Tag Archives: Random Thoughts

Recipe for Disaster

It starts with the idea that anyone with an internet connection can go and find instructions on how to make a bomb with a common kitchen appliance. Sadly, this idea isn’t new. The information has existed for decades, but the technological age in which we live makes this information all too easy to obtain. You would be right to think that there must be violent motivations behind the desire to create such a device and put it to use, but that’s not always the case. 

There’s a company in the U.S. currently publishing blueprints that you can simply plug into a 3D printer and then print yourself restricted parts for firearms, like the lower receiver for an AR-15 assault rifle. When asked about what his thoughts were on the fact that this was one step closer to anyone being able to manufacture a gun that could pass freely thought a metal detector the co-owner of the company, Cody Wilson, replied:

I think there’s nothing wrong with what we’re doing in a moral sense. We’re pursuing what we think is a step toward liberty…”

The first time I was exposed to the question of social responsibility when it came to published material was in high school. There was a rumour floating around that someone in the school had acquired a copy of The Anarchist Cookbook and people were freaking out! Well the adults were, but the students, they just wanted to see something blow up. Several years after publication the author of the book had a change of heart and wrote the publisher requesting it be taken out of print. Due to the manner in which the copyright was assigned (to the publisher, not the author) the author was told that that wasn’t going to happen. William Powell, says of his infamous book:

The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this.”

While I applaud William Powell’s change of heart, the content is still readily available and it continues to promote violence. You can’t un-ring a bell. But this isn’t a post about gun control or anti-terrorism (though I happen to feel that both of those things are generally a good idea). All of the above are examples of content that’s driven by an agenda (terrorism, civil liberties, political protest). But what about when the agenda is simply to entertain? What happens when a work of fiction becomes the Anarchist Cookbook for the sociopath living next door? 

This is a question that recently popped into my head when I was driving to work and listening to Metallica’s Nothing else Matters. For whatever reason, a spectacularly disturbing scene popped in my head as the song played. I imagined it as a soundtrack playing over the events as they unfolded, the main character singing along as he committed heinous acts of evil and atrocity. If I think about it, there’s nothing unique about what I envisioned – I’m sure several movies, televisions shows, or books have captured the essence of this scene several hundred times over – but when the song ended I paused my music and drove the rest of the way in silence thinking to myself, What is this crazy serial killer’s motivation? What would drive this individual to commit such unspeakable acts of violence?


Before long, I had established a back story for my antagonist, the motivations behind his actions, and a suitable ending that, depending on which way I want the story to go, could either please readers or make them scream in frustration (i.e. getting caught or getting away with it). Once I had these ideas in place, and after a day’s worth of work of thinking about something else, I was left to ponder, What if any of this were to be used by someone in real life? 

Part of me thinks it’s ridiculous to worry that a work of fiction would end up driving someone to act on it, but it happens all the time. It’s not in the same as distributing bomb making instructions or blueprints for restricted gun parts but is the fact that the book is labelled as fiction enough? I would like to think so, but at the same time I still feel somewhat responsible of making sure that it’s crystal clear I’m talking bullshit for your enjoyment and that it’s not a how-to manual or some demented personal wish list. I suspect a lot of artists struggle with this, but I’m not really sure.

Anyway, at the end of the day I can always get Bono to step in and make things right.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUZf-_adUTo?rel=0]

~ Andrew

The Big Reveal

Well the guesses are in and we have a winner!
 
Thanks to everyone who stopped by to have a read and congratulations to Stephanie Fuller for correctly picking out which one of these was a complete and total lie. Stephanie, just send me an email with the pictures you want (up to 10) from Andrew’s Alphabet and I’ll get them to you right away.
 
Of course, because I’m sneaky (or just a jerk – you decide) I’ve decided not to directly reveal which answer is bunk. Instead, I’ve made all the choices clickable and upon doing so, the choice will expand to reveal a brief story about the item. The false one will be appropriately labelled (and in red text).
 
