So I’ve Been Away For A While…

March 15th, 2013

It’s been over a year since my last post on here, and this one isn’t exactly going to be long. To sum things up, though, I’ve been dealing with a lot of life changes over the last several months.

First and foremost, I’m in the midst of getting divorced. Now I’m not going to launch into a postmortem of my marriage. I will say, though, that it was definitely time, I have very supportive friends and family, and my kids and I are doing well.

But, since this blog has primarily focused on all things Star Traks, I want to say that Traks is not dead. I haven’t posted in a while, but I have several stories written for something new that I will begin posting when I get a couple of more done and can run for several weeks. Also there’s a bigger Traks project in the works now that I’m very excited about. It’s going to take a while (possibly years) to come to fruition, but I’m hoping it will be a lot of fun.

For now, I’m probably putting this blog back into stasis. Most of what I’d want to talk about probably isn’t the kind of stuff I should share with the Internet. However, if I have Traks things to discuss, I’ll post them here.

And You’re Asking Me?

February 17th, 2012

My son is in middle school now, which means that we are rapidly moving into the age where the definition of girlfriend is changing for him. He had “girlfriends” in elementary school, but these relationships, if they can even be called that at that age, seemed to quickly come and go and consist mainly of declaring “So-and-So is my girlfriend.” My daughter in second grade is actually in a fairly long term relationship like this. She’s been saying that the same boy is her boyfriend since last year. They exchanged Valentine’s Day cards, so maybe I should be getting worried.

Back to my son, he recently came to me wanting to know how he should go about asking a girl that he likes to sit at his lunch table. This is apparently what qualifies as dating at his school, so, while he and this girl are friends, he’s scared of being rejected and also dealing with the other girls that she sits with (One of whom was an elementary school “girlfriend” and the other who wanted him as a her “boyfriend.”).

I was very glad that he felt he could come to me about this. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember ever discussing my relationships (or my feelings in general) with my parents. Not that they didn’t know things anyway. My father was able to tell from a single glance at me when I came downstairs to dinner one night that I’d just been dumped (either that or he had secretly listened in on my phone call during which the dumping occurred).

As glad as I was, though, I quickly came to the terrible realization that I was not going to be any help at all. If I’m perfectly honest with myself, my romantic history (and calling it that is one hell of an overstatement) is full of far more missteps than successes, and pretty much any relationship I ever had that lasted any length of time, I blundered into. Case in point: my wife and I were set up on a blind date when we were in high school. I had absolutely no idea that the evening was supposed to be a date at all. I didn’t know she was going to be coming along. I just thought that I was going to a movie with some friends.

At best, I could offer my son a list of things not to do. Do not turn down girls who tell you that they want to date you, so that you can instead pine after a girl who has made it clear that she’s not at all interested in you and would prefer it if you would instead set her up with your best friend. Do not then go ahead and set her up with your best friend while still pining. When a similar situation comes up again later on with a different girl, accept that you’ve been turned down and do not spend the next three years pining and basically being Duckie from Pretty in Pink. Many many times over I could tell him, “Don’t do what I did.”

I also soon realized that telling him all this might be a wee bit demoralizing to him. Instead, I tried to offer a couple of suggestions. I have no idea if he followed them.

If was really smart, he went to ask his mother.

And Then Everything Changed

January 13th, 2012

Two days in a row of Star Traks history posts. I may get through this someday after all.

When I went home for the Summer in 1995, I had to find another job, since the indoor miniature golf course I had worked at the previous Summer had closed when the owner moved out of state. I ended up working for the Inventory department at Salisbury State University (It’s now just Salisbury University. Evidently having “State” in their name didn’t make them sound prestigious enough).

