Today’s post can be found at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, Mindy Klasky, John Hartness, Kalayna Price, and James Tuck, among others. The post is called “On Creativity: Narrative, Fiction, and Life” It is a special post, written on a very special day in my life. I hope you enjoy it.

The Summer 2012 THIEFTAKER Blog Tour takes me back to familiar ground today.  I have two posts up.  The first, my usual Monday Magical Words post, can be found at http://magicalwords.net, the group blog on the business and craft of writing fantasy that I maintain with fellow authors Faith Hunter, Misty Massey, Kalayna Price, C.E. Murphy, and A.J. Hartley.  The post is called “On Creativity and Writing:  Making the Most of Ideas, part I,” and it’s the first post in a series about dealing effectively with new book ideas.  The second post can be found at http://www.sfnovelists.com, the group blog on speculative fiction that I maintain along with a group of over one hundred published authors of fantasy and science fiction.  It is called “A Father and Writer Looks At Violence In His Books,” and it is about how we decide what’s appropriate for your readers.  I hope you enjoy both posts.

Weary and Heavy

May 15, 2012

Some days are harder than others.  Sometimes we feel older than our years.  At some point the routine weighs more heavily, the responsibilities seem more onerous.  Bad news arrives from a distance of both years and space, little moments that remind us of our own mortality catch us off our guard, the slog of the day-to-day seems unrelenting.

I am weary tonight, and my heart is heavy.  I could write more, but really that’s what it comes down to.  And tonight of all nights, I feel that my time would be better spent playing my guitar, seeing to my girls, sitting with my wife.

If you love someone, tonight would be a good night to tell him or her so, be it with words, or with a kiss, or with the simple act of taking a moment to sit and say or do nothing at all.

My younger daughter, who is in seventh grade, is playing middle school volleyball this year.  She is quite an athlete.  She’s a truly gifted swimmer, and has been playing soccer since she was four years old.  But this is the first year she has played volleyball, and frankly I didn’t know what to expect.  I played volleyball in high school; I always enjoyed it.  When my daughter started working with the team, she and I spent some time working on technique.  But until this afternoon, I hadn’t seen her play in a match.

She was awesome.  She serves overhand, with a little run-up and jump.  And her serves are powerful!  She digs out hard shots from the other side like a pro, and she even had a couple of really nice spikes.  It’s not that I didn’t think she had the potential to be good at volleyball.  The truth is, she’s good at just about every sport she tries.  (When she was in fourth grade, she won her school’s Punt, Pass, and Kick competition and then took second place in the second round that covered this section of our state.  All this despite the fact that at the time she won the local competition, we didn’t even own a football.)

What gets me though, is that I didn’t know she could do the things I saw her do this afternoon.  I had no idea.  She blew me away.  Her team lost a very, very tight match, and she was there at the end, a leader on the team, consoling the girl who let up the final point — that might have been the most impressive thing I saw her do, actually.

She’s the younger of my two kids, and in some ways I still think of her as younger than she is.  That’s a mistake that will be much harder to make after what I saw today.

This evening I’m a proud papa.  Actually, I am most evenings…

Green With Envy

April 7, 2012

So I’m having a great time at Marcon.  I’ve gotten to spend time with Faith Hunter and Lucienne Diver, I’ve met some terrific people, and had a few fun and interesting panels.  But I have to admit that I have one strong regret about being here instead of at home.  My wife and daughters got to see Alison Krauss and Union Station tonight in Chattanooga, and had I been home I would have gone with them.  I love AKUS and though I’ve seen them in concert a few times before I still would have enjoyed seeing them again.

Anyway, tonight I get back to my hotel room and check my messages and there on my Facebook page is a photo of my two daughters standing with their arms around AKUS lead mandolinist and singer, Dan Tyminski, the voice behind the version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” from the movie Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou.  I kid you not.  I KNOW there is a great story behind this photo.  I can’t wait to hear it.  And yes, I am totally jealous of my kids.

