Occasionally there is an event or change that alters human society forever. The World Wars, the development of the Internet, and so on. The current pandemic is one of those events. All over the world, people are suddenly confronted with a situation more surreal than any they've encountered. Here in the USA, many states are already on lockdown. Stores are running out of food and essentials, restaurants and theatres are closed, and people are confined to their homes. Fear, apprehension, and hope drift in the air, along with a very real virus.
I'm not attempting to sensationalize. While many continue to doubt the severity of this pandemic or the necessity of quarantines and social distancing to prevent a complete collapse of our healthcare systems, the very real ramifications of this event have already started.
In this scenario, I suppose I'm lucky. My wife and I both already work from home, and our kids are here. We have internet, we have electricity and food. I'm young and healthy. And yet, I'm just as concerned as the rest of the world. Today I checked my calendar. I had a scheduled virtual visit and had forgotten the time. While looking I noticed something else, Monday was supposed to be my son's day to "lead the class" at his preschool. With no warning, I broke down. Tears welled in my eyes and I felt such overwhelming sorrow I couldn't move.
In some ways it was foolish. Even on the personal level, I've lost more. We've a scheduled trip to DisneyWorld, a massive surprise birthday party for my 40th (Disney emailed and ruined the surprise) and my daughter's first birthday. I'm doubtful that's on. And of course, with him home, I'm attempting to homeschool, losing time to write or cook or take care of the house, and so on. I've a cousin who's already run out of toilet paper. A close friend who cancelled her wedding. And a host of theatre friends suddenly out of work. Since my children were born, I've felt a duty to give them the best life possible, and now just worry about keeping them safe. And don't get me started with the real fear of our funds in the market. Yet, that simple fact, my son was going to miss being the "class leader" sent me spiraling. This wasn't fair. Not to him, not to any of the kids. Students who will miss half a year of school, or their graduations. And what of special needs kids? Or anyone who NEEDs socialization? My son's very social, and thrives with play time. How will he cope long-term without?
No, this won't end tomorrow. No, this won't be easy. After a single week of social distancing, I'm ready to move on. And the doubt about the future is real. Many models such as this one in the Washington Post forecast the event could last a year or more. A year of social distancing, closures, small biz collapsing, arts and nonprofits failing, and entire industries such as entertainment, cruises, and so on coming to a halt. And if you're reading this, at least you too have internet and electricity. Not everyone does.
Hopefully, the virus is under control earlier. I've already started a new novel set during this historic and unfortunate circumstance. Perhaps the most important thing in all of this is HOPE. It's still there. As mentioned, it floats in the wind. It's sometimes muffled behind fear or doubt. Not knowing how this'll play out is hard. Will we be isolated a week or a year? And what will the world look like after this?
There's a certain REM song that comes to mind. The lyrics are critical. It's not just the "end of the world" - no, it is in fact "the end of the world as we knew it." In this case, that might be true.
At this point, we just have to wait and see. Stay safe, and stay sane.
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.
We all know the expression, "you are what you eat." Makes sense. Consume a ton of junk food and you'll look different than if you eat all healthy food, for instance. Yet, what about the genres we 'consume' for entertainment? How deeply are we defined by those genres if we choose to write in them?
My wife is a Romance author. She enjoys days off, relaxing with a glass of wine and a fire in the fireplace. She daydreams about time on the beach with the man of her dreams (yeah, that's me), basking in the sunlight. She'd be content to lounge and just chill if she had the time.
Me, not so much. I am a workaholic. Yesterday was an example of a day I felt like I did nothing at all. My wife correctly pointed out that in addition to spending the day raising a baby and a toddler, I also did four loads of laundry, baked two apple tarts, prepared two meals, stacked a third of a cord of firewood, raked three bags worth of leaves, and worked on my newest novel. My life is an unending series of small tasks, with this feeling like I'm moving toward a bigger goal. Why? Because I write Fantasy. How many long, arduous quests are filled with small accomplishment after small accomplishment, always moving toward that distant destination? The quest never really ends, even if you reach the goal, there's another destination over the horizon, another task to complete. This might seem tedious, but from the fantasy mindset, every task is a new opportunity for wonder and discovery. I felt great pride at those tarts. My son wanted to help stack wood - how cool was that? And so on...
This is just how we are, and we are quite happy. Still, it does make me wonder. What does your preferred genre say about you? I've recently moved from writing adult to writing kidlit. Is that because I'm now full-time at home with two kids? Am I growing younger at heart? What would a horror fan/writer be like? Or a sci-fi writer? Do you think you are what you write?
Eight years ago today I was stranded in Tintagel, Cornwall at the legendary birthplace of King Arthur. As I've shared previously, I watched the sunrise from cliffs overlooking the castle and the experience inspired The Scythe Wielder's Secret, and my entire writing career. Since then I've written many books, and hope to write many more, but it all began eight years ago today.
Where are the Dads?
I've been reading a lot of MG and YA fiction recently and am noticing a disturbing trend. Where are the Dads? In book after book, the protagonist's father is absent or dead. Occasionally, the Dad exists, but in such an awful way they're practically villains or downright abusive. I haven't encountered a single YA or MG dad in books recently who is a great father.
As a stay-at-home dad, fatherhood's obviously important to me. But then I realized I'd fallen into the same trope. My newest novel-in-progress has an absent father! I hadn't even realized it until today!
