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Sorry to have kept you all waiting so long for an update. Things have gotten a wee bit busy around here. First of all, my employment status has gone way up, so I’m not having as much time or energy for writing, and most everything as been focused on short stories rather than the blog. Anyway…

Each year, Larkspur, Colorado steps back in time and plays host to the Colorado Renaissance Festival. I’ve lived in Colorado my entire life, but it was only a few years ago that I first got the opportunity to attend. I immediately fell in love with the idea of spending a weekend wandering around what is essentially a small village. There are food vendors, musicians, merchants selling all manner of goods. Leather belts and boots and hats are available, as well as pants, shirts, dresses, and accessories of style and colour beyond counting. It really is another world once you step through those gates.

This year is the 36th Annual Colorado Renaissance Festival, and for the first time, I am a part of it. I was hired about a month ago to work at the front gate. I check bags to make sure people aren’t smuggling in contraband (alcohol and outside food, mostly), take tickets, and just generally welcome people. I’ve made it through two weekends thus far, each comprised of two ten-hour days. It’s hot, and I’m on my feet for most of the day, but I’m having fun. I’m in costume and interacting with people who are there because they like being there. I couldn’t ask for more for a summer job. My bosses at the library have been incredibly cool about it too, even shifting my work schedule around so that I wouldn’t have to find someone to trade days in order to work the Ren Fair. There’s not a lot of time to write during the day, but the experiences I’m getting are amazing.

Speaking of my library job, that’s about to change drastically. For the last year or so, I’ve been working with the circulation department at the Pikes Peak Library District. Next month, that will no longer be the case. As of mid-July, I will be leaving the circulation department, and all the wonderful ladies and gentlemen I work with. I won’t be going too far, though, only around the corner to the reference desk. I was hired to a position as an information services specialist, something that I have been striving for since I first joined PPLD. It’s going to be a nice pay raise, but more importantly, I’ll be taking the next step towards eventually earning a Masters of Library Science and becoming a librarian. I’m thrilled to be making the move, but I’m glad that I’ll be staying at the same branch, so that I won’t have to be too far separated from the people who gave me my first opportunity with the library.

Time to break out the ironing board, ladies and gents, it’s my second job interview in the course of a week.

Under normal circumstances, this would be my first of two days off, but instead, I’m going to be going to interview for a forty hour a week job, that holy grail that we’re taught as children that we must achieve in order to be a real adult. This is a big deal, not because it would give me that immense psychological validation and approval from my parents (though it would do both of those things, I suppose), but because it would be something more than the part-time jobs I’ve been working for the last couple of years.

Now I’m in the process of preparing for one of the biggest job interviews of my career to date, and I’ve been given some really good advice. It’s not always quite enough to “just be yourself” in a job interview, because you still have to be the person that the company wants to hire. You have to stand out, especially when you don’t know how many people have already been interviewed before you and how many more are to come. To help me out, my girlfriend‘s mother sent me a list of the fifteen toughest interview questions that I might encounter. I’ve run into a lot of these before, and it’s really great to see some advice on handling the situations where you’re forced to think of something to say in response to “What’s your biggest weakness?” Worst question ever, by the way, aside from “How are you doing today?” Where’s my article telling me how to handle small talk? Ugh.

Anyway, as my longer-term readers are aware, I’ve been job hunting for effectively the entire time that I’ve been keeping this blog. I started The Swords of the Ancients while I was recovering from my first holiday season in corporate retail. Since then, I’ve interviewed for a LOT of different jobs, as I am always looking to expand my horizons and gain new skills and knowledge. Life gets kind of boring if you’re not learning something new, after all. I’m pretty well set in my current job, having worked here for over a year now, but it’s still only part-time. No offense to anyone, but it’s damn hard to live on a single part-time job, no matter where you are. Never mind the fact that I get a little crazy if I have too much free time. It’s a tricky balancing act. Something full-time would help me by forcing me to greater utilization of my time, and make me focus more on my writing during said free time, because it would be more precioussss. Gollum, gollum!

Ayah. See? This is what happens. I mean, yes, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, but some work and too much play makes Philip go crazy. I need to go put on a nice shirt and tie and go pretend to be professional for an hour. Hopefully I’ll have good news soon.

“Leave this to me. I’m British. I know how to queue.” 

