Monday, October 7, 2013

Feed the Soul

I'm Mormon and twice a year, the leaders of my church hold a General Conference that is broadcast live from Salt Lake City to all the church buildings around the world (and homes with BYU TV). The purpose is to teach, uplift and encourage members of the church. The fall session of conference concluded this past weekend.

There are three sessions on Saturday and two on Sunday, each lasting two hours. It is a pretty intensive exercise in religious devotion but completely uplifting. The messages shared vary from doctrinal issues to informative talks that update the membership about church growth and service. With ten hours of commitment, it can seem like a very overwhelming task, sitting on a couch or pew for an entire weekend. If one just looked at it as an obligation, it would be overwhelming. But everytime I devote myself to listening I am uplifted.

We eat every day, we sleep every night. We watch television and movies, we read books. Some of us exercise daily. How often do we feed our souls? I try to fit it in every day, but that doesn't always work out so well. As a Latter Day Saint (or Mormon), I'm taught to fit God into my day, all day long...and it can be a tough thing to do. Self-care, family-care, work obligations, these things all fight for my waking hours. I do know that when I take ten minutes to search out spiritual direction (by way of scripture study) my day feels more...complete. Book-ending the days with prayer gives me direction and clarity, support even, as I attempt to make each morning, afternoon and evening count for something.

These General Conference weekends also help me to feel value and worth as a child of God. It's a big, spacious and sometimes cruel world. When my soul is fed, the world feels less oppresive. I feel motivated to be nice without expectation. So these ten-hour weekends serve as a sort of spiritual re-fill that guides me for the next six months, at least until the next conference is held. I get a chance to sip at the fountain of inspiration each week with Sunday worship, and my daily study sometimes adds to the process (though I could do better, I'll admit). But there is nothing quite like General Conference.

So why discuss this on a writing blog? Well, I feel very strongly about the importance of feeding the spiritual side of our being. If that is void of nurishment, there must be consequences in other areas of our lives. I'm not sure that this is true in every case, but a life lived without spiritual direction would probably yield a writing oeuvre reflective of that void...representing an unwhole perspective and view on life, maybe even darkness and confusion, and who wants that? I don't. I want my writing to illuminate truth and beauty. Sure, sometimes it is necessary to illustrate the painful parts of a life, but to have it dominate one's efforts? Boy, I couldn't imagine that.

When my soul is fed, it is reflected in my writing. It is upbeat and uplifting. It is inspired, even. The words flow and the message hits home (or, at least I feel like it does).

What do you do to fill your spiritual cup? Does the writing come more naturally when you feel whole? Or do you thrive off chaos and confusion? Let me know, I'd love to hear about your inspired stories.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Power of Dinner Chat

Some of the best ideas come while eating.

Over the years, I've probably started two or three projects that never would've existed had I not met up with some friends for dinner on a Tuesday night. Often the conversations begins with "Wouldn't it be cool if..." or "I'd love to see..."

For five years, I participated in a traveling Ghostbusters "Tribute" Show...a sort of messed-up business seminar where some buddies and I tried to "sell" Ghostbuster Franchises to unwitting participants. It was a comedy stage show, not a real attempt at selling a business, and it was a hit where ever we showed it. And it came from an innocent dinner with a few buddies.

We were talking about things that would be fun to see at some of the conventions we attended. We'd just returned from Star Wars Celebration 3 in Indiana where we'd seen a "Star Wars in Thirty Minutes" play that was hilarious. A small con in Oklahoma needed entertainment for a dinner show, so my friend Rick volunteered us...even though we had no idea what we would do. We tried to put together our own version of the Star Wars play, but with Ghostbusters. The thirty minute adaptation didn't work, but soon the idea for our misguided business seminar was born. What followed was a sold out dinner show and then five years of touring the south and Midwest as our idea entertained untold thousands (or hundreds...or maybe dozens). All from a shared meal.