Why do books and Hollywood ignore dads as good caregivers? Many writers seek to prevent gender stereotypes for boys, yet do not show the possility of men as nurturing fathers? How often do we see the cartoonish buffoon struggling to raise kids on screen? Or in novels, how often is the dad simply dead or gone?
Have you read books with strong, caring Dads? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
As an at-home-dad with a theatre background, I enjoy reading picture books to my three-year-old son, and then later acting out the book with him. He loves to read, and enjoys playing out the stories he enjoys most. We've had honey parties with Pooh and Piglet, mischief with Curious George, and a search for Whos with Horton on many specks. Recently, we lined up all his toy dinosaurs and gave them a wash in his toy car wash, based on Down at the Dino Wash Deluxe. We drew a red crayon doorway on our basement wall and pretended to explore the worlds beyond, using crayons to create help- based on Aaron Becker's fantastic wordless Journey trilogy. And we've had multiple trips outside, looking for dragons, inspired by Max's Dragon. He's even started making stories of his own, without prompting. On the way to the library for new books, he told me about a dragon that had passed on his way to the beach- the story had a beginning, middle, and end, and went on a good eight minutes. Maybe he'll be a storyteller like his parents someday. And he's already encouraging his new sister with books; her face lights up every time we all read one together.
I've been thinking a lot recently about wonder.
Wikipedia describes the emotional state as something similar to surprise and awe, when something unexpected happens that is deeply tied to joy. That is key. Wonder is a joyful, uplifting feeling.
Wonder is a powerful force. I'd argue, it's one of the biggest draws to speculative fiction in the first place. From the dragons of Game of Thrones to the galaxy-altering heroes of the Avengers. It's in everything that works. The trailer for the upcoming Star Wars film spends nearly half of its time on a single wondrous jump (with Rey using Force magic to leap over a TIE-fighter, and attack mid-air). I visited Disney's Pandora area in Animal Kingdom last year, and that entire section of the park is solely devoted to the wonder felt in the move Avatar, from the landscape to the two rides, to the background music (I have a feeling wonder will play heavily into the Star Wars Disney expansion as well). No focus on the movie's tension or characters, or even anything remotely antagonistic. Simply...wonder.
Wonder is essential. The examples are endless. I've been enjoying Sanderson's Stormlight Archive, and each of the three books so far ended in a moment of absolute wonder. I cheered out loud, causing my wife to turn and give me a look, when reading the climax of Oathbringer. Dorothy steps into Oz and her jaw drops, as does the readers. The children walk through the wardrobe into Narnia and the reader's eyes widen. Frodo gasps as he walks into Lothlorien, and the reader feels it time and again in Middle Earth. And the entire series of Harry Potter, from the moment he meets Hagrid on, is centered around that emotion more than any other. Wonder is essential in speculative fiction.
But why now? Why am I thinking about wonder nonstop? Because while we, as human beings, encounter wonder many times in both fiction and our lives, I think there is only one experience that creates this experience more profoundly than any other. It's the one wondrous moment, deeper than any other, that truly changes you as a person. It's happened to me once before, and it's about to happen again. Any day now, my wife and I will welcome a child into this world.
I cannot wait to have my world turned upside-down. To know that who I am will be reshaped daily by another soul, looking back at me, depending me, and changing me in ways I can't even begin to fathom at this point. This is a sense of awe and joy and deep, deep wonder at the miracle of creation. I may write about wonder and read about wonder and watch shows and movies filled with wonder. Yet, I also know that no words will ever do justice to the deeper, more powerful emotion I'm about to experience.
I can't wait for this wonder-filled moment to arrive.
I think it's worth taking a moment to fully appreciate the current environment. I'm referring, of course, to Game of Thrones.
Yes, it's publicity for a paid service, yes it's about the tv show now, but at it's heart the current Game of Thrones buzz is a reminder of how powerful books can be. I'd argue that this is only the second time in my lifetime that a book series has reshaped popular culture to this degree. The first was during the Harry Potter releases. I was working at Borders during book six's release and remember the lines, parties, insanity, and the general excitement. Potter got people talking across the world, talking about books, reading books, and excited about books. Game of Thrones has taken a slightly different tack, but I feel it's impacted society a similar way. For the past three seasons, The Washington Post publishes an article recapping the show after every episode, and they just ran a full major special illustrating every single onscreen GoT death so far. The Post!
Yes, we've had other books reach heights of success...Twilight, 50 Shades, and many others, but I don't think any have become quite as culturally significant as this since Potter. Whether you're a GoT fan or not, it's exciting to see watch novels excite a populace worldwide....
This week is the annual Writers For Hope benefit auction. Writers, readers, schools, and book lovers are invited to bid on items ranging from signed books to writing critiques and even video school visits with well-known authors. 84 publishing professionals including bestselling authors and top agents are participating this year, and I am proud to be one of the donating authors. Please take a moment to visit this wonderful event. 100 percent of the proceeds go directly to RAINN, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network, the largest USA-based anti-sexual assault organiztion. LEARN MORE HERE.
My birthday is the end of April, but this year that doesn't matter. Our baby girl is due the day before my birthday. I know what I'm getting for a gift this year. My present's wrapped tight, occasionally kicking, and I honestly can't wait to meet her.