Sunday, November 30, 2008

Defeat, Then Victory

Yesterday was what we call a "Bad Beat" - I was a loser.

Today, however, I'm a Winner! I passed 50,000 words on my novel. It's kinda neat how you do your "validation" process on Nano's website, and they address me as "Novelist". Technically, the novel isn't done yet, but it will be, and I gladly accept this feather in my cap. =)

This says 55k because I actually had about 55k words pre-November, and I just hit "Select All" on my word doc and posted it into Nano's word count validator. (Just to clarify)

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Bad Beat Catharsis

I feel like I have to write this out to decompress and calm down a bit. It’s all poker lingo, so if you’re not interested in poker (or in my thought process of what happened today), you can skip this one.

Not just a bad beat, but the worst beat I’ve ever experienced. I’ve been knocked out of tournaments before. My first time playing at Jerry’s, I had a flush, and Jerry himself knocked me out by rivering a Queen to make a full house. That was a pretty bad beat.

But this was worse for a couple reasons.
1. The stake for the game was higher than what I usually play
2. There were 30 good players in – lots of opportunity for hours of fun and learning
3. Being the first one out is just downright shameful!
4. I completely forgot about the philosophy of “Better to win small, than lose big” I only forgot it for about 30 seconds…but that was long enough.

The game:
30 players, deep-stack – starting with 50,000 in chips
The hand:
We’re about 40 minutes into the tourney, 2nd round of blinds. I’ve won a couple decent pots at this point, and lost one….so I’m about even with my starting stack.

My pre-flop situation:
A-4 clubs, middle position, 3rd to act
I raise 1,200 (3x the 400 blind)
Everyone else folds except 3rd position (under the gun) Steve – he just calls

Flop: 10d, Kc, Qc
Steve checks
I’m 4 to the flush, so I bet into it – 1,600
Steve raises – 3,000 more
I call

Turn: 9d
Steve checks
I check

River: 9c
Steve raises 9,000
(Before his raise, there is 10,600 in the pot)
I put him on a flush….only about 5% of me is worried about the full house possibility with the pair of 9’s
I hem and haw for a bit, acting a little scared because at this point I’m sure I’ve got him beat.
I go All-in
He calls very quickly

He turns over 10, J of clubs – straight flush, 9 to K – he wins, I go home
I didn’t even consider the double gut-shot
If any other club had come, I’d have won.
If any other non-club card had come, I wouldn’t have called his raise (having missed my flush)

Why I’m beating myself up:
There are three points in the game I could have saved myself.
1. Don’t even play A-4 this early in the game!
2. When he raises the 9,000 – I could fold, although it would have been because I’m worried about the full house
3. When he raises the 9,000 – I could just call, still a little worried about the full house, but confident in my (supposed) nut flush

Probably Option 3 is what I could have settled for. I would still have lost, but I would be left with about 27,000…hurt bad, but plenty alive to play tight for a couple hours, only getting in a hand with a monster.

In a sense, my read on Steve was right: I put him on a flush. I just failed to see/fear the possibility of the straight flush. This will probably haunt me for quite a while. But I hope this experience will also make me a better, smarter player. And the next time I’m in a tournament, you better believe I’m going to follow the philophy: “Better to win small, than lose big”


Friday, November 28, 2008

My Thanksgiving Post

Seems like there's been a lot more activity with peoples' blogs and Facebook, etc. over the last couple of days! I like it. =)

So here's how my week went:
My last post ended with me mentioning I was on my way to poker...and things went very well! Took 1st place for the 2nd time this month. So I'm feeling confident (not cocky) going in to the big tournament tomorrow (more on that later).

The bonus about staying late in the poker game (about 12:30) was knowing that I could sleep in on Thursday. That was wonderful...except for the fact that my body is pre-programmed to wake up, I guess in case the alarm doesn't go off. So after waking up at 6:30, then going back to sleep, I finally did get up at about 8:30. I stayed in my pajama bottoms and t-shirt outfit until about...ohhh...5:00 pm! =)

I spent the morning keeping the kids entertained so they wouldn't disturb mommy's sleep. I dinked around on the computer, watched the episode of Chuck I missed on Monday, and ate lunch a little after noon. My bro, Steve, came over and we played the board game of World of Warcraft that we have. It takes nearly a half hour to set up, and 3-4 hours to we pretty much did that till dinner was ready around 5:30.

