Monday, May 30, 2022

The Great Summer Writing Season

Here in the United States, summer officially begins today, Memorial Day. It ends 97 days later on Labor Day, 5 September.  I know it is a great time to travel, watch summer blockbuster movies (by the time this is posted, I’ll have already seen Top Gun: Maverick), catch up on some TV, sit on the patio or beach or dock and sip something cold, and just enjoy the summer vibe.

But it can also be used to write.

Think of it: perfect bookends. There is a beginning and an end. There are 97 days of summer if you don’t include either holiday but do count weekends. If you were to write up to 1,000 words per day, more or less an hour, you’d have a novel.

Okay, you say, what about weekends? There are 28 Saturdays and Sundays this summer. Doing the math, that is 69 weekdays. At 1,000 words a day, that 69,000 words, still a novel.

But let’s say you don’t reach 1,000 words a day. What if you only spend 30 minutes a day and produce 500 words? That’s 48,500 words, a nice short novel. If you take out the weekends, that brings you down to 34,500 words, still very respectable.

And I’m only thinking novels here. Imagine if you wrote a short story per week. That’s 14 new short stories.

This is just to get you thinking about continuing your writing during what Dean Wesley Smith calls the Time of Great Forgetting, when your New Year’s Day resolutions to write more are ignored. You can do this. Just start on Monday and keep going.

I’ll be finishing up a novel rather than starting a new one. And I’ll also be preparing for the Great Departure: my son will be moving out and continuing his college coursework. Sigh. It is time. It is supposed to happen, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

The writing part is, however, pretty straightforward. Just sit and write. Keep at it long enough and you’ll reach those magical words: The End. And summer is a great time to keep that habit going.  

Side Note: Namedropped

It’s not every day when a famous author reads a post and responds.

I always read Max Allan Collins’s blog so imagine my surprise when I saw my own name. It seems he read and responded to my post from last week regarding Legacy Authors and That Last Book. I nearly swallowed my coffee down the wrong pipe when I saw it. He provided some extra examples to address the question I posed. How cool is that?

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Star Wars Through the Decades

Today marks 45 years since Star Wars debuted. While I didn’t see the movie opening day in 1977, by the time I did, I was hopelessly immersed in a galaxy far, far away. Not only that, but it opened up the broader world of science fiction for me, a world I’ve loved and appreciated these past decades.

I got to thinking about Star Wars and what it meant throughout the years so I did a fun little exercise: how did I perceive Star Wars every five years for the past forty-five years. 

Star Wars at 5 Years (1982)

This was a year from Return of the Jedi—was the title already announced in 1982 as Revenge of the Jedi? This was the spring of my 7th grade year. I had many, many Star Wars toys, the bulk being from the Empire Strikes Back collection. Legos were still a thing as was other science fiction properties, especially Star Trek. I was gearing up for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan debuting in June 1982. Star Wars was always on the radar but with the last movie a year out, it was probably not front and center.

Still, I was and remain a charter member of the Star Wars Generation. It changed me and helped to shape the things I enjoy watching and reading and listening to.

Star Wars at 10 (1987)

I was a senior in high school thirty-five (!) years ago this month. I was heading up to The University of Texas at Austin in August. Music, including high school band, often took center stage of my life, so much so that I tried out for and joined the Longhorn Band.

I actually have no conscious memory of Star Wars from May 1987. The Marvel Comics run had been cancelled in 1986. I still own most of that run, but can’t barely remember any of the storylines. An interesting sidenote to 1983, the year Jedi was released. I was all in on seeing the movie—even paying extra to see it the day before its premiere—and saw it multiple times throughout the summer. But I never bought any Jedi toys. I was moving on from eighth grade to high school. Things were changing for me, just like they were in May 1987. Star Wars, for all intents and purposes, was done. It was wonderful and great and a vital part of my formative years, but that was in the past.

Star Wars at 15 (1992)

Star Wars was back…at least in print. May 1992 saw the publication of Dark Force Rising, the middle book of a new trilogy by Timothy Zahn. 1991’s Heir to the Empire reignited my love of Star Wars, bringing back wondering memories of the franchise and that time of my life. I started talking about Star Wars with college friends and reminiscing.

