Living in a John Hughes Film

I am now in Bellingham, Washington.  It’s a beautiful city and I’m really wishing I had brought my digital camera with me.  As it is, I just have a waterproof camera that I’m saving for the kayaking trip so it will be a while until any of my photographs are digitized.  I’m glad I’m here and fully rested after a night of uninterrupted sleep.

Geting here, on the other hand, was an adventure.

Woke up at 5am on Saturday to find out my flight was delayed by three hours.  Luckily, the airline plopped us all onto a bus and took us up to Minneapolis where we caught our flight.  Once in Seattle, I had to take four different trams to get from my arrival gate to my departure gate.  Then it was the short flight to Bellingham  and a shuttle to the campus.

At this moment, I shall digress for a travel tip – If, while sitting in your own seat on the airplane, you also take up a substantial portion of your neighbor’s seat, do everyone a favor and buy a second ticket.  Don’t whine.  Just do it.  It’s the right thing and won’t get you inserted into a novel where you suffer a painful, horrible end.  Thank you.

That being said, I’m looking forward to a few more days here before having to repeat the adventure back.  Here’s hoping it doesn’t become a Frank Marshall film.  Though I could handle an Abrahams and Zucker flick.

Go West Young Man … Way Far West

… all the way west til you get wet.

That is where I shall be but first, I have to get there.  Tomorrow morning, Steph is taking me to the Rochester airport to catch an early flight up to Minneapolis, then another out to Seattle, and finally a puddle jump down to Bellingham, Washington.

Why so far west?

Why, I’ll tell you!  I’ll be attending the ResNet Symposium. ResNet is basically a conference aimed at technology people in the higher education field.  I’ve been to two of these before – Princeton in 2003, Fredericton, Canada in 2008 – and both times have been a lot of fun.  I get the chance to go sea kayaking on our ‘day off’.  Score!

Oh, yeah.  I hope to learn a lot too.

Cuz, you know.  That’s kind of the whole point of this.

See you all next Thursday when I return to the Heartland.

A Good Year Older

Another day, another year.  Pretty soon it starts to add up, eh?

When I woke up this morning, I sent out a Tweet :


Today was another good birthday and I go to bed happy and satisfied.  My stomach is full of a delicious dinner I asked for (Walnut Burgers, homemade french fries, and broccoli picked from our own garden) and I got a plethora of well-wishes from all around the world.  They came in from twenty different states, Canada, Italy, and Germany.  One was even in Binary.

My favorite?  Probably the Tweet from a fellow VP’er, ChiaLynn in response to the one I sent out this morning:


It’s good to have friends.  Thanks all!

Ages ≠ Wisdom

On this, my final day as a 35 year old, I give you proof that I am no wiser after having been on this Earth for three and a half decades:

Me (leaving the house after lunch) : Well, I’m gonna head back for my last work day as a thirty five year old.

Steph : You going to sign up for the AARP then?

Me : Hey, I can send a picture of your hair along with it.  Maybe we’ll get a family discount!

Steph : *glare of death*

Galloping Guineas

This is a Guinea.

The Fowl

This is the Guinea Gallop.

The Course
The Course

These are the shirts you get for surviving 5 kilometers of prairie, orchard, two stream crossings, steep muddy hills, and not a single paved surface.

Not a Road Race
Not a Road Race

The Gallop is one of the more unique races we run every year.  There are no prizes for where you finish, only for finishing and even then, it’s a random drawing.  All the prizes are donated by local businesses – pictures by Story People, produce and lamb and beef and cheese from local farmers, even massages.  This is why we love the race.

Go Guinea Go.

Try Some Real Writing

“Oh, so you write too?  What do you write?”

“Science-fiction and fantasy, mostly.”

“Ah.  You should try some real writing.”

The above is an actual conversation I had with a visiting professor today.  I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.  I suppose I could have been snarky and comment that ‘Professor’ is sometimes a synonym for ‘Pompous Ass’ or quoted one sci-fi author who once said, “Don’t annoy science fiction writers. These are people who destroy entire planets before lunch. Think of what they’ll do to you.

But I didn’t.  Instead I solved his problem and sent him on his way, came back to my desk, and did some thinking.

This is not the first time I’ve heard this statement.  The Print on Demand press PublishAmerica once said the quality bar for sci-fi and fantasy is a lot lower than for all other fiction … They have no clue about what it is to write real-life stories, and how to find them a home.” Given that PublishAmerica once accepted Atlanta Nights, easily the worst written book of all time (dude – one chapter was written entirely by a random word generator program), I’m don’t know how much weight to give to their opinion.  Do a Google search, you’ll find quite a bit more.

I’m not quite sure what causes people to have this sentiment.  Maybe they just don’t like sci-fi/fantasy.  That’s fine.  I’m not a fan of romance but you won’t see me saying that it’s not ‘real writing’.   It is real.  Formulaic, maybe, but it’s still writing and given that that genre is devoured, I’d say people like it.

Perhaps these people feel that every book must fit into the shelf at a coffee shop or an art house or force you to pause and take a sip of your latte while having a grand revelation about life, the universe, and everything (spoiler – it’s 42).

Who knows?  Here’s my  belief :

One – Not all writing has to be grand and glorious and lead you down a path to an epiphany.  Sometimes it just has to be entertaining.  That’s the sort of stuff that I write and the stuff I enjoy reading.  I live every day in reality; I’m not terribly keen on spending my free time in it.

This is not to say that Sci-Fi and Fantasy doesn’t make you think.  Hell no.  There are hundreds, thousands of short stories and novels that do that.  The really good authors can do both, blending the lesson with the entertainment.  Some day I hope to be included among their ranks.

