ready for Kindle Scout, I’ve just re-commenced, after a 2-year hiatus, my search for an agent. I’m sending around excerpts of my newest project, Showdown at Serpent Ridge, which I will say nothing about other than it is freaking awesome and everyone’s going to love it. It will change your life. Seriously.

I also wanted to make a quick report on 2016’s LDS Storymakers, which is the last Storymakers I’ll be attending, unless I wind up presenting or teaching there. It was really lovely and full of encounters with truly beautiful people. I had committed to myself that I would fight my anti-social tendencies (I’m not making that up to be cool, I really do actively keep myself away from social situations. Mainly because I have plans. Plans to be alone and do my own things.). My commitment went well. I met loads of people I hadn’t met before and they’re just the best. I had two authors I respect a lot, Josi Kilpack and Jennifer Lunt Moore, actually reach out to tell me they read and loved Beyond the Cabin. That was humbling and just so great. I even sold more than one book at the mass signing. (I sold six.)

Here’s a quick plug for Brandon Sanderson, AKA the busiest writer on the planet. He was at the mass signing (had the biggest line of course) as well as gave the big lunch keynote. Which was fabulous and about balance. And he for sure needed to get out of the signing so he could get back to his family or one of his countless projects, but he meandered through the emptying room to talk to writers like me who look up to him a lot. He’s a good guy and is best friends with a friend of mine, so I wasn’t surprised. But I was impressed that he was able to show sincere interest in a bunch of other writers and their work- even though I’m sure he’s completely swamped with his own stuff. It was a generous thing to do and he didn’t have to do it.

One final thing, and this is a long way out: I’m presenting at the Kanab Writer’s Conference in October. I’ll be leading a workshop on the anatomy of action scenes and will present about working for dreams. Kanab is where I went to my one year of public high school and it’s also where I found my faith for the first time. I’m excited to go back.

I’ve learned a lot about myself this past year. Especially in the past month. Mostly, I’ve learned that my fundamental passion is storytelling. This isn’t news, really, but it’s important to me that I acknowledge it. Telling stories, both by writing books and in my day job as a training guru, is where it’s at for me. That’s what I need to hold fast to. That’s what I need to fight for. That’s the doctrine I need to dive into and preach in my professional life.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. Now go read.

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The Shamrock That Was Patient Zero

Or: Why my wife is just the best.

Today, after church, I arrived at the area that my family convenes in prior to our exfiltration to the van. B, who is child 5 and has a personality the size of a continent, ran toward me excitedly brandishing a shamrock he had received in his kids’ Sunday School class.

The shamrock glittered and shone like the sweaty, fevered face of a diseased demon. It was covered in that wicked contagion called glitter.

As you can no doubt imagine, I threw myself backward rather ungracefully, forming my two index fingers into the sign of the cross at the cursed object my son had. “Where’d you get that?” I asked, rather appalled.

“My teachers made it for me,” he answered, somehow unaware of the vile contagion he was holding. “It’s so cool!” How has one of my children made it to the age of seven without understanding the truth of glitter?

“It’s covered in glitter,” I said.

“It’s so shiny!” He swung it my way. I dodged, almost screaming like a terrified vole at the sight of a plummeting falcon.

“Keep it away,” I said. I tended to a few other kids, then we all filed off to the van. In the van, I realized the youngest child had the shamrock. I got in, saying, “Burn it with fire!”

My kids wondered what I was talking about. As I drove us toward home, I said, “Glitter is a contagion. Once it gets on you, it never leaves. And if it gets near you, it’s getting on you. It’s worse than ebola.” I know, I’m a terrible, insensitive person. But it’s also true. The kids laughed, but you know they were thinking, “It’s funny because it’s true.”

My wise nine year old said, “That shamrock is patient zero.”

He has never spoken truer words. Meanwhile, my incredibly courageous wife had secured the shamrock from the 5 year old and set it on the van’s deep dashboard, quite far down and out of reach of little arms. I didn’t realize how smart she’d been until ten minutes later.

We continued to drive home and my wife and I had a conversation. It went something like this:

Me: “Somebody actually made that and gave it to B.”

She: “True story.”

Me: “I guess people just live different lives. Paradigms are so different all around the world.”

She: “What do you mean?”

Me: “Well, some people, like the ones who made that glitter-crusted shamrock, allow glitter in the home. And since they allow it in the home, it’s naturally everywhere. So the only world they know is a glitter-filled one.”

She: “Yup, true enough.”

Me: “So they don’t know what it’s like to be uncontaminated by glitter.”

She: “Or cheese.”

[Pause for laughter.]

Me: “So it’s like two different worlds. And we live in the one without glitter.” I consider this for a moment. “We have no-glitter privilege, don’t we?”

[Pause for laughter. But it’s funny because it’s true.]

She: “We do.”

And the rest of the drive home was filled with our kids doing their intricate games of hand characters, raucous voices, and inconsiderate giggles.

We pulled into the driveway and everyone was getting out of the car. The five year old had apparently taken ownership of the glitter-scabbed shamrock. He said, “But the shamrock! I need to get it!”

I laughed wickedly. “Go ahead and try to reach it.”

He didn’t, knowing full well his woefully stumpy arms weren’t long enough for the Mr. Fantastic-level task.

Before he could launch into a whiny cry, back came my heroic wife. She took him in a tight hug and said, “W, come here.” She CARRIED HIM OUT OF THE VAN AND LIFTED HIM UP. “See what a nice decoration it is for the van? You can see it so nicely out here.”

And the 5 year old agreed.

The shamrock, patient zero of the glitter infestation that tried to invade our home, is still safely contained deep on the van’s steppe-sized dashboard. Because my wife is brilliant.

So tell me, just how far are you willing to go to keep the scourge of glitter out of your home?

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