Fish Philosophy

Imagine you are a fish in a pond.

While in school, your teacher tries to convince you that it is impossible to see through water.  Of course this seems ridiculous to you at first, but then he stirs up the mud at the bottom of the pond.  Soon the entire pond is completely clouded.  You cannot even see the fish around you or the teacher.  “See?”  Your teacher says, “you are in water and you cannot see.  Now you know that it is impossible to see through water.”

Some of you and your classmates recognize that it is not water that is blocking your vision, but the mud that your teacher spread in front of you that makes it impossible to see.  You recognize that when the mud settles, you will again be able to see again like normal, because the mud and water will again be separated.

But some of the fish begin to feel confused and lost.  In panic, they turn to the teacher for help.  The teacher replies, “The only safe place is the bottom of the pond.  At least there, you can feel something beneath you.”  They follow, because they don’t know what else to do.

As the mud settles, they are buried in the mud.  Their “new perception” that mud is the same as water is therefore confirmed in their minds, and they remain in the much ever after.

Though unhappy in their new state, they pride themselves on their new understanding, wondering how they could have ever been deluded into thinking that what they once experienced was sight.  They scoff at the fish above, swimming happily about the pond.  They mock them, telling them that their childish belief in “Clear” water is just a tradition that their parents convinced them of.  They say, “Yeah, we once thought as you do, but now we see what water really is.  Sight is an illusion.  You cannot trust your senses.  The only safe place is the bottom of the pond.”

The wise know the difference between the mud and the water.

Nano Absence Heads Up

Just a heads up. If I don’t respond to email, Facebook, etc. it’s because I’m writing my head off. November is National Novel Writing Month, so I’ll be typing nonstop for a month. 50,000 words in 4 weeks. Actually, I’m kind of cheating. I have a story that I’m about 10,000 words into that’s been sitting on the shelf for a couple years, and I’m going to finish it. But I’m going to re-write what I have so far to put it in first person. Plus I’ve made myself a deal that those first 10,000 words don’t count for Nanowrimo, and I’ll only track the rest, so that by the end of November, the novel has to be at least 65,000. The extra 5,000 is “interest” for having something of a head-start. Fair enough? I hope so, because that’s what I’m doing.

I’ve been wracking my brain to decide which story to write. I have two that have been calling me for years, and all that time, the plots of both stories have been coming together. Actually, there have been three, but two of them I joined into one. It’s only been in the past few days that I’ve decided for sure which to write. It’s a Young Adult Fantasy book, and since it’s been grinding around in my mind for so long, it’s now the first in a series of at least four books, but probably more.

The one I decided against is an LDS fiction, and the reason I decided against it is because it involves a plane crash, wilderness survival, and a lost ancient culture, all of which will take a great deal of research – which is not ideal for Nanowrimo.

But I am really excited to finally write this one. It’s still intimidating approaching this one, because if it works right, It should have religious symbolic value similar to the Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve been carrying this story in me for awhile, forming characters, places, culture, and plot for a long time, and that’s why I feel ready to write it now.

Actually, another reason I’m excited to write it is that the places, species, and culture are based on stories, tales, and “mythology” that my family has been inventing for over twenty years. To my family who read this, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I mention that one of the pivotal lands in the book will be Yonder. Maybe if the story works, I can get Ria to illustrate it. 😀

Anyway, just wanted to give a heads up that if I seem to disappear for awhile, that’s why. I don’t want family time to suffer, so everything else (except work, of course), might.

See you December 1st!

Dating Goals

As some of you may already know, I’m getting a dating advice book ready for publication. My wife and I have a dating advice blog as well, which we’ve neglected a bit lately, but since I post fairly regularly on this blog, I thought I’d post the entries for that blog in both places. So here’s the entry for today!

Photo by Shelly Hathaway at shellyhathaway.com
Photo by Shelly Hathaway at shellyhathaway.com

One of the important lessons I had to learn quickly in dating is to not let fear of the future rule the present. I suppose I wasn’t unique in wanting to get just the right girl on the first try. As a teenager, I used to think to myself: wouldn’t it be cool if the first girl I ever have 2 dates with turns out to be my wife? Well, that goal was spoiled in high school when a girl I asked out asked me to a school dance, and we never went out again.

