Stephen, L. Ron, and a Bunch of Other People

I’ve been in the bad habit of not checking in on current events when I first wake up in the morning like I used to, so I didn’t know about Stephen Hawking’s passing until I was already at work. One of my co-workers asked me what I thought about his passing; I acted as if I already knew. Mostly, though, I felt weird at the realization that a non-science co-worker knew about it before I did.

I might not be the only person on my team who has ever read “A Brief History of Time,” or anything else Hawking authored, but I am the only one I’ve heard talking about some of his concepts…and probably sounding completely clueless about them. Not surprising. Very few people were anywhere near his level of insight. That statement alone makes me wonder…who is going to step up and fill the massive void he left behind? I’m actually looking forward to finding out.

Another thought about the Stephen Hawking mind: consider the longevity of his life. He was diagnosed with ALS when he was 21. The life expectancy of an ALS victim is barely five years. Hawking died At 76. If anyone is looking for a convincing reason to believe that the mind can influence the body in ways that defy our ‘medical’ understanding, I might suggest considering Hawking’s lifespan.


I once made a joke about choosing to write fiction over non-fiction because, “…in fiction, I don’t have to do much research, I can make most everything up.” That, of course, is an exaggeration made in humor, and one which I never truly applied to myself. Although…there was a stretch of time where I would write the first version of a story from my own imagination and understanding, then hand it off to critiquers with the unspoken agreement to myself that I would research certain details after receiving feedback about the plot and characters. I wasn’t surprised or disappointed when some of the critiquers called out factual or technical errors and told me in predictably blunt terms I needed to do a better job of researching, but it still served as a signal to me that perhaps I should put research farther to the front of my process list.

I recently read an article on the topic of researching, written by L. Ron Hubbard…

Search for Research

He obviously understood the importance of research. I was especially intrigued when he confessed to spinning wheels on a story until he sought out the proper knowledge and insight…a condition that has added ridiculous amounts of time to any number of my stories, and a condition I’d like to believe I have alleviated from my writing experience in much the same way L. Rod did. As an added bonus, the additional research has given me ideas for plot twists, character development, and even entire brand new stories I might never have thought of otherwise. More, as far as I’m concerned, is always better.


I just made a post on another social media outlet, announcing I am taking volunteers to join my beta reading team. The goal is to get a bunch of people from various backgrounds / education levels / realms of experience to join the team. This project is very much a work in progress, so stay tuned.

Posted in Announcements, Reading, world building, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Singular Focussism

I was just about to post an update about one of my stories.

I was going to say something about how this story was taking much longer than it should because of how I’ve been bouncing around from this story to other stories then back to this story.

I was going to reveal that I’ve recently decided to focus almost exclusively on this story, ensuring it is ready for at least the critique phase before I touch another.

But, then I realized it would be a much better pursuit if I examined why exactly I’m tightening the focus on my writing efforts.

It’s a simple reason. I’m not getting anything out to market. Can’t entertain people and make new fans (or keep my current fans entertained, for that matter!) if I don’t release any new material.

To put it simply and bluntly, my level of output sucks.

I can keep blaming the unfortunate incidences that have been plaguing me the last few years, but the fact is that my tendency to bounce around from project to project has been going on much longer than that.


My tendency towards attention deficit disorder behaviors has been with me since the beginning, but I don’t want to keep using that as an excuse either.

I’d rather make fun of it.

Feel free to take offense to my approach if you wish, but keep in mind that this graphic, on some days, depicts me. Laughing at myself frees me up to approach my condition (and its negative effects on what I want to accomplish) with a more positive attitude…

…which has led me to discover that demanding myself that I focus on one story at a time just might be my solution to becoming a more prolific writer.

Might. I have no idea of this tactic will work. If it doesn’t (to the point where my list of ‘works in progress’ is longer than most of my novels), I will regroup and come up with a different plan of attack. This is one battle I will and then I’m going out for Buffalo wings after work.

Posted in Life in General, Philosophy, Writing | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Beta Distractedness

No matter how much writing I get done, I’m always going to feel I could have accomplished more. Even if I were to crank out two novels and perhaps a half dozen short stories in one month’s time, I would still glare at the results and grumble about not having gotten enough done.

