Monday, September 1, 2014

When September (And October And November And December) Ends

It's been a while since I've written, so I decided to pop back in and give all the people who read this (so, almost no one) an update. I've been writing fiction, though not quite as much as I'd have liked to, and though I did finish the first draft of my Clockwork Cowboy story, it took me a lot longer than was expected, and as such, I'm only partially into my new short story, To Look Skyward. It's going to take a bit to get that short story to exactly what I want it to be, but I'm gonna work hard at it. In the meantime, people are reading my novella and giving me feedback, so by the time I get around to the second draft, I'll have some comments to work with. I already know most of the problems with it, but I want some input before I tackle it (that, and it's a good idea to distance myself from the project a little before revising).

Most recently, I've been recording demos of my music! So that's exciting. As you already know if you read the last blog post, I just got some recording equipment and an audio program, so I've been recording music like crazy over the last week. Most of the stuff I've been working on with that is either top secret or still not finished, so I can't really share it, but suffice it to say, it's been coming along great. 

As you may know, I've been struggling with whether or not I was going to go to school right away this semester, or take a semester off to work on writing and music, but that was kind of decided for me a little while ago, as it suddenly was too late to really enroll anymore, and so I am officially taking a semester off! I do have a bit of schoolwork from last year (oh, the joys of homeschool) to finish up as well, and so I'll be using this time to get that done and to focus more on my relationship with God, and my writing and music. 

In October, I get the awesome opportunity to go up to the Upper Peninsula to a recording studio with a friend of mine and record some professional music, so that's exciting. You should be seeing music from me on Noisetrade very shortly. And in November (by which time, I should have all the schoolwork leftover done), I'll be doing NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) for the first time ever. If you don't know what that is, it's a month in which you take the time to write every single day and crank out 50,000 words by the time you're done, starting a new novel on day one and having a completed (or at least 50,000 words worth, if it's going to be longer than that) novel in your hand by day thirty. I'm still torn on what I want to write for this, but I should have it figured out by November. I have two whole months after all.

That's what I keep telling myself anyway.

And of course, in December, all of my friends return from college and I get to see them all again. So that's really exciting. And you just might be seeing some new music around that time as well... More details to follow.

Well, I suppose I should go do something productive with my time. Not that this isn't. But there are other productive things I could do too. So I'm going to do those. The end.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Recording Demos and Other Audio Stuff

Well, the craziness of the summer has finally died down, and I can take a bit of a step back from constant trips and long work hours in between those trips. It's weird that summer is almost over already--but it always happens this way, so I guess I should be used to it by now.

First off, I'm sad. A huge number of my friends just left Janesville for their respective colleges, leaving me and a select few here in the good ol' hometown to keep on keeping on. Among those are my two best friends of all time, Anna and Miranda. So, yeah, I've been kind of bummed lately.

But anyway, let's get away from the sad and talk about the awesome! Before heading on this last camping trip, I ordered an XLR-to-USB cable, because, thanks to Blimey Cow, I had been getting really interested in audio production. Well, that was one of the best ideas I've ever had. Once I got back from camping, I hooked up a microphone to the computer over at church, and spent a few hours recording a song demo. My guitar even has an XLR plug-in, so the sound quality I got from it was actually quite good.

Yes, it was a crappy demo. I'm not very good at sound design (yet), and I have a lot to learn yet recording music, but it was just so cool to hear a song of mine layered with tracks and put together almost exactly as I imagined it. I'm gonna have some fun with this.

No, I will not be putting any of these demos publicly on the internet. They are very bad, as I have already said.

But, I'm starting to have a lot of fun with various audio stuff. My younger brother Chase and I made a short humorous little audio drama the other day, and I had fun messing with different sound effects and voices for characters, so we'll see what the future holds.

Oh, and ummm... I know this is kind of embarassing, but I'm still not finished with the Clockwork Cowboy story. Sorry about that. It's so close, but I didn't quite as much writing as I wanted to done. Hopefully, I'll finish it this week and be able to start on the new short story idea Trevor and I had.

