I’m having way too much fun with Zoom backgrounds.

So, yeah.

The new normal is that those of us fortunate enough not to be furloughed or laid off during the current insanity communicate with our co-workers using email, texting, Skype, and…of course, Zoom.

Indeed, more and more of us are diving into the app and using it as a sort of virtual conference room, despite stories of hackers and other ne’er do wells crashing such environments for their own amusement as well as the numerous warnings that Zoom’s security features are about as helpful as a fishnet condom. Some of the warnings are legit and – at least as they’re telling it – the folks behind Zoom are doing their best to address and improve the various security concerns.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are just Zooming away, thrilled with the ability to project a professional image from the waist up while everything below the camera level is an unfiltered party zone filled with chicks and guns and fire trucks and hookers and drugs and booze!

Okay, so maybe that sort of thing isn’t happening with everyone. Your mileage may vary.

In and around all of this, I’ve been having a bit of fun with one of Zoom’s personalization features, the “virtual background.” Rather than broadcast a video feed of me sitting at my desk with my whiteboard on the wall behind me – which may or not contain various sensitive scribblings about projects in progress and so on and so forth – I can just insert myself into any real or imagined place in the universe. I hinted a bit about this the other day in a piece I wrote about working from home, but since then? Yeah, it’s gotten worse.

I mean, sure. At first it was the usual sort of thing you’d probably expect from me:

Zoom-Enterprise Bridge(Taken during our 2017 trip to the Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga, NY)

And why have just any starfield as a backdrop when you can have one from the animated Star Trek series?

Zoom-Trek-TAS-Starfield

NOTE: Click any of these to biggie size, by the way.

From there, I started playing. It was innocent enough, at first going from the Best Care Anywhere…
Zoom-Mash-Compound

…to a place where there’s no air anywhere.

Zoom-Moon
But before I knew it I was offering fellow Zoomers sneak peeks into other, heretofore unseen areas of stately Ward Manor….

ZoomBackground-HallOfJustice
Zoom-Batcave
Then I decided a virtual background deserved a window into an actual…you know…virtual world. So, I took the red pill and freed my mind.

Zoom-Matrix

That was before I decided I needed something a little more retro, which led me to my current favorite. It’s one that should be immediately recognizable to anyone with at least one foot standing deep in 1980s nostalgia:

Zoom-MaxHeadroom
Of course, no sooner did I sit down to write this piece and find a few sites boasting nice collections of backgrounds so you too can add a little extra zip to your Zoom sessions than I found this:

Zoom-JohnWick01

Uh huh.

Now, I’m by no means revolutionary in this regard. Indeed, there are a number of sites which have already posted collections of backgrounds you can use to spruce up your own little virtual presence. Check out the offerings at these sites to list just a few:

Pocket-lint.com

CNET.com

GoodHousekeeping.com

Star Trek via DailyStarTrekNews.com

Nerdist.com

That should be enough to get you started, right? Have at it, fellow Zoomers.

Zoom-Dayton

This whole “working at home” thing.

In recent weeks as we’ve settled with varying degrees of comfort and success into our “stay at home” protocols, I’ve been asked a few times about how I handle working at home. Mostly these are folks who were used to “home life” and “work life” being two very dissimilar things, separated by at least some distance and at a minimum defined by two markedly different physical locations. Now their worlds have been thrown into a blender and mixed together and they’ve been working these past weeks to establish a new paradigm, set of habits, expectations, and so on.

“You’ve been doing this forever,” they say. “You’re used to having to remain productive even in the face of frequent distractions,” they say. “How do you manage it all?” they ask.

Granted, my work really hasn’t been disrupted by the current situation to any significant degree. I’m still employed, for which I am immensely grateful as that lessens the stress I’d otherwise be feeling on any number of fronts. Yes, this has been a transition — in large part due to the kids — but we’re making the best of it with assistance from their wonderful teachers and school support staff, who also are doing their best to push forward despite the challenges they face.