That said…I didn’t get enough done in February.


I could easily blame the fact that February only has 28 days in which to accomplish things, but even I wouldn’t take that seriously.

More to the truth, I was distracted often by the Winter Olympics. I enjoy athletic competition in general, and the Olympics give me an opportunity to watch events I don’t normally get to see.

Despite some of the good content I created this past month, the biggest takeaway from February 2018 is that “All the Time in the World” is still sitting on the sidelines. It was supposed to be in the hands of a beta reader group by now, but I never made a request of anybody to take on the beta reader role.

Why not?

Not enough time. February, remember, only has 28 days.

Too many distractions. The Winter Olympics made me watch curling.

OK, enough nonsense. I didn’t put a group together because I’m not sure who to ask.

The obvious solution to my bewilderment is to ask people if I should ask them to be a beta reader for me.

Levity aside for a moment, I may have figured out the solution. Just ask. It’s a simple R&D issue. And, guess what? If this method doesn’t work out, come up with something else.

And, no…I’m not expecting the time gaps in figuring this out to be as ridiculously long in March as they were in February.

Unless, of course, my local skating rink offers curling lessons.

Posted in Life in General, Publications, Reading, Sports, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Steve’s Sonic 12-Pack – Kansas

I give Kansas (and, in particular, their “Point of Know Return” album) credit for inspiring me to ascend from ‘casual listener’ to ‘active participant’ in the music world.


I was bummed because, not only could I not afford a Hammond organ and Leslie speaker cabinet that would let me create that incredible Kansas organ sound, but I also didn’t have a large enough vehicle in which to haul those monstrous pieces of equipment. Then, I got word that Steve Walsh started using the Crumar T-1 electronic organ in concert…not only was it a fraction of the cost, but it was also portible, meaning I could stop looking for a cargo hauler and keep the car I had.

Guess what I bought less than two months later?

While it was obvious to most of the musicians I played alongside during my playing days that Kansas music shaped my approach to the songs I wrote and composed, I additionally feel it in some subtle way I’ll probably never recognize colored my approach to just about everything I did back then.

This has been one of the toughest Sonic 12-Pack lists for me to put together so far; trust me when I say I have enough favorite Kansas songs to make a Part 2 list that I would like just as much as this list.



The Devil Game
This is a great example of how I like my progressive rock! There was a point in the late 90s where bands from all over the globe were attempting to emulate / recreate the prog metal sound as laid out by Dream Theater’s “Images and Words” album, only to rely too much (in my opinion, of course) on the melodic aspect and not enough on the energy and heaviness aspect that defined the ‘metal’ portion of the ‘prog metal’ label. I made the comment that some of Kansas’ older songs (this one in particular) was closer to prog metal than much of what I was hearing during that time. Not too many people disagreed with me, if I remember correctly. It’s a bummer that I never got to see Kansas play this song live; I can only imagine, based on how this song rocks me while I’m writing or driving, what it would have done to me at a concert.

No One Together
I’ve rewritten this blurb for “No One Together” about a dozen times. I was going to discuss how this song came to us at a time when the philosphical / world vision differences between the band’s two primary song writers / lyrisists, Kerry Livgren and Steve Walsh, were more obvious than ever. I was going to discuss how many Kansas fans were griping that Livgren’s spiritual-draped lyrics took the unfortunate leap from explorational yearning to outright preaching. I was going to discuss how many of us sensed we were witnessing the beginning of the end of the band that meant the world to us. In frustration, I spun the song one more time, and came to realize none of that negativity had a place next to this song. Livgren composed yet another intricate and engaging prog rock gem. The band brought it to life. Walsh sold it with his voice. That is what matters. So, just listen, enjoy, and forget the other stuff I wrote about this song.

Silhouettes in Disguise
Steve Walsh had just returned to the Kansas ranks after finishing his run with his hard rock band, Streets (which I liked), and brought Streets’ bassist Billy Greer with him. Add Steve Morse to the ammended roster, and we ended up with an album that, to many Kansas fans, didn’t sound much like Kansas at all. I even heard a few people refer to it as Streets Part 2. Ya know what? Who cares? This song rocks hard!

