Wednesday, December 12, 2012

World Fantasy: Finale

The other night, my wife and I watched "Field of Dreams" for the first time in a decade. I'm not a sports fan so I'm always amazed at how much movies like "The Natural," "Field of Dreams" and "Remember the Titans" get to me. I have no personal memory of being on a baseball diamond, feeling a ball connect with a bat or smelling the dirt and grass after a dramatic base-stealing, so what was it about this movie that made me cry; no offense to Costner fans, but he's not that great an actor. What I realized was that the movie wasn't triggering memories of stolen bases and crowds and team sports, it was triggering memories of my life as a writer and, specifically, my experiences at World Fantasy.

"I am pitching to 'Shoeless' Joe Jackson."
Ray Kinsella, by all accounts a grounded, sane and responsible family man, follows a bizarre and illogical compulsion and is rewarded by meeting one of his childhood heroes. He sits in the stands that he built and watches a historical Dream Team play in a field that he created. Not only that, he becomes friends with these men, getting to know them in a way he never conceived possible.

For the last 6+ years I've been following a similarly illogical compulsion and have been rewarded by walking among a Who's Who of the creative community. Just like Ray's nostalgic recollection of his father's baseball stories, the names on the spines of my father's library have come to life--I've gotten to meet them, shake some of their hands, share my admiration and, most significantly, gotten to spend time with them. Unlike Ray, though, I've also gotten to spend time with my own heroes, both newly met and from my own childhood.

Monday, November 12, 2012

World Fantasy 2012: Day Three

I dragged myself out of bed Friday morning for two anticipated panels: Defining Urban Fantasy and YA Urban Fantasy. *Defining ______* panels are always  hit and miss. Sometimes you get a fascinating discussion about the origin of the genre, other times it's a panel of people disagreeing on what they're even there for. This year I discovered that the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Defining Urban Fantasy: L-R S.M. Sterling, Tim Powers, Linda Poitevin, Ginjer Buchanan,
David B. Coe, Adria Laycraft
Tim Powers insisted that Urban Fantasy had to involve cell phones*, while editor Ginjer Buchanan pushed for a change of the name to Contemporary Fantasy because many Urban Fantasies aren't actually Urban (a point echoed by the presence of Adria Laycraft, editor of the Urban Greenman Anthology). This led David B. Coe (D.B. Jackson) to bring up the question "What is contemporary?" His Thief Taker series is set in Revolution-era America, but is arguably Urban Fantasy--it's also arguably Historical Fantasy, Alternate History and even Steampunk (though that's a stretch). He said that at Dragon Con, defining Thief Taker had been discussed so much that it was eventually decided that he'd invented Tri-Corner Punk. (David's point was echoed in Sunday's "The Road to Urban Fantasy" where Farah Mendelsohn made the point that in England, "contemporary" is defined as anything 1750 and later.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Epic AD&D

January 2012's ConFusion saw authors Peter V. Brett, Joe Abercrombie, Myke Cole, Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear, Saladin Ahmed, Brent Weeks, Jay Lake, Jim C. Hines and Patrick Rothfuss around the D&D table playing the classic Keep on the Borderlands.

Yeah. It's like that.

Myke Cole has a particularly nostalgic and touching article about the event.

Like Myke, D&D shaped my life in ways I couldn't have imagined at the time. This year I even got to pass on my love of gaming to a new generation and I couldn't have been happier. Hats off to Myke and Saladin for sitting behind-the-screen for a table full of proven storytellers. No pressure, guys. You did a brilliant job.

More World Fantasy 2012 highlights to come...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

World Fantasy 2012: Day Two

Thursday started by recovering from Wednesday--that is, from the bar and the jetlag. I'm not sure exactly when Todd and I got out of the room but we checked into the Con, wandered the layout then decided to go for food. Though the convention is in the Sheraton, we're staying in the Best Western next door. Well, it's sort of next door. It's more like a bizarre duplex where you can't quite tell where one hotel ends and the other begins. Which is good, because it's cold and rainy and we have no desire to walk outside for any reason.
Charles Vess

In our quest for food we ran into Charles Vess, one of the only three artists I both adore and can actually name (the other two being my roommate, Todd, and Susan Seddon Boulet). Todd and Charles chatted while I reigned in my fanboy...I mean, controlled my desire to discuss my appreciation for his work, then we continued our quest. Charles mentioned that we could not only walk from the Best Western to the Sheraton without freezing, we could also walk underground to a food court in a mall next door. Unfortunately, we missed the turn and ended up outside anyway. That's when our hero, James Minz from Baen publishing, appeared in his magic (read: warm) chariot and a list of the best restaurants in the area. Our quest turned into a epic adventure to a liquor store, grocery store and excellent Thai food. Thank you, Jim.

