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2014: Movies of Interest

February 12, 2014
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In what loook to be an ongoing annual feature here, I thought I’d look ahead at movies coming out in 2014 – especially of the SF&F variety – that have caught my interest… and, in a few cases, which I think I’ll actually see in theaters.

  • The Hobbit: There And Back Again Because duh! Huge epic fantasy fan, here. Not going to miss this one.  If I see only one movie released in 2014 in theaters, this will likely be it. (Even if, as with The Desolation of Smaug, I don’t actually get to see it in the year it is released…) Releases December 17, 2014
  • The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1 I liked the Hunger Games movie and, if anything, Catching Fire was even better, IMO.  So I’m looking forward to the next installment in the film series, and I expect there’s a strong likelihood I’ll catch it in Theaters as well.  But I can’t let this go without mentioning how sad I was to hear about the untimely passing of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Releases November 21, 2014
  • The Lego Movie I am an unrepentant geek.  I had reservations about this movie when I first saw the original trailer, but let’s be honest: this was never not going to win me over.  I mean, it has Batman!  (And not Ben Affleck as Batman!) And also Star Wars!  I expect it to be a glorious medley and hash of everything I love about Legos, and to not make one whit of sense, and still to be oh-so-much fun.  Plus, the reviews of this one are actually pretty fantastic. Something tells me B.T. would get pretty excited about this movie, too, if he knew about it.  Already Released
  • Robocop I loved the original (probably much more violent than I really needed at that age) Robocop as a kid.  So I was naturally curious about this.  On the general topic of reboots and remakes, I sit on the fence: some are good, and some are bad.  And, you know what? I’ve been really impressed by the trailers for this particular remake.  Plus, it looks like some actual thought went into how the themes of the original Robocop are, in some interesting ways, more relevant today than ever, and it looks like this movie is going to explore the implications of those themes in the post Predator-drone world.  I was this close to catching a pre-release screening of this one (courtesy of some opportunities made available through my day job), but the various “winter storms” that have spread across the land like a shadow from Mordor had other plans.  Releases February 12, 2014
  • The Wind Rises Mainly because, as I’ve stated before, I adore the work of Hayao Miyazaki.  This one seems to be grounded in actual history and reality, rather than the typical SF&Fnal themes Miyazaki often explores, but what the heck.  One of these days, I’ll get myself all caught up on Miyazaki.  Releases February 21, 2014
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier I still haven’t gotten caught up with The Avengers and it’s several tentacle-like offshoot movies, so it’s unlikely I’ll see the newest Captain America in Theaters.  But would you look at that: this movie’s got flying aircraft carriers.  How very deiselpunk. Anyway, I enjoyed the first Captain America, so this’ll go on my DVD-for-sure list.  Releases April 4, 2014
  • Godzilla Like Robocop above, this is a remake of a movie I loved as a kid. Given how iconic Godzilla is, you probably did, too.  And, just like Robocop above, this is one where the trailer made me go “Wow, that looks really, really cool”. The same caveats about remakes apply, of course. But… well… this looks really cool.  Releases May 16, 2014
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past I loved the first two X-Men movies back in 2000 and 2003. I felt like they were great adaptations of the X-Men material, and they really helped to usher in the modern era of superhero flicks. But the third X-Men movie was kind of a disaster – a mostly incoherent mishmash of plots, any one of which likely would’ve made a fantastic movie by itself but together felt disjointed.  I haven’t seen an X-Men movie since.  (Okay, let’s be honest: that’s not for lack of interest; X-Men: The Last Stand wasn’t so bad that it soured me on X-Men movies. Rather, between that and the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine I’d gotten married and started grad school and my go-and-see-a-movie-because-I-want-to-on-a-whim free time began evaporating into the black hole of adult responsibility. Hey, it happens.) Since then, though, I’ve really liked the look of what I’ve seen on trailers for First Class and The Wolverine. And Days of Future Past looks like it does a good job of picking up from there, based on some pretty impressive trailers. But I haven’t yet seen First Class or Wolverine (see aforementioned comment on free time versus black hole of adult responsibility).  So I won’t be seeing this in theaters.  But I do want to see it – right after I finish up catching the other X-Men movies I’ve missed on DVD… Releases May 23, 2014
  • Maleficent I’m a sucker for Disney movies. I never quite grew out of them, and I’ve no shame in that (why should someone have to grow out of it, anyway). As mentioned here several times, in general I have mild reservations about remakes – but ultimately I reserve my judgment based on the final product itself. And so far, this one is looking like a very interesting retelling of the classic Disney version of Sleeping Beauty. And, wow, does Angelina Jolie really embody Maleficent so well. Maleficent really is, after all, probably the best animated Disney Villain. My biggest hope for this movie is that, before the end, she turns into a dragon. There aren’t enough dragons in movies, and the dragon from the original Sleeping Beauty was probably one of the top 5 or 6 movie dragons ever.  Releases May 30, 2014
  • Edge of Tomorrow So… it’s Groundhog’s Day but with an alien invasion and powered armor suits? Color me… intrigued at the very least. I know there weren’t a lot of positive reviews for Cruise’s most recent science-fictional outing, but I’m still interested enough to be watching this one very closely. I mean, what’s not to love about the formulation above? Releases June 6, 2014
  • How To Train Your Dragon 2 Remember when I said there weren’t enough dragons in movies? I stand by that, but this movie helps to close the gap. I pretty much loved the first How To Train Your Dragon, and this looks like it’s going to take the world that was explored in that movie and really push its boundaries. I’d be delighted to return to that world, and to experience more dragony goodness. In all honesty, I expect this to be a fantastic movie. Releases June 14, 2014
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes I haven’t seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes yet, though it’s on my to-rent-on-DVD-when-I-have-time-to-watch-movies list. I don’t expect that time to magically materialize between now and when this movie comes out, so I don’t expect to see this in theaters. But there were a lot of good reviews for Rise, and Dawn looks to be just as good. It looks like this new Planet of the Apes series is taking the basic premise of the original and really finding some interesting and compelling new stories to tell based on that premise. Releases July 11, 2014
  • Into the Woods I know nothing about this except that it is, I believe, an adaptation of the Broadway musical of the same name. In which case, I’ve got to put this on my list. I’ve long wanted to see the Broadway show. Releases December 25, 2014