Of course, if you want to just go back to the original post and check to see which one Stephanie picked you can do that too 🙂
 
Without further delay. Here are the facts (and one lie):
  1. I have scored a game winning goal at Maple Leaf Gardens
  2. I have assisted Penn & Teller on stage with one of their tricks (Mofo the Psychic Gorilla)
  3. I have been paid as a freelance writer to provide original content to a video game
  4. I have had a 1 minute conversation and spoken five scripted words on a nationally broadcasted television show (US and Canada) 
    1. The episode aired more than once and I have been recognized by at least one complete stranger for this appearance
    2. It was 20 years before I saw it
  5. I have played, and won, hockey games on both the 1932 and 1980 Olympic hockey rinks in Lake Placid New York 
  6. I have had a 500 word anecdote selected for inclusion in a Darwin Awards book
    1. In the first printing (hard cover) they incorrectly spelled my name
  7. I have stood in the room where Winston Churchill was born
  8. One summer in Europe was spent working as a groundskeeper for a Canadian embassy
  9. I have had a 5000 word short story selected for inclusion (and soon to be published) in an anthology
  10. I have appeared as a street fighting bum in a rap music video
  11. I have eaten snake soup
  12. I was once qualified to instruct both flat water canoeing and small vessel sailing
  13. I once stayed awake for over 100 consecutive hours
  14. I have appeared in a TV commercial for a financial institution (singing & texting – but no talking)
  15. I have been a teacher’s assistant for English as a Second Language children (ages 6-10) with behavioural problems
    1. This job was a block away from the most crime riddled area of Canada’s largest city
  16. I have broken or cracked the following bones: toe beside the big one on the left foot, left foot, left ankle, left tibia, left arm (radius AND ulna), left pinky and middle fingers (separate breaks), several ribs, right ankle, right wrist, right pinky finger, nose, head (stiches), and brain (more than 4 concussions)
  17. I have driven my car to the publicized geographic longitudinal centre of Canada
  18. Last year of high school I did not take notes or use anything but a pencil to write assignments/tests in calculus.  I got 94%.  Last year of university I studied more for my Calculus 3 course than any other subject.  I got 51%
    1. In school, we covered in 3 lectures (9 hours) what took Isaac Newton over 20 years to uncover and write down (granted, he had other things going on).
~ Andrew
 

What’s Your Biggest Weakness?

With the big contest reveal coming tomorrow I thought a departure from the usual theme would be a good idea. A friend of mine recently interviewed for a job, and while it went really well, there was one interviewer who was hell bent on asking some really off-the-wall stuff. Well, if you’ve heard the expression “There are no stupid questions” before I’m here to politely inform you that there are, and if you’re a certain type of interviewer you’re probably asking them.

When conducting an interview, hiring managers always want to make sure they are getting the right person for the job. Candidates often come so well prepared and polished that it can be very difficult to get a good read on someone just from a couple hours of talking through the standard set of questions. Many companies will try to put candidates through a veritable gauntlet of interviews, with 4, 5, 6, or more people each getting 30-60 minutes to lob question after question, scenario after scenario at them; looking for hidden faults, but more often looking for a spark of genius.

No doubt you’ve all read stories about some of the fabulous questions that the likes of Microsoft and Google have asked their potential employees. Many of these are extremely well thought out, but are also remarkably unconventional and designed to help ferret out specific nuggets of information that would be otherwise hard to extract if they were to keep to the same sort of predictable script.

I was a co-op student at the University of Waterloo, so I’m no stranger to job interviews and some of the crazy questions that one can encounter. I was also a hiring manager for software development and testing for over a decade in a variety of industries. I’ve tried to come up with a list of generic questions relevant to each position with limited success, but one thing is certain: I outright refuse to ask certain questions, simply because they are stupid. That may come off as a bit flippant, and I don’t necessarily mean stupid in the strict dictionary definition of the word, but nevertheless there are just some questions that aught not to be asked in a job interview.

For starters, don’t ask people riddles. At least, don’t ask riddle-type questions for which you already have an answer in mind. A friend interviewed for a job as a statistician and was asked, “How many piano tuners are there in New York City?” Initially, this would seem like a really stupid question, but it wasn’t because the interviewer didn’t want a precise answer. Answering 1328 versus answering 472 was inconsequential when compared with how the question was answered.

I’ve been asked how I would build a clock for a blind person. After several minutes of me trying to understand the requirements (example: plug in vs. battery operated vs. wind up) I was told, “Just take the glass off a regular alarm clock.” The person’s tone was incredulous as well, as if I had deeply offended them by not knowing the answer. This was a stupid question, with an even stupider expected answer (every time you check the time you’ll change what time it is!).

Questions like this remind me of those Mensa questions or silly things you see on Facebook. “What’s the next symbol in the sequence?”, “Which number comes next?” These are little more than party tricks that, once you’ve seen a couple, you can figure out the answer without having to even think at all, let alone showcase practical life skills.

