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These Are the Voyages

As a good “friend” once told me, “Chris, it’s not so much that you are a nerd; it’s the fact that you glory in it.”  So, in unabashed nerd style and in honor of the upcoming premiere of the new “Star Trek: Picard” television series, I’m here to count down my Top Ten Favorite Jean-Luc Picard Episodes of all time.  These are the voyages that captured my adolescent imagination and continue to influence my own storytelling to this day.  If you’re a Trekkie yourself, please feel free to chime in below.  If you’re not a Trekkie, then you should be, and watching these ten episodes featuring the greatest Star Trek captain ever would be a very good place to start.

10.  “The First Duty”:  “The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth!”  In this episode, the captain confronts a young protégé who has strayed from the straight and narrow.  The episode also marks the introduction of Boothby, the wise old Academy groundskeeper played by “My Favorite Martian” actor Ray Walston.

9.  “Chain of Command, Part II”“Star Trek: The Next Generation” was always at its best when it handed Sir Patrick (yes, the actor was knighted by the queen) a script and got out of his way.  This particular outing is all about putting two marvelous actors (David Warner plays the villain) in a room together and letting them have at it.  The result is mesmerizing television.

8.  “Who Watches the Watchers?”:  TNG didn’t really hit its stride until the third season, and this was perhaps the episode when, as a kid, I noticed there was something palpably different (and better) about the show.  Picard grapples with the fallout from a member of a primitive race catching a glimpse of the Enterprise crew and their advanced technology.

7.  “The Measure of a Man”:  I don’t like courtroom dramas.  They almost always strike me as hokey, but Picard’s spirited defense of the beloved android Data is such a wonderful showcase for both the character and the actor who plays him, I’m forced to admit this list wouldn’t be complete without it.

6.  “Tapestry”:  The captain dies and meets his old nemesis, Q, at the pearly gates.  Q offers Picard the chance to go back and change the greatest mistake of his youth, which he does, only to discover that the lessons learned from that event were what shaped him into the man he would ultimately become.

5.  “Darmok”:  Picard is stranded on a strange world with an alien captain who speaks only in metaphors, and the two of them must learn how to communicate and work together before a mysterious beast kills them both.  This poignant, thought-provoking episode represents the best Trek has to offer.

4.  “Yesterday’s Enterprise”:  OK, so maybe this isn’t a true Picard episode, but I’m including it here because it’s a great time travel story that illustrates more of what makes the captain a hero:  His implicit trust in his crew (in this case, Guinan) and his resolve to do the right thing no matter the cost.

3.  “The Inner Light”:  I might argue this episode is the pinnacle of all things Trek.  Captain Picard gets zapped by a probe from an extinct alien civilization, and in a matter of minutes he lives an entire lifetime on that civilization’s home planet.  He has a wife and daughter and gets to experience the family life he never enjoyed otherwise.  Why?  So the long-dead alien race can be remembered.  In the final moments, the captain finds himself back on the Enterprise, alone in his quarters, with the only remnant of his experience:  A flute he learned to play in his other life.  He puts the flute to his lips and begins to play in a moment that is as haunting as it is beautiful.

2.  “Family”:  This quiet little episode comes on the heels of one of the most exciting action pieces in franchise history, and so I sometimes think it gets overlooked.  Picard returns home to the family vineyard in France after a traumatizing ordeal at the hands of Starfleet’s most lethal enemy and finds a jealous brother – and a charming young nephew who wants nothing more than to grow up to be a starship captain like his uncle.  There are, understandably, cracks in the captain’s psyche .  For perhaps the first time in the series, Picard is vulnerable, and this is where he begins to heal.

1.  “All Good Things …”:  Patrick Stewart is in every scene of this two-hour series finale.  The episode is a sort of riff on Charles DickensA Christmas Carol (fun fact: Sir Patrick used to perform a one-man version of A Christmas Carol on Broadway) with the mischievous Q whisking Picard across past, present, and future to give him an opportunity to save the universe one last time.  I’m a sucker for great endings, and it’s the final scene of this one that always gets me.   The good captain, finally, after seven years in command of the Enterprise, joins his senior officers for their customary off-duty poker game.  “I should have done this a long time ago,” he says as he looks wistfully about the room and then begins to deal.  It’s as pitch-perfect a television send-off as you’ll ever see:  “So, five-card stud, nothing wild, and the sky’s the limit …”

Can you tell I’m just a wee bit excited to catch up with the captain?  You should be too.  “Star Trek: Picard” premieres January 23, 2020.