I know I've talked about collaboration before, but dinner chat is different. Shooting the breeze with friends, we've come up with ideas for our own conventions, solutions to political stalemates, solved world get the idea. Most of these 'what ifs" drift off in the wind, no more substantial than the breath used to voice the thought. However, every so often there is the seed of an idea that yields greater fruit than dinner-time conversation. Collaboration happens on a more structured level; meal generated ideas are much looser than collaboration and have fewer penalties.

If an idea is fun, we expand on it. If it is lame, we move on. No one is afraid of speaking up, because if a suggestion does not seem worthwhile, it may lead to something that is. If you're trying to come up with new ideas for a story, try inviting a friend to lunch. Don't be afraid to ask what sort of story they'd like to read. You might be out $15 for lunch, but you could walk away with a best-seller book idea.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Watching Play Time


Happy Birthday, Scott

The Superman to my Batman, the Luke to my Han

The McKinley Boys (Scott & Ryan), age 1 and 2 years-old, circa 1975
My "little" brother, Scott, celebrates the last of his thirties today but it does not seem that far past when we were running around the sunny streets of California in our shorts and tank tops. These days I don't get to see him often, but we had a good time during the years we had together. If you couldn't tell from the photo, we were attached at the hip during our younger years. My parents dressed us alike most of the time, probably because we were so jealous of anything the other had. Christmas presents, birthday gifts, treats all needed to be identical in order to avoid conflict, a concept that has informed me as I've become a parent to my own children.
This meant that when Christmas came around, our Aunt Sue knew to give us the same reversible Batman/Superman cape. What followed were hundreds of hours of Justice League swooping and swooshing, bam-ing and pow-ing, preceded, of course, with a debate about who would get to be Superman and who would have to settle for Batman. Those were great memories, Scott. I cherish them.
I mention this in my creative writing blog because watching kids play is a great way to reconnect with your own childhood memories. Those events, good or bad, can help us to tap into stories that no one could make up. Better than that is the fact that when children play they don't follow the rules we've come to expect in our adult lives. They invent rules, parameters, characters, all in a way that our "developed" brains could not fathom.
Of course a group of children can summon massive wells of creativity--a sidewalk becomes a dangerous lava flow; a pile of sticks becomes a den of poisonous vipers. But watching children play can give us insight about what they fear, what they desire. Most of the time, when Scott and I were playing we focused on the spectacular worlds of comic heroes and Star Wars. To me these worlds represented a bigger place with people and ideas that were far beyond the scope of my own existence and understanding, not unlike the protagonist Luke Skywalker (even though I identified more with Han Solo, 'cause you know, he was bad-a). I wasn't very athletic, so the super-abilities of my comic heroes allowed me to dream about what it would be like to have strength and agility.
What sort of things are children telling us when they play? Are they using their imaginations to pass the time, or are they allowing us to peek into the windows of their hopes and fears? Spend a little time at a park or playground this week and see if you can't suss out some of these characteristics for your own writing. If nothing is apparent, I'm sure you'll be inspired by something that transpires.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Writing A Memoir: Self-Serving or Community Service?

My previous entries into the world of literature have been fiction, middle-grade fiction to be precise. I've loved the opportunity to create a world and populate it with characters, conflict and creativity. And I'm a little burned out.

So I thought I'd try my hand at non-fiction. After all, if it happened, then all I need to do is re-tell the story and "bang" I've got a book! And if that book is a memoir, even better, right? All that requires is me to drop into "old man" mode and inform the reader about how my experiences will benefit them in every situation...


I'm choosing to write a self-help type book that will allow others to fall back upon my experience as an affirmation that they need not despair, someone else shares their adversity. It deals with my time at the age of 19 when I was diagnosed with mononucleosis. For those of you not aware, I'm LDS, or Mormon (a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), and the nineteenth year of a young Mormons life is very important. It is when he sets aside two years of his life to serve a full-time mission, usually to a foreign country. That's changed a bit, now. A young man can serve at 18, young woman at 19 (it was previously 19 for males, 21 for females).