Honorable Mentions

There are a few movies that have landed on my radar that I’m currently on-the-fence about. I’ve just no way of knowing how I’ll feel about these, yet, and for most of them I expect I’ll be plenty happy waiting for the reviews to come in before I decide if I want to see these at some point…

Noah This looks potentially epic.  Hey, it’s about the end of the world… albeit one that occurred a long time ago. (It’s alright.  The world got better…)  And of course, there’s the little fact that this is based on one of the primary mythic narratives of several of the world’s major religions.  All that said, I would not shun an opportunity to see this, were it to arise.  Releases March 28, 2014

Transendence A movie about the Singularity, and of course this being Hollywood the Singularity is a bad thing. But it’s also got Johnny Depp not being a quirky pirate, or a quirky vampire, or a quirky denizen of nonsense-land, or a quirky Native American sidekick, or a quirky anything really. Actually… it looks like he’s basically the bad guy and it looks like he plays it pretty straight.  That alone might be worth seeing. Releases April 18, 2014

Interstellar What is this about? The trailer says I’m a deep movie about pushing human frontiers, and also I’m emotionally complex, or something, but damned if I have a plot. IMBD says it’s about “explorers” using a “newly discovered wormhole” to make an “interstellar voyage”. To where? And why? So far mum’s the word. It’s directed by Christopher Nolan. That’s good. It stars Matthew McConaughy. Yawn. It’s an original story, not a remake, adaptation, or sequel. That’s interesting. So this is on the radar, but right now I know too little about it to judge how high my interest will be.  Releases November 7, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 I’m still not ready for the too-soon Spider-Man reboot. Give it a couple years, and I’m sure Tobey Maguire’s turn as the web-slinger will be enough of a memory that I’ll be able to enjoy these movies.  Releases May 2, 2014