Between the last few years of my corporate life and my switching over to be a full-time writer (aside from one brief stint where I took a contract writing job that required commuting to an office), I’ve been working out of my house for well over a decade. It started not long after my first daughter was born, which was helpful as I was in a position to get her (and, later, her sister) to and from daycare/pre-school and ultimately to and from “regular” school. Then we moved into the current Ward Manor in 2014 and they started taking the bus to school.

In the early going, establishing a routine was easy. Kids and my corporate job required I come up with a schedule and stick to it. Without going into specifics, my job involved a series of deliverables which had to hit their marks every month in order to keep the larger process moving. Most of those deliverables were due on specific dates each month, regardless of when those dates fell on a calendar. So, weekend or holiday? That’s the way it went. Hit the mark. If I screwed up, it affected the people waiting on me and so on, to a point where my company could be financially liable for violating service level agreements. So, not much room for dicking around.

Anyway, between work and getting the kids to school, it didn’t take long to establish a routine whereby I was up, clean, groomed and presentable, and ready to go on a regular daily basis. This continued to serve me as I left Corporate America and moved to freelancing full-time. Even as the kids have grown older and become more self-sufficient, I still use their schedule as a guideline for keeping my own routine on track. It works more than it doesn’t, even when you don’t factor in extended stay-at-home orders in the face of a pandemic.

Though I admit to moving the goalposts here and there with respect to start and stop times, I try to stick to something resembling a schedule and routine, especially during the week. First and foremost, I get up and get cleaned up. I know we all joke about staying in our jammies all day or maybe just going completely smokeless as we dance through our abodes, but for me getting dressed and all that is a mental button I push that tells me it’s time to be productive. Granted, during the cooler months that might very well mean sweats, but it’s something other than what I wear to bed.

Once all that’s done – including fixing breakfast if I’m hungry — I’ll finally make my way to my office. The basement in our house was completely finished by the previous owners, and the layout is a sort of “L” shape that divides the level into two main areas along with a full bathroom and closets. It’s basically a small apartment, for all intents and purposes, and the way our house is built and landscaped means the basement level is a walkout to the garage and ultimately our driveway. I even have decent windows so it doesn’t feel as though I’m toiling in a dungeon. It’s also far enough from the kitchen that I’m not as tempted to go fridge forraging.

My office area is separate from the part of the room that has a TV and couch, and the layout is such that I can’t see the TV from my desk. Still, the nature of my writing work does mean I’m on the couch with my laptop from time to time, watching something for research at some point during a project. Otherwise, I tend to work at my desk. That’s where the library is, and I’ve usually got music on for background noise.

The first part of the morning is usually spent going through email and seeing if there’s anything pressing I need to do for this or that client. This transitions into my writing up a brief “To Do List” for the day’s activities. My rule of thumb is to organize what I perceive as the day’s tasks in ascending order of time needed to complete each action item. So, I knock out the quick stuff before moving on to progressively meatier tasks. This approach provides a little series of warm fuzzies as I get to cross items off the list, for which I confess a weakness because it tells me I’m getting shit done.

More often than not, the meatiest item on my daily menu involves the major writing project on my plate. The novel-in-progress, for example. Depending on various factors, things come along during the day that get added to my list and I adjust as necessary. If it’s a hot item then I may move it to the top of the day’s pile and proceed from there, otherwise it gets set aside for adding to tomorrow’s list.

I make sure to take breaks throughout the day, whether it’s for lunch or hanging out with the kids for a bit. With the current situation, they have school during the week via “virtual learning.” It’s not nearly as structured as a regular school day so we have to make sure they’re doing okay with their assignments and other activities like practicing with their instruments (one daughter plays the viola, the other the cello) and doing the challenges put forth by — for example — their P.E. teachers. They’re old enough now they have their own preferred ways of keeping busy and they can fend for themselves if they’re hungry. They’ve even been pitching in with meal prep. As needed or just because I’m feeling antsy, I get outside to work in the yard at some point during the middle part of the day. I also make sure to hold up my end of things like cooking and cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, and so on.

