Mesh Update #11: New Free Wallpaper

Just in time for the end of the year, a new free wallpaper for Mesh.  I do concept art digital paintings of my stories – helps me inform my writing. For this piece, I wanted to try something different and focus on the characters of Mesh themselves.

Mesh Update #11: New Free WallpaperSo let’s do that. Tina is one of the ‘Snow Foxes,’ an elite group of techno-geeks that dominate the school and virtual reality. Let’s be clear: She isn’t a ‘damsel in distress,’ or ‘born sexy yesterday.’ I hate tropes that perpetuate mean-spirited stereotypes, so Mesh leaves them by the side of the road where they belong.

Tina isn’t perfect. She on the austistic spectrum. She’s also brilliant, athletic, witty, and brave. She’s a teenage girl who codes, plays basketball and practices jujitsu. She isn’t there to talk about the boys, or be talked about them. She’s there to be herself, like every person should be free to be.

Inside the Station, the massive VR system that contains our fearless geeky kids, you’re allowed to create your own sprites. Tina decided to transform herself into an anime princess as you’ll learn in Mesh:


“She looked up at two sprites that had just come through abusy communicating arch. “Watch it. Incoming nerds.”
“Huh?”
“Kids from the other team,” Tina said, morphing into a taller version of herself, now with red hair instead of blonde, and green eyes instead of blue. Her t-shirt melted into modular white plates, forming armor that belonged in some anime show. In the blink of an eye, she transformed herself into a warrior princess, ready for battle. “For these kids, you want to have your war face on.”

“I think I just fell in love with you,” Zeke mumbled.

“You’re cool, my sweet summer child.” Tina’s smile was somewhere between amused and flattered. Then she turned back to the approaching sprites. “Just remember that we’re friends. That’s all we’re ever going to be.”

Zeke nodded, swallowing so hard that his Adam’s apple bobbed like a yo-yo.

Mesh – Chapter 2.6

With that scene in mind, I started working with Photoshop. I started with a free open-source picture from Unsplash and with the help of some visual references and my trusty digital tablet, put the wallpaper above together to give away for free.

Love it, hate it, it’s still worth it to me. Making one thing in one way helps me make something else in another way. I hope you enjoy ‘Armorgirl,’ and the other free wallpapers I have to share.

Mesh Update #11: Full Spectrum

Today’s Mesh update comes from an email I received this week. My six year-old nephew has been diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum. He’s a cute kid, looks like the boy on the right. It’s important to me and my stories that characters navigate the full spectrum of modern kids. To honor my nephew, and the 62.2 million other people with ASD, one of Mesh’s main characters will have autism. Let’s talk about what that means.

My personal journey makes me painfully aware of how people treat disability. They usually fall into three buckets: the people who ignore you, the people who make fun of you, and my personal favorite – the Harry Stones. You know what I mean: Harry Stone on Night Court always had to make a big speech where he gives you the moral of the story. Harry Stones have to make a big deal about how your disability isn’t a big deal. It may sound like they’re good people but it’s really them making your circumstances about them. Irritating.

It’s important to remember that differently-abled kids are all around us. There’s no reason to ignore them, or act like their disability is the only thing worth knowing about them. Let’s create a fourth category: the people who go “Yeah, you have autism. So?” I’m doing that with Roman, Mesh’s protag, and his wheelchair. Why not do the same thing with autism?

One thing I realized after getting my sister’s email is this – my nephew is still a great kid. We hang together, as much as I can handle other people, and he’s never acted weird about Uncle Jackson needing to be alone or getting off the phone after a three minute phone call. He’s smart, he’s kind, and he’s generous. He’s still the same person he was yesterday, the only difference is that someone put a label on him? He didn’t change, I did. That realization forced me to go back to the beginning and mentally put myself in the fourth bucket. It’s taking work, but I’m glad I’m doing it.

In a world where the future just is, we can use Mesh to reinforce that fourth bucket. So, no big deals. No ‘very special episodes.’ Just like we can say “Oh yeah, wheelchair,” with Roman, we’re going to say “Autism. Right.” and move on with our day. Just like Roman, that character’s different abilities will impact how they see life but it’s not and never will be the center of the story.

