Spring Break 2015

Trish and Aaron Pogue at AT&T Stadium I’ve done a couple of posts now about living the high life thanks to the slow, certain success of my most recent business venture. I have one more to share, but this one is only tangentially related to Draft2Digital. In fact, I think it was the first time this year I took time off from work.

Earlier this month, I took a road trip with the family. We went down to Dallas (about a three-hour drive) for three days in order to accomplish three things:

  • Dinner at Texas de Brazil
  • A tour of the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium
  • Shopping at Ikea

(Just guess which one of those items Trish picked.)

(You are correct.)

Nicki and Kris Austin at AT&T StadiumActually, she was pretty excited about all three. And, come to think of it, there was a pretty important forth item on the list:

  • Socializing

That’s because we took this family road trip with another family in tow: The Austins joined us for the whole weekend.

For those who don’t know, Kris Austin is the CEO of Draft2Digital who accompanied me on both of those last two outings I wrote about. But I knew Kris for more than a decade before Draft2Digital existed. Our families have been close for as long as they’ve been discrete families. We all have dinner together a couple of times a week, and our kids are close as cousins.

Annabelle, Jason, and Alexander in DallasSo everyone was on board when I suggested this trip. We drove down Saturday afternoon, checked into the hotel (and it was a nice one), then headed straight to Texas de Brazil, where we had a reservation waiting.

If you don’t know Texas de Brazil, you should. It’s a Brazilian churrascaria that represents the perfect union between a fine steakhouse and an all-you-can-eat buffet. Even their salad bar is almost worth the price of admission.

I’ve been three times now,and it just doesn’t disappoint. It’s a feast and an experience and a luxury.

And this time we got to share the experience with our friends. It was the first time we’d brought our kids, too, and they had a chance to try some foods they’d never encountered before. Annabelle liked the lamb chops. Xander was all about the bacon-wrapped filet mignon.

After that we went back to the hotel and talked and watched a couple of shows before calling it an early night.

AT&T Stadium in DallasThen Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel. The kids all went swimming in the hotel pool (which might have been the highlight of the trip for them), then we got cleaned up and headed to the stadium.

We had tickets for the VIP guided tour which took almost two hours (and rightly so; that facility is amazing) before they released us onto the field for some free play. And it occurs to me now that that was the highlight of the trip for the kids.

Xander, Maggie, Jason, and Kris in the end-zone at AT&T StadiumThey ran and jumped and tackled each other. Kris bought a football for them to fight over. They rolled around in the astro-dirt. It was great.

After that we had a late lunch at my favorite Mexican place (it’s a chain, but one we don’t have in Oklahoma), and then we went back to the hotel to hang out and play games together. It was quiet and easy and so much fun.

Annabelle posing in her dream room at IkeaMonday went much the same way: sleeping in and a late breakfast before check-out, then we loaded up the cars and headed to Ikea. It was…I want to say “overwhelming.” We don’t have one closer than Dallas, and for most of us, this was our first experience with one. It was certainly impressive.

Then we found a pizza joint with a kids’ play place for lunch. (I grabbed In-N-Out from across the street.) We played there for about an hour, then we finally said our goodbyes and headed home.

The whole trip was cool and exciting and relaxing and…just everything a vacation ought to be. Then I woke up the next morning and went back to work at my dream job.

Nearly There!

On Friday, I dropped in to explain with great fear and trembling that I would have just three days to write 20,000 words.

I sort of exaggerated the dilemma, because I was only counting Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. I left on Friday and Saturday, because I was heading to Arkansas for those two days to visit with my family there (and give a little talk on self-publishing to the Fiction Writers of Central Arkansas association).

That trip gave me six hours in the car both ways, and of course while I was in Arkansas–even with birthday parties and fancy dinners and writers’ associations–I had some time to myself. I should have called it five days, not three.

But, then, I know myself. With less than a week to write 20,000 words, I still only managed 2,000 words on Friday and Saturday. So, pretty much as anticipated, I showed up to work Sunday morning with 18,000 words to write in three days.