This was not the most popular department to work in. Having us show up was a little like being audited. In the morning we’d get print-outs of the property inventory list for a department, and then we’d go through and confirm that everything was there. This involved checking items for a little tag with a university-issued ID number on it. Unfortunately, somebody in the past had the brilliant idea of tagging silly things, like small, disposable items. There was nothing like going up to the facilities department manager and asking what had happened to a drill that they bought and tagged in 1972. One other danger of the job was dealing with irate professors who didn’t understand that their office, office furniture, computer, etc. were university property. I had one professor completely go off on me when he saw he coming out of his office (He wasn’t there, and I was completely authorized to perform my job). Fortunately he didn’t realize that this kid he was yelling at was also his next door neighbor.

Really, though, it wasn’t a terrible job. I spent most of my days indoors, and the work didn’t involve food service or dealing with the general public.

What does any of this have to do with Star Traks?

Well, my coworker there was a man named Anthony Butler. Since we both had parents involved in the Salisbury State University community, I was vaguely aware of Anthony’s existence, but I had never actually met him. Honestly, it wasn’t until a while after we started working together that I realized that he was the same kid that I’d seen at University events when we were younger.

Once we started working Inventory together, we hit it off immediately because we had two shared interests: Star Trek and writing. I showed him Star Traks, and having him there to talk to about the stories and Trek in general really got me excited about writing again. Over the course of that Summer, I planned out and wrote the short stories leading up to Star Traks 6. As a thank you to Anthony, I made him a character in one of them, “Fear Has A Red Nose.” Not too long after that, Anthony pitched his idea for Star Traks: The Vexed Generation (which was then called Star Traks: Aerostar) to me. I have to admit that I was floored that he wanted to do his own spin-off. I already knew that he could write and completely understood what Traks was about, so I was all for it. But I’ll let him tell the story of Vexed Generation, should he ever decide to.

So while that Summer was productive for Traks and led to the first real spin-off (I hadn’t done anything with Waystation since writing Traks 5, so technically Anthony was out of the spin-off gate first), the real important thing that came out of that time was my friendship with Anthony. It is no exaggeration when I say that Star Traks would not be where it is now if it weren’t for him. Over the years, he’s kept me interested in the series, served as a sounding board for ideas, and a great writing partner on the projects we’ve worked on together. Beyond that, he’s been a tremendous friend to me and my family. My kids quite rightly consider him to be an uncle, and I am very glad that we both ended up spending our days trying to track down wayward property that Summer.

Anthony will get mentioned a lot more as this history moves forward, but for now we’ll leave him behind because at the end of that Summer, I returned to Old Dominion for my final semester and what I thought was going to be the last story of the Secondprize crew.

This Stuff Has To Come From Somewhere

January 12th, 2012

It’s been over a year since my last Traks history post, which means that even more vital information has probably seeped out of memory to be lost forever. I’m going to make a concerted effort to get through more of this in the next few months with the goal of at least getting to the point where Traks hit the Internet. From there, the Internet Wayback Machine site, the wiki, and the posted story commentaries probably do a better job of recording the history than I ever could.

This will be the third post related to Star Traks 5, so it’s also more than time to wrap this book up. It’s no secret that the main characters are all based on people I knew while I was in college at Old Dominion University, but Star Traks 5 brings in characters based on people I met at a Summer job. The staff at the Starfleet Memorial Gardens are all based on people I worked with at an indoor miniature golf course in my hometown during the Summer of 1994 between my sophomore and junior years of college. As for the whole Gardens sequence itself, it’s pretty obviously a really ridiculous Jurassic Park parody. The whole think reaches a level of silliness that I don’t think I’ve been able to match in recent years. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you to decide.

At the time I finished Traks 5, it was the longest thing I had ever written. It may still be. I’m not sure. Once it was done, I was pretty wiped out. I also wasn’t sure how I was going to write two series at the same time. In all honesty, I wasn’t even sure where to go with Waystation. Summer of 1995 was approaching, and after that I would be heading into my final semester at ODU (I graduated a semester early), I decided to table Waystation with the idea that if I was going to go forward with it, I would be after I graduated. Instead, since graduation meant that I would be leaving the friends that had inspired Traks in the first place, I was determined to figure out how to wrap up the adventures of the USS Secondprize.

Little did I know that the Summer of 1995 was going to bring about an event that would change Star Traks forever (How’s that for building suspense?)

