Friday, April 17, 2015

Ode to Spring

Today I sat out on my deck with a big mug of coffee, and strummed a couple quiet songs on my guitar.  It was sunny and gorgeous and warm, birds were singing, dogs were barking to be let out -- but I didn't let them out -- because they annoy me. 
Instead, I enjoyed some privacy with only the songbirds for company.  We even decided to perform a song together.  Like to hear it?  Here it goes, it goes like this...

(recorded with my phone - forgive the sound quality)
There's no video, just a lame, Spring-time selfie.  Sorry.  If you want, you can make fun of the single gray hair that popped out when I pushed my glasses up on top of my head.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I want to call myself a writer again

Starting next Monday, I'm totally doing it.  Unfortunately, at this particular moment in time, I have no fucking idea what I should work on.  Forgive me if I start to sound whiny or wishy-washy, but I'm writing this blog post in an effort to puzzle it all out.

You know what would be helpful?  If someone would read this whiny, wishy-washy blog post, and just tell me what to work on.  That'd be great.  Mind doing that for me?  Thanks so much.

I guess the smartest, most efficient thing I could do would be to clean up one of my two, most recent novels, and just start sending them the hell out.  Yes, I have two, fully-written, somewhat edited books that I've never tried to get published.  The problem is that I'm just not super excited about them anymore.  I wrote them.  Now I want to forget them.

The second smartest (and second most efficient) thing I could do, would be to finish my most recent novel, which is fully plotted, and half-written -- over 200 pages down, and less than 200 to go.  This story interests me more, but again, I'm not quite what you would call 'super-duper-excited' about it anymore.  And if I'm going to dive back in to the writing life, I should probably pick a project that really fascinates me.  Yes?  No?  Duh?

So then I started looking over all of my old 'ideas', and 'unfinished' folders.  And DAMN... I really have a shit-ton of cool ideas for stories.  Some of them are paragraph-long concepts, some are several pages worth of notes, some are fully plotted -- some even have a few experimental first pages written.  I would love to write every damn one of these stories someday, but one in particular...

One story idea actually got me 'excited'.

As soon as I started reading this file, I was like, "THIS!  This shit is cool.  This shit is funny.  I'm gon write the hell out of this shit!"  And two pages into the document, it inexplicably ended.

Sadly, I have no freaking idea where I was going with it.  I think I must have started it on a day where I had it all worked out in my head, and then shortly after I sat down to get it all written down, I must have been interrupted by one of my kid's calling me sick from school, or some other, random, family emergency (which there have been a lot of in the past year).  And the thing is, I try like hell to write really unique stories, with lots of surprises and twists, and in this case, I had the set up all worked out, but not the explanation.  I have a few lame guesses, but I think it's pretty much lost forever, and that just sucks every flavor of Shwetty Balls.

So how about...

  • A 'Lord of the Flies' story with kids from multiple decades and multiple countries all waking up on an interstellar city hurtling through space?
  • A sleazy fake-psychic who unlocks his true powers when he cold-reads a beautiful, exotic woman that turns out to be a savage serial-killer in league with a necromantic cult?
  • Four different-aged clones of the same man on a scientific quest to unlock a gateway into the higher dimensions, thereby 'achieving heaven' without death?
  • A writer desperately searching for his girlfriend to save her from a succubi that would use her to awaken a goddess intent on turning the whole world into a mindless garden of sensuality?
  • A burned out musician pursued by a clandestine group determined to use his genetic material to recreate the mythological race of elves through cross-breeding and gene-splicing?
  • A young man kept as a pet in a transparent habitat by inscrutable alien beings?  (He's not the only exotic 'pet' in the habitat -- and there are some interesting toys)

FYI, these are just the plotted ideas.  Soooo many more, tantalizing, half-fleshed out ideas.  I almost wish I had fewer story ideas so that I could focus on one long enough to finish it and send it out.  Basically, I'd like to stay excited about one thing before I get another, more exciting idea, and lose interest in the first thing.  But I guess that's just not me.  Unfortunately, this all leaves me still stuck with the same problem, and after this whole long post, I'm not one bit closer to figuring it out.  The question remains...