Jupiter Ascending In theory this is all a super-cool Epic Fantasy Space Opera whiz-bang bonanza. It’s from the Wachowski Siblings, who previously brought us The Matrix (Yay!) and also Speed Racer (Boo!) and also Cloud Atlas (Bwuh?). This could go any way. My personal bet, though: this is going to be 2014’s box office boondoggle. So far there just doesn’t sound like there’s anything truly original in this story – it’s all generic “poor or orphaned young person is secretly destined to destroy the evil tyrannical dictator”. You know, like orphans do. I enjoy that basic storyline as much as the next Epic Fantasy fan, but I like to have something truly new added to that mix. And making the poor young destiny-laden hero a girl doesn’t exactly count as new.  (It’s not a bad idea that the Chosen One is a she – that’s certainly a welcome addition to the oeuvre of the trope – but gender-swapping tropes is nothing particularly new.) Releases July 18, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Do we need a remake of the Turtles? Yeah, as a kid I thought they were awesome. I’m sure today’s kids will also think they’re awesome. I’ll just have to wait-and-see, I guess, how I’ll actually feel about this once I catch a couple trailers and maybe see some buzz and/or reviews… Releases August 8, 2014

The Maze Runner In an ideal world, I’d want to read the book, first. I’ve heard it’s actually a pretty good book. The basic plot outline certainly leaves me intrigued: a kid with amnesia finds himself awaking in the middle of a maze with no explanation, and must become part of a community of kids who have likewise been deposited in this maze.  And, you know, maybe solve the maze and figure out what’s going on here? At least, I’d guess that’s where the story wants to go. (Like I said, I haven’t read this yet, and while it’s on my reading list, it was pretty far down on the list behind lots of other stuff I also want to read.)  Releases September 19, 2014

The Boxtrolls The teasers I’ve seen for this make it look positively charming, and I love the stop-motion aesthetic. But this doesn’t have the look of “must-see on the big screen”. Still, I imagine it will be a wonderfully entertaining movie.  Releases September 26, 2014

Movies from 2013

2013’s movie outings went pretty much as expected.

I saw 4 movies that were released in 2013, the first of which was Man of Steel.  This was also my biggest disappointment of the year.  I’d give the movie somewhere between a B+ and an A-.  But it could have been, should have been, an A+.  The pieces were almost all there – IMHO, a solid script and excellent casting and acting capability – but I think the directing by Zack Snyder left… something to be desired.  It was frenetic and action-oriented and left too-little time for character building and spent way, way, way too much time on stuff blowing up. How his continued helmsmanship of the DC-Universe movies figures into things does not fill me with hope for the future of my two favorite superheroes.  (I’m still unreservedly against Bat-fleck, and despite my love of this material, I’m convinced that Man of Steel II will be a disastrous box office bomb.  When it happens… nobody can say WB wasn’t warned.)

The next three movies I saw from 2013 I didn’t actually see until this year, and include one surprise visit from last year’s Honorable Mention list.  Of course, my other two top 2013 movies are on this list – Catching Fire and The Desolation of Smaug – both great and entertaining movies that, if anything topped the first of their respective series.  And then there was Frozen.  When I wrote up my movies list for 2013 I didn’t know much about Frozen.  Turns out it was a great Disney movie in the classical Disney style. It was also B.T’s first bonafide going-to-the-movies experience.  (His favorite part, he says, was when the princess turned to ice. Also the reindeer. And the snowman.)

I still want desperately to see Pacific Rim, which I heard described as either “the most awesome dumb movie, or the dumbest awesome movie” ever. Some inner-child in me fills with squee at the very thought of such a delightful concept.  Other than that, though, 2013 went as well as can be expected in terms of movie watching for a family man with a newborn infant in the house.

Links to Chew On: Can You Hack It?

January 31, 2014

So… I’m going to try to make this a regular feature – regular here meaning “happening on a consistent basis” as opposed to the very irregular thing they’ve been in the past.  I’m thinking, the last day of the first month of each quarter (thus, January 31st, and subsequently March 31st, June 30th, etc.).

