Spring 2020

Spring 2020

My goal this year was to be more vigilant in keeping up with this page and my writing in general. That has not happened. Back in February I attended Boskone in Boston and ended up falling into an illustration gig instead, which is awesome and very exciting!

I haven’t done Illustration in any serious capacity, beside my book covers, in probably twenty years. It’s also a children’s book which I’m working on so that is also very different than what I’m used to. So far it’s been very fun and extremely rewarding. It’s nice to be able to brush off some old skills, also a bit exhausting (in a good way). I’m hoping to have that wrapped up in the next few weeks since I’m working on the finished pieces now.

I also have the third book in the Strand series that I should be working on but I have been finding it difficult to be productive these last few weeks. I find myself mindlessly tabbing through social media and news websites even though I know there’s really nothing on either of them that I want or need to see. Being cooped up in isolation hasn’t bothered me very much since I work from home but the worry and anxiety that everyone is emitting seems to be seeping into my psyche and giving me a constant feeling of unease. “The tension is palpable.” is how one of my friends put it and I have to agree.

Today, after staring blankly at my laptop screen (Oh yeah, I also got a shiny new gaming laptop a month or so ago, which was nice and long overdue) for almost an hour I decided two things. 1. that I needed to set up a nice long playlist and 2. write something, anything. The first point about the music is that I work much better when I have music playing. it helps block out other shit and keeps me focused. As for the second point. I decided to tackle trying to catch up on some of my website stuff since that has been lagging far behind lately.

I’m going to finish up this post and then start working on one of the travel sections of this site. The trip that was planned for France at the end of this month has been cancelled and thinking back on some of my other trips will help mute that blow a bit. I’ve also been working on photo editing and posting a bunch of my travel pictures on Instagram the last few weeks so if you read this and want to check it out you can find me at Donchase315

Other than that I’ve been washing my hands a lot, taking a bunch of naps and probably gaming too much. I’m hoping the weather gets nice and warm soon so I can motivate myself to go out and do yard work. I never in a million years would have thought I’d look forward to mowing my lawn.

Stay safe all,

Don

Arisia 2020

Arisia 2020

Its that time of year again when I get my annual invitation to the Arisia sci fi convention that’s held in January usually at the Westin waterfront hotel in Boston. Someday I hope to have a lot more invites to a lot more conventions but this is something nice to look forward to every year.

I’ve got the hotel all booked for the weekend and i just have to finish up which panels I want to be a part of and then I just sit back and wait until they tell me how many I have to plan for. Last year I got 1 so I’m kinda of hoping for a few more this year.

I always enjoy going to Arisia, I don’t always remember them all that well but when I do I always have a good time.

It’s almost Star Wars time again!

It’s almost Star Wars time again!

I read an article earlier that quoted J.J. Abrams as saying that Rian Johnson “Didn’t really derail,” the star wars trilogy with the last jedi. Of course all the fanboys went crazy in the comment section about how Luke had changed and how Rey is a mary sue and all the SJW crap blah blah blah. All those dumb issues aside, the story was just badly told. 


1. “Their ship is smaller and faster so we can’t catch them but they also can’t get away from us either.” WHAT? I’m sorry what did you just say? I’d have instantly murdered a first officer that said that to me if I was Kylo. what kind of nonsense is that? If we can’t catch them then they can get away, go throw yourself out an airlock. Which brings me to my second point.


2. Leia gets sucked out into the void of space, the force kicks in and she miraculously flies back to the ruined bridge and pounds on the door to let everyone know that shes survived. the scene cuts there and shes safe in the medical bay. HOW, how did you get her inside? if the door opens to the vacuum of space long enough to get her in then anyone on the other side of it is also going to get sucked out and NOT have the force to save them. Now there are ways to explain this and I actually just thought of one as I was writing this. but instead of explaining it in any way shape or form, Rian instead gives us a 45 minute slow speed chase through outer space because somehow you can be too slow AND too fast all at the same time! 