But, after I’d read Dark Force Rising, that was about it. Batman Returns was a month away and I was eagerly anticipating it. Interestingly, my other childhood favorite thing—KISS—had released their new album, Revenge, in May 1992 and I was spinning that CD constantly. 

Star Wars at 20 (1997)

Star Wars was back…on the big screen. I owned the movies on VHS (still have them) but hadn’t seen them on a theater screen since the early 80s. Now, new special effects were being added to all three movies with the biggest expectation being the Han Solo-meets-Jabba scenes in Mos Eisley. This was awesome stuff. And I really wanted the Biggs/Luke scenes from early in the film to be in there as well. Alas, it wasn’t, and now Han shot second?

But here’s the thing: I loved seeing the old movies again, relishing in my past life, and shrugged off the weird nesses. I knew the movies backward and forward so instantly knew when changes had been made. And I realized during these viewings that this franchise, especially the first two movies, were time capsules. If I let myself just sit and watch, I could be transported back to my younger self. It was magical. 

Star Wars at 25 (2002) 

Yay, a new movie—Attack of the Clones—in the Prequel trilogy. Surely it was going to be better than The Phantom Menace, right? I mean, there’s Anakin as a teenager. Obi-Wan as a badass Jedi. Jango Fett. Samuel L. Jackson and his purple lightsaber. And Yoda as CGI?

Well, AOTC had its moments, but was it better than Phantom Menace? Not really. Looking back to 1999, it is difficult to overstate how excited I was about a new Star Wars movie. That first trailer was so good, but it didn’t live up to expectations. Could it have? Probably not, but at least we were getting new Star Wars movies, right?

I did not follow through and watch the animated series however. Not sure why. I had long since stopped trying to keep up with the novels as well. I read the big ones—especially the novelizations of the movies because they went into additional detail and made for a better story—but that was about it. Star Wars was still important, but it had become one of many things I loved.

Star Wars at 30 (2007)

Honestly, when I think of this year, no Star Wars thing pops into my mind. 2005’s Revenge of the Sith was the best of the Prequel movies. This movie’s novelization was itself the middle book of a little trilogy and I listened to all of them. A nice tidy little story, but then I didn’t read another Star Wars book until 2013’s Scoundrels.

I had finally started reading the Harry Potter books, and in May 2007, I was reading all six then-existing books leading up to the publication of the seventh book in July. Star Wars just wasn’t on my pop culture radar. It was Pixar movies (Ratatouille was in 2007) and things my young son enjoyed.

Star Wars at 35 (2012)

More of the same, to be honest. I’d pull out the soundtracks from time to time and give them a listen. The novels of the Extended Universe were still being published at a rapid rate and I was reading none of them.

I can’t remember exactly when I showed Star Wars to my son. Maybe it was in 2012. But in May 2012, The Avengers had been out a month and I was enjoying the new Marvel cinematic universe. And there was a new Batman movie coming out in July. Star Wars was just one of the things I enjoyed, and mostly not on a day-to-day basis. 

Star Wars at 40 (2017)

In May 2017, we were seven months away from the next movie in the sequel series, The Last Jedi, a movie I enjoyed immensely. The trailer had dropped in April and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker was back (and speaking!). We were about six months after Rogue One, one of the four most original Star Wars movies made to date. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was the brand-new Marvel movie and Wonder Woman would debut in June.

Had Star Wars been the only major franchise to vie for my attention, it would have earned more attention. But it was just one of many. Perhaps that was one of its lasting legacies.

Star Wars at 45 (2022)

Forty-five years ago today, it started. Ironically, just this past weekend, Colin Cantwell, the guy who designed the X-Wings, TIE Fighters, and the Death Star passed away. We’re getting a hotly anticipated new TV show, Obi-Wan Kenobi, something I’m really looking forward to, not the least of which being a new theme by John Williams.

