Thursday, March 31, 2011

To share, or not to share?

So, I’ve been thinking about this blog of late, and I have something I want to ask my readers.

I’m rather enjoying doing this blog. I like giving out writing advice that I’ve heard, learned, and used and of sharing my adventures in writing and attempting to get published.

But it occurred to me the other day, I don’t really talk about myself. I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, I Should be Writing by Mur Lafferty, and she was talking about blogging. She said that some of the most popular authors that blog, Neil Gaiman, and John Scalzi, for example, share experiences and stories from their personal life on their blogs.

Sure, they talk about writing, too, but not all the time, like I’ve been doing. They discuss things happening with their kids, their wives, family, dogs, cats, whatever. Shows they went to, places they’ve visited, people they’ve talked to. They use their blogs to do more than promote themselves, they’ve used their blogs to share themselves.

So, I thought, maybe I should do the same. I have a wife and kid, and interests outside of writing. Shocking, I know, but there you have it. For example, I like Role Playing Games. Oh, sure, video games like Neverwinter Nights, but what I mean are the tabletop kind, like Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, I’m going to a min-convention of local gamers from a message board I hang out on, where we have two days of RPG’s and board games. This weekend. And I’m excited to go, because its’ always a lot of fun.

My kid is six years old, and the school he is going to is closing down, so my wife and I are looking for a new school to put him in, as well as summer activities, like camp. I could talk about those things from time to time.

My point is, there’s lots of stuff outside of writing I could talk about that would give you, my lovely blog followers whom I love, the chance to actually know me better. And maybe his would be good for me, because the truth is, I don’t often share my life with others, even those I consider friends.

So, what do you think? Should I blog about things happening in my life, as well as the writing stuff? Or just stick with the writing stuff?

Thanks for sticking with me through this and for giving your opinion. I appreciate it. Until tomorrow, when it’s Flash Fiction Friday!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Submissions, submissions!

(The title of this post to be sung to the tune of Traditions from Fiddler on the Roof).

Phew, this blog post is LATE! Truth be told, I almost forgot to post it today.

So, anyway, here’s the deal. I didn’t submit anything last week, and not because I didn’t have places to submit, but because I realized that I need to do more research than the week I’ve been giving myself allows. Or find more time to do research in that week. So, I’m not sure I’m giving up on the 1 submission a week idea, I just think I need to be smarter about the submitting than I have been.

On the bright side, I did submit something already this week. I put my query letter for the Windsmith into a contest. Cross your fingers.

On the subject of submissions, I wanted to discuss something. I’ve realized that I’ve been sending off submissions left and right, but I haven’t done anything to track them.

This may seem like submission 101, I realize, but give me some slack. I’m learning as I go along here. And then sharing what I learn with you all. So here’s what I’ve learned. Not keeping track of submissions is a horribly bad idea.

It’s not too late, of course. I still have copies of all the emails I’ve sent. So, my simple solution is to use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of everything. What I sent, who I sent it too, when, if I got a response, when, and what that response was.

I can’t really think of anything else to track there, but that’s my plan. Post everything I submit to this spreadsheet and keep track of it all. That will help me focus, I think, because I’ll have a record to look at. And as I work in Excel all day at the day job, I think it will be easier for my brain to process the information this way, too.

I’ll let you know how it goes when I get said spreadsheet set up. Maybe I can even tell you how many times I’ve submitted something. Until then, however, that’s all I got for now. See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: The Church

So, first, let me apologize for there being no blog post yesterday. I was suffering from a migraine, and never got one written down. Which is really too bad, because I had some exciting stuff I wanted to talk to you all about. Still, that will wait until tomorrow.

Today, it's time for Tiny Tales Tuesday!

The below story is a dramatization of an actual event from my life. It was a fun trip down memory lane writing this. I hope it's enjoyable to you, as well.

The Church

It happened about three decades ago. Yes, that long. I can still remember it like it was yesterday, though.

There it stood, the empty church. I know now, of course, that it wasn’t abandoned as we thought then, but that it was going through renovations. But we were kids, in elementary school. To us, it was abandoned. And not just abandoned, haunted. And it stood just on the other side of the wire fence, across the grass field behind our school.

My two friends and I stared at it. We’d been talking about the building for weeks now. It’s tall spires and dark interior and smashed out windows beckoning to us. We could even see the cobwebs from here. This place called to us, and that call sent shivers down our spines. Well, mine, anyway. Derik didn’t fear anything, standing there in his Fonzy-like leather jacket. He looked at me, and I shook my head, seeing the twinkle in his eyes.

“Yes,” he said.

I looked to Chris, our other friend, who shared my name, for support. Surely, he would see reason.

“Yes?” he said.

“Today,” Derik said, smiling, “We go in.”

“Oh,” Chris said. He turned to look back at me, and I shook my head. I was terrified, I could see the ghosts of dead priests waving their bibles at me and the hell fire that would consume me if I entered an abandoned church was behind them, in the broken window. I didn’t want to go there. But Chris wanted to be everything that Derik was. So he straightened up, narrowed his eyes and looked back towards the church.

“Today,” he repeated, and took a step forward. “We go in.”

I just knew I was going to hell for this.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: The Hunt, part 2

I don’t normally do a sequel for my flash fiction stories, but Tuesday’s piece really cried out for more. I mean, what would a magical duel between two non-humans look like using a billiard’s game as the battlefield? I had to know. So, I wrote this. Enjoy!

The Hunt, part 2

Jin stared across the table at the hound finished setting up the table. Everything was set. He could feel the magical energy passing from him into his pool stick. He nodded towards the wall, and she pulled a random stick from it, not even bothering to check it. She also infused her with magical energy. She had to pause for a second before doing that, though. It had been a long while since she had a magical duel, dealing with most of her targets through more… direct means lately. The hound, however, was not her target, and she didn’t need him dead. In fact, dead was bad. She needed information. And the billiards game before her was how she was going to get it.

“Straight billiards?” Jin asked, and the hound shrugged, as if it wasn’t a big deal to him.