I pull out the laptop and the first 4,000 flow like water, lots of exposition about why I'm writing this book, how I believe it will help, stuff like that. But now I'm into the retelling of the facts, and I'm finding it rather challenging. Between all my written correspondence with my family (we wrote letters back in 1992) and my personal journal, I spent an entire writing session organizing the dates and events--without writing a single word!

Despite the challenge, I'm enjoying the process very much. It is a story I knew I needed to tell...lots of missionaries get sick, and the conflict between serving God and healing is quite a difficult one. But it feels so self serving. Have any of you ever tackled a memoir? How did you approach it so as to avoid being preachy or arrogant? I'd love to know, so drop me a comment and tell me how your memoir went.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Fanboys On Fiction--Writing, Pop Culture, and Funny Voices

I don't know why I haven't introduced you, my reader, to the splendor which is my podcast. With 17 episodes in the can, one would imagine I'd have shared it from the start, but alas, I'm horrible at taking advantage of social media...but I'm getting better!

Roger Colby, a dear friend and fellow author, shares the "Fanboy" badge with me as we delve into the rigors of daily weekly consistent writing. Each episode covers a perspective on the art of word-smithing and then includes a geeky discussion about popular culture--comics, movies, books, etc.
Our recent podcast, Episode 17 "Dialogue Tips and Costuming Faux Paus" deals with the challenges of making your characters come to life through authentic dialogue and wraps up with us traveling down memory lane as we share some of our funniest moments in costume at cons or at charity events.
Give it a try. Fanboys On Fiction is free on Itunes. If you like what you hear, tell a friend and then write us at and let us know what you think about the current state of ficiton and pop culture.
Roger's Blog is Writing Is Hard Work

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mumford & Sons Live

When the biggest band in modern folk-rock decides to hold a 12 band festival 13 miles from your house, you'd better buy a ticket, pour on the sunscreen and get your handle-bar mustache out there!

Guthrie, OK, the festival's location, is a little town north of Oklahoma City. It's the original State Capital and home to a bluegrass and banjo festival--no wonder it caught the attention of Mumford & Sons.

Having started last night, Saturday's line-up includes the headliners Mumford & Sons, Yacht Club DJs, and Vaccines. Guiltily, I am really here to see Alabama Shakes (shh! Don't tell anyone!) Those guys are ready to blow up, I'm telling you. 

Right now the temp is in the high 90's, and why not? Shouldn't an outdoor fest be smokin' hot? But the crowd is calm and polite, there are free water stations and the music is awesome. What's a little extra sweat when so much awesome is in the air?

There is a really cool atmosphere that the event planners put together--banners, flags and decor. There are wandering actors hired by the organizers who put on demonstrations of pugilism, interact with the crowd and create a turn-of-the-century feel. 

My favorite detail has been the passport they distributed with the tix. It is made to create a feeling like you are off the train and a visitor in town. As one visits various stores and stations, there are agents to stamp your passport, giving you a fun keepsake that doesn't cost extra. I've heard that there is even a "secret" stamp that if one presents to the right agent will yield a prize. Sweet!

So enjoy the pics and your air-conditioned offices--I'm gonna put on my sun hat and dance like a crazy old man to a band named Half Moon Run. 

As much as I loved the vibe of the festival, all the day bands combined represented a sliver compared to the might oak which are Alabama Shakes and Mumford & Sons. Brittany Howard has such amazing range and emotion in her voice. I could listen to her sing Ikea instructions.  The crowds condensed for their set, which lasted about 50 minutes. I would have liked them to have played more songs with an upbeat tempo (after 7 hours in the heat, it would have helped), but all fatigue and dehydration disappeared the instant Mumford & Sons struck their first chord. They gave one of the most energetic, talented and diverse performances I've seen ever. Even with their full band on stage, eleven musicians produced a wall of sound. Most impressive was when the four core members were on stage...a keyboard, a guitar/vocalist/bass drummer, a banjo and a bass...and their sound was just as full and massive. If you ever get a chance to see M & Sons live, sell the comic book collection and get tickets!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Spinning the Gears

Most nights, I lie in my bed and thoughts flood my mind. Picture a gear driven engine that won't shut off--that's my head. I'm usually tired, but I don't drift into a silent, beautiful sleep. No, everything from broken lawn sprinklers, current projects, my children's school to past conversations and failures race through my mind like a parade of regret and fear.

