Stranger on a Train XXX: A Perspective on Death

My friend, Patrick, is dying.

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Thing is, he didn’t know he was dying. He wasn’t feeling good so he went to the doctor to try and figure out what was going on.

That was July. It’s now August, and he’s dying. The cancer moved that quickly.

Fuck cancer.

People have been asked to send well wishes to Patrick, to let him know how much he means to them. What I’m seeing on my various feeds have been people struggling to do so.

I just wanted to say that while the reason totally sucks ass, it’s okay to feel pain, like you want to cry, like you want to scream into the Void and give it the middle finger. What you’re feeling isn’t wrong. Cry. By all means cry…

…so long as you take this moment to tell Patrick what you feel.

I didn’t get that chance with my buddy Jon whose funeral was last week. I didn’t get that chance with my theatre mentor, Glyn. I didn’t tell P.G. Holyfield how I truly felt about him when I last saw him at Balticon, when I was surrounded by friends old and new, by people who meant so damn much to me.

I didn’t say it then, but a couple of days ago, I got a second chance.

A moment to say “I love you, Patrick.” presented itself and I took it. He knows. I should have told him sooner, but he knows now.

No, I fucking hate why I had to tell him, but I told him. I wasn’t going to piss away this moment, and the three of us—Pip, Patrick, and me—bore everything. We made this moment ours…

…and we cried.

Yes, it’s going to be hard. Yes, you will cry. It’s okay. Cry. So long as you speak your heart. When will you get that chance again?

I love you, P.G. Thank you for coming into my life. Thank you for making me part of yours.

When you are done with telling Patrick what you feel, dig deep and give. If you can’t give, share.

We are not losing one of the good ones…

We’re losing one of the best.

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Stranger on a Train XXIX

Four days of Photoshop. Eight lessons with a few bonus skills added into the mix. I have to work a bit on Day One of Level 2; but once I took a lesson from Kacy Catanzaro and took a steadier pace, Day Two more than made up for my stumble.

Did you see this woman rock the American Ninja course? #MightyKacy indeed.

I’m digging Photoshop CC a lot. Good program. Now I need to take a serious look at Lightroom. I’d like to see if we (that’s Mike Witherall and I) can turn it into a class. I don’t see why not.
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So the people behind Snowpiercer‘s Facebook page put that image online this morning. It’s a stitch, especially when you consider the film. Lot of “in” jokes here, so kudos to the fan who created it. Inspired works like that just remind me of how incredibly talented people are everywhere, and I’m lucky enough to get to share my stories. I’m gearing up to do it again, too. The edits for The Diamond Conspiracy arrived today, so it’s time to level up and work on the next adventure of Books & Braun. We are dealing with a lot in this one, so I look forward to returning to that world…

…Monday.

First, I need a nap. A really big one. Photoshop is a demanding mistress.

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Stranger on a Train: XXVIII

Knocked it out of the fucking park.

No, I don’t like to brag. Not my thing. Too many times when I’ve been kicked in the teeth by those in Corporate America, but today I’m shouting it from the rainy rooftops: The kid’s still got it!

It’s been a long time since I’ve taught Photoshop and this time it was CC. New territory, but damn, I love Photoshop. Still, I needed to bone up on my Photography Fu. I don’t know when I’ll be asked to teach it again, but I had a blast. I even did PJ Schnyder and Kreg Steppe proud and gave a talk about shooting in RAW.

Not the same as shooting in THE RAW. Totally different thing.

Glowing reviews, and one student even got approval to stick around for Level 2. So one down, one to go. I think I got enough to teach an intermediate level PS CC course. If not, I’ll make something happen. Giving them the “Oh, cool!” moment makes the commute worth it.

Got caught in the bad weather on the way to the train. Not much else to do but sing “A Little Fall of Rain” and keep walking. It wasn’t too bad of a stroll, not like the rain could hurt me now. Beside — the rain will make the flowers grow….

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Snowpiercer: The Best Science Fiction Film of the Year (that Hollywood wanted to fail)

snowpiercer_ver20_xlgIf you’re a fan of film, especially science fiction and film, you may have heard of this low budget “art” film, Snowpiercer. Describing it as an art film may insinuate this dystopian action-suspense film carries with it an air of pretension, but give me a moment here. Based on a French graphic novel, a South Korean director assuming the big chair, and featuring an international cast including Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Kang-ho Song, and Ah-sung Ko, Snowpiercer could be one of the most outstanding films of the year. Terrifying, daring, and compelling, this stunning work of science fiction, hailed by critics and science fiction fans, was initially released in eight theatres.

