Why make resolutions?

I know people have mixed reactions toward New Year's Resolutions. Life coach gurus will tell you that the time to make a change in your life is not after some arbitrary date on the calender, but NOW. Resolve to do what you want to do starting TODAY.

Fair enough, but humans are culturally entrained to live by symbols and ceremonies. We crave communally recognized milestones to make the passage of time. Even though holidays, anniversaries and other significant dates are arbitrary, every society on Earth lives and governs itself by them.

Whether fixed (Christmas Day, the date on which you were born/married/ordained/etc.), movable (the first full moon of spring, the last home game of the season), or capricious (the day of your first kiss, the day she left, the night you picked up the gun and then put it down again), these arbitrary dividers between before and after help us make sense of our lives.

Or at least keep the memories in order.

So, take the time at the turning of the year to look back AND to look forward. Look back, because introspection in support of an examined life is rarely wasted effort. Look forward, because deciding what kind of a future you want of the live in helps you to make specific plans and preparations to getting it.

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What happened to last year's resolutions?

Time for the annual performance review. My resolutions for 2013 were:
1. Publish "Verbosity's Vengeance: A Grammarian Adventure Novel".
2. Finish an outline, rough draft, revised draft and polished draft of my next book.
3. Rework my writing schedule to get more done, and refocus my efforts so that the things I'm getting done are what I need to be getting done.
How did I do? It's been a mixed bag this year, an amalgamation of highs and lows.

1. Yes, Verbosity's Vengeance was published on September 14. People who have read it and posted reviews on Amazon and on Goodreads liked it, with some people having enjoyed it quite a bit. If anyone read it and didn't like it, they kept quiet about it, for which I'm grateful. So far, many fewer people have actually taken a chance on the book than I hoped. When the next book goes on sale, these people will have the satisfaction of being all, "Oh, you just started reading Tony Noland? I've been reading him since his first novel."

2. Yes, the rough draft of the next book is finished. It's a sad, brutal mess, and not even close to the polished phase, but at least it exists. I opened a vein for this one, digging into some painful personal experiences to provide characters, plot twists, and overall emotional verisimilitude. I might be tempted to think that most of my readers would rather read something funny from me, but based on sales of Verbosity's Vengeance, I can be confident that even if I alienated my entire existing reader base, those would not be major numbers anyway.

3. Yes, I'm getting more done and have been more focused on the important things. Unfortunately, this has involved dealing with lots of major disruption in my day job that began in May and continues to the present. I've accomplished much less with my writing. My output had to be severely curtailed as I kept the ship afloat, which meant making some hard choices about how I spent my writing time. Rather than doing five things badly, I tried to do two things well. It didn't work out as I'd hoped.

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Trying to Stop Smoking

On the drive from Philadelphia to NE Ohio for Christmas, we had a little "incident" with the minivan. A stalling, lurching engine would be bad enough, but billowing plumes of acrid smoke from under the hood contribute to circumstances which, to say the least, do not inspire confidence in the vehicle. Being 300 miles in either direction from a) home, and b) our destination, we had a range of options available to us, none of them great.

To make a long story short, we made it to where we needed to be, despite the failing transmission. The last couple of hundred miles gave me a new crop of gray hairs to add to the existing collection, but that's the inevitable price demanded by an exciting day. At least it stopped smoking when I shut the engine off.

The minivan is now parked on a street a couple of miles from where I am now. There it will stay until I figure out exactly what to do. Might be a clutch plate, might be something more. Either way, I'm not going to sink more money into this thing. We've wrung the last drops from this husk; it's time to cut our losses and move on.

We were planning on getting a new vehicle after the holidays, but this sudden catastrophic failure has forced my hand. A new minivan will run anywhere from $30,000 - $40,000, an expenditure I was not expecting to make at the After Christmas DoorBuster Sales.

I make about $2 for every copy of "Verbosity's Vengeance" sold as an e.book. If any of you would like to buy 80,000 copies real quick, I'd be cool with that.

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Speaking seriously

Probably the most awkward part of writing an introspective, confessional blog post is the first line. Now that I've gotten that out of the way, I need to decide if this second line will actually get into the meat of what I wanted to say in this post, or continue to beat around the bush as I dither about just how detailed to be in sharing the thoughts that consume me.