So modified my goal: Wouldn’t it be cool if the first girl I went out with twicewhere I did the asking both times, was the girl I ended up marrying? Well, shortly after my mission I went on a blind date with a girl, and it went well. I thought I might kind of like her, so I asked her out again. That didn’t last, though we did go on a total of three dates.

So I modified my goal again: Maybe the first girl I go on more than 3 dates with will be my wife someday. Well, a year or two after my mission, I met a girl who I liked, who liked me, and we hit it off okay at first – we even decided after “the talk” (we’ll discuss what ‘the talk’ is later), that we would consider each other boyfriend and girlfriend. A couple weeks later, we broke it off.

So much for my goals. I hadn’t yet held hands, kissed a girl, or fallen in love, so I thought about forming new goals around those things. But after that last failure, those kinds of goals suddenly seemed silly. The point was not to succeed without failure, the point was to succeed. I was looking for an eternal companion, and if that meant first holding hands with or falling in love with a number of girls I wouldn’t end up marrying, so be it. The Lord never said I had to get it right on my first try.

In fact, I think there is benefit in dating a good number of girls, and if in that process you find one that you think just might have a slight chance of being the one for you, don’t be afraid to encourage things to progress that way. That’s how relationships are formed, and once you find someone that meets your basic requirements, it will likely take risk and commitment to learn about the deeper aspects of the person’s life. You aren’t likely to find out a person’s dirt or gems on the basis of simple friendship. And once you do get close enough, and make simple commitments to each other, you will find out more about your date than you could in casual dating.

You need to learn as much as you appropriately can about a person before deciding to marry them. You won’t learn everything before marriage, but the more you learn, the more equipped you are to make that decision.

One day I attended a fireside talk by John Bytheway. His topic was “What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Single.” The whole talk was basically about single life and the dating game. One of the things he mentioned was that in his search for a wife, there came a time that he decided he would go on a date at least once a week.

I thought a lot about that resolution. By this time in my life, I had slowed my dating progress and was going out about once a month or so on average, and didn’t feel like I was getting much accomplished in the dating scheme. So I made a similar resolution (though not as intense): I would ask a girl on a date at least every other week. That was my rule.

For me, this was a very effective plan. For one thing, it got me going on dates often, and going on dates provided the social and emotional development I needed to be able to handle the whole dating experience. Of course, some of the early attempts at this program were rather humiliating, but with practice, asking girls on dates became far less traumatic.

Second, following this plan allowed me to focus on what I could control. My job was to ask a girl on a date. If she said “no,” then I was off the hook for a couple weeks. It never does any good for anyone to focus on what they can’t control. I could not control her response. I could only improve myself and try again with a different girl later. I’d try to give myself a better hairstyle or wear a different deodorant. I’d try working out a bit more and cutting back on my bad habits.

This pattern of every other week dating (and it wasn’t too long before I was going on dates at least every other week,) turned out to be one of the most fun periods of my life. I learned a lot, spent a lot, and met a lot of great people. Though it could be frustrating when these efforts didn’t seem to lead to any serious relationships, I was learning how to interact with girls, and learning what to look for – and look out for.

My Suffering Vs. Your Suffering

A couple nights ago, Jenni was showing me a blog that’s kept by a mother who had a very recent miscarriage. Reading a little of that made me think a little about our own situation. We’ve never had a miscarriage. We’ve never lost a child. We’ve never had any close calls in that regard, and we’ve never had any major health issues with our kids. It’s a little odd, really.

We’re so blessed, and I’m so grateful for what the Lord has done for us, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. But it does feel a little hollow to read others experiences, or hear them talk about their own losses – and sometimes they are serious, serious losses. How do we comfort someone who can’t have children? How can we offer real understanding to someone who lost a close family member, or has a never-ending flow of surgeries and medical bills?