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Karma Hurts

“For every winner, there are dozens of losers. Odds are you’re one of them.” —www.despair.com


If my illustrious basketball career had a pinnacle, it probably occurred when I was sixteen years old.  Youth night at the church.  The seven-year-old daughter of one of our adult leaders drove to the lane.  She put up a shot.  That’s when I reflexively reached my hand into the sky and swatted that thing all the way back to the free-throw line.  Not in my house.

Chivalry or decency or something died that day, and maybe the universe has been paying me back ever since.  Yeah, karma hurts.  And then you die.  Certainly, I’ve learned during my forty years on Planet Earth that success is fleeting but rejection is with us always.

I learned that (speaking of basketball) every time I got cut from a competitive sports team.

I learned that as a young missionary in the Dominican Republic where most invitations we extended for someone to act in accordance with our message were met with the words, “Si Dios quiere.”  Roughly translated:  “I’m too polite to tell you to buzz off.”

I learned that as a twenty-something trying to get a date.  (I still believe it’s a wonder anyone ever finds someone to marry.  Thank goodness it only takes one to say yes, right?)

I learned that as a college senior applying to law schools.  (Thank goodness it only takes one to say yes, right?)

I learn that every time I lose a trial or a hearing at work.  (While I’m pretty sure I win more trials than I lose, I’m also the guy who once lost a drug prosecution where the police found the drugs in the person’s pants.  Because, dude, apparently sometimes the drugs in your own pocket aren’t actually yours.)

I learned that as a young lawyer pitching my first novel to more than 160 disinterested publishing industry professionals – one query letter at a time.

I learned that (and continue to re-learn that) pitching subsequent writing projects to a bunch of other disinterested publishing industry professionals.  (Thank goodness – fingers crossed – it only takes one to say yes, right?)

Even now when I get a rejection it’s hard not to take it personally. I’m in a funk for about a day.  Then I scrape myself off the concrete, pretend like it never happened, and give it another go.

The funny thing is, karma or no, I’m convinced this losing bit isn’t unique to me, so get used to it.  Just remember that it’s OK to try hard things, that failure isn’t fatal, that success is all about resiliency and grit, and that you never really lose until you stop trying.  Now, please allow me to get back up on that horse.

And speaking of horse – anyone up for a game?


Dear Christopher D. Seifert:

Thank you for sending me your query. I appreciate the opportunity to consider it!

Unfortunately, this book isn’t the right fit for my list at this time. You deserve an unequivocally enthusiastic agent as your advocate.

I wish you the best of luck in finding it a home!


Dear Christopher,

Thank you so much for giving me the chance to consider THE ROCKET RIDERS. It’s clear that you’ve devoted a lot of hard work to this project, and your passion comes through in your writing. However, while there is a lot to be commended, I struggled to connect with the manuscript in a meaningful way, and therefore don’t believe that I would be the most effective champion for your book.

Please remember that the publishing industry is subjective, and another agent or editor may feel differently. I’m sorry I don’t have better news for you, but I wish you all the best on your road to publication.


Thank you for thinking of us with this project. Although we won’t be pursuing representation at this time, we appreciate the opportunity to consider your work and wish you every success with it.


Thank you for submitting this project to me. After careful review, I am not sure that I am the right agent for this project. Thank you again for querying, and I wish you the best of luck in your search for representation.


Dear Christopher:
Thanks so much for sending along the sample pages of The Rocket Riders. I’m sorry to say, though, that I just wasn’t as completely drawn in by the material as much as I had hoped. What with my reservations, I’d better bow out. Thanks so much for contacting me, though! I really appreciate it and wish you the best of luck.


Dear Chris,

Thank you so much for writing to me about your work. I read all of the material that I receive carefully and I really appreciate that you thought of me for your project, but I’m afraid that it’s not quite right for me at the moment. I wish you the very best of luck in finding the right agent to represent your work, and thank you again for thinking of me.


Hi Chris,

Thanks for thinking of me.  Your query looked interesting, but I’m overwhelmed with material at the moment and not really taking on new clients.  Good luck with your writing, and search for representation.


Dear Author,

Thanks so much for letting us take a look at your materials, and please forgive me for responding with a form letter.  The volume of submissions we receive, however, makes it impossible to correspond with everyone personally. 

Unfortunately, the project you describe does not suit our list at this time.  We wish you the best of luck in finding an agent and publisher for your work, and we thank you, once again, for letting us consider your materials.


Dear Christopher,

While I appreciate the opportunity to review THE ROCKET RIDERS, I’m afraid I must pass. I wish you good luck in finding the right agent to represent you and your writing.