A paragraph break will forestall that decision, allowing me to continue to shy away from the real subject of this post while delivering a passable illusion of developing content. Should I do another paragraph break? No, that would make this "paragraph" only a single line, far too brief even for a blog post. My sentences are long and complex, but even one of my more baroque constructions couldn't pull off the trick of standing alone.

But I digress.

Or do I? Is this really a digression? While all this self-referential blather would appear antithetical to my stated goal - i.e. the introspective, confessional blog post I came on here to write - it seems to be accomplishing my REAL purpose, which is to hide my real thoughts and feelings behind a cloud of meaningless textual chaff. After all, the marketplace of ideas has little demand for the inner workings of my mind, however grammatically they are presented.

My head is a crowded place. Like a Time Lord without the time (or the lordliness), I lead too many lives, both simultaneously and in sequence. They bleed across their separating membranes, the triumphs of one diminished by the tragedies of another, the base metal here burnished and elevated by the admixture of gold from there. There is nothing within me that is unalloyed anything, but then, that could be said of any of us, no?


Another stone thrown to the pond,
Another leaf freed from the tree,
Another piece seized from the loaf,
Another word heard out of me.

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Too pretty to be an engineer

We join our hero, Alex Graham (aka the Grammarian), in the middle of a cocktail party conversation with his old friend Walter McHenry and Kate Hunter, a woman he's just met.

"Alex Graham, this is Kathryn Hunt. She’s just moved into town.”
Alex extended his hand. “How do you do, Ms. Hunt.”
“Very well, thank you, Mr. Graham. It’s, ah, Hunter, actually. Kathryn Hunter, but please, call me Kate.”
“Kate it is. Please, call me Alex.” In a moment, another glance between them was enough to cover the awkwardness of Walter’ having gotten her name wrong, and to establish the beginnings of an acquaintance. He let go of her hand. Her grip had been confident and her nails were moderately short. The silver pendant that rested on the upper swell of her cleavage had an oddly cut emerald, offset by five small diamonds. The diamonds were of good but not outstanding quality, probably a third of a carat in all.
“Kate?” said Walter. “Huh. And here I’ve been calling you Kathryn all evening.”
“Yes, you have. Strange, isn’t it?” She sipped at her drink, looking over the lip of the glass at the string quartet. The moment stretched out a fraction longer than was comfortable.
She’s used to meeting and greeting, but doesn’t like small talk, Alex thought. Wears glasses, but skipped them for the sake of her outfit. Doesn’t spend a lot on jewelry, but that pendant is a modern setting. Is she in sales? An administrator of some kind?
Aloud, Alex said, “So, Kate. Did I hear Walter say that you’ve just moved here?”
“Yes, that’s right,” she said, “I moved here last August.”
“August... the start of the school year?” Kate’s eyes narrowed a bit and she inclined her head at Alex. He thought he might have scored a hit, but he couldn’t tell if she was happy about that or not. He went on, “And how are you finding things here in Lexicon City? It’s not been too difficult of a transition, I hope.”
“Things have been fine, thank you. Although I must admit that I haven’t gotten to see much of the city yet. My new job has been keeping me rather busy. I haven’t even gotten my place properly furnished.”
 “I could certainly give you the names of a few furniture stores in town. I’m sure you’d be able to find some suitable items, regardless of your, ah, tastes in decorating.”
Kate smiled and said, “My tastes? Or do you mean regardless of my budget, Alex?” Her smile assured both men that she wasn’t offended, but Alex had to use a minor pulse of power to suppress a blush even as Walter smiled more widely.
“That depends on what your new job is, right?” Walter sailed into the opening. “What is it you do again? We kinda got sidetracked when you were about to tell me.”
Her smile shifted to a half-hesitant quirk of the lips. “I’m at Lexicon Polytech.”
“Oh?” Alex said quickly, trusting that his effort to stay foremost in the conversation with her was not too obvious. “Well, you look a little too well-adjusted to be one of the graduate students.” He smiled, hoping the joke went over well.
 It did. She smiled and shook her head. “No, and I’m not a postdoc, either.”
“Alex, come on!” Walter rolled his eyes. “Does she look like a Ph.D. to you? Besides, LPU is an engineering technology research school. I mean, really, open your eyes, pal! Have you ever seen anyone who looks less like an engineer?” He winked at Kate, all boyish charm.
In a flash, Kate’s smile was gone as muscles clenched along her jaw line.
Uh oh, Alex thought. He glanced at Walter and winced. Even though Kate’s changed expression shouldn’t have been hard to read, Walter was oblivious.
She looked up at the big man and said, “You’re right, Walter, I’m not a postdoc and I’m not an engineer.”
“See, Alex? I told you.”
“I’m a full professor in the Materials Science department. LPU was so eager to hire me away from CalTech, they threw in tenure. My undergraduate work at Yale was in organic chemistry, and my master’s degree at the University of Chicago was in cryogenic electron capture. For my doctoral work at M.I.T., I invented a method for autoassembly of interphase semitransitional solids. Here at LPU, I’m continuing my work on quantum oscillation dampening fields. Lots of chemistry and physics, but you’re right, no engineering degree.”
She handed her empty glass to Walter, whose mouth was hanging open wide enough for his foot.
“Now then, if you’ll excuse me, gentlemen,” she said, “I think I’ve had enough entertainment for one evening. Mr. McHenry, it was fascinating to meet you. Truly, it was. Alex, I still need to get the contact info for those furniture shops you mentioned. I’d love to get together with you to discuss it. Perhaps sometime this week we might meet for coffee?”
Alex, pleased and surprised, caught the chagrined look on Walter’ face. However, before Alex could say anything, a pistol shot exploded from the far side of the room, followed by a man’s voice, shouting, “All right, nobody move!”
At the last instant, Alex remembered to temper his reaction down to that of a normal man. He turned toward the sound of the gunfire. At the far end of the room, a dozen armed men, masked and wielding pistols and automatic weapons, pushed their way through the crowd. The guests and partygoers were shoved ahead, some of them tripping and falling. Around the room, dozens of people were digging out cell phones. A half dozen security guards lay unconscious by the doors.