It was to her. Straight would be an easier game for the magical duel to take place in. He waved towards the table and moved aside to let her shoot first. She took position, bent over the table and struck the cue ball. She could feel the energy leave her stick and enter the ball. When it caromed off the racked balls, she saw the energy leave the cue ball and fly to the hound. He smiled. It was a light tap, as most breaks were. Now it was his turn.

He shot a few times in a row, hitting multiple balls each time, and each time, it felt like Jin were being punched in the guts. Or in the head, once. But she could take it. She ordered a beer. Alcohol usually helped in these kinds of matches. He frowned at her, but she shook her head. They never discussed rules. Of course, that was difficult with a room full of humans watching. And they were watching. Even this early, there were humans gathering around to watch them play, drawn, though they didn’t know it, by the energy being used.

A few more round went by, and it was hard to say who was winning. Sure, she was winning the game, but the duel was pretty close. If she were honest with herself, she would admit, in fact, that she was losing. He was clearly better at these kinds of things than she was. She needed an advantage. That was when she noticed the crowd.

A few of the men were cheering her on, clearly admiring her slender form. Even some of the women were cheering her on. She had forgotten the affect elves had on humans. It was a very long time since she actively dealt with a non-magical species. She grinned wolfishly. This would be her advantage.

Before he next turn, she unzipped her hoodie and took it off. She quickly moved her hair around and magically put it in place to hide her eyes, but now she was in only jeans and a tank top. The men really took notice of her now. She shrugged her shoulders and moved back to the game. She shot a few normal shots, getting a few scores but not enough to really put him down. Then, she drew on the humans around her.

Elves, like lots of fairy races, feed off human imagination, and lust was an easy way to spark said imagination. She drew on the fantasies that the men around here were having. She used that lust to power her, and when she made her next shot, the balls not only were struck by her cue ball, but they also bounced around the table, hitting other balls as they went. She saw the hound stagger. Sweat sprang up on his fore head. She inhaled, drawing in more energy. She shot and struck more balls, causing more energy to fly to the hound. He actually grunted.

She smiled. The energy was filling her to the brim. She not only felt alive, she felt… randy. The energy from the men was turning her on. A side affect of lust induced imagination, but she wasn’t complaining. She struck again and again, each time causing more and more energy to fly to the hound and strike home. It was euphoric.

She was about to make another shot when the hound put his hand on her arm.

“Enough,” he said. “I give.”

There was an audible groan from the crowd, but she smiled. She released the energy she had stored in her, and it felt like she shrunk two inches. Still, it was easier to focus on where she was when she wasn’t on a high like that.

“Take me to see your boss,” she said.

The hound nodded, thoroughly beaten. She smiled again. Not all the lust had left her yet, and returning to the hunt was a sure way to sate it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Show, Don’t Tell, part 2: In practice

So, yesterday I briefly discussed the concept of Show, Don’t Tell. As you may have guessed, I’m a big believer in this philosophy. My stories are much better when I follow it then when I don’t, and I’ve noticed the same is true when I read other’s works. It’s just better.

But it’s hard to explain why. I mean, sure, I can use terms like “engaging reader experience,” or “fully immersed audience,” but the truth is those by themselves have little real meaning beyond being writerly buzz words.

So, instead of relying on buzz words, I’m going to follow the advice of the concept, and show why this works better, rather then telling you. Below is a paragraph from a made up story (I know, all stories are made up… just follow along).

Sara walked into the room. Last night there had obviously been a party, and the room was still a disaster area. Oh, and the smell! It assaulted her senses, and she almost threw up right there. She shook her head in disgust, and started slowly making her way through the room, kicking trash out of her way as she went. Eventually, she ended up kicking something that didn’t move, but it groaned. She blinked as she looked down at the moving pile of trash. A head poked up from underneath.

“Charles?” Sara asked in shock.

Okay, now, by itself, this is not a horrible paragraph. It gives us everything we need to know, and does so in a fairly entertaining way. Not too bad, right? Well, yes, it is, actually. There’s no description in there. The closest we get is that the room is a complete mess and that it smells really bad. This paragraph TELLS us all kinds of things, but we, as the readers, don’t experience anything, we’re not being SHOWN the story here.

So, let’s try this again.

As the door creaked open, the scent of stale alcohol and rotten eggs assaulted Sara’s nose. She clutched her stomach and pinched her nose as she felt bile rise in her throat. Peering into the room, she saw what caused the scent. The room was covered in brightly colored confetti, brown bottles, both broken and solid, labels from said bottles, pizza boxes, some with pizza still in them, and was that a pair of underwear? She almost gagged again. Keeping her noise pinched, Sara reaced out with one boot covered food and slowly pushed some trash out of her way. She gently made her way across the room, inch by painful inch, kicking boxes and bottles over as she went. Then, her foot connected with something solid, and a grunt escaped a pile of trash below. Looking down, she could make out clothing beneath the confetti and a turned over pizza box. It rolled over, dislodging trash from its form, and a brown skinned, confused looking face peered at her blearily.

“Charles?” Sara asked, her voice rising in pitch, and her mouth curling in disgust.

See? Much better! The exact same scene, but this time we’re there in that room with Sara as she makes her way through it. We’re disgusted with her, not just watching her be disgusted. See what a difference that makes? Plus, for those that, like me, enjoy watching their word count, the second paragraph is FAR wordier. But, more importantly, it’s just better.

So, that’s it for me on this topic for now. Before I go, I just want to say, I’m not an expert here. I’m still learning about the how’s and do’s of writing. This is mostly my opinion. So, take it for what you will.

Until tomorrow, when we’ll have another Flash Fiction Friday!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Show, Don’t Tell

Show, don’t tell. We writers hear this all the time, especially from established writers. It’s up near the top of the list of advise given to writes, right under “Write every day,” and just above “Read lots, too.” But, in my experience, this is also the one writer tip that gets derided most by my fellow writers. And I often wonder why. I mean, there’s a reason why this is near the top of the list of writer advice.

Here’s what I hear most.

“It’s really hard to show instead of telling.”

True. But, the end result is also much better, and therefore, worth it. Also, I have found that the more time you spending trying to showing instead of telling, the easier it becomes. I have now got to the point that when I re-read my stories, I can tell when I’m telling, and often, it makes me cringe. So, to throw in another cliché into this article, practice makes perfect.