That was more than a little terrifying. I stared at my laptop in panic. I double-checked my word count (it hadn’t changed). I skimmed back through the last couple pages, hoping to ride some narrative momentum straight into a productive day of writing.

I went to get a cup of coffee.

I sat back down at the laptop, went through the whole process again, and went to get another cup of coffee.

Nothing was happening. I went for a walk around the empty office. Not a casual stroll–an aggressive, angry power-walk to get the blood pumping. I put in a good half hour, then came back to my laptop, opened the story, and just stared.

Finally I gave up. I went to Facebook and quipped. I went to Twitter and caught up on industry news and clever misattributed quotes. I did some administrative cleanup at all my many blogs.

Oh, hey! You can now email me from the handy-dandy Contact form!

And then–four hours in, utterly broken, and deeply ashamed of myself that I couldn’t even write one word, let alone 18,000–I went slinking back to my Google Docs.

But instead of opening the treacherous story tab (“GT: Faith – Editing Copy”), I opened the one next to it (“Prewriting Package for Ghost Targets: Faith”). I scrolled down to the plot outline/scene list and stared at a bunch of empty spots or brief, one-line descriptions. I frowned at one of those, shifted it down a spot, and fleshed it out.

Then I added a scene above it, to describe the one I was currently working on. And that generated a new scene, which bumped the one below it even further down. Then I skipped past that one and added a new scene after. I spent more than a hour adding fewer than 500 words.

And when I was done, I had a story to tell. I clicked over to the story tab, and started writing. By the time I went home last night (early enough to watch some TV with the wife and get a full night’s sleep), I’d written 8,000 words.

One day gone. Two days left, and 10,000 words yet to write. That’s still triple the daily output necessary to win NaNoWriMo, but hey, I did 8,000 yesterday. I think I can manage it.

Now I’m off to give it a try.

Soccer Song

Through no fault of my own, my two-year-old son Alexander decided early to reinforce gender stereotypes by loving sports of all kinds. For a while there, he demanded the same lullaby every single night before he’d go to sleep.

“Baseball song!”

I don’t know where he picked up “Take Me out to the Ballgame” — strikes me as a kind of outdated tune — but he adores it. The kid learned how to count from, “One! Two! Three strikes you’re out!”

One night Trish was in there, singing him to sleep, and after she finished “Take Me out to the Ballgame,” Alexander wailed,


Trish said, “No. I already sang the baseball song.”

“Soccer song?”

Trish laughed and said, “There is no soccer song.” She kissed him goodnight and came out to tag me in, so I went in, gave the kid a hug, and told him to sleep well.

He piped up again, all pathetic,

“Soccer song?”

and how could I say no to that? So I made one up for him:

Soccer ball, soccer ball,

They don’t score any points at all!

Soccer ball, soccer ball,

It’s just a game about running!

Needless to say, he loved it! New favorite. And you thought I could only write books. Hah!


You know the guy sitting in the corner at Starbucks, typing away on his laptop and just desperately hoping someone will ask him what he’s doing so he can brag about his novel.

That’s me.

Well, not really. I’ve got enough social anxiety that I’d usually prefer to be ignored, and that’s more true than normal these days because I’m so busy. Even if I had the confidence to brag to coffee shop strangers about my books, I wouldn’t have time to right now. I need to write the next chapter!

But I am typing away on my laptop at Starbucks. I’ve also been at Vintage Timeless Coffee (a local indie) and Full Cup (another local indie) and On the Border (I much prefer chips and salsa to coffee) and IHOP…anywhere I can get a WiFi connection. I’ve even broken down a time or two and popped into the college library.

I know. It’s weird. I haven’t been inside a library since Google.

Anyway! I was really excited about getting to work full-time as a writer, but it’s surprising how difficult it really is to work full-time as a writer. I spend a lot of time cruising around, picking places, packing up the laptop and unpacking it, then cursing when it runs out of power and I realize I left the charger at home.

I’ve tried working at home, too. That’s worth a post of its own, but here’s the short version:

  • In order to write my stories well, I have to leave reality behind and step into my story world for hours at a time.
  • My family is, frankly, too wonderful for me to easily leave behind. If I even have the option, I’ll focus on them instead of my story, so I have to get out of the house or I’m useless.