3. In the opening scene, bombers fly in and drop bombs on the imperial ships. Now I get that he was probably ordered to come up with a new type of ship and had to work it into the story but for fucks sake can you at least please try and come up with some plausible way that bombs FALL in zero gravity instead of just saying “Oh its just a fantasy story.” Oh, and while you’re at it, maybe not show us a bombardier earlier in the scene covered head to toe in protective gear to keep him safe from the rigors of being exposed to open space followed by then showing us the pretty sister heroically doing her job with no protective gear while she stands over an open bomb bay door that leads to nothing but the cold empty void of space so that she can somehow get the bombs to FALL IN ZERO GRAVITY at the exact perfect second that they needed to.


These are just the top three issues I have with the storytelling of this movie. I can easily think of three more off the top of my head that have nothing to do with character development or any of the agendas they may or may not have been pushing. 
I really enjoyed the homage that JJ abrams paid to the original trilogy in the force awakens and I was really looking forward to some original shit from the last jedi. I can understand wanting to tell a unique story but throwing out logic and simple physics doesn’t make for good storytelling it makes you look stubborn and ridiculous. I definitely don’t think I’m the best writer in the world, but I know for a fact that if someone was paying me that much money to write a movie, I sure as fuck wouldn’t turn that illogical piece of shit in. END RANT.

Have a great weekend all!

Winter

Winter

Thankfully, the end of winter is coming somewhat soon. There were no dragons or white walkers. That shouldn’t have made me sad to type, but it did. On that note, it does mean that the new, and last, season of Game of Thrones is just around the corner as well, which will be fun… hopefully. It hasn’t been a particularly difficult winter here. I am aware that could change at any moment, and now probably will, since I’ve said this. Bad or good, I don’t do particularly well during the winter, I never have. My whole being seems to want to go into hibernation in like the middle of November until it starts to get warm again (like I’m sure many people do). I won’t go so far as to say I have seasonal affective disorder (I might, but I also might not). I just don’t like winter.

It’s getting better though, the last two winters have been amazing compared to almost all my previous winters. I noticed that the better I feel, in general, the easier it is to handle the lower energy and general crappieness of gray, dismal, cold days, where it gets dark by 4 PM. I am, by no means saying I’m super healthy or energetic these last couple months, just better than I have been for the past 30 years or so. Back then, I used to just stay inside as much as possible and felt horrible whether it was because my back had seized up from the cold damp weather or my knee wouldn’t work and I worried constantly about falling on the ice and breaking something, anything, or just because it was shitty out and mentally I didn’t want to deal with it.

There is a point to all of this rambling, kind of. I was scrolling through Facebook earlier today and I saw that one of my friends was a bit annoyed that they had a list of things they had wanted to get accomplished this week but hadn’t gotten through it because the weather was crappy and they just didn’t have the motivation to finish the list. To their credit, they had accomplished some of it, which is more than I can say that I would have gotten done a few years ago. Anyway. they were disappointed but soldiered on. In the comment section below the post, a bunch of their friends had chimed in about how they too were having trouble staying motivated after a long few months of winter.

I’m sure there are people out there that aren’t adversely affected by the long winter months in some way or another, but I’m betting they’re far fewer than those that are. A lot of the time though it feels like it’s just us. like we’re failing somehow and everyone else is doing just great. They’re not. It was nice to see the comments on my friends post today, that so many had agreed and almost all had positive comments or helpful advice to keep pushing ahead and words of encouragement.

Which brings me to the point. In case you’re reading this and feeling the way I was talking about above. You’re not alone. A ton of people hate the long dark months. We’re almost to the other side. It’s already light out at 5 pm instead of 4. The winter is almost over and we’re all going to be feeling much better once the spring kicks in fully. Just hang in there, you’ve made it this far.

I’ve been trying to find the motivation to finish the third Strand book. I didn’t find it this week. I did manage to do almost everything on my list, which feels really good, but I purposely didn’t add writing new material for the book on the list because, well , I’m a realist. Updating my page here was on the list and it took me until Sunday night to do it, but it is done (or will be soon)! In the end, I made the list, I got done what I could and I’ll keep trying next week as well. It’s all progress and eventually, if you keep working at it, you’ll finish the list, or the project or the goal… just always keep pushing.

Don

A little art history

A little art history

This is The Veiled Virgin by Giovanni Strazza, sculpted sometime in the 1850’s out of Carrara marble. I saw this amazing masterpiece for the first time ever today when I was perusing facebook. I’ve taken many art history courses over the years and am still baffled at how I have never come across this piece before.

