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Random

If my life could have more of any one thing from the world of Harry Potter, it’s hard to say what it’d be.

Maybe I’d take the easy out and snap up the ability to Apparate. Because, hey… teleportation.

But if I’m honest, I think I’d really just like more meaningful opportunities in my remaining days to say the words, “Mischief managed.”

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Treadmill desk. Rawr!

I’ve been talking about getting a treadmill desk for years. Many years, in fact. Well… I finally put action to words and did it. The jury is still out as to how I will like it. Regardless, it now exists and I am going to use it.

Treadmill Desk Pic1I can’t imagine that it will be directly responsible for an increase in my productivity or efficiency. I mean, how could it? The physical process of walking is disruptive for reading and typing. Fine motor control with a mouse or track pad are effected. There’s also a little more noise than I’d otherwise want in my working environment.

Regardless, I’m very hopeful for the indirect benefits of moving my body more during the workday. Historically, the more distance I get from an office chair, the better life is.

Some background:

Treadmill Desk Pic2

I got rid of my chair in either ’99 or 2000. For a couple years, I used a desk and theraball set up. That was good, I suppose. It was definitely better than sitting hunched in a chair all day. Back then I still did a lot of soup-to-nuts design work so it was easy to get sucked into a project and not move for hours and hours on end. The theraball kept me aware of my posture and I had to at very least participate in the process of defying gravity.


I haven’t had a chair since.
In ’04 I did away with sitting entirely and went to a standing desk. I was able to get one of the swanky, motorized ones. After a couple weeks of bwazooming it up and down, the novelty wore off and I unplugged it so it would be perpetually stuck in the standing position.

Treadmill Desk Pic3This did a couple things for me. First, and somewhat obviously, I wasn’t sitting on my ass all day. But I found that being on my feet encouraged me to do a lot of things away from my desk. Stuff that helped me to be better at my job. Sitting in a chair made it too easy to become stuck until the demands of food, biology or the homeward commute pried me free. With a standing desk, I found that I moved through my “at the desk” projects more quickly. I was also more likely to move away from desk, keyboard, and phone to tackle things that I may have thought about but not acted on from the confines of a chair.

I don’t know yet what to expect from my experience with the treadmill desk. To be honest, I haven’t done any reading on the subject. I just got sick of talking about getting one while not actually doing it.

So I did it.

And I’ll have to let you know how it turns out.

PS and for reference: There is a simple two-step process for having a $1300 dollar treadmill desk for sixty-five bucks. Step One: Buy a $1000 treadmill from your parents for $50. Step Two: Put a board on it.

I know. I know… you can thank me later.

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Drive Write: Support Structures

Drive Write podcastDrive Write: Episode 15 – Support Structures

This week I’m talking about personal support structures. In particular, I’m expressing appreciation for everything my wife does to help me perform on my creative projects. I’ve been reminded of just how much having a teammate and partner means during this past holiday season. She was overseas for the past several weeks and it has been difficult to balance all my personal projects against family, parenting and the day job.

Let me know if you’ve had similar experience or challenges in the comments. And definitely let me know if you have any tips!

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Feels Right

I received the most wonderful text from my wife last week. She is traveling overseas and her text to me was that it “felt right” for her to be where she was. It may seem strange that “feeling right” about being away from home is a good thing. But it is. In this case it is, at least. In fact… it’s awesome.

I’ll tell you why.

My wife is a physical therapist and a thumpin’ good one. She’s good at a LOT of different aspects of her job. But what she loves most is hands-on sports therapy.

And that’s what she’s doing right now.

She’s the physical therapist for the US Nordic Ski Team and is traveling with them on the World Cup circuit. Her job right now is to keep the team competitive and healthy during the run-up to Sochi and the Winter Olympics.

When she sent that text, she was standing at the finish line in Oberhof. The team was absolutely killing it. The text read, “I’m in heaven here, feels right to be here.”

It is an amazing feeling to help your spouse and best friend find that one thing they love to do more than anything else. To help them chase that one thing. And then to engineer life such that it is attainable.

It’s a damn good feeling.

It’s been a long road. Two years apart for the masters degree. The risk and expense of owning a company. The clouded indecision of selling one. All-nighters and long weekends away from the family for the doctorate degree. It all adds up.

“Feels right to be here,” is the payoff for all of that effort. It’s worth it.

Somewhat selfishly, I take a fair bit of personal pride from having helped make this happen for her. And it’s also got me thinking.

So many of our decisions in life are based on the expectations of others. I mean, we tell our kids that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, right? At least we tell them this here in the U.S. And it’s probably true. Well… just so long as whatever they want to be includes an education financed on debt, mortgages, multiple car payments, insurance out the wazoo, and dual 8am–5pm incomes that provide both health and retirement plans. Sure. They can be whatever they want to be.

I think a much more heartening message is to let your kids see you do the things you love. And I’m not talking about things that are simply fun. I mean things that are truly and deeply rewarding. I believe that actively pursuing the things you find fulfilling will keep you happy and engaged around the home. They make you a better person to be and to be around.