And so without further ado, here are some tasty links to chew on:

  • Author Jason Sanford has some wise and reasonable words to share with you about all the “rules” of writing: don’t let them turn you into a hack!  Now, I’m no pro (as yet and, who knows, possibly ever) but I get this feeling I’ve expressed similar sentiments before.  Good to know I’m in good company when it comes to thinking that way.
  • Who would win in a fight between Zombies and Mother Nature?  BoingBoing says Mother Nature.  Her secret weapons include vultures, the California Condor, flies and their maggoty offspring, bacteria, molds, and fungi.
  • Musician David Lowery says “Silicon Valley Must Be Stopped, or Creativity Will Be Destroyed” in an interview that mainly seems to be a response to the GoldieBlox/Beastie Boys controversy. What he means is that tech start-ups that intend to make money off of the work of artists and creatives without first obtaining permission from those creatives for the use of the the things those creatives created need to be reigned in, and copyright law needs to be followed.  And, while this is undoubtedly true, it makes for a rather less-sensationalist headline.  And, frankly, in this particular instance, at least, it’s difficult for me to feel a lot of sympathy for the Beastie Boys – this may not be, as the article says, a “David and Goliath” story in terms of who’s got the money, but it’s certainly a “Daisy and Goliath” story in terms of the broader cultural headwinds. Still, it’s an interesting read – and while I might personally fall slightly on GoldieBlox’s side in this round (for one thing, I’m actually inclined to like GoldieBlox’s version of the song in question), I can definitely appreciate how this can be abused.
  • So, more and more teenagers are getting published, both through traditional means and through new digital self-publishing means.  This is a thing.  Oh, what I wouldn’t have given, at the age of something-less-than-twenty, to have had a book published.  And oh how glad I am, at the age of something-more-than-thirty, that what I wrote back then wasn’t published. I’ll stand by the Scalzi quote in that article: “The bad news [for teenage writers]: Right now your writing sucks.”  Mine did.  (I’d say it sucks arguably a lot less now.)
  • Chuck Wendig talks about the Digital Book World survey of self-publishers, traditionally-published authors, and hybrid-authors, and about digital author-publisher Hugh Howey’s response to that survey (along with a link to a rundown of this discussion by Porter Anderson).  Later, Chuck discusses the latest big news-splash author turning down a major traditional deal (i.e. romance author Brenna Aubrey) and gives his take on it.  The summary version: There’s different things going on in the different worlds of digital self-publishing versus traditional publishing, and they have different risks and different rewards, and authors should take into account a lot more than just the money side of the equation into their decision-making matrix.  That’s more-or-less how I roll on this ongoing digital evolution discussion. So Wendig gets my vote for “guy (i.e. person) who actually thinks before blathering on the internet about digital self-publishing”.
  • The Smithsonian talks about a new study published in PLOS ONE that demonstrates a strong statistical correlation between the language and tone of a book and the economic conditions that preceded it.  Or, in other words, books published after hard economic times with high unemployment tend to be darker and more negative.  I wonder what this suggests about the book(s) I will someday write…?
  • So Daddy Blogs are a thing that exists. I did not know this before. (I have a wife, so of course I knew that Mommy Blogs were a thing). And here’s a daddy who’s kicking butt and taking names – especially when it comes to diaper-changing stations in public Men’s restrooms.  As a dad, this is something that I’ve been aware of as being a problem already, but since reading this post I’ve started noticing a little more often whether a men’s restroom has a changing station or not. Suffice to say, of course, that as a devoted and loving father, I’m on-board with this campaign.  So far, most places I’ve been out to have had changing stations in the men’s rooms.  Next thing I’d like to add to this list, as a father of a semi-independent pre-schooler: retractable step stools for at least one of the sinks (in both men’s and women’s rooms).  Try holding a baby, the baby’s diaper bag, and then trying to lift a 3-4 year old up so he can reach the faucet to wash his hands! It’s cumbersome to say the least… I’ve seen these places so I know it’s a thing that can be done, but I see them far-too rarely, and often not at places where I think they’d make the most sense (like places specifically catering to the toddler or younger crowd).

