It’s a Lifestyle Thing

Before my children were born, I wrote pretty much whenever I wanted.  If I needed to sit for five hours on a weeknight and crank something out, I could.  If I chose to take an entire weekend, from morning to night, and do nothing else but write, nothing stopped me.  I always had time to do all the things I needed to do to keep my personal, professional, and writing life going smoothly.

But then my children arrived.

Yikes.

That sounded bad.

First of all, let me be totally transparent – my kids are my world.  Writing is a passion, but my children are my life.  So while much of this may sound pessimistic, that’s not the intention.  I credit my success as a human being to my wife and children.  They always come first, and that’s fine by me.

Okay, back on point.  If you’re like me, you may be juggling lots of different things along with your writing.  You may not actually get to write that novel or short story but once a week.  Oh, sure, you’ve got time carved out every day, but something always comes up.  I’ve read some authors who said their time is untouchable.  They will not give it up.  That’s fine for them, but that’s not my way.  Like I said, my wife and kids always come first.

So what does this all mean?

I’m saying that writing is a lifestyle.  For some of us, it’s the main focus.  For others, we do it when we can.  But I guarantee you, just because I may not be writing on a certain night, I”m always thinking about it.  It is always in my head.  My characters, scenarios, plots – all of it.  When I’m doing dishes (as my Twitter and Facebook friends can attest), I’m thinking about it.  When I’m mowing the lawn, I’m thinking about it.  In fact, I believe that my busy schedule actually proves beneficial.  When I actually get the time to sit and write, I’m primed and ready.  I understand how valuable that time is, I’ve run through whatever it is I’m writing a thousand times in my head.  It’s an almost euphoric experience to sit and let it flow.

Ideally, we would all write that five pages a day we’re supposed to achieve.  But that’s not a realty for many.  My hope, my wish, is that you don’t feel bad if you can’t manage more than  a night or two a week.  Yes, consistent writing will only help and it’s the best way to hone your craft, but sometimes it’s just an impossibility.

I often have negative thoughts about my writing, usually including the phrase “enough.”  I’m not writing enough.  I’m not submitting enough.  I’m not making enough professional contacts.  I’m not networking enough.  I don’t fine tune my website enough.  To all that, I say, “Enough.”

In life, we do the best we can.  We keep our priorities in order.  My writing is my passion, my art, but it’s not my only passion.  My family is my masterpiece.  My teaching career is a work of art in progress.  My writing improves every week, every month, every year, year after year.

I crave balance.  I fight for equity.

Writing is a lifestyle.  It’s who I am.  But it’s not all of me.  It’s an important part, among many.

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Back On the Road

In junior high and high school, I ran mostly sprints.  My specialties were the 100, the 200, and the 300 intermediate hurdles.  Long distance running seemed like something attractive to masochists.  I could never fathom why someone would voluntarily run more than 55 seconds.

Then a funny thing happened.  I found myself coaching cross country in the year 2000 while teaching in North Carolina.  I didn’t necessarily want to, but there I was, coaching a sport I never ran.  Luckily for me, while I was considered the girls head coach, the boys head coach, a veteran runner, really handled both teams and I acted more as an assistant.  This man, though he appeared in his late forties, outran the kids on a regular basis at practice.  I wasn’t about to sit on the sidewalk and wait for everyone to get back, so there I was, running along with the kids at the back of the pack.

As the weeks wore on the running got easier, I got in great shape, and I actually found it really relaxing.  Believe it or not, I kept with it, entered some road races, fell in with a little running group of teachers, and loved every minute of it.

After returning to Illinois in 2002, I slowly got away from running.  There are lots of reasons why, but mostly because I got lazy.

There were a few false starts between 2004 and (gulp!) 2014, but this time it seems to actually be sticking.  In fact, I started tentatively running again in late April, but didn’t trust myself to write about it until now.

The purpose of writing about my new running is primarily to hold myself accountable, to motivate myself to continue running.  But I hope it might also serve as motivation for others like me – people who are generally out of shape, work full time, in their late thirties or older, and busy, busy, busy with children of their own.

