Blarg!

Bill's blog. Writing, guitars, gratuitous Simpsons references, you'll find i​t all here. Almost certainly a waste of time for both you and the author. On the internet, that's actually a plus.

Would you like to beta read my novel?

I finally finished writing my new novel, Challengers. Now comes the part when I send it to people I trust who'll read it and tell me what works and what doesn't. That said, I also need to hear from people who are less familiar with my work so I can see how it sits with a wider audience. If you're interested in being one of those people, here's the gist of the book:

tl;dr version: X-Men meets Friday Night Lights

Longer version: Eighteen-year-old Cody Hawthorn had waited his whole life to go to college to learn to be a superhero. Sadly, he's just not super enough. Top-tier universities find his 2,000-pound bench press rather pedestrian. He can run 40 mph? Yawn. They'd love Cody if he still knew how to fly, but a nasty injury cost him his ability to get airborne.

Cody had resigned himself to studying history and teaching high school in his hometown until Piedmont State University finally offered him a scholarship to double-major in history and heroics. When he gets to campus, Cody wonders if he made a mistake--among his new team of magicians, gravity manipulators, luchadors, and a cybernetically enhanced bear powered by Google Android, Cody's the worst student in the program. At least Cody gets to study under his childhood idol, Orion. 

Orion, the greatest and most powerful hero the world has ever known, is retired from active duty at forty-one years old. In his prime he had the strength to move mountains and the toughness to withstand an atomic bomb. However, his career of fistfights and crashing into buildings has left his body a wreck. When he's not nursing a dependency on painkillers, he stays busy as a faculty member at Piedmont State. However, it's a much tougher place to work than he'd expected. Piedmont State is like if you infused Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters with the bloated bureaucracy of a public university, and replaced Professor X with Bear Bryant. Orion's clashes with his boss (and the fact that, as an educator, he couldn't teach a dead man to sit still) have him on the verge of getting fired.

Both he and Cody are going to have to get their acts together because Orion's old nemesis, Claude Lafitte--the self-proclaimed Emperor of Louisiana--is still in his prime and planning to start a second Civil War. But how can either Cody or Orion save the day when they can barely keep their positions on campus?

Sound interesting? Want to take a crack at this? Read on.

What I'm looking for:

  • Your overall impression
  • What you liked
  • What you didn't like
  • Places you got bored
  • Stuff that confused you/didn't make sense
  • Characters you particularly liked and disliked
  • If people do anything unbelievable or ridiculous
  • Do the plot twists work, or did you see them coming?
  • Whatever else you feel like mentioning

What I'm NOT looking for:

  • Proofreading. Obviously spelling and grammar are important, but the book will probably change a lot between now and the final version. Pointing out the comma splice on page 137 won't be a good use of your time if I end up overhauling or deleting that entire chapter anyway.

My ballpark turnaround time is by mid-August. If this sounds like your cup of Gatorade and you've got some spare time, fill out the contact form and I'll send it your way. Either way, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you're reading something you enjoy.

The AV Club harshly rebukes folks who are too cool for the Super Bowl

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I'd like to publicly thank the AV Club for so eloquently expressing how I've felt for years. In "Nobody cares that you don’t care about the Super Bowl" writer John Teti explains that he's had enough of people smugly patting themselves on the back for not engaging in something as banal as football.

I’m talking to you, the graduate student who tweets “Time to catch up on my Proust” two minutes before kickoff. May you be struck with the flu on the day of your dissertation defense. And to you, the parent who takes his kids sledding on Super Bowl Sunday and posts a picture to Instagram with the caption “What football game?” Oh, and of course you applied the “1977” photo filter. May your firstborn face-plant into the nearest snowbank, and may you capture the moment in tilt-shifted, high-dynamic-range, desaturated glory...

...it can feel transgressive to proclaim that you don’t care.

But it’s not transgressive, and it’s not even interesting. Last year’s game got a 48.1-percent share of TV viewers. That means that of the people watching television while the Super Bowl was on, more than half were watching something else—and that doesn’t even account for all the people who had the TV off entirely. If you’re ignoring the Super Bowl, you’re not a freaking iconoclast. You’re a member of the silent majority.