What to work on?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ode to winter

Plowed my driveway today, hopefully for the last time this season.  I haven't mentioned my plow on this blog before, because basically, last time I blogged, I didn't own one.  And now I do.  Want to know why?  Because Winter 2014 kicked my ass so hard.

Let us enter the way-back machine, and picture, if you will...

One-hundred and thirty inches of snow.  Polar vortexes.  Blasting sub-zero winds.  White-outs so thick you couldn't see past the end of your hood.  And here in the country, the roads (and my driveway) would drift over every few hours.  It literally could not be plowed/snowblowed/shoveled fast enough.

With the van I had last year, every night, driving home from work was combat.  A daily, white-knuckle, death-defying winter gauntlet.  This one night I got bogged down in a road-covering drift, got stuck, and had to dig myself out with the shovel I carried everywhere I went.  I tried to barrel through the drift harder - got stuck again.  After I dug myself out for the second time, I backed up and tried a different route, only to get stuck in another drift, behind a 4-wheel-drive truck.  While I was digging myself out again, another 4-wheel-drive truck got stuck behind me.  And then a third truck tried to come down the road from the opposite direction, and got stuck on the far side of the drift.  (Lots of people drive trucks out here in the country - the smart ones anyway).  From approximately midnight to 2am, I became part of a small group of winter refugees, banded together to ensure our mutual survival.  We dug, we pushed, we froze in the bitter arctic wind, we dug and pushed more.  Eventually some people who lived on the road came out and tried to help, but ultimately, none of us made it out that night.  The best we could do was get our vehicles into these neighbor's driveways, and then impose on their hospitality for the night.  So yeah.  I ended up sleeping on a stranger's couch.  Guy was cool though.  Gave me dry socks and a couple beers, so I went to sleep 5% less frustrated.

So.  This summer, when circumstances forced me to unexpectedly purchase another vehicle (one of my teenagers smashed one of our cars; to protect HIS anonymity, I won't say HIS name), I bought the hell out of a big red truck with a big red plow.

Winter 2015 wasn't nearly as bad, thankfully.  There were maybe ten bad storms, and plenty of snow and polar temperatures, but it wasn't so sould-crushingly relentless as last year.  But hands down, the absolute best thing about Winter 2015 - I got to do this...

(and hopefully the last swipe of the season)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

I'm with the band

Since it's been approximately 62 years since I've blogged about my kids, thought I'd go ahead and share this here video.  Chantze isn't in it, unfortunately, because he's a big college dude now, and he was off visiting his girlfriend's college for the weekend.  Hailie IS in it, only she couldn't sing on account of some vocal-chord viral infestation.  Cindy is kind of in it - she's the one taping.

So without further ado, the thing which I currently enjoy doing most in life, me and my offspring making music:


Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Since I'm blogging again...

Because my reasons for blogging have changed dramatically, I plan to do a few things differently.  These here, are 'Ray's Rules for Blogging' (new and improved):


1. The primary audience for this blog -- is future me.  As such, I plan to think of this as on online diary, one in which I wont get mad if people find and read it.

2. I won't hesitate to share boring or tedious stories about my family, because I won't worry about boring my audience, because my audience is 'future me', and that guy LOVES stories about my kids.

3. I won't apologize for long time gaps between posts because present me got annoyed with past me for doing that pretty much every 2.5 posts.  (I understand there were six-month gaps all over the place, but future me probably won't be paying real close attention to the time stamp -- present me didn't.)

4.  I'm gonna try to tone down the split-personality shtick

5. I'm gonna let myself  use appropriate, grown-up expletives because that's just how present m... er, that's just how "I" talk. (shit-fuck-damn-shit)

6.  I blog for fun.


That is all.

Friday, February 13, 2015

I really admire the guy who wrote this blog.

The last two days, I've gone back and read every single post, from the beginning.  Every. Single. Post.  I also read Wordslinger's earlier blogs: Chilldaddy, about his writing, and Veenie Babies, about his family (this blog is apparently his 2008 attempt to combine the two), and the experience was quite... something.

It was interesting.  It was funny.  It was even poignant at times.  But mostly -- it was inspiring.  Before I say how, I should mention that it wasn't all good.  If I'm being honest, the chronicles of his almost bi-monthly attempts to quit smoking were kind of pathetic.  As was his delusional certainty that he'd be a published author within the next few years.  I really feel kind of bad for the guy, in an almost grateful 'thank-God-I'm-not-that-dude' sort of way.  You know, like when you drive by a horrific traffic accident and then feel a little guilty because you're not so much sympathetic, but more relieved, because neither you nor your loved ones were involved.  Anyhow...

