Inspiration: Traveling in Snow in Your High-Tech Skimobile

High Tech Skimobile
It’s winter. It’s cold. Damn cold.

All I can say is…I want want one of these.

I mean, if you have to travel in the snow, you might as well do it in style. Plus, my writer’s mind is thinking about skimobile chases through the trees, etc.

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Inspiration: Solar System Necklace

Solar System Necklace

Our inspiration this week is the “Solar System Necklace,” a real piece of jewelry from ThinkGeek that can bought for around 40 bucks. The Sun is on the left, followed by all of the planets. Even the Asteroid Belt is represented. I understand, although it’s not pictured, that there’s also an optional dangling comet that can be added to the necklace.

Now THIS is what I call fashion.

(Yes, yes, I know, Pluto isn’t officially a planet anymore…but the jewelry folks haven’t caught on yet, so let’s not burst their bubble).

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Inspiration: A Ruin in the Forest

Forest Fantasy This is a great picture from As a writer, I look at a picture like this and I wonder…

What heinous crime happened in this crumbling ruin in the forest?

Or, perhaps, taking advantage of the shelter of this convenient ruin:

What danger lurks in the forest just out of view?

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Inspiration: Sunset on Mars

Sunset on Mars, 2005

This is sunset on Mars in 2005, compliments of a very cool photo from Nasa. It doesn’t get better than this, as long as you have a spacesuit on.

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Our New Writer’s Group T-Shirt

I’m a member of Loudoun SF & Fantasy Writers, a writing group that meets here in Loudoun County, VA, just south of Washington DC. And now, we have our own T-shirt, the back of which features the cover of our group’s first anthology, Uncommon Threads.

In fact, that anthology commemorated the group’s one-year anniversary (which is why we’re in the process of putting together a second anthology).

Loudoun County SF & Fantasy Writers Group T-Shirt

Note that the ebook of Uncommon Threads will be available soon (the print edition came out last June). I know this, because I’m the one working on it.

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The Selfish Shellfish

The Selfish Shellfish My friend Asher Roth has just released a children’s picture book called The Selfish Shellfish on Amazon. It’s available in both print and ebook editions. It’s about a shellfish who discovers the joy of sharing.

Asher was inspired to do the book because of his kids. I know that it’s been a special project of his for a few years. He did all the illustrations himself, then added all the coloring, gradations and various effects in Adobe Photoshop. Furthermore, as a children’s picture book, it’s full bleed, which means that the illustrations go right to the edge of each page.

As a self-published project, this was a mammoth undertaking that pushes the very limits of what a print service like CreateSpace can accomplish. Most self-publishing projects don’t have to worry about illustrations, full-bleed, true colors, clarity, image positioning, etc. The result is indisputably worth it, though, because The Selfish Shellfish is absolutely gorgeous from cover to cover.

This Christmas season, give your young children a great picture book that they’ll truly enjoy.

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How the Lord of the Rings…Should Have Ended

Some things are just too funny. Fellow writer Joanne McAlpine brought this little gem to my attention. It’s a very interesting video that’s been floating around Facebook and YouTube.

The deliberate overacting from the voice talent really punches up the humor in this one.

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Operation Eagle: Practically a Military Maneuver

Spy MissionWhen you’re a writer, you get to do unusual things, and it’s all right. Apparently eccentric behavior is expected for writers. A situation arose this weekend which allowed me to exploit this principle.

My sister-in-the-law had to go to Florida on a business trip. Her husband, Steve, my brother, already had a cross country motorcycle race he was scheduled to be in with some of his friends. So there was a twenty-four hour period where they had to do something with their daughter.

They arranged for their daughter, Bailey, to stay overnight and for most of the next day with the family of Bailey’s best friend. Everything was planned in detail, and then the plan fell apart.

Bailey got sick.

The family that was taking care of her was unsure what to do with a sick child that wasn’t their own. Many phone calls ensued between Virginia (where we’re all from), Florida (where Bailey’s mother was) and West Virginia (where Steve was). Operation Eagle was therefore created out of necessity to retrieve Bailey from the family that was taking care of her.

Everybody had a code name. The mission was set in motion by Control, in Florida. Bailey became the Package, located at the Target Site in Ashburn, VA. I was Liberator1, accompanied by Liberator2 (my wife) for backup. We drove over to pick up the Package and take her to the Safe House, otherwise known as our house. Bonehead (Steve) cruised in a few hours later to pick up the Package and take her back to Home Base.

My niece, Bailey, thought it was all pretty amusing, as well as being yet more proof that her uncle was crazy. Being the crazy writer uncle is kinda fun.