How about this? Interviewers of the world listen up! Instead of asking seemingly open ended questions that are just riddles in disguise, how about you take a minute and put on your thinking caps for a change and ask your candidates questions that allow them to use their knowledge and experience to provide a solution to a relevant problem.

Remember, that with so many highly skilled and talented people out there, the likelihood is that they are interviewing you just as much as you are interviewing them and we wouldn’t want you to look stupid, now would we?

~ Andrew

 

So I Stopped Wearing Socks

Two weeks ago I was talking about the birth of ideas. Strangely enough, in a perfect example of how some of my ideas form, I was working on a post about motivation and another idea popped into my head. It went something like this:

  • I wrote that I hoped there would be “more ideas to come” and I knocked on wood.
  • That made me think of superstitions.
  • That made me think of Friday the 13th, which happens to be the day on which I turned 13.
  • That made me think of my birthday in general, which falls on the 13th of March every year.
  • Which reminded me that my brother-in-law died on my 35th birthday, which was also a Friday the 13th.
  • At the time of his death I was living in Ottawa and for some reason I wasn’t participating in the City of Ottawa Bonspiel (I had played the two previous years).
  • This year I am curling in that event and I fly out the day after my birthday.
  • That made me think of the tournament schedule, which in curling parlance is referred to as a “draw”.
  • That made me think of the phrase “the luck of the draw”.
  • That made me think of superstitions again.
  • And that’s why I’m on this oil rig.1

This all happened in a fraction of a second, which speaks to the immense processing power of the human mind (and to the fact that I should probably still be in therapy).

I grew up playing baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter. I would guess that hockey players probably having more superstitious tendencies than everyone else in the world combined. Add onto that turning 13 on Friday the 13th and what you end up with is one seriously superstitious kid (it doesn’t hurt that I’m slightly obsessive compulsive). My skates always went on right foot first, then left, then I tied the left, then I tied the right. I removed the little shiny sticker at the base of my stick (on the shaft just before the heel – back when sticks were actually made of wood) and replaced it with a strip on black hockey tape. Don’t even get me started on the laundry schedule for certain items during a winning or points streak (neither of which occurred too frequently).

Those are just a few personal examples – there are literally millions of others that people are carrying around with them every day. Most seem to be centred around sports, but they definitely exist for writers as well. I know people that write with their lucky pens, or in specific patterns in specific notebooks, under a favourite tree, or even facing a specific direction (East). Some will chalk it up to being a “creature of habit” and others insist it’s simply a matter of comfort.

I’m superstitious to the point where you’d think that I think it actually matters, and you’d be more right than you are wrong. You can’t have one of the greatest days of your childhood (Friday, March 13, 1987) and twenty-two years later have the worst day of your life (Friday, March 13, 2009) and not think that there’s something bigger going on – that there’s not some sort of connection, or some mystical force of the cosmos working to balance everything out.

Einstein said, “God does not play dice with the Universe”, and as a matter of fact he didn’t believe in God – at least not as the Mover of All Things. He felt that everything was governed by a grand unified formula in which all matter, and its behaviour, was connected (indeed, even Einstein saw some of the merits of modern Quantum theory). Well, it turns out Einstein was right about more than a few things in his lifetime and I’m left to wonder if maybe what we see as superstitions he would see as just ordered variables of a grand equation.

I’m also left to wonder if there was something more behind his desire to not wear socks.

~ Andrew

P.S. Apologies to bartender Brianna at ski lessons. Had I just sat in the same place as before maybe she would have won on her Tim Horton’s Roll Up The Rim cup today.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQaxDTKsb6s?rel=0]

1
This is an inside joke from a long time ago. Back in 1993 a bunch of us were watching TV in a dorm room at the University of Waterloo and the guy whose room we were in happened to be a bit of a channel surfer. We were all talking and not paying much attention and he hopped to a channel where there was this funny looking British dude in the middle of the ocean and he said, “And that’s why I’m on this oil rig!” Well if we all didn’t think that was the funniest thing we’ve ever heard. After that, any time someone said something even remotely out of context someone else would say, “And that’s why I’m on this oil rig!”. Fast forward to 1996 and I’m living in an apartment with a fellow physics student. He was obsessed with the show Connections. In summary, it was a show where this guy would take an everyday something like a garden hose and he would walk you though a fabulous series of “connections” starting with the first discovery or invention that kicked off the whole chain of events. It’s an amazing show if you have any interest at all in why we end up with some of the things we have today. Anyway, one day we’re eating lunch and watching this show and wouldn’t you know it, the host jumps to a new “connection” and he standing on a platform in the middle of the ocean and says, “And that’s why I’m on this oil rig!”. I just about choked on my sandwich I was laughing so hard.