One of the best things about my library is the fact that I can put things on hold, and they’ll be delivered promptly for pickup whenever they become available. It’s like Netflix for books. Even new releases can be placed on hold before they physically arrive in the library system. This means that I can track the upcoming books, order them, and get in a queue for things before they’re in stores. Now, granted, everyone in the library system has this ability, but few people utilize it to the fullest. I like to use it to keep up with some of my favorite new manga series. I’m also around fifth in line for a DVD copy of Game of Thrones, and I am thrilled. I didn’t watch any of the episodes when they aired, for two reasons. One, I’m too cheap to pay for HBO, and two, I wanted to finish reading all of the available books before I started the show. Now I can sit down and watch the whole thing.

Speaking of television, has anyone seen the BBC series Sherlock yet? It’s in my instant queue, and as soon as I can dedicate a few hours to it, I’m going to power through. It’s three episodes, each about an hour and a half long, and from all of the reviews I’ve heard/read, it’s absolutely genius. I’ll let you know my verdict, but I can only imagine the power of a show about a modern version of Sherlock Holmes starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. I absolutely love Sherlock Holmes anyway, and I’m quite happy to see that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work is getting so much attention right now.

Since getting back from my trip, I have started a new schedule at work. This has several benefits, most notably the fact that I am now earning partial benefits. I have more hours each week, a slight pay raise, and the same awesome people to work with. Yet another advantage: I’ve got the same schedule every week, instead of my old alternating schedule. My girlfriend and I can carpool three out of my five work days, saving both of us a lot of wear and tear on cars, and money on gas. All in all, it’s a very good thing. Things are looking up. I’m still hunting for a second part-time job, but I’m also starting to be brave and send out emails to the big publishers and submitting short stories to various publications. Needless to say, there’s a lot to do in the near future. Good thing I have plenty of new TV and books to read, and things to write. Look forward to a new writing challenge entry, coming soon to a blog near you.

Let’s face it. Not everyone can be as awesome as Geoff.

Seriously. Awesome.

I was properly introduced to Geoff via one of my professors at UCCS, a man named Tom Napierkowski. This was during my junior year, and one of the rare occasions when V and I actually had a class together. I learned a lot about classic literature from this class, and I started to learn more and more about the authors that I was studying. Now this was hardly the first literature class that I had taken where my professor was highly knowledgeable and very passionate about their particular subject. After all, it’s hard to argue with the people who wrote this or this. Still, my class on Geoff (for that is how Dr. Napierkowski will always refer to the man) was one of the first where I realized that I could understand my professor’s desire to know everything there was to know about a writer.

It’s not just that Chaucer wrote fantastic pieces of fiction. The Canterbury Tales are still read and retold, over six hundred years later. It’s that Chaucer wrote incredible characters. The man understood other people. Want to get a handle on an ensemble cast centuries before Stephen King did it? Read Chaucer. Every one of the characters on the pilgrimage to Canterbury has a story to tell, and each one of their tales reveals a little bit about who they are and what they believe. Whether it’s the noble Knight or the foul-mouthed, but funny Miller, Chaucer put in something for readers of every class and standing. He understood his audience, and he crafted something for everyone, and did it in a believable fashion. If that’s not a sign of an awesome writer, I don’t know what is.

Unlike Dr. Napierkowski and V, I’ve not had the opportunity to swing by Westminster Abbey for a chat with Geoff. I’d love to find myself in Poet’s Corner, and just think about the great people that have been buried there since he was. That’s going to have to wait a little while, I’m afraid. For now, I’ll stow that goal away with all the rest, and try to do some writing that will likely pale in comparison. I had what I hope will be a great idea for a short fiction piece the other day, so I’ll be spending my free time today (so, you know, today) working on that and a load of job applications. If it turns out to be a long enough piece (1000 words or so), I may submit it to Chuck Wendig’s latest challenge, since I’m still waiting to see what Sonia‘s going to throw my way this month. No rush, Sonia, seriously.

As for my reading, well, I decided to go with Larry Niven’s Ringworld to start, and snagged a copy of Fahrenheit 451 for the next reread, since those happened to be the two best titles in their respective shelves at the local branch of the public library. Halo fans take note. Ringworld is a huge inspiration to the titular Halo devices. Potential science issues (which have been addressed by Niven) aside, it’s shaping up to be a great sci-fi read. I’m sorry I didn’t get to it sooner, back in the days when I was first discovering things like Dune and Gateway and 2001.