James Minz
We got back to the con too late for the one panel I was interested in so we headed back to the room to relax. Mary hadn't arrived yet, and I was starting to get worried because she had a reading at 5, but she showed up around 4pm.

After Mary's reading, she and I headed up to the Con Suite (aka: Hospitality Suite), which is a wonderful and bizarre concept I discovered at last year's WFC. The Con Suite has food for con-goers from breakfast until 2am every day. Breakfast and lunch are standard cereals, coffee, oatmeal, cold cuts, veggies, etc. Dinner Thursday night was catered Chinese. Tonight (Friday) it's apparently Tex-Mex. Thursday night also featured local Canadian wines and beers, which is good because the hotel bar is outrageously expensive. It's one of the draws of a con like this for me--I pay for the admission, the hotel and the flight, but between the free books, food and alcohol, the admission is easily paid for.

Like with the bar, the Con Suite is a great place to meet new people. From dinner until 1am I spent time with new and established authors Wes Chu, Jessica Corra, Simon Larter, David Fortier, Garth Nix, Sarah Durst, Mary Robinette Kowal and too many others to name. Mary Kowal in particular killed us with a story about a marionette performance of Sleeping Beauty that went terrible, hilariously wrong.

To be continued...


Additional photos of WFC 2012 can be found here.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

World Fantasy 2012: Day One

Last year I attended my first professional writers' conference. I had noticed author Sean Williams post that he'd bought a ticket to San Diego for World Fantasy. I'd heard of both World Fantasy and World Con, but didn't know much about them. I couldn't pass up the chance to attend a major conference in my own backyard, so I picked up a ticket in January for the con in October. Good thing I did, too, because with Neil Gaiman as guest of honor, it sold out quickly. It was--hands down--one of the best weekends of my life. It was like the names on my father's bookshelf had come to life. I not only met dozens of fascinating people--including my now dear friends John Perkins and Todd Lockwood--the theme had been Sailing the Seas of Imagination. Panels involved developing underwater cultures, monsters and conflicts, which enthralled my marine biologist to no end.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Young Justice Hiatus

Cartoon Network has inexplicably placed Young Justice and Green Lantern on hiatus AGAIN after only 3 episodes. DC Nation is supposed to return in Jan 2013, but at this point, CN has offered no explanation, official statement or apology to the fans.

Not sure why so many are so upset? You can check out my review of Young Justice here.

If you are as irked as other fans of these fantastic shows, check out the petition to bring DCN back.

Petition to Bring Back DC Nation

On Facebook?

End the DC Nation hiatus

Monday, October 1, 2012

Eclipse Chocolat Kickstarter

You've seen me post about Eclipse, you've heard me gush about Eclipse, if you're lucky, you've had us drag you to Eclipse. Now you can get the best chocolate I've ever eaten while supporting my favorite chocolatier with their new expansion.

The new location will have a production facility, cafe and full-service restaurant. For those of you who've been to one of Eclipse's specialty dinners or weekend brunches, you will be able to experience Will's mouth-watering food every day of the week.

Many of the pledge levels include free shipping (with some restrictions, mostly related to making sure your chocolate doesn't melt), but if you live in the San Diego area you can save Eclipse shipping and pick up your pledge in the store. If you do, you'll receive two drinking chocolates as thanks, so bring a friend.

Check out Will's adorable Kickstarter video (make sure to watch through to the credits) and spread the word!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Elephants and Friends: Reprint

Back in 2006, my wife and I spent a few months traveling South East Asia. We spent a few weeks of that time at a small elephant rehab center called Elephants and Friends. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience we will never forget. Unfortunately, the facility as it existed isn't open anymore, though there are other excellent and well-respected rehab facilities in Thailand.