“Sometimes, the story just demands telling.”

I’m not so sure about this one honestly. I mean, I want to say this is also true, but I can’t think of an example. Info dumping is a bad idea in general, and it’s always better if you can get the info to the audience through dialogue or scenery or even actual story. So, I’m going to chalk this up to, I’m just not experienced enough to answer it properly. And beyond info dumping, I can’t think of anything. So if you know a reason why it’s better to tell and not show, let me know.

I think that’s all I got for now. I’m going to re-visit this topic tomorrow with an example of how to take a paragraph that is telling and make it show instead. My hope is that I can show how much better the show paragraph is.

So, until then… uh… go write? Yeah, go write.

I need a closing phrase.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: The Hunt

So, once again, I am posting my entry into the 5MinuteFiction contest, this week hosted by R.B. Wood on his blog. The prompt today was Pub, and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!


The Hunt

The sounds and smells of the pub wafted on the breeze to Jin’s ears and nose. People chatting and laughing, corned beef and bitter, and a slight undercurrent of tension. It made her sigh. She hated going into public places like this to get her job done. These were just folk, trying to unwind after a day’s hard work. The clacking of billiards struck her next. She paused. That might make a good cover. She nodded, and concentrated.

She checked herself in the reflection of the darkened window. The disguise spell wasn’t perfect, but it hid her sharp elf ears enough. She never did understand the human fascination with denim. It was nowhere near as comfortable as soft leather, she though. Still, it did allow her to fit in, and the human males always liked to see her in it. She nodded again, then entered the pub.

The few patrons by the door stopped their conversations briefly to look at her, then quickly returned to them. Just another thirsty worker on her way home. She headed to the bar to order a pint, then acted surprised as she saw the billiards table. She took a subtle breath in, and could smell what she was looking for in here, but couldn’t see it anywhere. Hopefully, the overwhelming smells of the place that prevented her from getting a good read would disguise her as well.

She took her pint, headed over to the table, and threw a twenty pound note into the middle of it, causing the two men playing to stop and look up at her.

“Can a lady join in?” she asked.

For a brief second, one of the men’s eye’s flashed a deep purple, then returned to the blue they were before. He smiled at her, his canine teeth prominent and glinting. A hound. Her target was here, and this man was it’s bodyguard. And no doubt he now had her sent and knew who she was.

“Of course,” the hound said, pushing the human he had been playing with aside.

He started to rack the balls. This game was going to be interesting, she thought.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Rough Week

Man, it really has been a rough week. And not just for me. The Earth shook, rocked Japan, and it seems to have affected everyone’s lives in various was, from small to major. For me, it’s been a series of things. The biggest one, of course, was that a friend of mine died. But, it’s been little things, too. I’ve had trouble sleeping, which I usually blame on the time change. I freaking hate Daylight Savings. My wife was sick over the weekend, and even my kid has had trouble this week, with just a general feeling of dis-ease. And I’ve heard the same from almost everyone that I know. Last week was just rough.

But in the middle of all that, or maybe at the end of it, I’m not sure, I am trying to find the positive. Because if I don’t, I’ll sink into a miasma of despair, start wondering what am I doing (either at work and quit, or at my writing and quit) and just be generally miserable.

So, here’s some positive things going on in my life.

I have a job. It doesn’t pay much, but it is sometimes the difference between eating this week and not. And there are a number of people out there that still don’t have jobs at all. So I am grateful for that.

I have a wife and child that are both healthy and both love me. I am ever grateful for that.

This weekend will be my birthday party (several weeks after the fact, but, hey, who cares? It’s a party!). We’re doing a Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy theme. No, I’m not 42, but that might make a good excuse to do it again in a few years when I am.

In a few weeks will be a gathering of local table top role playing gamers for our annual game fest. I always have a ton of fun at this, and look forward to it all year long.

I am grateful for a ton of other things, too, that may seem small and petty, but their really not. I’m grateful that our car runs. I am grateful that we have food in the house. I am grateful that I have a working computer, so I can continue writing. I am grateful that I have internet access.

I am even grateful for all of you, for putting up with me rambling on about things like this on my blog. Thanks for that!

And I am grateful for this blog for one other reason: my weekly check ins. I submitted a story proposal to a website this week, one that is doing an anthology set in a shared world. I like the setting and am excited to write something for them, so I hope they accept my proposal. We’ll see. And, I’ve managed to do some writing, no matter how small, every day this last week. I’m stoked about that, it’s the first time since December that I have.

So, there you have it. Last week was rough. But, it’s over, and now it’s time to look forward to this week.

I plan on making it decidedly not rough.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: Never Alone

I must remember that though I walk by myself, I am not alone. Never alone. Not since that day, so many years ago, do I walk alone. No, I see them, before me, beside me, behind me. All those that taught me, all those that gave me something, all those that took care of me. Every last man, woman and child. Every last one of them, taken by my hand. Taken for just this moment.

Because I need them with me now. I need their power. I need their will. I need their presence. For now I face the mouth of hell. A massive gate carved of red bloodstone, guarding the hard granite castle behind it. In there is where I face my destiny, where the fate of the world will be decided. In there, I must face the man that would destroy us all. In there, I must face my brother.

I heard an echo of his laugh. He knows I am here. I hesitate.

I feel a touch on my shoulder and turn to look. It’s the ghost of my wife. Her eyes, which are usually sad and angry, smile at me. She has forgiven me, they say, for what I did to her. For what I did to all of them. They know the stakes now. They are with me. They all look at me now, and smile and nod.

Grimly, I nod back, and step up to the gates.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Ordinary People in Extraordinary Situations

So, recently, one of the agents I follow on Twitter tweeted something interesting. It’s been roaming around in my head and making me think, and thus I am regurgitating my thoughts on this subject here for your enjoyment.

That may not have been the best metaphor. Oh well.

Anyway, what she posted was this (or something very much like it): “Another query about and ordinary teen. Why would I want to read a story about an ordinary character? Ordinary is boring. NEXT!”