I’m doing well enough. Better than my girlfriend, I’m afraid. She’s had a rough week of work, as her latest post will tell you. As for me, I’m behind on NaNo again, but I’ve got time today and tomorrow to catch up. I’ve got some pre-fabricated bits of story that I’m going to be able to drop in, so for those of you who’d like to get a taste of what’s to come, check out The Tale of the Sun and Moons Part I and II. The bonus of that is that it’s nearly 1,000 words in rough draft form that I can use to supplement whatever I get around to writing today. Good thing I have Rush to listen to.

I’m sore as hell. My arms are pretty toasted from yesterday. I had the opportunity to fire a handgun for the first time. Now I grew up in a small farming community, so I’m no stranger to firearms and general safety requirements for them. I first learned to shoot with a .22 Winchester, alongside my sisters, under the watchful eye of my father. Several years later, I learned how to handle a 12 gauge pump action shotgun, and eventually a 10 gauge bolt action shotgun built for hunting geese. This was a completely different world. I was using a 9mm Beretta, and it was incredible. I’m not the best shot in the world, and I’ll fully admit that right now. Using the .22 would have been another story altogether, but it was my first time ever using a gun that I could operate with one hand. I’ll get better with practice. At least I hit the target. 😀 I don’t own a gun of my own, and I would love to be able to avoid using one in self defense, but it’s nice to know that I could handle the kick and whatnot of something like that.

It’s difficult to maintain my writing level for NaNoWriMo when Westeros keeps calling me back. I’m now about halfway through the 4th book of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire, A Feast for Crows. I want to keep reading until the end, but I know that it’s going to be a while before we see the 6th book, and I’m closing in fast on A Dance With Dragons. I know I’ve said it before, but seriously, this series is the best fantasy I’ve read in years. Words cannot describe how much I love these books. I’m not one who is often at a loss for words. I hope that I can come close in terms of the man’s ability to build characters that you’ll grow fond of and learn to understand. Honestly, even his villains get to be sympathetic at times. It’s crazy brilliant.

There may actually be something happening on the job side of things. I may be a step closer to Goal #1. My current job is 19 hours a week. This means, due to the joy that is human resources, I do not qualify for benefits. Not at all. I would need to work one more regularly scheduled hour/week to get that. That’s just the way things go, and most of the people who have worked or are working less than 20 hours/week are not pleased with it. However, one of my coworkers is currently employed 24 hours per week. She’s also around eight months pregnant, and will be leaving us shortly. It wouldn’t be ideal, but her position would be open, and I’d be able to apply, and it would be far better than where I am now. Additionally, another coworker was interviewing today for a position at another branch. If she gets this job, I’ll be applying for her 40/week position. *fingers crossed*

Last but certainly not least for the day, is this. I’m a huge fan of R.E.M. Additionally, I’m a big fan of Stephen Colbert. Today, I found something that I didn’t expect, considering that the band recently decided to break up. This. Anyway, I really should get going. I’ve got pumpkins to slice up in preparation for holiday baking, and a lot of words to crank out to catch back up for NaNoWriMo. Good luck, everyone.

It is a fool who does not set goals for himself. A greater fool still is he who fails to accomplish said goals.

This much being said, I’m setting some goals for myself. Some of these are short-term, others may take a little longer, but ideally, all will be met within the next year.

1.) Employment. Gainful employment. I love my part-time job at the library, but it’s only part-time. Granted, I have time for writing and whatnot, but that’s not really all that useful at the moment, when I’ve got student loans and whatnot to pay off. I’d like to secure a full time position somewhere, or at least a 2nd part-time job that will work around my library schedule. This is step one, because a great deal of my goals will be derived from income earned via said employment.

2.) Living arrangements. I want to be in my own place (or at least a shared place) before Thanksgiving. Seriously. Having a little bit of space to myself would be a great boon to my writing/editing plans. See step one. Work arrangements will probably precede housing, since I need to know where I’ll be working to know what I can afford each month, and have a good idea of what kind of commute I might be facing,  especially with winter approaching.

Ned Stark gets all scientific-like.

3.) Get a new computer. I love my Dell, but it’s over four years old, and is a pretty well-traveled laptop. It’s holding up remarkably well, but I’m afraid that it’s nearing the end of its functional lifespan. I’m planning (admittedly probably too far in advance) to replace it with a desktop/netbook pair. I want a custom-built desktop for all my gaming, music, videos, and whatnot. The netbook would be for portability. That way I could write on the go, and still have a couple of decent games with me as well. The price keeps dropping on the little guys, and for what I spent on my current laptop, I could get said desktop plus a netbook that would have all the memory and functionality of my current machine. Crazy how that goes. Again, though, see step one.