(This is probably a good time to admit some of these practices long predate working at home and even my stint as a cog in the private sector wheel. Military life instills routines and habits for pretty much every aspect of your existence at some point, including figuring out how best to allot time and attention spent on mundane tasks like laundry and housekeeping. Despite being a civilian for more years than I care to say out loud, a few of those ingrained habits and approaches to accomplishing such tasks linger to this day.)

Work interactions, as they’ve always done, continue to involve email and phone conferences. Phone calls factor into a daily task list, and it’s only recently that video chats have been added to the mix. I’ve done a couple, but even those were enough for me to up my Zoom game with a few different virtual backgrounds. For example:

There almost certainly will be others.

Anyway, the routine I’ve established takes up most of the daylight working hours. Pretty much every “sucessful work at home strategies” article you’re going to read will tell you making and sticking to a schedule is essential to that success. It’s a good guideline but let’s face it: If we’re on the jazz then schedules go out the window. There are more days when I keep working into the evening than not. Sometimes it’s because I’m on a roll, but others it’s due to my being behind on a project and a deadline is looming and I feel like I need to put in the extra effort. Work comes in waves where I’ll be at it for days on end with long hours, broken up by periods of little or no pressing deadlines or other tasks. That’s when I get to do things such as catch up on leisure activities like reading or plowing through the TV backlog.

As with anything of this sort, what works for me may or may not work for others. You have to find an approach that best fits with all the various things and people going on in your life. It takes time for a schedule to become a routine before solidifying itself into a habit, so don’t be too hard on yourself in the early going. Look for the rhythm that’s right for you, and dance to it.

Just don’t dance too close to the fridge. Or the windows, if you’ve opted to go without pants. Or, maybe you want to give the neighbors a thrill. Whatever tickles your…whatever.

2019 in review: “My job is weird.”

Dayton-BeatYep. I think the headline says it all.

2019 was definitely a year of new and exciting things, on several fronts. There was much change here at Ward Manor, but in reality the more things changed the more they stayed the same. This is a good thing.

First, I’m happy to report that Clan Ward is doing well. Our daughters, now in 7th and 6th grades, continue to amaze me. They’re both excellent students, involved in extracurricular activities in and outside of school, and generally just awesome kids in every way worth measuring. I’d like to think my wife and I had something to do with that, but one can’t discount the value of the teachers from whom they’ve learned as well as the friends they’ve made along the way.

We’re fortunate to live in a neighborhood that is rather close knit in many respects, and the friends we’ve made since moving here have been amazing. I don’t make new friends all that easily and for far too long I was pretty okay with that, so there are times when I’ve had to take a pause and reflect on just how big my social circle has grown in the past few years. That’s thanks in large part to meeting and hanging out with the parents of the kids our daughters call friends. Now we’re to a point where our family vacations with a few of these other families. If you’d told me even five years ago that would be a thing, I’d have given you severe side-eye.

Yet here we are, and I’m pretty damned cool with that.

Continue reading “2019 in review: “My job is weird.””

A Superman “mystery?”

I don’t typically advertise when I’m away on vacation, preferring instead to surprise readers after I’m back and let you know that HEY! I was on vacation last week.

So, HEY! I was on vacation last week.

It was an epic road trip in which Clan Ward joined forces with two other families with whom we’ve become good friends since our move to Ward Manor 2.0 in 2014. Our kids all go to the same schools, participate in the neighborhood swim team and other local activities, and my wife along with one of the other wives actually works for the third wife, so we find ourselves together in all sorts of weather and circumstances. 😀

This time, it was a 2,100-or so mile excursion: first to Nashville, Tennessee, where we spent mine and Michi’s 28th anniversary and St. Patrick’s Day. We followed that with a jaunt to Destin, Florida for a few days lounging on the beach, checking out local sites, and eating all manner of things plundered from the ocean that was RIGHT THERE. The last couple of days were spent in Hot Springs, Arkansas at the historic Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa, located right in the heart of the action directly across the street from Hot Springs National Park, Bathhouse Row, and all sorts of local coolness.