Television seems to be the place where Star Wars shines nowadays. You have the chance to see new characters, allow them to grow, and not always show the vast galaxy only from the perspective of a single family. I’m happy to follow along with every new Star Wars TV show, watching all the live-action ones (still haven’t started any of the animated series). And I might pick up a book or two along the way. But, like in the heyday of the Extended Universe, I just can’t keep up. It’s a good thing (?) that there is so much because you can drop in here and there, picking up things that interest you and letting other things rest. I know that there are folks out there who memorize every little detail like I did back in the day, but it’s so much more difficult.


Star Wars is special. It’s one of the pop culture cornerstones of my life. It’s a joke in my family that I can’t remember to call a plumber but can still (!) remember random facts from the first movie (like the trash compactor number). Star Wars just is. And it always will be. My interest may ebb and flow, but it never disappears. It’s a part of me, just like it’s probably a part of you, too.

So let’s celebrate Star Wars for what it *is* and not necessarily what you want it to be. It is a multimedia franchise that started forty-five years ago today. It was and remains a story about a boy, a girl, a pair of robots, an old man, a scoundrel and his best friend, and an evil dark lord who welds a mysterious force and a laser sword. It is good vs. evil, the call to adventure, the hero’s journey with a sublimely wonderful soundtrack, and the willingness to stand up to the bad guys, even when all hope is lost. Because one person can make a difference, be it a pilot in an x-wing who can guide a proton torpedo through a 2-meter-wide exhaust port or a film director who has an idea about a movie he’d like to make to recapture the spirit of the movies he himself loved as a younger boy.

It’s that spirit that is at the essence of Star Wars. May that spirit always have a spark of creativity and keep the story going, yet always remembering where it started: in movie theaters forty-five years ago today.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Legacy Authors and That Last Book

One of my favorite sub-genres of music is when legacy artists create new music in the 21st Century. I’m not talking about bands like Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, or Def Leppard who never stopped putting out new music. I’m referring to bands like The Beach Boys (That's Why God Made the Radio), Eagles (Long Road Out of Eden), or David Bowie (Blackstar) who go into the studio basically knowing that the soon-to-be-recorded album will be the swan song. The songs can sometimes acknowledge the passing of time, the artists’ ages, and their long careers.

Yesterday, one of my favorite bands joined the ranks of legacy artists creating new music that fits into this mold. Chicago released “If This Is Goodbye,” from their forthcoming album (not sure if they’ll use XXXVIII or a more streamlined 38). From the title alone, you get the vibe of the song. It is a wistful song with a typical surface meaning of two lovers looking back over their lives but we all know what it’s really saying: This band, through triumphs and tragedies and reinventions, has persevered but the end is nigh. Here’s the link.

It is a sobering thought to have yet another band that have been there my entire life reach the end of the road. KISS, my other favorite band, is literally on their End of the Road Tour. But those founding members of Chicago have been working musicians for nearly 60 years, 55 as Chicago. That’s a good, long run, and they deserve to do whatever they way to do, be it touring or just kicking up their heels and marveling at their accomplishments.

Authors, however, are different. At least I think they are.

I don’t presume to know if every single series character ages. I can’t say if Agatha Christie wrote her last Hercule Poirot novel knowing it would be the end or not.

I’ve only recently started reading the novels and blog posts of Max Allan Collins but in his posts, he talks about slowing down. Now, his output is still pretty prolific, but he acknowledges that some of the aspects of writing—namely the research he needs for his historical mysteries—is more challenging that it used to be. Again, I’m not as well versed with his bibliography as others are, but I wonder if he’s going to start writing that final Heller novel knowing it’s the last one.

Didn’t Michael Connelly age Harry Bosch along the way? Ian Fleming died while writing his final James Bond novel so I suspect that he didn’t approach The Man With the Golden Gun in that way. I don’t know about Sue Grafton’s Kinsey Millhone either.

What about authors who, say, haven’t written a book in twenty years and suddenly come out with a new one? I’m not talking about a found manuscript, a la Erle Stanley Gardner’s 2016 novel The Knife Slipped (written in 1939), that is then republished.

