Tag Archives: nanowrimo

Half Way Home: Colonies, Lord of the Flies & AI

Half Way Home by Hugh HoweyHalf Way Home by Hugh Howey offers one of those classic and incredible sci-fi setups: Planetary colonies are sent out across the universe and governed by an artificial intelligence that decides the viability of the colony and aborts when not fully viable. You get a sense for the creepy undertones already.

The story follows one colony that is aborted, but the abort sequence is stopped. Maybe 15% survive, having been interrupted in their gestation and only half grown and educated (meaning they’re teenagers instead of adults). As the surviving confused colonists stumble out of the vats, they’re in for a strange new world where their AI tried to abort them but then changed its mind, and rather than give answers insists they work to build a rocket ship that has nothing to do with survival.

So it’s part colonization story, part Lord of the Flies, with a little bit of creepy Dave from 2001: A Space Odyssey thrown in.

The fact that Hugh Howey wrote Half Way Home for National Novel Writing Month means it’s quick and has a special place in my heart.


One of the deeper themes in the story (SPOILER ALERT) is the main character’s orientation. He’s gay and slowly comes to terms with this throughout the story. What he’s really coming to terms with is the fact that he’s alone—and we learn that’s quite intentional (thank you creepy AI). It’s not an overriding part of the story, but it is an interesting commentary on the “otherness” that society creates for LGBT people.

Not Quite YA

The only downside to Half Way Home is that it’s supposed to be a YA novel, but I think that fails.  I read a lot of YA (probably half the books I’ve read this year are YA or middle grade) and even knowing what to expect I couldn’t read it that way. The characters came across like adults and not teenagers. And it’s not that Howey can’t write teenagers. He did a great job with the YA feel in the Molly Fyde series.

But Half Way Home‘s non-YA-ness didn’t lessen my enjoyment at all. I’ve been lacking in some intergalactic sci-fi lately, and while colonizing a planet isn’t gallivanting across the stars, it’s still pretty great.


Mold-a-Rama Gorilla from Como ParkIt turns out that I’m crazy.

I dove into National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the fourth time this year and it’s not meant to be. I had this grand plan of linking the story to Como Park and publishing the story with lots of help and Como Park goodies for everyone. It’s not going to happen.

I stopped writing last Friday, just shy of 20,000 words.

It really came down to two things:

  1. My life is crazy right now.
  2. The story wasn’t working.

My life is crazy right now: Work is both slow and busy (if you’ve ever been self-employed you might understand that predicament). Lexi stopped napping. Milo screamed more (didn’t think that was possible). We have a pre-teen in the family. Evenings have all but disappeared. We launched a book last week.

I’m not sure crazy does it justice.

When my wife started commenting about how stressed I was, I realized NaNoWriMo wasn’t a good idea this year. It didn’t help when I had to break out my brace to fight wrist over-use syndrome (yes, that’s what a doctor diagnosed it as a few years ago—shut up).

The story wasn’t working: I could put up with all of the above if the story were working. But it’s not. My characters feel flat. There is no plot. It feels like I’m trying to force reluctant people on a tour of Como Park, and that’s not what it’s supposed to be. Getting up an hour early every day to work on this just isn’t worth it.

NaNoWriMo is supposed to be about slogging through all that, but this year if I’m going to be that stressed I should at least be paying the bills.

Lessons from Failure
So I failed. I’m both sorry and grateful to my backers and cheerleaders. But sometimes I think we need to try crazy, ridiculous ideas and fail. I have a lot of crazy ideas, and they wouldn’t be so crazy if they all worked. And it’s not really failure if the idea sits in your head and you never try it—it’s something worse. So as scary as it is and as much as my Midwest work ethic says “Never give up!”, I’m giving up.

And it’s not a total loss.

  • I loved writing about Como Park. I loved diving into the history and story of the place. I will come back to that. Some day.
  • A few scenes and moments and ideas in the story did work. There are places that I really like, even if the rest falls apart. And that’s really what NaNoWriMo is about—finding some treasure in the trash.
  • I also learned the ins and outs of Kickstarter. I love the idea behind this site, the way creatives can pitch ideas and people can step up to make them happen. Go find some ideas and support them. Make a record with Shaun Groves. Help a photographer create street galleries in New York. Find a project you like and help it become a reality.

And there it is. Thanks.

Lost & Found in Como Park

Como ParkHere’s proof that I’m crazy.

Earlier this week I announced Open Our Eyes: Seeing the Invisible People of Homelessness, my project to support Mark Horvath and InvisiblePeople.tv. It launches November 9. Last night I launched a Kickstarter campaign to publish this year’s National Novel Writing Month effort, Lost & Found in Como Park.

As if my life wasn’t crazy enough.