Now ya'll know I'm a picky eater, so it shouldn't be a big surprise that I wasn't experiencing the euphoria that everyone else seems to with all the "good" food. If you look on Wendy's blog, there's a picture I took of us eating dinner, and you can see that on my plate there's nothin' but a couple slices of turkey and a roll. BUT!...they were both yummy. =)

Anywho, like Wendy said, we played some other board games (she forgot to mention that I also won the game of Scattegories =P) and I went to bed around 11.

I wasn't terribly excited about going in to work, but was hoping for a slow-ish day and an early release. Both wishes granted! Our awesome new president came by before 9 and said we could leave at noon!

So I've enjoyed relaxing at home....even took a nap for about an hour! (which I rarely do.)

Tomorrow's docket: Accountability group in the morning, little bit more relaxing for a while, then off to my friend's big Thanksgiving poker tournament. I've really enjoyed getting to know him over the past year and a half, and he has taught me a HECK of a lot about poker...and a little about writing! Bonus!

There are 30 players, and a good-sized prize pool, so I'm going to play tight and hang in till the end...which will be a long time, since we're playing deep-stack. I'll probably try to send updates during the tournament 3pm - midnight? (MST) So keep an eye on my Facebook and Tumblr pages.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I don't really feel like I have a focused "topic", but haven't posted in a couple of days, and feel inclined to share something, but this might turn into a disjointed ramble.

I was hoping that they would let us go home early today, but as it turned out, I ended up being pretty busy. Nothing like a deadline to light a fire under you and make the hours go by quicker.

The last couple of days have been pretty slow word-count-wise on the novel. Fortunately I forged ahead vigorously the week before. I'm only about 3,400 away from the 50k mark, but at least 150k away from actually competing the story!

Well, I'm leaving to go play poker with my posse in a few minutes. I love Wednesdays. (Especially when I know I get to sleep in in the morning!)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Impossible? No problem

I didn't do very well with the writing on Friday or Saturday. Only 638 and 1,446 words respectively. On Monday, I had set a goal of reaching 45,000 words for Sunday, BBT (Before Bedtime). Having those two "off" days left me with needing nearly 6,000 words needed today. Yipes!

15 minutes ago, I reached 45,007. What felt like an impossible goal got slapped up-side the head and told to obey me. Felt good.

Friday, November 21, 2008


There are two sides to a coin.
Heads: My novel feels like it's progressing well, I see lots of potential, but I'm no where near done at 37,000 words. It feels like MAYBE 1/4 of the story.
Tails: NaNoWriMo ends in 9 days, and the goal of MOST people is to have a completed novel at the end (even if it is rubbish).

The crossroads I'm at is:
A) to decide to "hurry up" and finish the story, which would involve skipping around a bit and going back later to finish by filling in the gaps and beefing it up.

B) keep trucking on as feels natural to the story (and to my style of writing), and be satisfied as long as I have reached the 50,000 word goal for November; finish the story "properly" at my own pace.

Even before I was half-way through this post, I felt like I was already leaning towards B, but suffering from a bit of doubt.

Luckily NaNoWriMo has had 1-2 "pep talks" a week, that have been very insightful and inspirational. The latest one by Janet Fitch, author of "White Oleander", has helped me decide to make a decision. (I'm going with Option B)

Here's what she had this to say (if you're so inclined to read her pep talk):

"Dear Author,

It's happening. You're writing a blue streak. You're piling up the pages. You're roaring through this novel like a forest fire. Then suddenly you hit the immovable obstacle. WHAM. Ow. You're flat as a piece of typing paper, your mind as blank. Panic!

Whether you're taking a month or a year, this is always the question. What happens next?

Fiction is all about decisions. Let me give you a personal example. Working on White Oleander, I kept hitting this wall, about chapter 8. It was all going great, all the wheels in motion, and then WHAM. I just couldn't decide what to do next. I'd try this, try that, but each time I'd get stuck. The character would put her toe in and pull it out again. No, not that. Should I just bag it? Write a different book? Go to law school? Watch reruns of Hogan's Heroes? I was absolutely blocked at the crossroads.