Until then, have fun with your lives. I'll be having fun with mine.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I Am Currently Writing... Clock Strikes Death

Hello there, internet world. Yes, I know I said this was being resurrected and then proceeded not to write anything for weeks. I'm forgetful like that. Anyway, I thought I'd actually write something now, so yeah! That's something, at least. 

For the past few months I've been working on a novella entitled "Clock Strikes Death". As it stands right now, it's about 13,000 words, but it should be somewhere around 18,000-20,000 when it's completed. I haven't been spending nearly enough time as I wanted to writing it (or as much time as should have, for that matter), but it's almost finished now, and I can see the finish line. My plan is to finish the first draft by the end of this week, and then put it aside next week as I head off on the Student Leader Camping Trip. I have another short story idea that I brainstormed with Trevor Sigmund, one of my close friends, that I want to (hopefully) write while I'm there. That should be considerably shorter, however, and I have the entire story pretty heavily outlined in my head, unlike what is usually the case with stories I write. 

After I come back from that trip, I'll give Clock Strikes Death to some alpha readers, get some input back, and then go into a second draft of that story, which will tackle the several structural problems I know exist in the narrative, and probably a few I didn't. After that, I'll give it to beta readers, who will give me final input on whatever else needs to be fixed, and then it should mostly be done. Most of my prose is pretty clean, so after maybe one or two language/prose/dialogue passes after that, I'll probably put it up on Noisetrade, and then I'll start submitting it to some different markets. I hear TOR has a new novella imprint... 

*laugh silently at myself* In your dreams, kid, in your dreams.

For those who don't know, Clock Strikes Death is part of the setting I like to call, "Clockwork Cowboy", which is part of the 374th Cycle mega-setting in which all of my fantasy books (and the ones that my brother Connor, Trevor, and my friend David will eventually write, hint, hint, nudge, nudge) take place. I say Clockwork Cowboy, but that's kind of a silly way of explaining the setting. It is basically a fantasy western/clockpunk setting, which may also seem silly, but is in actuality a fantasy borrowing elements from westerns and incorporating fantastical clockwork-based technology. While writing it, I also realized it had a lot more grimdark-iness than I originally thought it would have, and subsequently scrapped the theme album I had selected for it, Hans Zimmer's score for The Lone Ranger

Also, for those who didn't know, I select theme albums for almost everything I write, film scores that capture the mood I want for that book/world. I still haven't really decided on another one for the Clockwork Cowboy setting, but I do enjoy The Shawshank Redemption, so that may end up being the theme album.

Anyway, I should really get back to Clock Strikes Death, since I only have until Saturday to finish it, and I have plenty of other things to get done this week. Before I go, I will leave you with a little tease of the novella:

                                                                                                                                                