Maybe I’m zeroing in on series characters that actually age along with their creators. How many of them got their last book with an eye to the author knowing it was the last book?

Monday, May 16, 2022

Moderation Can Be a Good Thing


Scott D. Parker

I’ll admit something: it’s been harder than I expected to get back into the writing routine after it laid dormant for a couple of months. Which is odd considering I like this book (why else would I be up to chapter 31 of it) and want to get to the end—I’ve mapped out the scenes up through chapter 39 so it’s not like I don’t have a road map.

Part of the reason I’ll admit is health. I’m healthy, eat well, and walk about two miles every day per week except Fridays and Saturdays. But it’s the lack of sleep that’s actually started to get to me.

There are more things I want to do on any given day and there’s just not enough time to do them. That includes writing, living, working, being with the family, and doing my own thing (usually reading or watching a show). As a result, I recently found myself staying up later in the evenings (a little past 11pm) but still waking up at 5am. After starting off as an evening writer, I’ve become a morning writer.

Every time the alarm went off this past week, however, the body was having none of it. Usually I all but jump out of bed, but this week was a struggle. I actually felt myself dragging throughout the day, including when I’m in the office three days a week. I even resorted to a 15-minute power nap in my office, doors closed, reclined in my office chair, the legs up on one of those padded-top short filing cabinets. After those power naps, I’m good, but its necessity cut into my lunch hour writing time.

And that irritated me. I would have to do something about that.

Late last year as I was enduring some harsh times at the day job, I found myself drinking more. I never got drunk, but I’d have the five o’clock cocktail and then wine at nine almost every day. It wasn’t a good habit to keep, so when Lent rolled around, I gave up alcohol. First couple of days were not hard, but I certainly wanted to keep the muscle memory of drinking alive.

But on Easter, I didn’t rush to the liquor cabinet and make a cocktail. Instead, I reminded myself that it’s perfectly fine to have a glass of wine or a martini but I didn’t need to have both every day. Heck, I could have a day or two per week in which I don’t have any alcohol and let that become the new normal.

Couple the lack of enough sleep with the more limited alcohol intake since Easter and both things got me to thinking that a little bit of moderation can go a long way to a healthy lifestyle. The alcohol consumption is pretty easy: Just limit to one glass of wine on the days I drink and save the martini for Fridays and savor the heck out of it. That’s working well and it’s made the martini preparation something more special.

The sleep thing take more of a challenge. I literally have to cut out something I want to do in favor of making sure I get my six hours. That one’s tougher because there’s just so much I want to read and do and write and watch. But how much do I actually enjoy watching a show or reading a book when I'm nodding off?

What the heck does this have to do with writing? Well, moderation.

I’m fortunate to have a day job that takes care of all the bills and insurance and makes sure we have enough money and peace of mind to get us through the days. Granted, it also curtails my writing/watching/family/myself time, but that’s the trade off.

Where the writing part comes in is this: Moderation.

Right now in my writing career, I have no external deadlines. I have internal deadlines for writing and publishing stories well into 2023, but they are well enough in advance that I can write—wait for it—at a moderate pace and achieve my deadlines. The moderate pace will also enable me to do some moderate marketing and not interfere too much into the day-to-day life.

Because that’s the key, right? Sure, I could have kept drinking at last fall's pace, but sooner or later, I’d have hit the wall and the physical health would have suffered so much that the doctor would advise me to stop drinking. That’s no fun. Neither is constantly being tired during the days because I didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

And neither is writing when you’re under the gun. Yes, the old pulp guys using to do that to pay the rent, but guys like Walter Gibson and Lester Dent ultimately suffered physical ailments because of their constant demands.

I’d rather enjoy the writing process in the time I have rather than be sweating a deadline. I sweat deadlines at the day job and of course I’d sweat a fiction deadline if it ever presented itself.

But for now, I’m just enjoying the ride…moderately.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Alone on the Beach - Now Published

I have a new short story now available. It's a little bit different thing for me. I actively wrote a love scene...but with a twist. 


