Archives for September 2015

Kids and pets and loss

Cheese the cat

Cheese helping me write

This past weekend my son RJ lost his cat, Cheese. The death was sudden and came on as a result of a blood clot; based on what the emergency vet said late Saturday afternoon. It’s our first big experience with loss and while I desperately want to minimize my sons sadness I also know that he has to learn to grieve.

Cheese spent most every night with RJ for the last six years. When my son was smaller Cheese would commandeer the pillow and leave his human to scoot down in the bed. As RJ grew, Cheese moved to the side of the bed and stretched out as if trying to be as long and lean as his owner. The two were peas in a pod and unquestionably best friends.

A small voice in the back of my mind wanted to say, it’s just a cat or we can get you another cat, or anything that would alleviate his sadness. But I know that wouldn’t have been helpful. Instead I told him that it’s okay to be sad, we’re all going to miss Cheese. With tears, RJ and I worked together and built a coffin and buried our friend in a quiet spot that can be seen from the room where he spent so many nights.

As a parent,getting to the point where you don’t try to ‘fix’ whats bothering or hurting your child has been one of the hardest transitions for me. We’ve always been honest and realistic with our kids but when they are little their investment is lower and they move on quickly. Now that they have years of emotional connections with pets and friends the stakes get higher and we process things differently.

I rarely believe that there is one ‘right’ way to do something and mourning is no different. For our family and my 11 year-old we let his maturity and reaction guide us. After the fact I was able to read a few articles on the subject and I feel that this one sums up our approach nicely – When a pet dies. Still I think families need to process something like this based on their feelings and understanding of death.

It’s an honor to watch my children grow and develop into thoughtful and caring human beings. I know that being there beside them while they experience sadness and pain will influence their future growth even when it’s not clear what I can do for them. This experience has been difficult but I am optimistic for their emotional futures.

Goodbye Cheese and thank you for the lessons you’ve taught our family.


A common core

Now that school is back in full swing and homework is coming home regularly, parents (in)ability to help their children also returns. It’s not a new complaint, but in recent years a more direct target has emerged – Common Core. This school years first winner came from a father of two in the form of a check written out in what was described as ‘common core numbers’.

When I was in school I moved to a different state twice, between fifth and sixth grade and then between tenth and eleventh. In both cases I was academically off from my peers. In the first move I was ahead in math but behind in english. After the second move I was behind in both math and english. In theory common core would have prevented that.

It is my understanding that common core is less a curriculum than a set of measures. The goal being that every student in the country have the same core set of skills when they complete a given grade level. The humorous check and the fact that it went viral highlight the emotional and political impact of this policy, I’m going to stay away from that piece.

Instead I want you to think about a world where we all have the same core capabilities. With the use of technology, vision, hearing and memory could all be enhanced. Not just enhanced, but leveled. Kids wouldn’t have to learn the state capitals, the information would be pre-loaded in a memory chip implanted in their brain. What a cost savings for our education spending.

Savings sounds like a justification that governments could use to force technological implants. It’s less expensive to care for and educate people when they all have the same core capabilities. Thos in charge would make the claim that people will still be different based on how they use the common skills but embedded technology would level the playing field.

The truth is more sinister. In a world were we have fewer differences we are easier to control. There is less incentive to explore, try new things, or invent. If our experience is no different from the person next to us, what do we get from that experience?

Those that choose to have an original, non-enhanced experience in the world would be rogues. Their differences would make them dangerous. Strength would come from their weaknesses because they will work and struggle to adapt. They would not be tolerated.

We’re the sum of all our parts – strengths and weaknesses. If we all share a common core we add up to nearly the same thing. Instead of investing to make sure that every sixth grader has the same level of math skills, maybe we should invest in teaching them to adapt to their differences. Of course that would be more difficult to measure which means it would be tougher to justify the costs.

This is a story idea I have been working through for a while. There are so many different angles to take with it – thriller, romance and mystery. I see a dystopian world full of good people lulled into silence.

How would you see a world where we all share a common core?




Confessions of a genre hopper

I write and publish stories in multiple genre’s. The freedom to do this is one of the things I love about being an independent author.

It’s not that big of deal, but it goes against the conventional wisdom of publishing (which matches most business conventional wisdom) that says to focus on a specific market. This is why we have traditionally been able to classify authors as a horror writer, thriller writer or historical fiction writer. The logic is sound. When you pick up a book by an author it’s nice to know what to expect. But that’s not me.

As a reader, I love genre hopping and I suspect I am far from alone. Genre hopping allows me to list The Bourne Identity, The Pillars of the Earth and Wool as some of my favorite books. It means I can go back and re-read Lord of the Flies even when my TBR pile includes The Martian and A Clean Kill in Tokyo. What I read influences what I think about and therefore the stories that I want to tell.

When it comes to writing, the most common question I get is where do the ideas come from. The answer to that is everywhere. I probably have twenty story ideas a day. Many of them are discarded but some come back over and over again. I refuse to discard the ideas based on genre, I prefer to focus on how thought provoking the idea is. When something sticks with me for over a month it warrants a note in the future stories folder.

This is all well and good until I started looking for blog ideas. Conventional wisdom came up again and suggested that I blog about the themes and elements of my stories. That’s a little tricky when my stories deal with innate intelligence, surviving the zombie apocalypse and solving crimes – with ideas for romance and urban fantasy.

There is a tendency among indie authors to blog about writing and the self-publishing business and there are some great ones out there (Joe Konrath & Joanne Penn leap to mind), but that doesn’t help my readers understand me and why I genre hop. So I decided that I would start blogging about story ideas and where they come from. I’ll let you know about the thoughts, events and emotions that ignite a spark in my brain. Hopefully we can be thought provoking together and you can get some insight into what I’ve written, and what I will write in the future.

I’d love to know how you feel about genre hopping. How varied is your tbr pile?