A ringing in Declan's ears chimed the hour. Nine o'clock. Time to die.
He jolted upright in his cot, tense, waiting for the inevitable sound of booted feet come to drag him away to Eternity. All was silent, however, save the muted tick, tock of his heart. The prison bars before him were a dark, unfriendly grey that seemed to grin at him like the teeth of an arrowbelly. His cell was cramped and freezing, the fireplace just outside its iron door reduced to ashes and offering nothing in the way of warmth. Just like the one other time he had been unfortunate enough to get himself locked away in one of these bunker-prisons. Declan strained to hear anything that would signal that someone was coming for him. He waited for a minute, then two, then five. A half an hour passed as he listened to the muffled ticking of the second hand, and still no one arrived.
Declan frowned, still laying on his cot. He hadn't seen any human guards since he had been thrown into this dark pit of a prison, and only once had he seen any clockwork--a Sentinel, who had silently performed its duty of giving him a plate of dried rations and a tin cup full of water, and then left, emotionless face haunting as always. He had always hated those cold, emotionless monsters.
Where was everyone? Declan stood to his feet and made his way to the iron bars, holding them tightly with calloused hands. He wore nothing but the underclothes he had been wearing the night before--dark grey shirt and trousers that reeked of sweat. Had they decided to just leave him down here to starve? Ironically, that would be a more certain fate than a bullet to the head, at this point. The only chance he had was in the journey from here to the figurative gallows. He had one more trick up his sleeve-literally-but it relied on the hallway just outside the room adjacent to his cell. If he could just get out there…
Declan cursed himself--not for the first time since his imprisonment--for not seeing the ventilation shaft on the way in until it was too late. If his jailor had fumbled for just a moment longer with his keys, he might not be in this mess right now. He would be halfway to Bunnell Creek, laughing at the stupidity of lawmen.
Well, he wasn't laughing now. If no one came to get him, he was dead. Declan couldn't think of a logical reason why they wouldn't come, but he couldn't help worrying nonetheless. He had bad luck. Blasted horrible luck, at that. Come on…you want to see me suffer, right, Biggs? I know you do. Don't just leave me here; you want to see my face when I die. He couldn't believe he was hoping for someone to try and kill him--it just didn't seem right--but that was the only thing that would save him now.
That ventilation shaft…that was the key. Declan had one Card left, his most valuable. He had saved it for years, never wanting to use it, for fear he would never find another one. They only made that kind of clockwork in Enlord City, and they were one of the most powerful types. Luckily, the guards hadn't taken his boots. They'd checked inside, of course--to make sure he didn't have a hidden weapon of some sort. But almost no one expected a boot to have a secret compartment like his did, holding an item so rare and valuable, men would kill a hundred times over to get their hands on it.
Declan liked to be prepared, even in situations that were out of his control. Especially in situations that were out of his control.
Blessedly, footsteps sounded in the hallway moments later, coming with it a hope of escape. It wasn't the metallic clank of a clockwork, but the booted steps of a man. They were coming to get him. Finally.
Declan reviewed the plan of escape in his mind as the sound grew closer. He could get out of this, if he was clever. The prison was very secure, that much was true, buried in the earth a hundred feet down, but it had one weakness. It turned out that there wasn't much air down in the bowels of Orlam, and so you needed to have some sort of ventilation system to filter air through the tunnels, or else anything stuck down here would suffocate. Not the clockwork, of course, they didn't need air, but anything living. A prisoner lucky enough to get inside that ventilation system could, potentially, make their way to the surface and escape. The only problem was that the shafts used to filter the air were entirely vertical, and a hundred feet high. That meant, despite the route to freedom built into the design, no one had ever successfully made it out alive.
Until today.

                                                                                                                                            

Oh, and here's a fake cover I made for it the other day. I obviously can't use this on Noisetrade because...it's someone else's art. But hey, it perfectly gets the theme across, so here you go:


And here is the theme song of the novella. Now that I think about it, Shawshank Redemption is definitely the theme album.

Friday, July 11, 2014

I'm Back!

Yes, it's true, I am resurrecting this blog. For a few reasons: first, I have started to put some of my work out there, and this will be a convenient place to keep those who are interested updated on what I'm doing. Also, I miss blogging. It was fun, and I need to train myself to write things regularly. No, this will not be extensive. I will be updating ONCE a week, and it will basically be an update on what I've been doing, how life is going, and any new projects I have going on. And of course, every once in a while, I'll actually write something poignant or something like that.

It's good to be back.

P.S. Here's the short story I just put out on NoiseTrade: give it a look! :)

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pulling Out The Stitches

Last week, I got away from it all. Away from the noise, the rush, the stress of life. The last hurrah of the summer--the Student Leader Camping Trip. Nothing but me, the people I love, and God's creation for miles. And it was amazing.

Most of my summers are crazy, packed full of events, trips, and performances. This summer was the craziest so far--I barely had a week to myself before it was time to get ready for the next big thing. But the camping trip slowed me down, made me stop, relax, think. After two and a half months of craziness, I was so ready to get away from everything.

Now, you might say that spending a week with twenty weird (and I mean really weird) teenagers doesn't sound very relaxing, but the truth is, being with my friends is what relaxes me the most. It's what puts everything into focus. Makes it all clear. We can be some of the strangest people you've ever met, but through it all, we're just happy... and content.

When I'm with the people I love, I am at peace with the world--and that's what happened at Cloud Lake a week ago. I was at peace.

I had been dealing with my own struggles, and I was getting so tired by the time the Student Leader Camping Trip rolled around. But God knew exactly what I needed--rest. And so He timed it perfectly so I could go camping with all of my friends for a week--because He's awesome like that.

