So, guns huh?

It’s difficult to find the right words, or even the right avenue to sling the words down, to address the topic of gun control. It’s a hot button issue for almost everyone, in one way or another.

Just so we’re all clear, I’m going to drop a disclaimer here at the front.

I own a few guns. They haven’t been shot in years, and probably need some repair. For the most part I’m not interested in shooting anything anymore, except with a camera. I have enjoyed shooting in the past,  I have enjoyed hunting in the past. The reasons I’ve enjoyed those things have little to do with the actual firing of a gun. I’ll confess that among my hobbies, if I had infinite dollars to spend, target shooting would probably happen once or twice a year.

That being said, I’m going to say a few more things and I apologize if I meander or go totally off the rails. Maybe I’ll even edit this before I post it.

In the wake of what’s happened in Orlando there has been a huge outcry demanding tougher rules on guns, and assault weapons in particular. This seems more than reasonable to me. Lives are more important than the ability to purchase a machine whose purpose in creation is cutting people down in large swaths. I don’t think anyone I know would argue against that point. Even the people I know on the right – and I live in Arizona, an open carry state where it seems like everyone and their mom, poodle, and goldfish live and breathe Republican – are in favor of making it more difficult for people on terror watch lists to get these types of weapons.

Despite this, I see a lot of meme’s being posted to Facebook by people who I know and otherwise respect, decrying the notion of “Blaming the guns” for the atrocities committed with them.

I want to make this point as clearly as I can, so take a deep breath and read the thing I’m typing instead of the thing that the NRA wants you to see.

No one wants to confiscate your guns. No one wants to take away the rights of typical, more or less upstanding citizens who only want to shoot targets and fuzzy woodland creatures. No one. Not President Obama. Not Hillary Clinton. Not Bernie Sanders. Certainly some people are for a ban on assault weapons. You know, the ones made specifically for killing people. I tend to be in that group, but that’s a layer of specificity beyond the point of this post.

To go along with that, no one is blaming the naughty, naughty guns for the tragic, horrible events that they are used to carry out. Most of the blame goes to the shooter, as it should. But these things continue to happen, at a rate unheard of in any other country on the planet.

Hey, guess what America. There’s still one thing we lead in. Good fucking job.

At a certain point, society has to take responsibility for the people it creates, and the policies that allow them to flourish, unhindered.

Despite the NRA keeping the federal government from being able to actually study gun-violence, we do have some statistical data. I’ll start here with a handy website that tracks all of the mass shootings in America. You’ll note that as of today, June 14th 2016, there have been four since the shooting in Orlando. SINCE. As in, NOT INCLUDING.

You’d have to wonder, why in the world, if nearly everyone is in favor of at least SOME form of regulation, does it never happen?

Well, it doesn’t happen because the NRA doesn’t want it to happen. This must be abundantly obvious, to any who look at the situation with even the barest hint of clarity. The NRA is more concerned with making sure you can buy guns in America than it is with whether or not you’re alive to shoot them.

The NRA lobbies Congress unrelentingly, every year, to the tune of $3 million or so. Mitch McConnell, Majority Leader in the Senate, is openly bought buy the NRA (dreadfully melodramatic music choice for the video on that link, sorry).

I was going to say this is just another instance of our corrupted government taking its marching orders from big money lobbyists, but it feels crass to be so reductive about it. Vast amounts of money are spent every year by lobbying firms like the NRA to influence policy, and they don’t GIVE A FUCK what you or anyone else with a vote thinks.

The truth is that it isn’t reductive at all, in fact it is quite the opposite.

It’s expansive.

Expansive to the point of affecting every human being that lives in America. All of us.

We live in a world of acceptable risks. We drive with our children and loved ones in the car, knowing that it’s possible we could all die from the decision. The risk has been studied, steps have been taken to mitigate it. We have seat belts. You are required to pass a test to drive legally.

We go out to the movies, assuming our relative safety.

We go to work, assuming our relative safety.

This is usually the part where someone says “Ah, but if you regulate the guns the black market will take over and they’ll just buy them illegally!”

If you were about to say that, turn around and tell the NRA to make sure it greases up before it shoves its hand up your ass to use you as a puppet.

The Orlando shooter bought his weapon legally. Would he have sought one out illegally to carry out his evil (yes, evil. Real, fucked up, human evil) plan?

Possibly, but we didn’t make him. We let him go pick one up like it was a bag of oranges.

I’ll go back to the driving metaphor one more time. Cars are for moving people and product around. They are dangerous to use, but we’ve made provisions for that and put plans and systems in place to deal with accidents when they happen.

Guns, by their very nature, are destructive tools. If you shoot something, you had better be intending to destroy the thing, because that’s what happens when a thing gets shot. They serve no other purpose, whether it’s a paper target or a human one.

It is well past time to start regulating tools of destruction, and demanding that our government – who we fucking voted for and elected, not the NRA – take our concerns seriously.