Boo-hoo, right? It's gone on for long enough that I've tried to turn this phenomenon into something good, especially when I'm working on a book. Instead of letting my brain dictate the topic, I'll run through a specific part of a story and try to play out multiple scenarios and outcomes. My semi-conscious brain operates like a sort of computer program that uses a complex algorithm to predict all possible points of conflict and conclusion. That isn't to say that every outcome is worth sharing...

Most times, this never leads to any sort of cohesive revision. Usually, that weird self-doubt virus takes over (the same one that makes me relive that one time in fourth grade when I cussed at the lunch lady) and starts to plant questions, like "Do you actually believe anyone will read this?" or "Can you not see how offensive this is?"

Why do it? Well, that semi-conscious review, despite the self-loathing, makes me very familiar with the intricacies of the work, sometimes exposing minor flaws in the logic, dialogue or goals of my stories. I might not find the best plot resolution in those sleepy moments, but I might find that my current direction for resolving the protagonist's journey isn't quite right. Or I might expose a character's bias that isn't quite believable.

No matter what happens, I've never abandoned sleep, jumping out of bed to start anew on a project right away. This is where a pad and pen on the nightstand are a good idea, because it never fails--if I haven't written it down, I never remember the specifics the next day. Without a written prompt, the next day I may recall, "There was something that I was going to change..."

You may not want to gum up your late night routines prior to sleeping (and really, I wouldn't recommend it unless you're already a member of the Spinning Gear Sleep Club), but do you ever review your stories when you're away from the keyboard? How do you do it? Drop me a comment and share your experiences.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Garage Props--Silicon Mold Making

Every so often, I'm going to go off topic and show you some of the "maker" stuff I do. I have a Tumblr account that I use to show off my prop replica making, and some of my more successful YouTube videos have been me showing how these techniques are put into play.

Today I'll show you a video about how to make silicon molds. I'm molding up an aluminum piece that I use for making a replica of a Bat-a-rang from a video game called Arkham Asylum.

The next step involves making a resin copy of the piece. I'll post that up next week sometime.

Just for fun, here is the finished product. (The piece I'm working on is the little disc on the top of the replica)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Out of the Office...

Even hardened writers, makers, hackers and bloggers need a little time off, and so we find The-Creative-Spark on a little break. This trip, I get to double up--vacation and celebration. Twenty years married to my high-school sweet heart. 

I'm hard at work, trying to defeat the evil Emperor Zurg, but I'll be back at it next week. 

Until then, how's this for your Creative Spark--what are you going to do with all your free time now that the children are back in school? My mind just exploded with possibilities!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Everyone Else Is Doing It

Many of you may have heard the "news"--Google is now defining the word "literally" as it is improperly used in the show "Parks & Recreation." The Rob Lowe character over-uses the word in a manner which truly should mean "figuratively," and it is written this way for comedic effect, but it has been picked up by enough users to change the definition, at least so far as Google is concerned.

I majored in Speech Language Pathology (BS, 1998, Brigham Young University) and studied the pragmatic approach to language usage as part of one class. One of the phenomenon noted during my time there was the schwa-ing of the English language--the concept that all vowels ultimately will be pronounced with a generic "uh" sound (say the word "the" as "thuh", not "thee" and you'll know what I mean). There was some controversy over it, but I felt that if the pronunciation was being used by the populace in day-to-day conversation, then there was no stopping it. It is what it is.

But this "literally" thing really chaps my pale, freckled hide.

It is one thing for a word's pronunciation to evolve, it is another thing to completely disregard the correct definition of a word. No one can look up to the noon sky on a clear, calm day and make the argument that the blue sky is actually green. One could not hold a key and call it a lock. An apple is not an orange.