End of a Long Day

April 1, 2012

Long day. Ended better than it started, even with the Stanford Women getting beaten. But a long, long day. Parenting is hard. That’s really all I have to say. Parenting is really, really hard. It’s the most rewarding thing I do, but it takes the most energy, the most attention, the most emotion.

Long day.

Our eleven day, three state, nine college tour is over, and my daughter and I are back home with Mom and little sister.  We had a terrific week and a half:  few disagreements, nothing that could be considered a fight, and more laughs and giggles and candid conversations than I can count.  We enjoyed a few wonderful meals, took in the sights and sounds and tastes of Washington, D.C.  More to the point, she found four schools that she loved — she intends to apply to all four.  She was also able to cross several other schools off her list, which is valuable, too.

I’m glad to see her finding schools that excite her and have her thinking about her future.  I’m deeply proud of the maturity she has shown throughout this process.  And I’m grateful beyond words for the time we’ve just had together.  I will treasure the memory of this trip for the rest of my days.

Two more schools today — Duke and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  We also drove around the Davidson campus this evening, though our tour and information session there aren’t until tomorrow morning.

Duke’s campus is beautiful, probably the most beautiful that we’ve seen on this trip.  And UNC’s campus buzzes with energy; you can tell that there is always something great happening somewhere on those grounds.  But that said, it seems that neither school is right for my daughter.  Duke felt too spread out; UNC felt too crowded.  It’s becoming clear that overall (with a couple of notable exceptions) she prefers smaller schools.

Davidson should be interesting.

We spent yesterday tromping around Washington, taking in sights and NOT visiting any schools.  Today we got back “to work.”  We visited Georgetown this morning and were both quite impressed.  My daughter had been predisposed to love it — Georgetown has been sort of her ideal for some time.  On paper, it’s a perfect match for her.  And she loved what she saw.  She’s there tonight, staying with a friend.  I have a feeling I’m never going to get her to leave.

We also visited George Washington University this afternoon.  It’s a far more urban campus (at least the Foggy Bottom campus is; the Mount Vernon campus is, from all reports, far more like a traditional suburban site) and was less scenic than Georgetown.  But my daughter was very impressed with it, as well.  I think it helps that both schools are in Washington, and that she has fallen in love with this city.

We have the weekend to play, and then we go to the North Carolina schools….

In no particular order….

I wish I could go to college again. In part I mean this facetiously.  I mean it would be great to study all day, to have a time in my life (again) when I could make my studies and my social life my primary concerns 24/7/365.  But I also mean it more seriously.  I think that when I attended college, I was too young to make good use of the resources at my disposal.  I made unwise choices, I allowed myself to take the easy way out too often, I didn’t apply myself the way I should have.  I’d like another chance to get it right.

There is no way in hell I could get into my alma mater today.  None.  Zip.  It is so much harder for kids who are applying today than it was when I was a teen.  And at the time my generation was being told that it had never been harder to get in to schools.  I guess it just gets more and more competitive.

College is really, really expensive.

Colleges have decided that certain things are really important from a marketing point of view, and so they all emphasize similar points in their tours and information sessions.  “Faculty accessibility — faculty are ‘there’ for undergrads.”  “Small classes and low student to faculty ratio.”  “Campus safety — real police rather than ‘rent-a-cops’.”  “Study abroad programs that don’t add to college expenses (which are high enough — see comment #3).”  “A broad spectrum of student organizations that allow students to do pretty much anything and everything they can think of.”  “Need blind admissions and financial aid that covers 100% of established need.”  “Lots of meal plans and ‘flex dollars’ that work at a variety of food establishments on campus.”  And more.   None of these things are bad; in fact all of them have the potential to be really good.  But the fact is, lots of schools seem to have them, and most of these schools present them as something special that only _____ University has.

We had seen a few schools before this trip.  We’ve seen three schools in the last three days (with seven more to go in the next week).  And so far, in order of preference, we seem to have the following:  University of Virginia, University of Richmond, College of William and Mary.

More as the week goes on.

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