At first, I thought it was mean, because, I mean, come on. We all want to tell stories about ordinary people thrust into extraordinary situations. Right? Well, I do at least. I immediately wanted to think of examples of or ordinary characters that made good books.

Harry Potter was an ordinary boy thrust into a magical world.

Bilbo Baggins was an ordinary hobbit thrust into a dangerous world of adventure.

Rand al’Thor was a shepherd thrust into a dangerous world of magic and war.

Lessa was an ordinary girl thrust into the world of Dragonriders.

Right? Turns out, I was wrong, about every last one of these.

Harry Potter was anything but ordinary. He lived under the stairs. Strange things happened to him beyond his control. He could talk to snakes. All before he got the first letter. In no way an ordinary little boy.

Bilbo was not ordinary either. He was wealthy and owned a large house. He had Took blood in him, and a whole chapter is devoted to exactly how that made him extraordinary and, gasp, adventurous. And let’s face it, Gandalf wouldn’t have picked an “ordinary” hobbit to go on this quest with the dwarves. He’s Gandalf, he doesn’t do things like that.

Rand was no where near ordinary. He was taller than most full grown men in his village, and had red hair, when no one else in the whole Two Rivers area did. His mother was a foreinger. And there was something about him that drew Moraine to him, let’s not forget. Not ordinary.

And Lessa? She may have been the worst example on this list. She was hot tempered, strong willed, the daughter of a Lord, and exceptionally cunning. And again, the dragon’s wouldn’t have picked her if she was ordinary.

Another example springs to mind as I write this. Luke Skywalker. I hear you shout “Luke was just a farmer before the Empire killed his family and Ben took him away!” But was he? I mean, Ben was only there because of who Luke’s father was. And we even get a hint about that from Uncle Owen. But even beyond that, Luke was an exceptional pilot, and a good shot, too. Those two things alone make him extraordinary.

So, after trying to prove her wrong, I was proved wrong myself.

Here’s what I learned. Ordinary characters are not the kind of people that stories happen to. Extraordinary situations happen to these people because they, themselves, are extraordinary. When the call to adventure comes, do you think an ordinary person would answer it? Not likely.

So, when making your character, make then extraordinary. Give them something they do exceptionally well. Make them stand out compared to their peers, even if it’s in an odd or potentially negative way. Adventure (or the plot of your story, if you will) are drawn to the extraordinary.

This is something I need to keep in mind as I work on my fantasy WIP, because the premise is four ordinary people trying to cope with the world ending. But, “ordinary people” are boring. These characters are not ordinary. And I need to find out why.

I highly suggest you do the same with your characters.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Jihmye, a tribute

So, this blog post is a little delayed, and the reason for that is simple.

Today, I learned from my wife that a mutual friend of ours, Jihmye, died. It came as a shock, because my wife just saw him last week, and spoke to him last Thursday. Apparently, he had a stroke, went into a coma, and never woke up.

When I heard the news, I felt like I had been hit in the gut. I picked up my wife to give her the car so she could grieve, she was closer to him than I was, and then I went back to work.

I was a little unfocused, and sad, but otherwise okay, and got work done.

Then, I was on the deck, talking to my wife about Jihmye, and wondering what I should write about in this blog, and she said "talk about Jihmye."

And so I am, because like many of my wife's ideas, it's a good one.

I first met Jihmye and his wife many years ago, when I was an active member of the Baha'i Faith. I had been introduced to it by my ex-wife, and Jihmye and his wife were some of the first people to accept me.

But, more importantly, Jihmye was one of the first people to recognize in me talent.

Let me re-phrase that... he was one of the first people that I believed when he said I had talent.

There was just something about him that made him credible. When he said that something you wrote was really good, you believed him. When he said that you had talent, and that you should explore it more, you wanted to run out and explore it fully right then and there.

I never got really close to Jihmye, but he's the kind of guy that makes an impression on your life and you never forget him. So, even though I drifted away from the faith, and eventually divorced my first wife, I always remembered Jihmye and his wife fondly.

A few years later, I was with my current wife at a poetry reading. While we were in the coffee shop, waiting for things to get started, I spotted Jihmye. So, naturally, I went over to talk to him. My wife saw and came over, a little freaked out. See, Jihmye was her friend, and she had known him for years through the poetry community. Did I mention that he was a poet? And a painter, too. And a number of other things, and he was amazing at all of them.

Jihmye was one of those bright stars that touched everyone's life that he met. Even if all you did was ride on the bus with him, your life was brighter for it. He had a passion for life, a zest for people, a belife in the good things in life, and when he spoke, you believed him. And more, you wanted to believe what he believed, you wanted to make your life better just for having known him.

I wouldn't be the writer I am today if I hadn't know Jihmye back then. I didn't know him long, or very well, but he made a huge impact on me.

And I will miss him.

So, cheers Jihmye! I hope that you're composing poetry to the angels and painting the colors of God.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: The Lazy Superhero

So, once again, my post today is the story I entered into this week's 5 Minute Fiction. It's on a tour right now, so go check out it's home for this week:

The prompt today was "lazy" and as I was listening to The Red Panda on a podcast just before the contest started, I was influenced. And this is what I came up with. Now, looking back at it, I must say... I think I'll have to return to John and Gail and see what it means to be a lazy, slacker superhero. Could be fun. :)

In the mean time, enjoy!


“Are you really going to just sit there and do nothing?” Gail screamed.

“I don’t see why not,” John replied. “I’m comfortable.”

“Do you know what is going on out there?” Gail asked.

John propped himself up on the couch with one elbow and peered out the window.

“Looks like a giant robot is rampaging around the city. Again.”

“Exactly,” Gail said. “And don’t you think you ought to be doing something about it?”

John took a deep breath and sighed. “You know, it’s at times like these that I really hate my dad. Imagine leaving this kind of responsibility to me.”

He clicked off the TV and stared at Gail, who was putting her hands on her hips and grinding her teeth. He smiled slightly. She was sexy when she did that.

“Okay, okay,” he said, pushing up self off the couch and stretching as he stood. “Let’s get to the secret lair and change into costume. Hopefully, this robot will be as easy to beat as those aliens were last week. I can get back in time for Robot Chicken.”

