Tuesday, October 27, 2015

How Am I Doing?

I have to be honest. I've been throwing the idea for this blog post around for at least a whole month, but just when it was time to sit down and start writing it, the same three words would come yelling out at me: No. One. Cares. So you got hit by a setback in work. Big deal! You got a lot of good stuff going on too. Nobody wants to read your wishy-washy “Boo-Hoo, Woe is me” followed by “But I got some stuff lined up,” especially when the stuff being lined up isn't set in stone yet.

And then I would get locked up, walk away from the document, and try working on something else. Anything else. The dishes. Yes, I would rather do the dishes than put my thoughts down on the screen. What kind of a writer am I?

But then, last Sunday night, I started reading a blog post by Wil Wheaton called “Seven Things I Did to Reboot My Life.” I was fascinated by what I was reading, not just because Wil's a hell of a writer and very relatable, but because he's pretty much on the same journey that I've been on since the start of last summer. And when I brought this post to my friends' attention on Facebook, they started reading it for themselves, then started liking and sharing it.

Obviously, Wil's much more known than I am, but if some good news about his regaining control over his life could positively affect me, maybe my good news about dealing with a bad situation could do for the same for someone else.

So, some of you may already know some of this news through my posts on Facebook, and some of you may not. Either way, here we go...

Back in the 80s, when the late former Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, wasn't angering Giants fans by denying the Super Bowl XXI champions a parade down the Canyon of Heroes ("If they want a parade, let them parade in front of the oil drums in Moonachie"), he was riding the subways to and from work and asking NYC residents, "How'm I doin'?" Recently, I realized that this could be a question on the minds of those who are following this blog, since I haven't updated it in quite some time. What have I been up to, you may ask? Turns out, quite a bit.

For starters, as of last August, I no longer work at First Congregational Church of St. Louis. I'm not going to go into any details, and I'm certainly not going to say anything negative about the church. It's been a great three years, I made a lot of connections and friendships, and if it weren't for FCC giving me a chance, we wouldn't have the house that we have now. Nevertheless, it was time to move on, and I've begun seeking out new full-time opportunities. I won't go any further than that here, simply because I don't want to jinx anything.

With no current full-time work, that leaves extra time to write. Or, it would have left extra time to write if I wasn't feeling so guilty about not working that I've been consumed with job hunting. However, I realized earlier this month that I was just flailing when it came to sending out my resume. I was pushing it in all directions, whether it was a job I could see myself doing or not. So I relaxed, I reduced my resume-sending to places where I knew I wanted to work (I know, weird), and the responses I've gotten so far have been much more fulfilling. This sudden feeling of relaxation has allowed me to get much more writing done, and just last week, I FINALLY reached 50,000 words on “Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey.” Now, does this mean that I'm almost done with this one? Ohhh, no. I still have a long way to go, but I'm encouraged by my accomplishment of all three stipulations I gave myself before I started writing Chapter One: “Ever Upward” had to be longer (absolutely), it had to go deeper into Excelsior's mythology (that it does), and it had to be darker (bring a flashlight).

Those of you who are Facebook friends have no doubt seen my recent barrage of pictures. That's because – for the first time in over ten years – I'm happy with how I'm looking. One of Cheryl's friends turned us on to paleo at the end of June, and while I'll say we haven't been following it exactly to the letter, the change has been remarkable. The day before we started was the last day that we had soda (with Sprite / Sierra Mist being the only occasional exception), we started cooking more (and cooking together, much to the chagrin of our dog Bear, who resorts to peeing on the nearest piece of furniture to get attention), and the substitutions we've been making in our food choices have made such a difference.

With this change in eating comes an urge to keep getting better, and so Cheryl and I started running every other morning, using the C25K app on our phones that we've had there for months, and it's accelerated the weight loss quite a bit. As of now, I'm down 35-40 pounds, I'm a little over 20 pounds from hitting my personal goal, I'm fitting in clothes that were tight when I got them back in 2009, and I'm feeling better now at 39 than I was at 29.