I find it fascinating and a bit amazing that someone can create this level of detail and gossamer transparency from such a hard and unforgiving canvas such as stone. Sculpting stone is one of the only art forms I haven’t dabbled in. I would love to give it a try some day and hopefully, I’ll get the chance. The amount of planning, time and care that goes into something like this must be astronomical, I would think.

As much as I find the piece stunning, it makes me also think about the man that created it. I can’t look at this piece and not think that Giovanni Strazza must have been a bit of a perfectionist. The level of patience and mastery of craft to create something like The Veiled Virgin goes beyond what most would consider the norm.

As much as it makes me want to delve deeper into sculpting techniques and equipment, it also inspires me to work on better mastering my chosen craft. Maybe someday, I can write something that gives someone the same feeling I get when I look at a sculpture as beautiful as The Veiled Virgin.

Back to work with me,

Don

Arisia 2019

Arisia 2019

So this years trip to the Arisia sci-fi convention at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston is complete and I’m actually very happy with it. I would have liked to have been there on Friday but scheduling and weather made that a not very logical thing to do. I enjoyed the two days that I was able to attend and as always I ended up spending too much money.

On Saturday I got to have dinner with a dear friend and then watch them perform in Dr. Horrible and the Buffy musical episode. I also got to catch up with a lot of old cast mates that I don’t get to spend nearly enough time with and take in a panel on writing war. I tried to get a nap after that but that didn’t work so I stayed up until 7 am and drove home to take care of the shoveling and snow blowing before everything froze solid for the rest of the weekend.

I then went back to the hotel to try and get some sleep and think I succeeded for an hour or two. After giving up and grabbing some lunch I took in the dealers room and artist alley to poke around a bit. Before I knew it it was time to head to my panel on writing good villains, so I grabbed an iced coffee and headed up to the fourth floor.

While I waited I took in an impromptu hallway panel on the business of writing and got a couple business cards for editors (oh yeah I need to check into that). I ran into another panel member in the hall and we chatted about our favorite and least favorite villains. We Both have Hans Gruber at the top of our lists.

Oh, I forgot to mention Alex. I met her in the elevator on my way downstairs and she asked if the AFC championship game had started, probably because I was wearing a patriots jersey and hat. I told her it was just starting so there was no score. A little later, I ran into her at the Starbucks and told her the score was 14-0. She thanked me as we passed and we went our separate ways. I then saw her again in the hallway before my panel and updated her again to the 14-7 score. I actually got a chuckle out of the fact that she ended up in my panel and listened to me ramble about bad guys for an hour and fifteen minutes instead of watching a very good game.

At the end of what I thought was a very successful and entertaining panel, it was at least entertaining to me, Alex came up and practically yelled that the patriots were down by four with under two minutes left in the game. Enter Eleanor, she had attended the panel as well and took a great interest in the score of the game when Alex told me at the end of the panel. Together we decided to get down to the hotel lobby as fast as we could since one minute in a championship game would surely last at least ten actual minutes.

We had originally tried to grab an elevator down but after seeing how crowded the area was we decided to take the stairs. I’m not sure how it looked to the outside world but it felt very much like one of the chase scenes out of the old Scooby-Doo cartoons. We tried the mezzanine floor but couldn’t see any of the screens before getting down into the lobby and barging through the hotel restaurant as quickly as we could until we finally parked ourselves in front of the bar .

At the end of regulation we decided to chew our nails in anxiety at a table that someone had vacated. We ordered a couple drinks and cheered with the other patrons as the Patriots beat the Chiefs to move onto the the Superbowl. We ordered another round and chatted, occasionally stopping mid conversation to remind each other that we made it again to the Superbowl.

After a bit, Alex had to drive home and Eleanor had to head back to her room to sleep because she had an early morning. I stepped outside for a smoke and ended up having a great conversation with a homeless guy who told me that I needed to put myself out there more to get more exposure for my books. I do hope he found a warm place to sleep that night. I finally ended up getting a couple hours sleep before checking out around 8 am and heading home.

I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked at this Arisia, but I did get more than usual and got a much better feel for how to work it next year, if I get any panels. I had a lot of fun on what me and the other panelists seem to think was a great panel. I met some great new people that I hope to actually keep in touch with and got to watch the end of an incredible game. The best part of that was the adventure we had getting to it and watching it even though the game itself was pretty kick ass. Oh, and I managed to not break anything this year or half kill my liver. All in all, it seems like a pretty good year at Arisia.