“I swear,” Gail said, pushing the button on the bookshelf that opened the secret tunnel. “You are the LAZIEST super-hero in the world!”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Why I am in love with Ray Bradbury

Yes, I said “in love” up there. I’ll explain that in a minute.

Let me start off with my weekly update. Work progresses on my current WIP. I stumbled a little with the bad guy, but I’ve gone back to basics with him and now he’s working much better. I was trying to make him all nuanced and maybe not a real baddie, but it ended up making him really clumsy and uninteresting, so I ditched all that and just went back to him being a bad guy, pure and simple. It’s a little black and white, but the subtleties of his personality came come out later.

I’ve also settled on a short story plot for my submission I plan on making to the Splintered Lands site. I’m rather happy with it. Next step will be to read some of the Splintered Lands stories already written, so I can work mine into it a little better.

On the submission front, I did a single submission this week, which was to send of my novella from NaNoWriMo, The Life and Times of Aries Webb, to a contest. The grand prize is a professional edit from a Del Ray Books editor, and a shot at getting said book published. That would be awesome. Everyone keep your fingers crossed.

Now, to the title of this little rant of mine. I’ve been reading Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury recently, and with what he is saying in there, and the lecture he gave at a Learning Annex I went to a few years back, I’ve realized the secret of his profile writing, and why his stories are always so engaging. Love.

For those of you that know anything about him, this is probably not a shock. He says it all the time. Find out what it is you truly love, he says, and write about it. Find ways to combine things you love. When you were growing up, did you love army movies and dinosaurs? Write a story about WWII soldiers that find a secret Nazi island where they are breeding dinosaurs to fight the allies with. On second though… don’t, that’s an awesome idea, and I may have to use it later.

For him, it was circuses and trains and dinosaurs and Buck Rodgers. These all lead to Something Wicked This Way Comes and the Martian Chronicles and a hundred other stories he’s done over the years.

So, I’ve been thinking about what I love recently. And amid the other things I’ve listed (D&D, video games like Mario Brothers and Zelda, Star Wars, Star Trek, The Hobbit and others) I’ve come to realize that I’ve been in love with fantasy and sci-fi since I was a little boy, when my dad first introduced me to it.

He gave me books like E.E. Doc Smith’s Lensemen, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbit and a little book called Fahrenheit 451, by a Mr. Ray Bradbury. I realized that along with my love of space ships, laser guns, sword fights and dragons, I was in love with Ray. I’ve been in love with him and his passion since I was a little boy, and I’ve rekindled that love recently with this book. I’m itching to go back through my collection and find the books of his I still have. In addition to Fahrenheit 451 and the Martian Chronicles, I have a few short story collections of his. His passion and his love shows through in his work, and even today, those words of his and that passion of his influences me in my writing.

And what I’ve come to understand is that I want that passion and that love to show through in my writing as well.

Because this is what people are talking about when they say “write what you love, not what will sell.” Because if you love it, and I mean REALLY love it, to the point that you would be willing to break up with your girl friend because she wanted you to stop playing D&D (true story on my part), then that love will show through when you write about it.

So, while I fall in love with Ray all over again, I’m going to keep writing, and hope that my love shows through.

I hope you will too.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Friday Flash Fiction: What happens now?

“Ambassador Grosh. I thought I’d find you here.”

“Ah, my dear Captain Solomon. It is most gratifying to see that you have survived recent events.”

“Yeah, somehow I doubt that you or your people thought I was in any real danger out there.”

“You are most intelligent, Captain. It was not certain, but it is true that the probability of your survival was high.”

“What I don’t understand is how you survived? I saw the hole that was blown into the station. There’s no way anyone would have survived a blast like that, even your people.”

“Yes. I sometimes forget that your people are not aware that this form we show you is not our true form.”

“Not your true…?”

“Indeed, captain. We are a very old species, as you have no doubt guessed. We have taken on this form in order to appear more… pleasing to you.”

“That you can better manipulate us?”

“Manipulate? No, my dear captain, manipulation was never our intention.”

“But you admit that you’re behind all of this?”

“I have never denied such a thing. I believe that if you think back to our conversations, you will see that I have admitted to tampering with events long before you ever came to this station.”

“I knew it.”

“Please, captain, put your weapon away. It is not necessary. I will gladly put myself into your custody and subject myself to your peoples justice. The test is done. I am to be my people’s sacrificial lamb, now, and I do my duty with pride and honor.”


“Indeed. This was all a test of you and your people. And you have passed.”

“My people? You mean all of humanity? Surly, you don’t think my staff and I are representative of all humanity?”

“But we do. Within each of you is the seed of what humanity is truly capable of.”

“So you set all this up just to test us?”

“I did not set up all of this, no. Events were already in motion, things would have proceeded along a pace similar to what actually happened without my interference. All I did was nudge events in a direction that were better suited for the test.”

“Such as making sure that humanity would build a station in this system, forcing us to become involved.”


“So… what happens now?”

“Now? Now my people move on.”

“Move on? What does that mean?”

“It means simply that it is time for us to leave this galaxy to live out our finally centuries as a people.”

“What, you’re packing your bags to move to some universal Florida to retire?”

“Ah, Earth humor. I will miss it. It is, of course, more complicated than that, but the metaphor is apt. And now is the time when you will ask the question that most burns in your mind.”

“Why? What was this all about?”

“Quite simple, my dear captain. My species has watched over and protected this galaxy since before humanity first walked upright. We have made sure that worlds were given the chance they needed to breed new life, that space faring sentients did not cause too much harm to the galactic environment. We have even culled herds, if you will, to prevent overpopulation. Oh, not with sentient, space faring peoples, of course. Those we subtly guided to fallow worlds where sentience was unlikely. I mean on worlds where sentience was endangered by overpopulation. But, as I have said, we have done this for a very long, long time. And now we are tired. We wish, as you put it, to retire. But we cannot simply abandon our duties.”

“You wanted a successor.”



“I know it seems an odd choice. You are so very young, even by the standard of other space faring races. But you already move toward the role on your own, and your belifes so match ours that very little was needed on our part to push you in the right direction. We just needed a test, one that would prove to us that you were ready, or at least near to ready.”

