Here's Watson with his cousin Sampson. Watson is 2 1/2 months old in this shot. His cousin Sampson is exactly 2 months older than he is. They are both in the arms of their Nana and Papa. They are wearing their matching "Monster" p.j.'s they got from Nana and Papa for Christmas (which also matches the pajamas of my other boys, Chi and Talmage).

Watson looks a little smaller than Sampson but he's still a cute little "monster!" I think Matt, my brother-in-law, took the picture and managed to capture them both grinning (Watson and Sampson, not Nana and Papa). Good job Matt!!

So, today I changed my baby's diaper. I've changed it before, so it's not like a big "Oh, he finally helped out with the baby!" kind of thing. Of course, Shaundale, my wife, changes Watson more than I do. Yes, we named him after Sherlock Holmes' friend and confident. The name grows on you after a while.

In any case, I change Watson's diaper from time to time and I've found that when I do, I seem to have the same thought run through my head. As I unsnap the bottom of his sleeper, then unsnap the snaps on his onesy, suddenly I feel like I'm in a timed competition. I rip his diaper off him like it's on fire, whip the clean diaper underneath him and slap the velcro stips across the front. I snap the onsey back in place like his and my lives depend on it being done before the next tick of the clock. Now I'm cramming his legs back into his sleeper like a person making sausage, and snapping the snaps back in place - sometimes snapping a leg snap to a crotch snap, correcting myself and muttering to myself about this unexcusable loss of time, thinking he'd be fine snapped together in a tangle, and only correcting my mistake because my score won't count if he's not put back together correctly. Finally, the last snap is snapped into it's correct place and I raise my hand like a calf roper who has just trussed a baby cow in record time.

I have yet to actually time myself, so I don't know if I'm breaking any old records from day-to-day, but it doesn't stop me from looking at changing a diaper as a rodeo event. And at the end of each change I feel as if I have just had numbers posted on a huge digital board above some stall in a stadium.  "And the winner is, Watson's Dad!!!"

Mark Harris & Brandon Sanderson Park City 2012
Saturday, September 15th, I attended a Writer's Conference in Park City, Utah. It was my first time at a writer's conference
and  I was very excited to be there. The workshops were excellent! The speakers and  professionals there were helpful and friendly. And the other people attending  were great too. They were my kind of people.

My daughter,  Genevieve, wanted to come with me, but I couldn't afford to bring her. If I had  brought her with me I probably wouldn't have broken out of my shell and talked  to others as much as I did. 

Along with lunch they had a planned panel of agents and editors to answer questions for the crowd. Since I was alone, I found my way over to a table near the front with a couple, who at first I thought were married, but were actually mother and son. Bonnie and Mark were very nice and we discussed the conference, what we were interested in, projects we were working on, etc. I was really have  a great time, and then, in walked Brandon Sanderson and asked to sit at our table. I confess I didn't recognize him until Bonnie said his name.

Now, for those who don't recognize the name Brandon Sanderson you probably don't follow Epic  Fantasy Fiction. Let me tell you who he is. First of all he has his own extremely successful fantasy series called "Mistborn." He has other successful ventures as well, but  Mistborn I believe his most popular. However, adding to his notoriety is the  fact that he was the author tapped to finish an extremely popular epic fantasy  series called "The Wheel of Time."

The author,
Robert  Jordan, wrote the first book of this series, "Eye of the World," in 1984,  which was published in January 1990. From that time until now, the series has  made history. What was supposed to be a 12 book series will eventually end in  14.

When I first read "Eye of the World," I loved it! The world, the characters,the magic and original concepts were so engaging it's  hard to adequately explain it, short of telling you to read the series. As the books kept coming the world of the "Wheel of Time" got deeper and broader -  unlike any series I've ever read before. The characters got more complex, more interesting and more fun as the series continued to unwind. After I got married I hooked my wife on the series; many of my close friends were already faithful fans as well.

At some point around book 11, I remember mentioning to my wife, Shaundale, that I hoped this series would finish before Robert Jordan died. I said this more in jest than in actual concern; however, Robert Jordan actually passed away in 2007. Book 12 came out in 2009 co-authored by Brandon Sanderson.