Dear Chris,

Thank you so much for your submission. Unfortunately I don’t feel I’m the appropriate agent to represent your work as the story just isn’t right for me.

I’m sure another agent will feel differently, and with the vast array of opinions in the industry, I wish you the best in finding the right representation.

Thanks again for thinking of me.


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Mouth of Babes

I’ve decided to let my kids write my August blog post for me.  Here are some of the best Seifert kid quotes we’ve collected over the years. Enjoy:

“A kiss means ‘I love you?’  Whoa!  I didn’t even know that!”  Strange but true.

“Daddy rhymes with money!”  Imperfect rhyme though it is.

“My bum honked like a car!  My bum is tricky!”  Lay off the horn, will yah?

“This choking hazard is delicious!”  Most of them are.

“I would kick him in the face!  I can.  I have legs.  And I have feet.”  Three year old dispute resolution.

“Mom, can I have another hot dog wrapped in a mattress?”  Known in some corners as a pig in a blanket.

“What’s the point of having a house if we can’t even play in it?”  Indeed.

“You’re probably the best mom I’ve ever had.”  Probably.

“I know why Daddy wears a wedding ring.  It’s so people don’t look at him and say, ‘Oooo, who is that handsome man?’”  Yes, I’m spoken for.

“Don’t say that!  You’ll make everyone embarrassed.”  Because when your older sibling tells you your underwear is showing, everyone else’s embarrassment is foremost on your mind.

“See that little pickle right there?  That’s where I’m headin’ for.”  This is what’s known as purposeful hamburger consumption.

“I’m looking for an eraser!  Erasers are not ubiquitous around here!”  No.  No, they’re definitely not.

“I accidentally ate it on purpose.”  Another diet plan bites the dust.

“Kids just wanna do what they wanna do.  Mama, you’ve just gotta learn more about that.”  We must have Ph.D.’s in that by now.

“OK!  Then you will just have to deal with screaming!”  Is this what you call emotional blackmail?

“My hurt is footing.”  That’s boo tad.

“They licked the bladder clean?”  Nursery rhymes gone horribly wrong.

“I am so proud of myself for losing a tooth!”  There’s a participation trophy for that.

“This was a little out-flated, so I inflated it.”  Inflate-gate.  Take that, Tom Brady!

“Can I have another drink of milk?  My tongue is still spicing.”  Milk.  It does a spicing good.

“So, have you ever been to Hades before?”  Casual mealtime conversation during our family’s first trip to the restaurant known as Hardees.

“I was thinking about how handsome men look, and I was thinking about Chris. … I was thinking about Chris. … You made a good choice. I need pictures of all the men in the world without beards and mustaches …”  Sing it, girl!  But you’re still not going on a date until you’re forty.

“Did you know that bees can fly up your nose holes?”  Happens to the best of us.


Chris lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, with his wife, Sara, and their six young children.  He enjoys stories by Ray Bradbury, starry night skies, and cherry limeade.  Follow Chris on Twitter @seif_train or on Facebook @christopherdseifert.

Moonshot

The rocket surged upward with a blast of fire soon punctuated by the thunder of applause.  The night itself was near-perfect, marred only by the knowledge I was watching a mirage, a smoke and mirrors light show projected onto the Washington Monument, and not the real thing.  That’s where I was on Saturday, July 20, 2019 – fifty years to the day since human beings first did the once unthinkable by planting boots on lunar soil.  Sadly, I wasn’t around when it really happened.  I didn’t get to live in a nation galvanized to such a righteous cause by the soaring oratory of its president.

Washington Monument (7-20-19)

A lot can change in fifty years.  Nowadays, I generally tune out politicians.  More than a few of them strike me as narcissists or blowhards or bullies or cowards, and sometimes all of the foregoing at once.  (I was always put off by how my college poli sci classes were populated with people who liked to hear themselves talk and were dead set on law school.)  Then along comes a politician who forces me to sit up and listen.  We’re going back to the moon in five years?  Poppycock.  More smoke and mirrors, right?  As I said, I don’t trust most politicians any farther than I can throw them, but this time I can’t help but hope.

Let me tell you somewhere else I was on Saturday.  I spent the late morning/early afternoon at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, and as I stood there at the intersection of the Wright brothers and the sophisticated death machines of World War II, I suddenly realized how quickly progress can happen after a single, singular breakthrough.  The once unthinkable becomes reality and then so much more.  The giant leap from Orville and Wilbur to Neil and Buzz isn’t, I suppose, as far as one might think.