Train Hack – New Free Wallpaper

Because I love you, here’s a new free wallpaper. ‘Train Hack’ is a piece of concept art I’ve been working on, based on my upcoming novel Mesh.

 

In Chapter 1.5, our hero Roman uses his newfound hacking skills to stop a high speed train. As cool as that sounds, Roman knows that the people after him are smarter, much smarter, than he is. He’s got to use everything he’s learned at Miramar, along with his cybernetic legs and his neuro-connected computer, if he wants to survive the next twenty-four hours.

The more pictures I create, the better it informs my writing. Catching myself going back to add more detail to the story, now that it’s out of my head and on the screen. I hope you enjoy the wallpaper as much as I enjoyed making it. Keep making, keep creating, keep dreaming!

New Scifi Wallpaper – ‘November’

New Scifi Wallpaper - 'November'Finished this new scifi concept art over the weekend and am passing it along for your wallpaper collection. Part of the novel takes place in virtual reality, where kids use VR and AI to create something called Project November that will eventually threaten to take over the world. Their programming space that resembles an orbital data center. I hope you dig November, it’s a crazy, weird place that celebrates everything from ‘Real Genius’ to ‘Neuromancer.’ Enjoy!

Mesh Update #10 – 50K and rising!

Happy to say that I cracked 50,000 words on this draft of Mesh. I’m closing out Act three, where the Mesh comes to life. After that, we move onto Acts 4 and 5, where the Mesh and the kids of Miramar will come together to save the world. I’m so excited by how the story and characters are coming together.

I can’t wait to show you the weird, crazy world of Roman, Zeke and their friends, the Snow Foxes. I just got a Wacom tablet, so I’m going to start making use of it to draw a few concept pictures to give you a sense of what the Mesh, their virtual reality system, Miramar, and everything else looks like.

I’m also going to start posting some fun scifi stuff every Friday, so look for a few category called ‘Sci-Friday.’ It’s an experiment, so we’ll see how it goes.

Onward!

Mesh Update #9 – Stars Can Collapse

This is a tough one. I talked about David Hahn before, but  it wasn’t until today that I knew how the story ended. Hahn died in 2016 of alcohol poisoning. They found David’s body in a Wal-Mart bathroom, 18 years after building a nuclear reactor in his back yard. This tragic conclusion illustrates what I said earlier. We need schools to nurture budding stars like Hahn or Taylor Wilson. Stars will collapse, if they don’t have the right conditions to shine.

There is no question, for example, that David Hahn had a tremendous amount of potential. After all, you can’t be both a sniper and a master helmsman unless you’re both bright, and talented. But what went wrong? Continue reading

Mesh – Writing Young is Tougher Than You Think

Mesh – Writing Young is Tougher Than You Think

One of the most unique challenges of ‘Mesh’ for me is to go back and re-capture what it feels like to be a kid. No joke, when you’re in your forties, writing young is tougher than you think.

Early beta reader drafts included a lot of feedback on how ‘old’ the kids sounded. It didn’t take long for me to understand the truth: I’m not a kid anymore. My perspective has changed, my viewpoints have changed. I approach problems with a different outlook than I did when I was fourteen, and if you aren’t careful, this comes through in your writing.

I was reading this article about modern kids in the California Sun, and the pictures reminded me of me when I was in my teens. It also reminded me that no matter what, kids are still kids. Sure, they have new gadgets, new fashion, new problems and new opportunities compared to me. But, the bottom line is that they’re still smart people, strong people, demonstrating their potential while learning about the world around them.

Roman and Zeke – the main characters of Mesh – do too. When they come to life in Mesh, they will be somewhere in the future. Like these young people, they’ll find themselves deep into adult problems they never dreamed existed, they will also wrestle with challenges no kid should have to deal with. However, like these kids, Roman and Zeke are going to find their way through. They’re going to succeed, they will overcome, and we will be proud of them when that happens.