The prevalence of misuse, pragmatic or not, can not justify a fundamental shift in a word's meaning. I don't care how many Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook posts misuse it, there must be a line drawn against the dumbing down of our culture.

Maybe I've just had enough vague posturing by a society that wants to hand out trophies to soccer players and first year employees for meritorious effort without having achieved anything of merit. Maybe I've had it with social change just for the sake of change. But to hear this news, literally the day after California signs into law the ability for any male or female student to participate, toilet, or shower in any gender specific team or facility of their choosing, (and how many 15 year old boys tried to get into the girl's locker room today using this very statute?) maybe I just feel like common sense is dying.

And what seemed to be a slow death now seems to be a rapid race into a concrete pillar. Figuratively.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Talented Artists from Tokyo In Tulsa

Photo Courtesy of

If these illustrations don't give you a creative kick in the pants, I don't know what will!

As I mentioned in my previous blog, I visited Tokyo In Tulsa this past weekend. Since I wasn't interested in meeting any of the multitude of anime voice actors that were offering autographs, I decided to walk around and visit with some of the artists that impressed me. Here are eleven of them, and in no particular order. Except for the Firefly pic. Anything that is Firefly deserves to be front and center!
Please take some time to click the links I've provided and examine these talented artists works.

And tell a friend! This is how we indepenent artists and writers get the word out!


Creative Spark:

 You are visiting Japan for vacation, and your guide/translator doesn't show up at the previously agreed upon meeting place. How do you go about making the most of your vacation without your guide?


(Where possible, I have listed the artists real name, but it is a common practice to have a pen name.)
Kevin Yan, aka yanimator

Dana Wilson

Diana Acevedo
(Lots of Regular Show buttons!)

Jeff aka Dream Gear Studios
(He had some AWESOME pencil rendered sketches you should see)

Crack Kittens
(A team of artists, they had an entire series of these Avenger prints--so very cool!)

Alice Chan

Jinny Liang aka Nayuki-Chan

Kyouya's Kritters

Stefany Belisle of La Blaque Rose

Dorothy T. Rose
John aka Ladre

Silver No Miko

Sweet Sheep Studio

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tokyo In Tulsa Wrap Up (Anime Con in OK)



Tokyo In Tulsa is a HUGE anime convention in Tulsa, OK. What's a convention? It is a fan gathering, really. Vendors selling everything from clothing, toys, candy, comics, movies (you name it) occupy a huge space. Panel rooms are filled with lectures and guest speakers on the subjects being celebrated at the convention. Artists and authors fill the hallways with tables. And attendees flood the aisles in their favorite t-shirts or costumes. (Comic book and sci fi fans call it "costuming". Anime fans call it "cosplay") In fact, the costume contests are usually the biggest draw of these fan conventions. You've probably seen the coverage of Comic Con in San Diego each summer--it's the largest of its kind.

So I'm a little late on the whole anime thing. I totally loved Japanese animation back in the 80's and 90's, stuff like G-Force, Ghost in the Shell.


But I really don't like anime. I've tried it, but I don't really "get" it. More on that later. That said, I had nothing going on this past weekend when T in T was in town, so I figured I'd make the drive and check it out. I'm glad I did.


Fans are fans. In the past, I'd held a bit of resentment against the fast rise that anime enjoyed in the US...there are anime-kids at every con whether it is comics, movie or sci-fi related. But with a little bit of interaction, I found that most folks are cool and just wanted to celebrate their shared fandom. While there are outliers in every genre that ruin it for everyone (yaoi and hentai in anime, the comic book guys that criticize the nerd-girls as "fake", drunk jocks) we all have more in common than otherwise.
So while I didn't recognize 99% of the costumes at the anime con, I did recognize their passion.