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Indie Interview: Larry Kollar

My friend and collaborator Larry Kollar (@FARfetched58) is celebrating the release of the newest book in the Accidental Sorcerers series, "The Sorcerer's Daughter". I invited him onto Landless so I could learn a little more about the man behind the books.

Tony Noland: Larry, congratulations on "The Sorcerer's Daughter"! Tell us about it.

This is the third book in the "Accidental Sorcerers" series. While Bailar, Mik, and Sura help the Conclave prepare for potential conflict with rogue mages, Sura learns that she is a scion of a noble House in one of the Alliance cities. But when she learns the price of her history, it may be too late.

This was a fun one to write. It starts out with a snowball fight, which provides a vehicle for tying up the last loose end from Water and Chaos, the second book. They prepare to teach combat magic to other apprentices, and have to prove themselves to some of the older kids. Finally, there's an escape and a chase scene at sea!

With this book, the first meta-plot of the series, Sura's origin story, is complete.
TN:  You're a prolific indie author, with a number of titles out on the market. Do you see writing as a career?

I write technical documentation for a living, so… in a way, yes. ;-) As far as writing fiction, I've calculated how many books I'd need to sell on a regular basis to do it full time. It's a pretty big number, but some indies have racked up bigger numbers. I need to step up my marketing game.
TN: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I was very young. I have been able to read as long as I can remember, but remember puzzling out the concepts of "quoted dialog" and paragraphs when I was 5 or 6. I think I started trying to write stories soon after.
TN: What was the hardest part of writing your book?

Trying to avoid cramming too many subplots into a novella. What got cut was the relationship between Charn and Isa, the friends at the annual Gathering. Charn now has a girlfriend at home, but doesn't know how to tell Isa. Meanwhile, Isa is willing to do anything to keep him…
TN: It sounds like there's a long plot arc for these characters. What’s next?

The next story is Into the Icebound. With the apprentices finally coming into their own power, their challenges are growing as well. Plenty of action!

TN: Thanks, Larry! Good luck with "The Sorcerer's Daughter" at Amazon and over at Smashwords!