Go [Insert Sports Team Here]

January 11th, 2012

I went to Louisiana State University for graduate school, so, with the LSU Tigers recently winning all of their regular season games, their conference championship, and then losing in the college football national championship, I’ve had a number of conversations with others over the past few months that involved phrases like “Your team looked great out there” and “Sorry your guys lost.”

My team? My guys?

From what I’ve gathered, there’s an assumption that if you attended a school, you avidly follow that school’s sports (at least the schools that are considered powers in a particular major sport. My undergrad school, Old Dominion, was national champion in sailing while I was there, but no one seems to care about that).

While I was at LSU I went to one football game. I didn’t even watch them on television because I was usually doing school work. I could hear my wife screaming at the game on the TV in the other room, but I was generally cooped up in our apartment’s study/spare bedroom/place where the computer was. And if I’m completely honest, I didn’t really care.

Of course, part of that may be because I didn’t really grow up around football (or any kind of sports fandom really). My father watched college basketball very occasionally (usually on a tiny TV in his study away from the rest of us), but that was it. He didn’t (and still doesn’t to my knowledge) care about any professional team in any sport. I went to a small high school that didn’t have a football team, and while I was at ODU, they didn’t have a football team either (They did have a stadium, though, remaining for their beginnings of a satellite campus of William & Mary. I also saw some t-shirts around campus that read “Old Dominion Football: Undefeated,” which was true then. Now they have a real team with an actual win-loss record. But I digress…).

With no football (or big time sports) background before I moved to Baton Rouge to attend LSU, I had no idea what I was walking into. Shortly after the semester started, I tried to go to the library on campus on a Saturday. I couldn’t get near the place and had no idea why. When I asked someone, they looked at me like I was a complete idiot. It was GAME DAY! Why the hell would I be trying to go the library on GAME DAY? Whoops. Silly me.

I graduated from LSU over a decade ago and moved over 1500 miles away, but apparently I’m supposed to feel as attached to the football as a student at the university…not that I was all that attached even then. Yes, it’s nice to hear that the school is getting good press from this, but I don’t know anyone involved with that team. The students playing on it were in elementary school when I graduated. Again, it’s nice that they’re performing well, but how are they “my team” in any way, shape, or form?

At least I went to LSU, though. My brother has adopted a team as his own from a school that he didn’t even attend. Yes, he happens to live in the same state as their campus, but he’s far more involved with them than I am with a school that I actually attended. I guess it’s just a sports fan gene that I’m missing or something.

As I live in a city with an NFL team and, as I said earlier, went to a major football school, football-related conversations are exceptionally common in my workplace. In order to survive, I have taken to (what else) the Internet. So, if there are any of you out there who really don’t care about football but still want to be able to participate in conversations, here are the list of site I use to get myself in the know each week during football season.

My first stop is http://sports.yahoo.com/ Here you can find the scores for all of the games and a basic description of what happened. It’s enough to cover the highlights, so you’ll know the major events.

Then on Monday morning, http://www.si.com posts Monday Morning Quarterback (MMQB) by Peter King. He goes a little bit deeper into some of the major events, and what I find most useful is his list of the best 15 teams each week (and why) as well as the best players and worst players.

Finally on Tuesday, http://www.espn.com posts Tuesday Morning Quarterback (TMQ) by Gregg Easterbrook in the Page 2 section. This column is very long, but it’s about a lot more than football. He’ll cover the major events from the games and give interesting strategy insights, but he also talks about science, science fiction, economic issues, and any number of things. It’s funny, varied, and incredibly informative.

Between those sites, you should be able to fake your way through any football conversation. As a side note, this past Fall I watched “The IT Crowd,” a British sitcom about the employees in the IT department of a large corporation. In one episode, the characters find a website that allows them to fake their way through football (soccer here) conversations with unfortunate results. I have not had any issues with my use of the sites…so far.

The things we do to blend in with mainstream society. Sigh.

