350. Your Questions Are Answered!

A couple of weeks ago, I invited my dear readers to ask me anything. Today I answer those questions, and conclude by making an announcement about this blog.

Here we go!


Kristi asks: Since choosing to not continue with the books following the one you published, have you regretted or reconsidered that decision? Do you continue to write in that world, even if you have no plans for publication?

The unfinished tale of Lance Eliot is near and dear to my heart, yet I’ve neither regretted nor reconsidered my decision to let it go. The first novel was a commercial disaster, I didn’t have time to continue writing fiction, and Lance Eliot’s story was exhausting me. I believe it was right for me to set it aside.

Someday, if I have the time, I may try again. I would like to rework the first novel, The Trials of Lance Eliot, and then write its two sequels at my own pace. Then, with all three novels completely finished, I could focus on getting them published.

In this chapter of my life, I already feel overwhelmed by work, blogging, and other commitments. In order to write The Eliot Papers, I would have have to stop working or blogging… and I doubt I’ll be quitting either of those any time soon!


ferrettt55 asks: I’ve kind of been wondering why you wrote your book under the name M.L. Brown. Any particular reason? A story behind it, perhaps?

I had two reasons for using a pen name. The first is that I liked the idea of being an anonymous success: a literary superhero with a secret identity. (In retrospect, this was a stupid reason.)

My other reason for calling myself M.L. Brown was to build a frame story around the tale of Lance Eliot. I wasn’t Adam Stück, the author of novels—no, I was M.L. Brown, the supposed “editor” of Lance Eliot’s “memoirs.” Brown was eventually going to appear as a minor character in the last book. (The author who called himself Lemony Snicket did something similar in A Series of Unfortunate Events.)

In the end, I regret not using my real name. It would have made marketing my novel much, much easier, and perhaps sold a few more copies.

Fun fact: The initials M.L. stand for Michael Lewis. In full, my pen name alluded to the archangel Michael, the author C.S. Lewis, and the detective Father Brown.


JK Riki asks: If you had unlimited resources (time, money, skill, whatever necessary) what is the one thing you would do that you’ve either always wanted to or felt called to do? (It can be a silly answer like “Eat a taco with both chicken AND beef” but I’m kind of plumbing for a deeper response here with some real meaning and thought. Your choice, though.)

If I had boundless time and money, I would first celebrate with pizza! I would then take a few weeks to plan my next steps, pray, and confer with trusted friends and relatives. In the end, I would probably move to a cozy apartment somewhere on America’s west coast, donate most of my money to churches and charities, and spend my time writing fiction, volunteering, blogging, and drinking too much coffee. (Some things never change.)

If I had limitless talents, I would probably become a professional author and an ambassador for a charitable organization or relief agency. I would also drink too much coffee, natch.


Socrates asks: Where are your monkeys from (and I DON’T mean Amazon.com)? I mean, where were they actually born (are any of them from, y’know, THE Amazon?), what schools did they attend, are any of them related (to each other, I mean), had you met any of them before finding them on the internet?

I didn’t know any of my typewriter monkeys before I purchased them from Amazon.com, but I’m pretty sure they have ties to criminal cartels, and at least two of my monkeys have spent time in Colombian prisons.

Listen, sometimes it’s best not to ask these kinds of questions.


Some Guy asks: Do you know anyone actually named Socrates? Have you seen Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure? It’s not that great of a film, but I am reminded of it whenever you refer to Socrates. What is the plural of Socrates? You play and review video games, but what are your favorite non-video games? I’m thinking board and card games, but other categories are fair too (tag, dodgeball, darts, etc.)

Sadly, I don’t know any Socrateses. (I’m guessing Socrateses is the plural of Socrates.) Socrates is my go-to pseudonym because I respect the ancient Greek philosopher, and also because I’m too lazy to come up with a new pseudonym every time I need one.

I’ve heard of Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but I haven’t seen it. Doctor Who has satisfied my desire to see someone travel through time in a phone box!

