February 2024 Update

You know, I kinda hate/love this time of year and I think I forget that every year. Every January/February there’s an extra layer of stress on top everything and I find myself pulling my hair out in exasperation through these two months. Why? Performance reviews are due at work, taxes are due, and inventory is due at work as well. All are very tedious, unpleasant tasks.

But then, it’s also ski season! This year I went to Crested Butte & Telluride for my solo trip (pics below) for 3 days at Crested Butte and 4 days at Telluride. It was incredible and I am very, very relieved it went so well.

We went on a family trip to Whistler the week before Christmas, but we got a bad roll of the dice and had 40 degrees and raining almost the entire time we were there. It wasn’t as bad once you got up past mid-station, but much of the mountain was closed and the snow was very wet and heavy. My leg got fatigued on the very first run on the very first day and I was pretty despondent about it. I was only able to ski 3-5 runs a day. I was so upset that I came close to canceling the Crested Butte/Telluride trip and calling skiing done in my life, chalked up to a casualty of MS.

I am so very, very happy I didn’t! I’m learning snow conditions and trail length make a big difference for my leg and skiing experience. Crested Butte and Telluride were amazing. Crested Butte had shorter trails that were better for my leg and I had two days of fresh powder at Telluride, which is nothing short of magical.

The icing on the cake was that I was able to know out the performance review for my team, finish edits on MK1, and participated in Codex’s Weekend Warrior contest both weekends (write a 750 flash piece in a weekend for 5 weekends in a row). The contest is a great idea/story generator and I’ve gone on to sell three of the five stories I wrote for it last time. I think I should be able to sell some this time (fingers crossed). I also finished inventory before I left, and almost done with taxes. So, all those unpleasant tasks are almost over.

I’m now getting back to editing act 1 of MK2 with an eye to then turn around and write some short stories from other characters POVs to help fill in some details for myself. There’s a lot going on off camera in MK2 and as a discovery writer it’s hard for me to know what that is until I write it. They could end up as chapters in MK2, short stories in expanded world collection, or forever sit on my hard drive. The final product isn’t what’s so important here, but the journey of story discovery along the way.

My goal for February is to clean up the Weekend Warrior stories, get them out on submission, and put a solid dent in editing MK2.

Pictures from Crested Butte. The trail is Rambo, the steepest in North America! Pictures do not do it justice (I did not go down it). I wanted to look down it from the top, but it can only be accessed by extreme terrain, which with my leg I will not attempt.

Pictures of Telluride. Absolutely gorgeous. Fresh powder! And the trees are the type of skiing I love to do.

2024 New Year Update

Well, I went back and looked and apparently I didn’t set any 2023 targets, which looking back was probably a good thing. I had enough on my plate this year adjusting to life with MS, other life stressors, and a busy day job. So, not having a targets hanging over my head becoming stressors instead of motivators was a blessing in disguise.

But I still had a pretty good writing year in 2023. I sold three stories! The first sales in eight years and one of them was turned into audio (my favorite format). So that was definitely a highlight. I edited MK1 (again) and wrote the first act of MK2 (more on that later). I also wrote a series bible for MK1 that has already proven its weight in gold. And I read 15 fiction books and 6 nonfiction books. These seem low, but I read The Count of Monte Cristo and Don Quixote which took me longer to get through. Of the 15 fiction books, my favorites were The Count of Monte Cristo and Murder on the Orient Express.

Writing the first act of MK2 has been challenging for a couple reasons. First, it’s a big honking space opera and there’s a lot going on off camera with side characters that I haven’t worked out yet–so it’s hard to know how to weave that all in. The second is that I’ve had a really hard time getting a handle on the main character’s character arc in the second book. It’s only recently that I’ve figured out why.

I realized on one of my editing passes of MK1 this past year that the main character’s character arc didn’t fit neatly into MK1 and that it was going to be split over multiple books. I recognized that the climax of MK1 was really the midpoint of the character arc, but what I didn’t recognize until recently (although in retrospect should’ve been obvious) was that meant some of the characters interactions were incongruent in the second half of MK1. Basically, the steps the character needs to go through from the midpoint to the third plot point in a character arc were shoved in the wrong place between the first act and the midpoint of a character arc. It resulted in some weirdness and made it hard to figure how to develop the character in the first act of MK1.