4.) Propose. She’s incredibly patient, that girl. The biggest boon of financial stability would be this. I could finally feel like I can ask her to marry me, and know that I can support us both.

5.) Get published. This one’s in the works. We’ll have to see what the editors at Strange Horizons think. Getting any industry notice is big. If they say no, I’ve got other options.

6.) Write a novel. This one is also in the works, thanks to the upcoming NaNoWriMo event. I’ve had the idea for the main plot and most of the characters in my head since January, and they’ve been sharing a lot about their lives with me. When November gets here, I’m going to do my level best to get them all out onto the page. Step five will have a great impact on this novel’s future.

7.) Get in shape. If I can schedule time for writing, I can schedule time to work out. It’s not that I need to lose weight (those of you who have met me in person can attest to this), but that I want to be in better condition. I’m not exactly the most athletic person in the world. I’d like to at least get to the point where I’m not so apprehensive about exercise. Stupid P.E. classes screwed with my self-esteem way too much.

8.) Take full blog control. Those of you who know wordpress know that I’m doing this strictly via the free version of things. I’d love to be able to have the income to toss toward the upgrade, and have my own domain. It’s not that much, I know, but all the same, it’s an extra expense that I can’t quite justify right now.

9.) See Rush in concert. Sounds a little silly, doesn’t it? Still, who knows how much longer the guys will be touring? Right now, they’re at the absolute top of my to-see list, and I’m still kicking myself for missing a couple of opportunities recently.

10.) Travel. I’ve not done any real travelling since high school. I want to go somewhere I’ve never been before, whether it’s here in the U.S. or another country. I’ve still got 2 1/2 years before I have to renew my passport. It would be awesome to get a couple more stamps in it first. England is near the top of the list (thanks to English teachers and certain friends getting to go there). Germany is up there too, even though I’ve already been. I’ve got a lot of family there that I would like to see again. Then there’s the ever elusive Japan… I’ve already admitted that I’m an anime geek, haven’t I? Even if it’s just booking the trip, I’d like to get out of Colorado and go somewhere I’ve never been before.

Is ten enough? Too many? I dunno. I’ll figure it out, I guess.

Today’s been decently productive, writing-wise. I’m hammering out some of the big plot details of my upcoming book in the days before NaNoWriMo, and my characters are growing more vocal again. I’ve also found some really cool stuff. I’m sure you’re all aware of the Occupy movements that are going on around the country. In Boston, they’ve found a pretty awesome way to keep all of the Occupants informed and entertained. Behold, the tent library. This is quite possibly the coolest thing that’s ever happened at any protest, at least from a reader/writer perspective. If only all protests could be this well-served by the public. If only all protests actually made some semblance of sense. Well, we can dream, can’t we?

Scratch that. No luck with the Sofa Mart job. Back to the hunt, yet again.

Can I have another weekend, please? I worked through all of the last one. Granted, my entire work week at the library is only 3 days each time, but it makes for a very full weekend, and it becomes a little difficult to get anything else done. Right now, it’s Tuesday morning, and it’s overcast and beautiful here in my little part of the world. The girlfriend is off to college for the day, so I’m editing a story for her that’s going to be her entry in the latest writing challenge. Yesterday was our four-year anniversary, and so I got to spend the entire day with her, while she was between classes. Friday night, after work, I got to go see a student production of Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. It was a phenomenal black-box-theatre production, and some of my friends were playing various roles. All in all, it was very enjoyable. I didn’t get a whole lot done, though. I’m trying to regain some of that lost productivity, so I’m going to be doing some writing of my own as well.

There’s good news on the job front. I apparently did so well in my interview at Sofa Mart last week that they want me to schedule a 2nd interview, this time with the regional manager. Things may be looking up, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed anyway. I’m also waiting to hear about a status update on what could very well be my biggest project yet. I finally got a story sent in to Strange Horizons. For anyone unfamiliar with it, it’s a weekly online sci-fi magazine. I sent them a copy of Trans-Planetary Express, and now I’m waiting to hear back from them. If they accept it, it would be my greatest writing achievement to date. When this happens, you’ll be the first to know, dear readers. Well, second. I’ll be first.

It looks like the sun is finally managing to drive off some of the clouds outside. I was hoping I’d get through my coffee first, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. I should enjoy it while it lasts. My favorite season is fast approaching, though, and I have a lot to do before it gets here. I’m looking at you, NaNoWriMo.