They can regurgitate an endless stream of thoughts and prayers, but when they aren’t followed up with actions that are determined to reduce the number of times we have to offer up those empty warm fuzzies then it is time to vote them the fuck out.

I am as serious as a heart attack. The rest of us go to a job and do a thing because our bosses pay us to do the thing they want. Well, so do our congresspeople. It’s time to make sure they know who the goddamn boss is in this country. We elected them. Their position is one of service to us, not the lobbyists.

Call, write, whatever. Go out and be heard. Because if you don’t exercise your authority then you don’t have any, and the lobbyists get to keep pretending they own the country, and the flow of guns to any madman with a credit card and a grudge will continue unabated.

P.S. – A final link, worth the read.

On Indecision and Dithering

I’ve not been hitting the word count as much as I ought lately, because frankly I’m spending too much time playing video games.

I’m in a weird patch where on the one hand, in a game my goal is clear and the path to it is laid out before me (even when difficult or perplexing), and on the other hand my goal when writing is more along the lines of “Um, I dunno. Make words happen?”

Bluntly, it’s much easier to get the fix of ‘feel good’ from games than it is from writing, because writing is work, and I already work fifty hours a week at a job.

Not that that’s a very good excuse, I’ve been doing that for years now and I knew that it would be a slow burn to getting good at writing. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve even gotten that first match lit though.

Part of my reluctance comes from a place of fear that some of the topics coming up in this book are beyond my experience, and will likely forever be so. There’s more than a little fear of being called out as fake, or even being repudiated because these characters face a situation I’ll never have to look at as if it could happen to myself.

But, I think it’s an interesting situation and it came out of my fucked up brain, so my options are to ignore it and let it die and find some safer, less interesting thing to create or to struggle through my own insecurities on it and get the words down.

To be frank, it seems presumptive on my part that I should even worry about it given the (un)likelihood of anyone ever actually paying money to read it, which is an entirely different blog post altogether.

I guess the only real answer is to push forward and get it done. And if it sucks, then it’ll have earned its suckage. But it’ll be done and I’ll have a new fucked up situation to write about.

Hi, my name is Paul and I have a problem.

I’m not sure that calling it a problem is really accurate.

That’s probably a problem in and of itself though.

Like many others, I’ve been playing Fallout 4 to the detriment of any other extracurricular activity in my schedule. But let’s be honest, I knew that was going to happen. I feel like all the people for whom Bethesda’s open world opuses (opi?) are not just another game to play, but an event worth letting so many things in your real life slide, will know what I mean when I say this game has it’s hooks deep, deep in me.

Like well past the skin and digging raw, bloody furrows through my muscles.

It’s not like I’m missing work, or completely skimping on familial duties. The dog is still making it to school, the kids are still getting fed and put out in the morning.

But I think about the game. Not just a little, or when I’m not preoccupied. I think about it all the time.




I don’t actually see raiders while I sleep (though I have vague memories of dreaming about post nuclear apocalypse, so that’s fun), but I plan quests when I’m away from the game. I think about how best to develop my settlements when I ought to be paying attention to something else. I plan my leveling up perk advancement sometimes.

So, while this isn’t any kind of review (I don’t know that I’ve got it in me to attempt a full game review yet, certainly not to start with something as Goddamn huge as a Fallout game), I will go ahead and and say that yes, the game does have some issues.

Occasionally the frame rate will dip randomly, and for no apparent reason. Sometimes it will dip for very apparent reasons. It never becomes unplayable, or lasts too long in my experience. I’ve had one or two BHC’s (Bethesda Hard Crashes, you know what I mean). There are times when it feels almost a little too much like Fallout 3, instead of pushing forward more.

All that having been said, the art direction in this game is superb. The visuals aren’t necessarily mind blowing, but the composition is always solid, always selling the fiction they’ve set up. The color palette is much improved over previous games, with bright reds and blues and yellows all over the place, breaking up the drab wasteland with glimpses of the retro-futuristic world that never was.

V.A.T.S. is better this time around. Though folks who aren’t so adept with first person games may still rely heavily on it, the targeting system doesn’t freeze time anymore, keeping the pressure on to choose your targets before they choose you. But seasoned first person gamers may not need it much at all. The gun-play isn’t going to knock off a Halo or Call of Duty, but it’s totally serviceable and does its job just fine.

My not review is turning into a lengthy stretch of words, so I’ll call it here and end with this.

I can’t wait to go shoot some more raiders and collect some caps.

Finish your shit, it’s good for you.

I’m going to take a moment to drop knowledge while my monkeys are going through their bedtime routine. Granted, I don’t have that much knowledge to drop, so this should be blessedly brief.