So here’s the deal: I love Como Park. It’s this great park we have in St. Paul. It’s got a free zoo and the conservatory and trails and statues. It’s more than 100 years old, so there’s history everywhere you look. It’s great place to take your family.

I’ve decided to set this year’s NaNoWriMo story in Como Park. I want to use the locale and the history—and more than that, I want to bridge fiction and reality. I want to place a memorial brick in Como Park for a fictional character from the book. It’s a celebration of Como Park and a way to make the story real.

So if we can hit the $1,000-goal then we’ll publish the book and put a brick in Como Park and make this thing happen. Kickstarter works on pledges, so if we don’t hit the goal, you don’t have to pay. I’ll write the book either way, but publishing the book and placing the brick are dependent on getting enough pledges. If we go past the goal we can make the book better.

There are all kinds of rewards for making a pledge and backing the project. I tried to make them low cost and high fun—so you’re getting a deal, not being charged a premium. For $10 you can get a copy of the book (I won’t be able to sell it that cheap, so you’re getting a deal). We’re also giving away a bunch of Como Park souvenirs that I’m going to work into the story. You can also be written into the story. Or you can get a personal tour of Como Park. Lots of fun stuff.

I’m hoping this will serve as some extra incentive while I’m writing the novel and a fun way to share the story and Como Park with all of you.

Or, I’m just crazy.

The novel writing starts on Monday. You’ve got until the end of November to pledge. Want to join me?

NaNoWriMo is Coming

November is National Novel Writing Month. I participated (and won!) in 2004, 2006 and 2008. If you noticed a pattern, then yes, I do it every even-numbered year and that means doing it again in 2010.

For the un-initiated, this means writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. That’s 1,667 words per day. It’s a lot of work and the results can be pretty messy, but you end up with a novel. That’s cool. It’s about forcing yourself through the process and arriving somewhere at the end. It’s not about creating a perfectly polished product. It’s about diving in with a crazy but do-able plan and making it happen. Sometimes I think about applying the NaNoWriMo approach to other ventures.

Just like last time, I have no idea what I’m going to write. Not having an idea to percolate in the back of my head throughout October made things harder last time, so I hope I come up with something soon. Unfortunately, I keep catching myself coming up with weird ideas. Like exploring some strange new kind of storytelling (that kind of experimentation probably isn’t a good idea when you need to be cranking out 1,667 words every day like a writing machine) or turning this into yet another fundraiser (part of me thinks writing a novel when I should be paying the bills is foolish).

So we’ll see where NaNoWriMo 2010 takes us.

Finding My Novels a Home

I’ve been thinking about novel writing lately. You can blame Jonathan Blundell and the little video chat we did a few days ago about my post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel, Least of These. You see, I’ve written three novels. Two have been self-published as rough drafts and one has seen a few re-writes and I’m wondering what to do with it.

Last night I pulled out my non-sci-fi novels and started reading through the first chapters. I liked what I read. I saw a few things here and there to improve (I’ll probably always feel that way), but I didn’t have that impending sense of way too much work to do to find anything salvageable. I enjoyed what I read, perhaps out of nostalgia for my own creation, but I also thought it was pretty good.

But the question I kept coming back to is what do I do with these novels?

Continue reading Finding My Novels a Home

Least of These Video Chat

You may remember that I recently published a book. It’s a little sci-fi post-apocalyptic novel called Least of These with a killer cover (you can download a free copy or buy the paperback for $9.99).

Yesterday I sat down and did a little video chat about the book with one of my readers, Jonathan Blundell (my one reader?). Jonathan has been very supportive of my work (and I’m supportive of his work) and it was fun to talk over some of the ideas in the book and how the book came together.

So if you’re looking for the inside scoop on Least of These—how inspiration came from U2 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, how my wife refuses to read it, my take on standard post-apocalyptic plot lines, why it has such an awesome cover—check out the video chat. I even do a little impromptu reading.

For a special bonus, count how many times I say ‘um.’

Get your copy of Least of These now.

I’ve Got a New Book: Least of These

Author Kevin D. Hendricks with his published creation, Least of TheseMy post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel Least of These is now published and widely available (the e-mail newsletter subscribers got the early word last night: subscribe now to be in the know). So much to talk about, I don’t even know where to begin.

What’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi? Think Mad Max’s Road Warrior. It’s the genre I go on and on about all the time. The world has barely survived some apocalypse (duh) and the survivors try to piece together an existence in the aftermath. There are usually recurring themes of boiling life down to its simplest elements, both in day to day survival and in bigger picture terms.

What is Least of These like? It might be comparable to the recent Denzel Washington flick The Book of Eli. Sort of. Mine has some action, some stock villains, a heroic female. But no iPods, swinging machetes (but arrows!) or utter desolation (or Denzel). I wrote Least of These in 2008 as a part of National Novel Writing Month. It’s been very lightly edited and published as a rough draft (hence the lame-o cover). It’s not deep literature, but hopefully it’s good for a rainy afternoon bit of fun (do people still consider reading fun?).