I already have lots of topics to address, but the most important thing I want to get out there is that it was really, really hard at first – much harder than in my early twenties.  (Shocking, right?)  But, it has gotten easier.  A lot easier.  I don’t know if I’ll ever achieve what I did ten years ago, but it seems more attainable today than it did in late April.

Please do come back soon so we can say hi.

Super Graphic by Tim Leong – A Book Review

When I learned of this book, I knew I had to have it.

Super Graphic is a series of graphs—an entire books’ worth, in fact—that deal only with comic books.  Each graph is typically quite clever in depicting an image along with information.  Of course, this is a poplar medium at the moment called “infographics.”

Some of the graphs include the evolution of the Superman logo over the last seventy-six years.  Another includes the affiliations of over fifty Marvel characters such as Wolverine, Captain America, Spider-Man, and Luke Cage.  Yet another breaks down the pizzas that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have enjoyed since their inception.

By and large, the graphs are incredibly complex and fascinating to study. I cannot imagine the time, effort, and sheer amount of research required by Tim Leong to produce it.  However, this book absolutely does not take itself too seriously.  Some of the charts mean to make you laugh, and some are downright ludicrous.

As a comic book lover, I can pick this book up anytime and find something new to appreciate.  However, I think anyone interested in infographics or art will adore it as well. Furthermore, I value books that push traditional publishing standards, and this one does just that.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – A Movie Review

Though it took me far longer than I intended, I’m glad I finally made it to the theater to see this film.  I’ll go ahead and say it: it’s the best of the X-Men movies thus far.  Why is it the best, you ask? How can it be better than X-Men 2?  Let me explain …

In the past, the X-Men movies perhaps tried to do too much with too many actors – actors that weren’t always up to the challenge.  Not so with this installment.  I think we all agree that Hugh Jackman owns Wolverine.  It’s not a direct comic book adaptation, but that’s okay.  He’s made the cinematic Wolverine his own.  Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are untouchable.  James McAvoy, with this movie, certainly won me over as a younger, less capable Professor Xavier.  I’ll watch anything with Michael Fassbender, and he makes Magneto somehow noble and terrifying at the same time.  The villian, Peter Dinklage, can steal the scene from anyone, anytime.  And finally, I have to give Jennifer Lawrence props.  They knew what they were doing giving her Mystique the heart of the film.  That young woman has proven time and again that she can act!

Those are the actors most visible in the film, those are the actors most focused upon, and that is why the film is so very good.  Ellen Page, Halle Berry, Shawn Ashmore, and others get some screen time, but they are nowhere near the actors mentioned above, and the powers that be recognized this.  Days of Future Past primarily gives us the best actors for the majority of the film, and it proved to be a smart move.  Quality is always better than quantity.  They made me care about their characters.  For me to enjoy a movie, I have to care.

Don’t get me wrong, this is still a comic book movie, so certain things must apply.  The special effects are flat-out amazing.  It’s so wonderful to see Sentinels actively menacing mutants in an X-Men movie.  Colossus and Iceman finally look the way we all demanded – their powers, and the other characters’, look organic.  The special effects are certainly better, by far, than previous films, but they are also far less obvious.  I forgot I watched special effects and simply accepted what I saw as the story.

Of course, the film is not perfect.  I’m still not sure why Kitty Pryde is suddenly able to send people through time, nor do I understand why Anna Paquin got top billing for a film she’s basically not in.  There are a few scenes where mutants were tossed in for the heck of it, especially during the Saigon scene, but it’s nowhere near as superfluous as it’s been in the past (X-Men 3 and Wolverine: Origins spring to mind).

But wait, what about the whole Quicksilver thing?  Okay, Quicksilver is in the movie for twenty minutes, and he ruled the entire twenty minutes.  Is he in there to piss off Disney?  I don’t know, and I don’t care.  He was the only character I was really leery of seeing in this movie.  His silver clothes looked ridiculous in the photographs.  But it works.  The clothes work with the character, trust me.  His speed is mesmerizing.  I love what they did with it.  Evan Peters put the Avengers on alert.  Right now, he is Quicksilver.

