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 www.colbymarshall.com


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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Anyone want to read my new book?

Not my recently, self-published book.  I'm talking about one I finished last summer -- the next one I'm going to send off to literary agents and such to try to get a traditional publishing deal.  I've been editing it for the past few months, and while it's not real smooth yet, it is presentable.  I'm looking for willing volunteers to take a look at it, and give me feedback, so I can fix all the stupid mistakes I've missed but are surely there before real industry professionals start reading it and subsequently scoff at all the afore-mentioned stupid mistakes and throw my story in the trash.  Or click delete or whatever -- in a derisive sort of way.

The story is called Oneironaut.  It's a young-adult contemporary fantasy about objects in the dreamworld that can be carried into the waking world.  Click the 'Oneironaut' tab at the top of my blog to read the full description.

So what do you think?  Interested?  If so, email me at veen.ray@gmail.com and say "I'm in".  Be sure to use the email account you want it sent to, and let me know if you prefer a Word document, or a PDF (which you can move to your e-reader).

Also -- thanks.

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Elfhame" book release

After two years of collaboration, Nancy and I are pleased to announce the release of our self-published, illustrated, middle-grade fantasy novel -- 'Elfhame'.  It's available now.  On Amazon.  

Go get it.  

(Or read this first, and then go get it -- either way).

She knows her mother’s name is Carowyn, she knows their home is at the bottom of a green valley, and she knows that a monstrous changeling currently resides there – sleeping in her bed, eating her meals, living her life under the sun with her mother.
Abducted when she was just a baby, Xierna has known only hardship and labor in the twilight realms of Elfhame. To the men of the Upworld, Elfhame is myth, a tale for children as they’re tucked into bed. But this is where Xierna has lived her entire life, as a slave, insulted and mistreated by her dark masters. Home to the elder races of fae, Elfhame is divided into thirteen peculiar territories, ‘brughs’, connected by a series of enchanted door-chambers. Xierna knows the ancient path through them, she’s ‘acquired’ the proper pass-warde, and when she gets her chance to escape, nothing will stop her from finding her way to the sun. And then on to the green valley with her home and her mother.
She’s made a solemn vow to “get free… or die trying”.



How this book came to be:

Perhaps you've heard of 'changelings'?  The monstrous things left behind when capricious faeries come in the night, and steal a baby from its crib?  I'm sorry -- you thought faeries were good and kind and sprinkled fairy dust around to help make flowers grow?  Afraid not.  If Disney presented faeries the way folklore portrays them,  their movies would be dark, twisted, disturbing things.  Our children would wake up every night crying because they'd had nightmares about the nasty little creatures.  Irish folklore, in particular, is full of stories of changelings, and what people did to drive the monstrous 'crimbals' away.  In my research, however, I found no mention of what became of the infants that were stolen.  In my imagination, they were either raised as slaves, or eaten, and that's where the idea behind this book took root.  (From the slavery angle -- not the other thing).  

Originally written in 2007, I set Elfhame aside for a while to work on young adult projects.  For some reason though, it always occupied a special, mushy, child-like place in my heart.  It's always been one of my favorite stories, and I always kind of fantasized about what it would like if the book were illustrated.  And then in 2009, after my 20-year class reunion, I learned that my one buddies had married a talented artist.  In 2010, I approached said 'talented artist', and asked if she would interested in collaborating on an "art-project" -- a middle-grade fantasy novel -- with the eventual goal of self-publishing. 

She told me, "No way.  Get lost, loser."

Joking.  She accepted, obviously, because if she hadn't, I wouldn't have the pleasure of writing this blog post today.  Without boring you with too many details, I will say that the collaborative process, though lengthy, was a smooth one for us.  Nancy truly is a gifted artist.  And fortunately, she has the patience of saint.  There were many instances where I asked her to do certain illustrations over and over because they didn't quite mesh with my all-important 'vision'.  Luckily she stuck with, and kept cranking the drawings out, and never got the first ruffled feather when I told her I was less than thrilled with one of her pieces.  Long-story-short, here we are, two years later, finally with a published novel.  

As I said before, this is mainly a project book for us, and neither of us has the ambition to do the footwork that self-publishing requires.   We're just happy to have it out there, and this one blog post is the sum total of our entire 'marketing strategy'.  If you feel so inclined, however, Nancy and I would appreciate any shares or re-posts.  Ideally, we'd like you to use the cover image, book description, and link, but hey... you're the one doing the favor.  

"Always let your conscience be your guide."  (see what I did there?)