Confession: I… um… I don’t like non-video games. Competition stresses me out.

Mind you, I have absolutely nothing against sports or board games. In fact, I’ve played quite a lot of them: Monopoly, cards, bowling, Munchkin, darts, Sorry, checkers, Risk, fútbol (or soccer, if you want to be American about it), and badminton, among others. As much as I appreciate these games, I seldom enjoy competition. (Mario Kart is an exception, of course.) I prefer relaxing pastimes such as one-player video games, going for walks, and climbing trees.


Thomas Mark Zuniga asks: Do you have other awesome hats like the one depicted here? What is your hat-wearing to non-hat-wearing ratio? I’ve always been intrigued by hats and hat-people.

I’m honored to be called a hat-person.

When shopping or running errands, I generally wear my cherished cloth cap. I occasionally wear a fez at home, especially when watching Doctor Who or Gravity Falls, which are my reasons for owning a fez in the first place. (I have no regrets.) My other hats include a couple of beanies, a leather flat cap, a baseball cap, and a gaudy jester hat promoting Ecuador’s national fútbol team.

I once shared pictures of my hats in a post on this blog… which promptly received more views than nearly any two of my other posts combined. As a blogger, I was humiliated to be outperformed by a bunch of hats.


I would like to thank everyone who submitted a question for this Q&A! (Without you, this would have been a really short post.) I would also like to make a quick announcement about this blog.

TMTF will be taking a three-week break, returning with new posts on April 20. The blog will not go dark during the break; I’ll post an original short story on Monday, followed by old posts on the usual schedule (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) until TMTF resumes in a few weeks.

We’ll be back with new content on Monday, April 20. Thank you for reading!

348. About Storytelling: Getting Drunk on Milk

In fiction, as in real life, bad things happen. When tragedy strikes, fictional characters sometimes try to drown their grief in alcohol.

We’ve all seen this in the movies. In one scene, a man loses his job or girlfriend; in the next, we find him drinking or drunk. It’s an age-old trope of storytelling. Heck, even I’ve used it. Lance Eliot, the protagonist in my novel, is quite a drinker.

What about stories for children? Here we have a problem. A story may need its characters to drink away their sorrows, but that sure ain’t appropriate for the kiddos! Storytellers, crafty creatures that they are, have discovered a family-friendly alternative to getting drunk on alcohol: getting drunk on nonalcoholic things, of course!

(In writing this blog post, I discovered this trope actually has a name: drunk on milk. Thanks, TV Tropes.)

Here are some examples of characters in family-friendly media drowning their sorrows in things that aren’t alcohol.

Tea (Toy Story)

Tea drunkI’ve drunk Darjeeling tea before, and let me tell you: the stuff Buzz Lightyear drinks (or pretends to drink) in Toy Story is like no Darjeeling I’ve ever tasted. Whatever is in those teacups, Buzz gets buzzed. (Pun intended. I’m so, so sorry. By the way, in case one bad pun isn’t enough for you, “Buzz” is pronounced “booze” in a Hispanic accent.) Buzz’s, um, tea is strong enough that he doesn’t seem to mind being called “Mrs. Nesbitt,” which must be humiliating for an intergalactic hero. Darned Darjeeling!

Doughnuts (My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic)

Drunk 'n' donutsA happy cartoon about magical rainbow ponies can’t show its characters consuming alcohol, despite the fact that one of its protagonists is apparently named after a hard liquor. The alternative? Doughnuts. When Spike the dragon is left behind by his pony pals, he hits the local doughnut shop—the name of which, I can only presume, is Drunk ’n’ Donuts. (Pun intended, but I’m not sorry for this one!) Spike may not get a hangover from his excesses, but I don’t envy him the inevitable sugar crash.

Ramen noodles (The Legend of Korra)

Bowls and BolinBolin—the young man passed out on the table in the picture above—deals with romantic rejection as heartbroken men do: by heading to the local ramen joint and eating too many bowls of noodles. This early scene from The Legend of Korra makes me chuckle; I’m especially amused by Bolin’s pet ferret lounging in an empty bowl. The Legend of Korra is a good show… I should catch up with it someday.