Larry Kollar lives in north Georgia, surrounded by kudzu, trees, and in-laws. His day job involves writing user manuals—some of which may have been fiction, but not by intent. He has had short fictional works published in the Hogglepot Journal, the Were-Traveler, and the anthology Best of Friday Flash, Vol. 2. Longer works include his first novel, White Pickups, and the popular Accidental Sorcerers series. For more of his strange fiction, and even stranger reality, visit his blog, Far Manor, and follow him on Twitter as @FARfetched58. For first looks and exclusive offers, join Larry’s “Fleet Commanders” mailing list: http://eepurl.com/nDOP9

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"my top five favorite books"

A new review of "Verbosity's Vengeance" not only gives it 5 stars, the reviewer puts my humble effort among his top five favorite books of all time. Why? From the Amazon review:
I've always been a fan of the superhero genre, but it's not everyday that a story in that category would move me in such a profound way. Given the nature of my favorite paragraph in Verbosity's Vengeance, I cannot help but feel moved. It's likely because I agree with the sentiment of just how powerful language really is. This story reinforces it in spades, and I encourage other fans of language to pick up a copy of this story.
There you go! If you love language and respect the power of well-chosen words to transcend the limits of space, time, and human existence, you will love my book.

Alternatively, if you are just looking for a fun, intelligent, exciting superhero story with lots of explosions AND clever wordplay, you'll also love my book! Available now for $2.99 for the Kindle reader and Kindle software. Makes a great present for ages 12 and up.

Still not convinced? Read the first couple of chapters for free. Just click on the cover to open the book and start reading!

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My next book

My 50K NaNoWriMo is sitting quietly on my hard drive, marinating in its piquant first draft juices. It's a corporate thriller, full of threats, intimidation, double-dealing, and innocent people used by indifferent forces to achieve twisted ends. Evil is sometimes thwarted, sometimes rewarded, and if virtue triumphs, then the game isn't over yet. This is a story I've been wanting to tell for years, and I'm glad the writing went the way it did for NaNoWriMo. I'll let this draft sit for this month, then start revisions in January.

This will be my next book, written in a different way and to a different standard than "Verbosity's Vengeance". Whereas the debut novel detailing the adventures of the Grammarian was a full-length novel of 108K, I'm going to make this one half that length at most. The production time associated with it should be a third of what "Verbosity's Vengeance" took.

In writing "Verbosity's Vengeance", I shared the angst and uncertainty of the writing process. While this helped to whet the appetite of a few people, it mostly drained me of the fire needed to re-write it. I spent a lot of time writing about writing the book, instead of just writing the book. That in turn extended the production time, which I believe cost me significantly.

Maybe it's oversharing to observe that most of the hopes I had for "Verbosity's Vengeance" have been crushed and stripped away by the experience of bringing it to the light of day. They were unreasonable hopes, of course, but as they were the hopes of a know-nothing, debut novelist, working with minimal support or backing, unreasonable hopes were to be expected. Now that uninformed hope has been replaced by a measure of experience, I'm better positioned to know what to expect the next time around.

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The Moving Finger writes

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
 Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit,
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
 Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

But helpless pieces in the game He plays,
 Upon this chequer-board of Nights and Days,
He hither and thither moves, and checks… and slays,
 Then one by one, back in the Closet lays.

And, as the Cock crew, those who stood before
 The Tavern shouted— “Open then the Door!
You know how little time we have to stay,
 And once departed, may return no more."

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
 A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread—and Thou,
Beside me singing in the Wilderness,
 And oh, Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Myself when young did eagerly frequent
 Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
 Came out of the same Door as in I went.

With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
 And with my own hand labour’d it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d—
 “I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”

Into this Universe, and why not knowing,
 Nor whence, like Water willy-nilly flowing:
And out of it, as Wind along the Waste,
 I know not whither, willy-nilly blowing.

And that inverted Bowl we call The Sky,
 Whereunder crawling coop’t we live and die,
Lift not thy hands to It for help—for It
 Rolls impotently on as Thou or I.

(Translated by Edward FitzGerald

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#GreenTuesday e.book sale

Green Tuesday! 11.3.2013After Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes Green Tuesday! The e.books you buy today in the Green Tuesday e.book sale are all made from 100% recycled electrons, guaranteed! Even better, those electrons aren't just recycled on the producer end; they are fully recyclable after you're finished with the e.book.

These e.books, including "Verbosity's Vengeance", are trans-fat free, gluten free, cholesterol free, cruelty free, and (at only $0.99 each) practically free free.

A wide range of titles are listed in the Green Tuesday e.book sale, so hop on over and take a look. You're sure to find a few fun reads to fill up that e.reader you just got, or to pre-load the e.reader you're planning on buying for yourself or a loved one.

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