Now that I'm looking better and feeling better, I'm also moving better and dancing better. Cheryl & I are not only more active than ever with the St. Louis Rebels West Coast Swing Dance Club, but we're now board members with the club, and earlier this month, I have been officially certified to be an instructor! Who knew that I would be teaching first-time dancers to WCS less than four years after it finally clicked for me? Also, last September during the Meet Me in St. Louis Swing Dance Championships, I was bumped up from Newcomer to Novice in the Jack & Jill competition. Just like my first teacher told me, “Stay in a division until they kick you out.” Well, they kicked me out, and I feel like I got called up to the major leagues. I'm now dancing alongside men and women that have been doing this for so many years before I even started, and just having the opportunity to share the floor with them is a real honor. (It also helped that, because of the weight loss, I got to wear a shirt to the competition that I hadn't worn since 2006.)

But wait, there's more! During the first week of September, I came across a mention on Twitter about voiceover lessons in St. Louis. (I'll go into more detail later about how voice acting has been such a big part of my life since childhood.) And not just in St. Louis, but in Clayton Studios, a place Cheryl and I drove past time and time again while taking a trip to the Goodwill near the church where I used to work. I contacted the director of the classes, we had a long conversation where he patiently answered any question I had, and then gave me the price for the classes: $1100.

Obviously, with only one full-time income right now, it wasn't feasible for us to put that kind of money down. I had to admit that this dream couldn't be pursued just yet... but then, I had an idea. I would set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for the lessons, and in return, I would narrate a short story of up to 500 words for $10 or a story of up to 1000 words for $20. Once the campaign went live, a friend and fellow author, as well as a very talented cover artists and book trailer producer – Rachel Bostwick – donated four of her deluxe trailers (valued at $100) to the campaign for $50 each, and asked me to provide the voiceover for the trailers. What am I going to say, no? Of course not! Between the pledges from different authors, generous donations from family members, and money earned from selling copies of “Excelsior” to students at a local elementary school, I hit my $1100 goal with just over a week to go!

I'll go into further detail about how the voice lessons are going in a later edition, but honestly, I've never felt happier than I do right now. Of course, I'll feel better once I know what's going on with the job hunt, but these lessons are doing more for my confidence than I ever thought imaginable.

There's more to come in the near future, but I wanted to get this blog page going again, since that's part of the “39 Bucket List” I wrote after my birthday last August. I also wanted to let all of my newsletter subscribers know that I'm taking a break from my monthly newsletter for a while. All new material will go here instead of there, and I want to use this time to build my online presence back up instead of working for a few hours to put something together that only 20 or so people will actually read (If you're one of the 20 or so, thank you and I hope you've been enjoying it!). So, like I said, there will be more to come. I promise! And if there's something specific you'd like me to discuss here, by all means, let me know. I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Power and the Paranormal Book Signing September 5!

The Power and the Paranormal Book Signing
Date: Sat, September 5th
Time: 1 pm-3 pm
Location: Main Street Books, St. Charles

Contact: T.W. Fendley or twfendley@gmail.com

Meet four local authors who write about young men and women with the power to change the world for good.

Featured authors at The Power and the Paranormal signing are Camille Faye, (paranormal), Candace Carrabus (fantasy, adventure, romance), George Sirois (science fiction and young adult), and T.W. Fendley (fantasy and science fiction). Enter drawings for one of four free Main Street Books gift cards.