You want to know what was inspiring?  Wordslinger was one passionate son of a bitch.  Dude was all about his writing, and thoroughly, almost sickeningly, infatuated with his family.  I myself spend most of my free time drinking and playing guitar and X-box, whereas Mr. Wordslinger set goals and accomplished things.  And very impressively balanced the pursuit of his dreams with the needs of his charming young family.

Don't get me wrong, I don't consider myself a worthless slob, by any means, but when I compare myself to the author of these blogs, I find myself a little lacking.  I find myself wanting to be more like him: to learn from him, and get back to doing important things for important people. I also think I'd like to maybe publish a book some day.

The first step, I think, would be blogging.  Not to attract followers, or 'network', or try to impress anybody in any way.  But purely for the writing practice.  And also for some future version of me that might come back and read these things and be grateful that someone had the wisdom and foresight to chronicle these shockingly brief years.

In closing, I would like to thank Mr. Wordslinger.  It was very enlightening following your progress and hearing your thoughts on your path to publication (despite the fact that it never happened).  More importantly, I'm extremely thankful for the stories you shared, the places that you went, the adorable things your children did and said that would have been lost to history had you not blogged about it ten years ago.

Yes, I started my first blog TEN years ago.

And I am soooo glad I did.


Monday, September 1, 2014

A moment of zen while mowing my lawn with beer.

I still have dreams.  Even at what is statistically the middle of my life.   And I still have every intention of working hard, and making them come true.  But I realized something today...

I don't ever need to be any happier than I am right now. 

Even if nothing in my life ever gets "better", I've already succeeded in everything that counts.

It happened while I was mowing.

I stopped in the back corner of my yard to move a branch that had fallen out of the woods that border my property.  Before I re-started my 'yard-machine', I sat for a moment.  Took a long swallow from my beer.  The wind was in the trees and the waving branches sent dapples of sunlight dancing over the freshly-mown grass.  Our lunk-head dog was capering about thirty feet away, trying to nip a butterfly out of the air.  Someone came to the slider on the deck to call him in -- from that distance I couldn't tell if it was my wife or my daughter -- either way, someone who owns my whole heart.

Then the zen came over me.

Who, ever -- in the history of everything -- could seriously ask for more than this?

The breeze and the sun on your face, the taste of a good beer, domestic tranquility.


Despite any imagined 'problem', despite any unfilled dream, I felt all the contentment in the world.  As much as any one man could bear.  It all rushed in and I was frozen.  For nearly ten full minutes, I was paralyzed.  Staring at the woods, watching the wind in the branches, staring at the grass I'd just cut, staring at the deck on the back of the house which contained every reason for being alive.

I'll leave you to guess how I responded physically, but... you know... keep in mind what a manly stud I am.  Try not to assume I did anything too wimpy because -- whatever...

Anyway.  That'a pretty much it.  Why don't you go read some other part of the internet now?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Live from the Can (and other music)

This blog is still a part of my home-tab thing in Chrome. So here you go, Ray: a handy way to get to your music videos quickly. No need to thank me, because...well... I'm you. And that makes this here link mutually beneficial.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Meet the Amazing Colby Marshall

And now, something I haven't done in a very long time -- guest post.  This is Colby Marshall, an awesomely funny and talented lady, here to say a few words about life after 'the deal.  Read her bio and synopsis, then read what she has to say about the experience.  You'll be glad you did.  I know I am.

Thanks for stopping by, Colby.


Bio: Writer by day, ballroom dancer and choreographer by night, Colby has a tendency to turn every hobby she has into a job, thus ensuring that she's a perpetual workaholic.  In addition to her 9,502 regular jobs, she is also a contributing columnist for M Food and Culture magazine and is a proud member of International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.  She is actively involved in local theaters as a choreographer and sometimes indulges her prima donna side by taking the stage as an actress.  She lives in Goergia with her family, two mutts, and an array of cats that, if she were a bit older, would qualify her immediately for crazy cat lady status.