“And we passed, I take it?”

“Indeed you did.”

“So, what? You hand over a galactic guardian handbook, ‘How to feed and care for a Galaxy’, or something?”

“Not quite, but very close, yes. We have left our technology and secrets intact on our home world.”

“But no one knows where that is. Except you, of course. Are you saying you’re just going to give all that to us? How do you know we won’t use it to become galactic dictators?”

“Because of the final test you must pass.”

“You’re not going to tell us where the planet is.”

“Oh, I am. It’s location is on this disk. No, the test will be for you to pass our security procedures and then learn to read the files that we have left behind. By our calculations, it will take you nearly a thousand years to do so, and even then you will only discover things slowly. Our files will guide you, but not control you, nor will you get the knowledge faster than you can handle. It is how the information was passed to us. It is how you will pass the information on when it is time for your species retirement.”

“I… see.”

“Captain, you have lowered your gun. Are you letting me go?”

“No. No, you are still guilty of crimes, and I’m guessing that your actions even your people would consider crimes. I still plan to bring you to justice. And more importantly, I need you to tell this to others.”

“Of course.”

“I have one last question, Ambassador.”

“Of course.”

“What happens if my people decline the job offer?”

“That is a very unlikely possibility, Captain. Very unlikely.”

The End

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sometimes, you just need to write

So, as you all know, I have set myself several goals. Write every day, even if it’s only a few hundred words. Submit at least once a week. Write a blog post every weekday.

Well, today, I realized that I almost missed out on that last one, and now I find myself sitting in front of the computer, trying to come up with something to blog about. And I reminded myself of on of the most important rules to writing that I know.

Sometimes, you just have to write.

We’ve all been there. Stuck for an idea on what to do next. Our hero is trapped, and we have no idea how to get him out of it. The villain is giving a speech, but the words for it just aren’t coming. There’s a pending blog post, but no topic.

But, despite the fact that inspiration has fled and the ideas are just not coming, you still have to write. Because, no one else is going to write your story but you. So, we write. I am sitting here now, writing this, because I couldn’t think of anything else to write about tonight.

We don’t know how the hero will escape the villainous death trap, so we leave him there in a cliffhanger and move to another character until an idea comes to us. Instead of writing out the villain’s speech, we have the hero working away at his bonds and sneaking out his cell phone that he will use to transmit a virus into the villain’s super computer. As he’s not listening to the speech, it’s just going on in the background, and the hero focus on the task at hand.

There are ways around not knowing what to write next. Usually, for me, it’s to skip ahead, or back or sideways even, and write something else.

And the reason for this is that, if I want to be a professional writer, if I want to make money doing this, I can’t let something as fragile as inspiration, or it’s lack, stop me from doing what I want to do with my life. Writing is just too important to me to be stopped by something as simple as “I don’t know what to write.”

So, don’t let the lack of idea blues get you down. Get back at that keyboard, skip to another scene, find a way out of writing that part you don’t want, and get the story going.

Because, sometimes, no matter what, you just have to write.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Birthday’s and Inspiration

So, yesterday was my birthday. I had a fantastic day, spent with my family. We slept in, went to breakfast at a little café down the street, and then went to the aquarium. I got my gift, a hand made card from my son, and a set of books from my wife, Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury and Steven King’s On Writing. I’m excited about these things.

While we were out at the Aquarium, though, I was reminded of another book on writing I love, the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. If you have never read it before, I cannot recommend it strongly enough. There is a lot of great advice in there, and the process she describes is great for getting through writers black. Anyway, one of the things she recommends in the book is what she calls an Artist’s Date.

Here’s the basic concept. Once a week, go somewhere, do something, whatever, that’s not related to writing. It’s not housework, or homework, or work work. It’s something fun. Take a walk in the park. Go to the Zoo. Hit the casino. Whatever. What happens is that you let your mind relax, and during this date, something will happen, inspiration will hit, and that thing that problem your having while writing will suddenly have an answer. All while you weren’t even thinking of it.

Sometimes, however, what happens is what happened to me. I discovered a creature at the aquarium that I had never heard of before, never mind see. The sea dragon. I fell in love with this beautiful fish. And the sea horse, too. I learned lots of interesting things about both creatures while there. And you know what? I’m inspired.

I didn’t go there looking for inspiration. I just went to have a good time with my family. And that goal was achieved. But, I also got inspiration as a bonus. Now, I just gotta figure out what the story is that this inspiration is trying to get me to write. I’ll figure it out, I’m sure.

Probably on some other excursion with my family, when I’m not even thinking of it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: A Gnome named Man

So, while trying to come up with a name for a villain in my WIP, I ran across a fantasy name generator. I showed it to a twitter friend, who discovered that one of the names it comes up with for Gnomes was Man, and thought that was funny. I thought it would make a good story, the adventures of a Gnome named Man. So, here's my take on that idea.


A Gnome named Man

Before you ask, yes, I am a Gnome. No, not a lawn gnome, those are little figurines that were made by humans with no clue as to how culturally insensitive they were being. No, real Gnomes (with a capital G) are fairies; earth spirits who travel underground collecting gems. It’s difficult to explain beyond that.

Now that that stuff is out of the way, let me introduce myself. My name is Man.

Yes, Man. Go ahead and laugh. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. See, my parents thought they were being funny. In the ancient tongue, not really spoken by Gnomes anymore, Man means hero. If they had known how much trouble that name would get me into… on second though, they would still have named me that. My ten brothers and nine sisters were named similarly. My parents are just masochistic like that.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, I just saved the human race, and I figured I disserved a little credit for it.

What? You didn’t even know you were in danger? Typical humans, you are so unaware of what is really going on in your world. Here, I’ll just sum it all up for you.

About a thousand years ago, an elf wizard messed around with things that mortals were not meant to know, and went insane. He came to believe that some kind of dragon was trapped in the middle of the Earth, and wanted to destroy the world to free it. Thankfully, a group of elven, dwarven and gnome heroes stopped him. They locked him up in this magical tree, there to stay for all time.