Giving Birth

Wow, was there ever a lot of talk this week about meteors and asteroids! It’s a good thing too, because I was in need of an idea for my post for this week. “What?!”, you say, “How can you possibly tie meteors and asteroids into a column about writing?” It’s a good question and one that I intend on answering.

  • First we get a meteor over Russia travelling at 54,000 km/h (that’s 15 kilometres [9 miles] every SECOND), and exploding over Chelyabinsk, Russia. The shock wave created as this thing entered our atmosphere took almost 30 seconds to reach the ground, and when it did it shattered windows, damaged buildings, and injured over 1,000 people.

  • Then, just a few hours later and asteroid slightly larger than a Space Shuttle came from the south and at a distance of 28,000 km zipped between the International Space Station and a ring of weather satellites. I’m not sure I can put that into perspective. It’s 1/10 the distance to the Moon. It passed INSIDE satellites WE put in space to monitor the weather. Astronomically speaking, that’s about as close a shave as you can get.

Two completely unrelated events happening on the same day, both involving chunks of rock from space, and both causing quite a stir here on Earth. For some, these are the types of occurrences that spawn science fiction books or fantastical Hollywood blockbuster movies. For me, these are the types of types of occurrences that make me wonder where I get my ideas.

I can’t figure out where my ideas come from, and there are times when it feels like I might never get another one that’s worth sharing.

The idea for my current (and first) novel took more than a decade to form and started out as something completely different. It evolved slowly over time with the strongest and most adaptable pieces carrying on to the next generation. It changed from a film about one thing, to a short story about something else, back to a film about something close to the first thing, to a novel about that thing, to a novel about something completely different. The original film idea now sits on a shelf waiting to be fertilized and will probably be birthed as my third novel.

Other ideas of mine seem to be created out of thin air. I have a short story/novella idea that came to me when I was staring at the walls of an elevator. Hey, I thought, I think this would make a great short story. Something kind of Twilight Zone-ish with a feel similar to Ayn Rand’s “Anthem”. I got a bit of help with this one from a friend later that night, but 90% of this idea had formed in the 30 seconds it took to ride up 1 floor.

The idea for what will probably become my second novel came to me while listening to Metallica in my car on the way to work. It was just one scene that played in my head throughout the duration of the song “Nothing Else Matters” (which happens to be one of my favourite Metallica tunes). It was the most disturbing thought I’ve ever had, and within minutes I had created several main characters and a plot, pulling ideas from some well-known religious nut jobs, cultists, psychopaths, sociopaths, and serial killers.

It would appear that I don’t lean toward any one “method” for coming up with ideas but I have noticed a few things:

  1. I get more ideas when I’m left alone
    Whether it’s as I’m falling asleep, or when I’m in the shower, or driving to work in the car, or alone in elevators, my brain needs a certain amount of isolation to work its magic. I don’t think I’m alone in this regard, but there are definitely people whose ideas come out of brainstorming with others – a sort of “think tank” mentality. This is definitely not me. My work even tends to be of higher quality when it’s just me in a room with white noise pumping through my headphones.
     
  2. My ideas get better when I involve other people

    While I have a harder time working with others to come up with ideas, the ones I get (that I like) only get better as I bounce them off other people. Certainly the four ideas I mentioned above have only improved since I shared them (or bits and pieces of them) with some of the great minds I happen to know.
     

  3. I can’t force ideas to appear

    Much like a baby, I can’t guarantee its arrival. I need an idea – now! very quickly becomes I got nuthin’. Just the right set of circumstances and the right chemical reactions are needed to bring my ideas to life and as soon as I start to force them out they dry up and I’m left with nothing but cobwebs and tumbleweeds. 

So, what works for you? Where do your ideas come from? Do they come out of nowhere and fall from the sky like a meteor (minus the exploding over Russia), or are they slowly cultivated over time; nurtured, pampered, brought into the world and given life? Are they a product of isolation and solitude or do they bounce around and off others like a stray particle seeking a cosmic partner.

If all the conspiracy talk after recent meteor/asteroid events are any indication, there is no imagination shortage out there, that’s for sure. Now if only we can get Hollywood to step up and give us something original; because even with rocks falling from the sky what we’re really missing is something with a deep impact.

~Andrew

I Fəəl Dirty

I think writing can be the easiest thing in the world to do, once you’ve figured out a few words and how to get them on paper. Watch a child who has just learned to write and see how effortlessly they write:

I likə cats and rainbows. I wish my cat kud tock so shə kud tell mə if shə liks rainbows. I think shə duz.