By and large, though, the film sets up a premise, sticks to that premise, plays the premise out, and offers a satisfying conclusion to the premise.  The actors provided heartfelt, passionate performances, and the action could not have been better.  It captured much of what made X-Men 2 work so well, and took it up a notch with better everything.  (I won’t lie, though, I long for the day Alan Cumming returns as Nightcrawler.)

On a final note, I adored the ending.  I won’t go into detail, in case someone has yet to see it, but I actually felt great relief and joy by the ending these characters earned.  Wherever they may take the franchise from here with Apocalypse, I’m glad I got to see where these characters’ iterations ended up.

 

 

Earth 2: The Tower Of Fate by James Robinson and Nicola Scott – A Book Review

There are two things I love in my graphic novels: world building and a true sense of danger.  Earth 2 has both in droves.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of Earth 2, it is an earth much like our own, but it’s just a little bit different.  In the “silver” age of comic books, Earth 2 remained in a perpetual World War 2 where the original versions of characters like The Flash and Green Lantern were still active.  That Earth 2 eventually merged with our “modern” earth in the mid-eighties and those characters aged appropriately (sort of), and so they were very old, active super heroes who referred to themselves by their original name predating Justice League of America, which was Justice Society of America.

DC Comics (sort of) rebooted their universe a few years ago, now calling itself The New 52.  The idea is that there are 52 worlds in the DC Universe, each with different versions of our well-known heroes. Of course, this provided the perfect opportunity for the Justice Society of America to go back to their original, young ages, but DC took it even a step further.

On this Earth 2, the world is set in modern times.  However, it has been widely defeated by Darkseid and his minions of Apokolips.  Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman kept it from being completely overrun by Darkseid, but they died doing so.  Now new heroes have emerged: Hawkgirl, The Flash, and Green Lantern, but they are not the “golden age” versions of the characters, or really any version of the characters for which you’re familiar.  And while that’s initially jolting, it’s ultimately refreshing.

I say that because this is a dangerous world. Our three supreme heroes have already died.  No one is safe, danger lurks evermore from Apokolips, and because it’s not the “main” version of these characters, anything can happen.

And this is a true world.  James Robinson, the author, takes us to several locales throughout the planet and builds plot points at each.  This is not a Justice Society of America story, for there is no Justice Society of America yet and there may never be in this title. This is an Earth 2 story.

The Tower of Fate is really about introducing Dr. Fate.  The volume gives glimpses into Terry Sloan, Mr. Terrific, Hawkgirl’s origin, Steppenwolf’s recruitment of Fury, but those are just glimpses, morsels to be played out later.  Dr. Fate’s origin is the only plot that really reaches a conclusion within the book.

James Robinson, the author, earned my undying loyalty with his seminal run on Starman.  With that being said, his plots are strong. He’s taking this title in very interesting, unique places. However, that is not to say he is without fault.  At times his dialogue is flat-out corny and obviously serving to progress the story, not the characters.  But, let’s keep in mind this is only the second volume and the story’s groundwork is still being laid.

The art by Nicola Scott is astounding.  It’s beautiful.  It’s pure.  It’s amazing.  If you love this medium, you will love Nicola Scott – there’s no other way to put it.

Furthermore, I don’t know who designed Dr. Fate’s updated look, but it’s the coolest Dr. Fate yet.  He truly looks like an otherworldly figure, but a figure with roots in ancient Egypt nonetheless.  And though we got only but a brief look, I adore Mr. Miracle’s revamped uniform.  Like Dr. Fate, he’s always had a cool costume, but now it’s just a little more modern, a little more dangerous, a little more awesome.

Earth 2 is not perfect, but it’s a really enjoyable read.  It’s a blast to see familiar characters with fresh updates, the artwork is wonderful, and there is always a sense of urgency and peril.  This is a book about an entire world of characters, and I can’t wait to see where it goes.  You should pay Earth 2 a visit.

 

Now Is The Time To Join Dr. Nekros

Back in 2011, I started publishing the eighteen episode odyssey of Dr. Nekros.  It’s hard to believe there are now only two episodes left in the (mostly) bi-monthly electronic serial.  The next installment will release in late June, and the final one will arrive in late July.

Years ago I promised love, betrayal, monsters, reunions, ghosts, trickery, revenge, death, black magic, and battles … but I wasn’t too sure about salvation.  Unfortunately for Dr. Nekros, I’m still not decided on that matter.

This has been an electrifying journey, and I invite you to join me  now before it concludes.  Where better to start than the beginning?

 

Dr. Nekros - the story so far.  Only two episodes left!

Dr. Nekros – the story so far. Only two episodes left!

Stop “LeBroning”

Let’s get two things out of the way …

  • I am a Bulls fan
  • I do not follow LeBron James on Twitter

That being said, mocking LeBron James because of his leg cramps needs to just stop.  The primary reason it needs to stop is because it’s indicative of a very ugly society, one I (obviously) cannot abide.  We crave celebrity, we demand perfection from athletes, we build people up to demi-god status, and then it seems we cannot wait to tear them down at the first opportunity.  Were it simple criticism, that would be fine.  But it’s not.  Oftentimes, it’s personal, degrading, and downright mean.

If you must be unhappy with LeBron James’ leg cramps, then focus instead on the fact that the arena’s air conditioning went out, creating ninety-plus degree temperatures.  Blame LeBron and his training staff for perhaps not recognizing the signs and hydrating him enough throughout the game.  (It should be noted, however, that they had him take seven anti-cramping pills during the game.)

I contest that his leg cramps are simply one of those things that happens to athletes  It cannot be helped.  LeBron James has a history of leg cramps dating all the way back to high school.  I challenge you to find a better conditioned athlete in the NBA.  This is not a matter of being soft or weak-willed.  As any athlete will tell you, when the body seizes, nothing can help but time and rest.

So why are people so eager to tear this man down?

Is it “The Decision?”  Okay, that was a bad moment, a stupid moment, a moment we all wish never happened.  But please take a few things into account.  LeBron did not act alone in that. ESPN was more than happy to turn it into a circus, and then, ironically, led the charge in criticizing LeBron for the move.  Also, LeBron has been king of the hill since the age of eighteen.  He has not needed to answer to anyone.  This is a man who has successfully navigated professional sports, the business world, and society’s infatuation with “celebrity” with no more than a high school diploma.  Haven’t we all made bad decisions in our mid-twenties?  Don’t we all have that one moment we wish we could take back.  Furthermore, can many claim to come out of such calamity wiser and more mature as has LeBron James?

To be honest, I happen to believe LeBron is highly intelligent.  His missteps have been few. By and large, he walks that fine line of celebrity without crossing over.  By all accounts he is a wonderful teammate, a caring father, a charitable citizen, and a decent human being.

Think of all the young people who achieved his level of fame and fortune and did not crash and burn.  Think of all the other young people who allowed their career to die, who became more invested in their celebrity than their craft, who drowned from various vices.

Yet, here’s LeBron James.  A multiple MVP.  An Olympic champion.  An NBA champion.  A man who has not relented in his quest to win, who has improved upon his physique and skill set with each passing year.  In LeBron James we have a sports icon in the making.

Are people mad the way James, Wade, and Bosh came together?  Get over it.  That’s the way it is in the NBA.  LeBron found that out during his tenure in Cleveland.  Rose is discovering it in Chicago.  Nobody hated Pierce, Garnett, and Allen for forming a triumvirate, and they did it before LeBron.  Couldn’t it be argued that Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman were a similar situation?  It takes three any more.  Need I mention that Duncan has Parker and Ginobili as his running mates?

To be honest, we have two admirable NBA franchises vying for the trophy this year, two teams that do things the right way.  Everything I just said about James I could also say about Tim Duncan on most accounts.  I want the Heat to win because I love teams that stick together and continue winning, players who take less money to keep something special rolling.  But the Spurs fall into that same category, so for me, this is a win-win situation.  (Of course, I would be happier were the Bulls in contention, but alas …)

I sound like a LeBron James apologist, but I’m not.  I do believe in defending people treated unfairly.  LeBron James gives every indication of playing his ass off all the time.  He clearly wants to win.  He seems like a guy trying to behave and give back to family, friends, and the community.  I wish we could all say the same, including me.

So stop with the Lebroning.  The man had unrelenting leg cramps.