Her debut thriller, Chain of Command, is a about a reporter who discovers the simultaneous assassinations of the President and Vice President may have been a plot to rocket the very first woman -- the Speaker of the House -- into the presidency.  Chain of Command is now available, and the second book in her McKenzie Mclendon series, The Trade, is due for publication by Stairway Press in June 2013.

Chain of Command is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Sony, iBooks, Kobo, and other major e-readers, or in select independant bookstores.

Watch the official book trailer for Chain of Command here. 

You can also learn more about Colby and her books at


Every author goes from being a nobody to being a nobody who is published.

Yes, I know it sounds cynical, but in ways, it’s the truth.  When your book finally hits the stores, you move into that wonderful stage of being a real, honest to goodness author with some excitement and some success surrounding it, a little trepidation dosed in for good measure.  You sign books for folks, you hold your own paper copy in your hand, sure it’s the best smelling thing you’ve ever come across.  You feel over the moon, on top of the world, and a dozen other clich├ęs that mean you couldn’t be happier.

Then comes that awkward stage no author can ever prepare for if only because you don’t ever realize it will happen to you: the phase where your book—the novel that was years in the making, was your dream, your baby, your everything—is suddenly just one more thing you’ve done.  You’re a working author now, and the novel that was your world, the one you built up in your mind to releasing now has to be put on the backburner in favor of *gasp* a career.  Yep, it’s time to do some new writing, to edit new books.  These new pieces of writing must become your everything
But suddenly, the shimmer and glimmer of the white wedding publishing dream isn’t on the table anymore, so while writing new books is exciting and fun, it’s now a very different thing for you than before.  It’s not a pipe dream.  It’s just an aspect of your life.  You no longer eat, sleep, and breathe the thought of getting published, which can be a bizarre transition because for SO long you have eaten, slept, and breathed the idea.  You realize, “Christ skipping around the maypole, I don’t get those same tingles thinking about books or have an obsession with my website hits or my Amazon rankings anymore.”  It’s just all in a day, both a beautiful thing and an ugly thing at the same time.
It really is like being a virgin (uh oh. I’m going here).  This thing that is so great is built up in your mind, and then it happens.   It’s a huge deal.  But after that, the mystery and ordeal surrounding it isn’t an ordeal anymore.  Sure, the sex can be great, but it will always be different.  And it’ll never again be your first.  You’ve crossed into the realm of knowing, and it won’t be that SAME excitement.  You will have a different perspective, because it’s your reality now.

So, as I prepare for my second book to release this summer, I savor the memory of what it felt like to hold that first book in my hands, to finally have it in print on my shelf.  I can’t help but know it’ll never be the same, and yet, something about imagining seeing that second book on the shelf is just as exciting in a new way.  After all, having a second book out is something I’ve never done before, too.

Have you ever had something really exciting happen only to discover you were sad you didn’t have it to look forward to anymore?  How did it change your perspective?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Heh.  Two months since my last weekly blog post.  Fitting.  Also a nice segue into what I'm here to talk about today.  See, I do this thing where I slam through my writing projects and make monster progress for a few months, and then... crickets.

Right now, I'm coming off crickets.

Since my kids started school last fall, I self-published one book (an art project), wrote another book, and edited a third.  And then in December, I took a break.  Kind of a 'catch my breath during the holidays' sort of thing. If you want to know the truth, besides Christmas and everything, I spent most of that month vegging out on Skyrim.  In case you haven't heard of it, it's the best damn video game of all time.  For real.  And it took me well into January to finish most everything.  Then my birthday came, and my amazingly sweet and hot wife gave me a banjo.  Because I just love the hell out of some Mumford & Sons.

So yeah, my 'holiday sabbatical' lasted until Valentine's day.  And here's what I have to show for it:


No, I'm not done playing the banjo.  I just feel like I've reached a sort of a hurdle.  Confident enough to back off a bit and spend the bulk of my free time doing what I'm supposed to be doing: writerly stuff.  Until summer, anyway.  Cuz that's a whole new sabbatical.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"The Next Big Thing" Blog hop

I like memes.  I really do.  They're an easy blog post, and they give me a good opportunity to talk about one of my favorite subjects -- me.  So go ahead, friendly-friends.  Tag me in all the memes you want. 