Yes. Eight. As in, not ten.

What. The Hell?!

At the end of this review, this dark tale—in its own way—offers you, the moviegoer, a happy ending. So read on. Continue reading

Stranger on a Train: XXVII

After three days of coding and teaching, I’m still walking. I was kind of hoping for that Nick M.F. Fury rescue because, let’s talk real, moments of badassery like that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. finale are always welcome in life.

I can’t complain (though I did) about the class. Sharpened skills and money through the door, I guess. Not enough, though, for the trip to WorldCon, I’m afraid. Sucks, too, as I wanted to see some friends I’d not seen for a spell, show the Boom the Tower of London and the Globe, and just give Pip and me a moment’s peace.

Maybe things will change. It’s so damn close to call.

Next week is Balticon. Always a good time. I have a schedule in need of posting and I’ll probably get to that over the weekend. Since March, everything’s felt blurry, but Pip and I did all we could for that steampunk title of ours. Now we just have to hope people are still wanting more.

I know I do. I like this ‘verse of cogs, gears, and spies. I don’t want it to end. Not now, anyway.

Almost home. Ready to hit a weekend well-earned with family. Maybe a quick detour to Proper Pie Company on the way back home. And speaking of badassery, I’ve got my weekend off to a good start with this…

What about you? What’s your read this weekend?

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Stranger on a Train: XXVI

Exhausted. I am exhausted…but face a night of class prep.

Maybe I can pick up a few Zs on the way home, but a coding class is life-sucking to say the least. It is just HTML and CSS, and yet I feel like I’ve run a marathon. No, scratch that—I think I’d rather run a marathon than teach a coding class.

Fading, so if Nick Mother Fucking Fury wants to lean out of a military helicopter and rescue my sorry ass, now would be a great time.

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Much Ado About Nothing: The Brouhaha over #AmtrakResidency’s Terms of Service

bildeYou may have heard, if you’re friends with writers, that Amtrak, inspired by an exchange on Twitter, has come up with a really cool program called #AmtrakResidency where writers can catch a cross-country train (with Amtrak picking up the fare) and trek across the states while working on their next big novel. Truth be told, there is something very cool about writing while on a train. The world is your television, and seeing the country rush by you—given the atmosphere of riding the train across our majestic landscape—is nothing short of inspiring.

No, “rush by” is not the right description. From the window of your Amtrak observation desk or sleeper car, a cross-country odyssey unfolds all around you.

It all sound very poetic, which is why some crusaders of truth, justice, and “Your Content is YOURS” did a massive deep-dive into the terms of the #AmtrakResidency Program and  speculate there is trouble at mill when it comes to your content. Nuzzled within the terms of giving you, the author, free train fare in exchange for this opportunity to write, Amtrak reserves “the absolute, worldwide, and irrevocable right to use, modify, publish, publicly display, distribute, and copy the name, image, and/or likeness of Applicant and the names of any such persons identified in the Application for any purpose, including, but not limited to, advertising and marketing. (taken from #6. Grant of Rights of #AmtrakResidency Program)”

This sent some in the writing community into a right tizzy. New York Times Bestseller Diane Duanne warns on her blog “Never sell anyone world rights to any of your writing. Ever. Ever. Because who knows if that one piece of writing is the one that would have made you famous worldwide and rich beyond the dreams of avarice? Or more to the point, what if they later do something with your writing that is absolutely opposite to your intentions and which you find harmful or offensive? You’d have no recourse there either.”

She used bold AND italics. Wow. This must be serious. Continue reading

Stranger on a Train XXV

An entirely different kind of day.

First day back to work for a lot of people today, and you can tell everything just feels different. I saw a lot of people smiling this morning. I noticed a lot more kindness from strangers.

And yeah, I noticed a much longer line at the Starbucks. Welcome back to the daily grind, DC!

It was also a different kind of attitude at the contract job. The Account Manager wants me to bring a fresh set of eyes and ideas to the channels. The guy training me also commended me on how quickly I was moving in picking up the voice of the individual accounts, faster than people anticipated. I even got the go-ahead to post, which I did. So today was a bit of a confidence booster.