Milk (The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask)

Milk drunkThe Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is, without question, one of the greatest games I have ever played. It’s also one of the few to feature a milk bar. (Yes, I’ve seen a milk bar in more games than this one!) Open late at night, the milk bar caters exclusively to adults and offers both live entertainment and a variety of dairy drinks. I think the Shakespearean-looking gent in the picture above says it best: “Milk… It’s miiiilk… Can you get tipsy from something like milk?!? Hic!”

Ice cream (VeggieTales)

Ice cream drunkI’m digging deep into my childhood memories for this one. At one point, Larry the woebegone cucumber responds to bad news by eating too much ice cream at a diner. (VeggieTales is not just a kids’ show, but a Christian kids’ show, so they really had to keep it family-friendly!) In the picture above, Larry recovers with a warming cup of tea. Let’s hope it’s not Darjeeling.

Juice boxes (Jan Animation Studios)

Bar buddiesAll right, I’m kinda reaching here, but I suppose this short video counts. Bar Buddies, a brief animation from the brony community, has a kid getting wasted on juice boxes. Apple juice, apple cider, applejack—what’s the difference? They’re all made of apples, right? This one makes me laugh because of the disparity between the well-dressed, hard-drinking guy on the left and the silly kid on the right.

What’s drunk-on-milk scenarios did we miss? Let us know in the comments!

292. Why I Failed as an Author

A number of days ago, I noticed a map on my bedroom wall.

Rovenia

I have several maps in my room besides this one: a map of the world, a map of Middle-earth, and a map of Skyrim that was a gift from someone at work. This one, a map of Rovenia, was lurking above my window. I’d nearly forgotten it was there.

What’s that? You’ve never heard of a place called Rovenia? Of course you haven’t, because I made it up.

Rovenia was the setting for a novel titled The Trials of Lance Eliot, the first book of a planned trilogy. I published it about two years ago—a little less than a year after buying typewriter monkeys (what a mistake!) and starting this blog.

Fifteen months later, I pronounced Lance Eliot dead. My short, stressed career as an author was ended.

I may pick up The Eliot Papers sometime. Lance Eliot’s story is certainly one I want to finish. At the moment, however, I don’t think it’s terribly likely. I’m busy enough with work and blogging and all the responsibilities that come from being a grownup.

My map of Rovenia set me thinking about why I failed as an author. I came up with a few reasons, which I toss out today as friendly warnings to all the aspiring authors out there. Don’t make my mistakes. Learn from them, and rise to success!

I didn’t do my research

When I took my first few, tentative steps into the publishing industry, I had absolutely no idea of what I was doing. My ideas of what it meant to publish a book and be an author were hopelessly naïve. A little research would have saved me a lot of time, effort, and discouragement.

I didn’t use my real name

When I began working on The Eliot Papers, I had the romantic notion of using a pen name. It was part of an elaborate frame story for the novels, in which Lance Eliot’s “memoirs” were “discovered” by an “editor,” who published them in the guise of fiction. It wasn’t a terrible idea—Lemony Snicket did pretty much the same thing—but it had one fatal flaw. Without a major publisher to market my book for me, I had to use my real name to promote it. Using both a real identity and an assumed one during the book’s release was a headache, and probably confused people.

I didn’t promote my book effectively

Oh, how I tried to promote The Trials of Lance Eliot. It had its own blog. I had an author page on Facebook and account on Goodreads. Readers submitted reviews, which I shared. It wasn’t enough. Looking back, I realize I should have done more: book blog tours, giveaways, submitting the book to more reviewers, and perhaps even setting up readings in the local library.

I didn’t set realistic goals

As I worked on the manuscripts for The Eliot Papers, I expected way too much of myself. I set impossible deadlines and tried to juggle my book, this blog, a full-time job, and a handful of other projects. There was no way I could do it all.