I published an article about the experience in Vision Magazine. It's been six years now and the article isn't available online, so I've been asked by numerous people to repost it here.


Elephant Sanuk
Vision Magazine, 2006

“Rich, why are you not strong?!”

The jibe came at me from Juke Nadee, a 22 year-old Thai mahout who was sitting in the back of a beat-up farm truck next to my girlfriend, Megan. We were in the jungle, several miles from the village of Nonghoi, Thailand. At the time, I was 20 feet up an elephant-sugarcane tree in heavy winds, struggling to hack through limbs as thick as my thigh with Juke’s rusty, but shockingly sharp knife. I could hear Megan snicker.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Blogger Issue

Blogger is having an issue with linked pages. Hopefully it will be fixed soon. In the meantime, you can link to my other pages and blogs here:

Book Reviews
Game Reviews
Movie/TV Reviews

NOTE: Looks like it's finally been fixed.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Where Characters Come From: Carter Franklin

Carter Franklin
Concept art by Evan Ferrell

"Ideally, the characteristics that were inspired by friends, family and strangers work together to create a new whole, molded by the experiences the characters have when they are dropped into the world the writer builds for them."

Until his father’s accident, Carter was a lot like myself: a kid with an active imagination and a passion for nature, growing up in a beautiful part of the country. Carter’s guilt forces him to put his imaginary life away and try to grow up too quickly. Though I’ve never put my imaginary life away, I’ve always struggled to balance it with the responsibilities of life. At times I’ve taken long vacations from it to bury myself in school or work only to discover that all aspects of my life suffered for it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dungeons and Dragons: A Documentary

Me and a friend reading from the AD&D book that kicked a hornets' nest of
Christian fundamentalists into a witch hunt. Circa 1985.

Dungeons and Dragons began back in 1974 and, as most of us old-schoolers know, it changed our lives. I don't mean simply the lives of gamers. Whether you realize it or not, the invention of roleplaying games changed your world.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Numenera: A Kickstarter from Monte Cook

Monte Cook, game design legend, has created a new RPG. Numenera, a distant future RPG, focuses on roleplaying with quick, easy rules and incredible art. Monte started game design back in the Rolemaster and early Champions days and became a household tabletop name after his contributions to 3rd edition Dungeons and Dragons over a decade ago. Monte's independent projects, like the Ptolus: City by the Spire setting, gained him a reputation for quality, detailed products.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Written by a Kid! Episodes 7 and 8

Two more fabulously hilarious episodes of Written by a Kid!

Young Adult vs Middle Grade vs Children's Fiction

What defines a children’s story? What is Middle Grade fiction? Where is the line between YA and Adult novels? When I started working on Dreamings, I didn’t have the answers to these questions, particularly the last one. I spent a lot of time researching young adult fiction written over the last ten to fifteen years and was surprised at the maturity level YA fiction had reached. Even Middle Grade fiction, such as Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander, include brilliantly woven themes of war and sacrifice I hadn't expected. Complexity of plot and depth of character development wasn’t lacking in most modern young fiction.

The three major categories of non-Adult literature are defined by target age of the reader as well as the novel's content and length.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grayson: The Legacy of Bruce Wayne

My recent review of Young Justice reminded me of this fan film from 2004. Dick Grayson has always been my favorite DC hero and I would love to see a movie like this done well.

You can read more about this fanfilm at the Grayson Wiki.

Another excellent Batman fan film came out the year before, rocking the 2003 San Diego Comic Con. It's hard to believe this film is almost 10 years old.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Written by a Kid: Cold East

This week on Written by a Kid, the story of a pickle jar Sheriff and the rotten tomato who threatens to destroy everything--one bad word at a time.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Emotions in Writing

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader."--Robert Frost

When I'm working on a chapter, there is an emotional through-line I want to evoke in the reader: love, longing, fear, excitement, wonder, curiosity, sadness. If I finish a draft and I don't feel that emotion myself, I must rewrite the draft before moving on. There is no dramatic context for the following chapter if I don’t understand how the reader is feeling when they leave the previous one. I could tell a story about Johnny Smith going on a grand adventure, and it might be entertaining, but emotions are the core of storytelling for me. If I can’t convey why Johnny is compelled to go on his grand adventure, I’m not doing my job. Telling you that someone is scared is an entirely different experience than making you feel their fear.