And what do they think of us? Are they offended if we try to offer assistance? Are they subconsciously bitter for not having what we have been so bounteously blessed with?
I suppose a few might be, but I doubt most of them are so offended. But it does leave me thinking. I have never been one to say, “Seeing their circumstances makes me count my blessings for not being in that situation.” Something has always bothered me about that, and until recently, I haven’t been able to put my finger on what exactly it is.

I was listening to an interview with a guy named Nick Vujicic, who was born without arms or legs. Talk about a challenge! He says that sometimes people come up to him after a speech (he’s a motivational speaker), and say things like, “After seeing what you are going through, I’ll NEVER complain again.” That bothers him a little. Of course they’ll complain again. They will suffer in other ways. He says, “There is no hope in comparing suffering, but there is hope in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

He’s right. I can’t pretend to understand the difficulty that a parent goes through who loses a child, or of someone who gets a divorce, or someone who suffers from depression, because I’ve never experienced any of those things. I can’t even say that I’ve had my own suffering that measures up to what they’re going through, because whether that’s true or not is totally irrelevant. Jesus Christ DOES know. Jesus Christ knows how to comfort them – and me. He is the source of all hope. Though I may not have the answers to give, or the true empathy they need, I know who does, and whatever I can do to help them recognize His role in their lives, will do more than anything else I can do.

Helping people come to Christ does more to help those who are suffering than even removing from their lives the cause of suffering. Does that make sense? Let me say that again, because I think it’s the key to the whole matter: if I can do something to help you turn to the Lord, it will do more for you than if I can remove the cause of your suffering.

And if you are one of those people who have so deeply suffered, then you are doubly equipped to help those around you. You can help with the suffering AND help them turn to the Savior.

If you are experiencing more than you can handle, whatever it is, the Lord is ready and willing to help. Start by just asking God for His help. Humbly go to Him and tell Him everything you are feeling. And then listen. He’s real, and He will answer you. I promise you, PROMISE you, He’s real. God lives, and wants to hear from you. He wants to help you. He wants to Heal you.

Of Flies and Men

I read an article recently about how men (not mankind so as to include women, but men) love war. They love the thrill of pitting their manliness against each other, just to see who’s the toughest. Each wants a turn to prove that in a real life and death situation, he would pull out on top… or at least alive.

My first thought was that the whole idea was bologna. I’ve never been a guy who likes the much physical “pitting.” Take wrestling, for example; who wants to wrap their arms around a greasy sweaty guy in spandex – I mean really?! I’d rather pin a bald goat. And as for the grunting manliness of the all American football game? Let’s throw a ball at someone and then pile as many people as we can on top of them – while wearing a helmet, shoulder pads… and yes, spandex. And this is a national pastime?

So when it comes to the real deal, with guns, utility belts, and assault weapons, I’m not big on the idea. (At least they wear real pants, but still…).

I realize that part of my issue may have something to do with the fact that I’ve always been something of a wimp. I was the fastest runner in my class – the only thing in grade-school that earned me bragging rights, but only a useful skill when faced with school bullies. I outran the best of them.

But today I realized that there might still be a hint of that manly bloodthirst in me when I was suddenly faced with an obstacle of nature that was bent on my misery. And not only one such creature, but many, which came at me in random intervals throughout the day.

When they come, I go on a sort of rampage, a complete man vs. beast episode.

And what is the object of my man-fury? That freak of nature; that billion-eyed, filth-seeking, speed-demon, parasitic creature, the housefly. I can be sitting in compete comfort at my work desk, listening to soft music, and calmly pressing on with the task at hand, but when I hear that little drone behind my head, I grab the swatter and become Chuck Norris meets the Hulk. All my man-rampage instincts fly into hyperdrive and I become an instrument of terror – well… to the fly, anyway.

My first approach is stealth, sneaking up with my weapon drawn for the ambush. When that fails, I go for strategy, switching off all the lights in the room and opening the door of the well-lit bathroom. When my little friend finds his way in, I slam the door and go into Jackie Chan mode, crashing and banging around until one of us dies. Gratefully, so far it’s always been the fly.

Okay, so I’m no Old-Spice guy. But when it comes to buzzers, I get my fair share of blood, sweat, and guts. Ah! Just saw another one… Mwa, ha, haaaaa!!!!