I didn’t work far enough ahead

When I published The Trials of Lance Eliot, I had written a few chapters of its sequel. Those chapters are pretty much all I have written. After the first book came out, I was far too busy promoting it and writing this blog to work on a sequel. I should have finished, or at least nearly finished, my manuscripts for the entire trilogy before publishing the first part. It would have allowed me to market the book without diverting some of my time and energy to its sequels.

I didn’t plan time for writing

It was a mistake to think I could make steady progress on a book and a blog. This blog has deadlines. My book didn’t. Guess which one was neglected! I also dabbled in a few other personal projects, none of which succeeded. Those could have waited—the book should have taken priority.

I did buy typewriter monkeys

I blame my monkeys for all of my failures. All of them.

Do I regret trying to be an author? No. What I regret is doing it so badly. All the same, the years I put into writing and publishing The Eliot Papers gave me much invaluable experience as a writer and editor. It also taught me lessons about managing my time, setting reasonable goals, and enjoying creativity for its own sake.

If any of my dear readers are writing books or hoping to become authors, keep going! Don’t give up!

Just don’t make my mistakes… and don’t ever buy typewriter monkeys.

216. Lance Eliot Is Dead

This is a hard post to write.

I suppose I should start with a clarification. Lance Eliot isn’t completely dead. He’s mostly dead. As the creepy old man from The Princess Bride reminds us, “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”

Long ago, I resolved to write and publish a novel. I wanted to be an author. It was my dream. For years, I worked on several versions of a story about a college student named Lance Eliot and his unexpected adventures in another world.

I sort of succeeded more than a year ago with the publication of The Trials of Lance Eliot, the first novel in a trilogy called The Eliot Papers. I had done it! I was a novelist! The first book was published, and all that was left was to finish its two sequels.

The Trials of Lance Eliot

At the moment, I don’t think I can.

For nearly eight years, Lance Eliot’s story has been my greatest passion as a writer. I’ve invested so much in it. I want to have it finished. It hurts to abandon it.

All the same, I think the time has come for me to let it go.

To clarify: I don’t intend to abandon The Eliot Papers forever. I hope to finish the trilogy someday. It just won’t happen anytime soon.

Most of my readers probably don’t care, but I know a few have enjoyed The Trials of Lance Eliot and want to read its sequels. I owe those readers an explanation and an apology.

The apology is shorter, so I’ll start there.

I’m so sorry to keep you waiting.

If you’ve enjoyed The Trials of Lance Eliot and want to know the rest of Lance’s story, feel free to contact me with questions. I’m happy to share plot details with readers who want to know how Lance’s story ends.

As for the explanation: I think Hergé, the creator of The Adventures of Tintin, put it best: “Right now, my work makes me sick. Tintin is no longer me . . . If Tintin continues to live, it is through a sort of artificial respiration that I must constantly keep up and which is exhausting me.”

At this time, I feel the same about Lance Eliot as Hergé felt about Tintin. I love the character and his world and his story. I simply can’t keep them up. They’re exhausting me. What began as a dream has become a burden.

I have other reasons for setting aside The Eliot Papers. I have a job and a blog and many other commitments. I sometimes suffer from depression. At the best of times, writing fiction is hard. Working on a massive project like The Eliot Papers is exhausting and stressful. The addition burden of author stuff—updating a book blog, maintaining a Facebook page, gathering reviews and promoting my writing—is simply more than I can handle.

There is one final problem: The Trials of Lance Eliot hasn’t sold well. I regret to say the novel hasn’t even recouped the money its publisher invested in its publication. This is mostly my fault; I should have been much more active in promoting the book. All the same, it’s definitely a deterrent from investing endless time and effort in sequels.

In the end, I was left with two options. I could, in addition to many other commitments, keep working on The Eliot Papers: an exhausting, discouraging project without much chance of success. My other option was to let it go.

After much coffee and even more careful, prayerful consideration, I’ve chosen the second option.