Luckily I was seeing an amazing therapist at the time. I explained I was afraid that if I chose route 6, then I would be eliminating all the other possible routes. What if route 15 was better? Or 3 1/2 ? So I hedged. I couldn't commit. I was stuck. And she gave me the piece of advice which has saved my writing life over and over again, and I will give it to you, absolutely free of charge. She said, "I know it feels like you have all these options and when you make a decision, you lose a world of possibilities. But the reality is, until you make a decision, you have nothing at all."

So you have these options, but which one to go for? When in doubt, make trouble for your character. Don't let her stand on the edge of the pool, dipping her toe. Come up behind her and give her a good hard shove. That's my advice to you now. Make trouble for your character. In life we try to avoid trouble. We chew on our choices endlessly. We go to shrinks, we talk to our friends. In fiction, this is deadly. Protagonists need to screw up, act impulsively, have enemies, get into TROUBLE.

The difficulty is that we create protagonists we love. And we love them like our children. We want to protect them from harm, keep them safe, make sure they won't get hurt, or not so bad. Maybe a skinned knee. Certainly not a car wreck. But the essence of fiction writing is creating a character you love and, frankly, torturing him. You are both sadist and savior. Find the thing he loves most and take it away from him. Find the thing he fears and shove him shoulder deep into it. Find the person who is absolutely worst for him and have him delivered into that character's hands. Having him make a choice which is absolutely wrong.

You'll find the story will take on an energy of its own, like a wound-up spring, and then you'll just have to follow it, like a fox hunt, over hill, over dale.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Process

As I mentioned previously, part of me wishes I was taking detailed notes, and journaling about this whole "writing a novel" process. Partially to look back on and see what I've learned, how I've grown. But I must also confess that there is a small percentage of me that sees that as marketable "wow" factor for when the book is a best-seller, and people are interviewing me about "the process".

I think often of my literary hero, Professor Tolkien. I have read numerous examples of this kind of thing, where Tolkien was writing to his son, Christopher, or his editor, Unwin, or a friend. He talks about how for a long time he was stalled when the Fellowship got to Moria, and he just had no idea what to do next. Or how Melkor (the Vala who was Sauron's master a looooong time before the third age) was originally named Melko. How/when/why did the name change?

I think of these kind of things as my novel already, in just the few short weeks, has gone through a metamorphosis and leaves me balancing on a precipice of "Oh! That's exciting, I wonder what that's all about." and "What the...? That's stupid! I hate this part, gotta change it later..."

In order to keep up with word count goals, I've been trying not to get hung up on thinking up good name choices (which includes a lot of research in linguistics in the 20 or so languages I'm looking at). I'm just quickly coming up with a "place-holder" name that I can go back and fix later. But the vast number of "place-holder" names is starting to overwhelm me. I can't even remember them from paragraph to paragraph, so I'm starting to keep a "continuity log" to keep track of all these weirdos.

Oh look! It's 11:42....gotta get up for work in a little over 6 hours, so I'm turning in. Got 6 hours of writing done today! 5,000 words!!! I can sleep well. =)


Me: Look at you! You're so cute!
Cosette: Ya?
Me: know we love you, huh?
Cosette: Ummm...noo...
Me: What? You know we love you. Of course, it helps that you're so cute.
Cosette: Just a little bit...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

I Got Nothin'

Apparently, I got nothin' going on in my poker game tonight. I won 1st place last week. And this week I'm second out. And I come home early, a little bummed, but thinking "Hey, at least I have time to get some writing done." But I'm feeling so dang tired right now, I don't want to think any more. I got over 2,000 words done earlier, so I'm actually ahead of target.

That's all. I got nothin'.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tangents or Plot Twists?

So I'm starting to make good progress on the novel. (Which, by the way, has a working title: "Exile" - which you'd know if you've visited my profile on NaNoWriMo)
As of "write" now (7:15pm MST), I'm only about 1,500 words shy of the "on-track" number to keep the pace. As soon as I finish this blog update, I'm going to get back at it. I'm giving up watching House and Fringe tonight - two shows I like a whole heckuva lot! - in order to get caught up, and maybe even forge ahead.