If you really must know, it’s a tree in Kansas, that ended up being in someone’s backyard, and had a tree house built in it.

So, anyway, about a year ago, the humans that lived in this house decided to cut down the tree, and, as you can guess, freed him. Sadly, the heroes that defeated him last time were all dead now (we’re not as long lived as you’re stories would have everyone believe. I blame Tolkien myself). I got involved because the people in that house were my family.

No, my human family.

Look, stop interrupting. It’s not my fault you know nothing about Gnomes. See, in adition to collecting gems, we also like to adopt certain human familys that we see as worthy, and gift them with good luck. Turns out, I’m not very good at that. Or maybe, I just picked the wrong family. Whatever, they released this bad guy into the world.

I didn’t notice at first, I was just doing my usually rounds, wandering by the humans invisible and granting luck to them. The boy gets luck for his math test, the girl gets luck with that boy she likes, mom gets luck in getting that job she really wants. Dad gets luck with mom when she comes home that night. That sort of thing.

I’m passing by the boy, who was playing with the tree stump, when I see the evil elf’s head popping out of it. I didn’t recognize it for what it really was at first, I was just freaked out. So, I zapped it. Turns out, he was still partially trapped, and I killed him in the first go. That was when I noticed who it was.

So, there you have it. The story of how a Gnome named Man lived up to his name and saved the world. Now, say thanks so I can go back to my family. Dad needs some extra luck tonight.

The End.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Moving Towards Published... and Paid

Well, not a lot to say this week, really. Work on my new WIP continues, if a bit slowly. I’m working through it using the Snowflake Method of outlining, and I am already discovering things about my characters doing it this way. I’m pretty sure I’ve plugged this method before, but if you’re unaware of it, check it out, it’s pretty awesome.

I’ve also submitted a short story to a magazine this week, keeping up with my goal of one submission a week. This is exciting to me, because if accepted, I’ll actually get paid for it. That will be awesome. I’ll keep you all posted.

I’ve also been invited to write and submit a piece to an anthology website called This sight looks pretty cool and I love the concept of a shared world like they are building. I’ve already got a half-formed plot roaming around in my head, so I’ll be working on that soon and submitting it ASAP. Also a paying gig if I get accepted. Go check it out, they’re accepting submissions.

All in all, I’m pretty excited. I feel like I’m making real progress to being a “real” writer, someone that is actually trying to get published, rather than just writing and talking about it. I’m pretty happy with this progress.

I have to confess something with that last sentence. I feel like, because of these things posted above, I have the right to continue with this blog. See, if I weren’t actively working on getting published, or paid in somewhat for my writing, I would be a fraud. Someone that writes, but doesn’t submit is just doing this as a hobby. And don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s just not what I want, and if I am going to be talking about being a writer, and my goal of being a professional writer specifically, I need to do more than just make a hobby at it. I need to live it. And after this week, I feel like I am.

Hey, look at that. I guess I did have something to say this week after all.

Anyway, I’ll continue with the submitting, and I’ll see you all tomorrow for Tiny Tales Tuesday.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday: The Games

Bryn rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck in preparation. The boy across the room, for boy he was despite his massive frame, at not more than sixteen summers, scowled at him and raised his blade. It was wicked, curved and serrated, but the boy held it in an unsure grip that said to Bryn he had little, if any, experience with it. And more importantly, he had seen a glint of fear in the boy’s eyes. Bryn smiled. This fight was already won.

He tossed the ball in his left hand up once and caught it, never taking his eyes off the boy. Try as he might, Bryn’s opponent could not take stop from flicking his eyes towards the movement. That was all Bryn needed. He threw the ball across the room, and the boy raised his arm up to deflect it automatically. Bryn scowled as he crossed the room in three long strides. This boy was not only young, but stupid as well. That was a rookie mistake, the kind that got men killed in the games. That ball was made of stiffened pigs batter, like the kind used in children’s game. It wouldn’t hurt someone in armor, like the two of them were. It almost disgusted him how easy a kill this kid would be. Almost.

He had his own sword, a stout broad sword held in both hands now that they were both free, swung down, but the boy surprised Bryn, being quicker than his muscular arms would suggest. His curved blade was up instantly, blocking Bryn’s blow. The two stood there for a moment, pushing their blades against each other, and Bryn could see himself in the shine of the other blade, his scarred bald head and broken nose above a sneer that would cause the most hardened veteran of war to question attacking him.

Then the boy surprised Bryn again. He stepped back a pace, dropping his blade as he did so, causing Bryn to step forward off balance. Before the boy’s blade could complete a swing, however, Bryn continued to fall forward, rolling on the floor several steps away from the other man. He stopped considering him a boy. He may be inexperienced, but this man knew how to fight. Bryn smiled again. This might be a challenge.

He stood in time to block a charge from the other man, swinging his left arm around and punching him in his unprotected left side. The other man steped back a step, but kept his guard up. Not well enough, though. Bryn slammed his massive blade into the curved one, again and again, pushing the other man back until, at last, he slumped against the wall, and Bryn got a good slash against the man’s sword arm. He dropped his blade, and a look of surprise and fear crossed his face before steeling in determination to see his fate through.

Bryn smiled again. This time, it was in satisfaction. He dropped his own blade and grabbed up the other man in a rough bear hug that caused the younger man to exhale in surprise.

“Well don, son!” Bryn said. “Well done. We’ll have you trained up for the games within the month, you’ll see.”

“Thank you father,” The young man said, and he smiled at Bryn. It was almost as terrifying as Bryn’s was, including a few missing teeth from brawls he had been in. Almost. Once combat training was done, Bryn thought, he would have to teach the boy about intimidation.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


I wanted to take a moment today to talk about Tropes. If you don’t know what a trope is, there is an excellent webstie you can go and check out, it’s called TVTropes. It has lots of examples of tropes on it, and despite it’s name, it’s not limited to TV, but covers novels and movies as well.

Go check it out, look around. We’ll be here, when you return… in a month.


Back? Pretty addictive, isn’t it?