Allow me to bend your ear (or perhaps your eye, as this blog is a visual medium. Ew, eye bending? Nevermind) for a moment about the importance of finishing your project. I’m going to assume that you’re also a writer if you’re reading this, though I suspect the advice I will give is applicable to just about anything you deem worthy of your pitifully small allotment of time here on earth.

Finishing your story – whether it’s a short story, novelette, full length book, or Robert Jordanesque mothereffing doorstop – is probably the most important thing you can do as a writer, or any kind of artist for that matter. Going all the way, to THE END will teach you more about what you do well and do shitty than an infinite number of first chapter revisions or brand new sparkly idea bursts. Not only that, but actually finishing a thing will boost your confidence in a way that no amount of prep work or pep talking can. Crossing the finish line once – even if you only make the last feet in a bleeding, wheezing, gurgling froth of coffee tinged spittle – means you can fucking do it. And if you can do it once, then you can learn to do it again, and better.

There is no substitute for finishing. Finishing once is practice. And if you’re anything like me, you need all the goddamn practice you can get.

First Form Rejection!

Well, the title says it all.  I’m not in the least bit bummed about it – they are part of the game.  When you’ve been as plugged into writerly culture (if such a phrase is even the correct term for it) as I have been you understand that rejections are part and parcel of the whole deal.  If you’re not getting rejections you’re not sending out work. Gotta go through a lot of ‘No’s to get your ‘Yes’.  And so on, etc.

So the first thing I did was send out some more queries. To be honest I’ve no great expectations for this first novel. I don’t really think it’ll ever see the light of day (from a publisher anyway) but I wrote the thing so I’ll be damned if I’m not going to submit it to hell and back before trunking it.  I did the work, the least I can do is send it out into the world and see if anyone will give me money for it.

In other news (which is to say not really news at all) I’ve been slowly poking at my new WIP, seeing what pokes back and what fades away into the nether reaches of my brain.  Hopefully I will have an outline to work from ready in a month or two, and in the meantime I’m still waiting for feedback from some beta readers on Thief of Souls.

As an aside, if you’re a writer and not getting everything you can from the internet there are a few things I suggest.

-Listen to podcasts about writing. Two of my favorites are Writing Excuses and I Should be Writing.  You probably have a commute of some kind, or at the very least 20-30 minutes a week somewhere. It will do you good. Trust me.

-Check out Absolute Write.  The forums are a veritable treasure trove of information on everything from plotting to prose to agents and submitting. I’ve had nothing but good experiences there and the people have always been willing to help newbies.  That being said, as with any forum read the FAQ first.  Many things are covered and have handy links. It’s worth the time to peruse.

I can’t think of anything else pertinent to say so with that I will sign off!

Look, I can update this blog!

It’s been a good long time since my last blog update, not entirely because I’m lazy and spend too much time playing video games (though that certainly had something to do with it) but also because I’ve not had much to update. After finishing the first draft I passed it along to a few trusted readers and got back a few bits of insight then plunked down and did a full revision.

I looked at every page, every paragraph, every line and judged them with an iron fist.  Some of it got bounced around, some of it got cut, some new stuff got added. From what I understand this is normal. Bringing us to now…

This last week I finished my first full revision on Thief of Souls and sent it to a few people to beta read. I hope to get some solid opinions on what people do or don’t like about it, things that might instigate head scratching, etc.  I’m sure there are things I’ve missed, but I’m happy enough with it as it stands to start submitting it to agents. Let’s all cross our fingers, toes, eyes, and earlobes.

In the meantime I’ve begun writing the next thing, which I’m pretty excited about. I didn’t want to start straightaway on a sequel to Thief of Souls, given that the likelihood of it being picked up may not be stellar, so I’ve jumped onto another idea that’s been sitting around in my head for a few years. No, I’m not going to tell you what it is until it’s had its proper gestational period.

I don’t have any other proper news related to my writing, so with that I will bid you good day (or evening, or whatever – this is the internet after all.)

Got to spend the time somehow.

So I’ve been waiting patiently while my alpha readers go about their business reading because they have lives and responsibilities beyond being my guinea pigs. This is a fact I understand and respect. In the meantime I’ve puttered with some maps (two of which I posted here for the world to see) and some new cover art mock ups.

I’m not entirely unfamiliar with composition and art in general, but playing with this stuff in the digital realm is an entirely new venture for me. There is a steep learning curve associated with such, at least for me.  But the freedom it gives you to play around and switch things up is very cool and opens all kinds of options you’d have to work much harder to use in traditional painting or drawing.

I’ve got a new map to show off, a localized bit of geography for my world with labels for Greyrock and the other cities mentioned in the text.


I’ve also been playing around with some cover art mock ups.  None of this is terribly likely to see the light of day in a final published version of the book (fingers crossed on that one) but they are some ideas I had. You can see the progression of how I’ve envisioned it.



There’s not really a whole lot else to say at this point, beside that I’m antsy to get back into the prose and start reshaping things.  I could always start on the outline for the next one I suppose… right?