 Yes, every “e” is backwards, there are several words spelled phonetically, and the colour choices make it difficult to read; but there it is in black and white (and a crayon box full of other colours). If a child at such an early stage can write, then anyone can do it. Right?

Wrong. Writing is also one of the most difficult things in the world to do. Not every story can be about cats, and not every idea just appears in your head like a rainbow in the sky. Good ideas are even harder to come by. Those are like the crystal clear double rainbow you see after a short summer rain where you can imagine giant pots of gold at each end and a bevy of leprechauns dancing a jig around them. Oh, and let’s not forget that all this has to be interesting enough for people to read. That’s like trying to describe your rainbow scene in such a way that someone would rather read about it from you than see the photograph of it taken by someone else.

I wanted to use http://ic2.pbase.com/g2/95/519495/2/55623816.1QMs4Uwa.jpg by Dan Bush at http://www.pbase.com/missouri_skies/image/55623816/large but haven't heard back from him yest. So, for now I'll be using one I took.

We needn’t fret though because we’ve given ourselves the best out there is: we get to make stuff up! That’s right, when it comes to fiction, we writers are blessed to live in a world where there are virtually no rules (and those who are editors can vouch for the fact that most of us take some pretty serious liberties with the rules that do exist), and this is where I start to feel a little dirty.

My background is heavily scientific. In high school I took chemistry, physics, calculus, algebra, and finite mathematics. English and French were thrown in just because I had to take something that wasn’t math and science. I started university in applied physics, and was working toward an astrophysics major before I realized that a career in academia was not how I wanted to spend my life. I graduated with a non-specialized science degree and became a computer programmer.

At this point you’re asking yourself, Why is this important, and why does it make you feel dirty? Well it’s really quite simple… as a scientist I am not comfortable making stuff up. It feels wrong. Actually, when a scientist makes stuff up it IS wrong, and when other people make stuff up and try to pawn it off as science (or worse, the truth) it is just as wrong, if not more so. My friend Gordon Bonnet (a science teacher and a writer) has an excellent blog about people making stuff up and how it really grates his cheese. His post from Feb. 9 even has a rainbow!

So, when it came time to introduce a little science to my novel I was hesitant. I was a physics guy, and a slightly below average one at that. The science I needed was in the area of biology and to a lesser degree advanced computer programming and Internet security. I could bungle my way through the math and computers well enough that the average person wouldn’t have a clue. Plus, I didn’t want those details to overpower the characters in the story (it’s not a book about computers, it’s a book about people!) Anyway, after a while I got more and more comfortable with the idea of blatantly making up the biology parts just because I thought it sounded good.

A close friend gave me the idea to use HeLa cells. These are fascinating little cancerous cells that are almost impossible to kill. I did a little reading on them and after a few weeks came up with quite a nice twist that I thought worked rather nicely. Then, I pitched the idea to a friend of mine who happens to hold a PhD in biochemistry and who also happens to be one of the smartest and wonderfully scientifically minded people I have the pleasure of knowing. He was convinced there was a scientifically accurate way to do this and offered his assistance in finding it.

That seemed like a lot of work.

I explained to him that I didn’t need it to actually be right, I just needed it to be remotely plausible to the average person off the street, and my only real challenge would be to sound convincing enough. I fully expect that anyone with experience in isolation and characterization of unsaturated fatty acids as natural ligands for the retinoid-X receptor, or even anyone with better-than-average knowledge of biology to call bullshit, and I was good with that.  He was not, and while he didn’t say it out loud I think he was a little disappointed in me. Hopefully linking to his thesis makes up for it.

Now, all that being said, for every sentence I write that obfuscates reality just a little bit too much I feel a slight pang of disappointment as well. There’s a fine line between artistic license and simply being too lazy to actually research something. So I’ve started interviewing people and doing some reading to help expose some truth – but not all of it – after all, if kids have taught me anything it’s that it’s okay to get a little dirty once and a while.

Oh, and if you know any good alchemists or mad scientists I can talk to, please let me know.

~Andrew

Plotter vs. Pantser

Most of my life is organized. There’s a calendar on the fridge. Everyone has a colour and there’s even a legend, because I’m also remarkably forgetful and can’t often remember which colour is for whom. I have a writing schedule that I keep. Well, I keep a schedule, but I don’t keep to the schedule – I’m also remarkably lazy. At my day job I’m a project manager, every moment filled with schedules, spreadsheets, and deliverables.  My job is infinitely easier when it’s organized. Come to think of it, so is my life.  With writing I have found that there are two main camps – with the natural combinations, variations, and hybrids that tend to evolve from these sorts of things: 

  • Plotters; and
  • Pantsers.


