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Who am I?

Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge for writers has kicked off. I’m a little late to the fray and I’m actually having a hard time with the first challenge:  define yourself. I’m not sure why it’s so difficult. Perhaps I don’t want to feel constricted or confined by definition.  It’s more likely that I’m not a here-and-now kinda guy; I’d rather talk about what I’d like to do.

No dice, the instructions for this challenge are clear. I’m not to worry about where I’d like to be or anything in the future. I’m to take a look at who I am, what I’ve done and what I’m currently doing. Surprisingly enough, once I got started, I realized that I’m not nearly as lame as my children make me out to be.

Name (as used in byline): Paul K. Ellis

Position(s): Web/Infrastructure Engineer, Application Developer, Writer, Podcaster, Blogger, Martial Artist, Instructor, Teacher, Speaker, Audio Engineer, Reality Crafter, Storyteller, Modeler, Rocketeer, Deacon

Skill(s): Diagnostic troubleshooting, technical writing, creative writing, research, information retrieval, copywriting, model building, programming, audio production, public speaking, blogging, tweeting, procrastinating

Social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Blogger

URLs: Linked above.

Accomplishments: I’ve got a BS in Mass Communications: Broadcasting from Virginia Commonwealth University and an AS in Computer Programming from ECPI. I have a Red Belt in Shotokan Karate, four years of instruction in Iaido, about that many with a Bo and some passing familiarity with Judo. I’ve twice been the USF-NKF Virginia State Champion in Kata (Grumpy Old Men Division — canes and walkers optional) and placed 3rd at the 2008 Nationals in Houston in both Kata and Kumite (again, Grumpy Old Men division). I’ve started writing again (which is a Big Deal). I’ve done voice work for A Christmas Carol with The Podcast Community on Facebook and I’ve got more lined up. Most importantly, I talked an amazing woman into marrying me and am helping her raise three smart, sassy, gorgeous, strong-willed, and independent-minded daughters.

Interests: Being a better husband and father, faith, karate, fitness, reading, learning to critique better, building models, rocketry, podcasting, writing, and learning about new things.

In one sentence, who am I? Paul K. Ellis is a married father of three daughters (which explains the lack of hair) who, by day, is a web and infrastructure engineer and, by night, is a professional dilettante, dabbling in martial arts, podcasting, writing, creating unholy messes with polystyrene, and whose life, much like this sentence, is run on.

Twitter Addiction, Podcastitis & NaNoWriMo in 5

image You really don’t know what effect you have on people, especially people you barely know.

Let me get this out in the open; I have a compulsive personality. It’s a quirk, to be sure, but it’s one I fully embrace and own. So, when presented a new and shiny toy, there is a great likelihood that I will wear it out; for instance, my current infatuation with Twitter. That’s really a half truth, I’ve become somewhat enamored with all social media, from the cotton candy favored confection that is Facebook to the more sophisticated and professional LinkedIn.

Competing with this overwhelming need to comment on everything is a secret love that I have hidden away, lo these many years. That love is air-time. I’m not talking grabbing some sky on a half-pipe. No, I’m talking about talking; platters spinning, cans on and mic hot. You see, for the first thirteen years of my professional career, I was a broadcaster.

I did voice work at many of the radio and television stations in and around the Richmond area. To be honest, I’d forgotten how much fun it was. That is, until I met (virtually) these four guys: Tee Morris, Odin1Eye, Richard Green & Jeff Hite. To be fair, they probably had no idea what was about to happen … probably.

Jeff is likely wondering how he wound up on the list. Well, it’s Odin’s fault. Wait for it, we’ll get there. Jeff put out a call, on Twitter, for bit parts in the Pirate’s Cove rendition of Treasure Island. I sent him a quick read of the first couple of paragraphs of Little Fuzzy. He replied “with a voice like that there are going to be a lot of people after you.” Yes, I know he could have meant that in many ways. Hopefully, DHS will not come knocking. It was a little compliment, but it meant a lot to me, having not stood in front of a microphone for any extended time in over a decade. Thanks, Jeff!