When he takes the time to expand on a topic, Steve Walsh turns out some engaging and gripping stories. Plus, this song’s music amplifies the mood. As it turns out, the music also made a guest appearance into my dreams one night. As was my tradition for several years, I made the attempt to play a round of golf on my birthday. Well…seeing that my birthday is in late February, that didn’t always go too well. This time, however, the weather was looking as if it was going to behave for me. The night before my birthday, I drempt I was playing the ‘cloudburst’ instrumental section of the song with the band! In my house! Dreams don’t get much cooler than that! I, of course, was playing the keyboard parts, while Steve Walsh was feeding M&Ms to my wife’s Golden Retriever. Yep, my subconscious can be a great place to be sometimes. While we played, I was able to hear the same heavy thunder in the background as it is on the song…along with knocking on my door, and my mom-in-law calling my name. “Are you still playing golf today?” “Yes, I am!” Then, I woke up. And I heard a sound from outside my window I didn’t want to hear. “It’s pouring.” Oh, well…so much for my birthday tradition. At least, my subconscious gave me a cool gift.

Closet Chronicles
In the early 80s, I was dating an out-of-stater freshman attending the University of Maryland, who I first met through a Kansas fan club. I still smile at the memory of her and I sitting in a local pizzeria, attempting to figure out who this song was written about. As it turns out, neither of us picked the right person. Many years later, I read a comment that claimed Kerry Livgren’s lyrics were based on the life and demise of Howard Hughes. The fact that neither of us figured it out highlights something I enjoyed about that song: the lyrics were crafted in an enigmatic way that tasked discussion and debate. Sometimes, that aspect can attract me to a song, like it did to “Closet Chronicles”…and just like it did for “Portrait” (she and I picked the wrong person for that song too), which was the preceding track on the album, and which really should have made this list as well. Also, having such an inventive instrumental break made this one of my favorite Kansas song to listen to. Oh…and, yes, I learned how to play the vibraphone part on marimba.

Mysteries and Mayhem
This is another one of those Kansas songs that, had it been recorded in the late 90s, could have been considered a prog metal song. Pay close attention to this song’s opening riff, ‘cuz you’re going to hear it again on this list within another song. You’re also going to hear this song’s outro again as an intro. There may be a quiz.

The Spider
When the topic turns to 70s progressive rock compositional showing off, this is my entry into the discussion.


The Voyage of Eight Eighteen
For over fifteen years, we Kansas fans wondered if we were ever going to hear new music. But, with a couple of lineup changes, and the subsequent infusion of new ideas (that no doubt brought some old restless ambition back to life), Kansas cranked out “The Prelude Implicit” in 2016. I’m not one of those fans who belly-aches towards their favorite band just because they dared changed their sound and/or their style and/or their roster (and I’ve unfortunately heard my share of fellow Kansas fans do exactly that at any number of points since 1979), but I did happen to sport a satisfied smile when hearing how this album reminded me of their mid 70s exploits (which, in the event you didn’t already come to realize, was the timeframe where Kansas captured my attention and my imagination). “The Voyage of Eight Eighteen” would have been quite at home on one of the band’s 70s albums.

Magnum Opus
If it weren’t for the short verse of vocals at the beginning of this song, this would be the most tripped out instrumental I’ve ever heard. With the inclusion of the “Howling at the Moon” lyrics, it’s one of the most tripped out songs I’ve ever heard that just happens to have a very long instrumental passage. I like playing this song for all my non-Kansas fan friends who have no idea what this band is capable of.

Incomudro – Hymn to the Atman
‘Atman’ is a Sanskrit word for ‘inner self or soul.’ So, to play this song, turn out the lights, lounge or lay down to relax, slip on a quality pair of headphones, and enjoy your spiritual experience. Perhaps, you might hear a few words from your atman.