Two – Fantasy (and by some definition, Science Fiction) is essential to human existence.  Don’t believe me?  Look at ancient cultures.  How much of their folklore revolves around mystical events or other-worldly beings?  How about fictitious creatures?   Crack open the Bible.  Believer or not, you will find some fantastic elements within that tome.

In every case, the fantasy that exists is because our ancestors needed something to be explained so that they could make sense of it and continue on living.  It’s human nature.  And who knows?  Somewhere down the road, we might find out the answer.  The impossible might become reality.

Three – Well … I don’t have a three.  So I’m going to leave you with something my friend Kurt passed my way :

“Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.”

– G.K. Chesterton, Writer (1874 – 1936)

Not Quite Dead …

… I’m just incognito.

In truth, it’s been fairly busy around the Hughes household.  The past week has seen Steph run off to Chicago, leaving me home alone.  One would think that I’d just party all night long but nooo, that doesn’t happen around here.

Instead I spent the week buried in work.  I also got a bit of writing done, including polishing off Chapter 15, in which there is a major reveal.  A lot of other small, little details were worked out including some that I added in earlier chapters and didn’t even realize their implications until just now.

And you thought it was just the reader that was surprised.  Hah!  Us writers sometimes haven’t a clue what’s going on.

Finally, a last shout out – only two weeks until Viable Paradise applications close.  Get cracking.

Geeks Ap-Aaarrrr-tying

w00tstock in a nutshell :
  • Loads of geeky fun and laughs, great music
  • It was Spider-Man’s webbing that killed Gwen Stacy
  • Got autographs from John Scalzi, Wil Wheaton, and Adam Savage
  • Got to see Neil Gaimen himself
  • The Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis’ wireless network *can* survive a thousand geeks with iPods, Androids, and iPhones
  • Four hours of sleep is barely enough to survive a drive back to Decorah

The not-so-nutshell version:

Paul and Storm do a lot of great songs.  Same with Molly Lewis.  I had a great time and did a lot of laughing, surrounded by a ton of people who were just like me – geeks.

One of the most entertaining and educational portion of the night?  A physics lecture.  Hang on, stay with me here.  This was no ordinary lecture, oh no.  This lecture was given to us by Professor James Kakalios who taught us all about physics using the powers of superheroes and it was damned entertaining.  I will be rushing out to buy his book, The Physics of Superheroes as soon as I can.

Wil Wheaton is an incredible writer.  Most non-geek folks will know him for his movie roles (Star Trek : The Next Generation and Stand By Me being the two big ones) but it was his stories that made me laugh the hardest.  The Rocky Horror Picture Show tale was great.  I’ll have to grab a few of his books when I get a chance.  He did sign my copy of Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded, for which he wrote the foreword.

Adam Savage of the Mythbusters – very entertaining in so many ways.  I got his autograph and shook his hand after the show.

A crowd of well-read geeks will go bat-shiat insane when Neil Gaiman walks onto the stage, even if it’s just to say ‘Arrr’.

John Scalzi, as Wil would say, is the awesomesauce.  He is one of my favorite authors and instructor at Viable Paradise, so I hoped I’d get a chance to run into him again.  My one-on-one with him at VP has really helped transform my novel and I wanted to tell him thanks.  So I brought along one of his books (Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded) and wore my VP 2009 shirt.  I figured that it couldn’t hurt to jog his memory of who I was since, after all, the man meets thousands of people every year at conventions.

Turns out I didn’t need it.

I was talking to Steph when Scalzi saw me and immediately said, “Hey!  Matt!  How are you?”  Being a bit shocked, I said, “You remember me?” and he replied, “Of course!”  He asked me how the book was coming and we talked for a minute or so.  I got to thank him, he signed the book, and posed for a lovely picture (lovely in the sense that it was 1am and being photogenic typically goes out the window at that time).

w00tstock was Steph’s anniversary present to me.  If you are not a geek, you might be on the outside when it comes to the festival and that’s where Steph was.  A lot of things she didn’t understand but she stuck it out through the entire five (!!!) hour show, even if it meant she had to drive to Chicago the next morning tired.  Easily one of the best anniversary presents ever.


My 11 Year Old Marriage


Eleven years ago tomorrow (June 5th), I walked down the aisle at Calmar Lutheran Church to be wed to my wonderful bride, Stephanie.  On that day, I walked down that aisle with grace, confidence, and an overwhelming amount of happiness.

This is in sharp contrast to the hours just before where I was an extreme nervous wreck, popping Tums like candy, and recalling the night before where we almost killed my twin brother in a freak Koosh-ball accident and that morning when my father-in-law greeted me with a shotgun after having shot a possum outside of their house.

Weddings – ain’t they grand?

Steph and I plan on celebrating with a trip up to Lanesboro to stay at a bed and breakfast, see a play at the Commonweal Theatre (Picasso at the Lapin Agile), catch up on a lot of overdue reading and relaxation, and finally up to the Twin Cities for the w00tstock concert.

And then, of course, eleven more years of wonderful marriage … at the very least.


Rejection Long Time Coming

One hundred and sixty-one days after submission, Realms of Fantasy passed on my short piece, Korl Builds a Wall.

However, this was not a standard form rejection letter.  No, this one came with a handwritten note from Shawana McCarthy, Fiction Editor at RoF.  I won’t get into what it said other than to say it was pretty spot on and it came from the editor herself, not the slush pile.  That means I’m headed in the right direction.

Not dwelling on it though.  Korl is already packaged up and waiting to go out tomorrow to a new market.