There are some days that I wish I lived in another time. I’ve been considering the differences in writer networking now and in the past. Our discussions take place on blogs and social networking websites. Now we have this:

When we used to have this:

And facebook doesn't sell beer...

Some of us miss the old days, even though we never experienced them for ourselves. We’re crazy nostalgic people. Who knows, maybe someday fans of ours will flock to our old hangouts to see where we would sit and talk about our writing projects and listen to some fantastic music.

Music, booze, food, and some awesome upcoming writers.

I’ll keep doing my best to maintain the old ways. There’s something incredible about actually talking with fellow writers and idea people in person. There’s a dynamic that exists in places like this that you can’t find on twitter. I guess I’m a generational hybrid, some kind of living anachronism. I’m okay with this. I’m pretty sure it’s how I was meant to be. Anyway, I’ve killed an hour and a half doing stuff this morning and putting this entry together. It’s time to go do some real writing. Peace!

That shouldn’t be a question, when the submission being pondered is a short story for a sci-fi magazine. I’ve been debating what to do with my writing of late, and it seems to me that the most productive thing to do would be to get my name out there. How can this be done? Other than my latest social media addiction, and the upcoming event of the year, I decided that I need to get published.

I’ve already been published, sort of. My senior year at school, I wrote a piece (due to deviantart policies, this one’s tagged with a mature language filter, so non-da members may not be able to see it) in a winterim class that ended up being used in a local publication, Active for Justice. It was just a little mini-newspaper kind of thing, and it included several pieces by my classmates as well. All the same, I’d gotten my name out to more people who hadn’t seen/heard it before. It was a start. I crave more than this.

The question before me now is this: Do I write something completely from scratch, or do I see how they feel about one of my existing (and as cliché-free as possible) microfiction pieces? It’s still open for debate, but I’d definitely love to get something done in advance of the dawn of NaNoWriMo. I am, by the way, registered for this. Be prepared to keep me on my toes when I’ve got my #writing thing going. 😀

Meanwhile, I’m still on the hunt for an actual writing job. Hahahaha. It’s a good thing I’ve still got my sense of humor. I’m trying to get in touch with some local publishers, but I’m not so good at the cold-calling thing. Hell, it took me all day today to gear up to call the Toyota dealer and order parts for my car. I’ll have her back to normal within a week. Stupid parts that there are only one or two of remaining in the country.

Not Pictured: The then-nonexistent drunken handiwork of the idiot who crashed into my parked car.

I’m reading The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr. Normally, I’m not one for non-fiction, but occasionally, something will catch my eye. In this case, the book is part of the All Pikes Peak Reads list for this year. Seeing as I’d already read The Hunger Games, I thought I should attempt to tackle another one of the books on the list. I saw a copy available yesterday, so here I am. It’s intriguing, honestly. The internet has become such a critical part of most of our lives that we can’t go more than a day or two without it. It’s integrated itself into the infrastructure of our country. Information is constantly available to us, and it’s kind of overwhelming. I grew up in a town where we had to use physical card catalogs for a good portion of my early education. I fell deeply in love with physical media, something that remains unchanged. I want to be a librarian, after all. Still, we also had a computer in our preschool. We had at least one in every classroom, K-12. What started as an option for playing games at recess when it would rain quickly became an all-purpose utility. Now I find it hard to go anywhere without taking my laptop, just in case. Carr is attempting to get his readers to realize that, for all its benefits, the internet may be making us stupid. We skim everything, and as Randall Munroe was quick to point out, we fall into the habit of believing anything we read. I’d highly recommend the book to anyone who feels that maybe, just maybe, they’ve come a little disconnected, despite always being jacked in.

And one for the nerds: D&D is going well. My necromancer is off to a great start. She’s already planning which big undead things she wants for minions in the near future. Most notably right now, is this guy.

"Hey guys! I found a puppy!"

That’s a charnel hound. It’s quite possibly my favorite D&D monster ever. It’s a dog. Made from corpses. That occasionally still move/yell for help. Yeah. And then there’s the fact that any time it kills something, it takes that body into itself, and heals damage by doing so. I love this game. I also found this today. I may have to share this list with anyone who has ever considered DMing/GMing a session of any tabletop role playing game. It could save some friendships.

Do you think I vary too much from topic to topic in each post? I dunno. Maybe, but if one 1,000 word post gets out there with everything I need to say, then it means that you’re saved from five separate 200 word posts. You should rejoice. You probably won’t, but you could at least consider it. My point being, that I had some other stuff I thought about saying here right now, but you’re getting off the hook at 800+ words.