Plotters plot. They map out ideas and organize them well ahead of putting words on a page. Pantsers are the opposite, opting to start with an idea that’s often barely an idea, and then they wing it, or as the name suggests, they “fly by the seat of their pants”.


So, when it comes to writing, what method do you think I would gravitate towards? In more ways than you can guess I’m a lot like a teenage boy. He meticulously takes care of his car; keeping it running smoothly, clean as a whistle on the inside (you could eat off the floor mats if you were allowed food in the car), and expertly polished on the outside. The bedroom, however, is a complete and total disaster. 

That’s right; when it comes to writing I’m a 99.9% pantser, which is a bit ironic considering my extreme dislike of wearing pants. I say 99.9% because before I sit down to write anything, I have some idea of what I’m going to do. It’s not often more than a vague idea of what the topic or scene is about, but it’s something so I can’t truly say that I’m a perfect pantser. Close, but not perfect. 

I know many writers that are plotters (a.k.a. planners). I even know one that has taken it to a very impressive level. My friend Wren Emerson plans her writing like she’s drawing up schematics for a nuclear submarine. It’s impressive and it works for her. She wrote a nice blog post about her process if you’re interested. I bookmarked it in the unlikely event that I decide to map something out before I sit down to write. That was more than a year ago and I’ve clicked on the link once. 

I’m undecided as to which method is “better”. I think most people will tell you that it’s a personal choice and you have to go with what you’re most comfortable. That being said, there will always be people who will tell you to do it their way. These also happen to be the same people who will tell you what type of underwear to put on in the morning. We have a name for folks like this: assholes. Just ignore them and move on. How you get from the spark of an idea to the finished product is as unique to an individual as their choice of clothing.

So what are you? Do you wear pants, and fly by the seat of them, or do you plan out each choice article by article? Either way, I’d recommend underwear of some kind. It helps reduce chafing. 

For the record, I will also put one other age-old question to rest: 

Boxers. 

~Andrew 

Out With The Old…

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. Never have. However, I do think that as civilized people living in a free and democratic society we can collectively do a better job, and this becomes much easier to do if each individual does a little something different in an effort to improve. As such, last January I outlined a few goals for 2012 that went a little something like this:

Leverage some key P’s:

  • Patience 
  • Persistence 
  • Practicality 
  • Positivity 

So how’d I do? Well, I was pretty good at persisting, being practical, and staying positive but patience was a bit of a challenge. To be honest, it always has been so I didn’t expect to knock that one out of the park. For 2013 I plan on leveraging all of those things by doing all of these things:

  • Set goals outside my comfort zone
  • Think ahead more than one step
  • Think more about others
  • Breathe

If being off work for more than two months with a concussion taught me anything in 2011 it was that things do not happen overnight and there will always be setbacks. With that in mind, at the start of 2012 I vowed to do the following:

Work within my limits but always know that it’s in me to do more. 

So how’d I do? Well, I managed to get on stage and sing in front of more than 10 people – twice – and I got a new job and did many more things around the house and with my family than I every thought possible, and you know what? I can do more. So this year I plan on focusing my attention in a slightly different way in an effort to get more out the next 12 months (I will explain this in a minute).

Lastly, I committed to three things that supersede everything else:

Be a better father to my kids;
a better husband to my wife;
and a better friend to all the people in my life.

I think I succeeded on all of these fronts, but as the previous section indicates, I am capable of doing more. So, I will do more:

  • When one of my kids is nearby I will put my laptop or phone aside, and even if they are not desiring my attention, I will give it to them
  • When asked to do something by my wife, I will do it right then or I will set a reminder in my phone if it needs to be done later
  • I will get out and see my friends. This means one event every now and then as well as coffee or tea with individuals at lunch or whenever our schedules align. This also includes golf 🙂
  • I will buy some local art
  • I will read more books written by people I know and I will give them honest and constructive feedback. I would be forever grateful if they would do the same for me

As for the specific goals for last year, I failed to accomplish all but one (the Twitter goal). A couple of them could be considered successes with an asterisk but that’s not the point. The point is to be working towards something and to come closer to figuring out what I want to be when I grow up (without actually having to grow up).