Sadly, there are other connections. No matter what con you visit, you'll always have a few moments where you'll think to yourself, "What is that awful smell?" and then understand that it is body odor. Horrible, terrible body odor. It's probably just a human condition, but it seems very prevalant at fan conventions.
Not quite so bad, but still annoying, is the fake British accent. Thanks for nothing, Game of Thrones.
I met a lot of great artists and makers that had incredible pieces of original art that I want to share with you. I'll post their works and links up later this week.

Since there are no convention rules about who can show up and who can't, there were members of the 501st, JediOKC, Mando Mercs, Tulsa Fan Force and Star Trek worlds at the anime con. Despite their spotted pasts, no fights broke out and everyone had a good time. And if they could get along, then I should at least try to understand anime.
For me, that understanding came on a trip to Epcot Center. In the "Japan" part of the park, there was a great display about the history of anime and it gave me some context as to why I didn't "get" most of the content I'd seen. Alot of the genre is based on Japanese mythology and history, stuff like the shape-changers and animals. If one understands that, then the cartoons make more sense. I had no real experience with the cultural significance of these symbols and characters, and a very small exhibit shed light on my ignorance. See? With just a little effort, confusing sub-cultures can become much less so!

Stay tuned for links and art from some of the vendors I met!

Creative Spark

Describe the weirdest costume you've ever seen a character in a movie or at a conventioin wear.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The World's Next Great Writers--Introducing Eva F.

In June and August of 2013, I had the pleasure of teaching a Creative Writing Course for Elementary Students at the Edmond location of the Metro Library System. Amy Thomas, the children’s librarian, felt that this was an age group ready to absorb a more advanced approach on writing, and boy, was she right!

Meeting four times over those two months, the students were diverse in age and background but all shared one thing–a common love of reading and writing.

I promised the students that if they would take the time to write a story, I would share it with the world, so here we go. Each story will appear as it was sent to me–no editorial changes or additions.
Our first story comes from Eva F.  Enjoy!
But first...

Creative Spark

Explain how to best operate a kitchen appliance to someone that has never seen it, or electricity.

My Time with the Volcano People
 By Eva F.
Once, on a family vacation to Hawaii, our cruise liner ran aground onto a deserted island when the captain lost control of the ship in a storm.  Thankfully, the radio was still working.  Hungry and tired of listening to the static of the radio, I wandered away from the group while picking coconuts.  Suddenly, the ground gave way under my feet and I fell into a lava tube.  Unable to climb out, I crawled for what seemed like hours through the lava tube into a volcanic crater.  As I leaped over rocks gasping for fresh air, I heard the echo of drums. Looking to my right I saw the volcano people.  They were made of stone and breathed fire.  I was very amazed.  Unexpectedly, a huge wooden ball knocked them over like nine pins but they sprang back up, unhurt.  Later that day I learned that it meant the volcano was going to erupt, which explained why they whisked me into a stone cave and put a giant rock in front of it.  Out of nowhere, the cloud people attacked, riding on the backs of the blue alien crater monkeys, hurling lightning bolts and hail at the volcano people.  So many giant crater monkeys filled the sky that they blocked out the moon where they lived.  The fight stretched far into the night.  The volcano people released giant scorpions, who loved to devour crater monkey meat.  The scorpions ferociously attacked them and quickly killed them off.  Finally, the cloud people retreated.  We had won!  There was a great celebration by the volcano people.  Exhausted by the excitement and tension of the day, I fell into a deep sleep.  In the morning the volcano people led me to within sight of my family, who I had been with before I got lost.  Soon a rescue boat came and we sailed on it the rest of the way to Hawaii.  All everyone could talk about was the horrific storm of the night before.


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Worthless Input

Part of promoting a book involves book awards. Depending on how you've published, you may have many options for entering these awards. Your publisher may enter the book into the contest and front the fees, or an independent author may have to seek out opportunities and cover the expenses for the entry as part of the cost of marketing. 

These awards can help with exposure, even if the title doesn't win. Sometimes, the awards will provide a review of the book that will attract future readers. 

And then there are the judging/reviews that I get.

