looking for a reason

Musings this week left me wondering just how often we make ignorance an excuse for not chasing our joys and dreams. I am a Christian, and as such, I want to do God’s will. Unfortunately, my life growing up in church has added some baggage alongside the good of that desire. After all, how do you know the will of God? I was raised in an environment that looked upon it as a tightrope, or a needle in a haystack. Even though I don’t believe this is true any longer, I still wrestle with it from time to time. And sometimes, I think it becomes a good excuse for staying in safe waters.

Have you ever walked away from a project with the sensation that you could really enjoy that? The sensation that you could also really do it? It’s usually at this point that some little voice begins to work its way in, asking if it’s the right pursuit. In my case, is it the best thing I can be doing for the kingdom of God. In my case, I am finding that many times this self interrogation is me reacting in fear. There is risk involved in trying. I might fail. However, without risk there will never really be success.

So I am striving forward, still listening should God direct me elsewhere, but feeling far more freedom to chase dreams of writing books and music, of art and dance. I must fight those little voices in me that are looking for reasons to play it safe. I won’t say it’s easy because it hasn’t been. It takes effort and practice to be courageous, but it is worth it.

What are those voices in your life? Where are you looking for reasons to remain comfortable and safe? Maybe it’s time to look at it in another way. Take the risk, and maybe you’ll find as I am beginning to, that God happens to be right there in the midst of it.

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celebrate!

I’m beginning to learn the importance of this one, simple word. Celebration is a powerful tool for life, and I believe it is especially so when it comes to creative endeavors.

Not long ago I was faced with an unexpected demand to clean up my yard. For the most part this meant raking up legions of dead leaves and disposing of them. It was one small step to the dreams I have for the yard that was forced to a higher level of priority. When the work was done, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and stopped to celebrate. This included sharing the results of my labor with another. It didn’t go as I had expected. Rather than celebrating with me, this person reminded me of all the things that still needed to be done. Thankfully, I didn’t dwell on it.

I needed that moment of celebration. I needed to have achieved the end of a task and succeeded. I needed to stop for a moment and enjoy. It was good!

We need to learn to celebrate the little successes along the way. It is a source of encouragement that should keep driving us forward with joy. We can choose to focus on what’s not good enough and be motivated by fear, or guilt, or shame, doesn’t sound like much fun to me, or we can choose to take pleasure in the work and celebrate each success along the way. In fact, we might even need to celebrate a few of the failures as well.

That said, take a moment to look at your work and enjoy it. Take a moment to say, “This is good!” And when you have the opportunity, encourage others by celebrating their moments with them as well. Avoid the urge to be pragmatic. Trust me, they know what needs to be done as surely as you do. They need your words of encouragement far more and you’ll be amazed at the way it pushes them onward.

Cheers!

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… and what’s this going to cost me? (Question 4)

Having seen the ideas thrown around in the comments regarding question 3, I’m setting the answer for scope of power at 5 and 3. To clarify, when an above average spell caster goes up against above average opponents with no magical ability he can reasonably defeat up to 5, but no more. So in this world, there will be no god like magical acts that destroy an army. No matter the cost, no matter the time – that is not possible in this world.

You’ll note that I’ve chosen to set the minimum at a number greater than 1. This is in large part to a recurring idea that has been suggested in your comments – that the magic is too powerful to use in some situations. Applying this literally as some of you have gives us a good example. If the magic will harm three individuals and there are fewer than three enemies, someone else will be caught up in the spell. Harming a friend or innocent may be a cost the magic user is not willing to pay. Which brings us to the 4th question. What is the cost of using magic?

As a very brief primer, I’d recommend reading this article by Orson Scott Card. It will help give you a clearer picture of cost. Ultimately, cost or risk makes magic more believable and it is a grand source of story ideas when fit into the bigger picture. So, what will it cost? In order to answer that question I’d like you to do 3 things.

  1. Brainstorm a list of at least 5 potential costs.
  2. Decide whether the cost must be paid by the magic user alone, or if it can be paid by another?
  3. Post your answers in the comments.

Easy enough. I look forward to seeing your ideas and as always – Have Fun!

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A Review: Fandomfest 2012

I’d have to state that my overall experience at Fandomfest this year deserves about a 7 out of 10. Overall, it was a great experience that provided some much needed information and introductions to some great people! And as always, the side benefit of hanging out with people of the same kind of crazy as me.

It is still a baby convention when it comes to literary tracks. Despite that, in my opinion largely due to one great guy, it has drawn some incredible talent and with his efforts it continues to improve. Whether that continues will fall into the laps of the powers that be who will have to decide that the literary track is as important as all the other goings on. My only serious complaint about the con this year falls along these lines. Poor communication of panels, author guests and literary track events left most con-goers completely unaware that a literary track even existed. If this doesn’t change, the literary track will self destruct. That said, remember that I said I would rate this con at a 7 out of 10 for my own experience. So here’s the highlight film.