When talking about my web presence with a friend last year he said I needed to focus on one thing; that between my blog… and writing… and photography… and music, that I was spread too thin. He was right. That’s why I’ve decided to focus 2013 on writing. Winning NaNoWriMo, getting a short story published, and seeing so many friends have so much success with their writing is more than enough to light a fire under my ass. Personal, professional, and family goals aside, any goal with a number on it this year has to do with writing. In case you care, here they are:

  • Finish Novel #1 + edit
  • Write Novel #2 + partially edit
  • Win NaNoWriMo (again)
  • Write 2 screenplays (based on the novels)
  • Write 3 short stories + edit
  • Write 1 blog post every week

After I succeed I will have written roughly 300,000 words, and at least a few times I will have the pleasure of writing “The End”.

So, here’s to a great beginning! All the best to you and your loved ones in 2013.

~Andrew

The Next Big Thing

Back in November, when I was knee deep in NaNoWriMo, Sydney Aaliyah tagged me for a blog hop. I promised I’d get to it once NaNo was over but then December turned into writing for the Orange Karen anthology and then the holiday season around my house (and a few billion other households around the world). 


With all that craziness behind me now, I am pleased to be able to answer a few questions about my upcoming book:

What is the title of your Work in Progress?

I have been writing this story in one form or another for close to a decade. It’s finally taking proper shape as a novel that has gone from being untitled, to having several crappy titles, back to being untitled, and finally landing on “No Known Cure”. 


Where did the idea come from for the book?

The Darwin Awards! No, I’m serious. Back in 2002 I submitted a “Personal Account” to the Darwin Awards website that garnered Top 20 status in votes the following year.  Once I saw those 450 words in print I knew I had to tell a bigger story. What started out as a film about a subtle plea for gun control as told through the eyes of God has, ironically, evolved into a novel about a few people playing God in an effort to control humanity.


What genre does your book fall under?

Mystery Suspense 


Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

  • Peter (first half MC) – Jay Baruchel
  • Roger (Peter’s father) – Dan Aykroyd 
  • Sandra (Peter’s girlfriend) – Zooey Deschanel 
  • Dana (Peter’s co-worker) – Ellen Page
  • Jim (second half MC) – Tim Roth (minus the accent)
  • Sherri (Jims wife) – Lea Thompson


What is a one-sentence synopsis of the book?

My story is about a government agency searching for a man with an astonishing secret whose only goal in life is to remain anonymous and what happens when the two worlds finally collide. 


Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I am going to try taking the “conventional” route first and see how it goes. I’m actually looking forward to writing my first of many query letters 🙂


How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

A decade! 🙂 Having a full time nine-to-five job, plus two kids who each take on two activities every week, plus a loving wife that deserves attention, plus a couple other hobbies/businesses (my band and my photography), and time left for writing is pretty slim. The bulk of the novel was written during NaNoWriMo this year. It was supposed to be two books, the second of which I started last year but haven’t completed. I switched gears and now that former WIP will be some later chapters of this book (possibly, we’ll see. There are months of edits ahead for this novel). All told, this book will take about 90 days of actual writing to complete the first draft.


What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

Think of  Robert Ludlum’s “Bourne” trilogy ,with a hint of Steve Berry, and a little Dan Brown’s “Digital Fortress” thrown in for shits ‘n giggles. I can only dream to be in the same ballpark as these guys some day. For now I’d be thrilled if anyone suggested we were even playing the same sport!


Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Being able to give my parents a copy of my novel is definitely a driving factor. My Dad was an English major and a school principal and my Mom was a teacher, so being able hand them a copy of a published work of mine would be a big deal. Ultimately, I just need to create. For as long as I can remember I have been following a pretty standard path: I got a degree, got a job, got married, bought a house… Everything was all very “normal”… and then my wife and I had children. Everything changes once you have children and for me it brought forward this passion to create. I take such great inspiration from how my kids view the world – and behave within it – that I feel compelled to create and give something back; and show them that they should follow their own inspirations with dedication and passion, and if they do they can be truly happy.


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

  • 1 cup: Conspiracy
  • 1 cup: Likeable geek gets girl
  • 3/4 cup: Good people setting good examples
  • 1/2 cup: Quiet, introverted genius sticking it to The Man
  • 1/2 cup: Cat & mouse 
  • 1/2 cup: Cloak & dagger 
  • 1/4 cup: Psychological drama
  • 1/4 cup: Bad guys getting away with it 
  • A pinch of torture 
  • A dash of murder


Next up on the blog hop:

~

    NaNoWriMovember

    The month of November is a busy one for me. First, it’s my anniversary on the 6th. This year would mark 13 years of marriage to my wonderful (and wonderfully patient) wife. 