Stay Out Of Trouble
I was at the mall with my (at that time) girlfriend when I picked up the Monolith album. R-417984-1365170965-4452.jpeg
I told her how much I liked the cover artwork. She looked at it and said in a disinterested tone, “I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.” (NOTE: No, this is not why we eventually broke up.) A lot of my fellow Kansas fans cringed when they heard “Stay Out of Trouble,” but I liked the way it rocked the first time I heard it. “…and you drive with your right foot in hell.” I see that every time I hop on the Capital Beltway. As a bonus, a youth group friend and I got to hear them play this song live later that summer; Kerry Livgren and Rich Williams unleashed a two-guitar jam at the end of the song that melted our brains before that term was even invented. Incidentally, this youth group friend of mine got my extra ticket because I recently found myself without a girlfriend.

The Pinnacle
Recognize the beginning riff? I told you you’d hear it again. Musically, this is (in my opinion, of course) one of the most accomplished arrangements in Kansas’ discography, with (again, in my opinion) one of the greatest song endings of any band’s discography.


Thanx for checking out my Kansas Sonic 12-Pack. As I hinted at the beginning, I struggled to finalize this list, and had to play dozens of Kansas songs multiple times. Ah…the hardships of blogging.

Posted in Music, Poetry and Lyrics, Steve's Sonic 12-Pack | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Rings of Distraction

Every two years, I step back from what I’m doing for approximately two weeks and allow the Olympics to distract me. This time, it’s the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

I’ve always enjoyed athletic competition, whether participating or spectating. I even felt the urge to serve as a little league soccer coach / assistant coach for some of my children back in the day. The force drawing me towards beholding Olympic competition, however, is much stronger. For half a month, it’s nice to turn my attention away from the negativity and the hate and the violence that infests the world news, and instead bear witness to the much more advanced Human aspirations of desire, teamwork, accomplishment, and the sometimes illusive joy that comes from pushing yourself further than you thought was possible.

That last one…I’m no athlete, but I very much understand what it’s like to push myself beyond my own belief in myself. Maybe, that’s where my true attraction to sports resides.

Regardless…here are the five events I’ve been checking out the most this time around:

I’ve been fascinated with downhill ski racing since I saw Franz Klammer’s 1976 Winter Olympics performance in Innsbruck. A few years later, I made my first attempt at skiing, and I quickly acquired a new respect for what these speed maniacs do. Nowadays, I pause to watch as many of the various downhill races as I have time for, whether I know who the racers are or not. During my brief stretch of time on the slopes, I would ski a course that somewhat resembles some of the downhill courses I see in the Olympics…except I was going a heluva lot slower.

I might have learned some respectable level of coordination on traditional skis, but I look at what snowboarders are doing, and realize instantly I’m out of my league. Half-pipe? Broken bones and time in traction. Big air competition? I would be disqualified for attempting to wear a parachute. Then…I saw the snowboard races, where up to five competitors battle down a course of turns and jumps. My first thought: I was watching stock car racing on snow. My second thought: I would probably enjoy doing that. Broken bones? Probably. Time in traction? No doubt. But, it still looks like a lot of fun.

No brainer here. I’ve been a hockey fan since I was eleven. I haven’t been able to watch as many of the games as I would like, but my youngest son and I stayed up ‘til close to 1am (EST) watching the Czech Republic battle Canada to a tie through overtime, then finally defeating them in a shootout. Good stuff.

I’ve known about this event for a while, but I never paid much attention to it until this Olympics. Cross-country skiing for a while. Then shoot some targets. Then ski some more. Then shoot some more targets. Then more skiing. I kept asking myself: “Who put these two activities together?” Then, I found out this event was based on alternative training used by the Norwegian military. Sounds good to me. It looks like an event I would like to compete in, except my shooting skills are better with handguns than with rifles. Somehow, though, I do not think the Olympic Committee would bend that rule for me. Perhaps, if I were to challenge them to a snowboarding race?

Yep. I caught myself watching this event. For 45 minutes one afternoon, I watched the United States rally from a 6-1 deficit against the Italians and tie it at 9-all after nine ends, only to see them lose in the 10th end and having no idea why they lost. A quick read through Wikipedia solved that. After watching a few more games, I gained a stronger understanding and a greater appreciation of what I was watching. I can see why this game is called “chess on ice.” So, since I’m fairly decent at chess, it makes sense I would enjoy playing curling, too. Except, at least in chess, I don’t have to walk on ice.