Okay, so, back to the topic at hand. Tropes. Now, lots of people know what a cliché is, and many writers rightly wish to avoid them in heir stories. But, a trope is not a cliché. Tropes are what define a genre. They are the rules of that genre, if you will. For example, fantasy genres usually demand lots of unclaimed and uncharted wilderness, and epic fantasy in particular demands that your characters go on long journeys through said wilderness. If you don’t have those things in your fantasy books your audience will often be confused, disappointed and even downright angry with you.

I can hear it now, all the screaming coming from that part of you that is your Artistic Integrity, demanding that you are an ARTIST, and as such do not need to follow any rules. In fact, it says, breaking rules is often a good thing, as it leads to original stories.

And this is all mostly true. Breaking rules in order to create a twist or drive your story in an unexpected direction CAN be a good thing. But, breaking a rule just for the sake of breaking it often leads to confusing and difficult to follow stories.

So, before you all go rushing out to break the rules of your chosen genre, don’t you think it’s important to know what the rules are, and why their in place? I do. Besides, don’t think of tropes as limiting. Just like outlining or the three act structure, tropes are a tool that you can use to keep your novel or story tight and well written. Chances are, you’re already using some tropes in your writing without even knowing it.

So, my suggestion is to check out sites like TVTropes, or go to your local library and read up on tropes. Get to know your genre, and you may find that there are tropes you can use to make your story better. And, yes, you may also find ways to break or bend a trope to make your story better too. But before you can do that, you gotta find out what they are first.

So, go find out all you can about tropes, and try using some in your writing. I think you’ll find that they are a big help, both in getting stories moving when things are stalled, getting a story started, or even how to reveal that big twist you want to insert in the story. And let me know how they were useful for you. I know they’ve been useful for me.

Until then, see you tomorrow for Flash Fiction Friday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Scriviner for Windows, a Review

So, I've been using Scrivener for Windows lately, and I have to say, it's pretty awesome. So, I've decided to dedicate this blog post to reviewing it.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Scrivener for Windows is still in beta, so not all of the bells and whistles that appear in it's Mac counterpart are available for this version. That said, so far, there is nothing I feel is truly missing from this program.

Let me start with the basics. It's a lot like any other word processor on the surface. It has a big white plan where you do the typing, it's got a spell checker, it does some basic editing. As for that part, it's really unimpressive. Not to say it's horrible, it does the job well, just as a word processor by itself, it doesn't do anything unique.

So, let's move onto the specifics that make this program worth while.

First, is the organizing features. This program allows multiple documents within one project, and this is a feature I love. Prior to using Scrivener, I would had at least five different documents dedicated to one WIP. Notes, character outlines, novel outline, the first draft, more notes. So, having one file to keep all of this is just amazing. But, beyond that, it's got a feature for keeping things organized in a way I never would have before.

For example, off to the left side is a series of folders with documents in it to help keep you straight. It keeps the Manuscript different from Research, which allows you to keep all the notes and extra documents you want without getting into the manuscript. Then, in the Manuscript area, you can keep each chapter in a different folder, and put each scene in it's own document. The best part about this, for me, is the ability to move scenes or chapters around without lots of editing. I don't know about you, but that feature blows me away.

Back to the Research folder for a moment. My favorite way of outlining novels is the Snowflake Method. Previously, I would have a whole folder dedicated to the three our four documents used in this method of outlining. Now, I can keep them all together in a Snowflake folder in the Research section of the project. And I can go back and edit and add new documents as needed without losing anything, or getting things lost. It's brilliant.

Another feature that Scrivener has that I really like is the cork board view. This is just like having a real cork board, so each document in a folder shows up as a card message. It allows you to put notes on the card so you know what happens in each scene, or each note page. It allows you move documents around easily by clicking and dragging, and really makes organizing really easy. It also has a feature that allows a stamp on each card that shows the current status of the document, from To Do to Done, including various Draft stages. It's probably the most unique feature of the whole program, and I am finding more useful as I go along.

Now, this is about as far as I have gone with the program myself, so there's lots of features I am skipping in this review, such as the compiling feature, or stuff you can do with in the Manuscript itself. I may do a second review when I get to those points.

In the mean time, I love this program, and will definitely be purchasing this when it goes live. I would highly recommend any writer using a PC to check this out, it's probably the best writing program I've used. So, give it a try. It's free in the Beta mode right now, so this is the prefect time.

Find it here, from Literature and Latte:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Tiny Tales Tuesday: Crash

Once again, a 5 Minute Fiction entry, though this time around I didn't make it to the finals. Still, I like this story. The great thing about writing Flash Fiction is that it's just a snapshot of a larger story. There are many questions left unanswered. It's almost like a teaser. But you never get the whole thing, because this is it. I love that. It leaves the answers up to the reader.

And I think this this week's Tiny Tale is perfect in this respect. So, enjoy Crash.


“Get out, quick,” Richard said as he slammed his shoulder into the door. His force worked and the door jared open a crack, light flashing in from the outside. Weather it was daylight, or more fire was hard to tell. I didn’t hesitate to find out, though, the fire inside the shuttle was more than enough to convince me that I needed to get out.

Richard was right behind me, pushing me slightly in his rush to get outside.

“Keep running!” he shouted, which was unnecessary given that we were communicating through our helmets. But, I nodded and chased after him. We ran as hard as we could, which was difficult given both the terrain and the slightly lower gravity. After w few moments, we reached a rise, and we both turned to look back at the shuttle. The fire had spread to the outside, and the only place not burning as we watch was the cockpit we just escaped from.

I turned away from the wreckage. The crash was horrible enough, and I flinched at the memory of a piece of hull piercing through Hobbs. Instead, I turned my eyes towards the landscape before us. It was a lush jungle on the other side of the mountain, purple leaved trees with what appeared to be round, yellow fruit hanging from them. I wondered briefly if there were any animal noises. It would be impossible to hear through the helmet. I didn’t want to take that off to find out, though. The sensors before we crashed indicated that the atmosphere was poisonous.

“Well,” Richard said, finally turning away, “that’s it then. I managed to save some equipment, but not the radio. We’re stuck here.”

“I hope the signal got through,” I said. “Otherwise, getting out of the shuttle only delayed the inevitable.”