2014: Goals, Plans, Dreams

January 15, 2014

On one hand, I’m not sure there’s much purpose, at this point, in setting “goals” for the year.  I frankly have no idea what to expect in terms of time, sleeping of the baby, and energy levels in the year to come.  How can I set goals if I don’t even know what I’m going to have to work with?  However, I think there’s value in looking forward to the year and trying to assess what can be accomplished and what I want to accomplish.  So I’m going to follow the model I’ve set for myself the past couple years and look at my year ahead, and how that fits into my longer-term goals and dreams.  The one caveat: this year, I’m going to focus here primarily on the first half of the year, after which time passes I’ll assess where I am again and plan going forward from there.

Thinking About Long-term Goals

My thinking about my long-term goals hasn’t changed much over the past year.  Here’s what I had to say about my long-term goals last year:

I haven’t made much of a secret about it my long-term goals and dreams… it’s implicit in my blog’s tagline: “A Day in the Life of an Aspiring Fantasy Author”.  By “aspiring fantasy author” I mean not that I aspire to write… but that I aspire for my writing to be published.  …Now we live in a day and age when the definition of the word “published” is in flux.

On my blog I’ve been critical, and thought critically about, both the new Digital Self-publishing paradigm and the old traditional publishing model.  I’ve pointed out some of the systemic problems with each, and  how those problems negatively impact authors.  So, for me, it seems I could go either way.  There are strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with either road.

But when I say my long-term goal is to be a published author, I’m really talking about traditional publishing.

I then went on to dig into some of the “whys” behind my preference for “traditional” publishing to “digital self-publishing”, but I won’t rehash those here.  The reasons remain, largely, the same, though perhaps the size of my dreams has moderated somewhat in the year past.  (I’m basically in my mid-thirties, now.  Older and wiser.  Getting “rich” off of writing no longer seems even remotely achievable, even as a stretch-dream.)  But the overarching long-term goal I stated before, and the reasons for pursuing it that I give, remain the guiding star by which I’m plotting my medium-term journeys.

2014 Goals

In the last two years, I’ve given my goals as it relates across 4 categories: how much I plan to read during the year, how frequently I intend to write, completion of manuscripts and submission of manuscripts.  This year I’d like to add some new categories, while I’ll be dialing back somewhat on several of the prior four.

1) Read at least 400,000 words worth of fiction in the first half of 2014: In 2013, I was able to put over a million words worth of fiction reading under my belt.  I’d like to think I could do that again.  But I’m not quite ready to publicly lay down a goal that ambitious for this year, and given the total state of flux that V.R. has left our life in, I can’t even say whether it’s realistic or feasible to do it again.  Instead, I’ll focus on the first half of the year.  I want to try to do at least 400,000 words of fiction by July 1st, 2014.  Depending on how I do on that goal, I’ll adjust my 2014 expectations accordingly at that time.

2) Find a consistent writing schedule that I can realistically achieve, and then maintain it: In the past two years I’ve set ambitious goals for myself in terms of the frequency of my writing – at least, they were ambitious to me.  In both years I failed utterly to achieve those goals.  Right now, I simply don’t have a clear idea of whether or not I even can keep a consistent writing schedule.  So my goal for the first half of 2014 is to try and find one.  This is at least partially contingent on V.R. finding his own consistent sleeping schedule.  While 2013 was marked by a complete lack of consistency on his part with regard to sleep, 2014 is so far shaping up to look like it might be different.  I’m not sure what happened on January 1st, but things have been normalizing quite a bit since then in V.R.’s sleep department, though we’re by no means out of the woods.

If I can make it to the mid-year point on this goal successfully, then I’ll be in a better position to gauge how much writing I can achieve, and how frequently I can write in the second half of the year.  If not, it’ll be a continued search for a predictable and consistent schedule.

3) Contingent on the success of Goal #2, focus on completing a final draft of one short story: This goal is entirely contingent.  If I can succeed in finding some sort of consistent writing schedule in 2014, then my first effort will be to complete a final draft of a short story, namely the same short I’d been working on previously (i.e. Story of V).  Since last I put words down on Story of V, the world of that story has blossomed in my head, and it now constitutes an out-of-chronological-order “chapter” in a longer epic fantasy series of short stories.  In my head, these stories are each independent stories with their own characters (with a few recurring characters) and their own beginnings, middles, and ends.  But a thread runs through them that ties them together into a larger, hopefully coherent narrative.  That’s the idea, anyway.  But first… if I can, I want to finish this story.