So my targets for 2024 are tied to these recent revelations:
1. Edit character arc in the second half of MK1.
2. Edit first act of MK2.
3. Write 2-3 short stories exploring off camera events to better understand them.
4. Write first half of the second act of MK2.

No reading goals this year. I don’t feel I need them anymore—reading is now pretty integrated into my daily life.



A story out in the wild!

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a story accepted and published, eight years and three half months to be exact. That’s a long time. I wish I could say I hadn’t submitted much in that time frame, but that isn’t true. According to the submission grinder I garnered, 321 rejections in that time frame across 37 unique pieces—and that doesn’t even include agent rejections for novels. I can’t even login into the website used to track the agent submissions anymore, but last I remembered those were on the order of a 100 or so.

Despite that quite prodigious streak of rejections, I’ve had spat of acceptances in the last few months. This piece is the first to make it to publication, but expect a few more announcements as the others roll out.

Here is a link to my story in All Worlds Wayfayer live now to December 20th. You can pick up the whole issue here.

It’s very exciting to see one of my stories out in the wild again!

November 2023 Update

Well, I probably shouldn’t have bought that Nintendo Switch and Breath of the Wild—that is certainly going to cut into my productivity. But you know what? I don’t care. It’s fun. And I could use more fun in my life right now.

The infusions for MS went great. The worst side effect/infusion reaction was a slight headache. So other than the general discomfort of having an IV in for six hours, nothing even close to remotely complain about. In fact, they gave me a steroid in the cocktail of drugs before the actual infusion and the next day I felt great. Was moving much more easily without all the aches and pains. I talked to my GP about doing that before ski trips, so now I have renewed hope that skiing won’t be slipping away from be so dramatically as before. We’ll see—I’ve learned to be cautious that hope side of the equation.

In regards to writing, I am chipping away at MK2, but its slow going. I’m running into the typical problem all pantsers have when writing: where to go next. I deal with this fairly regularly so I know how to solve it. But there’s a new dimension of fatigue with MS where I’m like “man, that feels like a lot of work” and it takes some wind out of my sails. But I am creature of routine and that is saving me right now. Every morning around 4 am I’m at the laptop for 15-30 mins to chip away at it. And progress is being made! I estimate I’m about 2/3rds the way through the first act. Which means I need really need to figure out the first plot point.

So, my target is to have the first act wrapped up by the new year. That should be plenty of time, but while it’s certainly true that inspiration follows hard work, there’s no hard and fast rule on when that inspiration will show up in the middle of all that hard work.

September 2023 Update

Drafting of MK2 is actually going pretty steadily. I’ve been plugging away consistently at it a bit every day and I’m currently up to 15k words, which I estimate puts me at about halfway through the first act. I’m loving how this story is shaping up—a lot of really interesting material I was planning on revealing later is coming out now. It makes sense for the story, although we’ll see how I feel about when I get to those later chapters when I was planning on revealing it!

One thing that is different this time around for drafting is that I am continuously updating a timeline excel spreadsheet I pioneered for myself in MK1 and I’m updating the series bible as I go. This slows down the drafting process but makes the writing easier. A lot of the world rules and structures are already set in MK1 and spelled out in the series bible, so I have to do a lot less making things up on the fly and just draw on the rich world that already exists. These are important behind-the-scenes structural components to keeping a sprawling space opera manageable but it’s always more fun to decorate the cake (drafting) than bake the actual cakes (all this bookkeeping).

On the MS front, it became clear over the summer things were deteriorating with my leg and my fatigue levels in general so I went to the neurologist and was officially diagnosed with MS and I’m starting on disease modifying therapy (Ocrevus) in a few weeks. Nervous, of course—potential for a lot of infusion reactions and side effects, but it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. The first infusion is 6 hours long, so rest assured, I will be bringing my laptop to chip away at MK2–looking forward to a bit of forced productivity on the novel. But it won’t all be work, I’m planning on buying a Nintendo Switch to play Breath of the Wild which has been on my radar but never got around to.