Let your kids see the effort and dedication that it takes to accomplish meaningful work. Let them see the sacrifices that need to be made. And let them see that those things are worth it.

Hell. Let everyone see.

Sure… it might not be “proper” to forego the stereotypical American life. It might not be common to pass on the big salary or public sector benefits. Proper is fine. Common is safe. But when Zuzi comes home and I ask her how her day was, I don’t want her to sigh having slogged through one more weekend-obstructing day. But that’s the script, right? That’s what we’re supposed to do.

I’d much rather see her smile and hear her say that what she is doing feels right. How could you not want that for your spouse? Or for yourself for that matter?

I do.

And I most certainly want it for my wife and kids.

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Merry Christmas 2013

2013 was full of family, friends, fun and firsts for us. There were many trips, visits and gatherings, each of them treasured and too many to mention here. Instead for this year’s Rogers family update, we’re going to call out some personal accomplishments.

In May, after many years of effort, study and all-nighters, Zuzi completed her post-professional doctorate in physical therapy from Texas Tech University. To fill her newly-regained free time, Zuzi has become a physical therapist for the Nordic US National Ski Team and will be traveling worldwide to keep everyone healthy and competitive on the road to the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Andy finished the rough draft of his second novel and is neck deep in planning the third. He and the kids made up a bedtime story about stretchy, underground creatures called Droblar. The kids wanted to see the stories that they listened to each night and Andy started drawing again for the first time since high-school. The story is now unfolding online as a weekly webcomic.

Lucas (7 years old) spent the entire summer hiking Slovakia and Alaska and now continues exploring AK in his beloved Junior Nordic Program. This fall, he entered the Ignite enrichment learning program at school and is loving it!

Eva (4 years old) is riding her bike and learning how to read. She’s already mastered her online kindergarten math program and is starting in on the first grade lessons. Also, to make her mama proud, she is picking up skiing really fast – both nordic and alpine!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all from the Rogers family.

RogersChristmas2013

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SOMNUS First Draft Finished

Done.

… for now, at least.

The first draft of SOMNUS, my stand-alone, sci-fi heist novel is done. I just finished typing future-Andy some notes, corrections, and things to finish. The files are saved. Everything is tucked safely away into Drobbox. And I don’t want to see the damn thing for at least six months.

Minimum!

Hell… maybe not for a year.

In fact, I might never pick this one back up. It was a HARD project. Or is a hard project, I suppose. For, while I’m finished with the first draft, the thing is hardly “done”. But this one may be as done as it’s ever going to get. I need a break from intergalactic corporations and scheming smugglers. I’m ready to work on something new.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m proud to have worked my way through the first draft of another novel. But this one was an ambitious undertaking. It contained a lot of firsts. Firsts for me, at least.

  • It’s my first far-future sci-fi book.
  • It has multiple overlapping and non-sequential timelines.
  • It was my first fully-outlined-before-I-even-wrote-a-single-itty-bitty-word novel.
  • It was my first project in Scrivener.
  • It’s my first go at an ensemble of POV characters.
  • The main protagonist is not a good guy. I try to make him relatable and likeable, but he’s definitely a bad, bad man.

So… it was hard. And now it’s there. And it’s mine to do with as I choose. Or not.

I’ll take SOMNUS out of the cupboard one of these days. Probably. When I do, I’ll decide if I want to invest more time in it. I might even be excited to do the re-write.

Who knows?

But now, and for the time being…

ON TO THE NEXT BOOK!

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News post on Droblar.com

Panel six is up over at Droblar.com and we have our first good look at Dani running from the wolf. I hope everyone is enjoying the story so far.

I’m both surprised and intimidated by the traffic that Droblar is getting. I’m definitely motivated to hold fast to the schedule and to keep the quality of the artwork and writing the best I can make it. Each week feels like a scramble, especially with my commitments to novel and short story projects. That said, I’m still very much enjoying making Droblar.

I wrote a news post to accompany this week’s update. I’m reposting here so that readers of the blog will know that I’m writing text updates to go along with each new panel now. This first post is a little longer than what I think will be the norm. It covers the following:

  1. News updates
  2. Publication times
  3. Image resolution

News updates

As I mentioned, I’m including a short post (shorter than this one) to accompany each new panel. I think it will be a good way for me to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on with the project. It should also save some time answering everyone’s questions. Maybe someday we’ll get some Droblar forums set up. Until that works out, please keep the comments and emails coming. I am surprised and flattered by each and every one. My hope is that a little news-snippet with each update will help people follow along and allow new readers to get caught up. I’m certainly still learning as I go, so let me know what you think.

Publication times

So… my publication schedule is “every Tuesday”. To date, this has meant midnight on Monday. I’ve been excited to get each post up as quickly as possible. The pages take a ton of work to make and it’s pretty rewarding to see them go live.

However, I’m not convinced that midnight Alaska-time is the best time of day to publish. I’m going to play around with the timing on the updates and the announcements over the next couple months to see what gets the best response. I really don’t like to self-promote. I know that I need to, but it’s work to make myself do it. I’m also allergic to spamming Twitter and Facebook with update notifications. I need to wring the most coverage out of each notification.