Bob Kirk is a federal agent, on desk duty and ordered to see a psychiatrist after he killed a man while protecting his team. Carol Marcus is his doctor, prescribing Bob some pills to help ease his pain.

They’ve been secretly seeing each other and want to take their relationship to the next level, more out in the open, as his department-mandated time with her comes to an end.

What better place to start than a crowded beach?


Bob’s stomach flipped as he took in Carol’s beauty. She wore a green bikini, modest for the doctor’s forty-two years, but revealing enough to make Bob’s mind think about later. He wished there might be a later. Her blonde hair, always coiffed in a professional manner in the office, now hung loose around her shoulders. The sea breeze caught it and blew the strands around her face. She carried a beach bag over her shoulder. Dark sunglasses hid her eyes, but he knew from the angle of her head she was checking him out.

In a fit of self-consciousness that morning, Bob had done a hundred push-ups and sit-ups. He wanted all his muscles to stand out for her. He even purchased new swim trunks, not the oversized surfer kind yet not a speedo either. His light blue swimsuit hugged his hips and showed off his ass. When he had tried it on at the store, he had asked one of the attendants if the suit fit well. The narrowing of her eyes and the parting of her lips told him all he needed to know. She had lightly touched his arm as checked out. She also gave him her number. He had even groomed his body hair a bit. Brown hair still coated his chest and stomach, but in other places, it was cleaned and well groomed. He just didn’t know how the day would play out.

Carol stopped at the foot of Bob’s large beach blanket. A coy smile emerged. With delicate fingers, she lowered her sunglasses and looked at him over the top of them. “Mind if I join you?”


Here is the link to the story's main page on my website. It is widely available in all the usual places.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Writer’s New Year: 2022

It was now nine years ago today that I made a renewed decision to write more stories. I had an idea that began with an image—a man, wearing a fedora, knocking on a door, and bullets ripping through the wood—and that idea became my first published novel, WADING INTO WAR.

Every May First, I commemorate that decision and take stock of my writing life. Some years are good ones. Others not so much. But on 1 May, I allow myself a chance to reset and forge ahead.

In past years, I laid out my plans for the new Writer’s Year. Again, in re-reading those past entries, I cringe at missed opportunities and goals not fulfilled. Now, I used to really beat myself up about missing those milestones but I don’t do that anymore. It’s not constructive and obscures a more positive outlook on my writing life.

I have big plans for Writer’s Year 2022, and this time, taking a cue from Kristine Kathryn Rusch, I am actually scheduling my books and stories on a calendar. That is, in effect, making a business plan for my writing. I have to tell you, the amount of relief that washed over me as I actually mapped out the rest of the year—and especially the summer months leading to Labor Day 2022–made me smile and got me excited for my next projects.

And those projects are not merely new stories to write. I have also planned on a publishing schedule as well. I’ll admit I’ve fallen behind on where I wanted to be in terms of publishing stories for the public to read. As such, my name has fallen by the wayside in the minds of future readers, including folks in my own newsletter group.

That’s on me. I have recently begun to realize, with a huge assist by Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art book, that I’ve been treating my fiction and publication more as a hobby than a business. I’ve had an amateur’s mindset. Which is weird because from Day One, back in 2015 when I published my first book, I created my own company.

But the amateur’s mindset kept being dominant. I’m not sure why, but if Pressfield were sitting across the table from me, he’d tell me it was Resistance. Veteran writer Dean Wesley Smith would concur and throw in fear. Smith would also toss in the variable of “fun.” He’d tell me I’m not having any fun with my writing.

Both of them are correct. I need to conquer Resistance and become more professional with my fiction and have fun along the way. After all, I’m the first reader of my stories and I’m supposed to have fun writing them for myself. That I get to share them with others is a bonus.

So that’s where my head is at on this Writer’s New Year’s Day 2022. Each day this year, I will strive to overcome Resistance and Fear in my writing. I will strive to have fun with the stories I tell. And I will strive to make them available on a more regular schedule.