Barbecue Zen: A Life Lesson from a Cookout

(photos from Nutty Nuchtchas and Bruce F Press Photography)

10385393_10201495629506364_381941092020939126_nThe week following Balticon 48, my social media feeds could easily be broken down to two topics: retrospectives of the event (which was awesome, by the way, and if you weren’t there—think about being there in 2015) and a variety of perspectives on the #YesAllWomen hashtag. While nostalgic and contemplative the looks back to the Memorial Day Weekend were, it’s been equally disheartening reading stories from people I admire and hold in high esteem like Dr Pamela Gay, Jared Axelrod, Chris Miller, either being victim of or watching others victimized by people who think they are cast in a season of Mad Men. Sure, there are men who behave badly in our culture but I had no idea just how deep this dark, twisted rabbit hole reached.

In this post I want to talk about both. In particular I want to talk about that amazing cookout you may have heard Balticon talk about on Friday night, and what we all can take away from it. Continue reading

Paying Attention: A Secret Behind Inspiration

iStock_000006201684XLarge “How do you get all those ideas?”

I rank this question up along with “How do you learn all those lines?” when I was the actor. It was a question actors dreaded, but I rarely think we were asked it when we had a “Meet & Greet” with the audience. It’s a fair enough question, though; and since I never got it when I was an actor, I’ll answer it here. “Rehearsal and repetition.” That’s the key in learning your lines, be it for a play, a presentation, or for a very important one-on-one you have on your books.

Now, as a writer, the ideas question tends to be the one that earns an eye-roll, but I don’t think it’s fair. People are genuinely curious how authors come up with what they put down on paper. Maybe it’s because they wonder how someone can think up Victorian secret agents investigating the unknown, or a dwarf-detective solving crimes in the Prohibition Era; and it’s a sincere question. I know that when I’ve read books I love, or enjoyed an episode of Almost Human or True Detective, I marvel at the air tight dialogue or incredible situations these talented writers come up with and wonder what drives them. It’s good to know where ideas come from and what makes them happen because inspiration keep you busy as a writer.

If there was a magic bullet in finding great ideas, it actually ties back to a trick I had with acting: Pay attention. The world around you is teeming with ideas, and inspiration can happen at any time. With technology, jotting ideas down has been made insanely easy, so now instead of carrying around the writer’s notebook, journal—or ledger as The Taxman does—you can whip out the smartphone and take notes. What’s key though in finding inspiration is paying attention to what’s around you. Many times, that’s all you need to get an idea going. 

Case in point, today the third season of Tales from the Archives launched; and I’m particularly proud of this story that Pip and I put together as it came from the unlikeliest of places: church. Now church is probably not the place where I should be in “Writer’s Mode” but Trinity Episcopal of Manassas prides itself on being a different kind of church. This particular day, Dennis Reid, was giving a sermon on Judas Iscariot; but not the kind of sermon you would think. He said something that struck me hard: Continue reading