If you notice the update time changing, that is why. I’ll still update each Tuesday, the exact time of day will vary a bit for the next dozen or so updates.

Just FYI.

Image resolution

Huge shout out to Dave Hamp ( @thedavidhamp ) for suggesting that I up the resolution of my original artwork.

The Surface is great. I love it. But I’ve missed the fine detail that I get when drawing by hand. I’ve been drawing the panels at 600×800 and 300dpi and then saving down to 150dpi JPEG.  It’ve been somewhat frustrated that everything has been coming out looking thick and blocky.

Dave suggested some changes and I’m super enamored with the results. This week’s panel was drawn at 300 dpi again, but I upped the image size to 1800×2400. It takes much more time to illustrate at this resolution and I think the result is totally worth it. I hope you all enjoy it as well.

Check out Droblar.com and let me know what you think in the comments! =)

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Take that, Cancer!

Movember 2013November is in the books and with it would normally go my accumulated months worth of face fuzz. This year? Not so much… and not so fast.

In case you don’t know and are wondering why the hell I’m talking about my month-long growth of facial hair, Movember is part of the worldwide war on cancer. Men are encouraged to grow out their mustaches and/or beards during the month of November. This is both a show of support and a campaign raising money to fund a variety of cancer battling programs.

The goal is to kick cancer’s ass so hard that its breath smells like boot leather. Men around the world are helping to swing that metaphorical boot one scraggly snot mop at a time.

So for the last few years, I’ve lent the support of my own greying cookie duster.

I don’t normally wear a beard. My wife’s not the biggest fan of being stabbed in the lips every time I sneak a kiss. Still, she’s insistent about my participation in Movember. We’ve both lost friends to cancer and know people who struggle daily against the disease.

When December rolls around, I usually take the beard off and rush into the holiday season with pale, bare cheeks. This year, I’m keeping the ‘stache around for a couple extra weeks.

A good friend is having an eleven-inch tumor removed from his kidney in a couple days. The beard is my show of support for him and his family through the surgery.

It’s my way to tell cancer to piss off. From Hell’s heart, I wave my mouth brow at thee! For hate’s sake, I spit my last breath through my soup strainer at thee!

Good luck in surgery and recovery, Phil. We’re sending our thoughts and prayers out to you and the family.

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Drive Write: Empower Your Verbs

Drive Write podcast

Drive Write: Episode 14 – Free your… No. Empower… Hmmm… Unleash your verbs!

We’re talking about verbs on Drive Write this week. Action! Verbs are all about the ‘doing’ of a thing. They are motion. They are intent. They are what spurs a story relentlessly forward over forty-miles of rough prose.

I don’t know about you, but I frequently don’t take time to ensure that I’ve picked chosen selected the best possible verb for any given action in my stories.

This week’s podcast is a short one, but I like the writing/editing tip enough to make it a cast all its own. I’d encourage you to carefully consider each and every word you write. That’s probably good advice in general and for any type of writing. But in this case, pick one of your stories and try focusing on getting the most bang for your buck out of each verb.  You might be surprised (and pleasantly so) by the amount bloat and vagary that can be pruned away.

Until next week, uh… cheers ‘n’ stuff.

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Character Description – Reprise

DescriptionThe October 21 episode of Drive Write focused on including an appropriate amount of description in stories. I recorded the podcast in response to some comments that David Farland made in an online panel and discussion of those comments in this thread on the WotF forums.

Please give that podcast a listen and read through the comments for more context, but the gist is this:

Many starting authors fail to include enough description in their stories. This doesn’t mean that all stories will benefit from more narrative description. It means that otherwise good stories will suffer if they don’t have the description necessary to engage the reader and drive the plot.

It was a good podcast and well-recieved. I’m sure my thoughts on the topic will continue to evolve as I gain experience and improve as a writer.

The topic generated enough discussion for me to keep it in mind as I worked through NaNoWriMo this year. I was reminded of it again when I saw this Dave Wolverton quote in an email update from the Writers of the Future contest.

Again, I’m not saying that every story needs some hypothetical percentage increase in descriptive content. There are, however, plenty of us who suffer from the white room syndrome. A little reminder to clue listeners in on the whos and wheres of our stories is a valuable thing.

So… this is a comment from Dave Wolverton. Wolverton is the Coordinating Judge for the Writers of the Future contest and this is in response to a question about common mistakes that judges find in WotF submissions.

“Originality is the key element to a story being selected as a finalist in this Contest. It always has been and always will be. You need to come up with fresh ideas to be a successful writer, so we are looking for those who have their own imagination.

“Your story must also resonate with the reader. The main problem that I see are that setting or character description are lacking. The writer has not informed the reader enough about where you are, the circumstances, or the character is barely described. This accounts for 90% of all story flaws.

“Other flaws include the fact that the idea is not new, or the ‘world’ that the story is situated in has not been thought through enough.”

Interesting advice from someone who sees more than his fair share of stories. I felt a quick reprise on the subject of appropriate description was worth a post.

Cheers!