On a related note, I made a similar sacrifice today at lunch. Some of the folks in my department were heading out to eat for lunch, and I wasn't terribly excited about the PB&J I had brought, so that was tempting. But I opted to stay, eat my PB&J, and do some writing. It paid off, because I got a lot of writing done! (And saved some $$$ by not eating out)

I was thinking today that I only have 12 days left! And I have close to 22,000 words left to reach 50,000. That *GULP* moment hopefully inspire me to crank out words this week and try to get ahead, so I don't wind up putting my head through a wall at some point.

I really would like to capture some of my thoughts about this process more, but already feel the ticking of the clock. So...back to the novel.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Extreme vs. Mundane

Something I've thought for...well, ever: Extremes are easy, subtle and mundane is difficult. Yet, people fear extremes and seek the "comfort" of mediocrity. Allow me to explain...(or don't allow me. Just try to stop me!)

The most obvious example that I think about most often, is living for Christ. Ever since that story of the girl who had a gun put to her head and asked if she believed in God, I've wondered how I would react in a similar situation. Not to sound cocky about something I most likely will never experience, and can't 100%-for-sure know how I'd me that sounds easy. And some guy named Peter, who started the Church even missed that one. I know.

When faced with such a black and white choice like that. And with sin...could I all of a sudden, one day kill someone to take their money, out of anger, etc? No. The sin that I succumb to isn't the hit-over-the-head extreme circumstances, it's the daily subtle mundane choices of everyday life.

Perhaps that's part of what draws me to fantasy/sci-fi fiction. Or even the action flicks I love like Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. These fictional realms are extreme black vs. white scenarios. The choices characters make may be difficult, but usually they're clear. They are exaggerations of the mundane choices we make every day.

That's where I fail. The little, subtle, mundane choices. The slow death of the soul. Thinking like this tempts me to seek a life of risk and extreme adventure. I'm not talking about dangerous thrill-seeking like base-jumping or becoming an MMA fighter. I mean escaping my mundane "safe" life and go onto the front lines of spiritual warfare. It's something more than just idealistic romanticism of watching too many movies. There is a sleeping warrior inside me, that is itching for the opportunity and guts to kick some ass. (Spiritually speaking, of course.)

I'm excited about the next study my accountability group is going to be starting next week. We're going to read through "The Way of the Wild Heart" by John Eldredge. I think I read his earlier book, "Wild at Heart" about 7-8 years ago, and it was good.

Whew, got a little heavier than usual. But its cathartic to vent.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Just realized that I didn't have a post yesterday. Not my fault! Really! I ended up spending the day in Denver, and didn't get home till about 10:30 pm. Like I mentioned in my Friday evening post (not to be confused with the Saturday Evening, I was hoping to get in some quality time with Brian and Tyler who were in town for the night.

It was a blast hanging out with them. Lunch, Opera audition (for Tyler), Nickel arcade, Trip to airport (again...for Tyler), Bowling, then home. I was on fire with the witty banter, and was quite pleased with myself (as were the others). =)

BUT....the consequence: I only got about 500 words written yesterday, and I was already a couple thousand behind. Before my head hits the pillow tonight, I'm "supposed" to be at 26,667. Currently, I'm at 19,581...yipes. I'm realistic enough to know I'm not going to get 6,000 tonight, but I'm feeling optimistic and ambitious enough to at least try for 3,000.

The NaNoWriMo folks are supportive and encouraging, and we get 1-2 "pep talk" emails per week, so they are basically saying: "It's ok if you're behind...don't give up!"

So, I'm going to get off the internet now, and get writing.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Plans Change

Since most of my followers also follow Wendy, I imagine you've heard/read by now that the last 24 hours have held 2 very unpleasant events that have impacted Wendy quite a bit.