Today, it's 'The Next Big Thing' blog hop, courtesy of my excellent Michigan writer buddy, Sarah Perry.  Thanks, lady, and by the way, I noticed the link to Elfhame on your blog.  So double thanks, times two.  (That's right -- exponential gratitude).

Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:

1. What is the working title of your book?  

"Oneironaut."  I'm not married to it, though.  It's a real term that means 'explorer of the dream world', and while it's a really appropriate title, people seem to be having trouble with it.

2. Where did the idea come from for the book?

I get these amazing lucid dreams when I take naps in the middle of my writing day.  Seriously haunting, tactile, resonant, lucid dreams, where I fly, and float through walls, and change the very laws of physics on impulse.  So I knew had to write a book about them.  Also, I just wanted to write a book where mundane objects have unexpected and extraordinary powers (ever see the miniseries, 'The Lost Room'? -- completely made of awesome).  So that, plus lucid dreaming, equals Oneironaut.

3. What genre does your book fall under?  

Young adult contemporary fantasy, I guess.  Though there's no magic or traditionally 'fantastic' elements.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I'm blanking on this one.  I don't really know many actors, or much about Hollywood, in general.

5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

A young man crippled by physical and emotional disabilities finds that in the dream world, he's strong and free and powerful, and can take hold of certain objects and carry them into the real world: objects with strange powers.  (If it has to be one sentence, you should expect a lot of conjunctions.)

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?  

Traditionally published, all the way.  I don't know where, and I don't know when, but after fifteen years of hard work and sacrifice, I don't plan to settle for anything less.

7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I'm gonna say eight weeks, though there was a two year delay in the middle.  (While I had an agent and we were messing around with an earlier project).

8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?  

The "Dream Catcher" series by Lisa McMann, and The "Dreamhunter Duet" by Elizabeth Knox.  Though these books are very different, they're YA, and they're about dreams.  (Mine has no romance -- actually there's a disturbing lack of female characters in general).

9. Who or What inspired you to write this book?

I typically only get 5-6 hours of sleep per night, so a lot of times, in the middle of my writing day, I take a half-hour to an hour nap. Turns out I've been inadvertantly doing something called 'polyphasic sleeping', which has been shown to increase the incidence of lucid dreaming. So yeah, between that, and the fact that I interrupt the most creative part of my day to sleep, I've always had wild, amazing, kick-ass lucid dreams during my writing-naps. This book pays homage to them.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I did a lot of research into dreams, both the psychological and physiological aspects of it, and I like to think that while they're enjoying the story, readers might also learn something from Oneironaut.  Like how to 'lucid dream' for example.  If you've never had a lucid dream... you're really missing out on something amazing.


My 'five' writer-buddy tags:

Vivi Bickell
Monica Murphy
Mary Paddock
Anita Laydon-Miller
Heather Kelly

'Newcomer to Wordslinger' bonus tag:
Terri K Rowe

(and here's what you 'five' writers need to know to participate:)

Rules of The Next Big Thing

***Use this format for your post
***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress)
***Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them.

Monday, November 12, 2012

It's National Novel Writing Month...

...and I'm a contender.  For those who haven't heard of Nanowrimo before,
"National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30.

Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved."

So we're eleven days into it, and technically I'm 'losing' at this point (note the par-level word-count bar which taunts me daily), but the good news is that I'm finishing one of my older, unfinished stories. And that's my actual goal -- just getting one more on the shelf.  According to Nano's rules, unless you start a new story on page one, you're what they call a 'rogue', so yes... I, Ray Veen, have gone 'rogue'.  But that's not so bad either.  Who minds being called a 'rogue'? Really, that just ups my street cred: "Ray Veen -- Writing Rogue".  Almost as cool as 'Ray Veen -- Wordslinger'.  But I digress.

The reasons I'm posting today are two-fold:

  1. To give the thousands of slavering, 'Ray-Veen-obsessed' lurkers out there some idea of where I'm at in my writing.  My official status is thus: cranking out a new project while my last project is out for beta.  Letting it simmer until it's time to do the next round of editing.
  2. Trolling for encouragement.  Because if I lose Nano again this year, it'll be my seventh in a row.
All right, slavering lurkers.  Time to not blow up my comment box.