So! I’ve been a full-time writer for several weeks now, but I’ve barely outperformed the writing I was getting done in my free time before. I’d like to say I’ve been having a lot more fun in between, but I have such frantic deadlines that I’ve really just been stressing about word count.

But there’s good news to follow on the bad. Last week, I met with an office manager at a local place called PC Executives who provide “Executive Suites” in the Oklahoma City area. That’s a handy way to rent an office when all you want is an office–a little room with space for a desk and a couple guest chairs.

They provide the receptionist and the expensive scanner/printer/copier and the fancy break room and all the services you’d have at a “real” office, and you get a little place to call your own.

It’s a short-term solution (the Consortium is going to need a big place of its own before too long), but the nice thing is that they’re set up to be a short-term solution. I should be able to start using my office sometime this week, and I’m not stuck with any kind of long lease commitment.

Hmm. I don’t know if this will be at all interesting to you guys, but on my end, it’s all kinds of awesome. I can’t wait make the commute again, show up at work, sit down at my desk, and put in my eight hours.

Or seven. Or…well, four. And then fourteen. And back to seven. It’s not about punching a clock, man! It’s about having a dedicated place. And this time, it’s dedicated to storytelling.

I can’t wait.


Last July, I started selling a lot of books. Last December, I started making a lot of money. Not just enough money from the self-publishing that I could afford to quit my day job, but enough that it was costing me money to keep going to work every day.

Still, I kept going to work. There were lots of good reasons (not the least of them fear), but the biggest was this: After three years of working on one major project for the Federal Aviation Administration, I was almost done.

The documentation team for the long-range radar branch of the FAA is a pretty modest group. We had a brand-new manager and two editors with no formal documentation training, plus me. And we were just wrapping up a major overhaul of the vast majority of our radars.

So I sat down at the end of December, decided I could afford to quit tomorrow, and decided to stay on until the end of February, mainly so I could finish up that documentation project and leave the team in a survivable situation.

At 3:45 last Friday afternoon, I finished the project I’d been working on for three years. I sent an email to a handful of my coworkers with some contact info in case they wanted to stay in touch (or buy my future novels), then I dropped off my badge and parking decal and left forever.

(Father in Heaven, I hope it was forever.)

Anyway, Monday morning saw me self-employed. I’ll actually be working as a full-time employee (CEO and head publisher) for my non-profit, The Consortium, Inc., but that doesn’t start until April. In the meantime, I’m nothing but a writer.

I’ve had an awful lot of people asking me how it feels to be free. Some things worth taking into account before I answer that question:

  • It’s only been a week.
  • During that week, I’ve gotten hit with a couple huge unexpected expenses, and watched sales on all my books decline frighteningly.
  • I’ve had a cold. Monday someone asked, “How’s your first day being self-employed?” and I answered, “I should’ve called in sick.”
  • I’m frantically trying to catch up on an overloaded school schedule that I’d been severely neglecting for the last six weeks while I finished up at work.

And even with all of that, I’m loving it. Even with all of that, this week has been among the most productive in my entire adult life, and every bit of it has been worthwhile work that matters to me personally.

  • I published Camouflage (Ghost Targets, #4) this week.
  • I coordinated on cover art for a couple other books I hope to get published in March.
  • I dusted off an old short story that I hope to get rewritten and published in the next few weeks.
  • I read back through The Dragonprince’s Heir (The Dragonprince Trilogy, #3) and wrote several thousand new words on that one, for the first time since last fall.
  • I wrote several thousand words on Faith (Ghost Targets, #5).

That doesn’t cover any of the business-y stuff I took care of, and best of all, I did almost all of it during business hours. Sure, I spent my evenings laying around being worthless because of the cold, but I also watched TV with Trish and read a couple good books and tried out some lame videogames.

It’s been a really great week. And this is just the beginning. Trish started shopping for office space this week. I can only imagine what I’ll be able to get up to once I’ve got a dedicated space and a reasonable routine.

Everything is wonderful. Other than that, it’s just things and stuff.