Marketing

Marketing

I said I was gonna use this page more often and hopefully get some regular readers so here I am once again. When I first started out writing stories I thought the hardest part of that was going to be all the grammar rules I didn’t know at the time and the actual writing of said stories. Now that I’m a few stories in I can tell you that I was horribly mistaken. The hardest part, by far, is the marketing.

It doesn’t help that I don’t enjoy talking about myself or trying to nudge people to buy my books. Its not that I have some insecurity that I have about talking about myself, it just seems very fake and forced. I think my stories are awesome. I’ve read them dozens of times and not just to do edits or revisions. I just never liked the idea of tooting my own horn to make money. It just seems akin to a used car salesman (no offense meant to any actual car salesmen).

All that needs to change though. I was talking to my friend Melinda a few days back and gave me a piece of advice that I had actually given to other people (mostly theater folk) numerous times over the years but didn’t realize I should be taking it myself. She told me that I need to think of marketing as a role. Don’t be me, be that person that smiles and shakes hands and asks if they want a copy signed for a small extra fee. To basically put on a mask and be someone else when it comes to marketing. Of course she was absolutely right I just needed to hear it out loud.

Then today I got followed on Twitter by the president of the SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) a group that I have been a part of for a few years now. The problem is that even though I’ve paid my dues every year I wouldn’t say I’ve been an active member. They provide a lot of services and have tables at a lot of conventions that I could save money on going to if I coordinated through them. Its also a place filled with other writers that all market themselves as well so I’m sure they could be very helpful on ways to go about getting myself out there. So as soon as I finish this piece I’m going to mosey on over to their forum site and write an introduction post putting myself out there to try and interact a bit more.

I said last year that I was going to try and attend more conventions this year but that kind of fell to the wayside, so I think I’ll see if we can put that on the marketing agenda again for next year. I will hopefully be at the Arisia sci fi convention again in January and am looking into getting a table in authors alley. Normally, I just do my panels and that’s that so we’ll see if spending time in authors alley helps any.

That is the extent of my marketing schemes so far. I’m optimistic but it’s not something that’s going to garner overnight results. If anyone else has any suggestions please feel free to leave a comment.

Back to marketing,

Don

Summer 2018

Summer 2018

It’s been a crazy but interesting summer and I haven’t even really gone anywhere vacationy. I suppose I should start with the fact that there’s been some drastic changes in my life in the last year or so, well drastic for me, mostly centering around my health. I’ve dropped a boatload of weight and worked hard to strengthen and rehab my knee, which twelve months ago I (and my doctors) thought was beyond repair. Those two issues alone have made this the most productive, fun and enjoyable summer that I can remember. I’ve never liked the heat and humidity of the typical New England summer but I have this year.

Those changes also bring a big bunch of adjustment though. I understand what people say now when they complain about “Not having enough hours in the day,”  I have a ton more energy than I ever remember and it allows me to do a lot more than I’ve ever imagined doing in the past. I Mow the lawn, pick up around the house, trim the hedges, work on my car, fix things around the house, voluntarily run errands I would normally try and get out of, work out four to five days a week, socialize more than once a week and have started getting guitar lessons from a friend, which also requires daily practice. All of this on top of all the normal hum drum things I had been doing plus trying to squeeze in working on the new book a few hours a week at least.

Now I know that for some people this might not seem like a lot and I’m not actually saying it is. I don’t have kids to cart around and take care of, or elderly parents to care for so I know I could be far more busy. But considering how pared down my life had been for the last decade or two this is a huge amount more than I ever would have tried to take on in the past. The best part is that I’m actually enjoying it. I like challenges and now that I know my knee won’t fall apart on me, anymore than it already has, I keep adding in new things to try and accomplish (I walked on the treadmill the other night for my 35 minutes of cardio instead of riding the stationary bike which is much easier on my knee).

The only downside has been that I feel hurried all the time now and I forget some of the stuff I wanted to get done because I get busy doing something else that I wanted to get done. Both of which I’m hoping will get better as time goes on since this is all still pretty new to me. It seems to make me a bit flustered and unorganized which I’m not a fan of. So I think my next challenge will be to work on getting more organized and maybe make some lists to help me keep track of the things that have started to slip out of my brain only to show up later to haunt and annoy me.