Camille Faye grew up in a haunted house, which sparked her fascination with the paranormal. In VOODOO BUTTERFLY, Sophie is a Mind Changer who must experience transformative love to fight evil.
T.W. Fendley loves ancient American cultures and trekking the Yucatan, Peru, and American Southwest. In ZERO TIME, Keihla must unlock the secrets of Machu Picchu to save two worlds from the powers of darkness. In THE LABYRINTH OF TIME, Jade must restore the Firestone’s power before the First Men return to judge humanity.
George Sirois has been creating his own characters since 1985. In EXCELSIOR, Matthew thinks Denab IV and its savior are solely from his imagination until he learns Excelsior’s lifeforce lives within him, and he is the key to Earth’s survival and Denab IV’s salvation.
Candace Carrabus writes stories and rides horses–frequently simultaneously. In THE ROAR OF SMOKE, Tressida must master her lethal smoke spinning ability to prevent a war, and save the horses and everyone she loves. In RAVER, Lauren is taken from our world to another where she must call their lost horses before an entire country dies.

Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Excelsior is a Semi-Finalist!

I'm so happy to announce that "Excelsior" has been named a semi-finalist in the Young Adult category of the 2015 Kindle Book Awards! Out of all the entries that were sent in, and I'm sure there were many since this genre is wide open, my novel was listed among the 20 moving on to the next round. So I want to thank all of the judges who saw something in this book that was worth exploring further, and I hope those who are reading it for the next round are just as entertained.

On another note, this weekend - Fourth of July Weekend - "Excelsior" will be on sale on eBook for just 99 cents. From July 3 - 5, it's yours for just a quarter of the original cost. If you haven't gotten it yet, now's the time! Just click HERE to access the page.

But wait, there's more! Click HERE and you'll get the first part of "From Parts Unknown" for FREE! That's right, FREE!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Take the Pledge!

If there's one thing that many writers have in common, it's their constant issues with procrastination. As much as we try to push past it and get things done, we spend more time whining about not writing on Facebook than putting those words to good use and actually, oh, I don't know.... WRITING!

This has been a real struggle for me ever since I succumbed to the urge to tell the stories that have been sitting in my head in one form or another for almost thirty years. But the one time I succeeded in getting out of Procrastination Station for a sustained period of time was in June of 2008, when I wrote the first draft of “Excelsior” and won the Southern Cross Novel Challenge (NaNoWriMo in June instead of November).

So since I'm not starting a project from scratch at this point – I'm editing everything I've written so far of “Ever Upward: Part Two of The Exclesior Journey” before getting back to writing it – I wanted to issue a little challenge to everyone else out there who is dealing with the same crippling habits I am. Starting on Monday, June 1, I will be editing what I have so far in chunks of at least 1500 words per day. And at the end of each day, I will post the progress in my blog. After I finish with the editing, then I'll be writing at least 1000 words each day until the last day of June.

Now, about the challenge. We all know that there is strength in numbers, and when we're not enabling each other, we're pretty awesome together. Therefore, I want as many fellow writers as possible to join me on this endeavor. If you want to sign up, just add your name, e-mail address, and your own personal word count, and then I'll send you the Google Form to track your progress at the end of each day.

There will also be a Facebook group dedicated to this challenge, so you'll have a place to vent and get encouragement throughout the month.

What do you say? Want to take the pledge? Then click HERE to sign up!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A New Champion

Ever since I wrote up the original video game treatment for the storyline that would eventually be called "From Parts Unknown," I had a feeling that it would go somewhere, but I didn't know where it would go, so for the next three years, I put it in different formats. First came the film treatment, then the screenplay, then lots and lots of drafts of that screenplay, and finally - in July of 2002 - I finished writing the novel. When I showed it to an acquaintance and waited for his praises, he instead responded with, "I think you should self-publish this."

Not the most encouraging words in 2002, when self-publishing was still looked at with an upturned nose and dismissed as a last-ditch effort of getting someone's writing out there. They had to PAY for people to read it, so it must not be any good!

I went back and forth with this option, and finally took the plunge with iUniverse in September of that same year, and the rest is a very small piece of history. It launched, friends and family picked up their copies, and then it faded out and I moved on, convinced that the story had peaked.

Only, it didn't. In 2011, I got the rights to the book back and decided to give it an overhaul. Four years later, the overhaul became the five-part serial that it is today.