Nice as it was, that alone wasn’t enough to get me motivated. Cue Odin1Eye, who put out a call for promos for his podcast, View from Valhalla. It got me to thinking (never a good sign, especially when breakables are around). I was going to participate in NaNoWriMo this year anyway and I had been toying with the idea of podcasting for a while (due in large part to Tee; yes details  later), so why not promote my idea as a Project! A Project that had thought and stuff behind it! I cut Odin a promo and he used it in VfV Episode 93. That gave me the courage to try out for the bit parts in Treasure Island. See, told you I’d wrap it back.

Okay, so I’m going to do this podcast thing. I thought I’d lost my stealth-like, ninja assassin voice. Evidently not. And the project, the carefully considered, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants project; I’ll be doing that too. Again, I’m sure that Jeff  and Odin had no idea that just encouraging me would provoke this kind of response. So don’t blame them … entirely.

Richard’s contribution was even more innocuous; he listed me as a source in The “Geek Out!” Daily for the Japan’s Defense Ministry Would Like to Introduce You To Their Little Friend story. I had no idea anyone was taking me all that seriously on Twitter. He probably didn’t intend for me to feel so validated, yet I was and fired up enough to take completing the NaNo challenge seriously.

Which brings us to Tee. Frankly, the more I find out about his accomplishments, the more intimidated I am. He’s an award-winning author and podcaster. He is also a really smart guy when it comes to operating in the social media arena. (No, I don’t call anyone a guru, but if I were to call anyone a social media expert, Tee would be the guru to see.) In fact, it was his Podcasting for Dummies books that I used as a foundation to build my studio. He is one of the most effective communicators I’ve ever had the pleasure to listen to and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. In short, he’s doing many of the things I want to be doing, except he’s doing them well. And younger. I’d like to say we’re of an age. I’d like to say it, but it wouldn’t be true.

Naturally, in what should come as no shock to those that know me, I got competitive. Perhaps I should have said, inspired. Clearly, I’m behind the curve. Audio has changed a lot in the past ten years. All the editing is done digitally now; no more adhesive tape, grease pencils and razor blades. No more open reel tape recorders or having to hand wind your cartridges. No more dinosaurs roaming the Earth. Time for me to study up, buttercup.

Not content to just do NaNoWriMo, I’ve obligated myself to podcasting the finished product. No, I have no idea what I’ve gotten myself into; but I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m about to find out.

I’m still working on the back story, history and story outline together. I’ll update the Project Mjölnir page as I get the tasks completed. This Project and all the shenanigans associated with it are due, in large part, to the encouragement from these kind people, who (whom? gets me every time) I’ve never met IRL. All they did was take a little time and acknowledge my interest. Many thanks to you four, whether you realize it or not, you’ve given me a great deal of motivation. As it turns out, that’s exactly what I needed.

With all the excitement of NaNoWriMo, it’s easy to forget what this is all about; raising money to benefit writing programs for children and adults. NaNoWriteMo is a marathon and like a marathon runner, I am seeking sponsors to help me raise $2500 dollars.

With massive cutbacks in liberal arts funding to public and private schools, now is the time for organizations like The Office of Letters and Light, creators of the National Novel Writer’s Month, to step up and bridge the gap. A $10 donation, the price of a single lunch, can help provide needed instruction and foster a life long love of writing in a child. This donation is fully tax deductible.

I’m also giving a private reading of selections from the novel in January for those who donation here. (If you can’t attend, I’ll be recording it and I’ll be happy to send you a link to a downloadable copy.) There will also be a Q & A session after the reading where you can find out about my creative process.

Thank you for your support!

What is Project Mjölnir?

Mjollnir - You know, Thor's hammer

Life has been intruding a lot lately, the way it always does when you’re not paying it any attention. I’ve been guilty of starting several projects at once and not finishing any of them. I want to finish them, I just lack the focus. I believe I have discovered a way to fix that.

November is National Novel Writer’s Month, NaNoWriMo for short. Check out the link for the low down. The short version is: 30 days, 50,000 words, a lifetime of therapy. Well, perhaps not the last part. I attempted NaNoWriMo two years ago and did not succeed. Of course, I didn’t have a plan.  Now, I have what resembles, on a dark night, in the rain, and fog, a plan: Project Mjölnir.