I needed to heal. I'm not saying that I had some big thing in my life happen that was super hard or anything, I just needed to be put back together. So as I sat in God's creation, I laid down all my stress, problems, struggles, and failures and just let God heal me.

Too often do we take for granted this blessing we have--to rest, to be still in God's presence and have Him make us whole again. We're too busy, too stressed to worry about anything but the next appointment. All the while, God is trying to heal us, revive us, but we won't stop moving. Our savior is sewing us back together, and we're pulling out the stitches.

So I challenge you--be still. Let God recharge you, heal you, put you back together again. Only then will you be able to look at the stress, the problems, and the failures with a mind focused on Him.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

After All

I use to be scared of the future, and to an extent I still am. But something significant has changed in my life.

I use to think to myself, "Wow, the world is so messed up. No one is following God, and even those who say they do are compromising on very important issues. America is going downhill." I would get depressed thinking about trying to be a Christian in a future America,let alone trying to raise a godly family in that sort of environment.

This past year, my outlook has begun to change. This week in particular has really made me reevaluate my thinking.

All throughout history there have been ups and downs--periods where the majority of people in a given country have followed God and have been blessed for it, and then periods where darkness has become the status quo, and the church compromises and gets to a low point.

But it always returns--there is always a rejuvenation in the culture, and life is breathed into the world again. No matter how dark it may get, the light of a single candle is all it takes to pierce it. And through it all, God never leaves us. His promises are true in the dark times and the times of joy.

Statistics say that only 10% of the people in a society have to believe passionately about something for the culture to begin to shift. I fall of us, as Christians, stood up for Christ and DID something about the state of our country, it could change overnight. But we sit on our butts and let the 10% in charge of society right now dictate where we are headed.

This past week I’ve been at a Christian camp in Montello, Wisconsin,pouring out myself and being poured into at the same time. I’ve been humbled,strengthened, and blessed beyond anything I thought possible.

This year’s camp theme was God’s creation. Our culture has been indoctrinated with atheism and evolution for years and years, slowly being pulled away from the truth of Earth’s history and being brainwashed with revisionist history and what many would call, “scientific fact” but what is really just a bunch of assumptions believed through blind faith. The truth about the special design of the universe and how everything points to it has been all but erased from popular culture.

I have heard this topic dozens of times—my dad has taught the subject at youth group often, as well as at camp seven years ago, and we as a family are always reading about it and learning more about what the Bible has to say about the beginning of history. But this time, I came away with something new.

A determination.

The world is messed up right now, it’s true. But that doesn't mean it can’t change, it doesn't mean we can’t be the ones to do something about it, and it DOES NOT mean that God is any less true or any less good. We, as Christians, have a responsibility to the world to show it the truth,to be salt and light—preserving and illuminating—for a depraved generation. And the time to do this is not in twenty years, or in one year—it’s now.

“Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young,but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12

We, as teenagers, and yes, even those that are younger, like the kids I worked with at Kidz Camp this past week, are not the generation of tomorrow—we are the generation of TODAY. If we start today, if we have the courage to stop nodding our heads at the things we know are wrong, if we have the humility to give ourselves fully to Christ and live a life pleasing to him,if we have the faith to go boldly into the future with God at our side—nothing can stop us.

I admit, that scares me. Even as I write this, I am challenging myself with the same concept. I said I was ALL IN at a youth conference in Chicago this April, but did I mean it, and am I willing to actually live it?

Yes. Yes, I am. I have struggled with many things throughout my young life—sins, attitudes, procrastination—but as I sit here in my house after being gone for a week, being filled with the Holy Spirit countless times,and really FEELING God’s presence throughout that week, I really am ready to take that step.

I look down—my shoes are red. A reminder to myself that it will be a hard road. Blood will be on this road, dirt will be on this road,pain, heartache, weakness, and despair will be on this road. But my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ is on this road. And so shall I be as well.