My publisher has graciously accepted my decision. I’ve already deleted the book’s blog and my Goodreads author page. My Facebook author page is in the process of being deleted, and I’ve made many tweaks to this blog to eliminate inconsistencies and links to sites that no longer exist.

My decision to let go of The Eliot Papers has left me sad and discouraged. It’s hard to see a dream die. At the same time, I feel free. My life has become simpler. I can work on other projects, and I can spend free time reading and gaming without feeling guilty. That vague, constant burden of anxiety is gone. I can be a writer again without being an author.

Lance Eliot’s story has been quite a journey for us both. Working on The Eliot Papers taught me pretty much everything I know about writing. It was exciting, challenging, fulfilling and fun. In spite of its discouragements and failures, I thank God for The Eliot Papers. It was definitely an adventure.

Lance Eliot isn’t all dead, and I hope he returns someday.

For now, though, I have my own life to live.

204. My Childhood Fantasy

As a kid, I loved fantasy stories. My budding imagination teemed with dragons, hobbits, wizards, weapons and those octopus-monsters from The Legend of Zelda that spit rocks. It was only natural, I suppose, for me to build a fantasy of my own.

The hero of this fantasy was an orphan (of course) with a tragic past (naturally) who overcame adversity to become a mighty swordsman, wizard and defender of the innocent. My fantasy hero was—like all true heroes—named after a character in a video game. Inspired by Link from the Legend of Zelda games, named for a challenger from the Pokémon games, my hero was Lance: a green-clad warrior for whom no quest, challenge or cup of tea was too big.

For a childish fantasy, Lance was ahead of his time. He fit the pattern of the wanderer-hero in almost every detail more than a decade before I recognized the archetype in fiction. Years before I knew anything about Doctor Who, Lance traveled through time and space with a box that was bigger on the inside. (However, unlike the Doctor, Lance didn’t travel in his box. Lance kept stuff in it.)

I didn’t feel the slightest qualm as a child about plagiarizing other stories. Lance used magic to travel anywhere, which included Middle-earth from The Lord of the Rings, Hyrule from the Legend of Zelda games, Hogwarts from Harry Potter and a few more copyrighted realms from books, films and games. (How fortunate that imagination is beyond the reach of lawsuits.) Lance rubbed shoulders, bumped elbows and occasionally sparred with many famous fantasy heroes.

After two years of vivid adventures, Lance slipped quietly into retirement when I entered my early teens. It was coincidence that the protagonist of the story I began writing a couple of years later—which grew into my novel, The Trials of Lance Eliot—had the same name as the hero of my childhood fantasy. Lance Eliot was given his name because the plot demanded it, as readers of the novel know.

I think the coincidence is rather funny. Lance the all-powerful hero and Lance Eliot the wry college student could hardly be more different. I suppose they have at least one thing in common… they like tea.

My imagination is less exuberant and more wary than it used to be. When I read, write or see a story, I find myself looking for inconsistencies, holes and weaknesses. Things have to make sense now that I’ve grown up.

All the same, I hope I never lose that spark of imagination. Making up stuff is fun.

201. And We’re Back!

My typewriter monkeys have dusted off their typewriters. I’ve brewed some coffee, fired up my laptop and spent roughly half an hour trying to think of a really clever way to start off this blog post.

Ah, it’s good to be back.

Truth be told, I really needed the break. TMTF had become an obligation, and getting away from it for a few weeks was exactly what I needed to renew my enthusiasm for rambling about faith, writing, video games, literature, life, the universe and everything.

Having cherished a private hope that my typewriter monkeys would make their month-long vacation in Tijuana a permanent stay, I was disappointed. My monkeys have returned. They brought back a baffling collection of souvenirs: three sacks of coconuts, a Velvet Elvis and a hideous false mustache. (I know better than to ask questions.) My monkeys are annoyed to be back, and I’m annoyed they’re back, so at least we agree on something.

In other news, my break gave me an opportunity to make plans for my writing.