Capturing that voice, that unique moment in a young person’s life, is hard work for me. Yet, it’s fun work, and with the help of the Mesh community, I know that I will get it right.

Emotional Authenticity: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

Emotional Authenticity: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day

I picked up a copy of one of my favorite children’s books at the second-hand book shop here in town. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day was one of my favorite books as a kid. It’s like sunshine for the soul to come back to it now. One of the things that stands out with this book is its emotional authenticity. I didn’t notice it when I was eight, but it’s positively gripping to me now.

If you’ve never heard of the book, or if you’re only familiar with the movie, you owe it to yourself to check it out. The synopsis says it all: “From the moment Alexander wakes up, things just go wrong in his way. As he gets up, the chewing gum that was in his mouth the night before ends up in his hair. He trips on the skateboard and drops his sweater in the sink while the water is running. He finds out that it is going to be a terrible, horrible, no good very bad day.”

For a book that’s older than I am, the story holds up remarkably well. In 1972, there weren’t many stories that focused on the non-bucolic parts of a child’s life. In simple, pen-and-ink drawings, Alexander navigates the complex world of breakfast cereal, school, friendship, siblings, dentists and lima beans.

Although this sounds like it might be patronizing, the reality is that it isn’t. The book’s author, Judith Viorst, pulls together simple, powerful truths about the world from a kid’s perspective. Sometimes life sucks, and things go wrong, and it hurts when that happens. Even though the book ends on a quiet note, it hits the right tone: sometimes the best you can do is finish the day and try again tomorrow.

You leave AaTTHNGVBD feeling settled, happy, and understood. You can relate to Alexander, and you can feel like Alexander would understand what it feels like when you have a bad day, too. That level of connection is what makes this book so popular. That’s an important lesson for any author to know: we must relate to our readers if we want our readers to relate to our stories.

Emotional authenticity is one of the tools I need to wield correctly as I polish Mesh. As I noted elsewhere, the story has to capture the readers’ heart. If I don’t do that, then Mesh will die on the vine. This is too important to me, so I’m focused on making Mesh work and using different ideas and writing techniques to bring the story of Roman and his geeky pals to life.

So Alexander, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to say it, but here’s what I want you to know: I’m sorry you had a bad day. You deserve to have a good day every day, but sometimes that doesn’t happen. But if it does, don’t worry! Things can get better tomorrow. In the meantime, we still love each other.

We would miss you if you went to Australia.

 

Mesh Update #8 – Inspirational Schools

Ran across this story about the Midland School in California, and fell in love. For over a thousand years, education has been the root of every civilization. But how do you teach young people to be good people? How do you teach them the skills necessary to be successful beyond business, in life itself?

Midlands seems to have found the answer. What makes a school like this stand out is the level of life skills they’re giving to each student. “The students more or less run Midland, which has no janitorial or maintenance staff. They plant and pick about half of the food they eat on a 10-acre farm. They clean the windows, maintain the landscape, and sweep the old chapel.’

“‘We know we’re different and we know we’re a little crazy,’ said Christopher Barnes, the head of school. ‘The question for each student and for each family is if we’re your kind of crazy.'”

How does this tie back to Mesh? Our protags, Roman and Zeke, are going to visit a school like Midland when the Mesh is discovered. A school full of tough nerdy kids, ready to do battle against the bad guys? I can see them having a lot of fun. My hope is that you will, too.

 

Grind It Out – Keep Going No Matter What

I’m in that low period of creation. Everything seems wrong. Nothing seems right. Every instinct I have about writing, storytelling is being put to the test as I edit Mesh.

Googling for inspiration, I ran across this quote by Guy Kawasaki. He was the original marketer for Mac back in the eighties and he’s been behind several monolithic Silicon Valley inspirations since then.

I respect his story because like him, my journey is a series of efforts in pursuit of a larger goal. Will Mesh be the book I want it to be? Will it find the readers I want it to find? I have no idea. I do know that I have to try and so until my destiny arrives, I have to keep grinding.

I hope you have found something worth grinding out, too.