So, there I am at the same table with man who knows how this incredible series is going to end. He
was  very friendly and willing to talk with me and others at the table. I mentioned  to him that it was amazing to think that in this room was the one person who  knew how the series would end up. (I probably should have prefaced that  statement with "NERD ALERT." - but, hey, that's the kind of nerd I am.) He smiled and agreed. He told me the story of how he ended up with the task for  completing the "Wheel of Time." Robert Jordan's widow was reviewing several names of authors she thought would be the best to complete her husband's work.  Brandon, though a big fan of the series, didn't realize he was on her list of potential authors. However, after reading his work she found him the best successor to her husband's series. Brandon mentioned he discovered all this after hearing a voice mail message left on his home phone.

I know I should probably be gushing more about Brandon's own work than on that of another author he's taken over, but, I have to confess that the "Wheel of Time" goes way back in my personal life, and has had much more time to have an impact on me than Brandon's. I hope he forgives me for that.

Like I said, he was very friendly and outgoing. He answered all my questions and gave me suggestions  regarding my own endevours. He even said that now was a good time for new  authors (something I personally hadn't been feeling). He said with the ability  of self-publishing, and ebooks, many more people could get their names out there  and find success. He explained how there have been many well-known authors who  have captured most of the attention and money in the writing field for some  time, but that now it's shifting downward. The money and fame are spreading out  more equitably than ever before. It was an interesting notion, and I suppose  he's right. But still being one of those struggling authors it still feels like  things are stacked against you, not necessarily turning in your favor. All I see  is the competition and constant rejection.

At the end of the lunch and the panel discussion, I got  my picture with Brandon, (as seen above) and then walked with him up to the  class he was about to present. He continued to talk with me and was very kind  and helpful, particularly in helping me get my own career off the  ground.

I also have to mention now  that his wife sat next to me at the table and I spoke with her for a while. She  took a great interest in what I'm working on. She was very nice as well, and I'm  sure a great support to Brandon and his career. Lucky guy!

I plan on a few more blogs based on what I learned or  experienced at this writer's conference, so those who I invite(d) to read this  blog you may be receiving some more invites in the not to distant future. If you  find the subjects interesting, by all means come out and read; and if  not....well, see you in the funny papers. :)

What a day! I've been working on my blog  page, getting it to look right. It still isn't where I'd like it to be, but it  is a  lot closer.  I've also been able to link it with my webpage:  www.markjayharrisauthor.com
 Next I need to create an author page in Facebook and  then it is on to Twitter.  So  much to learn and do.  Crazy, I tell you.  I also  need to start liaising with  some other authors, visiting their sites and  webpages and blogs. Make some  friends and really network this thing. When it  comes to being an author I thought I'd just write and work on edits and let  someone else do the marketing
and promoting other than perhaps some book  signings or something.  I didn't  really want to get involved with this part of  things, but I guess that's how it goes, so... man up!
My wife, daughter, Genevieve, and I were  talking about Bewitched this evening. Genevieve really like the  "Crissy" character. We talked about how she plays such a pivotal role in the  story and is made even more interesting by the fact that she is mentally  handicapped. I originally wanted her to have Down's syndrome because of the  innocent quality of these kids. I had one at a school I was teaching at come up  to me one day and put her arms around me and just hug me. It was an amazing  experience. I think that all these kids offer us hidden things we don't quite  get as "regular" intelligence people. They really do have a magical quality that  is hard to quantify, but it's there nevertheless.

In any case,  I also told Genevieve that there is something more to Crissy that will come out  in later books. If you look at Bewitched carefully you'll notice some  things about Crissy that go beyond her regular "Oracle" abilities. That's all I'm  going to say at this point.
I'm  going to start this blog by chronicling where I am with the publishing of my first book: "Bewitched."  At the moment I am going through the first round of  edits given to me by a very intelligent (and I assume beautiful as well) editor named Kelly Hashway.  My first response after moving through chapters one and  two is that I'm a horrible writer.  I may be a good story-teller, at least I hope so, but my writing has something to be desired. The good thing is I feel  like I'm learning quite a bit as I move through the manuscript accepting the alterations she has made to it.
My plans from  this point forward are to complete "Bewitched," then finish a younger aged novel  called "Where is Cherry Soda," then start work on "The Return of the Familiar"  the sequel to "Bewitched." Once all that is done I have a really fun
book I've  started which will also be a series called, "The Suburban Adventures of Gabriel  Winston: Ghost of a Chance."  You can read a bit more about it at my other  website