Debutantes and the undead

Are you excited about the season premiere of The Walking Dead? I am. My two favorite shows right now are Downton Abbey and The Walking Dead.  On the surface it’s an odd combination but both stories have what I consider interesting parallels.

While the pace of change for the Crawley family is slower than that for Rick and his family it is still significant. Both shows thrust the main characters into a changed world and watch them react.

As a trained police officer Rick should be helping everyone. Instead he’s making decisions on peoples viability to join  his group based on how many they have killed. We’ve watched him evolve and struggle with this new role and now as season 6 approaches we have to wonder if he is going to go overboard.

Lady Mary was raised to attend a coming out ball and marry a noble land owner, at or above her current station. One could imagine that her destiny was to while away her days at luncheons and balls. Instead she has stepped up to actively run the family estate. She’s struggling to understand rents, head of sheep and cash flow. All things her father prefer she not worry about but that she proves quite skilled in mastering.

Obviously the zombies are terrifying and deadly but we’ve all gotten used to the hissing surprise of an unexpected biter. What I’m watching to see is if Rick is going to make another decision that pushes him further away from the peace officer he was.

Lady Mary losing the family estate is far less frightening but not without suspense. What I’m watching for is to see if she’ll continue to be Lady Mary even when that concept has fallen out of fashion or will she become Mrs. Crawley the polar opposite of her gilded upbringing.

Do you like any odd combinations of TV shows?


Weekly Lesson & Quote 10/5/2015

Every Sunday I do a weekly planning exercise, on paper with a pen. There are seven steps in all and eventually I’ll share it with you. For now, one of the steps that really makes me think is recording a lesson learned or reenforced during the previous week and then finding a quote to support that lesson. Some of the lessons I have learned, while others will repeat themselves as I work on improving. The quotes come from all over, but I’ll always give credit to the speaker.

I thought it might be fun to share the lessons and quotes with you each Monday, so this is the start of a regular thing.

This weeks lesson~ Waking up without a plan for the day means I’ve already wasted the day.

Quote~ “Every evening, write down the 6 most important things you must do the next day. Then while you sleep your subconscious will work on the best ways for you to accomplish them. Your next day will go much more smoothly.”  – Tom Hopkins

I’ve seen different numbers, but 6 works for me (3 was too few and 10 too many). I not only write down the tasks, I put them in my calendar and commit the time to completing them.


I love the underdog

G. O. A. T.

I grew up as a New England sports fan in the 70’s and 80’s so it’s no surprise that I’m a fan of the underdog.

With the exception of a nice run by the Celtics in the 80’s I can remember watching the Red Sox and Patriots battle for last place in their divisions while the Bruins just did battle. In the fluke seasons when the hometown teams made it to the playoffs no one expected them to win, and they never failed to live up to expectations. Even with the Patriots current string of success, it’s not behind a first round draft pick or a lifelong blue chip, it’s an underdog with a 199 chip in his shoulder. There is something special about watching the unlikely succeed.

Now that we are in the midst of another season of college football there are weekly chances to root for a new underdog. Like many people, I’ll watch unranked Iowa play #19 Wisconsin just to see if there’s going to be an upset. When my kids walk in on me checking scores or watching a game between two teams we have no ties to we have the same conversation.

Kids: “Who do you want to win?”
Me: “Doesn’t really matter.”
Kids: “Well then who are you cheering for?”
Me: “Whoever is not supposed to win.”
Kids: “Why?”
Me: “Because it’s fun to see the underdog win.”

This sentiment definitely surfaces in my stories. I like to write stories about people who survive or thrive based on hard work and a little bit of luck. A betting man would never pick my characters to be the last ones standing after the apocalypse but there they are; scared, confused, and plugging away. They may have survived by accident, but they carry on with intent and adapt to their new roles as heroes.

If you like this type of story, in addition to my own books you might enjoy The Complete Deadland Saga by Rachel Aukes. Cash is an officer worker with few survival skills. When the world ends on a Thursday she’s probably not the one you’d expect to make it until Friday or longer.

Who do you prefer, the perennial contender or the scrappy underdog?






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?