  • Even though a 4pm panel on a Friday is generally poorly attended (no one showed at all), my first panel was full of friends I haven’t seen in months. Starting off with good people and creative banter is a win in my book!
  • I mentioned people, right? A trip around the dealer room brought me into conversations with some great people like Stephanie Beebe of Post Mortem Press where we talked as much about my Five Fingers as we did writing, publishing and cons, and David Youngquist of Dark Continents Publishing who was a source of encouragement as we talked about my work, the history of Dark Continents and the writing process.
  • Let’s add one more with a bullet point all their own – The DeKays. Larry and Peggy DeKay are incredible individuals and time spent with them was engaging, encouraging and insightful. For a little more information on a great opportunity from them that is on the near horizon check out this link.
  • Much needed information that began with a panel on writing children’s books in which author, Deborah Smith Ford, introduced me to the Flesch-Kincaid scale for readability and grade level and informed me of the resources that can be found in guided tours in my local bookstore’s children’s section. Immediately following I ran into Peggy DeKay and she taught me how to find the readability statistics I’d just learned about in Microsoft Word. I’ve since discovered that I’m far closer than I thought in having my children’s books ready for submission!
  • And let’s not forget the panels I had the pleasure of moderating – topics included how we approach world building, the Sword and Sorcery genre, costuming in and from writing, and realities of writing a series. As always, I learned a ton and met some fascinating people! To name a few of the new faces, Janice Hardy, Thomas Paul Barczack, Ted Crim & Tracy Chowdhury, Kalayna Price, Selah Janel, Scott Sandridge & Ren Garcia and I certainly hope that those involved in the costuming panel do get to see their favorite characters cosplayed one day. I would be remiss I didn’t also mention those I’ve come to know through past conventions as well who added their charm and expertise to each panel, people like J.L. Mulvihill, Steven Shrewsbury, Jackie Gamber and Stephanie Osborn.
  • Then add a crazy road trip with the Gamber clan as book ends and it was one incredible weekend.

So there you have a snapshot review of Fandomfest 2012. Great talent, great people, and a wealth of encouragement and needed information made for a worthwhile experience! Thanks to Stephen Zimmer of Seventh Star Press for the invitation to come and for all his work that made it possible.

Cheers.

 

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just how strong is this guy?

Just before I left for Fandomfest the final vote, made by a spinning coin, decided the answer of the second question. So with two questions down we’ve decided that the source of magic in our world is supernatural and that it’s not for everyone. Only a select few can use it. This brings us to our next question – a question of power.

In answering this question, we will establish a scale of maximum and/or minimum power. We may find that a skilled magical warrior is no more effective than a well trained fighter with no magic, or we may find them capable of wiping out entire armies. (Note: Avoid the temptation to do more than muse on how they do this at this point. We’re not there yet. As always, keep it extremely simple. The details will come.)

In order to answer this question, draw a line with 7 points on it. Starting from the left, mark these points with the following numbers: 1, 3, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500. These numbers represent warriors with no magical skill. Choose a number to represent the maximum number of warriors a single magic user can successfully face in combat, and choose a number for the minimum. This will give us a relative standard of measure from which to assess what he or she can and cannot do.

A couple little details in making this assessment. First of all, establish the level of competence you are comparing. Is this the pinnacle of talent for both magical and martial, or is this average vs. average. For our purposes today, I’d like you to use a grade scale for talent. If A is best and C is average, let’s imagine our scale as the comparison between B magicians and B fighters. Secondly, other scales can be made for greater detail if it’s needed.

Finally, here is how we are going to decide our own standard of measure. I’d like for each person to list their three top choices placing them in order of preference. Preference will effect the overall vote, so please make sure to mark first through third. Each person will vote twice in this way – once for maximum and once for minimum.

Max:                                     Min:

1 – 1                                        1 – 1

2 – 50                                    2 – 10

3 – 500                                  3 – 100

That’s all there is to it. Look forward to hearing from you!

 

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two things…

One, it is convention time once again and I am looking forward to my second time at Fandomfest in Louisville, KY. It promises to be a great time and I promise to return bearing news from the con front. Fandomfest is a unique animal pinning together several events into one including a Horror Film Festival. Bruce Campbell himself will be one of the honored guests on the film side of things. I’m not sure what to think of that. Regardless, tomorrow will an early start with an e.t.a. of 3ish KY time.

Two, the final vote is in and Question 3 is on the way. The final decision on who can use magic is “a select few”. Congratulations you lucky few!

Cheers!

 

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Creative Obesity

Creative Obesity – a state in which consumption exceeds creation resulting in creative lethargy and general ill health of the muse.

There are several reasons for obesity. One common one is lack of exercise. Another stems from the low quality if food we consume. Eating becoming an end in and of itself is yet another. Likely, there are others as well. All these contribute to my thoughts on the creative self as well and how we are developing people who are creatively obese. Mind you this is not an overabundance of creativity, that is to be found in healthy creatives, and those who are creatively obese are not healthy. So what causes creative obesity?

  1. Lack of exercise – Just as food is a source of energy for activity, consumption should have an outlet for creation. When we continually store up we’ll eventually run out of space, or find ourselves with an overwhelming amount of information to sift through. This can especially be troubling if much of that information isn’t very high quality. This bring us to …
  2. Low quality creative food – Americans generally eat very poorly. We eat food designed to manipulate our pallets with a certain combination of salt and sugar to not only make us want it, but make us want more even as it makes us weaker. Most of what we eat is junk food. Well, I think a case can be made for art junk food as well. Movies, TV, books, video games, poetry, paintings, etc. that conform to a formula to the same end as these designer foods. There may have been a time when we would notice the lack in quality and freshness, but as we’ve acclimated to art’s equivalent of frozen dinners, we’ve come to a point where that poorly written, derivative, TV show seems like a banquet when it really is only a Banquet dinner, served on a plastic plate straight from the microwave in 2 minutes to be consumed in 2 minutes.
  3. Eating for eating’s sake – There comes a time when we don’t eat because we enjoy it. We hardly take the time to even taste it. We don’t really do anything, so we’re not thinking about the need for energy. We’re simply eating… and eating… and eating.  Consumption without purpose will destroy us, but it’s one of those things we may never see coming. It can be satisfying in its own shallow way. In that moment, we feel somewhat fulfilled, but the moment we’re done, the emptiness is there again begging for more.

Consumption is only part of the equation. It is to a purpose. When we lose sight of that purpose, we become unhealthy and more easily satisfied with lesser things. If I’m honest with myself, I’m not exactly fit creatively, but I’m working on it. How about you?

How fit are you creatively?

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