My First Book is Out!

My first book is finally out!!! It’s taken about five years to write, revise, cleanup, format, edit, and publish, but Giraffe Tracks is available as of today! I’ll have it on its own webpage soon, but the webpage isn’t ready yet, so for now I’m linking to straight the store from my blog.

So far, it’s available in:

Softbound book

Hardbound book

PDF download

Kindle book

or you can Read a Sample

I was hoping to release the audio book at the same time as the book release, but couldn’t have it ready in time.

If there is a format that you would want to buy it in that is not listed above, let me know. I’d like people to be able to buy it in whatever format they want, even if it’s .doc, .jpg or even .mov (that would be interesting). If you’re willing to buy it in a certain format, I’ll make it in that format and sell it at the same price as any digital text format.

I’m publishing it through Willowrise Press, which is my family’s independent publishing company.

Anyway, please buy it!

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book, so you can get an idea what it’s about:

By the late 1990’s, South Africa was in the midst of heavy political and social turmoil. With the ending of Apartheid in 1994, which was a legalized system of racial segregation which heavily curtailed the rights of the black population, the country was left in a dangerously challenging situation. The white population, who had enjoyed relative wealth, government protection, and exclusive employment opportunities, were now forced to share those resources with the massive majority population of native black Africans.

Native Africans, who had been socially, economically, and physically oppressed for centuries, were now allowed to leave their reservation-like townships and come into the cities and suburbs. Having been held back for so long, black Africans continued to experience severe poverty. As new opportunities were thrown at them, poverty-driven crime rose to a frightening level, leaving sour feelings in the hearts of the country’s general population. It became a time of anger, reunion, bitter feelings, fear, and hope.

Giraffe Tracks is the true story of an LDS missionary serving in the Johannesburg, South Africa Mission only a few years after the ending of Apartheid. Using compelling stories, humor, and spiritual insight, the story demonstrates that even in a land overflowing with crime, poverty, and racial hatred, peace and joy can be found through the gospel of Jesus Christ. As the powers of evil shake the foundations of human society, the truth and light carried in the testimonies of the Lord’s missionaries can change hearts, heal minds, and turn fear and hatred into faith and love.

You CAN Write Your Personal History!

If you are like me, you’ve spent a lot of time considering writing your life story. And, if you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of time putting it off because either you don’t have time or you don’t know where to start. Or perhaps you can’t think of anything about your life that Is worth writing about. Maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer and don’t feel confident in your literary skills.

Have you ever considered that the biggest thing holding you back is you? I suspect that you really do want to write your life history, but you’ve just procrastinated it so long that you’ve collected a lifetime supply of excuses.

Here are a few thoughts that might help you get the motivation you need to just start writing!

“I’m not a good writer.”

One of the differences between an average writer and a great writer is that the great writer doesn’t try to make their writing great. While you are reading a great book, do you think to yourself, “Wow, what a great paragraph – this wording is amazing, and look how smoothly these sentences flow”? Probably not. Most likely you are mesmerized by the story or situation taking place in the book. How did the writer do that? Of course there are a few rules and tricks, but the main thing they did was this: the first time they wrote the words, they didn’t even think about making their writing great. They just concentrated on the story they were trying to tell.

What I’m really trying to say is don’t worry about your “style” or your grammatical correctness. Just tell your stories. If you really feel that you need to get your wording right, do it after you’ve written the whole thing – that’s what authors do all the time. They write a rough-draft, and then go through and clean it up over and over until they feel semi-comfortable with it. If you are just writing for children and posterity, you probably don’t need to do much redrafting, but just remember that the first time you write, you don’t have to worry about any of that. And if you are successful at ignoring everything in your writing except the story, it will come out pretty great.

“I don’t know where to start.”

The obvious place to start is the beginning, but the moment you try to start at the beginning, you may find yourself struggling to decide which beginning to start with. Your first memory? Your birth? You’re parents’ first date? Your ancestry?