I am also going to start working on a better and, hopefully more effective, marketing plan so that I can increase book sales, as well as finding some more conventions to attend and updating this site more often (I’m shooting for a couple times a week). Oh yeah and I have to throw in finishing the next book in the Strand series, which I’m really enjoying writing so far. There’s a bunch of other stuff too that I’m sure I can add to the list I’m going to go make as soon as I get done with this. Actually I may need a list of different lists to keep all of this straight.

Thanks for reading.

Don

P.S. If anyone has any tips for organizing or marketing please feel free to leave a comment

Movies

Movies

I watch a good amount of movies. I find them to be inspiring in a way good or bad. The good ones make me want to write stories just as good if not better and the bad ones remind me to not be the guy that takes the easy way out and to put in the effort to tell a good story.

I watched two movies tonight that I thought might be similar to sort of compare them. In some ways they were and in others they were very different. The movies I picked were John Wick and Jack Reacher. Both are stories about a lone warrior type with nothing to lose fighting for a righteous cause. In both cases the lead is somehow dragged back into their former life (one an assassin, the other a military type police investigator) and has to do wonderfully violent things to right the wrongs. Oh and in the end they both went back to their life of retirement/seclusion after said wrongs had been righted.

The stories were both solid but JW was much more slick, it was also straightforward and unapologetic in its brutality. JR tried to be more of a mystery thriller/action movie and it was mediocre at best. it was supposed to show us that Jack was a top notch investigator who saw things that no one else could ever piece together but the opening sequence shows me that this guy shoots 5 different people all from the same spot in succession. the first thought that occurred to me was that he shot 4 of them to cover his real target. I’m not saying that I had the whole thing worked out from the jump but it was pretty obvious that it was a frame to me as well and why no one on the police force or the DAs office could see how perfectly set up everything was just seemed odd or lazy to me.

The characters were both fine as well but JW made you care about the lead from the start and you actually like the ex assassin and root for him even though you know hes going to win. JR on the other hand gave us his backstory and some junk about being a recluse to have freedom and thats about it. JW was at its base a love story while JR was attempting to be a thriller but it wasn’t very thrilling. I don’t know if the fact that Jack Reacher character seemed like a pretentious douche because it was Tom Cruise or if its because he was written that way. I think it may have been a bit of both.

In the end I’d like to tell stories more along the line of John Wick and would have tried harder to make Jack Reacher more likable so that you actually give a fuck if he lives or dies. I also would have made it a much more complex mystery. its no fun if you have everything figured out before the end of the first act. Neither movie was awful but definitely watch John Wick first.

 

Don

The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi

I sit here late at night trying to get through the Last Jedi again. I saw it in theaters and was excited since I really enjoyed the Force Awakens. I was disappointed the first time around but I can’t even bring myself to care about it the second time. I’ve seen a lot of people online complaining about certain aspects of it, most of them having to do with it not being Star Warsy enough for them or that Disney is far too concerned with its princesses and diversity and is ruining their childhoods. Neither of those things are my issues with this movie. My problem comes down to one thing alone, bad storytelling.

I’ll try to be as brief as possible but there’s quite a few things that make this movie awful.