So much of this story has changed over the years. It had a supernatural tone to it for a while, involving the spirit of a gladiator from the Roman times. It became more cartoonish, then more grounded, and finally it became a lot more political with some fairly heavy social commentary, similar to the sci-fi films of the 1970s before Star Wars was released. But one thing it never really had (with the exception of Charlie Kessler, who helped with the 2005 screenplay rewrite) was someone who would stand beside me and want to invest in it.

Until now.

It's my honor to give the news that I had been waiting to give ever since I published the first incarnation of this story in 2002: "From Parts Unknown" has a home. And more importantly, it has a new champion. Rocking Horse Publishing - the same publisher that re-launched "Excelsior" - will release the five-part serial as one large eBook in November of this year, and then prepare for a paperback launch in early 2016. If you still want to get individual copies of each part of the serial, you have until mid-September before they come down. Click HERE to see what I'm talking about.

Now, some may wonder why I'm going this route when I could have just self-published this new - and vastly improved - version. I definitely could have, but my reasoning is simple: it's lonely out there. With the market as saturated as it is, it's difficult for one voice to get any louder than everyone else's. And I've done a lot of shouting for this story. I believe in it, I know it works, and I'm shocked to even see myself typing that when I'm still my own worst critic. Something about this story makes me feel that I've got something here, that after almost twenty years of kicking it around, I finally got it right. And it means a lot to me to know that, now that this contract is signed, someone else will be shouting beside me.

This may come off as sappy to you, but this is the direction I need to take "From Parts Unknown." Ever since it was just a pile of Microsoft Word pages, nobody felt the urge to give it a chance, and I'm forever grateful that RHP is giving me the chance I've been craving for so long. So set some space aside on your bookshelf or your Kindle for this November or early 2016. This science-fiction / wrestling / dystopia-in-progress / comic book-esque / epic story finally has what it's been missing since the original idea came to me in 1995: a new champion.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Want to Win an Autographed Copy of Excelsior?

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Excelsior by George Sirois


by George Sirois

Giveaway ends April 03, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Now that I'm getting back some of the momentum I had when I started writing "Ever Upward: Part Two of The Excelsior Journey," I thought I'd try out the giveaway option on Goodreads. It's a very simple one: three winners each get a personalized autographed copy of "Excelsior," along with the Bonus Materials booklet and "Established 1992" sketch that I usually add in whenever I have a signing. The giveaway was approved last Thursday, and at midnight PST on Saturday, March 28, it was open for entries.

It's now Monday night, and the giveaway already has 155 entries! (Hopefully this number is outdated by the time I publish this.) Even better, over 60 people have added the book to their TBR list (to-be-read). To say it's an incredible feeling to see this much interest in my writing is an understatement.

So if you've ever been interested in reading "Excelsior" but haven't gotten a copy yet, now you can win one! Just click on the box above, and sign up. The contest is open until midnight PST on Friday, April 3!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Marvel-iest Franchise

"They look at you and see what they want to be. They look at me and see what they are."
-- Sir Anthony Hopkins as President Richard Nixon, Nixon (1995)


In less than two months, American audiences will be given the latest installment in Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Avengers: Age of Ultron. And just over two months after that, they'll be given the final installment in that phase - Ant-Man.

Now, do I count myself among the audiences that will be in the theater on both opening weekends? Absolutely! I've said numerous times that this is the greatest time to be a fan of comic books and comic book films. We're seeing characters we've known and loved for decades being adapted for the big screen by filmmakers who grew up with them as well and want to see them done right. And when you look at the interweaving Marvel Cinematic Universe, you can't help but think of this franchise as the ultimate example of what comics are, right?


If you look at Marvel Comics as a "perfect world," where everything is in sync, then yes, the MCU is the ultimate example of comics on the big screen. However, we don't live in a perfect world, and neither do our heroes. It's not just villains that they have to overcome; it's decisions made behind the scenes.