It was this past Saturday afternoon, as Michi and the girls were availing themselves of the hotel’s embedded Starbucks cafe when the barista started making small talk, which brings us to the reason for this latest blog posting and its title. As she prepared the girls’ triple latte double caff whatevers, the barista pointed to a building across the street and casually mentioned, “They used it for the Daily Planet building in the old Superman TV series.”

Continue reading “A Superman “mystery?””

Looking back at my 2017.

It’d be easy to allow my last blog posting of 2017 to wallow in the same sort of snark and smartassery that I employed as a defense mechanism pretty much every day while reading the news this past year. Instead, I’m going to end things on a high note.

IMG_2454So far as personal milestones go, I turned 50 this year. Rather than dwell on the sorts of things that seem to characterize the typical “mid-life crisis,” I’d already made the decision well ahead of my birthday to embrace full-on my half-century mark. I’ve told people that I had much more fun during my 40s than I did my 30s, due in no small part to family and friends as well as the rather odd way that I’ve managed to carve out something resembling a living. I don’t expect that to change just because my odometer turned over. I don’t feel 50, people tell me I don’t look 50, and I sure as hell don’t act 50, so screw it.

Speaking of the family, Michi and the girls are all happy and healthy. Addy turned 11 while Erin turned 9. I know it sounds cliché, but of everything I’ve accomplished in life to this point, being a decent husband and dad are the things in which I take the most pride. I’ll probably always be a work in progress on both of those fronts, but I have plenty of reasons to keep at it. 🙂

So far as writing, it was a bit of an odd year. Remember all those things I talked about writing during 2016? Well, they all showed up during 2017:

2017-cover-gallery

 

Two Star Trek: The Next Generation novels – as well as my second “travel guide,” this time focusing on The Klingon Empire, dominated my Star Trek publications during the year, along with mine and Kevin’s first-ever comic collaboration from 2016 appearing in the Star Trek: Waypoint mini-series paperback collection. 2017 also brought with it my first professional forays into the realms of Planet of the Apes and Predator. Both of those were fun and scratched specific fanboy writing itches, and I’m hoping to revisit both universes, one of these days. Elsewhere on the planet of apes, I contributed my second essay to the gang at Sequart, for their collection Bright Eyes, Ape City: Examining the Planet of the Apes Mythos, edited by friends Rich Handley and Joseph Berenato.

Also, and after a lot of planning and waiting, I teamed up with colleagues David Lee Summers, Carol Hightshoe, Jennifer Brozek, and Bryan Thomas Schmidt and we worked with Kevin J. Anderson’s WordFire Press to publish Maximum Velocity: The Best of Full-Throttle Space Tales.

DrasticMeasures-CoverAs for my writing during 2017, the project with the highest profile is probably Drastic Measures, my Star Trek: Discovery novel which was announced with a bit of fanfare at the big Star Trek convention in Las Vegas back in August. I actually knew as far back as the 2016 con that I’d be writing the book, but the secrecy ninjas from CBS have kept a tight lid on announcing such things until the appropriate time.

Going back even farther, I’d been talking at fairly regular intervals with my dear friend, Kirsten Beyer, who’s been in the Discovery writer’s room from the very beginning. I had a ringside seat as the show gestated and came together over a period of more than eighteen months, so yeah…I’m kind of biased. It was an interesting experience, trying to write a tie-in for a show that literally was being developed at the same time, and Kirsten played a big part in my being able to pull that off. Drastic Measures is due to be published on February 6th, 2018.

As for my other writing during 2017, I’m actually surprised at closing out the year without being able to announce or talk much about any of it because several of these things have not yet been formally announced by their respective publishers.

Two of those projects were completed and are scheduled to be published this coming summer. A project for another client was completed, but it’s looking increasingly as though it will never see the light of day. I was paid in full for my work, but the point of writing for publication is that your writing is…you know…published, so that people can experience it and (hopefully) enjoy it. At last report, there’s a slight glimmer of hope that the project will go forward, but the issues standing in its way are way above me and affect a number of people, and I feel more sorry for them than the fate of my little contribution.

Another tie-in project for which I signed a contract and have written an outline has been stalled somewhere between my client and the licensor, and I honestly have no idea when it might get the green light to move forward. I’ve been waiting months to hear some news, but my book is an admittedly very small fish in a very large pond. Such is the life of a freelancer. It’s still possible I might get some updates and be able to get writing, and maybe see this published either late in 2018 or early 2019.

What else do I have going? For those of you who may have missed it, back in November I accepted an offer to write full-time in an office setting. It’s both an interesting change of pace (and scenery!) and a nice counter to my fiction writing. My first month at the new gig has been educational and rewarding, as I’ve written two articles of my own and have three more in various stages of development, provided feedback on various pieces written by my teammates, and I’m currently editing an article submitted over the transom for our review. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be working with that piece’s authors to ready it for publication. So far, so good. 🙂

On the freelance front, I have contracts with two other clients that are now in an “active” status so far as my writing schedule. I have a manuscript due to one client on February 22nd, with a planned publication date in early 2019. I’m also due to start plotting with the other client after the holiday so we can see about getting on with that writing. A project for another client is still hanging in a low orbit, and I’m hoping to start working on an outline early in the new year.

One of the most frequent questions I get is whether I’ll be writing more Star Trek novels for Pocket Books. At present, I’m not under contract with them for anything beyond the upcoming Drastic Measures. Simon & Schuster is, at last report, finalizing their new licensing agreement CBS, and once that’s done I hope Pocket will see fit to contact me.

As I said last year and repeat as often as I can, I’m grateful to my clients who continue to employ me, my readers who continue to support me, and my family and friends who are in my corner even when I’m working often insane hours to meet a deadline. Kevin naturally gets his own shout-out because Kevin! I literally could not do what I get to do without all of you, and hey! If you’re an editor or publisher reading this, I’m still a freelancer, ever on the prowl for more work. 😀

Okay, 2018: Bring it on.

Back to the salt mines…sorta.

Most of you who read this blog with any regularity know that I’ve been working as a full-time freelance writer since leaving my corporate job in September 2014. Prior to that, any writing I did for novels, short stories, magazine articles or the web was done outside of that job, usually in the evenings or on weekends/holidays.

Though I’ve enjoyed the freedom afforded by the “freelancer lifestyle,” I’ve also come to realize that I do miss the structure of a “regular job” in an office, interacting and collaborating with other humans. For a while, now, I’ve been conducting quiet job searches, looking for something interesting enough that it could entice me to shave and wear pants on a daily basis.

Well, I found it. Beginning Monday, November 27th, I’m returning to an office environment, but not the realm of information technology/software development. Instead, I’ll be working as ………. wait for it ………. a writer!

This came about due to an opportunity crossing my path, which I found to be unlike pretty much everything else I’d seen on places like LinkedIn, Indeed, and other job sites. Instead, this one was quite simply too interesting to ignore. After applying and interviewing for the position, I knew that my initial gut reaction was right, and this presented a challenge I couldn’t pass up. Apparently, the folks on the other side of the table viewed things in similar fashion, as they offered me the job. 🙂

I’m genuinely excited by this (slight) change in direction, which will allow me to bring to bear what I consider to be a rather diverse set of skills and experience. In addition to the obvious one (um, writing?), editing, a bit of tech, and my military background will all be utilized, and my interests in military history and current affairs and even veterans issues may well come into play. I’ll also be getting some hands-on experience with graphic design and layout using products like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, which I confess are skills I’ve wanted to learn for a while, now.

In keeping with the self-imposed rule I had in place during my previous stint at a “regular job,” you’re not likely to see me posting or commenting about it or any related matters in this space or the other areas of my social media platform. Indeed, I’ve always refrained from even listing my current employer as part of my profiles, because I prefer to keep that part of my “world” separate from this.

You know……whatever the hell “this” is.

Here’s the rub: Because what I’ll be writing will be for publication, it’s possible – even likely – that a segment of my current readership will see my byline at some point. So, it’s not as though I’m looking to keep things “secret” or anything. Just know that if and when the subject comes up, any inquiries or comments about that work likely will be directed to the proper channels. For example, the people for whom I’m writing have their own social media presence. It remains to be seen if I’ll be contributing in any way to that, but for the moment I’m going with “No.” We shall see.

The main impact here will be that I likely won’t be posting as much during the weekdays. My new employers are aware of my fiction/genre writing and my social media activities, but that won’t give me license to frequent this space during the workday. Based on what I’ve been told to expect so far as my regular duties, my days will be more “sane” than what I used to deal with a few years ago. Though I expect the occasional bout of overtime as needed to keep schedules on track, I should still be left with plenty of brain cells, energy, and desire to continue slinging words in a fiction-like fashion.

And speaking of that? Worry not, as I’m definitely not giving that up. In addition to three projects for which I’ve delivered my manuscripts and I’m currently awaiting next steps, I’m under contract to write a novel for which my outline’s not yet been given the green light, and there are two other projects for which I’m currently awaiting contracts before I start digging in on them.

Now, if you’ll excuse me…..I need to go make sure I have pants to wear for Monday.

mad-writer

Yes, this thing still works.

Blog-On-Off

I figure (read: “desperately hope”) there’s at least a couple of you out there wondering where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing the last week or so.

The answer is that I’ve been bussssssssssssssssssssy. There are several things in the hopper at the moment, almost all of which fall into the category of “Things I Can’t Really Talk About…At Least Not Yet.”

I was motoring along at a somewhat leisurely pace for a bit there, enjoying the first few weeks of my kids’ summer vacation, but then several things kicked into gear in rapid succession. On the home front, both kids are attending “summer learning” programs at school. Unlike “summer school” from back in my day, which you attended because your dumb ass flunked a class during the regular school year, this is a completely different kind of thing. For one, the kids volunteer to go, and the classes they attend are fun. Oldest daughter is taking a computer animation class, while youngest is doing one about animal sciences. How cool are those? So, it’s like summer/day camp, but I don’t have to pay for it because it’s offered by the school system (which I kinda sorta already pay for, anyway). Of course, the classes are at two different schools with different start/release times, so I’m running around town in the morning and afternoon doing my best Uber driver impression.

The kids are also on the neighborhood swim team again, this year. This requires them to be at practice a few times a week, and then there’s the weekly swim meets against other neighborhood teams every Wednesday evening throughout June and part of July. The Wednesdays are a 4-5 hour commitment, plus we parents volunteer to help with various things that need doing during the evening. I usually serve as one of the lane timers, for example, with my little stopwatch and clipboard, while Michi helps up front with registration, entering stats, or serving as a runner. When we started this last year I didn’t think I’d enjoy any of it, but it’s been a lot of fun, due in no small part to friends who also have daughters in the program, and with whom we hang during all of this.

(Note: It’s possible that an adult beverage or two may be present at these events. YMMV.)

Youngest daughter had a Taekwondo promotion this past Saturday. It was a midterm promotion for her, and she now has about half of the midterm stars she needs before she can even be considered for testing to earn her Third Degree black belt. She’s taking the rest of the summer off to enjoy swim team and the rest of her vacation before school starts back up, and  then she’ll get back to it. Oldest daughter, also a Second Degree, is taking a hiatus of her own. 