Standard Caveats Apply

A big part of Project Mjölnir  is NaNoWriMo & finishing a novel. I seem to have a particularly hard accomplishing that. I have a Steampunk novel languishing, half completed because I can’t seem to get past the distractions, so this time I’m not going to try, I’m incorporating them.

Project Mjölnir is a six month effort for me to write a novel, edit it, and finally podcast it, right here on this tiny blog. I’m using it to jump start that creative part of myself that I’ve allowed the demands of living to strangle. Enough maudlin meanderings, let’s get to the *plan*.

Not too long ago, a good friend of mine, Davey Jones, (no, not the captain & no, not the Monkey) and I created a shared universe that we were going to populate and develop collaboratively.  It was a good idea that wound up crushed by reality. Meanwhile, I have all these notes and no story. Cue NaNo.

Great, so why call it Project Mjölnir? Well one; there is a Project Mjölnir in the notes that winds up being central to the plot and two; I think it’s a really cool name. Also, this is starting with NaNo, but November 30th will not be the end of this project. That’s what got me into trouble two years ago. No, the goal this time is to blog about my serialized podcast experience from conception, during this year’s NaNo, to delivery of the audio book, The Hierarchy of Dominance sometime in April 2012.

Along the way, I’ll post tidbits of back story, research and musings about this process. And family stuff. And tweets. Actually, a bunch of stuff.

Why am I doing this, you may ask? My family is a dojo family. We go to karate and after four years, my takeaway from the experience is that old saw, “practice makes perfect”. I’ve gotten better because I do it a lot. Muscle memory and the ability to react without thinking about it.

When I was doing voice work for radio and TV, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the more you were on the air, the better you got. There is a natural rhythm and flow to working with a microphone. Plus, it’s a rush!

And when I write, the more often I do it, the easier it gets. Whether or not it gets better I’ll leave as an exercise to the reader.

Project Mjölnir is a multifaceted exercise: a story, a blog and a podcast. What will I get out of it? The goal is structured writing habits and the creative spark to finish my Steampunk novel. Okay, that’s the project, what’s the story?

I’m classifying it as fan fiction, military science, fan fiction, mind you, but fan fiction nonetheless. Davey and I borrowed stuff from many sources. We have the Mnoren & Cidri from The Fantasy Trip, elements from MechWarrior, tech from Ogre, GEV & Battlesuit from Steve Jackson games, ships and tech from AMT’s Strategic Space Command universe, including Leif Ericson class galactic cruisers and species & characters from Mattel’s Major Matt Mason line of action figures.

I want to be careful to acknowledge the copyright holders of the products and services I have taken inspiration from, so I’m keeping a list.

I’ve written a synopsis as an exercise for NaNo. I’ll see about getting it posted in the next couple of days. No, I haven’t copied existing story lines, but I did use published material to help develop timelines, back story elements, plot devices and so on; some of which you’ll get to see right here. So, stay tuned!

Finally, here’s my pitch; the National Novel Writers Month is a marathon and like a marathon runner, I am seeking sponsors to help me raise $2500 dollars for adult and children’s writing programs in areas where there may not be any. It’s for a good cause and it’s tax deductable.

A Brand New Start

Welcome to the relaunch of “A Dark & Stormy Night”. It was time to give the place a makeover. It’s been over a year since I posted an entry, so I figured I’d better repurpose the page or return the storage so someone else could make better use of it.

I’m going to be adding bits and pieces as I go along in addition to (at least) weekly posts. A buddy of mine got to give me an “I told you so” after my initial effort petered out. I think that was in large part due to the lack of anything remotely resembling a plan. To prevent him from being able to snicker up his sleeve at me again, I’m going to try something a little bit different.

I’ve had a project languishing in the weeds for about two years now. It’s been a challenge trying to find motivation, inspiration and plain old perspiration to complete the work. I think I’ve found my muse or rather, a helpful convergence of things that have rekindled and sparked my interest.

Continue reading A Brand New Start »

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