At some point, for example, I may put Geeky Wednesdays on hold for a dozen weeks and republish The Infinity Manuscript as a serial. Hardly anyone has read The Infinity Manuscript, which is rather a shame. I put quite a lot of work into it. Rerunning the story seems like a great option if I become temporarily too busy to handle the pressure of writing new Geeky Wednesday posts every week.

I didn’t exactly devote my month off to soul-searching, but it hit me more clearly than ever before that I need to have a better, brighter outlook. I’m a pessimist. As often as I’ve pointed out the importance of being positive, I haven’t been consistent in having a hopeful attitude.

Few things are drearier than forcing or faking cheerfulness. Artificial happiness is a poor alternative to honest pessimism. Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton’s great detective, called an outlook of false optimism “a cruel religion.”

It finally struck me that having a cheerful outlook is not the same as merely pretending to be cheerful. Without making the slightest effort to feel a certain way, I can choose to focus on the positive over the negative instead of succumbing to Batman Syndrome and letting the negative eclipse everything else.

All this to say: I’ve been more positive lately. It’s nice. I recommend it.

The past year was an adventure. I found a job, settled down, learned some invaluable lessons, ate a lot of cookies and discovered coffee tastes great with bourbon.

This was the year I grew up.

I remain grateful to God for bringing me so far, excited to press onward and upset with my typewriter monkeys for cluttering up my apartment with coconuts. I wish they had stayed in Tijuana.

190. A Conversation with Lance Eliot

This is a conversation with a character from my book, The Trials of Lance Eliot. Although it may appear strange for someone to speak with a fictional person, it is entirely normal for writers to converse with their characters. At least, I really hope it is.

Nice to see you, Adam.

Gah! Where did you come from?

Los Angeles, originally—or are you wondering how I got into your flat?

Yes, that’s it. Who are you? What the heck are you doing in my apartment?

Really, Adam. I’m Lance Eliot. I thought you of all people would recognize me.

Ah, sorry about that. I’ve actually don’t have a clear mental picture of you.

You haven’t? Hang it, Adam, you’re the chap writing my blasted story. You’ve really no idea of what I look like?

Excessive physical description is a sign of poor characterization. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Whatever you say.

Why are you here? My characters don’t usually drop in on me. Well, there was that one time Innocent came over for coffee and—Lance Eliot, put that down!

Don’t fret. You were the one who gave me a fighting staff, remember? I know how to use it.

That’s exactly what worries me. Will you please stop showing off? I’m not comfortable watching you wave that thing around. This apartment is full of breakable objects, including me. Please put down the weapon before someone gets hurt. And by someone, I mean Adam.

All right, I’ll put it away.

How the heck did you get here, anyway? I left you in Rovenia. That’s a long way from here. A really long way.

Maia sent me. You should have thought twice before giving one of your characters the ability to bounce people between dimensions by magic.

Well, I had to get you out of the real world and into my world somehow. Magic seemed like a good explanation at the time. I didn’t think you’d use it to get back into the real world. Why did Maia send you?

We’re all very bored, Adam.

What?

You’ve stranded us. For nearly an entire year, we’ve been stuck in that quaint little town—

What was it called?

You don’t even remember? God help me, the person writing my story is an idiot.

That’s a bit harsh.

The town is called Hurst, Adam. We’re all ready to go. We’ve been ready for months. Don’t tell me you’ve interrupted my life with another deuced adventure only to put it on hold indefinitely!

Not indefinitely. I’m working on it. Slowly.

See here, Adam, I’m concerned. We all are. As long as you put off writing the story, we’re never going to find—

Quiet! You’re giving away plot details.

And this time, I’m not the only person you’ve involved. You’ve dragged someone else into this dreadful adventure, and she—

Stop! I won’t have you blurting out your own story.

Then answer me, Adam. If I don’t tell the story, who will?

Lance, the past year has been… busy. My life is crowded with responsibilities. It’s hard for me to sit and write for hours on end, especially when I consider how few copies I’ve sold of your book. Writing is uphill work. And I may not deal with dragons or sorcerers, but I do suffer from depression sometimes. I know that’s a problem to which you can relate.