4) Contingent on the success of Goal #3, submit completed story to a professional market or content: More contingency goals. If I can find time to write, and if I can thereafter finish a draft of this story, then and only then will I have something to submit.  Basically: I’ll cross this bridge when and if I come to it.

5) Develop a plan to revitalize the blog: The first of my new goal categories concerns this very blog.  Simply put, the site is dated and clunky. For a long time I’ve been wanting to update the blog to make it better and cleaner and update the visual appeal.  The blog also lagged a lot in 2013 for posts and content. A lot of this was due to lack of time for blogging, this is largely true. But some of it was for lack of something to blog about.  I believe that I need to take a broader view on what sorts of things are of value to discuss on this blog, and what I want to talk about.

This goal isn’t to complete the revitalization.  It’s to set up a plan to do so.  That plan will need to balance competing desires for maximum blog-beautifulosity and interestingification with minimum time input.

6) Find a consistent blogging schedule that I can realistically achieve, and then maintain it: Similar to Goal #2 in almost all respects except instead of relating to fiction, it relates to blogging.  I’ve long wanted a consistent posting schedule; maybe in 2014 I can figure out what a realistic schedule might be.

7) Personal Life Renewal: You know something else that dropped off a lot in 2013? My personal life. As in the whole Husband and Father thing.  I was so overtaken by being father I had to be (for little V.R.’s sake) that I hadn’t taken time to focus on being the father I want to be (for both V.R. and B.T.) Not to mention, you know, romancing Dear Wife. Of this I’ll say no more, except that I want to be very clear that these three people are my highest priority, and I want to acknowledge that here in my blog.

There.  That should be enough to keep me very busy for the next six months.  How do you plan to spend all that time?

2013 In Review: Blogging

January 2, 2014

As promised, I thought it would be fun to post up a review of my blogging for the year.  Most of this is covered in WordPress’s automatically-generated annual Stats Report, which you can see below.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

No surprises here, but 2013 continued the annual trend of declining page views here, from a high of around 16,000 in 2011 down to 14,000 in 2012 and 10,000 in 2013.  There seems to be a strong correlation with the number of posts I’ve written – from 189 in 2011 to 122 in 2012 and down to only 30 in 2013.

Yeah… 30 posts.  That’s all I managed to find time for in 2013.  That’s rather less than once-a-week.  This goes back to the theme that prevailed in the rest of my writing throughout this year that I discussed in my last post.  The realities of Fatherhood 2.0 (which is clearly still in beta) leave me without sufficient time to adequately maintain this blog.

It logically follows, then, that my most popular posts on this blog in 2013 were all written in prior years – mostly 2011 and 2012.  Basically, I wrote nothing of any consequence or depth in 2013.

Incidentally… does anyone out there run a WordPress.com blog but use some other mechanism to track their blog stats? There’s nothing wrong that I could definitively see in WordPress’s stats, but I don’t have any way of accessing and performing my own data manipulations to get at anything that interests me in particular… I’d love to be able to do that.  Also, after a certain amount of time, old data becomes inaccessible to me.  If there’s some other way to look at the data and/or to store that information long-term, I’d love to take it for a whirl.  Sound off in comments if you’ve got a way of working around WordPress.com’s stats limitations.

When time allows… I’ll start looking at my prognosis for 2014 in my next annual Goals, Plans, and Dreams post…

2013 In Review: Goals, Books, and Writing

December 31, 2013

The fact that I didn’t find the time to post my goals for 2013 until February should have been a clue, early in the year, that this was not a promising year for achieving such goals.

Those goals, in brief, numbered 4: first, read at least 750,000 words of fiction, second, write at least 1,750 words of fiction per week (with a few caveats), third, complete the first drafts for at least two short stories and, third, to submit one completed draft in to a publishing market.

Perhaps one out of four ain’t bad, considering the year it’s been at the Casa Chez Watkins.  The short rundown of whether I met my goals: Yes, No, No, and No.