While writing this post, I realized there’s an additional draw towards the Winter Olympics for me: my inexplicable fascination with sports I’m no good at.

Posted in Games, Life in General, Sports | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

World Building Exploits – A Broom Closet Galaxy

Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time and brain wattage building star systems and species for the upcoming onslaught of science fiction stories I want to write.

Believe me when I claim my level of adrenaline and impatience from wanting to tell these stories cannot be measured in Human terms.

While performing these deeds, I inadvertently forgot just how large our galaxy really is.

I put two species (who are slated to become adversaries) approximately fifty-five light years away from each other. After further review, I decided this was too great a distance for them to ever know the other exists, let alone having them learn to hate each other’s guts.

So, naturally, I overcompensated. I placed species number three (who have a unique talent of pissing off every species they meet) within four light years of their most despised opponent du jour.

Yep, I was still acting as if all my species were living in a broom closet. I was neglecting how much ‘elbow room’ I had at my disposal. The Milky Way galaxy, for example, is approximately 100,000 light years across. My species needed to move out of the broom closet and into at least a master bedroom. Or, maybe they should have their own rooms.

So, I decided to spread things out a bit. Species number four was now officially located 235 light years from their nearest space-faring neighbor.

Hmmmm…100,000 – 235 = 99,765. It’s like I wasn’t even paying attention. In galactic terms, my species were still sitting in each other’s laps.

I thought…perhaps, I should stop listening to music when I work. Then, maybe I can think more clearly.

That proposal lasted about two seconds.

One thing I discovered years ago is that my writing mind cranks out much more interesting work when I’m listening to music. And, as it applied to seeding my new galaxy, I am convinced it was music that gave me so many new ideas of how to solve my problem. The distances could be overcome with a creative breakage of the known physical laws of the Universe…or, maybe…I could put these species thousands of light years away and bring them closer together by a means I have not yet pushed my mind towards.

See how easy and how much fun that was?

And, for my next trick…I placed species number four in a different physical reality. In other words: their species didn’t evolve in the same reality with the other three.

Forget the broom closet. It’s like they’re not even in the same house anymore.

Yet…I’m still going to have species number four find a way to cross into the prime reality and cause havoc for the other three species.

That’s going to be the coolest house crashing party I’ve ever written. I should turn my music up to celebrate.

Posted in Music, world building, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

During the First Month

I’ve listened to a lot more music during the first month of 2018 than I have during any 30+ day stretch in recent memory. While some of my listening was for the benefit of my Steve’s Sonic 12-Pack series, I have a long list of prog rock / prog metal albums released in 2017 I’m attempting to make a dent in. It’s an ongoing project to expand my library of writing session background music, a project I quite enjoy.

Not including my music exploits, I find myself somewhat underwhelmed at my accomplishments for January. Yes, I was psyched to finally complete “All the Time in the World,” and my world building efforts have yielded some promising new directions for my space-based timeline. Yet, work on my new science fiction story never got started.

The first question I asked myself was: “Why wouldn’t I want to start working on it?”

The first answer I gave myself was dead center correct: “The concept I’m offering in this story is still beyond my current understanding. I’m not ready to write about it yet.”

Yeah, the answer was correct. It was the reasoning behind the answer that was faulty as hell.

It occurred to me: the more I write about this enigmatic concept of mine, the more I’ll discover where my lack of understanding lies…which will give me a place to hash out my thoughts and beliefs with more imagination and ferociousness…which will give me a newer and tighter version of the concept…until I find another gap in my understanding…at which time I’ll work on it some more…etc.

Yep. It’s the R&D approach to what I do.

Sometimes, I have to ask myself why I need reminding about this approach so often. It has served me well plenty of times, and not just with writing. So, why would it slip my mind?

Hope it’s not because of all the music I’ve been listening to.

Posted in Life in General, Music, Philosophy, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment