July 2017 newsletter

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Howdy, ya’all! Welcome to the July newsletter, perhaps the last ever to be sent from Texas. So I’m fixin’ to include a bunch of Texas-isms.  In fact, I like to might could–
No.  No, I quit. This travesty demeans us all.

Moving on . . . Here’s what’s in this month’s newsletter:  1. Bedtime stories. 2. Purple Unicorn. 3. Mini movies. 4. Organ watching. 5. More words. 6. Butler Pancakes.

Sounds great, right?  Let’s jump in!

 

1. DECIDERS vote / Patronapalooza news : The purpose of last week’s poll was to determine what we should do for the upcoming Paronapalooza.  For the benefit of the uninitiated, Patronapalooza is a week-long festival commemorating the gruesome life and hilarious death of Patronapaloozus, patron saint of patrons.

The celebration will begin next Monday, July 31st.  And in accordance with the wishes of the DECIDERS (and the wishes of my Facebook friends, who broke the tie), to honor our revered martyr next week I will . . .

Illustrate and post a bedtime story for every night. (At least one original drawing each.)

You may all celebrate in whatever fashion you desire– merriment, romance, feats of derring-do– or in whatever fashion is traditionally mandatory among your people.

Good Patronapalooza to us all!

 

2.  Story of the Month teaser : Two weeks from today (8/7), I get to share one of my favorite stories with you.  It’s called “Best of All Possible Worlds,” and it was first published in an anthology of purple unicorn stories.  (Not kidding.)

When a bizarre graffiti tag shows up on the wall of his run-down bus stop, awkward grad student Lem Daoud seizes the chance to finally chat up the hipster girl he’s been crushing on for months. But will she ever agree to go out with him after he accidentally stumbles onto the key to her deepest secret?

It’s a very fun and geeky little romantic comedy piece which has both lots of what I love about Boston and also some very cool fantastic elements.  I love it.

In fact, I love this story so much I just couldn’t leave it alone.  So now I’m working on finishing the novel-length sequel.  (Hopefully coming out next year.)  This is one of the big projects that your patronage is supporting.

So I hope you all enjoy this little taste of good things to come.

 

3. Movie (trailer) reviews : We didn’t make it to a theater this month, so instead I held a film festival right here on the family room couch.  By which I mean I watched a bunch of trailers on my laptop, which I am now going to review.  (Hey, this newsletter is free.)

Blade Runner 2049 (trailer 4): Poor Harrison Ford.  Doesn’t he get to be in anything besides sequels and remakes these days?  What’s next? Son of the Fugitive?  Air Force Two?   What Lies Even Beneather?  I did like the synthesizer in this at first– a great nod to the original Vangelis masterpiece– but after a while it just felt completely out of place amid the explodey action and jump cuts.  PASS.  But I am going to pick up the old soundtrack.

Justice League (trailer 2) : Good reminder to buy the Wonder Woman soundtrack, since she was by far the best part of this trailer.  Next best: no Superman.  (I’m not counting the super obvious hinting at the end.)  Third best: Cyborg’s CGI didn’t look so ridiculous and cheap, mostly due to lack of footage. Absolute worst: Making me almost tolerate Bat Affleck as Benman.  Also Worst: Not sure who the bad guys are, but they look a bit like a dark and gritty reimagining of either the hovering elephant ethnic stereotype from Phantom Menace or the winged monkeys from Wizard of Oz.  HARD PASS. But it does make me want to watch Wonder Woman again.

The Inhumans : Love the giant pug.  Big red wig looks silly.  Promises lots of betrayal and drama and gossipy backstabbing.  But will it be fun to watch?  PASS.

Ready Player One: How much did it cost them to get the rights to all these IPs?  I can’t even imagine.  But this trailer makes me think it might be worth it– a glorious mishmash of a thousand pop culture touchstones, like a less-silly LEGO Movie.  WATCH.

9/11 : An R-rated September 11th disaster movie “based on actual events” starring Charlie “Bi-Winning” Sheen?  Is this… Am I alive?  Is this real?  Am I dreaming?  Can there be a person who thought this was a good idea?  And did they really intersperse real video footage from the very day of terror itself?  Taking ticket money to show people actual images of Americans being murdered on live TV, mixed in with quips from Mr. Tiger Blood?  PASS.  THEN SHOWER, REPENT SINS, PRAY FOR HUMANITY.

 

4. Life updates : This has been a really busy month at Chez Douleur.  So busy I didn’t even get my newsletter done on time.  (Also, this thing got crazy long somehow.) But I’m not going to point any fingers or give you any excuses, because it’s not fair to the baby.  And also the buck stops here.

Speaking of our little SeaBee, she’s been sleeping through the night most nights lately.  What a good girl!  What a great present to mommy and daddy.  We had just about forgot what it was like to get six hours of sleep right in a row.  (So sweet.  Like fresh mangoes.)  In honor of this wondrous miracle, here is a grateful haiku:

What is the sound of 

Two parents napping?  A snore? 

Who knows– we were gone.

Earlier this month, we took a trip out to New Mexico and found ourselves a place, or at least a place to get started.  My favorite thing about it is the view of the Organ Mountains, visible in all their glory from a great big window in my new office.

1024px-Las_Cruces_and_the_Organ_Mountains

Not pictured: New office window.

I was so excited, I forgot to take pictures.  So this one is from Wikipedia.  But never fear, I’ll be taking plenty of my own.

We may also have succeeded in selling our home here in Houston.  (You never really know for sure until after the sale closes.)  For now at least I am giving thanks that we no longer have to keep the house show-room ready all day, every day.  Every single minute.  Man, that was brutal. But it taught me two things.  First, keeping our house really clean all the time is possible.  It just takes discipline. Second, I hate discipline.

I may have found a way to make it enjoyable, though.  There’s a program / website / app / whatever called Habitica that I’ve been playing with for the last little while.  It’s like a gamified personal organizer, where a pixelated little version of you levels up and gets treasure as you work your way through your chores.  It’s definitely the most fun I’ve ever had with a to-do list.  Plus, now I have a White Lion as a pet.  Very cool.  So let me know if you join up– we can start a guild!

 

5. Accountability : As the people who are supporting me as a writer, I think you’re entitled to know how I am doing.  So last month I started tracking three things: new words written, new works completed, and new submissions to fiction markets.  Comparing this month to last, I did better, the same, and worse, respectively.  Not exactly flying colors, but I’ll take it.

  • Words: I got over 8,000 new words on the page this month, which is a little better than last month’s almost 7k.  Now, I had wanted to double my productivity, but this is actually not a bad start considering all the time lost to moving and house-selling stuff.  Plus, I had only four weeks in this reporting period instead of five.  (I count from newsletter day to newsletter day.)  So it’s actually a pretty substantial per-day improvement.  (Up to 330-ish from 230-ish.)  All in all, very happy with this improvement, and hope for even better next month.
  • Works completed: Despite putting lots of new words on the page, I only completed one new work– a new chapter of The Mundanes.  Most of my fiction writing this month was actually expanding and revising Soul Invictus, the novel prologue / short story I thought was done last month.  Ridiculous.  And I am pretty sure I’m not done with it yet.  But it just keeps getting better and better, so I guess I can’t complain too much.  Next month will be better, but I’m happy this month not to be backsliding.
  • Submissions: This is where I let things slide.  Last month I got 7 submissions out the door, and I wanted to improve on that.  Instead, my count went down to 3.  But if I’m lucky and get a little time this afternoon, I might could get that up a little higher by the end of the day.  If so, I’ll put a little note in the comments.
  • FYI, I got three form rejections back this month, all of them from last month’s subs. My most recent ones are all still in the running. Fingers crossed. ^_^

 

6. An invitation : Tonight (7/25) I am hosting a get-together from7-9 at Lola’s café for anyone interested in writing.

It’s called BFD-Con, because in addition to talking shop about writing, we’re going to be eating Breakfast For Dinner.  Nobody teaches, everybody learns, everybody buys their own pancakes. So it’s the same basic model as Utah’s IHOP-Con, pioneered by author and editor David J. Butler– who will be joining us tonight.

If you’re in the area, please come on by. Everybody else, feel free to join us in spirit by eating breakfast foods and sharing some thoughts in the comment section here.

 

Muchas gracias! As always, I want to finish this newsletter by thanking you all for the support (of all kinds) you so generously give.

A month like this one could very well have swallowed up all my fiction writing time.  I would have just written it off as an understandable loss, and wouldn’t have given it a second thought.  But because of your patronage, I found the time to punch out 33 new pages in the last four weeks.  Pages that might not exist without you.

Much obliged, ya’all.

–JDP

PS – The answer to today’s PhotoPuzzler (TM) is: Upstairs in his room, having a nap.

June 2017 newsletter

[Cross-posted at Patreon.]
June newsletter
Jun 26 at 10:58am
Hello, friends and patrons!  Welcome to the newsletter for June 2017.  This one was intended to be a little shorter than the May one, but . . . You’re welcome? 

Anyway, if the prospect of reading farther than two paragraphs is daunting, here’s the TL; DR version.  1) Arrivederci barbarossa! 2) Long pig! 3) Patronapalooza yay! 4) Cookies yum! 5) JDP writes!

Also, this computer has UNLIMITED EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!

Let’s go already!

DECIDERS vote : The poll last week was to decide what I should do with my facial hair for the next six months. My precious face, the plaything of your aggregate wills.  Who else gives you that kind of power?

Anyway, the results are in.  I’m going to play both sides of the TV talking head contrarian duo and say both that the vote was a close one (Decided by one vote!) and a blowout (33% margin of victory).  You guys can argue about which of me is right in the comments.  In any event, the verdict is:

SHAVE THAT FACE!

And so, obedient to your commands, I shall wear no facial hair until at least Christmas.  And as I accept my sentence, I realize that it is a far, far better thing that I do with my face than I have ever done.

Also: Some things should not be left to the hive mind.

Upcoming Story of the Month : For July, I’ve picked out a really special story– the very first story I actually got paid for.  “Long Pig” is a little slice of dungeon-crawling life, and it was first published in Bards and Sages Quarterly in 2013.  And (in keeping with the zeitgeist) it features a powerful warrior woman who has been the heroine of several of my stories.

Elke is a tomb-raiding mercenary, trapped by a cave-in.  She and her treacherous business associates know they’re running out of candles, but they don’t know that they’re also running out of time.  When everything goes dark, who will survive long enough to dig their way back into the light?

Read the tale right here on Patreon, July 10.

Report on the inaugural Patronapalooza :  Last month we held the very first Patronapalooza.  It may make me sound vain, but I must confess that I was hoping that this brand new holiday  I created completely ex nihilo would go viral– and it did!

In fact, it was so successful that it emitted a festive burst of tachyon particles which traveled back in time and caused people to begin celebrating even before I invented it completely by myself and very originally!  So, well done, patrons.  You partied so hard you broke the space-time continuum.  Excellent.

As part of the festivities, I made audio recordings of the first few chapters my work-in-progress novel The Mundanes and put them up on YouTube.  They’re gone now, but like Brigadoon they’ll be back in a hundred years.  Or in the last week of July, when we’ll be celebrating our second Patronapalooza.  Hooray!

(Details to follow in next month’s newsletter.)

Life updates : The best part about moving so far is cookies.  See, we need to clean out our cabinets, and clearly that means using up all that excess sugar and flour we have lying around.  Also chocolate chips.

Plus, baking cookies makes the house smell like someone just baked cookies.  It’s a subtle way to get prospective buyers to subconsciously associate this homely house with comfort,  warmth, family, and adult-onset diabetes.  That’s your perfect storm of happiness right there.

In other news, our little Seabee is starting to make the most adorable human-like sounds.  Here’s a picture of that.

Above: The sound of cuteness. Also pictured, the smell of cookies.

Oh!  And the image at the top of this newsletter is the new and improved logo for my writing business, now in glorious Extra Color!  Many thanks to the lovely and talented Matt Malo, whose art is amazing and everybody should hire him.

Accountability : Speaking of money being exchanged for goods and services, let’s talk about what your patronage is buying– besides Matt’s awesome art.

Frankly, I probably should have done this from the very start, with the first newsletter, but that’s why pencils have erasers.  So, starting this month, the newsletter will include a very brief report on the writing your patronage has been supporting.  There are at least three objective-ish ways to measure this, viz.:

1. New words: In terms of raw productivity, I’ve pounded out roughly 7,000 words in the last month or so.  That translates to about 28 pages, or a little less than a page a day.

2. Works completed: “Soul Invictus,” a short story to follow my novel The Crown and the Dragon.  I plan to submit it to an upcoming anthology, and also to use it as the prologue to C&D’s sequel, which I’d like to write next year.

3. Submissions:  I had a plan to submit something every single working day in June, or to try until every story I have in my stable was out somewhere. I didn’t make that goal, but as Dean Wesley Smith says, I failed to success by aiming for the stars and still hitting a pretty high mark.  My totals: 7 submissions of short stories for publication, 3 form rejections, 2 personal rejections, and 0 acceptances.  Not too shabby, actually.  (My typical acceptance rate is something like five percent; it’s a numbers game.)

All in all, I’d like to be able to report greater productivity and success, but considering everything we have going on right now, I’ll take it.

Which is probably as good a note as any to end on.

So, for your encouragement and support as I develop my skills,  thank you, my friends.

Stay thirsty.

–JDP 

Wonder Woman review

Thanks once again to the best in-laws in the world, my very own warrior queen and I got away to watch Wonder Woman. And despite popcorn which had been sitting under the warming lights since the days when Lynda Carter wore the tiara, we had a blast!

Gal Gadot completely inhabited the role, thanks in part to the best costume for Diana ever.  She perfectly walked the balance between sunny (perhaps even naive) idealism and fiery determination.  (Why can’t we have a Superman like this?)  

And she was funny!  Not a quality I usually associate with WW, but I loved it.  Her hilariously, adorably awkward scenes  with Chris Pine were absolutely my favorite parts of the film.  (Plus, I loved pretending he was Captain James T. Kirk on a secret mission to help save Earth’s past.) Forget a movie sequel.  I want a weekly Lois & Clark style TV show so we can really spend some time with these two.  

(Yes, I know he got blowed up.  Which, spoiler alert on that, I guess.  But it’s a comic book movie.  And he died off screen.  And we didn’t see the body.  Totally still alive.)

My only nit to pick is that, as a war nerd, I really wanted this to work as a World War I movie.  And on the strategic level, it does not.  At all.  One single trench between Allied forces and German High Command?  In 1918?  And breaching that lonely trench line to liberate an occupied town results in ZERO reinforcements arriving–either from the Central Powers or the Allies?  

My only nit to pick is that, as a war nerd, I really wanted this to work as a World War I movie.  And on the strategic level, it does not.  At all.  One single trench between Allied forces and German High Command?  In 1918?  And breaching that lonely trench line to liberate an occupied town results in ZERO reinforcements arriving–either from the Central Powers or the Allies?  

I know this is a cartoon movie about superfriends, but I couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to get past the utter ridiculousness of the war scenes.  Which is a shame, because there were some moments that really captured the brutal, desperate pointlessness of the Great War– plus lots of great Amazon butt-kicking!  (Pow! Take that, bell tower!)

Rated 4/5 wonders, with a half-wonder subtracted for the extreme telegraphed obviousness of Remus Lupin’s supposed-to-be-surprising face-heel turn.  Come on, now.  The man is a werewolf.  Of course he’s a bad guy.

Patreon Story of the Month: Lullaby

This month’s story for patrons is about a mommy (and a daddy) dragon trying to get noisy little ones to pipe down and go to sleep.  I wrote it in my head while rocking my own kiddos to sleep.  

 

In fact, I was rocking King Kong when I learned (via email on my phone) that this story had been accepted to an anthology.   I said “Awesome!” and my little boy woke up enough to barf down my shirt.  So this tale is near and dear to my heart.  I hope you like it, too. 

 

–JDP

 

PS For those of you who’ve already read it, we’ve got tons of exclusive, patrons-only bonus content over there, too.  Original art, photos, and the story behind the story.  Check it out!

May news update

Hey, gang! I don’t know if you all have noticed, but I’ve been trying to blog more regularly and do a better job keeping in touch with my readers.  In that spirit, welcome to the news update for the month of May!

What’s new?  The first bit of news is that I have a new Patreon page.  I you haven’t checked it out yet, do yourself a favor and head over there.  Lots of good stuff– writing, art, behind-the-scenes extras– some of which is available only to patrons.  For example, patrons who pledge two dollars a month get a new short story every month, plus access to the vault of previous Patreon stories.

But this newsletter is always going to be both free and public. This means if you want to keep up with what’s happening with me and my writing, you don’t have to be a patron. You don’t even have to give me your email address for a mailing list– you can find it here, or on Patreon.  If, however, you would like the newsletter to be emailed to you every month automatically, just go to my Patreon page click on the button that says FOLLOW at the top left of the page.  (It’s free.)

From now on, there are a few things you should expect to see in news updates like this one.  There will be some stuff about the Patreon page.  For instance, I’ll always look back to the previous week and reveal the result of the monthly Deciders vote. Likewise, I’ll look forward by announcing which story is going to be posted here the first week of next month. And if there’s an upcoming Patronapalooza, I’ll also talk about that.

If I have a book or story coming out, the newsletter will announce it and provide links to order or preorder. I’ll also talk about what’s going on in my life, whether big stuff (we had a baby!) or small (we saw a movie!). And I’ll always throw in some pictures.

So, are we ready? Great! Here we go!

Deciders vote PLUS Patronapalooza : Last week, patrons at the Decider level and up voted on what we should do for Patronapalooza. (It’s a week long special event we’ll have every month with 5 Mondays.) There were lots of good options (which you may see again in July) but the final vote was unanimous.  

So, next week I will give “every patron access to an audio recording (1-2 hours) of the first three or four chapters of a current work in progress.”  And what is that work?  It’s a novel, tentatively titled The Mundanes:

A sinister alien entity threatens humanity.  Earth’s mightiest heroes are our only hope.  And unless Nikki Nelson can file their taxes before the 15th, there will be penalties not to exceed 25% of the total unpaid taxes.  Biff!  Pow!  Doom!

It’s a superhero book where ordinary people save the day– and it’s been so much FUN to write.  Man, I can’t wait to share this with all of you.  I’ve already started doing some recording, and it’s coming out really well (especially considering that I have no special recording studio, etc.).

But don’t sleep on this.  When Patronapalooza is over, the audio files will shortly vanish into the mist like Darkmoon Island.  So if you’re curious about what I’ve been writing, go pledge a dollar and listen to the first few chapters.

Upcoming story of the month : On Monday, June 5th, a new short story will be posted over on Patreon for all supporters at the Reader level ($2/month) and up.  This month, I’ve chosen a story called “Lullaby,” which was published last year in Dragon Writers: An Anthology.

It’s about a mommy and daddy dragon who are trying to get their hungry babies to quiet down and go to sleep.  I wrote it on nights when I was rocking my own noisy and rambunctious little one, so it’s got a lot of my heart and soul in it.  Plus: ravenous, rampaging dragons.  Raaaaarrrrr!!!

Movie review : Earlier this month, my awesome in-laws watched the kiddos so the Queen of Eternia and I could go out and see Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. (Thank you, J+L!) Following both the scientific method and my heart , I have arrived at a rating of 4/5 Galaxies. A delightful romp full of explosions and lasers and funny lines.  Loved it!  

Two disappointments keep this from reaching the lofty heights of the first installment. First, the incomparable Kurt Russell, though wonderful in his early scenes, was boring after the face/heel turn. Not a memorable villainous moment or line, just a super dumb Saturday morning cartoon cliche. Boo.

Second, one of the great surprises of the first was that it made me care about a CGI raccoon voiced by Bradley Cooper. This one gave him a stupid tacked-on Hollywood phony character arc that left me literally yawning with rage. Damn you, Gunn brothers, for giving me such a gift and then taking it away from me. Double boo.

That said, everybody else was just as lovably amoral as in the first one except Yondu and Drax were even better. And I loved the new addition of the gross bug-lady, who I hope we will see more of in future films which will also star a surly teenage Groot. (But not Sylvester Stallone, who was bleah.)

Life Updates : In addition to being excited and hopeful about future mixtapes from Chris Pratt, there are a lot of other awesome changes on the horizon for Casa de Payne.

Last week I turned in the grades for my final semester of teaching at the university. After a lifetime spent on one side of the desk or another, I am leaving academia.

Little Squishy

Look at that face? Will you take a look at that face? SOOOO CUTE!!!

I will miss teaching in a university setting, but my new career of dad/writer has been awesome on the balance. In my first week, I’ve had twice as many awesome writing days (4) as days I had to change my clothes and shower because of baby barf (2). Frankly, I can’t believe how lucky I am to be joining the stay-at-home dad club.

This change should also give me a lot more time to write. I’ve got two novels in the works, and if I can keep my pace up I will finish both by the end of the year. Hooray!

Our final change is that we are moving to New Mexico, where my darling wife will be starting a new job. We have loved Texas and we’re worry to leave it, but fortunately we’ll be just an hour or so across the border. So any time we want our stars at night to be big and bright, we’ll be in easy driving distance.

As we prepare for a big move and lots of other big changes, we’re grateful to live in a time when it’s so easy to keep in touch with friends and family across the world.  Thank you all for your support and well-wishing.  And please keep an eye out for next month’s update.  Same bat-time, same bat-channel.

–JDP

Patreon : Bonus Content for “Only the Dead”

This week on Patreon, I have put up a bunch of Bonus Content for May’s Story of the Month, “Only the Dead.” It’s available for every patron, at any level of support. Yaayyyyy!

Since this is the very first time I’ve shared Bonus Content, I thought I might talk a little bit about what kind of Patreon supporters can expect to see. Typical Bonus Content might include any or all of the following:

* Inspiration behind the story
* Deleted scenes
* Answers to reader questions
* Behind-the-scenes setting and character details

In addition to bonus written content, I also plan to include my own original art.  For example:

* Character sketches
* Maps
* Photos of real-life people or places

And this week, since I don’t have any of those, I’m including a few macabre cartoons since the inspiration for this story comes from my own wonderings about death and what comes after.

nervous claude

The above image was created using the Paper app by 53. And the next three were created using Words With Friends, which I have no one to play with any more. (Hint, hint!)

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