Work wise, things are maintaining pace in the “busy” lane but threatening to swerve into “insane.” As I write this, I have three…count them, three… projects all with deadlines in the next 45-60 days. One was something I was already scheduled to start working on after finishing the previous novel manuscript, and the other two came largely out of nowhere. Both are things I really, really want to do, and each has the potential to lead to more work in their respective realms, so hell yeah I signed on. By themselves, none of them is something that would be in danger of missing its respective deadline, and in truth all are of a size that I can manage together with proper time management and discipline.

(Insert joke about my being doomed here.)

What are these new things? Well, as you may have already guessed, all of them fall under the aforementioned “Things I Can’t Really Talk About…At Least Not Yet” category. Stay tuned for details as I’m given the green light to start blabbing.

Oh, and that novel manuscript I mentioned in passing a few paragraphs ago? The one I turned in on May 22nd? Yeah, I’ve heard back from my editor and the licensor and there will be some rework involved. Nothing too demanding (at least, the way I see it), but requiring more time than I’m able to give it at this precise moment. Thankfully, all parties are sympathetic to my plight, and I’m doing whatever I can to shuffle things around on my calendar so that I can return my updated manuscript sooner rather than later. Luckily, we have a bit of maneuvering room, here, but that doesn’t mean I want this thing to linger any longer than absolutely necessary. Oh, what’s it about? Again, “Things I Can’t Really Talk About…At Least Not Yet.” Sorry. 🙂

As for things I can talk about? Let’s see….today, I’m wrapping up a piece for Modiphius, to be used as part of the communications stream between game developers and players for their upcoming Star Trek Adventures role playing game. Once that’s done, I’m putting the final polish on a guest blog piece that will run in conjunction with the soon-to-be released Hidden Universe Travel Guides – Star Trek: The Klingon Empire from Insight Editions. Like the book itself, I’m writing this piece to be “in character” as though submitted by the same people who write the guides. We’ll see if anyone else thinks I’m as clever or funny as I apparently think I am. Once these are out of the way, I’ll be getting started in earnest on the Three Big Things.

It’s nice to be busy.

evil-dayton

So, enough about me. What’s up with you?

Looking back at my 2016.

What a year.

It’s definitely been something of a ride. Dominated by the protracted and ever-stupefying election cycle and its culmination with Biff Tannen’s ascendance to the presidency, 2016 on so many fronts just feels like a year that took five years to endure. A constant stream of memes have popped up on social media to describe individual feelings about the year, and I couldn’t resist offering one of my own:

toht01

Yeah, that about sums it up.

What’s that? You want me to elaborate? Fine. Read on.

Continue reading “Looking back at my 2016.”

Vacation’s over. Back to work.

Previously on The Fog of Ward:

static_tv

Last week, Clan Ward headed south to our ancestral home for a week of fun in the Florida sun. There were excursions to Disney, the Kennedy Space Center, and Universal Studios, as well as visits to old haunts to show the offspring where Mommy and Daddy committed various bits of childhood mischief. There also were dinners with family and friends, and even a lazy day spent on the beach with friends from Kansas City who also were vacationing in the Sunshine State. Many thanks to them as well as my sister, Terri, my brother-in-law, Scott, and my wonderful niece, Lindsey, who helped to make our week back home so much fun. Indeed, my sister’s family and mine will be getting back together in June for yet more vacation madness.

For me and the Mrs., it was a sorely needed escape from all the various things we had been dealing with during the past few months. Though I wasn’t able to completely avoid the demands of work (the eternal plight of the full-time freelancer), I was at least able to keep it at bay enough so that it didn’t intrude too much on the fun we were having.

But now? Break’s over.

What’s on the docket? Well, we start the day with firing off our revisions to the copyedited manuscript for Purgatory’s Key, our contribution to Star Trek: Legacies, the trilogy of novels Pocket Books will be publishing as part of its celebration of the original series’ 50th anniversary. I was looking those over last week, when snippets of time presented themselves, and Kevin and I met yesterday to finalize a few things.