If you don’t struggle with this excuse, don’t worry about it – start at the beginning, or wherever you want. But if you don’t know how to write a beginning, don’t. No, really, don’t bother writing a beginning. Start by writing something that will come later in the history, such as a favorite memory or some thoughts on an incident that you will fill in later. You will find that as you just start writing, the thoughts, ideas, and structure of your history will slowly come together. As soon as you feel comfortable writing the beginning, or start, of your history, do it. But it’s fine to write your whole history without a beginning. You can write that later.

In other words, if you struggle with writing a beginning to your history, just start somewhere in the middle. That way you don’t have to worry about first impressions. Writing is one of the few places where first impressions can be the last thing you work on. Once you have most of your history written, the beginning will come much easier.

“My life is boring. Why should I write about the boring nothing that’s happened to me?”

Writing is an interesting activity. Most people consider nonfiction writing to be simply a laying down of ideas – basically a bunch of facts grouped together into a book or article. But that assumption overlooks all that takes place in the mind of the writer. Writing is an proactive, interactive, self-propelling activity that draws meaning out of nowhere. Just the act of sitting down and penciling down (or typing up) words opens a conduit into the subconscious creative mind. By simply writing down a memory, your mind begins formulating thoughts about that activity, which churn and mix until something unique is formed that wasn’t there before.

Let me put it in a different way: when you bake a cake, you take a bunch of seemingly random foods – none of which taste good alone, mix them together, and put them in the oven. Then, as if by magic, when you take the concoction out of the oven, it has become a delicious treat. All the random ingredients have blended so beautifully and completely that without knowing the process that made the finished product, you would guess that the cake was a single element straight out of nature. And the taste is far better than the combined flavors of all the ingredients.

Writing is the same way, especially with writing your own life history. Your school memories, your dating years, your fears and failures, are ingredients in your history. As you write them, your mind will reflect on the meaning behind each incident. You will find humor in the oddest places, you will find life lessons where they weren’t originally intended, and you will find that your ordinary experiences weave into a heartwarming life story. That process doesn’t take much conscious effort, either. As you write, it will just happen automatically, just like the stirring and baking turns ingredients into cake.

Besides, your boring life is more interesting than you think. Your only context is the society you live in, and all your experiences are common to everyone you meet. Being in that one-dimensional context, it’s easy to forget that your children, grandchildren, and all the posterity after them won’t have that context. Their experiences will be vastly different than yours, because the world will be a completely different place by the time they read your history. Those differences will make your history both unique and fascinating – whether it means anything to you, some in the future will be excited to read the experiences of those who were around during the rise of the Internet and the turn of the century. While they may have access to news and magazines from our era, most people will be more interested in the life of a common person living from this very uncommon period of world history.

The unique things they read will be both fascinating and fun to read. The things you mention that they can relate to (relationships, spirituality, hopes, fears, and dreams) will give them encouragement and strength.

“I don’t have time to write my history.”

Guess what? No one does. I have never known anyone who has time to write their life history. Even authors don’t have time to write their histories – especially if they are writing full-time. Why? Because all their writing time has to be devoted to their profession. Most publishers aren’t interested in life histories – unless you’re Ghandi or Nelson Mandela. But even Nelson Mandela didn’t have time to write his history, and he wrote his twice.

But if no one has time time to write their life history, then how do they do it? Well, basically, they just do it. They just do it! They don’t have time, they make time. Time isn’t something that you can create out of the air, and it’s not something you manage. Time is just… well, it’s just time. It passes. It’s always there, and it goes as fast as it comes.

Every person on earth, be it Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, or the homeless man on the street – every person has twenty-four hours in their day, and every person has a choice what they do with their twenty-four hours. You may feel tied to a schedule, but that is because you choose that schedule. You choose! The way to make time to write your history is to choose to use your time to write your history. And fortunately (or unfortunately), you have no deadline – but if you will make time, that is, choose to take the time to write your history, you’ll find that you can use time to your advantage. It doesn’t have to be your enemy. Time can be your friend, because it will help you write your history. You’ve just got to choose to use time for that purpose.

Revolutionizing the Course of the Universe

This story took place a short time before Jenni and I were married.