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The Gold Standard for True Fans

The Gold Standard, for True Fans There’s a meme circulating in the publishing realm called the “1000 True Fans.” It goes like this: An author can make a living if he cultivates 1000 True Fans. True Fans are defined as the people who like an author’s work so much that they’ll buy just about anything that an author releases, as soon as they can get their hands on it. They’re the ones who buy the hardcover of an author’s new work as soon as it comes out. They buy ancillary products like T-shirts and coffee mugs. They write 5-star Amazon product reviews for all of an author’s works.

The True Fan as a named concept may be a relatively new development, but True Fans aren’t new. They’ve been around for a long time. People just didn’t have an official term for them.

In my humble opinion, the Gold Standard for True Fans belongs to a famous pulp writer from the 1920’s and 30’s. He was a prolific writer who published in virtually every pulp magazine available during the time period. He wrote fantasy, western, horror, adventure, and medieval adventures in a variety of venues. He was even a contributor on the periphery of H. P. Lovecraft’s Chthulu mythos. He created timeless stories of iconic heroes.

His stories are still in print today, despite his early death in 1936 at the age of 30. But ask yourself this question: Why are his stories around? Why haven’t they faded into obscurity like most of the works of other writers from that time period?

The answer: his fans.

When this author died, his fans were so devoted to his works that they banded together to promote his fiction. They created a fanzine called Amra, after a nickname that the author’s most famous character had earned in one of his best stories (the first one that I ever read by this author, as a matter of fact). A succession of executors for the author’s estate made the author’s papers and notes available to fans, who wrote numerous articles about them in Amra. Some of the fans even created a timeline for the adventures of the author’s most famous character, a highly useful reference since most of the stories had been written out-of-order.

Some of the fans who wrote articles for Amra were industry professionals, like well-known fantasy writers L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, and lesser-known writers like Swedish fan Bjorn Nyberg. Amra ran for more than 30 years because fans were so interested in the author’s works. While a few of writer’s works were sporadically published in the 40’s and 50’s, he remained an obscure writer until the 60’s.

In 1966, L. Sprague de Camp made a deal with Lancer Books to publish a series of books featuring the author’s most famous character, with all of the stories placed in order according to the timeline that the fans had created. Where there were gaps in the timeline, authors like Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp stepped in to produce the missing pieces. The result was a highly successful 12-volume series of paperbacks. Sales were later dramatically enhanced when the books were released with flamboyant covers by Frank Frazetta, one of the top cover artists of all time for SF/Fantasy books.

Since then, just about all of the author’s works have been reprinted, often multiple times. There have been at least 5 movies made from the author’s works, including 3 about his most famous character. There have been 3 TV series made about the author’s most famous creation (one live action and two animated series). And games, and comics, and more.

All of this has occurred because of the fans who kept the memories of this author’s works alive, and even convinced a publisher to take a chance on them.

That author was Robert E. Howard. His most famous character was Conan. Other iconic characters include Kull, a tortured king from a time before Conan; Cormac mac Art, a Viking adventurer; Soloman Kane, a Puritan hunter of supernatural evil; Bran Mak Morn, the king of the Picts who fought against Romans in pre-Christian Britain; and Red Sonja, a female soldier from one of Howard’s best non-sorcerous, medieval stories (later translated into Conan’s universe by the Conan comic adaptations of Roy Thomas). And, for those who are curious, the first story I ever read of Howard’s was the famous Conan story, “The Queen of the Black Coast,” which was also the story in which Conan earned the nickname Amra.

Robert E. Howard is the Gold Standard when it comes to True Fans. They kept his works alive when it would have been so easy for them to slip into the forgotten obscurity of the pulp era. They brought Conan and Howard’s other heroes to new generations of readers. They helped Howard almost single-handedly create the fantasy sub-genre of sword-and-sorcery.

We writers should all hope to someday have fans of this caliber.

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What’s Your Dream?

This is a picture of me taken yesterday at Comcast Studio in Reston, VA. About 5 seconds after this picture was taken, I delivered a 6-minute, one-take motivational speech called “What’s Your Dream?” for a segment of the television show, Mastering Business Communications.

David Keener at Comcast Studio

And I nailed it.


I only found out last Friday that I’d be doing the segment. I’d been listed as the tertiary backup, but both of the people in front of me got cold feet about appearing on television.

Unfortunately, my supremely busy schedule and the short notice made it difficult to find the time to write and then practice the speech. So I burned a vacation day at my day job, and took Wednesday off. I completed writing the speech by 10:00 AM. Then I practiced it 30 or 40 times that day. I got to the studio early, and practiced it twice in the actual studio &mash; once without an audience, and once with a couple of my friends watching me.

When it came time to do it on camera, I was ready.

The new episode of Mastering Business Communications will be televised in VA on both the Comcast and Verizon cable networks. It will appear on TV sometime next week, and is currently available on Vimeo (I’m at the 9:15 mark in the episode).

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