    Then, there is Movember. Movember is an annual charity fundraiser in which men from all over the world shave their face clean on November 1st and then grow a moustache for the entire month, the whole time raising awareness and money for men’s health. This is my 3rd year participating in this event and while not even the cats will come near me for the last half of the month, it’s for a great cause and I’m glad I participate. 

    Finally, November is National Novel Writing Month as defined by The Office of Letters and Light. Every year they issue a challenge to writers everywhere, experienced or aspiring, published or not, good or bad: Write a novel (50,000 words or more) in 30 days. Their tag line for the challenge is “Thirty days and nights of literary abandon,” and is referred to on The Internets simply as NaNoWriMo and this was my 2nd year participating.

    Over the course of the month I experienced many highs and a few lows but when it was all said and done I have to say that it was one of the more successful Novembers I’ve had in a long while. I am not talking about the milestones or experiences either. It would be all fine and dandy if that was all there was to it, but it just so happens that I’ve learned a few things along the way. It is because of this that I can truly say the month was successful.

    A few things I have learned:
    • My kids do not like daddy with a moustache
    • I have a very beautiful, intelligent, and supportive wife
    • I can grow a very creepy looking moustache in 30 days 
    • I can write a novel in 30 days
    • There are millions of people who want to raise awareness and money for men’s health
    • There are millions of people who write, many of them are writers, and a very large number of those people are awesome

    It doesn’t stop with just those items either. Oh no, there is more. In fact, I could go on for several blog posts, but I’ll spare you the time to read all that and just give you the highlights here.

    A few other things I have learned:

    • Writing is hard
    • Writing is easier if you have awesome people around you  
      • This is true for more than just writing. ANYTHING is easier if you have awesome people around you
        • This is where I have to point out that my wife, my friend Susan, everyone in The Lounge on Facebook, and my core word sprint team of Janelle, Amy, Jennifer, and Karen, really helped me out. I can’t thank them enough for their support (but I will try)
    • It is possible to do everything you want if you manage your time properly
      • I suck at managing my time
        • NaNoWriMo helped with this more than I would have thought

    Last year I had an event derail my NaNo efforts mid-month and I never got back on track. I could have, the thing only upset my flow for a day or two, but I didn’t. I cut bait on the whole thing and spent the next 11 months kicking myself and in a rut (writing wise).

    This year’s NaNoWriMo experience challenged me in ways I never thought possible. For starters, let’s take time management. Here are a list of all the things I managed to do in November and approximately the number of times or hours I did them:

    • Eat (1.5 hours/day)
    • Sleep (8 hours/day)
    • Commute (1 hour/day)
    • Work (8 hours/day)
    • Prepare food for family (1 hour/day)
    • Practice guitar with the kids (20 minutes/day)
    • Swimming lessons (1.5 hours/week)
    • Guitar lessons (1 hour/week)
    • Watch movies (2.5 hours/week)
    • Watch TV (2 hours/week)
    • Put up the Christmas lights (once ~3 hours)
    • Attend concerts (Stars & Metric: ~5 hours to get there, watch, and get back)
    • Hockey games! (2 of them: each about 4 hours to get there, watch, and get back)
    • Anniversary dinner (~4 hours to get there, eat, and get back)
    • Snow tire appointment (~1 hour)
    • Dinner out with wife and kids (~1 hour)
    • Dinner at in-laws + Santa Claus Parade (~5 hours total)
    • Take kid to dentist (~ 1.5 hours once)
    • Parent/Teacher interviews (~ 1 hour once)
    • Lydia Herrle’s homecoming (~1 hour once)
    • Social events (~5 hours over two events)
    • Quiet time alone or with my wife (none of your damn business)

    Even with all of that, if you do the math (and trust me, I did the math) I end up with more than an average of 5 hours per day of available time. I wrote an average of 2 hours a day on weekdays and 4 hours a day on weekends and I still have a couple hours a day unaccounted for. Even if I low-balled the math on the above items that means I still had some free time.


    So there you have it. It is possible to do everything you want and still do a lot of things – and not be selfish about it (if you’re like me and my friend Tess you’re not shellfish about it either). The key is in managing your time. With a little forethought, discipline, and help from your friends… the world is your oyster (or non-oyster substitute for those with allergies).

    NaNoWriMovember: The Video!

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vZwBKg8_1g?rel=0]