Revolutionize

It was a very dull day at Deseret Book as I leaned against the counter, chin in hands, waiting for something to happen. One of my co-workers stood only a few feet away, bored as I was.

“So,” I said, trying to break the monotony, “What should I do to revolutionize the course of the world today?”

He thought a moment. “Got any bombs? You could always blow up an important building somewhere.”

“That’s true. But I don’t have any bombs. Besides, that’s a bad thing, and there are plenty of bad things going on all the time. I need to find something good to do.”

“That’s true,” he replied. Then we both fell back into silence.

I began thinking more about our conversation. What could one do to revolutionize the course of the world? What about the universe? Could one person effect the destiny of the universe?

There have been many people who have changed the course of life on this planet; Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. George Washington led a revolutionary war that led to the foundation of what might be considered the most powerful nation in world history. But did those things change the destiny of the universe?

It occurred to me that the person who best fit that description would have to be Jesus Christ. Not only did he save the destiny of every person who would ever live, but He provided a way for us to become like His Father.

Now there’s a new approach to the question. If I have potential to become like my Father in Heaven, then certainly I have power to effect the destiny of the universe.
So I guess the next question would have to be, what can I do today to best effect that progress? Of course, a response as broad as “live the gospel” wasn’t really a sufficient, since I had been striving to do that my whole life.

Then I realized that I was in the process of beginning one of the major aspects of the perfecting process. I was about to get married in the temple. I decided that maybe the best thing I could do to work toward that goal would be to strengthen my relationship with Jenni. How could I do that? That question is easy. I could be kind and loving to her.

I looked around the store. Everything was quiet, normal, ordinary. Customers came in and left. Employees straightened bookshelves or stood patiently waiting for something to happen. I had a date with Jenni scheduled for that night. I decided that tonight I would change the course of the universe – I would show love and kindness towards her.

Nano: Writing a Full-size Novel in a Month

Nanowinningcertificate

On November 1, Jenni I were about to get ready for bed when she mentioned to me that she had a friend who was going to write a novel in a month. When I asked why he was doing it, she told me about National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, and how it was a group that challenged people to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. I laughed, wondering what kind of goof would make such a ridiculous commitment. I love writing, but that would be way too much.

Still…

Then gears started turning in my head. “No,” I told myself, “I’m a nonfiction writer.”

Of course, I knew that wasn’t completely true. Anyone who’s been following the Synergetic Novel knows I’ve at least dabbled in the juvenile fiction genre.

Then my fingers started to itch.

“Argh…” I told myself, “but I’ve got a Christmas CD to be working on. I’ve got two other books in the works right now. Taking on another project would just back up their publication.”

But they wouldn’t be ready for publishing until next year anyway.

Then the laptop started calling my name. It was kind of creepy, actually.

So then I took a deep breath and realized that I would just have to look at the logistics of it all to convince myself that a commitment like that was impractical for my situation. First off, to get 50,000 words in a month, I’d have to write about 1,500 words a day – your average high-school essay. That’s not a big deal for a couple days, and every day for a whole month? But I knew I’d need weekends off. So at five days a week, I’d have to do 2000 words a day. Then I figured I’d need Thanksgiving weekend off. Let’s just round it up to 2,500 words a day.

No way. That’s like a five page essay a DAY! Six, if it includes a bit of dialogue! On a good writing day, I could get about 1,000 words an hour – if there was no research necessary.

Then I did a Google search to see what size novel 50,000 words was. According to my research,
The Giver is about 43,000 words, Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone is about 77,000, and Holes is about 47,000 or so. Even Charlottes Web is only about 32,000.

It was almost time for bed – and it was a weekend. If I were to do it, I’d have to start the next day anyway. I’d sleep on it. It’s always a bad idea to make a decision after 10pm.

As I showered and got ready for bed, a plot started floating around in my head. It was one I came up with years ago, but had finally rejected because it had too little message to it – a plot with no other purpose than entertainment. I’ve always had a hard time justifying working on a major project that didn’t have some kind of benefit to mankind. Maybe it’s the idealist in me, I don’t know.

But if I only had a month to write a book, it would be hard to write it with a grand moral message anyway. To do so would be to risk bombing the novel and the message. So if I was going to bomb a story by taking only a month to write the first draft, it may as well be on a meaningless story.