Yes. I can.

I have a blog now, too! It takes a lot of work, and my typewriter monkeys drive me crazy, but it’s totally worth it. The problem is that the blog has deadlines, and… your story doesn’t. I’ll get it written. Just give me time.

I haven’t much, you know.

You have enough. Now then, I have a blog post to finish. Say hello to everyone for me, will you?

By the way, Cog asked me to ask you to make him taller.

I refuse to pander to my characters. Tell him he’s tall enough.

All right, then. I guess it’s time for me to slip away. Keep writing, won’t you?

And he’s gone. How did he do that? How do they ever do that? Ah, well. Lance Eliot is a good fellow—though I regret giving him a weapon. No writer should ever be threatened by one of his own characters. Any future heroes will have to be pacifists, I guess. Now then, back to work!

182. Books I Want to Write

I have many ideas for books and stories rattling around in my head. Sadly, most of these won’t ever be written. I’ve been stuck on one manuscript for a long, long time. I’ll frankly be satisfied to finish The Eliot Papers and never write a book again.

All the same, my mind is cluttered with ideas for more books. I’ve decided to share some of the best. Who knows? When Lance Eliot’s journey is donewhenever the heck that may beI may begin a new adventure.

Here, then, are some books I want to write.

Chimera

Several centuries in the future, as the world begins to recover from a nuclear war, a student named Adam is informed by his friends (all of whom wear white coats for some reason) that he is actually a chimera: an organism engineered with genetic material from two separate species. Adam happens to be a chimpanzee with human intelligenceor as one of his white-coated friends cheerfully puts it, “A crime against God.”

Since the experiments that produced Adam are highly illegal, he is also a crime against the now-authoritarian government of the United States of America. When the Humanitarian National Service sends agents (nicknamed Huns) to eliminate Adam, he escapes and becomes a fugitive. Adam decides to flee to Alaska. Along the way he keeps a diary, which he began as an assignment from his white-coated educators and continues as a distraction from the hardships of his life.

The League of Young Detectives

Gabriel Green is an ordinary kid in Indiana, the most ordinary place in the world. Upon entering seventh grade, he makes two extraordinary friends: Nathan Quist, a reserved exchange student from Britain, and Samuel “Samurai” Reyes, a geeky Ecuadorian-American immigrant.

As the school year progresses, Gabriel and his friends uncover hints of a sinister conspiracy involving strange acts of vandalism, an honorable thief, a retired FBI agent, a local murder and a dark organization known only as The Week. These three young detectives must overcome the skepticism of grownups, the awkwardness of adolescence and the very real dangers of crime-solving to find the truth and bring justice to their little Indiana town.

The Oakwood Home for Special Gentlemen

The Oakwood Home for Special Gentlemen is a group home for men with mental and physical disabilities. Twelve incidents occur over the course of one year: some comic, some tragic.

In one incident, a depressed worker frustrated with her life abducts a residenta mild gentleman with an obsessive-compulsive desire to visit Californiaand take him on a trip across the country to fulfill his dream. In another incident, a worker conspires with a resident to terrify the home’s superstitious manager as a Halloween prank. Every incident, whether funny or sad, is unique and unexpected.

Samuel White

I’ve mentioned that I love changing perspectives when telling a storySamuel White would be an avant-garde novel telling the life story of its eponymous protagonist in the form of thirty brief vignettes from the lives of thirty different people. The twist? Samuel White himself would never make an appearance. Like dear old Godot from the play by Beckett, Samuel White’s entire life would defined by the incidental remarks of other people.

Professional Wanderers

Daniel Grey is a wandering vagabond, working odd jobs and never stopping in one place for more than a couple of days. His brief but memorable stay in a small Indiana town draws the attention of an out-of-work journalist, who decides to accompany Grey for a few months to gather material for a book. As they travel, the journalist becomes increasingly puzzled by his companion. Grey, an unshaven vagrant who carries all his worldly possessions a rusty wheelbarrow, has an impossible knowledge of geography, history and literature.