God breathed life into me, and it’s time I gave him that breath back—all of it. I owe him that much, at the very least. After all the pain and suffering He went through to save me from an eternity of separation from Him, the holy God of the universe stepping into his creation and dying for it—I have to realize that fact. I belong to God, and if I don’t live my life for Him, then what else is there?

Nothing. Without God, there is no purpose—and that’s why this makes so much sense. The world is too beautifully created to be an accident. Everything points to that fact. And though some would willingly ignore and reject God, I won’t be among their ranks.

You know that fence we all hang on at one point or another,the one that divides the followers of God from those who reject him? I just kicked it down. Yes, it hurts. Yes, giving up things I know are not godly is going to make me bleed, but it is so worth it. The blood on my shoes is a reminder to me.

A reminder that Jesus bled for me. I can do the same for Him. It will never measure up to His sacrifice, but I owe him too much to not try.

The last night of camp I prayed. Prayed more diligently and purposefully then I think I ever have in my life. And I promised God and myself that I would take the first step. That if I was the only one in this generation who would follow Him, I would do it.

But that’s what’s amazing—I’m not the only one. I have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding me, my friends, my family, my church. And together, we can change the world. This generation can change EVERYTHING.

We can be the candle in the dark room. We can be the fire that burns pure. We can be the hope that this broken, fallen world desperately needs. But we can’t do it without God.

And so we are stepping out. I take a step forward, and I look around. Who will join me? Am I alone in a crowd of people that don’t care about the truth? But then I see it. Their feet—they have the same shoes. Red shoes, like mine. They have bled. They have trusted. They will fight.

An army steps forward.

I’m not saying we won’t stumble. I’m not saying we won’t be angry at God sometimes, or be hurting so much we want to give up. But I am saying we will keep each other accountable. I am saying that we will lift each other up, and strengthen each other, and love each other. I am saying that we will give everything we have. For we have seen the light at the end of this broken road we walk, and it is the most beautiful thing we have ever seen.

And so there we shall go.

“Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.” –Proverbs 4:25

That is my prayer for all of us. That we focus our eyes on Jesus and never look back. The army takes another step. And then they begin to sing.

“Hosanna, we are found after all. You are holy.”

Saturday, June 15, 2013

In Awe

It amazes me, God's love for us.

We do everything wrong, and somehow the Creator of the universe still values us, and says we are worth it. Even if we have gone through our entire life rebelling against him, all it takes is for us to repent, and God wipes our slate clean. And even worse--if we have claimed to follow God, but continue to fall into things we know are wrong, He still forgives us.

That amazes me.

I, unfortunately, have fallen under the last category for a sizable portion of my adolescent life. And yet God still forgives me every time I ask him to. He never fails to give me hope, courage, and new life when I've hit rock bottom.

I am in awe.

That reminds me of some lyrics from the amazing poet and rapper, Propaganda.

But worth, value, and beauty is not determined by some innate quality
But by the length for which the owner would go to possess them
And broken and ugly things just like us are stamped "Excellent"
With ink tapped in wells of divine veins
A system of redemption that could only be described as perfect
A seal of approval, fatal debt removal
Promised, prominent, perfect priest
Brilliant designed system, redemption for our kinsmen
Can only be described as perfect with excellent execution
And I'm in awe, the only One truly excellent
The only source of excellence
We are declared excellent only by His decree with His system
The only accurate response is awe
I absolutely love this song, "Lofty", and it's message. We do not deserve God's love, or His son's redemption, or the Holy Spirit's peace. But the God who breathes stars from his mouth gives it to us anyway.   All we have to do is ask.

I am in absolute awe and amazement at the realization that God loves me despite of my flaws, despite of my weakness, despite of my rebellion, and despite of my foolishness. He sees worth in me, and has a plan for my life far greater than anything I could ever hope to dream up on my own.

I don't deserve it. Yet he gives me it anyway. We don't deserve it, but He lavishes His love on us despite it all. And so I pray we take this chance, this one millionth, or one billionth chance we have, and do great things  with it. I pray we let God guide our lives, and allow Him to take us somewhere we could never get to on our own. And I pray that we would just surrender... that we would put aside all that the world has to offer... that I would put aside all this world has to offer, surrender everything I am... and follow Him.

I am determined.