A member of a team can be thrown into their own spin-off series on a whim, and if it fails, then they'll be sent back to the team with their proverbial tail between their legs. Or a major character can die. Or two. Or three! And if those characters were so popular that their demise turns readers away, then it's up to the creative team to figure out how to bring them back. Even if it means a catastrophe of gargantuan proportions that disrupts the space-time continuum as we know it!

What we're seeing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn't that. Stakes are high and supporting characters fall along the way, but the ones with fanbases are either resurrected for television or are just incapacitated. The closest we've seen to the MCU acknowledging and fixing a mistake was when Trevor Slattery, Ben Kingsley's character in Iron Man 3, was interviewed in prison during All Hail the King!, the Marvel One-Shot short film on the Blu-Ray to Thor: The Dark World. Other than that, everything in the MCU happens in a very linear fashion and there's little to no participation needed by the audience. Just strap yourself in, enjoy the fun, make sure you've seen all of the ones that came before, and stay during the end credits, no matter how long they are.

So if the MCU isn't everything we know and love (or hate) about comics put on the big screen for the masses, then what is?

Yup, it's X-Men. And I know a lot of you who are reading are just rolling your eyes at this and unleashing your contempt for 20th Century Fox "messing everything up" and "not giving the rights to Marvel Studios," but take a look at where this film franchise started and where it's gone. The 2000 film played it safe so non-fans wouldn't get lost by introducing only a handful of characters. (They also had a pretty small budget, since Fox didn't know what kind of success the franchise would become.) Then they opened everything up with the second fim and allowed the characters to stretch their legs and show their full potential.

But then, Bryan Singer left Fox to go direct Superman Returns for Warner Bros. This threw the whole franchise up in the air and had everyone behind the scenes scrambling to get a replacement. So while Singer - the driving force of the first two films - was separated from the franchise, we got two major storylines crammed into one shorter movie, which included three major characters being killed and several losing their powers. Three years later, Fox decided to give us the (supposed) definitive origin story of the franchise's most popular character and the first of a new series of spin-offs. But when the box office slipped and the critical and fan response was dismal, those plans were scrapped and we were given a prequel that played fast and loose with established continuity, but still wound up being a very well-received film that some believe eclipses the previous trilogy.

So what comes next, after what's been released? Well, what was supposed to be a sequel to X-Men Origins: Wolverine winds up being a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand: 2013's The Wolverine. This installment has a more mature tone than the other films and plays like a graphic novel, or like the miniseries that inspired it. And at the very end of the X-Men line, as of now, we have X-Men: Days of Future Past, the big event storyline that combines the prequel cast with the original trilogy cast and winds up retconning all of the bumpier moments from the past out of existence. (It even knocked an entire film - X-Men Origins: Wolverine - into non-canon oblivion.)

So after one completed trilogy, two prequels, one stand-alone sequel, and a "big event" film, we're kinda right back where we started and the slate is clear for a whole new generation of fans to discover the X-Men. Just like DC's "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and "The New 52," or Marvel's "Ultimate" line-up, along with the constant rebooting of various characters' histories, the X-Men film franchise is filled with all of the frustrating twists and turns that plague comics, yet are necessary in order to fix previous mistakes or keep them from being intimidating to new readers.

Despite its continuity issues, the X-Men franchise accomplishes something really special that the MCU isn't: it's leaving major elements open to interpretation. It's up to you to decide how Wolverine got his steel claws back between the end of The Wolverine and the start of Days of Future Past. It's up to you to decide how much of the original trilogy still stands. And speaking of standing, it's still up to you to decide why Charles Xavier was walking without a problem when he met Jean Grey. Was it because of the serum introduced in Days of Future Past? Or was it because of the argument I put forward in my X-Continuity post?

The Marvel Cinematic Universe may be a fine representation of what Marvel Comics are supposed to be like, with their team-up adventures and galaxy-wide continuing storyline, but when you think back to the rocky histories that come with decades-old characters and remember the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, whether you like it or not, you're thinking of the X-Men franchise.