The mystery deepens as Grey runs into “a very, very old friend.” This man, who wears a silver albatross on a chain around his neck, warns Grey that “the man with the mark” has begun a campaign of murder. Grey resolves to track down the man with the mark, and his journalist companion follows in search of answers.

Portraits in Stained Glass

When a man’s car breaks down at night, he grabs a flashlight and climbs a nearby hill to find the building at its summit is not a house, as he had hoped, but an empty chapel with enormous stained glass windows. The man examines each window in turn. Each provides a retelling of a short story (often an obscure one) from the Bible. At last the sun rises, setting the stained glass ablaze, and the traveler leaves the chapel a better man.

Is there a book you want to write? Is there a book you’re writing? Let us know in the comments!

Airships

The Tiger Moth from Castle in the Sky

The Tiger Moth from Castle in the Sky

An airship is a lighter-than-air aircraft; examples include dirigibles and hot-air balloons. Airships use buoyant gases such as hydrogen and helium to remain aloft, unlike heaver-than-air aircraft such as airplanes and helicopters that rely upon wings or rotors.

In fiction, however, airship is a catch-all term for unusual aircraft. Fictional airships are much cooler than real-life ones, probably because their designs aren’t restricted by nuisances like production cost and the law of gravity.

Airships are common in certain kinds of fiction (notably steampunk fantasy) and even make appearances in the Super Mario Bros. games. My favorite airships, however, are those from the Final Fantasy series and the films of Hayao Miyazaki.

Airships in fiction often evoke a sense of nautical adventure. The sky is an ocean waiting to be explored! In stories with airships, pirates roam the skies as readily as the seas. Balthier from Final Fantasy XII (who is basically Captain Jack Sparrow, but cooler) and the Dola Gang from Castle in the Sky (whose airship, the Tiger Moth, can be seen in the picture above) are among the most memorable sky pirates I’ve seen.

In its earliest stages, The Trials of Lance Eliot involved airships. I eventually cut them out of the novel because they served no significant purpose (other than being awesome) and complicated the story. It’s kind of a pity, really.

Here are some of my favorite airships.

The Gigante from Future Boy Conan

The Gigante from Future Boy Conan

The Highwind from Final Fantasy VII

The Highwind from Final Fantasy VII

The Fahrenheit from Final Fantasy X

The Fahrenheit from Final Fantasy X

The Strahl from Final Fantasy XII

The Strahl from Final Fantasy XII

The RLS Legacy from Treasure Planet

The RLS Legacy from Treasure Planet

Have you seen any interesting airships in fiction? Let us know in the comments!

175. Win a Free Copy of My Book!

I wrote a book. And you can win a copy. A signed copy. For free!

I’m giving away three paperback copies of my novel, The Trials of Lance Eliot, as part of a contest. To enter this contest, you must do one or both of the following things.

First, follow me on Twitter!

Second, share a link to this blog on your own blog, Facebook profile, Twitter account, Tumblr page or website!

Having done either of these things, leave a comment on this blog post or use the Contact page or contact me in some other way telling me which you’ve done. For doing one of these things, I’ll put your name in a hat; if you do both things, your name will go in the hat twice. On April 19, I’ll pull three names at random from the hat. (For the record, the hat will be a fez.) Having selected the winners, I’ll contact them to ask for their mailing address and send each of them a signed copy of my novel!

This could be yours!

This could be yours!

If the same name is selected more than once, another name will be pulled from the hat—in other words, only one book per winner. Nevertheless, having your name submitted twice will improve your chances of winning!

The purpose of this contest is to build a platform—that is, to reach new readers—for my novel and this blog. If you take part in this contest, you’ll be giving my writing career a little boost—and you’ll be giving yourself the chance to win a brand-new, autographed copy of a novel readers have praised as “humorous,” “thought-provoking” and “a delight to read.”

To conclude: follow me on Twitter or share this blog, and then let me know which of these things you’ve done. And please spread the word!

In a week, I’ll select the winners!