I also was reviewing the still in-progress layout for A Travel Guide to Vulcan last week. The book’s editor and art director are in the final stages of getting the interior art nailed down, and I know I’m biased when I say this but HOLY SHIT, PEOPLE. This thing is going to be gorgeous, and (hopefully) fun.

Now that I’m actually “back to work,” (I know…doesn’t sound like I ever left, right?), what’s on tap? There’s Headlong Flight, of course, the current novel in-progress, and which will be set after Armageddon’s Arrow, my Star Trek: The Next Generation novel from last year. It continues to sputter along. I’m ramping back up to speed today, though, and anticipate no major obstacles between now and the time I deliver the manuscript.

(DID YOU HEAR THAT, WRITING GODS? NO MAJOR OBSTACLES.)

:: ahem ::

I still need to finalize revisions to the outline for the novel I’ll write after Headlong Flight, and while I was away I also received official approval to begin work on a new project, the manuscript for which is due in mid May. I also have a smaller deliverable for a client due later this week. While I was down in Florida, Kevin and I also were offered an opportunity to write a Trek-themed article for a not-Trek magazine which will tap into the 50th anniversary shenanigans, and there’s another collaboration on the table that also moved a bit further ahead as we discussed details with our editor. Yes, it’s Trek, and yes it’s 50th-related, and if it goes off the way we’ve discussed to this point? It’s going to be so much fun I may just soil myself.

If I do end up ruining my Underoos, I’m going to need more, which means I’ll need money, and that brings us to the new stuff that’s out there or will soon be out there, vying for your disposable income. While I was down in Florida, my Mars Attacks novella The Armageddon Directive went on sale. Raise your hand if you pre-ordered a copy.

Meanwhile, 2113: Stories Inspired By the Music of Rush is still comin’ at ya on April 12th.What? You say you want to pre-order that one, too? YOU ARE WELCOME.

After that? Elusive Salvation, my Star Trek novel that’s also a somewhat sequel to From History’s Shadow, will officially drop on April 26th.That and other stuff coming later this year is pimped quite shamelessly right here.

If you need me, I’ll be over here, back to the grind, and all that.

Happy Birthday, Mom!

A few years ago, I wrote this for my mother’s birthday. When I went to do something similar the following year, I realized that I’d used up all of the funniest bits and cute little anecdotes the first time around. So, I decided to make this part of an “annual tribute” to be reposted every year in honor of She Who Gave Birth To Me, in recognition of the number redacted anniversary of her own grand entrance into this crazy little field trip we call “Life.”

So, here we go:

Here’s to you, Mom, for dressing the wounds I sustained after tying a bath towel around my neck and leaping from the top of the stairs because I saw Superman do it on TV.

Here’s to you, Mom, for fueling at a very early age my interests in books and reading for the sheer pleasure to be found if you just let the written word guide the way; it’s a gift I’ve treasured every day of my life.

Here’s to you, Mom, for blaming Dad instead of me when, as we were trying to move a new sofa-bed into the house, the bed came out of its mounting and knocked an antique pitcher and bowl off a nearby table, destroying it on impact.

Here’s to you, Mom, for teaching me that the things in life worth having are not easy to obtain, but that the rewards of perseverance are immeasurable.

Here’s to you, Mom, for not disowning me when, at the age of 16, I backed my truck too close to the side of the house and ripped off the power box, without even the courtesy of dying by electrocution in the process.

Here’s to you, Mom, for taking the woman who one day would become my wife, and treating her from the first minute like a second daughter.

Here’s to you, Mom, for taking that same woman aside, and teaching her very early on how not to put up with my bullshit.

Here’s to you, Mom, for being there when our children were born, doing everything you could to ease our transition into the incredible next chapters of our lives.

Here’s to you, Mom, for putting into motion from that first day your master plan to spoil your grandchildren and relish in the mischief they now pull on us, as justifiable retribution for the hell – however infrequent yet unforgettable it might’ve been – that my sister and I raised as kids.

Here’s to you, Mom, on your birthday. I hope you enjoy it, and many more.