Yes, I read over 750,000 words of fiction.  In fact, I read over one million words this year.  The things I have read in 2013: A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, The Hundred Thousdand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, and most of the first four books of the “Fablehaven” series by Brandon Mull, those being Fablehaven, Rise of the Evening Star, Grip of the Shadow Plague, and about 70% of Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary.  Every book I’ve touched in 2013 has been a pleasure to read, and each enjoys my hearty recommendation.  Plus, I joined Goodreads in 2013 (feel free to friend me) in spite of my reservations on their being purchased by Amazon.

No, I did not write 1,750 words per week in 2013.  Not even close.  In truth, out of 52 weeks in the year, I actually wrote more than 0 words of fiction in only 5 of them.  Of those five weeks, only one week came even close to my stated goal.  Four of those five writing days occurred in the first quarter of the year.  This will prove to be a relevant detail. My total wordcount for the year: roughly in the neighborhood of 4,600 words total.

Consequent to the last, no, I did not complete any short stories and no I submitted nothing to any publishing markets for consideration.

So what did I do in 2013 besides read and nothing?  Allow me to reflect on the themes that the year presented to me.

V.R.

Yes it really is that simple.  No I don’t mean “Virtual Reality”.  I mean my second little tyke.

Fatherhood, of course, was it’s own challenging transition.  When I first started this blog lo these many 4 years ago, I already knew that Fatherhood was an imminent facet of my future.  The blog was, at the time, an outlet for the internal pressures inside me striving to find release in the medium of creative writing at a time when life was already fairly busy.

I had thought, when we began to prepare for our second child, that being the father of two wouldn’t be substantially more demanding of me than being a father of one.  More demanding, yes, but not lots more.

I was… mistaken.

Since the advent of our second precious little one early in 2013, I can now count on one hand, to some approximation, the number of nights in which I have had a full night of uninterrupted sleep. (Remember how I said that the fact that most of the writing I’d done this year was in the first quarter was a relevant detail? This is how it is relevant.)  I find myself chronically sleep-deprived and both emotionally and intellectually drained.  What wherewithal I have has been devoted to trying to be a good husband and parent and to doing my best to have an outstanding year in my dayjob.  Being mostly – but not always entirely – successful in these endeavors has come at the cost of virtually no writing progress whatsoever in any of the several writing projects I am theoretically juggling.  (“Theoretically” because in practical reality those balls have been lying gathering dust this year, and hardly a one has been picked up or dusted off this year.)

So why, in all this, was I able to do so well in reading? Two reasons, I think: first, while reading is an intellectually engaging activity, it is markedly less cognitively demanding than writing and composition.  Second, relating to my writing head-space and proclivities and how that contrasts with reading: I can read in very short bursts (though I prefer not to be forced into shorter bursts) of as little as a page or two or a few minutes at a time.  Any progress made during that time is still progress toward any quantifiable reading goal. For writing, it’s not so simple for me. You’ll find lots of advice out there suggesting that one should make use of every available free minute to write, be they five minutes here or ten there. Except I can’t actually do that, or at least I’ve not yet found it in myself to do so.  I need enough free time and space, chunked together, to allow me to get into the story I’m producing, to delve into the characters and to feel the beats and rhythms of the plot.  If I have only five minutes in which to do this, any words I write, however few in number they may be, are more likely than not going to need to be deleted later, in which case the writing becomes a game of one step forward and at least as many steps back.  Not a terribly successful formula for progress.  All this while simultaneously draining still more from my already meager and dwindling cognitive reserves.  (A sad milestone for me this year: I believe 2013 is perhaps the first year I know of in which I felt stupider at the end than I did going in.)