I just received feedback from a Book of the Year Award that I'd entered at the beginning of the year. I received high marks for cover, editorial, and content--overall I was pleased--though I didn't win in this particular contest. So I was looking forward to the comments by the professionals that read and ranked my book. At least this way I might be able to learn why my story didn't rank higher, and the cost of entering might be offset with some professional input. But instead I get:

Judge 1: "Probably would have helped to have read the first one." (My title was a sequel). That was it. Nothing more.

Judge 2: "Loved the cover of the book." This judge's ranking averaged to a 9.5 out of 10 in all areas, but offered nothing more as to what the story made them feel or think.

And my favorite: "Really appreciated the justified right margins as it made the fluency much better." What? This judge wasn't assigned to judge the cover and interior formatting, but rather was a story judge. 

Mostly worthless. I will not be supporting this contest in the future, and not because I'm sour that I didn't place as a finalist or winner. Rather, I'm not confident that the criteria or persons involved in the process of selecting winners are at all meaningful. 

Have you ever placed your story into the hands of another author, friend and family member and had them offer completely odd feedback? It truly highlights the value of a competent critique partner. Let me know about your experiences with reviews and contests. I would love to share your valuable input.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Inertia: A Double Edged-Word

I looked into my Netflix account the other day. Since they've added instant streaming, I've used their DVD delivery system about five times. A streaming-only account costs something like $10 a month, but I've been paying the full $29.99. Why? Because I'd have to take the effort of sitting down at the computer, log onto the site, and click a button. What a rut! If I weren't so lazy, I would take out a calculator and add up how much money I've been contributing to Netflix that I could have been using to build up my "new flat screen tv" fund. But the calculator is downstairs, in a drawer...

When I am on a roll, it is humbling to see what I can do. The right inspiration will drive to me shift my priorities so as to allow nothing to stand in my way of reaching my goal (new story with all the fun it involves--time lines, character biographies, plot structure, theme, etc.; or, a new prop piece and all the research for accurate measurements, materials needed, paint). I can spend ten hours a day if I feel the right spark.

What is your inertia today? Feeling like a rolling stone? Or the Rock of Gibraltar? What do you do to overcome (or continue with) creative inertia? Let me know--your ideas could inspire a fellow writer.


Creative Spark

You are sitting at your computer. There is a knock at the door, but when you answer, there is only an unmarked box. You didn't order anything, but you pick up the box, open it up, and...


Monday, July 29, 2013

The Fading Sting of Loss

Every so often, I'll probably stray from the literary purpose of The Creative Spark, which is primarily to help you find the inspiration you need to keep at "it", whatever "it" may be. Today will be one such post.

I participate in a local Star Wars fan club called JediOKC. It is bunch of people and families that enjoy Star Wars and other sci-fi/fantasy media offerings--Ghostbusters, Aliens, Marvel and DC comics. Some of us are just in it to socialize. Some of us have pretty accurate costumes from the films. We meet twice a month for dinner meetings, discuss current interests, and plan for events where we can use these costumes to reach out to the local community. We help with fund-raisers and awareness campaigns, stuff like that. Mostly, we are just a big family.

On Thursday, we had a chance to participate in a very unique event--an elementary school end-of-year party. "Isn't July a little late to be celebrating the end of the school year?" you ask, and yes it is, unless the two schools being represented were wiped out in the tornadoes this past May in Moore, OK.

Held at Journey Church in Norman, OK, there were plenty of things to distract most young minds from the horrors they encountered only two months ago--dozens of inflatable slides and jumpers, snow cones, nachos, music, and of course, Ghostbusters, Jedi Knights and rolling Droids. For six hours, hundreds of families poured into the guarded facililty (to keep media out) as they collected yearbooks, exchanged autographs with friends, and posed for pictures with their classmates and teachers.

The most humble moment for me was when a family approached and asked for a private photo (that's me above using the Force to choke a Baron Ice Girl). Turns out, this was a family that had actually lost a child to the tornado. It was a good thing I was wearing a darkened helmet, because I started to choke up at the thought of the horrible weeks and months these people have just experienced. But guess what? If only for a moment, all the members of that family were smiling. They expressed their gratitude to me for my time, and visited other members of my group, posing and laughing at the festive (and goofy) nature of our costumes.