1. Witnessing a neighbor screaming in despair and crumble after her husband committed suicide last night.
2. Wendy's mom and step-dad rolling over their truck and camper/trailer a couple hours ago in Wyoming

(See her blog for full scoops)

My "plan" was to head up to Denver right after work to hang out with BFF Brian, who's there for the weekend. Then probably stay overnight, and come back to the Springs so he can see our new place and the kids, etc.

While I was on the phone with Wendy, she started to cry and say she couldn't handle the thought of me a) traveling with weather/driving conditions the way they are and b) being away for the night.

I knew the right decision, obviously. But to be honest, a part of me was crushed. I was really looking forward to hanging out with Bri, we always have been really connected, and we have a lot to talk about and catch up on. He's still going to come down for a while tomorrow, but...ya know.

So as I'm driving home, I'm trying to focus on loving my wife, and being selfless, but there's that nagging little voice saying "But...!"

In order to trying and squelch that lil' nagger, I turn up the radio (which I had turned down while on the phone), and the first thing I hear is this line: "I'm letting go of the life I planned for me..." (Song: I'm Letting Go by Francesca Battistelli)

And I'm like, "Woah." That did it. So before I got home God changed my heart and attitude. Aside from the benefit of being in the right frame of mind to not have an attitude and be able to love my wife the way she needs right now, I also saw some bright side points, like: 1) gonna save money on gas and food, 2) won't add to the exhaustion I'm already feeling, 3) get to up my word count tonight for NaNoWriMo, which otherwise I'd have zero words today.

Even though the circumstances are difficult, I'm most moved at how quickly and powerfully God moved in me personally today. Thanks, Abba.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two in a Row!'s possible for me to follow through on commitments! I said I was going to try and blog every day, and so far I've made it two days now. (whew!)

I've only written about 500-600 words so far today, and it's already past 9:00. I'm thoroughly exhausted, because two nights this week I've stayed up till 12:00 or 12:30 trying to get caught up on my word count. And then last night (Wednesday) was my poker night. The good news is, I made that worthwhile by winning 1st place...that felt good. The bad news is, I got home at 12:45, and went straight to bed: with ZERO words written for the day.

Tonight, we bid adieu to my MIL who is heading back on the road tomorrow morning. We had dinner at Red Lobster, then they came over to our place for a few minutes. Then I HAD to watch Office, of course.

This week, Brian (best friend/best man) is going to be in Denver. So I'm going up to hang out Friday night, then he is coming back down to the Springs to check out our place and hang out...not sure if we're going to do anything in particular...but I know I won't be writing....putting me even FURTHER behind. I'm running the computer/video for church on Sunday...but have nothing else scheduled for the rest of the day. So I hope to plan to get several hours of writing done on Sunday...there's even an official "write-in" scheduled with other NaNoWriMo authors in the area.

So that's where I'm at right now. Ok, back to the novel...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Those are the letters occupying 87% of my consciousness at present. For those who haven't been following my FB updates, on Nov. 1st I embarked on the journey best captured by this sentiment: "It's crazy, it'll never work, when do I start?"

NaNoWriMo = National Novel Writer's Month.
Apparently, for the last 10 years, this has been going on every year in November. A friend from church told me about it when I mentioned to him that I was trying to write a novel. The goal of nano is to write 50,000 words in November. That's about the size of Animal Farm by George Orwell, and other research indicates that an average fiction novel runs 60k-110k. I looked up Riven, by Jerry Jenkins, which Wendy and I read recently, and that's about 145k or something.

I'm going to try and add a nano widget that shows my wordcout, I've got that going on my FB profile already. Right now I'm just under 16,000. I never woulda thunk it! Before embarking on this nano experience, I spent 6-8 months to come up with 5,000 words. A lot of that time I spent doing research, day-dreaming about what kind of story I wanted to do, and creating a map of the world it would take place in.

I've felt bad for neglecting the blog, though. And a lot of advice I've been hearing from people, and reading on the internet, is related to the blog experience.

1) It's important to try and write every day, even if it's junk you throw out later.
2) It's important to update your blog often so that you develop web-presence, establish a following, and eventually help market yourself.

If you would like to see my nano profile, and read an excerpt, etc. go to the website and register. It's easy and free, just need an email address and password. Then click on the "Authors" tab and enter my user name: realdealneal