This year really hasn’t been all doom, gloom, and downward spirals. Writing-wise I’ve never had it better. I know, apart from the stage, I’m happiest when I’m writing. Editing Dawn’s Early Light brought that home. I’ve enjoyed some accomplishments I never dreamed in me, and I find myself back on the precipice again. Pip and I are right on the cusp of something huge, and all it’s going to take is that one nudge, that one magic moment, that could keep us writing full time. I wish I knew what we needed to do, but until then we’re just going to have to remain on this path. Guess I’ve been thinking about that razor’s edge with the James River Writers’ Conference beginning tomorrow, then next week taking part in Octopodicon out in Oklahoma. Pip and I have been given rock star treatment this year. Seriously, like motherfucking rock stars. By some fantastic people. Doctor Q. Doctor Midnyte. ConTemporal. Authors After Dark. They have all been little blessings.

I just don’t want to let anyone down.

Interview for a full time gig tomorrow, and then it’s back to Richmond—my hometown—for some serious talk about writing, both the craft and the business. Then next week, Oklahoma. Lots of travel, and time away from Sonic Boom. That’s the downside.

But we’re having a Family Movie Night. Guess what Blu-Ray we’re rocking on the home theatre tonight?

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Stranger on a Train XXIV

A day of surprises.

Started a brief gig today without knowing a lot of the details. This is why I’m on the last train out of DC and into Virginia. On the train at 6:15 this morning to clock in. Heading home, I’ll get off this train at 8.

That is what you call a long day.

How was the first day? Truth be told, I don’t know. I’ve become a lousy judge of progress in the workplace considering my last few gigs. As far as I know, I did well. This commute is a mess though. I’ve been looking for jobs in DC, sure, but this felt a little outrageous. 90 minutes one way?

It’s only for three weeks. I’ll manage.

I think, in the social media/digital team, I’m the oldest. I am fascinated by the willingness of these interactive marketers to work well into the night. Clock in at 9, take your lunch at the desk, leave whenever. Seven. Eight. It’s all good.

Maybe I’m of a different mindset. When your job becomes your life, it’s going to affect you. Right?

Then again, I think about the extra hours I put into Bloodshot, into Dawn’s Early Light, into all my fiction…it’s about the passion. Doing what you love. Giving it your all. That I can understand.

The last surprise of the day — I watched John Hodgman from The Daily Show post on Instagram today. I walked right by him, and I even did a double take. The things you see in DC when the government is in timeout…

Would have loved to shake your hand, Big J…but I had a train to catch.

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Stranger on a Train XXIII

I was planning to nap, but my brain really won’t power down. I blame NASA and this incredible photo of Christina Hendricks I saw Facebook.

It still blows my mind that we are on Mars. Again. This time, using a means of entry that resembled something the Coyote (Eatibus Anythingibus) purchased from ACME in order to catch the Road Runner (Hotrodius Diggus-Outtus). When I saw the animation on how they were going to get Curiosity on the Red Planet, I thought “That’s nuts!”

Put one in the WIN column for Super-Geniuses.

This week Pip and I head for New Orleans. Not necessarily planned, this trip; but then again, 2012 hasn’t really gone to plan. I feel very much in transit, particularly with other friends hitting crossroads in life. Things could be worse, sure, but if you were to ask me to describe the year in a word: uncertain. I don’t know what it is about this year, but there it is in a nutshell.

NASA however taught me last night a whole new degree of uncertainty. Think about it: The reason (okay, ONE reason) they went nuts early this morning was on account of uncertainty. Beyond the insane amount of time and precision in the entry, there was the fact that Curiosity would get to Mars and fail hard. A camera could have jostled out of whack, a board could have failed on touchdown — even if you got redundancies in place, a thousand and one things could go wrong, and still you have to worry about that other variable that could make it one thousand and two. NASA faced their uncertainty with incredible resolve, and now we’re back on Mars with a probe that is state-of-the-art and ready to rumble in the Red.

This is what we all have to do: face it. Face it head on. We do that, and we will come out the other side. Stronger. Wiser. Ready for more.

If you were expecting the shot of Christina, that’s on my Facebook page. This one’s for NASA.

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