At least, it would be nice if you were silent, because it’s fun for the rest of us to pretend that the Super Bowl is one big, dumb party with the whole United States in attendance. We don’t have many of those collective moments left.

Like I've said before, when you hang out with a bunch of sci-fi and fantasy writers, a lot of them aren't very into football. I don't have the least bit of a problem with that. It's people's crowing about their indifference that bugs me. Nobody likes to have other people say that what they enjoy is dumb, even something as culturally pervasive as football.

Nobody cares that you don’t care about the Super Bowl

Relevant

A needlessly long post about the upcoming football season written for people who don't care about football

A needlessly long post about the upcoming football season written for people who don't care about football

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Football season starts tomorrow for my college team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers, and I'm pretty fired up about it. I hang out in geeky circles, and as you might expect, the Venn diagram for sci-fi/fantasy writers and football fans doesn't have much overlap (a notable exception is my friend Rich Matrunick, who is an excellent writer and ardent fan of the Steelers and Penn State). I don't begrudge them this -- you can't make people like what they don't like, I always say. I just don't get to talk football that much. So being a writer, I thought I'd write a little about it.

[Author's note: If you're a fan of football in general, or of Nebraska football in particular, I have nothing new for you. This is post is written for outsiders wondering how a scrawny, sensitive, bookish guy with no athletic ability ends up liking a sport for made for large, aggressive alpha males.]

Nebraska the team is a rally point for Nebraska the state. Nebraska fans tend to live in the past, most specifically the 1990s, when the Huskers were indisputably the best college football program in existence. We point with pride to facts that would be embarrassing to other states, like the fact that on game day, Memorial Stadium's 90,000 spectators make it the third-largest city in the state (though most teams are jealous of the fact that there hasn't been a single empty seat at Nebraska home games since the Kennedy administration).

Nebraska is unique in that there are no other major sports teams of any kind within the state, and outside of Lincoln or Omaha, there isn't a whole lot for kids to do. When I lived in Florida, you had fans of UF, Florida State, and Miami intermingling with each other and deflating each other's tires. In Nebraska, your conversational choices are commiserating over Husker football or long, awkward pauses. (Okay, you could talk about Iowa, I guess, but why?) Half of all flat surfaces in the state are painted Husker red. Living in North Carolina, I occasionally meet fellow Nebraskans, and the first thing we talk about -- whether they're a retired banker or a kid in a punk rock band -- is how the team looks this year, and to bemoan the team's play-calling (FYI, no football fan anywhere has ever been happy with their favorite team's play calling).

Some of my favorite memories are from when I was a kid watching Husker games at my Grandma's house in Homer, Nebraska (population 500 or so). We'd gather around one of those boxy wooden TV sets that weighed a hundred pounds and had a seventeen-inch screen. My wife Jen still brings up the time I took her to meet my grandmother. Grandma had prepared us a picnic feast, and over pimento-loaf sandwiches and potato salad she grilled me over whether new coach Bill Callahan's west coast offense was strategically on-par with Nebraska's traditional option-based running attack. Grandma did everything but bring out a chalkboard and start diagramming plays.

I wanted to share a couple things with my non-sporting friends to show part of why I enjoy the game. I'm not trying to convert anybody, but rather show that football (and football culture, which even I will admit can be obnoxious), for all its seriousness, still has some genuine fun left in it.

Nebraska coach and noted hothead Bo Pelini plays a prank on the team before giving them a night off at the movies.  Payoff comes at 2:28.

Seven-year-old cancer patient and huge Husker fan Jack Hoffman runs for a touchdown in the Nebraska spring intrasquad game. My favorite part: The band plays Hail Varsity when he scores, and six points are added to the scoreboard. Little Jack's touchdown counts , people.

Probably Nebraska's most impressive play of the year, which sadly came during what was definitely its worst game of the year.