  1. The opening battle scene. Ok I get it you want to show us a war, that’s cool, but if the first order has been in control or at least a contender in this war why are they so incompetent? All the main ships were well within range and escaping but yet all your main guns fire on the deserted base on the planet? So all those guns and no one can target two different things? The answer is of course they can its just bad storytelling.
  2. How do bombs fall out of a ship and onto another ship in space since theres no gravity? I’m sure you can come up with something but you didn’t you just expect us to buy it because it looks cool. Oh and the pretty sister who is laying in the bomb bay seems to have no problem breathing without a mask of any sort even though the bay doors are open. I’d say there’s a force field or something but the bombs seem to have no problem falling through so I guess there can’t be… anyway, bad storytelling.
  3. The resistance bombers are made out of paper mache? They seem to be since the smallest tie fighters seem to chew right through them. good thing they had a fighter escort to do absolutely nothing to protect them.
  4. An 18 hour low speed chase through space? It got old when I watched OJ do it but I paid money to see this one. So you can’t catch the smaller ships because they’re faster but yet you also say that they can’t outrun you? Huh? that makes absolutely no sense at all. Rian did you even read the screenplay you wrote? Oh and your fleet is composed of Snokes ship but also smaller ships. I don’t suppose any of them could catch it either huh? I’m hoping that some day in the far future you admit to us that you were just full of shit the whole time and knew that this was all ridiculous.
  5. You recall all your smaller tie fighters because the cruiser is too far away and you can’t cover them… What? They blew up the fighter bays within 30 seconds so who did you need to protect them from? and since when does the bad guys care about their cannon fodder? Oh wait, they care when they need a convenient way to drag this crappy story out for another 2 hours.
  6. Leia getting blown into space. Yup, got it, force powers, its fine I’ll buy it. What I won’t buy is how did you get her back inside the ship since the bridge was a vacuum and if you opened the door you’d have all been sucked out into space to die. How do you fix that you say? You show her at the door and cut to the next scene where shes in a coma in sick bay. So again you just don’t feel like explaining something impossible because you’re either fucking lazy or just not smart enough to figure out an answer. (By the way, it took me all of 20 seconds to come up with a plausible way to do it that you could have shown us. It involves Leia creating a force bubble just long enough to open the door and get through to safety.)
  7. The only issue I have with the beginning of the Rey/Luke plot line is that you thought cutting the scene where Luke find out and mourns about Han was a good idea… You spent like 45 minutes on that stupid Canto bight sidequest that got us nothing but spending 3 minutes on Luke mourning Han was out of the question? what kind of idiot does that?
  8. Somehow the incompetent first order has figured out how to track someone through hyperspace which is something no one else has ever been able to do. Once again calling bullshit on this. I guess targeting their hyper drives was beyond the first orders capability since they can’t target more than one thing at a time with hundreds of guns on dozens of ships. Idiot.
  9. I won’t even go into how poorly written Finn is or his pudgey asian side kick except to say that she was so disgusted that other people jumped in escape pods to run away but yet somehow still thinks Finn is awesome after she catches him doing the same thing… umm yeah, sure.
  10. The whole side quest of Canto bight. Yes please preach to us about how horrible war is and how it’s only run by rich white guys while we all watch a movie called Star WARS which is owned and run by a bunch of rich white guys. assholes.
  11. oh and suddenly some lady you met once is your go to for advice on who to hire? and Maz kanata has been running a smugglers bar for like 900 years and she recommends the shadiest guy in the universe to help you out and has no idea that he could betray you? and she didn’t even give you a heads up that he might not be trustworthy? You’d think after 9 centuries she’d be a better judge of character like she seemed to be in the force awakens.
  12. Oh and they had time to sneak away from the convoy that is under siege and hop off to a distant star system to go pick up this guy but no one thought to get on the smaller ships and run away even faster than your already faster cruiser? its hyperspeed not instantaneous teleportation.
  13. Snoke goes from loving his star pupil to treating him like the stepchild he never wanted for some unknown reason. oh and he just happened to now dislike the stupid helmet he’s been wearing for years at this point. Wait let me guess, it was just another convenient way to get rid of something you didn’t like from the first movie. here’s an idea you idiot. Write what you want for the series of movies that they gave you to ruin on your own and give the rest of us a bit of continuity in the MIDDLE episode that you were paid to write you hack.
  14. The hangar deck explodes while everyone is grouped together yet somehow they’re seemingly a quarter mile apart right afterward and it also happens that the good guys got blown in one direction and the bad guys in the complete opposite direction even though the good guys were surrounded by bad guys when it happened. yeah I’m getting tired of saying how stupid this all is.
  15. Neither Finn nor Rose were injured in the horrendous crash to save Finns life and they both can manage to run back to safety, which is like half a mile away, without getting blasted by the still incompetent first order.
  16. We still have no idea why Kylo hated his dad so much or why he loved vader so much because well I guess you probably didn’t feel like thinking about it for more than a minute or two.

I could easily go on but I’ve annoyed myself enough thinking about all of this so I’m just gonna wrap this up and try not to list anymore off in my head. Let me know if there’s a bunch you think I missed or if you disagree and think all of this equals great storytelling. Thanks for reading and hopefully episode 9 will be awesome!

Don