Drafting MK2?

Well, I started drafting MK2—maybe? I started writing the first chapter with a clear vision and a pretty good idea on the second chapter, but after that? Who knows? This is similar to how MK1 started. The difference was I had clear vision of the opening sequence in MK1 which ended up being ten chapters and about 30k worth of words, but I wasn’t clear what would happen after that. This time I have a good vision of the first two chapters (probably 4-5k words) and not sure where to go after. This doesn’t seem like a long enough runaway to build momentum and get the story rolling. So, I’m preparing for a jerky start.

That’s the problem with being a discovery writer—figuring out the story as you go can be slow and lead to a lot of false starts and dead ends. It seems like every novel I start I need to relearn this. The hope, of course, is that once I’m in the thick of drafting, the characters come alive and start driving the story themselves—all I need to do is point them in the right direction.

The decision to start drafting came on suddenly (as it normally does for me). I was working out a lot of the antagonist backstory and plans, which was coming together nicely, but I was struggling about where to pick up the story again. A lot of writers like to go for walks when working out problems, and there’s a ton of science to back that up.

Me? I like to lay in the pool in the sun and listen to music. But I always felt guilty about it, like it was too indulgent to work through problems that way. But when I recently read The Good Enough Job by Simone Stolzoff, I felt pretty validated. There’s also research backing up that relaxing and unwinding jump starts the creative brain. I felt like it was telling me the brain science behind my lived experience. It totally works for me! Although, I still can’t shake the feeling it’s too indulgent. I even word-vomited all over my wife about it in an attempt to justify myself. My wife listened and assured me I had no reason to feel guilty about occasionally laying in the pool and she never harbored any ill-ill toward me about it. Typing all this out has made me realize that maybe I don’t have an as healthy work/life balance as I thought I did if I feel guilty for laying around.

Anyway, now I just need to get build up some momentum in drafting. (Writing is fun–most of the time. Editing on the other hand … editing sucks).

June 2023 Update

I have officially transitioned to working on MK2! I’m pretty happy where I tied of MK1 (although we’ll see how I feel about that when I eventually circle back to it). I am currently in the brainstorming phase, which from past experience lasts until I can’t take it any longer and just start writing. I suspect that will probably be around the fall sometime.

At the moment, I am finally having to sit down and map out the antagonist’s plans in great, gory detail. This is more than the general sense I could get away with in MK1 since the first book in a trilogy acts as an Act 1 in a story where things are still vague and the hero is not clear what’s going on and why yet. It’s why writing act 1’s of stories is so much fun, everything is new! Exciting! And you don’t have to worry about how it will fit at all! It’s also why editing sucks for my particular process.

This also happens to be why I opted not to publish book 1 or put it on submission until the others are written. Already, I almost made notes to revamp significant portions of MK1 to fit the detailed antagonist’s plans, but opted against it at this point. A lot of the plans came together pretty quickly, but there are still some issues to work through to create the skeleton of the larger plan. Once that’s done, I can start hanging some meat off it and mapping out where characters are/need to be and start forming chapters/scenes. Act II in a story is where the hero learns what their up against, so it makes sense MK2’s plot will by necessity reveal more of the antagonist’s detailed plans.

On the MS front, I finally buckled to reality to and hired a lawn service. I’m trying to look at as a forced investment in time, but it still feels like a step backward (not mention an unwelcomed expense). I started swimming laps in our pool for exercise. So far, I really like it. It’s a good workout and it doesn’t leave my leg weak and fatigued like the elliptical machine did. So mixed results over the past month on MS.

MS has slowly, but surely, reshaped my life: from finances, to what I’m physically able to do anymore, to reordering my priorities. On that last note, when there’s a real Damocles sword hanging over your mobility, it suddenly moves up all those bucket list trips and experiences you thought you would get to one day (most of us when we retire), but now you’re not sure if you’ll be able to do them twenty years from now. So, when I saw the opportunity to fly in a 1943 biplane as part of beach trip to Port Aransas, I jumped at the experience. It was an awesome experience, and one I am sure will make it’s way into the early 20th century steampunk series I started almost ten years ago now and will one day get back to.