That isn't to say that the draft has to be literarily or editorially perfect--in fact it never is--it simply has to carry that emotional wave in order for me to move on. There will still be many drafts of that chapter to come, not only to make the dialogue more genuine, the environment richer and the senses more involved, but making sure that it blends with the context of both the surrounding chapters and the novel as a whole.

I’m the writer. Most of the time I have some idea of what is coming next. I can never guarantee that a reader will feel the way I want them to feel, but if I can manage to give myself the chills, feel exhausted after a chase scene, or laugh out loud at what one of my characters says, I’ve done my job for the day.

ADDENDUM: For parallels in roleplaying games, check out Depth of Character, Developing Character Arc at the Table.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Playing it Forward

Gaming runs in my family.

My first experience with anything beyond Sorry, was when our mom made my older brother, Steve, take me with him to his friend Scott's house to play AD&D (Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, not Accidental Death and Dismemberment, though that sometimes happened). It was 1978 and I was eight-years-old. I'd play Scott's quarter-free pinball machine for hours listening to their adventures over my shoulder. Eventually, the big boys let me sit at the table.

The group gave me something simple to play, a 1st level Elf Magic-User. Back then, 1st level Magic-Users were known as "One Shot Magic Items" because they only had one spell per day and it didn't always work. In this case, my spell was called Sleep and it could knock 2-16 low-level monsters out of a fight. I bummed around in the background, picturing my Yoda-like Elf shuffling about thinking magical thoughts far beyond the understanding of the older boys (yes, Yoda hadn't arrived on the scene yet, but that's exactly how I remember him). The rest of the party barreled through the dungeon, kicking in doors and looting monsters until they kicked themselves into a guardroom full of heavily armed goblins. Sixteen heavily armed goblins, to be exact.

"Is this a good time to cast my spell?!" I asked, bouncing up and down in my seat.

Surprised that I was still paying attention, the older boys told me "Yes!"

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Written by a Kid

Written by a Kid--Produced by Geek Fan Fav, Felicia Day. Episode 1 stars Joss Whedon, Dave Foley and Kate Macucci in an epic tale of monster fighting and spilt milk.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Where Dreamings Come From, Part 3: Growing Up

I decided to people Carter’s not-so-imaginary world with intelligent animals--not cartoony, animated versions, like in Winnie the Pooh, but real animals that could grasp logic and communicate in some way. I was adamant, however, to avoid recreating Narnia or the Jungle Book.

Though I love them, I find anthropomorphized1 animals overused. Yet, anthropocentrism2--avoiding the emotional depth and natural intelligence of animals--is as much of a problem. So how do you balance the extremes?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Where Dreamings Come From, Part 2: Carter Franklin and the Magic Address

My nephew Carter, namesake of my own Carter Franklin

“Why don’t you write stories about your stuffed animals?” my wife suggested one afternoon.

We’d been brainstorming about ideas for my next project. My stuffed animals had been a huge part of my life yet I’d never once considered using them as the subject of a story. It was a case of ignoring story material from your own life because you see it as mundane. It was an excellent idea, but what kind of story did I want to write?

My first thought was to write a picture or chapter book. My protagonist would be an eight-year-old with a penchant for drawing elaborate stories with crayons. He would use his own family of stuffed animals as the subjects of his Technicolor tales. Sometimes he would even draw the world-traveling adventures of his goldfish, Professor, before the tiny, piscine scholar had retired to live in a fish bowl.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Where Dreamings Come From, Part 1: The Nature of Friendship

I’ve always fancied myself a stuffed animal rights activist. I remember walking past a garage sale with my sister Susie back in the mid 70’s--I was probably six or seven. A five-foot long stuffed snake dangled sadly from a clothes rack. The poor guy’s seams were splitting and the way he was negligently tossed over the rack told me he desperately needed a home. He was 25 cents.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

So it begins.

Huge thanks to John Perkins and Ben Ferrell for their assist in getting this new website up and running. 

As you can see, Dreamings now has its own page. You'll also find a link directly to my Facebook fanpage. Soon I'll be adding pages for my gaming and traveling habits as well as updates on other projects and ponderings, so stay tuned fair readers.