My take-away was two fold. First, thank heaven for groups and organizations like Journey Church that are willing to do whatever it takes to make events like this happen. There were dozens of volunteers that had dedicated untold hours into organizing this day, and the hard work showed. I am so grateful that they kept these Moore children in their sights even though the news isn't running stories about the tornadoes any more.

And finally, if this family could set aside their sadness, if only for a few minutes, and so recently after such a devastating loss, then there probably isn't much that we all can overcome in our own lives.

Creative Spark

What is the worst thing you have ever had to go through?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Collaboration Makes It Happen

It is amazing to me, the number of projects that I've started and finished as a result of sharing a meal with a friend. Many, many times in the past few years, I've found myself at a dead stand still--no prop builds, no stories or books--and after lunch or dinner with a friend, "Bang!" I'm back at it.

There is something inspiring about breaking bread with a fellow artist, writer or builder. Maybe it is because I'm sick of discussing politics, but conversations at the table generally turn to phrases like, "Do you know what I would like to see?" or "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" and before I know it, I'm back at it with both barrels blazing.

The Ghostbuster dinner you see above is a result of one such evening in July 2006 at an Arby's in Oklahoma City. A friend and his son simply asked, "Wouldn't it be cool to make our own Proton Packs?" and that was it, we were off to the races. It took a few months to get going, but on Halloween of that year, we had five packs and a great time chasing ghosts in downtown OKC.

Right now, I'm at exactly the sort of standstill that has lead to a four season "Breaking Bad" binge. Fortunately, the end is in sight (if not only because I've just started season five and season six is yet to be broadcast). Lunch with a good friend yesterday took the above stated route, and after a delicious meal at the Cafe 501 I left with a full stomach and a new graphic novel to write.

What role does collaboration play in your creative process? Has it even gone awry? Let me know what you think about the process and where you get your ideas. I'd love to feature you as a guest blogger here on The Creative Spark.

Until then, check out my podcast with fellow author Roger Colby (Writing Is Hard) called Fanboys On Fiction.

Creative Spark

List five things that are more easier to do with someone helping. Now list five that are easier to do alone. How could a character make one of these scenarios more difficult, with the result being humorous/sad/scary?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Feeling Creative?

San Diego ComicCon 2013 is over and now I am drooling for the upcoming films and comics that were teased to us for the past weekend. Most exciting--the Man of Steel sequel will be Superman/Batman, and all signs point to a heavy The Dark Knight Returns theme (if not in its entirety, then at least so far as the Sups Vs. Dark Knight story line goes).

What I love best about attending cons, even though I have yet to attend San Diego ComicCon, is the creative inspiration that comes from the energy of those gatherings. The costumes, the panels, the opportunity to find new sources of fandom (i.e., Kaiju Wrestling or new cons like OctopoiCon) all inspire me to get back to my computer/garage/sewing machine and start a new project.

It looks like my friend, Jerry Bennett, has already caught the Creative Spark from the Marvel announcement about Ultron's involvement with the new Avenger's sequel. Check out his fresh take on the character on his Facebook fanpage, The Illustrator Formerly Known as Jerry Bennett .

How do you find your Creative Spark? Drop me a comment and let me know. In the mean time, check out some the things that I've made--The Pirate Bride, a book I wrote with my then 10-year-old daughter, and its sequel, The Lost Crew; some of my prop and costumes at Garage Props on Tumblr.

Creative Spark

I envision this blog to be an opportunity to share my ideas about writing as well as my experiences as a consumer of all thing media, with a bit of opnion thrown in for good measure. I'll try to end each blog with a writing prompt or exercise that might get your writing engine started. So to start with:

List five of your favorite television show/movies. For each one, write out three things that make it unique. Take a step back and sketch out an original "idea pitch" that would include elements from these shows.