Better Than Nothing

December 4th, 2011

I think it’s been almost three months since I last updated the blog. For most of that time, I really wasn’t doing much of note. As I think I’ve said before, the minutia of my existence isn’t even interesting enough to me for me to think that anyone else would want to read about it.

Also my writing, which this blog is mostly about, hadn’t been going anywhere. Last month, though (Nov 2011), I got back into the swing of things, finished up one story that had been lingering for months, wrote another, and wrote some segments for a new volume of Thank The Great Bird They Weren’t There (Regular Traks readers will know what that means. As for the rest of you…well…don’t worry about it. It’s not important.).

So things are moving along, and I’ve started another story that I hope to finish by the end of the year. That will make 6 for 2011, which is the most I’ve written in quite a while. Next year is the 20th Anniversary of when I started Star Traks. I’d love to say that I have a celebratory extravaganza in store, but I don’t. With some luck, though, I’ll have a new run of stories to post and maybe, just maybe, I’ll finally get to work on the final Waystation book I’ve been talking about for years now.

I also really need to get back to what I originally started this blog for: namely writing out the history of Star Traks before it all seeps from my brain. New stuff has priority, though. As long as stories are flowing, history can wait.

Status Report

September 2nd, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog entry. When I stopped, I had grad plans of writing everyday and being really productive. Things went great at first. But then, as always seems to happen, real life stepped in and stopped me cold.

For several years now, my wife has been dealing with a number of health issues. We’ve taken them on, one at a time, and dealt with them as best we could, but these problems haven’t really left me in the mood to write comedy. Actually, they haven’t left me in the mood to write at all. By the time I’ve worked all day and then gone home to try to take care of things there, I’m wiped. All I want to do when I get a free minute is vegetate. My wife tries to help out, but, unfortunately, there are a number of things that she used to do around the house that she just physically can’t anymore, which I know is incredibly annoying to her. Like John Locke, she doesn’t like to be told what she can’t do. All of this has been very rough on her physically and emotionally. It hasn’t been easy for me either. It hurts to see her in pain and not feeling well, and just trying to work full time and keep up with the house and the kids has me drained. I don’t know how single parents do it.

Despite all of this, I still have Traks stories in my head that I want to write. It may be a while until that happens, though.

Haven’t Seen You Around Much Lately

March 22nd, 2011

I’ve been posting less than usual (not that I was ever anything close to regular with these blog posts), but I do have a reason for it, which is that I’ve been doing other writing instead. Since making my promise to engage in some kind of creative activity everyday, I’ve finished two stories and am very close to finishing a third. Unfortunately, that means that the blog has been neglected, but there are only so many hours in a day, I’m afraid.

That said, I do need to get back to the Traks history posts at some point. The whole idea of this blog was for me to write that stuff down before it completely vanishes from my memory. I still want to do that, but the writing of new stories has got to take priority for the moment.

Roads Not Taken

March 6th, 2011

Sometimes story ideas don’t quite work out. Maybe you come up with a great title but can’t build a story around it. Or maybe you start writing and figure out a few pages in that it isn’t working. Or maybe you just plain lose interest.

I’ve had a few of those with Traks. Every once in a while, I’m going to talk about the stories that just didn’t happen and post what little there is of these false starts.

Several years ago I came up with a title that demanded a Boldly Gone story be built around it. Who would be better than Reginald Bain to deal with a planet where everyone has turned French? I couldn’t figure out what the story really was, though, and I realized that trying to write French accents for an entire story was going to drive me nuts. I ended up dumping the whole thing, but I still love that title: “Planet of the Crepes.”

Away Too Long

February 28th, 2011

I intended to post another update on my writing progress, but I got so busy writing that I didn’t get around to doing it. I’d say that’s a good thing. Since making my pledge a couple of weeks ago to do a bit of creative work every day, I have finished the story I was working on (and had been working on since last March), written another, and am now several pages into a third. I’m not positive, but I may have already written more than I did in all of 2010. I’m feeling pretty good about the work I’m doing and will hopefully have something to announce a little later in the year.