May 2023 Update

I’m so close to tying off MK1 and moving on to brainstorming MK2. I had in my head that I would make that transition June 1 and I still might make it. The progress on MK1 has been a bit of a rollar coaster since my last blog post. At first, I was absolutely crushing it and making very rapid progress. Then things at work picked up and progress came to crashing halt—silly job.

At any rate, I have mapped out all the timing of the sequences and I am positive future Jeffrey will appreciate and admire all that work when developing the rest of the series. I didn’t quite “map” out the main character arc, but I did create a short-hand summary of all relevant chapters and sections to be able to view the character arc more easily in its totality. I decided when reading through MK1, it would make more sense to tweak the character arc in lights of book 2 and maybe even book 3.

I have two loose ends to tie up before moving on to MK2. I need to read through some sections of the second main protagonist’s arc to make sure their reactions are consistent with some new developments. And then I need to fix some of the main character’s interactions in one section. All in all, these shouldn’t take me too long and if I’ve not moved on to MK2 by June 1st, I will shortly after.

On the MS front, my leg continues to be weaker than last year. This was made clear with the advent of lawn mowing season. Last year, I could mow, edge, and blow in one session. It would suck and I would be struggling by the end of the year, but not sure I could do that now. I have to split the edging to the night before, mow the next morning, and have my kids do the blowing. As much as I hate it, I think it’s only a matter of time before I have to get a lawn service.

My wife also observed that I never used to complain about my leg after standing for a long time doing chores or whatever, but now it definitely gets fatigued the longer I stand on it. Ditto doing cardio exercise. We have an old, rickety elliptical machine, and doing a cardio workout leaves me pretty weak for half a day. I’ve been racking my brain about exercise I could do that doesn’t affect my mobility so much. I’m worried this year over year deterioration doesn’t bode well for next year and that skiing may be over much sooner for me than I hoped.

So, feeling pretty good and optimistic on the novel and pretty crappy and pessimistic on the MS.

Pleasantly Surprised

Well, MK1 edits went a whole lot smoother than I thought. Both in ease and in time. They were not as challenging as I feared and they didn’t take as long. I still have two major pieces to check off before moving to book 2: revisiting the main character arc and building an excel spreadsheet of the timing of certain sequences. Both of which will require printing it all out again and reading it through (barf).

I’m not thrilled about another read through, but the fact that it’s the last step (or close to) before being able to tie things off to book 2 helps the bitter pill go down. I’m hoping I can pivot to brainstorming book 2 by June.

On the MS front, I had another set of MRIs and no new lesions! This is a good thing, but lands me in a bit of purgatory of wait and see. Without new lesions, they can’t officially diagnose MS and start up the gears of an official treatment (which is to suppress your immune system, so you really don’t want to start that unless you have to). But no new lesions also means things haven’t gotten worse! So there’s a lot of uncertainty. I’m pleased things are holding steady, but worry the next attack may cost me more mobility.

Due to the MS and questions around my  future mobility we stretched and went skiing for a third time this year. This time we went to Steamboat, but my youngest daughter on the Friday before we were supposed to leave (on a Tuesday) broke her arm. My wife had to stay home with her and I took my oldest daughter off to Steamboat (it was nonrefundable). It was really special and great to get away just the two of us. I’d love to do something similar again in the future (although probably something not as expensive as skiing).

Pictures of Steamboat. My favorite is tree skiing when my leg holds up and Steamboat had plenty of that. One reason we picked Steamboat was being able to go night skiing. A lot of the skiing I did growing up was in ski club where we’d leave school around 2pm on a Friday, drive to Swain, and ski from 4-10pm. So night skiing is very nostalgic for me. My daughter loved it and she’s learning fast! She’s up to doing blue runs and recently graduated in ski school to using poles. I was a very proud papa watching her go down the blue runs at night.

So, all in all, things are looking up.