Why is the Internet so cool? Because I published this thing in three days. I got the idea on Tuesday. I went through the manuscript and made minor proofing edits (and missed loads, I’m sure), I did the layout in Microsoft Word, slaved over the cover in Photoshop and by Thursday was uploading a PDF file to CreateSpace. Three days. On Friday I ordered my proof copy. It arrived on Tuesday. You could buy a copy online that night. It was up on Amazon about a week later. Of course it helped that I had a manuscript lying around and had already read through it making editing notes. Go Internet. It’s a cool time to be creating stuff.

Why does the cover suck? Remember ‘published in three days’? Yeah, I have lots of friends who could design something better. Heck, Lexi could design something better (brainstorm!). But I wanted to crank it out quickly. Plus there’s that whole rough draft thing. It seemed disingenuous to put a lot of effort into the cover when I haven’t put a lot of effort into the editing (except for the last time I did that). It’s a rough draft, all the way around. I kind of like the idea of publishing rough draft versions like this. Get it out there, quick and dirty.

Where can I get a copy? You can score yourself a print copy of Least of These for only $9.99 or download the free PDF if you want to take it for a test read. For the record, I get a bigger royalty if you buy through CreateSpace. But buying through Amazon is pretty swell, too, since you can use your shipping deals and throw my book in with your regular shopping.

So there you have it. I had hoped to announce this a week ago, but that’s how things go.

Interview with Jonathan Blundell, Author of St. Peter’s Brewery

St. Peter's Brewery by Jonathan BlundellWay back before Christmas (seems like years ago) a friend of mine, Jonathan Blundell, announced that he’d published a novel. Intrigued, I ordered myself a copy and finished it before the end of the year. It’s called St. Peter’s Brewery and it’s pretty good. [Update: Score 30% off St. Peter’s Brewery when you buy at CreateSpace using the code “3YK4MGUP”. Offer valid until Feb. 24.]

It tells the story of a young man running from his problems and finding refuge in a church converted into a pub. But sometimes it’s still a church. The story represents faith in a unique way (church in a pub!)—my only complaint was a little heavy-handedness in spots.

Being a fan of the self-publishing process, I wanted the inside scoop. So I interviewed Jonathan. He pays the bills as a web site content coordinator for the Dallas County Community College District. He also blogs and podcasts (is that a verb yet?)—the podcast is worth checking out, except that he did interview me once. He currently lives just south of Dallas with his wife and dog and is hoping to foster-to-adopt in the near future (woot, woot!). So, interview!

You wrote a novel! Why?
I’ve been wanting to write a book of some sort for quite some time. I wrote two short fiction books (20 pages or so in length) in elementary school but I’ve wanted to publish something far more substantial in recent years. Since I don’t read much fiction I assumed I’d always end up writing non-fiction but I could never settle on a topic and always felt unqualified to write an extensive non-fiction work.

Continue reading Interview with Jonathan Blundell, Author of St. Peter’s Brewery

Five Lessons from Writing a Novel in a Month

National Novel Writing Month WinnerYesterday I announced that I had finished writing my 2008 National Novel Writing Month effort, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel called The Least. This was my third attempt at writing a 50,000-word novel in 30 days (that’s 1,667 words per day). While I’m definitely a winner because I finished (that’s all that matters with NaNoWriMo), The Least is definitely my worst novel by far. I did learn a lot in the process though.

1. Sci-Fi is Hard
I knew it would be, but science fiction is an especially hard genre to write, especially in 30 days. The biggest hurtle is that you have to create an entire fictional world. If you pick a contemporary setting, you don’t have to wonder what kind of clothes people will wear or how they find food. I knew this would be a problem and ended up deciding a few things and running with them, even after I realized some of my assumptions wouldn’t hold up. I love the thought process and imagination involved, but you end up putting a lot of effort into the setting and it’s easy to neglect the plot or characters.

Continue reading Five Lessons from Writing a Novel in a Month

NaNoWriMo 2008 Winner

National Novel Writing MonthI finished. I just crossed the 50,000-word mark, wrapped up my epilogue and stuck a fork in The Least, my 2008 National Novel Writing Month novel.


It was quite a sprint at the end, when I wrote more than 6,500 words in one day to overcome loses from the holiday and travel but then just kept on going to finish a day early.

The novel itself isn’t spectacular. Few NaNoWriMo novels are, but this one by far has more glaring holes and painful moments than my previous efforts. But that’s OK. That’s not what’s important. Just doing it is important, and I did it. Now I can call myself a Sci-Fi novelist.

You can read it if you like, though I’m not really recommending that.