So, this is where I go off the rails, but please stick with me here:  I believe in my heart of hearts that mankind was meant to conquer the stars.  We’ll get back to the moon.  We’ll push on to Mars.  And that’s just the beginning.  I don’t have all the answers, and I certainly don’t own a crystal ball.  I’m just armed with confidence in the power of man’s ingenuity and faith in the human spirit.  Yes, I’m a hopeless optimist, but trust me on this one.  We’ll get there.

Would that it were in my day.  And who knows?  Maybe it will be.  A lot can change in fifty years.


Follow me on Twitter @seif_train.

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My Dad Won’t Beat Up Your Dad

My dad can beat up your dad.  Well, actually, I suppose that depends on how big your dad is.  Come to think of it, I can’t really imagine my dad beating up anybody.  He probably could.  Maybe.  He just wouldn’t want to.  He’s not that kind of dad.  But he’s pretty awesome all the same.

Dad doesn’t get a lot of attention for his awesomeness.  In fact, he’s sort of the Tim Duncan of dads – stoically, methodically, and quietly filling up the stat sheet to the tune of twenty points, fifteen rebounds, and two blocked shots a game while hardly anyone notices.  That’s right.  My dad is an unsung all-star.  (By the way, this sports analogy gone wrong is completely lost on my dad because he doesn’t care for sports.)

So, here are some things my dad brings to the table that may or may not show up on the stat sheet:

  • Dad can be surprisingly chipper in the morning. This is an excellent quality to have – just not one that impressed me very much when I was a teenager.
  • Dad knows how to laugh. Some of you who are familiar with him might be surprised by this, but I’m telling you one of the best Seifert family Christmas traditions is watching my dad watch the movie “Home Alone.”  He laughs so hard at the slapstick scenes he cries.  It’s fantastic.
  • Dad likes music. He doesn’t really sing or play an instrument.  He just appreciates music.  More and more I see the wisdom in that.  Music is worth appreciating.
  • Dad always, always, always does his duty. If my dad is tasked with something, you don’t have to wonder if it’ll get done.  You can count on it.
  • Dad is honest to a fault. A favorite family story is one my mother tells about the time Dad reprimanded her for accidentally bringing home a paperclip that wasn’t hers.  Classic Dad.
  • Dad went to work every day to a job he – I’m going to put words in his mouth here –didn’t like all that much. He did this so my siblings and I could have a roof over our heads and food in our mouths and so my mother could stay home with us.  This is a big deal.  Kids usually don’t get it.  I didn’t back then, but then one day you’re the provider, and you find out there’s nothing better than working hard so your own kids can be comfortable and have stuff.  That’s what my dad did for me.
  • Dad loves the stars, and I guarantee you my dad’s telescope is bigger than your dad’s telescope. I didn’t inherit Dad’s math/science brain, but I do think I inherited his sense of wonder.  The sky is big and bright and beautiful.
  • Even more than the stars, Dad loves Mom. As kids, we never had to question that.
  • Dad joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a young man despite opposition and the significant personal sacrifice it required. Then he took a break from school to earn money to put himself on a two-year, full-time church proselyting mission.  After serving an honorable mission, he came home and married my mother in The Holy Temple for time and all eternity.  Even a non-believer would be hard-pressed not to admire the courage of his convictions.  And if you are a believer, then you know that what my dad did was everything.  I have no doubt the Seifert line will sing praises to his name forever.
  • Speaking of The Holy Temple, that’s where you’ll find my dad – along with my mother – every Saturday night, selflessly serving and seeking communion with our Heavenly Father.  Dad’s been doing that for years.  I don’t think there’s any place he’d rather be.

In the end, regardless of whether he can beat up yours, my dad’s a pretty great guy.  He’s just not going to tell you about it.  That’s why I just did.

Dad


About Me

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Just Like Magic

I hate Cheyenne, Wyoming.  With a passion.  I hate every last corner of that city I’ve ever had the misfortune to meet – which is to say I hate Cheyenne’s Greyhound bus station at two o’clock in the morning.  Believe you me it’s a dirty, dreary place complete with unsavory characters and unspeakable bathrooms.  Cheyenne and I became acquainted during my college years.  In those days, the Greyhound from Omaha to Provo was my ticket to school, and the trip always seemed to include a middle-of-the-night layover in Cheyenne.