Writing didn’t happen.  Reading did happen.  And something else happened in 2013.  I did lots of fathery-type stuff. For all that my mental resources felt drained, I still have a lovely and happy family, and I’m reasonable certain that all the members of that family – both little boys as well as wife and, yes, probably even the dog – are happy to have me as part of their lives.  Little V.R. may not sleep with anything remotely resembling consistency at night, but when he’s awake at the same time as the sun is up, he’s a genuinely joyful and adventuresome soul with a keen passion for the zest in life.  And let’s not forget B.T., who continues to grow and develop in delightful ways, proving at every turn that he’s gifted with a bright and inquisitive mind, a sensitive and loving heart, and a strong desire to make sense of the world around him.  Between the two, my own heart is so full of proud daddy emotions that the organ has undoubtedly had to increase in size somewhat dramatically in order to encompass it all.

I’m sad that I’ve had a poor year with respect to my writing – I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But I think it is equally true that the joy B.T. and V.R. have brought me in return this year has been fairly just compensation of another kind.

I’ll update with a review of my year in blogging at a later date, but here’s a sneak preview: The life-altering consequences of adding a second child to our home was felt not only in the realm of fiction writing.

So that’s the year looking back, for me.  How was your 2013?

A Ten-Month-Old’s Letter To Santa

December 11, 2013

Stephen A. Watkins:

V.R. falls pretty close to this category of infanthood… and hey, the things this other baby wants are pretty much mostly exactly the same things V.R. wants… Thanks to the Ugly Volvo for posting this…

Originally posted on The Ugly Volvo:

Dear Santa,

 I am a ten-month-old baby and I write because my mother has been sending out my “Christmas List” to people, and her list does not in any way represent the things I really want.  I could give two s#*ts about receiving stacking cups.

And I know you’re ready to make the joke about ten month-old babies and how all we want is the wrapping paper and the boxes.  Touché, SantaTouché.   We do, of course, want those things.  But I have a number of additional things I want very badly.

My list is enclosed below.  Have a lovely holiday.

-Ten Month-Old Baby

*          *          *

A Comprehensive List of The Things I Want For Christmas:

aa xmas gifts


Dearest Santa: For Christmas, I would like the following:

*          *          *

1.) This Laptop Cord

IMG_3109

I want this laptop cord more than I have ever wanted…

View original 618 more words

NoNoWriMo

November 12, 2013

It’s that time of year again.  We’re 12 days into the month of November, and authors and would-be writers all around the world are cracking their knuckles and flexing their story-muscles.

So far, I’m on track this year for a perfect NoNoWriMo.  That’s right: I’ve written 0 words of fiction so far this month, and if I keep up this pace of 0 words a day, I’ll be able to crack that 0 word total by the end of the month.

I’m being facetious, of course.  Can you tell?  In reality, if you were taking part in NaNoWriMo, you should find yourself somewhere around the 20,000 wordcount mark today.

Hey, I’ll level with you: if I had the opportunity to participate in NaNo, I would.  Heck, if I could find the time to put down five thousand words, much less fifty thousand, I’d take it.  I don’t really take pride in the fact that I’m not doing NaNo and that I’m not writing.  I take no pleasure in the fact that it has been 3 months since I’ve written a word of fiction (compounded with another 5 months of no writing before that solitary instance of activity).

But a blog where I complain about how little I’m writing is no fun to write, and an absolute killjoy to read.  So I make light, when I can.  Just one of the ways I put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward without losing hope that, yes, one day I will be a writer.  I don’t even mean necessarily a published professional writer, though I hope one day to be that too, but a writer as in someone who writes.  Right now?  I can’t really claim even that designation.

But you know what designation I can claim? A dad.  And not a half-bad one at that.  Not always a good one, sure, but more good than bad.  And I’m a husband.  Maybe a middling one, but at least I make the effort.  And I’m a an employee.  I like to think I’m an asset to my company and that I bring a lot to the table.  Right now, this trifecta takes the overwhelming majority of my time.  Most of the remainder (not counting sleep, of course) goes to a fourth thing which I am: a responsible homeowner.  The long-running projects Dear Wife and I have been engaged in are currently languishing for lack of energy to complete them, but I’m well on my way down another, more time-sensitive home owner’s project that’s eating a lot of time: reclaiming my yard from the unruly wild.  (Okay, so, currently the moles are sort of winning.  But new grass is one its way, and I’m still looking for new options on how to deal with the subterranean varmints.)

That’s the forecast for November 2013.  But tell me, how’s your month going?

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