I didn’t dare decide that night whether or not to participate, but if I did decide to do it, I’d use that story.

With that thought on my mind, I went to bed.

Then the tossing, turning, sleepless night started. All I could think about was the stupid challenge. It was a horrid night, but for some reason, when I woke in the morning, I felt strangely fabulous. I suppose it was because I decided to do it. I determined that after the kids went to bed that night, I would get started.

What on earth was I thinking?!

But I was going to do it.

So how was it?

Photo 54

It was A BLAST!!!

I truly loved it. I had no idea that writing a novel could be so fun. I’ve decided that with fiction, marathoning is the way to go. My first night I got 3,000 words just to give myself a jump-start. Every night after that I did 3,000 words again. I took weekends and Thanksgiving weekend off, and by the end of November, I had 64,000 words. Three days later (Dec 3), I had my last chapter finished, a bunch of plot-holes filled up, and 70,000 words written. So now I have the roughdraft for The Santa Code, and in a couple weeks (it’s always good to put it down and give it some time before redrafting) I’ll begin the second draft. If I do decide to publish it, I’ll let you all know when it’s ready. I hope to have it ready and published by October, since it’s sort of about a Christmas conspiracy, so the holidays would be a good release time.

Hard work? You better believe it. The biggest challenge for me was staying awake. I usually go to bed around 10:30pm, but now I was getting ready for bed at midnight, and still having to get up at 6:30am for work. While writing, I made sure to keep snacks and a couple arcade games on hand for five-minute wake-up breaks. Remarkably, I never got bored of the work, and though I did occasionally find myself getting distracted with research for the novel, it turned out to be very helpful.

If you love writing, you’d love doing a challenge like this. If you are thinking about it, just do it. You don’t even have to wait till next November when they run the challenge again. Just start writing. If writing isn’t an interest of yours, you probably wouldn’t like it, since it requires a few hours a day writing. But if you enjoy writing, do it! You’ll love it!

NaNoWriMo is an annual thing, so you can bet I’ll be at it again in a year. Yay Nano!

nanowinner2009

Date Ideas for Breaking the Ice

Breaking-the-ice

Jenni and I are writing a book together about dating, and one of the chapters discusses various types of dating ideas.  I thought it might be fun to share some of those categories of date ideas on this blog, such as creative date ideas, funny date ideas, educational date ideas, etc.  This is the section (so far) about date ideas to help break the ice.  Sometimes the hardest part of going out with someone is just penetrating the shell of awkwardness that is inherent in first (and sometimes second) dates. Here are some ideas that might help both of you feel more relaxed and have a great time.

  1. Do a group date. They’re not just for teenagers, and it’s easier to keep conversation alive in a group. If you really want to help your date feel comfortable, plan a double date and have a friend of yours ask out your date’s friend, and then go do something as a group. With their friend there, your date will be more likely to act natural and have fun. If you don’t want to line people up, just plan a group date of three or four couples. If you get enough good people together for a fun activity, everyone is likely to have a great time.

  2. Go to a mall, museum, zoo, or gallery. If you walk around a mall or gallery together, there is a lot to see, and a lot to spark conversation. Zoos and Museums have a lot to see, hear, and explore. Anywhere where there are many kinds of displays of different kinds will provide dozens of avenues for conversation. If conversation starts, don’t rush through it to get to the next display, but use the opportunity to learn about your date and to help them get comfortable talking with you. The conversations that you have will do more for nurturing a potential relationship than anything else.

  3. Do something athletic such as a sport together. Even something as simple as Frisbee can be a lot of fun on a date. If you are both decent at a certain sport, play it together. Sometimes doing something physically active can help both of you get your mind off the fact that you are on a date. When your body or mind is active and focused, your emotions are generally positive, and your experience together will likely be uplifting and fun.

  4. Anything you can do that will get both of you laughing; a funny movie, a clean comedy show – whatever it may be.  Humor breaks ice faster than almost anything.

Do you know of other date ideas that might help a dating couple get past that initial awkwardness?