I think you need to understand my hatred of Cheyenne to fully appreciate what I’m going to say next.  There was actually one occasion when I didn’t mind the place so much – because I barely even knew I was there.   That was the trip during which I fell in love with the wizarding world of Harry Potter.  It happened in the fall of 2002.  I’d read The Sorcerer’s Stone a few months earlier and sort of shrugged it off.  I wanted The Lord of the Rings, and The Lord of the Rings it was not, but for some reason I still climbed aboard that Greyhound with a copy of The Chamber of Secrets in tow, and then a funny thing happened.  I couldn’t put it down.

Not long after that trip, I devoured a copy of The Prisoner of Azkaban.  Later I was staying up to the wee hours of the morning with my hair on fire to finish The Goblet of Fire.  I was in full-fledged Potter-mania when The Order of the Phoenix came out.  You better believe I was at the bookstore at zero dark thirty to pick up my pre-ordered copy before I went off to savor every last page.  I was there again at midnight for The Half-Blood Prince.  I was married by then, so I read it with Sara, who once famously said of the experience that she mourned far more for a beloved character there than she ever did for Michael Jackson (whose passing several years later was marked by nauseatingly ubiquitous media coverage).  With The Deathly Hallows, Sara and I sequestered ourselves in our apartment and read as quickly as we could in a furious attempt to outpace the spoilers.  We read so much so fast that I described the feeling afterwards as a Harry Potter hangover, but it was so fun and so worth it.

Then it was over.  I’ve never quite had a reading experience like that one.  There was – dare I say it? – magic in the anticipation and the journey.  Great fiction makes you forget the drudgery of everyday life.  That is, I suppose, what all fiction writers are aiming for.  Harry Potter did that for me like nothing ever had, and there’s a certain sadness knowing no matter how many times I reread those books I can never quite go home again.  Not like that.

But I’ve found a sort of solace of late.  Now I’m reading Harry Potter to my kids.  We’ve finished the first three books, and we’re currently partway through Goblet of Fire.  I’m watching the light in my children’s eyes as their imaginations run wild.  I’m hearing them chatter about favorite scenes and characters.  They’re speculating about what happens next.  They don’t want me to stop reading, I don’t want it to end, and I do believe Cheyenne has never been farther behind me.


These are a few (more) of my favorite things:

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Novel Writing Made Easy

You’ve got a book inside you.  I’m sure of it.  Most everyone does.  The only real question is how badly do you want to pull it out and put it on the page?  I’m no expert, but I’ve birthed a few books now, and I’ve learned a thing or two along the way.  Here are some words of wisdom as you contemplate making the journey:

  • Write what you know.  I guess.  That and/or write what you’re excited about.  I sometimes write outer space adventures.  I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn I’ve never actually been to outer space.  But you better believe I’m mining my own life experience for snippets of dialogue and satisfying story beats all the same.  Things have to ring true.  Even in outer space.
  • Begin with an end in mind.  I learned a long time ago that a great ending can elevate a story like nothing else.  With the right ending, a bad story becomes a good one and a good story becomes something you can’t stop thinking about.  I’m sure it’s a bit different for everyone, but for me, I need to see the moment that makes it all worth it before I can even start.
  • Find some inspiration music.  The Piano Guys perform the score and NeedToBreathe plays the soundtrack to the imaginary movie versions of every one of my books.  That’s just the way it is.  I don’t know how to explain this one other than to say creativity begets creativity.
  • Set regular time aside to write, and then do it.  I used to write during my lunch hours at work.  Nowadays, my noon hours tend to be booked, so I try to take a vacation day once a month and camp out at the library until I’ve hammered out a chapter or two.  The point is writing takes time (not to mention a whole lot of concentration and energy), so make sure you give yourself the time you need.
  • Keep writing even when the writing is garbage.  I can be a perfectionist.  That means it’s hard for me to turn off the self-censor, but if I do, the output is usually better than anticipated.  And when it’s not, edit is the kindest of four-letter words.
  • If you can make it over the continental divide, you can make it.  Reaching the halfway point is critical.  I pace myself as I start the climb up that mountain, but there comes a point when I’m standing at the summit, say 40,000 words, and I realize everything else is downhill.  That’s when I know I have a real live novel on my hands.
  • Write what makes you happy.  Seriously.  The truth is I’m my own biggest fan.  (My mother is a close second.)  Agents, editors, publishers, and critics be danged.  I’m writing a book I want to read.  Deal with it.

Are you still with me?  Good.  Now I have a confession to make.  I lied.  Novel writing isn’t easy.  I can never make it so.  Novel writing is painful.  It’s plain hard work.  There’s no way around that.  I’m just saying I’m a pretty regular guy who has done it, so you can do it.  If you want to.  Of that I have no doubt.


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